Walking the City of London

Category: Commerce Page 1 of 4

Structures, clouds and reflections on a sunny day.

Bright sun, fluffy clouds, blue sky – just right for taking pictures. I decided to photograph some of the City’s newer buildings and see if I could make them look good – even the boring, ugly ones.

Here are the results.

I’ll start with everyone’s favourite …

The Gherkin, with the Guild Church of St Katharine Cree in the foreground.

Both reflected in the Scalpel building across the road …

The Gherkin reflected in the windows of Holland House …

This picture, which I took from a boat on the river, shows how the Gherkin is gradually being surrounded by new developments …

The Scalpel

The view from the roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street …

The Walkie Talkie as seen from the same location …

The Cheesegrater

Lloyd’s of London

Lloyd’s meets 19th century Leadenhall Market …

Another new building starts to loom over the area …

Tower 42

The St Botolph building at Aldgate …

Clouds reflected …

At Liverpool Street Station …

City canyons …

Views from Bank junction …

Henry Greathead, the engineer who built the Underground railway, with the Shard and the Lloyd’s buildings in the background …

The Duke looks the other way …

Morning light at Ropemaker Street and nearby …

A spaceship moored in Cheapside …

London Wall looking east …

The tower of St Elsyng Spital – 14th century meets 21st …

London Wall Place …

The 17th century tower of St Alban Wood Street casts a shadow on modern neighbours …

The old Broadgate location is now a hole in the ground …

Looking north …

The Cornhill Devils are still keeping an eye on developments …

At the Barbican …

The hanging gardens …

The Shard from the river with HMS Belfast in the foreground …

With City Hall and a much older neighbour …

Some earlier images …

Lucky timing with a rainbow …

View from the Cross Bones Graveyard

And finally, in the distance, Tower 42 displays the Union flag on the day of Her Majesty’s funeral …

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

I’m hoping my signage collection will make you smile.

I’ve been looking through my archive and some of these images made me smile when I came across them. I hope they cheer you up as well in these difficult times.

This notice is from the Inns of Court – home to distinguished members of the legal profession – and is placed at the entrance to the Inner Temple Garden …

What, I wondered, would a resident dog do for a living?

Maybe a judge …

Or perhaps a barrister …

I’m sure neither of them would be guilty of ‘fouling’.

Disconcerting message in Islington …

Yes, we’re prepared, we’ve got some wine in (although that’s probably not necessary).

Sign at a take-away food shop in Eastcheap …

Seems unfair that pigeons are banned even when they want to pay!

If you want to learn more about our feathered friends click on this link to my blog What do pigeons do all day? And why was one awarded the Croix de Guerre?

A message I would endorse …

Although eating too much could mean you needing these people …

Bad railway news might be more palatable if delivered by a seagull wearing a hard hat and high-viz jacket …

Made me laugh …

Improvised directions …

If you are fencing off a large area for redevelopment work it pays to deploy some humour …

I’m sure the British Transport Police didn’t intend this suspicious character to look a bit like Priti Patel …

On Moorgate …

Especially the ones riding on the pavement.

Quite amusing …

Slightly spooky hotel signage …

I’ll drink to that …

Message from the local osteopath …

Classic public loo design …

But not much use if you’re ‘caught short’ nowadays …

There’s not much you’re allowed to do on the Barbican Highwalk. I like the trumpet and the iPod …

Bad doggy!

Note the cunning alteration here …

If you’re lonely in Bournemouth you can chat with the telescope …

Alongside Smithfield Market …

Bibulous monks outside the Blackfriar pub …

The facade of St Martin’s House at 1 Gresham Street is a delight …

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

What also makes it charming is the rogue apostrophe ….

Surely it should read St Martin’s House?

Brenden Bracken worked for Winston Churchill during the War …

So the Zodiacal clock on the building named after him incorporates Churchill’s face …

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

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

Silver Street itself was annihilated in the Blitz and erased completely by post-war development and traffic planning.

I have, of course, collected quite a few ghost signs …

Classic pointing finger with smart shirt and cufflink …

Another pointed finger (this time it looks like with thumb extended) …

This sign on the wall of St Andrew by the Wardrobe is gradually disappearing. Eventually no one will know that the key for the fire ladder is kept with the Sexton at nearby 52 Carter Lane …

I took this picture three years ago …

Wardrobe Place is a little oasis of calm that escaped the Blitz …

This sign on the far wall harks back to before the war when this area was a centre for printing and print materials …

It reads Snashall & Son. Printers, Stationers and Account Book Manufacturers.

Here’s a picture I took five years ago so it has faded a bit …

Some attractive and imposing signage has, of course, just vanished. This business on the Commercial Road was still going strong 20 years ago …

Now both it and evidence of its existence have disappeared …

Walking along Carter Lane I looked up and saw this engraving …

Rather mysteriously, this is part of the coat of arms of Prince Edward Island …

The motto translates as The small under the protection of the great and dates from 1769. You can read more about its history here.

I like these two post boxes on St Andrew’s Hill (now sadly out of use and painted black) …

The box on the left is Edward VII (1901 – 1910) and on the right is George V (1910 – 1936).

I also like the design of this water fountain beside St Paul’s Cathedral and the pretty sign above it …

And finally, a massive vote of thanks to Cubitts the opticians.

The little shop on the corner of Cheapside and Wood Street used to look like this until the 1990s …

Then it became a card shop and all the quaint old signage was painted over …

Now Cubitts have taken over the building and arranged for a nice restoration job (although the lovely glass that once graced the door has probably been lost forever) …

The magnificent London Plane tree that you can see in most of the pictures stands 70 feet high and is protected by a City ordinance which also limits the height of the shops …

The little garden at the back of the shop used to be the churchyard of St Peter Westcheap (also known as St Peter Cheap) which was destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt. The railings incorporate an image of St Peter. In his lap and above his head are the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven …

The plaque in the churchyard attached to the shop’s northern wall confirms the age of the building, an early example of the reconstruction after the Great Fire of 1666 …

You can read more about this corner of the City and its history in my blog. A shop, a tree and a poem.

