London Road Works

A brief post this week – short of time and researching some longer posts for the next few weeks.

A fact of London life is not just the continual building work that appears to be taking place across the whole of London, but also the never-ending road works. These have ranged from major works over the past year such as at the Elephant and Castle, and the Cycle Superhighway along the Embankment, through to a couple of hours needed to fill a hole in the road.

Road works also have a supporting cast of high-vis jackets, traffic cones, temporary traffic lights and lots of machinery with no doubt lots of planning and health and safety assessments.

My father worked for St. Pancras Borough Council Electricity and Public Lighting Department and then for the London Electricity Board, which is one of the reasons that he knew London so well, having worked across so many streets planning the installation of streetlights, cabling and electricity distribution equipment.

He took a number of photos of work taking place and I have a sample for today’s post. They show a very different working environment to that you would find today.

Firstly, two photos showing the same street scene which must have been taken only a few minutes apart. No idea where this is, there looks to be a street name on the building to the left however despite enlarging and trying different scan methods, the grain of the film does not allow the name to be read.

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Not a high visibility jacket or traffic cone in sight, although if you enlarge the photo, at the end of the trench there is a sign that states Caution Roadworks.

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Sadly, I always look down a trench or hole in the road to see if there is anything interesting below the surface. The following photo was in the same sequence as the two above. An arch of some form has been cut through, but is clearly seen in the side of the trench.

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The above photos are from the late 1940s, the photos below are from the early 1950s and show the method of sealing a joint between multiple cables.

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Again, I do not know the location and there is nothing I recognise in the background.

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Road Works in London 3

Above and below; heating up a joint with a paraffin blow torch.

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Lastly, pouting molten metal over the joint to form a seal, probably some alloy of lead was used. Very basic protection – you would not want to get that on your skin.

Road Works in London 2

The final set is back to the late 1940s and are a couple of photos I published back in July 2014 and show road works at the top of Tottenham Court Road at the junction with Euston Road and Hampstead Road. The area looks very different now  – you can read the post here.

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Again, very basic compared to today. A shovel, wheel barrow and a pole across the road.

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Road works have always been a feature of London roads and I suspect will always be so. Next time your journey is delayed by some, rather than complain, have a look down, they are often an interesting, but ignored, feature of everyday street life.

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London Books

Books have probably been written about London for as long as books have been published. London books cover specific areas and topics, general guides, histories, picture and photo books etc. I suspect that a book has been written about any London topic you could think off.

My own collection of London books, starting with the books my father bought from the 1940s onwards, probably numbers around 450 and ranges from a 1756 edition of William Maitland’s History and Survey of London through to recently published books such as Up In Smoke – The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station by Peter Watts.

Second hand bookshops are always a good hunting ground, although today there are not that many to be found, however last Saturday on a trip out to Canterbury I found a good one and bought an excellent history of Chelsea by Thea Holme from 1972 for £6.50.

Since starting this blog, I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of people who have a knowledge of London that far exceeds mine, one of these is Hawk Norton, a collector of London books whose collection is larger than mine by several orders of magnitude.

I first found out about Hawk through an article on Londonist and have since made a number of visits to his collection in Brentford and have probably purchased far too many books than my limited shelf space will support.

Hawk has been collecting London books for several decades however for the last year has been selling much of his collection. If you are interested in London, or books (or ideally a combination of the two), I recommend getting in touch with Hawk via his e-mail ( hawk@btinternet.com ) to request the latest copy of his list of books or to arrange a visit, although be careful with a visit as if like me, you will leave with more books than you had planned on arrival.

A small part of Hawk’s collection of London Books:

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And an equally impressive collection of maps:

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My own collection of London books is much smaller, however here is a selection that provide a snapshot of the wide range of books that have been published about London over the years.

One of the first comprehensive and published history or survey of London is that of John Stow which was first published in 1598. A second edition was published in 1603. Unfortunately I do not have either of these original versions, but I do have a 1908 reprint of the 1603 publication. This version has two volumes and the books are a detailed survey of London at the end of the 16th Century, almost a street by street walk through of London with a description of the City Wards, main streets, churches, houses, historical characters etc. Stow has been the original reference for much later writing.

The next major survey is that of William Maitland who published his “History and Survey of London From Its Foundation to the Present Time” in 1739. I do not have the first edition, but I do have a copy of the 1756 edition, published in two large volumes as a detailed history and survey of London,

William Maitland was a Scottish merchant who lived in London for a time, returning to Scotland in 1740.

The title page from Maitland’s History and Survey of London:

London Books 1

Maitland’s book has a large number of prints of major buildings across London and also many City Ward maps. Over the years, the prints and maps from early books are often removed and sold separately for a higher amount than if they were contained within the book, however when they do survive, along with the text they provide a fantastic view of London from the mid 18th Century.

Map of Walbrook and Dowgate Wards from Maitland’s History and Survey of London, including drawings of the churches of St. Stephen Walbrook and St. Michael, Royal College Hill.

London Books 2

Soon after Maitland’s book, Henry Chamberlain published his History and Survey of London in 1770. The title page of Chamberlain’s book contains a wonderful dedication to the city:

Hail chief of Cities, whose immortal Name

Stands foremost in the glorious List of Fame;

Whose Trade and Splendor roll on Thames’s Tide,

Unrivall’d still by all the World beside.

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Chamberlain’s book also contains prints of various buildings, streets and events within the city as well as a “A New and Correct Plan of London, Westminster and Southwark with the New Buildings to the Year 1770”

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Click on the map is open a larger version. It is fascinating to see the state of London in 1770. To the north is the New River Head at Sadlers Wells, to the east is the cluster of buildings at Bethnall Green, still separate from the city and surrounded by fields. South of the river, the city is expanding out from the southern end of London Bridge and in 1770 there were only three bridges over the Thames, Westminster Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge.

The southern end of Westminster Bridge opens out mainly into fields. There are also interesting little details, follow the Lambeth Road and there is a building named Dog and Duck, this was described as a “notorious pleasure garden and haunt of prostitutes in the 18th century.”  The site of the Dog and Duck is now the Imperial War Museum. Along the river, the map also shows how many stairs there were down to the river, each individually named enabling the traveler to find the right stairs to meet a boatman.

Moving into the 19th century and my next major survey of London is the six volume set, “Old and New London: A Narrative of Its History, Its People, And Its Places”.

The first two volumes were by Walter Thornbury and published in 1873 with an extended six volume edition published in 1878 with the last four volumes by Edward Walford.

These six volumes provide a detailed history of London, and illustrate how London had grown since the 18th century books. Old and New London covers central London, but now also includes “the suburbs”, a new 19th century word to cover the ever-expanding city.

As well as a detailed written account of the city and suburbs, Old and New London has a large amount of drawings of all aspects of the city, the following being a typical example and is titled “Ancient View of Cheapside (From La Serre’s ‘Entree de la Reyne Mere du Roy’ showing the Procession of Mary de Medicis”.

London Books 5

In the time before photography and the mass printing of photographs in books, drawings such as this were the only way of conveying the visual sense of a place or event to the reader and Old and New London is probably one of the last major history and surveys of London before photography takes over.

As well as major books detailing the history of the whole of London, there are also many covering specific areas. One of these, which I bought from a bookshop in Launceston, Cornwall is the “History of the United Parishes of St. Giles In The Fields and St. George Bloomsbury” by Rowland Dobie and published in 1829. This is a fascinating book, not just because of the history of these parishes, but also the context in which the book was written. The preface to the book tells the story of a corrupt Vestry and the efforts of the parishioners to regain control which culminated in a court case when “the decision of a British Jury has established the long lost rights of the parishioners of St. Giles, by the overthrow of a pretended Select Vestry, whose authority had been exercised uncontrolled and with some deductions during more than two hundred years. This glorious triumph was achieved on the 23rd of July 1829, a day ever to be recorded in the annals of these parishes.”

I doubt that many people today walking the streets of these parishes to the east of Tottenham Court Road and south to Lincolns Inn Fields will be aware of the glorious triumph, but it is a fascinating insight into the way in which parishes were run and administered in the centuries leading up to more formal governance in the 19th century.

To conclude the preface to his book, written on the 15th December 1829, Dobie wrote:

“Finally, no exertion has been spared to render the Work both instructive and entertaining; and above all, to make it a faithful record of parochial government, where abuses and malversations are notorious, and thereby guarding the parishioners in future from similar evils. If I have succeeded in these objects, even in a remote degree, my end is answered – they are more invaluable in my estimation than the hope of profit, or the gratification of vanity.

As well as a detailed written account of the parishes, Dobie’s book included an excellent, fold out map of the area as shown below:

London Books 13

Again, clicking on this should open a larger copy of this detailed map. In the bottom left hand corner is the area just east of the Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road junction where the major Crossrail and associated developments are currently taking place. The map includes Denmark Street which so far, is the southern boundary of the current developments, but is a street undergoing major change.

Books were often published to commemorate the opening of a new building. One such book was published in 1932 by the British Broadcasting Corporation to commemorate the opening of Broadcasting House at the corner of Portland Place and Langham Street. I found this in a second-hand bookshop in Leigh on Sea on the 15th February 1975 – according to the inscription on the inside of the book, my parents bought it for me for “a reasonable report”, I think the word “reasonable” probably tells you all you need to know about my latest school report, but luckily they still bought me the book.

The book provides a detailed account about the new building, specially built for the BBC. It contains plans of the building and photos of all the major rooms, studios and facilities, including lots of technical details. Who knew that Studio 8A used for Orchestral and Band Music had a reverberation time of 1.1 seconds.

The building design was heavily influenced by the Art Deco style of architecture and this extended to the plans in the book. The following shows a cut away side view of Broadcasting House with all the key rooms and studios labelled.

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Broadcasting House is still there, with a recent, very large extension and is the main London location for the BBC following the closure of Television Centre and the gradual move out of White City.

Continuing with maps, and the publication of the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps provides a detailed, street by street view of the damage caused by bombing across London. These are fascinating for research and show both the concentration of damage and also how random bombing could be.

London Books 9

My latest find was “Chelsea” by Thea Holme and published in 1972. I found this last weekend in the excellent second-hand bookshop, The Chaucer Bookshop in the wonderfully named Beer Cart Lane in Canterbury. Continuing on the style of books from the 18th and 19th centuries, this book also has a large fold out map covering Chelsea detailing “Vanished Places” and “Places still in existence”. One of the Vanished Places is the Chelsea Bun House in Pimlico Road, a celebrated Bun House in Chelsea and home of the original Chelsea Bun. It was demolished in 1839.

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Other interesting books include the various County of London Development Plans. These provide both a snapshot of London at the time of publication along with plans for the future, some of which were built, others were not. These books frequently included highly detailed maps covering various aspects of the city, some of which I have featured in previous posts. In the 1951 Administrative Plan, there is a page summarising post war development in London, what had already been built by 1951.

