Walking the City of London

Category: Gardens Page 1 of 3

My Easter Sunday – signs of Spring. Plus some rather aggressive doors.

The first bit of good news is that Mrs Coot is now firmly esconced on her Barbican Lake nest – a sight that always cheers me up …

This picture was taken from Gilbert Bridge.

The City Gardeners’ hard work is coming to fruition on London Wall and elsewhere in the City …

At the roundabout …

St Mary Aldermanbury and Love Lane…

Opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

The little pond outside St Lawrence Jewry has been refurbished as has the west front of the church and its spire …

All that’s needed now are some fish.

The little garden at St Vedast Foster Lane …

In Postman’s Park …

Commercial enterprises also make a contribution to brightening up the City …

On Gresham Street …

I have to particularly congratulate the owners and tenants of 88 Wood Street who take planting seriously, both outside …

… and inside …

So, rather cleverly, it’s difficult to tell where the border between the two is.

A few images from around the Barbican …

The entrance to the Andrewes House car park is a welcoming sight!

Earlier this week you may have noticed the abseilers at work on the Lakeside Terrace …

The completed exercise …

It’s a work called Purple Hibiscus by Ibrahim Mahama and you can read more about it here.

And finally.

You may remember that, a little while ago on 29th February, I wrote about notices that I had come across that I thought were interesting. Well, I have been keeping my eyes open and come across two more. I can only describe them as ‘doors with attitude’!

This warning couldn’t be clearer (although masochists may ignore it) …

And I was really scared to touch this one …

Is it electrified?

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Churchyard gardens and a £65 haircut – a short City stroll.

I was so hot recently that I didn’t really want to wander far and today’s blog is the result. I hope you will find it interesting nonetheless.

I visited churchyards where, in some cases, the church they were associated with no longer exist.

First up is St Olave Silver Street, destroyed, the plaque tells us, in the ‘dreadfull fire in the year 1666‘ and never rebuilt …

Another stone commemorates the churchyard being ‘thrown back’ due to road widening in 1865 …

It’s a nice, modest little space – very green and lush at the moment …

With a little font-like pool that I rather like …

Interestingly, the church was notable as the place where the bodies of those dissected at the nearby Barber-Surgeons Hall would be buried. Prior to the Anatomy Act of 1832, only the bodies of those executed for murder could be used for dissection. The bodies would be used for anatomical study and then interred at St Olave’s.

Shakespeare once lived nearby but that building perished in the Great Fire as well …

I have written about the churchyard of St John Zachary before, with its lovely little fountain …

And Three Printers sculpture …

Wilfred Dudeney’s 1954 sculpture has been here since 2009. Commissioned by the Westminster Press Group, it represents the newspaper process with a newsboy (sales), printer and editor (or proprietor), and used to stand by their offices in New Street Square. When the square was redeveloped the Goldsmiths’ Company, as the freeholders of the square, relocated the sculpture here (they had to rescue it from a demolition yard). Look closely, the printer is grasping a ‘stick’ for holding metal type, and Dudeney’s name is in ‘mirror writing’ just as it would have been when typeset the old-fashioned way …

Just across the road is St Anne and St Agnes with its pretty brickwork …

And quiet, secluded garden …

Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden is on the site of the Franciscan Church of Greyfriars that was established in 1225. Numerous well-known people, including four queens, were buried in the old church, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. A new church, designed by Wren, was completed in 1704.

In 1940 incendiary bombs destroyed the body of the Wren church, and only the west tower now stands. In 1989 a rose garden was established that reflects the floor plan of the original church with box-edged beds representing the original position of the pews with wooden towers representing the stone columns of the former church …

These blocks of granite are relatively new additions to the site …

Information about them …

The nearby sculpture celebrates the Greryfriars School’s success in educating youngsters from a deprived background and turning them into model citizens …

Actually, I think the street ragamuffins on the right seem to be having a great time …

St Paul’s Cathedral churchyard …

St Thomas à Becket lies in agony …

And some great news, the little pond outside St Lawrence Jewry has been renovated …

I hope they put in some fish.

And finally, near St Paul’s, is this the most expensive barber in London?

Mind you, there is complimentary Japanese Whisky and Beer!

