Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

Category: Sculpture Page 1 of 2

Aimless wandering!

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

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

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

… and the beast …

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

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

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

It’s home to these Arum Lilies and Irises …

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

Above the coat of arms rests the symbolic Gresham grasshopper …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and their riders.

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

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City children

Not all statues, pictures and memorials in the City are of the ‘great and the good’ – there are quite a few young people represented as well.

For a start, there are the charity school children who wore a striking uniform that confirmed their school’s charity status – hence the name Bluecoat Schools. Blue was chosen since it was once the cheapest dye available. The school buildings often displayed life-size representations of their pupils and these two can now be found outside the church of St Andrew Holborn (EC4A 3AF) …

They depict children attending St Andrew’s Parochial School, founded in 1696 and located in Hatton Garden since 1721. The statues once stood over the Cross Street entrance to the Hatton Street school but were moved here during the church’s restoration after WWII bombing damage.

Sir John Cass’s School at Aldgate also has its little boy and girl statues (C3A 5DE) …

This work outside Liverpool Street Station depicts children from the Kindertransport (EC2M 7PD). I think they are beautifully portrayed, appearing both curious and confident (and one piece of luggage is clearly a violin case) …

Photograph: Robin Coupland. Statue by Frank Meisler (2006).

In 1938 and 1939, nearly ten thousand unaccompanied Jewish children were transported to Britain to escape persecution in their hometowns in Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria. These children arrived at Liverpool Street station to be taken in by British families and foster homes. Often they were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust.

On a modern building in Giltspur Street (EC1A 9DD) a naked boy stands looking upwards with his arms crossed. He is often referred to as The Golden Boy of Pye Corner and he probably started life as a shop sign …

Now he commemorates one of the places where the Great Fire of 1666 was finally halted, and the inscription beneath refers to the belief by some at the time that God was punishing the City for the sin of gluttony. This was also evidenced by the fact that the conflagration started in Pudding Lane!

Despite the reference to gluttony, the little boy is not enormously fat but ‘healthily rotund’, as children or putti tended to be sculpted at that time. Pye (or Pie) Corner, on the other hand, was noted for food shops, particularly at the time of Bartholomew Fair. This annual celebration was finally suppressed in 1855 for ‘encouraging debauchery and public disorder’ and becoming a ‘school of vice which … initiated … youth into the habits of villainy’. The fair had also become one of the year’s great opportunities for pickpockets as well as for prostitutes, who might be found in tents coyly labelled ‘soiled doves’ or in a nearby street appropriately named Cock Lane.

But I digress.

Just behind the Royal Exchange is a work that caused some controversy, the Charity Drinking Fountain (also known as La Maternité) by Aimé-Jules Dalou (1877-9). (EC3V 3NL).

In his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, Philip Ward-Jackson describes the lady as follows:

Despite her casual garb she has a diadem or tiara on her head. With her left arm she enfolds a baby, who she is suckling, whilst with her right she draws to her knee a naked boy, who gazes up at her.

Nearby is a very relaxed George Peabody who I have written about in an earlier blog

Ward-Jackson tells us that the suckling lady’s very authentic exposed breast produced at least one letter of protest to the editor of The Globe. The correspondent urged that ‘common decency’ should be observed and went on …

Do you not think, Sir, that Mr Peabody’s chair should be turned, at least until the delicate operation of ‘lacteal sustenation’ be concluded … or the young woman and youngsters provided with the requisite clothing.

Living in the Appold Street entrance to Exchange Square are The Broad Family (EC2A 2BR) …

Look long enough and you will see mum, dad, a little girl with her ball and the family dog (well I did, anyway). It has just occurred to me that the dog resembles Dr Who’s companion K9.

The little girl’s shoes peep out tantalisingly …

These young folk striding out purposefully are part of the memorial to Christ’s Hospital School which was sited nearby before it relocated to Horsham in 1902 (EC1A 7BA). It shows the pupils developing from street urchins to smart, confident young adults …

I love the ragamuffins at the far end of the sculpture.They seem to be having enormous fun and sport the most extraordinary hairstyles …

As you approach the Bank junction from Cheapside look up and you will see two young boys at either end of the grand building that was once the City headquarters of Midland Bank (1935). The are both struggling with a rather angry looking Goose …

The sculptor was William Reid Dick.

Why a goose? A clue is the ancient name of the street and the goose was a suggestion by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to commemorate its original market function. The building is now a private club and restaurant, called The Ned in Sir Edwin’s honour.

In the Guildhall Art Gallery there is a pretty little girl attending her first sermon …

My First Sermon’ by John Everett Millais

She obviously knows this is an important occasion in her life and sits with her back straight, eyes attentively focused looking ahead. She is the artist’s 5 year old daughter Effie. On seeing it the Archbishop of Canterbury commented …

… our spirits are touched by the playfulness, the innocence, the purity, and … the piety of childhood

In 1864 the artist produced a sequel entitled ‘My Second Sermon’ …

The Archbishop, Charles Longley, was obviously a rather good sport, and when he saw the later picture commented …

… by the eloquence of her silent slumber, (she has) given us a warning of the evil of lengthy sermons and drowsy discourses. Sorry indeed should I be to disturb that sweet and peaceful slumber, but I beg that when she does awake she may be informed who they are who have pointed the moral of her story, have drawn the true inference from the change that has passed over her since she has heard her “first sermon,” and have resolved to profit by the lecture she has thus delivered to them.

I was reminded of this wonderful drawing of a Victorian congregation who are finding the sermon rather heavy going …

In 1995 a skeleton was discovered when excavations were taking place before the construction of 30 St Mary Axe, now often referred to as the Gherkin. The remains were of a young girl aged between 13 and 17 years – her arms were crossed over her body and pottery close by indicated a burial date of between AD 350 and 400.

Having been removed to the Museum of London, she waited patiently until 2007 when the developers of the Gherkin proposed that she be reburied on the site. So, in April of that year, there was a service at St Botolph’s church in Aldgate followed by a procession through the streets before her body was respectfully interred near where it was found. The Lady Mayoress of the City of London was there to spread rose petals on the gravesite, marked with a marble slab decorated with a laurel wreath.

We don’t know her name, or whether she was an original Londoner, but she now rests again 1,600 years after her death in the place that she would have called Londinium.

And finally to one of my favourite places, the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park (EC1A 7BT). I have written before about three of the brave youngsters commemorated there – Alice Ayres, John Clinton and Elizabeth Boxall.

To them I will now add this young man …

While their mum was out running an errand Henry’s two-year-old sister Jessie, intrigued by the glow of a paraffin lamp, managed to clamber up a chair and reach out for it. Tragically, she overturned it and was enveloped in flaming paraffin. Henry rushed to help her, but in tearing off her clothes set fire to himself and both children received severe burns. Jessie survived but Henry died on 5th January – the coroner at his inquest commented ‘it is a sad case, the little fellow was quite a hero’.

That’s all for this week – I hope you enjoyed it even though I have written about some of these subjects before.

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Holborn Viaduct – ladies, lions and ‘maximum bling’

Last week I promised you a bit more about this brilliant Victorian masterpiece of engineering and sculpture.

There are four ladies on the Viaduct representing Fine Art, Science, Agriculture and Commerce.

Fine Art was sculpted by Farmer & Brindley

In her right hand she holds a crayon ‘as drawing is the most essential principal in Design’. Her left hand holds a drawing board with paper pinned to it, which rests on her left thigh. Her left foot rests on an Ionic capital denoting architecture. Behind her to her left is part of a Corinthian column, on the top of which stands a bust of Pallas Athena, ‘as she was the patroness of both the useful and elegant arts’.

Behind the figure’s right foot, a small palette and brushes rest on the base …

Science is also by Farmer & Brindley. She is ‘of more masculine proportions than Fine Art, with a fine penetrating countenance’ …

Her tiara has a star at its centre and stars form the fringe of her robe. She holds in her hand the ‘Governors’ that were used to control steam engines. At her left side stands a tripod on which is placed a terrestrial globe encircled with the Electric Telegraph wire which is connected with a battery.

