Category Archives: London Buildings

Manchester Square, The Marchioness Of Hertford And A Very Old Lane

Manchester Square is the subject of this week’s post. Georgian architecture, a Marchioness who had intimate meetings with the Prince Regent and an original lane that once ran through fields and now runs through the streets of Georgian London.

Manchester Square is a short distance north of Oxford Street and a perfect example of how in London you can walk in a matter of minutes from streets crowded with people and traffic to a peaceful place that is full of history and wonderful architecture.

Manchester Square still has the much of the original Georgian and Regency period houses from when the square was built, along with an original London town house that occupies one full side of the square. In the centre of the square is a garden which looked fantastic when I visited on a sunny spring day.

Manchester Square 15

Construction of Manchester Square was part of the Georgian expansion of London. The land formed part of the Portman Estate (as it still does) and a lease on a plot of land was granted to George Montagu, fourth Duke of Manchester who commenced construction in 1776 of a house on the north side of the square.

Other builders purchased leases on the other three sides of the square, the central gardens were laid out, and Manchester Square came into existence, named after the Duke, as was his house, which on completion in 1788 became Manchester House.

Soon after the completion of his house, the Duke died. The house was then purchased by the Spanish Government as their London embassy, a role it occupied until 1797 when the second Marquis of Hertford purchased the lease and renamed the house as Hertford House (and this is where the Marchioness of Hertford became a rather scandalous London figure – more later in this post).

The second Marquis died on 1822 and the house passed to the third Marquis, then in 1842 to the fourth Marquis of Hertford who was a collector of art, furniture, china etc. scouring the auction rooms of Europe to put together a very large collection that was stored in his houses in London and Paris. The fourth Marquis of Hertford died in 1870. He was unmarried and with no children, left his entire collection to his friend Sir Richard Wallace (who was also a collector). Wallace made a number of changes and extensions to the house to form the building that we see today.

The combined collection became known as the Wallace Collection, and on the death of Sir Richard Wallace, the collection was bequeathed to the nation, and it is this collection which is now housed in Hertford House

Hertford House, home of the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square:

Manchester Square 14

Manchester House soon after completion and before it became Hertford House:

Manchester Square 22

Standing in Manchester Square it is hard to believe that you are only a couple of minutes from Oxford Street. The central gardens are an oasis of green, spring blossom is blowing across the street and the few people around are either heading to the Wallace Collection, or using the street as a local parking place for Oxford Street.

Manchester Square 16

The original plan for Manchester Square was for a church to be built in the central square, however this did not get built and the gardens were laid out between 1776 and 1788.

Manchester Square 2

The second Marquis of Hertford who purchased Manchester House and renamed it Hertford House was a good friend of the Prince of Wales (who would later become George IV) and the Prince of Wales was a regular visitor to Hertford House, however it was his interest in the Marchioness, Lady Hertford that appears to have been his main reason for making the journey to Manchester Sqaure. It was written at the time that “The Prince does not pass a day without visiting Lady Hertford, indeed so notorious did these calls on ‘the lovely Marchesa’ become that a scurrilous print inserted in its columns the following advertisement: Lost, between Pall Mall and Manchester Square, his Royal Highness the Prince Regent”.

The relationship between the Prince of Wales and Lady Hertford was also the subject of a number of satirical cartoons. The following cartoon from 1819 shows Lady Hertford and the Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales on one of the new velocipedes. The signpost on the left is pointing to Wales and Hertford.

Manchester Square 24

©Trustees of the British Museum

The following carton shows a room in Hertford House with Manchester Square seen through the windows. The Prince Regent on the right is walking towards Lady Hertford. The Prince is holding the Privy Purse and the small character inside the purse is John McMahon who at the time was the keeper of the Privy Purse and the official private secretary to the Prince.

The Prince is saying to Lady Hertford: “I am so partial to the Privy Purse my Lady; that I have turn’d it into a Ridicule that I may have it always about me.” and she replies: “Well! upon my Honor, our Friend has got a snug birth there indeed.”

The two men talking in the square seen through the window are talking about the bad news of the day being that McMahon is now the keeper of the Privy Purse (and will do exactly what the Prince requires) and the Prince is therefore holding the Privy Purse up to ridicule.

Manchester Square 25

©Trustees of the British Museum

The Marchioness, Lady Hertford was considered one of the reigning beauties of the day. The Irish poet, Thomas Moore, initially a good friend of the Prince wrote of Lady Hertford:

“Or who will repair unto Manchester Square,

And see if the lovely Marchesa be there?

And bid her to come, with her hair darkly flowing,

All gentle and juvenile, crispy and gay,

In the manner of Ackerman’s dresses for May.”

Portrait of Isabella Anne Ingram Shepherd, 2nd Marchioness of Hertford by Sir Joshua Reynolds:

Manchester Square 26

©Trustees of the British Museum

When Manchester Square was built, London was expanding rapidly to the west and north. The area to the north of Oxford Street was being turned from fields to wide, formal streets and squares. To see what the area was like immediately before Manchester Square was built, I turned to John Rocque’s map of 1746, just 30 years before construction started on Manchester Square.

The following map shows the area on which Manchester Square would be built.

Manchester Square 21

I wanted to see if I could place Manchester Square in Rocque’s map and whilst doing so, found what I believe to be an original street remaining from when the area was all fields.

See the two maps below. On the left is Roqcue’s map of the area and on the right a Google map of the same area. If you look to the lower right of both maps, the 1746 extent of building can be seen.

I have shown the modern street names in red on the Google map. In the 270 years since Roqcue’s map there have been some subtle changes in street names:

Wigmore Row in 1746 is now Wigmore Street

Wellbeck Street is now Welbeck Street (it has lost an ‘l’)

Wimple Street is now Wimpole Street

Henrietta Street is now Henrietta Place

The dotted line in the Google map is the location of Wimple Mewse which has disappeared since the Rocque map.

Manchester Square 23

The extent of the building in 1746 is along Marybone Lane, this is now Marylebone Lane. I have marked the name in red in the Google map, however where it gets really interesting is if you follow Marylebone Lane north across Wigmore Street you will see that it curves to the left, following roughly the same curved path as Marybone Lane in 1746.

Marylebone Lane today is different to the majority of other streets in the area. It is a much narrower street and is not a formal straight street as are nearly all the others in the area. Also, look just above Wigmore Row in the 1746 map and Marybone Lane curves to the left to avoid a pond in the field, I have marked the rough position of this pond on the Google map by the blue oval.

I suspect that Marylebone Lane today follows the same alignment as Marybone Lane when it originally ran through open fields and the curved route of today avoids a long lost pond that is now under the Holiday Inn Hotel between Welbeck Street and Marylebone Lane.

I have marked my estimate of where Manchester Square would later be built on the 1746 Roque map, in the middle of a rather large field.

If I am right, it is remarkable that with the considerable 18th and 19th century development of this area, and the laying out of wide streets in straight lines, it is still possible to walk down a street that once ran through open fields and is probably many hundreds of years old.

After that diversion, let’s return to Manchester Square to admire the architecture.

Manchester Square 4

Many of the buildings surrounding the square have the wrought iron balconies of the late Georgian / Regency period.

Manchester Square 5

And as you might expect, there are plenty of Blue Plaques to be found. This one for Alfred Lord Milner, who started as a journalist, then was a civil servant before becoming High Commissioner for South Africa and Governor of the Cape Colony during times of considerable tension which led to the 2nd Boer War. On return to London he was chairman of the Rio Tinto mining company, a Director of the Joint Stock Bank and continued to have a number of roles in the Government, continuing to travel widely.

Manchester Square 6

The south west corner of Manchester Square.

Manchester Square 7

Below is the south east corner of Manchester Square. The windows in these buildings clearly show the impact of the 1774 Buildings Act which took the 1709 requirement for the windows to be recessed by 4 inches and added the requirement for the sash box to be hidden behind the brickwork. The main reasons for these changes were to prevent the spread of fires and the risk of the sash window falling out, but was also driven by the fashion of an austere and simple window design.

Manchester Square 8

Blue plaque to Sir Julius Benedict, a German composer and conductor who spent the majority of his life in London.

Manchester Square 9

And in the same corner of the square a blue plaque to John Hughlings Jackson, a prominent neurologist, whose work on epilepsy resulted in an improved ability to diagnose and understand the condition.

Manchester Square 10

Blocked up windows on the side of one of the buildings in Manchester Square, possibly to reduce the amount of Window Tax paid by the occupiers. The windows are blocked on the side street from the square so the main frontage of the building onto Manchester Square has the full complement of windows. The owner would not want the view of his house facing to the square to be any different from his neighbours and savings would be made where parts of the house were less visible.

Manchester Square 17

A different architectural style on the north east corner of Manchester Square:

Manchester Square 19

One of the streets leading off Manchester Square (to the right of Hertford House) is Spanish Place – the name recalling the Spanish connection of Hertford House when it was home to the Spanish Embassy.

Manchester Square 27

Some of the original houses in Spanish Place. As with many of the houses in the main square, they have the Georgian form of windows as well as the fanlight, arched window above the door:

Manchester Square 11

With yet more blue plaques. This time to Captain Frederick Marryat, a Royal Naval officer and author and also to George Grossmith, who was a theatre director, actor and playwright.

Manchester Square 12

Manchester Square and the surrounding area is fascinating. This area grew considerably during the Georgian period as London expanded rapidly to the west and north of Oxford Street and there are many fine streets and squares to be found, and Marylebone Lane looks to be a survivor from the time when this area was all fields.

The legacy of the 4th Marquis of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace with the Wallace Collection housed in Hertford House is well worth a visit and whilst walking the rooms of Hertford House you are also walking the site of the Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales many visits to meet with the Marchioness, Lady Hertford.

