Walking the City of London

Category: Animals Page 1 of 2

A trip to Highgate in search of a famous cat (and other animals).

Everyone knows the story of Dick Whittington and his cat. Poor young Dick has given up on his hopes of making a fortune in London and is heading back home. As he climbs Highgate Hill, faithful cat at his side, he hears the bells of St Mary-le-Bow Cheapside ring out the words ‘Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London!’. There are several representations of Whittington and his companion in the City.

The first is a stunning window by the artist and glass maker John David Hayward in St Michael Paternoster Royal on College Hill (EC4R 2RL) where Dick Whittington was buried in 1423. It depicts him on Highgate Hill …

He’s just heard the church bells and glances back …

It has been commented that he rather resembles a flat-capped Hoxton Hipster – maybe there is an iPad in that bag.

I love the expression on the cat’s face. Perhaps he has seen a mouse.

I only recently discovered this sculpture in the ambulatory to The Guildhall Art Gallery (EC2V 5AE). He looks very thoughtful, doesn’t he. Times have been hard (note his torn leggings) and a rather unpleasant creature is peeping out from his pile of clothes – ‘Shall I return to the City and try my luck one more time?’ The milestone indicates it’s three miles away …

The sculptor Lawrence Tindall has written : ‘My figure, in Portland stone, is carved in a style illustrative of children’s literature. It shows Dick and his cat at the point of turning again on hearing Bow Bells and — look behind him: there is a rat! My idea with this and the other figures was to lighten the atmosphere at the entrance of this impressive building and provide something for visiting children’.

The cat …

And a rat! …

Although the story is a total myth, it burned itself into folklore so deeply that the point on Highgate Hill where he supposedly heard the bells is also commemorated (and I knew exactly where it was). Take the Underground train to Archway, walk up Highgate Hill, and a hundred yards or so further on, you will encounter this charming little memorial …

Carved on the side of the stone facing the road are the dates of Whittington’s Mayoralties, the three Kings he served under and the year he was Sheriff …

It also records that the stone was restored by W Hillier in 1935.

You can read a comprehensive history of the stone and the cat here on the London Remembers website. I recall the cat (made from Irish limestone) being added in 1964 since I walked up the hill almost every day on my way to school. The cat also lives on in the signage of the nearby Whittington Hospital …

And the pub opposite the stone …

Knowing that I was going to be visiting Highgate I couldn’t resist the temptation to book a self-guided tour of the famous Cemetery.

To get there I walked further up the hill and turned left into Waterlow Park. I paused briefly to pay my respects to the wonderful philanthropist Henry Waterlow in the park that he donated to people who were ‘gardenless’ …

He’s prepared for inclement weather with hat, overcoat and neatly-furled umbrella.

The entrance to the Cemetery is opposite the west entrance to Waterlow Park and is in two sections separated by a road. Paid entry to the West part gets you free entry to the East and includes an excellent printed guide – what a fascinating experience it was. Regular readers will know that I am intrigued by the way animals are represented in sculptures and memorials and here are three from my visit.

Firstly a very loyal doggie, a huge black mastiff called ‘Lion’ …

Thomas ‘Tom’ Sayers (1826-65) was an English bare-knuckle prize fighter. There were no formal weight divisions at the time, and although Sayers was only five feet eight inches tall and never weighed much more than 150 pounds, he frequently fought much bigger men. In a career which lasted from 1849 until 1860, he lost only one of sixteen bouts. He was recognized as heavyweight champion of England in 1857, when he defeated William Perry (the ‘Tipton Slasher’).

‘Tom and his battles’, from The Police Gazette

On 17th April 1860 there took place what was claimed to be the first ‘international’ title fight. At 6ft 2in and 195lb John Carmel Heenan, the American contender, towered above Sayers’s 5ft 8in and 149lb as the first round started at 7.29 am. Each severely battered and bloodied, yet unbowed, they would finish, level pegging, tit for tat, their business unsettled as a draw and with all bets off, fully two hours 27 mins and 42 rounds later. The bout was halted when the Aldershot police, brandishing magistrates’ warrants, stormed the ring. This picture of the encounter was painted by a retired boxer called Jem Ward …

Tom in his prime circa 1860 …

Seriously ill from consumption (tuberculosis) aggravated by diabetes he died aged only 39 at No. 257 Camden High Street on 8 November 1865 in the presence of his father and two children. His funeral a week later attracted some 100,000 people. According to the Spectator magazine, the crowd that accompanied the coffin stretched for more than two miles in length and the bier was drawn by four sable-plumed horses. Lion, the mourner in chief, sat alone in a pony cart …

Tom’s Highgate Cemetery tomb.

A real lion called Nero rests, sleeping, on top of the tomb of George Wombwell (1777-1850) …

George became a household name as owner of three large travelling animal shows. His menagerie included an elephant, giraffes, a gorilla, a hyena, a kangaroo, leopards, six lions, llamas, monkeys, ocelots, ostriches, panthers, a rhino (billed as ‘the real unicorn of scripture’), three tigers, wildcats and zebras …

Sadly, because many of the animals were from hotter climes, lots of them died in the British climate. Sometimes Wombwell could profitably sell the body to a taxidermist or a medical school; other times he chose to exhibit the dead animal as a curiosity.

This poor horse on a pedestal looks old, tired and worn out …

Once upon a time this was taken to be the tomb of John ‘Jack’ Atcheler who claimed to be ‘Horse Slaughterer to Queen Victoria’, and is described as such in the guide. More research has revealed, however, that he is buried elsewhere although there is a John Atcheler beneath the monument. He is the famous man’s son, who died in 1853 aged twenty-two. The grave also holds Jack’s second wife, Sarah, and his son-in-law. The now faded inscription may contain a clue as to why there is a horse on the monument: ‘She’s gone; whose nerve could rein the swiftest steed’. Jack almost certainly paid for the grave and monument and no doubt intended that he would be buried there as well. You can read about Jack in this fascinating article from the Highgate Cemetery Newsletter.

If you visit the East Cemetery other famous people resting there include …

Malcolm McLaren – Better a spectacular failure than a benign success

The ‘Great Train Robber’ Bruce Reynolds. The inscription reads ‘C’est la vie’, the words that Reynolds uttered when he was finally arrested in 1968 in Torquay by Tommy Butler, the dogged detective who pursued him to the end …

A very moving sculpture marking the tomb of Philip Gould, one of the architects and strategists of New Labour …

There is also some humour – the book spine reads The final chapter

The painter and print-maker Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005) was a contemporary of David Hockney. Regarded as part of the Pop Art movement, and a Turner Prize nominee in 1987, Caulfield designed the memorial which now sits on his grave. Brutally frank! …

And finally, of course …

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In search of the Bull & Mouth

One hundred and eleven years ago, in 1910, a wonderful chap called Percy C. Rushen published this meticulously researched piece of work …

He was extremely angry, stating in the Introduction to his work that the disappearance of external memorials …

Unfortunately, the ‘sordid tampering’ and action by ‘sacriligists’ that Percy detested was insignificant compared to the destruction meted out to the City’s churches and churchyards during the Second World War. I thought it would be interesting to take his painstaking list of memorials and see how many have survived to this day.

