Category Archives: London Buildings

Cripplegate Ward: Lady Eleanor Holles School and Cripplegate

I am fascinated by the journey that books take over the years. I have a copy of a book titled “Cripplegate Ward” by Sir John James Baddeley, published in 1921.

Baddeley was the Lord Mayor of London between 1921 and 1922, and on the inside cover of the book is pasted a square of paper detailing Baddeley’s presentation of this copy of the book to his sister Emma Louisa Baddeley:

Cripplegate Ward

As it is roughly 100 years since Baddeley gave the book to his sister, I thought it would be a good time to revisit Cripplegate Ward, using the book as a guide.

Baddeley describes Cripplegate as the second largest ward in the City (Farringdon Without being the larger), covering an area of 63 acres, nearly a tenth of the whole City. In the last census (1911) before Badderley’s book was printed, the ward had a population of 36,793, the majority of whom were employed in the various warehouses and factories that could be found across the ward.

Cripplegate was / is divided into Cripplegate Within and Without to describe those parts of the ward that were in the City side of the old Roman wall, and the area on the outside of the wall. That demarcation makes very little difference today, but would have been important when the wall was still a feature of the landscape.

Whilst I have written about Cripplegate in a number of previous posts, what I also find fascinating is gradually peeling back the layers of the history of a place, and finding more detail than I have already covered, so for today’s post I want to explore two places within Cripplegate ward that I have not written about before. The first is:

Lady Eleanor Holles School

There is an elevated walkway underneath Gilbert House within the Barbican estate. The walkway is lined by a number of round, concrete pillars that support the building above, and on one of these pillars is the following plaque:

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The plaque records the foundation in 1711 of the Lady Eleanor Holles School near the site of the plaque. The plaque is on the pillar arrowed in the following photo, which shows the location and view out to the central area of water in the Barbican:

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

Cripplegate Ward by Baddeley, along with an article on the history of the school in the City Press on the 24th of July 1869 both provide some background into the Lady Eleanor Holles School.

Lady Eleanor Holles died in 1708, and in her will asked that her executor, a Mrs Anne Watson, dispose of her estate “to such pious purposes as her executor might think best”. Her estate consisted of land and a number of properties which produced an income of £62 and 3 shillings a year.

There was already a boys school in Redcross Street, Cripplegate, and Mrs Anne Watson arranged that the properties from Eleanor Holles will were committed to a body of trustees, and the funds used for the creation of a girls school, consisting of “a schoolmistress and the education of fifty poor girls”, and to be known as “the Lady Holles’ Charity School”.

There is no record as to why Anne Watson chose the poor of Cripplegate to be the beneficiary of the Eleanor Hollis will, however Anne Watson appears to have been deeply interested in promoting education for the poor as in her own will she left £500 for a charity school.

Around the start of the 18th century, there were concerns regarding the lack of education for children of the poor, and what this meant for the promotion of “Christian principles”.

According to the City Press, the school “undoubtedly owes its origin to that general movement in favour of the religious education of the poor in the principles of Protestantism which took place in the latter stages of the seventeenth century”. Baddeley also adds that a document in possession of the treasurer of the school and written in 1709 states that “It is evident to common observation that the growth of vice and debauchery is greatly owing to the gross ignorance of the principles of the Christian religion, and Christian virtues can grow from no other root than Christian principles”.

The original school used rooms leased from the boys school, which was located towards the northern end of Redcross Street. In 1831 the enlargement of the school was proposed, and a new school for the girls was built at the southern end of Redcross Street.

I have circled the location of this school (marked as School Girls) on the 1894 Ordnance Survey map below (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The school was located where Fore Street turned into Redcross Street. I have marked the location on a map of the area today (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The plaque photographed earlier in the post is on the walkway under Gilbert House (arrowed in the map above), and the red rectangle shows the location of the school which would have been facing onto Redcross Street, which ran from just above the left of the church, past the school and into what are now the buildings of the Barbican.

The school went through a number of enlargements during the 19th century, and the final build of the early 1860s created a school with a capacity for 300 girls and 100 infants, residence for the school mistresses and a board room for the governors.

In the mid 19th century, the school seems to have been doing financially rather well, as in an 1868 survey of the “Thirty Three City of London Endowed Schools for Primary Instruction for Boys and Girls”, Lady Eleanor Holles school was identified as having the largest endowment, with an annual income of £1,377.

As with many charity schools throughout London, the Lady Eleanor Holles School had the sculptured figure of one of the scholars mounted on the front of the building. The following image of the figure, showing the collar, cap and clothes that would have been worn by the girls comes from Baddeley’s book on Cripplegate Ward:

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The girls were instructed in the practice of the Christian religion. They were taught to spell, read and sew.

Although the school could support a large number of girls and infants, towards the end of the 19th century the majority of pupils were coming from outside the parish of St Giles, Cripplegate. This was down to the reduction in the number of dwelling houses in the area as more factories and warehouses were constructed.

The school was also in competition with the new schools created by the London Schools Board, which were being funded through the rates and parliamentary grants, rather than through charity donations and fees.

The future of the school was decided by the London County County who were looking for a site to construct a large, new fire station.