Around the top of the tripod are the signs of the zodiac ‘indicating Astronomy’ …

Beneath it lie compasses and a crumpled sheet of paper with geometrical drawings, one of them a demonstration of Pythagoras’s theorem (you also get a better view of the battery in this picture) …

Agriculture was sculpted by Henry Bursill

She wears a crown of olives, ‘the emblem of peace’, and there is a decorative band of oak leaves on the fringe of her robe. ‘She turns to Providence with a thankful expression for a beautiful harvest’ and in her right hand she holds a sickle. Beside her left foot is a belt with a sheath, containing a whetstone.

Bursill also sculpted Commerce …

She is shown ‘advancing with right hand outstretched towards mankind in a sign of welcome, whilst in her left she proudly holds gold ingots and coin, the foundation of enterprise and Commerce in the civilized world’. At her feet to her right are two keys along with a parchment showing the City Arms representing ‘the Freedom of the City’ …

Farmer and Brindley are also responsible for the four winged lions …

I love these Atlantes holding up a balcony. They date from 2014 when the north east pavilion was rebuilt …

Here’s one in close up …

In 2013 the Viaduct was repainted and re-gilded with, at the request of the City Conservation Officer, ‘maximum bling’.

You get an idea of how well this was accomplished in this picture. It shows the re-gilded base of one of the lamps, a knight’s helmet and a City dragon …

There is a fascinating article about the work, particularly the gilding, here.

I hope you have enjoyed these two visits to the Viaduct. Again I have been plundering Dr Philip Ward-Jackson’s wonderful book Public Sculpture of the City of London for much of this blog’s detail.

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Holborn Viaduct – not all it seems

I have been out and about again, taking new pictures as I exercise.

Every now and then when researching I find out something I didn’t know that I really should have – more of this later.

Before the Viaduct was built it had become obvious that a flat route between Bank and Holborn had become desperately needed. The hills leading down into the valley were as steep as 1:15 in places and the following passage from the Observer for the 20th November 1864 tells us something of the horrors of horse drawn traffic using this route:

The great traffic of the city of London is from east to west, and to accommodate this there are at present but two leading lines – those by way of Holborn Hill and Fleet Street. The steep ascents of Holborn Hill and Skinner Street are wholly unsuited for the vehicular traffic which passes over them, and no person can pass along these streets without witnessing the delays which are caused, and the wasteful expenditure of horse flesh and the cruelty to animals which the ascent of these streets involve.

Work was started in 1863 and I really like this splendid photograph of the work in progress looking west …

Note the advertisement for the ‘New’ St Pancras Station.

And another view looking south …

The Holborn Viaduct Improvements Committee turned up for a photo shoot …

True top-hatted Victorian Gentlemen. It’s a good composition, isn’t it, with two of them getting their clothes grubby sitting on bricks. An anonymous artisan looks to be doing a bit of work on the balustrade and lamp post to the right.

Queen Victoria arrives at the formal opening on 6 November 1869 …

It has been called ‘The world’s first flyover’.

She killed two birds with one stone by opening Blackfriars Bridge on the same day.

Up until the turn of this century, the north eastern corner of the viaduct was dominated by an early 1950s building called Bath House. You can see its massive scale in this picture …

When it was demolished it was decided that a new staircase building should be constructed in the same style as the old Victorian one that had been lost in wartime bombing (and that it should include a lift).

It was completed in 2014 and here it is, looking white and pristine in my picture …

Not only that, the north west step building (also on the left) is itself relatively new, being completed in 2001. All this was, I am embarrassed to say, news to me, although the buildings’ colour and cleanliness should have been a clue.

All four pavilions around the viaduct are named after important Londoners from the past.

Sir William Walworth was a 14th century Lord Mayor. He now poses authoritatively, sword in scabbard, on the north west corner …

On June 15th 1381 he was accompanying King Richard II when they debated in Spitalfields with the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, Wat Tyler. For reasons that are not entirely clear, Walworth ran Tyler through with his sword. Badly wounded, Tyler was carried into nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital but, rather unsportingly, Walworth had him dragged out and decapitated. Poll Tax protesters were dealt with very ruthlessly in those days!

On the south west corner …

FitzEylwin was the first Mayor of London and probably held office until his death. His hands rest on a battleaxe and he is wearing a surcoat over his chain mail.

There is a City legend portrayed on the south east corner…

Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange, is dressed in 16th century costume and holds a parchment.

Finally, on the fourth corner, is this gentleman …

Sir Hugh Myddleton, a goldsmith and entrepreneur, established the New River Company which constructed the New River bringing much needed fresh water from Hertfordshire to London. This remained the most important source of piped water in London for 300 years and Robert Stephenson considered him ‘the first English Engineer’. He is holding the River plans in his hand and I think his right foot is resting on a water conduit pipe.

This is the view of the Viaduct today, giving some idea as to how deep the valley was …

Paint analysts reckon it has been repainted at least fourteen times. Look at this fascinating cross section of old paint layers …

Cross section of paint from one of the lamp standards.

The Viaduct proved much more interesting than I expected, so I shall be continuing its story next week.

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More City doors and doorways

Created between the 15th century and the more recent past, I have found a selection for us to admire and, in many cases, still walk through like thousands before us.

The oldest door I have discovered is the medieval chapel door in The Charterhouse. It was damaged by fire when the building was bombed during the Blitz (EC1M 6AN) …

When you visit St Vedast-alias-Foster in Foster Lane you enter through early 17th century oak doors that have remarkably survived both the Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz (EC2V 6HH) …

The cherubim carved on the keystone above the door are by one of Sir Christopher Wren’s favourite stonemasons, Edward Strong, and date from the 1690s. In total Strong was paid £3106:14:7 for his work on the church – he charged £5 for the cherubs.

On the south side of St Paul’s Cathedral is the Dean’s Door …

The carver was stonemason and architect Christopher Kempster (1627-1715), another of Wren’s favourite craftsmen. His work on the cherub’s heads and foliage was considered so good Wren awarded him an extra £20 for ‘the extraordinary diligence and care used in the said carving and his good performance of the same’. When Kempster died at the age of 88 his son carved a cherub’s head for his memorial.

Incidentally, £1 then was worth about £120 now.

The Cathedral’s main entrance, the 30 foot high Great West Door, is only opened on special occasions …

Look closely and you will see it is surrounded by 18th century graffiti, some in elegant cursive script …

The facade St Martin’s House at 1 Gresham Street is a delight (EC4V 7BX) …

Dating from 1891 it incorporates a wonderfully happy, smiling Mr Sun …

What also makes it charming is the rogue apostrophe ….

Surely it should read St Martin’s House?

What about this trio above what was once the entrance to the City Headquarters of the Royal Insurance Company at 24-28 Lombard Street (EC3V 9AJ) …

The historian Philip Ward-Jackson writes as follows:

‘The winged chimera at the centre of the group has the head of a woman and the legs of a lion. The two personifications are fine looking women, naked to the waist. The Sea holds a caduceus, and therefore also symbolises marine commerce … The attributes of Fire are a torch and bunches of faggots.

This quite sinister allegorical group must have been intended to intensify the fears of potential customers.’

The church of St Stephen Walbrook was constructed between 1672 and 1679 and is another Wren building (EC4N 8BN). The doors look original to me but I haven’t yet found out for sure …

The building is where Dr Chad Varah founded the Samaritans and you can read more about that and the church itself here.

This impressive entrance is just around the corner from St Stephens. Push the doorbell and you never know, the Lord Mayor might answer the door …

The virus shut down has meant that these magnificent doors at 2 Moorgate can now be seen easily during the week rather than just at the weekend (EC2R 6AG). Each door weighs a ton …

Suitably opulent for a private bank, they were designed by John Poole and date from 1975 when the building was opened by Edward Heath (who used to work for the company). Poole had a free hand with the design and said he intended to represent, in the circular forms, the firm’s centres of business. The linear patterns suggest communications between these centres along with ‘the interaction of spheres of influence’.

In 1888 the Institute of Chartered Accountants decided to treat themselves to a permanent headquarters and work was completed in 1893. Described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ’eminently original and delightfully picturesque’, it is ‘a fine example of Victorian neo-Baroque which draws its inspiration from the work of the Italian Renaissance’. This is the formidable and imposing entrance at One Moorgate Place (EC2R 6EA) …

The architect was John Belcher RA.

