Monthly Archives: April 2015

An Optimistic View Of The Future – Adverts From The 1951 Festival Of Britain

My father took a range of photos of the south bank area of London just after the last war, prior to the construction of the Festival of Britain Exhibition.

Some I have already published here and here.

I have been researching and reading about the Festival of Britain and one very good source is the Guide to the South Bank Exhibition that was published to guide the visitor around the site and to provide a “Guide To The Story It Tells”.

The content about the Festival is fascinating, but I also find the adverts within the guide of equal interest. They provide a snapshot of how advertising reflected the country of the time.

The adverts are highly artistic and the colours used are very vivid, probably reflecting the optimism about the future that was one of the main themes of the Festival after so many years of austerity.

The adverts also tell a story of how British industry has changed over the past 64 years.

So, for a change of theme this week, let me show you some of the advertising from the Guide to the South Bank Exhibition.

Advert 12

The first is from Costain. A construction company founded in 1865 by Richard Costain who moved from the Isle of Man to Liverpool and began trading as a builder. Costain are still an independent company to this day and are actively involved in many major infrastructure projects around London including the London Bridge station redevelopment.

The advert shows the transformation of the Festival site and the Dome of Discovery from initial plans in 1949 through to completion in May 1951.

Advert 20

Horseley Bridge and Thomas Piggot were a major firm of construction engineers specialising in iron and steelwork and were responsible for the steel work on the Dome of Discovery. Much of their work remains in use to this day, including Richmond Railway Bridge.

Advert 11

The Shell and BP advert shows the view  of part of the Festival site, the current location of the Royal Festival Hall, prior to demolition. The view is from Shell-Mex House which is directly opposite the site on the north bank of the Thames and although not now occupied by Shell, the building is unchanged to this day.

The view of the Festival site shows the Shot Tower on the left and the Lion Brewery building to the right.

Shell would continue to have a link with the Festival of Britain site as following closure, Shell Centre, the head office for the international part of Shell’s business was built on the site.

Advert 16

Allied Ironfounders Ltd was formed in 1929 from the consolidation of ten smaller companies and was responsible for a wide range of products including the Aga Cooker through the takeover of Aga Heat in 1935.

Allied Ironfounders lasted as an independent company until 1969 when it was taken over by Glynwed. Within 30 years the company had sold off virtually all of the metal working parts of the business and in 2001 was renamed Aga Foodservice Ltd to concentrate on the remaining part of the business.

Note the text underneath the illustration regarding the gates from the Great Exhibition of 1851 and their transfer to the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens – I did not know that.

Advert 23

Ovaltine was invented by a Swiss chemist in 1904 and was first available in the UK in 1909. Still widely available over one hundred years later and based on the same core ingredient of barley malt. If I have understood chains of ownership correctly, Ovaltine is now owned by Twining’s which in turn is owned by Associated British Foods.

Very idealised view of the Ovaltine Egg Farm, the Ovatine Dairy and the Ovaltine Factory in a Country Garden.

Advert 8

Horlicks is another malted drink which is still in production today, now owned by GlaxoSmithKline (who have their head office in Brentford, West London).

Another idealised view, but this time of a house in the country (very different to the homes of the majority of Londoners at the time)

Advert 13

Barkers of Kensington was a Kensington department store which opened in 1870. Sold to House of Fraser in 1957, it was finally closed in 2006. The Barkers building still remains and is a major landmark on Kensington High Street.

Advert 4

Arthur Lassenby Liberty started trading in Regent Street in 1875. The current store shown in the above advert was built-in 1924. Liberty’s are still trading in the same building to this day with much the same ethos.

Advert 5

The Gas Council’s advert with Mr Therm standing in front of a backdrop of the festival site with the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon. Gas provision at the time was a nationalised industry, privatised in the 1980s as BG Group and Centrica.

Note the comment about gas and coke helping to get rid of fog – still a major issue in 1950s London.

Advert 9

This is an advert you will not see today – cigarettes, in this example Craven ‘A’ trying to project a very sophisticated image for the brand. Still available as a brand today, but as far as I can tell, mainly in Canada.

