Category Archives: London Streets

XX Place – London’s Strangest Street Name?

I came across XX Place in the book “Curious London” purchased by my father in 1951. The book was written by Hugh Pearman, a London taxi-driver who described the book as:

“This little book is the result of the accumulated knowledge gathered during the years that I have been a London taxi-driver and it is my earnest hope that my readers will enjoy this guide to Curious London as much as I have enjoyed compiling it. It deals not with the London that most tourists visit, but with, as its name implies the unusual, the quaint and the curious.”

XX Place

The book takes each of the (at the time) twenty nine boroughs and cities that made up the county of London and identifies six curious features of each.

I was browsing through the book and a small photo of a street sign with the unusual name of XX Place, E1 stood out on the page covering Stepney. The description in the book reads:

“Half hidden in Globe Road is a little turning with the oddest of all odd names, XX Place, so called, it is believed, because it was built to house their workers, by the owners of the huge brewery in whose shadow it stands. lending colour to that belief are the two little beer barrels, carved in stone, high up in the wall of one of the cottages”.

It was such an unusual name that I thought it would be interesting to see what I could find of XX Place, a search that took me via the Tower Hamlets Archives to standing in Globe Road opposite the entrance to the street that was demolished in the 1950s.

The book stated that XX Place was a turning off Globe Road in Stepney, it was therefore easy to find on the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map.

In the extract below, Mile End Road is running along the lower part of the map. Globe Road is the street that runs from above the word “Tramway” in Mile End Road, northwards.

Follow Globe Road and on the left, running back down towards Mile End Road is clearly marked XX Place.

XX Place

To try and find some history on XX Place I carried out an online search on the Tower Hamlets Archives, and armed with a couple of reference numbers visited the archives on a Saturday morning. (The Tower Hamlets Archives are a wonderful resource, and the staff very knowledgeable and helpful).

My first source at the archives was a small booklet published in 2001 by Ron Osborne titled XX Place. The booklet provided a description of XX Place.

It was built in 1842 for locally employed workers. It was only a short street of 10 small terrace houses running along one side of the street. It was about 10 feet wide and the majority of those living in the street were employed at the nearby Charringtons Brewery.

The local name for the street was either 2X Place, or, as known by older locals, Double X Place,

On the side of the street opposite to the terrace houses was a Stepney Borough Council paving depot where cobble and kerb stones were stored.

The houses were small – two rooms upstairs and a living room and kitchen downstairs. The front door opened directly into the living room, there was no passage between the front door and the rooms of the house.

Each house had a very small backyard.

Along with the booklet, the archives also had some other single page references to XX Place. One of these was composed of notes that confirmed the above and also included the recollection of a local to XX Place, that a friend who was one of eight children lived with their parents in one of the houses, so a family of ten lived in one of these small houses – a common situation across much of east London.

There was a corner shop at the junction of XX Place and Globe Road. In the 1920s this was classed as a “rag shop”, then a Doctor had it as a surgery before moving to the corner of Alderney Road, it then became a baby dress shop and finally a radio shop where people would take their wireless batteries to be charged.

The following photo shows XX Place, with the photo matching the description of the street. Note the street name plaque at the upper right.

XX Place

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London, catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_406_F8775 

Tower Hamlets Archives also had a book which described a visit to XX Place, and unfortunately not being able to resist collecting London books I found a copy of the book on Abebooks. The book is A Londoner’s Own London by Charles G. Harper and published in 1927.

Charles G. Harper was a typical travel writer of the time. People who could enhance his visits and stories always seemed to be there at the right time, and the writing displays a somewhat condescending attitude to many of the people he meets. However if you cut through this, Harper does provide some accurate descriptions, and his record of a visit to XX Place is as follows:

“Among the streets of London is ‘XX Place’. It is in a sense an unknown quantity because the London Post Office Directory has no mention of it, although the Post Office Guide notes its existence. A policeman at Aldgate knew it; ‘It’s not worth going to look at’ he said.

But I prefer to see for myself; so I got on a tramcar.

Put me off at Globe Road, I said; I want to find XX Place. I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of it.

Oh ! yes, I have, said the conductor to my surprise. I used to be an insurance agent, and I got some proposals from the people living there, and when I sent the papers in to the office, they wrote and told me there wasn’t any such place…..Thought I was having ’em on, I suppose, as you might say….So I took the Superintendent there, and showed him.

I can explain it, said I; the Post Office Directory ignores XX Place; and of course, when the insurance people looked for and didn’t find it, they naturally thought there was not and could not be, a street with a name like that.

It was a summer’s evening when I happened upon XX Place. Oh ! yes, there is such a street; I have not imagined it.

XX Place is a little by-way out of Globe Road which turns out of Mile End Road at Stepney Green railway-station. There is a public house, the Globe at the other corner. There would probably be another pub at the first named corner, except that the station is there. indeed, it is likely that one was disestablished to make way for the station.

But however that may be, there is a public house on the farther side of Stepney Green Station. It is the ‘Black Boy’. There were two policemen at the corner of XX Place at the time of my advent. The westering sun shone in my eyes, as I looked about me and could not read the name plate on the corner house.

Where is XX Place, I asked.

