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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,

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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.

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Thames River Police Museum And Hermitage Moorings

Finally, somewhat later than planned, here is the last post on my Open House 2017 visits. I had started in the Isle of Dogs and my final two locations were the Thames River Police Museum in Wapping and the Hermitage Moorings,  a short distance further along the river towards St. Katherine Docks.

Thames River Police Museum

The Thames River Police Museum is usually only open by appointment so Open House provided the opportunity to just turn up and see this fascinating museum in one of the old workshops in what is still a working Police Station.

This is the front of the building on Wapping High Street. The museum is reached through the entrance on the left, through a small courtyard and up to the museum on the first floor of the part of the building facing the river.

Thames River Police Museum

The Marine Policing Unit as it is now named, is one of, if not the earliest uniformed police force in the world.

The Port of London was growing rapidly around Wapping in the last decades of the 18th century. There would be hundreds of different ships moored on the river, along the wharfs and warehouses facing the river and in the docks. The cargo stored in these shops and warehouses provided a ready source of income for those willing to steal or pilfer from these cargoes.

The problem was getting so bad that in the 1790s a uniformed police force was organised, approved by the government and funded by the various merchant companies that operated along the river.

The river police force was based at the location that remains their headquarters to this day. The first patrol of the river set out from this location in 1798.

Thames River Police Museum

In my father’s collection of photos, there are some of 1950’s era police river launches moored by Waterloo Bridge so I plan to write more about the history of the river police when I cover these photos in the coming months, so in the photos below is a brief view of what is a fascinating museum.

The museum is housed in a long, single room, at the end of which is a door facing onto the river.

The museum is a bit overwhelming at first sight as there is so much to look at. A couple of long display cases run part of the length of the room full with models, books, record books, old equipment used by the river police and much more. The walls are covered in drawings, paintings, photographs, maps and flags that tell the story of some of the significant events over the past two hundred years, and how the river police have evolved.

Thames River Police Museum

Thames River Police Museum

Display cabinets show some of the craft used by the river police. The original river patrols were made using rowing galleys, often with a crew of four comprising a Surveyor or Inspector and up to three Constables.

Thames River Police Museum

View of one narrow walkway showing how much there is to see in the museum.

Thames River Police Museum

Flags used on the patrol boats:

Thames River Police Museum

At the end of the museum is a door facing onto the river which provides some unique views.

Being an operational police station, there is a walkway leading down to a pier where some of the police boats are moored.

Thames River Police Museum

There is also a good view here across to Rotherhithe and down to the Isle of Dogs.

Thames River Police Museum

Half way along the walkway there is a traditional Police blue light:

Thames River Police Museum

The museum provides a fascinating view of the history of the Thames River Police, there is much to view and read. What makes this museum very special is that it is on the site where the original river police force was established and is within a building providing the same function to this day.

Back outside in the courtyard between the museum and the street there is a reminder that this is still a working river police station.

Thames River Police Museum

A short distance along Wapping High Street was my final Open House visit to:

Hermitage Moorings

In comparison with the other sites I visited during Open House, the Hermitage Moorings are very recent. The submission for planning permission was in 2004 and the Hermitage Moorings were constructed a few years later.

Despite being very recent, they are one of those many places around London that have a name that maintains a link with the location as it was many years ago.

The Hermitage Moorings can be found at the western end of Wapping High Street, just before the junction with St. Katherine’s Way.

The Hermitage Riverside Memorial Gardens run between Wapping High Street and the river, and at the eastern end of the gardens is the entrance to Hermitage Moorings.

Thames River Police Museum

Before taking a walk around the moorings, some history of the area and the name. In the extract from the 1896 Ordnance Survey map below, in the centre of the river’s edge is the Hermitage Steam Wharf. Just to the right of this wharf are Hermitage Stairs running down to a causeway into the river. It is here that the entrance to the Hermitage Moorings is located.

Thames River Police Museum

As can be seen from the map, the name Hermitage is used for a number of features – the stairs, the wharf and the basin.

You can also see on the left of the map the Red Lion Brewery, however according to “A Dictionary of London” published in 1918:

“Hermitage Brewhouse – A Brewhouse ‘so called of an hermite sometime being there,’ at the southern end of Nightingale lane, E. Smithfield” and “This hermitage seems to have given its name, not only to the Brewhouse, but to the Stairs and the Dock, etc.”

Nightingale Lane is the street running down from the top of the map to the left of Hermitage Basin down to the junction with Wapping High Street, so Hermitage Brewhouse may have been the earlier name of the brewery prior to Red Lion and it may have been named after a hermit.

Very tenuous but good to imagine that the new moorings are named after a hermit that lived close by.

The photo below from the Britain from Above website shows the area in 1946.

Thames River Police Museum

At the bottom right of the photo you can see some stairs and a causeway leading down into the river – this is the Union Stairs. Move along the water front to the left, pass the cranes and you will come to another causeway leading down into the river – this is the Hermitage Stairs.

The area between the Hermitage Stairs, the road behind and the river entrance to the basin is now the Hermitage Riverside Memorial Gardens.

The view across the gardens from the edge of the basin entrance looking across to where the entrance to the Hermitage Moorings is located in shown in the photo below.

Thames River Police Museum

The gardens are a memorial to the East London civilians who lost their lives, or were injured during the Second World War.

Time for a look at the moorings which were fully open during Open House weekend.

Hermitage Moorings were built, and are now owned and operated by Hermitage Community Moorings and they provide up to 23 berths for historic vessels with the owners living aboard. The moorings therefore form a community on the river rather than a place for distant owners to moor their boats.

When planning permission was applied for, there was general support for establishing a community on the river, however there were also a number of objections which appear to have come from the occupiers of the new apartments that had recently been built along the river.

Objections included that the moorings would be  ‘blots on the landscape’ and ‘floating gypsy camps’ and that ‘rusting wrecks’ will be moored alongside the flats and the park.

The historic boats are very far from being rusting wrecks. The view looking downstream from the entrance to the moorings.

Thames River Police Museum

The view upstream towards Tower Bridge and the City.

Thames River Police Museum

There are two main pontoons extending either side from the centre of the moorings. All lined with a range of very well maintained historic boats. The majority with owners currently living aboard.

Thames River Police Museum

Some of the boats have potted gardens running along the edge of the pontoon.

Thames River Police Museum

Talking to some of the owners, there was a real pride in their boats, a very obvious community of people living on the river, and great pleasure in being able to live in such a way and location.

Thames River Police Museum

The boats are all extremely well maintained. many are Dutch, all have seen a working life of many decades and now rest at this wonderful location.

Thames River Police Museum

One of the differences between being on the river and walking the streets of the city is that from the river the wide sweep of the sky is visible and there is a connection between the river and weather which played such an important part in the lives of those who worked on the river for so many hundreds of years.

Thames River Police Museum

Names and numbers:

Thames River Police Museum

Despite the boats and owners living here at Hermitage Moorings, the boats are still in working order and able to make their way along the river. To have a mooring, the owner also needs a Day Skipper qualification as a minimum so the moorings are not simply providing a living place with a superb view – they are for those with the time and money to invest in maintaining a historic boat in working order and with the skill and qualifications to pilot those boats on the river.

Looking across towards Rotherhithe.

Thames River Police Museum

For Open House, there were also a couple of historic visitors to the Hermitage Moorings, including the Massey Shaw fireboat on the left.

Thames River Police Museum

There is a good view of the Hermitage Moorings from the riverside park and walkway along the river, however Open House provided the opportunity to walk among the boats and talk to the owners.

It was a fascinating day that demonstrated the sheer variety of sites open during Open House. From the pumping station on the Isle of Dogs, the Church and Town Hall at Limehouse, a museum in a working police station on the same location as where the river police force was formed, and river moorings from the last decade.

Hopefully, with some planning, I will get the whole weekend free for Open House 2018.

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The Hand And Shears

The following photo was published in a January 2016 post covering locations I had not identified. I have no idea why I did not recognise this pub, having walked past it many times and been inside on a number of occasions. The sign on the front also had part of the name. Luckily there were a number of readers more observant, or with a better memory than me as it is the Hand and Shears at 1 Middle Street at the junction with Cloth Fair, close to Smithfield Market and the church of St. Bartholomew the Great. The photograph was taken by my father in 1952.

Hand and Shears

Last week I had the opportunity for a visit to the pub which is still looking very good, sixty-five years after my father’s photo.

Hand and Shears

The name of the pub should have been obvious from the sign on the corner of the building. There is the symbol of a hand and shears at the top and part of the name is given at the bottom of the sign which reads:

“Moorland celebrates the grant of a Justices Licence to …Shears on the 1st May 1552 …. of service to the Public”

The words before Shears must be ‘Hand and’ and I suspect after 1552 it may have read ‘for years’.

