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Cock Lane – The Golden Boy, Fake Ghosts And Hogarth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door to the Royle showroom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wife: What thing?

Farmer: If yo’ Dame, was true.

Wife: And the poor soul knocked one.

Farmer: By the zounds, it was two!

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

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

Wife: I’ll tear out her eyes –

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

Wife: Ah, John!

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

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

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

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

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

William Hogarth (British, London 1697–1764 London) Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, March 15, 1762 British, Etching and engraving; second state of two?; sheet: 14 5/8 x 12 3/4 in. (37.1 x 32.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932 (32.35(151)) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/400102

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prior Bolton’s door.

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

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

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

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

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

The High Altar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colour on a grey and damp day in January.

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

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

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

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Russell Square And Librairie Internationale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The full view of the Imperial Hotel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wapping High Street And Wapping Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The British Museum description to this print reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At the top of Wapping New Stairs.

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

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

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

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

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

Print showing the original Thames Police building on the right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pelican Stairs running alongside the pub…..

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…..down to the river:

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

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London Christmas Lights – 1978 and 2016

Before I start this week’s post, which also falls on Christmas Day, can I wish you a very Happy Christmas, and thank you for reading and subscribing to my blog. I am almost at the end of Year 3 and have lots more to write about which I hope you will find of interest.

For a Christmas Day post, a comparison of London Christmas Lights from the rather gloomy late 1970s with those in 2016.

In 1954 Regent Street was the first of the central London shopping streets to have Christmas lights, Oxford Street followed five years later in 1959. There were a number of years in the 1970s when Oxford Street did not have any Christmas lights due to the recession of the middle years of the decade and the general financial climate, however they restarted again in 1978 with the unusual option of having laser lights shining up and down the street. I assume it was thought that these would be a rather novel form of lighting and much cheaper than large light decorations run across the street.

To mark the return of Christmas lights to Oxford Street and to record what was hopefully an impressive display, I took my first decent camera up to Oxford Street (a Canon AE1 recently purchased on HP – Hire Purchase before the days of Credit Cards) and without a tripod I attempted some photos using Kodak Kodacolor 400 film, faster than my normal film in the hope that I would not suffer too much with camera shake.

Arriving at Oxford Street as it got dark, the lasers did not really meet with expectations. A number of laser systems were mounted a various places along Oxford Street with a beam of light from each running the length of the street. There were not enough lights and a thin beam of blue, red or green light did not seem to have any relevance to Christmas. It was all rather strange and I can understand why it has not been repeated since.

Oxford Street in the mid 1970s was generally much darker than it is now. Shops did not have the same level of Christmas displays and window lights that they have today.

The following photos are a sample I took in 1978 and then for comparison I went for walk one evening in December 2016 to look at the lights across the main shopping streets of central London today. The 1978 photos also show some of the retail brands that have since disappeared.

One of the Oxford Street lasers. The Christmas tree is on the construction site for the new Bond Street station and the Jubilee Line. The large sign on the left reads “Work in progress for the Jubilee Line – Reconstruction of Bond Street Station”.

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Looking up Oxford Street towards Marble Arch. Selfridges has a row of lights just above street level. A Take 6 store is on the right.

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Blue and red lasers. The sign of the 100 Club is on the right – fortunately still there today.

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Blue laser running down the street. Debenhams on the right, Dolcis shoe shop on the left.

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A rather faint laser shines down a gloomy 1970s Oxford Street. The vertical lights are advertising the now defunct shoe shop Saxone.

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Christmas trees along D.H. Evans, with a fan of blue and green lasers from just above the main entrance to the store. The D.H. Evans store disappeared in 2001 when it was re-branded as the House of Fraser.

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Woolworth’s on the left, D.H,. Evans on the right. Just beneath the Berlitz sign (language school) is a sign for the Lady at Lord John fashion chain (click on the photo to enlarge) – one of the many high street brands that have disappeared in the last 40 years.

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The best place to see the lasers seemed to be from directly underneath when they were at their brightest.

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Regent Street kept to their more traditional Christmas lighting with displays running across the street and were more impressive than those at Oxford Street. Looking down Regent Street with a Take 6 store on the right.

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Dickens and Jones.

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So how does 1970s London compare with the Christmas lights of 2016? In the week before Christmas, I took a walk one evening starting at Monmouth Street, through Seven Dials and up to Oxford Street, then down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus.

Starting in Monmouth Street with lights across the street and in the trees.

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Seven Dials looking very festive.

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Neal’s Yard just off the northern leg of Monmouth Street.

London Christmas Lights

View down Monmouth Street.

London Christmas Lights

Penguins decorating the front of Arthur Beale, London’s Yacht Chandler on Shaftesbury Avenue.

London Christmas Lights

From Shaftesbury Avenue, it was along St. Giles High Street and into Denmark Street. Not known for Christmas lights, although the music shops look good after dark.

London Christmas Lights

London Christmas Lights

Regent Sound Studios with their take on Christmas window decorations.

London Christmas Lights

Up now into Oxford Street and the lights of John Lewis.

London Christmas Lights

Oxford Street’s 2016 Christmas lights.

London Christmas Lights

House of Fraser.

