New Deal For East London – Bromley By Bow to Poplar

Two years ago I started a project to revisit all the locations listed as at risk in an issue of the Architects Journal. dated 19th January 1972. This issue had a lengthy, special feature titled “New Deal For East London”. The full background to the article is covered in my first post on the subject here.

I have almost completed the task of visiting all 85 locations, there are just a few more to complete. I had a day off work last Monday, the weather was perfect, so I took a walk from Bromley by Bow to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs to track down another set of locations featured in the 1972 article, and also to explore an area, the first part of which, is not usually high up on the list for a London walk.

There was so much of interest on this walk, that I have divided into two posts. Bromley by Bow to Poplar today, and Poplar to the tip of the Isle of Dogs, hopefully mid-week.

I had five sites to visit, which are shown in the following map from the 1972 article, starting at location number 29, passing by sites 56, 28 and 27 before finishing at site 26.

To get to the start of my planned route, I took the Hammersmith & City line out to Bromley by Bow station. There have been some considerable changes to the area in the years since the 1972 article, changes which are still ongoing. The following map shows the area today with the five locations marked. One obvious difference between the 1972 and 2019 maps are the major roads that have been cut through the original streets, and it is by one of these new roads that I would start the walk.

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

The entrance to Bromley by Bow underground station has been a building site for the last few years, although with not too much evidence of building work underway. The exterior of the station entrance is clad in hoardings and scaffolding.

Bromley by Bow

The underground station entrance opens out onto a busy road. Three lanes of traffic either side of a central barrier. This is the A12 which leads from the Bow Flyover junction with the A11 and takes traffic down to the junction with the A13 and the Blackwall Tunnel under the River Thames.

Directly opposite the station is a derelict building. This, along with surrounding land has been acquired by a development company ready for the construction of a whole new, mainly residential area, including a 26 storey tower block.

Bromley by Bow

In the photo above, i am looking across the 6 lanes and central barrier of the A12. The construction of this road in the 1970s had a major impact on the area. It was once a network of smaller streets, terrace housing and industry, much of which was due to the location adjacent to the River Lea. The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London shows a very different area. Bromley Station (now Bromley by Bow) is towards the top of the map with St. Leonard’s Street passing the station, leading down to Brunswick Road. Parts of these streets remain, however as the north to south route they have been replaced by the six lane A12. Many of the side streets have also disappeared or been shortened.

Bromley by Bow

There are still many traces that can be found of the original streets and the buildings that the local population would have frequented. This photo is of the old Queen Victoria pub at 179 St Leonard’s Street.

Bromley by Bow

The pub is surrounded by the new buildings of Bow School, however originally to the side of the pub and at the back were large terraces of flats which presumably provided a large part of the customers for the Queen Victoria. The pub closed in 2001 and is presumably now residential.

Walking further along the road, the road crosses the Limehouse Cut, built during the late 1760s and early 1770s to provide a direct route between the River Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs loop and the River Lea.

Bromley by Bow

New build and converted residential buildings have been gradually working their way along the Limehouse Cut, however there are a few survivors from the light industrial use of the area, including this building where the Limehouse Cut passes underneath the A12.

Bromley by Bow

A short distance along is another old London County Council Fire Brigade Station for my collection. This was built in 1910, but has since been converted into flats.

Bromley by Bow

The building is Grade II listed, with the Historic England listing stating that the building “is listed as one of London’s top rank early-C20 fire stations“. The building originally faced directly onto Brunwsick Road and was known as Brunswick Road Fire Station, however with the A12 cutting through the area, the small loop of the original Brunswick Road that separates the fire station from the A12 has been renamed Gillender Street.

The short distance on from the fire station is the first of the Architects Journal sites on my list:

Site 29 – Bromley Hall

The view approaching Bromley Hall:

Bromley by Bow

For an area that has been through so much pre and post war development, the original industrialisation of the area and wartime bombing, it is remarkable that Bromley Hall has survived.

Although having been through many changes, the building can trace its origins back to the end of the 15th century when it was built as a Manor House, later becoming a Tudor Royal Hunting Lodge. The site is much older as it was originally occupied by the late 12th century Lower Brambeley Hall, and parts of this earlier building have been exposed and are on display through a glass floor in the building.

Bromley by Bow

The London Metropolitan Archives, Collage site has a few photos of Bromley Hall. The first dates from 1968 and shows the hall, apparently in good condition, but surrounded by the industry that grew up along the River Lea.

Bromley by Bow

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01 288 68 5683

The photo highlights the impact that the A12 has had in the area. The above photo was taken from Venue Street, a street that still remains, but in a much shorter form. Everything in the above photo, in front of Bromley Hall, is now occupied by the six lane A12.

An earlier photo from 1943 showing Bromley Hall. The windows have been bricked up, I assume either because of loss of glass due to bombing, or as protection for the building.

Bromley by Bow

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_288_F1262

Bromley Hall is Grade II listed and has been open during Open House London weekends and is well worth a visit.

Further along is another example that this area, now isolated across the A12 was once a thriving community. This imposing facade is of Bromley Library, built between 1904 and 1906.

Bromley by BowBromley Library was one of four libraries in Poplar. The others being Poplar Library in the High Street, Cubitt Town Library in Strattondale Street and Bow Library in Roman Road. These libraries were open from 9 in the morning till 9:30 in the evening, and in 1926 almost half a million books were issued across the four libraries.

The Bromley Library building is now Grade II listed. It closed in 1981 and after standing empty for many years, the old library building has been converted into small business units.

I walked on a bit further, then took a photo looking back up the A12 to show the width of the road.

Bromley by Bow

Bromley Hall is the building with the white side wall to camera, and the library is just to the left of the new, taller building.

There is a constant stream of traffic along this busy road, when I took this photo it was during one of the occasional gaps in traffic when a pedestrian crossing just behind me was at red. There are not too many points to cross the road, with crossings consisting of occasional pedestrian traffic lights and also a couple of pedestrian underpass.

Much of this lower part of the A12 widening between the Limehouse Cut and East India Dock Road was originally Brunswick Street. The following Collage photo from 1963 shows Brunswick Street before all this would be swept away in the 1970s for the road between the Bow Flyover and the Blackwall Tunnel.

Bromley by Bow

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

Before the road meets the East India Dock Road, there are additional lanes to take traffic under the A12 and across to Abbott Road to the east.

Bromley by Bow

Close to the junction between the A12 and the East India Dock Road is the Balfron Tower.

A whole post could be written about Balfron Tower, the flats design by Erno Goldfinger and built in 1967. Balfron Tower tends to generate either love it or loathe it views of the building. dependent on your appreciation of high-rise accommodation and concrete construction.

The recent past has also been controversial in the history of the building. Like many estates from the 1960s, Balfron Tower suffered from lack of maintenance, failing lifts, problems with plumping and anti-social behavior.

In 2007 the building was transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to the housing association Poplar HARCA. The transfer included a commitment for refurbishment of the building which required considerable work and cost.

Tenants were initially given the option to remain whilst refurbishment was carried out, or move to a new local property. Whilst a number of residents took up the option to move, a number of residents remained.

The remaining residents were moved out in 2010, the reason given being the difficulty of managing a significant refurbishment project along with health and safety issues whilst there are residents in the building. Initially there was an indication that the residents may have a right of return, however this option disappeared as work progressed, and the costs of building works grew.

The redevelopment work is being undertaken by a joint venture including Poplar HARCA, LondonNewcastle and Telford Homes. There will not be any social housing in the refurbished building and all flats will be sold at market rates.

A long hoarding separates the building from the A12 with artist impressions of the new Balfron Tower and the address of the website where you can register your general interest, or as a potential purchaser of one of the flats.

Bromley by Bow

Balfron Tower photographed in February 2019, clad for building work.

Bromley by Bow

A couple of years ago, I climbed the clock tower at Chrisp Street Market and photographed Balfron Tower:

Bromley by Bow

This is a development that will continue to be controversial due to the lack of any social housing and the sale of the flats at market rates. Another example of the gradual demographic change of east London.

To reach my next destination on the Architects’ Journal list, I turn into East India Dock Road. A terrace of 19th century buildings with ground floor shops runs along the north of the street and above Charlie’s Barbers there is an interesting sign:

Bromley by Bow

Interesting to have this reference to a north London club in east London. I put this photo on Twitter with a question as to the meaning and one possible reference is the boring way Arsenal use to play and results would only ever be one nil. I would have asked Charlie, if he still owns the barbers, however they were shut during my visit.

Bromley by Bow

A short distance from Charlies Barbers and across the East India Dock Road was my next location.

Site 56 – Early 19th Century All Saints, Poplar, With Contemporary Rectory And Terraces

Buildings seem to have a habit of surrounding themselves in scaffolding whenever I visit and All Saints, Poplar was certainly doing its best to hide, however it still looks a magnificent church on a sunny February morning.

Bromley by Bow

Poplar was originally a small hamlet, however the growth of the docks generated a rapid growth in population. The East India Dock Road was built between 1806 and 1812 to provide a transport route between the City and the newly built East India Docks.

Alongside the East India Dock Road, All Saints was constructed in the 1820s by the builder Thomas Morris who was awarded the contract in 1821.

The church survived the bombing of the docks during the last war until March 1945 when a V2 rocket landed in Bazely Street alongside the eastern boundary of the churchyard, causing considerable damage to the east of the church.

The church was designed to be seen as a local landmark along the East India Dock Road and across the local docks. The spire of the church is 190 feet high and the white Portland stone facing would have impressed those passing along the major route between City and Docks.

Burials in the churchyard ended in the 19th century and the gravestones have been moved to the edge, lining the metal fencing along the boundary of the church.

Bromley by Bow

The area around the church was developed during the same years as construction of the church. A couple of streets around the church now form a conservation area. These were not houses built for dock workers. Their location in the streets facing onto the church would be for those with a substantial regular income, rather than those working day-to-day in the docks.

This is Montague Place where there are eight surviving terrace houses from the 1820s.

Bromley by Bow

At the eastern end of Montague Place there is another terrace of four houses in Bazely Street. These date from 1845 and are in remarkably good condition.

Bromley by Bow

The church and two terraces of houses form a listed group and are part of a single conservation area.

A short distance further down Bazely Street is one of my favourite pubs in the area – the Greenwich Pensioner. The pub closed for a few years recently but has fortunately reopened.

Bromley by Bow

One of the problems of walking in the morning – the pubs are still closed.

I continued along Bazely Street to Poplar High Street, then turned south to the large roundabout where Cotton Street (the A1206) meets the multi-lane Aspen Way. This is not really a pedestrian friendly area, however I needed to cross under the Aspen Way to continue heading south for my next destination.

This photo looking towards the east, is from the roundabout underneath the flyover that takes the Aspen Way on its way to the Lower Lea Crossing.

Bromley by Bow

As with the A12 along Bromley by Bow, this area has been cut through with some major new multi-lane roads as part of the redevelopment of the docks.

A poster seen underneath the flyover alongside the roundabout.

Bromley by Bow

A poster that is relevant to a specific point in time. I was not sure who would see the poster as it is facing inwards, away from the traffic on the roundabout, and I doubt that many pedestrians take this route.

Emerging from underneath the flyover and the developments on the northern edge of the Isle of Dogs can be seen.

Bromley by Bow

Crossing over Trafalgar Way, and one of the old docks can be found. This is Poplar Dock looking west with two cranes remaining from when the dock was operational.

Bromley by Bow

The site is now Poplar Dock Marina and is full with narrow boats and an assorted range of other smaller craft. Poplar Dock opened in 1851, however the site had originally been used from 1827 as a reservoir to balance water levels in the main West India Dock just to the west. In the 1840s the area was used as a timber pond before conversion to a dock.

Poplar Docks served a specific purpose, being known as a railway dock. The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Poplar Docks almost fully ringed by railway tracks and depots of the railway companies.

Bromley by Bow

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

Again, the docks deserve far more attention than I can give in this post, so for now, I will leave Poplar Docks at their southern end and walk along Preston’s Road to get to my next location on the Architects’ Journal list.

Site 28 – Early 19th Century Dockmaster’s House, Now Empty

Those last two words must have been the reason for inclusion in the list. An empty building in the docklands in the 1970s would have been at risk, however fortunately the building has survived and this is the view when approaching the location along Preston’s Road.

Bromley by Bow

The Dockmaster’s House goes by the name of Bridge House and is now occupied by apartments available for short term rent.

The house is alongside the Blackwall entrance to the docks, a channel that connects the River Thames to the Blackwall Basin so would have seen all the shipping entering from the river, heading via the basin to and from the West India Dock.

Evidence of the historic function of the place can be found hidden in the gardens between the house and the channel.

Bromley by Bow

Bridge House was built between 1819 and 1820 for the West India Dock Company’s Principal Dockmaster. The entrance to the house faces to the channel running between docks and river, however if you look at the first photo of Bridge House taken from Preston’s Road you will see large bay windows facing out towards the river. This was a deliberate part of the design by John Rennie as these windows, along with the house being on raised ground would provide a perfect view towards the river and the shipping about to enter or leave the docks.

The Architects’ Journal in January 1972 were right to be worried about the future of Bridge House. Later that same year a fire destroyed the roof. The rest of the house survived and a flat roof was put in place.

The house was converted to flats in 1987 and a new roof to the same design as the original replaced the flat roof. The luxury flats did not sell, and Bridge House has hosted a number of temporary office roles before apparently now providing a short term let for flats which have been constructed inside the building.

The view from in front of the house. This side of the house is facing down to the channel that leads from the Thames to the Blackwall Basin.

Bromley by Bow

A view from the bridge over the channel showing the house in its raised position, overlooking the channel and to the right, the River Thames (although that view is now obstructed by buildings).

Bromley by Bow

Before continuing on down through the Isle of Dogs in my next post, I will pause here on the bridge over the channel between docks and river to enjoy the view.

This is looking west towards the original Blackwall Basin:

Bromley by Bow

This is looking east, the opposite direction towards the river with the Millennium Dome partly visible across the river.

Bromley by Bow

I really enjoyed this part of the walk, what could be considered an unattractive route, walking down from Bromley by Bow station is completely wrong. It is an area going through considerable change but there is so much history and so much to explore.