Hand and Shears

The Justices Licence refers to the Alehouse Act of 1552 which defined in law that it was illegal to sell beer or ale without the consent of the local Justices of the Peace. This was the first time that a licence was required to sell beer and ale and was an attempt to address the drunkenness and disorder that was being caused by the widespread availability of alcohol.

The Act required that each person granted a licence was responsible for maintaining good behavior at their premises and any problems could result in a fine or loss of licence. From the sign it appears that the Hand and Shears was granted a licence in 1552.

The pub must have been working prior to the grant of a licence as a sign above the door states that the Hand and Shears was established in 1532 so a pub has been on the site for almost 500 years.

One more comment about the large sign on the 1952 pub, it is also advertising the brewery Barclay’s “Doctor” brand. This referred to beer brewed by the brewery that had a picture of Dr Johnson on the label.

The building that the Hand and Shears occupied in the photos above obviously does not date from 1532. It was built around 1852 as the following picture of the pub is dated 1852 and is of the new building of the Hand and Shears. It has hardly changed in 165 years.

Hand and Shears

The name Hand and Shears probably originates from the early days of Bartholomew Fair when it was the England’s main cloth fair. I have read a number of different sources attributing the name to either the use of shears at the fair, the cloth workers or the Mayor of London opening the fair by cutting the first piece of cloth.

The Hand and Shears prior to the nineteenth century building occupied the building shown in the following 1811 etching.

Hand and Shears

The title to the above etching is Pye Power Court, Cloth Fair.

Pubs provided many functions to their local community in addition to selling beer. Inquests would be held in the building, meetings of various societies, they organised sporting events and for the Hand and Shears there was the special role of the hosting the Pye Powder Court.

A Pye Powder Court dates from medieval times when the role of the court was to have jurisdiction over disputes between merchants and the public at a market or fair. They would also cover any other general dispute arising on fair grounds.

The name Pye Powder comes from ‘pied puldreaux’ the French word for Pedlar.

The Pye Powder Court held in the Hand and Shears had jurisdiction over the Cloth Fair and later Bartholomew Fair in nearby Smithfield.

Pye Powder Courts fell out of use in the mid-nineteenth century. Some of the last were held in the Hand and Shears and the following report from the Illustrated London News dated the 5th September 1846 covers one of these events:

“BARTHOLOMEW FAIR – On Wednesday, the usual proclamations for holding the fair were issued from the Pie-Powder Court, but the preparations presented the prospects of a very sorry realisation of the pleasures of this once favourite and popular place of metropolitan resort. The Pie-powder Court, one of the most expeditious, if not one of the most ancient courts of law in the kingdom, and to which the administration of the law on all matters pertaining to the fair, or offences committed in it, was confided, is now almost limited to Bartholomew Fair, where its duties are confined to the receipts of piccage, stallage and tollage. The court, whose proceedings are now merely nominal, is still held at the Hand and Shears public-house, in Cloth Fair.”

The terms piccage (money paid at fairs for breaking ground for a booth) and stallage (rental or fees for holding a stall in a market), like Pye Powder both have French origins so must date from the medieval period and the use of French for many legal regulations after 1066.

The following page is from Londina Illustrata published in 1811 and shows the Pye Powder Court in session. The text below the picture of the Hand and Shears reads “This Court is held at a Public House, known by the Sign of the Hand and Shears, the corner of Middle Street and King Street, as exhibited in the Vignette. The scene above, is descriptive of the Court held in the dining room, where the judge, attended by his secretary, is determining a cause between two histrionic complaints, respecting some injury sustained in the neighbouring fair of St. Bartholomew, by one of the parties.”

Hand and Shears

As well as the Pye Powder Court, other activities carried out at the Hands and Shears included inquests into deaths. There are numerous reports of these and they show the almost casual nature of death and lack of accountability in the city – I would recommend a read of 19th century newspapers for anyone who today criticises red tape and health and safety.

One report from the London City Press on the 18th February 1860 reads:

“FATAL ACCIDENT IN REDCROSS SQUARE – On Tuesday, the Coroner held an inquest at the Hand and Shears, Cloth-fair, on the body of George William Killby, aged 19 years, son of Mr. Inspector Killby of the City Police Force, whose death was occasioned under the following circumstances – On Monday, the 6th instant, the deceased and a young man named Joseph King, were walking along the above square on the foot-pavement, and upon arriving nearly opposite the gateway of Messrs. Treggon’s zinc manufactory, a loaded van was being drawn out of the gateway by a man in their employ, two others pushing behind, when, in consequence of there being a slight decline, the van overpowered them, and the off shaft pinned the deceased against the wall, the near shaft making a hole in the wall. He was extricated as soon as possible, and removed to his residence in Bartholomew-close, and Mr. Timothy, surgeon, of Barbican, attended him, and rendered every assistance; but he gradually declined and died on Saturday from inflammation of the bowels, the result of the injury. 

The Coroner summed up, and the jury, after having consulted together, the room having been cleared, ultimately returned a verdict of ‘Accidental death’; but they considered that vans should not be drawn out of the gateway in question without a horse, as this was not the first accident that had occurred, though fortunately the others had not been attended with loss of life.”

A full view of the Hand and Shears. The sign today boasts that the pub is the opportunity for the Last Ales before Newgate Public Executions.

Hand and Shears

The Hand and Shears was also the meeting place of the Bartholomew Club, a club of local people who met to discuss current political issues and points of historical interest, and the London City Press on the 22nd December 1868 reports on the annual dinner of the members and friends of the club, held in the Hand and Shears where a “substantial and satisfactory” dinner was provided. There followed a very large number of toasts, and proposing the health of various members and at the end “the company departed after spending a very agreeable and harmonious evening.

The pub has two bars, the Public Bar and the Saloon Bar. This is the corner entrance to the Public Bar:

Hand and Shears

The entrance to the Saloon Bar on Kinghorn Street:

Hand and Shears

Tiled entrance to the Saloon Bar:

Hand and Shears

Internally the Hand and Shears is a wonderful pub. A central island bar around which are the public and saloon bars (although there is very little difference between the two). I visited on a Tuesday afternoon which probably explains why it was so quiet, it is usually much busier at lunchtime and evenings.

Hand and Shears

Wooden paneling and polished wooden floor:

Hand and Shears

It is fascinating to sit in the Hand and Shears with a pint and contemplate all the people and events that have taken place here over the years. Both the exterior and interior of the pub appear to have hardly changed since the pub was built.

Whether it will remain in the future must be a concern given the fate of so many pubs across London. The area around Smithfield will change considerably over the coming years.

Walk through the short passage opposite the Hand and Shears to Long Lane and a sign of these changes can be seen in the form of the new Farringdon Station on the Crossrail / Elizabeth Line.

Hand and Shears

Future Smithfield developments also include the relocation of the Museum of London which will occupy part of the old market buildings. This area will change significantly.

As well as the Hand and Shears, there are a number of long-standing small businesses in the area. Along Long Lane is Evans and Witt (supplier of all manner of office supplies) which still retains the 01 telephone number on the facade.

Hand and Shears

And the Smithfield Cafe:

Hand and ShearsMany of the pubs my father photographed have disappeared. I have already written about the Tiger Tavern, the Gun Tavern and the Ticket Porter, so it is great to see the Hand and Shears still in business and much the same as when he took the original photo back in 1952.

I hope it stays as it is and in business for many years to come.

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Limehouse Town Hall And St Anne’s Church

My next Open House location was reached after a short walk along the Thames Path, up Three Colt Street and left along Commercial Road to just before where the Commercial Road crosses the Limehouse Cut to find Limehouse Town Hall:

Limehouse Town Hall

Limehouse Town Hall from across the Commercial Road:Limehouse Town Hall

On the 12th June 1875, a small advert appeared on page 4 of the East London Advertiser:

“The Churchwardens and Overseers of the Parish of St. Anne, Limehouse, being desirous of erecting a new Town Hall and Parochial Offices, require a suitable site for the same in the Parish. Proposals for the Sale of Properties for this purpose may be addressed to the Churchwardens and Overseers at the temporary offices, 713 Commercial-road.”

The proposal for a new town hall was not universally popular in Limehouse. the letters page of the East London Observer reflect the views of some of the more vocal of the opponents including a Mr. Richardson who “did not like the expense of the Town Hall, or that it would be let for entertainments.”

