Monthly Archives: July 2019

St Stephen Walbrook

I was in the City earlier this month and had a couple of free hours in the afternoon, so I headed to the church of St Stephen Walbrook, a church I have not been inside for a number of years.

The church is located just south of the Bank junction of Poultry, Princess Street, Threadneedle Street, Cornhill and King William Street. Located just behind the Mansion House, the church includes the name of one of the City’s lost rivers, and faces onto a street with the same name, Walbrook.

Walking down from the Bank junction, this is the view of the tower of St Stephen Walbrook:

St Stephen Walbrook

St Stephen Walbrook has a long history, however the church is not on its original site.

The River Walbrook originally ran slightly to the west of the street, and it was on the western side of the River Walbrook that the first church was established. Foundations of the original church were found during excavation of the site that today is occupied by the offices of Bloomberg, also the original location of the Roman Temple to Mithras.

According to Walter Thornbury writing in Old and New London, “Eudo, Steward of the Household to King Henry I (1100- 1135) gave the church of St Stephen, which stood on the west side of Walbrook, to the Monastery of St John at Colchester.”

The church probably dates from around the 11th century, but is probably older.

There is very little written evidence of this first church, however in the History of the Ward of Walbrook of the City of London (1904), J.G. White states:

“It possessed a Steeple with Bells and Belfry, as, from an inventory made, it appears that at the time of building the new Church, three bells, with their wheels, &c., were removed from the old building, and fixed in the new Steeple; also that it contained a belfry is evident from the fact that there is in the Coroner’s Roll for 1278 an entry, that on the 1st May in that year information was given that on the previous Sunday, about mid-day, William Clarke ascended the belfry to look for a pigeon’s nest, and in climbing from beam to beam he missed his hold and fell, dying as soon as he came to the ground. There was also a Chancel, there being in the year 1300 an Inquisition taken to enquire who was liable to repair the watercourse of the Walbrook over against the Chancel Wall of the Church.”

Around 1428, this original location of the church, and its associated graveyard was considered too small to support the parish, so a new location was required.

A plot of land was given by Robert Chicheley, a member of The Worshipful Company of Grocers, on the opposite side of Walbrook street, roughly 20 metres to the east of the original location, and the new church was built between 1429 and 1439.

This church would last just under 240 years as the church of St Stephen Walbrook would be one of those destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

Rebuilding commenced in December 1672, with Wren as the architect. St Stephen Walbrook was probably his local church as at the time he was living in Walbrook.

It was a difficult location for the new church as houses were built up against the church, including the area around where the tower would be built.

The area north of the church, now the site of the Mansion House was originally occupied by a market in fish and flesh know as the Stocks Market. Part of the original design for completion of St Stephen Walbrook was a colonnaded replacement for the pre-fire Stocks Market, which would have extended north from the church, This did not get built.

The church was ready to use in 1679, although the tower appears to have been completed later.

The following print from Old and New London shows the church soon after completion. The print also highlights the houses that clustered immediately around the tower.

St Stephen Walbrook

The above drawing from Old and New London is dated 1700, however I suspect this is wrong. The drawing shows the spire on top of the tower, however the spire was not added until 1713-1715.

Remove the houses in front of the church, and as the following photo demonstrates, the appearance of the church is much the same today. It was not possible to replicate the above drawing as the Mansion House presses in to the left of the church, occupying the space that was the Stocks Market.

St Stephen Walbrook

The following extract from a 1720 Ward map shows the church of St Stephen Walbrook, with the Stocks Market occupying the land to the north.

St Stephen Walbrook

Time for a look inside the church. A set of steps rise up from street level to the interior of the church.

St Stephen Walbrook

The interior of St Stephen Walbrook from the entrance:

St Stephen Walbrook

The interior has an unusual layout for a City church. The wooden reredos is at the far end of the church where the altar would traditionally have been located, however following restoration work carried out between 1978 and 1987, the traditional altar was replaced by a central circular altar carved from Travertine by Henry Moore.

St Stephen Walbrook

The new altar and additional restoration work throughout the church was commissioned and supported by the fund-raising efforts of Lord Peter Palumbo who was Churchwarden from 1953 to 2003.

Restoration work at the time was essential as the church was suffering from subsidence, possibly due to the long-term impact of the River Walbrook.

The location of the altar does prevent an ideal photograph of one of the main features of Wren’s designs – the large dome located above the central square of the church.

St Stephen Walbrook

Multiple references refer to the dome as being Wren’s practice for the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, however whilst the overall shape is similar, a dome with lantern on top, the size and construction method is very different.