I started at the church of St Anne and St Agnes on Gresham Street (EC2V 7BX). In 1910 Rushen recorded eleven headstones and the first one I came across was this one …

It’s the one in the book with an inscription as follows: ‘Family Grave of EDWARD HENRY and MARY SANDERSON of the Bull and Mouth. Their children: EDWARD died 30 June 1835 aged 10 weeks, SAMUEL EMERY died 18 April 1846 aged 3 years, ANNE HUNT died – November 1851 aged 11’. This started me off on a quest to find out more about the Bull and Mouth where Edward and Mary had lived. An extraordinary relic of the inn survives to this day, which I will share with you later in this blog.

The excellent Know your London suggests that the original name was ‘Boulogne Mouth’, a reference to the mouth or entrance to the famous harbour at Boulogne, on the north coast of France. The name was a tribute to Henry VIII who captured the harbour in 1544*. The name ‘Boulogne Mouth’ was gradually corrupted to ‘Bull and Mouth’. The last inn by this name stood in St Martins le Grand, although there was once a Bull and Mouth Street as can be seen on Ogilby & Morgan’s 1676 map …

The coaching inn was a vital part of Europe’s inland transport infrastructure until the development of the railways, providing a resting point or ‘layover’ for people and horses. The inn served the needs of travellers, for food, drink, and rest. The attached stables, staffed by hostlers, cared for the horses, including changing a tired team for a fresh one. Coaching inns were used by private travellers in their coaches, the public riding stagecoaches between one town and another, and (in England at least) the mail coach. The Bull and Mouth had stabling for 700, yes 700, horses, most of it underground, and the yard could accommodate 30 coaches.

I have found a few pictures of the Bull & Mouth. This is one of the yard, probably painted around 1820 by H. Shepherd (1793-1864) …

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

As you can see, the inn had a huge sign illustrating its name and, astonishingly, this was preserved after the building’s destruction and can now be found in the rotunda garden outside the Museum of London EC2Y 5HN) …

At the top is a bust of Edward VI and below that the arms of Christ’s Hospital which owned the land on which the inn stood.

Literally a bull and a mouth …

The inscription beneath reads: ‘Milo the Cretonian an ox slew with his fist and ate it up at one meal. Ye gods what a glorious twist’. It’s probably in reference to Milo of Croton, an ancient Greek wrestler and strongman sometimes depicted as carrying a bull on his shoulders.

The inn was extensively remodelled and rebuilt in 1830 and became the Queen’s Hotel, the old sign being reattached to the new building. The hotel itself was demolished in 1888 to make way for the new General Post Office which now displays this plaque …

One of my favourite blogs is Look up London by Katie Wignall. She writes ‘there’s a curious painted ghost sign under Smithfield’s rotunda car park (EC1A 9DY) …’

Katie goes on to say : ‘As tempting as it would be to imagine this was somehow part of the inn’s underground stables, sadly, I think that’s a bit far-fetched. It’s about half a mile from where the inn used to stand and (though it is covered) the paintwork looks pretty new to have been there since the 19th century.

Given how popular Smithfield is as a film location, it seems more likely that it’s simply a leftover film set that’s remained behind to puzzle us curious Londoners’.

Incidentally, there was another Bull and Mouth Inn on Aldersgate Street which also had a wonderful sign. Here it is …

Picture credit : Bishopsgate Institute. For more old street signs see this edition of Spitalfields Life.

I hope you enjoyed this tale of London’s past. I shall be tracking down more of Mr Rushen’s memorials in future weeks and hope to find some more fascinating stories.

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* I have to point out that not all commentators agree with the ‘Boulogne Mouth’ story, arguing that there were numerous strange combinations of words for inns (for example the Cat and Fiddle on Lombard Street). And some theories have been repeatedly shown to be untrue (for example claims that Elephant & Castle was a corruption of the Infanta de Castilla). It has been argued that the name of our inn really refers to the aforementioned wrestler ‘Milo the Croatian’ reputedly eating an entire ox at one meal after he slew it ‘with his fist’. But why name a number of English inns after a Croatian? I have no idea!

Monkeys and lions in Seething Lane

I couldn’t resist going back to visit the fascinating carvings in the Seething Lane Garden that I wrote about last week. They all relate to the life of Samuel Pepys and have revealed a few things that I did not know.

I was puzzled by this carving of a monkey who is sitting on some books and appears to have taken a bite out of a rolled up document …

Then I found the following entry in Pepys’s diary for Friday 18th January 1661 …

I took horse and guide for London; and through some rain, and a great wind in my face, I got to London at eleven o’clock. At home found all well, but the monkey loose, which did anger me, and so I did strike her till she was almost dead …

I’m not sure whether it was his pet or his wife’s, but it certainly paid a heavy price for its misbehaviour.

He also got upset with his wife’s pet dog. On 16th February 1660 he wrote …

So to bed, where my wife and I had some high words upon my telling her that I would fling the dog which her brother gave her out at the window if he pissed in the house any more.

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

Amazingly, Pepys once owned a pet lion himself.

As the Navy’s principal administrator he wielded considerable influence and was frequently sent gifts in order to curry favour. Kate Loveman, in her book Samuel Pepys and His Books: Reading, Newsgathering, and Sociability, 1660-1703 writes : ‘In Algiers the consul Samuel Martin found providing suitable presents taxing … He sent Pepys naval intelligence and (in despair) …

A Tame Lion, which is the only rarity that offers from this place …

Pepys kept the creature in his home at Derby House and sent the following gracious message to Martin, assuring him that the animal was …

… as tame as you sent him and as good company.

In 1679 tragedy struck when Pepys was arrested, dismissed from service and sent to the Tower of London on charges of ‘Piracy, Popery and Treachery’. The first two were outlandish and easily disproved but much more damaging and dangerous was the rumour that he had sold state secrets to the French (a crime which carried the terrifying penalty of being hanged, drawn and quartered).

Using his own resources and considerable network, he tracked down the story to a lying scoundrel called John Scott. Pepys was subsequently freed but was left homeless, jobless and in a perilous situation financially. In her book Samuel Pepys, The Unequalled Self, Claire Tomalin made the poignant observation that whilst in the Tower ‘he could console himself only with the sound of the familiar bells of All Hallows and St Olave’s’.

Here is the carving of Pepys in the Tower …

You can read the full story of his first imprisonment in The Plot against Pepys by Ben and James Long.

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

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

The death warrant of King Charles I, 29 January 1649 (detail). Parliamentary Archives.
HL/PO/JO/10/1/297A.

Eleven years later, on 13th October 1660, he witnessed the execution of Major-General Thomas Harrison, one of the regicide signatories to the warrant. The punishment was hanging drawing and quartering. Pepys’s droll diary entry made me smile …

I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-General Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition.

Pepys loved theatrical performances and represented in the garden is an early version of Punch and Judy …

On 9th May 1662 he wrote …

Thence with Mr Salisbury, who I met there, into Covent Garden to an alehouse, to see a picture that hangs there, which is offered for 20s., and I offered fourteen – but it is worth much more money – but did not buy it, I having no mind to break my oath. Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants. So to the Temple and by water home …

On 4th September 1663 he visited the notorious Bartholomew Fair in Smithfield and toured the attractions with his wife. He wrote, ‘above all there was at last represented the sea, with Neptune, Venus, mermaids, and Ayrid on a dolphin‘. The mermaid is also here in the park …

The first page of the diary in the shorthand code he had devised for it …

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

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

Photo credit : Spitalfields Life.

The Gentle Author, who publishes Spitalfields Life, has written an eloquent description of his visit to the library which you can read here.

I have written about Pepys before : Samuel Pepys and his ‘own church’ and Samuel Pepys and the Plague.