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Regent’s Park Power Station And The First Electric Lighting In Tottenham Court Road

Today, we take electricity for granted, however in the history of London it is only comparatively recently that the city has been lit and powered by electrical power.

The old power station at Bankside has been transformed to Tate Modern and the power station at Battersea is finally undergoing a major redevelopment, however before these two well known landmarks powered the city, there were a number of smaller stations built at the start of London’s electrical age at the end of the 19th century.

My grandfather worked in one of these during the 1930s and 1940s. I never met him as he died long before I was born, however I have always been interested in discovering where he worked and if I could find any history of the power station.

The site he worked at was the Regent’s Park Central Station, an unlikely name for such an industrial activity, but at the start of electrical generation in London, the technology available only supported small scale, local generation and there was a need for a station that could serve the area to the east of Regent’s Park.

The Regent’s Park Central Station was constructed by the Vestry of St. Pancras, the first local authority in London to start the transfer from gas street lighting to electric and to provide a supply to private consumers. Construction started in 1890 and the station started generating electricity in late 1891. (The Vestry of St. Pancras was the original Parish Administration before the change to a Metropolitan Borough following the London Government Act of 1899)

So where was this power station and what did it look like?

I have been searching a number of archives but have been unable to find any photos of the power station. I have found an aerial view taken by Aerofilms in 1926 which does show the chimney of the power station. See the photo below, the power station can be seen to the left of centre. (Aerofilms link here)

EPW015727

To highlight the location, and to show where it was relative to other landmarks, I have marked some locations in the photo below. The photo has been taken north of the power station, looking south. Tottenham Court Road is on the left, running from the junction with Euston Road away towards Oxford Street at the top of the photo. Regent’s Park can be seen to the right.

Regent's Park Power Station 9

I knew roughly where the power station was located as in the accounts written by my father of growing up in London during the war, he referred to the power station being in Longford Street and Stanhope Street, so my next challenge was to see if I could find the location today.

As with much of London, parts of this area have seen some significant change, particularly the major building work that has resulted in the Euston Tower and Triton Square office developments. The following map  (Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland) shows the location of the power station, built within an area of land surrounded by houses, bounded by Longford Street and Stanhope Street.

Regent's Park Power Station 8

An 1892 issue of The Engineer contains an article about the power station and includes a number of plans and drawings, including the following detailed plan of the power station (I have rotated by 90 degrees to roughly align with the map above).

Regents Park Power Station 14

The challenge with locating the site of the power station today is that the routing of Longford Street changed in the 1960s as part of the redevelopment of the area. The following map shows the area today.

Regent's Park Power Station 10

Compare this map to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map. In 1895, Longford Street ran straight to Stanhope Street which continued down to the Euston Road. Today, Stanhope Street has been cut off from Euston Road by the Triton Square development and Longford Street now curves up to meet the end of Stanhope Street and Drummond Street. As can be seen from the 1895 map, this curve to get to Drummond Street (the road that is not named to the right of the power station) means that Longford Street now cuts across the lower part of the power station.

Having found the location of the power station and how the streets have changed, it was time to visit the area. I have repeated the 1895 map, and have now marked the approximate positions of where I took the following three photos.

Regent's Park Power Station 15

For the first photo, I walked down Drummond Street, and came to the junction with Stanhope Street. This photo is taken from position 1 and is looking down the new routing of Longford Street down towards position 2. Westminster Kingsway College now occupies the site of the power station and the houses that ran along Stanhope Street. The southern end of the power station building housing the engine and dynamos would also have run across the area now occupied by Longford Street.

Regent's Park Power Station 5

This photo is taken from position 2, looking across the houses that ran along Longford Street and directly into the power station which occupied the centre and left area of the college buildings with the engine and dynamo building extending onto the road.

Regent's Park Power Station 6

And this photo was taken from position 3, standing in the original section of Longford Street, which originally ran straight on. The revised layout with the curve round to the left can be clearly seen.

Regent's Park Power Station 7

So what did the power station look like? The “Engineer” publication also included drawings of the power station. In photo 2 above I am looking directly into the South Elevation shown below.

Regent's Park Power Station 12

The roof of the power station was constructed from glass panels. In my father’s account of growing up in the area, written just after the last war he refers to this roof. During September and October 1940 my grandfather was working the night shift at the power station. The following is my father’s account of one particularly heavy night’s raid when a land mine landed close to their flat during this time:

“After perhaps two hours, a warden appeared, told us of our miraculous escape from the land mines – we were not yet aware of what had happened – and suggested we should make our way to the nearest rest centre. now that the raid appeared to be easing.  However, mother’s priority was to get to see father although the thought of the glass roof and the electrical apparatus under it was not exactly comforting.

Mum said her grateful goodbyes from both of us, then passing through the passageway beneath Windsor House out into Cumberland Market to walk the quarter mile or so to Longford Street. the moon was still there, and from the east came the distant rumbles and flashes in the sky, marking the dying hours of the raid. Neither of us said much and hurried along fearing a sudden blast should the mines explode. The usual smell of smoke, and the far off sound of planes, bells of emergency and fire service vehicles making their way as best they could and hardly anyone around on their feet.

Answering the ringing bell at the generating station gate, father was shocked to see us standing there. He knew from reports that Saint Pancras was being plastered that night, but little else. in the warm again and with dad, more tea and the raid diminishing all the time we slowly made a sort of recovery.”

The power station was built for the Vestry of St. Pancras. A municipal electricity service to provide electrical street lighting and provide power for industry and homes in the local area.

The annual statements for the power station remain and make fascinating reading to understand the process for building a power station in the late 19th century and how quickly the use of electricity was adopted in the immediate area.

The construction of the power station was authorised by the St. Pancras (Middlesex) Electric Lighting Order 188x (the last number was not readable, but I believe to be 1888).

Loans were raised to fund the construction including an initial £70,000 loan, a temporary bank loan of £21,269 then in 1891 a loan of £10,000 from the London County Council.

Land was purchased for a total of £10,827, which included a number of houses along Longford Street which then contributed rent into the accounts of the power station.

Initial site clearance and erection of a hoarding was done by George Tatum for £36. Additional hoarding was provided by F.H. Culverhouse & Co. for £4, 17s, 6d.

Machinery and plant cost £24,878 and the laying of mains cables and services including royalties (presumably to land owners) came to £33,787.

The initial batch of public lamps cost £6,723 and £3 was spent on posters and £40 on advertising.

The station started generating electricity in 1891. The following table shows how the number of consumers, electricity generated, lamps and motors grew in the first few months of operation.

    30th Nov 1891 31st Dec 1891 31st Jan 1892 28th Feb 1892 31st Mar 1892 30th April 1892 31st May 1892 30th June 1892
Number of Consumers 57 72 81 93 103 108 115 119
Daily Consumption (Units) Minumum 17 33 79 174 104 201 187 144
Maximum 390 1825 3105 1641 880 1248 842 861
Average 220 665 1145 1067 640 757 625 540
Number of Arc Lamps 68 71 68 67 83 83 85 85
Number of Motors 0 3 3 3 3 4 4 3

The annual accounts provide very detailed information on the performance of the power station. Two examples of the information recorded are shown below.

For the month of January 1893:

260 tons of coal delivered at a cost of £260
Station staff: 18
Outdoor staff: 11
Total units sold: 49,750
Customers: 167
Units to private houses: 3,973
Units to other than private houses: 43,775
Public Lighting: 20,211
Complaints as to supply to Consumers and Arc Lights: 6

and for the month of December 1893:

306 tons of coal delivered at a cost of £272
Station staff: 19
Outdoor staff: 24
Total units sold: 57,784
Customers: 238
Units to private houses: 5,119
Units to other than private houses: 49,268
Public Lighting: 27,252
Complaints as to supply to Consumers and Arc Lights: 5
589,690 Gallons of water used = 5.4 gallons per unit generated
672,000 lbs of Coal used = 6.1 lbs per unit generated

Interesting that whilst the Station Staff stayed almost static, the number of Outdoor Staff more than doubled. I assume this was due to the manpower required to connect a growing number of new customers to the supply system across an infrastructure that did not yet exist and to maintain the connections of existing customers.

The volume of coal and water needed to support generation gives some idea of the complex  infrastructure and supply chain required to continue round the clock operation.

Also note that at this early stage, utilities were recording the number of complaints, something that utilities would continue to do well over 100 years later.

The accounts also record the average number of units consumed per household. These are shown in the following table and show a considerable increase per household during the last decade of the 19th century. Presumably due to the increased use of electric lighting and new electrical appliances being developed and bought by householders:

1892 18.8 1896 47.7
1893 24.7 1897 63.12
1894 29.57 1898 82.91
1895 35.29 1899 102.86

The generation of electricity allowed the transition to start from gas to electric street lighting and the Vestry of St. Pancras were one of the first municipal authorities to start this change.

The Engineer article and the accounts refer to some of the drivers for moving to electric street lighting and also some of the other day to day events for the power station and Vestry:

– In consequence of the War in South Africa, great difficulty in obtaining supplies of smokeless steam coal. As a result, the price of smokeless coal has increased between 50% and 75% on previous years contracts;

– Numerous complaints have been received of smoke nuisance;

– Four workmen employed by the department who were reservists and have been called up. Their wives are receiving half pay;

– For the gas street lights still in use in 1897, the wages of the lamp lighters increased from 21s 6d to 24s per week.

Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road were some of the first streets to be lit using electricity from the Regent’s Park Central Station. A number of experiments were undertaken to identify the best position for street lamps, their height and the type of light generated by arc lamps.

The best position for lamps was identified as being in the centre of the road and close to side roads. This enabled an even spread of light across the road, with light penetrating down side roads. Lights were installed and connected to the supply from the Regent’s Park station and in January 1892, Tottenham Court Road became the first street to be lit by electric lamps and electricity supplied by the Vestry of St. Pancras. A committee from the Vestry visited Tottenham Court Road and were most satisfied by the lighting from the new street lamps, which provided twelve times more light than the gas lamps they replaced.

