Iron Gate Stairs

Underneath the northern tower of Tower Bridge, there is a late 19th century version of one of the old Thames Stairs, which has a name that refers to one of the gates that controlled access into the Tower of London. This is Iron Gate Stairs.

The stairs are shown before Tower Bridge was built in this extract from Langley and Belch’s, 1812 New Map of London (underlined in red):

Iron Gate Stairs

Today, Iron Gate Stairs are reached via a tunnel which runs through the northern tower of the bridge, and comes out to a well maintained set of stone stairs:

Iron Gate Stairs

As far as I can confirm, by checking and aligning a number of maps, the stairs today appear to be in the same location as the stairs shown in the 1812 map.

It shows the importance of these access points to the river, that they were included in the design of Tower Bridge, and it must have cost more, and been more complex, to route the access to the stairs through the tower, rather than relocate them to one of the sides of the northern tower of the bridge.

The Port of London book “Access to the River Thames, a Port of London Guide”. includes these stairs in the listing of all points of access to the river along the tidal Thames, and the PLA record for Iron Gate Stairs reads:

  • Stairs and Causeway
  • Constructed of Stone
  • A landing place in 1708 and 1977 and in use at the time of the book (around 1995)
  • Structure is listed
  • The stairs are gated
  • Bathing from these stairs is extremely dangerous

I cannot find a separate listing for the stairs on the Historic England website, so I assume that the stairs are included within the overall Grade I listing of Tower Bridge, as the access to the stairs is part of the structure of the bridge.

The name of the stairs is interesting, and it appears to refer to a gate that once controlled access to the south east corner of the area between the walls of the tower and the river.

In this 1852 plan of the Tower of London, there are a cluster of buildings in the lower south east corner, with a black line, indicating some form of gate, controlling access (red arrow):

Tower of London

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Although not named, the stairs can be seen running down to the river, next to the gate.

After the construction of Tower Bridge, the name Iron Gate is retained, and although the stairs do not appear to be named (perhaps because they are under the bridge), iron Gate is used next to the tunnel underneath the approach to Tower Bridge, where today you can walk from the St Katherine Dock area, to the area between the Tower of London and the river.

In the following extract from the 1897 OS map, Iron Gate is shown just to the east of the bridge  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

Iron Gate Stairs

And in the 1951 revision, the name is still in use, but on the western side of the bridge (not also the name Irongate Wharf in use in both maps)  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

Iron Gate Stairs

So Iron Gate in the OS maps seems to continue to refer to a gate across this access through the wall created by the approach road to Tower Bridge.

As with all Thames stairs, there are references to the stairs in multiple newspaper reports over the centuries. For example, the following is from the Public Ledger and Daily Advert on the 9th of October, 1826, and unfortunately it does not record what Samuel Pearce did, which required such a public apology:

“CAUTION TO WATERMEN – I Samuel Pearce, Waterman, plying at Iron Gate Stairs, near the Tower, beg publicly to acknowledge and express my grateful feeling to John Morrison, Esq. for foregoing a prosecution against me, which I well merited, in consequence of an unprovoked and unwarrantable outrage committed on him on Friday evening; for which I cheerfully make this public apology, which he accepts, in consequence of the distressed state of my wife and infant family.”

Iron Gate Stairs were also the boarding point if you wanted to travel to “Harwich, Yarmouth and Places Adjacent”, as the 80 horse-power Steam Packet Swift sailed from the stairs on Sundays and Thursdays in the 1820s.

Indeed, Iron Gate Stairs feature in papers across the 18th and 19th centuries with all the usual stories of activities that happened at these places which formed a key access point between the land and the river.

As with other stairs, Iron Gate Stairs was a place where bodies recovered from the river were brought up to land.

The Historic England Monument Record for the Iron Gate refers to it being a gate tower constructed during the reign of Edward III (who reigned between 1327 and 1377), and that it was built to strengthen the defences of the Tower on the southern side of the complex, and that it commanded a “walled causeway through to the Develin Tower at the south east corner of the outer wall.

Stow in the early 17th century refers to the Iron Gate as being great and strong but not often opened”.

The Iron Gate was demolished in 1680 following a review of the Tower’s defences, and whilst looking for space to expand accommodation.

So whilst the gate tower was demolished, as shown in the 1852 map, a gate seems to have remained in place, although rather than the gate tower, just a standard gate.

After demolition, there also appears to have been a cluster of buildings around the location of the gate which seem to have been used for accommodation, storage and small industrial activity.

Construction of Tower Bridge cleared these buildings, and today we can see the area where the Iron Gate was located when looking towards the bridge, from the west:

Tower of London

And with some lovely historical continuity, the area of the Iron Gate is still gated, with a gatehouse and barrier across the road:

Tower of London

And looking through the walkway under the approach road to Tower Bridge, we can see gates part open across the walkway, as well as much larger and stronger gates set against the sides of the walkway:

Tower of London

In the following photo, the entrance to the walkway tunnel under the approach road is on the right, and the arch on the left provides access to the entrance to Iron Gate Stairs:

Iron Gate Stairs

Which, as the PLA description of the stairs records, is gated:

Iron Gate Stairs

Through the gate, and we can see the railings around the top of the stairs. The surrounding walls are covered in the white tiles that are common to the majority of the places where you can walk under the bridge:

Iron Gate Stairs

View of how the tunnel exits the base of the northern tower of Tower Bridge, and the steps leading down:

Iron Gate Stairs

As the PLA document records, a causeway is part of Iron Gate Stairs, and for the stairs this is one of the largest causeways to be seen. It covers a large space at the base of the stairs, both in terms of width and length into the river:

Iron Gate Stairs

The stairs are part of the construction of Tower Bridge, and I assume that the causeway may well date from the same time (assuming it has been continuously repaired). I doubt whether the stairs would have had a causeway of such size prior to the bridge being built.

The need for a bridge at or around the location of Tower Bridge had been a pressing issue for many years prior to the construction of the bridge. In the later half of the 19th century, there was so much cross river traffic that an urgent solution was needed.

In 1884, the Southwark recorder and Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Advertiser was reporting that “The Corporation also propose to establish a steam ferry across the river, from Iron Gate Stairs, Little Tower Hill, to Horselydown Old Stairs, near Horselydown Lane. Another scheme for crossing the Thames is proposed by the Tower (Duplex) Bridge Bill. The structure would cross the river from Hartley’s Wharf, Horselydown, to Little Tower Hill, having in the centre of the river two loop bridges.”

The following year, the Eastern Argus and Borough of Hackney Times, was reporting about the construction of the new bridge, and that “the work will be done by the City Corporation which has set down five years as the period for completing it. It is to be formed from a point westwards of and near the Iron Gate Stairs to Hartley’s Wharf. The cost will be £750,000, and the structure will be of such a character as to admit of the passage at all times of the tide of vessels navigating the river. The bridge will be a great convenience to East London”.

The above report does call into question whether the current stairs were built on the site of the original Iron Gate Stairs, as the article states that the new bridge is to be built “westwards of and near the Iron Gate Stairs”.

A later article in June 1886 does though seem to confirm that the northern tower, and the stairs we see today are on the site of the original stairs, as when describing the works for the new bridge, the article states “On the north side, as already stated, it touches the shore at Irongate Stairs, from which a road will lead directly up to the Minories”.

In 1889, Watermen were complaining about the disruption to their trade “THE TOWER BRIDGE AND THE LONDON WATERMEN – The Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to considered the Tower Bridge Bill proceeded to-day to hear the evidence of numerous watermen who claim compensation for disturbance of their occupation between Irongate and Horselydown Stairs in consequence of the construction of the works,. George William Shand was the first claimant”.

I would have thought that the watermen would have been far more concerned about the forthcoming loss of their trade between the two stairs once the new bridge had been opened.

Based on the majority of newspaper reports, aligning maps, and the Port of London Authority listing of Thames Stairs, I am as certain as I can be that the stairs we see today are in the same place as the original Iron Gate Stairs.

The railing by the side of the view over the stairs seem to have acquired evidence of many of the tourist visits to the site:

Tower Bridge

I had a good look around, however I could not find any signs that name iron Gate Stairs.

They are though yet another example of historical continuity, with the stairs being in roughly the same place after the construction of Tower Bridge, and being named after a gate dating back to the 14th century, located where there are still a barrier and gates in position, to close of the south eastern entry to the space between the Tower of London and the River Thames.

alondoninheritance.com

A New Walk – The Lost Landscape and Transformation of Puddle Dock and Thames Street

I will have dates for my existing walks covering Wapping, Limehouse etc. in the summer, but for April and early May I have a new walk, which has the rather long title of “The Lost Landscape and Transformation of Puddle Dock and Thames Street”.

Dates and Eventbrite links for booking are as follows, and more details of the walk are below.

Or to see all the dates together, my main Eventbrite page is here.

In terms of distance, this walk is shorter than my Wapping and Limehouse walks. It starts at one end of Queen Victoria Street, outside Blackfriars Station, and ends further up Queen Victoria Street not far from Mansion House, and covers the historic area between Queen Victoria Street and the Thames.

The walk tells the story from the Roman period up to post-war redevelopment, and why the area is as we see it today.

Having been transformed after the war, the area may soon be transformed again as there are plans for the possible redevelopment of the area around Puddle Dock, Baynard House and St Benet’s Church, between Queen Victoria Street and the Thames.

Queen Victoria Street and Thames Street

This area is in need of some change. It is a product of planning first developed in the 1940s for the post-war transformation of London. A plan where the car was a priority for transport through the City.

Post-war redevelopment exposed the remains of 15th century Baynard’s Castle. Puddle Dock was filled in and Upper Thames Street extended on land reclaimed from the river.

Puddle Dock

The original route of Upper Thames Street was lost, and St. Benet’s Church isolated between roads and the City of London School.

The walk explores this long history of the area between Queen Victoria Street and the Thames.

Rubbish dumps, Thames Stairs, Roman and Medieval remains, post war planning, and how this created a very unfriendly environment for the pedestrian. How apparently historical streets are not what they seem. The first theatre built in the City of London for 300 years, within the walls of an old warehouse, St. Paul’s sightlines and some remarkable industrial building decoration.

Thames Street

The possible future development of the area will also be considered.

The walk will use plenty of my father’s photos from the late 1940s, and my photos from the late 70s / early 80s, along with 1940s and 1950s redevelopment plans, and earlier maps to show how the area has changed.

The walk will take about 2 hours and starts outside Blackfriars Station and finishes at the northern end of Queen Victoria Street with a look at a driving force behind the post-war greening of the City.

I look forward to showing around part of the City of London that could well be changing in the coming years. All booking dates here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/a-london-inheritance-walks-33326287375

New Deal for East London – Greenwich Part 2

Following last week’s post, this is part two of my exploration of Greenwich, looking for the locations marked as potentially at risk from development in the Architects’ Journal of 1972.

In last week’s post, I started at the Royal Observatory (the black buildings under number 82 in the following map), and then explored the streets and buildings to the lower left of the map.

Greenwich Market

In today’s post, I am working through the upper part of the map, either side of the old Royal Naval College and National Maritime Museum, starting with the following building in Nevada Street, on the corner with Crooms Hill:

Spread eagle Yard Greenwich Market

This was the Spread Eagle, an old coaching inn, which still has the name Spread Eagle Yard above the arched entrance to the yard where horses were stabled to the rear of the building.

The current building dates from a 1780 rebuild of the inn, and it was closed comparatively recently in 2013.

The brown plaque on the left of the building is to Dick Moy (1932 to 2004) who was an historian and art dealer who restored and worked from the inn.

Just to the left of the Spread Eagle, Croom Hill changes to Stockwell Street, and we can see a mix of architecture, with buildings from the 18th century through to the 21st century University of Greenwich Galleries on the left:

Greenwich Market

On the corner of Crooms Hill and Nevada Street, opposite the Spread Eagle is Ye Old Rose and Crown which claims to date from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, however the brick building we see today dates from 1888:

Rose and Crown pub Greenwich

You can also see from the above photo that the Rose and Crown is surrounded by the Greenwich Theatre, with a new entrance on the right and original buildings on the left.

The original buildings date back to 1855 when it was a Music Hall. A change to a cinema followed in 1924, and the theatre opened in 1969 following a campaign to save the building from demolition in the 1960s.

St. Alfege

Continuing down Stockwell Street, and we find a superb view of the church of St. Alfege:

St Alfege Greenwich

There has been a church on the site for around 1000 years, however the church that we see today dates from between 1712 and 1718 and was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. It was one of the so called fifty new churches planned to be built in the areas around the then outskirts of London, in the places that had been expanding rapidly and did not have the number or size of churches needed to support increasing populations.

The previous church on the site had suffered a roof collapse during a storm, and to save money, the tower of the earlier church was included in the new church, although this was not Hawksmoor’s original plan.

In 1731, the earlier medieval tower was extended and clad in limestone, so presumably, parts of the medieval tower are still within the structure today.

On entering the church, we see the altar at the eastern end, and two galleries running either side of the church:

St Alfege Greenwich

In the above photo, on either side of the arch leading to the altar, there are two ornate panels, which list benefactors dating back to 1558, when William Lambarde “Founded and Endowed a College, the first Public Charity after the Reformation for 20 poor men and their wives. 8 to be off this parish and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth”:

St Alfege Greenwich

Other benefactors include in 1577: “William Riplar, Fisherman gave his house called the Peter boat to the poor for ever” and in 1605, Joyce Whitehead gave 5 shillings to repair the church every year. All fascinating local tales of charity.

In front of the altar is a plaque which records why the church is dedicated to St. Alfege, and why it is on this site:

St Alfege Greenwich

The plaque is hard to read in the photo, but it states that “This church stands on ground hallowed by Alfege Archbishop of Canterbury martyred here 19th April 1012”.

St. Alfege (the spelling of the name includes variations such as Alphege), was born in a village near Bath, and became the Abbot of Bath and then the Bishop of Winchester. In 1005 he was appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the early decades of the 11th century, the Danes were invading much of southern England and in 1011 they attacked Canterbury, burning the Cathedral and plundering the city.

Alfege was taken hostage, apparently to be held for ransom, and he was transported by ship to Greenwich.

It was here that he was killed. It is impossible to know exactly how this happened, but many stories tell that Alfege told his captors that the ransom was too high, and that it should and would not be paid. In a drunken rage, they pelted him with cattle bones and an axe head, which killed him.

It was this event which resulted in Alfege being made a Saint (although there has been some dispute about this, and whether he died because of his faith, or the size of the ransom), and to the first church being built on the site of his death later in the 11th century.

St. Alfege is not buried in Greenwich. After his death he was buried in St. Paul’s, then soon after, his body was moved to Canterbury Cathedral, where it remains to this day.

Although Alfege is not buried in the church, there are a number of well known names who have been, including one who may also have left musical evidence of his connection with the church.

Thomas Tallis was a 16th century English composer who was organist in St. Alfege from 1540 to 1585, and is believed to have lived in Stockwell Street close to the church during the later years of his life.

In the church is the keyboard from one of the earlier organs. The majority of the keyboard dates from the 18th century, however it is believed that parts may date back to the 16th century and may have been in use when Tallis was the organist:

St Alfege Greenwich

Another burial in the church is that of General James Wolfe (Wolfe’s statue is the one on the hill next to the Royal Observatory – see last week’s post). Wolfe had a house in Greenwich and also a family vault in the church.

He died in Canada during a battle to take Quebec from the French, and it is for his part in the wars to capture French possessions in north America that Wolfe is best known, although this was the culmination of a long military career.

There is an interesting monument in the church that includes a reference to the invention of the “Dinwiddy Rangefinder”:

Dinwiddy Rangefinder

Conrad Dinwiddy was born in Greenwich in 1881, and was the son of London architect and surveyor, Thomas Dinwiddy who had an architectural practice based in Greenwich.