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

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

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

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

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

Just how smart are they?

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

With total isolation for the particularly vulnerable …

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

A kind lady has just distributed a handful of bread!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph David Tipling/Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one of his illustrations …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s a pretty boy then?

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

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Around Leadenhall – Geishas, Sign Language, Maypoles and a Japanese proverb

I started my walk in Lime Street and just by Lloyd’s is the impressive Asia House. It was built in 1912-13 and designed by George Val Myer when he was only 30. His best known work is the BBC’s Broadcasting House on Portland Place …

Picture by Katie of Look up London Tours.

What makes it particularly interesting are the human figures. They were carved by John Broad of Doulton Ceramics and are entitled Japanese Man and Woman. He holds a model ship and a scroll …

She holds a fan and a paintbrush. Although she isn’t described anywhere as a Geisha I have just made that assumption because she looks so elegantly traditional and is obviously demonstrating artistic talents …

Beneath the pediment another lady sits enthroned, legs nonchalantly crossed, against a stylised sunburst motif …

Her headgear is very elaborate and she has dragons to her right and left.

The building was originally the premises of Mitsui & Co Ltd, a Tokyo firm described in the 1913 Post Office Directory as ‘steamship owners and general commission merchants, export and import’. The current tenant is the Scor Reinsurance Company.

The new skyscraper on Bishopsgate looms over the Victorian market …

During my walk I came across three examples of the current Sculpture in the City initiative.

Inside the market is The Source by Patrick Tuttofuoco which ‘depicts the artist’s hands as he mimes some words conveyed using a sign language’ …

Opposite Lloyd’s is a sign indicating that you have arrived in Arcadia (Utopia) rather than just the main entrance to the Willis Towers Watson building …

The artist, Leo Fitzmaurice, ‘has substituted the factual information, usually found on these signs, for something more poetic, allowing viewers to enjoy this material, along with the space around it in a new and more open-ended way’.

Nearby in Cullum Street (EC3M 7JJ) is Series Industrial Windows 1 by Marisa Ferreira …

The information notice tells us that ‘the artwork invokes Pierre Nora’s notion of ‘lieux de mémoire’ to reflect the urban landscape as fragment, memory and vision and to question how industrial ruins solicit affective, imaginative and sensual engagements with the past’.

Also in Cullum Street is the unusual Art Nouveau Bolton House. I haven’t been able to find out a lot more about it apart from the architect (A. Selby) and that it’s reportedly named after Prior Bolton who had close connections with St Bartholomew the Great (which I have written about here).

It’s blue and white faience with strong Moorish influences …

The building was completed in 1907, a few years before Art Nouveau went out of fashion.

In the market again, I always smile when I come across Old Tom’s Bar …

Old Tom was a gander from Ostend in Belgium who is said to have arrived in the Capital having followed a female member of his flock who took his fancy! Despite the swift dispatch of the other 34,000 members of his party, somehow Tom miraculously managed to survive the dinner table and became a regular fixture at the market and the surrounding inns, who kept scraps aside for him.

So beloved was Old Tom that he even made it into the Times Newspaper! Below is his obituary, published on 16 April 1835:

In memory of Old Tom the Gander.
Obit 19th March, 1835, aetat, 37 years, 9 months, and 6 days.

‘This famous gander, while in stubble,
Fed freely, without care or trouble:
Grew fat with corn and sitting still,
And scarce could cross the barn-door sill:
And seldom waddled forth to cool
His belly in the neighbouring pool.
Transplanted to another scene,
He stalk’d in state o’er Calais-green,
With full five hundred geese behind,
To his superior care consign’d,
Whom readily he would engage
To lead in march ten miles a-stage.
Thus a decoy he lived and died,
The chief of geese, the poulterer’s pride.’

Unfortunately, I can find no reliable contemporary picture of him. Despite claims to the contrary, he is not represented, along with a little boy, above the old Midland Bank Building on Poultry. The goose there was a suggestion by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to commemorate its original market function.

On my way to the Cheesegrater I spotted this reflection of the Gherkin in the glass walls of The Scalpel along with two of the crosses on St Andrew Undershaft’s pinnacles …

Outside the Cheesegrater, this Godlike figure entitled Navigation holds a passenger ship in his left hand and is flanked by a binnacle and a ship’s wheel. Originally owned by the P&O Banking Corporation, he once looked down from the facade of their building at the junction of Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe. I smiled because he seems to be glancing rather suspiciously at the replica maypole that has been installed next to him …

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

Here is a picture of the church around 1910. You can see the Navigation statue on the building on the left …

The area has been brightened up recently with the ventilation exits covered in bold designs …

On a lighthearted note, I am collecting pictures of weird and creepy clothes models. There are these in Lime Street …

To add to these in Eastcheap …

And finally, an old Japanese proverb pasted on to the window of a temporarily closed restaurant …

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A walk down Queen Victoria Street (and another cute pigeon)

Queen Victoria Street was created in 1871 as an extension to the then new Victoria Embankment and led directly to the Mansion House. The new street was incredibly expensive to build since, obviously, the properties standing in its path had to be purchased before demolition. The cost, over £2,000,000, equates to more than two billion pounds in equivalent value today.

On this extract from the 1847 Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London a red line has been drawn to show how Queen Victoria Street sliced its way across the City …

This picture gives an idea of the extent of the demolition …

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PZ_CT_02_1067

I wanted to try to stand as closely as possible where this picture was taken and, pausing in the street, I looked up and this is what I saw (EC4V 4BQ) …

I climbed some steps and in a grim courtyard outside the gruesome Baynard House is a quite extraordinary sculpture, The Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley (1980) …

At first the infant – mewing and puking in the nurse’s arms …then the whining schoolboy creeping like a snail unwillingly to school … then the lover … then a soldier full of strange oaths …

… and then the justice full of wise saws … then the sixth age …the big manly voice turning again toward childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound … then second childishness and mere oblivion, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

(Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It Act II Scene vii)

Here is the view from the terrace taken from approximately the same spot as the demolition picture above …

This image and several of the illustrations in today’s blog have been taken from the excellent blog A London Inheritance which I wholeheartedly recommend.

By the way, the terrace leads to Blackfriars Station and it’s worth popping in to see this example of the station’s past importance.

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

The letters are gilded in 24 carat gold leaf …

Where shall we buy a ticket to today? Crystal Palace or Marseilles? Westgate-on-Sea or St Petersburg? Tough choices!

Moving westward on the north side of Queen Victoria Street you will find the College of Arms (EC4V 4BT). Founded in 1484, this is where you go to get your family coat of arms designed and granted. As well as this function, the College maintains registers of arms, pedigrees, genealogies, Royal Licences, changes of name, and flags. The officers who run the College have some splendid titles such as Clarenceaux King of Arms, Rouge Dragon Persuivant and various Heralds and Heralds Extraordinary.

The original street plan included the complete demolition of their building but the Heralds objected strongly. As a result Queen Victoria Street merely sliced off the south east and south west wings, requiring remodelling of the two stumps. You can see how the colour of the new brickwork differs from the original in this picture …

This print from 1768 shows the building before the 1871 alterations …

Also on the north side is the 1933 Faraday Building, once one of the major hubs for international and national telephone circuits and operator services (EC4V 4BT) …

Look just above the line of the second set of windows and, in the position associated with a key stone, there are a series of carvings, one above each window, that tell the story of what was state of the art telecommunications at the time the building was constructed.