The following map shows the position of the new arc lamps installed by the Vestry of St. Pancras.

Regent's Street Power Station 2

The original design of the street lamps.

Regent's Park Power Station 13

These original street lamps are still in place, although converted to modern forms of lighting and electricity (the original power station produced Direct Current unlike the Alternating Current (AC) of today’s electrical system). Just before visiting Longford and Stanhope Street I walked along part of Tottenham Court Road to take a look. The streetlamp at the junction with University Street and Maple Street.

Regent's Park Power Station 3

Looking up Tottenham Court Road to the junction with Euston Road. The final two street lamps at the top of Tottenham Court Road which also appear to have lost their glass domes.

Regent's Park Power Station 4

The St. Pancras Vestry was the first municipal authority in London to generate electricity. Others swiftly followed. Hampstead Vestry in 1894 and Islington in 1896. Shoreditch implemented an innovative way of generating electricity and profit for rate payers by using their refuse destructor as a means of generating electricity and disposing of waste.

By the end of the 19th century there were some 200 miles of streets across London lit by electricity generated by municipal authorities.

Victorian London is often portrayed through the perspective of fog and Jack the Ripper. I much prefer the view of an innovative city with a growing infrastructure and the sophistication and organisation to start the delivery of services that today we take for granted.

I hope that one day I will find some photos of the Regent’s Park Central Station, however it was still a moving experience to stand in Longford Street early one January morning and look at the site where my grandfather worked many years ago.

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The Ticket Porter – Arthur Street

For this week’s post we are in the City of London in 1948, on the corner of Arthur Street where it joins with Upper Thames Street, close to the northern approach to London Bridge. A small part of the City that did not suffer major damage during the war just a few years earlier.

Looking up Arthur Street we can see a large pub, “The Ticket Porter”:

Ticket Porter 1

I stood at the same place in 2015 and looked across to a very different scene:

Ticket Porter 2

A building site now occupies the location of the Ticket Porter. The original pub lasted until the early 1970s and the building work on the site is for probably the third building since the destruction of the pub.

To confirm that this is the correct location, if you look at the buildings on the left of the street, the second building is still the same as when my father took the original. It is the only building on Arthur Street that has survived the last 67 years.

This photo taken from the approach road to London Bridge shows the original building and the curve of Arthur Street round to the right.

Ticket Porter 3

Arthur Street, by London standards, is a relatively new street and I believe it was constructed to provide a route up from Upper Thames Street to London Bridge.

The location of Arthur Street is shown in the Google Map below. The curve of the street from Upper Thames Street to King William Street providing easy access to London Bridge can be clearly seen.

Prior to the move of London Bridge to its current location, Arthur Street did not exist. The following map is an extract from John Rocque’s survey of London from 1746. I have highlighted St. Martin’s Lane with an orange line. This street once ran all the way to Upper Thames Street, however today, Arthur Street now forms the lower half of what was St. Martin’s Lane (you need to zoom in on the above Google map for the street names to appear).

Today, St. Martin’s Lane has also been abbreviated to Martin Lane.

The original London Bridge was further to the east than the current bridge, John Rocque’s map shows the bridge up against the church of St. Magnus. The London Bridge that replaced the one shown in Rocque’s map was built slightly further to the west, allowing the original bridge to continue in use until the new bridge was opened in 1831.

Ticket Porter Map 2

The following extract from Cruchley’s New Plan Of London Improved to 1835 shows the new London Bridge opened a few years earlier, with Fish Street Hill, the approach road to the original London Bridge now terminating at the river. Cutting across from St. Martin’s Lane, across King William Street to Fish Street Hill is Arthur Street.

1835 London Bridge 1

So, Arthur Street may well have been part of the changes in the area when the new London Bridge was built, originally to provide access up to King William Street and London Bridge from the surrounding roads.

At some point after 1835, Arthur Street was changed again to terminate on King William Street and down to Upper Thames Street, cutting in half St. Martin’s Lane. I suspect this change was soon after 1835 as licensing records from the 1840s give an Arthur Street address for the Ticket Porter pub.

Having established how Arthur Street may have come into existence, what about the pub?

Although there were probably more, I have only been able to find references to two pubs called The Ticket Porter. One in Moorfields and the one in Arthur Street.

The pub takes its name from those who were employed as Ticket Porters across London. The job of a Ticket Porter was to transport and carry goods across London. Ticket Porters who worked at the riverside would be responsible for the transport of goods to and from ships whilst Ticket Porters who worked in the streets would transport goods and parcels between London locations, so if a London Bookseller wanted to deliver a parcel of books to a customer, they would call on the services of a Ticket Porter.

Ticket Porters could be identified by the pewter badge that they wore, bearing the arms of the City of London.

Hogarth includes a Ticket Porter in his drawing “Beer Street”:

37376001

©Trustees of the British Museum

In the lower right of Beer Street can be seen a man drinking from a large tankard of beer. Across his chest can be seen the badge of the Ticket Porter and below him is a tied up bundle of books which he has set down whilst getting some refreshment during his journey across London.

The role of Ticket Porter also gave the name to the drink Porter, which they consumed on benches and tables set outside many London pubs as the thousands of men employed as Ticket Porters crossed London with their loads.

Hogarth’s drawing Beer Street was published to show the virtues of drinking beer rather than Gin. His Gin Lane drawing shows the drunken state to which Gin drinkers have descended whilst Beer Street shows a healthy, working population, even with the ability (as can be seen above) to work at height on the roofs of buildings. Health and safety was not the same in the 18th century.

To add to the positive images in the drawing, the text at the bottom reads:

Beer, happy Produce of our Isle,

Can sinewy Strength impart,

And wearied with fatique and Toil,

Can chear each manly Heart,

Labour and Art upheld by Thee

Succesfully advance,

We quaff Thy balmy Juice with Glee

And Water leave to France.

Genius of Health, thy grateful Taste

Rivals the Cup of Jove,

And warms each English generous Breast

With Liberty and Love

The next time I am in a London pub I will certainly be thinking of Hogarth’s words to justify the many benefits of a few pints of beer!

Compare the virtues of Beer Street and the Ticket Porter with the depravity of Gin Street:

37377001

©Trustees of the British Museum

Gin cursed Fiend with Fury fraught,

Makes human Race a Prey,

It enters by a deadly Draught,

And steals our Life away.

Virtue and Truth driven to Despair,

It’s Rage compels to fly,

But cherishes with bullish Care,

Theft, Murder, Perjury.

Damn’d Cup! that on the Vitals preys,

That liquid Fire contains,

Which Madness to the Heart conveys,

And rolls it thro’ the Veins.

Beer drinkers did not always achieve Hogarth’s high standards. The Old Bailey records include the case of a Mr James Collins who at the age of 67 was sentenced to 5 years of  “penal servitude” for unlawfully using counterfeit coin in the Ticket Porter pub.

At 7:30 on the evening of the 5th February 1870 James Collins had bought two glasses of ale and each time paid with a shilling which the barmaid (Ann Hawkins, also the daughter of the licensee of the pub) had found to be “bad”. Ann had asked for the change she had given James Collins back, when he refused she called the police and gave the bad shillings to the constable who attended.

James Collins defence in court was “I was not aware I had any bad money about me; I was very drunk.” Confirmation that the shillings were “bad” was not from any official but from a Pawnbroker from Bishopsgate Street, a Mr John Althon who confirmed to the court that both shillings were “bad”.

Hogarth would not have approved.

As ever when I am looking for the locations of my father’s photos I will take a walk around the area. I found the following on the side of The Olde Wine Shades in Martin Lane and I have no idea what is it. It looks old, and is built into a brick arch behind what looks like a layer of concrete. I could not work out the function it was meant to perform.

Ticket Porter 4

Another view from Martin Lane showing the location to the side of The Olde Wine Shades:

Ticket Porter 5

Any information as to what this is would be really appreciated.

The Ticket Porter is a long lost London pub, however it provides us with a reminder of one of the many jobs that provided employment to Londoners, and how these jobs were seen within the issues of the day as captured by Hogarth.

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Climbing The Caledonian Park Clock Tower

I have long wanted to see inside the Caledonian Park Clock Tower and the Open House London weekend provided the opportunity to do so, with tours available on the Saturday, so on a warm, sunny afternoon I was in Caledonian Park ready for the climb.

Referring back to yesterday’s post, the Clock Tower from the south. The old Copenhagen House would have been just in front and to the left of the Clock Tower.

Caledonian Clock Tower 12

At the base of the tower are plaques recording the march in support of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the original Copenhagen Fields and House.

Plaques 1

Once inside the base of the tower, a spiral staircase provides access to the first floor:

Caledonian Clock Tower 1

Further up the tower, the first glimpse of the view to come from the top:

Caledonian Clock Tower 3

Along with the weights that drive the clock.

Caledonian Clock Tower 2

The clock has not been converted to an electric system, the original mechanical clock is still in place, driven by weights and needing to be wound once a week.

The weights have almost half the height of the tower to fall when the clock is fully wound to provide a reasonably long running period.

Caledonian Clock Tower 10

On the floor below the clock mechanism is the pendulum. Fully operational with a smooth sweep back and forth. The bottom part of the near vertical wooden steps to climb between floors can just be seen below the pendulum.

Caledonian Clock Tower 4

On the next floor is the clock mechanism. In place since the original construction of the Clock Tower:

Caledonian Clock Tower 5

One of the dials recording that the clock was constructed by John Moore & Sons of Clerkenwell in 1856. Founded in 1790, John Moore & Sons operated from Clerkenwell Close for the whole of the 19th century, finally moving to Spencer Street in 1900 where they would remain for a further 20 years, mainly as watch makers. As well as the Caledonian Park Clock Tower, mechanisms manufactured by John Moore & Sons can still be found in many churches including St. Michael, Wood Green, St. Mary the Virgin in Mortlake and Holy Trinity Church in Fareham.