I hope you enjoyed that little trip to my image archive.

Last week I took a walk along the path south of the river and saw some interesting sights which I will revisit in a future blog …

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

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

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

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

Here are my favourites.

First up – rather spooky manikins …

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

They’re a bit less scary when dressed up …

Hats and heads, starting with the obvious place …

Across the road … Boy George? …

Heads awaiting hats …

Why do I find this one so disturbing?

Hey, good looking …

A nice window composition …

Some miscellaneous pics …

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

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

Items I was tempted to buy.

Surely my wife would appreciate this …

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

Someone has misbehaved …

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

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

… and the fascinating tiles on the platform …

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

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

An Anglo-Saxon dock and another magical mosaic.

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

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

Nearby is a very informative plaque …

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

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

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

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

Another plaque gives the second reason for my visit …

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

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

Note the little seal waving you goodbye …

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

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

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

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

Mythical creatures, famous Londoners and the City gardeners’ campaign against thoughtless smokers.

Isn’t it nice when the sun is out! I decided it was time for another wander around the City and from the Barbican Highwalk I spotted an old friend who it seems has at last found a permanent resting place …

The Minotaur was made by Michael Ayrton. The creature in the sculpture has been described as ‘looking powerful and muscular. It stands hunched over when on his plinth, but he looks ready to take off running at any moment. It has the body of a man, with heavy muscles in his legs and chest, and two cloven feet. It has the head of a bull with two pointed horns and large, hunched shoulders. Its body is hairy, and its hair moves even though it is made of metal’ …

The myth of Theseus and the Minotaur is one of the most tragic and fascinating myths of the Greek Mythology and you can read more about it here.

Onward to Lombard Street.

I took a walk down the shadowy and rather mysterious Change Alley and came across a building that once housed the Scottish Widows insurance company along with its magnificent crest. At the centre is the mythical winged horse, Pegasus, symbol of immortality and mastery of time. A naked figure, the Greek hero Bellerophon, is shown grasping its mane.  In mythology, Bellerophon captured Pegasus and rode him into battle. This explains the motto ‘Take time by the forelock’, or ‘seize the opportunity’. Presumably time could be tamed by taking out a Scottish Widows policy to make provision against the uncertainties of the future …

I next headed down King William Street.

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

Incidentally, have you ever paused to admire the Duke of Wellington statue at Bank junction? And do you think, like I once did, that it was there to celebrate his prowess as a military commander? Well, actually, it’s to commemorate the fact that he helped to get a road built!

It was erected to show the City’s gratitude for Wellington’s help in assisting the passage of the London Bridge Approaches Act 1827 which led to the creation of King William Street. The government donated the metal, which is bronze from captured enemy cannon melted down after the Battle of Waterloo.

A gardener labours diligently at the rear of Brewers’ Hall (EC2V 7HR) …

Philip Ward-Jackson, in his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, tells us of the Trees, Gardens and Open Spaces Committee of the Corporation which was chaired by Frederick Cleary. In his autobiography Cleary recorded that Jonzen’s figure below was intended as a tribute to the efforts of his committee but Ward-Jackson feels that ‘it might have been better described as a symbol of the ‘greening’ of the City in the post-war period’. Most appropriately, Mr Cleary has a garden named after him, and you can read about it in my earlier blog about City gardens generally.

Apparently Jonzen, on being given the subject by the Corporation …

… decided on a kneeling figure of a young man, who, having planted a bulb, was gently stroking over the earth.

There are several other works by Jonzen in the City.

This one, Beyond Tomorrow (1972), is in Basinghall Street, behind the Guildhall …

Sited opposite is this pretty glass fountain by Allen David …

It was commissioned by Mrs Gilbert Edgar, wife of Gilbert H. Edgar CBE, who was a City of London Sheriff between 1963-4. It was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of London on 10th December 1969.

Another work by Jonzen, in the Seething Lane Gardens, is of one of my favourite Londoners, Samuel Pepys. It was commissioned and erected by The Samuel Pepys Club in 1983 …

It contains musical notes, so of you can read music you can not only see Sam but also ‘hear’ his voice …

I thought the Guildhall looked nice against the blue sky …

A remarkably wart-free Oliver Cromwell looks fearsome outside the Guildhall Art Gallery with Samuel Pepys and Dick Whittington in the background (EC2V 5AE) …

Dick is on Highgate Hill and has just heard the bells of St Mary-le-Bow ring out ‘Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London’. He’s giving it some serious thought as his cat curls around his legs (note the tear in his leggings indicating that he has experienced hard times) …

Look closely at the elegant limestone facade of the building and you will see a great collection of bivalves – oyster shells from the Jurassic period when dinosaurs really did walk the earth …

Read more about more of the fossils on view in the City in my blog Jurassic City.

George Peabody was an American financier and philanthropist and is widely regarded as the father of modern philanthropy. Here he sits, looking pretty relaxed, at the northern end of the Royal Exchange Buildings …

Born in Baltimore he became extremely wealthy importing British dried goods and, after visiting frequently, became a permanent London resident in 1838. In retirement he devoted himself to charitable causes setting up a trust, the Peabody Donation Fund, to assist ‘the honest and industrious poor of London’. The Peabody Trustees would use the fund to provide ‘cheap, clean, well-drained and healthful dwellings for the poor’ with the first donation being made in 1862.

Peabody buildings are easily recognised by their attractive honey-coloured brickwork. This block is in Errol Street, Islington …

Immensely respected in later life, he was offered a baronetcy by Queen Victoria but declined it. After his death in 1869 his body rested for a month in Westminster Abbey after which, on the Queen’s orders, his body was returned to America for burial on the British battleship HMS Monarch.