A bang up to date telephone …

Cables that carried the telephone signal …

An electromagnetic relay …

A Horse Shoe Magnet …

The imposing entrance doors are sadly defaced with signage …

There are two nice places to sit down and rest.

The first I would recommend is the Cleary Garden (EC4V 2AR) …

It is named after Fred Cleary who, during the 1970s, was instrumental in encouraging the planting of trees and the creation of new gardens throughout the square mile. During the blitz, the house which once stood here was destroyed exposing the cellars. A shoemaker called Joe Brandis decided that he would create a garden from the rubble, collecting mud from the river banks and transporting soil from his own garden in Walthamstow to the site. His success was such that on 29th July 1949 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited his handiwork.

My second recommendation, if you seek some refreshment in extraordinary surroundings, is the Black Friar pub (EC4V 4EG) …

The interior is so amazing that I am going to write about it in more detail in a later blog dedicated to pubs. In the meantime, here are a few pictures to give you some idea of what to expect …

You can watch an interesting video about the pub and its history here.

And finally, it’s cute pigeon time. I saw this one dozing off whilst using a spotlight to dry his feathers and warm his bottom. He’s also managing to do this whilst balanced on one leg …

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Another aimless wander – horses, pigeons and quad bikes

Sometimes it’s just nice to set out without a specific theme or objective in mind and see what turns up.

Last week I was very lucky almost straight away because I came across these two members of the City of London mounted police perfectly posed outside the Royal Exchange …

The riders and horses are based in Wood Street police station where there is a custom made stable block. The station was built in 1965, when mounted police were a much more common sight, but the officers and horses will be moving out at the end of December and the building converted to accommodation. The ladies told me that they would be temporarily based with the Metropolitan Police in the West End but will still be returning regularly to patrol the City. You can read more about the horses’ training etc. here.

Watching out over a very quiet City …

Now that Autumn is here I try to capture the changing foliage and light whenever I can. Here’s St Giles Cripplegate as seen from the podium …

And here’s a view looking north west from Aldgate …

I paid a visit to the lovely little Goldsmith’s Garden on Gresham Street which used to be the churchyard of St John Zachary (destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666) …

It was fun to encounter this pigeon taking a leisurely shower …

He also meticulously washed under his wings – clearly a bird keen on personal freshness …

A little further along the road at St Anne and St Agnes red bricks meet Autumn leaves …

The Barbican often provides some interesting shadows, colours and reflections …

St Paul’s Cathedral with the Firefighter’s Memorial in the foreground …

I am not a great fan of some of the new City architecture but the colours on these buildings in Old Bailey are rather jolly …

The tower of St Alban in Wood Street, all that remained of Wren’s original church after the Blitz …

Next to St Paul’s is the only surviving part of the Church of St Augustine, also badly damaged in the War and partially rebuilt in 1966 …

Here St Botolph Without Aldgate is framed by trees and some Art in the City …

A closer view …

There is also some really good news in these difficult times. The gardens at Finsbury Circus have been handed back to the City now that the Crossrail work there is finished and the Mayor has launched a competition as to how they might be redesigned. You can find details here. As you can see from my picture, it really is a blank canvas …

Some of the offices on the Circus have worked hard on their flower displays …

These merge nicely with the floral decorated stonework …

Finally, a few quirky items.

Caught in mid-air – Parkour at the Barbican …

… and how on earth did these quad bikes end up in a skip on Beech Street?

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From Sam Pepys’s dinner plate to the Essex Auroch

Yes, I have again been taking advantage of the wonderful fact that the Museum of London has reopened and is free to enter with a timed ticket.

I was thrilled to see a new exhibit connected to my hero Samuel Pepys – naval administrator, Member of Parliament and, of course, famous diarist. The item is a silver dinner plate made in 1681/82 and engraved with his coat of arms. Scratched by knives and forks, it is one of only three that now survive of the full dinner service …

By the time he commissioned this he was already a wealthy man and took great pleasure in entertaining at home. I like this boast from his diary dated 8th April 1667 and his remark about Mrs Clarke made me laugh out loud …

We had with my wife and I twelve at table and very good and pleasant company, and a most neat and excellent, but dear dinner; but, Lord, to see with what envy they looked upon all my fine plate was pleasant, for I made the best show I could, to let them understand me and my condition, to take down the pride of Mrs Clarke, who thinks herself very great.

Being a man of intense curiosity, and a Fellow of the Royal Society, Pepys would almost certainly have heard of this discovery made during the rebuilding of St Martin’s Church on Ludgate Hill in 1669 …

It’s the third century tombstone of a Roman centurion wearing a tunic, a military belt and a long cloak draped over his left shoulder.

Amazingly, the inscription is still legible …

To the spirits of the departed and to Vivius Marcianus of the 2nd Legion Augusta, Januaria Martina his most devoted wife set up this memorial.

I think modern illustrations like this are mainly for the benefit of children, but I love them …

Incidentally, and still on a Roman theme, nearby is a fine mosaic floor dating from AD 300 and discovered in Bucklersbury in 1869 …

Pepys witnessed and wrote about the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the Museum has a rare depiction of the City before the fire. It dates from around 1630, three years before he was born …

Nearby is a dramatic oil painting of the conflagration at its height …

The view is taken from the west with the Cathedral, fiercely ablaze, dominating the scene. John Evelyn described what happened when the fire reached St Paul’s …

The stones of St Paul’s flew like grenades, the lead melting down the streets in a stream, and the very pavements of them glowing with fiery redness.

The cathedral was thought to be safe and the nearby printers and booksellers stored their entire stock in the crypt. Unfortunately the fire caught hold of wooden scaffolding put up for repairs and the cathedral and all its contents were consumed.

Since his home was at risk, Pepys hired a cart ‘to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things’ and buried his valuable Parmesan cheese in the garden.

Such was the intensity of the blaze that these two iron padlocks and key melted together in a lump. The owner of the premises, an 80-year-old watchmaker, chose to hide in his cellar rather than flee (presumably to protect his stock from looters). These items were found beside his body …

Referring to a giant who was supposed to have lived in the building, this figure, known as Gerald the Giant, stood in a niche on the front elevation of Gerard’s Hall in Basing Lane and dates from around 1670 …

I like his daintily decorated shoes …

There is also some lovely stained glass dating from 1660 – 1700 …

Dragging myself away from the 17th century, there were two paintings I really enjoyed studying. The first is entitled Eastward Ho! and was painted by Henry Nelson O’Neil in 1857. It became his most popular work …

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

The Times newspaper commented …

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

A year later he painted Home Again

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

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

The Times had this to say about Home Again

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

And, of course, I mustn’t forget the Aurock. Its colossal skull confronts you soon after you enter …

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

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Courts, alleys and a green elephant

Every time I walk along Fleet Street I find something to write about.

This week I decided to take another look at the courts and alleys starting with the curiously named Poppin’s Court (a good name for the restaurant). The wallsign gives tourists a visual clue as to what’s on offer, yummy!) ..

According to The London Encyclopaedia, the abbots of Cirencester, whose crest included a popinjay or parrot, had a town house here in the early 14th century called Le Popyngaye and the name stuck. If this is correct, the apostrophe in the current name is not really appropriate, giving the impression that someone called Poppin used to live there. Or possibly that the court is named after the restaurant. There used to be a stone relief of a parrot over the court’s entrance but this has disappeared.

