Walking the City of London

Category: Architecture Page 1 of 7

City ladies, a magic square and some gentle amusement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sculptor Charles Wheeler 1929-1930.

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

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

Sculptor Ernest Gillick – 1931-2.

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

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

Innovation Factory — Magic Squares

Dürer included it in an engraving entitled Melancholia I

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

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

Sculptor Charles Doman – 1931.

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

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

Sculptor James Redfern – 1866.

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

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

The frieze on the Institute of Chartered Accountants is magnificent and was intended as a grand symbolic depiction of all the areas of human activity which have benefited from the services of accountants (EC2R 7EF). Groups of figures represent the arts, science, crafts, education, commerce, manufactures, agriculture, mining, railways, shipping and India and the Colonies. I have chosen a few with female figures and the first is entitled ‘Crafts’ …

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

Next is ‘Education’ …

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

Onward to ‘Manufactures’ …

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

Another example is ‘Agriculture’ …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Clerkenwell gnomes …

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

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

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

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‘Spot the grasshopper’, enemy cannon from Waterloo, fascinating men and a Native American lady

I think this picture tells a story. The Gresham grasshopper on the roof of the Royal Exchange is dwarfed by the new monster office block on Bishopsgate and, to a lesser extent, the Cheesegrater. Will these buildings now ever be full?

Outside the Exchange is this handsome chap, sitting without saddle or stirrups, on his fine steed …

Erected in 1844, it is, of course, the Duke of Wellington but the statue was not created to celebrate just his military achievements. On 19th July 1838 the Court of Common Council of the City of London agreed to a contribution of £500 towards its cost in appreciation of his efforts in assisting the passage of the London Bridge Approaches Act 1827. This Act led to the creation of King William Street. The government donated the metal, which is bronze from captured enemy cannon melted down after the Battle of Waterloo …

Not everyone approved. A writer to The Times declared …

…did his Grace ride at Waterloo without a saddle, without boots, without a hat and carrying his own despatches? … Is the charger supposed to be neighing to a blast of trumpets, or whinnying to the mare in the Mansion House?

Nearby is the war memorial to the London Troops …

Standing on either side of the plinth are two soldiers of the London regiments, one middle-aged the other more youthful. It was unveiled on 12 November 1920 …

A leader in The Times was entitled ‘Our London Soldiers’ and extolled the bravery of the men who came …

… from counting-house and shop, from the far-reaching suburbs and the thronged centres … it will serve as a stimulus to the sense of unity and to the sense of duty now growing in our vast and diverse population.

At the bottom of the list of battalions, one in particular caught my eye, the Cyclists …

When visiting the Imperial War Museum I came across a postcard of this splendid recruitment poster from 1912. It is poignant to look at this picture with its pretty village setting and then think of the industrial age war of slaughter, mud and filth, that was soon to follow …

Often described as ‘standing at the back’ of the Royal Exchange, is a statue to a remarkable man – Paul Julius Reuter. The rough-cut granite sculpture by the Oxford-based sculptor Michael Black commemorates the 19th-century pioneer of communications and news delivery. It is a fitting place for the statue because the stone head faces the Royal Exchange which was the reason why Reuter set up his business in the City. He established his offices in 1851 on the opposite side of the walkway to the Royal Exchange – in other words, they were to the east of the Royal Exchange. The stone monument was erected by Reuters to mark the 125th anniversary of the Reuters Foundation. It was unveiled by Edmund L de Rothschild on 18 October 1976 …

The life of Reuter was most interesting. Having started his career as a humble clerk in a bank, he went on to ‘see the future’ of transmitting the news – regardless of whether it was financial or world news. If the ‘modern’ technology of telegraphy – also known then as Telegrams – was not in place, Reuter used carrier pigeons and even canisters floating in the sea to convey news as fast as possible. Such was his ambition to be the first with the news.

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

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

What about this fine fellow dominating the small courtyard outside St Mary-le-Bow (sporting another great beard) …

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This is Captain John Smith. A colonial adventurer, Smith was a Citizen and Cordwainer, and set sail from Blackwall to found the colony of Virginia in 1606. Following a period as the prisoner of the native Americans he became head of the settler’s colony before returning to London in 1609-10. He later claimed that during his captivity his life had been saved by ‘Princess’ Pocahontas who pleaded with her father, the paramount Chief, that he be spared execution. Doubt has been cast on this story but early histories did establish that Pocahontas befriended Smith and the Jamestown colony. She often went to the settlement and played games with the boys there. When the colonists were starving, ‘every once in four or five days, Pocahontas with her attendants brought him [Smith] so much provision that saved many of their lives that else for all this had starved with hunger’.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother unveiled the statue on 31st October 1960 and you can watch a Pathe News film of the event here.

Incidentally, Pocahontas went on to marry an Englishman, John Rolfe, visited London, and became quite a celebrity. Sadly she died on the return journey from causes unknown and was buried in St George’s Church Gravesend. Her grave has since been lost.

This is a 1616 portrait engraving of her by Simon de Passe. What a super hat …

She was also commemorated on a 1907 postage stamp, the first native American to be honoured in this way …

Now another adventurous gentleman.

A memorial to Admiral Phillip was originally erected at St Mildred’s Church Bread Street. Although the church was destroyed by enemy action in 1941 the bronze bust was salvaged from its ruins. This modern copy can now be found on the south side of the New Change shopping centre, the original is in St Mary-le-Bow church …

The plaque makes interesting reading …

And now a woman and a man dressed somewhat… er … unconventionally.

Let’s start with this extraordinary statue at 193 Fleet Street now, sadly, rather weathered …

I always thought that it resembled a rather effeminate youth but it is in fact a woman disguised as a pageboy, her name, Kaled, appears just under her right foot.

It is by Giuseppe Grandi, and dates from 1872. The shop owner, George Attenborough, had a niche created specially for it over the front door. Kaled is the page of Count Lara in Bryon’s poetic story of a nobleman who returns to his ancestral lands to restore justice. He antagonises the neighbouring chieftains who attack and kill him. Kaled stays with his master and lover to the end, when it is revealed he is in fact a woman. (Spoiler alert) She goes mad from grief and dies.

There seems to be no end to the wonderful paintings to be found at the Guildhall Art Gallery. This one is a representation of a famous Greek myth – the murder by Clytemnestra of her husband Agamemnon. Here she stands, wild-eyed in the Mediterranean sunlight, outside the room where she has committed the deed. In the background behind her we can just make out the outline of a dimly lit body …

‘Clytemnestra’ by John Collier (1882)

Agamemnon had commanded the Greek forces which besieged Troy during the Trojan Wars. Before setting sail for home, he sacrificed their youngest daughter Iphigenia to ensure a favourable wind for his fleet. To make matters worse, he returned with his lover, the prophetess Cassandra, the captured daughter of King Priam of Troy. Enraged and grieving, Clytemnestra and her son murdered them both in revenge

Collier was famous for his close attention to detail. There is light etching on the axe blade and the blood drips and runs authentically. All the little roundels we can see in the picture are different …

One has to say, however, that the more you study the figure the more it looks like a man. There is a pure physical dominance – and look at the muscular arms and large hands gripping the axe handle and holding back the curtain …

Collier brings extraordinary attention to detail in her blood-spattered garments.

It is now thought that Collier took his inspiration from an 1880 performance of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon at Balliol College, Oxford in which Clytemnestra was played by a male student, one Frank Benison.