A plot of land was purchased directly on the Commercial Road and next to St. Anne’s church however the letters of complaint kept coming. In June 1878, “T.M.” wrote to the editor of the East London Observer that, “having seen on the plot of ground, formerly Mr. Walter’s house, a board placed with the inscription ‘Site for Limehouse Town Hall’, it occurred that if you would kindly allow me through the medium of your paper to draw the attention of the authorities and inhabitants to the advantage of allowing the site to remain open, and in due course taking down the ugly coffee-shop adjoining, thereby prominently showing up one of Sir Christopher Wren’s noblest churches, and at the same time giving the authorities the means of widening the thoroughfare and facilitating public traffic in that busy part, it would be a great boon.”

Interesting that T.M. refers to the church as by Wren. It was designed by Wren’s assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor,

Despite these protests, Limehouse Town Hall was built with construction starting in 1879 and the hall being completed in 1881 at a cost of £10,000 plus £2,920 for the land.

A foundation stone on the front of the building records the name of the builder and the architect.

Limehouse Town Hall

The East London Observer on Saturday 2nd April 1881 reported on the opening of the new Limehouse Town Hall:

“LIMEHOUSE AND ITS NEW TOWN HALL – The parish of Limehouse has entered into possession of its new town hall, and the opening of the building has been the occasion of a considerable amount of celebration. The parish officials evidently felt that the event was one akin in importance to the transformation which takes place when the chrysalis is resolved into a beautiful winged butterfly, and they may accordingly be pardoned for displaying more or less ecstasy on the occasion. Hope of having a proper parochial habitation has with them been so deferred, that we have jocularly referred to the anticipated building for some years past as ‘the millennial town hall’. First of all there was the financial difficulty, and when this was conquered or arranged, there were tedious and trying legal delays which seemed to perpetually bar the way to the achievement of the object upon which the Vestry of Limehouse had set its mind. Delays, anticipations and doubts are now all dismissed, and the long-looked-for day of possession has arrived and has been jubilantly greeted.

The event of opening the new building was accompanied by much eclait, for the church wardens had the support and presence of both the members for Tower Hamlets, of Mr Samuda, the late representative of the borough – who, by the way, met with quite as warm a reception as either Mr. Bryee or Mr. Ritchie – of several of the county magistrates, and other gentlemen of local position and influence.

Naturally the entree into a building such as that erected at Limehouse is not an ordinary occurrence, and it will be admitted by those who witnessed the proceedings that all that could be done to vest the affair with extraordinary significance was done. This, of course, is quite a matter of taste, which it is not our intention to dispute.  Still, as cool critics of facts, we must not overlook the circumstance that the possession of a town hall does not confer any addition of practical power. Limehouse for administrative purposes remains, as it was, part of the Limehouse District for sanitary purposes, and a part of the Stepney Union for poor-law purposes.”

The article then goes on to ask whether the new town hall may be part of a plan for Limehouse to gain more self-governing powers, but the article also challenges the expense of the new town hall if it was only to be used for “the self-glorification of the members of the Vestry and the exclusively for parochial purpose”, then there would be a challenge to the costs incurred.

They were confident that the Vestry would allow the free use of the new town hall by the rate payers of Limehouse, and that opportunities should be explored for letting the hall for public meetings, concerts etc. along with a reading room, free library and classes offering instruction in technical or higher education to help the people of Limehouse “might be cultivated morally and socially, and become better prepared to exercise their due influence upon the world of which they form part”.

The new Limehouse Town Hall did not therefore have an easy start and high expectations were set for how the building would be used.

The building has not functioned as a town hall for many years and has served many different uses over the years, including as the National Museum of Labour History which was opened in 1975 by Harold Wilson and lasted until the mid-1980s when financial troubles resulted in the closure of the museum with the collections being rescued by Manchester City council which formed the basis for the People’s History Museum.

Time to see the interior of the building.

On entering through the front doors, there is a short hall way to the bottom of the grand staircase which runs up to the first floor.

Limehouse Town Hall

View from the staircase up to the first and second floors. The ornate balusters on the staircase and the second floor walkway are original, produced in Glasgow by the MacFarlane foundry.

Limehouse Town Hall

Detail of the balusters – very ornate but they were not created specially for Limehouse Town Hall, they were a catalogue item of the foundry. I doubt those who criticised the costs of the town hall would have been happy with specially designed ornamentation for the building.

Limehouse Town Hall

Looking down from the first floor landing.

Limehouse Town Hall

Detail of the original tiles which have survived remarkably well.

Limehouse Town Hall

The church of St. Anne Limehouse is just to the east of Limehouse Town Hall and there is a wonderful view of the church looking rather ethereal through the window half way up the staircase.

Limehouse Town Hall

On the landing.

Limehouse Town Hall

Limehouse Town Hall is now well over 100 years old and has been through a succession of owners over the years. The age of the building and impact on the fabric is clear at a number of locations within the building, including this view of the ceiling.

Limehouse Town Hall

On the first floor is the large assembly room. It is this room that has served both the original Vestry and the people of Limehouse over the years. The hall has hosted numerous Vestry meetings, concerts, political meetings, dances, an infant welfare centre and exhibitions.

Limehouse Town Hall

From 1881 the building was licensed for music and dancing and again in the pages of the East London Observer there is a report and a number of letters regarding the purchase of a piano for the hall, the cost of the piano and who was actually funding the purchase.

View of the other end of the assembly room. Until around 1950 there was a raised platform at this end of the hall which was used for speeches and performances.

Limehouse Town Hall

Balcony over the main door leading from the landing. The glitter ball hints at one of the uses of the room.

Limehouse Town Hall

A sign on the balcony provides a clue as to one of the previous uses of the hall.

Limehouse Town Hall

Limehouse Town Hall was built with high expectations for its contribution to the lives of those living in Limehouse. Whilst Limehouse did not achieve the level of local governance to which the founders of the hall had aspired, the range of events held within the hall meant that it must have featured in the day-to-day lives of the people of Limehouse.

My next Open House visit was adjacent to Limehouse Town Hall and a very short walk to:

St. Anne’s Limehouse

The view of St. Anne’s Limehouse along St. Anne’s Passage.

Limehouse Town Hall

St. Anne’s church was one of the twelve churches built as a result of a 1711 Act of Parliament to build churches in locations across London where populations had grown but were not well served by a local church.

A tax on coal was used to fund the building work, which resulted in a number of large and architecturally impressive churches across the city.

St. Anne’s was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and built between 1714 and 1727.

The church was badly damaged by fire in 1850 and also by bombing in 1941. It has been through a number of restorations, the latest having been completed in 2009.

I have walked past St. Anne’s many times, but have never seen inside. The last time I walked past was when I was exploring the sites at risk as identified by the Architects Journal in 1972 when the church was one of the sites of concern, although it was Grade I listed in 1950.

Walking into the church reveals a large and impressive interior.

Limehouse Town Hall

With a very ornate roof.

Limehouse Town Hall

Looking back towards the main entrance to the church. The organ was built by John Gray and Frederick Davison who had a factory in Euston Road.

Limehouse Town Hall

The church was permitted by Queen Anne to fly the White Ensign and the location of the church, so close to the River Thames, together with the height of the church tower meant that St. Anne’s was a prominent landmark for those navigating the river and the church was marked by trinity House on navigation charts.

Many prints of the river around Limehouse show the church in the background. For example, the following print from 1827 shows the church as a very visible landmark just to the left of the ship on the right.

Limehouse Town Hall

The White Ensign was originally the flag of the second most senior Admiral in the Navy. In 1864 the White Ensign became the ensign of the Royal Navy.

Display boxes in the church display naval flags including the flag of HMS Ark Royal and the White Ensign flown on the church:

Limehouse Town Hall

The font which dates from the restoration carried out between 1851 and 1857 by John Morris and Philip Hardwick after the fire in 1850.

Limehouse Town Hall

This fire appears to have almost destroyed the church. There was a report on the fire in the London Evening Standard on the 30th March 1850, titled “Total Destruction Of Limehouse Church By Fire”:

“We had the lamentable task yesterday of announcing the total destruction by fire of the beautiful parish church of St. Anne, Limehouse. We now append some further particulars:-

It appears that at seven o’clock yesterday morning a man named Wm. Rumbold, who lights the stove fires, and attending to the heating of the church, entered the edifice and proceeded with his duties. He ignited both the furnaces, and at a quarter past eight o’clock was about to satisfy himself of the degree of temperature in the interior of the church, when he perceived a strong smell of burning wood, and shortly afterwards saw a quantity of smoke issue from the roof. Impressed with a fear that something serious had happened, Rumbold ran off to the residence of Mr. George Coningham, the beadle and engine keeper of the parish, who resides about 150 yards distant from the church.

