Author Archives: admin

Curzon Square, Curzon Place And Seamore Place

For this week’s post I am on the edge of Park Lane, in Pitt’s Head Mews between Green Park and Hyde Park, at the bottom of the steps leading up to Curzon Square, or what in 1951 was called Curzon Place:

Curzon Square

Despite redevelopment of the buildings on either side of the steps, they are still there, although now with a slight curve in the steps as they lead up to Curzon Square, and with new stone steps, replacing the originals which had probably seen over a century of use:

Curzon Square

Pitt’s Head Mews was once full of stables, however today the part of the street that runs up to Park Lane has been completely redeveloped. On the left is the London Hilton Hotel which was built in 1963 on an extensive area between Pitt’s Head Mews and Hertford Street that was destroyed during the blitz.

The stairs are not that visible, tucked away between the two buildings on the right in this view standing in Pitt’s Head Mews looking up to Park Lane

Curzon Square

Today, the steps lead up to Curzon Square, however as can be seen in the sign on the left of the 1951 photo, the area at the top of the steps was then called Curzon Place. This is not the only name change.

The following drawing from the book London – Alleys, Byways and Courts by Alan Stapleton, published in 1924 includes this drawing of the steps, looking much as they did when my father took the 1951 photo, however note the caption to the drawing and the sign in the drawing to the top left of the steps – when this was drawn in the 1920s, the area at the top of the steps was called Seamore Place:

Curzon Square

Curzon Street originally ran straight into Park Lane. The following map extract from 1832 shows Curzon Street along the middle of the map. Curzon Place is the small area of open space just above the letter ‘M’ in Mews.

Curzon Square

By 1895 the area had been redeveloped and Curzon Street was now blocked off from Park Lane. At the end of the street, it turned left into Seamore Place. You can just see the steps leading into Pitt’s Head Mews at the lower right corner of Seamore Place in the following map. At the time this was the shortest route into Curzon Street from the south.

Curzon Square

The buildings at the end of Curzon Street were demolished in 1937 which returned the direct access to Park Lane that Curzon Street had in the 1832 map. Seamore Place appears to have been renamed Curzon Place around the 1937 changes.

At the top of the steps, we are greeted with this view of Curzon Square:

Curzon Square

There does not appear to be much written about Curzon Square / Seamore Place, however whilst reading the book by Alan Stapleton which included the drawing shown above, I did find the following:

“Seamore Place consists of old-fashioned mansions, but No. 8 was the home of the ‘gorgeous’ Lady Blessington, with whom live here, her daughter and son-in-law, Count d’Orsay. Here nightly, met all the fashion, celebrities of all nations, and travellers from all countries.

Haydon said, ‘Everyone goes to Lady Blessington’s. She has the first news of everything and everybody seems delighted to tell her. She is the centre of more talent and gaiety than any other woman of fashion in London.

She began to edit her ‘Book of Beauty’ here. Willis described her as ‘a woman of remarkable beauty’ and ‘one of the most lovely and fascinating women he had ever seen.”

The Wallace Collection includes the following painting of Lady Blessington, by Thomas Lawrence in 1822 – an early 19th century celebrity:

Curzon Square

Edward Walford writing in Old and New London also includes the following description of Seamore Place;

“Seamore Place is the name of a row of handsome but old fashioned mansions, which occupy a sort of cul de sac at the western end of Curzon Street. They are only nine in number, and their chief fronts look westward over Hyde Park. in one of them, Lady Blessington with her daughter and her son-in-law Count D’Orsay, resided during a part of her widowhood, from about 1836 to 1840, surrounded by all the fashionable butterflies of the world whose admiration she so much courted.”

The last time that Curzon Square became well known was in the 1970s. The building shown below is part of 9 Curzon Place. It may look to be a Georgian building of blackened London brick, however the interior of the house was completely gutted just after the last war. The building was converted into 12 apartments and major changes were made including putting a lift shaft up through the central staircase.

Curzon Square

The American singer Harry Nilsson owned one of the flats on the top floor, and it was in this flat that firstly Mama Cass Elliot of the band the Mamas and Papas died in 1974 of a heart attack.

This was followed in 1978 by the death in the same flat of Keith Moon, the drummer with The Who, who died of an overdose of Heminevrin which he was taking to help with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

9 Curzon Place was part of a redevelopment of Curzon Square that ended in 2002 and saw the square pedestrianised, along with an underground car park. I believe it was at the time of this redevelopment that the name changed from Curzon Place to Curzon Square.

The entrance to 9 Curzon Square:

Curzon Square

The view from Curzon Street looking past 9 Curzon Square. At the far end the steps down to Pitt;s Head Mews can be seen:

Curzon Square

Curzon Square today appears to be much quieter than when Keith Moon and Lady Blessington called this part of London home.

I am pleased though, that despite development of the square, the steps – although of recent materials – are still in the same place as when my father photographed them, and Curzon Square is another location I can tick off in the search for all his London photos.

alondoninheritance.com

Hardinge Street, Johnson Street And Ratcliffe Gas Works

For this week’s post, it was a short walk after leaving last week’s location at Westferry Road, to find what remains of a street my father photographed in 1949. When sorting through his photos this was one location I was doubtful I would find. I did not recognise the scene and there were no clues to place the photo, apart from being taken from within what looks like a railway arch. I published the photo in one of my mystery location posts in 2015 and was really pleased when it was identified as Hardinge Street, just off Cable Street, a third of a mile east of Shadwell Station.

Hardinge Street

And this is the view from the same location today:

Hardinge Street

Hard to believe that this is the same place, however there are a number of clues. In addition to the obvious railway arch, in both photos the left hand section of the arch is fenced off, it was probably some form of workshop or storage area in 1949. There is access from the street to the fenced off area in both photos, and just past this there is another street leading off to the left.

There are also the sort of small details I love finding. On the pavement and kerb edge of the street, just before the street on the left there is a manhole cover on the pavement and a drain cover next to the kerb in the street. These are in the same locations in both photos – when the street above changes, often the utilities below the streets follow the same routes for decades.

Hardinge Street is one of the many streets that ran between Cable Street and Commercial Road. The following extract from the 1895 OS map shows Cable Street along the bottom, Commercial Road along the top and in the centre of the map, Hardinge Street running between the two.

Hardinge Street

The railway, built in the late 1830s that runs into Fenchurch Street can be seen cutting Hardinge Street in two.

The streets are densely packed with houses, as can be seen in my father’s photo. The street on the left is named as Poonah Street in the map. The streets running off to the right can be seen in both map and photo.

Perhaps surprising is that the street looks intact after the heavy bombing east London suffered during the war. I checked the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps and the houses in my father’s photo are coloured yellow – “Blast damage, minor in nature”. the only exception is on the right side of the photo, the building on the corner of the street leading off to the right, there appears to damage and scaffolding. This building is coloured orange for “General blast damage, not structural”. A bomb must have fallen in the street leading off to the right as in the map there is a row of houses on both sides of the street coloured purple for “Damaged beyond repair” and black for “Total destruction”. It is the blast from this bomb that must have caused the blast damage to Hardinge Street.

The fate of Hardinge Street is very different either side of the railway.  To the north, the view in my father’s photo, all the buildings, Hardinge Street and most of the side streets have all been demolished and replaced with the Bishop Challoner School. The map extract of the area today shows roughly the same area as the 1895 map and highlights how significantly the area has changed.

Hardinge Street

It is fascinating to trace the history of the area. Hardinge is an unusual name. I could not find any reference to why the street was given this name, however Poonah Street gave me a clue.

Poona was the name given by the British to the Indian city of Pune during the 19th century – I suspect the ‘h’ at the end was added as the pronunciation of the word probably ended with ..ah.

Following the Indian connection, Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge was Governor General of India between 1844 and 1848, so I suspect that when the street was redeveloped at some point between the 1850s and the 1895 OS map, it took the name of a Governor General of India.

Why do I say redeveloped? This is an extract from an 1844 map of the same area.

Hardinge Street

The name Cable Street had not extended for the full length of the street covered today – in 1844 this section was called New Road. What would become Hardinge Street is again in the centre of the map, but in 1844 was called Vinegar Lane. The railway is in the same position and comparing the map with later maps, Devonport Street on the right is the only street that has survived with the same name from 1844 to 2017. John Street on the left is now Johnson Street and next left, Lucas Street is now Lukin Street (and today follows a different route south of the railway).

To the left of Vinegar Street can be seen the Ratcliffe Gas Works along with the round symbols of gas holders. By 1895, the gas works had been demolished, Vinegar Street became Hardinge Street and the area was full of densely packed housing, corner shops and pubs.

Time for a walk around the area. The following photo is looking south, through the arches to the southern end of Hardinge Street. The location of my father’s photo and my later photo is just inside the arch to the right, up against the metal fencing.

Hardinge Street

This is looking at the corner of Poonah Street and Hardinge Street. In the 1949 photo this was the location of the corner shop.

Hardinge Street

A footpath can be seen to the right of the above photo. Although Hardinge Street as a road has now been cut off from Commercial Road, a footpath runs along the side of the school up to Steel’s Lane (another survivor from the 1895 map) and then to Commercial Road. The footpath is called Hardinge Lane, retaining the name, but Lane reflecting the loss of the through street.

Walking back under the rail bridge, south towards Cable Street, on the western side of Hardinge Street are Coburg Dwellings. The building dates from 1904 and was constructed by the Mercers Company. The name comes from the region of Germany where Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert was born.

Hardinge Street

In the above photo, there are a number of white plaques between the first and second floors of Coburg Dwellings. These are Mercers’ maiden property marks to show that the land and buildings belonged to the Mercers Company. A Mercers’ maiden in close up:

Hardinge Street

The Mercers Company is one of the oldest of the City’s Companies. The earliest mention of the Mercers is the appointment of the fraternity in 1190 as patrons of the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, On the 13th January 1394 the “men of the Mistery of Mercery of the City of London” were incorporated by royal charter.

The Virgin is part of the Armorial Bearing of the Mercers Company and was used for the Maiden property marks on Mercers’ buildings. Many of these can still be found across London.

The Armorial Bearings of the Mercers Company:

Hardinge Street

One of the entrances to Coburg Dwellings:

Hardinge Street

Another Maiden mark is on the building to the left of Coburg Dwellings, built as a Convent for the Sisters of Mercy:

Hardinge Street

Looking up towards the railway arches. As I explored the area there were frequent DLR and mainline trains passing over Hardinge Street:

Hardinge Street

On the corner of Hardinge Street and Cable Street is the building that was once the Ship pub:

Hardinge Street

The pub closed in 2003 and has since been converted into flats with an additional floor added to the top of the building. Fortunately a boundary marker from 1823 (which probably dates the construction of the pub) remains on the Hardinge Street side of the pub, between the ground and first floors:

Hardinge Street

Newspapers during the 19th and early 20th century included the usual adverts for staff at the Ship and also using the pub as a contact address for sales, however in 1893 there is a report which would have made the landlord very unpopular with the residents of Hardinge and Cable Streets:

“At the Thames Police court, London, on Wednesday, William Williams of the ‘Ship’ public-house, Cable-street, St. George’s was summoned at the instance of the Excise Commissioners, for diluting beer. and for not entertaining his permits in the spirit stock-books, and for not cancelling said permits, whereby he had rendered himself liable to penalties amounting to £200. The defendant pleaded guilty. Mr Mead fined him £35 for the dilution and £5 each for the other two summonses.”

His fines seem light compared to what the maximum penalty could have been, however I can imagine the reception he received back at the pub after having been convicted of diluting the beer.

The church seen next to the pub is St. Mary, Cable Street. A relatively recent church having been consecrated on the 22 May 1850 to serve the growing population as the district developed.

After the church, I turned into Johnson Street. This street runs back up to Poonah Street to take me back to the location of the original photo. This is the view looking down Johnson Street:

Hardinge Street

The 1844 map had the location of the Ratcliffe Gas Works on the right of Johnson Street, filling in the area between Johnson Street and Hardinge Street, although there does look as if there was a narrow line of buildings along Hardinge Street.

