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The Perseverance or Sun Pub, Lamb’s Conduit Street

Today’s post is not the one I intended, it has been a busy week so not enough time to complete research for the planned subject, however I was in the area of Lamb’s Conduit Street last Tuesday so made a visit to the pub on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street. Today, the pub is named The Perseverance, but back in 1985 it was the Sun and had the most brilliant decoration on the rounded corner, so typical of the architecture of 19th century London pubs.

The Perseverance

This is the same view in March 2019, a change in name and rather more subdued signage on the corner of The Perseverance.

The Perseverance

Lamb’s Conduit Street has two main, historical, landowners. The Bedford Charity (which I wrote about here) owned and developed the southern part of the street, whilst the Rugby Charity owned and developed the northern section of Lamb’s Conduit Street.

The Rugby Charity still owns much of the original land, including The Perseverance with the income from the street being used to fund bursaries and scholarships to Rugby School. (There are still a number of Rugby boundary markers in place, so a future project is to walk the boundaries and look for all the remaining plaques that identified the estate).

The pub retained the name of the Sun from the early 19th century, to the 1990s when the name changed a couple of times, including being called Finnegans Wake prior to the final name change around 2005 / 2006 to The Perseverance.

I have always wondered why pubs change from names that have lasted well over 100 years. I can understand if the pub wants to completely separate from a previous existence, but when the pub continues to serve the same function to the same target market, I would have thought the marketing benefits of retaining a historical name far outweigh the benefits of a new name.

There are many other examples of name changes across London. I wrote about the Horn Tavern in Sermon Lane which only relatively recently changed name to The Centre Page.

The full view of The Perseverance on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street.

The Perseverance

I did not take a similar view in 1985 – the photo at the top of the post was the last on the strip of negatives so this must have been the end of a roll of film. One of the benefits of digital photography is the almost endless capacity for taking photos.

The photo above shows a different style to the buildings immediately joined on to the pub. These buildings, along with the original corner building date from the early 18th century, however the pub was refronted in the early 19th century to the style we see today.

The building is Grade II listed.

The Perseverance retains the feel of a “local” and has a bar area on the ground floor and a dining area on the first floor. It was still rather empty when I stopped for a quick drink as shown in the photo below.

The Perseverance

The Grade II listing states that the pub retains an original cast-iron column, which I assume is the column on the left of the bar.

Back outside, I had a couple of minutes for a quick look around.

One side of the eastern branch of Great Ormond Street has a fantastic array of potted plants lining the pavement.

The Perseverance

Whilst the opposite side of the street has a terrace of brick built houses from the original development of the land, looking good in the sunshine.

The Perseverance

Along the western branch of Great Ormond Street, a short distance along from The Perseverance is this building with a Blue Plaque.

The Perseverance

The plaque records that “John Howard, 1726 to 1790, Prison Reformer Lived Here”.

John Howard was the prison reformer after who the Howard League for Penal Reform was named. Howard was born in Hackney, but spent much of his life in Bedford. He became the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire which came with the responsibility for the county gaol.

He was horrified by the conditions of the gaol and the way in which it was administered, with control basically being down to the way in which the appointed gaolers wished to manage the prison and make money out of those with the misfortune to be held.

His experience in Bedford resulted in many journeys throughout the country exploring and reporting on the conditions of numerous gaols – all of which suffered from the same problems.

His journeys between 1775 and 1790 were described in a book “The State of the Prisons In England and Wales” which provides a comprehensive review of conditions in 18th century goals. The first paragraph of Section 1 – General View of Distress in Prisons introduces the state of the country’s gaols:

“There are prisons, into which whoever looks will, at first sight of the people confined there, be convinced, that there is some great error in the management of them; the fallow meager countenances declare, without words, that they are very miserable; many who went in healthy, are in a few months changed to emaciated dejected objects. Some are seen pining under diseases, ‘sick and in prison’ expiring on the floors, in loathsome cells, of pestilential fevers, and the confluent small-pox; victims, I must not say to the cruelty, but I will say to the inattention of the sheriffs, and gentlemen in the commission of the peace.”

The book records the state of each prison that he visited and Howard’s records of Marshalsea Prison in Southwark are as follows:

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

Howard’s book The State of the Prisons In England and Wales is available online at archive.org and provides a fascinating insight into 18th century prisons.

I did not have time to explore much further along Great Ormond Street, so I backtracked to The Perseverance to head back down along Lamb’s Conduit Street, which deserves a dedicated blog post, however one building just a short distance from the pub has some interesting decoration above the first floor windows.

The Perseverance

I could not photograph from directly opposite as the branches of a tree partially obscured the view. Detail of the first floor decoration is shown in the photo below which consists of a date along with a sheaf of wheat, tied with rope, with four hands pulling on the rope.

The Perseverance

The symbol is of the United Patriots National Benefit Society which was founded in 1843 with offices here in Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as other offices and branches across London and the rest of the country.

The society was one of a number of benefit societies to which members contributed a regular subscription and were then able to call on financial support in times of hardship. The sheaf symbol was used extensively by the society on their buildings, certificates of membership, documentation and badges.

Like many 19th century societies, the United Patriots National Benefit Society appear to have enjoyed members meetings in pubs which seemed to have consisted of entertainment and toasts (and probably lots of beer). An account from the Islington Gazette on the 4th November 1884 reads:

“The members of the Caledonian-road branch of this society celebrated their fortieth anniversary by a supper, at the ‘Prince of Brunswick’ Tavern, Barnsbury-road on Thursday evening last. Subsequently, the members having disposed themselves for the evenings entertainment.

The Chairman (Mr. W.E. Beer), in a few prefatory remarks condemning the recent disquieting rumours in the press concerning the Navy, proposed the ‘loyal and patriotic toasts’ which were drunk enthusiastically.

Mr G. Coel (the branch secretary), in responding to the toast of the evening, said that, up to the end of last year, the members on the books numbered 95. the receipts for 1883 amounted to £116 14s 11d, and the disbursements £114 17s 7d leaving a balance of £1 17s 4d in their favour, he regretted not being able to lay before them a better statement of affairs, but owing to the unfortunate prevalence of sickness during that time, there has been an extra call upon the funds; but it was, at the same time, gratifying to know they have been more than able to meet the demands made, without applying for aid from the mother society. He concluded by thanking them all for their courtesy and kindness accorded to him during his connection with them, extending over seven years (Cheers).

The proceedings throughout were enlivened with songs by the company, which separated after cordially approving votes of thanks to the Chairman and the host (Mr. Wilson).

I suspect those who had been able to call upon the society during times of sickness were the fortunate ones, with those not able to be members having very little to fall back on.

I should not be surprised as I have been walking London for decades, however it is always brilliant how much history can be found within a very short distance from a specific point. I went to find the pub which had a very colourful decoration in the 1980s and also found one of the key early founders of prison reform and the home of one of London’s benefit’s societies. Digging deeper there is the history of the Rugby Charity which received the original donation of land and has owned, developed and managed much of the local area since, and before that one of the early water supplies to London and the land owner that gave the street its name.

Hopefully subjects for future posts.

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St John at Hampstead and George du Maurier

Last Saturday was a windy, sunny spring day in London, so what better than to spend an hour exploring the cemetery of St John at Hampstead.

The reason for this specific cemetery was to find a rather unusual grave that my father had photographed in 1949. This is the grave of George du Maurier.

St John at Hampstead

The same view 70 years later in 2019:

St John at Hampstead

The grave today does not appear as well looked after as in 1949. There was some space surrounding the grave in 1949, however today there are many more graves alongside. The tree on the left has been cut down and today only the stump survives. One of the significant differences which I find in many of my father’s photos is the number of cars in the street. In 1949 streets were generally free of parked cars, in 2019 there are very few streets without parked cars, or lots of passing traffic.

George du Maurier, or to give him his full name, George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier, was born in Paris on the 6th March 1834 and died on the 8th October 1896.

His grandparents on his father’s side were French and according to an 1886 newspaper account, emigrated to England during the “Reign of Terror” during the French Revolution. Later accounts state that his grandfather was a glassblower and left France to avoid fraud charges, adding the du Maurier name to give the impression of a French aristocratic background.

His father returned to Paris and it was there that George was born. He spent much of his childhood in France until the family returned to London and George started as a student at the Birkbeck Laboratory of Chemistry.

The Hampstead and Highgate Express on the 24th July 1886, in their series on well known residents features George du Maurier and explains that whilst his father wanted him to become a chemist, including going to the expense of setting up his own private laboratory, George was more interested in the arts and “humorous draughtsmanship“.

After the death of his father, he gave up chemistry and went to Paris to study art. He later returned to London, after spending an additional three years in Germany and Belgium and started in his career as a draughtsman, producing drawings for publications. Punch was the publication that became most associated with his work, and he produced drawings for Punch for twenty five years.

George du Maurier photographed in 1889 (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

St John at Hampstead

The article in the Hampstead and Highgate Express described his work: “Over a period of nearly twenty five years he has contributed to ‘Punch’ an almost endless series of drawings illustrative of the manners and customs of English society. Some of its phenomena, the shams, affectations, meannesses and frivolities peculiar to its salons and garden parties, and some other scenes of fashionable life, are treated by the artist with the most biting satire. But a great deal belonging to English life and society, especially its venial weaknesses, is treated by the artist from the humorists’ standpoint, namely that of light satire and good humour. In an appreciation of beauty and grace as seen in his numerous presentments of women and children, and in his general design of his pictures, Mr du Maurier excels all preceding English pictorial humourists. In the ‘Punch’ contributions he has not only shown power as a graceful and refined artist, but in his drawings for that amusing periodical there are touches of wit, humour, satire, subtle observation, and poetic suggestiveness which are indisputably the work of a man of genius.”

A couple of examples of George du Maurier’s work for Punch are shown below (both ©Trustees of the British Museum).

The following drawing is an illustration for Punch, dated the 18 October 1880. It is described as “What our Artist has to put up with, a man talking and touching the shoulder of another, both standing before a group of three pictures, other figures examining other pictures on the surrounding walls”.

St John at Hampstead

The following drawing is dated the 12th January 1878 and is a study of two female figures sitting in a carriage on the Metropolitan Railway.

St John at Hampstead

He also produced numerous sketches for his own amusement, including many self portraits. This one on paper, stamped with his home address in Hampstead shows George du Maurier exclaiming ‘Hooray!’ at the arrival of the post with his dog dancing nearby.

St John at Hampstead

George du Maurier married Emma Wightwick, who he had met whilst in Germany. They had five children. One of his children was the actor Sir Gerald du Maurier, who was the father of the authors Daphne du Maurier and Angela du Maurier.

In his later years, George du Maurier turned to writing and produced three novels between 1889 and 1897- Peter IbbetsonTrilby, and The Martian.  Trilby was a significant best seller with the Victorian story of a fallen woman with a good heart.

George du Maurier was 62 when he died of heart failure. He had lived at two locations in Hampstead during his life, but had moved around a number of times and at the time of his death was living at Oxford Square, near Hyde Park.

His funeral at St John at Hampstead was a significant event, attended by many dignitaries of the day, authors and the staff of Punch magazine.

The memorial at his grave is unusual, and I cannot find any references as to why the design was chosen.

I am also unsure why my father chose to photograph du Maurier’s grave given the number of famous names buried at St John at Hampstead. My father was also a draughtsman, professionally for the St. Pancras Borough Council Electricity and Public Lighting Department, then the London Electricity Board, but also was interested in drawing many other subjects and it may have been this interest in an earlier draughtsman that prompted the choice of grave to visit and photograph.

George du Maurier’s grave is in the “Additional Burial Ground” just across the road from the church of St John at Hampstead and the original graveyard. The extension opened in 1812. This is the view of the additional burial ground from Church Row. The church is on the left, just behind the car. George du Maurier’s grave is up against the railings, just behind the poster.

St John at Hampstead

Another view of George du Maurier’s grave. Underneath the name and dates of birth and death is written “A little trust that when we die, we reap our sowing and so – good bye“.

St John at Hampstead

The monument above the grave is to Geoirge du Maurier, however there are panels inset to the front and sides that record the children of George and Emma du Maurier.

Here, their eldest son, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Louis Busson du Maurier is recorded as being killed in action on March 10th 1915 at Alston House, near Kemmel in Flanders.

St John at Hampstead

Marie Louise Busson du Maurier, their youngest daughter.

St John at Hampstead

Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier, their youngest son.

St John at Hampstead

There are numerous fascinating graves in the cemetery of St John at Hampstead. Walking around is a history lesson of the past couple of centuries.

The following grave and monument was not there when my father took the photo at the top of this post. It is immediately to the left (when looking from the road) of George du Maurier’s grave and is the grave of Hugh Gaitskell, the  leader of the Labour Party from 1955 to 1963, along with his wife, Dora.

St John at Hampstead

Adjacent to the grave of Hugh Gaitskell are plaques to the Hampstead resident, comedian and satirist Peter Cook and his wife Lin.

St John at Hampstead

Strangely Wikipedia states that Peter Cook’s ashes were buried in an unmarked grave so either the plaques are in the wrong place, or Wikipedia is wrong. – I suspect the later.

There was one specific grave that I was interested to find, and after some searching I found the grave of Sir Walter Besant.

St John at Hampstead

Sir Walter Besant was born in Portsmouth in 1836 and died in Hampstead in 1901. His life almost matching the reign of Queen Victoria.

He was a prolific author of both novels and factual books. Two of his more famous novels, “Children of Gibeon” and “All Sorts and Conditions of Men” dealt with the living and social conditions of east London and the relationship between east and west London. The later book helped with the establishment of the People’s Palace in east London by John Beaumont. The book included the planning and build of a Palace of Delight to provide education, concerts, picture galleries, reading rooms etc. free to the people of east London. The name used in the book was part taken by the People’s Palace, and the book brought funding and support to the People’s Palace.