You’re looking at it, said one of the constables.

i looked at little more, and perceived a, well, cul-de-sac if you like; a short street with little four roomed houses on the right, the dead wall of one of the Stepney Borough Council’s yards on the left, and at the end another dead wall.

What sort of people live there?, I asked one of the constables.

I don’t know. he answered, rather loftily, I never speak to them.

I will, I made reply, caustically; do you think it’s safe? If you hear me presently call for help, come to the rescue. The constable turned away daunted. Such is the effect of a sub-acid humour.

So I made the acquaintance of the people of XX Place myself. Approaching one, who was drinking, he poured some of it out of a jug into a glass and offered it to me. With my customary bonhomie, I accepted, and found it to be ale; the product, probably of either the neighbouring brewery of Charrington, or of the equally neighbouring Mann, Crossman and Co.

The natives of XX Place are not less urbane than those of Grosvenor Place; and perhaps a little more human. They are likeable folk. It is, you may be surprised to learn, as much de riguer in XX Place to wear a collar (and not merely a neckcloth) as it is in the West End.

They are rather proud of the implied distinction conferred upon them in living there, but they have their conventions. You must, if you please, style it ‘Double X Place’; or they will not be pleased.

Amiably they do the honours, pointing out the tablet set in the front on the middle house, which displays the semblance of the projecting half of a barrel, surmounting the inscription ‘1823. I.S., J.S.’ It appears that those initials stand for members of the Stayner family, who built it. There is a considerable Stayner estate in the neighbourhood, and the inhabitants render their rents to a firm of solicitors. The little houses were formerly let at five shillings weekly; but now at ten shillings.

Nothing seems to have survived to account for the naming of XX Place; but the evidence of the barrel on the tablet hints obviously at some connection with a brewery which produces ale of that double X quality. 

The sole grievance of the denizens of XX Place appears to be that the former right of way through to the ‘Black Boy’ inn has been abolished. I advised them to bear up against this adversity; and pointed out that the ‘Globe’ in the other direction was no greater distance. But you have to cross the road to reach that. Nothing, therefore, short of the reopening of the former footpath, will appease them; and as that appears to be unlikely, I am afraid the grievance of XX Place will not merely go unredressed, but will remain a sorrow until the memory of its sometime existence is forgotten.”

Harper included his own drawings in the book. The following drawing shows the entrance to XX Place from Glove Road with the shop on the corner:

XX Place

The following drawing by Harper shows the tablet mentioned in his text with the barrel. The 2001 booklet by Ron Osborne mentions that the tablet is still to be found, although in a very sorry state. I walked the area that was once XX Place but could not find any hint of the tablet, so not sure if it has been removed since 2001, or if I was looking in the wrong place. I would be interested in any information as to the location or fate of the tablet.

XX Place

Harper’s text mentions the Black Boy pub. If you go back to the 1895 map and follow XX Place down, there is a long building that runs down to Mile End Road and is labelled PH. This is the Black Boy pub and it was obviously an easy walk for the inhabitants of XX Place down to their local pub.

The right of way to the Black Boy was closed up at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a letter in the East London Observer on the 28th November 1903 referring to the closing up of XX Place. This was probably down to the redevelopment of this corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road associated with the coming of the railway. The 1895 map does not show Stepney Green station which is on the left hand corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road. The station was opened in 1902 by the Whitechapel and Bow railway.

The main reason that XX Place appeared in newspapers seems to be not for any newsworthy event in the street, rather the strangeness of the name. A typical example is an article in the London Daily News on the 6th August 1904 titled “Stepney’s Nature Study”. The article traces a number of street names in Stepney that have an animal as part of the name, and then goes on to say:

“In addition, some curious names are to be found, for there is an Elbow Lane, a Frying Pan Alley, and Shoulder of Mutton Alley, but none of these are so curious as XX Place in Mile End.”

XX Place was also mentioned in the Shoreditch Observer on the 3rd June 1899 as the most curiously named street in London. It also names a couple of other street names which would have been contenders if the names had not been changed: “Hocum Pocum Lane in Hither Green and Kicking Boy Alley have been altered”.

XX Place was demolished around 1957/58 as part of the London County Council slum clearance programme. The site was then occupied by a council run laundry, including a later self-service launderette which closed in 1975. There then followed a period of temporary use until the area was cleared in 1989 to make way for the Stocks Court student accommodation block which now occupies much of the length of Globe Road which included the entrance to XX Place.

After visiting the Tower Hamlets Archive I walked along Mile End Road to Globe Road. This is Stocks Court. The junction of XX Place and Globe Road was to the left of the bus stop, roughly where the tree is located.

XX Place

I walked around the back of Stocks Court trying to find the tablet which Ron Osborne had mentioned was still to be found in 2001, but could not find any evidence of the tablet’s survival.

This is the view looking back towards the rear of Stocks Court. XX Place would have run roughly down the centre of the photo. To the right would have been the rear entrance to the Black Boy pub. I suspect there would have been many late night, drunken walks from pub back to house in the area covered by this photo, and probably explains why the residents objected to the blocking up of XX Place as they lost a short and safe route between house and pub and now had to risk crossing a road.

