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

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

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

Chrisp Street Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The text on the left of the plaque reads:

Neighbourhood 9

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

No. 1 Lansbury Amateur Boxing Club

No. 2 Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest

No.3 The Market Square

No. 4 Jp’s Cafe

No. 5 The Spotlight

No. 6 The Festival Bar

No. 7 New Festival Quarter

No. 8 Gladstone Tower

No. 9 The Clocktower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Pancras Chambers

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

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

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

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

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

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Floor tiles at the base of the staircase:

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

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Entrance to the staircase:

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Corridors running from the Grand Staircase.

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

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

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

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

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In the clock tower.

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

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

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Looking down one of the main stairwells:

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

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

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

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

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The station roof.

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

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

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

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The Furthest Object Visible From The Shard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shard

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

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

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

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View down towards City Hall:

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

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The Tower of London:

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Wider view including the City:

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

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

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

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

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

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View towards the Barbican:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The London Eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Approaching the top of the London Eye:

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

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

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

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

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

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View towards the south-west:

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And to the west and the Houses of Parliament:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Monument

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

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

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

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

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Looking up Gracechurch Street towards the towers of the City:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to my next stop:

The Sky Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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Internal view of the Sky Garden.

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

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Across the river towards the Shard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Paul’s Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paternoster Square:

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

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

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

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The Shard and Cannon Street station:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Gun Tavern – A Tale Of Two Wappings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opposite the church and the school is the original churchyard.

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

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

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

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

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The buildings on the western side of Pier Head.

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

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

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

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

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

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The Forth Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The scale of the Forth Bridge is impressive:

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

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

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

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In 1953 my father took the ferry across:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two sides of the memorial.

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

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

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

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

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

Now back to London.

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Edinburgh – 1953 and 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Edinburgh 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The next stop is the Scott Monument on Princes Street.

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

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

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

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

Climbing the monument provides some superb views.

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

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

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

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View looking down the length of Princes Street.

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And another pair of views along Princes Street.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No steam trains on these lines now!

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

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

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

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

What a place to have been born.

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

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

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

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

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

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Winchester and Stonehenge

For this week’s post in my August journey around the country, I am visiting two historic locations that are day trips to the west of London, Winchester and Stonehenge. Winchester on the side of the M3 heading down towards Southampton and Stonehenge on the road to the west country, the A303.

My first stop is at Stonehenge. The following photos were taken by my father in 1949. Whilst the stones are the same today, the environment is very different. When these photos were taken, visitor numbers were very low and the visitor had free access to walk among the stones. The two roads that ran either side of Stonehenge were quiet without the long queues of traffic that are a feature of most summer weekends.

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I must admit I did not revisit Stonehenge for this post, having last been there a number of years ago. Today, it is only possible to walk among the stones during specific events and for the general visitor the view is limited to a path that runs a short distance around the stones.

Stonehenge is always busy with coaches of visitors providing a continuous stream of people to walk around the circle. Whilst fully understandable that the protection of the stones required their separation from those who have come to visit, it must have been much more of an experience being able to walk among and admire the size and positioning of these stones, without crowds and without the thunder of traffic on the adjacent road.

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Stonehenge has seen recent improvements. One of the roads that passed either side of the stones, the A344, has been closed and is returning to grassland. The visitor centre has been relocated some distance away, thereby helping provide the stones with some of the original sense of how they stood in their landscape. This still leaves the heavy traffic on the A303. Tunnels and alternative routes for removing the A303 from the landscape have been proposed and discussed for years, but nothing ever seems to get to the point of general agreement as to the best route, financed and into construction. If the Government wanted to get on with some infrastructure investment then a long tunnel to take the A303 away from the Stonehenge landscape must be a good option.

I have been trying to work out who the two people in the following photo could be. The man on the right could be a chauffeur judging by his clothing, the man on the left looks to be wearing a long coat and some form of leather hat.

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The following photo from Britain from Above taken in 1946 provides a view of a quieter Stonehenge than today, however a solitary coach on the now closed A344 provides an indication of what is to come.

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There are numerous theories as to the original purpose of Stonehenge – astronomical calendar, religious or ceremonial site however I suspect we will never know for sure.