For many of his books, he worked with the author James Rice and the two men went walking across London to gather background for their books. James Rice died in 1882 and in the preface to “All Sorts and Conditions of Men”, Besant wrote: “The many wanderings, therefore, which I undertook last summer in Stepney, Whitechapel, Poplar, St. George’s-in-the-East, Limehouse, Bow, Stratford, Shadwell and all that great and marvelous unknown country we call East London, were undertaken, for the first time for ten years, alone. They would have been undertaken in great sadness had one foreseen the end. In one of these wanderings I had the happiness to discover Rotherhithe, which I afterwards explored with carefulness; in another, I lit upon a certain Haven of Rest for aged sea captains, among whom I found Captain Sorensen; in others I found many wonderful things, and conversed with many wonderful people”.

I suspect that during the 19th century there were quite a few authors wandering the streets of east London.

In a review of one of Besant’s book, the London Evening Standard wrote in 1901 a paragraph that is just as true today:

“It is commonly said that half the world is ignorant of how the other half lives. That is more than true of London, for its vastness limits the social outlook of its inhabitants to the narrow groove of their daily work. How little do most people know of the occupations, or even names, of their immediate neighbours. Sir Walter Besant however is well acquainted with the region he is describing and his details are always equally graphic and correct.”

Sir Walter Besant spent six years abroad when he was a Senior Professor of Mathematics at the Royal College in Mauritius. He was Secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Besant was also instrumental in the founding of the Society of Authors and became the first Chair of the society. During his time with the society he was active in furthering the cause of copyright for an author’s work.

Sir Walter Besant, looking very Victorian in 1896 (photo © National Portrait Gallery, London)

St John at Hampstead

The reason why I wanted to find Besant’s grave was that I have many of his historical and topographical books on London. They are comprehensive studies of a specific period in time and of a region of the city. Full of early photos, drawings and maps. This is my copy of Besant’s London books published by A&C Black.

St John at Hampstead

The London Evening Standard on the 11th June 1901 carried a comprehensive obituary of Besant.

It records that “When the People’s Palace was opened by Queen Victoria, the obligation which London and the nation owed to Mr. Besant was publicly recognised, and in 1895 the honour of Knighthood was bestowed upon him, amid universal approval.”

He was married to Mary Foster-Barham, and the obituary illustrates how male and female children were treated differently. The obituary records that when he died, his two sons, Philip and Geoffrey were both at the Front (South Africa). The former being a Captain in the 4th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the latter a trooper in the Imperial Yeomanry. Of his daughters, the only mention is that one unnamed daughter was with Walter Besant at the time of his death.

It was fascinating to find the grave of an author that has provided me with a Victorian view of the history of London.

It was a pleasure to walk round and explore the “Additional Burial Ground” of St John at Hampstead on a sunny spring day.

St John at Hampstead

The cemetery is at the exactly right place between being wild and too manicured. Last autumn’s leaves still cover the ground, moss covers many of the graves and narrow paths provide walkways across the cemetery. The houses of Hampstead close in on the cemetery boundaries.

St John at Hampstead

This stunning Magnolia tree will look magnificent in a couple of weeks (providing the flowers have not been blown away with the recent gales).

St John at Hampstead

There are so many graves that tell an interesting and often tragic story of 19th and early 20th century life. This is the grave of Arthur Llewelyn Davies who died in 1907 and his wife Sylvia Jocelyn who both died at the same age of 44 (although in different years).

St John at Hampstead

Perhaps the only good thing about their relatively young deaths is that they would not have to suffer the deaths of their eldest son George who was killed in action at the age of 22 on the 15th March 1915, and the death of their fourth son Michael who drowned whilst bathing at Oxford where he was an undergraduate at the age of 20.

Inscriptions also record how individuals (or their families) wanted to be remembered. This is the grave of George Atherton Aitken – The Very Mirror Of A Pubic Servant.

St John at Hampstead

After visiting the additional cemetery, I walked across the road to visit the church of St John at Hampstead and the original cemetery.

St John at Hampstead

References to a chapel on the site date back to the 14th century. The core of the current church was consecrated in 1747 with the spire being added in the 1780s. The church was expanded during the middle of the 19th century to support the growing population of Hampstead. During the rest of the 19th century there would be improvements (such as gas lighting), decoration and minor changes. The church was given a lighter colour decoration in 1958 to replace the dark Victorian interior.

The interior of St John at Hampstead today:

St John at Hampstead

The original cemetery around the church has a number of fascinating graves of those who have made their mark over the centuries.

Close to the church is the grave of John Harrison.

St John at Hampstead

The inscription provides a summary of Harrison’s work;

“In memory of Mr John Harrison , late of Red Lion Square, London. Inventor of the Time-Keeper for ascertaining the Longitude at Sea.

He was born at Foulby, in the County of York, and was the Son of a Builder at that Place, who brought him up to the same profession.

Before he attained the Age of 21, he without any Instruction employed himself in cleaning and repairing Clocks and Watches and made a few of the former chiefly of Wood. At the age of 25 he employed he Whole Time in Chronological Improvements. He was the Inventor of the Gridiron Pendulum and the Method of preventing the Effect of Heat and Cold upon Time keepers by Two Bars of different Metals fixed together. He introduced the Secondary Spring to keep them going while winding up and was the Inventor of most (or all) of the Improvements in Clocks and Watches during his Time.

In the year 1735 his first Time keeper was sent to Lisbon, and in 1764 his then much Improved fourth Time keeper, having been sent to Barbados the Commissioners of Longitude certified that it had determined the Longitude within one Third of Half a Degree of a Great Circle having erred not more than 40 Seconds in Time.

After near Sixty years close Application to the above Pursuits, he departed this Life on the 24th Day of March 1776, Aged 83.

Mrs Elizabeth Harrison Wife of the above Mr John Harrison departed this life March 5th 1777, Aged 72.”

Despite the success of the trial with the fourth time keeper (model H4), Harrison had problems with the Board of Longitude which had been set up to oversee the trials and a financial award for the accurate measurement of Longitude under the Longitude Act. The Commissioners on the Board of Longitude did not feel that sufficient trials had been carried out, and they initially offered part of the award (£10,000) with a further £10,000 if Harrison’s time keeper could be replicated by other manufacturers. This would have required the design details of Harrison’s time keeper to be published freely for other manufacturers to use.

Harrison did eventually get a substantial financial award from Parliament, with the support of the King.

The grave of an artistic Hampstead resident can be found up against the boundary wall of the cemetery. This is the grave of the artist John Constable.

St John at Hampstead

Constable was a frequent visitor to Hampstead and lived for many years in the area, including in a house in Well Walk between the years 1827 until 1834. It was from the drawing room of the house in Well Walk that he painted a number of views across to the centre of the City.

An example being the following view with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the centre distance. An inscription on the rear of the painting reads: “Hampstead. Drawing Room 12 o’clock noon Sept.1830” (Image ©Trustees of the British Museum)

St John at Hampstead

The hilly nature of Hampstead is visible in the graveyard, as the land descends from the high point of 135m at Whitestone Pond down towards the River Thames.

St John at Hampstead

The graveyard is also managed in such a way that whilst it is not too wild, it is not manicured and a plaque at the entrance provides information on the range of wildlife that can be found.

St John at Hampstead

Towards the south east corner of the graveyard, just across Frognal Way, there is a rather large construction site.

St John at Hampstead

I believe this was 22 Frognal Way, which was occupied by a modernist house built to the design of Kentish Town architect Philip Pank. The house was commissioned by Harold Cooper and built in 1978. Cooper was the founder of the Lee Cooper jeans brand. After his death in 2008, the house became derelict and although there were attempts to get the house listed and restored, planning permission appears to have been given for demolition and construction of a new house.

The new building will be low profile consisting of a single story as viewed from street level, however as can be seen by the size of the excavation in the above photo, the new building will have considerable basement space.

Some of these building sites where basements are constructed for residential homes appear more like a Crossrail construction site. I suspect I know what the neighbours think about having such a large excavation on their doorstep.

The church of St John at Hampstead, the original and additional graveyards, are a fascinating place to explore, and if you have a couple of hours spare on a sunny day, there is no better place to learn about the residents of this area of north London.

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Simmonds Stores, Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Before getting into this week’s post, can I thank everyone who commented and e-mailed following last Sunday’s post on the 5th anniversary of the blog. Your feedback is really appreciated.

There are a number of then and now photos that I find sum up the changes to an area. A few years ago I wrote a post about the location of the Gun Tavern in Wapping. My father photographed the post war ruins of the old pub. Today, the same location is occupied by a Foxton’s estate agent.

For today’s post I have another pair of photos that sum up how an area has changed. This time I am in Chelsea, and this is Simmonds Stores, on the corner of Godfrey Street and Cale Street. The photograph was taken in 1986.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The same view in February 2019:

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The two photos typify how the area has changed. A corner shop that once sold household wares, piled high outside the shop to tempt passers-by, is now the Chelsea Green Valet. It is not just the shop that has changed, the building has been “restored”, although some of the changes attempt to replicate original features which were not part of the building’s design. An example being the new door on the left of the building which replaces an original window. The use of a door surround that attempts to give the door an original appearance was part of the work to bring the building to its current appearance.

The building of Godfrey Street dates from the 19th century. The first newspaper reference I have found to the street was from 1830 which implies the street was developed in the first decades of the 19th century. The name probably comes from Walter Godfrey who was a landowner in Chelsea during the 18th century. The corner store probably dates to the original construction of the street.

The 1891 Kelly’s Directory records that Albert Simmonds, Oilman was in residence, and it is this reference that provides a clue to the early function of the store and the large jars that are still mounted on the side of the building.

These represented Tuscan oil jars and indicated that oil was sold in the store. There is another example to be found in my post on Lower Marsh in Lambeth.

The 1891 census provides some additional information on Albert Simmonds. He was aged 30 and was born in Shipton, Oxfordshire. He lived in the building with his wife Mary (31) and children Mary Ann (7), Albert (6) and Frederick (1). Also in the house there was a servant Florence Hele, aged 17 and listed as a General Servant.

I do not know when the stores closed, or whether it was still in the Simmonds family when my father photographed the building in 1986, however it retained the Simmonds name for around 100 years.

The London Metropolitan Collage archives has a photo of the stores dated from 1971.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_067_71_2348.

In 1971 the shop had a rather nice lantern over the door which had disappeared by 1986, All the windows on both the ground and first floors looked stuffed with goods for sale.

A wider view of the location of Simmonds Stores.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

I have marked the location of the building in the following map extract to show Simmonds Stores on the north-west corner of Godfrey Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

As usual, I always use the opportunity of finding these locations to take a walk around the immediate area. The shop sits between Godfrey Street on the left and Danube Street on the right. Danube Street’s main function is to provide access to the rear of the buildings on the adjacent streets.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Godfrey Street is interesting. A considerable mix of architecture with houses much altered since their original build. Many of the buildings have been painted in bright colours.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The council’s conservation reports have concerns about this approach in a conservation area – “The buildings within the area were not intended to have painted masonry finishes. Today many houses have been painted. In some cases where the whole terrace was painted many years ago in a consistent scheme, this paint has become part of the street’s character. However, in other places, where individual houses have been painted in a brick terrace, they have harmed the uniformity of the terrace and the appearance of the conservation area”.

View from the southern end of Godfrey Street looking up towards Cale Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

It is fascinating to look up newspaper references to the locations I visit. They frequently provide an insight into the lives of those who have lived in these streets. One tragic report from one of the earliest mentions of Godfrey Street, documenting an example of domestic abuse was reported in the London Courier and Evening Gazette on the 20th November 1832:

“LOVE AND SUICIDE – It may be recollected, that a few weeks ago Mr. Hilde, a Hanoverian by birth, was charged at Queen-square Police Office by a Mrs. Arthur, a young widow of 19 Godfrey Street, Chelsea-common, with frequently assaulting her, and treating her in such a manner that she considered her life in danger from his violence. He was then ordered to enter into sureties to keep the peace towards her, but he would still continue to come to the house and annoy her, although he had moved her lodgings  to No 22, Pulteney-street, Golden-square. Mr Hilde, had been a lodger of Mrs. Arthur’s and during the time he was there she was arrested and confined in Whitecross-street prison. he paid the debt for her, and she was released, and they then cohabited together as man and wife, until they had frequent quarrels, and he was in the habit of beating her continually. The last time he was brought to Queen-square was about a month ago for attempting to get into her house, and he had then great trouble to procure bail, as his friends found it difficult to keep him from going to the house where Mrs. Arthur resided, so devotedly did he appear to be attached to her, not withstanding his ill-usage of her.

On Sunday afternoon he called upon Police Sergeant King, of the V division, No. 10 at Battersea, who had him in custody at the Police-office, and he dined and drank tea with him. They afterwards went out and took a walk, and he returned and had supper with him. During the whole of the day he appeared very much depressed in spirits, and frequently exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, in broken English ‘My God ! how I love that woman ! – nobody knows how I love her !’

About a quarter to ten o’clock in the evening, he left King’s house to go home, and in less than half an hour afterwards King was informed that a man was in the Thames. An alarm was instantly given, boats put off, and in about twenty minutes the body of the unhappy man was picked up by Abraham Graves, a waterman, quite dead. The body was taken to the Adam and Eve public-house, in Duke-street, Chelsea, and Mr. Fletcher, the surgeon, promptly attended, but every effort to restore life was ineffectual. the body now awaits the Coroner’s inquest”.

The article highlights what Mrs. Arthur had to suffer, however the sympathy of the article appears to be with Mr. Hilde despite the fact that he was the one inflicting violence on the young widow. Sadly what happened in Godfrey Street was suffered by woman all across the City with minimal impact on the male perpetrators.

