Monthly Archives: July 2018

St Botolph Without Aldgate

The subject of this week’s blog was easy to find, however I found the specific location from where my father took the following photo through one single building remaining in an otherwise completely changed street scene. The church tower in the centre of the photo is that of St Botolph without Aldgate. The  church tower is distinctive and easy to recognise, although the very top of the spire is missing, probably through bomb damage.

There are no other obvious locations in the photo to identify from where my father took the photo. There looks to be a bomb site between the church and the road.

St Botolph without Aldgate

I walked all the surrounding streets trying to find the location of the photo. The search was not helped by the amount of new building obscuring the view to the church, however when I walked down Dukes Place towards the junction with Creechurch Lane and Bevis Marks I saw one building that looked familiar.

If you look to the left of the above photo, there is a tall building. Look to the left of the photo below and the same building is remarkably still there – a lone survivor from the pre-war buildings in these streets.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Although the ground floor is very different, the floors above have the same architectural features in both photos. The building today is NMB House, however if the building is the same as described in the Pevsner guide to the City of London, it was Creechurch House.

NMB House is at 17 Bevis Marks, and the Pevsner Guide states:

“Nos. 17-18, Creechurch House: smart warehouse facing Creechurch Lane, by Lewis Solomon & Son, 1935, with metal faced floors between stone mullions.”

Pevsner states that the building included number 18. It looks as if the building has been reduced in width, with the space where number 18 once stood, now being occupied by a new building with only number 17 remaining from the original.

The following photo shows the building with Creechurch Lane running to the right,

St Botolph without Aldgate

This is a wider view, and my father took the original photo from just in front of the bus stop. Compared to the original street, post war widening and straightening can be clearly seen in the view today.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Walking down Dukes Place towards St Botolphs without Aldgate, the church becomes visible and at the rear of the church are trees, much as in my father’s original photo.

St Botolph without Aldgate

A much better view of the church can be found by walking a short distance down Minories, the street directly opposite the church.

St Botolph without Aldgate

As with many old City churches, the first written records that mention St Botolph without Aldgate date back to the 12th century, although an earlier Saxon church was probably on the site as evidence of 10th or 11th century burials have been found in the crypt.

The church was originally attached to the Priory of the Holy Trinity. It was rebuilt just before the dissolution of the monasteries during Henry VIII’s reign and restored in 1621. St Botolph without Aldgate was declared unsafe and demolished in 1739, making way for construction of the church we see today.

The church before demolition was recorded in a number of prints, including the following  dated 1739:

St Botolph without Aldgate

The rebuilt St Botolph without Aldgate was designed by George Dance the Elder and built between 1741 and 1744. George Dance was the surveyor for the City of London and the designation ‘Elder’ is to separate this George Dance from his son, also George Dance who was also an architect for the City.

The new church was aligned so that the entrance to the church and the tower above faced directly to the Minories.

The following drawing by George Dance the Elder shows the church looking exactly the same as it does today:

St Botolph without Aldgate

“George Dance the Elder, StBotolph, Aldgate, London, c.1740s: (1-9) Plans, elevations, sections & detail of ceiling © Sir John Soane’s Museum, London”

The dedication of the church, St Botolph without Aldgate is firstly to St Botolph, who established a monastery somewhere in East Anglia in the 7th century. St Botolph died around the year 680. The addition of “without Aldgate” is to reference the location of the church as being outside the City walls.

There are a number of other St Botolph churches on the edges of the City, St Botolph without Bishopsgate, St Botolph without Aldersgate, and there was a St Botolph Billingsgate, destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt.

I have found a couple of possible sources for the association of St Botolph with these churches on the edge of the City. The first is that in the 10th century, King Edgar had the remains of St Botolph divided and sent to locations through London. They passed through the City gates and the churches alongside the gates through which the remains passed were named after the saint.

The other reference associates the City gates with St Botolph being the patron saint of wayfarers, who would use the City gates as their entrance to and from the City.

Both of these sound plausible, and I find it fascinating that the names of churches on the edge of the City refer to both the original Roman wall and possible events from the 10th century.

A traveler arriving at the City gate near St Botolph without Aldgate would find a very different view today with the office towers of the City rising behind the church.

