Monthly Archives: June 2024

London Maps in Books

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If you have been reading the blog for a while, you will know that I am fascinated by London maps, and make use of a number of maps in many of my posts.

They can help us understand the development of London in many different ways. They are a snapshot of the city at the time they were made, showing the limits of development at a specific time. They record change, and they show features of the city, man-made and natural, that have long since disappeared under the built city we see today.

They can show different interpretations of the city, they can show how people at the time the map was made interpreted the city, what was important to them.

There are some brilliant online mapping sites, such as the National Library of Scotland and Layers of London, however nothing beats the feel of a paper map in your hands.

Many of these maps can be found in books. Large, fold out maps, or even better, a pocket at the end of the book stuffed with a number of maps. You do not find this with the majority of books published today, probably down to cost, however it was once a more common feature, and for today’s post, I have a small sample.

At the start of the 20th century, Sir Walter Besant published a series of books on the history of London, and a number of these included maps.

(You should be able to click on the maps to open a larger image)

In “London In The Time Of The Tudors” (1904) there is:

A Reproduction of the Map by Ralph Agas, Circa 1560

Although the map is known as the Agas map, it appears to be an incorrect attribution. Ralph Agas was a surveyor who lived between 1540 and 1621, however there is no firm evidence that he was the creator of the map, and the coat of arms at the top left of the map is not from the Tudor period, but is the Stuart coat of arms, and the version of the map that survives is believed to date from around 1633.

At the time the map was made, the population of the city was around 350,000, and was still mainly contained within the old City walls, although there were small areas of building outside the walls, for example the route from the City to Westminster can be seen with buildings either side of what is now Fleet Street and the Strand, and the Eleanor Cross can be seen at Charing Cross.

The following extract shows the City of London:

In the following extract, the River Fleet can be seen from the point where it enters the Thames, then heading north where the two crossing points at what is now Ludgate Circus and Holborn Viaduct can be seen, before the river starts wandering to the north:

In the next book in Besant’s series, “London In The Time Of The Stuarts”, we then have:

A Large And Accurate Map Of The City Of London (John Ogilby, 1670s)

John Ogilby was a printer and publisher, translator, Master of the Revels in Ireland, he had served in the Army, and in the period after the Great Fire of London, he created a detailed and carefully surveyed map of the City of London.

There are some significant changes to the City we see today, however there is much that is basically the same (although the buildings will be very different).

In the following extract, the Wool Church Market is where Mansion House is today, and to the right is Cornhill, with the Royal Exchange and the churches of St. Michael Cornhill and St. Peter Cornhill, and there are the same alleys between Cornhill and Lombard Street that we can walk today, although between 19th and 20th century buildings, rather than those Ogilby would have known:

The map still shows the River Fleet in the 1670s, as a channel running up from the Thames, with what looks to be walkways along both sides of the river, between the Thames and Holborn:

After publishing his map of the City of London, Ogilby published perhaps his best known work, “Britannia”, which was a map of the routes between the principal towns and cities of the country.

For Britannia, Ogilby used the innovative method of a strip map, where the route was shown running along a series of strips, with the main geographic features, towns and villages, houses, side roads etc. that could be found along the route.

The following map is the strip map for the route from the Standard in Cornhill (a water pump at the eastern end of Cornhill, and one of the places in London used as the base for measuring distances) to Portsmouth in Hampshire:

In the text in the box at the top, the distance is given as 73 miles and 2 furlongs, and John Ogilby is given the rather grand title of His Majesties Cosmographer, a title given to Ogilby by King Charles II.

We then come to the book “London in the Eighteenth Century”, and:

London in 1741-5 by John Rocque

Rocque’s map is one of the maps I use regularly in blog posts, as it provides a comprehensive view of the city, including the wider, as yet undeveloped part of the city.

The River Fleet can still be seen, but it is now starting to be built over, and where the Fleet runs into the Thames is now Blackfriars Bridge:

Looking to the west of Rocque’s map, and we can see Chelsea Water Works (roughly where Victoria Station, and the tracks leading out of the station are today). About 70 years after Rocque’s map, Chelsea Water Works would be closed and the space backfilled with the soil excavated for the new St. Katherine Docks.

We now come to “London in the Nineteenth Century”, and the city is expanding rapidly. The time when the city was enclosed within the old city wall as shown in the Agas map is long gone. This is:

Cruchley’s New Plan of London improved to 1835

London has expanded rapidly, however there were still fields to the east and west, land that would be built on during the rest of the 19th century and early 20th century.

Part of the city’s expansion has been to the east, as trade carried along the river has grown considerably, and the original wharves and docks in the heart of the City were no longer capable of supporting the volume of goods and the size of ships.

If we look to the Isle of Dogs, we can see the West India Docks which were built in the early 19th century, and below these docks, we can see the outline for some proposed new docks, each capable of supporting 200 ships:

One of the early roads that ran through the Isle of Dogs to the ferry at the southern tip can be seen running across the outline of the new docks.

The docks would not be built as shown in Cruchley’s map, the new docks would be the southern dock below the West India, and the Millwall Dock.

