Horse and Groom Pub, Groom Place, Belgravia

For this week’s post I am in Belgravia, an area of London I have not covered before, however this is a return visit to check on a pub last photographed in 1985. This is the Horse and Groom in Groom Place, Belgravia.

Horse and Groom

The same pub today, unfortunately closed whilst we are still under Covid restrictions.

Horse and Groom

The Horse and Groom in Groom Place is one of London’s ‘mews’ pubs. Not on a main street, rather tucked away in one of the small side streets that were designed for servicing the large houses on the main streets, for stabling the horses of their residents, providing (when originally built) lower cost housing and for some small industrial purposes.

Chester Street and Chapel Street run from Grosvenor Place to Upper Belgrave Street and Belgrave Square. Groom Place runs between Chester and Chapel Streets. I have highlighted the location in the following map, with a red circle marking the location of the Horse and Groom on the corner of Groom Place (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Belgravia map

The green and blue to the right of the above map are the gardens and lake of Buckingham Palace Gardens.

This area of London is relatively new, having been built during the early decades of the 19th century.

Horwood’s map of 1799 shows some early building along Grosvenor Place, and the first houses in Chapel Street, however the rest is still field (unfortunately this area was on the edge of the page of my copy of Horwood’s map, so only part of the fields are shown).

Horwood's map of Belgravia

Smith’s New Plan of London dating from 1816 provides a better view of the area (but without the level of detail of Horwood’s map), and shows the Queen’s Gardens (what are now Buckingham Palace Gardens), with Grosvenor Place to the left of the garden with building now along the street and starting to reach into the fields behind.

Smith's new plan of London

There are some differences with Horwood’s earlier map. The above map shows a pond just below the word “Chapel” which does not appear on the more detailed Horwood map. There were several ponds in the area as Rocque’s map of 1746 show these, and the area was known to have been poorly drained.

There is an interesting detail in the above map. look to the left of the open space with the word “Chapel”, and you will see a wavy line running down from Knightsbridge. This was the River Westbourne when it still ran through what remained of the fields of west London, running down from the Serpentine in Hyde Park, which originally used the Westbourne as a water source, before the river became too polluted.

The ponds and the River Westbourne provide some clues as to the state of the area that would become Belgravia. In Old and New London (1878), Edward Walford writes:

“There was a time, and not so very distant in the lapse of ages, when much of Belgravia, and other parts of the valley bordering upon London was a ‘lagoon of the Thames’; indeed, the clayey swamp in this particular region retained so much water that no one would build there. At length, Mr Thomas Cubitt found the strata to consist of gravel and clay, of inconsiderable depth.

The clay he removed and burned into bricks, and by building upon the substratum of gravel, he converted this spot from the most unhealthy to one of the most healthy in the metropolis, in spite of the fact that the surface is but a few feet above the level of the River Thames at high water, during spring-tides”.

Thomas Cubitt started developing Belgravia in 1824 on behalf of the owner of the land, Richard Grosvenor, the 2nd Marquess of Westminster. As well as removing the clay, Harold Clunn in the Face of London (1932) states that the ground level was also made up by the use of the soil excavated to form the St Katherine Docks, however I suspect this was more towards the south of the estate around Pimlico rather than in the area of Groom Place.

The land consisted of what had been known as the Five Fields, an area of around 430 acres that stretched from roughly Hyde Park Corner down to Pimlico and Chelsea. The area was once part of the ancient Manor of Ebury, and in 1677 it came into the possession of the Grosvenor family through the marriage of Sir Thomas Grosvenor to Mary Davies who owned Ebury Farm with the associated land.

The name Ebury can still be found today with Ebury Street to the south of Belgravia, near Victoria Station, along with the nearby Ebury Square. Ebury Street follows the rough alignment of an old street called the Five Fields, and the original location of Ebury Farm (also called Avery Farm on early maps) was close to Ebury Square and Victoria Coach Station.

The name Belgravia comes from the village of Belgrave in Cheshire, which is part of one of the estates owned by the Duke of Westminster.

Returning to Groom Place, and where there is a branch leading up to Chapel Street, was, in 1985, L. Binelli, General Store:

Binelli General Stores, Groom Place

The General Stores have gone, the crooked corner door has been straightened, a window added to the first floor, and the building is now home to Muse – a restaurant run by the chef Tom Aikens:

Muse Restaurant Groom Place

A bit of detail from the 1985 photo – 1980s corner shops always seemed to have their windows stuffed with the products you could buy in the shop, and frequently a Lyons Maid ice cream sign.

Binelli store window

Walking up to Chapel Street, and we can see the original name of Groom Place:

Groom Place

Chapel Place was the name from the time the area was built up until the early 20th century (I cannot find the exact date of the name change).

Perhaps the name change was to mirror part of the name of the Horse and Groom pub, or to recall one of the jobs that would have been based here. It may have been changed to avoid confusion with another Chapel Place, between Oxford Street and Henrietta Place, which still exists today. The need to avoid confusion with other streets of the same name was a frequent justification for name changes.

Given the history of the area, there is one thing I am confused about with the Horse and Groom. Just above the door, the pub advertises “established 1698”.

Horse and Groom

This date was not on the original 1985 photo, and given that the area was built during the first decades of the 19th century, 1698 seems a considerable time before this development and was a time when the area was mainly fields.

The first reference I can find to the Horse and Groom dates from the 15th March 1852, when a rather cryptic paragraph in the Morning Advertiser states “Horse and Groom, Chapel-place, Belgrave-square. Joseph Prior applied for this licence and Mr Wire appeared in opposition – Licence refused”.

Why Joseph Prior was unsuitable for the licence to run the Horse and Groom and what caused Mr Wire to object is not recorded, but it does confirm that the Horse and Groom was a working pub in 1852, and therefore probably dates to when Chapel Place was constructed. The name of the pub refers to the main activity that took place in Chapel Place.

We can get an idea of how the area was developing from an advert for the Horse and Groom in the Morning Advertiser on the 18th June 1868:

“HORSE AND GROOM, 3 CHAPEL-PLACE, BELGRAVE-SQUARE, together with the GOODWILL AND BENEFICIAL POSSESSION. The premises are of recent elevation, combining all the requisites for carrying on the excellent full-priced trade this house is noted for. Protected, unopposed, and with the certainty of additional trade, arising from the countless mansions that are now being erected in Grosvenor-place and the vicinity, render this property comparatively speaking matchless”.

Looking down Groom Place from Chester Street:

Horse and Groom

The large building on the left in the above photo was Bryant’s Second-hand Saddlery, Harness and Horse Clothing Depot, established in the early 1830s.

The following photo shows the full building of the Horse and Groom and answers the question regarding the age of the pub.

Horse and Groom

If you look to the left of the windows on the first floor is writing stating that Shepherd Neame are Britain’s oldest brwery, and that they were established in 1698, so the sign above the door relates to the brewery, not the pub.

I can reasonably confidently date the pub to when Chapel Place was built, around the late 1820s / early 1830s.

The buildings housing the depot for all things horse related:

Groom Place

The following photo is from outside the Horse and Groom, looking back up Groom Place towards Chester Street.

Groom Place

I love looking for evidence in the built streets of London remaining from the time before they were built.

I have no evidence to confim this, but as shown in the above photo, the central part of Groom Place is in a dip, with the parts of the street going to Chapel and Chester Street rising in height.

The early maps show a pond roughly in the area of Groom Place, and perhaps when laying out the streets, the site of an old pond would not be where you want to build the expensive houses, so the smaller houses, and those occupied by stables were built on the site of the old pond.

The price of properties in Groom Place reflect the price of Belgravia in general. There is currently a two floor flat in Groom Place for sale for £2.795 Million. The covered Bentley in the following photo highlights the money you need to live in the area.

Groom Place

A final look back along Groom Place from just outside the old Binelli General Store:

Groom Place

Belgravia may not appear too interesting at first glance. Rows of similar terrace houses, foreign embassies, buildings owned offshore as investments and empty for much of the time, however look a bit closer and there are so many interesting little side streets and interesting buildings. The old Five Fields is just below the surface and it is still possible to trace some of the old roads and locations of the Five Fields and Ebury Farm which have transformed into the Belgravia we see today. There is plenty more to explore, including more mews pubs.

Thankfully the Horse and Groom is still there, although redecorated since 1985. It is a really good pub, and although great at any time of year, a visit in the winter and leaving after dark, into Groom Place can, just for a moment, recall what this part of Belgravia may have been like in the 19th century.

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The Minories – History and Architecture

I have been to the Minories in a previous post when I explored the lost Church of Saint Trinity, or Holy Trinity in the Minories, and when I went to find the pulpit from the church which is now at All Saints’ Church, East Meon in Hampshire.

I wanted to return to explore the street, the abbey after which the street is named, and one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the city.

The following photo is from Aldgate High Street at the northern end of the Minories, looking down the street.

The above photo shows what looks like an ordinary London street. Lined by commercial buildings, fast food stores, and the obligatory towers rising in the distance; the Minories has a far more interesting history than the above view suggests.

The following ward map from 1755 shows the Minories running down from Whitechapel, just outside the City wall.

In the above map, the area of land between the city wall and the Minories was once part of the ditch that ran alongside part of the walls. Look across the map at the top of the Minories, and running to the top left is another reminder of the ditch, the street Houndsditch, the last part of the name can be seen.

Being outside the City walls, the area may have been the site of a Roman cemetery, and in 1853 a large Roman Sarcophagus with a lead coffin was found near Trinity Church, just to the right of the street.

In the map the street is called The Minories, however today “The” has been dropped and the street name signs now name the street just Minories (I am continuing to use “the” in the post as I suspect it helps the text to flow”.

The name derives from the sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare. The sisters of the order were known as Minoresses and the book “A History of the Minories, London”, published in 1922 and written by Edward Murray Tomlinson, once Vicar of Holy Trinity Minories, provides some background as to the origins of the order:

“The Order of the Sorores Minores, to which the abbey of the Minores in London belonged, was founded by St Clara of Assisi in Italy, and claimed Palm Sunday, March 18th 1212, as the date of its origin”.

The Order’s arrival in London, and establishing an abbey outside of the City walls dates back to 1293. It appears that the first members of the Order in the Minories came from another of the Order’s establishments just outside Paris.

The land occupied by the 13th century Order can be seen in the following map, enclosed by the red lines to the right of the street (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

The land supported a Church, Refectory, Guest House, Friars Hall, and along the right hand wall, a Cemetary and Gardens.

The Order received a number of endowments, and rents on properties that had come into their possession, and by 1524 they were receiving £171 per annum.

The lists of rents received in 1524 provide an interesting view of the costs of renting in different parts of the city. The following table lists the rents received from Hosyer Lane (now Hosier Lane in West Smithfield).

The majority of documentation that survives from the Order are mainly those relating to endowments, rents received, legal and religious documents. There is very little that provides any information on day to day life in the Minories. The only time we have a view of the number of sisters who were part of the Order, is at the very end of the Order, when on November 30th 1538, the Abbey buildings and land in the Minories were surrendered to Henry VIII.

The Abbess of the Order probably realised what was happening to the religious establishments in the country, and that by surrendering to the King, the members of the Order would be able to receive a pension, and it is the pension list that provides the only view of the numbers within the Order.

In 1538 there was an Abbess (Elizabeth Salvage) who would receive a pension of £40, along with 24 sisters, ranging in age from 24 to 76, and each receiving a pension of between £1 6s 8d and £3 6s 8d.

There were six lay sisters who do not appear to have received a pension – the name of one of the lay sisters was Julyan Heron the Ideote, indicative of how even religious establishments treated people who probably had learning difficulties.

It appears that the King granted the land and buildings to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and many of the original Abbey buildings were still standing in 1797, when a large fire destroyed many of the remaining buildings of the Abbey. The last religious building on the site was the church of Holy Trinity, which closed as a church at the end of the 19th century, but the church survived as a parish hall until the Second World War when the building suffered severe bomb damage. A wall did remain until final clearance of the area in the late 1950s.

The remaining abbey buildings of the Minories in 1796:

As well as the name of the street, Minories, a side street also recalls the order. The street in the following photo is St Clare Street, after the Order of St. Clare. It runs through the land of the old abbey, and at the end of the street was the church of Holy Trinity.

The pub on the corner of the Minories and St Clare Street is The Three Lords. The current pub building dates from around 1890, however a pub with the same name has been on the site for much longer. The earliest newspaper reference I could find to The Three Lords dates to the 11th January 1819 when the Evening Mail reported on the arrest of a man for robbery. He was formerly a respectable man with carriage and servants, one of whom in 1819 kept the Three Lords and a pot from the pub was found in the room of the alleged thief.

Walk along the Minories today, and apart from the street name, there is nothing to suggest that this was once the site of the Abbey. The street is mainly lined with buildings from the first half of the 20th century.

With a mix of different architectural styles and construction materials.

Towards the southern end of the Minories is one of the most architectually fascinating buildings in the city. This is Ibex House:

Ibex House was built between 1933 and 1937 and was designed as a “Modernistic” style office block by the architects Fuller, Hall and Foulsham.

it is Grade II listed and the Historic England listing provides the following description: “Continuous horizontal window bands, with metal glazing bars. Vertical emphasis in centre of each facade in form of curved glazing (in main block) and black faience strips”

“faience” was not a word I had heard before, and the best definition I could find seems to be as a glazed ceramic. Black faience is used for the ground floor and vertical bands, with buff faience used for the horizontal bands on the floors above ground.