London Books 7

From the top left and reading left to right:

  • Sayes Court, Greenwich, a new open space
  • Flats at Lansbury Neighbourhood, Poplar
  • Flats at Tulse Hill Estate
  • Houses at Somerfield Estate, hackney
  • Model of Lansbury Neighbourhood
  • Bessemer Grange Primary School, Camberwell
  • Flats at Clapham Common
  • Parliament Square Improvement
  • Flats at Charlton Village
  • Chaucer Restaurant, Deptford
  • Flats at Somerford Estate, hackney
  • Flats at Brett Mannor, Hackney
  • River Wall at South Bank
  • Flats at Elder Street, Lambeth
  • Sayes Court, Greenwich
  • Old People’s Home, Plumstead
  • Flats at Bishops Bridge Road, Paddington
  • Royal Festival Hall
  • Flats at Pimlico. Westminster
  • Blackwall Point Power Station
  • House at Fitzroy Park, Highgate
  • Flats at St. Pancras Way
  • Surrey Lock Bridge
  • Sculpture in Battersea Park
  • Offices in Kensington
  • Trinity Congregational Church, Lansbury Neighbourhood
  • Flats at Tulse Hill Estate
  • Susan Lawrence Primary School, Lansbury

Reading these Development Plans, the aim of building for Londoners is very apparent. Not a single luxury apartment for sale as an investment.

My final book in this review of London Books, is Liber Albus: The White Book of the City of London.

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The copy I have is the edition published in 1861 and translated from the original Latin and Anglo-Norman.

The introduction to Liber Albus states that “It is a fact, not the less true because not universally known that there is no city in existence in possession of a collection of archives so ancient and so complete as that belonging to the City of London.”

“From these archives, as they existed in the year of Our Lord 1419, combined probably with other sources of information now lost or unknown, the Liber Albus, or White Book, is a compilation prepared in the last Mayoralty of Richard Whittington, for the instruction and guidance of those to whom, before they should have gained the experience of old age, the governance of the City, or the management of its affairs and interests, might under circumstances of emergency be entrusted.”

Liber Albus provides a fascinating insight into the day-to-day life of the medieval city and the rules that applied to the inhabitants of the City, two examples:

Of Strangers

And that no freeman of the City shall hold partnership with a strange man, or avow the merchandise of a strange man, whereby the King or his bailiffs of the City may lose custom upon the same; and this, under pain of losing the freedom.

Of Rebellious Persons

And that there be no one who shall make resistance in deed or in word unto the serjeants of the bailiffs of the City; and be it ordered, that no one shall molest them in making execution upon judgments, attachments, distresses, or other things which unto such bailiffs pertain to do, under pain of imprisonment. But if any one shall consider that the bailiff has done him wrong, let him make his suit thereon before his superiors, and have his recovery before those unto whom it pertains to make amends.

The above represent a very tiny sample of the vast number of London books published over the centuries, half a book shelf in a large library. Many are now online, but holding a physical book and turning the pages provides a more physical connection with the author and the time the book was published, rather than scrolling on a screen. Books about London continue to be published, some of the new books I have purchased over the last year include:

  • Dirty Old London by Lee Jackson
  • London Night and Day by Matt Brown
  • The Isle of Dogs During World War II by Mick Lemmerman
  • Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station by Peter Watts
  • East End by John Claridge

And I am sure that more will be published in the years to come – my only problem is finding enough shelf space.

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Euston Underground Station – The Lost Tunnels

Euston Underground Station – The Lost Tunnels is the name of the latest Hidden London tour by the London Transport Museum, and on a warm Thursday afternoon last week I took the tour and descended beneath Euston station to find a time capsule from the 1960s.

The tour started at the original Euston station of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway. The station is one of Leslie Green’s distinctive station designs and is the red building on the corner of Melton Street and Drummond Street, on the western side of Euston mainline station.

Euston Underground Tunnels 1

The Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway (better known as the Hampstead Tube), was one of two original underground lines serving Euston mainline station, opened in 1907, this line served from Charing Cross to the north of London (Golders Green and Highgate) through Euston Station.

The second of the lines was the City and South London Railway which ran from the City through to Stockwell in south London and extended from the City to Euston in 1907.

Although the two lines were separate and had stations on either side of Euston mainline station, they did agree to building an interconnecting passageway with a ticket hall and lifts to the mainline station platform.

The two separate station buildings were closed on the 30th September 1914 after the two railways were taken under the ownership of the Underground Electric Railways of London with the interconnecting passageway providing access to Euston Station. After work to enlarge some of the tunnels, the lines were combined to become the Northern line, with the two lines running south converging at Euston Underground Station.

Inside the remaining Hampstead Tube station building in Melton Street, mainly now used for air conditioning of the tube system.

Euston Underground Tunnels 2

Euston mainline station was rebuilt in the 1960s and along with the new Victoria line running through Euston, the opportunity was taken to rationalise the various underground passageways and ticket halls for the underground lines terminating at Euston.

The old connecting passageways and ticket hall closed on the 29th April 1962 and it is these passageways that were the subject of the tour.

After a look at the station building in Melton Street, it was then a walk through Euston Station, through the underground ticket hall and down to one of the Northern Line platforms, where at the very end of the platform was a door that led through to the closed passageways.

Through the door at the end of the platform and a series of steps lead upwards. The tiling on the side walls highlights that these were once passenger tunnels rather than service tunnels.

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At the top of the steps and a long disused tunnel stretches ahead. No longer used by passengers moving between the different underground lines and the station above, now just used for carrying the infrastructure needed to run the transport system.

Euston Underground Tunnels 4

I mentioned at the start of this post, that the tunnels are a time capsule from the 1960s. Apart from the installation of cables, they have not been used since and the advertising posters that lined the walls of the tunnels are still in place. Whilst many have lost sections over the years, the lack of sunlight means that the colours are as vibrant as when they were first pasted on the walls.

Advertising fine furniture from the London Cooperative Society:

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Posters on the walls include the posters informing passengers of the impending closure of the tunnels on the 29th April 1962:

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Posters include the original telephone number format when the London area was still part of the dial code:

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Along the passageway is the original ticket office. This provided passengers passing between the different rail networks with the option of buying tickets as they passed along the interconnecting tunnels.

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Poster advertising the film West Side Story at the Astoria from the 27th February 1962:

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Steps to a dead end. It would be interesting to know what is on the other side:

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More posters:

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And more posters. The poster in the centre invites you to Meet the Stars and includes names such as Brian Rix, Stratford Johns, Francesca Annis, Maurice Denham and Julie Andrew.

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Cross tunnels with air conditioning:

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And a bricked up entrance:

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Poster advertising Bargain Travel on British Rail. Not sure that with the way ticket prices have changed since the early 1960s you would now get as much “More miles for your money”:

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The Midland Pullman – a luxury 1st class only train aimed at business travelers between London and Manchester:

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Advertising poster for Hitchcock’s film Psycho:

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View along the tunnel:

Euston Underground Tunnels 18

The route up to the mainline station from the original connecting passageways was via lift. Two lifts shafts originally ran to the surface. Looking up one of the lift shafts:

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As well as the original passenger tunnels that provided connectivity between the underground lines and the surface station, the complex of tunnels includes tunnels to help provide ventilation to the underground system. These tunnels are just the basic construction without any of the flat walkways and wall tiling to be found on the passenger tunnels.

Looking up the tunnel with a limited amount of infill on the floor of the tunnel to provide a walkway:

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Further up the tunnel:

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At the top of the tunnel where it runs across the top of the underground platforms below:

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This is where the holes in the roof of the platforms below provide access to the ventilation tunnels above. If you look up from many of the platforms across the underground system you will see large grills set in the roof above the part of the tunnel where the train runs. It is these grills that lead to ventilation tunnels above. Trains entering and leaving the station help with ventilation by causing a large amount of air movement as they pass through.

The roof of a train and passengers just about to board seen from above the ventilation grill:

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Back along the tunnels:

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View back along one of the tunnels. Lots of tools stored along the tunnel edge:

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Another view along the tunnels

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And finally at the end of the tour. Looking down the steps to the door leading through to the platform. It was 5pm by the end of the tour, so just the other side of that door is the platform with the start of the evening rush hour in full flow.

Euston Underground Tunnels 3

This is the fifth Hidden London tour by the London Transport Museum that I have been on over the last couple of years and in someways, once you have seen one tunnel you have seen them all, however they are all unique.

They each tell part of the story of how London’s Underground system has evolved over the past hundred plus years. Initially, individual lines often competing with each other, now part of an integrated transport system.

Some, such as these at Euston Underground Station provide a snapshot of the time when they were closed, the walls still covered in the posters that the last passengers would have seen when they last walked these tunnels in April 1962.

The Hidden London tours run by the London Transport Museum are excellent and provide a fascinating view of the old tunnels that run alongside the tunnels that carry thousands of passengers every day.

Tickets for Hidden London tours can be purchase here.

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Smith Square – Architecture, History, And Reformers

If you are in Westminster, walk past the Houses of Parliament towards Lambeth Bridge, but turn right before reaching the bridge and you will end up in Smith Square. The relative peace is in sharp contrast to the crowds around Westminster and it is a pleasure to walk here and explore the history of the area.

Smith Square and the surrounding streets still follow much of the original 18th century street plan. A central square occupied by a church, with streets radiating out, some still lined by the original terrace houses from when the square was originally developed.

If you have turned down Great Peter Street from Millbank, then the first turning on the left is Lord North Street. This street is a contemporary with the church of St. John at the centre of the square and is lined with terrace housing built between 1722 and 1726.

The view looking down Lord North Street:

Smith Square 1

Whilst the architectural style of the majority of the buildings along the street is the same  – the buildings have timber sash windows, iron railings and the same building materials – there are variations, for example with the decoration around the main door to the street, some being simple with others having a rather ornate door surround as shown in the photo below.

Smith Square 2

As well as retaining their original 18th century features, some of the buildings in Lord North Street have features from more recent events:

Smith Square 4

Smith Square suffered badly from bomb damage, the church was gutted by incendiary bombs and a high explosive bomb landed in the square also damaging the church and some of the surrounding buildings. The shelters in the basements of these buildings would have offered basic, but much needed protection from everything except for a direct hit.

Smith Square 5

Variations in style:

Smith Square

A plaque at the end of Lord North Street to W.T. Stead, a fascinating character who lived his last years here.

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Stead was originally a journalist and newspaper publisher. His believe was that newspapers should be informative and entertaining and also an “engine for social reform” and pioneered a new form of journalism which led to the tabloid format of the 20th century. His expose of child prostitution in Victorian London was one of the most shocking newspaper articles of the time. He was a peace campaigner, attacking the Boer War and travelling widely to promote his ideas. In later years he developed an interest in spiritualism.

In 1912 he accepted an invitation to speak at the Men and Religion Forward Movement at Carnegie Hall in New York. He would probably have left his home here in Lord North Street to travel down to Southampton to catch the first sailing of the Titanic to attend the conference in New York.

He did not survive the sinking of the Titanic and accounts speak of Stead helping others into lifeboats and passing on his life jacket. His body was never recovered.

