Walking the City of London

Category: Gardens Page 1 of 2

Another visit to the Inns of Court – including a garden treat everyone can enjoy.

Whenever I visit the Inns of Court I like to enter by one of the old gates in Fleet Street – it really is like stepping back in time, from the bustle of the City to the leafy, collegiate atmosphere of the Inns …

This lane leads south from Fleet Street and I read somewhere that Dr Johnson used to enjoy swinging round these supporting pillars when he was in an ebullient mood!

There are two nicely restored sundials nearby. This one in Pump Court reminds lawyers of their mortality …

And in Fountain Court, ‘Learn justice you who are now being instructed‘ …

The TWT refers to the Middle Temple Treasurer in 1684, William Thursby, a successful lawyer and later MP. He spoke of the study of law as ‘a rough and unpleasant study at the first, but honourable and profitable in the end … as pleasant (and safe and sure) as any profession’.

I paused to admire the lovely pair of Mulberry trees, also located in Fountain Court. Taken under an overcast sky, my images were a bit of a disappointment, so these are courtesy of Spitalfields Life

An added bonus of a visit nowadays is that the Inner Temple Gardens are now open to the public during weekdays from 12:30 until 3:00 pm.

I walked through the pretty gates, above which Pegasus, the Inner Temple emblem, was silhouetted against the sky …

A gentle stroll around the garden produced these images …

A fine spot for a picnic …

I’m sure many people seeing these pictures would not believe that they were taken in the centre of the City …

The area still has an ecclesiastical air about it …

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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 …

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Some cheerful Spring pics.

In this week’s blog I have just put together some of the random pictures I have been taking over the last few weeks that will hopefully create a cheerful mood.

Who wouldn’t smile on seeing this Baker Street doggie …

This time of year is, for me, a great opportunity to grab images from nature.

A corporate window box in Wood Street …

On the Barbican Estate …

An afternoon nap …

In Fortune Street Park …

A pretty piece of art …
With a sad back story …

Blossom time at Aldgate …

Opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

The Festival Gardens at St Paul’s Cathedral …

On London Wall …

Visitors to the office whilst I was writing my blog. Mrs Duck …

And her handsome partner …

‘Goodbye – I have better things to do than pose for you!’

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St Dunstan-in-the-East – a peaceful place named after an extraordinary man.

I’ve already written in some detail about the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West so I thought it would be good, given last week’s lovely weather, to visit the ruins of St Dunstan-in-the-East. Dunstan (c. 909 – 19 May 988) was an extraordinary man being successively Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s not surprising, therefore, that in Greater London there are seven churches dedicated to him as well as seventeen roads and three educational establishments.

His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church. His 11th-century biographer states that Dunstan was skilled in ‘making a picture and forming letters’, as were other clergy of his age who reached senior rank. At least one example of his work survives …

This is from the manuscript known as the Glastonbury Classbook. It’s a portrait of Christ, and the monk kneeling beside him may be a self-portrait of Dunstan.

He served as an important minister of state to several English kings and was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil by grabbing his nose in a pair of hot tongs …

If you want to read even more about St Dunstan I highly recommend The Clerk of Oxford blog.

And so to the remains of the church named after him.

The original church (dating from around 1100) was severely damaged in the Great Fire of 1666 after which it was patched up and a steeple with a needle spire added, to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, between 1695 and 1701. In 1817, structural problems were identified and these led to the church being demolished. Wren’s tower was considered safe and was retained and incorporated into the new building which was completed in 1821.

Here’s St Dunstan’s in 1910 …

The church was partly destroyed in the Blitz of 1941. Wren’s tower and steeple survived the bombs’ impact but of the rest of the church only the north and south walls remained …

Following the War it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan’s and in 1967 the City of London Corporation chose to turn the ruins into a public garden which opened in 1971. A lawn and trees were planted in the ruins, with a low fountain in the middle of the nave which is still happily bubbling away …

It’s a lovely, serene location to visit. Here are the images I took last Friday when I had the place almost entirely to myself …

You can get an idea of the ferocity of Blitz fires from the scorch marks on some of the church’s stone walls. Incendiary bombs were dropped in conjunction with high explosives …

Three old headstones have survived with inscriptions that are partially legible along with a flatstone. I have identified them from the excellent audit of churchyard inscriptions carried out by Percy Rushen in 1911.

Here are the entries in Percy’s book :

And here are the stones. First Thomas Sanders …

Then his mum and dad, Thomas and Elizabeth …

And then the Taynton family …

This is the flatstone, and I assume that it doesn’t appear in Percy’s audit because it was originally inside the church …

The pigeons and the weather have not been kind to it but I believe it reads as follows:

‘Here lies the body of Capt. NICHOLAS BATCHELER late of this parish who departed this life December 31st 1722 (possibly 1732) aged 60 years also three children, two sons one daughter, Thomas, William and Anne.

And also Anne a granddaughter of Elizabeth Batcheler.

Also the body of Mary his wife who departed this life July the 20th 1723 aged 58 years.

Also here lyeth the body of Anne Blackall a Beloved Relation.’

I have been able to identify most of the inscription because it appears in a lovely little film about the garden which you can access here on YouTube.

I find it very satisfying bringing these old stones to life and paying a kind of respect to their subjects, even though their mortal remains are long since gone.

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It’s almost Springtime! Both the flowers and the film crews are coming out.

It’s not quite Spring yet but I thought it would be nice to have a wander around the City and see what’s happening – especially in the areas managed by the wonderful team of City of London gardeners.

I started close to home since the Magnolia trees are in blossom near St Giles Church …

Very old gravestones from the former churchyard with the medieval/Roman wall in the background …

If you work at 88 Wood Street you arrive to be greeted by a nice, living, green wall …

Onward to Postman’s Park (that’s the Watts Memorial in the background) …

On Silk Street …

At St Mary-le-Bow …

Just outside St Paul’s Underground Station …

The Cleary Gardens are on Queen Victoria Street …

Across the road at the junction with Bread Street …

So everything is coming along nicely. I shall report again in a few weeks’ time.

