Albion Place, Clerkenwell – A Lost Terrace

Walk up St John Street, north of Smithfield, and turn up St John’s Lane towards St John’s Gate, and on the left you will find Albion Place. My father’s 1947 photo of the street shows a pedestrianised street with a row of terrace houses. In the distance the street descends rapidly towards Farringdon Station, the descent of the street indicating that this was once down to the valley of the River Fleet.

Albion Place

Albion Place in 2020:

Albion Place

The name Albion Place was in my father’s notes to the strip of negatives which included this photo. I was concerned whether this was indeed the right location. Apart from the way the street descends, there are no other visual clues. All the buildings in the 1947 photo have since been demolished. Albion Place is no longer pedestrianised, and the street today looks wider than it appeared in 1947.

Albion Place is shown in the lower right of the following map, between St John’s Lane and Britton Street. Benjamin Street then continues on towards Turnmill Street and the tracks of the railway into Farringdon Station (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Albion Place

The main cause of my doubt about the location was the junction with Britton Street. This is on the right, at the end of Albion Place, just before Benjamin Street descends towards Farringdon.

The junction with Britton Street cannot be seen in my father’s photo – indeed the street appears to be a continuous row of buildings.

I have been able to confirm this is Albion Place through a single visual clue, as well as a couple of other pointers.

Firstly, towards the end of Benjamin Street, there is a building that juts out and narrows Benjamin Street towards the junction with Turnmill Street.

The building has a unique outline. Today, a tree has grown up against the building and hides the edge of the wall and roof:

Albion Place

However I can demonstrate this is the same building as one seen at the very end of the 1947 photo.

In the photo below, on the left, is an enlargement from my father’s photo showing the very end of the street. There is a building jutting out and I have outlined in red the shape of the upper wall, up towards the roof.

In the photo on the right, I have marked the same outline of upper wall and roof.

Albion Place

The two buildings both edge out into Benjamin Street, and both appear to have the same upper wall and roof shape. Would be clearer without the tree, but they appear to be the same.

I also checked the 1894 Ordinance Survey map, and in Albion Place, there is a row of terrace houses in exactly the right place (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’):

Albion Place

The OS map also shows Britton Street (then Red Lion Street) and the junction with Albion Place. I have no idea why this does not appear in my father’s 1947 photo, I assume the junction is there – just the perspective of the photo, and the way the buildings line the route of Albion Place and continue straight down to Benjamin Street.

I found one final confirmation of the location. The London Metropolitan Archives, Collage Collection has a single photo of Albion Place, dated 1956 which although photographed in the opposite direction towards St John’s Lane, includes a view of the same terrace.

Albion Place

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01 080 56 4132

The houses look the same, even the house on the left having the two steps to the door, with single steps serving the rest of the houses – exactly the same as in my father’s photo.

In the 9 years between the two photos, Albion Place has lost the rather nice lamp posts. In 1956 a new concrete lamp post is in place.

The following photo is looking up Albion Place from the junction with Britton Street, and shows the same building at the end of the street, on St John’s Lane, as in the Collage photo above.

Albion Place

Albion Place has a long history. The land was originally part of the outer precinct of the Hospitallers’ Priory of St John of Jerusalem, which extended down to Cowcross Street by Smithfield Market, Turnmill Street to the west and St John (‘s) Street to the east.

The street seems to have been built in the late 17th century, and was probably part of the gradual growth of the City northwards, as housing and industrial premises were built over what had been the lands of St John’s Priory.

The following map extract from William Morgan’s 1682 map of London shows the area as it was with the location of Albion Place marked by the red oval, on space then occupied by what appears to be the Earl of Berkleys property.

Albion Place

When built, the street was originally called George’s Court, and had changed name to Albion Place by 1822 when the court had been rebuilt to the form seen in my father’s photo, and is presumably from when the terrace of houses date.

The growth of Clerkenwell was linked to industries such as watch and clock making and Albion Place was home to the inventor of an alloy which would reduce the price of ornate 18th century clocks.

Gold was originally sold as 18 carat standard, and was therefore expensive when used as the casing for a clock or watch. Christopher Pinchbeck, who lived in Albion Place invented an alloy of copper and zinc which very nearly resembled gold. Pinchbeck moved from Albion Place to Fleet Street in 1721.

The name “Pinchbeck” was given to this new alloy, which was widely used for the cases of clocks and watches up until the mid 19th century when the sale of lower carat gold was legalised.

By the time of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, the street that would become Albion Place was now shown on the map as George’s Court. Benjamin Street had also been built down to Turnmill Street.

Albion Place

The following photo shows Benjamin Street. Albion Place has a shallow reduction in height, which is far greater in Benjamin Street, as the land descends to what was the Fleet valley which ran just across the railway tracks into Farringdon Station, roughly along the route of Farringdon Road.

Albion Place

The following photo shows the view along Britton Street – the street originally named Red Lion Street. This is the junction that caused me to doubt whether the photo was of Albion Place as it could not be seen in my father’s photo.

Albion Place

View back up Benjamin Street and Albion Place. To the north of Benjamin Street (to the left in the following photo) is a small green space – St John’s Gardens.

Albion Place

St John’s Gardens was originally the burial ground of St John’s Church – the parish church that was in St John’s Square, and following wartime bombing, now rebuilt as the Priory Church of the Order of St John.

The area was taken on by the parish in 1754 and used until 1853 when it was closed under the Burials Act. The burial ground originally did not face directly onto Benjamin Street. As shown in the 1894 OS map earlier in this post, a line of buildings ran along Benjamin Street with St John’s Gardens being an enclosed square. This can also be seen in the 1947 photo where buildings line the far end of the street.

Today, the gardens form a valuable bit of green space.

Albion Place

Albion Place

There is a rather poignant mural in the gardens.

Albion Place

It was created by Emma Douglas in memory of her son Cato Heath who died aged twenty one in 2010. Each coloured rectangle represents a day in the life of her son, with the colour of the rectangles representing an event, for example a black rectangle for a doctor’s appointment.

The mural created by Emma in St John’s Gardens is one of a number to be found.

On the corner of Albion Place and Britton Street is a rather interesting building:

Albion Place

This is the Grade II listed 44 Britton Street originally built for Janet Street-Porter and designed by Piers Gough.

Before her career in the media, Janet Street-Porter trained at the Architects Association where she met Piers Gough. She wanted a house that did not follow the old English tradition with rooms being in well defined places. She also wanted a house that did not look too friendly and looked a bit hostile, so there is no outward facing door to the building. The entrance is tucked away at the rear of the building in a courtyard.

The bricks used in the construction are shaded, starting with dark bricks at the base, getting gradually lighter towards the top of the walls. This was to give the impression that the base of the building is in shade, with the top of the building in perpetual sunlight.

The external lintels above the windows are in the shape of concrete logs.

Janet Street-Porter lived in the house from 1988 to 2001. There is an episode of the BBC programme Building Sights dating from 1991 with Janet Street-Porter talking about, and showing the interior of the building. The programme can be found on the BBC iPlayer here – it is worth a watch.

On the opposite corner of Albion Place and Britton Street there is another interesting building. This is the Goldsmiths Centre:

Albion Place

The Goldsmiths Centre was founded by the Goldsmiths Company, one of the twelve great livery companies of the City of London, as a charity for the professional training of goldsmiths.

The centre provides a location where the technical skills of gold and silversmithing and jewelry working can be taught and developed. The building also provides support for developing business, with shared studio space in which to work.

The Goldsmiths Centre is in a rather appropriate location given the history of Clerkenwell with the trades associated with metal working.

The Goldsmiths Centre was opened in 2012. The building on the Albion Place corner is a modern addition to a Grade II Listed 1872 Victorian London Board School, which together form the Goldsmiths Centre.

The main entrance to, and the main school building is in Eagle Court which runs from Britton Street back up to St John’s Lane.

Eagle Court is shown in Rocque’s map, and in the earlier 1682 map by Morgan appears to be shown as Vinegar Yard, so Eagle Court is older than Albion Place.

The name Eagle Court comes from Eagle’s House which appears to have been a mid 14th century mansion built along the western edge of St John’s Lane. The house was named after the Templar preceptory of Eagle in Lincolnshire and acted as the Clerkenwell residence of the bailiff as the senior official of this preceptory.

The view up Eagle Court towards St John’s Lane:

Albion Place

Before the school was built, Eagle Court had long been a dense court of workshops and houses. Industrial processes being performed next to living space.

Work was dangerous and accidents were frequent. for example on December 5th, 1738 “A fire broke out in the workshop of Mr Tabery, a Japanner in Eagle Court, St John’s Lane, occasioned by the Varnish Pot boiling over. Two men were so miserably burnt that their lives are despaired of”.

The area around Albion Place and Eagle Court was densely populated and criminality was rife. The location for the school was chosen by the London School Board for this very reason, as introducing a formal education was seen as one of the means to improve the future prospects of the residents.

When the school was being built in 1873 and 1874, the workmen and the location needed a police guard to protect them and the building materials for the school from the lawless elements of the local population.

The school backs onto Albion Place, and is often referred to as being in Albion Place. The following article from April 1906 provides another example of the crime in the area which was probably heightened by the precious metals which could be found in the workshops:

“DESPERATE BURGLARS – SCHOOL CARETAKER ATTACKED WITH JEMMY. The caretaker of the London County Council School at Albion Place, Clerkenwell, was found lying in a pool of blood with his head severely cut on Saturday night under mysterious circumstances.

When the premises next door were opened the ground floor window was found to have been forced and the entire premises ransacked. The second floor was occupied by a gold refiner. Several hundred pounds worth of gold and silver were on this floor, and the men removed a considerable quantity.

It was when the burglars were leaving via the schoolyard that they were surprised by the caretaker. He was rendered unconscious by blows from a jemmy, which the men dropped.

The caretaker has not yet been able to give any account of the affair. The burglars worked leisurely, and cleaned the window before leaving to remove all traces of incriminating finger prints”.

The increasing level of workshops and industry in the area resulted in the reduction of family homes and the number of children resulting in the closure of the school in 1918.

For the rest of the 20th century, the old school buildings hosted a wide range of educational functions including Cordwainers’ Technical College, the LCC Smithfield Institute and Smithfield College of Food Technology, the College of Distributive Trades, and following a merger with the London College of Printing, the old school buildings became the London Institute.

The current use of the building as the Goldsmiths Centre therefore continues a long educational tradition, including a century of use as a technical educational centre.

Unlike many buildings created by the London School Board, the building consists of only two floors. This was intentional so as not to cast the buildings opposite in this narrow street, in permanent shadow,

Albion Place

I have walked just a few short streets, down Albion Place, along Benjamin Street, then back up to St John’s Lane via Eagle Court, but these few streets reveal their part in the long history of Clerkenwell. From the Priory of St John of Jerusalem, through the industrialisation of the 18th and 19th centuries when the area was home to watch, clock and metal working, an area of dense population with high levels of crime.

The terrace shown in my father’s photo survived until the late 1960s. If the terrace had been renovated, and if Albion Place had stayed a pedestrianised street, with bollards and cast iron lamps, this could have been a lovely street. Although, we always need to be careful when looking back at the past, and remember the lessons of Christopher Pinchbeck’s alloy that all that glitters is not gold.

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John Snow and the Soho Cholera Outbreak of 1854

Epidemiology has come to public attention as one of the key areas of expertise needed to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The pandemic has come as something of a shock given the significant reductions in disease over the last 100 plus years, although in reality, such a global event was probably only a matter of time given the background transmission of new diseases, and the interconnectedness of the world in the 21st century.

Contagious disease has long been a very significant problem. Outbreaks would rise and fall, killing many thousands of people, often in limited areas. Prior to the mid 19th century, thinking was often that disease was caused and transmitted by a miasma – a form of “bad air”.

It took the work of a number of Doctors and Scientists to prove this was not correct, and to trace the real cause of disease transmission, and one of these was Dr. John Snow, often called the founding father of Epidemiology. His work on the transmission of Cholera in London would demonstrate conclusively how this killer of large numbers of Londoners was transmitted.

The British Medical Journal describes Epidemiology as “the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why. Epidemiological information is used to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent illness and as a guide to the management of patients in whom disease has already developed.”

Although John Snow’s work on Cholera covered the whole country, including outbreaks across London, he is more widely known for one outbreak in 1854 in Broad Street, Soho, and a couple of weeks ago I had a walk around the area to find the focal point of the outbreak, and the pub that bears his name:

John Snow

The John Snow pub stands on the corner of Broadwick Street (originally Broad Street) and Lexington Street (originally Cambridge Street). A number of streets in this area of Soho have changed their names since the mid 19th century.

The pub building dates from the 1870s, and was originally called the “Newcastle-upon-Tyne”, The name changed in 1955 to commemorate the centenary of the work in the area of John Snow.

He traced the source of the local Cholera outbreak to a water pump that stood in the street outside the current pub. I will detail how he did this later in the post. Today, there is an imitation pump in the same spot:

John Snow

The pump was installed in its current position in 2018, having been removed three years earlier due to building work which included extension of the pavement. The replica pump had been installed in a slightly different position to the original, and a pink granite curb stone had marked the location of the original pump.

One of the fascinations of London is that historical reminders tend to accumulate, and the pink granite curb stone was retained, and can now be seen to the left of the plinth on which the pump is mounted, now in the correct position.

The pump is also unusual in that it does not have a handle – the reason for this will be explained later in the post.

And on the pub wall is a plaque by the Royal Society of Chemistry naming John Snow as the founding father of Epidemiology for his work in the area:

John Snow

The pump and pub in Broadwick Street:

John Snow

John Snow was born in York on the 15th of March 1813. A career in medicine seems to have been defined at an early age,. When he was 14 he started work as an apprentice for William Hardcastle, a surgeon in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

He had early experience with cholera outbreaks, and during 1831 he worked on an outbreak at Killingworth Colliery. It was here that he appears to have started making detailed notes on the outbreak – gathering the data that would be essential in understanding the root cause.