London Christmas Lights

Looking down New Bond Street from Oxford Street.

London Christmas Lights

Oxford Street at Christmas. Pavements crowded with people and the street at times seems more like a car park for buses……

London Christmas Lights

…..and taxis.

London Christmas Lights

Back down into Regent Street who in most of the years I can remember since 1978 have more ambitious street lights than Oxford Street.

London Christmas Lights

The length of Regent Street looking down towards Piccadilly Circus.

London Christmas Lights

Carnaby Street from Regent Street with their own interpretation of Christmas lights.

London Christmas Lights

Lights continue down the southern end of Regent Street towards Waterloo Place.

London Christmas Lights

London Christmas Lights

An elevated platform had been built around the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain – or Eros as it is more commonly known. A choir huddled together against the cold and breeze of a December evening but sounding beautiful above the noise of traffic.

London Christmas Lights

View from Piccadilly Circus towards Leicester Square.

London Christmas Lights

My photos from 1978 probably do the lasers a slight injustice due to my lack of photographic experience at the time and the equipment in use, however London after dark at Christmas is now much brighter than it was in the 1970s. The crowds and traffic do seem much the same in the weeks running up to Christmas, but as ever I will take any excuse for a walk around London.

Thanks again for reading, and a very Happy Christmas.

alondoninheritance.com

Hitler Passed This Way

At the end of the last war, there were a range of booklets published by local authorities, postal and transport organisations, police, fire service etc. documenting London at war and their participation in the six years during which the destruction of the city would be at a level not seen since the Great Fire of London. These were published quickly, and reading them they have a common theme of wanting to set on record the challenges of the last six years before the country quickly moved on to what was hoped to be a period of reconstruction and prosperity. I have already featured two of these booklets, “It Can Now Be Revealed” and “The Post Office Went To War”.

My father bought a large number of these as they were published, and in this week’s post I want feature another of these publications.

“Hitler Passed This Way” records the damage across London following years of bombing by using before and after photos to show what had been lost. The booklet also provides a short history and a record of the casualties at each location. Looking through the photos, there are some where my father also took photos of the same area, some almost identical. I have found this in a number of books where I suspect he went out to photo the scenes recorded in many of the London books he owned.

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The introduction to the booklet reads as follows:

“In these pages are pictured examples of what Hitler, would-be world conqueror, did to London during four years and seven months of relentless and intensive bombing.

They present the aftermath of the new kind of war in which non-combatants were to be killed off like insects, and their homes, hospitals, schools and churches were to be smashed to pieces. This tremendous and forceful terrorism was to reduce all opposition to cringing, whimpering fear, and easy subjection. And this it partly did in Europe for a time.

Many times from September, 1940, until March 1945, did Hitler single out London for his major effort of destruction. The docks, the City, the east end, the west end, north and south London, the railways, the bridges and the suburbs, all had their turns of high explosive bombs, great and small. Night after night Hitler rained incendiary bombs on London. He dropped huge land mines by parachute to wipe out whole districts. To make certain the killing of large numbers of non-combatants, women and children alike, he employed delayed action bombs of devilish ingenuity.

London took these grave wounds, month after month, year after year, with heroic fortitude, as all the world knows. In course of time damage will be repaired and vacant spaces gradually will be filled. But what Hitler did to London, must never be forgotten. It is believed these photographs will help us to remember well, and to pass on our grim, hard memories of 1939-1945 to the generations to come.”

So, to continue the aim of the last paragraph of the introduction, here are a sample of the photos and text from “Hitler Passed This Way”:

St. Anselm’s Prep School, Park Lane, Croydon

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John Lewis, Oxford Street

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All Hallows, Barking. Tower Hill

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Brewers Quay, Tower Stairs

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On the far right of the above photo is the tower of the church of All Hallows. My father took a photo of the remains of the church from the bombed area in the above photo. This is his photo below:

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St. James’s Church, Piccadilly

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Sloane Square Underground Station

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Manchester Hotel, Aldersgate Street

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Negretti & Zambra, Holborn Circus

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The Ring, Blackfriars Road

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Cordwainers’ Hall, Cannon Street

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The Salvation Army, Queen Victoria Street

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Chelsea Old Church

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My father’s photo of Chelsea Old Church is below, almost identical to the one in the booklet.

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St. Giles Without, Cripplegate

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My father took a number of photos across this area that would later become the Barbican development which would obliterate the streets and lanes that had occupied this area for hundreds of years. I plan a future post on the landscape that now lies beneath the Barbican in the future.

In the lower photo above, to the left of the church can be seen part of the Redross Street Fire Station. It was here that London Fire Brigade Commander, Sir Aylmer Firebrace spent part of the night of the 29th December 1940 and later recorded the following:

“In the control room a conference is being held by senior London Fire Brigade (LFB) officers. How black – or, more realistically, how red – is the situation, only those who have recently been in the open realise.

One by one the telephone lines fail; the heat from the fires penetrates to the control room and the atmosphere is stifling. earlier in the evening, after a bomb falls near, the station lights fail – a few shaded electric hand lamps now supply bright pin-point lights in sharp contrast  to a few oil lamps and some perspiring candles.