In my next post I will continue walking south towards the far end of the Isle of Dogs to find the remaining two locations from the 1972 issue of the Architects’ Journal.

alondoninheritance.com

A Corner Shop In Old Ford Road

Last Sunday, I took advantage of some glorious winter sunshine and headed out to Bethnal Green and Old Ford Road to find the location of a corner shop my father had photographed in 1986, when small, family owned corner shops still catered for the day to day needs of many Londoners.

This was Fowlers Stores at 33 Old Ford Road:

Old Ford Road

The same shop today in February 2019:

Old Ford Road

The 1986 photo shows a typical London corner shop. Shelves up against the window stocked with items such as Mothers Pride bread, a rather random assortment of household goods in the window on the left, always plenty of cigarette advertising, milk bottles in crates left outside for collection, and in Fowlers Store, an advert for Tudor Colour Films at the top of the door – a film brand I tried once as it was cheap before returning to Kodak.

What can be seen of the outside of the shop today looks in very poor condition, although I am surprised that the 33 Old Ford Rd sign is still there – 33 years after the original photo.

I would love to look behind the shutters and see how much of the original shop survives.

I am not sure when the shop closed, on the occasions I have walked along Old Ford Road in recent years it has always been closed with the shutters down.

There is a National Lottery Instants sign just above the door in my 2019 photo. I believe these were distributed when the National Lottery started scratchcard games in 1995, so the shop was open in the middle of the 1990s.

I checked the historic view feature in Google Streetview and the shop was closed in all images back to the first in July 2008, so the Fowlers Stores must have closed between the mid 1990s and 2000s.

33 Old Ford Road is located at the Cambridge Heath Road end of Old Ford Road, on the corner with Peel Grove, a street that is now a short dead end after the grounds of a school took over the central section of Peel Grove.

The shop is at the end of a terrace of 19th century houses / shops.

Old Ford Road

The buildings do not date from before 1850 as an 1844 map shows a limited amount of buildings here, along with some subtle road changes as Old Ford Road originally terminated further to the right of the above photo and this stretch appears to have been a combination of North Street and Gretton Street. The North East London Cemetery was located just to the north where the school adjacent to Peel Grove is now located.

I suspect it has been a shop for most of the life of the building.  In the 1891 Kelly’s London Post Office Directory, 33 Old Ford Road is listed as being occupied by William Stone – Grocer.

Given that the shop has probably been closed for at least 10 years, I am surprised it has not been converted for some other use.

The map below shows the location of the shop marked by a red circle.

Old Ford Road

Maps  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

As usual, I use visiting a specific location as a reason for exploring the local area and after finding 33 Old Ford Road, I went for a brief walk.

I have already explored part of the area when I was tracking down sites listed as at risk in the Architects Journal focus on East London in 1973, but there were a couple of other streets I wanted to visit.

Turning off Cambridge Heath Road into Old Ford Road, before I had reached number 33, is the magnificent York Hall.

Old Ford Road

This magnificent building, opened in 1929, was at risk a few years ago, but fortunately has been saved and is owned by Tower Hamlets Council.

The building has housed Turkish Baths in the basement and all manner of functions in the large hall. Boxing matches were a regular feature and in the early days of the hall, political functions attracted the attention of the political groups trying to create trouble across East London. A newspaper article from the 17th February 1939 reports:

“LIVELY TIME FOR LIBERAL LEADER – FASCISTS HURL TOMATOES AND LIGHT BULBS: Tomatoes and electric light bulbs were thrown at the platform, when Sir Archibald Sinclair, Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, was subjected to noisy interruptions while addressing a Liberal meeting in York Hall, Bethnal Green, London last night.

Three hundred Fascists had got into the hall with tickets which, it was alleged, they had printed themselves. It was not until the police had ejected a large number of people that Sir Archibald Sinclair was able to make himself heard. He was continually interrupted, and there was an uproar as a man was ejected.

When Sir Archibald rose the Fascists sang their marching song “We Want Mosley”.

There were attempts to drown his voice by singing. ‘Some people want to hear Mosley’ Sir Archibald shouted into the microphone, ‘but he isn’t here to be heard. The reason they are anxious to stop me speaking is that they know the words I speak will express the opinion of the great majority of people in Bethnal Green. I could not do so much for the Liberal cause as these people are doing’.

When the crowd again began to chant ‘We want Mosley’ the chairman said, ‘We will telegraph to Mr. Hitler and say that his hirelings have been playing his game’. 

In his speech Sir Archibald said: ‘The question which the Liberal party asks is how we are to defend democracy, to uphold the values of liberty, justice and international good faith – to expand the bounds of freedom, to raise the material and spiritual standards of our civilisation, to give every man and woman in these islands the opportunity of living a fuller, richer and more useful life in a peaceful and orderly world.”

York Hall hosted other, rather more peaceful events, for example, a couple of years earlier the hall was hosting an exhibition by the Bethnal Green Chamber of Commerce, where there was a miniature brewery on display, demonstrating the complete process of brewing and bottling.

Old Ford Road is an interesting road. It reaches almost to the River Lea having crossed the Regent’s Canal. The name is a reference to an old crossing point through the River Lea. I will save that walk for another time, as last Sunday, just after number 33 Old Ford Road, I turned right into Globe Road.

The name Globe Road is a reference to the pub, the Old Globe on the corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road.  The street has been through several name changes, the northern end through which I am walking was originally named Back Lane.

Globe Road is another long road that reaches down to Mile End Road, but for this post I only walked the length of the road to Roman Road (see the above map).

Most of the development of this stretch of Globe Road is down to the East End Dwellings Company who built large blocks of flats, as well as a rather nice terrace of houses.

The following photo comprises Gretton Houses in the distance and Merceron Houses nearer the camera.

Old Ford Road

The name Gretton is the same as the original name given to the short stretch of Old Ford Road roughly where number 33 now stands. I have not yet found the origin of this name.

The East End Dwellings Company was formed in the early 1880s by the vicar of St. Jude’s, Whitechapel, the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett. The intention of the Company was to provide housing for the poor, including those who other philanthropic housing companies often avoided, such as casual day labourers.

Gretton Houses were built in 1901 and designed by Ernest Emmanuel.

Old Ford RoadMerceron Houses were built in the same year, also to a design by Ernest Emmanuel.

Old Ford Road

The name Merceron is from one of the east London families who had control over large parts of Bethnal Green. The excellent book The Boss of Bethnal Green by Julian Woodford details the story of the family and their impact on Bethnal Green.

The buildings of Gretton and Merceron Houses that we see today are only part of the original construction as two blocks of these houses were demolished in 1982.

Directly opposite Merceron Houses is a wonderful terrace of houses, also by the East End Dwellings Company. the central pair of houses has a plaque naming the company as the builders of the terrace and that they were constructed in 1906.

Old Ford Road

The terrace of houses were designed by Henry Davis and built on the site of a row of weavers cottages.

Old Ford Road

Further down Globe Road is another large block of flats by the East End Dwellings Company.

Old Ford Road

This is Mendip Houses:

Old Ford Road

Mendip Houses running along Kirkwall Place from Globe Road:

Old Ford Road

This short stretch of Globe Road is rather unusual for east London as two pubs remain open in the street.

The first is The Camel:

Old Ford Road

The second is the Florist Arms:

Old Ford Road

Both pubs have the same owners so hopefully an indication that their safety is assured for some time.

This short stretch of Globe Road soon arrives at Roman Road. It continues across Roman Road and the next stretch of Globe Road is a story of lost railway stations and demolished pubs which I will save for another day, but on the corner of Globe Road and Roman Road is one of the magnificent, 19th century London fire stations.

This is the Grade II listed Bethnal Green Fire Station:

Old Ford Road

The building ceased operation as a fire station in 1968 and was empty for 10 years until it was taken over by the London Buddhist Centre who retain the building to this day.

Although the building looks really good today, the brickwork glowing in the winter sunshine, it was even more impressive after it was first built in 1888. the following photo from 1906 shows a very impressive tower on the right side of the fire station. I assume this may have been for hanging and drying hoses.

Old Ford Road

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0474_3601

Unfortunately the tower was considerably truncated at some point. The following photo from 1973 shows the closed fire station with the main doors boarded up.

Old Ford Road

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0474_3601

Considering the length of time that the fire station was empty it is remarkable that it has survived. Grade II listing in 1973 must have helped save the building, 5 years after the London Fire Brigade stopped using the building and with still no use planned.

The restored plaque on the side of the fire station in Bessy Street dating the construction of the building:

Old Ford Road

There is an interesting street sign here in Bessy Street:

Old Ford Road

To the left of the street name is the name and symbol of Globe Town:

Old Ford Road

I suspect the street sign dates from around 1986. Globe Town is a much older name, however after the GLC was abolished in 1986, responsibility for the area transferred to Tower Hamlets Council who created seven neighbourhoods, one of which was Globe Town.

The name Globe Town can be traced back to the start of the 19th century. Estate building to the east of Bethnal Green started in the closing years of the 18th century and by the early 19th century, the name Globe Town was being used for this new area.

The following map extract from 1844 shows the location of Globe Town.

Old Ford Road

As there have been a number of changes since this map was created, I have marked the key locations from today’s post. The red dotted line indicates the route I have walked – a very short distance.

I wonder how long the remains of the shop at 33 Old Ford Road will be there? With the speed of redevelopment across London I am really surprised that if indeed it has been closed since at least 2008, it has not already been converted into flats.

After finding the East End Dwellings Company buildings in Globe Road, I am also a good way through a side project to track down all their remaining buildings across London.

Finding one location also always identifies new areas to walk, so the rest of Old Ford Road, Globe Road and indeed Globe Town have been added to an ever increasing list. Returning will enable me to keep track of the old shop at 33 Old Ford Road.

alondoninheritance.com

The GLC Birthday Cake And Other Views Of London

I have a couple of shoe boxes stuffed with London postcards collected over the years. They serve as reminders of events and places and provide views of London back to the time when cheap photographic printing and postal rates kicked off a new form of communication.

With Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp etc. killing off postcards as a means of communication, here is a rather random selection of postcards showing the diverse way in which London has been photographed and posted across the world.

My first postcard dates from 1984 when the GLC created an exhibition on the Southbank, celebrating 95 years of the London County Council / Greater London Council working for London. The rather novel form for the exhibition was within a giant birthday cake.

views of London

I had completely forgotten about this until I looked at the postcard again. I was working on the Southbank at the time and have some of my own photos of the exhibition on some unscanned negatives I need to find.

The exhibition ran from the 9th August to the 31st October 1984 and was held at a time of political friction between the Conservative Government and the Labour majority GLC. This would lead to the GLC being disbanded two years later.

The birthday cake was even mentioned in Parliament during a question from Tony Banks (Labour MP for Newham North West) and William Waldegrave (Conservative Minister of State). The questioning was regarding the abolition of the GLC (who had put considerable sums of money into the development of the Southbank) and what would happen to the area after the GLC was abolished and the Southbank came under the proposed South Bank Board. The birthday cake is referenced in one of William Waldegrave’s replies:

“I can understand why the hon. Gentleman is worried. He and his colleagues at county hall must be wondering where to put their great pink birthday cake. This was another triumph for the GLC! It was forecast in a committee paper last March that 1 million visitors would see this object and unfortunately 950,000 of them have not turned up. Only 50,000 had come by the end of September. If we assume, charitably, a last-minute rush of another 25,000 in the remaining weeks that the cake is open, that still works out at a cost of £3.30 per visitor. I am sure that hon. Members, and perhaps even the hon. Gentleman, would agree that the £250,000 could have been spent in much better ways to help the arts.”

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the later years of the GLC, the previous 95 years were worth celebrating as the London County Council and Greater London Council had achieved much in raising standards across London and bringing a much needed central coordination and investment to the city’s infrastructure.

An example of one of these investments is illustrated on the following card, titled “Opening of the L.C.C Steamboat Service by H.R.H The Prince of Wales”

views of London

The photo shows the steamboat service being opened in June 1905. The LCC had acquired and built piers along the river along with a fleet of 30 paddle steamers. There were expectations that the new service would provide an efficient and fast method for transporting passengers to locations along the river, however it quickly became apparent that the service would not be economic.

Although the steamboat service was not intended to generate profits, it was expected to cover costs, however passenger numbers were not as expected and the service rapidly went into debt, finally closing only two years later in 1907.

There may also have been issues with the frequency of steamboats as this letter to the Globe on the 29th June 1905 illustrates. Mr Arthur Tuff of Barnsbury writes:

“Sir,-I purchased a penny ticket to London bridge on the Temple Pier at 3:50 pm today. I waited there till 4:30 pm. No boat going down the river called there during the 40 minutes, nor was there one in sight, although one can see nearly as far as Westminster. Several others, like myself, were compelled to leave the pier in consequence of this delay. This seems to be very bad management, and if not remedied, must mean a great loss to the ratepayers.”

The steamboats were sold at considerable loss and the press was highly critical of the service and the loss of money to the London ratepayer. The Illustrated London News included a full page cartoon titled “Posers for Posterity : Strange Finds 500 Years hence”:

views of London

The caption to the cartoon reads: “Unearthing The Popular L.C.C. Steamboat – While a party of scientists were burrowing about in the Thames Valley last week, they found a structure that has been identified as belonging to an early form of soup kitchen. The evidence suggests it has been run more as an amusement than as a paying concern, although we should imagine that large profits were earned by it, especially in the winter months, when it would be so greatly in demand among the poorer classes.”

The River Thames features in another postcard from May 1954, titled “The Royal Homecoming – Britannia Enters The Upper Pool Of London”.

views of London

This was the return of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh following a world tour. Tower Pier is on the left of the photo.

It must have been a dramatic arrival as it was accompanied by a large flypast. The following newspaper report explains:

“As the Britannia approached Woolwich, along Gallions Reach, 180 jet fighters and bombers roared overhead in the R.A.F. and Canadian Air Force ‘Welcome Home’ fly-past.

Leading were four tight arrowhead formations of Meteors flying at about 1,000 feet, followed by two formations of 24 Sabres each. Then, half a minute later, and flying just above the low scurrying clouds through which they were seen at intervals, came four echelon formations of nine Canberra bombers each.

With a tremendous roar flying at 350 miles an hour, the jets swept over the Britannia’s bow in a majestic and graceful salute. The sirens of tugs and small boats added to the tumult.”