He moved to London in 1836 to study at the Hunterian School of Medicine, and a year later started hospital practice at the Westminster Hospital. The following year, 1838, he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1850 became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

Doctor John Snow:

John Snow

Data gathering in 19th century London was actually rather good. The Registrar General published regular returns detailing the number of deaths by date, cause and location. Where possible, information also included age, gender and profession, so a mass of data was available for evaluation, however outdated theories often prevented the use of data to find the root cause of disease outbreaks.

London could be absolutely filthy. Much of London was not yet connected to the expanding sewer network. Houses often had cesspools directly underneath, raw sewage was pumped into the Thames, contaminated water would be dumped in the streets and ditches.

The city’s cemeteries were overflowing, with bodies piled high in crypts and churchyards.

One of the main theories was that disease was carried in dirty air. Air polluted by rotting vegetables, dirty water, the waste from industry, and from the city’s cemeteries.

There was also no real separation between drinking water and contaminated water. For example, raw sewage was pumped into the Thames, a short distance from where water was taken out for distribution to houses and pumps.

There were frequent outbreaks of cholera. 1849 being the year of the most recent outbreak, however there was also a background rate of cholera deaths happening every year.

Data recorded by the Registrar General identified the number of deaths per week, aligned with the source of water for the house where the person lived, or the death occurred. The following table shows a period of six weeks in 1854. The table focused on south London, an area where there were significant numbers of cholera deaths.:

John Snow

The table shows the source of the water supplied to each house where there was a death. The “Unknown Sources” column included a large number of houses where the residents did not know where their water came from as the landlord would pay the bill (and therefore they had no control of the source of their water).

The table implies significant problems with the supply of water by the Southwark Company, but this may have been down to a much larger population.

Much of the evaluation of the data was by John Snow. He obtained the addresses for houses where deaths had occurred from the Registrar General, and spent time going house to house to gather more information.

Evaluation of the data enabled a comparison of the mortality rate for each of the water companies to be identified, and this confirmed the issues with the Southwark Company, who had a mortality rate of 857 per 100,000 inhabitants compared with 169 and 194 for the Lambeth and Kent companies:

John Snow

The Lambeth Company had problems during a previous outbreak in 1849, but had since moved their intake from the Thames upriver to Thames Ditton, which was above the tidal limit of the river at Teddington.

At Thames Ditton, water flowed towards London and there was no wash back in of water due to the tide. This meant that water was less polluted. In central London, there was more inflow of sewage, and this was often swept back in on a rising tide, increasing significantly the level of pollution.

The Southwark Company were still drawing their water from the river at Battersea, not far from a number of sewage outlets at Vauxhall.

Lambeth was the only company to change where they took water following the 1849 outbreak. In 1854, the Southwark Water Company was classed as having the most impure waters, and would not change their water intake till later in the year.

John Snow investigated the source of water used by as many of those who died from cholera as he could find. Some of his records are truly appalling by modern standards:

  • At 4, Bermondsey Wall, on 23rd July, the daughter of a bookseller, aged 4 years, cholera 9 hours – Thames water, by dipping a pail in the water
  • At Falcon Lane, Wandsworth, on 3rd August, the daughter of a chemist deceased, aged 14 years, premonitory diarhoea 4 hours, cholera 24 hours – Water from a ditch into which cesspools empty themselves
  • At Charlotte Place, Charlotte Row, Rotherhithe, July 29th, the son of a barge-builder, aged 3 years, cholera 3 days – Tidal ditch
  • At 5 Slater’s Alley, Rotherhithe, July 29th, a labourer, aged 33, cholera 3.5 days – Thames Tunnel water, fetched from John’s Place

Rotherhithe was badly effected. and John Snow mentions Charlotte Row, Ram Alley and Silver Street as “places where the scourge fell with tremendous severity”.

He also states that Rotherhithe had been badly supplied by water for many ages past, and that people were forced to drink from old wells, old pumps, open ditches, and the muddy stream of the Thames.

Cholera deaths across London were increasing rapidly during the months leading up to the first week of September. I took the weekly total from the Registrar Generals report, put them in a spreadsheet, and created the following graph which gives a good visual view of the increase.

John Snow

So in the summer of 1854, cholera was causing deaths across the city, and John Snow was using methods that would become common in epidemiology to understand the impact, and to identify the cause. As well as the cases caused by infected water supplies, the case for which he would be remembered was an outbreak in Soho – a poor area where many of the residents were dependent on water from water pumps.

John Snow investigated the Soho outbreak, and he provided a comprehensive report to the St James, Westminster Cholera Inquiry Committee in July 1855.

Some houses in the area who could afford the cost were supplied by piped water from the Grand Junction and the New River Companies, and in houses that took this water he had found very few instances of cholera. His examination of the water pumps in the streets found the majority had impurities visible to the naked eye. Residents of Broad Street had also informed Snow that water from their local pump had an offensive smell.

At the start of his investigation, Snow requested data on deaths from the General Register Office. He found that the majority of these deaths had taken place near the Broad Street water pump, and after interviewing many of the residents found that those who had died from the disease had regularly drank water from the pump.

There was no other major outbreak in the area, and the common factor was the Broad Street water pump, so on the evening of Thursday 7th September 1854, John Snow had a meeting with the Board of Guardians of St James’s Parish and presented his findings. As a result, the handle of the pump was removed on the following day.

John Snow plotted cholera deaths on a map of the area, with the number of bars representing the number of deaths at each location. The Broad Street pump was close to the long dark line just to the right of centre of the map.

John Snow

Many of the street names have since changed. To show the number and spread of deaths on a street map of today, I have plotted the numbers on the map below. The dark blue star in the centre is the location of the pump. The numbers represent the total deaths listed for that street, so for example the number 44 to the right of the pump represents the total number of deaths in Broad Street to the left and right of the pump (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

John Snow

There were a high number of deaths in Poland Street (21), and many of these occurred at  the workhouse which is represented by the black rectangle in the above map.

Some of the deaths recorded by Snow at the workhouse are really sad, as often these would be recorded as “female unknown, age unknown”.

The workhouse is also shown in this extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey map. The pump is again marked by the dark blue star. A short distance to the right is another building that demonstrated to John Snow that the pump was the source (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

John Snow

None of the workers at the Lion Brewery caught cholera, despite being in the centre of the outbreak. On interviewing those at the brewery, it was found that “none of the workers drink water” – so perhaps they only drank beer.

John Snow wrote to the Medical Times and Gazette, describing his findings:

“I had an interview with the Board of Guardians of St. James’s parish, on the evening of the 7th, and represented the circumstances to them. In consequence of what I said, the handle of the pump was removed on the following day. The number of attacks of cholera had been diminished before this measure was adopted, but whether they had diminished in a greater proportion than might be accounted for by the flight of the great bulk of the population I am unable to say. In two or three days after the use of the water was discontinued the number of fresh attacks became very few.

The pump-well in Broad-street is from 28 to 30 feet in depth and the sewer which passes a few yards away from it is 22 feet below the surface. the sewer proceeds from Marshall-street, where some cases of cholera had occurred before the great outbreak. 

I am of the opinion that the contamination of the water of the pump-wells of large towns is a matter of vital importance. Most of the pumps in this neighbourhood yield water that is very impure; and I believe that it is merely to the accident of cholera evacuations not having passed along the sewers nearest to the wells that many localities in London near a favourite pump have escaped a catastrophe similar to that which occurred in this parish. ”

The lack of a handle on the replica pump we see today is a reminder of the work by John Snow to get the handle removed.

The affected area formed the sub districts of Golden Square and Berwick Street. The number of deaths for each street in these two districts are shown in the following tables:

John Snow

John Snow

There is other interesting data to be extracted from the Registrar General’s lists. They also include the age of each of those who had died (where known). I extracted these to a spreadsheet, sorted and created the following graph to show the numbers that died within each age range.

John Snow

The fall off at later ages is not a reflection of reduced impact of cholera, rather there were fewer people to infect in these age groups – London was a young city.

This is reflected in the high death rate of those aged between 0 and 9 years. The reduction between the ages of 10 and 29 was a surprise as there would be more people of these age groups in the area. Perhaps people of these age groups worked away from the pump, were not at the stage when they were in the workhouse, or perhaps being younger and stronger there was a higher survival rate.

The Westminster Cholera Inquiry Committee in July 1855 included a detailed investigation of the sewer and water infrastructure in the street and the house closest to the pump. The report produced by the Committee included the following drawing:

John SnowThe diagram shows how close the drains were to the well. The inquiry also examined the cesspool shown by the front of the house and the well. It found the cesspool in very poor condition, and that the mortar between the bricks of the cesspool had decayed allowing the contents to leak into the ground, only a very short distance from the well.

The report also includes the following drawing showing the front of the house, the vaults underneath the pavement, drain and well.

John Snow

The Westminster Cholera Inquiry Committee report of July 1855 includes a substantial section from the Reverend Henry Whitehead who was assistant curate of St Luke’s Church in Soho during the 1854 outbreak. Whitehead had assisted John Snow with many of the interviews of those living in the streets around the water pump.

Whitehead had initially been sceptical about the cause of the outbreak, being a believer of the miasma theory however he came to the same conclusions as Snow, and was very diligent in his research and interviews of the population.

In his report to the committee, Henry Whitehead  recorded the challenges of follow-up research as so many people had moved out of Broad Street, and that approaching the summer of 1855 there was a general feeling of uneasiness in the street – concern that cholera would once again return with warmer weather.

Henry Whitehead identified two houses opposite the pump. One had deaths from cholera and confirmed that they took water from the pump. The adjacent house used water from the New River Company and had no illness.

Although the initial findings to identify the source of the outbreak concentrated on deaths, the follow-up inquiry found that there were 50 cases where people had survived.

John Snow’s map shows the water pumps of the area. I plotted these on a modern day map to show where the water pumps of 1854 would have been located on today’s streets. Again, the Broad Street pump is the dark blue star, red stars the other water pumps:

John Snow

Comparing the above map with the map of deaths does again show the high values clustered around the Broad Street pump, with lower numbers as other water pumps became closer.

Broad Street is today named Broadwick Street. the name change happened in 1936 when the eastern section leading to Wardour Street was included – this small section had formerly been called Edward Street (named after Edward Wardour who also gave his name to Wardour Street).

Much of Broadwick Street has changed since the cholera outbreak of 1854, however almost opposite the John Snow pub is a terrace of houses that were there, having been built between 1718 and 1723 as part of the westwards expansion of Broad Street. The terrace is shown in the following photo:

John Snow

The following photo shows the view looking west along Broadwick Street from close to the Berwick Street junction. The Lion Brewery, which did not have any cholera deaths as none of the workers drank water, occupied the block on the left which now has the brick facing to the upper floors. The brewery was demolished in 1937.

John Snow

On the corner of Broadwick Street and Berwick Street is the Blue Posts pub. The current rather attractive building dates from a 1914 rebuild, however there had been a pub on the site since the original development of the area, and it is shown on the 1894 OS map.

John Snow

A rather obscure claim to fame for the Blue Posts pub is that a model of the pub was destroyed by a brontosaurus in the 1925 film Lost World. The following clip shows the pub just before the brontosaurus crashes in and demolishes the building.

John Snow

Apparently the animators, who created a rather impressive animated film for the 1920s, drank in the pub they chose to destroy for the film.

Lantern over the corner of the Blue Posts pub:

John Snow

View down Berwick Street showing how a present day pandemic has effected the restaurant trade in Soho:

John Snow

North western corner of Broadwick Street and Berwick Street with demolished building leaving only the corner façade for inclusion in whatever comes next:

John Snow

Further back towards Wardour Street, and the following building is on the corner of Broadwick Street (the part that was Edward Street), and Duck Lane, which being towards the Wardour Street end of Broad Street “only” suffered two deaths during the outbreak of 1854.

John Snow

The ground floor of the building is occupied by the Sounds of the Universe record store:

John Snow

John Snow’s work was not only around research into the causes of cholera. He was a practicing physician at the Westminster Hospital, and also worked on the technique of anesthesia including how different doses of anesthetic effected the human body.

When Queen Victoria gave birth to Prince Leopold in 1853 and Princess Beatrice in 1857, it was John Snow who administered the obstetric anesthesia.

During the 1854 outbreak he was living at 18 Sackville Street, off Piccadilly. He was a teetotaler and vegetarian for much of his life. He died in 1858 at the young age of 45.

For further reading, the report on the cholera outbreak in the Parish of St. James, Westminster, during the autumn of 1854 can be found in the Wellcome Library collection here.

The second edition of John Snow’s “On the mode of communication of cholera” can be found on Google Books here.

Reading these publications really does make you appreciate the engineering, rules and regulations that are behind the clean water when you do something as simple as turn on a tap.

And the next time an epidemiologist comes on the TV or Radio to talk about the current pandemic, think about John Snow, knocking on doors across London, gathering data on the many cholera outbreaks of the mid 19th century.

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Broad Street Station – A Lost London Station

London has lost a number of stations on the rail network over the years, for example I have written about Spa Road Station in Bermondsey, but they are usually stations serving trains that pass through the station, rather than a terminal station. One lost station that was a terminus for the North London Railway was Broad Street Station.

The station was demolished in 1986, and just as work was about to start, I took a couple of photos of the front and side of the building from Liverpool Street.

Broad Street Station

The station was replaced by the Broadgate office complex. The following photo shows the same view today:

Broad Street Station

The history of Broad Street Station starts in 1850 when the North London Railway started running services between Camden Town and Poplar.

The line was extended, firstly to Hampstead in 1851 and in 1858 this was followed by a connection with the London and South Western Railway to Richmond.

Although the railway circled around north London, it did not have a route into the City, and a City terminus was seen as essential to drive additional goods and passenger traffic from the expanding northern suburbs. The extension into the City and Broad Street Station was opened in late 1865 as the central London terminus of the North London Railway.

An indication of the volume of different types of traffic carried by the railway can be found from the directors report of the North London Railway in 1865, covering the year before the opening of Broad Street Station:

Broad Street Station

The higher value and greater increase over the previous year of Merchandise and Minerals than Passengers perhaps reflects the importance of the connection with the London Docks, and the lack of a connection directly into the City of London.