Whilst the dome of St Paul’s has the inner false dome, with the layer of supports between inner and outer dome to transfer the load of the large stone lantern through to the body of the cathedral, the dome of St Stephen is a much more straightforward construction, however that does not detract anything from the beauty of a magnificent dome, designed in the 17th century on a City parish church.

The following drawing from 1770 shows a view of the interior of the church, with below a cut away diagram of the dome’s construction and a floor plan of the church.

St Stephen Walbrook

The interior of the church also shows another of Wren’s innovations. Rather than the weight of the dome being carried on a large pier at each corner, there are three slender columns at each corner. These have the effect of opening out the corners, rather than these spaces being occupied by a large load bearing pillar.

Note in the floor plan above that the tower is missing. The tower was added after the church had opened, and perhaps Wren’s idea was to have a rectangular church with no tower, where the dome rising above the church would have been the dominating feature.

When the exterior of the church is viewed today, the dome of the church is somewhat hidden to the rear with the tower dominating – perhaps not Wren’s original intention.

Whilst many writers praised St Stephen Walbrook as one of Wren’s best City churches, there were other views, for example in Curiosities of London (1867), John Timbs writes:

“This church, unquestionably elegant, has been overpraised. The rich dome is considered by John Carter to be Wren’s attempt to ‘set up a dome, a comparative imitation (though on a diminutive scale) of the Pantheon at Rome, and which, no doubt, was a kind of probationary trial previous to his gigantic operation of fixing one on his octangular superstructure in the centre of the new St Paul’s’. Mr J. Gwilt says of St Stephen’s ‘Compared with any other church of nearly the same magnitude, Italy cannot exhibit its equal, elsewhere its rival is not to be found. Of those worthy notice, the Zitelle at Venice (by Palladio), is the present approximation in regard to size, but it ranks far below our church in point of composition, and still lower in point of effect.’

Again, had its materials and volume been as durable and as extensive as those of St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren had consummated (in St Stephen’s) a much more efficient monument to his well-earned fame than this fabric affords.”

The church suffered significant damage during the war. the following photo shows the interior of the church with parts of the dome collapsed onto the floor of the church.

St Stephen Walbrook

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0019488CL

A view of the damage to the dome can be seen in the following drawing by Dennis Flanders in June 1941.

St Stephen Walbrook

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/9354

Dennis Flanders was a freelance artists who recorded bomb damage to London. He sold some of his work to the War Artists Advisory Committee, including the drawing of St Stephen’s.

Another drawing purchased by the War Artists Advisory Committee was the following by Ian Strang, dated 1945.

St Stephen Walbrook

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/25791

Note the temporary wooden cover in the place of the dome.

In the foreground are the foundations of the bombed buildings that occupied the space now occupied by the Bloomberg building. Excavation in the space during 1954 would reveal the Roman Temple of Mithras.

There is a wonderful model of the church to be seen inside the church:

St Stephen Walbrook

The model allows the overall design of the church to be appreciated, not easy when viewed from outside.

Looking at the model, the tower and buildings along the front of the church do look separate to the main body of the church (the smaller building to the right of the row on the front is a Starbucks).

Remove the tower and the buildings along the front and the church would be of rectangular design with a magnificent dome dominating the view of the church – perhaps Wren’s original intention.

The spire on top of the church is very similar to two other City churches, St Michael Paternoster Royal and St James Garlickhithe, which is shown in the following photo taken by my father in 1953.

St Stephen Walbrook

The spire was added to St Stephen Walbrook between 1713 and 1715, and the spires to the other two churches were added in the same period. They are possibly to a design by Hawksmoor.

Looking back towards the entrance to the church with a rather magnificent organ case above the door. This dates from 1765.

St Stephen Walbrook

There are a number of monuments on the walls of the church, including the following to Samuel Moyer dated 1716:

St Stephen Walbrook

Many of these tablets provide an insight into the dreadful child mortality rates of earlier centuries, even for those who were affluent.

The tablet states that Samuel Moyer was a Baronet. He must have had money as the tablet states the family spent the summer at their home at Pitsey Hall in Essex and the winters in the parish of St Stephen Walbrook.

A Baronet, who could afford homes in Essex and London still suffered numerous child deaths, Of their eleven children, eight died in their minority, with only three daughters surviving to “lament with their sorrowful mother, the great loss of so indulgent a father”.

It was not just the high rates of child mortality, but also what this level of child-birth did to women. The risks to women during childbirth were very high, and for Rebeckah Jollife, Moyer’s wife, surviving eleven must have been traumatic.