A fascinating man of his time, although some recent authors have been rather unsympathetic to Stead. For example, in “The Victorians”, A.N. Wilson writes:

“Stead, and the sort of journalism which he pioneered, was to provide for the lower-middle-class chapelgoers a marvelous substitute for the dramas of the Devils Theatre, the frivolous triumphs and disasters of the Devil’s Prayer Book. He was to redefine the world as a lurid back-drop for a new literary form, every bit as diverting as the three-decker novel from the Satanic circulating libraries.”

The real start of tabloid journalism!

The web site attackingthedevil,co,uk is a dedicated resource on W.T. Stead and is a highly recommended read.

The view looking back down Lord North Street from the steps of the church. Stead’s house is on the left corner of Lord North Street.

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The land around Smith Square was dominated from medieval times by the Abbey and Westminster Palace with vine yards, market gardens, orchards and building moving west from the Abbey and Palace complex. During the 17th century, part of the land between Millbank and Tufton Street was purchased by Simon Smith and his son Henry, and building commenced towards the end of the century.

Smith Square was formed around the church of St. John the Evangelist. This was one of the 50 new churches that had been identified by the Church Building Commissioners to meet the needs of an expanding London and growing population.  Land was bought by the Church Building Commissioners and the church was built between 1714 and 1728.

The church was originally at the centre of a much larger square with a considerable amount of space between the church and the closest buildings. The extract below from John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the newly built streets and the church at the centre of a large space.

Smith Square 29

The following map extract shows the core area around Smith Square today. The area is still bounded by Tufton Street and Millbank (to the left and right) with College Street to the top of the map and Market Street at the bottom (now named Horseferry Road). Much of Vine Street has disappeared with the remaining section now named Romney Street. The large open space to the top left of the church has since been built over with Gayfere Street connecting Smith Square  to Great Peter Street. Church Street now runs longer from MIllbank to the square and has been renamed Dean Stanley Street. Horse and Groom Yard to the top right of the church has been built over.

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View from the church steps showing original houses along Smith Square.

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The church from the edge of the square.

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The church was designed by the architect Thomas Archer and was one of the few of the “50 churches” that were completed. It was also the most expensive, costing £40,875 to complete.

There are four identical short towers on each corner of the church. These have led to the story that the church was designed after Queen Anne’s footstool as when asked what the church should look like, she kicked over a footstool and said “Go, build me a church like that”. Another myth is that the towers were added to ensure an equal pressure on the marshy ground of the area which caused a number of problems during construction. The towers were though part of Archer’s original design and not added for any other reason.

In 1928 the church was the location for Emmeline Pankhurst’s funeral, despite having earlier been the target of a Suffragette bomb plot.

Following the considerable destruction of the church during the war, it was eventually rebuilt but as a music venue rather than as a church, a role that the building continues to this day.

A print of St. John’s, Smith Square from 1814. The text below the print states “Situated on the West Side of Millbank, is one of the 50 New Churches & was finished 1728, but has since suffered greatly by fire. This Parish was originally part of St. Margret’s. This structure has many beauties notwithstanding the peculiarity of the design, which probably suffered from a settlement while building which prevented the whole from being carried into execution.” The fire that the text refers to was a major fire in 1742 that caused significant damage to the church.

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Looking up from Smith Square, along Gayfere Street to the towers of Westminster Abbey. A high explosive bomb fell in the road to the right of the red letter box during the war causing considerable damage to the surrounding buildings.

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In the 1980s during the time when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minster, Smith Square was often in the news due to the Conservative Party Central Office being located here at number 32. The Conservative Party moved here in the mid 1950s, moving out in 2004.

The building today is, perhaps ironically, the Information Office of the European Parliament.

Smith Square 9

Smith Square has had a long association with politicians. The Conservative MP Rab Butler lived in Smith Square as did the Labour MP Oswald Mosley who went on to leave Labour and set up the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Harold Wilson lived in Lord North Street during the early 1970s.

Another building (the photo below – Transport House) in Smith Square was also home to the Transport and General Workers Union as well as the Labour Party.

Smith Square 31

There is a rather strange building at one corner of Smith Square. A small part of the old ICI building, Nobel House, the bulk of which is on Millbank and extends to this corner of Smith Square and rather than blend in with Smith Square, the building has used exactly the same decoration as the main frontage of Nobel House on Millbank.

If you look up at the building along Millbank and part of Horseferry Road, the building is decorated with the faces of scientists on the keystone above the window with the name of the scientist across the balcony below. (See my original post covering Noble House). The corner of the building in Smith Square has:

  • John Dalton (1766 to 1844), a chemist, physicist and meteorologist, who was responsible for a wide range of scientific discoveries, and it was his work on Atomic Theory that was his major legacy, and;
  • Marcellin Berthelot (1827 – 1907), a French chemist  who demonstrated that organic substances could be synthetically produced rather than being dependent on some form of “vital spark” over which there was no human control.

The corner entrance to Nobel House in Smith Square with Dalton above the door and Berthelot to the right.

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In the first decades of the 20th century, some of the original buildings around Smith Square were demolished to make way for new office blocks resulting in a range of building styles around the square.

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If you leave Smith Square by Dean Bradley Street (named after George Bradley, who was Dean of Westminster from 1881 to 1902) and walk down to Horseferry Road, the view down Dean Bradley Street provides another view of the church.

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The streets around Smith Square are fascinating. A short walk down Horseferry Road is this building on the corner of Tufton Street. There is an old plaque on the building at ground level.

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The plaque is the foundation stone for one of Mr Fegan’s Homes.

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Mr Fegan was James William Condell Fegan who was born in Southampton in 1852 and moved to London with his family in 1865. He worked in the office of a firm of brokers and in the evening taught at a Ragged School. His experience at the Ragged School of the very poor conditions of many of the children who did not benefit from the school led Fegan to set up a home where children could come and learn in the evening and be given shelter overnight.

Fegan’s homes quickly developed with homes being opened at Deptford, Greenwich, Ramsgate and Southwark. As well as providing education and shelter for children in London, he also supported the emigration of children to Canada where he believed they would have a much better future.

The building in Horseferry Road was built for Fegan when the Southwark building had been outgrown and the new building housed the General Offices, an Enquiry and Advisory Bureau and a reception for new arrivals along with a Working Lads Hostel.

Fegan’s Homes also had a number of properties based in the country to prepare children for living and working in Canada.

Fegan’s Homes have all closed, however Fegans continues to exist as a Christian charity supporting children and their families

Tufton Street has some interesting architectural features. Lansdale House with a second door surround, but with no door, built to provide symmetry to the overall building.

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Plaque in Tufton Street to Siegfried Sassoon (one of the First World War poets):

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And another plaque on Tufton Street to Sir Michael Balcon who was a prolific British film producer. Just a few of the films he produced include The 39 Steps (produced when he was living here in Tufton Street), Passport to Pimlico and The Lavender Hill Mob.

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The architecture of Sir Michael Balcon’s house in Tufton Street is fascinating:

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The Tradesmen Entrance in the centre flanked by two entrance doors to two separate parts of the overall building.

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Above the Tradesmen Entrance is a niche covered by an ornate metal grille which looks like it should have a statue within. At the bottom of the niche is this rather beautifully carved bat. I have never seen one of these before and to find one in the centre of Westminster was an interesting find.

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I have always found plaques such as the blue and green ones found around Smith Square both frustrating and tantalising. They provide a very brief glimpse of a single aspect of a life. Take the following plaque to Eleanor Rathbone in Tufton Street:

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Eleanor Rathbone was the daughter of the philanthropist and politician William Rathbone and a member of a wealthy and nonconformist shipping family.

Her first public roles were as a reformer and feminist in Liverpool, and she was the first woman to be elected to Liverpool City Council. Rathbone was a constant campaigner for family allowances, having published The Case for Family Allowance in 1940 and just lived to see the start of their introduction in 1945, however there were many other aspects to her life.

She was an MP for the Combined English Universities. This was one of the constituencies that did not represent a physical location, but for this position the representation was for the graduates of English Universities other than Oxford, Cambridge and London which had their own MPs.

She was a campaigner for Women’s Suffrage and the impact of war on the dependents of soldiers. She also recognised the danger that Hitler and the rise of the Nazi Party presented, early in the 1930s. In her role as an MP she was an outspoken critic of appeasement with Germany and supported Winston Churchill when he was also warning about the rise of Nazi Germany.

Rathbone denounced the Munich Agreement in 1938 much to Neville Chamberlains displeasure and pressured the Government to take dissident Germans and Austrians along with Jews fleeing from the rise of the Nazis. She also set-up the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees and during the war campaigned for the Government to publish the growing evidence of the holocaust.

Up to 1940, Rathbone lived in Romney Street (just further back along Tufton Street), however this house was badly bombed in 1940 and the building in Tufton Street with the plaque is where she moved to after bombing damaged her Romney Street house.

A remarkable woman. Rathbone moved to Highgate in April 1945 but died suddenly in January 1946.

At the end of Tufton Street at the junction with Great Peter Street is Mary Sumner House.

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Mary Sumner was the founder of the Mothers Union, originally a group of mothers in the village of Old Alresford near Winchester formed by Mary in 1876. For the first nine years the group remained local but after a speech at the 1885 National Church Congress the concept of the Mothers Union grew rapidly across both the UK and the Commonwealth. By the end of the 19th century, the Mothers Union had 169,000 members.

Mary Sumner died in 1921 and is buried with her husband George (who held a number of posts in the church at Winchester) in the graveyard of Winchester Cathedral.

The foundation stone of Mary Sumner House, laid by her daughter in 1923.

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A short distance down Great Peter Street we can turn into Gayfere Street and head back to Smith Square to complete this quick walk around Smith Square and the local streets.

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Original two storey houses along Gayfere Street.Smith Square 28

A short walk around Smith Square and a couple of the surrounding streets, but a fascinating history and architecture. There is mush else I can add, however I apologise for my usual problem of doing justice to a subject within the constraints of a weekly post.

I walked around the area on a Saturday afternoon and the streets were very quiet, they are not that much busier during a week day so avoid the crowds around Parliament Square and much of the rest of Westminster and explore the streets around Smith Square.

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It Can Now Be Revealed

It Can Now Be Revealed – not a tabloid headline but the title of a booklet printed in 1945 by the British Railways Press Office telling the story of the railways during the war and ending with hopes for a brighter transport future. This booklet was one of many that were issued in the immediate years after the 2nd World War by organisations such as the Railways, the Post Office, the Police, all the various branches of the armed forces, individual London boroughs along with towns and cities across the country.

My father bought a number of these as they were published and they make fascinating reading and give the impression of an urgent need to record what happened between 1939 and 1945 before the country quickly moved on to reconstruction and the hoped for brighter future.