The ground floor, facing onto the Minories consists of the main entrance, sandwich bar and a pub, the Peacock:

The Peacock is a good example of the way developers have integrated a business that was demolished to make way for a new building, in that new building.

A pub with the same name had been at the same location since at least the mid 18th century. It was demolished to make way for the Ibex building, and a new version was built as part of the development.

An 1823 sale advert for the Peacock provides a good view of the internal facilities of the original pub, from the Morning Advertiser on the 19th May 1823:

“That old-established Free Public House and Liquor Shop, the PEACOCK, the corner of Haydon-street, Minories, in the City of London, comprising five good sleeping rooms, club room, bar, tap, kitchen, and parlour, and good cellar, held on lease for 18 1/4 years, at the low rent of £45 per annum.”

Newspaper reports that mention the Peacock include the full range of incidents that would be found at any city pub over the last couple of hundred years – thefts, the landlord being fined for allowing drunkenness, betting, sports (boxing seems to have been popular at the Peacock, etc.) however one advert shows how pubs were used as contact points, and tells the story of one individual travelling through London in 1820. From the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser on the 29th May 1820:

“WANTED, by a PERSON who is 30 years of age, and who has been upwards of three years in the West Indies, a SITUATION to go to any part Abroad, as CLERK in a Store or Warehouse, or in any way he may be able to make himself useful. Address (post paid) for A.B. to be left at the Peacock, in the Minories”.

It would be fascinating to know “A.B’s” story, did he get another job, and where he went to next.

On the southern corner of Ibex House is a rather splendid sandwich bar, all glass and chrome:

The main entrance to the building looks almost as if you are entering a cinema, rather than an office building:

During the first couple of decades, occupants of Ibex House illustrate the wide variety of different businesses that were based in a single London office block, including:

  • Shell Tankers Ltd – 1957
  • Johnston Brothers (agricultural contractors) – 1952
  • Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd – 1950
  • Vermoutiers Ltd (producers of “Vamour”, sweet or dry Vermouth) – 1948
  • The Royal Alfred Aged Seamen’s Institution – 1948
  • Ashwood Timber Industries – 1947
  • The Air Ministry department which dealt with family allowances and RAF pay – 1940
  • Cookson’s – the Lead Paint People – 1939
  • Temple Publicity Services – 1938

The Associated Lead Manufacturers advertised “Uncle Toby’s Regiment of Lead” as their special lead alloy was used widely in the manufacture of toy soldiers. It would not be till 1966 that lead was banned as a material for the production of toys due to the damage that lead could cause to the health of a person.

The front of Ibex House is impressive, but we need to walk down the two side streets to see many of the impressive details of the building. Ibex House is designed in the shape of an H, with wide blocks facing to the Minories, and at the very rear of the building, with a slightly thinner block joining the two wider.

Walking along Haydon Street we can see the northern aspect of the building (Haydon Street was also the southern boundary of the Abbey of the Order of St Clare / the Minories).

The central glazed column contains small rooms on each floor level. There are few sharp corners on the building, mainly on the very upper floors, with curves being the predominant feature.

Looking back up towards the Minories:

The stepped and curved floors and railing on the upper floors give the impression of being on an ocean liner, rather than a city office block:

Curved walls feature across the building, including the corners of the ground floor which are tucked away at the end of the street:

Portsoken Street provides the southern boundary of the building:

Detail of the projecting canopy roof at the very top of the central, glazed column:

With a small room at each floor level:

The design detail includes curved windows in the glazed column that open on a central hinge:

Larger room at the top of the glazed column – a perfect location for an office with a view:

As well as the main entrance on the Minories, each side street also has an equally impressive central door into the building:

Ibex House is a very special building.

The view back up the Minories from near the southern end of the street:

The sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare have left very little to tell us about life in their Abbey, and there are no physical remains of their buildings to be found, just the street names Minories and St Clare Street. Just one of the many religious establishments that were a major part of life in the city from the 12th century onwards.

So although we cannot see anything of the abbey, the Minories does give us the architectural splendor of Ibex House to admire as a brilliant example of 1930s design.

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William Maitland’s History and Survey of London

“To the Right Honourable Slingsby Bethell, Lord-Mayor. The Right Worshipful the Court of Aldermen and Sheriffs, and the Worshipful the Court of Common-Council of the City of London.

The Proprietors of this voluminous and useful work, undertaken with a pure intention to preserve those monuments of antiquity, which convey a just idea of the wisdom, good governance, loyalty, religion, industry, hospitality and charity of your predecessors in the Magistracy of this City, and to perpetuate down to the latest posterity the present flourishing and prosperous State of this Metropolis, to which is arrived by your Zeal for the Public Good, steady attachment to the true Interest of your fellow Citizens, and unwearied Application in the Support of Trade, National Credit, and Works of Charity; and by Duty and Gratitude, as well as Affection, induced to make this Public Acknowledgment of the many Obligations they owe for your kind Assistance which has enabled them to finish so extensive and chargeable a Plan, and to seek your Patronage and future Recommendation”.

So reads the dedication at the start of William Maitland’s “History and Survey of London From Its Foundation to the Present Time”.

The History and Survey was first published in 1739, with an expanded version in two volumes in 1756. Maitland was a Scottish merchant and antiquary, born around 1693 and died in 1757. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, but not too much appears to be known about his life.

An obituary after his death in 1757 reads “At Montrose, in an advanced age, William Maitland Esq. F.R.S. author of the histories of London and Edinburgh, and one of the history and antiquities of Scotland, lately published. He was born at Brechin, and had lately returned home to spend the remainder of his days with his relations; who, it is said, have got by his death above £10,000”.

As well as Scotland, he appears to have lived in London for some years, including when he was working on the History and Survey of London.

I cannot find any reference as to how he created the work, however he references previous historians of London, and if his work on Scotland offers a comparison, he would send out letters to vicars, societies, organizations, etc. asking for their respective history and details, which he would compile.

The History and Survey of London provides a very readable history of the city, and a wealth of information about so many aspects of the city in the first half of the 18th century.

I was able to get hold of a copy of Maitland’s History and Survey of London some years ago. Two large volumes comprising 1392 pages of text and tables and numerous drawings and maps, so for today’s post, let me take you through one of the volumes of the History and Survey of London and explore London in the early 18th century through a fraction of the information Maitland offers.

The page photos are directly from the book. Due to the age of the book, the tight binding and condition of the pages, I have not straightened or flattened them out, so some of the photos may look a bit distorted.

Click on any of the pages for a larger view.

The first Ward map is of Aldersgate Ward, which “takes its name from that north gate of the City, and consists of Diverse Streets and Lanes, lying as well within the Gate and Wall, as without”.

The map shows Aldersgate Street as the central street with the “diverse streets and lanes” of the ward radiating out either side.

Interesting that north of the junction with Long Lane and Barbican (now Beech Street), Aldersgate Street was called Pickax Street.

To the right of the map is the wonderfully named Blowbladder Street, and just above is Foster Lane, the home of the Goldsmiths Hall:

Also in Aldersgate Street was the City of London, Lying-In Hospital for Married Women, which had been “instituted on March 30th 1750”.

The description of the hospital provides a clear view of the attitudes of the time, and who was deserving of charity. The name of the hospital indicates that it was only for Married Women, and the text further includes terms such as “the industrious poor” and that it had been set-up for the “Wives of Poor Tradesmen or others labouring under the Terrors, Pains and Hazards of Childbirth”.

We next come to Aldgate Ward, which “takes its name from the East gate of the City, called Aldgate, or anciently Ealdgate”.

The map includes the Ironmongers Hall, the Bricklayers Hall, the synagogues off Beavis Marks and in Magpye Alley, and to the south centre of the map, the East India Warehouse.

Within the dense text of the books, there are numerous tables providing statistics of life in London in the first half of the 18th century. The table below shows the number of people buried between 1704 and 1733, including where they were buried, split by male / female and those who had been christened.

As would be expected, the number of deaths changes year to year, however there is a gradually increasing trend in the total number of deaths per year which probably reflects the growing population of the city, rather than an increased rate of deaths for a given population count.

There are a wealth of statistics in the book, all begging to be entered into an Excel spreadsheet followed by a bit of graphing – perhaps one day.

Next up is Baynards Castle Ward and Farringdon Ward Within.

The map shows the location of Barnards Castle on the river to the south of the map. Farringdon Ward is Within, as it is within the old City walls as shown by the thick line to the left of the streets, along with the Fleet River, or the New Canal.

At the centre of the map is St Paul’s Cathedral, at the end of Ludgate Street (note that the present day street was divided into Ludgate Hill and Street at the location of the city gate). The book includes a print showing the west end of St Paul’s, facing onto Ludgate Street:

Very few drawings seem to get the dome of the cathedral right, and the above drawing seems to have a slightly flattened dome.

The book includes the dimensions of the cathedral, which was still relatively new at the time the book was published:

As well as the dimensions of the cathedral, there is a comparison with St Peter’s Church in Rome, where St Peter’s was apparently still measured in Roman Palm, so the table includes a conversion from Roman Palm to English Feet. The table shows that in all measurements, St Peter’s is larger than St Paul’s.

We next come to Billingsgate Ward and Bridge Ward Within.

The map shows Thames Street running the length of the ward, with the street being described as “a place of very considerable trade on account of its convenient situation near the water, the Custom House, Billingsgate and several Wharfs and Keys for the lading and unlading of Merchants Goods, and is very well built for that purpose”.

The map shows the original location of London Bridge, when Fish Street Hill and Grace Church Street were the main streets leading down from the centre of the City to the river crossing.

The text lists twenty one Keys, Wharfs and Docks that line the river between Dowgate and Tower Wards showing just how busy was this short stretch of the river.

Next up is Bishops Gate Ward Within and Without, showing that the ward covered the area both within and without the old city walls.

Bishops Gate Ward was another ward that took its name from one of the City gates.

The text for each ward describes the streets and buildings of the ward, as well as administrative details covering how the ward was run. For example, for Bishops Gate Ward “There are to watch at Bishopsgate, and the several stands in the Ward, every Night, a Constable, the Beadle, and eighty watchmen, both within and without”.

The ward also had “An Alderman, two deputies, one without the Gate, another within, six Common-Council men, seven Constables, seven Scavengers, thirteen for the Wardmote Inquest, and a Beadle. it is taxed at thirteen Pounds”.

Many of these adminstrative arrangements had not changed for many centuries.

Bread Street Ward and Cordwainers Ward were two relatively small wards in the centre of the City:

Bread Street Ward “takes its name from the principal street therein, called Bread Street, which, in old Time, was the Bread-market”,

Cordwainers Ward takes its name from “the occupation of the principal inhabitants, who were Cordwainers, or Shoemakers, Curriers and other Workers of Leather”.

A large fold out map covers Broad Street and Cornhill Wards:

The text gives the source of the Broad Street name as being a reference to the street before the Great Fire as “there being few before the Fire of London of such a Breadth within the Walls” Cornhill Ward derives its name from Cornhill Street which took its name from the corn market which was “kept there in ancient times”.

In the lower part of the map, above Corn Hill we can see the Royal Exchange, and to the upper left of the Royal Exchange is the Bank of England, then a relatively small building. To the left of the Bank is St Christopher’s Church. This old church would be demolished in 1781 to make way for the extension of the Bank of England along Threadneedle Street as the bank expands to take up the large site it occupies today.

The map of Cheap Ward, includes in the corners, four of the important buildings within the ward – the Guildhall Chapel, the Grocers Hall, the Blackwell Hall and the church of St Mildred in the Poultry.

The text explains that the name Cheap comes from the Saxon word Chepe, meaning a market which was held in this area of the City. Markets and shops selling provisions have long occupied this area of the City, and on the left boundary of the ward, just above Cheap is shown Honey Lane Market. This market is described “as well served every Week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with provisions. The Place being taken up by this Market is spacious, being in length, from East to West 193 feet, and from North to South, 97 feet. In the middle is a large and square Market-house standing on pillars with rooms over it, and a Bell Tower in the middle. There are in the Market 135 standing stalls for Butchers, with Racks to shelter them from the injury of the weather, and also several stalls for Fruiterers”.

Running vertically along the map is Queen Street, then King’s Street, which run up to the Guild Hall. The book includes a print of the Guild Hall as it appeared in the middle of the 18th century:

The next map covers Coleman Street and Bassishaw Wards:

The map shows the streets of Coleman Street Ward to the south of London Wall, and on the other side of the wall we see “The lower quarters of Moor Fields” and the Bethlehem Hospital.

The Moor gate leads into Fore Street and also to the intriguingly named “Road to Doghouse Barr”.

To the left of the above map is Cripplegate Ward, and it is to Cripplegate Ward and Cripplegate Parish without the Freedom that we come to next:

The map shows the ward within the well defined old City wall, with the street London Wall following its original alignment before post war reconstruction diverted the street south and removed the relationship between street and wall.

The bastions we can still see today are along the west of the ward, and outside the ward to the north is the church of St Giles Cripplegate and with further north, the streets that today are buried under the Barbican and Golden Lane estates.

Churches are a feature of all the ward maps, and the book include long lists of all the religious establishments in London in the middle of the 18th century. The shortest list is that covering the location of Quaker meeting places, there being a total number of 12 within London at the time.

The maps also show the main Halls of the most important Guilds and Company’s of the City, the Barbers Hall is shown up against the wall to the left of the Cripplegate map. The text of the book provides details of all the Guilds, Company’s and Fellowships of the City and their order of precedence. There are a number of interesting institutions lower down in the order of precedence.