The firewomen on duty show no sign of alarm, though they must know, from the messages passing, as well as from the anxious tones of the officers, that the situation is approaching the desperate.

A women fire officer arrives; she had been forced to evacuate the sub-station to which she was attached, the heat having caused its asphalt yard to burst into flames. It is quite obvious that it cannot be long before Reccross Street Fire Station, nearly surrounded by fire will have to be abandoned.

The high wind which accompanies conflagrations is now stronger than ever, and the air is filled with a fierce driving rain of red-hot sparks and burning brands. The clouds overhead are a rose-pink from the reflected glow of the fires, and fortunately it is bright enough to pick our way eastward down Fore Street. Here fires are blazing on both sides of the road; burnt-out and abandoned fire appliances lie smouldering in the roadway, their rubber tyres completely melted. the rubble from collapsed buildings lying three and four feet deep makes progress difficult in the extreme. Scrambling and jumping, we use the bigger bits of masonry as stepping stones, and eventually reach the outskirts of the stricken area.

A few minutes later L.F.B. officers wisely evacuate Redcross Street Fire Station, and now the only way of escape for the staff and for the few pump crews remaining in the area lies through Whitecross Street (also now lost under the Barbican development)”.

The Monster Public House, Pimlico

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Isaac Walton’s Shop And Distribution Centre, Elephant and Castle

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The Stadium Club, High Holborn

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Twinings, Devereux Court

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Pancras Square, Pancras Road

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The Shaftesbury Theatre

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Britannia Theatre, Hoxton Street, Shoreditch

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Whitefield Memorial Church, Tottenham Court Road

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Jamaica Road, Bermondsey

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Pollock’s Toy Theatre Shop, Hoxton Street, Shoreditch

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Shops In Lordship Lane, East Dulwich

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Market, Corner Of Farringdon Road And Charterhouse Street

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Hughes Mansions, Vallance Road, Stepney

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The booklet provides a summary of the damage and casualties across London:

In the London Region:

Hitler killed 29,890 civilians and injured (detained in hospital) 50,497 civilians.

Hitler destroyed or damaged beyond repair, more that 100,000 houses and damaged about 1,650,000 houses. (In 10 months he damaged by rockets and flying bombs over 1,000,000 houses.)

687 air raid incidents affected hospitals, or kindred institutions, in London region. 84 such incidents were caused by flying bombs and 33 by rockets. 326 hospitals, or kindred institutions were actually hit.

In the Square Mile of the City of London:

Hitler destroyed buildings covering 164 acres out of the 450 acres of built-up land.

Hitler destroyed or heavily damaged 20 City livery company’s halls.

Hitler destroyed or damaged heavily, 4 medieval churches, and 2 other churches of historic value – all in the City of London.

It can be rather depressing to read of the number of casualties and the lost buildings across London, however the booklet really does achieve its target: “It is believed these photographs will help us remember well, and to pass on our grim, hard memories of 1939-1945 to the generations to come”.

alondoninheritance.com

The Space Shuttle At Stansted Airport

I have recently been scanning some of my old negatives from the early 1980s. The Lord Mayor’s Show post from a couple of weeks ago included some of these photos, and this week’s post covers a rather more unusual event when in 1983 the Space Shuttle Enterprise landed at Stansted Airport – or London Stansted Airport to use the current full name and provide the hopefully not too tenuous link to the theme of the blog.

The first orbital flight of the Space Shuttle took place in April 1981 and in 1983 the Space Shuttle fleet was increasing the number of flights with four taking place that year. There was considerable interest in this new method of reaching space and in 1983 the Space Shuttle Enterprise made a visit to the Paris Airshow, also landing in the UK and Germany.

The Enterprise did not launch to space. It was the first of the Space Shuttles (named after the space ship from the Star Trek TV series), completed in 1977 and used to test the piggy back method of transport on a Boeing 747 and also for drop tests to evaluate how the design would fly and land.

The Enterprise arrived at Stansted Airport on Sunday 5th June 1983. Stansted was then a small airport with relatively few flights. Approval was granted the following year for the first phase of the significant developments that have seen the airport reach the capacity it has today, so back in 1983 it was still quiet and an ideal location to host the Space Shuttle’s visit.

The arrival was a major event with significant numbers of people turning up to try and see this unusual combination of aircraft land. There was major congestion on the majority of roads in the Stansted area. For some reason I cannot remember now, I could not get to Stansted for the Sunday, but did manage to visit on one of the evenings the following week.

I was working in Lambeth at the time so it was a dash up to Stansted after work on a lovely sunny evening which I do remember very well. It seemed a very casual event. Compared to today, hardly any security of any sort.

Drive up to the airfield, park on the grass and take a walk around – I doubt this would happen today.

I cannot remember which day it was, or the time but it must have been late evening judging by the length of the shadows (which is rather depressing to write on a dark December evening).

There is a BBC report on the Space Shuttle visit and the 25th anniversary which can be found here. The report contains some excellent film of the landing of the Shuttle / 747 combination at Stansted.