Also in the gallery is this David Wynne sculpture of Prince Charles …

He just doesn’t look happy, does he? Maybe he wasn’t too keen on the rather spiky modern version of a coronet that he is wearing here at his 1969 Investiture as Prince of Wales. It was designed by a committee chaired by his auntie Princess Margaret’s husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Lord Snowdon). The globe and cross at the top was originally intended to be solid gold but the committee concluded that this would be far too heavy. The solution was to use a gold plated ping-pong ball – which is why I always smile at this portrayal of the Prince (and possibly why he doesn’t appear to have ever worn the item again).

Just by way of further light relief I have found another spooky clothes model to add to my collection (see last week’s blog) …

And these ‘eyebrows’ in the Cheapside Sunken Garden made me laugh. Part of the London Festival of Architecture, they entitled Look Up and are by Oli Colman …

Finally, I loved this joyful Hermes shop window at the Royal Exchange …

As is often the case I am grateful to Philip Ward-Jackson for much of the detail about the sculptures. I highly recommend his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, still available at Waterstones.

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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 …

I hope you have enjoyed today’s blog.

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Clocktales

I do like a good clock story and the City has quite a few of them – from the clock that killed a man to the one mentioned in a famous poem.

I’ll start, however, with this beauty sited alongside St Magnus the Martyr on Lower Thames Street (EC3R 6DN) …

The clock was the gift of the Lord Mayor, Sir Charles Duncombe. The story goes that when he was a young apprentice, and rather poor, he missed an important meeting with his master on London Bridge because he had no way of telling the time. He vowed that, if ever he became rich, he would erect a clock in the vicinity and this magnificent example of the clockmakers’ art was the result. The artisan was Langley Bradley of Fenchurch Street who had worked with Sir Christopher Wren on several projects, including the early clock that adorned St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wren was evidently impressed with Bradley’s work since, in a letter the Lord Chamberlain’s Office in 1711, he went so far as to describe him as ‘a very able artist, very reasonable in his prices’.

In 1709 St Magnus was located at the north side of the ‘old’ London Bridge as this 18th century map illustrates …

You can also see the clock and its proximity to the bridge in this etching by Edward William Cooke entitled Part of Old London-Bridge, St Magnus and the Monument, taken at Low-water, August 15th, 1831.

Some of you may remember the charming neo-gothic Mappin & Webb building that was controversially demolished in 1994 …

It was replaced by Number 1 Poultry, designed by James Stirling and destined to become the youngest City building to be listed as Grade II* …

Prince Charles was unimpressed and said it resembled ‘a 1930s wireless set’.

I prefer it, however, to the Mies van der Rohe skyscraper that was also considered …

If you walk through the new building at street level you’ll see that the old Mappin & Webb clock has been incorporated …

And a wonderful frieze from the old building illustrating royal processions has also been preserved and relocated facing Poultry. Here is a small section …

King Charles II rides past accompanied by his pet spaniels

Now the clock that killed a man. Here it is attached to the Royal Courts of Justice – designed by George Edmund Street, it has been described as ‘exuberant’ …

On 5th November 1954 a clock mechanic, Thomas Manners, was killed when his clothes were caught up in the machinery as he wound up the mechanism. He had been carrying out this task every week since 1937, as well as looking after the 800 or so other clocks in the law court buildings. You can read the press cutting I came across here.

In 1711 Nicholas Hawksmoor was fifty years old yet, although he had already worked with Christopher Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral and for John Vanbrugh on Castle Howard, the buildings that were to make his name were still to come. In that year, an Act of Parliament created the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches to serve the growing population on the fringes of the expanding city.

Nicholas Hawksmoor c1661-1736.

Only twelve of these churches were ever built, but Hawksmoor designed six of them and – miraculously – they have all survived, displaying his unique architectural talent to subsequent generations and permitting his reputation to rise as time has passed. One of them is St Mary Woolnoth.

The outside of the church is very unusual and it has a fine position on the corner of King William Street and Lombard Street, just off the major Bank road junction (EC3V 9AN). The clock is mentioned in a famous poem …

In a corner sits the clock’s mechanism surrounded by a cover on which is etched an extract from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland

Eliot worked nearby in Lloyds Bank and, having watched the commuters trudge over London Bridge, wrote these cheerful lines …

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

No doubt if you were not at the office by the ‘final stroke of nine’ you were going to be late.

I have always liked this clock at the corner of Fleet Street and Ludgate Circus …

I read somewhere that, during the Blitz, an incendiary device became entangled in the ball at the top and dangled there for hours until it was deactivated. I often have this image in my head of gently swaying ordnance when I walk up Fleet Street.

The building was originally the London headquarters of the Thomas Cook Travel Agency and, since Mr Cook was a keen supporter of the temperance movement, the first floor contained a temperance hotel. The building is adorned with numerous charming cherubs …

‘This is where we’re going on holiday’.

There are dozens of City cherubs and I have written about some of them here.

The Royal Exchange has two ‘twin’ clocks, both exactly the same, one facing Threadneedle Street and one facing Cornhill …

Britannia and Neptune hold a shield that contains an image of Gresham’s original Royal Exchange whilst above Atlas lifts a globe. I have seen it described as a Valentine’s Day clock because of the two red hearts. Ahhhh, sweet!

Here’s Atlas again, straining under his burden in King Street …

The building was once the home of the Atlas Insurance Company.

The clock at the church of St Edmund King and Martyr in Lombard Street sports a delicate, pretty crown (EC3V 9EA) …

This is Throgmorton Street at the turn of the last century, straw hats (or boaters) being clearly in fashion. You’ll find a short history of them here

The clock on the left is still there (EC2N 2AT) …

You’ll see that Warnford Court was rebuilt in 1884 but, out of interest, I did a bit more research and came across this list of the tenants in 1842 …

Stock brokers, solicitors and merchants mainly but also a hatter, a ‘commercial teacher’, an auctioneer and, strangely, the Danish Consul General’s Office. Interestingly, the Bolivar Mining Association was also located there. The Association was formed to work copper mines at Aroa, Venezuela and were owned for some time by the Bolivar family who leased them to an English company to help finance the war of independence. You can read more here.

Fleet Street has a lot to offer when it comes to clock spotting.

How about this masterpiece …

Installed just after the Great Fire of London in 1671, it was the first clock in London to have a minute hand, with two figures (perhaps representing Gog and Magog) striking the hours and quarters with clubs, turning their heads whilst doing so.

The present version of the clock was installed in 1738 before, in 1828, being moved to the 3rd Marquess of Hertford’s house in Regent’s Park. The Great War saw the Regent’s Park residence housing soldiers blinded from combat. The charity which undertook this went on to name itself after where the clock in the house came from: St Dunstan’s. It was returned to the Church in 1935 by Lord Rothermere to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V. You can read a lot more about its history here.

If you like the occasional burst of colour, look up at this Art Deco treat, also in Fleet Street outside the old offices of the Daily Telegraph (EC4A 2BB) …

I am really pleased to report that the refurbishment of Bracken House is now complete and we can see again the extraordinary Zodiacal clock on the side of the building that faces Cannon Street (EC3M 9JA).

Here it is in all its glory …

If you look more closely at the centre this is what you will see …

On the gilt bronze sunburst at the centre you can clearly make out the features of Winston Churchill. The building used to be the headquarters of the Financial Times and is named after Brendan Bracken, its chief editor after the war.