In the same Directors Report, the chief engineer for the extension to Broad Street states the current situation with construction of the station, and the route between Broad Street and the existing North London Railway at Kingsland:

“I have now the pleasure of being able to report that the whole of the works on the City Branch, between Kingsland and Broad-street, are complete, with the exception of the permanent way and signals, upon which the contractors are at present busily engaged. The stations at Dalston and Shoreditch are nearly ready for occupation, and the office-buildings, platforms and roofs at Broad-street station have made considerable progress since February last, but recently these works have been retarded by the strike amongst Messrs. Cubitt’s workmen, Every effort is being made to open this railway for public traffic at the earliest possible period”.

Broad Street station and the route into the station was sufficiently completed to open in the last months of 1865, and the following year the North London Railway company was able to advertise special trains which took advantage of the route around north London and down to the west:

“NORTH LONDON RAILWAY – OXFORD and CAMBRIDGE BOAT RACE. Saturday, March 24th, 1866 – A SPECIAL TRAIN will leave Broad Street Station at 6.35 a.m. for Hammersmith, calling at all intermediate stations and arriving at Hammersmith at 7.40 a.m.”

Broad Street station was built in the heart of the City, and provided a route for passengers and goods from multiple stations circling north London. The location of the station was directly to the west of the larger Liverpool Street Station.

The following map from 1940 shows the location of Broad Street Station:

Broad Street Station

Liverpool Street Station rail tracks headed east, whilst Broad Street’s headed north with the first stop being the original Shoreditch Station on the north west corner of the Kingsland Road / Old Street junction.

My second photo of the station again shows the main building of Broad Street Station, slightly further to the east than the first photo. The road that dived down between Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations can be seen running down alongside Hills, whilst in one of the open arches to the right of the station, an orange crane can seen, working on the station’s demolition.

Broad Street Station

The 1865 directors report demonstrated the significant value of goods being transported on the North London Railway, and whilst new passengers were an important source of revenue for the new Broad Street Station, the transport of goods directly into the City would also continue to drive revenue for the railway company.

A large Goods Station was constructed to the west of the passenger station as can be seen in the following extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’):

Broad Street Station

The map also shows the relative size of Broad Street compared to the adjacent Liverpool Street Station. Liverpool Street was considerably larger with many more platforms.

The above map shows that the warehouses associated with the Broad Street Goods Station faced onto Eldon Street. The end of these warehouses came in January 1952 when a major fire destroyed the warehouses. It was the most significant fire in London since the war and three firemen lost their lives following a collapse of one of the warehouse walls.

The loss of the warehouses added to the general sense that Broad Street Station was in a terminal decline.

The peak of the station’s success was probably around the time of the above Ordnance Survey map, at the end of the 19th century. North London was being well served by underground routes, buses and trams, and the popularity of Broad Street Station, on the end of a relatively slow, stopping route, was in decline.

The station, and the lines running out of the station were damaged by wartime bombing and the reduction of local services started with the cessation of trains to Poplar. The station building was not repaired and much of the main building was closed in 1950, leaving just an entrance from the street onto the concourse. Just two platforms continued to operate.

The following photo from the Britain from Above archive, shows the station and the lines running out of Broad Street in 1947. Broad Street passenger station is in the lower centre of the photo. The tracks for the goods station are on the left with the goods warehouse on the left of the photo. The larger Liverpool Street station is on the lower right.

Broad Street Station

Broad Street station survived the Beeching Report, however the stopping services that ran into the station were identified as services for modification, and the gradual cease of services accelerated throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.

Plans for the demolition of the station started in the 1970s and a number of schemes were put forward for the use of a considerable area of prime land at the eastern edge of the City’s business area.

In 1975, British Rail proposed a scheme that would not only demolish Broad Street Station, but would also demolish the Great Eastern Hotel and the cast iron train sheds above the platforms of Liverpool Street.

Liverpool Street as a station would remain, but the station, and the surrounding area, including the land occupied by Broad Street Passenger and Goods Stations would be built over, with office blocks now dominating the area.

The following photo shows British Rail’s 1975 scheme. The tracks running into Liverpool Street Station can be seen heading underneath a plaza and office blocks.

Broad Street Station

The Liverpool Street Station Campaign proposed an alternative solution which would retain most of the existing Liverpool Street Station, the train sheds and the façade of Broad Street Station.

Other campaigns were more concerned about the transport options than the architecture. For example, in 1982:

“Tory MP Anthony Grant and Harrow Liberal councilor Stephen Giles Medhurst have joined forces to try and make British Rail change plans to demolish Broad Street Station in the City.

The pair met BR representatives at the House of Commons to give their objections to the plan for Broad Street, which is the terminus for a frequent service from Watford Junction through Harrow and Wealdstone and Kenton.

Mr. Grant, MP for Harrow Central, said: ‘I am satisfied that in the long term the service will be maintained to Broad Street and Liverpool Street when the new station is built, but this will take six years.

Meanwhile, my constituents who work in the City will suffer hardship through being dropped off at a temporary station nearly half a mile away’.

Cllr Giles-Medhurst, a regular user of the line, said ‘I’m pleased to say that as a result of our meeting they undertook to reconsider improving the interchange facilities at Highbury to make it easier to change to the Moorgate line or to provide a shuttle bus service from the temporary station to Broad Street in peak hours”.

There had been earlier schemes for the redevelopment of Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations. In 1944 an exhibition at the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors in Eaton Place hosted an exhibition of drawings by Mr. Kenneth Lindy and Mr. B.A.P. Winton Lewis showing their proposals for the re-planning of the City of London.

Their proposals transformed London into a future version from a science fiction film, and probably highlight the thinking at the time that the bombed City offered the opportunity for a sweeping change, with the car, towers and wide boulevards at the heart of the scheme. Their proposal for Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations is shown in the following drawing. The railway lines and platforms would move underground. Hotel and office buildings on top, and high above would be landing platforms for a gyroplane passenger service.

Thankfully, these 1944 proposals never got any further than the exhibition.

The eventual scheme for rebuilding involved the full demolition of Broad Street Passenger and Goods Station, but retained Charles Barry’s Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool Street and part of the train sheds above the platforms of Liverpool Street station.

The go ahead was given in 1985 as reported by the Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush Gazette:

“Commuters lose rail link with the City – The final nail in the coffin of West London’s rail link with the City. 

Secretary of State for Transport, Nicholas Ridley has agreed to the closure of the North London line between Dalston Junction and Broad Street stations.

The closure will come in May 1986, when Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations will be redeveloped. Commuters travelling from Acton and Chiswick will be among the first to be affected by the change.

From next Monday, May 13, their service will be diverted from Broad Street to North Woolwich. Passengers bound for the City will have to change at Islington and Highbury. There will be no through rail link from West London to the City”.

The Conservative government of the 1980s did not seem very supportive of the railways. It was the same Nicholas Ridley who in 1985 oversaw bus deregulation and the privatisation of bus services. There was even talk of closing rail lines and using the routes for dedicated bus services. I remember one TV commentator at the time suggesting that if they did this, with the number of buses needed to bring commuters into London, it would soon be recognised that it was more efficient to connect all the busses together and run them on a dedicated track.

The Broadgate office complex was built over the land once occupied by the Broad Street stations.

The original North London Line is now part of the London Overground network.

The empty concourse of Broad Street Station as it would frequently appear in 1975.

Broad Street Station

Where did the name Broad Street come from as the station faced directly onto Liverpool Street?

Broad Street originally ran from London Wall to Threadneedle Street. An extension up from London Wall was named New Broad Street. The whole street today is called Old Broad Street.

I have marked the location of the passenger and goods station on Rocque’s map of 1746 and we can see New Broad Street extending up to the corner of the station and Broad Street Buildings running under where the main station building would be constructed.

Broad Street Station

The front of the main station building was over an interesting feature – Bethlem Burying Ground.

This was the “New Churchyard” which opened in 1569 and later became known as the Bedlam or Bethlem burying ground. The burial ground was used for well over 100 years, finally closing for burials in 1739.

The graveyard was disturbed during the construction of Broad Street Station, however no archaeological investigation was carried out. This was the mid 19th century and the City’s churchyards were being emptied as quickly as possible due to the conditions of these places in a growing City.

In parallel to the demolition of Broad Street Station, the Museum of London Department of Urban Archaeology carried out a detailed investigation with according to the museum’s web site “Several hundred skeletons were reburied on site and a sample c. 400 individuals were retained for research”.

The site has again been investigated as part of the preparations for Crossrail, and 3,300 burials were uncovered. Testing of five of the skeletons identified the plague pathogen, apparently the first time that plaque DNA from the 16th and 17th centuries has been identified in the UK.

In my 1986 photo at the start of the post, there is a busy road in front of Broad Street Station. This road was closed off for a few years as a work site for Crossrail. Liverpool Street will be one of Crossrail’s stations, so although Broad Street Station is long gone, the area continues to be an important transportation hub.

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Millbank Estate and Millbank Penitentiary

I have a postcard with a photo dated 1906 of the recently completed London County Council, Millbank Estate. The view shows some of the new blocks of flats, wide streets, newly planted trees, and children – probably residents of the new estate.

Millbank Estate

The same view in September 2020:

Millbank Estate

The trees have grown and now obscure the view of the blocks of flats. The wide streets now have parked cars, and the children in the view went on to see and hopefully survive, two world wars.

Remove the cars, see through the trees and the two views are much the same.

Both photos were taken at the south western end of the estate, looking north east. The street in front of the camera is Cureton Street and Erasmus Street is on the left and Herrick Street on the right.

The Millbank Estate is a large estate, built at the start of the 20th century, to provide flats for the working class. The estate was designed to accommodate upwards of 4,430 people in a number of separate blocks.

A map of the estate is displayed on a number of panels across the estate:

Millbank Estate

The Millbank Estate is adjacent to the Tate Britain gallery which was opened a couple of years before work started on the Millbank Estate, and the artistic theme of the Tate was extended to the new housing estate as each of the blocks was named after an artist. The full list of names is shown on the lower right of the above panel.

The Millbank Estate was built between 1897 and 1902 by the London County Council and was one of their most significant estates in terms of size and design. It was designed within the LCC’s Architects Department under Owen Fleming and was influenced by the arts and crafts style of design.

The estate is stunning on a sunny day, when the colour of the brick brings a richness to the buildings. The trees – which I assume from their size were planted at the time of the estate’s construction – break up the sunlight and leave patterns on the walls of the blocks.

The trees are regularly pollarded, when their branches are cut back significantly leaving stumps pointing at the sky, but they always grow back and enhance the view.

The view along St Oswulf Street with Hogarth House at the end of the street:

Millbank Estate

The area occupied by the Millbank Estate has a fascinating history. On land to the west of the River Thames, between Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges, it was a large area to be free for building at the end of the 19th century. In the map below, the red rectangle shows the approximate area occupied by the estate (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Millbank Estate

The area occupied by the Millbank estate, and indeed the Tate Gallery was available for new development because of the demolition of a large establishment that had previously the same space.

In the following extract from the 1847 edition of Reynolds’s New Map of London, there is a structure with a rather unusual design in the lower centre of the map. This was the Millbank Penitentiary or Prison.

Millbank Estate

Millbank Penitentiary opened in 1816 and was in use until 1886, and was demolished by 1890. The shape was unusual for the time, with six individual pentagons of cells radiating out from the central governor’s block.

The pentagon design enabled the whole of the prison to be viewed from the central governor’s block.

The prison was initially designed to hold 1,000 prisoners, however as always seems to be the way with prisons, the population was frequently much higher.

Each of the pentagons was home to different types of prisoner. Writing about the prisons of London in 1862, Henry Mayhew and John Binny identified pentagon one as being the reception wing. Number two being for prisoners to work at various trades in their cells. Pentagon three was for women prisoners. Pentagon four housed the infirmary, along with a mix of different prisoners. Number five had individual cells, but also had shared cells which prisoners often preferred for the company and conversation instead of the individual cells.

Mayhew and Binny do not list the functions of the sixth pentagon, but looking at the diagram of the prison in the book, the sixth pentagon was were you would find the surgeon and the chaplain, with a corn mill in the centre.

Birds-eye drawing of Millbank Penitentiary:

Millbank Estate

Millbank Penitentiary was often used as a holding prison before prisoners moved onto other establishments. This included a period where prisoners sentenced to transportation were held at Millbank before boarding ship.

Mayhew and Binny’s book states that in 1854, 2,461 male prisoners passed through Millbank.

Six hundred and ninety seven remained at the end of the year. During the year, prisoners had been moved to other prions. One thousand and ninety five prisoners had been moved to sites of “public works” projects across the country. Of the total number of prisoners passing through Millbank in 1854, only four were pardoned, had a conditional pardon, or were set free.

One hundred and ninety eight female prisoners were in Millbank at the start of 1854, but by the end of the year they had all been moved to Brixton Prison apart from nineteen who had been discharged and one who had died.

Conditions were harsh for the prisoners at Millbank. The location next to the River Thames must have meant the prison could be very cold and damp in winter. The prison also suffered a cholera outbreak. Prisoners would also be transported or held in irons, and the prison had a Chain Room where the implements to restrain prisoners were stored:

Millbank Estate

The following print shows the main entrance to the prison, with some of the prison wings behind the walls. This must have been drawn from the edge of the river, and shows the road running towards Westminster on the right, between prison and river.

Millbank Estate

I have mapped the location of Millbank Penitentiary on the map of the area today in the following map extract.

Millbank Estate

The Tate Gallery, Millbank Estate and a number of other buildings now occupy the site today, but does anything remain of the prison?

In the above map, I have added a red oval to the rear of the houses that face onto Ponsonby Place. This is the boarder with the south western edge of the Millbank Estate, and Wilkie House is the block that was built with the rear of the block facing the rear of the houses in Ponsonby Place.