A much more peaceful view, especially compared to the same view today is this postcard showing Parliament Square and looking across to St. Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey.

views of London

Whilst the view today is much the same, there are a number of significant differences. The road appears empty of traffic, but today is an almost constant stream to traffic – no chance for a casual wander across the street today.

The area is also a tourist hot spot and on almost every day of the year the streets are full, although I suspect that the current state of the Elizabeth Tower, surrounded in scaffolding, must be a serious disappointment if you have traveled halfway across the world.

One area that fascinates me is the Barbican. My father took a number of photos of the area in 1947 / 1948 showing the remains of the bombed buildings, St. Giles Cripplegate, Redcross Street Fire Station and what was left of once densely built streets.

I have not yet posted these photos as I want to map out the area, align the photos, gather more detail and show the area before bombing. There do not appear to be that many pre-war photos of the ordinary streets of the Barbican, however I have found a number, one of which was a postcard of Tranter’s Hotel, Bridgewater Square, Baribican:

views of London

The square was badly damaged during the war and completely rebuilt as part of the overall Barbican development. The square looks completely different today and will feature in my future set of posts on the Barbican, however for now, this link to Google Maps shows the location of the square today.

The following postcard was sent from a visitor to London to an address in Folkestone, Kent. It includes a photo of St. Paul’s Churchyard as “The Shopping Quarter” – a function we would not associate with the area today.

views of London

St. Paul’s Churchyard was a popular pre-war shopping destination with a range of different shops including clothes, materials and book shops. The large white building in the centre of the photo is that of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. I wrote about their business in a post at the end of last year. All the buildings in this photo would be destroyed in December 1940.

The following postcard is from the Widow’s Son pub, best known for the custom on Good Friday which the postcard explains.

views of London

The Widow’s Son is one of the reasons why I seem to have developed a fascination with London’s history. It was the early 1970s and I was listening to BBC Radio London (dreadful choice of music for my young age at the time, but interesting as a London local radio station – this was just before Capital Radio started). It was Good Friday and they had a reporter live at the Widow’s Son. For some reason that event stuck in my mind and helped with the realisation that there was a world of interesting history out there to be discovered.

Postcards have always been used for advertising, and London’s hotels made good use of the format. The Hotel Metropole looks rather impressive in this card.

views of London

The Hotel Metropole was located on the corner of Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place, and opened in 1885. The building is still there and is now the Corinthia Hotel.

Another hotel that used a postcard format for advertising was the Imperial Hotel, Russell Square.

views of London

This is a far more interesting use of the format, compared to the Metropole Hotel as it has a map.

The map shows the location of the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, as well as the eight other hotels that belonged to the group. All the main London stations are numbered, and the red lines show the “Electric Railways”, or the Underground train network, which is shown as a rough geographic layout of the network, rather than in the traditional underground map format.

This card was used for advertising rather than as a card you would post to a friend as rather than a space for writing on the reverse, this card has a list of all the other hotels in the group along with the room rate.

views of London

The Imperial Hotel still operates in Russell Square (although a later incarnation of the building). This was the hotel when the above card was in use:

views of London

And this is the hotel today, where rooms start at £101 for an overnight stay, compared to roughly 39p when the card was issued. The Imperial Hotel today:

views of London

There are a variety of cards that provide a rather surreal view of London. This card is titled “If London were Venice – Fleet Street”:

views of London

The card was printed in the days before global warming and the risks of rising sea levels were understood, and was probably seen as a rather fanciful view. However with predictions of the impact of long term increases in sea level and the impact of storm surges, this may not be so far away from some longer term future flood (but without the Venetian poles and boats)..

Full colour, photographic postcards, with their glorious, brilliant colours, started in the 1950s and presented a different view of London to a global audience. I find them interesting as they show how London has changed in the last half of the 20th century.

The first postcard is a view across the River Thames to St. Paul’s Cathedral from Bankside.

views of London

This shows the old warehouses along the north bank of the river as well as a working wharf at Bankside with cargo being loaded / unloaded from a barge. A view that has changed significantly since this photo was taken.

Another view that shows an activity no longer practiced by those visiting Trafalgar Square is this postcard showing pigeon feeding.

views of London

The photo shows a rather relaxed view of pigeon feeding, however it did get out of control and the thousands of pigeons that would flock to Trafalgar Square created a significant nuisance and mess.

Pigeon feeding in Trafalgar Square was banned in 2003 and a new by-law introduced that included the potential for a £50 fine for anyone caught feeding pigeons.

The Post Office / BT Tower was a remarkable structure when first built. This postcard was posted from Kew to Newmarket, Suffolk in December 1969.

views of London

I find it amusing when the urban myths about the towers secrecy are mentioned. There was no way that the tower could be kept secret and the text on the rear of the postcard makes clear the tower’s role: “619 feet high, this tower is the centre of a new communications system which supplies long distance telephone services and additional television channels. Two lifts convey the public to the top where there is an observation platform, a cocktail bar, and a revolving restaurant”.

The postcard emphasises the height of the tower and the generally low rise construction of buildings across London at the time.

Development in London is continuous, and is often seen to be negative, however there have been times when development considerably improved an area. This postcard dating from 1978 is looking towards Westminster from the west. Millbank Tower is on the right, adjacent to the Thames, where we can see first Lambeth Bridge, then moving up the river, Westminster Bridge, Hungerford and Waterloo Bridges.

views of London

To the left of the photo there are three identical, tall office blocks. These were government buildings along Horseferry Road and Marsham Street.

Their height was such that they were in the background of the view when looking across the river towards the Palace of Westminster / Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Fortunately they were demolished and replaced by lower rise buildings which do not have the same visual impact.

A favourite location for postcard photographs is Piccadilly Circus. Night photos bring out the lights, which looking back over the years provide a snapshot of how brands and their branding have evolved.

views of London

Piccadilly Circus also features during the day.

views of London

The text for both postcards emphasises the global nature of the city – “There’s an old saying that if you stand in Piccadilly Circus for long enough, you’ll see the whole world pass before you. If you stand there for 10 minutes you’ll soon understand what it is that makes London famous throughout the world, At night, theatre land awakes, heralded by many thousand of bright lights”.

This postcard takes me back to visits when I was a child. This is the London Planetarium.

views of London

The London Planetarium was a magical experience. You would walk into a large circular auditorium under the dome. Seats were arranged in circular rows and in the centre there was a large, strangely shaped projector.

The lights would go down and the night sky would light up on the interior of the dome.

Unfortunately, educational attractions such as the planetarium are not commercially attractive, and the London Planetarium closed in 2006. It is part of the adjacent Madame Tussaud’s and now shows a Marvel Superheroes 4D attraction.

There is still a planetarium in London, at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, which is well worth a visit.

My final three postcards are all from the same area, and show different aspects of the River Thames around Tower Bridge. These are all from a time when this part of the river was still a working port.

The first photo is from the walkway alongside the Tower of London, looking across to Tower Bridge and the southern bank of the river. The tower of the old Anchor Brewery building can be seen on the right and cranes lining the river bank can be seen along the river past Horselydown Old Stairs.

views of London

The following postcard shows an aerial view looking up river towards London Bridge. The river bank on the left is lined with cranes between Tower and London Bridges. This is where City Hall and HMS Belfast are now located. In the years after this photo was taken, the majority of the buildings lining the river, along with the cranes, would disappear.

views of London

Another view of the same area, probably taken from London Bridge, again shows the cranes that lined the south of the river between the two bridges.

views of London

These views of London were sent across the UK and the world and set expectations for future visitors. Many postcards featured red buses and phone boxes and I have a theory that these only became associated with London in the way they have, once colour postcards emphasised their distinctive colour.

They are a means of communication, art form and historical record that I suspect will soon disappear. They are still to be found for sale, but it is sometime since I have seen anyone buy one. No point in posting a card with days or weeks delay, when with a couple of taps on the phone, a photo and message can be sent anywhere within seconds.

I also doubt I will ever again see a giant birthday cake on the South Bank.

alondoninhertance.com

St Giles In The Fields

St Giles has always been a distinctive area. Not in the West End, not part of the expensive streets of Bloomsbury to the north, ignored by those shopping on Oxford Street and bypassed by New Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. My memories of St Giles from the late 1970s and 1980s are that it always had a slightly edgy atmosphere when visiting in the evening, drinking in the local pubs and the late night bars and music venues.

I had been intending to write a post about St Giles as an area, however working away this last week and the sheer breadth and depth of the history of St Giles swiftly stopped this attempt, so for today’s post I will focus on the church of St Giles in the Fields, a church that has been central to the history of the area for hundreds of years, located to the west of the parish, at the junction of St Giles High Street, Denmark Street and Earnshaw Street.

I visited last June, a gorgeous summer day in London, which seems a long time ago whilst writing this on a grey January day.

The view on leaving Tottenham Court Road Underground Station immediately shows how the area is changing. The space between New Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street is a major building site. The original site of Foyles disappeared a few years ago.

I walk down Charing Cross Road, along Denmark Street to find St Giles in the Fields:

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields was on the main route that led from Holborn up along what became Oxford Street to Tyburn. The following extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map shows St Giles in the Fields in the lower left corner (unfortunately the corner of the page in my copy of the map, so does not show the area around the church).

St Giles in the Fields

The wide street labelled “Broad St Giles’s” connected Holborn on the right with Oxford Street on the left. The significance of the street as a main route was relegated with the construction of New Oxford Street which cut across the streets between St Giles and Great Russell Street to the north. The construction of New Oxford Street was planned as a continuation of Oxford Street and to help with traffic congestion along St Giles. The area north of St Giles consisted of densely packed buildings, courts and alleys and was known as one of London’s notorious Rookeries.

The following map of the area today shows St Giles in the Fields in the lower centre of the map, with Denmark Street continuing to the left towards Charing Cross Road and Earnshaw Street continuing up to New Oxford Street.

St Giles in the Fields

It was late morning when I arrived and stalls in the churchyard facing St Giles High Street were setting up ready to provide food and drink to workers and visitors.

St Giles in the Fields

The origins of the church date back to the founding of a leper hospital in 1101 by Queen Matilda, when the site of the church was the hospital chapel. With the dissolution in the 16th century, the chapel became the parish church for the small village that had grown up around the original hospital.

St Giles grew into an affluent area and contributions from many of the parish’s wealthy residents allowed the chapel to be replaced by a new church in the 17th century. Edward Walford in Old and New London describes this church as being a “red brick structure, commissioned by Laud, whilst Bishop of London in 1623”.

The church of St Giles in the Fields as it appeared in 1718:

St Giles in the Fields

This 17th century church was in a very poor state 100 years later, and was demolished to make way for the present church which was built between 1730 and 1734.  Edward Walford describes the new church as “a large and stately edifice, built entirety of Portland stone, and is vaulted beneath. The steeple, which rises to a height of about 160 feet, consists of a rustic pedestal, supporting a range of Doric pilasters; whilst above the clock is an octangular tower, with three-quarter Ionic columns, supporting a balustrade with vases, on which stands the spire., which is also octangular and belted. The interior of the church is bold and effective, the roof is supported by rows of Ionic pillars of Portland stone, and the semicircular-headed windows are mostly filled with coloured glass”.

St Giles in the Fields faces to the west and the main entrance to the church is off Flitcroft Street, a narrow street that leads down from Denmark Street.

The following photo is from the entrance to the church looking down Flitcroft Street, a view that still retains the mix of architectural styles and narrow streets that once typified the majority of streets in St Giles.

St Giles in the Fields

The brick building between Flitcroft Street and the corner of the churchyard has an interesting history. The tall green doors on the side of the building facing the street may provide a clue, as does the name of the building on the brick apex:

St Giles in the Fields

As the wording states, the building was Elms Lesters Painting Rooms & Stores and was used for painting the scenic backdrops used in West End theatres, hence the tall green doors to allow these backdrops to be removed from the building for transport to the theatre.

The main entrance to the church and the associated gateway is from Flitcroft Street which, given the narrowness of the street and St Giles High Street running along the northern boundary of the church, could be considered a strange location.

St Giles in the Fields

Edward Walford again helps with understanding why the gateway is here “The gate at the entrance of the churchyard which dates from the days of Charles II, is much admired. It is adorned with a bas-relief of the Day of Judgement. It formerly stood on the north side of the churchyard, but in 1865, being unsafe, it was taken down and carefully re-erected opposite the western entrance, where it will command a prominent position towards the new street that is destined sooner or later to be opened from Tottenham Court Road to St Martin’s Lane”.

The bas-relief can still be seen on the arch above the entrance on the side of the gate facing the street. The reference to the new street was to one of the many plans in the 19th century for new streets to be constructed across London to create major through routes, rather than the mix of large streets separated by large blocks of much smaller streets and alleys. The new street referenced by Walford was not built, otherwise Flitcroft Street would look very different today.

Old and New London included a print of the gate in its original position:

St Giles in the Fields

Edward Walford’s 19th century description of the church is still relevant today:

St Giles in the Fields

There are many monuments within the church, but one of the most interesting is up against the side of the church, with a detailed and well preserved figure of a recumbent woman with an inscription on the stone at the rear of the figure.

St Giles in the Fields

The monument is in memory of Lady Frances Kniveton. She was one of the five daughters of Sir Robert Dudley and his wife Lady Alice. Sir Robert Dudley is an interesting character, however his later treatment of Lady Alice demonstrates that the title of “Right Honourable” is not always appropriate. The illegitimate son of Sir Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester, he was an explorer, in the days when the majority of exploration seemed to involve capturing Spanish ships.

He tried to prove that he was the legitimate son of the 1st Earl of Leicester, however the majority of evidence that he produced was not convincing and a judgement handed down in 1605 refused to accept that he was the legitimate son.

Soon after he left the country, heading to Italy with his first cousin once removed, Elizabeth Southwell. They settled in Florence, converted to Catholicism, married and Dudley went on to have 13 children with Elizabeth, in addition to the 5 he left in England with Alice.

Lady Alice was made a Duchess in her own right by Charles 1st. She lived in St Giles and contributed significantly to the church.

