Walking the City of London

Category: Quirky Page 1 of 3

The Whitecross Street Party 2024!

Around the stalls …

Mmmm … nice coat!

Along the street …

Art work both finished and pictured in progress

12:00 mid-day …

3:30 pm …

6:00 pm …

Street entertainment and fun …

On your marks … get set …

Go!

That’s all …

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Some miscellaneous images I thought you might like.

As regular subscribers will know, every now and then I find I have a number of images I like that can’t be gathered into a particular theme but I don’t want to abandon them. So this is one of those times.

I’ll start with something that made me smile.

I have put on a bit of weight lately and now I know that, if things get a bit out of hand, I can enhance my wardrobe with a visit to the little covered market in Whitecross Street …

I think that’s a 48 inch waist.

Moon behind the Shard …

Warming light at dawn …

Dusk …

Christ’s Hospital Scholars …

On the other side of the sculpture is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) called On Leaving School

I think he missed school rather more than I did!

Construction of the new HSBC offices at St Paul’s …

If you must put up a hoarding, why not include a giraffe?

This usually amuses me too …

The happy Mr Sun and the misplaced apostrophe (surely it should come before the ‘s’).

The remains of Christ Church Greyfriars …

… and its garden …

The little secluded garden at St Vedast Foster Lane …

Still on Foster Lane, I’ve often wondered about Priest’s Court. The Ian Visits blog reckons it housed Sir John Johnson’s Freewriting School, which he founded in 1695 to offer free education to eight scholars, although it
only lasted 36 years …

Around the entrance you can see the original oak frame where the alley would have once had a mighty door to seal it off, for the court was private then, containing the residence of the parish priest of St Vedast …

The restaurant next door always looks after its flowers …

Well done!

On the other side of the restaurant is Rose and Crown Court …

For a really comprehensive overview of the area’s history I recommend the Ian Visits blog

Some local flowers in Wood Street and the Goldsmith’s Garden Gresham Street …

And some from the Barbican Highwalk …

And three from my balcony …

My final balcony shot – the Trooping the Colour Flypast …

By the way, last Saturday I went on what is probably one of the best, if not the best, of the numerous ‘guided’ walks that take place all the time in London. It is conducted by The Gentle Author and you can book here using the link in his latest blog: https://spitalfieldslife.com/2024/06/26/the-cries-of-london-i/

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Recent walks (and some holiday snaps).

Having been away I have neglected the blog somewhat so I hope you will forgive me if this week’s offering is a rather miscellaneous collection of City images and a few pics from my holiday by Lake Como!

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge look good on a grey, cloudy day …

The City skyline from nearby …

The poor Gherkin is gradually being surrounded and the Walkie Talkie really is a monster from this viewpoint …

Control of protected views has still managed to give St Paul’s the priority it deserves. Long may this continue as even more development gains approval …

The Shard from Hay’s Galleria …

The refurbished facade of the old headquarters of the Eastern Telegraph Company on Moorgate is gradually being revealed including this fabulous stained glass …

At first it was called Electra House (named after the goddess of electricity) and the centre section shows her perched on top of the world. You can read more about her and the building in my April 2020 blog.

Nice brickwork in St Thomas Street on the south side of London Bridge Station …

A wacky installation at Vinegar Yard across the road …

Re-purposed warehouses nearby …

A re-purposed pub across the road from St Bartholomew the Great …

Angel III by Emily Young (2003), Paternoster Square, opposite St Paul’s Cathedral …

You can read my blog about City Angels (and Devils!) here.

Also outside the Cathedral …

The explanation …

Golden cherubs at Ludgate Circus …

This building was originally the London headquarters of the Thomas Cook travel agency. Built in 1865, the first floor was a temperance hotel in accordance with Cook’s beliefs. Read more about the cherubs, and many of their fellows, in my Blog Charming Cherubs.

The wording on this foundation stone in King Edward Street emanates pride in the British Empire at its height …

Across the road nearby are the coat of arms and the motto of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. It’s the Newgate Street Clock, the Worshipful Company’s 375th anniversary gift to the City of London …

The motto Tempus Rerum Imperator can be translated as Time, the Ruler of All Things.

On a lighthearted note – food and drink.

