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Rotterdam – A Bombed City And Modernist Architecture

Continuing my journey through the Netherlands of 1952, I have now reached Rotterdam.

The bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940 provided a warning of what would fall on London later the same year.

The invasion of the Netherlands started on the 10th of May 1940 with advance drops of parachute forces on key locations such as the Hague and the major city and port of Rotterdam.

The Dutch army within Rotterdam defended the city more aggressively than expected and by the 13th May the invading forces had made very limited progress.

On the 14th May 1940, the city of Rotterdam was heavily bombed. Indiscriminate bombing by 90 Heinkel bombers caused significant damage to the city which was made even worse by the fires that followed the initial attack. A strong wind caused the fires to extend to areas of the city that had not been directly bombed.

The attack killed between 800 and 900 people, over 25,000 houses were destroyed and 638 acres of the city left devastated.

Soon after the 14th May raid, Rotterdam capitulated, and the majority of the Netherlands surrendered on the 15th May with the whole of the Netherlands being occupied on the 17th May. The threat of similar levels of devastation on other Dutch cities was the primary reason for the rapid capitulation.

Occupation until the end of the war in 1945 prevented any significant reconstruction. After the end of the war, reconstruction commenced with a focus on the dock facilities which were back operating as one of the most efficient global ports by 1950.

When my father arrived in Rotterdam from Tilbury in 1952, much of the city centre was still in ruins, and some of his photos are similar to the photos he had taken of the worst hit areas of London.

He also found one of the great modernist designs of the Dutch architect, Willem Marinus Dudok, which although severely damaged in the 1940 raid was not finally demolished until 1960. The people of Rotterdam would also suffer badly during the occupation, and reminders of these events could (and indeed still are) be found across the city.

I had hoped to visit the city during the time we were in the Netherlands, but ran out of time due to other visits, so there are no before and after photos in this post. We had been many times when we lived in the Netherlands, but as I had not scanned these negatives, I was not aware of these 1952 photos.

In the case of Rotterdam, before and after photos would also be somewhat irrelevant as the city is so very different. Post war, and ongoing construction has resulted in a city centre that, with a few exceptions, is so very different to the city prior to the 14th May 1940.

So if you had taken the Batavier II from Tilbury to Rotterdam in 1952, stepped ashore and headed to the city centre, this is what you would have found:

Rotterdam

Although these photos were taken 12 years after the invasion of the Netherlands and 7 years after the end of the war, much of the city centre was still empty.

Rotterdam

The level of destruction was such that the decision was taken to clear the city centre rather than rebuild the ruins that remained. This resulted in a clearer demarcation between the buildings to remain and the area for rebuilding than could be seen in London.

Rotterdam

An initial plan for the reconstruction of Rotterdam included retaining much of the original street plan, however a later plan approved in 1946 called for a more significant change, moving the city away from a complex, narrow street plan to larger and more open streets, open spaces and large building plots. The devastation to such a large area of the central city had also resulted in the focus of the city moving away from the original centre and this change was also incorporated in the new development plan.

Some of the new construction under way:

Rotterdam

The following photo shows the Laurenskerk church which was very badly damaged, but in the early stages of reconstruction in 1952.

Rotterdam

The above photo includes an indication of how much the city has changed. On the right hand edge of the photo can be seen a railway viaduct. During reconstruction, the opportunity was taken to replace the above ground viaduct with an underground tunnel. As well as removing what could be considered an eyesore in the centre of the city, it also made available more space and removed the dividing effect that a large viaduct can have on different communities within a city.

A similar approach for London was included in the 1943, London County Council, County of London Plan, and also in the 1946 report to the Minister of War Transport, where many of the above ground railways through the city were proposed to move to underground tunnels. The money and will to carry out these proposals were not readily available so London’s railway routes are much as they were pre-war.

More rebuilding:

Rotterdam

To the right of the above photo can be seen part of the building shown in the following photo, A large building but I have not been able to trace the building which may have been a survivor from before the war.

Rotterdam

My father’s photos show just how large an area had been devastated by the initial bombing and the fires that would follow:

Rotterdam

One building that whilst badly damaged, was not demolished was the De Bijenkorf department store building:

Rotterdam

My father took several photos of this wonderful building from different angles so it must have been of significant interest to him.

Rotterdam

De Bijenkorf was (and still is) a Dutch department store company and after building new stores in the Hague and Amsterdam, issued a tender in 1928 for the design of a new department store in Rotterdam.

The design by the Dutch architect Willem Marinus Dudok was selected.

Dudok was the city architect for the city of Hilversum, but was also responsible for a wide range of designs across the Netherlands.

His design for the Rotterdam department store was revolutionary. It created the largest department store in Europe when the Rotterdam De Bijenkorf opened on the 16th October 1930.

The design used significant amounts of glass to maximise natural lighting with a central atrium which also let in light to the centre of the building.

On one corner of the building was a tall minaret, topped by a diamond shaped lantern.

At night, the diamond lantern acted as a beacon across the city, and the whole department store was brilliantly lit with the glass windows showing off the illuminated interior and ground floor shop windows.

The shape of the building was similar to an ocean going liner, suddenly moored in the centre of Rotterdam, bringing together goods from around the world for purchase by those wealthy enough to shop in the store.

The rear of the building was significantly damaged during the May 1940 bombing. Over half of the building had to be demolished with the rest of the building patched up as best as possible, given the wartime conditions.

The store had only lasted 10 years.

The following photo shows the rear of the building in 1952. It had originally extended much further back.

Rotterdam

The following postcard provides a view of the size of the De Bijenkorf department store soon after completion.

Rotterdam

The photo shows the long glass windows running along the length of the side wall. There is a restaurant on the terrace at the top of the front of the building. The minaret and lantern were the tallest structure in the area surrounding the store. The photo also shows the original street plan and density of building. As can be seen in my father’s photos, all these buildings will be destroyed in the bombing, subsequent fires and demolition.

Part of a rear view of the department store. It would have originally extended all the way back to where my father took this photo.

Rotterdam

After the war, the remaining part of the original De Bijenkorf store was too small. Technology had also changed, so interior lighting could be provided without large amounts of external glass which was expensive to maintain and keep clean. Post war department stores needed to have large areas of flexible internal space. Side walls could be solid, with bright internal electric lighting and only ground floor shop windows needed glass to show off their displays of goods to be purchased in the store.

A new store was commissioned, this time by an American architect, and Dudok’s building was demolished in 1960.

One of my father’s photos showing one of the new, much wider streets close to the De Bijenkorf store.

Rotterdam

The website of Frans Blok has recreations of what Dudok’s building would look like in the Rotterdam of today, as well as a fascinating video showing Rotterdam in the 1920s, the construction of the building and the interior of the De Bijenkorf store.

As a view of what was to come with the redevelopment of Rotterdam, the HBU tower block in the following photo is one of the early high rise buildings of Rotterdam’s post war development. The building still survives.

Rotterdam

More post was development, very different to the pre-war city:

Rotterdam

New shopping developments:

Rotterdam

Another view of the post war HBU building:

Rotterdam

The Dutch population suffered terribly during the occupation. Not just the day to day loss of freedom, but random selection for execution was also a risk to the population.

When trying to escape arrest, you would run the risk of being shot. After an attack by the Dutch Resistance the occupying forces would randomly select groups of people for execution – always a larger number than had been killed in the resistance attack. A revenge for the resistance activity as well as an attempt to deter such attacks.

After the war, memorials were erected at the places where shootings and executions had taken place. They carried the words “Voor hen die vielen” – “For those who fell”.

Rotterdam

These memorials are at the places where executions of between 10 and 40 randomly selected men were executed in reprisal for resistance attacks.

Rotterdam

These memorials can still be found across the city and are a strong reminder of the brutality inflicted at random on the civilian population during the years of occupation.

The following photo is on the Rotterdam negative strips, however I have no idea where it was taken, or what the photo represents. What appears to be a submarine – I assume it is real rather than some form of reproduction.

Rotterdam

Perhaps not what you would expect to find in a large city such as Rotterdam, however in 1952 my father took the following photo of a windmill that had survived the 1940 bombing.

Rotterdam

The windmill dated from 1711 and having survived the war was destroyed in a fire in 1954. It was not reconstructed, and the area (the Oostplein) is now a large open road junction with a small grassed area in the centre.

My final photo from 1952 is the following, which I also included in last Sunday’s post on Amsterdam. The photo was on the same negative strip as some of the Amsterdam photos, however I could not find the location, but assumed it to be in Amsterdam.

Rotterdam

I am very grateful to Henk Laloli who commented on the post that “The last picture with the escalator is probably in Rotterdam: the entry for cyclists and pedestrians to the Maas (river) tunnel. A lovely old wooden escalator and beautiful 1930s decorations.”

So hopefully I now have the right city for this photo of the tunnel entrance with the wonderful decoration.

Rotterdam today continues to be Europe’s largest port and the city plays host to many Dutch and international businesses, occupying the glass and steel towers that continue to grow across the city. The function of Rotterdam is the same as the pre-war city, but the architecture now is very different.

For my next post on the Netherlands, I am heading to the city of Nijmegen, to start exploring the impact of Operation Market Garden.

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Amsterdam – Exploring The Historic Centre

Following on from last Sunday’s post from the Hague, whilst there we took a train to Amsterdam to track down the location of more photos from 1952. Rather than drive, the train provided an excellent direct service between the two cities and it was a perfect opportunity to use a type of train not available on the UK train network.

The Dutch rail system uses a combination of single deck “Sprinter” trains which are generally stopping trains and double decker trains in use as Inter City services which are faster alternatives without so many stops. The ticketing system is the same for both, and a return ticket between the Hague and Amsterdam could be used on the slower Sprinter and faster Intercity trains.

The double decker trains are not new, they were in use across the network when we lived in the Netherlands in the early 1990s and it was always a novel experience to climb stairs on a train, after using trains on the UK network.

The InterCity train in the Hague Central Station:

Amsterdam

Two decks of train capacity:

Amsterdam

Through the doors and an intriguing option – do I go up or down?

Amsterdam

Up was the obvious choice. The upper deck resembles an aircraft interior but with larger windows and no overhead luggage bins.

Amsterdam

Stopping in Leiden Station and looking down on the platform from the upper deck:

Amsterdam

After arriving at Amsterdam Central Station, I headed to the first location which was easy to recognise. This is the Royal Palace in the centre of Amsterdam, photographed in 1952:

Amsterdam

And this is the same view in 2018:Amsterdam

As could be expected, the view has hardly changed, even the overhead power cables for the trams are still in place. As with the Hague, Amsterdam has an extensive tram system which provides excellent connectivity across the city.

The Royal Palace dates from the 17th century, however the building we see today mainly dates from 1808 when King Louis Bonaparte transformed the palace during the French occupation of the Netherlands.

