Category Archives: London Pubs

Tracing London’s old pubs

The Prospect of Whitby And Shadwell Basin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Tiger Tavern At Tower Hill

It seems that hardly a week goes by without another pub closing somewhere across London. This is not a recent phenomena as significant numbers of pubs have been closing since the last war. Some were damaged and not rebuilt, some closed when local industries shut down, population changes have had a significant impact and others just disappeared during redevelopment.

I have already covered a couple of these, the Gun Tavern in Wapping, and the Ticket Porter in Arthur Street.  For this week’s post I am at Tower Hill looking for the location of another lost pub, the Tiger Tavern. Here is my father’s photo of the pub in 1948:

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The whole area to the west of Tower Hill has been rebuilt a couple of times since the last war, so I turned to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map to locate the pub. The Tiger Tavern was on Tower Hill, also known as Tower Dock. I have circled the location in the extract from the map below, the pub is marked P.H.

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As the whole area has been rebuilt, I needed a reference point and luckily there is one fixed point which has not changed in over 100 years, the entrance building to the subway, marked in the above map inside the circle with the wording Subway Entrance. (the subway was originally a way to get across the river, but was not open for too long and has since been used to carry utilities under the river – this is somewhere I would really like to visit).

The subway entrance building is opposite the southern boundary of the Tiger Tavern.

The following photo is looking across to the location of the Tiger Tavern in 2016. The subway entrance building is just below and behind the tree on the far left. I could not get to the exact point where my father took the above photo as the visitor centre buildings are now on the spot.

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Behind the visitor centre buildings and this is the location of the Tiger Tavern, now the location of a Wagamama with floors of offices above.

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The entrance building to the subway – the only remaining reference point in this area.

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I could not find out that much about the Tiger Tavern. It appears to have been originally established around 1504 and over the centuries went through a number of changes and rebuilds with the building in my father’s photo being constructed in 1893. This building lasted untill 1965 when the whole area was redeveloped with a new office complex and a very different Tiger Tavern taking up part of the ground and upper floors. This last incarnation of the pub was demolished in 2002 along with the office buildings to make way for the latest office complex, although this development did not include a rebuild of the Tiger Tavern so after 500 years, Tower Hill is without a Tiger Tavern.

According to The London Encyclopedia by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, the Tiger Tavern had the mummified remains of a cat said to have been stroked by the young Princess Elizabeth when she was held a prisoner in the Tower. The entry on the Tiger Tavern also claims that there is still a tunnel from the Tavern to the Tower, although  (writing in the 1983 edition when the 1965 version of the pub was in existence) this has now been blocked off.

I have to admit I would be surprised if there was a tunnel as it would need to be deep enough to pass under the moat around the Tower, a not inconsiderable depth and distance to go from the Tiger Tavern into the Tower – but it would be fascinating to imagine that one did exist.

I could not find any references as to the source of the pub’s name, although there was a Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London for many hundreds of years and tigers were part of this collection so perhaps this was the source of the name.

Researching newspaper references to the Tiger Tavern throws a light not just on the pub, but also on London life over the years. In the 14th February 1895 edition of the London Evening Standard there is an account of one of the tricks that would be used in London pubs to get a bit of extra cash:

“Charles Farmer, John Dumont and William Chapman were charged with loitering with intent to commit a felony, and with what is called ‘ringing the changes’ at the Tiger Tavern, in Tower Dock. Mr Maitland, solicitor, prosecuted. Two City detectives, named Cox and Shepherd, watched the Prisoners for a considerable time, and saw them enter various restaurants in the City. Finally, Farmer went to the Tiger Tavern, where, being served with refreshments, he first tendered a half-sovereign in payment. Having received the money he wanted the coin back, as he preferred to change a sovereign. Ultimately, in the confusion, he succeeded in getting the barmaid to give him 10s more than he was entitled to. During this time the other two Prisoners were in an adjoining compartment. When the police entered, Farmer voluntarily returned 10s, saying he had received too much change. All the Prisoners had been previously convicted, and pleaded guilty. Mr Alderman Green sentenced them each to three months hard labour, commending the skill and ability of the detectives.”

An advert appeared in the Morning Advertiser on the 22nd July 1840:

“WANTED a respectable YOUTH from 14 to 15 years of age, who will be instructed in the general routine of the business of a Wine-vault, and treated as one of the family – one who has not been out before, and the son of a Licensed Victualler would be preferred. Apply at the Tiger Tavern, Tower Dock, City, this day and to-morrow, between the hours of five and six p.m.”

The Surrey Mirror of the 6th September 1901 provides an example of how employers could be the victim of fraud, including the owner of the Tiger Tavern:

“Before the Kingston-on-Thames County Bench on Monday, a man giving the name of Henry Henderson, 43, described as an agent of Long Ditton and New Malden was charged on a warrant with having obtained 2s by false pretences with intention to defraud Mr. Thos. Faier, of the Tiger Tavern, Tower Dock, London. The prisoner was undefended. Mr Faier stated that in June last he saw in several London newspapers an advertisement which represented that a woman named ‘A. Gage’ wanted a situation as ‘cook-general’ and which gave an address in Long Ditton. He wrote and requested ‘A. Gage’ to call upon him and in return he received a letter signed ‘H. Henderson’ which stated that if he sent 2s as an entrance fee ‘A. Gage’ would be sent to him. he sent 2s and on June 18th received another letter from Henderson stating that Gage had been instructed o call upon him. Gage, however, did not come, and two letters which he subsequently wrote to Henderson were ignored”.

The article then goes on state that the police were called in and Detective Inspector Scott called at the address of Henderson and arrested him. He found a large pile of ashes in the back garden from burnt correspondence and also went to another house in New Malden used by Henderson where he found a large pile of letters from other people who had also sent 2s but had not received any visits from the advertised person. Henderson was receiving 60 complaints a month which gives an idea of how many people he had defrauded out of 2s. The article does not state whether A. Gage existed – I suspect not.

