Monthly Archives: January 2017

The London Cart Horse Parade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London Harness Horse Parade 1

London Harness Horse Parade 2

London Harness Horse Parade 3

London Harness Horse Parade 5

London Harness Horse Parade 6

London Harness Horse Parade 7

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

London Harness Horse Parade 4

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

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

Cock Lane – The Golden Boy, Fake Ghosts And Hogarth

For this week’s post, I am still in West Smithfield after visiting St. Bartholomew last week, at the corner of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane. This is the photo that my father took of the Golden Boy, reputed to mark the location where the Great Fire of London finally burnt itself out.

Cock Lane 1

This is my photo of the same location with the Golden Boy now mounted on the corner of the latest building on the site, rather than on the Cock Lane side as in my father’s photo.

Cock Lane 2

Cock Lane is one of London’s old streets, the first reference being in the early 13th Century as Cockes Lane. It was the only street in medieval London licensed for prostitution. It was also the street where John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, died in 1688.

The two main theories as to the source of the name appear to be either reference to prostitution or cock-fighting. I suspect with a street of this age we will never know which is right.

The association of the Golden Boy with the Fire of London was to attribute the cause of the fire to the sin of gluttony, rather than to a Catholic, popish plot which was the original scapegoat for the cause of the fire and inscribed on the Monument. I can find no original evidence confirming that the Golden Boy was put up for this purpose, or that the fire burnt itself out at this point.

Cock Lane 3

On the base of the statue are the words Puckridge Fecit Hosier Lane, meaning Puckridge Made Me, with Hosier Lane being a street adjacent to Cock Lane.

The earliest reference I have found to Puckridge is in the book “Ancient Topography of London” by John Thomas Smith, first published in 1815:

“The figures that strike the bells at St. Dunstan’s each move an arm and its head. One of them lately received a new arm, from the chisel of Mr. Willian Puckridge of Hosier Lane, West Smithfield; who informed me, that he, his father, and his grandfather, who were all wood-carvers, and had lived on the same spot, have carved most of the Grapes, Tuns, Swans, Nags-heads, Bears, Bacchus’s, Bibles, Black Boys, Galens, &c. both for town and country, for these hundred years.

Mr. Puckridge also informs me, that the wooden figure of the naked boy, put up at Pye-corner, is certainly the original one, for that his grandfather first repaired it.”

So given that this was written in 1815 and records that the boy at Pye Corner was repaired by his grandfather, it must put the boy back to at least the middle of the 18th Century.

Below the Golden Boy today is a large plaque providing background to the statue and the building on which the boy was mounted for some years, the Fortune of War public house, and the role that this pub played in the trade in bodies between the resurrectionists who would snatch bodies from graves, and the surgeons who worked at the nearby St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.

Cock Lane 4

The earliest reference I have found attributing the statue of the Golden Boy to the Fire of London is in the 1790 edition of “Of London” by Thomas Pennant who writes:

“In Pudding-lane, at a very small distance from this church, begun the ever memorable calamity by fire, on the 2nd of September, 1666. In four days it consumed every part of this noble city within the walls, except what lies within a line drawn from the north part of Coleman-street, and just to the south-west of Leadnhall, and from thence to the Tower. Its ravages were also extended without the walls, to the west, as far as Fetter-lane, and the Temple. As it begun in Pudding-lane, it ended in Smithfield at Pye-corner; which might occasion the inscription with the figure of a boy, on a house in the last place, now almost erased, which attributes the fire of London to the sin of gluttony.”

Old and New London by Walter Thornbury contains a drawing of Cock Lane with the pub on the corner with the statue of the Golden Boy.


Looking down Cock Lane today from the junction with Giltspur Street. The downwards slope of the street is indicative of the street heading down towards the location of the River Fleet. Cock Lane runs down to Snow Hill and then Farringdon Street and the Holborn Viaduct crossing.

It was under Holborn Viaduct and along Farringdon Street that the River Fleet once ran and the slope of many streets on either side provide a reminder of the long hidden river.

Cock Lane 5

At the junction of Cock Lane and Snow Hill is this original front to the showroom of the business of John J. Royle of Manchester.

Cock Lane 6

Royle was born in Manchester in 1850 and created a successful engineering business. His company made many of the products needed to make use of steam power, including radiators, water heaters and heat exchangers.

He was also the prolific inventor of a range of other products, one of which was the self pouring teapot. The teapot worked by using a pump that was operated by the lifting and lowering of the lid of the teapot. This action would pump tea out through the spout. It enabled a large quantity of tea to be available for a Victorian family and friends without the need to lift a heavy object filled with a hot liquid.

The door to the Royle showroom.

Cock Lane 7

As well as the Golden Boy, Cock Lane is associated with another London legend, the Cock Lane Ghost which created a sensation across London and the country in 1762.

The ghost was not seen, only heard as a series of knocking and scratching, including responding to simple questions by answering one knock or two. Walter Thornbury tells the story of the ghost, and of some of the society and political figures who visited Cock Lane in Old and New London:

“Cock Lane, an obscure turning between Newgate Street and West Smithfield, was, in 1762, the scene of a great imposture. The ghost supposed to have been heard rapping there in reply to questions, singularly resembled the familiar spirits of our modern mediums.

Parsons, the officiating clerk of St. Seplulchre’s, observing, at early prayer, a genteel couple standing in the aisle, and ordering them into a pew. On the service ending, the gentleman stopped to thank Parsons, and to ask him if he knew of a lodging in the neighbourhood.

Parsons at once offered rooms in his own house, in Cock Lane, and they were accepted. The gentleman proved to be a widower of family from Norfolk, and the lady the sister of his deceased wife., with whom he privately lived, unable, from the severity of the ancient canon law, to marry her as they both wished. In his absence in the country, the lady, who went by the name of Miss Fanny, had Parson’s daughter, a little girl of about eleven years of age, to sleep with her. In the night the lady and the child were disturbed by extraordinary noises, which were at first attributed to a neighbouring shoemaker. Neighbours were called in to hear the sounds, which continued till the gentleman and lady removed to Clerkenwell, where the lady soon after died of smallpox.

