Monthly Archives: January 2019

The City of London – A Record Of Destruction And Survival

Towards the end of the last war, a whole series of reports were commissioned into the rebuilding and development of the City of London. These reports used the opportunity for major reconstruction to propose significant change and to address the needs that the City would be expected to support in the future.

I have already written about a number of these reports, including the 1944 report on Post War Construction in the City of London, the 1943 County of London Plan and the 1944 Railway (London Plan) Committee report. For this week’s post I would like to cover another report, covered in a book that documented proposed redevelopment of the City of London.

This was published in 1951 by the Architectural press, on behalf of the Corporation of London as the City of London – a record of Destruction and Survival, with a report on reconstruction by the planning consultants C.H. Holden and W.G. Holford.

The preface to the book provides some background “In April 1947 the joint consultants on Reconstruction in the City of London, Dr. C.H. Holden and Professor W.G. Holford, presented their final report to the Improvements and Town Planning Committee of the Corporation. The proposals contained in that report were subsequently accepted in principle by the Court of Common Council, and the Court approved the publication of a book to describe and illustrate the proposals for rebuilding more fully than had been possible up to that time. In the preparation of such a volume the opportunity has also been taken to record the damage suffered by the City from aerial attack during the war of 1939-45.”

The 1951 book is far more comprehensive than the earlier reports. It includes a detailed historical background to the City of London, including a chronological table and describes in detail the war damaged areas. There are numerous statistical details and plenty of maps overlaid with detail on the pre-war City and future plans for the City.

Reading the book in 2019 also demonstrates the difficulty in making long term plans. Unforeseen events frequently resulted in an expected future trend becoming obsolete.

The book includes many proposals that we can see around the City today, some looking remarkably modern for their time. Other proposals, thankfully, did not get implemented as they would have left a significant architectural and visual scar on the City.

One of the first maps aims to provide a view of the main functions of the City and how these are grouped into specific geographical areas. The following map is titled “Distribution Of Trades And Activities, 1938” (if you click on the maps you should be able to open up a larger version)

Development of the City of London

Yellow is General Commercial and takes up large parts of the City. The area along the river is still dominated by Wharfs and the Billingsgate Fish Market. Textiles take up the area from around St. Paul’s Cathedral and up to the north of the City. The Press and Printing surrounds Fleet Street. There are smaller concentrations of specialist trades – Chemists Supplies, Books, Wines & Spirits. Railway Warehouses and Clothing Warehouses occupy the east of the City.

The book tries to look at how these trades should be distributed in the future City. The following map is titled “Proposed Distribution of Trades and Activities”

Development of the City of London

At first glance the map is much the same as pre-war, however there are some subtle differences. Wharfs still occupy the river bank, but the fish market has moved. Chemist Supplies has disappeared from the City. In the north of the City a much larger area has now been allocated to Commercial and Light Industrial, reducing the area for Textiles, Furs & Skins – the expectation was that new Light Industrial businesses would start to replace some of the traditional City trades.

Apart from these relatively small changes, the immediate post war planning expected the trades that would occupy the City would continue to be much the same. Cargo ships and Lighters would still moor along the wharfs, textiles would occupy a large part of the City as would the Press and Printing. The following 30 to 40 years would transform the trades and activities of the City far beyond the expectations of 1951.

Another map looked at the Inventory of Accommodation within the City.

Development of the City of London

The map details the total floor space in 1939 for each area along with the percentage of floor space destroyed during the war. These figures are shown in the following table:

Development of the City of London

By comparison, the latest City of London Housing Stock Report (December 2018), does not report on the amount of accommodation floor space, rather the number of residential units in the City of London (7,240) along with the split of these residential units by the number of habitable rooms.

The map also highlights the considerable amount of damage caused by the early raids of 1940 / 41 when incendiaries caused significant fire damage in the areas around and to the north of St. Paul’s Cathedral as shown by the high percentage figures for blocks 2,7 and 9.