For more cheerful news, it was reported in the paper for the 26th February 1887 that:

“Mr. F. Dewhurst, boatswain of the steamship Queen, has been presented with a watch and a written testimonial by J.J. Hunt and friends at the Tiger Tavern, Tower Hill, for gallantly rescuing a man named Hopkins from drowning when he fell from a barge loading alongside the steamship Queen, of Custom House Quay, a short time ago.”

A number of ceremonies were held at the Tiger Tavern. Every ten years, the Lord Mayor of London would be invited to the Tiger Tavern to taste the beer, which is also poured on a seat and the taster invited to sit. If the trousers stick to the seat then all is well and a laurel garland is hung outside the tavern and around the neck of the landlord. The Scotsman on the 20th December 1949 reported on this event:

“The Citizens of London one and all proclaim their defiance of the rigours and vexations of the times and their will to stand fast for the upholding of the might, the unity and the weal of this Realm – so ran the text of a cheerful  invitation to attend to-day the hanging of a laurel and holly ale garland over the portal of the Olde Tiger Tavern on Tower Hill. The tavern’s hospitality according to the invitation would run on this day to the tasting of ‘wassail bowl, fettled porter, lamb’s wool and mulled ale (of the best)”.

The article then goes on to describe the Lord Mayor raising the garland, and various drinks being served by waitresses in Elizabethan dress (this was in 1949 and I suspect the Tiger Tavern was now looking to the future and to trade more on the historical connections rather than just as a local pub. The addition of ‘Olde’ to the name and waitresses in Elizabethan dress point to this future).

The article also describes what was served, apparently based on 1732 recipes:

Lamb’s Wool – roasted apples, sugar, sherry, nutmeg, ginger and strong ale

Wassail Bowl – sugar, warm beer, nutmeg, sherry and slices of toast

Fettled Porter – run, stout, cloves, ginger and sugar

Mulled Ale – barley wine, rum, sugar, nutmeg, cloves and ginger

That is my Christmas drinks sorted !

There are many other accounts of ceremonies held at the Tiger Tavern, weddings, job adverts, barmaids being robbed, customer deaths etc.  It was strange to think of this long and detailed history of Londoners at the Tiger Tavern standing outside what is now a rather bland office block and chain restaurant.

The following photo helps fix the location of the Tiger Tavern. In my father’s photo above, the building to the left of the pub has been destroyed, this is the side wall that can be seen to the left of centre in the photo below.

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The Tiger Tavern survived the Great Fire of London and as can be seen in the above photo it was one of the few buildings in the block that survived the Blitz, but it could not survive the development of the area in the last 20 years.

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The Gun Tavern – A Tale Of Two Wappings

I find it fascinating to track down the locations of the photos my father took in the late 1940s. They all tell a story and highlight the changes that have taken place across London over the last 70 years. Sometimes, I can put a pair of photos together that sum up the change, not just at that specific place, but across a whole area of London, and that is the case with today’s post -The Gun Tavern – A Tale Of Two Wappings (with apologies to Charles Dickens).

The Gun Tavern and Hotel was on the corner of Wapping High Street and Dundee Street. Wapping is the area to the east of the Tower of London. An area of high density housing, warehouses and docks. Nearly all activity that took place in Wapping was driven by the River Thames. Ships moored alongside the warehouses or lighters transported goods to and from ships in the river. Steps leading down to the river provided access for those who worked out on the river. Housing provided very basic accommodation for the workers and the many pubs provided almost the only escape from work.

I will not put any text in between the following two photos so they can be compared. The first is the original photo taken by my father of the Gun Tavern and Hotel. I easily found the location today and the second photo shows the same scene today. Look at the building on the left which is the same in both photos. The pattern of the brickwork is the same and in the lower left of both photos, set into the pavement is a fire hydrant in the same position over 69 years.

The major change is the building that now occupies the site of the Gun Tavern.

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This is now a Foxtons Estate Agents and these two photos sum up the changes to Wapping over the past 70 years.

Walk along Wapping High Street and the majority of the old warehouses and wharf buildings have now been converted to apartment buildings, forming a barrier between the river and the street. There are some access areas and walkways, however considering how close this is to central London, Wapping High Street feels strangely quiet. It is almost a dormitory street for those who work in the rest of London, or apartments that get occasional visits from their remote owners. It has to be a wasted opportunity as with a more mixed use approach and more affordable housing this could be a much more vibrant area.

Wapping High Street is one of the few streets in London where you can walk a distance and not find the usual Starbucks, Costa or Pret which I assume the lack of local business or passing trade cannot justify. I last walked along Wapping High Street a few years ago and the site of the Gun Tavern was then a cafe, however either it could not make enough money, or the new development now occupied by Foxtons was a more profitable change for the owners.

The same road surface as in my father’s photo showing underneath later surfacing.

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The map below is an extract from the 1893-1895 series Ordnance Survey map. This shows the area around Dundee Street and the Gun Tavern including some of the many street name changes. The River Thames is at the bottom of the map, and Wapping High Street is running left to right across the map.

At the time of this map, Dundee Street was called Upper Well Alley and can be seen running vertically from Wapping High Street just to the right of centre. The Gun Tavern is the building labelled PH at the junction of Upper Well Alley with Wapping High Street.

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The considerable number of pubs across Wapping can be seen just by the sample in this one small area. Including the Gun Tavern, there are seven Public Houses marked. Today, there are hardly any pubs across the whole of Wapping. The only inland pub is Turner’s Old Star on Watts Street. The other pubs are the riverside pubs, Town of Ramsgate, The Captain Kidd and The Prospect of Whitby. The Town of Ramsgate is shown in the above map as the PH just above Wapping Old Stairs. At the end of the 19th century, there were roughly 29 public houses along just Wapping High Street.

I have been unable to trace when Upper Well Alley changed named to Dundee Street. At the end of Upper Well Alley in the above map, facing on to the river is New Dundee Wharf, so the new name must have come from the name of the Wharf and as it has “New” at the start of the wharf the name of the wharf must have been relatively recent.

