Category Archives: London Vistas

Views across London

Panorama Of London

In May 2015 I published the photos I took in 1980 from the viewing gallery at the top of the Shell Centre tower on the Southbank. The viewing gallery was closed for public viewing soon after opening, however I recently found a copy of a booklet titled Panorama of London that was part of the public visit to the gallery and provided fold out views, labelled with the sights to be seen, distances to towns surrounding London and heights of the hills on the horizon.

Walking around the viewing gallery with the booklet, visitors would have been able to pick out all the key features of the view before them. There is no date in the booklet to date publication, however I would estimate it to be from the mid to late 1960s. There is an introduction which provides some statistics on oil consumption with 1960 being the most up to date figure and 1975 being used as a date for expected future consumption.

The views also include Millbank Tower, built in 1963 so the booklet is not from the early 1960s.

The cover of the Panorama of London:

Panorama of London

The booklet starts with an introduction to the Shell Centre complex, informing the visitor that the viewing gallery is on the 25th floor of the Shell Centre tower, 317 feet above sea level. The tower block in total is 351 feet high, just 14 feet lower than the cross of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The booklet has four fold out views, corresponding to the view from each side of the tower. Each view consists of a transparent layer, labelled with the sights to be seen, which overlays a detailed drawing of the view.

So, lets commence a walk around the viewing gallery, starting with the view to the south-east and east from the rear of the tower. (Click on the pictures to open much larger versions).

In this view, Waterloo Station occupies much of the area immediately to the frount, however moving from the east we can see Southwark Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Guy’s Hospital, the Old Vic Theatre. Elephant and Castle, and the Imperial War Museum.

On the horizon, Shooters Hill at 425 feet and a distance of 8.5 miles away, Knockholt Pound at 587 feet is 17.5 miles away and Tatsfield Gt. Farm at 784 feet is at 16.5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

Moving to the side of the tower, we can look towards the north-east and the north. Here we can see the City of London. Bankside Power Station with a smoking chimney is on the south bank of the river. Cranes can still be seen along the south bank of the river between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges. St. Paul’s Cathedral is still the highest building in the City. The view moves to the north passing through Shoreditch, Islington, Holborn and to part of Bloomsbury.

On the horizon is Fox Hatch at 338 feet and 20 miles distant. Epping Forest is 14.5 miles away, and we can see Alexandra Palace on the horizon.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

We now move to the part of the viewing gallery that is at the frount of the Shell Centre Tower, looking from the north-west to the west. On the north-western edge is Senate House of the University of London. We then come to the G.P.O. Tower (now the BT Tower), then Charing Cross Station and Hungerford Railway Bridge, Nelson’s Column, the three parks of St. James’s, Green and Hyde, then the Albert Hall and on the far west, the start of the museums of Kensington with the Victoria and Albert.

On the horizon is Elstree at 478 feet and 12 miles, Harrow Weald at 486 feet and 18 miles, and the Kensal Green Gasholder at 5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

The final view in this Panorama of London is to the south-west and south, from the side of the Shell Centre tower. The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey are across the river, and moving to the south, the chimneys of Battersea Power Station are smoking. We then come to Millbank Tower, Vauxhall Bridge, Lambeth Palace and the Kennington Oval.

On the horizon is Windsor Great Park at 20.5 miles, Oxshott at 257 feet and 15.5 miles, Coulsdon at 468 feet and 12.5 miles and finally Woldingham at 868 feet and 16.5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

In 1980 I walked around the Shell Centre viewing gallery and created my own Panorama of London series of black and white photos of the view. Following the same route as taken in the Panorama of London booklet, I am starting at the rear of the tower, looking towards the south-east:

Panorama of London

Looking over the tracks that lead into Waterloo Station:

Panorama of London

Then round towards the east with the rail tracks running through Waterloo East and onward towards London Bridge.

Panorama of London

Now with the City coming into view with at the time the tallest tower in the City, the NatWest Tower, completed in 1980 and now known as Tower 42.

Panorama of London

In the following view, Stamford Street is leading off towards the east. Kings Reach Tower is adjacent to Stamford Street, completed in 1972 and was the home of IPC Media, the publishing group behind a diverse range of publications from Loaded and NME to Country Life and Marie Claire. The tower has now been converted to apartments with several floors added, and renamed the South Bank Tower. I took photos from the top of this tower in the late 1990s.

Panorama of London

At the junction between Waterloo Bridge, Stamford Street, Waterloo Road and York Road was this large roundabout, now the home of the BFI IMAX cinema.

Panorama of London

Looking over towards the north-east and the towers of the Barbican come into view.

The tall building closest to the camera is the London Studios – ITV’s main home in London. Built in the early 1970s as the home for London Weekend Television (seems strange now remembering the Friday evening switch over to LWT). The studios here had been hosting some of ITV’s daytime output (now moved to the remaining studios at the old BBC Television Centre at White City) and large Saturday night shows. The site is about to be redeveloped with new offices for ITV, a set of smaller studios so that the daytime TV shows can return, and (you have probably guessed) a much taller residential tower which will be built on the site of the existing tower.

Panorama of London

Moving along in my Panorama of London, this is the view over Waterloo Bridge.

Panorama of London

The white building adjacent to the river is the old Shell-Mex House building and moving back, towards the left is Centre Point, at the top of Charing Cross Road.

Panorama of London

Charing Cross Station and the BT Tower.Panorama of London

Slightly further to the left.

Panorama of London

The Ministry of Defence building along the Embankment to the right.

Panorama of London

And finally the Palace of Westminster. The London Eye would now be obscuring much of this view.

Panorama of London

The skyline of London is rapidly changing. For Shell Centre, the office blocks surrounding the base of the tower have been demolished and new apartment blocks are being built around three sides of the original tower.

It would be interesting to see if I can get back up to the viewing gallery in two years time for a 40 year then and now set of photos, as the view will be very different to the Panorama of London and my 1980 photos.

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London And The War Artists Advisory Committee

The problem with this blog is that I am constantly finding out how much I do not know. When I am researching the background for a new post, I find a new subject which takes me off on a tangent – an example being the subject of today’s post, the War Artists Advisory Committee.

Before getting into the detail of the post, I must apologise for the length, the more I looked, the more I found – I hope you will find it interesting.

When i was researching my post of a couple of week’s ago on the Temple church, I found some paintings of the damaged church in the Imperial War Museum online archive. I was aware of the work of a number of war artists, but what I did not know about was the organisation that these paintings referenced, and that was the driving force behind the breadth and depth of artistic records from the Second World War.

The War Artists Advisory Committee was part of the Ministry of Information and the creation of Sir Kenneth Clark who was already involved with a considerable number of artistic enterprises, including the organisation that would later become the Arts Council.

Clark’s plan was that a pictorial record of the war would be produced and as many artists as possible would contribute to the project which would help in keeping artists in employment during the war years. A secondary aim was that by employing a large number of artists, it would save many artists from the fate that befell a generation of artists in the First World War.

The Ministry of Information supported the creation of the War Artists Advisory Committee and the Treasury was persuaded to give financial support, however there was a challenge from the armed forces who saw the War Artists Advisory Committee as removing responsibility for war art from the control of the War Office and the Admiralty.

A compromise was reached, with four artists being allocated to the War Office and one for the Admiralty, who would also pay their salaries, however the War Artists Advisory Committee would have a say in the selection and direction of their work, and full control of the work produced.

The War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC) was given a budget of £5,000 for the first year of operation, and met for the first time on the 23rd November 1939.

The WAAC included representatives from all three of the Armed Services and the wartime Ministries that, due to their wartime importance, were to be covered by artists commissioned by the WAAC. Sir Kenneth Clark was the chairman of the WAAC.

During the war, the WAAC employed a number of artists on a salaried basis, commissioned artists to provide works on a specific subject, and purchased the work of artists presented to the committee.

