Walking the City of London

Category: Wartime Page 1 of 2

Holy Sepulchre Church – music, war, justice and a marriage that produced 23 children.

I have been a bit unlucky in the past when, walking towards Holborn Viaduct, I have found this church closed. Last weekend, however, my luck was in and I ventured inside. I am delighted I did.

The porch, tower and outer walls date from the mid-15th century …

The interior is a bit of a mixture of late 17th century to mid-Victorian …

The first thing that struck me was the quality of the stained glass.

A window removed for safe keeping during the War …

St Bernard with some of his followers …

I stopped to admire the glass in the Musicians’ Chapel.

This is the burial place of Sir Henry Wood, founder and conductor of the Proms for nearly 50 years, in memory of whom there is a window and a memorial plaque …

There is a window to Walter Carroll who lived from 1869 till 1955 in Manchester. He was a composer and a music teacher, especially known for his music for children, which he wrote for his two daughters Ida and Elsa …

Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian operatic lyric coloratura soprano, also has a commemorative window. She became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era and the early 20th century and was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician …

For centuries, the church had a close association with the notorious Newgate Prison which stood across the road where the Old Bailey is now.

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

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

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

The south chapel is dedicated to the City of London Regiment of the Royal Fusiliers …

Regimental colours dating back to the 19th century are on display …

The terrible carnage of the First World War is recalled by some of the battle honours recorded here …

I am so delighted that I looked up and noticed this memorial …

I quote here from the Worshipful Company of Barbers’ website:

Edward Arris was a distinguished surgeon and Master of the Barbers’ Company. He died in 1651, two years after his wife Mary. Their marriage had lasted 60 years and produced 23 children, only one of whom (Thomas) survived their mother.

The inscription reads: ‘Edward Arris Esq gave to ye company of Chyrurgeons 30l for an anatomy lecture & to the Hospital of St Bartholomew 24l both yearly forever to Christ Church Hospital 100l & 50l towards rebuilding of this church; and several large gifts to the poor of this parish, wherein he was born. And all these in his life time. Hee deceased the 28 May 1676 aged 85 and lyeth buryed by his wife.

The money Arris provided to the Company in 1645 – a benefaction he attempted to keep secret – founded six lectures and a dissection in the Inigo Jones Anatomy Theatre annually. His name (along with that of another Master of the Company) and these lectures live on today as the Arris and Gale Lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Besides providing grooming services, barber-surgeons regularly performed dental extractions, bloodletting, minor surgeries and sometimes amputations. The association between barbers and surgeons goes back to the early Middle Ages, hence the blood and bandages sign outside barber shops today.

This beautiful font cover was donated by a parishoner in 1670 …

There is another font cover nearby with a thrilling back story …

Vicars going back to the 12th century …

When you leave the church there is one other thing to look out for – the first ever public drinking fountain installed in London …

You can read all about it in my earlier blog entitled Philanthropic Fountains.

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‘Lest we forget’ …

After Remembrance Sunday every year it has become my habit to visit some of the City War Memorials, both to pay my respects and to read some of the moving tributes left by visitors.

The Tower Hill Memorial commemorates over 36,000 men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died in both World Wars along with the seafarers killed in the Falklands conflict of 1982.

The first was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1928. The main structure is in Portland stone. It takes the form of a vaulted colonnade or pavilion reminiscent of a Doric temple but open at both ends …

That’s All Hallows-by-the-Tower in the distance …

The second was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and unveiled in 1955 …

It is a sunken garden with the steps leading down to it flanked by a Mercantile Marine officer …

… and a seaman of the Merchant Service. Behind him, in his eyrie above what was once the Port of London Authority building, Father Thames points towards the sea …

The walls are covered with bronze panels with the names of the dead arranged alphabetically under their ships with the name of the Master or Skipper first in each case if they were among the lost. At regular intervals, between the inscription panels, are allegorical figures representing the Seven Seas.

A little boy rides a dolphin accompanied by seahorses …

Neptune with his trident …

A mermaid combing her hair …

My eyes were drawn to these pictures of a lost sailor and his ship …

This is the sweet poem that was attached …

The Falklands Memorial …

A close up of the little hat …

The London Troops Memorial outside the Royal Exchange

Your attention may be drawn to two battalions with unusual names, the Cyclists and the Artists’ Rifles …

Bicycles were commonly used in the First World War, not only for troop transport, but also for carrying dispatches. Field telephones were limited by the need for cables, and ‘wireless’ communications were still unreliable, so cyclists – and runners, motorbike riders, and pigeons and dogs – were frequently preferred, by the Allies and the German army.

I came across two interesting recruitment posters for the Cyclists at the Imperial War Museum. The first paints a quite romantic picture of the battalion going into combat in the bucolic setting of what looks like an English village. Nothing like the industrial level mass slaughter that these poor men would have to face in the First World War…

This one made me smile taking into account, as it does, the poor state of early 20th century dental hygiene …

The story of the Artists’ Rifles is a fascinating one.

The regiment was formed in 1859 by art student Edward Starling. It was a volunteer regiment and formed out of the widespread fear of a French invasion. Many of those who joined were artists, actors, musicians and architects and its first headquarters was located at Burlington House. The First World War would see the regiment literally leading from the front as they become a training regiment for officers in this period. It is also for this reason that the Artists Rifles had one of the highest casualty rates of any regiment.

This painting, Over the Top by John Nash, depicts his regiment in action. On 30th December 1917, the 1st Artists Rifles counter-attacked at Welsh Ridge, south-west of Cambrai. Nash called the action ‘pure murder’ as most of the company were killed. A sergeant, he counted himself lucky to escape the carnage …

Copyright : Imperial War Museum.

During the Great War, 2,003 of the regiment’s men were killed and over 3,000 wounded. Members of the regiment would be awarded eight Victoria Crosses and over 850 other military awards including the Distinguished Service Order (awarded 52 times) and the Military Cross (awarded 822 times). They were also mentioned in dispatches 564 times.

Incidentally, in the very first episode of the fourth series of Blackadder he becomes an artist, believing that this is his chance to escape the trenches. However, it is revealed that the artist’s role is to undertake a highly dangerous job – to draw the enemy’s defences from No Man’s Land.

The last episode of the series is renowned for its moving climax and you can view it here : Good luck everyone.

On Cornhill, the Archangel Michael holds aloft a flaming sword ……

The memorial commemorates 2,130 men from the parish – and the neighbouring City of London parishes of St Peter le Poer and St Benet Fink with which it was merged in 1906 – who served in the British armed forces in the First World War. About 170 died in the war, listed on a roll of honour kept in the church.

By the angel’s right foot are two lions, one biting the other, representing war; by the left foot are four putti looking upwards, representing peace.

And finally to St Bartholomew the Great at Smithfield …

There is a plaque just behind the gate commemorating Sir Aston Webb’s work. It includes his coat of arms (which incorporates a spider, a playful reference to his name) …

Poignantly, the name Webb also appears on the memorial …

Aston’s son, Philip, was killed in action on 25th September 1916.

And finally, another poem dedicated to seafarers …

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Fire in the City! Artists in the Blitz.

Five City churches are currently hosting an exhibition of reproductions of paintings by firefighter artists along with contemporary photographs from the London Fire Brigade archive.

The works are displayed on pop-up screens. For example, this one is at

St James Garlickhythe

And this one is in St Mary Aldermary

You will find details of participating churches at the end of the blog along with opening times.

Here I am going to publish examples of some of the work on display, starting with my favourite, Driving by Moonlight, by Mary Pitcairn …

It depicts an AFS volunteer, Gillian “Bobbie” Tanner, at the wheel of a truck. She was awarded the George Medal for bravery and the citation read: ‘On the night of 20 September 1940, Auxiliary G.K.Tanner volunteered to drive a 30 cwt lorry loaded with 150 gallons of petrol. Six serious fires were in progress and for three hours Miss Tanner drove through intense bombing to the point at which the petrol was needed, showing coolness and courage throughout‘.

During the Second World War, women joined the fire service for the first time as volunteers in the AFS working in a variety of roles ranging from control operators to dispatch riders and delivery drivers.

AFS women despatch riders around 1940 …

A 1941 oil painting by Reginald Mills of Mrs Kathleen Sayer an AFS Station Officer …

The Women’s Division of the AFS had its own leadership structure.

This portrait is by Bernard Hailstone

After the war Hailstone had a very successful career as a portrait painter. A gregarious, outgoing man, he went on to paint the last officially commissioned portrait of Sir Winston Churchill in 1955 and later members of the Royal family.

Here he is at work as a fireman circa 1940 attaching a hose to a fire hydrant …

Resting at a Fire by Reginald Mills, around 1941 …

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These AFS firefighters are surrounded by rolled up hose, resting in the back of an appliance vehicle which pulls a trailer pump, while their colleagues in the background continue to fight a fire. You can see a church spire in the background.

Bells Down by Julia Lowenthal …

Julia Lowenthal’s drawings and paintings gave remarkable insights into life inside the fire stations during the Blitz. Unlike most of her fellow firefighter artists she worked primarily in pencil and watercolour. Lowenthal was based in Kilburn and most of her surviving work is of colleagues in the station, and often at rest. Her watercolour sketch Bells Down refers to firefighters being called to action by bells in their fire station.

At the top of a turntable ladder in Eastcheap directing water into a blazing building, terrifying …

Also terrifying, Run! by Reginald Mills ..