Close to Peabody is a statue to another remarkable man – Paul Julius Reuter. The rough-cut granite sculpture by the Oxford-based sculptor Michael Black commemorates the 19th-century pioneer of communications and news delivery. It is a fitting place for the statue because the stone head faces the Royal Exchange which was the reason why Reuter set up his business in the City. He established his offices in 1851 to the east of the Royal Exchange building. The stone monument was erected by Reuters to mark the 125th anniversary of the Reuters Foundation. It was unveiled by Edmund L de Rothschild on 18 October 1976 …

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

Sir John Soane stands on Lothbury wearing a full-length cloak and holding a bundle of drawings and a set square. The niche is decorated with the neo-Grecian motifs associated with his style. Sir John’s day job was as architect and surveyor to the Bank of England, and he held the position for 45 years. When he resigned in 1833, most of the Bank’s three-acre footprint had been remodelled in some way, and a number of spectacular set-piece facades inserted…

In the wake of the Great War, Britain’s national debt grew to such an extent that Soane’s bank was too small for the business to be transacted; unfortunately, this renovation was done by the architect Herbert Baker in a way that virtually erased Soane’s work.

Many are still angry at the destruction. Here is what the blogger at Ornamental Passions has to say:

‘The irony of placing a tribute to the architect actually on the sad ruins of his masterpiece was not lost on critics, especially as it is so close to Soane’s much loved Tivoli Corner which Baker had promised to preserve but actually totally rebuilt. He is lucky to have his back turned to an act of vandalism more brutal than anything the Luftwaffe achieved. Indeed, nothing illustrates the Nazi’s abysmal cultural values than that fact that the Bank was untouched in the blitz’. Wow!

Carrying her sword and scales, Lady Justice stands above the Ukrainian flag at the Institute of Chartered Accountants …

Around the corner, the building boasts the poshest letter box in the City …

Speak to any one of the wonderful team of City gardeners and they will tell you that one of the greatest threats to their work are smokers discarding cigarette butts in flower beds. Nicotine is poisonous to plants and is a component of many weed killers.

So the City is fighting back using humour …

The final paragraph on the accompanying sign made me laugh out loud …

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

Special edition : Pubs and Inns.

City pubs often have a rather interesting history so I thought I’d do a bit of research on some of my favourites, starting with the Hoop & Grapes on Aldgate High Street (EC3N 1AL).

Here it is in 1961 when, before or after a beer, you could also get your eyes tested at the adjacent optician and acquire teeth at Supreme Denture Service Ltd. If your new teeth looked good you could have a picture taken of your happy smile at the Regal Studios …

The Hoop & Grapes is the oldest licensed house in the City, built in 1593 and originally called The Castle, then the Angel & Crown, then Christopher Hills, finally becoming the Hoop & Grapes in the nineteen twenties.

Here it is today …

The pub has been described as being like a skinny waif sat between two fat people on a bus.

The name Hoop & Grapes advertised the fact that you could buy both beer and wine there. The first impression, when you turn your back on the traffic to enter, is of the appealingly crooked frontage with sash windows fitted in the seventeen twenties at eccentric angles …

Two 18th century oak posts guard the entrance, each with primitive designs of vines incised upon them …

There are two old parish boundary markers …

The top one, dated 1837, is for the parish of St Mary’s Whitechapel (lost in the Blitz) and the lower, from 1722, refers to St Botolph Without Aldgate (still thriving across the road).

If you are interested in how parishes marked out their territories I have written two blogs on the subject : Bombs and Boundaries and City Parishes and their Boundaries.

The very old door still bears traces of when it was the entrance to the, posher, ‘Saloon’ Bar …

I like the old lantern with the street number on it …

You can read more about the site and medieval Aldgate here.

Incidentally, there is another Hoop and Grapes on Farringdon High Street …

It once had had a special licence for many years, allowing the pub to open between two and five in the morning for the convenience of printers who worked in nearby Fleet Street. This only allowed the pub to serve those working in the newspaper trade, and other trades which involved night or early morning working, such as London’s markets. I can personally attest to the fact that the pubs that held these special licences often were not too careful in checking that their customers worked in the allowed trades!

It was built in 1721 on part of the historic burial grounds of St Bride’s Church. As an inn, it gained notoriety as a location for illegitimate Fleet Weddings.

In the 1990s, it underwent several changes and was eventually closed down and scheduled for demolition. However, as the last surviving pub with a history of Fleet weddings, it was given a stay of execution and became a Grade II listed building …

Saved just in time.

During the renovation works burial remains from St Bride’s Church were discovered and many bodies found there were moved into the British Museum. 

Last year I briefly visited The George Inn in Southwark …

The George is a very old Inn, dating back to at least the 16th century. It was mentioned by Stowe in 1598 as one of the ‘fair inns of London’ and was rebuilt in 1676 after a serious fire. For many years it was owned by the trustees of Guy’s Hospital, which was on the eastern boundary of the original George Inn – the building we see today is a small part of the original inn and the associated buildings to support the coaching business.

Catching a coach from one of the Inns in Southwark was almost the equivalent of walking across London Bridge today and catching a train at London Bridge Station. And there were many inns to choose from as this old print illustrates …

Coaches from Southwark served numerous destinations in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire and in 1809 W.S. Scholefield, who was running the George at the time, published a list of the destinations from the inn, and their frequency:

George Inn

Gradually these enterprises went into decline as the railways put them out of business.

Here’s what Charles Dickens had to say about the old inns in his first novel The Pickwick Papers:

There are in London, several old inns, once the head-quarters of celebrated coaches in the days when coaches performed their journeys in a graver and more solemn manner than they do in these times; but which have now degenerated into little more than the abiding and booking places of country wagons … In the Borough especially there still remain some half-dozen old inns, which have preserved their external features unchanged, and which have escaped alike the rage for public improvement and the encroachments of private speculation. Great, rambling, queer old places they are, with galleries, and passages, and staircases wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories, supposing we should ever be reduced to the lamentable necessity of inventing any.