At first glance, Godfrey Street ends in a dead-end with a house appearing to close the street, however the street does a 90 degree bend to the right, where it meets the narrow Danube Street (the southern section of which is also called Godfrey Street).

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

On the corner is a rather nice bollard.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Turning the corner at the end of Godfrey Street and the house between the main street and the small side street is painted bright blue.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Looking down Godfrey / Danube Street that runs at the rear of the houses. A narrow service alley that provides access to the rear of the buildings.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Godfrey Street ends at the junction with Burnsall Street. I turned right into Burnsall Street to look at the buildings that are on the opposite side of the alley that runs at the back of Godfrey Street. These houses are very different. This is Astell Street which runs parallel to Godfrey Street, up to Cale Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

These buildings are very different to those in Godfrey Street. A look at the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows that this street was named Blenheim Street and was comprised of workman’s houses, very similar to those in Godfrey Street, however early 20th century redevelopment demolished the original terraces of two storey houses and replaced them with much larger, and more expensive houses.

These changes were happening across Chelsea, causing the Chelsea Society in 1937 to express concern about the social mix of the area changing as working class homes were being demolished and replaced with the type of building we can see in Astell Street.

At the junction of Astell Street and Britten Street is another rather nice original bollard, dating from 1844.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Walking down Britten Street and by a lucky coincidence there is the type of place where I like to end a walk. This is the Builders Arms.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The pub has the date c. 1820 at the very top of the building, however the written references I have found for the pub appear to date the building to around 1841. The reference to 1820 is a recent addition as this was not on the building in the 1970s.

The Builders Arms was located adjacent to the Anchor Brewery. The site of the Brewery has been considerably redeveloped, however an entrance gate can still be seen.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

I am not sure if I remember correctly, however I believe the arch is a rebuild of the original arch, although I may be wrong.

Simmonds Stores typifies how Chelsea has changed over the last few decades, however as with the references to Astell Street, the gradual change from original working class housing to the multi-million pound housing we find today has been going on for very many years.

I have covered a number of these 1980s corner shops, and have very many more to find, however for the next series of posts, I will be returning to 1940s and 1950s London, and also discovering some other aspects of London.

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5 Years Of A London Inheritance

I started the blog “A London Inheritance” five years ago, at the end of February 2014. I really did not think I would get this far, or be able to keep up the rate of a post a week (which I know is a very low rate compared to some bloggers).

The original aim of the blog was to track down all the locations of my father’s photos, and also to provide a kick for me to get out and explore more of this wonderful city. I hope I am still true to that original aim, and I feel that I have explored and learnt so much during the last 5 years. Getting out and walking really is the best way to discover London.

I still have very many photos where I need to track down the location, new places to visit, themes for walks – I just need to find the time.

Can I also offer my thanks to everyone who reads my posts, subscribes, comments and e-mails. I apologise for being so dreadfully bad at responding to these. When I finish one blog post it is a panic to get the next completed in time. Work and other activities take time, and I am very aware that many of my posts are too wordy and need a bit of a rewrite, so I apologise for inflicting these on you.

I was not sure what to write about to mark five years, so what follows is a bit of a brain dump on the past year, what fascinates me about the process, photography, and some thoughts for the future.

The Most Read Post

My most read post of the year is one that I wrote the previous year.

In August 2017 I wrote about St. James Gardens. I had photographed the area shortly before the site was closed ready for the archaeological excavation in preparation for the extension of Euston Station for HS2.

This post was popular at the time and consistently ranks high for viewers. Occasionally there is a very high peak of viewers which usually happens when there is news of a discovery at the excavation.

In January it was announced that the grave of Captain Matthew Flinders had been discovered in St. James Gardens.  Flinders was the first European to circumnavigate Australia in HMS Investigator, demonstrating that Australia was a single continent.

The following graph shows my site states for the days around the announcement of Flinders discovery. The peak day of the announcement was Friday, January 25th and the blog received several thousand views, the majority all going to the page on St. James Gardens that I had written about in August 2017.

London Inheritance

The excavations at St. James Gardens and the changes around Euston are, rightly, of considerable interest. I have e-mailed questions to HS2, but get the same response that, judging from comments on the blog, everyone else gets – a very standard response with answers only to very basic questions.

I can understand why, the scale of the work is considerable and must be handled in a sensitive and considerate manner, but I do suspect it would help with the public perception of the work around Euston if more regular detail on the excavations was made available.

The preparation for HS2 also highlights the rate and scale of change. Just within the last couple of years a whole area of streets have been cordoned off and will soon become part of a much enlarged Euston station. I returned to the site earlier this year, and plan to make an annual visit to photograph the changes as HS2 and the new Euston station gradually complete.

London Ghosts

By ghosts, I do not mean the traditional definition, rather the traces that are left behind by the millions of people who have lived, worked, or just passed through London. Not necessarily those who are famous and have blue plaques or other memorials, rather finding a trace of someone who had a very personal connection with the city.

I love London books and these often provide a link. One of my favourites I found in a copy of the “Geographia” Greater London Atlas. I am not sure of the exact date, but this version was published towards the end of the 1950s or very early 1960s.

On the title page is the name of the owner – Leading Fireman Barlow, No. 3019 of the London Fire Brigade.

London Inheritance

The atlas itself is fascinating enough, lots of lovely pages of colourful maps, but the street index tells the story of how a London Fireman must have kept up to date with street changes across London – long before the days of Satnavs, Google Maps and the IT that is now deployed to a fire engine.

In every single page of the street index, streets have been neatly crossed out, and new names and references have been written at the bottom of each page.

London Inheritance

What it appears that Leading Fireman Barlow was doing was keeping his atlas up to date as streets disappeared and new streets were built across the city. This was a time of considerable change with post war rebuilding gathering pace.

A couple of examples. In the above pages, at lower left, Dixon Street E14 has been crossed out. Looking in the atlas, Dixon Street is one of a cluster of streets in Limehouse, just to the north east of the Regent’s Canal Dock.

London Inheritance

This area was considerably rebuilt in the late 1950s and 1960s with the loss of many of the streets that once covered Limehouse. The following map shows the area today with the original position of Dixon Street marked.

London Inheritance

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

As well as the loss of streets, Leading Fireman Barlow had to keep up with new streets. At the bottom of the same index page is a reference to Dilton Gardens, SW15, HE47, 103. The last number is the page number and the preceding number is the grid reference within the page.

Turning to page 103 and we are now in south west London, just to the east of Richmond Park. I have marked the location of the new street with a red oval.

London Inheritance

The map of the area today with Dilton Gardens ringed. The map today shows the large area of infill between the boundaries of the park and Roehampton Lane which has been built since the publication of the atlas.

London Inheritance

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

What surprised me was the range of updates, covering the entire area of the atlas. Leading Fireman Barlow was interested in the whole of Greater London, not just his local fire station. I also wonder from where he got the information? Was this official London Fire Brigade policy to provide updates to staff and did they keep their own atlases up to date? This was at a time when a fireman would have needed to navigate the streets of London using their local knowledge or with paper maps.

Leading Fireman Barlow was very conscientious in updating the atlas and I would love to know why and how.

I found a very different trace of a Londoner in a book I purchased a couple of years ago in a second hand bookshop in Lichfield.

This book, “Achievement – A Short History of the LCC” was published in 1965.

London Inheritance

The book itself is a fascinating read on the London County Council, mainly focused on the years 1939 to 1964, however what turned the book from a printed copy of information, into something with a specific history was the presentation slip on the inside of the book.

London Inheritance

Desmond Plummer was the Conservative Councillor for St. Marylebone to the London County Council from 1960 until 1965. The date is relevant as March 1965 was the last month of the London County Council as the Greater London Council (GLC) took over from the 1st April 1965.

After the formation of the GLC, Plummer was elected leader of the Conservative opposition and became leader in 1967 when the Conservatives won a majority on the GLC. He would continue as leader of the GLC until 1973.

Plummer was a firm believer in the need to upgrade London streets to support the growing levels of traffic, and during his time as Leader, the Westway was built between Marylebone and Acton. He was also in favour of the London Motorway Box scheme, which would have seen the construction of a 30-mile-long, eight-lanes-wide elevated inner ring road (very similar to the schemes published in the “The City of London – A Record Of Destruction And Survival” in 1951). Thankfully, this did not get built.

He died in October 2009 at the age of 95. I do wonder how the book presented to him in the last month of the London County Council came to be in a bookshop in Lichfield?

London Photography

My blog is based on photographs. Tracking down the location of my father’s photos from the late 1940s onward has been a constant theme for the blog.

I started taking photos when as children we were taken on walks through London. My very first camera was a Kodak Instamatic. It used a 126 film cartridge which made it very easy to use as the cartridge slotted directly into the back of the camera. The format of the negatives and the printed photos was square rather than the rectangular output of traditional 35mm film.

The camera only had two light settings, bright and shady, so getting perfect photos back from being developed at Boots was a bit hit and miss. This simplicity did ensure the camera was ideal for a very young beginner.

I recently found some of my early London photos taken with the Kodak Instamatic in an old shoe box, so here is a sample of my first London photos taken in either 1971 or 1972.

This photo was taken in Broadway, looking down Tothill Street towards Westminster Abbey, which can just be seen at the end of the street.

London Inheritance

The large building on the right is the London Underground head office at 55 Broadway.

The following photo was taken on the bridge over the lake in St. James Park looking east towards the Government offices along Horse Guards Road.

London Inheritance

The following photo is the hat shop of Lock & Co at 6 St. James’s Street. London Inheritance

It is some 48 years since I took the photo of Lock’s, however this is a trivial amount of time since the shop was first established at 6 St. James’s Street in 1765. The shop looks almost identical today.

The following photo was taken in Cheapside, at the junction with New Change. The church is Christchurch Greyfriars.

London Inheritance

The view from within Cardinal Cap Alley, Bankside, looking across to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

London Inheritance

The alley is gated now, but in the early 1970s, Bankside was an area to explore and had not seen any of the development that would so change this stretch of the river.

I took these photos around 48 years ago. I still have them as they were developed and printed out and these photos have been in a shoe box of photos for the last four decades. Digital photography has opened a whole new world in capability and volume of photos, however I do wonder how many of the amateur photos taken today will still be around in 50 years time.

I last used film for photography about 18 years ago, however one of my planned projects for the coming year is to get back into the use of film. This is my father’s Leica IIIG camera.

London Inheritance

He purchased the camera body in 1957 so it is not the camera used for the majority of the early black & white photos I have published, however the lens is much earlier and was fitted to the Leica IIIc that my father used for his early photos.

I have had the camera serviced as the shutter was sticking, and I have brought some Ilford black & white film so I am ready for some film photography of London. I just need to learn how to use the camera and a separate hand held light meter to set up the correct exposure settings on the camera.

Hopefully later this year you will see some 2019 black & white film photos of London on the blog.

A Year Of Posts

I have been to some really interesting places during the year and discovered how much London has changed, but also in many places, they look much the same.

In December I wrote about the Angel. A brilliant pub on the south bank of the river in Rotherhithe. My father had photographed the pub from the foreshore of the river in 1951.

London Inheritance

Sixty seven years later I was standing in the same position taking a photo of the same pub. The surroundings have changed dramatically, however the pub is much the same.

London Inheritance

Like all London pubs, the Angel has had to adapt to survive and now serves a very different set of customers to when my father took the photo. By chance, from the same year there is a Daily Mirror article written in October 1951 by a journalist who was taken to various locations along the working river by a “merchant skipper”. One of these locations was the Angel, Rotherhithe. He writes of the experience:

“The Angel, Rotherhithe, where the skipper has to meet this mate of his is full of watermen when we arrive. One stocky waterman called Jim – a tough looking character with a grey stubble of a beard – is telling a story indignantly: “So I’m in my boat having a clean-up he is saying, w’en along comes this toff in a boat wearin’ a pair of flippin knickers and a flippen cap. ‘E is trainin some girls ‘ow to sail. Trainin’ em, Jim repeats darkly.

So ‘e comes smack-bang into my boat. O’ course, I could’t even talk to ‘im proper since there were ladies present. ‘get away from my boat, you unsophisticated chucker’ I shouts, ‘E looks up and says: ‘My man’ ‘e says, ‘do you know ‘oo I am?’

‘You might be flippen Joe Louis I says gettin’ really aggravated. But you don’t look like ‘im. An’ unless you push off from my boat this instant, I shall flippin’ well come down and knock your flippin’ ‘ead off – fancy cap an’ all.”

I am sure there was some journalistic embellishment, but an interesting tale from when the customers of the Angel were those who worked on the river and the surrounding warehouses and industries.

Last August we went to the Netherlands. We had lived there for 5 years from 1989 and wanted to revisit places and friends. My father had also cycled round the country in 1952 with some friends he had made during National Service, and as usual took his camera with him. I had not scanned these negatives when we lived in the country, so this was also an opportunity to visit the places he had photographed.

I am fascinated by how places can be connected. Cities do not stand in isolation. London has a road and rail network radiating out across the country and a river flows through the city. There are also networks of power, religion, monarchy and finance which have shaped the City and Country. Trading routes, flows of people from within the country and to and from the world have also established networks of connections.

There are also very unique points of connection. A single event that happened at a specific point in time, and I found one in a wooded suburb of the Hague, when I went to Wassenaar to find the launch location of the first V2 rocket to hit London.

London Inheritance

And a week later on the anniversary of the launch, I went to the site in Chiswick where the rocket landed. At each location there is a small memorial pillar that records the date and the event.

London Inheritance

Two places, 205 miles apart which will forever have a tragic connection.