Coningham instantly returned with Rumbold to the church, on reaching which, Coningham ascended through the belfry and immediately opened a door over the organ loft leading to a vast chamber extending over the whole body of the church. As soon as the door was opened, Coningham and Rumbold were both driven back and nearly suffocated by a rush of smoke and rarefied air which issued out of this chamber, and clearly indicated where the seat of the mischief really was. 

Coningham and Rumbold, with a view to rousing the neighbourhood, rang the two bells. An immense congregation of the inhabitants very speedily assembled. The fire had by this time begun to make its way through the roof. As yet there was no engine on the spot, and but a very scanty supply of water flowed from the street plugs.

The Rev. George Roberts, curate of the parish, who had by this time arrived. headed a large party of gentlemen, and by their exertions all the registers and other valuable parochial documents have been fortunately saved. 

The progress of the flames was so rapid that not a little risk was incurred in this good work.

Several engines had arrived before the roof fell, and a very good supply of water was at length obtained, but from the great difficulty of getting at the spot where the fire raged, all the efforts of the firemen were comparatively fruitless, and Mr Braidwood, the leader of the force, at once pronounced that any hope of saving the interior of the church was quite out of the question. 

The church was one of the most perfect interiors of the period in which it was built – Queen Anne’s time. It possessed a magnificent organ, built by Richard Bridge, in 1741, and a superb altar window of painted glass.”

It must have been devastating to the people of Limehouse to see their church in ruins.

Displayed in one of the side rooms is one of the hands from what may have been the original clock on the church. If I read the writing along the clock hand correctly it reads “This —– was taken from the face of the clock by R. Linton 1826”. The naval association of the church is shown in the clock hand by the anchor shape on the right of the hand.

Limehouse Town Hall

There is also a memorial to those who I assume were parishioners who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.

Limehouse Town Hall

It is always depressing to read these lists of names of those who had been killed during the wars, even more so when you find surnames repeated as you can imagine the impact it must have had on the families concerned.

One surname stood out on the St. Anne’s memorial – Peterken. There was an H.C. Peterken killed in the First World War and an A. Peterken killed in the Second World War.

I was able to find some background on H.C. Peterken.

Horace Peterken was a Private in the London regiment of the 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers). He was killed in action on the 26th October 1917. This was the first day of the Second Battle of Passchendale which ran until the 10th November 1917, so I assume he was killed on the first day of this battle.

In the 1911 Census he was living at 63 Three Colt Street in Limehouse (a street I walked up from the river to Commercial Street) along with his parents and six brothers and sisters.

His father, Henry George Peterken was 47 at the time of the census and is recorded as being born in Poplar. His father was a Letterpress Printer and Stationer. His mother, Sarah Ann Peterken was 46 and was born in Ratcliffe.

Sarah is recorded as having had 9 children, with 8 living and 1 died. Given that 7 children were living at the house in 1911 I assume the eighth may have been the oldest and had left home.

Horace was 15 at the time and his brothers and sisters living in Three Colt Street were; Ada, aged 23, Edith, aged 19, Winifred aged 17, Leonard aged 11, Mabel aged 9 and Cyril aged 4.

Ada was a Stationers Assistant so presumably worked for her father, Edith was a Dressmaker.

Henry George Peterken was a councillor and his printing shop was in Poplar High Street. The family may have been of Irish descent as on the 29th May 1909, the East London Observer  reports that his daughter Winnie (Winifred) led the Irish detachment in a Pageant to celebrate Empire Day.

Horace was born in the last quarter of 1895, so was around 22 when he died at Passchendale.

In one corner of the church there are steps leading down to the crypt:

Limehouse Town Hall

Walking down the stairs brings you to a smaller room before the main crypt which I suspect has the original flagstones across the floor.

Limehouse Town Hall

The large crypt has been through a major restoration with some superb brickwork across the walls and roof.

Limehouse Town Hall

Limehouse Town Hall and St. Anne’s Limehouse – two more fascinating buildings and each played their part in the rich history of East London.

Two more locations to visit which I will cover in my final post on Open House 2017 in the next couple of days.

alondoninheritance.com

West India Dock Impounding Station

Last weekend was the annual Open House event across London, two days when it is possible to visit so many locations across the city that are not normally open. I only had Sunday free this year, and planned a walking route that would take in five locations that I have walked past many times, but never had the opportunity to see inside.

The route would start on the Isle of Dogs and end just outside St. Katharine Docks. My first visit was to the West India Dock Impounding Station:

West India Dock Impounding Station

The Isle of Dogs has, and continues to undergo, significant development. The first building on my OpenHouse list is a low brick building between Marsh Wall and Westferry Road, surrounded on almost all sides by massive building sites.

This unassuming building is the West India Dock Impounding Station and since 1929 has provided the critical function of maintaining the water levels in the West India Dock complex and helping to reduce the build up of silt.

Side view of the building from Westferry Road:

West India Dock Impounding Station

The complex of interconnected docks (West India Dock Import, Export and the South Dock) form a large expanse of water. From the opening of the docks it was a challenge to keep the docks from silting up. Opening of the lock gates between the docks and river would frequently bring in a large quantity of water carrying silt which would be deposited across the docks.

The water level would also change. As well as the inflows and outflows when the lock gates were open, there was also evaporation from the large surface area of the water, as well as leakage through the walls and base of the docks.

The docks needed to be frequently dredged and there was an early attempt at a system to manage the flow of clean water into the docks built where Poplar Dock is now located, but these methods did not work well, or offer a long-term, cost-effective solution.

Plans for a new impounding station (impounding means the replenishment of a reservoir and in the case of the docks, the management of water into the docks) were ready in 1913, however construction of the new station did not start.

Modified plans were ready in 1921 and between 1926 and 1929 the new impounding station was built across the disused western entrance to the South Dock.

This view is from Westferry Road, looking along the disused entrance to the South Dock out towards the River Thames. The entrance now provides the water intake from the river to the pumps in the impounding station.

West India Dock Impounding Station

Externally, the building appears to be a simple, brick building with no hints of what could be inside. What does make the building stand out today, is that it is one of the very few surviving buildings in this area from when the docks were operational. So much has been demolished over the past decades.

The isle of Dogs was heavily bombed in the last war, but the building also survived intact throughout this period. I searched through photos of the area on the Britain from Above web site and found the following photo from 1934. The West India Export Dock is on the left of the photo, and to the right of this dock is the South Dock. The West India Dock Impounding Station had been completed five years before this photo was taken and is just visible between the South Dock and the river. The red circle surrounds the building.

West India Dock Impounding Station

To show the overall expanse of water that was topped up by the West India Dock Impounding Station, I took the following photo during a flight over London in the early 1980s. I have again circled the location of the building. the South Dock is behind the building, the West India Export and Import docks are to the left.

West India Dock Impounding Station

The building is slightly deceiving from the outside in that the machinery is all below ground level which is apparent on entering the building and looking down on the three large pumps and their associated electric motors that occupy the floor of the building.

West India Dock Impounding Station

These are all the original 1929 machines, apart from the normal wear and tear replacement or refurbishment of components. Each of the pumps consist of three component parts:

  • the large doughnut shaped housings for the impellers that pump the water from the river into the dock
  • a large electric motor that runs the pump
  • a smaller electric motor that acts as a starter motor – the pumps are direct drive, there is no gearing so the torque needed to get the pumps running is considerable

The photo below shows the drive between the electric motor and the pump. The large boards resting up against the wall at the back of the photo are blanking panels inserted across the lower half of the pump when the top half is removed to gain access to the impeller. Without sealing the pumps, water would escape into the building, which it did in the 1970s causing a minor flood in the building.

West India Dock Impounding Station

The pumps only operate when water needs to be transferred into the docks, so they do not run all the time. Generally only one pump is needed, the three pumps provide a level of redundancy to ensure that the impounding station can still work even with two pumps out of service for maintenance or repair.

Depth of water gauges:

West India Dock Impounding Station

The pumps and electrical equipment still have their maker’s name plate, giving the manufacturer, location and year of build:

West India Dock Impounding Station

Original meters showing the electrical feed to the motors:

West India Dock Impounding Station

Each of the pumps consists of three main parts. In the photo below are the electrical motors. On the left is the smaller starter motor which generates sufficient torque to get the larger motor and pump moving and on the right is the large motor which drives the pump. The box to the left of the starter motor is full of resistors used to absorb excess electricity generated by the starter motor when the main motor is running.