Also, with eleven births, for a significant period of her life, Rebeckah must have been in a state of almost continuous pregnancy.

St Stephen Walbrook also has a rather nice sword rest dating from 1710. This apparently came from the church of St Ethelburga.

St Stephen Walbrook

Back outside the church and this is the view of St Stephen Walbrook from the south.

St Stephen Walbrook

Today, a Starbuck’s occupies the corner space between tower and body of the church.

The dome of the church and lantern is just visible from the street.

The side view of the church shows the rough building materials used in the construction of the church – probably because other buildings were up against the side of the church so there was no need for expensive stone dressing to the side walls.
St Stephen Walbrook

Close up view of the dome and lantern:

St Stephen Walbrook

A longer view looking along Walbrook from the south. The Bloomberg building is on the left:

St Stephen Walbrook

This is such a fascinating area. In the above photo, the River Walbrook once ran roughly from where I am standing to take the photo, up and parallel to the existing street. The original church was on the left, prior to moving across the street and the river. The Roman Temple of Mithras is under the Bloomberg building on my left.

St Stephen Walbrook still dominates the northern part of the street, however if you walk along the street, look behind the tower and admire Wren’s dome.

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The Goat Tavern, Stafford Street

Hardly a week goes by without news of another London pub closing. Business rates, sudden increases in rent, demographic changes, or just the land becoming more valuable through a one-off payment for redevelopment, all conspire to an ongoing reduction in the city’s pubs.

It was therefore with some relief that I found the subject of this week’s post still there, serving as a traditional pub, and on the day of my visit, doing rather well.

This is my father’s 1952 photo of The Goat Tavern in Stafford Street:

Goat Tavern

The same view in July 2019:

Goat Tavern

The distinctive feature of a goat still projects proudly from the front of the building. Shutters still flank the windows. I suspect that since 1952 the interior of the pub may have converted from separate Public and Saloon bars to a single bar, hence the change of the ground floor frontage to the street where the two original doors have been replaced by a single door.

The Goat Tavern is in Stafford Street, a street just north of Piccadilly. Stafford Street runs between Old Bond Street and Dover Street, crossing Albemarle Street. I have ringed Stafford Street in the following map extract  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Goat Tavern

Stafford Street was built in 1686, part of London’s westerly expansion when a number of the old large private house and grounds lining Piccadilly were demolished to be replaced by the streets we see today.

Clarendon House and grounds originally occupied the space now occupied by Stafford Street, Albemarle and Dover Streets. Built in 1667 by Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon who fled abroad soon after completion of the house. He had occupied senior positions at court and was influential in arranging Charles II marriage to Catherine of Braganza. He was blamed, probably unfairly, for a number of state problems, including the failure of Catherine to bear children.

He died in 1674, and the house and grounds were sold to Christopher Monk, the 2nd Duke of Albemarle in 1675. The property was sold again in 1683 to Sir Thomas Bond, who demolished the house, and Dover, Albemarle, Old Bond, Stafford and Grafton Streets were laid out (which gives an indication of the size of the property as it stretched all the way from Piccadilly to where the northern edge of Grafton Street is today).

The street is named after Margaret Stafford, one of Sir Thomas Bond’s partners in the development.

Albemarle Street is named after the 2nd Duke of Ablemarle, Old Bond Street after Sir Thomas Bond and Grafton Street after the 2nd Duke of Grafton who purchased part of the still undeveloped land at the north of the old Clarendon property and completed Grafton Street. Dover Street is named after Henry Jermyn, Baron Dover, also one of Sir Thomas Bond’s partners in the development.

Not one of the new streets laid out on the site of the original Clarendon House was named after either the house, or Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon. Although after his death his body was returned from France and buried in Westminster Abbey, his reputation must still have been tarnished which prevented his title or name being used to name any of the streets built on his former property.

The Goat Tavern dates from this original development as the first public house on the site dates from 1686, but I cannot find any references as to the origin of the name.

The London Encyclopedia states that the Goat Tavern was rebuilt in 1958, however looking at my father’s photo and the view of the Goat today, there does not appear to be much of a change, apart from the ground floor facade, and probably the interior of the pub, so this may be a reference to when the new facade was created, rather than to a rebuild of the building.

The ground floor facade of The Goat Tavern:

Goat Tavern

As with the majority of other London pubs, the Goat Tavern supported a number of functions, not just drinking. Clubs met at the pub, it was used for sales and auctions, and inquests into local deaths were all held in the Goat – a good example of why these establishments were called Public Houses.

Rather strangely for a pub in this location, the Goat Tavern seems to have had a naval connection. The pub’s entry in “The London Encyclopedia” states that Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton met here.