The history of the next place is relatively recent when compared with the age of Stonehenge. It is though well documented. This is Winchester, reached from London via Waterloo if travelling by train, or the M3 by car.

Winchester has a long history. A Roman town, Venta Belgarum, occupied an earlier settlement. An Anglo-Saxon Minster was built on part of the area now occupied by the Cathedral from the 7th to the 11th century with a new cathedral being built in the 11th century, the Cathedral that with subsequent rebuilding and alterations forms the current Winchester Cathedral.

For my brief tour of Winchester, I will start at the far western end of the High Street at the West Gate – my father’s original photo:

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The West Gate today. Originally, all traffic would pass through the West Gate and whilst this worked when there was little traffic of limited width, it would not be a suitable route into the centre of Winchester for today’s traffic. The buildings to the left of the gate were demolished and the road now bypasses the gate leaving it as the pedestrian route into the centre of the city.

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Passing through the West Gate and we can look down Winchester High Street. The landscape descends down to the River Itchen that flows through the city at the far end of the High Street.

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And it is the River Itchen that we meet now, passing underneath the Winchester City Mill. A mill was recorded on the site in Saxon times and it appears that a mill has operated on the site for the majority of the years since. The present building was constructed in 1743.

The Mill became the first Youth Hostel of the London region of the Youth Hostel Association in 1931, continuing as a hostel till 2005 when the mill was restored to working order and is now run by the National Trust.

My father and his friends used Youth Hostels as they cycled around the country, so I am almost certain that he stayed here on his journey through Winchester. The National Trust web page for the mill has some accounts from people who stayed at the youth hostel during the 1940s – the link to the page is here.

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The same view today – not much has changed.

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In the following photo, the bridge is from where the above photos were taken. The mill is the building behind the bridge so this is a short distance further along the River Itchen looking back at the mill.

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The same view today.

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A short distance from the mill is the Old Chesil Rectory. Originally built by a wealthy Winchester merchant, the building was constructed between 1425 and 1450 and in 1949 was a restaurant serving lunch and tea.

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The building is still a restaurant, but has dropped the “old”  and is now simply The Chesil Rectory and appears to be very popular as we tried to get a table on Saturday lunchtime but they were fully booked for the whole weekend.

The front of the building looks much the same, however in 1949 the side of the building running to the right appears to have been all brick, presumably covering the original wall that has now been exposed.

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As with much of Winchester outside of the pedestrianised High Street there is considerable traffic and I had to wait several minutes to get a clear shot of the front of the Chesil Rectory. It must have been a much more enjoyable experience to explore towns and cities without the high levels of traffic that we have today.

The next stop is back up the High Street where we can turn off one of a number of side streets to reach the Cathedral. This was the view looking down towards the main entrance with the war memorial in the foreground in 1949.

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The same view today – the trees on either side have grown considerably in the 67 years between the two photos.

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Walking down towards the war memorial I moved from under the trees to get this view of the Cathedral. The large west window was destroyed by Parliamentary soldiers in the Civil War, but later rebuilt using the shattered glass collected from around the Cathedral.

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The church in Winchester has a long history. the first church (the Old Minster) was built by King Cenwalh in 648 with building of the Norman Cathedral that forms the core of the current building starting in 1079 with the Old Minster being demolished in 1093 when the new cathedral was consecrated. The Cathedral has been through a number of changes, additional development, damage during both the dissolution and the Civil War and major work on the foundations to prevent serious damage to the fabric of the building in the early 20th century.

On entering the cathedral today, the first view is of the nave:

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To the left of the nave is the grave of Jane Austen who died in Winchester in 1817. The gravestone makes no mention of her achievements as an author apart from the reference to “the extraordinary achievements of her mind”.

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Perhaps to rectify this omission, a memorial was erected in 1900 and paid for by public subscription – the text starts with “known to many by her writings”.

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Walking round Winchester Cathedral, there are so many survivals from the Cathedral’s long history. Here, the mid 12th century font made from black Tournai marble:

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The crypt of the Cathedral has an Anthony Gormley sculpture of a life-size figure of a man contemplating water held in his cupped hands. The crypt is from the earliest phase of the Cathedral having been built in the 11th century. The crypt also suffers from the geological conditions of the ground in the centre of Winchester as during periods of heavy rain the crypt will flood, often up to the knees of the statue. The ground water under and around the Cathedral caused considerable problems during the early part of the 20th century.