Very similar to Buckingham Palace in London, the Amsterdam Royal Palace is used to host foreign Heads of State and state receptions. It also plays a key part in the life of the Dutch monarchy as royal marriages and investiture ceremonies are also held in the palace.

The large space in front of the Royal Palace is Dam Square.

Dam Square has been the centre for many demonstrations and rallies over the years. The square hosts the annual National Memorial Day in May, which commemorates all members of the armed forces and civilians who have died in war.

Dam Square was also the site of one of the final actions of the last war in the Netherlands when on the 7th May 1945, two days after the German surrender, German soldiers on a balcony fired into Dutch crowds in the square. The crowds had been awaiting the arrival of Canadian forces. There were many deaths and casualties and no real reason for the shooting to have taken place.

Dam Square today is a busy centre for tourists visiting the city. As well as a natural place to congregate opposite the Royal Palace, the square is also the location for one of the Netherlands largest department stores and a Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

The following map extract showing the historic centre of Amsterdam shows the sites of my father’s photos that I have been able to identify. The Royal Palace shown above is at site number 1.

(Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”)

My next location was a walk through the side streets from Dam Square to site number 2. I had found this location in advance. Fortunately in my father’s photo there is a street name visible so I was able to work out where the photo had been taken before arriving in Amsterdam.

This is the Staalmeestersbrug which spans the Groenburgwal canal.

Amsterdam

Sixty six years later and the view of the bridge is much the same:

Amsterdam

There has been a bridge here for many centuries, the first written record dates from 1599. The bridge in my father’s photo dates from 1928 when a replacement bridge was installed, replicating the previous bridge at the site.

The bridge in my 2018 photo is not fully the same as my father’s photo. In 1964 repair was again needed and the bridge section and counterbalance were replaced – but by comparing the two photos, the appearance of the new parts are the same as in the previous photo.

The photo does highlight one of the main differences between the Amsterdam of 1952 and that of 2018, and the same change can be seen in London, and that is the level of tourism and growth in the city’s population.

Main streets in the historical centre of Amsterdam are very busy, and you can tell from the languages spoken, and the photos being taken that a high percentage of those walking the streets are tourists.

Another view of the same bridge in 1952:

Amsterdam

And in 2018:

Amsterdam

Whilst generating economic benefit and employment, Amsterdam is struggling with the level of tourism. In 2017 there were 6.7 million hotel stays by foreign visitors, a figure which does not include day visitors. There are ten tourists for every resident of Amsterdam and local politicians and activists are calling Amsterdam the Venice of the north – not just because of the omnipresence of water, but also due to the impact of high volumes of tourists.

Standing on the Staalmeestersbrug and looking along the Groenburgwal is this view of the tower of the Zuiderkerk, located at site 3 in the map above:

Amsterdam

1952 above and 2018 below:

Amsterdam

The Zuiderkerk dates from the first decade of the 17th century when the body of the church was built., the tower was completed in 1624. There was a rebuild of the church in 1657, and the church has remained much the same since.

Comparison of the two photos shows one of the differences between 1952 and 2018 that can also be seen across London. In 1952 there were few cars parked along the roads, however today there is car parking along the majority of canals – which does require some careful maneuvering to avoid ending up in the water.

As mentioned in my previous two posts on the Hague and Wassenaar, the western part of the Netherlands suffered terribly during the final months of the war and the winter between 1944 / 45 was known as the hunger winter due to the lack of supplies of food. During this time the Zuiderkerk church was used as a mortuary.

Claude Monet painted the view in 1874. The view shows the Staalmeestersbrug with the church tower behind:

Amsterdam

The next stop was for a view of the Montelbaanstoren at site number 4. The tower was part of the city walls. The lower part of the tower, below the clock, dates from 1516 with the upper part added in 1606.

Amsterdam

The tower stands close to the main harbour area of Amsterdam, and at the junction of two major canals. There was a boat passing in front of the tower in my father’s photo above. Whilst I was looking at the view there was a constant stream of river traffic – the canals are still very much in use.

Amsterdam

My next stop was another of the towers from the original city walls. This time the Munttoren, originally part of the one of the main gates into Amsterdam. The tower had been rebuilt in the early 17th century.

This was reached by walking to where the Kloveniersburgwal canal meets the Amstel (site number 5 on the map).

Amsterdam

1952 above and 2018 below:Amsterdam

To where the Munttoren becomes visible alongside a bridge over the canal and a busy road junction:

Amsterdam

The same view today:

Amsterdam

The name “Munttoren” means Mint Tower and refers to a short period in the 17th century when the guard house alongside the tower was used to mint coins.

The Munttoren in 1952 – located at site number 6 in the map:

Amsterdam

The same view today. The tower is still alongside a busy tram route and the wires still stretch above the road, although the impressive street name sign has disappeared.

Amsterdam

As well as the above photos, there were also a number of photos where I could not identify the location, including the following two view of canals and buildings:

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

During the 17th century, Amsterdam was the wealthiest city in Europe. The city was home to the Dutch East India and West India Companies that traded across the world and the Netherlands growing list of colonial conquests. Amsterdam, was also the worlds largest financial centre during this period. Wars with England and France during the 18th century would reduce the influence of Amsterdam, along with competition from other global trading companies such as the British East India Company, one of the reasons for London’s growing influence.

The buildings that line the canals reflect this wealth and were a mix of merchant houses, town houses, workshops and warehouses.

The mix of architectural styles is fascinating. The buildings are typically narrow, but tall to maximise the amount of available space within the building on a small plot of land.

Amsterdam

The buildings alongside the canals are much the same today, although generally in better states of repair. I came across this wonderful jumble of buildings which look to be falling apart from each other:

Amsterdam

One of my father’s photos was of this canal side scene:

Amsterdam

The circular panels for advertising are still a feature in Amsterdam today. The Dutch Amstel beer in the poster above and below, the Chief Whip cigarette brand – “On everyone’s lip”.

Amsterdam

Water is inextricably linked with the history of Amsterdam. As with London’s relationship with the River Thames, it is the reason why Amsterdam is where it is, and access to water and the open sea was why Amsterdam grew to be such a major trading city, at times rivaling London.

The origin of the name is from the Dam built across the River Amstel, believed to have been where Dam Square is now located.

Walking around Amsterdam today, there is a more defined separation between the inland canals which seem mainly to be used by tourist boats, and the docks which are located on the large waterway which runs from the North Sea via the North Sea Canal to the large waters of the Markermeer and Ijsselmeer.

In 1952, boats to transport goods within Amsterdam, and throughout Europe via the canal and river network, could be found across the city.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

However scenes like this can still be found alongside most canals, however with cars now lining the boundary between road and canal.

Amsterdam

I tried to find the location of this Punch and Judy show by looking for the large corner building in the background, but with no luck,

Amsterdam

I assume that with the pipework on the rear of this vehicle, this is a fire engine threading its way through the narrow, crowded streets.

Amsterdam

Street urinal:

Amsterdam

Traffic control:

Amsterdam

I am really not sure where the following photo was taken. It is on one of the Amsterdam negative strips, and appears to show an entrance to something below ground, I would normally think this was to an underground railway. Amsterdam does have an underground railway, however it did not open until the 1970s, long after this photo was taken.

Amsterdam

The mural on the rear wall has a number of different types of ships at the top, with symbols of fish below and possibly Neptune on either side.  The sign reads “forbidden for dogs and loaded bicycles”.  There is a small chance that the above photo was from Rotterdam if some of the negative strips have been muddled over time, but the rest of the photos on the same strip are from Amsterdam.

As with London, Amsterdam is best seen on foot. The historical centre of the city, with some imagination and by ignoring the parked cars, retains the feel of the 17th century city.

With a few exceptions, the majority of later development seems well planned. The majority of new building is outside the centre with considerable new building towards Schiphol airport.

The tourist hot spots are crowded, there is the red light district and the cafes where soft drugs are legal and readily available, however turn away from the main streets, and as with London, there is so much more to explore – and water is never far away.

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Launch And Landing Sites Of The First V-2 On London

I was in the Hague for my last post, and before leaving I wanted to visit a site in a suburb of the Hague that has a very direct and tragic connection with London.

London had been under fire from V-1 flying bombs starting in June 1944 until October 1944 when the launch sites were captured as the allied forces progressed through France and Belgium.

In September 1944 a new weapon was first used against London. This was the V-2 rocket which had a much more flexible launch method than the V-1 and also longer range so launching against London was possible from the areas still held by German forces.

Although Allied forces were pressing up from the Belgium border, through Eindhoven and Nijmegen, the coastal west of the Netherlands was still under German control and the area around the Hague offered the ideal location to launch against London. The Hague had the rail connections to bring in the rockets and their fuel, and the suburbs of the Hague offered a large wooded area, crisscrossed by small roads which provided the perfect cover for mobile launches.

The V-2 was a highly sophisticated weapon. The supporting infrastructure allowed the rocket to be launched from a mobile launcher with fueling carried out on site along with final setting of the gyros that would guide the rocket to its destination. The speed of the rocket meant that it was almost impossible to destroy whilst in flight. The trajectory for the rocket was a parabola from the launch site up to the edge of space before descending at up to three times the speed of sound to the weapon’s target.

The following photo shows a V-2 rocket on a launch platform. Most photos of the V-2 show the black and white painted rocket, these were the test versions and the painted colour scheme ensured that any rotation of the rocket could be identified during flight. In use, the rockets did not have a colour scheme.

V-2

Black and white (CL 3405) V2 on launching platform Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205087580

Wassenaar is a suburb of the Hague, located to the north east of the city. It is a wooded area with small roads crossing the area, concealed under trees which also line the roads. Wassenaar was one of the main launch sites for V-2s and the first rockets against London were launched from Wassenaar’s roads.

Before leaving the Hague, I wanted to find the location of the first V-2 launch against London, so headed out on the short drive to Wassenaar.

The following map shows the city of the Hague. Follow the orange road (the N44) that runs from the Hague to the north east and you will find Wassenaar.

V-2

The following map extract shows Wassenaar in detail. The first launches against London took place on the evening of the 8th September 1944. There were two simultaneous launches at two different road junctions. These were ideal locations as road junctions offered a larger space for the rocket launcher and supporting vehicles as the rocket was fueled onsite. The map also shows the wooded nature of the site and that these were side roads – good concealment for the time needed to prepare and launch.

V-2

(The above two maps are  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

At around 6:35 pm on the evening of the 8th September 1944, the residents of Wassenaar heard a loud roaring noise and saw two objects rising above the trees, slowly at first before quickly gathering speed, then rushing skyward.

One was from the junction of three roads shown as point 1 in the above map. This is the junction of Lijsterlaan, Konijnenlaan and Koekoekslaan. This is the view of the junction as I walked up to the site:

V-2

Looking down one of the roads leading of from the junction shows the narrowness of the roads and the tree cover. It has not changed that much since the rockets were being launched here and shows how good the area was for concealment.