A key focus of the report was the support of pedestrian and vehicle traffic throughout the City. New boundary routes were proposed to the north and south of the City to support traffic passing through the City to get between east and west London and across the river. Plans also included widening of streets, new streets driving across existing street and buildings and elevated sections for roads.

High and low level separation of pedestrians and vehicles was seen as the way forward for the City. Two main areas where this would apply would be the northern boundary route along Holborn to Aldersgate and the south route along Thames Street.

The following map shows where improvements or changes would be made, marked by the streets in red.

Development of the City of London

The book includes many artist impressions of what the proposed developments would look like. The following drawing show the proposed high level road in Lower Thames Street, with ground level occupied with a service road and pedestrian area.

Development of the City of London

The proposal for Lower Thames Street is very different to what was finally implemented, with a multi-lane road built at ground level by widening the original street. The level of traffic does not lead to a pleasant experience walking along the street today, and the artist impression above does look good, but the impact of a high level road would have destroyed the whole view of the street and I suspect would not have been wide enough to support the growth in the level of City traffic.

The book also goes into detail on the public utility services needed to support a city and aspects of street furniture which were all considered as part of the overall designs needed for improving the City’s streets for pedestrians and drivers.

In describing how these utility services and street furniture would be implemented, the book includes the historical context, and as an example, the following illustration from the book shows the development of lamp standards from 1827 to 1946.Development of the City of London

Continuing on the theme of pedestrianised areas, the book describes a number of options, supported by artist impressions for how traffic and pedestrians would be separated and large areas opened up for pedestrian circulation.

The following drawing is of the proposed low level concourse at London Bridgehead, just to the west of the Monument.

Development of the City of London

Although from a book published in 1950, I find these impressions of a redeveloped London curiously modern. Change the name on the glass fronted Tea Rooms on the right to a Starbucks or Pret, change the Sherry sign on the left to Gin and update the clothes the people are wearing and this could be a proposal for today.

The following impression, also of the proposed London Bridgehead is again (apart from the clothes) rather modern.

Development of the City of London

In many of these artist impressions there are cafes and restaurants shown lining the edge of the pedestrian areas. The proposals within the book see these as meeting a key need for City workers as “The City is chronically short of places to have lunch”. I suspect the authors would be rather pleased with the number of establishments in the City today to provide a worker’s lunch.

There are other ways in which the 1951 artists impressions are surprisingly modern. The following artist impression is described as “A view of the base of the Monument and the proposed new Underground entrance as they would be seen from Monument Street, if the two level proposal were carried out.”

The high level separation of traffic can be seen as part of the large circulatory road system on the northern end of London Bridge.

Development of the City of London

To the right is a glass sided entrance to the Monument Underground Station with the London Transport roundel on the side. This would have replaced the entrance on Fish Street Hill which today is an entrance directly on the ground floor of an office building rather than this rather nice, glass sided descent by escalator.

This type of entrance has been used at a number of Underground stations, one of the latest being a couple of entrances to the Tottenham Court Road Underground station. I was passing in the week and took the following photo – perhaps not so elegant as the 1951 plans, but such is the way of all artist impressions.

Development of the City of London

Proposals for developments along the river’s edge included terraced walkways along the river, with entrances between the warehouses opening up views to the river. The following drawing illustrates the proposals, but also shows how the proposals were not aware of the future changes to the use of the river, with shipping and cranes still expected to line the river.

Development of the City of London

I love the artistic addition of the two men in some form of naval officers uniform.

The book describes these river side developments “The first buildings to be rebuilt near Upper Thames Street are likely to adjoin the high level road, and where stairs lead down to the low level some look-out points might be arranged from which the river can be seen between the warehouses below. Another possibility is the building of restaurants or public houses right on the river front.”

Another drawing shows that “the Consultants propose a riverside walk along the river front below Upper Thames Street. The drawing shows how a maritime atmosphere might be introduced here.”

Development of the City of London

The proposals were very enthusiastic about the opportunities of opening up the river front, an area that for centuries had been hidden behind the warehouses, wharfs and fish market that traditionally lined the river. The book describes “Another possible form for new buildings on the river front is that they should be warehouses below and offices above, the offices set back to provide a pedestrian walk overlooking the river – perhaps one with a distinctly maritime atmosphere. A riverside pedestrian walk from Blackfriars to St. Paul’s Steps or even to Southwark Bridge would be one of the sights of London; and one of the best viewpoints in London, as it would command the river from Whitehall to the Pool – not forgetting the new South Bank. A walk over the top of warehouses that handle riverborne goods would be difficult to design. Pedestrians might damage goods in lighters below and a carelessly handled crane might damage pedestrians. Yet these and many other difficulties – real though they are – seem small in comparison with the possibilities of such a walk planned along the now largely outworn strip of buildings from Blackfriars to Southwark bridge. It is a wonderful site.”

It is indeed a wonderful site and a riverside walk has been realised for parts of the route, although at a single riverside level rather than the multi-layer possibilities of the 1951 proposals. No longer any risk that a “carelessly handled crane might damage pedestrians.”

The comments about the riverborne goods, issues with cranes etc. also show the difficulties with long term planning as those working on the 1951 plan were unaware of the changes that would take place to river traffic in the next few decades with not only the loss of all goods traffic, cranes and warehouses in the Pool of London, but also further down the river at the much larger docks. Who would be a city planner ?

In improving the experience for pedestrians, the proposals including opening up views to the river as mentioned above. Another key view was that of St. Paul’s Cathedral to and from the river.

The following drawing is titled “An impression of a possible treatment of the proposed new approach to St. Paul’s from the river.”

Development of the City of London

The development of this area has resulted in a view that is broadly similar to that proposed in the 1951 plan, although the buildings along the side are different and I suspect the width of the pedestrian walkway is today wider than the impression given in the drawing.

The proposals so far, would have had a positive impact on the City, however other proposals, whilst for very good reasons would have been very negative and I am thankful that they were never built.

Post war, continuation of pre-war growth in vehicle traffic was expected and proposals were included in the 1951 book to manage an increasing growth in motor traffic.

New through routes were planned for the south of the City along Lower and Upper Thames Street and a northern boundary route was proposed, cutting through numerous streets north of Smithfield and Finsbury Circus (see the map above with the red street highlighting).

The book included artist impressions of what these developments could look like and they are frankly horrendous.

The following drawing is titled “The raised Northern Boundary Route proposed by the consultants, would have two decks of car parking space under it.”

Development of the City of London

Thankfully this was never built along the northern edge of the City and as its name implies, the Northern Boundary Route, would have indeed formed a solid boundary between the City and the land to the north.

It was not just the boundary routes where major changes were proposed to accommodate traffic, the central City also had some horrendous schemes.

The following drawing is titled “An impression of the suggested Cheapside Underpass, a proposal which, has been postponed on grounds of cost.”

Development of the City of London

Yes, that is the church of St. Mary-le-Bow to the right, with Cheapside dug out to form a lower level for traffic. Thankfully it was postponed on grounds of cost and never resurrected.

If the proposals had been fully implemented, there would have been considerable infrastructure across the City to support the car. The following map shows proposed Car Parks and Garages.

Development of the City of London

Solid black shows where multi-level car parks were proposed. The run of car parks at top left were those shown in the drawing of the northern boundary route above. Note also that multi-level car parks would have run along Upper and Lower Thames Street.

The tick vertical lines represent underground car parking. Horizontal lines represent additional possible car parking whilst the limited number of cross hatch markings represent possible lorry parks.

The star symbols represent locations for commercial multi-storey garages.

There would not have been a problem parking in the City of London if all this lot had been built.

Although there was considerable emphasis on the car and other forms of motor traffic, public transport was also a consideration. The following diagram shows Bus Traffic in 1947.

Development of the City of London

The table that accompanies the above diagram is shown below. This details the traffic density during the peak hour for the bus routes through the City and includes bus service number, frequency, density of buses per peak hour, and density in either direction. As a reminder that buses were not the only form of ground level public transport at the time, similar data is also provided for trolleybus and trams.

Development of the City of London

Given the time, I would love to create similar tables for bus traffic today as a comparison.

The title of the book includes the sub-title “A Record Of Destruction And Survival”. The book has a large section documenting the destruction of parts of the City during the war. This part of the book includes a large number of photos. It was fascinating to find that a number of these photos were of similar scenes to the photos taken by my father.

The following is my father’s photo of the tower of All Hallows Staining taken from Mark Lane.

Development of the City of London

This photo from the book also shows the tower of All Hallows Staining, but from the opposite side, looking back towards Fenchurch Street Station, the facade of which can be seen in the rear of the photo.

Development of the City of London

Another of my father’s photos showed a very large pile of rubble following the demolition of bombed buildings in Aldersgate.

Development of the City of London

The book also includes a similar photo with the title “A mountain of rubble from bombed buildings piled up on a derelict site off Aldersgate Street.”

Development of the City of London

The City of London – a record of Destruction and Survival is a fascinating book. Although primarily a means of publishing the 1947 proposals, in its 340 pages the book contains a wealth of information on the history of the City, the damage to the City during the war, the workings of the City, the start of redevelopment of the City and what the City could look like should the proposals be fully implemented. The text and photos are supported with lots of data and statistics.

And for me, a book with fold out maps is always a thing of beauty.

The immediate post war period created many proposals that if fully implemented would have transformed the City of London. Thankfully the multi-level traffic routes did not get built, Cheapside did not get an underpass and the north and south of the City are not bounded by multi-storey car parks.

The ideas about creating space for pedestrians are good, as are the proposals for opening up the views of the river and walkways along the river. Many of these ideas have been implemented, but perhaps not as dramatically as proposed in 1951.

The separation of pedestrians and traffic can still be seen in the remaining lengths of the pedestrian ways (pedways).

When reading these books, I always wonder what the authors of these proposals would think of the City if they could take a look today, 70 years later. Would they be pleased with the result, would they wonder about the lost opportunities, and perhaps be thankful that some of their proposals were not implemented.

Planning the development of a City for the long term is very difficult, there is no way of knowing what external or internal changes may suddenly move the City in a new direction. It is intriguing to wonder what the City of London will look like in another 70 years.

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Cutty Sark Pub And Greenwich Peninsula

I must have been going to the Cutty Sark pub in Greenwich for well over 45 years. I can just about remember the first trips, where as part of a family day out to Greenwich, after feeding the squirrels in the park, walking down to the Cutty Sark ship and the old Gypsy Moth IV, Francis Chichester’s boat in which he circumnavigated the world single handed in 1967, we would walk along the river to the Cutty Sark pub for a soft drink and crisps.

The walk along the river was different to that of today. It was much quieter and the industrial nature of the Greenwich Peninsula extended up to the Greenwich Power Station. My father would tell us stories along the way. Along the narrow walkway between the River Thames and the old Royal Naval College he would tell of people being robbed along here at night with the threat of being thrown in the river if they did not comply – no idea if these stories were true, or whether they were to keep the interest in a walk, but I could imagine this happening on a dark night with mist drifting across from the river.

To get to the Cutty Sark pub, it was a walk in front of the Royal Naval College, past the Trafalgar Tavern, Trinity Hospital and Power Station. There was then a short walk through a scrap metal yard to get to the pub.

A couple of months ago, I scanned some negatives and among the photos were some I had taken in Greenwich, including these photos which were probably taken in 1986 (plus or minus a year – I did not date these negatives, but judging by other photos on the same negative strips they are from this time).

The approach to the Cutty Sark pub was through a scrap metal yard. High walls of concrete panels held back large amounts of metal on either side of a narrow walkway:

Cutty Sark pub

The scene today is so very different. As part of the de-industrialisation of the area, the scrap yard has been cleared, space opened up to the river on the left and flats built to the right.