In last week’s post on St John’s Lane, the role of Carman was listed as the profession of a number of those living in the street. In the book, and at number 89, is the Fellowship of Carmen, constituted as a Fellowship of the City in the reign of Henry VIII.

The text includes all the rules and regulations for each company, and one of the key roles was in regulating how many could practice the trade for which the company was responsible. This effectively established a monopoly for each trade and restricted competition by limiting the number within each trade.

For the Carmen, no more than four hundred and twenty Cars or Carts would “be allowed to work within the City of London, and the Liberties thereof”, with a forty shilling fine for exceeding this limit.

There were some very small Companies, including at number 82, the Longbow String Makers:

The Longbow String Makers were a “Company by prescription, and not by Charter; therefore may be deemed an adulterine Guild”.

An adulterine Guild was a set of traders or a profession that acted as a Guild, but without a Charter, and had to pay an annual fine for the privilege of acting as a Guild.

And in at number 91 were the Watermen (sounds more like a music chart). This profession has featured many times in my posts on the Thames and the River Stairs.

The Watermen were charged with overseeing the watermen’s trade between Gravesend and Windsor, and that those who worked as watermen followed a strict set of rules.

One of the rules was a Table of Rates, listing what a Waterman could charge between specific places on the river. This was important for customers as when you wanted a Waterman to transport you along the river, you would have wanted the assurance of knowing the cost, and that any of the Watermen trading at a specific boarding point should be charging the same rate.

Next comes Farringdon Ward Without:

This is a large ward, and runs up to Temple Bar to the west (an image of which is in the top right corner). We have also moved into legal London with Lincoln’s Inn to upper left. In the centre of the map is the River Fleet, although now the Fleet Ditch below Fleet Street and covered by the Fleet Market between Fleet Street and Holbourn Bridge.

To the upper right of the map is Smithfield, and just to the right of Smithfield are “The Sheep Penns”.

The book includes details from the Smithfield Clerk of the Market’s Account for the Year 1725 which shows the high numbers of animals sold at the market each day.

The tables are too large to include in this post, however a couple of extracts provide a sense of the numbers passing through the market in 1725:

History and Survey of London
History and Survey of London

The numbers in the bottom row of the above table show the total number of Sheep and Lambs sold during 104 market days at Smithfield Market in 1725. A considerable number, when you also consider that these animals had been driven from their farm or fields, and had come through the streets north of Smithfield to arrive at the market, which, as the upper table illustrates was also selling Bulls, Oxen and Cows.

Limestreet Ward was a small ward, taking its name from Lime Street, which referred to “a Place in ancient Times where Lime was either made or sold in Public Market”.

History and Survey of London

Limestreet Ward is the location of the area now known as Leadenhall Market. The early 18th century version of the market can be seen by the references to Flesh, Fish and Herb Markets to the right of Leaden Hall Street, with the original Leaden Hall being seen to the south of the street.

Portsoken Ward was outside the City walls.

History and Survey of London

A feature of all the ward maps is that at the bottom of the map is a dedication to an alderman of the ward. For Portsoken “this plan is most humbly inscribed to Sr. William Calvert Kt. an Alderman of Portsoken Ward in 1755”.

The description of the ward also mentions Whitechapel as the principle street to the City from the east, which was “a spacious street for entrance into the City Eastward. It is a great thorough-fare, being the Essex Road, and well resorted to, which occasions it to be well inhabited, and accommodated with good inns for the Reception of Travelers, Horses, Coaches and Wagons. Here on the south side of the street is a Hay Market three times a week”.

In the mid 18th century, the affluence of the City was growing based on the trade that was brought to the City along the River Thames. The river today is quiet and it is hard to imagine that the river was the hub of London business for so many centuries, and was extremely busy. The following print shows the Customs House on the river:

History and Survey of London

To get an idea of the scale of trade on the river, the book includes several pages of a list of “the ships that belonged to the City of London in the Year 1732”. The following is the first page of the table:

History and Survey of London

In total, in 1732, there were 1,417 ships, with a total of 178,557 tons, crewed by 21,797 men recorded as belonging to the City of London. It was these ships that transported the trade on which the City grew rich.

Many of those ships could have unloaded their cargo at one of the wharfs that line the river in the second of the wards in the following map of Walbrook and Dowgate Wards.

History and Survey of London

In the description of Dowgate Ward, Thames Street is described as “a great thoroughfare for carts to several wharfs, which renders it a place of considerable trade, and to be well inhabited”.

Much of that trade was run by various trading companies headquartered in the City of London. The book details all these companies, one of which was the Russia Company:

History and Survey of London

And perhaps the most well known of the trading companies – the East India Company:

History and Survey of London

The description of the East india Company provides an indication of the value of these trading companies and the wealth they created.

In 1698 the East India Company was worth Three Million, Three Hundred Thousand Pounds – a considerable sum of money at the end of the 17th century, and in the early years of the 18th century, was generating a dividend of 10%, falling to 8% for investors.

Another source of funds, part of which contributed to the City, including the costs of rebuilding St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire was the Coal Duty.

A Coal-meters Office was based in Church Alley, St Dunstan’s Hill, and in the office the records of all ships entering the Port of London with coals were recorded:

History and Survey of London

Maitland’s Survey of London included areas on the edge of, or were part of the wider London. the following print is of the Charter House Hospital as it appeared in the early 18th century:

History and Survey of London

Map showing the City of Westminster and Duchy of Lancaster:

History and Survey of London

To the left of the map, Tottenham Court Road still ran through fields, Chelsea Water Works are to the right of the map, and along the river are the names of many of the Thames Stairs, all now lost under the 19th century Embankment.

The view of the first Westminster Bridge, with the two towers of Westminster Abbey on the right edge of the print:

History and Survey of London

And to the east of the city, the Parish Church of St John’s at Wapping:

History and Survey of London

The Parish church of St Paul’s at Shadwell:

History and Survey of London

William Maitland provides a very readable history and survey of London. The book really brings to life how the city was administered and operated. The wealth of the city and the trade that generated this wealth. All manner of statistics and lists cover those living in the city, key buildings and organisations.

As written in the dedication at the start of the book, it really does describe “to the latest posterity the present flourishing and prosperous State of this Metropolis

The History and Survey of London is also available online and can be found at here.

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St John’s Lane – First World War Bombing, Passing Alley and the Census

For this week’s post, I am back in Clerkenwell, an area I have explored in a number of recent posts, and today I will take a walk along St John’s Lane, a street that runs from St John’s Street, up to St John’s Gate.

Although St John’s Lane is relatively short, there is so much that the street can tell us about the history of the area, events across London, and the people who have passed through London.

St John’s Lane is a very old street, dating back to the 12th century. The street originally ran through the outer precinct of the Priory of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, leading from a gate at the southern end, to St John’s Gate at the northern end, which formed the gateway to the inner precinct. The following map is repeated from my earlier post on the Order of St John, and shows St John’s Lane between the two blue rectangles, which represent the gatehouses into the outer and inner precincts (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

St John's Lane

St John’s Lane today, photographed from the south, looking up towards St John’s Gate just beyond the trees at the end of the street.

St John's Lane

St John’s Lane today is mainly lined by late 19th and early 20th century buildings, along with a number of post war buildings, mainly on the western side of the street which suffered a higher degree of bomb damage during the last war.

During the time that St John’s Lane was part of the outer precinct of the priory, the street was lined by buildings associated with the priory, including a number of large houses with gardens to the rear, owned by important members of the Order of St John.

The Clerkenwell News of the 16th December 1863 included a very imaginative and colourful description of St John’s Lane in an article on the history of the street “What a glorious picture does imagination, aided by the indubitable facts of history, present of the splendid pageants which, in the days of chivalry, passed along this highway, their pomp and splendor offtimes swelled by the gorgeous retinue of some kingly potentate or prince of royal blood. What an array have we of glittering lances, blazoned shields, and fluttering pennons – heralds in their gaudy tabards – knights, the flower of England’s nobility, mounted on stately charges, richly caparisoned. Obsequious esquires, and the fair dames and daughters of nobles, grace by their presence the magnificent cortege, pleased to follow their lords and loves to the tournament in the neighbouring Smithfield”.

After the priory was taken by Henry VIII during the dissolution in the 1540s, many of the buildings and much of the land was sold off, however evidence of the large houses that once lined the street could still be seen in the 17th century.

The following extract from William Morgan’s Survey of London from 1682 shows St John’s Lane in the centre of the map, and to the left of the upper part of the street is the house and grounds of the “Earl of Berkleys”.

St John's Lane

By the end of the 19th century, the street was a mix of different type and use of buildings. There were terrace houses, a pub, a Friends Meeting House, a Smithy, along with a mix of industrial buildings and workshops supporting the trades that had moved into Clerkenwell.

Only a few of these buildings can be seen today. The Friends Meeting House was destroyed during the war, and in 1992 the following building was completed on the site.

St John's Lane

This is Watchmaker Court, an office building with a name that recalls one of the crafts / industries that was based in Clerkenwell from the late 17th to the early 20th centuries.

A clock stands out from the front of the building, telling the time in Roman numerals.

St John's Lane

There are eight plaques along the front of the building, each naming a significant clock maker in chronological order, starting with Dan Parkes:

St John's Lane

One of those named is Christopher Pinchbeck, who lived in Albion Place, one of the streets that runs off St John’s Lane to the west. Pinchbeck invented an alloy of copper and zinc which very nearly resembled gold.

St John's Lane

On the northern side of Watchmaker Court is the building that was once the pub, the Old Baptist’s Head:

St John's Lane

The building that we see today is a rebuild of the pub dating from the 1890s, however the pub had been on the site for many years, originally being part of the house of Sir Thomas Forster, who died here in 1612.

There seem to be various post war dates for when the pub closed, however by 1961 the building had been converted to a warehouse.

There is nothing really remarkable about the old pub building, in what is now a relatively quiet street. The pub has played a part in the life of so many who have passed through London over the centuries.

From the same article of the Clerkenwell News that I quoted above, is a comment that the Old Baptist’s Head was a halt for prisoners on their way to Newgate. The British Museum archive includes a 1780 print of prisoners stopping at the pub  (the two following prints are ©Trustees of the British Museum, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license):

St John's Lane

The New Prison was the Clerkenwell Prison, or the Middlesex House of Detention that I wrote about in a previous post on Sans Walk, a Fenian Outrage and the Edge of London. The Old Baptist’s Head, or just the Baptist’s Head as it was in 1780 was about half way between the prison and Newgate, so I assume the prisoners were allowed a stop for refreshments.

A very different stop at the Old Baptist’s Head was recorded in the District News on Friday the 29th June, 1900. There is an article by a St John Ambulance volunteer who was on his way from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire to the Transvaal in South Africa.

He arrived in London at King’s Cross and then made his way to the Old Baptist’s Head where accommodation had been arranged by the St John Ambulance (who had their headquarters at the nearby St John’s Gate). The article tells of an early morning, 5 a.m. exploration of London, before heading to Aldershot via Waterloo for training, then to Tilbury to catch a boat to South Africa.

Whilst buildings such as the old pub now serve a different purpose, it is fascinating how many have passed by the Old Baptist’s Head; from prisoners to volunteers heading from Yorkshire to South Africa. There must be millions of such individual stories across London.

A relic of the time when the Old Baptist’s Head was a pub can today be seen in St John’s Gate. A fire place originally belonging to the pub is now in the Old Chancery room of St John’s Gate. The fireplace includes the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Forster, so is presumably from his house prior to part being converted to the pub.

The following print shows the fireplace in the Old Baptist’s Head:

St John's Lane

The following photo is of number 29 St John’s Lane. An early 1880s warehouse built for the wholesale stationers Fenner Appleton & Co.

St John's Lane

Although now converted to offices and flats, the building retains the large doors on floors one to three that would have been used to move goods between the street and the warehouse floors.

On the front of the building is a superb clock:

St John's Lane

On one face of the clock is an outline of the world, and on the other side is the name E. Higgs Air Agency Ltd.

St John's Lane

I am always rather cautious with relics such as this clock as to whether they are actually genuine.

There does not seem to be much information available on the company. They were on the delegate list to a World Air Transport Conference held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel on the 8th and 9th of May 1974, but despite leaving a rather good clock, they do not seem to have left much else in Clerkenwell.

There is today a company called Higgs International Logistics that provides logistics for the publishing industry, and given Clerkenwell’s history with the printing industry, perhaps the company now in Purfleet, Essex is the latest incarnation of the business in St John’s Lane.

If it is, I am pleased that they left their clock.

At number 28 is a large warehouse and offices dating from 1901:

St John's Lane

This building is part of a tragic period of London’s history, as hinted at by the plaque on the front of the building.

St John's Lane

Although minimal compared with the Second World War, London was bombed during the First World War.

Early attacks during the war were by Zeppelin airships (see my post on Queen Square), and during the later years of the war, the Germans switched to the use of aircraft to bomb London.

The first fleet of German aircraft attacked London on Wednesday, the 13th of June 1917. Sporadic raids continued during the following months, and night raids commenced in September.

On the night of the 18th December 1917, a fleet of sixteen aircraft set of from Belgium, and thirteen “Gotha” bombers and a single “R-plane or Giant” bomber reached London, where they dropped their bombs across the wider city causing considerable damage, including in St John’s Lane.

On the route from Belgium and return via London, the planes dropped 2475kg of high explosive on London, 800kg on Ramsgate, 450kg on Margate and 400kg on Harwich. One of the Gotha bombers was shot down by a Sopwith Camel flying from an airfield at Hainault in Essex. The bomber crashed in the sea off Folkestone.