Advert 15

And perhaps in 1951, to complement your Craven ‘A’ you would also have had a Curtis London Dry Gin, distilled in London since 1769.

Advert 10

Also advertising in the Guide were many of  the country’s industrial companies of the early 1950s.

English Electric were a major industrial concern, manufacturing a very wide range of electrical, engineering and aeronautical products and during the early 1960s were a British manufacturer of mainframe computers.

The aeronautical part of the business became a founding member of the British Aircraft Corporation which in turn became BAE Systems.

The rest of the business was merged with GEC in 1968 which spectacularly failed in the first years of the 21st century after the disastrous decision to try to turn the company into an Internet infrastructure business to the detriment of the core engineering parts of the business.

I wonder what those attending the Festival would have thought if they had known that companies that at the time seemed so innovative and core to the country’s industrial identity would have disappeared within 50 years.

Advert 14

Another manufacturer that would disappear was E.K. Cole or Ekco who started manufacturing radio sets from 1924 and later television sets in Leigh-on-Sea and Southend.

Ekco products must have been in many homes across the country at the time of the Festival and must have appeared to be a very strong company and brand.

Ekco merged with Pye, another British electronics manufacturer in 1960 and the combined company was taken over by Philips in 1967 with the Ekco brand disappearing.

Advert 19

Cossor was another British electronics company that would disappear in a couple of decades. The company started trading in 1859 as a manufacturer of scientific glassware and this expertise helped the company move into the production of electronic valves and cathode ray tubes. This led into leading technologies such as radar both during the 2nd World War where Cossor was one the companies that helped develop the Chain Home radar system along the coast and following the war into radar for air traffic control.

Cossor was purchased by the US manufacturer Raytheon in 1961, just ten years after the Festival of Britain and is another example of the loss of British industrial capability over the last 60 years.

Advert 3

Sperry was a manufacturer of navigation equipment and gyrocompasses. Now owned by the American business Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Advert 7

Siemens Brothers and Company Limited was the 1951 incarnation of the original Siemens company formed in 1843 by Wilhelm Siemens of Germany. The shares of the British business were confiscated at the start of the 1st World War and finally became part of Associated Electrical Industries in 1955 which then merged with GEC in 1967 which as stated above with English Electric failed in the early 2000s.

The original German part of Siemens is now a major global manufacturer and well established in the UK, manufacturing in Germany many of the trains that now service London

Advert 21

One brand that is still very much in business today is Cow and Gate. originally a grocery shop in Guildford owned by the Gates family in 1771, the business expanded into dairy products which led to powered milk and then to milk food for babies.

Smiler, the Cow and Gate “royal baby” was introduced to the branding in 1930.

Although still in business, Cow and Gate is now owned by the French multinational Groupe Danone.

The Festival of Britain and the South Bank Exhibition that formed the core of the Festival was intended to show a strong, confident country, full of innovative industrial and manufacturing companies that could be expected to bring a prosperous future after the long years of war and the austerity that followed. The following decades would bring significant change to, and the demise of many of these companies.

I have shown just under half of the adverts featured in the 1951 Guide to the Festival, the rest have the same standards of artwork and it is interesting that there is only one financial business (Lloyds Bank) featured. Again perhaps how the country (or at least the organisers of the festival) wanted to portray what was important to the country and to the future from the perspective of 1951.

Highgate – Pubs, History And Architecture

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

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

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

Highgate 2

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

Highgate 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highgate 4

And today in April 2015:

Highgate 3

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

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

Highgate 14

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

Highgate 15

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

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

The custom died out in the 19th century.

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

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

Highgate 6

And from the same location in 2015:

Highgate 5

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

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

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

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

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

The Gatehouse in 1820:

Highgate 11

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

Highgate 12

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

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

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

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

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

Highgate 9

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

Highgate 10

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

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

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

Highgate 13

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

Highgate 8

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

Highgate 7

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

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

The Chelsea Physic Garden

Last weekend I was walking in Chelsea, hunting down some of the locations of my father’s photos when I walked past one of the places I have always meant to visit.

