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Seven Dials and Monmouth Street

The following photo shows a brick terrace house, advertising a saddler and harness maker, but in a rather poor condition. We are in Monmouth Street in Seven Dials and the photo was taken by my father in 1984.

Seven Dials

Thirty six years later and the building is in a far better condition, with the advertising signage restored.

Seven Dials

I was going to try and be clever and title the post “Seven things about Seven Dials”, but as I dug into the history of the area there are far more than just seven things of interest.

The sign is advertising the business of B. Flegg, a Saddler and Harness Maker, established in 1847.

B. Flegg was a William Flegg and the building in Monmouth Street was not his only premises. I suspect this may have been his central London sales room, where he would sell everything needed for the thousands of horses that kept London moving in the 19th century.

William Flegg’s main location seems to have been on the Old Kent Road in south London where he occupied numbers 585, 586 and 592. Adverts in the South London Chronicle stated that he had “Stable utensils of every description. Whips and all kinds of horse clothing always on hand. A waggonette to let, to hold four or six persons”.

It could be that saddler and harness maker was a family trade and that the family were from south London. As well as William Flegg there was an H. Flegg, also a saddler and harness maker, who had premises at 7 Deptford Bridge, but had to move to 2 Church Street, Deptford in 1880 due to rebuilding of the bridge over the Deptford Creek.

Flegg is not that common a name so I suspect that H. and William Flegg were related.

The final references to the name Flegg as a saddler are in 1905, when a George Flegg, aged 40 and a saddler of 654 Woolwich Road, Charlton was found drunk in Woolwich Road and fined two shilling and six pence, or three days if he did not pay the fine.

Monmouth Street is the street leading off to the south from the central Seven Dials junction, just to the east of Charing Cross Road and south of Shaftesbury Avenue. The seven streets radiating out from the central junction form a distinctive pattern on the map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Seven Dials

The layout of the streets around Seven Dials has not changed for a very long time. The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the same distinctive layout (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’):

Seven Dials

Going back to a 1755 map of the Parish of St Giles’s in the Fields, and the same distinctive layout is in the lower left corner:

Seven Dials

Detail of Seven Dials from the above map:

Seven Dials

Comparison of the maps tells us a number of things about Seven Dials. Firstly the streets radiating out from the central junction have changed names over the years:

Seven Dials

In 1755 the street name stayed the same as the street crossed the central junction, however by 1895 the names had been changed slightly to give each branch a distinctive name, so St. Andrew’s Street became Little and Great St. Andrew Street.

By 2020, the 1755 approach of extending the same street name across the junction had been put back in place, and a new set of names given.

When William Flegg was in Monmouth Street, he would have known the street as Little St. Andrew Street.

The maps also tell us something about the pillar in the centre of the junction. The 1755 map shows the pillar, however by 1895 the pillar had gone, and there was a Urinal in the junction. By 2020 the pillar was back in place.

I will come on to this later, however for now, lets take a walk along the southern section of Monmouth Street.

The terrace of houses with William Flegg’s premises in the centre:

Seven Dials

Looking up Monmouth Street from the southern end of the street:

Seven Dials

Buildings along the western side of Monmouth Street:

Seven Dials

The rather magnificent Two Brewers pub, Monmouth Street:

Seven Dials

The streets around Seven Dials are now full of clothing and jewelry shops, restaurants and cafes. Mainly small, one off shops rather than the large chain shops that can be found across much of London.

We can also walk through the street in 1895 and look at the businesses that occupied the houses by using the 1895 Post Office Directory.

Seven Dials

We can see William Flegg occupying numbers 16, 17 and 18, so not just the single house with the sign on the wall. The numbers are different to today’s numbering as this was when this branch of Monmouth Street was Little St. Andrew Street.

The directory has a few abbreviations of which I have not yet found the meaning such as the “size ma” for George Oliver at number 11 and “rms” for John Thomas Blake at number 20.

This was a street of small manufacturers and traders, trading in everything from bread and meat to birds and fishing rods.

At the top of the southern branch of Monmouth Street is the Seven Dials junction, where the seven streets come together:

Seven Dials

The streets running around the central Seven Dials junction were built during the later part of the 17th and early 18th centuries. Thomas Neale obtained the lease for the land in 1693. Prior to this, the area was already built-up, but with Cock and Pye Fields occupying the space where part of Earlham and Monmouth Streets now run.

In the following extract from William Morgan’s 1682 map of the city of London, I have marked the location of the central Seven Dials junction with a red circle.

Seven Dials

There is only a single street that remains to this day. White Lion Street can be seen running through the red circle. This would stay White Lion Street when the central junction and seven streets where completed. Today White Lion Street is Mercer Street.

Note also that the street that would become Shaftesbury Avenue was Monmoth Street in 1682.

The central feature of the junction of the seven streets in Thomas Neale ‘s plans was a pillar.

The British Museum has a copy of the original drawing of the pillar designed by Edward Pierce (©Trustees of the British Museum):

Seven Dials

The text at the bottom of the drawing states “A Stone Pillar with Sun Dyals to which are directed 7 streets in St Giles’s Parish commonly called the Seven Dyals, formerly a Laystall”.

The word Laystall can refer to a place where rubbish or dung is deposited. It can also refer to a place where cattle are kept. This might be related to the location of the sun dial being at the entrance to Cock and Pye Fields in the 1682 Morgan map.

The 1895 Ordnanace Survey map shows the central junction without the pillar. It had been removed over 100 years earlier as it had become the focal point for so called undesirables and in 1773 the Paving Commissioners ordered the removal to prevent this nuisance.

The pillar eventually turned up in Weybridge, where the pillar, without sun dials, can be seen today at the junction of Monument Hill and Monument Green.

By the 1980s, the majority of Seven Dials was derelict, and there were plans for the demolition of the majority of buildings in the area. Restoration plans were proposed by the Seven Dials Monument Charity and fortunately this approach was supported, otherwise we would see a very different Seven Dials today.

There were efforts to bring the original pillar back from Weybridge, however the local council refused.

Architect A.D.Mason designed a new pillar based on the original design by Edward Pierce, which included making measurements of the original pillar in Weybridge. The new pillar and sun dials were unveiled on the 29th of June, 1989.

The new pillar would become the focal point for the restoration work of the streets surrounding the pillar, and the work has been a considerable success with the area packed with people in more normal times.

Looking down the southern branch of Monmouth Street from the central junction:

Seven Dials

The Crown pub facing the central junction, between the northern branch of Monmouth Street and Short’s Gardens.

Seven Dials

A plaque on the pub shows how the solar time shown by the pillar can be converted to Greenwich Mean Time:

Seven Dials

The new central pillar:

Seven Dials

The Cambridge Theatre (opened on the 4th September 1930), between Earlham and Mercer Streets:

Seven Dials

The Crown pub, then Short’s Gardens, then Earlham Street:

Seven Dials

During the first decades of the 1700s, the new area of Seven Dials quickly become a reference point for news reports and a sample of reports between the years 1723 and 1749 tells us much about life in these brand new streets:

21st March 1723: There is just finished by Mr John Noble, living near Seven Dials, an Organ, which by using bellows only, without the help of an Organist, sounds several Tunes to Perfection.

6th February 1725: One Murphy, a Centinel in the 2nd Regiment of Guards, was on Saturday last seized near the Seven Dials, on Suspicion of being concerned in the robbing of the Chester Mail. One of the Chester Bags (out of which letters were stolen) having been found near a hedge, was brought to the General Post-Office yesterday morning.

1st November 1729: Late last night one Welch, who buys and sells old Cloths, was set upon by two Street-Robbers at the Corner of St Andrew’s-Street, near the Seven Dials, who took from him in Cloths and Money to the value of seven pounds and upwards.

There was a pillory at the Seven Dials in the early decades of the 18th century, and the risks of being sentenced to the Pillory can be seen from the following newspaper report:

22nd June 1732: Last night, the Coroner’s Inquest upon the body of John Waller, who stood in the Pillory at the Seven Dials in the Parish of St. Giles’s in the Fields last Tuesday, and brought in the Verdict wilful murder with unlawful weapons.

Later in 1732, the person who had killed John Waller was included in a list of those sentenced to death, but the report does not provide any background as to why he was murdered:

14th September 1732: Richard Griffith, for being concerned in the Death of Waller who was killed in the Pillory at Seven Dials.

24th November 1733: Last Saturday Mr Rambert, a Coal Merchant in Tower Street, near the Seven Dials, received an Incendiary Letter threatening to set his House on Fire, and kill him, if he did not leave twelve Guinieas in a certain place mentioned in the letter, which was written in French. That night Mr Rambert left twelve Half-pence in the Place, and at about One in the morning, some Neighbours who watched to see the consequence, observed four fellows pass by, when one of them took up the half pence and walked off with the imaginary prize. We hear nothing however of their being pursued.

Strangely, 16 years later, there is a report of someone being arrested for writing incendiary letters:

24th November 1749: On Saturday night, one Franks, a shoemaker, was taken at a house near Seven Dials, on the Oaths of his Accomplices, for writing Incendiary Letters to several persons, in order to extort Money thereby.

People living in the streets leading off from the Seven Dials pillar could be very wealthy:

15th October 1741: On Saturday last died at his House in Earl-street, near the Seven Dials, Mr. Philips, a Distiller, said to have died worth 30,000 pounds, and on Thursday Morning his Corpse was carried out of Town, in order to be interred near his deceased relations, about three miles from Nottingham.

29th November 1744: The same day, Hannah Moses, otherwise Samuel, the Widow of one of the three Jews who were hanged about three sessions ago, was committed by the same Gentleman to New-prison, and her accomplice, Benjamin David Woolf, to Newgate, for stealing out of the shop of Mr John Barber, a Silversmith, at the Seven Dials, an Ingot of Silver.

19th May 1749: A few days since a Sailor went into a Chandler’s Shop in Earl-street, near the Seven Dials, to ask for a Lodging; but the man telling him there was none to let, he asked for a Halfpenny-worth of Tobacco, which as the Shop-keeper was serving, he drew his Hanger, cut him down behind the Counter, and made off; and yesterday the unfortunate man died of the wounds he received.

25th August 1749: Two Sawyers belonging to Mr Neale’s Yard in King’s-Street, Seven Dials, quarreled and fought, and one of them, by a fall, fractured his skull and died immediately, and the other being carried before a Magistrate, was by him committed o New-prison, Clerkenwell.

By the late 19th century, many of the streets around Seven Dials were crowded, with many poor occupants. Gustave Dore drew the entrance to Monmouth Street from Seven Dials. People crowd the street, shops and basements with shoes for sale line the side of the street and children play in street, blocking the path of a carriage (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Seven Dials

George Cruikshank had earlier produced a drawing around 1836 as an illustration to Charles Dickens’s Sketches by Boz. The drawing shows two women being urged to fight in front of a gin palace in Seven Dials (©Trustees of the British Museum):

Seven Dials

Despite the impression created by Gustave Dore, Charles Booth’s poverty map of London, between 1898 and 1899 shows most of the streets around Seven Dials as “Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings”, although the dark blue along Queen Street is classed as “Very poor, casual. Chronic want”.

Seven Dials

The following photo from the 1897 publication “The Queen’s London” shows a street leading up to the Seven Dials junction. The photo gives a different impression of the area to that of Gustave Dore’s drawing.

Seven Dials

By the 1970s, the area was very much in decline. The streets were all open to traffic, there was no central pillar and cars would pass across the central junction between streets. Some of the space in the streets was used for purposes that seem very strange when looking at the area today.

In 1974, a Texaco petrol station occupied the space between Earlham and Monmouth Streets. This is the space to the right of my earlier photo looking down the southern branch of Monmouth Street from the central junction,

Seven Dials

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_152_74_21025

There is much to discover in the streets that lead off from the central junction of Seven Dials. I have only covered the southern branch of Monmouth Street and a general history of area. It would take a very much longer post to cover the whole area.

There are a couple of houses in the southern section of Mercer Street that I want to show. They are a pair of late 17th century terrace houses that date from the original construction of Seven Dials. This is number 27 Mercer Street:

Seven Dials

And number 25. Both are Grade II listed.

Seven Dials

The view looking up Mercer Street towards the pillar from the junction with Shelton Street:

Seven Dials

During the summer and autumn period, many of the streets have been closed, providing more space for pedestrians and the cafes in the area.

Seven Dials is usually very busy. Tourists, visitors to London, those visiting the theatres and restaurants of the West End add to those who live and work in the area.

in the run-up to Christmas, the streets around Seven Dials are crowded, and a couple of years ago I photographed a Saturday evening around Seven Dials. Here are three examples.

Looking up Monmouth Street towards the central junction:

Seven Dials

Around the central pillar:

Seven Dials

Crowds and the Cambridge Theatre:

Seven Dials

Many of the buildings of Seven Dials have been redeveloped, and the original pillar is now to be found in Weybridge, but the general layout is still the same, and some of the original buildings survive.

I suspect that Thomas Neale would be rather pleased that his Seven Dials development is still here 300 years later.

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City of London – October 2020

Back in July, I wrote three posts about a walk through the City of London to photograph the pubs. The majority were closed, and being a weekend, the City was quiet. A couple of Monday’s ago I had to be in Clerkenwell, so as usual, I took the opportunity for a walk, this time through the City.

In decades of walking London, I have never seen the City of London as it is today. Offices empty, shops closed, the streets deserted.

The pandemic will pass, but it will be interesting to see whether the City of London will return to a pre-COVID city, or perhaps changes in working patterns will result in a different city.

Last August, I downloaded data from the Department for Transport which shows the impact on transport systems. I have downloaded the latest data which runs from the 1st March to the 26th October 2020. The data provides usage as percentages of an equivalent day or week.

The following graph shows usage on the London Underground.

City of London

The graph shows that after the initial lock down, there was a gradual increase in use, however the graph is now on a downward trend as a second wave arrives.