When the use of gas for lighting and power started, the small scale of production and lack of large distribution systems meant that gas works would be built to serve a local area, very much within the centre of the area they were serving, even if that meant building a gas works in the middle of housing, or either side of a railway viaduct.

Gas works were dirty and dangerous places and would also produce fumes and smells that would blanket the local area. The following extract from the Essex Standard on the 31st October 1834 reports on an explosion at the Ratcliffe Gas Works:

EXPLOSION OF THE RATCLIFFE GAS-WORKS. On Tuesday morning, about five o’clock, a terrific explosion was heard to proceed from the Ratfcliffe Gas Works, which caused the greatest consternation and alarm in the neighbourhood. The inhabitants rose from their beds in all directions, and on proceeding to the spot, it was discovered that one of the large gasometers had burst at the back of the factory, adjoining Johnson Street and had carried away the outside case or vat in which the gasometer was placed, besides forcing down a brick wall, several feet in thickness, the materials of which were thrown in every direction. 

It appears that the gasometer contained at the time of the accident not less than 16,000 feet of gas, and owing to the chive hoop, which binds the bottom of the tank giving way, the pressure became so great on the other parts of the gasometer, that it gave way, and sank with a tremendous crash on one side, forcing the gas out at the top, and splitting the massive timbers which composed the case, and the large upright beams which supported the whole fabric. Heavy pieces of timber were reduced to splinters and others forced to a considerable distance. A ponderous wheel, by which the gasometer was suspended, was hurled into the yard, a distance of 50 feet, and fell by the side of a man employed on the premises, who narrowly escaped destruction. 

A stable by the side of the gasometer was blown in and reduced to ruins, the corn-bin, rack and everything were displaced, but singularly enough a horse within escaped unhurt.

After the explosion the place presented one mass of ruins – bricks, iron and wood lying about Johnson-street and the factory-yard in every direction. The damage is estimated at upwards of £20,000, but it is gratifying to add that no lives were lost, nor was any person injured; but if the explosion had taken place a few hours later, there is no doubt that a great many would have been killed, as Johnson Street is a very populous and much frequented thoroughfare, and several labourers were generally kept employed about the tank which burst.

Another gasometer only five feet from the other remained uninjured, which is accounted for by the great strength of the outer casing, which is formed of wrought iron, braced by large girders. A gas light in a lamp close to the tank was blown out; a circumstance which prevented the contents of the gasometer from being ignited, and probably saved property to a large amount from destruction.”

There are many other reports in the papers during the 19th century of the terrible fumes and smells that would come from the gas works, and of injuries to workers including the death of a worker during the construction of a new gasometer.

These were not good places to have in built up areas and the proximity to a busy rail viaduct cannot have helped. As can be seen in the 1895 OS map, the gasworks had been closed as part of the redevelopment of the area.

At the top of Johnson Street is this row of houses that have survived from the 19th century redevelopment of the area:

Hardinge Street

Again with a Mercers’ Maiden to show ownership. I assume that the Mercers owned the block of land that formed a rectangle between Hardinge Street, Cable Street, Johnson Street.

Hardinge Street

At the top of Johnson Street at the corner with Poonah Street:

Hardinge Street

The photo below is looking along Poonah Street towards the junction with Hardinge Street. In the above and below photos, the metal fencing that formed a boundary in the Hardinge Street arch can also be seen running along Poonah Street and to the arch in Johnson Street.

The Mercers Company owned the land before the railway was built and I suspect that the fencing shows the boundaries of the Mercers land as it is aligned with the buildings in Johnson and Hardinge Streets. This would explain why part of the area under the arch in Hardinge Street is fenced off – a reminder of land ownership from long before the railway was built, and that continues to this day.

Hardinge Street

To finish of this week’s post, here are a couple of extracts from my original high-resolution scan of the negative. I find the detail in these photos fascinating and as a reminder that it is not just the buildings that have long since disappeared, but also the people who made this area their home.

The following extract shows the left side of Hardinge Street. A woman with a shopping bag has possibly just been shopping in the shop on the corner of Poonah Street and Hardinge Street.

There is a large pram parked outside the terrace of houses and further along what could be two women, a small child between them and a pushchair.

Hardinge Street

And on the right of Hardinge Street, there is a pub on the corner, people walking along the pavement and what looks to be a couple of children underneath the scaffolding on the corner of the house.

Hardinge Street

Hardinge Street along with Emmett Street and Westferry Road in last week’s post have changed dramatically over the past seventy years. The people in the original photos, outside the newsagent in Westferry Road and those in Hardinge Street could probably never have imagined how much their streets would change.

I wonder what the next seventy years will bring?

alondoninheritance.com 

The Westferry Road, Emmett Street Newsagent

Gala Day London by Izis was published in 1953 and brings together the photography of Izis Bidermanas with the words of writers. artists and poets of the day. The aim of the book was to have:

“Twenty-two amongst the most representative of our writers, poets and artists have contributed original texts relating to the photographs. Together their work forms a unique anthology both of the creative impulse which is alive in Britain today and of how London appears to our generation.”

The book is a wonderful collection of full page black and white photographs of London and Londoners, providing a snapshot of the city in 1953.

Westferry Road

Izis Bidermanas was born in Lithuania in 1911, but moved to Paris in 1930 to pursue his interest and career in photography. Being Jewish, he had to leave Paris during the war and escaped to Ambazac in south central France, part of Vichy France. It was here that he changed his first name from Israëlis to Izis to try to disguise his origin, but he was still arrested and tortured by the Nazis. He was freed by the French Resistance, who he then joined and took a series of portraits of resistance fighters which were published after the war to great acclaim.

After the war he returned to Paris to continue his photographic career and also started publishing books which portrayed his subjects in a humanistic, affectionate and nostalgic style.

Izis published a couple of books of London photography in 1953, The Queen’s People and Gala Day London – both full of wonderful photos that capture London at a specific point in time.

So why am I featuring Gala Day London for this week’s post?

It was one of my father’s large collection of London books and I was browsing through the book a few months ago and found one of his photos between two of the pages. Written on the back of the photo was “Newsagent – Emmett Street / Westferry Road, 5th September 1986”.

The photo was inserted alongside the page that had the following Izis photo:

Westferry Road

And this is the photo I found inserted in the book, my father’s photo taken on the 5th September 1986:

Westferry Road

Remarkably the photo is of the same location. Under the white washed walls, the bricked up windows, the loss of all the signage and the bollards on the pavement the building is the same.

The Emmett Street sign appears to be the same, but has been moved lower down the wall and painted over so is not immediately obvious. The larger wall of the building behind can also be seen in both photos.

It is incredibly sad to compare the two photos. What had in 1953 been a typical East London newsagent was now derelict and waiting for demolition as part of the redevelopment of the area around Canary Wharf.

My father’s notes on the back of the photo gave me the location – Emmett Street and Westferry Road so I had to find the location today.

The map below is an extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London. I have put a red circle around the junction of Emmett Street and Westferry Road where I believe the newsagent was located.

Westferry Road

I then checked the 1895 Ordnance Survey map as this is far more detailed and at the same junction there is a building on the corner of the junction with the same angled corner of the building where the entrance was located. I knew the building was on this side of the street as in my father’s photo the pole in front of the wall is casting a shadow, so the wall is facing south.

Westferry Road

The Ordnance Survey map is on the wonderful National Library of Scotland web site and the site has the ability to overlay a modern map on the 1895 map with adjustable transparency, so with a modern overlay and transparency the map looks like this:

Westferry Road

The link to the NLS site for the map is here.

The map gave me the exact location for the newsagent – underneath Westferry Road where it runs up to Westferry Circus.

A note on Westferry Road. In the 1895 OS map, the road is named as Bridge Road. At the time Westferry Road only ran as far north as the entrance to the South Dock, from there onwards it was named Bridge Road, presumably as this part of the road crossed the entrances to the South Dock and the Limehouse Basin.

By the 1940 map, Bridge Road had been renamed West Ferry Road.

Today, it is still the same name, however in the 1895 and 1940 maps it is West Ferry, today on maps and signs the two words have been combined to Westferry Road.

A couple of weeks ago I had a day off from work and for a change the weather was brilliant so I headed out on the DLR to Canary Wharf and took the short walk to Westferry Circus.

Emmett Street today has been lost beneath all the development of recent decades. Hotels, apartment buildings and one of the entrances to the Limehouse Link Tunnel have all erased this street. Emmett Street developed during the early 19th century to provide a link from Three Colt Street to Bridge Road along the back of the buildings constructed along the river front.

Westferry Circus was partly built over the old Limehouse Basin and the Limehouse entrance from the river. It is an elevated structure built higher than the original level of the land so Westferry Road slopes upward to meet Westferry Circus.

This is the view of Westferry Road as it slopes up to Westferry Circus. I tried to accurately locate the old newsagent building by referencing its position on the National Library of Scotland map, using the buildings alongside, the black lights along the edge of the road which appear visible as black dots on the overlay map, and the position of Ontario Way.

I have marked the location of the newsagent building using red lines in the photo below:

Westferry Road

It depends how the land levels have changed with all the building work, but the top of the upper floor of the newsagent would probably have been above the current level of the road.

There are also roads running either side of the elevated approach road to Westferry Circus. This is the view from the side, again I have marked where the old newsagents was located:

Westferry Road

This is the view looking up towards Westferry Circus. The newsagent was on the elevated road, to the left of the direction sign. I doubt if the three men sitting outside the newsagent could have imagined that their view would be changing to this over the coming decades – I wonder what they would have thought?

Westferry Road

As the weather was so good, here are a couple more photos, this one looking across Westferry Circus:

Westferry Road

And this one looking from the edge of Westferry Circus along the Thames to the City. It was here that the Limehouse entrance from the river ran across the open space at the bottom of the steps to a set of locks roughly where I am standing.

Westferry Road

It was fascinating to find my father’s photo in among the pages of Gala Day London. It was one of a number he took in the 1980s around the Isle of Dogs and East London.

The layout of the book consists of an Izis photo on the right hand page and a poem or descriptive text on the left. A wide range of authors and poets contributed to the book including John Betjeman, Laurie Lee and T.S. Lewis.

Opposite the Emmett Street photo was a poem written by Clifford Dyment, a poet, literary critic, editor and journalist, who lived from 1914 to 1971. His contribution appropriately is to the wonderful variety of the corner shop:

Westferry Road

The lines “it may be sherbet suckers, dabs, straps of liquorice” perfectly describe my memories of corner shops as a boy.

I do not know why Izis singled out this newsagent out of all the newsagents and cornershops there were across London at the time, or if the photo was natural or had been set up. The majority of his work in the two London books look natural. The following from the introduction to Gala Day London provides some clues of how he selected his subjects:

“Izis Bidermanas is both a foreigner and a poet who uses a camera. When we look at his photographs we recognise that the obvious subjects have been avoided and that ‘there is a poetry of cities which has nothing to do with things that receive three stars in the guide books. Perhaps it has been specially by way of Londoners rather than by stone and stucco that he has grown to know London. His pictures are above all an evocation of daily life. He has had a capricious sitter and has not attempted to bend her to his will but has preferred to attend upon her whim. This attitude has probably been responsible for the sense of humanity which arises from the pictures.”

It is always strange to stand at places such as Westferry Circus and look down on the view today knowing what was once here – it was then time to move on and make the most of the weather as I had a few more East London locations to track down and photograph.

alondoninheritance.com

Albert Bridge And The Extra Piers

After exploring Cheyne Row for last week’s post, I walked along the Chelsea Embankment towards Battersea Bridge, to photographic the same view as my father’s photo looking along the River Thames towards Albert Bridge, with Battersea Park and Power Station in the background.

Albert Bridge

The same view today:

Albert Bridge

In the last half of the 19th century, Chelsea was growing rapidly. The Chelsea Embankment was under construction, the first Chelsea Bridge (originally called the Victoria Bridge) had been completed in 1858 and the nearby Battersea Bridge was of a rather old and fragile wooden construction.