There have been a few restorations of the clock in the intervening 155 years, however it is still essentially the same as when it was first installed.

Caledonian Clock Tower 6

Other dials record later restorations. John Smith & Sons of Derby in 1993:

Caledonian Clock Tower 25

On the next floor up is the mechanism that takes the single drive from the clock on the floor below and drives four rods, one to each of the four clock faces on each side of the clock tower. Unfortunately the actual mechanism was hidden within a large wooden box.

Caledonian Clock Tower 7

One of the clock faces. The rod running from the right drives the clock and the gearing in the middle is the reduction drive so that both the minute and hour hands can be driven from the single drive.

Caledonian Clock Tower 24

The final set of steps provides access to the viewing gallery around the top of the Clock Tower. Through a small doorway, facing due south and straight into the following view across the whole sweep of central London and to the hills beyond.

Caledonian Clock Tower 11

Canary Wharf:

Caledonian Clock Tower 13

The City of London:

Caledonian Clock Tower 28

St. Paul’s Cathedral on the western edge of the City. When the Clock Tower was originally built. the city horizon would have seemed very flat with the exception of St. Paul’s and the steeples of the City churches.

Caledonian Clock Tower 22

The chimney of Tate Modern:

Caledonian Clock Tower 21

The Shell Centre building on the south bank and the London Eye:

Caledonian Clock Tower 20

The walkway around the Clock Tower is not that wide and the railings around the edge did not seem very high given the height of the Clock Tower.

Caledonian Clock Tower 16

Moving round to the east, the Olympic Park and the ArcelorMittal Orbit:

Caledonian Clock Tower 17And a bit further round, the Arsenal Emirates Stadium:

Caledonian Clock Tower 14Alexandra Palace:

Caledonian Clock Tower 15Looking to the south west, with the BT Tower in the centre. The area now covered by trees, the block of flats to the right and the sports pitches were all part of the Cattle Market.

Caledonian Clock Tower 29

The view looking down onto the park. The area occupied by the park, the football pitches and the sports complex were also part of the Cattle Market. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any photos taken from the tower whilst the market was in operation. It must have been an impressive sight on a busy market day.

Caledonian Clock Tower 27

Above the viewing gallery are the bells, not used having been out of action for many years.

Caledonian Clock Tower 18

As with the clock, the bells are original. The main bell showing 1856 as the year of manufacture:

Caledonian Clock Tower 19

It was about 10 to 15 minutes at the top of the tower, it went far too quickly when there was so much to take in, however It was time to climb back down through the doorway, and take one last look at London:

Caledonina Clock Tower 26

The Caledonian Clock Tower is a fantastic survival from the Metropolitan Cattle Market. Largely unchanged since first built and faithful to James Bunstone Bunning’s original design. It is a Grade II* listed building to recognise the important part the Clock Tower played in London’s commercial and industrial heritage. Long may it survive.

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Caledonian Park – History, Murals And A Fire

Caledonian Park in north London in the Borough of Islington is today a green space in a busy part of London, with few reminders of the areas rich history.

I have much to write about Caledonian Park so I will cover in two posts this weekend. Today some historical background to the area, some lost murals and finding the location of one of my father’s photos. Tomorrow, climbing the Victorian Clock Tower at the heart of the park to see some of the most stunning views of London.

Caledonian Park is a relatively recent name. Taking its name from the nearby Caledonian Road which in turn was named after the Caledonian Asylum which was established nearby in 1815 for the “children of Scottish parents”.

Prior to the considerable expansion of London in the 19th century, the whole area consisted of open fields and went by the name of Copenhagen Fields. There was also a Copenhagen House located within the area of the current park.

The origin of the Copenhagen name is probably down to the use of the house (or possibly the construction of the house) by the Danish Ambassador for use as a rural retreat from the City of London during the Great Plague of 1665.

Copenhagen House became an Inn during the early part of the 18th century and the fields were used for sport, recreation and occasionally as an assembly point for demonstrations, or as Edward Walford described in Old and New London, the fields were “the resort of Cockney lovers, Cockney sportsmen and Cockney agitators”

The following print shows Copenhagen House from the south east in 1783, still a very rural location.

1125319001 ©Trustees of the British Museum

During the last part of the 18th century, Copenhagen Fields was often used as a meeting point for many of the anti-government demonstrations of the time. Old and New London by Walter Thornbury has a description of these meetings:

“In the early days of the French Revolution, when the Tories trembled with fear and rage, the fields near Copenhagen House were the scene of those meetings of the London Corresponding Society, which so alarmed the Government. The most threatening of these was held on October 26, 1795, when Thelwall, and other sympathisers with France and liberty, addressed 40,000, and threw out hints that the mob should surround Westminster on the 29th, when the King would go to the House. The hint was attended to, and on that day the King was shot at, but escaped unhurt.”

The meetings and threats from groups such as the Corresponding Societies led to the Combination Acts of 1799 which legislated against the gathering of men for a common purpose. It was this repression that also contributed to the Cato Street Conspiracy covered in my post which can be found here.

The following is a satirical print from 1795 by James Gillray of a meeting on Copenhagen Fields “summoned by the London Corresponding Society” which was “attended by more than a hundred thousand persons”.

140569001

©Trustees of the British Museum

Copenhagen Fields continued to be used for gatherings. In April 1834 there was a meeting in support of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who had been sentenced to transportation to Australia for forming a trade union. Walter Thornbury provides the following description: “an immense number of persons of the trades’ unions assembled in the Fields, to form part of a procession of 40,000 men to Whitehall to present an address to his Majesty, signed by 260,000 unionists on behalf of their colleagues who had been convicted at Dorchester for administering illegal oaths”.

The final large meeting to be held in Copenhagen Fields was in 1851 in support of an exiled Hungarian revolutionary leader. The role of this rural location was about to change very dramatically.

Smithfield in the city was originally London’s main cattle market however during the first half of the 19th century the volume of animals passing through the market and the associated activities such as the slaughter houses were getting unmanageable in such a densely populated part of central London.

The City of London Corporation settled on Copenhagen Fields as the appropriate location for London’s main cattle market and purchased Copenhagen House and the surrounding fields in 1852. The site was ideal as it was still mainly open space, close enough to London, and near to a number of the new railway routes into north London.

Copenhagen House was demolished and the construction of the new market, designed by the Corporation of London Architect, James Bunstone Bunning was swiftly underway, opening on the 13th June 1855.

A ground penetrating radar survey of the area commissioned by Islington Council in 2014 identified the location of Copenhagen House as (when viewed from the park to the south of the Clock Tower) just in front and to the left of the Clock Tower.

The sheer scale of the new market was impressive. In total covering seventy five acres and built at a cost of £500,000. There were 13,000 feet of railings to which the larger animals could be tied and 1,800 pens for up to 35,000 sheep.

Market days were Mondays and Thursdays for cattle, sheep and pigs, and Fridays for horses, donkeys and goats. The largest market of the year was held just before Christmas. In the last Christmas market at Smithfield in 1854, the number of animals at the market was 6,100. At the first Christmas market at the new location, numbers had grown to 7,000 and by 1863 had reached 10,300.

The following Aerofilms photo from 1931 shows the scale of the market. The clock tower at the centre of the market is also at the centre of the photo with the central market square along with peripheral buildings in the surrounding streets.

EPW034971

The 1930 edition of Bartholomew’s Handy Reference Atlas of London shows the location and size of the market:

Caledonian map 1

As well as the cattle market, the construction included essential infrastructure to support those working and visiting the market. Four large public houses were built, one on each of the corners of the central square. The following Aerofilms photo from 1928, shows three of the pubs at corners of the main square. The two large buildings to the left of the photo are hotels, also constructed as part of the market facilities

The clock tower is located in the middle, at the base of the clock tower are the branch offices of several banks, railway companies, telegraph companies along with a number of shops.

EPW024272

A 19th century drawing shows the clock tower and the long sheds that covered much of the market:

Die_Gartenlaube_(1855)_b_089

By the time of the First World War, the cattle market had started to decline and was finally closed in 1939 at the start of the Second World War, with the site then being used by the army.

After the war, the slaughter houses around the market continued to be used up until 1964, when the London County Council and the Borough of Islington purchased the site ready for redevelopment. The Market Housing Estate was built on much of the site, although by the 1980s the physical condition of the estate had started to decline significantly, and the estate had a growing problem with drugs and prostitution. Housing blocks were built up close to the clock tower and there was limited green space with many concrete paved areas surrounding the housing blocks and the clock tower.

A second redevelopment of the area was planned and planning permission granted in 2005. The last of the Market Estate housing blocks was demolished in 2010 and it this latest development which occupies much of the area today.

In 1982 a number of murals illustrating the history of the market were painted on the ground floor exterior of the main Clock Tower building of the original Market Estate. In 1986 my father took some photos of the murals during a walk round Islington. As far as I know, these murals were lost during the later redevelopment of the area.

The introductory mural providing some history of the market:

Cattle Market Murals 1

A scene showing the opening of the market by Prince Albert in 1855. A lavishly decorated marquee hosted a thousand invited guests to mark the opening of the market.

Cattle Market Murals 2

The central clock tower painted on the Clock Tower building of the housing estate:

Cattle Market Murals 3

Other scenes from around the market:

Cattle Market Murals 4

Cattle Market Murals 5

As well as the photos of the murals, almost 40 years earlier in 1948 my father had taken a photo of the aftermath of a fire. I was unsure where this was and I published the photo below a few weeks ago in my post on mystery locations.