Branded ice in my Negroni at Bistro Freddie

And another, not quite so obvious, at Luca

Pudding at the Bleeding Heart Bistro …

Watching the calories whilst on holiday …

We visited lovely Lake Como for ten days.

The stunning Cathedral …

In a nearby church …

Lost souls ..

Some fascinating outdoor sculpture …

The extraordinary two above are by Fabio Viale.

This one is by Daniel Libeskind

I know what the box on the left is for but I’m not sure about the one on the right …

Shopping opportunities …

Como silk is very, very beautiful …

Finally, some classy tourist stuff to take home as a memento …

Back home to London in the evening – nice to see a duck on night patrol …

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Bunhill Birds, being told to ‘be quiet’ politely and other information curiosities. And ducks – lots of ducks.

For some reason lately I have been more aware of notices, signs, plaques and other sources of information. I’m usually a bit fixated on the next week’s blog but every now and then a piece of displayed information catches my eye and I take an image of it. So here’s a selection – I hope you find them interesting.

Bunhill Burial Ground is one of the places I love to walk through and indulge in a bit of quiet contemplation. It’s also a haven for bird wildlife as this informative notice shows …

The sighting of ring-necked parakeets is a bit ominous!

A polite way of telling customers to keep the noise down …

This pop up garden has really thrived …

I know at least four people who have had their bike stolen despite them having a locking device. There’s an extraordinary range of bike-stealing methods which you can read more about here if you’re interested. I was prompted to include a comment here because of this friendly warning posted outside the garden …

Around the City there are a number of signs for various City walks. You can do the old City Gates

Or follow the route of the original Roman and Medieval Wall

Here’s my favourite front door just off Whitecross Street …

Everything about it, for example paint colour and style of lettering, just seems so reminiscent of the 1970s. My theory is that people kept knocking on the door because they couldn’t see the bell so the owner fixed the problem with a painterly flourish.

In Whitecross Street itself is this spoof blue plaque erected by the ‘British Hedonists’ and ‘Mad in England’ …

The prison was capable of holding up to 500 prisoners and Wyld’s map of London produced during the 1790s shows how extensive the premises were …

Here is a view of the inside of the prison with probably more well off people meeting and promenading quite normally …

‘Inside the Debtors’ Prison, Whitecross Street, London’ by an unknown artist : City of London Corporation, Guildhall Art Gallery.

You can read more about it, and debtors’ prisons generally, in my blog Mansions of Misery.

This sign in Errol Street made me stop and think …

Nearby is the new YMCA. It seems like a fun place, I liked the colourful signage in the window …

The old multi-storey Whitbread stables in Garrett Street …


Read all about them in my blog Horses and Ale – the end of two eras.

A 17th century ‘price list’ at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate …

Everyone has probably heard of the Blitz and the carnage brought about by German bombing during the Second World War but it’s sometimes forgotten that aerial attacks on civilians were also a terrifying feature of World War 1. A plaque in Central Street commemorates the action of a brave man …

You will also find him on the Watts Mamorial …

PC Smith, 37 years old, was on duty in Central Street when the noise was heard of an approaching group of fourteen German bombers. One press report reads as follows …

In the case of PC Alfred Smith, a popular member of the Metropolitan Force, who leaves a widow and three children, the deceased was on point duty near a warehouse. When the bombs began to fall the girls from the warehouse ran down into the street. Smith got them back, and stood in the porch to prevent them returning. In doing his duty he thus sacrificed his own life.

Smith had no visible injuries but had been killed by the blast from the bombs dropped nearby. He was one of 162 people killed that day in one of the deadliest raids of the war. I have written about him, and other brave officers, in my blog The brave policemen of Postman’s Park.

Proud boast by an Australian removal man …

In case you are wondering, a redback is a highly venomous Australian spider. What an informative blog this is!

What to watch out for …

An old shopfront with very old ads – once upon a time I smoked No.6 fags – really cheap if rather small!

The Players No6 brand, introduced in 1965, was Britain’s best selling cigarette brand for most of the 70s. Player’s advertising claimed it was ‘Part of the British Scene’. Packaging from 1965 to 1980 …

What finished the brand off wasn’t just the fact that more people were giving up smoking, it was the EU. In 1978, tobacco taxation was harmonised with the EU and cigarettes were taxed by retail price, rather than by weight of tobacco and this changed the cigarette market overnight.