Another book with an impressive fold out map is Henry Chamberlain’s:

A New and Complete History and Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, and Parts Adjacent

The book dates from 1770, and has a large fold out map of the city in that year:

Again, there are plenty of little details which show the city at the time, and if we look at the top of the map, there is New River Head and Sadlers Wells:

New River Head was the large pond built at the end of the man-made New River that brought water in from springs around Ware in Hertfordshire, ready for onward distribution across London.

Sadlers Wells was named after a well and the first owner of the site and the entertainment venure he developed.

At the time, the land between Sadlers Wells and the city, was still open land, as the map shows, and was a risky place for those returning from a night at Sadlers Wells to their city homes, with many reports of theft across what would have been dark fields.

If we look at the area of Lambeth covered by the map, we can see at the time there were no other bridges between Blackfriars and Westminster Bridges, and we can see one of the pleasure gardens south of the river, Cuper Gardens, which is where the approach to Waterloo Bridge and the large roundabout at the end of the approach road are located today.

Narrow Wall can be seen on the map, one of the early attempts to stop the river from encroaching on the land and reclaiming Lambeth Marsh. Narrow Wall is today Belverdere Road and Upper Ground.

The next book is “A Dictionary of London” by Henry Harben (1918). This book has a pocket at the end, in which there are a selection of maps. The first being:

A Map of the Cities of London & Westminster and the Borough of Southwark together with the suburbs, 1708

Some of the maps in Harben’s book are based on several different maps to provide coverage and detail not seen within one individual map. The above map is based on “Hatton’s New View 1708, but it incorporates material supplied in Philip Lea’s map of 1673, John Ogilby’s of 1677 and Morden & Lea’s map of 1682. Further details come from Richard Blome’s ward maps published in Stryp’s edition of Stowe, 1720”.

The benefit of this composite approach is the level of detail in one map, and in the following extract we can see the stairs and houses along the river between the mouth of the Fleet and the horse ferry in Westminster:

Interesting that in St. James’s Park there is a feature labelled “Decoy”. This may have been a pond where ducks, or other waterfowl would be lured into and trapped. The benefit of such a place was that if they were to be served as meat for food, then not having been shot, they would not contain lead shot.

The next map in Harben’s book is the product of three maps, and is titled:

A Map of London about 1660. The Ground Plan is based on Hutton 1708. The details from Faithorne and Newcourt Circa 1658

Again, there are many small details. Wapping is mainly built along the river and along the Ratcliffe Highway, and the area of Rotherhithe is using the old name of Redriff.

There is one, small detail I really like. Take a look at Limehouse to the east, and next to the small indentation from the river (Limekiln Dock, see this post), there is a drawing of a lime kiln:

The lime kiln is shown in the correct location for the first lime kiln in the area, and is the structure that would give Limehouse its name. The accuracy of the image extends to the smoke issuing from the top of the kiln, from the burning of chalk brought up from Kent.

We then come to:

Map of London shows its size at the end of the 16th century. The ground plan is for convenience based on the plan in Hatton’s New View 1708. The main details are from Norden 1593 & Speed 1610

In this series of maps from Harben’s book, we have been going back in time, and this map shows the city at the end of the 16th century, overlaid on a plan of 1708.

It shows a much smaller city, and there are details which show just how undeveloped parts of London were at the time.

The area south of the river, where much of Lambeth is located today, is labelled Lambeth Marsh, and has the symbols for a marsh along with some lines of trees.

The area between Narrow Wall and the Thames are areas of agriculture, with inlets leading from the river up to Narrow Wall. This area between Narrow Wall and the river was used for agricultural purposes, such as growing reeds.

Some of the maps in Harben’s book show how you can add additional detail to a map, and these are the pre-Internet versions of the Layers of London site, for example:

Plan of London in the 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries Superimposed on the Present Ordnance Survey Plan

The above map is the Eastern Sheet and the map below is the Western Sheet:

A small detail from the map shows the outline of the pre-Great Fire St. Paul’s Cathedral overlaid on the outline of Wren’s cathedral which we see today, showing a slight change in orientation and size:

Another of Harben’s maps where has overlaid data on a street plan is a:

Plan of London showing the Levels of the Natural ground below the present Surface, the Line of the Roman Wall of the City, and the Sites of Discoveries of Roman remains etc.

Walking the city streets today, it is hard to appreciate just how much land levels have changed over the last couple of thousand years.

Centuries of dumping of building rubble, accumulations of rubbish, waste and soils, demolition rubble from events such as the Great Fire, leveling of the city, for example, the land running down to the Thames (when Queen Victoria Street was built, parts were raised to level out the street), covering of rivers such as the Fleet and the Walbrook etc. have all contributed to raising the ground level of the city.

The lowest levels where evidence of human occupation of the city are those from the Roman period, and in the map, Harden has located where remains have been found, and the level below the current surface, for example, as shown in this extract showing the area around Cripplegate and London Wall:

One of the best places where this raising of surface levels can be seen is the part of the Roman Wall shown in the above map, which is preserved in the underground car park below London Wall. Whilst there are many runs of the wall above ground in the area, these are all medieval, we have to look below the surface to get down to the Roman Wall, as can be seen in this post where I photographed the wall in the car park.

