Monthly Archives: February 2016

Holly Bush Hill – Hampstead

After visiting the Chalybeate Well in Hampstead which I featured in my post of two weeks ago, I stayed in Hampstead and walked to the other side of Heath Street to visit Holly Bush Hill.

Sixty seven years ago in 1949, my father took the following photo looking up Holly Bush Hill from the walkway that leads up to Mount Vernon.

Holly Bush Hill 2

And in 2016, Holly Bush Hill looks much the same.

Holly Bush Hill 1

Turning to the right in 1949, the view looking down from Holly Bush Hill.

Holly Bush Hill 4

And the same view in 2016.

Holly Bush Hill 3

As with many of the side streets in Hampstead, there has been very little change over many decades. Both photos highlight the major change since 1949 which is how much cars have taken over the streets. In 1949 there were very few cars to be seen and street parking was minimal, however in 2016 cars are everywhere and the side streets are lined with parked cars.

I cannot find the origin of the name Holly Bush Hill. Many of the streets in this area use the name Holly, for example Holly Bush Vale and Holly Mount so there must be an original local meaning, perhaps the growth of holly bushes at the top of the hill. Other possible sources of the name refer to the local pub, The Holly Bush. This pub name has several possible meanings including the use of the Holly Bush by the Romans during their Saturnalia celebrations and also the custom of hanging a green branch or bush over the door of a building that sold wines and beers for advertisement.

Whatever the original source of the name, the holy on the pub sign has reduced over the years from a full holly bush in 1949 down to a sprig of holly in 2016.

old and new pub signs

Holly Bush Hill was not the original name of the street. George W. Potter in Hampstead Wells – A Short History Of Their Rise And Decline published in 1907 states that the original name was Cloth Hill “no doubt because it was anciently used as a drying or bleaching ground”.

George Potter records that before becoming a very fashionable area, Hampstead was the location for a large number of laundry businesses set-up to serve London. Hampstead was a perfect location due to the availability of a large number of springs with a good supply of clean water. No doubt the windy heights of Hampstead also helped with drying.

In the first 1949 photo there is a pub sign on the left and on the wall on the right the brewery name Benskins.

This refers to the pub “The Holly Bush” which, as can be seen by the 2016 pub sign, is still in existence and down the side street Holly Mount. The Holly Bush is a lovely old pub, built-in 1643 and a grade II listed building, one of the London locations that Dr. Johnson and Boswell drank in. Today it is a perfect stop after a walk around Hampstead.

Holly Bush Hill 8

In the top photo, look just along the street to the buildings on the right, these are also much the same.

Holly Bush Hill 7

On the far left of the buildings there is blue plaque recording that the artist, George Romney lived here. George Cunningham in “London” (1927) records the history of this building:

“Formerly the house and studio of George Romney. In 1796 George Romney, the artist, bought an old house and stable here, and in 1797-8, when his health had begun to decline, he built a new house and studio on the site and on land he had purchased at the back of it. Romney lived here until 1799, when he went back to Kendall to the wife he had deserted some thirty-five years before. This was his last London residence, and his stay here was a period of constantly increasing illness. The property was sold in 1801 and in 1807 it was purchased for use as assembly rooms and until 1860 it was a social centre for the neighbourhood. The Hampstead Literary and Scientific Society was formed here about 1833, and among its lecturers Dr. Lardner, Dr. Ure, Professor Lindsey, John Constable and others of equal prominence. The Conversazione Society was established in 1846 and held its meetings here. Since 1886 the Constitutional Club has been here.”

George Romney was a society portraitist, completing portraits of many prominent people of the time. A very skillful draughtsman, initially he did not have the confidence for major works of art, however in 1782 he met Emma Hart, the future Lady Emma Hamilton who became Lord Nelson’s mistress.

At the time of Romney’s meeting with Emma Hart, she was the mistress of Charles Greville who took her to Romney to have her portrait painted. Romney was fascinated by her, and she became his “artist’s muse”, sitting for him many times and featuring in a large number of Romney’s works.

