Reynolds’s Splendid New Map Of London

I have a real addiction to maps, almost any type of map. Folding maps, maps in books, street maps, transport maps – they all fascinate me. Whenever we go anywhere new, other people will be using their phone to guide them, I will have brought a paper map.

I probably have far too many maps of London, hidden away in shoe boxes in a cupboard. I feature John Rocque’s map and the 1940 copy of Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London frequently in my posts, however I use many other maps to learn about how an area has evolved.

For a change, for today’s post, I thought I would feature one of these maps. This is “Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London; Showing The Grand Improvements for 1847”.

Map of London

James Reynolds was a London mapmaker with a shop at 174 Strand. The 1847 map was one of his first publications, and he would go on to produce regular updates to his London maps throughout the 19th century, also gradually incorporating colour into the maps. It is fascinating watch how London evolves with each new issue of Reynolds’s London map.

Many of his maps are online, however there is nothing better than the feel of an original paper map and to imagine the people who have used these maps to navigate the city – I did admit to having this strange addiction.

The map show features that have long disappeared and areas where key features have yet to be built.

Take the following extract showing Westminster and Millbank.

Map of London

The most distinctive feature is the hexagonal shape in the lower centre of the map. This was the Millbank Penitentiary or prison which occupied the site adjacent to the approach road to Vauxhall Bridge for much of the 19th century.

Although Vauxhall Bridge crosses the river, the rest of the river looks rather empty until Westminster Bridge, however look midway between the two bridges and there is the location of a “Proposed Bridge”. This was the site of the future Lambeth Bridge which would open in 1862.

The area occupied by the prison can be easily located today, by referencing Vauxhall Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge Road, although the rest of the area has changed considerably. The following map extract shows the area today with the location of the prison now occupied by the housing to the north of Bessborough Gardens and up to Tate Britain. Map  (© OpenStreetMap contributors) 

Map of London

The geometrical shape of the Millbank Prison is shown in the following drawing from An Account of Millbank Penitentiary by G.P. Holford, dated 1828 and shows how the prison was divided into six pentagons arranged around a central chapel.

Map of London

The following print from 1829 shows the prison – it must have been a forbidding place to be sent to – often before transportation to Australia (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Map of London

The prison has a considerable history and a couple of traces of the prison can still be found today – a subject for a future post.

Let’s now head to the east of the map and visit the Isle of Dogs in 1847:

Map of London

Nearly all of the Isle of Dogs is still marked a being “Marshes”. There is some building along the western edge and a couple of roads leading to the southern tip where the ferry provides a crossing of the river over to Greenwich.

There are a number of interesting features on the map. The limit of building on the eastern edge was this little row of buildings, with the label “Police”. This was the location that the recently established Police force operated from before moving a short distance north to Coldharbour. Their primary aim was preventing theft from the shipping moored in the River Thames, the Docks and Warehouses.

Map of London

The first docks had opened at the start of the 19th century and would continue growing across the Isle of Dogs for the rest of the century. The following detail shows the West India Import and Export Docks. The full South Dock had not yet been built, the space being occupied by the Canal (which also served as a dock) that led between the east and west sides of the Isle of Dogs and the Timber Dock. Poplar Dock had yet to be built just to the north of the Basin on the right.

Map of London

How the area looked when dock building had completed and be seen in the following map from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas, showing the same area as the above 1847 map.

Map of London

In the 1847 map extract, on the eastern edge of the Isle of Dogs between the Basin entrance and the Ship Yard is a street labelled Cold Harbour, with some building along the street. This is one of the earliest built streets on this stretch of the river.

The artist William Daniell produced a series of prints of the new docks in 1802 and the following print shows Coldharbour as a line of buildings along the river front, between the entrance to the Blackwall Basin on the right and the South Dock to the left. (see my post where I explored the area which can be found here).

Map of London

Industry has started spreading along the western edge of the Isle of Dogs. The following extract shows an iron Foundry and Oil Manufacturers, along with a couple of the windmills that once lined this edge of the river.

Map of London

At the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs was a ferry across to Greenwich. The following extract shows the location of the ferry. The map also highlights the reason why much of the Isle of Dogs was labelled as Marsh as the land was below the high water mark – 7 foot at the southern tip.

Map of London

Billingsgate in the City was not the only place in London where the name could be found – look across the river from the Ferry in the above map and there is a Billingsgate on the river bank at Greenwich.

Maps also show where the boundaries of the city’s growth were, and looking at maps over the years shows how the city gradually expands. In the following extract we can see that much of the land north of Limehouse and Poplar and east of Stepney was still open land in 1847. Bromley New Town has a few buildings, and to the north there is limited construction following the route of Bow Road.

Map of London

The detail below from the above map shows the late 18th century Limehouse Cut running between the river at lower left and the Lee Navigation / Bow Creek at top right. The Limehouse Cut was built to provide a route to the River Thames whilst avoiding having to travel around the Isle of Dogs, and also avoiding the multiple bends in the lower section of the Bow Creek.

Map of London

Industry alongside the Limehouse Cut includes a Rope Walk, Pearl Ash manufacturers, and a Patent Cable Manufacturer. Also, to top right, Bromley Hall is labelled. I found this building a couple of months ago when I walked from Bromley-by-Bow to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs. The hall has survived to this day:

Map of London

Crossing the river we can look at how far the Surrey Docks had developed by 1847.

Map of London

The first docks were in place, and the Grand Surrey Canal provided a transport route from the docks to industries inland, reaching up to Peckham.

The map below from the 1940 Atlas shows the same area as the above map. The docks were at their peak and the rest of the land had been built up between 1847 and 1940.

Map of London

Zooming out there is another interesting feature. In the map below a long black lines stretches from upper left to lower right. This is the brick viaduct carrying the London & Greenwich Railway from the location of London Bridge Station out to Deptford and Greenwich. Much of the route is still through open land – this would soon be developed.

Map of London

Heading back north again, and we can see one of the many developments across London where a name was given to a specific area. Many of these names can still be found in use today. In this example, we can see Globe Town.

Map of London

The railways had not yet made their mark along what would become Euston Road. In the following map, the station that would become Euston Station is the black rectangle on the far left of the map.

Map of London

St. Pancras and King’s Cross Stations have yet to be built. The reason that stations were built along Euston Road was a recommendation from an 1846 Royal Commission into the various railway schemes proposing stations in central London.

The Commission recommended that on the north of the river, railways should not be built through a central area of London  bounded by the streets that would later become Euston Road, Marylebone Road, City Road, Bishopsgate which is why the stations serving central London form a ring around the outskirts of what was the centre of London in the 1840s.

If you look to the left of Euston Station, you will see St. James Chapel. The top right corner of the graveyard has already been lost to the first incarnation of the station, and the graveyard is currently being excavated today ready of the HS2 extension of Euston Station.

As well as stations not yet built, the 1847 map shows stations that have since disappeared.

The following map is an extract of one of the maps above and shows the London & Greenwich Railway as the straight line running from Deptford off to the right and London Bridge off to the left. Below this straight railway is the curved route of the Dover Railway, which ends at Swan Street Station, alongside what is now the Old Kent Road.

Map of London

I have only seen the station called Swan Street Station a couple of times, it is better known as the Bricklayers Arms Station after a nearby pub.

The station was built by the Croydon and South Eastern Railway Companies, opening in 1844. The station was their alternative to the London & Greenwich Railway’s terminus at what is now London Bridge.

The station was advertised as a terminus for the West End and omnibuses were arranged to meet trains arriving at the station and take passengers onward to the City and West End. It was not a success and the passenger services ended in 1852 (apart from a brief resumption between 1932 and 1939). The station continued in use as a goods depot.

The Bricklayers Arms continued in a variety of railway related services until closure in the late 1970s and the sale of the land to developers in the early 1980s. The station and spur of the Dover Railway to the station has been demolished and replaced by commercial premises and housing.

If you look at the straight railway line above and to the right of Swan Street Station is another lost station – Spa Road Station which I wrote about here.

Spa Road Station as it appeared in 1836, eleven years before Reynolds’s map:

Map of London

I have not really concentrated on the central city, rather focusing on the edges of the map as these were the area that were starting on their development from open land to the built-up  city we walk around today. Another example can be found at the top right corner of the map where the original buildings of Bromley and Bow can be found.

Map of London

Note that at the time, the River Lea formed the boundary with Essex. Greater London has since pushed many miles to the east.

One final look at something yet to be built in the following map extract with the Tower of London in the centre right of the map.

Map of London

The landmark that is missing is Tower Bridge. In 1847 when the Reynolds’s map was printed, London Bridge was still the most easterly bridge over the River Thames.

The 1847 Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London; Showing The Grand Improvements in its full glory:

Map of London

As with photography, mapping today is mainly digital, and rather than exploring London with a paper map, today, visitors to London, or anyone else looking for a new location will almost certainly be looking at their phone.

I wonder how in 172 years we will be able to look back at maps of how London appeared in 2019? I will though continue my addiction and carry on buying paper maps.

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Down at the Old Bull and Bush

For last week’s post I was looking at the building that was once the pub Jack Straw’s Castle. This week, I have walked from Jack Straw’s Castle, along North End Way towards Golders Green to find another famous Hampstead pub. This is the Old Bull and Bush as photographed by my father in 1949:

Old Bull and Bush

The same view 70 years later in 2019:

Old Bull and Bush

If you have not been to the Old Bull and Bush, you probably recognise the name from the music hall song “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” made famous by Florrie Forde in the early years of the 20th century. The song has the following chorus (there are some minor variations, dependent on the source):

Come, come, come and make eyes at me
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Come, come, drink some port wine with me,
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Hear the little German Band,
Just let me hold your hand dear,
Do, do come and have a drink or two
Down at the Old Bull and Bush, Bush, Bush
Come, come, come and make eyes at me

The song appears to date from 1903 / 1904. There is a recording apparently dated from 1903 by a Miss Edith Manley. The song may also been a re-work of a song with much the same words titled “Down at the Anheuser Bush” – a song commissioned by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company which also seems to have appeared in 1904.

The Anheuser Bush origin my be correct as the Old Bull and Bush version has a German band reference and the Anheuser Busch company grew out of the 1860 take over of the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis by Eberhard Anheuser.

The song appeared in a number of pantomimes at Christmas 1904, but it was Florrie Forde’s recording of the song and live performances that appear to have given the song popular appeal at the time, and the longevity needed to keep the song in the cultural background 115 years later.

The song may well also be the reason why the Old Bull and Bush did not go the same way as Jack Straw’s Castle.

Florrie Forde  was born on the 16th of August 1875 in Melbourne, Australia, She was the sixth of eight children of Lott Flannagan, an Irish-born stonemason and Phoebe Simmons. Although her last name was Flannagan, she adopted the surname of a later step father to become Florrie Forde.

She had success in Australia, but moved to England in 1897 where she started to appear in London music halls. This was the start of a very successful career which would last until her death in 1940.

Old Bull and Bush

The Old Bull and Bush at it appeared in the first decade of the 20th century:

Old Bull and Bush

The style of the building is much the same as my father’s photo and the pub you will see today, however it has also clearly had some major redevelopment.

Hampstead pubs were major attractions during summer weekends and public holidays, when Londoners would have a rare opportunity to stop work and head to the open space and clean air of the heath. As well as the open space, fun fairs could be found on the heath as well as the Vale of Health and the pubs would always be a popular destination as shown in the following photo where crowds are heading into the Terrace and Gardens which could be found at the rear of the pub.

Old Bull and Bush

An example of the impact that the bank holiday trade could have for the country, and the pubs of Hampstead can be found in the following newspaper report from The Standard on Tuesday 17th April 1906 reporting on the previous day’s Bank Holiday:

“A RECORD BANK HOLIDAY – CROWDS EVERYWHERE – DAY OF SUNSHINE – SIGNS OF PROSPERITY. Absolutely empty was the Londoner’s verdict about London yesterday, as he strolled about the sunny streets of the metropolis. The fact remains that it was a wonderful Easter Monday, and that many holiday records were broken. The weather had a good deal to do with it. It was bright enough for June, and nearly warm enough for July. But the weather was not all. This is a time of good trade, and everybody is doing reasonably well. They are in the mood to enjoy a holiday, and they can afford to do it in ease and comfort.