The Oosterbeek War Cemetery was one of the many locations that my father visited in the Netherlands. He went to many of the locations associated with Operation Market Garden, the battle made famous in the book and film ‘A Bridge Too Far’. Not a surprising set of locations to visit given he had grown up during the war, had just finished National Service and these events were only 8 years previous.

The Oosterbeek War Cemetery really brings home the huge loss of life and the very young age of so many who died. The majority of those killed on the Allied side of the battle were British and Polish forces and I found a number of the graves that my father photographed in 1952 and for the blog post was able to find some of the stories behind those buried here.

London Inheritance

The photos above and below show the temporary marker in 1952 and the permanent stone marker in 2018 on the grave of Mieczyslaw Blazejewicz. A rank of Starszy Strzelec (this seems to translate to a Senior Private or Lance Corporal) in the 3rd Parachute Battalion of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. He was born on the 24th November 1920 at Lancut, a town in south eastern Poland.

He was killed whilst trying to cross the River Rhine to get to Oosterbeek on the 26th September 1944. As with many of those killed whilst trying the cross the river, his body would drift downstream and be later recovered from the river at Rhenen on the 9th October. He was 23, just two months short of his 24th birthday.

London Inheritance

One of the posts I found personally most interesting was about the King Edward VII Memorial Park in Shadwell. I have walked along the river at the side of the park many times and occasionally through the park, but decided to explore the park in more detail.

I found a partially derelict pavilion and the flat grass of a bowling green, both of which had once been for the Shadwell Bowls Club.

London Inheritance

I was initially going to write about the park as I found it, but the more I researched, the more I found. A fascinating history of an area once crowded with streets, houses, pubs, industry, and a fish market that was a potential rival to Billingsgate.

I also found a collection of photos on the London Metropolitan Archives, Collage site and was able to trace the locations of where the photos were taken.

This photo is looking up towards the High Street (the Highway) along Broad Bridge. The building on the left is the Oil Works and residential houses are on the right. Note the steps leading up to the High Street, confirming that the height difference between the Highway and the main body of the park has always been a feature of the area, and is visible today with the terrace and steps leading down to the main body of the park.

London Inheritance

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_381_A361.

Again, another way in which the ghosts of those who have lived and worked in London return, hidden within books, maps, photographs and the physical traces we can find when out walking.

To finish, can I again thank you for reading the blog, subscribing, following, commenting and e-mailing and putting up with my random travels around London and further afield.

I am now off to try to learn how to use a sixty year old film camera.

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Euston Station and HS2 – A 2019 Update

The excavations of St. James Gardens, in preparation for the expansion of Euston Station for HS2, have been underway for some time and make the headlines every few months when a significant discovery is made. The last time was a few weeks ago when the grave of Matthew Flinders was found. Flinders was the first European to circumnavigate Australia. He died in 1814 and his headstone was removed from St. James Gardens during previous clearances and expansion of the station. His grave was assumed to have been lost, but was identified during the current excavations by the use of a lead plate on his coffin.

One year ago, in February 2018 I took a walk around the streets to the west of Euston Station to look at the streets that would be under the HS2 Platforms and Concourse. This followed on from an earlier post on St. James Gardens.

I thought that it would be interesting to take another walk around the same area, almost exactly one year later and get a 2019 update on the changes that have taken place.

Most of the roads have now been closed to traffic, although there is still pedestrian access along some of the roads immediately to the west of Euston Station. There has been very little demolition yet, just lots of scaffolding and hoardings. The main focus of work appears to be at the location of St. James Gardens.

The following map provides an overview of the area and I have marked the locations of the photos that appear in the post.

Euston Station

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

Euston Station is the large area in the upper right part of the map. The current HS2 expansion of Euston is roughly covering the area bounded by where I was taking photos, although the final area will be larger and there is already work commencing between the station and Euston Road.

The first few photos are from location one. Leaving Euston Station, this is the view towards Euston Street.

Euston Station

It is possible to walk north a short distance to the point where Cardington Street began. This is the street that ran to the east of St. James Gardens.

Euston Station

The following view is looking up Cardington Street. The iBis Hotel was on the left of the street. The large white marquee is covering the excavations of the graveyard at St. James Gardens. The size of the marquee provides some idea of the scale of work involved.

Euston Station

On the corner of Melton Street and Drummond Street is the original Euston station of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway. The station is one of Leslie Green’s distinctive station designs.

Euston Station

Looking back along Melton Street towards Euston Road.

Euston Station

Although closed for traffic, this part of Drummond Street is still open for pedestrians, so I walked down and turned right into Coburg Street. This section is still open for traffic and the Exmouth Arms is open (see location two). The large marquee over the St. James Gardens excavations can be seen in the background.

Euston Station

Looking back down Drummond Street from location three in the map.

Euston Station

The other side of Coburg Street is open, but the buildings alongside are hoarded off, presumably waiting for demolition.

Euston Station

The following photos are from location four. At the junction of Coburg Street and Euston Street, yet more buildings covered in scaffolding.

Euston Station

The Bree Louise pub is still there, but fenced off.

Euston Station

Back to the junction with Drummond Street and this is the view along the northern leg of Coburg Street. The old iBis Hotel is underneath the sheeting on the right.

Euston Station

I then walked up to Hampstead Road to see what impact HS2 preparation is having. Most of the buildings along a significant section of the east side of Hampstead Road have been demolished, including the old London Temperance Hospital. This is the view (location five) of the rear of the marquee covering the St. James Garden’s excavations.

Euston Station

HS2 have built a small community space along Hampstead Road (location six).

Euston Station

On display in the space are the foundation stones recovered from the London Temperance Hospital.

Euston Station

The first foundation stone, with above, a decorative lintel retrieved from the main building.

Euston Station

An information note advises that time capsules were retrieved from underneath the foundation stones and that these are currently being conserved. Unfortunately there is no information on what was in the time capsules.

There is also a memorial stone recovered from St. James Gardens. This is a Ledger Stone for the Griffiths family, made of Welsh slate possibly to reflect their Welsh heritage.

Euston Station

The second foundation stone from the London Temperance Hospital.

Euston Station

There are a number of large information panels which tell the history of the area and the impact the expansion of the railways.

Euston Station

The railways have had a significant impact on the area, HS2 is just the latest expansion. 19th century expansion of Euston Station had already taken a section of St. James Gardens and the construction of the tracks into the station had a major impact on the graveyard of St. Pancras Old Church.

Information panels showing the history of the wider area.

Euston Station

This was the northern end of Cardington Street which is closed a short distance along (location seven in the map above). I suspect many satnavs have not been updated as in the short time I was there, a number of cars turned into the street and had to turn round.

Euston Station

View along Hampstead Road to the south. The area to the left of the photo will look very different when HS2 is complete.

Euston Station

In the year since I last visited the site, the main focus of work appears to be at the old graveyard at St. James Gardens which is not surprising given the considerable amount of archaeological excavation and investigation that is needed.

It is still possible to walk many of the streets, although for how much longer is not clear, the majority of buildings lining these streets appear to be ready for demolition.

It will be interesting to make a return visit in February 2020 to see how far work has progressed. What is clear is the scale of the impact that HS2 will have on Euston. This will be a very different station when the new service is operational.

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New Deal For East London – Isle Of Dogs

In my last post, I had just left Poplar and was about to continue along the eastern edge of the Isle of Dogs in my hunt for the sites listed as at risk in the 1972 Architects’ Journal.

After crossing the bridge over the entrance to the Blackwall Basin, I turned towards the river along Coldharbour.

Site 27 – Early 19th Century Houses In Coldharbour

Coldharbour is a narrow street that runs parallel to the river in the space between the entrances to Blackwall Basin and the South Dock. It is not part of the main street along the east side of the Isle of Dogs, that function is performed by Preston’s Road, so Coldharbour is quiet, and probably not visited unless you have a reason to be there.

The street may well be a remnant of the pathway that ran along the Blackwall medieval river embankment, so has a long history however the houses identified by the Architects’ Journal only date from the early 19th century.

The artist William Daniell produced a series of prints of the new docks in 1802 and the following print shows Coldharbour as a line of buildings along the river front, between the entrance to the Blackwall Basin on the right and the South Dock to the left.

Isle of Dogs

Building has occupied this part of the river bank since at least the 17th century.

I approached Coldharbour from the north end of the street and this is the first of the historic houses that line part of the eastern side of the street. This is Isle House.

Isle of Dogs

The London Metropolitan Archive Collage site has a photo from almost the same position showing the house looking much the same in 1948.

Isle of Dogs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_288_AV63_989

Isle House was built to a design by John Rennie between 1825 and 1826 as the Dockmaster’s house, and its elevated position and bay windows provided views of the river and the dock entrance just to the north. It replaced an earlier dockmaster’s house that had fallen into a state of dilapidation.

The design of the house, and the use of the large bow section, is very similar to Bridge House, the last building in my previous post. One of the possible reasons for the similarities of design is that this house was designed by Rennie’s father, although the design was also probably functionally best for the role of the occupant.

In my photo above, a row of taller terrace houses can be seen following on from Isle House. They are rather difficult to photograph in such a narrow street. I walked further down and took the following photo looking back.

Isle of Dogs

In the above photo, the furthest house, next to Isle House is Nelson House, built around 1820. The two houses closest to the camera with brick facing were built around 1809.

There is no access to the river along Coldharbour. There are various gaps between buildings, however they are all closed off so no possibility to view the river.

Isle of Dogs

Further along Coldharbour there is a rather imposing building. This is the entrance to the old Blackwall Police Station.

Isle of Dogs

Blackwall Police Station was built between 1893 and 1894 to a design by John Butler. The need for the police station was due to the poor conditions that the local division were housed in – an old hulk floating on the river.

The Police Station closed in the late 1970s, it was then converted into flats.

Isle of Dogs

The ground floor is raised above the level of Coldharbour as shown by the photos above where a flight of steps reaches up to the main entrance. This was a design response to a unique need.

The photo below of Blackwall Police Station from the river in 1969 shows a large entrance at river level. This was a boat dock to provide access for boats directly underneath the building so that stores, or indeed people, could be securely transferred within the building rather than alongside.

The height of the entrance had to be sufficient to provide access at all states of the tide.

Isle of Dogs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0183_69_1313

At the end of Coldharbour, where the street turns away from the river back up to Preston’s Road (although access is only for pedestrians, the junction is closed for traffic), is one of may favourite pubs. This is The Gun:

Isle of Dogs

The Gun is a genuinely old pub with a pub on the site since the early 18th century. The current name of the pub originates from 1771. Earlier names for the pub on the site were the Ramsgate Pink, the Rose and Crown and the first recorded name in 1722 as the King and Queen.

A board on the front of the pub states that Admiral Nelson met Emma Hamilton for “secret assignations” in an upstairs room. Whatever the truth in this, the pub is a perfect, out of the way location for a secret meeting.

The pub can get very busy, and is Grade II listed, so hopefully the future of this historic pub, alongside the river, is safe.

Returning to Preston’s Road, I continued to head south. crossing the entrance to the South Dock. There are some fascinating views from this point. This is looking north west with two types of crane symbolising the change that is taking place on the Isle of Dogs – original cranes for loading and unloading cargo alongside the docks, with the cranes that are now building the towers that are taking over large parts of the area.

Isle of Dogs

Looking along the entrance channel to the location of the original South Dock with a growing forest of high rise towers.

Isle of Dogs

The view in the opposite direction, across the River Thames to the Millennium Dome.

Isle of Dogs

I have a load of photos that both my father and me have taken of the Isle of Dogs over the years. Many of them I still need to scan, but there is one that I have scanned that I wanted to find the location of on this walk.

This is a photo of the Gun pub taken from the opposite bank of the channel between river and South Dock taken in 1986.

Isle of Dogs

This viewpoint shows the side of the Gun as well as the river frontage of the buildings alongside Coldharbour. The tide is out and the large entrance into the boat dock underneath the old police station can be clearly seen.

Crossing the bridge, I tried to find the location of the above photo. New flats have been built across the area. I walked in the entrance roadway hoping to find access to the river. The length up against the channel is fenced off. The nearest I could get to a similar photo is shown in the following photo, but I am not far enough out.

Isle of Dogs

This pontoon extends out into the river and I suspect my father took the photo from the end of the pontoon. It is behind a fence and locked gates in I think an area controlled by the Canal and River Trust – I will have to get in contact and see if I can access this area.

Isle of Dogs

Walking back up to the road, which has now changed name from Preston’s Road to Manchester Road, and the large blue bridge can be seen over the entrance to the South Dock.

Isle of Dogs

The bridge viewed from the southern approach.

Isle of Dogs

This latest incarnation of the bridge across the channel between docks and river was installed in 1969. The design of the bridge is the same as I saw in Amsterdam last year, although on a much larger scale.

Just to the south of the bridge there is a separate spur of Manchester Road on what was the original alignment of the street. Along this spur is a terrace of houses that date from the early 1890s.

Isle of Dogs

Up to this point, I had not seen any survivors from before the war, apart from the houses in Coldharbour. This terrace has managed to survive the expansion of the docks and the considerable bombing of the area during the war. The terrace is named Glen Terrace after the shipping line of the same name which operated on the space the houses now occupy prior to their construction.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows that Manchester Road once ran on the alignment of the spur that runs directly in front of Glen Terrace and that a large Graving Dock once extended from the river up to Manchester Road.

Leaving Glen Terrace, I continued south along Manchester Road. Nearly all the building along this stretch of Manchester Road comprise post war flats of varying heights, there is very little or pre-war age, a reflection of the intense bombing of the Isle of Dogs and the post war loss of the Docks and their associated industries.

There is an interesting exception. Hidden behind a row of hedges and trees is a crescent of houses that would not look out of place in deepest suburbia. This is Jubilee Crescent:

Isle of Dogs

The houses in Jubilee Crescent form 28 retirement flats managed as social housing.