Old Pub Road 1

One of the messages I had in response to this post (my thanks to Tom Miler), was that the building at the back of the photo looked like one of the pubs at the Caledonian Market.

I took a walk around the periphery of the site trying to work out which of the streets and pubs could be the location of my father’s photo and found the following:

Pub Road 1

This, I am sure, is the location of my father’s photo. The street is Shearling Way running along the eastern edge of Caledonian Park. I probably should have been a bit further back to take the photo, however the rest of the road was closed and full of cars unloading students into the student accommodation that now occupies the southern end of Shearling Way – an indication of how much the area has changed.

The pub is hidden behind the tree, although it is in the same position and the chimneys are clearly the same and in the right position. The old yards and sheds that had burnt down on the right of the original photo have been replaced by housing.

I was really pleased to find the location of this photo, it is one I thought I would not be able to place in modern day London.

This Aerofilms photo from 1948 shows the pub from the above photo at the top left of the main market square with the road running up to the right. Above the road is the area that was the scene of the fire.

EAW015857

This is another photo of the scene of the fire and the housing in the background can also be seen in the above Aerofilms photo, further confirming the location.

Unknown Locations 17

Walking down the street I took the following photo of the pub, the front of the pub has the same features as on the 1948 photo.

Pub 1

The pub was The Lamb, unfortunately, as with the other pubs on the corners of the old cattle market, it is now closed.

To the left of the first half of the street, adjacent to the park, the original market railings are still in place:

Market Railings 1

A short time after the opening of the Cattle Market, a general or flea market had become established alongside. This market grew considerably and was generally known as the Cally Market, a place where almost anything could be found for sale. By the start of the 20th century, the size of the Cally Market had outgrown the original Cattle Market.

The journalist and author H.V. Morton visited the market for his newspaper articles on London and later consolidated in his book “London” (published in 1925) and wrote the following:

“When I walked into this remarkable once a week junk fair I was deeply touched to think that any living person could need many of the things displayed for sale. For all round me, lying on sacking, were the driftwood and wreckage of a thousand lives: door knobs, perambulators in extremis, bicycle wheels, bell wire, bed knobs, old clothes, awful pictures, broken mirrors, unromantic china goods, gaping false teeth, screws, nuts, bolts and vague pieces of rusty iron, whose mission in life, or whose part and portion of a whole, Time had obliterated.”

The Cally Market was also used during both the first and second world wars for major fund raising events. This poster from the first world war:

IWM PST 10955

 © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10955)

Along with the murals, my father took a photo of the Clock Tower in 1986. The original housing blocks that reached up to the clock tower can be seen on either side. The clock tower is surrounded by concrete paving.

Old Tower View 1

This is the same scene in 2015 from roughly the same point (although I should have been more to the left). The old housing blocks have been demolished and the clock tower is now surrounded by green space.

New Tower View 1

Looking at the above photo, the wooden steps that provide the route up inside the Clock Tower can be seen through the two windows.

Join me for tomorrow’s post as I climb the tower to the viewing gallery at the top for some of the best views across London.

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Cardinal Cap Alley And No. 49 Bankside

If you visit Bankside today, by far the main attraction is the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, however I would argue that there is a far more important historical building right next door to the Globe.

The following photo was taken by my father in 1947 and shows Cardinal Cap Alley. The building on the left of the alley is No. 49 Bankside, a building that exists to this day and has somehow managed to survive the considerable rebuilding along Bankside, and whilst having a well documented history, No. 49 also pretends to be something which it is not.

Cardinal Cap Alley

In the above photo, No. 49 and Cardinal Cap Alley are between one of the many industrial buildings along Bankside (Craig & Rose, paint manufacture’s ) and a short terrace of houses that were damaged by bombing in the last war.

The following photo is my 2015 view of the same area and shows No. 49 and Cardinal Cap Alley are now in between the Globe and the rebuilt terrace of houses, which were also reduced from three down to two houses in the post war reconstruction.

Cardinal Cap Alley

Cardinal Cap Alley and No. 49 have a fascinating history that tell so much about how Bankside has changed, and also how the history of the site can be traced to what we see along Bankside today.

As a starter, the following is from the London County Council Survey of London, Volume XXII published in 1950:

“The name Cardinal’s Hat (or Cap), for a house on the site of the present No. 49 Bankside, and for the narrow alley which runs down beside it, dates from at least the time of Elizabeth and perhaps earlier. The suggestion that it was named in compliment to Cardinal Beaufort is attractive but untenable, for Beaufort died in 1447, and the original Cardinal’s Hat was not built till many years later.

The site was described in 1470 as “a void piece of ground”. It is possible that it was named after Cardinal Wolsey who was Bishop of Winchester from 1529-30, although no buildings are mentioned in a sale of the site from John Merston, fishmonger, to Thomas Tailloure, fishmonger in 1533. Stowe lists the Cardinal’s Hat as one of the Stewhouses but he may possibly have been mistaken, including it only because it was one of the more prominent inns on Bankside in his day.

It is shown in the Token Book for 1593 as in occupation of John Raven and as one of a group of houses which in the book for 1588 is described as “Mr. Broker’s Rentes”. Hugh Browker, later the owner of the Manor of Paris Garden, was in possession of ground there in 1579 and it seems likely that he was responsible for the formation of Cardinal’s Cap Alley if not for the building of the original house.

Thomas Mansfield was the tenant of the inn when Edward Alleyn dined there with the “vestrye men” of St. Saviour’s parish in December 1617.

A few years later John Taylor, the water poet makes reference to having supper with “the players” at the Cardinal’s Hat on Bankside. Milchisedeck Fritter, brewer, who tenanted the house from 1627 to 1674 issued a halfpenny token. He was assessed for seven hearths in the hearth tax rolls.

The freehold was sold by Thomas Browker to Thomas Hudson in 1667. The later died in 1688 leaving his “messuages on Bankside” to his sister Mary Greene, with reversion to his great nieces Mary and Sarah Bruce. It was at about this date that the older part of the present house was built. During the 18th century it was bought by the Sells family who both owned and occupied it until 1830. in 1841 Edward Sells of Grove Lane, Camberwell, bequeathed his freehold messauge and yard and stables, being No. 49 Bankside, then in the tenure of George Holditch, merchant, to his son, Vincent Sells. The house is now owned by Major Malcolm Munthe. It has previously been occupied by Anna Lee, the actress.”

Although today the main Bankside attraction is the adjacent Globe Theatre, what does draw the attention of visitors to Bankside is the old looking plaque on No.49 with ornate script stating that Sir Christopher Wren lived in the building during the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral and that Catherine of Aragon took shelter in the building on her arrival in London. This can be seen to the left of the doorway to No. 49 in my 2015 photo.

Sir Christopher Wren

But a close-up of the 1947 photo shows no evidence of the plaque to the left of the door and there is no mention of it in the 1950 Survey of London.

Cardinal Cap Alley

The origin of this plaque is documented in the really excellent book “The House by the Thames” by Gillian Tindall.

As the name suggests, the book is about the history of No. 49 Bankside, the occupiers of the house and the industries around Bankside. It is one of the most interesting and well researched accounts of a single house and its’ surroundings that I have read.

In the book, Tindall confirms that the plaque is a mid 20th Century invention. Malcolm Munthe, who purchased the house just after the end of the war, probably made the plaque himself and installed on the front of the house. There was a plaque on a house further up Bankside, claiming the occupancy of Wren, however this house was pulled down in 1906.

A close-up of Cardinal Cap Alley and the entrance to No. 49, showing the Wren plaque to the left of the door.

Cardinal Cap Alley

Also note that Cardinal Cap Alley is now gated. This use to be freely accessible and I took the following photo from inside the alley in the 1970s. Could not deal with the contrasting light very well, I was very young and this was with a Kodak Instamatic 126 camera – my very first.

Cardinal Cap 11

I did not take a photo looking down into the alley, probably thinking at the time it was not as good a view as across the river, however it is these views which are so important as they show, what at the time, are the day to day background of the city which are so important to record.

I am very grateful to Geraldine Moyle who sent me the following photo taken in 1973 looking down into Cardinal Cap Alley:

1973 Cardinal Cap Alley

The garden of No. 49 is on the left. Just an ordinary alley, but so typical of all the alleys that would have run back from the water front, between the houses that faced the river.

Tindall’s book runs through the whole history of No.49 and demonstrates how the history of a specific site over the past centuries has influenced the site to this day.

The occupiers of No. 49 and the adjacent buildings ran the ferry boats across the river, were lightermen and watermen and then moved into the coal trade. The Sell’s family who lived in the house for a number of generations, and who built a very successful coal trading business, finally merging with other coal trading companies to form the Charrington, Sells, Dale & Co. business which generally traded under the name of Charrington (a name that will be very familiar to anyone who can remember when there was still domestic coal distribution in the 1960s and 1970s).

How the history of Bankside has evolved over the centuries:

– the original occupations of many Bankside residents of ferrymen, lightermen and watermen. Working on the River Thames with the transportation of people and goods.

–  as the transport of coal became important to London, the development of many coal trading businesses along Bankside, including that of the Sell’s family

– the local coal trading led to the development of coal gas and electricity generation plants at Bankside (the Phoenix Gas Works are shown on the 1875 Ordnance Survey map covering the west side of the current Bankside Power Station / Tate Modern.)

– the first electricity generating plant being replaced by the Bankside Power Station that we see today and is now Tate Modern.

To quote Tindall:

“And this is why at the end of the twentieth century, a huge and distinctive brick red building was there to make an iconic focus for the regeneration of a Bankside from which industrial identity had by then fled.