There is a gap between the rear of Wilkie House and the houses to the west as shown in the following photo:

Millbank Estate

Look over the railings into the gap, and we can see the ditch and sloping wall of the original Millbank Penitentiary:

Millbank Estate

The City of Westminster Conservation Area Audit states about the ditch and wall:

“Of great importance is the octagonal shape of the former Millbank Penitentiary site, not only for its definition of the shape of the conservation area but also for the surviving sections of wall. This is an important historical and townscape characteristic of the area.”

The Millbank Penitentiary really deserves a dedicated post, so I will continue with my exploration of the Millbank Estate.

Families were a significant percentage of those living in the estate, so there was a need to provide schools for such a large estate and two were built at the same time as the housing blocks.

The two schools are both in Erasmus Street on the western side of the estate. The first one comes into view:

Millbank Estate

On the side of the first school is a rather ornate decoration stating Millbank Schools and the year of construction, 1901. In the centre are the initials LSB. These are not the initials of a person, rather the initials are of the London School Board who were responsible for the construction of the schools and it was their architects who produced the designs.

Millbank Estate

The fount of the first school facing onto Erasmus Street:

Millbank Estate

Further along is the infant school, also by the London School Board:

Millbank Estate

Plaque confirming  this building as the infants school:

Millbank Estate

There are entrances and playgrounds at each side of the school building. A stone arch with the word “infants” provides access:

Millbank Estate

The reason for the two schools becomes apparent as you walk around the estate and realise the size, number of flats and how many children must have lived across the estate.

Between the main blocks of flats there are large courtyards, providing a very child friendly play area:

Millbank Estate

The blocks are not a monolithic design, they have plenty of individual features which break up the brick. In this view, staggered windows provide light to internal stairs:

Millbank Estate

Despite the large scale of the estate, there are small features dotted across the blocks, such as this small corner window:

Millbank Estate

Following photo shows the view looking up the central part of Hogarth House, with a curving, triangular roof line, and long balcony:

Millbank EstateThe Millbank Estate is Grade II listed, however Hogarth House has a higher Grade II* listing. It was the first block to be started in 1899 and the design of Hogarth House by the architects Henry Spalding and Alfred Cross was the winning design in the competition run by the London County Council Architects Department for the design of the estate.

A living room in Hogarth House was photographed in 1909, not long after the building opened.

Millbank Estate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0832_70_1063

Being almost 120 years old, the Millbank Estate has been through a number of renovations. The condition of the flats had deteriorated by the late 1940s, and there were renovations throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The following photo shows a living room in Millais House in 1962.

Millbank Estate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0832_62_1623

The coal fire has by now been replaced with an electric fire, and the flats have moved into the television age.

The 1909 photo shows a well furnished Edwardian living room, and looking at the census data we can get an impression of the residents of the Millbank Estate (I was going to produce some detailed tables, but ran out of time).

Many or the residents were working / professional people, London County Council employees, Policemen, Workers from the nearby gas works (there were gas holders just to the west of the estate) and also at the Army and Navy Co-Operative Stores both on the Millbank river front, and at the end of the nearby Johnson Street – a street that has since been built over.

There were also residents who had come from the West End following the demolition of many of the slum housing in the area. LCC building was frequently to provide housing for those who had been moved following many of the late 19th century improvement schemes.

Despite this range of jobs, many of the newspaper reports of the opening of the estate still classed the new residents as poor. For example, this report from February 1906 was titled “The King And The Poor”:

“The King visited Millbank on Wednesday and inspected the model dwellings the London County Council had erected on a portion of the site of old Millbank Prison. The Queen accompanied his Majesty. The Royal party left Buckingham Palace at three o’clock in open landaus. The occasion was regarded as semi-private, but thousands of people collected near the point where the reception was to take place. The schools in the neighbourhood were given a half-holiday, and many of the children assembled to see the King.

As to the buildings, the King said they appeared light and comfortable, and these qualities were all the more striking in view of what he saw when visiting some of the lowest slum districts a few years ago. He sincerely hoped that the Council’s scheme would result in nothing but good to those whom it was sought to benefit.”

The Queen’s main concern appears to have been the lack of cupboards in the kitchen, and those who guided the Royal party around the estate promised they would look into the matter with urgency.

As well as the architectural features across the Millbank blocks, it is also worthwhile looking down at the ground, as across the estate are these LCC access covers, dated 1900, so from the original construction of the estate:

Millbank Estate

The inspiration of the arts and craft movement to the design of the estate is apparent in many of the features, such as the entrances to the blocks:

Millbank Estate

View between the blocks of Reynolds House, showing the distinctive chequer board patterns of the housing scheme in Vincent Street built for the Grosvenor Estate in the 1920s:

Millbank Estate

Another example of staggered windows:

Millbank Estate

The external condition of the Millbank Estate today is very good, and the estate has been through a number of renovations, however this has not always been the case. In 1947 the West London Press reported on a tenants’ protest and a Millbank Estate petition:

“A petition signed by 600 tenants of the Millbank Housing Estate, protesting about the conditions there, was handed by Mrs Lawler of 5 Morland Buildings to Communist L.C.C. member Jack Gaster when a crowded meeting of 200 Millbank Estate tenants was held at Millbank School recently.

Cllr. Gaster will hand the petition to the L.C.C. when their meeting takes place at County Hall next Tuesday.

The petition, which Mrs. Lawler said had met with great support throughout the estate, asks the L.C.C. to provide suitable storage facilities for the storage of coal, so that tenants can build up adequate supplies for the winter months. It also asks for the erection of pram-sheds in the yards to safeguard young mothers from undue strain in pulling prams up many flights of stairs.

The need for the L.C.C. to take immediate steps regarding essential repairs and decorations and to provide labour and materials for cleaning stairs and windows are also stressed in the petition, while a plea is made for railings to enclose the yards to keep children off the streets.”

The L.C.C. did agree that the work was needed, but did not expect the work to completed for a while due to post war shortages of materials and labour.

I suspect that the following photo shows that one of the requests from the tenants of 1947 was delivered, with the provision of pram sheds in the courtyards between the blocks:

Millbank Estate

Many of the internal courtyards have been decorated with plants and flowers which provide a lovely contrast to the brick of the blocks of flats.

Millbank Estate

Internal courtyard with plants and lamp post:

Millbank Estate

The Millbank Estate was built for the working class, and it is interesting how the influx of the new residents changed the demographic of the area. The Morning Post on the 11th January 1906 noted the impact the new estate could have on the General Election, and the re-election of the Conservative MP Mr. W. Burdett-Coutts who had held the Westminster seat for the past 20 years:

“The struggle is rendered the more interesting from the fact that the character of the constituency has greatly altered since the last election. The present electorate is 7,530, and the extensions of artisans’ dwellings on the Millbank Estate and the City of Westminster Council buildings in Regency-street has increased the working class vote to 5,000. This important fact, together with the general effect of the swinging of the political pendulum, and the prejudice raised against the late Government on education, fiscal and other questions, induce the Liberals to think they have a good opportunity of winning the borough in which the Houses of Parliament and so many other important buildings are included.”

Burdett-Coutts did not have to worry, as he won the 1906 election, and would go on to hold the Westminster seat until it was abolished in the 1918 election.

This is Maclise House with the Millbank Tower in the background:

Millbank Estate

Maclise House is one of the blocks on the Millbank Estate that has this wonderful doorway – it almost looks as if it is providing a portal into another world.

Millbank Estate

Note how above the entrance doorway, there is the stairway that juts out from the wall, ending at the top with a curved roof.

View back across the courtyard of Maclise House:

Millbank Estate

This is the view from the north-eastern end of the estate. I am standing by Marsham Street, which turns left in front of the camera. Herrick Street then on the left and Erasmus Street on the right.

Millbank Estate

There was relatively little bomb damage to the Millbank Estate. Where there was damage it was well repaired – this included the side of the building directly facing the camera in the above photo.

Those children in the 1906 photo at the top of the post could therefore step straight back into the estate and notice few differences – the main changes being almost 120 years of tree growth and parked cars now lining all the streets.

Externally, the housing blocks look impressive and in a well maintained condition. I talked with a few residents in the courtyards and they appeared very happy with their flats.

The London County Council’s Millbank Estate is a far better use of the land than the Millbank Penitentiary that previously occupied the site, however it is good that we can still find a physical reminder of the prison on the boundary of the estate, which shows how the shape of the prison influenced the space occupied by the estate, built by the London County Council for the working class of London.

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Jubilee Gardens and the World’s Longest Safety Poster

In July 1979, the Jubilee Gardens on the south bank of the River Thames near Waterloo Station and County Hall, was the location for the World’s Longest Safety Poster:

Jubilee Gardens

I took a couple of photos during a lunch time wander along the south bank:

Jubilee Gardens

The poster was an attempt on the world record, although a search of the online database of the Guinness Book of Records does not bring up any reference, although they do not have data online of all records, and this was 41 years ago.

1979 was the Year of the Child, and 360 children from across the country painted individual posters over a four day period, each showing a different aspect of safety, of the emergency services, or some other form of safety message relevant to a child.

The combined posters measured 800ft by 10ft and circled around the central green space of the Jubilee Gardens.

When I photographed the scene, the Jubilee Gardens were two years old. As their name suggests they were created in 1977 to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and they quickly became a popular lunchtime spot for the thousands of workers in the Greater London Council, County Hall, or the Shell Centre buildings – the two large office complexes on two sides of the gardens.

To the east of the park (just visible to the right of the first photo), there was a small stage area, and lunchtime concerts were organised by the GLC.

When weather was not so good, for the rest of the working day, and at weekends, the Jubilee Gardens were quiet. County Hall’s conversion into a hotel and centre for tourist attractions, along with the London Eye were still some decades in the future.

The Jubilee Gardens were closed for a number of years during the 1990s as they were one of the construction sites for the Jubilee Line extension which runs slightly to the west between Westminster and Waterloo Stations. An access shaft was dug in the centre of the gardens down to the level of the tunnel workings.

I often wonder if the access shaft is still there, below the surface, when ever I walk across the gardens.

After the gardens were reopened, they did deteriorate somewhat, but underwent a major redesign and restoration project, reopening in 2012, and it is these gardens we see today:

Jubilee Gardens

As well as the design of the gardens, their surroundings have changed considerably over the years, and the people who probably make most use of the gardens today are not office workers, they are more likely to be tourists.

The GLC was disbanded in 1986, and the buildings now host functions mainly aimed at the tourist industry.

Shell have sold off most of the space originally occupied by their offices with today only the tower remaining. New apartment towers have recently shot up around the original Shell tower. The following photo shows the southern edge of the Jubilee Gardens:

Jubilee Gardens

The view across the gardens from the northern edge, adjacent to the Embankment walkway:

Jubilee Gardens

The London Eye now dominates the view across the Jubilee Gardens:

Jubilee Gardens

The Jubilee Gardens as an open space date back to just after the Festival of Britain which occupied the site in 1951. The Shell Centre complex was built on part of the Festival site between Belvedere Road and York Road, construction being between the years of 1957 and 1962.

Part of the plan for the development of the south bank was to leave the space between the Shell tower and the river as open space, enabling an unobstructed view of the tower down to ground floor foyer level from the north bank of the river. The following photo from 1978 shows the view. I took this in the spring so the trees are only just starting to come into leaf, so the gardens are almost invisible from the north bank.

Jubilee Gardens

From the closure of the Festival of Britain, until the creation of the Jubilee Gardens in 1977, the site was a temporary car park – temporary in that it was never properly constructed as a car park, the space was just for this purpose until a long term use could be found (and financed).

The Jubilee Gardens were part of the Jubilee Celebrations along the South Bank in July 1977, when there were a number of short, informal performances, and if you had been in the gardens on either the 2nd or 9th of July, you could have seen “Morley College Choir, Tilford Bach Festival Choir, Morley Meridian Choir, Morley Brass Band, Morley Jazz Orchestra, along with performances of opera, early music groups with folk, court, ballet and modern dancing”. Morley College is a specialist provider of adult education, founded to address the learning needs of Waterloo and Lambeth, hence the local connection with Jubilee Gardens.

The gardens were the scene of a number of demonstrations during the 1980s. Marches demonstrating against unemployment in the early 1980s and during the miners strike of 1984 to 1985 there were rallies and demonstrations by miners and supporting trades unions in the gardens.

The view across the Jubilee Gardens in 1980.

Jubilee Gardens

The stage area can be seen on the right. The area on the left was still used as a car park. I doubt that anyone at the time could have imagined the London Eye being central to this view.

However, as well as being close to the London Eye, the area was the location for one of the key structures of the Festival of Britain, when the Dome of Discovery occupied the space now occupied by the Jubilee Gardens as can be seen in the following photo:

Jubilee Gardens

In the above photo, the buildings of County Hall that now face onto the gardens are seen on the lower right of the photo.

The following photo shows the construction of the Royal Festival Hall (in the foreground) and the Dome of Discover, with the buildings of County Hall in the background to confirm that the Jubilee Gardens now occupy the same space as the Dome of Discovery.

Jubilee Gardens

One of the reasons that the south bank site was chosen for the Festival of Britain was that the area had been very badly damaged during the war. During, and just after the war, many of the buildings on the site of the Jubilee Gardens had been demolished, with all that remained being a growing pile of rubble, as shown in the following photo by my father – again the buildings of County Hall confirm the location.

Jubilee Gardens

The site was completely cleared as shown in the following remarkable photo, which shows the area now occupied by the Jubilee Gardens cleared down to what was probably the original ground level when this was all marsh land.

Jubilee Gardens

The river must have flooded over the area at high tide – which explains why if you are at ground level at the edge of the side of County Hall facing the gardens, there appears to be an extension of the Embankment wall running inland alongside the building. It was to keep the Thames out.

This was the first area cleared for the construction of the Festival of Britain, as on the other side of Hungerford Railway Bridge, just behind the Shot Tower is the Lion Brewery, which would also soon be demolished.

Before the war, the area now occupied by the Jubilee Gardens was mainly warehousing and industrial. A large warehouse – the Government India Stores – occupied the site, along with a now lost street – Jenkins Street, as shown in the following map extract (again the buildings of County Hall provide a point of reference).