I noticed that Wood Street and London Wall were shut, saw this mysterious pile of boxes being assembled in the distance, and decided to investigate …

Just as I stood behind them a voice rang out ‘SILENCE’ … ‘THREE, TWO ONE … ACTION!’ and a stunt man plunged into the box pile from the balcony above. Unfortunately, I missed the action and could only catch him climbing out …

Sadly, they didn’t repeat the performance!

Finally, nice to see the Institute of Chartered Accountants demonstrating their support for Ukraine …

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Another stroll through Bunhill Burial Ground.

I was astonished to find that it has been well over four years since I wrote in detail about Bunhill so earlier this week, when the sun was in exactly the right place, I decided to take some pictures and write about it again.

I thought I’d show you the pictures first and then re-publish details of the area’s fascinating history. Around 120,000 people are believed to have been buried here and about 2,500 monuments survive.

The gentleman whose face is looking out from the obelisk is the Calvinistic Methodist minister, poet and Bible commentator James Hughes …

It’s a bit spooky sideways on …

Sadly many of the memorials have deteriorated over the years due to wear and tear and pollution …

But some inscriptions survive. I was very taken with this marker for the grave of Reverend Joseph Cartwright who died on 5th November 1800 at the age of 72 …

It seems to me that he composed the poem engraved on the stone himself (sadly the last few lines are obliterated). Here it is …

What if death may sleep provide

Should I be of death afraid.

What if beams of opening day

Shine around my breathless clay.

Tender friends a while may mourn

Me from their embraces torn.

Dearer better friends I have

In the realm beneath the grave.

I have written before about some of the more famous memorials but here are a few of them again.

There is the extraordinary tomb of Dame Mary Page …

It appears that Mary Page suffered from what is now known as Meigs’ Syndrome and her body had to be ‘tap’d’ to relieve the pressure. She had to undergo this treatment for over five years and was so justifiably proud of her bravery and endurance she left instructions in her will that her tombstone should tell her story. And it does …

Further on is John Bunyan’s tomb of 1689. It is not quite what it seems since the effigy of the great man and the bas-reliefs (inspired by Pilgrim’s Progress) were only added in 1862 when the tomb was restored. A preacher who spent over a decade in jail for his beliefs, he holds the bible in his left hand. He started the Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress whilst imprisoned and it became one of the most published works in the English language.

Bunhill is a nice place for a quiet spot of lunch …

William Blake’s final resting place was once lost but the present day Blake Society finally traced where it was. In August 2018 a beautiful stone was placed there exactly 191 years after his death …

Here’s some Bunhill history for those of you who might be interested.

The history of the land is fascinating. Owned by the Dean & Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral between 1514 and 1867, it was continuously leased to the City Corporation who themselves sub-leased it to others. The name Bunhill seems to have been a corruption of the word Bonehill.  Theories range from people being interred there during Saxon times to the suggestion that various types of refuse, including animal bones from Smithfield, were disposed of there. However, an extraordinary event in 1549 made the name literally true.

Since the 13th century corpses had been buried in St Paul’s churchyard just long enough for the flesh to rot away, after which the bones were placed in a nearby Charnel House ‘to await the resurrection of the dead’. After the Reformation this was seen as an unacceptable Popish practice, the Charnel House was demolished, and 1,000, yes 1,000, cartloads of bones were dumped at Bunhill. A City Golgotha, it is said the the resulting hill was high enough to accommodate three windmills.

In 1665 it was designated a possible ‘plague pit’ but there is no evidence that it was used as such. At the same time, however, a crisis arose concerning St Paul’s, the ‘noisome stench arising from the great number of dead’ buried there. Many other parishes had the same problem and the Mayor and Aldermen were forced to act quickly as a terrible smell of putrefaction was permeating the City. After negotiations with the existing tenants, the ‘new burial place in Bunhill Fields’ was created and had been walled in by the 19th October that year with gates being added in 1666.

The Act of Uniformity of 1663 had established the Church of England as the national church and at the same time established a distinct category of Christian believers who wished to remain outside the national church. These became known as the nonconformists or dissenters and Bunhill became for many of them the burial ground of choice due to its location outside the City boundary and its independence from any Established place of worship.

The last burial took place in January 1854 and the area was designated as a public park with some memorials being removed and some restored or relocated. Heavy bombing during the war resulted in major landscaping work and the northern part was cleared of memorials and laid out much as it is now with grassy areas and benches.

Across City Road you can see the house where the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, once lived. I hope to write about it soon …

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Fun in the Seething Lane Garden.

Last Saturday I was once again drawn to the Seething Lane Garden. It was a sunny afternoon and I thought I’d revisit the wonderful carved paving stones that I have reported on before. The garden is much more open than it used to be …

These are the carvings I like best out of the 30 that are laid there..

A scene from a Punch & Judy show …

Trigger warning! They’ve dropped the baby …

A monkey sitting on a pile of books chewing a rolled up document …

A meticulous representation of a flea …

A plague doctor in 17th century PPE. He wouldn’t have known that the rat crouching cheekily at his feet was a carrier of the pestilence …

After his decapitation, the head of poor King Charles I is held up by the executioner …

A very happy lion …

A galleon under full sail …

All the carvings refer to incidents in the life of Samuel Pepys – some of which are recorded in his famous diary. In the examples above, he wrote of visiting a Punch & Judy show, of his pet monkey getting loose and misbehaving, his purchase of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (which contained the flea drawing) and his visit to the zoo to see an old lion called Crowly.

As a schoolboy he witnessed the execution of the King and in 1665 he stayed in London throughout the time of the plague (represented by the doctor). The galleon is the Royal Charles that brought Charles II back to England at the Restoration (and Pepys was on board). Trinitas refers to Trinity House where Pepys was a Master on two occasions.