The large cartouche above the massive bronze doors depicts the Institute’s coat of arms and is held up by two classical male figures.

In the Museum of London you will find a door that must have struck terror into the hearts of the poor souls who were led through it …

Photograph : Museum of London.

It comes from the now demolished Newgate Prison, dates from 1783, and was the one through which criminals were taken to their place of execution. In fact they walked through three doors of which this was the inner one – there was also an iron-cased half door and an outer one of solid iron. The final person to pass through it to his execution by hanging was the Fenian Michael Barrett on 27 May 1868 – the last public execution to take place in England.

Two doors that are a bit tucked away when open are here at 6 Holborn Viaduct (EC1A 2AE) …

They have certainly suffered some brutal treatment over the years and look very unloved, but the lions heads have survived …

And finally, to finish on a more lighthearted note, just off Whitecross Street is this doorway which makes me smile every time I see it. The story I have conjured up in my mind is that, some time in the early 1970s, the people living there found that visitors knocked on the door rather than ringing the bell. When asked why, callers usually said that they didn’t know there was a bell. As a consequence, the residents (who obviously had artistic talents) got out their paint brushes and added this helpful sign to indicate where the push button bell was. Brilliant!

If, by any remote chance, doors, doorways and bells are your thing, do have a browse of the blogs I have written on these subjects : That Rings a Bell and City of London Doors and Doorways.

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Moorgate and the Goddess of Electricity

Firstly, I hope you are all keeping well and safe in these troubled times, and that maybe my little blog occasionally offers a welcome distraction.

The diminished traffic flow in the City, combined with the recent really sunny days, meant that I could more easily incorporate some photography with the walks I take for exercise. I was able to pause for some time to take detailed images of this spectacular building on Moorgate …

I think it’s crowning glory is its stained glass window, back-lit from within so its detail can be seen clearly from outside the building. Unfortunately the building was closed and in darkness when I visited so I have copied an image from the splendid London Inheritance website and blog.

Originally the London headquarters of the Eastern Telegraph Company, the current neo-classical building was built by Belcher & Joass between 1900 and 1903. 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. A glowing orb behind her head sends out rays across the seas, presumably representing the information the company’s cables help spread around the world. To the bottom left of the centre section is a sailing ship under full sail and bottom right is a lighthouse. Between the ship and lighthouse is a rough looking sea. The side panels show clouds and more rough sea and stars are scattered over the three parts …

The architect John Belcher was a prominent member the Catholic Apostolic Church and it is thought that this influenced the ornamentation of buildings he designed. The Moorgate stained glass window embodies the theme of communications but also symbolism from the Book of Revelations. You can read more about Belcher here.

To the left of the arch is a seated girl accompanied by a young winged genius …

Sculptor: George Frampton

She is transmitting a message.

The figure on the right is receiving a message (could be an iPad!) …

And above the arch …

… a winged Mercury, the god of Commerce, carries a caduceus.

Higher up is a beautiful frieze of four female figures …

Sculptor: William Goscombe John

They represent from left to right Egypt, Japan, India and China. Egypt carries a water jar on her shoulder, Japan is in a kimono and carries a fan, India lifts the veil from her face, and China carries a samisen (a three stringed lute).

At the very top of the building four naked boys support an armillary sphere which is itself encircled by a broad band displaying zodiacal signs …

Here it is in close up …

Some small figures decorate the tops of the pillars. Here are a few of them.

The horned god Pan playing his flute …

A blindfolded Lady Justice holding scales and sword …

I have no idea as to what this one represents …

I hope you found this interesting. I have not covered all the building’s decorations in this blog and there are more inside which maybe I will get access to at some future date.

To end on a more lighthearted note, have you noticed that the pigeons seem to have deserted the City? No humans, no food, I suppose. However, I did spot this lonely chap self-isolating on the old Roman/Medieval City wall …

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‘The politest statue in London’

That’s how this statue of Prince Albert at Holborn Circus was described by one observer …

The words on the plinth are ‘Prince Albert Consort Born 1819 Died 1861’

Here he is again from a different angle …

He is shown astride a high-stepping horse, in the uniform of a Field Marshal, and raising his plumed hat in acknowledgment of a salute. He isn’t, therefore, waving at imaginary crowds, and so the epithet of ‘politeness’ is sadly misplaced.

The way the Prince and his horse faced was the subject of some debate but finally decided when the sculptor, Charles Bacon, wrote the following to the architect William Heywood on 9 May 1873 …

I most decidedly think the horse’s head ought to look into the City … as a matter of etiquette he ought not to turn his back on those who erected the statue and … most important of all, the sun would be on the face most of the day.

This arrangement was, of course, less satisfactory when viewed from Holborn!

Not everyone liked it. Common Councilman L.H. Elliott said the statue …

… was not suggestive of a man of military genius; but at best it only represents a captain of a cavalry regiment saluting some ladies in a balcony.

At the west end of the plinth is a seated allegory of Peace wearing a laurel crown …

In her left hand she holds a (rather droopy) palm and her right supports a cornucopia.

At the east end there is a seated allegory of History, her curly hair falling generously down her back and her right breast exposed …

Her left leg rests on three books and in her left hand she holds a guide to the 1851 Great Exhibition which Albert played a major role in organising. The quill in her right hand is new, the original having been stolen some time since the unveiling in 1874.

The relief on the north side shows him standing with a ceremonial mallet beside the foundation stone of the Royal Exchange. Two workmen are preparing the pulley …

Entitled ‘The Prince laying the first stone of the Royal exchange Jan 17 1842’

He is surrounded by a crowd of dignitaries including, directly behind him, the Lord Mayor. One of the persons in attendance holds the ceremonial trowel in readiness.

The relief on the south side shows Britannia enthroned, a lion reclining at her feet …

Entitled ‘ Exhibition of all nations 1851. Britannia distributing awards’

She holds out laurel crowns to representatives of the exhibiting nations who are all dressed in their national costumes.

Here is a close up of the Prince taken from the north …

Still a very handsome chap despite the bald patch. The statue was sited to show off his profile ‘from the new street leading to the market’.

Just like History’s quill, a thief had made off with his original sword some time in the past, so this is a replacement. The sculptor paid incredibly close attention to detail and the restorers in 2014, Rupert Harris Restoration Limited, did a superb job. You can watch a fascinating video about the restoration here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVgMoZW3Gdg

There is a mystery concerning the statue – to this day we don’t know who paid for it.

A sculpture of Albert had been discussed for some time and in 1868 Charles Oppenheim (the founder of the De Beers diamond company) came forward offering to meet the cost. Apparently, however, his probity was questioned by some and, perhaps as a result of this, he subsequently formally withdrew the offer.

After the monument was erected The Times, quoting the City Press, reported …

The donor is a very benevolent gentleman of considerable wealth, who is desirous that his name should not be announced, and it is, we believe, known only to Her Majesty, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, to Alderman Sir J.C. Lawrence … and to Mr Bacon.

As is often the case, I am grateful to Dr Philip Ward-Jackson and his splendid book Public Sculpture of the City of London for being the source of much of the content of this week’s edition.

You can see some earlier pictures of the monument in my blog The City before the War.

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Another stroll along Fleet Street

As I think I have said before, I never tire of walking around this part of the City, especially spotting things of interest simply by directing my gaze skywards.

I remember the heyday of printed news when the Fleet Street hostelries were frequently packed with journalists, lawyers and print workers ‘refreshing’ themselves at lunchtime and in the evening. Now you are more likely to encounter overseas visitors seeking out ‘authentic old English pub’ experiences.

Mr Punch advertises these listed premises at the east end of the street …

The previous building on the site was known as the Crown and Sugar Loaf but was renamed the Punch Tavern in the late 1840s because of its association with Punch Magazine which had its offices at that end of Fleet Street.

The Old Bell further west is also listed …

The story goes that it was built by Sir Christopher Wren to accommodate the stonemasons working on nearby St Bride’s Church and the rear of the pub does, indeed, date from 1669.

Between the buildings you can glimpse St Bride’s and its famous ‘wedding cake’ spire as you proceed from east to west …

Why would a business stress ‘discretion’?