Self portrait of George Romney, oil on canvas, 1784.

by George Romney, oil on canvas, 1784

©Trustees of the British Museum

One of George Romney’s drawings of Lady Hamilton.

Lady Hamilton

©Trustees of the British Museum

On the assumption that you may have stopped for a drink in The Holly Bush, when you come out, turn left along Holly Mount, then down Holly Bush Steps to Heath Street. Cross over, walk a short distance up Heath Street then stop , turn round and look back. This was the view in 1949.

Holly Bush Hill 6

And in 2016 (my apologies for the quality of the photo, it was a very sunny day and despite waiting for the sun to drop behind the buildings it still presented some contrast problems).

Holly Bush Hill 5

The entrance to Holly Bush Steps is just behind the furthest car in the 1949 photo.

Heath Street is an incredibly busy road and despite waiting for almost half an hour there was not a break in the traffic, however if you ignore the cars and focus on the buildings, the scene is almost exactly the same. I am sure that the trees in front of the white building on the right are the same.

The side streets of Hampstead have changed very little over the years. Take away the cars and I suspect George Romney would not find too many differences if he was to return to his house and studio.

My Second Year Of Exploring London

With this post, I finish my second year of exploring and writing about London, and start my third. I would like to thank everyone who has read, commented, e-mailed and subscribed, I am very grateful for every bit of feedback and I apologise for my often delayed responses, it is a challenge to research and write a post a week.

I started this blog with two main aims:

  1. To identify the locations of all the photos my father took across London.
  2. To act as an incentive to get out and explore more of London.

I have made great progress with my father’s photos and now have around 90% identified and will cover many of these locations over the coming year. I published two posts with locations I could not identify and the response was remarkable with the majority of locations and events from these two posts identified. To have locations identified over the course of a Sunday where I had spent some weeks trying to work out where they were was a fantastic experience, and my thanks for your considerable knowledge of London. It is still my aim to identify the location of every single photo.

For point two, it has been a really interesting year. We too often take for granted what is on our doorstep. Follow the same routes and go to the same places. There is so much to explore across London and the blog has given me the incentive to get out and explore different places, I will highlight a few of these below.

So what of the third year? I still have very many of my father’s photos of London to cover and will be comparing these with the location today. He also took hundreds of photos across the UK during Youth Hosteling holidays and National Service in the late 1940s. If you do not mind the occasional trip out of London I will also start covering some of these to show what the country looked like to a Londoner after almost six years of war. There are also many new places in London I want to visit and explore and will be covering these during the coming year.

So, again my thanks for reading the blog, and I hope I can keep you interested during the coming year.

And to finish, a summary of some of the posts from the last year:

Mystery Locations

Nearly all the locations from my two Mystery Locations posts were identified. The following photo was in my first post from last August and did not get identified at the time, however when I published the second set, I had feedback on this photo. It was taken just off Theobalds Road and is looking across to Harpur Street (the old building on the right is at the junction of Harpur Street and Dombey Street). The building work is the construction of new flats which are still there.

Unknown Locations 1

I had already written about the area in my post on A Water Pump, Bedford Row And Tracing Harpur’s Bedford Charity Estate and photographed part of the flats and the old building at the end of the street, but had not realised that this was the location:

Bedford Row 15

I was doubtful whether the next photo would get identified as there were very few landmarks. It shows a scene after a fire with hoses still covering the street.