In the 19th century, the Gun Tavern was often used as a location in which to hold an inquest. Reading accounts of these from newspapers of the time provides a fascinating insight into life in Wapping and London.

The following is from the London Daily News of the 30th January 1846, the headline was “Heartless Conduct. Mysterious Suicide”:

“At a late hour last evening Mr. Baker held an inquest at the Gun Tavern, Gun Wharf, Wapping on the body of Mrs. Lucy Robinson, alias Hawker aged 36 years, who was found drowned. William Adamson, a fisherman, said that on Tuesday forenoon, whilst in his boat, grappling off Wapping in sixteen feet of water, his grappling iron brought up the body of the deceased. She had a long Cashmere scarf twisted tightly around her waist, and her bonnet strings were tied in nine knots close under the chin. Mr. Henry Lambert, proprietor of the Caledonian Arms, Pentonville, identified the body as that of his sister; she some months kept the Vine Tavern, Kentish Town; she was then a widow.

A man named William Hawker, an omnibus conductor, used to frequent the house. He soon after professed an attachment to her; he represented himself as a single man; the correspondence was carried on for some time, and he ultimately induced her to cohabit with him as man and wife. Witness, hearing of this fact went to her, for the purpose of expostulating with her on her conduct, when words ensued between Hawker and witness. Hawker struck him several violent blows, and knocked him down, the next day witness went to the house again, his intention being to get a warrant for the assault. when he went he found the house shut up, and that Hawker and deceased had gone to France; they soon after returned, when he heard they had been married and that Hawker had drawn about 900s of deceased’s money, from a bank in which she had deposited it. He had never seen her since.

Martha Gaylor of Vine-cottage, Kentish-town, deposed that she had been a tenant of the deceased’s, and on terms of intimacy for the last eight years. After deceased and Hawker came from France, they went to live at No. 11 Marylebone Street. She told witness she was married; and that since she had found out that he had a wife living. Witness knew that there was a woman called Mrs. Hawker, and had seen her call at the house since Hawker’s return from France. Deceased had often complained to witness of the ill-usage she received at the hands of Hawker, showing bruises on her wrists, face and other parts of her person; and that he was in the constant habit of drinking, and ill-using her since she had obtained her money. On Tuesday week he thrust her out of doors violently on to the pavement. She took drink occasionally.

On Saturday night last, at ten o’clock witness called upon her. She was then intoxicated; did not see her again alive. Was told subsequently that she suddenly left the house at twelve o’clock at night, and was not heard of again until her body was found. There being no other evidence to show by what means she came into the water, the jury said they should not be satisfied until the man Hawker was before them, to hear his statement. Marshall, the beadle, said he had summoned him, but he was not in attendance. The inquiry was therefore adjourned for his attendance, and the production of other evidence as to how the deceased came into the water.”

As well as many murders and suicides, the Gun Tavern also held inquests into the frequent accidents on the river. The following is from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper from the 25th August 1878 and has the headline “Fatal Boat Accident”:

“Yesterday evening Mr. Collier held an inquiry at the Gun Tavern, High-street, Wapping, touching the death of a young man named Charles Wicks. Deceased was a telegraph-wire worker, and on last Sunday he and several others went for a rowing an out-rigged four-oar cutter on the Thames, all being said to be used to rowing. When off Blackwall-point they were caught in the swell of a Newcastle boat, and the craft in which the deceased was, becoming filled, they had to jump out. Only two out of the five could swim. A witness threw him an oar, but it did not reach him. He and another man went down, the other three being picked up by the waterman’s skiff. the body was found off Wapping on Friday. The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death.”

Reading the newspaper accounts of the numerous inquests held at the Gun Tavern covering suicides, murders and accidents quickly dispels any romantic view of life in Wapping by the River Thames in the 19th century.

As well as the inquests held in the Gun Tavern, the residents of Upper Well Alley were involved in many crimes, including murder. The following is from the Morning Post on the 26th August 1896, with the headline “The Wapping Tragedy”:

“James Jones, ship’s fireman, of 8, Upper Well-alley, Wapping, was charged yesterday on remand before Mr Dickenson, at the Thames Police Court, with the murder of Edward White by stabbing him in the neck with a knife. Further evidence was taken. That of the medical men who made the post-mortem examination showed that there were nine external wounds and 10 internal wounds. They were both incised and punctured, and all, with the exception of a small one at the back of the head, might have been caused by the knife produced. the most serious one was at the back of the neck, which divided the spinal column and vertebral artery. the wound which severed the spinal cord was a fatal one. Mr. Dickinson remanded the prisoner, and the witnesses who had given evidence were bound over.”

Another newspaper article from the 18th December 1894 had the title “Not sober for 4 years” and told the story of the death of a woman from number 8 Upper Well Alley, Wapping who had not been sober for over 4 years. The wife of a waterside labourer, she would not get up until 4 in the afternoon and had already taken everything in the house to the pawn shop to fund her drinking. When she could no longer move, she managed to get rum brought to her bed and after her death a bottle of spirits were found hidden underneath the pillow.

Upper Well Alley, or Dundee Street of today is very different to the days of the 19th century newspaper reports and is under going further change. The photo below taken in Dundee Street shows the St. Patrick’s Social Club building which I believe will soon be demolished.

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Dundee Street and along Green Bank was once home to St. Patrick’s Social Club, School and Church. Today only the church remains.

On the corner of Dundee Street and Green Bank is an old bollard dated 1899 and stating Limehouse District. In the late 19th century, the district of Limehouse extended from the main land area around St. Annes Limehouse, along a narrow strip of river side land in Wapping to a short extension inland here around Dundee Street. This bollard was the only remaining marker I could find around Dundee Street, Green Bank and Scandreet Street.

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Looking down Dundee Street, or as it was Upper Well Alley, from the junction with Green Bank.

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At the end of Green Bank, on the corner with Scandrett Street (or Church Street as it was on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map) is the old Turks Head pub (the PH at the very top, centre of the above map). Closed as a pub in the late 1970s, the Turks Head was restored by a charitable trust in the 1980s providing a community cafe for the local area.

