Category Archives: London Vistas

Views across London

Post War London from the Stone Gallery, St. Paul’s – The South and East

Soon after the end of the war, my father climbed the 376 steps from the cathedral floor up to the Stone Gallery at St. Paul’s Cathedral to get the view that only the Stone Gallery can provide of the sweep of London from the City to Westminster. From here he was able to take in what had become of the city that he had grown up in during the long years of the war.

67 years later I climbed the same 376 steps to take in how London had changed over those intervening years.

In this week’s post, the first of two, I will compare the photos he took then with my photos of 2014, however firstly to get our bearings the following Aerofilms photo from before the war shows how St. Paul’s was surrounded by the dense city streets with buildings much closer to the cathedral than they are now. These were not only offices, but also plenty of warehouses with one of the major publishers / book distributors having their office and warehouse just north of St. Paul’s in Paternoster Square. The spires of the city churches still stood clear of their surroundings, but St. Paul’s dominated the area. In view of what was to come it still amazes me that St. Paul’s survived.

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Much of the devastation around St. Paul’s was caused on the 29th December 1940.

Christmas 1940 had been relatively quiet, however on the evening of the 29th December a large bomber force appeared over the City just after 6pm and for just over the next three hours incendiary bombs rained down on the City along with high explosive bombs. This combination caused maximum damage. High explosive bombs would rip buildings apart, exposing their contents to the impact of the incendiaries. During the peak of the raid over 300 incendiary bombs a minute were falling across the City and St. Paul’s quickly became surrounded by a sea of flame, fire crossing over the small streets and debris falling all around.

St. Paul’s was protected by a team of Fire Watchers who had the dangerous job of watching as the bombs fell and getting to an incendiary as quickly as possible to put it out before a fire became established. At one point an incendiary got stuck in the lead dome of the cathedral, where it could not be reached. A moment of danger as a single incendiary could cause a fire that would have engulfed the dome but miraculously it became free as it burned and melted the surrounding lead, and fell away from the dome landing in the Stone Gallery where the Fire Watchers could easily get to it and safely extinguish the danger.

It was not just incendiary bombs that put St. Paul’s at risk. The Fire Watchers also had to deal with a steady stream of flying embers from the surrounding buildings flying across and onto the cathedral. The heat from the concentration of fires stirred up winds that would spread embers quickly to create new fires where bombs had not landed.

The first waves of bombing finished just after 9pm and most of the area around St. Paul’s was ablaze along with many other areas of the City. The Fire Watchers and Fire Fighters worked hard in the dangerous conditions, a low tide not helping with extracting water from the Thames and the constant worry that the next wave of bombers would soon be over. However towards midnight the tide was rising and fog in the channel prevented the next wave of bombers from launching their next series of raids.

Next morning, Londoners awoke to a very different City.

Now join me as we walk around the Stone Gallery. We start looking over towards the south-east of London:

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The remains of the church in the centre of the photo is St. Nicholas, Cole Abbey and just behind is St Mary Somerset. The road between the two churches is Queen Victoria Street. The bridge spanning the Thames is Southwark Bridge and in the distance we can just see the tower of Southwark Cathedral.

The view today is shown in the following photo:

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As with much of the City of London, the church towers provide us with reference points to confirm the location. St. Nicholas, Cole Abbey in the centre of the photo still stands along Queen Victoria Street with the steeple restored on the top of the tower.

Interesting that the River Thames is much more visible in 2014. Most noticeable is that we can now see the rail bridge into Cannon Street Station. The height of the buildings between St. Paul’s and the Thames appear lower than the buildings constructed in the pre-war period. A success of the regulations governing the views of St. Paul’s and surprising that in one area of London at least the buildings are not in a race for height.

Turning slightly to the left, we can now see the full length of Cannon Street Station with the original roof running the whole length from the Thames facing towers through to the station buildings facing onto Cannon Street. The Monument stands clear of surrounding buildings and the tops of the cranes running along the Thames between Billingsgate and Cannon Street can be seen.

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The same view today is shown below:

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Cannon Street has lost the roof and the dominant position it held on the City skyline. The Monument now bravely maintains its position just above the surrounding buildings, but again is not such a prominent landmark on the skyline and all the cranes have been lost along the Thames.

A slightly different view just further to the left.

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And the same view today. the church in the centre of the above photo and just behind the red crane in the following photo is St. Mary Aldermary

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The spire just edging into the bottom of the above photo is the rebuilt spire of St. Augustine, Watling Street and the tower as it was after the war is seen in the following photo from the Stone Gallery.

The building in front of the church in the following photo is the premises of Andersons Rubber Company. One of the buildings that was on the plot to the right of St. Augustine was Cordwainers Hall. In total a succession of 6 livery halls had been on this site from 1440. The one destroyed by bombing was built-in 1909 and was the last on the site as the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers moved to the Law Society in Chancery Lane, then in 2005 moved to the Clothworker’s Hall in the City.

