Category Archives: London Streets

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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Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The south bank of the River Thames between Westminster and Tower Bridges has seen many changes. Once mainly an industrial area lined with factories, warehouses and wharves, these have been replaced by offices, restaurants, Tate Modern, the reproduction Globe Theatre etc.

Any day of the year, the walkway along the south bank will be crowded with tourists, those who work along the south bank and as a straightforward route to walk between east and west London.

The south bank was not always like this. This was the view in 1953, photographed by my father, looking along Bankside, west from the base of Southwark Bridge. The photo was taken from the area of the steps leading up to the bridge.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The same view in 2017.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The scene is so very different, how do I know it is the same view? There are a couple of well defined points of reference.

If you look to the left of the crane, there is part of a large building, with a further building just a bit further to the left with a distinctive spire on the roof.

If you look in the same position in my 2017 photo, the large building is Unilever House, now fully visible as the crane is not obscuring, and the building with the spire is the old City of London school. The spire is clearly visible in both photos.

You will also notice that the street (1953) and walkway (2017) curves to the left in the distance.

The original photo was taken during a weekend, the shadows indicating this was late afternoon. My photo was also at the weekend, although early afternoon. The solitary cyclist has been replaced by the crowds who daily walk along the south bank.

In the 1953 photo, you can see part of a name at the top of one of the buildings. The full name is Beck & Pollitzer, a successful engineering company that is still in existence today, although not on Bankside.

Beck and Pollitzer was formed in 1863 by two immigrants from central Europe, John Beck and Sigimund Pollitzer.  The company started as an importer and distributor of goods from across Europe and therefore needed warehouse space. In the late 19th century the company moved into warehouses on Bankside and eventually owned several on either side of Southwark Bridge.

The company evolved into a specialist engineering and support services provider and moved from Bankside to Dartford in Kent.

Beck & Pollitzer retain a link with London as they provide the transport and installation services for the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree.

In my father’s photo, Bankside is the street that runs along the edge of the River Thames. Although today it is primarily a walkway, it is an old street. The following extract from a map of the Parish of St. Saviours Southwark by Richard Blome (late 17th century but published by John Stow in 1720) shows the area long before Southwark Bridge, with Banck Side (one of the spellings used in the 18th century) running along the edge of the River Thames.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The first Southwark Bridge opened in 1819, 100 years after the map was printed. If you look in the centre of the map you will see Bear Alley. To the right is Rose Alley. There is a small street to the right of Rose Alley, which continues south to the bottom of the map. This is the location of Southwark Bridge.

Bear Alley and Rose Alley are still there today, although Rose Alley is now blocked off from Bankside. You can see that at the southern end of Bear Alley there is an open space marked as Bear Garden – one of the locations around Southwark that hosted the types of “entertainment” for which the area was well known.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London shows Southwark Bridge with Bear Alley now called Bear Gardens. Note also that in both the 1720 and 1940 maps, Bankside was two words, Bank Side more accurately refers to the origin of the name. Today it is generally found as one word.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

Bear Gardens today is a narrow street running south from Bankside. Bear Gardens is always rather empty when compared to the crowd who seem fixed on walking the length of the south bank without exploring slightly inland.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The construction of Southwark Bridge stopped Bankside from running alongside the river, it had to turn inland very slightly to run under the arches leading up to the bridge, before turning back towards the river.

Just to the left of where the top photos were taken is where the street runs inland and it is here that, despite the incredible amount of change in this small area, the view today is remarkably similar to that of 64 years ago.

My father took the following photo from under the warehouses that ran straight up to Southwark Bridge. Bankside turns to the right at the point where the photo is taken to run underneath the bridge.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is behind the warehouses on the north bank of the river and Queenhithe is to the right of centre.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

The same view today.

Bankside West From Southwark Bridge

Although the warehouses along Bankside have long since been demolished, the new buildings follow the same layout, with a remarkably similar view across to St. Paul’s Cathedral. You can also see identical notches between the stone panels on the dark arch on the right of both photos, one of the arches that supports the run up to Southwark Bridge.

I suspect that the solitary man cycling along Bankside in 1953 could never have imagined how this area would change over the following decades.

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Cock Lane – The Golden Boy, Fake Ghosts And Hogarth

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

Cock Lane 1

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

Cock Lane 2

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

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

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

Cock Lane 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door to the Royle showroom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wife: What thing?

Farmer: If yo’ Dame, was true.

Wife: And the poor soul knocked one.

Farmer: By the zounds, it was two!

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

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

Wife: I’ll tear out her eyes –

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

Wife: Ah, John!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alondoninheritance.com

Wapping High Street And Wapping Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The British Museum description to this print reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At the top of Wapping New Stairs.