The following photo shows the same scene today:

Cutty Sark pub

The Cutty Sark pub is in a superb location. An early 19th century building (although a pub had been on the site for many years prior to the current building), it looks out over the river, providing views to the east and west. We sat outside on a hot day in early August 2018 during the visit to take these photos, something I dream about doing again whilst writing this on a cold, grey and overcast January morning.

The current name of the pub is relatively recent, only being named the Cutty Sark in 1951 when the ship of the same name first arrived in Greenwich. Originally the pub was called the Green Man, then from 1810 it was named the Union Tavern.

After clearance of the scrap yard, the Cutty Sark pub now enjoys a large open space to the west along with a seating area directly in front of the pub.

Cutty Sark pub

In the above photo there is a brick wall with three plaques, a close up photo provides some detail:

Cutty Sark pub

The middle plaque informs that the foundation stone on the right was from the old metal recycling yard that occupied the space.

I have not been able to find any information as to the blue plaque on the left, and who was “Gordon of Greenwich”, There are English Hedonists plaques in other parts of London, created as an artwork, but the Greenwich plaque does not appear to be included in lists of these other plaques.

The area around the Cutty Sark pub is an ideal point to view the river and the western edge of the Greenwich Peninsula. The closure of industry along this stretch of the river is almost complete and it is undergoing a similar transformation to much of the rest of the river, with blocks of flats being built, the first of these can be seen in my photo earlier in the post showing the view from where the scrap yard once stood, with a tall block of flats taking up the area behind and to the left of the Cutty Sark pub.

In 1986, this was the view along the Greenwich Peninsula:

Cutty Sark pub

The same view today (I must get better at taking photos at the same state of the tide):

Cutty Sark pub

Apart from the curve of the river, the only recognisable feature in both photos is the gas holder further down the peninsula. This was originally one of a pair of gas holders, the largest of their type when constructed. One of the gas holders was demolished in 1986, fortunately one survives.

This photo from Britain from Above shows the pair of gasholders in 1924 and the surrounding industrial landscape.

Cutty Sark pub

Two large concrete silos can also be seen, shown again in the following photo which was taken from the edge of the scrap yard. These were the storage silos of a sugar refinery which, as with much of British industry in the past few decades, went through a number of changes of ownership before being bought in 2007 by a French company and then being closed two years later, with demolition of the silos following soon after.

Cutty Sark pub

The following photo from 1986 shows a view across the full width of the River Thames. The large container cranes were part of the Victoria Deep Water Wharf. Behind these are two chimneys from the old Blackwall Power Station, commissioned in 1951 and closed thirty years later.

Cutty Sark pub

The same view today:

Cutty Sark pub

The only obvious surviving features are the old brick warehouse on the left (now flats) and the tower block behind.

There are a few remaining historical features buried within the photos. The following is an enlargement of one part of my 1986 photos. Part of the old sugar refinery is to the left, but look in front of this building and along the river edge is a triangular metal structure:

Cutty Sark pub

The following enlargement from one of my 2018 photos shows the same area today and whilst all the factory buildings have been demolished, the triangular metal structure, now painted grey, remains.

Cutty Sark pub

This is part of the winding equipment that allowed undersea telecommunications cables manufactured in the buildings to the right in the 1986 photo to be transported from the factory onto ships moored in the river.

This is Enderby Wharf and is where the first cable to cross the Atlantic was manufactured with  much of the world’s sub-sea communication cables being manufactured here until the mid 1970s.

The white building behind is Enderby House, built around 1830 and the only remaining building from the factory site.

Enderby Wharf was the site for a planned cruise liner terminal, however these plans have been abandoned following local campaigns against the terminal as the lack of shore power would have meant ships moored at the terminal would be generating their own electricity and therefore polluting the local area.

Although the cruise terminal has been abandoned, development of the Greenwich Peninsula continues and the river bank between the Cutty Sark pub and the O2 Dome will soon be an almost continuous line of flats.