The George in 1858 …

In 1874, Guy’s Hospital sold the George Inn to the Great Northern Railway. The coming of the railways had seen a rapid decline in travel by horse and coach, so the sale of the inn to the GNR, who used the site as a receiving station for goods to be transported on their rail network, was in many ways a logical continuation of the main transport function of the inn.

The following photo shows the courtyard of the George, looking towards Borough High Street, with a sign above the entrance to the GNR offices …

Here it is in 1889 …

We are very fortunate to have The George to remind us of the coaching heyday.

By the way, I have written in a previous blog about the famous Bull & Mouth Inn, the signage for which can still be see in the Museum of London rotunda …

It had stabling for 700, yes 700, horses, most of it underground, and the yard could accommodate 30 coaches. This is a picture of the yard, probably painted around 1820 by H. Shepherd (1793-1864) …

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

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

I hope to write about more pubs and their history over the coming weeks.

As is often the case, I am indebted to two fellow bloggers for much of my research. The London Inheritance blog is absolutely superb on the history of The George and The Gentle Author writes as lyrically as usual about the Hoop and Grapes.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

Some things I have seen on recent wanderings – from traitors’ heads to woolly mammoths.

As regular readers will know, every now and then I like to publish some images that I have taken that don’t fit easily into any particular theme and this week’s blog is an example. They include wanderings outside the City and even London itself but I hope you will still enjoy them.

Walking down Errol Street in Islington (EC1Y 8LU – opposite Waitrose) I looked up and, for the first time, noticed this very touching memorial …

This wonderful map entitled The Streets They Left Behind is interactive. Just click on the poppies to read more about the men who never returned.

Just across the road in Whitecross Street are the premises of A Holt & Sons Ltd …

Because so many trades have moved out of the City and its adjacent boroughs, I had always assumed that the building contained flats and that the signage had been retained as a quaint ‘feature’ to attract tenants. How wrong I was!

The business (which specialises in cotton textiles) was founded by Abraham Holtz who started his enterprise on a stall nearby and who then bought these premises in 1864. It has been in the family ever since (the ‘z’ was dropped from the name at the time of the First World War). Have a look at their website for the full fascinating story.

The building is adjacent to the tiny, covered alley called Shrewsbury Court …

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to establish the origin of its name. You can read more about its history here in the splendid Ian Visits blog.

A few yards inside the alley is one of my favourite London doors. The story I have conjured up in my mind is that, some time in the early 1970s, the people living there found that visitors knocked on the door rather than ringing the bell. When asked why, callers usually said that they didn’t know there was a bell. As a consequence, the residents (who obviously had artistic talents) got out their paint brushes and added this helpful sign to indicate where the push button bell was. Brilliant!

If learning a bit more about City doors takes your fancy have a look at my blog entitled That rings a Bell.

The other day at the Museum of London I was admiring this painting of London as seen from Southwark in around 1630. It’s one of the few painted records of the City before it was destroyed in the Great Fire …

My eye was drawn to London Bridge where a wide selection of traitors’ heads offered a grisly welcome to newcomers approaching from the south …

I liked this view of the outside of the Charterhouse with the very old gates, a gas lamp and an iconic red London pillar box …

The Kentish ragstone wall is fantastic …

I wrote recently about the great Italian experience that is Eataly on Bishopsgate. Here’s some of the scrumptious produce on sale …

There are a few doorways around the City that have always intrigued me since the wood seems to be incredibly old and repurposed from another function. The first is on Foster Lane and the next two Carter Lane …

I have noticed a recent trend in City opticians to have really wacky displays that don’t seem to bear much resemblance at all to their product. This one’s in Aldersgate and is obviously referencing the nearby Barbican estate …

Generally speaking, I don’t approve of graffiti, but this made me laugh …

When visiting Highgate Cemetery a few weeks ago I encountered these two ladies on Highgate Hill. The first (‘Big girls need big diamonds’) is obviously Elizabeth Taylor …

If you are visiting nearby and are interested in finding them they are on the outside wall of the oddly named Brendan the Navigator pub (N19 5NQ).

In the Egyptian Avenue in Highgate Cemetery you will come across the vault containing the remains of Mabel Veronica Batten. In front of the entrance there are always fresh flowers placed in a marble container inscribed with the name of her lover, Radclyffe Hall, who is also laid to rest there …

Hall, born Marguerite Radclyffe Hall but known to her loved ones as John, was a lesbian who dressed in men’s clothes in a society and era when same-sex love was considered not only immoral but legally punishable. Her book, The Well of Loneliness, dealing with a love between two women, was published in 1928. Here she is circa 1910 …

Picture: National Portrait Gallery, photographer unknown.

Her novel became the target of a campaign by James Douglas, editor of the Sunday Express, who wrote, ‘I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel.’ A judge eventually ordered the book destroyed, with the defendants to pay court costs.

A lady entrepreneur sets out her wares on Kilburn High Road …

Nearby stalls …

And finally, some images from a really enjoyable trip to Ipswich.

Ipswich Museum is a delight containing an extraordinary range of exhibits, all displayed in an authentic Victorian environment.

Ever wondered what a boa constrictor’s skeleton looks like? Wonder no more …

Ever fancied a close encounter with a woolly mammoth? This is the place to come …

In a sad sign of the times, ten years ago someone broke in and sawed off and stole Rosie the Rhino’s horn!

Staying at the Salthouse Harbour Hotel was fun. There is some interesting art on display …

And some, er, rather eccentric signage …

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

Special colour edition! The weather’s been a bit chilly so here’s some colour to warm us up!