West India Dock Impounding Station

The electric motors drive the impellers which are housed in these large doughnut shaped pump housings. Water is drawn in from the Thames via the old inlet to the South Dock, and through a wire mesh which traps items floating in the water from being drawn into the pumps.

West India Dock Impounding Station

For each pump, there is a large blade that opens or closes the flow of water into the South Dock. The following photo shows two of these. When open, the blade is retracted into the large metal housing above floor level, when closed the blade is lowered to block the flow of water in the pipes below floor level, from the pump into the South Dock.

West India Dock Impounding Station

Monitoring water levels and control of the pumps is now mainly automated, however some of the original monitoring equipment is still in place. The photo below shows the original water level monitor. Water would rise up and down the large black pipe. A float on the top of the water column was connected by a cable to the gauge on the wall above.

West India Dock Impounding Station

Original tools:

West India Dock Impounding Station

The water level on the inlet from the river is monitored automatically, however a monitor also provides a view of the inlet.

West India Dock Impounding Station

As I mentioned earlier in the post, the West India Dock Impounding Station managed to survive the blitz and the significant bomb damage that devastated much of the Isle of Dogs. The building included an air raid shelter for the workers in the form of a heavily protected room at one end of the building. This can be seen in the photo below with the thick concrete layer between the room and the entrance level above.

West India Dock Impounding Station

I was really surprised to learn that the West India Dock Impounding Station is not listed. Given the amount of building on the Isle of Dogs where any spare land seems to either be occupied by a recent build, or is currently a construction site this is a real worry.

The building seems surrounded by over bearing building sites at the moment which are very visible on leaving the building.

West India Dock Impounding Station

I can only hope that in a world which seems to know the price of everything and the value of nothing, the building is protected from the developments which seem to be covering much of this area.

After leaving the West India Dock Impounding Station. I crossed over Westferry Road to the Thames path and crossed over the inlet from the river. Five large wheels control the opening and closing of the inlets to the Thames.

West India Dock Impounding Station

Each with a reminder of the old London Docklands Development Corporation.

West India Dock Impounding Station

A final look back along the inlet towards the West India Dock Impounding Station.

West India Dock Impounding Station

The opening of the West India Dock Impounding Station for Open House was organised by the Canal & River Trust and their guides were incredibly knowledgeable about this historic building.

Despite not being listed, I hope that the building will be protected in the future and continue to manage water levels across the docks using the original machinery within the 1929 brick building.

Now off to Limehouse for two more OpenHouse locations which I will cover in my next post.

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Highgate Station – A Hidden London Tour

The London Transport Museum run a series of excellent tours under the title of Hidden London. Up until a couple of weeks ago I had been on all these tours with the exception of the “Highgate Wilderness Walkabout”, so I was really pleased to complete the set and take the Northern Line up to Highgate Station on a Friday afternoon at the beginning of September.

Unlike the majority of Hidden London tours, this one is above ground and explores the old Highgate high level station. I have wanted to visit this station for some time after finding some postcards of Highgate Station which show a large station and tunnels in a valley adjacent to the Archway Road.

The high level Highgate Station is above the underground station of the same name on the Northern Line. The high level station (which I will call Highgate Station from now on) was opened on the 22nd August 1867 by the Great Northern Railway on a new line that ran from Finsbury Park up to Edgware, High Barnet and Alexandra Palace.

The following postcard shows a view of the station from the south. Archway Road is on the left. The view of the station is not as originally built when the platforms were along the side of the tracks. The main central platform was added soon after.

Highgate Station

This postcard shows the station as first built with the two side platforms.

Highgate Station

Another view of the station which shows how quickly trees had grown on the embankments surrounding the station.

Highgate Station

A postcard showing the platform and through the tunnel.

Highgate Station

The description at the bottom of the postcard regarding the foliage perfectly describes the station environment today.

When Highgate Station was built, much of the area further out from central London was still countryside. There is a report of the opening of the station in the Illustrated Times on the 26th October 1867. This includes the following description of the surrounding countryside and the benefits that the new line will bring:

“The beautiful country around Finchley, Hendon, Mill-hill, Edgware and Stanmore, has hitherto been practically a remote and inaccessible region. One or two vehicular enormities in the shape of ‘busses’ and the ‘carriers cart’, with its incurable jog-trot have literally been the only means of transit for passengers, goods and parcels between London and a large, healthy, and populous district within five to twelve miles of the Bank! Now, however, smart, roomy carriages, lighted with gas, and ‘tooled’ into the City in less than half the time formerly occupied, will no doubt, draw out the travelling capacities of our secluded friends; while the household requisites and numerous articles of merchandise necessary to the existence of a modern civilised community will be scattered by a beneficent goods-train in rich profusion over a district contented till lately, with the mere beauties of nature.”

Strange to hear Finchley being described as a “remote and inaccessible region” !

The opening of Highgate Station must also have had a very positive impact on the price of property in the area (the result of the construction of new transport lines still visible today, for example along the route of Crossrail). Adverts for property in newspapers in the years after the opening of the station mention “near the recently opened Highgate Station”.

The map below from the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Greater London Atlas shows the position of the station (circled in red). Follow the tracks to the left, through the tunnel (dotted line) and the tracks run on to East Finchley along with another set of tracks which run to Alexandra Palace (top right) having passed through stations at Cranley Gardens and Muswell Hill.)

Highgate Station

The following photo dated 1938 from the Britain from Above collection just shows the entrance to the northern tunnels from Highgate Station, at the very bottom of the photo. Follow the direction of the tunnels higher up the photo and slightly to the right and you can see where the tunnels emerge with two lines of track running up to East Finchley. The branch to Alexandra Palace can also just be seen. The photo therefore gives a good idea of the length of the tunnels.

Highgate Station

During the 1930s there were plans to significantly expand the railways serving the northern reaches of London. The Northern Line would be extended from Archway Station and a new deep level station at Highgate would connect to the high level station to form a major junction.

Work was progressing well, when in 1936 Charles Brand & Son Ltd started the construction of new tunnels extending from Highgate deep level station up to ground level just south of East Finchley station where the tunnels would emerge on either side of the high level tracks.

The tunneling work was helped as a new rotary excavator was used in addition to the normal tunneling shields. The rotary excavator was claimed to dig 170 feet  of tunnels per week, roughly twice as fast as the traditional shield method.

An inspection of the works was held for journalists in early 1938 and at the following luncheon the intentions were made clear for the volume of traffic at the combined high and low level Highgate station which would be served by 35 trains per hour at peak times, with 14 serving the high level platforms and 21 the low level platforms.

The start of the war in 1939 slowed down work on electrifying the northern routes, extension of the Northern Line and integrating the high and low level stations at Highgate. The original high level station buildings were demolished and a new central platform with reinforced concrete canopies were built, including a stairway leading down to the new Highgate Northern Line ticket hall. The central platforms dating from this time are still in place today.

The deep level station opened to traffic in 1941.

After the war, the lack of finance, along with a reduction in passenger numbers conspired against any further electrification or expansion of the northern rail lines and whilst the Northern Line was not at risk, traffic through the High Level station was such that routes through the station gradually closed, with the last passenger train running through Highgate high level station to Alexandra Palace in July 1954.

The line continued in use for a few years to carry freight, however the tracks were removed between Highgate and Alexandra Palace in 1958 and along the rest of the route in 1971.

The stations at Cranley Gardens and Muswell Hill on the Alexandra Palace line were demolished and today nothing remains of these station buildings, however the Parkland Walk now follows sections of the route of the railway line from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace.

The station has remained ever since, with the tracks and embankments being gradually reclaimed by nature

Time to take the tour. The station is reached from the curved footpath descending from Wood Lane which was one of the original entrances to the station as shown in the postcards.

This is the view along the platform looking towards the northern tunnels.

Highgate Station

From the same platform looking towards the southern tunnels. The concrete canopy is from the 1941 reconstruction of the high level platforms.

Highgate Station

At the end of the platforms looking at the northern tunnels.

Highgate Station

These photos show how this once busy station in the centre of north London and adjacent to the busy Archway Road has been reclaimed by nature.

Highgate Station

This stairway was also part of the 1941 reconstruction of the station and led down to the ticket hall for the deep level station below.

Highgate Station

The walk to the southern tunnels feels like a walk through some woods, such is the level of tree growth. Recent rainfall had also turned the pathway into a muddy track which further enhanced the sense of a walk in the country rather than in central Highgate.

Looking back from the southern tunnels to the station in the distance.

Highgate Station

The southern tunnels.

Highgate Station

A redundant litter box.

Highgate Station

The two southern tunnel entrances.