Interesting that the peaks are the weekends, so as a percentage of the equivalent week, the reduction is not as bad as weekdays, however they are still very low, with the weekend of the 24th and 25th October coming in at 37% and 41% for the two days.

The Monday I was walking through the City, underground usage was 32% of the equivalent day  pre-COVID.

London bus travel has returned to a slightly higher level, but is still averaging 56% of pre-COVID usage, and the initial growth in use has stalled and possibly reducing as shown in the following graph:

City of London

The drop to zero is the period when Transport for London introduced the middle-door only boarding policy, with no requirement to touch in, so obviously lost any meaningful passenger number data.

I started on the south bank of the river as I had been looking at alleys in Bankside and at 10:20 on a Monday morning, walked across a very quiet Millennium Bridge:

City of London

10:45 – standing on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, looking down Ludgate Hill:

City of London

St Paul’s Cathedral has reopened to visitors and a security tent has been erected on the steps:

City of London

Waiting for the visitors:

City of London

If you want to avoid crowds, now is probably a good time to visit the cathedral, although the Whispering Gallery and the Golden Gallery at the very top are currently closed.

10:50 on a Monday morning and Paternoster Square:

City of London

10:57, and looking down Cheapside from the junction with New Change:

City of London

Many of the City’s streets have been closed to traffic, made into one-way streets, and have additional pedestrian and cycle spaces. Cheapside is now closed as a through road with the exception of cycles.

City of London

11:18, the Bank junction:

City of London

The view looking down Old Broad Street, now a single lane street for one way traffic, with the other lane now allocated for cycle lanes.

City of London

I am unsure of the changes being made to the City’s roads. Cycling is far better than traffic, there is no doubt about that, however ever since I started working in London in 1979, the city has been busy and noisy. Busy pavements and busy roads with red busses, black cabs and general traffic, and it is that which makes a city live. Without people, without busy roads, the city feels very hollowed out.

There is a wealth of data made available online by various Government departments and the Mayor of London. I have shown some of the Department for Transport statistics earlier in the post, and the Mayor of London makes data available on the utilisation of the Santander Cycle Hire Scheme. This covers the whole of the scheme rather than just the City.

I downloaded the spreadsheet and created the following graphs.

The first graph shows the number of bicycle hires each month from the start of 2019 till the end of September 2020.

City of London

Whilst in the summer of 2019, bicycle hires peaked once at just under 1.2 million a month, in 2020, they have been running just under the same number for about 4 months which shows a sustained increase in cycling, rather than just a single peak.

The data also includes the average hire time, and throughout the whole of 2019 and early 2020 this averaged just under 20 minutes, since April of this year average hire times increased significantly, although they now appear to be falling back.

City of London

I could not find any 2020 data on taxi usage in London, but this must also be a trade that is suffering significantly.

The Department for Transport does publish data showing the number of licensed taxis (Black Cabs) and Private Hire Vehicles (Uber etc.) going back to 1965 which makes an interesting study in how this form of transport has changed over the years.

The following graph shows the number of licensed taxis in London from 1965 to the end of 2019 (in thousands):

City of London

The DfT spreadsheet is missing data for some years between 2020 and 2019, but the trend is clear.

There was a continuous rise in the number of licensed taxis from 1965, which flattened off from 2010 and now appears to be decreasing possibly due to the rise of private hire vehicles using apps such as Uber. Plotting the number of private hire vehicles in London on the same graph as licensed taxis shows the impact that this new form of transport must be having (left hand column in thousands):

City of London

Private hire vehicles are the orange dots, and the DfT spreadsheet only has data on these from 2005, but the rapid rise in numbers in the last few years is clear, and there is now over a 4 to 1 ratio of private hire vehicles to licensed taxis.

It will be interesting in the years ahead to watch how road usage in the city changes.

Back to walking the City of London.

Many of the take away food shops were closed. Those that were open were frequently empty:

City of London

11:45 Gresham Street:

City of London

Photography helps to record change, and I have been photographing the closed shops in the City to return to later and see how many have reopened.  It is also important to remember that behind each closed shop, there are multiple jobs and lives that are suffering financial impact.

City of London

12:15 An empty Pret:

City of London

The main visible sign of work in the City of London seems to be road works, clsoing roads, diversions and making space for cycle lanes and pavement widening.

City of London

12:30 The North Wing entrance to the City of London Corporation offices:

City of London

12:42 Empty space between the office blocks

City of London

Looking east along London Wall.

City of London

Looking west along London Wall:

City of London

The majority of the city office blocks were open, but there appeared to be very few people working in them. Most entrance foyers just had reception and security staff pacing up and down, waiting for the visitors that will not be arriving.

City of London

At the start of Aldersgate Street:

City of London

The Old Red Cow – Long Lane. The interior of the pub is a small space and a sign on the window states that the Old Red Cow is now closed “until normality ensues once again”.

City of London

Costa – Long Lane. I suspect that the hi-vis workers from the nearby Crossrail works are helping to keep this coffee shop open.

City of London

Ask for Janice bar and resturant – Long Lane. Closed until “this is all over”.

City of London

15:15 Old Bailey

City of London

Closed shops in Old Bailey. Two of the hardest hit industries – travel and hospitality:

City of London

15:28 City Thameslink Station

City of London

WH Smith store temporarily closed in the station entrance:

City of London

Fleet Street – old Vodafone shop up for sale.

City of London

Fleet Street has many closed take away food shops. Itsu:

City of London

Sainsbury’s Local – Fleet Street, temporarily closed

City of London

A hopefully temporary halt to fresh Mexican food:

City of London

Along with Thai food:

City of London

A number of shops and takeaways have been boarded up, adding to the impression of a City and business model in trouble.

City of London

Photographing the signs that will one day be a distant memory:

City of London

Just outside the border of the City of London, Simmons Bar closed and boarded.

City of London

The City without people is really a collection of buildings without purpose, and this is probably the City of London until next Spring. It will be fascinating to watch how the City develops next.

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Albion Place, Clerkenwell – A Lost Terrace

Walk up St John Street, north of Smithfield, and turn up St John’s Lane towards St John’s Gate, and on the left you will find Albion Place. My father’s 1947 photo of the street shows a pedestrianised street with a row of terrace houses. In the distance the street descends rapidly towards Farringdon Station, the descent of the street indicating that this was once down to the valley of the River Fleet.

Albion Place

Albion Place in 2020:

Albion Place

The name Albion Place was in my father’s notes to the strip of negatives which included this photo. I was concerned whether this was indeed the right location. Apart from the way the street descends, there are no other visual clues. All the buildings in the 1947 photo have since been demolished. Albion Place is no longer pedestrianised, and the street today looks wider than it appeared in 1947.

Albion Place is shown in the lower right of the following map, between St John’s Lane and Britton Street. Benjamin Street then continues on towards Turnmill Street and the tracks of the railway into Farringdon Station (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Albion Place

The main cause of my doubt about the location was the junction with Britton Street. This is on the right, at the end of Albion Place, just before Benjamin Street descends towards Farringdon.

The junction with Britton Street cannot be seen in my father’s photo – indeed the street appears to be a continuous row of buildings.

I have been able to confirm this is Albion Place through a single visual clue, as well as a couple of other pointers.

Firstly, towards the end of Benjamin Street, there is a building that juts out and narrows Benjamin Street towards the junction with Turnmill Street.

The building has a unique outline. Today, a tree has grown up against the building and hides the edge of the wall and roof:

Albion Place

However I can demonstrate this is the same building as one seen at the very end of the 1947 photo.

In the photo below, on the left, is an enlargement from my father’s photo showing the very end of the street. There is a building jutting out and I have outlined in red the shape of the upper wall, up towards the roof.

In the photo on the right, I have marked the same outline of upper wall and roof.

Albion Place

The two buildings both edge out into Benjamin Street, and both appear to have the same upper wall and roof shape. Would be clearer without the tree, but they appear to be the same.

I also checked the 1894 Ordinance Survey map, and in Albion Place, there is a row of terrace houses in exactly the right place (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’):

Albion Place

The OS map also shows Britton Street (then Red Lion Street) and the junction with Albion Place. I have no idea why this does not appear in my father’s 1947 photo, I assume the junction is there – just the perspective of the photo, and the way the buildings line the route of Albion Place and continue straight down to Benjamin Street.

I found one final confirmation of the location. The London Metropolitan Archives, Collage Collection has a single photo of Albion Place, dated 1956 which although photographed in the opposite direction towards St John’s Lane, includes a view of the same terrace.

Albion Place

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01 080 56 4132

The houses look the same, even the house on the left having the two steps to the door, with single steps serving the rest of the houses – exactly the same as in my father’s photo.

In the 9 years between the two photos, Albion Place has lost the rather nice lamp posts. In 1956 a new concrete lamp post is in place.

The following photo is looking up Albion Place from the junction with Britton Street, and shows the same building at the end of the street, on St John’s Lane, as in the Collage photo above.

Albion Place

Albion Place has a long history. The land was originally part of the outer precinct of the Hospitallers’ Priory of St John of Jerusalem, which extended down to Cowcross Street by Smithfield Market, Turnmill Street to the west and St John (‘s) Street to the east.

The street seems to have been built in the late 17th century, and was probably part of the gradual growth of the City northwards, as housing and industrial premises were built over what had been the lands of St John’s Priory.

The following map extract from William Morgan’s 1682 map of London shows the area as it was with the location of Albion Place marked by the red oval, on space then occupied by what appears to be the Earl of Berkleys property.

Albion Place

When built, the street was originally called George’s Court, and had changed name to Albion Place by 1822 when the court had been rebuilt to the form seen in my father’s photo, and is presumably from when the terrace of houses date.

The growth of Clerkenwell was linked to industries such as watch and clock making and Albion Place was home to the inventor of an alloy which would reduce the price of ornate 18th century clocks.

Gold was originally sold as 18 carat standard, and was therefore expensive when used as the casing for a clock or watch. Christopher Pinchbeck, who lived in Albion Place invented an alloy of copper and zinc which very nearly resembled gold. Pinchbeck moved from Albion Place to Fleet Street in 1721.

The name “Pinchbeck” was given to this new alloy, which was widely used for the cases of clocks and watches up until the mid 19th century when the sale of lower carat gold was legalised.

By the time of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, the street that would become Albion Place was now shown on the map as George’s Court. Benjamin Street had also been built down to Turnmill Street.

Albion Place

The following photo shows Benjamin Street. Albion Place has a shallow reduction in height, which is far greater in Benjamin Street, as the land descends to what was the Fleet valley which ran just across the railway tracks into Farringdon Station, roughly along the route of Farringdon Road.

Albion Place

The following photo shows the view along Britton Street – the street originally named Red Lion Street. This is the junction that caused me to doubt whether the photo was of Albion Place as it could not be seen in my father’s photo.

Albion Place

View back up Benjamin Street and Albion Place. To the north of Benjamin Street (to the left in the following photo) is a small green space – St John’s Gardens.

Albion Place

St John’s Gardens was originally the burial ground of St John’s Church – the parish church that was in St John’s Square, and following wartime bombing, now rebuilt as the Priory Church of the Order of St John.

The area was taken on by the parish in 1754 and used until 1853 when it was closed under the Burials Act. The burial ground originally did not face directly onto Benjamin Street. As shown in the 1894 OS map earlier in this post, a line of buildings ran along Benjamin Street with St John’s Gardens being an enclosed square. This can also be seen in the 1947 photo where buildings line the far end of the street.

Today, the gardens form a valuable bit of green space.

Albion Place

Albion Place

There is a rather poignant mural in the gardens.

Albion Place

It was created by Emma Douglas in memory of her son Cato Heath who died aged twenty one in 2010. Each coloured rectangle represents a day in the life of her son, with the colour of the rectangles representing an event, for example a black rectangle for a doctor’s appointment.

The mural created by Emma in St John’s Gardens is one of a number to be found.

On the corner of Albion Place and Britton Street is a rather interesting building:

Albion Place

This is the Grade II listed 44 Britton Street originally built for Janet Street-Porter and designed by Piers Gough.

Before her career in the media, Janet Street-Porter trained at the Architects Association where she met Piers Gough. She wanted a house that did not follow the old English tradition with rooms being in well defined places. She also wanted a house that did not look too friendly and looked a bit hostile, so there is no outward facing door to the building. The entrance is tucked away at the rear of the building in a courtyard.

The bricks used in the construction are shaded, starting with dark bricks at the base, getting gradually lighter towards the top of the walls. This was to give the impression that the base of the building is in shade, with the top of the building in perpetual sunlight.

The external lintels above the windows are in the shape of concrete logs.

Janet Street-Porter lived in the house from 1988 to 2001. There is an episode of the BBC programme Building Sights dating from 1991 with Janet Street-Porter talking about, and showing the interior of the building. The programme can be found on the BBC iPlayer here – it is worth a watch.

On the opposite corner of Albion Place and Britton Street there is another interesting building. This is the Goldsmiths Centre:

Albion Place

The Goldsmiths Centre was founded by the Goldsmiths Company, one of the twelve great livery companies of the City of London, as a charity for the professional training of goldsmiths.

The centre provides a location where the technical skills of gold and silversmithing and jewelry working can be taught and developed. The building also provides support for developing business, with shared studio space in which to work.

The Goldsmiths Centre is in a rather appropriate location given the history of Clerkenwell with the trades associated with metal working.

The Goldsmiths Centre was opened in 2012. The building on the Albion Place corner is a modern addition to a Grade II Listed 1872 Victorian London Board School, which together form the Goldsmiths Centre.

The main entrance to, and the main school building is in Eagle Court which runs from Britton Street back up to St John’s Lane.

Eagle Court is shown in Rocque’s map, and in the earlier 1682 map by Morgan appears to be shown as Vinegar Yard, so Eagle Court is older than Albion Place.