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

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

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

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

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

Print showing the original Thames Police building on the right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pelican Stairs running alongside the pub…..

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…..down to the river:

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

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A Walk Along Belvedere Road – 1947 and 2016

Having explored the history of the South Bank in yesterday’s post, today it is time to take a walk along Belvedere Road to see the remains of buildings dating back to the start of the 19th century, the clearance ready for construction of the Festival of Britain and the foundations of the Royal Festival Hall. We will start from where Waterloo Bridge crosses Belvedere Road, drop down to Belvedere Road and then walk along Belvedere Road to County Hall.

My father visited this area a number of times between 1947 and 1951, first to photo the buildings as they were, then the area as it was cleared and finally as the construction of the Royal Festival Hall was underway. This post brings together photos distributed among a number of different posts over the last couple of years along with some new photos I have recently scanned.

The map below is the same extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map covering the area between Hungerford and Waterloo Bridges as in yesterday’s post. I have marked in numbered red dots the locations from where the photos in today’s post were taken.

Belevedere Walk Map 1

The first three photos are at point one. I am not sure whether they were taken from Waterloo Bridge, or from one of the buildings alongside the bridge, however this first photo is looking along Belvedere Road towards the bridge under the rail tracks leading up to Hungerford Bridge.

Demolition is already underway. The remains of the entrance to the Lion Brewery can be seen on the right, in front of the railway, and clearance of the houses on the left is well underway.

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This is roughly the same view today. I should have been a bit further to the right, however the buildings of the Hayward Gallery obscure the view. Belvedere Road curves to the left towards where the road passes under the rail tracks – the bridge is obscured by the trees.

Belvedere Road Walk 1

This next photo is from the same spot, but is looking towards the right, towards the Thames. The large building is the Lion Brewery. Note that on the opposite side of the river, construction of the new Ministry Defense Building is well underway. The buildings in the foreground are along Grellier’s Stone Wharf on the 1895 map.

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Again, I should have been a bit further towards the right, however the following view from 2016 shows that the entire site of the above photo is now occupied by the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room.

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And the following photo is the last from the bridge and is looking to the left, towards Waterloo Station. Two streets can be seen, on the left is Howley Place and the street in the middle is Tenison Street. The terrace buildings that lined these streets have been demolished, however those along the boundary of the site remain. On the right are the houses along Sutton Street and the houses in front of Waterloo Station are along York Road. To the right of centre, there is a solitary figure standing on the rubble left by demolition.

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And the same view today. The entire site is now occupied by what was the Downstream Building of the Shell Centre office complex, but is now the Whitehouse Apartments. When I checked on their website, two apartments were for sale, one from just over £1 Million and the second for £2,750,000. A chat box from a representative in Hong Kong popped up whilst looking at the page asking if I needed help which tells you all you need to know about central London”s property market.

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Now walk towards the large roundabout at the southern end of Waterloo Bridge and take an immediate right hand turn down the slip road that takes you down to Belvedere Road. This road does not appear to have a name, but runs along the route what was Howley Place. At the end of the slip road, on reaching Belvedere Road, turn round to look back up the slip road (position 2 on the map).

This was the original view:

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The buildings on the left are the rear of buildings facing onto the approach road to Waterloo Bridge which has since been widened. The large roundabout with the glass IMAX cinema in the centre, which can be seen at the end of the current slip road had not been built at the time of these photos, so the houses seen at the end of Howley Place are roughly where the edge of the IMAX is currently located.

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We can now start walking along Belvedere Road, but only a short distance to point 3 on the map where we can look back at the original bridge which takes the approach road to Waterloo Bridge over Belvedere Road. The entrance to Howley Place is on the right with part of the street name sign visible.

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The same scene today. The approach road to Waterloo bridge has been replaced and is wider than in the original photo.

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Now walk a short distance along to point 4. This is the entrance to Tenison Street, looking towards Waterloo Station.

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And this is roughly from the same position today. Waterloo Station is behind the buildings of the Whitehouse Apartments.

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Now walk along to point 5 which is roughly half way along the rear of the Royal Festival Hall, and look towards the building. This was the scene at the start of construction of the Royal Festival Hall with the buildings on the north bank of the river clearly visible. There were some fascinating challenges with the construction of the building which I will cover in detail in my next post.

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The same scene today, although not much to see with the trees in the foreground and then the rear of the Royal Festival Hall.

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Now walk along to point 6 which is at the end of the original alignment of Sutton Walk which has now been cut short by Concert Hall Approach. The following photo shows where the original Sutton Walk met Belvedere Road. Looking over the wall surrounding the Whitehouse Apartments it is possible to see the remaining length of Sutton walk where it passes under the railway tracks. Sutton Walk originally continued straight on, to end at the point where this photo was taken.