Unknown Locations 2

I had feedback that the building looked like one of the pubs on the corner of the old Caledonian Market. I visited in September and was really pleased to see the building is still there – hidden behind the tree in the photo below:

Pub Road 1

The Changing City

Exploring the locations of my father’s photos show how much the city has changed over the last 70 years, however even in places with considerable change there are still survivals from the past. My favourite example of this was from my post on Pickle Herring Street. This is a lost street that ran along the south bank of the river, west from the southern end of Tower Bridge. My father took the following photo standing under an arch in the approach to Tower Bridge looking along Pickle Herring Street:

Pickle 1

The scene is very different today:

Pickle 2

But despite all this change, small features such as the tiling in the roof of the arch are exactly the same:

roof compare 1

The Southbank is another of the areas in London that has changed beyond all recognition. My father took lots of photos of this area just before demolition for the Festival of Britain. They show a very different place to the Southbank we see today. The entrance to the Lion Brewery at the end of Sutton Walk:

Sutton Walk 2

And the same scene today – part of Sutton Walk still exists, but the length in which my father took the above photo is now a pedestrian walkway and has been built over to the right:

Sutton Walk 6

London in the 1980s

As well as photos from the late 1940s / early 1950s I have photos from many other periods. I published a number of photos that both my father and I took in the 1980s, the decade when the areas to the east of London started to change following the closure of the docks. These photos included the changing face of the Isle of Dogs:

Street Scenes 16

Along with reaction to the politics of the time:

Street Scenes 14

I have more of these photos for the year ahead.

London Maps

There are some remarkable maps of London, but my favourite by far is my 1940 copy of Bartholomew’s Greater London Street Atlas from 1940. This was my father’s who had to get a neighbour who was in the Home Guard to purchase it from Foyles as only people in uniform could purchase maps during the war. The following is an extract from this atlas showing the area to the south of Tower Bridge and the same Pickle Herring Street referred to above.

Pickle map 1There are also many other maps of London and I covered a sample of the maps I have collected, including the colourful from London events over the years:

Map 10And the practical to track down changes in the street plan:

1835 London Bridge 1New Places

There is so much to explore across London and the city is ideally suited to walking, whether to Highgate in the spring:

Highgate 14

Where I walked to the Flask pub which is still much the same as when my father took the following photo:

Highgate 4

Or along the Greenwich Peninsula – an area which will soon look very different and where some key locations rich in industrial history are under threat:

Greenwich Peninsula 10

I have also traveled along the Thames on many occasions throughout the year. Two of the most memorable being on the Paddle Steamer Waverley from Tower Pier out to the Maunsell Forts in the estuary.

Barking to Southend 16

The city also looks very different when travelling along the river at night:

Thames at Night 15

We have lost some of the connection with the Thames, however it has been the Thames that established and has shaped London during the last two thousand years. Now the river seems to only be seen as either a scenic sales benefit to the many buildings being constructed along the banks of the river, or as a threat during the high tides that cause water to flood onto the footpath in Greenwich of leak through the embankment walls in Millbank.

The Waverley will be making another visit to London later this year – I plan to be on-board again

A reminder of the warehouses along the side of the river and the risks of fire came when I had the opportunity to be on the Massey Shaw Fireboat on 29th December to mark the 75th anniversary of the major bombing attack on London on the 29th December 1940. The Massey Shaw has been restored to a fully operational condition and to see a Fireboat that went to Dunkirk and fought fires along the river for many decades, performing the same function as a modern-day fire boat was a credit to the original designers of the Massey Shaw:

Massey Shaw 29th December 2015 - 24

Open House London offers opportunities to visit places that are normally closed. For the Open House weekend last September I was able to climb the Caledonian Clock Tower. The gallery around the top provides some of the finest views of the city:

Caledonian Clock Tower 11

The London Transport Museum have also run a number of tours of hidden parts of the Underground System. I was able to visit many of these during the year, including the old Down Street station:

Down Street 18

The Post Office Railway has held an almost mythical status for me since reading about the railway as a child in the early 1970s. Last year it was opened for a few days by the Postal Museum and it did not disappoint:

Post Office Railway 20

With the coming spring (although with this year’s weather spring is already here in parts of London), the Chelsea Physic Garden is a place to spend an afternoon away from the traffic and crowds which I did last April:

Physic 17

London Events

In July I went to see Swan Upping take place along the Thames. My father had photographed the event when it still started in central London:

Swan Upping 4

Following the swans, Swan Upping has now moved out of central London, now running along the river to the west of London. I saw the boats arrive at Goring and whilst the location has changed, the uniforms and ceremony remain the same:

Swan Upping 20

So thank you again for reading, and I hope you will join me for a third year of exploring London.