The railway companies are unanimous in paying tribute to our satisfactory prosperity, as shown by the money we spend on pleasure. The passenger traffic on the Great Western was the highest ever recorded for Easter. Forty-four excursion trains left Paddington during the holidays. Liverpool Street station was a scene of unprecedented activity for the time of year, and 100,000 passengers left it during the week. More people went to Germany by way of the Hook of Holland, than ever before.

Fifty crowded excursion trains poured into Blackpool yesterday morning. 

Coming to smaller matters, the landlords of The Spaniards, Jack Straw’s Castle, and the Bull and Bush at Hampstead Heath, say it was the best Easter Monday they have known for years; and the refreshment and amusement caterers of Epping Forest admit that they have done better than ever before. At a rough estimate, some quarter of a million excursionists have thronged the glades of the forests during the four days of the holiday.”

I am always struck when reading these old newspapers, that whilst some things have changed, so much remains the same. This coming Easter weekend, crowds will not be taking excursion trains, indeed long public holidays are often when stations close for engineering work as Euston is during the coming Easter weekend. However if the weather is good, it is almost guaranteed that TV reporters will be at one of the seaside resorts with scenes of crowded beaches and interviews with ice cream sellers praising the increase in business.  Hampstead Heath will also be busy, as will the Old Bull and Bush and The Spaniards.

To the side of the Old Bull and Bush was the entrance to the Terrace and Gardens as shown in a postcard dated 1906:

Old Bull and Bush

The Terrace and Gardens appear to have been a key part of the success of the Old Bull and Bush. The following view shows part of the gardens. Change the clothing of those sitting at the tables and this could be a pub garden today.

Old Bull and Bush

The above two photos shows lights strung along the gardens. This must have been a popular destination for a summer evening’s drink.

The Bull and Bush as it appeared in the 1880s:

Old Bull and Bush

Some history of the Old Bull and Bush can be found in the Hampstead and Highgate Express dated the 15th September 1888. Note that in the following article the pub is called the “Bull and Bush” so the Old was added at some point between 1888 and the end of the century – an early attempt at marketing the history of the pub to visitors to the heath.

“No tavern situated in the suburbs of London is better known than the Bull and Bush. Contiguous to some of the loveliest bits of Hampstead scenery, and possessing pleasant garden grounds, the Bull and Bush is all that can be desired of an old fashioned, comfortable, roadside hostelry. These characteristics, added to the attractions of its rural surroundings, have made the Bull and Bush a favourite resort for Londoners.

The Bull and Bush was originally a farm house and the country seat of Hogarth (by whom the yew bower in the garden was planted); and which, after its transformation into a roadside place of refreshment, attained some reputation as a resort of the London wits and quality. Tradition informs us that the place was visited by Addison and several of his friends. North-end must have charmed them by the picturesque beauty of its situation.

This feature of the spot still retains, notwithstanding the innovations of brick and mortar, and the construction of roads through regions once sacred to grass and wild flowers. The approach to the Bull and Bush from the town of Hampstead, with its glimpses of gorse and brushwood near Heathbrow, and the foliage in the gardens of Wildwood, remains one of the most beautiful places in suburban London.

The Bull and Bush, like other old Hampstead taverns, has many interesting bits of gossip connected with its history.

‘What a delightful little snuggery is this said Bull and Bush!’ So Gainsborough the painter is reported to have said on one occasion, while surrounded by a party of friends, who, like himself, were enjoying good cheer at the tavern.”

The peak in popularity of the Old Bull and Bush appears to have been around the time that Fred Vinall was licensee as the majority of photos of the pub have Fred’s name in large letters along the top of the building.

Old Bull and Bush

I wonder if that is Fred, standing outside the pub in the white apron in the above photo? He took over the pub in 1905.

Comparing the photo above, with the 2019 photo below shows that while the style of the pub has remained the same, the building has undergone some significant redevelopment, including the separation of the pub from the road by the wall and pavement.

Old Bull and Bush

The road to the right of the pub has a lovely terrace of houses. I suspect the buildings on the left were originally stables.

Old Bull and Bush

The attraction of the Old Bull and Bush has always been its location, and the 1888 newspaper article mentioned that the area “remains one of the most beautiful places in suburban London”. Whilst the road heading down into Golders Green is now surrounded by housing, the road continuing up towards Jack Straw’s Castle and then into Hampstead retains the appearance it must have had in the heyday of the Old Bull and Bush.

This is the view looking up in the direction of Jack Straw’s Castle from where I was standing to take the photo of the Old Bull and Bush.

Old Bull and Bush

It is a lovely walk on a sunny day up from the pub to Jack Straw’s Castle and Whitestone Pond.

A short terrace of houses hidden in the woods.

Old Bull and Bush

Which contrasts with the very different view walking down the hill from the Old Bull and Bush towards Golders Green station:

Old Bull and Bush

The street leading down to Golders Green station has a wide range of different architectural styles, probably a result of the speculative building on smaller plots of land that developed the area between Golders Green and Hampstead.

I spotted a couple of Blue Plaques in the street. One for Anna Pavlova, the Russian prima ballerina, who spent much of her life living in the Ivy House on North End Road. The following plaque is for the writer Evelyn Waugh who also lived along North End Road.

Old Bull and Bush

The short walk between Golders Green and Hampstead station is a lovely walk. If you start from Golders Green and walk up the hill, the Old Bull and Bush is a perfect stop before the final climb to the highest point in metropolitan London.

If you take the underground, do not follow the instructions in the “Getting Here” section on the pub’s website, which strangely states that the pub is “Located a quarter of a mile from Bull and Bush Underground station” – this was a planned station that was part built but never opened. Intended to serve building on the heath to the north of the Old Bull and Bush, which fortunately was never built. Next time I am in the pub I will have to ask them for directions to Bull and Bush Underground station (there is a surface building for the original entrance shaft, but it is clearly not a station – a subject for another post, even better if TfL could let me see the old station shafts and tunnels!).

It was relatively quiet during my visit, but if we have the same weather as reported in The Standard from 1906 for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in a couple of weeks, the Old Bull and Bush, as well as the other pubs around Hampstead Heath will be looking forward to the additional trade that good weather has always generated.

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The Brexit Bridge or New London Bridge

Readers of the blog will be very aware that I spend most of my time in the past, writing about London’s history, and unlike may other blogs I do not explore future plans for London and the many exciting developments in transport and architecture.

Today is an exception, and for an extra post on the 1st April, I have a scoop that I have not yet read about anywhere else.

A couple of week’s ago I was at the end of a walk from Deptford to London Bridge and had stopped in one of the well known coffee chains that frequent the area. I had sat down at a table, drinking tea, looking through the photos on my camera, and started to hear snatches from a rather loud conversation on an adjacent table.

Around the table were six smartly dressed people, who I gathered were from a construction company and an architectural practice. They were about to give a presentation at City Hall, and in a text book example of why you should not discuss confidential business in a public place, they were doing exactly that.

The words that caught my interest were Brexit Bridge, followed by New London Bridge. I now had a challenge to make my almost empty cup of tea last much longer so I could listen in to the discussion, and this is what heard.

The team was about to present their proposals for a new bridge across the Thames and were having a final run through of their presentation, and looking for anything they may have missed to make the presentation, and the proposal for the bridge, more compelling.

The proposal was for a new bridge across the River Thames in the same location as originally planned for the Garden Bridge. Where the bridge would differ from the Garden Bridge is that it would be a much larger copy, with modern materials, of the earlier version of London Bridge when the bridge was lined by houses.

The working name for the project was officially “New London Bridge”, but the team were discussing that the Brexit Bridge would have been a great alternative for the previous Mayor, with an alliterative name, and the option to put his first name at the beginning.

The new bridge would stretch from the South Bank to the Temple underground station and would consist of eight storey houses on either side. These would use modern materials for strength and durability, but from what I could make out of the design from their conversations, would emulate the appearance of the earlier London Bridge.

The bridge would not be open for traffic, pedestrians only and to emulate bridges such as the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the ground floor would be lined with shops. They expected considerable demand from all the expensive international brands hoping to get a store in such an iconic landmark.

The team had obviously learnt from the issues with the Garden Bridge:

  • The bridge would be self funding as sales of the apartments in the buildings lining the bridge would generate more than enough funding to build the bridge
  • Rental from the shops, and annual maintenance fees from the apartments would more than cover the maintenance costs of the bridge

So no public money, or private donations would be needed.

The team had also considered other objections to the Garden Bridge and part of their pitch was that the, and I quote “heritage lobby”, could not object as the bridge was a recreation of a historical bridge that once crossed the river.

Other arguments for the bridge consisted of:

  • It would demonstrate that London continues to be “Open for Business”
  • The concept had already been tested with potential purchasers in China, Malaysia, the Middle East and Russia, and there was no shortage of buyers – what billionaire would not want such an address to boast to their peers, so funding would not be a problem
  • It would bring to London a significant new tourism attraction, thereby increasing London’s attraction to international tourists
  • It would provide another pedestrian route across the river

I continued to listen (pretending to drink from an empty cup and looking through my photos for the 10th time) as the conversation seemed to get increasingly far-fetched. They also discussed options for other uses for the bridge, and how potential purchasers could be better served (and charged more).

  • The original London Bridge had narrow arches so the flow of water was constricted, and passing underneath London Bridge could be a dangerous exercise, with travelers often preferring to get back onto land to bypass the bridge before getting back on the river. Modern construction techniques would allow wide arches, however as an additional tourist attraction, technology used at the Thames Barrier in the form of raising barriers could be used to simulate the rush of water under the old bridge, which could provide an additional tourist attraction for the Rib tourist boats that currently ply the river (although the team did expect objections from the Port of London Authority and the RNLI to this feature)
  • Gatehouses would guard the entrance to the bridge. These would provide a security control to check the pedestrians attempting to cross (this would after all be private land), but they were discussing other historical features such as simulated heads on spikes waving above the entrance to the bridge
  • The type of potential client for the apartments on the bridge also have large yachts which could not pass under the City bridges, so the team were planning to make use of the space where the plans for the cruise liner terminal at Greenwich appears to have been abandoned, by providing a dedicated mooring space, with a concierge river taxi service taking clients from Greenwich to their apartments – they estimated that another £5 Million per year per apartment could be charged for this feature

The team finally packed aware their laptops, and with a final few motivational encouragements, headed off to City Hall to make their presentation.

I have no idea of the outcome of their presentation, or whether we may be seeing a future recreation of the following bridge across the river:

London Bridge

The site was chosen as to redevelop the existing London Bridge was not viewed as an option as the bridge was a key traffic route between north and south banks of the river. The proposed location was also wider than the central City location, so could accommodate more apartments and therefore generate a greater return to cover the costs of the bridge and profit for the investors.

The location of the bridge will be across the river in the middle of this photo (only taken a few years ago, but surprising how the City has since changed).

London Bridge

The Serious Bit

The above is my attempt for April Fool’s Day, but there is a serious element to it. The more I thought and wrote about such a bridge, I more I thought that this could actually happen.

The city is growing at a very rapid rate. I took the above photo in December 2014, and less than five years later the number of towers in the City has grown considerably.

Buildings that previous generations could never have imagined have been built across London, and their geographic spread, height and design variations seem to be growing on a monthly basis. The function of areas of the city have also changed considerably – the Isle of Dogs was once devoted to industry and the docks. These disappeared within a generation to be replaced by offices and apartment blocks which continue to be built and spread in area and height.

London has always changed, and what we see today is only a snapshot of the city, a view that is different to yesterday and will be different tomorrow.

I have a theory that our baseline of London is from when we first encounter the city. Mine is from the 1970s, and I still reference changes to what the city was like then. We took our granddaughter up to the Skygarden a few months ago, and she loves the building and the view – this is part of her baseline of the city, where I would consider the building in relation to what was there before and the impact that buildings like this have had.

The city will therefore be very different in the future. Buildings we cannot imagine now will at some point grace London’s skyline. London appears in one of the Star Trek films (Into Darkness) where St. Paul’s Cathedral is surrounded and dwarfed by towers that rise in all directions (see 26 seconds into the YouTube extract which can be found here). This view seems very plausible for the future given the current trend in building.

I have no idea whether a New London Bridge, lined with apartments will ever be built, but with money and the right connections, I am sure there is very little to stop such a construction.