If you walk or drive along the Chelsea Embankment, in-between the rows of apartment buildings that face onto the embankment you will see a low brick wall with a slightly ornate entrance gate, with what appears to be gardens behind.

This is the Chelsea Physic Garden.

Chelsea Physic Garden

The main entrance to the Chelsea Physic Garden is on Swan Walk, which when facing the Gardens from the river forms the eastern boundary. A plaque in the brick wall adjacent to the entrance provides an indication of the function and the age of the Gardens:

Chelsea Physic Garden

The main entrance is a relatively small gate in Swan Walk:

Chelsea Physic Garden

Once through the gate and having paid the entrance fee, the Gardens open up. Hard to believe that this is Chelsea and that the traffic on the Chelsea Embankment and the River Thames is just beyond the trees at the far end of the following photo:

Chelsea Physic Garden

The Chelsea Physic Garden was established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries when the land was leased from Charles Cheyne, the Lord of the Manor of Chelsea. It has continued to occupy the same location adjacent to the River Thames, whilst the rest of Chelsea has been developed around the gardens.

The Apothecaries needed an area where medicinal herbs could be grown and apprentices to the Society could be trained in their use. The Society had acquired a Medical Garden at Westminster prior to Chelsea and it was the contents of this garden that were moved to Chelsea.

The location chosen in Chelsea was ideal. It was south-facing, fertile and directly adjacent to the river (the Chelsea Embankment had not yet been built) as the river provided easy and safe access to central London rather than cross the dangerous fields and marshes that extended east at this time.

In London Old and New, Edward Walford writes:

“The Physic Garden to which we now come, was originated by Sir Hans Sloane, the celebrated physician, and was handed over in 1721 by him, by deed of gift, to the Apothecaries Company, who still own and maintain it. The garden, which bears the name of the Royal Botanic, was presented to the above company on condition that it should at all times be continued as a physic-garden, for the manifestation of the power and wisdom, and goodness of God, in creation; and that the apprentices might learn to distinguish good and useful plants from hurtful ones. Various additions have been made to the Physic Garden at different periods in the way of greenhouses and hot-houses; and in the centre of the principal walk was erected a statue of Sir Hans Sloane, by Michael Rysbraeck.”

Walford gives the impression that Sir Hans Sloane created the Chelsea Physic Garden, however it was already in existence and Sloane had been an apprentice at the Garden. After Sloane had made his fortune (more on this in a later post on Chelsea), he purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Cheyne and granted a perpetual rent of the Garden to the Apothecaries for a peppercorn rent of £5 a year.

Chelsea Physic Garden

The Chelsea Physic Garden has not always looked as good as it does now. From “London Exhibited in 1851”:

“At the time the garden was formed, it must have stood entirely lying in the country, and had every chance of the plants in it maintaining a healthy state. Now, however, it is completely in the town, and but for its being on the side of the river and lying open on that quarter, it would be altogether surrounded with common streets and houses. As it is, the appearance of the walls, grass, plants and houses is very much that of most London gardens – dingy, smokey, and as regards the plants, impoverished and starved. It is however, interesting for its age, for the few old specimens it contains, for the medical plants, and especially because the houses are being gradually renovated and collections of ornamental plants, as well as those which are useful in medicine, formed and cultivated on the best principles, under the Curatorship of Mr Thomas Moore, one of the editors of the Gardeners Magazine of Botany. In spite of the disadvantages of its situation, here are still grown very many of the drugs which figure in the London Pharmacopoeia.”

From inside the garden we can see the gates that face onto the Chelsea Embankment. These gates and the upgraded enclosure of the gardens was completed in 1877 when Mr Thomas Moore, mentioned in the above quote, was the Curator.  (As evidence of the scientific principles underlying the gardens, the Curator is effectively the Head Gardener, but with the responsibly to curate the collection of plants held by the garden.)

Chelsea Physic Garden

A the top of the gates is the badge of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in London:

Chelsea Physic Garden

The following engraving from London Old And New shows the gardens in 1790 with the original wall and gates directly onto the River Thames before the construction of the Thames Embankment.