The name Eagle Court comes from Eagle’s House which appears to have been a mid 14th century mansion built along the western edge of St John’s Lane. The house was named after the Templar preceptory of Eagle in Lincolnshire and acted as the Clerkenwell residence of the bailiff as the senior official of this preceptory.

The view up Eagle Court towards St John’s Lane:

Albion Place

Before the school was built, Eagle Court had long been a dense court of workshops and houses. Industrial processes being performed next to living space.

Work was dangerous and accidents were frequent. for example on December 5th, 1738 “A fire broke out in the workshop of Mr Tabery, a Japanner in Eagle Court, St John’s Lane, occasioned by the Varnish Pot boiling over. Two men were so miserably burnt that their lives are despaired of”.

The area around Albion Place and Eagle Court was densely populated and criminality was rife. The location for the school was chosen by the London School Board for this very reason, as introducing a formal education was seen as one of the means to improve the future prospects of the residents.

When the school was being built in 1873 and 1874, the workmen and the location needed a police guard to protect them and the building materials for the school from the lawless elements of the local population.

The school backs onto Albion Place, and is often referred to as being in Albion Place. The following article from April 1906 provides another example of the crime in the area which was probably heightened by the precious metals which could be found in the workshops:

“DESPERATE BURGLARS – SCHOOL CARETAKER ATTACKED WITH JEMMY. The caretaker of the London County Council School at Albion Place, Clerkenwell, was found lying in a pool of blood with his head severely cut on Saturday night under mysterious circumstances.

When the premises next door were opened the ground floor window was found to have been forced and the entire premises ransacked. The second floor was occupied by a gold refiner. Several hundred pounds worth of gold and silver were on this floor, and the men removed a considerable quantity.

It was when the burglars were leaving via the schoolyard that they were surprised by the caretaker. He was rendered unconscious by blows from a jemmy, which the men dropped.

The caretaker has not yet been able to give any account of the affair. The burglars worked leisurely, and cleaned the window before leaving to remove all traces of incriminating finger prints”.

The increasing level of workshops and industry in the area resulted in the reduction of family homes and the number of children resulting in the closure of the school in 1918.

For the rest of the 20th century, the old school buildings hosted a wide range of educational functions including Cordwainers’ Technical College, the LCC Smithfield Institute and Smithfield College of Food Technology, the College of Distributive Trades, and following a merger with the London College of Printing, the old school buildings became the London Institute.

The current use of the building as the Goldsmiths Centre therefore continues a long educational tradition, including a century of use as a technical educational centre.

Unlike many buildings created by the London School Board, the building consists of only two floors. This was intentional so as not to cast the buildings opposite in this narrow street, in permanent shadow,

Albion Place

I have walked just a few short streets, down Albion Place, along Benjamin Street, then back up to St John’s Lane via Eagle Court, but these few streets reveal their part in the long history of Clerkenwell. From the Priory of St John of Jerusalem, through the industrialisation of the 18th and 19th centuries when the area was home to watch, clock and metal working, an area of dense population with high levels of crime.

The terrace shown in my father’s photo survived until the late 1960s. If the terrace had been renovated, and if Albion Place had stayed a pedestrianised street, with bollards and cast iron lamps, this could have been a lovely street. Although, we always need to be careful when looking back at the past, and remember the lessons of Christopher Pinchbeck’s alloy that all that glitters is not gold.

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John Snow and the Soho Cholera Outbreak of 1854

Epidemiology has come to public attention as one of the key areas of expertise needed to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The pandemic has come as something of a shock given the significant reductions in disease over the last 100 plus years, although in reality, such a global event was probably only a matter of time given the background transmission of new diseases, and the interconnectedness of the world in the 21st century.

Contagious disease has long been a very significant problem. Outbreaks would rise and fall, killing many thousands of people, often in limited areas. Prior to the mid 19th century, thinking was often that disease was caused and transmitted by a miasma – a form of “bad air”.

It took the work of a number of Doctors and Scientists to prove this was not correct, and to trace the real cause of disease transmission, and one of these was Dr. John Snow, often called the founding father of Epidemiology. His work on the transmission of Cholera in London would demonstrate conclusively how this killer of large numbers of Londoners was transmitted.

The British Medical Journal describes Epidemiology as “the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why. Epidemiological information is used to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent illness and as a guide to the management of patients in whom disease has already developed.”

Although John Snow’s work on Cholera covered the whole country, including outbreaks across London, he is more widely known for one outbreak in 1854 in Broad Street, Soho, and a couple of weeks ago I had a walk around the area to find the focal point of the outbreak, and the pub that bears his name:

John Snow

The John Snow pub stands on the corner of Broadwick Street (originally Broad Street) and Lexington Street (originally Cambridge Street). A number of streets in this area of Soho have changed their names since the mid 19th century.

The pub building dates from the 1870s, and was originally called the “Newcastle-upon-Tyne”, The name changed in 1955 to commemorate the centenary of the work in the area of John Snow.

He traced the source of the local Cholera outbreak to a water pump that stood in the street outside the current pub. I will detail how he did this later in the post. Today, there is an imitation pump in the same spot:

John Snow

The pump was installed in its current position in 2018, having been removed three years earlier due to building work which included extension of the pavement. The replica pump had been installed in a slightly different position to the original, and a pink granite curb stone had marked the location of the original pump.

One of the fascinations of London is that historical reminders tend to accumulate, and the pink granite curb stone was retained, and can now be seen to the left of the plinth on which the pump is mounted, now in the correct position.

The pump is also unusual in that it does not have a handle – the reason for this will be explained later in the post.

And on the pub wall is a plaque by the Royal Society of Chemistry naming John Snow as the founding father of Epidemiology for his work in the area:

John Snow

The pump and pub in Broadwick Street:

John Snow

John Snow was born in York on the 15th of March 1813. A career in medicine seems to have been defined at an early age,. When he was 14 he started work as an apprentice for William Hardcastle, a surgeon in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

He had early experience with cholera outbreaks, and during 1831 he worked on an outbreak at Killingworth Colliery. It was here that he appears to have started making detailed notes on the outbreak – gathering the data that would be essential in understanding the root cause.

He moved to London in 1836 to study at the Hunterian School of Medicine, and a year later started hospital practice at the Westminster Hospital. The following year, 1838, he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1850 became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

Doctor John Snow:

John Snow

Data gathering in 19th century London was actually rather good. The Registrar General published regular returns detailing the number of deaths by date, cause and location. Where possible, information also included age, gender and profession, so a mass of data was available for evaluation, however outdated theories often prevented the use of data to find the root cause of disease outbreaks.

London could be absolutely filthy. Much of London was not yet connected to the expanding sewer network. Houses often had cesspools directly underneath, raw sewage was pumped into the Thames, contaminated water would be dumped in the streets and ditches.

The city’s cemeteries were overflowing, with bodies piled high in crypts and churchyards.

One of the main theories was that disease was carried in dirty air. Air polluted by rotting vegetables, dirty water, the waste from industry, and from the city’s cemeteries.

There was also no real separation between drinking water and contaminated water. For example, raw sewage was pumped into the Thames, a short distance from where water was taken out for distribution to houses and pumps.

There were frequent outbreaks of cholera. 1849 being the year of the most recent outbreak, however there was also a background rate of cholera deaths happening every year.

Data recorded by the Registrar General identified the number of deaths per week, aligned with the source of water for the house where the person lived, or the death occurred. The following table shows a period of six weeks in 1854. The table focused on south London, an area where there were significant numbers of cholera deaths.:

John Snow

The table shows the source of the water supplied to each house where there was a death. The “Unknown Sources” column included a large number of houses where the residents did not know where their water came from as the landlord would pay the bill (and therefore they had no control of the source of their water).

The table implies significant problems with the supply of water by the Southwark Company, but this may have been down to a much larger population.

Much of the evaluation of the data was by John Snow. He obtained the addresses for houses where deaths had occurred from the Registrar General, and spent time going house to house to gather more information.

Evaluation of the data enabled a comparison of the mortality rate for each of the water companies to be identified, and this confirmed the issues with the Southwark Company, who had a mortality rate of 857 per 100,000 inhabitants compared with 169 and 194 for the Lambeth and Kent companies:

John Snow

The Lambeth Company had problems during a previous outbreak in 1849, but had since moved their intake from the Thames upriver to Thames Ditton, which was above the tidal limit of the river at Teddington.

At Thames Ditton, water flowed towards London and there was no wash back in of water due to the tide. This meant that water was less polluted. In central London, there was more inflow of sewage, and this was often swept back in on a rising tide, increasing significantly the level of pollution.

The Southwark Company were still drawing their water from the river at Battersea, not far from a number of sewage outlets at Vauxhall.

Lambeth was the only company to change where they took water following the 1849 outbreak. In 1854, the Southwark Water Company was classed as having the most impure waters, and would not change their water intake till later in the year.

John Snow investigated the source of water used by as many of those who died from cholera as he could find. Some of his records are truly appalling by modern standards:

  • At 4, Bermondsey Wall, on 23rd July, the daughter of a bookseller, aged 4 years, cholera 9 hours – Thames water, by dipping a pail in the water
  • At Falcon Lane, Wandsworth, on 3rd August, the daughter of a chemist deceased, aged 14 years, premonitory diarhoea 4 hours, cholera 24 hours – Water from a ditch into which cesspools empty themselves
  • At Charlotte Place, Charlotte Row, Rotherhithe, July 29th, the son of a barge-builder, aged 3 years, cholera 3 days – Tidal ditch
  • At 5 Slater’s Alley, Rotherhithe, July 29th, a labourer, aged 33, cholera 3.5 days – Thames Tunnel water, fetched from John’s Place

Rotherhithe was badly effected. and John Snow mentions Charlotte Row, Ram Alley and Silver Street as “places where the scourge fell with tremendous severity”.

He also states that Rotherhithe had been badly supplied by water for many ages past, and that people were forced to drink from old wells, old pumps, open ditches, and the muddy stream of the Thames.

Cholera deaths across London were increasing rapidly during the months leading up to the first week of September. I took the weekly total from the Registrar Generals report, put them in a spreadsheet, and created the following graph which gives a good visual view of the increase.

John Snow

So in the summer of 1854, cholera was causing deaths across the city, and John Snow was using methods that would become common in epidemiology to understand the impact, and to identify the cause. As well as the cases caused by infected water supplies, the case for which he would be remembered was an outbreak in Soho – a poor area where many of the residents were dependent on water from water pumps.

John Snow investigated the Soho outbreak, and he provided a comprehensive report to the St James, Westminster Cholera Inquiry Committee in July 1855.

Some houses in the area who could afford the cost were supplied by piped water from the Grand Junction and the New River Companies, and in houses that took this water he had found very few instances of cholera. His examination of the water pumps in the streets found the majority had impurities visible to the naked eye. Residents of Broad Street had also informed Snow that water from their local pump had an offensive smell.

At the start of his investigation, Snow requested data on deaths from the General Register Office. He found that the majority of these deaths had taken place near the Broad Street water pump, and after interviewing many of the residents found that those who had died from the disease had regularly drank water from the pump.

There was no other major outbreak in the area, and the common factor was the Broad Street water pump, so on the evening of Thursday 7th September 1854, John Snow had a meeting with the Board of Guardians of St James’s Parish and presented his findings. As a result, the handle of the pump was removed on the following day.

John Snow plotted cholera deaths on a map of the area, with the number of bars representing the number of deaths at each location. The Broad Street pump was close to the long dark line just to the right of centre of the map.

John Snow

Many of the street names have since changed. To show the number and spread of deaths on a street map of today, I have plotted the numbers on the map below. The dark blue star in the centre is the location of the pump. The numbers represent the total deaths listed for that street, so for example the number 44 to the right of the pump represents the total number of deaths in Broad Street to the left and right of the pump (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

John Snow

There were a high number of deaths in Poland Street (21), and many of these occurred at  the workhouse which is represented by the black rectangle in the above map.

Some of the deaths recorded by Snow at the workhouse are really sad, as often these would be recorded as “female unknown, age unknown”.

The workhouse is also shown in this extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey map. The pump is again marked by the dark blue star. A short distance to the right is another building that demonstrated to John Snow that the pump was the source (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

John Snow

None of the workers at the Lion Brewery caught cholera, despite being in the centre of the outbreak. On interviewing those at the brewery, it was found that “none of the workers drink water” – so perhaps they only drank beer.

John Snow wrote to the Medical Times and Gazette, describing his findings:

“I had an interview with the Board of Guardians of St. James’s parish, on the evening of the 7th, and represented the circumstances to them. In consequence of what I said, the handle of the pump was removed on the following day. The number of attacks of cholera had been diminished before this measure was adopted, but whether they had diminished in a greater proportion than might be accounted for by the flight of the great bulk of the population I am unable to say. In two or three days after the use of the water was discontinued the number of fresh attacks became very few.

The pump-well in Broad-street is from 28 to 30 feet in depth and the sewer which passes a few yards away from it is 22 feet below the surface. the sewer proceeds from Marshall-street, where some cases of cholera had occurred before the great outbreak. 

I am of the opinion that the contamination of the water of the pump-wells of large towns is a matter of vital importance. Most of the pumps in this neighbourhood yield water that is very impure; and I believe that it is merely to the accident of cholera evacuations not having passed along the sewers nearest to the wells that many localities in London near a favourite pump have escaped a catastrophe similar to that which occurred in this parish. ”

The lack of a handle on the replica pump we see today is a reminder of the work by John Snow to get the handle removed.

The affected area formed the sub districts of Golden Square and Berwick Street. The number of deaths for each street in these two districts are shown in the following tables:

John Snow

John Snow

There is other interesting data to be extracted from the Registrar General’s lists. They also include the age of each of those who had died (where known). I extracted these to a spreadsheet, sorted and created the following graph to show the numbers that died within each age range.

