Monthly Archives: April 2016

Tower Bridge

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

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

Tower Bridge 3

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

Tower Bridge 4

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

The next photo is a bit closer to the bridge.

Tower Bridge 2

And in 2016.

Tower Bridge 5

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

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

Tower Bridge 1

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

Tower Bridge 6

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

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

Saint Giles Pound

The problem I find with this blog is that there is so much to discover and learn, each post really needs much more investigation than I currently have the time to do. This week’s post is an example.

My father took the following photo of a milestone in Highgate in 1948. It is just south of the Flask pub along Highgate West Hill. (For a view of the Flask and Highgate in 1948 see my post here.)

Saint Giles Pound 1

The milestone is still there. See my following photo of the milestone today. Nothing special you might think, but compare the mileage, five in 1948 and four today and the destination is a location that does not now exist in London, Saint Giles Pound.

Saint Giles Pound 2

So where and what was Saint Giles Pound?

Saint Giles refers to the parish of St. Giles in the Fields, the parish that took in the area around the church of the same name, just a short distance south-east from the junction of Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road.

In my usual London reference books I have found a number of references to the Saint Giles Pound which was a fenced area to hold sheep and cattle etc.

From “The History of the United Parishes of St. Giles in the Fields” by Rowland Dobie, published in 1829:

“The Pound and Cage originally adjoined each other, and stood in the middle of the High Street, from whence Parton informs us it was removed in 1656, to make way for the almshouses which were afterwards built there.

‘The Pound’ he adds, probably existed from a very early period, as a necessary appendage to the parish while a village, and abounding in pasture lands, though it is unnoticed in the books of the parish, till Lord Southampton’s grant of the ground on which it stood for the almshouses, where it is described as occupying a space of 30-feet, which was to the dimensions of the new Pound, therein directed to be removed to the end of Tottenham Court Road. The exact site of the Pound was the broad space where St. Giles High Street, Tottenham Court Road, and Oxford Street meet, where it stood till within memory. Noticed for the profligacy of its inhabitants, the vicinity of this spot became proverbial: witness the couplet of an old song.

‘At Newgate steps Jack Chance was found,

And bred up near St. Giles Pound’

it was finally removed about the year 1765, since when the neighbourhood has experienced many improvements, particularly by the erection of the great Brewery of Messrs. Meux and Co.

The Cage appears to have been used as a prison, not merely of a temporary kind, but judging from the parish records, with little lenity.”

Charles Knight in the Milestones section of his book, London, published in 1841 states:

“Again, St. Giles Pound, a real pound for cattle, which is marked upon the old plans, was a prominent object, standing in the village of St. Giles at the intersection of the roads from Hampstead and from Oxford. This also was something like the beginning of London: but Hicks’s Hall and St. Giles Pound have long since vanished; and the milestones which record their glory ought also to be swept away.”

The milestone therefore is alongside one of the old routes that was used to bring animals in from the north, through Highgate and down into London, and thankfully it has not been “swept away”.

The two photos of the milestones also have different distances, five in 1948 and four in 2016. The only reference I can find to this change is that it was made by a local resident of Highgate who was frustrated with the error. So is four miles correct? Although I have walked the route, I have not measured, so a quick check on Google maps, from Highgate West Hill at roughly the position of the milestone, to a point on New Oxford Street a very short distance past the end of Tottenham Court Road to allow for the possible siting of the Pound more towards St. Giles High Street. The following map confirms the distance as being exactly four miles (the blue dots). Even with some longer alternative routes, the distance does not reach five miles.

Saint Giles Pound 6

It would be interesting to know if the error in distance was from when the milestone was originally installed, or perhaps when the figures may have been re-cut as they do look very sharp in the 1948 photo with very little deterioration to the edge of the lettering. The key point is that today, the distance is correct.

A wider view of the milestone alongside Highgate West Hill.

Saint Giles Pound 3

Intriguingly, the Pound may be marked on a map. The following is an extract from John Rocque’s map of London from 1746. This is 19 years before the Pound was removed. Look in the lower right of the map, at the junction of Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street and the High Street of St. Giles. There is a rectangular feature in the open area of the junction – could this be the Pound? The location fits perfectly the description given by Rowland Dobie in his book, quoted earlier.

Saint Giles Pound 4

Strange to think that this very busy junction, with the new Crossrail station being built, was once the location of a Pound, holding animals being brought down from the north.

The map extract is from the very lower right hand corner of the page. At the very bottom right corner is a street with only the word “Street” showing. This is Denmark Street featured in my post of a couple of weeks ago.

The map has some other references that point to the original use of this area. In the above map, the road running south from the junction is Hog Lane. The alley leading off from the top right of Hog Lane is Farmers Alley.

Hog Lane is now the northern section of Charing Cross Road. From “London” by George H. Cunnigham (1927):

“In Hogarth’s time this portion of the street was known as Hog Lane, later Crown Street, under which name it was widened and made part of Charing Cross Road.”

So after the Pound had disappeared, there was no longer an association with animals so the name changed, with finally as so often happens in London, the street being integrated in the lengthening and widening of a main street.

Returning to my opening comment at the start of today’s post, just finding this single milestone opens up so many questions.

Is there more information on the Pound, and is the original location marked on any maps? (the Rocque map shows the location after the move from St. Giles High Street). Are there any more of the milestones? I have not found any, however Knight’s book refers to another milestone in Camden at the two-mile point. What was the purpose of the Pound? Was it used as a stopping off point before heading into the City or did it serve the local area?

More questions for my ever-growing list of things to learn about London.

London Under Fire

London Under Fire is the title of a set of postcards issued during the last war showing some of the damage caused by bombing around the city.

You might think that this was a strange subject for a postcard, and given the levels of censorship at the time, why would photos showing considerable damage to London be published?

The envelope containing the set of twelve postcards, “passed by the censor”:

London under fire 1

Although showing how much damage had been caused, these postcards had a very serious message. Firstly, the photos were mainly of the City of London, not the main population centres, for example across east London that had suffered so much damage which directly impacted the lives of Londoners.

The postcards were meant to inspire and motivate the population, London has taken this much damage and has come through and will be rebuilt again. The rear of the postcards carried exerts from the speeches of Winston Churchill:

“Let us all strive without failing in faith or in duty”

“This is a time for everyone to stand together and hold firm”

This was after the initial Blitz but before the V1 and V2 weapons fell upon London. The war still had an at the time unknown number of years to run so the message carried by the postcards was very clear, we have taken this much so this is not the time to weaken in any shape or form.

As well as an example of one of the many forms of subtle propaganda employed during the war, today they are helpful in understanding how the city has changed so a couple of weeks ago, I took the postcards up to the city for a walk to see what the locations looked like now and how much remained from these original photos.

The first postcard is of St. Paul’s Cathedral from Paternoster Row, this whole area across Paternoster Square was destroyed during the attack on the night of the 29th December 1940. The area today is now covered by the Paternoster Square development, I located the position where I suspect the photo was taken from, but looking across towards St. Paul’s I was looking into an office wall with no sight of the Cathedral.

As well as the cathedral, the only building that remains today is the Chapter House. This had been reduced to a shell and is the building in the centre of the photo below the dome of St. Paul’s. The Chapter House was rebuilt and has recently finished a full restoration.

London under fire 2

I had better luck with the next postcard, again of St. Paul’s but now from Cannon Street.

London under fire 5

The photo was taken on the corner of Friday Street and Cannon Street. As can be seen in the postcard by the remains of buildings leading up to St. Paul’s along the right hand side of Cannon Street, this view was only possible due to the destruction of these buildings and in the plan for rebuilding the City, the area around the cathedral was opened up making the views we see today possible.

London under fire 20

The next postcard was taken from London Wall and is looking north across to the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate.

London under fire 3

With the amount of building along London Wall, I could not get to the exact position of the original photo, however I did find one position in London Wall where the church tower is visible today. This also shows the Barbican development which would cover so much of this area in the post war redevelopment.

London under fire 16

Postcard showing the remains of the interior of St. Giles, Cripplegate. Again, the church suffered this damage mainly on the night of the 29th December 1940.

London under fire 10

The church was rebuilt after the war, and apart from the remains of the Roman city wall, is all that remains in this area from the pre-war city following the development of the Barbican.

London under fire 19

The next postcard is showing Fore Street, no idea where in Fore Street as there are no points of reference.

London under fire 7

But this is Fore Street today. The Barbican is on the left and office buildings between Fore Street and London Wall are on the right.

London under fire 18

The following postcard is titled New Basinghall Street.

London under fire 8

I could not find a New Basinghall Street in the City today. There is a Basinghall Street, but not a “New”, so it was to the 1940 Batholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London to check and this is where I found New Basinghall Street, a short extension of Basinghall Street from London Wall to Fore Street.

London under fire 14

Today, New Basinghall Street does not exist. In the photo below of Fore Street today, it was on the right, just past where the road is closed and passed to the right under the new office development to meet up with London Wall. Returning to the postcard of Fore Street, this shows a road leading off to the right and this may have been New Basinghall Street.

London under fire 17

The next postcard is of the buildings of the General Post Office from Newgate Street. Strange that the postcard does not mention the church in the foreground, only the buildings of the G.P.O in the rear. The church is Christ Church, Greyfriars.

London under fire 12

I could not get the same angle due to new building in the area, so I took the following of the church. The church was not rebuilt after the war, the tower was preserved and the main body of the old church turned into a garden. One of the few reminders in the area of the damage suffered during the last war.

London under fire 15

We are now at Ludgate Hill, looking down towards the junction with Fleet Street. The church tower on the left is that of St. Brides.

London under fire 4

Ludgate Hill today still has the slight bend to the left, however since the photo for the postcard was taken, the railway bridge has been removed and new building on the left has obscured the view of St. Brides with only the very tip of the steeple visible if you find the right place. The buses also look very different as well.

London under fire 21

Now moving slightly to the west, the following postcard is titled “View from High Holborn”. The buildings in the background to the right are those of Smithfield Market.

London under fire 9

Although I could find the position from where I suspect the photo was taken, the view is totally obscured by new building, so I walked back to where Holborn Viaduct crosses Farringdon Street and took the following photo of the market buildings.

London under fire 22

The next postcard is of St. Andrew’s Church from High Holborn:

London under fire 6

And another view of High Holborn. There is a single building in this wartime view that remains to this day.

London under fire 13

The building is the one in the centre of the photos above and below. I could not get the same angle as the original photo as the photographer must have been standing on the ruins of buildings between High Holborn and Charterhouse Street so the original photo is looking onto the side of the building which in my photo is off to the right.

London under fire 23

The final photo is of Temple Church, closed during my walk around London.

London under fire 11

It would be interesting to know how many of these postcards were posted. I suspect the majority were purchased and kept as a record of the destruction of the City rather than for posting.

They provide a fascinating view of the city at a point in time, before the start of the post war redevelopment that in many areas such as the Barbican and Paternoster Square, would result in so much change.

Denmark Street

London has always had areas which attracted specific types of trade, shops and industry, a number of which clustered around Tottenham Court Road underground station.

To the south, along Charing Cross Road was Foyles and a range of second hand bookshops (some of which remain, along with Foyles in their new location). To the north, along Tottenham Court Road was to be found a large number of electronics shops. It was here that I bought my first calculator whilst still at school in 1976, a Decimo Vatman, so called because as well as the normal addition, subtraction, multiplication and division keys, it also had a (revolutionary for the time), percentage key. When I last walked along Tottenham Court Road, nearly all of these electronics shops have now disappeared.

The Paolozzi mosaics at Tottenham Court Road underground station featured designs including cameras, electronics, music shops and saxophones to reflect the area around the station. It is these last two which feature in this week’s post, from a street I have been wanting to photograph for some time as the area is changing considerably. Walk a short distance south along Charing Cross Road and you will find Denmark Street, a street that has been the hub of the music industry for many decades.