There are examples of extraordinary works by Paul Dessau. In one set, four scenes show different stages of the battle to conquer the flames, much in the style (if not the subject matter) of a Hogarth series. Look closely and you’ll see a monstrous form in each panel. In the first stage, termed Overture by the music-loving Dessau, the bombs begin to fall and a smokey menace looms large over the City …

In Crescendo, the flames take hold as a fiery giant smashes down buildings …

Rallentando, as the name suggest, shows the beast tempered, its infernal form withered but still intimidating …

In the final scene, Diminuendo, the foe lies vanquished amid the smoking rubble, the firemen victorious. Yet the creature has untold siblings who will return night after night to challenge the city’s protectors anew …

Cannon Street – also by Dessau …

Aftermath of a bombing raid near Cheapside with St Paul’s in the background …

Rescuing Horses by Reginald Mills …

Red Sunday, 29 December 1940 by W.S.Haines. Haines was a member of the London River Service and unlike other firefighter artists he was not working in the tight confines of the City of London. This meant he had the opportunity for more panoramic pictorial compositions. Here you can see St Pauls Cathedral and the spires of City churches, through the iconic silhouette of Tower Bridge …

The London Blitz lasted from 7 September 1940 until 11 May 1941 and between 7 September and 2 November heavy bombing continued every night except one. More than 20,000 Londoners were killed including 327 men and women from the fire service with over 3,000 seriously injured. The Germans’ key weapon in the Blitz was the incendiary bomb, a device designed not to explode on impact, but able to burn at 2,500 degrees. Thousands of these were dropped creating fires that threatened to overwhelm the capital.

The firefighter memorial opposite St Paul’s Cathedral …

Part is dedicated to the women who died whilst serving in wartime. The lady on the left is an incident recorder and the one on the right a despatch rider …

Fire in the City is open now and can be seen in the following churches:

  • St Mary-le-Bow: Monday to Friday, 7.30am – 6.00pm. Open weekends on an informal basis.
  • St James Garlickhythe: Monday to Wednesday, 10.00am – 4.30pm, Thursday, 11.00am – 3.00pm, Sunday: 9.00am – 1.00pm. Friday & ​​Saturday, Closed.
  • St Mary Aldermary: Tuesday to Friday, 7.30am – 4.00pm
  • St Magnus the Martyr: Tuesday to Friday, 10.00am – 4.00pm, Sunday, 10.00am – 1.00pm (Mass at 11am)
  • St Stephen Walbrook: Monday to Friday, 10.30am – 3.30pm

(Venue details may be subject to change so it is advised to check individual church websites for the latest information). The exhibition will move to a second cluster of churches from Monday 23 October until the end of November (with selected venues hosting displays into December).

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An exhumed poet, a proud Mayor and a very modest attorney. Stories from St Giles.

From where I live I have a nice view of my local church, St Giles Without Cripplegate. This image gives a good impression of where this wonderful old church is located within the strikingly modern Barbican Estate …

I am always pleased to come across old images of the area, particularly those taken in the three decades after the Second World War. I am indebted to the author of the splendid London Inheritance blog for this view from 1947 showing the devastated landscape …

The building on the left is the Red Cross Street Fire Station.

Another image showing nearby destruction …

The following photo taken in the days following the raid on the 29th December 1940 shows the damage to the interior of the church …

St Giles Cripplegate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: m0017971cl

Since the walls and tower survived a service was possible with the parishioners able to look straight up to the sky …

The inside of the church today. I was fortunate enough to visit when a lady (on the left in the picture) was practising beautifully on the organ …

Here’s an aerial view from the 1960s and the church now has a roof. The more modern looking building on the right is Roman House which has recently been converted into apartments …

In this 21st century aerial image you can just make out the church’s green roof …

Some monuments remain from the old pre-Blitz building.

There is this touching memorial to a favourite character of mine, Sir William Staines …

And here is the man himself …

Staines had extremely humble beginnings working as a bricklayer’s labourer, but eventually accumulated a large fortune which he generously used for philanthropic purposes. He seemed to recall his own earlier penury when he ensured that the houses he built for ‘aged and indigent’ folk would have ‘nothing to distinguish them from the other dwelling-houses … to denote the poverty of the inhabitant’.

British History Online records an encounter he had with the notorious John Wilkes who referred rather rudely to Staines’ original occupation …

The alderman was an illiterate man, and was a sort of butt amongst his brethren. At one of the Old Bailey dinners, after a sumptuous repast of turtle and venison, Sir William was eating a great quantity of butter with his cheese. “Why, brother,” said Wilkes, “you lay it on with a trowel!”

Incidentally, Wilkes is also commemorated in the the City in Fetter Lane where a striking statue of him honestly portrays his famous squint …

John Milton (1608-1674), the poet and republican, is perhaps the most famous former parishioner of St Giles and his statue stands by the south wall of the church …

It’s made of metal, which means it is one of the few memorials in the church that survived the bombing in the Second World War. It is the work of the sculptor Horace Montford (c1840-1919) and is based on a bust made in about 1654.

He used to be outside and was blasted off his plinth during the bombing …

There is also this commemorative plaque …

And a bust which clearly indicates his later-life blindness …

Milton was buried in the church next to his father, however he was not allowed to rest in peace.

British History Online reports the shocking event as follows …

‘A sacrilegious desecration of his remains, we regret to record, took place in 1790 … The disinterment had been agreed upon after a merry meeting at the house of Mr. Fountain, overseer, in Beech Lane, the night before, Mr. Cole, another overseer, and the journeyman of Mr. Ascough, the parish clerk, who was a coffin-maker, assisting’.

Having identified where they thought Milton’s grave was, they dug down almost six feet, found a coffin, and removed the lid. The report goes on …

‘Upon first view of the body, it appeared perfect, and completely enveloped in the shroud, which was of many folds, the ribs standing up regularly. When they disturbed the shroud the ribs fell. Mr. Fountain confessed that he pulled hard at the teeth, which resisted, until some one hit them a knock with a stone, when they easily came out. There were but five in the upper jaw, which were all perfectly sound and white, and all taken by Mr. Fountain. He gave one of them to Mr. Laming. Mr. Laming also took one from the lower jaw; and Mr. Taylor took two from it. Mr. Laming said that he had at one time a mind to bring away the whole under-jaw with the teeth in it; he had it in his hand, but tossed it back again’.

As if that wasn’t undignified enough,’Elizabeth Grant, the gravedigger … now took possession of the coffin; and, as its situation under the common councilmen’s pew would not admit of its being seen without the help of a candle, she kept a tinder-box in the excavation, and, when any persons came, struck a light, and conducted them under the pew; where, by reversing the part of the lid which had been cut, she exhibited the body, at first for sixpence and afterwards for threepence and twopence each person’.

The body was reburied but rumours spread that it wasn’t Milton in the coffin, but a woman. So Milton was dug up a second time and the surgeon in attendance examined the bones — what were left of them — and pronounced them to be masculine. Only then was Milton, at last, allowed to rest only to be permanently obliterated in the bombing.

Notwithstanding the generous memorials to the great and the good, I was captivated by this modest plaque on the south wall …

An attorney at law who obviously believed in brevity. No Latin exhortation of his virtues, no figures of a grieving widow and children, only the important facts and the bald, concluding statement ‘That is all’.

There is a lot more to see at St Giles such as modern stained glass …

And intriguing inscriptions, both inside …

And outside …

But for the moment ‘that is all!’

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‘On safari’ plus a pink banana and other random images.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of getting off the train at what must be one of the most strangely named stations in London …

Apparently the name derives from it being the former dumping ground for mud dredged from the Millwall Docks, which had to be regularly dredged to prevent silting up.

Very close by was the place where my safari started …

I suppose calling my visit a safari is a slight exaggeration but hopefully it sparked your interest to look at the blog.

Having browsed the Internet, this was the image I was hoping to replicate …

Sheep grazing with Canary Wharf in the background – what a great shot.

Unfortunately, on the day I visited the weather was awful and the sheep unobliging …

‘Just what do you think you’re staring at?’

The donkeys looked pretty fed up too …

‘Put that camera away – I’m not looking my best!’

Even the llamas didn’t want to know …

The goats, on the other hand, were delighted to see me …

I have a suspicion that not everyone obeys the ‘Do not feed the animals’ rule.

And I must say, this Ack-ack gun was an unexpected discovery …

These guns were a crucial part of London’s defence system during the War. Scroll down to the end of the blog to see a map of the damage bombs did around St Paul’s Cathedral.

Walking nearby along the river there are some great views and, of course, an interesting bollard or two …

So I’ll try to return when the weather is nicer.

Here are some more random images that I have recorded on my walks.

Outside St Giles the Magnolia trees are blossoming …

Daffs are popping up everywhere. They cheer me up even when the weather is rubbish …

And they’re not alone …

I came cross some Barbican acrobatics …

Barbican water feaures …

Water feature plus residents …

I went to a meeting in Finsbury Circus recently and they had a rather nice roof terrace so I snapped this city skyline view …

I’m not a great fan of that new monster building on Bishopsgate, but it does generate interesting reflections at certain times of day. In the foreground is St Giles Church and on the left Tower 42 …

And finally, an apartment hosting a giant pink banana being cuddled by a furry white poodle. I so wish I knew their background story!

PS Don’t forget, the excellent Magnificent Maps exhibition at the Metropolitan Archive finishes on 29th March, so no time to lose if you want to visit.

This is a screen shot of one of the displays showing the bomb damage around St Paul’s Cathedral …

Here is the key – just look at the devastation and wonder how the Cathedral survived …

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The City and Wartime – special edition.

I wanted to do something special in view of the significance of tomorrow’s date so I will be writing about dramatic events that happened in or near the City during wartime. I also thought it would be appropriate to write again about some of the most moving of the memorials to be found around the City and suggest that this may be nice time to visit them since, for a few weeks now, wreaths, crosses and other tokens of remembrance will still be in place. Some of these stories and pictures have been posted before but I hope you don’t mind.