The industrial history of the Greenwich Peninsula is fascinating. The book “Innovation, Enterprise and Change on the Greenwich Peninsula” by Mary Mills provides plenty of detail on the factories and industries that made their home on the peninsula. The Greenwich Industrial History site also has plenty of detailed information.

In the depths of January, I am just looking forward to when the weather improves and provides the opportunity to sit outside the Cutty Sark on a warm sunny day, with a beer and taking in the views of the river.

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The West End At Christmas

Last year I took a walk around the City at Christmas. A time of year when construction stops, the majority of office workers take a long Christmas / New Year break, and the streets take on a silence not seen at any other time during the year. For this year, I took a walk around the West End at Christmas to find a very different city, one that was still busy. Streets, shops, restaurants, theatres and pubs all still crowded.

Whenever I walk, I always take photos. I have learnt from my father’s photos and any old photo in general that even the most ordinary scene is of interest, and with the rapid state of change across London, streets and buildings can look very different in just a few years.

For a New Year’s Day post, join me for a short walk and a sample of photos that hopefully bring across the atmosphere of the West End at Christmas.

I started in the Strand, just off Trafalgar Square.

The first photo is of one of my pet hates – the renaming of an area which comprises streets which already have their own distinct identity. Here the “Northbank” is bringing together Trafalgar Square, Strand and Aldwych.

West End at Christmas

The “Northbank” is a Business Improvement District (BID) created by the business community in the area. The “Northbank’s” website explains: “With a shrinking public sector threatening the breadth and longevity of some council services, BIDs are able to carry out additional services bespoke to the needs of the local community” . Whilst I can understand the motivation, this appears to be another symptom of the under-funding of Councils and transfer of services to a potentially unaccountable private sector.

There are a number of Business Improvement Districts across London and the Mayor of London / London Assembly web site has more details.

Leaving the Strand, I walked up Charing Cross Road and then along Cecil Court. These individual shops always look good as dusk falls.

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Up St. Martin’s Lane to photograph and have a last look around Stanfords in Long Acre before the store closes in mid January to reopen nearby in Mercer Walk.

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Back up Upper St. Martin’s Lane and a crowd of Father Christmases, with many more following behind.

West End at Christmas

Monmouth Street:

West End at Christmas

Laptops and mobile phones:

West End at Christmas

The Two Brewers, Monmouth Street:

West End at Christmas

Seven Dials:

West End at Christmas

Leaving Monmouth Street, along St. Giles High Street and into Denmark Street to see what remains of the street:

West End at Christmas

Hanks is holding out:

West End at Christmas

Westside at number 24 surrounded by scaffolding:

West End at Christmas

Regent Sounds, also surrounded by scaffolding:

West End at Christmas

Rose Morris, guitars and drums:

West End at Christmas

The new Foyles store in Charing Cross Road. I was really sorry to see the old Foyles store disappear, but it is good that the book shop is still in Charing Cross Road, and that this building remains as it was here that my father went to college and used the basement as a bomb shelter.

West End at ChristmasDown Charing Cross Road, then I turned into Shaftesbury Avenue:

West End at Christmas

Wardour Street:

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Along Coventry Street and an alternative method to see Christmas Lights, however I prefer walking:

West End at Christmas

The 453 to Deptford Bridge leaves Piccadilly Circus:

West End at Christmas

Down to Waterloo Place:

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Walking the streets of London at any time of year is a pleasure, however in the week’s before Christmas the streets of the West End provide a different perspective to the rest of the year. The same shops, theatres, all you can eat buffets, pubs, hotels, clubs, restaurants, but all looking a bit different, however with the same underlying commercial drive to make money.

Thank you all for reading my blog during the last year, for the comments and e-mails and helping me to learn more about the city.

The days are now slowly starting to get longer and I am looking forward to lots more walking and exploring across London during 2019. A very Happy New Year to you all.

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