In January of the next year, according to Parson’s, who, from a spirit of revenge against his late lodger, organised the whole fraud, the spiritualistic knockings and scratchings recommenced. The child, from under whose bedstead these supposed supernatural sounds emanated, pretended to have fits, and Parsons began to interrogate the ghost, and was answered with affirmative or negative knocks. the ghost, under cross examination declared that it was the deceased lady lodger, who, according to Parsons, had been poisoned by a glass of purl, which had contained arsenic. Thousands of persons, of all ranks and stations, now crowded to Cock Lane, to hear the ghost and the most ludicrous scenes tool place with these poor gulls.”

To precis Thornbury’s account, the story of the ghost is that William Kent was living with his wife’s sister Fanny and posing as husband and wife at the home in Cock Lane of Richard Parsons. This was in 1749, a few years before the appearance of the ghost. Whilst at Cock Lane, Parson’s was apparently in debt to Kent, and whilst Kent was away, Fanny would share a room with Parsons daughter, Elizabeth.

When Kent returned, they moved to Clerkenwell where Fanny later died of smallpox. When the ghostly scratching and knocking started, Parsons claimed that it was the ghost of Fanny who had returned as she had been poisoned by arsenic rather than dying of smallpox.

Parsons was making money out of the ghost by charging for admission to his home to experience the phenomena. Walter Thornbury also records the visit of Horace Walpole and the Duke of York to Cock Lane:

“Even Horace Walpole was magnetically drawn to the clerk’s house in Cock Lane. The clever scribble writes to Sir Horace Mann, January 29, 1762: ‘I am ashamed to tell you that we are again dipped into an egregious scene of folly. The reigning fashion is a ghost – a ghost, that would not pass muster in the paltriest convent in the Apennines. It only knocks and scratches; does not pretend to appear or to speak. The clergy give it their benediction; and all the world, whether believers or infidels, go to hear it. I, in which number you may guess go tomorrow; for it is as much the mode to visit the ghost as the Prince of Mickleburg, who is just arrived. I have not seen him yet, though I have left my name for him.”

Walpole continues “I went to hear it, for it is not an apparition, but an audition. We set out from the opera, changed our clothes at Northumberland House, the Duke of York, Lady Northumberland, Mary Coke, Lord Hertford, and I, all in one hackney-coach, and drove to the spot. It rained torrents; yet the lane was full of mob, and the house so full we could not get in. At last they discovered it was the Duke of York, and the company squeezed themselves into one another’s pockets to make room for us. the house, which is borrowed, and to which the ghost has adjourned, is wretchedly small and miserable.

When we opened the chamber, in which were fifty people with no light, but one tallow candle at the end, we tumbled over the bed of the child to whom the ghost comes, and whom they are murdering by inches in such insufferable heat and stench. At the top of the room are ropes to dry clothes. I asked if we were to have rope-dancing between acts. We heard nothing. they told us (as they would at a puppet-show) that it would not come that night till seven in the morning, that is, when there are only ‘prentices and old women. We stayed, however, till half an hour after one. The Methodists have promised them contributions. Provisions are sent in like forage, and all the taverns and ale-houses in the neighbourhood make fortunes.”

The Cock Lane ghost made the front pages of newspapers across the country, with accounts of the question and answer sessions held with the ghost. Pamphlets were issued along with drawings that described the scene, one of which is shown below and titled “English Credulity or the Invisible Ghost”


The child is shown in bed whilst an image of the ghost with a hammer to make the knocking sounds floats above. A man is checking under the bed whilst another stands adjacent to the bed, shielded from the child by a curtain, and asks the ghost to knock three times if he is holding up a gold watch.

The woman to the right of the bed cries “I shall never have any rest again” whilst the man seated at the table is concerned by imploring “Brother don’t disturb it”.

The ghost was eventually exposed as a fraud. During the question and answer sessions with the ghost, the ghost said that it would knock on the coffin of Fanny in St. John’s Clerkenwell, but when the committee formed to investigate the ghost visited the crypt and coffin of Fanny, nothing happened.

The child Elizabeth was then taken to another house where she was watched closely and a piece of wood was found concealed within her clothing which she had been using to make the scratching and knocking sounds.

Parson and his wife were arrested and charged with conspiracy to take away the life of Kent by alleging that Kent had murdered Fanny. They were found guilty and Parson’s was placed in the pillory in addition to a two year jail sentence, although the local population still appears to have supported him as rather than throw stuff at him whilst in the pillory, they made a collection to help Parson’s through his time in jail.

I cannot find any record of what happened to Parson’s daughter, Elizabeth.

Such was the fame of the Cock Lane ghost that the actor David Garrick wrote an interlude called “The Farmer’s Return From London” which included the ghost and was performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1762.

The Interlude is set in the farmer’s kitchen with the actors playing the Farmer (played by David Garrick) with his wife (Mrs. Bradshaw), and his children, Sally (Miss Heath), Dick (Master Pope) and Ralph (Master Cape).

The farmer has just returned from a trip to London and is telling his family of his experiences and his view of London. He tells them of the streets within streets, the houses on houses and the streets paved with heads. Sally asks if he saw any plays and shows and he tells them of the gold, painting and music, the curs’ing and prattling and of the fine cloths.

The farmer saves the best to last when he tells his family that he has sat up with a ghost. The Interlude then continues:

Farmer: Odzooks! thou’t as bad as thy betters above. With her nails and her knuckles she answered so nice. For Yes she knocked once, and for No she knocked twice. I asked her one thing –

Wife: What thing?

Farmer: If yo’ Dame, was true.

Wife: And the poor soul knocked one.

Farmer: By the zounds, it was two!

Wife: (cries) I’ll not be abused, John

Farmer: Come, prithee, no crying, the ghost among friends, was much given to lying.

Wife: I’ll tear out her eyes –

Farmer: I thought, Dame, of matching your nails against hers, for your both good at scratching. They may talk of the country, but I say, in town, their throats are much wider to swallow things down. I’ll uphold, in a week – by my trough I don’t joke – that our little Sal shall fright all the town folk. Come, get me my supper. But first let me peep, at the rest of my children – my calves and my sheep.

Wife: Ah, John!

Farmer: Nay, cheer up. Let not the ghosts trouble thee, Bridget, look in thy glass, and there thou ,ay’s see, I defy mortal man to make cuckold o’ me.