By coincidence, I have been reading historian Jerry White’s brilliant latest book The Battle of London 1939-45 and I reproduce below a short extract :

In the heavy seven-hour raid that started on Saturday 11 January 1941 and continued into Sunday … a High Explosive bomb burst through the roadway outside the Bank of England and exploded in the booking hall of Bank tube Station. The blast travelled through the top subways and escalators and swept shelterers and passengers off the platforms onto the path of trains pulling in. Fifty-two died … and the bomb left a deep crater blocking the seven-street interchange and three tube lines below

The City’s highway engineers, supplemented by army sappers, set to work on Sunday morning. Miraculously, and I use that word rarely, the ‘largest crater in London’ was speedily freed from rubble and on 1 February a temporary iron and steel bridge began to inch out from Cornhill to Poultry. It was completed and opened by the Lord Mayor on Monday 3 February …

The station was in use again by 17 March and by May the bridge had been dismantled and the interchange traffic was flowing once more.

Looking north a few weeks ago …

If you look carefully you can still see evidence of the wartime bombing with blast wounds on the wall of the Bank of England on Princes Street …

At 11:30 in the morning on 8th March 1945 Smithfield Market was extremely busy, with long queues formed to buy from a consignment of rabbits that had just been delivered. Many in the queue were women and children. With an explosion that was heard all over London, a V2 rocket landed in a direct hit which also cast victims into railway tunnels beneath – 110 people died and many more were seriously injured …

In the Grand Avenue, Central Markets, Smithfield (EC1A 9PS) is this memorial …

The original commemoration of names (above the red granite plinth) is by G Hawkings & Son and was unveiled on 22  July 1921. 212 people are listed.

Between Fame and Victory holding laurel wreaths, the cartouche at the top reads …

1914-1918 Remember with thanksgiving the true and faithful men who in these years of war went forth from this place for God and the right. The names of those who returned not again are here inscribed to be honoured evermore.

The monument was refurbished in 2004/5 and unveiled on 15 June 2005 by the Princess Royal and Lord Mayor Savory. The red granite plinth had been added and refers to lives lost in ‘conflict since the Great War’. On it mention is made of the women and children although the V2 event is not specifically referred to.

‘Thou hast put all things under his feet, all Sheep and Oxen’.

At the base is the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Butchers who helped to fund the refurbishment, along with the Corporation of London and the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association.

It’s sometimes forgotten that the civilian population of London was also bombed during the First World War. The market was hit in 1917 by bombs dropped from a Zeppelin – you can still see the shrapnel marks nearby on the walls of St Bartholomew’s Hospital …

Herbert Mason’s famous photograph, taken from the roof of the Daily Mail building, of St Paul’s triumphantly rising above the inferno of smoke and flames below, came to symbolise for Britain and the world an apparently indestructible London …

The Cathedral did not escape totally. It was hit by a bomb which detonated in the North Transept …

Troops start a clean-up nearby …

In the foreground of the Royal Exchange stands London Troops War Memorial …

On either side two soldiers stand at ease, one representing the Royal Fusiliers and the other the Royal Field Artillery …

At the bottom of the list of battalions, two in particular caught my eye, the Cyclists and the Artists Rifles …

I came across this 1912 recruitment poster at the Imperial War Museum. It is poignant to look at this picture with its pretty village setting and then think of the industrial age war and slaughter that was soon to follow …

It was therefore quite a coincidence that, on 9th November 2018, the then Prime Minister Theresa May laid a wreath at the grave of a cyclist …

John Parr was the first UK soldier to be killed in the First World War on 21 August 1914. He was 15 when he signed up in 1912 but claimed to be eighteen years and one month. His comrades nicknamed him ‘Ole Parr’, which suggests that everyone knew he was much younger than he claimed, especially since on joining he was only 5 foot 3 inches tall and weighed just 8.5 stone! This is his grave at St Symphorium Military Cemetery, Mons, Belgium …

Parr was a reconnaissance cyclist in the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and died on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium. Bicycles were commonly used in the War, not only for troop transport, but also for carrying dispatches. Field telephones were also limited by the need for cables, and ‘wireless’ communications were still unreliable. So cyclists – and runners, motorbike riders, pigeons and dogs – were frequently preferred by both the Allies and the German army. There is an interesting article on the subject by Carlton Reid in Forbes magazine 

The story of the Artists’ Rifles is a fascinating one.

The regiment was formed in 1859 by art student Edward Starling. It was a volunteer regiment and formed out of the widespread fear of a French invasion. Many of those who joined were artists, actors, musicians and architects and its first headquarters was located at Burlington House. The First World War would see the regiment literally leading from the front as they become a training regiment for officers in this period. It is also for this reason that the Artists Rifles had one of the highest casualty rates of any regiment.

This painting, Over the Top by John Nash, depicts his regiment in action. On 30th December 1917, the 1st Artists Rifles counter-attacked at Welsh Ridge, south-west of Cambrai. Nash called the action ‘pure murder’ as most of the company were killed. A sergeant, he counted himself lucky to escape the carnage …

Copyright : Imperial War Museum.

During the Great War, 2,003 of the regiment’s men were killed and over 3,000 wounded. Members of the regiment would be awarded eight Victoria Crosses and over 850 other military awards including the Distinguished Service Order (awarded 52 times) and the Military Cross (awarded 822 times). They were also mentioned in dispatches 564 times.

Incidentally, in the very first episode of the fourth series of Blackadder he becomes an artist, believing that this is his chance to escape the trenches. However, it is revealed that the artist’s role is to undertake a highly dangerous job – to draw the enemy’s defences from No Man’s Land.

The last episode of the series is renowned for its moving climax and you can view it here : Good luck everyone.

I also recommend a visit to the Tower Hill Memorial which commemorates men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died in both World Wars and who have no known grave.

The First World War section commemorates almost 12,000 Mercantile Marine casualties and was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick. It was unveiled by Queen Mary on 12 December 1928 …

The Second World War extension, which commemorates almost 24,000 casualties, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler. It was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November 1955.

In the background, Neptune (standing on the old Port of London Authority headquarters) points towards the sea …

Within the garden the walls are overlaid with bronze plaques on which the names of the men and their ships are inscribed in relief. At regular intervals, between the inscription panels, are allegorical figures representing the Seven Seas. Here is one of them, Neptune with his trident …

And another, a mermaid combing her hair …

Images from my visit last November …

A few years ago I noticed a small cross resting on one of the allegorical figures, just above the dolphin’s head …

Here it is in close up …

How wonderful. Arthur Myers remembered by a grandchild and two great, great grandchildren. His ship, the Empire Lakeland, was sunk by a U Boat on 11 March 1943.

On 2 April 1982, Argentine forces landed in and captured the Falklands Islands. A task force was dispatched in order to retake the territory and this was accomplished when the occupying forces surrendered on 14 June that year. Nine members of the Merchant Navy and eight members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary were killed in the conflict and their names are recorded here beneath those of their ships …

There is a Korean War Memorial outside St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church (EC1A 9DQ) …

The Southwark Cathedral World War I bronze remembrance plaque is beautiful …

Another suggestion for a visit is the National Submarine War Memorial on Victoria Embankment (EC4Y 0HJ). Although able to hide when submerged, once struck the vessels were often unable to rise to the surface and became effectively underwater coffins. In the First World War fifty four boats were lost and with them the lives of 138 officers and 1,225 men. At the inauguration in 1922 Rear Admiral Sinclair, the Chief of the Submarine Service, reminded those present that, during the Great War …

The number of those killed in the Submarine Service was greater in proportion to its size than any other branch of His Majesty’s fighting forces … one third of the total personnel.

In November 1959 new panels commemorating Second World war losses were unveiled by Rear Admiral B W Taylor.

Wright and Moore, writing for the 20th Century Architecture website, describe the memorial as a complex mixture of narrative and symbolism …

Sculptor: F B Hitch Architect: A H R Tenison Founder: E J Parlanti

The central figures recreate the scene set inside the submarine exaggerating it into a small, claustrophobic tunnel. The crew use charts and follow dials, the captain is braced at the centre with the periscope behind his head. Around the vessel a shallow relief depicts an array of sea creatures or mermen appearing to trap and haul the submarine in fishing nets, reminding us that the submarines were as much prey to the tempestuous elements as they were to the enemy.

On both corners are allegorical figures. Next to the list of vessels lost between 1914 and 1918, Truth holds up her mirror. Just further to the left in the picture are two of the 40 bronze wreath hooks in the form of anchors …

On the right, next to the vessels lost in the Second World War, Justice wears a blindfold and as usual holds a sword and scales …

Here is an image from last year’s service …

This is the Memorial at the entrance to the church of St Bartholomew the Great …

Much of the late 19th and early 20th century church restoration work was carried out by Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930) and he also designed the memorial. It includes the name of his son Philip, who was killed in action on 25th September 1916 …

And now to Holborn and 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. At the boundary of the City, he looks defiantly towards Westminster. The general consensus on the internet is that the model for the sculpture was a Sergeant Cox, who served throughout the First World War.

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 …

The sculptor was F.V. Blundstone and the work was inaugurated on 2 March 1922. All Prudential employees had been offered ‘the opportunity of taking a personal share in the tribute by subscribing to the cost of the memorial’ (suggested donations were between one and five shillings).

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.

At the four corners of the pedestal stand four more female figures.

One holds a field gun and represents the army …

One holds a boat representing the navy …

At the back is a figure holding a shell representing National Service …

The fourth lady holds a bi-plane representing the air force …

The work is tucked away in the building’s courtyard, Waterhouse Square (EC1N 2SW), and I am sure that most of the thousands of people who walk along Holborn every day have no idea it is there.