Before this change small cigarettes were cheap and big ones were expensive. So King Size cigarettes were a luxury and small ones, like Player’s No 6, were popular. After the tax change, the price difference between a pack of Player’s No 6 and a pack of up-market Benson & Hedges Special Filter was almost incidental; 20 No 6 cost 52p and 20 Benson & Hedges cost 57p. Overnight sales of No 6 tumbled and in the status conscious 80s, No6 was about as popular as a pair flares and a kipper tie. The brand quietly disappeared in 1993.

An early morning visitor to my office …

What about this little chap …

He lives with his friends near the concourse at Liverpool Street station …

A duck for every occupation (and literally hundreds of other versions!) …

And now even more windows I have looked through recently …

The view from my table at the Ivy Asia restaurant …

The HYLO building on Bunhill Row has a virtual fishpond just inside the door …

The ‘fish’ move like they’re alive (it’s a bit spooky, to be honest).

Costumes and props at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama theatre on Silk Street …

I’m pleased this little tailor’s shop on Whitecross Street has survived …

A cute mini-jacket in the window …

A very big teddy!

For some reason this plaque at the Barbican Centre makes me feel a little sad …

And finally, thank you so much to those of you, my lovely subscribers, who made a donation to the Spitz Charitable Trust whom I featured on my blog last week. My friends at Spitz have been really thrilled by your generosity, which will go towards the life-enhancing services they provide. If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s blog, this is a charity which brings live music to folk who may be feeling isolated or are experienceing dementia. Not just the elderly, but also young people in hospitals like Great Ormond Street who may be spending much of their life receiving care. All charities are having tough times at the moment so do, please, see if you can make a contribution, however modest, to help them in their work. Click here for their crowdfunding page and to find out more about them.

I also think that you might find the interview that Jane Glitre, Spitz’s founder, gave to Robert Elms on Radio London interesting. It’s only 11 minutes long and has a lovely song at the end! Here’s the link.

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Some images I liked that didn’t make it into a blog.

I take lots of pictures as I stroll around London and not all of them make their way into a blog. As I looked through images from the last six months or so I decided to publish a selection of the ones I liked most and hope you enjoy looking at them too.

I’ll start with one of my strangest encounters, the Golden Confessional Booth in the Bishopsgate Institute …

It was donated to the Institute by the artist Franko B in 2022. You can read more about him and the archive held at the Institute here.

If bollards have to be installed they might as well be pretty …

The Goldsmith’s Company leopard at the entrance to their garden on Gresham Street …

The screen in the crypt of St Pauls Cathedral …

The metalwork screen, 3.50 m high x 8 m wide, spans the Crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, It stands as a permanent memorial to Sir Winston Churchill, the third great national hero to have a state funeral at the Cathedral, alongside those of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.

I never get tired of photographing the Cathedral …

A stroke of planning genius putting a water feature here …

Outside St Thomas’ Hospital, Edward VI looks in good shape considering how long he’s been in the open air …

It’s one of two statues of the king at the hospital, both commemorating his re-founding of the institution in 1551. This one was carved by Thomas Cartwright in 1682 and originally formed the centrepiece of a group of figures which adorned a gateway on Borough High Street. It was moved to its current location in the 20th century.

Old gravestones in Postman’s Park …

According to the estimable Percy Rushen, the full inscription on the stone in the middle reads ‘FANNY wife of WILLIAM SNOWLEY of the parish, died 22 November 1847 aged 48’. The one in front is the marker for ‘JOSHUA HOBSON, of the parish, died 5 February 1833 aged 49’.

The Gothic masterpiece that is St Pancras, built 1868 …

Nearby Kings’s Cross. It’s the older of the two buildings (1852) but certainly doesn’t look it …

The mysterious McLaren sports car that’s been parked outside the St Pancras hotel for ages …

You can read more about it here.

If you order oysters at Searcey’s Restaurant at St Pancras the plate is rested on this rather special holder …

The giant gnomon on the sundial at Tower Hill …

Numerous important events are recorded around the dial ..

The Emperor Trajan outside the nearby Underground entrance. Disrespectful visitors often place an empty drinks can in his hand …

I spotted this cinema poster in a restaurant. Certainly typical of its period (1967) …

The critics were not kind and I don’t think they made another movie!