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From this point we can walk slightly further along then turn back and look across where Sutton Walk joined Belevdere Road. This is the entrance to the buildings of the Lion Brewery on the south side of Belvedere Road with one of the three lions that were used above brewery entrances and the main brewery building. These buildings were used for stables and also as a warehouse. Look in front of the entrance arch and there are bollards on either side.

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And they are still here in this later photo following demolition of all the buildings. The buildings running along the left are those along the approach to Waterloo Bridge and Howley Place, with the buildings along York Road on the right. All the buildings in the background are still there, with the Royal Hospital for Children and Women being the second building from the left.

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This is the same scene today.

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The following photo was taken from Sutton Walk, looking down towards the entrance to the Lion Brewery from Belvedere Road. There was a lion on top of this arch but this had already been removed.

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Not easy to replicate this photo as this section of Sutton Walk does not exist, but the following photo is looking towards the area where the entrance to the brewery was located.

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The next photo was also taken from the original Sutton Walk and is looking towards the right with the Shot Tower in the background.

The house in front of the Shot Tower is number 55 Belvedere Road, one of the substantial houses that went up along Belvedere Road in the first decades of the 19th century.

In 1821 a tin plate worker named John Fowler extended his lease on the land and built No. 55 for his own use. The Survey of London describes the building:

“No. 55 was a house of substantial character. Though detached, it was of terrace type without openings in the flank walls. It was in yellow stock brick and its front elevation was three windows wide to each of the ground, first and second floors. The windows had gauged flat arches and all had glazing bars to their double hung sashes. The ground storey was raised above a semi-basement and the entrance, which was reached by a short flight of steps, had an architrave surround with consoles each side designed to support a flat hood. The hood had been removed some time prior to demolition. There was a moulded band at first floor level and a bold parapet cornice above the second floor. Behind the parapet dormer windows were set in a slated mansard roof”.

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John Fowler annoyed his neighbours when in 1839 he converted a factory between the rear of his house and the river into a lead works. Concern about the works was such that Golding, the owner of the Lion Brewery complained to his landlord, however a report from a Professor of Chemistry into the conditions of the lead works stated that their construction and use was such as to prevent waste, injury to the workmen and annoyance to the neighbourhood.

Along with the Lion Brewery, No. 55 was used by the London Waste Paper Company in the 1930s and would be demolished in 1949.

Again, not easy to replicate the original view as this part of Sutton Walk does not now exist, however the following photo is as close as I could get. Not much to see due to the trees, but the Royal Festival Hall is in the background.

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The following photo was taken just before construction of the Royal Festival Hall commenced. It was taken from where Belvedere Road passes under the rail tracks leading up to Hungerford Bridge and is looking back down Belvedere Road towards Waterloo Bridge which can just be seen behind the Cubitts sign at the centre left. Sutton Walk is just behind the lamppost running to the right. The Shot Tower is on the left. Note the “stink pipe” behind the lamppost (not sure if that is the correct name, but that is what we always called them).

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This is the view some weeks later, taken from the opposite side of the road. The “stink pipe” in the centre of the photo is the same as in the above photo. The Cubitts site office is on the former location of the Lion Brewery Stable and Warehouse. On the left is one of the three legs of the derrick supporting the crane that was used to build the Royal Festival Hall.

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Cubitts were the main building contractors for the Royal Festival Hall, and the use of an onsite site office seems to have been unique for the time as it helped with the rapid construction of the building with drawings been passed from the office to the builders as the drawings were being completed – such was the pace with which the Royal Festival Hall was built.

This is the same view today as the above photo taken at point 8 on the map.

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Now it is time to walk through to the other half of the area which is split in two by the rail tracks running up to Hungerford Bridge. This brick-built viaduct is the only remaining construction from the pre-war period and provides a perfect reference point to locate the key places on the 19th century Ordnance Survey maps. The viaduct has retained the original position of Belvedere Road and by retaining the short length of Sutton Walk that runs from York Road to the new Concert Hall Approach, allows the alignment to be confirmed to Belvedere Road and therefore the position of the entrances to the Lion Brewery.

This is where Belvedere Road passes underneath the rail tracks. The white plaque on the blue bridge reads “W. Richards & Son – 1900 – Leicester”.

1900 is not old by London standards, but it is the oldest construction in this part of London.

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The following map shows the area we are now in, having passed under the rail tracks at the top and continuing along Belvedere Road.

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A short distance along Belvedere Road, we can look towards the river and this is the approximate position of College Street leading down to Kings Arms Stairs. There is an entrance to the car park here – would be interesting to believe that this is a remaining part of College Street.

