Walking the City of London

Category: Architecture Page 1 of 7

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
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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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From a girl dressed as a pageboy to the Recording Angel – City Ladies in stone

Having written about City Children a few weeks ago I though it was time to look at some of the ladies portrayed in sculpture around the City. I found enough for several blogs so this is the first instalment!

Let’s start with this extraordinary statue at 193 Fleet Street now, sadly, somewhat 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. She goes mad from grief and dies.

Walking further eastwards along the south side of Fleet Street you come across Serjeants’ Inn and these interesting keystones depicting a woman holding a baby, flowers and a bird (EC4Y 1AE) …

They date from 1958 and although the architects are known, Devereaux & Davis, the name of the sculptor is not (or, at least, I couldn’t discover it).

Over the original main door to the Old Bailey (EC4M 7EH) is a sinister figure, her face overshadowed by an ample hood. She is the Recording Angel, busy writing down all our deeds for God’s future reference …

To the left sits Fortitude, a female figure holding a massive and elaborate sword, and on the right Truth gazing into her mirror.

On the south pediment another woman holds a quill in one hand and in the other a closed book …

Both date from 1906 and are by the sculptor Frederick William Pomeroy as is Justice holding her symbolic sword and scales. She stands upon a globe because Justice straddles the world and although she is made of bronze not stone I couldn’t resist including her …

You may be surprised to see that she is not wearing a blindfold. I have written about her and the many other places she can be found in the City (often blindfolded) in an earlier blog entitled Lady Justice.

At 28-30 Cornhill can be found the old offices of the Scottish Widows Insurance Company (EC3V 3ND). High up the building, which dates from 1935, are two figures sculpted by William McMillan.

The one on the left holds a naked child between her knees …

… the other pours fruit and flowers from a cornucopia …

Dr Philip Ward-Jackson points out in his book Public Sculpture of the City of London that there is a striking resemblance both in iconography and style between these two figures and the so-called Lothbury Ladies. Charles Wheeler was sculpting them at the same time for the Lothbury front of the Bank of England. Here are two of them …

The children represent ‘the hope of the future of the renewed Bank and its ideals’.

The Lloyd’s Register of Shipping at 71 Fenchurch Street is worth a visit in its own right. I counted over two dozen female figures incorporated into the building’s design and here are just a few of them …

I can’t really do the sculptors justice in this blog so I will return at a later date.

Brewers’ Hall in Aldermanbury Square boasts a maiden keystone over its entrance (EC2V 7HR) …

She holds in either hand three ears of barley and forms the crest of the Brewers’ Company coat of arms. This is another work by Charles Wheeler and dates from 1960.

Walking around Finsbury Circus I looked up and saw this lady on the Lutyens designed Britannic House (EC2M 7EB). The building was originally the headquarters of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company …

Sculpted by Francis Derwent Wood in 1925, she’s a Persian Scarf Dancer.

Nearby is another work by him entitled Woman and Baby or Spring

My walk around the City looking for ladies in sculpture was really enlightening and I’ll return to the subject in a later blog.

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Aimless wandering!

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

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

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

… and the beast …

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

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

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

It’s home to these Arum Lilies and Irises …

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

Above the coat of arms rests the symbolic Gresham grasshopper …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and their riders.

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

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St Sepulchre’s Church and Newgate Gaol

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

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

Newgate Gaol shortly before demolition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture copyright Museum of London.

St Sepulchre’s Church today …

Look out for the sundial …

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

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

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

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

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

Includes my reflection … whoops!

Adjacent to the bell is this helpful notice …

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

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

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City children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The little girl’s shoes peep out tantalisingly …

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

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

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

The sculptor was William Reid Dick.

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

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

My First Sermon’ by John Everett Millais

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To them I will now add this young man …

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

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

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Holborn Viaduct – ladies, lions and ‘maximum bling’

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

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

Fine Art was sculpted by Farmer & Brindley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agriculture was sculpted by Henry Bursill

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

Bursill also sculpted Commerce …

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

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

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

Here’s one in close up …

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

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

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

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

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Holborn Viaduct – not all it seems

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

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

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

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

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

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

And another view looking south …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On June 15th 1381 he was accompanying King Richard II when they debated in Spitalfields with the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, Wat Tyler. For reasons that are not entirely clear, Walworth ran Tyler through with his sword. Badly wounded, Tyler was carried into nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital but, rather unsportingly, Walworth had him dragged out and decapitated. Poll Tax protesters were dealt with very ruthlessly in those days!

On the south west corner …

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

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

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

Finally, on the fourth corner, is this gentleman …

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

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

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

Cross section of paint from one of the lamp standards.

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

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At the Charterhouse

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

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

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

Probably by Nicolas Beatrizet (1540-1560)

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

The gatehouse in the 1930s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Hall (1571) where the Brothers dine today

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

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

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


In Wash House Court, Tudor bricks meet Monastery stone …

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

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

The medieval door to the Chapel damaged in the Blitz

The Chapel contains Thomas Sutton’s spectacular monument …

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

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

The man himself …

His body rests in a vault beneath the monument

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

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

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

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

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City safari!

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

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

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

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

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

Pebbles’ posthumous award.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sculptor was William Reid Dick.

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

The name of the street is a clue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another dolphin serves a more solemn purpose on Tower Green…

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

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

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

The sculptor commented …

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

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

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

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