The advertisement for the Interlude explains that Garrick’s friend Hogarth had drawn the scene for the printed version of the Interlude:

“Notwithstanding the favourable reception he has met with, the author would not have printed it, had not his friend, Mr. Hogarth, flattered him most agreeably by thinking The Farmer and his Family not unworthy of a sketch by pencil. To him, therefore, this trifle, which has so much honoured is inscribed, as a faint testimony of the sincere esteem which the writer bears him, both as a man and an artist.”

Hogarth’s drawing is shown below. The farmer is in his kitchen, telling the family of his experiences in London and of the Cock Lane Ghost. The wife in shock is pouring the farmer’s beer on the floor rather than in his cup.


Hogarth also included references to the Cock Lane ghost in two of his other drawings. The first is called “Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism”.

William Hogarth (British, London 1697–1764 London) Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, March 15, 1762 British, Etching and engraving; second state of two?; sheet: 14 5/8 x 12 3/4 in. (37.1 x 32.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932 (32.35(151))

Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism is an updated version of Hogarth’s Enthusiasm Delineated which was an attack on the upsurge in Methodism across London in the mid 18th Century. This began with the opening on Tottenham Court Road of a Methodist Tabernacle in 1756 and rumours that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker also had Methodist sympathies.

Hogarth was urged not to publish Enthusiasm Delineated as it could have been seen as an attack on religion in general, not just on Methodism. He changed the drawing by replacing the religious images with images from the occult and superstition and it became Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism.

The Cock Lane ghost reference is on the large thermometer of madness on the lower right side of the print. In the panel at the top of the thermometer is an image of the child in bed with the Cock Lane ghost hovering to the right. Hogarth could also keep some aspects of his original aim with the drawing as Parsons, who was blamed for the fraud, was also a Methodist.

The second is plate 2 from Hogarth’s series of two prints titled “The Times”.


The Times was one of Hogarth’s most political series of prints. The early 1760s were a time of great political upheaval and rumour. The Seven Years war was coming to an end and negotiations were beginning on how to end the war, ending in the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

The first plate of The Times showed London in a state of chaos and fire, the result of the seven years war with the fires of the war still being fanned by William Pitt.

The second plate, as shown above, shows a much calmer scene with the new King, George III on a statue above a fountain watering bushes placed around the fountain. The stand on the left is packed with member of the House of Lords and the Commons, half are fast asleep and the rest are firing on the dove of peace.

On the right of the print is a pillory. John Wilkes is on the right with a copy of the publication he was involved in “The North Briton”, a satirical, supposed patriotic publication that attacked the Scots (mainly due to George III appointing the Scottish nobleman Lord Bute as Prime Minster who ended the years of Whig rule and the Seven Year War).

On the left of the pillory is the Cock Lane ghost holding a candle in the right hand and hammer in the left with the words Ms. Fanny at the base of the pillory.

I cannot think of another of example of where a haunting has been included in this type of print which is making so many statements on the politics of the day.

I suspect that most people walking past Cock Lane today, only stop to view and read about the Golden Boy, however it is strange to think of the mobs and visitors to the knocking and scratching ghost in this now quiet side street in 1762.

The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great

For this week’s post I am in West Smithfield, at the gatehouse entrance to the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great. The photo below is my father’s post war photo of the gatehouse.


And in the following photo is the same view on a rather damp and overcast January morning.


The gatehouse building is basically the same apart from some cosmetic differences as is the building to the left. The building on the right is of a similar style to the original but was part of reconstruction work carried out between 1950 and 1952.

The other difference is that road running to the right has been pedestrianised along the length leading out into West Smithfield with an additional large area of paving in front of the gatehouse.

The gatehouse entrance now opens onto the path leading to the church with the graveyard on the left, however originally the church of St Bartholomew the Great covered the area now occupied by the graveyard and path. The stone entrance of the gateway is part of the original 13th Century doorway to the south aisle of the church. The timber framed building above was added in the 16th Century.

The following plan of the original layout is displayed within the church. The nave is the area that once occupied the space which is now the graveyard and the South Aisle is the path from today’s entrance to the church up to the gatehouse, of which the original stonework is shown by the dark green at the left hand end of the South Aisle.

St Bartholomew the Great 21

For many years, the timber framed upper floors of the gatehouse were covered by a later brick and plaster frontage. The timber framework was uncovered when the gatehouse suffered damage from nearby bombing during the First World War. The brickwork was later removed and the gatehouse restored to the condition we see today.

A newspaper report from the Leeds Mercury of the 7th August 1916 titled “A City Improvement” records the change:

“Passing through Little Britain this afternoon on entering West Smithfield it seemed for a moment that I had lost my bearings, for I was confronted with a beautiful oak and plaster facade which I had not noticed before. The phenomenon was not due to the wizard’s magic wand, but to the rector and churchwardens of St. Bartholomew the Great, who have restored the old gate-house above the Norman dog toothed arch by which Rahere’s Church of St. Bartholomew is entered. In the days when Vandalism reigned under the name of improvements the front of the gate-house was modernised and covered with stucco. After much expense and pains the quaint old structure can be seen as the architect left it, for not a single timber has been left disturbed.”

The following photo from Getty Images shows the gatehouse before the First World War with the plaster and brickwork overlay to the original timber frame. The buildings on either side of the photo are the same as in my father’s photo however the building on the right was occupied by the Stationers & Bookbinders Evans & Witt at the start of the 20th Century before changing to the Gateway Tobacco & Confectionery Company by the time of my father’s photo.

Walk through the gatehouse and this is the view of St Bartholomew the Great. This whole area would once have been covered by the original church and the path leading up to today’s entrance was once the south aisle. The raised area on the left, formerly the nave, is now the churchyard.


As well as the loss of the original nave, the church has been through many major and minor changes over the centuries. The following photo from 1877 shows the same view as above, however in 1877 there was no entrance or porch at the base of the tower and a large window occupied the wall of the church on the left, along with an entrance to the church. (I am fascinated by the steps up to the wooden door into the tower, I wonder why the door was placed in this position?)


And in 1739, houses in Cloth Fair, the street to the left of the church, formed a boundary along the churchyard.


St Bartholomew the Great was founded in 1123 by Rahere, a prebendary of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The story goes that Rahere was originally a Jester or Kings Minstrel, however after the death of the King’s wife and children Rahere traveled to Rome where St Bartholomew appeared to him in a vision and commanded him to build the church. He established the church as an Augustine Priory (possibly on the site of an earlier parish church) along with the adjacent hospital of St. Bartholomew.