For this week’s post, I would like to introduce two of these booklets: The Post Office Went To War, and to start with, the title of the post – It Can Now Be Revealed, More About The British Railways In Peace And War:

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It Can Now Be Revealed has three main themes: how the railways contributed to the war effort, how the railways responded to the damage inflicted by bombing and a look to the future. In covering the railways, the booklet fully covers the London Transport Passenger Board where workshops and staff quickly moved from supporting London’s transport network to the manufacture of components and equipment for the war effort.

Pre-war, the rail network and the London Passenger Transport Board all had considerable engineering and manufacturing resources and these were immediately converted into wartime production. During the almost six years of war, these resources produced vast amounts of equipment of all types covering bombs, guns, boats, tanks, gliders and some very specialised equipment. The following photo shows one such item of specialised equipment produced by the Railway and London Transport workshops – a machine to help with the repair and installation of bridges.

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London Transport, along with a number of road transport concerns, was part of the London Aircraft Production Group. The Group rapidly set up manufacturing resources and within fourteen months the first aircraft manufactured by the Group took flight and by the middle of 1944, the London Aircraft Production Group had built 503 Halifax bombers.

London Transport were able to make use of underground facilities for the secure manufacturing of aircraft components. The following photo shows once such production facility:

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To give some idea of the breadth of equipment manufactured by London Transport, from the outbreak of war to 1944, London Transport had manufactured: 8,000 forgings for guns, 20,000 gun components, 80,000 sea mine components, 102,000 road vehicle parts and 158,000 2 inch shells as well as aircraft, bridges, tanks etc.

Transporting staff to the Railway and London Transport factories was a major effort as well as maintaining a degree of normal services. London’s buses were used for factory transport as well as continuing to provide services across the city and during the periods when bombing was at its peak there was considerable disruption with crowding on many of the routes across the city.

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In the build up to war there was a considerable amount of planning and preparation to provide the staff of the rail networks with the equipment needed to protect the system and to install equipment to prevent damage. A serious concern with the London Underground system was the risk of flooding. This was a very real risk if the Thames embankment was breached or if bombing damaged water mains or sewers.

Floodgates were installed at a number of underground stations, including Waterloo, Charing Cross and the Strand stations. These were electrically operated floodgates installed across tunnels and connecting passages. The following photo shows one of the gates being tested at Charing Cross station.

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The booklet recorded many of the incidents of damage across the rail network and the efforts that went in to restore the rail network as quickly as possible. Damage across the network was considerable, from the earliest days of the war through to the V1 and V2 weapons with both the above ground and underground networks suffering.

The booklet records an example of what happened when a V1 fell on the rail network:

“One of the worst incidents happened in the Southern. One night in August an express from Victoria bound for the Kent coast was travelling at 60 miles an hour when the girders of a bridge over a country lane less than 200 yards ahead of the train were damaged by a flying bomb falling nearby. The driver saw the explosion and at once threw on the brakes, but before he could bring the train to a stand it had reached the bridge, which collapsed when the engine, tender and leading coach had passed over. As a result the engine and tender were derailed about 100 feet from the bridge and the two first coaches were flung at right angles to the track. the third vehicle in the train got across, together with the leading end of the fourth, which came to a rest spanning the gap and supported on the damaged abutment. In the road beneath were poised four bogies torn from coaches. Eight persons, including a permanent way man who was on the bridge at the time, were killed and sixteen seriously injured, but strenuous efforts on the part of the railway engineers prevented serious dislocation to traffic. The damaged rolling stock was removed and a temporary bridge of two spans of 50 feet girders speedily erected, the outer ends of the girders being supported by bearing pads on the approach embankments and the centre by a steel trestle built in the middle of the roadway with the aid of a mobile crane. The relaying of the tracks was then quickly completed and within 66 hours of the incident both lines were again open for traffic.”

Which certainly brings the challenges of today’s commute into context.

Photos within the booklet show the considerable damage across the rail network including the following photo showing damage to the Hungerford railway bridge, taken from the southern end of the bridge looking north towards Charing Cross station.

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The booklet concludes with a positive view of the future with the final chapter opening with the sentence “The British Railways and London Transport are determined to regain and surpass their peacetime standards of public service”.

This included plans for new stations and rolling stock. This was urgently needed as there had been hardly any new building during the war years and the rail and underground networks were suffering from pre-war infrastructure, wartime damage and temporary repair and minimum maintenance.

The following photo shows an example of new carriage construction and the title to the photo highlights one of the benefits being “improved lighting”.

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Along with a presumably a new design of first class compartment judging by the telephone handset below the window, presumably so that a first class passenger could call for service.

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As well as new rolling stock, the booklet looked forward to new stations that would be built in the post war period. The station was described as the “shop” in which railway transport is sold. The booklet describes the facilities that will be provided at these new stations:

“The future British railway station will incorporate as spacious a concourse as possible, equipped with all the facilities that passengers need, conveniently situated and easily identifiable. Both concourse and public rooms will be light, cheerful and attractively decorated. News theatres (no idea what these were), newsagents, fruiterers, chemists, confectioners shops and Post Office facilities will be included whenever needed. Special attention will be given to the standard of food, drink and service provided in the refreshment rooms. Finally the platforms will be kept as free as possible of obstructions and passengers given the clearest indication and guidance about their trains, and how to get to them, by means of carefully designed train indicators and signs, supplemented by loudspeakers.”

The booklet includes a drawing of one of the future stations, Finsbury Park which will be rebuilt “on the most modern lines”.

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It Can Now Be Revealed provides a fascinating insight into the impact of the last war on the rail networks of London and the wider country and how every aspect of the railway network and those who worked on the network were involved in one way or another in the war effort. As with many publications of the later years of the war, the booklet is also looking forward to a much brighter future with reconstruction offering the chance to significantly improve all aspects of the rail network.

The second booklet was published a year later in 1946 and titled “The Post Office Went To War”. This was in the days when the Post Office ran a wide range of services, not just letter and parcel delivery, but also the telephone and telegraph networks, radio stations for long distance calls, sub-sea cables etc.

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The extra year before publication may have allowed time for some additional graphic design as the Post Office booklet has a more interesting layout and artwork then the earlier Railways booklet published in 1945.

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The opening paragraph to Chapter One states “Throughout our history as a nation it has been our cheerful habit to declare war first and then to prepare for it”, a statement that could also apply to events over the last few decades.

The challenges that faced the Post Office started long before there was any enemy action. Within the first week after war was declared, the Post Office lost fifteen percent of staff to the Forces, immediately having an impact on the ability to continue to provide services.

The first few months of war were spent putting in new telephone circuits to coordinate the services that would defend the country, and implementing alternative circuit routing so damage to one site would not cut out a large number of critical services.

When the bombing of London started, the impact was considerable. In one night alone in September 1940, twenty-three London Post Offices were hit and damage to the road and railway networks caused many problems with the transport of mail.

London was also a hub for much of the country’s telephone network with most of the international circuits terminating in a key number of London Telephone Exchanges. Bombing could damage cable at multiple points across the city, not just in the Exchanges, but also where they ran along the streets. After bombing it was an ongoing battle to quickly reconnect damaged cables to get telephone and telegraph services back up and running. Cables would be cut and fire would cause the lead cover and insulation to melt and burn away

The following photo from the booklet shows a team of engineers working on reconnecting damaged cables, and is titled “Joining up after a raid”.

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The Post Office services hosted in London could not easily be moved out of the city. For telephone and telegraph services, the country network was design so that the majority of long distance and international calls were routed through a small set of London buildings. it was not just relocating staff from these buildings but also reconfiguring the whole network and implementing a new cabling system that would have been required to move out of London. The majority of these key services remained in central London buildings.

One of these was the Wood Street building, just north of Cheapside. This building housed three large automatic telephone exchanges, London Wall, Metropolitan and National along with Exchange services for City and Central areas. Wood Street also housed a large operator service.

On the night of the 29th December 1940, this area was very badly damaged by bombing. The building continued to operate throughout the night with operating staff working at an emergency manual switchboard in the basement of the building.

At 7pm a high explosive bomb fell close to the building blowing in all the doors and windows and the fires from the numerous incendiary bombs reached parts of the building overnight.

15,000 telephone lines terminated in Wood Street and the following morning 10,000 of these needed repair. The building itself was also badly damaged with the following photo showing one of the burnt out operator halls with the remains of operator positions lining the walls on either side.

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In the days that followed, as well as work to repair the building, equipment and cabling, one hundred telephone boxes were installed along Cheapside and Moorgate to provide temporary services.

What the operator hall should have looked like is shown in the photo below taken in the Faraday Building in Queen Victoria Street which was a hub for Trunk and International telephone services and thankfully did not suffer the same level of damage as other telephone exchanges in the city.

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The following two photos show the impact of a high explosive bomb falling in the road outside the Central Telegraph Office in King Edward Street.

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The Central Telegraph Office was the heart of the whole British telegraph system (used to transmit telegrams) and had a staff of 3,000. A telegram was how you would send a fast written short message to someone, the early 20th century version of text messaging or Whatsapp. Written messages would be delivered or phoned in to the Central Telegraph Office, typed onto a teleprinter that would send the message to a similar machine at a location closest to the recipient where it would be printed out and hand delivered.

The Central Telegraph Office had galleries dedicated to Inland and Foreign telegrams. The Inland Gallery was equipped with 500 teleprinter machines dealing with 200,000 telegrams a day.

The Central Telegraph Office was completely gutted over the night of the 29th December 1940, but was rebuilt and continued to provide service during the later years of the war. The following photo shows one of the galleries in operation.

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One of the methods to send a telegram for the businesses in the City was to phone the Central Telegraph Office and dictate the message, however with the damage to telephone cables, this was not always possible, so the Post Office stationed Telegraph Messengers at key points across the City to pick up messages and take them to the Central Telegraph Office.

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As well as telephones and telegrams, the Post Office was also responsible for the collection and delivery of letters and parcels and in London this centered on Mount Pleasant which at the time was described as the largest Post Office in the World and just prior to the start of the war employed up to 7,000 Post Office workers.

The size of Mount Pleasant was such that it was bound to be hit by bombs but did get off relatively lightly being hit nine times throughout the war years, although some of these did cause considerable damage including a single bomb that on the 18th June 1943 completely gutted the three storey parcels building.

The Post Office Railway passes through Mount Pleasant and the booklet describes the railway during the war:

“During the war the Post Office Railway , in addition to its normal duties, made its own contribution to the Post Office war effort. It furnished an admirable air-raid shelter and dormitory; a series of cots, hinged to the wall by one end, being pulled down and set right across the track when the long day’s work was done and the conductor rail had gone dead for the night.

It was also a minor casualty when in December, 1944, a V2 rocket bomb fell in Bird Street, between Selfridges and the Western District Parcels Office. Besides putting this important parcels office out of action just before Christmas, it damaged a water-main which flooded the station of the Western District Parcels Office, nearly 80 feet below to a depth of 18 inches. But the Post Office Railway is prepared for such emergencies, and the station was soon pumped clear.”