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It is possible to see the colour with which churches were decorated prior to the dissolution during Henry VIII’s reign. Some of the original 12th century wall paintings and 13th century painting on the ceiling remains:

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The Great Screen built between 1470 and 1476. The statues across the screen are late 19th century replacements as the originals were destroyed in 1538 during the dissolution.

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As with so many public buildings of this age, many of the monuments, walls and pillars are covered in early graffiti. I wonder who MC was and what he was doing in the Cathedral in 1624?

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Winchester Cathedral also has the largest and oldest area of floor tiling to survive in England, mainly from the 13th century. Walk on these and think about who could have walked the same way in the previous 800 years.

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There is a most unusual monument in the Cathedral, perhaps the last place you would expect to find a diving helmet. This is the memorial to the diver William Walker who is honoured for saving the Cathedral at the start of the 20th century when It was found that the wooden foundations of the Cathedral were rotting and the building was starting to subside.

The centre of Winchester, including the Cathedral is within the valley of the River Itchen as we saw earlier in this post. The Cathedral is built on a peaty soil and there is a very high water table (as mentioned earlier which also causes the crypt to flood).

The plan to stop the subsidence was to dig down and fill trenches under the walls with concrete, however due to the high level of ground water, as the workmen dug down, the trenches filled with water. The only way to attempt the work was to call in a deep-sea diver who could excavate the trenches and fill with concrete. This is where William Walker, an experienced deep-sea diver from Portsmouth Dockyard was called in.

Walker worked for 5 years in very difficult conditions, often at depths of up to 20ft and with limited visibility due to the mix of water and peat. When all the trenches had been excavated and filled with concrete, the water could be pumped out and the rest of the workmen could fill with concrete bags, concrete blocks and bricks.

The work was completed in 1911 and the Cathedral was saved, mainly due to the efforts of William Walker. He would die in 1918 due to the flu epidemic that spread through the country, however he is remembered by this very fitting memorial in the Cathedral that he played such a crucial role in protecting.

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There are so many graves and tombs across the Cathedral of significant age. This one from the 12th century which may contain the remains of Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester from 1129 to 1171. The use of “may” in the information panel is an indication of the problem of really knowing the history of so many tombs in a building of this age and history.

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Leaving the Cathedral, I found the following whilst walking past the Guildhall. I have not seen such instruments and inscriptions before mounted in such a position. The latitude and longitude are given and below the window with the barograph the inscription reads that in Winchester real noon is 5 minutes and 16 seconds later than at Greenwich – an indication that as you move further west from the Greenwich Meridian, the sun is directly over head later as you travel further west. Below the reference to real noon is information that the compass points slightly west of north and at the top along the greenish coloured stone is the height above sea level.

Instruments in the windows provide the temperature, wind speed and direction and the barograph records the pressure. The reference to the compass points and the magnetic deviation states this was in 1954 so this installation may well date from then. No idea why it is here, but I really like this.

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That is the end of my brief visit to Winchester and Stonehenge in 1949 and 2016 – as usual I left Winchester with the feeling that I had only just started to understand the city and its history. Winchester is back on the list for a future visit.

To end the post, here are two photos that are on the same strip of negatives as some of the Winchester photos and which I have been unable to locate. I am really grateful to Nick who identified the unknown location at the end of last week’s post as the Almonry Museum at Evesham, Worcestershire.

The first photo appears to be the entrance to a town / village church. The building on the left appears to be a Tea Rooms judging by the signs. The sign in the shop window on the right is advertising a Cricket Match and Grand Dance, but the rest of the text in not readable.

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I am really not sure what this building is, but the tall chimney like structure is very distinctive.

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Any help with identifying the above would be really appreciated.

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On The Road To Stratford-Upon-Avon

Having left South Wales for last week’s post, this week I am back in England and on the road to Stratford-upon-Avon. Not using the M40 which was many years in the future when my father took these photos, rather following the lanes that threaded through Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.

I can track the route he took as I have many of the Ordnance Survey maps that he used and marked with the routes taken, although there is one map missing for this journey.