Jubilee Gardens

The Government India Stores, or the India Stores Depot was built in 1862 on land leased by the Secretary of State for India. The purpose of the building was to hold goods that had been purchased in the UK by the Government of India, prior to shipping to India.

By the end of the 19th century, this was getting to be a dubious exercise with questions being asked in Parliament about why the Government of India was purchasing goods in the UK which could also easily be purchased in India, and would benefit the Indian economy.

My father photographed the post war remains of the Government India Stores prior to demolition:

Jubilee Gardens

The area occupied by the Jubilee Gardens has long been an industrial site. The following extract from Rocque’s map of London from 1746 shows the sweep of the river as it curves down to Westminster Bridge at lower left.

Jubilee Gardens

Where Westminster Bridge lands on the right side of the river, a street named Narrow Wall runs north. The site of the Jubilee Gardens are roughly to the left of the word ‘Wall’. The map shows that the area of land between Narrow Wall and the river was the first to be developed.

Before any buildings had occupied the site, the area had been marsh, and part of the river foreshore. The name Narrow Wall probably refers to an embankment between the river and the land, with a roadway of some basic form running along the embankment.

Just south of the site of Jubilee Gardens, where County Hall is now located and long before any building occupied the location, a Roman Boat was found during the construction of County Hall:

Jubilee GardensImage credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_04_15_53_27D

So the area around Jubilee Gardens has a long history and it is intriguing to imagine the Roman boat beached on the foreshore of the Thames and gradually sinking into the mud.

The Jubilee Gardens have seen the dramatic rise in tourism over the last few decades, although they are relatively quiet today as London is still missing the millions of tourists that visit the city.

Their location has seen the London County Council and the Greater London Council come and go, along with the construction of the Jubilee Line extension, the Dome of Discovery and the Festival of Britain. The site has been bombed and was the location of a warehouse for goods bound for India.

They have been the site for demonstrations, a wide range of entertainments, and a green space for office workers to spend summer lunchtimes – and possibly the record breaking World’s Longest Safety Poster,

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London with a Leica – First Light

I hope you will excuse a rather self indulgent post this week, but it is a post I have been wanting to write for a long time – my first attempt at using my father’s Leica IIIg camera.

He used two main cameras for the 1940s and 1950s photos. A Leica IIIc for the earlier and a Leica IIIg for the later photos. He sold the IIIc to help pay for the IIIg, and gave the Leica IIIg to me about 20 years ago.

He last used it at the end of the 1970s, when it developed a problem with the shutter sticking, and rather than getting it repaired, he purchased a new SLR camera.

I have been wanting to use the camera for some years. A couple of years ago I had it repaired to fix the sticking shutter problem, and a few weeks ago I finally had the time to learn how to use the camera. I purchased some film, and took the camera on a walk through London to take a reel of film and see how it performed – mainly how I performed using a very different camera to my digital cameras and my old Canon AE-1 film camera.

The Leica IIIg is completely manual. Everything has to be set, shutter speed, the aperture opening of the lens and the focus. The film also needs to be moved to the next frame ready for the next photo.

The Leica IIIg:

Leica

The lens is not the lens meant for the camera. It is from my father’s earlier Leica IIIc. He wrote the following in his notes to the camera “the lens is not the standard lens that should accompany the body, but is from my previous Leica IIIc bought, because it was the best lens to be used in both camera and enlarger”.

He developed and printed his own films, therefore the reference to the enlarger is to the item of equipment that you would use to shine a light through the negative and focus onto photo paper during the printing process. The lens would be unscrewed from the camera and placed in the enlarger to allow negatives to be printed onto photo paper.

The lens is therefore the lens through which the majority of my father’s photos which I feature on the blog from the 1940s and 1950s were taken.

Luckily, I have the instruction booklet that came with the camera, and a diagram in the booklet details all the functions of the various knobs, levers and windows on the camera.

Leica

You may have noticed there is no light meter on the camera, to measure the amount of light and therefore setting the correct speed and aperture – I will come on to this later.

You may also be asking why on earth I would want to use such a camera, limited to 36 photo films, with the cost of film and developing, when digital cameras are so good, and after buying the camera, the cost of photos is almost zero?

A couple of reasons. Obviously the sentimental one that it was the camera and lens that my father used for so many of his early photographs, but also because using such a camera really forces you to think and perhaps relearn the whole process of photography.

The number of photos available on each roll of film, and the cost of film and processing means you really have to be selective and think about the photo you want to take – I could not take the 200 to 400 photos that I would normally take on a walk around London.

It also makes you really think about light. Having to manually measure the light coming from the scene you want to photograph, deciding the combination of speed and aperture, focusing on the specific object you want to be the focus of the photo, all combine to make you think more about the process. I know all these combinations of manual options are available in many digital cameras, but so often using the auto option is the easiest way, along with the internal light meter.

The first challenge was to load the film.

The choice of film was relatively easy. I went with Ilford FP4 Plus. The reason being it is a very tolerant film which “will give usable results even if it is overexposed by as much as six stops, or underexposed by two stops” (a stop is basically either the halving or the doubling of the light hitting the film, so the film can still give good results if too much or too little light hits the film for the ideal photo).

My first attempt at loading the film in the camera was not good. Firstly, the film has to be trimmed with scissors so there is a long enough length of half width film to avoid the winding mechanism, then the film needs to be securely and accurately wound onto the take up spool.

And you will not know if it has worked correctly until the film is in the camera and you start winding on the film.

The pages from the manual detailing the film loading process:

Leica

Trimming the film – Ilford FP4 already comes trimmed, but not enough for the Leica, so I had to measure and cut a longer trimmed length of film. There must be a winding mechanism at the top of the slot behind the lens, which the film cannot be inserted over, but engages with when the film is pulled through the camera.

Leica

The end of the correctly trimmed film then needs to be inserted into the take up spool. This is where I had most problems as the film has to be parallel with, and tightly up against the lower end of the take up spool as in the following photo. If the film is not correctly positioned (as I found on the first two attempts), the film does not grip and wind onto the take up spool.

Leica

The film cassette, film, and take up spool is then carefully inserted into the slot at the rear of the camera, and the cassette and spool pushed into their positions at the two ends of the camera.

Leica

My first two attempts failed. You cannot confirm the film is inserted correctly until you try winding on the film.

There are two knobs at either end of the top of the camera. The Film Transport and Shutter Tensioning Knob – which pulls the film forward, out of the cassette and onto the take up spool after each photo has been taken, as well as tensioning the shutter ready for release. The second is the Rewind Knob that engages with the film cassette and is used to rewind the film back into the cassette when the full length of film has been used.

If the film is inserted correctly, winding the film transport knob, should also result in the rewind knob turning as film is pulled out of the cassette.

With my first attempt, the film had slipped off the take up spool, and with my second, the film was winding on correctly, but there must have been so much slack in the cassette that the rewind knob was not turning. I wasted that film as I was not sure how much film had been wound on and therefore exposed when I opened the camera to see what was going on.

With the film correctly loaded (hopefully) in the camera, there was one final element to learn before taking the camera out on the streets of London – how to set the speed and aperture correctly.

Basically, the aperture sets how much light the lens allows through to the film, and the speed is the speed with which the shutter opens, also changing how much light is let through to the film. They also impact the photo in different ways. Low speed can lead to a blurred photo of a moving object and with aperture you can change the elements of a photo which are in focus, for example by a blurred background with the foreground object in focus.

To know the correct range of settings, you need to know how much light is coming from the scene you want to photograph towards the lens of the camera. Today, cameras have built in light meters, but 1940/50s Leica’s needed a different solution, and this was by using an external, hand held light meter, and along with the camera, my father had given me his Weston Master Exposure Meter.

Leica

As the text describes “Your ‘Master’ meter is a photo-electric instrument which measures the reflected light of the subject with scientific accuracy”.

There is a photo cell in the rear of the meter, which generates an electric current dependent on the strength of the light. This electric current drives the pointer on the meter on the front of the meter.

The pointer, points to a scale of numbers. The light meter first needs to be set up correctly with the speed of the film (tab E and window D as described in the instructions), then the exposure dial is turned to point at the number the pointer in the electric meter is pointing at, and the range of aperture and speed combinations can be read from the scales F and G in the instructions.

One of the problems with using the meter was that the pointer would be moving up and down depending on where I was pointing the meter in the overall scene to be photographed. It was relatively stable in a scene where there was little change in light, but looking at a combination of river, buildings and sky, the meter would change considerably with minor changes in position.

The same challenge happens with digital photography, but again using an entirely manual method really gets you thinking about light.

Using the light meter on London Bridge (photo taken on my phone which handled light measurement, speed, aperture and automatically focused without me having to do anything – how photography has changed)

Leica

So, with film loaded, a reasonable understanding of how the camera and light meter worked, I went out for a walk to see if the camera worked, did the light meter still give accurate readings, and could I take photos using a Leica IIIg.

Back at home, the film was wound back into the cassette, posted to Aperture (who as well as repairing cameras, also develop and print), and I waited expectantly for 10 days for the negatives and prints to drop through the letter box.

The first photo taken by the Leica IIIg in over 40 years – looking to the north bank of the river from the south bank.

Leica

Much to my surprise, the photo came out well. The river, buildings and sky all gave different light readings, so I used an average to see what would happen.

I was not aiming to take photos of specific objects, or scenes of any historic or architectural value, it was just a random walk looking for different scenes to see how the photo would come out. This following photo did not do so well.

Leica

The photo is of the Frank Dobson sculpture “London Pride” in front of the National Theatre. The sculpture was backlit with bright sunshine, The photo works well for the National Theatre, but the sculpture is too dark.

A view across the river to St Paul’s:

Leica

The following photo did not work well. On the left was the brightly lit view across to the City. The view on the right should have been really good as shafts of sunlight were breaking through the tree cover onto the walkway. I had set the exposure for the view on the left, not the view through the trees.

Leica

Really not sure what happened with the following photo, but it seems out of focus.

Leica

Focusing needs to be set manually on the Leica IIIg. There is a separate viewing window to focus the view. Looking through this window and if the scene is out of focus, you will see two views of the same object, each slightly apart.

To focus the camera on the scene, you need to turn the lever adjacent to the lens, which should bring the two views of the scene together. When the views of the primary object in the scene meet as one, the camera is correctly focused.

The Anchor pub:

Leica

I was starting to get to grips with the light meter and camera, and took the following photo in Winchester Walk. Borough Market on the right and Southwark Cathedral at the end of the street.

Leica

I took the above photo as my father had used the same camera, 67 years ago to take a very similar view (I did not have the original with me, so I was not at exactly the right location). The same camera and lens – 2020 above and 1953 below:

Leica

The following photo was taken from London Bridge, where the colour photo earlier in the post with the light meter was taken. It was a difficult scene. Point the light meter at the sky and it would shoot up, down at the river and a much lower light reading. Going for an average reading seems to give a reasonable result.

Leica

I took the following photo as there was plenty of detail on the base of the monument, a building in the background, and the scene in relative shade due to the surrounding buildings.

Leica

View down Fish Street Hill to the church of St Magnus the Martyr:

Leica

The view looking up Gracechurch Street from Eastcheap:

Leica

Entrance to Monument Underground station in King William Street. I wanted to see if I could get the exposure right for the street scene and the steps below ground, and also focus on a close object and with the rest of the view in focus.

Leica

Construction site for the new entrance to Bank Underground station in Cannon Street with the tower of St Mary Abchurch in the background.

Leica

Temporary bike lane in Cannon Street. Pleased with this as both the adjacent barriers and the tower of St Paul’s at the end of the street are all in focus.

Leica

View down Laurence Pountney Lane:

Leica

Entrance to Cannon Street Station – I should have exposed more for the darker interior of the station, but I was trying to get the way the lights swept into the station.

Leica

Dowgate Hill at the side of Cannon Street Station, with the Strata Tower at the Elephant and castle in the distance:

Leica

One of my favourite City buildings – 30 Cannon Street:

Leica

The main entrance to 30 Cannon Street:

Leica

Really pleased with the above photo. Architectural photography is one of the areas where black and white photography seems to work well.

The St Lawrence Jewry Memorial Drinking Fountain at the top of Carter Lane. A good spot for skateboarding down into the lane.

Leica

Welcome To The City Of London – map near the visitor information center.

Leica

I took the above photo as I was interested in the level of detail that could be recorded on film. The map had lots of text and detail within the map, and the photo below is a small extract of the above. It shows that extracting a small part of the photo and enlarging still retains an excellent level of detail.

Leica

Walking down Ludgate Hill and I noticed this closed shop. Originally a “traditional” sweet shop, probably catering to the tourist trade on the route to and from St Paul’s Cathedral. Now closed and empty – possibly a victim of the lack of tourists for most of the year.

Leica

Looking up Ludgate Hill towards St Paul’s Cathedral – I have never seen it so quiet on a Sunday afternoon in late August.

Leica

Road works and temporary traffic lights looking down Ludgate Hill:

Leica

The film I was using was theoretically capable of 36 exposures, however I only managed 29 photos from the roll of film. I suspect I lost some at the start of the film by needing to trim an extra long length, then winding the film on too much to make sure it was on the take up spool and the rewind knob on the film cartridge was turning. Whilst this showed that the film was correctly loaded – it did waste some of the total number of photos that should have been available.

The camera does have a dial that shows the number of photos that have been taken, and the dial is manually set to zero before the first photo is taken, however the dial assumes the film is loaded with minimum film on the take up spool to give 36 exposures.

The final couple of photos on the film showed problems with double exposure, the following photo is an example. Not sure why as the film did appear to wind on correctly, but obviously a problem at the very end of the film.

Leica

The photos are very routine photos of the south bank of the river and the City of London, however, for me, they are very special.

They show that the Leica camera and the Weston light meter are working well, and that I have a basic understanding of how to use them.

There is something rather special taking photos with such a camera. The lens is over 70 years old, and was already taking photos of London in the late 1940s.

One of the problems of taking the “now” photos to compare with the photos from the 1940s and 1950s is that my current camera is so very different to the Leica. Completely different lens, different method of capturing the photo etc. This means that whilst I can take a “now” photo of the scene, it is never exactly the same as the original. What I hope to do is revisit the sites of my father’s original photos with the Leica and take new comparison photos. With the same lens and camera I should be able to get the new photos to be exact comparisons.