Highgate Station

Whilst it is possible to walk in the tunnels, they are closed off to protect the six different species of bats that now call these tunnels home.

Highgate Station

A final look along the central station platform.

Highgate Station

This was a fascinating glimpse of a station that was once intended to be a significant transport hub in north London and now forms a very natural and overgrown valley next to the Archway Road.

As usual, the guides and staff from the London Transport Museum were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Having completed the current set of tours, I can only hope that there are plans to open up a few more locations in the future.

The Hidden London page on the London Transport Museum web site details the tours as they are available.

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111 Strand – A Street Map In Portland Stone

So much modern architecture is bland, built to a cost, and does not have any features that associate the building with its location or the activities carried out by the occupants of the building.

The same style and designs can be found across the country and indeed globally, whilst a trend towards relatively short-term occupation has driven design of buildings to provide a flexible shell and interior which can support many different occupiers over the life of the building.

I have previously written about buildings such as 262 High Holborn, Imperial Chemicals House and the Faraday Building, all of which were designed with decoration to illustrate something about the occupier of the building, or the activities carried out within.

I found another building recently, one which I have walked past many times and had not noticed the decoration covering one part of the building. across five floors of the facade.

This is 111 Strand.

111 Strand

The building dates from 2002 and the architect was Squire and Partners.

At first glance it looks like another standard office design with no redeeming features, however if you look at the right hand edge of the building, above the large street number 111, there is an intriguing design running from the first floor to the fifth.

111 Strand

Study the design and it clearly appears to be a street map, carved in Portland stone panels.  It was created by the artists Langlands & Bell following a competition to work with the architects on the design of the building.

The street map represents a vertical segment of the local streets running north from Savoy Hill at the bottom of the map to the junction of Catherine Street and Tavistock Street. I have tried to align the map on the building to the actual street map from Google. This is shown below.

111 Strand

I have outlined 111 Strand in blue. The scaling of the two maps is slightly different, so they do not exactly align at the same level, however the area covered by the Portland stone map is very clear in the Google map.

From Savoy Place at the bottom of the map, it crosses Savoy Hill and Savoy Row to the location of 111 Strand. Then across the Strand to the location of the Lyceum Theatre and the junction of Wellington Street and Exeter Street, then across a diamond shape plot of land bounded by Exeter Street, Catherine Street, Tavistock Street and Wellington Street leading to where the top of the map is reached.

I really like the idea of having a street map carved on the facade of a building. It acknowledges the surrounding landscape and that the building is part of this landscape, however I do wonder why 111 Strand was not marked on the map to place the building within the surrounding streets. Interesting also the scope of the map. The River Thames is only slightly further to the bottom of the map and would have placed 111 Strand in relation to the river, which would also help explain why the Strand is named as it is.

I do like the attention to detail. If you look at the diamond-shaped plot of land at the top, the number and shape of the buildings along Tavistock Street at the top of the diamond are the same as in the Google map. Also within the diamond, the large block of the Duchess Theatre can be clearly seen.

I have no idea how I have missed this stone map in the fifteen years since 111 Strand was completed – I must be looking at new buildings with an inbuilt assumption that there is nothing of interest to see – I will have to pay more attention to more recent buildings in the future.

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Clifton Suspension Bridge

In 1952 on one of his cycling trips across the country, my father was in Bristol and took some photos of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The bridge has been on my rather long list of places to visit, so when tours of the hidden vaults beneath one of the abutments supporting the bridge were announced, I booked, and a couple of weeks ago the day arrived to visit the bridge and take the tour. I even found some very tangible links back to London and the River Thames.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge spans the River Avon from the Clifton area of Bristol to Leigh Woods on the opposite side of the large gorge that the river has cut through limestone rocks.

The first photo is my father’s photo showing the Clifton Suspension Bridge from the side of the River Avon at the bottom of the gorge.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

I started my visit to the Clifton Suspension Bridge by walking up from the centre of Bristol to the Clifton end of the bridge. This was the view in 1952:Clifton Suspension Bridge

Sixty five years later and the view is almost identical. A bit less tree cover, and today there are automatic barriers to collect the one pound charge for traffic to cross the bridge.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Clifton Suspension Bridge opened on the 8th December 1864.

The Illustrated London News on the 17th December 1864 covered the opening of the bridge and included some history of the efforts to build the bridge:

“The history of this project is somewhat remarkable. In the year 1753 Alderman Vick, of Bristol, bequeathed to the Society of Merchant Venturers the sum of £1000, directing that such sum should be placed out at interest until it should accumulate and increase to £10,000, when it was to be applied to the building of a stone bridge across the Avon from Clifton-down, in the county of Gloucester, to Leigh-down, in the county of Somerset. this was the origin of the gigantic scheme that has only just now been carried into execution after the lapse of 111 years.

It was at once perceived to be impossible to build a stone bridge across so vast a chasm. For nearly 80 years the £1000 left by Mr Vick was allowed to accumulate; and in the year 1839, when the railway system was beginning to make itself felt, the citizens of Bristol began to think of the old legacy and the possibility of applying it to the purpose for which it was left. At the time the money had increased to £8000 and it was resolved to use the amount as the nucleus of whatever sum might be required to construct the bridge. An Act of Parliament was obtained, and plans were advertised for. The first estimate given for the stone bridge was £90,000, about half of what such a building, if practicable, would cost; so stone was given up for iron, and Telford, the builder of the Menai bridge, and the late Mr Brunel, competed for the honour of giving a design for a suspension bridge. Mr Brunel’s design was preferred. His estimate was £57,000; but when £45,000 had been spent only the towers had been built, and the work came to a stop. His design was a chain bridge of a single span of 700ft, two chains passing over two towers, and being anchored deep in the limestone rocks behind them.

In 1843 all the money was gone, and the scheme was in abeyance for want of funds, and though many propositions were made to the trustees under the old Act of Parliament, the bridge would very likely have been incomplete to this day had not the removal of the Hungerford Bridge become necessary. Mr Brunel, as it happened, had been the engineer of Hungerford Bridge; and when, therefore, its chains had to be pulled down and to give place to the bridge of the Charing-cross Railway, it occurred to Mr Hawkshaw to have them applied to the completion of one of Mr Brunel’s bridge designs. For such a purpose the money was soon forthcoming. A new company, under a new Act and presided over by Mr Huish was started, with a capital of £35,000. The chains of Hungerford Bridge were purchased for £5,000; the stone towers built by Mr Brunel for the old company, for £2000. Two years ago the work of slinging these chains began and the bridge is now finished.”

The Hungerford Bridge referred to was the original Hungerford Bridge that crossed the Thames prior to the construction of Charing Cross Station. The old Hungerford Bridge had to be demolished to allow a railway bridge to be built in its place.

I asked the guide whether all the suspension iron rods were from Charing Cross, he was not sure of the actual number as some new rods had to be made, but many of the rods suspending the deck of the bridge today are the originals from Hungerford Bridge. These rods look out on a very different river to the one they originally spanned.

The following print shows the original Hungerford Bridge and it is clear that the same design principles are used for both this bridge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Another of my father’s photos looking along the bridge from the Clifton side:

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The same view today. The height of the bridge is very apparent, being 245ft above high water. The banks of the gorge are wooded. The size of the large brick abutment supporting the bridge tower at the Leigh Woods end of the bridge is very apparent. Within this abutment are the chambers that I will be visiting.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

During the construction of the bridge, people and materials needed to be transferred between the two banks of the Avon. To achieve this, a metal rod was pulled across the Avon gorge. From this rod a basket was suspended and was pulled across the gorge by ropes. Given the height of the gorge this must have been a rather dramatic crossing.

A report in the West Kent Guardian on the 3rd September 1836 wrote about one of the events when there was a near disaster when crossing the river by this means:

“In the afternoon of Saturday, several persons were attracted to the spot where the bar crosses the Avon, in consequence of some gentlemen being observed taking a car over the Leighwood side of the river. In a short time it was perceived that this car was being affixed to the iron bar, and in a few moments two young gentlemen entered it, and it was drawn about midway, hanging over the river, here it stopped, owning it is supposed, to their being an obstruction in the bar caused by its fall; the rope by which the car was being drawn was then slackened to a very considerable degree.

The Benledi steam vessel at this time approached, and the mast just caught the rope; a cry of horror was uttered on both shores. The parties on board the steamer not being aware of the circumstance, did not stop the vessel, which proceeded, drawing with it the rope, the bar, and the car. The people on the shore covered their eyes with their hands, and expected every instant to hear the report of the bar breaking, for if this had been the case the young gentlemen would have been precipitated into the river below.