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The view today could hardly be more different. the spire has been restored to the church, the Andersons building has been demolished and not rebuilt and the plot of land immediately to the right of the church are now gardens and pedestrian areas.

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The small road that runs past the church and Andersons in the original photo which is now a pedestrian walkway was the end of Watling Street where is ran straight to the St. Paul’s Church Yard road that ran close around the cathedral. Pre-war, although St. Paul’s was the tallest building in London and so dominated the skyline, it was ringed on all sides by a tight network of roads and buildings. Re-building since the war has opened up the immediate cathedral surroundings.

We continue on our walk around the Stone Gallery, this time we have moved a bit further to the left and are now looking across to the centre of the City.

The tower of St. Mary-le-Bow still stands along Cheapside next to the burnt out shell of the church.

The road running across the photo at the back of the car park is Friday Street. So called due to the fishmongers who had their homes here and serving Friday’s market. A survival from the days when fish was eaten on a Friday. This street has now been lost under the One New Change development.

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The city skyline in the above photo is as it has been for hundreds of years with only the church towers and steeples rising above the surrounding streets. How different this now looks in 2014:

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As well as One New Change in the foreground, the road in front, New Change is a new routing of the original road Old Change that ran directly behind St. Paul’s, so close that it is obscured in the original photo.

In the City, the march of the new towers continues with Tower 42 on the left followed by the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater and the WalkieTalkie just appearing on the right.

Now for the final photo of this week’s walk around the southerly and easterly aspects of the Stone Gallery and we are looking roughly north-east at St. Verdast alias Foster on Foster Lane.

Note in the top right corner is the shell of the Guildhall. The Guildhall suffered badly on the night of the 29th December when the fire spread from the neighbouring church of St. Lawrence Jewry. The roof was destroyed and the wooden figures of Gog and Magog from 1708 were reduced to ashes, along with about 25,000 volumes from the library.

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And today’s photo of the same area, which I admit I did not realise I took a bit too low and cut of the top of the spire on the church. That is what comes with trying to balance an iPad with the original photos and a camera at the same time and not checking afterwards!

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To get a view of the streets around St. Paul’s and how they have changed, the following map is from Bartholomew’s 1940 Reference Atlas of Greater London. The original Old Change was between St. Augustine and St. Paul’s. This has been re-routed to the right and renamed New Change from which the development that is now on top of Friday Street takes its name. Watling Street and Cannon Street ran straight up to St. Paul’s Church Yard. This junction and the building plot where Cordwainer’s Hall was located are now gardens and pedestrian areas.

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Compare this 1940 map with the Google map of today:

View Larger Map

The following photo by the Daily Mail photographer Herbert Mason taken on the 29th December 1940 looking across Ludgate Hill towards St. Paul’s and now in the Imperial War Museum collection gives an impression of the scene with fires raging around the cathedral (photo © IWM (HU 36220A))

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Join me next week as I continue the walk around the Stone Gallery to view the North and Westerly views.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • The Lost Treasures of London by William Kent published 1947
  • The Blitz by Constantine Fitz Gibbon published 1957
  • The City That Wouldn’t Die by Richard Collier published 1959
  • London by George H. Cunningham published 1927
  • Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London published 1940
  • The Streets of London by Gertrude Burford Rawlings published 1926
  • And for a detailed minute by minute account I recommend reading The City Ablaze – The Second Great Fire of London 29th December 1940 by David Johnson published 1980

 alondoninheritance.com

 

Building the Foundations of the Royal Festival Hall

I have a number of photos of the Southbank as it was just after the war and prior to any demolition for the Festival of Britain, along with a few photos of the building of the Royal Festival Hall and I thought I had found all my father’s photos of this area of London, however I was recently scanning some more negatives and found a set of photos taken in 1948 as the site was cleared and the foundations for the Royal Festival Hall were being started.

I find these fascinating on a number of levels. The methods of construction, the immediate surroundings and the views of London in the distance.

These photos were taken from the end of the footbridge that ran alongside Hungerford railway bridge.

This first photo is looking directly into what will be the Royal Festival Hall. The area has been cleared and the ground dug out ready for the foundations and building to commence.

The remains of the buildings on the edge of the site are running along the roadway that leads to Waterloo Bridge which is just to the left. St. Paul’s can be seen in the distance standing clear as the tallest building in London. The chimney is on the south side of the river, just further along the Southbank.

