Walking the City of London

Category: Gardens Page 1 of 2

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 line of 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 leaves are pretty and heart shaped …

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.

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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.

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Another aimless wander – horses, pigeons and quad bikes

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

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

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

Watching out over a very quiet City …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A closer view …

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

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

These merge nicely with the floral decorated stonework …

Finally, a few quirky items.

Caught in mid-air – Parkour at the Barbican …

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

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Summer’s coming!

The City has an abundance of window boxes and small gardens, the latter often the site of old churchyards. Here is a collection of pictures I took over the last few weeks whilst the weather was nice.

I have entitled this one ‘white tulip’ …

The remains of the old Roman/Medieval Wall is host to numerous Valerian plants …

That’s the 17th century tower of St Giles Cripplegate in the background.

This is the view from the raised pedestrian walkway …

Next to the Museum of London plants cling on in one of the last remaining World War II bomb sites …

Nearby is the Barbers’ Physic Garden, partly sheltered by another section of the Roman/Medieval wall and adjacent to the Barber Surgeons’ Hall …

This leopard’s head (the symbol of the Goldsmiths’ Company) guards the entrance to The Goldsmiths’ Garden, once the churchyard of St John Zachary, a building destroyed in the great fire of 1666. You’ll find it on Gresham Street (EC2V 7HN) …

There’s a good selection of flowers in the garden …

Callistemon Bottlebrush.
Roses and Clematis.
Osteospermum.

And a pretty little fountain with an Arum Lily …

Postman’s Park boasts a substantial banana plant with a big tree fern growing out from it (EC1A 7BT) …

… along with a thriving bed of Hostas …

… and some Hardy Geraniums …

Their fountain is not working and is covered in moss …

A nice corporate window box on St Martin’s le Grand, someone must be watering it during the shut down …

Christchurch Greyfriars was designed by Wren and completed in 1704. In 1940, Blitz incendiary bombs destroyed the body of the church and only the west tower now stands. The blue plaque in the foreground commemorates Christchurch School, which I have written about before in City Children

The 1989 rose garden reflects the floor plan of the original church and Clematis and climbing roses weave their way up 10 tall wooden towers which represent the pillars that once held the roof …

On the Barbican Highwalk I came across an army of Alliums, sadly a bit past their best …

I also encountered two ducks fastidiously socially distancing …

Water lilies are opening up on the Barbican Lakes …

And Barbican dwellers have been working hard on their window boxes …

I hope you enjoyed this little flower-filled excursion.

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Aimless wandering!

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

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

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

… and the beast …

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

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

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

It’s home to these Arum Lilies and Irises …

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

Above the coat of arms rests the symbolic Gresham grasshopper …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and their riders.

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

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Christmas Lights and unusual sights

Lighting really has become sophisticated!

Wandering over the St Alphage Highwalk just before Christmas I saw these odd shapes in the distance (EC2Y 5EL) …

This is what they looked like on closer inspection …

Good fun, I thought, but not all that interesting.

Passing by again that evening was a totally different experience as the ‘flowers’ changed colour in a fascinating sequence …

Wow!

Then I saw these odd cubes in the Salters’ Hall Gardens …

They look like they are floating in the air …

Here’s one in close up …

Nice but not as dramatic as last years’ display.

Unfortunately I have no idea what these letters and numbers signify …

Even without the Christmas enhancements I like the London Wall Place lighting very much and you can read more about the thinking and planning behind it here.

As every year, Tower 42 amuses us with a homage to ‘Christmas Jumper Day’ …

And its usual Christmas tree …

You also see some strange sights around the City this time of year. For example, this Star Wars Stormtrooper patrolling the desks in the WeWork building …

And this unusual evening visitor to Salters’ Hall …

And finally, Shard Lights returned on 9th December 2019, transforming the top 20 storeys of The Shard into an exciting and colourful spectacle, visible across the capital.

The show, designed with help from local schoolchildren, features three, nine-minute sequences displayed every half hour from 4pm to 1am each evening throughout the month. Each sequence reflects the children’s designs and here are a few examples …

On New Year’s Eve there will be a unique display from when the clock strikes midnight to the early hours of New Year’s Day before the show comes to a close.