They were built in 1935, the year of King George V’s Silver Jubilee which accounts for the name of the crescent. They were built for retired workers in the shipbuilding industry by the ship repair company R. & H. Green & Silley Weir Ltd, who then handed the completed buildings to the Shipworkers Jubilee Housing Trust. They are now managed by the Southern Housing Group.

Walking along Manchester road there are a couple of closed pubs. The first is the Cubitt Arms:Isle of Dogs

The pub was built in 1864 and closed in 2011.

The Cubitt Arms may be an early example of planning blight. Whilst researching through newspapers, I came across the following article from The Era, dated the 31st January 1869:

“COMPENSATION FOR A PUBLIC-HOUSE ON THE ISLE OF DOGS – A Special Jury, under the presidency of Mr. Under-Sheriff Burchell was engaged the whole of Thursday at the Sheriffs’ Court, Red Lion-square, in the case of Smallman v. the Millwall Canal Company, to assess the amount of compensation to be given to the claimant of the Cubitt’s Arms, poplar, which premises were required for the new docks at the Isle of Dogs, and for the consequent damage to the property. Mr. Digby Seymour Q.C. and Mr. J.H. Lloyd were for the claimant; Mr. Hawkins, Q.C.  represented the Company. Several witnesses were called, and the compensation was estimated at between £5,000 and £6,000. Mr. Hawkins addressed the Court in mitigation, and, after a long investigation, the Jury awarded £3,760.”

The Millwall Canal Company was the original name of the company formed in 1864 to build the Millwall Docks. These docks form a reversed L shape with the lower arm of the L running from the middle of the Isle of Dogs towards the west. An eastern entrance would have been an advantage as it would have saved the effort of ships having to round the Isle of Dogs and enter from the west. An entrance from the east was planned by the Millwall Canal Company but never built.

I have ringed the location of the Cubitt’s Arms in red in the following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

Isle of Dogs

The lower segment of the Millwall Dock is almost due west of the pub’s location. This lower segment has an entrance to the river in the west and the easterly entrance may have been proposed to run across the open land to the east of the dock, across the pub and into the river.

The pub was built in the same year as the Millwall Canal Company was formed, so the potential of an entrance running to the east would have put off any additional house building around the pub. it could have been this loss of customer business and the impact of not knowing whether you would still have a business in a few years that resulted in the claim for damages.

i will have to try and track down any plans showing the proposed route for the eastern entrance to confirm, but this does demonstrate that the impact of plans for large infrastructure developments on small businesses is not a recent problem.

The second pub is the Pier Tavern. Built a year earlier than the Cubitt Arms in 1863, but closed around the same time. It did have a short life as a restaurant, but is currently closed and the ground floor is boarded.

Isle of Dogs

I am sure it will end up as a full residential conversion.

A short distance further south is an interesting wall with a series of entrances running along the wall.

Isle of Dogs

There is a relatively recent housing development behind the wall, however this space was once occupied by Dudgeon’s Wharf, Pyrimont and Plymouth Wharf. It may be that these entrances originally led from Manchester Road into these wharves.

A short walk further on, I arrived at the final location listed in the Architects’ Journal as at risk in 1972.

Site 26 – Practically all that survives of original Cubitt Town – Cubitt’s Church in early English style.

This is the church of Christ and St. John on the junction of Manchester Road and Glenaffric Avenue.

Isle of Dogs

The Architects’ Journal reference to the church included the name Cubitt Town. This was the area to the south east of the Isle of Dogs that was developed by William Cubitt during the mid 19th century.  The development consisted of industrial premises on the land facing onto the river, with housing inland.

The rapid growth of Cubitt Town required a church to serve the growing population. Cubitt offered the land for the construction of the church, along with a donation, however he ended up funding the full construction and the church was completed around 1854.

The rows of terrace houses that once lined the streets of Cubitt Town and the industrial premises along the river have disappeared, however the church remains as a significant local landmark, with the tall spire being visible from across the river in Greenwich.

The street names have also changed. Newcastle Street was the original name for Glenaffric Avenue, so whilst Manchester Road has retained its name, some of the streets have changed name since Cubitt’s original development.

I walked up Glenaffric Street, alongside the church to find a pub at the end. This is the Great Eastern.

Isle of Dogs

The pub was part of Cubitt’s development and originally opened as the Newcastle Arms, in the street that was named at the time Newcastle Street. The pub later changed name to the Waterman’s Arms and relatively recently to the Great Eastern.

I have some photos of the pub from the 1980s and it has a fascinating history which I plan to cover in a later post.

Another reference to the name Newcastle is in the name of the dock that can still be found at the end of Glenaffric Avenue and adjacent to the pub.

Isle of Dogs

This is Newcastle Draw Dock, an open dock where boats can be drawn in, out of the river. This would enable a ship to be worked on and repaired below the waterline during periods of low tide.

The dock, the original brick wall and wooden buttresses are part of the reason for the dock being listed, as well as the dock’s part in the view from Greenwich of the dock, church and the pub.

Adjacent to the dock is a monument set into a brick wall. The smaller plaque to the left states “re-erected in 1882”, which must refer to the monuments previous location.

Isle of Dogs

I cannot find any reference to the significance and previous location of this monument. I suspect it must have been from within a church and appears to be the type that would decorate a tomb.

Having reached the church, I had found all the locations on my list from Bromley by Bow to the southern end of the Isle of Dogs. I now headed to Mudchute and to the DLR station of the same name, and there were still some fascinating places to be found.

Walking further along Manchester Road, and next to the Island Gardens DLR station are these derelict toilets.

Isle of Dogs

No idea of the age, however it is unusual to see buildings of this type and design still on the streets of London. The rather nice air vents on the roof make an interesting addition to the plain concrete walls, which I imagine would once have been full of adverts.

Further along Manchester Road is a very sad sight – this is the Lord Nelson pub which appears to be closed, although whether permanently or just for refurbishment is not clear.

Isle of Dogs

The pub was built in 1855 and today is still a good example of a Victorian corner pub, but in its original form it was a brilliant example of Victorian pub decoration.

The LMA Collage archive has the following photo of the Lord Nelson from 1904.

Isle of Dogs

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0974_2301

A statue of Lord Nelson looks out from the corner of the roof. The font and lettering of the brewery and pub names, and a very large lantern hanging above the main entrance of directly onto the street corner.

Going for a pint at the Lord Nelson on a dark Friday evening must have been an experience. The windows lit and the light from the lantern shining out over the street corner.

I love traditional London pubs, and they are closing too fast, however I am always very aware that whilst they were important centres of the community, they also were there to encourage drinking and probably took far too much of a worker’s wages at the end of the working week.

The Lord Nelson marks a boundary in the road that rings the edge of the Isle of Dogs. Along the eastern edge, all the way from the entrance to South Dock, the road has been Manchester Road, but here it turns into Westferry Road which then runs along the western edge of the Isle of Dogs.

Directly opposite the Lord Nelson, and now in Westferry Road is another closed fire station.

Isle of Dogs

A fire station was originally opened on the site in 1877, however this was too small given the rapid development of the area and the new fire station was designed by the London County Council in 1904.

The main building fronts onto Westferry Road and there was a yard to the rear of the building in East Ferry Road. What stands out on the roof of the fire station is the number of chimneys. The building must have needed a considerable number of fireplaces to keep the building warm.

Just to the right of the main doors there is a plaque.

Isle of Dogs

Joan Bartlett and Violet Pengelly were two members of the Auxiliary Fire Service and were killed when a local school being used as an emergency depot took a direct hit by a high explosive bomb on the night of the 18th September 1940.

The fire station closed in 2006 and has since been converted into apartments. The small street that led into the fire station yard has been named Bartlett Mews, and the new flats adjacent to the old fire station are named Pengelly Apartments.

This was a fascinating walk from Bromley by Bow to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs. As usual, I have only briefly touched on the places I have walked past, and far more deserves to be written.  Whether it is a building that has the core of a late 15th century manor house alongside the six lanes of the A12, London County Council Fire Stations, a pub that may have been in the sights of the Millwall Canal Company, and the hidden presence of the River Thames – I really enjoyed exploring this historic part of east London.

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New Deal For East London – Bromley By Bow to Poplar

Two years ago I started a project to revisit all the locations listed as at risk in an issue of the Architects Journal. dated 19th January 1972. This issue had a lengthy, special feature titled “New Deal For East London”. The full background to the article is covered in my first post on the subject here.

I have almost completed the task of visiting all 85 locations, there are just a few more to complete. I had a day off work last Monday, the weather was perfect, so I took a walk from Bromley by Bow to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs to track down another set of locations featured in the 1972 article, and also to explore an area, the first part of which, is not usually high up on the list for a London walk.

There was so much of interest on this walk, that I have divided into two posts. Bromley by Bow to Poplar today, and Poplar to the tip of the Isle of Dogs, hopefully mid-week.

I had five sites to visit, which are shown in the following map from the 1972 article, starting at location number 29, passing by sites 56, 28 and 27 before finishing at site 26.

To get to the start of my planned route, I took the Hammersmith & City line out to Bromley by Bow station. There have been some considerable changes to the area in the years since the 1972 article, changes which are still ongoing. The following map shows the area today with the five locations marked. One obvious difference between the 1972 and 2019 maps are the major roads that have been cut through the original streets, and it is by one of these new roads that I would start the walk.

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

The entrance to Bromley by Bow underground station has been a building site for the last few years, although with not too much evidence of building work underway. The exterior of the station entrance is clad in hoardings and scaffolding.

Bromley by Bow

The underground station entrance opens out onto a busy road. Three lanes of traffic either side of a central barrier. This is the A12 which leads from the Bow Flyover junction with the A11 and takes traffic down to the junction with the A13 and the Blackwall Tunnel under the River Thames.

Directly opposite the station is a derelict building. This, along with surrounding land has been acquired by a development company ready for the construction of a whole new, mainly residential area, including a 26 storey tower block.

Bromley by Bow

In the photo above, i am looking across the 6 lanes and central barrier of the A12. The construction of this road in the 1970s had a major impact on the area. It was once a network of smaller streets, terrace housing and industry, much of which was due to the location adjacent to the River Lea. The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London shows a very different area. Bromley Station (now Bromley by Bow) is towards the top of the map with St. Leonard’s Street passing the station, leading down to Brunswick Road. Parts of these streets remain, however as the north to south route they have been replaced by the six lane A12. Many of the side streets have also disappeared or been shortened.

Bromley by Bow

There are still many traces that can be found of the original streets and the buildings that the local population would have frequented. This photo is of the old Queen Victoria pub at 179 St Leonard’s Street.

Bromley by Bow

The pub is surrounded by the new buildings of Bow School, however originally to the side of the pub and at the back were large terraces of flats which presumably provided a large part of the customers for the Queen Victoria. The pub closed in 2001 and is presumably now residential.

Walking further along the road, the road crosses the Limehouse Cut, built during the late 1760s and early 1770s to provide a direct route between the River Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs loop and the River Lea.

Bromley by Bow

New build and converted residential buildings have been gradually working their way along the Limehouse Cut, however there are a few survivors from the light industrial use of the area, including this building where the Limehouse Cut passes underneath the A12.

Bromley by Bow

A short distance along is another old London County Council Fire Brigade Station for my collection. This was built in 1910, but has since been converted into flats.

Bromley by Bow

The building is Grade II listed, with the Historic England listing stating that the building “is listed as one of London’s top rank early-C20 fire stations“. The building originally faced directly onto Brunwsick Road and was known as Brunswick Road Fire Station, however with the A12 cutting through the area, the small loop of the original Brunswick Road that separates the fire station from the A12 has been renamed Gillender Street.

The short distance on from the fire station is the first of the Architects Journal sites on my list:

Site 29 – Bromley Hall

The view approaching Bromley Hall:

Bromley by Bow

For an area that has been through so much pre and post war development, the original industrialisation of the area and wartime bombing, it is remarkable that Bromley Hall has survived.

Although having been through many changes, the building can trace its origins back to the end of the 15th century when it was built as a Manor House, later becoming a Tudor Royal Hunting Lodge. The site is much older as it was originally occupied by the late 12th century Lower Brambeley Hall, and parts of this earlier building have been exposed and are on display through a glass floor in the building.

Bromley by Bow

The London Metropolitan Archives, Collage site has a few photos of Bromley Hall. The first dates from 1968 and shows the hall, apparently in good condition, but surrounded by the industry that grew up along the River Lea.

Bromley by Bow

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01 288 68 5683

The photo highlights the impact that the A12 has had in the area. The above photo was taken from Venue Street, a street that still remains, but in a much shorter form. Everything in the above photo, in front of Bromley Hall, is now occupied by the six lane A12.

An earlier photo from 1943 showing Bromley Hall. The windows have been bricked up, I assume either because of loss of glass due to bombing, or as protection for the building.

Bromley by Bow

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_288_F1262

Bromley Hall is Grade II listed and has been open during Open House London weekends and is well worth a visit.

Further along is another example that this area, now isolated across the A12 was once a thriving community. This imposing facade is of Bromley Library, built between 1904 and 1906.

Bromley by BowBromley Library was one of four libraries in Poplar. The others being Poplar Library in the High Street, Cubitt Town Library in Strattondale Street and Bow Library in Roman Road. These libraries were open from 9 in the morning till 9:30 in the evening, and in 1926 almost half a million books were issued across the four libraries.

The Bromley Library building is now Grade II listed. It closed in 1981 and after standing empty for many years, the old library building has been converted into small business units.

I walked on a bit further, then took a photo looking back up the A12 to show the width of the road.