Over the centuries the church went through many changes. After the dissolution, the majority of the nave and the north and south aisles were pulled down and the choir was annexed to the old parish church. Queen Mary gave the church to the Black Friars who used it as a conventional church, then Queen Elizabeth restored the church to the parish, although by then the church was in a very poor condition as Stow wrote that the steeple of the church “of rotten timber readie to fall of itselfe.”

The current tower was built in 1628 and for the following centuries the church went through periods of decay, restorations, parts of the building were pressed into different use such as a school and workshops and the buildings of Cloth Fair crowded close up to and sometimes within the fabric of the church.

The church survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz.

The restoration of the church to the state we see today began around 1886 lasting through to the early 20th Century, including the work on the entrance from West Smithfield.

Time to have a walk around the church. My visit was on a wet Saturday in January, the type of day that is much underrated  for a visit to this type of building. They are generally much quieter and the dampness and limited light at this time of year seems to make the history and fabric of the church far more visible.

On the right of the church is the Font which dates from 1404. It was at this font that William Hogarth was baptised on the 28th November 1697. He was born close by in Bartholomew Close. He also was responsible for the magnificent murals along the stairs leading to the Great Hall of the adjacent St Batholomew’s Hospital.


The tomb of Sir Walter and Lady Mary Mildmay. The founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth 1, Mildmay died in 1589 after Mary who died in 1576.


There are not that many monuments in St Bartholomew the Great, probably due to the many periods of reconstruction, loss of much of the nave and the different uses to which the church has been put, however those that remain are impressive.


Doorway through to the Vestry, much of which is the original medieval stonework.


Prior Bolton’s door.


Prior Bolton was Prior of St Bartholomew the Great between 1505 and 1532 and carried out repair and construction work across the church. As well as being Prior, Bolton was a member of Gray’s Inn and a builder of some considerable success. Bolton was responsible for building work at Westminster Abbey, including construction of the chapel for Henry VII. In his will Henry VII left direction that the chapel should be completed and, “delivered to the Priour of Sainct Batilmews beside Smythfeld of the work of our said chapell’

He continued to work for Henry VIII and was responsible for a number of construction projects in London and across the country. The King’s Book of Payments include records of payment to Bolton of over £5,000 for work on New Hall, near Chelmsford in Essex, a considerable sum of money at the time.

Looking back down the South Aisle. In the original medieval church, this view would have been twice a long, all the way to the gatehouse.


The Lady Chapel at the east end of the church. After the dissolution, from 1539 all the way to the 1880s this part of the church buildings was used for alternative activities including use as a house and as a printing works. Beneath the Lady Chapel are the remains of the original medieval crypt.


During the 19th century restoration work, the crypt had to be dug out and restored having been used for a range of purposes including coal and wine cellars. Parts of St. Bartholomew the Great were also used as a blacksmith’s forge and in a 1916 newspaper report on the restoration work there is a comment that one of the pillars still has smoke staining from the forge – I could not find that today.

The High Altar.


On the left of the High Altar is the tomb of Prior Rahere, the founder of the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great. Rahere died in 1143 and the current tomb dates from 1405.


The potential for damage during the Zeppelin raids across London during the First World War, and which assisted with the uncovering of the original gatehouse, resulted in precautions being taken to protect many of the ancient artifacts across the City. In St Bartholomew the Great, the tomb of Rahere was sandbagged.

St Bartholomew the Great 19

Another or Prior Bolton’s additions to the church, an oriel window as seen from the Choir.


On the base of the window is Bolton’s rebus, or personal symbol consisting of a crossbow and a cask.

St Bartholomew the Great 22

Not all of the Prior’s and Ministers of St Bartholomew the Great were as beneficial to the church as Prior Bolton. In the Harleian Manuscripts held by the British Museum there is an anecdote about a minister of St. Bartholomew’s during the reign of Charles II which starts:

“One Dr . Dee, minister of Great Saint Bartholomew, who was a man but of a debauched life, understanding that his Parishioners did disgust him so far as that they had articled against him and ment to prefrre him into the high comission Court, he thus plotted…”

The story continues that the minister offered to resign the living if his parishioners would give him a certificate of good conduct to assist him elsewhere. As they were anxious to be rid of him, they provided the certificate, however he then refused to go. The problem for the parishioners was that they were either open to a charge of falsehood or of collusion with their minister.

Looking from the Choir towards the great lectern, the choir stalls and the organ. Prior to the loss of the nave, this view would have carried on a considerable distance to end parallel with the existing gatehouse.


Looking back up towards the High Altar from behind the Great Lectern. Given that originally there would have been over half as much again of the church running back towards Smithfield, the original church must have been an extremely impressive medieval building.


Looking back to the western end of the church. Behind the wooden screen and paintings was the original divide between the Choir and the Nave.


Colour on a grey and damp day in January.


I suspect my father took the original photo of the Gatehouse on the day he visited the Butterworth Charity which takes place in the churchyard of St. Bartholomew the Great every Good Friday. I wrote about this in April 2014 and you can read more here. The following two photos are one of my father’s original and my later photo from 2014.



The gatehouse to the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great demonstrates what an impressive medieval church this once was as this was the original entrance to the south aisle with the nave running to the left.

A sense of what this magnificent church must have been like and the impression it must have had on the surroundings of Smithfield can still be had by visiting the church, even if it is not a damp and overcast day in January.

Russell Square And Librairie Internationale

For this week’s post, I am in Russell Square in Bloomsbury, just north of Holborn Station. At 73 Russell Square was the Librairie Internationale and my father took three photos of this location in 1953. I suspect this may have been to capture people walking past and entering the shop. The three photos are shown below:

Russell Square

Russell Square

Russell Square

The location is easy to find and is on the corner of Russell Square and Guildford Street. A new building is on the site and rather than the Librairie Internationale, the site is now occupied by a Pret. The buildings on the left in Guildford Street remain unchanged.

Russell Square

It has been a challenge to find out more about the Librairie Internationale and any information would be greatly appreciated.

From what references I can find, the Librairie Internationale appears to have been somewhat of a Communist / Anarchist bookshop perhaps associated with the anarchist bookshops of the same name in France in the 19th Century (again, this is very sketchy information, so any corrections or further information would be appreciated).