All best wishes for 2020!

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Water ‘crashing, whooshing, gurgling or gently lapping’

I’d like to quote from the City Corporation’s little booklet on Fountains – it’s rather poetic in places.

‘Fountains are an important sensory diversion in the urban scene of the City. Whether a municipal drinking fountain or a monumental water feature, they provide a rich diversity of sculptural form, movement and sound. The movement provided by the water of a fountain is probably its most fascinating element. Still water seems lifeless, but when given motion, either by spurting, spraying, spouting, undulating or tumbling, it becomes full of life and vitality. Of itself colourless, water can direct and refract light rays, and when it is in the form of a fine mist, it can disperse all the colours of the spectrum. The sound of a fountain is also one of its most essential and most overlooked attractions. Whether the water is crashing, whooshing, gurgling or gently lapping, sound is an integral part of a fountain’s aesthetic appeal. This can improve significantly the quality of a space, not only by adding the sound of water, but also by blocking out the less attractive sounds of the City’.

So I was inspired to search out some nice examples and I shall start with this absolute beauty in the quadrangle at St Bartholomew’s Hospital (EC1A 7BE). Created in 1859, it shows naked boys holding aloft a shell with dolphin-esque waterspouts …

It was the idea of Philip C Hardwick, the Hospital Surveyor.

You can read the full story about its construction and the part it played in Bart’s history here on the Bart’s Heritage website.

Originally the water was projected much higher in order to be seen above the shrubs that had then recently been planted …

Picture credit: The Wellcome Collection.

Just across the road is the West Smithfield Garden (EC1A 9BD). Waste ground for a time, the site was finally laid out as public gardens by the Corporation of London and opened to the public in 1872 …

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A drinking fountain with a bronze figure representing ‘Peace’ was erected in 1873 a few years after the armistice between France and Prussia was signed in 1871 …

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The sculptor was John Birnie Philip (1824-1875).

You can see Lady Justice atop the Old Bailey in the background.

Before you leave the Bart’s area do visit the interesting little Hospital museum just inside the entrance to the quadrangle.

The St John Zachary or Goldsmith’s Garden in Gresham Street EC2V 7HN) is a haven of peace in the bustling City. Walk under the stunning golden leopard’s head symbol of the Goldsmith’s Company …

Down the steps in the sunken garden you will find this pretty little fountain …

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You can read more about the garden and an interesting nearby sculpture called The Three Printers in my City Gardens blog.

Postman’s Park’s fountain is rather modest (EC1A 7BT) …

And finally, on the north side of Blackfriars Bridge is one of my favourites, recently liberated from behind hoardings and nicely restored (but sadly no longer pouring water) …

Sculptor Wills Bros.

The pretty lady represents ‘Temperance’ and she originally stood outside the Royal Exchange. The fountain was inaugurated by Samuel Gurney, MP, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountains Association, on 27 July 1861 and you can read more about him, and the Association, in my earlier blog Philanthropic Fountains.

This week’s fountains have been very traditional.

Next week I will look at more modern versions, including those that tend to pop up out of the ground …

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Swinging angels, an alligator and public sculpture around St Paul’s

First of all, some great news! You can now follow me on Instagram at :

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Crossing the road outside St Paul’s Underground station I came across the surprising sight of 40 golden angels resting on swings above my head …

Entitled Lunch Break they are an installation by architects KHBT in collaboration with artist Ottmar Hörl. Intended to create a strong conceptual and visual link to the Cathedral it is, the note nearby tells us, also an emotional and imaginative work that is aiming to make people think and smile. ‘After all, in this particular time, guardian angels deserve some rest’ …

Outside the west front of the Cathedral is the statue commemorating Queen Anne, a Victorian replica of an earlier work that had become weathered and vandalised. The queen is surrounded by four allegorical figures and this one represents America …

She wears a feathered head-dress and skirt whilst her left hand grasps a metal bow. Her right hand may once have held an arrow.

What fascinated me, however, is the creature by her feet which resembles a rather angry Kermit the frog (alongside the severed head of a European) …

In 1712, this is what the original sculptor Francis Bird imagined an alligator would look like. A contemporary description of the statue states …

There is an allegator creeping from beneath her feet; being an animal very common in some parts of America which lives on land and in the water.