Chelsea Physic Garden

The following map extract from the early 1830s shows the Botanic Gardens between Coal Wharf and the Swan Brewery facing directly onto the river, as did Cheyne Walk prior to the construction of the Chelsea Embankment.

Chelsea Physic Garden

The statue to Sir Hans Sloane has pride of place in the centre of the gardens. This in not the original 1733 Michael Rysbrack statue, the original was damaged by pollution and is now in the British Museum. The current statue is a replica of the original.

Chelsea Physic Garden

Visiting the garden now provides an excellent learning experience. The plants are very well labelled with several themed areas to focus on specific geographical sources of plants. There is also currently an art installation by Nici Ruggiero which uses jars in the style of those used by early Apothecaries to explain how different plants were and are used in medicine.

Jars are placed on stakes in the gardens:

Chelsea Physic Garden

As well as a rack of jars against one of the boundary walls:

Chelsea Physic Garden

If you did not know that Lungwort is for diseases of the lungs and for coughs, weezings and the shortness of breath, which it cures both in man and in beast, or that Golden Rod cures conditions of jaundice and provokes urine in abundance, then this is the place to learn.

The Chelsea Physic Garden was also one of the first in Europe to have a glass / hot house, and in 1685 the diarist John Evelyn described a visit to the garden where he met Mr Watts, keeper of the Garden and saw the heated glass house. He wrote in his diary: “what was very ingenious was the subterraneous heat, conveyed by a stove under the conservatory, all vaulted with brick, so as he has the doores and windowes open in the hardest frosts, secluding only the snow.”

The gardens to this day have a number of heated glass houses that support plants from tropical locations that would not otherwise thrive in a London climate:

Chelsea Physic Garden

And they work well in promoting abundant growth:

Chelsea Physic Garden

At the Chelsea Embankment edge of the gardens, it is still possible to find hidden on the side walls, stones fixed to mark the original division walls:

Chelsea Physic Garden

The gardens experienced mixed fortunes in the later half of the 19th century. The numbers of visiting medical students rose significantly in 1877 from a couple of hundred to 3,500 due mainly to the Society of Apothecaries finally allowing women to the study of medicine, but by the end of the 19th century the study of plants had been dropped from the medical syllabus and the Society of Apothecaries decided that there was no real need to continue with the garden.

The gardens also suffered from the construction of the Chelsea Embankment in 1876, cutting of what had been a riverside garden from the river.

The gardens were taken on by the City Parochial Foundation. From the history of the Foundation by Victor Belcher:

“The first additional long term obligation taken on by the Foundation was the maintenance of the Chelsea Physic Garden. By the 1890s the Company had decided that it could no longer afford the upkeep of the garden and recommended that the site should be sold and the proceeds used to endow scientific research and teaching. Widespread concern was voiced and a departmental committee was appointed by the Treasury to look into the situation. In 1898, W. H. Fisher (later Lord Downham), a trustee who also happened to be a Junior Lord of the Treasury in Lord Salisbury’s government, introduced a motion before the Central Governing Body urging the trustees to take over the garden from the Apothecaries Company. he stressed its importance as an open space and as a source of botanical study for students at the Battersea and South-Western polytechnics. The trustees were convinced and asked the Charity Commissioners to draw up a scheme. This was published in 1899 and required the Foundation to give an annual grant of £800 to the garden. the government provided a small supplementary grant, but from this time the Chelsea Physic Garden was essentially the Foundation’s responsibility, a state of affairs which was reflected in the composition of the garden’s managing committee, over half of whose members were to be appointed by the Foundation.”

(The City Parochial Foundation is one of the many bodies that have had an impact on the development of London. Formed in 1891 by bringing together a range of endowments so as to be under the control of a single corporate body, the Foundation was charged with helping the poor of London mainly through creating and supporting technical education in the form of the polytechnic movement)

It was good fortune that the Chelsea Physic Garden was saved otherwise it would now be just more Chelsea streets and buildings.

Chelsea Physic Garden

The City Parochial Foundation continued to support and provide grants to the gardens. By the early 1920s the original £800 per annum grant had grown to £2000.