Barbican hanging gardens …

Duck tucking into one of his ‘5-a-day’ …

The circus still comes to town …

Blackfriars reflection …

Unusual sundial on the Thames River Walk near the Millennium Bridge …

Inside Battersea Power Station – lots of big brands but not a lot of people …

Two important messages …

The wall in the distance is all that remains of the notorious Newgate Gaol, demolished in 1902 …

Great ghost sign at Finchley Road Underground Station …

Lovely idea at Kilburn Station …

And another transport related image, the magnificent roof at Stockwell Bus Garage – at one time it was Europe’s largest unsupported roof span …

Licence plate humour (well, I’m easily amused) …

And finally, lunch last week at Brutto, a great way to start the New Year …

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It’s Christmas decorations time – let’s get into the Festive spirit!

Wandering around the streets on a quiet Sunday afternoon at this time of year can be rather atmospheric and got me into quite a Christmassy mood.

This year there are a number of installations that you can walk into.

The ‘Happy House’ at City Point …

The ‘Bauble’ in the churchyard of Holy Sepulchre Church …

The arch at One New Change …

The ‘tree’ at the same location is as pretty as usual …

As is the view of St Paul’s …

The tree outside nearby St Mary-le-Bow …

Also in the churchyard …

At this time of year offices look a bit cosier than usual …

I wonder what’s going to be put in the big red stockings – this year’s bonus maybe (it is a bank!) …

The Shard, looking up from ground level …

… and a small selection of the constantly changing light display on the upper levels …

And finally, this year’s Barbican Christmas tree …

Remember, next week is the Christmas Quiz, so it’s time to do a bit of swotting since the questions will all be about blogs published in 2023.

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Spooky special edition!

I know Halloween ended a few days ago but it did inspire me to look again at spooky aspects of the City and produce a special edition. I was also enthused by a quite extraordinary house I encountered in a trip to Hampstead which had totally embraced the Halloween spirit. Here’s a sample …

More later.

What better place to start in the City than Samuel Pepys’s ‘own church’, St Olave Hart Street.

It has a really gruesome but stunning churchyard entrance incorporating impaled skulls and crossed bones dated 11th April 1658. The Latin inscription, roughly translated, reads ‘Christ is life, death is my reward‘ and the central skull wears a victory wreath.

Charles Dickens called it ‘St Ghastly Grim’.

It’s even more disturbing becuse the banked-up surface of the churchyard is 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.

Note how much higher the graveyard is than the floor at the church door.

The crypt of the ‘Journalists’ Church’, St Brides in Fleet Street, is home to a fascinating museum containing an extraordinary coffin …

Until well into the 18th century the only source of corpses for medical research was the public hangman and supply was never enough to satisfy demand. As a result, a market arose to satisfy the needs of medical students and doctors and this was filled by the activities of the so-called ‘resurrection men’ or ‘body snatchers’. Some churches built watchhouses for guards to protect the churchyard, but these were by no means always effective – earning between £8 and £14 a body, the snatchers had plenty of cash available for bribery purposes. A tempting advertisement …

The idea was not popular with the clergy and in 1820 the churchwardens at St Andrew’s Holborn refused churchyard burial to an iron coffin. The body was taken out and buried, which led to a law suit. The judgment was that such coffins could not be refused but, since they took so much longer than wooden ones to disintegrate, much higher fees could be charged. This no doubt contributed to the relatively short time iron coffining was used.

St Brides also contains a charnel house, only opened by special arrangement. As you walk around the crypt, bear in mind that there are quite a few old Londoners resting nearby …

The primary customers for fresh corpses were the trainee surgeons at St Bartholomew’s Hospital so it’s no surprise that the nearby church of St Sepulchre had its own watchhouse. Sadly this was destroyed in the Blitz but there is a charming replica that you can see today …

Just around the corner is the entrance to the church so do call in if you can and visit a grim reminder of the days of the notorious Newgate Gaol and public executions.

