The Roman Wall On Tower Hill

Tower Hill is one of the best places to see remnants from London’s early history. A couple of weeks ago I featured the church of All Hallows by the Tower with the Saxon arch and Roman floor, this week it is the turn of the Roman Wall on Tower Hill.

This is my father’s photo from 1947 showing a length of Roman wall on Tower Hill.


It was easy to locate this length of wall, the cut out section at the end of the wall is a clear marker of which side of the wall is the subject of the photo. My father took the photo in the afternoon as the sun was shining directly onto the wall. When I visited, I made the mistake of being there in the morning when the sun was just over the eastern edge of the wall and caused problems trying to get the same photo, so I took the following slightly edge on, still with some impact from the sun, however it clearly shows the same cut out section and has the benefit of positioning the location of the wall by showing the Tower of London in the background.


Today, this length of wall stands in isolation, however this area of Tower Hill was once full of buildings and as can be seen from my father’s photo there is a building at the end of the wall and parts of the roof of a building on the other side of the wall can just be seen.

The wall today is just outside Tower Hill Station, however in 1947 the station did not exist. An earlier Tower Hill Station had closed in 1884 and Mark Lane Station (located opposite All Hallows by the Tower) had served the area. Mark Lane Station (more on this in a future post) closed in 1967 when the present Tower Hill Station opened.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London shows the route of the underground (the black and white line) with Mark Lane Station clearly marked in the centre of the map opposite the church, and no mention of Tower Hill Station, as it did not exist at this time.


One of my books on London is a little publication with the title “London Wall Through Eighteen Centuries”. Published in 1937 for the Council for Tower Hill Improvement, the book is a detailed history and survey of the London Wall with articles on the history of the wall in Roman, Medieval, Tudor and later times, and a detailed guide of where to find the wall (one of my many future projects is to use this book as a guide to walking the wall today to see how the wall, its visibility, condition and the route has changed since 1937).

One of the photos in the book is the same section of the wall as my father photographed with the same cut out section at the end of the wall and the same markings on the wall. I will have to return one afternoon and get a better photo with the sun in the right position.

The photo shows how the wall was part of the surrounding buildings – very different to today.


My father also photographed parts of a Roman tombstone which had been found on Tower Hill. Two parts of the tombstone were found, with the first top section in 1852 and the lower section during construction of an electricity substation at Tower Hill in 1935. The following photo shows these parts, which I believe are the originals inserted in a surrounding stone with the missing lettering added to the smooth stone on the top block.


The words Dis Manibvs confirm this to be a tombstone as they mean “to the shades of the dead”. The middle section is missing, however the tombstone appears to be to Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, the procurator of the province of Britain after Boudica’s revolt, so very early in the Roman occupation of Britain. The tombstone was set up by his wife, Julia Pacata Indiana.

If the stones in my father’s photo are the originals, I believe they have since been moved to the British Museum and today a modern replica exists at Tower Hill. I have not had time to check, but if you know if the originals are at the British Museum, or another location I would be interested to know.


There is a small park area on the opposite side of the wall, this was occupied by buildings in the earlier photos above.


There is another large section of wall on Tower Hill, although not so visible. This sections runs further back from the above section between offices on the right and the CitizenM hotel on the left.


The book “London Wall Through Eighteen Centuries” has another photo of the wall at Tower Hill, but of a section that does not now exist. The following photo is captioned “The Roman Wall at Trinity Place, Tower Hill, being destroyed when that part of the Inner Circle Railway was constructed in 1882. The east side of the wall showing the foundations, external plinth and one bonding course.”


I assume that this part of the wall needed to be destroyed due to the cut and cover technique of building this section of the underground.

The book provides more detail on the wall at Tower Hill. In the section titled “Where to find the wall” by Walter G. Bell, he writes about the Tower Hill section:

“It is built into Barber’s Bonded Warehouses, which you enter from Cooper’s Row, Trinity Square – or, more truthfully, I might say this part of the wide-spreading vaults and floors is added to the old City Wall. Long ago, when Barber’s premises were about to rise under scaffolding, the builder found the City Wall there standing, and I picture him gazing at it, lost in thought, in puzzling wonder what he should do. To destroy it with pickaxe and shovel would be a herculean and costly task. It is immensely thick, and hard as iron. How long ago that was I cannot tell, but the partner of Messrs. Joseph Barber & Co. who showed me the wall, with lamp held at the end of a lath and lighted that I might explore its intricacies, mentioned to me his great-grandfather as having been a member of the firm owning these vaults.

Why waste a good wall? The question had only to be asked to be answered, and with a few shallow windows added at the bulwark level and a course or two of brick, the warehouse roof was sprung from the top. So the structure continues to do good service, as it has done eighteen or more centuries ago, and to the builders happy inspiration (with the added savour of economy) is owning the preservation of the most complete fragment of the City Wall today, and one may hope for all time, now that the Corporation are beginning to realise the value of the City’s historical antiquities.”

These paragraphs by Walter G. Bell tell us so much about how London’s wall has survived and the attitude to the wall. Those sections that still remain are there because they could serve some purpose over the centuries. They are there as they could provide a wall without the need to build a new one, they are there as sometimes they would have cost more to destroy. Written in 1937, it was only then that the historic value of the wall was starting to be considered.

It is the Barbour’s Warehouse Buildings that be seen in my father’s photo and the photo from the book with the roof above the Roman Wall and at the end of the wall.

There is one final intriguing photo in the book on the wall at Tower Hill. The following photo is captioned “A medieval window in the Wall in Barbour’s Warehouse, Cooper’s Row, Tower Hill, November 1936”.


Coopers Row is shown in the 1940 map above, to the right of Trinity Square. I believe this may be in the section running back past the CitizenM hotel, but I could not get close enough to check, but again it demonstrates how the wall has been incorporated in other buildings over the centuries.

The book “London Wall Through Eighteen Centuries” provided a complete survey of the wall as it was in 1937, just as the importance of preserving antiquities such as the wall was starting to be understood.

Hopefully, one day I will get the time to explore the full length of the London Wall using the 1937 book as my guide, but until then I will try and get back to Tower Hill and take a better photo with the right lighting of this lovely remaining section, now standing free of Barber’s Bonded Warehouses.

St. Pancras Old Church, Purchese Street, Gas And Coal Works

In my father’s photo collection, there are a series showing a rather misty location in London, looking over the remains of a bombed square. These are some of the earliest photos and the negatives are not in the best condition and were probably from the winter of 1946/47.

I must admit I had not studied these in detail, there was no obvious feature and I included one of the photos in a post covering mystery locations and this was about the only one that was not identified.

I looked at these again recently and the location should have been really obvious – it was my own fault for not looking close enough.

Firstly, let me set the scene. The following map shows the location today. The station in the middle of the map is St. Pancras Station. The green space to the left of the rail tracks at the top is the location of St. Pancras Old Church. Pancras Road runs to the left of the church down towards the station and to the left of this is Purchese Street.


The same area from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Greater London. St. Pancras Station is without the recent extensions for the Eurostar trains to the Channel Tunnel. There is a Gas Works between the rail tracks leading into both St. Pancras and Kings Cross Stations. Between Pancras Road and Purchese Street is an L.M.S. Coal Depot.


Having set the scene today and in 1940, here are the photos.

The first is the photo that enabled me to identify the location. On the right of the photo in the distance, behind the trees is a church. The distinctive tower of the church is that of St. Pancras Old Church. Look closely at the church and the results of wartime bombing can be seen with the  damaged roof.


I took the following photo from Purchese Road, and the lack of a view across to the church today makes it impossible to get to the exact same spot however the view is from roughly the same spot today.


I believe my father then turned towards St. Pancras Station and took the following photo. The gas holders that are shown in the 1940 map can be seen. The wall running from the right to just left of centre is I believe the wall of the L.M.S. Coal Depot. This is the black line running between Purchese Street and Pancras Road in the 1940 map.


I am not sure when the L.M.S. Coal Depot was built, but it was after 1895 as the Ordnance Survey map from 1895 shows the area occupied by houses. This also shows the Gas Works along with an example of the many street name changes that have taken place in London across the years, In 1895 it appears that Purchese Street did not exist. Goldington Street and Brill Street were the names allocated to this length of street and in the 1940 map, part of Goldington Street and Brill Street appear to have become Purchese Street. This area went through significant change between 1895 and 1940 with the construction of the Coal Depot and further down the L.M.S. Goods Depot.


A slightly different view to the above, looking towards the Coal Depot. There are signs on each side of the square on the left, it would be really interesting to know what was written on these signs, unfortunately my father did not take a photo of these.


Again, impossible to place the exact location, however the photo below shows the view along Purchese Road looking towards where the L.M.S. Coal Depot would have been.


The following photo was taken looking towards Pancras Road with the wall of the Coal Depot on the right.


Another view similar to the above, but looking at the Coal Depot wall. The area on the left of the above and below photos shows the state in which cleared bomb sites were left.


After Purchese Street, i walked over to St. Pancras Old Church. This is the view from the churchyard looking across Pancras Road to the area in my father’s photos. Now very different.


The site of St. Pancras Old Church is very old. The website of the church states that although difficult to verify, it is believed that it first became a site of Christian worship in 313AD. The book St. Pancras Through The Centuries published in 1935 includes a chapter on the church which explains that the church was built on the site of a pagan “compita” – a rural shrine erected at cross roads in villages.

The site of the church is on a raised area of ground. The River Fleet, (or Holeburne or Holbourne as this tributary of the Fleet was once known) once flowed along the western edge of Pancras Road which would have been at the base of the raised area on which the church was built.

In 313AD, the right of religious freedom was restored in the Roman world which may be why the church website attributes this year to the possible earliest Christian church on the site. There is very little to verify the history of the church in these centuries however a 7th century altar stone has been found in the church and when the old tower was pulled down during rebuilding of the church in 1847-8, Roman bricks and tiles were found in the base of the tower and the lowest courses of the church walls.

The Rev. J. Carter Rendell describes some finds in his book “Story of St. Pancras Old Church” – “When the old tower of the church was taken down in 1847-8 a stone was found buried under it that had once been part of an altar. It is marked with five crosses, and is made of Kentish rag stone hollowed out under for the relics of a saint which are now missing. The form of the crosses is unlike any other but that on the tomb of Ethne who was the mother of St. Columba (died 597). So here is a relic of an altar made in the year 625.” 

It is easy to believe that this is an ancient site when standing looking up at the church on the mound and imagining the River Fleet running along the base of the mound.

The church and tower – a much clearer view than in my father’s post war photo from Purchese Street.


For centuries, St. Pancras Old Church was in a very rural location. The following prints (©Trustees of the British Museum) from the 18th and 19th centuries show the church surrounded by countryside. This print is “A View of St. Pancras Church” from 1752.


A closer view of the church showing the ground sloping away towards what is now Pancras Road – “A South View of the Church of St. Pancras in the County of Middlesex” from 1790.


And finally, highlighting the history to be found in the area to the south of the church, St. Pancras Wells with the church in the background from 1853. The new railway would soon be changing this view significantly


The isolation of St. Pancras Old Church is illustrated by the following description of the church in John Norden’s Speculum Britanniae from 1593. “Pancras Church standeth all alone as utterly forsaken, old, and weatherbeaten, which for the antiquitie thereof, it is thought not to yield to Paules in London; about this church have bin manie buildings, now decaied, leaving poore Pancras without companie or comfort; yet it is now and then visited with Kentish towne and Highgate which are members thereof; but they seldome come there, for that they have chappels of ease within themselves, but when there is a corps to be interred, they are forced to leave the same in this forsaken church or churchyard, where (no doubt) it resteth as secure against the day of resurrection as if it laie in stately Paules.”

The reference to Kentish Town and Highgate refers to mass being held in these locations for the majority of Sundays in the month with only one Sunday a month in St. Pancras.

The church does not feel very isolated today with trains running close by, to and from St. Pancras Station, a busy road at the base of the mound leading up to the church and housing estates now occupying the areas where the Coal and Goods Yards once stood.

Close to the entrance to the church is the splendid gothic style Burdett-Coutts Memorial Sundial. Designed by George Highton of Brixton it was unveiled in 1879 by Baroness Burdett-Coutts.


Baroness Burdett-Coutts was the youngest granddaughter of Thomas Coutts, one of the partners of Coutts Bank. When Thomas died his estate passed to his wife, Harriot and when she died in 1837, the interest from a Trust and a 50% share of Coutts Bank passed to Angela Burdett with the condition that she also take the name Coutts, so at the age of 23 she became Angela Burdett-Coutts and also the richest woman in the country, with the title of Baroness coming later.

Burdett-Coutts gave a considerable amount of her time and money to philanthropic activities aimed at helping the poor. This included the building of the Columbia Road Market in Bethnal Green which helped support small traders and provided the poor of the area with a place where they could buy food at reasonable prices.

She funded the construction of the memorial sundial in the churchyard to record the names of many of those who had been buried in the area of the churchyard that was being used for the railway.

Burdett-Coutts died in 1906 at the age of 92 and is buried in Westminster Abbey – a fitting place as she had given away some £3 million of her money (this was the value in the 19th century, it would be a considerably higher sum now).

The majority of the old churchyard is now grass following work in the 19th century to turn the churchyard into gardens. A few memorials remain including the one shown in the following photo. This is the mausoleum of the architect Sir John Soane and his family.


Sir John Soane was the architect of the Bank of England and Holy Trinity Church on Marylebone Road. The mausoleum was built in 1816 following the death of his wife in 1815. The design of the central feature of the mausoleum influenced Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in his design of the K2 telephone box. The mausoleum is now Grade I listed, such is its importance.

The original large churchyard around the church served St. Pancras and St. Giles-in-the-Fields. It must have been the burial-place for many tens of thousands over the centuries but was closed in 1854. Soon after, a large part of the churchyard was taken over for the construction of railway lines into St. Pancras Station. This involved the exhumation of many old burials and removal of the gravestones and tombs.

The supervision of much of this work was carried out by the author Thomas Hardy. This was before he had started writing full-time and was when he studied architecture under a Mr Arthur Blomfileld of Covent Garden between 1862 and 1867.

This work involved the removal of bodies, headstones and tombs and some of the headstones were placed in the remaining part of the churchyard where an Ash tree has since grown in amongst the headstone.


The church was damaged during the war and restored in 1948 with a later restoration between 1978 and 1980. The view on entering the church.


The full view looking down towards the altar.


The Grey Monument.


The monument is from the 16th century, possibly around 1530. The outlines on the rear of the monument were occupied by brass inlays which are now missing. They are believed to have shown the figure of a woman and her two husbands, her two sons and five daughters by one husband and three sons and three daughters by the second husband.

Other monuments in the church include the Offley family monument from the 1680s and includes their 18 children, a monument to Daniel Clarke from 1626 who was Master cooke to Queen Elizabeth and King James and an early 17th century stone curtained recess that reveals an Elizabethan woman with a baby.

View of the church looking down towards the entrance.


St. Pancras Old Church is possibly one of the earliest sites of Christianity in the country with a much earlier history as a pagan / Roman shrine. Surviving through centuries of isolation, the church has now to contend with the encroachment of roads and railways, but is still an atmospheric and lovely place to visit. As with my last week’s post on All Hallows by the Tower, I was the only visitor.

As I walked back to St. Pancras Station, I passed the new building of the Francis Crick Institute which had only just opened.


In this small area there is one of the earliest church sites in the country which may also be on the site of a much earlier pagan shrine, a new building housing the very latest in biomedical research, close to the British Library, all next to the magnificent architecture of St. Pancras Station which is also the terminal of a train service running under the channel to Europe – this continual development and diversity, but with very deep historic roots is why I continue to find London so fascinating.

All Hallows By The Tower

There are a few locations in London where it is possible to feel very close to the earliest days of the City, one of these is the subject of today’s post, the church of All Hallows by the Tower.

All Hallows by the Tower, or All Hallows Barking as it was known due to the original association with the Abbey of Barking in Essex who owned the land on which the first church was built-in the late 7th century, is to be found at the top of Tower Hill alongside Byward Street.

The area between Byward Street and the River Thames suffered very badly in the last war and All Hallows by the Tower suffered a direct hit, along with the impact of nearby explosive and incendiary bombs. By the end of the war, the church was an empty shell.

My father took the following photo of the church in 1947.


The photo was probably taken from Beer Lane, a street that once ran from just in front of the church down to Lower Thames Street. The old Port of London Authority building is in the background and the buildings that once ran along the edge of Tower Hill are on the right.

Beer Lane does not exist now, and the area to the south of All Hallows by the Tower is occupied by the recent development, Tower Place. Trying to take a comparison photo of the church is the only time I have been stopped taking a photo in London.

Tower Place consists of two buildings forming the two sides of a V shape. In between the two buildings is a large glass atrium that looks to be part of the open space in front of the church. Walking into this atrium I was swiftly told by the security people who appear to be permanently wandering around the area, that I could not take photos (despite explaining what I was doing and also that the photos were not of Tower Place).

Tower Place (and if I remember correctly the building that was here before the Tower Place development) is an example of how streets such as Beer Lane disappear and become private space.

I wanted to get the old Port of London Authority building in the background, however as I could not get far enough back from the church, the following photo is the best I could get to compare with my father’s photo.


Only the outer walls of the church along with the tower survived the war. The restored church was reopened in 1957 and although the construction of the church appears traditional, reinforced concrete beams were used to carry the roof. The 17th century tower was capped by a ‘renaissance’ style steeple.

An earlier tower to the one we see today was badly damaged in an explosion caused by gunpowder being stored in some nearby buildings in 1649. The current tower was completed in 1659 and is the only surviving feature on a City church dating from the Commonwealth period after the Civil War. It is this tower from which Pepys watched the Fire of London. His diary entry for the 3rd of September 1666 reads “I up to the top of Barking steeple and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw”.

So many interior features was lost during the blitz, including the original pulpit (1613), reredos (1685), altar table (1636) and a chancel screen from 1705 which had been a gift from the Hanseatic League.

The restoration of the church created the interior we see today. It is remarkable that everything in the photo below is part of the post war restoration with the exception of the exterior wall.


Whilst my father’s photo shows the view from the outside, it does not fully convey the level of damage within the church. The following photo is from the 1947 publication “The Lost Treasures of London” by William Kent and shows that apart from the tower and the external walls, there is nothing left of the church.


The original font was destroyed in the war. The new font was carved by a Sicilian prisoner of war known only by the name of Tulipani in 1944 using limestone from Gibraltar and is a memorial to the tunnelers of the Royal Engineers who excavated tunnels in the Rock of Gibraltar during the war.

The font cover is attributed to Grinling Gibbons and from 1682. It is one of the finest of the period.


The pre-war font. Whilst the font was destroyed in the blitz, the font cover had been moved to St. Paul’s Cathedral.


The proximity of the church to the Tower of London and the execution place on Tower Hill meant that many of those who were executed were then carried into the church. This includes Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and 26 years later his son, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Lord Thomas Grey (the uncle of Lady Jane Grey), Cardinal Fisher and Archbishop Laud.

The Calendar of State Papers from June 2nd 1572 records the fate of Thomas Howard:

“His head being off, his body was put into a coffin belonging to Barking Church and the burying cloth of the same Church laid on him. He was carried into the Chapel of the Tower by four of the Lieutenant’s men and there buried by the Dean of St. Paul’s, he saying the service according to the Queen’s book without any other preaching.”

The church was also used as a temporary resting place following execution. William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury was executed on the 10th January 1645 and the body was buried in a leaden coffin at All Hallows Barking by the Tower of London. Twenty years later, on July 24th he was then laid in a vault at St. John’s College, Oxford at 10 pm, having been “the day before taken from London, where he was buried.”

All Hallows by the Tower has numerous nautical associations and reminders of these can be seen throughout the church, including some superb model ships.


The pulpit. This was originally in the church of St. Swithin in Cannon Street and is dated to around 1682. St. Swithin was one of the City churches destroyed by bombing and not rebuilt.


Looking down the length of the church towards the organ. Remarkable that everything in this photo is from the post war reconstruction. After the war the church was an empty shell with nothing between the outer walls.


In the Lady Chapel is the following tomb of Alderman John Croke from 1477. It was destroyed during the war, but rebuilt and restored from the remaining fragments.


The 16th century monument to the Italian merchant Hieronimus Benalius who lived in nearby Seething Lane and died in 1583 and left instructions for Mass to be said for his soul.


A niche in the wall holds a 17th century wooden statue of St. Antony of Egypt.


Ornate Sword Rest:


At the west end of the church is the Saxon arch that was uncovered during the last war by the bomb damage to the church. The date of the arch is variously given as the 7th, 8th and 11th century. The Bradley and Pevsner Guide to City Churches states that an 11th century date is preferred.


Although I suspect the arch will never be accurately dated, the key point is that the arch is pre-Norman and highlights the antiquity of the church. Also interesting to see Roman bricks within the arch – reuse of building material from much earlier London buildings.

Beneath the church is the Crypt Museum. This is a remarkable place, not just for the exhibits, but for the sense that here, below ground level, we are close to the early years of London.

I was in the Crypt Museum for about 15 minutes and during this time there was no other visitor. This solitude enhanced the sense of the antiquity of the crypt, but it is a real shame as both the church and the crypt museum are superb and deserve support and visitors.

On climbing down the steps from inside the church, this is the view along the crypt museum. On the floor in the foreground is the tessellated pavement from a 3rd or 4th century Roman house. Although this has been recently relaid, there is an in-situ Roman pavement which I will come to later.


The crypt museum has on display many of the artifacts that have been discovered in and around the church.


There are also recent exhibits which tell of the history of the church during the 20th century including the remains of the north door, constructed in 1884, but damaged during incendiary bombing on the night of the 29th December 1940.


Along with the plaque that records the baptism of William Penn, the founder of the US state of Pennsylvania in the church on the 23rd October 1644.


In addition to the relaid Roman pavement shown above, the Crypt also has an in-place, perfectly preserved floor of a 2nd or 3rd century domestic house. The gully in the centre is thought to be the location of a wall and traces of plaster have been found on the edge. The pavement is cut across by one of the walls of the original Saxon church.


There are many places in London where Roman remains can be seen, however, looking on at this Roman floor, in its original setting, in a quiet and empty crypt has to be my favourite – those early Londoners who would have walked across this floor feel very close.

Standing here also shows the layers that have built up London. The original Roman floor, the Saxon foundations, wall and arch, elements of the Medieval church which can be found above, along with the 17th century church tower which looked down on and survived the Great Fire, 20th century destruction and restoration – almost 2,000 years of London history in one place.

As well as the Saxon arch, damage during the blitz also revealed a number of other pre-Norman remains that had been embedded in the fabric of the church.

The Rev. P.B. Clayton describes the finds:

“Out of the wall adjacent to the arch great fragments fell, which had for at least 800 years been embedded as the capstones in the strong Norman pillars of that date. Some of these stones were most remarkable. The Keeper of the Medieval Department of the British Museum announced them to be unparalleled. The pillar has preserved them to this age intact, unique, alone and unexampled. They represent a school of craftsmanship whereof we have no other evidence. They form a portion of a noble Cross which once upreared its head on Tower Hill, before the Norman William conquered London.”

The photo below is of the upper half of an original Saxon cross. Dated to the early 10th century. The inscription around the edge reads “Thelvar had this stone set up over here….” the rest of the inscription would have carried on around the missing lower half.


Part of the shaft of a Saxon cross stands in one of the alcoves. One piece of the shaft was found during clearing of the lower chapels in 1925-27 and the rest of the shaft was found in the rubble of the Nave Pillars following the blitz as described above by the Rev. P.B. Clayton. The shaft includes Anglo-Saxon knot designs along with St. Peter and St. Paul on the side panel. The shaft has an inscription which may read “Werhenworrth”.


At the end of the Crypt Museum is the Undercroft Chapel. At the far end of the chapel, above the altar can be seen the rough wall of the 14th century church. The altar stones are from Castle Athlit on the coast of what is now Israel. Castle Athlit was a Crusader castle which fell in 1291.


An unusual relic in the crypt is the original crows nest from Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Quest. A ship that was not well suited to Antarctic exploration, the ship took Shackleton to South Georgia where he died in January 1922. Taking a route via the eastern Antarctic and Cape Town, the Quest finally returned to Plymouth on the 16th September 1922.

It is not known how the Crows Nest came to be in the possession of All Hallows, however the Rev P.B. Clayton used the Crows Nest in his fund-raising activities so he must have acquired it by some means. The Rev P.B. Clayton (who also wrote the earlier extract on finding the Saxon stones) was Vicar of All Hallows for 40 years from 1922 to 1962.


Ending my visit to the Crypt, I walked back up through the church and outside. I took the following photo of the church from Tower Hill which was as busy as usual with visitors to the Tower of London and to the river boat piers on the Thames. It is really surprising that despite being this close to Tower Hill there were so few visitors to All Hallows and that I had so long in the Crypt on my own.


View from the east of the church.


All Hallows by the Tower from across Byward Street, during a brief gap in traffic.


All Hallows by the Tower encapsulates London’s history, from the earliest Roman times to the destruction of the mid 20th century and the restoration that followed. Well worth a visit, and perhaps one day I will get to take a photo of the church from under Tower Place’s atrium.

Open House 2016 – Chrisp Street Market And St. Pancras Chambers

Last weekend was the brilliant Open House weekend when what seemed like hundreds of buildings around London opened their doors.

I had very limited time over the weekend, just a few hours on Sunday so only time to visit two locations, but ones I have wanted to see for a long time, so for this week’s post a quick visit to the Chrisp Street Market Clock Tower and St. Pancras Chambers.

Chrisp Street Market

Chrisp Street Market was part of the Lansbury Estate development in Poplar and featured in the Festival of Britain Exhibition of Architecture. I covered this in a post back in July when I went for a walk around the estate with a copy of the original Exhibition Guide.

The Clock Tower at the corner of the market was built as part of the Lansbury development to serve a number of purposes. It would provide a feature for the market area, a viewing gallery over the new estate, and provide a landmark at the far end of Grundy Street with the new church at the opposite end.

The viewing platform on the Clock Tower was closed many years ago and now there is only occasional access, one of which was during this years Open House event.


Access to the viewing platform is via one side of a pair of interlocking reinforced concrete staircases. This design was to ensure that walking up was via one staircase and down was via the other so walking up you would not meet people coming down on the same staircase.

At the top of the Clock Tower, showing the two entrances to the staircases – only one was in use today.


At the top of the tower there is a fading wooden plaque. This is probably not as old as it looks. I believe this is from about 2014, although it looks much older and based on the text it is probably from the Chrisp Street on Air Project.


The text on the left of the plaque reads:

Neighbourhood 9

The nine locations of the field recordings series observing the Lansbury Estate and the people that live and work around Chrisp Street Market. Each broadcast centred on a single location uncovering the daily workings of each site and posing questions for its possible future.  

No. 1 Lansbury Amateur Boxing Club

No. 2 Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest

No.3 The Market Square

No. 4 Jp’s Cafe

No. 5 The Spotlight

No. 6 The Festival Bar

No. 7 New Festival Quarter

No. 8 Gladstone Tower

No. 9 The Clocktower

Neighbourhood 9 refers to the Lansbury Estate being the ninth development neighbourhood in Poplar after the last war. The nine locations are individual locations around the Lansbury Estate that each had their own recording made during the Chrisp Street on Air project and tell a story of the place in question with local people talking about their experiences and history of the area.

These recordings are really worth a listen and can be found as podcasts on iTunes at this link or via Audioboom here.

View along the viewing gallery. All Saints DLR station in the distance.openhouse-2016-4

The Clock Tower was designed by Fredrick Gibberd and would have originally towered above the market, however later building between the market and the East India Dock Road has tended to overshadow the Clock Tower. It does though provide good views in a number of directions including this view looking towards the City. The Shard is in the centre of the view.


View from the top of the Clock Tower towards Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower:


When built, this is the view that the visitor would have seen of the Lansbury Estate. The Chrisp Street market with the recent covered market area is in the lower half of the photo. The original buildings surround the market (again, see my post on the Lansbury Exhibition of Architecture for details of these buildings).  To the left, Grundy Street can be seen running up to the church. Standing in the centre of Grundy Street gives an idea of the intention of the architects – the church and Clock Tower appear to anchor each end of the street. Religion at one end, shops, market traders and pubs at the other.


Continuing the theme of my recent posts on views from above London, it was interesting to see that St. Paul’s Cathedral is just visible to the left of the Cheesegrater building from the top of the Clock Tower.


View towards Stratford with part of the ArcelorMittal Orbit just visible in the centre of the horizon.


The Chrisp Street Market Clock Tower is starting to show its age. The height is very modest so it does not have the same views as other London viewing galleries, however as a symbol of the intentions of those behind the Lansbury Estate to create an integrated estate with housing and facilities for those who lived in the East End, it is perfect.

St. Pancras Chambers

St. Pancras Chambers was the name of the Open House tour inside parts of the original St. Pancras hotel and station buildings. The tour provided a quick look at the Grand Staircase, the corridors and staircases along the length of the building and the rooms at the top of the clock tower. The majority of the main building is now a hotel and the rooms in the Clock Tower are private apartments.

The building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built between 1868 -76 and opened as the Midland Grand Hotel. Both the exterior and interior of the hotel was built to impress, to demonstrate the strength and magnificence of the Midland Railway Company in the new age of the railway. Built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, using materials sourced mainly from across the midlands, the style of the building is very similar to Scott’s earlier work with the Albert Memorial.

Despite the apparent extravagance, costs were tight and some features were not included in the final build. Look to either side of the top of the entrance archway in the photo below. There is a space on either side of the top of the arch for a statue. There are a number of these empty positions across the buildings. Although planned, they were not included due to cost.


View of the Clock Tower, the rooms we would climb to are just below the clock.


The first stop on the tour was at the base of the Grand Staircase. This has been fully renovated as part of the renovation of the whole building and now provides a view of what it must have looked like when the building opened.


Floor tiles at the base of the staircase:


Looking up the staircase. The restoration of the Gothic Revival style of the staircase comes together through the floor tiles, carpets, wallpaper, lighting and the architecture of the windows and staircase.


Entrance to the staircase:


Corridors running from the Grand Staircase.


As well as the Grand Staircase there are a number of other staircases along the length of the building with different architectural styles:


Rooms at the end of one corridor were apparently used as Board Rooms for the Midland Railway Company. The decoration along this corridor is rather more ornate than the rest of the hotel corridors.


Walking up the stairs provides intriguing views of the station, including the following view at the rear of the station clock.


Along some of the corridors are these small doors above the larger doors for the hotel rooms. Apparently the smaller doors provided access to sleeping areas for the hotel staff.


In the clock tower.


Some interesting views from the clock tower. This one looking along Euston Road towards Pentonville Road with part of Kings Cross station on the left.


Looking south from the clock tower with the Shard in the distance.


Looking down one of the main stairwells:


As the majority of the building is now either the hotel or private apartments, the tour was limited, however it did cover the main features of the building and provided a welcome insight into this wonderful building from the time when rail was the future of transport.

Despite the very ornate architecture, the facilities in the original hotel were rather basic with a limited number of shared bathroom facilities, no lifts etc. The hotel did start to decline in the early years of the 20th century and closed in 1935, then being used as offices for the LM&S railway company.

Wartime damage, changes in transport from rail to road and a general decline put the station at risk in the 1960s but a campaign by people including Niklaus Pevsner and poet John Betjeman saved the hotel and station buildings and the arrival of the high-speed trains to Europe via the Channel Tunnel along with growing national rail use led to the redevelopment and restoration of the station and hotel which both now look spectacular.

After the tour I walked to the station area. Here is the front of the clock that was visible from behind in the above photos.


The station roof.


The hotel and station buildings are impressive on both the large and small-scale.

Viewing from a distance you can see the whole sweep of the hotel, or the length of the roof however there are so many small architectural features across the building including these ornate carvings at the top of pillars in one of the entrances.


It was an all too brief visit to these two very different locations. Open House is a fantastic weekend of events which seems to be growing in scope every year. Hopefully I will have more time next year to visit more of the diverse range of locations available.

The Furthest Object Visible From The Shard

To conclude my posts on the views from five of London’s high view-points, here is one where my interest in obscure facts about London comes into play.

When standing at the top of the Shard, I wanted to know what is the furthest object visible from this height in central London. The first photo below shows what I believe was the furthest object. This is just visible with the naked eye and the conditions towards the east were good. I used my standard Nikon 18 – 200 lens at maximum to take these and they are clearer on my PC screen when not compressed for the Internet.

If you look at the following photo, on the horizon on the left is the ghostly outline of a tower. This was the chimney at the Isle of Grain power station. The chimney was 801 feet high and a major landmark in north Kent and the Thames Estuary. I say was, as the chimney was demolished on the 7th September, a couple of weeks after I took these photos. (see the article at Kent Online for a video).


Using the really useful “measure distance” feature of Google Maps, the distance from the Shard to the chimney was 34.58 miles. The measure distance feature also helps to confirm the location by lining up with other landmarks, In the photo above, the approach from the Essex side of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge can be seen across the centre right. This lines up in the map extract below:


So, at 34.58 miles I believe this was the furthest object visible from central London (please let me know if you know of another).

As this chimney no longer exists, the next furthest is shown in the photo below. Look on the horizon to the right of the photo and another ghostly chimney can be seen. This is the chimney at Kingsnorth Power Station. The photo below also helps tell how industry has changed along the River Thames. There are four chimneys visible:

  • the ghostly chimney of Kingsnorth Power Station
  • in the foreground, the chimney of Littlebrook Power Station on the Thames by the Queen Elizabeth II bridge
  • on the left, the two chimneys of Tilbury Power station, also on the Thames

All these power stations, including the one at the Isle of Grain, were powered by coal or oil and as such are all in the process of being decommissioned and demolished due to various directives to reduce emissions from the heaviest polluters used in electricity generation.

At one time a whole string of power stations operated along the River Thames, including Lotts Road in Chelsea, Battersea, Greenwich (still a reserve power station) and along the Thames to the estuary. In the next couple of years, all the chimneys in the photo below will also have disappeared removing some striking landmarks from along the river.


The distance from the chimney at Kingsnorth Power Station to the Shard is 30.3 miles:


There is another object visible on the horizon that helps explain the original purpose of the BT Tower. Look at the following photo and the outline of a structure is visible on the horizon.


This is a tower at Kelvedon Hatch, just north of Brentwood in Essex, built as part of a chain around the country to support a microwave radio communications network for telephone, TV and other more secure communications. The ring around London provided a link from the BT Tower to the rest of the country.

Microwave radio signals travel by line of sight, so the antennas that transmit and receive these signals need to be high in order for the signal (which has a very narrow beam, similar to a visible laser beam) to pass across the country.

The locations of these radio towers, including the BT Tower, were not originally marked on any maps, despite how obvious they were in the landscape and the amount of interesting looking antennae dishes covering the towers.  It was an article in the Sunday Times magazine on the 28th January 1973 (which, sadly I still have) that published the details of the system, locations and photos of many of the towers across the country, that caught my very young interest in technology and infrastructure.

Looking back through my photos from the Sky Garden, the tower is also visible from this lower location, which makes sense as the height of the BT Tower is 627 feet (with the antennas mounted lower), mush less than the Shard.


There are other masts surrounding London which enabled the BT Tower to communicate with the rest of the country. These included the mast at High Wycombe, adjacent to the M40, and at Bagshot in Surrey. These should have been visible from the Shard, however I suspect lighting conditions were not ideal in these directions.

The system has been redundant for many years, fibre cable in the ground providing a much more secure and efficient means of communicating than a network of large towers around the country, and the horn and dish antennas have been removed from the BT Tower.

The masts now carry a mix of local commercial services, but they remain a reminder of the communications technology from over 50 years ago and of the original purpose of the BT Tower.

If you know of any visible objects further than the Isle of Grain and Kingsnorth chimneys, I would be really interested to know.

The views of London from the Monument, Sky Garden, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Shard and London Eye are excellent, but also take a look at the far horizon as there are also things to be seen that tell a story of both the Thames and London.

My London 5 Peaks Challenge – The Shard And The London Eye

Continuing from my last post and my visit to five of London’s high view points in a single day, after leaving St. Paul’s Cathedral, it was time to cross over the river to visit the two that are located on the southern bank of the river. The first being:

The Shard

The Shard is very different to the first three locations. It is on the southern side of the River Thames and separate from the cluster of towers around the City. It is also by far the highest so the viewing platforms at the top of the Shard provide some spectacular views of the city, as well as providing some unique views of the south bank of the river.

The viewing galleries at the top of the Shard are over 800 feet high with the overall height of the Shard being 1,016 feet, compared to the 525 feet of the Sky Garden so the Shard is significantly higher than other view points and this is very noticeable as soon as you step from the lifts and out to the viewing area. Glass covers the viewing area so taking photos without reflections and avoiding marks on the glass from an endless stream of visitors is a challenge.

The first view, looking to the east with the River Thames winding towards the isle of Dogs and the rail tracks from London Bridge Station cutting through south-east London.


View down towards City Hall:


Looking towards the old Olympic Stadium at Stratford. This view will change over the coming years with the amount of building planned for around the Olympic Park. The higher ground in the distance is beyond Chigwell and Romford.


The Tower of London:


Wider view including the City:


The Monument, a quarter of the height of the Shard viewing gallery:


The best way to appreciate the height of the Shard is to look straight down at the buildings surrounding the base – almost as if you are looking down at a model city:


Back over towards the west of the City. The three towers of the Barbican are towards the left of the photo.


St. Paul’s Cathedral from this height still stands clear of the cathedral’s immediate surroundings:


Close up view of the cathedral. Again, from this height it almost looks like a highly detailed model. The Golden Gallery is at the top of the dome:


View towards the Barbican:


From the Shard it is possible to see how railway viaducts have cut through the area immediately to the south of the river. In the following photo, Southwark Cathedral is in the very lower right of the photo. Borough Market is to the left of the cathedral.

The rail tracks run to the right across the river to Cannon Street station. To the bottom of the photo is London bridge and to the left they run to Waterloo East.


A number of the plans for post war redevelopment of London proposed transferring the train network from viaducts to tunnels under the city in order to remove the impact of these viaducts. The benefits were justified as, bringing communities together, release of space for building homes and businesses, removing the bridges from across the Thames to improve the view and use of the river.

The following photo from one of the reports shows the view of the same rail junction as above taken before the war. Despite all the proposals for transferring these rail tracks to tunnels, nothing was done after the war. The considerable cost and the financial challenges of the late 1940s and 1950s prevented any of these ambitious plans being developed – see my posts here and here.


Looking across to Waterloo and it is clear that the area between the junction at the bottom of the photo and Waterloo and Hungerford Bridge at the top is almost walled in by the railway viaduct.


View of the BT Tower and Wembley Stadium in the background. Tottenham Court Road runs between Centre Point (the building on the left) and Euston Tower (the building on the right).


As well as housing lots of communications equipment, the original primary purpose of the BT Tower was to provide a tall building in the centre of London on which microwave radio antennas (the old horn and dish shaped objects removed from the area below the old revolving restaurant) could be mounted at sufficient height to send their radio signals to a ring of radio masts around the periphery of London and from there, around the country. As well as providing the network for telephone calls and TV transmissions across the country, the BT Tower was also part of the communications network that was somewhat optimistically expected to provide communications during any Cold War attack on the country.

I will cover a bit more about this in the next post when I look at the furthest objects that can be seen from the Shard.

The view towards the south and south-east of London.


From the Shard, there is just so much detail to study. Here in the centre of this photo is Greenwich. The Observatory is to the right of centre, with the park running down to the Queen’s House and the old Royal Naval College. The dome of the Greenwich foot tunnel can also be seen.


Look further to the left of Greenwich and part of the Thames Barrier and the Woolwich Ferry can be seen. The view is across the Isle of Dogs and shows the curve of the river. The river on the west side of the Isle of Dogs can just be seen running along the bottom of the photo before curving round off photo to the right, then continuing to run eastwards towards the estuary.


The Shard viewing gallery is still a little distance from the very top of the building. The top floor of the viewing gallery is open to the weather.


Full view of the Isle of Dogs including the tallest building in the Canary Wharf development – One Canada Square. Still shorter at 771 feet than the Shard, although the view from the top of One Canada Square is excellent.


The white building of the Metropolitan Police River Policing Unit can be seen jutting out into the river at Wapping. This is the location of my post covering the Gun Tavern at Wapping. The river then bends around the area that was the location of the Surrey Commercial Docks, before curving around the Isle of Dogs.

The area above would once have been covered by the docks. The London Docks on the left at Wapping, the Surrey Commercial Docks covering the land in the centre, with the West India, South and Millwall Docks covering the Isle of Dogs.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Great London shows the area covered in the above photo and illustrates the coverage of the docks.


Looking north across to the City. Further on, the land is relatively flat and stays below 160 feet all the way out to just north of Enfield and close to the M25 from where the land rises to almost 300 feet just north of the M25. It is this high ground we can see on the horizon in the distance.


From the height of the Shard, architectural features and building utilities can be interpreted in different ways. Here a row of air conditioning units look like rooftop dominoes.


The view from the Shard provides a fantastic 360 degree view of London all the way to the surrounding hills. I was fortunate that the weather had improved considerably since my morning visit to the Monument and the conditions were ideal to see some considerable distance.

It was now time to head for a walk along the south bank of the river to my final view-point of the day, the:

The London Eye

The London Eye is different to the previous four buildings in that the London Eye provides a moving platform to look across the city. I was working on the South Bank when the London Eye was being built and somewhere I have the negatives of photos I took of the construction.

The London Eye seems to have acted as a hub for a considerable growth in tourists and visitor attractions on the South Bank. For many years when I worked here, the area was relatively quiet. On a summer’s day, the grass would be covered with workers from County Hall and Shell Centre with limited number of walkers along the South Bank – very different to today.

The weather was perfect for a trip around with a low sun causing long shadows on the South Bank. On entering the capsule, nearly everyone else ran to the end of the capsule, before the realisation that they would be looking directly into the sun. For me, the view towards the east, south and west was perfect.

As the London Eye gradually turns, a view over the South Bank on a perfect evening:


Hungerford Railway Bridge with the new walkways on either side of the bridge. Waterloo Bridge in the background:


Close-up of the crowds in front of the Royal Festival Hall on a summer’s evening:


Starting to rise over the Shell Centre building. The viewing gallery at the top of the building is clearly visible in this photo. I was able to visit the viewing gallery and take photos across London from here in 1980. These can be found in this blog post.


Looking over to the south and the entrance to Waterloo Station:


Approaching the top of the London Eye:


At the top of the London Eye, view towards the City:


The Shard and Canary Wharf in the distance on the right:


St. Paul’s Cathedral in the sun of a summer’s evening:


The Walkie Talkie with the Monument to the right of the red crane, the start many hours earlier of my trip found these five London viewing platforms:


As with so many areas across London, this scene will change dramatically over the next few years. The nine floor office blocks that once ran around the base of the tower have been demolished and new tower blocks, mainly of the ubiquitous luxury apartments will soon surround the original Shell Centre tower.


View towards the south-west:


And to the west and the Houses of Parliament:


The old County Hall building that once housed the Greater London Council. Central court yards surrounded by office blocks.


View towards the Crystal Palace Transmitter at 719 feet high on land that is already 360 feet above sea level:


I really enjoyed visiting all these five viewing points in a single day, a fascinating alternative to walking the streets and to see the ever-changing skyline of the city, a city which still looks amazing from above.

Five locations was rather unambitious and with an earlier start and perhaps fewer stops in-between locations I could have added a further two, perhaps the new gallery at Tate Modern or for a different perspective, the tower viewing gallery at Westminster Cathedral. I suspect I will do this again in a couple of years time to see how London’s skyline has continued to change.

In one final post in the next couple of days I will take a look at what is perhaps the furthest man-made objects visible from central London – although not for much longer.

My London 5 Peaks Challenge – The Monument, Sky Garden And St. Paul’s Cathedral

I do a considerable amount of walking around London, on foot being by far the best way to explore and understand the city. When not hunting down the locations of my father’s photos, then either a random walk or a walk with a specific theme or target.

I also like looking at London from above. My first view of London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral was over 40 years ago and during occasional visits since it has been possible to witness the changing skyline of the city.

Viewing London from above also gives a geographical context to London. The relationship with the River Thames, the route to the open sea, the surrounding hills and how London has expanded from the original settlement around the City of London.

When thinking about a possible theme for a walk, I had been talking to someone who had recently completed  the Three Peaks Challenge – climbing Scafell Pike in England, Snowdon in Wales and Ben Nevis in Scotland within a period of 24 hours. London does not have any equivalent peaks but what it does have is a number of tall buildings with viewing galleries, so on a Saturday in August I went for my own very unambitious 5 peaks challenge, to see London from the top of 5 locations – The Monument, Sky Garden, St, Paul’s Cathedral, Shard and the London Eye.

Only two of these needed climbing and it is there that any comparison with the 3 peaks challenge ends, but it did provide an opportunity to see the changing London skyline from different locations, understand the structure of London (for example only by looking from above can you really understand how the railways have carved up the south of the river) and just to enjoy the view of this remarkable city.

As you would expect, this is rather photo heavy, so I have split into three posts over the next few days. The first covering the Monument, Sky Garden and St. Paul’s Cathedral, the second post covering the Shard and London Eye, with the third post answering the question of the furthest man-made object visible from London (I am afraid the sort of question I find fascinating).

I am going to stay clear of any discussion of the buildings in these posts, rather just enjoy the views across London.

So, at 10:00 on an overcast Saturday morning in August (with the forecast for improving weather), I arrived at:

The Monument

Completed in 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke to commemorate the Great Fire of London, the Monument provides a view-point in the heart of the City. When built, the Monument at 202 feet high would have stood clear of the surrounding buildings but today is starting to feel rather enclosed with the continuing growth in height of buildings across the City.

The viewing gallery is 311 steps from the entrance up a narrow cantilevered staircase, so after paying at the entrance it was a swift climb to the top for views across London from the oldest of the viewing points that I will looking from today.

First view from the Monument, looking down Monument Street towards the old Billingsgate Market and running across the Thames, Tower Bridge.


A series of postcards were published in the early 20th century showing the view from the Monument – the first showing a similar view to the above:


Looking up Gracechurch Street towards the towers of the City:


Looking up King William Street with the towers of the Barbican in the distance and the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the left.


Similar early 20th century view to the above photo. The growth in height of City buildings is obvious by how the church steeples once towered above their surroundings.


St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Post Office (BT) Tower in the distance.


This view was once dominated by the roof of Cannon Street Station:


View back across the City towards the towers of Canary Wharf in the distance. The looming presence of 20 Fenchurch Street (the Walkie Talkie building) dominates this part of the City. The Sky Garden at the top is my next stop.


Although the River Thames is hidden by the buildings in the foreground, this is looking towards Bankside with the chimney of Tate Modern along with the new extension and viewing gallery to the left of the chimney. The top of the London Eye can be seen in the distance – my final stop later in the afternoon when hopefully the weather will have improved.


View across the river to the Shard. The church of St. Magnus the Martyr in the lower centre of the photo with London Bridge hidden behind the building to the right of the church. This building is on the route of the original London Bridge.


Time to descend the Monument and head off to the Sky Garden, always easier to climb down rather the climb up.


The Monument is the City’s original viewing gallery and although now rather hemmed in by the surrounding buildings still offers good views of the City of London.

Above the viewing gallery is the flaming orb which is hollow and reached by a further small flight of stairs. At the very top, not visible from ground level is a CCTV camera which provides a 24 hour time-lapse view on the Monument’s web site, which can be found here, although it does not appear to be updating at the moment.

Now on to my next stop:

The Sky Garden

Access to the Sky Garden was quick and efficient and the lifts provided a rest in between climbing the Monument and the next climb to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Completed in 2014 and at a height of 525 feet, the design of the Sky Garden results in the best views being towards the south.

My first view was back towards the Monument which now looked busier than during my visit. Look closely at the top of the orb and the CCTV camera can just be seen along with the hollow top of the orb.


Views towards Tower Bridge, City Hall and HMS Belfast. From this height it is easy to understand the flooding risk to London with the height of the river and how low and flat the surrounding land is, and this was not a particularly high tide. It is also at this height that you can start to see the higher ground that surrounds London to the north and south.


View to the west with the Post Office Tower in the distance with Euston Tower just to the right. As yet, there are few tall buildings across this part of London.


Wembley Stadium can be seen between the Post Office Tower and Euston Tower.


Internal view of the Sky Garden.


Through the revolving doors in the above photo, there is an external viewing gallery. Although there is still a glass barrier it is possible to look down on the City. The church of St. Mary at Hill is at lower centre with the old Billingsgate Market in the top centre.


Across the river towards the Shard:


And unlike the Monument, the view of the river from the Sky Garden is unobstructed.


Looking down towards the Bank junction with the Bank of England building at the centre right.


Looking north towards the other towers of the City. Tower 42 on the left, the 122 Leadenhall Street building (the Cheesegrater) in the middle and 30 St. Mary Axe (the Gherkin) on the right.


Tower 42, originally know at the NatWest Tower when completed in 1980 and at 600 feet high was the first really tall tower building in the City. I remember this being built and at the time bought a copy of, if I remember correctly, the Illustrated London News which had a superb photo of the building by a photographer who was suspended in a large bucket away from the top of the tower by a crane also mounted on the top of the tower. Rather precarious, but a superb photo.

The Gherkin building was completed at the end of 2003 and stands at 591 feet high with the Cheesegrater being completed in 2013 at 738 feet.

View towards Canary Wharf with the Tower of London at lower right. From this height we can start to see the route of the river as it heads east towards the sea.


View towards the east along Fenchurch Street and Aldgate High Street. The church of St. Botolph Without Aldgate can be seen to the left of centre, in front of the yellow crane.


From this height we can also start to see how the construction of the railways carved through London. Here, the rail tracks running from Fenchurch Street Station out towards the east.


Leaving the Sky Garden, with the promise of improving weather with the cloud breaking in the west, it was time for a walk to:

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral is my favourite place to look out across London. It is the history of the building, location, the climb up the 528 steps through the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery and finally to the Golden Gallery, along with the chance to admire the internal architecture and  the construction methods used.

My first climb of St. Paul’s was over 40 years ago and I started taking photos from the Lantern and Stone Galleries about 35 years ago. My father took a series of photos from the Stone Gallery just after the war showing the devastation around the Cathedral. These can be found here and here.

At the top of the final climb through the Dome, there is a small glass window at the centre which looks down to the floor of the church. This produces a strange optical effect as this is not looking through the roof of the dome directly above the floor, but through the space between the external and internal domes. The distorted view of the stairs that run up above the internal dome to get to the Golden Gallery can be seen in the periphery of this photo. It does though create the impression that you are directly above the internal dome.


The first glimpse of the view through the door out to the narrow walkway that runs around the base of the Golden Gallery. The cloud is breaking and the sun is out.


The view as you pass through the door, looking down between the two west towers to Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street.


The view towards the Post Office Tower and Euston Tower. The Old Bailey can be seen to the lower centre right, just to the right of the red cranes.


Paternoster Square:


The three tower blocks of the Barbican with the low-rise block running between the left and centre towers. The church of St. Giles Cripplegate can be seen at the base of the right-hand tower.


The view towards the east showing the cluster of towers in the City. This view also shows how the 20 Fenchurch Street building is separate from the main cluster of towers and much closer to the river. More towers will be added to this view over the coming years.


Close up of the Monument from St. Paul’s Cathedral:


The Shard and Cannon Street station:


By climbing to the Golden Gallery we can get an understanding of the construction technique used to build the internal and external domes. From the gallery we can see some of the external construction techniques, for example the screen walls which were used as a method to hide the tops of the flying buttresses which were needed to strengthen the core of the cathedral. In the photo below, the roof of the Choir is in the centre, below the Dome with the screen walls running around the edge. The use of screens also avoided the need for expensive decorative work along the top of the choir walls and roof.


View looking across the Millennium bridge towards Tate Modern, the old Bankside Power Station.


The view from the Golden Gallery includes many of the local churches. Here, the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey alongside a new building site. As soon as this new building is in place, the view of the church from the cathedral will be mainly hidden again apart from the very top of the tower.


St. Benets Metropolitan Welsh Church surrounded by Queen Victoria Street, the road down to Lower Thames Street and the City of London School.


View across to the South Bank with the London Eye which will be my final stop.


Close-up view of Bankside. This was once an industrialised area, but is now home to the reconstructed Globe Theatre. 49 Bankside, the building partly covered by the central tree and with the red door is a centuries old survivor of large amounts of change along Bankside.


View along Ludgate Hill and into Fleet Street. The way that both these streets drop down towards Farringdon Street is a reminder that they originally ran down towards the River Fleet. The church of St. Martin-within-Ludgate is the dark tower on the right of Ludgate Hill. Further along on the left is the tower of St. Bride’s. Further along Fleet Street is the tower of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, and as Fleet Street curves towards the left behind the buildings is the tower of St. Clement Danes.


View to the west looking up towards Waterloo Bridge. If the Garden Bridge is built it will cut across the river in the centre of the photo, obstructing views of the cathedral from the South Bank and Waterloo Bridge.


The church of St. Vedas alias Foster in Foster Lane:


Looking northwest to the high ground around Hampstead Heath and East Finchley. A number of the old rivers that originate in the north of London come from this area including the Fleet, Tyburn and Westbourne. The maximum height of the land at Hampstead Heath is around 443 feet and at the base of St. Paul’s Cathedral is around 36 feet showing the considerable change in height from the centre of London to the ring of hills around the north and south of the extended city.


The tower of Christchurch Greyfriars alongside King Edward Street with the shell of the church a reminder of the bombing in this area during the last war:


View across to Alexandra Palace and Alexandra Park with the Emirates Stadium on the right. The land in the distance sloping down from the heights of Hampstead Heath:


The view from the Golden Gallery at St. Paul’s is superb. Standing 279 feet above the floor of the Cathedral on a narrow walkway in the open air is a wonderful way to experience the views across London.

After a quick look around the Cathedral and a much-needed drink in the Crypt Cafe, it was time to head to the Shard for number 4 in my London 5 Peaks Challenge which, along with the London Eye, will be the subject of my next post.

The Gun Tavern – A Tale Of Two Wappings

I find it fascinating to track down the locations of the photos my father took in the late 1940s. They all tell a story and highlight the changes that have taken place across London over the last 70 years. Sometimes, I can put a pair of photos together that sum up the change, not just at that specific place, but across a whole area of London, and that is the case with today’s post -The Gun Tavern – A Tale Of Two Wappings (with apologies to Charles Dickens).

The Gun Tavern and Hotel was on the corner of Wapping High Street and Dundee Street. Wapping is the area to the east of the Tower of London. An area of high density housing, warehouses and docks. Nearly all activity that took place in Wapping was driven by the River Thames. Ships moored alongside the warehouses or lighters transported goods to and from ships in the river. Steps leading down to the river provided access for those who worked out on the river. Housing provided very basic accommodation for the workers and the many pubs provided almost the only escape from work.

I will not put any text in between the following two photos so they can be compared. The first is the original photo taken by my father of the Gun Tavern and Hotel. I easily found the location today and the second photo shows the same scene today. Look at the building on the left which is the same in both photos. The pattern of the brickwork is the same and in the lower left of both photos, set into the pavement is a fire hydrant in the same position over 69 years.

The major change is the building that now occupies the site of the Gun Tavern.



This is now a Foxtons Estate Agents and these two photos sum up the changes to Wapping over the past 70 years.

Walk along Wapping High Street and the majority of the old warehouses and wharf buildings have now been converted to apartment buildings, forming a barrier between the river and the street. There are some access areas and walkways, however considering how close this is to central London, Wapping High Street feels strangely quiet. It is almost a dormitory street for those who work in the rest of London, or apartments that get occasional visits from their remote owners. It has to be a wasted opportunity as with a more mixed use approach and more affordable housing this could be a much more vibrant area.

Wapping High Street is one of the few streets in London where you can walk a distance and not find the usual Starbucks, Costa or Pret which I assume the lack of local business or passing trade cannot justify. I last walked along Wapping High Street a few years ago and the site of the Gun Tavern was then a cafe, however either it could not make enough money, or the new development now occupied by Foxtons was a more profitable change for the owners.

The same road surface as in my father’s photo showing underneath later surfacing.


The map below is an extract from the 1893-1895 series Ordnance Survey map. This shows the area around Dundee Street and the Gun Tavern including some of the many street name changes. The River Thames is at the bottom of the map, and Wapping High Street is running left to right across the map.

At the time of this map, Dundee Street was called Upper Well Alley and can be seen running vertically from Wapping High Street just to the right of centre. The Gun Tavern is the building labelled PH at the junction of Upper Well Alley with Wapping High Street.


The considerable number of pubs across Wapping can be seen just by the sample in this one small area. Including the Gun Tavern, there are seven Public Houses marked. Today, there are hardly any pubs across the whole of Wapping. The only inland pub is Turner’s Old Star on Watts Street. The other pubs are the riverside pubs, Town of Ramsgate, The Captain Kidd and The Prospect of Whitby. The Town of Ramsgate is shown in the above map as the PH just above Wapping Old Stairs. At the end of the 19th century, there were roughly 29 public houses along just Wapping High Street.

I have been unable to trace when Upper Well Alley changed named to Dundee Street. At the end of Upper Well Alley in the above map, facing on to the river is New Dundee Wharf, so the new name must have come from the name of the Wharf and as it has “New” at the start of the wharf the name of the wharf must have been relatively recent.

In the 19th century, the Gun Tavern was often used as a location in which to hold an inquest. Reading accounts of these from newspapers of the time provides a fascinating insight into life in Wapping and London.

The following is from the London Daily News of the 30th January 1846, the headline was “Heartless Conduct. Mysterious Suicide”:

“At a late hour last evening Mr. Baker held an inquest at the Gun Tavern, Gun Wharf, Wapping on the body of Mrs. Lucy Robinson, alias Hawker aged 36 years, who was found drowned. William Adamson, a fisherman, said that on Tuesday forenoon, whilst in his boat, grappling off Wapping in sixteen feet of water, his grappling iron brought up the body of the deceased. She had a long Cashmere scarf twisted tightly around her waist, and her bonnet strings were tied in nine knots close under the chin. Mr. Henry Lambert, proprietor of the Caledonian Arms, Pentonville, identified the body as that of his sister; she some months kept the Vine Tavern, Kentish Town; she was then a widow.

A man named William Hawker, an omnibus conductor, used to frequent the house. He soon after professed an attachment to her; he represented himself as a single man; the correspondence was carried on for some time, and he ultimately induced her to cohabit with him as man and wife. Witness, hearing of this fact went to her, for the purpose of expostulating with her on her conduct, when words ensued between Hawker and witness. Hawker struck him several violent blows, and knocked him down, the next day witness went to the house again, his intention being to get a warrant for the assault. when he went he found the house shut up, and that Hawker and deceased had gone to France; they soon after returned, when he heard they had been married and that Hawker had drawn about 900s of deceased’s money, from a bank in which she had deposited it. He had never seen her since.

Martha Gaylor of Vine-cottage, Kentish-town, deposed that she had been a tenant of the deceased’s, and on terms of intimacy for the last eight years. After deceased and Hawker came from France, they went to live at No. 11 Marylebone Street. She told witness she was married; and that since she had found out that he had a wife living. Witness knew that there was a woman called Mrs. Hawker, and had seen her call at the house since Hawker’s return from France. Deceased had often complained to witness of the ill-usage she received at the hands of Hawker, showing bruises on her wrists, face and other parts of her person; and that he was in the constant habit of drinking, and ill-using her since she had obtained her money. On Tuesday week he thrust her out of doors violently on to the pavement. She took drink occasionally.

On Saturday night last, at ten o’clock witness called upon her. She was then intoxicated; did not see her again alive. Was told subsequently that she suddenly left the house at twelve o’clock at night, and was not heard of again until her body was found. There being no other evidence to show by what means she came into the water, the jury said they should not be satisfied until the man Hawker was before them, to hear his statement. Marshall, the beadle, said he had summoned him, but he was not in attendance. The inquiry was therefore adjourned for his attendance, and the production of other evidence as to how the deceased came into the water.”

As well as many murders and suicides, the Gun Tavern also held inquests into the frequent accidents on the river. The following is from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper from the 25th August 1878 and has the headline “Fatal Boat Accident”:

“Yesterday evening Mr. Collier held an inquiry at the Gun Tavern, High-street, Wapping, touching the death of a young man named Charles Wicks. Deceased was a telegraph-wire worker, and on last Sunday he and several others went for a rowing an out-rigged four-oar cutter on the Thames, all being said to be used to rowing. When off Blackwall-point they were caught in the swell of a Newcastle boat, and the craft in which the deceased was, becoming filled, they had to jump out. Only two out of the five could swim. A witness threw him an oar, but it did not reach him. He and another man went down, the other three being picked up by the waterman’s skiff. the body was found off Wapping on Friday. The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death.”

Reading the newspaper accounts of the numerous inquests held at the Gun Tavern covering suicides, murders and accidents quickly dispels any romantic view of life in Wapping by the River Thames in the 19th century.

As well as the inquests held in the Gun Tavern, the residents of Upper Well Alley were involved in many crimes, including murder. The following is from the Morning Post on the 26th August 1896, with the headline “The Wapping Tragedy”:

“James Jones, ship’s fireman, of 8, Upper Well-alley, Wapping, was charged yesterday on remand before Mr Dickenson, at the Thames Police Court, with the murder of Edward White by stabbing him in the neck with a knife. Further evidence was taken. That of the medical men who made the post-mortem examination showed that there were nine external wounds and 10 internal wounds. They were both incised and punctured, and all, with the exception of a small one at the back of the head, might have been caused by the knife produced. the most serious one was at the back of the neck, which divided the spinal column and vertebral artery. the wound which severed the spinal cord was a fatal one. Mr. Dickinson remanded the prisoner, and the witnesses who had given evidence were bound over.”

Another newspaper article from the 18th December 1894 had the title “Not sober for 4 years” and told the story of the death of a woman from number 8 Upper Well Alley, Wapping who had not been sober for over 4 years. The wife of a waterside labourer, she would not get up until 4 in the afternoon and had already taken everything in the house to the pawn shop to fund her drinking. When she could no longer move, she managed to get rum brought to her bed and after her death a bottle of spirits were found hidden underneath the pillow.

Upper Well Alley, or Dundee Street of today is very different to the days of the 19th century newspaper reports and is under going further change. The photo below taken in Dundee Street shows the St. Patrick’s Social Club building which I believe will soon be demolished.


Dundee Street and along Green Bank was once home to St. Patrick’s Social Club, School and Church. Today only the church remains.

On the corner of Dundee Street and Green Bank is an old bollard dated 1899 and stating Limehouse District. In the late 19th century, the district of Limehouse extended from the main land area around St. Annes Limehouse, along a narrow strip of river side land in Wapping to a short extension inland here around Dundee Street. This bollard was the only remaining marker I could find around Dundee Street, Green Bank and Scandreet Street.


Looking down Dundee Street, or as it was Upper Well Alley, from the junction with Green Bank.


At the end of Green Bank, on the corner with Scandrett Street (or Church Street as it was on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map) is the old Turks Head pub (the PH at the very top, centre of the above map). Closed as a pub in the late 1970s, the Turks Head was restored by a charitable trust in the 1980s providing a community cafe for the local area.


On the Scandrett Street side of the building is the original 1706 street name plaque, confirming that this was originally Bird Street.


The following extract from John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the area in the right hand lower quarter. Bird Street is clearly marked as is Green Bank (about the only street in the area to retain its original name). Comparing with the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows that New Dundee Wharf was originally Gun Dock and leading north from here was Gun Alley and across Green Bank Lower Gun Alley. This explains where the name Gun Tavern came from although whether the street or the pub was named first is a good question.


What appears to have happened over the last almost three hundred years is that Gun Alley was probably the original name, following by Upper Well Alley and then Dundee Street which remains the name today. Fascinating why names change so much and in this small area of Wapping only Green Bank retains its original name. (It is tempting to think that as Green Bank dates from at least 1746, the name may refer to an embankment along here that held the river back from further encroachment inland, much like the original street name of Narrow Wall on the South Bank, although I have not found any proof of this).

the following print  (©Trustees of the British Museum) shows the view of Gun Dock from the river in 1850. The church tower in the background is that of St. John’s which we will come to next.


The original 1756 parish church of St. John’s is on the corner of Green Bank and Scandrett Street. The church was badly damaged during the war with only the tower and the shell of the rest of the church remaining. The building was later rebuilt as apartments so apart from the tower, the rest of the building is a new construction. To blend in with the surroundings much of the external walls were built using materials from other buildings destroyed during the war.


Next to the church are the buildings of the St. John’s School. Although founded in 1695, the school was established by voluntary subscriptions in 1704, with old buildings on the west side of church street purchased to provide accommodation for the school. The site of these original buildings were included in a later expansion of the churchyard, so in exchange, a plot of land was given to the trustees of the school and the buildings that we see now constructed in 1756 to 60.


The school appears to have been in a reasonably financially stable position. The 1819 the second report by the Commissioners on the Education of the Poor reported that the school held £2,000 in stocks and the dividends from these, as well as an annual £10 rent from the lease of a small parcel of land provided much of the income that the school needed. There was also a separate fund of £384 which had been raised by subscription among the inhabitants of Wapping in 1725. This money was used to purchase some land and buildings and at the time of the report a rent of £60 10 shillings was being generated for the school.

At the time of the report, the annual expenditure of the school was £480. The main costs were:

  • Clothing about £200
  • Schoolmasters and schoolmistress’s salary with coals, and etc. about £100
  • Repairs, about £40
  • Stationary, about £50

This was in excess of the dividends and money from rents received by the school, with the gap being made up from voluntary subscriptions.

Above the doors to the school, statues of school children in their blue coat uniforms. gun-tavern-11

Opposite the church and the school is the original churchyard.


A plaque set into the wall of the churchyard, dated 1855 states that the wall belongs to the Parish of St. John of Wapping and is the boundary of the churchyard.


The churchyard wall, plaque and old headstones lined up against the wall.


One of the few remaining pubs in Wapping is the Town of Ramsgate – a pub which deserves a dedicated post. The pubs on the river almost certainly have a long-term future, their river facing location provide a reliable stream of custom which ensures their profitability and the history of pubs such as the Town of Ramsgate and the Prospect of Whitby should also hopefully also protect their future. The entrance to Wapping Old Stairs is down the alley to the right of the pub.


If you walk a very short distance back along Wapping High Street towards the City, you cross the old entrance to the Wapping Basin and the London Docks. This has long been filled in following the closure of the docks, however stand on the Wapping High Street and look in land and the entrance to the Wapping basin is still visible with the walls of the entrance channel still either side of what is now a paved area.


The buildings on the western side of Pier Head.


The original buildings from when this was a working dock line the entrance at Pier Head either side of Wapping High Street.

The following photo is looking back towards Dundee Street from Pier Head. This was originally a swing bridge allowing the channel to be opened up whenever a ship needed to cross between the river and the Wapping Basin. This must have been really impressive to watch.


When I travelled down the Thames last October I took the following photo from the river showing the entrance to the Wapping basin and the buildings of Pier Head on either side.


Leaving Pier Head, i headed back to central London down a relatively quiet Wapping High Street until reaching the bustle of St. Katherine’s Docks which, on a busy Friday lunchtime was crowded with people.

The area around Dundee Street has so much history. I have not even touched on the River Police, or the stories associated with Execution Dock, but the area runs the risk of being turned into a quiet suburb of silent apartments lining Wapping High Street. This will be such a loss.

The Forth Bridge

Following my last post on Edinburgh and as a final before heading back to London, a quick visit to the Forth Bridge. As with Edinburgh, the black and white photos are from 1953, the colour photos are from a rather grey and overcast morning in July 2016.

The Firth of Forth cuts inland north of Edinburgh separating the transport links through the city from the north of Scotland. A detour inland was required, or the use of one of the ferries that operated across the Forth.

A number of proposals had been put forward for providing a direct link across the Forth during the early part of the 19th century, including tunnels and various designs for bridges, however after the tragedy at the Tay Bridge which collapsed in December 1879, a design proposed by the designer of the Tay Bridge was ruled out and an alternative design for a cantilevered bridge by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker was selected to cross the Forth between South and North Queensferry.

Construction of the Forth Bridge commenced in 1882 and it was opened in March 1890. A remarkably short time for such a construction.

Forth Bridge 1

The bridge provided a direct link across the Forth for rail traffic, and in 1953 when my father took these photos there was still no road bridge so a ferry was in operation to provide a route for road traffic and foot passengers. In the photo below, two of the ferries can be seen looking tiny against the bridge.

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The Forth Bridge today on a rather dull and overcast morning.

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The scale of the Forth Bridge is impressive:

  • the overall length of the bridge is 8,095 feet
  • the height of the bridge is 361 feet above the high water level
  • under the central box girder sections there is a clearance of 150 feet above the high water level
  • 53,000 tonnes of steel were used to construct the bridge (a new material at the time for bridge construction)

Even the approach viaducts are major works of construction as shown in the photo below. The box girder section on top of the brick towers is an average of 130 feet above the high water level.

Forth Bridge 2

The bridge is painted in “Forth Bridge Red” and was last completely repainted during a major restoration of the bridge between 2002 and 2012 when 240,000 litres of paint were used. with a new formula that should allow the topcoat of the paint to last for 20 years.

Forth Bridge 13

In 1953 my father took the ferry across:

Forth Bridge 4

But, and this is a mystery, also appears to have walked the bridge, or at least across the approach viaducts on either side. As far as I know, the bridge has never provided a walkway for the general user to walk across. The ferry provided the method for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Firth of Forth, however when scanning this series of negatives I came across the following photos. The first is taken from the foot-way that appears to run along the bridge. I suspect it was taken from the North Queensferry side of the bridge.

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This photo was definitely taken from the approach viaduct at North Queensferry. It shows the St. James Chapel Cemetery in North Queensferry which is still there.

Forth Bridge 6

The following photo taken from the bridge shows one of the ferries that provided a means for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Firth of Forth.

Forth Bridge 7

And this photo adds to the mystery as it was taken from the bridge at the opposite end at South Queensferry.

Forth Bridge 8

There are no other photos from within the bridge so I do not know if he walked across the bridge (and there may have been no photos of this as in these days of digital photography it is easy to forget how frugal you had to be when there were only 36 exposure rolls of film and the costs of film, developing and printing had to be considered), or whether he just walked along the approach viaducts at either side of the bridge.

Also, whether there was access across the bridge at this time, or whether he just “found” the walkway open.

The following photo from 2016 is looking up at the approach viaduct from where the photo above was taken which would have been to the left of the train. This area looks to be much as it was in 1953, a parking area for people wanting to view the bridge.

Forth Bridge 10

Also on the South Queensferry side of the bridge is a memorial erected in 2012 to those who died in the construction of the bridge. This lists 73 names along with their job such as rivet catcher, rigger and engineer’s labourer. It was a highly dangerous job given the late 19th century approach to working conditions, lack of safety equipment, height of the bridge and the materials involved.

There were rowing boats in the water underneath the main work areas to try and help those who fell from the bridge, these boats saved 8 men from drowning.

The two sides of the memorial.

Forth Bridge 12

In 1953, the Firth of Forth was only crossed by the rail bridge and as shown in some of the photos above, vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists would take the ferry as the most direct route between north and south Queensferry and the land beyond.

In 1964 a road bridge was opened which led to the closure of the car ferry. Traffic volumes across the road bridge now routinely exceed by a considerable amount the original design volumes and in the first decade of this century a range of corrosion problems and loss of structural strength was found across the bridge. This led to a number of temporary closures, repairs, monitoring and restrictions in heavy goods vehicles.

Due to these problems, and due to the increasing volume of traffic crossing the Firth of Forth, a second road bridge is currently under construction adjacent to the original road bridge. These are both a short distance from the rail bridge and can be seen in the following photo.

Forth Bridge 11

The Forth Bridge is a very impressive example of engineering and construction, even more so considering that the first road bridge constructed some 70 years later has a range of structural problems.

I just wish the weather was not so grey and overcast during my visit and I would also love to know whether my father did walk across all or part of the Forth Bridge.

Now back to London.

Edinburgh – 1953 and 2016

I had intended to be away from London just for the month of August, however I had the opportunity for a trip to Edinburgh so I hope you do not mind if I cover one more location before returning to London for next week’s post. This will be in two posts, today covering the City of Edinburgh and mid-week a post on the Forth Bridge.

Edinburgh is a wonderful city. Although geographically and from a population perspective Edinburgh is much smaller than London, they share a number of features. A long and fascinating history, a capital city, a seat of government and today a major tourist location.

Edinburgh was also the home to many of the people who helped to shape the modern world during the 18th century including the philosopher and historian David Hume. Adam Smith, the author of the Wealth of Nations, the first modern book on economics.

James Boswell who was born in Edinburgh and went to the universities in Edinburgh and Glasgow before his move to London. James Hutton the Geologist who recognised that the Earth was continually developing and forming and that erosion and sedimentation can help to understand how these continuous processes have worked over geologic time (which is not surprising given the amount of geology surrounding Edinburgh, all the inspiration needed to get out and explore).

Henry Home, Lord Kames, a Scottish Advocate who developed theories on how human societies developed and how the need for laws developed alongside society, for example that at the highest stage of development, law was required for the protection of property.

Edinburgh’s role in the Scottish Enlightenment is a fascinating subject.

Back to the main subject of today’s post, my father photographed Edinburgh in 1953, so here is a sample of these photos along with my photos taken 63 years later.

Firstly, a visit to Edinburgh Castle, on the top of Castle Rock, the remains of the volcanic activity across this part Scotland around 350 million years ago.

The earliest part of the castle, St. Margaret’s Chapel, dates from around 1130 when it was built by the Scottish King David I and dedicated to his mother Queen Margaret who as a member of the Anglo-Saxon royal families, fled to Scotland soon after the Norman invasion where she married Malcolm III of Scotland thereby becoming a Scottish Queen.

In the centuries since, Edinburgh Castle has been fought over by the Scots and the English, taken by Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War attacked during the Jacobite rebellions and used as a prison during the Napoleonic wars.

Today, Edinburgh Castle is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny (which was in Westminster Abbey after being taken from Scotland in 1296 by Edward 1, but returned to Scotland in 1996 and will now only be returned to London for coronations), the Royal Palace, the Scottish National War Memorial and a number of Regimental Museums.

Edinburgh Castle also provides some superb views across Edinburgh to the Firth of Forth and it is here that I start with the following photos. I could not get to the exact location where my father had taken these photos in 1953. I could see the location, a small walkway around the top of one of the rooms adjacent to the Lang Stairs, but it is now closed off. Frustrating but understandable given the number of visitors to the castle today,

I will work my way from the view to the north-west, moving gradually over to the east.

Edinburgh 7

To the left of the above photo is the Solders Dog Cemetery where the pets of solders and regimental mascots are buried. In my photo below the outer wall can just be seen to the left of the photo.

Edinburgh 8a

The castle is, as you would expect, much the same as 63 years ago with only minor changes. The main difference is the number of visitors to the castle with 1.568 million visitors in 2015 (to put this into perspective, in London St. Paul’s Cathedral had 1.609 and Westminster Abbey with 1.664 million visitors so Edinburgh Castle is almost as busy as these two main London hubs for visitors).

Edinburgh 8

Starting to move to the east and the “New Town” of Edinburgh is starting to come into view with the Firth of Forth in the distance. The New Town was built between the mid 18th and 19th centuries as a result of the growing population of the city and the lack of space in the original Old Town. Princes Street is the wide street running left to right.

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Edinburgh 10

Edinburgh 10a

Standing along the edge of the castle and looking out across the city, it is remarkable how the views are much the same. Parkland separates Castle Rock from the rest of the city, Princes Street still provides a wide roadway, the New Town and the later suburbs of Edinburgh stretch away towards Muirhouse, Trinity, Newhaven and Leith.

The height of the buildings have not really changed and unlike London there are no glass and steel towers.

Edinburgh 11

Edinburgh 11a

Still moving east and the road running north from Princes Street is Frederick Street.

Edinburgh 12

The 1828 tower of the church of St. Stephen’s Stockbridge can be seen in the centre left of the above photo and more towards the upper left in my photo below.

The church is built from Craigleith stone. Craigleith was a quarry a couple of miles outside of Edinburgh that produced high quality stone. A connection with London is that although Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square is of granite, the statue of Nelson on the top is carved from three blocks of Craigleith sandstone.

Edinburgh 12a

Edinburgh 1

Further to the east. In the photos above and below the Melville Monument in St. Andrew’s Square can be seen at the right of both photos.  The 1st Viscount Melville, or Henry Dundas was a Scottish Advocate (lawyer / solicitor) who dominated Scottish politics in the later years of the 18th century and first decade of the 19th century.

Edinburgh 1a

Edinburgh 2

Moving further towards the east, the entrance tunnels to Edinburgh Waverley Station can be seen with the station on the right. The Scottish National Gallery is above the tunnels with the Scott Monument behind the Gallery.

Edinburgh 2a

Edinburgh 3

Edinburgh Waverley Station is in the centre of the above and below photos with Calton Hill in the background with the tower of the Nelson Monument and the columns of the Scottish National Monument just behind. Waverley Station was built in the natural valley between the old and new towns. Originally opened in 1846 and rebuilt between 1892 and 1902 when the station became substantially the station we see today.

Edinburgh 3a

Edinburgh 4

As we continue looking further east, the original old town of Edinburgh comes into view with the tall tower of the original Victoria Hall, built to house the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland between 1842 and 1845. The building was never consecrated as a church. It is now a centre for the Edinburgh International Festival as well as providing space to hire throughout the year – a strange history for a building that appears on the skyline to be the central church for the city. The main church for the old town of Edinburgh are the towers further back with first the tower of St. Giles Cathedral. The tower behind this is the Tron Kirk. Although no longer a functioning church (mainly now market and retail space), the Tron Kirk has a long history with the original foundations being laid in the 1640s.

Edinburgh 4a

Edinburgh 5

As the photos above and below have been moving to the east, the entrance to the castle has come into view and in both the 1953 and 2016 photos the seating and preparations for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo can be seen.

The first tattoo was in 1950, so just a few years before my father took the above photos. Although the basic concept is the same, the Tattoo is now a much more sophisticated presentation and the seating is also on a much more grander scale, able to seat an annual audience of 220,000 for three weeks in August. The Tattoo is consistently sold out and apparently in the history of the Tattoo not a single show has been cancelled which is quite an achievement given Scottish weather and the high, exposed position of the Tattoo.

Edinburgh 5a

In the above photo, the queue to buy tickets for the castle is in the lower centre – the castle is a highly successful attraction for the City of Edinburgh.

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Edinburgh 6a

The next stop is the Scott Monument on Princes Street.

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Sir Walter Scott was a highly successful Edinburgh based novelist. His books included Rob Roy and Ivanhoe and his series of “Waverley” novels gave him considerable fame. He also discovered the Scottish Crown Jewels after they had been lost in Edinburgh Castle where they had been stored away in a box which had been unopened for many years.

The Scott Monument has a series of viewing galleries and provides superb views of the castle, Princes Street and Waverley Station.  A few facts about the monument:

  • the foundation stone was laid in 1840
  • the monument was completed 4 years later in the Autumn of 1844
  • the total cost of the monument was £16,154, 7s, 11d
  • the height to the very top of the monument is 200 feet, 6 inches (or 61.1m)

A competition was held for the design of the monument and George Meikle Kemp, a carpenter and draughtsman won the competition with his Gothic style for the monument, beating several leading architects. Kemp supervised much of the building of the monument, but drowned in March 1844, shortly before completion and it fell to his brother-in-law Thomas Bonnar to complete the Scott Monument.

Climbing the monument provides some superb views.

Edinburgh 14

The Scottish National Gallery to the lower left with Edinburgh Castle behind.

Edinburgh 14a

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I was pleased with this pair of photos as I was able to get the view almost exactly aligned with the photo my father took in 1953. Note in the 2016 photo below that railings have been installed on top of the wall that surrounds the walkway around the monument. The wall is not that high so the railings provide an additional sense of security as you walk around the monument.

Edinburgh 17a

Edinburgh 18

Above and below photos of Waverley Station with the North Bridge in the background that links the Old Town with Princes Street and the New Town.

Edinburgh 18a

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View looking down the length of Princes Street.

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And another pair of views along Princes Street.

Edinburgh 20a

Leaving the Scott Monument, and in the following two photos is Canongate Kirk. The Kirk is on the Royal Mile, however the following two photos were taken from Regent Road, which runs around the edge of Calton Hill. The photos show the rear of the Kirk and the Kirkyard. The original building was completed in 1690, however the interior has been through many subsequent changes, including the refurbishment needed after a major fire in 1863.

The Kirkyard is the final resting place to many Scots from the 18th and 19th centuries including the Political Economist Adam Smith, the author of the Wealth of Nations.

Edinburgh 21

The same view today. Whilst the buildings around the Kirk have changed, the Kirk and Kirkyard have hardly changed in the 63 years between the two photos.

Edinburgh 21a

I cannot place the location of the following photo, however on the strip of negatives it is adjacent to the photos of the Canongate Kirk and is also looking down onto a cluster of buildings, so I suspect it was also taken from Regent Road and must be to either the left or right of the Canongate Kirk, looking down to typical Edinburgh Old Town housing.

As mentioned earlier in this post, the New Town was constructed due to the rising population and the lack of space in the Old Town. In trying to accommodate a growing population, 18th century buildings had risen to seven or eight storeys, some of the earliest “high rise” buildings in Europe. These are the buildings in the background of the photo below. This is the rear of these buildings with the front facing onto the Royal Mile.

The 1953 photo also demonstrates the origin of one of the nicknames for Edinburgh – “Auld Reekie” – meaning Old Smokie as the numerous coal fires of a dense population would send lots of smoke into the air and obscuring the view of parts of the city from a distance.

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Also from the same road is the following photo showing the opposite site of Waverley Station with the North Bridge in the background.

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No steam trains on these lines now!

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Returning to the Canongate Kirk, the following photo is from within the Kirkyard looking up towards the circular Dugald Stewart building on Calton Hill.

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I should do more research before visiting as we passed the Canongate Kirk and walked further down the Royal Mile to the large graveyard between Calton Road and Regent Road, thinking this could be where the above photo was taken from – I was wrong, although this graveyard provided a fascinating glimpse of Scottish graveyards.

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The majority of graves seem to be from the early to late 19th century. The tower at top right was occupied when the graveyard was in use. A plaque on the side of the tower reads:

“In Loving memory Of John McDonald. Born at this Watch Tower 1.12.1912 died Australia 26.1.1995”

What a place to have been born.

The grave of Andrew Skene. The inscription reads “Misfortune soothed by Wisdom” and records that Andrew Skene was born on the 26th February 1785 and died on the 2nd April 1835. He was an Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland..

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Edinburgh is a fascinating city to walk. It is not just the obvious high spots such as the castle, Scott Monument and Calton Hill, but the streets and alleys where the history of the city is to be found at almost every turn. Old signs still record previous businesses that operated along the side streets.

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And the names and faded signs record the importance of the role of Advocate or Solicitor in the development of Scotland as a country which, although part of the United Kingdom, retains a different legal system.

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Edinburgh is a fascinating city, wonderful to explore on foot and with a long and complex history. From an architectural perspective, Edinburgh has developed in a different way from London over the last six decades. The skyline is much the same and the city appears to have avoided the high-rise glass and steel developments that are taking over much of London allowing the city to retain a very distinctive feel.

One final post in the next couple of days will look at the Forth Bridge, then back to London for a trip to Wapping High Street.