It is remarkable that aircraft of 1917 had the range and lifting capabilities to carry heavy loads of high explosive bombs from Belgium to London and across Essex and Kent.

The Gotha was a twin engined heavy bomber that entered service in August 1917. It had a range of about 520 miles and a maximum speed of 87 mph. The Gotha was capable of carrying up to 14, 25kg high explosive bombs. For the crew, it was unpressurised and there was no heating, so it must have been incredibly uncomfortable for the crew on long night flights from Belgium to London and back.

The Gotha Heavy Bomber of the type that attacked London on the night of the 18th December 1917:

St John's Lane
GERMAN AIRCRAFT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 67219) Gotha G.V heavy bomber. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205234223

A single R plane was also involved in the raid on the night of the 18th December 1917. The R plane, also known as the Giant, was a four engined heavy bomber, with a maximum bomb load of 4,400 lbs of high explosive bombs and a range of 500 miles.

The R plane had two engines on each wing, one in front of the other. The front engine had a forward facing propeller that pulled the aircraft, the rear engine had a rear facing propeller and pushed the aircraft. Remarkably, the engines were capable of being serviced in flight and a mechanic was stationed in each of the engine pods during the flight.

The R Plane, or Giant bomber of the type that attacked London:

St John's Lane

(image source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zeppelin-Staaken_R.VI_photo1.jpg):

A map in the Imperial War Museum archive provides an overview of the Gotha bomber attacks on London, Kent and Essex during the later years of the First World War and illustrates the considerable numbers of bombs dropped on London, casualty numbers and the number of Gotha bombers lost.

St John's Lane
THE GERMAN AIR FORCE IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 73542A) Map of the locations of German Gotha raids on Britain and casualties on both sides. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205360173

The attacks on London during the First World War, though relatively small in number, were an indication of what was to come in just over 20 years time.

The building next to number 28 has an interesting ground floor frontage to the street, part of which provides access to an alley.

St John's Lane

Behind this building, in space between St John’s Lane and St John’s Street was a large area for the stabling of horses. The large arch on the left of the building was originally an access tunnel to the stabling area.

The smaller arch to the right provides access to Passing Alley, an alley that allows pedestrian access through to St John’s Street.

St John's Lane

Passing Alley gives the impression of being one of London’s ancient alleys, however in London terms, it is relatively recent. The alley was originally around 40 feet to the north of its current location, however late 19th century development, which included the building that now provides access to the alley, required the shift of the alley to the south.

In the following map, I have outlined Passing Alley with a red oval. Look to the left of the alley, across St John’s Lane, and Passing Alley is to the south of Briset Street.

St John's Lane

In the following extract from a 1755 parish map, I have circled Passing Alley with an orange oval. In this extract, the alley is in its original medieval position and was a continuation of Briset Street. The map also seems to imply that it was a slightly wider street than the narrow alley we see today.

St John's Lane

The name of the alley seems to have changed in the late 18th century. In the key for the above parish map the alley was called Pising Alley, and in Rocque’s 1746 map it had the name Pissing Alley.

I cannot find any firm evidence for the source of this earlier name, however it may be down to the location of cesspits in the area.

St John's Lane

Alan Stapleton’s 1924 book “London’s Alley, Byways and Courts” records that the alley was blocked for many months during the Great War due to the bomb dropped on the adjacent building on the night of the 18th December 1917, and that some hundredweights of bricks fell into the alley, killing an unfortunate man who happened to be passing through.

Walking through the alley today, and it is still lined by high brick buildings and walls, and one can imagine the impact of so many bricks falling into such a narrow alley.

St John's Lane

The way the alley curves means that as you enter from either entrance, you do not get a view of the full length of the alley and what is around the corner.

As a complete diversion, I have mentioned a number of times the pleasure of finding things that previous owners have left in second hand books. My copy of Alan Stapleton’s book on London’s alleys contains a bookmark that was issued by Air France, detailing their flights from London. There is no date on the bookmark, but at the time, a flight from London to Paris would have cost £6, 15 shillings.

St John's Lane

The following photo shows the St John’s Street end of the alley:

St John's Lane

And the entrance to Passing Alley in St John’s Street:

St John's Lane

If you are reading this post on the day of publication (Sunday 21st March 2021), then it is census day, the day every ten years when every household is expected to complete a census return providing details of those living at each address on the day.

A census has been carried out every ten years since 1801. The amount of information collected changes each census and 1841 was the first census when the names of all the individuals at an address were collected.

The census has been conducted every ten years apart from 1941, when the impact of the war meant that there other priorities. The 1931 census data for England and Wales was destroyed by fire – an early example of why backing up data is so important, although using the technology of the time with thousands of paper returns, this would have been difficult.

There was a register taken in 1939, not a full census, the data was needed to create ID cards and ration cards as part of the measures brought in during the war.

Availability of census data is goverened by the Census Act 1920, and the later 1991 Census (Confidentiality) Act. These acts restrict the disclosure of personal information from census returns until 100 years have elapsed, meaning that the 1911 census is the latest to be fully available. The 1921 census will be published online in 2022.

Given that the day of post publication is census day, I thought I would take a look at who was living in St John’s Lane in 1911, when the census was taken on the 2nd of April.

By 1911, St John’s Lane was home to a number of warehouses and business premises (as can be seen by gaps in the street numbering), however there were still 125 people living in the street, as detailed in the following extract from the 1911 census covering all the entries for St John’s Lane:

St John's Lane
St John's Lane
St John's Lane

If you have seen the Government’s current advertising for the 2021 census, the emphasis is on the importance of the census to planning services such as transport, education and healthcare, however they also have an incredible historical importance as they provide a snap shot of the population at a point in time.

The 1911 census tells us the names of those living in St John’s Lane, their age, profession and their place of birth. We can therefore see the type of occupancy for the houses in the street (for example, in number 34, all the residents are single and recorded as Boarders).

We can get an idea of mobility by looking at their birth place. Many of those living in St John’s Street seem to have stayed relatively local. Out of the 125 residents, 82 are recorded as being born in London, of which 34 were born in Clerkenwell.

Only one family came from outside the United Kingdom. The Valli family at number 33 came from Italy, and we can get an idea of when they moved as their 18 year old daughter was born in Italy, but their 15 year old son had been born in London. The children also had some modern sounding jobs. The son was an apprentice to a Civil Engineer, and the daughter’s job shows the jobs that new technologies were bring to London as she had “Employment in the Telephone”.

The census also shows the tradition of people from Wales being associated with London’s dairy industry. At number three lived John Thomas Howells with his wife Margaret, both from Wales, with John being listed as a Dairy Man. They also had living with them two others from Wales listed as Servants.

A surprisingly high number were single, with 78 out of 125 being recorded as single, either as an adult, or because they were a son of daughter, widow or widower.

Displaying census data graphically helps with understanding what St John’s Lane was like in 1911. The following graph shows the age distribution, and highlights that the largest age group in the street was aged between 10 and 19.

St John's Lane

The graph also shows the rapid decline in ages after the age of 59, with only three residents in their seventies. Of these three, two were married, Emma and John Cottrell at number four. Emma was 75 and had come from the small village of Frettenham in Norfolk. John was born in the City of London and at age 72 was still recorded as working as a locksmith.

So, as you complete the 2021 census, you may well be helping those who want to understand the history, demographics, mobility and professions of your street when the data is made public in 2122. Will your current job sound as strange to those in 2122 as an Ostrich Feather Curler sounds today?

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Winchester Palace and the Great Hall, Clink Street

Clink Street in Southwark is close to Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market, and the street is part of the busy walk along the south of the river. Converted warehouses line the river side of Clink Street, but on one part of the southern side of the street, a remarkable survivor, the Great Hall of Winchester Palace can be seen; the Southwark residence of the Bishops of Winchester.

Winchester Palace

The following map extract shows the location – the green rectangle towards the middle, top of the map is the part of the palace that can be seen alongside Clink Street (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Winchester Palace

The first evidence of a palace for the Bishops of Winchester dates back to the 12th century, with an eastern boundary wall, and some building of stone construction.

The 13th century saw the expansion of the palace estate with some major construction work. This work included a number of two storey blocks, a hall, chapel and courtyard. Work also included improvements to the wharf along the River Thames.

The 13th century also included the surfaced road that would become Clink Street, with the name Clink Street being in use by the start of the 17th century.

One of the earliest references to Winchester House (as it was also known) comes from the life of St. Thomas à Becket by William FitzStephen, who wrote that Archbishop Thomas received hospitality at the house of the Bishops of Winchester before making his final journey to Canterbury where he would meet his death.

The Bishops needed a London residence, not just for their religious duties. At the time there was not that much separation between religion and government, and the Bishops of Winchester also frequently held some of the great Offices of State.

The Palace was also frequently used for entertaining, and hosted events for the rich and powerful of the land. For example, in 1424 the wedding feast of James, King of Scotland, and Joan, daughter of the Earl of Somerset was held at the palace.

The palace appears to have been in possesion of the Bishops of Winchester through to the mid 17th century, when it was turned into a prison for Royalists during the Civil War. In 1649 it was sold for £4,380 to a Thomas Walker of Camberwell, but after the restoration of the monarchy, the palace estate was returned to the Bishops of Winchester.

It was during the 1640s that a parliamentary survey of the palace was carried out, and around 1647 the artist Wenceslaus Hollar completed a drawing of the Palace, or Winchester House, the words Palace and House are frequently used in reference to the Bishops of Winchester residence  (Prints in this post are ©Trustees of the British Museum):

Winchester Palace

Hollar’s drawing shows an extensive range of buildings alongside the river. The Great Hall is to the right, with the rest of the buildings housing accommodation blocks, storage, kitchens, a chapel and stables. There were also extensive grounds to the palace.

The text below the above print provides some detail about Winchester House: “Winchester House founded in the year 1107 by William Gifford Bishop of Winchester as a Town dwelling for himself and successors on a piece of ground rented of the Priors of Bermondsey and which was situated at a small distance from the fine convent of St Mary Overy on Bankside Southwark. It was much enlarged by Succeeding prelates particularly Bishop Gardiner, in the reign of Mary and covered with its gardens &c. three acres and a half of ground”.

The small drawing at the bottom of the print shows the Great Hall, and it is the remains of this building that we can see alongside Clink Street today.

Although the palace was restored to the Bishops of Winchester on the restoration of Charles II, it was not really used again as their London residence. They now also had a property in Chelsea, provided to them by a 1661 Act of Parliament. Perhaps the location of their palace was not as pleasant for the bishops due to the growing population, the location of industry, entertainments and markets that were not allowed in the City of London, displaced to the south side of the river, and around the bishops palace.

The buildings of the palace were now let out to a large number of tenants and sub-tenants.

The bishops cannot have been too morally fussy in previous centuries, as the local area of Southwark and Bankside had a history of prostitution long before the Bishops left their palace in the 17th century, and they had a role in the governance, and profited from the brothels or “stews” that were found in the area. These had been banned in the City of London, so their south bank location, close to London Bridge was an ideal place to relocate.

The bishops let out buildings to be used as brothels and were also responsible for managing the “Ordinances Touching the Government of the Stewholders in Southwark under the Direction of the Bishop of Winchester” set out in the 15th century.

These ordinances dictate 36 specific rules and the fines associated with breaking these rules, for example:

  • Number 6: Owners of a stew (stewholder) could not lend a sex worker more then 6s 8d (this was done to prevent a stewholder from having too much control over a sex worker)
  • Number 9: a sex worker who paid the rent of 14d must be allowed to come and go at will. The owner of the stew must not interfere
  • Number 15: a fine of 40s if a stewholder’s wife solicited at a stew

Perhaps the most serious was for any sex worker who established a relationship with their procurer or what we would now call a pimp. For this they would be fined, they would also suffer a dunking on the cucking stool, possible imprisonment, and would also be banished from the borough.

Stewholders were also banned from selling food, drink and fuel from their premises.

The Bishops of Winchester profited from the rents from the buildings occupied by the stews and from the fines generated by any transgression of the rules. They were also expected to ensure the rules were adhered to, and manage law and order in the area.

The association of the Southwark stews with the Bishops of Winchester was such that the sex-workers in the stews became known as Winchester Birds or Winchester Geese.

The Bishops of Winchester probably made a considerable sum from the rents and fines, and it would be interesting to know if as supposedly religious men, they had a moral conflict with making money from women involved in sex work.

If they did feel any moral responsibility, it did not extend to the treatment of these women after death who were buried in unhallowed burial grounds, many at the nearby Cross Bones burial ground, today on the corner of Redcross Way and Union Street.

The Southwark stews were closed in 1546 when Henry VIII banned them.

During the late 17th and 18th centuries, the land occupied by Winchester Palace was further broken up and sold. Warehouses and docks now occupied the area as trade along the river expanded, and walls that remained from some of the old palace buildings were included in the new structures that grew up along the river and Clink Street.

As was common in the 19th century, in 1814 a large fire destroyed a number of buildings in Clink Street, but whilst the fire appears to have destroyed later building, it did reveal part of the old Great Hall of Winchester Palace, and the following print from 1828 shows the remains of the Great Hall exposed after the fire, looking very much the same as they appear today.

Winchester Palace

The following photo shows again the west wall of the Great Hall and Clink Street alongside. The three openings that look to be windows were doors from the first floor of the Great Hall to the kitchens on the other side. The space below was occupied by an undercroft or cellar.