Bromley by Bow

Bromley Hall is the building with the white side wall to camera, and the library is just to the left of the new, taller building.

There is a constant stream of traffic along this busy road, when I took this photo it was during one of the occasional gaps in traffic when a pedestrian crossing just behind me was at red. There are not too many points to cross the road, with crossings consisting of occasional pedestrian traffic lights and also a couple of pedestrian underpass.

Much of this lower part of the A12 widening between the Limehouse Cut and East India Dock Road was originally Brunswick Street. The following Collage photo from 1963 shows Brunswick Street before all this would be swept away in the 1970s for the road between the Bow Flyover and the Blackwall Tunnel.

Bromley by Bow

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_288_AV63_989

Before the road meets the East India Dock Road, there are additional lanes to take traffic under the A12 and across to Abbott Road to the east.

Bromley by Bow

Close to the junction between the A12 and the East India Dock Road is the Balfron Tower.

A whole post could be written about Balfron Tower, the flats design by Erno Goldfinger and built in 1967. Balfron Tower tends to generate either love it or loathe it views of the building. dependent on your appreciation of high-rise accommodation and concrete construction.

The recent past has also been controversial in the history of the building. Like many estates from the 1960s, Balfron Tower suffered from lack of maintenance, failing lifts, problems with plumping and anti-social behavior.

In 2007 the building was transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to the housing association Poplar HARCA. The transfer included a commitment for refurbishment of the building which required considerable work and cost.

Tenants were initially given the option to remain whilst refurbishment was carried out, or move to a new local property. Whilst a number of residents took up the option to move, a number of residents remained.

The remaining residents were moved out in 2010, the reason given being the difficulty of managing a significant refurbishment project along with health and safety issues whilst there are residents in the building. Initially there was an indication that the residents may have a right of return, however this option disappeared as work progressed, and the costs of building works grew.

The redevelopment work is being undertaken by a joint venture including Poplar HARCA, LondonNewcastle and Telford Homes. There will not be any social housing in the refurbished building and all flats will be sold at market rates.

A long hoarding separates the building from the A12 with artist impressions of the new Balfron Tower and the address of the website where you can register your general interest, or as a potential purchaser of one of the flats.

Bromley by Bow

Balfron Tower photographed in February 2019, clad for building work.

Bromley by Bow

A couple of years ago, I climbed the clock tower at Chrisp Street Market and photographed Balfron Tower:

Bromley by Bow

This is a development that will continue to be controversial due to the lack of any social housing and the sale of the flats at market rates. Another example of the gradual demographic change of east London.

To reach my next destination on the Architects’ Journal list, I turn into East India Dock Road. A terrace of 19th century buildings with ground floor shops runs along the north of the street and above Charlie’s Barbers there is an interesting sign:

Bromley by Bow

Interesting to have this reference to a north London club in east London. I put this photo on Twitter with a question as to the meaning and one possible reference is the boring way Arsenal use to play and results would only ever be one nil. I would have asked Charlie, if he still owns the barbers, however they were shut during my visit.

Bromley by Bow

A short distance from Charlies Barbers and across the East India Dock Road was my next location.

Site 56 – Early 19th Century All Saints, Poplar, With Contemporary Rectory And Terraces

Buildings seem to have a habit of surrounding themselves in scaffolding whenever I visit and All Saints, Poplar was certainly doing its best to hide, however it still looks a magnificent church on a sunny February morning.

Bromley by Bow

Poplar was originally a small hamlet, however the growth of the docks generated a rapid growth in population. The East India Dock Road was built between 1806 and 1812 to provide a transport route between the City and the newly built East India Docks.

Alongside the East India Dock Road, All Saints was constructed in the 1820s by the builder Thomas Morris who was awarded the contract in 1821.

The church survived the bombing of the docks during the last war until March 1945 when a V2 rocket landed in Bazely Street alongside the eastern boundary of the churchyard, causing considerable damage to the east of the church.

The church was designed to be seen as a local landmark along the East India Dock Road and across the local docks. The spire of the church is 190 feet high and the white Portland stone facing would have impressed those passing along the major route between City and Docks.

Burials in the churchyard ended in the 19th century and the gravestones have been moved to the edge, lining the metal fencing along the boundary of the church.

Bromley by Bow

The area around the church was developed during the same years as construction of the church. A couple of streets around the church now form a conservation area. These were not houses built for dock workers. Their location in the streets facing onto the church would be for those with a substantial regular income, rather than those working day-to-day in the docks.

This is Montague Place where there are eight surviving terrace houses from the 1820s.

Bromley by Bow

At the eastern end of Montague Place there is another terrace of four houses in Bazely Street. These date from 1845 and are in remarkably good condition.

Bromley by Bow

The church and two terraces of houses form a listed group and are part of a single conservation area.

A short distance further down Bazely Street is one of my favourite pubs in the area – the Greenwich Pensioner. The pub closed for a few years recently but has fortunately reopened.

Bromley by Bow

One of the problems of walking in the morning – the pubs are still closed.

I continued along Bazely Street to Poplar High Street, then turned south to the large roundabout where Cotton Street (the A1206) meets the multi-lane Aspen Way. This is not really a pedestrian friendly area, however I needed to cross under the Aspen Way to continue heading south for my next destination.

This photo looking towards the east, is from the roundabout underneath the flyover that takes the Aspen Way on its way to the Lower Lea Crossing.

Bromley by Bow

As with the A12 along Bromley by Bow, this area has been cut through with some major new multi-lane roads as part of the redevelopment of the docks.

A poster seen underneath the flyover alongside the roundabout.

Bromley by Bow

A poster that is relevant to a specific point in time. I was not sure who would see the poster as it is facing inwards, away from the traffic on the roundabout, and I doubt that many pedestrians take this route.

Emerging from underneath the flyover and the developments on the northern edge of the Isle of Dogs can be seen.

Bromley by Bow

Crossing over Trafalgar Way, and one of the old docks can be found. This is Poplar Dock looking west with two cranes remaining from when the dock was operational.

Bromley by Bow

The site is now Poplar Dock Marina and is full with narrow boats and an assorted range of other smaller craft. Poplar Dock opened in 1851, however the site had originally been used from 1827 as a reservoir to balance water levels in the main West India Dock just to the west. In the 1840s the area was used as a timber pond before conversion to a dock.

Poplar Docks served a specific purpose, being known as a railway dock. The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Poplar Docks almost fully ringed by railway tracks and depots of the railway companies.

Bromley by Bow

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

Again, the docks deserve far more attention than I can give in this post, so for now, I will leave Poplar Docks at their southern end and walk along Preston’s Road to get to my next location on the Architects’ Journal list.

Site 28 – Early 19th Century Dockmaster’s House, Now Empty

Those last two words must have been the reason for inclusion in the list. An empty building in the docklands in the 1970s would have been at risk, however fortunately the building has survived and this is the view when approaching the location along Preston’s Road.

Bromley by Bow

The Dockmaster’s House goes by the name of Bridge House and is now occupied by apartments available for short term rent.

The house is alongside the Blackwall entrance to the docks, a channel that connects the River Thames to the Blackwall Basin so would have seen all the shipping entering from the river, heading via the basin to and from the West India Dock.

Evidence of the historic function of the place can be found hidden in the gardens between the house and the channel.

Bromley by Bow

Bridge House was built between 1819 and 1820 for the West India Dock Company’s Principal Dockmaster. The entrance to the house faces to the channel running between docks and river, however if you look at the first photo of Bridge House taken from Preston’s Road you will see large bay windows facing out towards the river. This was a deliberate part of the design by John Rennie as these windows, along with the house being on raised ground would provide a perfect view towards the river and the shipping about to enter or leave the docks.

The Architects’ Journal in January 1972 were right to be worried about the future of Bridge House. Later that same year a fire destroyed the roof. The rest of the house survived and a flat roof was put in place.

The house was converted to flats in 1987 and a new roof to the same design as the original replaced the flat roof. The luxury flats did not sell, and Bridge House has hosted a number of temporary office roles before apparently now providing a short term let for flats which have been constructed inside the building.

The view from in front of the house. This side of the house is facing down to the channel that leads from the Thames to the Blackwall Basin.

Bromley by Bow

A view from the bridge over the channel showing the house in its raised position, overlooking the channel and to the right, the River Thames (although that view is now obstructed by buildings).

Bromley by Bow

Before continuing on down through the Isle of Dogs in my next post, I will pause here on the bridge over the channel between docks and river to enjoy the view.

This is looking west towards the original Blackwall Basin:

Bromley by Bow

This is looking east, the opposite direction towards the river with the Millennium Dome partly visible across the river.

Bromley by Bow

I really enjoyed this part of the walk, what could be considered an unattractive route, walking down from Bromley by Bow station is completely wrong. It is an area going through considerable change but there is so much history and so much to explore.

In my next post I will continue walking south towards the far end of the Isle of Dogs to find the remaining two locations from the 1972 issue of the Architects’ Journal.

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A Corner Shop In Old Ford Road

Last Sunday, I took advantage of some glorious winter sunshine and headed out to Bethnal Green and Old Ford Road to find the location of a corner shop my father had photographed in 1986, when small, family owned corner shops still catered for the day to day needs of many Londoners.

This was Fowlers Stores at 33 Old Ford Road:

Old Ford Road

The same shop today in February 2019:

Old Ford Road

The 1986 photo shows a typical London corner shop. Shelves up against the window stocked with items such as Mothers Pride bread, a rather random assortment of household goods in the window on the left, always plenty of cigarette advertising, milk bottles in crates left outside for collection, and in Fowlers Store, an advert for Tudor Colour Films at the top of the door – a film brand I tried once as it was cheap before returning to Kodak.

What can be seen of the outside of the shop today looks in very poor condition, although I am surprised that the 33 Old Ford Rd sign is still there – 33 years after the original photo.

I would love to look behind the shutters and see how much of the original shop survives.

I am not sure when the shop closed, on the occasions I have walked along Old Ford Road in recent years it has always been closed with the shutters down.

There is a National Lottery Instants sign just above the door in my 2019 photo. I believe these were distributed when the National Lottery started scratchcard games in 1995, so the shop was open in the middle of the 1990s.

I checked the historic view feature in Google Streetview and the shop was closed in all images back to the first in July 2008, so the Fowlers Stores must have closed between the mid 1990s and 2000s.

33 Old Ford Road is located at the Cambridge Heath Road end of Old Ford Road, on the corner with Peel Grove, a street that is now a short dead end after the grounds of a school took over the central section of Peel Grove.

The shop is at the end of a terrace of 19th century houses / shops.

Old Ford Road

The buildings do not date from before 1850 as an 1844 map shows a limited amount of buildings here, along with some subtle road changes as Old Ford Road originally terminated further to the right of the above photo and this stretch appears to have been a combination of North Street and Gretton Street. The North East London Cemetery was located just to the north where the school adjacent to Peel Grove is now located.

I suspect it has been a shop for most of the life of the building.  In the 1891 Kelly’s London Post Office Directory, 33 Old Ford Road is listed as being occupied by William Stone – Grocer.

Given that the shop has probably been closed for at least 10 years, I am surprised it has not been converted for some other use.

The map below shows the location of the shop marked by a red circle.

Old Ford Road

Maps  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

As usual, I use visiting a specific location as a reason for exploring the local area and after finding 33 Old Ford Road, I went for a brief walk.

I have already explored part of the area when I was tracking down sites listed as at risk in the Architects Journal focus on East London in 1973, but there were a couple of other streets I wanted to visit.

Turning off Cambridge Heath Road into Old Ford Road, before I had reached number 33, is the magnificent York Hall.

Old Ford Road

This magnificent building, opened in 1929, was at risk a few years ago, but fortunately has been saved and is owned by Tower Hamlets Council.

The building has housed Turkish Baths in the basement and all manner of functions in the large hall. Boxing matches were a regular feature and in the early days of the hall, political functions attracted the attention of the political groups trying to create trouble across East London. A newspaper article from the 17th February 1939 reports:

“LIVELY TIME FOR LIBERAL LEADER – FASCISTS HURL TOMATOES AND LIGHT BULBS: Tomatoes and electric light bulbs were thrown at the platform, when Sir Archibald Sinclair, Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, was subjected to noisy interruptions while addressing a Liberal meeting in York Hall, Bethnal Green, London last night.

Three hundred Fascists had got into the hall with tickets which, it was alleged, they had printed themselves. It was not until the police had ejected a large number of people that Sir Archibald Sinclair was able to make himself heard. He was continually interrupted, and there was an uproar as a man was ejected.

When Sir Archibald rose the Fascists sang their marching song “We Want Mosley”.

There were attempts to drown his voice by singing. ‘Some people want to hear Mosley’ Sir Archibald shouted into the microphone, ‘but he isn’t here to be heard. The reason they are anxious to stop me speaking is that they know the words I speak will express the opinion of the great majority of people in Bethnal Green. I could not do so much for the Liberal cause as these people are doing’.

When the crowd again began to chant ‘We want Mosley’ the chairman said, ‘We will telegraph to Mr. Hitler and say that his hirelings have been playing his game’. 

In his speech Sir Archibald said: ‘The question which the Liberal party asks is how we are to defend democracy, to uphold the values of liberty, justice and international good faith – to expand the bounds of freedom, to raise the material and spiritual standards of our civilisation, to give every man and woman in these islands the opportunity of living a fuller, richer and more useful life in a peaceful and orderly world.”

York Hall hosted other, rather more peaceful events, for example, a couple of years earlier the hall was hosting an exhibition by the Bethnal Green Chamber of Commerce, where there was a miniature brewery on display, demonstrating the complete process of brewing and bottling.

Old Ford Road is an interesting road. It reaches almost to the River Lea having crossed the Regent’s Canal. The name is a reference to an old crossing point through the River Lea. I will save that walk for another time, as last Sunday, just after number 33 Old Ford Road, I turned right into Globe Road.