The grant was reduced during the 2nd World War as the gardens were placed on a care and maintenance status, with several plants being moved to Kew due to damage by bombing. After the war the Foundation was responsible for repairs and redecoration to the gardens and buildings.

The end of the association between the City Parochial Foundation and the Chelsea Physic Garden started in the 1970s, again from the history of the Foundation:

“By the mid-1970s the trustees were becoming concerned about both the rising cost of repairs and the amount of grant now needed. There was also a nagging doubt, once the connections with the polytechnics had been severed, whether the Physic Garden could be said to serve the purposes of the Foundation any longer, if indeed it ever had done. The sub-committee which was appointed to prepare a policy for the quinquennium 1977-81 was asked to include the future of the Garden in its deliberations. It recommended that  funds should be made available for the modernisation of the Garden, but that the Charity Commissioners should be informed that the Foundation wished to withdraw further financial support. In the meantime the trustees would actively seek another sponsor.

Finally, in 1981 a new and independent body of trustees agreed to take over the Garden, and in return were promised grants totalling £200,000 to meet the estimated running costs over the next four years. A new scheme was published, and the formal transfer took place on 1 April 1983 when the Foundation’s scheme grant came to an end.” 

Along with the new status of the Chelsea Physic Garden, it was also formally opened to the public, and this continues to be the status of the gardens today with a small, independent charity responsible for the running of the gardens, and the associated educational work carried out to this day.

Chelsea Physic Garden

During their development, the gardens benefited from a constant stream of new discoveries from across the world. the 18th and 19th centuries were a time of botanical discoveries with expeditions being sent to all corners of the world to bring back specimens.

Among those who contributed to the garden was Joseph Banks, who had already made expeditions to Newfoundland and Labrador and was part of Captain Cook’s voyage to South America, the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. It was through his role as President of the Royal Society that Banks supported expeditions around the world to bring back specimens for the Chelsea Physic Garden. Banks was elected as President in 1778 and held the post for 41 years

Curators were also major plant hunters. One such being Robert Fortune who was curator from 1846 to 1848. He was a prominent plant hunter who brought back many samples from Asia.

Chelsea Physic Garden

Insect houses up against the boundary wall with the Chelsea Embankment.

Chelsea Physic Garden

It has not really been possible to do justice to the history of the Chelsea Physic Garden in the space of a weekly blog post, however I hope this provides some background and an incentive to visit another example of the history of this fascinating city.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • The Face of London by Harold P. Clunn published in 1951
  • Old And New London by Edward Walford published in 1878
  • The City Parochial Foundation 1891 – 1991 by Victor Belcher published in 1991
  • London: The Western Reaches by Godfrey James published in 1950
  • The history of the gardens on the Chelsea Physic Garden web site which can be found here


Wardrobe Place And St. Andrews Hill

All to often, walking the City of London it is too easy to get depressed with how much character is being lost. At street level much recent development looks the same. Standard materials, bland architecture and design that could equally be at home in Shanghai, Dubai or New York.

Fortunately there are still many places that retain that sense of being part of London’s history and where character remains.

For this week’s post I want to explore one such area, Wardrobe Place and St. Andrews Hill, both can be found off Carter Lane, which runs parallel to Queen Victoria Street and Ludgate Hill / St. Paul’s Churchyard, to the south-east of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

This area is part of the St. Paul’s Cathedral Conservation Area, one of the City Conservation Areas where special planning controls are in force to manage development within the area. The document covering the St. Paul’s Conservation Area is an interesting read and can be downloaded here.

Unlike much of the City to the south, east and north of St. Paul’s Cathedral, this area did not suffer from the extensive fire damage caused by bombing during the last war, and has had limited major development in the decades since.

Walk down Carter Lane from St. Paul’s and on the left you will find the entrance to Wardrobe Place, an alley through the line of buildings along the street.

Wardrobe 4

At the end of the alley, the view opens up to Wardrobe Place, enclosed by buildings on all four sides with the main entrance being the alley into Carter Lane.