A sample of my photos from that June evening in 1983:

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I did not get to see the Space Shuttle leave Stansted, but did catch a glimpse of the flight over London, although unfortunately I did not have my camera with me.

After the visit to the UK, France and Germany the Space Shuttle Enterprise returned to the US where it was used for test purposes, then a period in storage and then on display with the Smithsonian Institute.

Space Shuttle Enterprise is now on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York along with a British Airways Concorde – another form of flight which seemed technologically very advanced at the time, having started the first supersonic passenger flights just a few years earlier in 1976 and in some respects would go on to have a parallel history to the Space Shuttle.

alondoninheritance.com

London Life In Postcards

The problem with trying to research a weekly post is that work frequently gets in the way and the last couple of weeks have been rather busy, so for this week, let me show you some aspects of London Life as portrayed by postcards.

I am always on the lookout for London postcards, they help with understanding how the city has changed over the years and how Londoners have lived and worked. Some postcards show similar scenes that my father photographed and it is fascinating to compare these, and also to visit the locations of these photos today. Some have changed beyond all recognition whilst others are much the same.

Postcards were published covering a wide range of different topics and below are a sample of some individual cards as well as a series of cards published in the early 1950s titled “London Life”.

The Stock Exchange, London – Throgmorton Street.

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The use of roof space for gardens, restaurants and bars is not a new phenomena, Selfridges had the Hanging Gardens of London.

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The view along the Strand towards the church of St.Mary-le-Strand. According to the postmark on this card it was posted on the 8th June 1907.

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The photo used for the following postcard must have been taken around 1932 as it shows the Daily Express building at 120 Fleet Street and presumably from the remaining scaffolding on the top levels, construction was almost complete.

This remarkable building was constructed between 1930 and 1932 as the headquarters of the Daily Express Newspaper and in the early 1930s must have seemed very futuristic.

The building was technically difficult to construct as printing presses had to be accommodated in the basement. A reinforced concrete deck was used between the ground floor and the basement to provide sufficient free space in the basement for the printing presses.

The distinctive facade of the building comprised black panels, clear glass and chrome strips with curved corners. The building is now Grade II listed.

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The Daily Express building must have seemed so out of character with the surrounding buildings on Fleet Street. I do not know what the reaction was at the time, but it does make me question my own views on some of the new developments today, whether in 80 years time they will be considered classic examples of an architectural style and protected.

There are many postcards showing the surprising number of exhibitions that were held in London during the early decades of the 20th century. The scene in the following postcard is of the Scenic Railway at the Coronation Exhibition held at White City to commemorate the coronation of George V. Rather tame by the standards of today, but it must have been an adventurous ride at the time. If you look on the left there are many light bulbs across the rather realistic rock so this must have been lit up at night and must have been a sight for 1911.

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Two very early postcards of Petticoat Lane. Poor quality, but they do provide a good impression of this crowded street market.

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Postcards can confirm that some things do not change. Oxford has always been crowded with buses. The advertising banners on the right selling a Whole Head Permanent Wave for either 30 or 25 shillings. When you have had your hair done, you could then get a passport photo taken at the Venus Studio.

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The Guildhall as it was before bombing during the 2nd World War reduced the Guildhall to a shell, and destroyed the surrounding buildings. The card was posted on the 15th July 1907

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View down Kingsway. The building at the far end is Bush House, the old location of the BBC World Service. The card was posted on the 31st August 1942 so must show Kingsway in the 1930s.

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Leicester Square at night. Interesting that most of the photos of London at night that I have seen on postcards were taken after rain, a trick that brings out the reflections of the lights.

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Queen Victoria Street. The corner building on the right is still there as is the church of St. Mary Aldermary on the left.

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The following photo of Tower Bridge must have been taken from the brewery by Horselydown Old Stairs. I find the scene behind Tower Bridge interesting as it is very different now. If you stood in the same position today, the view would be dominated by the towers of the Walkie Talkie, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin.

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The following photo must have been taken from the tower of St. Clement Danes looking back along Fleet Street towards the City. The Royal Courts of Justice are on the left, followed by the tower of St. Dunstan in the West, with the tower of St. Brides further to the right with St. Paul’s Cathedral behind.

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View towards Holborn Viaduct. On the left is the shop and workshops of Negretti and Zambra, manufacturers of scientific and optical equipment at 38 Holborn Viaduct.

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Postcards were used for advertising by many businesses including restaurants such as Simpson’s in the Strand. Originally opened in 1828 and still in business with carvers and roast beef a specialty, although I doubt that today’s staff have the same length of service as the carvers in the photo. The “youngest of them has served there for over a quarter of a century”.  I also suspect you would not want to complain about your Sunday Roast to these rather intimidating carvers.

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The original City of London School on the Victoria Embankment by the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge. Although the school has relocated the buildings are still there. At the far edge can be seen the corner of De Keyser’s Royal Hotel.

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Earl’s Court was an entertainment and exhibition centre long before the large exhibition centre (currently being demolished) was built-in the 1930s. An early wooden roller coaster is on the right and I am not sure what the ride is on the left which seems to provide some means of gliding people to the top.

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London Life

In the 1950s, Charles Skilton published a series of twelve postcards called “London Life”, typical scenes of people and events across London. Often this type of postcard would be a posed, however these photos all look to be natural.