He was in London during the Great Fire of 1666 and took a boat out on the River Thames to witness the destruction …

Note the piece of furniture floating past.

At the age of 25 he survived an operation to remove a bladder stone ‘the size of a tennis ball’ and this too is represented in the garden …

Pepys is commemorated with a splendid bust by Karin Jonzen (1914-1998), commissioned and erected by The Samuel Pepys Club in 1983 …

The plinth design was part of the recent project and the music carved on it is the tune of Beauty Retire, a song that Pepys wrote. So if you read music you can hear Pepys as well as see his bust …

Pepys was evidently extremely proud of Beauty Retire, for he holds a copy of the song in his most famous portrait by John Hayls, now in the National Portrait Gallery. A copy of the portrait hangs in the Pepys Library …

The paving designs were created by a team of students and alumni of City & Guilds London Art School working under the direction of Alan Lamb of Swan Farm Studios Ltd. Here are some pictures of the sculptors at work.

Tom Ball working on the flea …

Mike Watson working on Pepys’s monogram …

And finally, Alan Lamb working on a theorbo lute, one of many instruments Pepys could play …

Do visit the garden if you have the chance. Another of its interesting features is that it is irrigated by rainwater harvested from the roof of the hotel next door!

I have written two blogs about Pepys in London and also two about this garden. You can find them here:

Samuel Pepys and his ‘own church’.

Samuel Pepys and the Plague – ‘God preserve us all’.

Bladderstones and fleas in the Seething Lane Garden.

Monkeys and lions in Seething Lane.

All of them contain quotes from his famous diary.

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A mystery solved and some things that made me smile.

Let’s start with the mystery.

Back in August last year I spoke of a mystery connected to these two gravestones in the old parish churchyard of St Ann Blackfriars in Church Entry (EC4V 5HB) …

My ‘go to’ source of information when it comes to grave markers is the estimable Percy C. Rushen who published this guide in 1910 when he noticed that memorials were disappearing at a worrying rate due to pollution and redevelopment …

So when I came across the last two stones in this graveyard with difficult to read inscriptions I did what I normally do which is to consult Percy’s book in order to see what the full dedication was.

There was, however, a snag. Neither headstone is recorded in Percy’s list for St Ann Blackfriars. Let’s look at them one by one. This is the stone for Thomas Wright …

Fortunately, the book lists people in alphabetical order and, although there isn’t a Wright recorded at St Ann’s, there is one recorded at St Peter, Paul’s Wharf. It’s definitely the same one and reads as follows :

THOMAS WRIGHT, died 29 May 1845, father of the late Mrs Mary Ann Burnet.

The inscription of another stone recorded in the same churchyard reads …

CAROLINE, wife of JAMES BURNET , died 26 July 1830, aged 36.

MARY ANN, his second wife, died 12 April1840, aged 36.

JAMES BURNET, above, died … 1842, aged …3

St Peter, Paul’s Wharf, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt but obviously its churchyard was still there in 1910. And it was still there in the 1950s as this map shows. I have indicated it in the bottom right hand corner with the other pencil showing the location of Church Entry and St Ann’s burial ground …

This is the present day site of Thomas Wright’s original burial place, now Peter’s Hill and the approach to the Millennium Bridge …

The stone must have been moved some time in the mid-20th century, but the question is, was Thomas moved as well? Have his bones finally come to rest in Church Entry? I have been unable to find out.

This is the headstone alongside Thomas’s …

It reads as follows …

In Memory of MARY ROBERTS wife of David Roberts who died the 14th February 1787 aged 34 years. Also two of their children who died in their infancy … the aforesaid DAVID ROBERTS who died the 25th May 1802, aged 52 years.

The mystery surrounding this stone was that, although there are quite a few people called Roberts recorded in Percy’s memorial list, none of them are called Mary or David. So, assuming, the book is complete (and Percy was obviously very fastidious) I wondered where this marker came from.

As a result of the blog, I was contacted by Leah Earl who had been researching old parish records. She discovered that the burials of David and Mary Roberts are recorded in the burial registers for St Peter, Paul’s Wharf, so the grave marker ought to have been there when Percy was transcribing. Since Percy was so careful I can only imagine that he missed this stone either because it had fallen on its face or it had been hidden behind some stones that had been stacked up.

Here are the two pages from the records.

David Roberts is fourth from the bottom on this page …

In this page you can see the tragic year of 1787 unfolding …

The record states that Mary, David’s wife, was buried on the 18th February and her newborn son, John, ten days later. Another child, Sophia, is buried three months after her mother on 30th May. These must be the two children of theirs who ‘died in infancy’. You’ll see that Mary’s age is given as 34 on the gravestone but 35 in the written record.

There is also a record of an Ann Roberts who died aged four on 22nd November 1787 but presumably she is not the child of David and Mary since she’s not mentioned on the marker.

About one in three children born in 1800 did not make it to their fifth birthday and maternal deaths at birth have been estimated at about five per thousand (although that is probably on the low side). Just by way of comparison, in 2016 to 2018, among the 2.2 million women who gave birth in the UK, 547 died during or up to a year after pregnancy from causes associated with their pregnancy. The 1800 equivalent rate would have meant 11,000 deaths.

If you are interested to know more about maternal mortality, its history and causes, you’ll find this incredibly informative article in The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Most disturbing is how doctors who discovered the underlying cause of many deaths were disbelieved and vilified by the medical profession as a whole, thus allowing unnecessarily high mortality to continue for decades.

Now, on a more cheerful note, here are a few things that made me smile recently.

As I descended the stairs to Mansion House Station from Bow Lane I came across this little oasis of calm tucked away in a corner …

I have no idea what this is all about but it really cheered me up – so nice that it hasn’t been vandalised.

A couple of cars caught my eye …

Lord knows what this was doing parked outside the Linklaters law firm. Maybe the partners were going to a wedding.