Map from the Post Office booklet showing the stations of the Post Office railway:

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An interesting couple of paragraphs in the booklet show that even in wartime, the collection of customs duties was fully in force:

“In war-time one class of parcel presents a particular problem – namely the packets of tobacco and cigarettes which may be dispatched duty-free to our Forces overseas. These are convenient to send, for all you have to do is hand an address and the requisite sum across a tobacconists counter, and a standard packet will be dispatched to your own particular sailor, solider or airman.

But if, as frequently happens, the packet cannot be delivered – possibly because the addressee has become a casualty or been transferred to another quarter of the globe – and the local authority sends it back, the nice question now arises ‘Who is to have the packet?’ Not the tobacconist for he has already been paid; nor the sender, for he has paid no duty. The Post Office solves the problem by handing over the packet to the customs authorities.”

The booklet also contains some fascinating detail of wartime mail distribution. It was possible to send letter to members of the British forces who were held as prisoners of war. An agreement was reached with Germany in 1941 allowing letters to be flown out to Lisbon where they would be handed over to the German airforce who would also hand over letters for German nationals held prisoner of war in the UK. Over 200,000 letters were sent each week from London to Lisbon for onward routing to British prisoners of war.

The booklet highlights the difficulties in maintaining the overall delivery of Post Office services, whether it was due to bombed Post Offices, damaged cabling or disruption to transport networks. Even when trying to repair the network, the impact of bombing can continue to cause problems. The following photo shows a cable drum blown from the street to the top floor of a house as a result of a bomb.

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Unlike the Railway booklet, the Post Office Went To War does not have a chapter looking forward to post war reconstruction, however it does have a section on research and features the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill in north-west London.

Dollis Hill was the main Post Office Research Station and carried out research into all the technologies used by the Post Office including Telephone Systems, Radio, Cables, Sub-Sea systems etc. A significant number of engineers and scientists were employed at Dollis Hill with, for example, a staff of 300 in just the Radio Section.

It was still classified information at the time the booklet was written so it was not included, however the Collossus computers used at Bletchley Park during the war to decode German signals were built at Dollis Hill. Tommy Flowers (originally from Poplar in east London) who worked at Dollis Hill proposed using electronic valves rather than mechanical relays to build the computers needed by Alan Turing at Bletchley and despite considerable resistance that a machine with such a large number of valves (1,500 upwards) would be reliable, Tommy Flowers and his team constructed the Collossus computers which more than confirmed Flowers’ view that they would be much faster and more reliable than the existing mechanical relay based systems.

The Dollis Hill Research Station:

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The Research Station moved out of London to Martlesham Heath in Suffolk during the 1970s after which Dollis Hill closed. The main building was preserved and converted into flats.The approach road to the flats has been named Flowers Close in honour of Tommy Flowers.

From the booklet, a photo of the interior of an undersea amplifier developed at Dollis Hill and used on sub-sea cable systems to amplify signals enabling telephone calls and telegrams to be sent over very long distances.

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These two booklets, along with the many others published in the same period have a common theme. Recording with pride how their respective organisations, London boroughs or towns contributed to achieving victory at the end of the war, but also a recognition that times would very soon change and these events needed to be recorded quickly before the country focused on reconstruction and the possibilities that the future would bring.

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Church Row – Hampstead

I have featured Hampstead in a number of posts and for this week I am back in Hampstead looking at a street which, architecturally, has hardly changed in the past 67 years. The street is Church Row which turns off from Heath Street as you walk up towards Hampstead Underground Station.

Church Row leads up to the parish church of St. John-at-Hampstead with a central, narrow avenue of trees that separates two rows of terrace houses in the section of road closest to the church. These houses were mainly built during the 1720s.

The following photo was taken by my father in 1949, standing outside the church and looking back up towards Heath Street.

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And the same view in 2016 (although I should really have waited a couple of months for the trees to be in full leaf).

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I thought that using black and white for the 2016 photo would emphasis how little Church Row has changed over the past 67 years, with one exception – the car and on-street parking.

A common challenge with taking photos of the locations today that my father photographed many years ago is trying to capture the same scene without traffic obscuring the view. With locations such as Church Row it is impossible to photograph without the on-street parking.

Car ownership and use across London has grown considerably over the last 70 years. Central London has always been busy, however the ongoing growth in traffic and need for parking has spread out from the centre to cover all parts of the city.

It is interesting to compare car ownership statistics to understand the growth of car use across London. The County of London Plan published in 1943 stated “In England, the ratio of cars to population is about one to twenty-two; in America it is one to six or seven. It is perhaps doubtful whether this country will equal America in this respect, but it is generally agreed that there is every likelihood of a rapid approach to the American figure and that the increase in the number of vehicles will far outstrip the 500 cars per day increase which was taking place in the days preceding the present war.”

This statement from the 1943 plan just shows the difficulties in trying to predict the future. The plan suspects it is doubtful that this country will get to a car ownership level or one car per six or seven of population, however for London in 2012, from the Transport for London report “Roads Task Force – Technical Note 12. How many cars are there in London and who owns them?” there are currently:

  • 2.6 million cars registered in London and 54% of households have at least one car
  • this gives a ratio of approximately 0.3 cars per adult
  • car ownership varies widely across London with the lowest percentage (13%) in the City of London and the highest (75%) in Richmond upon Thames
  • for Hampstead, the Borough of Camden has an ownership percentage of 38%, however I suspect this varies widely across the Borough

The above 2.6 million excludes the cars that travel into London during the day. I have been unable to find any reliable figures for the total number of cars across the whole of London.

This volume of cars all need to be parked somewhere so we see the streets of London changing as Church Row has done between 1949 and 2016.

The following photo from 1949 is looking back down Church Row towards the church. The above photo was taken from just outside the entrance to the churchyard.

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And the same scene in 2016:

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These two photos are interesting as they show the challenges with taking exactly the same photo and how using different cameras and lenses impact the perspective of the photo.  The 1949 photos were taken by my father using his Leica IIIc and a 50mm lens. I am using a Nikon D300 digital camera with an 18 to 200mm zoom lens – two very different camera systems and this is very noticeable in the perspective differences.

My 2016 photo looks further away from the church than my father’s however I walked up and down the street a number of times to find the same combination of manholes. In the 1949 photo there are two round nearer the camera and a rectangular manhole furthest away. I found the same combination, and although the paving slabs look to have been changed, there are the same number of rows of paving slabs between the various manholes so I am confident I found the same location although the perspective looks slightly different (and perhaps by counting paving slabs and manholes I am starting to take this project a bit too seriously !!)

My father sold the original camera to purchase a Leica IIIg which I still have along with the original 50mm lens which was transferable between different Leica camera bodies. On my to-do list is to learn how to use this entirely manual camera and start taking photos using the Leica and the original lens that may father used.

As you walk down Church Row, towards the church, on the left is a house with a plaque. The house in 1949:

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And the same house in 2016 (although I forgot when taking the photo that the original was portrait rather than landscape).

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Only very minor cosmetic changes, for example the change in rainwater down-pipe, apart from the burglar alarm and the car parked in front.

The plaque was installed in 1909 by the Hampstead Antiquarian and Historical Society. Formed in 1897, the “objects of the society are the study, and as far as possible, the recording of antiquarian and historical matters, especially in regard to the Borough of Hampstead, and also, should necessity arise, the protection of any historic landmark from needless violation.”

I cannot find exactly when the Society closed, however the Camden local history archive has the minutes, cashbooks, annual reports and papers of the society up to 1940 and I can find no record post 1940.

Thomas Park was an engraver, poet and antiquary who lived in Church Row for 30 years until his death. His son, John James Park published “The Topography and Natural History of Hampstead in the County of Middlesex with Appendix of original Records” in 1818. It was the first book dedicated to the history of Hampstead.

According to “London” by George Cunningham, H.G. Wells lived in number 17, the house to the right of that of Thomas Park, in 1912. His stay was obviously too short to justify a plaque.

The Hampstead Antiquarian and Historical Society plaque to Thomas Park and John James Park:

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As with the buildings along Church Row, there are some other aspects of London that change very little. Whilst reading the section on Road Transport in the 1943 County of London Plan I found the following paragraph:

“In 1927 the late Mr Frank Pick stated that the London General Omnibus Company lost, through delay and congestion on the roads, one million pounds a year in actual out-of-pocket expenses. This figure does not take into account the cost of time lost to passengers. Other estimates include those of a large catering firm, which estimated the cost of calls in congested periods at 6s 8d compared with 3s 4d outside those periods, and of Mr. Shrapnel Smith, who estimated the cost of delays in central London, within a three mile radius of Charing Cross, at over eleven million pounds a year. Uncomfortable and slow traffic, resulting from congestion and lack of system, is inefficient and bad for business.”

Multiply the financial values several times and those exact words could be written today. Some thing never change !

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Manchester Square, The Marchioness Of Hertford And A Very Old Lane

Manchester Square is the subject of this week’s post. Georgian architecture, a Marchioness who had intimate meetings with the Prince Regent and an original lane that once ran through fields and now runs through the streets of Georgian London.

Manchester Square is a short distance north of Oxford Street and a perfect example of how in London you can walk in a matter of minutes from streets crowded with people and traffic to a peaceful place that is full of history and wonderful architecture.

Manchester Square still has the much of the original Georgian and Regency period houses from when the square was built, along with an original London town house that occupies one full side of the square. In the centre of the square is a garden which looked fantastic when I visited on a sunny spring day.

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Construction of Manchester Square was part of the Georgian expansion of London. The land formed part of the Portman Estate (as it still does) and a lease on a plot of land was granted to George Montagu, fourth Duke of Manchester who commenced construction in 1776 of a house on the north side of the square.

Other builders purchased leases on the other three sides of the square, the central gardens were laid out, and Manchester Square came into existence, named after the Duke, as was his house, which on completion in 1788 became Manchester House.

Soon after the completion of his house, the Duke died. The house was then purchased by the Spanish Government as their London embassy, a role it occupied until 1797 when the second Marquis of Hertford purchased the lease and renamed the house as Hertford House (and this is where the Marchioness of Hertford became a rather scandalous London figure – more later in this post).

The second Marquis died on 1822 and the house passed to the third Marquis, then in 1842 to the fourth Marquis of Hertford who was a collector of art, furniture, china etc. scouring the auction rooms of Europe to put together a very large collection that was stored in his houses in London and Paris. The fourth Marquis of Hertford died in 1870. He was unmarried and with no children, left his entire collection to his friend Sir Richard Wallace (who was also a collector). Wallace made a number of changes and extensions to the house to form the building that we see today.

The combined collection became known as the Wallace Collection, and on the death of Sir Richard Wallace, the collection was bequeathed to the nation, and it is this collection which is now housed in Hertford House

Hertford House, home of the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square:

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Manchester House soon after completion and before it became Hertford House:

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Standing in Manchester Square it is hard to believe that you are only a couple of minutes from Oxford Street. The central gardens are an oasis of green, spring blossom is blowing across the street and the few people around are either heading to the Wallace Collection, or using the street as a local parking place for Oxford Street.