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The next photo shows the India Stores Depot as it was prior to demolition. The photo was taken from point 9 in the above map, a short distance in Belvedere Crescent, the kerb of which can be seen in the lower left corner. The road running left to right in front of the gates is Belvedere Road. The India Stores Depot suffered badly from bombing during the war with the majority being left as a shell of a building.

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I could not get to the same position as the original Belvedere Crescent is under the Shell Centre complex. The following photo was taken from in front of Shell Centre looking across Belvedere Road to where the India Stores Depot were located, on the current Jubilee Gardens.

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The Jubilee Gardens have been through a number of changes. I took the following photo in the mid 1980s of a much quieter Jubilee Gardens than today. The central area was later used as a construction site for the Jubilee Line extension with a large access shaft in the middle of the grassed area. The grass would be packed during summer lunchtimes with office workers from the Great London Council and Shell Centre.

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The buildings in the following photo were along Belvedere Road, roughly at point A, which today is the location of the Shell Centre tower building.

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Another view with the buildings in the above photo now on the right of the photo below. The cafe in the photos above and below was called “The County Cafe” – I assume a reference to County Hall, just a bit further along Belvedere Road. It is small buildings such as these where the signs of the business still remain that bring home that this was once a busy area full of industry, cafes, shops and residents. The bridge carrying the rail tracks over Belvedere Road can be seen at the far end of the road and the entrance to the India Stores Deport is on the left.

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This is same scene today with the main tower building of the Shell Centre complex on the immediate right, occupying the space where the County Cafe once stood. The blue bridge at the end of Belvedere Road is in the same position as the photo above.

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Many of the streets in this area were named after Archbishops of Canterbury. Sutton Walk was named after Charles Manners-Sutton (Archbishop between 1805 and 1828).

Tenison Street was named after Thomas Tenison (Archbishop from 1694 to 1715) and Chicheley Street. was named after Henry Chichele (Archbishop from 1414 to 1443).

The naming of streets after Archbishops extended beyond the area between York Road and Belvedere Road. The street in front of Waterloo Station, Mepham Street was named after Simon Mepeham, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1329 to 1333).

From outside Shell Centre, we can turn towards County Hall and walk to the junction of Belvedere Road and Chicheley Street. Instead of turning up Chicheley Street we can still walk up towards Westminster Bridge through the County Hall complex. Today this is marked on maps as Belvedere Road, but on the 1895 Ordnance Survey maps, Belvedere Road ended at the Chicheley Street junction and this stretch of road up to Westminster Bridge was still called Narrow Wall, the last remaining use of this original name and reference to the earthen bank that separated the Thames from the rest of Lambeth marshes.

The following photo shows the Belvedere Road / Narrow Wall passing through the County Hall buildings, I will continue on from the end of this road in my next post.

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We have now walked the length of Belvedere Road and traced the pre-1951 streets and buildings where much of the original street plan still remained.

Although Belvedere Road has been straightened and widened over the years, we have walked the route of the original earthen wall.

In my next post we will walk along the north bank of the river before returning alongside Hungerford Bridge to look at the building of the Royal Festival Hall.

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London Road Works

A brief post this week – short of time and researching some longer posts for the next few weeks.

A fact of London life is not just the continual building work that appears to be taking place across the whole of London, but also the never-ending road works. These have ranged from major works over the past year such as at the Elephant and Castle, and the Cycle Superhighway along the Embankment, through to a couple of hours needed to fill a hole in the road.

Road works also have a supporting cast of high-vis jackets, traffic cones, temporary traffic lights and lots of machinery with no doubt lots of planning and health and safety assessments.

My father worked for St. Pancras Borough Council Electricity and Public Lighting Department and then for the London Electricity Board, which is one of the reasons that he knew London so well, having worked across so many streets planning the installation of streetlights, cabling and electricity distribution equipment.

He took a number of photos of work taking place and I have a sample for today’s post. They show a very different working environment to that you would find today.

Firstly, two photos showing the same street scene which must have been taken only a few minutes apart. No idea where this is, there looks to be a street name on the building to the left however despite enlarging and trying different scan methods, the grain of the film does not allow the name to be read.

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Not a high visibility jacket or traffic cone in sight, although if you enlarge the photo, at the end of the trench there is a sign that states Caution Roadworks.

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Sadly, I always look down a trench or hole in the road to see if there is anything interesting below the surface. The following photo was in the same sequence as the two above. An arch of some form has been cut through, but is clearly seen in the side of the trench.

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The above photos are from the late 1940s, the photos below are from the early 1950s and show the method of sealing a joint between multiple cables.

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Again, I do not know the location and there is nothing I recognise in the background.

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Above and below; heating up a joint with a paraffin blow torch.

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Lastly, pouting molten metal over the joint to form a seal, probably some alloy of lead was used. Very basic protection – you would not want to get that on your skin.

