Walking the City of London

Category: Quirky Page 1 of 2

Fun at the Whitecross Street Party!

Last Saturday I knew I would be in for a treat when I saw these creatures blocking the road …

Poetry on one of the performance stages …

Time to get creative …

Who needs brushes when a handful of paint will do!

Concentration is so important …

There were lots of places to hunker down and enjoy the day …

Learn about saving our planet whilst having fun …

The grown-ups get to work on Saturday and Sunday …

The big paintbrush is back!

New murals take shape …

Artists at work …

The day wouldn’t be complete without the bonkers balloons …

Don’t forget, there’s an exciting new installation created by my friend Natalie Robinson now set up for you to visit. The display is based on her body of work  ‘Reflection: what lies beneath – new maps’  and will be part of the Totally Thames 2021 Festival until the 30th.

You’ll find Natalie’s banners on the Thames Path at Walbrook Wharf. Here are a few images to whet your appetite …

You can find more details of her display here and its digital counterpart here

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

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

Some things that made me smile …

I know London is gradually creeping back to a feeling of normality but it still seems a bit grim on occasion, so I’d like to share with you some of the things I have seen or done over the last year that have made me smile.

As lockdown dragged on, I solved the problem of not knowing what day of the week it was. These socks, stored in the correct order, were invaluable (and still are) …

When alcohol was only allowed to be sold when accompanying a meal this was a creative approach …

Mrs Duck and her happy little family – I think most survived to adulthood this year because the seagulls (who enjoy a tasty duckling snack) seem to have gone AWOL …

The big bird of Narrow Street …

‘Herring Gull’ by Jane Ackroyd.

Slightly bonkers window display on Ludgate Hill …

A seat called The Friendly Blob in Bow Churchyard …

You can read more about it here …

Another seat from the Festival installed nearby …

I enjoyed reading this ‘correspondence’ …

Great flower display work by our car park attendants (the origins of the boxes say much about the drinking habits in our block) …

I just had to publish this again …

Sweet message left outside Waitrose …

It’s a bit disconcerting when you visit the Museum of London and see an item you once wore when it was the height of fashion …

Remind you of anyone? …

Big nose at St Pancras …

For a moment I thought this sign was aimed at a guy called Graham … duh!

Wig shop ladies …

A little bit scary, I think …

I’ve seen similar plaques all over London. But then, I suppose, a time traveller would have ‘touched down’ in numerous places …

Humour in Highgate Cemetery – Better a spectacular failure than a benign success

The final chapter

Unequivocal statement …

Pimlico Plumbers registration plates – a small collection …

A timely message from the Clerkenwell Road Chiropractic Clinic …

Another nice suggestion for these difficult times …

Finally, two important dates for your diary.

Firstly, an exciting new installation created by my friend Natalie Robinson commences this Sunday, 5th September. The display is based on her body of work  ‘Reflection: what lies beneath – new maps’  and will be part of the Totally Thames 2021 Festival until the 30th.

You can find details of her display here and its digital counterpart here.

Secondly, the wonderful Whitcross Street Party is on again – see you there!

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

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

Some mysteries, solved and unsolved … from strange street markings to wandering gravestones.

One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I began to write about the City was to continually look up and it’s true to say that I have often been surprised by what I have observed – from the Cornhill Devils to Mercer Maidens to a beautiful lighthouse on, of all places, Moorgate.

It’s also true to say, however, that looking down can be just as interesting.

Like me, you must have occasionally wondered what symbols like these painted on roads and pavements actually signify. I found this nice collection at the east end of Carter Lane …

Well, wonder no more, all the answers are here. For example …

Not surprisingly, and used in warning signs the world over, red paint denotes electricity. Thus red lines show where electricity cables run and mean that anyone digging there must do so with extreme caution.

White is like a little Post-It note for future contractors …

Blue is usually for water pipes …

Yellow refers to all things gas …

A growing hue in the pavement-marking business is green, the colour of cable communications, which includes town and city CCTV networks and cable television lines …

And finally some others in orange …

All are explained in this fascinating article entitled ‘What do those squiggles on the pavement actually mean? from which I have drawn extensively for this week’s blog.

Incidentally, whilst on Carter Lane I briefly looked up and was puzzled by the small plaque on the left of the parish boundary mark …

According to a document on the Essex Fire Brigade web site, FP stands for Fire Plug. Apparently in the early days of the fire service, and when many underground water pipes were made out of wood, firemen would dig down to the water main and bore a small, circular hole in the pipe to obtain a supply of water to fight the fire.

When finished, they would put a wooden plug into the hole, and leave an FP plate on a nearby wall to alert future firefighters that a water main with a plug already existed.

When wooden pipes were replaced by cast iron pipes in the 19th century, workmen would often bore a small hole in the pipe and fit with a wooden plug when they saw an FP plate. This would later be replaced with the Fire Hydrant method, which would be identified by a large H. Many thanks to the London Inheritance blog for this information.

Looking down can be a bit addictive and another puzzle it presented me with were these ‘V’- shaped incisions into kerb stones. I found a number of examples in EC1.

On Old Street …

Look carefully and you can see there are two of them.

And Dufferin Street …

And Roscoe Street …

Discovering what they might mean proved rather difficult and I entered a whole new world when I started my research. Look at this article entitled The World of Carvings and Stories and click on some of the useful links. I shall continue to look down and see if I encounter any more.