Because it’s a pawnbrokers, still advertising their presence using the symbol of three spheres suspended from a bar, said to be a reference to the coat of arms of the Florentine Medici family …

I love this pair of spectacles and thought at first that the sign must date from the 19th century but in fact Whitby & Co have only been around for 20 years …

On the north side of the street you can see the evidence of past publications now, alas, defunct or relocated elsewhere …

Further along are the premises previously occupied by the Kings & Keys pub, once a favourite hangout place for journalists from the Daily Telegraph next door. The name is derived by the amalgamation of two licences of separate former pubs, the Cross Keys and the Three Kings …

It’s narrow because, like many other buildings fronting Fleet Street, it follows the size of the original medieval plot.

If you are a little tired by now and need to recharge batteries there are healthy snacks available nearby …

Onward to St Dunstan in the West which boasts this magnificent clock …

It dates from 1671, and was the first public clock in London to have a minute hand. The figures of the two giants strike the hours and quarters, and turn their heads.

The double headed eagle is the emblem of the Hoare family and their bank’s premises are at the Sign of the Golden Bottle – a practice dating from the time before buildings were allocated street numbers …

The London firm was started in 1672 by Richard Hoare and tended to the affairs of many famous literary folk including the diarist Samuel Pepys, poet Lord Byron and novelist Jane Austen.

What about these three squirrels busy chomping on nuts …

Gosling’s, originally a goldsmiths and later a bank, started trading at the Sign of the Three Squirrels around 1650. It was the fourth largest of the banks that joined together in 1896 to establish Barclay and Co Ltd as a joint stock bank. Today, Goslings remains the oldest branch in the Barclays Group and still occupies its original site in the City.

The adjacent Inns of Court were once so important to Lloyd’s Bank that they had a dedicated branch (with a pretty beehive emblem suggesting hard work and prudence) …

Looking skywards, you can observe these muscular chaps supporting the building’s upper stories…

And finally, at number 50 …

Sculpted by A. Stanley Young in 1913, the building housed both the Norwich Union Insurance Company and the lawyers of Serjeant’s Inn. On the left, the Insurance side, Lady Prudence holds a little hoard of fruit and a leafy branch whilst the cherubic figure of Liberality or Plenty spills his cornucopia of coins and fruit. On the right, the lawyers’ side, blindfolded Lady Justice rests against her shield and sword grasping the scales of justice in her left hand.

There are many versions of Lady Justice in the City and I have written about them here.

You can find earlier blogs about Fleet Street here Fleet Street Ghosts and here Fleet Street Legends.

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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 …

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City streets then and now

I was inspired by a recent Spitalfields Life blog to revisit some old City locations and find out what has changed (and what hasn’t!). Most of the old pictures are from the late 1890s or the early days of the 20th century and come from the Bishopsgate Institute archive.

Holborn Circus seemed a good place to start since Prince Albert is still there raising his hat to the City …

And here he is circa 1910 …

What is sad is when some interesting views disappear. Here is a picture I took looking east in June 2017 where Albert appears to be saluting Lady Justice atop the Old Bailey …

Now there is a new building obstructing his view …

The beating heart of the business City – Throgmorton Street circa 1920 …

And today – that clock on the left is still there …

It dates from 1892 …

If you look further along the street you can just glimpse the extraordinary entrance to Draper’s Hall …

The always informative Bob Speel architecture website tells us that the tall, powerful imposing figures are known as Atlantes and were carved by Henry Alfred Pegram in 1896.

It’s hard to imagine now that the Victorians allowed a railway bridge to be built which obstructed the view of St Paul’s from Fleet Street that had existed since 1710. Here’s the view circa 1910 …

The bridge was finally demolished in 1990 and this is the view today …

This is Fetter Lane around 1910 …

You can see mirrors suspended at an angle in order to bring more light into the first floor of number 85.

Numbers 85, 86 and 87 are now gone but 84 and its neighbour survive, albeit somewhat altered …

The Monument around 1900. Note the sign on the left … you could book a room at Lightfoot’s Inn or just pop in and enjoy some fresh oysters, a common food then even for the poor (as this article explains) …

The view of The Monument from the same point today …

Pageantmaster Court, just off Ludgate Hill, refers to the person charged with organising the Lord Mayor’s Show. Here’s a picture taken from there in 1910 …

And today …

The building on the right is still there. Once a bank it’s now a wine bar …

Here is Cheapside in 1892, when horsedrawn vehicles were still in the ascendancy and this picture was probably taken from one. There is a nice selection of male headgear in the image – a few top hats, a homburg and a debonair chap sporting a straw boater …

Around 1910 …

I think the newspaper advertisement reads ‘France surprise for Turkey – Ambassadors ordered to leave’. Further down the road a haircut will cost you 4d and a shave 2d.

And today from approximately the same spot …

And finally, a favourite of mine, men laying tramlines at the junction of Clerkenwell Road and Goswell Road …

In the background is the Hat and Feathers pub, sadly now closed …

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Looking skywards

I spend a lot of time looking up as I wander around the City, which is another reason why I tend to take photographs at the weekend. That way I won’t be obstructing bustling City folk going about their business and get tutted at when I stop abruptly.

I hope you find this miscellaneous collection interesting. Some have appeared in blogs already but I have included them again because I just like them.

This globe sits on top of the London Metropolitan University building on Moorgate (EC2M 6SQ) …

I had never noticed before that it is encircled by the signs of the Zodiac.

Here’s what it looks like at street level with the Globe Pub sign in the foreground …

Whilst on the subject of Zodiacs, there are some attractive figures around the door of 107 Cheapside (EC2V 6DN) …

They were sculpted by John Skeaping, Barbara Hepworth’s first husband …

Sagittarius – November 22nd to December 21st.

Pisces – February 19th to March 20th.
Aquarius January 20th to February 18th.

And in Cheapside there is another globe, this time supported by a straining Atlas balanced on top of a clock …

It was once the headquarters of the Atlas Assurance Company. The entrance was in King Street and above the door is another depiction of Atlas hard at work. I like the detail of his toes curled around the plinth (EC2V 8AU) …

Across the road is Kings House sporting a magnificent crown …

Above it is a very pretty Mercer Maiden dating from 1938 …

This wise old owl watches commuters as they flow back and forth over London Bridge. He was located outside what was once the Guardian Insurance Company headquarters (EC4N 7HR) …

Look up as you walk down Eastcheap and you will see the remains of a dead camel …

Constructed between 1883 and 1885, the building at 20 Eastcheap was once the headquarters of Peek Brothers & Co, dealers in tea, coffee and spices, whose trademark showed three camels bearing different shaped loads being led by a Bedouin Arab. The firm was particularly well known for its ‘Camel’ brand of tea. When Sir Henry Peek (son of one of the original founders) commissioned this building he wanted the panel over the entrance to replicate the trademark, right down to the dried bones of the dead camel lying in the sand in the foreground.

Admire the leopard’s head symbol of the Goldsmith’s Company over the entrance to the old churchyard of St Zachary on Gresham Street (EC2V 7HN) …

Guardian angels are still resting on their swings opposite St Paul’s Underground Station …

This fearsome dragon on Fleet Street guards the western entrance to the City on the site of the old Temple Bar. He looks like something straight out of a Harry Potter story …

I love spotting the wide variety of weather vanes that populate the skyline even in a City crowded with new skyscrapers. This one referencing the horrific death of a martyr sits atop St Lawrence Jewry (EC2V 5AA) …

St Lawrence was executed in San Lorenzo on 10 August 258 AD in a particularly gruesome fashion, being roasted to death on a gridiron. At one point, the legend tells us, he remarked ‘you can turn me over now, this side is done’. Appropriately, he is the patron saint of cooks, chefs and comedians.

The church of Anne and St Agnes also stands in Gresham Street and is unmistakable by its letter ‘A’ on the weather vane on top of the small tower. It is named after Anne, the mother of the virgin Mary and Agnes, a thirteen year old martyr (EC2V 7BX) …

Now compare and contrast these two war memorials.

In Holborn is this work by Albert Toft. Unveiled by the Lord Mayor in 1922, the inscriptions read …

To the glorious memory of the 22,000 Royal Fusiliers who fell in the Great War 1914-1919 (and added later) To the Royal Fusiliers who fell in the World war 1939-1945 and those fusiliers killed in subsequent campaigns.