Congestion and the rapid development of the area justified an additional river crossing and in 1860 Prince Albert proposed that an additional bridge between the two existing bridges would be justified by the volume of traffic and the revenue that would be generated by tolls for crossing the bridge. The Chelsea Bridge when opened was a toll bridge and proposals for the Albert Bridge included a toll for crossing the river.

The Albert Bridge Company was formed to build and operate the bridge and construction started in 1870. The bridge was designed by Rowland Mason Ordish using his own patented design. Although construction of the Albert Bridge was approved in 1864, the six year delay to the start of construction (due to plans and work on the Chelsea Embankment), allowed Ordish to design and build another bridge using the same principles – the Franz Joseph Bridge which spanned the River Vltava in Prague.

The following photo of the Franz Joseph Bridge shows how similar the design was to the Albert Bridge, and also probably shows how the deck was suspended – a design that would lead to structural weaknesses in the Albert Bridge resulting in the need for additional strengthening over the years.

Albert Bridge

Source: By František Fridrich (21. 5. 1829 – 23. 3. 1892) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The Albert Bridge was opened in 1873. The bridge was 710 feet long with a central span between the two towers of 384 feet. The design included toll booths at both ends of the bridge to collect the tolls for crossing the river. The cylindrical piers were the largest ever cast and were manufactured at a nearby metal works on the Battersea side of the river, then floated down to the location of the bridge, sunk in the river and filled with concrete.

Soon after construction, there were concerns about the strength of the bridge as it would frequently vibrate, a problem which was amplified when large numbers of people walked across the bridge in step – an issue when troops from the nearby Chelsea Barracks crossed the bridge.

The vibration of the bridge was the result of the synchronisation of the steps of those crossing the bridge. The same problem was seen when the Millennium Footbridge opened across the river in June 2000. When upwards of 2,000 people were on the bridge it would start to vibrate. Research has shown that when a bridge starts to vibrate, people walking across the bridge start to synchronise their step with the movement of the bridge, which in turn amplifies the vibration and movement.

Interesting that even after 130 years, the same problems can apply to a structure.

In 1884 Sir Joseph Bazalgette inspected the bridge and found that the iron rods supporting the bridge were showing signs of corrosion and a program of work was implemented to strengthen the bridge which included the installation of steel chains to support the deck along with the replacement of the timber decking.

The steel chains changed the appearance of the bridge from the original design, which probably looked very similar to the Franz Joseph bridge, to the Albert Bridge that we see today.

When I took the comparison photo, I was trying to align features on the bridge with the chimneys of Battersea Power Station to make sure I was roughly in the same position. There were a number of distractions to this.

Firstly, if you look under the Albert Bridge there are a number of piers in the river further back. These are not the piers of Chelsea Bridge, rather they are the piers of one of the temporary bridges constructed over the river during the war to provide additional capacity should one of the main bridges be badly damaged by bombing. I wrote about this bridge in a previous post, and this is my father’s photo of the temporary bridge at Battersea:

Albert Bridge

But there was another difference looking underneath the bridge – when my father took the original photo the bridge was a suspension bridge, with the central span supported across the river by the chains running from the top of each tower. In my 2017 photo there is a large pier supporting the centre of the bridge.

The central pier was the result of ongoing concerns about the strength of the Albert Bridge. After Bazalgette’s inspection in 1884, as well as the additional strengthening work, he imposed a weight limit of five tons for vehicles crossing the bridge.

There was a proposal to demolish the bridge in 1926 and replace with a new, stronger bridge, however lack of funding meant that this did not progress beyond the proposal stage. A second attempt to demolish the bridge was made by the London County Council in 1957, however a campaign led by John Betjeman saved the bridge again.

The weight limit for vehicles crossing the bridge had been further reduced to two tons in 1935, so clearly something had to be done to strengthen and preserve the bridge.

As well as replacing the decking and strengthening the bridge structure, the answer to significantly strengthen the bridge was to convert the bridge to a more traditional beam bridge by the addition of a central pier. The bridge closed in 1973 for this work to be carried out which resulted in the bridge we see today.

The two new central piers are of the same design as the original piers, however they support a metal girder that runs under, and supports the centre of the bridge:

Albert Bridge

In echoes of the Garden Bridge, there was also a proposal in 1973 to close the Albert Bridge to traffic and change the bridge into a public park and pedestrian walkway. John Betjeman also supported this proposal, along with many of the local inhabitants who probably saw the closure of the bridge to traffic as a way of reducing the ever increasing volumes of traffic along the Chelsea Embankment. Motoring groups opposed the idea and such was the need for river crossings capable of supporting vehicular traffic that the proposal was rejected and the bridge reopened to pedestrians and traffic after the strengthening work and the addition of the new central piers.

Despite this work, the weight limit has remained at two tons and to try and prevent vehicles over this weight from crossing the bridge a traffic island was introduced at the southern end of the bridge to narrow the entrance, thereby limiting the size of vehicles trying to cross.

The last strengthening work to be carried out was in 2010, and the Albert Bridge will continue to require periodic work to maintain the decking and the supporting ironwork well into the future.

The toll booths at the entrance to the bridge:

Albert Bridge

The toll booths still retain the signs warning troops to break step when marching across the bridge:

Albert Bridge

View across the bridge from the north side on a sunny autumn day:

Albert Bridge

The plaque on the bridge states the bridge was opened in 1874, however the bridge had a phased opening.

Albert Bridge

The “Shipping and Mercantile Gazette” on the 1st January 1873 reported on the initial opening of the Albert Bridge:

“THE ALBERT BRIDGE AT CHELSEA – At 1 o’clock yesterday, amid the firing of cannon and waving of flags, the Albert Bridge at Chelsea was opened to the public. There was an absence of all ceremony, as the bridge is as yet in an unfinished condition. The opening simply consisted in the admission of the public over the bridge, the engineer, contractor and other gentlemen going over in a carriage. By this event, however, the conditions of the Act of Parliament have been complied with, which required that the bridge should be opened before the close of the year. The work of completion is being rapidly proceeded with, and in a short time the formal ceremony of opening the bridge may be expected to be performed.”

There does not appear to have been a formal opening ceremony, and there are reports in the newspapers of the time of the bridge opening to traffic in September 1873.

The view looking to the east from the centre of the bridge:

Albert Bridge

And the view looking to the west:

Albert Bridge

The bridges in the above photos, Chelsea and Battersea Bridges were, as with the Albert Bridge, all originally toll bridges, however soon after the Albert Bridge had opened, it was made toll free along with many other bridges across the river. The East London Observer reported in the 31st May 1879:

“FREEING THE BRIDGES OVER THE THAMES – a great work has just been accomplished in which the East End has co-operated with the West, although its first importance is for the latter. It was but the other day that Waterloo Bridge was thrown open free of toll, and the boon granted is conspicuous by the fact that in seven months the traffic has increased 90 per cent. But last Saturday five bridges were made free of toll for ever, these being the Lambeth, Vauxhall, Chelsea, the Albert and Battersea Bridges.

Within the Metropolis there are thirteen bridges spanning the River Thames and connecting the Middlesex and Surrey shores. With a view of obtaining for the public the full advantage of these bridges as a means of free communication between the various points of the Metropolis, the Board of Works in 1877, promoted a bill in Parliament, to enable them to purchase the interests of the several companies in all the toll bridges crossing the Thames within the metropolis, including the two foot-bridges at Charing Cross and Cannon Street railway stations, and also one bridge crossing the Ravensbourne at Deptford. the bill was successfully carried through both Houses of Parliament, and passed into law in July 1877.”

The Albert and Battersea Bridges were owned by the same company and the sum of £170,000 was paid by the Metropolitan Board of Works to the company for the purchase of the bridges.

From then on, crossing the river was toll free, which must have been one of the drivers to opening up business and trade on both sides of the River Thames, as the article also states that “A free communication across the Thames is an incalculable boon to all classes of inhabitants on both sides of the river”.

Following the opening of the bridges described above, the only bridges across the Thames that still had tolls were bridges at Wandsworth, Putney and Hammersmith.

The view from the centre of the bridge – the style of decoration is the same throughout the bridge, with the round patterns repeated across both sides of the bridge span, and along the edge of the steps that lead up from the river walkway on the north bank of the river.

Albert Bridge

View from the traffic island on the southern end of the bridge looking back over towards the north:

Albert Bridge

It is perhaps a wonder that the Albert Bridge has survived so long. A bridge that once had a twin crossing a river in Prague.

A bridge that if the Chelsea Bridge had retained its original name would be one half of the Victoria and Albert Bridges.

And a bridge that may have been the original “garden bridge”.

The Albert Bridge is a unique bridge. The addition of the central pier has changed the design of the bridge to a more traditional beam bridge, however on a sunny autumn day it still appeared as London’s most beautiful bridge across the Thames.

alondoninheritance,com

 

Cheyne Row – Chelsea

Cheyne Row is an early 18th century street in Chelsea and is the location for this week’s post to track down the locations of two photos taken by my father in 1949.

The first photo is of the terrace of houses with a church at the end of the terrace where Cheyne Row meets Upper Cheyne Row.

Cheyne Row

The same view today:

Cheyne Row

The view has hardly changed, just cosmetic details such as the removal of the balcony on the house on the right, and the addition of a canopy above the door on the third house along. A single car was parked in the photo in 1949, today there is continuous parking along both sides of the street.

The church at the end of both photos has one of the longest dedications I have found – Our Most Holy Redeemer and St. Thomas More.

It was built between 1894 and 1895 on the site of the warehouse and showroom for the pottery run by William de Morgan who was in Cheyne Row between 1872 and 1881 before moving his pottery to Merton and then in 1888 to Sands End in Fulham. de Morgan was a friend of, and heavily influenced by William Morris. As well as pottery, he appears to have specialised in glazed tiles, very colourful and with intricate designs. The following picture shows a sample of his designs for decoration and ornament for pottery and tile work (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London):

Cheyne Row

In the 18th century, Chelsea was the location for a number of pottery businesses. Chelsea China was manufactured at a pottery in nearby Lawrence Street. Cheyne Row was also the location for Josiah Wedgewood’s London Decorating Studio. Pottery would be made at Wedgewood’s factory in Etruria near Stoke on Trent and brought down to London for final decoration before being sold to the affluent citizens of the city.

The main entrance to the church is on Cheyne Row and it extends back along Upper Cheyne Row. The crypt of the church was used as an air raid shelter during the 2nd World War. On the night of Saturday 14th September 1940, people were sheltering in the crypt when a high explosive bomb hit the church and exploded in the crypt. Of the 100 or so people in the crypt, 19 were killed by the explosion.

Cheyne Row

Despite the loss of life, the overall fabric of the church did not suffer major damage, unlike the nearby Chelsea Old Church which was completely destroyed in 1941 – see my post here.

The second photo that my father took from Cheyne Row was from the end of the street, looking across to this building on the corner of Upper Cheyne Row and Glebe Place.

Cheyne Row

The same building today:

Cheyne Row

The key difference being that the white paint that covered the building in 1949 has been removed exposing the original brick work which, in my view, is a considerable improvement.

The only other change being the addition of the ornate ironwork at the sides and above the entrance from the street – the rest of the railings appear to be the same.

Cheyne Row was one of the first formal, residential streets in this part of Chelsea.

The street was built in 1708 on land that had been a bowling green belonging to the Three Tuns pub that was on the stretch of road facing the river.

Originally, the land had been part of the Manor of Chelsea, associated with the nearby Manor House which had been located to the west of Cheyne Row, just north of Upper Cheyne Row. The land and Manor House was purchased by Charles Cheyne in 1657. His son William inherited the estate, however he was also Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire and preferred the country, so in 1712 William sold the Manor of Chelsea to Hans Sloane. The first part of Cheyne Row had already been built and named after the family that had owned the land for fifty-five years when the land was sold.

The following extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map shows Cheyne Row – the street in the centre of the map running up from the river with the solid black block of buildings on the right side of the street.

Cheyne Row

The map shows that the area was mainly gardens and orchards in the middle of the 18th century. The street running along the river ends at the junction with what is now Royal Hospital Road. The numerous stairs to the river, the boats on the river and the ferry landing points show that the river was probably the fastest and safest way to travel to central London from Chelsea.