And surely this car belongs to an old – school yuppie …

I wouldn’t argue with the sentiment above this door …

And finally, the City is being populated with some cheery new benches. These are in Aldermanbury …

Incidentally, the tree in the background is Cercis siliquastrum. It is also known as the ‘Judas tree’. This comes from the legend that Judas Iscariot, full of shame after his betrayal of Jesus, hanged himself from one of its branches.

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What is a wazzbaffle? And why was a soldier brutally stabbed in Church Entry?

More alleys this week.

My first visit is to Charterhouse Mews (EC1M 6BB). I have visited the Charterhouse itself before, so if you would like to read more about the fascinating history of this area and the building itself just go to the blog At the Charterhouse.

The most distinctive feature as you approach the alley is the Georgian townhouse, built in 1786, that sits astride the passage. First occupied by the artist Thomas Stowers, who is thought to have decorated the interior ceilings with art that is still conserved within. The building is now rented out as offices …

It displays some very nice Coade stone dressings.

Look down the covered passage and you will notice the stone setts on the ground with solid lines for carriage wheels to make it more comfortable for passengers …

Further along is the French restaurant, Le Cafe du Marche, which was founded in 1986 by Charlie Graham-Wood in what is a converted bookbinders warehouse. Opposite the restaurant is the hotel building, with the walls lined with classic Edwardian white tiles to bring light down into the alley and curved window recesses. …

The darkest area contains a urine deflector, also known as a wazzbaffle, which ensured that any men seeking to relieve themselves in the recess will get very wet feet as a reward …

You can find my blog identifying the few other examples that remain in the City here.

The mews is quite short and ends in private property just past the entrance to the restaurant. Here I paused and admired this rather nice old brick wall …

The entrance to Faulkner’s Alley is a great example of things architectural not being quite as they seem. Running between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street, its ornate metal gate is not as old as it looks …

It wasn’t there in the 1930s …

Picture: Historic England.

Or in 1976 (the entrance is just below the letters LTD) …

Picture: London Picture Archive

The Cowcross Street entrance is not exactly welcoming …

No one seems to know who Faulkner was or why an alley was named after him (or her).

Inside is narrow and a bit spooky. One of those places where you wouldn’t like to hear footsteps behind you …

But there are some encouraging signs of life as you approach the Benjamin Street end …

Across the road is St Johns Garden along with this very helpful signage …

It’s one of those nice surprises you get – a little shaded oasis of calm in the bustling City …

It’s a shame this little water feature is broken.

And now, finally, to the interestingly-named Church Entry (EC4V 5EU) and a nasty incident that occurred there in 1763.

Here you will find another little haven of peace …

There is a sign giving a brief history …

There is a mystery associated with these two gravestones which I shall explore in a future blog …

Like some other City churchyards, its ground level is much higher than the pavement, indicating the large number of burials crammed in before it was closed in 1849 …

Opposite is St Ann’s Vestry Hall which, despite its architecture, only dates from 1923 …

It’s the home of the estimable Friends of Friendless Churches.

Finally, a dreadful incident that occurred in Church Entry as reported in Pope’s Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on the 9th June 1763:

“Yesterday morning, about Three o’Clock, two young men, one a Peruke-maker, the other a Watch-maker, went into a House of ill Fame in Church Entry, Black-friars, when a Dispute arose about paying the Reckoning; on which the old Bawd gave the Barber a violent blow on the Head with a Poker, and called a soldier, who was then in the House, to her Assistance, who fell upon them with the aforesaid Weapon; the Watch-maker, in his Defence, drew a Knife and cut the Soldier cross the Belly, who was carried to St Batholomew’s Hospital, where he lies dangerously ill. The Barber has received a most dreadful Blow on his Head, several inches in length, quite to his Brain; and, with the Mistress of the House and one of the prostitutes, is committed to Clerkenwell Bridewell; and the Watch-maker, who is charged with wounding the Soldier, is committed to New Prison, Clerkenwell”.

Those were the days!

Thanks to A London Inheritance for that story and also to the Ian Visits blog for background on both Faulkner’s Alley and Charterhouse Mews.

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A couple of great surprises – exploring alleys and courts.

Where do you think this pretty marble fountain is located?

And Italian piazza? A rather posh park? A country house garden?

A little boy holds a goose’s neck from whose mouth water would flow if the fountain was working …

The big surprise about its location is apparent when you gaze upwards …

Looming over you is the 600ft Tower 42, previously the NatWest Tower.

This is Adam’s Court and you gain entrance from either Old Broad Street or Threadneedle Street. This is the entrance from the former …

The elegant clock above the entrance is supported by two fishes. Unfortunately it’s not working and the glass has got rather grubby …

Shortly after entering you will see these attractive wrought iron gates bearing the initials NPBE and the date 1833. The initials refer to the National Provincial Bank of England which was founded in that year …

Further on is a totally unexpected green open space (alongside which is the little boy’s fountain) …

If you carry on and exit on to Threadneedle Street and look back you will see another set of ornate gates …

These are 19th-century, and were originally for the Oriental Bank. The grand building with the arch in the background was also part of the Bank, but the building was later taken over by the neighbouring National Provincial Bank, and their monogram added.

Look at the spandrels above the window … …

Two men are holding the reins of two camels.

Across the road from Adam’s Court on Old Broad Street is the enticing entrance to Austin Friars …

Before you cross the road, look right and admire the old City of London Police call box which has retained its flashing light indicating a caller was in need of help …

Walking through Austin Friars you pass a studious monk, writing in a book with his quill pen …

Eventually in front of you is the tucked away entrance to the atmospheric Austin Friars Passage, where I came across my next big surprise …

Almost at the end I encountered an extraordinary sight, a bulging, sagging wall that was clearly very old …

Up high is a parish marker for All Hallows-on-the-Wall, dating to 1853 …

But the wall looks even older and, sure enough, standing in the alcove that leads to the other side and looking up, I saw this …

Another parish marker dating from 1715 – from the since-demolished church of St Peter le Poer. What a miracle that this old wall (which is not listed) has survived for over 3oo years as new buildings have sprung up all around it.