XX Place

Returning to Mile End Road, this is the building that was once the Black Boy pub, until closure in 1996. The original pub on this site dates back to the 18th century, however the current building was a 1904 rebuild of the pub during the redevelopment of the area when Stepney Green station arrived (which is just to the right of the photo).

XX Place

Stepney Green station on the corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road:

XX Place

I walked around the area once occupied by XX Place, and the surrounding streets in the hope of finding the tablet with the barrel that was once to be found in the terrace in XX Place and recorded as still being seen, although in a poor state in 2001 by Ron Osborne.

Although I was unable to find the tablet, I did find a rather nice London County Council “Stop” sign at the entrance to the car park for Withy House, an LCC built housing block on Globe Road.

XX Place

I am not sure if XX Place is London’s strangest street name, however it is one of the more unusual.

Although the street was demolished in the 1950s, the name can still be found locally with the XX Place Health Centre on the Mile End hospital site in Bancroft Road. As mentioned earlier in this post, a Doctor had a surgery on the corner of XX Place before moving to the corner of Alderney Road.

Alderney Road was almost directly opposite XX Place and leads through to Bancroft Road opposite the Mile End Hospital site. Perhaps the current health centre can trace its root back to the doctor’s surgery at XX Place, hence the retention of the name.

I would be really interested if anyone knows the location of, or what happened to the XX Place tablet. It would be the last physical link with this unusual Stepney street.

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Gresham Street And St. Lawrence Jewry

I did not immediately recognise the location of this week’s post. I knew it was in the City of London, but I could not place the curve of the street or the church tower. It was finally the buildings on the right and the church tower that resulted in  me standing in Gresham Street, by the junction with Foster Lane.

Gresham Street

And this is the same view on a late autumn afternoon in 2017:

Gresham Street

The two photos help illustrate the many subtle changes that have taken place in the City, and what buildings did, and did not survive post war reconstruction.

The building that initially helped me to identify the location is the large building on the right of both photos. This is the hall of the Goldsmiths’ Company. The building is the third Goldsmiths’ Hall on the same site. The Goldsmiths’ Company moved to this location in 1339 and the current hall dates from 1835. The hall avoided the complete wartime destruction of many of the surrounding buildings, however the south west corner of the building was damaged by a direct hit.

The building next to Goldsmiths’ Hall is the Wax Chandlers Hall. As can be seen this was completely destroyed during the war apart from the granite ground floor outer walls. Rebuilding of the hall was completed in 1958 with the granite frontage being retained and brick used for the new upper floors. As with the Goldsmiths’ Hall, this is a historic location for the Wax Chandlers as they have occupied the site since 1501.

The church tower is that of St. Lawrence Jewry. The church was almost completely destroyed in December 1940, apart from the tower and the outer walls. The church had lost its steeple, which is one of the reasons I did not immediately identify the church.

Gresham Street has also undergone some subtle changes. Today, standing outside Goldsmiths’ Hall we can look directly down to St. Lawrence Jewry. This was not the case when my father took the original photo as there were some curves in the street and a building in front of the church tower.

Gresham Street has been through post war widening and straightening. The following map shows the area today. There is only a slight curve in the street by the junction with Aldermanbury.

Gresham Street

If we go back and look at John Rocque’s map of 1746 we can see that the street had a more pronounced curve at the junction with Aldermanybury and it is here that post war straightening has slightly changed the street. Gresham Street also had different names.

Gresham Street

During the 19th century, many of the City’s streets were widened, straightened and what were smaller individual streets were joined into single, longer streets.

Gresham Street was one of these, created in 1845 from Cateaton Street and Lad Lane. The new street was named after Sir Thomas Gresham who was the founder of the Royal Exchange and Gresham College, which started in Bishopsgate Street in 1597 before moving to Gresham Street in 1843 – it has been at Barnard’s Inn Hall near Chancery Lane since 1991.

It is interesting that the street alignment and the buildings blocking the front of St. Lawrence Jewry were much the same in my father’s post war photo as they were in 1746.

This is the full view of Goldsmiths’ Hall on Gresham Street. The main entrance is along Foster Lane. This is the only building to survive intact from before the last war along this stretch of Gresham Street up to the church of St. Lawrence Jewry,

Gresham Street

The front of the Wax Chandlers Hall is in the photo below. The granite frontage is the only part that survives from the original pre-war building. The hall dated from the 1845 creation of Gresham Street as the earlier hall occupied land to the north of the existing hall, which was used in the extension of Gresham Street.

Gresham Street

The following print from 1855 shows the Wax Chandlers hall in 1855, not long after it was built. The ground floor is the same as in the building today, however the upper floors are very different as a result of the post war rebuild of the bombed building.

Gresham Street

Walking down Gresham Street I came up to the church of St. Lawrence Jewry, the church tower in the distance in my father’s photo.

Gresham Street

In the original photo, the church had lost the spire on top of the tower, indeed only the tower and surrounding walls had survived the bombing and resulting fires.

The first church on the site was around the 12th century. The dedication is to St. Lawrence, a 3rd century martyr who was burnt to death on a gridiron in Rome. The reference to Jewry is that the church was originally in the part of the City occupied by the Jewish community.