In the Diamond Jubilee Gardens close by is this work, The Young Lovers, by Georg Ehrlich (1897-1966). The Cathedral gives it a dramatic backdrop …

Ehrlich was a Austrian sculptor who was born and studied in Vienna. During the First World War he served in the Austrian Army and in 1930 he married the artist Bettina Bauer. After the rise of the Nazis, Ehrlich decided that it was too dangerous for them to be in Austria since they were both Jewish and they moved to London. He became a British citizen in 1947 and was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1962.

Since the weather was so nice, I took the opportunity to capture this profile of the one-time Dean of St Paul’s John Donne …

John Donne 1572 – 1631 by Nigel Boonham (2012)

I have written about Donne before and you can access the blog here.

His bust points almost due west but shows him turning to the east towards his birthplace on Bread Street. The directions of the compass were important to Donne in his metaphysical work: east is the Rising Sun, the Holy Land and Christ, while west is the place of decline and death. Underneath the bust are inscribed words from his poem Good Friday – Riding Westward :

Hence is’t that I am carried towards the west, This day when my soul’s form bends to the east

The most familiar quotation from Donne comes from his Meditation XVII – Devotions upon Emergent Occasions published in 1624:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main … and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

I really like this work by Paul Mount (1922-2009), also to be found in the gardens …

Amicale (2007)

Mount was one of the last British artists whose careers were interrupted by the Second World War. A lifelong pacifist, he served in the Friends Ambulance Unit in North Africa and then France, where he stayed on after the end of the war to do relief work. Once free to work again, artists like him never really lost their sense of a world to be made anew through art. For Mount, sculpture expressed an essential human dignity. He observed …

The way that two shapes relate is as important as the way two people relate.

There is a nice obituary notice about him and his fascinating life in The Guardian which you can access here.

And finally, every time I walk past St Paul’s I am struck by the beauty of the stone carving, take this example …

Or this abundance of cherubs …

And this meticulous carving around the Dean’s Door …

Christopher Wren paid the sculptor, William Kempster, an additional £20 for the excellence of his work.

As memories of wartime fade, these shrapnel marks from a nearby bomb blast serve to remind us of how close the Cathedral came to destruction …

A number of other City buildings bear scars from World War bombing and you can read about them here.

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Two of the best free views of the City

I was thrilled when I finally got around to visiting The Garden at 120 on the roof of 120 Fenchurch Street (EC3M 5BA). The entrance is in Fen Court and before you even get to the lift you can look up and see the digital art installation by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier on the ceiling. There is also a haunting soundscape as well. It’s a fabulous piece of work (entitled The Call of Things) and you can read more about it here.

The ceiling at the entrance to Fen Court

You don’t have to book a time to visit, just turn up. Visiting times are set out on their website. After airport style bag checks a lift whisks you to the 15th floor where you have a 360 degree view. Here are a few of the images I took on a nice sunny day last week.

You can see the Gherkin in all its glory. A treat now that it is becoming more and more hemmed in by, frankly not very attractive, new buildings …

The Scalpel can be observed just alongside it …

The Walkie Talkie dominates part of the view …

In the distance, Canary Wharf …

and Tower Bridge …

The Shard is framed by the Witch’s Hat (the London Underwriting Centre) and the Walkie Talkie …

Down below a massive development takes place behind some preserved facades …

The roof is, of course, a garden as well as an observation point and the plants will eventually grow to form a pergola …

Many congratulations to insurer Generali and their architects Eric Parry for this stunning development and for making it so accessible.

Let’s not forget, however, the other great free view that can be enjoyed on the roof at One New Change (EC4M 9AF). Interesting views of St Paul’s start in the lift …

And continue on the roof …

The panorama includes the new apartments at Blackfriars, the Oxo Tower, the London Eye, the Unilever Building and the spire of St Augustine with St Faith (now part of St Paul’s Cathedral School) …

Both roofs are usually nowhere near as busy as you might expect.