To the right of Cheyne Row and towards Oakley Street (which now runs up from the Albert Bridge) was Shrewsbury House, another of the Tudor manor houses along this stretch of the river. Shrewsbury House was demolished in 1813, however the western boundary brick wall of the grounds associated with the house still forms the boundary wall at the end of some of the gardens of the houses on the eastern side of Cheyne Row. Tudor bricks from the house and boundary walls can also be found in the walls around this part of Chelsea.

Stone plaque from 1708 recording that this is Cheyne Row (although the more I look at the plaque it looks like Cheyne Ron):Cheyne RowThe house with the 1708 plaque is on the end of the original terrace of Cheyne Row houses, the other end of the terrace are the houses shown in my father’s first photo.

Cheyne Row

In the middle of this terrace is Thomas Carlyle’s house:

Cheyne Row

Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher, historian and writer, born in 1795 he moved to London with his family in 1831 before moving to Cheyne Row in 1834 where he would stay until his death in 1881. His wife, Jane, was initially concerned about the location, that being so close to the river the area would be foggy in winter, damp and unwholesome. The rent for such a large, solidly built house was low, only £35 for the first year as the area at the time had become rather unfashionable.

The house is owned by the National Trust. On the front of the house is a plaque erected by the Carlyle Society.

Cheyne Row

Thea Holme, the actress and also author of a couple of excellent books, one on the “The Carlyles At Home” and the second “Chelsea” which is a detailed history of Chelsea, lived in Thomas Carlyle’s house in the 1960s whilst her husband was working for the National Trust as the curator of the house.

The junction with Lordship Place is roughly a third of the way up Cheyne Row from the river end of the street. The buildings to the left of this junction are the first to be built and were originally houses with single digit street numbers. For example Carlyle’s house was originally number 5 but is now number 24. This change in number was due to the additional building in the street and changing the numbers in what had originally been the section furthest from the Thames (also originally called Great Cheyne Row) to a single set of street numbers starting from the junction with Cheyne Walk.

The buildings to the right of the junction with Lordship Place leading down towards the river are of three storeys but are slightly smaller than the upper section of the street.

Cheyne Row

The second terrace house in the photo above, the one with the strange dummy window on the first floor has a round plaque between the windows on the ground floor:

Cheyne Row

The plaque records that Margaret Damer Dawson lived in the house in Cheyne Row. Margaret Damer Dawson was a fascinating figure during the first couple of decades of the 20th century.

She was one of the founders in September 1914 of the Women Police Volunteers, which evolved into the Women Police Service, and which grew significantly during the First World War. As well as her interest in the police service, Margaret Damer Dawson was also a musician, a climber, motor-cyclist and a strong anti-vivisectionist.

The obituary published after her death in 1920 provides an interesting view of her achievements and of London during the First World War:

“The late Miss Margaret Mary Damer-Dawson OBE, whose death was announced last week, rendered valuable service to the young women of England by her work in connection with the Women Police Force of which she was Commandant.

The writer of a personal tribute in ‘The Times’ says her death came as a great shock to those who had known and worked with her. Woman of a naturally fastidious mind, she faced the realities of life with such courage that her work was of far more use than that of a woman of coarser fiber could have been. The most feminine of women, with a gentle voice and quiet manner, she yet went further than other uniformed women in adopting the outward symbols of male authority. She cut her hair close to her head, a fashion in which many of her inspectors followed her, and it was the rule of her force that superior officers were addressed as ‘sir’.

With the outward symbols, however the apparent masculinity disappeared. Everything that was young found in her a protector; she protected ‘khaki-mad’ young women from themselves, and she protected country-bred, ignorant young men, brought into big camps and great cities from harpies of all kinds. But especially was she the young woman’s friend. She was not of those who believed that it was only a young man who could sow his wild oats and then go straight; she believed that the young woman could pull herself together equally well, and she was entirely opposed to those who seem to think that sack-cloth and ashes and laundry work are the only possible means of redemption for a girl who has decided to give up a bad life.

Many girls who had strayed into the West End, had become known to the police, and had then tired of their life and wished to reform, found in her a useful and sincere friend. She had a gift for finding jobs for many protegees and girls who came to her, knowing her practical sympathy, rarely failed to make good. And even the failures she did not blame; for she knew that circumstances and the present state of the law were against them. One particular case moved her very strongly and she often told it as an example of how the fates played against her. A girl whom she had helped, and who had been accustomed to being in the West End at night, found ill-paid work in a factory near King’s Cross. A girl whom she knew on the streets sent her word that she was fallen ill and was penniless in lodgings near Leicester Square. the former was crossing the square to see her when a policeman who knew her, saw her and arrested her for accosting. On the policeman’s evidence the girl was imprisoned, and this nearly broke Miss Damer-Dawson’s heart. for the girl, when she came out, declined to work any more, as she refused to believe that once a women was known to the police she could never make good again.”

One of her motivations for founding the Women Police Service was her shock in discovering in 1914 that Belgian refugees from the Germans were being enticed into the sex trade by pimps and gangsters, often as they arrived as London’s train stations.

As well as support of the police service which was short of offices due to the war, the Ministry of Munitions employed members of the women’s police service to search women munition workers when they entered and left munition factories.

At the end of the First World War Damer-Dawson asked the Chief Commissioner of Police to make the Womens Service a permanent part of the police force, however he refused, apparently stating that the women were “too educated” and would “irritate” male members of the police force.

Magaret Damer-Dawson was awarded an OBE for her work with the Women Police Service during the First World War. She is pictured here, seated in uniform:

Cheyne Row

In the gardens that run alongside Cheyne Walk there is also a bird bath commemorating Damer-Dawson:

Cheyne Row

For a change, my walk around Cheyne Row was in lovely autumn weather, with sunshine highlighting to advantage the buildings that line the street. As well as the terraces of three floor houses, there are also buildings of very different styles showing that this is a street that has evolved since the first building in 1708, however despite these very different styles, they all seem work well together.

Cheyne Row

I mentioned Thea Holme earlier who lived in Carlyle’s house. In her book Chelsea, she talks about walking in Cheyne Walk and finding a foreign tourist looking lost and asking for “Chelsea”. She gradually comes to understand that by Chelsea he means the King’s Road, and then ends this story with the paragraph:

“But is there a Chelsea still which is not the King’s Road, which has not only a heart, but a spirit? Where is Chelsea, the Chelsea whose fame grew from century to century, spread abroad by the people who fell under the spell of this ‘Hyde Park on the Thames’? it is still on the Thames, though separated from it by an ever-increasing flow of traffic. It still has a beauty of water and sky, and the remains of nostalgic antiquity.”

Perhaps it was the lovely autumn weather, but I agree, it is easy to fall under the spell of this part of Chelsea.

alondoninheritance.com

The Lost Alleys Of Cloth Fair

For this week’s post I am in Cloth Fair, a street just off West Smithfield with a name that goes back to the early days of the Bartholomew Fair held here when the fair was a centre for cloth merchants from across the country.

The street name and buildings indicate that when walking down this street we are following in the footsteps of those who have walked Cloth Fair for centuries, but all is not quiet what it seems along the street as I will show later in the post, but for now, it was tracking down the location of one of my father’s photos that took me to Cloth Fair, and to these buildings which he photographed in 1951:

Cloth Fair

The focus of my father’s photo was the taller of the buildings with the bay windows. These are numbers 41 and 42 Cloth Fair, the oldest residential buildings within the current boundaries of the City of London.

Construction of these buildings started at the end of the 16th century with completion early in the 17th, at a time when the area was within the walled compound of St. Bartholomew’s. They survived the Great Fire of London, and as my father’s photo confirms, they also survived the blitz.

The building on the right, number 40 was occupied by Mitchell, Inman & Co. a wholesale firm in the cloth trade, so even when my father took the photo in 1951 there was still a business specialising in the product after which the street was named. Mitchell, Inman & Co. produced a wide range of cloth based products, and in the London Evening Standard in 1866 they were advertising as “The cheapest house in London for Billiard, Bagatelle, and Card Table cloths.”

My father’s photo was taken from up against the church where, typically for photographing London today, there was building work underway, so my photo is from further along Cloth Fair, but shows the buildings are much the same today.

Cloth Fair

Ian Nairn described the houses as wonderful – “Wonderful not as a specimen of rustic late-seventeenth century architecture, not even as a very pretty building (which it is), but as an embodiment of the old London spirit. Chunky, cantankerous, breaking out all over in oriels and roof lights, unconcerned with academies, fashions or anything else other than shapes to live in. There was a lot of this in London after the fire; this is now almost the only example left.”

The buildings were almost lost early in the 20th century when they were classified as dangerous structures. The architects Paul Paget and John Seely bought the buildings in 1930 and carried out a very sympathetic restoration. They continued living and working together in number 41 and their success enabled them to purchase and restore many other buildings in Cloth Fair.

The following print shows 41 and 42 Cloth Fair in 1851 with shops occupying the ground floor of the building:

Cloth Fair

By 1930, 41 and 42 Cloth Fair had already survived other major changes in Cloth Fair. Up until the start of the 20th century Cloth Fair and the surrounding area included numerous crowded alleys with very unsanitary conditions. The Corporation of London Sanitary Committee condemned many of the buildings in 1914 and their demolition was completed soon after.

The state of Cloth Fair was frequently mentioned in newspapers. Cloth Fair and the Hand and Shears pub were part of the opening and administration of the Bartholomew Fair and the opening of the 1829 fair is recorded in the London Courier and Evening Gazette with “the usual formalities as they are ostentatiously styled, do not go beyond some such ceremony as that of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs standing in a filthy lane, called Cloth Fair, whilst a Marshalman or Herald miserably reads a proclamation, enjoining such as frequent the fair to abstain from all proprieties.”

The British Museum has some photos of the alleys around Cloth Fair taken in 1877 by A. Bool for the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London.  These photos (©Trustees of the British Museum) show ancient buildings crowded around narrow alleys.

Cloth Fair

The following photo shows not only the narrow alleys around Cloth Fair, but also how Cloth Fair has changed over the years. The photo shows a narrow alley. A small child is at the end of the alley and on the left are houses leaning over the alley to get a small bit of additional space for the upper floor.

Look to the right of the photo and there is a substantial stone building.

Cloth Fair

I found the above photos after I had walked along Cloth Fair, so I could not get a photo in the same position, however after looking again at my photos it was clear where the above photo was taken.

On the right in the above photo there are three arches at ground level. Above this, there is a roof, leading back to a higher stone wall with windows and drain pipes. Towards the end of the alley, the building on the right is higher still, with an angled roof.

Now look at the photo below and it is clear that the building on the right in the above photo is the side wall of the St. Bartholomew the Great.

Cloth Fair

The original photo was taken roughly were the furthest bollard is now located, looking towards the nearest bollard, which is roughly where the child was standing. Two of the three arches can be clearly seen, as can the roof above, the windows and drain pipes. Getting closer to the camera, the building rises a level with an angled roof, as in the original photo.

The houses on the left of the original photo were where the “Keep Clear” signs are on the road today. This alley was not Cloth Fair, but ran parallel to the church where Cloth Fair should have been, so how did this work?

Turning to the 1895 Ordinance Survey map provided the answer:

Cloth Fair

Cloth Fair can be seen running left to right across the map. Below Cloth Fair is St. Bartholomew the Great.

Look just above the church, and between the church and Cloth Fair, running half way along Cloth Fair is another row of houses with a narrow alley between the church and Cloth Fair. This is the alley in the photo.

The alley and houses have clearly disappeared since 1895, however that cannot be the full story otherwise there would be a much larger space today, where the alley, houses and Cloth Fair were located.

The extract from the map of the area today has the answer:

Cloth Fair

The angle of the route of Cloth Fair as it runs past the church to the right has been changed. In the 1895 map, the junction with Middle Street is slightly offset, today Cloth Fair runs straight into Middle Street. Cloth Fair today is also running parallel to the church.

The British Museum collection also has the following photo, which I believe is taken in the same alley, but this time looking in the opposite direction as to the photo above, now with the church of St. Bartholomew on the left of the photo. This is looking towards the where the alley exits onto Cloth Fair in the 1895 OS map.