During the First World War, German Zeppelins were making bombing attacks on London and Conrad Dinwiddy saw one of these attacks on Woolwich by Zeppelin L13. He saw that although there were several searchlights trained on the Zeppelin and many guns attempting to hit the attacker, none were actually hitting, and that it appeared impossible to accurately aim a gun and fire a shell to hit a target at height, which was also moving at speed.

Like his father, Conrad was also a surveyor, so was familiar with use of instruments such as theodolite, however working out the positions of a moving target were far more complex that traditional surveying of fixed objects.

He came up with a plan for two stations, based 500 yards apart. One was a primary observation station and was connected by telephone to the secondary station.

The rangefinder worked by the primary observation station making measurements of position and height which were then adjusted to improve accuracy with the measurements of the second station which was, at 500 yards distant, on a fixed baseline.

The Dinwiddy Rangefinder was put into production, but as the war progressed, the threat from bombing changed from Zeppelin’s to aircraft, and rapid technical advances improved other methods for defending London against aerial threats, however the Dinwiddy Rangefinder remains as an example of the rapid response to a threat from a Londoner who saw the potential impact to their city.

Conrad Dinwiddy joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1916, where he was posted to the Western Front in charge of a six inch howitzer battery. He would continue inventing improvements to how guns were aimed, firing from barges, and the methods for transporting ammunition.

He was wounded by German battery fire on the 26th of September, 1917, and died the following day. He is buried in a military cemetery in Belgium. The memorial in St. Alfege has the wrong date, as he died a day earlier on the 27th of September.

A fascinating story from this small plaque in the church.

As I left the church, I had a look in a small room on the left as you exit, which has a number of display cabinets on the history of the church and I noticed the following: The Festival Guide – Greenwich

St Alfege Greenwich

If you have read the blog for a while, you are probably aware of my interest in the Festival of Britain, and this guide is another example of how the festival was intended to reach across the country, and towns and villages, and suburbs of London were also having their own interpretation of the festival, with local events and guides.

Outside the church, on the corner of what is now Greenwich High Road and Nelson Road is a Bill’s restaurant in a rather ornate corner building:

Greenwich Market

I did wonder if the building was a new build on the site of bomb damage to the terrace you can see to the left, however the style of the building shows that it is pre-war, and it was indeed built in the early 1930s for the Burton menswear chain.

The road then changes to Greenwich Church Street, and here we find one of the entrances to Greenwich Market:

Greenwich Market

The terrace buildings on either side come to what looks like a designed end where the entrance to the market is located, and this indeed was the plan.

The terraces on either side of the entrance were built as part of an overall redevelopment of the market area around 1829 / 30. They are all Grade II listed, and if we look to the left we can see how the symmetrical design of the terrace curves along the street:

Greenwich Market

Further along Greenwich Church Street, at the junction with College Approach, the Spanish Galleon pub is on the corner:

Spanish Galleon pub Greenwich Market

The Spanish Galleon pub dates from the same market redevelopment as the terrace houses featured above. As with so much of Greenwich, the pub is Grade II listed. A pub is believed to have been on the site for many years prior to the 1829 / 1830 redevelopment.

The market can be seen in the following map, located in the centre of some of the streets we have been walking along (on the left of the map) (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Greenwich Market

Up until the start of the 19th century, this was an area of narrow lanes and alleys, and with the growing importance of Greenwich, a redevelopment of the area was needed, and the architect Joseph Kay was commissioned, and it is his work we see today.

Joseph Kay (1775 to 1847) worked on a wide range of building projects across the country. In London, he was appointed surveyor to the Foundling Hospital in 1807, he laid out the gardens in Mecklenburgh Square, he was employed by the Marquis Camden on his Camden Town Estate, and in 1823 he was appointed surveyor of Greenwich Hospital.

The view along College Approach, with the Spanish Galleon on the right, and the terrace along the right being on the northern side of the market:

Greenwich Market

Greenwich has had a market since the 14th century, however the current market dates from a charter granted in 1700. It was originally located on part of the Seamen’s Hospital site, close to the West Gate. It relocated to the current site as part of Joseph Kay’s redevelopment of the area, and was originally a market selling fruit and vegetables, fish caught by Greenwich fishermen, plants and seeds, with sellers of pottery, glass and household goods around the edge of the main market area.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the popularity of the market as a place for fruit, vegetables etc. declined, and the market transformed into in place where stallholders sell all manner of arts and crafts products, with a cluster of food stalls at the northern end.

The market is open seven days a week, but gets really busy at the weekends.

A view through the market:

Greenwich Market

The market, and the surrounding buildings of the 1830 redevelopment are part of the buildings marked in black in the Architects’ Journal article, and with the decline of the traditional use of the market, the market could have been so easily lost during the 1970s / 80s, however the market is owned and managed by Greenwich Hospital who fortunately have both a historic and long term view of the importance of the area.

A message to those leaving the market:

Greenwich Market

Just to the east of the market entrance in College Approach is another Grade II listed pub, the Admiral Hardy:

Admiral hardy Greenwich Market

Greenwich is very well served with pubs. The Admiral Hardy was again part of the 1830 redevelopment, and to the right of the pub in the above photo is a small part of what was the Royal Clarence Music Hall, built over the entrance to the market.

The music hall was named after the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, and the street outside, College Approach was originally Clarence Street.

At the end of College Approach is the Grade I listed West Gate into the old Royal Naval College. The listing includes the gates, piers, globes and brick lodges on either side:

Greenwich West Gate

The globes on top of the piers are fascinating. Each globe is of Portland Stone, of 6 feet diameter and weighs around seven tons.

The globes date from the early 1750s, and were installed to commemorate Commodore George Anson’s around the world voyage, which is a remarkable story, and resulted in the surviving crew becoming rich through the capture of a Spanish treasure ship.

The globes are marked with lines of latitude and longitude in copper strips

It was common practice in the 18th century for the story of voyages such as Anson’s to be published as partworks, and Anson’s voyage was covered in 15 issues starting in August 1744, and was written by “An Officer of the Fleet”.

Adverts for the publication enticed the reader with hints of the dangers faced by the crew and descriptions of a part of the world that the majority of people knew very little about:

“This Work contains a very faithful and exact relation of the many Difficulties and Dangers the Fleet met with in the Voyage. An Account of the Loss of their Ships, and what dreadful Miseries and Hardships the poor sailors met with, being forced on desolate islands, where many of them perished for want. Also an Account of the manner of their Living in the Voyage on Seals, Wild Horses, Dogs and the incredible Hardships they frequently met with for want of Food of any Kind. The Loss of the Wager (one of the ships) and the Behaviour of the Captain (who shot one of his Mates), his Officers and Crew, fully and faithfully related. Their plundering and destroying of the City of Payta, where the Commodore got immense Riches, and his sailing afterwards into the East-Indies, where he was well received by the Vice King of China, who furnished him with Provisions and Necessaries to enable him to pursue his Voyage to England. With a particular Account of his taking the rich Aquapulco Ship.

This Book will give a complete Description of the several places where the Fleet touched, how they plundered and distressed the Spaniards; the Manners, Customs, Religion, Trade and Manufactures of the People who inhabit this large and almost unknown Part of the World.”

All for two pence an issue, with a free print of Commodore Anson with the first issue.

From the West Gate, I turn left and head down to the river, with the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which I have written about in a dedicated post, here.

Greenwich foot tunnel

An obligatory photo of the Cutty Sark:

Cutty Sark

From here I headed along the walkway by the river to find the locations in the Architects’ Journal map to the east of the Royal Naval College.

At the start of this walkway is the monument to a young lieutenant of the French Navy, Joseph Rene Bellot who went in search of Sir John Franklin. It is a fascinating story, and I have a dedicated post about Bellot, here.

Bellot monument

Looking through the old Royal Naval College, to Queen’s House, with the Royal Observatory just visible on the hill in the distance:

Greenwich Royal Naval College

At the end of the walkway alongside the river is the Grade II listed Trafalgar Tavern, which has a remarkable display of colourful flags outside:

Trafalgar Tavern Greenwich

Greenwich must have been a hive of building activity around 1830. As well as the market development and of the surrounding streets, the Trafalgar Tavern also dates from the same time. It was built on the site of an earlier pub, the Old George Inn.

The Historic England listing states 1830, however the pub website states 1837, and in this instance the pub website seems more accurate than Historic England as I found a newspaper report mentioning an event at the pub in 1833.

Crane Street alongside the pub was equally decorated, and it was along here that I walked to get to more sites on the Architects’ journal map.

Trafalgar Tavern Greenwich

At the end of Crane Street is the (Grade II*) Trinity Hospital and Greenwich Power Station:

Trinity Hospital Greenwich

I have written a dedicated post about these two buildings, which you can find here.

In the Architects’ Journal map, Trinity Hospital is coloured black, indicating a building of concern, and one that should be protected from potential future development of east London, however the power station was not.

I suspect that if today there were plans to demolish the power station there would be a campaign to save the building. As well as part of Greenwich’s industrial history (off which there is not much left), it is also a major landmark, made prominent with the chimneys.

The power station is not listed.

View of part of the jetty where ships bringing coal for the power station once docked and unloaded:

Greenwich power station jetty

Ships moored in the river:

River Thames Greenwich

Walking past the power station, I reached the eastern end of the Greenwich buildings in the Architects’ Journal map, which included the Cutty Sark pub (Grade II listed):

Cutty Sark pub Greenwich

With the terrace of houses and at the end the Grade II listed Harbour Master’s Office for Ballast Quay:

Cutty Sark pub Greenwich

As this post is getting rather long, here is a link to where I have written about the pub and part of Greenwich Peninsula that follows on from the Harbour Master’s Office.

I still had to visit the buildings shown on the map that are between the power station and Greenwich Park, so I headed back past the Cutty Sark pub, along Hoskins Street, where there is an interesting example of how most of a terrace was demolished leaving only two houses remaining.

Hoskins Street Greenwich

The LCC Bomb Damage Map does show bomb damage here, so this may have been the cause of the loss of the rest of the terrace.

This is a very different part of Greenwich to that which I have explored in the first post and so far in this post. Here are the houses built for those who worked in the industries between Greenwich and Woolwich, and on the river, and the essential businesses that frequently occupy such areas:

Greenwich garage

Rear of the power station:

Greenwich power station

I do not know the purpose of the tower on the right. It may have been for water storage, but it looks rather small.

The road alongside the rear of the power station is the Old Woolwich Road, and as the name describes this was once the main route between Greenwich and Woolwich.

A nice reminder of the original purpose of the power station, and who consumed the electricity generated:

Greenwich power station

The rear of Trinity Hospital:

Trinity Hospital Greenwich

At the corner of Old Woolwich Road and Greenwich Park Street is the Star of Greenwich pub:

Star of Greenwich pub

I really like the bay windows projecting from the pub on the two sides of the building.

The Star of Greenwich is a wonderful story of a pub saved from closure by the community.

A mid-19th century pub and originally called the Star and Garter, the pub closed in August 2021.

Three friends worked to reopen the pub as a community pub, a pub that would support a wide range of community services and would be an inclusive place for the people of Greenwich.

The pub reopened at the end of April 2023, and there is a BBC video about the pub, here.

A side street off Greenwich Park Street is Trenchard Street, which has some wonderful houses:

Trenchard Street Greenwich

These houses, along with others in the surrounding streets are part of the Trenchard Street Estate, and were built by the Greenwich Hospital Estates from around 1913 and into the 1920s.

They are a considerable improvement on typical 19th century housing, and from the outside they can be seen as larger buildings, and have sizeable windows to let in as much light as possible.

At the end of Greenwich Park Street is Trafalgar Road, the main road today between Greenwich and Woolwich, and the road which replaced the Old Woolwich Road that runs at the rear of the power station and Trinity Hospital.

Mural on the side of a building alongside Trafalgar Road:

Greenwich Mural

Crossing Trafalgar Road, and I am heading back to the northern side of Greenwich Park, and the proximity to the park can be seen by the type of house, which are generally larger and more expensive than those between Trafalgar Road and the river.

This terrace is alongside the southern section of Greenwich Park Street:

Greenwich Park Street

Park Vista runs along the northern edge of the park. There are no houses alongside the park, and houses line the northern side of the street, and as the street name suggests they have a wonderful view across into Greenwich Park.

The buildings are far from uniform, and show a wide range of styles and dates.

This is the Grade II listed Manor House, which the listing records as being early to mid 18th century:

Manor House Greenwich

The whole house is wonderful, however the roof has a unique feature, which the listing describes as “Hipped, tiled roof broken in centre to hold renewed weatherboarded gazebo with pyramidal, tiled roof.”

The gazebo is ideally placed for providing a view across the park, and would be a brilliant place for a summer evening with a beer.

In contrast is Park Place, dating from 1791:

Park Place Greenwich

To the west of Park Place is another Greenwich pub – the Plume of Feathers:

Plume of Feathers, Greenwich

The pub’s website claims that it is the oldest pub in Greenwich and dates from 1691.

There is a small cluster of buildings in Samuel Travers map of Greenwich from 1695 in what seems to be the right place for the pub, so this could well be true. It is a really good pub, and well worth a visit.

Just past the pub, Park Vista curves slightly to the north, allowing houses to have been built between the street and park. A strange mix of styles, ages and later additions:

Greenwich Meridian

But one of these houses has a rather unique feature. There is a small square sign on the wall to the left of the lamp post in the above photo.

The sign refers to the Greenwich Meridian, and there is also a metal strip in the pavement:

Greenwich Meridian

Which continues with studs across the road:

Greenwich meridian

So you do not have to join the queue for a photo of a foot in each hemisphere at the Royal Observatory, just head to Park Vista where you can take as much time as you want for photos.

The building at the western end of this cluster of houses is the Grade II listed St. Alfege’s Vicarage:

St Alfege Vicarage

The listing starts the description of the building with “Rambling building of various dates”, although most of the building seems to date from around 1800, however at the very end of the listing there is the following “The old parts of this building formed part of Henry VIII’s palace of Placentia”, which is intriguing and would dates parts of the building back to the 16th century.

From here it was a short walk to the open space in front of the Queen’s House and the National Maritime Museum:

Greenwich Market

And just to show how everything has had some form of building work over the years, the large grassed area hides the cut and cover railway that runs underneath (part one of these Greenwich posts showed a view of the railway), as it runs between Greenwich and Maze Hill.

And from here there was only one place to go. It was a lovely sunny March day, so I headed back to the Cutty Sark pub, one of my favourite places to watch the river:

Cutty Sark Pub

In these two posts, I have covered area 82 from the Architects’ journal map and list of places identified as worthy of preservation, and at risk of possible development as the east of London (north and south of the river) was expected to radically change in the following decades after the closure of the docks, and the loss of the industry and businesses associated with the docks and trade on the river.

From memory, there was never any significant risk to Greenwich, but the 1972 article has served as a reminder that Greenwich really is a wonderful part of the wider London.

Wander away from the park and there is plenty to be explored.

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New Deal For East London – Greenwich

Back in 2017, I started a series of blog posts about an article in the Architects’ Journal on the 19th of January 1972. This issue had a lengthy, special feature titled “New Deal For East London”. The feature reported on the challenges facing the whole area to the east of London, which by the 1970s had been in continuous decline since the end of the last war, along with the future impact of some of the very early plans for major developments across the whole area to the east of London.