Look up and you’ll see that one of those buildings has a particularly scary fire escape. I wouldn’t fancy running down that in a panic …

As you leave you can admire the charming ghost sign for Pater & Co …

The company was run by Arthur Long and Edgar John Blackburn Pater and traded from the 1860s to 1923 when Long retired and Pater continued on his own.

As is often the case I am indebted to the excellent Ian Visits blog for some of my background information. Here are links to Ian’s comments on Adam’s Court and Austin Friars Passage.

My earlier blogs on courtyards and alleys can be found here and here.

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Another visit to Southwark … ‘The outcast dead’.

After admiring the magnificent memorials in Southwark Cathedral, I wanted to visit the Cross Bones Graveyard Garden, which has a very different story to tell. It can be found at the junction of Redcross Way and Union Street (SE1 1SD) …

I also wanted to mark the connection between it and the remains of the Bishop of Winchester’s palace on Clink Street (SE1 9DN) …

A plaque outside the garden gives a very brief history …

Photo credit : Katy Nichols.

I found it a very moving place, even though the garden was closed when I visited. I caught a glimpse of several little shrines through the memorial ribbons and other tributes attached to the fence …

Some excavation work by Museum of London archaeologists in the 1990s resulted in the removal of 148 skeletons, over 60% of whom were children under five years of age. Overall it’s estimated that as many as 15,000 souls were buried here until the cemetery was closed in 1853 being ‘completely overcharged with dead’ and ‘inconsistent with due regard for the public health and public decency’.

So what was the connection with the Bishop of Winchester?

As the plaque tells us, in the late medieval period, the local prostitutes were known as ‘Winchester Geese’. They were not licensed by the City of London or Surrey authorities, but by the Bishop of Winchester who owned the surrounding lands, hence their namesake. The earliest known reference to the Graveyard was by John Stow in his Survey of London in 1598 …

I have heard ancient men of good credit report, that these single women were forbidden the rights of the Church, so long as they continued that sinful life, and were excluded from Christian burial, if they were not reconciled before their death. And therefore there was a plot of ground, called the single woman’s churchyard, appointed for them, far from the parish church.

Stow comments that their churchyard was ‘far from the parish church’. That church, St Saviour’s, became Southwark Cathedral in 1905 and you can just see the top of its tower on the right in my first photo above. Far indeed.

You can read more about Cross Bones here.

I just had to visit nearby Ayres Street (SE1 1ES) …

It is named after a brave girl who is also commemorated in the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park …

The picture above shows Alice Ayres as portrayed by the Illustrated London News in 1885 (Copyright the British Library Board). Her commemorative plaque reads as follows and was the first to be installed …

It was 25-year-old Alice’s brave act that prompted Watts to write to the Times newspaper and suggest the creation of a memorial

That would celebrate the sacrifices made by ‘likely to be forgotten heroes’ by collecting ‘…a complete record of the stories of heroism in every-day life’.

Alice threw down a mattress from a burning building and successfully used it to rescue three children …

From The Illustrated Police News 2nd May 1885 Copyright, The British Library Board.

Alice eventually jumped herself but received terrible injuries and died two days later. Incidentally, if her name rings a bell with you it could be because, in the 2004 film Closer, one of the characters, Jane Jones, sees Alice’s memorial and decides to adopt her name.

This imposing building at 47 Union Street dating from 1907 was once known as the ‘Ragged School’, a charity set up to help disadvantaged children (SE1 1SG) …

According to the London Remembers blog, ‘the Work Girls Protection Society was founded in 1875 and began with premises in New Kent Road. It was renamed the St Mary’s Girls’ Club. In 1899 the Club lost the New Kent Road site so they acquired a lease at 85 Union Street, a former tin plate works. They then raised funds, bought the site to the left of the Mission site, and constructed a building there. In 1930 the Girl’s Club merged with the Acland Club to form the co-ed St Mary’s and Acland Club’ …

I couldn’t find out any more about this club and have no idea why the bottom part of the poster has been concealed.

I headed for Southwark Street and wandered east to Borough High Street, adding this ghost sign to my collection along the way …

This building, John Harvard House, caught my eye since its narrowness seems to reflect medieval building plot dimensions …

John Harvard was born in Southwark in 1607 and was baptized in St Saviour’s Church, the present Southwark Cathedral. His mother, Katherine, owned the Queen’s Head Inn, which stood on this site, and left it to John when she died in 1636. In the spring of the following year John and his wife made the voyage to Massachusetts and arrived at Charlestown. John died there of tuberculosis in 1638 and bequeathed to the recently established local college half his fortune and the whole of his library of about 400 books. In 1639 it was renamed Harvard College, first calling itself a university in 1780. John Harvard is commemorated in Southwark today by a library in Borough High Street and by a chapel in the cathedral.

I always enjoy exploring alleys and I investigated two that run off the High Street.

In Chapel Court I came across this building …

The building itself didn’t look all that old but some of the timbers used in its construction did …

One source states that they came from a very old building that was demolished in Essex and were then utilised here in the 1980s.

And finally, Mermaid Court has a fine collection of old bollards …

I really enjoyed my trips south of the River – might even go back again one day!

Incidentally, by way of local news, Mrs Duck was showing off her little family last week. Ahhhh!

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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.

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Bladderstones and fleas in the Seething Lane Garden

I mentioned in my blog last week that I’d been visiting the garden dedicated to a famous Londoner and it was a real thrill to discover some garden pavers with fascinating carvings (EC3N 4AT). The famous Londoner was, of course, Samuel Pepys and I haves since discovered a lot more about the carvings.

But first of all, some examples. The first one I noticed made me smile.