St Peter’s Hill runs north alongside the College and at the top you will find the Firefighters Memorial. On its octagonal bronze base are the names of the 997 men and women of the fire service who lost their lives during the conflict. The sculpture features two firemen ‘working a branch’, with their legs spread to take the strain of the hose …

A sub-officer directs others to assist. There are clues to the identity of this figure scattered among the debris at the figures’ feet: the letters CTD for C.T. Demarne. At the unveiling, his colleagues from the fire service claimed that there was no need for such clues. One who was interviewed by the Telegraph stated: ‘You can tell it’s Cyril by the way he’s standing…he always waved his arms about like that when he was ordering us about’.

Officer Demarne in full flow.

By 1943 over 70,00 women had enrolled in the National Fire Service in the United Kingdom. This memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in the London bombings …

The lady on the left is an incident recorder and the one on the right a despatch rider.

Some images from various archives …

Holborn 25 October 1940 …

Ludgate Hill …

King William Street …

Queen Victoria Street …

December 1940 – Cripplegate with the shell of St Giles church in the background …

Inside the church …

St Giles today …

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that some remains of the old Roman and Medieval City walls seen here in the foreground were only completely revealed as a result of the bombing …

Tower 52’s poppy …

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Waterloo Station – Arrivals and (final) Departures.

Whenever I am travelling anywhere by plane or train I am always ludicrously early and that was the case last week when I was catching a train at Waterloo. I therefore took the opportunity to look around and see if there was some material for the blog. There certainly was.

The station now hosts the National Windrush monument, designed by renowned Jamaican artist Basil Watson. It acknowledges and celebrates the Windrush generation’s outstanding contribution and has been created as a permanent place of reflection, to foster greater understanding of the generation’s talent, hard work and continuing contribution to British society.

The three figures – a man, woman, and child – dressed in their ‘Sunday best’ are climbing a mountain of suitcases together, demonstrating the inseparable bond of the Windrush pioneers and their descendants, and the hopes and aspirations of their generation as they arrive to start new lives in the UK.

There’s much more to see at Waterloo and I shall return to it next week and write more about these images …

My Waterloo research has led me to write about a very different type of station that operated nearby. Passengers departing from here were destined for eternity rather than the seaside.

In the first half of the 19th century, London’s population shot up from around a million people in 1801 to close on two and a half million by 1851. Death was commonplace in the 19th century and eventually the City’s churchyards were literally full to bursting. Coffins were stacked one atop the other in 20-foot-deep shafts, the topmost mere inches from the surface. Putrefying bodies were frequently disturbed, dismembered or destroyed to make room for newcomers. Disinterred bones, dropped by neglectful gravediggers, lay scattered amidst the tombstones; smashed coffins were sold to the poor for firewood. Clergymen and sextons turned a blind eye to the worst practices because burial fees formed a large proportion of their income.

This is Bunhill Burial Ground around that time …

You can also get some idea of how packed cemeteries were if you look at some of the existing City churchyards and observe how much higher the graveyards are compared to street level. This, for example, is the graveyard of St Olave Hart street as seen from inside the church …

Between 1846 and 1849, a devastating cholera epidemic swept across London resulting in the deaths of almost 15,000 Londoners and it became apparent that something had to be done.

Legislation proved ineffective but private enterprise stepped in and a series of huge cemeteries, in which Londoners could be laid to rest in lush, green spacious landscapes, sprang up outside the metropolis. One such enterprise was the grandly titled ‘London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company’ (LNC), which was formed in July, 1852, with a mandate to develop the former Woking Common, at Brookwood, in Surrey, as one of the new cemeteries to serve London.

Carrying the deceased 23 miles by horse-drawn coach was obviously not practical and thus, in November, 1854, one of Britain’s most bizarre railway lines – the London Necropolis Railway – commenced operations, and daily trains were soon chuffing their way out of ‘Cemetery Station’ in Waterloo, ‘wending their way through the outskirts of London, and on through verdant woodlands and lush, green countryside outside the Metropolis, bound for the tranquil oasis of the new Valhalla in rural Surrey’.

From The Illustrated London News. Saturday, 11th November, 1854 Copyright, Mary Evans Picture Library

The Company obviously gave a lot of thought to its logo and motto. Here it is (the skull and crossbones isn’t exactly subtle, is it) …

The Latin translates as ‘Peace to the dead, health to the living’. Possibly a reference to the lack of security in the old existing graveyards and also their threat to health. Just inside the circle is the ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a snake or serpent eating its own tail, variously signifying infinity and the cycle of birth and death.

The history of the company is an absolutely fascinating story and if you want to know more just click on the link here to the excellent London Walking Tours blog.

A new building for the London terminus was completed on the 8th of February, 1902. Here are some contemporary images …

A class system operated. First and Second Class ‘passengers’, accompanied by mourners, were placed in the train first. Third class mourners were not allowed to witness their loved ones being loaded! …

The end of the line. A funeral train from Waterloo pulling into the north section station at the cemetery in the early 20th century …

On Friday, 11th April, 1941, the body of Chelsea Pensioner Edward Irish (1868 – 1941) left the London Necropolis Station en route for Brookwood. He was the station’s last customer.

Five days later, on the night of the 16th/17th of April, 1941, a German bombing raid on the area destroyed the company’s rolling stock, along with much of the building. The Southern Railway’s Divisional Engineer, having inspected the damage at 2pm, on April, 17th, 1941, reported starkly, ‘Necropolis and buildings demolished.’ Although the offices and the First Class entrance from Westminster Bridge Road had survived, the devastation effectively sounded the death knell for the Necropolis Railway, and, on the 11th of May 1941, the station was officially declared closed.

The First Class platform just after the bombing …

The site in 1950 …

By the time it was put out of business after 87 years the company had ferried over 200,000 bodies between Waterloo and Surrey.

The First Class entrance and the Company’s old offices on Westminster Bridge Road are still there today (SE1 7HR) …

Inside the entrance arch (I think those lamps may be part of the original building, they look suitably funereal) …

I caught this image as I walked home across Waterloo Bridge – the ever-changing City skyline …

Finally, by way of light relief, my favourite newspaper front page of the week – British journalism at its finest …

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Another visit to St Bride’s – lockable coffins and snoring churchgoers.

Walking down Ludgate Hill the other day I grabbed this quick picture of St Bride’s because there were also some nice fluffy clouds in the frame …

It occurred to me then that the church, with its famous ‘wedding cake’ steeple, had been extremely fortunate not to be now obscured by the extensive post-war development that took place in the City as it very gradually recovered from the War. Someone working in the City at the turn of the 20th century would have recognised both the church and the building in front of it.

This sent me in search of some other images. Here’s the view from a bit further up Ludgate Hill …

Here is a view from the hill in the 1940s from a postcard series called London Under Fire

I decided to visit St Bride’s again taking this picture as I approached the entrance door …

The church is surrounded by buildings so this print from 1753 is interesting since one can get a sense of its full scale as seen from the outside and its position relative to St Paul’s Cathedral …

I crossed St Bride’s Avenue, a narrow passageway that runs between the church and the buildings on the southern side of Fleet Street …

This is the view from the east end. The Old bell Tavern dates from the 1670s …

The church was gutted in the Blitz but was very sympathetically restored and reopened in 1957. Here are the ruins shortly after the bombing …

The interior we see today is loyal to Wren’s core design. Everything, however, including floor, all wooden structures, roof etc. is from the 1950s and later refurbishments …

Looking west, St Bride is commemorated in the statue on the left …

She was born in AD 453, a contemporary of St Patrick. The church’s association with St Bride (St Brigid of Kildare) may date back to the sixth century and is the only church on the east side of England to bear this dedication. She died on 1st February AD 525, and was buried with the remains of Ireland’s two other patron saints, Patrick and Columba. Her saint’s day continues to be celebrated on this date. You can read more about her and the church’s history here.

The royal arms weigh two tons and are carved from a block of Beer stone …

The eagle lectern was, according to tradition, rescued from the medieval church during the Great Fire of London in 1666 …

There are two ‘charity scholars’ tucked away in a corner . They originally stood outside St Bride’s Charity School in Bride’s Lane. …

Just above their heads is a small bust carved by Clare Waterhouse, replacing an earlier marble carving by Marjorie Meggit …

It represents Virginia Dare, the first recorded European child to be born in North America. Her parents had been married here before sailing to Roanoke in 1587 but what became of Virginia and the other colonists remains a mystery.

St Bride’s has a long association with the print trade and journalism, dating back to around 1500 when the printing press of Wynkyn de Worde was established near the church. This association grew with the rise of Fleet Street as a centre of journalism and the newspaper industry. There are a number of memorials to journalists killed, imprisoned or just missing in conflicts around the world and I have written more extensively about these in last week’s blog.

I headed downstairs to the fascinating museum in the crypt …

As I descended I remembered that the crowded burial chambers below the church were rediscovered by preparatory excavations in 1953. The crypts were found to contain the remains of 227 individually identified people interred since the 17th century, as well as an estimated 7000 human remains in the more communal charnel house, where bones removed from the cemetery during the Middle Ages (in order to make room for new burials) were arranged according to type (skulls with skulls, femurs with femurs, etc.) and laid out in a checkerboard pattern to an as-yet unknown depth …

There are guided tours to see the charnel house but I’ve decided to pass on that for the time being.

And so to the museum.

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

One answer was a coffin that would be extremely difficult to open and such an invention was patented by one Edward Bridgman of Goswell Road in 1818. It was made of iron with spring clips on the lid and the coffin on display fulfils the patent …

A contemporary advertisement – secure coffins were not cheap …

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

A collection of grave markers …

Early walls and foundations …

I think some of the explanatory panels are little works of art in their own right …

Terrifying times …

An amusing anecdote …

There are some interesting inscriptions at the east end of the church. 1702 was when the steeple was being completed …

Presumably these people are interred in the vaults below …

I hope you enjoyed today’s effort. I am indebted to the London Inheritance blog for some of the illustrations.

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A quick visit to St Bride’s. A tribute to the bravery of the men and women who bring us the news.