Cycling out from London, along the A4 through Slough and Maidenhead, then taking the lanes to Henley-on-Thames and through Watlington to reach the first photo of a monument at Chalgrove in Oxfordshire.

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This is the monument to John Hampden, probably born in London in 1595, he became one of the Parliamentarians who resisted Charles I’s demands for payment of the Ship Money Tax in 1635 and later demanded that the King handover control of the Tower of London to Parliament. He fought on the side of Parliament during the English Civil War having raised a regiment from his tenants in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

In June 1643, the Royalist and Parliamentary forces faced each other across the Oxfordshire countryside with the Royalists based in Oxford and the headquarters of the Parliamentarians in Thame.

Prince Rupert, the nephew of Charles I, had word that a pay wagon was travelling to Thame and saw an opportunity to inflict damage on the Parliamentary forces. He left Oxford on the 17th June 1643 with a force of 2,000.

Skirmishes with small Parliamentarian outposts at Tetsworth and Postcombe were followed by a victory at Chinnor where 50 Parliamentarian soldiers were killed and 120 captured. The rumored pay wagon had heard the fighting and headed away from the town.

The Parliamentary army was gathering to the south and met the Royalist forces at Chalgrove in the fields surrounding the monument. John Hampden was shot and seriously wounded not far from where the monument now stands and was taken back to Thame where he died of his wounds on the 24th June. The Royalists achieved a significant victory at Chalgrove and Prince Rupert returned to Oxford.

The monument was unveiled on the 18th June 1843, two hundred years after the battle. Paid for by subscription, the names of the subscribers are recorded on the monument along with an effigy of John Hampden and his coat of arms.

I found the monument late one evening when it was getting dark. There is some light industry in the area now, however at this time in the evening it was quiet, and looking over the fields on a summer’s evening it is hard to imagine the fighting that took place here on a summer’s day in 1643.

The monument is well-preserved in the centre of a road junction and is surrounded by iron railings and a large ditch.

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Leaving Chalgrove, the route then disappears onto Ordnance Survey map 158 which I do not have, before returning onto map 145 covering the area around Banbury, where we leave Banbury on the A422 to head to Stratford-upon-Avon. Passing through the village of Wroxton, we find the Wroxton Guide Post at the side of the road.

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The Guide Post dates from 1686 and is a marker on one of the routes from Wales and the west to London. Allegedly used by salt merchants, the route follows the A422 down to Wroxton where is breaks from the road and heads to the south of Banbury. The 1946 edition of the Ordnance Survey one inch map for the area shows the Salt Way marked.

The top of the guide post was originally a sundial and around the middle of the post are carved hands pointing to the towns along the adjacent roads. If you look at my father’s photo you can see that the guide post was in need of some repair with initials being carved on the stone as well as general deterioration.

The guide post was restored in 1974 and still looks in good condition with the directions and carved hands clearly visible.

The Wroxton Guide Post today:

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Directions are given on three sides of the post. I do like the two hands pointing to London and Stratford-upon-Avon (thereby just maintaining a tenuous connection with London for this week’s post). The fourth side records the name of Mr Francis White who, although very little is known about him, was responsible in some way for the funding or provision of the guide post.

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Photo of part of the 1946 edition of the Ordnance Survey one-inch map, the Banbury edition, number 145. Banbury is the edge of the town seen in the lower right edge with Wroxton just to the left on the A422. The Salt Way is as the very bottom right corner, my father drew two red circles around this and there is a note of XP in purple ink pointing to the Guide Post just to the left of Wroxton. There are also purple arrows showing the route he and his friends cycled on the way to Stratford-upon-Avon.

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The A422 is the road that runs from Banbury at lower right up towards the left. If you follow the A422 away from Wroxton, there is a sharp turn to the left, followed by a sharp turn to the right then passing a place called Sun Rising. This is Edge Hill where the height drops dramatically, I can imagine the name is due to the view of the light across the land as the sun rises as the view from here is impressive.

My father took the following photo from the point at the top of the hill where the road is just about to turn to the right and the view is of flat land stretching away towards the north-west and towards Stratford-upon-Avon.

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Although the road today follows exactly the same route, I did not stop to take a comparison photo. There are no paths or walkways along the edge of the road which is up against the walls on either side. The road is also very busy and standing on the road at a bend was not the wisest thing to do. Also, trees have now grown which sadly completely obscures the view.