A small sample of some of the old maps of London that show how the city has developed over the centuries, and finding an old book with a large folding map, or even better, a pocket at the end of the book stuffed with maps is always a bonus.

Some of the other maps I have looked at in the blog are Reynolds’s Splendid New Map Of London , the 1944 report on the Reconstruction of the City of London, and the 1943 London County Council Plan for the redevelopment of London.

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Sunderland Wharf and Ordnance Wharf, Rotherhithe

One of the pleasures of writing the blog is finding out more about an area I have already covered. Back in February I wrote a post about Horn Stairs, Cuckold’s Point and Horn Fair, and whilst at the stairs I had walk around Rotherhithe Street, and a block of flats seemed vaguely familiar.

Back home I looked through the photos of a boat trip my father had taken along the Thames in August 1948, and found the flats I walked past in Rotherhithe Street.

This is the August 1948 photo of Sunderland Wharf and Ordnance Wharf, Rotherhithe, with the block of flats in the background:

The same view, seventy six years later in 2024:

in the following image, I have mapped the 1948 photo to that of 2024. The flats are just about visible behind the new houses which line the river. I have also marked where the tall building and the chimney nearest the river were located in the area as seen today:

The area covered by today’s post, is highlighted within the red oval in the following map  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

There is a whole sequence of photos that my father had taken in August 1948 on a boat trip from Westminster to Greenwich. I have already featured a number in the blog, but there are a number where there are no easily identifiable features, such as a wharf name on a building, and the buildings along the banks of the river, particularly on the south side, have changed so much that identifiable features are rare.

Luckily, it was finding the block of flats that enabled the location in this photo to be identified.

The series of photos show a very different London to the east of Tower Bridge. Significant bomb damage and an area of warehouses and industry, often very dirty and polluting industry.

The following extract is from the 1949 revision of the Ornance Survey map, so only one year after my father’s photo, and the features in the photo can be seen in the map.

I have highlighted them as follows:

  • Dark blue arrow – the block of flats seen in the background
  • Red arrow – the remaining tall and narrow building
  • Green arrow – the chimney nearest the river to the right of the photo
  • Light blue arrow – possibly the second chimney in the photo. It appears further back in the map than in the photo. This may be down to the perspective of the photo, or possibly an error with the map

 (Map ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“)

The area in the 1948 photo consisted of a number of wharves, as can be seen in the above map.

The land between the flats and the river was Ordnance Wharf. I cannot find the use of the wharf immediately before the war and subsequent bomb damage, however the type of industry that occupied Ordnance Wharf can be seen in the following newspaper article from April 1883:

“DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN ROTHERHITHE – At about midnight, a fire, which was attended with the most disastrous consequences, broke out in the extensive oil-cake mills at Ordnance Wharf, Rotherhithe, London, S.E. The premises, which consisted of six buildings, each of three floors were occupied by a French firm, Messrs Francoise and Joseph Badart Freres, who carry on a large business as oil-cake merchants in the south-east districts.

How the fire originated remains a mystery, but in a very few minutes it gained a complete mastery of the buildings, enveloping them in a mass of flame which made it quite impossible for even the firemen who were first on the spot to attempt to effect an entrance.”

The entire site was destroyed in a couple of hours, and the fire burnt until six in the evening, and a large number of men then had to be employed to keep the site damped down so fires would not restart.

Oil cake seems to have been the product made from the oil released from many different types of seeds.

The book London Wharves and Docks, published in 1953 by Commercial Motor does not have an entry for Ordnance Wharf, so I assume it remained derelict after the war.

The next Wharf is Sunderland Wharf, the area to the right of the tall, narrow buildings and up to the chimneys. In 1953, the occupier of the wharf was listed as Bermondsey Borough Council, and use of the wharf was listed as “Disposal of house and trade refuse by barge”.

The location of the chimneys, and the building to the right, most of which is not shown in the photo was Upper Ordnance Wharf. In 1953 this was still a working industrial site, and was occupied by H.J. Enthoven and Sons, Ltd, who processed non-ferrous metals, coal, coke and iron ore, and seem to have been mainly processing the metal lead.

An extract from part of my father’s 1948 photo shows some of the infrastructure at Upper Ordnance Wharf. These look as if they were used to funnel materials from the factory site down into barges on the foreshore:

A highly industrial site, along with a number of derelict areas after wartime damage.

it is very different today, as I found with a walk around the site.

This is Rotherhithe Street, with the blocks of flats on the left. The block in the 1948 photo is the one furthest on the left:

The block of flats seen in the 1948 photo, and which enable the location to be identified is shown in the photo below. The distinctive middle section, where brick rises up above the entrance to the flats, the full height up above the upper attic space, which gives the central section a top of a flat wall of brick:

The estate of which the above block is part is Acorn Walk. Built in the 1930s, the estate consists of a number of similar blocks of flats as shown in the following estate map. The block in the 1948 photo is the block at upper right:

The name Acorn Walk comes from Upper Acorn Yard, a flat space for storing timber on which part of the estate was built, and Acorn Pond, an expanse of water a short distance to the south which was also used for storing timber.