The name Globe Road is a reference to the pub, the Old Globe on the corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road.  The street has been through several name changes, the northern end through which I am walking was originally named Back Lane.

Globe Road is another long road that reaches down to Mile End Road, but for this post I only walked the length of the road to Roman Road (see the above map).

Most of the development of this stretch of Globe Road is down to the East End Dwellings Company who built large blocks of flats, as well as a rather nice terrace of houses.

The following photo comprises Gretton Houses in the distance and Merceron Houses nearer the camera.

Old Ford Road

The name Gretton is the same as the original name given to the short stretch of Old Ford Road roughly where number 33 now stands. I have not yet found the origin of this name.

The East End Dwellings Company was formed in the early 1880s by the vicar of St. Jude’s, Whitechapel, the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett. The intention of the Company was to provide housing for the poor, including those who other philanthropic housing companies often avoided, such as casual day labourers.

Gretton Houses were built in 1901 and designed by Ernest Emmanuel.

Old Ford RoadMerceron Houses were built in the same year, also to a design by Ernest Emmanuel.

Old Ford Road

The name Merceron is from one of the east London families who had control over large parts of Bethnal Green. The excellent book The Boss of Bethnal Green by Julian Woodford details the story of the family and their impact on Bethnal Green.

The buildings of Gretton and Merceron Houses that we see today are only part of the original construction as two blocks of these houses were demolished in 1982.

Directly opposite Merceron Houses is a wonderful terrace of houses, also by the East End Dwellings Company. the central pair of houses has a plaque naming the company as the builders of the terrace and that they were constructed in 1906.

Old Ford Road

The terrace of houses were designed by Henry Davis and built on the site of a row of weavers cottages.

Old Ford Road

Further down Globe Road is another large block of flats by the East End Dwellings Company.

Old Ford Road

This is Mendip Houses:

Old Ford Road

Mendip Houses running along Kirkwall Place from Globe Road:

Old Ford Road

This short stretch of Globe Road is rather unusual for east London as two pubs remain open in the street.

The first is The Camel:

Old Ford Road

The second is the Florist Arms:

Old Ford Road

Both pubs have the same owners so hopefully an indication that their safety is assured for some time.

This short stretch of Globe Road soon arrives at Roman Road. It continues across Roman Road and the next stretch of Globe Road is a story of lost railway stations and demolished pubs which I will save for another day, but on the corner of Globe Road and Roman Road is one of the magnificent, 19th century London fire stations.

This is the Grade II listed Bethnal Green Fire Station:

Old Ford Road

The building ceased operation as a fire station in 1968 and was empty for 10 years until it was taken over by the London Buddhist Centre who retain the building to this day.

Although the building looks really good today, the brickwork glowing in the winter sunshine, it was even more impressive after it was first built in 1888. the following photo from 1906 shows a very impressive tower on the right side of the fire station. I assume this may have been for hanging and drying hoses.

Old Ford Road

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0474_3601

Unfortunately the tower was considerably truncated at some point. The following photo from 1973 shows the closed fire station with the main doors boarded up.

Old Ford Road

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0474_3601

Considering the length of time that the fire station was empty it is remarkable that it has survived. Grade II listing in 1973 must have helped save the building, 5 years after the London Fire Brigade stopped using the building and with still no use planned.

The restored plaque on the side of the fire station in Bessy Street dating the construction of the building:

Old Ford Road

There is an interesting street sign here in Bessy Street:

Old Ford Road

To the left of the street name is the name and symbol of Globe Town:

Old Ford Road

I suspect the street sign dates from around 1986. Globe Town is a much older name, however after the GLC was abolished in 1986, responsibility for the area transferred to Tower Hamlets Council who created seven neighbourhoods, one of which was Globe Town.

The name Globe Town can be traced back to the start of the 19th century. Estate building to the east of Bethnal Green started in the closing years of the 18th century and by the early 19th century, the name Globe Town was being used for this new area.

The following map extract from 1844 shows the location of Globe Town.

Old Ford Road

As there have been a number of changes since this map was created, I have marked the key locations from today’s post. The red dotted line indicates the route I have walked – a very short distance.

I wonder how long the remains of the shop at 33 Old Ford Road will be there? With the speed of redevelopment across London I am really surprised that if indeed it has been closed since at least 2008, it has not already been converted into flats.

After finding the East End Dwellings Company buildings in Globe Road, I am also a good way through a side project to track down all their remaining buildings across London.

Finding one location also always identifies new areas to walk, so the rest of Old Ford Road, Globe Road and indeed Globe Town have been added to an ever increasing list. Returning will enable me to keep track of the old shop at 33 Old Ford Road.

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The GLC Birthday Cake And Other Views Of London

I have a couple of shoe boxes stuffed with London postcards collected over the years. They serve as reminders of events and places and provide views of London back to the time when cheap photographic printing and postal rates kicked off a new form of communication.

With Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp etc. killing off postcards as a means of communication, here is a rather random selection of postcards showing the diverse way in which London has been photographed and posted across the world.

My first postcard dates from 1984 when the GLC created an exhibition on the Southbank, celebrating 95 years of the London County Council / Greater London Council working for London. The rather novel form for the exhibition was within a giant birthday cake.

views of London

I had completely forgotten about this until I looked at the postcard again. I was working on the Southbank at the time and have some of my own photos of the exhibition on some unscanned negatives I need to find.

The exhibition ran from the 9th August to the 31st October 1984 and was held at a time of political friction between the Conservative Government and the Labour majority GLC. This would lead to the GLC being disbanded two years later.

The birthday cake was even mentioned in Parliament during a question from Tony Banks (Labour MP for Newham North West) and William Waldegrave (Conservative Minister of State). The questioning was regarding the abolition of the GLC (who had put considerable sums of money into the development of the Southbank) and what would happen to the area after the GLC was abolished and the Southbank came under the proposed South Bank Board. The birthday cake is referenced in one of William Waldegrave’s replies:

“I can understand why the hon. Gentleman is worried. He and his colleagues at county hall must be wondering where to put their great pink birthday cake. This was another triumph for the GLC! It was forecast in a committee paper last March that 1 million visitors would see this object and unfortunately 950,000 of them have not turned up. Only 50,000 had come by the end of September. If we assume, charitably, a last-minute rush of another 25,000 in the remaining weeks that the cake is open, that still works out at a cost of £3.30 per visitor. I am sure that hon. Members, and perhaps even the hon. Gentleman, would agree that the £250,000 could have been spent in much better ways to help the arts.”

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the later years of the GLC, the previous 95 years were worth celebrating as the London County Council and Greater London Council had achieved much in raising standards across London and bringing a much needed central coordination and investment to the city’s infrastructure.

An example of one of these investments is illustrated on the following card, titled “Opening of the L.C.C Steamboat Service by H.R.H The Prince of Wales”

views of London

The photo shows the steamboat service being opened in June 1905. The LCC had acquired and built piers along the river along with a fleet of 30 paddle steamers. There were expectations that the new service would provide an efficient and fast method for transporting passengers to locations along the river, however it quickly became apparent that the service would not be economic.

Although the steamboat service was not intended to generate profits, it was expected to cover costs, however passenger numbers were not as expected and the service rapidly went into debt, finally closing only two years later in 1907.

There may also have been issues with the frequency of steamboats as this letter to the Globe on the 29th June 1905 illustrates. Mr Arthur Tuff of Barnsbury writes:

“Sir,-I purchased a penny ticket to London bridge on the Temple Pier at 3:50 pm today. I waited there till 4:30 pm. No boat going down the river called there during the 40 minutes, nor was there one in sight, although one can see nearly as far as Westminster. Several others, like myself, were compelled to leave the pier in consequence of this delay. This seems to be very bad management, and if not remedied, must mean a great loss to the ratepayers.”

The steamboats were sold at considerable loss and the press was highly critical of the service and the loss of money to the London ratepayer. The Illustrated London News included a full page cartoon titled “Posers for Posterity : Strange Finds 500 Years hence”:

views of London

The caption to the cartoon reads: “Unearthing The Popular L.C.C. Steamboat – While a party of scientists were burrowing about in the Thames Valley last week, they found a structure that has been identified as belonging to an early form of soup kitchen. The evidence suggests it has been run more as an amusement than as a paying concern, although we should imagine that large profits were earned by it, especially in the winter months, when it would be so greatly in demand among the poorer classes.”

The River Thames features in another postcard from May 1954, titled “The Royal Homecoming – Britannia Enters The Upper Pool Of London”.

views of London

This was the return of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh following a world tour. Tower Pier is on the left of the photo.

It must have been a dramatic arrival as it was accompanied by a large flypast. The following newspaper report explains:

“As the Britannia approached Woolwich, along Gallions Reach, 180 jet fighters and bombers roared overhead in the R.A.F. and Canadian Air Force ‘Welcome Home’ fly-past.

Leading were four tight arrowhead formations of Meteors flying at about 1,000 feet, followed by two formations of 24 Sabres each. Then, half a minute later, and flying just above the low scurrying clouds through which they were seen at intervals, came four echelon formations of nine Canberra bombers each.

With a tremendous roar flying at 350 miles an hour, the jets swept over the Britannia’s bow in a majestic and graceful salute. The sirens of tugs and small boats added to the tumult.”

A much more peaceful view, especially compared to the same view today is this postcard showing Parliament Square and looking across to St. Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey.

views of London

Whilst the view today is much the same, there are a number of significant differences. The road appears empty of traffic, but today is an almost constant stream to traffic – no chance for a casual wander across the street today.

The area is also a tourist hot spot and on almost every day of the year the streets are full, although I suspect that the current state of the Elizabeth Tower, surrounded in scaffolding, must be a serious disappointment if you have traveled halfway across the world.

One area that fascinates me is the Barbican. My father took a number of photos of the area in 1947 / 1948 showing the remains of the bombed buildings, St. Giles Cripplegate, Redcross Street Fire Station and what was left of once densely built streets.

I have not yet posted these photos as I want to map out the area, align the photos, gather more detail and show the area before bombing. There do not appear to be that many pre-war photos of the ordinary streets of the Barbican, however I have found a number, one of which was a postcard of Tranter’s Hotel, Bridgewater Square, Baribican:

views of London

The square was badly damaged during the war and completely rebuilt as part of the overall Barbican development. The square looks completely different today and will feature in my future set of posts on the Barbican, however for now, this link to Google Maps shows the location of the square today.

The following postcard was sent from a visitor to London to an address in Folkestone, Kent. It includes a photo of St. Paul’s Churchyard as “The Shopping Quarter” – a function we would not associate with the area today.

views of London

St. Paul’s Churchyard was a popular pre-war shopping destination with a range of different shops including clothes, materials and book shops. The large white building in the centre of the photo is that of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. I wrote about their business in a post at the end of last year. All the buildings in this photo would be destroyed in December 1940.

The following postcard is from the Widow’s Son pub, best known for the custom on Good Friday which the postcard explains.

views of London

The Widow’s Son is one of the reasons why I seem to have developed a fascination with London’s history. It was the early 1970s and I was listening to BBC Radio London (dreadful choice of music for my young age at the time, but interesting as a London local radio station – this was just before Capital Radio started). It was Good Friday and they had a reporter live at the Widow’s Son. For some reason that event stuck in my mind and helped with the realisation that there was a world of interesting history out there to be discovered.

Postcards have always been used for advertising, and London’s hotels made good use of the format. The Hotel Metropole looks rather impressive in this card.

views of London

The Hotel Metropole was located on the corner of Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place, and opened in 1885. The building is still there and is now the Corinthia Hotel.

Another hotel that used a postcard format for advertising was the Imperial Hotel, Russell Square.

views of London

This is a far more interesting use of the format, compared to the Metropole Hotel as it has a map.

The map shows the location of the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, as well as the eight other hotels that belonged to the group. All the main London stations are numbered, and the red lines show the “Electric Railways”, or the Underground train network, which is shown as a rough geographic layout of the network, rather than in the traditional underground map format.

This card was used for advertising rather than as a card you would post to a friend as rather than a space for writing on the reverse, this card has a list of all the other hotels in the group along with the room rate.

views of London

The Imperial Hotel still operates in Russell Square (although a later incarnation of the building). This was the hotel when the above card was in use:

views of London

And this is the hotel today, where rooms start at £101 for an overnight stay, compared to roughly 39p when the card was issued. The Imperial Hotel today:

views of London

There are a variety of cards that provide a rather surreal view of London. This card is titled “If London were Venice – Fleet Street”:

views of London

The card was printed in the days before global warming and the risks of rising sea levels were understood, and was probably seen as a rather fanciful view. However with predictions of the impact of long term increases in sea level and the impact of storm surges, this may not be so far away from some longer term future flood (but without the Venetian poles and boats)..

Full colour, photographic postcards, with their glorious, brilliant colours, started in the 1950s and presented a different view of London to a global audience. I find them interesting as they show how London has changed in the last half of the 20th century.

The first postcard is a view across the River Thames to St. Paul’s Cathedral from Bankside.

views of London

This shows the old warehouses along the north bank of the river as well as a working wharf at Bankside with cargo being loaded / unloaded from a barge. A view that has changed significantly since this photo was taken.

Another view that shows an activity no longer practiced by those visiting Trafalgar Square is this postcard showing pigeon feeding.

views of London

The photo shows a rather relaxed view of pigeon feeding, however it did get out of control and the thousands of pigeons that would flock to Trafalgar Square created a significant nuisance and mess.

Pigeon feeding in Trafalgar Square was banned in 2003 and a new by-law introduced that included the potential for a £50 fine for anyone caught feeding pigeons.