John Snow

The fall off at later ages is not a reflection of reduced impact of cholera, rather there were fewer people to infect in these age groups – London was a young city.

This is reflected in the high death rate of those aged between 0 and 9 years. The reduction between the ages of 10 and 29 was a surprise as there would be more people of these age groups in the area. Perhaps people of these age groups worked away from the pump, were not at the stage when they were in the workhouse, or perhaps being younger and stronger there was a higher survival rate.

The Westminster Cholera Inquiry Committee in July 1855 included a detailed investigation of the sewer and water infrastructure in the street and the house closest to the pump. The report produced by the Committee included the following drawing:

John SnowThe diagram shows how close the drains were to the well. The inquiry also examined the cesspool shown by the front of the house and the well. It found the cesspool in very poor condition, and that the mortar between the bricks of the cesspool had decayed allowing the contents to leak into the ground, only a very short distance from the well.

The report also includes the following drawing showing the front of the house, the vaults underneath the pavement, drain and well.

John Snow

The Westminster Cholera Inquiry Committee report of July 1855 includes a substantial section from the Reverend Henry Whitehead who was assistant curate of St Luke’s Church in Soho during the 1854 outbreak. Whitehead had assisted John Snow with many of the interviews of those living in the streets around the water pump.

Whitehead had initially been sceptical about the cause of the outbreak, being a believer of the miasma theory however he came to the same conclusions as Snow, and was very diligent in his research and interviews of the population.

In his report to the committee, Henry Whitehead  recorded the challenges of follow-up research as so many people had moved out of Broad Street, and that approaching the summer of 1855 there was a general feeling of uneasiness in the street – concern that cholera would once again return with warmer weather.

Henry Whitehead identified two houses opposite the pump. One had deaths from cholera and confirmed that they took water from the pump. The adjacent house used water from the New River Company and had no illness.

Although the initial findings to identify the source of the outbreak concentrated on deaths, the follow-up inquiry found that there were 50 cases where people had survived.

John Snow’s map shows the water pumps of the area. I plotted these on a modern day map to show where the water pumps of 1854 would have been located on today’s streets. Again, the Broad Street pump is the dark blue star, red stars the other water pumps:

John Snow

Comparing the above map with the map of deaths does again show the high values clustered around the Broad Street pump, with lower numbers as other water pumps became closer.

Broad Street is today named Broadwick Street. the name change happened in 1936 when the eastern section leading to Wardour Street was included – this small section had formerly been called Edward Street (named after Edward Wardour who also gave his name to Wardour Street).

Much of Broadwick Street has changed since the cholera outbreak of 1854, however almost opposite the John Snow pub is a terrace of houses that were there, having been built between 1718 and 1723 as part of the westwards expansion of Broad Street. The terrace is shown in the following photo:

John Snow

The following photo shows the view looking west along Broadwick Street from close to the Berwick Street junction. The Lion Brewery, which did not have any cholera deaths as none of the workers drank water, occupied the block on the left which now has the brick facing to the upper floors. The brewery was demolished in 1937.

John Snow

On the corner of Broadwick Street and Berwick Street is the Blue Posts pub. The current rather attractive building dates from a 1914 rebuild, however there had been a pub on the site since the original development of the area, and it is shown on the 1894 OS map.

John Snow

A rather obscure claim to fame for the Blue Posts pub is that a model of the pub was destroyed by a brontosaurus in the 1925 film Lost World. The following clip shows the pub just before the brontosaurus crashes in and demolishes the building.

John Snow

Apparently the animators, who created a rather impressive animated film for the 1920s, drank in the pub they chose to destroy for the film.

Lantern over the corner of the Blue Posts pub:

John Snow

View down Berwick Street showing how a present day pandemic has effected the restaurant trade in Soho:

John Snow

North western corner of Broadwick Street and Berwick Street with demolished building leaving only the corner façade for inclusion in whatever comes next:

John Snow

Further back towards Wardour Street, and the following building is on the corner of Broadwick Street (the part that was Edward Street), and Duck Lane, which being towards the Wardour Street end of Broad Street “only” suffered two deaths during the outbreak of 1854.

John Snow

The ground floor of the building is occupied by the Sounds of the Universe record store:

John Snow

John Snow’s work was not only around research into the causes of cholera. He was a practicing physician at the Westminster Hospital, and also worked on the technique of anesthesia including how different doses of anesthetic effected the human body.

When Queen Victoria gave birth to Prince Leopold in 1853 and Princess Beatrice in 1857, it was John Snow who administered the obstetric anesthesia.

During the 1854 outbreak he was living at 18 Sackville Street, off Piccadilly. He was a teetotaler and vegetarian for much of his life. He died in 1858 at the young age of 45.

For further reading, the report on the cholera outbreak in the Parish of St. James, Westminster, during the autumn of 1854 can be found in the Wellcome Library collection here.

The second edition of John Snow’s “On the mode of communication of cholera” can be found on Google Books here.

Reading these publications really does make you appreciate the engineering, rules and regulations that are behind the clean water when you do something as simple as turn on a tap.

And the next time an epidemiologist comes on the TV or Radio to talk about the current pandemic, think about John Snow, knocking on doors across London, gathering data on the many cholera outbreaks of the mid 19th century.

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Broad Street Station – A Lost London Station

London has lost a number of stations on the rail network over the years, for example I have written about Spa Road Station in Bermondsey, but they are usually stations serving trains that pass through the station, rather than a terminal station. One lost station that was a terminus for the North London Railway was Broad Street Station.

The station was demolished in 1986, and just as work was about to start, I took a couple of photos of the front and side of the building from Liverpool Street.

Broad Street Station

The station was replaced by the Broadgate office complex. The following photo shows the same view today:

Broad Street Station

The history of Broad Street Station starts in 1850 when the North London Railway started running services between Camden Town and Poplar.

The line was extended, firstly to Hampstead in 1851 and in 1858 this was followed by a connection with the London and South Western Railway to Richmond.

Although the railway circled around north London, it did not have a route into the City, and a City terminus was seen as essential to drive additional goods and passenger traffic from the expanding northern suburbs. The extension into the City and Broad Street Station was opened in late 1865 as the central London terminus of the North London Railway.

An indication of the volume of different types of traffic carried by the railway can be found from the directors report of the North London Railway in 1865, covering the year before the opening of Broad Street Station:

Broad Street Station

The higher value and greater increase over the previous year of Merchandise and Minerals than Passengers perhaps reflects the importance of the connection with the London Docks, and the lack of a connection directly into the City of London.

In the same Directors Report, the chief engineer for the extension to Broad Street states the current situation with construction of the station, and the route between Broad Street and the existing North London Railway at Kingsland:

“I have now the pleasure of being able to report that the whole of the works on the City Branch, between Kingsland and Broad-street, are complete, with the exception of the permanent way and signals, upon which the contractors are at present busily engaged. The stations at Dalston and Shoreditch are nearly ready for occupation, and the office-buildings, platforms and roofs at Broad-street station have made considerable progress since February last, but recently these works have been retarded by the strike amongst Messrs. Cubitt’s workmen, Every effort is being made to open this railway for public traffic at the earliest possible period”.

Broad Street station and the route into the station was sufficiently completed to open in the last months of 1865, and the following year the North London Railway company was able to advertise special trains which took advantage of the route around north London and down to the west:

“NORTH LONDON RAILWAY – OXFORD and CAMBRIDGE BOAT RACE. Saturday, March 24th, 1866 – A SPECIAL TRAIN will leave Broad Street Station at 6.35 a.m. for Hammersmith, calling at all intermediate stations and arriving at Hammersmith at 7.40 a.m.”

Broad Street station was built in the heart of the City, and provided a route for passengers and goods from multiple stations circling north London. The location of the station was directly to the west of the larger Liverpool Street Station.

The following map from 1940 shows the location of Broad Street Station:

Broad Street Station

Liverpool Street Station rail tracks headed east, whilst Broad Street’s headed north with the first stop being the original Shoreditch Station on the north west corner of the Kingsland Road / Old Street junction.

My second photo of the station again shows the main building of Broad Street Station, slightly further to the east than the first photo. The road that dived down between Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations can be seen running down alongside Hills, whilst in one of the open arches to the right of the station, an orange crane can seen, working on the station’s demolition.

Broad Street Station

The 1865 directors report demonstrated the significant value of goods being transported on the North London Railway, and whilst new passengers were an important source of revenue for the new Broad Street Station, the transport of goods directly into the City would also continue to drive revenue for the railway company.

A large Goods Station was constructed to the west of the passenger station as can be seen in the following extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’):

Broad Street Station

The map also shows the relative size of Broad Street compared to the adjacent Liverpool Street Station. Liverpool Street was considerably larger with many more platforms.

The above map shows that the warehouses associated with the Broad Street Goods Station faced onto Eldon Street. The end of these warehouses came in January 1952 when a major fire destroyed the warehouses. It was the most significant fire in London since the war and three firemen lost their lives following a collapse of one of the warehouse walls.

The loss of the warehouses added to the general sense that Broad Street Station was in a terminal decline.

The peak of the station’s success was probably around the time of the above Ordnance Survey map, at the end of the 19th century. North London was being well served by underground routes, buses and trams, and the popularity of Broad Street Station, on the end of a relatively slow, stopping route, was in decline.

The station, and the lines running out of the station were damaged by wartime bombing and the reduction of local services started with the cessation of trains to Poplar. The station building was not repaired and much of the main building was closed in 1950, leaving just an entrance from the street onto the concourse. Just two platforms continued to operate.

The following photo from the Britain from Above archive, shows the station and the lines running out of Broad Street in 1947. Broad Street passenger station is in the lower centre of the photo. The tracks for the goods station are on the left with the goods warehouse on the left of the photo. The larger Liverpool Street station is on the lower right.

Broad Street Station

Broad Street station survived the Beeching Report, however the stopping services that ran into the station were identified as services for modification, and the gradual cease of services accelerated throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.

Plans for the demolition of the station started in the 1970s and a number of schemes were put forward for the use of a considerable area of prime land at the eastern edge of the City’s business area.

In 1975, British Rail proposed a scheme that would not only demolish Broad Street Station, but would also demolish the Great Eastern Hotel and the cast iron train sheds above the platforms of Liverpool Street.

Liverpool Street as a station would remain, but the station, and the surrounding area, including the land occupied by Broad Street Passenger and Goods Stations would be built over, with office blocks now dominating the area.

The following photo shows British Rail’s 1975 scheme. The tracks running into Liverpool Street Station can be seen heading underneath a plaza and office blocks.

Broad Street Station

The Liverpool Street Station Campaign proposed an alternative solution which would retain most of the existing Liverpool Street Station, the train sheds and the façade of Broad Street Station.

Other campaigns were more concerned about the transport options than the architecture. For example, in 1982:

“Tory MP Anthony Grant and Harrow Liberal councilor Stephen Giles Medhurst have joined forces to try and make British Rail change plans to demolish Broad Street Station in the City.

The pair met BR representatives at the House of Commons to give their objections to the plan for Broad Street, which is the terminus for a frequent service from Watford Junction through Harrow and Wealdstone and Kenton.

Mr. Grant, MP for Harrow Central, said: ‘I am satisfied that in the long term the service will be maintained to Broad Street and Liverpool Street when the new station is built, but this will take six years.

Meanwhile, my constituents who work in the City will suffer hardship through being dropped off at a temporary station nearly half a mile away’.

Cllr Giles-Medhurst, a regular user of the line, said ‘I’m pleased to say that as a result of our meeting they undertook to reconsider improving the interchange facilities at Highbury to make it easier to change to the Moorgate line or to provide a shuttle bus service from the temporary station to Broad Street in peak hours”.

There had been earlier schemes for the redevelopment of Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations. In 1944 an exhibition at the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors in Eaton Place hosted an exhibition of drawings by Mr. Kenneth Lindy and Mr. B.A.P. Winton Lewis showing their proposals for the re-planning of the City of London.

Their proposals transformed London into a future version from a science fiction film, and probably highlight the thinking at the time that the bombed City offered the opportunity for a sweeping change, with the car, towers and wide boulevards at the heart of the scheme. Their proposal for Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations is shown in the following drawing. The railway lines and platforms would move underground. Hotel and office buildings on top, and high above would be landing platforms for a gyroplane passenger service.

Thankfully, these 1944 proposals never got any further than the exhibition.

The eventual scheme for rebuilding involved the full demolition of Broad Street Passenger and Goods Station, but retained Charles Barry’s Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool Street and part of the train sheds above the platforms of Liverpool Street station.

The go ahead was given in 1985 as reported by the Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush Gazette:

“Commuters lose rail link with the City – The final nail in the coffin of West London’s rail link with the City. 

Secretary of State for Transport, Nicholas Ridley has agreed to the closure of the North London line between Dalston Junction and Broad Street stations.

The closure will come in May 1986, when Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations will be redeveloped. Commuters travelling from Acton and Chiswick will be among the first to be affected by the change.

From next Monday, May 13, their service will be diverted from Broad Street to North Woolwich. Passengers bound for the City will have to change at Islington and Highbury. There will be no through rail link from West London to the City”.

The Conservative government of the 1980s did not seem very supportive of the railways. It was the same Nicholas Ridley who in 1985 oversaw bus deregulation and the privatisation of bus services. There was even talk of closing rail lines and using the routes for dedicated bus services. I remember one TV commentator at the time suggesting that if they did this, with the number of buses needed to bring commuters into London, it would soon be recognised that it was more efficient to connect all the busses together and run them on a dedicated track.

The Broadgate office complex was built over the land once occupied by the Broad Street stations.

The original North London Line is now part of the London Overground network.

The empty concourse of Broad Street Station as it would frequently appear in 1975.

Broad Street Station

Where did the name Broad Street come from as the station faced directly onto Liverpool Street?

Broad Street originally ran from London Wall to Threadneedle Street. An extension up from London Wall was named New Broad Street. The whole street today is called Old Broad Street.