The Chalybeate Well – Hampstead

The high ground of Hampstead Heath, to the north of central London has a fascinating geology which helped to drive Hampstead’s original development and is also the source of rivers such as the Fleet and the Westbourne.

The highest point on the heath reaches some 133 meters above sea level. If you stand on the heath, under your feet will be a thick layer of sand and gravel, known to Geologists as the Lower Bagshot Sands, which at the highest point is 24 meters thick. The thickness of this layer fluctuates across the heath, for example when the shafts were sunk for the Hampstead Underground Station, the layer was found to be only 5 meters thick, and the layer disappears as height descends running down from Hampstead.

Underneath the layer of sand and gravel is a layer of sandy clay which extends for 15 meters at the thickest point. Underneath this layer is the thick and impermeable London Clay which extends over much of London.

The following map from “Hampstead Heath – It’s Geology And Natural History” by the Hampstead Scientific Society published in 1913 shows the area covered by the Bagshot Sands.

Chalybeate Well 13

Hampstead and the heath can therefore be considered as a sandy peak sitting on top of a layer of thick clay.

It is this geology which gives rise to the large number of springs which can be found across the heath. Rainwater can easily pass through the layers of sand before reaching the layer of London Clay which presents a barrier. Water then runs horizontally along the boundary between the sand and clay to come back out from the ground in the form of a spring at the point lower down the heath where the sand layer stops.

When emerging from the ground, the water carries with it the properties of the sand through which it has passed, and it is these springs and the properties of the water that have been so important in Hampstead’s development.

So what relevance does this brief geological introduction to Hampstead have to this week’s post? Among my father’s photos is this photo of a well taken in 1949:

Chalybeate Well 1

The same well in 2016:

Chalybeate Well 3

This is the Chalybeate Well in Well Walk, Hampstead. In the context of water, the name chalybeate means that the water contains iron.

The springs of Hampstead have a long history of providing supplies of water for the rest of London. Conduits were built to channel water from the springs along the heath to the centre of the city. During the search for sources of water, the chalybeate springs must have also been found, and whilst not suitable for drinking water, the high iron content gave rise to the believe that the water had medicinal properties.

On the 20th December 1698 the infant Earl of Gainsborough and his guardian and mother, the Countess of Gainsborough gave six acres of land in the region of the Chalybeate Well, to be used to benefit the poor of Hampstead. The deed that transferred the land refers to “the Wells lately made there for medicinal waters”. The transfer was to a charity managed by 14 trustees.

This gift of land is recorded on the plaque on the Chalybeate Well:

Chalybeate Well 5

The land in this area of Hampstead was poor quality and rather boggy due to the number of springs. Despite the gift of the land, there was little from the land that would benefit the poor of Hampstead, apart from the springs and it is these that the trustees started to develop.

An advertisement posted by the trustees in the “Postman” on the 18th April 1700 reads:

“The Chalybeate Waters at Hampstead being of the same nature and equal in virtue with Tunbridge Wells and highly approved of by most of the eminent physicians of the College, as likewise by many of the gentry who formerly used to drink Tunbridge Waters, are by direction of the Trustees of the Wells aforesaid, for the conveniency of those who yearly drink them in London carefully bottled up in flasks and sent to Mr. Phelps Apothecary at the Eagle and Child in Fleet Street every morning at the rate of 3d per flask and if any person desires to have them brought to their own houses, they will be conveyed to them upon their leaving a note to Mr Phelps’ aforesaid at 1d more, and to prevent any person being imposed upon the true waters and nowhere else to be procured unless they are sent for to the Wells at Hampstead, and the said Mr Phelps to prevent Counterfeits hath ordered his servants to deliver to each person who comes for any of the waters aforesaid, a sealed ticket viz: a wolf rampant with 7 Crosslets. Note! the messengers that come for the waters must take care to return the flasks daily.”