If it does ever get built, just remember that you heard it here first.

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Jack Straw’s Castle, Hampstead

For today’s post, I am at the highest point in the metropolitan London area, standing opposite Jack Straw’s Castle.

Jack Straw’s Castle was one of the most well known pubs around Hampstead Heath. A coaching inn as well as a place for those walking across the heath to visit, along with weekend and Bank Holiday crowds.

My father photographed the building just after the last war and the photo below is his view of Jack Straw’s Castle in 1949.

Jack Straw's Castle

This was my view in March 2019:

Jack Straw's Castle

You may well be wondering how I know that my father’s photo is of Jack Straw’s Castle, given the changes between 1949 and 2019, however if you look at the very top of the tallest building, the faded words Jack Straw’s Castle can just be seen. Also, the building on the far left of both photos, along with the brick wall with two pillars, are the same in both photos.

My father’s photo shows the pub as it was following bomb damage in 1941 and subsequent demolition of some of the walls to make the building safe. The Daily Herald on the 29th March 1941 carried a report titled “Jack Straw’s Castle Bombed – the old Hampstead hostelry, was among places recently damaged during air-raids. Its neighbour, Heath House, the home of Lord Moyne, leader of the House of Lords, was also damaged.”

The building was demolished and rebuilt in 1964 to a rather striking design by Raymond Erith, however it is no longer a pub, having been converted into apartments and a gym. The building is Grade II listed which has helped to preserve key features of Erith’s design, despite developers trying to push the boundaries of how much they could change.

Jack Straw, after who the pub was named, is a rather enigmatic figure. General consensus appears to be that he was one of the leaders of the Peasants Revolt in 1381, however dependent on which book or Internet source is used, he could either have led the rebels from Essex, or been part of the Kent rebellion. Jack Straw may have been another name for Wat Tyler and some sources even question his existence. Any connection with Hampstead Heath and the site of Jack Straw’s Castle seem equally tenuous – he may have assembled his rebels here, made a speech to the rebels before they marched on London, or escaped here afterwards.

Jack Straw is mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer in the The Nun’s Priest’s Tale of The Canterbury Tales:

Out of the hyve cam the swarm of bees.
So hydous was the noyse — a, benedicitee! 
Certes, he Jakke Straw and his meynee
Ne made nevere shoutes half so shrille
Whan that they wolden any Flemyng kille

Given The Canterbury Tales were written not long after the Peasants Revolt, this reference by Geoffrey Chaucer does probably confirm his existence. The reference to “Flemyng kille” is to the targeting of the houses of Flemish immigrants in London by the rebels.

I cannot though find any firm evidence of Jack Straw’s association with Hampstead or the site of the pub.

My father’s photo was of a rather sad looking building, however before the bombing of 1941, Jack Straw;s Castle was a rather lovely coaching inn. The following photo is from a postcard from around or just before the First World War showing Jack Straw’s Castle, and demonstrating that part of the series of buildings was the Castle Hotel.

Jack Straw's Castle

It all looks rather idyllic. A cart is parked outside, a well dressed couple are entering the Castle Hotel, and there are small trees and plants growing in frount of the buildings. The road to Golders Green disappears off past the buildings.

The rear of the postcard reveals that London was not so idyllic when it was posted. The card is dated 10th September 1915 and the author has written “The Zeppo did a lot of damage here”, probably referring to the raid on the 8th September 1915 when a Zeppelin attacked London, dropping the largest bomb to land on the city during the first war, with the raid killing 22 people in total.

Jack Straw's Castle

A later photo than the above postcard as the pub has now lost the bay windows on the ground floor and has the windows that would remain in my father’s photo.

Jack Straw's Castle

The two carts in the above photo possibly delivering Nevill’s Bread to Jack Straw’s Castle and Hotel, along with a delivery from the Civil Service Cooperative Society.

In the following photo, the cart is delivering High Class Table Waters.

Jack Straw's Castle

The above photo shows how there are frequently traces of previous buildings in the buildings we see today. Jack Straw’s Castle was a Coaching Inn, and the large doors on the left have “Livery & Bait Stables”, but compare the position of these large doors with my 2019 photo above and you will also see a large set of doors in roughly the same position, although the 1964 version of Jack Straw’s Castle had no need to provide a stables.

A view of Jack Straw’s Castle, the origin of the name and some of the visitors to the inn is provided by Edward Walford in Old and New London (published in 1878);

“To Hampstead Heath, as every reader of his ‘Life’ is aware, Charles Dickens was extremely partial, and he constantly turned his suburban walks in this direction. He writes to Mr. John Forster: ‘You don’t feel disposed, do you, to muffle yourself up and start off with me for a good brisk walk over Hampstead Heath? I know of a good house where we can have a red-hot chop for dinner and a glass of good wine.’ ‘This note’ adds Forster, ‘led to our first experience of Jack Straw’s Castle, memorable for many happy meetings in coming years.’

Passing into Jack Straw’s Castle, we find the usual number of visitors who have come up in Hansoms to enjoy the view, to dine off its modern fare, and to lounge about its gardens. The inn, or hotel, is not by any means an ancient one, and it would be difficult to find out any connection between the present hostelry and the rebellion which may, or may not, have given it a name. The following is all that we could glean from an old magazine which lay upon the table at which we sat and dined when we last visited it, and it is to be feared that the statement is not to be taken wholly ‘ for gospel’ – Jack Straw, who was second in command to Wat Tyler was probably entrusted with the insurgent division which immortalised itself by burning the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, thence striking off to Highbury, where they destroyed the house of Sir Robert Hales, and afterwards encamping on Hampstead heights. Jack Straw, whose castle consisted of a mere hovel, or a hole in the hill-side, was to have been king of one of the English counties – probably of Middlesex; and his name alone of all the rioters associated itself with a local habitation, as his celebrated confession showed the rude but still not unorganised intentions of the insurgents to seize the king, and, having him amongst them, to raise the entire country.

This noted hostelry has long been a famous place for public and private dinner-parties and suppers, and its gardens and grounds for alfresco entertainments.”

Gardens at the back of pubs and inns have probably been a popular attraction for as long as these establishments have existed, and today a pub with a garden is a perfect place to spend a summer’s evening or weekend afternoon. The garden at the back of Jack Straw’s Castle looks perfect in this drawing from 1830 by George Scharf (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Jack Straw's Castle

The drawing is interesting as it appears to contain notes for a later coloured version. Scribbled text alongside the building record that the chimney is light yellow, the boards are stone colour and the brick wall is yellow.

Jack Straw’s Castle was obviously a local landmark in what was a very rural area. The following print from 1797 showing an old cottage surrounded by trees and bracken and is labelled “Near Jack Straw’s Castle, Hampstead Heath” as the inn was probably the only local reference point (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Jack Straw's Castle

My father’s photo was of the building just after the war showing a shadow of the former inn. The following photo from 1941 shows Jack Straw’s Castle in 1941 in the days following the bombing.

Jack Straw's Castle

The windows have been blown out, but difficult to see what other damage has been caused to the structure of the building. From this photo I would have expected that Jack Straw’s Castle could have been repaired, however shortage of materials and people during the war probably prevented any repair work, and over the years any structural damage and the building being left in this state resulted in the building being unsafe, and walls demolished to result in the building that my father photographed.

Although Jack Straw’s Castle is very different, the buildings to the left look as if they are much the same as their original construction.

Jack Straw's Castle

There appear to be four individual houses in the above photo. The name adjacent to the entrance is “Old Court House”. The Victoria County History volume for Hampstead refers to these buildings as having been built by Thomas Pool who purchased Jack Straw’s Castle in 1744 and built two houses in 1788. The Victoria County History states that in 1820 they were converted into a single house, with name changes over the years of Heath View, Earlsmead, and finally Old Court House.

Underneath the name plate is an intercom system with four buttons so I assume they are four individual homes, but how and when they converted from the original two houses to the current buildings, I am unsure.

Jack Straw’s Castle sits on a very busy road junction, where roads from Hampstead, Highgate and Golders Green converge. Whilst I was trying to take photos there was a continuous stream of traffic.

In the following photo, the road on the left leads to Golders Green, the road on the right leads to Highgate (passing a building which is still a pub – the Spaniards), and I am standing by the road that leads up from Hampstead.

Jack Straw's Castle

After visiting Jack Straw’s Castle, I walked down into Hampstead. This took me alongside Whitestone Pond.

Jack Straw's Castle

The pond was originally named Horse Pond as it was a drinking point for horses on the passing road, I will find the origin of the new name in a moment.

This area is the highest point in London, with according to the Ordnance Survey map, the pond being at 133m above sea level and Jack Straw’s Castle being at 135m.

It was originally fed by rain water and dew, however I believe it now also has an artificial supply as the height of the pond means there was no natural underground or stream sources of water.

This view dates from 1936 and shows Whitestone Pond, with the side of the Old Court House and Jack Straw’s Castle in the distance.

Jack Straw's Castle

I took the following photo of the same view, but I have no idea why I stupidly did not move to get the tree in a different position as it is obscuring the war memorial which can be seen in the distance in the 1936 view.

Jack Straw's Castle

Just to the left of where I was standing for the above photo, is the source of the name Whitestone Pond. Jack Straw's Castle

This is a milestone and states “IV miles from St Giles, 4 1/2 miles 29 yards from Holborn Bars”. There is a similar milestone near the Flask pub in Highgate (see my post here) which gives a distance of 5 miles from St Giles Pound. These two milestones show that there were two main routes, either side of Hampstead Heath, leading down to St. Giles and then via Holborn, into the City.

There is one final unexpected find before heading off down into the centre of Hampstead, close to the milestone is a covered reservoir with an unusual looking dome on top.

Jack Straw's Castle

This is the astronomical observatory of the Hampstead Scientific Society – a rather unique place to observe the night sky, high above the rest of London. One of the very few locations across London that provides public viewing. Unfortunately, the observatory is currently closed whilst restoration work is carried out.

It is a shame that Jack Straw’s Castle is no long a pub. It is an impressive building in an equally impressive location – although I must admit that i prefer the pre-war building. I have read so many different interpretations of the origin of the name Jack Straw and possible associations with Hampstead so i suspect we will never know the truth behind Jack Straw, but it is good that there is still a very visible reminder of the Peasants Revolt at the highest spot in Hampstead, 638 years after the event.

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The Perseverance or Sun Pub, Lamb’s Conduit Street

Today’s post is not the one I intended, it has been a busy week so not enough time to complete research for the planned subject, however I was in the area of Lamb’s Conduit Street last Tuesday so made a visit to the pub on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street. Today, the pub is named The Perseverance, but back in 1985 it was the Sun and had the most brilliant decoration on the rounded corner, so typical of the architecture of 19th century London pubs.

The Perseverance

This is the same view in March 2019, a change in name and rather more subdued signage on the corner of The Perseverance.

The Perseverance

Lamb’s Conduit Street has two main, historical, landowners. The Bedford Charity (which I wrote about here) owned and developed the southern part of the street, whilst the Rugby Charity owned and developed the northern section of Lamb’s Conduit Street.

The Rugby Charity still owns much of the original land, including The Perseverance with the income from the street being used to fund bursaries and scholarships to Rugby School. (There are still a number of Rugby boundary markers in place, so a future project is to walk the boundaries and look for all the remaining plaques that identified the estate).

The pub retained the name of the Sun from the early 19th century, to the 1990s when the name changed a couple of times, including being called Finnegans Wake prior to the final name change around 2005 / 2006 to The Perseverance.

I have always wondered why pubs change from names that have lasted well over 100 years. I can understand if the pub wants to completely separate from a previous existence, but when the pub continues to serve the same function to the same target market, I would have thought the marketing benefits of retaining a historical name far outweigh the benefits of a new name.

There are many other examples of name changes across London. I wrote about the Horn Tavern in Sermon Lane which only relatively recently changed name to The Centre Page.

The full view of The Perseverance on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street.

The Perseverance

I did not take a similar view in 1985 – the photo at the top of the post was the last on the strip of negatives so this must have been the end of a roll of film. One of the benefits of digital photography is the almost endless capacity for taking photos.

The photo above shows a different style to the buildings immediately joined on to the pub. These buildings, along with the original corner building date from the early 18th century, however the pub was refronted in the early 19th century to the style we see today.