Walking up to the river’s edge, and this is the view along what was Ordnance Wharf. The tall narrow building in my father’s 1948 photo was where the taller section of the terrace of houses, the one with the structure on the roof with cupola and weather vane, can be seen:

At the end of the above terrace is the following view, where Sunderland Wharf and then Upper Ordnance Wharf. and the H.J. Enthoven industrial premises were located. The funnels in the extract from the photo that tipped material down into barges were were the furthest trees on the right can be seen:

I had walked along the river walkway earlier in the year for the post on Horn Stairs, not realising that this was the location of one of my father’s photo. The following photo is looking back towards the warehouses of Canada Wharf taken from the edge of the 1948 photo, so these warehouse would have been to the left or east of Ordnance Wharf:

Horn Stairs is at the base of the Canada Wharf warehouse, the bottom left corner of the building in the above photo, so I went to take a look at the stairs.

I remarked in my post back in February, on the poor condition of the stairs, and how the upper steps seemed to be deteriorating badly, and just under six months later, the top step has disappeared, leaving a gap between the concrete edge of the walkway and the stairs, and the next couple of steps do not look all that robust.

The tide had been coming in for a few hours when I visited, so the foreshore was covered, and the navigation marker at the end of the causeway leading out from the stairs was isolated in the waters of the river:

To show just how wide is the range of the tide along the river, compare the above photo with the following photo taken for my Horn Stairs post which shows the navigation marker at low tide, with the remains of the causeway fully exposed, and the above photo had not yet reached high tide, and it was not one of the occasional very high tides.

Rotherhithe is really fascinating, and I will be writing more blog posts about the area in the coming months. To get from the north side of the river where I had taken the comparison photos from across the river, to the Rotherhithe side, I used the Thames Clipper / Uber boat route RB4, which is a dedicated route between Canary Wharf and the Doubletree Hotel in Rotherhithe.

This is a brilliant route across the river, and lands at the Doubletree Hotel where as far I can tell, the route to the street is through the hotel lobby (or at least that is the route I have always taken).

The following photos cover the short section of street from the Doubletree Hotel to the site of the 1948 photo, starting with this view looking along Rotherhithe Street:

The first building is this rather ornate house, which dates from the mid 18th century, and is not the type of building you would expect to find with so much industry between the street and river:

This is Nelson House and the building is Grade II* listed, and was a shipbuilder’s house. It reflects a time when this part of the river was not end to end industrialisation, but was small industry associated with the river, such as timber yards and shipbuilders, along with their owners and workers homes, including those who made good money from their river businesses. Inland from Rotherhithe Street when the house was built, it was all still fields.

The house was included in the 1972 Architects’ Journal feature “New Deal for East London”, on the possible threats to many of the historic buildings of east London (both north and south of the river. See this post for more information on the 1972 article).

The following photo shows the house in the early 1970s, with the name of the last Thames focused business to occupy the building:

Next along Rotherhithe Street are the buildings of Mills & Knight at Nelson Dock:

Nelson Dock had long been a slipway into the river and there was also a dry dock where ships could be taken in from the river, the water drained out, allowing the hull to be worked on in the dry.

The 1953 London Wharves and Docks publication still lists the site as providing these services.

We then come to the Blacksmiths Arm:

There may have been a pub here in the late 18th century, but the first written reference to the Blacksmiths Arms that I can find is from the London Morning Advertiser on the 2nd of May, 1823, when particulars for an estate that was for sale could be had at the Blacksmiths Arms, Cuckolds Point.

Given that Cuckholds Point was the area of foreshore at the base of Horn Stairs, I suspect that this is the same pub.

The current building dates from the mid to late 19th century, and the interior and the mock Tudor frontage dates from the 1930s.

We then come to the part of Canada Wharf that faces onto Rotherhithe Street:

Along this stretch of Rotherhithe Street is an unusual reminder of one of the earlier attempts at providing a river boat service – a reminder of some London transport history:

The White Horse company ran a ferry along the river from Canary Wharf and Rotherhithe to the City, opening in June 1999. In 2000, they also ran the ferry service from Greenwich, by the Cutty Sark, to the Millennium Dome.

Both services closed in 2001, and the assets of the company were put up for sale, so the above sign represents a ferry service that ran for two short years.

I am pleased I found the location of the 1948 photo, one of those I thought might be a challenge, and a photo that highlights just how much Rotherhithe has changed.