Pepys had been plagued by recurring stones since childhood and, at the age of 25, decided to tackle it once and for all and opt for surgery. He consulted a surgeon, Thomas Hollier, who worked for St Thomas’ Hospital and was one of the leading lithotomists (stone removers) of the time. The procedure was very risky, gruesome and, since anaesthetics were unknown in those days, excruciatingly painful. But Pepys survived and had the stone, ‘the size of a tennis ball’, mounted and kept it on his desk as a paperweight. It may even have been buried with him. One of the garden carvings shows a stone held in a pair of forceps …

You can read more about the procedure Pepys underwent here.

Pepys survived the Great Plague of 1665 even though he remained in London most of the time. The pestilence is referenced by a plague doctor carrying a winged hourglass and fully dressed in 17th century protective clothing …

No one at the time realised that the plague could be spread by fleas carried on rats. One of the species sits cheekily at the doctor’s feet.

There is a flea in the garden but it has nothing to do with the plague …

While visiting his bookseller on a frosty day in early January 1665 Pepys noticed a copy of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, ‘which‘, Pepys recorded in his diary, ‘is so pretty that I presently bespoke it‘ …

Like many other readers after him, Pepys was immediately drawn in by the beautiful engravings printed in what was the world’s first fully-illustrated book of microscopy. When he picked up his own copy later in the month Pepys was even more pleased with the book, calling it ‘a most excellent piece . . . of which I am very proud‘. The following night he sat up until two o’clock in the morning reading it, and voted it ‘the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life‘. Here is the engraving Hooke made of a flea …

It’s on a huge fold-out page 43 by 33 centimetres.

You can explore the wonders of Micrographia yourself by clicking on this link to the British Library website.

In the garden Pepys is commemorated with a splendid bust by Karin Jonzen (1914-1998), commissioned and erected by The Samuel Pepys Club in 1983 …

The plinth design was part of the recent project and the music carved on it is the tune of Beauty Retire, a song that Pepys wrote. So if you read music you can hear Pepys as well as see his bust …

Pepys was evidently extremely proud of Beauty Retire, for he holds a copy of the song in his most famous portrait by John Hayls, now in the National Portrait Gallery. A copy of the portrait hangs in the Pepys Library …

Every year, on the anniversary of his surgery, Pepys held what he called his ‘Stone Feast’ to celebrate his continued good health and there is a carving in the garden of a table laden with food and drink …

The Great Fire of London began on 2 September 1666 and lasted just under five days. One-third of London was destroyed and about 100,000 people were made homeless. He wrote in his diary …

I (went) down to the water-side, and there got a boat … through (the) bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods: poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till … some of them burned their wings and fell down.

A boat in the foreground with the City ablaze in the distance while a piece of furniture floats nearby …

His house was in the path of the fire and on September 3rd his diary tells us that he borrowed a cart ‘to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things‘. The following day he personally carried more items to be taken away on a Thames barge, and later that evening with Sir William Pen, ‘I did dig another [hole], and put our wine in it; and I my Parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things.’ And here is his cheese and wine …

Why did he bury cheese? Read more about the value of Parmesan (then and now) here.

Then there are these musical instruments, all of which Pepys could play …

From the Pepys Club website: ‘To Pepys, music wasn’t just a pleasant pastime; it was also an art of great significance – something that could change lives and affect everyone who heard it. He was a keen amateur, playing various instruments and studying singing – he even designed a room in his home specially for music-making. He attended the services at the Chapel Royal; he collected a vast library of scores, frequented the theatre and concerts and even commented with affection on the ringing of the church bells that filled the air in London’s bustling streets where he lived and worked’.

The Navy Office where he worked, eventually rising to become Chief Secretary to the Admiralty …

Source: London Remembers.

There are thirty pavers in all and I shall return to them in a later blog. In the meantime, great credit is due to the folk who worked on this incredibly interesting project.

The designs were created by a team of students and alumni of City & Guilds London Art School working under the direction of Alan Lamb of Swan Farm Studios Ltd. Further contributions to the design were made by Sam Flintham, Jackie Blackman, Clem Nuthall, Tom Ball, Sae Na Ku, Sophie Woodhouse and Alan Lamb himself. Here are some pictures of the sculptors at work.

Tom Ball working on the flea …

Mike Watson working on Pepys’s monogram …

And finally, Alan Lamb working on a theorbo lute, another instrument Pepys could play …

Do visit the garden if you have the chance. Another of its interesting features is that it is irrigated by rainwater harvested from the roof of the hotel next door!

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

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Trees, flowers and a medical procedure.

This is my 200th blog and to celebrate I thought I’d do one of the things I enjoy most, just wander around the City taking pictures of the incredibly diverse trees and plants that live there.

First up is this noble fig tree that lives in the Smithfield Rotunda garden (EC1A 9DY) …

I don’t know how old it is but the Rotunda was laid out as a public garden in 1872 and fig trees have been known to live over 200 years so it’s possible that this one has been around for a very, very long time. Just look at the trunk …

The figs are just starting to form …

There’s a great blog post about this tree and figs in general by my fellow blogger Bug Woman and you can find it here.

One tree we know for sure is over 200 years old is this magnificent London Plane in Wood Street …

No one knows precisely how old it is but what we do know is that it was there in 1797 when its presence inspired the poet Wordsworth to compose a poem ‘where the natural world breaks through Cheapside in visionary splendour’. You can read the poem and find out more about the tree and its interesting location here.

The next stop is Postman’s Park for Davidia involucrata. It’s also known as the handkerchief tree for obvious reasons and it’s in bloom now so you can see it if you’re quick (EC1A 7BT) …

Aldermanbury boasts a Cercis siliquastrum

There are two notions as to why they are also called ‘Judas Trees’, the first pertaining to the myth that Judas Iscariot hung himself from this tree after his betrayal of Jesus Christ. The second is that it is a derivation from the French Arbre de Judée (tree of Judea) where the tree was a common sight. Its flowers are edible but they haven’t appeared yet and I don’t intend to have a nibble!