In last week’s blog I spoke of a mystery connected to these two gravestones in the old parish churchyard of St Ann Blackfriars in Church Entry (EC4V 5HB) …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the headstone alongside Thomas’s …

It reads as follows …

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

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

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

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

That’s all for this week – I shall continue to try to solve the mysteries I have written about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early morning colours, reflections and shadows …

A fiery, dramatic sunset reflection …

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

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

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

Now for some more colour.

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

Modern architects seem to be using colour more adventurously …

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

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

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

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

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

Time for some shapes and shadows.

No one does symmetry quite like Mother Nature …

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

Practicality combined with aesthetic beauty …

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

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

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

More morning shadows …

A gentle curve …

And seen from below …

And two more in sync …

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

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

Finally, ‘Sunflower Surprise’ …

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

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

A visit to the Monster Supplies store (and some interesting sights on Hoxton Street).

Every now and then I head a short distance out of the City and look in at my favourite store – Hoxton Street Monster Supplies (N1 6PJ). A location hiding a fascinating and important secret which will be revealed later …

You know you are just about to visit somewhere special before you even go through the door. What kind of a place has a dispenser outside offering you free poems?

And what kind of creatures need this guidance to remind them of social distancing?

No need to worry about going in – they have the appropriate licences …

Glancing through the window, some of the merchandise looks decidedly … er … odd …

On the packed shelves inside you will find lots of items that will give pleasure to yourself and any monsters you know (both little and grown up). There are, for example …

Even non-flying reptiles love Dragon Treats but caution is needed with the Guts and Garlic Chutney – as the label warns, it is definitely not suitable for vampires.

Originally made for Banshees, these Banshee Balls have brought soothing relief to humans too …

These days sensible monsters regularly sanitise …

Even if you didn’t enter the shop with a vague sense of unease, you can leave with one …

A notice at the counter gives a clue as to what this very special place is all about …

Behind a secret, cunningly camouflaged door, wonderful things happen (staff will grudgingly show you the door if you promise not to eat them when they emerge from behind the counter).

The shop supports the fantastic work undertaken by my favourite charity, The Ministry of Stories. Co-founded by author Nick Hornby in 2010, the charity’s mission is to develop self-respect and communication skills through innovative writing programmes and one-to-one mentoring. Its clients are children living in under-resourced communities and its work is conducted both in schools and at the dedicated writing centre behind the secret door in the shop.

Do read more on their fascinating website : https://ministryofstories.org/

I have seen some of the results of their work and it has been absolutely extraordinary. They are literally changing children’s lives for the better. If you like what you see maybe you will be kind enough to make a donation – all charities have been finding the last year difficult.

Or, visit the shop and stock up on unusual treats.

Opening times are:

  • Thursday 1pm-5pm
  • Friday 1pm-5pm
  • Saturday 11am-5pm
  • Closed Sun-Wed

The website will give you much more information : https://www.monstersupplies.org/pages/about-us

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies was recently voted ‘No. 1 Kids’ Shop in London’ by Time Out Magazine – which was weird, because we are self-evidently a shop for monsters’.

You’ll see some interesting sights as you walk up Hoxton Street from the junction with Old Street.

A short way along on the left, at the entrance to Hoxton Square, is this piece of street art …

A few yards away is another work by the same artist but I can’t quite make out the signature …

Chivalry is not dead.

Keep walking north and check out this beautiful little garden, created in memory of Khadija Saye who, along with her mother, Mary Mendy, was tragically killed in the Grenfell Tower fire …

I wonder how much longer these old business premises will remain untouched. The firm was run by the wonderfully named Lazarus Lambert until it closed in 2002. ‘JFB 1892’ is etched into the concrete brackets …

I like this retro local business sign. The store stocks ‘actually everything’ …

That’s all for now.

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

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

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 …

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

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

Street art in and around Brick Lane.

In my blog a few weeks ago some of you will remember that I wrote about this pair of doors in Fournier Street …

Much street art is constantly being painted or pasted over. For example, this is what the doors looked like in April 2018 …

I was inspired to go in search of what else had been created nearby and these pictures are the result of my wanderings.

I’ll start in Princelet Street with a work by the famous street artist Stik …

Entitled A Couple Hold Hands in the Street, it shows a woman in a niqab holding hands with a second stick figure. It was painted in 2010 and you can read more about the artist in this fascinating article in Christie’s magazine.

Local people are also very fond of this Hanbury Street bird …

The work is by the Belgian street artist Roa. His intention had been to paint a heron but, after being asked if it was a crane by Bengali people – for whom the crane is a sacred bird – he morphed his bird into a crane to best complement its location on the wall of an Indian restaurant. Read more here about The Return of Roa by The Gentle Author.

To the left of the crane is a bearskin-hatted guardsman break dancing …

Here he is ‘right’ way up …

It’s by the Argentinian painter Martin Ron who is based in Buenos Aires.

There were bound to be a few political points being made …

This made me laugh – could it be Tintin and his dog Snowy doing some clandestine paint spraying? …

The ‘No place for hate’ rabbit pops up a lot …

Layers and layers of street artist paste-ups cover walls …

Picking out individual works is fun and quite absorbing …

I have been trying to identify all the artists but still have some research to do with regard to these distinctive portraits …

Brick Lane looks a bit sad at the moment with the restaurants either closed or open for take-away orders only but the art certainly brightens everything up and I shall be going back to watch it continually develop.

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

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

Hands, Lions and Sphinxes … Spitalfields doors and their knockers.

Writing this blog has led me to research some pretty unusual things and doorknockers must rate highly on the list.