V-2

The original V-1 had to be launched from a fixed launching ramp. As well as the technological development of the rocket, other innovations with the V-2 were mobility where the complete system comprising a mobile launcher, fuel tankers (including liquid oxygen), launch and control system could drive up to a new location and launch within about two hours.

The following illustration shows a V-2 rocket in launch position on its mobile transport and launch platform:

V-2

The following photo shows a V-2 just after the initial launch. Two of these being launched almost simultaneously from the wooded side roads of Wassenaar must have been a frightening sight for the local residents.

V-2

Black and white (CL 3429) German photograph of a V2 rocket in the initial stage of its flight Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205087577

This part of Wassenaar is occupied by large houses and grounds. Reports from immediately after the launch tell of the road surface been scorched and melted, with trees being burnt for a few feet above ground level where flame from the rockets engines must have bounced of the road and been deflected onto the adjacent trees.

On the next day, the 9th September, the RAF started bombing Wassenaar. A cat and mouse game ensued with rockets, fuel and launch equipment being stored across the area and mobile launches taking place on a regular basis, and the RAF trying to locate and bomb any V-2 related infrastructure that could be found.

Another view of the road junction.

V-2

If you look at the patch of grass on the right, there is a white painted stone. Look to the upper right of the white stone, and just to the left of the tree is a small, wooden pillar.

The pillar records the junction as being the site of the first launch of a V-2 rocket on the 8th September 1944:

V-2

Soon after returning from the Netherlands, and on the 8th September 2018, I visited the site where the V-2 launched from Wassenaar landed – in Staveley Road, Chiswick where another pillar can be found recording that the first V-2 fell here. It had taken the rocket around 5 minutes to get from Wassenaar to Chiswick.

V-2

The view looking along the street from in front of the memorial pillar:

V-2

The memorial pillar is in front of a small electrical substation:

V-2

To the right of the pillar, mounted on the fence is an information panel which was unveiled by the Battlefields Trust and the Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society, on the same day that the pillar in Wassenaar was also unveiled.

V-2

The V-2 on Chiswick resulted in three deaths. Three year old Rosemary Clarke who lived at number 1 Staveley Road, Ada Harrison aged 68 of 3 Staveley Road and Sapper Bernard Browning, who was on leave, and on his way to Chiswick Station.

Destruction was considerable. The V-2 blew a crater 30 ft wide and 8 ft deep at the point of impact. The following panoramic photo from the Imperial War Museum archive shows the damage that a V-2 could inflict.

V-2

V1 AND V2 DAMAGE, 1944-45 (HU 66194) ‘Extensive damage caused by mystery explosion in Southern England.’ The photograph actually shows the site of the first V2 rocket impact on Britain, Staveley Road, Chiswick. Photograph taken 9 September 1944. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205070209

There was a second V-2 rocket launched at the same time, a very short distance from the location described above. This V-2 was launched from the point marked 2 in the map, at the junction of Lijsterlaan and Schouwweg. This V-2 would land minutes later at Parndon Wood, near Epping. Due to the rural nature of this location there were no casualties.

The following photo shows the junction from where this second V-2 was launched:

V-2

From the 8th September onward, there was a continuous series of V-2 launches from Wassenaar and the Hague. The area was also used for storage of rockets and fuel, launching equipment and the German forces and command structure that would launch the rockets were also housed in the surroundings of Wassenaar and the Hague.

Allied planes flew many missions over the area trying to locate and destroy V-2 infrastructure. On the 3rd March 1945 a large force of bombers mounted an attack on the forested regions of the Hague, but due to navigation errors many of the bombs fell on the Bezuidenhout suburb resulting in a large loss of life in the Dutch population.

The Dutch population also suffered when rockets misfired, and also the disruption and treatment they suffered from living in and around a place that was used to store, transport, prepare and launch such an intensive rocket programme.

One of the locations where V-2 rockets were checked and prepared was the tram depot in Scheveningen, the coastal suburb of the Hague.

This is the view of the tram depot today:

V-2

There are historical posters around the streets commemorating the 200th anniversary of Scheveingen as a seaside resort. One of these posters shows the state of the tram depot in 1945:

V-2

The text states that after the liberation, it took some time for trams from the Hofplein line to return to Scheveningen-Kurhaus station and that the tram connection was finally reestablished in 1953.

On the 27th March 1945 the last V-2 was launched against London. It fell on Orpington in Kent resulting in the deaths of 23 people. Whilst the west of the Netherlands was still occupied, rail connection with the rest of Germany had been cut and the German rocket forces had already been withdrawn from the Hague in order to avoid capture of the personnel and their equipment.

From the first V-2 on the 8th of September to the last on the 27th March, a total of 3172 V-2 rockets were launched. Of these around 1358 fell on the greater London area.

London did not suffer as badly as Antwerp, An important port for the Allied forces allowing supplies to be delivered into Belgium rather than the French ports further south, around 1610 V-2 rockets were launched against Antwerp.

Other rockets landed in France, Maastricht in Holland and even in Remagen, Germany where the use of rockets were an attempt to try and disrupt US forces by targeting the Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine. This was the first time that rockets had been used to attack a very specific target. Eleven rockets were fired at the bridge, however none hit their target, but American soldiers and German civilians were killed.

The V-2 campaign against London killed more than 6,000 people.

The rockets were constructed by slave labour and many tens of thousands died due to the appalling conditions in which they were held and laboured.

The impact of the V-1 and V-2 weapons was considerable on those forced to build them, the areas where they were launched and their targets.

Two pillars in two countries, roughly 205 miles apart provide a reminder of the devastation that these weapons would cause.

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Exploring Post War Netherlands – The Hague

Although by far the majority of my father’s photos are of London, he took his camera with him where ever he went, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s, along with some friends, he cycled across the UK, staying in Youth Hostels and taking photos along the way. I have already featured a number of these locations.

In 1952 he also traveled out to the Netherlands, cycling to a number of cities, both typical tourist destinations and also places that had featured significantly in the war. (I will use the Netherlands as the full name of the country, probably better known as Holland, although this is really only the name of the western province of the country).

Coincidences are strange. My father always wanted to return to the Netherlands and in 1989 my job transferred to the country, so along with my wife and daughter I moved out to live in the Hague for the next five years. It was a wonderful experience, and during this time my parents came to visit several times and we took them to visit the places my father had been to almost forty year earlier.

I knew that he had taken photos, but these photos had not been printed so it has been only in the last few years that I have scanned and seen the photos he took during his post war visit – I had not seen any of these when we lived in the country.

We recently decided to spend a week in the Netherlands this summer to visit the places where we use to live, and as my aim with this blog is to trace the locations of my father’s photos it was a perfect opportunity to track these down as well, now that they have been scanned, rather than hidden in negative boxes.

So, with apologies that this is not London, for the next few weeks I would like to take you on a journey across the Netherlands. Not just tracking down the locations of my father’s photos, but also to discover much about the history of the country, how a suburb of the Hague will forever have a tragic link with west London, how the Dutch commemorate the sacrifices of British and Polish forces, when the war came to Nijmegen, Arnhem and Oosterbeek, and how the bombing of Rotterdam during the German invasion of the country gave an indication of the destruction that would soon visit London.

On the way there are some fascinating individual stories, street photography, some wonderful architecture and architects, and for me, given the state of the world today, some very important lessons that should not be forgotten.

But before leaving, there was some important documentation to check. My father had just bought a new Leica camera from R.G. Lewis in High Holborn and the photographic press at the time was reporting on a number of confiscations of “expensive miniatures” by customs on return to the country. Leica cameras in the post war years could be purchased in Germany for much less than you would pay in the UK so documentary proof was needed that a camera had been purchased in the country. R.G. Lewis were able to provide assurance that the receipt provided sufficient documentation:

the Hague

With the right documentation to avoid any customs problems on return to the UK, it was time to get going.

From Tilbury to Rotterdam

To start, we need to get from London to the Netherlands. At the time, the easiest method was to take the train out to Tilbury, then catch the Batavier Line ship, Batavier II from Tilbury to the port of Rotterdam.

This is the route that my father took, when, along with two friends, they took their bikes with them from London. They traveled light, each with a bike and a saddlebag containing everything they needed for the trip.

The following photo from Britain from Above shows the passenger terminal building at Tilbury with the station platforms behind the terminal building. The much larger RMS Strathaird is docked rather than the smaller Batavier II.

the Hague

I would have loved to have seen some photos of the Tilbury terminal, the ship and the outbound voyage, however one of the limitations in the days of film cameras was the cost of film and the amount that could carried, so there are only a few photos.

The first is of the Red Sands fort in the Thames estuary. Built during the war as an anti-aircraft gun emplacement to defend London from aircraft approaching up the Thames, when my father took the following photo of the fort, it was still in use.

the Hague

In 2015 I was on the paddle steamer Waverley on a trip from central London out to the forts and took the following photo with the Shivering Sands fort and the Red sands fort in the distance.

the Hague

There are also a couple of grainy and distant photos of the Thames river bank as the Batavier II headed out into the north sea, but the first detailed photos are the arrival at the port of Rotterdam. This one from the bow of the Batavier II:

the Hague

The Batavier Line was a Dutch shipping line established in 1830 by the Netherlands Steamship Company, when a regular service was operated from the Port of London to Rotterdam. In 1895 the Batavier Line was sold to Wm. H. Müller and Co, and the Batavier name was retained and a number of new ships were ordered including the Batavier II (a replacement of a ship with the same name). The ship was delivered in 1921.

The Batavier II was the only ship of the Bataview Line that survived the war. Of the immediate pre-war Batavier ships, the Batavier V was seized by the invading German forces, but sunk by the Royal Navy in 1941. The Batavier III had also been seized and sunk off Norway in 1942 after hitting a mine whilst being used as a German troop carrier.

Only the Batavier II survived the war to reenter service on the Tilbury to Rotterdam route which survived until 1958 when Batavier ended their passenger services.

The following postcard shows the Batavier II. On the reverse of the card is written “Batavier Line, London to Rotterdam”. The above photo was taken from the front of the boat, just by the railings which can be seen in the postcard.

the Hague

The port of Rotterdam is one of Europe’s largest ports, as it was when these photos were taken with industries related to shipping lining the river for a considerable distance.

the Hague

There are no passenger services from London to Rotterdam today, however the alternative would be a train journey from Liverpool Street to Harwich and then the ferry service from Harwich to the Hook of Holland.

I am not sure where the ship docked in Rotterdam. It was not at the Hook of Holland as this terminal is located at the entrance to the port. My father’s photos show that the ship traveled further into central Rotterdam.

the Hague

When we travelled to the Netherlands this year we did not take the ferry, instead we travelled on the EuroTunnel shuttle service from Folkestone to Calais, then a drive up through France and Belgium, to arrive in Holland.