Winchester Palace

A small part of the southern wall of the Great Hall remains, up against the west wall. A ground floor door below with a first floor doorway above:

Winchester Palace

In the years after the 1814 fire, warehouse space along this part of river was in short supply, so it would not be long until a new warehouse was constructed over the site of the Great Hall, however, the approach of minimising costs by including any existing stone or brick structures into a new build continued, and the west wall and rose window of the Great Hall were included in the new warehouses.

There was some damage to warehouses in the area during the last war, however this does not appear to include the two warehouses that had been built either side of the west wall. In 1943 a Mr. Sidney Toy, of the Surrey Archaeological Society removed the brickwork on the seperating wall on the 3rd and 4th floor of the warehouses, and found the rose window, still showing blackened markings from the 1814 fire and with parts missing, and used in other parts of the structure.

There have been a number of early excavations of the palace, such as a 1962 excavation on the site where a new warehouse was planned. The major excavation of the site of Winchester Palace took place during 1983 and 1984. These excavations revealed a considerable amount of evidence of the original palace, including parts of the eastern range of the early 13th century building which were found under the current location of the Cafe Nero, on the corner of Palace House.

The following photo shows the other side of the west wall. The majority of the wall has been covered over by a glass frame that appears to be part of the new building to the right. The edge of a Pret coffee shop can be seen to the right.

Winchester Palace

In the above view we can again see the three doors that led through to the kitchens that would have occupied this space.

The following print from 1815 shows the same side of the wall as in the above photo. The print was a year after the 1814 fire.

Winchester Palace

Behind the wall we can see the tower of St Mary Overy (today Southwark Cathedral), and on the left is London Bridge. The text at the bottom of the print provides some details as to the size of the Great Hall:

  • Total length of the Hall from East to West within the Walls, 108 feet, 5 inches
  • Width of the Hall within, 30 feet 3 inches
  • Thickness of the Wall, 3 ft, 6 inches
  • Diameter of the Circular Window, 12 feet
  • Each side of the Triangular Compartments (of the window) 2 feet 8 inches

The following print is dated 1812, so before the fire of 1814.

Winchester Palace

The print shows the south view of the Palace of the Bishops of Winchester. It is not clear whether it is a view of the Great Hall, however it does show the state of the buildings just over 150 years after the Bishops of Winchester had left their palace, and the buildings had been sold and let to multiple new owners and tenants.

It is interesting to compare the above view, with the following view of the same building on the right of the above print. This print is dated 1800, so just 12 years before the above print.

Winchester Palace

Given the age of the west wall of the Great Hall, and the amount of rebuilding over the centuries, it is a remarkable survivor from the original Winchester Palace.

The following map extract is from a map of the Parish of St. Saviours Southwark by Richard Blome (late 17th century but published by John Stow in 1720). Clink Street is in the centre of the map, and the location of the Great Hall is under the word Street.

Winchester Palace

There is no mention of the palace that was once of considerable importance, so perhaps by the time of the above map, it was just another part of the buildings that lined the streets of the area. The white space in the centre of the block bordered by Clink Street and Stony Street is probably one of the old courtyards of the palace, possibly the space in front of the buildings in the above two prints from 1800 and 1812.

The palace occupied a far larger area than the remains of the Great Hall we see today. The Museum of London Archaeology Service published a richly detailed report in 2006 (Monograph 31) covering the history of the palace and focusing on the excavations of 1984 and 1985 and the finds discovered under the new and redeveloped buildings that occupy so much of this area.

The wall of the Great Hall has survived for so long because it was included in the structure of later buildings. This is how a number of other very old structures have survived in London, for example the Roman and Medieval bastions at Cripplegate and much of the Roman wall.

When we rebuild today, the approach seems to be a complete demolition of the previous building, including all the foundations and basements. It is interesting to consider how much 20th and early 21st century architecture will remain to be discovered in whatever form London takes in the future.

When the weather improves, and we can go out walking, sit outside the Pret with a tea and sandwich, in what was the kitchen of the Great Hall, and imagine the feasts that were prepared here and taken through the doors into the hall.

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The Willesden Oil Well

For just over a week, the blog has had a fault connecting with the subscriptions package, so although I wrote a new post last Sunday, it appeared on the blog, but did not get e-mailed out. The connection has been rather unstable for the last few days, but now looks better, so I hope the problem is fixed. To test, here is a post with the strange story of when Willesden was the centre of oil exploration in London.

I have mentioned before one of my fascinations with old books is that you never know what previous owners may have added between the pages. I was looking through a copy of Haunted England by Christina Hole (1941 – A Survey of English Ghost-Lore), and between the pages were a couple of clippings from newspapers about an oil well that was drilled in Willesden in 1947:

After the war, the country was desperate for foreign currency, and was trying to export as much as possible, as well as to limit any imports that would have to be paid for in a foreign currency, such as dollars.

One of the major dollar imports was oil and as the article mentions, any source of oil that would enable a reduction in imports would have been highly important to the economy.

The fact that there were traces of oil deep below the streets of Willesden had been known for a number of years. In 1911 a laundry business in Willesden had been drilling a borehole as a water source, but instead found traces of oil. This resulted in a search for oil by drilling the borehole much deeper to see if there might be commercial quantities available, as reported in the Pall Mall Gazette:

“Is oil present in paying quantities in Great Britain? Is this country to be to some slight extent independent of its coal measures?

That is an interesting question which, often mooted before, is prompted again by the recent announcements that oil had been discovered in a well-boring at the White Heather Laundry, Willesden. In the days when ‘booms’ are only too readily created, the owners of the Willesden property showed commendable reticence in refraining from making public their discovery until the news leaked out through a channel which has not yet been discovered.

It must be remembered that the oil obtained at Willesden so far only amounts to a very small quantity, and the question whether it is there in commercial quantity is not likely to be settled for some time; the boring was started in January, 1911, and the first indication of oil was obtained at a depth of 1,200ft on September 6th. The depth of the boring is now 1,735ft. The people concerned are now definitely ‘going for oil’ and the success or failure of their experiment will be watched with absorbing interest”.

There were further positive news reports including:

“One of the directors of the laundry (which was founded about ten years ago by four young men from Cambridge) said: ‘We have had several members of City companies up here already, including representatives of the Standard Oil Company. We had found a splendid quality of water at a depth of 1,000ft, but the quantity is short of our requirements, and that is the chief reason why we are going deeper. We prefer to test the real value of the oil discovery before making any sort of deal”.

The borehole found very salty water at a depth of 1600ft, which was assumed to be water from an old sea formation.

Water was rising to the top of the borehole, and variable amounts of gas would also bubble up through the water.

The 1911 borehole did find traces of oil deep below Willesden, but not sufficient quantities to be economically viable, so the “four young men from Cambridge” did not make their fortune from oil.

Another attempt at finding oil was the 1947 borehole in the article at the start of the post. It may well be that the need to restrict imports encouraged another attempt at finding oil after the failure of the 1911 borehole.

The 1947 borehole was drilled by the D’Arcy Exploration Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This was the oil company that was formerly known as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which was the first oil company to extract oil in Iran. The company would later become British Petroleum (BP), so this new exploration in Willesden was being undertaken by a company with some serious oil exploration heritage.

The cost for drilling the borehole and examining the results came to a total budget of £10,000, a considerable sum for such a speculative undertaking.

Expectations were high, and the planned borehole made the national press with the Daily Mirror reporting that there was a strong possibility of oil being found, and that “One of the officials on the site yesterday said ‘I think the prospects are good’ “.

Work on the borehole commenced in November 1947, with even the serious Illustrated London News stating that “North London could become another Kirkuk” (the city in Iraq that was producing 4 million tons of oil a year before the war). The borehole was being drilled in the Gibbons Road Recreation Ground, an area of open space we can still find today. In the following map extract, a red circle marks the approximate location of the borehole (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

An 87 foot high “jack-knife” derrick was used, powered by a Caterpillar diesel engine. The following photo gives an impression of the derrick in operation:

The borehole went down to the remarkable depth of 2,680ft, and the original bore hole logs by the D’Arcy Exploration Company can still be found online. The British Geological Survey has an online portal which maps all the boreholes that have been notified to them, and clicking on each borehole location will identify if the logs are online with a link for access (see link at the end of the post).

It is remarkable how many boreholes there are across London, and it is fascinating to look for patterns in their locations on the British Geological Survey site.

The borehole log for Willesden reveals the following rock strata as the drill headed 2,680ft below the surface of London.

The log pages reveal interesting details of what was found at different levels.

Pyrolised wood was found at about 60 feet (pyrolised refers to the decay of wood in the prescence of heat).

The Cuvieri Zone seems to refer to a zone where a specific type of plankton fossil called Orbulina was found.

A fractured zone with fish remains was found at a depth of 1085 feet.

Although trace amounts of oil were found, it was clear that Willesden would never be an oil producing area, and drilling of the borehole ended in January 1948. The borehole record contains the single word “Abandoned” at the end of the list of strata.

The borehole was capped, and concrete was used to fill the hole from a depth of 1000 feet to the surface – strange to think that this long concrete column now sits below Gibbons Road Recreation Ground – for comparison, roughly the same height as the Shard, and the overall borehole drilled down two and half times the height of the Shard.

Drilling had been met with an air of excitement in newspaper reports at the start of work, however by January 1948, the only reports were a small paragraph stating “Experts have abandoned hope of striking oil at Willesden, but work will continue to obtain general geological information”.

The geology of London is fascinating. In the Willesden borehole, thick layers of chalk were found. These form a sort of bowl underneath the city, curving below the city, rising up to form the Chilterns to the north of the city, and North Downs to the south.

The following graphic shows how the chalk layer dives under the city. The Willesden borehole drilled through London Clay and Chalk layers to the much older rocks below.

London Clay formed as a sediment at the bottom of a sea, formed around 56 to 34 million years ago. The chalk layers are much older and also built up on the bottom of a warm sea in the Cretaceous period over 65 million years ago.

The geology of London goes some way to explaining why there are far more Underground train routes north of the river than to the south. London Clay is a relatively easy substance to tunnel through, and although I have shown it equally spaced in the above graphic, in reality there is far more London Clay to the north of the river than the south.

London Clay is impermeable – water does not easily pass through the clay, chalk is permeable and explains why boreholes such as the 1911 borehole for the Willesden Laundry, were sunk to access water. Rain from outside the area of London Clay would flow through the chalk and water would collect in the layers of chalk under the city.

The British Geological Survey map of boreholes provides so much information on the geology below London. The chalk layer has provided London with water for centuries. The record for a borehole at 1 Bankside, performed in the late 19th century for the Belfast and London Aerated Water Company identified a minumum water flow of 3,000 gallons an hour. Water was found at a depth of 114.5 feet. The purity of the water was measured at 27.1 parts per 100,000 of total solids, or which 12.7 were Chlorine.

A note at the bottom of the borehole record states that the site was visited on the 11th July 1946 and that the borehole had not been filled in, but was boarded over and had not been used for some 30 to 40 years. The note remarked that the borehole probably could not be used anymore due to dirt and rubbish.

St Paul’s Catherdral sits on a hill, however in the distant past water has washed over this area. A 2008 borehole at One New Change identified a 6m thickness of River Deposits below the built layer near the surface. this layer consisted of dry sand and gravel for the first 4.5m, followed by a 1.5m layer of wet sandy gravel.

This may all seem rather remote as we walk the streets of London, however the strata below the surface impacts the location and design of so much of the infrastructure we take for granted.

For example, with the extension of the DLR from the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich and Lewisham a detailed geophysical investigation was undertaken along the route of the tunnel under the Thames. There was concern that a geological fault, (a fracture between two different blocks of rock) could have caused problems for the tunnel. The fault line was found slightly to the east of the tunnel’s proposed route.

The Thames Barrier sits astride the Greenwich Fault, and there are horizontal and vertical shifts of up to 50 meters and 5 metres respectively between the rock strata in the area around the barrier.

Seventy three boreholes were drilled during the planning of the Thames Barrier to check the ground beneath. There was concern that the chalk under the southern half of the site had been damaged during the ice age when frozen conditions could have resulted in the top layers of chalk crumbling into rubble, which would not have created a stable base for construction. Fascinating that we still have to consider the impact of the Ice Age on present day construction.

If you have exhausted the TV schedule, and Netflix, run out of alcohol, and the pubs are still not open, why not spend an evening browsing the British Geological Survey borehole portal. There are hundreds across the city. (The link brings up the UK map, click on the borehole scans at top left, geology transparency at top right to 100%, then zoom in to parts of London where the coloured dots of boreholes appear. Click on one of the dots to bring up information as to whether there is a scan available).

Boreholes for the Jubilee Line Extension, the new Thames Tideway Tunnel, historic boreholes drilled for water, such as the 600ft borehole beneath BBC’s Broadcasting House that was yielding 1,272 gallons of water an hour. Confidential or Restricted boreholes are spread across London. There are no online records for these, and it is intriguing to guess at the reason.

There was a potential attempt at drilling again at the original Willesden site, when London Local Energy applied for a licence to drill and search for oil and gas in 2014. The company believed that whilst small quantities had been found in the earlier boreholes, new fracking technology would allow an economic quantity to be recovered. The application did not make any progress.

Despite the considerable number of boreholes, no commercial oil has ever been found in London, so Willesden, or anywhere else in London will never see an oil bonanza.

alondoninheritance.com

Limehouse Cut and Angel Underground Station

Before starting on this week’s post on the Limehouse Cut and Angel Underground Station, can I thank you for all the feedback following last Sunday’s post. It is really appreciated.

I also hope that if you receive my posts as a subscriber, this one does reach you. For the last few days there has been a rather obscure error message in the component that links the blog with the WordPress tool that manages e-mail subscriptions. The hosting company is investigating, so my apologies if it does not reach you automatically.