So the Chalybeate Wells of Hampstead were in competition with those of Tunbridge Wells. It also provides a fascinating insight into the need to guarantee that the waters provided in flasks were original – the use of a sealed ticket with a wolf rampant sounds very dramatic.

The waters were bottled on the site of the present pub “The Flask” on Flask Walk which leads directly into Well Walk.

The source of the water that was sold in London was not from the existing Chalybeate Well in Well Walk, the source was a spring and pond (filled in about 1880) about 100 yards further up the hill.

As well as the sale of the water in London, the trustees also looked at other opportunities for how they could gain further benefit from the 6 acres of land.

On the 2nd June 1701, a John Duffield was granted possession of the land for a period of 21 years for an annual rent of £50. John Duffield must have realized the opportunities that the land and the associated springs provided with their close location to the rest of London. He immediately started building work, constructing buildings that would enhance the local springs with a Great Room or Long Room, Assembly Rooms and a Pump Room. To these rooms were soon added a tavern, chapel and shops along with formal gardens and a bowling green.

The following map from George Potter’s “Hampstead Wells” published in 1907 provides an overview of the area around 1761. The original source for the Chalybeate waters is at point C. The walkway between Well Road and Well Walk terminates on Well Walk directly behind the current Chalybeate Well so the locations of the Great Room, Pump Room etc. can be positioned along the current Well Walk.

Chalybeate Well 12

The type of entertainments provided in these rooms can be identified from another advert in the “Postman” on the 9th September 1701:

“In the Great Room at Hampstead Wells on Monday next being the 15th, exactly at 11 o’clock of the forenoon will be performed a Consort of vocal and instrumental Musick by the best Masters, and at the request of several gentlemen, Jeremy Bowen will perform several songs and particular performance on the violin by several masters. Tickets to be had at the Wells and at St. Stephen’s Coffee House in King Street, Bloomsbury at 1s per ticket. There will be dancing in the afternoon as usual.”

A later advertisement mentions that the room will hold 500 people which gives an indication of the size, and also at 1s per ticket the amount of money that the new buildings at the Hampstead Wells were generating.

John Rocque’s map published in 1746 shows the village of Hampstead still as a village surrounded on all sides by fields and the heath. The new developments around Well Walk are to the upper right of the village.

Chalybeate Well 11

The rear of the Chalybeate Well in 1949. On the left of the basin is a chain which presumably had a cup attached to allow the waters to be drunk from the basin.

Chalybeate Well 2

The rear of the well in 2016. The chain and cup have disappeared. Just above the right hand-side of the basin is a modern push button which appears to offer a pump-action to bring water to the basin – I tried it several times but there was no water.

Chalybeate Well 4

The chalybeate waters, the Long Room, Pump Room etc. enjoyed a number of years of great popularity with those who could afford to travel and pay for the entertainments, with Londoners flocking to Hampstead. However after a number of years their popularity declined, there were a number of scandals and trouble at the tavern. It was also found that the poor of Hampstead who should have benefited from the original grant of land had not received anything as John Duffield had not been paying his annual £50 rent, and by the 1720s when the situation could not last for much longer, eleven of the original fourteen trustees had died so the trust had also become rather ineffective.

After this initial development of the grant of the 6 acres of land, and the chalybeate waters, the area continued under the management of what became the Wells Charity. Continued efforts were made to promote the waters and the entertainments that were provided in the buildings along Well Walk and during the 19th century the houses that currently line Well Walk gradually replaced the 18th century buildings, constructed to promote the spring waters.