Another view from the top of Edge Hill on a summers day in 1949.

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Edge Hill has also given its name to another battle from the Civil War. This was the first skirmish between the Royalist and Parliamentarian forces and took place on the 23rd October 1642. The Royalist forces was based at Edge Hill with the Parliamentarian forces on the plain below. The Royalists attacked from Edge Hill and the battle took place across the land in the above photo.

If you look back at the extract from the Ordnance Survey map, the marker for the battle on the map is ringed in blue and red circles. Much of the land where the battle took place is today owned by the Ministry of Defence and so is not easy to visit.

Leaving Edge Hill, the A422 runs directly to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Known around the world as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is now a major tourist destination with 4.9 million visitors each year and generating £28 million for the local economy each month, and being in Stratford-upon-Avon on a summer’s weekend it is easy to see how.

Stratford-upon-Avon is also the home to the Royal Shakespeare Company, with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre being a major landmark alongside the River Avon. Two of my father’s photos showing the theatre with a couple of small boats passing on the Avon.

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The view from roughly the same position today. The theatre went through a major rebuild between 2007 and 2010 which accounts for the changes to the theatre. The boats on the Avon are also a little different.

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If you are a tourist in Stratford-upon-Avon you head to the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

John Shakespeare was a glover, but also traded in wool and corn. He bought the main part of the house which is now the birthplace in 1556. John was married to Mary Arden and their eldest son, William Shakespeare was baptised on the 26th April 1564 (his date of birth is not known but must have been a few days earlier).

Shakespeare’s birthplace in 1949:

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And from exactly the same position in 2016:

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Stratford-upon-Avon is much busier today:

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A short walk away from Shakespeare’s birthplace, at the junction of Wood, Windsor, Greenhill and Rother Streets was the Old Thatch Tavern:

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And here it is today, still a pub, with the same name and looking much the same, although the door on Greenhill Street has disappeared along with the plaque above which would have been interesting to read. The pub is Grade II listed and dates from 1470.

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This is Harvard House at 26 High Street:

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Dating from 1596 when the house was built by Thomas Rogers, the grandfather of John Harvard who was one of the benefactors of Harvard University in the US. John was one of the members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century and on his death left a considerable sum of money and his library of books to the colony’s college which was renamed in his honour. The house is now owned by Harvard University, and is cared for by the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust. Note the small stars and stripes symbol on the left of the building in the above photo.

That also explains why the American flag is hanging from the building today.

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View down Church Street:

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And the same view today:

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The buildings to the left of the above photos and in the photos below are Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and the Guildhall, where Shakespeare went to school and saw actors performing at the Guildhall.

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And the same view today:

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If you look at my father’s photo above, there is a sign at the side of road in front of the entrance. The sign reads “No waiting this side today”. Although the sign has gone, on the wall of the building to the left there is still the following sign. No idea why you could not stop here on even dates, but good to see this sign is still here which is probably associated with the sign on the road in 1949.

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Stratford-upon-Avon is full of well-preserved timber-framed buildings. There is hardly a street in the centre of town without examples:

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I started this post with a reference to the English Civil War with the John Hampden monument and the battles at Chalgrove and Edge Hill. Stratford-upon-Avon also records the impact of the Civil War across this part of the country with this plaque on the side of the Town Hall.

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The Town Hall also has a very interesting ghost sign running along the front of the building just below the flower boxes, the outline of the original painted words of “God Save The King”. The King in question was George III who was the monarch at the time the new town hall was built and the sign dates from this time.

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And here we finish a brief journey from Chalgrove, through Wroxton, along the A422 to drop down over Edge Hill and into Stratford-upon-Avon.

While the story of Shakespeare is well-known and with major tourist attractions both in Stratford-upon-Avon and Bankside in London, it was interesting to discover more about the Civil War through the Hampden monument in Charlgrove and Edge Hill – this period in British history does not get that much attention these days. The guide post in Wroxton is also a wonderful reminder of the old roads and tracks that crossed the country.

Again, another post that has just scratched the surface, but hopefully has provided an insight into the road leading to, and the town of Stratford-upon-Avon.