During the War Bracken served in Churchill’s wartime cabinet as Minister of Information. George Orwell worked under Bracken on the BBC’s Indian Service and deeply resented wartime censorship and the need to manipulate information. If you like slightly wacky theories, there is one that the sinister ‘Leader’ in Orwell’s novel 1984, Big Brother, was inspired by Bracken, who was customarily referred to as ‘BB’ by his Ministry employees.

The oddly-shaped Blackfriar pub on Queen Victoria Street displays a pretty clock just above the jolly friar’s head …

Unfortunately it hasn’t worked for long time.

This wise old owl looks across the road to the north side of London Bridge, observing the thousands of commuters flowing back and forth every day from London Bridge Station (although not so many lately!). He is perched outside what was once the offices of the Guardian Royal Exchange Insurance Company (later just ‘Guardian’) and was for a while their symbol, presumably signifying wisdom and watchfulness.

Rising from the flames and just about to take off over the City is the legendary Phoenix bird and from 1915 until 1983 this was the headquarters of the Phoenix Assurance Company at 5 King William Street. One can see why the Phoenix legend of rebirth and restoration appealed as a name for an insurer (EC4N 7DA).

The clock shows the name of the present tenants, Daiwa Capital Markets.

Before clocks there were, of course, sundials and there are many fine examples in the City – both old and relatively new.

These are my two favourites …

The Jacobean church of St Katharine Cree in Leadenhall Street was built between 1628 and 1630 and survived the Great Fire of 1666. On the south wall is this wonderful dial, circa 1700, which is described as having ‘gilded embellishments including declining lines, Babylonian/Latin hours and Zodiac signs’. Its Latin motto Non Sine Lumine means Nothing without Light.

And this dial in Fournier Street …

It was once a Protestant church, then a Methodist Chapel, next a Jewish synagogue and is now the Brick Lane Mosque (E1 6QL).

In the late 17th century some 40-50,000 French Protestants, known as Huguenots, fleeing persecution in France, arrived in England with around half settling in Spitalfields. They started a local silk-weaving industry and, incidentally, gave us a new word ‘refugee’ from the French word réfugié, ‘one who seeks sanctuary’. They flourished and established this church in 1743 naming it La Neuve Eglise (The New Church) and installed the sundial we can see today. The Latin motto Umbra sumus translates as ‘we are shadow’, and is taken from Horace’s statement Pulvis et umbra sumus, meaning ‘We are dust and shadow’.

I have written in some detail about sundials in an earlier blog which you can find here.

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PS Long time readers of this blog will recognise some of the above since I have written about clocks before. However, I had to cheat a bit since I took last week off! I hope the additional information I have included has meant that this week’s edition was still enjoyable.

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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A hair merchant, a weeping statue and a Damien Hirst – my visit to St Bartholomew the Great

You approach the church via the Tudor Gatehouse. It dates from 1595 and was fortuitously revealed when a bomb dropped by a Zeppelin in 1915 tore off later accretions as these ‘before’ and ‘after’ images illustrate …

Much of the late 19th and early 20th century church restoration work was carried out by Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930). His son, Philip, was killed in action on 25th September 1916 and his name appears on the memorial to the right of the entrance …

There is a plaque just behind the gate commemorating Sir Aston Webb’s work. It includes his coat of arms (which incorporates a spider, a playful reference to his name) …

You get a nice view of the flint and Portland Stone western facade of the church from the raised churchyard. An old barrel tomb rests in the foreground …

Bear in mind that the original church was vast and also covered the area now occupied by the graveyard and the path. This used to be the nave, as illustrated in this plan on display in the church …

Stepping into the church seems to transport you to another time and place …

The patchworked exterior gives no hint of the stunning Romanesque interior, with its characteristic round arches and sturdy pillars. It’s a rare sight in London; indeed, this is reckoned to be the best preserved and finest Romanesque church interior in the City.

Just to shock you back into the present, the south transept contains this sculpture …

Entitled Exquisite Pain, as well as his skin St Bartholomew also holds a scalpel in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. The second surprise, to me anyway, was that this work was by Damien Hirst, the modern artist known particularly for his spot paintings and the shark swimming in formaldehyde. St Bartholomew is the patron saint of Doctors and Surgeons and Hirst has said that this 2006 work ‘acts as a reminder that the strict demarcation between art, religion and science is a relatively recent development and that depictions of Saint Bartholomew were often used by medics to aid in anatomy studies’. He went on to say that the scissors were inspired by Tim Burton’s film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) to imply that ‘his exposure and pain is seemingly self- inflicted. It’s kind of beautiful yet tragic’. The work is on long-term loan from the artist …

Just behind Hirst’s work is a rare pre-Reformation font (1404) in which William Hogarth was baptised on 28 November 1697 …

I paused at the monument to Edward Cooke who died in 1652 and read the curious rhyme inscribed on it …

Vnsluce yor briny floods, what can yee keepe

Yor eyes from teares, & see the marble weepe

Burst out for shame: or if yee find noe vent

For teares, yet stay, and see the stones relent.

It was known as the ‘weeping statue’ because the moisture in the atmosphere used to be soaked up by the soft marble and miraculously released again as ‘tears’ from time to time. Alas, the Victorians installed a radiator under the monument which put a stop to the moisture releasing properties of the stone and, sadly, it wept no more.

This is the spectacular tomb of Sir Walter and Lady Mary Mildmay. He was the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth I and the founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. His wife was the sister of the Queen’s ‘spymaster’, Sir Francis Walsingham. Sir Walter died in 1589 and Mary in 1576 …

It’s thought that the tomb does not contain religious figures or Christian symbols because Sir Walter had strong Puritan leanings.

This is the monument to James Rivers who died of the plague in 1641 …

The inscription refers to a disease as malignant as the time referring, no doubt, to the English Civil War. Rivers was a prominent Puritan MP and took his seat in Parliament in 1640.

In a number of places around the church you will find these beautiful sculptures in glass by Sophie Arkette …

They are entitled Colloquy and are etched with literary or poetical text. These are illuminated and distorted by the effects of light (from either candles within the work or from around the building) and water (included within parts of the work).

Under the oriel window there is a nice example of a rebus, in this case a representation of a person’s name using a picture. Here Prior Bolton’s name is neatly implied by a crossbow bolt piercing a tun (a type of cask). Bolton was Prior of St Bartholomew the Great between 1505 and 1532 and carried out repair and construction work across the church …

There is also a version in 16th century stained glass at the eastern end of the church …

I was intrigued by this tombstone in the north transept …

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

As I walked down the transept I glanced to my left and glimpsed this reclining figure …

It is of course, the tomb of Prior Rahere, the founder of the Priory and hospital …

He wears the habit of an Augustinian canon and the angel carries a shield with the arms of the priory.

Rahere was a courtier and favourite at the court of Henry I who reigned from 1100 to 1135. After falling dangerously ill whilst on pilgrimage to Rome, Rahere had a vision of St Bartholomew, who told him to found a hospital. He duly got better, and when he returned to London he founded a hospital and an Augustinian priory in 1123 (dedicating them to St Bartholomew to give thanks for his recovery). He was the institution’s first prior and remained in this role until his death in 1144 (the tomb is later and dates from 1405). You can still see some of the original paintwork …

Incidentally, I came across this great 1915 picture of how the tomb was protected during wartime bombing …

There is much more to see in this beautiful place and so I strongly recommend a visit. Entrance is free but the church has been hit hard by the pandemic so, if you can afford it, do make a donation to help support it. Opening times are on the website which you can access here.