The building is Grade II listed.

The Perseverance retains the feel of a “local” and has a bar area on the ground floor and a dining area on the first floor. It was still rather empty when I stopped for a quick drink as shown in the photo below.

The Perseverance

The Grade II listing states that the pub retains an original cast-iron column, which I assume is the column on the left of the bar.

Back outside, I had a couple of minutes for a quick look around.

One side of the eastern branch of Great Ormond Street has a fantastic array of potted plants lining the pavement.

The Perseverance

Whilst the opposite side of the street has a terrace of brick built houses from the original development of the land, looking good in the sunshine.

The Perseverance

Along the western branch of Great Ormond Street, a short distance along from The Perseverance is this building with a Blue Plaque.

The Perseverance

The plaque records that “John Howard, 1726 to 1790, Prison Reformer Lived Here”.

John Howard was the prison reformer after who the Howard League for Penal Reform was named. Howard was born in Hackney, but spent much of his life in Bedford. He became the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire which came with the responsibility for the county gaol.

He was horrified by the conditions of the gaol and the way in which it was administered, with control basically being down to the way in which the appointed gaolers wished to manage the prison and make money out of those with the misfortune to be held.

His experience in Bedford resulted in many journeys throughout the country exploring and reporting on the conditions of numerous gaols – all of which suffered from the same problems.

His journeys between 1775 and 1790 were described in a book “The State of the Prisons In England and Wales” which provides a comprehensive review of conditions in 18th century goals. The first paragraph of Section 1 – General View of Distress in Prisons introduces the state of the country’s gaols:

“There are prisons, into which whoever looks will, at first sight of the people confined there, be convinced, that there is some great error in the management of them; the fallow meager countenances declare, without words, that they are very miserable; many who went in healthy, are in a few months changed to emaciated dejected objects. Some are seen pining under diseases, ‘sick and in prison’ expiring on the floors, in loathsome cells, of pestilential fevers, and the confluent small-pox; victims, I must not say to the cruelty, but I will say to the inattention of the sheriffs, and gentlemen in the commission of the peace.”

The book records the state of each prison that he visited and Howard’s records of Marshalsea Prison in Southwark are as follows:

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

Howard’s book The State of the Prisons In England and Wales is available online at archive.org and provides a fascinating insight into 18th century prisons.

I did not have time to explore much further along Great Ormond Street, so I backtracked to The Perseverance to head back down along Lamb’s Conduit Street, which deserves a dedicated blog post, however one building just a short distance from the pub has some interesting decoration above the first floor windows.

The Perseverance

I could not photograph from directly opposite as the branches of a tree partially obscured the view. Detail of the first floor decoration is shown in the photo below which consists of a date along with a sheaf of wheat, tied with rope, with four hands pulling on the rope.

The Perseverance

The symbol is of the United Patriots National Benefit Society which was founded in 1843 with offices here in Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as other offices and branches across London and the rest of the country.

The society was one of a number of benefit societies to which members contributed a regular subscription and were then able to call on financial support in times of hardship. The sheaf symbol was used extensively by the society on their buildings, certificates of membership, documentation and badges.

Like many 19th century societies, the United Patriots National Benefit Society appear to have enjoyed members meetings in pubs which seemed to have consisted of entertainment and toasts (and probably lots of beer). An account from the Islington Gazette on the 4th November 1884 reads:

“The members of the Caledonian-road branch of this society celebrated their fortieth anniversary by a supper, at the ‘Prince of Brunswick’ Tavern, Barnsbury-road on Thursday evening last. Subsequently, the members having disposed themselves for the evenings entertainment.

The Chairman (Mr. W.E. Beer), in a few prefatory remarks condemning the recent disquieting rumours in the press concerning the Navy, proposed the ‘loyal and patriotic toasts’ which were drunk enthusiastically.

Mr G. Coel (the branch secretary), in responding to the toast of the evening, said that, up to the end of last year, the members on the books numbered 95. the receipts for 1883 amounted to £116 14s 11d, and the disbursements £114 17s 7d leaving a balance of £1 17s 4d in their favour, he regretted not being able to lay before them a better statement of affairs, but owing to the unfortunate prevalence of sickness during that time, there has been an extra call upon the funds; but it was, at the same time, gratifying to know they have been more than able to meet the demands made, without applying for aid from the mother society. He concluded by thanking them all for their courtesy and kindness accorded to him during his connection with them, extending over seven years (Cheers).

The proceedings throughout were enlivened with songs by the company, which separated after cordially approving votes of thanks to the Chairman and the host (Mr. Wilson).

I suspect those who had been able to call upon the society during times of sickness were the fortunate ones, with those not able to be members having very little to fall back on.

I should not be surprised as I have been walking London for decades, however it is always brilliant how much history can be found within a very short distance from a specific point. I went to find the pub which had a very colourful decoration in the 1980s and also found one of the key early founders of prison reform and the home of one of London’s benefit’s societies. Digging deeper there is the history of the Rugby Charity which received the original donation of land and has owned, developed and managed much of the local area since, and before that one of the early water supplies to London and the land owner that gave the street its name.

Hopefully subjects for future posts.

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St John at Hampstead and George du Maurier

Last Saturday was a windy, sunny spring day in London, so what better than to spend an hour exploring the cemetery of St John at Hampstead.

The reason for this specific cemetery was to find a rather unusual grave that my father had photographed in 1949. This is the grave of George du Maurier.

St John at Hampstead

The same view 70 years later in 2019:

St John at Hampstead

The grave today does not appear as well looked after as in 1949. There was some space surrounding the grave in 1949, however today there are many more graves alongside. The tree on the left has been cut down and today only the stump survives. One of the significant differences which I find in many of my father’s photos is the number of cars in the street. In 1949 streets were generally free of parked cars, in 2019 there are very few streets without parked cars, or lots of passing traffic.

George du Maurier, or to give him his full name, George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier, was born in Paris on the 6th March 1834 and died on the 8th October 1896.

His grandparents on his father’s side were French and according to an 1886 newspaper account, emigrated to England during the “Reign of Terror” during the French Revolution. Later accounts state that his grandfather was a glassblower and left France to avoid fraud charges, adding the du Maurier name to give the impression of a French aristocratic background.

His father returned to Paris and it was there that George was born. He spent much of his childhood in France until the family returned to London and George started as a student at the Birkbeck Laboratory of Chemistry.

The Hampstead and Highgate Express on the 24th July 1886, in their series on well known residents features George du Maurier and explains that whilst his father wanted him to become a chemist, including going to the expense of setting up his own private laboratory, George was more interested in the arts and “humorous draughtsmanship“.

After the death of his father, he gave up chemistry and went to Paris to study art. He later returned to London, after spending an additional three years in Germany and Belgium and started in his career as a draughtsman, producing drawings for publications. Punch was the publication that became most associated with his work, and he produced drawings for Punch for twenty five years.

George du Maurier photographed in 1889 (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

St John at Hampstead

The article in the Hampstead and Highgate Express described his work: “Over a period of nearly twenty five years he has contributed to ‘Punch’ an almost endless series of drawings illustrative of the manners and customs of English society. Some of its phenomena, the shams, affectations, meannesses and frivolities peculiar to its salons and garden parties, and some other scenes of fashionable life, are treated by the artist with the most biting satire. But a great deal belonging to English life and society, especially its venial weaknesses, is treated by the artist from the humorists’ standpoint, namely that of light satire and good humour. In an appreciation of beauty and grace as seen in his numerous presentments of women and children, and in his general design of his pictures, Mr du Maurier excels all preceding English pictorial humourists. In the ‘Punch’ contributions he has not only shown power as a graceful and refined artist, but in his drawings for that amusing periodical there are touches of wit, humour, satire, subtle observation, and poetic suggestiveness which are indisputably the work of a man of genius.”

A couple of examples of George du Maurier’s work for Punch are shown below (both ©Trustees of the British Museum).

The following drawing is an illustration for Punch, dated the 18 October 1880. It is described as “What our Artist has to put up with, a man talking and touching the shoulder of another, both standing before a group of three pictures, other figures examining other pictures on the surrounding walls”.

St John at Hampstead

The following drawing is dated the 12th January 1878 and is a study of two female figures sitting in a carriage on the Metropolitan Railway.

St John at Hampstead

He also produced numerous sketches for his own amusement, including many self portraits. This one on paper, stamped with his home address in Hampstead shows George du Maurier exclaiming ‘Hooray!’ at the arrival of the post with his dog dancing nearby.

St John at Hampstead

George du Maurier married Emma Wightwick, who he had met whilst in Germany. They had five children. One of his children was the actor Sir Gerald du Maurier, who was the father of the authors Daphne du Maurier and Angela du Maurier.

In his later years, George du Maurier turned to writing and produced three novels between 1889 and 1897- Peter IbbetsonTrilby, and The Martian.  Trilby was a significant best seller with the Victorian story of a fallen woman with a good heart.

George du Maurier was 62 when he died of heart failure. He had lived at two locations in Hampstead during his life, but had moved around a number of times and at the time of his death was living at Oxford Square, near Hyde Park.

His funeral at St John at Hampstead was a significant event, attended by many dignitaries of the day, authors and the staff of Punch magazine.

The memorial at his grave is unusual, and I cannot find any references as to why the design was chosen.

I am also unsure why my father chose to photograph du Maurier’s grave given the number of famous names buried at St John at Hampstead. My father was also a draughtsman, professionally for the St. Pancras Borough Council Electricity and Public Lighting Department, then the London Electricity Board, but also was interested in drawing many other subjects and it may have been this interest in an earlier draughtsman that prompted the choice of grave to visit and photograph.

George du Maurier’s grave is in the “Additional Burial Ground” just across the road from the church of St John at Hampstead and the original graveyard. The extension opened in 1812. This is the view of the additional burial ground from Church Row. The church is on the left, just behind the car. George du Maurier’s grave is up against the railings, just behind the poster.

St John at Hampstead

Another view of George du Maurier’s grave. Underneath the name and dates of birth and death is written “A little trust that when we die, we reap our sowing and so – good bye“.

St John at Hampstead

The monument above the grave is to Geoirge du Maurier, however there are panels inset to the front and sides that record the children of George and Emma du Maurier.

Here, their eldest son, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Louis Busson du Maurier is recorded as being killed in action on March 10th 1915 at Alston House, near Kemmel in Flanders.

St John at Hampstead

Marie Louise Busson du Maurier, their youngest daughter.

St John at Hampstead

Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier, their youngest son.

St John at Hampstead

There are numerous fascinating graves in the cemetery of St John at Hampstead. Walking around is a history lesson of the past couple of centuries.

The following grave and monument was not there when my father took the photo at the top of this post. It is immediately to the left (when looking from the road) of George du Maurier’s grave and is the grave of Hugh Gaitskell, the  leader of the Labour Party from 1955 to 1963, along with his wife, Dora.

St John at Hampstead

Adjacent to the grave of Hugh Gaitskell are plaques to the Hampstead resident, comedian and satirist Peter Cook and his wife Lin.

St John at Hampstead

Strangely Wikipedia states that Peter Cook’s ashes were buried in an unmarked grave so either the plaques are in the wrong place, or Wikipedia is wrong. – I suspect the later.

There was one specific grave that I was interested to find, and after some searching I found the grave of Sir Walter Besant.

St John at Hampstead

Sir Walter Besant was born in Portsmouth in 1836 and died in Hampstead in 1901. His life almost matching the reign of Queen Victoria.

He was a prolific author of both novels and factual books. Two of his more famous novels, “Children of Gibeon” and “All Sorts and Conditions of Men” dealt with the living and social conditions of east London and the relationship between east and west London. The later book helped with the establishment of the People’s Palace in east London by John Beaumont. The book included the planning and build of a Palace of Delight to provide education, concerts, picture galleries, reading rooms etc. free to the people of east London. The name used in the book was part taken by the People’s Palace, and the book brought funding and support to the People’s Palace.