The text at the bottom of the inscription explains why the monument was saved from the original church and installed in the 18th century church. Old and New London explains: “This monument was preserved when the church was rebuilt, as a piece of parochial gratitude to one whose benefactions to the parish in which she resided had been both frequent and liberal. Among other matters, she had contributed very largely to the interior decoration of the church, but had the mortification of seeing her gifts condemned as Popish, cast out of the sacred ediface, and sold by order of the hypocritical Puritans.”

There are two pulpits in the church, the traditional church pulpit:

St Giles in the Fields

Along with a pulpit that came from the West Street Chapel, John Wesley’s first Methodist chapel in London’s West End (West Street is between Shaftesbury Avenue and Upper St. Martin’ Lane).

St Giles in the Fields

The inscription on the front of the pulpit informs that John and Charles Wesley preached regularly from the pulpit between 1743 and 1791.

There is a rather magnificent model of the church, within the church:

St Giles in the Fields

The model was made by Henry Flitcroft, the architect of the church, to demonstrate to parishioners and those funding the construction of the new church, what his design would like like when completed.

The architect’s name also explains the origin of the name of the small street to the west of the church where the main entrance is found – Flitcroft Street.

View looking towards the entrance of the church:

St Giles in the Fields

There are numerous monuments around the church. Members of the East India Company, solicitors from Lincolns Inn Fields, and one of the latest, dating from 1996 is to Cecilius Calvert, the first proprietor of Maryland:

St Giles in the Fields

Cecil Calvert was the Second Lord Baltimore (hence the name of the city in Maryland). He had been to the Americas once in 1628 with his father to the newly established colony in Newfoundland, however the colony failed and Cecil returned to England with his father.

The charter for Maryland was granted by Charles 1st to Cecil, however he would never visit his colony. It was overseen by his brother Leonard and later by his son Charles.

The above monument dates from 1996, the following is from 1677:

St Giles in the Fields

This records the donation of £50 to the church wardens of St Giles in the Fields by Robert Bertie with the intention that the interest from the £50 would be used to buy bread for the poor of the parish “for ever” commencing on the 1st January 1677.

Robert Bertie was the son of another Robert Bertie, the Earl of Lindsey who was Lord Great Chamberlain at the time of the English Civil War. Robert Bertie was a Royalist supporter and General in Chief of the Royalist forces at the Battle of Edgehill. He disagreed on the military tactics for the battle with the much younger and inexperienced Prince Rupert who led the cavalry forces. Charles 1st eventually supported Prince Rupert’s strategy, Robert Bertie resigned his position and went to fight with his own supporters. he was badly wounded and died soon after the battle.

The Civil War and Battle of Edgehill features in another monument. the following erected in 1736 by the family of John Belasyse, 1st Baron Belasyse.

St Giles in the Fields

John Belasyse also fought at the Battle of Edgehill, which he survived, along with many of the following battles and sieges of the Civil War. He went underground during the “Commonwealth of England” and following the restoration, Charles II gave Belasyse many senior appointments and positions of power.

An unusual plaque for the interior of a church is the blue plaque for George Odger:

St Giles in the Fields

George Odger lived nearby at 18 St Giles High Street. He was a 19th century trade union leader, active in the London Trades Council and later the Trades Union Congress. The blue plaque was installed on the house in the 1950s and moved to the church when the house was demolished in the 1970s.

18th century lead cistern:

St Giles in the Fields

Another donation of £50 for the purchase of bread for the poor:

St Giles in the Fields

Heading back outside the church, turning left from the main entrance takes you round to the large graveyard to the south of St Giles in the Fields.St Giles in the Fields

View over the graveyard, which as with the majority of city churches, has been cleared of gravestones.

St Giles in the Fields

The rear of St Giles in the Fields somewhat obscured by trees.

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields now looks on an area that will change beyond recognition over the coming years. Change has already started and the arrival of Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road will accelerate that change.

These are some of the new developments around St Giles:

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields

I suspect this relic, just outside the church, from not that many years ago, will not last long in the new St Giles:

St Giles in the Fields

Again, a very brief look at the history of one building, only touching on a few points from a very long history.

St Giles has a fascinating history which I will explore further in the future, but walking around the streets today feels very different to when I started going out in London.

alondoninheritance.com

A Sunday Morning Walk In Nine Elms

In photographing London, I try to get to places before they change, which is not an easy task given the rate of change in London. One area undergoing significant change is Nine Elms, and indeed the whole arc to the south of the river between Battersea Power Station and Vauxhall. This must be one of the largest construction sites in the country, with demolition of acres of industrial space, to make way for a forest of new apartment towers.

The most well known new occupant of this area is the United States Embassy, however the majority of the area is still a construction site and recent demolition has cleared a new area for development.

I am occasionally on the train between Clapham Junction and Waterloo and the train provides a perfect view of Nine Elms. I have been planning to take a walk around the area, but the view a couple of weeks ago prompted me to walk Nine Elms sooner rather than later.

The view from the train was the usual acres of cleared space ready for new construction, along with a range of new apartment towers in various stages of completion, however what caught my eye was at the edge of one of the recent blocks of demolition, a row of what looked to be early 19th century houses were visible. An unexpected sight given that this area was previously occupied by light industry, numerous courier companies, car repair businesses, markets etc.

Last Sunday I had a couple of hours spare in the morning. so I headed to Vauxhall to take a quick walk around Nine Elms, to find the houses I could see from the train. I also found hundreds of people making their way from Vauxhall to Nine Elms wrapped up against the cold of a January morning.

Walking across Vauxhall Bridge, I headed along Wandsworth Road to find the houses I had seen from the train. I have marked my full route around Nine Elms on the following map.

Nine Elms

Maps  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

I have also added the times each photograph was taken to record a January Sunday morning in Nine Elms.

09:43

I found the houses I was looking for a short distance along the Wandswoth Road, just before the junction with Miles Street. A terrace of six houses with three taller on the left and three shorter on the right.

Nine Elms

Of the six houses, a couple look as if they have been cleaned whilst the house on the far right looks rather strange when compared with the other five, one window per storey rather than two. They currently appear to be providing office space for activities associated with the redevelopment of the area.

Although Nine Elms may be considered a rather unattractive area, it has a fascinating history and has been a key location in the development of the railway system to the south of London.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map provides a good overview of the area following the first wave of development, and also locates the houses that still stand on the Wandsworth Road.

The following extract from the map shows the railway running into Waterloo Station towards the top right of the map. The area between the railway viaduct into Waterloo and the river has a considerable amount of railway infrastructure, including the Nine Elms Depot, however there are also pockets of housing with an oval shaped area between Wandsworth Road and the viaduct and it is here that we can find the six houses.

Nine Elms

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

I have circled the six houses on the map, at the junction of Miles Street and Wandsworth Road. They are almost the only survivors from the nineteenth century, and it is surprising that these houses have lasted through successive waves of redevelopment.

The following map shows roughly the same area today as the 1895 map, again I have marked the location of the six houses.

Nine Elms

There is so much history in this area. In the first decades of the 19th century, various schemes were looked at to try and speed up the transport of goods and people arriving by sea into London, as from the Atlantic, the route along the south coast then along the Thames added a number of days and were dependent on weather and tide. One scheme considered the construction of a canal from Portsmouth to London, but in 1831 initial plans were made for a railway from Southampton to London, with the London terminus at Nine Elms.

Construction of the railway from Nine Elms to Southampton started with the route to Woking Common in 1838. In 1846, a train pulled by an engine named “The Elk” ran from Southampton to Nine Elms in 93 minutes. By comparison, an on-time journey today takes around 80 minutes, so not a significant difference (although there is no mention of the number of intermediate stops for “The Elk”).

Nine Elms closed as a passenger station ten years later when the viaduct into Waterloo was built and the London terminus of the railway moved to the first Waterloo Station. Nine Elms then provided space for a Locomotive Works, which closed in 1909 when the works moved to Eastleigh in Hampshire. Nine Elms also provided space for a large Goods Yard and this continued in operation until 1968.

This photo from 1938 shows the scale of the railway sheds and goods yard at Nine Elms.

Nine Elms

This post is already too long, so I will leave the history of the railways in Nine Elms for another time, and continue walking.

09:44

There was a continuous stream of people walking along Wandsworth Road, and just to the left of the six houses, one of the illegal betting scams normally seen on Westminster Bridge was in action, looking to take money from those streaming past – and probably those less able to manage the inevitable loss.

Nine Elms

This is obviously a problem in the area as there are signs up along the street advising people not to participate in these activities.

I walked past the houses and tuned into Miles Street and walked down to take a look at the rear of the buildings.

09:45

Nine Elms

This explained why one of the end houses looked so different. The view from the back shows that the end house appears to be a new build. The other houses in the terrace look original from the rear.

Hoardings lined the edge of Miles Street, hiding the areas of demolition that had opened up the view of these houses from the railway. There were a couple of gates where it was possible to peer through.

09:46

Nine Elms

The above photo is looking through a gate onto the open space between the six houses (on the immediate left) and the railway viaduct (out of view on the right). Vauxhall is in the distance and only part of the space is visible, there is more to the right. The demolition of the buildings in this area opened up the view of the six houses from the railway.

09:47

Nine Elms

The above view is from the point where Miles Street meets the railway viaduct. The large open space is behind the hoardings on the right and the six houses can be seen in the distance.

09:47

Just before the point where Miles Street passes under the viaduct there is a street running towards Vauxhall. The following photo shows this street and also highlights one of the problems of walking around this area, so many streets have been closed off for construction. This is happening so rapidly that online maps such as Google and OpenStreetmap are not up to date with changes in the area.

Nine Elms

The above view is looking along the viaduct towards Vauxhall and Waterloo. Looking in the opposite direction and there are new buildings and a walkway alongside the viaduct – this was the direction that I decided to follow.

09:47

Nine Elms

A newly surfaced walkway runs alongside the viaduct and what appears to be a new student accommodation building on the right.  Further along this walkway is a rather strange survivor from the 19th century.

09:49

At the end of the student accommodation building is this strange wall.

Nine Elms

On the opposite side of the wall is a small electricity substation, so I am not sure if this is the reason why the wall has survived, I can see no other reason. The wall is not at right angles to the viaduct, it is slightly angled. The following is a detailed extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map. Miles Street is at the top and the route of the walkway is from Miles Street down, along the edge of the viaduct. Halfway along there is a large building, at an angle to the viaduct. I suspect that the wall is the remains of the uppermost wall of this building, the section where it is joined on to the smaller building at the end of the Laundry.

Nine Elms

No idea why the wall has been retained, however I really do hope that it remains exactly as it is, a shadow of the many buildings that once occupied this area over a century ago.

09:49

Goal on the viaduct:

Nine Elms

The end of the walkway joins Wandsworth Road, which I crossed over to walk along Parry Street. This is a narrow street that heads underneath the viaduct.

09:54

A look back down Parry Street at the continuous stream of people:

Nine Elms

There are a couple of tunnels underneath the viaduct. The majority of people were taking the direct road route, I spotted a narrow entrance and went to take a look at what was intended to be the pedestrian route under the viaduct.

09:55

Nine Elms

I love railway viaducts. They are brilliant examples of Victorian construction, and whilst train passengers pass above, there is a different world of passages and arches underneath.

09:56

Reaching the other side of the viaduct and there are a number of businesses operating in the arches. Espirit Decor:

Nine Elms

09:56

And Sophie Hanna Flowers (a logical location given the flower market which I will soon find).

Nine Elms

09:57

Directly opposite is the Nine Elms construction site for the Northern Line extension from Kennington to Battersea,Nine Elms

09:57

The viaduct now takes on a different appearance with infrastructure to service the tracks above and parking / workshop space for the considerable number of vans that wait here ready for their early weekday morning activity.

Nine Elms

10:00

I had to wait for a gap in the stream of people walking along the road to take the following photo.

Nine Elms

The photo does not really convey the view. I am standing surrounded by vans, a stream of people, wrapped up against the January cold and carrying bags, pulling shopping trolleys and wheeled suitcases walk below the railway tracks. Around them tall apartment blocks grow, each with a design that appears completely uncoordinated with any other, as if each had been designed in isolation and dropped from above onto Nine Elms.

This being a Sunday, the railway is relatively quiet. In the week a stream of trains would be taking commuters from the suburbs of London, the villages of Surrey, Hampshire and beyond into the city.

On the other site of the railway, huge signs advertise luxury apartments and penthouses.

10:01

Turning round and there is a large car park full of vans – this is New Covent Garden Fruit and Veg Market.

Nine Elms

Just past the first market buildings was the reason for so many people walking along these streets on a Sunday morning as a large Sunday Market and Car Boot Sale operates here from eight in the morning to two in the afternoon.

10:03

Nine Elms

This is not a market for arts and crafts, this is market for the basics in life. I did not have time to explore the market apart from a quick walk along a couple of aisles where there are clothes, bags and cases of every description, tools, mobile phones and tablets.

It would have been good to take photos in the market, but the last thing the people who have come shopping here on a cold Sunday in January want is some bloke taking photos.

The market appears to be known as a source for second hand tools. On my walk back to Vauxhall, a man with an east European accent asked where the tool market was. He had just arrived in the country looking for work and needed to find some cheap tools to get started. How many times has that happened in London over the centuries.

The market is very busy, the photo below shows the number of people walking to and from the market.

10:07

Nine Elms

Continuing on, I walked through the man entrance to New Covent Garden Market.

10:10

Nine Elms

Covent Garden Market had outgrown its original location by the early 1960s. Lack of space for expansion and congestion on the surrounding roads required a new location to be found. The Nine Elms site was identified in 1961 and construction of New Covent Garden started in 1971. The Fruit & Veg and Flower Markets moved from Covent Garden to Nine Elms in November 1974 to sites to the south and north of the railway viaduct.

The southern market has been demolished and relocated (which I will find soon), but the main fruit and veg market continues in the original 1974 location and many of the buildings have recently been rebuilt and refurbished, with further construction ongoing.

The market has a dedicated road tunnel under the railway viaduct allowing access to and from Battersea Park Road, so this is the route I took. Passing under the railway and the cranes surrounding Battersea Power Station come into view, further emphasising the sheer scale of the construction projects between Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea.

10:15

Nine Elms

It is along this road, just under the railway viaduct, that the new Flower Market has been located.