St Bride’s Fleet Street is a lovely church, particularly recognisable by its ‘wedding cake’ steeple …

It was totally gutted during the war …

But beautifully restored in the 1950s in a way which closely resembled Sir Christopher Wren’s original design …

St Bride’s has a long association with the print trade and journalism, dating back to around 1500 when the printing press of Wynkyn de Worde was established near the church. This association grew with the rise of Fleet Street as a centre of journalism and the newspaper industry and the association remains strong despite the exit of the profession from the area.

If you watch TV news today, or listen to a radio report, chances are these will be from a journalist and their support staff in Ukraine, kitted out in protective gear. Those who report from war zones run a very real risk of injury or death, and those who have been lost in previous wars are commemorated in St Bride’s, including this memorial to those who lost their lives whilst covering the 2003 Iraq war …

Particularly moving is the Journalists’ Altar, commemorating those within the profession who have died, are held hostage or have an unknown fate …

Unfortunately, there are too many to display at any one time, so the photos are rotated …

As I write, at least seven journalists have been killed while covering the war in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24. A record is kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists whose website gives full details.

There is a lot more to see at St Bride’s, including a great little museum, and I shall report back next week. I felt that this week’s blog should just be a thoughtful one.

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St Dunstan-in-the-East – a peaceful place named after an extraordinary man.

I’ve already written in some detail about the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West so I thought it would be good, given last week’s lovely weather, to visit the ruins of St Dunstan-in-the-East. Dunstan (c. 909 – 19 May 988) was an extraordinary man being successively Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s not surprising, therefore, that in Greater London there are seven churches dedicated to him as well as seventeen roads and three educational establishments.

His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church. His 11th-century biographer states that Dunstan was skilled in ‘making a picture and forming letters’, as were other clergy of his age who reached senior rank. At least one example of his work survives …

This is from the manuscript known as the Glastonbury Classbook. It’s a portrait of Christ, and the monk kneeling beside him may be a self-portrait of Dunstan.

He served as an important minister of state to several English kings and was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil by grabbing his nose in a pair of hot tongs …

If you want to read even more about St Dunstan I highly recommend The Clerk of Oxford blog.

And so to the remains of the church named after him.

The original church (dating from around 1100) was severely damaged in the Great Fire of 1666 after which it was patched up and a steeple with a needle spire added, to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, between 1695 and 1701. In 1817, structural problems were identified and these led to the church being demolished. Wren’s tower was considered safe and was retained and incorporated into the new building which was completed in 1821.

Here’s St Dunstan’s in 1910 …

The church was partly destroyed in the Blitz of 1941. Wren’s tower and steeple survived the bombs’ impact but of the rest of the church only the north and south walls remained …

Following the War it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan’s and in 1967 the City of London Corporation chose to turn the ruins into a public garden which opened in 1971. A lawn and trees were planted in the ruins, with a low fountain in the middle of the nave which is still happily bubbling away …

It’s a lovely, serene location to visit. Here are the images I took last Friday when I had the place almost entirely to myself …

You can get an idea of the ferocity of Blitz fires from the scorch marks on some of the church’s stone walls. Incendiary bombs were dropped in conjunction with high explosives …

Three old headstones have survived with inscriptions that are partially legible along with a flatstone. I have identified them from the excellent audit of churchyard inscriptions carried out by Percy Rushen in 1911.

Here are the entries in Percy’s book :

And here are the stones. First Thomas Sanders …

Then his mum and dad, Thomas and Elizabeth …

And then the Taynton family …

This is the flatstone, and I assume that it doesn’t appear in Percy’s audit because it was originally inside the church …

The pigeons and the weather have not been kind to it but I believe it reads as follows:

‘Here lies the body of Capt. NICHOLAS BATCHELER late of this parish who departed this life December 31st 1722 (possibly 1732) aged 60 years also three children, two sons one daughter, Thomas, William and Anne.

And also Anne a granddaughter of Elizabeth Batcheler.

Also the body of Mary his wife who departed this life July the 20th 1723 aged 58 years.

Also here lyeth the body of Anne Blackall a Beloved Relation.’

I have been able to identify most of the inscription because it appears in a lovely little film about the garden which you can access here on YouTube.

I find it very satisfying bringing these old stones to life and paying a kind of respect to their subjects, even though their mortal remains are long since gone.

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St Olave’s memorials – from Samuel Pepys to the great sacrifices made by the employees of Wm Cory in both World Wars.

I love visiting St Olave Hart Street. It’s tiny and wonderfully atmospheric, being one of the few surviving Medieval buildings in London. It was badly damaged during the War but many of its treasures had been removed to safety and others have been beautifully restored.

I first visited with my camera some years ago when I was writing about Samuel Pepys and I was immediately captivated by this sculpture of his wife Elizabeth. She died of typhoid fever at the age of 29 and, despite his dalliances with other women, Pepys was devastated by her death at such a young age. He commissioned this bust in white marble from the sculptor John Bushnell …

She is shown with her gaze directed towards the location of the Navy Office Pew where her husband would have sat, her mouth open as if in conversation.

His pew was in the gallery he had had built on the south wall of the church with an added outside stairway from the Royal Navy Offices so that he could go to church without getting soaked by the rain. The gallery is now gone but a memorial to Pepys marks the location of the stairway’s door …

Pepys never married again and arranged to be buried in St Olave’s next to Christine. Now they face one another across the aisle for eternity.

Although small, the church is packed with other items of interest and I shall write about a few of them this week.

Sir James Deane has an impressive tripartite monument showing him and his three wives kneeling in prayer …

Two of the women carry skulls indicating that they died before their time. Three of his children died in infancy and their swaddled bodies are included in the monument with their little heads resting on skulls, again indicating mortality (images copyright Carole Tyrrell) …

Deane was knighted on 8 July 1604 and was a very wealthy man. He made his fortune as a merchant adventurer to India, China and the Spice Islands and was very generous to the poor in every parish in which he lived or owned property. He also built almshouses in Basingstoke that survive to this day …

There is a picturesque monument to two brothers, Andrew and Paul Bayning. They are shown in the red robes of Aldermen and were both closely involved with the Levant Company …

There are memorials with touching inscriptions. ‘Her noble soul and lovely body joined, were once the wonder and the joy of mankind’ …

Sir William Ogborne was ‘A most tender husband, loving parent and a sincere and kind friend’ …

In his will he left all his property (which included several houses) to his wife, Lady Joyce, along with his ‘coach, his chariot horses, plate, hay and corn’.

The pulpit came to St Olave’s from St Benet Gracechurch when it was demolished in 1868 …

Once thought to be the work of Grinling Gibbons, it is certainly a fine example of 17th century wood carving …

The monument of Dr Peter Turner. It was looted from the bombed out church in 1941 but was finally returned in 2011 having spent some time in the Netherlands! A curator at the Museum of London found out about an upcoming auction listing the statue in 2010, the Art Loss Register investigated, and the bust was removed from the sale …

He was an eminent physician and botanist.

All prewar windows were lost in the bombing and the new windows which replaced them were specially designed to take into account the tall buildings that were springing up in the rebuilding of the City.

Two other churches have parishes which have been joined with that of St Olave to form a united benefice and the Lady Chapel Window on the north side of the church has three lights representing them.

St Olave’s is in the centre and depicts the Virgin and Child. On the left, All Hallows Staining is represented by Queen Elizabeth I with the bells of the church at her feet …

Painstaking work was needed in order to create the gradient of colour from left to right across her dress.

On the right St Katharine of Alexandria represents the former parish of St Catherine Coleman …

Above, in the four tracery lights are depicted more modern types of Christian womanhood : Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale, Josephine Butler and Edith Cavell

As I left by the north door this memorial reminded me of the tremendous sacrifices made during both World Wars by the employees of Wm Cory & Son …

At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, Cory had a large workforce, many of them skilled as engineers, mechanics, bargees and physically fit labourers. Before conscription was introduced, Cory encouraged its workers to enlist in Kitchener’s Army – an all-volunteer force of the British Army – and guaranteed to keep their jobs open for them. The company also undertook to look after the family of anyone who joined up, setting aside a sum of £25,000 (equivalent to £3 million today) to care for the men and their dependents.

Within a few days of the appeal there were enough men to form the entire D Company of the 6th Battalion of the Buffs – also known as Cory’s Unit. Most of these men came from places like Greenwich, Erith and Plumstead.

There is a photograph of Cory’s Unit which was taken at Aldershot shortly before their departure for France on the 1st of June 1915. Within six months, so many of these young men would be a name on a memorial or buried in a battlefield grave in Belgium or France …

Cory also mobilised its boats in support of the war eff­­ort in both World Wars, losing 17 boats in WWI and 13 in WWII (usually due to German mines, submarine attacks or aerial bombardment).

There is a plaque on the Tower Hill Maritime Memorial relating to one of the boats lost in WW1 – the Sir Francis …

She was torpedoed 4 miles off Ravenscar, North Yorkshire, on a ballast run to the Tyne to pick up coal on 7 June 1917. You may be interested in the diversity of nationalities among the crew :

Wanless, A, master, whose place of birth, residence, and family is not recorded;

de Boer, J, seaman, born in Holland;

Jonsson, John, born in Iceland, resident in South Shields and married to an Englishwoman;

Kato, T, fireman, born in Japan;

Nishioka, B, fireman, also born in Japan;

Poulouch, N, fireman, born in Greece;

Sharp, Joseph, steward, of South Shields;

Talbot, Alfred, engineer’s steward, of Penarth;

Tippett, Albert, engineer, a Yorkshireman resident in Tyneside;

van der Pluym, Johannes Cornelis, seaman, a resident of Amsterdam.

A further 12 crew members survived.

Not all their names appear on the St Olave Memorial, presumably because not all of them were directly employed by the company.