Over 300 artists would be commissioned by the WAAC. 5,570 works of art would be produced (about half of these works were given to the Imperial War Museum), and the committee’s artists had a global reach, working in all theatres of war.

The WAAC commissioned and purchased a range of works covering the impact of the war in London and it is these works which are the theme of today’s post.

The work produced would cover a wide range of London related topics, however considering that the WAAC was part of the Ministry of Information, work was not commissioned which would show a negative view of the population’s reaction to the war. There are therefore no artistic records of looting, riots or large numbers of the population leaving stricken areas. Where there was injury or death, it was normally shown in a heroic context.

I have chosen a sample of works held by the Imperial War Museum to illustrate the work commissioned by the WAAC across London. These are all  © IWM and are reproduced under the IWM’s  non-commercial share and reuse licence. For each picture, I have included the title, IWM reference and embedded in the title and reference a link back to the original IWM work.

To research this subject, I have also used the book “The War Artists” by Meirion and Susie Harries published in 1983 by Michael Joseph in association with the Imperial War Museum and the Tate Gallery.

So, lets start with:

Roland Vivian Pitchforth

Roland Pitchforth started work with the WAAC at the start, during the so-called phoney war. He had served in the First World War with the Wakefield Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. As a result of this service and the noise of the guns, Pitchforth was stone deaf which caused some problems for the WAAC when considering which commissions he should be sent on. For example, there was real concern that Pitchforth would be shot by an over enthusiastic sentry as he would not have heard any challenges or commands shouted at him.

Despite being deaf, Pitchforth was able to produce a wide range of work for the WAAC, which included initial work across the UK, before being sent further afield to work on board shipping and to the Far East.

Below is a range of his London based work, starting with “Wings for Victory Week: Trafalgar Square, London WC2 (Art.IWM ART LD 2845)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Wings for Victory Week was held in 1943 to raise money for the construction of aircraft. the event ran across the whole of the country. In the above work, a Lancaster Bomber is on display in Trafalgar Square, there are flags of the allied nations in front of the National Gallery. Note the sign for the Public Shelter in the foreground.

Although the next work is located in the outskirts of London, it is an iconic image showing the work of the control room in Uxbridge which had responsibility for analysing all the input from spotters and radar to track enemy aircraft and the coordination the resources needed to attack the enemy.

The work is titled “Group Headquarters, Uxbridge : radiolocation plotters (Art.IWM ART LD 2320)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Pitchforth completed a range of works showing the impact on London when enemy aircraft did get through the defences around London. The first shows demolition workers clearing a bomb site, and is titled: “Demolition Workers, Oxford Street, London W1 (Art.IWM ART LD 1525)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The next work is titled “Jewin Crescent, London EC1 (Art.IWM ART LD 1202)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Jewin Crescent is one of the many streets that were lost under the development of the Barbican. If you walk past the church of St. Giles Cripplegate, past the City of London School for Girls which is on the right. this brings you to an open space of grass and gardens. This was the location of Jewin Crescent.

The following extract from the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London shows Jewin Crescent on the right hand side, just over half way up the map.

War Artists Advisory Committee

The next work is titled “Post Office Buildings (Art.IWM ART LD 939)” and shows a bomb site with steel girders sticking out of the ground.

War Artists Advisory Committee

The next work, titled “Post Office Buildings : the Telephone Exchange (Art.IWM ART LD 938)” shows the church of Christchurch Greyfriars and the Post Office buildings to the right of King Edward Street.

War Artists Advisory Committee

Pitchforth also produced a series of drawings showing the work of those involved in responding to the impact of bombing. The following drawing titled “ARP Practice (Art.IWM ART LD 371)” shows ARP officers in the foreground carrying stretchers to an ambulance, whilst a civilian is being attended to on the ground. In the background, firemen are fighting a fire in the 3rd floor of the buildings.

War Artists Advisory Committee

As well as scenes showing the aftermath of bombing, Pitchforth’s work included many other works showing those involved in the defence of London. The following is an example and is titled “AFS Practice with a Large Pump : On the banks of the Serpentine, London (Art.IWM ART LD 155)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The view is of the Auxiliary Fire Service practising on the side of the Serpentine. A large pump is pushing water through the hoses and I suspect the training is focused on how to keep hold and direct a flow of water under such large pressure.

Roland Vivian Pitchforth was employed throughout the war by the WAAC. Rather than taking up individual paid commissions, Pitchfork was a salaried employee which provided him with permanent employment and also helps account for the large number of works he completed for the WAAC.

Anthony Gross

Before the war, Anthony Gross had spent almost 20 years as an artist in France. After his return to England, and at the start of the war he was taken on under the WAAC and soon became a salaried War Office Artist. He spent the first couple of years drawing and painting army life before embarking on a lengthy tour throughout the Middle East.

The following work is one that Gross completed of a scene in London and is titled “Roof Spotters (Art.IWM ART LD 684)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The year is 1940 and the scene is of a couple of roof spotters looking out across London. Their role was to watch for, locate and report enemy aircraft and the impact of bombs across the city. In the foreground  is a mapping table and St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge can be seen in their field of view.

His travel as a war artist in the Middle East was extensive. Starting in  Egypt, he then worked through Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. He was described by other war artists as being exceptionally good company and his travel diaries record a succession of “piss ups” and “beanfeasts”.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore was already an established artist and art teacher at the start of the war. He had served in the First World War and been injured during a gas attack.

Whilst not formally employed by the WAAC, a number of his works were purchased and he was commissioned for a number of specific projects.

His work was not simply an image of what he saw. Blurring much of the image and lack of detail produced an image that focused the eye on a specific subject. Moore produced a series of works showing Londoners huddled in the Underground stations, and the following is an example. Titled “Women and Children in the Tube (Art.IWM ART LD 759)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The women and children in the front of the picture are clearly drawn, however the figures become more ghost like as the view moves to the right.

Henry Moore was directly impacted by London bombing. His Hampstead house and studio was badly damaged by a bomb, so much so that he had to move out and relocated to a hamlet in Hertfordshire which would be his home for the rest of his life.

Edmond Xavier Kapp

Edmond Kapp also fought in the First World War. During the conflict he was gassed after which he withdrew from front line fighting and worked in an intelligence role.

During the Second World War, Kapp received a number of commissions to provide drawings of people sheltering under London during the blitz. A series of drawings were made in the crypt under the church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields and the following drawing titled “Ready for Christmas: the Canteen under St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields (Art.IWM ART LD 800)” is an example from the series.

War Artists Advisory Committee

The drawing shows the canteen ready for a Christmas celebration, with a couple of figures standing at the bar.

Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland was an established pre-war artist, teaching at the Chelsea School of Art. He received his first commission from the WAAC in June 1940 and second set of commissions in August 1940. These were to produce works from around the country rather than in London. It was in January 1941 that he received a salary of £325 to cover six months of work, which ended up covering the City and East End.

During this period, he would spend occasional nights in the City, including sleeping in the deck chairs arranged around the Gallery of the Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. His works from this period are very dramatic views of the devastation he found. An example being the following work titled “The City : A fallen lift shaft (Art.IWM ART LD 893)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Sutherland’s experiences at the time reveal the response of many of the victims of London bombing, often not portrayed in stories of the “blitz spirit”.

Sutherland requested a camera so he could quickly take photos of the scenes he wanted to paint. This would avoid spending time at a site drawing or painting as “it is difficult to draw in some places without rousing a sense of resentment in the people”.

It was a common experience among many of the war artists concentrating on the impact of London bombing. Those living in the areas they wanted to paint, and had suffered the impact of bombing often complained that war artists were “cashing in” on their misfortunes.

Harold Sandys Williamson

Harold Williamson was a commercial artists who also fought and was wounded in the First World War. He completed a short series of commissions for the WAAC, which included the following “An Emergency Telephone Office in the City: January 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1189)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The image shows on the left an exterior view of a couple of figures looking over a bomb site, and on the right is a public telephone office with temporary booths set up in the foreground. Temporary telephone services were setup across the city where services into offices, warehouses and homes had been destroyed.