I also still have much to learn. The camera also came with a number of accessories such as an open frame sports viewfinder, red and yellow/green filters to add contrast to a black and white photo etc.  I suspect I will be experimenting with the Leica and film far more over the coming months.

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Fire, Blitz and Route 11 – How Two Historic City Walls Have Survived The Centuries

I find it fascinating comparing my father’s photos of the bombed City with London of today. Exploring how much has changed, how the long history of the City survived, and despite how much has changed over the last seventy plus years, how much remains the same.

The following photo was taken in Wood Street looking roughly north east.

St Alphage

I know the exact spot where my father was standing to take the photo, and there are a number of landmarks that can be identified. I have marked these on the photo below, and will explore them in today’s post.

St Alphage

Firstly, the photo was taken from Wood Street, a short distance north of the tower of the church of St Alban. The following photo is from my post of a couple of weeks ago on the churches of St Alban and St Mary. Just behind the tower of St Alban is a building with scaffolding projecting from the side. This is the same scaffolding seen in the photo above.

St Alphage

I am trying to work out a way to bring together all the photos of the bombed City to provide a comprehensive walk through of the City in 1947 – not sure the best way to do this yet but they provide a detailed view of the bombed City that my father witnessed.

From the Wood Street viewpoint, the following map extract shows the landmarks identified in the photo. I have used the same symbols as in the above photo (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

St Alphage

The following photo shows the view from the same place that my father was standing at, in 1947. A very different view with none of the landmarks visible.

St Alphage

The shadow of the tower of St Alban is on the lower right corner, and the building with the scaffolding would have been on the right, with the scaffolding protruding into the edge of the photo.

The rather solid looking building on the right of the above photo is the Wood Street City of London police building, constructed in 1965.

In the 1947 photo there is a street entrance on the right. This was Addle Street, a street that has been lost in the development of the area. It was roughly just after the tree in the above photo.

Looking at the landmarks in the distance, and one of the most distinctive is a tall tower which I have marked with a yellow circle in the map and photo. This building can still be found on the north side of Finsbury Square.

St Alphage

The tower belongs to the building that was Royal London House, but is now called Triton Court. Royal London started as a Friendly Society and grew rapidly during the first half of the 20th century. They occupied the entire north side of Finsbury Square. The building on the left with the cupola on the corner was constructed first in 1905. The central block with the tower was added in 1930, and the block to the right was added in the 1950s.

The block on the right is now a hotel and the two earlier blocks are office space. Internally, the buildings have been mostly gutted as part of the conversion to new offices, with only the facades remaining as they were, including the original statue of the Roman god Mercury, who has been looking out over London for over one hundred years.

St Alphage

To the left of the tower in the 1947 photo is the cupola on the corner of the first of the Royal London buildings, then look further to the left and there is another cupola. This is marked on the photo as 1 City Road / Lowndes House (red circle on the map), and is seen in the following photo at the end of the street, where City Road bends to the left.

St Alphage

The building is now 1 City Road, but was called Lowndes House when built in 1929 for the Singer Sewing Machine Company as their London headquarters. It was designed by architect William Lewis, and is now Grade II listed.

The 1947 photo, and also just by walking the streets, show the boundaries of the fires caused by bombing during the Second World War. They covered an extensive area of the land now occupied by London Wall, the Barbican, and east to towards Finsbury Square, but getting towards Finsbury Square and many of the buildings that remain are still pre-war rather than the post-war buildings to the west.

Much of the damage to the area was through the fires caused by incendiary bombs rather than high explosive, and many walls of buildings did remain. Many had been cleared by the time my father took the original photo, however the clearance, and following post war work, did reveal some much older structures which, fortunately, have been preserved.

To the right of the 1947 photo there is the shell of a building that I have labelled St Alphage (yellow star on the map and photo).

Churches were also left during wartime demolition. Although many City churches were reduced to their outer walls and tower, there was an expectation that being churches they would be restored, which indeed did happen to many churches, although some were demolished. One was St Alphage, although not before some medieval remains of an earlier building that had been integrated within the structure of St Alphage were identified and saved.

These were from the former priory chapel of St Mary Elsing (also Elsyng and Elsyng Spital – Spital being the name given to a charitable establishment that would provide care for the sick), and these medieval remains can be found today alongside London Wall.

In the following photo looking east along London Wall, the stone arches of St Mary Elsing can be seen on the left.

St Alphage

The walls that we can see today alongside London Wall are from the medieval chapel of St Mary Elsing. This chapel was part of a hospital and priory which had been founded by Sir William Elsing early in the 14th century.

St Alphage

The hospital was founded with the intention of providing care for the blind, presumably by the nuns and sisters of the priory. It was common across the City for hospitals and priories to be a single institution.

The location of the priory may have been a religious site back to the 11th century when a nunnery may have occupied the location.

The priory was closed during the dissolution in 1537 when it became the property of the Crown, although most of the land and buildings were soon sold off.

The view of the remains of the priory of St Mary Elsing viewed from London Wall.

St Alphage

The area has recently been subject to redevelopment which has considerably enhanced the view of the medieval walls. As part of the original redevelopment along London Wall, the remains were hemmed in by new buildings and under the high level walkways that were such a feature of the post war development of London Wall.

The space around the walls has been opened up, and a new walkway was recently opened, set back from the remains of the priory, and of a much more sensitive design.

St Alphage

Close to the priory of St Mary Elsing was another religious building, the church of St Alphage.

The original St Alphage was built up against the London Wall, a very short distance to the north west of the priory. St Alphage may date from the 11th century, the same century as the saint after which the church is named died.

St Alphage was Bishop of Winchester and from the year 1006 was Archbishop of Canterbury, although this post would not last too long as in 1012 he was murdered by the Danes.

His murder is thought to have taken place at Greenwich, at, or near, the Greenwich church also dedicated to St Alphege (using one of the alternate spellings of his name).

St Alphage

By the early 16th century, the first St Alphage was in a very poor condition, and the parishioners were looking for an alternate site for the church. They were given the tower and chancel of St Mary Elsing, they converted the building, and moved their parish church into the new site.

The original St Alphage was demolished and the site sold to a carpenter. Wilberforce Jenkinson in London Churches Before The Fire states that the original location is “now used as a little garden of rest for London wayfarers”.

The view of the remains of St Mary Elsing, looking back towards London Wall is shown in the following photo. The tall arches which formed the base of the tower can clearly be seen. At the left there is a low wall. This has a small, arched recess which may have been used to house a tomb.

St Alphage

Note that there is a slight height difference between the base of the walls and the surrounding street level. The new St Alphage therefore included some of the medieval walls from St Mary Elsing. These medieval walls have been incredibly lucky to survive into the 21st century.

St Alphage survived the Great Fire of London. The church was significantly rebuilt in 1777, and the medieval walls remained.

In 1913, a new Gothic front was built on the side of the church facing the original route of London Wall. A couple of features of this facade can be seen in my father’s 1947 photo, where there is a short pinnacle on the top left corner of the church along with the triangular top of the wall.

The 1947 photo shows that these were on the northern side of the church which at the time was facing onto London Wall, however the route of London Wall was about to change, and St Alphage would see the final, dramatic change to its immediate landscape.

I have covered the route of London Wall in previous posts. The change in route was to meet the expected post war rise in car usage through the City. During the war, plans were made for the post war redevelopment of the City, and these included major new, wide roads through the City along with the parking needed for all those who would be driving into the City.

One of these new routes was Route 11, an 86 foot wide dual carriageway that would run from Ludgate Circus in the west to Aldgate High Street in the east.

The section between Aldersgate Street and Moorgate was the easiest to build as the area had been so damaged during the war and was almost an empty space waiting for redevelopment. The majority of the other sections of Route 11 were through existing streets that had not suffered so much damage and would have required major demolition of buildings.

The section of Route 11 between Aldersgate Street and Moorgate was named London Wall, with the western section being moved south from the original route of London Wall so that the new route would align with the expected westward extension.

The following photo from 1958 shows the construction of Route 11 along the new London Wall. I have marked the position of St Alphage and the original western section of London Wall.

St Alphage

The photo shows how the medieval walls of St Mary Elsing moved from being to the south of London Wall, to their current position to the north of the street.

The photo also demonstrates what a significant construction project this was. Basically a long hole being dug, then filled with a concrete box. Car park being within the concrete box and new street running along the top. The car park below London Wall has space for 250 cars – and includes the remains of a Roman Wall.

The plan for post war redevelopment – “Reconstruction of the City of London” by the Corporation of London was published in 1944 and includes a map of the planned trunk routes through the City. The routes included in this original plan were changed slightly. I have marked the original London Wall route in the map with A and B.

St Alphage

Whilst the eastern section would end where the new London Wall currently ends at the junction with Moorgate, the western end was originally planned to be at a large new roundabout at the Aldersgate Street / Long Lane junction, by Barbican Station.

This original route would have taken Route 11 through the area now occupied by the Barbican, and as plans for the Barbican were taking shape when the final plans for Route 11 were being made, the western end of the new street was moved south to leave a large area free to the north ready for the Barbican Estate.

The construction of London Wall did require the demolition of a small southern section of St Alphage. The majority of the church was demolished in the 1960s leaving the medieval walls of St Mary Elsing as a scheduled ancient monument, standing separate from the church that had been built around them, and looking out on a very different landscape.

We can get an impression of how the walls and arches of St Mary Elsing were incorporated in the structure of St Alphage by looking at some old prints.

The following print from 1815 states “An interior view of the porch of the parish church of St Alphage, London Wall: formerly the chapel of the priory of Elsynge Spital”. (©Trustees of the British Museum)

St Alphage

The fact that these were ancient walls was understood as the following print, also from 1815, demonstrates by showing the architectural details of the arches to be found in St Alphage (©Trustees of the British Museum).

St Alphage

The print also includes a map of the area showing the location of the church. Note that in the map there is an area labelled St Alphage Church Yard just to the left of the church, on the northern side of London Wall – we shall come to this later.

The following print shows the southern prospect of St Alphage in 1736. This was before the 1777 rebuild and presumably shows the church much as it could have been when the parishioners moved from their original church to the chapel of St Mary Elsing in the middle of the 16th century (©Trustees of the British Museum).

St Alphage

Hard to believe that the point where the above print was drawn from is now the dual carriageway of London Wall.

There is one landmark from the 1947 photo left to find. In the following photo I am standing in the original route of London Wall, now a pedestrian walkway, close to the junction with Wood Street. This is now called St Alphage Garden. The northern facade of St Alphage would have been at the far end, just where the brown of the high level walkway can be seen.

St Alphage

In my father’s 1947 photo, there is a feature I have labelled as Medieval Wall. This feature can still be seen today:

St Alphage

There is a plaque on the wall from 1872 that states Roman City Wall, however whilst the wall is on the alignment of the City Wall, only the very lower sections are Roman.

St Alphage

An information panel adjacent to the wall explains that the top brick section with the “crenellations and diaper pattern brickwork” (the regular battlement shape of the top of the wall and the brick pattern formed with the dark bricks) date from 1477 when the City Wall was strengthened during the Wars of the Roses. Medieval is below the brickwork, with Roman down at street level.

St Alphage

The space in front of the wall is now a garden / seating area and is the same space as marked in the map in the 1815 print as St Alphage Church Yard. This was also where the original St Alphage church was located.

Whilst the southern aspect of the wall was visible pre-war, much of the rear of the wall had buildings up against it – demolition of buildings damaged during the war opened up both sides of the wall as a free standing structure.

To bring this post full circle with my very first post in February 2014, when I wrote about the following photo.

St Alphage

This was the original sign put up by the Corporation of London in Fore Street to mark the site of the first bomb on the City. What I did not mention at the time was that on the left edge of the photo you can just see the ruins of St Alphage, with the same pinnacle as in the photo seen at the start of the post. The section of City Wall is behind the sign.

It is fascinating how places change. The former priory chapel of St Mary Elsing and the Roman Medieval Wall have survived so much change and now look out on a very different landscape. The area surrounding St Mary Elsing is not the same as the post war rebuild, with most of the buildings being from the last few decades, and the original pedestrianised high level walkways have also been replaced.

I very much doubt whether the view the wall and chapel look out on now could have been imagined by anyone over their hundreds of years of existence. Although my father was aware of Route 11 (he bought the books with the redevelopment proposals when they were first published), he did not expect the size of buildings that now surround London Wall and Wood Street.

When London Wall was built, the car was expected to be the future of transport in the City. The car is now being actively discouraged as a means of transport in the City, so whatever may seem to be the future, will always change.

I suspect the next big change to the area will be when the Museum of London moves, and the proposed Concert Hall is built on the site (if the money is still there). This may drive more local change if there are empty offices to be repurposed due to remote working becoming the norm.

When researching these photos, as well as the history, I always try to imagine what the future may bring to these places, but the lesson of looking at the past is that the future will almost certainly be very different – but hopefully the walls of St Mary Elsing will still be there.

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The Globe at Borough Market

In 1977 I was taking some photos around Southwark using my brand new Canon AE-1, purchased using hire purchase as at the time it was the only way I could afford such a camera, and I was desperate to replace the cheap Russian Zenit camera I had been using. The main feature of this camera seemed to be a sticking shutter which ruined far too many photos.

A couple of these photos were of the Globe at Borough Market. A very different market to the market of today.

Globe at Borough Market

The same view 43 years later in 2020:

Globe at Borough Market

The Globe was built in 1872 to a design by architect Henry Jarvis. A lovely brick pub, the paint on the external walls in my 1977 photo has since been removed to reveal the original brickwork.

When I took the original photo, Borough Market was a very different place. Selling all types of fruit, vegetables, potatoes etc. The market started very early in the morning mainly selling to businesses such as the shops and restaurants of south London.

The narrow aisles between the market stalls meant that vehicles could not easily enter the market so porters were employed to transfer goods from lorries parked in the streets, into the market.