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The final set is back to the late 1940s and are a couple of photos I published back in July 2014 and show road works at the top of Tottenham Court Road at the junction with Euston Road and Hampstead Road. The area looks very different now  – you can read the post here.

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Again, very basic compared to today. A shovel, wheel barrow and a pole across the road.

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Road works have always been a feature of London roads and I suspect will always be so. Next time your journey is delayed by some, rather than complain, have a look down, they are often an interesting, but ignored, feature of everyday street life.

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Smith Square – Architecture, History, And Reformers

If you are in Westminster, walk past the Houses of Parliament towards Lambeth Bridge, but turn right before reaching the bridge and you will end up in Smith Square. The relative peace is in sharp contrast to the crowds around Westminster and it is a pleasure to walk here and explore the history of the area.

Smith Square and the surrounding streets still follow much of the original 18th century street plan. A central square occupied by a church, with streets radiating out, some still lined by the original terrace houses from when the square was originally developed.

If you have turned down Great Peter Street from Millbank, then the first turning on the left is Lord North Street. This street is a contemporary with the church of St. John at the centre of the square and is lined with terrace housing built between 1722 and 1726.

The view looking down Lord North Street:

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Whilst the architectural style of the majority of the buildings along the street is the same  – the buildings have timber sash windows, iron railings and the same building materials – there are variations, for example with the decoration around the main door to the street, some being simple with others having a rather ornate door surround as shown in the photo below.

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As well as retaining their original 18th century features, some of the buildings in Lord North Street have features from more recent events:

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Smith Square suffered badly from bomb damage, the church was gutted by incendiary bombs and a high explosive bomb landed in the square also damaging the church and some of the surrounding buildings. The shelters in the basements of these buildings would have offered basic, but much needed protection from everything except for a direct hit.

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Variations in style:

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A plaque at the end of Lord North Street to W.T. Stead, a fascinating character who lived his last years here.

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Stead was originally a journalist and newspaper publisher. His believe was that newspapers should be informative and entertaining and also an “engine for social reform” and pioneered a new form of journalism which led to the tabloid format of the 20th century. His expose of child prostitution in Victorian London was one of the most shocking newspaper articles of the time. He was a peace campaigner, attacking the Boer War and travelling widely to promote his ideas. In later years he developed an interest in spiritualism.

In 1912 he accepted an invitation to speak at the Men and Religion Forward Movement at Carnegie Hall in New York. He would probably have left his home here in Lord North Street to travel down to Southampton to catch the first sailing of the Titanic to attend the conference in New York.

He did not survive the sinking of the Titanic and accounts speak of Stead helping others into lifeboats and passing on his life jacket. His body was never recovered.

A fascinating man of his time, although some recent authors have been rather unsympathetic to Stead. For example, in “The Victorians”, A.N. Wilson writes:

“Stead, and the sort of journalism which he pioneered, was to provide for the lower-middle-class chapelgoers a marvelous substitute for the dramas of the Devils Theatre, the frivolous triumphs and disasters of the Devil’s Prayer Book. He was to redefine the world as a lurid back-drop for a new literary form, every bit as diverting as the three-decker novel from the Satanic circulating libraries.”

The real start of tabloid journalism!

The web site attackingthedevil,co,uk is a dedicated resource on W.T. Stead and is a highly recommended read.

The view looking back down Lord North Street from the steps of the church. Stead’s house is on the left corner of Lord North Street.

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The land around Smith Square was dominated from medieval times by the Abbey and Westminster Palace with vine yards, market gardens, orchards and building moving west from the Abbey and Palace complex. During the 17th century, part of the land between Millbank and Tufton Street was purchased by Simon Smith and his son Henry, and building commenced towards the end of the century.

Smith Square was formed around the church of St. John the Evangelist. This was one of the 50 new churches that had been identified by the Church Building Commissioners to meet the needs of an expanding London and growing population.  Land was bought by the Church Building Commissioners and the church was built between 1714 and 1728.

The church was originally at the centre of a much larger square with a considerable amount of space between the church and the closest buildings. The extract below from John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the newly built streets and the church at the centre of a large space.

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The following map extract shows the core area around Smith Square today. The area is still bounded by Tufton Street and Millbank (to the left and right) with College Street to the top of the map and Market Street at the bottom (now named Horseferry Road). Much of Vine Street has disappeared with the remaining section now named Romney Street. The large open space to the top left of the church has since been built over with Gayfere Street connecting Smith Square  to Great Peter Street. Church Street now runs longer from MIllbank to the square and has been renamed Dean Stanley Street. Horse and Groom Yard to the top right of the church has been built over.

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View from the church steps showing original houses along Smith Square.