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A tale from the Crypt, pretty flowers and a strange sighting on the Highwalk!

If you want to have a brief experience of the St Paul’s Cathedral crypt without paying to enter the Cathedral itself just make your way down the stairs to the Crypt Cafe. The entrance is opposite the Temple Bar …

Down below you’ll encounter some extraordinary monuments to deceased heroes. This is the one to Sir William Ponsonby …

‘Created in white marble, the figure of the dying hero rests against his fallen horse. He is nude except for drapery, and a broken sword slips from the fingers of his right hand. His shield is on the ground beside him. He looks upwards at a winged female figure in a classical tunic, representing Victory, who approaches from the left. She holds a wreath above him, and he reaches for it with his left hand’ …

You can read more about his background along with the gripping story of his final battle on the Waterloo Association website.

Nearby is this monument to two Naval heroes …

Both men died in the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen.

Riou ‘ … …was sitting on a gun, was encouraging his men, and had been wounded in the head by a splinter. He had expressed himself grieved at being thus obliged to retreat, and nobly observed, ‘What will Nelson think of us?’ His clerk was killed by his side; and by another shot, several marines, while hauling on the main-brace, shared the same fate. Riou then exclaimed, ‘Come, then, my boys, let us all die together!’ The words were scarcely uttered, when the fatal shot severed him in two’.

In 1799 James Mosse was appointed Captain of HMS Monarch, also under the overall command of Admiral Nelson. Mosse took a leading role, sailing from one end of the line to the other, whilst both firing and receiving fire. He was killed soon after adopting his required position, his last orders being to ‘cut away the anchor’. Like Riou, he was buried at sea …

If you look through the gates to the main crypt area you can just see in the distance the tomb of their commander, Horatio Nelson …

Here’s a picture I took on an earlier visit …

After all that death and drama you might like some of the images of flowers I have been taking!

Good corporate neighbours on Gresham Street …

Also on the same street, the Goldsmith’s Garden (the old churchyard of St John Zachary) …

A Goldsmith’s leopard guards the entrance …

Across the road …

Opposite St Paul’s underground Station …

Near St Paul’s Cathedral …

At Aldermanbury …

The Silk Street flower bed. From planting on 22nd June …

To a splendid display today …

Finally, three things I have seen from or on the Barbican Gilbert Bridge.

Water lillies …

Pigeons who don’t like the rain …

And, the weird contribution, what may or may not be a fashion shoot …

It’s definitely a fella …

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Searching for mice at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

If you get the chance, do visit the Guildhall Art Gallery to see The Big City exhibition. It’s superb, and admission is ‘pay what you can’. The challenge of finding the mice was keeping kids (and adults) very amused during my visit! More about that later.

Here’s my personal selection, starting with City Streets.

Cheapside 10:10 am, 10 February 1970 by Ken Howard (1932-2022)

This picture of Fleet Street in the 1930s is by an unknown artist and has a fascinating back story …

If you look at the characters in the foreground you’ll see that the picture is unfinished. Why is this? The label puts forward a suggestion …

The pedestrian crossing outside Barbican Tube station …

Walk (1995) by Oliver Bevan (Born 1941)

And now some pageantry …

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Service 22 June 1897 by Andrew Carrick Gow (1848-1920)

Suffering from severe arthritis and unable to climb the St Paul’s Cathedral steps, the Queen remained in her coach, so the short service of thanksgiving was held outside the building. Some amazing old film footage has survived and you can view it here and here.

This is a more intimate picture of City pageantry and its participants (with some splendid beards on display) …

A civic procession descending Ludgate Hill, London 1879 by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

Can you recognise the characters in this little group …

Reception of George V and Queen Mary at the West door of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, Jubilee Day, 6 May 1935 by Frank O. Salisbury (1874-1972)

Now for the mice.

These are two of the most impressively detailed paintings on display …

The Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Banquet, 13 January 1969

And this one …

The Coronation Luncheon to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Guildhall, London, 12 June 1953

Both are by Terence Cuneo (1907-1996).