Now for some extra content after a walk through the City last week:

A Transformation for All Hallows Staining

Back in 2018, I wrote a post based on my father’s photo of the tower of All Hallows Staining, all that remained of the original church:

Walking through the City last week and although I knew there was a major redevelopment planned, the sight of the church tower standing alone in the rubble of the demolished buildings that once surrounded the tower was rather stunning:

The construction site is surrounded by tall wooden hoardings that you cannot see over, however holding my camera above the wooden wall, and lots of random clicking revealed the following scene, where the area around the tower has been demolished down to ground level, revealing the basements of the demolished buildings:

I have written about the history of the church, and some of the surrounding alleys in my post All Hallows Staining and Star Alley, which you can read by clicking here, so I will not repeat the history of the area in this post.

The site was the home to the post-war version of Clothworkers Hall, and the Clothworkers’ Company have had a hall on the site since 1528. The Clothworkers’ Company also own the land and will have a new hall built as part of the overall redevelopment.

The documentation that goes with the development (called 50 Fenchurch Street) states that it sits on the “southern edge of the City’s eastern tower cluster”, and this can be seen in the following photo:

As well as a new hall for the Clothworkers’ Company, the development will consist of a 36 storey commercial tower, which will have a new public roof garden, which seems mandatory in recent City developments.

The tower will have “Innovative vertical urban greening to mitigate air and noise pollution, and improve biodiversity”, and there will be a new public realm at ground level, which will include access to the church tower and to the crypt of Lamb’s Chapel, which was originally at Monkwell Street, now under the Barbican Development (I wrote about Lamb’s Chapel in this post).

The view of the tower and building site from Mark Lane:

And from Fenchurch Street, where a lone pillar from one of the demolished buildings remains:

Whilst the buildings that were demolished were of no real architectural or historical interest, and the Clothworkers’ Company will remain on a site they have occupied for hundreds of years in the latest iteration of their hall, what is often ignored and lost is the historical layout of the streets and alleys.

In the following extract from Rocque’s 1746 map of London, I have highlighted the church (red arrow), Clothworkers’ Hall (green arrow) and an alley by the name of Star Alley (red arrow):

Although surrounded by post-war buildings, Star Alley, as a physical alley that you could walk, existed all the way up to the recent demolition, in the same alignment as in the 1746 map.

It may survive in some form in the new development, either studs on the ground, different types of paving, or a name of a walkway through the new tower, but the alley will have been lost, and for me, it is the loss of this historic streetscape which is worse than the loss of the post-war buildings or the build of a new tower.

I finished off my 2018 post with the following paragraph:

“It is remarkable that the tower of All Hallows Staining has survived for so long without a functioning church. The tower, churchyard, Star Alley, Dunster Court and the Clothworkers’ Hall form a small City landscape that is the same as mapped in 1746 and may date back to around 1456 when the Shearmen (the predecessors of the Clothworkers’ Company) purchased the land in Mincing Lane.”

Little did I know that six years later, apart from the tower of All Hallows Staining, everything else would be gone.

The Clothworkers’ Company have a page on the development on their website which can be found by clicking here.

And for an online PowerPoint presentation on the development, with lots of images on the new development, click here.

Sunderland Wharf and Ordnance Wharf, and All Hallows Staining – just two examples of just how much London changes over time.

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The Guinness Festival Clock, London Clock Makers and the Corn Laws

One ticket for my walk Limehouse – A Sink of Iniquity and Degradation for next Sunday has just become free. Click here for details and booking.

A mix of subjects for this week’s post, the first comes from my fascination with all things Festival of Britain, and where we can see aspects of the festival to this day.

Part of the Festival of Britain in 1951 was the Festival Pleasure Gardens at Battersea. I wrote a post about the pleasure gardens which can be found by clicking here.

The Pleasure Gardens were where people could have some fun. The other London exhibitions, such as the main festival site on the Southbank, and the Exhibition of Architecture in Poplar, were intended to be educational and informative. To tell a story of the history of the country and the people, industry, science, design, arts etc.

The Battersea Pleasure Gardens were also different to the rest of the festival sites, in that the Pleasure Gardens allowed commercial sponsorship, which covered not just advertising and sponsorship of places and events in the gardens, but also the provision of display items by commercial companies.

These had to go along with the general theme of the Pleasure Gardens – they had to provide some form of entertainment, fun, enjoyment, and one of the more prominent of these commercial displays was the Guinness Festival Clock:

I was recently in Ireland, which included a couple of days in Dublin, and a mandatory visit to the Guinness Storehouse, their rather impressive and very popular visitor centre in the city.

One of the floors in the centre is devoted to Guinness advertising over the years, and I was really pleased to find they had a large model of the Guinness Festival Clock:

The Guinness Festival Clock was one of the most popular attractions at the pleasure gardens. Every quarter of an hour it would burst into action with characters appearing and moving, the triangular vanes at the top opening and spinning and doors opening at the lower front to reveal the Guinness Toucan.

The Guinness Festival Clock was designed by the partnership of Lewitt-Him.

Lewitt-Him were two designers who had come to London in 1937 from Poland. Both were from Jewish families.

Jan LeWitt was born in Czestochowa in 1907. After three years travelling across Europe and the Middle East, he started work as a graphic artist and designer, and was also involved in practical activities such as machine building and in a distillery.