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

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

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

About five minutes’ walk away is the beautiful church of St Bartholomew the Great inside which is what I think is one of the most disturbing sculptures in the City …

Entitled Exquisite Pain, as well as his skin St Bartholomew also holds a scalpel in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. The second surprise, to me anyway, was that this work was by Damien Hirst, the modern artist known particularly for his spot paintings and the shark swimming in formaldehyde. St Bartholomew is the patron saint of Doctors and Surgeons and Hirst has said that this 2006 work ‘acts as a reminder that the strict demarcation between art, religion and science is a relatively recent development and that depictions of Saint Bartholomew were often used by medics to aid in anatomy studies’. He went on to say that the scissors were inspired by Tim Burton’s film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) to imply that ‘his exposure and pain is seemingly self- inflicted. It’s kind of beautiful yet tragic’. The work is on long-term loan from the artist …

There’s nothing like a nice relic – even if it’s not on open display.

This is St Ethelreda’s Roman Catholic church in Ely Place (a road strange in its own right since it is privately managed by its own body of commissioners and beadles) …

The building is one of only two surviving in London from the reign of Edward I and dates from between 1250 and 1290. It is dedicated to Aethelthryth or Etheldreda, the Anglo-Saxon saint who founded the monastery at Ely in 673. According to the story, sixteen years after she died of the plague her body was exhumed in 695 and was found to be pure and uncorrupted with even her clothes having miraculous properties. Although her body has been lost it is said that her uncorrupted hand still rests in a casket in this church.

Unfortunately, this reliquary is kept beside the high altar and I couldn’t gain access so we must make do with an online image …

Nevertheless, it wasn’t a wasted visit. The church is a fascinating place as can be seen from some of the images I did take …

So I shall be back.

And finally, the Hampstead house on Flask Walk that truly embraced the spirit of Halloween.

Disabling the burglar alarm …

Hilarious!

The gang’s all here …

Welcome!

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A terrific new exhibition – a Roman cat, Georgian rabbits and much more.

Earlier this week I visited the recently opened Roman Wall exhibition in Vine Street. Entrance is free but you need to book a time slot online.

Looking down through a window near the entrance you get an excellent sense of Roman London’s street level …

Once inside the imposing nature of the wall itself is immediatly apparent…

The exhibition signage is first class throughout …

It is also complemented by Museum of London plaques …

Archaeoligical finds from the site (which served as a cesspit for many years) are beautifully displayed ..

As regular readers will know, I rather like quirky stuff, and some of the finds displayed fall into that category.

The paw prints on this tile are a cat’s …

The Romans brought cats with them to Britain although there is some evidence of domesticated felines before this time. Like modern cats, they knew no boundaries. When this tile was still soft and lying on the ground of the tile yard to dry, one of our cats’ ancestors strolled casually across it, leaving its territorial mark for posterity.

This rabbit skeleton has been dated to between 1760 to 1770 …

There are no visible butchery or skinning marks, so it was probably not kept for eating. It is likely that it was kept as a domestic pet, perhaps by the children of the family. Alongside it are the vertebrae and jawbones from a younger rabbit. These bunnies may have been much loved when alive. But having died, it appears that both were dropped unceremoniously into the cesspit in the backyard. Or maybe, horror of horrors, they fell in accidentally and drowned.

Of course I had to include this, a charmingly named ‘stool pan’ …

Another useful explanation …

Nice to see he’s wearing a decidedly modern-looking anti-Covid mask.

How the terraced houses on the site may have looked …

Some of the other artefacts on display include the following.

Pretty chinaware – someone must have been very unhappy when these articles were broken and had to be consigned to the rubbish pit. Or maybe they had just fallen out of fashion and were discarded …

Clay pipes galore …

A familiar brand …

Lots to see, very well displayed and explained …

As you leave you get a fine view of the outer face of the wall …

The last thing to admire is the artwork by Olivia Whitworth, the East London-based artist who creates wonderfully detailed illustrations …

If you are in ‘London Wall mode’, don’t forget there are two other wonderful examples nearby.

Just five minutes’ walk away at Cooper’s Row, round the back of a hotel, is an equally spectacular stretch of wall that is off the tourist trail. Here you can see the marks of former staircases and medieval windows cut through to create a rugged monument of significant height …

Also, alongside Tower Hill Underground Station, the Roman Emperor Trajan stands in front of another magnificent section …

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Tubes on the Tube – and other interesting shapes.