I was curious to know what a coat of arms with a parrot on it looked like and I found one, on the crest of Sutton United Football Club of all places …

Further west is Peterborough Court, with its ‘IN’ entrance …

… and ‘OUT’ exit …

The Court is named after the Bishop of Peterborough who owned the land in the 14th century. Described as ‘An Art Deco Temple to Journalism’, the Portland Stone building dates from 1928 and was the home of the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper moved out in 1987 and eventually Goldman Sachs International leased the building at a cost of £18 million a year. The lease runs out in 2021 and I think they have already vacated the building since it looks a bit sad and neglected. There was talk last year of it becoming another WeWork site but who knows in the current economic climate. The lovely Art Deco clock usually makes me smile …

Cheshire Court is modest, but its fame comes from its neighbour, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – a pub which has been recorded on this location since at least 1538, although it’s original name was probably the Horn Tavern …

Wine Office Court is so named because licences for selling wine were issued at premises here. That’s the entrance to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on the right …

The view looking towards Fleet Street …

I can’t find out much about Hind Court, it’s possibly named after a tavern …

Many of the courts have a plaque at the entrance. This one shows a facsimile of the front page of the first edition of Daily Express dated Tuesday 24th April 1900 …

The note in the box reads …

The first edition of the Daily Express was published in Fleet Street. It was one of the first papers in Britain to carry gossip, sports, women’s features and a crossword.

Bolt Court is probably named after another vanished inn, the Bolt-in-Tun, and Dr Johnson lived here at number 8 from 1776 to when he died in 1784. The house was lost in a fire in 1819 …

At the entrance is a facsimile of the front page of The Sun newspaper dated 15th September 1984 …

Bolt Court leads to Gough Square where another house that was occupied by Dr Johnson has survived. There is also a sweet sculpture of his cat Hodge looking towards his old home …

I’ve written more about the Square and Hodge in this blog entitled City Animals 2.

St Dunstan’s Court references the nearby church, St Dunstan-in-the-West …

At its entrance computerisation in the printing industry is illustrated, a bit bizarrely I think, by the Pac-Man game …

The Royal Society met in Crane Court from 1710 until they moved to Somerset House in 1780 …

The plaque shows a facsimile of the front page of the Daily Courant dated Wednesday March 11, 1702 …

It was Britain’s first daily newspaper.

 On 14 April 1785 it ran a story about a man murdered after a visit to the barber. Some claim that this was the inspiration behind Victorian penny dreadful Sweeney Todd (allegedly a resident of 183 Fleet St) and the spawning of lots of movies …

It’s worth taking a walk through Crane Court and seeing how it opens up into an area full of character where development has been careful and restrained …

Mitre Court was named after the Mitre Tavern …

The Mitre was Dr. Johnson’s favourite supper-house and James Boswell, his biographer, referred to dining there …

We had a good supper, and port-wine, of which he (Johnson) sometimes drank a bottle.

Like nearby Bouverie Street, the name Pleydell Court comes from the Pleydell-Bouveries, Earls of Radnor, who were landlords in this area …

Now to Hare Place and its interesting history.

The Whitefriars, or Carmelites, once owned land stretching from here to the river. When the monastery was dissolved in November 1538 the land was sold to individuals who subdivided their plots and built tenements on them. However, this precinct had long possessed the privileges of Sanctuary, which were confirmed by a charter of James I in 1608. From about this time the area was known by the cant name Alsatia (after the disputed continental territory of Alsace), and its entrance was in Hare Place, then known as Ram Alley …

It became the ‘asylum of characterless debtors, cheats and gamblers here protected from arrest’. One Edwardian historian spoke of …

Its reeking dens, its bawds and its occupants’ disgusting habits. Every house was a resort of ill-fame, and therein harboured women, and still worse, men, lost to every instinct of humanity.

The privilege of Sanctuary was finally abolished in 1687.

And, finally, I walked through these elaborate gates to Serjeants’ Inn. …

Prudens Simplicitas (Prudent Simplicity) was the motto of the Amicable Society which was based here from 1838 and was the world’s first mutual life insurance company. The unusual choice of creatures may refer to a biblical quotation in which Jesus exhorted followers to be ‘wise as serpents, gentle as doves’. Lost during building works, the gates were rediscovered in a scrapyard in 1937 and returned to their original position here in 1970.

What awaited me inside the gates was quite unexpected …

There is nothing to give a clue as to what this happy elephant represents but I am wondering if he is linked to the green bear that has recently appeared outside Citypoint …

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A more cheerful wander around Smithfield

Last week’s blog was largely concerned with the rather gruesome events that took place in this historic area so I’m aiming to be a bit more lighthearted this week.

Looking up as you walk can be very rewarding. Just opposite Smithfield Central Market on Charterhouse Street I spotted this frieze at the top of one of the buildings …

Here is a close up of the panel on the left …

And here’s the one on the right …

Aren’t they wonderful! I’m pretty sure that’s a bull in the foreground.

And, whilst in livestock mode, if you look just around the corner in Peter’s Lane you will encounter this sight (EC1M 6DS) …

Now look up …

Here’s the bull at the very top …

Surprisingly, they only date from the mid-1990s and are made of glass reinforced resin. The bovine theme was used as a decorative motif because for centuries the appropriately named Cowcross Street was part of a route used by drovers to bring cows to be slaughtered. The tower forms part of The Rookery Hotel and also dates from the mid-1990s, although it looks much older due to the use of salvaged bricks.

I reckon this is a top class piece of sympathetic redevelopment by the architects Gus Alexander. Read all about how they approached the work here.

I’ll say a little about Smithfield’s history.

It appears on some old maps as Smooth Field …

In the Braun and Hogenberg map of 1560/72 it’s Smythe Fyeld …

In the Agas Map of 1633 it’s Schmyt Fyeld …

By the twelfth century, there was a fair held there on every Friday for the buying and selling of horses, and a growing market for oxen, cows and – by-and-by – sheep as well. An annual fair was held every August around St Bartholomew’s Day and was the most prominent and infamous London fair for centuries; and one of the most important in the country. Over the centuries it became a teeming, riotous, outpouring of popular culture, feared and despised like no other regular event by those in power… ‘a dangerous sink for all the vices of London’. This image gives a flavour of it …

In the foreground, a man digs deep into his pocket. It looks like he’s just about to place a bet on a ‘find the pea’ game – a notorious confidence trick being operated here by a distinctly dodgy looking character. In the background musicians play and people dance.

Here’s another view that captures the sheer exuberance of the event …

Bartholomew Fair by Augustus Pugin & Thomas Rowlandson, courtesy Bishopsgate Institute.

In this 1721 image the behaviour looks more sedate …

In 1815 Wordsworth visited the Fair and saw …

Albinos, Red Indians, ventriloquists, waxworks and a learned pig which blindfolded could tell the time to the minutes and pick out any specified card in a pack.

Alongside the entertainment of the Fair there was an undercurrent of trouble, violence and crime. In 1698 a visiting Frenchman, Monsieur Monsieur Sorbière, wrote …

I was at Bartholomew Fair… Knavery is here in perfection, dextrous cutpurses and pickpockets … I met a man that would have took off my hat, but I secured it, and was going to draw my sword, crying, ‘Begar! You rogue! Morbleu!’ &c., when on a sudden I had a hundred people about me crying, ‘Here, monsieur, see Jephthah’s Rash Vow.’ ‘Here, monsieur, see the Tall Dutchwoman’ …

After more than 700 years the Fair was finally banned in 1855 for being …

A great public nuisance, with its scenes of riot and obstruction in the very heart of the city.