The article identifies a range of these challenges and developments, including:

  • The impact on the London Docks of the large cargo ships now coming into service
  • The lack of any strategic planning for the area and the speculative building work taking place, mainly along the edge of the Thames
  • The location of a possible Thames Barrage
  • The impact of the proposed new London airport off the coast of Essex at Foulness
  • The need to maintain a mixed community and not to destroy the established communities across the area
Greenwich Park New Deal for London

A key focus of the article is a concern that should there be comprehensive development of the area in the coming years, then a range of pre-1800 buildings should be preserved. The article included a map that identified 85 locations where there are either individual or groups of buildings that should be preserved. The area includes parts of south London, although still to the east of the central city area, therefore considered as being east London.

The map was split across two pages and the locations were divided into five categories, identified by their historical origins:

A – Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London

B – Linear development along Thames and Lea due to riverside trades

C – Medieval village centres

D – Early 19th century ribbon developments

E – Medieval village centres along southern river bank and around London Bridge

Between 2017 and 2019, I went in search of a large number of locations listed in the article, and followed up with posts documenting what had survived, and also where there had been changes, however after 2019 I did not finish working through the list of 85 locations, so today’s post is the first in a final set of posts for 2024, to finish of writing about all the 85 locations recorded as places at risk of redevelopment in the years following 1972.

The second page of the map included a list of the buildings, along with the area that is the focus of today’s post – Greenwich:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

Greenwich is a bit of an outlier in the article. There is very little written about Greenwich in the article, and where many other individual buildings had their own numbered entry, the whole of Greenwich is covered by a single number, 82 in the map of “locations, grouping and number of buildings that should be considered for preservation if comprehensive redevelopment of East London were undertaken”.

Of the five categories of location in the article, Greenwich is identified as “E – Medieval village centres along southern river bank” and the map highlighted pre-1800 buildings in black:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

In the first series of articles, there were a number of comments raised about classing places south of the river as being in East London.

This was the definition used in the article, and if you ignore the traditional north or south of the river,, they are all to the east of London. They also all shared a common relationship with the working river. They were the location of docks, industry dependent on the river, people would live and work on opposite sides of the river, they had institutions that were there because of the river, people who arrived by the river would stay and live on both sides etc.

So classing these places as East London is a classification I rather like as they had much in common, and a considerable amount of their development was dependent on the river, and of being east of London where the major developments needed to support the growing trade and commercialization of the river, had space to be built.

The map for Greenwich covers a considerable area, from all the streets to the west of Greenwich Park, through the centre of Greenwich, the Royal Observatory and the old Royal Hospital and Naval College buildings, then to the east with some houses along the river, then around the power station.

Rather than have one extremely long post, I will therefore cover the Architects’ Journal map of places that should be preserved in two posts, with today’s post covering the Royal Observatory and the streets to the west, so starting at the top of the hill in Greenwich Park, where we find the:

Royal Observatory

The Royal Observatory sits at the top of the hill that rises from the land alongside the river, and through the Prime Meridian, or 0 degrees Longitude, which runs through the observatory as defined by the astronomer Sir George Biddell Airy, and recognised internationally in 1884. The Prime Meridian is one of the reasons for the Greenwich name to be known internationally.

The Royal Observatory was founded by a Royal Warrant of King Charles II in 1675, and the first building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and still stands at the top of the hill, and is named Flamsteed House after the Reverend John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal at Greenwich:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

Whilst the Royal Observatory has hardly changed in the 50 plus years that I have been visiting Greenwich Park, the area around General Wolfe’s statue, and the hill in front, are undergoing some major changes:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

The statue of General Wolfe was unveiled on the 5th of June 1930, and is by the sculptor  Dr R Tait McKenzie. The statue is Grade II listed, and the Historic England listing includes the reference “Plinth much pitted by bomb fragments”, so hopefully these physical reminders of the way Greenwich was bombed will be retained.

It looks like a larger viewing area is being built in front of the statue. The view from this area must have been photographed millions of times and in summer does get very busy, so the additional space will help.

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

My father’s first photo of the view from here was in 1953, and my first photo dates from 1980. I wrote a post on how the view has evolved over the years in this post.

The current work is not limited to the area around the statue, the hill in front of the statue is also being changed:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

This hill was a rough grassy slope running from the viewing area down to the flat grass in front of Queen’s House, however this hill is now being terraced:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

The work is to restore the 17th century landscape of the park. Greenwich Park had been a hunting ground, but Charles II wanted a more formal Baroque landscape, so he engaged André Le Nôtre who had designed the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.

You can read more about the restoration work at this page on the Royal Parks website.

The following print from 1676 shows the new observatory on the hill, and to the left is a formal set of terraces running up the hill, confirming that these were a feature of the park in the 17th century:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Comparing the above print from 1676, with the photo below from 2024 shows that this view has hardly changed in 348 years. the main change to the building being the addition of the post on the left of the two central small towers with the red ball.

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

The red ball was added in 1833 and was possibly one of the world’s first public time signals, and was installed on the observatory so it was visible from the ships on the Thames, for whom time keeping, and being able to accurately set their clocks and watches was important for tides and navigation.

The ball rises to the top by 12:58 pm, each day, and then drops at 1pm as an early, visible equivalent to the “pips” which would provide an accurate time signal years later on radio transmissions.

Although you cannot look at the view from the area in front of General Wolfe, the walkway directly around the base of Flamsteed House is still open, and from here we can still look at the view.

To the east, with the Dome and Power Station:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

The ever growing field of towers that now inhabit the Isle of Dogs:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

Looking west to the City of London:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

This path runs around the back of the oberervatory buildings and through gardens:

Greenwich Park New Deal for London

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich started closing in 1948 when the move to a new site in Herstmonceux, East Sussex  commenced. The buildings were too dated for modern equipment, and the pollution of London was not ideal for visual astronomy.

Flamsteed House opened to the public in 1960, so I doubt the site was ever really at risk, despite being one of the black coloured buildings in the Architects’ Journal map, although being at risk is not just about the building, but also the wider environment and if large new tower blocks had been built in Greenwich and around the park, the setting of the observatory would today be very different.

To find more of the buildings highlighted in the map, I am leaving the park by one of the gates on the west, to find:

Crooms Hill

Crooms Hill runs along the western edge of the park and has a range of buildings of different architectural style and ages. It is the type of street where you are never more than a few seconds walk from a listed building.

Close to the exit from the park is this structure:

Crooms Hill

Which my father also photographed in the 1980s:

Crooms Hill

In the 1980s photo above, there is a plaque below the window on the right, which presumably provided some information about the building, however that has disappeared by 2024.

I did though find some information in the Historic England listing, as both the wall and the building are Grade II listed, and are of some age. From the listing:

“C17 high red brick wall. Gazebo of 1672, probably by Robert Hooke, perched on wall but accessible from higher ground level inside. Pyramidal tiled roof with oval wood finial. Moulded wood eaves cornice with carved modillions. Red brick North-west wall blank. South-west wall has open round arch which once contained detached Roman Doric columns and entablatures with moulded round architrave above. South-east wall has square headed opening, with shouldered, moulded brick architrave and cornice, which once contained a round inner arch. On North-east (road) front square opening with moulded brick architrave resting on band raised in centre.”

On the side of the building facing the road, there is a shield with presumably a coat of arms. The Historic England record does not mention the arms, and I can find no reference to what appears to be four scallops or shells in black and white and in this arrangement:

Crooms Hill

One of the things about a street such as Crooms Hill is the sheer diversity of architectural styles and the building materials used, as well as the changes that have been made to the buildings over the centuries.

I cannot find the following building in the Historic England list of listed buildings, but it still is of interest, with a large three storey curved end to the building, which then steps back as a relatively normal house:

Crooms Hill

In 1746 not that much of Greenwich to the west of the park had been developed. Rocque’s map shows Crooms Hill along the western edge of the park, with a number of buildings lining the western edge of the road. These are many of the buildings that we can still see today (Crooms Hill marked with red arrow):

Crooms Hill

One of the buildings that was marked in Rocque’s map is the Presbytery. Grade II* listed and dating from 1630, but with some 18th century alterations:

Crooms Hill

The following house dates from the mid 18th century, and the house, railings, wall and gate are all Grade II listed:

Crooms Hill

Just to the right of the above photo can be seen the edge of a church. This is the Roman Catholic Church of Our Ladye Star of the Sea, which again is Grade II* listed:

Crooms Hill

The following print from 1862 shows the church and Crooms Hill, which at the time appears to have been a relatively narrow, unpaved track. It is not that much wider today:

Crooms Hill

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The church owes its origins to the maritime history of Greenwich.

In the late 18th century there were many Catholic occupants of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich. Estimates of up to 500, with numbers coming from Catholic countries such as Portugal which gives an indication of the residents of the hospital.

In 1793 a Chapel of St. Mary was built for these Catholic seamen. in the following decades, the chapel became rather inadequate, and a proper church was needed.

There is a tradition associated with the church that following the rescue of her two sons following an accident on the Thames, a Mrs. Abraham North vowed to build a church.

Fund raising covered the majority of the costs for building the church, and in recognition of the importance of the church to the maritime community, the Admiralty donated £200.

The North family donated the land for the church, and the architect William Wilkinson Wardell was employed.

Wardell was a friend of W N. Pugin, and Pugin worked on the design of the majority of fittings and furnishings within the church. Work started in 1846 and the church was completed in 1851.

Walking through the main doors into the church reveals a rather impressive interior:

Crooms Hill

The high altar was by William Wilkinson Wardell, and it was exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition:

Crooms Hill

Side chapel:

Crooms Hill

The Church of Our Ladye Star of the Sea is a magnificent example of mid 19th century church design and decoration, and a reminder of the connection between Greenwich, and those who worked and sailed on the Thames and the sea.

Continuing along Crooms Hill and we see plenty of one off house designs.

The tall house with the bay along the first and second floors in the following photo is Grade II listed, and indeed all the buildings in the following photo appear to be listed:

Crooms Hill

There is no single design theme running along Crooms Hill, and here is another example of the mix of styles. I suspect much of the building was speculative, made use of available plots of land, for different occupants, and variable amounts of money available to build and decorate etc. Whatever the reasons, it has resulted in a fascinating street:

Crooms Hill

The house on the left has a Greater London Council blue plaque recording that Benjamin Waugh, the founder of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children lived in the house:

Crooms Hill

Again, the houses in the above photo are listed, and looking further along the street there is another house with a tall, central bay running up all three floors.

There is enough in Crooms Hill to fill an entire post, and one of the buildings in the street houses the Fan Museum, however the Architects’ Journal map included more streets to the west of Greenwich Park, so I turned down King George Street to find more of the buildings marked on the map.

King George Street

The houses to the west are generally smaller. Those on Crooms Hill were facing Greenwich Park, and were the first buildings in this part of Greenwich. They were larger, and in a better position and were therefore built and occupied by the more wealthy residents of Greenwich. As we head into the streets to the west, we find houses that were built from the late 18th century onwards and were probably for the working class, tradesmen and those who worked in the many river related professions.

King George Street

This large three storey building stands out along the terrace of two storey houses. Whilst it is now a private house, it was once a pub – the Woodman:

King George Street

And almost opposite the Woodman is another closed pub. This one looking more like a pub. This was the Britannia:

King George Street

Hidden behind the terrace houses on King George Street is a large, 19th century school, one of the impressive schools built by the London Schools Board. There is an entrance to the school playground from King George Street, with separate entrances for Girls & Infants, and for Boys:

King George Street

Whilst the main school building behind is still a school, it looks as if the old entrance has been converted to residential.

Half way along King George Street is Royal Place, which has two storey workman’s houses on one side, and three storey, presumably more expensive houses on the opposite side:

King George Street

At the end of Royal Place, we come to:

Royal Hill

And turning left along this road, we find a pub that is still open – the Prince of Greenwich:

Royal Hill

The Prince of Greenwich is not the original name of the pub, it was originally the Prince Albert, and the street Royal Hill has an interesting history. It was originally Gang Lane, but renamed Royal Hill after Robert Royal, the builder of a theatre in Greenwich in 1749.

The street, Gang Lane is shown in Rocque’s map below, and is believed to date from the medieval period:

Royal Hill

In the above map, it is shown running from London Street, then curving round to Lime Kiln Lane. Today, only the section to the right of the “L” in Lane remains, and to the west, the street now continues as a straight street, rather than continuing the curve.

Terrace houses in Royal Hill:

Royal Hill

Along Royal Hill is another closed pub, the Barley Mow, although rather than residential, after closure in 2003, it was converted into a restaurant:

Royal Hill

Above the main corner door is a lovely mosaic sign which dates from the time of the Barley Mow, with the Whitbread brewery name at the top and the pub name at the bottom, with presumably what was meant to be a stack of barley as the main feature:

Royal Hill

After the Barley Mow pub, the buildings become more recent, although there is a stub of Royal Hill to the right with buildings from the 19th century, but here I turned around and headed back as there was still much to find from this section of the Architects’ Journal map.

Further back along Royal Hill, is another pub, thankfully still open. This is the Richard 1st, and comprises the two lime green buildings and the slightly taller building to the left. The pub dates from around 1843:

Royal Hill

Going back to the Architects’ Journal map, and to the west of the park, there is a longer, slightly curvered section where the houses have been marked in black:

Gloucester Circus

This is leading off Royal Hill and is:

Gloucester Circus

Large building with full height bay to the rear at the western end of Gloucester Circus:

Gloucester Circus

As can be seen in the Architects’ Journal map, the highlighted section is along the south east side, with an open space in the middle, and unmarked buildings to the north west of the open space.

View along Gloucester Circus from the southern end, near Royal Hill:

Gloucester Circus

The development of his area was in two stages. The curved terrace shown in black was built by Michael Searles and completed between 1791 and 1809. This work included the gardens in front of the terrace.

In the 1840s, a terrace was added along the other side of the gardens, and the curved terrace was known simply as The Circus, and the 1840s terrace as Gloucester Place.

Wartime bombing resulted in the destruction of the 1840s terrace which is why there is post war building along this stretch with the Maribor Estate, named after Maribor in Slovenia, one of the three towns that Greenwich is twinned with.

There was also damage to the curved section, the Circus, including considerable damage requiring a rebuild to part of the central section.

The houses damaged during the war were rebuilt in the same style, but the difference can be seen today by the different coloured brick of the original and post war building work:

Gloucester Circus

The terrace is Grade II listed, and is a lovely example of a late 18th / early 19th century terrace design and construction.

Renaming of all the buildings around the central gardens as Gloucester Circus came in 1938. The northern end of the curved terrace:

Gloucester Circus

View along the central residents gardens, the curved terrace is to the left, and the post war buildings following bomb damage are to the right:

Gloucester Circus

And at the end of Gloucester Circus, I have almost come full circle as I am back at Crooms Hill, and at the junction between the two streets is this large Grade II listed building:

Gloucester Circus

Built during the late 18th century, there has been some significant rebuilding of the upper floors.

The chimney stack along the Gloucester Circus side of the house has a nice feature which my father photographed in the 1980s:

Circus

The Circus – the original name of the curved terrace that is now part of Gloucester Circus.

And that was just the western section of the Architects’ Journal map.

It is strange to consider that in the early 1970s, places such as these buildings and streets to the west of Greenwich Park were considered at risk from redevelopment, but London was a very different place then.

With the closure of the docks, loss of industry, population reducing considerably after the war, so much of east London was becoming derelict, and the vision to see what these places could really become was not, with some exceptions, really there.

So many lovely 18th and 19th century buildings were demolished in the post war period, and it is good too see places such as Greenwich, where they have survived as whole streets, rather than isolated blocks.

In part two, I will be following the Architects’ Journal map, heading towards the area of Greenwich around the Cutty Sark, then along the river to the streets surrounding the power station where there are some gems to be found.

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Tavistock Square

I have a new walk available – The Lost Landscape and Transformation of Puddle Dock and Thames Street – For details and booking, click here.

Tavistock Square is one of the many open spaces in Bloomsbury, built during the development of land owned by the Dukes of Bedford as London expanded north from the mid 18th to the early 19th centuries.