You may well be wondering what on earth brings the Limehouse Cut and Angel Underground Station together in one post. I can assure you there is a common theme linking these two locations, which I hope will become clear as you read through the post.

Limehouse Cut

If you walk east along Narrow Street in Limehouse, over the bridge that crosses the channel from Limehouse Basin to the Thames, then turn towards the river along the Thames Path, and at the end of the new apartment buildings that go by the name of Victoria Wharf, you will find a short channel in from the river:

This was the original river entrance where the Limehouse Cut connected to the River Thames.

The Limehouse Cut was opened in 1770 to provide a direct route between the River Thames and the River Lea at Bromley-by-Bow.

The River Lea entered the Thames to the east of the Isle of Dogs, so the Limehouse Cut provided a much shorter route for barges heading to the City and east London by avoiding the need to travel around the full loop of the Isle of Dogs.

The following extract from the 1816 edition of Smith’s New Plan of London shows the Limehouse Cut running as an almost straight line from the River Lea at top right to the Thames, where I have marked the point where the Limehouse Cut connects to the river with a red circle – this is the short channel in my photo above.

The area to the lower left of the Limehouse Cut was mainly open space, with a limited number of buildings and streets, however this would be changing very soon.

Soon after the 1816 map was published, another canal was built to help with transport across the city. The Regent’s Canal ran from Limehouse and headed north to loop around north London, allowing goods to be transported from the river to the north of the city, thereby avoiding the congested road system.

Part of the Regent’s Canal included a large basin, an expanse of open water just before the point where the Regent’s Canal entered the river. There were warehouses around the basin, and barges would gather, waiting to transit to the river when tides allowed the locks to be open.

The Regent’s Canal Basin, and the entrance to the river was built immediately to the west of the Limehouse Cut.

For eleven years between 1853 and 1864, the Limehouse Cut was diverted into the Regent’s Canal Basin, however after 1864 the original entrance was back in use, with a new bridge carrying Narrow Street over the canal. This would last for another 100 years.

The following extract from the 1955 revision of the Ordnance Survey map shows the Limehouse Cut running from top right down to the River Thames, with the Regent’s Canal Basin immediately to the left, labelled as “Dock” (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

By 1968 industrial activity in the area had been in long decline as was trade on the Regent’s Canal and Limehouse Cut. The entrance to the river was again closed, and the Limehouse Cut diverted into the Regent’s Canal Basin that was renamed as the Limehouse Basin.

The following extract is from a map of the area today. Limehouse Cut is coming in from top right and diverting straight into Limehouse Basin, I have again circled the original entrance with a red circle (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

The pink road that appears to loop across the north of the Limehouse Basin is in reality underground as this is the Limehouse Link Tunnel.

The following view is looking across the old entrance to Limehouse Cut. The wooden boards may well be the original planks that lined the entrance to the canal.

A couple of high explosive bombs landed in the immediate vicinity so the area surrounding the wooden planks may well be repaired bomb damage.

A very faded information board at the old entrance to the Limehouse Cut:

Between 1853 and 1864, the Limehouse Cut had been diverted to the Thames via the Regent’s Canal Basin. In 1864, the original entrance was restored, and a new wrought iron girder bridge was installed to carry Narrow Street over the Limehouse Cut. This 1864 bridge remains in place, although because of the filled in entrance, the bridge is not that obvious apart from the iron side walls as the street is carried over the Limehouse Cut. This is the view from Narrow Street looking south towards the Thames:

The view looking north:

Looking over the northern edge of the bridge, we can see the section of the Limehouse Cut that was originally the lock that controlled access between the non-tidal canal and the tidal river. Much restored late 19th century lock keepers cottages line the western side of the old lock (to the left in the photo below):

The old Regent’s Canal Basin, now the smaller Limehouse Basin, today hosts a marina, and provides links with the River Thames, Regent’s Canal and via the Limehouse Cut, the River Lea, and are all really interesting walks.

The old Limehouse Cut entrance is evidence of the canal’s original 1770 route into the River Thames for one of London’s early transport systems.

Angel Underground Station

Today, the entrance to Angel Underground Station is on the corner of a modern brick office block, facing onto Islington High Street. It has not always been in this position.

To find the original station, you need to walk south to the junction of Islington High Street with Pentonville Road, and walk a short distance along City Road and on the left is a rather strange looking building:

This is the original Angel Underground Station.

The Angel Station opened in 1901 as part of the City and South London extension from Moorgate. Six years later in 1907, the line was extended on towards Euston station. Today, Angel Station is on the Bank branch of the Northern Line. The following extract from the 1954 Ordnance Survey Map shows the original station in the centre of the map, on the corner of City Road and Torrens Street. This is the station building photographed above (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

The location of the old and new stations can be seen in the following map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

When Angel Station was built, it had a narrow central platform, with both tracks running either side of the platform. Whilst this was probably fine for the short period of time before the line was extended, it was a rather dangerous place when the platform was crowded, and busy trains ran in both directions.

The following clip is from the 1989 BBC film Heart of the Angel (link at the end of the post), showing the crowded platform.

From the same film is a clip of the 1989 entrance to the station, looking down City Road and is on the right of my photo of the station at the top of this section of the post.

The platforms were also served by lifts from the ground level building. The exterior cladding around the original brick building was a later addition to provide extra space. The view down Torrens Street with the station on the right:

By the late 1980s, the station had a long history of overcrowding along the narrow single platform. It would frequently be rather chaotic when two trains pulled in, with passengers leaving both trains onto a narrow platform full of passengers waiting to get on the trains.

The lifts were also relatively small for the number of passengers at busy times and would also frequently break down. At the end of the 1980s a major rebuild of the station began.

A new tunnel was excavated to take the northern branch, thereby separating the northern and southern tracks so each could have their own platform. The southern branch today occupies the space of the original tunnel so has a rather wide platform compared to a normal station, as the platform occupies the space of the original platform and the northern tracks.

Escalators were installed to avoid the use of lifts, and these took passengers between the platforms and the new station entrance on Islington High Street.

The new station opened in 1992, leaving the original station building to sit on the corner of City Road and Torrens Street.

Crossrail 2 includes a station at Angel, and the complete eastern side of Torrens Street, including the original station building, was designated in the safeguarding map of sites for Crossrail 2 construction and operation.

The following view looks along Torrens Street at the buildings included in the safeguarding map.

The buildings along this side of the street are an interesting mix of old warehouses.

Candid Arts Trust occupies a 19th century warehouse:

And at the end of the street is an early 20th century building that was constructed on the site of a smithy and may have been used to stable horses, however it would be occupied by a metal working and plating company.

And there is still evidence of this activity:

The building is now occupied by the “Islington Metal Works” – run by a hospitality company and the site is used for Wedding Receptions, Corporate and Christmas events.

The link between these two very different sites, in different parts of London is hopefully now clear; that they are the redundant entrances to once busy transport links that have now been diverted.

The entrance to the Limehouse Cut was once a busy route for barges moving between the Lee River and the River Thames, with the Limehouse Cut now diverted into Limehouse Basin.

The original entrance to the Angel underground station has now been closed for some thirty years, with passengers now diverted along escalators rather than lifts to the new station entrance on Islington High Street, with a considerably improved and safer platform layout at the station.

There are many examples of these across London where the ever changing transport system adapts to changing technology, different patterns of use and improvements.

A film was made for the BBC 40 Minutes series in 1989 documenting 48 hours in the life of the Angel station.

Heart of the Angel was made by the BAFTA award winning director Molly Dineen, and it is a very honest portrayal of a station struggling to cope with the numbers of passengers using the station and the creaking infrastructure supporting the station.

if you have a spare 40 minutes, it is well worth a watch and can be found here.

alondoninheritance.com

7th Year of Blogging – A Year in Review

Somehow, I have reached the end of February 2021 without missing a Sunday post for seven years. I really did not expect to get here when I started at the end of February 2014.

At the end of the 6th year of the blog, the COVID virus was across the news, but had not really affected everyday life. A year of lockdowns and restrictions, and the horrendous death toll were yet to come.

It seems rather trivial given the impact on so many people, however it has been a difficult year for walking and exploring London. Luckily I always have a sufficient backlog of posts to cover periods when getting to places is not possible. I still have very many of my father’s photos which need a visit to research and take a comparison photo. I also had a long list of places to visit, long walks to explore and research to carry out which has just not been possible; hopefully later this year.

One thing I did manage to achieve was pass the Clerkenwell and Islington Guide Course.

Walking and exploring London has been a passion for so many years. Writing the blog is a rather solitary activity behind a computer screen and I have been thinking about how to develop the blog and transferring the blog onto London’s streets seemed a perfect combination.

The course was brilliant and I learnt so much from the lecturers and others on the course, and I have to thank those running the course for managing completion in such a difficult year.

I am working on a number of walking tours covering areas such as the Southbank, Bankside, Barbican, Wapping, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Islington and hopefully towards late Spring and early Summer, walking in groups will be possible.

So if you really do want to hear me on the streets of London, unfortunately with even more stories and detail than in the blog, I will announce details in the blog during the coming months.

That is for the future, for now a quick review of the last year.

I have a number of photographic themes which I have tried to maintain for many years. Pub’s, hairdressers (no idea why, but a theme my father started in the early 1980s), closed shops, buildings and places about to be demolished etc.

One theme has been newspaper stands. They fascinate me as they represent a specific moment in time. Newspaper headlines are also very transitory; they seem of the utmost importance at the time, but are quickly replaced by the next days news, and soon fade into history. These stands are glanced at by people rushing by, occasionally picking up one of the papers. They have been a feature of the London streets for many years.

They also tell a story of how an event develops, and so it was with the virus.

The 6th February 2020, outside Charing Cross Station, and the virus still seemed to be  restricted mainly to China:

7th year of blogging

Walking round London that evening and the streets were as busy as normal – outside Green Park station in Piccadilly:

7th year of blogging

Another photographic theme is tracking down some of the hidden views of London. There are so many places which are not normally visible simply walking the streets.

If you walk down Allsop Place, off the Marylebone Road by Madame Tussauds, there is a point where the row of buildings along the street ends and a high brick wall fills the gap. The wall is just too high to look over, but hold your camera above the wall and a hidden world opens up:

7th year of blogging

Part of Baker Street station is visible, the brightly lit platforms surrounded by the dark walls of the surrounding buildings. In February the underground system was just as busy as usual.

On the 21st February, a news stand in Piccadilly was warning that the killer virus was now spreading fast:

7th year of blogging

Despite warnings that the virus was spreading fast, by the 27th February, the country’s borders were still wide open and large sporting events continued to go ahead, mixing supporters from home and abroad.

Arsenal were playing Olympiakos in the Europa League on the evening of the 27th February. This was the home match, with Arsenal going into the game with a 1-0 advantage following a win in Greece the previous week.

Olympiakos would go on to win 2-1 and knock Arsenal out of the Europa League. As with any London game, the away fans from Olympiakos were in central London before heading out to the Emirates Stadium and when I walked by, they were loudly clustered in Piccadilly Circus.

7th year of blogging

Other news did continue to make the headlines, and on the 6th March a “Hammer Blow For Heathrow Runway” was reported:

7th year of blogging

This referred to a court of appeal decision that the Government’s decision to go ahead with the runway was illegal as they had not considered their climate commitments in coming to a decision.

This decision was overturned by the Supreme Court last December, meaning that the third runway can now move forward to the planning permission stage.

Whether the impact of the pandemic on air travel and the finance of airport operators will influence the need and business justification for a third runway remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, commuters at Waterloo Station were still dashing from Underground to station concourse for the train home as the “Virus War Enters Next Phase”:

7th year of blogging

On the 12th March outside Great Portland Street station, there was an appeal as the “Country Needs You To Join Virus Fight”:

7th year of blogging

But on Sunday 15th March, the previous Friday’s headlines were hinting at the coming lockdown, and that the lockdown may risk even more deaths:

7th year of blogging

Headlines continued in much the same way, and on the 23rd October, headlines had shifted from the risk of the virus to the help needed to overcome the restrictions and challenges of lockdowns:

7th year of blogging

When a packed underground train was a normal expectation, travelling on the underground, even out of lockdown, was a rather strange experience. Having an empty train carriage became a common, rather than an exceptional event.

7th year of blogging

And empty stations – this was Highbury & Islington Station at 3:55pm on Saturday 24th October 2020:

7th year of blogging

Even before the first lockdown in March, the streets were empty. Outside the Natural History Museum:

7th year of blogging

Piccadilly Circus – so much quieter than when Olympiakos fans had gathered there less than a month before:

7th year of blogging

Trafalgar Square:

7th year of blogging

Travelling across Tower Bridge:

7th year of blogging

Piccadilly:

7th year of blogging

I mentioned earlier that pubs are one of my photographic themes. I had long planned to walk around the City to find and photograph all the pubs, and in July 2020 I spent a day doing just that. The majority were still closed, having been closed since the start of the March lockdown. Tiered restrictions and the lack of workers and tourists in the City meant there was no point in reopening – customers were just not there. This continues to be the situation, and even when restrictions are reduced there will probably be a considerable delay until there are sufficient people back in the City to make the number of City pubs economic.

One pub that will not reopen is the Still and Star in Little Somerset Street.

7th year of blogging

The Still and Star is the one remaining “slum pub” and has been under threat for some years, however in December 2020, the City of London Corporation approved revised plans for a 15-storey tower to be built on the land in Aldgate High Street, including the space occupied by the Still and Star.