Temple tube station’s grey concrete roof terrace has been given a kaleidoscopic makeover by London-based artist Lakwena Maciver. Titled ‘Back in the Air: A Meditation on Higher Ground,’ Maciver’s rooftop art installation features a series of interlocking geometric patterns inspired by her Ugandan heritage …

You can read more about the work here along with some great aerial images. Highly recommended since it also includes fascinating time lapse footage of the work’s construction.

You may wonder why Temple Station, built in 1870, has this unusual flat roof. Well, when the station building was proposed, the Duke of Norfolk, who owned land to the north, didn’t want a tall structure obstructing his view. As a result of his objection, the flat roof meant he could still gaze happily over the Thames and wander across the roof if that took his fancy. Another constraint was demanded by the barristers in the nearby Inns of Court. Train drivers were not allowed to blow their whistles in their proximity so members would not be distracted from their briefs (nor, presumably, have their slumbers interrupted).

If you like Italian food and produce Eataly, on Bishopsgate beside Liverpool Street Station, is the place for you. Great restaurants with scrumptious food and mini-shops selling all kinds of produce. There’s a great wine shop as well. I love this sparkling arcade …

Colourful stall at the Whitecross Street Party

My Party favourite, the Big Paintbrush …

Ventilation shafts dazzle underneath the Cheesegrater building at 122 Leadenhall Street (EC3V 4AB) …

Incidentally, there’s an interesting story behind the maypole you can see in the distance and the statue next to it. You can read all about it in my blog Around Leadenhall – Geishas, Sign Language, Maypoles and a Japanese proverb.

I like the ‘splashy’ roof over the pavement at 22 Bishopsgate (EC2N 4AJ) …

Fun pink ‘stuff’ at St Pancreas …

Crazy shop window nearby …

Street art near Rivington Street …

The ‘Hanging Gardens of the Barbican’ are gradually changing colour …

Sadly, the last hollyhock of the year …

However, there is cause for optimism. A little green leaf emerging from the Amaryllis!

Last Saturday I went on a guided tour of Highgate Cemetery and took this image of our excellent guide James in his natural green habitat …

The Cemetery is well worth visiting and the guided tours great value for money (or you can go self-guided if you prefer). Details can be found here on their website. You must book a time slot in advance.

And finally, can you spot the Tower 42 orange pumpkin head?

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

The history of Passing Alley and other St John Street features.

You may remember that last week I suggested you reflect on the origin of the name of this narrow thoroughfare which has this entrance in St John’s Lane …

And another in St John Street …

As you have probably guessed, it was originally called Pissing Alley and appears as such in John Roque’s map of 1776

By 1792, however, according to Horwood’s Plan, it had become Passing Alley. See if you can spot it …

The blog A London Inheritance tells us that, although Passing Alley gives the impression of being one of London’s ancient alleys, in London terms it is relatively recent. It was originally around 40 feet to the north of its current location, however late 19th century development, which included the building that now provides access to the alley, required the shift of the alley to the south. The name does not necessarily refer to 18th century chaps bursting for a wee but may actually reference the location of cesspits in the area.

Incidentally, there was a Pissing Lane in the City. It’s shown on the Agas Map of 1561 but has since disappeared under Cannon Street Station …

Another walk along St John Street has revealed some more interesting buildings.

Number 16 was the former Cross Keys inn. It was rebuilt in 1886–7 for Lovell & Christmas, provision merchants. It has been closed as a pub since the Second World War and was occupied during the 1980s as the London headquarters and library of the Communist Party of Great Britain, before being refurbished as offices in the early 1990s …

You can see the cross keys symbol at roof level.

18-29 is a Gothic-style warehouse of 1886–7. It was built speculatively by Richard Curtis, builder and contractor of Aldersgate Street. Curtis went bankrupt during the work, and the building was completed for his mortgagee, the Nineteenth Century Building Society, who let it in 1889 to S. Oppenheimer & Co., sausage-skin manufacturers …

For more sausage-related history have a look at last week’s blog.

The exact date of construction of Number 22 next door is not known, but the little house is evidently of the early eighteenth century …

It appears to be the survivor of a row of three similar houses mentioned in the will of Frances Ashton, née Chew, proved in 1727. The house was in commercial use by the 1820s, and was occupied from then until the 1890s by a succession of wire-workers, manufacturing being carried on in a workshop in the back yard.

Here it is with its neighbours in 1946 …

Picture credit : British History Online.

Number 24 was erected in 1863–4 for George Penson, provision merchant, replacing the Golden Lion inn. It’s is a tall, narrow house faced in brick, with, originally, a ground-floor shop …

One can’t fail to be impressed by the Farmiloe building. Until their departure to Mitcham in April 1999, the lead and glass merchants George Farmiloe & Sons were one of Clerkenwell’s longest-established firms, and this was their headquarters.

During the company’s heyday in the first half of the twentieth century, the firm was supplying a variety of materials to the building trade, including paint, brasswork and sanitary ware, as well as lead and glass.

It’s a fine example of Victorian commercial architecture, featuring an attractive Italianate palazzo-style frontage executed in Portland stone, white Suffolk brick and polished Aberdeen granite.

The stonework is embellished with delicate decoration, both incised and in relief …

To the right is an archway leading to a courtyard facing a large covered warehouse at the rear of the building …

Numbers 44-46 are intriguing …

Here they are in 1877 …

Picture credit : British History Online.

At the back of the warehouse, which included offices and a manager’s flat, are outbuildings ranged round a courtyard, originally bacon stoves, stores and stabling but now converted to offices and business units …

Number 78 was built as a warehouse in 1886 …

It’s now listed Grade II.

Number 72 is a shop and house dating from around 1830 …

Numbers 80 to 92 are attractive …

Numbers 80 to 86 could date from the 1770s.

Here’s number 88, built around 1837 …

With this thin 20th century building squeezed in beside it …

There is much more to see in this area so I will return to it at a later date.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

The Sausage King, a fatal fire at a sex cinema and Ingersoll watches – a wander along St John Street.