I have found references to the Librairie Internationale selling copies of Karl Marx publications in the 1920s and in the 1930s as one of the bookshops in London where you could purchase pamphlets such as those produced by the London Freedom Group, whose paper “Freedom – A Journal of Libertarian Thought, Work And Literature” included the address of the Librairie Internationale in Russell Square as one of the London bookshops and newsagents where Freedom could be purchased.

Freedom makes interesting reading. It was published by the London Freedom Group and had an editorial address at 163 Jubilee Street, Mile End.

Despite being something of an anarchist publication, Freedom has a very polite tone. The issue of January 1931 contains an obituary of a Mrs Dryhurst and reads:

“Mrs N.F. Dryhurst’s smiling, charming face was, since the late 80’s, noticeable at all meetings of the Anarchist cause, speaking, debating, handing out bills, or going round with the collection plate; nothing was too much or too little for her to do.

In ‘Freedom’ she occupied a most important position: often editing while Mrs. Wilson was away; writing up notes and comments on contemporary events; corresponding with comrades all over the country; getting them to send up reports of propaganda; putting ship-shape all their notices and reports.

With her command of foreign languages she was able to render great service to ‘Freedom’ in translating and reviewing works; while her inborn Irish humour added charm to all her writing.

I cannot but recall with feelings of deep gratitude how Mrs. Dryhurst, during those years, would in spite of her middle-class education and upbringing, cordially interest herself in and render help to every comrade of the most down-trodden class who was fortunate enough to come in contact with her.”

In the correspondence section there is a letter from the Polish Anarchist Committee which reads:

“The Committee of Polish Anarchists abroad wish to inform all those comrades who desire to get into contact with us that our new address for correspondence and money is Madam Andree Peche, 15 Rue du Faubourg, Saint-Denis, Paris.”

I have ready many books and documents in researching articles for my blog and I am often struck by words that have been written many decades ago which you could also find being written today.

Take the following paragraphs from an article in Freedom of January 1931, 86 years ago this month.

“It has been pointed out that just as the old individualist capitalist is passing away, becoming, in the face of International Capitalism, merely a kind of rudimentary organ in a newer and world-wide industrial system, so national governments become more and more helpless to remedy unemployment. They belong to a passing era.

Still, in spite of the impotence of governments, the present slump, like previous ones, will liquidate itself largely  at the expense of the workers, and be followed by a boom period, in which the lessons of the present will be largely forgotten unless we are able to increase our propaganda and keep them alive. As soon as the boom appears, financial operations in industry – now passing more and more into the hands of the big banks and international financiers – will be busy transforming industrial undertakings wherever they are ripe for it, into international concerns.”

Echoes today of the way that international concerns treat taxation and the inability of individual governments to exercise control.

Probably unfair to base a view of the Librairie Internationale on the contents of one publication that could be purchased at the shop in 1931 – however I have been able to find very little information about this book shop.

When my father took these photos in 1953, global politics were entering a very new era compared to the 1930s and I wonder if the Librairie Internationale was still selling the types of publication available pre-war. Looking at the detail in my father’s photos it looks very much like a normal bookshop / newsagent.

Around the door are copies of American magazines including Life and Colliers Magazine and in the shop there are large maps on display along with signs advertising Easter Cards, Book Tokens and a sign to “Scatter Sunshine With Greeting Cards”, along with pictures of Queen Elizabeth II.


In the entrance to the shop, it is just possible to make out lettering on the pavement.


The same sign (or perhaps a later reproduction) remains to this day at the entrance to Pret. The Turkish Baths that the sign is pointing to were a short distance away from the Librairie Internationale, in the original Imperial Hotel.

Russell Square

There is still an Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, although the existing building replaces the original which was demolished in 1966 and was the home of the Turkish Baths Arcade. View of the current Imperial Hotel from opposite Pret.

Russell Square

The full view of the Imperial Hotel.

Russell Square

The original Imperial Hotel was design by Charles Fitzroy Doll and built between 1905 and 1911. View of the Imperial Hotel in the 1960s before demolition:


Hermione Hobhouse in her book Lost London from 1971 writes the following about the Imperial Hotel:

“The Imperial Hotel was demolished in 1966, partly because of its lack of bathrooms, and partly because, in the words of the G.L.C., ‘the whole frame….was so structurally unsound that there was no possibility of saving it if a preservation order had been placed on the building.’ It may have been a victim, too, of the time-lag in official taste – it is interesting to see that in 1970-1 the owners of the Russell Hotel, a similar but less extravagant terracotta building designed by Doll in 1898, now on the statutory list of historic buildings, are spending £1 million on restoration, rather than just demolishing and rebuilding.”

The Russell Hotel (now called The Principal London) is still on Russell Square but when I visited the Square the majority of the building was covered in scaffolding and plastic sheeting so very little of the building was visible.

Having found the location of the Librairie Internationale I took a walk around Russell Square in the gradually fading light of a sunny December afternoon.

The Square, and Bloomsbury in general, needs a far more detailed description of this fascinating area, however here is an introduction.

Russell Square is the large square in the upper section of the map below, and Bloomsbury Square is in the lower right. Originally Bedford House looked onto Bloomsbury Square and the house and gardens covered the area now occupied by the land in between Russell and Bloomsbury Square and part of Russell Square.


Bedford House was the London home of the Dukes of Bedford and in 1800, the 5th Duke, Sir Francis Russell ordered the demolition of Bedord House and arranged for the land of northern Bloomsbury to be developed with the architect James Burton responsible for much of the design. Russell Square was the centre piece of this development and the garden was designed by the landscape gardener Humphrey Repton.

Repton published Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening in 1803 which covered both his ideas on landscape gardening, but also how landscape and architecture should be seamlessly integrated. The book is fascinating and shows the level of detail that went into designing gardens in the 8th and 19th Centuries. The following illustration from the book shows how spectators at different points in a landscape would see a different view:


John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows Bedford House and gardens north of Bloomsbury Square. The exact location of Russell Square can be identified by comparing with the location of Bloomsbury Square and, on the right, Queen’s Square.