Thus do patches of London’s ground, which are nothing in themselves but gravel and clay and river mud, and the ground down dust of brick and stone and bones, wood and wormwood and things thrown away, acquire through ancient incidental reasons a kind of genetic programming that persists through time”

This last paragraph sums up my interest in the history of London far better than I could put into words.

I really do recommend “The House by the Thames” by Gillian Tindall.

Going back to 1912, Sir Walter Besant writing in his “London – South of the River” describes Bankside at the height of industrialisation:

“Bankside is closely lined with foundries, engineering shops, dealers in metals, coke, fire-brick, coal, rags, iron and iron girders. the great works of the City of London Electric Lighting Corporation, which lights the city, is also here. On the river-side is a high brick building containing the coal-hoisting machinery. All is automatic; the coal is lifted, conveyed to the furnaces, fed to the fires, and the ashes brought back with hardly any attention whatever, at an immense savings of labour.”

Standing in Bankside today, the area could not be more different.

Another view of No. 49 Bankside. The street in front of these buildings is the original Bankside. As can just be seen, this comes to an abrupt stop due to the land beyond being occupied by the Bankside Power Station complex. It is perhaps surprising that N0.49 and Cardinal Cap Alley have survived this long given the considerable redevelopment along this stretch of the river. It is ironic that perhaps the false plaque claiming Sir Christopher Wren’s occupancy may have contributed to the survival of the building during the last half of the 20th century.

The Globe Bankside

My father also took a photo from Bankside across the river to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The larger ship traveling from left to right is the Firedog, owned by the Gas Light & Coke Company. Originally founded in 1812, the company had a fleet of ships to transport coal to the gas works it operated around London (this was before “natural” gas was discovered in the North Sea. Prior to this, gas was produced from coal). The Gas Light & Coke company absorbed many of the smaller companies across London before being nationalised in 1948 as a major part of North Thames Gas, which was then absorbed into British Gas.

St. Paul's Cathedral

The same view in 2015. The only building on the river front to have survived is the building on the far right.  Note the building in the middle of the 1947 photo. This is the head office of LEP (the letters can just be seen on the roof), the company that operated the last working crane on the Thames in central London, see my earlier post here. It is really good to see that the height of the buildings between the river and St. Paul’s are no higher today than they were in 1947. A very positive result of the planning controls that protect the view of the cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral

There is one final reminder of Bankside’s past. Walk past the Globe and on the side of a modern building with a Greek restaurant on the ground floor is the Ferryman’s Seat:

Ferryman's Seat

The plaque states;

“The Ferryman’s seat, located on previous buildings at this site was constructed for the convenience of Bankside watermen who operated ferrying services across the river. The seat’s age is unknown, but it is thought to have ancient origins.”

Although there is no firm evidence of the seat’s antiquity, the 1950 Survey of London for Bankside includes a drawing of the seat in the building on the site at the time and states that “Inserted in a modern building at the corner of Bear Gardens and Bankside is an old stone seat said to have been taken from an earlier building and to have been made for the convenience of watermen.”

Ferryman's Seat

Read Gillian Tindall’s book, then visit Bankside. Ignore the crowds around the Globe and reflect on Cardinal Cap Alley, No. 49 and the lives of countless Londoners who have lived and worked on Bankside over the centuries.

alondoninheritance.com

 

A Walk Round The Shell Centre Viewing Gallery

Shell Centre is an office complex on the Southbank, located between Hungerford Bridge and the old London County Council building. The most obvious part of the complex is the 26 storey tower.

Designed by Sir Howard Robertson and built between 1957 and 1962 for the Royal Dutch Shell group of oil companies, the office complex set new standards for staff facilities and building automation. Originally two main blocks, one either side of Hungerford Bridge, the “downstream” building to the east of Hungerford Bridge was sold during the 1990’s and converted to apartments.

Although large buildings above ground, there is a significant part of the complex below ground with a large swimming pool, theatre and bar being among the facilities for the original 5,000 staff to enjoy. Two underground tunnels connected the upstream and downstream buildings, running underneath the rail arches leading to Hungerford Bridge and being just above the underground train tunnels running north from Waterloo.

The building also had a tunnel out to the Thames so that river water could be used for cooling.

The “upstream” building to the west of Hungerford Bridge has a “U” shape set of 10 storey offices with the 26 storey, 351 foot tower block being the most obvious feature of the complex.

Shell has temporarily moved out of the complex and there is a proposed redevelopment of the site that will significantly change this part of the Southbank, more on this at the end of this post.

Long before the Shard and the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, one of the innovations for the time was that the tower had a public viewing gallery. This was when there were very few tall buildings across London and certainly nothing built or planned in this part of the city. The viewing gallery provided almost continuous all round views of London.

The viewing gallery closed not that long after opening. I was told this was because that sadly there had been a suicide (although I have no verification of this). I was able to visit the viewing gallery in 1980 and took the following photos which show a very different London skyline to that of today. It always surprises me that it was not that long ago that there were very few tall buildings across London.

We will start with the view across to the Houses of Parliament and walk round the viewing gallery.

This was long before the construction of the London Eye which would now be the main feature of this view:

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 3

Moving further to the right we can look straight across the river. The large building to the right are the offices of the Ministry of Defence. Buckingham Palace is to the left of centre:

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 15

And further to the right, this is the original Charing Cross Station at the end of Hungerford Railway Bridge. In the years after this photo was taken, in common with many other main London stations, office buildings were constructed on top of the station. This was also before the Golden Jubilee foot bridges were added to either side of Hungerford Railway Bridge. At the time the photo was taken there was a single, relatively narrow foot bridge on the east side of the bridge.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 4

Looking directly onto Charing Cross Station with the Post Office Tower in the background and Centre Point to the right:

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 2

Further to the right, the building left of centre is Shell-Mex House. This was occupied by the UK operating company of Shell. To the right is Waterloo Bridge.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 14

And further to the right with the full width of Waterloo Bridge:

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 13

We are now starting to look over towards the City of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral can be seen to the upper right of centre and the three towers of the Barbican to the left.

The L shaped building in the lower foreground is the downstream building of the Shell Centre complex, and just above this building is the tower that was for London Weekend Television. The base of this tower still consists of TV studios, one of the few buildings that have had the same function over the last 35 years.

To the right of this is Kings Reach Tower, occupied at the time by IPC Magazines, publishers of magazines ranging from Loaded to Country Life. IPC Magazines vacated this tower block some years ago and it is now in the process of being converted into, yes you have probably guessed, more apartments. The height of the building is being raised with additional floors being constructed in top.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 7

And slightly further to the right, the tower in the distance was at the time the tallest office block in the City of London, the recently completed NatWest Tower, built for the NatWest Bank, now renamed as Tower 42.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 1

This photo is looking down onto the roundabout at the southern end of Waterloo Bridge. The large space in the centre of the roundabout is now occupied by an IMAX Cinema. The church to the right is St. John’s, Waterloo. The church was built between 1822 and 1824 and due to the marshy land had to be built on piles.  I was told at the time that one of the reasons for so much space below ground level at Shell Centre was also due to the marshy ground and the need to keep the overall weight on the site equal. Excavating below ground level to remove sufficient weight of earth equal to the weight of building on top. No idea if this is true, but it does seem plausible.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 5

This photo is looking straight across to the City and Southwark. There is nothing of any height in the far distance. The buildings of Canary Wharf would now be very visible in the distance.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 9

Continuing to move to the right, this is looking over south-east London with the roof of Waterloo Station occupying the bottom right corner of the photo.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 8

And round to the right again looking over south London with the extensive network of tracks leading into Waterloo Station. The lower section of tracks at the bottom part of the photo would soon be converted to the London terminus of Eurostar prior to the completion of the HS1 rail route which transferred Eurostar trains into St. Pancras.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 11

Detail from the above photo showing British Rail rolling stock prior to privatisation of the rail network:

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 18And a final view over to south west London. This was as far as the viewing gallery would allow, the gallery did not run along the western side of the tower:

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 12

I cannot remember why I was using Black and White film when I took these photos from the viewing gallery. Shortly after taking the above, I took the following photo in colour showing Shell Centre from the north bank of the Thames. The north facing part of the viewing gallery can be clearly seen at the very top.

Shell Centre Viewing Gallery 17

The building is one of the few immediate post war developments that works well. If the proposed redevelopment of the site gets approval, it will be very different. The plans propose the demolition of the “U” shaped 10 storey office block at the base of the tower, and a whole new cluster of towers built around the original tower.

To see the proposed development, look here.

It was quite a surprise to see how much this area will change, and in my view, the close proximity of towers of very different materials and design to the original tower just does not look right.

It was fascinating to look back on these photos of the London skyline from 1980. It looks very different now, and the almost continuous development of tower blocks look set to continue transforming the skyline for many years to come, although unlike the original Shell Centre complex, with almost identical glass and steel towers that are removing so much of the local character of London.

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The Royal Festival Hall – Dramatic Effects Of Space And Vista

I recently scanned some of my father’s photos which included the last photos he took in the early 1950s of the Royal Festival Hall. These photos show the area soon after the closure of the Festival of Britain when much of the infrastructure for the Festival was still in place.

At the end of this post I have put together a time sequence of photos of the site from 1947 through to 2015 showing the original site, during construction and photos taken in the early 1980s and 2015.

But first, the recently scanned photos, the first is of the Royal Festival Hall taken soon after closure of the Festival of Britain exhibition, from the footbridge alongside the Hungerford Railway Bridge.

Festival H4

And from the same location in April 2015:

Festival H6

The overall shape of the Royal Festival Hall is exactly as it was when first built, however there have been a number of cosmetic changes to the front with the middle tier window line now stretching across the full front of the hall and changes to the top tier with a balcony now between the glass and the front of the hall.

I planned to take the 2015 photo before the trees had come into leaf as when the leaves are fully grown the trees considerably obstruct the view of the hall. I was not early enough!