I took advantage of a sunny afternoon to inspect more closely the fascinating architecture I had often observed on St John Street. It’s an ancient route, described in 1170 as the street ‘which goeth from the bar of Smithfield towards Yseldon [Islington]’. This is the earliest known documentary reference to the street, which later became known simply as ‘Clerkenwell Streete’. Its present name is taken from the adjacent priory of St John, established by the Knights Hospitallers in the twelfth century.

You can see it here on the Agas Map of 1561 (as reprinted and modified in 1633) …

Starting my walk at the Smithfield Market end the first buildings I encountered were numbers 1 and 3-5 (EC1M 4AA). The sunlight showed them off to great effect …

The ‘Venetian’ style Number 1 appears to have been built in the mid-1880s for the charmingly named Frederick Goodspeed, a grocer who had acquired, and briefly ran, an old coffeehouse on the site.

My camera couldn’t do justice to the decorations on numbers 3-5 so I have borrowed this image from British History Online

The building was constructed in 1897 for William Harris the ‘Sausage King’, sausage manufacturer and proprietor of a well-known restaurant chain specialising in sausage and mash. Faced in brick with stone dressings, it shows Arts-and-Crafts and Art Nouveau influence; the south front rises to an ornate gable decorated in relief with a wild boar, Harris’s name and the date. Here’s one of his promotional leaflets aimed at ‘City Clerks and others’…

The Victorians loved an eccentric and he obliged, whether it be by dressing entirely inappropriately for his job (opera hat, dinner suit and cravat with diamond pin) or riding a pig from Brighton to London (with the words ‘tomorrow’s sausages’ written cruelly on its back).

Harris’s registered trademark was a colour picture of himself riding a huge pig to victory in the ‘Pork Sausage Derby’ …

Harris in full self-promotion mode …

One anecdote tells of the time when he was visiting Brighton and a tramp ran off with a string of sausages from one of William’s shops. The thief was caught, and was challenged to a sausage-eating contest – if the tramp won he could go free. A huge crowd gathered to watch; when William delightedly won (by four sausages) he gave the tramp a sovereign and his freedom.

William ‘No. 1’ Harris, as he styled himself, lived over the shop at with his family including sons William ‘No. 2’ (Prince of Sausages) and William ‘Nos. 3 and 4’. His firm, William Harris & Son, remained here until the late 1950s or early 60s.

For an amusing look at Harris and his world I highly recommend this witty blog by Sheldon K Goodman and do read this wonderful obituary from the London Standard, 3rd May 1912.

Doorway to where William lived with his family.

Number 7 was the scene of a tragedy. The so-called Clerkenwell Cinema Fire occurred in the Dream City ‘adult cinema’ (also known as the ‘New City Cinema’) on 26 February 1994. Due to the pornographic nature of the films it screened, and the strict cinema licensing regulations in London at the time, the cinema was operating illegally, and thus was not subject to fire inspections as legal entertainment venues were …

The fire was caused by arson when a deaf, homeless man called David Lauwers (known to his friends as ‘Deaf Dave’) lost a fight with a doorman over entry fees. After being ejected from the cinema, Lauwers returned with a can of petrol and set fire to the entrance area. The fire took hold rapidly, trapping most of the staff and patrons within. Eight men died at the scene, seven from smoke inhalation and one from injuries sustained from jumping from a high window in the building, and there were three further fatalities in the following months in hospital, as well as thirteen injuries. Lauwers was later given a life sentence.

You can read a dramatic recounting of what happened that night in this blog by a Retired London Fireman.

On the left, the building today …

Numbers 69-73 consist essentially of two houses built in 1817–18, originally separated by the entry to a large yard, where warehousing was later built …

British History Online tells us that Number 69 appears to retain its original façade, but the other house has been refronted; this may have been done in 1896 when it was extended over the alley and the two houses thrown into one, together with the cork-warehouses at the rear, which had been partly rebuilt following a fire in 1882. The treatment of the ground floor at No. 69, with arched openings and Ionic pilasters, executed in stucco, is the remnant of a remodelling of the whole ground-floor front of probably carried out in the mid-nineteenth century. The present shopfront at No. 73 dates from 1884, though it has been altered in recent years.

Number 57 was once the White Bear pub dating from 1899 …

Now closed, it looks like a Covid victim.

At 115-121, this block of tenements and shops belongs to the select group of public housing schemes designed by the LCC Architect’s Department in the 1890s and early 1900s in an Arts-and Crafts or ‘English Domestic’ idiom …

Built in 1904–6, Mallory Buildings stands on part of the site of the medieval priory of St John, relics of which were discovered during the excavation for the foundations. The name commemorates Robert Mallory, one of the former priors.

Numbers 159–173 once housed Pollard’s Shopfitting works with construction being carried out in 1925–7. The new building contained showrooms, offices, workshops and stores. On the fourth floor were the main administrative offices, and the boardroom, panelled in Italian walnut with Ionic pilasters …

Black granite was used to frame the bronze entrance doors …

Founded in 1895 by Edward Pollard, Pollards held the English patents for the American invention ‘invisible glass’, used in shopfronts. This employs steeply curved concave glass to deflect light towards matt black ‘baffles’ so that no reflections show in the window. The company installed invisible-glass windows in several important London stores, including Simpsons of Piccadilly (now Waterstones), where they remain intact as well as at Fox’s Umbrellas on London Wall (now a wine bar) …

Read more about the store in my blog ‘Art Deco in the City‘.

In 1967 the Pollard Group relocated to Basingstoke and the business continues today as Pollards Fyrespan, now in Enfield. The former Clerkenwell works are now used as offices and small-business workshops.