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The church from the edge of the square.

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The church was designed by the architect Thomas Archer and was one of the few of the “50 churches” that were completed. It was also the most expensive, costing £40,875 to complete.

There are four identical short towers on each corner of the church. These have led to the story that the church was designed after Queen Anne’s footstool as when asked what the church should look like, she kicked over a footstool and said “Go, build me a church like that”. Another myth is that the towers were added to ensure an equal pressure on the marshy ground of the area which caused a number of problems during construction. The towers were though part of Archer’s original design and not added for any other reason.

In 1928 the church was the location for Emmeline Pankhurst’s funeral, despite having earlier been the target of a Suffragette bomb plot.

Following the considerable destruction of the church during the war, it was eventually rebuilt but as a music venue rather than as a church, a role that the building continues to this day.

A print of St. John’s, Smith Square from 1814. The text below the print states “Situated on the West Side of Millbank, is one of the 50 New Churches & was finished 1728, but has since suffered greatly by fire. This Parish was originally part of St. Margret’s. This structure has many beauties notwithstanding the peculiarity of the design, which probably suffered from a settlement while building which prevented the whole from being carried into execution.” The fire that the text refers to was a major fire in 1742 that caused significant damage to the church.

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Looking up from Smith Square, along Gayfere Street to the towers of Westminster Abbey. A high explosive bomb fell in the road to the right of the red letter box during the war causing considerable damage to the surrounding buildings.

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In the 1980s during the time when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minster, Smith Square was often in the news due to the Conservative Party Central Office being located here at number 32. The Conservative Party moved here in the mid 1950s, moving out in 2004.

The building today is, perhaps ironically, the Information Office of the European Parliament.

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Smith Square has had a long association with politicians. The Conservative MP Rab Butler lived in Smith Square as did the Labour MP Oswald Mosley who went on to leave Labour and set up the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Harold Wilson lived in Lord North Street during the early 1970s.

Another building (the photo below – Transport House) in Smith Square was also home to the Transport and General Workers Union as well as the Labour Party.

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There is a rather strange building at one corner of Smith Square. A small part of the old ICI building, Nobel House, the bulk of which is on Millbank and extends to this corner of Smith Square and rather than blend in with Smith Square, the building has used exactly the same decoration as the main frontage of Nobel House on Millbank.

If you look up at the building along Millbank and part of Horseferry Road, the building is decorated with the faces of scientists on the keystone above the window with the name of the scientist across the balcony below. (See my original post covering Noble House). The corner of the building in Smith Square has:

  • John Dalton (1766 to 1844), a chemist, physicist and meteorologist, who was responsible for a wide range of scientific discoveries, and it was his work on Atomic Theory that was his major legacy, and;
  • Marcellin Berthelot (1827 – 1907), a French chemist  who demonstrated that organic substances could be synthetically produced rather than being dependent on some form of “vital spark” over which there was no human control.

The corner entrance to Nobel House in Smith Square with Dalton above the door and Berthelot to the right.

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In the first decades of the 20th century, some of the original buildings around Smith Square were demolished to make way for new office blocks resulting in a range of building styles around the square.

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If you leave Smith Square by Dean Bradley Street (named after George Bradley, who was Dean of Westminster from 1881 to 1902) and walk down to Horseferry Road, the view down Dean Bradley Street provides another view of the church.

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The streets around Smith Square are fascinating. A short walk down Horseferry Road is this building on the corner of Tufton Street. There is an old plaque on the building at ground level.

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The plaque is the foundation stone for one of Mr Fegan’s Homes.

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Mr Fegan was James William Condell Fegan who was born in Southampton in 1852 and moved to London with his family in 1865. He worked in the office of a firm of brokers and in the evening taught at a Ragged School. His experience at the Ragged School of the very poor conditions of many of the children who did not benefit from the school led Fegan to set up a home where children could come and learn in the evening and be given shelter overnight.

Fegan’s homes quickly developed with homes being opened at Deptford, Greenwich, Ramsgate and Southwark. As well as providing education and shelter for children in London, he also supported the emigration of children to Canada where he believed they would have a much better future.

The building in Horseferry Road was built for Fegan when the Southwark building had been outgrown and the new building housed the General Offices, an Enquiry and Advisory Bureau and a reception for new arrivals along with a Working Lads Hostel.

Fegan’s Homes also had a number of properties based in the country to prepare children for living and working in Canada.

Fegan’s Homes have all closed, however Fegans continues to exist as a Christian charity supporting children and their families

Tufton Street has some interesting architectural features. Lansdale House with a second door surround, but with no door, built to provide symmetry to the overall building.