I have marked Tavistock Square with a red rectangle in the following map:

Tavistock Square

The name comes from the Duke of Bedford’s second title, the Marquis of Tavistock, a title created in 1694, and named after the grant of land belonging to Tavistock Abbey to the family.

As can be seen from the above map, Tavistock Square is one of a number of open spaces in a built up area. The Euston Road is just to the north, and the A4200 runs along the eastern side of the square, a busy road that carries traffic between the Euston Road and Holborn.

Euston Station is a short walk to the north.

Standing in places such as Tavistock Square today it is hard to imagine that a couple of centuries ago (a relatively short period in the history of London), all this was fields and pasture on the northern boundary of the built city.

An area crossed by tracks and walkways across the fields, streams and ponds.

Rocque’s 1746 map of London shows the northern limits of the city. Queen Square had recently been built, along with Bedford House, and Montague House is located where the British Museum can be found today. I have marked the location of Tavistock Square with the red rectangle:

Tavistock Square

Russell Square would be built just north of where Bedford House is shown (Russell is the family name of the Dukes of Bedford / Marquis of Tavistock), and the family were major landowners across this part of London.

The Duke of Bedford and his landholdings featured in a map created in 1909 by William Bellinger Northrop and titled “Landlordism Causes Unemployment”.

Landlordism Causes Unemployment

Map from Cornell University – PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography and reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Unported License

The aim of Northrop’s map was to show how “Landlordism” was strangling London, with large areas of the city being owned by the rich and powerful. Northrop claimed that the Duke of Bedford owned 250 acres, and that this estate produced an annual rent of £2,250,000.

Northrop claimed that Landlordism:

  • Paralyses the building trade;
  • It Pauperises the Peasantry;
  • 12 Landlords “own” (?) London, taking £20,000,000;
  • 500 Peers “own” (?) and entire one-third of England;
  • 4,000 Landlords “own” (?) and entire half of England:
  • the Land Octopus Sucks the Lifeblood of the People.

In many ways, this has not changed that much across the country, although in many instances the landed aristocracy has been replaced with very wealthy individuals, foreign investment, often state owned companies, and private development companies.

Tavistock Square was laid out in the late 18th century, and a terrace of houses along the eastern side of the square had been completed in 1803. These are believed to have been built by James Burton, a prolific London builder, and perhaps one of the most important since Nicholas Barbon.

The houses built by Burton in Tavistock Square had an unusual feature, where the staircase was configured to rise towards the front door, so when you went upstairs, you were walking towards the front of the house, with a landing at the front of the house, and the main rooms towards the rear, looking on small gardens at the rear of the houses, rather than the square.

These houses were demolished in 1938.

The following photo was taken from the southern part of the central gardens, looking north:

Tavistock Square

On the south west corner of the central gardens, we find Virginia Woolf:

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, the writer, lived in Tavistock Square between 1924 and 1939, in a house along the southern side of the square, which was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, indeed there was a considerable amount of bomb damage around Bloomsbury, which explains why many of these squares, and some of the surrounding streets, have lost their original terraces of houses, and why you often find a post-war building in the middle of an early 19th century terrace.

In the south east corner of the gardens, is a memorial to Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake (1865 to 1925):

Louisa Aldrich-Blake

Louisa Aldrich-Blake was a pioneering surgeon, from a time when it was difficult for women to have such roles in the medical profession. She was Dean of the London School of Medicine between 1914 and 1925, a Consulting Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital between 1919 and 1925, and a Surgeon to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital between 1895 and 1925.

The memorial dates from 1926, and the base, seating and plinth were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, with the bust of Louisa Aldrich-Blake being by the sculptor A. G. Walker.

The monuments to two pioneering women sets the tone for the rest of the gardens, as they contain different memorials to the normal London square, and there is not an aristocrat in sight.

Walking along the central path in the gardens, to the north, and there is a Maple Tree which was planted in 1986 by the League of Jewish Women:

Tavistock Square

In the centre of the square is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, the lawyer and campaigner for India’s freedom from British rule:

Mahatma Ghandi

The memorial looks recent, but dates from 1968, and was unveiled by Prime Minister Harold Wilson in May of that year. It is Grade II listed, with a base of Portland Stone, with the bronze figure of Ghandi by the sculptor Fredda Brilliant.

The relevance of Tavistock Square to Gandhi is that he attended University College London in Bloomsbury where he studied English literature, and also learning law at the Inner Temple.

Ghandhi’s approach to non-violent protest is reflected in many of the memorials in Tavistock Square, such as the International Year of Peace shown above, and also with another tree, the Friendship Tree planted in 1997 by the High Commissioner for India:

Freindship Tree

And another tree was planted in 1967 in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on the city of Hiroshima in Japan:

Tavistock Square

At the northern end of the gardens is a large stone memorial which dates from 1994 and is to Conscientious Objectors, “To all those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill“:

Tavistock Square

The Tavistock Hotel is a large, red brick building, that occupies the whole southern part of the square:

Tavistock Square

The space occupied by the hotel was originally a run of terrace houses. but these were badly damaged during the war. The remains of these buildings were demolished, and the Tavistock Hotel was built in 1951, and became the first hotel built in London after the war.

One of the houses that once occupied the site, was the one where Virginia Woolf and her husband lived whilst in Tavistock Square, and to the side of the entrance to the hotel there is a plaque recording her residence on the site:

Virgina Woolf

All sides of Tavistock Square suffered bomb damage, with the southern, eastern and northern sides being completely rebuilt.

The western side of the street suffered bomb damage at the ends of the long terrace, leaving the majority of the terrace undamaged:

Tavistock Square

This lovely stretch of terrace houses was completed in 1824, and were built by Thomas Cubitt. Although Burton’s terrace on the eastern side of the square were demolished long ago, they were described as being inferior to Cubitt’s terrace, and the terrace is well built, with a pleasing symmetry along the length of the terrace, which is in an Italianate style, with Ionic columns in rows of four, running the height of the terrace from above the ground floor to the balustrade and roof line.

A number of the houses in the terrace are Grade II listed.

Although the terrace looks as if it is comprised of individual terrace houses, the terrace is owned by the University of London and University College of London, and the interiors have been modified and combined to accommodate this new use.

Along the terrace, at number 33, is a plaque between the two ground floor windows:

Ali Mohammed Abbas

The plaque records that Ali Mohammed Abbas lived in a flat in the house between 1945 and 1979.

Abbas arrived in London from India in 1945 to study law and became a Barrister. Following the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan on the 14th of August 1947, Abbas used his flat as an unofficial Pakistan Embassy until the new country set up a full embassy in London.

After Pakistan became an independent country, Abbas remained in London and continued work as a barrister. He also helped set up twenty eight schools all over the country to help Pakistanis who had arrived in the country, speak, read and write in English.

The house in Tavistock Square was his home until his death in 1979.

At the north western corner of the square is another red brick / Portland stone building – Tavistock Court:

Tavistock Square

Tavistock Court is an apartment block, built between 1934 and 1935. It did suffer some light damage during the war, but this was repaired, and the building today looks impressive in the sun, hopefully as the original architect intended.

Next to Tavistock Court, along the north side of Tavistock Square is Woburn House:

Tavistock Square

This a post war building, due to bomb damage to the building originally on the site.

The building is owned by Universities UK, the organisation that represents 140 member universities across the UK, and is another example of the concentration of educational establishments across this part of Bloomsbury.

There are two plaques on the corner of the building which can just be seen in the above photo. The one on the left is to Otto Schiff, who was the founder and director of the Jewish Refugees Committee, which was based in a pre-war building on the site:

Otto Schiff

Otto Schiff and the Jewish Refugees Committee were responsible for persuading the Government to allow Jewish refugees to enter the country, and that they would be funded by Jewish organizations, charities and individuals. The committee also helped with the travel arrangements of transporting refugees from Germany to the UK, and their housing and general support after they had arrived.

The plaque illustrates the dreadful impact on the Jewish population of Europe before and during the second World War, and the second plaque on the corner of the building illustrates another way the war impacted London:

Tavistock Square

There was a significant amount of bomb damage around Bloomsbury. Whether this was trying to target the railway stations along the Euston Road, or just the indiscriminate bombing of London, I do not know, but the plaque does provide a reminder of those in the fire service across the City.

The Auxiliary Fire Service was formed in January 1938 to provide a large uplift in the number of fire fighters to assist the full time fire service. Those who staffed the Auxiliary Fire Service were usually those who were too young or too old for service in the armed forces,

Although being an auxiliary force, they faced the same dangers as the main force, and Stanley and Harry were two of the 327 fire fighters who lost their lives across London during the war.

Standing next to Woburn House, and looking at the north east corner of Tavistock Square, we can see the northern part of the buildings of the British Medical Association:

BMA

The rest of the BMA building is shown in the following photo taken from the gardens at the centre of Tavistock Square:

Tavistock Square

BMA House is an impressive building, and the organisation have occupied the building since 1923 when they purchased the lease. The BMA had originally been based in the Strand.

BMA House was originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for a very different organisation, the Theosophical Society, as the future site for their offices and temple. Construction started in 1913, however the First World War intervened and the parts of the building that had been completed were taken over by the Army Pay Office.

When the war ended, the Theosophical Society appears to have run out of funds to complete construction, and the site was taken over by the BMA. The Theosophical Society are still based in London, but at much smaller premises at 50 Gloucester Place.

Sir Edwin Lutyens was reemployed to complete parts of the building and the interior, and to finish the overall site,  Cyril Wontner Smith completed the central entrance from Tavistock Square between 1928 and 1929, and Douglas Wood worked on extensions to the overall building between 1938 and 1960.

The building is Grade II listed.

There is another plaque on the BMA building, recording that Charles Dickens lived in a house near the site of the plaque between 1851 and 1860, his last London home before moving to Gads Hill in Kent.:

Charles Dickens

So there is much to discover in Tavistock Square, where just over 220 years ago there were just fields.

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Free Trade Wharf, Ratcliffe

The following photo was taken by my father in August 1948, and shows the buildings of Free Trade Wharf in the old area of Ratcliffe:

Free Trade Wharf

The same view, seventy six years later in 2024:

Free Trade Wharf

Despite the loss of the central Free Trade Wharf buildings, there are some features that can be found in both photos.

On the left of both photos, there are no buildings along the edge of the river, and trees can be seen in an open space leading back from the river. This is the King Edward VII memorial park.

The park, and the space it occupies, has a fascinating history which I wrote about in this post.

Staying on the left of both photos, a church steeple can be seen in the background. This is St. Mary’s Cable Street.

The central part of the photo is very different. The Free Trade Wharf was purchased by the Inner London Education Authority in 1977 with the intention of building a campus for the City of London Polytechnic, which had been formed in 1970 with the consolidation of the City of London College, Sir John Cass College and the School of Navigation.

These plans did not follow through, and the site remained vacant until the early 1980s when the growing trend for the construction of residential properties along the banks of the Thames resulted in the purchase of the site for residential development, and the building on the site we see today was built.

It is one of the more distinctive residential buildings along the river, and was designed by the architects Holder Mathias Alcock, who are still practicing today, although the name Alcock has been dropped.

Their distinctive design has been described as being of “dramatic ziggurat-style terraces”, and also looking as if it could have been made out of Lego.

Faced by red brick, the building does look good in direct sunlight, and the from what I have read, one of the reasons for the shape of the building, where the sides step back towards the centre, was to maximise the number of apartments that had a river view, rather than being a flat building along the river.

This new development retains the name Free Trade Wharf, and looking at an extract of the 1948 photo, we can see this name was displayed in white lettering along the side of the building facing the river:

Free Trade Wharf

Although this very clear naming of the Free Trade Wharf did throw me into a momentary bit of doubt about whether I had identified the correct location for the photo, as in the OS map, published a couple of years after my father’s photo, the building is marked as Charringtons Wharf, as can be seen in the following map, along the river and to the right of the park  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

Free Trade Wharf

To confirm, I checked in the book “London Wharves and Docks”, published by Commercial Motor in 1953, and the entry for Charringtons Wharf included a reference that “Occupier: Free Trade Wharf Co. Ltd”.

The Charringtons name came from the ownership of the site by Charrington, Sells, Dale and Company, who traded in coal and coke. I cannot find exactly when this part of the site became known as Free Trade Wharf, however as you can see from the above map extract, this name was also in use for the buildings to the right, which are on the right of my father’s photo, but hidden behind the cranes, and the black coloured ship on the right.

The Commercial Motor book provides some detail on trade at the wharf in 1953:

“Facilities: a. General, b. Rubber, matches, canned goods. Maximum cranage (cwt) 45, Storage space (cubic feet, covered); 869,450, Storage Space (cubic feet, uncovered): 5,000.

Customs facilities included Sufferance Wharf, Dry Bond, Captain’s Imperfect Entry (a Sufferance Wharf is a licensed private wharf where goods can be kept until the duty is paid. A Dry Bond is where goods can be stored before customs duty is paid. Dry refers to the type,, so dry goods unlike wet goods such as alcohol. Captain’s Imperfect Entry is a strange one. Captain’s Entry is where the Captain of a ship has provided the details of the goods he wants to unload to the warehouse, but I am not sure what Imperfect refers to).

The wharf had a jetty and a quay, with 250 feet being the maximum length of ships accommodated at the jetty and 210 feet at the quay. and the depth of water went from 24 feet at high water down to 2 feet at the jetty, and from 19 feet to drying out at the quay. “

Just to the left of the site today, is one of the construction locations for the Thames Tideway Tunnel:

King Edward VII Memorial Park and Thames Tideway Tunnel

The OS map shows the buildings to the right of my father’s photo, labelled as Free Trade Wharf. These buildings are much earlier than the main block, but are hidden behind the ship and cranes in my father’s photo.

An extract from this photo showing the dark coloured ship, with part of these buildings just visible in the background:

Free Trade Wharf

The buildings, the ones labelled as Free Trade Wharf in the OS map as can be seen in 2024:

Free Trade Wharf

These buildings are Grade II listed and they date from 1796, although there have been many alterations over the years.

They were built for the East India Company, and handled a variety of goods, including saltpeter, which was used in the manufacture of gun power.

The site later became a place where colliers from the coal fields in the north east of the country would unload, and is presumably where the Charringtons connection comes from.

There are two ships in the 1948 photo. the ship on the left has no visible feature to help with identification. I use a high resolution scan for my father’s photos, and despite this, I cannot read the name of the ship on the bow.

The ship on the right has no visible name, presumably it is on the bow and only the rear section of the ship is visible in the photo. What can be seen is the funnel, and this has the letters CL in a white diamond.

Ships with the identifier of the owning / operating company were once a frequent sight on the Thames, and as kids in the late 1960s / early 1970s, we would often go down to the Thames by Coal House Fort, through East Tilbury (which always fascinated with its village and Bata shoe factory in this isolated part of Essex).

I had the Observer’s Book of Ships and used this to check of the passing ships. I still have the book and checked it to see if the CL in a white diamond is listed, and fourth down, on the left column, I found it:

Observer's Book of Ships

Turning to page 35, and CL is for Comben Longstaff & Co. Ltd of London, and who were listed as Colliers.

The company was named after William Comben Longstaff, who was born in Lambeth in 1896.

Comden Langstaff & Co. Ltd was originally involved in a range of maritime services including insurance, owning, managing and operating a fleet of ships that delivered raw materials and goods to the ports around the coast of the UK.

Newspapers of the time have many references to the purchase of new ships, sale of older ships, trade, routes etc. and the company seems to have been reasonably active.