I suspect my father visited Rotterdam first, and this city will be the subject of one of the coming posts, For this Sunday’s post, it is a brief visit to:

The Hague

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands whilst the Hague is the administrative centre. The city where the States General of the Netherlands (the country’s parliament) is located, along with the Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice.

As with the country as a whole, the Hague has a complex history. The origins of the city date back to the early 13th century, when Floris IV, the Count of Holland established a base in the area,

The city and what was to become the Netherlands has been through a series of occupations, consolidation and separation. The Spanish occupied the city during the eighty years war, the country was a client state of the First French Empire at the start of the 19th century, the country was combined with Belgium with separation only achieved in 1830, and the country was occupied by Germany during the second world war. As with the rest of the Netherlands, the Hague suffered terribly during the last war.

The country has also had a long trading history, at times in competition and also at war with England.

Whilst in the Hague, my father took some photos of the Binnenhof, the meeting place of the States General (the equivalent of London’s Palace of Westminster) and the official residence of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Considering the function of the Binnenhof, access is open and the visitor is free to walk around. Whilst there are armed police around the site, there are no searches or restrictions to exploring the open areas and taking photos.

The main entrance into the Binnenhof complex:

the Hague

Once inside and standing in the central courtyard, I found the location of the first of my father’s photos:

the Hague

As probably to be expected of the seat of Government, there has been hardly any change. The main physical change is that the fountain in the above photo has been moved slightly to the left, so just outside of the photo of the same scene today.the Hague

I always find the small details fascinating in comparing the original photos with the scene today. Despite being almost 70 years apart, there is a mobile ice cream seller in almost exactly the same place:

the Hague

One side of the courtyard is taken up by the Ridderzaal, or Knight’s Hall.

the Hague

The origins of the Ridderzaal date back to the 13th century when Floris V built his first manorial hall within the area of land first developed by his grandfather. The Ridderzaal has been used for a multitude of purposes over the centuries, and today hosts the annual opening of the Dutch Parliament by King Willem-Alexander.

The Ridderzaal today, again with hardly a change:

the Hague

I am not sure of the significance of the clothes that this group were wearing.

the Hague

But again,. the scene is much the same today:

the Hague

The Binnenhof appears to have escaped any significant damage during the war, although this was not the same for the rest of the Hague. The population suffered considerably during occupation, and the Hague, along with much of western Holland was occupied until the closing months of the war. Supplies were cut and much of the population were close to starving. When I lived in the Hague, work colleagues told stories of the time which included tinned food being floated down the canals from liberated areas into the occupied.

There was also physical destruction to the Hague, not just from the occupation forces, but also from the Allied forces. The suburbs of the Hague were used for V2 rocket launches against Antwerp and London and the RAF tried to address this threat by bombing the facilities used to store the rocket fuel, the rockets and the mobile launch platforms, however one significant bombing raid missed the target resulting in hundreds of deaths among the local population.

In the Binnenhof courtyard is a rather impressive, neo-gothic fountain. Designed by the architect P.J.H Cuypers (who was also responsible for the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam), the fountain was in operation by 1885.

the Hague

The fountain today. Colour photography brings out the gilding of the fountain. It appears to have been relocated slightly at some point over the last 70 years.

the Hague

As the home of the Dutch Parliament, the Binnenhof has always had a symbolic importance to the Dutch population and the state. It was therefore used for rallies and ceremonies by the occupying forces not that many years before my father’s 1952 photos. The following photo is of the main courtyard with the fountain visible in the top left.

the Hague

And in front of the Ridderzaal:

the Hague

As mentioned earlier, the Dutch population suffered terribly during the war. Arthur Seyss-Inquart was the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands during the war. An Austrian and a fervent Nazi, he aggressively pursued the round up and deportation of Jews within the country. He was found guilty in the Nuremberg Trials and hanged shortly after. 

A very different ceremony was held in the Binnenhof courtyard in May 1945 following the liberation of the Netherlands by British and Canadian armed forces.

the Hague

Directly outside the Binnenhof is the Hofvijver, translated as Court Pond, although the word pond does not seem appropriate for this large expanse of water.

the Hague

The history of the Hofvijver can be traced back to the first manorial buildings here in the 13th century. It was originally a lake within the sandy landscape of the area (water is never far away in much of the Netherlands).

As part of the development of the Hofvijver, it was bounded by street and pedestrian areas on three sides with the Binnenhof on the fourth side to form a rectangular area of water, which from the sides looks remarkably shallow.

The scene has not really changed for centuries. This painting from the Dutch School, dated 1625 shows a similar view, although the Hofvijver today is not used for any form of boating.

the Hague

So if it looks much the same over almost 400 years, I would expect the views over the last 70 years to be much the same, and indeed they are:

the Hague

Apart from the expansion of high rise buildings in the background. The building on the left of both photos is the Mauritshuis, the home to a large collection from the golden age of Dutch art, and home to Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” – well worth a visit.

The small, circular building to the right of the Mauritshuis is known as the “Little Tower” and is the office of the Dutch Prime Minister.

the Hague

Another view along the Hofvijver:

the Hague

Although the lake that formed the Hofvijver dates from before the first buildings, the island in the middle is only about 300 years and of unknown original purpose.

the Hague

A close up view, with the Prime Minister’s office on the left:

the Hague

At the opposite end of the Hofvijver was a fountain:

the Hague

And a rather less impressive fountain can still be seen today:

the Hague

It is interesting to compare transport systems when visiting other cities and whilst the Hague is many times smaller than London, it does have a very impressive public transport system with a combination of buses and trams providing comprehensive coverage of the central city and surrounding suburbs and towns.

Trams navigate the central streets of the Hague and the pedestrian needs to keep a careful lookout for the large number of bikes as well as trams.

I was please to see the number 1 tram. This tram runs from the coastal suburb of Schvenenigen to the town of Delft. It was the tram I caught every day to and from work. The same model of tram is currently in use so these must be over 30 years old.

the Hague

However very new trams have been introduced on a number of routes.

the Hague

The public transport system is fast, efficient and reliable. A day card allowing travel on trams and buses across the Hague and the surrounding towns covered by the system costs the equivalent of £6 (and would be less, but given the current very depressed state of the Pound against the Euro),

My father only took a few photos of the Hague, he would take many more in the places he visited next. We left the Hague to Amsterdam as our next destination, but not before a trip to a suburb of the Hague which has a tragic connection with west London and that will be the subject of my next (midweek) post.

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Building The Tybalds Close Estate

After the devastation of the last war, there was an urgent need to rebuild and housing was a key priority in post war redevelopment. The construction techniques and architectural style were often very different from pre-war housing and new estates sprung up to replace the old street plan. One such location is the Tybalds Close Estate, just north of Theobalds Road.

My father took a couple of photos of the first blocks of the estate being built in 1949:

Tybalds Close Estate

The following photo was taken looking to the right of the above photo and shows the tallest of the first blocks to be built, along with a house in the lower right corner which enabled the location to be identified and also surprised me by showing that you cannot believe that buildings are the age they appear – more on that later in the post.

Tybalds Close Estate

Approval to develop the Tybalds Close Estate was given in 1946 and the estate gradually grew from the late 1940s (when my father’s photos were taken) through to the 1960s when the final tower block was complete.

The first blocks were of a steel frame construction and consisted of one block of 10 storeys (the one on the right in the above photo) and four 7 storey blocks (two of which can be seen on the left of the above photos with the remaining two being built later).

The architects were Robert Hening and Anthony Chitty. They had started their architectural work in the years before the war when their work included a number of regional airports. One of these airports was at Ipswich where despite being Grade II listed, Hening and Chitty’s airport terminal buildings were demolished in 2005.

After war service, Hening and Chitty reformed their partnership and worked on a number of housing developments, commercial, industrial and schools. As well as the Tybalds Close Estate, Hening and Chitty were also responsible for the housing blocks alongside Cromer Street in St. Pancras. The style of both sets of housing blocks is very similar, although the Cromer Street blocks have been through a complete re-cladding.

The buildings were constructed by William Moss and Sons, a company original founded in 1820 and with a long history as an independent construction company until being taken over by the Kier Group in 1984.

The following map shows the location of the Tybalds Close Estate. The overall estate being roughly within the blue oval, with the original parts of the estate as shewn in my father’s photo being within the red oval.  (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

Tybalds Close Estate

As can be seen, the area between the housing blocks and where my father was standing was open ground. Originally dense housing, but badly bombed with the area cleared ready for reconstruction.

It is impossible to get a similar view today as the area has been completely built over with large office blocks. The following photo is looking across in the general direction of the original photos. My father was standing somewhere under this large office block to take the originals.

Tybalds Close Estate

The taller of the blocks on the right of the second photo is Blemundsbury House. This is the view of Blemundsbury House today, looking down Harpur Street.

Tybalds Close Estate

This is Windmill House. Not yet started when my father took the original photos, but of the same style and one of Hening and Chitty’s designs. To the left of Windmill House can be seen one of the buildings that was also a steel frame in my father’s photos, at right angles to Blemundsbury House.

Tybalds Close Estate

I mentioned earlier in the post that the location of the photo could be identified by the old house in the lower right corner and that I also found something that demonstrates you cannot always believe what you see.

The following is an extract from the second of my father’s photos. It is an enlargement of the house at the lower right corner of the photo.

Tybalds Close Estate

The house is on the corner of Harpur and Dombey Streets. The following is a photo of the same house today.

Tybalds Close Estate

The house in the original photo looks the worst for wartime damage, however the layour of the windows is the same, the same entrance door, the same seperator at the top of the 3rd floor and the street name sign is in the same place on the corner of the house.

What is really stange is that in the original photo there is no building to the right of the corner house, although today there is a substantial house which looks original in all aspects.

Tybalds Close Estate

This is another view of the two houses. The further being the one in the original photo and the house closest to the camera must be a post war reconstruction of the original house on the site.

The attention to detail is remarkable. The brickwork is the same, the style of the house is the same as the houses in Dombey Street. If I did not have my father’s photo for evidence I would have thought that this was an original Georgian house.

The entrance door to the reconstructed house is shown in the photo below. Note how identical the brick work and the size of the coarse between the bricks is to the wall on the left. There must have been piles of bricks in the area from the bomb damage and I can only assume that bricks and probably door and windows were reused from demolished houses to construct this new house.

Tybalds Close Estate

In the enlargement of the original photo there is a doorway visible to the right of the main house and this was probably the entrance to the original house, but not to Harpur Mews as the sign above the entrance advertises today.

The following map is an extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

Tybalds Close Estate

Harpur Street can be seen to the lower right. Harpur Mews is in the middle of the block and there is no entrance to the mews from Harpur Street. the entrance was from East Street (now Dombey Street) as shown by the building with the X which denotes a building above a through entrance.

The map also shows the dense housing across the area, much of which is now covered by the Tybalds Close Estate. Blemundsbury House occupies the space occupied by the houses to the north of East Street, starting from just to the right of the junction with Harpur Street and running to the left.