The symbol of the gridiron on which St. Lawrence was killed is used on the weather vane of St. Lawrence Jewry:

Gresham StreetThe church was one of many destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and a new church was built by Wren in 1671 to 1677. The new church cost £11,870 and was the most expensive of the City churches built after the Great Fire.

The rear of the church from the junction of Gresham Street and King Street:

Gresham Street

This 18th century view of the church from King Street shows that the post war rebuild of the exterior was faithful to Wren’s original design:

Gresham Street

This print from 1811 is interesting, it includes the small church yard in what is now the large open space in front of the Guildhall, and the text also mentions the church being in Cateaton Street.

Gresham Street

The interior of the church:

Gresham Street

Looking towards the organ at the rear of the church:

Gresham Street

The roof:

Gresham Street

The interior of the church today is very different from the pre-war church. City churches tended to be very ornate with lots of wood panelling. The following print shows the organ case of the pre-war St. Lawrence Jewry:

Gresham Street

This is the vestry of the pre-war St. Lawrence Jewry – the ceiling was painted by Isaac Fuller II and carved plaster and dark wood paneling produced a very ornate room:

Gresham Street

As mentioned earlier, the interior of the church was completely destroyed by the fires caused by incendiary bombs during the raids on the 29th December 1940.

My father’s photo only shows the tower from a distance with the loss of the spire being the only visible damage, however the following photo shows the interior of the church – open to the sky, the interior completely destroyed and a single monument surviving on the wall.

Gresham Street

Within the church is a small display showing some of the artifacts rescued from the bombed church. This includes the cups shown in the photo below to show the damage that was caused by the intensity of the heat.

Gresham Street

A plaque on the wall of the church commemorates the post war reconstruction:

Gresham Street

The destruction of the interior required new furniture which was donated by the City Livery Companies. Items for the church also came from other churches. Many of the pews came from Holy Trinity Marylebone and the font which dates from 1620 was a post war relocation from Holy Trinity Minories.

Gresham Street

The church in late afternoon autumn light:

Gresham Street

Gresham Street

The church has lost its churchyard and bombing destroyed the majority of the interior monuments, however a few monuments and gravestones are preserved, including this 18th century monument to several members of the Heylyn family.

Gresham Street

St. Lawrence Jewry once had a small churchyard as shown in Rocque’s map and one of the 18th century prints shown above. The area between the church and the Guildhall was also built up with only a street running from Gresham Street up to the main entrance of the Guildhall.

This area is now a large open space, as shown in the following photo. I am standing at the edge of the church in what was once the churchyard.

Gresham Street

The Guildhall also suffered extensive damage during the same raids that destroyed St. Lawrence Jewry – that is another story for the future. The following postcard shows the buildings on the left between the church and the entrance to the Guildhall.

Gresham Street

On the north east corner of the church is an old, hardly readable wooden sign that reads “Church entrance in Gresham Street”. It looks very old, but I cannot believe it is pre-war as being wood I doubt it would have survived the fires.

Gresham Street

Gresham Street and St. Lawrence Jewry were my last locations to visit after a walk from Canary Wharf, through Shadwell and Wapping to the City, to visit sites for a couple of my posts over the last month, and a few more for future posts. Very different start and end points, but both with so much to tell of London’s history, however at this point, the main thing on my mind was finding a local pub.

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Curzon Square, Curzon Place And Seamore Place

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

Curzon Square

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

Curzon Square

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

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

Curzon Square

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

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

Curzon Square

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

Curzon Square

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

Curzon Square

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

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

Curzon Square

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

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

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

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

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

Curzon Square

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

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

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

Curzon Square

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

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

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

The entrance to 9 Curzon Square:

Curzon Square

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

Curzon Square

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

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

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Hardinge Street, Johnson Street And Ratcliffe Gas Works

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

Hardinge Street

And this is the view from the same location today:

Hardinge Street

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

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

The Armorial Bearings of the Mercers Company:

Hardinge Street

One of the entrances to Coburg Dwellings:

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

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

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

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

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

Hardinge Street

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

Hardinge Street

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

I wonder what the next seventy years will bring?

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The Westferry Road, Emmett Street Newsagent

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

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

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

Westferry Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westferry Road

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

Westferry Road

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

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

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

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

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

Westferry Road

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

Westferry Road

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

Westferry Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westferry Road

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

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

Westferry Road

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

Westferry Road

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

Westferry Road

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

Westferry Road

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

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

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

Westferry Road

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

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

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

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

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Cheyne Row – Chelsea

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

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

Cheyne Row

The same view today:

Cheyne Row

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

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

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

Cheyne Row

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

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

Cheyne Row

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

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

Cheyne Row

The same building today:

Cheyne Row

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheyne Row

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

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

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

Cheyne Row

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

Cheyne Row

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

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

Cheyne Row

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

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

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

Cheyne Row

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

Cheyne Row

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheyne Row

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

Cheyne Row

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

Cheyne Row

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

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

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

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The Lost Alleys Of Cloth Fair

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

Turning to the 1895 Ordinance Survey map provided the answer:

Cloth Fair

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

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

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

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

Cloth Fair

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

Cloth Fair

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

Cloth Fair

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

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

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Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

This is one of the scenes photographed by my father in 1947 that is to me, a fascinating photo being 70 years old, however I am not sure if there was a specific reason, point of interest etc. to take this particular photo. The scene is Clerkenwell Close with the steps leading up to Robert’s Place at the end of the close, adjacent to the Pear Tree Court and Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The same scene in 2017:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

A view that has hardly changed apart from the two trees, cars and the buildings at the far end around and behind the steps.