From this perspective, the buildings on the left are relatively recent developments, it is the buildings on the right that are off interest as a surviving post Great Fire development.
Wardrobe 12

Immediately to the right is No. 2 Wardrobe Place. This is a Grade II listed building from around 1680.  The listing states that “the house retains its late-C17 domestic plan and stair, panelling and other original or early features. The two overmantel paintings have outstanding interest as early examples of a once-widespread artisan tradition, and are now of great rarity.”

The paintings refer to two original wall paintings that were discovered during building work in the 1970s.

The exterior of the building has later alterations with the stucco windows and the round-headed frame around the door from 1860, however the building is still essentially a London town house from the post fire redevelopment of London.
Wardrobe 6

Next along are numbers 3 to 5 Wardrobe Place. These are from around 1715, three broadly similar, three bay town houses. Wardrobe 8

Look closer at these buildings and they retain features essential to living and working in London in the past.

On No. 4, inset just to the right of the front door is a foot scraper. A device essential to cleaning shoes prior to entering a building. London’s streets are today relatively immaculate compared to a time when filth was commonplace, thousands of horses worked across the City streets and efficient waste removal was limited.
Wardrobe 13

Also on No. 4 are two bell pushes, either side of the front door. Not easy to see after many layers of black paint, but the one of the left is for the Office and the one on the right for the Housekeeper. Wardrobe 14

Wardrobe Place is so named as up until the Great Fire of 1666, it was the site of the King’s Wardrobe (the storage, administration and expenditure office for the King). The Wardrobe was moved here from the Tower in the 1360s into the mansion owned by Sir John Beauchampe. From Stow’s Survey of London:

“Then is the kings greate Wardrobe, Sir John Beauchampe, knight of the Garter, Constable of Dover, Warden of the Sinke Portes builded this house, was lodged there, deceased in the yeare 1359.  His Executors sold the house to King Edware the third”.

The Wardrobe name does not give away the intrigue that must have taken place here, for according to Stow:

“The secret letters and writings touching the estate of the Realme, were wont to be enroled in the Kings Wardrobe, and not in the Chauncery, as appeareth by the records”.

Today, there is a plaque recording the earlier function of this area:

Wardrobe 9

And on the later buildings at the far end are the remains of a sign recording the buildings previous use and occupier:


Printers. Stationers &

Account Book Manufacturers
Wardrobe 7

Good to see that this sign has been preserved. There are too few of these remaining across the City. Signs which once must have been on almost every City building.

The view from the far end looking back up towards the Carter Lane entrance. The buildings on the right are part of a 1980s development which at least retained some of the architectural character of Wardrobe Place.
Wardrobe 5

Now walk back into Carter Lane and a short distance further we come to St. Andrews Hill. This leads down to Queen Victoria Street, opposite where Puddle Dock was originally located and according to George Cunningham in his 1927 Survey of London, was originally called Puddledock Hill (although I have been unable to find any other reference that confirms this, however it could well have been an earlier or alternative name as the street leads up from both Puddle Dock and the church of St. Andrew’s by the Wardrobe.)

The street displays the characteristic downward slope towards the river.
Wardrobe 1

And one of the many boundary markers that can still be found across the City:

Wardrobe 10Many of the buildings along St. Andrews Hill are 19th century in origin and a mix of style and function including offices, shop fronts and warehouses.

In front of the listed 36 St. Andrews Hill are two Post Office letter boxes, not now in use, but unusual, 100-year-old survivors.

The box on the left is Edward VII (1901 – 1910) and on the right is George V (1910 – 1936)

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And just past the letter boxes is St. Andrews House with a strange first floor, corner bay window:

Wardrobe 2And just past St. Andrews House are alleys around the church of St. Andrew by the Wardrobe:

Wardrobe 15

Also in St. Andrews Hill is the excellent Cockpit Pub:

Wardrobe 16A fascinating shape being on both St. Andrews Hill and Ireland Yard. The current building is mainly from 1842, however a pub is alleged to have been here from the 16th century and the name is a reference to cock-fighting and the associated gambling that once took place here.

Wardrobe Place and St. Andrews Hill, not significant historical locations, but thankfully places where it is still possible to get a glimpse of the development of City streets from after the Great Fire through to the 20th Century.