What prompted my interest were the hands I encountered when I was wandering around the elegant houses on Elder, Fournier, Wilkes, Folgate and Princelet Streets. The area is well known as where Huguenot and other master silk weavers set up in business when they fled persecution in the late 17th century. Door knockers shaped as women’s hands proliferate, this one is wearing a bracelet …

Some are older and more worn than others …

These three are emerging from a lacy cuff and all are wearing a ring. In the second two the bracelet surrounds the cuff …

This one is on a door that has become a piece of artwork …

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_6051-660x1024.jpeg

Door knockers are still being manufactured today and researching the origins of their design has been a bit tricky because most of the published history appears on sales sites. Manufacturers may have a bit of a vested interest in making their wares as intriguing as possible.

Anyway, the consensus seems to be that the hand is the Hamsa, or Hand of Fatima, a symbol of protection which originates in Islam (Fatima was a daughter of Mohammed) but has since been adopted by Judaism and Christianity to ward off evil forces.

Incidentally, I only came across one man’s hand but it belonged to a very famous person. Known as a ‘Wellington’, it was invented in 1814 by David Bray, a London ironmonger. His sales pitch was that it represented …

The Hand of our immortal Hero grasping the Wreath of Victory, and the Baton of Field Marshal, as being the highest rank that can be conferred on military fame: the Lion’s face represents British valour overpowering the arms of Tyranny and Usurpation.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_6084-733x1024.jpeg

Another ‘Wellington’ …

The following are described in catalogues as ‘Doctors door knockers’ since apparently they indicated a doctor’s house where medical assistance could be found in an emergency. One variety has (of course) been named ‘The Watson’ …

Lions are popular, symbolising protection …

This door also has an old-fashioned bell mechanism …

Sphinx versions are available …

Or ladies that are just decorative …

Some doors have seen better days and are untouched as yet by Messrs Farrow & Ball …

I loved this one, I think it represents a dolphin …

I deliberately haven’t specified on what streets these particular knockers can be found so you can have the pleasure of wandering around and finding them yourself. Elder, Fournier, Wilkes, Folgate and Princelet are all close to one another and easy to find. Or keep your eyes open for upcoming walking tours with Look up London.

If you are interested in researching this further just search Google using ‘door knockers’ (make sure you include the word ‘door’!). If you haven’t already had enough of doors have a look at these earlier blogs …

That Rings a Bell

City of London Doors and Doorways

More City Doors and Doorways

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

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

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!

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

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

Christmas Lights and Trees!

I love Christmas, and one of its features that I like best is the efforts made in the City to celebrate the season using lights and trees.

I must admit, I was a bit worried that this year would be a bit of a disappointment in view of the fact that significantly fewer people are travelling here for work or leisure. However, this was not the case and I have been wandering around taking in the work organisations have put in to cheer us up and this week’s blog aims to recognise their achievements.

I’ll start outside one of my favourite places, St Paul’s Cathedral …

Thousands of little lights are embedded in Christmas tree foliage attached to a cone-shaped infrastructure.

One New Change has done a great job with ceiling lights …

And a magnificent ‘tree’ …

If you’re going to advertise Covid tests you might as well make the message more cheerful by surrounding it with decorations …

Moor House on London Wall seen from the Barbican Highwalk …

The Dion Bar and Restaurant at St Paul’s has put together a nice display …

‘Welcome to 88 Wood Street’ …

This one cheers you up when you go shopping …

The folk at 5 Aldermanbury Square have gone to town with four trees, these are two of them …

I like this display too …

Look at that seat on the left. There must be a company that specialises in manufacturing ‘odd looking uncomfortable seats for Reception areas’. This is the ‘Victorian bathtub’ look.

Trees always appear nicer if there are a few parcels scattered around their base. This one is at number 10 Gresham Street …

I thought this new Reception area at 91 Gresham Street looked very smart, even though their tree is a bit tucked away at the back on the right …

This one at City Point looked a bit sad, standing on its own with no other furniture …

The Shard is currently blue in honour of NHS workers …

I think this will change tomorrow (Friday 11th) to a more traditional display.

And finally three from the Barbican Estate. Reception at Cromwell Tower …

At Lauderdale …

and at Shakespeare (I love the little figures) …

Have your thinking caps ready because next week’s blog is the CHRISTMAS QUIZ!

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

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

My attempt to cheer you up if you’re a bit fed up!

These really are strange times and so this week I have been browsing my photo library for images that made me smile. Apologies to Instagram followers since some of them have appeared there already.

First of all, a reminder that there is a market for almost anything …

A tattooed angel has appeared in Whitecross Street …

She replaces the cherubs that were assembling a bazooka …

I wonder what was special about these girls …

I remember when many schools had one of these living on the premises …

I always think ‘man struggling with golf umbrella’ …

Incidentally, this one either means watch out for elderly people or beware of pickpockets …

Cute garden furniture …

And more – even the dustpan is smiling …

Eclectic windowsill collection …

If you are looking for smart garden furniture there is this great stall in Kings Lynn. What about the duck pushing a wheelbarrow? …

Sadly poetic closure notice …

Coffee shop humour …

A witty licence plate from Pimlico Plumbers …

And another …

And yet more …

Suited and Booted tailors in Moorgate. ‘It’s all gonna end in tiers (or with a vaccine)’ …

But this chap seems to be doing OK. I wonder what he advises on …

A sealed door on St John’s Gate Clerkenwell. I don’t think the monks were tiny, just that the level of the street has risen …

The Stag at The Jugged Hare bar and restaurant is very angry about being in Tier 2 …

I have never, ever seen a dog dressed like this. ‘Please mum, I need to go to the loo’ …

Rainbow and red crane combo …

Yet another spooky clothes model to add to the collection …

Finally, I make no apology for including this picture again. It had been raining and this pigeon was drying his feathers and warming his bottom on a spotlight. He is doing this whilst half asleep and balanced on one leg …

Hope these cheered you up a bit if you needed it – I enjoyed putting the selection together.