Five tiny City churchyards (and a chatty lady)

Did you realise that, just off Cannon Street, is the final resting place of Catrin Glyndwr, daughter of Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr? She was captured in 1409 and taken with her children and mother to the Tower of London during her father’s failed fight for the freedom of Wales. A memorial to her, and the suffering of all women and children in war, was erected in the former churchyard of St Swithen where she was buried. It survives as a raised public garden and here is the pretty entrance gate on Oxford Court (EC4N 8AL) …

And this is the memorial …

Unveiled in 2001, it was designed by Nic Stradlyn-John and sculpted by Richard Renshaw

With its inscription …

The garden is a cosy, secluded space with seating where you can enjoy a break from the City hustle and bustle …

The Church itself was demolished as a result of World War II bombing.

St Clement’s Eastcheap isn’t on Eastcheap, for reasons I will go into in a future blog. It’s in the appropriately named St Clement’s Lane (EC4N 7AE). As you look down the Lane from King William Street it’s tucked away on the right …

Just past the church is St Clement’s Court, the narrow alley leading to the churchyard. There is an intriguing plaque on the wall of the adjacent building …

Obradović was a Serbian writer, philosopher, dramatist, librettist, translator, linguist, traveler, polyglot and as the plaque says, the first minister of education of Serbia. Here is a link to his Wikipedia entry. He was honoured in 2007 by a special Serbian stamp …

You enter the churchyard via three steps. City churchyards are frequently higher than street level, evidence of how may bodies were crammed in until graveyards were closed to new burials in the middle of the 19th century …

The churchyard was reduced in size in the 19th century by an extension that was added to the church and all that remains now are a couple of gravestones and two chest tombs …

The inscription on one is just about legible, it reads …

In memory of Mr JOHN POYNDER late of this Parish who departed this life on 11th April 1800 aged 48 years. Also four of his children who died in their infancy.

The narrow alleyway can be traced back to 1520 and St Clement’s Lane is also an old thoroughfare. Here it is on Roques map of 1746 leading then, as it does now, to Lombard Street directly opposite the Church of St Edmund King and Martyr …

The alley was then called Church Court

Here’s another view from King William Street, you can see St Edmund’s in the distance …

The church dates from 1674 having been rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire (although the design was probably by his able assistant Robert Hooke). In 2001 it became the London Centre for Spirituality …

It was a lovely, warm sunny day and, looking at the church architecture, for a moment I had the overwhelming feeling that I was in Italy!

To find the churchyard, now a private garden, head down George Yard adjacent to the church (EC4V 9EA). It closed for burials in 1853 …

One tomb is visible from the street …

It has a fascinating inscription …

Sir HENRY TULSE was a benefactor of the Church of St Dionis Backchurch (formerly adjoining). He was also Grocer, Alderman & Lord Mayor of the City. In his memory this tombstone was restored in 1937 by THE ANCIENT SOCIETY OF COLLEGE YOUTHS during the 300th year of the Society’s foundation. He was also Master of the Society during his Mayoralty 1684.

St Dionis Backchurch was demolished in 1878 and the proceeds of the land sale used to resurrect it as a new church of the same name in Parsons Green. The Ancient Society of College Youths is the premier change ringing society in the City of London, with a national and international membership that promotes excellence in ringing around the world. Sir Henry owned significant estates in South London – you’ll be remembering him as your train trundles through Tulse Hill Station.

St Gabriel Fenchurch was destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt but its churchyard remains – now called Fen Court (EC3M 6BA) it’s just off Fenchurch Street. If you are feeling stressed, or just need to take time out, you can use the labyrinth there to walk, meditate and practise mindfulness. It was the idea of The London Centre for Spiritual Direction and you can read more about it here.

The Fen Court labyrinth

Three chest tombs are evidence of it’s earlier burial ground function …

This vault was built in the year 1762 by MRS ANNE COTTESWORTH for a burying place for Herself she being born in this Parish And her nearest relations being buryed in the next Vault

Her family coat of arms is quite sheltered and has survived City pollution well

Also there is the striking Gilt of Cain monument, unveiled by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2008, which commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807. Fen Court is now in the Parish of St Edmund the King and St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard St, the latter having a strong historical connection with the abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Rev John Newton, a slave-trader turned preacher and abolitionist, was rector of St Mary Woolnoth from 1780 to 1807 and I have written about him in an earlier blog St Mary Woolnoth – a lucky survivor.