10:17

The entrance to the Flower Market:

Nine Elms

The Flower Market was opened in April 2017 having moved from a location further down towards Vauxhall. That original site has now been demolished and cleared ready for new construction.

10:20

The new – New Covent Garden Flower Market in Battersea Park Road:

Nine Elms

Completing a circular route, my plan was now to walk back along Battersea Park Road and Nine Elms Lane to where I started in Vauxhall. It is along here that some of the original apartment blocks from this recent phase of development can be found.

10:32

When redevelopment started, it was on the bank of the river, and over the last few years has continued back inland. Between Nine Elms Lane and the River Thames are five blocks of identical design/

Nine Elms

On the opposite side of Nine Elms Lane, large areas of land have been cleared. The roads are ready and utility services laid underneath the roads ready to service the buildings that will spring up on either side.

10:36

Nine Elms

10:38

Opposite is Cringle Street which leads to the large construction site surrounding Battersea Power Station:

Nine Elms

Further along Nine Elms Lane there are a number of completed buildings.

10:40

A very quiet January Sunday morning:

Nine Elms

Walking further along Nine Elms Lane and I found probably the most publicised building in the Nine Elms redevelopment.

10:48

This is the new United States Embassy:

Nine Elms

It is January, it is a grey day, it is a Sunday morning so there are not many people around, the building is surrounded by construction sites, however comparing the new location to the original location in Grosvenor Square – it is very different.

I am sure it will be a much improved environment when the rest of the redevelopment of Nine Elms is complete. The hoardings around the site between road and Embassy are for the residential blocks that will be built here – the Embassy Gardens development. Based on the photos of potential residents on the hoardings around the building site, I doubt I fall within their age demographic.

10:50

Further down Nine Elms Lane:

Nine Elms

10:55

Continuing along Nine Elms Lane and there is another large space cleared and ready for new construction. This was where the original flower market was located.

Nine Elms

And if I have calculated the location correctly, it was also somewhere here that the original London terminus of the Southern Railway was located.

This was the street entrance of the terminal building in 1942. The building suffered bomb damage during the war and was demolished in the 1960s ready for the construction of the New Covent Garden Flower Market in 1974.

Nine Elms

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0629_F898

10:56

Mural by Wyvil Primary School – the mural informs that London is home to 914,000 children between the ages of four and eleven.

Nine Elms

I now reached the junction of Nine Elms Lane and Wandsworth Road.

10:57

From here I could look down Wandsworth Road again to see the houses that were the reason for spending Sunday morning in Nine Elms.

Nine Elms

It is a wonder that they have survived so long, given the closure of the railway station, workshops and good yards which were the catalyst for development of the area. The houses are probably of the same age as the original Nine Elms station.

The houses and the strange length of wall in the walkway alongside the viaduct are the only survivors from the 1895 map that I found, apart from the railway viaduct.

No idea what will happen to the houses. I hope they survive the latest phase of development and having seen the railway come and go, the Flower Market almost opposite built and demolished, they will now be surrounded by the towers that are springing up all around them.

11:10

At the junction of Nine Elms Lane, Wandsworth Road and Parry Street, the bright lights of Barbados shine on those still streaming from Vauxhall Station to the Sunday Market.

Nine Elms

And as one final comparison photo, the old Brunswick Club building with the residential blocks behind in the above photo and the Nine Elms Cold Store in the photo below.

Nine Elms

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_258_71_7183

Nine Elms is probably not high up on the list of walks in London, however I found it fascinating. The sheer scale of the redevelopment work, with the extension down to Battersea Power Station, is remarkable. Not just above the surface, but also below ground with the Northern Line extension. The Sunday Market also serves those who need somewhere to buy cheap goods and for those seeking to start a life in London.

Nine Elms has been through two development phases. Originally as the first Southern Railway terminus in London, then with the associated locomotive works and goods yard, then as the site for Covent Garden’s relocated fruit, veg and flower markets with other light industrial business. Now a third phase as Nine Elms transitions to a mainly residential area, however it is good to see that the market will stay here.

There is still much to explore in Nine Elms, and when I return I will check to see if the six houses have survived along with the strange wall alongside the viaduct.

alondoninheritance.com

The City of London – A Record Of Destruction And Survival

Towards the end of the last war, a whole series of reports were commissioned into the rebuilding and development of the City of London. These reports used the opportunity for major reconstruction to propose significant change and to address the needs that the City would be expected to support in the future.

I have already written about a number of these reports, including the 1944 report on Post War Construction in the City of London, the 1943 County of London Plan and the 1944 Railway (London Plan) Committee report. For this week’s post I would like to cover another report, covered in a book that documented proposed redevelopment of the City of London.

This was published in 1951 by the Architectural press, on behalf of the Corporation of London as the City of London – a record of Destruction and Survival, with a report on reconstruction by the planning consultants C.H. Holden and W.G. Holford.

The preface to the book provides some background “In April 1947 the joint consultants on Reconstruction in the City of London, Dr. C.H. Holden and Professor W.G. Holford, presented their final report to the Improvements and Town Planning Committee of the Corporation. The proposals contained in that report were subsequently accepted in principle by the Court of Common Council, and the Court approved the publication of a book to describe and illustrate the proposals for rebuilding more fully than had been possible up to that time. In the preparation of such a volume the opportunity has also been taken to record the damage suffered by the City from aerial attack during the war of 1939-45.”

The 1951 book is far more comprehensive than the earlier reports. It includes a detailed historical background to the City of London, including a chronological table and describes in detail the war damaged areas. There are numerous statistical details and plenty of maps overlaid with detail on the pre-war City and future plans for the City.

Reading the book in 2019 also demonstrates the difficulty in making long term plans. Unforeseen events frequently resulted in an expected future trend becoming obsolete.

The book includes many proposals that we can see around the City today, some looking remarkably modern for their time. Other proposals, thankfully, did not get implemented as they would have left a significant architectural and visual scar on the City.

One of the first maps aims to provide a view of the main functions of the City and how these are grouped into specific geographical areas. The following map is titled “Distribution Of Trades And Activities, 1938” (if you click on the maps you should be able to open up a larger version)

Development of the City of London

Yellow is General Commercial and takes up large parts of the City. The area along the river is still dominated by Wharfs and the Billingsgate Fish Market. Textiles take up the area from around St. Paul’s Cathedral and up to the north of the City. The Press and Printing surrounds Fleet Street. There are smaller concentrations of specialist trades – Chemists Supplies, Books, Wines & Spirits. Railway Warehouses and Clothing Warehouses occupy the east of the City.

The book tries to look at how these trades should be distributed in the future City. The following map is titled “Proposed Distribution of Trades and Activities”

Development of the City of London

At first glance the map is much the same as pre-war, however there are some subtle differences. Wharfs still occupy the river bank, but the fish market has moved. Chemist Supplies has disappeared from the City. In the north of the City a much larger area has now been allocated to Commercial and Light Industrial, reducing the area for Textiles, Furs & Skins – the expectation was that new Light Industrial businesses would start to replace some of the traditional City trades.

Apart from these relatively small changes, the immediate post war planning expected the trades that would occupy the City would continue to be much the same. Cargo ships and Lighters would still moor along the wharfs, textiles would occupy a large part of the City as would the Press and Printing. The following 30 to 40 years would transform the trades and activities of the City far beyond the expectations of 1951.

Another map looked at the Inventory of Accommodation within the City.

Development of the City of London

The map details the total floor space in 1939 for each area along with the percentage of floor space destroyed during the war. These figures are shown in the following table:

Development of the City of London

By comparison, the latest City of London Housing Stock Report (December 2018), does not report on the amount of accommodation floor space, rather the number of residential units in the City of London (7,240) along with the split of these residential units by the number of habitable rooms.

The map also highlights the considerable amount of damage caused by the early raids of 1940 / 41 when incendiaries caused significant fire damage in the areas around and to the north of St. Paul’s Cathedral as shown by the high percentage figures for blocks 2,7 and 9.

A key focus of the report was the support of pedestrian and vehicle traffic throughout the City. New boundary routes were proposed to the north and south of the City to support traffic passing through the City to get between east and west London and across the river. Plans also included widening of streets, new streets driving across existing street and buildings and elevated sections for roads.

High and low level separation of pedestrians and vehicles was seen as the way forward for the City. Two main areas where this would apply would be the northern boundary route along Holborn to Aldersgate and the south route along Thames Street.

The following map shows where improvements or changes would be made, marked by the streets in red.

Development of the City of London

The book includes many artist impressions of what the proposed developments would look like. The following drawing show the proposed high level road in Lower Thames Street, with ground level occupied with a service road and pedestrian area.

Development of the City of London

The proposal for Lower Thames Street is very different to what was finally implemented, with a multi-lane road built at ground level by widening the original street. The level of traffic does not lead to a pleasant experience walking along the street today, and the artist impression above does look good, but the impact of a high level road would have destroyed the whole view of the street and I suspect would not have been wide enough to support the growth in the level of City traffic.

The book also goes into detail on the public utility services needed to support a city and aspects of street furniture which were all considered as part of the overall designs needed for improving the City’s streets for pedestrians and drivers.

In describing how these utility services and street furniture would be implemented, the book includes the historical context, and as an example, the following illustration from the book shows the development of lamp standards from 1827 to 1946.Development of the City of London

Continuing on the theme of pedestrianised areas, the book describes a number of options, supported by artist impressions for how traffic and pedestrians would be separated and large areas opened up for pedestrian circulation.

The following drawing is of the proposed low level concourse at London Bridgehead, just to the west of the Monument.

Development of the City of London

Although from a book published in 1950, I find these impressions of a redeveloped London curiously modern. Change the name on the glass fronted Tea Rooms on the right to a Starbucks or Pret, change the Sherry sign on the left to Gin and update the clothes the people are wearing and this could be a proposal for today.

The following impression, also of the proposed London Bridgehead is again (apart from the clothes) rather modern.

Development of the City of London

In many of these artist impressions there are cafes and restaurants shown lining the edge of the pedestrian areas. The proposals within the book see these as meeting a key need for City workers as “The City is chronically short of places to have lunch”. I suspect the authors would be rather pleased with the number of establishments in the City today to provide a worker’s lunch.

There are other ways in which the 1951 artists impressions are surprisingly modern. The following artist impression is described as “A view of the base of the Monument and the proposed new Underground entrance as they would be seen from Monument Street, if the two level proposal were carried out.”

The high level separation of traffic can be seen as part of the large circulatory road system on the northern end of London Bridge.

Development of the City of London

To the right is a glass sided entrance to the Monument Underground Station with the London Transport roundel on the side. This would have replaced the entrance on Fish Street Hill which today is an entrance directly on the ground floor of an office building rather than this rather nice, glass sided descent by escalator.

This type of entrance has been used at a number of Underground stations, one of the latest being a couple of entrances to the Tottenham Court Road Underground station. I was passing in the week and took the following photo – perhaps not so elegant as the 1951 plans, but such is the way of all artist impressions.

Development of the City of London

Proposals for developments along the river’s edge included terraced walkways along the river, with entrances between the warehouses opening up views to the river. The following drawing illustrates the proposals, but also shows how the proposals were not aware of the future changes to the use of the river, with shipping and cranes still expected to line the river.

Development of the City of London

I love the artistic addition of the two men in some form of naval officers uniform.

The book describes these river side developments “The first buildings to be rebuilt near Upper Thames Street are likely to adjoin the high level road, and where stairs lead down to the low level some look-out points might be arranged from which the river can be seen between the warehouses below. Another possibility is the building of restaurants or public houses right on the river front.”

Another drawing shows that “the Consultants propose a riverside walk along the river front below Upper Thames Street. The drawing shows how a maritime atmosphere might be introduced here.”

Development of the City of London

The proposals were very enthusiastic about the opportunities of opening up the river front, an area that for centuries had been hidden behind the warehouses, wharfs and fish market that traditionally lined the river. The book describes “Another possible form for new buildings on the river front is that they should be warehouses below and offices above, the offices set back to provide a pedestrian walk overlooking the river – perhaps one with a distinctly maritime atmosphere. A riverside pedestrian walk from Blackfriars to St. Paul’s Steps or even to Southwark Bridge would be one of the sights of London; and one of the best viewpoints in London, as it would command the river from Whitehall to the Pool – not forgetting the new South Bank. A walk over the top of warehouses that handle riverborne goods would be difficult to design. Pedestrians might damage goods in lighters below and a carelessly handled crane might damage pedestrians. Yet these and many other difficulties – real though they are – seem small in comparison with the possibilities of such a walk planned along the now largely outworn strip of buildings from Blackfriars to Southwark bridge. It is a wonderful site.”

It is indeed a wonderful site and a riverside walk has been realised for parts of the route, although at a single riverside level rather than the multi-layer possibilities of the 1951 proposals. No longer any risk that a “carelessly handled crane might damage pedestrians.”

The comments about the riverborne goods, issues with cranes etc. also show the difficulties with long term planning as those working on the 1951 plan were unaware of the changes that would take place to river traffic in the next few decades with not only the loss of all goods traffic, cranes and warehouses in the Pool of London, but also further down the river at the much larger docks. Who would be a city planner ?

In improving the experience for pedestrians, the proposals including opening up views to the river as mentioned above. Another key view was that of St. Paul’s Cathedral to and from the river.

The following drawing is titled “An impression of a possible treatment of the proposed new approach to St. Paul’s from the river.”

Development of the City of London

The development of this area has resulted in a view that is broadly similar to that proposed in the 1951 plan, although the buildings along the side are different and I suspect the width of the pedestrian walkway is today wider than the impression given in the drawing.

The proposals so far, would have had a positive impact on the City, however other proposals, whilst for very good reasons would have been very negative and I am thankful that they were never built.

Post war, continuation of pre-war growth in vehicle traffic was expected and proposals were included in the 1951 book to manage an increasing growth in motor traffic.

New through routes were planned for the south of the City along Lower and Upper Thames Street and a northern boundary route was proposed, cutting through numerous streets north of Smithfield and Finsbury Circus (see the map above with the red street highlighting).

The book included artist impressions of what these developments could look like and they are frankly horrendous.

The following drawing is titled “The raised Northern Boundary Route proposed by the consultants, would have two decks of car parking space under it.”