I have marked the location of the passenger and goods station on Rocque’s map of 1746 and we can see New Broad Street extending up to the corner of the station and Broad Street Buildings running under where the main station building would be constructed.

Broad Street Station

The front of the main station building was over an interesting feature – Bethlem Burying Ground.

This was the “New Churchyard” which opened in 1569 and later became known as the Bedlam or Bethlem burying ground. The burial ground was used for well over 100 years, finally closing for burials in 1739.

The graveyard was disturbed during the construction of Broad Street Station, however no archaeological investigation was carried out. This was the mid 19th century and the City’s churchyards were being emptied as quickly as possible due to the conditions of these places in a growing City.

In parallel to the demolition of Broad Street Station, the Museum of London Department of Urban Archaeology carried out a detailed investigation with according to the museum’s web site “Several hundred skeletons were reburied on site and a sample c. 400 individuals were retained for research”.

The site has again been investigated as part of the preparations for Crossrail, and 3,300 burials were uncovered. Testing of five of the skeletons identified the plague pathogen, apparently the first time that plaque DNA from the 16th and 17th centuries has been identified in the UK.

In my 1986 photo at the start of the post, there is a busy road in front of Broad Street Station. This road was closed off for a few years as a work site for Crossrail. Liverpool Street will be one of Crossrail’s stations, so although Broad Street Station is long gone, the area continues to be an important transportation hub.

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Millbank Estate and Millbank Penitentiary

I have a postcard with a photo dated 1906 of the recently completed London County Council, Millbank Estate. The view shows some of the new blocks of flats, wide streets, newly planted trees, and children – probably residents of the new estate.

Millbank Estate

The same view in September 2020:

Millbank Estate

The trees have grown and now obscure the view of the blocks of flats. The wide streets now have parked cars, and the children in the view went on to see and hopefully survive, two world wars.

Remove the cars, see through the trees and the two views are much the same.

Both photos were taken at the south western end of the estate, looking north east. The street in front of the camera is Cureton Street and Erasmus Street is on the left and Herrick Street on the right.

The Millbank Estate is a large estate, built at the start of the 20th century, to provide flats for the working class. The estate was designed to accommodate upwards of 4,430 people in a number of separate blocks.

A map of the estate is displayed on a number of panels across the estate:

Millbank Estate

The Millbank Estate is adjacent to the Tate Britain gallery which was opened a couple of years before work started on the Millbank Estate, and the artistic theme of the Tate was extended to the new housing estate as each of the blocks was named after an artist. The full list of names is shown on the lower right of the above panel.

The Millbank Estate was built between 1897 and 1902 by the London County Council and was one of their most significant estates in terms of size and design. It was designed within the LCC’s Architects Department under Owen Fleming and was influenced by the arts and crafts style of design.

The estate is stunning on a sunny day, when the colour of the brick brings a richness to the buildings. The trees – which I assume from their size were planted at the time of the estate’s construction – break up the sunlight and leave patterns on the walls of the blocks.

The trees are regularly pollarded, when their branches are cut back significantly leaving stumps pointing at the sky, but they always grow back and enhance the view.

The view along St Oswulf Street with Hogarth House at the end of the street:

Millbank Estate

The area occupied by the Millbank Estate has a fascinating history. On land to the west of the River Thames, between Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges, it was a large area to be free for building at the end of the 19th century. In the map below, the red rectangle shows the approximate area occupied by the estate (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Millbank Estate

The area occupied by the Millbank estate, and indeed the Tate Gallery was available for new development because of the demolition of a large establishment that had previously the same space.

In the following extract from the 1847 edition of Reynolds’s New Map of London, there is a structure with a rather unusual design in the lower centre of the map. This was the Millbank Penitentiary or Prison.

Millbank Estate

Millbank Penitentiary opened in 1816 and was in use until 1886, and was demolished by 1890. The shape was unusual for the time, with six individual pentagons of cells radiating out from the central governor’s block.

The pentagon design enabled the whole of the prison to be viewed from the central governor’s block.

The prison was initially designed to hold 1,000 prisoners, however as always seems to be the way with prisons, the population was frequently much higher.

Each of the pentagons was home to different types of prisoner. Writing about the prisons of London in 1862, Henry Mayhew and John Binny identified pentagon one as being the reception wing. Number two being for prisoners to work at various trades in their cells. Pentagon three was for women prisoners. Pentagon four housed the infirmary, along with a mix of different prisoners. Number five had individual cells, but also had shared cells which prisoners often preferred for the company and conversation instead of the individual cells.

Mayhew and Binny do not list the functions of the sixth pentagon, but looking at the diagram of the prison in the book, the sixth pentagon was were you would find the surgeon and the chaplain, with a corn mill in the centre.

Birds-eye drawing of Millbank Penitentiary:

Millbank Estate

Millbank Penitentiary was often used as a holding prison before prisoners moved onto other establishments. This included a period where prisoners sentenced to transportation were held at Millbank before boarding ship.

Mayhew and Binny’s book states that in 1854, 2,461 male prisoners passed through Millbank.

Six hundred and ninety seven remained at the end of the year. During the year, prisoners had been moved to other prions. One thousand and ninety five prisoners had been moved to sites of “public works” projects across the country. Of the total number of prisoners passing through Millbank in 1854, only four were pardoned, had a conditional pardon, or were set free.

One hundred and ninety eight female prisoners were in Millbank at the start of 1854, but by the end of the year they had all been moved to Brixton Prison apart from nineteen who had been discharged and one who had died.

Conditions were harsh for the prisoners at Millbank. The location next to the River Thames must have meant the prison could be very cold and damp in winter. The prison also suffered a cholera outbreak. Prisoners would also be transported or held in irons, and the prison had a Chain Room where the implements to restrain prisoners were stored:

Millbank Estate

The following print shows the main entrance to the prison, with some of the prison wings behind the walls. This must have been drawn from the edge of the river, and shows the road running towards Westminster on the right, between prison and river.

Millbank Estate

I have mapped the location of Millbank Penitentiary on the map of the area today in the following map extract.

Millbank Estate

The Tate Gallery, Millbank Estate and a number of other buildings now occupy the site today, but does anything remain of the prison?

In the above map, I have added a red oval to the rear of the houses that face onto Ponsonby Place. This is the boarder with the south western edge of the Millbank Estate, and Wilkie House is the block that was built with the rear of the block facing the rear of the houses in Ponsonby Place.

There is a gap between the rear of Wilkie House and the houses to the west as shown in the following photo:

Millbank Estate

Look over the railings into the gap, and we can see the ditch and sloping wall of the original Millbank Penitentiary:

Millbank Estate

The City of Westminster Conservation Area Audit states about the ditch and wall:

“Of great importance is the octagonal shape of the former Millbank Penitentiary site, not only for its definition of the shape of the conservation area but also for the surviving sections of wall. This is an important historical and townscape characteristic of the area.”

The Millbank Penitentiary really deserves a dedicated post, so I will continue with my exploration of the Millbank Estate.

Families were a significant percentage of those living in the estate, so there was a need to provide schools for such a large estate and two were built at the same time as the housing blocks.

The two schools are both in Erasmus Street on the western side of the estate. The first one comes into view:

Millbank Estate

On the side of the first school is a rather ornate decoration stating Millbank Schools and the year of construction, 1901. In the centre are the initials LSB. These are not the initials of a person, rather the initials are of the London School Board who were responsible for the construction of the schools and it was their architects who produced the designs.

Millbank Estate

The fount of the first school facing onto Erasmus Street:

Millbank Estate

Further along is the infant school, also by the London School Board:

Millbank Estate

Plaque confirming  this building as the infants school:

Millbank Estate

There are entrances and playgrounds at each side of the school building. A stone arch with the word “infants” provides access:

Millbank Estate

The reason for the two schools becomes apparent as you walk around the estate and realise the size, number of flats and how many children must have lived across the estate.

Between the main blocks of flats there are large courtyards, providing a very child friendly play area:

Millbank Estate

The blocks are not a monolithic design, they have plenty of individual features which break up the brick. In this view, staggered windows provide light to internal stairs:

Millbank Estate

Despite the large scale of the estate, there are small features dotted across the blocks, such as this small corner window:

Millbank Estate

Following photo shows the view looking up the central part of Hogarth House, with a curving, triangular roof line, and long balcony:

Millbank EstateThe Millbank Estate is Grade II listed, however Hogarth House has a higher Grade II* listing. It was the first block to be started in 1899 and the design of Hogarth House by the architects Henry Spalding and Alfred Cross was the winning design in the competition run by the London County Council Architects Department for the design of the estate.

A living room in Hogarth House was photographed in 1909, not long after the building opened.

Millbank Estate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0832_70_1063

Being almost 120 years old, the Millbank Estate has been through a number of renovations. The condition of the flats had deteriorated by the late 1940s, and there were renovations throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The following photo shows a living room in Millais House in 1962.

Millbank Estate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0832_62_1623

The coal fire has by now been replaced with an electric fire, and the flats have moved into the television age.

The 1909 photo shows a well furnished Edwardian living room, and looking at the census data we can get an impression of the residents of the Millbank Estate (I was going to produce some detailed tables, but ran out of time).

Many or the residents were working / professional people, London County Council employees, Policemen, Workers from the nearby gas works (there were gas holders just to the west of the estate) and also at the Army and Navy Co-Operative Stores both on the Millbank river front, and at the end of the nearby Johnson Street – a street that has since been built over.

There were also residents who had come from the West End following the demolition of many of the slum housing in the area. LCC building was frequently to provide housing for those who had been moved following many of the late 19th century improvement schemes.

Despite this range of jobs, many of the newspaper reports of the opening of the estate still classed the new residents as poor. For example, this report from February 1906 was titled “The King And The Poor”:

“The King visited Millbank on Wednesday and inspected the model dwellings the London County Council had erected on a portion of the site of old Millbank Prison. The Queen accompanied his Majesty. The Royal party left Buckingham Palace at three o’clock in open landaus. The occasion was regarded as semi-private, but thousands of people collected near the point where the reception was to take place. The schools in the neighbourhood were given a half-holiday, and many of the children assembled to see the King.

As to the buildings, the King said they appeared light and comfortable, and these qualities were all the more striking in view of what he saw when visiting some of the lowest slum districts a few years ago. He sincerely hoped that the Council’s scheme would result in nothing but good to those whom it was sought to benefit.”

The Queen’s main concern appears to have been the lack of cupboards in the kitchen, and those who guided the Royal party around the estate promised they would look into the matter with urgency.

As well as the architectural features across the Millbank blocks, it is also worthwhile looking down at the ground, as across the estate are these LCC access covers, dated 1900, so from the original construction of the estate:

Millbank Estate

The inspiration of the arts and craft movement to the design of the estate is apparent in many of the features, such as the entrances to the blocks:

Millbank Estate

View between the blocks of Reynolds House, showing the distinctive chequer board patterns of the housing scheme in Vincent Street built for the Grosvenor Estate in the 1920s:

Millbank Estate

Another example of staggered windows:

Millbank Estate

The external condition of the Millbank Estate today is very good, and the estate has been through a number of renovations, however this has not always been the case. In 1947 the West London Press reported on a tenants’ protest and a Millbank Estate petition:

“A petition signed by 600 tenants of the Millbank Housing Estate, protesting about the conditions there, was handed by Mrs Lawler of 5 Morland Buildings to Communist L.C.C. member Jack Gaster when a crowded meeting of 200 Millbank Estate tenants was held at Millbank School recently.

Cllr. Gaster will hand the petition to the L.C.C. when their meeting takes place at County Hall next Tuesday.

The petition, which Mrs. Lawler said had met with great support throughout the estate, asks the L.C.C. to provide suitable storage facilities for the storage of coal, so that tenants can build up adequate supplies for the winter months. It also asks for the erection of pram-sheds in the yards to safeguard young mothers from undue strain in pulling prams up many flights of stairs.

The need for the L.C.C. to take immediate steps regarding essential repairs and decorations and to provide labour and materials for cleaning stairs and windows are also stressed in the petition, while a plea is made for railings to enclose the yards to keep children off the streets.”

The L.C.C. did agree that the work was needed, but did not expect the work to completed for a while due to post war shortages of materials and labour.

I suspect that the following photo shows that one of the requests from the tenants of 1947 was delivered, with the provision of pram sheds in the courtyards between the blocks:

Millbank Estate

Many of the internal courtyards have been decorated with plants and flowers which provide a lovely contrast to the brick of the blocks of flats.

Millbank Estate

Internal courtyard with plants and lamp post:

Millbank Estate

The Millbank Estate was built for the working class, and it is interesting how the influx of the new residents changed the demographic of the area. The Morning Post on the 11th January 1906 noted the impact the new estate could have on the General Election, and the re-election of the Conservative MP Mr. W. Burdett-Coutts who had held the Westminster seat for the past 20 years:

“The struggle is rendered the more interesting from the fact that the character of the constituency has greatly altered since the last election. The present electorate is 7,530, and the extensions of artisans’ dwellings on the Millbank Estate and the City of Westminster Council buildings in Regency-street has increased the working class vote to 5,000. This important fact, together with the general effect of the swinging of the political pendulum, and the prejudice raised against the late Government on education, fiscal and other questions, induce the Liberals to think they have a good opportunity of winning the borough in which the Houses of Parliament and so many other important buildings are included.”

Burdett-Coutts did not have to worry, as he won the 1906 election, and would go on to hold the Westminster seat until it was abolished in the 1918 election.

This is Maclise House with the Millbank Tower in the background:

Millbank Estate

Maclise House is one of the blocks on the Millbank Estate that has this wonderful doorway – it almost looks as if it is providing a portal into another world.

Millbank Estate

Note how above the entrance doorway, there is the stairway that juts out from the wall, ending at the top with a curved roof.