Every now and then I start noticing new shapes appearing around the City in addition to the fascinating Sculpture in the City project that I wrote about recently. Here’s my selection for this week. I’ll start with the largest and most colourful, Holly Hendry’s joyful work entitled Slackwater currently exhibited on the flat roof of Temple Underground Station. That’s what I like, sculpture that makes you smile …

The view from above gives a really interesting perspective (image by CoLab) …

Read all about it …

For over a month I watched the very careful erection of this extraordinary structure on Moorfields …

Commissioned in 2019 as part of The Crossrail Art Foundation’s public art programme for the Elizabeth line (with the support of Victoria Miro Gallery), Manifold (Major Third) 5:4 is by British artist Conrad Shawcross RA. ‘It represents a chord falling into silence extrapolated from observations of a Victorian pendulum-driven drawing machine known as a harmonograph, which was instrumental in the birth of the science of synaesthesia. This sculpture is the physical incarnation of the mathematics within a chord’. So now you know.

A crazy oasis outside nearby City Point (EC2Y 9AW) …

Yummy colours …

And finally, have you ever noticed this chap? I often see him looking out of the window of the Chiropractic clinic. Like the Manifold sculpture he’s also on Moorfields, just off London Wall …

I presume he likes to watch the world going by when he’s not treating patients …

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Some stuff to cheer me up!

Becauase I was going on holiday I started this blog on a May day when the weather was so miserable, wet and cold that I started browsing through my image library for some cheery pics. This also meant I didn’t have to go out!

This blog is the result – it’s a bit random but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

My balcony is perfectly situated to watch flypasts on their way to Buckingham Palace. This is the Coronation one …

What do you do with an abandoned car park …

Obviously you turn it into an artwork …

More cheerful street art …

Hot Mexican street food ..

More Pimlico Plumbers licence plate wit …

Posh spare loo roll storage at Mosimann’s …

Nice table adornments too …

Crazy crocheting on a post box in Great Ormond Street …

This is my animal selection.

Faithful doggy in Highgate Cemetery …

Whitecross Street toucan …

Friendly Mudchute Farm goats …

The last animal, the Tower Bridge cat …

My pal Mat …

And, for the first time in my blog history, a food section.

My Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg …

Patisserie perfection at Bob Bob Gerard …

Bombe at the Ivy ..

Add hot chocolate …

And finally, even more calories at Bouchon Racine …

Paradise …

Yep, I quite like chocolate.

Normal blog service will be resumed next week.

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Shapes, patterns, views, an interesting architectural curiosity and witty tributes to the new King!

Last week I set off without any particular purpose, seeking shapes, patterns and views that might look interesting as images.

It’s often just as fascinating to keep looking down as well as up and here are some of the curiosities I came across in Spitalfields.

Some intricately designed coal hole covers that have survived road works and redevelopment …

The above is a typical Hayward Brothers plate. One of their greatest services to Victorian society was saving pedestrians from nasty and embarassing injuries or even death-by-coalhole. Falling down coalholes through an unfastened plate was a regular occurrence in those times and the Hayward Brothers ‘safety plate’ using a ‘twist and lock’ mechanism was supposed to cure the problem.

The Gentle Author has written about them specifically in his blog Manhole covers of Spitalfields.

As well as the coal hole covers, the pavements of Spitalfields are also the home of a number of circular metal plates set into the pavement and known as roundels. They are the result of a commission by the 1995 Bethnal Green Challenge and are intended to be emblems reflecting the diverse culture and history of Spitalfields. They were designed by Keith Bowler and you can read more about them in two blogs, one by The Gentle Author and one by Katie Wignall. Here are images of the three I came across.

One of the prettiest is the one on Fournier Street, taken from floral fabric designs by Anna Maria Garthwaite (1688-1763), the textile designer whose official blue plaque is on 4 Princelet Street …

At the corner of Brushfield Street and Commercial street are some apples and pears. A nod to the original fruit and vegetable Spitalfields market with a flourish of cockney rhyming slang thrown in …

And finally this very cute one outside the local primary school on Brick Lane. A boy and girl in a book surrounded by pencils …

There were 25 originally but it’s believed there are only a dozen left.

I wandered around the Barbican looking for angles, shadows and reflections …

Here are some colours and shapes from ‘Them’s the breaks’ by the RESOLVE Collective at The Curve Gallery …

I’d also like to include a few favourites from a previous blog where I experimented with black and white images.

Tower 42 …

Plus Leadenhall Market …

Here are some of the more unusual things I came across during my walk.