The Cleary Garden on Queen Victoria Street is named after Fred Cleary (1905-1984), a great campaigner for increasing the City’s open spaces (EC4V 2AR). I’m just choosing two features from the packed garden. The first is a swamp cypress. Most famously associated with the mangrove swamps of the Everglades, it is one of the few deciduous conifers found growing in Britain. …

The second is this lovely gift from Japan …

Here are some of the images I took on a miserable, cloudy 2nd May. The colours quite cheered me up …

There’s a pretty line of Silver Limes in Festival Gardens (EC4M 8AD) …

Nearby, the wonderful team of City gardeners have been hard at work …

As they have been outside St Paul’s Underground Station …

And on Aldermanbury …

I call this ‘the rogue tulip’ …

It’s in the flower beds on Silk Street outside the entrance to the Barbican.

Funnily enough, there was one there last year as well …

And finally, the medical procedure. In a quite new City garden a pair of forceps clasp a bladderstone …

There’s also a drawing of a flea as seen through a microscope …

The garden is dedicated to a famous Londoner and I shall write more about it next week …

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More City gardens and a churchyard mystery.

I must admit I thought I’d visited all the City gardens but I was wrong and had missed one of the most interesting.

In Pancras Lane, just off Queen Street, is the St Pancras Church Garden (EC2R 8JR). I was intrigued straight away by the carving of two devils cooking some poor condemned souls in a pot …

The garden is on the site of St Pancras Church, a late 11th century church destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. The church was never rebuilt, and the site was used first as a burial ground, but then lay basically abandoned until in 2010 the City of London acquired the leasehold of the site in order to turn it into a public garden.

The poetic idea behind the design, by Studio Weave, is that the church has somehow re-emerged, sprouting from the earth in the form of beautifully carved Romanesque wooden benches.

On the right Eve accepts an apple from the serpent – and we know it all turned out badly for her and Adam after that …

City & Guilds of London Art School was commissioned to produce the benches, which were individually carved during Summer 2011 by a team of tutors and students. The students based the design of the benches on historically referenced Romanesque church carvings …

I then headed north to walk around the London Wall Place area, which is looking really nice now that development has been completed. My first stop was St Alphage Gardens (EC2Y 5DE) …

You can see the north side of the wall from the Salters’ Hall garden – now usually open to the public (EC2Y 5DE) …

The St Alphage parish bought the church of the dissolved hospital of St Elsyng Spital in 1536. The tower is still there today just to the south of the wall …

From London Wall to lush green wall at Number 2 London Wall Place (EC2Y 5AU) …

And now a mystery. In the churchyard of St Mary Aldermary are two tombstones several feet apart (EC4M 9BW). One denotes the resting place of ‘Mary, wife of William Couthit. Entered into rest 29th January 1775 aged 43 years.’ William is also there – he died on 18th February 1808 aged 63. Beneath the William and Mary inscriptions are the words ‘Also Elizabeth Couthit …’ with the rest tantalisingly buried.

I have checked out this stone with a really useful resource, the audit of ‘Churchyard Inscriptions’ in City churchyards carried out by a man called Percy C. Rushen in 1910. He describes the stone exactly as it is now but records no date of death for Elizabeth. Here’s the actual page from his audit – the Couthits are recorded about half way down …

Now the mystery.

This is the other stone …

It claims to commemorate ELIZABETH, the wife of William COUTHWAITE, (so at first glance this is a different couple) and also William himself. However, she died on the same day as Mary Couthit (29th January 1775) and her William the same day as William Couthit (18th February 1808). As well as these anomalies, the ages at date of death on the second stone differ by one year. Elizabeth is shown as 42 at death rather than 43 and William as 62 instead of 63. Crucially, this stone does not appear in Rushen’s audit and he was obviously very meticulous.

My theory is that, many years after the Coutits had died, their descendants (now called Couthwaite) had traced their ancestors. Not realising for some reason that there was already a memorial, they erected another one with incorrect information.

In 1910 there were only three headstones and there are only three today. As we know, the Coutit one is still in the churchyard, and the other survivor is the one for Loudonsack and Widders …

The third stone still there is so weathered I couldn’t read it …

The last two words on the top line seem to be ‘…remains of …’ which would rule it out being the Thomas Hill stone mentioned in the audit.

Rushen listed 27 flatstones and there are nine in the churchyard now (all on the path leading to the door) …

One gives a remarkably detailed time of death along with Mrs Schneider’s exact age …

I have done some research about this stone and the people it commemorates in an earlier blog entitled Some of my favourite tombs, gravestones and memorials.

If you get the chance do visit the church. A former medieval church, largely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, it was rebuilt in 1679-82 by Sir Christopher Wren’s master craftsmen. It is the only surviving late 17th century Gothic church in the City of London and is especially notable for its unique plaster vaulting. Here’s what you see when you look up …

… and finally, a lady duck update.

Last week I published this picture of Ms Duck being pursued by two enthusiastic suitors …

I saw this scene a few days later and it seem she has shaken one of them off!

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Skip discoveries, ducks, bunnies and other miscellany.

Some weeks I can’t think of a unifying theme for the blog so I just allow myself to ramble on.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk past a skip I’m always tempted to have a look inside. I believe searching for retrievable items discarded in skips is called ‘skip diving’ (or in America ‘dumpster diving’) . I haven’t done any actual diving but I have come across some weird items.

How about this …

‘This lockdown has really played havoc with my hair!’.

For quite a few months now a succession of skips have been positioned outside the Barbican Theatre where they are obviously having a clear out of redundant stage props.

Last week there was another unfortunate skip candidate …

‘Hey, come back, don’t leave me here!’.