I could not find too much information on the area, however I did find a photo of Ormond Yard, the largest space in the centre of the map and now occupied by the Tybalds Close Estate. The following photo was published in The Sphere on the 2nd December 1933 and is one of a series of photos taken by a Mr. William Clark in 1918. Mr. Clark was apparently a Birmingham businessman who was fascinated by London in the time of Dickens and set out to photograph what he could find that was typical of Dickens time and also mentioned in Dickens novels.

The following photo is titled “Ormond Yard, Bloomsbury – Galleried cottages of Dickensian days whose quiet charm is in strange contrast to 20th century London”.

Tybalds Close Estate

The first mentions that I could find of Ormond Yard date back to 1770, and through one hundred plus years there are the usual reports of the casual crime, accidents and violence that could be found across the dense housing of London.

The pub in the centre of the yard was The Crown. A report in the Sporting Life on the 2nd of June 1885 offers a glimpse of life in the yard:

“The Crown, Ormond Yard, Bloomsbury – A high class show took place at this establishment on the 31st, the exhibits consisting of bulldogs, bull terriers, mastiffs, pugs, dachshunds, and almost every variety of choice toy pets. The house, as usual, was well attended by fanciers and dealers. the chair was occupied by Mr. Alfred George faced by Mr Currie, supported by the following;- Messrs Strugnell (champion pugs), Clarke (bull dogs), Anderson (white half-bred dogs), Painter (champion spaniels), Matthews and Taylor (toy black and tan terriers) and Nicholls (mastiffs); also a gentlemen with some remarkably fine dachshunds, and many others together with many strangers. The handsome silver collar for the best bull terrier was taken by Mr. A. George’s Prince, a very handsome dog.

The land on which the Tybalds Close Estate is built was part of the early 18th century expansion of London. Rocque’s map from 1746 shows the area below:

Tybalds Close Estate

The fields to the north and west show that the area at the time was on the edge of built London. At the time, and as probably built, Ormond Yard was a separate smaller yard and the main area was Ormond Mewse – the two areas would later combine as shown in the 1895 map.

The area in which the Tybalds Close Estate is built was originally part of the land donated by Sir William Harpur in 1566 by Sir William Harpur. See my post on Tracing Harpur’s Bedford Charity Estate.

One final point, the larger of the two blocks being built in my father’s photo is Blemundsbury House. The name provides an old connection to the area of Bloomsbury.

Blemundsbury was the original name of Bloomsbury. In turn, Blemundsbury took its name from a 13th century drainage ditch in the area known as Blemund’s Dyke.

The Tybalds Close Estate is at the heart of a fascinating area.

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The London School Of Hygiene And Tropical Medicine

I love buildings where the design of the building indicates the activities carried out within the building. These buildings show a pride in the purpose for which the building was constructed. They are not the all too frequent bland architecture we see so much of today where almost any interchangeable activity could be carried on within. These buildings proudly call out why they are there. This week’s post is about one such building. I walked past the building earlier this year and took some photos on a rather grey day. This is the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine:

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

The origins of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are in the London Docks, where a seamen’s hospital opened at the Royal Albert Dock in 1890. This would evolve into the London School of Tropical Medicine, also in the Royal Albert Dock, which opened in 1899.

In 1920 the school moved to Endsleigh Gardens, to the south of the Euston Road, and a couple of years later, a government report recommended the formal establishment of a school for tropical medicine by the University of London. This was confirmed by the grant of a Royal Charter in 1924 for the school as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

A site was found for the new school in Keppel Street, opposite the Senate House of the University of London and the foundation stone was laid in 1926 with the school being officially opened in 1929.

At first glance, the building looks like any other stone office block, but look closely and the building has some remarkable details.

The overall building is a steel frame with Portland Stone cladding. The main entrance to the building is in Keppel Street.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

The door is raised above street level and reached by a a short flight of steps. Above the door is a carving of the school logo, Apollo and Artemis riding a chariot.

If you look above the door to the first floor, each of the windows has a small, ornamental balcony with a small metal frame. On either edge of the frame are gilded representations of the insects and animals that act as carriers of the diseases that the school was set-up to study, treat and eliminate.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

A walk around the building provides a handy guide to the insects and animals you would not want to be bitten by:

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

The above is just a sample of the balconies. On reaching the corner of the building there is, in my opinion, one of the best street name signs in London:

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

As with the best design, these signs are very simple. but highly effective and lovely to look at. The signs look even better on a sunny day when the gold lettering glints in the sunlight.

The foundation stone was laid by Neville Chamberlain on the 7th July 1926.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Neville Chamberlain is probably better known for his attempts when Prime Minister to make peace agreements with Germany prior to the start of the last war, the Munich agreement with Hitler and the “peace in our time” words used after his return. Chamberlain had a long political career before becoming Prime Minister and for a time in the 1920s he was Minister of Health.

A newspaper report on the day after the foundation stone was laid provides background as to how the new building was funded. The report is titled “London School of Hygiene. Rockefeller Foundation’s Generosity”

“The Minister of Health (Mr Neville Chamberlain) yesterday laid the foundation stone of the new London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at Malet Street, WC.

The guests were welcomed by Sir Alfred Mond, M.P. (Chairman of the Board of Management) who said it was during his term of office as Minister of Health that the trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation made their magnificent offer, providing a sum of two million dollars for the building and equipment of the new school. The purpose of the institution was of the highest importance to the people of this country and the population of the Empire, and indeed of humanity.

The University Grants Committee was giving £5000 a year towards the cost of immediate development, and the Rockefeller Trustees had assisted with a grant of £4000 a year towards the cost of maintenance until the new school was ready. About a year ago the Rockefeller Foundation substituted for their original undertaking a promise to pay a sum of £460,000, that being the value in sterling at the time of their entering into agreement to provide the original sum. By this action they cancelled the loss due to the rise in the cost of sterling, which would otherwise have meant a diminution in the value of the gift of some £50,000.

Before laying the foundation stone, Mr. Neville Chamberlain said that ceremony marked the commencement of a building which was the result of a combination of the two great English speaking nations, and which, in all human probability, was destined to be famous thereafter as the greatest centre in the world of research and of instruction in one of the most beneficent of all the activities of the human race. The school would have the latest types of apparatus and equipment, and it would contain a notable feature in the shape of a great teaching museum, which would show in a graphic form the subjects which were being taught, and the symptoms of the diseases.

The following cablegram was sent to the Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation:- On the day of the laying of the foundation stone of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the American and British flags fly side by side at the dawn of a new era of preventative medicine. The Minister of Health, Mr Neville Chamberlain, sends cordial greeting, and renewed acknowledgements to the Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation.”

The London School Of Hygiene And Tropical Medicine was opened on the 18th July 1929 by the Prince of Wales. Reports of the opening were carried in the majority of the following day’s newspapers. There were hardly any reports of the actual opening ceremony, the reports focused on the Prince meeting the workers who had constructed the building:

“The Prince and Workmen – Pledges Their Good Health In Beer.

When the Prince of Wales opened the new building of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Gower Street, he pledged good health in beer to two hundred workmen who have been engaged on the building.

The workmen were entertained to lunch by Lord Melchett in a marquee in a courtyard of the school, and the Prince, after the opening ceremony, walked down to the marquee to see them. As he entered  they stood and cheered him for several minutes.

Then the foreman said ‘ We will drink the Prince’s health’ and the two hundred workmen held up their glasses of beer and shouted ‘good luck’ and good health’.

The Prince himself then raised a glass of beer high above his shoulder, and shouted ‘Here is the very best to you too. Thank you, thank you,’ and drank the beer.

The workmen afterwards sang ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow, and then the Prince asked they go on with their lunch. ‘Give us a speech, prince’ cried one of the men as he turned to go. He halted, turned round, and said ‘Good-bye, men, I am very glad to have seen you all. Good -bye.”

Above the upper floor windows, are the names of men (this is the 1920s and the names were chosen by committee, probably also all men), who had been influential in the development of public hygiene and tropical medicine.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

In the photo above are:

Edmund Parkes, a 19th century physician who as a result of the dreadful medical conditions of the Crimean War, developed Army Medical Services and in 1863 published the Manual of Practical Hygiene.

William Leishman, an army physician who died in 1926, not long before the opening of the school. He worked on a typhoid vaccine whilst at the Army Medical School at Netley, alongside Southampton Water.

Timothy Lewis, a 19th century Welsh surgeon who worked in India on several tropical diseases.

Further along are Lister and Pasteur:London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Joseph Lister was a 19th century surgeon whose work in the prevention of infections during surgery, the use of sterile techniques, carbolic acid to dress wounds, aimed to reduce the significant post operative dangers from infection in the 19th century.

Louis Pasteur was a 19th century French chemist who worked in the fields of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurisation, the technique which carries Pasteur’s name in which food stuffs are treated with mild amounts of heat to kill pathogens.

Further along are the pathologist and surgeon John Simon, and Patrick Manson who was the founder of the field of tropical medicine.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Lemuel Shattuck from Boston in the United States was responsible for the introduction of the registration of births, marriages and deaths. Perhaps not an immediate name to associate with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, however when this type of information is correctly and fully recorded across a population, its use in the development of public health strategies is invaluable.

Edwin Chadwick was a 19th century social reformer. His work reforming the poor Laws and in improvement of public sanitation and public health were initially resisted, however in 1847 he was on a committee of inquiry into sanitary conditions in London and a later outbreak of cholera supported the recommendations he had made whilst serving on the committee.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Above the side entrance in Malet Street are three further names. Johann Frank was a German physician, Max von Pettenkoffer, also German, worked to further public hygiene, clean water and hygienic disposal of sewage. Hermann Biggs was an American who worked in the field of infection control.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

I have only covered 12 of the names around the building. There are 23 in total. The website of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine provides detail on 22 of the names, and strangely does not include Louis Pasteur.

Who would have known that a walk around Gower, Keppel and Malet Streets would provide a history lesson in the development of public hygiene and health, and the fight against tropical diseases.

The exterior of the building is much the same as when first built, however there has been development of the building internally and extensions over what were internal courtyards. The importance of the building is such that it is Grade II listed.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine continues to perform important work in teaching and research and their building proudly advertises these activities to anyone who looks up.

And I still think the building has one of the best street signs in London.

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Laystall Street, Giuseppe Mazzini And The School Board For London

Laystall Street is a turning off Clerkenwell Road, slightly to the west of Leather Lane. A short distance along Laystall Street there is an unusual plaque on the first floor of one of the terrace houses.

In 1986, the ground floor was occupied by a hairdresser:

Laystall Street

In 2018, the ground floor is now a model agency, but the same plaque can be seen on the first floor:

Laystall Street

The large and rather ornate plaque is to Giuseppe Mazzini:

Laystall Street

Giuseppe Mazzini was born in Genoa, Italy in 1805 at a time when Italy consisted of several independent republics and city states, rather than as a unified country.

He qualified as a lawyer, but his main interest was republicanism and the unification of Italy into a single nation state.

He was involved with, and organised a number riots and attempted insurrections to try and bring about unification. He also formed a secret political organisation called Young Italy (as mentioned in the plaque) dedicated to the unification of the country.

His activities resulted in periods of imprisonment, exile from Italy and, in his absense, a sentance of death.

In the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s, periods in exile included London from where he continued to work in the cause of unification. The plaque in Laystall Street might be interpreted as indicating that he lived in the house whilst in London, however there is a Blue Plaque on the house at 155 North Gower Street which was his London residence, and he also spent some time close by in Hatton Garden.

The Laystall Street plaque is a record of “La Società per il Progresso degli Operai Italiani in Londra” (the Society for the Progress of Italian Workers in London).

Laystall Street and surrounding streets were once a centre for Italian immigrants and the area had a large Italian population.  The Society for the Progress of Italian Workers in London was founded in May 1864 under the joint presidency of Mazzini and Guiseppe Garibaldi (who also shared the same views on republicanism and the unification of Italy)

The aim of the society was to engage the Italian population of London in the unification cause. The club originally met in Mazzini’s house in Hatton Garden, before moving to Farringdon Road, before occupying 10 Laystall Street where the club would stay until 1930 when the society moved to Red Lion Street.

The plaque in Laystall Street is dated 1922, when the society had already been based in the building for many years. I cannot find any information as to why it is only to Mazzini, one of the founders of the society and does not mention Garibaldi.

The Red Lion Street premises were seized during the 2nd World War, but returned to the society after the war, who then changed their name to the Mazzini-Garibaldi Club.

Given the siezure of the premises of the society and the internment of many Italians as enemy aliens during the last war, it would be interesting to know if the Laystall Street plaque survived on the building during the war, or whether it was removed and reinstalled after the end of the war.

Giuseppe Mazzini photographed during one of his visits to London:

Laystall Street

Giuseppe Mazzini was involved in a notorious act of letter opening by the British Government. In 1843 Mazzini’s cause attracted the support of two officers in the Austrian Navy, who landed in the Kingdom of Naples to support some riots that Mazzini was organising. The two were immediately captured and executed. The Illustrated London News on the 12th May 1849 in an article about Mazzini reported that:

“He is well known to the English public, through the notoriety acquired by Sir James Graham in opening his letters in the English Post-office, and communicating their contents to the Austrian Government, which led to the death of the noble-hearted brothers, Bandiera,”

In describing them as “noble hearted”, the Illustrated London News appears to have had some sympathy for their cause.

The view along Laystall Street from Clerkenwell Road:

Laystall Street

The source of the name Laystall Street is interesting. 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 would imply an old source of the name, so I checked John Roque’s 1746 map of London.

The area around Laystall Street has changed singnificantly since 1746. Clerkenwell Road was not there, and the majority of streets have since changed their names.

Laystall Street is just to the west of Leather Lane, it has a slight turn into Clerkenwell Road, and then runs back at an angle of about 45 degrees to Clerkenwell Road.

In 1746, in the right place, with the right alignment was a street named Leicester Street (see the map extract below). Leather Lane is running from the middle of the map to the lower edge. Leicester Street is to the left of the map, running to the left edge from the junction of Leather Lane, Ayre Street and Windmill Hill).

Laystall Street

The words Laystall and Leicester sound similar, so perhaps Laystall was just a corruption of the street name in 1746, however the Encyclopedia of London attributes the name to the traditional meaning of a rubbish dump which was probably towards the Mount Pleasant end of the street as this was originally a lane that ran down to the River Fleet and the area was known as a rubbish dumping ground. Perhaps Roque has just recorded the incorrect name?

Laystall Street was cut in half in the early 1890s when Rosebery Avenue was built, and the area north of Laystall Street underwent considerable development with the demolition of the old Coldbath Fields prison and the construction of the Mount Pleasant Post Office.

The extract below from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Rosebery Avenue newly completed, cutting through Laystall Street:

Laystall Street

I walked further down Laystall Street. On one of the buildings there is the rather nice sign of the Newgate Press preserved:

Laystall Street

The view looking up Laystall Street from the junction with Rosebery Avenue:

Laystall Street

In the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map, there is a large school occupying the northern side of Laystall Street after it crosses Rosebery Avenue. The school buildings are still to be found:

Laystall Street

The school retains a very nice London County Council coat of arms with the name of the school below:

Laystall Street

The school also includes the following sign for the School Board for London:

Laystall Street

The above two photos show two of the key organisations responsible for the expansion of a structured education system across London.

The School Board for London was created by the 1870 Elementary Education Act to provide elementary school places for all poor children. It became the largest provider of school places across London.

The School Board for London was in operation between 1870 and 1903, when the London County Council took over responsibility for education across London.

Another sign on the school building gives 1876 as the date of the school, six years after the Elementary Education Act, but also names the school as the Laystall Street School:

Laystall Street

The Illustrated London News on the 5th August 1876 provides a glimpse into the challenges of providing schools in central London:

“A board-school was opened, on Monday night, in Laystall-street, Gray’s Inn Road, by Sir Charles Reed. in the ‘block’ where the school is situated Sir Charles stated that places were required for 2075 children. The difficulty of getting a site in the metropolis was very great, and it was sometimes costly; but, cost what it might, the board must have a school placed in the particular locality in which it was required. He thought if his colleagues were to be blamed for anything it should be because of their tardiness in providing school accommodation in that district, which would have the additional provision given to it without injury to the other schools there. He saw a letter in a newspaper the other day in which the writer, speaking of the school board, said ‘Their present school in Laystall-street, which will open unblessed by us on Monday next, is within sixty yards of a church school.’ He (Sir Charles) believed the parents of that district would bless that school, and that would be quite enough. Sir Edward Currie also spoke, and stated that the site of the new school was the smallest and the most costly that the board had purchased in London. The school was intended to accommodate 502 children, at a cost of about £10 per head.” 

The original name was Laystall School, as Rosebery Avenue did not exist. It was built 14 years after the school was constructed.

The two signs also probably tell us how and when the name changed. The school was built in 1876 as the Laystall Street School by the School Board for London. In 1903 the London County Council takes over the school and it is probably then that the name also changes after the construction of Rosebery Avenue – a much larger street than Laystall Street (sorry, but I love these little connected details you can find across London’s streets).

The school today is the Christopher Hatton Primary School, named after the Elizabethan politician who also gave his name to Hatton Garden.

Laystall Street

I always feel I never do justice to the history of the areas I cover in my posts, however it is fascinating what you can find in London’s streets and in Laystall Street there is an Italian nationalist, possible long lost rubbish dump that gave the name to the street, and a glimpse into the development of schools at the end of the 19th century – not bad for a short walk.

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A Bombsite On Baldwin’s Gardens

Baldwin’s Gardens is a street that runs between Leather Lane and Gray’s Inn Road. If you take a walk along the street, you may be disappointed that the street does not live up to its name. Rather than finding any gardens, the walker will find flats, a church, school and other buildings lining Baldwin’s Gardens.

My father took the following photo of Baldwin’s Gardens in 1949. The view is looking down towards Gray’s Inn Road. In the early years of the war, the area suffered from the impact of several high explosive bombs and the effects of these can be seen to the right of the street.

Baldwin's Gardens

The same view today:

Baldwin's Gardens

The only identifiable feature in the above two photos is the building in Gray’s Inn Road visible at the far end of Baldwin’s Gardens (although it is slightly obscured by trees in the 2018 photo). This building is part of Gray’s Inn, and one of the entrances to Gray’s Inn Square.

I took the photo below at the end of Baldwin’s Gardens to show the building today with the central block and entrance to the gardens behind being the feature visible in my father’s photo.

Baldwin's Gardens

Detail from the 1949 photo shows the Gray’s Inn building:

Baldwin's Gardens

My father took a second photo looking slightly to the right of the first photo to show more of the bomb damaged area.

Baldwin's Gardens

Difficult to be precise regarding the exact location due to the level of change, however looking over to the right of Baldwin’s Gardens today, and the 1949 bomb site is now occupied by a Primary School.

Baldwin's Gardens

A clue as to what occupied the bomb site can be found in the extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shown below from the National Library of Scotland. Baldwin’s Gardens run across the centre of the map. The upper left part of Baldwin’s Gardens is the bombed area in my father’s photo.

Baldwin's Gardens

Just above the letter B in Baldwin’s Garden, there is an Infant School. This is in the same location as the Primary School today. Below the word Baldwin’s is St. Alban’s Church and to the upper right of the church is a school for boys and girls.

The church of St. Alban is still alongside Baldwin’s Gardens as shown in the photo below. A large brick church, completed in the early 1860s.

Baldwin's Gardens

The Holborn Journal reported on the 28th June 1862 that the church was almost complete, apart from some internal decoration. The Holborn Journal appears to have appreciated the church as the article concludes with “Mr. Myers was the builder, and he appears to have done his work well.”

The second school on the map, marked for boys and girls has been lost although a plaque from the school can be found in the small yard between the church and Baldwin’s Gardens:

Baldwin's Gardens

Remarkably, I found a photo of this plaque when it was on the original school. The following photo is from the London Metropolitan Archive Collage site. It is titled “St Alban’s School, Baldwin Gardens: St Alban’s Hall.” The photo is dated 1956, confirming that the northern side of Baldwin’s Gardens appears to have suffered the worst bomb damage.

Baldwin's Gardens

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_144_56_3265

If you look to the lower left of the building there are two plaques on the wall. The one on the right is the St. Alban’s Hall, whilst the one on the left is the one that can been today as shown in my photo. The following is an enlargement of the plaque from the above photo to show it is the same:

Baldwin's Gardens

This is what I find so fascinating about walking London’s street – being able to find the traces of long lost buildings and activities and being able to trace them to their original place.

Baldwin’s Gardens schools seemed to have played a part in early teacher training. A newspaper article from 1875 comparing school education in the United States with that in the United Kingdom, and the approach to teacher training, writes: “But as early as 1811, the National Society in our own country had begun, in a rudimentary fashion, to train teachers at Baldwin’s-gardens school in London, and in 1817 the British and Foreign School Society followed with an organisation of their own for the same purpose.”

So perhaps this rather plain London side street was once a pioneer in the work of teacher training.

According to A Dictionary of London, published in 1918, the name comes from a Richard Baldwin who was a gardener to Queen Elizabeth the 1st and erected the street in 1589.

In “The London Encyclopedia” by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, they confirm that the street was built in 1589, and add that it was on the site of Brook House, the mansion of Lord Brooke. Apparently it held the privilege of sanctuary and criminals fled to Baldwin’s Gardens to live without fear of the law. This privilege ended in 1697. The London Encyclopedia also states that “the area continued as a notorious slum, much frequented by criminals, and part of the locality known as the Thieves’ Kitchen, a training ground for young criminals.”