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

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

Another aimless wander – horses, pigeons and quad bikes

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

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

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

Watching out over a very quiet City …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A closer view …

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

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

These merge nicely with the floral decorated stonework …

Finally, a few quirky items.

Caught in mid-air – Parkour at the Barbican …

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

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

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

More pics from my Instagram collection

I set up my Instagram account because I found I was taking more pictures outside the City and also because some City images didn’t fit into any neat category. You will find details of how to follow me at the end of the blog. Some of the other pictures here I just took for fun.

I hope you enjoy them – I’ll start with evidence as to how the local animals are practicing social distancing …

I love ducks. These two were fast asleep on the Barbican Highwalk in the early morning …

Still there later on (I didn’t wake them up). They are completely relaxed about having their picture taken and obviously like to strike a pose …

Now that people have deserted the City so have the seagulls. This is good news for the little ducklings who often provided the gulls (and the visiting heron) with a tasty snack. There are quite a few families now growing up quickly …

Mum keeps a watchful eye.

Another bird, a moody parrot near Whitecross Street …

I managed to snatch this picture of the Red Arrows flypast accompanied by their French equivalent the Patrouille de France (PAF). They took to the skies on June 18th to mark the 80th anniversary of a famous wartime speech by General Charles de Gaulle …

Still on an aviation theme, every now and then a Chinook helicopter practices landing in the Honourable Artillery Company’s field just off Moorgate. The noise sounds like you are in a Vietnam War movie …

What about this enigmatic message on an optician’s window on London Wall …

On the other hand, I thought these models in an Eastcheap shop looked really creepy …

Like creatures out of a Doctor Who episode.

I suppose these bony teaching aids glimpsed through a Bart’s Hospital window are also a bit disturbing …

High spot of the easing of lockdown – getting a haircut …

Second high spot …

I do like to tuck into a Penguin …

Oh how the simple pleasures of life take on a new importance when you are deprived of them!

The hotel I stayed at in Eastbourne last week had some very interesting items displayed on the walls. I liked these pictures of The Beatles in their early days but they made me feel a bit sad and nostalgic too …

To my delight the hotel also had a reproduction of a very early map of London …

Note particularly Smooth Field and the three dimensional representations of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

This was fascinating …

The picture is entitled …

Ice Carnival held at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, 31st October 1930 in the presence of the Prince of Wales with Mrs Wallis Simpson who was always seated three places from him in public.

There was some nice stained glass too …

The hotel is the Langham and I highly recommend it.

Our Car Park attendant and concierge has green fingers and has improved the environment immeasurably …

I like these golden lions outside the Law Society …

Royal Wedding teabags are still available at this shop on Ludgate Hill …

Hurry hurry hurry while stocks last!

Pharmacy humour …

Another pop group caught my eye – a picture in a music shop window of the Rolling Stones in May 1965. Who would have thought they would still be touring 55 years later (apart from poor Brian Jones, of course) …

And finally you will be relieved to hear …

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

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

St Sepulchre’s Church and Newgate Gaol

For centuries there was a close connection between the church and the notorious prison just across the road from it (EC1A 2DQ).

Demolished in 19o2 and standing where the Old Bailey is now, there had been a prison on the site since the 12th century. Over time the building had been consistently altered physically, but what did not change was its reputation for brutality, filth, sickness and death.

Newgate Gaol shortly before demolition.

The gallows loomed over the justice system. The first permanent version was set up at Tyburn in 1571 (roughly where Marble Arch is today) and prisoners were taken there through the streets from Newgate attracting vast crowds of spectators. The journey could take up to three hours with the carts stopping at taverns on the way where popular convicts were treated to drinks – sometimes the condemned men shouted ‘ I’ll buy you a pint on the way back’.

Getting ready for Tyburn ‘customers’. The Tyburn Tree by Wayne Haag from the Hyde Park Barracks Mural Project, Sydney, Australia.

After execution, which was often more like slow strangulation, fights frequently broke out over ownership of the body with relatives and friends fighting surgeons who were promised ten bodies a year for dissection.

While researching I came across this poem by John Taylor (1578-1653) …

I Have heard sundry men oft times dispute
Of trees, that in one year will twice bear fruit.
But if a man note Tyburn, ‘will appear,
That that’s a tree that bears twelve times a year.
I muse it should so fruitful be, for why
I understand the root of it is dry,
It bears no leaf, no bloom, or no bud,
The rain that makes it fructify is blood.
I further note, the fruit which it produces,
Doth seldom serve for profitable uses:
Except the skillful Surgeons industry
Do make Dissection of Anatomy.

To stamp out disorders, the Tyburn gallows was demolished in 1783 and executions moved to a spot outside Newgate itself …

A hanging outside Newgate in the early 1800s – Wikipedia.

Remarkably, a part of the old prison wall can still be seen at the end of the beautifully named Amen Corner, off the equally prettily named Ave Maria Lane (EC4M 7AQ) …

Amen Corner is now private property so this picture comes from the Internet.

Also, one of the doors condemned prisoners walked through to their execution is kept at the Museum of London …

Picture copyright Museum of London.