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Plaque in Tufton Street to Siegfried Sassoon (one of the First World War poets):

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And another plaque on Tufton Street to Sir Michael Balcon who was a prolific British film producer. Just a few of the films he produced include The 39 Steps (produced when he was living here in Tufton Street), Passport to Pimlico and The Lavender Hill Mob.

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The architecture of Sir Michael Balcon’s house in Tufton Street is fascinating:

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The Tradesmen Entrance in the centre flanked by two entrance doors to two separate parts of the overall building.

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Above the Tradesmen Entrance is a niche covered by an ornate metal grille which looks like it should have a statue within. At the bottom of the niche is this rather beautifully carved bat. I have never seen one of these before and to find one in the centre of Westminster was an interesting find.

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I have always found plaques such as the blue and green ones found around Smith Square both frustrating and tantalising. They provide a very brief glimpse of a single aspect of a life. Take the following plaque to Eleanor Rathbone in Tufton Street:

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Eleanor Rathbone was the daughter of the philanthropist and politician William Rathbone and a member of a wealthy and nonconformist shipping family.

Her first public roles were as a reformer and feminist in Liverpool, and she was the first woman to be elected to Liverpool City Council. Rathbone was a constant campaigner for family allowances, having published The Case for Family Allowance in 1940 and just lived to see the start of their introduction in 1945, however there were many other aspects to her life.

She was an MP for the Combined English Universities. This was one of the constituencies that did not represent a physical location, but for this position the representation was for the graduates of English Universities other than Oxford, Cambridge and London which had their own MPs.

She was a campaigner for Women’s Suffrage and the impact of war on the dependents of soldiers. She also recognised the danger that Hitler and the rise of the Nazi Party presented, early in the 1930s. In her role as an MP she was an outspoken critic of appeasement with Germany and supported Winston Churchill when he was also warning about the rise of Nazi Germany.

Rathbone denounced the Munich Agreement in 1938 much to Neville Chamberlains displeasure and pressured the Government to take dissident Germans and Austrians along with Jews fleeing from the rise of the Nazis. She also set-up the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees and during the war campaigned for the Government to publish the growing evidence of the holocaust.

Up to 1940, Rathbone lived in Romney Street (just further back along Tufton Street), however this house was badly bombed in 1940 and the building in Tufton Street with the plaque is where she moved to after bombing damaged her Romney Street house.

A remarkable woman. Rathbone moved to Highgate in April 1945 but died suddenly in January 1946.

At the end of Tufton Street at the junction with Great Peter Street is Mary Sumner House.

Smith Square 25

Mary Sumner was the founder of the Mothers Union, originally a group of mothers in the village of Old Alresford near Winchester formed by Mary in 1876. For the first nine years the group remained local but after a speech at the 1885 National Church Congress the concept of the Mothers Union grew rapidly across both the UK and the Commonwealth. By the end of the 19th century, the Mothers Union had 169,000 members.

Mary Sumner died in 1921 and is buried with her husband George (who held a number of posts in the church at Winchester) in the graveyard of Winchester Cathedral.

The foundation stone of Mary Sumner House, laid by her daughter in 1923.

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Smith Square 24

A short distance down Great Peter Street we can turn into Gayfere Street and head back to Smith Square to complete this quick walk around Smith Square and the local streets.

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Original two storey houses along Gayfere Street.Smith Square 28

A short walk around Smith Square and a couple of the surrounding streets, but a fascinating history and architecture. There is mush else I can add, however I apologise for my usual problem of doing justice to a subject within the constraints of a weekly post.

I walked around the area on a Saturday afternoon and the streets were very quiet, they are not that much busier during a week day so avoid the crowds around Parliament Square and much of the rest of Westminster and explore the streets around Smith Square.

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Church Row – Hampstead

I have featured Hampstead in a number of posts and for this week I am back in Hampstead looking at a street which, architecturally, has hardly changed in the past 67 years. The street is Church Row which turns off from Heath Street as you walk up towards Hampstead Underground Station.

Church Row leads up to the parish church of St. John-at-Hampstead with a central, narrow avenue of trees that separates two rows of terrace houses in the section of road closest to the church. These houses were mainly built during the 1720s.

The following photo was taken by my father in 1949, standing outside the church and looking back up towards Heath Street.

Church Row 1

And the same view in 2016 (although I should really have waited a couple of months for the trees to be in full leaf).

Church Row 4

I thought that using black and white for the 2016 photo would emphasis how little Church Row has changed over the past 67 years, with one exception – the car and on-street parking.

A common challenge with taking photos of the locations today that my father photographed many years ago is trying to capture the same scene without traffic obscuring the view. With locations such as Church Row it is impossible to photograph without the on-street parking.

Car ownership and use across London has grown considerably over the last 70 years. Central London has always been busy, however the ongoing growth in traffic and need for parking has spread out from the centre to cover all parts of the city.