The new plans include a “reimagining” of the Still and Star with a new pub built facing onto Aldgate High Street. A very sad loss of a one off City pub.

7th year of blogging

In August, I climbed the O2 Dome with my 12 year old granddaughter, something that she had wanted to do for some time. In the following photo, the view is looking across to the water of the Royal Victoria Dock. It looks almost certain that the new “City Hall” will be the low, long building to the left.

7th year of blogging

In 2020 I finally managed to take my father’s old Leica IIIg camera out for a walk around London. The camera that was used for the 1950s photos in the blog, and the lens that was used for all my father’s photos from the 1940s and 50s.

The camera was last used towards the end of the 1970s and needed a repair to fix a sticking shutter, but I was really pleased with the first photo after more than 40 years.

7th year of blogging

As lockdown ends I will be ordering more black & white film, and an attempt at developing my own films is the next challenge.

I also continued to revisit some of my early photos, including the following photo of the Globe in Borough Market which I had taken in 1977:

7th year of blogging

The same pub in 2020:

7th year of blogging

In October, the City was still quiet:

7th year of blogging

The view down Ludgate Hill from St Paul’s on a Saturday afternoon:

7th year of blogging

Two of the businesses hit the most by the lockdowns and lack of people in the City – travel and hospitality:

7th year of blogging

City Thameslink Station:

7th year of blogging

The majority of my posts were not about the impact of the virus, and my most popular post of the year, in terms of the number of times the page was viewed, was my post on Broad Street Station, a station I had photographed in 1986, not long before the building was demolished:7th year of blogging

The same view today:

7th year of blogging

Whatever happens after the pandemic, London will reinvent and thrive, as it has done so many times before, and it will continue (in my fully biased view) to be the best city in the world to walk and explore.

There will be differences. More home working and reduced numbers of people working 5 days a week in the city. Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail has predicted that leisure and holiday travel by train is set to increase, while commuter traffic is likely to continue to fall.

Hopefully many of the trends that have had a negative effect on living and working in the city will change, such as the sale for overseas investment of so many of the flats and apartments being constructed, and there needs to be a reduction in the cost of housing in London.

London also needs its local facilities. it needs local areas with their own specific identity. Some of the recent changes in Soho risk the destruction of the identity of a unique and historic area.

Crossrail (the Elizabeth Line) will finally open. The Museum of London move to Smithfield opens up so many opportunities (and risks) to the area, however the proposed concert hall that was to take the museum’s place at the Barbican has been cancelled due to “unprecedented circumstances” and will be replaced by an upgrade to the Barbican complex.

The upwards growth of the City does look to continue, with at least five new glass and steel towers being planned.

At the end of the 7th year, can I thank you so much for reading the blog. I learn so much from the comments and am grateful for the corrections when I (thankfully not that often) get something wrong. There is a considerable amount of knowledge and experience of London out there.

I also hope that later in 2021 I get the opportunity to take you on a walk around some of the places I write about and show more of the history and stories of this fascinating city.

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Topping’s Wharf and the Wharves between London and Tower Bridges

In August 1948, my father was on a boat sailing from Westminster to Greenwich, taking photos along the route. The following photo is after having just passed under London Bridge, looking down towards Tower Bridge, with the cranes and warehouses of the wharves that line the river opposite the City of London.

Topping's Wharf

The Southwark side of the river between London Bridge and Tower Bridge was very different to the City side of the river. The Southwark side was full of wharves, warehouses, cranes and moored ships and barges.

The City had Billingsgate Market, the Customs House, New Fresh Wharf and the Tower of London. The difference between the two sides of the river can be seen in the following map from Commercial Motor’s 1953 edition of London Wharves and Docks:

Topping's Wharf

This fascinating book lists all the wharves and docks between Teddington and Tilbury, and provides details of the trade that they handled and their facilities. The following tables cover the Southwark wharves between London and Tower Bridges:

Topping's Wharf

Topping's Wharf

There was a remarkable 20,250,000 cubic feet of storage space within the warehouses along this relatively short stretch of the river, and there was a wide range of goods being stored. Chances are that if in 1953 you were drinking your morning cup of coffee, it would have been imported through one of these wharves.

By 1953, all except the Tower Bridge Wharf were owned by Hay’s Wharf Ltd, a business that had been expanding rapidly, and a name that can still be found in this transformed stretch of the river.

Many of these wharves had been in existence for hundreds of years, and they would have had individual owners with the name often reflecting the original owner / builder of the wharf.

There is so much history associated with each wharf, and they can demonstrate how trade was conducted, and what life was like in this part of London. Close to London Bridge in the above map is Topping’s Wharf, and I have taken this single wharf to see what can be found of its history.

The first reference I could find of Topping’s Wharf was an advert in the Newcastle Courant on the 17th December 1774 where the new owners are setting up a cargo route between London and Newcastle and advertising Topping’s Wharf as a safe and insured site for goods to be stored:

“To the MERCHANTS, TRADERS and SHIPPERS of GOODS to and from London and Newcastle. We take this opportunity of acquainting you, that having lately taken a new, commodious, and convenient Wharf, situate in Tooley-street, Southwark, and adjoining to London bridge, known by the name of Topping’s Wharf, where there are exceeding good warehouses for lodging and securing goods from damage by weather, and where vessels of 300 tons burthen or upwards may load by cranes, which will be a considerable saving of expense and risk, incurred by the present method of shipping, by lighters from above bridge. The goods will be lodged in warehouses, upon which an insurance of £4000 from fire will be made till shipped and the policy deposited at the Bank of Newcastle. A set of good accustomed vessels are engaged, one of which will sail every week. We therefore solicit your favours, and assure you, that the greatest care will be taken to ship your goods with regularity and dispatch, by Your humble servants, CHINERY, RUDD and JOHNSON, London, December 9th 1774”.

These newspaper adverts and reports are interesting because they shed some light on how trade was conducted in the 18th century. They also mention fire insurance as a key feature of Topping’s Wharf, and from later events we can see why.

Warehouses held large volumes of highly flammable materials, and fires in London’s warehouses were very frequent, with often significant destruction of buildings, the goods stored in the warehouse and ships moored alongside.

I have already written about one fire in the area, called at the time the “Great Fire at London Bridge” in 1861. There had already been another major fire eighteen years earlier in 1843. This fire had destroyed Topping’s Wharf, as reported in the Globe on Saturday, August 19th, 1843:

“TERRIFIC FIRE THIS MORNING – Never since the too well remembered fire at the Royal Exchange in 1838, has it fallen to our lot to record a more terrific one than that which took place this morning at an early hour, at the premises known as Topping’s Wharf, situate on the east side of London bridge, near Fenning’s Wharf, which it will be recollected was destroyed by a similar calamity in 1836.

In magnitude it exceeded the above-named disaster, or any other that has occurred on the banks of the River Thames for many years past; for, in addition, we regret to say that Watson’s Telegraph, formerly a shot tower, the large turpentine and oil stores of Messrs. Ward and Co, in Tooley-street, and St Olave’s Church, all fell a sacrifice to the devouring element, besides doing extensive damage to a tier of shipping moored alongside Topping’s Wharf”.

The fire had started just before two in the morning and was spotted by a Police Constable. The Fire Brigade was soon on the scene, led by the superintendent of the brigade, Mr. James Braidwood (who would be killed in the fire in Tooley Street eighteen years later).

By four in the morning, St Olave’s Church, just behind Topping’s Wharf was on fire and the Globe reported that “there appeared very little chance of any of that ancient building being saved”.

The following print shows the 1843 fire at Topping’s Wharf  (©Trustees of the British Museum):

Topping's Wharf

The report in the Globe newspaper mentioned Watson’s Telegraph, and in the above print, just to the right of the church tower you can see the word Watson. I knew about Watson’s Telegraph, but did not know that the central London telegraph was based by St Olave’s Church and Topping’s Wharf, just to the east of the southern end of London Bridge.

The British Museum has a print of Watson’s Telegraph before the fire, with St Olave’s Church to the right, and Topping’s Wharf to the lower left  (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Topping's Wharf

Watson’s Telegraph was the creation of a Mr. Watson of Cornhill. The purpose of the system was to rapidly pass messages to and from the coast and key ports. It was important to traders and ship owners in the City to know when their ship and cargo were getting close, or events such as a tragedy at sea.

Watson’s Telegraph system comprised of a number of towers with a semaphore signaling system on top. These were located at strategic points to allow a message to be passed along a chain of stations to the required destination. Each telegraph station needed to be able to see the telegraph stations on either side in the chain.  For example, to pass a message between the City and Deal in Kent, the telegraph chain consisted of: “London-bridge; the second at Forest-hill; the third at Knockholt; and others at Wrotham-hill, Bluebell-hill, and three or four elevated spots between there and Deal”.

An article in the Illustrated London News provided the above list of locations, and I love the introduction to the article which paints a futuristic view of communications:

“In this miraculous age of improvements and discoveries when ‘the annihilation of time and space’ is no longer regarded as an idle chimera of the brain, it might hardly be considered necessary to occupy our space with a detail of the various schemes that have been adopted and put in operation to facilitate this most paramount and prevailing desire. So many of our readers must be naturally unconversant with those experiments in arts and science which the ‘great metropolis’ is continually eliciting, that we feel it a duty which we owe to our friends and supporters at a distance, to place before them those objects of interest and real usefulness in which the metropolis abounds, and which are only known to them by name”.

As well as the telegraph stations, a key part of the system was a Telegraphic Dictionary which was kept at each station and contained “several thousand words, names, phrases and directions, such as are likely to be most useful and required, and names of vessels, places, and certain nautical terms which have been selected with great care, as may best suit the object in view”.

The message entries in the dictionary have an associated unique number and the positions of the arms on the semaphore corresponded to different numbers, thereby allowing the position of the arms to send a message from the telegraphic dictionary.

The system was created in 1842. It is remarkable to think that 179 years later, on the evening before writing this post, I was watching a live stream over the Internet from the US of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars, with photos of the surface coming minutes after landing. How communications technology has changed in less than 200 years. I suspect the readers of the Illustrated London News in 1842, could not have imagined this new ‘the annihilation of time and space’.

It is difficult to track the ownership of Topping’s Wharf over the centuries of its existence. It seems to have been owned by Magdalen College, Oxford for some time, as in the Globe on the 28th October 1907, there is a record that: “the leasehold of Topping’s Wharf, Tooley-street, London-bridge, which Messrs. Jones, Lang, and Co. are to offer by the instructions of Magdalen College, Oxford”.  There was also a description of Topping’s Wharf:

“The premises, which comprise ground floor, basement, and three large upper warehouse floors are supplied with loopholes to each floor, with hydraulic lifts, and cranes, back and front, and have recently been fitted with a London County Council staircase”.

I cannot find who took the lease in the 1907 auction, but in 1912 Topping’s Wharf was let to Nestle and the Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company.  Hay’s Wharf Ltd seem to have taken on Topping’s Wharf in the 1920s.

Back to the view of the river between London and Tower Bridges, and another view of the wharves along the river, and the ships that used these wharves is shown in the following photo which my father took from the open space outside the Tower of London.

Topping's Wharf

When my father took the above photo and the photo at the top of the post, the wharves along this part of the river were really busy. Cranes lined the river and ships loaded and unloaded their cargo at this stretch of wharves which were then nearly all owned by Hay’s Wharf Ltd.

The introduction to the 1953 edition of Commercial Motor’s London Wharves and Docks gives an impression of how trade on the river was increasing:

“Commercial activity on the River Thames has increased considerably in the post-war years, due in large part to British Industry’s successful efforts to expand its export trade with world markets. Arising out of this intensified traffic in the industrial reaches of the Thames has come the need for an up to date, comprehensive guide to the many wharves and docks which line the banks of the River from Teddington to Gravesend”.

Despite the post-war increase in trade on the river, the wharves between London and Tower Bridges would not have too many years left. The increasing size of cargo ships and containerisation meant that inner London docks quickly became unsuitable for the type of shipping and new methods of moving cargo.

To show how quickly river trade changed, 26 years after the above description of increased activity on the river, I took the following photo in 1979, looking along the river from London Bridge:

Topping's Wharf

The cranes lining the river have gone, some of the warehouses were still being used for storage, but the majority were derelict. The space where the cranes once moved cargo between ship and warehouse was then used for parking space.

Another photo from 1979 looking down the river. A few of the remaining cranes can be seen just to the right of HMS Belfast. These would have been on Mark Brown’s and Tower Bridge Wharves.

Topping's Wharf

I took a couple of “now” photos in August 2020 to mirror my 1979 photos, and the following photo shows the redevelopment of the Southwark side of the river. Part of Hay’s Wharf remains, but the rest of the area has been transformed.

Topping's Wharf

A riverside walk now runs where cranes once transferred goods between ship and warehouse, and where cars parked in 1979.

The following photo is an August 2020 view of my second 1979 photo and shows the redevelopment at the Southwark end of Tower Bridge, with the Mayor of London’s City Hall.

Topping's Wharf

So what occupies the location of Topping’s Wharf today? The whole Southwark stretch of the river between London and Tower Bridges was marked for development in the 1980s, and by 1986 “Number 1 London” had been constructed. A two part building complex with a 13 storey tower adjacent to London Bridge and a smaller 10 storey section on the site of Topping’s Wharf.

In the following photo, taken from the top of the Shard, London Bridge is on the left. The two buildings of Number 1 London are of similar design and materials and can be seen to the right of the bridge, directly on the river. The smaller of the two buildings is where Topping’s Wharf was located.