Please do not get me wrong, we do not plant enough trees, within the city and across the country, however there are some places where trees are in the wrong position. The Royal Festival Hall is, in my view, one of the very few buildings constructed soon after the last war that works well architecturally and is in the right location. The Royal Festival Hall was always designed to be seen from and across the River Thames and to provide views along to the City.

The trees in front of the building considerably obscure the building from the walkway across Hungerford Bridge and from the north bank of the Thames.

As the original Festival Guide stated:

“The Royal Festival Hall can claim to be a work of art in itself. The superb dramatic effects of space and vista, within the building and beyond it to the river and the city, are things which the visitor will discover for himself.”

Note also how in the original photo the Royal Festival Hall did not have any buildings in the background to detract from the view of the hall. A very different situation in 2015. To the right of the hall is the building that was the downstream building of Shell Centre, but has now been converted from offices to apartments. To the left is the Kent House Tower above the London TV Studios and behind that with the crane on the top is the South Bank Tower, again another building being converted from offices to apartments.

Walking a short distance further along the Hungerford footbridge, we can take a look down at the walkway in front of the Royal Festival Hall:

Festival H3

The poles are part of the decoration from the Festival of Britain. The photo also shows the observation platforms which I have heard of, but not seen photos of until scanning these negatives. There were six of these raised platforms extending just over the river wall and must have been a fantastic place to sit and view the surroundings.

At the far right of the photo is the Shot Tower, to the left can just be seen the walkway to the river pier, and in the distance is an excellent view over towards St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The view is very different in 2015:

Festival H7

The observation platforms are unfortunately long gone, and later replicas of the poles that can be seen in the original photo are just visible, however the view is considerably obstructed by the trees. Again, an example of why I would argue that this area of the Southbank is the wrong place for trees and their removal would open up both the view of the Royal Festival Hall and the views along the river and to the city.

The guide-book for the Festival of Britain shows the area in front of the Royal Festival Hall including the six observation platforms:

Festival H9

Walking almost to the end of the footbridge, we can look down and watch those out for a walk along the Southbank:

Festival H2

And the same location in 2015:

Festival H8

And a final view across to the Royal Festival Hall, with the Shot Tower on the left:

Festival H1

During the Festival, the Shot Tower had a Radio Telescope aerial mounted on the top. I had always assumed this was for decoration only, however the Festival Guide explains that it was a fully working system that would bounce radio signals off the moon, allowing visitors to see the time delay between the transmitted and reflected signal. The aerial system was mounted on a redundant gun mounting which could be moved to allow the aerial to track the moon.

From the Festival Guide Book:

“The Tower has been one of the landmarks of London since it was built-in 1826. It remains the only old building on the site, to serve as a beacon for the Festival. It is a beacon in two senses: it is a modern lighthouse with a double flashing beam welcoming visitors as far as 45 miles away when the weather is clear; it is a radio beacon directing radio signals to the moon and beyond into space.

The lighthouse mounted at the top will flash from sunset to Exhibition closing time. It has a power of 3 million candles. It is of the most modern all-electric design and so takes up far less space than the older types which needed weighty lenses to intensify the beam. The light itself comes from a lamp of three thousand watts; an automatic device ensures that a second lamp can swing into position should it fail. This lighthouse optic is the work of Chance Brothers Ltd., who made all the glass for the original Crystal Palace a hundred years ago.

The radio beam is above the lighthouse optic. The most obvious part of it is a large reflector which beams the signal from the aerial within it on to the moon. This is part of the radio telescope and is connected with the display in the Dome of Discovery by underground cable. In the Dome visitors can transmit signals to the moon and actually see them reflected back to the earth after about two and a half seconds.”

This was 64 years ago and I wonder if our public demonstration of science has progressed much since.

The following is from the Festival Guide and shows the detail of the top of the Shot Tower. As with the observation platforms, it would have been good if the Shot Tower could have been preserved as part of the Southbank’s history.

Festival H10

Also on the negatives were some photos of the following structure:

Festival H5

This was at the far eastern end of the Festival Hall site (Waterloo Bridge can just be seen at the lower right). The numbers on the central arch are the years 1851 and 1951.

1851 was the year of the Great Exhibition held in the “Crystal Palace” in Hyde Park. This structure looks to be a very rough approximation of the original Crystal Palace building. Both exhibitions had a very similar theme to demonstrate the country’s strength in industry and science.

I have featured this area of the Southbank in a number of posts to highlight different periods in the development of the site. I have brought the photos taken by my father and myself together in the following sequence to show how the site has changed from 1947 to 2015.

Starting in 1947, and the site still retains the original buildings with the Shot Tower on the left and Lion Brewery building to the right:

Festival 4

Construction starts. This is a panorama of several of my father’s photos to show the whole of the building site that would become the Royal Festival Hall:

Panorama

Construction is now well underway with cranes and scaffolding surrounding the building (compare this with the 1947 photo):

Festival 1

And repeating the photo from this week’s post, the completed Royal Festival Hall just after the Exhibition:

Festival H4

Now fast forward 30 years to the early 1980s and this is one of my photos of the Royal Festival Hall. Still no trees and the hall is an impressive site from the north bank of the Thames:

Festival H11

Summer 2014 and even from the height of the walkway along the side of Hungerford Bridge, the hall is hiding behind the trees:

trees

The guidebook to the Festival in the section on the Royal Festival Hall explains that it is a work of art in itself  and “the superb dramatic effects of space and vista, within the building and beyond it to the river and the city“. With the way that London is growing, the opportunity to appreciate space and vista at ground level is diminishing. It would be good if the area in front of the Royal Festival Hall could be opened up again to meet the original intentions of the architects.

You may also be interested in my other articles on this area:

The South Bank – Before the Festival of Britain and the Royal Festival Hall

The Royal Festival Hall – Before, During And After Construction

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A Wartime Temporary Bridge And County Hall

My father took the following photo in early 1947 from the Embankment, just by the base of the Hungerford railway bridge looking over towards the County Hall, the offices of the London County Council. The photo is from the end of a strip of negatives that has suffered some damage. I will process and repair, but for this blog my intention is to present my father’s photos as I first see them after scanning. The photo is interesting for two features, the temporary bridge over the Thames that can be seen running across the river in front of County Hall,  and the large heap of rubble to the left of County Hall. The very start of demolition of the site that would a few years later be the location of the Dome of Discovery for the Festival of Britain. County Hall 1 The location where my father took the photo was easy to find. As well as County Hall being the main feature in the photo, the balustrade in the foreground is still there. Just beyond County Hall to the right are the original buildings of St. Thomas’ Hospital.

Unfortunately the weather was not as sunny as when my father took the photo 68 years earlier, however my 2015 photo from the same location: County Hall 3 The ship in the foreground was not there in 1947. She is the Hispaniola, launched in 1953 as the Maid of Ashton and entered service in Scotland. She was converted into a restaurant ship and renamed the Hispaniola in 1973, finally reaching her current place on the Thames in 1974.

The temporary bridge over the Thames was one of a number constructed during the war. The aim was to provide an alternative route over the river if the main bridges were bombed. This bridge would have provided an alternative route if the nearby Westminster Bridge was hit. The temporary bridges were removed between 1947 and 1948 so my father’s photo was taken a couple of months before it was dismantled. The route of the temporary bridge was from the north bank to the south, to land adjacent to the County Hall. The following photo is from the landing point on the north bank looking along the line of the bridge to the south bank. These bridges were temporary and there is no evidence of the bridge to be found today, just the London Eye which now dominates this area of the south bank. County Hall 4 There was a second photo on the same strip of negatives, in better condition, and taken looking slightly to the left of the first photo so we get a full view of the location that would host the Festival of Britain and which is now the Jubilee Gardens. As with so much of the land along the banks of the river, the stretch between Hungerford and Westminster bridges was a continuous stretch of warehousing and industrial activity with many wharfs and inlets to the river. County Hall 2 Looking across to the same area now: County Hall 5 To give some idea of the activities which took place along this stretch of the river, the plans for County Hall detail the occupiers of the site prior to the start of the construction. Adjacent to Westminster Bridge was the Westminster Flour Mills, then came the Lambeth Borough Council Works department with Acre Wharf and Vestry Wharf on either side followed by the Cross and Blackwell factory at Soho Wharf, then extending past the County Hall site was the London County Council Works Department. The whole stretch providing a very irregular frontage onto the Thames, as shown in the 1947 photos.

The following map is from Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London from 1940. Whilst not showing the wharfs, it does show the area adjacent to County Hall, covered by my father’s original photos, part occupied by the Government India Stores and that a road, Jenkins Street, now long since disappeared extended down to the river’s edge from Belvedere Road.

County Hall Map 1

Construction of County Hall commenced in 1909 with a “coffer dam” being built between January and September 1909 to separate the construction area from the Thames so this could be emptied of water. Work was then started on the embankment wall in September 1909 to build the substantial wall that we see today.

Once the area was separated from the Thames, construction of the foundations and the raft on which the building would sit started. It was during this work that evidence of London’s Roman history was found with the discovery of a Roman boat deep in the sub soil, 19 feet below the river’s high water level. 38 feet in length and 18 feet wide the boat was considered to be a “round-bottomed ocean-going” boat. After seeing the light of day and a very different Thames than the boat must have last sailed down, it was stored by the London County Council before being transferred to the Museum of London.

Work continued on County Hall during the First World War, initial impact of the war was on the slowing of supplies of Cornish granite due to the military demand for rail transport. Reduction of supplies resulted in manpower being moved onto other activities with work slowing considerably after 1915. After the war, work picked up again, with 349 men working on the site in July 1919 rising to over one thousand in 1921. County Hall was finally finished and officially opened in July 1922.