To find this location, head north from Clerkenwell Road to Clerkenwell Green, then follow Clerkenwell Close around the edge of the church of St. James where you will find the site of the above photos. I have marked this with an orange circle in the 1940 map below (the streets here have hardly changed):

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Going up from the orange circle, there is a road to the left, this is Pear Tree Court. Just above this junction are the steps at the far end of the photos which lead up to Robert’s Place and then into Bowling Green Lane.

This is one of the photos were I can work out exactly where the original was taken, leaning up against the wall underneath the Clerkenwell Close sign.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The buildings seen in the photo are part of the Clerkenwell Estate built by the Peabody Trust. The estate runs along Clerkenwell Close and Pear Tree Court, and consists of a number of Victorian five storey blocks clustered around a central courtyard. Each block given a letter rather than a number which, along with their appearance, does give the impression of blocks of barracks. The entrance to block C from Clerkenwell Close:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The view along Pear Tree Court:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The Clerkenwell Estate was one of six estates built by the Peabody Trust in the late 19th century. The Peabody Trust emerged from the The Peabody Donation Fund which was set up by the American, George Peabody in 1862. He was born in Massachusetts in 1795 but moved to London in 1837 where he remained for the rest of his life.

Peabody wanted to do something to help alleviate the poverty that he saw across London. It was suggested to him that people needed better living conditions with an affordable rent so he set up the Peabody Donation Fund with the first housing being built in 1864 at Commercial Street, Spitalfields.

The Clerkenwell Estate came about through the clearance of a number of slum sites under the Artisans and Labourers Dwellings Improvement Act of 1875 which allowed the Metropolitan Board of Works to buy up and clear six sites across London. The area around Pear Tree Court had already been condemned as unfit for human habitation.

The architect of the new estate was Henry Darbishire. The model used for each of the blocks consisted of units of five flats around a central staircase. In the late 19th century it was still standard practice for many facilities to be shared so each unit of five flats had shared lavatories and sculleries.

Entrance to Block C:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Block E – I do like the brick construction, however they do present a rather institutionalised appearance.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Block D:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

On the side of the estate towards Farringdon Lane, there is an obvious change in construction where to the left a short terrace of two storey buildings run to the left. This terrace is the site of Block G which was badly damaged (along with Block H) by bombing in December 1940 with 12 people being killed in the attack.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Entrance to Block A – flowers and sunlight and I am startng to really appreciate these buildings.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The site is built on a considerable slope as can be seen in the photo below. The site slopes down towards Farringdon Road and the old route of the River Fleet.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Looking across the courtyard towards Blocks E and F. An air-raid shelter could still be found in the courtyard until 1985. The area is now occupied by a children’s playground.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The steps at the end of Clerkenwell Close were not that old in 1947 having been built as part of the Peabody development. Clerkenwell Close was extended towards the current position of the steps and a wall that blocked the route onward towards Bowling Green Lane was demolished to allow a route through via Robert’s Place.

There is much to discover in both Clerkenwell Close and the surrounding area which I hope to write about in more detail in the future. For example, the street was originally known as St. Mary’s Close after the old Benedictine Nunnery of St. Mary, part of which was latter incorporated into the church of St. James on the corner of the close. Clerkenwell Close has also had a number of well known inhabitants including Oliver Cromwell and there is a story that the death warrant of Charles I was signed in his house on Clerkenwell Close.

Oliver Cromwell’s house:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

I am still no wiser as to why my father took the original photo, what interested him in the scene, although I am pleased he did as it is ordinary street scenes that I find so fascinating and they always lead me into looking at an area in a bit more detail.

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Puddle Dock And a City Laystall

Puddle Dock is a location that today, is a short street between Queen Victoria Street and Upper Thames Street, but for centuries was one of the large inlets along the river in the City that provided a dock for shipping. The photo below was taken by my father in 1947. I was originally unsure of the location as there is very little in the photo to identify the location today. The Thames is an obvious clue, but what confirmed this to be the original Puddle Dock is the short part of a bridge, seen to the right of the photo on the opposite bank of the river, along with the alignment of the dock and the length of the buildings on either side. All this I will explain below.

Puddle Dock

Firstly, the bridge across the river. This is the railway bridge across the river into Blackfriars Station. It is almost impossible to take a photo from the exact location as my father, however in the photo below I am standing in the middle of Puddle Dock and the bridge can be seen on the right with the arch on the opposite bank of the river in roughly the right position.

Puddle Dock

My next step in confirming this to be Puddle Dock was to check the map in the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London. The extract from the map is shown below with Puddle Dock in the centre of the map, just to the right of Blackfriars Station.

Puddle Dock

In the 1940 map, the dock is angled towards the bridge, and the building on the right of the dock angles inwards halfway down in such as way that it would appear to be a shorter building to that on the left. This is exactly as the buildings appear in the 1947 photo, although the key point is that the right and left are transposed in the photo as it was taken looking out from the dock.