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In the following photo the camera has moved slightly to the left and we can now see the Shot Tower that will remain for the Festival of Britain, and the start of Waterloo Bridge. After the Festival of Britain the Hayward Gallery and Purcell Room would be built in the space occupied by the Shot Tower and along the approach road to Waterloo Bridge, filling the gap between the approach road and the Royal Festival Hall. The Hayward Gallery and Purcell Room are true examples of Brutalist architecture with considerable exposed concrete, very different to the Royal Festival Hall.Old RFH 3

And now further to the left again to see not just the construction site of the Royal Festival Hall but also the construction of the new embankment along the Thames.

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It is surprising how that, apart from the different types of crane where most building sites now use Tower Cranes, the building site is very much as you find building sites today, however on enlarging the photos to look at the workmen, there is an almost complete absence of any of the protective clothing that would now be considered mandatory.

Trying to take a 2014 comparison photo is next to impossible. The following photo is taken from the end of the Hungerford Foot Bridge looking over towards Waterloo Bridge as close to the above photo as I could get, however the trees and building on the Southbank now completely obscure the view.

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The following photo is looking down into the construction site. Note all the old multi-floor, empty window buildings along the approach road to Waterloo Bridge. These would soon be demolished ready for the Festival of Britain. What was the Shell Centre Downstream building (now converted into apartments) now stands on the site of these buildings and the area behind the Royal Festival Hall.

Old RFH 2And turning to the right we can see on the right hand side the pathway along the side of Hungerford Bridge from Belvedere Road. The buildings in the distance still exist. The church is St. John’s, Waterloo, the building to the left of the church is now the James Clark Maxwell Building of King’s College London. The building to the left of this was the Royal Waterloo Hospital for Women and Children (which closed in 1976) and the building to the left of this is now also part of King’s College London.

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I took the following photo from the end of the footbridge looking down to what was the ground level pathway between the Royal Festival Hall construction site and Hungerford Bridge. Still a very busy route from Waterloo Station to the foot bridge and across to the north bank of the Thames, but as with the rest of the site a complete change to how it was in 1948.

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The original photos were taken from the same position with the same camera settings, so I was able to stitch my father’s original photos together into a panorama showing the whole of the Royal Festival Hall construction site from the edge of the River Thames to the edge of Hungerford Bridge to provide a complete view of the construction site and the horizon as it was in 1948.

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The Royal Festival Hall is on a superb position on the south bank of the River Thames with sweeping views from Westminster across to the City. The building was the only permanent part of the Festival of Britain and one of the first major construction projects after the devastation caused by the bombing during the war.

Considering many of the other buildings that were constructed in the post war period, the design and architecture of the Royal Festival Hall works well within the location, is well proportioned and does not brutally dominate the area.

The following photo shows the view from the north bank of the Thames:

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I did not really expect to ever take this view as I am a firm believer that London needs more trees and green spaces, however with the river frontage of the Royal Festival Hall the trees tend to obscure the building from the river and the north bank and do not open up a view of the building to the wide sweep of the river and the rest of London as I am sure the original architects intended.

It would perhaps be good to open up this area to provide an unobstructed view of the Royal Festival Hall from the north bank of the Thames and to open up the wide curve of the Thames from Westminster to City from the Royal Festival Hall, and give one of the few good examples of immediate post war reconstruction the visibility it deserves.

You may also be interested in my earlier posts of the Southbank site:

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

The Royal Festival Hall – Before, During and After Construction 

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The Royal Festival Hall – Before, During and After Construction

A few weeks ago I published a post about the South Bank before the Festival Hall with some photos taken on the South Bank. This week I want to cover the same area, but this time showing the scene from the north bank of the Thames as this provides a very clear view of how a small area between Waterloo and Hungerford Bridges has changed.

The following photo was taken by my father from the north side of the Thames next to Hungerford Railway bridge in 1948:

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Hungerford Railway Bridge is to the right and Waterloo Bridge is on the left hand side, both bridges framing the future site of the Royal Festival Hall. To the left of the photo is the Shot Tower and to the right is the Lion Brewery.

Until the 16th Century, this area was foreshore to the Thames, overgrown with rushes and willows and subject to flooding at high tides. The road behind the Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road was the Narrow Wall, a road built on the embankment to the Thames.

From Old and New London (Edward Walford (1878)): The spot between the Belvedere Road and the river between Waterloo and Westminster Bridges – till recently known as Pedlar’s Acre – was called in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Church Osiers from the large osier-bed which occupied the spot (an Osier is a type of Willow) This is a plot of land of some historical notoriety. It was originally a small strip of land one acre and nine poles in extent , situated alongside the Narrow Wall and has belonged to the parish of Lambeth from time immemorial. It is said to have been given by a grateful pedlar. (There is also a story that the pedlar’s dog discovered treasure there whilst scratching around in the ground). On Pedlar’s Acre at one time was a public house with the sign of the pedlar and his dog and on one of the windows in the tap-room the following lines were written:

“Happy the pedlar whose portrait we view,
Since his dog was so faithful and fortunate too;
He at once made him wealthy, and guarded his door,
Secured him from robbers, relieved him when poor.
Then drink to his memory, and wish fate may send,
Such a dog to protect you, enrich and befriend”

What ever the truth of this story, it is still fun whilst walking round the Royal Festival Hall to imagine the Pedlar and his dog digging in the willow beds and finding treasure.