As far as livestock trading was concerned it had always been a place of open air slaughter. The historian Gillian Tindall writes: ‘Moo-ing, snorting and baa-ing herds were still driven on the hoof by men and dogs through busy streets towards Smithfield, sometimes from hundred of miles away. Similarly, geese and ducks were hustled along in great flocks, their delicate feet encased in cloth for protection. They were all going to their deaths, though they did not know it – till the stench of blood and the sounds of other animals inspired noisy fear in them’.

In Great Expectations, set in the 1820s, young Pip comes across the market and refers to it as ‘the shameful place, being all asmear with filth and fat and blood and foam [which] seemed to stick to me.

Eventually slaughtering was moved elsewhere and the open air market closed in 1855 …

Smithfield Market’s last day.

The present meat market on Charterhouse Street was established by an 1860 Act of Parliament and was designed by Sir Horace Jones who also designed Billingsgate and Leadenhall Markets. Work on Smithfield, inspired by Italian architecture, began in 1866 and was completed in November 1868. I think this picture was taken not long after construction …

The buildings were a reflection of the modernity of Victorian city. Like many market buildings of the second half the nineteenth century, they owed a debt to Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace in their creative use of glass, timber and iron …

One aspect of the London Central Markets, as the Smithfield buildings were known, was particularly revolutionary, though largely hidden. All the buildings were constructed over railway goods yards. For the first time ever, meat was delivered by underground railway direct to a large wholesale market in the centre of a city. In this picture, an underground train whizzes past where the old tracks used to be …

The spectacular colour scheme today replicates what it was when the market opened …

The church of St Bartholomew the Great is always worth a visit but today I’ll just mention the Gatehouse entrance. These pictures show the site before and after the first world war …

The Zeppelin bomb that fell nearby in 1916 partly demolished later buildings revealing the Tudor origins underneath and exposing more of the 13th century stonework from the original nave. By 1932 it was fully restored.

Looking out towards Smithfield you can see the 13th century arch topped by a Tudor building …

Finally, in the Great Avenue (EC1A 9PS), there is this monument commemorating men, women and children who perished both overseas and nearby …

The original memorial (above the red granite plinth) is by G Hawkings & Son and was unveiled on 22  July 1921. 212 names are listed.

Between Fame and Victory holding laurel wreaths, the cartouche at the top reads …

1914-1918 Remember with thanksgiving the true and faithful men who in these years of war went forth from this place for God and the right. The names of those who returned not again are here inscribed to be honoured evermore.

At 11:30 in the morning on 8th March 1945 the market was extremely busy, with long queues formed to buy from a consignment of rabbits that had just been delivered. Many in the queue were women and children. With an explosion that was heard all over London, a V2 rocket landed in a direct hit which also cast victims into railway tunnels beneath – 110 people died and many more were seriously injured. This picture shows some of the terrible aftermath …

The monument was refurbished in 2004/5 and unveiled on 15 June 2005 by the Princess Royal and Lord Mayor Savory. The red granite plinth had been added and refers to lives lost in ‘conflict since the Great War’. On it mention is made of the women and children although the V2 event is not specifically referred to.

This is the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Butchers who helped to fund the refurbishment, along with the Corporation of London and the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association.

The crest translates as : ‘Thou hast put all things under his feet, all Sheep and Oxen’.

Plans have been made for the market to be moved, along with Billingsgate and New Spitalfields markets, to Barking Reach power station, an abandoned industrial site at Dagenham Dock earmarked for redevelopment. The Museum of London will relocate to part of the old market site.

If you want to read more about Smithfield and its history, here is a link to some of my sources:

Smithfield’s Bloody Past by Gillian Tindall.

Today in London’s festive history – The opening of Batholomew’s Fair.

St Bartholomew’s Gatehouse | A rare survivor of 16th century London.

Underneath Smithfield Market – The Gentle Author.

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Things that cheered me up

In these unusual times it is, I think, easy to get a bit fed up. So I thought I would share with you a few things that have brightened up my days recently.

What better place to start than with this magnificent bear taking a rest in City Point Square …

The Square is quite a cheerful place nowadays with lots of colourful seating and it’s quite buzzy weekday lunchtimes and evenings now that the Rack & Tenter pub is open again.

I call this picture ‘Sunflower Surprise’ …

Nature makes its presence felt against the Barbican concrete. That’s Shakespeare Tower in the background.

My favourite front door …

I suppose they got fed up with people saying they couldn’t find the bell!

I am very fond of Sir William Staines whose bust is on display in the church of St Giles Cripplegate, the Ward of which he represented as Alderman …

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

Beechey, William; Sir William Staines, Lord Mayor of London (1800); City of London Corporation.

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

Fun street art always cheers me up. Here’s a rather grumpy elephant near Whitecross Street …

In the nearby company of a grumpy parrot …

A slightly disconcerting window display at the Jugged Hare Bar and Restaurant …

High spot of last week was a visit to the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens.

What I hadn’t properly appreciated before was the use Moore made of maquettes in order to help him visualise the finished work, which was often vast in scale. He also sometimes took photographs of these little masterpieces having placed them in an exterior setting in order to demonstrate to customers what a finished work would look like in the landscape.

There is a room full of them …

The gardens contain 21 sculptures by Moore and in several cases you can compare the original maquette …

… with the finished work …

It’s a bronze created between 1979 and 1981 entitled Two Piece Reclining Figure: Cut and to me looks like a a woman reaching back over her shoulders.

The gardens are a perfect setting for his work …

I like the faces in the less abstract pieces …

They can look quite sinister …

Goslar Warrior : Bronze : 1973-1974.

Another thing I didn’t know was that some of his designs had been woven into tapestries …

A great day – so nice to get away from the City and to loose oneself in the company of a genius like Moore.

And finally, a different kind of art …

In a music shop window, Jagger and Richards performing in Köln in 1976. Who would have guessed they would still be touring 44 years later?

They haven’t changed a bit!

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More pics from my Instagram collection

I set up my Instagram account because I found I was taking more pictures outside the City and also because some City images didn’t fit into any neat category. You will find details of how to follow me at the end of the blog. Some of the other pictures here I just took for fun.

I hope you enjoy them – I’ll start with evidence as to how the local animals are practicing social distancing …

I love ducks. These two were fast asleep on the Barbican Highwalk in the early morning …

Still there later on (I didn’t wake them up). They are completely relaxed about having their picture taken and obviously like to strike a pose …

Now that people have deserted the City so have the seagulls. This is good news for the little ducklings who often provided the gulls (and the visiting heron) with a tasty snack. There are quite a few families now growing up quickly …

Mum keeps a watchful eye.

Another bird, a moody parrot near Whitecross Street …

I managed to snatch this picture of the Red Arrows flypast accompanied by their French equivalent the Patrouille de France (PAF). They took to the skies on June 18th to mark the 80th anniversary of a famous wartime speech by General Charles de Gaulle …

Still on an aviation theme, every now and then a Chinook helicopter practices landing in the Honourable Artillery Company’s field just off Moorgate. The noise sounds like you are in a Vietnam War movie …

What about this enigmatic message on an optician’s window on London Wall …

On the other hand, I thought these models in an Eastcheap shop looked really creepy …

Like creatures out of a Doctor Who episode.

I suppose these bony teaching aids glimpsed through a Bart’s Hospital window are also a bit disturbing …

High spot of the easing of lockdown – getting a haircut …

Second high spot …

I do like to tuck into a Penguin …

Oh how the simple pleasures of life take on a new importance when you are deprived of them!