St Sepulchre’s Church today …

Look out for the sundial …

It is on the parapet above south wall of the nave and is believed to date from 1681. It is made of stone painted blue and white with noon marked by an engraved ‘X’ and dots marking the half hours. I wondered if the Newgate executioner might have taken the time from this dial to help him decide when to start the journey west to the gallows.

Incidentally, I have written about City Sundials before in a blog entitled We are but shadows. Also, on the corner of the churchyard, there is a famous drinking fountain which you can read about here.

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 …

Includes my reflection … whoops!

Adjacent to the bell is this helpful notice …

The last public hanging in England took place outside Newgate on 26 May 1868, the condemned man being the Fenian Michael Barrett who had been convicted of mass murder.

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, to give it it’s full name, has other fascinating features which I shall write about in a future blog.

Remember you can follow me on Instagram :

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

Things that made me smile

It’s not much fun at the moment is it with a virus to worry about. So I thought I would pop in some light-hearted pictures this week and maybe cheer you up a bit.

First up, a brilliant busker collects donations using up-to-date technology …

Listen to him and his ‘backing singers’ by Googling ‘Bohemian Rhapsody Steve Aruni on YouTube’. I promise you will enjoy it.

A farmer chases his pigs across the front of The George pub with the Royal Courts of Justice reflected in the window …

Nearby a monk pours some ale into a jug. I think that’s his faithful dog next to him – I sincerely hope it’s not a rat …

Bidfood vans! I regularly see them delivering around the City and love the edible landscapes portrayed on the sides.

An orange sunrise between the cheese tower blocks …

A tranquil lake with bread hills and cauliflower clouds …

I know it’s not a Banksy, but this little flower cheered me up …

Colourful street art on Rivington Street …

Healthy eating options on Fleet Street …

‘Let’s ADORE and ENDURE each other’ on Great Eastern Street …

Postman, biplane and pigeon mural next to the Postal Museum …

Yes, the pretty guardian angels are still there on their swings opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

I smiled at this at first …

…and then thought: ‘Hey, writing on seats isn’t good for them either!’

And finally, one of my favourite sculptures, Leaping Hare on Crescent Bell by the late Barry Flanagan on Broadgate Circle …

Remember you can follow me on Instagram :

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

Some pics from my Instagram collection

I set up my Instagram account because I found myself taking quite a few pictures totally unrelated to the City of London and I wanted a home for them.

They are quite lighthearted and I am publishing some here in the hope that it will encourage more of you to follow me on Instagram. You’ll find the address at the end of the blog.

I’ll start with a ‘heads up!’

Kilburn High Road wig shop …

A hairpiece for all styles and colours …

A selection of heads in an architectural salvage shop at King’s Cross …

Some fun street art …

Camden Town

An elegant lady on Highgate Hill …

And another …

‘Big girls need big diamonds’.

Street art meets a spinal column on Old Street …

Tasteful Shoreditch poetry …

On Rivington street …

Rather complex decision tree on Great Eastern Street …

More straightforward decision tree on Old street …

‘Let’s ADORE and ENDURE each other’ …

Artwork by Stik …

On Holloway Road, Dick Whittington strides out back to a modern looking City …

Mural at the London Postal Museum …

And a strongly worded notice on the wall inside where the railway workshops used to be …

The bear necessities at Spitalfields Market …

And nearby, a shop that once satisfied stallholders’ needs …

This injured kestrel found a friend near Guildhall …

And still on an animal theme. Where do Barbican ducks go shopping?

Waitrose of course …

Scrapyard sculpture …

Finally, a few pictures from a visit to Malaga …

‘Mmmmmm ice cream …. yummy!’

A water-themed painting next to a dry river course …

Picasso’s birthplace …

He was a great fan of the bullfight and inside is a photo of him catching a hat the matador has thrown to him. Lucky photographer – right place, right time …

You can follow me on Instagram at …

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

Some unusual artifacts in City Churches

I find great pleasure visiting the City churches and often come across unusual artifacts that spark my curiosity and I have put a selection together for this week’s blog. Incidentally, there are still an amazing 47 churches within the Square Mile and I have not yet visited all of them!

As you approach the door to St Magnus the Martyr on Lower Thames Street you are walking on the paving that once led to the original London Bridge between 1171 and 1831 (EC3R 6DN). Inside is this beautiful scale model of the bridge …

Over nine hundred tiny people are crammed onto the bridge, amongst them a miniature King Henry V, who can be seen processing towards the City of London from the Southwark side of the bridge …

Read more on the excellent London Walking Tours blog from which these pictures were taken.

As an added bonus you can check out the 17th century parish fire engine just inside the main entrance …

Lovat Lane, which runs between Eastcheap and Lower Thames Street, reminds one of the old City with its cobbled surface and narrow winding shape …

St Mary-At-Hill EC3R 8EE

If you pop into St Mary-At-Hill church you will immediately encounter on your left this fascinating representation of Resurrection on the Day of Judgment

Christ holding a banner stands amidst clouds. Satan, a figure with large claws, is being trampled under his feet

It’s a very unusual example of late 17th century English religious carving and most likely dates from the 1670s. Its carver is unknown, but it is known that the prominent City mason Joshua Marshall was responsible for the rebuilding of the church in 1670-74 and his workshop may have produced the relief.  Exactly where it was originally positioned is uncertain; most likely it stood over the entrance to the parish burial ground and was brought inside in more recent times …

You can see open coffins among the chaos
The winged Archangel Michael helps people rise again

If you find yourself in St Paul’s Cathedral do seek out the only statue to survive the ravages of the Great Fire of 1666 which totally destroyed the Cathedral’s predecessor.