Dennis Flanders

Denis Flanders was an east London artist and draughtsman who used his skills during the war as part of the School of Military Engineering and later when he would create models of landscapes based on aerial reconnoissance photos.

The WAAC purchased a number of his works, showing bomb damaged buildings across the country, including Exeter, Canterbury and London.

His skill as a draughtsman is clear when looking at these drawings of the interiors of bombed buildings. The following is “The Church Of St Anne and St Agnes : Gresham Street, EC2 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1233)

War Artists Advisory Committee

These drawings are excellent, not just by showing the damage to these buildings, but also the level of architectural detail.

The following is titled “St Stephens, Walbrook, 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1381)

War Artists Advisory Committee

As well as detailed studies of the interiors of bombed buildings, Flanders also produced view of bombed streets and buildings, again with an attention to detail. The following is of “London : Clearance of debris between Gresham Street and St Paul’s, 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 2214)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The picture shows the level of damage between Gresham Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The church in front of the cathedral is St. Vedast, Foster Lane.

Flander’s life’s work was drawing the landscape and ancient buildings of Britain. He would cover the country by train in search of new subjects. Many of these drawings were finally published in a book “Britannia” in 1984. The subtitle to the book is “Being a Selection of the Work of Dennis Flanders Who for Half a Century has Observed, Drawn and Loved the Landscape and Architecture of the British Isles” – that’s a rather good summary for a life’s work.

Leonard Henry Rosoman

Leonard Rosoman was teaching life classes at the Reimann School in London in 1939. He joined the Auxiliary Fire Service during the war and his experience during the blitz provided him with the source material for a number of his works.

His most well known work is the following, “A House Collapsing on Two Firemen, Shoe Lane, London, EC4 (Art.IWM ART LD 1353)” The wall collapse happened in front of Rosoman and the two firemen underneath the collapsing wall are his colleagues.  As an example of the challenges of accurate source data, the book “The War Artists” states that both firemen were killed whereas Rosoman’s obituary states that one of the firemen was the novelist and travel writer William Sansom (a friend of Rosoman), and the other, unnamed fireman, died in the collapse. It was this fireman that had just taken over the hose from Rosoman. The event would go on to haunt Rosoman for the rest of his life.

War Artists Advisory Committee

No matter which of the sources are correct, the painting depicts a scene that Rosoman experienced and graphically portrays the very real dangers faced by the firefighters on a daily basis.

As well as his work during the blitz, Rosoman was recruited by the war office to illustrate fire fighting books.  When Rosoman painted the above picture he was not employed by the WAAC. The painting was purchased by the WAAC in August 1941 following an exhibition of work by Firemen Artists and Civil Defence Artists. Later in the war he was employed by the WAAC when he would spend some considerable time with the British Pacific Fleet, painting the shipping and ships crew.

The following photo (© IWM D 2617) shows Leonard Rosoman (sitting on the right) and the next artist, Bernard Hailstone (sitting on the left) on the rubble of a bomb site somewhere in London in 1940.

War Artists Advisory Committee

Bernard Hailstone

Bernard Hailstone was also a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service and would have experienced the same death and destruction as Rosoman.

The following is an example of his work and is titled “An Evening in the City : April 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1354)”. The painting shows the final damping down of a fire in the rubble of an earlier raid. The church in the background is St. James Garlickhythe.

War Artists Advisory Committee

After his work in the Auxiliary Fire Service, the WAAC commissioned Hailstone to travel with elements of the Merchant Navy Service and he toured the world working on this subject until the end of the war.

His post war career saw Hailstone become a very successful portrait painter. His work included subjects such as Winston Churchill and Laurence Olivier.

Ernest Boye Uden

Ernest Boye Uden was a commercial artist living in Greenwich at the outbreak of war. From 1941 onwards he was an artist for the National Fire Service and his work covers many scenes from across London during the blitz.

The following painting is titled “NFS Relief Crews Arriving at Millbank, London, May 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1359)” The location is at what is now the roundabout at the end of Lambeth Bridge, looking along Millbank to the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster.

War Artists Advisory Committee

In the next painting by Uden, we are close to the River Thames and a fire crew are moving their equipment to a fire on the right as indicated by the billowing smoke. The painting is titled “A Large Fire near the Thames, October 1940 (Art.IWM ART LD 1358)

War Artists Advisory Committee

After the war, Uden taught at the Reigate School of Art and continued his work as a commercial artist.

Henry Samuel Merritt

Merritt was commissioned to record the ruins of London after bombing raids. The following image shows the devastation to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is titled “St Nicholas Cole Abbey : Queen Victoria Street, EC4 (Art.IWM ART LD 1509)” and shows the ruins of the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey on the left.

War Artists Advisory Committee

The illustration is very similar to a photo that my father took of the church and area to the south of the cathedral, however by the time my father has taken the following photo in 1947 the remains of the badly damaged buildings seen in front of the cathedral in Uden’s picture had been cleared (see my post on the church here).

War Artists Advisory Committee

Merritt’s wartime work was very different to the country and coastal scenes that were his typical subject matter.

Paul Nash

Paul Nash had been a War Artist during the First World War and had created a series of works that uniquely captured the horror of the battlefields. Although he was chronically ill with bronchial asthma he took up an artist position with the Air Ministry at the start of the Second World War (the Air Ministry wanted to run their own separate scheme outside the WAAC), however Nash was later recruited as a salaried artist into the WAAC.

His modernist style was often viewed as not suitable to depict the events of war, however the works he did create provide a very unique viewpoint of events during the war, which included the following titled “Battle of Britain (Art.IWM ART LD 1550)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Although not strictly a London scene, the viewpoint is from above London with the River Thames winding towards the estuary and the sea. Barrage balloons protecting the city can be seen at lower left and the trails of dogs fights run across the sky. To the upper right a formation of planes can be seen, possibly a formation of bombers making their way to the city. There is also the trail of dark smoke coming from a stricken plane as it crashes into the water.

The painting captures so much about the Battle of Britain and the raids on the city.

Nash would die soon after the war in July 1946, however his work from both the First and Second World Wars capture the horror and scale of these conflicts.

Louisa Puller

Louisa Puller was an artist who worked for the project funded by the Pilgrim Trust to Record the Changing Face of Britain, a project to record the rapidly changing countryside and urban landscapes of Britain in the 1940s.

The WAAC also purchased some of Puller’s work, one of which was “St Paul’s Cathedral : seen from Chiswell Street, near Moorgate Street,London (Art.IWM ART LD 1692)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The view shows the devastation caused by the raids of 1940/41 across the City and are in stark contrast to her work for the Recording Britain project which documented the rural side of the country as shown, for example, in the following work from 1942 of a livestock market in Cross Hayes, Malmesbury (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London):

War Artists Advisory Committee

Duncan James Corrows Grant

Duncan Grant was a member of the Bloomsbury Group of artists and lived at 21 Fitzroy Square. During the war he was commissioned by the WAAC to produce two paintings, one of which is “St Paul’s 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1844)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The painting is from the south of St. Paul’s and again shows the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey. The wooden fencing is alongside Queen Victoria Street and the remains of the cellars that were under buildings that once stood on the southern side of Queen Victoria Street are in the foreground of the picture.

Henry Rushbury

Henry Rushbury had been a First World War artist and was employed by the WAAC for the duration of the Second World War. He was known for his ability to record busy scenes and the majority of his work appears to have been munitions factories and shipbuilding. As an example of how the WAAC worked, Rushbury was commissioned by the WAAC for 100 guineas to complete three large drawings of shipbuilding on the Clyde.

He also produced some London based work, which included the following titled “Warships Week, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2, 1942 (Art.IWM ART LD 1929)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The scene shows Trafalgar Square decorated with flags, including naval signal flags with a mock-up of part of a war ship in the centre of the square.  Warship Week was an event organised by Narional Savings to raise money to fund the build of warships and associated naval craft.

