Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

Another visit to Southwark … ‘The outcast dead’.

After admiring the magnificent memorials in Southwark Cathedral, I wanted to visit the Cross Bones Graveyard Garden, which has a very different story to tell. It can be found at the junction of Redcross Way and Union Street (SE1 1SD) …

I also wanted to mark the connection between it and the remains of the Bishop of Winchester’s palace on Clink Street (SE1 9DN) …

A plaque outside the garden gives a very brief history …

Photo credit : Katy Nichols.

I found it a very moving place, even though the garden was closed when I visited. I caught a glimpse of several little shrines through the memorial ribbons and other tributes attached to the fence …

Some excavation work by Museum of London archaeologists in the 1990s resulted in the removal of 148 skeletons, over 60% of whom were children under five years of age. Overall it’s estimated that as many as 15,000 souls were buried here until the cemetery was closed in 1853 being ‘completely overcharged with dead’ and ‘inconsistent with due regard for the public health and public decency’.

So what was the connection with the Bishop of Winchester?

As the plaque tells us, in the late medieval period, the local prostitutes were known as ‘Winchester Geese’. They were not licensed by the City of London or Surrey authorities, but by the Bishop of Winchester who owned the surrounding lands, hence their namesake. The earliest known reference to the Graveyard was by John Stow in his Survey of London in 1598 …

I have heard ancient men of good credit report, that these single women were forbidden the rights of the Church, so long as they continued that sinful life, and were excluded from Christian burial, if they were not reconciled before their death. And therefore there was a plot of ground, called the single woman’s churchyard, appointed for them, far from the parish church.

Stow comments that their churchyard was ‘far from the parish church’. That church, St Saviour’s, became Southwark Cathedral in 1905 and you can just see the top of its tower on the right in my first photo above. Far indeed.

You can read more about Cross Bones here.

I just had to visit nearby Ayres Street (SE1 1ES) …

It is named after a brave girl who is also commemorated in the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park …

The picture above shows Alice Ayres as portrayed by the Illustrated London News in 1885 (Copyright the British Library Board). Her commemorative plaque reads as follows and was the first to be installed …

It was 25-year-old Alice’s brave act that prompted Watts to write to the Times newspaper and suggest the creation of a memorial

That would celebrate the sacrifices made by ‘likely to be forgotten heroes’ by collecting ‘…a complete record of the stories of heroism in every-day life’.

Alice threw down a mattress from a burning building and successfully used it to rescue three children …

From The Illustrated Police News 2nd May 1885 Copyright, The British Library Board.

Alice eventually jumped herself but received terrible injuries and died two days later. Incidentally, if her name rings a bell with you it could be because, in the 2004 film Closer, one of the characters, Jane Jones, sees Alice’s memorial and decides to adopt her name.

This imposing building at 47 Union Street dating from 1907 was once known as the ‘Ragged School’, a charity set up to help disadvantaged children (SE1 1SG) …

According to the London Remembers blog, ‘the Work Girls Protection Society was founded in 1875 and began with premises in New Kent Road. It was renamed the St Mary’s Girls’ Club. In 1899 the Club lost the New Kent Road site so they acquired a lease at 85 Union Street, a former tin plate works. They then raised funds, bought the site to the left of the Mission site, and constructed a building there. In 1930 the Girl’s Club merged with the Acland Club to form the co-ed St Mary’s and Acland Club’ …

I couldn’t find out any more about this club and have no idea why the bottom part of the poster has been concealed.

I headed for Southwark Street and wandered east to Borough High Street, adding this ghost sign to my collection along the way …

This building, John Harvard House, caught my eye since its narrowness seems to reflect medieval building plot dimensions …

John Harvard was born in Southwark in 1607 and was baptized in St Saviour’s Church, the present Southwark Cathedral. His mother, Katherine, owned the Queen’s Head Inn, which stood on this site, and left it to John when she died in 1636. In the spring of the following year John and his wife made the voyage to Massachusetts and arrived at Charlestown. John died there of tuberculosis in 1638 and bequeathed to the recently established local college half his fortune and the whole of his library of about 400 books. In 1639 it was renamed Harvard College, first calling itself a university in 1780. John Harvard is commemorated in Southwark today by a library in Borough High Street and by a chapel in the cathedral.