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A few more things that made me smile

In these difficult times, I’d like to share some miscellaneous things I have encountered recently that cheered me up.

I am going to start with the extraordinary, eccentric Stanley Green, ‘the protein man’, who regularly patrolled Oxford Street with his billboard. This may seem strange since he died in 1993, but I have chosen him as my first story because I came across his billboard last week at the Museum of London …

Copyright Andrew Lawson.

He began his mission in June 1968, initially in Harrow on Saturdays, becoming a full-time human billboard six months later on Oxford Street. He cycled there from Northolt with his board attached to his bicycle, a journey that could take up to two hours, until he was given a bus pass when he turned 65. From Monday to Saturday he walked up and down the street until 6:30 pm, reduced to four days a week from 1985. Saturday evenings were spent with the cinema crowds in Leicester Square. He would go to bed at 12:30am after saying a prayer. ‘Quite a good prayer, unselfish too’, he told the Sunday Times in 1985. ‘It is a sort of acknowledgment of God, just in case there happens to be one’. He was 78 when he died in December 1993 and, presumably because he distrusted ‘passion’, he never married.

The Museum’s decision to put his message on display introduces him to a new audience …

His self-published and printed booklet, Eight Passion Proteins, went through 84 editions and the Museum holds 36 of them. You can read more about him here and here.

You will no doubt be pleased to know that Royal Wedding teabags are still available in a Ludgate Hill tourist gift shop – hurry, hurry while stocks last …

Don’t they look lovely.

By way of contrast, I thought these models in a shop on Eastcheap were decidedly spooky …

Like creatures out of a Dr Who episode.

Covid humour at the pharmacy …

Covid humour at the wine bar …

Cocktail Bar humour …

A less complicated message …

Pretty camera camouflage on Holloway Road …

Street art meets spinal column in Hoxton …

Sadly over-optimistic signage …

Finally caught the reflection I wanted – street sculpture with red London bus and St Paul’s …

When construction workers use their imagination to brighten up the site – good for them …

What a positive message …

A great hero of mine and one of my favourite London statues – Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras International Station …

Many of Pimlico Plumbers’ vans have ‘witty’ number plates …

Even the scooters are wearing masks around here …

City pigeons simply don’t believe this statement …

We spent a really nice few days in Norfolk recently and here are some of the pictures I took.

Local delicacies – rabbit and pigs ears, giant trotters and chicken feet …

Sow and buffalo ears …

Houghton Hall has a stunning collection of work by Anish Kapoor. Some are in the grounds like this one, Sky Mirror

Others are in the house …

Kings Lynn is a lovely, interesting town. I even caught a glimpse of Bad King John …

At the charming and incredibly interesting True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum, a Victorian seafarer struggles to come to terms with the pandemic …

And the place has a Wimpy! I thought they had disappeared decades ago. I didn’t pop in for a ‘Bender’ though (fellow Baby Boomers will know what I am referring to) …

There is some beautiful architecture to enjoy as well …

Now that going abroad is problematic it’s great to be exploring England again.

And finally to the Sandringham Estate where we came across these poignant little headstones commemorating the last resting place of three of Her Majesty’s corgis. Heather’s inscription tells us she was the great granddaughter of Susan (on the far left) …

I’ll be back walking the City again next week but hope you enjoyed this little excursion.

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The brave policemen of Postman’s Park

Postman’s Park contains what is, in my view, one of the most interesting, poignant and rather melancholy memorials in the City – The G F Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. This plaque nearby contains a useful mini-history …

I have written about it before along with some of the people commemorated and you can access the blog here.

I visited again last week and was moved to write about the bravery of four of the police officers whose names and details of their courageous acts are recorded on the Memorial.

George Stephen Funnell served for over seven years in the 2nd Battalion of the Oxford Light Infantry. He was discharged on 16th February 1893 and joined the Metropolitan Police the following October.

In this picture one of the medals he is wearing is probably the India General Service Medal with a Burma clasp …

George Stephen Funnell c. 1900

About 1:00 am on Friday 22nd December 1899 a fellow officer had noticed a fire at the Elephant & Castle pub in Wick Road and PC Funnell was one of the constables who came to his assistance. When the barman opened the door to let them in a massive draft of air escalated the fire dramatically. On hearing that there were three women in the building, Funnell and his colleague Thomas Baker rushed in to help rescue them amidst thick black smoke and exploding bottles of spirits.

Funnell led the first woman to the door and then went back to pick up and carry the second to safety. By then badly burned himself, on hearing another woman screaming, he went back in a third time and apparently collapsed when trying to find an alternative way out. The barmaid he was trying to help, Minnie Lewis, somehow managed to escape.

George was taken to the nearest infirmary but never regained consciousness and died on 2nd January 1900. He was 33 years old. This is his memorial plaque …

Five officers were awarded bronze medals by the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire but controversy arose over the treatment of Funnell’s 27-year-old widow Jane and his two young sons. The Globe was one of a number of newspapers who campaigned for the public to contribute to a fund for them, one journalist writing …

He leaves a widow, who receives a pension of £15 a year and £2 10s. for each of her two little boys until they reach fifteen. That is a miserable pittance indeed, and an appeal is made for public help.

I haven’t been able to discover how much was raised but it was probably substantial.

Extra funds were also raised for the widow of PC Alfred Smith

PC Smith, 37 years old, was on duty in Central Street when the noise was heard of an approaching group of fourteen German bombers. One press report reads as follows …

In the case of PC Alfred Smith, a popular member of the Metropolitan Force, who leaves a widow and three children, the deceased was on point duty near a warehouse. When the bombs began to fall the girls from the warehouse ran down into the street. Smith got them back, and stood in the porch to prevent them returning. In doing his duty he thus sacrificed his own life.

Smith had no visible injuries but had been killed by the blast from the bombs dropped nearby. He was one of 162 people killed that day in one of the deadliest raids of the war.

His widow was treated more generously than Mrs Funnell. She received automatically a police pension (£88 1s per annum, with an additional allowance of £6 12s per annum for her son) but also had her MP, Allen Baker, working on her behalf. He approached the directors of Debenhams (whose staff PC Smith had saved) and solicited from them a donation of £100 guineas (£105). A further fund, chaired by Baker, raised almost £472 and some of this was used to pay for the Watts Memorial tablet, which was officially unveiled on the second anniversary of Alfred’s death.

Another memorial to Alfred was unveiled 100 years later in June 2017 where the factory once stood …

Tragically another police constable, Robert Wright, died in vain …

He responded to a colleague’s whistle and arrived at the scene where a shop, known to contain large quantities of flammable and explosive material, was quickly being consumed by flames.

He and another PC, Edward Barnett, were clearing dangerous material from the yard at the back of the shop when Barnett thought he heard screaming and shouted to Wright ‘Quick, there is a woman in the house!‘ They managed to get upstairs through heavy smoke and with burning oil dripping through the ceiling – and found no one, the residents having gone on holiday. Barnett managed to jump to safety through a window but Wright was overcome by the smoke and was later declared dead on arrival at hospital. Although he was badly scalded the cause of death was given as smoke inhalation …

A Portrait of Police Constable Robert Wright.