Costermonger ‘Pearly Kings and Queens” in Southwark.

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Orators’ Corner, Hyde Park. A well known spot for open-air speaking.

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The busy docks in the Port of London.

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Judges leaving a service in Westminster Abbey.

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Posing for a photograph with the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

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A Flower Seller in Piccadilly Circus.

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An Entertainer escapes from a bound sack in the Charing Cross Road. I think this must have been Johnny Eagle as the performers look the same as in the photos my father took on Tower Hill.

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A pavement artist outside the National Portrait Gallery.

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A Street Market in Soho – the view is looking down Rupert Street with Archer Street running to the immediate left. The pub on the corner, The White Horse is still there and the building on the immediate right is the Gielgud Theatre, which at the time was called the Globe (the name change to Gielgud Theatre was in 1994 as a tribute to Sir John Gielgud).

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Artists show their pictures in the open-air at Hampstead. There were a number of open-air art exhibitions in London, as well as Hampstead, I have a series of photos my father took of an open-air exhibition in the Victoria Embankment Gardens.

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An East End Rag-and-Bone Man. Crockery is offered as an alternative to cash.

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The Guards in Whitehall are a familiar spectacle.

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Postcards were generally used by tourists to London, or for sending a brief message which could be quickly written down and posted rather than writing a letter. With the growth in use of technologies such as e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp etc. I suspect that the future for postcards is in a very sharp decline and postcards of London Life will no longer provide a record of the changing city.

alondoninheritance.com

The Prospect of Whitby And Shadwell Basin

Back in August 2015 I published some of my father’s photos where I needed help with identifying the location. This week’s post is about one of these locations, which I really should have known, however thanks to many readers it was quickly identified. The following photo was taken in Glamis Road in Wapping, looking towards the Prospect of Whitby pub which is framed by the bridge crossing the entrance to the Shadwell Basin from the River Thames.

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The same view today is shown in the photo below. My father was much better at timing photos. When I took the photo below, it was a lovely sunny autumn day, but this meant I was looking into the sun so the lighting is not ideal to bring out the detail. Converting to black and white and adjusting the contrast did help slightly.

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Glamis Road crosses the bridge to become Wapping Wall which passes the pub and then meets Garnett Street and Wapping High Street. The area was dominated by the London Docks which were still in operation when my father took the above photo in 1951. As can be seen in the 1951 photo there is still the control cabin for the bridge on the left and directly in front of the bridge on the pavement on the left looks to be some form of illuminated sign which perhaps was the warning sign when the bridge was about to open.

Today’s photo has one of my pet hates – the amount of clutter we have across the streets. Multiple poles with multiple signs. Not sure how long the new road layout has been in place, but I have seen these in place for years after the original change.

The bridge is across the eastern entry from the River Thames to Shadwell Basin which was the eastern end of the London Docks complex.

The map below shows the 19th century configuration of the London Docks and shows how much of Wapping these docks occupied at their fullest extent. Look at Shadwell Basin on the right of the London Docks and there are two channels providing access to and from the Thames. The only one of these channels still in existence is the upper channel and it is this channel that the bridge crosses.

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The original part of the London Docks, the Western Docks opened in 1805 and specialised in wine, brandy, tobacco and rice. The docks were a success and over the next couple of decades expanded further east with the Shadwell Basin and eastern entry into the river being the completion of the London Docks complex.

The land on which the Shadwell Basin was built was originally the home of the Shadwell Waterworks Company which had commenced operation in 1669 to provide a water supply to the area east of the Tower of London. Soon after the opening of the Western Docks, the London Dock Company purchased the land and the Shadwell Waterworks Company which maintained operation until water supply was transferred to the East London Waterworks, which then allowed the Shadwell Basin to be built.

If you look above the two channels, the area that is now occupied by the King Edward VII Memorial Park was original the Shadwell Fish Market.

The London Docks closed in 1969 and over the following decades the majority of the docks were filled in. The Shadwell Basin is the only main dock section to survive.

The following photo is looking into Shadwell Basin today. The land on the left is between what was the two channels to the river and was Brussels Wharf, and was occupied by a large shed as can be seen in my father’s photo.

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Looking from the bridge along the channel which leads to the Thames. At the end of the channel were the lock gates needed to protect the water level in the docks from the variations of the tidal river. It must have been quite a sight to see the shipping pass through here in the hours when the tide was right, particularly during the days of sail when entry to such a narrow dock entrance was down to mastering the flow of the river and wind. The entrance today is permanently blocked.

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Last year, during my trip down the river in the Paddle Steamer Waverley I took the following photo from the river showing the entrance to Shadwell Basin. The bridge can just be seen above the entrance.

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The Aerofilms archive provides the perspective needed to understand the layout of the docks. The following photo was taken on the 17th June 1948. Wapping is the land in the lower part of the photo with the Shadwell Basin in the lower centre with the entrance to the river leading to the left. The bridge can be seen with the road running up to where it bends to the right past the Prospect of Whitby.