One of the barrows used by a porter is outside the corner entrance to the pub. This was why I took the photo as the barrow and pub seemed to be a good combination that in many ways summed up a London market at the time. There is another barrow parked alongside the Globe at left.

There were a number of pubs surrounding Borough Market, catering to the needs of those who worked in the market, which included being open much earlier in the morning than a normal London pub. Reading the licence information above the door of the Globe gives an indication of days and times that the pub served the market, and the trades of those who were expected in the Globe:

“NOTICE PURSUANT TO THE LICENSING ACT 1964 – Intoxicating liquors are permitted to be sold and supplied in these premises between the hours of six-thirty and eight-thirty of the clock on the morning of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each week. Excepting Christmas Day, Good Friday and Bank Holidays for the accommodation of persons following their lawful trade of calling as Salesmen, Buyers, Carmen, Assistants or Porters and attending a Public Market at the Borough of Southwark”.

Another photo of the Globe in 1977:

Globe at Borough Market

And in 2020. The days of selling Double Diamond are long gone.

Globe at Borough Market

In the above photo, at the very top right corner, you can just see an edge of the Thameslink Viaduct that was built over Borough Market between 2009 and 2013.

The first floor of the Globe was the film location for Bridget Jones flat in the 2001 film Bridget Jones Diary.

Globe – the name of the pub in stone above the windows, seen in both the 1977 and 2020 photos:

Globe at Borough Market

If you go back to the photo at the top of the post, and look along the left side of the street, and in the distance is an arch with a sign above. The sign still remains although Lee Brothers Potato Merchants have long gone.

Globe at Borough Market

The origins of Borough Market are ancient, dating back for at least 1,000 years. Originally a market at the southern end of London Bridge, however by 1754 the City of London was fed up with the Southwark entrance to the bridge being congested by a market, and that the market was taking business away from the City markets. A bill was introduced to Parliament to stop the market trading in March 1756.

The local residents were not happy with the loss of their market and raised £6,000 to buy an area of land called The Triangle, and this became the new home of what is today Borough Market.

The market flourished, and the arrival of the railways with their local goods yards increased the volume of fruit, veg, etc. being sold at the market.

The end of the wholesale market started in the late 1970s and continued in the early 1980s. The City of London constructed New Covent Garden market in Nine Elms. This was a much larger market with considerably easier access and plenty of parking, unlike at Borough Market.

In parallel was the gradual replacement of the traditional corner shop and green grocer by much larger supermarkets who had their own supply chain and had no need to purchase fruit and veg from a local market such as Borough.

The market’s renaissance started in the late 1990s when specialist food suppliers started to move in, and food fairs were organised. Borough Market has since gone from strength to strength, and on most days (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic) it would be crowded with tourists and shoppers.

When walking among the stalls, it almost looks as if you could buy a different cheese for every single day of the year.

Along with the market traders, a wide range of restaurants have opened surrounding the market, and the old pubs that once served the market porters at 6:30 in the morning, have a new lease of life and are serving a very different customer – no longer are barrows left outside the pub door.

One of the pubs surrounding the market is the appropriately named The Market Porter on the corner of Stoney Street and Park Street.

Globe at Borough Market

The Market Porter dates from 1890, however the site was previously occupied by a pub named the Harrow.

Further along Stoney Street is another pub that looks in a rather strange location, squashed by the railway bridge directly above the pub. This is the Wheatsheaf:

Globe at Borough Market

The current Wheatsheaf building dates from 1840, although a pub had been on the site since the 18th century. It originally had three floors and was part of a terrace. The pub lost the third floor when the pub closed in 2009 for the construction of the Thameslink Viaduct which now runs directly overhead. The Wheatsheaf reopened in 2014 in its new, cramped looking condition, however thankfully this historic pub survived such a dramatic change.

Construction of the Thameslink Viaduct was a significant engineering achievement, with building such a structure above a working market. The viaduct runs for 322 metres across the market, and during construction, work included the removal and replacement of the market’s historic roof.

The following photo shows the Wheatsheaf in 1943, in its original condition (the building on the right), along with the same style of barrow that I would photograph in 1977:

Globe at Borough Market

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_376_F1582

On the corner of Stoney Street and Southwark Street is the Southwark Tavern, a lovely Victorian corner pub dating from 1862:

Globe at Borough Market

However a more remarkable building is alongside the Southwark Tavern. This is the imposing Hop and Malt Exchange.

Globe at Borough Market

The Hop and Malt Exchange dates from 1867 and was designed by the architect R.H. Moore, and was the premises of the Hop Planters Association.

The frontage along Southwark Street is 340 feet and it covered more than an acre of land.

Although the building looks impressive today, it was originally a much taller building, however after a fire in 1920 which gutted much of the building, the top two floors were demolished. The original, larger facade just after the fire can be seen in the photo below:

Globe at Borough Market

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: C_PHL_01_375_574c_2

The Hop and Malt Exchange was built in Southwark, as it was close to the main railway stations and goods depots that served the hop growing counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey and provided a place were growers and buyers could meet in one place to conduct the sale of hops.

The main entrance to the Hop and Malt Exchange:

Globe at Borough Market

The pediment above the main entrance contains some wonderful decoration showing hop and malt production. Hops being grown and picked in the centre. Barley being grown on the right for the production of malt, with these products being carried in a sack on a barrow on the left.

Globe at Borough Market

Looking through the iron gates of the entrance (which are also beautifully decorated), we can glimpse the main Exchange Room:

Globe at Borough Market

The Exchange Room was the central point for trading activities. It was 80 feet long by 50 feet wide and 75 feet was the original height to the top floor. The roof was glass allowing plenty of natural light to shine on the floor below. There was a central lantern feature running along the length of the roof, and in the pre-fire building, this was 115 feet above the floor of the Exchange Room.

The Exchange Room was surrounded by four floors of offices and show rooms where growers could show off their products to potential buyers. First and second class refreshment rooms were also provided. Presumably you used the first class when trying to impress a buyer, and the second class for normal refreshment.

A view of the Exchange Room after opening:

Globe at Borough Market

Today, the Hop and Malt Exchange has been restored and is currently a location providing office, corporate hospitality and a live events space, so in some ways is still true to the original use of the building – although no longer trading in hops and malt.

Borough Market and the Hop and Malt Exchange highlight that this area was a significant place for trading agricultural products. What started off as a market on the southern end of London Bridge, grew considerably with the arrival of the railways. Road and rail access to the southern agricultural counties turned this part of Southwark into a key location where London’s shops, restaurants and breweries could negotiate and buy the key agricultural products they needed for their business.

My 1977 photo captured the very end of that long period, but Borough Market still remains serving a new, 21st century customer.

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The Great Fire at London Bridge

If you walk out of London Bridge Station into Tooley Street, walk west up towards London Bridge, you will see a memorial to a fireman who died during what was described as the Great Fire at London Bridge in 1861 (also known as the Great Fire in Tooley Street), when a considerable number of the warehouses between Tooley Street and the River Thames were destroyed, alongside millions of pounds worth of goods.

Chances are that you will miss the memorial, installed on the first floor corner, along the side of a building facing on to Tooley Street. Although the lane alongside the building is now gated, it is called Cottons Lane, a name relevant to the warehouses destroyed in the fire.

Great Fire at London Bridge

Although the words on the memorial are difficult to read, it really does deserve a closer look. It records the death of James Braidwood, Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade who “was killed near this spot on the execution of his duty at the great fire”. These details are in the centre of the memorial, surrounded by a wreath.

Great Fire at London Bridge

Around the wreath are some details of the fire brigades profession, along with an image of the Great Fire at London Bridge.

At bottom left is a fireman’s helmet, sitting on the end of a nozzle through which jets of water were directed. To the right is an axe, followed by a water hose. Above this is the wheel of a fire engine.

At top left is a burning warehouse, with flames and smoke covering the top of the monument.

The fire that the memorial records, broke out on Saturday 22nd of June 1861. It would burn for days, destroy many warehouses and cause millions of pounds worth of damage and loss.

The following newspaper report provides a good indication of the scale of the fire:

“DREADFUL CONFLAGRATION IN LONDON. UPWARDS OF TWO MILLIONS’ LOSS – The metropolis on Saturday evening was visited by one of the most terrific conflagrations that has probably occurred since the great fire of London. Certainly for the amount of property destroyed, nothing like it has been experienced during the last half century.

The scene of the catastrophe was on the water side portion of Tooley-street, nearest London bridge, a locality which has been singularly unfortunate during the last 25 years, some of the largest fires having occurred here. The outbreak took place in the extensive range of premises known as Cotton’s Wharf and the bonded warehouses belonging to Messrs. Scovell.

They had an extensive river frontage, and the whole place on the land side extending to Tooley-street was covered with eight or nine warehouses six stories in height, some of which had formerly been used as ordnance stores, and the whole occupying, as we were informed, about three acres.

These buildings were filled with valuable merchandise of every description. There were some thousands of chests of tea and bales of silk stored in the upper floors, while in the lower was an immense stock of Russian tallow and tar, oils, bales of cotton, hops and grain. Every portion of the establishment might be said to have been loaded with goods, and of the whole of this property, not a vestige remains but the bare walls and an immense chasm of fire, which at dusk on Sunday evening still lighted up the Pool and the east end of the City.

To be added to this very serious loss is the destruction of the whole of the western range of Alderman Humphrey’s warehouses flanking the new dock, known as Hay’s Wharf, the burning of four warehouses comprising Chamberlain’s Wharf, adjacent to St Olave’s Church, besides many other buildings in Tooley-street”.

Smaller fires were a frequent hazard in the warehouses lining the Thames. The article extract above lists some of the goods stored in the warehouses. All very inflammable, and it had been a hot summer with little rain, so the buildings and their contents were dry and ready to burn.

The following print from the time gives an impression of the scale and ferocity of the fire. The southern tip of London Bridge can just be seen on the right edge of the print.

Great Fire at London Bridge

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: p5354642

As well as the size of the fire, the print shows some of the fire fighting methods of the time. On the river are two steam powered fire boats. This method of firefighting was essential in London due to the number and size of the warehouses hard up against the river. It was frequently only possible to fight a fire from the river. One issue facing the fire boats at the London Bridge fire when they arrived was a very low tide. This prevented them getting close to the warehouses and drawing sufficient water. It was only when the tide came in that the height of water in the river was sufficient for the fire boats to be effective.

To the right of the fire, a cluster of firefighters can be seen in front of the large building at the end of London Bridge. They are directing their hoses on the western edge of the fire.

The river is full of boats carrying spectators, and I suspect the watermen of the river found it very profitable to give people a close up view of the fire, although this could be dangerous. Look at the larger boat on the left edge of the print. A fire has started on the boat, and a figure is seen jumping into the river from the boat.

Fires were almost entertainment events for Londoners, who lined London Bridge and filled the many boats on the river at all hours of the day and night. The following newspaper extract illustrates how the fire spread and the onlookers responses:

“While Chamberlain’s Wharf was in full blaze it was feared by many that St Olave’s Church and Topping’s Wharf would follow, but fortunately, a vacant piece of ground interposed, which no doubt saved both. On the other hand, Hay’s Wharf, it became evident, had caught fire in the roof, through which clouds of smoke and sharp spires of flame were darting. The iron shutters for a long time kept in the fire here, except at intervals when it forced its way upwards; it must have been at least an hour after the top floor was blazing before the fire descended to the floor below. After that the other floors followed. When Hay’s Wharf was included the river sweep of the conflagration must have been 300 yards, with a deep foreground of blazing oil and tallow. The higher the tide rose the wider became the sheet of flame, as cask after cask of tallow melted and rolled, liquidwise, into the Thames.

As the tide rose attention became fixed upon the dock at the end of Hay’s Wharf, for the spectators were anxious upon two points – first, they wished to see if there was a possibility of escape of the two vessels lying there, close to the walls of the fire proof, but fire filled buildings; and secondly, they feared that the fire would leap the narrow chasm of the dock and seize on Beal’s Wharf, and then, as must have happened, burn down a great extent of wharfage property beyond. After midnight, when the water had risen sufficiently high, the screw steamer was towed out amid the cheers of the onlookers, and ten minutes later two tugs drew out an American barque, just as the iron shutters of the building fell out of the side next to the dock, and the conflagration shot forth its fiery tongues”.

The following print of the fire shows the masts of one of the ships that were rescued from the fire. They can be seen on the left of the print, with the flames of the burning warehouses getting dangerously close.

Great Fire at London Bridge

The following plan shows the buildings destroyed in the fire:

Great Fire at London Bridge

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: p5354659

The fire as viewed from Tooley Street:

Great Fire at London Bridge

There were a number of casualties during the fire. Five men who were in a boat collecting tallow floating on the river were either burnt to death or drowned when their boat caught fire. A number of men working in the area of the warehouses fell into the river and drowned.

Those suffering burns were taken to St Thomas’s Hospital, which also included a man who had his neck broken when the chain from a fire boat was caught around his neck.

Many of the boats on the river were collecting goods that had fallen out of the warehouses which they then sold for profit. Papers also reported that numerous mudlarks were out on the river foreshore using old sacks, saucepans, baskets, anything they could use to hold the goods from the warehouses being washed up on the shore.

The fire also brought out the worst in human behavior with groups of pickpockets making their way among the crowds watching the fire. Twenty four pickpockets were caught and taken to Mansion House for immediate judgement.

The memorial in Tooley Street records the name of the most high profile casualty – Mr James Braidwood of the London Fire Brigade.

Braidwood was the Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade and had many years of experience. The following report details the circumstances of his death, whilst he was visiting the individual groups of fire fighters in among the warehouses:

“Mr Braidwood, who had visited the men several times, was engaged in giving them some refreshment, when, all of a sudden, a terrific explosion occurred. In an instant it was seen that the whole frontage of the second warehouse was coming down, falling outwards into the avenue. Mr Henderson, the foreman of the southern district of the brigade, who was standing within a few paces of Mr Braidwood, shouted for all to run. The men dropped their hose branches. Two, with Mr Henderson escaped by the front gateway, and the others ran in the opposite direction on to the wharf where they jumped into the river. Mr Braidwood made an effort to follow Mr Henderson, but was struck down by the upper part of the wall, and buried beneath some tons of brickwork. His death must have been instantaneous. Several of his men rushed to extricate him, hopeless as the task was, but another explosion happening, they were compelled to fly. The sad fate of their chief had a most depressing effect upon all, and, to add to their trouble, the conflagration now assumed a most awful ascendancy”.