Police Constable Robert Wright (1864 – 1893) from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper 7th May 1893. Copyright, The British Library Board.

Serious accusations of fire brigade incompetence and drunkenness were made at the inquest. The brigade was stationed only 300 yards down the road and it was claimed that a message was sent to them at 1:10 am but that they didn’t arrive until 1:45 am. It was also claimed that at least two brigade members were so drunk they could not carry out their duties. The senior fire officer, Engineer Bowers, conceded that this was true but, by way of some kind of explanation, said that one of them was a retained man and the other from the volunteer brigade. The coroner suggested that the men should ‘…receive the attention of the Corporation’.

Incidentally, Wright’s widow’s pension was £15 a year plus an extra £2 10s for her daughter Ada until she was 15.

For some reason I had never heard of the Silvertown explosion that claimed the life of PC Edward George Brown Greenoff

Edward joined ‘K’ Division of the Metropolitan Police on 7 December 1908 Less than three weeks after joining the police, he married Ada Mina Thorpe, and they went on to have three children, Edward Arthur Cecil (born 1909), Elsie Irene (born 1912) and Albert George (born 1914).

On his beat was a factory manufacturing TNT – although that had not been its original purpose and it was in the middle of a built up area. As he passed the site around 6:00 pm on 19th January 1917 he noticed flames billowing from the premises and a fire engine in attendance. Being fully aware of the danger, Greenoff ran towards the building to help in the evacuation and at the same time persuade the crowds who had gathered to watch to move back.

At 6.52 pm precisely there was a massive explosion as approximately 50 tons of TNT ignited. The blast destroyed a large part of the factory, buildings on the southern side of the Royal Victoria Dock and many houses in the surrounding streets. Debris, amongst it red-hot chunks of rubble, was strewn for miles around. These images give some idea of the destruction …

Silvertown Explosion E copy
Silvertown Exposion K copy
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Silvertown-Exposion-G-1-984x675-1.jpg

The death toll was 73 with more than 400 people injured.

Edward was found seriously hurt in the rubble and died on 29th January aged 30. On 26 June 1917, he was awarded the King’s Police Medal for Gallantry. The citation reads …

Died from injuries received on 19 January from an explosion at a fire in a munitions factory at Silvertown where, despite the imminent danger, he remained at the scene to warn others and evacuate the area.

He was also commemorated in an ornate memorial plaque originally erected in North Woolwich Police Station. It contains this photograph, which was probably taken on his wedding day given the flower in his buttonhole …

EdwardGreenoff copy

If you are interested, you can read much more about the Silvertown explosion here.

There is a nice small statuette in the middle of the Memorial of Mr Watts himself that was installed in 1905, the year after he died. There was originally a plan to cover it with a protective grille but his widow refused and said the public should be trusted …

He holds a scroll on which is inscriber the word HEROES.

For the definitive life histories of the Watts Memorial heroes treat yourself to a copy of John Price’s book Heroes of Postman’s Park – Heroic Self-Sacrifice in Victorian London.

There is also a very useful guide on the London Walking Tours website.

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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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‘Smooth Field’ – a wander around Smithfield

Smithfield has a rather gruesome history.

For example, on 16 July 1646 Anne Askew was burnt at the stake along with John Lascelles (a lawyer and Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber), John Hadlam (a tailor from Essex) and John Hemsley (a former Franciscan friar). A great stage was built at Smithfield for the convenience of Chancellor Wriothesley, other members of the Privy Council and City dignitaries, to watch the burning in comfort …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Rogers,

John Bradford,

John Philpot,

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

This had been a place of public execution for over 400 years; many witches and heretics had been burnt, roasted or boiled alive there. It was here that the Scottish hero and patriot, Sir William Wallace, was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1315 and has two memorials. This one in West Smithfield (EC1A 7AQ) …

There are often fresh flowers left here in his memory.

And another just inside the entrance to the St Bartholomew the Great churchyard …

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

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

The Mayor is commemorated with a statue on Holborn Viaduct

His trusty sword is in a scabbard at his side.

Here is a 15th century depiction of Walworth in action …

The death of Wat Tyler. From a manuscript copy of the Chronicles of Jean Froissart, created in 1483.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Queen Mary’s dad, Henry VIII, has a statue nearby over the main entrance to the hospital. If you have seen and admired the famous Holbein portrait, the king’s pose here is very familiar. He stands firmly and sternly with his legs apart, one hand on his dagger, the other holding a sceptre. He also sports an impressive codpiece …

Founded in 1331, the hospital was put seriously at risk in 1534, when Henry VIII commenced the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The nearby priory of St Bartholomew was suppressed in 1539 and the hospital would have followed had not the City fathers petitioned the king and asked for it to be granted back to the City. Their motives were not entirely altruistic. The hospital, they said, was needed to help:

the myserable people lyeing in the streete, offendyng every clene person passyng by the way with theyre fylthye and nastye savors.

Henry finally agreed in December 1546 on condition that the refounded hospital was renamed ‘House of the poore on West Smithfield in the suburbs of the City of London, of King Henry’s foundation’. I suspect people still tended to call it Bart’s. Henry finally got full public recognition when the gatehouse was rebuilt in 1702 and his statue was placed where we still see it today. The work was undertaken and overseen by the mason John Strong, who was at the same time working for Sir Christopher Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral. Such were the masons’ talents, no architectural plans were needed to complete the work.

By the way, you can see the agreement, with Henry’s signature, at the lovely little St Bartholomew’s Museum when hopefully it reopens next year. Here’s a picture of the document I took a few years ago …

It also bears the Henry’s seal, the king charging into battle on horseback accompanied by a dog …

The hospital was founded, along with the Priory of St Bartholomew, in 1123 by Rahere, formerly a courtier of Henry I, and if you pop into the church of St Bartholomew the Great you can see his tomb …

Rahere died in 1143 and his tomb dates from 1405.

I found this great picture of how the tomb was protected from bomb damage during the First World War …

There were several near misses from bombs dropped by Zeppelin airships and you can still see shrapnel marks on the hospital’s walls …

As you leave the hospital, pause for a few moments at the little War Memorial commemorating those who lost their lives in the ‘Great War’ . I took these pictures just after the Armistice Day ceremony …

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This touching message commemorates a Second World War sailor …

If you want to know more about the Smithfield burnings here is a link to one of my sources and a book entitled The Burning Time – The Story of the Smithfield Martyrs.

I have discovered a lot more to write about relating to Smithfield and will return there in a future blog.

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Debtors’ prisons -‘Mansions of Misery’

Yesterday I came face to face with the harsh reality of life in the 18th century.

In the Museum of London I went and stood in a room constructed using cell walls from the old Wellclose Square debtors’ prison and looked in awe at the names and images inscribed by unfortunate inmates. Although we can read some names we will never know more about them which makes this an even more melancholy place.

For example, John Knolls and Edward Burk were there in 1757 …

And William Thompson in 1790 or 1798. Just above his name someone has scratched what looks like a gallows (sometimes people were held here on their way to be punished more severely at places like Newgate) …

Some just left their initials …

Others chose to carve elaborate representations of buildings …

And this person sent out a poetic plea …

All You That on This Cast an Eye, Behold in Prison Here I Lie, Bestow You in Charety, Or with hunger soon I die.