His most celebrated commission was the official picture of the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. One day, as he was painting the huge canvas, his cat brought a dead fieldmouse into his studio. As a distraction from the task in hand, Cuneo painted a portrait of it. Subsequently, a mouse became his ‘signature’ and can be found in every one of his paintings.

There are actually two mice in the first picture above and one in the second.

They are so tiny you won’t be able to find them using this blog and will have to visit the Gallery. They are very difficult to identify, especially the second one, so to help you I took the following pictures …

Good luck!

At the far end of the gallery, in a space specially designed for it, you will find at the action-packed painting by John Singleton Copley: Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar 1782

The painting is best viewed from the balcony above

A Spanish attack on Gibraltar was foiled when the Spanish battering ships, also known as floating batteries, were attacked by the British using shot heated up to red hot temperatures (sailors nicknamed them ‘hot potatoes’). Fire spread among the Spanish vessels and, as the battle turned in Britain’s favour, an officer called Roger Curtis set out with gunboats on a brave rescue mission which saved almost 350 people.

Look at the painstaking detail in the faces of the officers and Governor General Augustus Eliot, who is portrayed riding to the edge of the battlements to direct the rescue …

The officers were dispersed after the Gibraltar action and poor Copley had to travel all over Europe to track them down and paint them – a task that took him seven years at considerable expense. He recouped some of his cash in 1791 by exhibiting the picture in a tent in Green Park and charging people a shilling to see it.

Incidentally, just outside the entrance is the lovely little Veterans’ Garden created by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners to support the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch which takes place today (Thursday 30th March). Read all about it here

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Random subjects I found interesting, from street animals to stained glass. And did Batman and Robin share a bed?

Having a camera on my phone is a great asset but also leads to me taking pics of all kinds of random subjects that don’t have a particular theme. The time then comes when I don’t have a blog theme in mind so I cop out by publishing examples of this miscellaneous collection.

This is one of those times and I hope you enjoy this occasionally quirky selection.

I’ll start with the street animals.

Cricklewood Station boasts a friendly multi-coloured cow …

A cow painted in the red and green colours of the Portugal national football team stands outside a souvenir shop in the Algarve …

Same street – different cow …

Leadenhall market porker …

Every year the Worshipful Company of Paviours bring an inflatable animal (known as a St Anthony’s pig) to the Lord Mayor’s Show …

In medieval times the London meat market at Smithfield released pigs that were unfit for slaughter into the streets to fend for themselves. They were identified by a bell around their neck and some prospered sufficiently to get fat enough to eat. Every now and then the paviours (who maintained the roads) rounded them up and delivered them to feed the poor and needy in the care of St Anthony’s Hospital.

Now, from pigs to swans.

The Vintners and Dyers Companies share in the ownership of mute swans with the monarch and it is their job to catch and ring them in a ceremony known as ‘swan upping’ done each June. This man, the Swan Marker, is in charge of the Vintners’ Swan Uppers for the event, but also wears the uniform of Barge Master, dating back to the time when the Company owned a ceremonial barge on the Thames. Here he is with a feathered companion outside the church of St James Garlickhythe

The Barge Master badge …

Clever advertising in Portugal …

Gifts to take home from Portugal …

Gifts to take home from London …

A sunny day at the Regent’s Canal, St Pancras …

I grabbed this image since the sky and clouds were so attractive. St Stephen Walbrook (1672) was Christopher Wren’s prototype for the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was the first classical dome to be built in England at the time …

Whoever decided to place this pool here in Cannon Street was a genius …

Lots of creative ideas for your pastry …

Batman and Robin street art snog …

You may be surprised to know that in the early 1950s comics they seemed to share a bed …

When observations were made about this the publishers were quick to make a statement, and I quote it here :

‘It’s necessary to point out that, no — they’re not sharing a bed, as many mistakenly think. You can distinctly make out a gap in the backboard, meaning that, though they are sleeping unusually close together for an adult guardian and his teen ward, they’re not in bed together‘.

So that’s cleared that up!

Nothing odd about a bit of nude sunlamp toning either, by the way …

Speculation as to the pair’s sexuality is discussed in The Slate article entitled, rather unfortunately, A Brief History of Dick.