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If you look to the right of Shadwell Basin, there is a channel that leads into the next section of the London Docks on the right. There is a similar bridge over the channel, which is still in existence. This is in Garnet Street.

Back to the original wall and signage on the wall records the names of the Shadwell Basin and Brussels Wharf.

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View from the other side of the bridge showing the large counterweight used to balance the road span as the bridge is raised or lowered.

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Always on the lookout for murals, I was pleased to see this within a shelter adjacent to the bridge.

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At the far end of my father’s original photo was the Prospect of Whitby which claims to be London’s oldest riverside pub dating from around 1520. The pub was originally called The Pelican and the alley and stairs down to the river at the side of the pub to the right are still named Pelican Stairs. The pub was also referred to as the Devil’s Tavern due to the reputation of the pub and the stairs as a haunt for smugglers and thieves. The name changed to the Prospect of Whitby in the late 18th century / early 19th century (I have found multiple years referenced as when the name changed) after a collier of the same name that berthed adjacent to the pub.

I suspect that the original pub may also have been a brewery, or there was an adjacent brewery. A number of newspaper articles reference the Pelican Brewery on Wapping Wall, for example the following from the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser of the 18th May 1824:

“To Brewers, Publicans, Coopers, and Others, by Mr. Cockerell.

At the Pelican Brewery, Wapping Wall on Thursday, the 20th instant, at Eleven, Lots suitable to the Trade, Publicans, and Coopers, (in consequence of an agreed Dissolution of Partnership). About 550 Barrels of PORTER, STOUT and ALE; four capital Dray Horses, three Drays and Harness; about 850 casks, in Butts, Puncheons, Hog-heads, Barrels, and other, a quantity of Hops and other effects. may be viewed and tasted two days prior to the Sale.”

The area around the Prospect of Whitby must have been a scene of continuous coming and going of ships, cargo, sailors and passengers. There are also advertisements which indicate the type of trade carried on here. Again from the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser of the 2nd December 1819 there is an advert for the new Brig Rolla which “carries 10 keels of coals at a light draft of water, sails fast, and shifts with all an end; adapted for the Mediterranean or Oporto Trade, or general purposes,; fitted for passengers, copper fastened and fitted with a busthead and quarter badges, also a high quarter deck.”

Researching the Prospect of Whitby provides a glimpse into the life of a docklands pub and landlord.

In June 1861, the landlord, a Mr Isaac who was also the Secretary of a Loan Society was in court to try to resolve a possible complex case of fraud where the recipient of a loan had disappeared, but leaving the person who requested the loan in Wapping to pay back the sum which he could not.

In 1858, the same Mr Isaac welcomed the officers of the East End district of the Ancient Order of Foresters to the Prospect of Whitby for the purpose of opening a new branch of the order. The account of the meeting states that a very large number of members from various courts were present, and there were several toasts given.

For many years in the 19th century, the Prospect of Whitby was part of a sculling regatta on the Thames which appears to have had a rather valuable prize money of a few hundred pounds. In October 1889 it was reported that “Weather of the most dispiriting description was associated with yesterday’s racing in connection with the regatta, which, as on Saturday, was decided on the ebb over the customary course between the Hermitage Wharf and the Prospect of Whitby, Wapping Wall.”

The Prospect of Whitby also claims Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens, Whistler and Turner  as customers. The Prospect of Whitby today:

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Pelican Stairs running down the side of the Prospect of Whitby. Just imagine the stories of the number of people who must have passed down this alley on their way to and from ships on the river.

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The Prospect of Whitby from the river with Pelican Stairs on the left.

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The building immediately behind the Prospect of Whitby which can also be seen in my father’s and my photos of the bridge and pub, is the 1890 building of the London Hydraulic Power Company.

Once again, within the confines of a weekly post I have only just scratched the surface of the history of this area. Wapping is a fascinating area to walk, and rounding off with a drink in the Prospect of Whitby made for a perfect Autumn walk.

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A Visit To Hogarth’s House In Chiswick

Hogarth’s House in Chiswick has long been on my list of places to visit and a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity. The drawings of William Hogarth have featured in a number of my posts. His observations provide a remarkable insight into 18th Century London society so I was very pleased to have the time for a trip out to Chiswick.

Hogarth’s House is next to the busy six lane road that leads from the Hogarth Roundabout to the M4, one of the main entry and exit routes into London from the west. On the day of my visit it was strangely quiet. An overnight accident next to the roundabout had resulted in a fuel spill on the road which was consequently closed for resurfacing. Very long queues of traffic led from the roundabout back into London, but adjacent to Hogarth’s House all was quiet.

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The house can easily be missed, but once seen it is clear that here is a building worth visiting. Viewed from the road in the photo below, the house is on the left, with a high garden wall running to the right. As with so much of London, the house is surrounded by construction activities with new apartment buildings rising in the background.

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The area of ground on which the house is built was originally part of a larger orchard. James Downes, a baker, inherited the land in 1713 and built the house in one corner of the orchard.

The house was purchased by Hogarth in 1749 from the widow of Georg Andreas Ruperti who had purchased the house new in 1717. Ruperti was the Pastor at the German Lutheran Church at the Savoy and was obviously a wealthy man as on his death in 1732 there was a sale of many of his possessions including 1,090 lots of books.