At first I thought this was an old-fashioned oven but it’s actually made of wood …

Scarily realistic missile. It was there at 9:30 in the morning but gone by 2:00 pm so somebody must have taken a fancy to it …

Yummy, Christmas turkey …

Furry fun – what colour fur would you like for your collar …

And what’s this ‘warning’ all about? Surely a ‘Digital Safe’ doesn’t have a key. It doesn’t seem to be a prop – it’s made of metal and is very heavy …

Whilst on the subject of skips, some of you may remember this weird scenario from last year …

How did three quad bikes end up in a City of London skip?

I loved this Easter bunny collection …

Lady duck frantically running away from two avid suitors …

This tailors in Well Court just off Bow Lane has in the window a full set of uniforms worn by Pikemen in the Lord Mayor’s parade …

There are also some pictures of them in action …

The Company of Pikemen and Musketeers is a ceremonial unit of the Honourable Artillery Company and you can read more about them here.

Also off Bow Lane in Groveland Court is the Williamson’s Tavern. The beautiful listed 18th century gates are said to have been completed to commemorate a visit by King William and Queen Mary. On top in a circle, is the dual cipher of the King and Queen which are fashioned, like the gates, out of curled wrought iron …

Some sources state that the gates were a gift from William and Mary after being entertained there by the Lord Mayor who lived in the building at the time. However, this us not mentioned in the Bow Lane Conservation Area document which I use as a trusted source.

Lots of padlocks for extra security …

The City Gardening team are always working hard to brighten the place up …

London Wall.
Postman’s Park.
Postman’s Park.

I think someone has nicked a few plants from this display, shame on them …

London Wall.

Some more Brick Lane artwork …

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Some cheery images for Easter.

It’s now just over four years since I started writing these blogs and I would like to thank all of you for subscribing and making my efforts seem worthwhile. I thought I’d celebrate my anniversary and Easter itself by publishing some jolly images that have cheered me up in these sometimes sad days of lockdown.

What could be nicer than the little daffodils that emerged a few weeks ago …

This slightly bonkers window display on Ludgate Hill made me laugh. I thought these little creatures looked like they were doing a dance but that’s probably a symptom of lockdown madness …

‘Who’s going to buy us with no tourists coming?’ …

I came across this eye-catching pair of doors in Fournier Street above which is a very old sign indicating the name of the business owner …

I resolved to do a bit more research and in doing so actually discovered what Mr Simon Schwartz looked like! What a distinguished looking gentleman he was …

To find out more about him, his business and the background to this picture go to the excellent Andrew Whitehead blog where the story is charmingly revealed.

No Lord Mayor’s Show last year but I spotted a Pikeman’s uniform in a tailor’s shop just off Carter Lane …

The magnificent I Goat outside Spitalfields Market …

Read about it here along with the background to the lovely elephants …

… and these crazy characters, Dogman and Rabbitgirl …

You can also read about this more sombre work …

Potato heads in Whitecross Street …

Costumes from a production of Grease at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in Milton Court …

A happy Clerkenwell couple sitting in their garden …

Along with some friends …

One of my favourites from last year – a pigeon dozes whilst drying his feathers and warming his bottom on a spotlight …

Ducks frequently pose for me on the Barbican Podium …

This is the time of year to celebrate the beautiful magnolia trees on the terrace at St Giles church …

Nearby is St Alphage Garden which boasts another stunning magnolia (EC2Y 5EL) …

A nice spot for lunch …

And now time for my Hotel Chocolat Easter treat …

Have a great Easter!

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Flower therapy

One morning last week was really sunny so I set out to cheer myself up by looking at flowers.

I can’t resist starting with another picture from our car park …

The repurposed boxes will give you a clue as to nature of merchandise often delivered to our flats!

A walk around the Barbican podium revealed some lovely displays managed by the members of the Barbican Horticultural Society …

I’m really looking forward to Spring.

Meanwhile, a confused hollyhock thinks it’s June …

A reminder from last Summer …

Some pictures from Bunhill Burial Ground …

This fine bust of Shakespeare looks out over the St Mary Aldermanbury garden …

A Wren church gutted in the Blitz, the remains of St Mary Aldermanbury were shipped to Fulton, Missouri, USA in 1966. The restored church is now a memorial to Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech made at Westminster College, Fulton, in 1946. The plaque commemorates his fellow actors Henry Condell and John Heminge who were key figures in the printing of the playwright’s First Folio of works seven years after his death.

Some nearby flowers …

Outside St Paul’s Underground Station …

At the junction of Bread Street and Queen Victoria Street …

Massive thanks to the City of London gardening team who look after public spaces so enthusiastically throughout the year.

Outside the Dion Restaurant in St Paul’s Churchyard …

I did smile when I noticed this new mural in the Reception area at the City Point offices (EC2Y 9HT). Very cheerful …

You might also enjoy this post from the Gentle Author in Spitalfields Life : Winter Flowers.

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

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

Nature therapy to cheer us up

The weather last week was truly, truly awful but I waited until the sky brightened a little to go in search of some natural colour and some signs that nature was reasserting itself beyond the gloom.

What could be a better start that these spectacular red berries …

Here they are in their context outside St Paul’s Cathedral …

Some more berries peep out in Brewers’ Hall Garden …

Nearby Karin Jonzen’s Gardener (1971) toils patiently …

Postman’s Park has splashes of colour if you look carefully …

Along with a curious goldfish …

Congratulations to the owners or tenants of 30 Gresham Street for these displays …

There are also some pretty beds alongside St Paul’s Underground Station …

It’s nice to return home where our Car Park Attendant has created this wonderful little garden …

Incidentally, on my way back from St Paul’s this plaque caught my eye. I think the wording gives us a hint of the pride of the Kingdom when imperial power was probably at its height: ‘British Dominions beyond the Seas’ …

You might also like to read The Gentle Author’s blog on Winter Flowers.

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

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

Another aimless wander – horses, pigeons and quad bikes

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

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

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

Watching out over a very quiet City …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A closer view …

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

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

These merge nicely with the floral decorated stonework …

Finally, a few quirky items.

Caught in mid-air – Parkour at the Barbican …

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

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

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