I have entered the Barbican Highwalk from the Barbican Station footbridge on dozens of occasions and never paid any attention to this doorway which is obviously no longer in use …

Last week I peered through the grubby glass and was astonished to see this lively jungle scene …

I’m trying to find out more about it.

In the Smithfield Rotunda Garden there is a reflection with a poetic message …

‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall … Litter left here reflects badly on us all’.

On display in the Barbican Centre is this stunnng architectural model of the Estate …

The City is still full of new developments despite changes in working patterns and in many cases this means the demolition of existing buildings. A new view has now temporarily opened up looking south from the St Alphage Highwalk showing the north side of the Guildhall with the Shard in the distance …

Finally, I laughed out loud when I popped in to St Giles church and noticed two acknowledgements of the Coronation. Milton was surrounded by flags as he clutched a volume of his works …

But by far the most witty gesture was kitting out the famous parliamentarian and regicide Oliver Cromwell with a golden crown and a ‘Long Live King Charles’ postcard …

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Bollardology!

Oh, bliss, someone has written a book about the City of London bollards.

Odd as it may seem, I’ve always wanted to know more about them and now my curiosity has been satisfied by this wonderful book, Bollardology, by Dr Cathy Ross, the historian and former Director of Collections at the Museum of London.

To suggest that this is just a book about street furniture is not to do it justice. It’s a combination of a fascinating history of the City itself, beautifully written, along with what I can only describe as a bollard love affair. I promise that, if you read this book, you will never look at the humble bollard the same way again. For example, you’ll trace its development from the 18th century to the present day, from when it protected us from rampant coach and horse traffic to when it helps to protect us now from the actions of terrorists. To say I learnt a lot would be an understatement.

If you can, do what I did and pop in to the Guildhall Art Gallery and purchase it at their little shop, or buy it online here – they tell me it’s their current bestseller. It’s an absolute bargain at £12:99. I read it at one sitting and then set out with my camera to track down some examples.

There is a little platoon of bollard soldiers gathered in Idol Lane alongside the beautiful ruined church and garden of St Dunstan in the East

And surely this one is their commanding officer. Look at the striking City emblem and the 1886 date …

And, the most extraordinary feature of all, it’s hollow …

Here’s the story of this remarkable little artefact as told in Cathy Ross’s book along with extracts from the excellent Look up London blog by Katie Wignall.

Cathy’s sleuthing revealed that in October 1886 the City of London Corporation unveiled a new public urinal at the corner of Gracechurch Street and Eastcheap. This was the original site of the hollow bollard where it formed part of the ventilation system. Here are the loos today – all locked up …

It was hard to find any 19th century images of the public toilet, but you can see the urinal (circled in yellow) on the 1893-96 OS map below.

layersoflondon.org – OS maps 1893-96

To further visualise it, there’s a description detailed in Bollardology. It comes from William Haywood, an Engineer and Surveyor who was the City of London’s Commissioner of Sewers (think of him as the Joseph Bazalgette, specifically for the City). He was an extraordinary man and one of the pleasures of this book is finding out more about him (along with his somewhat ‘unconventional’ personal life).

In his report in 1887 he notes there is a ‘large five light lamp standard placed at the centre of the refuge, the base of which forms a ventilating shaft… The other lamp standards and dwarf posts [bollards] placed near the footway curbs are so designed to assist the ventilation.’

Although Katie couldn’t find any 19th century images of the five light lamp standard, she guesses it was similar to the remaining one by the public toilets outside the Royal Courts of Justice …

Five Light Lamp Standard, Royal Courts of Justice | Look Up London

Today only the base of the original large lamp remains and it’s still an attractive bit of street furniture, now painted black and cream …

No record seems to exist as to how the Idol Lane bollard ended up where it is now, about five minutes walk away.