Fortunately, however at this awful crisis one man had sufficient fortitude and presence of mind to cut the end of the rope, and thus let the voyagers free from the steamer, but the car then swung to and fro with the most awful rapidity and a gentleman who was present states that the sight was so dreadful, that it was impossible to give a description of it. After a lapse of some time the car became steady, and the young gentlemen were drawn to the rock in safety. A gentleman then got into it, and was drawn to the same spot. he ascended from the car to the bar, and was apparently engaged in endeavouring to remove the obstruction, but our informant had seen enough and left the spot, assuring us that what he had witnessed had made such an impression on his mind that it was some time before he recovered his self-possession.”

An inscription on the top of the Clifton tower records the start of construction in 1836 and completion in 1864. The iron chains supporting the bridge pass through the tower and roll over a mechanism that allows the chains to move very slightly to avoid undue pressure on the tower.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Plaque on the side of the bridge recording the laying of the original foundation stone. It would be almost three decades before the bridge would be complete.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

There was an extravagant opening of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in 1864. The following drawing shows the crowds assembled for the ceremony.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Illustrated London News recorded the opening ceremony:

“The ceremony of opening the new bridge was attended with much festivity and pomp. There was a procession through the city of Bristol, composed of all the trades and benefit societies, bearing the banners and models illustrative of various callings. This procession, which came early, was immense in numbers, and took nearly three hours to wind through Bristol to the edge of the Clifton ravine, whence they wound down by the ‘zigzag’ to the banks of the Avon. 

There was another and more dignified procession, which came precisely at twelve o’clock to perform the actual ceremony. This procession did not arrive upon the ground till all the spectators and visitors were assembled – that is to say, till the approaches to the bridge were filled, till the heights of Leigh Wood were crowded, and the ledge of steep grey cliffs lined with dense masses of people. 

The opening ceremony was performed by the procession crossing the bridge from Clifton to the Leigh Wood side, amidst a grand salute from the Volunteer Artillery. from the Somerset side the return was made in the same order to the Clifton or Gloucestershire end, when a halt was called in frount of the grand stand erected for visitors; and Captain Huish, the chairman of the company, read a brief address setting forth the history of the undertaking, which was loudly cheered.

The Bishop of Gloucester offered up a prayer; after which, in a few brief words, the Earl of Ducie, for the county of Gloucestershire and the city and county of Bristol, and the Earl of Cork for the county of Somerset, each formally declared the bridge opened to the public for traffic, amidst renewed cheers, which were repeated again and again.

In the course of the afternoon a late dejeuner, or early dinner was given in the Victoria Rooms, to which all the chief visitors and the leading gentry of Bristol and its neighbourhood were invited. 

During the night the bridge was illuminated with the electric light and with Bengal fires.”

The Victorians knew how to open a bridge !

This is the view from the centre of the bridge, looking inland as the River Avon curves around Bristol and heads to Bath.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

From the opposite side of the bridge, the Avon gorge is very apparent. In this direction the river heads towards the River Severn and the Bristol Channel. The A4 is the road that runs along the base of the gorge.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

My father took this view from the Clifton end of the bridge, looking down on the road. During my visit, this side of the bridge was closed, so the above photo taken from the Leigh Wood end was the closest I could get.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The view of the bridge from the Leigh Wood side looking back at Clifton. Unlike Leigh Wood, the Clifton tower was built on rock so does not have the very large abutment to be found supporting the Leigh Wood tower.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Leigh Wood tower:

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Leigh Wood tower has the Latin inscription SUSPENSA VIX VIA FIT which translates as “A suspended way made with difficulty”. It is also apparently a play on words to record the name of Alderman Vick who made the original £1000 contribution to the bridge in 1753.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

View looking along the bridge from the Leigh Wood end.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Time to enter the chambers beneath the abutment.

It was long assumed that the abutments were solid, however when a builder was replacing paving slabs, he found that the wooden sleepers on which the slabs had been fitted had started to rot and a small hole had appeared. Poking a rod through the hole the builder found a large void underneath.

On descending down the void, they found holes leading off which led into other large chambers and discovered that rather than being solid, the abutment comprised a number of large, vaulted chambers, untouched since the bridge towers had been constructed.

In the photo below, to the right of the seat, just before the start of the shadow there is a manhole cover. This is the location where the discovery was made.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

To gain access to the chambers, an entrance way has been cut into the side of the abutment which is reached by a walk down the side of the abutment, then a short vertical ladder to reach the floor level of the first chamber.

The first sight of the chamber is stunning. A large vaulted chamber, original builders rubble on the floor and stalactites hanging from the ceiling.

The rock on the left is part of the natural rock formation, showing how the abutment and chambers were built onto and around the rock edge of the gorge.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

In the above photo you can see a hole in the roof of the chamber. Apparently this was used for access during the completion of the abutment, and then sealed.

On the surface of the bridge, the hole is located roughly at the end of the traffic island, in the centre of the road in the photo below.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

From the first chamber, a small hole leads through to the next chamber:

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The first chamber is up against the rocky edge of the gorge, this chamber is at 90 degrees to the first chamber and the wall at the end of this chamber is the wall that faces out from the abutment, across the gorge.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

This is the largest part of the abutment and there are similar chambers on either side and below. In the photo below you can see two round holes, high up on the side walls of the chamber. these lead through to chambers on either side of this chamber.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

View of the access hole to the side chambers:

Clifton Suspension Bridge

There are also lower access holes to the side chambers – it would be a very narrow crawl through these:

Clifton Suspension Bridge

And on the floor there is a ladder leading to the chambers below. When looking at the external view of the abutment, it is hard to believe that there as so many large chambers hidden within.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

On the floor of the chamber there are a number of stalagmites, built up over the decades from the water dripping from above.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge is a superb example of Victorian engineering. Not only highly functional and built to last, but the bridge also looks so good and blends perfectly with the surrounding landscape.

It is surprising how on all my visits to locations outside of London I always find a link with London, and in the case of the Clifton Suspension Bridge a very tangible link, walking across knowing that some of the supporting iron rods had once also supported the deck of the original Hungerford Bridge.

After the tour of the chambers, I climbed the hill at the Clifton end of the bridge to the observatory for a final view of the bridge before heading back down into Bristol.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Clifton Suspension Bridge has an excellent visitor centre and the volunteers who run the tours are really knowledgeable and enthusiastic about this wonderful bridge.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge web site has details of the visitor centre and the hard hat tours of the abutment chambers. It can be found here.

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Regents Park Basin, Cumberland Market Estate And Wartime Bombing

For this week’s post, I am in for me, a rather special place. This is the Peabody Cumberland Market Estate, a large estate of flats, mainly completed by 1937 and built around the old Regents Park Basin, also known as the Cumberland Market Basin, built to facilitate delivery of hay, vegetables, ice and loads of other goods to Cumberland Market, which was located at the end of the basin.

It is a special place for me as my father moved into Bagshot House as a child in 1939, lived here throughout the war (apart from about 2 weeks of evacuation), and continued living here until the early 1950s.

Regents Park Basin

Construction of the flats was started in the mid 1920s on land owned by the Crown Estate. The flats were built on land once occupied by warehouses, workshops and houses, all surrounding the Regents Park Basin. The basin was connected to the Regents Canal by a short run of canal that passed through Regents Park, then alongside the Regents Park Barracks. Cumberland Market was at the end of the basin. This extension of the canal was built in 1830.

The architect of the estate was C. E. Varndell and there is a street named after him running from Cumberland Market to the Hampstead Road.

The following map from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas for Greater London shows the basin to the left of centre. In the above Peabody map you can see Redhill Street and Augustus Street with allotments now running through the centre of the estate on the area once occupied by the basin.

Regents Park Basin

It was from these flats that for a child the rest of London was a playground, where the impact of war would be seen both in the distance and in his own block of flats and where a 14 year old would see the horrendous human consequences of the bombing of a civilian population.

It was also from the flats that immediately after the war he would set out walking and cycling to photograph London and a few of these photos include views of the estate.

If you return to the Peabody estate map at the top of the post, you will see Redhill Street, then Bagshot House, then Swinley House.

Swinley House was a long row of flats that faced onto the Regents Park Basin. When built, the basin was still full of water, however this was the post war view across what was the Regents Park Basin looking towards Swinley House.

Regents Park Basin

I could not get to the exact same location, however this is roughly the same view today – I will explain why the views are so different after the photo below.

Regents Park Basin

Firstly, if you look along the top of Swinley House, the roof level flats are missing along the left of the building in the post war photo. This was as a result of incendiary bombing in 1940 which I will describe later in this post.