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The original plan for Manchester Square was for a church to be built in the central square, however this did not get built and the gardens were laid out between 1776 and 1788.

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The second Marquis of Hertford who purchased Manchester House and renamed it Hertford House was a good friend of the Prince of Wales (who would later become George IV) and the Prince of Wales was a regular visitor to Hertford House, however it was his interest in the Marchioness, Lady Hertford that appears to have been his main reason for making the journey to Manchester Sqaure. It was written at the time that “The Prince does not pass a day without visiting Lady Hertford, indeed so notorious did these calls on ‘the lovely Marchesa’ become that a scurrilous print inserted in its columns the following advertisement: Lost, between Pall Mall and Manchester Square, his Royal Highness the Prince Regent”.

The relationship between the Prince of Wales and Lady Hertford was also the subject of a number of satirical cartoons. The following cartoon from 1819 shows Lady Hertford and the Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales on one of the new velocipedes. The signpost on the left is pointing to Wales and Hertford.

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©Trustees of the British Museum

The following carton shows a room in Hertford House with Manchester Square seen through the windows. The Prince Regent on the right is walking towards Lady Hertford. The Prince is holding the Privy Purse and the small character inside the purse is John McMahon who at the time was the keeper of the Privy Purse and the official private secretary to the Prince.

The Prince is saying to Lady Hertford: “I am so partial to the Privy Purse my Lady; that I have turn’d it into a Ridicule that I may have it always about me.” and she replies: “Well! upon my Honor, our Friend has got a snug birth there indeed.”

The two men talking in the square seen through the window are talking about the bad news of the day being that McMahon is now the keeper of the Privy Purse (and will do exactly what the Prince requires) and the Prince is therefore holding the Privy Purse up to ridicule.

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©Trustees of the British Museum

The Marchioness, Lady Hertford was considered one of the reigning beauties of the day. The Irish poet, Thomas Moore, initially a good friend of the Prince wrote of Lady Hertford:

“Or who will repair unto Manchester Square,

And see if the lovely Marchesa be there?

And bid her to come, with her hair darkly flowing,

All gentle and juvenile, crispy and gay,

In the manner of Ackerman’s dresses for May.”

Portrait of Isabella Anne Ingram Shepherd, 2nd Marchioness of Hertford by Sir Joshua Reynolds:

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©Trustees of the British Museum

When Manchester Square was built, London was expanding rapidly to the west and north. The area to the north of Oxford Street was being turned from fields to wide, formal streets and squares. To see what the area was like immediately before Manchester Square was built, I turned to John Rocque’s map of 1746, just 30 years before construction started on Manchester Square.

The following map shows the area on which Manchester Square would be built.

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I wanted to see if I could place Manchester Square in Rocque’s map and whilst doing so, found what I believe to be an original street remaining from when the area was all fields.

See the two maps below. On the left is Roqcue’s map of the area and on the right a Google map of the same area. If you look to the lower right of both maps, the 1746 extent of building can be seen.

I have shown the modern street names in red on the Google map. In the 270 years since Roqcue’s map there have been some subtle changes in street names:

Wigmore Row in 1746 is now Wigmore Street

Wellbeck Street is now Welbeck Street (it has lost an ‘l’)

Wimple Street is now Wimpole Street

Henrietta Street is now Henrietta Place

The dotted line in the Google map is the location of Wimple Mewse which has disappeared since the Rocque map.

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The extent of the building in 1746 is along Marybone Lane, this is now Marylebone Lane. I have marked the name in red in the Google map, however where it gets really interesting is if you follow Marylebone Lane north across Wigmore Street you will see that it curves to the left, following roughly the same curved path as Marybone Lane in 1746.

Marylebone Lane today is different to the majority of other streets in the area. It is a much narrower street and is not a formal straight street as are nearly all the others in the area. Also, look just above Wigmore Row in the 1746 map and Marybone Lane curves to the left to avoid a pond in the field, I have marked the rough position of this pond on the Google map by the blue oval.

I suspect that Marylebone Lane today follows the same alignment as Marybone Lane when it originally ran through open fields and the curved route of today avoids a long lost pond that is now under the Holiday Inn Hotel between Welbeck Street and Marylebone Lane.

I have marked my estimate of where Manchester Square would later be built on the 1746 Roque map, in the middle of a rather large field.

If I am right, it is remarkable that with the considerable 18th and 19th century development of this area, and the laying out of wide streets in straight lines, it is still possible to walk down a street that once ran through open fields and is probably many hundreds of years old.

After that diversion, let’s return to Manchester Square to admire the architecture.

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Many of the buildings surrounding the square have the wrought iron balconies of the late Georgian / Regency period.

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And as you might expect, there are plenty of Blue Plaques to be found. This one for Alfred Lord Milner, who started as a journalist, then was a civil servant before becoming High Commissioner for South Africa and Governor of the Cape Colony during times of considerable tension which led to the 2nd Boer War. On return to London he was chairman of the Rio Tinto mining company, a Director of the Joint Stock Bank and continued to have a number of roles in the Government, continuing to travel widely.

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The south west corner of Manchester Square.

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Below is the south east corner of Manchester Square. The windows in these buildings clearly show the impact of the 1774 Buildings Act which took the 1709 requirement for the windows to be recessed by 4 inches and added the requirement for the sash box to be hidden behind the brickwork. The main reasons for these changes were to prevent the spread of fires and the risk of the sash window falling out, but was also driven by the fashion of an austere and simple window design.

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Blue plaque to Sir Julius Benedict, a German composer and conductor who spent the majority of his life in London.

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And in the same corner of the square a blue plaque to John Hughlings Jackson, a prominent neurologist, whose work on epilepsy resulted in an improved ability to diagnose and understand the condition.

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Blocked up windows on the side of one of the buildings in Manchester Square, possibly to reduce the amount of Window Tax paid by the occupiers. The windows are blocked on the side street from the square so the main frontage of the building onto Manchester Square has the full complement of windows. The owner would not want the view of his house facing to the square to be any different from his neighbours and savings would be made where parts of the house were less visible.

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A different architectural style on the north east corner of Manchester Square:

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One of the streets leading off Manchester Square (to the right of Hertford House) is Spanish Place – the name recalling the Spanish connection of Hertford House when it was home to the Spanish Embassy.

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Some of the original houses in Spanish Place. As with many of the houses in the main square, they have the Georgian form of windows as well as the fanlight, arched window above the door:

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With yet more blue plaques. This time to Captain Frederick Marryat, a Royal Naval officer and author and also to George Grossmith, who was a theatre director, actor and playwright.

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Manchester Square and the surrounding area is fascinating. This area grew considerably during the Georgian period as London expanded rapidly to the west and north of Oxford Street and there are many fine streets and squares to be found, and Marylebone Lane looks to be a survivor from the time when this area was all fields.

The legacy of the 4th Marquis of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace with the Wallace Collection housed in Hertford House is well worth a visit and whilst walking the rooms of Hertford House you are also walking the site of the Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales many visits to meet with the Marchioness, Lady Hertford.

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Wonderful London

I have been collecting books about London for many years, my first purchase was in the mid 1970s in a second-hand bookshop in one of the alleys leading into Greenwich Market. It was H.V. Morton’s London, first published in 1940, a collection of three individual books published in the 1920s. H.V. Morton was a journalist and his writing about London was probably embellished somewhat, but at the time it seemed to bring alive the history and romance of London.

I recently bought a remarkable 3 volume set – Wonderful London, published in the late 1920s. It was edited by St. John Adcock (a prolific author and poet who lived in Hampstead and died in 1930) and described as “The World’s Greatest City Described by its Best Writers and Pictured by its Finest Photographers”.

Wonderful London has chapters on all aspects of the city, each written by a different author, for example “How London Strikes A Provincial” by J.B. Priestley, “The Case For Old London” by G.K. Chesterton and “Sunday In Town” by H.V. Morton.

The three volumes run to over 1100 pages and 1200 photos and provides a fantastic snapshot of London in the 1920s with the text highlighting the social attitudes of the time.

As I scanned through the book, many of the photos are of the same scenes that my father took in the late 1940s and early 1950s and which I have been photographing over the years. There are also some remarkable photos showing London in the first decades of the 20th century and for this week’s post, let me bring you a sample of photos from Wonderful London.

To start, the first photo is a fantastic aerial view of Wembley Stadium. the title to the photo is “Ants Nest Carelessly Broken Open Or Wembley Stadium Seen From The Cockpit Of An Aeroplane”. The caption to the photo reads:

“When at the end of 1925, after two years of stucco splendour, the pavilions and palaces of the British Empire Exhibition melted beneath the workmen’s hands, one building, as though in irony remained, the Wembley Stadium, solid-built as the shrine of professional football. It is symptomatic boast that the Stadium exceeds the Colosseum in size by one-half. During the period of the Exhibition the arena was used for various pageants and military displays, but it is not on record that they ever drew a crowd nearly as dense as the one on which we are gazing.”

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Continuing on the football theme, the following photo is titled “Street Hawkers Sell Football Favours At Walham Green” and has the caption:

“At Walham Green coloured favours and match programmes are for sale near Stamford Bridge, the ground of the Chelsea Football Club.”

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Walham Green is a name that is rarely heard today. Originally the name of a village in west London, dating back to at least 1383 when it was known as Wandongrene. As the above reference to Chelsea Football Club suggests, it was integrated into Chelsea and Fulham. The underground station on the District Line that is now called Fulham Broadway was originally called Walham Green. See the following scan from a 1937 underground map. The name changed to Fulham Broadway in 1952.

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Last year I published a couple of posts on the Caledonian Market, including climbing the Clock Tower which can be found here and here. Wonderful London includes a few photos of the market, including the following photo showing an overview of the market in action. The clock tower is still there, but the surroundings are now completely different.

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As well as the main cattle market, the Caledonian Market area was also the site of a Friday “pedlars’ market”  where is was possible to buy almost anything. The following photo shows the sale of poultry at the pedlars market.

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A couple of months ago, I published a photo my father took after the war of the ruins of Chelsea Old Church. In frount of this photo there is a cart with a few children. The cart appears to be an ice cream cart. In Wonderful London there is the photo below of a similar scene with the title “A Son Of Italy Does A Brisk Trade In Frozen Something-Or-Other.”

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At the end of last year, I went on the Massey Shaw Fireboat as it traveled along the Thames to demonstrate how river based firefighting was carried out. Wonderful London includes the following photo of a huge warehouse fire at Millwall with “thousands of tons of rubber are burning here besides large quantities of tallow and carpets”, being fought by fireboats on the river.

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Wonderful London includes a couple of full-page spreads showing views along the Thames. The following photo shows the original Waterloo Bridge from the top of the Savoy Hotel and is titled “Before Evil Days Fell Upon Waterloo Bridge After A Century Of London Traffic.” The caption reads:

“This is a last look at the old bridge as it was before two of its arches failed and began to take up that bent and disquieting appearance which caused the steel auxiliary to be built, the old bridge shored up and so much ink spilt about it.”