Continuing from Old and New London:

Not far from the southern end of Waterloo Bridge on the site now occupied by the timber-wharfs of Belvedere Road and close by the Lion Brewery, which abuts upon the river stood formerly a noted place of public resort known as Cuper’s Gardens. As far back as the eighteenth century if not earlier it was famous for its displays of fireworks.  

The Shot Tower was built in 1826 as part of the lead works on the site for the production of lead shot. The tower is built of brick, with a diameter at the base of 30 feet. The tower tapers slightly so at the top gallery the diameter is 20 feet. The gallery is 163 feet from ground level.

From the gallery, molten lead was dropped to form large shot, half way down the tower was a floor where molten lead could be dropped to make smaller shot.

The Lion Brewery is on the site of a former Water Works where water was taken from the river for distribution to the local area. Pumping water from the river was replaced by a supply from reservoirs on Brixton Hill and the works were removed in 1853. The site then became a brewery which became the Lion Brewery Company Limited in 1866. The building was damaged by fire in 1931, it was then used for a short time for storage and then remained derelict until demolition in 1949 to make way for the construction of the Royal Festival Hall.

The following photo was taken from the same position a few years later during the construction of the Royal Festival Hall in 1950 (judging from the position of the shadow on the river this was taken at the same time as the 1948 photo, some careful planning to get the comparison right). Construction was fast, from the foundation stone being laid by Clement Atlee in 1949 to the hall being opened on the 3rd May 1951

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The Shot Tower remains (apart from the gallery at the top) and would remain for the duration of the Festival of Britain. The core of the Royal Festival Hall is under construction, covered in scaffolding and cranes. The new river frontage is also under construction.

The Royal Festival Hall was constructed by the London County Council and was planned as the one permanent building to remain from the overall Festival of Britain site that occupied the South Bank.

The following is my 2014 photo of the same area. I could not get into exactly the same position as my father when he took the original photos as the new foot bridge extends further into the river from the railway bridge.

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The following Festival of Britain postcard shows a model of the site with the Royal Festival Hall on the left of Hungerford Railway Bridge. Difficult to see from this model, but Belvedere Road runs behind the Royal Festival Hall, under the railway bridge and behind the Dome of Discovery on the right. It is incredible how this small area changed in a few years either side of 1950.

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On the north bank of the Thames opposite the Royal Festival Hall is Shell Mex House. The following is a painting of the view from Shell Mex House included in the programme for the Festival of Britain. The Shot Tower and Lion Brewery with Waterloo Station in the background.

View from Shell Mex

The text below the picture is typical of the mood surrounding the Festival of Britain, the prospect of a bright future following the long years of war. The Royal Festival Hall is the only remaining building from the Festival of Britain as the rest was quickly removed after the closure of the festival.

Photo focussing on the area around the Shot Tower:

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And again showing the Shot Tower and river:

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You may also like to read my earlier post covering the site of the Royal Festival Hall and the area towards Waterloo Station before construction started which can be found here.

 alondoninheritance.com

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

A common theme throughout my blog is that since the 1940’s many areas of London have changed so dramatically that they are almost unrecognisable, however there are almost always some points that have remained fixed and remain to this day to allow a photo from over 60 years ago to be compared with today from very similar points of view.

One of these areas is the South Bank, and for this post specifically the area bounded by Waterloo and Hungerford Bridges and Waterloo Station.

In my father’s photo collection there are a series of photos covering the South Bank as it was starting just after the war and through to the Festival of Britain which was held on the site, with the Royal Festival Hall being the legacy from the Festival.

Over the coming months I will cover this area in detail, however as a starter I have three photos that show the area as the demolition started in preparation for the building of the Royal Festival Hall.

The first photo was taken from the area of Waterloo Bridge looking towards County Hall.

The road in the centre of the photo is Belvedere Road and the bridge is taking the railway line from Hungerford Bridge across the Thames and Charing Cross station to Waterloo East.

The area to the right was ready for demolition and the construction of the Royal Festival Hall. The white sign to the right of the road is for “North London Demolition” indicating that demolition had already or was about to start. The sign just to the right of the bridge is for “Southern Railways Sale Room”. Not sure what would have been sold here as it is some distance from the station, perhaps unclaimed lost property?