The pub was also a meeting place and unofficial club for naval officers. Meeting at the pub was banned during the 1st World War as the authorities were concerned that naval officers meeting in a London pub would divulge operational details, putting ships and sailors at risk of enemy action. There is a reference to this in The Bystander on the 7th April 1937:

“The coming-of-age dinner of the Goat Club the other night, with Admiral of the Fleet Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt as guest of honour, must evoke for large numbers of chaps the agreeably eighteenth century air of romance surrounding the Goat Club’s foundation. Most people know how, in 1915, when the Admiralty prohibited naval officers in uniform from visiting licensed premises, the lady of the Goat Tavern in Stafford Street, Piccadilly, known to all and admired by every ward and gun room in the entire Navy as ‘Bobby’, wrote to Their Lordships asking if she mightn’t form a club to keep ‘my huge family’ together; how Their Lordships gracefully bowed to the lady’s wishes; and how the Goat Club started in Regent Street, to the great content of 2000 officers of H.M. ships of war and, undoubtedly, to the great vexing of an almost equal number of enemy spies.”

Remarkable to imagine that this pub, tucked away north of Piccadilly, was once known throughout the navy, with officers meeting in the pub and enemy spies trying to discover naval secrets from drunken sailors.

An event in 1822 provides an indication of how those employed as servants were treated, from an advert in the Morning Advertiser on the 9th May 1822:

” FIVE POUNDS Reward – LEFT, about Four o’clock this afternoon in the tap-room of the Goat, Stafford Street by a servant, who will have to make the amount good, a SMALL PARCEL, containing eight Table-spoons, and twelve ditto Desert ditto, cypher E.B. Whoever has found and will bring the same to Mr. Lilford, at the bar of the said house, shall receive the above reward.”

I bet the five pounds reward was also deducted from the servants pay if the missing items were returned.

In the 1952 photo, the pub only had the statue of a goat on the front of the building. In 2019, the pub has both a statue of a goat and also a pub sign.

Goat Tavern

The following is an extract from my father’s 1952 photo. The goat is a different model to the one we see today, and the platform on which the goat stands states that the pub had been licensed for over 100 years.

Goat Tavern

Stafford Street is a relatively short street of around 105 metres, however according to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, there were 3 pubs in Stafford Street at the end of the 19th century (I have a theory which I have not had the time to either prove or disprove that the decades either side of the year 1900 were London’s “peak pub” period).

I walked along Stafford Street to see if the other two pubs were still in existence.

On the corner of Stafford Street and Ablemarle Street is The King’s Head in a rather nice 19th century building.

Goat Tavern

The next pub should have been on the corner of Stafford Street and Dover Street, however the ground floor is now occupied by a shop.

Goat Tavern

This was the Duke of Ablemarle pub, a pub that appears to be from the original building of the streets, however closed in 2006.

The LMA Collage archive has a photo of the Duke of Ablemarle as it appeared in 1944:

Goat Tavern

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0963_F2333

If you look above the shop today, the black panel that extends along the length of both sides of the building has the pub name, the year 1686 as the year the pub was established, along with other typical pub wording.

Goat Tavern

The style and state of this writing gives the impression that this is of some age, however looking at the photo of the pub in 1944, the pub has the black panel extending along both sides with the pub name in large letters, however I cannot see the writing that appears today.

It had either been covered in the 1944 photo, or had been added after 1944 – I suspect the later.

The ground floor of the old Duke of Ablemarle in Dover Street.

Goat Tavern

Given how fast pubs have been disappearing in central London, two out of three remaining in a relatively short street is a good result.

None of the original buildings from the 17th century development of Stafford Street remain, although looking at the building that was the Duke of Ablemarle pub, I would not be surprised if there was part of the original corner building remaining in the existing structure.

The majority of the buildings look to be 20th century, although the King’s Head pub is 19th century.

There is a variety of architectural styles and use of materials in the buildings that line the street today. Some having some rather nice features, often hard to see.

On the corner of Stafford Street and Old Bond Street is Swan House.

Goat Tavern

The ground floor is currently a Saint Laurent shop, but along Stafford Street is a rather nice building name:

Goat Tavern

And if you peer at the top of the building, there are some not easy to see features:

Goat Tavern

Further down is Stafford House:

Goat Tavern

Stafford House gives the impression that one architect has designed the ground and first floors, then a second architect has completed the second and third floors to a completely different design.

The Goat Tavern is a lovely pub with a fascinating history. I hope the Goat continues to stand proudly overlooking Stafford Street for many years to come.

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