St Botolph without Aldgate

There is an open space on the City side of the church, however buildings run up close to the church to the north and east:

St Botolph without Aldgate

Another of the plans drawn by George Dance showing a section through the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

“George Dance the Elder, StBotolph, Aldgate, London, c.1740s: (1-9) Plans, elevations, sections & detail of ceiling © Sir John Soane’s Museum, London”

On entering the church there is a record of all the parish priests of the church. The first line almost appears apologetic for the lack of records remaining from before the 12th century “The parish priests of Aldgate are known only from AD 1108”

St Botolph without Aldgate

Also in the entrance to the church is this splendid momument to Robert Dow, who died in May 1612 at the age of 90 – a rather good age for the 17th century.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Robert Dow was a Master of the Merchant Taylors and during his life gave away a substantial sum to various charitable establishments. The value of his donations and those receiving the money are listed on his monument.

I am not sure what the symbolism of the hands covering the skull means – it gives the impression that he had a hold over death (as his 90 years possibly demonstrated), or perhaps representing his own skull in death.

Another monument is to Thomas, Lord Darcy who was beheaded on Tower Hill for treason in 1537 during the reign of Henry VIII.

St Botolph without Aldgate

The view on entering the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

The interior of St Botolph without Aldgate retains the original galleries and Tuscan columns, however much of the decoration is from a redecoration of the church carried out between 1888 and 1895 by J.F. Bentley who added some remarkable decorative plaster work to the ceiling of the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

Close up of the ceiling decoration:

St Botolph without Aldgate

I find it fascinating to discover the stories behind the monuments in the City churches. In St Botolph without Aldgate there is a monument to Willian Symington, who died on the 22nd March 1831. The monument records that he constructed the Charlotte Dundas, the first steamboat fitted for practical use, also that he died “in want”.

St Botolph without Aldgate

William Symington was Scottish, having been born in the small village of Leadhills. He studied engineering at Edinburgh University and worked in Wanlockhead where his brother George was building steam engines to James Watt’s design.

William Symington was always interested in whether a steam engine could power a boat. The problem was not just the mechanism to propel the boat, but also how a steam engine could be installed in a wooden boat, without the boat catching fire.

He tried a number of experiments with limited success, problems such as the paddle wheel disintegrating preventing a fully successful trial.

From 1800 Symington continued his work under the patronage of Thomas, Lord Dundas, who had an interest in the Forth and Clyde Canal.

A first trial of a steam boat on the River Carron ended in failure. The second trial was with a new boat named the Charlotte Dundas after Lord Dundas’ daughter. This successful trial included the Charlotte Dundas towing two barges over a distance of 18.5 miles.

Although the trial was a success, there were concerns with the damage that the wash from a steamboat would do to the banks of a river or canal. Symington had also received an order from the Duke of Bridgewater for steam boats on the Bridgewater Canal, however this was cancelled when the Duke died.

As opportunities for Symington’s steamboats collapsed, he moved to the management of a colliery, however this ended in a legal case following which Symington was a rather poor man.

So far, all his time had been spent in Scotland. The London connection starts in 1829, when Symington, in poor health and in debt, moved with his wife to London to live with his daughter and her husband. He would die just two years later and be buried in the churchyard of St Botolph without Aldgate.

William Symingtons steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas:

St Botolph without Aldgate

His reputation was somewhat restored during the later half of the 19th century, and the monument in the church was installed in 1903.

Symington was possibly the subject of some skulduggery. Reading newspaper reports and letters after his death reveal stories such as the following from a Robert Bowie who wrote to the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette on the 5th May 1838:

To the editor of the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette:

Sir, Having observed the paragraph in your journal and in others to the effect that the American Government had granted £24,000 to the heirs of Robert Fulton, the ‘original founder’ of steam navigation. I beg leave to say that, whatever may have been Mr Fulton’s merit in introducing steam navigation to America, he had no right to the title of being its original founder, as he was but a copyist, and obtained, as will be seen by the following documents, the knowledge which enabled him to effect his purpose from William Symington, the first who propelled vessels by the power of steam.

Mr. Symington forms another instance for the page of history, of national ingratitude and neglect; and it is assuredly no great proof of the superiority of this country to America, that instead of rewarding him who conferred an inestimable benefit, his very petition for an investigation of his claims in parliament, was not allowed to be presented.

Fulton’s heirs have not been the only parties who have reaped the rewards of Mr. Symington’s labours. Even at home rewards were bestowed on Henry Bell, who barefacedly used Mr. Symington’s plans, and carried, it is recorded, the model of the first steam boat to Fulton in America. Henry Bell was frequently on board of Mr. Symington’s boats, and was often seen investigating the Charlotte Dundas after she was laid up near Glasgow; and it is a strange and rather suspicious circumstance that the model of a steam boat left by the late Lord Dundas and Mr. Symington in the Royal Institution, disappeared unaccountably from that building; and thus the ‘Fulton Steam Frigate’ as described in the first volume of Blackwood’s Magazine, was, with the exception of her warlike apparatus, a facsimile of Mr. Symington’s Boat.”

No idea if there is any truth in Mr Bowie’s allegations, but an interesting story of possible 19th century industrial espionage.

William Symington’s monument was installed in 1903. There are much older memorials in the church including the following from 1577 recording that “Here lyeth the corps of Robert Tailor”.

St Botolph without Aldgate

The windows of the church have stained glass recording Lord Mayors of the City of London and their Livery Companies:

St Botolph without AldgateSt Botolph without Aldgate

St Botolph without Aldgate

The beautifully carved wooden panel in the following photo dates from the early 18th century (it was restored in 1971). The panel came from the church of St Mary Matfelon, Whitechapel when the church was destroyed by bombing on the 27th December 1940.

St Botolph without Aldgate

An 18th century sword rest:

St Botolph without Aldgate

St Botolph without Aldgate is a fascinating City church with a long history, which I have covered all too briefly in this post.

I was really pleased to find the location in Bevis Marks from where my father took his photo. The one remaining building in the area provided the key landmark to locate the viewpoint – amazing that this one building has survived the considerable redevelopment of the area over the last 60 years.

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Along The Thames From Chiswick To Hammersmith

If you drive west out of London, along the A4, Great West Road from the Hammersmith Flyover to Chiswick and the Hogarth Roundabout, you pass along a very busy highway with three lanes of traffic either side.

This probably is the last place you would expect to find one of the more historic walks along a very scenic part of the River Thames, with some of the views looking more like the depths of the countryside rather than a built up area of west London.

There are some superb walks along the River Thames, and for today’s post, here is a walk from Chiswick to Hammersmith on a very hot Saturday afternoon in June (it is also a lovely walk on a cold, dark winter’s evening). The walk is perfect for a hot day as there are plenty of suitable stopping places along the route for some quick refreshment.

In the following map extract, the A4 is the large road running from the Hammersmith Flyover at top right, down to the Hogarth Roundabout at bottom left.

Chiswick

(Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

A short distance below the A4 is the river and along the river is a series of streets starting with, on the left, Chiswick Mall.

I started by walking to the river down Church Street, between St. Nicholas’ Church and Fuller’s Griffin Brewery to reach Chiswick Mall.

Chiswick Mall runs along the river, with gardens separating the street from the river, and large houses lining the street opposite the river.

The views here to the river look as if they should be from the upper reaches of the river, rather than a short distance from the six lanes of the A4.

Chiswick

The river here does frequently flood across the road. This was not a particularly high tide, however the damp road shows how far the river had come across the road.

Chiswick

The majority of the houses on the opposite side of the street have flood defences in the form of walls and metal gates that can be closed across the entrances from the street to prevent water from flooding towards the house.

There are also signs warning of the potential impact if you leave your car along the Chiswick Mall.

Chiswick

This is Walpole House, a Grade II listed building dating from the 18th century, possibly with elements from the 17th century.

Chiswick

Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, a former mistress of King Charles II was one of the earliest recorded residents, with Thomas Walpole a later owner, who gave his name to the house.

Another view from Chiswick Mall towards the River Thames:

Chiswick

Italy or Chiswick?

Chiswick

At a number of places, the route between Chiswick and Hammersmith turns slightly in land and there are houses between the street and the river. This is where Chiswick Mall ends and becomes Hammersmith Terrace.

Chiswick

There are a number of references to the age of the terrace, dating them from 1755 to 1770. The houses along the terrace are nearly identical, however there are some minor differences, and some which stand out such as very different entrance doorways.

As could be expected there are blue plaques to be found. This one to the typographer and antiquary Emery Walker Chiswick

Emery Walker was a friend of William Morris and it was Walker’s interest in early typefaces that inspired Morris to set up the Kelmscott Press.

A short distance along the terrace is another blue plaque, this time for Edward Johnston, a Master Calligrapher.

Chiswick

Edward Johnston has had a significant impact on 20th century London. It was Johnston who created the sans-serif alphabet (now called Johnston) in 1916 for use across London Underground.

At the end of Hammersmith Terrace, the route returns to run alongside the River Thames, and at this turning is a good stopping point – The Black Lion:

Chiswick

The view at the end of Hammersmith Terrace. Hammersmith Bridge is just starting to appear in the distance:

Chiswick

The view looking back upstream towards Chiswick with Chiswick Eyot in the middle of the river:

Chiswick

The River Thames between Hammersmith and Chiswick is a wide river. In many places the river is bounded by large concrete walls that keep the river within the channel, however in some places, such as where the river floods in Chiswick Mall, the river comes up to the road, with a poorly defined boundary between river and land.

This was the state for the river until recent times, and early prints show a wide, meandering river with marshy edges. The following print from 1750 shows the River Thames from Chiswick:

Chiswick

In 1834, the banks of the river are starting to be developed, but the edge of the river is still a natural boundary between buildings and river:

Chiswick

However much of the river now has a very clear boundary, and time for another stop at the Old Ship:

Chiswick

A short distance along from the Old Ship is the London Corinthian Sailing Club, with a lookout and small pier for launching boats onto the Thames:

Chiswick

Chiswick

The forerunner of the club was the London Sailing Club, who later moved further downstream towards Essex, and those who remained in Hammersmith started the Corinthian’s. They were original housed in a building where Furnivall Gardens are now located, however the area suffered badly in the war, and the council cleared the land to create the gardens.

The council provided Linden House for the club where it remains to this day. The building is a magnificent, 18th century, former Merchants house.

Chiswick

On the corner of Upper Mall and Weltje Road is this house with a blue plaque on the side:

Chiswick

The plaque records that the artist Eric Ravilious lived in the house between 1931 and 1935.

Chiswick

He lived in a flat in the house with his wife Tirzah Garwood. His work had a very distinctive style and his later work covered many wartime scenes. He took the opportunity for a posting to Iceland with the RAF in August 1942 to paint both the Icelandic scenery and the work of the RAF.

On the 2nd September 1942 he was on an air-sea rescue mission flying from Iceland, in search of a plane that had been lost the previous day. The plane with Ravilious on board also disappeared, and he was lost at the young age of 39.

The following is an example of his wartime work. Bombing the Channel Ports. with the description from the IWM image: “a deserted coastal road that leads past an ‘acoustic mirror’ early warning device. In the top right of the composition there are searchlights beaming up into the sky, and a large circular glow of light to one side.”

Chiswick

Bombing the Channel Ports (Art.IWM ART LD 1588) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/22468

On the river wall opposite is this survivor from 1960 warning that you could be fined forty shillings for driving or parking along Upper Mall:

Chiswick

On the wall of Eric Ravilious house, there is another survivor from the time when Hammersmith Borough Council was the authority for the area up to 1965.

Chiswick

A Jasmine covered lamp post:

Chiswick

Carved decoration on houses:

Chiswick

On Upper Mall is the small museum of the William Morris Society:

Chiswick

The displays are worth a visit, and above the entrance is an interesting plaque recording a unique event that took place here in Hammersmith.

Chiswick

The plaque is to record the construction and testing of the first electric telegraph here in Hammersmith in 1816.

This was the work of Sir Francis Ronalds who lived here and used his garden for experimentation. He was awarded a knighthood in 1870 and the following Illustrated London News report provides a good insight into an interesting character:

“The Queen has lately conferred the honour of knighthood upon a gentleman in the eighty-second year of his age, who showed the use of the electric telegraph so long ago as 1816. Sir Francis Ronalds, F.R.S. formerly director of the Kew Observatory, has devoted his life to the advancement of electrical science and its practical applications. in 1814, having made the acquaintance of M. de Lue, then engaged in a series of interesting experiments, Mr. Ronalds was induced to turn his attention to this subject.

The researches he then began, with a view to ascertain the degrees of quantity and intensity in the electric pile, and his invention of a clock to be kept in motion by electro-galvanic power, were described in the Philosophical Magazine.

In the summer of 1816 he undertook to prove the practicability of telegraphic communication at great distances, by transmitting a certain number of electric shocks, for an arranged signal, through insulated wires of a considerable length. He laid his wire in glass tubes surrounded by wooden troughs lined with pitch, which were placed in a covered ditch, 525 feet long and 4 feet deep in his garden at Hammersmith. He also suspended eight miles of wire, by silk cords, from two wooden frames erected on the lawn, so that the wire passed to and from many hundred times, well insulated at each point of attachment, and forming one continuous line, kept separate from contact with other parts.

Both these kinds of apparatus served equally to show the instantaneous transmission of the electric shock. in order to provide the means of conveying intelligence along the underground line, he placed at each end of it a clock, with a dial bearing twenty letters inscribed. It is only needful to explain that the two clocks were made to go isochronously, the one always presenting the same letter as the other at any particular second of time; and the moment chosen was indicated at the other end by the sudden collapse of a pair of pith ball electrometers, suspended at each station close to the clock dial and connected with the telegraph wire.”

The following illustration shows the apparatus used by Francis Ronalds in his Hammersmith garden:

Chiswick

I wonder what he would have thought of the people walking by his house using mobile phones with instant communication anywhere in the world?

The route now turns slightly in land as there are a row of houses between the Mall and the river, and here we find the next stop:

Chiswick

The Dove is an old pub, originally an early 18th century coffee house, not that big, but with some brilliant views over the river and the perfect place for a stop on a hot summer’s afternoon.

A short distance further along, the route returns to the river’s edge, alongside Furnivall Gardens, named after Dr. Frederick Furnivall who was one of the original creators of the Oxford English Dictionary. The relevance to the location alongside the river is his enthusiasm for rowing and his own Furnivall Sculling Club.

Alongside Furnivall Gardens we can get a view of the full length of Hammersmith Bridge:

Chiswick

Unfortunately, as the tide comes in, the river washes up the rubbish that has probably been up and down the Thames many times with the tides.

Chiswick

My next stop was at the Rutland Arms, probably the busiest pub along the river between Chiswick and Hammersmith.

Chiswick

Almost next door to the Rutland Arms is an older pub (the white building with the awning projecting from the front), the Blue Anchor which was first licensed in 1722. Another good stop on a hot summer afternoon:

Chiswick

A final blue plaque for George Devine, the Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre, who lived in this house overlooking the river and Hammersmith Bridge.

Chiswick

I then reached the end of the walk from Chiswick to Hammersmith, at Hammersmith Bridge, which deserves a dedicated post, however I took a quick walk across as this is always a fascinating bridge to pick out design and construction details.

Chiswick

The year of construction, 1887, replacing a previous bridge across the river:

Chiswick

Detail of the decoration on the rods leading up from the deck of the bridge to the main suspension cable:

Chiswick

Lights, which all appeared to be on during a bright summer afternoon:

Chiswick

The view from the bridge to the north bank at Hammersmith:

Chiswick

Wooden seating between the walkway across the bridge and the road.

Chiswick

As traffic passes over the bridge it makes a very distinctive rumbling noise. The cause of which is easily seen, as it the reason why Hammersmith Bridge is London’s weakest bridge.

The deck of the bridge appears to consist of wooden decking, overlaid with metal plates, then a layer of tarmac, which in many places has disintegrated. The rumbling noise as traffic passes over the bridge is caused by tyres passing over the many exposed bolt heads, which presumably are holding the metal plates and wooden decking together.

Chiswick

Chiswick to Hammersmith along the river is a fascinating walk, not just for the architecture and scenery, but also to discover early experiments with the electric telegraphic and the creator of the typeface that is still used across the London Underground.

There are also plenty of refreshing stops along the way, which on a very hot June day were very welcome.

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A Bomb Site In Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Road

I was intending to write about Ampton Street a couple of weeks ago, It is the location of one of my father’s photos, taken in 1947, of a street with a cleared bomb site along one side of the street.

This was one of the photos my father had printed, and on the reverse was written Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Road. I had assumed the photo was taken from Gray’s Inn Road (I will explain why later), but when I got home and checked the photos side by side on the computer, it was obvious that I had taken the photo at the wrong end of the street. I had a day off from work last week, so on a rather lengthy walk, I included Ampton Street on the route and finally photographed the scene from the correct end of the street.

Ampton Street is shown in the following map extract. In the very centre of the map, a relatively short street running right from Gray’s Inn Road towards Cubitt Street.  (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

Ampton Street

This is my father’s photo taken in 1947. The  view is looking from Cubitt Street, along Ampton Street, in the direction of Gray’s Inn Road. A length of Ampton Street has been cleared of houses following considerable bomb damage.

Ampton Street

The first house still standing on the right hand side of the street is on the junction with Ampton Place, so the entire terrace of houses from Ampton Place to Cubitt Street has been destroyed.

This area on both sides of Gray’s Inn Road suffered considerable bomb damage during the war.

The LCC Bomb Damage Maps showing the houses on the cleared space as “total destruction”.  The houses on the left of the street are colour coded purple “damaged beyond repair” and red “seriously damaged”. This also applied to many of the buildings in the street directly opposite Ampton Street on Gray’s Inn Road and there are new buildings now covering these areas.

A V1 flying bomb also landed just south of Ampton Street on the area just behind what is now  the Eastman Dental Hospital (the old Royal Free Hospital).

I love the detail in these photos, in this one there are a couple of children playing in the street:

Ampton Street

This is the same view today:

Ampton Street

I took the photo a bit to the left of where my father was standing in order to get a slight view up Amton Street.

The bomb site is now covered by the brick buildings on the right of the photo and the open space on the left is also covered by new buildings.

Ampton Street is now closed off to through traffic with only a pedestrian walkway and cycle lane running through into Cubitt Street. Looking through the gap between trees and buildings it is just possible to see the porticos on the houses on the left, far more clearly shown in my father’s photo as in 1947 there was a clear view along the street.

These are the buildings on the cleared bomb site:

Ampton Street

In my father’s photo, a couple of the buildings have a portico over the entrance. These are still visible today and a couple of buildings have also had porticos added since 1947.

Ampton Street

The LMA Collage archive includes a 1972 photo of the same terrace of houses as shown in my photo above.  A number of the houses look to be in a rather derelict state, with broken windows and boarded up ground floor windows. Rather amazing considering the prices these houses would sell for today.

Ampton Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_333_72_716

This is the view leading into Ampton Place. The house on the left is the one seen at the end of the cleared bomb site in the 1947 photo.

Ampton Street

This is the view looking down Ampton Street towards Cubitt Street. The housing on the left occupies the 1947 bomb site:

Ampton Street

This is the photo I took a couple of weeks ago, looking across Gray’s Inn Road towards Ampton Street, thinking at the time it was the right place.

Ampton Street

In my defence it was a hot day, I had already walked for miles, and I was looking at the original photo as a small printout. I had assumed that the park area on the right of Ampton Street was the old bomb site, however it should have been very obvious that the houses on the left are different to the original photo and the house just visible on the right is too close to Gray’s Inn Road to be the house in the original photo.

Ampton Street was built between 1821 and 1827 by Thomas Cubitt. The land between Gray’s Inn Road and the Fleet River was owned by Lord Calthorpe and in 1814 he applied for an Act of Parliament to approve the paving of streets on his land.

Some of this land was leased to Thomas Cubitt who built Ampton Street, Frederick Street, and the street now named after the builder, Cubitt Street (however at the time it was called Arthur Street.)

The houses that remain in Ampton Street are perfect examples of Cubitt’s early 19th century designs. This is the terrace running from the Gray’s Inn Road to Ampton Place along the northern side of Ampton Street. On the far right of the photo can be seen the new builds on the old bomb site. This original terrace probably shows what the destroyed terrace looked like.

Ampton Street

A rather nice street name plaque:

Ampton Street

It is unusual to walk these early 19th century streets and not find a street without a plaque recording a previous resident and Ampton Street continues this rule with an LCC plaque recording that Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish writer, historian, and key founder of the London Library lived here from 1831 to 1834. It was his first London residence after moving from Craigenputtock, a very rural location in south west Scotland where Carlyle lived with his wife.

Ampton Street

Carlyle wrote about his stay in Ampton Street that they spent “an interesting, cheery, and in spite of poor arrangements, really pleasant winter. We lodged in Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Lane, clean and decent pair of rooms, and quiet decent people. Visitors in plenty, John Mill one of the most frequent, Jeffrey, Lord Advocate, often came on an afternoon.”

Thomas Carlyle’s house in the centre of the photo:

Ampton Street

The area around Ampton Street, covering Lord Calthorpe’s original land still has many of the original early 19th century buildings and shows the development of the city as formal streets and housing spread north. There is a Calthorpe Street, named after the original owner of the estate, running from Gray’s Inn Road to King’s Cross Road to the south of Ampton Street.

It was a pleasure to make a return visit, however also a lesson that I need to more carefully check the original scene.

When my father’s photos include children, I always wonder if they are still alive. The two playing in the middle of the street in 1947 would I suspect now be in their late 70s – and if they came back to Ampton Street, I suspect they would be very surprised by how good the street looks today.

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