Also in the post war photo all the land in front of Swinley House is full of rubble. This had once been the Regents Park Basin, however, during the war the basin and canal extension was gradually filled with the considerable volumes of rubble caused by bombing across the city.

As Cumberland Market had closed, the basin served no purpose, and therefore provided a convenient dumping ground.

The following extract is from my father’s account of his experiences in London during the war, written in the summer of 1945, and mentions the in filling of the basin. This was the year 1943.

London’s bomb sites continued to be cleared and building repairs carried out. The number of static water tanks increased as sites and basements became available, and huge piles of brick and masonry rubble appeared where buildings had once stood. 

That section of the Regents Canal from its Camden Town branch to the Regents Park Basin had been filed in over a period of many weeks. The water had not been drained but remained beneath the layer of rubble which had been dropped from a continuous fleet of lorries reversing towards the basin and tipping the contents into the water until one very small area of water remained, massed with gasping fish. Luckily all the ducks had flown.

I often wondered what personal belongings and perhaps human remains were buried with the filling, and thought the loss of water foolhardy as air raids might well resume.

Cumberland Market became a Council Depot for building materials, huge mounds of sand and bags of cement, the site enclosed with old doors which were plentiful.

The large area in front of Swinley House is now occupied by allotments, as topsoil was placed over the rubble.

The following view is looking down the full length of the old Regents Park Basin towards where Cumberland Market would have been just after the flats at the very end. Swinley House is on the right.

Regents Park Basin

The two buildings in the distance in the above photo are Euston Tower on the left and the BT Tower on the right which should help with the location and orientation of this area.

Walking back into the courtyard area, this is part of Bagshot House. My father lived in a flat along the first floor balcony on the left.

Regents Park Basin

I stood in the courtyard imagining the scenes here in 1940. This extract from my father’s account is about the heavy bombing during the later half of 1940:

“On another night during this period our block of flats and Swinley House directly opposite were showered with incendiaries. As father was on day shift at the time we were all in our beds resting as well as we were able, until the characteristic incendiary noise had us quickly out of bed. Father, a big man over six feet tall, the son of a fire chief officer and born in a fire station, was no man to hang about if a fire was in the offing. Donning his steel helmet, dressing gown over his pyjamas and a pair of slippers on his feet he rushed out of the doors and disappeared along the balcony towards the stairs. Mother called out to him in anguish but to no avail, the days of the horse drawn appliance rushing to a fire was in his blood. Up to the top floor directly above us he went, grabbing a stirrup pump in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. A pump with buckets of water and sand were normally available at each stair landing. An incendiary had crashed through the roof above, entering the top most flat, and in short time would no doubt have burnt its way through to us or at least have ruined all our possessions with water. However with the help of the occupier who was panicking for the A.F.S. (Auxiliary Fire Service) father soon had both the fire and the bomb extinguished.

Meanwhile, the incendiaries which had fallen on Swinley House went unnoticed. In one top floor flat bedroom windows could be seen the now familiar dazzling white light, soon turning to orange, as I watched from the bedroom window. Presently the roof began to burn through. Noticing figures in the courtyard below, now beginning to be illuminated by the flames, father could be seen rushing across to the stairs to grapple with this new challenge. The top floor balcony soon became doted with silhouettes of men throwing what they could salvage down to the courtyard, a dangerous and pointless task carried out in desperation, as anything of value would be looted before daylight. This fire was too advanced for stirrup pumps and buckets of water and due to the great number of fires that night a trailer pump did not arrive until the fire was well underway. In the meantime, my father and others carried on as best they could, eventually arriving home with blackened face, wet and filthy, his dressing gown and pyjama trousers singed, and slippers ruined. Concrete floors and stairways saved the block from complete destruction, the rooms and furniture directly beneath the top floor remaining soaked with sooty water for weeks. As for salvage, bedding was hung over balcony walls to dry, an unsatisfactory and lengthy process without an alternative. Furniture carried down to the courtyard and left to the elements until it could be carted away, that is what remained after further looting.”

The comments on looting are interesting, even within a reasonably enclosed estate. There are many examples of the “Blitz spirit” in my father’s accounts, but they also demonstrate that there will always be people willing to take advantage of the misfortune of others.

There are many accounts of happenings throughout the war on the estate in his written records, another extract from early 1944 during the “little blitz” again covers bombing directly on the estate:

” I wasn’t going to miss this chance of rushing out and extinguishing as many incendiaries as could be found, and after a short argument with mother over the chances of not coming back I shot out of the front door followed by father, although at this stage of the war he had become weary and lost some of his enthusiasm for fighting fires.

From all sides came the familiar sights and sounds. A mile or so over King’s Cross way was the great orange glow of many fires taking hold where the first missiles had fallen, and below in our courtyard and all around lay the incendiary bombs, burning with that intense incandescent, white light. Already many people were running from bomb to bomb with sandbags, dousing the bombs as best they could. Then came pandemonium. Explosions, cries and shouts from all sides. it seemed as though all hell had been let loose as there came hundreds of explosions from all around in quick succession. 

Instinctively father and I dropped to the balcony floor behind the brick parapet wall that separated the balcony from the 20 foot drop to the courtyard below. For a minute or so we were completely dazed. The explosions had come suddenly and without warning and now, hot, steel fragments were whining in all directions. 

As the explosions became less frequent I shakily joined father to peer over the wall to the courtyard below. Realisation came that these were not the old incendiaries which could be picked up or kicked into the gutter to burn out, these weapons were fitted with some anti-personnel device of explosive fitted to the original type of bomb, so timed to explode about three minutes after the bomb had ignited. In other words, just as some likely person, it could have been me or father, was stooping over to extinguish the bomb, which is exactly what had happened.

By the time the two of us had reached the courtyard, most of the bombs had thankfully blown themselves to pieces, saving the effort of having to extinguish them, but with the penalty of perhaps having a body riddled with white hot steel and burning magnesium.

The device had proved very successful as we watched lifeless and injured residents being carried away.”

Thankfully the courtyard is very peaceful today.

The following photo was taken on the balcony outside my father’s flat. looking out through the gap between Swinley House and Ascot House. The old Regents Park Basin is behind the railing, land where bombed buildings have been cleared is behind that, with houses along Stanhope Street in the distance.

Regents Park Basin

I did consider walking up and along the balcony to take a photo of the above scene today, but this would be immediately outside people’s homes so decided not to, although I would love to have walked along the balcony and look down on the courtyard below.

The next photo is off Datchet House, along Augustus Street (see the estate map at the top of the post). I could not get a photo from the same position today as land in front of Datchet House which was a derelict bomb site when my father took the post war photo, has since been built on.

Regents Park Basin

This is the view of Datchet House from the corner of Augustus Street and Cumberland Market. The entrance arch and ornate window help identify the position. Compare also the roof on the part of the building above the entrance arch in the photos above and below. You can see in the above photo the result of incendiary damage. the top floors of the building have since been rebuilt as shown in the photo below.

Regents Park Basin

As with the rest of the estate Datchet House is in fine condition and the archway and ornate window seen in the above photo are still looking good.

Regents Park Basin

The following photo is of the end of Datchet House (on the right of the photo) with Windsor House running along Cumberland Market, the large block that runs to the left of the photo.

Regents Park Basin

Again, due to building on the derelict land in front of the flats there was no view of the flats from the position of the above photo today, so the photo below is of Windsor House from the corner of Augustus Street and Cumberland Market.

Regents Park Basin

The original photo was taken on the corner of Stanhope Street and Varndell Street. This is the view today looking in the same direction – new building completely obscuring the view, however if you look to the bottom left or both the photo below and the post war photo you will see the same rectangular manhole cover on the corner of the pavement.

Regents Park Basin

Returning to Swinley House, this is the view along the front facade of Swinley House that once faced the basin and now the allotments. The railings are along the original edge of the basin.

Regents Park Basin

This is the view from the opposite end to the above photo, the whole allotment area on the left was once the Regents Park Basin.

Regents Park Basin

At the far end of what was the Regents Park Basin, and now the allotments, in between the basin and the old Cumberland Market is a rather ornate block of flats with a clock tower:

Regents Park Basin

This is the view from the opposite side, this is all Windsor House, but this section is indented with gardens and an ornate gateway facing onto Cumberland Market.

Regents Park Basin

Bagshot House is one of the very few homes or workplaces that remain in London where my family have lived in or worked over the years. Most of these places have long since been demolished.

The Crown Estate attempted to sell the estate in 2011, however a campaign to resist the sale to developers resulted in Peabody taking over the estate and it looks incredibly well run. It is good to see the flats looking externally much as they would have when my father lived there during the war.

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