Nicholas Stone’s effigy of the poet and preacher John Donne is a remarkable survival of seventeenth-century English sculpture. Donne is shown standing, perched on a funerary urn, and enveloped in a body-hugging burial shroud which has been gathered into two decorative ruffs at the head and feet. Based on a drawing done when he was dying, and at his request, consider the face, with its shuttered eyelids, raffish beard, and benign, half-smiling expression.

The urn still shows scorch marks from the fire …

I haven’t had a proper long look at St Mary Abchurch yet but did manage to call in for a few minutes to take a (rather hurried) picture of this unusual Poor Box …

You need three keys to open it, one being inserted horizontally.

And I like this old box outside the little museum at St Bartholomew’s Hospital …

Rather a strangely placed apostrophe, I think.

And now on to one of my favourite churches, St Vedast-alias-Foster (EC2V 6HH).

You enter through early 17th century oak doors that have remarkably survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz. Beyond the foyer you find yourself facing the font and its beautifully carved wooden cover. Originally from St Anne and St Agnes, the font was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and the cover is by Wren’s frequent collaborator, the master woodcarver Grinling Gibbons

Inside St Martin within Ludgate on Ludgate Hill (EC4M 7DE) I found both a fascinating chandelier and a very unusual font. There is a large entrance lobby (designed to reduce traffic noise inside the church) and you then enter one of Sir Christopher Wren’s least altered interiors (1677-1686) with fine dark woodwork which largely escaped the Blitz.

Look up and you will see this beautiful chandelier or candelabrum …

It’s still lit by candles.

As one commentator has noticed, it looks more like something you would find in a country house or a ballroom. The candles were not lit when I visited but I am sure that when they are, on a dark morning or evening, one must get a real feel for what it was like to worship here in earlier centuries. It came to the church via St Vincent’s Cathedral in the West Indies, probably in 1777: a reminder of the links between the City’s trading economy and the British Empire overseas.

And now to the very unusual font …

The bowl is white marble and the wooden supporting plinth is painted to look like stone. It dates from 1673, predating the church, and was previously located in a ‘tabernacle’ used by the congregation during the rebuilding.

It contains a Greek palindrome copied from the Cathedral of St Sophia in Constantinople:

Niyon anomhma mh monan oyin

(Cleanse my sin and not my face only)

And I am indebted, as I often am, to the blogger A London Inheritance who pointed out in his latest publication something I missed.

The plaque records a charity set up by Elizabethan fish monger Thomas Berry, or Beri. He is seen on the left of the plaque, and to the right are ten lines of text, followed by two lines which describe the charity:

“XII Penie loaves, to XI poor foulkes. Gave every Sabbath Day for aye”

The plaque is dated 1586, and the charity was set up in his will of 1601 which left his property in Edward Street, Southwark to St Mary Magdalen, with the instruction that the rent should be used to fund the loaves. The recipients of the charity were not in London, but were in Walton-on-the-Hill (now a suburb of Liverpool), a village that Berry seems to have had some connection with. The charity included an additional sum of 50s a year to fund a dinner for all the married people and householders of the town of Bootle.

The interesting lines of text are above those which describe the charity. Thomas seems to have spelled his last name either Berry or Beri and these ten lines of anti-papist verse include his concealed name.

St Martin Ludgate

And finally, why would a church display an old-fashioned telephone under a glass case?

One day in 1936 a young priest officiated at his first funeral – a 14 year old girl who had killed herself because, when her periods started, she thought it was a sign of a sexually transmitted disease. That there seemed to have been no one she could talk to had a profound effect on him, but it was not until 18 years later that, as he put it,

I read somewhere there were three suicides a day in Greater London. What were they supposed to do if they didn’t want a Doctor or Social Worker … ? What sort of a someone might they want?

He looked at his phone, ‘DIAL 999 for Fire, Police or Ambulance’ it said …

There ought to be an emergency number for suicidal people, I thought. Then I said to God, be reasonable! Don’t look at me… I’m possibly the busiest person in the Church of England.

When the priest, Chad Varah, was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen Walbrook in the summer of 1953 he knew that the time was right for him to launch what he called a ‘999 for the suicidal’. He was, in his own words, ‘a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone’. The first call to the new service was made on 2nd November 1953 and this date is recognised as Samaritans’ official birthday.

And this is the original telephone …

Remember you can follow me on Instagram :

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

Health & Safety in Victorian times

You only need to visit the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park to see evidence of the dangers that people were exposed to in Victorian times.

Here is the man we have to thank for this window on the past …

George Frederic Watts was a famous Victorian artist and this picture is a self-portrait. He first suggested the memorials we see today in 1887 but the idea was not taken up until 1898 when the vicar of St Botolph’s church offered him this site in Postman’s Park (EC1A 7BT). There Watts’ ambition to commemorate ‘likely to be forgotten heroes’ came to fruition and when the park was officially opened on 30 July 1900 there were already four tablets in place.

Sixty two people feature on the memorial today which is housed in a wooden loggia …

I find that their stories still evoke a range of emotions, particularly ones of sadness and curiosity, which left me wanting to know more about these people, their lives and the manner of their deaths. There are also clues as to the nature of society and work at that time along with the quality of healthcare.

We are reminded, for example, that horses played a tremendous part in work practices, transport, leisure and, sadly, war. It’s estimated, for example, that there were about 3.3 million horses in late Victorian Britain and in 1900 about a million of these were working horses. Of the 62 people commemorated here, five died as a result of an incident involving horses and I shall write about two of them.