View back across the courtyard of Maclise House:

Millbank Estate

This is the view from the north-eastern end of the estate. I am standing by Marsham Street, which turns left in front of the camera. Herrick Street then on the left and Erasmus Street on the right.

Millbank Estate

There was relatively little bomb damage to the Millbank Estate. Where there was damage it was well repaired – this included the side of the building directly facing the camera in the above photo.

Those children in the 1906 photo at the top of the post could therefore step straight back into the estate and notice few differences – the main changes being almost 120 years of tree growth and parked cars now lining all the streets.

Externally, the housing blocks look impressive and in a well maintained condition. I talked with a few residents in the courtyards and they appeared very happy with their flats.

The London County Council’s Millbank Estate is a far better use of the land than the Millbank Penitentiary that previously occupied the site, however it is good that we can still find a physical reminder of the prison on the boundary of the estate, which shows how the shape of the prison influenced the space occupied by the estate, built by the London County Council for the working class of London.

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Jubilee Gardens and the World’s Longest Safety Poster

In July 1979, the Jubilee Gardens on the south bank of the River Thames near Waterloo Station and County Hall, was the location for the World’s Longest Safety Poster:

Jubilee Gardens

I took a couple of photos during a lunch time wander along the south bank:

Jubilee Gardens

The poster was an attempt on the world record, although a search of the online database of the Guinness Book of Records does not bring up any reference, although they do not have data online of all records, and this was 41 years ago.

1979 was the Year of the Child, and 360 children from across the country painted individual posters over a four day period, each showing a different aspect of safety, of the emergency services, or some other form of safety message relevant to a child.

The combined posters measured 800ft by 10ft and circled around the central green space of the Jubilee Gardens.

When I photographed the scene, the Jubilee Gardens were two years old. As their name suggests they were created in 1977 to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and they quickly became a popular lunchtime spot for the thousands of workers in the Greater London Council, County Hall, or the Shell Centre buildings – the two large office complexes on two sides of the gardens.

To the east of the park (just visible to the right of the first photo), there was a small stage area, and lunchtime concerts were organised by the GLC.

When weather was not so good, for the rest of the working day, and at weekends, the Jubilee Gardens were quiet. County Hall’s conversion into a hotel and centre for tourist attractions, along with the London Eye were still some decades in the future.

The Jubilee Gardens were closed for a number of years during the 1990s as they were one of the construction sites for the Jubilee Line extension which runs slightly to the west between Westminster and Waterloo Stations. An access shaft was dug in the centre of the gardens down to the level of the tunnel workings.

I often wonder if the access shaft is still there, below the surface, when ever I walk across the gardens.

After the gardens were reopened, they did deteriorate somewhat, but underwent a major redesign and restoration project, reopening in 2012, and it is these gardens we see today:

Jubilee Gardens

As well as the design of the gardens, their surroundings have changed considerably over the years, and the people who probably make most use of the gardens today are not office workers, they are more likely to be tourists.

The GLC was disbanded in 1986, and the buildings now host functions mainly aimed at the tourist industry.

Shell have sold off most of the space originally occupied by their offices with today only the tower remaining. New apartment towers have recently shot up around the original Shell tower. The following photo shows the southern edge of the Jubilee Gardens:

Jubilee Gardens

The view across the gardens from the northern edge, adjacent to the Embankment walkway:

Jubilee Gardens

The London Eye now dominates the view across the Jubilee Gardens:

Jubilee Gardens

The Jubilee Gardens as an open space date back to just after the Festival of Britain which occupied the site in 1951. The Shell Centre complex was built on part of the Festival site between Belvedere Road and York Road, construction being between the years of 1957 and 1962.

Part of the plan for the development of the south bank was to leave the space between the Shell tower and the river as open space, enabling an unobstructed view of the tower down to ground floor foyer level from the north bank of the river. The following photo from 1978 shows the view. I took this in the spring so the trees are only just starting to come into leaf, so the gardens are almost invisible from the north bank.

Jubilee Gardens

From the closure of the Festival of Britain, until the creation of the Jubilee Gardens in 1977, the site was a temporary car park – temporary in that it was never properly constructed as a car park, the space was just for this purpose until a long term use could be found (and financed).

The Jubilee Gardens were part of the Jubilee Celebrations along the South Bank in July 1977, when there were a number of short, informal performances, and if you had been in the gardens on either the 2nd or 9th of July, you could have seen “Morley College Choir, Tilford Bach Festival Choir, Morley Meridian Choir, Morley Brass Band, Morley Jazz Orchestra, along with performances of opera, early music groups with folk, court, ballet and modern dancing”. Morley College is a specialist provider of adult education, founded to address the learning needs of Waterloo and Lambeth, hence the local connection with Jubilee Gardens.

The gardens were the scene of a number of demonstrations during the 1980s. Marches demonstrating against unemployment in the early 1980s and during the miners strike of 1984 to 1985 there were rallies and demonstrations by miners and supporting trades unions in the gardens.

The view across the Jubilee Gardens in 1980.

Jubilee Gardens

The stage area can be seen on the right. The area on the left was still used as a car park. I doubt that anyone at the time could have imagined the London Eye being central to this view.

However, as well as being close to the London Eye, the area was the location for one of the key structures of the Festival of Britain, when the Dome of Discovery occupied the space now occupied by the Jubilee Gardens as can be seen in the following photo:

Jubilee Gardens

In the above photo, the buildings of County Hall that now face onto the gardens are seen on the lower right of the photo.

The following photo shows the construction of the Royal Festival Hall (in the foreground) and the Dome of Discover, with the buildings of County Hall in the background to confirm that the Jubilee Gardens now occupy the same space as the Dome of Discovery.

Jubilee Gardens

One of the reasons that the south bank site was chosen for the Festival of Britain was that the area had been very badly damaged during the war. During, and just after the war, many of the buildings on the site of the Jubilee Gardens had been demolished, with all that remained being a growing pile of rubble, as shown in the following photo by my father – again the buildings of County Hall confirm the location.

Jubilee Gardens

The site was completely cleared as shown in the following remarkable photo, which shows the area now occupied by the Jubilee Gardens cleared down to what was probably the original ground level when this was all marsh land.

Jubilee Gardens

The river must have flooded over the area at high tide – which explains why if you are at ground level at the edge of the side of County Hall facing the gardens, there appears to be an extension of the Embankment wall running inland alongside the building. It was to keep the Thames out.

This was the first area cleared for the construction of the Festival of Britain, as on the other side of Hungerford Railway Bridge, just behind the Shot Tower is the Lion Brewery, which would also soon be demolished.

Before the war, the area now occupied by the Jubilee Gardens was mainly warehousing and industrial. A large warehouse – the Government India Stores – occupied the site, along with a now lost street – Jenkins Street, as shown in the following map extract (again the buildings of County Hall provide a point of reference).

Jubilee Gardens

The Government India Stores, or the India Stores Depot was built in 1862 on land leased by the Secretary of State for India. The purpose of the building was to hold goods that had been purchased in the UK by the Government of India, prior to shipping to India.

By the end of the 19th century, this was getting to be a dubious exercise with questions being asked in Parliament about why the Government of India was purchasing goods in the UK which could also easily be purchased in India, and would benefit the Indian economy.

My father photographed the post war remains of the Government India Stores prior to demolition:

Jubilee Gardens

The area occupied by the Jubilee Gardens has long been an industrial site. The following extract from Rocque’s map of London from 1746 shows the sweep of the river as it curves down to Westminster Bridge at lower left.

Jubilee Gardens

Where Westminster Bridge lands on the right side of the river, a street named Narrow Wall runs north. The site of the Jubilee Gardens are roughly to the left of the word ‘Wall’. The map shows that the area of land between Narrow Wall and the river was the first to be developed.

Before any buildings had occupied the site, the area had been marsh, and part of the river foreshore. The name Narrow Wall probably refers to an embankment between the river and the land, with a roadway of some basic form running along the embankment.

Just south of the site of Jubilee Gardens, where County Hall is now located and long before any building occupied the location, a Roman Boat was found during the construction of County Hall:

Jubilee GardensImage credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_04_15_53_27D

So the area around Jubilee Gardens has a long history and it is intriguing to imagine the Roman boat beached on the foreshore of the Thames and gradually sinking into the mud.

The Jubilee Gardens have seen the dramatic rise in tourism over the last few decades, although they are relatively quiet today as London is still missing the millions of tourists that visit the city.

Their location has seen the London County Council and the Greater London Council come and go, along with the construction of the Jubilee Line extension, the Dome of Discovery and the Festival of Britain. The site has been bombed and was the location of a warehouse for goods bound for India.

They have been the site for demonstrations, a wide range of entertainments, and a green space for office workers to spend summer lunchtimes – and possibly the record breaking World’s Longest Safety Poster,

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London with a Leica – First Light

I hope you will excuse a rather self indulgent post this week, but it is a post I have been wanting to write for a long time – my first attempt at using my father’s Leica IIIg camera.

He used two main cameras for the 1940s and 1950s photos. A Leica IIIc for the earlier and a Leica IIIg for the later photos. He sold the IIIc to help pay for the IIIg, and gave the Leica IIIg to me about 20 years ago.

He last used it at the end of the 1970s, when it developed a problem with the shutter sticking, and rather than getting it repaired, he purchased a new SLR camera.

I have been wanting to use the camera for some years. A couple of years ago I had it repaired to fix the sticking shutter problem, and a few weeks ago I finally had the time to learn how to use the camera. I purchased some film, and took the camera on a walk through London to take a reel of film and see how it performed – mainly how I performed using a very different camera to my digital cameras and my old Canon AE-1 film camera.

The Leica IIIg is completely manual. Everything has to be set, shutter speed, the aperture opening of the lens and the focus. The film also needs to be moved to the next frame ready for the next photo.

The Leica IIIg:

Leica

The lens is not the lens meant for the camera. It is from my father’s earlier Leica IIIc. He wrote the following in his notes to the camera “the lens is not the standard lens that should accompany the body, but is from my previous Leica IIIc bought, because it was the best lens to be used in both camera and enlarger”.

He developed and printed his own films, therefore the reference to the enlarger is to the item of equipment that you would use to shine a light through the negative and focus onto photo paper during the printing process. The lens would be unscrewed from the camera and placed in the enlarger to allow negatives to be printed onto photo paper.

The lens is therefore the lens through which the majority of my father’s photos which I feature on the blog from the 1940s and 1950s were taken.

Luckily, I have the instruction booklet that came with the camera, and a diagram in the booklet details all the functions of the various knobs, levers and windows on the camera.

Leica

You may have noticed there is no light meter on the camera, to measure the amount of light and therefore setting the correct speed and aperture – I will come on to this later.

You may also be asking why on earth I would want to use such a camera, limited to 36 photo films, with the cost of film and developing, when digital cameras are so good, and after buying the camera, the cost of photos is almost zero?

A couple of reasons. Obviously the sentimental one that it was the camera and lens that my father used for so many of his early photographs, but also because using such a camera really forces you to think and perhaps relearn the whole process of photography.

The number of photos available on each roll of film, and the cost of film and processing means you really have to be selective and think about the photo you want to take – I could not take the 200 to 400 photos that I would normally take on a walk around London.

It also makes you really think about light. Having to manually measure the light coming from the scene you want to photograph, deciding the combination of speed and aperture, focusing on the specific object you want to be the focus of the photo, all combine to make you think more about the process. I know all these combinations of manual options are available in many digital cameras, but so often using the auto option is the easiest way, along with the internal light meter.

The first challenge was to load the film.

The choice of film was relatively easy. I went with Ilford FP4 Plus. The reason being it is a very tolerant film which “will give usable results even if it is overexposed by as much as six stops, or underexposed by two stops” (a stop is basically either the halving or the doubling of the light hitting the film, so the film can still give good results if too much or too little light hits the film for the ideal photo).

My first attempt at loading the film in the camera was not good. Firstly, the film has to be trimmed with scissors so there is a long enough length of half width film to avoid the winding mechanism, then the film needs to be securely and accurately wound onto the take up spool.

And you will not know if it has worked correctly until the film is in the camera and you start winding on the film.

The pages from the manual detailing the film loading process:

Leica

Trimming the film – Ilford FP4 already comes trimmed, but not enough for the Leica, so I had to measure and cut a longer trimmed length of film. There must be a winding mechanism at the top of the slot behind the lens, which the film cannot be inserted over, but engages with when the film is pulled through the camera.

Leica

The end of the correctly trimmed film then needs to be inserted into the take up spool. This is where I had most problems as the film has to be parallel with, and tightly up against the lower end of the take up spool as in the following photo. If the film is not correctly positioned (as I found on the first two attempts), the film does not grip and wind onto the take up spool.

Leica

The film cassette, film, and take up spool is then carefully inserted into the slot at the rear of the camera, and the cassette and spool pushed into their positions at the two ends of the camera.

Leica

My first two attempts failed. You cannot confirm the film is inserted correctly until you try winding on the film.

There are two knobs at either end of the top of the camera. The Film Transport and Shutter Tensioning Knob – which pulls the film forward, out of the cassette and onto the take up spool after each photo has been taken, as well as tensioning the shutter ready for release. The second is the Rewind Knob that engages with the film cassette and is used to rewind the film back into the cassette when the full length of film has been used.

If the film is inserted correctly, winding the film transport knob, should also result in the rewind knob turning as film is pulled out of the cassette.

With my first attempt, the film had slipped off the take up spool, and with my second, the film was winding on correctly, but there must have been so much slack in the cassette that the rewind knob was not turning. I wasted that film as I was not sure how much film had been wound on and therefore exposed when I opened the camera to see what was going on.

With the film correctly loaded (hopefully) in the camera, there was one final element to learn before taking the camera out on the streets of London – how to set the speed and aperture correctly.