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On the Scandrett Street side of the building is the original 1706 street name plaque, confirming that this was originally Bird Street.

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The following extract from John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the area in the right hand lower quarter. Bird Street is clearly marked as is Green Bank (about the only street in the area to retain its original name). Comparing with the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows that New Dundee Wharf was originally Gun Dock and leading north from here was Gun Alley and across Green Bank Lower Gun Alley. This explains where the name Gun Tavern came from although whether the street or the pub was named first is a good question.

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What appears to have happened over the last almost three hundred years is that Gun Alley was probably the original name, following by Upper Well Alley and then Dundee Street which remains the name today. Fascinating why names change so much and in this small area of Wapping only Green Bank retains its original name. (It is tempting to think that as Green Bank dates from at least 1746, the name may refer to an embankment along here that held the river back from further encroachment inland, much like the original street name of Narrow Wall on the South Bank, although I have not found any proof of this).

the following print  (©Trustees of the British Museum) shows the view of Gun Dock from the river in 1850. The church tower in the background is that of St. John’s which we will come to next.

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The original 1756 parish church of St. John’s is on the corner of Green Bank and Scandrett Street. The church was badly damaged during the war with only the tower and the shell of the rest of the church remaining. The building was later rebuilt as apartments so apart from the tower, the rest of the building is a new construction. To blend in with the surroundings much of the external walls were built using materials from other buildings destroyed during the war.

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Next to the church are the buildings of the St. John’s School. Although founded in 1695, the school was established by voluntary subscriptions in 1704, with old buildings on the west side of church street purchased to provide accommodation for the school. The site of these original buildings were included in a later expansion of the churchyard, so in exchange, a plot of land was given to the trustees of the school and the buildings that we see now constructed in 1756 to 60.

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The school appears to have been in a reasonably financially stable position. The 1819 the second report by the Commissioners on the Education of the Poor reported that the school held £2,000 in stocks and the dividends from these, as well as an annual £10 rent from the lease of a small parcel of land provided much of the income that the school needed. There was also a separate fund of £384 which had been raised by subscription among the inhabitants of Wapping in 1725. This money was used to purchase some land and buildings and at the time of the report a rent of £60 10 shillings was being generated for the school.

At the time of the report, the annual expenditure of the school was £480. The main costs were:

  • Clothing about £200
  • Schoolmasters and schoolmistress’s salary with coals, and etc. about £100
  • Repairs, about £40
  • Stationary, about £50

This was in excess of the dividends and money from rents received by the school, with the gap being made up from voluntary subscriptions.

Above the doors to the school, statues of school children in their blue coat uniforms. gun-tavern-11

Opposite the church and the school is the original churchyard.

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A plaque set into the wall of the churchyard, dated 1855 states that the wall belongs to the Parish of St. John of Wapping and is the boundary of the churchyard.

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The churchyard wall, plaque and old headstones lined up against the wall.

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One of the few remaining pubs in Wapping is the Town of Ramsgate – a pub which deserves a dedicated post. The pubs on the river almost certainly have a long-term future, their river facing location provide a reliable stream of custom which ensures their profitability and the history of pubs such as the Town of Ramsgate and the Prospect of Whitby should also hopefully also protect their future. The entrance to Wapping Old Stairs is down the alley to the right of the pub.

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If you walk a very short distance back along Wapping High Street towards the City, you cross the old entrance to the Wapping Basin and the London Docks. This has long been filled in following the closure of the docks, however stand on the Wapping High Street and look in land and the entrance to the Wapping basin is still visible with the walls of the entrance channel still either side of what is now a paved area.

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The buildings on the western side of Pier Head.

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The original buildings from when this was a working dock line the entrance at Pier Head either side of Wapping High Street.

The following photo is looking back towards Dundee Street from Pier Head. This was originally a swing bridge allowing the channel to be opened up whenever a ship needed to cross between the river and the Wapping Basin. This must have been really impressive to watch.

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When I travelled down the Thames last October I took the following photo from the river showing the entrance to the Wapping basin and the buildings of Pier Head on either side.

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Leaving Pier Head, i headed back to central London down a relatively quiet Wapping High Street until reaching the bustle of St. Katherine’s Docks which, on a busy Friday lunchtime was crowded with people.

The area around Dundee Street has so much history. I have not even touched on the River Police, or the stories associated with Execution Dock, but the area runs the risk of being turned into a quiet suburb of silent apartments lining Wapping High Street. This will be such a loss.

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The Lamb And Flag, Rose Street

After the last few weeks of exploring the River Thames and beneath the city streets, this week it is time to return to London in the late 1940s.

This is my father’s photo of the Lamb and Flag pub in Rose Street, near Covent Garden, taken in 1948. The name Lamb and Flag can be seen just above the entrance to the Saloon. On many London pubs of the time, the name of the brewery was given much greater prominence than the name of the pub. Barclay, Perkins & Co. Ltd were a major London brewery operating from the Anchor Brewery in Park Street, Southwark. The brewery was originally founded in 1616, becoming Barclay, Perkins in 1781 when John Perkins and Robert Barclay took over. Barclay, Perkins merged with Courage in 1955 and the brewery closed in the early 1970s.

Lamb and Flag 2

And my photo of the same pub from the same location 67 years later in 2015.

Lamb and Flag 1

The Lamb and Flag occupies one of London’s older buildings. It was originally built at the same time as Rose Street in 1623 and much of the original timber frame survives although the front was rebuilt in 1958 as can be seen in the above two photos.

The 1958 rebuild of the front of the pub lost many of the original architectural features including what appears to be a parapet running the width of the building at the top of the wall.

A close-up from my father’s photo shows the carving of the Lamb and Flag at the centre of the parapet:

Lamb and Flag 3

The pub has a historic interior, unfortunately it was a bit too crowded for photos at the time of my visit.

To the right of the pub is an alleyway with a side entrance to the Saloon Bar. The alleyway leads  through to Lazenby Court.