Three old houses survive at numbers 181–185 …

Finally, at numbers 223-227 you can look up and see the name Ingersoll picked out in green and cream mosaic. The factory was built in the 1930s for property speculator Gilbert Waghorn. Before it was completed, Ingersoll agreed to move in and so the architect, Gilbert’s brother Stanley Waghorn, modified slightly the parapet on the St John Street façade to incorporate the logo …

The Ingersoll Watch Company grew out of a mail order business started in New York City in 1882 by 21-year-old Robert Hawley Ingersoll and his brother Charles Henry Ingersoll. When they added the one-dollar watch to their catalogue, the business really took off. Millions were sold and they cheekily boasted it was …

The watch that made the dollar famous!

In 1904 they opened a store in London and in 1905 Robert sailed to England and introduced the Crown pocket watch for 5 shillings, which was the same value as $1 at the time (four dollars to the pound – those were the days!) …

Business boomed even more when they won the contract to produce Mickey Mouse watches for Disney …

Ingersoll went bankrupt during the recession that followed World War I. It was purchased by the Waterbury Clock Company (now the Timex Group USA) shortly after for 1.5 million dollars. Today they are owned by Zeon Watches, a British subsidiary of the Chinese company, Herald Group. They are still distributing Ingersoll watches in more than 50 countries around the world.

I will be returning to St John Street again in a future blog. In the meantime, perhaps you can imagine how this narrow thoroughfare got its name?

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

A beautiful lighthouse, the poshest letterbox in the City and other sights around Moorgate.

I am always surprised when I come across something that I should have researched years ago but somehow missed and this is the case with the Moorgate lighthouse. Here it is, isn’t it wonderful ..

I love the little windows, the steps leading up from what looks like a choppy sea and the fully rigged ships in the background. And, even more extraordinary, the covering for the beacon at the top of the tower is actually made of real glass (and one source states that when first constructed the light flashed intermittently, just like a real warning to shipping).

42 Moorgate, where the lighthouse lives, is now the home of Habib Bank (EC2R 6EL) …

Originally, however, it was designed in 1910 by the famous architects Aston Webb & Son to house the headquarters of the Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation, the lighthouse and other decorations re-emphasising the ‘Ocean’ brand name. Neptune, the God of the sea, stares down at the City traffic (glancing slightly to his left for some reason – possibly searching for the real ocean)…

The arcade facade behind the building on Moorgate Place is by W H Atkin-Berry. More ships under sail …

A ship’s prow cutting through the waves …

3 Moorgate Place.

And another two Neptunes …

This is a nice image by Katie of Look up London showing the sea God crowned with flowers and, above his head, sea horses charging away from the cartouche containing an O and A, presumably for Ocean Accident …

Looking up higher still you can see even more ships’ prows …

Ocean Accident was taken over by Commercial Union in 1910 and is now a footnote in the commercial history of Aviva …

At the other end of Moorgate Place is the stunning Institute of Chartered Accountants building, described by Pevsner as ’eminently original and delightfully picturesque’ …

Look at those imposing bronze doors …

I think the serpent signifies wisdom.

And surely this must be the poshest letter box in the City …

You can read more about the building here.

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

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

Next is ‘Education’ …

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

Onward to ‘Manufactures’ …

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

And now ‘Agriculture’ …

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

I have written before about the Lady Justice sculpture. She looks like she has stepped out of her niche in order to upstage the accountants number-crunching away behind her …

If you return to Moorgate and look across the road you will find her again in the company of Prudence, Truth and Thrift at number 13-15 …

Here’s a link if you would like to know more about the two Lady Justices along with other representations of her in the City: Lady Justice.

I paused outside the impressive building that used to be called Electra House – you can read more about it here

Looking across the road, number 87 is a rather elegant listed building squeezed between The Globe pub and the Crossrail development …

It’s an early 19th century red brick terraced house with sash windows. The ground floor shop was added in the late 20th century.

Finally, I’ve always been intrigued by this carving near the entrance to Moorgate Station and presume it was part of the old station which was seriously damaged in the War. It seems to show a bridge over water with little boats sailing underneath it and below them tunnels containing underground trains …

My theory is that it represents the Tube train tunnel under the Thames at Wapping. Here’s an image from 1958 …

Photo credit – London Transport Museum.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

Reflections, colours and shapes – what fun I have had.

Sometimes, when the weather is nice, I find it great fun to just wander about taking whatever images I fancy, hoping they will eventually build into some kind of coherent whole. For a while now, sunshine has drawn me into looking at subjects in a slightly more abstract way rather than trying to make them tell a story, and this blog is the result.

I am really, really proud of this image. It’s the reflection on the bonnet and windscreen of a car parked in Wood Street. I love the way the nearby building seems to stretch away into infinity …

The Gherkin and part of the tower of St Andrew Undershaft are reflected in the Scalpel skyscraper (EC3M 7BS) …

The poor Gherkin is gradually vanishing behind its more intrusive neighbours …

But it’s still great to visit the restaurant on the roof and just look up …

A mirror sculpture across the road from St Paul’s Cathedral – I waited specially for the red bus …

Stephen Osborne was laid to rest here almost 320 years ago and since then the sunlight has been reflecting off his gravestone in the south aisle of Southwark Cathedral (SE1 9DA). Hundreds of years of footfall have worn down the elaborate family coat of arms but the quality of the stone and the carving mean we still know today the name of the person it commemorates …

Early morning colours, reflections and shadows …

A fiery, dramatic sunset reflection …

These walls alongside London Wall are from the chapel of St Mary Elsing. It was part of a hospital and priory which had been founded by Sir William Elsing early in the 14th century. I can just imagine a hunched medieval monk or nun emerging from the shadows …

If they could look up they’d get a bit of a shock. I like the way the modern building is framed by a six hundred-year-old arch …

Nearby are the lovely red bricks and diamond patterns of the medieval wall, built on top of the original Roman fortification (EC2Y 5DE) …

Now for some more colour.