For many of his books, he worked with the author James Rice and the two men went walking across London to gather background for their books. James Rice died in 1882 and in the preface to “All Sorts and Conditions of Men”, Besant wrote: “The many wanderings, therefore, which I undertook last summer in Stepney, Whitechapel, Poplar, St. George’s-in-the-East, Limehouse, Bow, Stratford, Shadwell and all that great and marvelous unknown country we call East London, were undertaken, for the first time for ten years, alone. They would have been undertaken in great sadness had one foreseen the end. In one of these wanderings I had the happiness to discover Rotherhithe, which I afterwards explored with carefulness; in another, I lit upon a certain Haven of Rest for aged sea captains, among whom I found Captain Sorensen; in others I found many wonderful things, and conversed with many wonderful people”.

I suspect that during the 19th century there were quite a few authors wandering the streets of east London.

In a review of one of Besant’s book, the London Evening Standard wrote in 1901 a paragraph that is just as true today:

“It is commonly said that half the world is ignorant of how the other half lives. That is more than true of London, for its vastness limits the social outlook of its inhabitants to the narrow groove of their daily work. How little do most people know of the occupations, or even names, of their immediate neighbours. Sir Walter Besant however is well acquainted with the region he is describing and his details are always equally graphic and correct.”

Sir Walter Besant spent six years abroad when he was a Senior Professor of Mathematics at the Royal College in Mauritius. He was Secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Besant was also instrumental in the founding of the Society of Authors and became the first Chair of the society. During his time with the society he was active in furthering the cause of copyright for an author’s work.

Sir Walter Besant, looking very Victorian in 1896 (photo © National Portrait Gallery, London)

St John at Hampstead

The reason why I wanted to find Besant’s grave was that I have many of his historical and topographical books on London. They are comprehensive studies of a specific period in time and of a region of the city. Full of early photos, drawings and maps. This is my copy of Besant’s London books published by A&C Black.

St John at Hampstead

The London Evening Standard on the 11th June 1901 carried a comprehensive obituary of Besant.

It records that “When the People’s Palace was opened by Queen Victoria, the obligation which London and the nation owed to Mr. Besant was publicly recognised, and in 1895 the honour of Knighthood was bestowed upon him, amid universal approval.”

He was married to Mary Foster-Barham, and the obituary illustrates how male and female children were treated differently. The obituary records that when he died, his two sons, Philip and Geoffrey were both at the Front (South Africa). The former being a Captain in the 4th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the latter a trooper in the Imperial Yeomanry. Of his daughters, the only mention is that one unnamed daughter was with Walter Besant at the time of his death.

It was fascinating to find the grave of an author that has provided me with a Victorian view of the history of London.

It was a pleasure to walk round and explore the “Additional Burial Ground” of St John at Hampstead on a sunny spring day.

St John at Hampstead

The cemetery is at the exactly right place between being wild and too manicured. Last autumn’s leaves still cover the ground, moss covers many of the graves and narrow paths provide walkways across the cemetery. The houses of Hampstead close in on the cemetery boundaries.

St John at Hampstead

This stunning Magnolia tree will look magnificent in a couple of weeks (providing the flowers have not been blown away with the recent gales).

St John at Hampstead

There are so many graves that tell an interesting and often tragic story of 19th and early 20th century life. This is the grave of Arthur Llewelyn Davies who died in 1907 and his wife Sylvia Jocelyn who both died at the same age of 44 (although in different years).

St John at Hampstead

Perhaps the only good thing about their relatively young deaths is that they would not have to suffer the deaths of their eldest son George who was killed in action at the age of 22 on the 15th March 1915, and the death of their fourth son Michael who drowned whilst bathing at Oxford where he was an undergraduate at the age of 20.

Inscriptions also record how individuals (or their families) wanted to be remembered. This is the grave of George Atherton Aitken – The Very Mirror Of A Pubic Servant.

St John at Hampstead

After visiting the additional cemetery, I walked across the road to visit the church of St John at Hampstead and the original cemetery.

St John at Hampstead

References to a chapel on the site date back to the 14th century. The core of the current church was consecrated in 1747 with the spire being added in the 1780s. The church was expanded during the middle of the 19th century to support the growing population of Hampstead. During the rest of the 19th century there would be improvements (such as gas lighting), decoration and minor changes. The church was given a lighter colour decoration in 1958 to replace the dark Victorian interior.

The interior of St John at Hampstead today:

St John at Hampstead

The original cemetery around the church has a number of fascinating graves of those who have made their mark over the centuries.

Close to the church is the grave of John Harrison.

St John at Hampstead

The inscription provides a summary of Harrison’s work;

“In memory of Mr John Harrison , late of Red Lion Square, London. Inventor of the Time-Keeper for ascertaining the Longitude at Sea.

He was born at Foulby, in the County of York, and was the Son of a Builder at that Place, who brought him up to the same profession.

Before he attained the Age of 21, he without any Instruction employed himself in cleaning and repairing Clocks and Watches and made a few of the former chiefly of Wood. At the age of 25 he employed he Whole Time in Chronological Improvements. He was the Inventor of the Gridiron Pendulum and the Method of preventing the Effect of Heat and Cold upon Time keepers by Two Bars of different Metals fixed together. He introduced the Secondary Spring to keep them going while winding up and was the Inventor of most (or all) of the Improvements in Clocks and Watches during his Time.

In the year 1735 his first Time keeper was sent to Lisbon, and in 1764 his then much Improved fourth Time keeper, having been sent to Barbados the Commissioners of Longitude certified that it had determined the Longitude within one Third of Half a Degree of a Great Circle having erred not more than 40 Seconds in Time.

After near Sixty years close Application to the above Pursuits, he departed this Life on the 24th Day of March 1776, Aged 83.

Mrs Elizabeth Harrison Wife of the above Mr John Harrison departed this life March 5th 1777, Aged 72.”

Despite the success of the trial with the fourth time keeper (model H4), Harrison had problems with the Board of Longitude which had been set up to oversee the trials and a financial award for the accurate measurement of Longitude under the Longitude Act. The Commissioners on the Board of Longitude did not feel that sufficient trials had been carried out, and they initially offered part of the award (£10,000) with a further £10,000 if Harrison’s time keeper could be replicated by other manufacturers. This would have required the design details of Harrison’s time keeper to be published freely for other manufacturers to use.

Harrison did eventually get a substantial financial award from Parliament, with the support of the King.

The grave of an artistic Hampstead resident can be found up against the boundary wall of the cemetery. This is the grave of the artist John Constable.

St John at Hampstead

Constable was a frequent visitor to Hampstead and lived for many years in the area, including in a house in Well Walk between the years 1827 until 1834. It was from the drawing room of the house in Well Walk that he painted a number of views across to the centre of the City.

An example being the following view with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the centre distance. An inscription on the rear of the painting reads: “Hampstead. Drawing Room 12 o’clock noon Sept.1830” (Image ©Trustees of the British Museum)

St John at Hampstead

The hilly nature of Hampstead is visible in the graveyard, as the land descends from the high point of 135m at Whitestone Pond down towards the River Thames.

St John at Hampstead

The graveyard is also managed in such a way that whilst it is not too wild, it is not manicured and a plaque at the entrance provides information on the range of wildlife that can be found.

St John at Hampstead

Towards the south east corner of the graveyard, just across Frognal Way, there is a rather large construction site.

St John at Hampstead

I believe this was 22 Frognal Way, which was occupied by a modernist house built to the design of Kentish Town architect Philip Pank. The house was commissioned by Harold Cooper and built in 1978. Cooper was the founder of the Lee Cooper jeans brand. After his death in 2008, the house became derelict and although there were attempts to get the house listed and restored, planning permission appears to have been given for demolition and construction of a new house.

The new building will be low profile consisting of a single story as viewed from street level, however as can be seen by the size of the excavation in the above photo, the new building will have considerable basement space.

Some of these building sites where basements are constructed for residential homes appear more like a Crossrail construction site. I suspect I know what the neighbours think about having such a large excavation on their doorstep.

The church of St John at Hampstead, the original and additional graveyards, are a fascinating place to explore, and if you have a couple of hours spare on a sunny day, there is no better place to learn about the residents of this area of north London.

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Simmonds Stores, Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Before getting into this week’s post, can I thank everyone who commented and e-mailed following last Sunday’s post on the 5th anniversary of the blog. Your feedback is really appreciated.

There are a number of then and now photos that I find sum up the changes to an area. A few years ago I wrote a post about the location of the Gun Tavern in Wapping. My father photographed the post war ruins of the old pub. Today, the same location is occupied by a Foxton’s estate agent.

For today’s post I have another pair of photos that sum up how an area has changed. This time I am in Chelsea, and this is Simmonds Stores, on the corner of Godfrey Street and Cale Street. The photograph was taken in 1986.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The same view in February 2019:

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The two photos typify how the area has changed. A corner shop that once sold household wares, piled high outside the shop to tempt passers-by, is now the Chelsea Green Valet. It is not just the shop that has changed, the building has been “restored”, although some of the changes attempt to replicate original features which were not part of the building’s design. An example being the new door on the left of the building which replaces an original window. The use of a door surround that attempts to give the door an original appearance was part of the work to bring the building to its current appearance.

The building of Godfrey Street dates from the 19th century. The first newspaper reference I have found to the street was from 1830 which implies the street was developed in the first decades of the 19th century. The name probably comes from Walter Godfrey who was a landowner in Chelsea during the 18th century. The corner store probably dates to the original construction of the street.

The 1891 Kelly’s Directory records that Albert Simmonds, Oilman was in residence, and it is this reference that provides a clue to the early function of the store and the large jars that are still mounted on the side of the building.

These represented Tuscan oil jars and indicated that oil was sold in the store. There is another example to be found in my post on Lower Marsh in Lambeth.

The 1891 census provides some additional information on Albert Simmonds. He was aged 30 and was born in Shipton, Oxfordshire. He lived in the building with his wife Mary (31) and children Mary Ann (7), Albert (6) and Frederick (1). Also in the house there was a servant Florence Hele, aged 17 and listed as a General Servant.

I do not know when the stores closed, or whether it was still in the Simmonds family when my father photographed the building in 1986, however it retained the Simmonds name for around 100 years.

The London Metropolitan Collage archives has a photo of the stores dated from 1971.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_067_71_2348.

In 1971 the shop had a rather nice lantern over the door which had disappeared by 1986, All the windows on both the ground and first floors looked stuffed with goods for sale.

A wider view of the location of Simmonds Stores.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

I have marked the location of the building in the following map extract to show Simmonds Stores on the north-west corner of Godfrey Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

As usual, I always use the opportunity of finding these locations to take a walk around the immediate area. The shop sits between Godfrey Street on the left and Danube Street on the right. Danube Street’s main function is to provide access to the rear of the buildings on the adjacent streets.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Godfrey Street is interesting. A considerable mix of architecture with houses much altered since their original build. Many of the buildings have been painted in bright colours.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The council’s conservation reports have concerns about this approach in a conservation area – “The buildings within the area were not intended to have painted masonry finishes. Today many houses have been painted. In some cases where the whole terrace was painted many years ago in a consistent scheme, this paint has become part of the street’s character. However, in other places, where individual houses have been painted in a brick terrace, they have harmed the uniformity of the terrace and the appearance of the conservation area”.

View from the southern end of Godfrey Street looking up towards Cale Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

It is fascinating to look up newspaper references to the locations I visit. They frequently provide an insight into the lives of those who have lived in these streets. One tragic report from one of the earliest mentions of Godfrey Street, documenting an example of domestic abuse was reported in the London Courier and Evening Gazette on the 20th November 1832:

“LOVE AND SUICIDE – It may be recollected, that a few weeks ago Mr. Hilde, a Hanoverian by birth, was charged at Queen-square Police Office by a Mrs. Arthur, a young widow of 19 Godfrey Street, Chelsea-common, with frequently assaulting her, and treating her in such a manner that she considered her life in danger from his violence. He was then ordered to enter into sureties to keep the peace towards her, but he would still continue to come to the house and annoy her, although he had moved her lodgings  to No 22, Pulteney-street, Golden-square. Mr Hilde, had been a lodger of Mrs. Arthur’s and during the time he was there she was arrested and confined in Whitecross-street prison. he paid the debt for her, and she was released, and they then cohabited together as man and wife, until they had frequent quarrels, and he was in the habit of beating her continually. The last time he was brought to Queen-square was about a month ago for attempting to get into her house, and he had then great trouble to procure bail, as his friends found it difficult to keep him from going to the house where Mrs. Arthur resided, so devotedly did he appear to be attached to her, not withstanding his ill-usage of her.