The granite sculpture is composed of a group of columns surrounding a podium. The podium calls to mind an ecclesiastical pulpit or slave auctioneer’s stance, whilst the columns evoke stems of sugar cane and are positioned to suggest an anonymous crowd. This could be a congregation gathered to listen to a speaker or slaves waiting to be auctioned.

The artwork is the result of a collaboration between sculptor Michael Visocchi and poet Lemn Sissay. Extracts from Lemn Sissay’s poem, Gilt of Cain, are engraved into the granite. The poem skilfully weaves the coded language of the City’s stock exchange trading floor with biblical Old Testament references.

And finally here is another meditation labyrinth …

It’s in one of my favourite places, St Olave Hart Street churchyard in Seething Lane (EC3R 7NB) …

You walk in through the gateway topped with gruesome skulls, two of which are impaled on spikes …

Charles Dickens nicknamed it ‘St Ghastly Grim’

It leads to the secluded, tranquil garden …

The labyrinth is in the corner on the left

This was Samuel Pepys’s local church. He is a hero of mine and I have devoted an earlier blog to him and this church : Samuel Pepys and his ‘own church‘.

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.

Do go into the church and find the lovely marble monument Pepys commissioned in her memory. High up on the North wall, she gazes directly at Pepys’ memorial portrait bust, their eyes meeting eternally across the nave where they are both buried. When he died in 1703, despite other long-term relationships, his express wish was to be buried next to her.

Take a close look at her sculpture – I am sure it is intended to look like she is animatedly in the middle of a conversation …

As you leave the church, notice how much higher the churchyard ground level is …

It’s a reminder that it is still bloated with the bodies of plague victims, and gardeners still turn up bone fragments. Three hundred and sixty five were buried there including Mary Ramsay, who was widely blamed for bringing the disease to London. We know the number because their names were marked with a ‘p’ in the parish register.

Sorry not to end on a more cheerful note! I have written before about City churchyards and you can find the blog here.

London Law – A walk around The Temple

The west end of Fleet Street belongs to the lawyers. You can leave the noise and bustle of the main roads and enjoy the tranquility of the Inns of Court, where you can still glimpse through the windows book-stuffed rooms and ribbon-bound briefs. I am going to write about The Temple, the area in the vicinity of Temple Church which consists of two of the four Inns of Court – the Inner Temple and Middle Temple. There is map at the end of the blog to help you navigate.

I entered the Middle Temple from Fleet Street through the archway beneath Prince Henry’s Room at number 17, one of the few buildings still around today that survived the Great Fire of 1666 …

Prince Henry’s room above the entrance to the Middle Temple (the doors are closed in this photograph)

Once called the Fountain Tavern, Samuel Pepys visited it on 28 November 1661 and wrote in his diary …


To the Fountain tavern and there stayed till 12 at night, drinking and singing, Mr. Symons and one Mr. Agar singing very well. Then Mr. Gauden, being almost drunk, had the wit to be gone; and so I took leave too.

Sadly you can’t drink or sing there now since it is not open to the public.

As you walk down Middle Temple Lane, look back and you can see the posts that support the 17th century buildings above. I read somewhere that Dr Johnson used to enjoy swinging around these when in an exuberant mood …

On your right as you walk down the Lane is Fountain Court where there is a Mulberry tree planted in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee …

Nearby is the 16th Century Middle Temple Hall where Shakespeare’s company first performed Twelfth Night in February 1602.

Go down the steps to the left of the fountain and you can walk alongside Middle Temple Gardens. The giant Triffid-like plant on the right is an Echium

The Middle Temple has kept a garden, in various forms, for centuries – indeed Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part I, refers to the ‘Temple Garden’ as the location for an argument between York and Lancaster, complete with the plucking of red and white roses, which led to the War of the Roses. There doesn’t seem to be any contemporary evidence for this, however.

The gardens spread out as you walk towards the River Thames and once stretched all the way to the water’s edge before the building of the Embankment in 1870

Retrace your steps and walk through Pump Court to Church Court pausing in Essex Court to admire this old gas lamp …

Not surprisingly, in Church Court you will find the Temple Church after which the area is named. Originally built by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters, it was consecrated on 10th February 1185 by Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. It was built in the round to remind worshippers of the Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre …

Outside the door of each Chambers is a list of the barristers who practise there or are ‘door tenants’ who do not but who have a connection with the Chambers …

Some have accommodation in Chambers – the author John Mortimer practised as a barrister and had rooms here in Dr Johnson’s Buildings.

You will see frequent representations of the symbol of Middle Temple, the Lamb and Flag or Agnus Dei. These two are in different styles, an older one on Plowden Buildings in the distance and a post war 1954 version in the foreground …

Pegasus, the winged horse, is the emblem of the Middle Temple …

If you leave by the Tudor Street Gate and look back you can admire the gate design and see another winged horse …

Spring has sprung!

I was wondering what to write about this week when, as I walked past St Paul’s Underground Station, the answer came to me when I saw this magnificent display of tulips …

So this week’s blog is a tribute to all the hard work that people put in to keep the City looking beautiful – especially the in-house City Gardens Team. You can read more about them here and their terrific record number of awards here. Sign up to their Newsletter to hear more about their ongoing projects and other work.

Just across the road alongside Cheapside is this display of Polyanthus, Hyacinths and soon-to-bloom tulips …

The beds at Postman’s Park have come alive (EC1A 7BT) …

More Polyanthus
Brunnera
Camellia

To get to the St John Zachary garden in Gresham Street (EC2V 7HN) you walk under the leopard’s head symbol of the Goldsmith’s Company …

Inside I spotted Dicentra, or Bleeding Heart …

As well as these pretty little tulips …

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And this Arum lily – Zantedeschia

I have written about this garden in another blog where I discuss the interesting sculpture there. You can access it via this link.

Across the road, the Wax Chandlers’ Hall team have worked on their window boxes …

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

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

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

More Camellia

Across the road, the old horse trough in has been planted up with pansies. You can see some more modern planters in the background containing Polyanthus …

P

The combined horse trough and drinking fountain has quite a history. You can read more about it in another of my blogs, Philanthropic Fountains.

On the the Barbican Estate, alongside St Giles Cripplegate Church (EC2Y 8DA), two varieties of magnolia are in bloom …

Goblet shaped Magnolia
Star Magnolia

I spotted some more little tulips on the Barbican’s Beech gardens (EC2Y 8DE) …

My final destination was Bunhill Fields Burial Ground (EC1Y 2BG). I have written about it before in much greater detail and you can see the blog here

Daffodils and Grape Hyacinths

It is wonderful that, after years of research, the final Bunhill resting place of William Blake was discovered last year and marked with this beautiful stone carved by Lida Cardozo …

I give you the end of a golden string/Only wind it into a ball/It will lead you in at Heavens gate/Built in Jerusalems wall

City work and public sculpture 2

This week I am looking at sculptures representing work in the City in the 20th Century.

Although I mentioned them in an earlier blog I wanted to show these figures again because they are so unusual …

Old churchyard of St John Zachary, 25 Gresham Street EC2V 7HN.

Wilfred Dudeney’s monument Three Printers (1954) 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.

This sculpture reminded me of words from Auden’s The Waste Land:

 Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

It is entitled Rush Hour by George Segal (1983-7) and is in Broadgate (EC2M 3WA) …

Trudging wearily off home in the rain …

Segal created this sculpture from live models, encasing them in wire mesh and plaster bandages, before cutting each cast open to free the model, rejoining the mould and casting bronze figures from the plaster versions. You will notice that all their eyes are closed …

And now something a bit more cheerful …

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.

‘The Gardener’ by Karin Jonzen FBS (1971) – Brewers’ Hall Gardens, London Wall EC2V 7HR.

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.

Easy to miss but worth seeking out is The Building Worker, a bronze statue of a building worker in a pose based on Michelangelo’s David, but in working clothes and wearing a hard hat and carrying a spirit level. He is on Tower Hill EC3 just across the road from the station outside the Tower of London …

The sculptor was Alan Wilson (2006).

It commemorates the ‘thousands of workers who have lost their lives at work … (and) workers who are today building and rebuilding towns and cities across the United Kingdom.’ Wreaths are laid here each year on April 28, International Workers Memorial Day, and a two minute silence is observed at noon in memory of those who have suffered fatal injuries in accidents at work.