I was invited for lunch at the Institute of Chartered Accountants and so got to see some of their splendid stained glass …

Another highlight of my year was seeing Tower Bridge raised. I have lived in London all my life and can’t recall witnessing this before in person rather than on TV …

And finally, another big ‘thank you’ to our wonderful City of London gardeners who work so hard all year to keep the place looking fresh and green …

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Summer in the City.

We are so lucky to have the fantastic team of City gardeners brightening up our environment month in and month out – especially through these times of extreme weather. There are also enlightened property owners who look after window boxes and other areas where nature can proliferate.

So here is my tribute to them with images I have taken over the last few months. Enjoy!

I’ll start with this wonderful new garden opposite the Cathedral in Cannon Street (EC4M 5TA) – perfect reflections!

Can you believe you’re in the City of London …

Pigeon bath time at the garden of St John Zachary (EC2V 7HN) …

Opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

Where do these starlings live?

Good corporate neighbours at the junction of Wood Street and Gresham Street …

In the pretty secluded garden at Saint Vedast Foster Lane (EC2V 6HH) …

On Foster Lane …

Upper Thames Street …

On Moorgate …

In the St Mary Aldermanbury Garden (EC2P 2NQ) …

Around the Barbican …

Proud mum …

Culture Mile signage on London Wall …

My Amaryllis gets confused as to the time of year …

Cheapside gets refreshed …

Do check out the Mobile Arboretum on Cheapside next door to St Mary-le-Bow …

And at Aldgate …

There have been numerous events and celebrations in 2022 to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee but one of the best must be Superbloom in the Tower of London’s moat. Twenty million seeds from twenty-nine flower species were planted earlier in the year to create a ‘floral tribute to Her Majesty’. And now the display is spectacular and will be at its best until at least September …

The garden is now open until late so visitors can see the flowers illuminated.

A fellow blogger has written about it here in a blog called A Moat of Flowers – well worth a look.

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The definitive guide to the Samuel Pepys Seething Lane Garden. Part 2 – a very full life.

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.

Here are some of the instruments that Pepys played – a fiddle, a flageolet and recorders …

And a theorbo lute …

Alan Lamb, who supervised the carvings, working on the lute. Read more about him and his team here

Pepys attended St Paul’s School as a boy and the hind is from the school’s coat of arms …

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

Pepys kept the diary from 1660 until 1669. The first page …

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

In 1655 when he was 22 he had married Elizabeth Michel shortly before her fifteenth birthday. Although he had many affairs (scrupulously recorded in his coded diary) he was left distraught by her death from typhoid fever at the age of 29 in November 1669. Her silhouette is in the garden paving …

Pepys was on the ship the Royal Charles that brought Charles II back to England at the Restoration and was also a Trinity House Master on two occasions. The carving shows the ship and a section of the Trinity House coat of arms …

The Diary – September 1660 : ‘I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I never had drank before my lady having made us drink our morning draft there of several wines, but I drank nothing but some of her coffee, which was poorly made, with a little sugar in it’. Tea and coffee are represented in the garden by tea leaves and coffee beans …

Pepys’s home meant that his local Church (‘our own church’ as he described it) became St Olave Hart Street, which is still there for us to explore today. The church is represented by an angel from the vestry ceiling and skulls from the churchyard entrance …

In 1673 he was involved with the establishment of the Royal Mathematical School at Christ’s Hospital which was to train 40 boys annually in navigation for the benefit of the Royal Navy and the English Merchant Navy, The commemorative paver is entitled ‘The science and practice of navigation’ …

He wrote of a visit to Bartholomew Fair : ‘… but above all there was at last represented the sea, with Neptune, Venus mermaids and Ayrid on a dolphin’. You’ll find a mermaid in the garden …

If you wander around the garden here are the other carvings that you will encounter.

 Samuel’s monogram …

A watermark from a letter to Pepys from King James II …

Pepys was President of the Royal Society when Sir Isaac Newton       published Philosophiae Principea …

 A map of Pepys’s London …

The Naval Office in Seething Lane where Pepys worked …

The Pepys coat of arms …

A teasel from the arms of the Clothiers Company where Pepys was once the Master …

Pepys’s profile …

Were he to arise from his resting place next to Elizabeth in St Olave’s what would he make of all this? I’m sure he would be delighted that his ‘own church’ was still there along with the lovely bust of Elizabeth he commissioned after her death. She still looks pretty and animated as if in conversation …

And surely he would be proud of his own bust in the garden, especially as it also commemorates Beauty Retire. Being a man of insatiable curiosity, he would no doubt want to know more about the mechanics of how the garden was irrigated using rainwater harvested from the roof of the hotel next door!