On Sunday afternoon he called upon Police Sergeant King, of the V division, No. 10 at Battersea, who had him in custody at the Police-office, and he dined and drank tea with him. They afterwards went out and took a walk, and he returned and had supper with him. During the whole of the day he appeared very much depressed in spirits, and frequently exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, in broken English ‘My God ! how I love that woman ! – nobody knows how I love her !’

About a quarter to ten o’clock in the evening, he left King’s house to go home, and in less than half an hour afterwards King was informed that a man was in the Thames. An alarm was instantly given, boats put off, and in about twenty minutes the body of the unhappy man was picked up by Abraham Graves, a waterman, quite dead. The body was taken to the Adam and Eve public-house, in Duke-street, Chelsea, and Mr. Fletcher, the surgeon, promptly attended, but every effort to restore life was ineffectual. the body now awaits the Coroner’s inquest”.

The article highlights what Mrs. Arthur had to suffer, however the sympathy of the article appears to be with Mr. Hilde despite the fact that he was the one inflicting violence on the young widow. Sadly what happened in Godfrey Street was suffered by woman all across the City with minimal impact on the male perpetrators.

At first glance, Godfrey Street ends in a dead-end with a house appearing to close the street, however the street does a 90 degree bend to the right, where it meets the narrow Danube Street (the southern section of which is also called Godfrey Street).

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

On the corner is a rather nice bollard.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Turning the corner at the end of Godfrey Street and the house between the main street and the small side street is painted bright blue.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Looking down Godfrey / Danube Street that runs at the rear of the houses. A narrow service alley that provides access to the rear of the buildings.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Godfrey Street ends at the junction with Burnsall Street. I turned right into Burnsall Street to look at the buildings that are on the opposite side of the alley that runs at the back of Godfrey Street. These houses are very different. This is Astell Street which runs parallel to Godfrey Street, up to Cale Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

These buildings are very different to those in Godfrey Street. A look at the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows that this street was named Blenheim Street and was comprised of workman’s houses, very similar to those in Godfrey Street, however early 20th century redevelopment demolished the original terraces of two storey houses and replaced them with much larger, and more expensive houses.

These changes were happening across Chelsea, causing the Chelsea Society in 1937 to express concern about the social mix of the area changing as working class homes were being demolished and replaced with the type of building we can see in Astell Street.

At the junction of Astell Street and Britten Street is another rather nice original bollard, dating from 1844.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Walking down Britten Street and by a lucky coincidence there is the type of place where I like to end a walk. This is the Builders Arms.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The pub has the date c. 1820 at the very top of the building, however the written references I have found for the pub appear to date the building to around 1841. The reference to 1820 is a recent addition as this was not on the building in the 1970s.

The Builders Arms was located adjacent to the Anchor Brewery. The site of the Brewery has been considerably redeveloped, however an entrance gate can still be seen.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

I am not sure if I remember correctly, however I believe the arch is a rebuild of the original arch, although I may be wrong.

Simmonds Stores typifies how Chelsea has changed over the last few decades, however as with the references to Astell Street, the gradual change from original working class housing to the multi-million pound housing we find today has been going on for very many years.

I have covered a number of these 1980s corner shops, and have very many more to find, however for the next series of posts, I will be returning to 1940s and 1950s London, and also discovering some other aspects of London.

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5 Years Of A London Inheritance

I started the blog “A London Inheritance” five years ago, at the end of February 2014. I really did not think I would get this far, or be able to keep up the rate of a post a week (which I know is a very low rate compared to some bloggers).

The original aim of the blog was to track down all the locations of my father’s photos, and also to provide a kick for me to get out and explore more of this wonderful city. I hope I am still true to that original aim, and I feel that I have explored and learnt so much during the last 5 years. Getting out and walking really is the best way to discover London.

I still have very many photos where I need to track down the location, new places to visit, themes for walks – I just need to find the time.

Can I also offer my thanks to everyone who reads my posts, subscribes, comments and e-mails. I apologise for being so dreadfully bad at responding to these. When I finish one blog post it is a panic to get the next completed in time. Work and other activities take time, and I am very aware that many of my posts are too wordy and need a bit of a rewrite, so I apologise for inflicting these on you.

I was not sure what to write about to mark five years, so what follows is a bit of a brain dump on the past year, what fascinates me about the process, photography, and some thoughts for the future.

The Most Read Post

My most read post of the year is one that I wrote the previous year.

In August 2017 I wrote about St. James Gardens. I had photographed the area shortly before the site was closed ready for the archaeological excavation in preparation for the extension of Euston Station for HS2.

This post was popular at the time and consistently ranks high for viewers. Occasionally there is a very high peak of viewers which usually happens when there is news of a discovery at the excavation.

In January it was announced that the grave of Captain Matthew Flinders had been discovered in St. James Gardens.  Flinders was the first European to circumnavigate Australia in HMS Investigator, demonstrating that Australia was a single continent.

The following graph shows my site states for the days around the announcement of Flinders discovery. The peak day of the announcement was Friday, January 25th and the blog received several thousand views, the majority all going to the page on St. James Gardens that I had written about in August 2017.

London Inheritance

The excavations at St. James Gardens and the changes around Euston are, rightly, of considerable interest. I have e-mailed questions to HS2, but get the same response that, judging from comments on the blog, everyone else gets – a very standard response with answers only to very basic questions.

I can understand why, the scale of the work is considerable and must be handled in a sensitive and considerate manner, but I do suspect it would help with the public perception of the work around Euston if more regular detail on the excavations was made available.

The preparation for HS2 also highlights the rate and scale of change. Just within the last couple of years a whole area of streets have been cordoned off and will soon become part of a much enlarged Euston station. I returned to the site earlier this year, and plan to make an annual visit to photograph the changes as HS2 and the new Euston station gradually complete.

London Ghosts

By ghosts, I do not mean the traditional definition, rather the traces that are left behind by the millions of people who have lived, worked, or just passed through London. Not necessarily those who are famous and have blue plaques or other memorials, rather finding a trace of someone who had a very personal connection with the city.

I love London books and these often provide a link. One of my favourites I found in a copy of the “Geographia” Greater London Atlas. I am not sure of the exact date, but this version was published towards the end of the 1950s or very early 1960s.

On the title page is the name of the owner – Leading Fireman Barlow, No. 3019 of the London Fire Brigade.

London Inheritance

The atlas itself is fascinating enough, lots of lovely pages of colourful maps, but the street index tells the story of how a London Fireman must have kept up to date with street changes across London – long before the days of Satnavs, Google Maps and the IT that is now deployed to a fire engine.

In every single page of the street index, streets have been neatly crossed out, and new names and references have been written at the bottom of each page.

London Inheritance

What it appears that Leading Fireman Barlow was doing was keeping his atlas up to date as streets disappeared and new streets were built across the city. This was a time of considerable change with post war rebuilding gathering pace.

A couple of examples. In the above pages, at lower left, Dixon Street E14 has been crossed out. Looking in the atlas, Dixon Street is one of a cluster of streets in Limehouse, just to the north east of the Regent’s Canal Dock.

London Inheritance

This area was considerably rebuilt in the late 1950s and 1960s with the loss of many of the streets that once covered Limehouse. The following map shows the area today with the original position of Dixon Street marked.

London Inheritance

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

As well as the loss of streets, Leading Fireman Barlow had to keep up with new streets. At the bottom of the same index page is a reference to Dilton Gardens, SW15, HE47, 103. The last number is the page number and the preceding number is the grid reference within the page.

Turning to page 103 and we are now in south west London, just to the east of Richmond Park. I have marked the location of the new street with a red oval.

London Inheritance

The map of the area today with Dilton Gardens ringed. The map today shows the large area of infill between the boundaries of the park and Roehampton Lane which has been built since the publication of the atlas.

London Inheritance

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

What surprised me was the range of updates, covering the entire area of the atlas. Leading Fireman Barlow was interested in the whole of Greater London, not just his local fire station. I also wonder from where he got the information? Was this official London Fire Brigade policy to provide updates to staff and did they keep their own atlases up to date? This was at a time when a fireman would have needed to navigate the streets of London using their local knowledge or with paper maps.

Leading Fireman Barlow was very conscientious in updating the atlas and I would love to know why and how.

I found a very different trace of a Londoner in a book I purchased a couple of years ago in a second hand bookshop in Lichfield.

This book, “Achievement – A Short History of the LCC” was published in 1965.

London Inheritance

The book itself is a fascinating read on the London County Council, mainly focused on the years 1939 to 1964, however what turned the book from a printed copy of information, into something with a specific history was the presentation slip on the inside of the book.

London Inheritance

Desmond Plummer was the Conservative Councillor for St. Marylebone to the London County Council from 1960 until 1965. The date is relevant as March 1965 was the last month of the London County Council as the Greater London Council (GLC) took over from the 1st April 1965.

After the formation of the GLC, Plummer was elected leader of the Conservative opposition and became leader in 1967 when the Conservatives won a majority on the GLC. He would continue as leader of the GLC until 1973.

Plummer was a firm believer in the need to upgrade London streets to support the growing levels of traffic, and during his time as Leader, the Westway was built between Marylebone and Acton. He was also in favour of the London Motorway Box scheme, which would have seen the construction of a 30-mile-long, eight-lanes-wide elevated inner ring road (very similar to the schemes published in the “The City of London – A Record Of Destruction And Survival” in 1951). Thankfully, this did not get built.

He died in October 2009 at the age of 95. I do wonder how the book presented to him in the last month of the London County Council came to be in a bookshop in Lichfield?

London Photography

My blog is based on photographs. Tracking down the location of my father’s photos from the late 1940s onward has been a constant theme for the blog.

I started taking photos when as children we were taken on walks through London. My very first camera was a Kodak Instamatic. It used a 126 film cartridge which made it very easy to use as the cartridge slotted directly into the back of the camera. The format of the negatives and the printed photos was square rather than the rectangular output of traditional 35mm film.

The camera only had two light settings, bright and shady, so getting perfect photos back from being developed at Boots was a bit hit and miss. This simplicity did ensure the camera was ideal for a very young beginner.

I recently found some of my early London photos taken with the Kodak Instamatic in an old shoe box, so here is a sample of my first London photos taken in either 1971 or 1972.

This photo was taken in Broadway, looking down Tothill Street towards Westminster Abbey, which can just be seen at the end of the street.

London Inheritance

The large building on the right is the London Underground head office at 55 Broadway.

The following photo was taken on the bridge over the lake in St. James Park looking east towards the Government offices along Horse Guards Road.

London Inheritance

The following photo is the hat shop of Lock & Co at 6 St. James’s Street. London Inheritance

It is some 48 years since I took the photo of Lock’s, however this is a trivial amount of time since the shop was first established at 6 St. James’s Street in 1765. The shop looks almost identical today.

The following photo was taken in Cheapside, at the junction with New Change. The church is Christchurch Greyfriars.

London Inheritance

The view from within Cardinal Cap Alley, Bankside, looking across to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

London Inheritance

The alley is gated now, but in the early 1970s, Bankside was an area to explore and had not seen any of the development that would so change this stretch of the river.

I took these photos around 48 years ago. I still have them as they were developed and printed out and these photos have been in a shoe box of photos for the last four decades. Digital photography has opened a whole new world in capability and volume of photos, however I do wonder how many of the amateur photos taken today will still be around in 50 years time.

I last used film for photography about 18 years ago, however one of my planned projects for the coming year is to get back into the use of film. This is my father’s Leica IIIG camera.

London Inheritance

He purchased the camera body in 1957 so it is not the camera used for the majority of the early black & white photos I have published, however the lens is much earlier and was fitted to the Leica IIIc that my father used for his early photos.

I have had the camera serviced as the shutter was sticking, and I have brought some Ilford black & white film so I am ready for some film photography of London. I just need to learn how to use the camera and a separate hand held light meter to set up the correct exposure settings on the camera.

Hopefully later this year you will see some 2019 black & white film photos of London on the blog.

A Year Of Posts

I have been to some really interesting places during the year and discovered how much London has changed, but also in many places, they look much the same.

In December I wrote about the Angel. A brilliant pub on the south bank of the river in Rotherhithe. My father had photographed the pub from the foreshore of the river in 1951.