Development of the City of London

Thankfully this was never built along the northern edge of the City and as its name implies, the Northern Boundary Route, would have indeed formed a solid boundary between the City and the land to the north.

It was not just the boundary routes where major changes were proposed to accommodate traffic, the central City also had some horrendous schemes.

The following drawing is titled “An impression of the suggested Cheapside Underpass, a proposal which, has been postponed on grounds of cost.”

Development of the City of London

Yes, that is the church of St. Mary-le-Bow to the right, with Cheapside dug out to form a lower level for traffic. Thankfully it was postponed on grounds of cost and never resurrected.

If the proposals had been fully implemented, there would have been considerable infrastructure across the City to support the car. The following map shows proposed Car Parks and Garages.

Development of the City of London

Solid black shows where multi-level car parks were proposed. The run of car parks at top left were those shown in the drawing of the northern boundary route above. Note also that multi-level car parks would have run along Upper and Lower Thames Street.

The tick vertical lines represent underground car parking. Horizontal lines represent additional possible car parking whilst the limited number of cross hatch markings represent possible lorry parks.

The star symbols represent locations for commercial multi-storey garages.

There would not have been a problem parking in the City of London if all this lot had been built.

Although there was considerable emphasis on the car and other forms of motor traffic, public transport was also a consideration. The following diagram shows Bus Traffic in 1947.

Development of the City of London

The table that accompanies the above diagram is shown below. This details the traffic density during the peak hour for the bus routes through the City and includes bus service number, frequency, density of buses per peak hour, and density in either direction. As a reminder that buses were not the only form of ground level public transport at the time, similar data is also provided for trolleybus and trams.

Development of the City of London

Given the time, I would love to create similar tables for bus traffic today as a comparison.

The title of the book includes the sub-title “A Record Of Destruction And Survival”. The book has a large section documenting the destruction of parts of the City during the war. This part of the book includes a large number of photos. It was fascinating to find that a number of these photos were of similar scenes to the photos taken by my father.

The following is my father’s photo of the tower of All Hallows Staining taken from Mark Lane.

Development of the City of London

This photo from the book also shows the tower of All Hallows Staining, but from the opposite side, looking back towards Fenchurch Street Station, the facade of which can be seen in the rear of the photo.

Development of the City of London

Another of my father’s photos showed a very large pile of rubble following the demolition of bombed buildings in Aldersgate.

Development of the City of London

The book also includes a similar photo with the title “A mountain of rubble from bombed buildings piled up on a derelict site off Aldersgate Street.”

Development of the City of London

The City of London – a record of Destruction and Survival is a fascinating book. Although primarily a means of publishing the 1947 proposals, in its 340 pages the book contains a wealth of information on the history of the City, the damage to the City during the war, the workings of the City, the start of redevelopment of the City and what the City could look like should the proposals be fully implemented. The text and photos are supported with lots of data and statistics.

And for me, a book with fold out maps is always a thing of beauty.

The immediate post war period created many proposals that if fully implemented would have transformed the City of London. Thankfully the multi-level traffic routes did not get built, Cheapside did not get an underpass and the north and south of the City are not bounded by multi-storey car parks.

The ideas about creating space for pedestrians are good, as are the proposals for opening up the views of the river and walkways along the river. Many of these ideas have been implemented, but perhaps not as dramatically as proposed in 1951.

The separation of pedestrians and traffic can still be seen in the remaining lengths of the pedestrian ways (pedways).

When reading these books, I always wonder what the authors of these proposals would think of the City if they could take a look today, 70 years later. Would they be pleased with the result, would they wonder about the lost opportunities, and perhaps be thankful that some of their proposals were not implemented.

Planning the development of a City for the long term is very difficult, there is no way of knowing what external or internal changes may suddenly move the City in a new direction. It is intriguing to wonder what the City of London will look like in another 70 years.

alondoninheritance.com

Cutty Sark Pub And Greenwich Peninsula

I must have been going to the Cutty Sark pub in Greenwich for well over 45 years. I can just about remember the first trips, where as part of a family day out to Greenwich, after feeding the squirrels in the park, walking down to the Cutty Sark ship and the old Gypsy Moth IV, Francis Chichester’s boat in which he circumnavigated the world single handed in 1967, we would walk along the river to the Cutty Sark pub for a soft drink and crisps.

The walk along the river was different to that of today. It was much quieter and the industrial nature of the Greenwich Peninsula extended up to the Greenwich Power Station. My father would tell us stories along the way. Along the narrow walkway between the River Thames and the old Royal Naval College he would tell of people being robbed along here at night with the threat of being thrown in the river if they did not comply – no idea if these stories were true, or whether they were to keep the interest in a walk, but I could imagine this happening on a dark night with mist drifting across from the river.

To get to the Cutty Sark pub, it was a walk in front of the Royal Naval College, past the Trafalgar Tavern, Trinity Hospital and Power Station. There was then a short walk through a scrap metal yard to get to the pub.

A couple of months ago, I scanned some negatives and among the photos were some I had taken in Greenwich, including these photos which were probably taken in 1986 (plus or minus a year – I did not date these negatives, but judging by other photos on the same negative strips they are from this time).

The approach to the Cutty Sark pub was through a scrap metal yard. High walls of concrete panels held back large amounts of metal on either side of a narrow walkway:

Cutty Sark pub

The scene today is so very different. As part of the de-industrialisation of the area, the scrap yard has been cleared, space opened up to the river on the left and flats built to the right.

The following photo shows the same scene today:

Cutty Sark pub

The Cutty Sark pub is in a superb location. An early 19th century building (although a pub had been on the site for many years prior to the current building), it looks out over the river, providing views to the east and west. We sat outside on a hot day in early August 2018 during the visit to take these photos, something I dream about doing again whilst writing this on a cold, grey and overcast January morning.

The current name of the pub is relatively recent, only being named the Cutty Sark in 1951 when the ship of the same name first arrived in Greenwich. Originally the pub was called the Green Man, then from 1810 it was named the Union Tavern.

After clearance of the scrap yard, the Cutty Sark pub now enjoys a large open space to the west along with a seating area directly in front of the pub.

Cutty Sark pub

In the above photo there is a brick wall with three plaques, a close up photo provides some detail:

Cutty Sark pub

The middle plaque informs that the foundation stone on the right was from the old metal recycling yard that occupied the space.

I have not been able to find any information as to the blue plaque on the left, and who was “Gordon of Greenwich”, There are English Hedonists plaques in other parts of London, created as an artwork, but the Greenwich plaque does not appear to be included in lists of these other plaques.

The area around the Cutty Sark pub is an ideal point to view the river and the western edge of the Greenwich Peninsula. The closure of industry along this stretch of the river is almost complete and it is undergoing a similar transformation to much of the rest of the river, with blocks of flats being built, the first of these can be seen in my photo earlier in the post showing the view from where the scrap yard once stood, with a tall block of flats taking up the area behind and to the left of the Cutty Sark pub.

In 1986, this was the view along the Greenwich Peninsula:

Cutty Sark pub

The same view today (I must get better at taking photos at the same state of the tide):

Cutty Sark pub

Apart from the curve of the river, the only recognisable feature in both photos is the gas holder further down the peninsula. This was originally one of a pair of gas holders, the largest of their type when constructed. One of the gas holders was demolished in 1986, fortunately one survives.

This photo from Britain from Above shows the pair of gasholders in 1924 and the surrounding industrial landscape.

Cutty Sark pub

Two large concrete silos can also be seen, shown again in the following photo which was taken from the edge of the scrap yard. These were the storage silos of a sugar refinery which, as with much of British industry in the past few decades, went through a number of changes of ownership before being bought in 2007 by a French company and then being closed two years later, with demolition of the silos following soon after.

Cutty Sark pub

The following photo from 1986 shows a view across the full width of the River Thames. The large container cranes were part of the Victoria Deep Water Wharf. Behind these are two chimneys from the old Blackwall Power Station, commissioned in 1951 and closed thirty years later.

Cutty Sark pub

The same view today:

Cutty Sark pub

The only obvious surviving features are the old brick warehouse on the left (now flats) and the tower block behind.

There are a few remaining historical features buried within the photos. The following is an enlargement of one part of my 1986 photos. Part of the old sugar refinery is to the left, but look in front of this building and along the river edge is a triangular metal structure:

Cutty Sark pub

The following enlargement from one of my 2018 photos shows the same area today and whilst all the factory buildings have been demolished, the triangular metal structure, now painted grey, remains.

Cutty Sark pub

This is part of the winding equipment that allowed undersea telecommunications cables manufactured in the buildings to the right in the 1986 photo to be transported from the factory onto ships moored in the river.

This is Enderby Wharf and is where the first cable to cross the Atlantic was manufactured with  much of the world’s sub-sea communication cables being manufactured here until the mid 1970s.

The white building behind is Enderby House, built around 1830 and the only remaining building from the factory site.

Enderby Wharf was the site for a planned cruise liner terminal, however these plans have been abandoned following local campaigns against the terminal as the lack of shore power would have meant ships moored at the terminal would be generating their own electricity and therefore polluting the local area.

Although the cruise terminal has been abandoned, development of the Greenwich Peninsula continues and the river bank between the Cutty Sark pub and the O2 Dome will soon be an almost continuous line of flats.

The industrial history of the Greenwich Peninsula is fascinating. The book “Innovation, Enterprise and Change on the Greenwich Peninsula” by Mary Mills provides plenty of detail on the factories and industries that made their home on the peninsula. The Greenwich Industrial History site also has plenty of detailed information.

In the depths of January, I am just looking forward to when the weather improves and provides the opportunity to sit outside the Cutty Sark on a warm sunny day, with a beer and taking in the views of the river.

alondoninheritance.com

The West End At Christmas

Last year I took a walk around the City at Christmas. A time of year when construction stops, the majority of office workers take a long Christmas / New Year break, and the streets take on a silence not seen at any other time during the year. For this year, I took a walk around the West End at Christmas to find a very different city, one that was still busy. Streets, shops, restaurants, theatres and pubs all still crowded.

Whenever I walk, I always take photos. I have learnt from my father’s photos and any old photo in general that even the most ordinary scene is of interest, and with the rapid state of change across London, streets and buildings can look very different in just a few years.

For a New Year’s Day post, join me for a short walk and a sample of photos that hopefully bring across the atmosphere of the West End at Christmas.

I started in the Strand, just off Trafalgar Square.

The first photo is of one of my pet hates – the renaming of an area which comprises streets which already have their own distinct identity. Here the “Northbank” is bringing together Trafalgar Square, Strand and Aldwych.

West End at Christmas

The “Northbank” is a Business Improvement District (BID) created by the business community in the area. The “Northbank’s” website explains: “With a shrinking public sector threatening the breadth and longevity of some council services, BIDs are able to carry out additional services bespoke to the needs of the local community” . Whilst I can understand the motivation, this appears to be another symptom of the under-funding of Councils and transfer of services to a potentially unaccountable private sector.

There are a number of Business Improvement Districts across London and the Mayor of London / London Assembly web site has more details.

Leaving the Strand, I walked up Charing Cross Road and then along Cecil Court. These individual shops always look good as dusk falls.

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Up St. Martin’s Lane to photograph and have a last look around Stanfords in Long Acre before the store closes in mid January to reopen nearby in Mercer Walk.

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Back up Upper St. Martin’s Lane and a crowd of Father Christmases, with many more following behind.

West End at Christmas

Monmouth Street:

West End at Christmas

Laptops and mobile phones:

West End at Christmas

The Two Brewers, Monmouth Street:

West End at Christmas

Seven Dials:

West End at Christmas

Leaving Monmouth Street, along St. Giles High Street and into Denmark Street to see what remains of the street:

West End at Christmas

Hanks is holding out:

West End at Christmas

Westside at number 24 surrounded by scaffolding:

West End at Christmas

Regent Sounds, also surrounded by scaffolding:

West End at Christmas

Rose Morris, guitars and drums:

West End at Christmas

The new Foyles store in Charing Cross Road. I was really sorry to see the old Foyles store disappear, but it is good that the book shop is still in Charing Cross Road, and that this building remains as it was here that my father went to college and used the basement as a bomb shelter.

West End at ChristmasDown Charing Cross Road, then I turned into Shaftesbury Avenue:

West End at Christmas

Wardour Street:

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Along Coventry Street and an alternative method to see Christmas Lights, however I prefer walking:

West End at Christmas

The 453 to Deptford Bridge leaves Piccadilly Circus:

West End at Christmas

Down to Waterloo Place:

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Walking the streets of London at any time of year is a pleasure, however in the week’s before Christmas the streets of the West End provide a different perspective to the rest of the year. The same shops, theatres, all you can eat buffets, pubs, hotels, clubs, restaurants, but all looking a bit different, however with the same underlying commercial drive to make money.

Thank you all for reading my blog during the last year, for the comments and e-mails and helping me to learn more about the city.

The days are now slowly starting to get longer and I am looking forward to lots more walking and exploring across London during 2019. A very Happy New Year to you all.

alondoninheritance.com

Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse In Wartime

Yesterday evening, the 29th December, was the anniversary of one of the most intensive bombing attacks on London, when on the 29th December 1940 a mix of high explosive and large numbers of incendiary bombs created significant destruction across the City. It was during this raid that the image of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, rising above the smoke and flames of the surrounding destruction was symbolic of both the suffering of the City and the will to survive.

I have written about the raid in a couple of previous posts including The Second Great Fire of London and the St. Paul’s Watch, and for this week’s post I would like to bring you another perspective from the same night.

Of the many buildings that surrounded the Cathedral to the north along St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row were the offices, factory and warehouses of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. I am not sure how best to describe the company, but at the time they were a form of Fashion House and drapery, manufacturing and selling a wide range of clothes, hats, fabrics, ribbons etc.

The firm was established in 1835 by George Hitchcock and a Mr Rogers, who would leave in 1843.  George Williams who originally joined the company as an apprentice, became a Director with Hitchcock in 1853 when the partnership Hitchcock, Williams & Co was formed. Always based in St. Paul’s Churchyard, firstly at number 1, then at number 72, with the firm expanding to take in many of the surrounding buildings.