Lamb and Flag 4

Halfway along the alleyway, the height of the ceiling drops and at this point is a plaque that records some of the history of the pub and the immediate area. The plaque looks very new, however the reference to Courage and Barclays beers rather than those of Fullers, the current brewery, indicates an older source for the text.

Lamb and Flag 10

The plaque makes reference to Charles Dickens as well as one Samuel Butler.

Butler died in a house on Rose Street and is buried nearby at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. He was a royalist during the English Civil War and at the restoration had a number of posts with other royalists who held key positions close to Charles II.

Butler wrote “Hudibras”, a popular satirical poem directed mainly against religious sectarianism and due to his Royalist sympathies focused on the Roundheads and Puritans.

The plaque also records the attack on the poet John Dryden in 1679 “at the instance of Louise de Keroualle, Mistress of Charles II” for allegedly having written some scurrilous verses about her.

Louise de Keroualle was unpopular in London for being both French and a Catholic, so may not have been the real culprit and an alternative person responsible for the attack was another alleged target of John Dryden’s writings, John Wilmot the Earl of Rochester.

At the time of the attack, Rose Street was a dark and narrow alley and an ideal place to carry out such a deed. Despite Dryden depositing £50 with Child’s Bank in Fleet Street as a reward, the guilty party, responsible for the attack was never identified and a Mistress of Charles II probably sounds a better attribute to the history of the Lamb and Flag than the Earl of Rochester.

Walking through the alleyway into Lazenby Court. This was probably  more open than it is now, forming a small courtyard behind the pub.

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The source of the name Lamb and Flag has a religious basis. The “lamb” is from the Gospel of St. John: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world” and the flag being that of St. George.

The pub was also once known as the Bucket of Blood due to links with prize fighting.

An older sign for Lazenby Court is partly hidden behind the direction sign for the pub.

Lamb and Flag 6

Rose Street runs from Long Acre, adjacent to the map and travel bookshop, Stanfords, down to Garrick Street, however today, it is cut in half by Floral Street.

As with many London streets, it has changed over the years. The following extract from John Rocque’s survey of London from 1746, shows Rose Street, with the alley running up from where the street bends to the left, in exactly the same position as the alley of today, however in 1746 it led to Glastonbury Court rather than today’s Lazenby Court. A very narrow Rose Street runs up to Long Acre.

To the right of Rose Street is Little Hart Street. Today, this street has been renamed Floral Street and extended just past the end of Rose Street where it meets Garrick Street, a street also not yet built in 1746 which cuts diagonally from the junction of Long Acre and St. Martins Lane (the street on the left with just the word Lane showing) down to King Street.

As far as I can tell from checking maps, the part of Rose Street leading up to Angel Alley, along with Angel Alley was lost when Little Hart Street was extended and renamed Floral Street.

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Older sign for Rose Street above the modern name sign.

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In Rose Street, just in front and to the right of the Lamb and Flag is the Westminster Fire Office, one of the original fire insurance companies who also ran a private fire fighting service.

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The door to the building records key dates for the Westminster Fire Office. 1717 was the founding year of the company. Offices were originally based in nearby King Street, but as the company grew more space was needed and in 1875 the company expanded into the building in Rose Street.

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The Lamb and Flag pub is a fascinating historic pub close by Covent Garden and Rose Street is an original street from the development of this part of London. They are both well worth a visit.

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The Founder’s Arms, Falcon Stairs, A Brothel And Confused Street Names

A couple of week’s ago, my post was on No.49 Bankside, one of the few remaining historic buildings in Bankside, and for this week, I have moved across to the other side of Tate Modern, and found how echoes of London’s long history are still visible today, despite what at first sight, appears to be a very recent landscape.

My photo for this week from my father’s collection was taken in 1950. As the street sign confirms, it is on Bankside and looking across to a fine Victorian pub. This is the Founder’s Arms.

Behind the pub is the viaduct, approaching Blackfriars railway bridge, carrying the rail lines across the Thames into Blackfriars Station. A couple of the arches underneath the railway can just be seen to the left of the pub.

Founders 1

Although this part of Bankside has changed dramatically, it is relatively easy to place the location of the Founder’s Arms. The following is my 2015 photo, taken not quite from the same location as the new buildings on the right hide the view of the location of the pub, but using the arches in the railway viaduct and the road layout as reference points, where the pub once stood is now occupied by the single storey building behind the white van. The arches in the viaduct can just be seen on the left.

To the right of the pub in the 1950 photo, the roadway continues down to the wharfs and stairs on the river. Although not a road, this is still a footpath shown in the 2015 photo by the yellow railings. Bankside still curves to the right (although moved slightly away from the river, the original route now occupied by the buildings on the right), and in the 1950 photo, just visible to the left, two cobbled streets appear to be separated by a small part of pavement that extends into the centre left of the photo.

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An alternative viewpoint with a better view of the arches under the viaduct with the position of the Founder’s Arms on the right:

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To help understand the area in more detail, maps covering the last few centuries tell so much of how the area has changed, and what has remained.

Below is the latest Google map of the location. Hopton Street is seen in the middle of the map, coming up to a T junction at the top, with just before this, a small side extension to join with Holland Street.

Turn left at the T junction and the walkway to the river past the original location of the pub is shown in grey. The map still shows a Founder’s Arms, now directly on the river, I will come back to this later.

2015 map

Working back in time, the following map is from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London and shows the road layout as it was at the time of the 1950 photo. I have marked the position of the pub with a red dot.

Compare the roads Holland Street and Hopton Street. The 1940 map has these reversed compared to the Google map, and checking on site, Google is accurate, so was this just a map makers error?

1940 map with spot

Going back 10 years to the 1930 version of Bartholomew’s Atlas and it is even more confusing. Look at the same location near the top of the following map and now both are called Holland Street with no mention of Hopton Street.

1930 map

I checked the 1913 version of the same Atlas (yes, sadly I do have multiple editions of the same London Maps !!)  and the streets are both called Holland Street in this version as well, so I doubt this was an error.

So now, let’s jump back much further to John Rocque’s survey of London from 1746. I have again marked the approximate position of the pub by a red dot. In the John Rocque map, the reference point we can use that is still there today are the Hopton Almshouses which can be seen along The Green Walk. These can also be seen on the Bartholomew maps as the U-shaped building where Holland Street meets Southwark Street.

Founder 6a with spot So, in 1746, neither Hopton or Holland street names existed. Today’s Hopton Street was The Green Walk and today’s Holland Street was part of Gravel Lane.

To start with trying to explain the street name changes, George Cunningham in his survey of London’s streets, buildings and monuments gives an explanation for the name Holland Street:

“Location of the old moated Manor House of Paris Garden, subsequently notorious under the name of Holland’s Leaguer, from Holland, a procuress (an early name for a “woman who procures prostitutes”), who occupied it in Charles I’s time. The old Manor House was a favourite resort of James I and his Court, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and the nobility generally.”

Holland was Sarah Holland who in 1631 had been charged as an “incontinent women” and imprisoned in Newgate. The Manor House was very suitable for her needs as she said it was “near the theatres and baiting rings, with their wild beasts and gladiators”.

George Cunningham’s book was published in 1927 and there is no mention of Hopton Street.

So that explains the source of the name Holland Street, but does not explain why or when The Green Walk and Gravel Lane changed their name. The 1913 Bartholomew Atlas is therefore correct by labelling the two streets (which were in effect one, looping back after reaching Bankside) as Holland Street.

In the original The Green Walk are Hopton’s Almshouses. These were built around 1749 for “twenty-six decayed house-keepers, each to have an upper and lower room with £10 per annum and a chaldron of coals.” They have been occupied continuously since July 1752.

The money (and name) for these came from one Charles Hopton who on his death left a large sum of money to his sister, and on her death the money was used to build the Almshouses. Hopton was born around 1654 into a wealthy merchant family and was a member of the Guild of Fishmongers.

The Almshouses are still there today. A surprise to walk down Hopton Street in the summer and suddenly find these 18th century buildings with at their centre a wonderful colourful garden:

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The Almshouses as they appeared around 1850. A far more austere appearance with no gardens:

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In 1831 there is a description of these as being “those of Mr Hopton in Green Walk” – so it appears the name had not changed to Holland Street by 1831. By the time of Edward Walfords Old and New London (1890) the name had changed to Holland Street.

Hopton Street has one further surprise. This is No. 61 Hopton Street, or when it was first built, No. 9 Green Walk and is the oldest building in the area.

One of a number of houses built by James Price around 1703. This is the sole survivor and is surrounded on all sides by much later (and much larger) additions to Hopton Street. The changes that this house has seen over the centuries must be quite remarkable.

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The change of part of Holland Street to Hopton Street probably occurred around the mid 1930s.

In Grace Golden’s history of Old Bankside, published in 1951, she refers to: “An apparently puritanical drive has recently changed Holland into Hopton Street, named after Charles Hopton”.

Also, the licensing records for the Founder’s Arms state that the original address was 8 Holland Street and the address was changed to 56 Hopton Street between 1934 and 1938.

From this, I assume that in the 1930s, there was an initiative to change from Holland to Hopton Street to erase the reference to what must have effectively been a brothel kept by Sarah Holland at the old Paris Garden’s Manor House.

The reversal of Holland and Hopton Streets between the 1940 and today’s maps was probably down to it being a very recent change in 1940 and an error in recording which leg of Holland Street had changed (although I cannot find out why only part of the street changed – it may have been down to the Almshouses wanting to have an address of their founder rather than the founder of a brothel !)

Before I return to the Founder’s Arms, there is one further name that persists in this small area. At the end of Hopton and Holland Streets is a paved area, planted with trees. This is Falcon Point Piazza:

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Also, the new buildings to the right of the above photo are named Falcon Point:

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If you return to the John Rocque map from 1746 and look on the river’s edge to the lower right of the red circle you will see Faulcon Stairs, one of the many old stairs that led down to the river.

The earliest explanation I can find for the name is from the sport of Falconry that took place in the Paris Gardens that occupied much of this area, so the buildings and the Piazza both retain the name of a sport that took place here hundreds of years ago.

The Falcon name has other associations with the area.

Between the end of Holland / Hopton Streets and the Hopton Almshouses was the Falcon Glass Works. Built in the late 18th century by the firm of Pellatt & Green, partly on the site of a Millpond (the millpond can be seen on John Rocque’s map above. Look slightly below the red dot and to the left and a small shaded area adjacent to the road is the original millpond. The curve of the current road still maintains the outline of the millpond)

Writing of the Glass Works in 1843 in his History of Surrey, Brayley states that “Their present importance and excellence are mainly due to the taste and exertions of the present proprietor and the employment of skilful hands on materials that science and experience approve. By these means the most elegant productions of the Continent are advantageously rivalled, and in some respects surpassed”. 

Falcon Glass Works as they appeared in 1827:

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As can be seen, they were located at the point where Hopton / Holland Streets loop round, back to Southwark Street and Sumner Street. The same location now with the curve of the road (due to the original millpond) still very obvious:

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I have read, but have been unable to corroborate, that the source of the name Founder’s Arms was due to the Glass Works or Foundry as a “Founder” is also an operator of a Foundry.

In addition to the Founder’s Arms, there was a much earlier pub on the site of the Falcon Drawing Dock, (closer to the river, near the stairs). This was the Falcon Tavern which was allegedly used by Shakespeare, but was definitely a major coaching inn, acting as the terminus for coaches to Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The Falcon Tavern was demolished in 1808.

Now if we walk past where the Founder’s Arms use to be back up to the walkway along the river we find both the latest the latest incarnation of the Founder’s Arms and steps leading down to the river, roughly in the location of the Falcon Stairs (I say roughly as with the building of the walkway and other changes it is impossible to be precise).

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A very different pub to the Victorian original but good that for at least 176 years (the earliest record I can find for the Founder’s Arms is from 1839) a pub with the same name has been found in this small area of Bankside.