Cloth Fair

In the photo below, the alley in the above two 1877 photos ran along the footpath on the left, and the majority of the road was occupied by the houses in the photo. The original Cloth Fair ran along the footpath and partly under the buildings on the right. In the above photo there is a building projecting out at the end of the low roof leading up from the bottom left of the photo. This is the entrance porch seen in the photo below with the black and white patterned roof.

Cloth Fair

So even along streets as old as Cloth Fair, we can never be sure we are actually walking along the route of the original street. Along this stretch of the street today we are walking along the old alley and where the houses once stood.

There are many other lovely buildings along Cloth Fair. This is the Rising Sun pub at Number 38.  A pub has been at this location for a number of centuries. I can find newspaper reports mentioning the pub going back to the start of the 19th century, and the pub is (although not the same building), much older.

Cloth Fair

Cloth Fair would have been risky place to be in during the Bartholomew Fair. The are numerous reports of crimes in the area, many violent and plenty of thefts, including the following from the Rising Sun:

“On Monday se’nnight, some thieves during the busy period of the evening, it being at the time of Bartholomew Fair, broke into the upper apartments of Mr William Sawyer, of the Rising Sun, Cloth Fair, and carried off all the wearing apparel, some sheets, and two watches, &c., to the value in the whole of £60 with which they decamped, and have not yet been discovered”.

This is number 43 Cloth Fair, also on Cloth Court,

Cloth Fair

The building was home to Sir John Betjeman from 1954 for 20 years. He moved into the building after meeting Paul Paget and John Seely and seeing their restoration work in Cloth Fair. The building is now owned by the Landmark Trust.

Cloth Fair

Although Cloth Fair has lost many of the alleys that lined and led off from the main street, there are still a few that remain to give a limited sense of what the area was once like.

Cloth Fair

The buildings that line Cloth Fair are fascinating, as is the history of the street and association with the Bartholomew Fair, however after finding the photos of the alleys and the alley that once ran along the edge of the church, it was being able to place the alley, and the realisation that streets I thought were original have slightly changed their route over the years that was really pleasing.

It is these little details that make walking London’s streets so interesting.

alondoninheritance.com

Spa Road Station, Bermondsey – London’s First Railway Terminus

During my walk through Bermondsey and Rotherhithe in the last couple of posts, I walked past one location that helps tell the story of the development of the railways in London as well as the long brick viaduct that stretches across so much of south east London from London Bridge Station. This was in Spa Road, Bermondsey, the location of Spa Road Station, London’s first railway terminus.

The brick viaduct that carries the railway out from London Bridge Station is an early 19th century engineering marvel. Although sections have been widened, and cast iron extensions to the side of the viaduct help carry the large numbers of trains that run along this route every day, the core of the brick viaduct is the same as when built for the London and Greenwich Railway Company in the 1830s.

When built, Spa Road was roughly the location where the viaduct emerged from the streets of south London and headed over open country and market gardens towards Deptford and Greenwich. In many places the viaduct is hidden from view behind the buildings that cluster up against the sides of the railway, however in the many streets that cross underneath the viaduct, we can still get a good view of this remarkable structure.

As I walked along Spa Road, this is the view of the tunnel underneath the viaduct from the southern approach where Spa Road narrows to pass between the original cast iron columns:

Spa Road Station

The central roadway runs through the middle of the tunnel with footpaths on either side between the cast iron columns and the tunnel walls:

Spa Road Station

And on the side of the tunnel is this plaque commemorating Spa Road Station.

Spa Road Station

Proposals for a railway to run from London out to Deptford and Greenwich had been put forward in the early decades of the 19th century, and in the 1830s. the technical solutions, finance and Acts of Parliament came together to build this first railway into central London.

The land between the planned London terminus of London Bridge and Spa Road in Bermondsey was built up, very densely as the proposed route approached London Bridge. Running a railway at ground level would have caused considerable problems with the large number of streets that would have to be crossed by a railway. The land was also marshy and the open land out towards Rothehithe and Deptford was crossed by streams and ditches.

A viaduct was seen as the best solution as this would carry the railway above the marshy ground and would also ensure the streets that the railway crossed could run underneath the viaduct without obstructing street traffic or the railway.

The route was surveyed in 1832 and in 1833 the Acts of Parliament had been approved and the Act to create the London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) received Royal Assent on the 17th of May 1833.

The L&GR began compulsory purchases of land in 1834, and the enormous quantities of materials needed to build the viaduct began to arrive on site.

Construction of the viaduct started at Corbetts Lane as this point was roughly in the centre of the route, and was in open country so was not dependent on the land purchases and demolition work required to prepare the route in central London.

Soon after construction started, the considerable quantity of 100,000 bricks were being laid daily and such was the demand for bricks that the price of bricks for sale in the London area rose due to shortages created by the quantities purchased for the construction of the railway.

On either side of the viaduct a roadway and footpath was constructed. This was intended to provide access to the arches and also to provide a parallel walking and carriage route with the railway charging a fee for access. The boundary between the pathway and the adjacent country was made up of shrubs and bushes.

Maps provide an insight into how south east London expanded, the route of the railway and Spa Road Station. The first map shows Bermondsey in 1832:

Spa Road Station

I have marked the location of the future Spa Road Station with a red circle. The street running left to right underneath the circle is the future Spa Road, although in 1832 is was called Grange Road.

Look just to the upper right of the red circle and you will see the name Gregorian Arms – this is the pub on the Jamaica Road which is still in existence and with the same name. See my photo of the pub in last week’s post.

In 1832, the future location of Spa Road station was on the edge of development with open country and market gardens stretching out towards Deptford and Greenwich. To the right of the red circle are the Seven Islands and the Mill Pond. Occasional houses, a windmill and the Blue Anchor Public House can be seen along the sides of the streets.

Now move forward, only 12 years to 1844, and a solid black line across the map shows the new viaduct of the London and Greenwich Railway. Look in the centre of the map, and replacing the red circle is the new Spa Road Station, with the street below the station now having been renamed The Spa Road.

Spa Road Station

Apart from the building of the viaduct, there has not been much more development, with the route of the railway to the south east still running over open land, although more detail has been added to this map which shows the cultivated nature of the land.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map extract shown below demonstrates how the area around Spa Road had changed from open country to densely built streets in the 50 years between the above and below maps.

Spa Road Station

The map also shows that Spa Road Station has moved from being to the west of Spa Road to now being a couple of hundred yards to the east (I explain the move later in the post).

Forty five years later in the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Atlas of Great London, Spa Road Station has disappeared. Spa Road is in the lower right hand quarter of the map and the top right of the green letter K is roughly where the first station was located. The map shows that by 1940 there were no stations in the area with London Bridge being the terminus for rail lines heading off to the south east.

Spa Road Station

As the viaduct was completed, there was considerable interest in the London & Greenwich Railway which the company encouraged by providing access to the viaduct. On Easter Sunday 1835 some 10,000 people walked along the viaduct with the company taking almost £50 in tolls.

During the rest of 1835 construction of the viaduct at the Greenwich and London Bridge ends continued and test runs of trains were made along the route. By early 1836 there was considerable pressure to open the railway. Revenue was needed and there was welcome publicity to be had from being the first railway to run trains in London. It was therefore decided to open the line between Spa Road and Deptford whilst the Greenwich and London Bridge works completed.

The first train left Deptford for Spa Road Station at 8am on Monday 8th February 1836.

It must have been quite an experience to speed along in a train along the viaduct above the surrounding buildings and countryside. The Birmingham Journal on the 13th February 1836 reported “A passenger in a Greenwich Railway carriage, on Monday last, says, that in one of the experimental trips, the train of six carriages was conveyed at the rate of a mile per minute, or 60 miles per hour! He adds, that the sensation experienced was that of flying, rather than that which is felt in the most rapid of ordinary modes of travelling. There were two numerous parties of ladies in the carriages, who seemed highly delighted.”

The first trains on the 8th February marked the start of a regular service from Spa Road. Adverts in newspapers gave details of the services and fares. From the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser on the 10th February 1836:

“LONDON & GREENWICH RAILWAY COMPANY. A TRAIN of the Company’s CARRIAGES will start DAILY at the following hours, until further notice – Fare, 6d. 

From DEPTFORD to SPA-ROAD, BERMONDSEY, at eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, one, two, three, four and five”

The return journey from Spa Road to Deptford was at half past the hour.

The first station at Spa Road was very much of a temporary form. Wooden stairs led up to the top of the viaduct where there was a narrow platform between the tracks and the viaduct parapet. The platform space was so limited that passengers would queue up the stairs until there was space to board a train.

The following print from 1836 shows the Spa Road tunnel underneath the viaduct with the stairs up to the station on the left. This is the view approaching the viaduct from the south.

Spa Road Station

Today, the above view is obscured by buildings, however the following photo shows the arches to the left of Spa Road and it was along here that the stairway led up to the platform.

Spa Road Station

The following photo shows the arches on the northern side, although these have been extended out from the original viaduct to form a bulge in the track for the future station. The metal bridge carrying the rail tracks rather than the original brick arches can be seen in the top left – another example of a later extension to the original viaduct.

Spa Road Station

The narrow nature of the platforms at Spa Road and the casual attitude towards the dangers of trains, with passengers standing on the tracks until the train arrived, resulted in a fatal accident at Spa Road on Monday 7th March 1836. From the London Evening Standard on the 10th March 1836:

“Mr James Darling, poulterer, Leadenhall-market, deposed that on Monday afternoon last, about three o’clock, he was standing by the platform on the Greenwich and London Railway, near the Spa-road, which is erected for the purpose of assisting passengers to get into the coaches that proceed on the railway. He was waiting for the steam engine to come from Deptford, which was shortly expected with a train of carriages, and which on arrival would be detached from that train to be joined to the train of coaches in which passengers would be conveyed to Deptford, and which train was on the railroad on the south line. While standing there he saw the train coming from Deptford. At that moment he was assisted on the platform. He had just been speaking to the deceased. The train came in at a rapid rate, and at the place where the engine is detached it receded from the north to the south line, and was not stopped till it came with a very violent concussion against the carriages. From the shock, witness was completely turned round. The train, by the impetus given it, was propelled to the barrier on the north line; on reaching which witness observed the deceased on the ground, dead.”

Despite this tragic accident and a number of other fatalities, the new railway was popular with travelers between Bermondsey and Deptford, and in December 1836 the stretch of viaduct between Spa Road and London Bridge opened allowing trains to now run to central London and out to Deptford, and following completion of the route from Deptford to Greenwich in April 1840 the full route was open.

Improvements and upgrades were made to the original Spa Road Station, however around 1872 it was relocated to a new station built 200 yards to the east where new ticket offices had been built into the arches and steps from within the arches led up to the platforms. This new station operated until the 15th March 1915 when Spa Road was one of a number of stations closed due to war time economy measures and it was never to re-open.

The remains of this later station can still be seen in a small industrial area at the end of Priter Road.

The view from Priter Road looking directly at the arch that was once the Spa Road Booking Office:

Spa Road Station

The view along the arches. The Spa Road Booking Hall is in the arch just to the left of the white truck:

Spa Road Station

The booking office:

Spa Road Station

To the right of the Booking Office there are a couple of plaques recording the London and Greenwich Railway and Spa Road Station. Had to take the photo at an angle as a truck was parked directly in front.

Spa Road Station

Soon after the viaduct was opened, other railway companies were formed to build and run additional routes out of London Bridge Station. Until these new lines branched off to their final destination, they used the viaduct built by the London and Greenwich Railway and paid a fee to the L&GR, usually based on a percentage of the ticket value.

One of the these was the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, formed in 1899 from the merger of the South Eastern Railway and the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. A couple of arches along from the booking office is another survivor from Spa Road station, with the initials of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway above the main entrance.

Spa Road Station

I have a postcard of the station when in use by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway., although I am not sure which of the two arches feature in the photo.