The majority of their ships seem to have been built by John Lewis of Aberdeen, and the following article from the Aberdeen Press and Journal on the 9th of June 1948 is typical of the company’s coverage in the press:

“STEAM COASTER LAUNCHED – I have great faith in this country, but its only salvation is hard work, said Mr. Comben Longstaff at a gathering after the launching yesterday of the steam coaster Lancasterbrook, built by Messrs John Lewis and Sons Ltd, Aberdeen, for his firm, Messrs Comben Longstaff and Co. Ltd, London.

Mr. Andrew H.S. Lewis said the Lancasterbrook was a sister ship of the Londonbrook, built by his firm two years ago. She was an oil burner and was fitted with patent steel hatch covers.

They were building two other ships for the same owners.

Mrs. Comben Longstaff named the vessel which is 200ft in length and is of the raised quarterdeck type. The rudder is semi-balanced and streamlined and was made to the owners’ own design.”

The article mentions the Londonbrook, which had been built by the firm two years earlier, so presumably in 1946, and from checking photos of the Comben Longstaff ships, I believe the ship to the right of my father’s photo is the Londonbrook.

The company was sold in 1954, and William Comben Longstaff died in 1966.

Their ships continued operating around the coast of the country and in the late 1970s, two new ships were built, the Durhambrook and Devonbrook, continuing the Comben Longstaff tradition of adding “brook” to the end of their ship names.

The company ended operations in 1981, and all the ships were sold.

Both the Free Trade Wharf and the ships that docked at the wharf are from a time when you could sit on the river wall at Tilbury on a summer’s evening, and watch the ships passing along the river, checking them off in your Observer’s book.

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10 Years of A London Inheritance

The last weekend in February marks the annual anniversary of the blog, and this year, 2024, it is ten years since my first post on A London Inheritance.

The blog started as a way to find and document the locations of the photos my father started taking in 1946, along with just generally exploring the city, and I hope it has kept true to this approach.

I have learnt so much about the city in the ten years, discovering the story of places that I have walked past for years, with the blog now providing the incentive to stop, explore and discover the history of places that I once took for granted.

I have also learnt so much from the comments to the posts, so thank you to everyone who has left a comment on a post – they are all read with interest.

And my thanks to you for reading the blog, to the thousands who subscribe to the Sunday morning post. I try to keep them below 4,000 words (which is probably too long), so sorry for some of the longer posts.

Readership has and still does, continually increase, and the blog is now getting well over 500,000 views a year – a figure that I could never have expected when I started back in 2014.

Thank You.

Walks

I started doing guided walks based on the blog a couple of years ago for a number of reasons.

There are blog posts about individual stories or an area scattered across the ten years of posts. They do not come together to tell a comprehensive story of a specific area, such as Wapping, Limehouse, or the Southbank and Barbican, and the walks enable me to do this.

It is also brilliant to meet readers, and to show some of my father’s photos from the place where they were taken.

And again, I learn much from those who are on the walk.

I will be continuing walks this year, and hope to start a new walk in the coming months which explores an area of the City which could well be significantly redeveloped in the coming years, and is a place with a long and complex history, going back 2,000 years.

Walks will be advertised on the blog, but for early notification of new walks, you can follow on my Eventbrite page here.

A Look Back from 2014 to 2024

To record the fact that the blog has reached ten years of continuous Sunday morning posts, I thought I would take a look back through a sample of posts over the years.

It is a random sample, apart from the post for 2014, which has to be the post that started A London Inheritance (click on the headings to visit the post):

2014 – The First Bomb and a Church Shipped to America

My very first post started with a photo of a plaque put up by the Corporation of London recording the first bomb to fall on the City of London. It seemed an appropriate photo to start the blog, as so many of my father’s photos show the impact of the war on the city.

He grew up in London during the war. He was evacuated for a couple of weeks, however his parents wanted him to return home, and he left a written record of both the terror and excitement of growing up in London in wartime, and started taking photos in 1946.

After this first attack on the 25th August 1940, heavy bombing started on Saturday September 7th and continued for the next 57 nights. London then endured many more months of bombing including the night of the 29th December 1940 when the fires that raged were equal to those of the Great Fire of 1666. Hundreds of people were killed or injured, damage to property was enormous and 13 Wren churches were destroyed. Or the night of the 10th May 1941 when over 500 German bombers attacked London. The alert sound at 11pm and for the next seven hours incendiary and high explosive bombs fell continuously across the city.

Behind the sign is a devastated landscape, not a single undamaged building stands, to the right of the photo, the shell of a church tower is visible. All this, the result of months of high explosive and incendiary bombing.

2015 – From the City to the Sea 

The Thames is the reason why London is located where we find it, and why it has developed into the city we see today, however with the closure of the docks and the industries that depended on the river, we seem to have lost that connection.

I had my first trip along the river from the City out to the sea in 1978, and since then it has been fascinating to watch how the river has changed. I also have a series of photos that my father took on a similar journey in the late 1940s. I am working to trace the exact locations and will publish these in a future post.

In 2015 I took the opportunity for another trip down the river aboard the Paddle Steamer Waverley, from Tower Pier out to the Maunsell Forts.

The Paddle Steamer Waverley is the last sea going paddle steamer in the world, built on the Clyde in 1947 to replace the ship of the same name sunk off Dunkirk in 1940. 

Five posts covered the journey from Tower Pier, out to the Maunsell Forts in the Estuary.

The following photo is from the return journey in the evening, with the ship about to pass through the Thames Barrier. Green direction arrows clearly point to the channel that should be used to navigate through the barrier. The office blocks on the Isle of Dogs can be seen in the distance:

It really was an interesting journey, and the Waverly appears to be making a return visit to London later this year.

2015 – Swan Upping

In 2015, I went Goring lock, to see one of the stops in that year’s Swan Upping route.

This is my father’s photo of Mr. Richard Turk who was the Vintners Swan Marker and Barge Master. He held this position from 1904 to 1960. A remarkable period of time to hold the role and the changes he must have seen along the Thames as Swan Upping was performed each year must have been fascinating.

Swan Upping is an event which takes place in the third week of July each year. Dating back many centuries, the event has roots in the Crown’s ownership of all Mute Swans (which dates back to the 12th century), ownership which is shared with two of London’s livery companies, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers who were granted rights of ownership in the 15th century.

Swan Upping is the annual search of the Thames for all Mute Swans, originally to ensure their ownership is marked, but today more for conservation purposes (counting the number of swans and cygnets, checking their health, taking measurements etc.), although the year’s new cygnets are still marked.

2016 – A Walk Round The Festival Of Britain

Throughout the last ten years, I have written a number of posts about the Festival of Britain, and in 2016 wrote several posts covering the Southbank festival site, the Lansbury Exhibition of Architecture in Poplar, the Pleasure Gardens in Battersea etc.

This was my father’s photo taken from the base of the Skylon, looking up at the structure:

The design for the Skylon was the result of a competition for a “vertical feature” for the festival site. Of 157 entries, the design by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya along with the engineer Felix Samuely was chosen.

The main body of the Skylon was 250 feet in height, add in the suspension off the ground and the total height was 300 feet. Three sets of cables held the Skylon in a cradle at the lowest point, and half way up at the thickest point a set of guy wires held the Skylon in a vertical position.

Aluminium louvered panels were installed on the outer edge of the Skylon and lights were installed inside, so during the day, the Skylon would sparkle in sunshine and at night it would be lit from the inside.

The name for the Skylon was also chosen in a competition. The winning entry was from a Mrs. Sheppard Fidler and the name was a combination of Sky and the end of Nylon (the latest modern invention), which when combined gave the futuristic sounding name of Skylon.

2016 – Building the Royal Festival Hall

Another of my 2016 Festival of Britain posts was on the construction of the Royal Festival Hall, the only building that remains on the Southbank from the Festival. My father had taken a number of photos both before the site was cleared and during the building’s construction, including a series showing the foundations being prepared:

Work on the foundations started in May 1949 with bulk excavation of the whole area – as clearly seen in the photos above that my father took of the area. Bulk excavation was used as the easiest way to clear the area needed for the foundations. The centuries of previous construction on the site included the remains of the old water works along with the brewery which was built on a 6 foot thick mass concrete raft.

There was a large amount of work to prepare, which included sinking well points and then pumping out water which started on the 17th June 1949, when, within four days the ground water level was reduced to 13ft below the ordnance datum. A huge volume of water was extracted, with at the start of pumping 150,000 gallons of water per hour were being pumped out, and even after the site had been “de-watered”, pumping was still needed of 80,000 gallons per hour to keep the area of the foundations dry.

A total of 63,000 cubic yards of materials were removed for the foundations.

2017 – Flying Over London

I will take any opportunity to see London from a high point, including flying above the city, and in 1979 and 1983, I took a couple of flights in a vintage de Havilland Dragon Rapide, and I have published a number of posts with some of the photos from these flights, including this example:

The above photo shows parts of Poplar at the top, and 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.

2017 – St. James Gardens – A Casualty Of HS2

In 2017, I started an annual post, recording the construction of the new HS2 station at Euston, starting with St. James Gardens, which would close soon after I had taken the photos in this blog post.

Before construction could start, the gardens, which had been a cemetery, needed to be excavated to remove the many thousands of bodies that were still buried beneath the grass, footpaths and gardens.

2017 – Clifton Suspension Bridge

As well as London, my father also took very many photos of places visited during Youth Hostel / cycling trips in the late 1940a / early 1950s with friends from National Service.

I have also been trying to visit all these locations.

One of the sites he photographed was the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and in 2017 I had the opportunity to look inside the hidden vaults beneath one of the abutments supporting the bridge, and I posted some of these photos, along with my father’s 1952 photos of this bridge.

Although the bridge is in Bristol, there is still a significant London connection, as recorded in this report on the bridge from 1864:

Mr. Brunel, as it happened, had been the engineer of Hungerford Bridge; and when, therefore, its chains had to be pulled down and to give place to the bridge of the Charing-cross Railway, it occurred to Mr. Hawkshaw to have them applied to the completion of one of Mr Brunel’s bridge designs. For such a purpose the money was soon forthcoming. A new company, under a new Act and presided over by Mr. Huish was started, with a capital of £35,000. The chains of Hungerford Bridge were purchased for £5,000; the stone towers built by Mr Brunel for the old company, for £2000. Two years ago the work of slinging these chains began and the bridge is now finished.

Hungerford Bridge was the bridge built across the Thames to the old Hungerford Market, on the site of Charing Cross Station, before the current railway bridge was built.

2018 – The Streets Under The HS2 Platforms And Concourse

In 2018 I walked the streets to the west of Euston that would soon be demolished as part of the HS2 project. The following photo shows the Bree Louise pub, at the junction of Euston Street and Cobourg Street, which had closed not long before the photo:

The pub dates from the early 19th century and was the Jolly Gardeners until being renamed by the most recent landlord as the Bree Louise, the name of the landlord’s daughter who died soon after birth.

The Bree Louise was a basic, but superb local pub and it was sad to see how quickly after closing at the end of January, the pub has taken on such air of being abandoned.

Everything in the above photo has now been demolished and is part of the HS2 construction site.

2018 – A Forty Year Return Visit To A Secret Nuclear Bunker

2018 included a rather somber post, describing a return to a location I was last at forty years earlier.

In the late 1970s, after leaving school, I started an apprenticeship with British Telecom (or Post Office Telecommunications as it was then). It was a brilliant three year scheme which involved both college and practical experience moving through many of BT’s divisions and locations. For a couple of months I was based at the telephone exchange at Brentwood, Essex. A typical day would involve maintenance and fault fixing on the telephone exchange equipment, however at the start of a day that would be rather different, the Technical Officer in charge was giving out jobs, and one job involved fixing a fault at a rather unique location – a secret nuclear bunker.

These were the years when a nuclear war was still a possibility, when the Government issued the Protect and Survive booklet, and in 1984 the BBC drama Threads appeared on TV – one of the most unsettlingly programmes I think I have ever watched.

2019 – St Giles Cripplegate and Red Cross Street Fire Station

The subject of this post, was a photo taken in 1947, looking across a rather devastated landscape to the church of St Giles Cripplegate:

There are three main features in the photo, two of which survive to this day, although the area is now completely different following the development of the Barbican.

The church of St Giles Cripplegate is in the centre, the church looks relatively unscathed, however it suffered very badly and lost the main roof and contents of the church.

To the right of the church is a pile of rubble, and to the right of this, is the round shape of a Roman bastion, which can still be seen.

The large building on the left was the Red Cross Street Fire Station, demolished as part of the final land clearance in preparation for the build of the Barbican.

2019 – Crow Stone, London Stone and an Estuary Airport

In this post, I finally managed to get to a place I had been wanting to visit for years. It took a bit of planning, but took me to a location that still has evidence of the City of London’s original jurisdiction over the River Thames.

To the west of Southend, on the borders with Leigh, and by Yantlet Creek on the Isle of Grain, there is a line across the River Thames which marked the limits of the City of London’s power. Where this line touched the shore, stone obelisks were set up to act as a physical marker.

The above photo shows the London Stone at Yantlet Creek. The early 4 am start to get there was well worth it – standing at the London Stone at 6:45 as the sun rose over the Thames Estuary, in such an isolated location, was rather magical.

2020 – The House They Left Behind

One of 2020’s posts included a trip to Limehouse, to find the site of the following photo from1986, which shows the side of a building where the adjacent buildings have obviously been demolished. The building has “The House They Left Behind” painted in bold black letters on a white background, with below, the original build date and a restoration date of the year before the photo was taken.

The pub was originally called the Black Horse, and was one of four in a small area of Narrow Street and Ropemakers Fields. Today, the only pub remaining is the Grapes.

The name change from Black Horse was to describe the position of the pub after demolition of every other building on Ropemakers Fields, and the Barley Mow Brewery, when the pub became “The House They Left Behind”. It is now residential.

2020 – A Very Different London

2020 was the start of COVID, with the first lockdown starting in March. London became a very differenet place, and the city is still reacting to the impact of the virus and lockdown.

The following photo was taken along a very quiet Cromwell Road,  with the Victoria and Albert Museum on the left:

On the Monday afternoon before the first lockdown, I had to take a relative to Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital at London Bridge (fortunately nothing to do with the Coronavirus). The hospital had advised not to take public transport, so the only other option was to drive.

Although this was before the formal lock down and the direction to stay at home, I had already stopped walking around London and was missing the experience of walking the city, particularly as the weather was so good.

To take advantage of a drive up to London Bridge, I mounted a GoPro camera on the dash of the car and left it filming the journey there and back.

It was a London I had not seen before on a Monday afternoon, more like a very early Sunday morning. Very few people on the streets and not much traffic. I cannot remember driving in central London on a weekday without any queues. The only time I needed to stop was at traffic lights.

A frightening reminder of the impact of the virus.

2020 – Hidden London – Moorgate

The London Transport Museum have run a brilliant series of tours of the hidden side of London’s transport infrastructure, and in February 2020, on a chilly Saturday afternoon, I arrived at Moorgate looking forward to walking through the hidden tunnels of another London underground station.

The above photo shows the remains of a Greathead Tunneling Shield at Moorgate. This was the invention of James Henry Greathead, who developed Brunel’s shield design, from rectangular, with individual moveable frames, to a single, circular shield. Screw jacks around the perimeter of the shield allowed the shield to be moved forward as the tunnel was excavated in front of the shield, with cast iron tunnel segments installed around the excavated tunnel immediately behind the shield.

Greathead’s first use of his shield was on the Tower Subway.

He died in 1896, before the Lothbury extension at Moorgate, however his shield design was so successful that it became the standard design for shields used to excavate much of the deep level underground system.

2021 – 74 Miles from London

This post started with an 18th century milestone to be found in Southampton, indicating that it is 74 Miles from London:

I have always been interested in London’s relationship with the rest of the country. Frequently, this is seen as a negative. The north / south divide, London getting the majority of available infrastructure investment, higher wages in the city etc.