You can read more about the Cory company’s involvement on both World Wars here and here. There is a great blog dealing with colliers and multi-national crews here – it’s also the source of my information about the crew of the Sir Francis.

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From Submariners to the Blitz Firefighters – a walk along Embankment towards St Paul’s.

A lovely Sunny day last Saturday tempted me out for a walk.

The national Submarine Memorial Memorial on Victoria Embankment (EC4Y 0HJ) is, I think, one of London’s most moving.

Although able to hide when submerged, once struck the vessels were often unable to rise to the surface and became effectively underwater coffins. In the First World War fifty four boats were lost and with them the lives of 138 officers and 1,225 men. At the inauguration in 1922 Rear Admiral Sinclair, the Chief of the Submarine Service, reminded those present that, during the Great War …

The number of those killed in the Submarine Service was greater in proportion to its size than any other branch of His Majesty’s fighting forces … one third of the total personnel.

In November 1959 new panels commemorating Second World war losses were unveiled by Rear Admiral B W Taylor.

Wright and Moore, writing for the 20th Century Architecture website, describe the memorial as a complex mixture of narrative and symbolism …

Sculptor: F B Hitch Architect: A H R Tenison Founder: E J Parlanti

The central figures recreate the scene set inside the submarine exaggerating it into a small, claustrophobic tunnel. The crew use charts and follow dials, the captain is braced at the centre with the periscope behind his head. Around the vessel a shallow relief depicts an array of sea creatures or mermen appearing to trap and haul the submarine in fishing nets, reminding us that the submarines were as much prey to the tempestuous elements as they were to the enemy.

On both corners are allegorical figures. Next to the list of vessels lost between 1914 and 1918, Truth holds up her mirror. Just further to the left in the picture are two of the 40 bronze wreath hooks in the form of anchors …

On the right, next to the vessels lost in the Second World War, Justice wears a blindfold and as usual holds a sword and scales …

On a more lighthearted vein, walk east from the Memorial on the north side of the road and you’ll find this chap frantically trying to hail a taxi …

Taxi! by the American Sculptor J Seward Johnson is cast bronze and is now interestingly weathered. If you think the baggy trousers, moustache and side parting are erring on the retro, that’s because this particular office worker was transferred from New York in 2014. It was sculpted in 1983 and originally stood on Park Avenue and 47th Street.

I love this pair of ‘dolphin’ lamps (although they are actually sturgeon) ..

Neptune also makes an appearance …

Further east you can wave to the pretty mermaid who embellishes the Art Deco style Unilever Building …

Further along the lamps repay detailed study …

Across the road, a jolly friar looks down from the Blackfriar pub …

Carry on along Queen Victoria Street and admire the imposing College of Arms building …

… and its ornate gate …

St Peter’s Hill runs north alongside the College and at the top you will find the Firefighters Memorial. On its octagonal bronze base are the names of the 997 men and women of the fire service who lost their lives during the conflict. The sculpture features two firemen ‘working a branch’, with their legs spread to take the strain of the hose …

A sub-officer directs others to assist. There are clues to the identity of this figure scattered among the debris at the figures’ feet: the letters CTD for C.T. Demarne. At the unveiling, his colleagues from the fire service claimed that there was no need for such clues. One who was interviewed by the Telegraph stated: ‘You can tell it’s Cyril by the way he’s standing…he always waved his arms about like that when he was ordering us about’.

Officer Demarne in full flow.

By 1943 over 70,00 women had enrolled in the National Fire Service in the United Kingdom. This memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in the London bombings …

The lady on the left is an incident recorder and the one on the right a despatch rider.

Across the road, just south of the Cathedral, is this rather handsome bearded gentleman …

John Donne 1572-1631 by Nigel Boonham (2012).

In 1617, two years after his ordination, Donne’s wife died at age 33 after giving birth to a stillborn child, their twelfth. Grief-stricken at having lost his emotional anchor, Donne vowed never to marry again, even though he was left with the task of raising his ten surviving children in modest financial circumstances. His bereavement turned him fully to his vocation as an Anglican divine and, on November 22, 1621, Donne was installed as Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The power and eloquence of his sermons soon secured for him a reputation as the foremost preacher in the England of his day, and he became a favourite of both Kings James I and Charles I.

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.’

Incidentally, if you walk around the east side of the Cathedral you will see scars from the Second World War bombing which illustrate just how close the building came to destruction …

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Some things I have seen on recent wanderings – from traitors’ heads to woolly mammoths.

As regular readers will know, every now and then I like to publish some images that I have taken that don’t fit easily into any particular theme and this week’s blog is an example. They include wanderings outside the City and even London itself but I hope you will still enjoy them.

Walking down Errol Street in Islington (EC1Y 8LU – opposite Waitrose) I looked up and, for the first time, noticed this very touching memorial …

This wonderful map entitled The Streets They Left Behind is interactive. Just click on the poppies to read more about the men who never returned.

Just across the road in Whitecross Street are the premises of A Holt & Sons Ltd …

Because so many trades have moved out of the City and its adjacent boroughs, I had always assumed that the building contained flats and that the signage had been retained as a quaint ‘feature’ to attract tenants. How wrong I was!

The business (which specialises in cotton textiles) was founded by Abraham Holtz who started his enterprise on a stall nearby and who then bought these premises in 1864. It has been in the family ever since (the ‘z’ was dropped from the name at the time of the First World War). Have a look at their website for the full fascinating story.

The building is adjacent to the tiny, covered alley called Shrewsbury Court …

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to establish the origin of its name. You can read more about its history here in the splendid Ian Visits blog.

A few yards inside the alley is one of my favourite London doors. 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 learning a bit more about City doors takes your fancy have a look at my blog entitled That rings a Bell.

The other day at the Museum of London I was admiring this painting of London as seen from Southwark in around 1630. It’s one of the few painted records of the City before it was destroyed in the Great Fire …

My eye was drawn to London Bridge where a wide selection of traitors’ heads offered a grisly welcome to newcomers approaching from the south …

I liked this view of the outside of the Charterhouse with the very old gates, a gas lamp and an iconic red London pillar box …

The Kentish ragstone wall is fantastic …

I wrote recently about the great Italian experience that is Eataly on Bishopsgate. Here’s some of the scrumptious produce on sale …

There are a few doorways around the City that have always intrigued me since the wood seems to be incredibly old and repurposed from another function. The first is on Foster Lane and the next two Carter Lane …

I have noticed a recent trend in City opticians to have really wacky displays that don’t seem to bear much resemblance at all to their product. This one’s in Aldersgate and is obviously referencing the nearby Barbican estate …

Generally speaking, I don’t approve of graffiti, but this made me laugh …

When visiting Highgate Cemetery a few weeks ago I encountered these two ladies on Highgate Hill. The first (‘Big girls need big diamonds’) is obviously Elizabeth Taylor …

If you are visiting nearby and are interested in finding them they are on the outside wall of the oddly named Brendan the Navigator pub (N19 5NQ).

In the Egyptian Avenue in Highgate Cemetery you will come across the vault containing the remains of Mabel Veronica Batten. In front of the entrance there are always fresh flowers placed in a marble container inscribed with the name of her lover, Radclyffe Hall, who is also laid to rest there …

Hall, born Marguerite Radclyffe Hall but known to her loved ones as John, was a lesbian who dressed in men’s clothes in a society and era when same-sex love was considered not only immoral but legally punishable. Her book, The Well of Loneliness, dealing with a love between two women, was published in 1928. Here she is circa 1910 …

Picture: National Portrait Gallery, photographer unknown.

Her novel became the target of a campaign by James Douglas, editor of the Sunday Express, who wrote, ‘I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel.’ A judge eventually ordered the book destroyed, with the defendants to pay court costs.

A lady entrepreneur sets out her wares on Kilburn High Road …

Nearby stalls …

And finally, some images from a really enjoyable trip to Ipswich.

Ipswich Museum is a delight containing an extraordinary range of exhibits, all displayed in an authentic Victorian environment.

Ever wondered what a boa constrictor’s skeleton looks like? Wonder no more …

Ever fancied a close encounter with a woolly mammoth? This is the place to come …

In a sad sign of the times, ten years ago someone broke in and sawed off and stole Rosie the Rhino’s horn!

Staying at the Salthouse Harbour Hotel was fun. There is some interesting art on display …

And some, er, rather eccentric signage …

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Reasons to be optimistic

Occasionally, when I feel the dark, heavy hand of doom tapping me on the shoulder (Covid, Lockdowns, Brexit, Trump etc) I cheer myself up by looking back at times past when things looked very grim but from which we eventually recovered. One way I do this is to look at some of the images of the terrifying days of the early 1940s and compare them to the same scene today.

The following Aerofilms photo from before the war shows how St. Paul’s was surrounded by the dense city streets with buildings much closer to the cathedral than they are now. These were not only offices, but also plenty of warehouses with one of the major publishers / book distributors having their office and warehouse just north of St. Paul’s in Paternoster Square. The spires of the city churches still stood clear of their surroundings, but St. Paul’s dominated the area …

EPW055297

Christmas 1940 had been relatively quiet, however on the evening of the 29th December a large bomber force appeared over the City just after 6pm and for just over the next three hours incendiary bombs rained down on the City along with high explosive bombs. This combination caused maximum damage. High explosive bombs would rip buildings apart, exposing their contents to the impact of the incendiaries. During the peak of the raid over 300 incendiary bombs a minute were falling across the City and St. Paul’s quickly became surrounded by a sea of flame, fire crossing over the small streets and debris falling all around. These pictures show what was considered to be the almost miraculous survival of St Paul’s Cathedral …

Two things strike me about the lower photograph. Firstly how dirty the cathedral stonework had become after over 300 years of London pollution. Secondly, two of those shrapnel marks that stand out so clearly against the soot-stained cathedral are still preserved today …

You can see where other scars from the bombing have been repaired.