Here is the first mention of horses on the wall …

William Drake earned his living as a carriage driver and on this occasion his passenger was one of the most famous sopranos of her day, a lady called Thérèse Tietjens. The breaking of the carriage pole caused panic among the horses and they reared out of control. In fighting to control them, Drake received a severe kick to his right knee which subsequently resulted in the septicaemia that led to his death on April 8th. A message was passed to the coroner at the inquest that ‘those dependent on the deceased would be amply cared for by Madame Tietjens’. Notwithstanding this, Drake was buried at the expense of the parish in a common grave in Brompton Cemetery, although there is evidence that his widow did receive an annuity from somewhere.

Elizabeth Boxall died after being kicked by a runaway carthorse as she pulled a small child out of its way …

Her brave act actually took place in July 1887 but over the next eleven months poor Elizabeth’s health deteriorated. Part of her leg was amputated in September and a further part (up to her hip) in January 1888, her condition being complicated by a diagnosis of cancer. Her parents were distraught by her death and the way she had been treated by the medical profession – for example, the first amputation was carried out without her or her parents’ permission. ‘They regularly butchered her at that hospital’ her father exclaimed at the inquest and the jury found that shock from the second operation was the cause of death. No one from the hospital attended the inquest but the House Governor at the London Hospital disputed the finding in a letter to the press.

Still on a medical theme, the highly contagious infection known as diptheria features twice on the memorials. Now extremely rare due to vaccination programmes, it was once a frequent killer of small children and also posed a danger to physicians such as Samuel Rabbeth …

I have been able to locate a picture of him thanks to the excellent London Walking Tours blog

Dr Samuel Rabbeth (1858 – 1884) from The Illustrated London News 15th November 1884
Copyright, The British Library Board

On October 10th the doctor was treating a four year old patient who was in danger of asphyxiation as diptheria often resulted in a membrane blocking the airways. The standard treatment of tracheotomy had been performed but to no avail and Rabbeth performed the more risky procedure of sucking on the tracheotomy tube to remove the obstruction. Unfortunately in doing so he contracted the infection himself and died on 20th October (not the 26th as shown on the plaque). There was some (fairly muted) criticism of his actions by doctors who believed he acted recklessly, although from the most honourable of motives.

He has a fine gravestone in Barnes Cemetery …

Dr Lucas was infected as a result of an unfortunate accident …

He was in the process of administering an anaesthetic to a child with diptheria in order that a tracheotomy could be carried out. The child coughed or sneezed in his face but, instead of delaying to clean himself up, which may have endangered the child’s life, he continued and as a result became infected. He died within a week.

I haven’t been able to find an image of him or his final resting place but a poem written in his memory was published in a number of newspapers and you can read it in full here.

Thomas Griffin was engaged to be married on 16 April 1899 and on 11 April he had travelled to Northampton to discuss arrangements with his family and then back home to Battersea for work the next day. He expected that by the end of the week he would be married, but that was not to be, and by the end of the following day he was dead …

An inquest on 17 April was told that, after an explosion in the refinery boiler room, the door had been closed and the men told to keep out. Griffin, who had been evacuated to safety, suddenly cried out ‘My mate! My mate!’ and before anyone could stop him had disappeared into the boiler room. Terribly scalded all over his body he died later that day. The coroner lamented that …

… the conduct of a man like him deserves to be recorded. No doubt there are heroes in everyday life, but they do not come to the front and so we do not hear of them.

Unbeknown to the coroner, Watts had been collecting newspaper cuttings of heroic acts for years and added Griffin’s story to the growing archive. So it came to pass that Thomas Griffin was among the first four people to be commemorated upon the newly opened memorial.

And finally …

One might get the impression that this gentleman was particularly worthy of recognition because the person he saved was not only a stranger but also a foreigner. This would be a shame if it detracts from a very brave act and a tragic one also since, according to Cambridge’s brother Royston, John need not have perished. He told the Nottingham Evening Post

My brother, who was a very good swimmer, saw while bathing an unknown person drowning, and swam out to her assistance. The bathing boat rescued the lady, and the other bather, but the boatmen declined to go out again, although we implored them to do so, and offered them payment, until they were ordered out by officials. It was then, of course, too late.

I have written in great detail about the following four heroes in an earlier blog which you can find (along with pictures of three of them) here

I am indebted for the background research used in this blog to the historian John Price and his incredibly interesting book Heroes of Postman’s Park – Heroic Self-Sacrifice in Victorian London. You will find details of how to purchase your copy here.

Remember you can follow me on Instagram …

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

A plethora of plaques

Plaques abound in the City and I thought it might be fun to write here about some of the more unusual or interesting ones I have come across.

First up is this example, now rather tucked away in a corner at Liverpool Street railway station. It’s underneath the main memorial to the First World War dead, which was unveiled by this gentleman in 1922 …

Wilson was assassinated outside his house in Eaton Place at about 2:20 pm. Still in full uniform, he was shot six times, two bullets in the chest proving fatal. The two perpetrators, IRA volunteers Reginald Dunne and Joseph O’Sullivan, shot two police officers and a chauffeur as they attempted to escape but were surrounded by a hostile crowd and arrested after a struggle. Interestingly both were former British army officers and O’Sullivan had lost a leg at Ypres, his subsequent disability hindering their escape. After a trial lasting just three hours they were convicted of murder and hanged at Wandsworth gaol on 10 August that year – justice was certainly delivered swiftly in those days. No organisation claimed responsibility for Wilson’s murder.

Until researching this event I hadn’t realised that, in all, about 210,000 Irishmen served in the British forces during World War One. Since there was no conscription, about 140,000 of these joined during the war as volunteers and about 35,000 of them died.