Spa Road Station

Above the arch are the initials SE&CR which are preserved on one of today’s arches, whilst on either side of these initials in the above postcard are the words Booking Office which feature on the other arch that remains today. There are no other clues as to which of the two arches is in the old photo, however it does show what the station looked like,

The view above the arches also shows the improvements at this second Spa Road Station.

The original station was made up of wooden staircases up the side of the viaduct leading to a narrow platform between the parapet and the tracks. The new station had wider platforms. station buildings and a roof above the platforms. The stairs leading to the platforms were also inside the viaduct. The space for the station on the viaduct was still limited, but it was a considerable improvement on the first station.

The two arches are in the photo below, although the arch with the words Booking Office is behind the wide truck:

Spa Road Station

The remains of the station on the viaduct can still be seen today. I have never been able to get a good photo from a train on the route, however the location of the station can be seen from the Shard.

The following view shows the viaduct stretching out from London Bridge Station towards Deptford and Greenwich, and gives a good impression of the scale of the building work carried out in the 1830s by the London and Greenwich Railway. Follow the viaduct away from London Bridge and in the distance, a train can just be seen on the left of the viaduct.

Spa Road Station

Enlarging this section of the photo shows the location of Spa Road Station where the viaduct extends out to the left. The platform was in the middle of the two tracks:

Spa Road Station

The tower of St. James Bermondsey is on the left of the station, and the large buildings of the old Peek Frean biscuit factory are just to the upper left of the station. These provide a couple of good landmarks to locate the old station when on a train running along the viaduct.

The remains of the station are also visible in these 1951 photos from Britain from Above:

Spa Road Station

Both photos also show the size of the Peek Freans biscuit factory which ran alongside the viaduct.

Spa Road Station

Whilst exploring Spa Road, I walked to some of the other streets passing through the viaduct. There are many of them, all different with features dictated by the places they connect, the type of streets that pass underneath and the architecture of the viaduct.

The number of streets cutting through the viaduct show that the use of a viaduct rather than ground level rail tracks was a superb bit of forward thinking. Despite the size of the viaduct, the frequency of streets passing underneath helps to ensure that the areas on either side are not separated. It all seems part of the same, connected place and instead of walking along open streets, part of the route is through a relatively short tunnel.

Had the London and Greenwich Railway been built at ground level, there would have been very few crossing points resulting in a distinct separation between either side of the tracks.

The wonderfully named Rail Sidings Road passing underneath the viaduct. Rail Sidings Road runs to Lucey Way which in turn runs parallel to the viaduct and alongside a housing estate. It is not a main through road and the tunnels on the right are now used for parked cars with only the tunnel on the left being open for traffic.

Spa Road Station

St. James’s Road tunnels passing underneath the viaduct:

Spa Road Station

Dockley Road passing underneath the viaduct, with a Monmouth Coffee Shop in one of the arches:

Spa Road Station

Whilst walking through these few tunnels I started to have thoughts about a project to photo all the tunnels between London Bridge and Greenwich – I need to take this less seriously !!

Adjacent to the St. James’s Road tunnel is Clements Road. Running from Clements Road. Parallel to the viaduct is a narrow paved road. When the original viaduct was built, construction included a roadway and footpath alongside the length of the viaduct and the L&GR charged a toll for the use of these. I have no idea whether this is true, however it would be good to think that this cobbled roadway is part of the original road from when the viaduct was built.

Spa Road Station

On the junction of Rail Sidings Road and St. James’s Road is the pub St. James of Bermondsey, formerly the St. James Tavern, a Victorian pub dating from 1869.

Spa Road Station

I also walked along Clements Road to take a look at a major landmark in the area, the old Peek Freans biscuit factory.

The Peek Freans factory was part of the development of Bermondsey from the open country shown in the maps earlier in this post to the densely built area of today. The factory was built on 10 acres of former market gardens adjacent to the viaduct which were purchased in 1866.

The factory closed in 1989, and has since provided space for a number of small businesses, however will soon be the subject of a major redevelopment.

Spa Road Station

One of the old factory entrances:

Spa Road Station

There is one of the usual artists impressions of the future development cabled tied to the metal fencing around the old factory. The usual view of these future developments where the sky is always blue, it is always summer and where no one over the age of forty or fifty would apparently ever be seen.

Spa Road Station

To be fair to the developers, the small print in the bottom right corner does state “Indicative computer generated image” so it may look completely different when finished (as these developments often do).

There is so much more to explore here, but this post is getting too long. For a final photo, I found this Bermondsey Book Stop at the junction of Webster Road and Clements Road, opposite one of the entrances to the old Peak Freans factory with quotes from Pride and Prejudice and Tristram Shandy on the doors.  A brilliant initiative.

Spa Road Station

Spa Road Station has now been closed for over 100 years, however the place where the viaduct passes over Spa Road will always be the first railway terminus in London and the viaduct will continue to support many more trains and passengers than the original founders of the London & Greenwich Railway can ever have imagined.

I have only covered the very first years of the construction of the viaduct. As soon as the viaduct was under construction there were many proposals for additional routes and extension of the railway onwards to Gravesend and Dover.

There was even a serious proposal at one stage to extend the viaduct across Greenwich Park, however fortunately this scheme was turned down in favour of the tunnel that was built underneath the land between the Queen’s House and the old Royal Naval College.

If you travel on the railway, look out towards the north when the old biscuit factory comes into view or the tower of St. James Church and you may catch a glimpse of the remains of Spa Road Station.

alondoninheritance.com

New Deal For East London – Bermondsey To Rotherhithe

After last week’s post covering Bermondsey, I had a number of comments and feedback via e-mail and Twitter questioning why I had used the title “New Deal for East London” when I was writing about Bermondsey which is in south London, and the same will apply to today’s post continuing on to Rotherhithe.

A really interesting point and one that got me thinking about how we split London up into different areas.

These posts are based on the 1972 Architects’ Journal article which was titled “New Deal for East London”, so I turned to the article to read their definition which I reproduce below:

“London, like Gaul is divided into three parts. The City is based on its historic centre, first and still one of the great money markets of the world, into which about 1,000,000 office workers pour each morning. 

Then there is London to the west of the city, which has a widely mixed population of all classes doing all kinds of work, and contains centres of all major shopping and entertainment industries, the university and many colleges, art schools, theatres, concert halls, museums, libraries, the publishing and book selling industry, hotels, restaurants, all of which has become the centre of an immense tourist invasion every summer, held together by a good, if overcrowded road and rail network, and predominantly inhabited by a prospering, fully employed population, despite large areas of slum streets. Its comfortable suburbs stretch north, south and west to the motorways, lined with new industry, and the Green Belt beyond.

Finally, beyond the city from the Tower of London, there is the East End, largely cut off from the riverside by the docks where thousands of inhabitants have for long been employed and, despite middle class enclaves, such as Greenwich and Blackheath, this is predominantly working class London – a London of factories and warehouses, and vast council estates, replacing the meanly built streets of terrace houses that were largely shattered in the air raids of the Second World War. This is the poorest part of the capital, with the greatest need for all the social services provided (or permitted to be provided) by the local authorities, and – not surprisingly – with the highest rates. 

Today this is a going-downhill area in which neither the growing tourist industry, nor the entertainment industry, nor the new light industries show any interest. Such industries prefer to expand near the prosperous West End or in some part of the country, such as the new towns, where they will be eligible for an industrial development certificate and all the financial assistance that implies.”

So that is why the Architects’ Journal included Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Greenwich in East London, a definition with which I can fully understand and agree. East London has traditionally been that part of London east of the City, but north of the river, however I stood on Tower Bridge looking east and the river curves south around the Isle of Dogs then north around the Greenwich Peninsula, taking in an area north and south of the river which had much the same general history, industries, extent of war-time damage and post war challenges.

There are many ways of looking at London and this is why I found this 45 year old article so interesting.

Back to the walk and in this post I am continuing on from Bermondsey to Rotherhithe to track down sites 76 to 79.

Rotherhithe

And an updated map showing the area today, with the four sites I will cover in this week’s post, sites 76 to 79.

Rotherhithe

At the end of last week’s post I was in Grange Walk and as I headed to the next location, I passed the following building on the corner of Grange Walk and Grigg’s Place:

Rotherhithe

The writing along the facade of the building facing Grange Walk announces that this was the “Bermondsey United Charity School For Girls – Erected A.D. 1830”.

I am not sure how long this lasted as a charity school as on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, the building is labelled as a Mission Hall. It did suffer a serious upper floor fire in the year 2000, but is a listed building and at least externally, looks to have been restored to the building’s original state.

Adjacent to the school and running further along Grange Walk is this lovely row of terrace houses dated from 1890. The building in the centre of the terrace stands out due to the colour of the brickwork.

Rotherhithe

I did wonder if this was due to rebuilding after bomb damage, however the type of bricks, identical features to the other houses and that the individual brick courses run continuously along the terrace indicates that this is all original. I suspect that for some reason the brickwork on this single building has been cleaned. It does show what the terrace would have looked like when built, before being darkened by the city’s dirt.

Almost opposite this terrace of houses I found my next location:

Site 76 – Single House Of About 1700

The map shows this building slightly further on, at the junction with Fendall Street, however there is green space there now, with flats behind and this building is very close to the map location and fits the description.

The first thing I noticed about the building was the faded sign on the corner:

Rotherhithe

This reads “Spaull & Co Ltd” – who were a clay pipe manufacturing company in operation from 1880 to 1942.

Perhaps surprising that a company manufacturing clay pipes should have lasted to 1942, however the company started selling other products, and in later years in Kelly’s Directory they were listed as a Glass and Bottle Merchants.

The factory was located in nearby Westcott Street and later in Bermondsey Street and the building in Grange Walk was used as the company offices and also as a place for workers to stay in the attic rooms.

The front facade of the building which now looks to be a private house:

Rotherhithe

Continuing along Grange Walk and another terrace of 19th century houses:

Rotherhithe

My next location was almost at Bermondsey Underground Station, so I headed in that direction along Grange Road where I found “The Alaska Factory”:

Rotherhithe

The Alaska Factory was originally the firm of C.W. Martin & Sons Ltd, a company that had its roots in a business set up in 1823 by John Moritz Oppenheim to process seal fur.

The first factory was built on this site in 1869. a date confirmed above the original archway entrance to the factory which also includes a relief of a seal above the date with the words Alaska Factory on either side. The name Alaska refers to one of the main sources of seal fur which, along with Canada, and earlier the Antarctic kept the factory busy and 19th century and early 20th century fashion supplied with furs.

Over hunting of seals led to entirely predictable results, so the company expanded into general furs with the factory working on the processing and dying of new fur along with the reconditioning of fur that had already been used.

Whilst the gates onto Grange Road are from the original factory, the factory building we see today dates from a 1932 rebuild, which was designed by the firm of Wallis, Gilbert and Partners who also designed the magnificent Hoover building on the A40.

The factory has long since closed, and followed the inevitable route for most buildings in London, having been converted into flats.

From Grange Road, I turned into Spa Road, where opposite Bermondsey Spa Gardens I found the old public library:

Rotherhithe

This magnificent library building was constructed between 1890 and 1891 and opened as the first free public library in London. A large hall was added to the rear of the building in the 1930s.

Today, the building is occupied by Kagyu Samye Dzong London as a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Centre.

The plaque still on the wall of the library building records the names of the commissioners, architect and builder:

Rotherhithe

A short distance further along from the library are the Borough of Bermondsey Municipal Offices:

Rotherhithe

Built during the late 1920s on the site of Bermondsey Public Baths and Wash Houses, and adjacent to the original Bermondsey Town Hall which was badly damaged during the last war and later demolished, the building was the home of Bermondsey Borough Council, until Bermondsey was integrated into the London Borough of Souuthwark.

The building has since been converted into, yes you probably guessed this, in the region of 40 new apartments.

The original foundation stone on the side of the building:

Rotherhithe

A short distance along Spa Road is the old Queen Arms pub. Long closed, and in the past subject to planning applications for demolition, the building has survived, converted to flats, and retains original signage. Unfortunately it will not be possible to play pool and darts or listen to the jukebox whilst drinking chilled continental lagers – the 1980s equivalent of craft beers.