This aerial view shows how close the Cathedral came to destruction …

Copyright : Popperfoto – Getty Images.

The view today …

As a result of the bombing, many of the narrow alleys nearby dating from medieval times simply disappeared as did Paternoster Row (although the name still lives on) …

Copyright : Guildhall Library.

This picture is entitled ‘Prince Albert raises his hat as Holborn Circus burns behind him‘ …

Copyright : Guildhall Library.

And he is still there in the same jaunty pose, albeit relocated a few yards to the east. You can read more about the statue here

St Clement Danes was seriously damaged …

Copyright : Associated Press.

But eighty years later Dr Johnson carries on nonchalantly reading his book. He is no longer imprisoned behind railings and has a fully restored church behind him …

The building still bears its Second World War scars …

In the book I consulted for these photographs the good Doctor gets a further mention …

Copyright : Guildhall Library.

Nothing much has changed. The photograph above is looking south from Fleet Street, this is the view today looking north …

St Mary-le-Bow was completely gutted. I was moved by this poignant picture of a service being conducted in the roofless building in 1941 …

Copyright : PopperfotoGetty Images.

I am pretty sure that the window behind them that gives the unusual view of St Paul’s has now been filled with this beautiful stained glass work by John Hayward. Here the Virgin Mary cradles the church named after her as if it were a child, surrounded by church spires that survived the Blitz …

St Lawrence Jewry was also terribly damaged with only the walls and steeple remaining. This picture was taken on 30th December 1940 …

Copyright : Media Storehouse.

Now fully restored, it contains some of my favourite stained glass by Christopher Webb. In one window an angel holds the roofless, windowless church filled with rubble. In the background St Paul’s is illuminated by flames and searchlights pierce the sky as buildings burn …

In another the angel holds the restored building …

I have written previously about the lovely stained glass that can be found in the City and you can access the blog here : Dick Whittington, Hipster, City Stained Glass.

London Wall on the morning after the big December 1940 attack …

Copyright : PopperfotoGetty Images.

A scene typical of what Londoners faced on returning to work after an air raid. Fire hoses snake across the rubble filled street.

In this image a War Artist records the damage in Cannon Street …

The view today, as close as I can get it without being run over …

Christ Church Greyfriars, Newgate Street, could not be saved …

Copyright : PopperfotoGetty Images.

It’s now laid out as a garden …

Image courtesy of Jenikya’s Blog.

It’s impossible to consider the history of London without referencing some of the great disasters which have befallen it in the past and last year, living in Covid times, I published a piece about the terrible pestilence of 1665 : Samuel Pepys and the Plague – ‘God preserve us all.

I’m not making direct comparisons between these past disasters and the current pandemic – just reminding myself that even after terrible events a kind of normality usually returns, although life is never exactly the same as before. What seems to be unchanging, however, is people’s resilience and a spirit of helping others that I find positively uplifting.

I am indebted to the author of this book for some of the wartime photographs. It also contains a fascinating commentary …

I have also used quotations and pictures from from the excellent London Inheritance blog which you can access here.

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What do pigeons do all day? And why was one awarded the Croix de Guerre?

I was visiting Bunhill Fields burial ground last week with a view to writing about it again for a New Year blog. Whilst focusing my camera on an interesting tombstone I was photobombed by this cheeky fellow …

Although anthropomorphism is frowned upon by some, I do tend to indulge every now and then and felt the pigeon was definitely sending me a message along the lines of ‘why are you writing about boring bits of stone when you could be writing about me?’ So I took the hint and this week’s blog is the result.

Obviously I started with some serious research. Have you, for example, ever wondered what pigeons do all day? Wonder no more – here is a breakdown of their typical activity over 24 hours …

Pie chart of pigeon activity over a 24 hour period (n=12) | © www.londonpigeons.co.uk

Just how smart are they?

From my own observations it is obvious that the pigeon population has become aware of the Covid risk and birds are now practising social distancing as a matter of course …

With total isolation for the particularly vulnerable …

Sadly, however, they tend to lose all self-control when presented with food (just like some humans do when presented with alcohol and the opportunity to party) …

A kind lady has just distributed a handful of bread!

It has been difficult to establish the average pigeon’s IQ. As an expert in this field has written …

‘Pigeons have a very high brain to body mass ratio. The academic literature on pigeon intelligence is fairly non-existent. This is partly due to the difficulty in administering traditional IQ tests to pigeons: they have a notoriously short attention span and furthermore find it difficult to hold a pen’.

An MRI scan reveals a very large brain relative to body size …

Pigeon brain cross-section| © www.londonpigeons.co.uk

City of London pigeons, again according to my observations, spend a lot of time walking rather than flying and there would appear to be two reasons for this. Firstly, our fondness for eating ‘on the go’ due to our busy lifestyles which results either in accidental food distribution or occasional bursts of generosity where we share our snacks with our feathered companions. I have also witnessed acts of intimidation where rougher elements of the pigeon community hang around in an intimidating fashion in parks and outside supermarkets giving humans the ‘feed me or else’ glare …

The second reason, I believe, is the presence of a number of pairs of peregrine falcons that nest on Tate Modern and on the towers of the Barbican. A pigeon represents a tasty meal …

Photograph David Tipling/Getty Images.

Pigeons are monogamous and mate for life and their mating ritual is quite cute. A single male will nod his head at the female which takes his fancy and spread his tail feathers to communicate his interest. The birds look directly at each other, and if the hen likes what she sees, she will nod back. The male will then prune his feathers, leaving the next move to the female. If interested the hen will hold out her head and move closer to the male and fan her tail feathers.

Things get spicy when the male offers his beak and indulges in a pigeon kiss (rubbing their beaks together) …

The hen will feed the male from her beak and together they will coo. Once she demonstrates she is ready, four seconds later its all over …

After mating the first egg will be laid within 10 days, with a second arrival following a couple of days later.

When it comes to food they don’t seem to be that fussy. I have observed them eating …

  • Bread
  • Chips
  • Biscuits
  • Cooked rice
  • Crisps
  • Pizza

I think it rather sad they get called flying rats. They often seem to me to be positively fastidious, especially when there are pools of water around that they love to splash about in, like this one I spotted making sure to wash under his wings …

And lots of mutual grooming takes place too – occasionally leading to energetic bouts of hanky-panky.

A quick question for you. Who wrote the following to friends who were coming to visit him …

‘I hope Lady Lyell & yourself will remember whenever you want a little rest & have time how very glad we should be to see you here. I will show you my pigeons! Which is the greatest treat, in my opinion, which can be offered to human beings’.

It was the man whose writings brought about one of the most fundamental and controversial changes in the way we viewed the world – Charles Darwin …

Although he never wrote On the Origin of Pigeons he clearly became very fond of them after he started studying and breeding them for scientific purposes in 1856. He wrote to another friend about a trip to London ‘where I am going to bring a lot more pigeons back with me on Saturday, for it is a noble and majestic pursuit, and beats moths and butterflies, whatever you may say to the contrary’. Although his study of pigeons informed On The Origin of Species, Darwin’s real ‘pigeon book,’ The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, did not come out until 1868. Its long and beautifully illustrated section on pigeons is still readable and relevant to both naturalists and pigeon fanciers today …

Here’s one of his illustrations …

And let’s not forget pigeon bravery in two World Wars. Here’s a picture of a carrier pigeon being released from a port-hole in the side of a tank near Albert in the Somme on 9th August 1918. The Tank Corps often used carrier pigeons to relay information during an advance …

One of the bravest military birds was Cher Ami, who now poses stuffed in the Smithsonian Institution …

On 13th October 1918, despite being seriously wounded, she successfully delivered the following message which effectively saved the lives of almost 200 men …

‘We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens sake stop it’.

Military vets made Cher Ami a prosthetic limb and sent her home to well earned retirement. For her part in saving the 77th Division, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre, one of France’s highest military honours for her gallantry in the field. General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, said ‘There isn’t anything the United States can do too much for this bird.’

Capt John Carney, Cher Ami’s trainer, holds the feathered hero.

Pigeons continued in service during the Second World War. In the early 1940s, the American Signal Pigeon Corps consisted of 3,150 soldiers and 54,000 birds. Some 90 per cent of the messages got through. And these avian secret agents saved countless lives, too – of 54 Dickin Medals (the animals’ Victoria Cross) awarded in World War II, 32 went to pigeons.

One of its most famous recipients in World war II was a pigeon called Commando – read more about him here.

So next time you are tempted to frighten a pigeon or shoo it away remember this – they may be a distant relative of a war hero or descended from one of Charles Darwin’s feathered pals. And maybe look a bit more closely at them too – their colouring can be very attractive …

Who’s a pretty boy then?

I hope you enjoyed this little pigeon journey. For help with this blog I am indebted to the informative and occasionally hilarious London Pigeons website which provided some of the data.

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‘Spot the grasshopper’, enemy cannon from Waterloo, fascinating men and a Native American lady

I think this picture tells a story. The Gresham grasshopper on the roof of the Royal Exchange is dwarfed by the new monster office block on Bishopsgate and, to a lesser extent, the Cheesegrater. Will these buildings now ever be full?

Outside the Exchange is this handsome chap, sitting without saddle or stirrups, on his fine steed …

Erected in 1844, it is, of course, the Duke of Wellington but the statue was not created to celebrate just his military achievements. On 19th July 1838 the Court of Common Council of the City of London agreed to a contribution of £500 towards its cost in appreciation of his efforts in assisting the passage of the London Bridge Approaches Act 1827. This Act led to the creation of King William Street. The government donated the metal, which is bronze from captured enemy cannon melted down after the Battle of Waterloo …

Not everyone approved. A writer to The Times declared …

…did his Grace ride at Waterloo without a saddle, without boots, without a hat and carrying his own despatches? … Is the charger supposed to be neighing to a blast of trumpets, or whinnying to the mare in the Mansion House?