A rather convoluted story, but one that demonstrates how much is to be found in one very small area of London, and that despite so much reconstruction and change, links with the history of the site are still there to be discovered.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • Old and New London by Walter Thornbury published in 1881
  • London, South of the Thames by Sir Walter Besant published in 1912
  • Survey of London, Volume XXII published by the London County Council in 1950
  • Old Bankside by Grace Golden published in 1951
  • London by George H. Cunningham published in 1927
  • Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London, editions published in 1913, 1930 and 1940
  • A Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster and the Borough of Southwark by John Rocque published in 1746

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Highgate – Pubs, History And Architecture

Highgate has been high on my list to visit as some of my father’s photos from 1948 are of the pubs and buildings around the centre of Highgate and with the recent good weather, a destination with a pub seemed perfect.

Highgate is probably better known for the cemetery of the same name, however the village at the top of the hill is well worth a visit to view some of the architecture and stop at some of the many pubs.

Coming out of London, up Highgate West Hill, after a long climb up to the heights of Highgate we reach the Flask. This is how the Flask looked in 1948:

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And my April 2015 photo shows the pub looking very much the same:

Highgate 1

It is really good that in the intervening 67 years there has not been too much change to the pub. The main difference being the courtyard area in front which is now a seating area, although in the 1948 photo you can just see some tables and chairs to the right and left of the courtyard so perhaps even this has not changed that significantly.

Internally, the pub has avoided the conversion to a large open space, the fate of so many other pubs. The Flask still has many small bar areas and rooms at different levels and is probably much the same as when my father visited in 1948.

The name of the pub is apparently from the flasks that were sold from the pub to collect water from the local springs.

Hogarth allegedly drank at the Flask. From Old and New London:

“During his apprenticeship he made an excursion to this favourite spot with three of his companions. The weather being sultry, they went into a public-house on the Green, where they had not been long, before a quarrel arose between two persons in the same room, when, one of the disputants having struck his opponent with a quart pot he had in his hand, and cut him  very much, causing him to make a most hideous grin, the humourist could not refrain from taking out his pencil and sketching one of the most ludicrous scenes imaginable, and what rendered it the more valuable was that it exhibited the exact likeness of all present.”

Fortunately the Flask was very peaceful during my visit, and it was the perfect location to enjoy the spring sunshine.

Another view of the Flask from the side, passing along Highgate West Hill in 1948:

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And today in April 2015:

Highgate 3

The Flask is now a Fuller’s pub. In 1948 as can be seen from the sign above the entrance it sold Taylor Walker’s Prize Beers.  Taylor Walker was founded in Stepney, East London in 1739 and originally brewed beer in Limehouse. It has been through a number of changes in ownership and is now a brand owned by Spirit Pub Company. At some point since 1948, it was acquired by Fullers who still brew beer in Chiswick, West London.

Part of the Green referred to in the Hogarth reference is still in front of the Flask and gives the impression of being in a country village rather than north London:

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The direction sign gives the very stark choice of either entering Highgate Village or going to the North. Highgate obviously has a very low opinion of the value of visiting anywhere else in the local area.

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Leaving the Flask and completing the walk up the hill, we find another pub, the Gatehouse. Highgate does seem well provided with pubs. In 1826, Old and New London records that there were nineteen licensed taverns. The pubs of Highgate practiced a custom whereby strangers visiting a pub had to swear an oath on a set of animal horns (each pub having their own). Byron referred to the ceremony in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

“Some o’er thy Thamis row the ribboned fair,
Others along the safer turnpike fly;
Some Richmond Hill ascend, some scud to Ware,
And many to the steep of Highgate hie.
Ask ye, Boeotian shades, the reason why?
‘Tis to the worship of the solemn Horn,
Grasped in the holy hand of Mystery,
In whose dread name both men and maids are sworn,
And consecrate the oath with draught and dance till morn.”

The custom died out in the 19th century.

I did not count how many are there today, but there does still seem to be a good number.

This is my father’s photo of the Gatehouse from 1948:

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And from the same location in 2015:

Highgate 5

In 67 years it is remarkable how little change there has been, apart from the style of cars, it is mainly cosmetic.

The Gatehouse may look relatively new, however this is one of the key locations in Highgate and the Gatehouse has a long history.

The name Highgate was first recorded in the 14th century, and refers to one of the Gates that provided access to the park, owned by the Bishop of London that stretched from Highgate, to the Spaniards pub in Hampstead and to East Finchley. There is also a view that the name has an earlier source and is based on “haeg”, the Saxon word for a hedge, where a hedge would also have been used to fence around a park.

At some point early in the 14th century, the Bishops of London had allowed a route through their parkland which due to the height of the land around Highgate, provided a more passable route in winter than the main route north through Crouch End and up to Muswell Hill.

The Gate here, or Gatehouse was to collect tolls from travellers along this route and is on the site of the earliest recorded building in Highgate.

The Gatehouse in 1820:

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The Gatehouse also stood in two different parishes as evident from the parish boundary markers still found on the wall of the building:

Highgate 12

The Gatehouse was split between the Parish of Hornsey and St. Pancras Parish. Being split between two parishes caused problems during some of the functions performed within the building. When used as a court, a rope had to be strung across the floor to divide into the two parishes and ensure that the prisoner did not escape into the other parish.

Boundary changes in 1994 took the whole of the building into the London Borough of Camden.

The gates that gave the Gatehouse its name were removed in 1892 with tolls having finished a few years earlier in 1876.

The location of Highgate, on hills to the north of London made it a popular location to live, close to London, but just far enough away to avoid the dense population, pollution, smoke, smells etc. of the city. There was much development of Highgate in the 18th and 19th centuries and many of these buildings remain today.

Close to the Gatehouse is Pond Square. My father took this photo in 1948:

Highgate 9

And in 2015, remove the scaffolding and the building is much the same.

Highgate 10

The name Pond Square comes from the ponds that were originally in the centre area of the square. The ponds were created by the digging of gravel for maintenance of the roads, however the ponds were filled in during the mid 19th century due to the poor state of the ponds and the associated risks to health (being also used as cesspools).