The original public basin that held the spring waters was on the opposite side of the road from the current Chalybeate Well which was built around 1882. Water has never run freely from the well. Digging of sewers in the road and other building works appears to have disrupted the underground flow of water. Even if water was flowing into the well, it would not be wise to drink.

A Dr. Atfield analysed the water from the well in 1884 and found that it contained:


There was a note at the bottom of the above table which read:

“Note – This appears to be chalybeate water mixed with ordinary surface water. If this could be excluded a purely chalybeate water would probably be obtained.”

Not that there was much to drink. In 1907, George Potter of the Wells and Campden Charity recorded that:

“The traveler requiring a draft of it would have to spend at least an hour to obtain a moderate one from this source, and when he had obtained it he probably would not relish it very much.”

So, despite the new well being constructed, there was very little water and what was available was not very drinkable.

George Potter tried to find other sources of water which could be run to the well. A number of shafts were sunk in the gardens of houses along Well Walk and spring water was found, however on analysis it was found that:

“With reference to the analyst’s report on the two samples of water, Nos 2 and 3, a copy of which I forwarded to you on the 10th, it appears to me that I cannot allow it to pass without representing to those in whom is vested the Chalybeate Spring that persons drinking this water run a serious risk of injury to their health.”  (Letter from Dr. Herbert Lttlejohn, Medical Officer of Health to George Potter on the 17th November 1902.)

George Potter described his disappointment with these results: “The handsome new fountain in Well Walk, a fountain without water, is now only a monument – a monument to commemorate the memory of the departed glories of the once famous Hampstead Spa. But even now I am not without hope that a supply of this water, practically pure, may yet be found and let to this fountain – a fountain only in name at present.”

The Well Charity continues to this day in the form of the Hampstead Wells and Campden Trust. Although having been through amalgamation with other charities and changes in status, the charity is rooted in the original donation of 6 acres of land by the Earl and Countess of Gainsborough

The well provided a common source of street names in the area. Chalybeate Well is on Well Walk. Just behind the well is Well Passage which leads up to Well Road.

Chalybeate Well 6

Well Walk has been the location for a number of drawings and paintings of Hampstead over the years. The following print being an example, and reads: “A Prospect of Hampstead from the Corner of Mrs Holford’s Garden, opposite the Well Walk” and shows Hampstead in 1745 (print by William Henry Toms)


©Trustees of the British Museum

The following print by a Captain Thomas Hasting is from 1828 and titled Near the Well Walk Hampstead”


©Trustees of the British Museum

Hampstead has also long been the residence of artists. A blue plaque along Well Walk identifies one of the two houses in which the artist John Constable lived in Hampstead. He frequently visited Hampstead in the summer then moved there permanently until his death in Hampstead in 1837. He took the lease on the house in Well Walk from the summer of 1827 until 1834.

Chalybeate Well 7

Constable delighted in the view of London from his house in Well Walk and worked on a number of paintings of the view. The following is a watercolor painted in the drawing-room at 6 Well Walk looking across to the City and St. Paul’s Cathedral. An inscription on the rear of the painting reads: “Hampstead. drawing Room 12.oclock noon Sept.1830”


©Trustees of the British Museum

Walking back into Hampstead, at the junction with Christchurch Hill is the Wells Tavern. This was built on the site of the original tavern, the “Old Green Man” which was pulled down in the late 1840s.

Chalybeate Well 8

At the Hampstead end of Well Walk, the road splits into Flask Walk and Gayton Road. Follow Flask Walk towards Hampstead to find The Flask. Both the walk and the pub are named after the flasks that were filled here with spring water ready for dispatch to London.

Chalybeate Well 10

The Chalybeate Well is a reminder of how the geology of a location has played a part in the development of London. The springs helped the early development of laundry services in Hampstead, the waters were channeled to the City through conduits and they have shaped the development and natural history of the heath.

I hope to cover this in more detail in future posts (and it provides a good excuse to walk more in Hampstead and visit Hampstead pubs).

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • Springs, Streams and Spas of London by Alfred Stanley Foord published in 1910
  • Hampstead Heath. Its Geology and Natural History by the Members of the Hampstead Scientific Society published in 1913
  • Hampstead Wells – A Short History of their Rise and Decline by George W. Potter published in 1907
  • For the poor of Hampstead for ever – 300 years of the Hampstead Wells Trust by Christopher Wade published in 1998

London At Night – The Strand To The Monument

London at night is a very different city. The West End continues to be just as busy as during the day with thousands of people at the theaters, pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants that make this area the entertainment center of London, however head just beyond the West End and London takes on a very different aspect.

My father took a number of photos in 1951 of the streets at the northern end of Waterloo Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Monument. I do not know why he took photos of these locations, he was probably experimenting with nighttime photography which would have been a challenge for an amateur at the time given the camera and film available.

To take these, he must have taken a walk from Waterloo Bridge down to the Monument, so I thought I would take a late evening walk along the same route and take some photos of the same locations and more, along the route. I took many more than the five taken in 1951, the cost of film, home developing and printing all limited the number of photos that an amateur would have taken, and really brings home the differences with digital photography today.

I wanted to walk the route after the weather had been raining to get the same effect as in my father’s photos, so planned an evening when there should have been a rain shower, however as is typical with trying to forecast the weather, it failed to rain so my full walk of the route was in the dry. The evening before I published this article, it did rain so I headed out again, just to photo the first three locations to get the same effect, the rest of the photos are from my original walk.

The first location is from the approach road to Waterloo Bridge, looking to where the Strand crosses, the curve of Aldwych to the right, with Wellington Street running up on the left.

London after dark 28

Standing in the same position on a rain and wind-swept evening in February. The building on the right is the same as in my father’s photo, as is the building across the street. The public toilets that were in the middle of the road have disappeared.

London after dark 35

To also check that this is the right location, by enlarging the sign on the post in the original photo, we can see it reads “No crossing to Wellington Street”.

London after dark 31

Wellington Street is directly opposite the road that leads to Waterloo Bridge and today is blocked off for road traffic from the Strand. It is the location of the Lyceum Theater. The traffic signals appear temporary and are Police Signals, so this may have been some experimentation with traffic and pedestrian control at the end of Waterloo Bridge.

The next photo is from roughly the same position and is looking in the opposite direction down Waterloo Bridge:

London after dark 27

The same view today:

London after dark 34

The following photo should have been easy to locate given the bus stop clearly labelled as the Strand stop. I do not often use the bus in central London, preferring to walk, and was not sure where the Strand stop was located. Walking the length of the Strand, I could not find a stop with this name. What finally helped to locate the position of the photo is the wall on the right side of the photo.

London after dark 26

This is the wall at the side of the church of St. Mary-le-Strand and is the same in my 2016 photo below. The pillars in the original photo either side of the bus stop sign are still there, they are just hidden in the 2016 photo behind bushes running along the length of the church wall. The bus stop has been moved slightly along the street and the stop is now named “Aldwych”. Where the original bus stop and pillar box were located is now the entrance to the King’s College London, Strand Building.

London after dark 33

Having found these locations, it was time to walk down to the Monument. The Waterloo Bridge junction with the Strand seems to be a nighttime boundary. From the end of the bridge turn left and the streets are busy with people, turn right and it is a much quieter street with only a few late night walkers to be seen.

The church of St. Mary-le-Strand. The stone columns at the entrance to the church seen in my father’s photo can just be seen.

London after dark 32

Just a short distance along, turn right off the Strand, through the archway and into the courtyard of Somerset House. The buildings that surround the courtyard are brilliantly lit at night.

London after dark 25

Back on the Strand, bikes and buses:

London after dark 24

As with many other places across London, there are new buildings being constructed to the south of the Strand adjacent to the church of St. Clement Danes. I happened to notice this model of the area and the church lit up in one of the ground floor windows of the new building facing the Strand.