London’s central role in the country started many hundreds of years ago with the founding of the Roman City of London, located on a crossing point on the Thames, and where the new city was accessible from the sea.

Roads spread out from London, and the city became a cross roads for long distance travel. This was accentuated with the city becoming the centre for Royal and Political power, the Law and also a centre for trade and finance.

Look at a map of the country today, and the major roads that run the length and breadth of the country still start in London (A1 – London to Edinburgh, A2 – London to Dover, A3 – London to Portsmouth, A4 – London to Bath and Bristol, A5 – London to Holyhead).

Many of these major roads have been upgraded and follow new diversions, but their general routes have been the same for many hundreds of years, and a milestone is an indication of the age and importance of the route.

2021 – The Thames from Cherry Garden Stairs

The old stairs leading down to the River Thames have been a long running theme to the blog. These stairs mark a place that has been important for centuries, where access between the land and river was available.

My father took the following photo from Cherry Garden Stairs, Bermondsey, looking along the river towards the City, with the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral visible through Tower Bridge.

When the photo was taken, in 1946, the river bank was lined by warehouses, wharves and docks, with cranes along the river. A large number of lighters and barges are moored on the river, and directly in front of the camera, which would have been on the foreshore.

These stairs are very quiet today, however countless thousands of people have used these stairs to get to and from work, to take a Waterman’s boat, to leave London, to arrive in London, or to flee from the consequences of a criminal act, or to escape persecution.

2022 – Tunnelling the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

The route of the Baker Street and Waterloo railway ran beneath the Baker Street Station of the Metropolitan District Railway, by Regent’s Park and Crescent Gardens into Portland Place, through Langham Place to Oxford Circus (where the tunnels pass over those of the Central Line with a clearance of only 6 inches at one point), down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, along Haymarket and Cockspur Street to Charing Cross, along Northumberland Avenue, then under the Thames to College Street, Vine Street and Waterloo Station.

The majority of the tunnel went through London Clay and was a relatively easy construction project, however there was a challenge where the tunnel went underneath the Thames.

The above diagram shows the route under the Thames of the Baker Street and Waterloo railway, a depression in the London Clay and short distance of gravel through which the tunnel would need to run.

The tunnel passes under the river as seen in the following photo, and the blog post tells a story of the challenges of digging the tunnel in very difficult conditions.

2022 – The First East Ham Fire Station and Fire Brigade

My Great Grandfather was born in 1854, and as a young man, he went to sea and travelled the world.

He became a fireman in 1881, joining the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) at Rotherhithe, south east London, later moving to West Ham in 1886 as a Fire Escape man, where he remained for ten and a half years. At the time the MFB recruited only ex seamen and naval personnel as the Brigade was run on Naval discipline with a requirement for familiarity of climbing rigging and working at heights.

In 1896 he became the Superintendent of the new East Ham Fire Station, and in 2022, I completed one of the many tasks on my to-do list by visiting the site of the Fire Station in Wakefield Street, East Ham:

I cannot find the exact year when the fire station was demolished, it was at some point after 1917, and the location is now occupied by the flats shown in the above photo, but I did find lots of references to the fire station, and the work of the crews based there. which I wrote about in the post.

2022 – Eleanor Crosses – Grantham, Stamford and Geddington

One of the many historical journeys across the country that ended in London was that taken by the funeral procession of Queen Eleanor of Castile, a remarkable 13th century woman.

The procession started from the site of her death, in Harby, Nottinghamshire. On the journey to London a cross was built at each of the places where the procession stopped overnight, and in 2022 I followed the route through Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St. Albans, Waltham and then into Central London at Cheapside, Charing Cross and finally Westminster Abbey, where her body was buried.

Geddington has the best preserved of all the remaining Eleanor crosses, which is located in an open space at the centre of the village:

The procession arrived at Geddington on the 6th of December 1290. Geddington is a small village, and the reason for choosing the village as a stop is that a royal hunting lodge was close by, just north of the church. The lodge had been built in 1129 and was used by royal hunting parties in the local forests, indeed Edward and Eleanor had stayed at the lodge in September of 1290.

2023 – The Cyprus Street, Bethnal Green, War Memorial

One of my father’s 1980s photos was of the war memorial in Cyprus Street, Bethnal Green:

Forty years later, I went back to take a new photograph, and explore the story of the memorial and the names recorded.

The reference on the memorial to the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged And Demobilised Soldiers And Sailors Benevolent Club refers to the Duke of Wellington pub in Cyprus Street. The pub was built around 1850 as part of the development of Cyprus Street and surrounding streets.

The pub closed in 2005 and is now residential, but today still very clearly retains the features of a pub, including a pub sign.

The Most Read Post In 10 Years – London Streets In The 1980s

Variations of the search term “London in the 1980s” resulted in this post being the most read post on the blog in the last ten years, with people using search terms about London in the 1980s being regularly directed to the post from Google.

One of the photos featured in the post was this tribute to West Ham:

London has changed considerably since the 1980s, and will continue to change, it is the one constant throughout the whole of the city’s long history and it is fascinating to see how London has responded to so many internal and external factors over the centuries.

Thank you for reading the blog, and I hope the coming years continue to be of interest.

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Churches at the City Boundaries – St Andrew, Holborn

This is the church of St. Andrew, Holborn, photographed in the low sun of a bright winter’s afternoon:

St Andrew Holborn

I will be exploring the church later in the post, but to start, let’s look at the location of St. Andrew, because I suspect the church is here due to its proximity to the River Fleet, and it is one of a number of London’s churches that are located at key boundaries, crossings and entry and exit points, of a much earlier City of London.

In the following photo, I am looking along Holborn Viaduct, towards the bridge over Farringdon Street, the old route of the River Fleet. Part of St. Andrew is on the right of the photo (the ornate tower is part of the City Temple Church, a much later Nonconformist church which is currently undergoing significant rebuilding works):

Holborn Viaduct

If we stand in what remains of the churchyard around St. Andrew, we can see that Holborn Viaduct is much higher than the churchyard, which marks the original surface level of the area. Today there are steps up from the churchyard to Holborn Viaduct:

St Andrew Holborn

And because of the height of Holborn Viaduct, a bridge is needed to take the street over Shoe Lane, which runs alongside the eastern boundary of the church, a view which again shows how surface levels have changed around the church:

St Andrew Holborn

A short walk east from the church, and we can look over the bridge down to Farringdon Street, a view which shows the height difference between the upper road, and the original route of the River Fleet (which would have been lower than the current road surface due to building over the original water course):

Holborn Viaduct

The bridge over Farringdon Street is part of Holborn Viaduct, the 427m long viaduct designed to provide a bridge over the valley of the Fleet River and a level road between Holborn Circus and Newgate Street.

The construction contract for Holborn Viaduct was awarded on the 7th May 1866 and on the 6th November 1869 it was opened by Queen Victoria. One of the many 19th century “improvements” to the City, designed to address growing congestion along the streets, and to build a City that mirrored London’s global position.

Before the construction of the viaduct, there had been a hill which ran down from Holborn, down to the original route of the Fleet.

To get the level street surface of Holborn Viaduct, with sufficient clearance for the bridge over Farringdon Street, the level of the street needed to be raised, and is why the street is now higher than the churchyard around St. Andrew’s.

The church also lost part of the churchyard, as the new Holborn Viaduct was much wider than the street running down the hill, that it had replaced.

Whilst Holborn Viaduct now carries the street over a large road below, there has long been a bridge here, earlier versions of stone and wood, that carried the road from Holborn towards the City, and we can get an idea of how this looked in the following extract from William Morgan’s map of London from 1682:

St Andrew Holborn

I have underlined the location of St. Andrew’s with a red line, and you can see it had a large churchyard up to what was then called Holborn Hill, indicating that this was a hill from the higher ground of Holborn, down to the lower lying River Fleet.

The river can be seen to the right of the church, with Holborn Bridge spanning the river. In the late 17th century, the wide channel of the Fleet down to the Thames became a smaller river running north, although by this time, and with all the surrounding building, it was more an open sewer than a river.

We can get an idea of the gradient of Holborn Hill from the following two prints.

In the first, from the early 1800s, we can see the church and the surrounding churchyard, was originally higher than the street, and you can see the slope of the street outside the church as it heads down towards where the Fleet was once located:

Holborn Hill

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In the second print (from 1831), we are looking across Holborn Bridge (which was roughly at the level of Farringdon Street today), up Holborn Hill, with the tower of St. Andrew on the left:

Holborn Hill

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The above two prints show just how significant the impact of the 19th century Holborn Viaduct was on the area, and in the above print, we can imagine the River Fleet flowing in the foreground, marshy land on either side, then a hill rising up to the church – it would have been in a very prominent position.

St. Andrew occupies a place that has been the site of a religious building for very many centuries. The church we see today is just the latest version of the church.

The first written records of a church on the site date back to the year 959, when a charter of Westminster Abbey refers to an “old wooden church”’ on the hill above the River Fleet.

There was probably a church on the site for some years before the first written record, and we can imagine the scene with a small wooden church sitting on the high ground at the top of a hill from where the land runs steeply down to the River Fleet. A river that would have been wider prior to the buildings shown in the 1682 map, and with marshy banks.

So if you were heading towards the City, St. Andrew’s would have been just before the road descended down a hill to the Fleet, and if you were leaving the City, as you walked up the hill from the Fleet, you would come to St. Andrew’s.

Perhaps if you were entering or leaving the City, crossing the boundary of the Fleet, you would have wanted to pray, perhaps to ask for protection on the next stage of your journey.

Despite the amount of building across London over very many centuries, we can still see churches at what were major boundaries between the original City of London, and the rest of the city and the wider country. Churches are one of the few fixed points in the City’s landscape that have not moved for often over one thousand years.

We can use Morgan’s 1682 map for a quick tour of these boundaries. Just to the south of St. Andrew is another crossing over the River Fleet, where Fleet Street crossed the river up to Ludgate Hill, and just to the west of the Fleet, the same distance from the river as St. Andrew, we find what was St. Bridget, now St. Bride’s, which does have Roman and early mediaeval features in the Crypt, hinting at the age of the site :

St Brides

Headimg back north, and just to the west of the entrance to the City through Newgate, we find St. Sepulcher:

St Sepulcher

We then come to Aldersgate, and just outside the gate we find St. Botolphs (there are three St. Botolphs outside the gates of the City of London. The relevance of the dedication will become clear later in the post):

St Botolphs

Following the route of the wall, and next to Cripplegate, we find St. Giles:

St Giles

On the approach to Bishopsgate, we find St. Botolph, which claims to have been built on the site of an earlier Saxon church:

St Botolph

St. Botolph is the patron saint of travelers, so a church dedicated to the saint would often be found where there are boundaries, or city gates, and another church dedicated to St. Botolph can be found just outside Aldgate, so three with the same dedication, to be found by gates in the old City wall:

St Botolph

Churches located at major boundaries, crossings, entry and exit points can be found south of the river, and in the 1682 map, close to the southern end of London Bridge, we find two churches, St. Olave’s on the right, and St. Savior’s, now Southwark Cathedral on the left:

London Bridge

There is no church just outside the old Moorgate. I suspect that this may have been due to the marshy nature of the fields outside this gate in early centuries, a moor which gave its name to the area we know today, and which was only drained in the 16th century.

So a church close to a gate into the City of London, or where you would have had to have crossed either the Thames or the Fleet is a feature we can still see today, although the gates or crossing points they marked (with the exception of the Thames) are long gone.

Now let’s walk back to the church, and to get an idea what the hill was like up from the River Fleet in the 18th century, this report from the 11th of February, 1743 gives an indication:

“It is hoped proper Care will be immediately taken to destroy this Gang of Thieves; who to the Number of 20 and upwards assemble every Night, and plant themselves on each Side of the Way, from St. Andrew’s Church to Holborn Bridge, commit all kind of Villainies, and make that Passage the most dangerous of any in the Town”.

You probably would have wanted to nip into St. Andrew for a quick prayer before risking the “Gang of Thieves” waiting for you as you walked down Holborn Hill.

No such dangers today, and as we walk towards the entrance to the church, there are two figures on either side:

St Andrew Holborn

The figures are not in their original location, they came from St Andrew’s Parochial School for children of the poor dating from the 1720s. The school was based in a Chapel of Ease built in Hatton Garden in the 1670s. The building is still there today, and I will return to it in a future post.

The interior of the church has white upper walls with gold decoration, and wood paneling around the columns and side walls on the ground floor, which lead up to a gallery with tiered seating on either side:

St Andrew Holborn

The interior of the church looks very new, and was the result of a rebuild by the architects Seely and Paget between 1960 and 1961 to repair the very considerable wartime damage to the church.

The church featured in one of a series of postcards called London under Fire, showing damage to the city. In the postcard, the church can be seen on the left. the roof gone and the interior gutted. The side walls and tower surviving. The result of an incendiary bomb falling on the church:

St Andrew Holborn

The full series of London under Fire can be found in this post.

The church we see today, and the walls and tower in the above photo are from Christopher Wren’s rebuild of the church between 1684 and 1690. The previous church escaped any damage from the Great Fire, however it was a 15th century rebuild of an earlier medieval church, and was in need of significant repair.

Looking up to one of the galleries that run either side of the church:

St Andrew Holborn

Today, St. Andrew is a non-parochial Guild Church, meaning that the church serves the local working population rather than any resident population, so you will not find a Sunday service held at the church.

The pulpit:

St Andrew Holborn

The interior of the church looking back towards the main entrance and the organ:

St Andrew Holborn

There are very few memorials in the church, perhaps because of the destruction of the interior during the last war. There are a few on the wall, on either side of the main entrance, including one that dates from 1722:

St Andrew Holborn

St. Andrew, Holborn does have a wide range of associations with people and events over the years.

In 1799, Marc Brunel, the father of Isambard Kingdom, was married in the church, and in 1817 Benjamin Disraeli, a future Prime Minister, was christened in the church at the age of 12.

Another story connects the church with the founding of the Royal Free Hospital. The story concerns a local surgeon, William Marsden, who found a young girl dying from exposure in the churchyard on a winter’s night in 1827.

Marsden tried to get the girl into a hospital, however none would accept her, and she went on to die. Hospitals at the time usually required a letter of recommendation from a subscriber to the hospital

Marsden was so appalled by the attitude of these hospitals, and the lack of any care for those who had no ability to pay, that he decided to open a new hospital for those who could not pay or provide a letter of recommendation..

Marsden had the support of the Cordwainers Company, and in April 1828 he opened the Royal Free Hospital in a small house in Greville Street, Hatton Garden (originally just the Free Hospital, with Royal added not long after through the patronage of the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria).

I could not find any reference from the time to the founding story of the discovery of the girl in the churchyard, however reports of annual general meetings of the hospital do confirm the aims of providing free care for those who could not afford to pay, and who could not get a letter of recommendation from a subscriber. For example, from the record of the 1837 anniversary dinner:

This institution has been established to afford immediate assistance to all applicants, but more particularly to meet the wants of the poor and diseased, whose wretched situation and circumstances render them, in most instances, unable to procure the recommendations required to obtain admission or assistance from the hospitals and dispensaries of the metropolis, and from which this institution differs in these important facts – that its doors are always open to the poor and afflicted, without any passport save their own infirmities.

No ticket or recommendation from a subscriber is necessary; poverty and disease are alone the wretched qualifications which entitle them to the benefit the charity is capable of affording.”

The Royal Free Hospital is now in Pond Street, Hampstead, and William Marsden would also found, in 1851, the Brompton Cancer Hospital, which would become the Royal Marsden Hospital.

St. Andrew’s has another connection with someone who would try and help the poor of the city.