London by George H. Cunningham (1927) confirms the reputation of the area and adds that it was one of the most dangerous and disreputable of slums. This notoriety was removed in the building of St. Alban’s Church, and that “alterations and improvements have completely changed the appearance of Baldwins Gardens”

Baldwin’s Gardens featured in the 1746 map by John Rocque:

Baldwin's Gardens

A further insight into the area can be found in my post on the nearby Hole in the Wall Passage.

In the second of the 1949 photos, a large building can be seen on the right of the photo. This is part of the Bourne Estate, a housing development by the London County Council in the first decade of the 20th century. Part of the estate can be seen from Baldwin’s Gardens:

Baldwin's Gardens

To take a look at the estate, I walked out of Baldwin’s Gardens, a short distance north along Leather Lane to Pontpool Lane where one of the main entrances to the estate can be found:

Baldwin's Gardens

There was some damage to the estate during the war, however the majority appears to have survived. A rather impressive entrance archway leading through into the estate:

Baldwin's Gardens

Ever on the lookout for plaques on buildings, the building on the corner of Pontpool Lane and Leather Lane has a plaque with the date 1895, presumably the date the building was constructed (seen above the Greggs sign).

There is a second plaque to the lower left:

Baldwin's Gardens

The plaque states that the wall is the property of the London County Council.

Baldwin's Gardens

Leather Lane has a fascinating history which I hope to write about in the future, however to finish today’s post I did find a rather traditional hairdresser in Leather Lane. I always take a photo of these when I find them in London’s streets to continue the series of photos of London hairdressers started in the 1980s.

Baldwin's Gardens

Baldwin’s Gardens is an ordinary London side street, but one that was built by the gardener to Queen Elizabeth the 1st. It was the haunt of thieves and a dangerous place until the building of the church, and the street has been host to a junior school since the 19th century – rebuilt since the wartime destruction of the previous school. There is history to be found in every street.

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LLoyd’s Dairy And The Lloyd Baker Estate

The fascination of walking in London is that you can turn off a busy street and discover a completely different place, somewhere with a very unique character and history. For this week’s post, I went to find if an old shop front had survived from the 1980s and found the unique Lloyd Baker Estate.

The following photo is one of my father’s photos from 1986. It shows the dairy shop of Lloyd and Son on the corner of River Street and Amwell Street.

Lloyd Baker Estate

Whilst Lloyd and Son ceased trading a number of years ago, their shop front has been retained and this is the view today:

Lloyd Baker Estate

Amwell Street runs from Rosebery Avenue in Clerkenwell to a short distance from Pentonville Road. Development of Amwell Street took place during the first couple of decades of the 19th century, partly on land owned by the New River Company.

The New River Company was the 17th century company formed to build an artificial river to bring in water from the north of London to feed the ever growing need for water of London’s rising population. The New River Head where the company’s reservoirs were located is a short distance from the location of the shop.

River Street was named after the New River and Amwell Street after Amwell in Hertfordshire through which the New River ran, and where some of the springs that fed the river were located.  The history of the New River Company, traces of the company around Clerkenwell and where the river can still be found are hopefully subjects for future posts.

The Lloyd’s Dairy business opened on the corner of Amwell Street and River Street in 1905. I cannot find the year when the business closed, but I believe it was in the late 1990s.

A side view of the shop in 1986:

Lloyd Baker Estate

The same view in 2017. The shop is now occupied by the saloon of BHC Hair.

Lloyd Baker Estate

A close up of the shop window in 1986. Piles of cereal boxes and the milk bottles used to advertise the business. On the far side of the shop are rows of tinned fruit and above are a couple of posters with a boy and girl advertising milk.Lloyd Baker Estate

The shop is located in the end building of a terrace of early 19th century houses. There were once so many corner shops across London. The majority do not retain their shop front, but it is still possible to see traces of the original shop on the corners of 19th century streets.

Lloyd Baker Estate

At the top of the brick walls on the corner of the building there is a layer of light coloured brick.

I found the following photo in the London Metropolitan Archives Collage archive showing the building in 1973. The reason for the lighter coloured brick layer is now clear, as it was once covered by a large advertising sign for the dairy.

Lloyd Baker Estate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_080_73_10889

I had walked to find Lloyd’s Dairy from King’s Cross Road. The map extract below shows the location of the dairy marked by the orange circle in the top right. River Street runs from the location of the dairy to the top right. the old New River Company reservoirs were just below River Street.

King’s Cross Road is the orange road from lower centre to top left of the map. Much of the area between the location of the dairy and King’s Cross Road is occupied by the Lloyd Baker Estate.

Lloyd Baker Estate

If you follow King’s Cross Road from the lower centre of the map, pass Margery Street on the right, the next turning on the right is Lloyd Baker Street. On the corner of Lloyd Baker Street and King’s Cross Road is the Union Tavern:

Lloyd Baker Estate

A pub / tavern has been on the site since the early 18th century. In the book “The History of Clerkenwell” (1865), William Pinks writes:

“At the north-west corner is a respectable tavern known as the Union, which, a few years ago, had pleasant tea gardens in the rear of it. Formerly on the site was a public-house of low repute, distinguished as the Bull in the Pound, a resort of thieves and other vicious characters.”

Thankfully there were no thieves or other vicious characters when I stopped at the Union. There is a rather nice boundary marker on the King’s Cross Road side of the building to add to the collection:

Lloyd Baker Estate

The Fleet River ran along and slightly to the west of King’s Cross Road and the above ground evidence that a river once ran here in a valley can be seen looking up past the the Union, up Lloyd Baker Street where the land rises rather steeply (for central London) away from King’s Cross Road.

Lloyd Baker Estate

Lloyd Baker Street is lined with some rather uniquely designed villas.

The original ownership of the land between King;s Cross Road and Amwell Street was through a series of individual owners and the New River Company. In the late 17th century, a Dr William Lloyd became owner of part of the land. Ownership continued through a couple of generations of the Lloyd family to Mary Lloyd, a daughter of John Lloyd.

Mary married a Reverend William Baker who added the name Lloyd to his surname to form the hyphenated name Lloyd-Baker in the late 18th century.

William Lloyd-Baker started some development in the area, but it was not until around 1820 when major development of the area commenced with the next generation of the Lloyd-Baker’s.

Work started with the redevlopment of the Union around 1819 and then continued across the area between King’s Cross Road and Amwell Street, with work being mainly complete by the early 1840s. The Lloyd-Baker family continued to own the estate after construction had completed and the area was known as the Lloyd Baker Estate.

Architectural styles vary between reasonably traditional terrace housing and the villas which can be found in Lloyd Baker Street and Wharton Street.

Lloyd Baker Estate

The above photo shows the unique style of the villa and also the stepped layout of the buildings to accommodate the rising height as the villas ascend the street.

The development included a couple of squares. Granville Square between Wharton Street and Lloyd Baker Street, and at the top of the two streets, Lloyd Square. This is the view looking across the square from the top of Wharton Street.

Lloyd Baker Estate

Bordering Lloyd Square are more villas, but here the land is flat after ascending roughly 42 feet from King’s Cross Road (which I know is a trivial rise in height, but these are central London streets).

Lloyd Baker Estate

Ian Nairn in Nairn’s London described the area: “Lloyd Square has the tightness of the terraces loosened by being made up of linked pairs, each with a pediment, The sight of them dutifully climbing Lloyd Baker Street, two by two, is like a parody of the Greek Revival. But what you remember is half a doorway, someone’s curtains, the flicker of leaves in sunlight or wet bare branches. The underlying pattern is there all right, but it is never intrusive.”

Nairn provides a perfect description of the Lloyd Baker Estate. After the noise and traffic on King’s Cross Road, it is the quiet along with the flicker of leaves in the sunlight, and the doorways at different heights within a pediment that attempts to retain an impression of the same height for the two doorways.

Lloyd Baker Estate

William Pinks  wrote of Lloyd Square “This square, which is situated between Baker Street and Wharton Street and has a well kept enclosure in the centre, was erected about 1828.”

The well kept enclosure is now a very well maintained garden in the centre of the square:

Lloyd Baker Estate

The view along Wharton Street from Lloyd Square:

Lloyd Baker Estate

The eastern edge of Lloyd Square has a very different building to those lining the other three sides.

This is the House of Retreat built by the Sisters of Bethany in the first half of the 1880s. This side of the square was lined by the original villas, however the Lloyd-Baker family allowed these villas to be demolished for the House of Retreat.

Lloyd Baker Estate

This is the terrace of houses along one side of Lloyd Baker Street that leads from the square to Amwell Street, opposite the original Lloyd’s Dairy shop.

Lloyd Baker Estate

The southern side of Lloyd Square:

Lloyd Baker Estate

Corner building with the original, painted street name just visible on the first floor:

Lloyd Baker Estate

One of the problems I have when taking photos of buildings in London is that there are often cars lining the length of a street and obscuring the ground floor of a building. There are cars parked on the streets of the Lloyd Baker estate, but there are considerable lengths of the streets with no cars, and some lengths are protected by double yellow lines. It makes for a very pleasant set of streets to walk, and to admire the buildings along the streets.

King’s Cross Road and Amwell Street border the Lloyd Baker Estate. Both these streets run north to south, so there is no real reason for traffic to cut through the estate. This lack of traffic and nose to tail parked cars also contributes to the unique feeling of the estate.

As well as the streets leading of from Lloyd Square, a short distance down Wharton Street from the square, an alley leads into Cumberland Gardens. also part of the Lloyd Baker estate with the same distinctive buildings.

Lloyd Baker Estate

Tree lined Wharton Street:

Lloyd Baker Estate

Not all the Lloyd Baker Estate is original. I have already mentioned the House of Retreat on the eastern edge of Lloyd Square, there are other examples of later buildings. The map below is an extract of the 1895 Ordnance Survey map from the National Library of Scotland. In the centre of the map there is a church alongside Cumberland Terrace and facing onto Wharton Street and Lloyd Square:

Lloyd Baker Estate

This was built on one of the parcels of land not owned by the Lloyd-Baker family. I have not found any photos of the church, apart from the following photo (dated 1910) looking up Wharton Street towards Lloyd Square, where the tower of a large church can be seen on the left:

Lloyd Baker Estate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_090_81_35_2380_37

The church closed in 1936 and Olive Lloyd-Baker purchased the land and built Archery Fields House on the site to maintain the appearance of the estate. This is Archery Fields House today:

Lloyd Baker Estate

The name of the house is a reference to the archery target ground that occupied part of Wharton Street in the early years of the 19th century, before the start of the main construction period of the Lloyd Baker Estate.