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Another of the panorama photos is the following photo taken from the roof of Bush House. The photo is looking towards the South Bank and shows the Shot Tower and the industrial area on the South Bank prior to the post war redevelopment leading to the Festival of Britain.

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It is interesting that London has always been the subject of “before and after photos”, which is also one of my aims for this blog, to take photos today of the locations my father photographed in the 1940s/50s. Wonderful London includes a number of examples, including the following two photos taken from the same position in the Strand. The first photo shows the original Temple Bar city boundary in 1878. The second photo shows exactly the same scene in the 1920s following removal of Temple Bar, widening of the street and new buildings on either side of the Strand. The location can be confirmed by building number 229 which is on the right of both photos.

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Wonderful London features a range of photos of London children, including the two photos below which are titled “A Budding Humorist Of The East-End And The Serpentine Smile”. the caption for both photos reads:

“A water-tank covered by a plank in a back-yard among the slums is an unlikely place for a stage, but an undaunted admirer of that great Cockney humorist, Charlie Chaplin, is holding his audience with an imitation of the well-known gestures  with which the comic actor indicates the care-free-though-down-and-out view of life which he has immortalised on the screen. Below is a group of summer paddlers in the Serpentine. On the extreme left is a boy holding the shafts of the inevitable sugar-box cart fixed on perambulator wheels.”

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In last week’s post I featured photos my father had taken from the river looking at the north bank of the river. One of these photos had the shell of the church of Allhallows by the Tower which had suffered severe bomb damage during the war. Wonderful London includes the following photo of the church in the 1920s, looking south. The buildings behind the church to the right are between the church and the river. The majority of the surrounding buildings would also be destroyed by bombing in just over 10 years following the decade when this photo was taken.

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Photos of views along the river with many of the earlier bridges are included. The following photo shows the view from the Adelphi Terrace looking eastward along the river. The bridge is the original Waterloo Bridge that crossed the river before the version of the bridge in place today, and was photographed after the failures mentioned in the earlier photo. The bridge has the “steel auxiliary” also mentioned above.

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The markets of London feature in Wonderful London. Here is Covent Garden, with the title “Early Morning In The Convent Garden Which Has become Covent Garden” and the caption reads:

“It seems that the Convent Garden of Westminster stretched along the north side of the Strand between Drury Lane and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. When Henry VIII made his pounce upon the monasteries and flung the pieces to his followers, the Russell family got the garden and built themselves Bedford House on the south side. They caused Inigo Jones to lay out a piazza on the north and east and a church on the west. Stalls for selling fruit and vegetables were already established. In 1704 the Russells (or Bedfords) moved to Bloomsbury, and in 1830 most of the current buildings were put up. Soon after midnight the carts start their journeys from the market gardens beyond outer London to reach Covent Garden in time.”

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Another London market is Billingsgate Market and the photo in Wonderful London below of the streets outside the market is taken from roughly the same location as one my father had taken (see here). The photo is titled “Fish-Porters Of Billingsgate Gathered About Consignments Lately Arrived From The Coast” and the caption reads:

“At Billingsgate is the chief fish market of London. and to it are brought all kinds of fish from aristocratic salmon and oysters to democratic shrimps and dog-fish of rock salmon. At one time smacks brought all the fish sold in the market, and were unloaded at Billingsgate Wharf, which is said to be the oldest in London. Today however, most comes by train, and little by boat.  The daily market is always crowded, and business is conducted at a speed extremely confusing to the casual spectator. Here we may see the fish porters, who have an almost legendary reputation for bad language, handling the slippery loads with the precision of experts. In the background of this view, to the right, is seen the monument.”

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One of the ancient customs covered by Wonderful London is Swan Upping. A custom which my father photographed, as did I during the 2015 event. My post can be found here. Photos of the event in the 1920s look almost identical to the event of today.

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Among photos of Londoners and their trades is the following of “old cabbies headed by an ancient who claims that he once drove King Edward when Prince of Wales, from Waterloo to Marlborough House, in 1868.” You probably would not want to question the route taken by these cabbies!

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A chapter in Wonderful London covers Social Work, but a very different form of Social Work to that we understand today. Provided to Londoners through a range of organisations such as the Salvation Army, Police Court Missionaries, Dr. Barnardo’s, the Watercress and Flower Girls’ Christian Mission, St. Dunstan’s, the Morning Post Home for Destitute Men, a Medical Mission for ailing working women and children and the YMCA.

The following photo has the title: “Little Citizens Of London Who Ask For A Change In Life” and is captioned:

“There is no more important branch of social work in great cities than amelioration of the slum child’s lot. The public conscience is difficult to stir, but much is nevertheless being done by philanthropical societies and by individual effort to brighten the drab lives of these little unfortunates, to rescue them from surroundings of cruelty or crime and to start them upon happy and useful careers. Many east-end children have never been beyond their own disease-ridden courts and the dingy streets that form their playground.”

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There are many photos in the books which show exactly the same scenes that my father would later photograph. One of these is The Flask in Highgate (see my post on The Flask which can be found here). The caption to the photo reads:

“At The Flask, labourers from the few surviving farms still drink the good ale, as their forerunners did a century ago. This tavern was much frequented by revellers’ clubs of late Georgian times.”

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It is interesting that in almost 100 years, aspects of London’s transport system have not really changed.  The following photo has the title “Herding Passengers On To A Bus On Ludgate Hill” and the caption starts “Londoners endure a state of perpetual and acute discomfort in the daily travelling to and from their work which is really astonishing.” A sentence that could equally apply today.

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One of the chapters in Wonderful London covers second-hand bookshops and includes the following photo of a second-hand bookshop in Charing Cross Road, which as well as being the home to Foyles (which originally had a second-hand department) also had many other book shops.

Just looking at this photo makes me wonder what treasures could be found in this shop. Had I been around at the time I would probably have spent far too much time and money in shops like this one.

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A range of occupations are covered in the three volumes, including the following photo of steeplejacks defying vertigo on the spire of All Saints, Poplar.

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In last weeks post I included a photo taken from the river showing Adelaide House adjacent to London Bridge. Wonderful London includes the following photo of the building soon after completion. The title reads “Adelaide House, A Monument of Modern Architecture On The Site Of Old London Bridge”. The caption to the photo reads:

“In observing this new expression of the architect’s attempt to meet the problems of rebuilding in London it must be remembered that, according to design, a superstructure has yet to be added, and that the bridge level is not the ground level of the building. To get the full height effect, Adelaide House must be viewed from the river or else its south bank. Another place from which to be impressed or perhaps oppressed by the height of the thing is Lower Thames Street. Sir John Burnet and his partners were responsible for the huge study in concrete, and several designs for it were submitted and revised. There is a curious effect about the main entrance as though doorways had shrunk under the tremendous weight above.”

Interesting that the height of buildings has always been an issue in London.

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When the telephone was introduced across London, the majority of wiring was above ground. Old photos often show telegraph poles on top of office buildings with wiring strung across the rooftops and streets. These required a good head for heights to maintain. The title for the following photo reads: “Suspending a telephone cable between Conduit and Maddox Streets.”

And has the caption:

Twice a year the steel wires which support London’s telephone cables – each cable may hold the lines of thirty subscribers – are inspected. The cables are fastened to the wires by rawhide suspenders and this man is detaching the thick dark cable from the old wire and fastening it to the new wire, which shows fresh and bright above. The new wire also supports the worker. He sits in a bo’sn’s chair, consisting of a board slung by a loop at either end, which is fastened to the wire. Overhead wires are gradually being superseded by underground systems.”

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Some jobs are almost the same now as they were then, for example overnight maintenance work on the city’s railways. The following photo has the caption:

“A gang is at work on the permanent way on Charing Cross Bridge. The lights of the station can be seen in the distance.”

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Fog was very much a problem for London in the 1920s. The following photo is titled “Fogbound, Flares For Traffic In A London Particular” and is captioned:

“When the minute particles of dust which are always overhanging London become coated with moisture and the temperature falls below what is called dew point, that is when the temperature at which the moisture in the atmosphere condenses, fog blankets the streets. It is one of the scourges of the city, and much time and money are lost annually by its delaying the traffic. In a real pea-souper acetylene flares are placed at traffic control points. In the photo a constable is directing traffic where Charing Cross meets Trafalgar Square.”

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Interesting that the caption refers to the time and money lost due to London fogs rather than the impact on the health of Londoners. Business, trade and making money has always been the main driver of London life.

I covered the cannon in frount of the Tower of London in a post showing my father’s 1947 photo of the area.  Wonderful London includes a photo of the same area from the 1920s with the title “Tower Wharf: One Of London’s Lunch-Time Gathering Grounds” and the caption:

“Despite the tremendous number and variety of eating places, many hundreds of those who work in the City and its surroundings prefer, in fine weather, to eat their lunch on a park seat or as here, seated on the slippery surface of an old cannon. Tower Wharf, whatever its merits as a restaurant, is a fine place to view the Tower, and also the shipping in the Upper Pool and the opening of Tower Bridge. The wharf was built by Henry III who also made Traitors Gate. The wharf gave the fortress one more line of protection. On the very ground where this crowd is sitting another crowd assembled day after day to scream for the trembling Judge Jeffryes to be thrown to them, in quittance for the Bloody Assize.”

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A theme during the 1920s was the growth in motorised traffic across London and the need to manage traffic. This required new systems of control and in 1925 manually operated traffic lights were installed at the junction of St. Jame’s Street and Piccadilly.

The photo below shows the junction. Look in the middle of the photo and there is a small hut.

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Within this hut is the control equipment for the traffic lights. Operated manually by the levers at the bottom of the photo with the street layout and indicators showing the status of the traffic lights above. Requiring an operator for each set of traffic lights, it is no wonder that they only really started to proliferate across London when automated lights were developed a few years later.

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The book also features trades that have long since disappeared. Tanneries were a major industry in 19th century London but in the first decades of the 20th century they were gradually disappearing. The following photo shows one of the remaining tanneries and is captioned:

“At Bermondsey tanning is, so to speak, in the air as one traverses the dingy streets towards the Neckinger Mills, where the photograph was taken. We are looking at the lime yard full of pits about seven feet deep, and built some 60 or 70 years ago. Fifteen to thirty dozen skins go to a ‘pack’ and each pack is soaked in fresh water, then in a solution of limewater, for 3 – 6 weeks to remove the hair. Goat skins are being dealt with here.”

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Radio broadcasting, or wireless was a new technology in the 1920s with the BBC having started daily broadcasts in 1922. Wonderful London shows how this technology is starting to impact the lives of Londoners with two photos under the title: “Broadcasting Noises From The Zoo To The Aerials Of Suburbia”

The photos are captioned:

“Howling is only approved of by ‘listeners-in’ when it comes from the Zoo, and several experiments have been made in bringing the wild animal into the home by wireless. We see the officials of the British Broadcasting Co. preparing to receive a few screeches from the aviary.”