Southbank 3Although it should have been easy, I had some challenges trying to find the location for this photo. Firstly it was not taken from ground level and as far as I can tell was not taken from Waterloo Bridge, but may have been taken from some derelict building adjacent to the bridge.

I spent some time working my way round the back of the Hayward Gallery and the closest I was able to get is shown in the following photo. The perspective is almost right, but I could not get into the exact position (see the slight difference where the slope of the roof of County Hall touches the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster)

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DSC_1163Belvedere Road still runs in almost the same position and the bridge is still in the same location although obscured by trees.

I moved to the left and took the photo on the right which shows the road and bridge. I suspect the original curve of the road has been smoothed out slightly during the construction of the Royal Festival Hall, however it is still in almost exactly the same place.

As far as I can tell, the three photos I am featuring were taken from roughly the same position.

If we now turn to the left we can compare the view towards Waterloo Station as it was:

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The main entrance to Waterloo Station just to left of centre of the photo is almost the same as it is today. The railway still runs across the same arches, however the arches are now mainly occupied by bars and restaurants.

Southbank map 1The map extract to the right is taken from the 1913 edition of Bartholomew’s Handy Reference of London & Suburbs. I have circled the area being covered in this post. The map identified the two roads shown in the above photo. The road in the centre of the photo was Tenison Street and the road to the left was Rowley Place.

There are no obvious people in these photos, however look just to the right of centre in the above photo and there is a man standing on the site of the demolished buildings. Had he lived here and was returning to see what had been done to the area or just a curious passer-by? In the first photo there are a couple of children in the street with a cyclist just behind them.

Despite the horror and destruction of the war and the bombing of London, the large number of derelict sites across London during and after the war effectively became an adventure playground for children. Reading through my father’s account of his childhood in London during the war he tells of exploring and playing across the old bomb sites. They were not fenced off, there were effectively no health and safety rules as there would be today and London was free for a child to explore.

The same view today is very different:

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For this one it was very difficult to get the position right as the view of Waterloo Station is now totally obscured. I suspect that in the original photo Belvedere Road runs behind the brick walls. Waterloo Station is just behind the office blocks. All these were part of the original Shell Centre complex built for the Shell oil company between 1957 and 1962 after the closure of the Festival of Britain. The building to the left was the “Downstream Building” and the building and tower to the right was the “Upstream Building”. All part of the same complex  connected by tunnels under the railway so that employees could move between buildings without going outside.

The Downstream Building on the left was sold by Shell in the 1990’s and was converted into residential apartments.

Now turning to the right we can look across the site that will be occupied by the Royal Festival Hall.

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The large building is what is left of the Lion Brewery, the white Lion which used to stand on top of the building has already been removed and now stands at the southern end of Westminster Bridge. The building in the distance under construction with the cranes is the Ministry of Defence building that still stands on the north bank of the Thames.

Again, it was difficult to get the exact location, but the following picture shows roughly the scene as it is now:

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The South Bank is a fascinating place that sums up in a small area the changes that have and continue to take place across London, the change from light industrial use to service industries, entertainment and expensive apartments.

Over the coming months I will continue to explore the South Bank with the development of the Festival of Britain and the Royal Festival Hall.

alondoninheritance.com

 

A de Havilland Dragon Rapide Flight Over London

For this week’s post I am going to dive back into my own photo collection, and back to 1980 when my early interests in London, flying and photography all came together.  I found an advert for flights over London in a de Havilland Dragon Rapide. Cannot remember where I found the advert, it was probably one of the London evening papers. This was in the days before the Internet and to apply for tickets the process was to send a letter with a cheque and sit back and wait hoping that I would get one.

Thankfully I did, and on the booked Saturday when remarkably for British summer weather, it was ideal flying weather, it was a drive down to Biggin Hill in Kent.

The Dragon Rapide entered service in 1934 as a short haul commercial passenger transport with a crew of 1 and capacity for 8 passengers, and was designed and built by the de Havilland company who also manufactured aircraft such as the Gypsy and Tiger Moth and during the war the Mosquito, along with Britain’s first commercial jet airliner, the Comet.

The Dragon Rapide for my flight was G-AIDL which was manufactured in 1946 by Brush Coachworks of Loughborough under licence from de Havilland.

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 de Havilland Dragon Rapide G-AIDL ready to go at Biggin Hill.

Biggin Hill is about 12 miles from central London and from the airport there is a good view over to the city. The weather was good, the plane was ready and boarding started.

Everyone had a window seat as there were two lines of seats against the edge of the plane with a very small passengerway in the middle. Very small and cramped compared to passenger planes of today, and very noticeable how thin the construction was between the passenger cabin and the outside of the plane.

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Inside the Rapide. This is what passenger flight used to be like. Everyone had a very good view. The door lock does not too strong though !!

The two propeller engines started and we taxied to the runway and were quickly away and heading towards London.