I always enjoy exploring alleys and I investigated two that run off the High Street.

In Chapel Court I came across this building …

The building itself didn’t look all that old but some of the timbers used in its construction did …

One source states that they came from a very old building that was demolished in Essex and were then utilised here in the 1980s.

And finally, Mermaid Court has a fine collection of old bollards …

I really enjoyed my trips south of the River – might even go back again one day!

Incidentally, by way of local news, Mrs Duck was showing off her little family last week. Ahhhh!

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Another visit to Southwark Cathedral.

In last week’s blog I wrote about the memorial on Borough High Street to the 344 members of St Saviour’s Parish who lost their lives in the First World War. Next year it will be one hundred years since the memorial was funded by public subscription. The £4,000 raised also allowed a bronze memorial plaque by Sir John Ninian Comper to be erected in the Cathedral. Here it is …

You can read the names on the memorial here. Some families clearly lost more than one member (for example, there are two Pluckroses listed) and a few look like they may have lost three (for example G.Field, F.Field senr, F.Field jnr).

The Cathedral is home to many lavish, elaborate monuments, but the four most simple ones stayed in my mind the longest. The first was this tribute to little 10 year old Susanna Barford who died in 1652 …

A VIRGIN PURE NOT STAIN’D BY CARNALL LUST
SUCH GRACE THE KING OF KINGS BESTOWD UPON HER
THAT NOW SHEE LIVES WITH HIM A MAID OF HONOUR
HER STAGE WAS SHORT HER THREAD WAS QUICKLY SPUNN
DRAWNE OUT, AND CUTT GOTT HEAVEN, HER WORKE WAS DONE
THIS WORLD TO HER WAS BUT A TRAGED PLAY
SHEE CAME AND SAW’T DISLIK’T AND PASS’D AWAY.

The second was where Shakespeare buried his younger brother Edmund, an actor aged just twenty-seven in 1607, at the cost of twenty shillings ‘with a forenoone knell of the great bell.

Thirdly, this child’s parents wanted to record the exact duration of her short life …

And finally, an unflinching portrayal of death with a very succinct epitaph …

William Emerson, who ‘lived and died an honest man’ in 1575 aged 92. He is said in some guides to be an ancestor of Ralph Waldo Emerson. You can read more about the Emerson family in the great London Inheritance blog entitled Emerson Stairs, Bankside.

Now something much more flamboyant, a memorial to Joyce, Lady Clerke, paid for by her son William, from her first marriage to James Austin. …

Carved along the bottom on the pediment are the words Vos Estis Dei Agricultura (You are the Agriculture of God). The central section shows standing corn behind which rises a rock on which a golden angel stands, pointing upwards to a golden sunburst on the wall above. Down the rock a stream runs, and a serpent twines itself around the rock. On either side sit life-sized figures of harvesters in attitudes of mourning, wearing smocks and wheaten hats; a rake and pitchfork are propped against their knees. Click here for a more complete description and notes on the symbolism.

This monument shows Alderman Richard Humble, and his two wives Elizabeth and Isabel, kneeling in prayer …

It’s is a typical example of the ‘Southwark School’ of monuments made by a group of Flemish refugee sculptors who lived and worked on Bankside. The area around the Cathedral has a long tradition of accepting refugees into the community. Incidentally, the banner in the background is an art installation by Mark Titchner which declares ‘Please believe these days will pass‘.

A generous epitaph: Had Kings a power to lend their subjects breath, Trehearne thou shouldst not be cast down by death …

So Trehearne, who died in 1618, was obviously a much respected servant of King James I, whose loss was keenly felt. The role of Gentleman Porter to the King was one of great responsibility and honour. It meant that John Trehearne kept the ‘keys of the castle’ and was responsible for opening and closing the gates and for the safe passage of all those that passed through. He and his wife Mary are ‘supported’ by their children …

John Bingham, saddler and Vestryman, was instrumental in founding the parish school. He died in 1625 …

Sir Frederick Wigan was a wealthy hop merchant and the first Treasurer of the newly created Cathedral in 1905 …

You may recall that I wrote about the hop trade in last week’s blog.