Basically, the aperture sets how much light the lens allows through to the film, and the speed is the speed with which the shutter opens, also changing how much light is let through to the film. They also impact the photo in different ways. Low speed can lead to a blurred photo of a moving object and with aperture you can change the elements of a photo which are in focus, for example by a blurred background with the foreground object in focus.

To know the correct range of settings, you need to know how much light is coming from the scene you want to photograph towards the lens of the camera. Today, cameras have built in light meters, but 1940/50s Leica’s needed a different solution, and this was by using an external, hand held light meter, and along with the camera, my father had given me his Weston Master Exposure Meter.

Leica

As the text describes “Your ‘Master’ meter is a photo-electric instrument which measures the reflected light of the subject with scientific accuracy”.

There is a photo cell in the rear of the meter, which generates an electric current dependent on the strength of the light. This electric current drives the pointer on the meter on the front of the meter.

The pointer, points to a scale of numbers. The light meter first needs to be set up correctly with the speed of the film (tab E and window D as described in the instructions), then the exposure dial is turned to point at the number the pointer in the electric meter is pointing at, and the range of aperture and speed combinations can be read from the scales F and G in the instructions.

One of the problems with using the meter was that the pointer would be moving up and down depending on where I was pointing the meter in the overall scene to be photographed. It was relatively stable in a scene where there was little change in light, but looking at a combination of river, buildings and sky, the meter would change considerably with minor changes in position.

The same challenge happens with digital photography, but again using an entirely manual method really gets you thinking about light.

Using the light meter on London Bridge (photo taken on my phone which handled light measurement, speed, aperture and automatically focused without me having to do anything – how photography has changed)

Leica

So, with film loaded, a reasonable understanding of how the camera and light meter worked, I went out for a walk to see if the camera worked, did the light meter still give accurate readings, and could I take photos using a Leica IIIg.

Back at home, the film was wound back into the cassette, posted to Aperture (who as well as repairing cameras, also develop and print), and I waited expectantly for 10 days for the negatives and prints to drop through the letter box.

The first photo taken by the Leica IIIg in over 40 years – looking to the north bank of the river from the south bank.

Leica

Much to my surprise, the photo came out well. The river, buildings and sky all gave different light readings, so I used an average to see what would happen.

I was not aiming to take photos of specific objects, or scenes of any historic or architectural value, it was just a random walk looking for different scenes to see how the photo would come out. This following photo did not do so well.

Leica

The photo is of the Frank Dobson sculpture “London Pride” in front of the National Theatre. The sculpture was backlit with bright sunshine, The photo works well for the National Theatre, but the sculpture is too dark.

A view across the river to St Paul’s:

Leica

The following photo did not work well. On the left was the brightly lit view across to the City. The view on the right should have been really good as shafts of sunlight were breaking through the tree cover onto the walkway. I had set the exposure for the view on the left, not the view through the trees.

Leica

Really not sure what happened with the following photo, but it seems out of focus.

Leica

Focusing needs to be set manually on the Leica IIIg. There is a separate viewing window to focus the view. Looking through this window and if the scene is out of focus, you will see two views of the same object, each slightly apart.

To focus the camera on the scene, you need to turn the lever adjacent to the lens, which should bring the two views of the scene together. When the views of the primary object in the scene meet as one, the camera is correctly focused.

The Anchor pub:

Leica

I was starting to get to grips with the light meter and camera, and took the following photo in Winchester Walk. Borough Market on the right and Southwark Cathedral at the end of the street.

Leica

I took the above photo as my father had used the same camera, 67 years ago to take a very similar view (I did not have the original with me, so I was not at exactly the right location). The same camera and lens – 2020 above and 1953 below:

Leica

The following photo was taken from London Bridge, where the colour photo earlier in the post with the light meter was taken. It was a difficult scene. Point the light meter at the sky and it would shoot up, down at the river and a much lower light reading. Going for an average reading seems to give a reasonable result.

Leica

I took the following photo as there was plenty of detail on the base of the monument, a building in the background, and the scene in relative shade due to the surrounding buildings.

Leica

View down Fish Street Hill to the church of St Magnus the Martyr:

Leica

The view looking up Gracechurch Street from Eastcheap:

Leica

Entrance to Monument Underground station in King William Street. I wanted to see if I could get the exposure right for the street scene and the steps below ground, and also focus on a close object and with the rest of the view in focus.

Leica

Construction site for the new entrance to Bank Underground station in Cannon Street with the tower of St Mary Abchurch in the background.

Leica

Temporary bike lane in Cannon Street. Pleased with this as both the adjacent barriers and the tower of St Paul’s at the end of the street are all in focus.

Leica

View down Laurence Pountney Lane:

Leica

Entrance to Cannon Street Station – I should have exposed more for the darker interior of the station, but I was trying to get the way the lights swept into the station.

Leica

Dowgate Hill at the side of Cannon Street Station, with the Strata Tower at the Elephant and castle in the distance:

Leica

One of my favourite City buildings – 30 Cannon Street:

Leica

The main entrance to 30 Cannon Street:

Leica

Really pleased with the above photo. Architectural photography is one of the areas where black and white photography seems to work well.

The St Lawrence Jewry Memorial Drinking Fountain at the top of Carter Lane. A good spot for skateboarding down into the lane.

Leica

Welcome To The City Of London – map near the visitor information center.

Leica

I took the above photo as I was interested in the level of detail that could be recorded on film. The map had lots of text and detail within the map, and the photo below is a small extract of the above. It shows that extracting a small part of the photo and enlarging still retains an excellent level of detail.

Leica

Walking down Ludgate Hill and I noticed this closed shop. Originally a “traditional” sweet shop, probably catering to the tourist trade on the route to and from St Paul’s Cathedral. Now closed and empty – possibly a victim of the lack of tourists for most of the year.

Leica

Looking up Ludgate Hill towards St Paul’s Cathedral – I have never seen it so quiet on a Sunday afternoon in late August.

Leica

Road works and temporary traffic lights looking down Ludgate Hill:

Leica

The film I was using was theoretically capable of 36 exposures, however I only managed 29 photos from the roll of film. I suspect I lost some at the start of the film by needing to trim an extra long length, then winding the film on too much to make sure it was on the take up spool and the rewind knob on the film cartridge was turning. Whilst this showed that the film was correctly loaded – it did waste some of the total number of photos that should have been available.

The camera does have a dial that shows the number of photos that have been taken, and the dial is manually set to zero before the first photo is taken, however the dial assumes the film is loaded with minimum film on the take up spool to give 36 exposures.

The final couple of photos on the film showed problems with double exposure, the following photo is an example. Not sure why as the film did appear to wind on correctly, but obviously a problem at the very end of the film.

Leica

The photos are very routine photos of the south bank of the river and the City of London, however, for me, they are very special.

They show that the Leica camera and the Weston light meter are working well, and that I have a basic understanding of how to use them.

There is something rather special taking photos with such a camera. The lens is over 70 years old, and was already taking photos of London in the late 1940s.

One of the problems of taking the “now” photos to compare with the photos from the 1940s and 1950s is that my current camera is so very different to the Leica. Completely different lens, different method of capturing the photo etc. This means that whilst I can take a “now” photo of the scene, it is never exactly the same as the original. What I hope to do is revisit the sites of my father’s original photos with the Leica and take new comparison photos. With the same lens and camera I should be able to get the new photos to be exact comparisons.

I also still have much to learn. The camera also came with a number of accessories such as an open frame sports viewfinder, red and yellow/green filters to add contrast to a black and white photo etc.  I suspect I will be experimenting with the Leica and film far more over the coming months.

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Fire, Blitz and Route 11 – How Two Historic City Walls Have Survived The Centuries

I find it fascinating comparing my father’s photos of the bombed City with London of today. Exploring how much has changed, how the long history of the City survived, and despite how much has changed over the last seventy plus years, how much remains the same.

The following photo was taken in Wood Street looking roughly north east.

St Alphage

I know the exact spot where my father was standing to take the photo, and there are a number of landmarks that can be identified. I have marked these on the photo below, and will explore them in today’s post.

St Alphage

Firstly, the photo was taken from Wood Street, a short distance north of the tower of the church of St Alban. The following photo is from my post of a couple of weeks ago on the churches of St Alban and St Mary. Just behind the tower of St Alban is a building with scaffolding projecting from the side. This is the same scaffolding seen in the photo above.

St Alphage

I am trying to work out a way to bring together all the photos of the bombed City to provide a comprehensive walk through of the City in 1947 – not sure the best way to do this yet but they provide a detailed view of the bombed City that my father witnessed.

From the Wood Street viewpoint, the following map extract shows the landmarks identified in the photo. I have used the same symbols as in the above photo (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

St Alphage

The following photo shows the view from the same place that my father was standing at, in 1947. A very different view with none of the landmarks visible.

St Alphage

The shadow of the tower of St Alban is on the lower right corner, and the building with the scaffolding would have been on the right, with the scaffolding protruding into the edge of the photo.

The rather solid looking building on the right of the above photo is the Wood Street City of London police building, constructed in 1965.

In the 1947 photo there is a street entrance on the right. This was Addle Street, a street that has been lost in the development of the area. It was roughly just after the tree in the above photo.

Looking at the landmarks in the distance, and one of the most distinctive is a tall tower which I have marked with a yellow circle in the map and photo. This building can still be found on the north side of Finsbury Square.

St Alphage

The tower belongs to the building that was Royal London House, but is now called Triton Court. Royal London started as a Friendly Society and grew rapidly during the first half of the 20th century. They occupied the entire north side of Finsbury Square. The building on the left with the cupola on the corner was constructed first in 1905. The central block with the tower was added in 1930, and the block to the right was added in the 1950s.

The block on the right is now a hotel and the two earlier blocks are office space. Internally, the buildings have been mostly gutted as part of the conversion to new offices, with only the facades remaining as they were, including the original statue of the Roman god Mercury, who has been looking out over London for over one hundred years.

St Alphage

To the left of the tower in the 1947 photo is the cupola on the corner of the first of the Royal London buildings, then look further to the left and there is another cupola. This is marked on the photo as 1 City Road / Lowndes House (red circle on the map), and is seen in the following photo at the end of the street, where City Road bends to the left.

St Alphage

The building is now 1 City Road, but was called Lowndes House when built in 1929 for the Singer Sewing Machine Company as their London headquarters. It was designed by architect William Lewis, and is now Grade II listed.

The 1947 photo, and also just by walking the streets, show the boundaries of the fires caused by bombing during the Second World War. They covered an extensive area of the land now occupied by London Wall, the Barbican, and east to towards Finsbury Square, but getting towards Finsbury Square and many of the buildings that remain are still pre-war rather than the post-war buildings to the west.

Much of the damage to the area was through the fires caused by incendiary bombs rather than high explosive, and many walls of buildings did remain. Many had been cleared by the time my father took the original photo, however the clearance, and following post war work, did reveal some much older structures which, fortunately, have been preserved.

To the right of the 1947 photo there is the shell of a building that I have labelled St Alphage (yellow star on the map and photo).

Churches were also left during wartime demolition. Although many City churches were reduced to their outer walls and tower, there was an expectation that being churches they would be restored, which indeed did happen to many churches, although some were demolished. One was St Alphage, although not before some medieval remains of an earlier building that had been integrated within the structure of St Alphage were identified and saved.

These were from the former priory chapel of St Mary Elsing (also Elsyng and Elsyng Spital – Spital being the name given to a charitable establishment that would provide care for the sick), and these medieval remains can be found today alongside London Wall.

In the following photo looking east along London Wall, the stone arches of St Mary Elsing can be seen on the left.

St Alphage

The walls that we can see today alongside London Wall are from the medieval chapel of St Mary Elsing. This chapel was part of a hospital and priory which had been founded by Sir William Elsing early in the 14th century.

St Alphage

The hospital was founded with the intention of providing care for the blind, presumably by the nuns and sisters of the priory. It was common across the City for hospitals and priories to be a single institution.

The location of the priory may have been a religious site back to the 11th century when a nunnery may have occupied the location.

The priory was closed during the dissolution in 1537 when it became the property of the Crown, although most of the land and buildings were soon sold off.

The view of the remains of the priory of St Mary Elsing viewed from London Wall.

St Alphage

The area has recently been subject to redevelopment which has considerably enhanced the view of the medieval walls. As part of the original redevelopment along London Wall, the remains were hemmed in by new buildings and under the high level walkways that were such a feature of the post war development of London Wall.

The space around the walls has been opened up, and a new walkway was recently opened, set back from the remains of the priory, and of a much more sensitive design.

St Alphage

Close to the priory of St Mary Elsing was another religious building, the church of St Alphage.

The original St Alphage was built up against the London Wall, a very short distance to the north west of the priory. St Alphage may date from the 11th century, the same century as the saint after which the church is named died.

St Alphage was Bishop of Winchester and from the year 1006 was Archbishop of Canterbury, although this post would not last too long as in 1012 he was murdered by the Danes.

His murder is thought to have taken place at Greenwich, at, or near, the Greenwich church also dedicated to St Alphege (using one of the alternate spellings of his name).

St Alphage

By the early 16th century, the first St Alphage was in a very poor condition, and the parishioners were looking for an alternate site for the church. They were given the tower and chancel of St Mary Elsing, they converted the building, and moved their parish church into the new site.

The original St Alphage was demolished and the site sold to a carpenter. Wilberforce Jenkinson in London Churches Before The Fire states that the original location is “now used as a little garden of rest for London wayfarers”.

The view of the remains of St Mary Elsing, looking back towards London Wall is shown in the following photo. The tall arches which formed the base of the tower can clearly be seen. At the left there is a low wall. This has a small, arched recess which may have been used to house a tomb.

St Alphage

Note that there is a slight height difference between the base of the walls and the surrounding street level. The new St Alphage therefore included some of the medieval walls from St Mary Elsing. These medieval walls have been incredibly lucky to survive into the 21st century.