Toft’s soldier stands confidently as he surveys the terrain, his foot resting on a rock, his rifle bayoneted, his left hand clenched in determination (EC1N 2LL).

Behind him is the magnificent, red terracotta, Gothic-style building by J.W. Waterhouse, which once housed the headquarters of the Prudential Insurance Company. Walk through the entrance arch to the courtyard and you will see the work of a sculptor who has chosen to illustrate war in a very different fashion. The memorial carries the names of the 786 Prudential employees who lost their lives in the First World War …

The sculptor was F V Blunstone and the main group represents a soldier sustained in his death agony by two angels. He is lying amidst war detritus with his right arm resting on the wheel of some wrecked artillery piece. His careworn face contrasts with that of the sombre, beautiful girls with their uplifted wings. I find it incredibly moving.

I have written about angels in the City before and they are usually asexual, but these are clearly female.

And finally, as I walked along Cornhill one day I glanced up and saw these rather sinister figures silhouetted against the sky…

Closer inspection shows them to be devils, and rather angry and malevolent ones too …

They look down on St Peter upon Cornhill and are known as the Cornhill Devils (EC3V 3PD). The story goes that, when plans were submitted for the late Victorian building next to the church, the rector noticed that they impinged slightly on church land and lodged a strong objection. Everything had to literally go back to the drawing board at great inconvenience and expense. The terracotta devils looking down on the entrance to the church are said to be the architect’s revenge with the lowest devil bearing some resemblance to the cleric himself.

If this resembles the rector he must have been a pretty ugly guy!

Happy New year!

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Fleet Street Ghosts

Although I have written about Fleet Street in an earlier blog, I always find something new to write about when I walk there.

How about these impressive gates incorporating the words ‘Serjeant’s Inn’ …

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What caught my eye, however, was the dove perched on a twisted serpent and the words Prudens Simplicitas (Prudent Simplicity). This was the motto of the Amicable Society which was based here from 1838 and was the world’s first mutual life insurance company. The unusual choice of creatures may refer to a biblical quotation in which Jesus exhorted followers to be ‘wise as serpents, gentle as doves’. Lost during building works, the gates were rediscovered in a scrapyard in 1937 and returned to their original position here in 1970.

The arms were officially granted on 9 February 1808 to the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office and re-granted 14 April 1938 to the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society after the two organisations merged. You can see the dove and serpent in the Norwich Union coat of arms …

Arms of Norwich Union Life Insurance Society
Esto Perpetua means ‘Be everlasting’.

There is more information about the coat of arms and its fascinating symbolism here, the connection with Aviva here, and my blog about Insurance Company ghosts here.

How sad that the venerable Thomas Cook travel agency has gone into compulsory liquidation. Cook started organising leisure trips in the summer of 1841 when he arranged a successful one-day rail excursion at a shilling a head from Leicester to Loughborough. During the next three summers Mr Cook put together a succession of trips, taking passengers to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham. Four years later, he organised his first trip abroad, taking a group from Leicester to Calais. This was followed in the 1860s by trips to Switzerland, Italy, Egypt and America …

Italy and Switzerland were popular early destinations

In partnership with his son, John Mason Cook, he opened an office in Fleet Street in 1865. In accordance with his beliefs, Mr Cook senior and his wife also ran a small temperance hotel above the office. You can still see the office now. It is graced with numerous globes and cherubs …

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Hundreds of cherubs live in the City – you can find many of them pictured in my blog Charming Cherubs.

The Cook family sold the business in 1928 and the Thomas Cook brand has just been saved from obscurity after the Chinese owner of Club Med said it would buy the name for £11m. There is a nice potted history of the company here.

Once the beating heart of newspaper journalism, Fleet Street’s printing past survives only in some commemorative plaques and old signage.

Many of the alleys and courtyards contain plaques at their entrances. This one recalls a dramatic event as reported by The Sun newspaper …

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Computerisation is represented, a bit bizarrely I think, by the electronic Pac-Man game …

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And some old signage is still clear …

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Child’s Bank has traded from the same Fleet Street site since 1673. Its impressive Grade II* listed premises, designed by eminent architect John Gibson, were opened here in 1880 …

I really like the following story. When the founder’s grandson, Robert Child, died in 1782 without any sons he refused to leave his interests in the Bank to his daughter because she had eloped earlier that year with the Earl of Westmoreland. Child didn’t want the Earl to get hold of the Child family wealth so he left it in trust to his daughter’s second surviving son or eldest daughter. This turned out to be Lady Sarah Sophia Fane who was born in 1785. There must have been a great supply of Earls at the time because she married the Earl of Jersey in 1804 thereby becoming a Countess. Here she is in a painting by Alfred Edward Chalon …

Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey (née Fane)

Upon her majority in 1806 she became senior partner in the Bank and exercised her rights personally until her death in 1867. She was known by the nickname ‘Silence’, which was ironic since, famously, she almost never stopped talking. The memoirist Captain Gronow, who disliked her, called her ‘a theatrical tragedy queen’, and considered her ‘ill-bred and inconceivably rude’.

And now two memorials to real Queens …

Mary looks down on Pret’s customers as they buy their lunch at 143-144 Fleet Street.

Mary Queen of Scots House was built in 1905 for a Scottish insurance company. The statue was the idea of one of the developers, Sir John Tollemache Sinclair, Bart, MP, who was a big fan of the ill-fated lady.
The architect was one R.M. Roe, who concocted ‘a facade as frilly as a doily with lashings of French Flamboyant tracery’.

Her nemesis is commemorated nearby …

She looks young, doesn’t she?

This statue of Queen Elizabeth I is nearby in a niche at St Dunstan-in-the-West and its history is rather complex. Some current thinking is that the Queen dates from 1670-99 despite a date on the base of 1586, which would have made it the only statue carved in her lifetime. It is now thought that, rather than the date of sculpture, this date was inscribed on it when the statue was placed on a restored Lud Gate in 1670 after the Great Fire and is merely making reference to the original gate. When the gate was demolished in 1760 she was moved to a previous St Dunstan’s but this was torn down in 1829-33 to be replaced by the current building. Meanwhile it seems that the statue spent the time in the basement of a nearby pub. It was only when that too was demolished in 1839 that the statue was rediscovered and put in its current niche on St Dunstan’s. Millicent Fawcett, the prominent suffragist, left £700 in her will for the statue’s upkeep and the funds are managed by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

I have written about Fleet Street and its features many times but I have no doubt that I will be doing so again!

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A wander around St Paul’s (again)

I find myself continually drawn to the area around the Cathedral. There is always the constant background noise of tourist chatter but there is also something wonderful about walking around in the shadow of Sir Christopher Wren’s sublime masterpiece.

And there is also a lot to see.

This old Parish Pump, dated 1819, bears the name of St Faith’s Parish despite the fact that the church after which it was named was demolished in 1256 (yes, over 700 years ago) to allow for the eastern expansion of St Paul’s.

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From the 1250s until the reign of Edward VI, the parish known as St Faith under St Paul’s literally worshiped beneath St Paul’s Cathedral, using a space the end of the west crypt under St Paul’s Quire. After the Great Fire of 1666 the parish was united with St Augustine Watling Street. The pump was once situated against railings of St Paul’s Churchyard close to St Paul’s Cross, but was moved to its present position in 1973.

The old parish still has a boundary marker on the wall of St Paul’s Cathedral School …

You can read more about Parish Markers here.

Emily Young FRBS is one of the country’s foremost stone sculptors and you can enjoy her work in the form of Angels I to V in the courtyard opposite the Cathedral’s main entrance. I never tire of looking at them …

I have written an entire blog about City Angels and Devils and you can access it here.

Now climb up the steps to the imposing West Door and admire, if that’s the right word, the elegant cursive script of the 18th century ‘vandals’ who scratched their names in the stonework …

Some of it is very high up which leads me to believe the marks were made by workmen using sharp implements whilst standing on a scaffold …

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In the gardens you will find this pretty little drinking fountain …

An extraordinary coincidence occurred during the Cathedral’s rebuilding. Whilst staking out the foundations in the newly cleared site, Sir Christopher needed to mark a particular spot and asked a labourer to fetch a stone. The man came back with a fragment of a broken tombstone on which was carved 0ne word, RESURGAM – I shall rise again. Wren’s son later wrote that the architect never forgot that omen and it was an incident from which he drew comfort when the obstacles that arose during the long years of rebuilding seemed insuperable.