John Edgar Platt

John Edgar Platt was an art teacher before the war, and worked on a number of commercial projects which included the design of posters for the London Underground.

During the early years of the Second World War, a number of his works were purchased by the WAAC and in 1943 he received a contract to produce paintings of river and coastal based transport. This commission was only made possible when a representative from the Ministry of War Transport joined the WAAC in 1943 and persuaded the Treasury to provide the funding for two artists to work on transport based subjects.

The following work is an example of his depiction of River Thames traffic and is titled “War-time traffic on the river Thames: War-supplies at Paul’s Wharf (Art.IWM ART LD 2640)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Note the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral which is just visible in the gap between the buildings on the far side of the river.

William Lionel Clause

Although William Lionel Clause lived in London, he was mainly a landscape artist. Rather than works covering bomb sites, ruins, military equipment etc. his work for the WAAC always included people as the main subject. The following being an example “Civil Defence Day – 15th November 1942 : At the south door of St Paul’s Cathedral. The march past of representatives of all Civil Defence Services. (Art.IWM ART LD 2864)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The street edge in the foreground has the standard wooden fencing used across the City to fence of the street from the remains of building basements and cellars. In the background a couple of barrage balloons can be seen in the sky.

His work for the WAAC were his last main commissions as he died soon after in 1946.

Ian Strang

Ian Strang’s work consisted mainly of drawings and etchings as he was an accomplished draughtsman. He had served in the First World War and produced a number of works during this period.

Although not directly employed by the WAAC in the Second World War, a number of his works were purchased by the WAAC. These consisted of detailed drawings of bomb sites in London. The title of the first drawing by Strang is “Cassell’s Tower and the Spire of St Bride’s, Fleet Street, London, EC4 (Art.IWM ART LD 3782)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The view is looking across ruins of bombed building towards the spire of St. Bride’s Church. In common with other wartime works, barrage balloons can be seen in the sky.

The next drawing is titled “St Michael Paternoster Royal, College Hill, London, EC4 (Art.IWM ART LD 3785)

War Artists Advisory Committee

A railway viaduct runs along the left of the picture and from this descend a couple of large pipes that then run along the ground in the direction of the church. These were probably put in place to replace underground services that were damaged, or could have been pipes leading up from the river which carried water to a number of temporary reservoirs put in place across the City to provide emergency suppliers of water for fire fighting.

The next drawing is titled “Ruins in Cripplegate, London, EC1 (Art.IWM ART LD 5305)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The steps, now without a destination, are all that remain of the building that once stood on the site.

Frederick T.W. Cook

Frederick Cook sold a couple of works to the WAAC. In the following painting the main theme of the work is easy to miss at first glance, however look above the right hand tower of Tower Bridge and a Flying Bomb can be seen, the orange flame from the missile running back across the top of the bridge. Search lights are scanning the sky and one appears to have found its target. The painting is titled “A Flying-bomb over Tower Bridge (Art.IWM ART LD 4719)

War Artists Advisory Committee

C. Eliot Hodgkin

Eliot Hodgkin worked for the Ministry of Information during the war, and although he do not work directly for the WAAC, he was making paintings of bomb sites, mainly focusing on the plants that were colonising these sites in the later years of the war. He was offered a commission in 1945 and delivered two paintings to the WAAC, one of which was accepted so this is Hodgkin’s only work within the scope of the WAAC. Although it is basically a view of another bomb site, the difference is the focus on the plants growing in the foreground.

The work is titled “The Haberdashers’ Hall, 8th May 1945 (Art.IWM ART LD 5311)” and shows the ruins of the Haberdashers Hall with examples of the plants that had swiftly colonised the City bomb sites in the foreground.

War Artists Advisory Committee

Ethel Gabain

Ethel Gabain was a French / British artist who spent much of her life in Hampstead. Gabain was one of the first artists commissioned by the WAAC in early 1940 and she worked across the country, mainly focusing on detailed portraits of people.

The WAAC commissioned a series of paintings of women who had taken over the jobs of the men who had been called up to the services. Her work also included women employed in many of the auxiliary services and the following is an example, titled “Sandbag Filling, Islington Borough Council (Art.IWM ART LD 1443)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The final work by the WAAC in today’s post is the following by Gabain. One her commissions by the WAAC was a series of five lithographs on the theme of Children in Wartime. Although in Southend rather than London, this scene of children being evacuated by train would have been a common site in London – my father was one of those evacuated at the start of the war, but he quickly returned after only a few weeks away.

The title of the work is “The Evacuation of Children from Southend, Sunday 2nd June 1940
by Ethel Gabain. (Art.IWM ART LD 264)”

War Artists Advisory Committee

Gabain produced a significant number of works for the WAAC during the war years, with a total of 38 being purchased. This level of output was completed despite poor health, and having to travel the country in search of her subjects.

The War Artists Advisory Committee managed to last through the war, despite financial challenges from the Treasury and continued competition from the Armed Forces who believed they should own the responsibility for the art produced by their own part of the forces.

The War Artists Advisory Committee continued to the end of 1945, however with the end of the Ministry of Information, there was no home for the WAAC and the committee was dissolved after 197 meetings. Administration of the collection produced for the WAAC passed to the Imperial War Museum.

The War Artists Advisory Committee was responsible for producing a considerable body of work, documenting nearly all aspects of the war.

I hope that this sample of works covering London has illustrated the work of the WAAC and the considerable talents of the artists working for the committee.

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A Bankside Panorama In 1947 And 2017

I have covered Bankside a number of times, however in this week’s post I want to show a different perspective of Bankside, as it was in 1947 from the north bank of the River Thames, before any of the developments that would transform the area from industrial to the arts and leisure Bankside that we see today.

For the post, I am covering the area of Bankside from Tate Modern (the old Bankside Power Station) up to Southwark Bridge.

My father took the following photo of part of Bankside in 1947:

Bankside Panorama

And here is my photo of the same area on a grey day in 2017:

Bankside Panorama

In the centre of the 2017 photo, behind the two trees is the Globe Theatre. To the right of this are the only couple of buildings that are the same in the two photos. Just behind the tree to the right of the Globe is 49 Bankside, the three storey white building (I covered 49 Bankside and Cardinal Cap Alley in detail in a post which can be found here).

To the right of 49 Bankside is a short row of houses, which again are the same in both photos. Everything else in the two photos has changed.

The building immediately to the left of 49 Bankside in the 1947 photo was the office and factory of Craig and Rose. Their name can be seen in large white letters along the top of the first floor. Between the ground and first floors are the words “Forth Bridge Brand Paints”.

Craig and Rose were a paint manufacturer who are still in business today and claim to be the UK’s oldest independent paint manufacturer.

The company was established in 1829 by James Craig and Hugh Rose, two Scottish entrepreneurs who set up the business in Edinburgh. The business expanded rapidly and in 1880 won the contract to supply paint for the Forth Bridge, with their Red Oxide paint being supplied to paint the bridge until 1993.

The Bankside building was constructed in 1897 for Craig and Rose, and operated until the early 1950s. Craig and Rose are now based in Scotland.

When I was sorting through my files of scans of my father’s photos I found the following photo which was taken on the same day as the above 1947 photo.

This is of the original Bankside Power Station on the left and the Phoenix Gas Works on the right. I wrote about the original Bankside Power Station in this post where there are photos of the first phase of the new power station built over the site of the gasworks.

Bankside Panorama

On the left of the above photo is a conveyor belt running from almost the top of the power station down to the ground on the extreme left of the photo. I believe this was to transport coal into the power station ready to be burnt.

This conveyor belt is also visible in the photo at the top of the post with 49 Bankside and Craig and Rose, so despite the photos being different orientations I put the two together to produce the following view of the wider Bankside:

Bankside Panorama

And with a bit of cropping and some very amateur joining of photos I present a Bankside Panorama in 1947 and seventy years later in 2017.