The flight was relatively smooth, but noisy due to the proximity of the engines and the non existent sound proofing in this age and type of plane, but that was part of the enjoyment and if it was quiet it would not have been the same experience.

At the relatively low height and slow speed it was easy to follow the landmarks below and see those of central London slowly getting closer.  The flight crossed the Thames at Greenwich, flew to the east of the city, turned and followed the same route back. This allowed passengers on both sides of the plane to get the same views of central London and to the east.

Limehouse basin

In the above photo we are crossing the Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs. The Regents Canal basin is clearly seen in the lower right of the photo with the Limehouse Cut leaving the basin diagonally from the top corner. The Regents Canal leaves the basin roughly in the middle of the basin and passes the tower blocks and then the gasholders.

As I was sitting on the right of the plane, my first views of central London came when the plane turned and we started to head back.

Many of my photos are slightly blurred. I was taking photos from a moving object which was also vibrating so it was a challenge to get a good photo. This was also the days of film photography with the standard maximum film cartridge of 36 photos so I also had to ration how many I took, we would be past a location before I could change a film. This would not be a problem now with digital photography and a memory card capable of storing many thousand of high quality photos.

Central London

Despite these challenges, the photo above was almost perfect.

Christ Church Spitalfields stands out well in the lower right of the photo with Spitalfields Market in front of the church. Slightly above and to the left of Spitalfields Market is Liverpool Street station, and to the left of the station, the buildings of the City of London with the (as it was at the time) National Westminster Tower having just been completed and the tallest building in the city.

City and Thames

The second photo as we passed the city also came out well and shows Fenchurch Street Station to the lower right and St. Pauls to the right of centre. Still not that many tall buildings between the centre of the city and the river. The bridges starting with the bridge closest are London Bridge, railway bridge into Cannon Street station, Southwark Bridge, Blackfriars rail and road bridges

The gleaming white building between London Bridge and the rail bridge into Cannon Street station is Mondial House. This was a Post Office (British Telecom) building completed in 1975 which hosted one of the largest telephone switching systems in Europe and was a major international telephone exchange. Changes in telephone technology made the services provided within the building redundant by the late 1990’s and it was demolished in 2006.

Note that the Monument was very visible just to the right of London Bridge.

All too soon, the flight headed back along the Thames before turning back to Biggin Hill over Greenwich, giving some superb views of Greenwich, Blackheath and back towards London.

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Looking down on Greenwich Park

Greenwich 2

 Greenwich and the edge of Blackheath

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Looking back towards a very hazy city.

We landed back at Biggin Hill all too quickly and I had a roll of 36 photos to be rushed of to Boots for developing (how digital photography has changed all this!).

London is a fantastic city to explore at ground level, however flying over the city always puts the city in context. How central the River Thames is to the topography of the city, the differences between the south and north banks of the river, the complexity and difference in style and age of the buildings from the modern office blocks to the Tower of London.

Following a quick internet search, it is still possible to take a flight in a Dragon Rapide over London. See the Classic Wings web site for flights this year. I am very tempted to take another flight for a comparison view of the city 34 years later, and this time I can book via the internet rather than post. Now where is my credit card?

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The View from Greenwich Park and the Isle of Dogs

There are a number of locations across London where the juxtaposition of areas where there has been really significant changes with those where there has been almost no change over many decades can be seen. One of the best locations for this is from the top of the hill next to the old Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park.

My father took the following photo in 1953 looking out across the Queen’s House and the old Royal Naval College across to the Isle of Dogs.

Old Greenwich hill

I took the following photo 61 years later in 2014 from the same location. Greenwich Park, the Queen’s House and the buildings of the old Royal Naval College have not changed. Even the paths across the park have stayed in the same position, despite the Equestrian events held on this area during the 2012 Olympics.

The view across to the Isle of Dogs is where the changes have been significant. Not just in the buildings that have changed what was a flat landscape into one where tall office blocks fill the horizon, but also in the core function of these areas, employment, traffic on the River Thames and how the landscape of London has changed over the decades.

New Greenwich hill

The area just across the River Thames from Greenwich Park is the Isle of Dogs. Here were some of the major docks that during the 19th and much of the 20th centuries were part of the complex of docks along the Thames that made London the busiest port in the world.

I took the following photo in the early 1980s. This was just after the docks had closed in the 1970s, but before the significant re-development of the docklands had started. At the time I was flying regularly between London and Amsterdam and always got a window seat as when the approach was over London the views were fantastic. I was always the one glued to the window! This is an evening photo on a route which took the flight in over Essex. across east London to the south of London to Heathrow.

isle of dogs

The Isle of Dogs is in the centre of the photo. The loop of the Thames (if I remember Geography from school this is a “meander”) around both the Isle of Dogs and the Greenwich Peninsular (future home of the Millennium Dome, now the O2) is very clear from this height.