If you look up at the pediment of the south porch this is what you will see …

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The sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber was instructed to portray a phoenix rising from the ashes. This would not only be a fitting symbol for the Cathedral but would also include the one word that had cheered Wren two decades earlier.

In Paternoster Square there is this unusual sundial …

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I took this picture on 28th September.

Opposite the Cathedral on Ludgate Hill is a nice double aperture pillar box …

It was cast in 1996 …

At that time Machan Engineering were the only foundry in the UK to make the traditional cast-iron pillar boxes. The company had supplied Royal Mail since the 1980s and used to get 150 orders a year but in 2014 they only received 20 orders and in 2015 they had just one. Sadly the business closed later that year.

I have written a blog devoted to City postboxes and you can find it here.

And finally, look closely at limestone wall which supports the signage for the London Stock Exchange Group. You will see a great collection of bivalves – oyster shells from the Jurassic period when dinosaurs really did walk the earth …

Read more about the City’s fossils in my blog Jurassic City.

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The great man himself portrayed in stained glass at the church of St Lawrence Jewry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Donne 1572 – 1631 by Nigel Boonham (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amicale (2007)

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

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

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

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

Or this abundance of cherubs …

And this meticulous carving around the Dean’s Door …

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

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

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

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More fab fountains – one’s a cracker!

Why has this 19th century drinking fountain got a carving on it that looks a bit like a Christmas cracker?

It’s located on the south west side of Finsbury Square and forms part of an elaborate memorial …

The inscription reads …

Erected and presented to the Parish of St Luke by Thomas and Walter Smith (Tom Smith and Co) to commemorate the life of their mother, Martha Smith, 1826 – 1898.

Martha was the widow of Tom Smith and here I would like to relate a little history courtesy of the excellent London Remembers website. In 1847, twenty five year old Tom, an ornamental confectionery retailer in Goswell Road, brought the French idea of a bon-bon wrapped in a twist of paper over to Britain. In 1861, probably inspired by fireworks, he introduced a new product line, ‘le cosaque’, or the ‘Bang of Expectation’, or crackers as we now know them. This successful product, originally used to celebrate any event you care to name, enabled the business to move to larger premises on Finsbury Square, where they stayed until 1953.

Smith and his sons knew a thing or two about advertising and were not modest about their wonderful products. Here’s a typical 19th century example …

I love the instructions to ‘Refuse worthless imitations’ and ‘Make Merriment everywhere’.

There is an example of a Tom Smith’s Cracker and box on display in the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. This picture was taken by The Londonist who has written a very comprehensive blog about the memorial which you can find here

Victorian Christmas crackers were filled with all sorts of trinkets and surprises – first they contained rhymed mottoes or verses, then some sort of fancy-paper hat, bonnet, mob-cap or masks. Considerable artistic talent was introduced in the adornment of these novelties.

And here is an image from the Tom Smith archive where you can also find the 2019 catalogue and order your Christmas supplies!

The company is now owned by Napier Industries and still holds a Royal Warrant.

Here’s the founder himself. He was born 1823 and died, quite young, in 1869 …

We can thank the company for going on to develop cracker contents like the novelty gift and corny joke. You also have to blame one of Tom’s sons for the paper hat we are obliged to wear, often with excruciating British embarrassment, at work Christmas parties.

Crackers never took off in America and it has been claimed that the British liked them because ‘it taught their children how to deal with disappointment at an early age’.

And now for something rather odd. The water fountain was funded by the sons but the daughters went their own way. A few yards away is this horse and cattle trough …

It bears the following inscription (now very faded) …

In remembrance Martha Smith 1898. Erected by her daughters P. L. and L. D.

The sons erect the splendid water fountain and the daughters erect the utilitarian water trough. Does this tell us something about their personalities or about Victorian gender differences?

Researching the origin of the Christmas cracker has been a genuine pleasure and if you want to know more there is a book about the ‘King of Crackers’ – I might just order a copy. You can find a review here.

Next up is the St Lawrence and Mary Magdalene fountain located on Carter Lane opposite St Paul’s Cathedral. Created as a joint enterprise between the two parishes that give it its name, the fountain was originally installed in 1866 outside the Church of St Lawrence Jewry …

An engraving from ‘The Builder’ publication 1866.

The location next to St Lawrence Jewry …

A man quenching his thirst in 1911.

It was dismantled in 1970 and put into a city vault for fifteen years, then stored in a barn at a farm in Epping. The pieces were sent to a foundry in Chichester for reassembly in 2009 and it was was moved to the current location the following year …

The work was designed by the architect John Robinson (1829-1912) and sculpted by Joseph Durham (1814-1877), both very famous men in their time.

The fountain takes the form of a niche with carved hood resting on granite columns. Set into the niche is a bronze bas-relief of Moses striking the rock at Horeb (Exodus. XVII. IV-VI) …

Water runs down the face of the bronze from where Moses’ staff strikes. To the left of Moses is the figure of a woman holding a cup of water to her child’s mouth.

Above the fountain is a carved stone statue of St Lawrence holding a gridiron (on which he was martyred) …

In the south-facing niche is a statue of St Mary Magdalene holding a cross, and with a skull at her feet …

The other two niches are empty but are believed to have originally held the names of past benefactors of the churches carved into white marble slabs. Below, a new brass tap has now been fitted which dispenses water when pressed.

I wrote about the City’s water fountains and their fascinating history a few years ago and you can read the blog again here.

Broadgate sculptures (Part 2)

I have visited Broadgate and its sculptures in an earlier blog and I went back again last weekend to photograph some more.

First up is Rush Hour, a patinated bronze by George Segal (1982) situated in the Broadgate Circle (EC2M 2QS) …

We’ve all been there, haven’t we, heads down, not exactly rushing to get to the office. Or maybe just starting the long slog home on a rainy day (knowing there are train cancellations on our line).

Segal was renowned for casting his figures directly from life – usually friends and family – using plaster bandages to create human scale moulds from which his bronze sculptures could be cast. As a result, all the figures have their eyes closed …

This is Cascade in Exchange Square (EC2A 2EH). It was created by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (whose Chicago office designed much of Broadgate) and Stephen Cox RA (1991) …

‘Energising and restorative, this water cascade creates a natural oasis within Exchange Square. Calmed within the basin, the water develops circles of stillness around the enduring Indian granite stones, placed at measured intervals as if to signify the passage of time. The perfect place to pause and reflect on the day’s events’. Or maybe a place to chill out after a really horrific commute.

On Finsbury Avenue (EC2M 2PA) you will find Bellerophon Taming Pegasus by Jacques Lipchitz (1966) …

A half-size cast of Lipchitz’s final sculpture (which resides in Columbia University, New York), this is a representation of the epic moment in which Greek hero Bellerophon tames the winged horse Pegasus. This tangle seems to balance rather precariously on its pedestal with hooves, wings and tail radiating in all directions. For Lipchitz, this work demonstrated the ultimate dominance of man over nature, stating ‘You observe nature, make conclusions, and from these you make rules’.

On Broadgate Plaza (EC2M 3AB), Ganapathi and Devi (1988) is another work by Stephen Cox. Apart-yet-together, Ganapathi and Devi alludes to sculptural torsos and ancient themes; Devi refers to the female Hindu goddess, while Ganapathi is the Tamil name for Ganesha, the popular elephant god. Fusing power and sensuality, the stones combine historical and contempoary references, from the quarry to the executed forms …

The stone was sourced from the quarries of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, India …

Peering through the entrance to 155 Bishopsgate I spotted this spectacular piece of art (EC2M 3YD) …

It’s The Mechanics Institute II (1991) by William Tillyer. The notes say: ‘A carefully balanced composition of architecture, cloud, sky and foliage, Tillyer represents the notion of man’s presence via geometric patterns while the contrasting colours suggest the force of natural elements (flashes of warm sun, rushes of air currents, dappled blue light and gentle sea tides)’. The foyer is marketed to movie makers looking for locations as ‘a New York style atrium space’ and it certainly looks the part.