The Post Office / BT Tower was a remarkable structure when first built. This postcard was posted from Kew to Newmarket, Suffolk in December 1969.

views of London

I find it amusing when the urban myths about the towers secrecy are mentioned. There was no way that the tower could be kept secret and the text on the rear of the postcard makes clear the tower’s role: “619 feet high, this tower is the centre of a new communications system which supplies long distance telephone services and additional television channels. Two lifts convey the public to the top where there is an observation platform, a cocktail bar, and a revolving restaurant”.

The postcard emphasises the height of the tower and the generally low rise construction of buildings across London at the time.

Development in London is continuous, and is often seen to be negative, however there have been times when development considerably improved an area. This postcard dating from 1978 is looking towards Westminster from the west. Millbank Tower is on the right, adjacent to the Thames, where we can see first Lambeth Bridge, then moving up the river, Westminster Bridge, Hungerford and Waterloo Bridges.

views of London

To the left of the photo there are three identical, tall office blocks. These were government buildings along Horseferry Road and Marsham Street.

Their height was such that they were in the background of the view when looking across the river towards the Palace of Westminster / Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Fortunately they were demolished and replaced by lower rise buildings which do not have the same visual impact.

A favourite location for postcard photographs is Piccadilly Circus. Night photos bring out the lights, which looking back over the years provide a snapshot of how brands and their branding have evolved.

views of London

Piccadilly Circus also features during the day.

views of London

The text for both postcards emphasises the global nature of the city – “There’s an old saying that if you stand in Piccadilly Circus for long enough, you’ll see the whole world pass before you. If you stand there for 10 minutes you’ll soon understand what it is that makes London famous throughout the world, At night, theatre land awakes, heralded by many thousand of bright lights”.

This postcard takes me back to visits when I was a child. This is the London Planetarium.

views of London

The London Planetarium was a magical experience. You would walk into a large circular auditorium under the dome. Seats were arranged in circular rows and in the centre there was a large, strangely shaped projector.

The lights would go down and the night sky would light up on the interior of the dome.

Unfortunately, educational attractions such as the planetarium are not commercially attractive, and the London Planetarium closed in 2006. It is part of the adjacent Madame Tussaud’s and now shows a Marvel Superheroes 4D attraction.

There is still a planetarium in London, at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, which is well worth a visit.

My final three postcards are all from the same area, and show different aspects of the River Thames around Tower Bridge. These are all from a time when this part of the river was still a working port.

The first photo is from the walkway alongside the Tower of London, looking across to Tower Bridge and the southern bank of the river. The tower of the old Anchor Brewery building can be seen on the right and cranes lining the river bank can be seen along the river past Horselydown Old Stairs.

views of London

The following postcard shows an aerial view looking up river towards London Bridge. The river bank on the left is lined with cranes between Tower and London Bridges. This is where City Hall and HMS Belfast are now located. In the years after this photo was taken, the majority of the buildings lining the river, along with the cranes, would disappear.

views of London

Another view of the same area, probably taken from London Bridge, again shows the cranes that lined the south of the river between the two bridges.

views of London

These views of London were sent across the UK and the world and set expectations for future visitors. Many postcards featured red buses and phone boxes and I have a theory that these only became associated with London in the way they have, once colour postcards emphasised their distinctive colour.

They are a means of communication, art form and historical record that I suspect will soon disappear. They are still to be found for sale, but it is sometime since I have seen anyone buy one. No point in posting a card with days or weeks delay, when with a couple of taps on the phone, a photo and message can be sent anywhere within seconds.

I also doubt I will ever again see a giant birthday cake on the South Bank.

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St Giles In The Fields

St Giles has always been a distinctive area. Not in the West End, not part of the expensive streets of Bloomsbury to the north, ignored by those shopping on Oxford Street and bypassed by New Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. My memories of St Giles from the late 1970s and 1980s are that it always had a slightly edgy atmosphere when visiting in the evening, drinking in the local pubs and the late night bars and music venues.

I had been intending to write a post about St Giles as an area, however working away this last week and the sheer breadth and depth of the history of St Giles swiftly stopped this attempt, so for today’s post I will focus on the church of St Giles in the Fields, a church that has been central to the history of the area for hundreds of years, located to the west of the parish, at the junction of St Giles High Street, Denmark Street and Earnshaw Street.

I visited last June, a gorgeous summer day in London, which seems a long time ago whilst writing this on a grey January day.

The view on leaving Tottenham Court Road Underground Station immediately shows how the area is changing. The space between New Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street is a major building site. The original site of Foyles disappeared a few years ago.

I walk down Charing Cross Road, along Denmark Street to find St Giles in the Fields:

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields was on the main route that led from Holborn up along what became Oxford Street to Tyburn. The following extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map shows St Giles in the Fields in the lower left corner (unfortunately the corner of the page in my copy of the map, so does not show the area around the church).

St Giles in the Fields

The wide street labelled “Broad St Giles’s” connected Holborn on the right with Oxford Street on the left. The significance of the street as a main route was relegated with the construction of New Oxford Street which cut across the streets between St Giles and Great Russell Street to the north. The construction of New Oxford Street was planned as a continuation of Oxford Street and to help with traffic congestion along St Giles. The area north of St Giles consisted of densely packed buildings, courts and alleys and was known as one of London’s notorious Rookeries.

The following map of the area today shows St Giles in the Fields in the lower centre of the map, with Denmark Street continuing to the left towards Charing Cross Road and Earnshaw Street continuing up to New Oxford Street.

St Giles in the Fields

It was late morning when I arrived and stalls in the churchyard facing St Giles High Street were setting up ready to provide food and drink to workers and visitors.

St Giles in the Fields

The origins of the church date back to the founding of a leper hospital in 1101 by Queen Matilda, when the site of the church was the hospital chapel. With the dissolution in the 16th century, the chapel became the parish church for the small village that had grown up around the original hospital.

St Giles grew into an affluent area and contributions from many of the parish’s wealthy residents allowed the chapel to be replaced by a new church in the 17th century. Edward Walford in Old and New London describes this church as being a “red brick structure, commissioned by Laud, whilst Bishop of London in 1623”.

The church of St Giles in the Fields as it appeared in 1718:

St Giles in the Fields

This 17th century church was in a very poor state 100 years later, and was demolished to make way for the present church which was built between 1730 and 1734.  Edward Walford describes the new church as “a large and stately edifice, built entirety of Portland stone, and is vaulted beneath. The steeple, which rises to a height of about 160 feet, consists of a rustic pedestal, supporting a range of Doric pilasters; whilst above the clock is an octangular tower, with three-quarter Ionic columns, supporting a balustrade with vases, on which stands the spire., which is also octangular and belted. The interior of the church is bold and effective, the roof is supported by rows of Ionic pillars of Portland stone, and the semicircular-headed windows are mostly filled with coloured glass”.

St Giles in the Fields faces to the west and the main entrance to the church is off Flitcroft Street, a narrow street that leads down from Denmark Street.

The following photo is from the entrance to the church looking down Flitcroft Street, a view that still retains the mix of architectural styles and narrow streets that once typified the majority of streets in St Giles.

St Giles in the Fields

The brick building between Flitcroft Street and the corner of the churchyard has an interesting history. The tall green doors on the side of the building facing the street may provide a clue, as does the name of the building on the brick apex:

St Giles in the Fields

As the wording states, the building was Elms Lesters Painting Rooms & Stores and was used for painting the scenic backdrops used in West End theatres, hence the tall green doors to allow these backdrops to be removed from the building for transport to the theatre.

The main entrance to the church and the associated gateway is from Flitcroft Street which, given the narrowness of the street and St Giles High Street running along the northern boundary of the church, could be considered a strange location.

St Giles in the Fields

Edward Walford again helps with understanding why the gateway is here “The gate at the entrance of the churchyard which dates from the days of Charles II, is much admired. It is adorned with a bas-relief of the Day of Judgement. It formerly stood on the north side of the churchyard, but in 1865, being unsafe, it was taken down and carefully re-erected opposite the western entrance, where it will command a prominent position towards the new street that is destined sooner or later to be opened from Tottenham Court Road to St Martin’s Lane”.

The bas-relief can still be seen on the arch above the entrance on the side of the gate facing the street. The reference to the new street was to one of the many plans in the 19th century for new streets to be constructed across London to create major through routes, rather than the mix of large streets separated by large blocks of much smaller streets and alleys. The new street referenced by Walford was not built, otherwise Flitcroft Street would look very different today.

Old and New London included a print of the gate in its original position:

St Giles in the Fields

Edward Walford’s 19th century description of the church is still relevant today:

St Giles in the Fields

There are many monuments within the church, but one of the most interesting is up against the side of the church, with a detailed and well preserved figure of a recumbent woman with an inscription on the stone at the rear of the figure.

St Giles in the Fields

The monument is in memory of Lady Frances Kniveton. She was one of the five daughters of Sir Robert Dudley and his wife Lady Alice. Sir Robert Dudley is an interesting character, however his later treatment of Lady Alice demonstrates that the title of “Right Honourable” is not always appropriate. The illegitimate son of Sir Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester, he was an explorer, in the days when the majority of exploration seemed to involve capturing Spanish ships.

He tried to prove that he was the legitimate son of the 1st Earl of Leicester, however the majority of evidence that he produced was not convincing and a judgement handed down in 1605 refused to accept that he was the legitimate son.

Soon after he left the country, heading to Italy with his first cousin once removed, Elizabeth Southwell. They settled in Florence, converted to Catholicism, married and Dudley went on to have 13 children with Elizabeth, in addition to the 5 he left in England with Alice.

Lady Alice was made a Duchess in her own right by Charles 1st. She lived in St Giles and contributed significantly to the church.

The text at the bottom of the inscription explains why the monument was saved from the original church and installed in the 18th century church. Old and New London explains: “This monument was preserved when the church was rebuilt, as a piece of parochial gratitude to one whose benefactions to the parish in which she resided had been both frequent and liberal. Among other matters, she had contributed very largely to the interior decoration of the church, but had the mortification of seeing her gifts condemned as Popish, cast out of the sacred ediface, and sold by order of the hypocritical Puritans.”

There are two pulpits in the church, the traditional church pulpit:

St Giles in the Fields

Along with a pulpit that came from the West Street Chapel, John Wesley’s first Methodist chapel in London’s West End (West Street is between Shaftesbury Avenue and Upper St. Martin’ Lane).

St Giles in the Fields

The inscription on the front of the pulpit informs that John and Charles Wesley preached regularly from the pulpit between 1743 and 1791.

There is a rather magnificent model of the church, within the church:

St Giles in the Fields

The model was made by Henry Flitcroft, the architect of the church, to demonstrate to parishioners and those funding the construction of the new church, what his design would like like when completed.

The architect’s name also explains the origin of the name of the small street to the west of the church where the main entrance is found – Flitcroft Street.

View looking towards the entrance of the church:

St Giles in the Fields

There are numerous monuments around the church. Members of the East India Company, solicitors from Lincolns Inn Fields, and one of the latest, dating from 1996 is to Cecilius Calvert, the first proprietor of Maryland:

St Giles in the Fields

Cecil Calvert was the Second Lord Baltimore (hence the name of the city in Maryland). He had been to the Americas once in 1628 with his father to the newly established colony in Newfoundland, however the colony failed and Cecil returned to England with his father.

The charter for Maryland was granted by Charles 1st to Cecil, however he would never visit his colony. It was overseen by his brother Leonard and later by his son Charles.

The above monument dates from 1996, the following is from 1677:

St Giles in the Fields

This records the donation of £50 to the church wardens of St Giles in the Fields by Robert Bertie with the intention that the interest from the £50 would be used to buy bread for the poor of the parish “for ever” commencing on the 1st January 1677.

Robert Bertie was the son of another Robert Bertie, the Earl of Lindsey who was Lord Great Chamberlain at the time of the English Civil War. Robert Bertie was a Royalist supporter and General in Chief of the Royalist forces at the Battle of Edgehill. He disagreed on the military tactics for the battle with the much younger and inexperienced Prince Rupert who led the cavalry forces. Charles 1st eventually supported Prince Rupert’s strategy, Robert Bertie resigned his position and went to fight with his own supporters. he was badly wounded and died soon after the battle.

The Civil War and Battle of Edgehill features in another monument. the following erected in 1736 by the family of John Belasyse, 1st Baron Belasyse.

St Giles in the Fields

John Belasyse also fought at the Battle of Edgehill, which he survived, along with many of the following battles and sieges of the Civil War. He went underground during the “Commonwealth of England” and following the restoration, Charles II gave Belasyse many senior appointments and positions of power.

An unusual plaque for the interior of a church is the blue plaque for George Odger:

St Giles in the Fields

George Odger lived nearby at 18 St Giles High Street. He was a 19th century trade union leader, active in the London Trades Council and later the Trades Union Congress. The blue plaque was installed on the house in the 1950s and moved to the church when the house was demolished in the 1970s.

18th century lead cistern:

St Giles in the Fields

Another donation of £50 for the purchase of bread for the poor:

St Giles in the Fields

Heading back outside the church, turning left from the main entrance takes you round to the large graveyard to the south of St Giles in the Fields.St Giles in the Fields

View over the graveyard, which as with the majority of city churches, has been cleared of gravestones.

St Giles in the Fields

The rear of St Giles in the Fields somewhat obscured by trees.

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields now looks on an area that will change beyond recognition over the coming years. Change has already started and the arrival of Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road will accelerate that change.

These are some of the new developments around St Giles:

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields

I suspect this relic, just outside the church, from not that many years ago, will not last long in the new St Giles:

St Giles in the Fields

Again, a very brief look at the history of one building, only touching on a few points from a very long history.

St Giles has a fascinating history which I will explore further in the future, but walking around the streets today feels very different to when I started going out in London.

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