I am confident therefore that the 1947 photo is of Puddle Dock. I did check the London Metropolitan Archive Collage collection, but could not find any photos of Puddle Dock so they may be few and far between. When finishing off this post, I did find one photo of Puddle Dock in volume one of Wonderful London published in 1926 / 1927. The photo is shown below on the left:

Puddle Dock

Compared to my father’s photo, the building on the left had lost its upper floors by 1947, probably as a result of wartime bomb damage. Even by 1926 Puddle Dock was viewed as a remnant from the past. In Wonderful London, the text below the two photos reads:

“Dramatic Contrast: Old Puddle Dock Lonely And Dirty And Modern Wharves Crowded And Clean – By comparing these two photographs we can appreciate the growth of London’s commerce. in other days we should have found Puddle Dock, which is seen in the left-hand photograph crowded with lighters from ketch and galliot unloading their cargoes laboriously by hand. Now it is frequented only by dingy barges; while it makes a useful rubbish-heap for the neighbourhood. Apart from its narrowness, Puddle Dock could not be visited by great steamers, since it is near Blackfriars Bridge, and only a few large ships, specially constructed, come farther up the Thames than London Bridge. In the photograph on the right we look down the river from London Bridge. The fruit wharves are in the foreground, where trim freighters are being unloaded by cranes.”

In the 1947 photo Puddle Dock is strewn with rubbish, although I doubt Londoners were still dumping their rubbish at the dock, probably rubbish washed in at high tide. In the immediate post war years there was still lots of debris along the river edge from the bombed buildings along the Thames.

Puddle Dock today is the name of the street that runs down from Queen Victoria Street to Upper Thames Street and there are plenty of name plaques to hint at the original use of this area of land running down to the River Thames.

Puddle Dock

Puddle Dock has a long history. John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the dock (circled in the extract below) as a large dock with the same width onto the river as the Fleet Ditch on the left. The way the shading is drawn probably indicates a sloping dock from the river up to Thames Street, very much like the 1947 photo.

Puddle Dock

For the last 300 years, newspapers contain many references to Puddle Dock. One article can be directly linked to the map above. If you look at the end of the dock, on the right it is labelled “Dung Wharf”. An article in the Evening Mail on the 25th November 1836 covered a legal case “The King v. Gore” which goes some way to explaining the name and purpose of Dung Wharf:

“This defendant has been indicted for a nuisance in keeping a quantity of filth and dirt at Puddle-dock. He has moved the proceedings into this court, and then suffered judgement by default. He was now brought up to receive the judgement of the Court.

The affidavits of several persons residing near Puddle-dock were read, in which they stated that their health was impaired in consequence of the stench arising from the filth which was allowed to accumulate at this dock. 

The defendant then put in an affidavit, stating that he had become a tenant to the corporation of London of the laystall at Puddle-dock; that he was obliged, by the covenant in his lease, to allow all persons to place any filth they chose there; that he was not allowed by his lease to suffer more than five barge loads to remain there at any one time, and that he had never done so; and that this had been a laystall ever since the great fire of London. He admitted that it was a nuisance to the surrounding neighbourhood, but that it could not be avoided.

The Attorney-General, for the prosecutors, said their Lordships would see it was necessary that the prosecution should be adopted. The inquest of the ward had made a presentment, and the Court of Alderman had no choice. They did not indict him for keeping a laystall, because that was authorised by act of Parliament. There were three in the city, Puddle-dock, Dowgate, and Whitefriars. With respect to the latter there had never been any complaint; but thank God, he did not live near Puddle-dock, for if he did he should have reason to complain. All the deponents to the affidavits had sworn that they suffered great inconvenience. It was not for keeping a laystall, but for the manner of keeping it, that the defendant was indicted. Mr. Gore had brought the filth from Covent-garden Market, even on Sundays. He said he must mix some vegetables up with the other filth. All the City wanted was, that the Court would pronounce such a sentence as would prevent the repetition of this mischief.”

The court case does not seem to have made any progress, as at the end of the article it states that “After a good deal of discussion, it was directed that the judgement should be suspended with leave to file fresh affidavits.”

The term “laystall” referenced to in the article is a place where “waste and dung” are deposited. The five barges at Puddle Dock obviously taking away the city’s waste and dumping somewhere down river. It must have been a horrible place to be in the summer and it is easy to understand the impact that the laystall had on nearby residents.

William Maitland writing in The History of London in 1756 states: “On the Banks of the River Thames are the Wharfs of Puddle-dock, used for a Laystall for the Soil of the Streets, and much frequented by Barges and Lighters for taking the same away, as also for landing of Corn and other Goods.”

Most written references to poor Puddle Dock I have seen associate the location with rubbish and filth.

The earliest newspaper article referencing Puddle Dock was from the 5th July 1722 which highlights both the graphic reporting of the time and just how dangerous it was on London streets:

“Another Misfortune happened Yesterday at Puddle-Dock, where a little Boy was killed by a Cart loaded with coals. The Child was stooping down to take up some thing from the Ground when the Cart Wheel ran over his head, and crushed it to Pieces. The Carman is absconded”

The origin of the name Puddle Dock can be found in Stow’s Survey of London from the 1603 edition where he writes: “Then is there a great Brewhouse, and Puddle wharfe, a water gate into the Thames, where horses use to be watered and therefore filed with their trampeling, and made puddle, like as also of one Puddle dwelling there: it is called Puddle Wharfe.”