I wandered away from Broadgate, a hundred yards or so north up Bishopsgate, and came across Principal Place (EC2A 2BA) along with this interesting work entitled In Anticipation by James Burke (2018). Do have a look at the website.

Meanwhile, back in Broadgate, Venus still gazes skywards …

Read more about her and other sculptures here.

Broadgate sculpture (and a rusty nail near St Paul’s)

I always find it a bit weird when I see a building being demolished that I remember being built in the first place – especially when it was deemed at the time to be the epitome of modern design. This is what is happening to the Broadgate development at the moment, and when I went to look at progress I thought I would take the opportunity to photograph the nearby sculptures.

I would like to start with my favourite, Barry Flanagan’s Leaping Hare on Crescent Bell (2008) which can be found in the Broadgate Circle (EC2M 2QS) …

The base which contains the bell was difficult to photograph the day I went (intrusive fast food vans) but the magnificent soaring hare is flying free above the distractions. Exuberance and playfulness are features of much of Flanagan’s work but sadly he passed away due to motor neurone disease in 2009 at the age of 68.

Here is another example of his work at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Entitled Thinker on a Rock it substitutes a hare for Rodin’s Thinker. The picture is from the Artcurious blog …

You can’t miss the Broadgate Venus in nearby Exchange Square (EC2A 2EH) …

Patinated bronze by Fernando Botero (1989)

The note on the sculpture website tells us she was ‘specially commissioned for Broadgate. At five tonnes, she is one of Botero’s most voluptuous pieces and her generous curves have made her a long-standing favourite across the neighbourhood. She’s all-encompassing love personified’. I wouldn’t argue with that.

Living in the Appold Street entrance to Exchange Square are The Broad Family

Basalt stone sculpture by the Catalan sculptor Xavier Corberó (1935-2017)

Notes on the work say that if you look at it long enough the abstract forms slowly-but-surely evolve into a family portrait. Having done this, I can confirm it’s true – there are parents, a child, the family dog and a ball. And two highly polished shoes can be seen peeking out from under the child’s clothes …

More detail from one of the faces …

In nearby Sun Street (EC3M 2PA) is David Batchelor’s Chromorama

This 20-metre stack of 35 steel boxes faces in all directions and acts as a beacon at the intersection of several streets and pedestrian pathways. It’s also very pretty when illuminated at night.

Out on Bishopsgate is the eye-catching EYE-1 …

Sculptor Bruce MacLean – Painted steel (1993)

Just like The Broad Family, MacLean’s work rewards you if you look long enough at it. You will begin to see the outline of a female face.

There is more sculpture to see in and around Broadgate and I shall return to write about it in a future blog.

In the meantime, next time you are walking through One New Change look towards St Paul’s Cathedral and then take some time to check out this extraordinary work …

Unsurprisingly the work is entitled ‘Nail’

Both comic and provocative, Nail is a 40 foot bronze sculpture, treated as the title implies, to appear like a giant rusty nail. On the one hand, it’s a nostalgic recollection of tools traditionally used by the construction industry. On the other, the rustiness, underscores the uselessness of this once useful object.

The artist, Gavin Turk, has been described as a ‘maverick’ and first gained some notoriety when he failed his MA having offered as his exhibition an English Heritage style blue plaque which read ‘Gavin Turk, sculptor, worked here’.

Of Nail he said …

Partly it’s a tribute to a tiny tool in a development that probably contains no nails at all, but it pins the bottom of the building down to the pavement. Also, I didn’t want to spoil the view and stop sightlines through to the cathedral. And it brings to mind Christ on the cross.

You can read a very interesting interview with the artist in which he discusses Nail here on his website.

Fun and Miscellany – my 100th blog!

Thank you so much for subscribing to my little publication – especially those of you who have been with me since the very beginning almost two years ago.

For the first anniversary I included things that I had come across that had made me smile and I want to do that again this week. I want as well, however, to include a few items that I thought were interesting but didn’t fit under any broad heading.

One of the great pleasures of doing research is the occasional joy of serendipity. I recently discovered that encouraging people to cycle to work is nothing new and magazines were being published almost 40 years ago which included maps to help cyclists navigate.

I came across this persuasive cover of On your bike! magazine from 1982 …

And now something a bit more surreal, a piece of art that was on display at the Guildhall art Gallery until a few weeks ago …

Marcello Pecchioli’s eye-catching stained glass Alien Priest was part of the Gallery’s ‘Visionary Artists’ exhibition. I like the flying saucers in the background.

Next up is this picture in the Gallery entitled Garden of Eden by Hugh Goldwin Riviere (1860-1956). Painted in 1901, it depicts a young man and girl walking in a misty, wet park with a horse-drawn cab rank in the background.

I like it because to me it’s one of those pictures that immediately gets you making up a back story to the characters. Surely this is an assignation – a secret lovers meeting, he clasping her hand and she gazing lovingly into his face. Then it struck me: Garden of Eden! A place of dangerous temptation and banishment!

Apparently guides point out that this picture is actually about a mismatch between a wealthy woman who has fallen for a man much below her station: note his clumpy shoes, lack of gloves and his rolled up trouser bottoms. Also the way he’s carrying not one but two umbrellas, intertwined like the two lovers. There are tiny raindrops hanging from the black branches. Surely they represent tears to come? Or am I getting completely carried away? Another commentator has said that she is simply a smartly dressed maidservant on her day off, out walking with her beau.

In Cullum Street I was stopped in my tracks by this stunning sculpture by Sarah Lucas entitled Perceval

Part of the ‘Sculpture in the City’ initiative – EC3M 7JJ

It’s a large-scale replica of a traditional china ornament of the kind that took pride of place on many British mantelpieces forty years ago. Perceval was a knight of the Round Table and apparently there is fertility symbolism in the giant concrete marrows on the cart. You can read more about this work here.

Also for us to admire as part of the Sculpture in the City project is this example entitled Crocodylius Philodendrus by Nancy Rubins at 1 Undershaft (EC3A 6HX). I love it because it’s completely bonkers …

See how many animals you can spot

I keep meaning to spend some time in the Blackfriar pub on Queen Victoria Street recording the brilliant brasses there (EC4V 4EG) but I still haven’t got around to it. So in the meantime, here is the advice on one of them …

‘Don‘t advertise – tell a gossip

Don’t forget to look down when crossing the Millennium (‘Wobbly’) Bridge and see if you can spot some of the witty work by the artist Ben Wilson. He has painstakingly painted literally dozens of pieces of discarded chewing gum …

I have written more about him in my earlier blog Tales from City Bridges.

There is a Banksy rat painting in Chiswell Street that has been altered by another artist. Banksy’s piece originally depicted a stencilled ghetto rat holding a placard which read ‘London doesn’t work’ …

Photograph taken by ‘Noodlefish’ 26 August 2006

However, Robbo, Banksy’s rival graffiti artist, reworked the placard by adding his name in red letters. Robbo was known for leaving his mark on many Banksy pieces but I read in the interesting Londonist blog that Robbo died in 2014, bringing the rivalry to an end.

I haven’t been able to find out more about the strange ‘Life is beautiful’ figure next to it.

It is hard to imagine now but many of London’s roads were once paved with wood. However a map of London by Bartholomew’s in 1928 shows clearly the expansive reach of the wooden block road paving method. In the map excerpt below, the yellow roads are all paved with wooden blocks …

Read more in the excellent blog ‘Ian Visits’

Many were destroyed in wartime bombing and many also dug up by local residents for burning as heating. Since they were impregnated with tar they burnt furiously and, of course, made a major contribution to London’s filthy air.

For some people this was an entrepreneurial opportunity. This is Alan Sugar being interviewed for the Daily Express in 2010 about when he noticed old blocks being uncovered when roads were being resurfaced …

The workers showed me the blocks, which were impregnated with tar, and they chucked a couple onto the fire – they burned like a rocket. Bingo! It occurred to me that these discarded wooden blocks could be made into fire-lighting sticks. I could cut them up into bundles of sticks and flog them.