A brave doctor from an earlier war is commemorated in the church of St Bartholomew the Less, his actions and character described in poignant detail …

His former medical contemporaries at St Bartholomew’s Hospital have set up this tablet to keep in memory the bright example of ARTHUR JERMYN LANDON Surgeon Army Medical Department who, while continuing to dress the wounded amid a shower of bullets in the action on Majuba Hill, was in turn mortally wounded. His immediate request to his assistants “I am dying do what you can for the wounded” was characteristic of his unselfish disposition. His habitual life was expressed in the simple grandeur of his death. He was born at Brentwood Essex 29th June 1851. Died two days after the action at Mount Prospect South Africa 1st March 1881.

A plaque of a totally different nature is affixed to a hotel in Carter Lane …

The plaque was the result of a long campaign by a City grandee called Joseph Newbon who was a great believer in making sure that historical events connected with the City were properly commemorated.

Ironically, the letter written to Shakespeare by Richard Quiney (asking to borrow £30, about £3,700 in today’s money) was never dispatched and was found among his papers after he died.

Here it is …

You can find a transcript here, along with a lot more information, on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website.

The plaque was originally on the wall of a major Post Office, hence the reference to the Postmaster General. Now demolished, its imposing entrance has been incorporated into the hotel …

Whilst on the subject of The Bard, this magnificent bust is in St Mary Aldermanbury Garden, Love Lane EC2 …

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.

Below the bust is a plaque commemorating 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. There are almost twenty plays by Shakespeare, including The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra, which we would not have at all if it were not for their efforts. Both of them were buried at St Mary’s …

This is what Shakespeare had to say about the churchyards of his day …

‘Tis now the very witching of the night

When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out

Contagion to the world.

(Hamlet’s soliloquy Act 3 Scene 2)

Up until the mid-19th century the City contained numerous churchyards, usually adjacent to a parish church, but these were becoming seriously overcrowded and seen as an obvious threat to health. Not only did the population have to breathe in the ‘odour of the dead’, gravediggers themselves could contract typhus and smallpox from handling diseased corpses.

You can get a sense of how packed the graveyards were if you look at them now and see how much higher than street level some of them still are. For example, here is the view from inside St Olave Hart Street …

Eventually the overcrowding of the dead meant relatively fresh graves were broken into while new ones were being dug, and corpses were dismembered in order to make room for more. Sites were also subject to body snatchers (nicknamed the ‘Resurrection Men’), who sold the corpses on the black market as medical cadavers. The government eventually took action action when a serious cholera epidemic broke out and burial within the City limits was virtually totally prohibited by a series Burial Acts.

The removal of the dead from one churchyard is commemorated here …

A plaque on the wall informs us that ‘the burial ground of the parish church of St. Mary-At-Hill has been closed by order of the respective vestries of the united parishes of St. Mary-At-Hill and Saint Andrew Hubbard with the consent of the rector and that no further interments are allowed therein – Dated this 21st day of June 1846’. Following the closure, all human remains from the churchyard, vaults and crypts were removed and reburied in West Norwood cemetery. You can read more on the excellent London Inheritance blog.

Some bodies remained in place only to be resited for other reasons. In the case of the churchyard of St John the Baptist upon Walbrook it was the construction of the District Line underground railway …

The plaque is in Cloak Lane EC4R 2RU.

There is a fascinating article here about the London Underground’s construction and it’s reported encounters with London’s dead.

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

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

Silver Street itself was annihilated in the Blitz and erased completely by post-war development and traffic planning. The little garden containing the stone is on London Wall at the junction with Noble Street.

I shall end on two more lighthearted notes.

Probably hundreds of people pass through the subway that leads to Mansion House Underground Station every day and don’t notice this old plaque dating from 1913 …

It celebrates not only the opening of the subway but also some brand new Gentlemen’s toilets (hence the involvement of the Public Health Department). ‘Street fouling’ had become a major problem, hence the rather ambiguously worded signs that were once common around London exhorting people to …

In the mid 19th century ideas were being put forward for ‘halting places’ and ‘waiting rooms’ and the City of London installed the first underground ‘Convenience’ outside the Royal Exchange in 1855. It’s still there, completely renovated, and is accessed by tunnels leading to Bank Underground Station. The original toilets were for men only, ladies had to wait another 30 years for their ‘convenience’.

The Mansion House loo is now closed and sealed off but a great example of street level toilet architecture exists on Eastcheap …

I am indebted for much of this information to a lady called Sarah McCabe who made the provision of underground conveniences the subject of her MA dissertation – I highly recommend it.

And finally. I know I have written about this famous cat before but it’s a nice story so I am going to repeat it.

High up on a tiled pillar in Barbican Underground Station is this rather sad little memorial …

For many years Pebbles was a favourite of staff and passengers, often sleeping soundly on top of the exit barriers despite the rush hour pandemonium going on around him. Here is a picture from the wonderfully named Purr’n’Fur website, a great source for moggie-related stories …

Clearly he was greatly missed when he died, as the plaque faithfully records, on 26th May 1997. This was doubly sad because he was due to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award. This was sponsored by Spillers Pet Foods and named after Arthur, a cat they used in their advertising who, I seem to remember, ate with his paws. The Certificate that came with the award is also displayed (the co-winner, the aptly named Barbie, was Pebbles’ companion) …

Pebbles’ posthumous award.

Do remember that you can follow me on Instagram :

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

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!

Do remember that you can follow me on Instagram :

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

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén