Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The south bank of the River Thames between Westminster and Tower Bridges has seen many changes. Once mainly an industrial area lined with factories, warehouses and wharves, these have been replaced by offices, restaurants, Tate Modern, the reproduction Globe Theatre etc.

Any day of the year, the walkway along the south bank will be crowded with tourists, those who work along the south bank and as a straightforward route to walk between east and west London.

The south bank was not always like this. This was the view in 1953, photographed by my father, looking along Bankside, west from the base of Southwark Bridge. The photo was taken from the area of the steps leading up to the bridge.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The same view in 2017.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The scene is so very different, how do I know it is the same view? There are a couple of well defined points of reference.

If you look to the left of the crane, there is part of a large building, with a further building just a bit further to the left with a distinctive spire on the roof.

If you look in the same position in my 2017 photo, the large building is Unilever House, now fully visible as the crane is not obscuring, and the building with the spire is the old City of London school. The spire is clearly visible in both photos.

You will also notice that the street (1953) and walkway (2017) curves to the left in the distance.

The original photo was taken during a weekend, the shadows indicating this was late afternoon. My photo was also at the weekend, although early afternoon. The solitary cyclist has been replaced by the crowds who daily walk along the south bank.

In the 1953 photo, you can see part of a name at the top of one of the buildings. The full name is Beck & Pollitzer, a successful engineering company that is still in existence today, although not on Bankside.

Beck and Pollitzer was formed in 1863 by two immigrants from central Europe, John Beck and Sigimund Pollitzer.  The company started as an importer and distributor of goods from across Europe and therefore needed warehouse space. In the late 19th century the company moved into warehouses on Bankside and eventually owned several on either side of Southwark Bridge.

The company evolved into a specialist engineering and support services provider and moved from Bankside to Dartford in Kent.

Beck & Pollitzer retain a link with London as they provide the transport and installation services for the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree.

In my father’s photo, Bankside is the street that runs along the edge of the River Thames. Although today it is primarily a walkway, it is an old street. The following extract from a map of the Parish of St. Saviours Southwark by Richard Blome (late 17th century but published by John Stow in 1720) shows the area long before Southwark Bridge, with Banck Side (one of the spellings used in the 18th century) running along the edge of the River Thames.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The first Southwark Bridge opened in 1819, 100 years after the map was printed. If you look in the centre of the map you will see Bear Alley. To the right is Rose Alley. There is a small street to the right of Rose Alley, which continues south to the bottom of the map. This is the location of Southwark Bridge.

Bear Alley and Rose Alley are still there today, although Rose Alley is now blocked off from Bankside. You can see that at the southern end of Bear Alley there is an open space marked as Bear Garden – one of the locations around Southwark that hosted the types of “entertainment” for which the area was well known.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London shows Southwark Bridge with Bear Alley now called Bear Gardens. Note also that in both the 1720 and 1940 maps, Bankside was two words, Bank Side more accurately refers to the origin of the name. Today it is generally found as one word.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

Bear Gardens today is a narrow street running south from Bankside. Bear Gardens is always rather empty when compared to the crowd who seem fixed on walking the length of the south bank without exploring slightly inland.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The construction of Southwark Bridge stopped Bankside from running alongside the river, it had to turn inland very slightly to run under the arches leading up to the bridge, before turning back towards the river.

Just to the left of where the top photos were taken is where the street runs inland and it is here that, despite the incredible amount of change in this small area, the view today is remarkably similar to that of 64 years ago.

My father took the following photo from under the warehouses that ran straight up to Southwark Bridge. Bankside turns to the right at the point where the photo is taken to run underneath the bridge.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is behind the warehouses on the north bank of the river and Queenhithe is to the right of centre.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The same view today.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

Although the warehouses along Bankside have long since been demolished, the new buildings follow the same layout, with a remarkably similar view across to St. Paul’s Cathedral. You can also see identical notches between the stone panels on the dark arch on the right of both photos, one of the arches that supports the run up to Southwark Bridge.

I suspect that the solitary man cycling along Bankside in 1953 could never have imagined how this area would change over the following decades.

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Rambling From Whitechapel To Limehouse

In my last post I wrote about the sites between Whitechapel and Limehouse in the 1972 Architects’ Journal article. Whilst walking to these locations, I took a number of detours from the direct route between the article locations to explore more of the history of Whitechapel and Limehouse.

Whilst walking the streets there is so much to see of the history of an area and how London is changing. This is a follow-up post to explore some of the other fascinating aspects of rambling around London.

To get from Wellclose Square down to Wapping High Street, I crossed over East Smithfield and walked down Vaughan Way. As with so much of London, Vaughan Way is being occupied with almost identical blocks of apartments. Across London you will find these, frequently with an artist impressions of the aspirational life style that those living in these apartments will enjoy.

If you have every looked at these pictures, they always have a number of common features. It is nearly always summer and the sun is shining, the age group of those pictured in the scene generally appears to be below 40, there are always people relaxing in the sun and often some form of coffee / food shop.

The artists’ impression of the London Dock development in Vaughan Way fits the standard model and appears to have a particularly well stocked fruit shop / florist on the corner.

I have been taking photos of these pictures for some time for a mini project to come back and compare whether the places as built meet the artists’ impressions (strange, I know but that what happens when you walk). I somehow suspect that in reality they will be rather different.

After walking around the buildings in Wapping, I walked up Wapping Lane and there is a small collection of shops including a butchers, wine merchants and a launderette, all housed in buildings from the first decades of the 20th Century and built by the London County Council. The following building, Columbus House, still has the LCC coat of arms mounted proudly on the centre of the 2nd floor of the building.

Whilst walking around East London you will find so many closed pubs. Changes in employment, culture and demographics have resulted in an area where you would have once been unable to walk for a couple of minutes without finding another pub, now having hardly any. In Wapping Lane, you will find one of the few remaining in this part of East London, the White Swan and Cuckoo.

What amused me with this pub, was the pub’s ginger cat walking up and down outside, waiting to be let in. In the above photo he is sitting outside the corner entrance.

One of the pubs that closed a number of years ago was The Old Rose on the corner of The Highway and Chigwell Hill. I walked up Wapping lane to the Highway to see whether there was any change in the derelict state of this pub.

The only survivor in this stretch of the Highway between a McDonald’s and Petrol Station on one side and a potential building site on the other. If you look just above the door, there is the following plaque:

Which if it is the original from 1678 would have been on the building here prior to the current Rose pub. What is strange though is that the plaque on the pub states Chigwell Streat. Today, the road to the side of the pub is called Chigwell Hill and checking John Rocque’s map from 1746, as can be seen below it was also called Chigwell Hill (to the left of centre), so if it was originally a Street, the name change must have been prior to 1746.

The open land at the end of Chigwell Hill in 1746 would become part of the London Docks in a little over 60 years.

The Old Rose appears in newspaper records from the early 19th Century, although prior to 1810 it appears to have been called the Old White Rose. There are newspaper reports of all the usual East London pub events – inquests into deaths in the nearby Docks and from the river, sales of good and property, sports meetings and strangely, the meeting place of Lodge No. 2 of the Ancient Order of Druids.

Today, The highway runs all the way to the junction with Butcher Row and the Limehouse Link Tunnel. This was not always so. For example, in the 1832 map of London, “drawn and engraved for Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary” , the Ratcliff Highway as it was then called only ran just under half its current length, before turning into a series of different streets called High Street of Upper Shadwell, Cock Hill and Broad Street.

Most of the area was devoted to trades related to the River Thames and the shipping that used the river. For example, just north of what was the High Street of Upper Shadwell were the Sun Tavern Fields which included some very long rope walks, where the rope used on ships could be manufactured in long lengths.

Along the Highway is this building with a blue plaque installed by the Stepney Historical Trust on the side which reads “Captain James Cook, the ablest and most renowned Navigator this or any country hath produced, lived in a house a few yards from this spot, 126 Upper Shadwell, 1763 – 1765“.

But what intrigued me was that on the front corner of the building are these initials and series of years. I have no idea what they mean.

At the end of the Highway, a short distance up Butcher Row at the junction with Cable Street is this building, Thames House. A mix of different structures from Victorian to the 1960s, it has had rather a number of problems with the way that some of the units within the building were sub-let. A planning application was expected to be made to Tower Hamlets Council towards the end of 2016 for a rejuvenation of this building, however I am not aware of the current status or plans.

But there is some rather philosophical graffiti on the side of the building – another good subject to collect and photograph whilst walking around London. (see this post for some photos of 1980s East London graffiti from my collection).

Walking along Wapping High Street, Wapping Wall and Narrow Street, it is easy to forget that the River Thames is close by, just the other side of the large former warehouses that line the southern side of the streets. Occasionally the river reveals itself, with a view of the full sweep of the river. One such place is along Narrow Street where the street crosses the entrance to Limehouse Basin.

A swing bridge carries Narrow Street across the entrance to the basin which is now a Marina. Formerly the Regent’s Canal Dock, the basin provides access to the Regent’s Canal, allowing cargo to be carried from the Thames, along the Regent’s Canal to the north of London.  The basin also provides access to the Limehouse Cut which runs up to the River Lea, and therefore by the River Lea and the Regent’s Canal, the basin provided access between the Thames and the inland waterways of England.

Along Narrow Street is Dunbar Wharf, still looking much as it must have done when a working wharf owned by the Dunbar family in the 19th century.

The Dunbar family wealth was initially from a Limehouse brewery established by Duncan Dunbar. It was his son, also called Duncan, who used the money he inherited from his father to build the shipping business that was based at Dunbar Wharf.

Dunbar’s ships carried passengers and goods across the world as well as convicts to Australia. Whilst very successful, this was not without the occasional disaster, as described in this article from the Western Times on the 7th November 1865:

“The Wreck Of The Duncan Dunbar – The passengers and crew of the Duncan Dunbar reached Southampton on Saturday morning on board the Brazil mail steamer Oneida. It seems that the vessel struck on the reef Las Rocas at about half past eight in the evening of the 7th of October, and an awful night was passed on board. On the following morning they were all, 117 in number, landed on a little island or bank of sand, which was covered with birds. They remained in this situation, with the exception of the captain, one of the passengers and six seamen, who started in a lifeboat to Pernambuco for aid, till the 17th, when they were fetched off by the Oneida. Though the sufferings, mental and bodily were indescribable, not a life was lost or a limb broken.”

Duncan Dunbar died in 1862. The report of the funeral, published on the 17th March 1862 provides a view of the standing of Duncan Dunbar in London and the wider shipping community:

“Funeral Of The Late Mr Duncan Dunbar, the Shipowner – The funeral of the late Mr Duncan Dunbar, the eminent shipowner, took place on Friday at Highgate cemetery. The mournful cortege, which comprised ten mourning coaches and several private carriages, left the deceased gentlemen’s residence, Portchester Terrace, Bayswater, at 12 o’clock, and reached the cemetery shortly after 1 o’clock. the mourners comprised a number of gentlemen of high standing in the commercial world. At Poplar and Limehouse much respect was shown. Nearly all the shipping in the East and West India Docks had their colours hoisted half mast high, as also the flags on the pier head entrances of the docks, the lofty mast house at Blackwall and Limehouse Church, the bells of which tolled during the hours appointed for the mournful ceremony.”

Duncan Dunbar did not have any children so his wealth was divided across his wider family members, although no one in the wider family wanted to continue the shipping business. The ships and warehouses were sold, however Dunbar Wharf remains to this day as a reminder of a once highly successful shipping business.

A few other wharf buildings remain with their facade much as they would have been when operating as a working wharf.

I continued along Narrow Street to the junction with Three Colt Street where I found another example of a closed East London pub. This was the Kings Head, a late 18th Century / early 19th Century pub, that although it is still clear that this was once a pub, closed a long time ago, around the early 1930s after which it became the office of a banana importing business.

The following photo shows the old Kings Head building in 1964 when used as the office for a banana importer and distributor.

(Photo used with permission from London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. Catalogue reference SC/PHL/01/400/64/6692)

And this fascinating photo from 1902 looking down Three Colt Street towards the junction with Narrow Street shows the building when it was a pub in the distance on the right hand side.

(Photo used with permission from London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. Catalogue reference SC/PHL/01/400/1507)

Across the junction from the old Kings Head pub are these buildings:

They were originally named Potter Dwellings after Alderman Henry Potter, also Mayor of Stepney.

There are plenty of records of Alderman Potter – opening events, chairing meetings, presenting prizes etc. but I could find no record of him opening these buildings or involved in their planning. Post war, they were renamed Saunders Close. I have seen references to the new name being after a Mr Saunders, a caretaker of Potter Dwellings during the war, and that the buildings were named after him following an act of bravery, but again, I can find no evidence in support.

It is good though, to see these survivors of very early 20th century East London housing which have survived both wartime bombing and post war development.

The one permanent feature across East London is continuous change and there are still so many buildings that I suspect will be demolished or transformed in the coming years. On the opposite side of Commercial Road from the church of St. Anne’s, Limehouse are these derelict buildings.

Once the home of that standard business which occupies all such sites across East London, the building will probably not be standing in a couple of years.

Further along Commercial Road is the Star of the East.

Another East London pub from the first half of the 19th century, the pub has been through a series of recent reopening and closures and is currently closed. The building has some ornate carving and decoration, very different from many other East London pubs and was probably due to its prominent position on the Commercial Road at the junction with the East and West India Dock roads, rather than being a local corner pub.

I had not intended this to be another long post, however I find that just rambling round the streets of London is an endlessly fascinating exercise. There is so much to see and learn of how the city has evolved and how this process is the one consistent feature of London’s long history.

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New Deal For East London – Whitechapel To Limehouse

A couple of weeks ago I started exploring East London using the map published in the Architects’ Journal from the 19th January 1972. The map was part of a feature article titled “New Deal for East London” and covered the considerable changes expected to take place across East London and the fate of a number of sites that the Architects’ Journal considered essential for preservation.

Sites across the map were categorised by how they were part of East London’s development. In the past two posts I covered Category A – Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London.

In today’s post I start on Category B – Linear development along the Rivers Thames and Lea due to riverside trades.

The map below is an extract from the larger map published in the 1972 article and covers the next set of locations, those marked from 17 to 25, running from the southern edge of Whitechapel to Limehouse along the Thames. The sites along the River Lea will be the subject of a later post

The following map shows the same area today with the same locations marked.

The Architects’ Journal introduces this area as follows:

“And now the route east from the City can be followed by tracing the riverside developments. While land east of the City still consisted of fields dotted with small, independent villages, the riverside was already lined with a continuous strip of workshops, wharves and houses. As England’s trade and empire increased in the 16th and 17th centuries, riverside villages grew in size, not inland, but along the river, and eventually became an almost independent naval town stretching from the Tower to Limehouse. This independence from the rest of London astonished even 18th century Londoners. John Fielding wrote in 1776; ‘When one goes to Rotherhithe or Wapping, which places are chiefly inhabited by sailors, but that somewhat of the same language is spoken, a man would be apt to suspect himself in another country.’ And Boswell was recommended by Johnson to explore Wapping to see ‘ wonderful extent and variety of London.’ When Boswell did go to Wapping, almost 10 years later, he was disappointed and supposed that standardisation in building had destroyed its character. “

There is so much to be written about this area, however my posts are often getting rather long, so today I will concentrate on finding the sites, and write more about the history of this fascinating area in some future posts.

I always enjoy a walk in East London and when I walked this route the weather was perfect, although bright sun can cause problems with the contrasts between sunlight and shadow in some of the narrow East London streets. Starting off, I walked to the first point:

Site 17 – All that remains of Wellclose Square and 1850 GLC owned Wilton’s Music Hall in Grace’s Alley

I started off walking along Royal Mint Street, then Cable Street before turning off down Ensign Street where the entrance to Graces Alley can be found. It is here that Wilton’s Music Hall can be found.

The buildings that now house Wilton’s have a long history. Originally individual houses from the late 17th Century they have since been through many alterations and changes, a 19th century Music Hall, a Methodist Mission and a warehouse for rag sorting.

During the 1960s the London County Council planned to demolish the whole area including the nearby Swedenborg and Wellclose Squares along with the buildings that housed Wilton’s Music Hall. Whilst the other areas under threat of demolition did not survive, the buildings along the northern edge of Grace’s Alley, including Wilton’s Music Hall were spared, but fell into dereliction. Campaigns during the last few decades raised the funding to restore Wilton’s and it is the restored building that we find today. There is a full history of the building and the restoration on the Wilton’s web site which can be found here.

Wellclose Square is a different matter. The square is found at the end of Grace’s Alley:

In the 1972 article, the Architects’ Journal describes Wellclose and the adjacent Swedenborg Square’s:

“Off Cable Street were two early 18th Century squares – Swedenborg and Wellclose Squares – neither of which descended into the slum that Cable Street had become. Both escaped serious war damage but, although unique, were not spared by wholesale demolition that occurred in the last decade. Swedenborg Gardens now stand on the site of the square, no trace of which has remained. Wellclose Square (where Dr. Johnson’s friend Dr. Mayo lived – and which at that time was the residential centre for Scandinavian timber merchants and boasted a Danish Church) has not even been rebuilt, but lies as the demolition men left it. Sites of original houses are used as car parks. The East End as an area could not afford to lose these houses; their demolition destroyed vital community memory and identity.”

The last sentence in the above paragraph is a consistent message throughout the 1972 article. It is not just the buildings that are being lost, but also the loss of a community that had long considered East London as home.

I was not sure what I would find in Wellclose Square. The Architects’ Journal listing states “all that remains” which is not very specific. The article also includes the following photo of some of the houses in Wellclose Square but does not make clear whether there were still remaining in 1972.

The buildings on the right of the above photo with the panels above the ground floor windows were originally the Danish Embassy.

A quick walk around Wellclose Square confirmed that all the buildings of the original square have been demolished, with new building from the later decades of the 20th century now running along the sides of what remains of the square.

The only buildings of any age that are now within Wellclose Square are those that form part of the central square (the original location of the Danish church). One of which is this building:

It appears to be within the grounds of the school that occupies the central part of the square so I hope that the windows and door facing the road are covered in this way to prevent access from the road rather than that the building has been abandoned.

The plaques on the wall provide some background to the building. The plaque on the left reads “St. Paul’s Mission Room” and that on the right “St. Paul’s Church for Seamen Infant Nursery”.

The building was constructed in 1874 and is currently Grade II listed.  As this was a mid-Victorian building I suspect it was not what the Architects’ Journal was referring to and that all the buildings were demolished.

To get to my next location, I needed to retrace my steps to Cable Street and at the junction with Royal Mint Street turn left down Dock Street:

Site 18 – Late 18th Century Houses in Dock Street

The Architects’ Journal map shows three locations in Dock Street. One a short distance down on the left, one further on the right then one at the junction with The Highway, and it here that I will start.

The following photo shows the house in the location marked on the map, so what appears to be a fine survivor, although I am not sure whether the full house survives. If you look at the new building to the left, it appears to carry on into the original building and checking an aerial view it looks that the new building on the left extends across the rear of the older building and that whilst the front and part side facade looks to have survived this may well be a case of the body of a building being gutted and rebuilt as part of a new, larger construction.

Although nothing could prepare me for what I would find next. This is the building on the site marked on the left of Dock Street.

This has to be the worst reconstruction of a pretend 18th Century house that I have ever seen. The building also has a distinctly industrial feel with the metal door, air vents and pipework down the side. Openstreetmap has this building labeled as a mobile phone company so I suspect it houses equipment for their network, but why build the front facade to possibly resemble the 18th Century house that once stood here in such a superficial manner?

Walking back up Dock Street towards Cable Street there was some considerable building work underway. Here all the buildings to the right of the Sir Sydney Smith pub have been demolished.

The full site is in the photo below. This building site will soon become the Ordnance Building where “no expense has been spared in curating a collection of residences that live up to the development’s prime location”. The Ordnance Building will also feature a “Quintessentially (online) concierge service” whatever that is.

It seems that almost anything these days is “curated”. You can read more about the Ordnance Building here.

The final location in Dock Street appears to have survived intact. A fine three floor house. Note the way that the size of the windows reduce from ground to top floor.

From Dock Street it was then a walk down towards the River Thames, to the next location:

Site 19 – Wapping conservation area enlarged to take in early 19th century pair on river to east

Site 19 covered a number of buildings around and to the east of the Wapping basin entrance to the London Docks. The docks are long since closed, however the buildings remain, some much restored and rebuilt, however the area does retain the character of when the docks were in operation.

I have already written about this area in my post on The Gun Tavern, so as this is a rather lengthy post I will not repeat here.

At the time of the 1972 article, the restored buildings along Pier Head shown in the photos above and below were for sale with prices of:

Houses: £22,500 to £37,500

Flats: £13,500 to £42,500

A quick check for recently sold prices, found that in 2012 a terrace house at Pier Head sold for £2,550,000 and in 2011 a flat sold for £1,300,000. That is quite some investment in 40 years.

Looking across to the old St. John’s Church and the Charity School next door.

The next stop on the Architects’ Journal map was reached after walking along Wapping High Street, up Wapping Lane then turning into Raine Street to find:

Site 20 – 1719 School in Raine Street

Apart from the nearby church of St. Peter’s London Docks, the old school building, or Raine House as it is now named is the only survivor among an area of redeveloped 20th century housing.

The building was originally a charity school founded by Henry Raine, owner of a Wapping brewery with the traditional blue coated school children standing in alcoves on the front of the building, very similar to the charity school in the Wapping Conservation Area.

The plaque above the door confirms the date of 1719 and states “Come In & Learn Your Duty To God & Man”.

In 1972 the old school building looked to be at considerable risk. The Architects’ Journal states: “The 1719 school in Raine Street, owned by the GLC, this school is for sale – a sale that had better be quick if it is to survive attacks from the local children”. The article includes the photo below to demonstrate the poor condition of the building. Note also that the two statues are missing, hopefully moved to preserve them. The article then goes on to state “Since this picture was taken all first floor windows have been broken. What will become of this building if action is not taken soon?”

The last sentence sums up the concern that is a theme throughout the article. There were a whole range of important 18th century buildings across East London being left to decay, helped in that decay by vandalism. If the authorities did not apparently see the importance in these buildings no wonder the local children could see no reason why they could not use these decaying buildings for stone throwing and other general damage.

Fortunately the school buildings have survived and now rather suitably are home to the Pollyanna Training Theatre and Studios, rather than expensive flats.

From Raine Street, it was then a walk up Wapping Lane to The Highway to reach the next location:

Site 21 – Early 19th Century Rectory and Church of St. Paul’s Shadwell

The Highway is a really busy road and it took a while to get a suitable break in the traffic to take the photo below showing the Rectory on the right and the church on the left.

The current church is the third that has occupied the site. The original church was built in 1656 as a Chapel of Ease. This was rebuilt in 1669 as the Parish Church of Shadwell.

The 1669 church (the middle picture in the top row in the print below) was demolished to make way for the current church which was built in 1820.

St. Paul’s Shadwell has been traditionally associated with Sea Captains and Captain James Cook was an active parishioner at the church.

An information panel at the entrance to the church also records that John Wesley preached at the church and there were a number of notable baptisms including Jane Randolph, the mother of the US President Thomas Jefferson, and James Cook, the eldest son of Captain Cook.

If you look back at the maps at the start of this post, the church is just north of the Shadwell Basin and when this easterly part of the London Docks was constructed, part of the church yard of St. Paul’s was lost to make way for the new docks.

From here, I continued along The Highway, almost to the entrance to the Limehouse Link Tunnel, before turning left into Butcher Row to find:

Site 22 – late 18th Century Rectory in Butcher Row

Butcher Row is a really busy road. It links Commercial Road, Cable Street and The Highway and is at the point where The Highway disappears below ground as the Limehouse Link. The late 18th century Rectory was easy to find, but I had to wait sometime before I could get a photo not obstructed by traffic.

This is a lovely building, built between 1795 and 1796, not originally as a Rectory, but for Matthew Whiting, a sugar refiner and director of the Phoenix Assurance Company.

There was originally a church behind the Rectory building. St. James, Ratcliffe was the first church built by the Bishop Blomfield Metropolitan Churches Fund and consecrated in 1833. It was badly damaged during the war and demolished in the 1950s.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Greater London shows the pre-war area with the church in the centre of the map with Butcher Row just to the left. The map also highlights the changes in the area. Today, Butcher Row is a much wider road and has taken over the part of Cable Street where it runs up to Commercial Road.

The Rectory and the area once occupied by the church is now the home of the Royal Foundation of St. Katherine.

On the front of the rectory is a blue plaque to the Reverend St. John Groser, an East End Priest during the first half of the 20th Century who took part in the General Strike and was injured in the Battle of Cable Street. There is a fascinating history of St. John Groser to be found here.

Hard to believe that this house is facing one of the busiest sets of roads in East London.

Leaving the traffic of Butcher Row, it was time to head to the next location:

Site 23 – Early 18th Century Group in Narrow Street

This group of buildings are still looking in fine condition and include The Grapes pub.

the Architects’ Journal provides a view from 1972 of how this type of house could survive and the social changes that this involved:

“In Narrow Street a few much restored early 18th century houses give foretaste of the social pattern that might soon develop along the whole riverside. the fronts are well painted, but generally anonymous, the backs, have picture frame windows and motor boats. Their original inhabitants have been moved into council flats behind. 

Significantly these houses survive only because they have been bought by people able to restore and maintain them. Tower Hamlets had planned to demolish them for open space, but relented when it was agreed that they would be restored privately.”

After a quick stop in the Grapes, it was on to the next location:

Site 24 – 18th Century Terrace in Newell Street

This terrace of houses is a surprise. It is reached from Narrow Lane by turning into Three Colt Street, then turning left into Newell Street. (Newell Street was originally Church Row, but changed name, I believe, in the late 1930s) Both these streets have housing blocks from the later half of the 20th century, however as soon as you pass under the bridge carrying the Docklands Light Railway over Newell Street you find yourself in a street lined with these 18th century houses.

At the end of the terrace is St. Anne’s Passage which provides access to the church of St. Anne, Limehouse. The following photo is taken by the passage which is running to the left and shows the full length of the terrace. In the photo of the site in the Architects’ Journal, the building with the curved facade is only two storey so the top storey looks to be a later addition which the different type of brick confirms.

If you look down St. Anne’s Passage you find the final destination for the walk:

Site 25 – St. Anne’s, Limehouse

St. Anne’s Limehouse is a wonderful church and visiting on a sunny February day was perfect. Although you can enter the churchyard from the Commercial Road, the best way to approach the church is through St. Anne’s Passage which provides this view of the church:

The article in the Architects’ Journal included the following photo from the same position. Note how the house on the right was originally two storeys.

The building on the other corner was the office for a building company in 1972 however it was originally a pub which is still reasonably clear from the building today, which does not look as if it has changed much since 1972.

The pub was the Coopers Arms and occupies a good location at the entrance to the passage to the church. I wonder how may participants of a Sunday morning service walked the short distance to the pub at the end of the service?

There are so many closed pubs across East London and looking at these buildings now it is easy to forget that they were once the hub for so much of the life of the community. Most East London pubs also had sports teams and ran sports events, and despite its relatively small size the Coopers Arms was no exception.

19th Century issues of the Sporting Life tell of the events held at the Coopers Arms.

From the issue of the 22nd February 1890:

“Cooper’s Arms, Church Row, Limehouse: There was a good muster present at this establishment on Tuesday evening to witness the opening bouts of the 9st competition for a silver cup, promoted by W. Turner, the well known boxer of Limehouse. Details:

Bout 1: W. Brown beat T. Tabbits – The latter retired at the end of the first round.

Bout 2: A. Smith beat W. Potts – There was little to choose between these men, Smith receiving the verdict.

Bout 3: J. Bennett beat H. Cooper – This was a grand affair for two rounds when Cooper retired.

Bout 4: D. Hudson sparred a bye with G. Painter

Exhibition boxing by the following also took place: Willits v. Perkins, Paver v. Pointon, Walmer v. Daultry, Hall v. Barnes, brothers Campbell. Wind-up, Bill Turner v. Buffer Causer

The judges were H. Watson and H. Perry, referee T. Baldwin, timekeeper, Sporting Life representative, M.C.  The finals take place on Tuesday next.”

The Cooper’s Arms also had a very active Quoits team with the Sporting Life referring to the team as “those well known East-End quoiters.”

Remove the yellow lines on the street, the street lamp and the blue sign on the gates and you could be walking to church in the 19th Century.

If you look just to the left of the blue plaque in the photo above, there is a much older stone plaque in the narrow gap:

If I have read this correctly, the plaque from 1757 gives the dimensions of the passage and confirms that the passage is the property of St. Anne’s Church.

St. Anne’s Limehouse is a magnificent church. It was one of the 12 churches built following the 1711 Act of Parliament to build additional churches across London to cater for the expanding population of the city.

Built between 1714-1727, the church was rebuilt after a serious fire in 1850 and there was further restoration work in the 1980s and 90s.

St. Anne’s, Limehouse was permitted by Queen Anne to fly the White Ensign of the Royal Naval Service, a tradition which continues to this day. The proximity of the church to the River Thames also meant that the church was a Trinity House navigation mark for those travelling on the river.

In the churchyard is a strange pyramid structure. It was originally planned that this would be installed on the roof of the church, however this did not happen so the pyramid continues to sit in the churchyard looking up at the church roof where it should have been located.

This was a fascinating walk, rounded off by finishing in the churchyard of St. Anne’s on a sunny February afternoon with the church yard full of crocuses.

On this third walk to visit the sites of concern in the 1972 Architects; Journal, I was pleased that the majority have survived well, the main exception being the rather strange modern mock Georgian fascia of the building in Dock Street.

The next stage will be the route from Cubitt Town on the Isle of Dogs up along the River Lea to finish of the category B locations. That is a walk for another day.

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Atlantic House, Holborn Viaduct

In the late 1940s and early 1950s reconstruction started on many of the sites that had been destroyed by wartime bombing. One of the buildings completed in 1951 was Atlantic House, Holborn Viaduct.

This was an easy location to find, but in discovering more about the building I found how in London some things remain the same, and how some buildings are not what they seem.

My father took the following photo of Atlantic House in 1951 shortly after completion of the building. The photo was taken on Holborn Viaduct looking towards Holborn Bridge over Farringdon Street.

The photo below is an enlargement of part of the above photo and shows the bridge over Farringdon Street to the right of the lamp post with the remains of a building just behind the bridge with the outline of stairs on the adjoining wall. I will come on to the relevance of this building later.

This area of London suffered badly during the war as can be seen from the Aerofilms photo below taken in 1951. The photo also demonstrates how random was the impact of bombing with some blocks of buildings completely destroyed whilst others remain untouched.

In the photo Atlantic House was still under construction. The building is in the lower left corner. The length along Holborn Viaduct appears complete whilst that along Farringdon Street is still just the steel framework.

Atlantic House was design by T.P. Bennett & Son, an architectural practice that is still in existence today.

Atlantic House was built under the government’s “lessor scheme”. This was a scheme to try and get post war building underway as there was a considerable shortage of office space across the city.

Under the “lessor scheme” office buildings would be leased back to the government for a fixed rate of interest. This provided a cost effective way for the government to get office space built whilst providing a modest return for the construction company.

The aim of the “lessor scheme” was to develop office space quickly and cost effectively so there was little incentive for good architecture.

Atlantic House was built of steel frame (as seen in the Aerofilms photo) with the frame being clad in brick. The building had symmetrical frontages on both Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon Street with a curved corner facing onto the bridge over Farringdon Street.

The architecture was very much of a 1930s style with long lines of windows along the otherwise plain long facades. It was criticised for its architectural blandness when completed, although I rather like the curved corner of the building.

The photo below is from the LMA Collage collection and shows the two long facades and the curved corner facing the bridge.

(Photo used with permission from London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. Catalogue reference SC/PHL/01/013/57/3007)

Atlantic House lasted almost 50 years and was demolished in 2000 and 2001, to be replaced by:

Another Atlantic House, but of a very different architectural style and built of very different materials.

Whilst Atlantic House is very different the building on the corner is also new as it does not appear in the photos of the post war Atlantic House. Originally, Holborn Bridge had four pavilions, one on each corner of the bridge. During the war, the two northern pavilions were destroyed by bombing, only the two southern pavilions remained.

Go back to the enlargement of my father’s photo and the remains of the north eastern pavilion is the structure seen at the end of the bridge.

When the 1951 Atlantic House was built, the remains of the original pavilion were demolished and a concrete stairway built at bridge level to provide access to Farringdon Street below. The original pavilion was not rebuilt.

The pavilion that we see on the north west corner today was built after Atlantic House was demolished in 2001. Built to replicate the original, it looks old but is relatively recent.

Given that the name Atlantic House is on the building that now occupies the site of the post war Atlantic House, I checked whether there was a pre-war Atlantic House on the same site, and sure enough there was, and I was able to find records of the building dating back to 1901, so there have been three different incarnations of Atlantic House going back for at least 116 years.

The current Atlantic House is occupied by a legal services company. The post war version was the home of Her Majesty’s Stationary Office and the pre- war building appears to have been home to a number of companies including Armour & Co. Ltd, famed for their tinned meats including Armour’s Corned Beef, Armour’s Boned Chicken and Armour’s Ox Tonque which could all be purchased from Harrod’s as well as stores across the country.

Another occupant of the pre-war Atlantic House was the Berthon Boat Company, a manufacturer of collapsible boats.

Percy K. Langdale, the secretary of the Berthon Boat Company wrote to the Pall Mall Gazette on the 25th April 1912, one of a number of letters concerning the sinking of the Titanic.

The Berthon Boat Company manufactured collapsible boats which were used as back up to wooden life boats. Langdale wrote that:

“Unfortunately, in shipping disasters, collapsible boats, being supplementary or auxiliary, are only resorted to after every wooden boat has been launched, and when the vessel is generally going down, so are seldom brought into use. In the case of the Titanic disaster, however, two and a half hours elapsed from the time of collision to the sinking, so there was ample time to have got out sufficient collapsible craft for all on board of the vessel had she been equipped with a sufficient number of them.”

I have no idea how good the Berthon collapsible boats were, but it does make you wonder how many lifes would have been saved if their boats had been on board the Titanic.

On the north east corner of Holborn Bridge, Bath House was built on the site in the 1970s and in 2014, following demolition of Bath House and as part of the redevlopment which included a new Bath House, the final missing pavilion building was constructed. Whilst in the style of the original pavilions, the clean stonework gives away that this is a building only three years of age.

The round plaque on the lower left of the pavilion is a City Heritage Award from 2014. The reconstructed pavilions on the north side of Holborn Bridge are rather good replicas of the originals. The photo below shows one of the original pavilions, still standing on the south east corner of Holborn Bridge.

As can be seen in the photos above, on each of the pavilions there is a niche containing a statue of a London Mayor. The four mayors are shown below and are:

South east pavilion – Sir Thomas Gresham

North easrt pavilion – Sir Hugh Myddelton

North west pavilion – Sir William Walworth

South west pavilion – Henry Fitz Eylwin (the first Lord Mayor of London)

Holborn Bridge is part of Holborn Viaduct, the 427m long viaduct designed to provide a bridge over the valley of the Fleet River and a level road between Holborn Circus and Newgate Street.

The construction contract for Holborn Viaduct was awarded on the 7th May 1866 and on the 6th November 1869 it was opened by Queen Victoria.

Whilst Holborn Bridge is the most obvious part of the Viaduct, there are other places where it can be seen, including the height of the viaduct above the land where it once sloped down, either side of the Fleet River.

One such place is the smaller bridge over Shoe Lane.

The small bridge over Shoe Lane can also be seen in my father’s photo below, taken from a slightly different angle than the first photo and showing the Shoe Lane Bridge at the lower edge of Atlantic House.

The height of the viaduct can also be seen looking out from Holborn Bridge, south along Farringdon Street down towards the River Thames.

As well as the four statues of London Mayors on the pavilion buildings, the bridge also has four statues to Agriculture, Commerce, Fine Art and Science.

Each of the pavilions provides a means of getting between Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon Street with a staircase in each pavilion. This was probably their original design purpose, providing access between the two levels via an ornate set of symmetrical buildings at each corner of the bridge.

Although the post war Atlantic House did not include rebuilding the pavilion, it did provide a staircase between Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon Street as well as the three windows which look out from the first floor, however it is a very utilitarian concrete structure.

(Photo used with permission from London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. Catalogue reference SC/PHL/01/010/75/360)

In the photo above, the ground floor was occupied by W.B. Poultry & Meats Ltd, one of the many businesses in this area connected with Smithfield Market.

Atlantic House and Holborn Viaduct and Bridge show that despite frequent rebuilding there is some continuity in the names of buildings with Atlantic House being the name for the building on the north west corner of the bridge for over 116 years.

They also demonstrate that some things are not quite what they seem with the pavilions on the north side of Holborn Bridge missing for several decades and now being replicas of the originals.

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The Ankerwycke Yew

There is plenty of history surrounding London and it is possible to take a short train journey from the city and reach a place which could not be more different.

This is the first of a very occasional mid-week series of posts highlighting some of these places. For this first post the subject is the possibly 2,500 year old Ankerwycke Yew tree near the village of Wraysbury, close to the River Thames and possibly the location for the meetings between King John and the Barons which resulted in the Magna Carta.

Not only is the age of the Ankerwycke Yew remarkable, but also the location where it can be found.

The following extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location of the Ankerwycke Yew (red circle lower left of the map) with Heathrow Airport to the upper right, the M25 running vertically down the centre of the map, the large reservoirs that supply water to London and the lakes where once sand and gravel was extracted to build much of the infrastructure to the west of London are also to be found close by.

There is an excellent walk to the Ankerwycke Yew which starts at Wraysbury station (45 minutes from Waterloo station). The station is the yellow circle on the black railway line on the left side of the map. The guide to the walk can be found here.

The first part of the walk passes the Wraysbury Reservoir, one of the large reservoirs in this area that supply London. Continuing the water theme, the walk now passes some of the lakes that formed following sand and gravel extraction. The geology of the area is a product of the River Thames, as over the centuries it has changed route and flooded and as a result has left beds of sand and gravel. These have been dug out over the centuries, with major industrial extraction commencing in the 1920s when there was an influx of companies into the area around Wraysbury.

After a short walk along the Staines Road, then following a track by another lake, the walk reaches the River Thames, although a very different river to the channeled river that runs through the centre of London.

Turning from the banks of the Thames, a short distance further are the ruins of a Benedictine Priory. Dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, this was a small priory with only six or seven nuns and a Prioress at the start of the 16th Century with an annual income of £20. The Priory was founded here at Ankerwycke around 1160 and closed during the dissolution in 1536. Today only a small part of the old Priory buildings survive.

Close to the Priory is the Ankerwycke Yew. There are various dates for the age of the tree ranging from 1,500 to over 2,500 years dependent on the measurement method, assumptions etc. with most estimates ranging between 2,000 and 2,500 years. Whatever the actual age it is very old.

The Ankerwycke Yew is close to Runneymede which is on the opposite side of the Thames and there is some claim that the Magna Carta was signed at, or close by the Ankerwycke Yew. In the 13th Century, the landscape would have been different as the area was probably rather marshy as it was within the flood plain of the Thames. The Ankerwycke Yew is on a slightly raised area of land (therefore dry) and with the proximity of the Priory perhaps both lend some credibility to this claim.

Richard Montfichet, Lord of the Manor of Wraysbury was also one of the 25 Barons appointed to monitor King John’s future conduct after signing the Magna Carta. It was Richard’s ancestor Gilbert Montfichet, Knight and Lord of Wraysbury who founded the Priory.

The size of the trunk provides an appreciation of the age of the Ankerwycke Yew. A circumference of 8 metres confirms that this is a tree of some age.

Standing next to the Ankerwycke Yew, a living tree possibly well over two thousand years old it is hard to imagine that the M25 and Heathrow are so close and that it is just a short walk and train journey from central London. The sound of aircraft on their approach into Heathrow was the only distraction. The Ankerwycke Yew could well have been a few hundred years old when Roman London was founded.

The National Trust have set up a semi-circle of benches around the tree, however even on a sunny winter weekend, there were no other visitors to the Ankerwycke Yew.

From the Ankerwycke Yew, it was then a short walk into the village of Wraysbury, a stop at a pub then back to the station having just met a very remarkable tree.

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Gray’s Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen And A London Kidnapping

The subject of this week’s post is another post war photo taken by my father showing a bombed building with only the lower part of the front facade remaining.

The one distinguishing feature is the plaque on the remaining wall. The location is Gray’s Inn Place, a small gated area within Gray’s Inn. The gate separates Gray’s Inn Place from Warwick Court which leads down to High Holborn.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

The same location today:

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

The building on which the plaque is now mounted is the City Law School. The building to the right is the same in both photos and appears to have been faithfully restored with the majority of the external features remaining the same.

The wall and railings in both photos also appear the same, confirming that the physical separation of Gray’s Inn from the local area has been in place for many years.

The plaque is to Sun Yat-sen and given that it appears to be undamaged in the post war photo, I have no reason to doubt that it is the same plaque in place today.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen is recognised as the father of the Chinese Republic and is honoured in both China and Taiwan. I am not going to attempt to explain his role in the complex Chinese politics of the time. I have read a number of histories and chronologies of his life on the Internet and it would take a much better understanding than I have of Chinese history at the end of the 19th Century and start of the 20th to try and explain his role. The key fact is that he was the first President of the Chinese Republic and worked to bring about a modern approach in a country that had been under Imperial rule for many centuries. In this post I will focus on his brief time in London and the affair that made headlines in the country’s newspapers in 1896.

Sun Yat-sen originally studied medicine at a college in China run by a Dr James Cantlie and qualified in 1892. Sun was also involved in a number of political activities including a coup attempt in 1895 which went wrong and resulted in Sun having to escape from China and a long period in exile.

In 1896 he arrived in London where he again met Dr James Cantlie who had returned to London in 1895 and it was Cantlie who arranged the lodging in Gray’s Inn Place for Sun.

The impact of Chinese politics extended to London. Sun would walk regularly to study in the British Museum and also to visit Cantlie and whilst on one of these walks on Sunday October 11th 1896, close to the Chinese Legation in Portland Place, he was tricked by some Chinese men into entering a building which was part of the Legation.

Cantlie received word of Sun’s imprisonment at the Legation and started to campaign for his release trying both the Home and Foreign Office and the newspapers, initially with The Times (who did not appear interested and would not publish the story) to The Globe who did publish with such graphic headlines that it resulted in the Government taking action, and Sun being released on Friday 23rd October 1896.

The Globe article on the 23rd October was titled “The Kidnapping Case” and read:

“We have received information this afternoon of the fact that depositions reached the Home Office yesterday to the effect that Sun Yat Sen was detained at the Chinese legation, and these were immediately communicated to the Foreign Office. Lord Salisbury has, in consequence, addressed a request to the Chinese Minister for the immediate release of the prisoner”.

The Globe article also included Dr. Cantlie’s statement which makes for a fascinating read of what was happening on the streets of London in 1896:

“A representative of “The Globe” called to-day at the house of Dr. James Cantlie, Dean of the College of Medicine for Chinese who is the friend of Sun Yat Sen, referred to in the accounts of the kidnapping case which has been published. Dr. Cantlie had drawn up a full statement of the affair which the following is the substance:

Sun Yat Sen says the Doctor is a Chinese friend of mine, and has been detained in the Legation since last Sunday week. I knew Sun in Hong Kong intimately. He studied medicine at the College there, at which I was a lecturer, from the year 1887 until he qualified. He was a brilliant student and started to practice in Macao, a settlement some 13 miles from Hong Kong. He was, owing to the success which attended his practice there, induced by his friends to go to Canton. I then lost sight of him for some months, but fortunately he called upon me in Hong Kong, and said he had got into some trouble with the Chinese government. I recommended him to consult a lawyer. I saw a lawyer the next day, but he would not tell me where Sun was, in case the news should get about. I next saw Sun in Honolulu, on my way home in March of this year.

I found he was going England, and I urged him most strongly to prosecute his medical studies in England, and advised him to come to London in October, when the medical classes opened.

This he did for he called upon me in London on the 1st October. He spent the day with me at my house. I then found lodgings for him for a few days. He came backwards and forwards to my house, but suddenly his visits ceased, and I learned from his landlady that he had not been seen at his lodgings for a few days.

On Saturday evening, October 17th at 10:30 I received information from a source there was no gainsaying that Sun was a prisoner at the Chinese Legation, and that in a few days he was to be sent out to China, where he would certainly lose his head. I immediately went to Sir Halliday Macartney’s house at 3, Harley-place, but the house was shut up, and the constable on duty in the road told me they had gone away for six months. I then went and reported the matter to the Marylebone Police station. Not receiving any offer of immediate help, I then went to Scotland Yard and laid the matter before the authorities.

On Sunday, October 18th, I again called at 3 Harley Place in the hope of finding a caretaker from whom I might get Sir Halliday’s address. Not gaining admission, I went to seek the advice of Dr. Manson, as he knew Sun while his pupil, and who had seen him at his house in London a few days previously. Whilst I was there we received confirmation of the previous night’s report from another source. This was communicated in, if possible a still more definite way and we were able to get at the truth.

A note from Sun placed the matter beyond all doubt, especially as his handwriting is familiar to us. Dr. Manson took the case up, and we went to Scotland Yard to report further particulars. Afterwards we called at the Foreign Office and reported the matter there. Dr. Manson then called at the Chinese Legation and asked for Sun. He was told there was no such person there, and he then told the Chinese that we knew Sun to be there, and the fact of his detention had been communicated to the Foreign Office and the police,

We then had the further satisfaction of knowing that should the Chinese ascertain that something had leaked out, Sun light be saved. I posted a private detective to watch the Legation, in case an attempt should be made to smuggle him away in the night. Our information was that he would be smuggled away and that in all probability the attempt would be made on Tuesday, the 20th.

The time at our disposal was so short that we did not know how best to obtain protection. On Sunday night, October 18th, I called at the office of the Times and reported the matter there, asking if they thought it better to delay publication of the news until it was seen how things would turn out. On Monday 19th, I had again a private detective employed in watching the house. I kept him there until Tuesday, when I removed him, as I learned that a Scotland Yard official had taken up the duty of watching the premises.

Since then I have had surreptitious communications from Sun. and have been able to convey a message to him, stating that Dr. Manson and my self were doing everything possible to secure justice. He had taken his food better since and has also slept better. He was afraid to eat previously, being in the greatest dread of Poison. At one time he threatened to commit suicide, but our communications allayed his fears. His guards have been doubled since the Chinese got to know the circumstances, and his window has been secured, as it was found that he was writing notes and throwing them out the window. The endeavor to obtain his release, I believe proceeded satisfactorily, and unless deferred hope causes him to give way to extreme measures, all may yet be well.

Sun thus briefly describes the procedure of his capture. Whilst passing the Chinese Legation on his way to my house, on October 11th, he was accosted by two China men, who quietly go on either side of him, and, as they were opposite the Legation, hustled him in and locked the door. He was then pushed into a room by an English gentlemen, who locked his door, and stationed a guard over it. The report given out by the Chinese Legation that Sun is a lunatic is ridiculous, but it was on that pretence that his passage was engaged on board a vessel that was to take him to China.

The latest report from the Legation is that the Emperor of China does not want Sun now,

At one time in this singular affair it was put in our power to effect a rescue. we were sorely tempted to do this on being constantly met at the legation with the direct lie that Sun was not there. Considering however, the slur cast upon the laws of this country by the Chinese, we thought, and were advised, that it would be more in keeping with the dignity of British law that justice should be more effected through the ordinary channels.

When the matter is concluded and Sun is set at liberty, I will ask the public to reward my informants, who have, no doubt, been the direct means of saving a man’s life. they made the communication at great personal risk and sacrifice.

(Signed) James Cantlie. M.B., F.R.C.S”

After his release from the Chinese Legation and the threat of certain execution had he been smuggled out to China, Sun continues to spend many years in exile, travelling the world to gather support for his cause, before finally events in China allowed him to return on January 1st, 1912.

On May 5th 1921 he was sworn in as President of the Republic of China, something that would not have been possible if not for the efforts of Dr. James Cantlie in London in 1896.

Returning to Gray’s Inn Place, I cannot find a date for when the plaque was made and installed, but it must have been pre-war. It was made by the Estonian sculptor Dora Gordine who moved to London in the early 1930s, so I suspect the plaque was made between then and 1939.

Dora Gordine married Richard Hare and set up a studio home at Dorich House in 1936, which Dora had designed, near Richmond park. The house is now the Dorich House Museum.

The following photo shows the house at the end of Warwick Court, next to the building on which the plaque is mounted. Compare this with the post war photo and as well as the main features of the building, there are a couple of other survivors.

On the first floor, to the left of the central window is a Hydrant sign which was in the pre-war photo, where there was also a plaque on the extreme left of the building at the same level. Whilst the plaque is not there, the outline of the plaque remains. I wonder if this was the Gray’s Inn boundary marker (dated 1697) now on the second floor the house.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

The best place to see the plaque is in Gray’s Inn. If you walk up Warwick Court and entrance is closed, you can still see the plaque on the wall to the right. Even here, the conversion of so many London buildings to luxury apartments continues.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

The following photo shows the entrance to Gray’s Inn Place today.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

A fascinating story of a London kidnapping, a story that I did not know about until I found the location of my father’s photo of a bombed building and a single plaque that had survived the considerable damage inflicted on Gray’s Inn.

There is a chronology of the life of Sun Yat-sen on the web site of the Dr. Sun yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei.

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My Third Year Of Exploring London – Readers Comments

This week is the end of my third year of exploring London and of writing this blog – a point I must admit I am surprised I have reached.

My purpose is the same as when I started, to trace the locations of the photos my father took of London and to give me a push to get out and explore the city.

I would really like to thank everyone who reads, subscribes and comments to my posts. I would also like to apologise to all those who comment and e-mail as I am really bad at responding. Writing and researching a weekly post as well as all the normal work and family commitments is a challenge. When I complete one post it is then into panic mode to focus on the next post. I can only admire those who write more frequently.

As a thanks for all the comments I have received, I would like to use this opportunity to publish a small sample of comments to my posts from over the last year. I learn so much from these, they provide personal background to the locations I cover, more information about the sites, answers to questions, point out errors (thankfully not too often) and provide links to other resources including a number of fascinating films.

So, to start with a post I published in March of last year.

Chelsea Old Church

Chelsea Old Church was destroyed during the last war and my father took the following photo of the site. The church was rebuilt after the war to an identical design as the original, and many of the interior monuments were restored and now make the church a fascinating place to visit on the Chelsea Embankment.

I received a comment from Paul on his experiences around Chelsea Old Church:

I started my school life at Cook’s ground in 1939. I entered through the right hand gate on Old Church Street that had an overhead engraved stone sign saying “Girls and Infants”. The left gate’s said “Boys”. I didn’t have far to walk because we lived at Rectory Chambers almost next door. In front of our house was McCauley’s grocery. He had two girls and I went to school with them. Between our house and the school was Roma’s cafe, Rosemary was my mother’s best friend. In front was the “Pig’s Ear”. Wooden beer barrels were off loaded from horse drawn wagons and slid into the pubs cellar through a trap door in the pavement. Coal was also delivered to all the houses by horse cart and unloaded through small iron “manholes” in the pavements. The were no cars parked on the streets. Trams ran down Beaufort St. from Kings Road to Clapham Juction. A fellow on a bicycle lite the gas street lights with a flame at the end of a pole. 

Then all of a sudden ALL the lights went out. My mother got a summons because a light showed through the tiny bathroom window! Like all the other windows it should have been covered with black cloth.

The year after I started school we were labeled and posted by train to Cornwall. I returned home a year later because I had contracted diphtheria. The whole area at the end of the street was now a pile of rubble and a part of the church left standing was boarded up so we could’t get in, though we tried. There were still some of my friends around and we used the bricks to make dugouts and play “war” games throwing rocks at each others trenches. I was once knocked out and awoke in a neighbor’s kitchen while the lady bathed the back of my head. I have a photo of me on the rubble with my baby brother and mother nearby. It was taken by my father before he left for Africa. A neighbor named Bill Mallett became my best friend. He drove a lorry which he had parked in next to the damaged area in front of his house. He told me what had happened while I was away. He helped my mother repair our front windows. She had tomatoes planted in flower boxes on the roof. Paulton’s Square had “victory” gardens planted around the half buried shelters there. All the railings had been removed. I hated to go down after the air raid siren sounded because they smelt so bad. The wardens allowed me to site at the door with them and watch the planes until the noise got too loud. After the “all clear” my friends and I ran through the streets looking for bombs and shrapnel. One of us found a whole incendiary so he became our leader. He took it home for his collection and never did tell his parents! I found a small bomb and we tried to set it off by repeatedly throwing it in our “war zone”. Finally it broke apart and it was filled with a yellow putty. Notices were pasted all around with photos of “booby” traps that were dropped by the Germans. They looked like toys but we never found one! I could have been one of the kids by the ice-cream cart shown above or at least they were my some of my friends.

I left Kingsley (Cook’s ground) for the last time through the left gate in 1948, Dr. George Walsh was head master. 

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

Then in May I wrote about Manchester Square, home to Hertford House and the Wallace Collection.

Geraldine shared an experience when walking through the square in 1969:

I lived at 25 Manchester Street (near the junction with Dorset Street) for five years, from 1968 till 1973. Back then, EMI Records occupied a post-war office building in the north-west corner of the square (since demolished). The cover shot for the Beatles’ first album shows them leaning over a street-side balcony at EMI House, grinning like cheeky chappies. Quite by happenstance, I was walking home from work through the square in 1969, saw a small crowd gathered outside EMI, looked up & there were the Fabs in their hippie pomp, being photographed by Angus McBean again, for what was intended as the cover of their album-in-progress. (It’s on the Blue Album: 1967-1970.)

And from Henry, a wonderful family link to Manchester Square:

My great-grandfather Stopford Brooke (the founder of the Wordsworth Trust at Grasmere) lived at 1 Manchester Square between 1866 and 1914. His large study was at the top of the very tall house, where he would entertain the likes of Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, W.B.Yeats and Henry James. An unmarried sister looked after his seven motherless children, for whom Sunday lunch was the only time when they could be sure to see their father. who sat at the end of the long dining-room table. His long sermons stirred the conscience of late Victorian London.

It Can Now Be Revealed

It Can Now Be Revealed is the title to one of the many booklets published at the end of the war to record the experiences of specific organisations or London boroughs during the war and also looking forward to post war reconstruction.

It Now Can be Revealed covered British Railways and as well as covering the war, also provided a very positive view of the future development of the railways, and included this drawing of a new Finsbury Park station which will be rebuilt “on the most modern lines”.

Within the text of the booklet there was a reference to News Theatres, which I had not come across before:

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

I had some feedback about News Theatres, from M D West:

News Theatres were small cinemas for showing film newsreels etc….they built one in the Queens Building public foyer at Heathrow (opened 1956) and I think there was one at Victoria Station.

From Colin:

There was certainly a news cinema at Victoria Station, the entrance was shared with the parcels’ office on the Buckingham Palace Road side and was parallel to the road. I used to walk there to see the ‘toons in the ’50s it must have been

From Anne:

Up until the 1970s or so it was common to be able to walk in and out of a cinema at any point in the performance, so I guess the idea of a news theatre (in pre-TV days) at a station would be to pop in and pass the time while you waited for your train.

And from Guy which included a link to a photo of the Victoria Station Cartoon Cinema as the News Theatre became:

Here’s a link to details of the news cinema at Victoria Station that later became a cartoon cinema, before shutting in 1981:
http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1248/

Smith Square – Architecture, History, And Reformers

In June I went to Smith Square.

Eddie wrote with his experience of working in the area and gave me a challenge I have not yet completed:

I spent many many hours walking around it during the 1970’s being a Police Officer at Rochester Row. Harold Wilson, Prime Minister twice, used to live at number 5 Lord North Street and he and the house had 24 hour armed protection, just one of many armed protection posts on Rochester Row and Cannon Row’s ground. Next time you visit see if you can find the two ‘ducks’ in Smith Square.

The Festival Of Britain – Maps, Football, Guidebooks. Science And Abram Games

Then in July I wrote a number of posts on the Festival of Britain, one of which included this fantastic map published to illustrate the “local conversational gambits when touring the country”.

Comments gave personal experiences of the Festival, including from Patsy:

At the age of 6, I attended the festival of Britain.
I only have snatched of memories of it. Yet it is something I will never completely forget. I remember particularly the huge ‘pole’ rising into the sky – the Skylon – I couldn’t understand what it was for. There were squirrels in the trees – models of squirrels – I wondered why they didn’t have real squirrels.
I remember being bewildered by the crowds and I remember an overhead cable car. Other than that, memory fades.

And from Veronica:

I went to the Festival of Britain and it was a memorable experience for someone especially who had lived through the war years , as well as going to the Festival itself we saw much of London still showing all the dreadful damage still awaiting re-development. As well as that we got to go into the Dome of Discovery and saw the actual “largest piece of Plate Glass ever made at that time” My father worked on that and Pilkington Brother Glass manufacturers of St Helens, Lancashire had to have a special “low-loader vehicle” made to bring it down to London. We all lined the streets to see it go on its way.

And from Geraldine Terry:

My father was a joiner from Tyneside who traveled to London and found work on the Royal Festival Hall construction site. He helped to make some of the concrete shuttering. He returned to Tyneside after the Festival of Britain, but it was an important period in his life. He told me that the construction workers were given free tickets to the inaugural concert, which he enjoyed.

I am researching my father’s life and would love to know more about what it was like to be involved in building the Hall. If anyone knows of any workers’ accounts, I’d appreciate hearing about them.

Unfortunately I have not found any accounts from those who worked on building the Royal Festival Hall and the Festival in general – they would be fascinating to read.

Canterbury – 1948 and 2016

As well as London, my father also took lots of photos across the country whilst during National Service and on cycling holidays across the Youth Hostels of the country. In August I visited a number of these locations across England and Scotland. One was Canterbury in Kent and this is one of the photos my father took.

Both Annie and Geraldine directed me to the 1944 film A Canterbury Tale which can be viewed online here. A really good film, but obviously of the period and the end of the film includes a number of shots in and around Canterbury showing how badly the city was bombed. One scene includes the following clip taken from almost exactly the same position as the photo my father took.

The Furthest Object Visible From The Shard

In September I spent a day climbing five of the highest locations in London starting with one of the earliest (The Monument) to the latest (Shard). From the Shard I wondered what was the furthest object I could see from the top (see the ghostly image of a chimney on the horizon towards the right of the following photo)

There are loads of good viewpoints in and around London and Pimlico Pete mentioned one which is on my list for this year:

Barnet church tower is open on Saturdays in July and August. It’s well worth the climb up the claustrophobic stairwell because the views are outstanding. I have clocked Wrotham transmitter mast at 31 miles and St John’s church tower in Higham at 32.4 so not quite matching the feat we see here. I found it useful to manipulate the contrast and colour tint in Photoshop to bring out the fuzzy detail. Wrotham would have remained unspotted otherwise.

I also had some interesting comments on the blog and via Twitter correctly advising that actually the Sun, or perhaps even the Andromeda Nebula would be the furthest things that could be seen, so perhaps I need to correct the title to terrestrial objects, and with the level of light pollution in London I suspect you could never see the later.

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

in October I went to the area around St. Pancras Old Church to find the location from where this and a couple of other photos were taken. The church is in the background on the right behind the trees.

The area was home to a number of coal storage depots, from where coal would be collected for onward distribution across London. Some comments on how this worked, and how dangerous this could be. Firstly from Keith:

Howdy! The Purchese Street depot was built in 1898 by the Midland Railway. The depot took the form of drops – the coal fell from a wagon on the high level directly into dealers’ wagons avoiding the time and expense of transhipment but generating noise and dust. Last time I was up that way there was a rather nice red brick retaining wall. There was a flying bomb dropped around here and maybe that is why the place looks rather messy. 1940-41 damage was usually tidied up more neatly than that.

From Denis:

Coal was held in a hopper, and the coal merchant would park the lorry underneath and hold an empty sack under the hopper outlet, press a pedal to open the hopper, allowing coal to fall into the sack, which was then stacked on the back of the lorry where they stood. Made loading a bit easier. My dad used this yard a lot. One day a fellow coalman had a seizure/fit whilst filling a sack and was just rooted to the spot with his foot on the pedal as coal fell all over him. The other coalmen fortunately were on hand to save him. I was just a kid and was there with my dad that day, I’ll never forget it.

Warehouses And Barges In The Heart Of The City

Also in October I published some of my father’s photos of when the warehouses were still working in central London:

Thanks to Jerry who pointed out that I had got my captions round the wrong way (probably as a result of late Saturday night writing) and also recalling the terrible working conditions of those working in the streets along the river:

Pickle Herring Street ( where incidentally there were a number of fish stalls) is the image that you’ve associated with the large ship actually shown in the neighbouring photograph, swap the captions and you’ve done it. My own father who was born in 1924 actually grew up around the Shad Thames an Pickle Herring Street area, playing amongst the barges along the Thames, an activity made famous by the 1950 Film The Mudlarks. His mother apparently worked on the family fish stall on Pickle Herring Street, as mentioned above and not surprisingly contracted severe arthritis in her hands, working in such freezing conditions in the winter here, must have been dreadful. I recall walking around Shad Thames in the 1980’s before major redevelopment and restoration and finding abandoned Wharehouses still with the produce they handled pouring out of rotten doorways, this included flour that probably would have been used by the nearby Peek Freans and Jacobs biscuits factories.

I was also sent some wonderful photos from David Smith. His mother had taken them in the 1960s including this photo looking up the Thames from Tower Bridge.

The Lord Mayor’s Show In The Early 1980s

In November it was the turn for some of my photos from the 1980s, this time photos from the Lord Mayor’s Show,

It was really good that someone saw the post and also themselves in one of the photos – from Julie:

Every year, my kids have to endure, as we watch the Lord Mayor s parade on TV, my trip down memory lane recounting the year Tom ( husband) and I took part, alongside many of our fellow Disney workers in this wonderful parade
I couldn’t believe it when, upon opening your blog, daring to hope that we might have been snapped…….. there we are! Me ( Cinderella) and other half Tom, (Bert) ……
I remember, it rained that day too, as it so often does for the parade!
But nobody minded… Long live the parade!

The photos also showed the high level walkways that were once a feature along London Wall. For some more information on these MikeH wrote:

The walkways above street level, which can be seen in the views of London Wall, are all part of the ‘Pedway’ scheme for The City of London in the 1950’s and 60’s. It was planned to separate pedestrians from the road traffic and provide a continuous walkway from building to building and across roads, all new buildings were required to provide this and as adjacent sites were developed the pedway would gradually expand to cover the whole of the city. Many buildings had included this and quite a few bridges were built but inevitably there were many dead ends awaiting further development and the whole plan was abandoned by the 1980’s.

MikeH then provides the link for a film about the walkways:

Further to my previous reply this documentary contains lots of old film including the bomb sites around St Pauls. Its called Elevating London by  Chris Bevan Lee.   http://vimeo.com/80787092

The film is a brilliant account of the rebuilding of this part of London and the Pedway scheme as the walkways were called. I highly recommend watching the film.

The Tiger Tavern At Tower Hill

Also in November I wrote about the Tiger Tavern pub that was once on Tower Hill.

There were rumours about an underground tunnel linking the pub and the Tower of London although I could find no evidence, however Barbara wrote:

You mention a blocked off tunnel in the basement of The Tiger, I have been in that tunnel and also seen the mummified cat, I spent many hours there as my uncle was once the manager.

It would be really interesting to know if any of the tunnel remains under Tower Hill.

Russell Square And Librairie Internationale

In January I wrote about the Libraire Internationale in Russell Square.

I found evidence of anarchist magazines being sold at the Librairie Internationale, however they seemed very polite anarchists as also found by Rob:

The Times of 1/2/1935 reported on a case in which Gladys Marie, the Duchess of Marlborough, claimed damages from a number of defendants for circulating a libel. “Mr Theobald Matthew, for Librairie Internationale [of Russell Square, W.C.], said that his clients expressed their regret as soon as the libel was brought to their attention and they now offered a sincere and unqualified apology to the Duchess.” Polite radicals indeed!

Then some more information from the excellent London Remembers site

Thanks for publishing the photos of the ‘Turkish Baths’ corner. We’d already stretched our definition of a ‘memorial’ and published that sign on our website. But your photos prompted us to do some more research, trying to understand the history of the site and to find out exactly where the Baths and the Arcade were. With the info from your photos and some maps we’ve got a bit closer: https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/turkish-baths-in-russell-square

And from Peter:

My eye was taken by the Imperial Hotel. The magnificent edifice dating from the early 20th century was itself a replacement of a previous incarnation. My 4x great-uncle, George Heald, wrote a letter from the Imperial Hotel in 1846 to George Mould in the Railway Office, Carlisle concerning the costings of the new railway that Heald was being asked to engineer between Skipton and Lancaster. Heald travelled the length and breadth of the country and stayed in the best hotels as might be expected for such a prominent engineer. His story is on Wikipedia. Mould was another pioneer of railways who lived longer than Heald (1816-1858) and built some of the main railways in Spain

And that was just a small sample of the fascinating and informative comments I received over the last year. Again my thanks for every single comment, all the feedback and additional information. And now to start next week’s post.

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New Deal For East London – Spitalfields

Before continuing on from last week’s post, it is interesting to understand why so much of East London had reached the state described by the Architects’ Journal in 1972. Such changes do not usually just happen, there is some underlying influence at work to cause so much gradual dereliction over such a large area.

The following extract titled “Planned Depression” from the 1972 article goes someway to describing how this had come about:

“Perhaps the most cheering factor in the situation is that it has now been recognised by Greater London’s planners that the economic depression existing throughout east London is the result not of thoughtless neglect, but of national planning policy. This was explained convincingly by Dr. David Eversley, now chief strategic planner to the GLC, when he spoke to the conference of municipal treasurers last year. As that important speech was not widely publicised (municipal treasurers not being regarded as newsworthy by the national press), this seems a good opportunity to present his argument in some detail.

First perhaps, one may recall that, whereas in the ‘hungry 30s’ when Ramsey MacDonald was prime minister of a national government, everybody burst into despairing laughter when he promised that progress was going ‘on and on and on, and up and up and up’, since 1945 this has in fact been the assumption of most of our economic advisers – at least until recently.

Founded on that assumption, it was a major goal of post-war planning policy to prevent London from going on and on and on (though it has certainly gone up and up and up) by inducing people to leave the capital and go to new towns. This was done by bribing industry, to establish itself in these towns by the system of industrial development certificates accompanied by various financial encouragements to leave overcrowded London, and other over-developed industrial centres and go to the new towns. As Dr. Eversley pointed out, the characteristic of the British approach has been for at least 30 years, ever since the intra-urban approach to the city’s problems concentrates largely on large-scale redevelopments; slum clearance followed normally by high-density, high-rise rebuilding; above all ambitious city centre schemes, designed to preserve the local and regional dominance of the older centres at a time of changing settlement habits….and into the age of private motor transport.

The distinguishing characteristic of British planning for urban problems in the last two decades, Dr. Eversley pointed out, has been that compared with most other countries, it has been extraordinarily successful… that the stated aims of national planning have by and large been implemented. Cities have held on to their Green Belts, the seven conurbations all had lower populations and London will by 1981 have fewer than 7,000,000 inhabitants – that is, about 2.5 million less than there would have been but for planned and voluntary out-migration.”

Although there was rebuilding across East London (but much of the high-density and high-rise housing as mentioned by Dr. Eversley), the inducements for both industry and people to move out to the new towns, (with the Essex new towns of Harlow and Basildon being the new homes for significant numbers of east Londoners), contributed to a lack of employment opportunities and a reducing population across east London.

Following last week’s walk around Whitechapel, my next stop following the Architects’ Journal 1972 map is Spitalfields. The last of the category A sites on the map which the Architects’ Journal classified as “Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London”.

I must admit to feeling somewhat nervous in writing about this area of London which continues to be described in such detail by the excellent Spitalfields Life blog and in the books by Dan Cruickshank who was so instrumental in the years following the Architects’ Journal report in saving so much of this area. (Dan Cruikshank’s latest book “Spitalfields: Two Thousand Years of English History in One Neighbourhood” is sitting on my shelves waiting to be read)

The following map is an extract from the large map in the 1972 Architects’ Journal covering the eight locations around Spitalfields.

I have marked the locations on the following extract from OpenStreetMap to show the area as it is today. Comparison of the maps show the loss of Broadstreet Station, adjacent to Liverpool Street Station in the lower left corner. The Goods Yard at the top centre of the map, and the market in the middle of the map when it still the original fruit and vegetable market in 1972.

The first stop is site 9 on the above two maps. To follow the locations numerically, Widegate Street is reached by turning off Bishopsgate into Middlesex Street where a short distance along we reach the turn into:

Site 9 – Late 17th Century Widegate Street

On walking into Widegate Street we enter a series of narrow streets that retain their original layout and give a glimpse of what this part of London would have looked like from the time they were built until post war development.

As you walk down Widegate Street, the buildings on one side are recent all the way down to the building just before the Kings Stores pub with the buildings on the opposite side being a mix but appear to be mainly from the 19th century.

The following view is from the junction of Widegate Street (on the left) Sandy’s Row (on the right) and Artillery Passage. The corner building displays a construction date of 1895.

Looking down Widegate Street from the Middlesex Street end. Most of the buildings appear of 19th century vintage. The Architects’ Journal title for this location is “Late 17th century Widegate Street” and the black location mark on the map is on the left side of the street near the junction with Middlesex Street which may refer to the white-painted building on the left. This is a different style to the rest of the street and therefore may be a late 17th century building, but I would not apply this description to the whole of Widegate Street.

I assume that the buildings that once lined the opposite side of Widegate Street were of similar style to those that remain on the left.

The next stop is at the end of Widegate Street where we enter Artillery Passage.

Site 10 – Artillery Passage and Artillery Lane

Artillery Passage is a narrow foot passage that leads down from Widegate Street to a curve in Artillery Lane.

In the photo below I am standing in Artillery Lane looking down Artillery Passage. Just behind me are numbers 56 and 58 Artillery Lane which are from around 1720, with replacement Georgian facades from the 1750s. Number 56 retains its Georgian shop front.

When I was taking these photos there were two large white lorries parked in front of these buildings. I returned later and another set of large delivery vans were parked immediately in front. This corner of Artillery Lane seems to be the parking place of choice for lorries making their deliveries to the shops and restaurants here, and in Artillery Passage. I shall have to return on a Sunday when hopefully the area is free of deliveries.

Despite trying to read the faded sign on the first floor of the corner building from many different angles, I could not decode the faded lettering. I have found sites on the internet that state it reads “Fresh Milk Daily from The Shed”. Perhaps it would be clearer in better lighting than on a December day.

In the photo above, Artillery Lane is the road curving round to the right where it heads to Bishopsgate. Today, Artillery Lane continues behind where I was standing up to the junction with Crispin Street and Bell Lane. Up until 1895, this short stretch of road was known as Raven Row. Just to the northeast of this point was the five acres of land that until the end of the 17th century was used for longbow, crossbow and gun practice and was known as the Old Artillery Ground. Interesting to speculate whether Ravens also frequented this open area and gave this short street the name Raven Row.

Artillery Passage remains a narrow passage between what appear to be mainly 18th century buildings. It gives a good idea of what this small area of London would have looked like, despite the shops and restaurants now being rather upmarket.

Coming out of Artillery Lane turn right then immediately left into the next location.

Site 11 – Single 1720 house in White’s Row

White’s Row is a narrow lane running from Artillery Lane to Commercial Street. The Architects’ Journal map has location 11 roughly half way along White’s Row and described as a single 1720 house.

White’s Row is narrow, made worse at the moment as part of the pavement on one side is boarded off due to the large building site between White’s Row and Brushfield Street, meaning that as you walk towards Commercial Street there is nothing on the left. Most of White’s Row one remaining side appears to be either 19th or 20th century. There is one building in roughly the position shown on the Architects; Journal map that answers the description of a single house, however I have some problems with confirming this as a 1720 house.

My photo of the building is shown below. Whilst there are some elements of 18th century design, the building just looks too new. The window casements are also flush with the brickwork. Buildings of the period typically had recessed casements.

My assumption is that design elements of the original 1720 house have been retained, however the majority of this building must be of recent construction.

Leaving White’s Row, I walked up Commercial Street towards Christ Church and this is the view on the left of Commercial Street. The rear of the facade of the old Fruit and Wool Exchange building in Brushfield Street are all that remain, whilst a completely new building rises to the rear of the facade.

To the right of the above photo is the Fruit and Vegetable Market building, with the frontage onto Commercial Street shown in the photo below. The low winter light bringing out the colour of the brick walls – one of my favourite building materials.

Site 12 – Network of early 18th century streets around Hawksmoor’s Christ Church

Site 12 in the Architects’ Journal map covers the network of streets north of Hawksmoor’s magnificent Christ Church including Fournier Street, Princelet Street, Hanbury Street and Wilkes Street.

The first building on the right in Fournier Street is Hawksmoor’s 1726 Rectory. This is a very substantial building, emphasised by the windows being set back a full 9 inches from the facade of the building. The 1709 Building Act required windows to be set back by 4 inches, but Hawksmoor went back a further 5, perhaps to show the depth of the walls.

Opposite the Rectory, Fournier Street is lined with 18th century houses. Note also the deeply recessed sash windows. The 1709 Build Act justified this on the basis that is would be harder for fire to propagate along a street if wooden window frames were recessed and not flush with the facade. It also set the style for how sash windows would develop. A later 1774 Building Act took this further by requiring the sash box (the wooden part of the window surrounding the glass framed panels) also to be recessed into the fabric of the building to reduce further the exposure to fire.

Here is 33A Fournier Street. The boarded up entrance between the two doors is the entrance to a yard behind these houses.

I can find no record of S. Schwartz or the age of the sign, however there are photos from the 1950s showing this as the entrance to the Express Dairy including the following from the Collage collection:

The Architects’ Journal details some of the challenges facing the restoration of Fournier Street: “Built in the 1720s it was one of the most fashionable and solidly constructed streets in the area and shows the obvious mark of the Huguenots. They established Spitalfields’ silk weaving industry and in their houses, to brighten their workrooms, they built large attic windows. The GLC is adamant that this street should be preserved, yet so far has done little to maintain it. Tower Hamlets will pay no money for restoration as the houses, due to their wooden construction, could be inhabited only as single units (quarter-inch wainscot partitions do not correspond to fire precautions and noise insulation specified for flats). If they cannot be restored to council flats, they can be saved only by individuals restoring them to their original purpose as private houses. Any rehabilitation of these houses would demand much greater social change than was necessary in other areas.”

View looking down Fournier Street.

Corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane.

Leaving Fournier Street, I walked a short distance along Brick Lane, and although Brick Lane is not included in the list of sites in the Architects’ Journal, there are many fascinating buildings, including the following building which was the Laurel Tree pub, built in 1901. The name of the pub is on the middle plaque, the year on the right, and on the left plaque are the initials THB for Truman Hanbury Buxton. A very similar set of decorations can be found on the old Three Suns pub on Wapping Wall (see my post here). Perhaps a project to track the remaining pub buildings that have this type of decoration could go on my list?

Along Brick Lane we now come to Wilkes Street, the next street marked within site 12 of the Architects’ Journal map. The junction of Wilkes Street and Hanbury Street.

Much of the area I am walking across for site 12 was land originally owned by two lawyers from Lincoln’s Inn, a Mr Charles Wood and a Mr Simon Michell. A large area of land between Commercial Street and Brick Lane was purchased by the pair around 1717 and the streets were laid out between 1718 and 1728.

Difficult to see in the following photo due to the deep shadow. The terrace of identical houses running to the left of the modern building on the right were built by the speculative builder Marmaduke Smith in 1723.

Half way along Wilkes Street is the junction with Princelet Street. The Blue Plaque on the left is to Anna Maria Garthwaite (born in 1688 and died in 1763). Anna Maria was a designer of Spitalfields silks and lived and worked in this building on the corner of Princelet Street.

Anna Maria was originally from Lincolnshire but moved to Spitalfields to be with her widowed sister. She became a celebrated designer of fashionable silk fabrics and specialised in botanical designs. Many of her original designs are now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The following (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London) is an example of one of Anna Maria Garthwaite’s designs from when she was living and working in the house on the corner of Princelet Street.

Houses in Princelet Street.

With interesting window decoration.

As well as recessed windows, the photo above also shows one of the other identifying features for the age of Georgian building – the narrow mortar course between the bricks.

House in Princelet Street showing signage from the previous use of many of the buildings in this area.

The final street within site 12 is Hanbury Street with buildings marked on the southern edge of the street at the junction with Brick Lane:

Fortunately there are many buildings that have survived in the area covered by site 12 and the above photos are just a sample. Many houses were not so lucky to have survived and the Architects’ Journal records how developers worked around the risks of preservation orders in Folgate Street along which we will be walking to reach the next site:

“Around the corner, two houses in Folgate Street and most houses on the unrestored Elder Street are owned by a private developer. On the site in Folgate Street he wants to build offices, which the GLC oppose.

The day before a preservation order was to have been served on them, one was gutted by fire, and one Sunday soon after, they were demolished. There is a feeling that he will not restore his side of Elder Street to residential use, unless he is given permission to build offices on the now vacant site in Folgate Street.”

Site 13 – Much restored 17th century house in Spital Yard and the last 18th century house in Spital Square

To reach site 13, I left Hanbury Street, crossed over Commercial Street, walked down Folgate Street then turned into Spital Square.

The map locates the house almost adjacent to the entrance to Spital Yard and if I have located the correct building it is the one on the right in the photo below.

The above photo also demonstrates the impact that the ever growing glass and steel office blocks that are surrounding these 18th century streets in Spitalfields have on the views of the buildings.

Just along from the above buildings is the entrance to Spital Yard.

The house at the end of the yard fits the description of being “much restored” and the blue sign reads “In this house, Susanna Annesley mother of John Wesley was born January 20th 1669” which also fits with the 17th century description, although I am also fascinated by the adjacent building which is the head office of the Architectural Heritage Fund as this also looks to be of some age.

Site 14 – 1724 group in Folgate Street

Folgate Street between Bishopsgate and Commercial Street has a fine mix of buildings. The 1724 group are marked on the map as nearer the Bishopsgate end of the street and I believe are the houses shown in the photos below.

Including the wonderful Dennis Severs’ House, with the doorway dressed for Christmas as I walked passed in December.

Site 15 – Groups in Folgate Street and Elder Street

Elder Street can be found roughly half way down Folgate Street.

In the Architects’ Journal it is described in 1972 as “depopulated and isolated between the market area and a busy main road”. In the extract above about the fire at the house in Folgate Street there is the implied threat by the developer that he would not restore his side of Elder Street. Elder Street was in a bad way in 1972, however today the street is lined by restored buildings.

When restored the developer was selling the houses in Elder Street for £20,000 apparently with no lack of buyers. I could not find any houses for sale in Elder Street today, but estate agent estimates value houses at between £1.5 and £2.5 million – a considerable return on £20,000 in 45 years.

The mix of different styles and architectural features indicates the individual construction of each of these buildings rather than an identical terrace which can be found in a number of other streets such as Wilkes Street.

Note the building on the left with the bricked windows in the photo below. These are dummy window features added to break up what would have been a continuous slab of brick. The internal layout of the houses does not allow a window at these locations, as can be clearly seen on the first floor with the window across the two doors on both sides of the two houses.

Site 16 – Truman’s Brewery, 1740 – 1800

The final location in the group across Spitalfields is the Truman’s Brewery complex which can be found along Brick Lane.

Whilst the Architects’ Journal identified Truman’s buildings as worth preserving, they also identified the brewery company as a potential threat “It is not just small private developers exploiting this environment for personal gain – big businesses are expanding – Truman’s Brewery removed one side of early 18th century Hanbury Street and replaced it with a brick wall. The houses were in need of restoration, but no cosmetics could make a brick wall do anything but detract from a community.”

Reaching site 16 completes my walk around the category A sites in the Architects’ Journal map from 1972. It is good to see how many of the buildings of Spitalfields have survived since 1972, however as the article in 1972 predicted with comments about how Fournier Street could be restored, whilst the majority of the buildings have survived the area is socially completely different.

I have only just scratched the surface of these two areas, Whitechapel and Spitalfields, and I look forward to exploring them in more detail in the future.

In the coming months I will work on category B from the Architects’ Journal – Linear development along the Thames and Lea rivers due to riverside trades.

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New Deal For East London – Whitechapel

I read in the week that the bookshop Waterstones reported an increase in sales of physical books after years of decline due to competition from electronic alternatives.

I have always preferred physical books as they can become so much more than the original contents. Second hand books that have the original owners name and date of purchase recorded, notes written in the margins and additional pages of information inserted in the book all help a book tell a much more comprehensive story than when it was originally published.

One of my father’s books, London’s Georgian Houses by Andrew Byrne, published in 1986 is stuffed full of pages and cuttings from professional journals such as the Architects’ Journal, newspapers and magazines such as Period Home from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. These provide so much more additional information, updated over past and future time from the original contents of the book.

Included in these was a complete copy of an Architects’ Journal from forty five years ago, dated the 19th January 1972. This issue has a lengthy, special feature titled “New Deal For East London”.

The feature reported on the challenges facing the whole area to the east of London, which by the 1970s had been in continuous decline since the end of the last war, along with the future impact of some of the very early plans for major developments across the whole area to the east of London.

The article identifies a range of these challenges and developments, including:

  • The impact on the London Docks of the large cargo ships now coming into service
  • The lack of any strategic planning for the area and the speculative building work taking place, mainly along the edge of the Thames
  • The location of a possible Thames Barrage
  • The impact of the proposed new London airport off the coast of Essex at Foulness
  • The need to maintain a mixed community and not to destroy the established communities across the area

For this last point. the article provides an example of what happens when small pockets of more prosperous families move into an area: “some well-to-do families moved into a small terrace of new houses by the river, and were approached by the small boys of the neighbourhood with offers of ‘Guard your car, sir?’ for some trifling weekly sum. The car-owners brushed these knowing offers aside, but soon found their cars, if left in the street, being persistently vandalised, scratched and mucked about by those they had casually frozen out.”

The title page for the article shows the view from south of the river of the new tower blocks being built across east London.

East London Header 1

The text underneath the title highlights the challenges facing London in the early 1970s:

“London, for centuries the goal of the ambitious young from all parts of Britain, has been quietly losing her appeal, and is now losing more of the ambitious young than she gains from the rest of the country. This may well have advantages for the rest of the country, but what is wrong with London? And can it be put right? We dare not allow any large part of our capital to become in any sense a distressed area.”

Very different to today when London is often seen as sucking in jobs, resources and talent from the rest of the country.

The article paints a very depressing picture of East London at the start of the 1970s:

“This is the poorest part of the capital, with the greatest need for all the social services provided (or permitted to be provided) by the local authorities, and – not surprisingly  – with the highest rates. Today this is a going downhill area in which neither the growing tourist industry, nor the entertainment industry, nor the new light industries show any interest. Such industries prefer to expand near the prosperous West End or in some part of the country, such as the new towns, where they will be eligible for an industrial development certificate and all the financial assistance that implies.

The rag trade may still flourish in the east, but its best products will be sold in the boutiques and department stores of West London, none of which consider the East End area worth opening up in. Even the great chain stores seldom open up a new branch in this area, while there are obviously more profitable sites to be found to the west. The entertainment industry, too, takes little interest and one reason for this may well be the very poor public transport system in those parts, which must inevitably limit both the catchment area and the enjoyment of an evening out.

There is no comparison between the provision of public transport in the west and the east. The Underground provides a fast network of frequent trains, north, south, east and west – on the west of the City of London. No such network serves the East End, and even the newly proposed Fleet Line only touches north-east London at Fenchurch Street.”

A key focus of the article is a concern that should there be comprehensive development of the area in the coming years, then a range of pre-1800 buildings should be preserved. The article included a map that identified 85 locations where there are either individual or groups of buildings that should be preserved. The area includes parts of south London, although still to the east of the central city area, therefore considered as being east London.

The map was split across two pages and is shown below. The locations were divided into five categories, identified by their historical origins:

A – Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London

B – Linear development along Thames and Lea due to riverside trades

C – Medieval village centres

D – Early 19th century ribbon developments

E – Medieval village centres along southern river bank and around London Bridge

East London Full Map 1

The second page of the map included a list of the buildings.

East London Full Map 2

When I see an old map with locations marked across the map I always wonder what is there now (although 45 years is not that old, but London was a very different place in the early 1970s).

There was only one thing to do, and start a project to visit all these locations and see if the buildings identified in 1972 as worthy of preservation have survived the considerable development of East London over the last 45 years.

I had some time off at the end of December and so started with category A – Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London and in today’s post I will visit the sites clustered around Whitechapel and in next week’s post conclude category A with those clustered around Spitalfields. I intend to visit all the sites on the map across the coming months.

Sites 1 to 8 – Whitechapel

East London Map A

I have marked these on an up to date OpenStreetMap of the same area. Note that the Architects’ Journal appears to have the location of site 8 wrong on the above map, I will come to this later.

East London Map B1

Comparison of the two maps also shows how the road layout has changed. In the 1972 map, Commercial Road coming from the upper right side of the map ran straight to the large junction with Whitechapel High Street, Leman Street and Commercial Street. In the map of the area today, Commercial Road makes a sharp right turn and has its own junction with Whitechapel High Street.

Also see the rail tracks turn off the main line into Fenchurch Street and heading north a short distance into an area marked as Goods Shed. Both the Goods Shed and the length of rail track have been removed and the area labelled Goodmans Fields now covers part of this area. Although the name includes the word Fields, this area is mainly covered with new housing developments.

So, to start finding these sites, it is time to walk to:

Site 1 – Early 18th Century Pair

Turning off Aldgate High Street, I walked down Mansell Street to where site A should be according to the Architects’ Journal map, on Mansell Street at the junction with Little Somerset Street. There was nothing to be found that resembled an early 18th century pair of buildings on this side of the road, and if the location on the map is correct, the site of these buildings is now occupied by the office block shown in the photo below.

Not a very good start with the very first location lost at some point since 1972.

East London A1

Site 2 – 18th Century Pair

The next location was further down Mansell Street, on the opposite side of the road and at the location marked on the map I found the following pair of well preserved buildings.

East London A2

These are from the 1720s, with some possible Victorian updates to the facade. The entrance doorways would originally have been symmetrical. The doorway on the right has lost the pedimented Doric doorcase and the cornice above the door.

The photo below from the Architects’ Journal shows the state of the buildings in 1972 and they continued to crumble into the 1980s when the ground floor housed an Indian take-away.

East London A2B

I am not sure when they were restored, however after a worrying start, it was good to see the second location in fine condition.

Site 3 – 18th Century Group

To reach site three, I walked to the end of Mansell Street and turned left into Prescot Street. Here I was looking for a group of 18th century buildings on the south side of the western end of the street. Looking along the street I could only see one building of an appropriate architectural style and age, squashed between a Premier Inn and an office building.

East London A3

The Architects’ Journal described this location as a “group” so I assume that originally there were similar buildings on either side of this one survivor, possible of terrace of identical buildings.

Strange to see this building sandwiched between two very different and much more recent buildings.

East London A3B

Although not mentioned in the Architects’ Journal, there are a couple of interesting buildings further along Prescot Street. The building to the right is the old Whitechapel County and Police Courts, completed in 1859 and on the left is the Victorian pub the Princess of Prussia, built in the 1880s.

East London A3C

Site 4 – Single Large 1760 House

Now to site number four. At the end of Prescot Street I turned left into Leman Street and walked along the street to roughly where the map showed the location of a single large 1760 house.

In the expected location I found this cluster of three buildings. I assume that the single large 1760 house is the building on the right.

East London A4

I am now heading to Alie Street, but before I look for the next location, some information on the area I have been walking around.

If you look at the map at the top of this post, Mansell Street, Prescot Street, Leman Street and Alie Street form a square around another square of streets, North, East, South and West Tenter Street.

According to the Architects’ Journal article, Alie Street was laid out by Sir William Leman in 1710.

Checking in the book “The Streets of London” by Gertrude Burford Rawlings:

“Mansel Leman, towards the end of the 17th century, married Lucy Alie of St. Dunstan’s in the East. hence Leman Street, Great and Little Alie Street and Mansel Street”.

One refers to William Leman and the other to Mansel Leman. On checking the wonderfully named “Synopsis of the Extinct Baronetage of England” from 1885, Sir William Leman was the son of Mansel Leman.

In the middle aisle of St. Dunstan’s in the East, there was an inscription to Alice Alie and Lucy Alie dated 1678 which is presumably the date of death. Mansel Leman died in 1687 (the name Mansel is the maiden name of his mother, Mary Mansel).

So, given that the streets were laid out in 1710, Sir William Leman must have named the streets after the first and last names of his father and the maiden name of his mother.

An earlier member of the Leman family, Sir John Leman (1544 to 1632) was Lord Major of London in 1616 and was a member of the Fishmongers Company.

Within this square of streets is another square of Tenter Streets. The origin of this name is from the Tenter Ground that was enclosed by these streets. A Tenter Ground was an area of land where wooden frames called tenters were placed. These were used to stretch woven cloth so that it would dry.

Before the Tenter Ground, the area was part of Goodman’s Fields.

Site 5 – House Over Half Moon Passage

Continue along Leman Street and turn left into Alie Street. Walk along Alie Street to location number 5 where we find the house over Half Moon Passage.

East London A5

The building and passage are still here. I have found a couple of references to the origin of the name Half Moon Passage. One that refers to the graphic representation of an unpaid sixpence on a person’s tally used in pubs and ale houses in the 17th and 18th centuries, the other was that a tenement building that stood here in Tudor times was called the Half Moon.

The photo below from the Architects’ Journal shows Half Moon Passage and the building around the passage in 1972. The buildings on the left have been replaced by a later office block. The pub on the right, the White Swan is still there, although impossible to get a pint of Double Diamond there today.

East London A5D

View through Half Moon Passage:

East London A5B

The name of the passage gives you some hope that it would open out into a hidden square of 18th century buildings, however at the end is a small car park and office entrance all thrown into shadow by the tall surrounding buildings.East London A5C

Site 6 – 1710 Terrace In Alie Street

Opposite the White Swan is the start of the next set of buildings, a terrace that runs along Alie Street on either side of St. Mark Street.

East London A6A

A pair of symmetrical, four storey buildings stand on each side of the junction with Mark Street.

The terrace continues along Alie Street towards the junction with Leman Street. Changes to the ground floor, including extensions to the edge of the pavement obscure the lower floor, however the upper floors of this original terrace are still visible.

East London A6B

At the junction of Alie Street and Leman Street. The design along Alie Street appears to have been four storey buildings on the corners of road junctions with a terrace of three storey buildings between these four storey corner buildings.

East London A6C

Site 7 – 1760 Seamen’s Chapel

Just past the junction with Leman Street, still on Alie Street is the German Lutheran Church of St. George dating from 1762, or in the original German from the front of the church “Deutsche Lutherische St. Georgs Kirche”

East London A7

The church of St. George is the oldest German Church in the country and dates from a time when the area around Aldgate and Whitechapel was home to a large population of German immigrants, which grew to such numbers that during the 19th century the area was home to the largest number of German speaking people outside of Germany.

The church would have looked more impressive prior to 1934 when standing above the centre of the church was a large bell tower capped by a weather vane. These were taken down in 1934 owing to the poor and unsafe condition of the structure with the plain roof we see now put in place.

As with much of the surrounding area, the church was falling into a state of considerable disrepair during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Such was the state that when the church was acquired by the Historic Chapels Trust, almost £1m was needed to repair the fabric and structure of the building.

The church was closed during my walk, however the interior contains many original features from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Site 8 – 17th Century Hoop And Grapes Pub

The final site in the Architects’ Journal cluster of buildings in Whitechapel is the Hoop and Grapes pub. This is the building that is incorrectly marked in the Architects’ Journal map which shows the building at the junction of Whitechapel High Street and Leman Street where it is actually at the junction of Aldgate High Street and Mansell Street.

East London A8

The Hoop and Grapes has foundations going back to the 13th century. There are various dates for the main building with both the 16th and 17th Centuries being claimed. The Architects’ Journal states that the building is from the mid 17th century and Pevsner moves this to the late 17th century.

I suspect that this was due to the the way buildings evolved rather than being built as a new single construction, parts of the building could well date to the 16th century with additions to the facade being added to meet the 17th century dates of both the Architects’ Journal and Pevsner. If you look at the construction sites across the City today, buildings are completely cleared away allowing a new building to be constructed without any of the earlier foundations, reuse of materials etc. The only exception being the hideous practice of removing all parts of a building with the exception of the facade (although whilst i deplore this practice it does at least retain the original street appearance despite a completely new building behind).

The photo below from the Architects’ Journal show the Hoop and Grapes in 1972 with a more industrial set of buildings in the background. The photo also had the statement that the pub is marooned by the road system around Aldgate and is grotesquely situated, but gives a glimpse of what the City was like before the great Victorian and later rebuildings.

East London A8C

This is still somewhat true with the pub being at the very busy junction of Whitechapel and Aldgate High Streets, Mansell Street and Middlesex Street, with the surrounding ever rising office blocks.

The rather crooked entrance to the Hoop and Grapes. An ideal place to stop after a walk around Whitechapel on a cold December day.

East London A8B

Forty five years after the original Architects’ Journal article, I was pleased to find that seven out of the original eight buildings, or clusters of buildings that the article proposed should be considered for preservation have been restored and survive into the 21st century.

In my next post I will be visiting the final set of buildings in category A – the cluster around Spitalfields.

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The London Cart Horse Parade

A rather short post this week, work and trying to find the time to get to some East London locations has delayed my planned post for today, however I hope these photos of an annual parade that was once held in London will be of interest.

During the past week, pollution levels in London have been very high. The thousands of cars, taxis, buses, lorries etc. that keep the city supplied and moving but congest the city’s streets, contributing to the smog that hangs across the city when there is no wind to blow it to the east. In previous centuries, it was the horse that was essential to the functioning of the city. Transporting goods and people from one end of the city to the other.

I have seen a range of different figures for how many horses were on the streets of the London, with numbers of around 300,000 in the year 1900.

Treatment of horses was very variable and dependent on the owner. Horses needed to earn their keep and when they could not, through age or illness they were of little use to their owner.

There were a number of initiatives in the 19th Century to try to improve the conditions of the city’s horses, one of which was the Cart Horse Parade, established in 1885 with the aim of encouraging the owners of horses to take pride in their animals and to show to their peers and the public in a formal annual parade.

The first Cart Horse Parades took place on Whit Monday in Battersea Park. A second annual parade, the Van Horse Parade started in 1904 and took place on Easter Monday.

The Cart Horse Parade moved to Regent’s Park in 1888.

The two parades continued to run as separate parades, however with the declining numbers of working horses across the city, the two parades merged into a single Easter Monday parade in 1966.

My father must have known the parade well as he lived a short distance from Regent’s Park and one year took a series of photos of the event. These specific photos were not dated, however from the photos on the same strips of negative I am sure the year was 1949. Judging by the crowds, this was a popular event.

London Harness Horse Parade 1

London Harness Horse Parade 2

London Harness Horse Parade 3

London Harness Horse Parade 5

London Harness Horse Parade 6

London Harness Horse Parade 7

As a final photo, the following shows one of the problems with film cameras. When I scanned the following photo I thought there were two negatives stuck together, however it is an example of where the film did not wind on correctly between taking two photos leaving them both on the same individual negative. There are a number in the collection where this has happened – very frustrating.

London Harness Horse Parade 4

The combined parades have now moved out of London, but are still held on Easter Monday as the London Harness Horse Parade with the next parade being on the 17th April 2017 at the South of England Centre at Ardingly in West Sussex.

Details of the next parade can be found on the website of the London Harness Horse Parade.

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