London Inheritance

Sixty seven years later I was standing in the same position taking a photo of the same pub. The surroundings have changed dramatically, however the pub is much the same.

London Inheritance

Like all London pubs, the Angel has had to adapt to survive and now serves a very different set of customers to when my father took the photo. By chance, from the same year there is a Daily Mirror article written in October 1951 by a journalist who was taken to various locations along the working river by a “merchant skipper”. One of these locations was the Angel, Rotherhithe. He writes of the experience:

“The Angel, Rotherhithe, where the skipper has to meet this mate of his is full of watermen when we arrive. One stocky waterman called Jim – a tough looking character with a grey stubble of a beard – is telling a story indignantly: “So I’m in my boat having a clean-up he is saying, w’en along comes this toff in a boat wearin’ a pair of flippin knickers and a flippen cap. ‘E is trainin some girls ‘ow to sail. Trainin’ em, Jim repeats darkly.

So ‘e comes smack-bang into my boat. O’ course, I could’t even talk to ‘im proper since there were ladies present. ‘get away from my boat, you unsophisticated chucker’ I shouts, ‘E looks up and says: ‘My man’ ‘e says, ‘do you know ‘oo I am?’

‘You might be flippen Joe Louis I says gettin’ really aggravated. But you don’t look like ‘im. An’ unless you push off from my boat this instant, I shall flippin’ well come down and knock your flippin’ ‘ead off – fancy cap an’ all.”

I am sure there was some journalistic embellishment, but an interesting tale from when the customers of the Angel were those who worked on the river and the surrounding warehouses and industries.

Last August we went to the Netherlands. We had lived there for 5 years from 1989 and wanted to revisit places and friends. My father had also cycled round the country in 1952 with some friends he had made during National Service, and as usual took his camera with him. I had not scanned these negatives when we lived in the country, so this was also an opportunity to visit the places he had photographed.

I am fascinated by how places can be connected. Cities do not stand in isolation. London has a road and rail network radiating out across the country and a river flows through the city. There are also networks of power, religion, monarchy and finance which have shaped the City and Country. Trading routes, flows of people from within the country and to and from the world have also established networks of connections.

There are also very unique points of connection. A single event that happened at a specific point in time, and I found one in a wooded suburb of the Hague, when I went to Wassenaar to find the launch location of the first V2 rocket to hit London.

London Inheritance

And a week later on the anniversary of the launch, I went to the site in Chiswick where the rocket landed. At each location there is a small memorial pillar that records the date and the event.

London Inheritance

Two places, 205 miles apart which will forever have a tragic connection.

The Oosterbeek War Cemetery was one of the many locations that my father visited in the Netherlands. He went to many of the locations associated with Operation Market Garden, the battle made famous in the book and film ‘A Bridge Too Far’. Not a surprising set of locations to visit given he had grown up during the war, had just finished National Service and these events were only 8 years previous.

The Oosterbeek War Cemetery really brings home the huge loss of life and the very young age of so many who died. The majority of those killed on the Allied side of the battle were British and Polish forces and I found a number of the graves that my father photographed in 1952 and for the blog post was able to find some of the stories behind those buried here.

London Inheritance

The photos above and below show the temporary marker in 1952 and the permanent stone marker in 2018 on the grave of Mieczyslaw Blazejewicz. A rank of Starszy Strzelec (this seems to translate to a Senior Private or Lance Corporal) in the 3rd Parachute Battalion of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. He was born on the 24th November 1920 at Lancut, a town in south eastern Poland.

He was killed whilst trying to cross the River Rhine to get to Oosterbeek on the 26th September 1944. As with many of those killed whilst trying the cross the river, his body would drift downstream and be later recovered from the river at Rhenen on the 9th October. He was 23, just two months short of his 24th birthday.

London Inheritance

One of the posts I found personally most interesting was about the King Edward VII Memorial Park in Shadwell. I have walked along the river at the side of the park many times and occasionally through the park, but decided to explore the park in more detail.

I found a partially derelict pavilion and the flat grass of a bowling green, both of which had once been for the Shadwell Bowls Club.

London Inheritance

I was initially going to write about the park as I found it, but the more I researched, the more I found. A fascinating history of an area once crowded with streets, houses, pubs, industry, and a fish market that was a potential rival to Billingsgate.

I also found a collection of photos on the London Metropolitan Archives, Collage site and was able to trace the locations of where the photos were taken.

This photo is looking up towards the High Street (the Highway) along Broad Bridge. The building on the left is the Oil Works and residential houses are on the right. Note the steps leading up to the High Street, confirming that the height difference between the Highway and the main body of the park has always been a feature of the area, and is visible today with the terrace and steps leading down to the main body of the park.

London Inheritance

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_381_A361.

Again, another way in which the ghosts of those who have lived and worked in London return, hidden within books, maps, photographs and the physical traces we can find when out walking.

To finish, can I again thank you for reading the blog, subscribing, following, commenting and e-mailing and putting up with my random travels around London and further afield.

I am now off to try to learn how to use a sixty year old film camera.

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Euston Station and HS2 – A 2019 Update

The excavations of St. James Gardens, in preparation for the expansion of Euston Station for HS2, have been underway for some time and make the headlines every few months when a significant discovery is made. The last time was a few weeks ago when the grave of Matthew Flinders was found. Flinders was the first European to circumnavigate Australia. He died in 1814 and his headstone was removed from St. James Gardens during previous clearances and expansion of the station. His grave was assumed to have been lost, but was identified during the current excavations by the use of a lead plate on his coffin.

One year ago, in February 2018 I took a walk around the streets to the west of Euston Station to look at the streets that would be under the HS2 Platforms and Concourse. This followed on from an earlier post on St. James Gardens.

I thought that it would be interesting to take another walk around the same area, almost exactly one year later and get a 2019 update on the changes that have taken place.

Most of the roads have now been closed to traffic, although there is still pedestrian access along some of the roads immediately to the west of Euston Station. There has been very little demolition yet, just lots of scaffolding and hoardings. The main focus of work appears to be at the location of St. James Gardens.

The following map provides an overview of the area and I have marked the locations of the photos that appear in the post.

Euston Station

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

Euston Station is the large area in the upper right part of the map. The current HS2 expansion of Euston is roughly covering the area bounded by where I was taking photos, although the final area will be larger and there is already work commencing between the station and Euston Road.

The first few photos are from location one. Leaving Euston Station, this is the view towards Euston Street.

Euston Station

It is possible to walk north a short distance to the point where Cardington Street began. This is the street that ran to the east of St. James Gardens.

Euston Station

The following view is looking up Cardington Street. The iBis Hotel was on the left of the street. The large white marquee is covering the excavations of the graveyard at St. James Gardens. The size of the marquee provides some idea of the scale of work involved.

Euston Station

On the corner of Melton Street and Drummond Street is the original Euston station of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway. The station is one of Leslie Green’s distinctive station designs.

Euston Station

Looking back along Melton Street towards Euston Road.

Euston Station

Although closed for traffic, this part of Drummond Street is still open for pedestrians, so I walked down and turned right into Coburg Street. This section is still open for traffic and the Exmouth Arms is open (see location two). The large marquee over the St. James Gardens excavations can be seen in the background.

Euston Station

Looking back down Drummond Street from location three in the map.

Euston Station

The other side of Coburg Street is open, but the buildings alongside are hoarded off, presumably waiting for demolition.

Euston Station

The following photos are from location four. At the junction of Coburg Street and Euston Street, yet more buildings covered in scaffolding.

Euston Station

The Bree Louise pub is still there, but fenced off.

Euston Station

Back to the junction with Drummond Street and this is the view along the northern leg of Coburg Street. The old iBis Hotel is underneath the sheeting on the right.

Euston Station

I then walked up to Hampstead Road to see what impact HS2 preparation is having. Most of the buildings along a significant section of the east side of Hampstead Road have been demolished, including the old London Temperance Hospital. This is the view (location five) of the rear of the marquee covering the St. James Garden’s excavations.

Euston Station

HS2 have built a small community space along Hampstead Road (location six).

Euston Station

On display in the space are the foundation stones recovered from the London Temperance Hospital.

Euston Station

The first foundation stone, with above, a decorative lintel retrieved from the main building.

Euston Station

An information note advises that time capsules were retrieved from underneath the foundation stones and that these are currently being conserved. Unfortunately there is no information on what was in the time capsules.

There is also a memorial stone recovered from St. James Gardens. This is a Ledger Stone for the Griffiths family, made of Welsh slate possibly to reflect their Welsh heritage.

Euston Station

The second foundation stone from the London Temperance Hospital.

Euston Station

There are a number of large information panels which tell the history of the area and the impact the expansion of the railways.

Euston Station

The railways have had a significant impact on the area, HS2 is just the latest expansion. 19th century expansion of Euston Station had already taken a section of St. James Gardens and the construction of the tracks into the station had a major impact on the graveyard of St. Pancras Old Church.

Information panels showing the history of the wider area.

Euston Station

This was the northern end of Cardington Street which is closed a short distance along (location seven in the map above). I suspect many satnavs have not been updated as in the short time I was there, a number of cars turned into the street and had to turn round.

Euston Station

View along Hampstead Road to the south. The area to the left of the photo will look very different when HS2 is complete.

Euston Station

In the year since I last visited the site, the main focus of work appears to be at the old graveyard at St. James Gardens which is not surprising given the considerable amount of archaeological excavation and investigation that is needed.

It is still possible to walk many of the streets, although for how much longer is not clear, the majority of buildings lining these streets appear to be ready for demolition.

It will be interesting to make a return visit in February 2020 to see how far work has progressed. What is clear is the scale of the impact that HS2 will have on Euston. This will be a very different station when the new service is operational.

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New Deal For East London – Isle Of Dogs

In my last post, I had just left Poplar and was about to continue along the eastern edge of the Isle of Dogs in my hunt for the sites listed as at risk in the 1972 Architects’ Journal.

After crossing the bridge over the entrance to the Blackwall Basin, I turned towards the river along Coldharbour.

Site 27 – Early 19th Century Houses In Coldharbour

Coldharbour is a narrow street that runs parallel to the river in the space between the entrances to Blackwall Basin and the South Dock. It is not part of the main street along the east side of the Isle of Dogs, that function is performed by Preston’s Road, so Coldharbour is quiet, and probably not visited unless you have a reason to be there.

The street may well be a remnant of the pathway that ran along the Blackwall medieval river embankment, so has a long history however the houses identified by the Architects’ Journal only date from the early 19th century.

The artist William Daniell produced a series of prints of the new docks in 1802 and the following print shows Coldharbour as a line of buildings along the river front, between the entrance to the Blackwall Basin on the right and the South Dock to the left.

Isle of Dogs

Building has occupied this part of the river bank since at least the 17th century.

I approached Coldharbour from the north end of the street and this is the first of the historic houses that line part of the eastern side of the street. This is Isle House.

Isle of Dogs

The London Metropolitan Archive Collage site has a photo from almost the same position showing the house looking much the same in 1948.

Isle of Dogs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_288_AV63_989

Isle House was built to a design by John Rennie between 1825 and 1826 as the Dockmaster’s house, and its elevated position and bay windows provided views of the river and the dock entrance just to the north. It replaced an earlier dockmaster’s house that had fallen into a state of dilapidation.

The design of the house, and the use of the large bow section, is very similar to Bridge House, the last building in my previous post. One of the possible reasons for the similarities of design is that this house was designed by Rennie’s father, although the design was also probably functionally best for the role of the occupant.

In my photo above, a row of taller terrace houses can be seen following on from Isle House. They are rather difficult to photograph in such a narrow street. I walked further down and took the following photo looking back.

Isle of Dogs

In the above photo, the furthest house, next to Isle House is Nelson House, built around 1820. The two houses closest to the camera with brick facing were built around 1809.

There is no access to the river along Coldharbour. There are various gaps between buildings, however they are all closed off so no possibility to view the river.

Isle of Dogs

Further along Coldharbour there is a rather imposing building. This is the entrance to the old Blackwall Police Station.

Isle of Dogs

Blackwall Police Station was built between 1893 and 1894 to a design by John Butler. The need for the police station was due to the poor conditions that the local division were housed in – an old hulk floating on the river.

The Police Station closed in the late 1970s, it was then converted into flats.