Topping's Wharf

A view of the location from the river. Topping’s Wharf was located where part of the glass canopy and the building to the left of the canopy now stand.

Topping's Wharf

In my father’s 1948 photo at the top of the post there are a line of identical cranes between the warehouses and river. These are the 240 cwt. or hundredweight (approximately 12,192 kg) cranes listed in the Commercial Motor specifications for each wharf.

The most newsworthy appearance of the cranes was during the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965. His coffin was carried along this stretch of the Thames, and the cranes bowed in turn as the boat carrying his coffin passed. This can be seen in a British Pathé film of the funeral, which can be found here – the cranes can be seen starting at 9 minutes.

If you want to see part of the street that ran behind the warehouses at the Tower Bridge end of the river, then see my post on the Lost Warehouses of Pickle Herring Street.

There is far more to discover along this stretch of the river. The 300 year history of Hay’s Wharf and the lost church of St. Olave are just two examples. These will have to wait for future posts.

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Fleet Street in 32 Exposures

Before taking a walk along Fleet Street, a quick update on last week’s post.

Thanks for all the feedback via comments, e-mail and Twitter, which demonstrated that you cannot believe everything that you read in the papers, even back in 1915. Readers identified the following statues as earlier than that of Florence Nightingale, so my list of the first statues of women (not royalty) in London is now as follows:

  1. Sarah Siddons, unveiled at Paddington Green in 1897. Sarah was an actor, also known as the most “famous tragedienne of the 18th century”
  2. Boudicca, unveiled at the western end of Westminster Bridge in 1902. Some discussion about Boudicca as she could be classed as “royal” which the 1915 papers excluded, however I will keep her on the list
  3. Margaret MacDonald,  unveiled at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1914. Margaret was a social reformer, feminist and member of organisations such as the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies
  4. Florence Nightingale, unveiled at Waterloo Place in 1915

So that would put Florence Nightingale’s statue as the 4th public statue of a women unveiled in London (excluding royalty, or perhaps 3rd if Boudicca is classed as royalty).

Leave a comment if you know of any others.

The other point of discussion was the initials on the 1861 lamp post next to the Guards’ memorial. The combination of letters appeared to be SGFCG. Possibilities included the names of Guards Regiments, or a royal link with Saxe-Coburg Gotha (the Prince Consort as Colonel of the Guards was at the unveiling).

I e-mailed the Guards’ Museum and their feedback was that they had not seen the initials of the three Foot Guards Regiments combined in such a way elsewhere, however the initials do appear to fit the Regiments as they were known in 1861 – Grenadier, Coldstream and Scots Fusilier Guards.

Thanks again for all the feedback – there is always so much to learn about the city’s history.

On to todays post. Last summer I took my father’s old Leica camera out for walk. The first time this 70 year old camera had been used in 40 years. To test the camera I had purchased a pack of Ilford black and white film, and as there were some spare, I decided to take my old film camera out, a Canon AE-1 which was my main camera for around 25 years, but last used in 2003.

The Canon AE-1 was a significant camera when it came out in 1976. I purchased mine in 1977 from a discount shop in Houndsditch in the City on Hire Purchase, spreading the cost over a year. It replaced a cheap Russian made Zenit camera which had a randomly sticking shutter as a feature.

The Canon AE-1 was a revolution at the time. The first camera to include a microprocessor, it included a light meter and once the desired speed had been set on the ring on the top of the camera, the aperture (how much light is let in through the lens) would be set automatically. It was also possible to set both speed and aperture manually.

Focus was still manual, via a focusing ring on the front of the included 50mm lens.

My Canon AE-1:

Fleet Street

The camera was powered by a battery in the compartment to the left of the lens in the above photo. Having not used the camera for almost twenty years, my main concern was that on opening the compartment, I would be met by a corroded mess, however the battery, although flat, was in good condition, and after replacing with a new battery, the camera came back to life.

Inserting a new film was much easier than the Leica as the film did not need to be trimmed, simply pushing the end of the film into the take up spool and winding on until the rewind knob moved.

I took the camera for a walk along Fleet Street, hence the title of the post – Fleet Street in 32 Exposures. I was using a 36 exposure film, so lost some in initial testing to make sure the film was winding on correctly.

Fleet Street seemed a good choice, as the street is lined with fascinating buildings. Substantial buildings from when newspapers occupied much of the street, to tall, thin buildings which are evidence of the narrow plots of land that were once typical along this important street. Many of the buildings are also ornately decorated.

This will be a photographic look at the buildings rather than a historical walk. Fleet Street has so much history that it would take a few posts to cover.

So to start a black and white walk along Fleet Street. I started at the point where the Strand becomes Fleet Street and the Temple Bar memorial:

Fleet Street

The Temple Bar memorial dates from 1880 and was designed by Sir Horace Jones. It marks the location of Wren’s Temple Bar which marked the ceremonial entrance to the City of London. The original Temple Bar now stands at the entrance to Paternoster Square from St Paul’s Churchyard.

Statues of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales are on either side of the monument, which is also heavily decorated and shows the Victorian fascination with the arts and sciences, with representations of these lining either side of the alcoves with the statues.

Fleet Street

The Grade I listed Middle Temple Gatehouse which leads from Fleet Street into Middle Temple Lane. The building originally dates from 1684:

Fleet Street

The Grade II* listed Inner Temple Gatehouse between Fleet Street and the Inner Temple location of Temple Church:

Fleet Street

Cliffords Inn Passage and the entrance gate to Cliffords Inn:

Fleet Street

The church of St Dunstan in the West:

Fleet Street

The head office building of the private bank of C. Hoare & Co. Founded by Richard Hoare in 1672, the bank has been based here in Fleet Street since 1690:

Fleet Street

Offices of publishing company DC Thomson, who still publish the Sunday Post and People’s Friend as well as the Beano. This is their London office, with their head offices being in Dundee (hence the Dundee Courier):

Fleet Street

Mitre House, with the entrance to Mitre Court:

Fleet Street

The original home of the London News Agency, also known as the Fleet Street News Agency. The business was here in Fleet Street from 1893 until 1972 when the business moved to Clerkenwell, where it was based until the agency closed in 1996.

Fleet Street

The entrance to 49 and 50 Fleet Street, a Grade II listed building that dates from 1911. Originally Barristers’ Chambers, in 2018 the building was converted into an extension to the Apex Temple Court Hotel.

Fleet Street

The following photo is of 53 Fleet Street and is a good example of where black and white is the wrong film to capture the features of a building. The upper floors are decorated with dark red bricks with green bricks forming diamond patterns, which can just be seen in the photo. It looks much better in colour.

Fleet Street

The following building is the Grade II listed former office of the Glasgow Herald built in 1927. The building is relatively thin and tall and the challenges with photographing the building using a fixed 50mm lens are apparent as I could not get in the top of the building without the front being at too oblique an angle.

Fleet Street

The 1920’s Bouverie House, with entrance to St Dunstans Court at lower left:

Fleet Street

Almost opposite Bouverie House, Whitefriars Street leads off from Fleet Street. A plaque on the wall records that this was the location of the office of the Anti-Corn-Law League between 1844 and 1846.

Fleet Street

A wider view of the building on the corner of Whitefriars Street and Fleet Street. The above plaque can be seen on the wall to the left of the corner entrance. The pub just to the right of the corner building is the Tipperary at 66 Fleet Street.

Fleet Street

The following photo shows a view along the northern side of Fleet Street and highlights the mix of different building ages, materials and architectural styles that make this street so interesting. One of the oldest building on the street is in the centre of the view. The Cheshire Cheese pub dates from 1538 with the current building dating to 1667.

Fleet Street

Next to the Cheshire Cheese is this rather ornate building which is currently home to a Pret on the ground floor. This is the Grade II listed, 143 and 144 Fleet Street. The statue in the centre of the first floor is of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Fleet Street

The building in the above photo was constructed in 1905 for Sir John Tollemache Sinclair, a Scottish MP, and designed by the architect  R.M. Roe.  Whilst researching for the reason why the statue is on the building (Sinclair was a fan of Mary Queen of Scots), I found the following newspaper report from The Sphere on the 17th August 1946 which provides a description of the use of the building:

“Although at first glance, this life-size statue of Mary, Queen of Scots appears to be in an ecclesiastical setting, it is, in fact, situated above a chemist’s shop and a restaurant in one of the older and grimier buildings of Fleet Street. No. 143-144 Fleet Street, known as Mary, Queen of Scots House, contains a typical selection of Fleet Street tenants – newspaper offices, advertising agents and artists agents”

Next to the above building is a lost pub, the building in the following photo was once the Kings and Keys pub.

Fleet Street

The name of the pub can still be seen carved in the decoration between the first and second floors.

Fleet Street

The Kings and Keys closed in 2007, and in the days when Fleet Street newspapers had their local pub, this was the pub for the Daily Telegraph. Although the building dates from the late 19th century, a pub with the name Kings and Keys had long been on the site. A newspaper report from 1804 highlights the dangers for those travelling through London and stopping at a pub:

“Last week a young midshipman, from Dover, going to Oxford on a visit to his relations, stopped at the King and Keys, in Fleet-street, for refreshment, when a fellow-traveler, whom he had supported on the road, attempted to rob him of his box, containing his money and clothes, which was prevented by the waiter; the ungrateful villain unfortunately made his escape”.

Across the road is a closed and boarded Sainsbury’s Local. One of the casualties of the lack of people travelling to work in Fleet Street during the lock-downs.

Fleet Street

On the front of the above building is a plaque recording that it was the site of Bradbury and Evans, Printer and Publisher of Dickens and Thackeray between 1847 and 1900.

Fleet Street

And to the left of the building is a memorial to T.P. O’Connor, Journalist and Parliamentarian 1848 to 1929 – “His pen could lay bare the bones of a book or the soul of a statesman in a few vivid lines”.

Fleet Street

Next to the old Kings and Keys building is the old offices of the Daily Telegraph newspaper. Built for the newspaper in 1928 and now Grade II listed.

Fleet Street

The building is a good example of the power and authority that the newspapers wanted to project when they were still the main source of news, before radio and television had become a mass market source of news.

Next to the Telegraph building is Mersey House, built between 1904 and 1906:

Fleet Street

Mersey House is yet another Grade II listed building, and was the London home of the Liverpool Daily Post (which is probably the source of the Mersey name after the River Mersey). The newspaper cannot have been using all the space in the building as in 1941 they were advertising:

“Do you want a London Office with a Central and Appropriate Address? Accommodation can be had in Mersey House, Fleet Street, E.C. 4 – Apply the Daily Post and Echo, Victoria Street, Liverpool”.

There are substantial stone clad buildings on many of the corners of Fleet Street. This is 130 Fleet Street on the corner with Shoe Lane:

Fleet Street

And a typical bank building on the corner with Salisbury Court. The plaque to the right of the door records that “The Fleet Conduit Stood In This Street Providing Free Water 1388 to 1666”.

Fleet Street

The majority of buildings that line Fleet Street are of stone, however there is one spectacular building of a very different design and using very different materials. The following photo shows the lower floors of the Grade II* listed Daily Express building dating from 1932.

Fleet Street

The above photo shows the limitations of using a fixed lens. impossible to get the whole building in a single photo. These are the upper floors:

Fleet Street

The art deco building was designed by architects H. O. Ellis & Clarke with engineer Sir Owen Williams. The materials used for the building could not be more different than the rest of Fleet Street.

Vitrolite (pigmented, structural glass) along with glass and chromium strips formed the façade of the building, to give the building a very modern, clean and functional appearance at the start of the 1930s.

Four years after completion, the building was used as an example in an article on “Architecture – the way we are going” in Reynolds’s Newspaper to demonstrate the battle of architectural ideas, and the type of design and materials that will be the future of office and industrial buildings

The building can really be appreciated when seen as a complete building, and the following postcard issued as construction was finishing, shows the building in all its glory:

Fleet Street

On the opposite side of the street is the old building of the Reuters news agency, one of the last of the news agencies to leave Fleet Street in 2005. The following photo shows the main entrance to the building and according to Pevsner is recognisable as the work of the architect Sir Edward Lutyens by “the wide, deep entrance niche on the narrower Fleet Street front”. Above the door, in the round window is the bronze figure of Fame.

Fleet Street

View looking down Fleet Street, with the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance:

Fleet Street

The following photo is looking back up Fleet Street. in the centre of the road is one of the old police sentry boxes introduced during the early 1990s in response to the IRA bombing campaign in the City of London.

Fleet Street

I have now come to Ludgate Circus, where Fleet Street meets Farringdon Street, and where the old river that gave the street its name once ran.

The clock on Ludgate House:

Fleet Street

That is Fleet Street in 32 exposures, and it proved that my 44 year old camera is still working.

The Canon AE-1 was a joy to use. Taking photographs with a film camera does feel very satisfying. After each photo, the act of pulling the lever to wind the film feels like you have done something a bit more substantial than just the shutter click of a digital camera.

There is a story that Apple used the sound of the shutter on the Canon AE-1 as the sound when taking a photo on an iPhone – it does sound very similar, but I am not convinced.

Black and White photography is good for certain types of photo. It does bring out the texture in building materials, but I still have much to learn to use this type of film for the right type of photo (when using the Canon I mainly used colour film).

The fixed 50mm lens was also a problem with trying to photograph larger buildings in a confined space. In my early years of using the camera I could not afford any additional Canon lens, but did buy compatible Vivitar 28mm and 135mm lens which I need to find.

Fleet Street has such a rich collection of architectural styles, and the legacy that the newspapers have left on the street is still very clear. It is a fascinating street to walk.

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