Rotherhithe

Walking along Spa Road, I passed again under the railway viaduct to the junction with Thurland Road where I found my next location:

Site 77 – Early 19th Century St. James Church By Savage

Rotherhithe

At the end of the 18th century and start of the 19th, the population of Bermondsey was expanding rapidly and the area needed a church to serve those moving into the area.

St. James’ is one of the so called Commissioners Churches as it was a result of the Church Building Act of 1818 when Parliament voted money for the construction of new churches.

A group of local churchman purchased the land for the church and were given a grant by the Commissioners of the fund provided by Parliament for the construction of the church.

Construction of the church was delayed whilst additional funds were raised to build both a tower and a spire. This was achieved by building a crypt under the church were space was sold for burials, thereby allowing the money to be raised for construction of the tower, topped by a spire which we see today.

John Savage was the architect, the first stone was laid in February 1827 and the church was consecrated one year later in May 1829.

The interior of the church has recently undergone a full restoration and the use of light colours and high windows brightened the church on an otherwise grey day.

Rotherhithe

Looking towards the entrance to the church with the organ above:

Rotherhithe

Roof of the church:

Rotherhithe

The font:

Rotherhithe

The font cover has an interesting plaque:

Rotherhithe

The plaque reads:

“To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Emma Elizabeth, the beloved wife of Albert Fuller and youngest daughter of John & Sarah Ann Porter of 155 Jamaica Road in this Parish who died at Johannesburg, South Africa, May 1st 1897. Aged 24 years. This Font Cover was placed here as a last tribute of love by her sorrowing parents.”

The loss that the parents felt for their daughter is clear from the inscription. Jamaica Road is just outside the church of St. James, and the plaque tells not just a story of the parents grief, but how in the 19th century, people from across London, including the local streets of Bermondsey, were travelling the world. It would be interesting to know what Emma Elizabeth was doing in Johannesburg in 1897.

Another plaque in St. James also tells a story of local Bermondsey people who died in a foreign country. This is the Bermondsey Boer War Memorial:

Rotherhithe

The memorial was unveiled in 1903 in the original Bermondsey Town Hall in Spa Road (next to the Municipal Offices that we met earlier). The Town Hall suffered badly from bomb damage during the Second World War and was finally demolished in the 1960s. The memorial was stored in a council yard, and when that yard was in turn closed, a suitable location for the memorial was looked for, with St. James being a logical home for a memorial to local Bermondsey solders.

Time to walk to the next location, but a final view across the churchyard to St. James:

Rotherhithe

Just outside the churchyard is the Gregorian pub. An interesting architectural style that would perhaps be more at home a bit further out in the south London suburbs, however really good to see a pub which is still open.

Rotherhithe

A short distance further along Jamaica Road, just before reaching Bermondsey Underground Station I found the next location:

Site 78 – 18th Century Terrace

The terrace consists of two houses with two floors and an attic floor, and two houses with three floors:

Rotherhithe

These survivors from the 18th century now look out onto a very busy Jamaica Road and have the Jubilee Line running underneath.

Walking to my next location, I found Jimmy’s & Sons Barber Shops also in Jamaica Road.

Rotherhithe

Traditional Barber Shops are another of my photographic themes whilst walking London – this started with the photos my father took, including these from the mid 1980s.

Unfortunately what with passing traffic and trees, i could not get a perfect photo of the shop front.

To reach the next location, I cut down from Jamaica Road to the river, and walked along to:

Site 79 – Rotherhithe Conservation Area Round 1714 St. Mary’s Church

Rather than a single, or terrace of buildings, site 79 in the Architects’ Journal referred to an area clustered around the church. The risks to these types of street and buildings are clear from the following text from the 1972 article:

“As with the north bank, it was riverside villages that first grew in size and expanded in a linear form along the river. Rotherhithe still retains its early 18th century church and school. The last substantially 18th century street – Mayflower Street – was demolished in the 1960s; and Rotherhithe Street has recently lost the remainder of its early 18th century riverside houses. These losses are made ironic by the recent decision to make Rotherhithe a conservation area.”

Statements like this really bring home the opportunities lost in the decades after the war to retain and restore so many historic streets and buildings.

I walked towards the church at Rotherhithe through the start of Rotherhithe Street from Elephant Lane where Rotherhithe Street is a walkway between old warehouse buildings.

Rotherhithe

The walkway opens out to the wider road where the church is located. The entrance to St. Mary’s Church from Rotherhithe Street:

Rotherhithe

With plaques recording work carried out around the churchyard in the 19th century:

Rotherhithe

St. Mary’s Church from St. Marychurch Street on a grey and overcast September day.

Rotherhithe

The St. Mary’s that we see today dates from around 1714 with the tower and spire being added a few years later. The spire was rebuilt again in 1861. According to Old and New London, the “church was built on the site of an older edifice, which had stood for four hundred years, but which had become at length so ruinous that Parliament was applied to for permission to pull it down. The present church has lately been thoroughly restored and the old unsightly pews of our grandfathers’ time have been superseded by open benches.”

Plaques on the church record the sailing of the Mayflower and also work to underpin the tower of the church:

Rotherhithe

The church, as does much of Rotherhithe, deserves a dedicated post, however for the purposes of this post, I will continue walking around the conservation area identified in 1972.

Across the road from the church is the old churchyard, which is now St. Mary’s Churchyard Gardens. To the left of the churchyard is this old watch house dating from 1821, used for watchmen to provide a lookout over the churchyard for any nefarious activity including any attempted body snatching.

Rotherhithe

To the left of the watch house is a building that once housed a charity school:

Rotherhithe

As recorded on the plaque on the front of the building, the school originally dates from 1613 and moved into the building we see today in 1797. The plaque also has the blue coated children, typical of a charity school on either side. See also this post of another charity school across the river in Wapping.

Rotherhithe

Early 19th century building that formed part of the Hope Sufferance Wharf:

Rotherhithe

Late 18th century Grice’s Granary warehouse on the corner of St. Marychurch Street and Tunnel Road:

Rotherhithe

The blue plaque records that the Rotherhithe Picture Research Library and Sands Film Studio has been established in the building since 1976.

Tunnel Road is a clue that we are close to the Rotherhithe end of the first tunnel under the River Thames. At the junction of Tunnel Road and Rotherhithe Street we can see the Brunel Museum building. My post on walking through the tunnel can be found here.

Rotherhithe

The tower and steeple of St. Mary’s Church can be seen in the background of this print showing the diving bell used in the construction of the Thames Tunnel:

Rotherhithe

Where St. Marychurch Street curves around the church and meets Rotherhithe Street is the Mayflower Pub.

Rotherhithe

A plaque on the wall claims that the pub was built in the 17th century, however whilst a pub may have been on the site since the 17th century, the current pub building is more recent with the latest rebuild being in the 1950s.

Embedded in the front of the pub is a milestone indicating that the pub is 2 miles from London Bridge:

Rotherhithe

I am not sure of the age of this milestone, however in the 1895 Ordnance Survey map (see below), the letter M.S. indicates that the milestone was in front of the pub and 2 miles from London Bridge at the end of the 19th century:

Rotherhithe

There are other old signs on the side wall of the pub, including two parish boundary markers for St. Mary, Rotherhithe and a rather nice Right of Way sign by the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey:

Rotherhithe

And finally, before I walk back into central London, a view of one of the windows of the Rotherhithe Picture Research Library and Sands Film Studio on Rotherhithe Street:

Rotherhithe

And that concludes my two posts covering a walk from Bermondsey to Rotherhithe, the sites which the Architects’ Journal described as “Medieval village centres along the southern river bank and around London Bridge”.

In the same category, the article continued on from Rotherhithe to Greenwich, this walk will have to wait for another day when hopefully the weather will be better.

Apologies for the length of this post, however this is a fascinating area and there is much to discover. I have only lightly scratched the surface in these two posts, but it was a really enjoyable walk which I thoroughly recommend.

alondoninheritance.com

New Deal For East London – Bermondsey

At the start of the year I commenced a project to track down all the locations listed in the Architects’ Journal of the 19th January 1972, as buildings that should be considered for preservation if comprehensive development of East London was undertaken.

By the early 1970s, East London had been through a period of almost continual decline since the end of the Second World War. The population of the area had decreased significantly, the docks were still working, however the potential impact on the London Docks of containerisation, much larger ships and different methods for handling cargoes was becoming clear. The growth of the docks at Tilbury and expansion of the container ports of Felixstowe and Southampton demonstrated that the London Docks had a very limited future.

This was also the time when a new Thames Estuary Airport at Maplin Sands was a serious option and work would soon begin on the new Thames Barrier.

New people were starting to move into East London and there was patchy development of buildings without any strategic plan for the area. Whole streets of historic buildings were at risk.

See my first post for more background on the Architects’ Journal article from January 1972.

In today’s post I start walking in Bermondsey to track down the locations in the Architects’ Journal category E – Medieval village centres along the southern river bank and around London Bridge.

Category E runs all the way to Greenwich, and in today’s post I am covering the sites around Bermondsey, in my next post it will be Bermondsey to Rotherhithe, with Greenwich being a future post.

Below is an extract from the 1972 map and today I am starting at site 68 and walking to site 75, tracking down the sites from the article and reporting on some of the other fascinating places in this historic part of London.

Bermondsey

And here is a map of the same area today with the sites identified:

Bermondsey

On the day that I managed to get off from work for this walk, the weather was typically overcast, but I was looking forward to tracking down these sites, just not the best weather for taking photos. I took the underground to London Bridge and walked down to the first location, which on the 1972 map looks to be on Long Lane at the junction with Kipling Street, but in reality is a short distance further east along Long Lane and here I found:

Site 68 – Early 18th Century Pair In Long Lane Bermondsey

Which unfortunately was undergoing some series renovation work. Under all the scaffolding and green netting are two 18th century town houses. The one on the right appears to have had some previous work, but the house on the left of the pair is Grade II listed. This building still has the original door surround, and the Grade II listing includes the railings in front of the building so I assume they are also original, but when I walked past none of this was visible due to the builders hoardings and the photo was at an angle due to lorries parked opposite.

Bermondsey

The four bedroom house has already been sold, but the three bedroom house is still on the market and is yours for £2.4 Million.

Good that these town houses are still on this busy road and their Grade II listing should hopefully ensure a sympathetic restoration.

My next site was a short distance further along Long Lane to:

Site 69 – 18th Century House

I was not so lucky with this building. The map shows this building at the junction of Weston Street and Long Lane. I did walk around the area to see if I could find a building that matched the Architects’ Journal description as working through this project I have found that occasionally the 1972 map is slightly inaccurate, but I could not find anything.

A new building was in the process of construction on the site. I doubt that an 18th Century House has recently been demolished for this new construction so I assume that as was the concern of the 1972 Architects’ Journal, the building was at risk and was demolished.

The site that was originally occupied by an 18th century house:

Bermondsey

I continued walking along Lone Lane towards Bermondsey Street and passed a couple of interesting buildings. The first is the pub Simon the Tanner. The rate at which pubs disappear in London is such that for the last few years I have taken a photo of every pub I have passed, however hopefully this lovely pub is not at risk. The name references an Egyptian Saint as well as the leather working industry that once occupied large areas of Bermondsey.

Bermondsey

A short distance along from Simon the Tanner is this large building:

Bermondsey

These were once the premises of Hepburn and Gale Ltd, once one of the largest tanners and leather manufacturers in Bermondsey. The current building dates from soon after 1898 when a large fire destroyed the previous buildings on the site.

The company had difficulty in competing with the growth of low-cost imports in the 1950s and 1960s and the Bermondsey operations closed in the 1970s.

The name of Hepburn and Gale is still displayed above one of the doors to the building:

Bermondsey

Leather working was once a sizable industry in Bermondsey and the scale of the Hepburn and Gale building provides a reminder of the size of these operations.

From Long Lane, I turned into Bermondsey Street and walked along Bermondsey Street to just past the junction with Tyers Gate to find:

Site 70 – 17th Century Group

This is a fascinating group of buildings of very different styles. There are all Grade II listed, however where the Architects Journal in 1972 classed this as a 17th century group, the listing puts the buildings as early to mid 18th century. No matter their actual age, they form a group of buildings that do not appear to have been much “renovated” and are also of different architectural styles.