When he retired as secretary of the affairs of the Admiralty of England in 1689 ’not only had he doubled the navy’s fighting strength, but he had given it what it had never possessed before and what it never again lost—a great administrative tradition of order, discipline and service’. The orator of Oxford University declared ‘To your praises, the whole ocean bears witness; truly, sir, you have encompassed Britain with wooden walls.’ Samuel might be a little disappointed that, now in the 21st century, the mention of his name brings to many peoples’ mind only his famous diary.

If you need help finding the various carvings here’s a useful little map …

Do visit the garden if you get the chance. It’s also an opportunity to visit the beautiful St Olave’s Hart Street, Sam’s ‘own church’, which is located nearby. I’ve written about it before and you can find my blogs here and here.

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The definitive guide to the Samuel Pepys Seething Lane Garden. Part 1 – bladderstones, lions and an unfortunate King.

I have written about the garden in Seething lane before since it contains carvings that commemorate the life of the great diarist and naval innovator. However, I thought it might be useful to combine all my previous efforts in two blogs and this is the first so that if you visit the garden (and I strongly recommend you do) you will have easy access to all the information.

An existing bust of Pepys has been given a new plinth and one’s eyes are drawn to the sculpture as you walk along Seething Lane …

The new plinth incorporates musical notes …

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’s creation as well as see his bust. He 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 …

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.

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 …

Pepys stayed in London during the terrible time of the plague which he first wrote about on 30th April 1665 mentioning ‘great fears of the sickness’. Despite this, he bravely wrote on 25 August to Sir William Coventry ‘You, Sir, took your turn at the sword; I must not therefore grudge to take mine at the pestilence’.

As plague moved from parish to parish he described the changing face of London-life – ‘nobody but poor wretches in the streets’, ‘no boats upon the River’, ‘fires burning in the street’ to cleanse the air and ‘little noise heard day or night but tolling of bells’ that accompanied the burial of plague victims. He also writes in his diary about the desensitisation of people, including himself, to the corpses of plague fatalities, ‘I am come almost to think nothing of it.’

The pestilence is represented 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 also a flea based on a drawing from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia. While visiting his bookseller on a frosty day in early January 1665 Pepys noticed a copy of the book ‘which‘, Pepys recorded in his diary, ‘is so pretty that I presently bespoke it’

The illustration in the book …

The Great Fire of London began on 2 September 1666 and lasted just under five days. This is a contemporary view from the west held in the Museum of London collection …

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’

There’s a carving of a monkey who is sitting on some books and appears to have taken a bite out of a rolled up document. This refers to an entry in Pepys’s diary for Friday 18th January 1661 :  ‘I took horse and guide for London; and through some rain, and a great wind in my face, I got to London at eleven o’clock. At home found all well, but the monkey loose, which did anger me, and so I did strike her till she was almost dead’.  I’m not sure whether it was his pet or his wife’s, but it certainly paid a heavy price for its misbehaviour.

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

In 1679 tragedy struck when Pepys was arrested, dismissed from service and sent to the Tower of London on charges of ‘Piracy, Popery and Treachery’. The first two were outlandish and easily disproved but much more damaging and dangerous was the rumour that he had sold state secrets to the French (a crime which carried the terrifying penalty of being hanged, drawn and quartered). Using his own resources and considerable network, he tracked down the story to a lying scoundrel called John Scott. Pepys was subsequently freed and this frightening episode in his life is recorded in the garden by a carving of him incarcerated in the Tower …

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

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

On 9th May 1662 he wrote : ‘Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants. So to the Temple and by water home’. The ‘puppet play’ was probably Punch and Judy (trigger alert, they have dropped the baby!) …

Part 2 dealing with the remainder of the carvings will follow next week.

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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 …