The hotel I stayed at in Eastbourne last week had some very interesting items displayed on the walls. I liked these pictures of The Beatles in their early days but they made me feel a bit sad and nostalgic too …

To my delight the hotel also had a reproduction of a very early map of London …

Note particularly Smooth Field and the three dimensional representations of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

This was fascinating …

The picture is entitled …

Ice Carnival held at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, 31st October 1930 in the presence of the Prince of Wales with Mrs Wallis Simpson who was always seated three places from him in public.

There was some nice stained glass too …

The hotel is the Langham and I highly recommend it.

Our Car Park attendant and concierge has green fingers and has improved the environment immeasurably …

I like these golden lions outside the Law Society …

Royal Wedding teabags are still available at this shop on Ludgate Hill …

Hurry hurry hurry while stocks last!

Pharmacy humour …

Another pop group caught my eye – a picture in a music shop window of the Rolling Stones in May 1965. Who would have thought they would still be touring 55 years later (apart from poor Brian Jones, of course) …

And finally you will be relieved to hear …

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Wine and Oxo cubes

It has been many years since I crossed Southwark Bridge and then I wasn’t taking much notice of the buildings in Queen Street Place as I headed towards the bridge and out of the City. When I took the trouble to look last week I was absolutely captivated by this delightful but rather strange Art Deco sculpture by H W Palliser …

One writer called it ‘the sexiest sculpture in London– I couldn’t possibly comment.

Built by the Vintners’ Company in 1928, at the centre stands a nude woman clutching to herself bunches of grapes which grow on vines at her side. She is a Bacchante, the ‘spirit of the harvest’, and two goats look up at her adoringly as four doves descend above her head. Two swans are also in attendance, reminding us that the Vintners’ Company is one of the three owners of all the swans on the upper Thames, the others being the Dyers and HM the Queen. The model for the woman was Leopoldine Avico who was also, I believe, the model for The Queen of Time above Selfridges.

You get a nice view of Vintners’ Hall from the Bridge …

Immediately next door is Thames House (1911-12). It was built for the Liebig Extract of Meat Company whose product was imported from a huge plant in Fray Bentos, Uruguay. There is a clue as to what they made over the central entrance …

Yes, the two stone horns symbolise the South American herds that provided the meat for the famous and successful Oxo cube (or ‘boiled up cow’, as one commentator rather unkindly called it). The other carvings represent Abundance – a nude youth pours water from a vase and a nude maiden pours flowers from a cornucopia.

In the pediment on the North Pavilion a pair of nude figures hold a strop to tame the winged horse Pegasus, who beats the cloud with his hooves in his struggle …

This may allude to the alleged energising qualities of the product.

On the South Pavilion pediment a female figure with fruit and flowers represents the fruits of the land with Neptune, holding his trident and a rope for his net, signifies the fruits of the water …

Between them is the figure of a boy standing on two winged wheels symbolising Trade..

Directly over the door is this group …

It’s a particularly lavish doorway surmounted by an arch over a circular window or oculus. The spandrels over the arch contain bas reliefs of women denoting Commerce (left) and Wisdom (right), by Richard Garbe. Commerce holds a caduceus and brandishes an oak branch, symbol of endurance and fortitude. Wisdom holds a torch and proffers a laurel branch, symbol of victory. Above, a dove with an olive branch in her beak brings peace.

In front of the window is a bronze galleon by the metalworker William Bainbridge Reynolds …

The ship is flanked by some rather grotesque fish which look like they are gasping for air. Maybe Neptune has just caught them.

Here’s the full frontal view …

Further along to the north I admired some elaborate doors …

The old doorway to Thames House at the junction with Upper Thames Street is now an entrance to Five Kings House, the interior of the building having now presumably been segmented in some way (EC4R 1QS) …

Above the door the male figure, with a helmet and wings at his heels, is clearly Mercury as God of Commerce. It’s not clear what the lady represents – possibly agriculture. Two seated putti support a cartouche

Queen Street Place was a wonderful surprise to me. I have often been asked if I am ever going to run out of things to write about but I can’t imagine this ever happening. The City seems to have something new to offer me every day I walk around it.

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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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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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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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Looking skywards

I spend a lot of time looking up as I wander around the City, which is another reason why I tend to take photographs at the weekend. That way I won’t be obstructing bustling City folk going about their business and get tutted at when I stop abruptly.

I hope you find this miscellaneous collection interesting. Some have appeared in blogs already but I have included them again because I just like them.

This globe sits on top of the London Metropolitan University building on Moorgate (EC2M 6SQ) …

I had never noticed before that it is encircled by the signs of the Zodiac.

Here’s what it looks like at street level with the Globe Pub sign in the foreground …

Whilst on the subject of Zodiacs, there are some attractive figures around the door of 107 Cheapside (EC2V 6DN) …

They were sculpted by John Skeaping, Barbara Hepworth’s first husband …

Sagittarius – November 22nd to December 21st.

Pisces – February 19th to March 20th.
Aquarius January 20th to February 18th.

And in Cheapside there is another globe, this time supported by a straining Atlas balanced on top of a clock …

It was once the headquarters of the Atlas Assurance Company. The entrance was in King Street and above the door is another depiction of Atlas hard at work. I like the detail of his toes curled around the plinth (EC2V 8AU) …

Across the road is Kings House sporting a magnificent crown …

Above it is a very pretty Mercer Maiden dating from 1938 …

This wise old owl watches commuters as they flow back and forth over London Bridge. He was located outside what was once the Guardian Insurance Company headquarters (EC4N 7HR) …

Look up as you walk down Eastcheap and you will see the remains of a dead camel …

Constructed between 1883 and 1885, the building at 20 Eastcheap was once the headquarters of Peek Brothers & Co, dealers in tea, coffee and spices, whose trademark showed three camels bearing different shaped loads being led by a Bedouin Arab. The firm was particularly well known for its ‘Camel’ brand of tea. When Sir Henry Peek (son of one of the original founders) commissioned this building he wanted the panel over the entrance to replicate the trademark, right down to the dried bones of the dead camel lying in the sand in the foreground.

Admire the leopard’s head symbol of the Goldsmith’s Company over the entrance to the old churchyard of St Zachary on Gresham Street (EC2V 7HN) …

Guardian angels are still resting on their swings opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

This fearsome dragon on Fleet Street guards the western entrance to the City on the site of the old Temple Bar. He looks like something straight out of a Harry Potter story …

I love spotting the wide variety of weather vanes that populate the skyline even in a City crowded with new skyscrapers. This one referencing the horrific death of a martyr sits atop St Lawrence Jewry (EC2V 5AA) …

St Lawrence was executed in San Lorenzo on 10 August 258 AD in a particularly gruesome fashion, being roasted to death on a gridiron. At one point, the legend tells us, he remarked ‘you can turn me over now, this side is done’. Appropriately, he is the patron saint of cooks, chefs and comedians.

The church of Anne and St Agnes also stands in Gresham Street and is unmistakable by its letter ‘A’ on the weather vane on top of the small tower. It is named after Anne, the mother of the virgin Mary and Agnes, a thirteen year old martyr (EC2V 7BX) …

Now compare and contrast these two war memorials.