James Braidwood played a key part in establishing the London Fire Brigade. Born in Edinburgh in 1800, he was appointed superintendent of the Edinburgh fire brigade at the age of 23, and quickly gained a reputation for increasing the efficiency of the fire service in Edinburgh. In 1830 he published “On Construction of Fire-Engines and Apparatus, the Training of Firemen and the method of proceeding in the Cases of Fire”. In London at the time, the fire service was still run by individual insurance companies. This often resulted in a fire engine arriving at a fire, determining that the building was not insured by their company, and turning around.

Braidwood’s publication gained the attention of London’s insurance companies, and in 1832 he was appointed to the supreme command of the embryonic London Fire Brigade.

He initially had to overcome the prejudices and dislike of innovation from the London firemen, but gained their support and trust when they could see the benefits of the changes he put in place.

London’s fire service was very small for a city of such size and complexity, with numerous warehouses full of combustible goods. For comparison, Braidwood took on a force with 120 firemen, when at the same time, Paris had a force of one thousand trained firemen, and numerous fire appliances.

One of Braidwood’s innovative methods was his approach to fire prevention. He took an active part in advising owners of buildings how to implement precautions against fires.

He was also known for acts of bravery. In a fire in Edinburgh where barrels of gunpowder were stored in a burning building, he went in alone and carried each barrel out after having wrapped the barrels in wet blankets. In London he rescued a child from a burning building, having to walk across a plank to the room where the child was, and return via the same route.

He left a widow and six children. His wife had already suffered a similar bereavement, as a son from a previous marriage had died fighting a fire in Blackfriars Road in 1855.

His funeral took place at Abney Park Cemetery. The funeral procession was almost a mile and a half in length, and as well as the London Fire Brigade, there were members of the City and Metropolitan Police forces, members of the remaining private fire-brigades, along with many prominent persons of mid Victorian London.

The memorial in Tooley Street was installed in March 1862. I suspect it was in a more prominent place than now, as when installed it was on the west wall of a building on Tooley Street. Today it is on the eastern side of the building.

As well as the memorial, a short distance east there is a Braidwood Street, also to commemorate James Braidwood:

Great Fire at London Bridge

The inquest into the death of James Braidwood reached a conclusion of accidental death.

The jury at the inquest heard that he had been in among his fire fighters handing out brandy and encouragement when the wall fell on him, killing him instantly.

The inquest recorded the enormous quantities of goods held in the warehouses, the majority of which were highly inflammable, including a considerable quantity of salt peter, which is the natural mineral form of potassium nitrate.  Among its many uses, it is the principal ingredient in gunpowder, and as an oxidizer for fireworks and rockets. Having such an explosive chemical stored in such large quantities in a very busy warehouse complex in the centre of London shows the complete lack of any regulations at the time for the safe storage of such materials.

The area between Tooley Street and the river were still smoldering two weeks after the start of the fire. Over 200 police were employed to stop the public trying to get into the area. The fire brigade were kept busy pulling down dangerous walls and getting access to the burning vaults.

The area was though, quickly rebuilt and by the time of the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, the area is again full of warehouses. Hay’s Wharf was rebuilt, and it is the post 1861 fire version of Hay’s Wharf that we see today. ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’

Great Fire at London Bridge

If you find yourself in Tooley Street, glance up at the memorial to remember the Great Fire at London Bridge and the Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade, Mr James Braidwood.

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The View from the O2

A few weeks ago at the start of August, I walked up to the top of the O2 / Millennium Dome. It was my second walk to the top, the first visit had been brought for me as a present a couple of years ago, and this second visit was to take my 12 year old granddaughter as it was something she has wanted to do for some time, and with the reopening of the site, it seemed the ideal time to visit.

I will also take any opportunity to walk up to a high point, as these provide the perfect location to get a different perspective of London, which is sometimes difficult from street level.

This is not a blog that focuses on commercial / tourist experiences, so I will not be covering these aspects, just what can be seen from the top, and what it tells us about the way the city is changing. There is significant change to be seen as the Greenwich Peninsula is in the process of having almost all of its industrial history demolished.

The O2 Dome photographed from the river a couple of years ago. The walkway to the top can be seen, suspended above the material of the roof of the dome.

O2

The weather on our visit was really good. Perhaps a bit too warm for such a climb, but the views from the top were worth the effort. The following photo is looking roughly north east, across the River Thames. An area of water can be seen. This was the Royal Victoria Docks.

O2

On the far right of the photo can just be seen the old Millennium Mills building. The building with what appears to be white scaffolding along the roof line is the Excel exhibition centre, the location of the London Nightingale Hospital.

Two of the towers carrying the cable car across the river can be seen, and to the left of the water of the Royal Victoria Docks is a low, angular building with glass sides. This is the Crystal, a building which may play an important part in the future life of the city.

The Crystal was built in 2012 by the German engineering company Siemens. It was intended to be a location for some of the company’s staff, as well as being an exhibition centre and demonstration capability on the technology that would drive future cities.

The Crystal was designed and constructed to show how future buildings could be environmentally friendly and sustainable, and use recycled rain water to drinking water, used heat pumps to draw heat from the environment to heat the building in winter and cool the building in summer. Building management technologies, and sensor systems to adjust the building’s environment to the number of visitors.

Unfortunately, the building did not attract the number of visitors expected, so the original exhibitions closed, and the building is now owned by the Great London Authority and used as an events and exhibition space.

City Hall on the south bank of the Thames, just to the west of Tower bridge is the current base of the Mayor of London, and the “head office” of the Greater London Authority (GLA). The building is leased and currently costs the GLA £11.1 million a year in rental costs. The GLA can exit the lease in 2021, and the Mayor has proposed a move to the Crystal building as this is already owned by the GLA and will make substantial savings of rental costs.

Whilst I can understand the reasons, and the financial benefits make absolute sense, it does seem a shame that the symbolic location of the GLA will relocate from a prime position in central London, to a location that will only really be seen by those working at the GLA, or visiting exhibitions at the Excel.

Turning a bit further round to the north, and we can see the entrance to Bow Creek.

O2

Bow Creek is where the River Lea runs into the River Thames. The Lea is a significant river and runs through Bedfordshire and Hertfordshore before reaching greater London, through numerous twists and turns, diversions and reservoirs. Water from the River Lea was taken to feed into the New River when additional capacity was needed over and above that available from the original springs.

To the left of the point where the Lea meets the Thames is a small brick building, with a rather unusual structure on the end. This is London’s only Lighthouse.

O2

Built between 1864 and 1866, it was not that sailors on the river needed a visible navigation sign to find the entrance to the Lea in thick river fog, it was built as a place to test out lighting systems and measure their effectiveness and efficiency, so that the best systems could be installed in the lighthouses around the coast of the country.

The lighthouse is at Trinity Buoy Wharf. Now used for weddings, office space and a rather nice cafe after a long walk. The site was owned by Trinity House and as well as testing equipment at the lighthouse, the area was used for the storage and maintenance of buoys and navigation markers that were used in the waters under the responsibility of Trinity House.

It would have been fascinating to see a light from the lighthouse sweeping the dark, misty waters of the Thames when tests were underway.

Now looking to the north and we can see a cluster of different coloured towers.

O2

These apartment towers form City Island, a recent development that sits on the small peninsula of land in one of the meanders of the Bow Creek. The following map extract shows the area where the apartment blocks have been built, with the River Lea / Bow Creek passing on three sides (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

O2

A location map at the entrance to City Island shows how the buildings have been packed into this small area of land. Note the thick red line at the top of the map.

O2

The shape of the peninsula and the lack of access apart from the roads to the south meant that those living at City Island had very limited public transport options, so a foot bridge was constructed at the northern end of the peninsula (the thick red line) to connect City Island to Canning Town Station.

The view from the northern end of the footbridge looking into City Island.O2

Slightly to the west of City Island, there is an old locked entrance to the river with a small patch of water behind.

O2

This is all that remains of the East India Dock complex. The section that remains is the basin between the river and main docks, which are now filled in and built over.

I find it interesting that the buildings that now occupy the old East India Docks are today some of the largest Data Centres, supporting major Internet hubs. From places that once moved physical goods, the same space is now being used for one of the 21st century’s most important commodities – data.

Just to the west there are two buildings with solid lines down their facade, and to their left another building with a broken line running down the balconies, all giving the impression of a vertical line facing Greenwich.

O2

These three towers form the Elektron Buildings. The individual names of the towers from left to right are the Elektron Tower, Neutron Tower and the Photon Tower. The towers were built on the southern part of the old Brunswick Wharf Generating Station, and the names of the towers are meant to reflect this electrical history.

The broken brown line running up the balconies of the tower on the left is meant to show the route of the Greenwich Meridian, however the tower is offset a couple of metres to the west, so the prime meridian defined by Sir George Airy in 1851 passes just to the east of the block. This is probably fortunate (or possibly planned) for the tenants as when the meridian laser shines from Greenwich to mark the route of the meridian, it passes just to the east of the tower. If the tower has not been in its current position, it would have blocked the laser.

Just to the right of the right tower of the three, the ArcelorMittal Orbit at Stratford can be seen , along with (to the right), the towers that are springing up around Stratford.

Moving further to the west and there is a building in the centre of the following view with satellite dishes on the roof.

O2

I had a meeting in this building in the early 1990s. It was almost the only building here, and was surrounded by an expanse of derelict buildings, and spaces in the process of being cleared.

But again, there are reminders of the old industries that once lined the river here. In the following extract from the above photo, look to the right of the photo and there is an entrance from the river with Blackwall Yard written on the river facing side.

O2

This was part of the Graving Dock on the right of the cluster of docks and launching sites in the centre of the following extract from the 1893 Ordnance Survey map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

O2

Surprising that this small part of what was once a complex web of docks, railways and warehouses survives.

Continuing towards the west, and the tower blocks that form the Canary Wharf complex come into view, however tower block development along the edge of the Greenwich Peninsula is starting to block the view across the river.

O2

Slightly further to the west and we can see the entrance to what was the South Dock on the Isle of Dogs.

O2

An enlargement from the above photo showing the dock entrance. The first white building to the right of the entrance is the Gun pub.

O2

The view is now turning to the south west, and on the western edge of the Greenwich Peninsula is one of those strange oddities that were built here when I suspect someone was trying to find how to make money out of all the empty space. The green space is the Greenwich Peninsula Golf Range.

O2

In the lower right hand corner, the upturned electricity pylon created by Alex Chinneck as an artwork for the 2015 London Design Festival, can be seen.

In the far distance, the TV and Radio mast at Crystal Palace can just be seen. Getting up this high also shows why the mast was placed at Crystal Palace. As well as being a site with the space for a mast, it is already a high point overlooking much of the lower land of greater London.

Looking further south, and we can see where the river turns to pass the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs.

O2

To the left of the golf driving range is yet another large building site with the next part of the peninsula’s transformation about to be constructed.

Although there are already many new tower blocks here, the Greenwich Peninsula is only at the start of a transformation which will significantly change the above view, and indeed nearly all the views from the O2.

The Greenwich Peninsula Masterplan shows the developments planned for the area, with a dense cluster of towers transforming the area beyond all recognition.

The view below is looking to the south. Much of the area closest to the dome is covered with car parking space, used for the big events at the dome, however compare with the Greenwich Peninsula Masterplan and this view will look very different.

O2

The above view also shows how the industrial history of the Greenwich Peninsula is continuing to be demolished. The photo below is an extract of the above photo and shows nothing remarkable.

O2

My first climb up the dome was a few years ago (family present) and in the following photo showing roughly the same view is the outer framework of large gasholder.

O2

The gas holder was demolished earlier this year and was originally one of a pair dating from the late 1880s / early 1890s. The gas holder in the above photo is number 1. The larger number 2 gas holder was demolished in 1985 and will be the site for the Silvertown Tunnel workings and entrance, with construction expected to start this year with completion around 2025.

The Silvertown Tunnel is another of the construction projects that will be transforming the Greenwich Peninsula. The tunnel is being financed through a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) model. When open, a toll will be charged for using either the Blackwall or the Silvertown Tunnels which will be used to pay the PFI charges. The tunnel developers take the risk with construction costs, however Transport for London take the risk with usage and whether this will be sufficient to cover the PFI costs.

in 2015 I photographed the gas holder from the river. In the foreground were dry docks for the Thames tourist boats. These will also, or perhaps already have gone.

O2

Still looking to the south, and there are several features in the following photo:

O2

In the middle of the photo is the entrance arch to the Blackwall Tunnel. This can be seen in the following extract from the above photo:

O2

And in the distance (see photo below) we can see Greenwich Power Station, used by TfL to provide backup power to the Underground network. On the hill behind the power station, the Royal Observatory can just be seen, and on the right of the photo, the towers of the old Royal Naval College.

O2

These sights will be disappearing from the top of the O2 Dome as the towers planned for the western edge of the peninsula are built.

The eastern edge of the peninsula perhaps provides some indication of what the western edge will look like in the years to come. Development along the eastern edge has already progressed and now consists of multiple apartment towers of differing designs.

O2

The Greenwich Peninsula is a great place to watch the eastwards march of development along the Thames.

The peninsula will soon be a completely different place if all the proposed towers and associated buildings are built. There will be very little evidence of the peninsula’s industrial past, and what remains, such as the Pilot pub, will be very out of place.

My granddaughter really enjoyed the climb of the O2 Dome, and the views of London from the top. Hopefully she will be back at some point in the future to compare the view then, with her photos taken in August 2020.

For further information on the Greenwich Peninsula I can recommend the Greenwich Industrial History Society, and any of the books and articles by Mary Mills.  “Greenwich Marsh – The 300 years before the Dome” provides a fascinating account of the history of the place.

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