It is interesting to compare car ownership statistics to understand the growth of car use across London. The County of London Plan published in 1943 stated “In England, the ratio of cars to population is about one to twenty-two; in America it is one to six or seven. It is perhaps doubtful whether this country will equal America in this respect, but it is generally agreed that there is every likelihood of a rapid approach to the American figure and that the increase in the number of vehicles will far outstrip the 500 cars per day increase which was taking place in the days preceding the present war.”

This statement from the 1943 plan just shows the difficulties in trying to predict the future. The plan suspects it is doubtful that this country will get to a car ownership level or one car per six or seven of population, however for London in 2012, from the Transport for London report “Roads Task Force – Technical Note 12. How many cars are there in London and who owns them?” there are currently:

  • 2.6 million cars registered in London and 54% of households have at least one car
  • this gives a ratio of approximately 0.3 cars per adult
  • car ownership varies widely across London with the lowest percentage (13%) in the City of London and the highest (75%) in Richmond upon Thames
  • for Hampstead, the Borough of Camden has an ownership percentage of 38%, however I suspect this varies widely across the Borough

The above 2.6 million excludes the cars that travel into London during the day. I have been unable to find any reliable figures for the total number of cars across the whole of London.

This volume of cars all need to be parked somewhere so we see the streets of London changing as Church Row has done between 1949 and 2016.

The following photo from 1949 is looking back down Church Row towards the church. The above photo was taken from just outside the entrance to the churchyard.

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And the same scene in 2016:

Church Row 7

These two photos are interesting as they show the challenges with taking exactly the same photo and how using different cameras and lenses impact the perspective of the photo.  The 1949 photos were taken by my father using his Leica IIIc and a 50mm lens. I am using a Nikon D300 digital camera with an 18 to 200mm zoom lens – two very different camera systems and this is very noticeable in the perspective differences.

My 2016 photo looks further away from the church than my father’s however I walked up and down the street a number of times to find the same combination of manholes. In the 1949 photo there are two round nearer the camera and a rectangular manhole furthest away. I found the same combination, and although the paving slabs look to have been changed, there are the same number of rows of paving slabs between the various manholes so I am confident I found the same location although the perspective looks slightly different (and perhaps by counting paving slabs and manholes I am starting to take this project a bit too seriously !!)

My father sold the original camera to purchase a Leica IIIg which I still have along with the original 50mm lens which was transferable between different Leica camera bodies. On my to-do list is to learn how to use this entirely manual camera and start taking photos using the Leica and the original lens that may father used.

As you walk down Church Row, towards the church, on the left is a house with a plaque. The house in 1949:

Church Row 2

And the same house in 2016 (although I forgot when taking the photo that the original was portrait rather than landscape).

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Only very minor cosmetic changes, for example the change in rainwater down-pipe, apart from the burglar alarm and the car parked in front.

The plaque was installed in 1909 by the Hampstead Antiquarian and Historical Society. Formed in 1897, the “objects of the society are the study, and as far as possible, the recording of antiquarian and historical matters, especially in regard to the Borough of Hampstead, and also, should necessity arise, the protection of any historic landmark from needless violation.”

I cannot find exactly when the Society closed, however the Camden local history archive has the minutes, cashbooks, annual reports and papers of the society up to 1940 and I can find no record post 1940.

Thomas Park was an engraver, poet and antiquary who lived in Church Row for 30 years until his death. His son, John James Park published “The Topography and Natural History of Hampstead in the County of Middlesex with Appendix of original Records” in 1818. It was the first book dedicated to the history of Hampstead.

According to “London” by George Cunningham, H.G. Wells lived in number 17, the house to the right of that of Thomas Park, in 1912. His stay was obviously too short to justify a plaque.

The Hampstead Antiquarian and Historical Society plaque to Thomas Park and John James Park:

Church Row 6

As with the buildings along Church Row, there are some other aspects of London that change very little. Whilst reading the section on Road Transport in the 1943 County of London Plan I found the following paragraph:

“In 1927 the late Mr Frank Pick stated that the London General Omnibus Company lost, through delay and congestion on the roads, one million pounds a year in actual out-of-pocket expenses. This figure does not take into account the cost of time lost to passengers. Other estimates include those of a large catering firm, which estimated the cost of calls in congested periods at 6s 8d compared with 3s 4d outside those periods, and of Mr. Shrapnel Smith, who estimated the cost of delays in central London, within a three mile radius of Charing Cross, at over eleven million pounds a year. Uncomfortable and slow traffic, resulting from congestion and lack of system, is inefficient and bad for business.”

Multiply the financial values several times and those exact words could be written today. Some thing never change !

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