Bermondsey

The 1972 article included a photo of part of the building with the timber clad top floor:

Bermondsey

At the end of the group is this building that includes an arched entrance to Carmarthen Place, a corner door and an early shop front.

Bermondsey

The entrance to Carmarthen Place includes what looks to be an imitation Banksy artwork and a carved keystone at the top of the arch.

Bermondsey

The group of buildings have the house in the above photo at one end and the building with the timber-framed top floor at the other end, framing a terrace of three more traditional 18th century buildings.

Bermondsey

There is so much to explore in Bermondsey, each side street offers views of buildings that help to tell the story of the trades and businesses that once operated in the area.

Looking down Morocco Street to the Morocco Store – an 18th century spice warehouse:

Bermondsey

A short distance down Morocco Street is R.W. Auto’s – a local garage with horse heads on the edge of the facade that indicate the previous use of the building as a farriers.

Bermondsey

Walking back along Bermondsey Street towards Long Lane and there are plenty of 19th century buildings, including this terrace of three, with the white plaque on the central building dating them to 1828 and with the initials PD who must have been the builder, architect or original owner of the buildings.

Bermondsey

Al’s Cafe was attracting a steady stream of hi-vis jackets. With the amount of building work I passed in the area I am sure that Al is not short of trade.

Further along Bermondsey Street is this fascinating building with “Time and Talents Settlement” across the facade of the building above the ground floor:

Bermondsey

The Time and Talents Settlement was an Anglican organisation set up in 1887 in the West End by women with the aim of supporting young working girls and women. The organisation is still going, and from their website the founders “deplored the waste and futility of the protected lives of the majority of young girls who were only expected to be decorative and obedient.” 

They wanted girls of leisure and education to use their time and talents (hence the name) to help others less fortunate.

The building in Bermondsey Street was built in 1907 and the architect was Sir Reginald Blomfield. It is now Grade II listed. The Time and Talents Settlement operated out of the building until 1980 when they moved to a new location in Rotherhithe.

Set back between the Time and Talents building and the church of St. Mary Magdalene is the lovely Old Rectory building. For once, there were no parked cars or lorries and I was able to get a photo from directly opposite, just a shame about the lamp-post.

Bermondsey

The Old Rectory dates from 1828 and was the rectory to my next Architects’ Journal location:

Site 72 – 17th Century And Early 19th Century Gothic St. Mary Magdalen

This is the church of St. Mary Magdalen at the Abbey Street / Long Lane end of Bermondsey Street.

Bermondsey

The church is a 17th century rebuild of an original church on the site from the 13th century. Whilst the church dates from the 17th century with various additions, changes, and modifications during the 18th and 19th centuries, there is a small part of the original 13th century church remaining in the form of the lower part of the interior of the tower.

The church survived undamaged during the Second World War.

The following print from 1840 shows the exterior of the church in Bermondsey Street identical to the view we see today, apart from the loss of the railings.

Bermondsey

The original church is shown in the following print:

Bermondsey

The dates and times for ceremonies at the church are written in stone on the front facade of the church. Baptisms and Churchings are solemnized at 12 o’clock. The problem of putting all this in stone is highlighted by just under half way down, someone has had to add “at half past 11 o’clock” in smaller letting. An omission or change after the main plaque was finished.

Bermondsey

And with this plaque, the time for Divine Service on Wednesday evenings must have changed at some point as the number 7 is on a new square of stone inserted to replace the original stone.

Bermondsey

Although the church is now surrounded by the busy streets of Bermondsey, it was once in open countryside and part of the Abbey of Bermondsey.

There may have been a monastery of some form on the site in the 8th century, however development of the large estate that would form the Abbey at its peak started in the last decades of the 11th century when a Priory was established. In 1399 the Priory became Bermondsey Abbey and lasted until the dissolution of the monasteries and abbeys by Henry VIII, when the estate was handed to Sir Thomas Pope.

Some of the Abbey buildings were still in existence in 1805 when the following print was made showing the remains of Bermondsey Abbey, drawn from the steeple of the church.

Bermondsey

I am not sure the direction of view, however I suspect it is looking towards the south-east. What looks like a small patch of water in the left of the horizon could be the River Thames at the southern end of the Isle of Dogs with the higher ground of Greenwich to the right.

The churchyard is still here with a small number of remaining monuments.

Bermondsey

Bermondsey Abbey deserves a much fuller description, however for the aims of this post, it was good to see that St. Mary Magdalen is the same as when the Architects’ Journal listed the building in 1972.

To reach my next location, I walked out the churchyard into Tower Bridge Road and headed in the direction of the river, passing under the brick railway viaduct to look for:

Site 71 – Bombed St. John, Horsleydown And Derelict 1730 Rectory

The rectory and church of St. John, Horsleydown were still damaged and derelict in 1972, and the article was concerned about their long-term future.

The rectory has been rebuilt in much the same style as the original building:

Bermondsey

However with the church it is a very different matter.

The church had been badly damaged by bombing and had not been rebuilt after the war. There was a scheme proposed in 1956 to rebuild the church, but this was never followed through and the church remained in its post war condition before being eventually sold to the London City Mission in 1974.

The London City Mission built the building that now sits in place of the old church. The construction is interesting as the lower part of the external walls of the original church have been left in place, including the original flight of steps up to the door of the church, with a new brick office building sitting in the footprint of the original church.

Bermondsey

The original church was completed in 1733 to a design by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James.

The following print from 1818 shows the original church of St. John, Horsleydown.

Bermondsey

Despite the demolition of the church down to the lower walls and plinth, the remains of the church are Grade II listed. There are a number of gravestones and plaques remaining in the churchyard, including this plaque mounted on the lower wall of the church and in memory of Mr Griffith Griffiths who died on the 30th April 1829, aged 37. The text is in Welsh.

Bermondsey

I walked under the brick viaduct running from London Bridge Station towards Greenwich to get to the church. I will pass under the viaduct a number of times to get to the sites in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. The arches adjacent to the churchyard are occupied by the types of business that have always made good use of these facilities.

BermondseyJust outside the churchyard, at the junction of Tower Bridge Road and Druid Street is the wonderfully named Cat and Cucumber Cafe – a typical “greasy spoon” cafe (with excellent breakfasts).

Bermondsey

To get to the next location, it was a walk back along Tower Bridge Road, past the junction with Abbey Street to find the remains of Bermondsey Square:

Site 73 – Remains Of Late 18th Century Square

What was once an 18th century square, retains the name, but only a small section of the original buildings.

Bermondsey

Much of the rest of the square is now occupied by recent developments, including a hotel, Sainsburys Local, and open space. These buildings, with their individually coloured doors did look slightly out-of-place in their new surroundings, but I am pleased that they have survived to give relevance to the name of Bermondsey Square.

Bermondsey

The next location was a short distance further along Tower Bridge Road to the junction with Grange Road to find:

Site 74 – Late 18th Century Group

This is a short terrace of 18th century houses which now face onto a busy road junction:

Bermondsey

Above the entrance on the right of the houses there is a sign of a type that I have not seen before. Black background with white lettering stating “Greater London Council Private Access Do Not Obstruct”. I have seen plenty of do not obstruct signs, but not one prefixed with Greater London Council.

My final location for today’s post was opposite Bermondsey Square where a short walk down Grange Walk revealed a fascinating terrace of houses of architecturally different styles:

Site 75 – Late 17th Century Terrace

The first two houses:

Bermondsey

The rest of the terrace:

Bermondsey

Within the structure of these buildings are apparently parts of the medieval stone gatehouse of Bermondsey Abbey as Grange Walk formed the southern extent of the Abbey’s grounds.

There are so many different features on these houses, evidence of building work over the years, there is a fire insurance mark on one of the houses – however I always feel rather strange examining in detail the facade of what is someone’s home. They are though a remarkable set of interesting buildings which contrast with the opposite side of the street which is all modern buildings

Looking back on the terrace of buildings in Grange Walk.

Bermondsey

Bermondsey is a fascinating area, I have only scratched the surface in this post, but the 1972 Architects’ Journal was a good guide to find some interesting buildings.

Off the eight locations, one (location 69) has disappeared since 1972, and the church of St. John, Horsleydown has all but disappeared leaving only the plinth and lower walls remaining. Six sites have survived the intervening 45 years.

In my next post I will continue through Bermondsey and end up in Rotherhithe,

alondoninheritance.com

A Bankside Panorama In 1947 And 2017

I have covered Bankside a number of times, however in this week’s post I want to show a different perspective of Bankside, as it was in 1947 from the north bank of the River Thames, before any of the developments that would transform the area from industrial to the arts and leisure Bankside that we see today.

For the post, I am covering the area of Bankside from Tate Modern (the old Bankside Power Station) up to Southwark Bridge.

My father took the following photo of part of Bankside in 1947:

Bankside Panorama

And here is my photo of the same area on a grey day in 2017:

Bankside Panorama

In the centre of the 2017 photo, behind the two trees is the Globe Theatre. To the right of this are the only couple of buildings that are the same in the two photos. Just behind the tree to the right of the Globe is 49 Bankside, the three storey white building (I covered 49 Bankside and Cardinal Cap Alley in detail in a post which can be found here).

To the right of 49 Bankside is a short row of houses, which again are the same in both photos. Everything else in the two photos has changed.

The building immediately to the left of 49 Bankside in the 1947 photo was the office and factory of Craig and Rose. Their name can be seen in large white letters along the top of the first floor. Between the ground and first floors are the words “Forth Bridge Brand Paints”.

Craig and Rose were a paint manufacturer who are still in business today and claim to be the UK’s oldest independent paint manufacturer.

The company was established in 1829 by James Craig and Hugh Rose, two Scottish entrepreneurs who set up the business in Edinburgh. The business expanded rapidly and in 1880 won the contract to supply paint for the Forth Bridge, with their Red Oxide paint being supplied to paint the bridge until 1993.

The Bankside building was constructed in 1897 for Craig and Rose, and operated until the early 1950s. Craig and Rose are now based in Scotland.

When I was sorting through my files of scans of my father’s photos I found the following photo which was taken on the same day as the above 1947 photo.

This is of the original Bankside Power Station on the left and the Phoenix Gas Works on the right. I wrote about the original Bankside Power Station in this post where there are photos of the first phase of the new power station built over the site of the gasworks.

Bankside Panorama

On the left of the above photo is a conveyor belt running from almost the top of the power station down to the ground on the extreme left of the photo. I believe this was to transport coal into the power station ready to be burnt.

This conveyor belt is also visible in the photo at the top of the post with 49 Bankside and Craig and Rose, so despite the photos being different orientations I put the two together to produce the following view of the wider Bankside:

Bankside Panorama

And with a bit of cropping and some very amateur joining of photos I present a Bankside Panorama in 1947 and seventy years later in 2017.

Bankside Panorama

Only a small part of the Millennium Bridge is shown as for the photo on the left, I had to take this from almost under the bridge to provide a slightly angled view otherwise with a straight on view, 49 Bankside, the key building in both 1947 and 2017 was obscured by the tree.

I am not sure what is the most remarkable – that this stretch of Bankside has changed so much, or that 49 Bankside and the short row of houses to the right have managed to survive when everything else along this stretch of the river has been redeveloped.

The two photos also show how use of the river has changed. In 1947 the river was busy with lighters and barges moored along the river. Today, the river is quiet apart from tourist boats and the Thames Clipper river buses. I believe the moving boat on the left of the 1947 photo is a police launch as it looks identical to photos I have of moored police launches by Waterloo Bridge.

It was interesting to stand on the north bank of the river with the 1947 Bankside panorama in hand, looking at the view of Bankside seventy years later.

I do need to return when the leaves have fallen from the tree in front of number 49, and the lighting is better so I can get an improved 2017 view, with the bridge and avoiding the grey backdrop, however I hope you find the two panoramas of Bankside as interesting as I have.

alondoninheritance.com