Bankside Panorama

Only a small part of the Millennium Bridge is shown as for the photo on the left, I had to take this from almost under the bridge to provide a slightly angled view otherwise with a straight on view, 49 Bankside, the key building in both 1947 and 2017 was obscured by the tree.

I am not sure what is the most remarkable – that this stretch of Bankside has changed so much, or that 49 Bankside and the short row of houses to the right have managed to survive when everything else along this stretch of the river has been redeveloped.

The two photos also show how use of the river has changed. In 1947 the river was busy with lighters and barges moored along the river. Today, the river is quiet apart from tourist boats and the Thames Clipper river buses. I believe the moving boat on the left of the 1947 photo is a police launch as it looks identical to photos I have of moored police launches by Waterloo Bridge.

It was interesting to stand on the north bank of the river with the 1947 Bankside panorama in hand, looking at the view of Bankside seventy years later.

I do need to return when the leaves have fallen from the tree in front of number 49, and the lighting is better so I can get an improved 2017 view, with the bridge and avoiding the grey backdrop, however I hope you find the two panoramas of Bankside as interesting as I have.

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Flying Over London

One of my first posts, three years ago, was about flying over London in a vintage de Havilland Dragon Rapide. I took a number of these flights between 1979 and 1983 as I loved flying, I had started working so I could afford tickets and I had a reasonable camera.

I continue to scan my negatives and I recently found some more photos of flying over London from Biggin Hill, over east London and the City before returning to Biggin Hill. For today’s post, here are a selection of photos from the earliest (black and white) to the later years (colour) of flying over London in a de Havilland Dragon Rapide.

I will start with the earliest and you will see an improvement over the years in the cameras I was using.

Firstly, here is the de Havilland Dragon Rapide. A design from the 1930s with this plane being manufactured in 1946:

Flying over London

The flights from Biggin Hill changed the routes taken to get from the airfield to the City each year which provided the opportunity to see different parts of south London. The flying height was low enough so that detail on the ground was clear, and the lower speed compared to jet aircraft allowed sufficient time to pick out the locations along the route.

In the following photo, the large cemetery in the lower left of the photo is alongside Hither Green Crematorium, with Catford in the background of the photo.

Flying over London

Hither Green – the railway can be seen running from the bottom of the photo, just to the left of centre, with Hither Green station being roughly a quarter of the way up the railway line:

Flying over London

Bromley:

Flying over London

The distinctive loop of houses to the lower right of the following photo is the appropriately named Oval Road, just to the immediate north-east of East Croydon Station.

Flying over London

The next three photos are flying up to and over Rotherhithe and the land once occupied by the Surrey Commercial Docks. The Isle of Dogs can be seen across the river.

Flying over London

Flying over London

Flying over London

Moving on to a later year and I have changed to colour film and the flight from Biggin Hill has taken a slightly different route so we can see the Thames Barrier in the final stages of construction:

Flying over London

Flying over London

The northern end of the Isle of Dogs with from the top, the West India Dock (Import), the West India Dock (Export) and the South Dock. If you look just above the top dock, over to the right is the spire of a church, this is All Saints Church, Poplar. The Balfron Tower can be seen just behind the spire of  the church.

Hard to believe that this is now the Canary Wharf development and One Canada Square is now in the centre of these docks.

Flying over London

Looking back over the Isle of Dogs. Limehouse Basin is the area of water in the centre of the photo.

Flying over London

Looking back over Limehouse Basin. The Limehouse Cut can be seen running from the top corner of the basin. The Regent Canal is the line running from the lower left corner.

Flying over London

The church of St. Mary the Virgin, Rotherhithe is clearly visible in the lower part of the following photo. Shadwell Basin is across the river.

Flying over London

Approaching the City:

Flying over London

In the following photo, the railway line into Liverpool Street Station is running from lower right to top left of the photo. The grassed area in the centre of the photo is Weavers Fields, Bethnal Green.

Flying over London

Another view looking along the railway into Liverpool Street Station. Bethnal Green on the right, Stepney and Whitechapel on the left.

Flying over London

Approaching the City:

Flying over London

This was the view of the City when the NatWest Tower (now Tower 42) was the highest building in the City. It had just been completed when this photo was taken.

Flying over London

Flying over the river, looking west. This was before HMS Belfast was moored on the river and when warehouses still covered much of the south bank. Note the flying boat moored just north of Tower Bridge. This was a Shorts Sandringham – a remarkable sight to see on the river. The large white building on the north bank of the river is the old British Telecom Mondial House building.

Flying over London

Now for the final trip with a better camera and film, and a different route. The sports ground at Crystal Palace:

Flying over London

Slightly different angle on Crystal Palace. The tall Crystal Palace TV mast can be seen in the upper right of the photo:

Flying over London

Not sure where the next two photos are, somewhere over south London:

Flying over London

That may well be Croydon to the upper right:

Flying over London

The isle of Dogs again:

Flying over London

View looking over Bermondsey, Southwark and Lambeth with the railway running into London Bridge Station in the lower right quarter of the photo, long before the Shard.

Flying over London

View from over south London looking north. The River Thames is running across the middle of the photo from left to right. The green areas in the upper part of the photo are St. James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park.

Flying over London

Another photo looking from south London over towards the north west. Just to the left of centre is the old gas holder at Battersea. The chimneys of Battersea Power Station can be seen just to the right of the gas holder and Battersea Park behind.

Flying over London

View looking over the City:

Flying over London

The City of London, with still the Nat West Tower being the only really tall building. Note also how few cranes there are across the City. I counted about five in this photo. It would be very different now. The rate of construction has increased rapidly since the early 1980s.

Flying over London

Another view of the City.

Flying over London

HMS Belfast is now moored on the river.

Flying over London

A final view whilst crossing the river.

Flying over London

These flights let me pursue my early interests in flying, photography and London all at the same time. Unfortunately I have not taken any similar flights since the early 1980s. My aerial views of London now are when I have been working abroad and fly back into Heathrow. I always make sure I book a seat on the right of the plane in the hope that the landing will be from the east, and even after all these years, I am still the one with my camera pressed up against the window.

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The Furthest Object Visible From The Shard

To conclude my posts on the views from five of London’s high view-points, here is one where my interest in obscure facts about London comes into play.

When standing at the top of the Shard, I wanted to know what is the furthest object visible from this height in central London. The first photo below shows what I believe was the furthest object. This is just visible with the naked eye and the conditions towards the east were good. I used my standard Nikon 18 – 200 lens at maximum to take these and they are clearer on my PC screen when not compressed for the Internet.

If you look at the following photo, on the horizon on the left is the ghostly outline of a tower. This was the chimney at the Isle of Grain power station. The chimney was 801 feet high and a major landmark in north Kent and the Thames Estuary. I say was, as the chimney was demolished on the 7th September, a couple of weeks after I took these photos. (see the article at Kent Online for a video).

isle-of-grain-chimney-1

Using the really useful “measure distance” feature of Google Maps, the distance from the Shard to the chimney was 34.58 miles. The measure distance feature also helps to confirm the location by lining up with other landmarks, In the photo above, the approach from the Essex side of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge can be seen across the centre right. This lines up in the map extract below:

isle-of-grain-map-1

So, at 34.58 miles I believe this was the furthest object visible from central London (please let me know if you know of another).

As this chimney no longer exists, the next furthest is shown in the photo below. Look on the horizon to the right of the photo and another ghostly chimney can be seen. This is the chimney at Kingsnorth Power Station. The photo below also helps tell how industry has changed along the River Thames. There are four chimneys visible:

  • the ghostly chimney of Kingsnorth Power Station
  • in the foreground, the chimney of Littlebrook Power Station on the Thames by the Queen Elizabeth II bridge
  • on the left, the two chimneys of Tilbury Power station, also on the Thames

All these power stations, including the one at the Isle of Grain, were powered by coal or oil and as such are all in the process of being decommissioned and demolished due to various directives to reduce emissions from the heaviest polluters used in electricity generation.

At one time a whole string of power stations operated along the River Thames, including Lotts Road in Chelsea, Battersea, Greenwich (still a reserve power station) and along the Thames to the estuary. In the next couple of years, all the chimneys in the photo below will also have disappeared removing some striking landmarks from along the river.

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The distance from the chimney at Kingsnorth Power Station to the Shard is 30.3 miles:

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There is another object visible on the horizon that helps explain the original purpose of the BT Tower. Look at the following photo and the outline of a structure is visible on the horizon.

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This is a tower at Kelvedon Hatch, just north of Brentwood in Essex, built as part of a chain around the country to support a microwave radio communications network for telephone, TV and other more secure communications. The ring around London provided a link from the BT Tower to the rest of the country.

Microwave radio signals travel by line of sight, so the antennas that transmit and receive these signals need to be high in order for the signal (which has a very narrow beam, similar to a visible laser beam) to pass across the country.

The locations of these radio towers, including the BT Tower, were not originally marked on any maps, despite how obvious they were in the landscape and the amount of interesting looking antennae dishes covering the towers.  It was an article in the Sunday Times magazine on the 28th January 1973 (which, sadly I still have) that published the details of the system, locations and photos of many of the towers across the country, that caught my very young interest in technology and infrastructure.

Looking back through my photos from the Sky Garden, the tower is also visible from this lower location, which makes sense as the height of the BT Tower is 627 feet (with the antennas mounted lower), mush less than the Shard.

kelvedon-tower-2

There are other masts surrounding London which enabled the BT Tower to communicate with the rest of the country. These included the mast at High Wycombe, adjacent to the M40, and at Bagshot in Surrey. These should have been visible from the Shard, however I suspect lighting conditions were not ideal in these directions.

The system has been redundant for many years, fibre cable in the ground providing a much more secure and efficient means of communicating than a network of large towers around the country, and the horn and dish antennas have been removed from the BT Tower.

The masts now carry a mix of local commercial services, but they remain a reminder of the communications technology from over 50 years ago and of the original purpose of the BT Tower.

If you know of any visible objects further than the Isle of Grain and Kingsnorth chimneys, I would be really interested to know.

The views of London from the Monument, Sky Garden, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Shard and London Eye are excellent, but also take a look at the far horizon as there are also things to be seen that tell a story of both the Thames and London.

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My London 5 Peaks Challenge – The Shard And The London Eye

Continuing from my last post and my visit to five of London’s high view points in a single day, after leaving St. Paul’s Cathedral, it was time to cross over the river to visit the two that are located on the southern bank of the river. The first being:

The Shard

The Shard is very different to the first three locations. It is on the southern side of the River Thames and separate from the cluster of towers around the City. It is also by far the highest so the viewing platforms at the top of the Shard provide some spectacular views of the city, as well as providing some unique views of the south bank of the river.

The viewing galleries at the top of the Shard are over 800 feet high with the overall height of the Shard being 1,016 feet, compared to the 525 feet of the Sky Garden so the Shard is significantly higher than other view points and this is very noticeable as soon as you step from the lifts and out to the viewing area. Glass covers the viewing area so taking photos without reflections and avoiding marks on the glass from an endless stream of visitors is a challenge.

The first view, looking to the east with the River Thames winding towards the isle of Dogs and the rail tracks from London Bridge Station cutting through south-east London.

shard-1

View down towards City Hall:

shard-2

Looking towards the old Olympic Stadium at Stratford. This view will change over the coming years with the amount of building planned for around the Olympic Park. The higher ground in the distance is beyond Chigwell and Romford.

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The Tower of London:

shard-4

Wider view including the City:

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The Monument, a quarter of the height of the Shard viewing gallery:

shard-6

The best way to appreciate the height of the Shard is to look straight down at the buildings surrounding the base – almost as if you are looking down at a model city:

shard-7

Back over towards the west of the City. The three towers of the Barbican are towards the left of the photo.

shard-8

St. Paul’s Cathedral from this height still stands clear of the cathedral’s immediate surroundings:

shard-9

Close up view of the cathedral. Again, from this height it almost looks like a highly detailed model. The Golden Gallery is at the top of the dome:

shard-10

View towards the Barbican:

shard-11

From the Shard it is possible to see how railway viaducts have cut through the area immediately to the south of the river. In the following photo, Southwark Cathedral is in the very lower right of the photo. Borough Market is to the left of the cathedral.

The rail tracks run to the right across the river to Cannon Street station. To the bottom of the photo is London bridge and to the left they run to Waterloo East.

shard-12

A number of the plans for post war redevelopment of London proposed transferring the train network from viaducts to tunnels under the city in order to remove the impact of these viaducts. The benefits were justified as, bringing communities together, release of space for building homes and businesses, removing the bridges from across the Thames to improve the view and use of the river.

The following photo from one of the reports shows the view of the same rail junction as above taken before the war. Despite all the proposals for transferring these rail tracks to tunnels, nothing was done after the war. The considerable cost and the financial challenges of the late 1940s and 1950s prevented any of these ambitious plans being developed – see my posts here and here.

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Looking across to Waterloo and it is clear that the area between the junction at the bottom of the photo and Waterloo and Hungerford Bridge at the top is almost walled in by the railway viaduct.

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View of the BT Tower and Wembley Stadium in the background. Tottenham Court Road runs between Centre Point (the building on the left) and Euston Tower (the building on the right).

shard-14

As well as housing lots of communications equipment, the original primary purpose of the BT Tower was to provide a tall building in the centre of London on which microwave radio antennas (the old horn and dish shaped objects removed from the area below the old revolving restaurant) could be mounted at sufficient height to send their radio signals to a ring of radio masts around the periphery of London and from there, around the country. As well as providing the network for telephone calls and TV transmissions across the country, the BT Tower was also part of the communications network that was somewhat optimistically expected to provide communications during any Cold War attack on the country.

I will cover a bit more about this in the next post when I look at the furthest objects that can be seen from the Shard.

The view towards the south and south-east of London.

shard-15

From the Shard, there is just so much detail to study. Here in the centre of this photo is Greenwich. The Observatory is to the right of centre, with the park running down to the Queen’s House and the old Royal Naval College. The dome of the Greenwich foot tunnel can also be seen.

shard-16

Look further to the left of Greenwich and part of the Thames Barrier and the Woolwich Ferry can be seen. The view is across the Isle of Dogs and shows the curve of the river. The river on the west side of the Isle of Dogs can just be seen running along the bottom of the photo before curving round off photo to the right, then continuing to run eastwards towards the estuary.

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The Shard viewing gallery is still a little distance from the very top of the building. The top floor of the viewing gallery is open to the weather.

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Full view of the Isle of Dogs including the tallest building in the Canary Wharf development – One Canada Square. Still shorter at 771 feet than the Shard, although the view from the top of One Canada Square is excellent.

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The white building of the Metropolitan Police River Policing Unit can be seen jutting out into the river at Wapping. This is the location of my post covering the Gun Tavern at Wapping. The river then bends around the area that was the location of the Surrey Commercial Docks, before curving around the Isle of Dogs.

The area above would once have been covered by the docks. The London Docks on the left at Wapping, the Surrey Commercial Docks covering the land in the centre, with the West India, South and Millwall Docks covering the Isle of Dogs.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Great London shows the area covered in the above photo and illustrates the coverage of the docks.

shard-23

Looking north across to the City. Further on, the land is relatively flat and stays below 160 feet all the way out to just north of Enfield and close to the M25 from where the land rises to almost 300 feet just north of the M25. It is this high ground we can see on the horizon in the distance.

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From the height of the Shard, architectural features and building utilities can be interpreted in different ways. Here a row of air conditioning units look like rooftop dominoes.

shard-21

The view from the Shard provides a fantastic 360 degree view of London all the way to the surrounding hills. I was fortunate that the weather had improved considerably since my morning visit to the Monument and the conditions were ideal to see some considerable distance.

It was now time to head for a walk along the south bank of the river to my final view-point of the day, the:

The London Eye

The London Eye is different to the previous four buildings in that the London Eye provides a moving platform to look across the city. I was working on the South Bank when the London Eye was being built and somewhere I have the negatives of photos I took of the construction.

The London Eye seems to have acted as a hub for a considerable growth in tourists and visitor attractions on the South Bank. For many years when I worked here, the area was relatively quiet. On a summer’s day, the grass would be covered with workers from County Hall and Shell Centre with limited number of walkers along the South Bank – very different to today.

The weather was perfect for a trip around with a low sun causing long shadows on the South Bank. On entering the capsule, nearly everyone else ran to the end of the capsule, before the realisation that they would be looking directly into the sun. For me, the view towards the east, south and west was perfect.

As the London Eye gradually turns, a view over the South Bank on a perfect evening:

london-eye-1

Hungerford Railway Bridge with the new walkways on either side of the bridge. Waterloo Bridge in the background:

london-eye-2

Close-up of the crowds in front of the Royal Festival Hall on a summer’s evening:

london-eye-3

Starting to rise over the Shell Centre building. The viewing gallery at the top of the building is clearly visible in this photo. I was able to visit the viewing gallery and take photos across London from here in 1980. These can be found in this blog post.

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Looking over to the south and the entrance to Waterloo Station:

london-eye-5

Approaching the top of the London Eye:

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At the top of the London Eye, view towards the City:

london-eye-7

The Shard and Canary Wharf in the distance on the right:

london-eye-8

St. Paul’s Cathedral in the sun of a summer’s evening:

london-eye-9

The Walkie Talkie with the Monument to the right of the red crane, the start many hours earlier of my trip found these five London viewing platforms:

london-eye-10

As with so many areas across London, this scene will change dramatically over the next few years. The nine floor office blocks that once ran around the base of the tower have been demolished and new tower blocks, mainly of the ubiquitous luxury apartments will soon surround the original Shell Centre tower.

london-eye-11

View towards the south-west:

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And to the west and the Houses of Parliament:

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The old County Hall building that once housed the Greater London Council. Central court yards surrounded by office blocks.

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View towards the Crystal Palace Transmitter at 719 feet high on land that is already 360 feet above sea level:

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I really enjoyed visiting all these five viewing points in a single day, a fascinating alternative to walking the streets and to see the ever-changing skyline of the city, a city which still looks amazing from above.

Five locations was rather unambitious and with an earlier start and perhaps fewer stops in-between locations I could have added a further two, perhaps the new gallery at Tate Modern or for a different perspective, the tower viewing gallery at Westminster Cathedral. I suspect I will do this again in a couple of years time to see how London’s skyline has continued to change.

In one final post in the next couple of days I will take a look at what is perhaps the furthest man-made objects visible from central London – although not for much longer.

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My London 5 Peaks Challenge – The Monument, Sky Garden And St. Paul’s Cathedral

I do a considerable amount of walking around London, on foot being by far the best way to explore and understand the city. When not hunting down the locations of my father’s photos, then either a random walk or a walk with a specific theme or target.

I also like looking at London from above. My first view of London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral was over 40 years ago and during occasional visits since it has been possible to witness the changing skyline of the city.

Viewing London from above also gives a geographical context to London. The relationship with the River Thames, the route to the open sea, the surrounding hills and how London has expanded from the original settlement around the City of London.

When thinking about a possible theme for a walk, I had been talking to someone who had recently completed  the Three Peaks Challenge – climbing Scafell Pike in England, Snowdon in Wales and Ben Nevis in Scotland within a period of 24 hours. London does not have any equivalent peaks but what it does have is a number of tall buildings with viewing galleries, so on a Saturday in August I went for my own very unambitious 5 peaks challenge, to see London from the top of 5 locations – The Monument, Sky Garden, St, Paul’s Cathedral, Shard and the London Eye.

Only two of these needed climbing and it is there that any comparison with the 3 peaks challenge ends, but it did provide an opportunity to see the changing London skyline from different locations, understand the structure of London (for example only by looking from above can you really understand how the railways have carved up the south of the river) and just to enjoy the view of this remarkable city.

As you would expect, this is rather photo heavy, so I have split into three posts over the next few days. The first covering the Monument, Sky Garden and St. Paul’s Cathedral, the second post covering the Shard and London Eye, with the third post answering the question of the furthest man-made object visible from London (I am afraid the sort of question I find fascinating).

I am going to stay clear of any discussion of the buildings in these posts, rather just enjoy the views across London.

So, at 10:00 on an overcast Saturday morning in August (with the forecast for improving weather), I arrived at:

The Monument

Completed in 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke to commemorate the Great Fire of London, the Monument provides a view-point in the heart of the City. When built, the Monument at 202 feet high would have stood clear of the surrounding buildings but today is starting to feel rather enclosed with the continuing growth in height of buildings across the City.

The viewing gallery is 311 steps from the entrance up a narrow cantilevered staircase, so after paying at the entrance it was a swift climb to the top for views across London from the oldest of the viewing points that I will looking from today.

First view from the Monument, looking down Monument Street towards the old Billingsgate Market and running across the Thames, Tower Bridge.

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A series of postcards were published in the early 20th century showing the view from the Monument – the first showing a similar view to the above:

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Looking up Gracechurch Street towards the towers of the City:

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Looking up King William Street with the towers of the Barbican in the distance and the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the left.

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Similar early 20th century view to the above photo. The growth in height of City buildings is obvious by how the church steeples once towered above their surroundings.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Post Office (BT) Tower in the distance.

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This view was once dominated by the roof of Cannon Street Station:

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View back across the City towards the towers of Canary Wharf in the distance. The looming presence of 20 Fenchurch Street (the Walkie Talkie building) dominates this part of the City. The Sky Garden at the top is my next stop.

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Although the River Thames is hidden by the buildings in the foreground, this is looking towards Bankside with the chimney of Tate Modern along with the new extension and viewing gallery to the left of the chimney. The top of the London Eye can be seen in the distance – my final stop later in the afternoon when hopefully the weather will have improved.

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View across the river to the Shard. The church of St. Magnus the Martyr in the lower centre of the photo with London Bridge hidden behind the building to the right of the church. This building is on the route of the original London Bridge.

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Time to descend the Monument and head off to the Sky Garden, always easier to climb down rather the climb up.

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The Monument is the City’s original viewing gallery and although now rather hemmed in by the surrounding buildings still offers good views of the City of London.

Above the viewing gallery is the flaming orb which is hollow and reached by a further small flight of stairs. At the very top, not visible from ground level is a CCTV camera which provides a 24 hour time-lapse view on the Monument’s web site, which can be found here, although it does not appear to be updating at the moment.

Now on to my next stop:

The Sky Garden

Access to the Sky Garden was quick and efficient and the lifts provided a rest in between climbing the Monument and the next climb to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Completed in 2014 and at a height of 525 feet, the design of the Sky Garden results in the best views being towards the south.

My first view was back towards the Monument which now looked busier than during my visit. Look closely at the top of the orb and the CCTV camera can just be seen along with the hollow top of the orb.

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Views towards Tower Bridge, City Hall and HMS Belfast. From this height it is easy to understand the flooding risk to London with the height of the river and how low and flat the surrounding land is, and this was not a particularly high tide. It is also at this height that you can start to see the higher ground that surrounds London to the north and south.

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View to the west with the Post Office Tower in the distance with Euston Tower just to the right. As yet, there are few tall buildings across this part of London.

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Wembley Stadium can be seen between the Post Office Tower and Euston Tower.

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Internal view of the Sky Garden.

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Through the revolving doors in the above photo, there is an external viewing gallery. Although there is still a glass barrier it is possible to look down on the City. The church of St. Mary at Hill is at lower centre with the old Billingsgate Market in the top centre.