And finally…..on the same strip of negatives as the Stratford-upon-Avon photos are the following two photos which I have been unable to locate. I assume they are in the same area as the architectural style is right, however being on the same strip of negatives does not guarantee this. In the window on the right of the entrance door in the photo below, there is still the wartime sign “Air raid precautions volunteers enrol here”. Any information as to the location would be really appreciated.

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Newport Transporter Bridge – 1947 and 2016

After last week’s visit to Canterbury, I am continuing my travel around the country during the month of August, visiting some of the places my father photographed, and for this week I have travelled to the other side of the country to Newport in South Wales to visit the wonderful Newport Transporter Bridge. Looking at it today and back in 1947 when my father visited during National Service in the army when he was based a short distance away in Chepstow.

The Newport Transporter Bridge is a fully working bridge that uses a gondola to carry people and vehicles over the River Usk whilst providing a very high bridge clearance to allow shipping to continue to pass underneath, something that would not have been possible with a traditional bridge design.

So what does a transporter bridge look like? The following photos are my father’s from 1947 and my 2016 photo showing the transporter bridge from the east side of the River Usk. In both photos, the gondola is docked at the left side of the bridge, I will show this in more detail later.

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The Newport Transporter Bridge was opened in 1906 to provide access from the city to a new steelworks being built on the east side of the Usk and to avoid the existing congested crossing of the Usk further upstream.

The challenge with providing a crossing was the need to provide sufficient clearance for shipping with the very large tidal range of the Usk. Newport was a very industrial city during the 19th and first part of the 20th century with many industries related to steel, shipping and with a large docks so there was a large amount of shipping needing to move up the river past the proposed location of the bridge.

In the next photo, we can see the western side of the transporter bridge in 1947 taken in Brunel Street which ran straight up to the bridge.  The West of England Tavern is the building on the left and the bus is a number 9 to the docks.

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The same view today. Brunel Street has been separated from the bridge by the new A48 ring road around the southern end of Newport. The pub is still there, however no more buses to the docks.

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A view further back from the junction of Brunel Street and Alexandra Road.  The houses on the left are still there. I did try and take a photo from the same spot, however there is now a large tree in the gap between the houses which totally obscures the view of the bridge.

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The majority of the design of the Newport Transporter Bridge was by the Frenchman Ferdinand Amodin who was a specialist in the design of suspension bridges and who had already worked on a transporter bridge near Bilbao in Spain. Amodin, along with Robert Haynes, the Borough Engineer of Newport were appointed as the joint engineers for the new bridge in 1901.

It was Robert Haynes who had spotted the designs that Amodin had worked on for transporter bridges and encouraged the council to support this form of river crossing as the only realistic method.

The contract to build the bridge was awarded to Alfred Thorne of Westminster (just managed to maintain a London connection in this post !) with work commencing in 1902 and the bridge opening in 1906.

The design of a transporter bridge consists of a large structure across the river at a height to provide sufficient clearance above the high tide state of the river. A tower is located on each bank with a high level span between them. This carries a walkway and also a “traveller” from which is suspended the gondola. The traveller is pulled along the high level span by a cable connected to a motor near ground level.

As the gondola is suspended from the traveller, as the travaller is pulled back and forth along the high level span, so the gondola carrying people and vehicles also crosses the river. A simple design, but one needing a complex bit of engineering to implement.

The Newport Transporter Bride in operation:

1947 view looking up one of the towers.

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Thanks to Newport City Council and the Friends of Newport Transporter Bridge, the bridge is open and working from Wednesday to Sunday during the spring and summer period and a £3 ticket provides unlimited crossings on the gondola plus access to the high level walkway – incredibly good value (and you get a really good ticket).

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Getting up close to the bridge and you realise what a wonderful example of very early 20th century engineering this is. Some key statistics:

  • The main span of the bridge is 197m
  • The height from the water level at high tide to the bottom of the span crossing the river is 54m and the top of the towers are 74m above road level.
  • The overall distance between the anchorage of the anchor cables on each side is 471m
  • The weight of steel in the span crossing the river is 548 tonnes which carries a traveller of 16 tonnes and the gondola and steel suspension cables with a combined weight of 34 tonnes
  • The anchor cables are attached to masonry anchorages that each weigh 2236 tonnes
  • The traveller and gondola are pulled across by two 35 brake horse power electric engines

My father climbed the bridge in 1947 and took the high level walkway across the river. This photo shows the western end of the bridge with the anchor cables running down to their anchorage points.