In Holborn is this work by Albert Toft. Unveiled by the Lord Mayor in 1922, the inscriptions read …

To the glorious memory of the 22,000 Royal Fusiliers who fell in the Great War 1914-1919 (and added later) To the Royal Fusiliers who fell in the World war 1939-1945 and those fusiliers killed in subsequent campaigns.

Toft’s soldier stands confidently as he surveys the terrain, his foot resting on a rock, his rifle bayoneted, his left hand clenched in determination (EC1N 2LL).

Behind him is the magnificent, red terracotta, Gothic-style building by J.W. Waterhouse, which once housed the headquarters of the Prudential Insurance Company. Walk through the entrance arch to the courtyard and you will see the work of a sculptor who has chosen to illustrate war in a very different fashion. The memorial carries the names of the 786 Prudential employees who lost their lives in the First World War …

The sculptor was F V Blunstone and the main group represents a soldier sustained in his death agony by two angels. He is lying amidst war detritus with his right arm resting on the wheel of some wrecked artillery piece. His careworn face contrasts with that of the sombre, beautiful girls with their uplifted wings. I find it incredibly moving.

I have written about angels in the City before and they are usually asexual, but these are clearly female.

And finally, as I walked along Cornhill one day I glanced up and saw these rather sinister figures silhouetted against the sky…

Closer inspection shows them to be devils, and rather angry and malevolent ones too …

They look down on St Peter upon Cornhill and are known as the Cornhill Devils (EC3V 3PD). The story goes that, when plans were submitted for the late Victorian building next to the church, the rector noticed that they impinged slightly on church land and lodged a strong objection. Everything had to literally go back to the drawing board at great inconvenience and expense. The terracotta devils looking down on the entrance to the church are said to be the architect’s revenge with the lowest devil bearing some resemblance to the cleric himself.

If this resembles the rector he must have been a pretty ugly guy!

Happy New year!

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Swinging angels, an alligator and public sculpture around St Paul’s

First of all, some great news! You can now follow me on Instagram at :

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Crossing the road outside St Paul’s Underground station I came across the surprising sight of 40 golden angels resting on swings above my head …

Entitled Lunch Break they are an installation by architects KHBT in collaboration with artist Ottmar Hörl. Intended to create a strong conceptual and visual link to the Cathedral it is, the note nearby tells us, also an emotional and imaginative work that is aiming to make people think and smile. ‘After all, in this particular time, guardian angels deserve some rest’ …

Outside the west front of the Cathedral is the statue commemorating Queen Anne, a Victorian replica of an earlier work that had become weathered and vandalised. The queen is surrounded by four allegorical figures and this one represents America …

She wears a feathered head-dress and skirt whilst her left hand grasps a metal bow. Her right hand may once have held an arrow.

What fascinated me, however, is the creature by her feet which resembles a rather angry Kermit the frog (alongside the severed head of a European) …

In 1712, this is what the original sculptor Francis Bird imagined an alligator would look like. A contemporary description of the statue states …

There is an allegator creeping from beneath her feet; being an animal very common in some parts of America which lives on land and in the water.

In the Diamond Jubilee Gardens close by is this work, The Young Lovers, by Georg Ehrlich (1897-1966). The Cathedral gives it a dramatic backdrop …

Ehrlich was a Austrian sculptor who was born and studied in Vienna. During the First World War he served in the Austrian Army and in 1930 he married the artist Bettina Bauer. After the rise of the Nazis, Ehrlich decided that it was too dangerous for them to be in Austria since they were both Jewish and they moved to London. He became a British citizen in 1947 and was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1962.

Since the weather was so nice, I took the opportunity to capture this profile of the one-time Dean of St Paul’s John Donne …

John Donne 1572 – 1631 by Nigel Boonham (2012)

I have written about Donne before and you can access the blog here.

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

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

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

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

I really like this work by Paul Mount (1922-2009), also to be found in the gardens …

Amicale (2007)

Mount was one of the last British artists whose careers were interrupted by the Second World War. A lifelong pacifist, he served in the Friends Ambulance Unit in North Africa and then France, where he stayed on after the end of the war to do relief work. Once free to work again, artists like him never really lost their sense of a world to be made anew through art. For Mount, sculpture expressed an essential human dignity. He observed …

The way that two shapes relate is as important as the way two people relate.

There is a nice obituary notice about him and his fascinating life in The Guardian which you can access here.

And finally, every time I walk past St Paul’s I am struck by the beauty of the stone carving, take this example …

Or this abundance of cherubs …

And this meticulous carving around the Dean’s Door …

Christopher Wren paid the sculptor, William Kempster, an additional £20 for the excellence of his work.

As memories of wartime fade, these shrapnel marks from a nearby bomb blast serve to remind us of how close the Cathedral came to destruction …

A number of other City buildings bear scars from World War bombing and you can read about them here.

Don’t forget to find me on Instagram: www.instagram.com/london_city_gent/

Pebbles the cat … and other Underground surprises

High up on a tiled pillar in Barbican Underground Station 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.

As I walked down the stairs to see the plaque I noticed that everything looks sadly tatty. However, just imagine these tiles when they were newly fitted before the War, with their geometric patterns leading you down to the Ticket Office …

And how wonderful, the Office window is still there, although instead of a helpful Ticket Clerk there is a poster. I reckon those lovely brass fittings and the counter date from the early 1930s. The pattern on the tiles continues down here as well – such thoughtful design …

The station, originally called Aldersgate Street, was opened on 23 December 1865 and had a large glazed roof which allowed light down to the platform. Here it is in 1936 …

The roof was removed in 1955 but you can still see the supporting brackets …

John Betjeman wrote about the roof’s dismantling, calling the work Monody on the death of Aldersgate Street Station

Snow falls in the buffet of Aldersgate station,
Soot hangs in the tunnel in clouds of steam.
City of London! before the next desecration
Let your steepled forest of churches be my theme.

Barbican station holds the unenviable distinction as the scene of the tube network’s first ever passenger disaster. On 16 December 1866 three passengers were killed and a guard was seriously injured when a girder collapsed onto a passenger train in the station. The newspapers reported that service on the line was running again only 30 minutes after the accident.

Look out for the old parish boundary marker dated 1868 on the eastbound platform …

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I have written in more detail about boundary markers in an earlier blog which you can find here. If you want to read more about the railways in the area, there is a great blog on the subject called Reconnections with useful maps and interesting pictures.

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

Just before exiting through the barriers I spotted some nice old stained glass windows. I had never noticed them before, it just shows what you can come across if you have time to dawdle …

I had as my guide a book by the brilliant Underground historian Antony Badsey-Ellis – Underground Heritage. He tells us that many Metropolitan Railway stations were modernised between 1914 and 1931 and the house style employed at what is now Farringdon Station was by Charles W Clarke …

The only decoration on the friezes was the diamond motif used by the railway …

It’s been reproduced as a heritage sign at Moorgate ..

And here it is again at Aldgate …

In the lobby is a beautifully maintained memorial to the seven people killed at Aldgate in the terrorist attacks on 7 July 2005 …

There is also a plaque commemorating the Queen’s visit in 2010 …

The tiles at Aldgate are very pretty and often include the Metropolitan Railway diamond …

And it’s nice to see some original platform signage from the 1930s (with original roof supports in the background) …

And finally, a ghost station …

You can still see the old entrance to Mark Lane tube station next to the All Bar One, just as Byward Street becomes Tower Hill. It closed on 4 February 1967 and was replaced by the nearby Tower Hill station. The entrance (through the arch on the left of the steps) now leads to a pedestrian subway …

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