I have added the names of the docks and the location of Greenwich Park where my father and my photos were taken in the following graphic.

London Docks Photo v3

 

The West India Docks were opened in 1802 and in total consisted of 54 acres of water. The Millwall Dock was opened in 1868 and consisted of 36 acres of water in the shape of an L (visible in the above photo).

The docks further east in the photo (Victoria, Albert and George V) were the last to be built in London and were the largest area of enclosed dock water in the world. The Victoria was opened in 1855, the Royal Albert in 1880 and the George V dock was opened in 1921, its’ construction having been delayed by the 1st World War. The soil excavated from the Victoria dock was used to complete the construction of Battersea Park, which until then had been partly marsh land.

The Regents Canal Dock is at the end of the Regents Canal were it enters the Thames at Limehouse. The canal connects the Grand Junction Canal at Paddington with the Thames. The canal was opened in 1820 with the dock constructed soon after.

The Greenland Dock is almost all that remains of the Surrey Commercial Docks that once covered most of the peninsular. The core of these docks was started in 1697 and with various developments lasted until 1970.

The complex of office blocks in Canary Wharf which now dominate the view from Greenwich Park have been built across the area that was occupied by the West India and South Docks. Parts of these docks remain but are now confined within an ever growing number of very tall office blocks.

The following map is from the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London and shows this area of dockland in detail. Compare the significant number of docks that made up the Surrey Commercial Docks on the left page with the 1980s photo. These have almost all disappeared.

Docklands Map

There is a description of the Isle of Dogs in a “Peepshow of the Port of London” by A.G. Linney published in 1929:

“As has been established, its island area has been halved, but within the truncated region remaining cut off from the “mainland” many industries, mostly of a smelly sort (oil refining, chemical manufacture, candle making) are carried on; there are some timber yards and foundries. Poverty is not discernible on any wide scale, but it has to be admitted that the streets are sombrely depressing, though to my view the small streets of Millwall and Cubitt Town are boulevards when compared with the utterly drear, blank depression of those rows of houses such as one finds in pit villages of South Yorkshire and Durham”

The reference to “its island area has been halved” is to the area occupied by the docks which as can be seen from the map occupy a significant percentage of the Isle of Dogs.

The closure of the docks from the end of the 1960s to the 1970s resulted in the loss of a culture, often unique to a specific set of docks, and a chain of related industries that had made this part of London a major trading and industrial community.

It would take until the mid 1980s for any form of redevelopment to start across the acres of derelict land left after the closure of the docks, the results of which can now be seen from Greenwich Park.

Quite what the residents of the “small streets of Millwall and Cubitt Town” would have thought of the Canary Wharf development and the financial services industries that have now replaced the docks would be interesting to know.

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The Monument, Lower Thames Street and Fish Street Hill

My next location is easy to find. One of the most well known landmarks in the City of London – the Monument to the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The Great Fire has been a theme to some of my earlier posts as it was this event which resulted in the building of the Wren churches that feature as landmarks in many of my father’s photos of a bombed city. The impact it had on the City was such that a monument was needed to commemorate the Great Fire and celebrate the rebuilding of the City.

Out of Monument Underground Station, I walk past the Monument and down to Lower Thames Street to find the location where my father took the following photo.

My father's photo of the Monument from Lower Thames Street

My father’s photo of the Monument from Lower Thames Street

Lower Thames Street is much busier than when the above photo was taken and also much wider. In the above photo, the building on the extreme right with the street name was a Bank. This building was lost as part of the widening of Lower Thames Street into two, dual lane carriageways.

Thames Street (Upper and Lower) marks the waterfront of the ancient City of London and follows the line of the wall that defended the city on the riverside.

The sign on the left advertising “Best Large Mussels” is part of Billingsgate Market, located on the south side of Lower Thames Street.

The building on the right with the curved top to the windows still exists. It is the building covered by scaffolding in my 2014 photo shown below (as with Fore Street, why are the key buildings always under scaffolding?) In my father’s original photo it was the Billingsgate Christian Mission. The name can be seen just above the 1st floor windows in the original photo.

The Monument from Lower Thames Street in 2014

The Monument from Lower Thames Street in 2014

The Monument was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London. It is 202 feet high, which is the distance between the Monument and the point where the fire started in Pudding Lane.

Plaque commemorating the location of where the fire began

Plaque commemorating the location of where the fire began

The  site in which the Monument stands was formerly the churchyard of St. Margaret’s Church which was destroyed in the fire.

The Monument was often used by people throwing themselves from the top to commit suicide. Incredibly it was not until after the last suicide in 1842 that a cage was built around the top.