The following print (©Trustees of the British Museum) was published in 1822 (from an original drawing purchased at the sale in Bedford House) and shows Bedford House. the text reads:

“This Mansion which for more than a Century was the Town residence of the noble Family of Russel Earls and Dukes of BEDFORD: was built under the direction of the celebrated  Architect Inigo Jones on the site of an ancient Mansion called Southampton House belonging in 1667 to Lady Rachel Vaughan, who married Wm. Lord Russell and by this Union conveyed the Estate, including the ground on which Montague House, now the British Museum was built to the Russell Family. In the year 1800 Bedford House was taken down, and upon the site of the Mansion House and Gardens a number of large Houses called Bedford Place and Montague Street were erected by Francis the late Duke of Bedford.”


Walking up Bedford Place from Bloomsbury Square (which takes you through where the house and gardens once stood) you arrive at Russell Square with the statue of Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford, standing at the edge of the gardens looking down to where his house once stood.

Russell Square

The following print (©Trustees of the British Museum) from 1830 shows the statue of the Duke of Bedford in Russell Square with a group of people gathered to watch a puppet show on the road in front of the statue.


The gardens were restored in 2002 to Repton’s original design.

Russell Square

Russell Square House on the northern side of the square.Russell Square

This building is on the site of a terrace of houses in one of which lived Sir George Williams, founder for the YMCA which is now recorded by a blue plaque on the front of the building.

Russell Square

Terrace of buildings on the northwest corner of Russell Square. I like the symmetry of the terrace above the ground floor (with the exception of one window on the roof). Not sure why this symmetry did not extend to the ground floor.

Russell Square

On the far right of the above terrace there is the plaque shown in the photo below commemorating Sir Samuel Romilly as a one time resident. Romilly had a distinguished career in the legal profession and was also the MP for Queensborough, but was mainly known for his reforming work by abolishing many of the penalties which were still considered a capital offence.

Russell Square

On the north-western side of the square is a run of relatively modern buildings in a neo-Georgian style.  These are on the site of a terrace of Georgian buildings built soon after 1800 and designed by James Burton. The new buildings were built in this style after so much of Georgian Bloomsbury had been destroyed by the University of London.

Russell Square

The Senate House building of London University seen between a gap in the buildings along the western edge of Russell Square.

Russell Square

Original Georgian Terrace on the south-west corner of Russell Square:

Russell Square

Terrace on the south-west corner adjacent to the junction with Montague Street:

Russell Square

At the corner of Bedford Place with Russell Square is this relatively modern building.

Russell Square

Above the entrance to this building is a plaque which was on the original house on the site from the time of the development of Russell Square, recording that Lord Denman, the Lord Chief Justice of England lived in the original house on the site between 1816 and 1834. The plaque on the left records that the original house had stood on the site from 1800 to 1962.

Russell Square

By the time I had walked around the square, the sun was getting very low and casting the whole of the square into a late winters afternoon shadow, however the sun was now picking out details at roof level which included a number of superb chimney pots including the ones in the following photo.

Russell Square

I am pleased I have found the location of the Librairie Internationale, although I am still unsure of the history of the shop and I have been unable to find any reference to when it opened or closed.  Any information on the Librairie Internationale would be really appreciated.

It was fascinating researching Russell Square as it illustrates the problem I have with writing a weekly post. One photo opened up anarchist organisations in London, the development of Bloomsbury and landscape gardening, a rather interesting mix in just one of London’s many squares.

Wapping High Street And Wapping Wall

For New Year’s Day, can I suggest a walk along Wapping High Street and Wapping Wall to explore a fascinating area of London where many features can still be found that date back to the time when these streets were lined with working warehouses, wharves, pubs and all the associated life that went with the proximity of Wapping to the River Thames.

Starting off from St. Katherine Docks and walking the length of Wapping High Street before turning onto Wapping Wall, there are still many of the original stairs down to the river, warehouse buildings and pubs.

The streets are now much quieter and the only goods being pushed along the streets today are likely to be Ocado deliveries to the expensive apartments that now line the river, rather than goods being transferred to and from the ships that once lined the river and headed inland to the London Docks.

Starting in St. Katherine’s Way and the first steps to the river are Alderman Stairs. As is common with the river stairs in Wapping, a narrow alley leading to a set of steps down to the river. High warehouse buildings on either side. Water, mud and growths of algae on the steps make them rather dangerous to climb down to the foreshore.


Reading newspapers from the last couple of centuries and there are frequent reports of drownings happening from the stairs that line the river. A report from the 28th August 1933 reads:

“On Saturday evening a five year old Italian boy – Denno Mendessi, of Wapping – was playing on Alderman Stairs, Wapping when he fell into the Thames, and was drowned.”

Two lines in a newspaper column that report one of many such tragedies.

All over Wapping there are the remains of the original buildings and docks that once covered the area from the River Thames to The Highway (the A1203 running from East Smithfield to Limehouse). I have an ongoing project to find and photograph all these remnants.

Here is an original entrance to the western most basin that led in from the river to the London Docks.


On walking into Wapping High Street, on the right are the Hermitage Memorial Gardens, built in memorial of the East London civilians who lost their lives during the bombing of this area during the last war.

In the photo below we are looking across the gardens to the entrance to St. Saviour’s Dock on the south side of the river.


Wapping has always been associated with the Thames, along with the trades and people who worked on the river, in the warehouses, the sailors who would arrive in Wapping up one of the many steps leading to the river in search of a diversion whilst their ship was being unloaded and loaded.

Wapping was portrayed in a number of different prints and pamphlets that all tended to dwell on the seedier side of Wapping. Typical is the following from 1818 (©Trustees of the British Museum).

The British Museum description to this print reads:

“A jovial sailor bestrides a mis-shapen horse with panniers, a foot in each basket. In each basket sits a bedizened prostitute, each holding one of his arms. He grins amorously towards the one on his right who is immensely fat, with a patched face and coarse features. She wears long gloves, holds up a parasol, and a reticule dangles from her arm. The other, who is less repulsive, drinks from a bottle; from her pannier dangles a jar of ‘British Spirits’. Both wear feathered hats and low-cut dresses with very short sleeves, necklaces, and ear-rings. They are in a wide cobbled street leading to the Thames, which resembles the sea; behind a corner shop (left), inscribed ‘Dealer in Maritime Stores’, appears the stern of a ship flying an ensign”


The section of Wapping High Street up to the junction with Sampson Street is mainly new developments. Looking west along Wapping High Street, and rather than the original warehouses, new blocks of flats line the space between river and road.