The name “Puddle” is therefore from at least the 16th century and pre-dates the Great Fire of London. I have not had the time to find how far further back the name was in use – one of the ever-expanding list of things to check.

Puddle Dock today is rather a sterile place, however reading what has happened here in 300 years of newspaper reports really does bring home that for centuries this was a place of work, where people lived and where life in general played out between the City and river.

Tangible evidence of those who have worked around Puddle Wharf can be found in the trade tokens issued by businesses in the area. The British Museum has a collection of these tokens and the following is one issued by Thomas Guy at Puddle Wharf in 1668 (©Trustees of the British Museum):

Puddle Dock

In the decades after my father took the photo of Puddle Dock, the area has changed dramatically. The old dock was filled in, the Mermaid Theatre was built on the eastern edge of the dock, the river embankment was extended into the river and Upper Thames Street was rerouted to pass under Blackfriars Station to provide a direct link with the Victoria Embankment. See my post about the lost road junction between Queen Victoria Street and Upper Thames Street for more photos and history of the area.

The photo below is looking up from the river’s edge into what was Puddle Dock:

Puddle Dock

It is easy to walk past Puddle Dock. There are few reasons to walk along the street today, it is mainly a convenient route for traffic between Queen Victoria and Upper Thames Streets, but at least the name remains. One positive point is that despite the pollution from traffic along the streets on either end of Puddle Dock, it probably does smell far better than it has done for many centuries, when Londoners would have piled up their waste and filth at the laystall ready for disposal along the river.

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Bankside And Horseshoe Alley

Last week I was at Southwark Cathedral. This week I have walked from the Cathedral to Southwark Bridge to look along Bankside back towards the Cathedral. This was my father’s view in 1953:

Bankside

I could not take a photo from the same position for reasons which I will explain shortly, so I took the following photo from Southwark Bridge showing this part of Bankside as it is now:

Bankside

This short stretch of Bankside is completely different from 1953. A straight length of river wall and walkway now lines the river between Southwark Bridge and the railway bridge into Cannon Street station. The warehouses have been replaced by two office buildings and the cranes and infrastructure along the river have long since disappeared.

The changes since 1953 also include where the Bankside walkway is located and the alignment of the river wall.

I could not take a photo in the same position as my father as I would be looking from the bridge straight into the FT building on the right. The river wall has been pushed further into the river and the edge of the buildings now cover the original Bankside roadway. In my father’s photo it was possible to look straight along Bankside and see the tower of Southwark Cathedral from the bridge. Today, this is not possible as the two new buildings obscure the view having been built over the original road (also Southwark Cathedral is hard to see due to the taller buildings directly behind).

The river wall has been straightened and pushed into the river. Look at the 1953 photo and at the far end is the railway bridge. To the left of the crane you can see the brick pier of the bridge extending into the river. Today, the edge of this brick pier is now aligned with the edge of the river wall and Bankside walkway.

The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows this stretch of Bankside which I suspect had not change that much in the almost 60 years between the map and my father;s photo. It shows Bankside lined with warehouses, wharves and cranes along the river’s edge.

Bankside

There are a couple of features that interested me in my father’s photo. In the lower part of the photo is a solitary lamp mounted on the wall along the river and to the right is a large entrance on the ground floor of the building. What was this single lamp doing in this position?

Bankside

Looking at the 1895 map, the large entrance to the building on the right is the entrance to Horseshoe Alley. Covered over by the building, but opening out to an exposed alley as it heads in land. Opposite Horseshoe Alley at the water’s edge is what appears to be an opening in the river wall down to the river which can also be seen in the photo above to the left of the lamp.

I then checked my copy of John Rocque’s, map from 1746. In the extract below, Horseshoe Alley is there, but also, leading down to the river is Horseshoe Alley Stairs.

Bankside

So perhaps this single lamp was there to mark the position of the stairs and to guide those walking up and down what would have been rather dangerous and slippery steps down to the river.

Another feature that both of the above maps confirm is where Bankside ended at the appropriately named Bank End. It is at the edge of Bank End that the bridge carrying the railway across to Cannon Street station now runs. The Rocque map confirms that Bankside terminated here well before the railway bridge was built.

The approach road to Southwark Bridge runs over the street marked Smiths Rents on the left in the 1746 map.

There is an interesting story in the South London Press on the 4th March 1882 about Horseshoe Alley that shows how much flooding there was along this area of Bankside and the precautions put in place (or sometimes not) in an article titled: “The Floods in Southwark. How ‘Not To Do It’ “

The article reports on an inquiry by the St. Saviour’s Board of Works into flooding along Bankside:

“The chairman said that the board had been in communication with the Metropolitan Board of Works prior to the overflow with reference to the work to be carried out; and he apprehended that it was in consequence of that not being done that the flood took place. 

Mr Stafford asks: But did we not delegate one of our officers to attend to the question of floods specially, in order that the flood-gates may be closed at the proper time?