The lighting is set low to represent candlelight …

This is how it looked just after assembly …

The Gentle Author, in his empathic and beautifully written blog about this room, writes …

Shut away from life in an underground cell, they carved these intense bare images to evoke the whole world. Now they have gone, and everyone they loved has gone, and their entire world has gone generations ago, and we shall never know who they were, yet because of their graffiti we know that they were human and they lived.

When walking along Whitecross Street one day I was intrigued by this spoof blue plaque on the wall of the Peabody Buildings …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creditors were able to imprison debtors without trial until they paid what they owed or died and in the 18th century debtors comprised over half the prison population. Prisoners were by no means all poor but often middle class people in small amounts of debt. One of the largest groups was made up of shopkeepers (about 20% of prisoners) though male and female prisoners came from across society with gentlemen, cheesemongers, lawyers, wigmakers and professors rubbing shoulders. For example, Charles Dickens’ father, John, spent a few months at the Marshalsea in 1824 because he owed a local baker £40 and 10 shillings (over £3,000 in today’s money). Here is his custody record dated 20th February 1824 …

Charles – then aged just 12 – had to work at a shoe-polish factory to help support his father and other members of his family who had joined John in prison. It was a humiliating episode from which the author later drew inspiration for his novel Little Dorrit. Many years later Dickens described his dad as ‘a jovial opportunist with no money sense’!

This was the notorious Marshalsea

It was located in Southwark, the historic location of theatres, bear-pits and whorehouses and in the mid-17th century it settled into being exclusively a debtors’ jail. Then it was full to bursting and people could be thrown in for owing as little as sixpence. In such a case, he or she was charged in “Execution”, which immediately increased the indebtedness to £1 5s 6d, making it much less likely that the prisoner could ever get out. ‘More unhappy people are to be found suffering under extreme misery, by the severity of their creditors,’ one commentator noted, ‘than in any other Nation in Europe’. Without money, you were crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others. A parliamentary committee reported in 1729 that 300 inmates had starved to death within a three-month period, and that eight to ten prisoners were dying every twenty-four hours in the warmer weather.

Not surprising when you look at this 18th-century engraving of the Marshalsea sick ward and the poor souls incarcerated there …

Part of the old prison wall is still there …

And appropriately an old grille from the prison is preserved in the Charles Dickens Museum

Imprisonment for debt was finally abolished in 1869, ending centuries of misery. I found this quite an addictive subject and if you are as interested as me in knowing more here are the major sources I used :

The Museum of London website.

An absolutely fascinating description of one man’s first 24 hours in Whitecross Street prison. Particularly interesting is the description of some of his fellow inmates and what the charges were for ‘extras’ like sheets on your bed or a piece of paper to write on. Ignore the fact that it is mistakenly illustrated with a picture of a hanging at Newgate Gaol.

In British History Online there is a description of the Whitecross Street establishment at the end of Chapter XXIX.

An article entitled DEBTORS’ PRISONS WORKED: Evidence from 18th century London.

An article entitled : In debt and incarcerated: the tyranny of debtors’ prisons.

The distinguished London historian Jerry White’s book specifically about the Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison : Mansions of Misery.

A presentation : The Real Little Dorrit: Charles Dickens and the debtorsprison.

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The only Catholic church in the City

I have been researching the history of St Mary Moorfields in Eldon Street (EC2M 7LS) and Catholic worship in the City generally.

For over two hundred years, after the 1559 Act of Uniformity, Catholics were forbidden to worship in public until the Catholic Relief Act of 1791. A chapel was opened in 1686, but had to be suspended in 1689. From 1736 there was a chapel in Ropemaker’s Alley but its altar, fittings and crucifixes were ripped out and destroyed in the Gordon Riots of 1780. This was succeeded by a chapel in White Street. Its replacement in 1820 by a large Classical church in Finsbury Circus sponsored by laypeople marked a turning point in the size and stylistic aspirations of Catholic churches. The final church of the first wave of building that succeeded the Relief Act, it was probably the finest in structure and decoration and also the largest Catholic church in London. It was called St Mary Moorfields after its location …

‘Celebration of High Mass on Christmas Day’ – Picture: Wikimedia Commons

In 1884 the Church acquired a huge site off of Victoria Street in west London. The construction of what would be Westminster Cathedral commenced in 1895 and in 1899, when parts of the new building became usable for worship, the Moorfields church was sold and demolished. It was replaced by the present building in Eldon Street which was designed by George Sherrin and opened on 25th March 1903. The name remained the same even though it was no longer in Moorfields.

The entrance is squeezed in between two shops and if you are walking along the north side of Eldon Street it is easy to miss it completely unless you look up and see the Papal tiara over the doors …

View from the South side of Eldon Street.

The facade is of Portland stone with some intricate decoration either side of the entrance. Note the hammer, pliers and three nails representing the crucifixion. Further up there is a scourge and a crown of thorns …

Alongside are scenes from the life of the Virgin by J Daymond …

These two represent the Annunciation and the Nativity.

Above them is a statue of the Virgin and child being crowned by cherubs …

I think the interior is magnificent. The classical como marble columns around the altar come from the old church …

As does the High Altar itself …

It is modelled in the form of a sarcophagus to recall the ancient practice of celebrating Mass on the tombs of martyr-saints in the catacombs of Rome.

The wide becherubed font also made the journey from Moorfields but the cover is from around 1900 …

The church enjoys very little natural light. In fact when the building was erected the floor had to be lowered three feet to protect adjoining buildings’ ‘ancient lights’. As a result the stained glass window is artificially illuminated …

It depicts the Assumption.

One of the side chapels …

The oak wood carving in the church is very attractive and is also by Daymond …

The tympanum above the shrine to St Thomas More at the south end of the aisle portrays his execution in 1920s mosaic style …

It is a lovely little church to visit and when I have popped in occasionally pre-Covid there was a very atmospheric whiff of incense.

You can find details such as mass times on the website.

Incidentally, there were other survivors from the 1899 demolition, four stained glass windows which found their way to St Joseph’s Lambs Passage (EC1Y 8LE), a small chapel in the basement of a former school of 1901. Despite what the sign on the building says, it is not actually a church but a ‘chapel of ease’ to St Mary’s. Such chapels were built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of those who could not reach the parish church conveniently …

As a result of wartime damage only two windows survive and this is one of them (The Agony in the Garden). I wasn’t able to access the building to take pictures so the image comes from the internet …

Details of the chapel, its history, services and place in the community can be found here.

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Rescued! Church artifacts saved from destruction (and a fascinating story of resurrection)

On the night of December 30th 1940, when Christchurch Newgate Street was a blazing inferno, an unknown postman rushed into the building, grabbed this font cover and carried it to safety …

Made of oak, it was created about 1690 and is typical of many such covers made for City churches after the Great Fire of 1666. You can admire its beautiful craftmanship if you visit St Sepulchre-without-Newgate where it rests on a new font, the original having been destroyed in the bombing (EC1A 2DQ).