The following extract is from John Rocque’s map of 1746, three years before Hogarth purchased the house. The map shows the house to the northwest of the village of Chiswick, the last in the lane approaching Chiswick Common Field. I have circled the house in red. As can be seen, apart from building along the river, much of this area was still very rural.

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The following print (©Trustees of the British Museum) titled “Published as the Act directs by Jane Hogarth at the Golden-head Leicester Fields 1st May 1781” shows the view across the Chiswick Common Fields to Hogarth’s House which can be seen to the left of centre with the garden wall running to the right. This is the rural scene that Hogarth would have known. Today, the Hogarth Roundabout is on the far left and the six lane A4 runs from left to right across the scene, immediately in front of Hogarth’s House and the garden wall.

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Hogarth had been living in central London and his choice of a house in Chiswick may have been due to the heat wave in the summer of 1749 prompting a move to an area that was at the time mainly countryside, as well as Chiswick being the home to several of Hogarth’s friends.

The house, when purchased by Hogarth was a three storey brick-built building with wood paneled walls. Hogarth extended the house in 1750 by adding an additional room to each floor and a building in the garden included a first floor room which Hogarth used for painting.

The extension to the house can clearly be seen by the difference in mortar and brickwork. Hogarth also added the large oriel window in the centre of the house.

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Hogarth lived in the house for 15 years until his death in 1764. His wife Jane continued to live in the house until her death in 1789 when the house was inherited by Jane’s cousin Mary Lewis who had supported Jane by running the business to continue the sale of Hogarth’s prints. As well as the house, Mary also inherited the printing plates.

After Mary’s death in 1808, the house passed to Richard Lovejoy who may well have been Hogarth’s doctor. Lovejoy only had the house for 4 years until his death in 1812.

The house then went through a succession of owners during the 19th Century. The area around the house and the rest of Chiswick was changing fast. The construction of houses and the growth of industry including the nearby Griffen Brewery of Fuller, Smith and Turners (1828) was sweeping away the fields that Hogarth would have known.

The house was at risk of destruction in 1901 when plans were proposed for the building of new homes on the land occupied by Hogarth’s House. A committee was formed to try to raise funds to buy the house, however not enough was raised and after an appeal by The Chiswick Times, a Lieutenant Colonel William Shipway who also lived in Chiswick, purchased the house for £1,500. Shipway also paid for the restoration of the house, which was then opened to visitors in 1904.

William Shipway had to take legal action to preserve the house. From the London Daily News of the 26th March 1902:

“Colonel Shipway applied to Mr. Justice Buckley in the Chancery Division yesterday for an injunction to restrain Mr. Percy from excavating some land at Chiswick in such a way as to endanger the stability of Hogarth House. The defendant is a builder, and he had acquired some land at the rear of Hogarth House, and Colonel Shipway contended that he was working the valuable building sand which was beneath the surface in a manner which was likely to let Hogarth House down, and cause great damage. This the defendant denied. Mr. Justice Buckley, after hearing evidence said that there had been movement observed in the house by reason of the removal of saturated sand, and though the damage was slight it was sufficient to entitle the plaintiff to an injunction, which he accordingly granted, with costs.”

In 1909 Shipway made a gift of the house to Middlesex County Council with custodians living in the house rent free in return for showing visitors around the house.

The house suffered considerable damage in 1940 when a landmine fell nearby. It was repaired in 1951 and reopened the same year. In September 2008 the house closed for further restoration work, interrupted by a fire in 2009, with the fully restored house finally opening in 2011.

As well as being saved from demolition and damage by 2nd World War bombing, during the 20th Century the house also survived the building of the Hogarth Roundabout and the transformation of the road running alongside the house from the original Hogarth Lane into the A4 which was subsequently widened into the six lane road we see today. The house has also been surrounded by new building, and the Hogarth Business Park between the house and the roundabout. Building directly adjacent to Hogarth’s House continues to this day.

The view of Hogarth’s House from the end of the garden.

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The ground floor dining room:

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Hogarth’s bedroom:

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There are numerous copies of Hogarth’s drawings around the house. Here the six prints from the series “The Harlot’s Progress”, the first of his sets of prints where each individual print told part over an overall story. The Harlot’s Progress sold 1,240 sets of prints at a price of one guinea per set.

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Looking out from the large oriel window:

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Portraits of Hogarth’s sisters painted by Hogarth in 1740. Anne on the right who died in 1771 and Mary on the left who died in 1741. The sisters ran a dress shop in Smithfield and then in Cranbourn Street in Leicester Fields (now between Long Acre and Leicester Square.

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The house has been superbly restored. The wood paneling, layout of the floors and shape of the rooms does provide a good impression of what the house would have looked like when Hogarth was in residence.

Toy theatre and more prints:

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View from the 1st floor looking across the entrance to the house to the very quiet A4. Normally there are six lanes of traffic running along this road into and out of London. Very different from the narrow lane and fields that Hogarth would have seen through this window.