The Plumbers’ Hall was compulsorily purchased in 1863 to make way for the expansion of Cannon Street Railway station and this statue on the concourse is a reminder of that connection …

The Plumber’s Apprentice by Mark Jennings (2011).

The inscription reads ‘This statue was erected on the site of its last Livery Hall by The Worshipful Company of Plumbers to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the granting of its Charter by King James I in 1611 and to recognise the support given by the Company to the training of apprentices.’

To round off my day I went looking for a statue I personally remember being erected on Cannon Street in 1996 – The LIFFE Trader (LIFFE standing for the London International Financial Futures Exchange). But he has been moved and tucked away behind glass at the Guildhall Yard in a corridor that the public cannot access …

Please let him go outside, or at least turn him around.

Here he is in his glory days at Cannon Street – a bit of a character with his loosened tie, no doubt doing a deal on his then fashionable clamshell mobile phone …

Photograph copyright Loïc Brohard.

 

City work and public sculpture

I thought it would be interesting to explore how public sculpture has been used to illustrate some of occupations that have been undertaken in the City over the centuries.

First up is one of my favourite pieces, The Cordwainer. Here on Watling Street (EC4N 1SR) you are in the Ward of Cordwainer which in medieval times was the centre of shoe-making in the City of London. The finest leather from Cordoba in Spain was used which gave rise to the name of the craftsmen and the Ward. In the background is the wall of St Mary Aldermary church …

Sculpted by Alma Boyes (2002). You can visit her website here.

I love the detail in the work, the craftsman’s face and particularly the hands straining with effort. The statue’s shoes are very beautifully represented too – but then they would have to be.

It’s a bit of an over-simplification but, basically, cordwainers made shoes (and were not allowed to repair them) and cobblers repaired shoes (and were not allowed to make them). Cobblers got around this injunction by salvaging old leather and making ‘new’ shoes out of that, but in the end a pragmatic solution evolved and the two professions merged under the Cordwainers Company auspices. But if you want your shoes repaired today you still go to a cobbler.

Beside the slope in Aldersgate Street that leads up to the Barbican Estate is this frieze (EC2Y 8AF). It used to be above the premises of W. Bryer & Sons who were gold refiners and assayers at numbers 53 and 54 Barbican. Having survived the Blitz the building was demolished in 1962 and the frieze re-erected here.

‘Gold Smelters’ – Made in Portland stone by J Daymond & Son (1901).

The photographs are mine but I am indebted to The Victorian Web for the descriptions of what is happening.

The left side of the frieze depicts the arrival, weighing, recording the results (by man with the quill pen), and melting the ore. The man with the quill pen, a superviser rather than a workman, is the only one in this part of the scene whose clothes obviously date to the seventeenth century or earlier …

The middle portion of the frieze depicts men working at the smelter: the man at left, whom we have already seen in the previous detail, holds a vessel with tongs while the man to his right stirs the fire, shielding his face from the heat with his right arm. The next man either rests or supervises the work, and the young man kneeling behind him most likely feeds the furnace …

The right side of the frieze shows a worker pouring the refined gold into a mould, and the man behind him examines a small ingot. Outside the workshop, which a curtain divides from the smelting operation, a seated man presents the refined gold to a customer. Here the figures all wear clothing from earlier periods …

What a shame that the friendly shop cat rubbing himself up against the table leg has been damaged.

James Henry Greathead was a South African engineer (note the hat) who invented what was to become known as the Greathead Shield. He came to be here on Cornhill because a new ventilation shaft was needed for Bank Underground Station and it was decided that he should be honoured on the plinth covering the shaft …

Designed by James Butler (1994) – Cornhill EC3V 3NR.

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

Would you like to see a Greathead Shield? It’s easier than you might think since Shields were often abandoned when work was completed. Take the Northern Line to Bank and (without leaving the station) follow the signs for the Waterloo and City Line. This is what you will come across …

Here is some detail …

The plaque underneath explains all …

In next week’s blog I will be looking at some 20th century occupations and the way they have been celebrated in sculpture.

 

 

 

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