George Williams originally joined the business as an apprentice, and as well as becoming a partner with Hitchcock, received a knighthood from Queen Victoria for services, which included the inauguration of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)  which was founded in a room of the company’s premises in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

The buildings of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. were destroyed during the raids of the 29th December 1940. A paragraph in the newspaper reports of the raid included a mention of the company:

“The historic room in which the Young Men’s Christian Association was started was among the places destroyed on Sunday night. With seven other buildings, the George Williams Room – named after the founder, the late Sir George Williams – was burned to ashes. It was situated in the premises of Messrs. Hitchcock, Williams and Co, manufacturers, warehousemen and shippers, of St. Paul’s Churchyard, and was originally one of the bedrooms used by the 140 assistants employed in the Hitchcock drapery business.”

Just after the war, a small book was published by the Company, titled “Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse in War-time”, written by H.A. Walden, an employee of the company.

It is a fascinating book and provides not just a detailed account of an individual business in the City of London, but also as being written at the time, by an employee, provides a view of how a typical City company operated.

The book includes a number of photos which show daily life in the company before the war, during preparations for war and the results of the raid of the 29th December.

The following photo is titled “A Pre-Blitz View of our Blouse Department”:

29th December 1940

“Staff Quoit Competition” – This photo helps show exactly where the Hitchcock, Williams building was located with the main entrance to St. Paul’s Cathedral, facing Ludgate Hill, seen in the background.

29th December 1940

In fact St. Paul’s Cathedral features in the background of many of the photos in the book. The following photo taken in 1940 is titled “Our Firefighting And First Aid Units”:

29th December 1940

In the following view of St. Paul’s Churchyard today, the buildings of Hitchcock Williams & Co occupied the majority of the space now occupied by the buildings, starting with the brick faced building on the right, where the old Temple Bar now stands and the majority of the space occupied by the taller building curving from right to left.

29th December 1940

In the early stages of the war, building owners were encouraged to form their own fire fighting teams, and many City buildings were manned by employees of the company to help defend the building from what was expected to be attacks from explosive and incendiary bombs, although they were mainly equipped with buckets of sand and stirrup pumps, which were to prove of limited use on the night of the 29th December.

Preparations for war included not just the formation of fire fighting and first aid teams, but also protecting the building with sandbags as this photo titled “Sand Shifting Volunteers” demonstrates:

29th December 1940

This photo titled “Stand Easy” shows part of a roof apparently lined with sandbags.

29th December 1940

Hitchcock Williams & Co, as practiced by other large City companies, had a number of residential employees and during the war preparations included converting rooms to overnight shelters for residential staff and those assigned to fire watching shifts. This photo titled “Squeezin Hotel Bedroom” shows one of the converted rooms.

29th December 1940

Judging by the preparations and planning detailed in the book, Hitchcock Williams & Co. was probably as well prepared as any City company at the start of the war, however such was the intensity of the raid on the 29th December 1940 that even with incredibly dedicated staff and detailed planning and preparations, they were insufficient to save the buildings in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

Rather than precis the events described in the chapter of the book that covers the 29th December, the following are the words written by H,A. Walden who was there on the night. The chapter has the perhaps rather understated title:

“The Great City Fire Blitz And How It Affected Our Personnel And Premises”

“It has been said, and written, that not since the Great Fire of 1666 has there been such a conflagration in the City of London as occurred on Sunday night, December 29th, 1940, the result of Nazi incendiary bombs. In this ‘blitzkrieg’ whole areas of the City became smoking ruins within a few hours. Narrow thoroughfares, old familiar places and historic landmarks, were obliterated. To write adequately of the scenes of destruction seems beyond the limit of one’s descriptive powers.

It was an awe-inspiring sight for those of us who witnessed it. St. Paul’s Cathedral, ringed by raging fires and falling masonry, its great dome superimposed and reddened all night by the reflected flames, seemed to take upon itself an even greater dignity, as it stood in the midst of this example of ‘Man’s inhumanity to man.’

Approaching the City from the South, I saw by the lurid sky that the fires must be near the Cathedral, and felt apprehension about our own premises. The journey on foot along Cannon Street, deserted but for firemen, was of a nightmare variety. Several big fires were in progress, particularly a large Queen Victoria Street block, the smoke and sparks of which filled the air. the sound of hostile planes roaring overhead and the hiss of great numbers of falling incendiary bombs, seemed more menacing than usual. Taking cover in various doorways en route, and reaching the Cathedral, I found that our near neighbours, Debenham and Company’s premises were almost gutted and Pawsons and Leaf’s roof alight in several places. The roadway was a mass of fallen masonry, and hose-pipes interlaced towards the brow of Ludgate Hill, where other fires were taking hold. Various buildings in Paternoster Row, Ivy Lane, Warwick Avenue and London House Yard were burning furious, and I shall not forget seeing the faces of some of our fire fighters in the glare, with every detail defined at a considerable distance. It should have been possible to read clearly by the light of the many fires.

Passing into the Warehouse, I learned that hundreds of firebombs had fallen in the near vicinity, some even on the Cathedral. Those which fell on our roof were effectively dealt with by our own squads, some of whom went out into the street to extinguish other incendiaries.

Here it must be recorded that many fires might have been avoided if other Warehouses and buildings nearby had had organised watchers and fire fighting staffs, such as our own. Perhaps, indeed, our premises would have been spared, for there appears to be little doubt that we became the eventual victims of other negligence, or lack of precaution.

In addition to our own fire fighters and first aid men on duty, there were about 80 other occupants of our basement shelters, comprising assistants of both sexes and domestic staff, most of whom were unaware of the close proximity of the fires or the danger outside. Soon word was received that our premises must be evacuated at once, and Mr. Lester instructed me to conduct the women members of the staff immediately to the Crypt of St. Paul’s , where arrangements had been made to receive them. They quietly collected their necessities and blankets, and with one or two excusable exceptions, the calm manner of their journey despite the sight of flames and sparks which greeted them upon coming out of doors at ground level, is worthy of very special mention. The men followed shortly afterwards. All were most kindly received by Canon and Mrs’ Cockin and other clergymen and helpers. We were given cocoa and made as comfortable as possible on pews and forms. The quiet atmosphere of the Crypt made it seem miles away from the outside world. It was the first visit for some of the staff, and one clergyman was soon answering questions from a young lady regarding the Duke of Wellington’s huge funeral carriage standing nearby. By this time, Wren’s Chapter House adjacent to our own premises, was ablaze, and our old building, 69/70 St. Paul’s Churchyard, despite the firemen’s efforts, had caught fire.

It was a hopeless fight from the start. memories of this old part of the House, with its Victorian outline, came crowding in. How it had witnessed so many of the Cathedral ceremonies! How, in happier days, over many years, it had been made colourful and bedecked with flags and bunting to welcome Royalty and others visiting the City and St. Paul’s, the personalities who had worked there and long since passed on – old friends who used to visit its departments – the present staff which manned them, and their reactions when on the morrow they would come and find the old place a ruin of twisted steel! The quiet, philosophic bearing of Mr. Hugh Williams and the Manager as they stood and watched the burning warehouse were an example to us all.

To define in praise the work of our fire fighters would be to limit the extent of their great service. Three times the Police instructed them to leave as the building was becoming dangerous; but they refused to go, and eventually Mr. Lester had personally to order and almost drag them away. Even then they asked to stay and continue the unequal struggle. Stirrup-pumps were futile weapons to deal with such a fire. many of our men were utterly exhausted when finally they withdrew.

As we feared, there was worse to follow. The flames of burning buildings in narrow Paternoster Row fanned by a strong wind contributed to the succumbing of the newer blocks of our premises, the rear portion of which was soon doomed – steel and concrete have their limitations. The task of the squads of regular and auxiliary firemen was hopeless and overwhelming. Water was at a low pressure because of its universal demand over a wide area. Many of us could neither rest nor remain in the Crypt, but came out at intervals to stand and stare, fascinated – and dejected – at the scene confronting us but a few yards away; we were even warmed by the heat of the blaze. It was eerie to see the hoses lit up by the flames. They resembled giant snakes sprawling across the roadways and pavements. Most of the staff had by now put down their blankets on the stone floor of the Crypt and endeavoured to obtain some sleep. My own blanket covered a flat gravestone, the inscription of which recorded the death in 1787 of Elias Jenkins, a former verger of the Cathedral. It was surprising that so many actually slept, particularly those who were shouldering the great responsibilities and anxieties of the future.

The following photo is titled “Our Old Building, December 29th, 1940”:

29th December 1940

On the 29th December 2018 I took the book with me to St. Paul’s Churchyard to track down the location of a couple of the photos. The following photo is of the same view as the above. Part of the Chapter House can be seen on the right of both photos. This is the only building that was rebuilt after the war and remains to this day.

29th December 1940

In the grey light of a chaotic dawn, with buildings still ablaze, breakfast was where one could find it. There was very little water, and it was a strange sight to see people walking about with kettles in their hands trying to obtain it. Most of the staff who had been there all night were now sent home. The Headquarters of the Firm were made temporarily at Messrs. Evans’ Restaurants (next to our own premises), which had, apart from water damage, escaped the fire. We record our grateful thanks and admiration of Miss Richards and Miss Sheer, of their staff, who literally took us in and fed us. They made tea and cooked under the most irksome conditions, and were indefatigable in their cheerful assistance. They had slept in our basements for many weeks previously.

Our staff assembled here on Monday morning, seeking advice and instruction. The addresses of all were registered, and, with a few exceptions they were told to return home and await orders. This went on for two or three days, and about a dozen of us occupied the Crypt for a second night. Parts of our building were still burning, and it was late on this second occasion that some of us had the unusual sight of the Dean of St. Paul’s in his shirtsleeves, surveying our premises from the Crypt door. With a smile he remarked, ‘It takes Hitchcock, Williams an awfully long time to burn’.

The Firm had by now sought and found temporary offices at Textile Exchange, in the Churchyard, overlooking our still smoldering premises. The main room of these offices became a meeting place for everyone seeking information or giving it. A small Counting House and Entering Room staff were occupied acknowledging all mail and dealing with inquiries and urgent affairs. Mr Lillycrop had, fortunately, before leaving our stricken building, removed some books containing our customers’ names and addresses, thus enabling us to inform some thousands of them by January 7th of the calamity which had befallen our premises. A great number of replies were received expressing sympathy and offering help in some form or another. These greatly heartened and encouraged the Firm and staff in their determination to carry on. One letter concluded with, ‘Heil Hitchcock’s! Damn Hitler’.

The following photo is titled “Our Paternoster Row Frontage (after December 29th, 1940)”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is of roughly the same scene today. The above photo extends further to the right than the photo from today, however that part of the view is obscured by the building on the right.

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “One Of Our Departments After The Fire”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “Main Roof Damage”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “Our Warehouse After Hitler Passed”:

29th December 1940

Many problems were now being dealt with, to give but a few – Where should we find premises to house our Departments? In what state were the hundreds of ledgers and account books in the strong room which had now been submerged in debris and 14 feet of water? Where to obtain new stocks with the ‘Limitation of Supplies Act’ in operation? The claims of many members of staff who had lost their personal possessions in the fire? Where to accommodate the previously ‘living in’ staff, of whom there were approximately 150, when they returned to business? Immediately on seeing the staff on Monday morning, Mr. Hugh Williams, the Manager and some of the buyers went to inspect various places with a view to securing the premises and were able to obtain possession of four warehouses in the West End, and two showrooms in Cannon Street. By January 13th all these premises were in occupation by the various Departments which began establishing stocks and dispatching goods, though handicapped by a complete lack of counter fixtures etc.

The floor space in those early days was but a shadow of our former capacity, and indeed still is.

In addition to the complete loss of our main premises, there were also completely destroyed our four factories and workrooms, maintenance workshops at Warwick Lane and resident quarters at Crown Court, with everything they contained. Only Soft Furnishing and Piece Goods Departments were re-established in the City, at Scott House, Cannon Street, but on May 10th 1941, this building was also totally destroyed by enemy action. These departments were eventually transferred to the rehabilitated first floor of what remained of our 72 St. Paul’s premises.

The problem of the flooded basements containing our strong room and in it all our books and records was a serious one. Pumps were installed and operated for several days before the water was cleared, and debris removed, to allow an examination to be made of the contents. The strong room was found to have been badly flooded, and the removal of sodden books and documents and the process of hand drying every page by our already augmented staff will not soon be forgotten. The drying and de-ciphering continued for many months, in many cases figures became obliterated by mildew setting in. The practical help given by our customers who, when remitting, forwarded copies of their own ledgers was of great assistance to us. Many were themselves in a similar case and the difficulties of reconciliation of indebtedness can be appreciated. One customer at Hull had his premises destroyed on three occasions. Our bankers placed their special drying rooms at our disposal for some important documents and books – even a laundry gave assistance through the medium of its special apparatus.

Many of our ‘living in’ assistants and fire fighters had lost most of their clothes and personal belongings and for a few days the Guildhall (also badly damaged) was besieged by claimants for compensation. Each was interviewed by the Relieving Officer, and, in most cases, a cash payment on account was made for immediate necessities. A comprehensive form, setting out personal losses had to be completed and returned within 30 days. The administration at the Guildhall was sympathetic and businesslike. There must have been thousands of claims made as a result of the night of December 29th, 1940.

For some time, members of the staff worked among the debris and basements, clearing and salvaging whatever possible. The builders erected scaffolding at certain points with a view to rendering first aid to that part of our remaining building which might be made habitable for business. Meanwhile in Paternoster Row the Royal Engineers and Pioneers were in full possession continuing their work of demolition of unsafe buildings and walls. What remained of the older portion of our building was finally demolished by explosive charges on February 7th, 1941. Despite great damage, it fell only after great reluctance. Paternoster Row and London House Yard remained closed thoroughfares for the rest of the war.

This scene of desolation in the area at the rear of our buildings was terrible. It could be likened to the result of an earthquake. Publishers, publicans, booksellers, scent makers, cafes, solicitors – in fact, all branches of the professions and industry suffered. Notices and papers strung along railings and ropes indicating location of new or temporary addresses could be compared with washing hanging on a line.

The salvaging, drying and storing of a quantity of packing paper and string provided extremely useful, as these commodities became scarcer in supply. Our artesian well which pumped water from a depth of 500 feet in sufficient quantity to supply all our needs, was rendered useless. The reserve tank, for three days’ supply had a capacity of 18,000 gallons and weighed 90 tons. This provided useful salvage and ‘tank-busters’ was no misnomer for the men who were eventually employed to dismantle it.