Isle of Dogs

The ground floor is raised above the level of Coldharbour as shown by the photos above where a flight of steps reaches up to the main entrance. This was a design response to a unique need.

The photo below of Blackwall Police Station from the river in 1969 shows a large entrance at river level. This was a boat dock to provide access for boats directly underneath the building so that stores, or indeed people, could be securely transferred within the building rather than alongside.

The height of the entrance had to be sufficient to provide access at all states of the tide.

Isle of Dogs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0183_69_1313

At the end of Coldharbour, where the street turns away from the river back up to Preston’s Road (although access is only for pedestrians, the junction is closed for traffic), is one of may favourite pubs. This is The Gun:

Isle of Dogs

The Gun is a genuinely old pub with a pub on the site since the early 18th century. The current name of the pub originates from 1771. Earlier names for the pub on the site were the Ramsgate Pink, the Rose and Crown and the first recorded name in 1722 as the King and Queen.

A board on the front of the pub states that Admiral Nelson met Emma Hamilton for “secret assignations” in an upstairs room. Whatever the truth in this, the pub is a perfect, out of the way location for a secret meeting.

The pub can get very busy, and is Grade II listed, so hopefully the future of this historic pub, alongside the river, is safe.

Returning to Preston’s Road, I continued to head south. crossing the entrance to the South Dock. There are some fascinating views from this point. This is looking north west with two types of crane symbolising the change that is taking place on the Isle of Dogs – original cranes for loading and unloading cargo alongside the docks, with the cranes that are now building the towers that are taking over large parts of the area.

Isle of Dogs

Looking along the entrance channel to the location of the original South Dock with a growing forest of high rise towers.

Isle of Dogs

The view in the opposite direction, across the River Thames to the Millennium Dome.

Isle of Dogs

I have a load of photos that both my father and me have taken of the Isle of Dogs over the years. Many of them I still need to scan, but there is one that I have scanned that I wanted to find the location of on this walk.

This is a photo of the Gun pub taken from the opposite bank of the channel between river and South Dock taken in 1986.

Isle of Dogs

This viewpoint shows the side of the Gun as well as the river frontage of the buildings alongside Coldharbour. The tide is out and the large entrance into the boat dock underneath the old police station can be clearly seen.

Crossing the bridge, I tried to find the location of the above photo. New flats have been built across the area. I walked in the entrance roadway hoping to find access to the river. The length up against the channel is fenced off. The nearest I could get to a similar photo is shown in the following photo, but I am not far enough out.

Isle of Dogs

This pontoon extends out into the river and I suspect my father took the photo from the end of the pontoon. It is behind a fence and locked gates in I think an area controlled by the Canal and River Trust – I will have to get in contact and see if I can access this area.

Isle of Dogs

Walking back up to the road, which has now changed name from Preston’s Road to Manchester Road, and the large blue bridge can be seen over the entrance to the South Dock.

Isle of Dogs

The bridge viewed from the southern approach.

Isle of Dogs

This latest incarnation of the bridge across the channel between docks and river was installed in 1969. The design of the bridge is the same as I saw in Amsterdam last year, although on a much larger scale.

Just to the south of the bridge there is a separate spur of Manchester Road on what was the original alignment of the street. Along this spur is a terrace of houses that date from the early 1890s.

Isle of Dogs

Up to this point, I had not seen any survivors from before the war, apart from the houses in Coldharbour. This terrace has managed to survive the expansion of the docks and the considerable bombing of the area during the war. The terrace is named Glen Terrace after the shipping line of the same name which operated on the space the houses now occupy prior to their construction.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows that Manchester Road once ran on the alignment of the spur that runs directly in front of Glen Terrace and that a large Graving Dock once extended from the river up to Manchester Road.

Leaving Glen Terrace, I continued south along Manchester Road. Nearly all the building along this stretch of Manchester Road comprise post war flats of varying heights, there is very little or pre-war age, a reflection of the intense bombing of the Isle of Dogs and the post war loss of the Docks and their associated industries.

There is an interesting exception. Hidden behind a row of hedges and trees is a crescent of houses that would not look out of place in deepest suburbia. This is Jubilee Crescent:

Isle of Dogs

The houses in Jubilee Crescent form 28 retirement flats managed as social housing.

They were built in 1935, the year of King George V’s Silver Jubilee which accounts for the name of the crescent. They were built for retired workers in the shipbuilding industry by the ship repair company R. & H. Green & Silley Weir Ltd, who then handed the completed buildings to the Shipworkers Jubilee Housing Trust. They are now managed by the Southern Housing Group.

Walking along Manchester road there are a couple of closed pubs. The first is the Cubitt Arms:Isle of Dogs

The pub was built in 1864 and closed in 2011.

The Cubitt Arms may be an early example of planning blight. Whilst researching through newspapers, I came across the following article from The Era, dated the 31st January 1869:

“COMPENSATION FOR A PUBLIC-HOUSE ON THE ISLE OF DOGS – A Special Jury, under the presidency of Mr. Under-Sheriff Burchell was engaged the whole of Thursday at the Sheriffs’ Court, Red Lion-square, in the case of Smallman v. the Millwall Canal Company, to assess the amount of compensation to be given to the claimant of the Cubitt’s Arms, poplar, which premises were required for the new docks at the Isle of Dogs, and for the consequent damage to the property. Mr. Digby Seymour Q.C. and Mr. J.H. Lloyd were for the claimant; Mr. Hawkins, Q.C.  represented the Company. Several witnesses were called, and the compensation was estimated at between £5,000 and £6,000. Mr. Hawkins addressed the Court in mitigation, and, after a long investigation, the Jury awarded £3,760.”

The Millwall Canal Company was the original name of the company formed in 1864 to build the Millwall Docks. These docks form a reversed L shape with the lower arm of the L running from the middle of the Isle of Dogs towards the west. An eastern entrance would have been an advantage as it would have saved the effort of ships having to round the Isle of Dogs and enter from the west. An entrance from the east was planned by the Millwall Canal Company but never built.

I have ringed the location of the Cubitt’s Arms in red in the following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

Isle of Dogs

The lower segment of the Millwall Dock is almost due west of the pub’s location. This lower segment has an entrance to the river in the west and the easterly entrance may have been proposed to run across the open land to the east of the dock, across the pub and into the river.

The pub was built in the same year as the Millwall Canal Company was formed, so the potential of an entrance running to the east would have put off any additional house building around the pub. it could have been this loss of customer business and the impact of not knowing whether you would still have a business in a few years that resulted in the claim for damages.

i will have to try and track down any plans showing the proposed route for the eastern entrance to confirm, but this does demonstrate that the impact of plans for large infrastructure developments on small businesses is not a recent problem.

The second pub is the Pier Tavern. Built a year earlier than the Cubitt Arms in 1863, but closed around the same time. It did have a short life as a restaurant, but is currently closed and the ground floor is boarded.

Isle of Dogs

I am sure it will end up as a full residential conversion.

A short distance further south is an interesting wall with a series of entrances running along the wall.

Isle of Dogs

There is a relatively recent housing development behind the wall, however this space was once occupied by Dudgeon’s Wharf, Pyrimont and Plymouth Wharf. It may be that these entrances originally led from Manchester Road into these wharves.

A short walk further on, I arrived at the final location listed in the Architects’ Journal as at risk in 1972.

Site 26 – Practically all that survives of original Cubitt Town – Cubitt’s Church in early English style.

This is the church of Christ and St. John on the junction of Manchester Road and Glenaffric Avenue.

Isle of Dogs

The Architects’ Journal reference to the church included the name Cubitt Town. This was the area to the south east of the Isle of Dogs that was developed by William Cubitt during the mid 19th century.  The development consisted of industrial premises on the land facing onto the river, with housing inland.

The rapid growth of Cubitt Town required a church to serve the growing population. Cubitt offered the land for the construction of the church, along with a donation, however he ended up funding the full construction and the church was completed around 1854.

The rows of terrace houses that once lined the streets of Cubitt Town and the industrial premises along the river have disappeared, however the church remains as a significant local landmark, with the tall spire being visible from across the river in Greenwich.

The street names have also changed. Newcastle Street was the original name for Glenaffric Avenue, so whilst Manchester Road has retained its name, some of the streets have changed name since Cubitt’s original development.

I walked up Glenaffric Street, alongside the church to find a pub at the end. This is the Great Eastern.

Isle of Dogs

The pub was part of Cubitt’s development and originally opened as the Newcastle Arms, in the street that was named at the time Newcastle Street. The pub later changed name to the Waterman’s Arms and relatively recently to the Great Eastern.

I have some photos of the pub from the 1980s and it has a fascinating history which I plan to cover in a later post.

Another reference to the name Newcastle is in the name of the dock that can still be found at the end of Glenaffric Avenue and adjacent to the pub.

Isle of Dogs

This is Newcastle Draw Dock, an open dock where boats can be drawn in, out of the river. This would enable a ship to be worked on and repaired below the waterline during periods of low tide.

The dock, the original brick wall and wooden buttresses are part of the reason for the dock being listed, as well as the dock’s part in the view from Greenwich of the dock, church and the pub.

Adjacent to the dock is a monument set into a brick wall. The smaller plaque to the left states “re-erected in 1882”, which must refer to the monuments previous location.

Isle of Dogs

I cannot find any reference to the significance and previous location of this monument. I suspect it must have been from within a church and appears to be the type that would decorate a tomb.

Having reached the church, I had found all the locations on my list from Bromley by Bow to the southern end of the Isle of Dogs. I now headed to Mudchute and to the DLR station of the same name, and there were still some fascinating places to be found.

Walking further along Manchester Road, and next to the Island Gardens DLR station are these derelict toilets.

Isle of Dogs

No idea of the age, however it is unusual to see buildings of this type and design still on the streets of London. The rather nice air vents on the roof make an interesting addition to the plain concrete walls, which I imagine would once have been full of adverts.

Further along Manchester Road is a very sad sight – this is the Lord Nelson pub which appears to be closed, although whether permanently or just for refurbishment is not clear.

Isle of Dogs

The pub was built in 1855 and today is still a good example of a Victorian corner pub, but in its original form it was a brilliant example of Victorian pub decoration.

The LMA Collage archive has the following photo of the Lord Nelson from 1904.

Isle of Dogs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0974_2301

A statue of Lord Nelson looks out from the corner of the roof. The font and lettering of the brewery and pub names, and a very large lantern hanging above the main entrance of directly onto the street corner.

Going for a pint at the Lord Nelson on a dark Friday evening must have been an experience. The windows lit and the light from the lantern shining out over the street corner.

I love traditional London pubs, and they are closing too fast, however I am always very aware that whilst they were important centres of the community, they also were there to encourage drinking and probably took far too much of a worker’s wages at the end of the working week.

The Lord Nelson marks a boundary in the road that rings the edge of the Isle of Dogs. Along the eastern edge, all the way from the entrance to South Dock, the road has been Manchester Road, but here it turns into Westferry Road which then runs along the western edge of the Isle of Dogs.

Directly opposite the Lord Nelson, and now in Westferry Road is another closed fire station.

Isle of Dogs

A fire station was originally opened on the site in 1877, however this was too small given the rapid development of the area and the new fire station was designed by the London County Council in 1904.

The main building fronts onto Westferry Road and there was a yard to the rear of the building in East Ferry Road. What stands out on the roof of the fire station is the number of chimneys. The building must have needed a considerable number of fireplaces to keep the building warm.

Just to the right of the main doors there is a plaque.

Isle of Dogs

Joan Bartlett and Violet Pengelly were two members of the Auxiliary Fire Service and were killed when a local school being used as an emergency depot took a direct hit by a high explosive bomb on the night of the 18th September 1940.

The fire station closed in 2006 and has since been converted into apartments. The small street that led into the fire station yard has been named Bartlett Mews, and the new flats adjacent to the old fire station are named Pengelly Apartments.

This was a fascinating walk from Bromley by Bow to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs. As usual, I have only briefly touched on the places I have walked past, and far more deserves to be written.  Whether it is a building that has the core of a late 15th century manor house alongside the six lanes of the A12, London County Council Fire Stations, a pub that may have been in the sights of the Millwall Canal Company, and the hidden presence of the River Thames – I really enjoyed exploring this historic part of east London.

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