 

Possible Parish Boundary Marker

Possible Parish Boundary Marker

 

Walking around the base of the Monument, I found the metal plaque shown in the photo to the left. This is in a very sorry state and from the rubbish around the base is not treated well. I believe that this is a parish boundary marker. It was made by E&S Poynder of London in 1838. The inscription in the middle is St. M.N.F. which is the Parish of St. Margaret New Fish Street.

Fish Street Hill is the road that runs at the back of the Monument. This was the original thoroughfare down to Old London Bridge which was immediately south of Fish Street. The Black Prince had a palace here roughly opposite where the Monument now stands.

With the confidence that there continues to be a cage around the top viewing platform and with a six year old in tow who was sure she could make it, we decided to climb the 311 steps to the top. The Monument is managed by the City of London Corporation and climbing to the top (and getting down again) entitles you to a certificate from the Corporation.

Monument Cert 1Monument Cert 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view from the top is well worth the climb. I will leave you until next week with a selection of photos from the base and top of the Monument over a very sunny London.

Towards St. Pauls which looks as if is about to be attacked by cranes.

Towards St. Pauls which looks as if is about to be attacked by cranes.

The Shard

The Shard

The continuing skyward march of City buildings

The continuing skyward march of City buildings

 

A change to the opening times requires a wet paint sign!

A change to the opening times requires a wet paint sign!

The base of the Monument

The base of the Monument

 

 

Monument from Monument Street

Monument from Monument Street

 alondoninheritance.com

The Thames From Hungerford Bridge And A London Bridge Across The Rhine

After leaving St Mary Aldermanbury, I found another location nearby from where one of my father’s photos had been taken, however I am still checking a couple of facts about this location, so lets head out of the City of London, along the Embankment and down to Hungerford Bridge and stand on the footbridge over the Thames looking east.

If we had stood here in 1950 the view from Hungerford Bridge would have looked like this:

View from Hungerford Foot Bridge looking east in 1950.

View from Hungerford Foot Bridge looking east in 1950.

The foot bridges alongside Hungerford Bridge (there is one on either side of the railway bridge and they are more formally known as the Golden Jubilee Bridges)  were opened in 2002 and replaced the original narrow footbridge from where this photo was taken. Looking towards the city we can see the Portland Stone of the newly constructed Waterloo Bridge gleaming in the sun. The bridge had been completed 5 years previously in 1945 and due to construction during the war, it was built mainly by women.

This is not the first Waterloo Bridge, the stone for the first was laid on the 11th October 1811 and the bridge opened on the 18th June 1817, the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. If it was not for this historical event, the original proposal for the bridge was for it to be named the Strand Bridge.

The first bridge was weakening in the early decades of the 20th century and in May 1924 the bridge had to be closed to vehicular traffic owing to the weakening of the main archway and sinking of part of the roadway.

A temporary bridge was constructed and repairs undertaken to the main bridge. The temporary bridge was taken down in November 1943 and stored for use in the war effort. After the capture of Antwerp, the temporary bridge was transported across the channel and after the Germans had destroyed the Rhine bridges, the temporary bridge, with some additional sections, was built across the Rhine at Remagen, and within weeks, tanks, guns, lorries and troops were streaming over the bridge that had originally carried Londoners from the south of the river to the north.

St. Paul’s stands clear above the city, to the right we can see the OXO tower, built in the late 1920’s by the owners of the OXO brand. If we had turned further to the right we would see the Royal Festival Hall under construction as part of the Festival of Britain development. I will cover this in a future post.

Although the footbridge I am standing on is new, I try to find the position from where this photo was taken. It is an unusually sunny February afternoon, without the dramatic cloudscapes of my father’s photo. I find the position, not far from the north bank, and take the following photo:

Looking east along the Thames - 2014

Looking east along the Thames – 2014

Despite 65 years of building, and thanks to some intelligent city planning, St. Paul’s Cathedral still stands clear of its immediate surroundings, however to the right the march of steel and glass is clearly visible.  The angled shape of the Cheesegrater (or 122 Leadenhall Street to use its official name) and further to the right the Walkie Talkie building (or 20 Fenchurch Street) now dwarfs the OXO Tower.

Whilst there has been very little change along the north bank of the Thames, the south bank has changed dramatically. In the original photo, the chimney is a sign of the industrial activity that ran along the south bank of the river. Wharfs, factories, warehouses have now been transformed into theatres, offices, television studios, shops, restaurants and residential flats.

Comparing the south bank in the old and new photos, it is just possible to see how the Thames is now far more constrained than in the past. Originally along the Thames there were many inlets, wharfs etc. (and centuries ago much of the south bank was marshland), but now the Thames runs through the city constrained by stone and concrete walls.

Time to leave Hungerford Bridge and the Thames and a quick walk back past St. Pauls and to find a location which has changed beyond all recognition.

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