London after dark 23

The Royal Courts of Justice:

London after dark 22

Looking back at St. Clements Danes:

London after dark 21

I much prefer to walk London at night, but other options are available:

London after dark 20

The side roads from the Strand down to the Thames show how steeply the land slopes down to the river. The Oxo Tower on the south bank can be seen along many of these side roads.

London after dark 19

Now into Fleet Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance:

London after dark 18

Fast food shops that are busy during the day are closed and silent at night:

London after dark 17

A very quiet junction of Fleet Street, Farringdon Street, New Bridge Street and Ludgate Hill.

London after dark 15

An empty City Thameslink station on Ludgate Hill.

London after dark 13

Late night drinkers on Ludgate Hill:

London after dark 12

St. Paul’s Cathedral from the south-east:

London after dark 11

The following is one of my father’s photos from 1951. In the immediate post war period the very top of the Cathedral was lit up by search lights that only a few years earlier had been used to search the sky for enemy aircraft trying to bomb a city that was hiding in the blackout. The post war lighting had the effect of highlighting the Golden Gallery, the Lantern and Cross. Today, the whole of the cathedral is illuminated.

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The above photo was taken from a point on the land now occupied by One New Change. At the time, this was still empty land having been cleared of all the bomb damaged buildings. I could not get far enough back to take a photo from the same position so the following photo is the nearest I could get. The base of the Cathedral is also obscured by the post war buildings that house the Cathedral School.

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This photo from my post on the “Post war view from the Stone Gallery” shows the land then used as a car park that my father was standing in to take the nighttime view of the Cathedral:


Time to head on down Cannon Street in the direction of the Monument. Empty offices, still lit up, waiting for their occupants:

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The Cathedral follows you as you walk down Cannon Street:

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Another very quiet station, this time Cannon Street:

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The next photo is of Abchurch Lane, leading up to the church of St. Mary Abchurch in the heart of the City. Very busy during the day, however I stood here for about 10 minutes and did not see a single person along the length of the lane. It is in these alleys and lanes across the city that it is possible to imagine a much earlier London. Many more people would have lived in the City, but long after dark what reason would there be for people with legitimate business to be walking the streets?

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Back to the 21st century and the junction of Cannon Street with King William Street. Walking across the City at night, I find that there are very few people walking, but the main streets through the City are always busy with traffic.

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Walking down King William Street and a quick look over at Upper Thames Street. Roadworks for the Cycle Superhighway have closed one of the carriageways leading to queues of traffic long into the night. Upper and Lower Thames Streets form the southern route taking traffic east – west through the City. The roads were widened post war rather than build the Embankment extension which was one of the options put forward in the plan for post war reconstruction of the City (see last weeks post).

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The next photo is my father’s photo of the Monument in 1951. I can place where the photo was taken from by looking at the position of the viewing gallery, the photo was looking up at the Monument and the glow in the background is from the searchlights on St. Paul’s. It was taken from Lower Thames Street prior to the widening of the road and the new buildings which have now obscured the view.

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As I could not get a photo of the Monument from the same position due to the height of the buildings between the Monument and Lower Thames Street, this is the Monument from Monument Street with typical London building work on the right. Advertising for the new office building shows the view from the roof with office workers on the roof apparently able to look straight across to the tourists on the viewing gallery of the Monument.

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A close-up of the viewing gallery and very top of the Monument:

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It would have been much darker in 1951 when my father took the same route to photograph the Strand junction, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Monument which is probably why he did not take any photos between these locations, however walking London at night is still a very different experience to the day. The Strand and Ludgate Hill are relatively quiet compared to the day, but turn off the main streets through the City, away from the traffic and you can walk the lanes and alleys, often without seeing another person.

It is here that you can let your imagination run over the last two thousand years of London’s history and imagine who has walked and what has happened in this nighttime City.