Walking on, and here the road crosses over the entrance to the Wapping Basin and the London Docks. Now long filled in, the entrance is still very clear when looking left and right as you walk along this part of the road.wapping-high-street-5

This Aerofilms photo from 1922 shows the entrance when these docks were still in operation. The narrow channel leading from the Thames to Wapping Basin is shown on the left of the photo with Wapping High Street crossing the entrance at the half way point.


Stopping on Wapping High Street and looking inland towards where Wapping Basin was once located provides this view. The channel is still clearly visible with the original walls still on either side.


I have written more about this small immediate area in a post on the Gun Tavern, which can be found here.

We now come to the Town of Ramsgate pub, possibly the site of a pub dating back to the 15th Century. Known from 1533 as The Red Cow, then the Ramsgate Old Town and finally from 1811 as the Town of Ramsgate.


The Town of Ramsgate was allegedly where the notorious Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys was captured whilst trying to escape by boat. Jeffreys had been the judge during the trials of those who participated in the Monmouth Rebellion in the west country. The Monmouth Rebellion was an attempt to overthrow the Catholic James II who had become king after the death of his brother Charles II. The rebellion was led by James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth who was an illegitimate son of Charles II.

During 1685 Judge Jeffreys presided over the Autumn Assizes in Winchester, Dorchester, Taunton and Wells. Hundreds of people were tried for various offences as part of the rebellion and the majority were sentenced to death, although many of the sentences were later changed to transportation. It is estimated that as many as 250 people were still hanged, including an elderly woman Alice Lyle whose only offence was in helping two of the rebels, she did not participate in the rebellion.

James II was in turn overthrown by William of Orange during the Glorious Revelation of 1688 and it was this event which caused Judge Jeffreys to attempt to escape the country, having lost the king he did so much to support.

In Old and New London, Walter Thornbury describes the capture of Judge Jeffreys in Wapping using a description from Macaulay:

“A scrivener who lived at Wapping, and whose trade was to furnish the sea faring men there with money at high interest, had some time before lent a sum on bottomry. The debtor applied to equity for relief against his own bond and the case came up before Jeffreys. The counsel, for the borrower, having little else to say, said that the lender was a trimmer. the chancellor instantly fired. ‘A trimmer! where is he? Let me see him. I have heard of that kind of monster. What is he made like?’ The unfortunate creditor was forced to stand forth. The chancellor glared fiercely on him, stormed at him, and sent him away half dead with fright. ‘While I live’ the poor man said as he tottered out of court, ‘I shall never forget that terrible countenance.’

And now the day of retribution had arrived. The ‘trimmer’ was walking through Wapping when he saw a well known face looking out the window of an ale-house. He could not be deceived. The eyebrows, indeed had been shaved away. The dress was that of a common sailor from Newcastle and was black with coal-dust; but there was no mistaking the savage eye and mouth of Jeffreys. the alarm was given. In a moment the house was surrounded by hundreds of people, shaking bludgeons and bellowing curses. The fugitive’s life was saved by a company of the Trainbands; and he was carried before the Lord Mayor.

The mayor was a simple man, who had passed his whole life in obscurity, and was bewildered by finding himself an important actor in a mighty revolution. The events of the last twenty-four hours and the perilous state of the city which was under his charge, had disordered his mind and body. When the great man, at whose frown, a few days before, the whole kingdom had trembled, was dragged into the justice room begrimed with ashes, half dead with fright, and followed by a raging multitude, the agitation of the unfortunate mayor rose to the height. He fell into fits, and was carried to his bed, whence he never rose. Meanwhile, the throng without was constantly becoming more numerous and more savage. Jeffreys begged to be sent to prison. An order to that effect was procured from the Lords who were sitting at Whitehall; and he was conveyed in a carriage to the Tower.

Two regiments of militia were drawn out to escort him, and found the duty a difficult one. It was repeatedly necessary for them to form, as if for the purpose of repelling a charge of cavalry, and to present a forest of pikes to the mob. The thousands who were disappointed of the revenge pursued the coach, with howls of rage to the gate of the Tower, brandishing cudgels, and holding up halters full in the prisoners view. The wretched man meantime was in convulsions of terror. He wrung his hands, he looked wildly out, sometimes at one window, sometimes at the other, and was heard, even above the tumult crying, ‘Keep them off, gentlemen ! For God’s sake, keep them off !’. At length having suffered far more than the bitterness of death, he was safely lodged in the fortress, where some of his most illustrious victims had passed their last days, and where his own life was destined to close in unspeakable ignominy and terror.”

Judge Jeffreys died of kidney disease while being held in the Tower in April 1689. He was originally buried in the Tower but in 1692 his body was moved to the City church of St. Mary Aldermanbury. The church was badly damaged during the Blitz when Jeffreys tomb was also destroyed. The remains of the church were shipped to the US and the site of the church is now a garden. See my post on St Mary Aldermanbury which can be found here.

The following print (©Trustees of the British Museum) from the time illustrates the arrest of Lord Chancellor Jeffreys.


At the side of the Town of Ramsgate is an alley leading to Wapping Old Stairs.


The view from the top of the stairs. Fortunately my visit coincided with a low tide so I could make my way down to the river, although this was somewhat precarious as the steps were covered in a thin layer of very slippery mud and water.


The view from the foreshore looking back up at Wapping Old Stairs.


Wapping Old Stairs were one of the many stairs providing access to the river to reach the ships that would be moored, to get transport along the river or to load / unload cargo and passengers. The print below (©Trustees of the British Museum) from 1807 and titled “Miseries of London” shows a potential passenger at Wapping old Stairs being accosted by a group of watermen after his custom. The badge on their arms identifies them as Thames Watermen. They are calling out “Oars, Sculls, Sculls, Oars, Oars.”


The foreshore at Wapping Old Stairs, looking towards Tower Bridge. The large white stones are lumps of chalk. These can be found all along the foreshore in central London as chalk was used to provide a flat layer on which barges could settle. Chalk would be pressed into the foreshore to provide a flat and relatively smooth bed. The remains of some of these are still visible, however for most, the chalk has now washed away and can now be found as individual lumps of chalk, washed smooth by the tides, along the foreshore.


In the above photo, the break in the river wall can just be seen which once led into Wapping Basin and the London Docks. There is also a smaller entrance in the river wall. Within this was a long out of use, rusted and silted up outflow from somewhere inland, into the river.