Aerofilms took the following photo when much of the construction up to roof level was nearing completion. The area beyond County Hall is still industrial and warehousing typical of this whole stretch up to Westminster Bridge prior to the construction of County Hall. EPW005603It is fascinating to read how the authority for London was viewed in the first half of the last century. From the 1951 edition of The Face of London by Harold P. Clunn:

“The London County Council is generally admitted to be the largest and most efficiently managed municipal governing authority in the world. It superseded the old Metropolitan Board of Works created in 1855 to watch over the requirements of London, and its 118 councillors were first elected on Thursday, 17 January 1889. On 21 March 1949 it celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. It had often been said that if Parliament ceased to talk for twelve months the country would suffer no inconvenience, and many people would probably be glad. On the other hand, if the London County Council ceased work for a few days indescribable chaos would result, and the health of Londoners would be seriously jeopardized. its housing estates house 500,000 people who pay £5,000,000 a year in rents. In its 1,400 schools 300,000 children are educated by 14,000 teachers.” 

The following postcard with a view taken from the Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament shows the area of my father’s photo following clearance and before construction of the Festival of Britain. This must have been around 1949. the temporary bridge has been removed along with all the buildings and rubble from the south bank site, with the land flattened all the way down to the river. It must have been a sight at high tide with the river probably able to extend a fair distance inland at this point. County Hall 6 The view from the Victoria Tower also shows how few tall buildings there were across London. An aspect of the city that would change very dramatically over the following 60 years.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • The Face of London by Harold P. Clunn published in 1951
  • County Hall, Survey of London Monograph 17, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England
  • Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London published in 1940

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Imperial Chemicals House – Millbank

If you take a walk around London, you cannot miss the numbers of building sites and cranes that seem to be transforming the city on a daily basis.

The majority of new buildings are typically carbon copies of buildings that could be in any world city. Built of the same materials and providing occupation space for a transient work force or absentee owners.

I love buildings that have a reason to be where they are, they have a history to tell. They are not competing for height or shape and they could not be anywhere else apart from London.

A few months ago I featured one such building, the Faraday Building in Queen Victoria Street and this week I want to highlight a second building that can be so easily missed, and dismissed as another office block of pre-war construction, but look a bit closer and it has a fascinating history to tell.

I was walking along Millbank, alongside a building I have walked past many times and which I have never really stood back and studied, but this time I happened to look up at the roof line. It probably helped being winter as the trees were bare.

I found myself staring at another man who spends his time looking down at Millbank:

ICI 11

He is such an unusual figure. Not the usual candidate for a London statue who usually tend to be royalty, military leaders, those who played a key role in the history of the country or development of London. This character is anonymous, but is clearly a working man, shirt sleeves rolled up, strong and very industrial.

This is the old Imperial Chemical Industries head office building, Imperial Chemicals House at 9 Millbank, as seen below from the end of Lambeth Bridge. If you glanced at the build it would be very easy to miss the detail, however the building provides a lesson in industrial history and the history of chemistry.

The building was designed by Sir Frank Baines FRIBA and was constructed between 1929 and 1931. He was also employed by the Office of Works at the same time as his work on Imperial Chemicals House. This caused a stir in parliament as this was significant private work and there was concern that this would impact his work for the Office of Works. Sir Frank could not end his obligations to the construction on Millbank so he retired from service in the Office of Works.

ICI 1

The man in my first photo is one of a series of statues along the building at the base of the doric columns. He is the first statue coming from the direction of Parliament Square, at the far right of the above photo.

Further along we find the following statue. Note the incredible detail on these statues.

ICI 12

These statues are by Charles Sargeant Jagger, a British sculptor and they represent the industries of Chemistry, Agriculture, Marine Transport and Construction.

ICI 13

Charles Sargeant Jagger lived between 1885 and 1934 and after active service in the First World War was responsible for a number of well-known war memorials. His war memorial work in London includes the Great Western Railways war memorial at Paddington Station and the Royal Artillery memorial at Hyde Park Corner.

ICI 14

He was well-known for the rugged and realistic style of his work, which clearly comes across in the statues on the ICI building.

Now look below the 5th floor balustrade and there are a series of large windows, each with a carving of a head on the key stone at the top of the window with a name on the balcony below. This provides us with a lesson in both industrial history and chemistry.

Imperial Chemical Industries, or ICI was once one of Britain’s largest industrial companies. ICI employed tens of thousands of people, had a global reach and was active across all the major areas of chemical manufacturing along with an extensive pharmaceutical business, however like so much of British industry, ICI lost its way towards the end of the 20th century, sold off the pharmaceutical business (now AstraZeneca) and ended up being purchased in 2008 by the Dutch chemicals manufacturing business AkzoNobel.

ICI was founded in 1926 by the merger of four chemical companies, Nobel Explosives, United Alkali Company, British Dyestuffs Corporation and Brunner, Mond and Company, and it is to this last company that we find our first name:

ICI 8

Ludwig Mond  was born in Germany in 1839 and was active in a range of chemicals businesses, forming his own company, Brunner Mond, along with the industrialist John Brunner to manufacture soda at a factory at Northwich. He also developed a process for the production of pure nickel, building a factory in south Wales to develop this side of the business.

His son was Alfred Mond, the subject of the next window:

ICI 7

Alfred became the managing director of Brunner Mond and it was Alfred who was instrumental in the formation of ICI and became the first chairman of the new company.

The sculptor for the heads along the top of these windows was William Bateman Fagan, a Londoner born in Bermondsey in 1881.

The next key figure in the formation of ICI was Harry McGowan:

ICI 5

Harry McGowan started work as an office boy at the age of 15 at the Nobel Explosives Company (founded in 1870 by the chemist Alfred Nobel, who was to use part of his estate to establish the Nobel Prize).

McGowan worked he way to the top of Nobel Explosives to become Chairman and Managing Director when Nobel was one of the four companies to merge to form ICI.

He became the second Chairman and Managing Director of ICI after Alfred Mond.

Now we come to the scientists who discovered the processes and the key elements that were the foundations of ICI’s business.

The first is Liebig, or Justus von Liebig to give him his full name, a German chemist who lived from 1803 to 1873. Liebig’s work in the field of organic chemistry and the application of chemistry to agriculture were significant. It was Liebig who discovered that the element Nitrogen was a critical nutrient for plants, and therefore a key component in the production of agricultural fertilisers.

Apart from the ICI building, Liebig has another prominent connection with London. His work in agriculture and foods resulted in his development of a process for the manufacture of beef extracts. To  commercialise this process he founded the Liebig Extract of Meat Company which went on to produce Oxo, and in London built a factory where the Oxo Tower stands to this day on the southbank of the Thames.

ICI 10

Next we come to Joseph Priestley, an English theologian and scientist (or more correctly for the time a natural philosopher) who lived from 1733 to 1804.  It was Priestley who discovered Oxygen, however his insistence in continuing to support an earlier theory that attempted to explain how fires burnt in air by the release of material called phlogiston and that fires stopped burning when the air around them could not absorb any more phlogiston, left him somewhat isolated.

Priestly also had controversial religious views for the time, being a religious Dissenter and along with Theophilus Lindsey founded Unitarianism with the first Unitarian service being held in the Essex Street Chapel, located just off the Strand. A fascinating man at a key moment in history at the early stages of the industrial revolution.

ICI 9

Next is the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and the founder of Nobel Industries Limited, one of the four companies that merged to form ICI.

Nobel’s lasting legacy is the Nobel prize for which he donated the majority of his estate having been concerned how history would remember him as the inventor of explosives.

ICI 6

Lavoisier was a French chemist born in 1743 and was executed in 1794 by guillotine during the French revolution, a victim of the anti-intellectual atmosphere of the revolution and of anyone connected with authority prior to the revolution.

Fortunately his work survived and he was key in understanding the processes of combustion and proving that water was not an element, but made from Oxygen and Hydrogen. His work help to disprove the  phlogiston theory which Priestly was desperately trying to support.

ICI 4

Finally we come to Mendeleeff or Dmitri Mendeleev, the Russian chemist who lived from 1834 to 1907. His work on the composition of petroleum was key in understanding how oil and petroleum could be used as a feedstock for the chemicals industry, processes on which so much of ICI’s business would depend.

He was also the inventor of the Periodic Table of Elements, the table that classified the ordering of elements according to their key properties. The table not only helped understand elements but also provided a structure to classify future discoveries and to identify where unknown elements must exist to populate the gaps in the table.

ICI 3

ICI’s initials are ornately carved on many plaques across the building:

ICI 2

One of the side doors to the building, again with the ICI initials and the start of construction date of 1928:

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The main entrance on Millbank. Whilst the carved heads may not be very obvious, the main entrance provides a very dramatic entry to he building. It is again the work of William Bateman Fagan. On the door, the carved panels show the development of science and technology. The panels on the left show stone age technologies and show the construction of a basic tented home starting with building the frame onwards to completion. The final panel includes the completed tent with Stonehenge being seen in the background. The panels on the right hand door show contrasting modern industrial scenes.  Just inside the door can be seen Britannia along with a busy shipping scene.

ICI 18Although the name ICI is gradually fading into history, Imperial Chemicals House, or 9 Millbank as it is now more simply known demonstrates a 1920s confidence in science, technology and industry, not so evident in the country 90 years later, and I doubt we will see again this type of building that so proudly displays the heritage of the buildings creation.

So if you walk along Millbank, take some time to discover the work of Charles Sargeant Jagger and  William Bateman Fagan.

There are many good books that explore the scientists, chemists and industries highlighted on Imperial Chemicals House.

The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow documents the chemists, inventors and natural philosophers associated with the Lunar Society between 1730 and 1810 and includes Priestley and Lavoisier.

The Slow Death of British Industry by Nicholas Comfort is an excellent account (although very depressing) of the death of much of British industry between 1952 and 2012 including ICI.

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