Just inside the main entrance to the church is the tomb of Thomas Coram, the founder of the Foundling Hospital, which started out in a temporary building in Hatton Garden in 1741.

Foundlings were abandoned very young children, or the young children of single mothers or poor parents, who could not afford to bring up their child.

The Foundling Hospital deserves a full post, but in the entrance to St. Andrew’s, we can see Coram’s tomb. He was originally buried on the site of the original Foundling Hospital, but in 1955 his tomb was moved to St. Andrew’s when the hospital buildings in Berkhampsted (the location of the Foundling Hospital after moving from where Coram Fields is today) were demolished:

Thomas Coram

The font and pulpit from the Foundling Hospital chapel were also moved to St. Andrew’s.

Another survivor from another place at St. Andrew’s is a resurrection stone, showing Christ standing over the dead, as they rise from their coffins preparing for the final day of judgment:

St Andrew Holborn

The resurrection stone came from the entrance to a cemetery used by St. Andrew’s for burying the poor, located a short distance from the church with an entrance from Shoe Lane, ringed in the following extract from Morgan’s 1682 map:

St Andrew Holborn

Another survivor, very different, but no less interesting, is the war memorial from the stores of A.W. Gamage and Benetfink & Co:

Gamages

Not exactly what you would expect to find hidden in a City churchyard. Gamages was a large department store in Holborn and Benetfink were a Cheapside based ironmongers, taken over by A.W. Gamage in 1907.

Gamages closed in March 1972, and the war memorial was moved to St. Andrew’s churchyard.

I have no idea why it is in the churchyard rather than inside the church, however it is good that it remains in Holborn, and is the last trace of the Gamages company and department store to be found in Holborn.

As usual, a quick run through some fascinating history, and St. Andrew, Holborn is an interesting example of how churches were located at important boundary points, boundaries that are not (with the exception of the Thames) visible today.

We cannot get into the minds of mediaeval inhabitants of London, so it is difficult to fully understand the importance of a church at such a location, but given the number of churches through the City, it does show how important religion was, including at places where you were crossing a boundary, entering or leaving the City, crossing the Fleet or the Thames.

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Horn Stairs, Cuckold’s Point and Horn Fair

If you wanted to visit somewhere in London on a very cold January morning, a bright day, but with ice having formed overnight on standing water, the last place you may think of is the Thames foreshore, however, on such a day, I went to one of my favourite places on the river – Horn Stairs and Cuckold’s Point:

Cuckold's Point

Horn Stairs and Cuckold’s Point are in Rotherhithe, opposite Limehouse and the north-eastern part of the Isle of Dogs, on the inside of a bend in the river where it curves past Rotherhithe.

I have marked the location with the red arrow in the following map  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Cuckold's Point

Cuckold’s Point is the area of the river / foreshore slightly to left and right of the arrow head in the above map, and where, when the tide is low, there is a broad beach of sand and mud running down to the water.

I was walking from the west, and there were some stunning views across the river, and as I reached the stairs, the outline of the causeway running from Horn Stairs could be seen, with a pole towards the end of the causeway:

Cuckold's Point

The steps over the river wall that lead to Horn Stairs:

Horn Stairs

From the top of these steps, we get a view of the remains of the causeway leading off across the foreshore from the foot of the stairs:

Horn Stairs

The upper part of the stairs, where they run over the river wall, are off concrete, with the main part leading down to the foreshore being a set of wooden stairs:

Horn Stairs

The upper part of the stairs look rather dodgy. From the top of the stairs it is difficult to tell how thick each of the steps is, and whether it will hold your weight if you walk down the stairs.

In the following photo of the top steps, you can see from the bolts on either side of each step, just how much appears to have eroded, or perhaps the wood has shrunk, also on the day I was at the stairs, there was ice in the hollows in each of the steps:

Horn Stairs

At the bottom of the stairs, we can see the remains of the causeway leading out towards the water:

Horn Stairs

The Port of London Authority (PLA) has very little information on the stairs in their listing of all the Steps, Stairs and Landing Places on the Tidal Thames (published around 1995), there is just a remark that the stairs are in “Reasonable” condition and that they were still in use.

The PLA does not record any early dates for when Horn Stairs were in use, and there are not that many references to the stairs, with Cuckold’s Point being the name used for any reference to the location.

In Rocque’s map of 1746, the stairs are not shown, but Cuckold’s Point is marked:

Cuckold's Point

The earliest written reference I have found was in a newspaper article on the 25th of October, 1832 when the name Horn’s Stairs were used in a legal action against the owners of the Eclipse, a steam packet which ran between London and Margate, and was accused of running down a barge off Horn’s Stairs.

The name of the stairs did often appear as Horn’s or Horns rather than the singular Horn, and one of the possible sources of the name could be a Horns Tavern which was to be found near the stairs – although an unresolved question is what came first, the tavern or the stairs.

The name Horn is used in the majority of references from the late 19th century onwards, as shown in the following extract from the 1896 revision of the OS map, where Horn Stairs can be seen bottom left (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

Cuckold's Point

In the above map, the causeway leading out from the stairs is labelled “Hard”, and would have provided a hard surface above the sand and mud of the foreshore, to walk to and from a boat at nearly all states of the tide.

Also in the above map a dotted line leading across the river to Limehouse Pier can be seen, and labelled as Limehouse Hole Ferry. This was a regular ferry that had run for a good few centuries between the two sides of the river. I wrote about the ferry in my post on Limehouse Hole Stairs and the Breach.

The fact that Horn Stairs does not appear in the 1746 map, and I can find no written references to the stairs earlier than 1832 does not mean that the stairs and a causeway have not been here for much longer.

The City of London Archaeological Society has a fascinating post on surveying stairs, which included a section on Horn Stairs, and in the post, 16th or 17th century hand made bricks were identified which may have formed an early hard standing on the foreshore.

The post can be found here.

Although I could not find the bricks exactly as shown in the photo in the City of London Archaeological Society’s post, (the foreshore is a constantly changing environment), I did find a number of this type of red brick, which can be seen in the photo below, to the right side of the causeway:

Cuckold's Point

At the end of the causeway, and at the point just before where the Thames will recede to at low tide, is a pole labelled as a navigation marker on the PLA chart for this section of the river. The marker has a light at the top of the pole to ensure the marker can be seen in the dark:

Cuckold's Point

At the end of the causeway:

Cuckold's Point

Looking back to the river wall and the stairs down to the foreshore, which is a distance of some 50 metres, and the dark colouring along the river wall shows how high the water is when the tide comes in along Cuckold’s Point:

Cuckold's Point

The naming of Cuckold’s Point is interesting, and the true source of the name cannot really be confirmed given the centuries that the name has been in use.

The word Cuckold means, according to the online Cambridge Dictionary “If a man is cuckolded, his wife has a sexual relationship with another man”, and the most repeated story about the use of the word Cuckold for the foreshore in Rotherhithe goes back to King John, who was on the throne between 1199 and 1216.

There are a number of variations to the story, but it generally goes that King John was hunting around Shooters Hill, Blackheath and Greenwich. He seems to have found himself in Charlton, and entered the house of a Miller, where he found the Miller’s wife alone.

The Miller soon returned home, but found his wife “in flagrante” with the King.

The Miller attacked the King intending to kill him, and to defend himself the King revealed who he was, and came to an agreement with the Miller that he could have all the land to the west that he could see from his house, which extended all the way to what is now Cuckold’s Point, where, at the time, there was a pole with a pair of horns mounted on the top.

The Miller, in some stories, also had to walk to Cuckold’s Point once a year, with horns on his head.

So the name Cuckold’s Point came from the position that the Miller had been put in by King John.

The King also gave the Miller the right to have a fair on the 18th of October, and this fair became known as the Horn Fair and was held in Charlton.

An early view of Cuckold’s Point can be seen in a painting by Samuel Scott in his work “A Morning View of Cuckold’s Point“, painted between 1750 and 1760:

Cuckold's Point
A Morning, with a View of Cuckold’s Point c.1750-60 Samuel Scott c.1702-1772 Presented by H.F. Tomalin 1944 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05450

Credit:  Samuel Scott, 1750 – 1760 , Tate (N05450), Photo: Tate released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

The challenge with confirming that this is Cuckold’s Point is that there are no features which can be found today, however there is a set of wooden stairs leading down to the foreshore, and the slope and shape of the foreshore is very similar to that of today.

The painting does though give a very good impression of what Cuckold’s Point probably did look like. There are two Waterman’s boats where the water meets the foreshore, and there is a third approaching the same point.

There are people on the foreshore walking down to the boats from the stairs, presumably either to meet the people arriving on the boats, or to take one of the boats along the river.

The ships on the foreshore are in the location of Mr. Taylor’s Yard, as shown in Rocque’s 1746 map.

The river appears to bend to the right, which indeed it does, as it heads along the eastern side of Rotherhithe towards Deptford.

The painting does provide some support to an alternative theory as to the name Cuckold’s Point. Just to the left of the stairs can be seen a wooden frame, and this is believed to show a ducking, or cucking stool, which was use to punish and humiliate women, who were labelled as a scold, or had committed some form of sexual offence, such as cheating on a husband.

As was usual, there was no similar punishment or humiliation for the man involved.

As the site of a cucking stool, where the wife of a cuckold would have been punished, this may also be the source of the name, however this story does not seem to have gained much support over the years.

The broad sweep of the foreshore at Cuckold’s Point, looking west along the river in the direction of the City of London:

Cuckold's Point

Standing at Cuckold’s Point on a cold January morning is a lonely experience. There is no one else around, and the river is also very quiet, with just the regular Thames Clippers causing a run of waves up to the foreshore.

These places were once busy, both along the rivers edge, the foreshore, and along the river, and it is fascinating to stand at these places, thinking of all the people that have stood in the same place, and the events that have taken place here.

I searched newspaper records for reports mentioning Cuckold’s Point for three decades in the first half of the 18th century, the 1720s, 30s and 40s and there are many references. The following is a sample of what went on around Cuckold’s Point in these years:

  • 17th June 1721 – On Thursday last in the Afternoon Mr. Bailey, a Coasting officer, and Mr. Purser, a Custom-House waterman, made a seizure in the River near Cuckold’s Point of 1900 Weight of Tea, artfully wrought up in the sides of a Mackerel Boat filled with Fish, and supposed to come of Ostend.
  • 11th of May 1726 – The Execution of Capt. Jeane, condemned at the late Sessions of Admiralty for the Murder of his Cabin Boy, is appointed for next Friday, he will be hanged in Chains over against Cuckold’s Point.
  • 6th of October 1736 – On Monday last a Fisherman caught in his Common Net, near Cuckold’s Point, a Salmon 38 inches long and about 17 inches round, and sold the same to Capt. Bond, who was in sight when the fish was caught, and was going on board the East-India Man at Gravesend. The Fisherman being unable to hold his net, begged assistance of a man in the Captain’s Boat, who accordingly went; but as he was helping he fell accidentally into the Thames, from whence it being low water, he took the Fish in his Arms and threw it into the boat. The Fish was sold for 36 shillings out of which the Fisherman gave the Waterman 6 shillings for his Trouble.
  • 23rd April 1737 – On Tuesday last, the Wind being very high, and the Tide rough, two boats, overladen with Passengers, were cast away between Cuckold’s Point and Deptford, and 17 persons drowned. Two other boats, near the same place, with 16 persons in them, and another at the Isle of Dogs, with six and a Waterman, overset, and seven of the former and all the layer were drowned,
  • 23rd October 1742 – Yesterday a new ship, of 220 Tons and 20 Guns, intended for the West India Trade, was launched at Mr. Taylor’s Dock at Cuckold’s Point, and named the Anna Maria (see earlier extract from Rocque’s map of 1746 for location of Taylor’s Dock)
  • 10th December 1743 – Last Tuesday upwards of 1000 Pairs of French Gloves with some Skins, were brought to the custom House. They were seized by Mess. Smith and Harris, Customhouse officers, as they were attempting to land them at Cuckold’s Point.
  • 4th February 1744 – On Tuesday 200lb of Cocoa Nuts, 200 Weight of Tea and 20 Pieces of Cambrick, with some Lace, were seized at Cuckold’s Point, and brought to the Custom House; This seizure is valued at £300. (Cambric is a finely woven, plain cloth that came from France)
  • 7th of March 1747 – Tuesday in the Afternoon as a Boat was going to Greenwich with six Passengers, it was overset near Cuckold’s Point by running foul of a Ships Anchor, by which accident Mrs. Sims and her Daughter, of St. Catherine’s Lane, were unfortunately drowned.
  • 27th of March 1749 – On Monday last thirteen prisoners were tried at Kingston in Surrey, three of whom were capitally convicted, viz. John Rayner, for Robbery on the Highway, Thomas Pattin and William Walker, two Watermen, for knocking down Mr. Alison, in a Boat on the River Thames, near Cuckold’s Point, and robbing him of a Silver Coffee Pot, a Watch, and a Guinea and Half in Money.

These quiet places along the Thames were once full of life, and also unfortunately, death.

Looking along Cuckold’s Point to the east and there is a pier that reaches out over the foreshore. This is where you can catch the Thames Clipper RB4 service that runs between this pier at the Doubletree Docklands Hotel, across the river to the pier at Canary Wharf – a brilliant way of crossing the river.

Cuckold's Point

A rather good example of historical continuity in London, the Thames Clipper RB4 service has almost exactly the same route as the old Limehouse Hole ferry that ran from Horn Stairs.

Some of the long length of the causeway still has a layer of stones that would have provided the hard surface to walk down to catch your boat:

Horn Stairs

I visited Horn Stairs and Cuckold’s Point in January, and this was probably the left over of some New Year’s Eve celebrations:

Horn Stairs

Returning to the story of the Miller and King John, one of the rights allegedly granted to the Miller was the right to hold a fair in Charlton.

Whatever the truth in the story of the Miller and King, a fair was held each year, on St. Luke’s Day, the 18th of October, and the following article from The Sun on the 20th of October, 1846 hints at the antiquity of the fair, and also provides a good overview of the event.

There is also a reference to Cuckold’s Point towards the end of the article, which I have highlighted in bold:

“HORN FAIR – This scene of popular amusement was held yesterday, according to ancient custom, in the healthful and pleasant village of Charlton.

In former times it was generally distinguished by riot and obscenity. Some of the worst class in London made parties to carry out the vulgar joke of cornuted husbands and wives (cornuted means to bear or have horns).

Horn Fair (the common name) is now changed to Charlton Fair, and the visitors, more enlightened that their ancestors, seldom indulge in those disorderly transactions which bore the stigma of indecency. It was formerly a mart for various forms of utensils made of horn, and tradition ascribes the origin to King John. An armour carried out by that licentious and infamous Prince with the wife of an honest miller was the foundation for the fair. John, surprised by the enraged husband, would have perished under the uplifted dirk of the miller, had he not saved his life by promising to redress the injury. The compensation was a grant of land the miller could see westward from the top of his mill. Agreeable to the royal donation, a fair was to be held annually, on St.-Luke’s-day, for ever.

Such is the oral account of the fair from year to year, and there is, we believe, at the present day, an aquatic custom at Cuckold’s-point, where it is said the mill stood, which bears out the story. The waterman, as he passes the stairs, or landing place, frequently tells his fare that a spider is crawling on his hat. The person naturally takes it off his head, and then Old Charon, with a laugh, requests he will put it on again, having properly paid his respects to the Horns at Cuckold’s Point.”

Note in the above article that the mill is described as being at Cuckold’s Point, however the majority of references refer to the location being in Charlton, and that Cuckold’s Point, where horns were mounted on a pole, was the place furthest west that the Miller could see from his place in Charlton.