George Him (who had changed his name from Jerzy Himmelfarb) came from Lodz, where he was born in 1900. He had a more academic start in life, initially studying Roman Law, then obtaining a PhD in the comparative history of religions. He then began to study graphic art, and in 1933 met Jan LeWitt, and started collaborating on designs, where their style was described as being “surrealistic, cubist and with humour”.

Their move to London was possible as their work had been brought to the attention of Philip James at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Peter Gregory at the publishers Lund Humphries.

Their move to London was timely as two years later Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, and their Jewish background would have meant almost certain death.

The outbreak of war also created significant demand for their skills, with the need for graphic designers to work on numerous books, posters, pamphlets and maps, many of which were in support of the war effort.

After the war, they continued to work on a wide range of projects, from commercial advertising, illustrations for books and magazines, and exhibitions.

One of the first post-war exhibitions in which they were involved was the “Britain Can Make It” exhibition in 1947 at the Victoria and Albert Museum. As with the future Festival of Britain, the 1947 exhibition was intended to show the technical and manufacturing capabilities of the country, as there was a need to dramatically increase exports and a national demand for foreign currency due to the impact of the war on the country’s finances.

The “Britain Can Make It” exhibition became known as the “Britain Can’t Have It” exhibition, as the products on display were aimed at the export market, rather than being available for domestic customers.

Four years later, and the type of design that included Lewitt-Him’s approach to surrealism and humour could be found across the Festival of Britain, with the Guinness Festival Clock being a perfect example.

The festival clock at the Guinness Storehouse is a working replica, and the following short video shows the clock in action, along with a screen to the side of the clock, showing the original Guinness Festival Clock at Battersea (if you receive the post via email, you may need to go to the website by clicking here to see the video):

The popularity of the Guinness Festival Clock was such that Guinness commissioned eight full size travelling clocks, which then travelled across Ireland and the coastal resorts of Britain. Two of these clocks were also sent to the US, so Lewitt-Him’s work for the Festival of Britain ended up providing a very successful means of advertising for Guinness.

The Guinness advert from the Guide to the Festival Pleasure Gardens included a view of the clock, and a poem about the Walrus and the Carpenter’s visit to the Southbank festival site and the pleasure gardens in Battersea:

The Lewitt-Him partnership ended in 1955, as Jan LeWitt wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects, including the design of sets and costumes for ballets held at Sadlers Wells, whilst George Him continued as a commercial graphic designer with a large portfolio of customers for his advertising work.

They both continued to be based in London, until George Him’s death in 1981 and Jan Lewitt’s death in 1991.

Now back to London, but continuing with a clock based theme.

At the junction of Fleet Street and Whitefriars Street, next to the Tipperary pub, there are two rectangular blue plaques on the curved façade of the corner building:

The plaque on the Fleet Street side of the building records that two famous clockmakers, Thomas Tompion and George Graham both lived at the site:

I will start with Thomas Tompion as he was the elder of the two, and was more influential in the manufacture of watches and clocks, and could be described, as stated on the plaque, as the “The Father of English Clockmaking”.

The plaque states that he was born in 1638, but the majority of sources give his date of birth as 1639, in Northill, Bedfordshire (for example Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service, and the Science Museum). Only one year, but an example of how it is difficult to be exactly sure of dates with the distance of time, and for those who were not born into a well known and documented family.

He arrived in London in 1671, and it was his meeting with Robert Hooke three years later that would help make his name as a clockmaker.

By 1674 Tompion appears to be living and working in Water Lane, the original name of Whitefriars Street, when it ran from Fleet Street all the way down to the Thames. Strype’s 1720 description of the lane is not that flattering:

“a good broad and straight street, which cometh out of Fleet Street and runneth down to the Thames, where there is one of the City Lay-stalls, for the Soil of the Street. This Lane is better built than inhabited, by reason of its being so pestered with Carts to the Laystall and Wharfs, for Wood, Coals &c, lying by the Water side at the bottom of this lane.”

The relationship with Hooke seems to have brought Tompion plenty of information about ways of making clocks and watches, and new developments in the profession, for example, one of the mentions of Tompion in Hooke’s diary is this, from the 2nd of May, 1674 (note that Hooke calls him Tomkin in his early diary entries, but then changes to the correct spelling):

“To Tomkin in Water Lane. Much discourse with him about watches. Told him the way of making an engine for finishing wheels and a way to make a dividing plate; about the form of an arch; another way of Teeth work, about pocket watches and many other things”

Tompion, along with Hooke met King Charles II on the 7th of April, 1675, when Hooke showed the King his new spring watch which was one of Hooke’s attempts at designing a watch that would enable the calculation of longitude at sea. This required very stable time keeping, compensating for the movement of a ship and changing weather.

Charles II requested that a watch be made for him, and Tompion built the watch to Hooke’s design, however this seems to have caused a breakdown in their relationship, as Hooke was frequently complaining to Tompion that he was taking too long to finish the project.

Things did not go well after completion, as after the watch was presented to the King, he complained to Hooke that “the weather had altered the watch”. Hooke’s deign had not yet factored in temperature compensation.