Finally, we were indeed thankful that no lives were lost, nor serious injury received by any of our staff. Despite the great material losses the Firm sustained they set an example to all in their determination to rise again, Phoenix like, from the flames. Meanwhile over the front entrance door, the sculptured stone figure of ‘Industry’, undamaged, still smiles serenely down on our undertaking.

What further symbol is needed for this great century old business?”

The following photo is titled “Our Block, December 1940”:

29th December 1940

In the above photo, the white lines shows the boundary of the premises of Hitchcock Williams & Co and demonstrate the size and scale of their operation around St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row. In the lower right corner, part of the shell of a building can be seen with a rather distinctive chimney with lighter colour lower section and darker upper section. This building is the Chapter House of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

My father took a series of photos from the Stone Gallery of St. Paul’s just after the war (I covered these in two posts here and here).

He did not take a photo that exactly covers the area of the Hitchcock Williams building, however he did take the following photo showing the Chapter House with the same distinctive chimney.

29th December 1940

In the above photo, the area occupied by the buildings of Hitchcock Williams are to the left and have now been cleared. The round circles are the marks left from the siting of large water tanks that were built after the raid of the 29th December on cleared land. This was to address the problem of water availability and low water pressure as described in the account of the raid.

To help locate where Hitchcock Williams stood in the area around St. Paul’s today, this is a photo I took a couple of years ago when the Chapter House was being restored showing the same view as in my father’s photo above. The premises of Hitchcock Williams were to the left of the Chapter House.

29th December 1940

Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse in War-time is a fascinating little book, not just for the account of the 29th December 1940, but also for the background as to how a company operated in the City of London covered in the rest of the book. It is amazing how the company tried to operate as normal in the first months of war, including sending sales representatives with samples to the Channel Islands – they just escaped on the last boat as the islands were being invaded.

The company also appears to have had a very paternalistic approach and was very male dominated as were the majority, if not all of City companies of the time. A photo in the book taken on the roof shows the buyers meeting. Of the 25 staff of buyers, only two were female.

29th December 1940

Hitchcock Williams & Co rebuilt their operations during and after the war and continued trading, however changing tastes, foreign competition and the economic recession of the early 1980s all took their toll and Hitchcock Williams closed in 1984. The company had been trading for 149 years and when it closed a fifth generation Williams was a Director of the company.

The area around St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row are very different today, having been rebuilt twice since the destruction of the 1940s. Nothing remains of the buildings of Hitchcock Williams, however it is intriguing to wonder if the remains of their 500 foot deep artesian well can still be found somewhere deep under the current incarnation of buildings – something for future archaeologists to wonder about.

To close, here is a poem from the book which describes what must have been the feelings of those who looked over the bombsites of buildings that had been a significant part of their lives:

City Street, 1942

Desolate and gaunt the ruined buildings brood,

And gargoyles from a long dead sculptor’s mood

Still peer, unseeing, grinning in the dust,

Athwart with twisted girders etched with rust,

Who looks unmoved upon these rubbled mounds

Which once knew friends, and heard familiar sounds?

Has compensating Nature spread its gown

Far from the Country to the heart of Town?

Where basements newly greet the sun and showers,

And nourished rockeries grow Summer flowers

My thoughts rebuild the place I used to know

And sadness comes unbid; my voice is low.

alondoninheritance.com

Chichester Market Cross And The First Fatal Railway Accident

The main aim of this blog is to trace the location of my father’s photos of London. He also took many photos across the country whilst out cycling between youth hostels in the late 1940s and early 1950s and I occasionally take a trip out of London to explore the location of these photos. For this week’s post I find the Chichester Market Cross, a link with London and the first fatal railway accident.

This is the Chichester Market Cross photographed in 1949.

Chichester Market Cross

The same view of Chichester Market Cross, 69 years later in 2018.

Chichester Market Cross

Market crosses were mainly built during the medieval period and often formed a hub for a market, with the Cross providing a location where transactions could be formerly validated. They also served other functions in the daily life of a town, for example as a central point for meetings, preaching, proclamation through both verbal announcements and the use of posters.

They came in many forms, from a basic cross through to the highly ornate structure that forms Chichester Market Cross. The complexity of the design was usually down to the level of funding available and the importance of the primary sponsor.

A view of the Chichester Market Cross in 1797 (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Chichester Market Cross

The Chichester Market Cross was constructed in 1501 and was funded by Bishop Edward Story who allowed the poorer residents of the town to trade basic goods without payment of a toll, provided they did so within the confines of the market cross.

The stone market cross we see today is not the first, it replaced a wooden structure that dated from the 14th century.

The market cross is much the same as when first built, however there has been damage to the decoration of the cross over the years, particularly during the Civil War. The market cross has been repaired over the years and in 1724 a belfry and clocks were added so the market provided a central reference for the time.

The Chichester Market Cross is Grade I listed, and the English Heritage listing states that the cross is believed to have originally stood in a large market place, rather than the small space within the town centre of today. Over the centuries, surrounding buildings have gradually encroached on the structure and taken up space allocated to the market, particularly after 1808 when the market moved location to find a larger space to serve the growing town.

The central location of the market cross is indicated by the names of the fours streets that radiate out from the market cross. They are North, East, South and West Streets with Chichester market cross sitting in the centre of a compass laid out in the streets.

Another drawing of the market cross, with the spire of Chichester Cathedral in the background (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Chichester Market Cross

Chichester Cathedral is a magnificent building. It is believed to be built on an earlier Saxon church dedicated to St. Peter. Construction of the cathedral was down to a decree by the Council of London in 1075 that seats of Bishops should be in towns rather than villages. The local bishopric was based in the village of Selsey so in the early 12th century the construction of the new cathedral building commenced.

Chichester Market Cross

The majority of construction was completed by the early 15th century when around this time the spire was completed. Over the centuries the building has been through numerous renovations, additions and changes. Fires during the first centuries when construction was ongoing, and severe damage to the internal decoration during the Civil War, however the most significant event occurred in 1861 when the original central tower and spire collapsed.

Cracks had been observed in the piers supporting the tower and spire in the months preceding the collapse, and the Illustrated London News of the 2nd March 1861 recorded the events that led up to the collapse:

“After the usual Sunday services in the nave, which had been temporarily screened off, the church was taken possession of by workmen, who have, with but little intermission, pursued their task by night and day down to the hour of the final catastrophe. It soon became evident that the heart or core of the piers was rotten; the task of sustaining a weight on each pier exceeding 1400 tons thrust forward the facing on every side, and when the masonry was restrained in one place by props and shores the restraint caused it to bulge on the adjoining surfaces faster than it was possible to apply remedies. The terrific storm of wind on Wednesday night caused these difficulties to increase with alarming rapidity; but the efforts of sixty workmen appeared still to offer some possibility of ultimate success when, at three hours and a half past midnight they quitted the building.

On their return however, after less than three hours’ absence, it was found that the shores and braces exhibited many signs of suffering from the enormous strains to which they had been subjected. The force of men was increased, and various expedients to strengthen what was strained were put into requisition.  The crushing and settlement of the south-west pier poured out, crushed to powder, and the workmen were cleared out of the building, and the noble spire left to its fate. Not more than a quarter of an hour later the tower and spire fell to the floor with but little noise, forming a mass of near 6,000 tons of ruin in the centre of the church, and carrying with it about 29ft in the length of the end of the nave, and the same of the transepts and choir.

The spire in its fall, at first inclined slightly to the south-west, and then sank gently into the centre of the building. The appearance of the fall has been compared to that of a large ship quietly but rapidly foundering at sea.”

The Illustrated London News quickly dispatched one of their artists to draw the following print of the collapsed tower and spire, and the severe damage to the building.

Chichester Market Cross

The spire was quickly rebuilt in 1866 by Sir George Gilbert Scott and reaches the height of 82 metres.

Entrance to Chichester Cathedral:

Chichester Market Cross

Surrounding buildings makes it difficult to get a good view of the cathedral, however this view from 1812 provides a good impression and shows the original tower and spire, confirming that the later 19th century rebuild is very similar to the original (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Chichester Market Cross

Chichester Cathedral is unusual for the location of the bells. In the above drawing, there is a large tower to the left of the cathedral building. This is the separate bell tower:

Chichester Market Cross

There is no firm date for the construction of the tower, however it appears to date from the early 15th century. There is no written explanation from the time as to why a separate bell tower was needed. One theory appears to be concerns that vibrations from the bells in the main tower could have caused damage to the tower and steeple, therefore a separate tower was constructed to house the bells.

Time to visit the interior of the cathedral. The view along the nave to the main entrance.Chichester Market Cross

The screen separating the nave from the choir.

Chichester Market Cross

The choir.

Chichester Market Cross

As could be expected in a church of this age, numerous monuments, tombs, carvings and artworks can be found around the church.

This is one of two carved panels, currently under restoration, depicting the raising of Lazarus. Dating from around 1125, they were concealed for many centuries, only being rediscovered in 1820 and installed in their current location.

Chichester Market Cross

There is one historical display that personally, I found the most interesting in its dimensional representation of layered buildings and time. Set into the floor is a clear panel with the interior space brilliantly lit.

Chichester Market Cross

Peer below the surface of the floor to find part of a Roman mosaic.

Chichester Market Cross

An adjacent information panel informs that this is a section of a second century mosaic belonging to part of a large Roman building that extended under the cathedral wall. Remains of part of the Roman city of Noviomagnus which lies about a metre below the surface of modern Chichester.

It is a brilliant way to display the mosaic. It demonstrates the physical layers of history in that the Roman city is below the current cathedral floor, as well as the layers of time, standing in the 21st century on the floor of a cathedral started in the 12th century, looking at the remains of a building from the 2nd century – it gets the imagination going.

There are many tombs around the cathedral, including that of Joan de Vere, daughter of Robert, Earl of Oxford who died in 1293.

Chichester Market Cross

In the south transept are a series of paintings on wood from the 16th century by Lambert Barnard, court painter to the Bishop of Chichester.

Chichester Market Cross

This is the Arundel Tomb with the figures of Richard Fitzalan, the 3rd Earl of Arundel and his second wife Eleanor “who by his will of 1375 were to be buried together without pomp in the chapter house of Lewes priory“. After the dissolution the tomb, along with some others now in Chichester, were moved from Lewes into the cathedral.

Chichester Market Cross

To understand one of the unique aspects of the Arundel Tomb, you need to look at the detail of the two figures:

Chichester Market Cross

The legs of Eleanor appear crossed and turning towards her husband. The right hand of Richard is across to Eleanor and they are holding hands. A sign close by the tomb informs that the hand holding was originally though to have been due to 19th century restoration, but recent research has confirmed that it is original.

This display of affection by a knight is highly unusual for the 14th century.

Close by there is a monument from several centuries later. This is the monument to William Huskisson.

Chichester Market Cross

The text underneath the statue provides some background:

“To the memory of William Huskisson, for ten years one of the representatives of this city in Parliament. This station he relinquished in 1823. When yielding to a sense of public duty he accepted the offer of being returned for Liverpool for which he was selected on account of the zeal and intelligence displayed by him in advancing the commercial prosperity of the empire. His death was occasioned by an accident near that town on the 15th of September 1830, and changed a scene of triumphant rejoicing into one of general mourning. At the urgent solicitation of his constituents he was interred in the cemetery there amid the unaffected sorrow of all classes of people.”

William Huskisson has the unfortunate distinction of being the first fatality from a railway accident in Great Britain. The following extract from “The Face of London” by Harold Clunn explains:

“Huskisson was killed by a locomotive at the ceremonial opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway on 15 September 1830. The procession of trains had left Liverpool, and at Parkside, the engines stopped for water. Contrary to instructions, the travellers left the carriages and stood upon the permanent way. Huskisson wanted to speak to the Duke of Wellington, and at that moment several engines were seen approaching along the rails between which he was standing. Everybody else made for the carriages, but Huskisson, who was slightly lame, fell back on the rails in front of the locomotive Dart, which ran over his leg; he was carried to hospital, where he died the same evening.”

The London connection is that there is also a statue of William Huskisson in Pimlico Gardens. The following photo is from my post on the area and shows Huskisson in a very similar style, looking more like a Roman senator than an English MP.

Chichester Market Cross

There must be a Roman theme as a statue of Huskisson was also commissioned for display in Liverpool. The following drawing from the Illustrated London News shows the Liverpool statue looking very similar to those in Pimlico and Chichester.

Chichester Market Cross

The text with the drawing provides a possible explanation in that the Liverpool statue was cast in Holland from a statue executed in Rome by Gibson (John Gibson, the sculptor born in Wales in 1790, and who provided works of the Duke of Devonshire and a statue of Queen Victoria for Buckingham Palace). So poor old Huskisson has ended up in all his public sculpture looking like a Roman Senator, although I suspect he will always be known as the victim of the first, fatal railway accident.

The interior of Chichester Cathedral is magnificent, however there is more to explore outside as the cathedral has extensive grounds surrounding the building.

Firstly a wonderful set of cloisters, walled on one side and perpendicular windows on the opposite side.

Chichester Market Cross

Alleys and lanes thread their way through the buildings in the cathedral grounds, and provide wonderful glimpses of the cathedral. This is St. Richard’s Walk. Hard to imagine the sight described in the Illustrated London News of the collapse of the tower and spire.

Chichester Market Cross

Canon Lane runs roughly east to west along the southern edge of the cathedral grounds. At each end of Canon Lane there is a substantial gatehouse.

Chichester Market Cross

This is the gatehouse leading from Canon Lane into South Street, one of the four main streets radiating out from the market cross.

Chichester Market Cross

The gatehouse as seen from South Street,

Chichester Market Cross

Chichester market cross is another of my father’s photos I can tick off, but by going to these locations they provide the perfect opportunity to explore the wider area and Chichester is a fantastic place to explore and I have only touched on the cross and cathedral.

The Roman mosaic on display beneath the floor of the cathedral was for me, the most fascinating. Seeing this type of feature always heightens my awareness that we are walking on layers of history and time. Southwark Cathedral has a very similar feature, as does All Hallows by the Tower.

alondoninheritance.com