Another project that involved significant demolition of part of the estate was the construction of the original Metropolitan Railway, built between 1859 and 1862, which ran from Paddington to Farringdon. This involved demolition of houses at the King’s Cross Road end of Wharton and Lloyd Baker Streets. If you look back at the 1910 photo above, you can see houses on the right and left of the photo, closest to the photographer. These are houses built to replace those demolished during the construction of the railway.

Olive Lloyd-Baker was the last long term owner of the estate from the Lloyd-Baker family. She inherited the estate in 1924 and continued owning and managing the estate until her death in 1975. A life long spinster, Olive lived in the family home at Hardwicke Court, Gloucester. She was deeply involved in farming and agriculture and in 1966 was president of the Three Counties Agricultural Show. A local newspaper report describes Olive Lloyd-Baker as “A country woman with a practical experience in agriculture and with years of experience of managing property in Gloucestershire and London valued at about £1 Million, she is well equipped for the office.”

As well as the 10 acres of the London estate, Olive Lloyd-Baker owned 5,000 aces of country estate in Gloucestershire. The newspaper report also included a photo of Olive Lloyd-Baker in 1966:

Lloyd Baker Estate

After Olive’s death, the estate was broken up with Islington Council purchasing a large number of properties, others sold to private buyers, with the Lloyd Baker Estate retaining a much smaller number.

One of the buildings in Wharton Street with coloured doors, again showing the way the buildings manage the height change as the street descends towards King’s Cross Road.

Lloyd Baker Estate

One house of the pair has a blue plaque recording that Amelia Edwards, Egyptologist lived in the house.

Amelia Edwards was a 19th century novelist and author of travel books which she would also illustrate. After a visit to Egypt she became fascinated by the ancient history of the country and the threats to the archaeology and monuments that could be found across the country.

She wrote about her travels in Egypt and in 1882 also helped set-up the Egypt Exploration Fund to explore, research and preserve Egypt’s history. The fund is still going today as the Egypt Exploration Society, continuing to be based in London at Doughty Mews.

More descending doorways as the terrace runs along Wharton Street:

Lloyd Baker Estate

It was a fascinating walk around the Lloyd Baker Estate, and also finding Lloyd and Son’s Dairy shop front still in place in Amwell Street.

There is more to the estate than I have been able to cover in a single post. The now demolished church in Granville Square, the steps leading from Granville Square down to King’s Cross Road and their literary associations. The New River Company is also in the background to the areas history which I hope to explore in the future.

What I like about the Lloyd Baker Estate is that the buildings have been designed to work with the physical features of the land. Standing in these streets, it is easy to visualise the high ground where Lloyd Square now stands, with the land then descending down to where the River Fleet once ran just to the west of King’s Cross Road – all to be seen in the doorways as the terraces move up and down the street.

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A Forty Year Return Visit To A Secret Nuclear Bunker

A rather somber post this week, following a return to a location I was last at forty years ago. In the late 1970s, after leaving school, I started an apprenticeship with British Telecom (or Post Office Telecommunications as it was then). It was a brilliant three year scheme which involved both college and practical experience moving through many of BT’s divisions and locations. For a couple of months I was based at the telephone exchange at Brentwood, Essex. A typical day would involve maintenance and fault fixing on the telephone exchange equipment, however at the start of a day that would be rather different, the Technical Officer in charge was giving out jobs, and one job involved fixing a fault at a rather unique location – a secret nuclear bunker.

I had just left school, so at the time this was a genuinely exciting experience as I headed out in one of BT’s yellow vans with a couple of other engineers.

I have always wanted to revisit the site and was in the area recently so I took the opportunity to return to what is now a tourist attraction as the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker.

The decades prior to the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union, and the very real threat of nuclear war now seem many years ago, however with recent international politics a visit to the secret nuclear bunker is a thought provoking and very real reminder of what the impact of such a war would be, and the futility of preparing for such an event.

The origins of the bunker are in the early 1950s when the Government realised there was an urgent need for an improved air defence system to provide an early warning system to detect incoming enemy aircraft. The scheme, code named Rotor consisted of a number of radar systems and bunkers built across the country. Small R1/2 bunkers were built at radar sites whilst a small number of much larger R4 bunkers were built, the bunker at Kelvedon Hatch being one.

The bunker was operational by 1953 and being used for coordinating air defence.

In the 1960s the role of the bunker changed from being an air defence operations centre, to an emergency regional seat of government for London. The assumption being that in the build up to a nuclear war, key members of government would leave London and head for the bunker, along with scientists and civil servants. Those safe in the bunker would monitor and attempt to coordinate what was happening on the surface, then weeks after the nuclear confrontation, would emerge from out of the ground and attempt to establish some form of government across what ever remained on the surface.

This was the role of the bunker during my visit to look at a fault on the telephone exchange deep underground.

By definition, a secret nuclear bunker is secret, so there is very little visible on the surface. The entrance to the bunker is through what was meant to look like a typical rural bungalow or farm building sitting on the side of the hill. This is the view on my recent visit – very similar to my first visit when we pulled up outside in the BT van.

secret nuclear bunker

To give an idea of the rural location of the bunker, it is marked with an orange circle in the following map. The M25 runs from lower centre to top left and the town in the lower right is Brentwood  (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

secret nuclear bunker

The bunker was constructed by excavating a very large hole, laying a gravel base to act as a shock absorber then building the bunker with 10 foot thick concrete reinforced walls designed to withstand the blast from a nuclear weapon, with the walls surrounded by a wire mesh acting as a Faraday Cage to absorb the effects of an electromagnetic pulse which would have damaged the electronic devices within the bunker.

The excavated materials were then used to cover up the bunker and create a hill on top to provide further protection. The bunker was equipped with its own means of generating power, purifying air, maintaining temperature and had suppliers of water, and in the lead up to a war, would have been stocked with food to keep the inhabitants sustained during their weeks underground.

A plan of the bunker is shown in the following photo:

When operational, the bungalow acted as a guard house and it was through here that we entered to be checked and signed in ready to visit the telephone exchange. Today, there are no armed guard at the entrance. All you have to do is pick up the audio tour device.

The bunker is then entered through a long entrance tunnel that leads from the bungalow down to the base of the bunker. The view looking down:

secret nuclear bunker

The view looking back up:

secret nuclear bunker

At the end of the entrance tunnel are blast doors leading into the bunker. The entrance to the body of the bunker is also an L shape to deflect any blast that breached the doors.

secret nuclear bunker

Looking up at the three levels of the bunker:

secret nuclear bunker

The Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker was decommissioned in the early 1990s. It was removed from the secret list, and the Government removed the majority of the equipment within the bunker. It was then sold back to the farming family from whom the land had originally been purchased, and they reequipped the bunker and opened for visitors.

This is the room I had come to see. The telephone exchange for the bunker that would connect the internal telephones with the outside world (on the assumption that there would still have been someone in the outside world able to answer a phone and that the infrastructure had not been destroyed).

secret nuclear bunker

The telephone exchange equipment is not original. It was a Strowger electro-mechanical exchange, before being replaced with an electronic exchange. A Strowger electro-mechanical exchange has been reinstalled – the same type of equipment that was in the bunker when I was there as an apprentice. If my memory of 40 years is right, it does look much the same as when I was there in the late 1970s.

I recall a few people around and some calls going through the exchange, but it was very quiet compared to what it would have been during a real event when up to 600 people would have been working in the bunker. The exchange room was the only one we went to – it was not the sort of place you could have wandered round for a look. When we had completed our work, it was back up the tunnel and out into daylight.

Many of the other rooms have been equipped to show what they would have looked like at the time. Here, teleprinters ready for sending and receiving printed information with the outside world.

secret nuclear bunker

The secret nuclear bunker was equipped with a BBC studio. From here, broadcasts would have been made to the general population above ground.

secret nuclear bunker

A few years ago, the BBC released the transcript of the announcement that would have been broadcast in the event of a nuclear war. The transcript starts:

“This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.

Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger.

If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and
without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many
times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and
walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.”

The full transcript is a rather sobering read and can be found as a PDF on the BBC’s website here.

In the late 1970s there was also considerable discussion in Government about how much preparation there should be, and how much the public should be informed about preparing for an attack. Tensions were heightened in 1979 with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

As part of the planning to prepare the general population for an attack, the Protect and Survive booklet was written. This would have been distributed to all households across the country in a period of heightened tensions when a nuclear attack was seen as a possible outcome.

The booklet included advice on how to prepare for an attack and how to survive in the days after an attack.

The front cover of the booklet:

secret nuclear bunker

The front cover is from the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars and the full booklet is available as a PDF download at the URL in the following citation for the source:

Document-110193,   Author = Great Britain. Central Office of Information and Great Britain. Home Office,  Title  = Protect and Survive, URL  =  http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110193

Institution = Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars publisher   = History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive

A film version of the booklet was also produced for broadcast on TV during the possible lead up to an attack. There is a copy on YouTube here.

The early 1980s also produced some landmark TV and films covering the impact of nuclear war. In September 1984, the BBC produced film Threads was shown on BBC2. A genuinely frightening portrayal of the impact of nuclear war on the city of Sheffield. A sample of the film can be found on YouTube here. I remember it as one of the most frightening programmes I have ever watched then or since on television.

Another example was the 1986 animated film of Raymond Briggs graphic novel, When the Wind Blows.

My just out of school, apprentice excitement at going to such a place as the secret nuclear bunker was most certainly taken back down to earth with the reality of what such a war would mean as depicted in the films mentioned above, as well as so many other books, films, and programmes of the time.

Continuing around the bunker, there is a re-creation of what the room may have looked like where plots would have been drawn on large maps showing where bomb blasts had taken place.

secret nuclear bunker

The position of the Kelvedon Hatch secret nuclear bunker as the regional headquarters for the Greater London area is shown in the following photo:

Continuing further down in the bunker and the air filtration plant. This would have taken in air from the outside and filtered to remove dust and radioactive particles.

secret nuclear bunker

The machine room where equipment maintained the air conditioning of the bunker.

secret nuclear bunker

There are a couple of rooms within the bunker where senior Government officials would have had their own room. One of which was available for the Prime Minister should they have been able to get out of London and into Essex in time.

secret nuclear bunker

The main operations room where representatives of Government departments, the armed forces, transport, energy etc. would have been represented.

secret nuclear bunker

Apparently some of the few items not removed by the Government when they vacated the bunker are the signs around the operations room indicating the working space for each of the Government departments.

secret nuclear bunker

The bunker also contained facilities to accommodate the staff who would have been based here during an attack.

secret nuclear bunker

Up to 600 people would have been based in the bunker in the event of a nuclear war. Whether they would have had any contact with the outside world during their time underground is questionable, and one can only imagine the scene that would have met them when they emerged onto the surface after weeks in the bunker.

It was interesting to return after 40 years. The world is now a very different place, but having places such as the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker available to visit are essential to provide a reminder of the real horrors of nuclear war.

Full details are on the web site of the bunker. Thanks to the owners of the bunker for letting me use my photos of the interior.

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