Thomas Tompion:

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Despite any issues with the watch for the King (which appears to have been mainly Hooke’s design), Tompion’s reputation as a clock and watch maker grew rapidly. He experimented with a number of designs and manufacturing techniques to improve the reliability and accuracy of his clocks and watches, and these variations can be seen in a number of his clocks that survive.

The following watch is an example of Tompion’s work from the period 1700 to 1713:

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The following side view provides an indication of the complexity of early 18th century watch manufacturing. For reference, the watch is just over 29 millimetres thick and the diameter of the dial is 41 millimetres:

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

From about 1685, Tompion started to number his clocks and watches, so it is possible to estimate how many he produced. Somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 watches and around 550 clocks.

Thomas Tompion died in 1713, and as the plaque informs, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

His reputation as a watch and clock maker would continue for long after his death, as this advert from the Kentish Weekly Post on the 17th of June, 1732 illustrates:

“This is to give notice that all sorts of watches are made, mended and sold by Samuel Kissar, who is lately removed from St. Margaret’s-street to the Crown and Dial in Bargate-street, Canterbury.

N.B. He has a watch to sell made by Mr. Thomas Tompion, it being one of the best watches in Kent.”

An eight-day clock by Tompion from between 1695 and 1705:

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

As Thomas Tompion became successful, he needed help in his workshops, and this led to him taking on additional staff, which is where George Graham, the second name on the plaque comes in.

George Graham started working for Tompion in 1696 when he was employed at the age of 23 as a journeyman (a trained worker), as he had already completed an apprenticeship with another clock maker, Henry Aske.

A few years earlier in 1687, Tompion had taken on Edward Banger as an apprentice.

Both Graham and Banger married in to the wider Tompion family, as George Graham married Elizabeth, who was the daughter of Tompion’s younger brother James, and Edward Banger married Margaret, the daughter of Tompion’s sister, also Margaret.

The practice of senior workers and apprentices marrying into the owner’s family seems to have been reasonably common.

George Graham became a key member of Tompion’s business and he seems to have had the same attention to detail as Tompion, as well as an approach to improvement and invention with the increasing accuracy and performance of clocks and watches.

George Graham was also a well known astronomical instrument maker as these instruments shared many features with clocks and watches where metal working was needed, with instruments built with increasing accuracy (whether measuring time, or the position of a star in the sky).

As far as I can tell, Thomas Tampion died without having had any children who could take over the business. He left the business to George Graham, who announced this in the London Gazette in December 1713: “George Graham, nephew of the late Mr. Thomas Tompion, who lived with him upwards of seventeen years and managed his trade for several years past, whose name was joined with Mr. Tompion’s for some time before his death, and to whom he had left all his stock and work, finished and unfinished, continues to carry on the said trade at the late Dwelling House of the said Mr. Tompion, at the sign of the Dial & Three Crowns, at the corner of Water Lane, in Fleet Street, London, where all persons may be accommodated as formerly.”

Seven years later, George Graham moved a short distance, and announced in the London Gazette in March 1721: “George Graham, watchmaker is removed from the corner of Water Lane, in Fleet Street, to the Dial & One Crown on the other side of the way, a little nearer Fleet Bridge, a new house next door to the Globe and Duke of Marlborough’s Head Tavern”.

What is interesting with these announcements is the description of the place where George Graham was located. They are all graphical descriptions where the names that would have been on the signs at or next to Graham’s location are given.

The following image shows three of George Graham’s long case clocks, made between 1740 and 1750:

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The pendulum can be seen in the clock on the right, and the type of pendulum was one of George Graham’s inventions – the mercurial compensated pendulum.

Using mercury at the base of a pendulum was a clever method to compensate for temperature variations.

With an all metal pendulum, when the temperature rises, the pendulum expands and gets longer, which impacts the accuracy of the clock.

When a glass vial is at the bottom of the pendulum, the pendulum rod still expands making it longer, however the mercury in the glass vial responds to the increase in temperature by rising up the glass vial, and because mercury is a heavy mass, the rise in the height of mercury against a lengthening pendulum, keeps the overall centre of gravity at the same place, so the clock continues to keep time as temperature changes.

In 1721 George Graham was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1722 he was elected as Master of the Clockmakers Company, and as well as clocks and watches, he continued to work on astronomical instruments, and other scientific instruments such as a micrometer.

George Graham died in 1751, and the following is a typical newspaper report of his death: “Last Saturday Night died, in the 78th Year of his Age, that great Mechanic Mr. George Graham F.R.S. Watchmaker in Fleet-street, who may be truly said to have been the Father of the Trade, not only with regard to the Perfection to which he brought Clocks and Watches, but for the great Encouragement of all Artificers employed under him, by keeping up the Spirit of Emulation among them.”

After his death, George Graham was buried in the same grave as Thomas Tompion in Westminster Abbey.

Although the plaque states that Thomas Tompion was the “Father of English Clockmaking”, the reports that followed the death of George Graham described him as the “Father of the Trade”.