Richard Blisse wears a fine full-bottomed wig ..

… a most affectionate husband, his wife Elizabeth, out of a just sense of her loss hath caused this monument to be erected as ye lasting testimony of her love. He died suddenly ye 4th of August and was buried underneath ye 12th of the same month Anno Dom 1703 aetat 67 …

Amongst all the men, there is this cameo of a lady …

Isabella Gilmore (née Morris) oversaw the revival of the Deaconess Order in the Anglican Communion. She served actively in the poorest parishes in South London for almost two decades and was the sister of William Morris.

Incidentally, some time ago two patches of Roman mosaic were discovered in the churchyard and they are now incorporated into the Cathedral floor. See if you can spot them – this is one of them …

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Heroes, Hops and Housing. A short wander around Southwark.

For an expression of grim determination, it would be hard to beat the look on this man’s face …

This is the St Saviour’s War Memorial on Borough High Street, in the former parish of Southwark St Saviour (SE1 1NL). St Saviour’s Church became Southwark Cathedral in 1905 …

An infantryman in battledress advances resolutely through thick mud. He carries a rifle with bayonet attached slung over his shoulder …

Beneath his feet is a Portland Stone pedestal depicting St George doing battle with a dragon.

On the opposite side there is a carving of a mourning woman. Her child is reaching out to a dove …

On the pedestal’s long sides are bronze reliefs.

One with biplanes, to the west …

… and another with battleships, to the east.

The memorial’s sculptor was Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1977). Having joined up with the Artists’ Rifles in 1914, he had distinguished himself in the First World War having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for ‘ … conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the left flank of the Company of the Battalion’. Despite being severely wounded, he had fought on until relieved two days later. In 1926 he created the Bakers of Widegate Street, details of which can be found in my blog On the Tiles again.

The story of the Artists’ Rifles is a fascinating one, it came as a surprise to me that they had one of the highest casualty rates of the First World War. Click here to read a short History of the Regiment (and watch the last scene from Blackadder – ‘Good luck everyone‘).

Walking along Southwark Street, I came across this magnificent, gently curving building called The Hop Exchange (SE1 1TY) …

This area in Southwark was where the hops from the southern counties, and especially from Kent, were brought to after the autumn picking. After picking, the hops were dried in the oast houses and then packed into large compressed sacks of 6 by 2 feet, called ‘pockets’. These pockets were then transported to Southwark, first by horse and cart, but later by train …

The Hop Exchange was built in 1867 …

You can see the hop pickers at work in the carving contained in the pediment …

Up to the 1960s, many of the poorer London families went to the hop gardens each September for a working-holiday. Not just for the fresh air, but to supplement their all too meagre income …

At 67 Borough High Street you can find the former offices of the hop merchants, or factors as they were usually called, W.H. and H. Le May (SE1 1NF). It is a Grade II listed building with a spectacular frieze on the front depicting hop gatherers and proudly displaying the firm’s name. One may easily assume that the building is constructed of red sandstone, but according to the description on the British Listed Buildings site, it is ‘just’ coloured stucco …

A rather romanticized view of picking …

I am indebted to the London Details blog for much of my research. You can read two of the posts here and here.

These flats, Cromwell Buildings in Redcross Street (SE1 9HR), were constructed in 1864 by Sir Sydney Waterlow, founder of the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, and were modelled after a pair of houses designed by the Prince Regent for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Waterlow set the company up in 1863 with capital of £50,000 and by 1900 it was said to be housing some 30,000 London people …

If you ever find yourself in Highgate, do visit the beautiful Waterlow Park (N6 5HD). It covers 26 acres and was given to the public by Sir Sydney as ‘a garden for the gardenless’ in 1889. Seek out this statue of the great man – it’s the only statue I have ever come across of a man carrying an umbrella. In his left hand you will see he is handing over the key to the garden gates …

The Friends of Waterlow Park have produced this useful map. If you have time, I strongly recommend a visit to the nearby Highgate Cemetery

Back in Southwark, if you’re feeling thirsty and a bit peckish treat yourself with a visit to the George Inn, the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London (SE1 1NH) …

When I popped in to take a photo this made me smile …

I’ll visit Southwark again when I also go back to the Cathedral.