The surveyor (Mr Greenstreet) said that was the case. The board had appointed the clerk of the works to look after the barriers. With reference to the flood on Sunday week, he (the surveyor) was himself at Christchurch at 1 o’clock in the day. The clerk of the work’s unfortunately had only two men with him, though on such occasions he generally had four. All the dam-boards that were in use were at once put up so as to prevent the overflow of the water; but he found that at one important point-viz., Horseshoe-alley, the barricade had been removed. The water could not, therefore be prevented from coming in there, and it came up with such rapidity – more rapid, in fact, than on any previous occasion of which he had experience – that it washed away all the clay at Bank End. he found that nearly half of the dam-boards along Bankside were in an incomplete state, but some were now in proper order. The fact that the water overflowed was a pure accident that could not be prevented.

Mr Stafford asked the surveyor, with reference to the board at Horseshoe-alley, whether, prior to the flood he was aware it was not in position.

The surveyor replied in the negative. He only noticed its absence on the Sunday when the flood occurred, and it then struck him that the board must have been stolen.

Mr. Evans mentioned that on the Sunday in question he happened to be passing over Southwark Bridge when the water was coming up, and he immediately repaired to Bankside. He met the inspector and along with that officer they did what they could to prevent an inundation. Three men were employed to put up the barricades, and they had since complained to him (Mr. Evans) that they only received half a crown each for their work. As regarded Horseshoe-alley, he found that there were no boards there, and he took it upon himself to advise the inspector of nuisances to do what he could. 

Mr Hale asked the surveyor how long it was since he had ordered the removal of the boards at Horseshoe-alley. The Surveyor replied that he had not ordered their removal and that it was impossible to say where the boards went. It is pretty well a month since it went.”

I suspect the surveyor may have lost his job as a decision on his future was postponed for a later meeting.

The flooding referred to happened on Sunday 19th February 1882. There were frequent floods along the Thames, however the river level for this flood was one of the highest and impacted a far wider area. There were reports of high tides and floods along the East Coast, but the greatest damage was done along the Thames.

The high tide on the morning of the 19th rose to above its normal height but did not give any cause for alarm, however it was the afternoon tide that went higher. By 2:30 pm the Trinity high-water mark at London Bridge had been reached. The tide continued to rise for another 30 minutes so that by 3pm it was now 2 ft higher than the Trinity mark.

Whilst some of the dams did hold, much of the Bankside and Blackfriars Bridge area flooded and there were bad floods in Lambeth. There was a heavy rush of water through Blackfriars Bridge Wharf with 2 foot of water flooding the surrounding streets. Men, women and children were reported to be “seen rushing about in all directions to find means of keeping out of the muddy water.”

The areas worse affected were Rotherhithe, Southwark and Lambeth on the south side of the river, and High Street, Wapping on the northern side. At St. Katherine’s Dock, the water level was recorded as being only 5 inches below the highest level ever recorded on the Thames which had occurred only a year earlier on the 18th January 1881.

The article mentions the Trinity high-water mark. I found the following on the river wall underneath Southwark Bridge on the north bank of the Thames. I believe it is one of the Trinity high-water marks:

Bankside

Looking back at my father’s 1953 photo it is easy now to understand the structures along the left side of the street. Heavy concrete walls, with the access points secured by heavy wooden panels slotted into the edges of the concrete walls to form a watertight seal.

Apart from the bridges that form the borders to this stretch of Bankside, there is only a single building that remains from the time when my father took the 1953 photo and the 1895 map.

Although not visible in the 1953 photo, if you look at the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, there is a Public House marked on the corner at Bank End. The pub is still there and is now called The Anchor:

Bankside

For part of the 19th Century the pub was called the Blue Anchor. In the 1953 photo there was only the relatively narrow street between the pub and the river, however today, with the straightening of the river wall out to the end of the brick pier of the bridge, there is a large open area in front of the pub – perfect for a beer on a nice day or evening.

The area on the left of the above photo is Bank End, as confirmed by the name on the side of the pub, so if you stand here, this is where Bankside ends.

Bankside

Today, apart from the pub, this stretch of Bankside is rather bland and Horseshoe Alley and Stairs disappeared during the reconstruction which resulted in the river wall, walkway and buildings we see today. Stand here during a high Thames tide and it is easy to appreciate the challenges of protecting the land when all that was available to prevent an inundation were wooden boards .

I wonder what happened to the surveyor and if he had any role in the disappearance of the Horseshoe Alley dam-boards.

From Bankside To The Proud City

On a completely different subject, I recently found a copy of the film “The Proud City” on YouTube. The film tells the story of the planning for the post war reconstruction of London by Patrick Abercrombie and JH Forshaw. The film includes many views of London, along with Abercrombie and Forshaw explaining the background to the plan, along with some wonderful large scale posters of the maps that would be in the printed report along with models of areas to be redeveloped. The following screen shots from the film show some examples.

BanksideI wonder what happened to these large wall maps. I would love to have them on my wall. I featured a number of them in my post on the 1943 plan for post war reconstruction here.Bankside

The film is very much of its time, but is 25 minutes well spent to see some fascinating film of London and to understand the thinking behind the Abercrombie and Forshaw plan.

The Proud City can be found here.

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