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Another view from the top of the bridge showing the bridge structure and Brunel Street below,

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I have to admit that I attempted the climb, but it was a very hot day, I made the mistake of carrying my camera bag and iPad with my father’s photos on and we had already been for a walk so I only made it just over half way up before the direct sun started to take its toll.

The following photo shows the cables running down to the anchorage points today.

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Looking along the high level span across the river.

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1947 view of the gondola crossing the River Usk.

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And a similar view today. The blue building in between the two legs of the opposite tower is the motor house. From here, cables run up to the top of the bridge and attach to the traveller.

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Another 1947 view of the gondola as it crosses the river.

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There is only one other transporter bridge in operation in Great Britain. A transporter bridge which opened in 1911 to roughly the same design still runs across the River Tees in Middlesborough. The original transporter bridge near Bilbao designed by Ferdinand Amodin is still in operation along with a single bridge in France and two bridges in Germany.

Looking from the top of the east tower across to the city of Newport.

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Looking out from within the steelwork.

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A series of views from the west tower looking over the city of Newport as it was in 1947.

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My view across the city of Newport today. I could not get an identical view to the above photos as standing on the stairway up the tower with a camera, bag and trying to see an iPad screen in direct sunlight was not that easy – I should have printed the photos.

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1947 photo from midway along the top of the bridge looking north with the River Usk at low tide. The edge of the steelworks is on the eastern bank of the river. This was the main justification for building the bridge and can be seen on the right.

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The view today. The new bridge across the River Usk can be seen in the distance. This, along with the change in industry on the east bank of the river meant that the transporter bridge was no longer the main route across the river, however it is now grade 1 listed and maintained by Newport City Council so hopefully its future is assured.

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1947 view of the east bank of the river. The buildings are part of the Orb Steelworks, opened in 1899 by Wolverhampton based John Lysaght Ltd. Prior to the opening of the transporter bridge, workers from the west side of the Usk had a four mile walk to reach the steelworks.

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View from the transporter bridge walkway looking south, with the south east bank of the river on the left of the photo. It was on the river wall in the photo that the first photo of the transporter bridge at the top of this post was taken. I assume that the photo was taken at the weekend as there is a cricket match being played in the field.

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Looking a bit further to the right with the docks starting to come into view.

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The same view today from half way up the west tower. The far electrical pylon on the left in the photo below looks to be the same as in the above photo. These two photos also highlight the tidal range of the River Usk. The above photo looks to be low tide and the photo below is getting on for high tide and this rise in the water level had to be accommodated in the height of the transporter bridge so that shipping could still pass underneath at high tide.

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Further to the right with a view of the docks.

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The same view today.

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The end of the docks. the city of Newport is to the right.

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As my father took photos when it was low tide, he was able to photo the top of the foundations supporting the towers. The state of the ground on the riverbank required significant foundations and for each leg of the towers, the foundation was 6m in diameter with a depth on the east bank of 26m and 24m on the west bank.

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The scale of the transporter bridge is very impressive and is difficult to appreciate in photographs. The following photo is looking up the stairway of the west pier. It is these steps that provide access to the high level walkway.

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Boarding the gondola. This has space for four cars and covered seating on either side for foot passengers.

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Leaving the east bank of the river. The ride across is remarkably smooth. A slight bump as the gondola arrives at the landing point, however the trip across is fast and smooth.

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The operating position on the gondola.

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Looking up from the gondola to the traveller. The steel cables running up from the gondola attach to the traveller and as the traveller is pulled along, the gondola smoothly follows.

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The gondola halfway across the river.

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It is really good to see the Newport Transporter Bridge still in full operation and I can only hope that Newport City Council continue to have the funds to support this wonderful example of early 20th century engineering.

The link to the Newport City Council page on the transporter bridge is here, and the Friends of the Newport Transporter Bridge can be found here.

If you happen to be in South Wales, stop off at Newport and see one of the last examples of this method of crossing a river in action.

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