I do not think there needs to be any competition, both Tompion and Graham seem to have been equals in their craft, and their ability to improve and invent clocks and watches.

There is a second plaque on the corner of the building, and the following photo shows the plaque on the Whitefriars Street side of the building:

The Corn Laws were a set of laws implemented in 1815 by the Tory Prime Minister Lord Liverpool due to the difficult economic environment the country was in following the wars of the late 18th and early 19th century.

The Corn Laws imposed tariffs on imported grains and resulted in an increase in the price of grain, and products made using grain. These price increases made the Corn Laws very unpopular with the majority of the population, although large agricultural land owners were in favour as they made a higher profit from grain grown on their lands.

The Corn Laws were finally repealed by the  Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel in 1846, and they reflect a tension between free trade, and tariffs on imports that can still be seen in politics today.

John Bright was born on the 16th of November, 1811 and was the son of a Quaker textile manufacturer in Rochdale. Having been born into a Quaker family, Bright became involved with the type of political causes favoured by nonconformists.

Bright met Richard Cobden in 1835 and in 1840 he became treasurer of the Rochdale branch of the Anti-Corn Law League. Bright was a gifted public speaker, and in the campaign to repeal the Corn Laws he would travel across the country speaking and campaigning for the cause.

He was an MP for Durham, then Manchester and finally Birmingham. After the repeal of the Corn Laws, Bright continued to campaign for free trade, including a commercial treaty with France, which resulted in the1860 Cobden-Chevalier Treaty which lowered customs duties between the two countries.

Richard Cobden was born on the 3rd of June, 1804 in a farmhouse in Dinford, near Midhurst in Sussex. His only time in London appears to have been after his father died, when Cobden was still young, and he was taken under the guardianship of his uncle who was a warehouseman in London.

Not long after he became a Commercial Traveler, and then started his own business which was based in Manchester, which seems to have been his base for the rest of his commercial success.

During his time in Manchester Cobden was part of the Anti-Corn Law League and was known as one of the leagues most active promoters.

The blue plaque on the corner of the building states that “On the site were situated the offices on the Anti-Corn-Law-League with which John Bright and Richard Cobden were so closely associated”.

What is not clear is how much time they spent in London, and in the offices of the anti-corn-law-league, so if anything, the plaque is recording a political campaign for free trade rather than the place of residence or work for two 19th campaigners.

Richard Cobden does have a statue in Camden, opposite Mornington Crescent underground station, but again this seems to championing free trade and Cobden’s role in the repeal of the corn laws:

The Clerkenwell News and London Times on the 1st of July 1868 recorded the unveiling of the statue:

“The Cobden memorial statue which has just been erected at the entrance to Camden Town was inaugurated on Saturday. Although this recognition of the services of the great Free Trade leader may have been looked upon in some quarters as merely local, the gathering together of some eight to ten thousand people to do honour to his memory cannot be regarded in any other light than that of a national ovation.

The committee had arranged that the statue of the late Richard Cobden at the entrance to Camden Town – with the exception, perhaps, of Trafalgar Square, one of the finest sites in London – should be unveiled on Saturday, that day being understood to be the appropriate one of the anniversary of the repeal of the Corn Laws, and the event was so popular that the surrounding neighbourhood was gaily decorated with flags for the occasion. The windows and balconies of Millbrook House, the residence of Mr. Claremont, facing the statue, had been placed at the disposal of Mrs. Cobden and her friends, including her three daughters.

A special platform had been created in front of the pedestal, covered with crimson cloth, and in the enclosure in front the band of the North Middlesex Rifles were stationed, and performed whilst the company assembled.

The report then covers at some length, all the speeches made which told the story of Cobden’s life and his actions in the repeal of the Corn Laws. There were many thousands present to witness the event, and at the end; “after the vast assembly had dispersed Mrs. Cobden, accompanied by Mr. Claremont, the churchwardens, and other friends, walked round the statue and expressed her high gratification at the fidelity of the likeness.”

Before I leave this small area of Fleet Street, there are a couple of major developments underway. In the following photo, the building with the two plaques on the corner is at the right side of the photo, one of the plaques can just be seen. Opposite is a very large building site:

This area is set to become a so called new Justice Quarter in the City, and the area will comprise:

1 – New City of London Law Courts

2 – New headquarter building for the City of London Police

3 – Public space covering an area slightly larger than the current Salisbury Square

4 – New commercial / office space with, you may have guessed, space for restaurants, bars or cafes on the ground floor

I photographed the area before the buildings that were on the site were demolished in a 2021 post on “Three Future Demolitions and Re-developments” which can be found by clicking here.

A bit further along Fleet Street, towards Ludgate Circus, the building next to the old Daily Express building has been demolished, leaving a view of the side of the Express building, and to the buildings at the rear – a temporary view that will soon disappear:

A mix of different subjects in this week’s post, but a very tenuous clock based link with the Guinness clock and two 17th / 18th century London watch and clock makers – all part of London’s deep history, and how you can find unexpected examples of that history in the most unexpected places, such as a brewery in Dublin.

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