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Shakespeare, a quack doctor and a cadaver – my visit to Southwark Cathedral.

Last Saturday I popped in to the wonderful Southwark Cathedral, paid £2 for a photography licence, and walked around entranced.

A few feet from the door is the magnificent Shakespeare Memorial Window, Designed by Christopher Webb, it was created in 1954 to replace another destroyed in enemy action. It shows characters from the Bard’s plays …

The design uses the concept of the Jesse Tree. Prospero in the central light forms the trunk, with Ariel above and Caliban at his feet …

I’m sure you can spot Falstaff …

In the right hand window we find Lady Macbeth ,,,

Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee …

and Hamlet …

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy …

At the base, the last two of the Seven Ages of Man … …

The sixth age slips into the lean and slippered pantaloon, with spectacles on nose … and his big manly voice turning again toward childish treble … Last scene of all, is second childishness … sans teeth, sans eyes sans everything.

All the characters portrayed in the window are identified in this short article.

Below the window is an alabaster sculpture. Made by Henry McCarthy in 1912, it shows the world’s most famous playwright resting outside the Globe Theatre. He usually has a sprig of rosemary in his hand. The aromatic herb rosemary, as Ophelia says to her brother Laertes in Hamlet, is for remembrance; ‘pray, love remember’ …

I was very taken with this remarkably lifelike bust …

This is Lancelot Andrewes (1555 – 25 September 1626), the English bishop and scholar who oversaw the translation of the King James Version of the Bible …

Most importantly, I live in a block of flats named after him.

This effigy of an unknown knight is one of the earliest monumental wooden effigies in England, his mail coat and coif dating him to around 1280. He is believed to be a member of the de Warenne family who were benefactors of the priory …

Thomas Cure was a very important person in Southwark and London. He was the MP locally, and in East Grinstead, as well as the Master Saddler to King Edward VI, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. He founded almshouses for the poor and these stood for nearly 300 years in Park Street, until the new railways forced their move to West Norwood. Eventually they were relocated, in the form of modern sheltered flats, to Purley, Surrey in 2006. Cure died in 1588 and this is a ‘cadaver tomb’, reminding us all of our mortality …

Is there anywhere in the world a more impressive monument to a quack ‘doctor’? Lionel Lockyer never qualified as a doctor (he was originally a tailor and a butcher) but became famous for his miracle pills that he claimed included sunbeams as an ingredient …

His tomb has an amusing inscription which includes the words …

His virtues & his PILLS are soe well known…
That envy can’t confine them vnder stone.
But they’ll surviue his dust and not expire
Till all things else at th’universall fire.

The man himself …

Lionel Lockyer. Line engraving by J. Sturt. Wellcome Library collections.

Following Lockyer’s death in 1672, his pills continued to be sold by his nephew, John Watts, in partnership with Thomas Fyge, an apothecary. The pills were sold wholesale in tins of 50 or 100 at a price of 4 shillings for 100. That equates to about two weeks’ wages for a skilled tradesman.

This is the tomb of John Gower. He was the Poet Laureate to Richard II and Henry IV and his head rests on his three best known books, Vox Clamantis in Latin, Speculum Meditantis in French, and Confessio Amantis in English. He died in 1408 …

I finished my short visit looking at a collection of medieval roof bosses. In 1469 the roof of the priory church collapsed and the stone vaulting was replaced by a carved wooden ceiling. This is one from that ceiling and shows the Devil swallowing Judas Iscariot …

There was, of course, lots more to see at Southwark, so I shall return. I went on to have a wander around the area and will report back on that next week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These days sensible monsters regularly sanitise …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening times are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chivalry is not dead.

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

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

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

That’s all for now.

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