St Alphage survived the Great Fire of London. The church was significantly rebuilt in 1777, and the medieval walls remained.

In 1913, a new Gothic front was built on the side of the church facing the original route of London Wall. A couple of features of this facade can be seen in my father’s 1947 photo, where there is a short pinnacle on the top left corner of the church along with the triangular top of the wall.

The 1947 photo shows that these were on the northern side of the church which at the time was facing onto London Wall, however the route of London Wall was about to change, and St Alphage would see the final, dramatic change to its immediate landscape.

I have covered the route of London Wall in previous posts. The change in route was to meet the expected post war rise in car usage through the City. During the war, plans were made for the post war redevelopment of the City, and these included major new, wide roads through the City along with the parking needed for all those who would be driving into the City.

One of these new routes was Route 11, an 86 foot wide dual carriageway that would run from Ludgate Circus in the west to Aldgate High Street in the east.

The section between Aldersgate Street and Moorgate was the easiest to build as the area had been so damaged during the war and was almost an empty space waiting for redevelopment. The majority of the other sections of Route 11 were through existing streets that had not suffered so much damage and would have required major demolition of buildings.

The section of Route 11 between Aldersgate Street and Moorgate was named London Wall, with the western section being moved south from the original route of London Wall so that the new route would align with the expected westward extension.

The following photo from 1958 shows the construction of Route 11 along the new London Wall. I have marked the position of St Alphage and the original western section of London Wall.

St Alphage

The photo shows how the medieval walls of St Mary Elsing moved from being to the south of London Wall, to their current position to the north of the street.

The photo also demonstrates what a significant construction project this was. Basically a long hole being dug, then filled with a concrete box. Car park being within the concrete box and new street running along the top. The car park below London Wall has space for 250 cars – and includes the remains of a Roman Wall.

The plan for post war redevelopment – “Reconstruction of the City of London” by the Corporation of London was published in 1944 and includes a map of the planned trunk routes through the City. The routes included in this original plan were changed slightly. I have marked the original London Wall route in the map with A and B.

St Alphage

Whilst the eastern section would end where the new London Wall currently ends at the junction with Moorgate, the western end was originally planned to be at a large new roundabout at the Aldersgate Street / Long Lane junction, by Barbican Station.

This original route would have taken Route 11 through the area now occupied by the Barbican, and as plans for the Barbican were taking shape when the final plans for Route 11 were being made, the western end of the new street was moved south to leave a large area free to the north ready for the Barbican Estate.

The construction of London Wall did require the demolition of a small southern section of St Alphage. The majority of the church was demolished in the 1960s leaving the medieval walls of St Mary Elsing as a scheduled ancient monument, standing separate from the church that had been built around them, and looking out on a very different landscape.

We can get an impression of how the walls and arches of St Mary Elsing were incorporated in the structure of St Alphage by looking at some old prints.

The following print from 1815 states “An interior view of the porch of the parish church of St Alphage, London Wall: formerly the chapel of the priory of Elsynge Spital”. (©Trustees of the British Museum)

St Alphage

The fact that these were ancient walls was understood as the following print, also from 1815, demonstrates by showing the architectural details of the arches to be found in St Alphage (©Trustees of the British Museum).

St Alphage

The print also includes a map of the area showing the location of the church. Note that in the map there is an area labelled St Alphage Church Yard just to the left of the church, on the northern side of London Wall – we shall come to this later.

The following print shows the southern prospect of St Alphage in 1736. This was before the 1777 rebuild and presumably shows the church much as it could have been when the parishioners moved from their original church to the chapel of St Mary Elsing in the middle of the 16th century (©Trustees of the British Museum).

St Alphage

Hard to believe that the point where the above print was drawn from is now the dual carriageway of London Wall.

There is one landmark from the 1947 photo left to find. In the following photo I am standing in the original route of London Wall, now a pedestrian walkway, close to the junction with Wood Street. This is now called St Alphage Garden. The northern facade of St Alphage would have been at the far end, just where the brown of the high level walkway can be seen.

St Alphage

In my father’s 1947 photo, there is a feature I have labelled as Medieval Wall. This feature can still be seen today:

St Alphage

There is a plaque on the wall from 1872 that states Roman City Wall, however whilst the wall is on the alignment of the City Wall, only the very lower sections are Roman.

St Alphage

An information panel adjacent to the wall explains that the top brick section with the “crenellations and diaper pattern brickwork” (the regular battlement shape of the top of the wall and the brick pattern formed with the dark bricks) date from 1477 when the City Wall was strengthened during the Wars of the Roses. Medieval is below the brickwork, with Roman down at street level.

St Alphage

The space in front of the wall is now a garden / seating area and is the same space as marked in the map in the 1815 print as St Alphage Church Yard. This was also where the original St Alphage church was located.

Whilst the southern aspect of the wall was visible pre-war, much of the rear of the wall had buildings up against it – demolition of buildings damaged during the war opened up both sides of the wall as a free standing structure.

To bring this post full circle with my very first post in February 2014, when I wrote about the following photo.

St Alphage

This was the original sign put up by the Corporation of London in Fore Street to mark the site of the first bomb on the City. What I did not mention at the time was that on the left edge of the photo you can just see the ruins of St Alphage, with the same pinnacle as in the photo seen at the start of the post. The section of City Wall is behind the sign.

It is fascinating how places change. The former priory chapel of St Mary Elsing and the Roman Medieval Wall have survived so much change and now look out on a very different landscape. The area surrounding St Mary Elsing is not the same as the post war rebuild, with most of the buildings being from the last few decades, and the original pedestrianised high level walkways have also been replaced.

I very much doubt whether the view the wall and chapel look out on now could have been imagined by anyone over their hundreds of years of existence. Although my father was aware of Route 11 (he bought the books with the redevelopment proposals when they were first published), he did not expect the size of buildings that now surround London Wall and Wood Street.

When London Wall was built, the car was expected to be the future of transport in the City. The car is now being actively discouraged as a means of transport in the City, so whatever may seem to be the future, will always change.

I suspect the next big change to the area will be when the Museum of London moves, and the proposed Concert Hall is built on the site (if the money is still there). This may drive more local change if there are empty offices to be repurposed due to remote working becoming the norm.

When researching these photos, as well as the history, I always try to imagine what the future may bring to these places, but the lesson of looking at the past is that the future will almost certainly be very different – but hopefully the walls of St Mary Elsing will still be there.

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The Globe at Borough Market

In 1977 I was taking some photos around Southwark using my brand new Canon AE-1, purchased using hire purchase as at the time it was the only way I could afford such a camera, and I was desperate to replace the cheap Russian Zenit camera I had been using. The main feature of this camera seemed to be a sticking shutter which ruined far too many photos.

A couple of these photos were of the Globe at Borough Market. A very different market to the market of today.

Globe at Borough Market

The same view 43 years later in 2020:

Globe at Borough Market

The Globe was built in 1872 to a design by architect Henry Jarvis. A lovely brick pub, the paint on the external walls in my 1977 photo has since been removed to reveal the original brickwork.

When I took the original photo, Borough Market was a very different place. Selling all types of fruit, vegetables, potatoes etc. The market started very early in the morning mainly selling to businesses such as the shops and restaurants of south London.

The narrow aisles between the market stalls meant that vehicles could not easily enter the market so porters were employed to transfer goods from lorries parked in the streets, into the market.

One of the barrows used by a porter is outside the corner entrance to the pub. This was why I took the photo as the barrow and pub seemed to be a good combination that in many ways summed up a London market at the time. There is another barrow parked alongside the Globe at left.

There were a number of pubs surrounding Borough Market, catering to the needs of those who worked in the market, which included being open much earlier in the morning than a normal London pub. Reading the licence information above the door of the Globe gives an indication of days and times that the pub served the market, and the trades of those who were expected in the Globe:

“NOTICE PURSUANT TO THE LICENSING ACT 1964 – Intoxicating liquors are permitted to be sold and supplied in these premises between the hours of six-thirty and eight-thirty of the clock on the morning of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each week. Excepting Christmas Day, Good Friday and Bank Holidays for the accommodation of persons following their lawful trade of calling as Salesmen, Buyers, Carmen, Assistants or Porters and attending a Public Market at the Borough of Southwark”.

Another photo of the Globe in 1977:

Globe at Borough Market

And in 2020. The days of selling Double Diamond are long gone.

Globe at Borough Market

In the above photo, at the very top right corner, you can just see an edge of the Thameslink Viaduct that was built over Borough Market between 2009 and 2013.

The first floor of the Globe was the film location for Bridget Jones flat in the 2001 film Bridget Jones Diary.

Globe – the name of the pub in stone above the windows, seen in both the 1977 and 2020 photos:

Globe at Borough Market

If you go back to the photo at the top of the post, and look along the left side of the street, and in the distance is an arch with a sign above. The sign still remains although Lee Brothers Potato Merchants have long gone.

Globe at Borough Market

The origins of Borough Market are ancient, dating back for at least 1,000 years. Originally a market at the southern end of London Bridge, however by 1754 the City of London was fed up with the Southwark entrance to the bridge being congested by a market, and that the market was taking business away from the City markets. A bill was introduced to Parliament to stop the market trading in March 1756.

The local residents were not happy with the loss of their market and raised £6,000 to buy an area of land called The Triangle, and this became the new home of what is today Borough Market.

The market flourished, and the arrival of the railways with their local goods yards increased the volume of fruit, veg, etc. being sold at the market.

The end of the wholesale market started in the late 1970s and continued in the early 1980s. The City of London constructed New Covent Garden market in Nine Elms. This was a much larger market with considerably easier access and plenty of parking, unlike at Borough Market.

In parallel was the gradual replacement of the traditional corner shop and green grocer by much larger supermarkets who had their own supply chain and had no need to purchase fruit and veg from a local market such as Borough.

The market’s renaissance started in the late 1990s when specialist food suppliers started to move in, and food fairs were organised. Borough Market has since gone from strength to strength, and on most days (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic) it would be crowded with tourists and shoppers.

When walking among the stalls, it almost looks as if you could buy a different cheese for every single day of the year.

Along with the market traders, a wide range of restaurants have opened surrounding the market, and the old pubs that once served the market porters at 6:30 in the morning, have a new lease of life and are serving a very different customer – no longer are barrows left outside the pub door.

One of the pubs surrounding the market is the appropriately named The Market Porter on the corner of Stoney Street and Park Street.

Globe at Borough Market

The Market Porter dates from 1890, however the site was previously occupied by a pub named the Harrow.

Further along Stoney Street is another pub that looks in a rather strange location, squashed by the railway bridge directly above the pub. This is the Wheatsheaf:

Globe at Borough Market

The current Wheatsheaf building dates from 1840, although a pub had been on the site since the 18th century. It originally had three floors and was part of a terrace. The pub lost the third floor when the pub closed in 2009 for the construction of the Thameslink Viaduct which now runs directly overhead. The Wheatsheaf reopened in 2014 in its new, cramped looking condition, however thankfully this historic pub survived such a dramatic change.

Construction of the Thameslink Viaduct was a significant engineering achievement, with building such a structure above a working market. The viaduct runs for 322 metres across the market, and during construction, work included the removal and replacement of the market’s historic roof.

The following photo shows the Wheatsheaf in 1943, in its original condition (the building on the right), along with the same style of barrow that I would photograph in 1977:

Globe at Borough Market

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_376_F1582

On the corner of Stoney Street and Southwark Street is the Southwark Tavern, a lovely Victorian corner pub dating from 1862:

Globe at Borough Market

However a more remarkable building is alongside the Southwark Tavern. This is the imposing Hop and Malt Exchange.

Globe at Borough Market

The Hop and Malt Exchange dates from 1867 and was designed by the architect R.H. Moore, and was the premises of the Hop Planters Association.

The frontage along Southwark Street is 340 feet and it covered more than an acre of land.

Although the building looks impressive today, it was originally a much taller building, however after a fire in 1920 which gutted much of the building, the top two floors were demolished. The original, larger facade just after the fire can be seen in the photo below:

Globe at Borough Market

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: C_PHL_01_375_574c_2

The Hop and Malt Exchange was built in Southwark, as it was close to the main railway stations and goods depots that served the hop growing counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey and provided a place were growers and buyers could meet in one place to conduct the sale of hops.

The main entrance to the Hop and Malt Exchange:

Globe at Borough Market

The pediment above the main entrance contains some wonderful decoration showing hop and malt production. Hops being grown and picked in the centre. Barley being grown on the right for the production of malt, with these products being carried in a sack on a barrow on the left.

Globe at Borough Market

Looking through the iron gates of the entrance (which are also beautifully decorated), we can glimpse the main Exchange Room:

Globe at Borough Market

The Exchange Room was the central point for trading activities. It was 80 feet long by 50 feet wide and 75 feet was the original height to the top floor. The roof was glass allowing plenty of natural light to shine on the floor below. There was a central lantern feature running along the length of the roof, and in the pre-fire building, this was 115 feet above the floor of the Exchange Room.

The Exchange Room was surrounded by four floors of offices and show rooms where growers could show off their products to potential buyers. First and second class refreshment rooms were also provided. Presumably you used the first class when trying to impress a buyer, and the second class for normal refreshment.

A view of the Exchange Room after opening:

Globe at Borough Market

Today, the Hop and Malt Exchange has been restored and is currently a location providing office, corporate hospitality and a live events space, so in some ways is still true to the original use of the building – although no longer trading in hops and malt.

Borough Market and the Hop and Malt Exchange highlight that this area was a significant place for trading agricultural products. What started off as a market on the southern end of London Bridge, grew considerably with the arrival of the railways. Road and rail access to the southern agricultural counties turned this part of Southwark into a key location where London’s shops, restaurants and breweries could negotiate and buy the key agricultural products they needed for their business.

My 1977 photo captured the very end of that long period, but Borough Market still remains serving a new, 21st century customer.

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