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An impression of what the lane that originally ran alongside the house was like in the 19th Century can be gathered from a newspaper article in the Daily Gazette, dated the 20th September 1878, where Hogarth’s House is described as “At a short distance north-west of the church, in a narrow and dirty lane leading towards one entrance to the grounds of Chiswick House still stands the red-bricked house which was once occupied by Hogarth, and still bears his name”.

A view from the rear of the house shows the unusual shape of the building. Hoarding reaching up to the house shows what is being built immediately to the rear.hogarths-house-11

Hogarth is buried in the nearby church of St. Nicholas. To reach the church, it was a short walk back to the Hogarth Roundabout, cross the roads by way of the underpass and walk down Church Street with the Fuller, Smith and Turner brewery on the left. The church is towards the end of this road on the right before reaching the River Thames.

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The tomb and monument to Hogarth is just to the side of the church.

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Inscriptions on the side of the monument read:

“Here lies the body of William Hogarth Esq. who died October the 26th 1764 aged 67 years” and “Mrs Jane Hogarth, Wife of William Hogarth Esq, died the 13th of November 1789 aged 80 years”.

The main inscription is an epitaph to Hogarth written by his friend, the actor David Garrick:

“Farewell great Painter of Mankind, Who reach’d the noblest point of Art, Whose pictur’d Morals charm the Mind, And through the Eye correct the Heart.

If genius fire thee, Reader, stay, If nature touch thee, drop a tear; If neither move thee, turn away, For HOGARTH’S honour’d dust lies here”.

In looking for Hogarth’s tomb I made the mistake of walking down the northern side of the church to the large entrance shown in the photo below. The churchyard is split into two sections, the original churchyard around the church and a much large extension to the churchyard that is accessed through this entrance.

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Plaques on the pillars of the entrance record that an additional acre of ground was given to the Parish of Chiswick by His Grace the Duke of Devonshire in 1871 and that the churchyard was then enlarged by the “addition of twenty five perches of ground given to the Parish by His Grace William Spencer in 1888”.

This extended churchyard is now a busy mix of very different styles of gravestone and monument.

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Part of the inscription on Hogarth’s tomb reads “If genius fire thee, Reader, stay, If nature touch thee, drop a tear”. After looking at the tomb I turned to look at the church and found that nature was indeed watching over Hogarth’s tomb:

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The River Thames is very close to the church and on the side of the churchyard wall is a plaque recording one of the floods when the Thames overflowed the very shallow banks along this part of the river.

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View from the side of the churchyard wall looking down towards the Thames. Hogarth would have known this part of the river very well.

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Some examples of Hogarth’s work (all ©Trustees of the British Museum). Here is Beer Street, a companion print to the famous Gin Lane. Beer Street is probably not so well-known as the scene is a more positive image than Gin Lane. Beer Street shows a happy, healthy and industrious population, all as a result of drinking beer.

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Whilst Gin Lane shows the dreadful effects on society of drinking Gin. Mother’s dropping their babies, a suicide hanging in the upper floor of the building on the right, the decay of buildings and general chaos on the streets. It was estimated that by 1743 the average consumption of gin was 2.2 gallons per person each year. The Gin Act came into force in 1751 to try to control the epidemic of gin drinking and Hogarth’s prints added to the impact of the campaign.

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The following print is titled “A representation of the March of the Guards towards Scotland in the Year 1745”, also known as the March of the Guards to Finchley. The print is a fictional representation of the assembly of Guards at Tottenham Court Road on their way to Finchley to defend London from the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

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The following print is the first from a set of eight titled “The Progress of a Rake”. These prints tell the story of Tom Rakewell from the first print where he comes into the possession of his father’s inheritance, through to the final print where we find Tom having descended into Madness and in the Bethlam Hospital.

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Tom’s journey from his inheritance is then covered by a series of prints titled The Levee (his rise in society), The Orgy (the descent begins), The Arrest (the party ends), The Marriage (Tom’s desperate sham), The Gaming House (Tom loses everything), The Prison (the beginning of Tom’s end) and finally The Madhouse (the end of the line).

Hogarth hated the abuse of animals that was so common in the 18th century. A series of four prints told a story of the Four Stages of Cruelty. As with the Progress of a Rake, these four prints also documented a journey and argued that if children were cruel to animals, and this was not prevented by society, they would grow into cruel adults.

The first stage of cruelty introduces Tom Nero as the central character who, along with other youths on the streets, is being cruel to a wide variety of animals. In the second stage (shown below) Tom Nero is now savagely beating his horse after the animal has collapsed under the weight of the cart.

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In the third stage of cruelty, Tom Nero has progressed from cruelty to animals to highway robbery and is shown after committing a murder. In the final print from the series titled “The Reward of Cruelty”, Tom has been executed at Tyburn and his body is shown being dissected for the purpose of the study of anatomy.

The four stages of cruelty are a shocking series of prints, and probably do show the horrific level of cruelty that would have been seen on the streets of London during the 18th Century.

I find Hogarth’s work fascinating. Whilst his work was certainly exaggerated somewhat for effect, it does provide an insight into 18th Century society without the romantic haze of looking back over a couple of hundred years. Life then could be hard and cruel.

A visit to Hogarth’s House is well worth a journey to Chiswick.

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