Another survivor of the Blitz can be found in St Botolph Without Aldgate (EC3N 1AB). This intricately carved wooden panel depicts King David along with musical instruments …

It was created between 1713 and 1715 to grace the front of an organ gallery in the church of St Mary Matfelon, Whitechapel. When the church was destroyed by bombing on the 27th December 1940 the carving was saved and later restored …

St Giles Cripplegate was severely damaged during the Second World War and there was a direct hit on the north door in the summer of 1940. The following December the church was showered with so many incendiary bombs that even the cement caught alight. You can still see scorch marks …

All that remained was the shell, the arcade in the chancel, the outside walls and the tower and that these survived says much for the medieval architects. It wasn’t just bombing that resulted in church furniture being moved. When nearby St Luke’s was closed due to subsidence in 1959 St Giles was a beneficiary, acquiring the closed church’s pews …

Altar …

And a lovely 18th century font …

A tablet recording the Rectors of St Luke’s since 1733 also made the move …

St Swithun London Stone was also damaged in bombing but unfortunately was beyond repair and eventually demolished. It’s pulpit fortunately survived and is now used at All Hallows by the Tower …

It dates from around 1670 and is carved in the style of Grinling Gibbons. Above it is the tester, or sounding board, designed to represent three pilgrim shells associated with the pilgrimage of St James Compostella in Spain.

However, the greatest cause of church destruction after the Great Fire was not the Blitz but The Union of Benefices Act of 1860. In order to reflect the dramatic drop in the City’s population, it allowed the London diocese to sell churches and built new ones in the suburbs with the proceeds. This accounted for the loss of some 22 churches and the last of these – All Hallows Lombard Street – was demolished as late as 1938, despite the contemporary reverence for Wren.

I have been tracking where some of these churches’ belongings ended up.

The church of St Matthew Friday was demolished in 1888 but the Wren Pulpit found its way to St Andrew by the Wardrobe …

As did the font cover …

The baptismal font in St Margaret Lothbury, believed to be by Gibbons, came from St Olave, Old Jewry, after that church was partially demolished in 1887 except for the tower and west wall, which remain today. The font is a carved bowl with cherub heads at each corner and the four sides are decorated with Adam and Eve, the dove returning to the ark, the baptism of Jesus and the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip …

One of my favourite churches, St Vedast-alias-Foster, has been particularly fortunate in its acquisitions (EC2V 6HH).

The Gibbons font cover came from St Anne and St Agnes after that church was damaged by bombing …

The exquisite 17th-century wineglass pulpit was made for All Hallows, Bread Street (demolished 1878). It’s also by Gibbons …

Legend has it that incorporating a peapod was one way that Gibbons ‘signed’ his work. If the peapod was open he had been paid – if it was closed he had not. If this is true, he was properly remunerated for his work on this pulpit …

The reredos came from St Christopher-le-Stocks (demolished in 1781 to make way for an extension to the Bank of England) …

And finally, a tale of resurrection.

St Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, was severely damaged and gutted in the Blitz …

After the war, however, it had the unique distinction of being taken apart, shipped to Fulton, Missouri in the USA in 1965, and rebuilt to mark the visit of Churchill to Westminster College in 1946. The church now sits above the National Churchill Museum. Westminster College was the location of Churchill’s speech that included the famous phrase ‘An iron curtain has descended across the continent’.

Here’s how it looks today …

You can read more about the church and the Museum here.

The old site of the church in Aldermanbury is now a garden …

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City grotesques, the screamer and other odd decorations

Is this the creepiest sculpture to be found in the City?

It’s on the tower of St Mary Somerset (EC4V 4AG). This was a Wren church, but I don’t think either he, or his very competent colleague Nicholas Hawksmoor, had anything to do with this screaming face. Their style was more cheerful cherubs and occasionally dragons or a phoenix.

The church was demolished in 1871 but the tower was saved and restored by the architect Ewan Christian who was also responsible for the National Gallery. It was probably him, therefore, who installed the head. It predates Munch’s picture but reminds me of it …

The 1893 painting by Edvard Munch, commonly known as The Scream.

You can read more about the church and its background on The Londonist website from which I have borrowed this picture by Tony Tucker indicating where the screamer can be found …

The tower is now a private home.

The Guildhall building at 71 Basinghall Street boasts a menagerie of strange creatures (EC2V 7HH). Some sit either side of the entrance …

Others lurk near the top of the building …

… and on the roof itself …

A predatory bird keeps a beady eye on you from the roof of 60 Lombard Street (EC3V 9EA) …

I must have walked past this building at 51-54 Gracechurch Street hundreds of times but never looked up and noticed two lines of extraordinary heads above and below the fifth floor windows …

It was constructed between 1928 and 1930 and designed by the architect Leo Sylvester Sullivan. It has lovely Art Deco features but I have no idea why he incorporated the heads. There are 17 in total and this is a small selection …

You can read more about the building on the excellent Look Up London website.

Another head, this time on the tower of St Margaret Pattens, Rood Lane (EC3M 1HS) …

Two owls stand guard above the King William Street entrance to what was once the Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Company’s City office…

One of the delights of Eastcheap are these figures just below the roof of number 23 …

I cannot look at these dogs’ and boars’ heads without smiling. When I first photographed them a few years ago they had a splash of colour and I think it is a shame that this has been painted over …

A little further east at 33-35 another boar’s head peeps out from the undergrowth. It references the Eastcheap inn of that name which was supposed to be the meeting place of Sir John Falstaff, Prince Hal and other characters in Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays …

The Walkie Talkie looms over the area and dwarfs the remaining Victorian buildings including the one containing the boar’s head which dates from 1868. Pevsner described it as ‘one of the maddest displays in London of gabled Gothic’ and he quoted Ian Nairn, the architectural critic, who called it ‘the scream that you wake on at the end of a nightmare’ …

This creature on All Hallows by the Tower looks like an authentic gargoyle (water spout) but the downpipe or guttering is missing, maybe lost when the church was severely damaged in the war …

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.

And finally, two mice share a piece of cheese in Philpot Lane. There are several theories as to the story behind these charming little creatures but no one knows for sure who put them there and why …

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A famed swordsman, a tragic drowning and an honest lawyer – exploring St Dunstan-in-the-West

I had a great stroke of luck last Friday when I wandered into St Dunstan’s and met by chance two of the lady administrators who kindly took the trouble to show me around. The church is on Fleet Street (EC4A 2HR).

In a niche in one of the side chapels is a marble bust of a youth with fine features, Edward James Auriol lying on a pillow, hand on heart, as if asleep …

In fact, he died tragically at the age of 17 when he drowned in the Rhône river in Geneva one bright morning on 19th August 1847. A student at King’s College London, he was the ‘tenderly beloved and only child’ of the Rector of St Dunstan’s Edward Auriol and his wife Georgiana.

Nearby is this fascinating memorial to ‘ye fam’d swordsman’ Alexander Layton who died in 1679 and who rests ‘not far from this place’ …

Erected by a grateful scholar of Layton’s, ‘John Brewer of Grays Inn Road’, at the foot of the tablet are the following words suggesting Layton’s final opponent was death itself …

His thrusts like lightning flew, more skilful Death

Parried ’em all, and beat him out of breath.

There was nothing the ‘Master of Defence’ could do.

There’s a memorial bust to Cuthbert Fetherstone (1537-1615) …

He served as the Gentleman Usher to Queen Elizabeth I, and as such was her trusted friend. Cuthbert and his wife Katharine lived in London but the housing conditions in the city were poor and they eventually left their home in Chancery Lane. They purchased Hassingbrook Hall, an ancient manor near the banks of Hassinbrook at Stanford-le-Hope, twenty-five miles downstream from London. After Elizabeth’s death he became Usher and Crier to King James I.