Back in Wapping High Street and these buildings were once the Aberdeen Wharf. The entrance to the right leads to Wapping New Stairs.


At the top of Wapping New Stairs.


View from the top of Wapping New Stairs looking east towards the pier belonging to the river police.


The building of the Marine Policing Unit, the original Thames River Police.


Theft from boats moored along the river was a very serious problem, a small boat could moor alongside and cargo stolen whilst the crew were onshore or asleep. This was such a problem in the 18th Century that in 1798 the Thames River Police was set-up specifically to police the river.

Much of the theft that occurred was petty pilfering of part of a consignment of goods in transit between ship, warehouse and onward distribution. A typical case reported in the Evening Mail of the 27th April 1842 records that a prisoner was found with a number of small bottles of brandy and one of Champagne in his house. Whilst it was not possible to prove where this had come from it was reported that there were 2,000 to 3,000 casks of brandy and wine on the quays, from which, in the darkness of the night, any quantity could be abstracted. Two or three casks had brandy missing in the warehouse in which the prisoner worked, but again it was not possible to prove that the brandy was the same as in the bottles found in the prisoners house. Due to the lack of evidence, the judge could not send the accused to the Old Bailey, however the judge did impose the maximum penalty he could which was two months imprisonment with hard labour.

I suspect that although there was a lack of evidence, the judge wanted to impose the maximum penalty in his power mainly as a deterrent to others who might think about taking a small quantity of the goods that were found in every warehouse and wharf along Wapping.

Print showing the original Thames Police building on the right.


Looking east past the Captain Kidd pub, not an old pub as it dates from the 1980s. The tall warehouses that line the river casting Wapping High Street into a deep shadow on a sunny day.


The only area along here that has not been redeveloped in some way.


Walk off Wapping High Street, a short distance down the narrow Bridewell Place and this pillar is still in place that would have been part of the original entrance and wall around the warehouse that once stood here.


Phoenix Wharf. There were plans dating from 2013 to redevelop Phoenix Wharf, into eight private flats along with building on the empty land opposite as shown in the photos above. I am not sure of the latest status of these plans, but over three years later and work does not appear to have started.


The entrance to King Henry’s Stairs in the photo below. These stairs now seem to be private property and there has been a pier here from many years. There is a report in the East London Observer from the 14th July 1860 that states:

“Thames Conservancy – New Pier at Wapping. By order of the Conservators of the River Thames a new landing pier has been placed at King Henry Stairs, Wapping. This landing station is near to the Thames Tunnel, and fixed in lieu of the old Tunnel Pier, which has been removed altogether. The new pier is of elegant design, and when completed will no doubt contrast very favourably with the old pier, which for years has been declared unfit for its purpose. At the opening of the new pier several of the Conservators were present, but not any public demonstration was made.”


The photo below shows Phoenix Wharf and the building to the left of the photo is King Henry’s Wharf which was also included in the development plans mentioned above, with 27 private flats planned for King Henry’s Wharf. The plans included using the original large loading doors for a main entrance and boarding up the remaining entrances.


Original door and signage on King Henry’s Wharf. i wonder how long this will still be there?


Further along, we then come to Wapping Station, which although part of the Overground network, at this point is below ground, as this station is at the northern end of Brunel’s original Thames Tunnel which now carries this section of the Overground below the Thames. See my post here on walking through the Thames Tunnel from Rotherhithe to Wapping.


At the end of Wapping High Street is New Crane Wharf, all converted into apartments.


Adjacent to New Crane Wharf are New Crane Stairs shown in the photo below. There were many accidents at night at these stairs resulting in drowning which was put down to the lack of lighting.

There is a letter in the East London Observer dated the 1st March 1873 from a Mr Saxby Munns who has been trying to get additional lighting installed at New Crane Stairs for a number of years. Saxby Munns writes:

“Having applied to the Board for sufficient light to prevent accidents, and that, after five years, not having been provided, I felt the right method would be to bring it publicly before their notice. There is a lamp which has been removed from one side to the other of the street frontage of the landing, and utterly useless as regards the stairs and landing. Of whom could the surveyor have complained that he should have been unable to hear of people being drowned at these particular stairs. Did he ask the water police, or the watermen at the stairs? or did he inquire of the coroner’s officer and the sergeant of police? who on occasion of the last person drowned had to grope their way early in the morning, by aid of the sergeant’s bull-eye – although conducted by myself through the arched-over passage. This was the second body I picked up within two months, and both by evidence drowned from New Crane Stairs, and not ‘turned up’ by any particular eddy.

The surveyor thanked Mr Hopson for bringing the subject to his notice. I also thank him, and am certain that if these two gentlemen will take the trouble, on any dark night, to approach the stairs, either by river or road, their recommendation to the Board will have the desired effect of causing a necessary precaution to be taken, viz., a light on the river frontage, like that at Horslydown, and adopted at many other stairs of a similar dangerous character, and thus largely decrease the number of fatal accidents that occur at New Crane Stairs.”

Even on a bright sunny day it is easy to see how dangerous these stairs could have been in the dark.


Wapping High Street now turns inland for a short distance before becoming Garnet Street with Wapping Wall turning off to the right. Here we find the old Three Suns pub. Still serving alcohol, but now a wine bar and shop.


The pub was built in 1880 and closed in 1986. The building still retains some fantastic decoration from the time when the building was the Three Suns pub.




We now turn into Wapping Wall and a familiar wall of warehouses line the street, adjacent to the river.


Wapping Wall takes its name from the original defensive wall built to prevent the river from spilling over onto the marshland that once covered most of this area of Wapping. Drainage of the marshland and construction of defensive walls had begun around 1327. Breaches of the wall continued to be a problem until the late 16th Century when the construction of wharves started between the river and the wall which had the impact of strengthening the defenses.

Wapping Wall follows the eastern part of this original defensive wall.

Wapping Wall is today a row of warehouses converted into flats until we reach the Prospect of Whitby pub, which I covered a few weeks ago in my post on  the Prospect of Whitby and Shadwell Basin which you can find here.


Pelican Stairs running alongside the pub…..


…..down to the river:


From here, the walk can continue on towards the Isle of Dogs, but for now it is a good opportunity to enjoy the view of the river from the Prospect of Whitby and perhaps reflect on the long history of this fascinating area which retains so much despite the onslaught of development.