The article also mentions that Horn Fair was held on St. Luke’s Day. The connection with St. Luke comes from ecclesiastical art, where St. Luke is often painted with an Ox, an example being this early 18th century print which shows St. Luke seated at a desk, with a winged ox with horns, behind him.

St Luke

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

There are very many references to Horn Fare, including some which describe events such as the following from 1742:

“Monday being St. Luke’s Day, a large Body of Cuckolds, both real and reputed, attended the King, the Miller, and his Wife, from the Sun Yard in Bishopsgate-street, to Horn Fair, held at Charlton in Kent, according to annual Custom.”.

In the 18th century, the Press Gang took advantage of Horn Fair, as this report from the 27th of October, 1746 explains:

“Last Saturday Night a large Press Gang, with Horns on, and Music playing before them, came through Greenwich, Deptford and Rotherhithe, &c. from Horn Fair, which drew a great many Sailors out of their Retreats to see the Procession, several of whom were pressed for his Majesty’s Service, and sent directly on board the Tenders in the River.”

The stairs today look almost like archaeological remains, washed from under layers of mud and sand by a strong tide, a bit like Seahenge, discovered in Norfolk in 1998. I checked on the Historic England directory, and the stairs are not listed, and it is unclear who, if anyone, is responsible for these features. Sadly, they will probably continue to erode away. A great loss for future generations.

Horn Stairs

Temporary structures were erected for Horn Fair, and we can get a glimpse of these from reports about the fair, including one from 1819 where there was an unexpected heavy snow fall, which caused much damage to the fair, including temporary structures for “The Freemasons Tavern” and “The Crown and Anchor”, which had apparently been “fitted up with great splendor , and the proprietor had omitted to take down his lamps and lustres” – which along with bottles, crockery, furniture etc. were all badly damaged by the snow.

The Horn Fair was abolished in 1872. By then Charlton had ceased to be the “healthful and pleasant village of Charlton“, and was being rapidly developed.

Horn Fair did not fit in with the Victorian narrative of improvement, and riotous assemblies such as fairs, were seen as a threat to those living nearby, to law and order, and to the social structures of the time.

In the Morning Advertiser on the 27th of February, 1872, in between lists of the prices of coal, hops, potatoes, the cattle market, and an article listing the days of the arrivals of the mail from Australia, New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, Mexico, Egypt (all symbols of a new Victorian London), there was a brief article reporting on the official abolition of the Horn Fair at Charlton and the Blackheath Fair, both of which had “survived all other suburban pleasure fairs”.

Chalk on the foreshore at Cuckold’s Point, left over from a time when chalk was used to build a flat platform on which barges could be grounded:

Horn Stairs

The wooden steps of Horn Stairs. The condition of the individual steps seems to get worse with height, with those at the very top appearing to be in very poor condition. I assume this is because those at the top are much more open to the atmosphere, are washed by the river rather than being covered, and suffer more wave action.

Horn Stairs

Horn Stairs and Cuckold’s Point are wonderful places to take in the river, views across to Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs (but walk down the stairs at your own risk !!).

It is a place with a long history, shared with the history of the river, and a connection with a Miller and King in Charlton, and a historic fair held in the “pleasant village of Charlton“, which does still have a Hornfair Road near the original location of the fair

What ever the truth of the story of the Miller, his Wife and King John, it is a fascinating part of London’s long history, and tells much about life in London over the centuries.

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The Footman and Red Lion – A Tale of Two Charles Street Pubs

Charles Street is a typical Mayfair street. A varied range of architecture, a hotel, private houses, investment and wealth management companies, corporate offices, embassies, and much more hidden behind the facades of tall buildings that line the street.

I recently went for a walk along the street to find two pubs, the Footman and the Red Lion.

A photo of the Footman appeared in the 1920s three volume set of Wonderful London, when it was known as the Running Footman:

Running Footman pub

The following text is the commentary to the above photo in Wonderful London:

“THE RUNNING FOOTMAN, A PICTURE OF THE OLD MAYFAIR – Charles Street, off Berkeley Square, retains a pub named after that special kind of servant whose duty it was to run before the crawling family coach, help it out of ruts, warn toll-keepers, and clear the way generally. He wore a livery and usually carried a cane. The last person to employ a Running Footman is said to have been ‘Old Q.’ the Duke of Queensbery who died in 1810. The faded sign is fixed to the bay in the side street and appears here, over the taxi. The tavern is a bit of London from the days of ‘the Quality’, whose servants it served.”

Wonderful London has a rather rose tinted view of the role of a running footman. I suspect in reality it was really difficult and exhausting to keep ahead of a coach, and carry out any other manual activities such as lifting the coach out of outs.

I found an alternative description of the role of a running footman, which is probably more realistic:

“The Running Footman – men have adopted various inhuman methods to increase their self-importance at different epochs, but few more inhuman than that of the running footman, of whom Mr. John Owen writes in his new novel, published today under the title of ‘The Running Footman’.

This 18th century barbarism, whereby a man was forced to run 30 yards in front of his master’s coach for incredible distances, naturally resulted in the runners death from heart disease or consumption.”

The following print from 1741 is a satirical interpretation of the opposition methods in the parliamentary motion to remove Robert Walpole from office, and shows a Running Footman at the left of the print, running in front of a team of horses and the coach.

As described in Wonderful London, he is carrying a cane © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Running Footman pub

There was an interesting story of a Running Footman in the newspapers on the 5th of October, 1728, which hints at how fast they could run:

“A Foot Race of two Miles being Advertised to be Run last Thursday on the Marshes near Hackney River by young Women for a Holland Shift, as three were dressing in order to start, one of them was discovered to be a Running Footman to a Person of Quality, who seeing he was betrayed found means to re-mount the Horse he rode on with a Side-Saddle. The Mob understanding the matter pursued him in order to duck him in the River, but to make more speed, he dismounted, rid himself of his Petticoats, took to his Heels and got clear of them, after much more Diversion than the Race, which was afterwards run by the other two.”

The pub that is shown in the Wonderful London photo would only last for around another 10 years, as in the 1930s, the Running Footman would be rebuilt in the red brick style of pubs of the time, and it is this version of the pub that we find in Charles Street today, with the name truncated to just The Footman:

Running Footman pub

The shorter name is relatively recent as the pub also had the names “The Only Running Footman” and “I am the Only Running Footman”.

The original pub dates from the mid-18th century, and there are online references to the pub originally being called the Running Horse, although I cannot find any references from the late 18th century of a pub in Charles Street with this name.

The first newspaper references to the Running Footman date from the first decades of the 19th century, for example in May 1821 there were stables for sale in Charles Street, and the Running Footman was given as one of the places were details of the sale could be found.

The 1930s rebuild features an interesting extension to the roof, and the building is now taller than the rest of the terrace of which it was part:

Running Footman pub

The above photo shows the eastern end of Charles Street, with the southern end of Berkeley Square to the right.

Charles Street seems to have been laid out during the later part of the 17th century. Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the surrounding built area, the upper eastern part of Charles Street has been built, and a blank space with street outlines covering the area west and north of Charles Street. The yellow circle marks the location of the Running Footman:

Running Footman pub

Although the map shows street outlines, the layout today is slightly different, and Charles Street extends to the corner of the space occupied by the large house at left, where it turns north. It was here I was heading next to find another pub, and to look at the mix of architecture along the street.

The original build of Charles Street was mid to late 18th century / early 19th century, brick terrace houses, and over the following decades many of these would be combined and rebuilt to leave the mix of architectural styles and periods that we see today:

Charles Street

At the junction with Queen Street, there is an open space with a tree in the centre, with the street turning slightly to the north. This point was the original end of Charles Street as shown in Rocque’s 1746 map, so the street may have originally terminated here, before being extended on as development of the area completed.

Charles Street

And as we walk along Charles Street, we continue to see the mix of architecture, including where original terrace houses have been combined and a new stone façade has been built over the original brick:

Charles Street

On the house shown above, there is a London County Council plaque stating that Archibald Philip Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery was born in the house in 1847:

Rosebery

He was Prime Minister in the years 1894 and 1895, and he was also Chairman of the London County Council in 1889 and 1890, then again in 1892, and Rosebery Avenue in Clerkenwell is named after him. Rosebery Avenue was one of the late 19th century major roads built across London to ease the growing congestion of the time, and that swept away many old street, courts and alleys.

Towards the western end of Charles Street, the street suddenly narrows as it turns to run along the northern edge of large, terrace houses. This change in the street marks the point where the original gardens of Chesterfield House (see the extract from Rocque’s map earlier in the post) extended, with the street turning along the north east corner of the old gardens:

Red Lion Pub Charles Street

At the end of the narrow section of Charles Street, where there is a sharp bend up towards Waverton Street we can see what remains of the Red Lion, the second pub I was looking for in Charles Street (the scaffolding is on the building opposite, not on the old pub):

Red Lion Pub Charles Street

The Red Lion is now a residential property, having closed as a pub in 2009.

The building still retains some of the features of a London pub on the facade facing the street, however the rest of the building is very different.

After closing as a pub, it underwent a very significant rebuild, both above and below ground to create a very different space behind the façade.

I would not normally put a link to the Mail Online in the blog, however this is where I found an article on the conversion of the building from pub to residential, which includes a number of photos of the interior of the building, which are hard to reconcile with the view when you stand outside, and shows what can be done if you have £25 million to spare (in 2009).

The article is here.

A look down Red Lion Yard at the side of the old pub shows the way that the building has been extended above ground, in addition to the two levels below ground which doubled the overall space:

Red Lion Yard

The article described the pub as a “dingy drinking establishment“. It did seem to have been left to run down over the last few years of being a pub, but in the few times I went in, it always seemed to be reasonably busy.

Unlike the Running Footman, the Red Lion was in a rather hidden part of the local streets, and it was a “local” pub so perhaps trade was not enough to keep the pub viable.

I suspect that when the company that owned the pub was offered a good sum of money, it was worth selling for development rather than retaining as a pub.

At the end of the alley leading into Red Lion Yard is this square of buildings, which again shows a level of redevelopment:

Red Lion Yard

Entrance to Red Lion Yard alongside the old Red Lion:

Red Lion pub Charles Street

Although the Red Lion is at the end of Charles Street, it is also in the southern edge of Waverton Street, with a short section leading up to Hill Street before continuing northwards. A short distance from the Red Lion in Waverton Street, significant development continues:

Charles Street

Looking back from in front of the Red Lion, along Charles Street. Again this narrow section of the street once had the gardens of Chesterfield House on the right:

Charles Street

Walking back along Charles Street, and this is Dartmouth House:

Dartmouth House Charles Street

Dartmouth House is another building which started off as part of a brick terrace of houses, but after combining individual houses, extending the resulting building and constructing a new stone façade, we get the building we see today.

the first recorded resident was the Dowager Duchess of Chandos in 1757, and for the following centuries the house has been occupied mainly by a succession of Dukes, Earls, a Dowager and a Marquis – or “The Quality” as Wonderful London and other early references to the role of a Running Footman would have referred to them.

Since 1926, Dartmouth House has been the headquarters of the English Speaking Union (ESU).

The ESU have published a brief history of the house, and within this they reference the River Tyburn and that the brook runs under Dartmouth House and caused serious damage to papers stored in the basement in the 1990s.

According to “The Lost Rivers of London” by Nicholas Barton and Stephen Myers the Tyburn runs slightly to the east and south. Under the south eastern corner of Berkeley Square towards Curzon Street, rather than running under Dartmouth House, however the basement of Dartmouth House is within what would have been the marshy area surrounding the Tyburn and any remaining springs, a high water table after heavy rains etc. could still result in basement flooding.

Just one of the ways in which the pre-built environment, when the area was all fields streams and ponds, occasionally still bursts through to the 21st century.

A house with a green City of Westminster plaque on the ground floor:

Charles Street

The plaque states that Lady Dorothy Nevill lived in the house from 1873 to 1913:

Charles Street

Born in 1826, she was the daughter of Horace Walpole and Mary Fawkener.

When she died in 1913, obituaries stated that she was one of the more important links between the Victorian and present eras, and that she had lived through the reigns of George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII and George V.

Her obituaries stated that she was “profoundly conscious of the fact that she was connected in blood with many of the leading families in England; but unlike most British aristocrats (remarks the Times), though a keen Conservative in politics, fully alive to the changes that time had brought upon English Society.”

Her support of Conservative politics was such that she “was one of the two or three ladies responsible for the founding of the Primrose League; indeed it is said to have been first suggested at her luncheon table; and every year on April 19 her windows and balconies were covered with primroses”.

The Primrose League (named after the favourite flower of Benjamin Disraeli) was founded in 1883 and was a Conservative supporting, mass membership organisation, formed to promote the aims of the Conservative party across the country, and support the election of Conservative candidates.

The success of the league was such that in ten years, membership had reached over one million, and there were members across the country, including the industrial towns of the north.

There were however, many sceptical of the organisation, and the Edinburgh Evening News on the 2nd of February 1884 was reporting that:

“That latest of Conservative follies, the Primrose League, is pushing its way. A considerable number of people have joined it, and its organisors assert that it will in the course of time become a powerful element of Tory reaction. It has been decided to start a branch of the League at Birmingham, with a view of assisting the candidature of Lord Randolph Churchill.

A correspondent suggests however, that an institution like the Primrose League is more suited for the atmousphere of Belgravia than Birmingham.

It was established by some rather weak-minded Conservatives in the West End of London, and it is not likely that it will be largely supported by the artisans of Birmingham. The League intends to hold a great demonstration on April 19th, the anniversary of Lord Beaconsfield’s death. There is some talk of its members walking through the metropolis in a monster procession.”

Surprisingly, the Primrose League lasted until 2004, when it was disbanded.

Her obituary also remarked that “The Sunday luncheon parties at her little house in Charles Street were the meeting place of people of all kinds of opinion, drawn from many walks of life, though she herself was fond of saying that her society was exclusive, dull people being never admitted”.

I like the description of her house in Charles Street being described as “her little house”, but I suppose that all things are relative for “The Quality”.

Whilst many of the buildings along Charles Street have changed significantly since the street was first developed, there are some original houses, and some of these have had some rather strange additions, such as this terrace house with a stone bay window that looks as if it has been randomly stuck on the building:

Running Footman pub

At the Berkeley Square end of the street there is, what the Historic England listing describes as “Two full height canted bays of 3 sashes each per floor and a 2 storey 2 window extension to left hand”. This is the rear of the Grade II listed 52 and 52A Berkeley Square, which date back to around 1750 and form part of the first development along Charles Street:

Charles Street

Charles Street is an interesting little street. Many of the buildings have an aristocratic heritage, as does the origins of the name of the Footman pub.

It is brilliant that the Footman survives, and the loss of the Red Lion is a shame. I do not know the reasons for the pub’s closure, but I often wonder in the planning decisions for pub conversions, just how much consideration is given to the change in use, and the loss of a community asset.

These converted properties often become trophy assets that add very little to the area.

Theoretically, it should now be much harder to get planning permission for the conversion of a pub.

The London Plan, published by the Mayor of London, includes “Policy HC7
Protecting public houses”
which does appear to provide a strong framework for resisting the conversion of a pub to alternative uses, however I suspect there are always ways and means to get around such constraints.

On a positive note for the area, Charles Street is in the City of Westminster, which in the 2017 London Pubs Annual Data Note (part of the Greater London Authorities Cultural Infrastructure Report), and Westminster had the highest number of pubs of any borough in London with 430,

In second place was Camden with 230 and in third place was Islington with 215. Barking and Dagenham had the fewest number of pubs, with just 20.

I did not take any photos of the Red Lion when it was open, which I regret. You do not appreciate places until they are gone, and this is now one of the reasons why I probably take too many photos of even the most mundane street scene, as you know for sure, that within London – at some point it will have changed.

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