Here he is, painted in oils around 1598 …

Copyright: National Trust Uppark House and Garden, West Sussex

The earliest monuments in the church are these two brass kneeling figures …

The plaque reads as follows …

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

Elizabeth died in 1530 and Henry nine years later. His will tells us that the brass was already made before he died and ‘made at myn owne costes to the honour of almighty god and the blessed sacrament’. He also left 20 shillings to be used for the annual purchase of coal for the benefit of poor parishoners.

I am sure there are very few dishonest solicitors nowadays, but there seems to have been a time when an honest one was rather unusual, and this virtue was so exceptional that his clients paid for a memorial plaque saying so. It reads ‘Hobson Judkin, late of Clifford’s Inn, THE HONEST SOLICITOR who departed this life June 30th 1812’.

‘Go reader’ we are commanded ‘and imitate Hobson Judkin’.

The kneeling figure next to the war memorial is said to represent Sir Roger North (1577-1651) …

This plaque celebrates the virtues and generosity of James Chambers, a ‘Citizen and Goldsmith … Eminent Banker … A man courteous to his neighbours … a Loving Husband, a Tender Father and a Sincere Friend’ …

He was also incredibly generous, being …

Very benificent to his Relations to whom he parted with upwards of £20,000 in his lifetime.

That would be getting on for two million pounds in today’s money.

The front right-hand pew has a seat reserved for the Lord Mayor, dramatically marked by an iron sword rest, dating from 1745, and commemorating the English victory over the Jacobite Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie, at Culloden. My photograph doesn’t really do it justice …

Sword rests, or sword stands, were originally installed in City churches to hold the Lord Mayor’s sword of state when he visited different churches every Sunday, a practice which ceased in 1883.

Dedicated to a Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury and Benedictine monk, St Dunstan’s survived the Great Fire but was demolished and rebuilt between 1830 and 1833. The octagonal interior is wonderfully atmospheric …

I took a close look at the remarkable Christian Orthodox screen (or iconostasis) which came from Romania in 1966 …

The screen is over 100 years old and was originally created for the Monastery of Antim in Bucharest. I also spotted various individual icons …

These and the screen are clues to the fact that, although this is a Church of England church, it also hosts Romanian Orthodox Church services.

There is more to see in St Dunstan’s and I intend to return. If you are interested in churches, this is definitely one to visit. It has just reopened for private prayer and you can find opening times on the website.

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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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Some great beards and a need for TLC – another visit to Holborn Viaduct

I know I’ve already written about the Viaduct twice this year but I found myself drawn back to it one more time since I hadn’t explored it from ground level in Farringdon Road.

Looking up at the sky on the north east side there are some great beards on display …

And in close-up …

This is one of the Atlantes holding up the balcony. They date from 2014 when the north east pavilion was rebuilt …

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

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

Here’s a view looking up from Farringdon Street …

There are also some elaborate metal gates …

Walking up the stairs, this old light has lost its top …

Four splendid City dragons …

This functioning light is in the rebuilt North East stair …

Attractive carvings at the South East entrance …

The North Western stair has a giant mural illustrating the Viaduct’s construction …

Work was started in 1863 and the mural reminded me of this photograph of the work in progress looking west …

Further west there is a smaller, more modest bridge over Shoe Lane and this is in grave need of some TLC. Compare this with the restored parts of the main bridge …

It illustrates what time, weather and pollution can do to the most robust of structures.

If you want to read my two previous blogs about Holborn Viaduct they can be found here and here.

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Horses, mermaids and memorials – more City Ladies

My first stop was Unilever House where a lady, her head bowed, strains hard to control a gigantic horse (EC4Y 0DY) …

The sculpture, called Controlled Energy, dates from 1932 and the sculptor, William Reid Dick, had a real horse model for him. Dr Philip Ward-Jackson, in his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, tells us …

This was no ordinary horse. A light bay gelding called Victor, it was a little over 18 hands high and, when shown at Olympia, had been described as ‘the biggest horse in the world’. The sculptor later told a reporter ‘I am sorry to say it died shortly after I finished with it’.

There is a similar male figure at the other end of the building and, when asked why he had included female figures as well as male ones, this was the sculptor’s interesting reply …

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

There are a number of female head keystones …

… and a pretty mermaid sculpted by Gilbert Ledward …

Just in case you are not familiar with the building here it is, opposite Blackfriars Station …

Ledward’s sculpture reminded me of the mermaid combing her hair at the Merchant Navy Memorial on Tower Hill …

In last week’s blog I wrote about the numerous female figures decorating the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping’s offices in Fenchurch Street. Here a group of maidens hold models of ships …

In my 2nd April blog, Moorgate and the Goddess of Electricity, I wrote about the impressive building called Electra House. I didn’t, however, venture into the entrance hall. If I had I would have seen two allegorical panels by F.W. Pomeroy who did much work on the Central Criminal Court, including the statue of Lady Justice. Again, there is more in last week’s blog.

The panel to the left has a seated figure, which may be Britannia, holding a rudder in one hand and a loop of cable in the other …

The cable encircles a globe and the figure to the right holds up two batteries on a tray.

This is the panel opposite …

The female figure holds a distaff in one hand and a weaving shuttle in the other. Standing to her left is Mercury, holding his caduceus and a bag of money. The lady on the right writes in a ledger whilst in the background is a telegraph pole. The panel probably represents the advantages to trade and industry of the telegraph.

And now south, to Number 1 Moorgate which was once the Banco di Napoli. Created in the 1980s, the bronze doors portray two ladies in peasant costume …

The woman on the left is sowing seeds and the one on the right holds a sickle and a sheaf of cut corn.

Just off Aldermanbury and to the north of the Guildhall is this 1972 bronze by Karin Jonzen called Beyond Tomorrow

A young couple look expectantly towards the future.

During the Second World War almost a thousand firefighters sacrificed their tomorrows trying to save property and lives during the intense bombing. On Sermon Lane opposite St Paul’s Cathedral can be found The National Firefighters’ Memorial (1991). On the north side is this representation of the women members of the National Fire Service and a list of those killed whilst on duty …

The lady on the right is a Dispatch Rider and the one on the left an Incident Recorder. Although not meant to actually fight fires, a former wartime firefighter declared …

The reality … was that firewomen were more widely involved in active work than is generally acknowledged, and they could often be found in the midst of things during the blitz, whether helping out on the pumps, in control rooms close to the centre of the severest raids or delivering supplies to firefighters.

Twenty-one-year-old Gillian Tanner was awarded the George Medal for bravery when she delivered petrol to fire pumps around Bermondsey while the docks were being bombed during the height of the Blitz.

Their pay was set at two thirds of that of the men, the Home Office having turned down their union’s request for equal pay in 1943.

Four ladies adorn the memorial to the 786 employees of the Prudential Assurance Company who gave their lives in the First World War. It can be found in the courtyard outside their old headquarters in Holborn and you can read more about it here.

This lady holds a seagoing vessel, representing the Navy …

At the back is a figure holding a shell representing National Service …

The bi-plane represents the Air Force …

And this one holds a field gun and represents the Army …

I like the Queen’s Assurance sign from 1852 at 42-44 Gresham Street …

And finally, she may be the oldest City Lady I have found but she still looks beautiful and serene …

Dated 1669, she must have witnessed much of the rebuilding of the City after the great fire of 1666. She now resides in a sheltered spot in Corbet Court (EC3V 0AT). I have written about Mercer Maidens like her in an earlier blog entitled Dragons and Maidens.

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