A lucky shot – red crane and rainbow (a double rainbow, actually, if you look carefully) …

Modern architects seem to be using colour more adventurously …

Offices in Old Bailey – EC4M 7NB
View looking up from Sun Street (EC2A). The Georgian terrace house in the foreground and its neighbours are being converted into a hotel.

I like 88 Wood Street, but it’s a bit hemmed in by other buildings (EC2V 7QF) …

This optician on London Wall likes rather wacky window displays (EC2Y 5JA) …

Lady in red on Whitecross Street (EC1Y 8JA). She’s walking past the colourful exterior of the Prior Weston Primary School campus …

Now some very old colours. Crafts people restoring Holborn Viaduct recently discovered layers revealing 150 years of repainting …

Time for some shapes and shadows.

No one does symmetry quite like Mother Nature …

A concrete buttress in a car park resembles the prow of a ship as the sun shines through the grating above …

Practicality combined with aesthetic beauty …

At the corner of Clerkenwell Road and St John Street is the building which once housed the Criterion Hotel (EC1V 4JS). Look up and you will see this lovely, painstakingly created Victorian brick decoration. I don’t know what the frogs represent, or maybe they are toads …

Read more about the area in my blog City of London Pub Ghosts.

Where the Barbican archers will be placed if the Estate requires defending …

More morning shadows …

A gentle curve …

And seen from below …

And two more in sync …

Another outside Wax Chandler’s Hall in Gresham Street (EC2V 7AD) …

On a lighthearted note, ‘Luxury collar trim’ colour sample discarded in a skip outside the Barbican Theatre …

Finally, ‘Sunflower Surprise’ …

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

Heroes, Hops and Housing. A short wander around Southwark.

For an expression of grim determination, it would be hard to beat the look on this man’s face …

This is the St Saviour’s War Memorial on Borough High Street, in the former parish of Southwark St Saviour (SE1 1NL). St Saviour’s Church became Southwark Cathedral in 1905 …

An infantryman in battledress advances resolutely through thick mud. He carries a rifle with bayonet attached slung over his shoulder …

Beneath his feet is a Portland Stone pedestal depicting St George doing battle with a dragon.

On the opposite side there is a carving of a mourning woman. Her child is reaching out to a dove …

On the pedestal’s long sides are bronze reliefs.

One with biplanes, to the west …

… and another with battleships, to the east.

The memorial’s sculptor was Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1977). Having joined up with the Artists’ Rifles in 1914, he had distinguished himself in the First World War having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for ‘ … conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the left flank of the Company of the Battalion’. Despite being severely wounded, he had fought on until relieved two days later. In 1926 he created the Bakers of Widegate Street, details of which can be found in my blog On the Tiles again.

The story of the Artists’ Rifles is a fascinating one, it came as a surprise to me that they had one of the highest casualty rates of the First World War. Click here to read a short History of the Regiment (and watch the last scene from Blackadder – ‘Good luck everyone‘).

Walking along Southwark Street, I came across this magnificent, gently curving building called The Hop Exchange (SE1 1TY) …

This area in Southwark was where the hops from the southern counties, and especially from Kent, were brought to after the autumn picking. After picking, the hops were dried in the oast houses and then packed into large compressed sacks of 6 by 2 feet, called ‘pockets’. These pockets were then transported to Southwark, first by horse and cart, but later by train …

The Hop Exchange was built in 1867 …

You can see the hop pickers at work in the carving contained in the pediment …

Up to the 1960s, many of the poorer London families went to the hop gardens each September for a working-holiday. Not just for the fresh air, but to supplement their all too meagre income …

At 67 Borough High Street you can find the former offices of the hop merchants, or factors as they were usually called, W.H. and H. Le May (SE1 1NF). It is a Grade II listed building with a spectacular frieze on the front depicting hop gatherers and proudly displaying the firm’s name. One may easily assume that the building is constructed of red sandstone, but according to the description on the British Listed Buildings site, it is ‘just’ coloured stucco …

A rather romanticized view of picking …

I am indebted to the London Details blog for much of my research. You can read two of the posts here and here.

These flats, Cromwell Buildings in Redcross Street (SE1 9HR), were constructed in 1864 by Sir Sydney Waterlow, founder of the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, and were modelled after a pair of houses designed by the Prince Regent for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Waterlow set the company up in 1863 with capital of £50,000 and by 1900 it was said to be housing some 30,000 London people …

If you ever find yourself in Highgate, do visit the beautiful Waterlow Park (N6 5HD). It covers 26 acres and was given to the public by Sir Sydney as ‘a garden for the gardenless’ in 1889. Seek out this statue of the great man – it’s the only statue I have ever come across of a man carrying an umbrella. In his left hand you will see he is handing over the key to the garden gates …

The Friends of Waterlow Park have produced this useful map. If you have time, I strongly recommend a visit to the nearby Highgate Cemetery

Back in Southwark, if you’re feeling thirsty and a bit peckish treat yourself with a visit to the George Inn, the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London (SE1 1NH) …

When I popped in to take a photo this made me smile …

I’ll visit Southwark again when I also go back to the Cathedral.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

City ladies, a magic square and some gentle amusement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sculptor Charles Wheeler 1929-1930.

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

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

Sculptor Ernest Gillick – 1931-2.

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

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

Innovation Factory — Magic Squares

Dürer included it in an engraving entitled Melancholia I

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

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

Sculptor Charles Doman – 1931.

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

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

Sculptor James Redfern – 1866.

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

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

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

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

Next is ‘Education’ …

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

Onward to ‘Manufactures’ …

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

Another example is ‘Agriculture’ …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Clerkenwell gnomes …

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

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

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

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The letters are gilded in 24 carat gold leaf …

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bang up to date telephone …

Cables that carried the telephone signal …

An electromagnetic relay …

A Horse Shoe Magnet …

The imposing entrance doors are sadly defaced with signage …

There are two nice places to sit down and rest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

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 …

If you would like to follow me on Instagram here is the link …

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

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 …