Looking across Pond Square today, there is no evidence of the ponds, although there is still evidence of what Ian Nairn described in Nairn’s London as:

“Ruined by traffic and a weary flow of municipal improvements – asphalt and crazy walling – which is at its worst in Pond Square. The place could be transformed without altering anything but the surface of the floor.”

Highgate 13

Walking round Highgate I was really pleased to find the location of the following photo. This is one of the many that I was not sure if I would find the location. There is no information, street names, recognisable buildings etc. to identify the location of the photo. It was on a strip of negatives that had one Highgate photo but also had photos of central London.

Highgate 8

This is Southwood Lane looking up into Highgate, and in 2015 it is remarkably much the same:

Highgate 7

Highgate is a fascinating location to visit and as shown by the photos my father took in 1948 and my 2015 photos has changed very little.

As usual, in the space of a weekly blog I have only been able to scratch the surface of the history of Highgate, but it is a location I will certainly be back to explore again.

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Shepherd Market – A Village in Piccadilly

Throughout London there are many small areas that have their own distinct history and unique atmosphere. One of these is Shepherd Market and part of the title of this week’s post “A Village in Piccadilly” is taken from the book of the same title by Robert Henrey, first published in 1942 and describing life in Shepherd Market during the early part of the last war.

Shepherd Market is the core of the area between Curzon Street and Piccadilly, the site of the original May Fair that gave the district its’ name. The following map is taken from the book A Village in Piccadilly:

map from book

Robert Henrey was a journalist, however his wife was the French writer Madeleine Gal who also wrote under the name of Robert Henrey. Writing was a joint enterprise with much of the material being hers and he supplied the editorship. Their son, Bobby Henry was the child star of the British 1948 film “Fallen Idol”.

See the Guardian obituary of Madeleine for more information.

The Henrey’s lived in Shepherd Market during the 2nd World War and the majority of the book is a fascinating account of the impact of the war on life in Shepherd Market and the immediate area around Piccadilly.

Shepherd Market was the site of the original May Fair. This had started in the reign of Edward 1 as the annual St. James Fair after Edward 1 privileged the hospital of St. James to keep an annual fair “on the eve of St. James the day and the morrow, and four days following”. By the reign of Queen Anne it had become the May Fair. The fair had a considerable reputation. A review by the editor of the Observator from the reign of Queen Anne (1702 – 1707) states:

“Oh! the piety of some people about the Queen, who can suffer such things of this nature to go undiscovered to her Majesty and consequently unpunished! Can any rational man imagine that her Majesty would permit so much lewdness as is committed at May Fair, for so many days together, so near to her royal palace if she knew anything of the matter? I don’t believe the patent for that fair allows the patentees the liberty of setting up the devil’s shops and exposing his merchandise for sale”

Unfortunately he does not state the nature of the merchandise for sale !

From 1701 the fair was growing considerably in scope and occupied the area on the north side of Piccadilly, in what would become Shepherd Market, Shepherd Court, White Horse Street, Sun Court, Market Court and the area as far as Tyburn (now Park) Lane.

Within the area of the May Fair was a cottage built in 1618 which was the home of the herdsman who looked after the cattle during the annual fair. This cottage lasted until 1941 when it was destroyed in an air raid. One of the many examples of the large loss of historic buildings during the bombing of the last war.

Robert Henrey’s book describes how the area that held the May Fair became Shepherd Market:

To the north of our village in 1708 was a low house with a garden embowered in a grove of plane-trees. Here lived Mr Edward Shepherd. In 1708 Mr Shepherd had seen a lot of disorderedly behaviour at the May Fair so much that the fair was abolished by Grand Jury presentment, “the year riotous and tumultuous assembly …in which many loose, idle and disorderedly persons did rendezvous, draw and allure young persons, servants, and others to meet there to game and commit lewdness”

The fair did return after a short pause (the temptation of gaming and lewdness probably too much for Londoners of the time), however with London expanding the land started to be built on. Mr Shepherd noticed that the market value of the land made building profitable and he bought the irregular open space on which May Fair had been held and in 1735 built Shepherd Market.

The core of the market consisting of butchers’ shops and the upper floors containing a theatre.

In the map at the top of the post, Hertford Street can be seen to the west of Shepherd Market. In this street was the “Dog and Duck” public house with its duck pond and shaded by willows. Duck hunting was described as one of the “low sports of the butchers of Shepherds Market”.

My reason for tracking down Shepherd Market was to identify the location of two photos taken by my father in the late 1940’s.

The first is of the pub “Ye Grapes” and can be located in the top right hand corner of the map at the start of this post. The following photo is my father’s original:

Ye Grapes

Almost 70 years on, the area is still very much the same. Ye Grapes is still a pub, the alley leading through to Curzon Street is still there and the newsagents to the left of the alley is still a newsagents.

DSC_1156

Ye Grapes is recommended for a drink after some London walking. The bar area is many years old and is what a local London pub should be.

The following is my father’s photo of Market Street:

market street

And the following is my 2014 photo:

DSC_1148

I recommend Robert Henrey’s book, A Village in Piccadilly as it provides a very detailed description of life in a small part of London at the start of the war, when the bombing of London was at its most intensive. The book is a very personal account of the impact on individual shopkeepers and inhabitants of the area through the dramatic early years of the last war.

Whilst the buildings of Shepherd Market have not changed significantly, the area is now home to many small restaurants and does almost have a “village” atmosphere after the noise and congestion of Piccadilly, just a short distance away.

Looking back down towards Shepherd Market from the alley that leads to Curzon Street:

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The following is from the book “A Village in London” and shows an area in 1910 which was later destroyed in an air raid. As the text states, it was kept by the newsagent to remember the “old days”.

shepherd market in 1910

So, if you are in the Piccadilly area, take a short detour to Shepherd Market. Enjoy the restaurants and the pubs, but be moderate with the drink otherwise the riotous and tumultuous assembly and lewd behaviour that was the defining feature of this area for so long may still be just below the surface.

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