I walked to Denmark Street early on a very sunny morning – not always the best for photography with the contrast between light and dark.

Looking back up towards the large building site at the top of Charing Cross Road, an indication of what is happening to the area:

Denmark Street 17

On the corner of Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street:

Denmark Street 29

Looking down Denmark Street from Charing Cross Road, a mix of architectural styles, with at the end of the street, a sign of things to come with the standard new build that can now be found anywhere across London.

Denmark Street 16

According to George Cunningham in “London – a Comprehensive Survey”, Denmark Street was built in 1689 and is the scene for the Noon drawing from Hogarth’s series Four Times of The Day. The drawing contrasts the different populations of the area, an elegant crowd leaving a French Huguenot Church, compared with a rowdy crowd of Londoners outside a tavern.

Numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 Denmark Street, although having had many alterations, are still much the original buildings from the 1689 construction of the street.

Denmark Street is now mainly guitar shops, but at the peak of the music industry here in the 1960s was also the home of music publishers, recording studios, and the music papers NME and Melody Maker.

Wunjo Guitars and the Gary O’Toole School of Music:

Denmark Street 28

There have been a number of recent closures, including this Saxophone shop which has now moved to Hampstead Road.

Denmark Street 27

The old signs still on the building:

Denmark Street 13

Number 6 Denmark Street, one of the remaining 17th century townhouses which was recently Grade II listed. The building was the home of the Sex Pistols for a time in the 1970s and has John Lydon’s graffiti still on the walls.

Denmark Street 23

Number 5 was the London home of Augustus Siebe who designed a version of the diving helmet which was detachable from the main body and included a valve in the helmet. This new design revolutionised diving for the construction, naval and salvage industries.

Denmark Street 24

Number 7, the Smoking Goat restaurant:

Denmark Street 22

Rose Morris, opened in Denmark Street in 1920:

Denmark Street 21

Plaque recording the alternative name sometimes used for the street:

Denmark Street 20

Music Room:

Denmark Street 18


Denmark Street 5

Regent Sounds Studio. The original recording studios here were used by the Rolling Stones to record their first album. Others recording here included the Kinks and Black Sabbath:

Denmark Street 4

Guitars are everywhere:

Denmark Street 2

Taking photos of guitars in the sun:

Denmark Street 30

Hanks Guitar shop:

Denmark Street 7

Denmark Street 6

Denmark Place alley, adjacent to Hanks, closed now and subject to a stopping-up order due to the large development at the rear of Denmark Street:

Denmark Street 9

Denmark Place – an old alley, now with nowhere to go:

Denmark Street 10

Yet more guitars:

Denmark Street 15

Denmark Street 14

Looking back up Denmark Street towards Charing Cross Road:

Denmark Street 8

The opposite side of the street:

Denmark Street 11

At the end of Denmark Street is St. Giles-in-the Fields. Outside the church and looking back at the corner of Denmark Street. New building to the right:

Denmark Street 25

Looking down St. Giles High Street towards the Centre Point building which is now being redeveloped and will consist of “82 highly exclusive, superior luxury apartments” .

Denmark Street 26

The redevelopment will also apparently transform the area into “one of the most visited retail, leisure and prime residential hubs in the country”. I fully agree that the area around Centre Point was in need of development, however I fear this area will now become the hub of ridiculously expensive luxury apartments and global retail brands – much as can be found across the rest of London with no local character or acknowledgement of the areas history.

To see the scale of construction, walk down St. Giles High Street and turn left to see this example of facadism. The whole area at the rear of Denmark Street is being rebuilt and the old facade onto St. Giles High Street looks to be the only part that will possibly remain.

Denmark Street 1

Although the 1960s and 1970s were the peak for the music industry in Denmark Street, it still retains a very unique character, which I fear will be lost in the years ahead as the area sucumbs to the corporate development which is sanitising so much of London. Specialist shops will go online or disperse across London (as with the Sax shop) and the impact of clustering a specific trade will be lost.

For an in depth look at Denmark Street, I recommend the excellent Street of Sound photo blog.