Nearby is the war memorial to the London Troops …

Standing on either side of the plinth are two soldiers of the London regiments, one middle-aged the other more youthful. It was unveiled on 12 November 1920 …

A leader in The Times was entitled ‘Our London Soldiers’ and extolled the bravery of the men who came …

… from counting-house and shop, from the far-reaching suburbs and the thronged centres … it will serve as a stimulus to the sense of unity and to the sense of duty now growing in our vast and diverse population.

At the bottom of the list of battalions, one in particular caught my eye, the Cyclists …

When visiting the Imperial War Museum I came across a postcard of this splendid recruitment poster from 1912. It is poignant to look at this picture with its pretty village setting and then think of the industrial age war of slaughter, mud and filth, that was soon to follow …

Often described as ‘standing at the back’ of the Royal Exchange, is a statue to a remarkable man – Paul Julius Reuter. The rough-cut granite sculpture by the Oxford-based sculptor Michael Black commemorates the 19th-century pioneer of communications and news delivery. It is a fitting place for the statue because the stone head faces the Royal Exchange which was the reason why Reuter set up his business in the City. He established his offices in 1851 on the opposite side of the walkway to the Royal Exchange – in other words, they were to the east of the Royal Exchange. The stone monument was erected by Reuters to mark the 125th anniversary of the Reuters Foundation. It was unveiled by Edmund L de Rothschild on 18 October 1976 …

The life of Reuter was most interesting. Having started his career as a humble clerk in a bank, he went on to ‘see the future’ of transmitting the news – regardless of whether it was financial or world news. If the ‘modern’ technology of telegraphy – also known then as Telegrams – was not in place, Reuter used carrier pigeons and even canisters floating in the sea to convey news as fast as possible. Such was his ambition to be the first with the news.

Just across the road is another bearded gentleman, studiously studying some plans. James Henry Greathead was a South African engineer (note the hat) who invented what was to become known as the Greathead Shield. He came to be here on Cornhill because a new ventilation shaft was needed for Bank Underground Station and it was decided that he should be honoured on the plinth covering the shaft …

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

What about this fine fellow dominating the small courtyard outside St Mary-le-Bow (sporting another great beard) …

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DSC_8164-668x1024.jpg

This is Captain John Smith. A colonial adventurer, Smith was a Citizen and Cordwainer, and set sail from Blackwall to found the colony of Virginia in 1606. Following a period as the prisoner of the native Americans he became head of the settler’s colony before returning to London in 1609-10. He later claimed that during his captivity his life had been saved by ‘Princess’ Pocahontas who pleaded with her father, the paramount Chief, that he be spared execution. Doubt has been cast on this story but early histories did establish that Pocahontas befriended Smith and the Jamestown colony. She often went to the settlement and played games with the boys there. When the colonists were starving, ‘every once in four or five days, Pocahontas with her attendants brought him [Smith] so much provision that saved many of their lives that else for all this had starved with hunger’.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother unveiled the statue on 31st October 1960 and you can watch a Pathe News film of the event here.

Incidentally, Pocahontas went on to marry an Englishman, John Rolfe, visited London, and became quite a celebrity. Sadly she died on the return journey from causes unknown and was buried in St George’s Church Gravesend. Her grave has since been lost.

This is a 1616 portrait engraving of her by Simon de Passe. What a super hat …

She was also commemorated on a 1907 postage stamp, the first native American to be honoured in this way …

Now another adventurous gentleman.

A memorial to Admiral Phillip was originally erected at St Mildred’s Church Bread Street. Although the church was destroyed by enemy action in 1941 the bronze bust was salvaged from its ruins. This modern copy can now be found on the south side of the New Change shopping centre, the original is in St Mary-le-Bow church …

The plaque makes interesting reading …

And now a woman and a man dressed somewhat… er … unconventionally.

Let’s start with this extraordinary statue at 193 Fleet Street now, sadly, rather weathered …

I always thought that it resembled a rather effeminate youth but it is in fact a woman disguised as a pageboy, her name, Kaled, appears just under her right foot.

It is by Giuseppe Grandi, and dates from 1872. The shop owner, George Attenborough, had a niche created specially for it over the front door. Kaled is the page of Count Lara in Bryon’s poetic story of a nobleman who returns to his ancestral lands to restore justice. He antagonises the neighbouring chieftains who attack and kill him. Kaled stays with his master and lover to the end, when it is revealed he is in fact a woman. (Spoiler alert) She goes mad from grief and dies.

There seems to be no end to the wonderful paintings to be found at the Guildhall Art Gallery. This one is a representation of a famous Greek myth – the murder by Clytemnestra of her husband Agamemnon. Here she stands, wild-eyed in the Mediterranean sunlight, outside the room where she has committed the deed. In the background behind her we can just make out the outline of a dimly lit body …

‘Clytemnestra’ by John Collier (1882)

Agamemnon had commanded the Greek forces which besieged Troy during the Trojan Wars. Before setting sail for home, he sacrificed their youngest daughter Iphigenia to ensure a favourable wind for his fleet. To make matters worse, he returned with his lover, the prophetess Cassandra, the captured daughter of King Priam of Troy. Enraged and grieving, Clytemnestra and her son murdered them both in revenge

Collier was famous for his close attention to detail. There is light etching on the axe blade and the blood drips and runs authentically. All the little roundels we can see in the picture are different …

One has to say, however, that the more you study the figure the more it looks like a man. There is a pure physical dominance – and look at the muscular arms and large hands gripping the axe handle and holding back the curtain …

Collier brings extraordinary attention to detail in her blood-spattered garments.

It is now thought that Collier took his inspiration from an 1880 performance of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon at Balliol College, Oxford in which Clytemnestra was played by a male student, one Frank Benison.

Also in the gallery is this David Wynne sculpture of Prince Charles …

He just doesn’t look happy, does he? Maybe he wasn’t too keen on the rather spiky modern version of a coronet that he is wearing here at his 1969 Investiture as Prince of Wales. It was designed by a committee chaired by his auntie Princess Margaret’s husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Lord Snowdon). The globe and cross at the top was originally intended to be solid gold but the committee concluded that this would be far too heavy. The solution was to use a gold plated ping-pong ball – which is why I always smile at this portrayal of the Prince (and possibly why he doesn’t appear to have ever worn the item again).

Just by way of further light relief I have found another spooky clothes model to add to my collection (see last week’s blog) …

And these ‘eyebrows’ in the Cheapside Sunken Garden made me laugh. Part of the London Festival of Architecture, they entitled Look Up and are by Oli Colman …

Finally, I loved this joyful Hermes shop window at the Royal Exchange …

As is often the case I am grateful to Philip Ward-Jackson for much of the detail about the sculptures. I highly recommend his book Public Sculpture of the City of London, still available at Waterstones.

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From Sam Pepys’s dinner plate to the Essex Auroch

Yes, I have again been taking advantage of the wonderful fact that the Museum of London has reopened and is free to enter with a timed ticket.

I was thrilled to see a new exhibit connected to my hero Samuel Pepys – naval administrator, Member of Parliament and, of course, famous diarist. The item is a silver dinner plate made in 1681/82 and engraved with his coat of arms. Scratched by knives and forks, it is one of only three that now survive of the full dinner service …

By the time he commissioned this he was already a wealthy man and took great pleasure in entertaining at home. I like this boast from his diary dated 8th April 1667 and his remark about Mrs Clarke made me laugh out loud …

We had with my wife and I twelve at table and very good and pleasant company, and a most neat and excellent, but dear dinner; but, Lord, to see with what envy they looked upon all my fine plate was pleasant, for I made the best show I could, to let them understand me and my condition, to take down the pride of Mrs Clarke, who thinks herself very great.

Being a man of intense curiosity, and a Fellow of the Royal Society, Pepys would almost certainly have heard of this discovery made during the rebuilding of St Martin’s Church on Ludgate Hill in 1669 …

It’s the third century tombstone of a Roman centurion wearing a tunic, a military belt and a long cloak draped over his left shoulder.

Amazingly, the inscription is still legible …

To the spirits of the departed and to Vivius Marcianus of the 2nd Legion Augusta, Januaria Martina his most devoted wife set up this memorial.

I think modern illustrations like this are mainly for the benefit of children, but I love them …

Incidentally, and still on a Roman theme, nearby is a fine mosaic floor dating from AD 300 and discovered in Bucklersbury in 1869 …

Pepys witnessed and wrote about the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the Museum has a rare depiction of the City before the fire. It dates from around 1630, three years before he was born …

Nearby is a dramatic oil painting of the conflagration at its height …

The view is taken from the west with the Cathedral, fiercely ablaze, dominating the scene. John Evelyn described what happened when the fire reached St Paul’s …

The stones of St Paul’s flew like grenades, the lead melting down the streets in a stream, and the very pavements of them glowing with fiery redness.

The cathedral was thought to be safe and the nearby printers and booksellers stored their entire stock in the crypt. Unfortunately the fire caught hold of wooden scaffolding put up for repairs and the cathedral and all its contents were consumed.

Since his home was at risk, Pepys hired a cart ‘to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things’ and buried his valuable Parmesan cheese in the garden.

Such was the intensity of the blaze that these two iron padlocks and key melted together in a lump. The owner of the premises, an 80-year-old watchmaker, chose to hide in his cellar rather than flee (presumably to protect his stock from looters). These items were found beside his body …

Referring to a giant who was supposed to have lived in the building, this figure, known as Gerald the Giant, stood in a niche on the front elevation of Gerard’s Hall in Basing Lane and dates from around 1670 …