Here’s my personal bollard collection, starting with this semi-circle of 36 lumps of granite installed in 1874 around the west end of St Paul’s Cathedral. They were not called bollards at the time – The Times described them as ‘dwarf, ornamental granite posts’. This part of the Cathedal precinct had previously been closed off by iron railings and the stones marked the new and porous boundary between public and private land – a modernising ‘improvement’ …

The tops of some bollards remind me of a lemon squeezer …

Outside St Margaret Pattens, this is one of a pair dated 1817 …

In the courtyard of St Helen’s Bishopsgate is what is often claimed to be the oldest bollard in the City. Experts identify this as the ‘cascable’ end of an 18th century French naval cannon …

These skinny versions date from 1993 and apparently were often positioned in the spot where parking meters once stood before they were removed …

Some show a fair bit of wear and tear …

From the 1990s onwards the City started taking branding really seriously and the bollards reinforced the fact that you were in a very special part of London …

Moveable versions …

There’s a positive invasion taking place at Bank Junction …

I was surprised to find some wooden versions. These are outside St Mary-le-Bow and date from the 1990s …

These are on Paternoster Row near the entrance to St Paul’s Churchyard …

Unfortunately wooden varieties are very prone to damage …

Standing guard at the entrance to St Paul’s Churchyard, these are probably HVMs (Hostile Vehicle Mitigation bollards) helping to keep us safe …

These HVMs are a bit more obvious …

I think they’re really sinister. They reminded me of the alien robot in the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Watch the terrific trailer here

Here colour is used to create a more friendly appearance …

These versions aim to be both decorative and informative …

On a more jolly note, some bollards have been colourfully dressed up to promote the City’s Culture Mile

Finally, how about this quote from the City of London Corporation Street Scene Manual 2005. The writer gets carried away and waxes lyrical as to how bollards positively added to the gaity of City life :

In parts of the City rush hour ‘bollard ballet’ is performed as office workers dodge both each other and the forest of bollards on their way to and from work.

Bollard ballet indeed!

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Ending 2022 on a lighthearted note.

I’ve been taking a relaxing break over Christmas so haven’t really thought about a theme for the last blog of 2022. So this is a bit of a mish-mash of images that I hope you might find interesting and amusing.

Delivering Christmas cards by hand I came across this doormat (it doesn’t take much to make me laugh this time of year) …

Mr Coot finding his way to the Barbican Centre by following the trusted yellow line …

Cute image of the year – proud mum …

Laid-back Bermondsey cat …

Lego Christmas tree at the Royal Exchange …

Building works on Coleman Street – what nice ideas …

Leadenhall market Christmas tree constantly changing colour …

Nice architectural lighting on Fore Street …

Betty Boop and Donald Duck on my Christmas tree …

Some of this year’s eating out experiences.

Bonkers mural in my favourite restaurant Trattoria Brutto in Farringdon …

Impressive entrance to Ivy Asia …

And finally, one of my favourite restaurant desserts – Chocolate Bombe at The Ivy City Garden …

Add hot chocolate …

Wow, that was good …

Best wishes to all my friends – thank you so much for subscribing. I wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2023!

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More Christmas decorations and an unexpected snowfall.

I’ve been out snapping again seeing how places and organisations are getting in the Christmas mood.

Here’s the shopping mall at St Pancras …

And on guard at Searcey’s Restaurant …

Chiswell Street law firm …

The City tree in front of St Paul’s …

Another alongside St Mary-le-Bow ,,,

At the Mansion House …

On Moorgate …

At WeWork …

One of the nicest efforts, the Institute of Chartered Accountants …

Also brilliant is the ‘tree’ at One New Change …

88 Wood Street always looks welcoming …

London Wall …

Bread Street …

Goswell Road …

Festive pharmacy …

And finally, some real snow!

Do remember to log-in next week for the famous Christmas Quiz!

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It’s Christmas decorations time – let’s get in the mood!

Yes, it’s that time when I go out and about trying to capture a bit of decorative joy before the Festive Season begins in earnest.

And what better place to start than the stunning display at the Leadenhall Building, fondly known by all as The Cheesegrater …

I love the arch through the tree …

It’s also home to Emma Smith’s neon artwork We (2019).

We are alone …

We are all one …

Read all about the thoughts behind its design here.

Whilst there I enjoyed a rather lovely lunch at Bob Bob Ricard which is situated on the third floor …

The view from the lift …

The Gherkin, my favourite modern City building …

Another beautiful piece of architecture, King’s Cross Station …

Outside the Station …

At The Landmark Hotel …

On London Wall …

Illumino at City Point …

Also at City Point …

At the Barbican …

Just off Bishopsgate …

And finally, something a bit bonkers near Great Ormond Street that made me smile …

Little aliens have landed on a post box …