And you can still see a section of wooden road today at the junction of Chequer Street and Bunhill Row EC1 …

Looking over the wall on the Embankment one day I noticed these lions heads with mooring rings …

They were sculpted by Timothy Butler for Bazalgette’s great sewage works in 1868-70 and it is said that, if the lions drink, London will flood.

And to end with, two more items with watery themes that make me smile.

Firstly, a famous satire on the quality of the Metropolitan water supply in 1828. An elderly lady displays her horror and shock on looking at a speck of Thames water through a microscope …

Copyright: British museum

It’s by the artist and caricaturist William Heath (1795-1840) and is entitled Monster Soup commonly called Thames Water being a correct representation of that precious stuff doled out to us! You can read more about the efforts made to get fresh water to Londoners in my blog Philanthropic Fountains.

And finally I always say hello to this miserable dolphin on The Ship pub in Hart Street (EC3R 7NB). I also tell him to cheer up – the pub is a listed building and therefore so is he …

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On the Tiles again


A few days ago I visited the Lamb Tavern in Leadenhall Market (EC4V 1LR) and came across these splendid tiles depicting Sir Christopher Wren. He is standing in front of The Monument (which still has scaffolding around it) holding up a drawing of how it will look when finished …

Just look at the characters gathered around him …

A lady holding a fan leans out of her carriage window to chat to the architect. A child (possibly her servant) stands nearby holding what looks like a pet King Charles spaniel. Some nearby gentlemen are also intrigued, but the chap with the red hat who looks like Errol Flynn might be more interested in the lady. Observe the elegant shoes of the man holding an eyeglass. Not really appropriate for the City’s muddy streets, so maybe he is her carriage companion. The carriage driver looks over his shoulder at the scene. The panel is by W.B. Simpson & Sons and is faintly dated 12th March 1882.

And now another wonderful new discovery for me, the exterior of the former Nordheim Model Bakery at 12-13 Widegate Street (E1 7HP), just off Middlesex Street near Liverpool Street Station. Here are the glazed faience reliefs as a group – they are a joy – showing the bread-making process in beautiful detail …

Hauling in the flour
Kneading the dough
Into the oven for baking
Triumphantly carrying the finished product

They date from 1926 and their creator was the sculptor Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1977). Having joined up with the Artists’ Rifles in 1914, he had distinguished himself in the First World War having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for ‘ … conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the left flank of the Company of the Battalion’. Despite being severely wounded, he had fought on until relieved two days later. His work became more and more religious and he eventually entered a Carmelite order, retired to the West Country, and died there at the age of 88. The panels reminded the Gentle Author of the Stations of the Cross and you can read his posting about these works here.

I love this bright red high-relief terracotta frieze on the exterior of Cutlers’ Hall (1886-7) in Warwick Lane (EC3M 7BR). The ancient Cutlers’ Company’s origins go back to 1416, their business originally produced and traded in knives and swords but eventually expanding into household cutlery and domestic wares such as razors and scissors.

The work realistically depicts late Victorian cutlery production. This is not surprising since the sculptor, Benjamin Creswick (1853-1946) of Sheffield, was once a cutler himself. The frieze (containing 33 figures) was made by E. Goodall & Co of Manchester …

The detail is extraordinary

I had to smile when I noticed this plastic owl just above the terracotta on the right. He’s obviously intended to deter pigeons …

‘To-whit to-whoo!’

The Bishopsgate Institute (230 Bishopsgate EC2M 4QH) is a fascinating cultural centre in the City of London.

The website tells us that the architect for the building was decided by a design competition and Charles Harrison Townsend (1851-1928) was chosen as the winner. Townsend was an inspiring and original architect whose work was individual rather than adhering to any particular style or movement. The Grade II* listed building combines elements of the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles, but the influences of Townsend’s interest in Romanesque and Byzantine architecture can be seen in the broad semi-circular arched entrance, twin roof turrets and mosaic interior floors. Do go inside and visit the beautifully restored library.


The Tree of Life

And finally (for now) the flamboyant Bolton House at 14-16 Cullum Street EC3M 7JJ. Built in 1907, it has a white faience facade with green and turquoise decoration including the heraldic device of Prior Bolton, after whom the building was named. It’s another lovely example of Art Nouveau completed just before that style went out of fashion.

Incidentally, I have already written about the Prior in an earlier blog because of his connection with St Bartholomew the Great. Under the oriel window in the church there is a nice example of a rebus, in this case a representation of a person’s name using a picture. Here Prior Bolton’s name is neatly implied by a crossbow bolt piercing a tun (a type of cask). Bolton was Prior of St Bartholomew the Great between 1505 and 1532 and carried out repair and construction work across the church.

Prior Bolton’s rebus

I am indebted to the Tiles & Architectural Ceramics Society for the source of much of today’s blog. They published a special Gazetteer on the City of London and I have used it for reference. The photographs are my own. My thanks also to Richard Jones of London Walking Tours.


The Barbican Highwalk – dancers, gladiators and more

The Barbican Highwalk is the last significant remnant of the post War City ‘pedway’ dream – the ambitious plan to separate pedestrians from traffic using elevated ‘pavements in the sky’. The Highwalk, at first floor or Podium level, threads its way through the Estate, also embracing entrances to the Arts Centre, library and restaurants. City planners for a long time insisted that new developments had to include potential pedway access, which also explains why the main entrance to the Museum of London is at first floor level. The grand plan was gradually abandoned but exploring the Highwalk will give you a glimpse of the original vision, especially if you seek out the extension over London Wall Place.

Today, however, I am going to concentrate on some of the items that have found a home on the walkways since their construction, starting at the Museum of London.

Outside the Museum entrance is Union – Horse with Two Discs by Christopher Le Brun (2001) …

In a note nearby the artist explains that to him it is important that horses and riders are ‘not seen as real (but) an entrance or key to the place that I want to enter. It’s as if “the horse” enables the journey rather than providing the final subject’.

At the other side of the entrance is The Aldersgate Flame …

Placed here in 1981, it commemorates the approximate location at street level of John Wesley’s conversion on 24 May 1738 and consists of facsimile extracts from his Journal. From that day onward the founder of Methodism set out on a mission covering thousands of miles and delivering over 40,000 sermons -‘The world is my parish’. The monument, which is in bronze, has recently been restored and there is an interesting article about that work and its challenges here.

Crossing the Bastion Highwalk towards the bar and restaurant on Alban Gate you will encounter two naked writhing dancers. Quite often I have seen people pose for photographs whilst trying to mimic the figures’ movements – they have not found it easy …

The work, called Unity, is by the Croatian Sculptor Ivan Klapez. It was commissioned by the building developers MEPC in 1992 and marked a turning point is his career.

Follow the infamous yellow line on the pavement and you will be guided into the Barbican Centre itself where Zoe the Barbican Muse indicates the way in …

A little further ahead on the left is the Osteria restaurant and opposite, in a space that is rather poorly lit, is this figure …

Entitled Gladiator, it was presented by Lady Sarah Cohen in memory of her late husband Sir John Edward Cohen, the founder of Tesco. The work was created in 1973 by Canadian born Israeli sculptor Eli Elan (1928-1982).

I have saved my favourite installation to last – Dorothy Annan’s magnificent murals on the Highwalk between the Centre and Speed House …

Commissioned by the Ministry of Works in 1960, they originally graced the largest telephone exchange in London, the Fleet Building on Farringdon Street. The panels feature stylistic images of telecommunications equipment and are a striking example of 1960s mural art. When the demolition of the building was planned the murals were granted Listed status and moved in 2013 to their present location.

Annan visited the Hathernware pottery in Loughborough and hand-scored her designs onto each wet clay tile. There are nine panels in all and here are three of them with their titles …

Radio Communications and Television.

Cable Chamber with Cables Entering from Street.

Impressions Derived from the Patterns Produced in Cathode Ray Oscilligraphs used in testing.

I love the creamy texture of the ceramic surfaces, their look much enhanced by carefully designed lighting …

Part of Cables and Communication in Buildings.

And here is the lady herself …

The murals’ original location photographed in 2011 …

By the way, as you retrace your steps having looked at Gladiator, take a look at the wall on your left. Here are kept the various locking mechanisms for the Centre and, when I first glimpsed them, I honestly thought they were a Modern Art installation …

Well they could be, couldn’t they!

 

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