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Across the river towards the Shard:

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And unlike the Monument, the view of the river from the Sky Garden is unobstructed.

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Looking down towards the Bank junction with the Bank of England building at the centre right.

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Looking north towards the other towers of the City. Tower 42 on the left, the 122 Leadenhall Street building (the Cheesegrater) in the middle and 30 St. Mary Axe (the Gherkin) on the right.

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Tower 42, originally know at the NatWest Tower when completed in 1980 and at 600 feet high was the first really tall tower building in the City. I remember this being built and at the time bought a copy of, if I remember correctly, the Illustrated London News which had a superb photo of the building by a photographer who was suspended in a large bucket away from the top of the tower by a crane also mounted on the top of the tower. Rather precarious, but a superb photo.

The Gherkin building was completed at the end of 2003 and stands at 591 feet high with the Cheesegrater being completed in 2013 at 738 feet.

View towards Canary Wharf with the Tower of London at lower right. From this height we can start to see the route of the river as it heads east towards the sea.

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View towards the east along Fenchurch Street and Aldgate High Street. The church of St. Botolph Without Aldgate can be seen to the left of centre, in front of the yellow crane.

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From this height we can also start to see how the construction of the railways carved through London. Here, the rail tracks running from Fenchurch Street Station out towards the east.

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Leaving the Sky Garden, with the promise of improving weather with the cloud breaking in the west, it was time for a walk to:

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral is my favourite place to look out across London. It is the history of the building, location, the climb up the 528 steps through the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery and finally to the Golden Gallery, along with the chance to admire the internal architecture and  the construction methods used.

My first climb of St. Paul’s was over 40 years ago and I started taking photos from the Lantern and Stone Galleries about 35 years ago. My father took a series of photos from the Stone Gallery just after the war showing the devastation around the Cathedral. These can be found here and here.

At the top of the final climb through the Dome, there is a small glass window at the centre which looks down to the floor of the church. This produces a strange optical effect as this is not looking through the roof of the dome directly above the floor, but through the space between the external and internal domes. The distorted view of the stairs that run up above the internal dome to get to the Golden Gallery can be seen in the periphery of this photo. It does though create the impression that you are directly above the internal dome.

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The first glimpse of the view through the door out to the narrow walkway that runs around the base of the Golden Gallery. The cloud is breaking and the sun is out.

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The view as you pass through the door, looking down between the two west towers to Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street.

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The view towards the Post Office Tower and Euston Tower. The Old Bailey can be seen to the lower centre right, just to the right of the red cranes.

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Paternoster Square:

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The three tower blocks of the Barbican with the low-rise block running between the left and centre towers. The church of St. Giles Cripplegate can be seen at the base of the right-hand tower.

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The view towards the east showing the cluster of towers in the City. This view also shows how the 20 Fenchurch Street building is separate from the main cluster of towers and much closer to the river. More towers will be added to this view over the coming years.

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Close up of the Monument from St. Paul’s Cathedral:

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The Shard and Cannon Street station:

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By climbing to the Golden Gallery we can get an understanding of the construction technique used to build the internal and external domes. From the gallery we can see some of the external construction techniques, for example the screen walls which were used as a method to hide the tops of the flying buttresses which were needed to strengthen the core of the cathedral. In the photo below, the roof of the Choir is in the centre, below the Dome with the screen walls running around the edge. The use of screens also avoided the need for expensive decorative work along the top of the choir walls and roof.

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View looking across the Millennium bridge towards Tate Modern, the old Bankside Power Station.

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The view from the Golden Gallery includes many of the local churches. Here, the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey alongside a new building site. As soon as this new building is in place, the view of the church from the cathedral will be mainly hidden again apart from the very top of the tower.

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St. Benets Metropolitan Welsh Church surrounded by Queen Victoria Street, the road down to Lower Thames Street and the City of London School.

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View across to the South Bank with the London Eye which will be my final stop.

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Close-up view of Bankside. This was once an industrialised area, but is now home to the reconstructed Globe Theatre. 49 Bankside, the building partly covered by the central tree and with the red door is a centuries old survivor of large amounts of change along Bankside.

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View along Ludgate Hill and into Fleet Street. The way that both these streets drop down towards Farringdon Street is a reminder that they originally ran down towards the River Fleet. The church of St. Martin-within-Ludgate is the dark tower on the right of Ludgate Hill. Further along on the left is the tower of St. Bride’s. Further along Fleet Street is the tower of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, and as Fleet Street curves towards the left behind the buildings is the tower of St. Clement Danes.

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View to the west looking up towards Waterloo Bridge. If the Garden Bridge is built it will cut across the river in the centre of the photo, obstructing views of the cathedral from the South Bank and Waterloo Bridge.

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The church of St. Vedas alias Foster in Foster Lane:

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Looking northwest to the high ground around Hampstead Heath and East Finchley. A number of the old rivers that originate in the north of London come from this area including the Fleet, Tyburn and Westbourne. The maximum height of the land at Hampstead Heath is around 443 feet and at the base of St. Paul’s Cathedral is around 36 feet showing the considerable change in height from the centre of London to the ring of hills around the north and south of the extended city.

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The tower of Christchurch Greyfriars alongside King Edward Street with the shell of the church a reminder of the bombing in this area during the last war:

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View across to Alexandra Palace and Alexandra Park with the Emirates Stadium on the right. The land in the distance sloping down from the heights of Hampstead Heath:

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The view from the Golden Gallery at St. Paul’s is superb. Standing 279 feet above the floor of the Cathedral on a narrow walkway in the open air is a wonderful way to experience the views across London.

After a quick look around the Cathedral and a much-needed drink in the Crypt Cafe, it was time to head to the Shard for number 4 in my London 5 Peaks Challenge which, along with the London Eye, will be the subject of my next post.

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Tower Bridge

A brief post today as unfortunately work commitments have been rather heavy over the past week. Here are three photos that my father took in 1948, the first two show the northern approach to Tower Bridge with the third showing the view across to the City from Tower Bridge. This last photo really makes you wonder how we plan the City and the buildings that tower over their surroundings.

Firstly, standing on the approach road to Tower Bridge. The Tower of London on the right. The cranes that still lined the river are visible to the left and right of the bridge. The sign on the left warns that heavy goods vehicles much cross the bridge at 8 miles per hour.

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68 years later and I am standing in roughly the same spot on a very sunny day – always a mistake due to the deep shadows. It should have been easy to locate the precise location, however I believe that the slip road to the left in the 1948 photo has been moved back, slightly further north.

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My 2016 photo also shows an empty road, a bit deceiving as I had to wait a lengthy period to get a clear road.

The next photo is a bit closer to the bridge.

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And in 2016.

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The photo below was taken from the bridge, looking over to the City of London. Look at the background and the church spires of the City churches are standing above their surroundings. To the left of centre, the Monument is standing clear and slightly to the left of the Monument, in the background, is the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It is low tide, and along the bank of the Thames is the artificial beach, with stairs down from the walkway alongside the Tower.

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And the same view in 2016. I did not time the tide right, but the beach and the stairs have long gone. If you look carefully, just to the right of the red cranes, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral can just be seen, with slightly further to the right, the very tip of the Monument.

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But what really intrudes into the 2016 view is the 20 Fenchurch Street building, better known as the Walkie Talkie building. Whilst the City cannot stay static, this building is just in the wrong place and the intrusive top-heavy design does not help.

I doubt that my father, standing on Tower Bridge and looking at the view over the City, would have imagined that it would look like this, 68 years later.

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Climbing The Caledonian Park Clock Tower

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

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

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

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

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

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Along with the weights that drive the clock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Canary Wharf:

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The City of London:

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

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The chimney of Tate Modern:

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

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

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

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Caledonian Clock Tower 14Alexandra Palace:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Walk Round The Shell Centre Viewing Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To see the proposed development, look here.

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

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

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