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“These will be wafted over the forest of wireless poles that has sprung up all over London since the broadcasting craze took its hold on the inhabitants. The poorer neighbourhoods seem particularly to bristle with aerial poles, and this is very noticeable from a train traversing such districts.”

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As well as radio providing a new means of communication and entertainment another new technology that started to be widely available and continues to have a huge impact on London is flight.

Long before Heathrow or Gatwick, Croydon was London’s airport, and the following photos show the first steps in London’s aviation journey. The first photo is titled “The Air Port of London As It Was In 1925” and is captioned:

“The official designation of the great aerodrome is “The Air Port Of London” though it is popularly known as the Croydon, or Waddon aerodrome for it is included in the latter parish”

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And the following photo “Loading Cargo and Passengers”

“Passengers are embarking for Paris by an Imperials Airways machine.”

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When you consider how quickly these first tentative steps in commercial aviation transformed into the scale and complexity that we now see at Heathrow, it does make you wonder what the next 90 years will hold for London.

Wonderful London does live up to its name and with the written chapters that cover almost any topic you could think off, and with so many photos the books really do justice to describing the world’s greatest city.

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Along The Thames In 1947 And 2016 – Tower Bridge To Westminster Bridge

During the afternoon of Saturday 23rd August 1947, my father took a boat trip along the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich. I am able to date this accurately as the date was written on a number of the photos taken along the route that he printed afterwards.

I will be on the river later this year to photograph the same views on the stretch between Tower Bridge and Greenwich, however for the photos covering the route between Westminster and Tower Bridges, I cheated by taking a walk along the south bank of the river to photograph the north bank views.

My father’s photos were taken from a boat at low tide, so I was not able to get the view exactly right, however they do show roughly the same view and the changes that have occurred along the north bank of the river.

I have not processed these photos, they are straight from the scanner and some show some imperfections. I prefer the unprocessed look as a more genuine presentation of photos that are now 69 years old. Film was hard to get just two years after the war had finished and these photos were taken on 35mm movie film which was cut up to fit the film holder in the camera. I have no idea why movie film was available, or where it came from.

After taking the photos for last week’s post about Tower Bridge, I continued along the south bank of the river towards Westminster, so these photos are in reverse order.

Starting the journey in 1947 with the Tower of London. As with last week’s photos the beach in front of the Tower looks to be busy on an August summer afternoon.

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The view today from the opposite bank of the river. There are few high buildings immediately behind the Tower to detract from the view, however I doubt that this will remain the same for long, the number of cranes in the background are rather threatening.

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Just past the Tower is this view. The Tower of London is at the right of the photo (just behind the trees) and the large building in the centre is the former Port of London Authority building.

The area on the left of the photo, down to the river was bombed heavily during the war. To the left of the photo is the shell of a church tower. This is the church of All Hallows by the Tower. Below the PLA building and facing the river is the side of a building. This is the Ye Old Tiger Tavern on Tower Hill which survived bombing but was later pulled down in the reconstruction of the area. More on these buildings and the area in later posts.

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The view today. I should have been a bit further to the left, however the Belfast would have obstructed much of the view. The tower of the PLA building is still visible, however the new buildings on the left have obscured the view of All Hallows by the Tower which was rebuilt after the war.

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Further along we come to Billingsgate Market, with the Customs House on the right and the tower of the church of St. Dunstan in the East just behind the Custom House.

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And the view today (although partially obscured by one of the new piers along the Thames). Billingsgate, the Custom House and the tower of St. Dunstan’s are the only buildings that remain from 1947 with the towers of the City rising up behind.

Southbank Walk 16The following photo shows the edge of the Billingsgate Market building on the extreme right of the photo. There is then a gap which before the war was occupied by Nicholson’s Wharf, destroyed by bombing along with a direct hit by a V1 flying bomb. To the left of the gap is New Fresh Wharf. This was a busy wharf that handled very large volumes of goods, general goods, fruit and canned goods as well as operating as a terminal for passenger ferries.

New Fresh Wharf was demolished in 1973. The building on the extreme left of the photo is Adelaide House. Construction of Adelaide House was completed in 1925. It is now a Grade II listed building. The dock facilities of New Fresh Wharf extended along the river frontage of Adelaide House.

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The same view today with Billingsgate on the right of the photo and Adelaide House of the left. The scene in-between these two buildings is now completely different.

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We have now moved further along the river, past London Bridge, the version of the bridge prior to the current one can be seen in the following photo with Adelaide House and New Fresh Wharf behind the bridge. We can now see the Monument and to the left of the bridge is Fishmongers Hall, the home of the Fishmongers’ Company. Damaged caused by bombing can be seen to the left.

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Almost the same view today, although I should have been on a boat, mid river as my father was to get the same perspective. Adelaide House, the Monument and Fishmongers Hall are still there. My father’s photo included the 19th Century version of London Bridge and my photo shows the 1974 incarnation of the bridge that has crossed the river in roughly the same location for many hundreds of years.

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If we now pass under the bridge taking the rail tracks across the river into Cannon Street Station, and view the small space between Cannon Street Station and Southwark Bridge. Cannon Street Station is on the right with the structure on top that held the glass canopy to the station. The church is St. Michael Paternoster Royal.

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The view today. Cannon Street Station still on the right, although without the original roof, offices have now been built above the station platforms. The old Cameron Wharf area is now the City of London Corporation Waste Transfer Station with barges mooring along side to take rubbish from the City to processing locations further down river.

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Now walk under the new Millennium Bridge and slightly further up river you would have had this view in 1947. Puddle Dock is on the extreme left. St. Paul’s Cathedral is in the centre, partially obscured by the Faraday Building in Queen Victoria Street, one of the main London telephone exchanges. The height of the Faraday Building and the impact on views of St. Paul’s was one of the reasons for the planning regulations that now protect specific sight-lines and views of the cathedral.

The building and wharf of Blundell Spence & Co Ltd (manufacturers of Paints, Varnishes and Colours) is just below the Faraday Building, with the Cannon Warehouse and Showrooms to the right.

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The view today. The Faraday Building is still the highest building between the cathedral and the river. The church on the right of centre in the 2016 photo is St. Benets Welsh Metropolitan Church. If you look in exactly the same position in the 1947 photo the spire above the tower of the church can be seen. The building on the right hand edge of the photo is the new site of the City of London School.Southbank Walk 20

Now passing under Blackfriars Bridge, walk along a bit further and look back at St. Paul’s Cathedral. In this 1947 view, on the left is the City of London School with the Unilever Building just behind.

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The same view today. The original building of the City of London School is still there, although the school moved out in 1987 to new buildings along Queen Victoria Street.

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Walk further along the south bank, almost to Waterloo Bridge and look back along the north bank of the river and this is the 1947 scene. The steeple of St. Brides church is on the extreme right. Also on the right of the photo on the embankment wall is the memorial commemorating the naming of this stretch of the river as King’s Reach after King George V.

The ship in the middle of the photo is the Discovery, Robert Falcon Scott’s original ship. She was moored here from 1931 to 1979. Having been fully restored, the Discovery is now moored in Dundee. During the war she was used by the Sea Scouts, of which my father was a member. His written account of life in London during this time includes accounts of staying on the Discovery and sailing up and down the Thames between Pimlico and Tower Bridge on an old whaler doing things that would be a nightmare for current health and safety.

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Roughly the current view, although not exactly the same viewpoint. The steeple of St. Brides church is still on the right, although as I could not get to exactly the same position, the Kings Reach memorial is now to the right of center.

The location of the Discovery is roughly at the position of the blue containers.

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Much has changed along the Thames in the 69 years since my father took these photos, although some views are almost exactly the same. The following photo was taken close to Hungerford Railway Bridge. Cleopatra’s Needle is in the centre with the Shell-Mex building behind (the building with the clock). the Shell-Mex building was completed in 1931 and occupied by Shell Mex and BP Ltd. Although Shell have long since moved out, the building is Grade II listed so should be preserved as a major Thames landmark and an example of 1920s / 1930s architecture long into the future.

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The same view today is almost unchanged, with the Adelphi on the left, then Shell-Mex House, the Savoy, then lower down, behind the trees the Institute of Electrical Engineers building, then Brettenham House and finally Somerset House on the extreme right of the photo.

I had intended to take this photo at the same time (2:50pm) as my father although due to taking too many photos along the walk I arrived slightly later at 3pm.

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The final stop as we approach Westminster Bridge is the view across to the RAF memorial. The stone column was designed by Reginald Blomfield and the eagle on top of the memorial by William Reid Dick. The memorial was unveiled in 1923.

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The view to the memorial today. I should have been a bit further to the left, however the infrastructure around the base of the London Eye obscures the view. The significant change is the building behind the memorial. These are the main Ministry of Defence buildings. Construction of these started in 1939, although the war then caused significant delays with construction being completed in 1951.

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A boat trip or walk along the river is a fantastic way to view the city. Although there has been much development along the north bank over the years, it is surprising that whilst many of the buildings are different, the overall views are much the same. The most significant difference being the towers that now occupy much of the City.

Change along the south bank of the river and in the stretch between Tower Bridge and Greenwich has been much more dramatic and I will be covering these in future posts.

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Tower Bridge

A brief post today as unfortunately work commitments have been rather heavy over the past week. Here are three photos that my father took in 1948, the first two show the northern approach to Tower Bridge with the third showing the view across to the City from Tower Bridge. This last photo really makes you wonder how we plan the City and the buildings that tower over their surroundings.

Firstly, standing on the approach road to Tower Bridge. The Tower of London on the right. The cranes that still lined the river are visible to the left and right of the bridge. The sign on the left warns that heavy goods vehicles much cross the bridge at 8 miles per hour.

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68 years later and I am standing in roughly the same spot on a very sunny day – always a mistake due to the deep shadows. It should have been easy to locate the precise location, however I believe that the slip road to the left in the 1948 photo has been moved back, slightly further north.

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My 2016 photo also shows an empty road, a bit deceiving as I had to wait a lengthy period to get a clear road.

The next photo is a bit closer to the bridge.

Tower Bridge 2

And in 2016.

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The photo below was taken from the bridge, looking over to the City of London. Look at the background and the church spires of the City churches are standing above their surroundings. To the left of centre, the Monument is standing clear and slightly to the left of the Monument, in the background, is the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It is low tide, and along the bank of the Thames is the artificial beach, with stairs down from the walkway alongside the Tower.

Tower Bridge 1

And the same view in 2016. I did not time the tide right, but the beach and the stairs have long gone. If you look carefully, just to the right of the red cranes, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral can just be seen, with slightly further to the right, the very tip of the Monument.

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But what really intrudes into the 2016 view is the 20 Fenchurch Street building, better known as the Walkie Talkie building. Whilst the City cannot stay static, this building is just in the wrong place and the intrusive top-heavy design does not help.

I doubt that my father, standing on Tower Bridge and looking at the view over the City, would have imagined that it would look like this, 68 years later.

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