The LCC offered the trustees of the Lady Eleanor Holles School a sum of £30,000 for the land and buildings. The school trustees accepted, and moved to a new location in Mare Street, Hackney.

The reason for a new fire station in Redcross Street can be seen in this article from Lloyds Weekly Newspaper on the 4th of December 1898:

“Hitherto Watling-street has been the chief City fire station, and the proposed change would be of great advantage, as the warehouses in the vicinity of Wood-street are filled, as a rule, with the most combustible materials. On the northern side the station would be of very great utility to the over-crowded districts of St. Luke’s and Shoreditch, where most houses are old and the danger of fire considerable.”

I have written about the Redcross Street fire station in a previous post, as it was a central feature in one of my father’s post war photos of the area now occupied by the Barbican and Golden Lane estates. The post can be found here, and covers the story of the fire station during the blitz, Redcross Street, and the surrounding area.

What I did not have time to cover in the earlier post was the history of the school, so in the following photo, St Giles is the church which is still a central feature in the Barbican. Redcross Street fire station is the large building on the left, and the rest of the area shows the devastation of bombing, mainly on the night of the 29th December, 1940.

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

So, part of the area now occupied by the central water feature in the Barbican was once the site of the Redcross Street fire station, and before that, was the site of the Lady Eleanor Holles School for Girls.

The school, and fire station were once located in the centre of the lake in the following photo, just behind the tall grasses on the left. The walkway with the pillar and the plaque is in the background, underneath Gilbert House:

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The above photo also shows how Gilbert House is supported by a relatively few number of slender pillars.

The Lady Eleanor Holles school remained at Mare Street, Hackney until the mid 1930s, when for similar reasons to the challenges of the late 19th century (industrialisation of the area, competition with many other local schools), the school decided to relocate out of central London and moved to a temporary location in Teddington, whilst a new school building was constructed at Hanworth Road, Hampton.

The Lady Eleanor Holles school continues to be based in Hampton and is rated as one of the leading independent girls schools in the country.

A very different location, but maintains the name of Lady Eleanor Holles, who left sufficient money through her property, to establish the original girls school in Redcross Street in 1711.

My second location for this week’s post on Cripplegate Ward is the feature that would give the ward its name:

Cripplegate

Wood Street runs from Gresham Street, across London Wall, finishing with a short stretch where it turns into Fore Street. Just before the junction with Fore Street, Roman House can be found on the right, and on the side of this building is the following plaque:

Cripplegate Ward

Cripplegate was the original northern gate to the Roman fort which occupied the north west corner of the old Roman City. The fort was discovered during post war excavations by Professor W.F. Grimes, and the location and size of the fort is shown by the blue rectangle in the following map of the wall from one of the plaques showing the route of the wall. The location of the gate is shown by the red arrow.

Cripplegate Ward

The plaque is on the right of the following photo of the northern section of Wood Street, the gate would have been across the street, to the left of the plaque.

Cripplegate Ward

The gate is shown in the modified 1633 version of the early Agas map of London, the red circle in the following map surrounds the gate. The orange circle surrounds St Giles, Cripplegate, and Redcross Street, the site of the school and fire station is on the left and Whitecross Street on the right:

Cripplegate Ward

The name of the gate has long been the subject of speculation. A news article from 1904 reads:

“The origin of the name of Cripplegate, in which stands the church of St Giles, has long puzzled the minds of antiquaries. Ben Johnson averred that the street took its name from a crippled philanthropist, but Stow says the name was derived from the thronging of cripples which frequented it for begging purposes. It seems however, now to be decided that the name comes from ‘Crepel-gate’ a covered way in the fortifications. There is still a strong belief prevailing, however, that when the body of St. Edmund was brought from Bury to save it from the Danes, crippled persons by the wayside were cured of their afflictions as the body passed, and that the church of St Giles, the patron saint of cripples, was erected in commemoration of the miracle.”

Baddeley, in his book on Cripplegate Ward provides more:

“The etymology must be sought elsewhere. Cripple-gate was a postern gate leading to the Barbican, while this watch-tower in advance of the City walls was fortified. The road between the postern and the burghkenning (Barbican) ran necessarily between two low walls – most likely of earth – which formed what in fortification would be described as a covered way. The name in Anglo-Saxon would be ‘Crepel’, ‘Cryfele’ or ‘Crypele’, a den or passage under ground, a barrow, and geat, a gate, street or way.”

The book “The Ward of Cripplegate in the City of London”, (1985) by Caroline Gordon and Wilfred Dewhirst also refers to the Anglo-Saxon Crepel, or covered way as the source of the name taken on by the gate, and that Crepel was still used in written references to the gate in the late 20th century. The authors do though dismiss the story of St Edmund as a story that can “hardly be taken seriously”.

Baddeley provides some excerpts from City records to illustrate the history of the gate. In 1297 is was ordered that “Crepelgate should be kept by the Wards of Crepelgate, Chepe and Bassieshawe”, and “At the Gate of Crepelgate, there were to be found at night, from the same Ward Within eight men, well armed; and from the Ward of Bassieshaw six men, well armed; and from the Ward of Colmannestrete, six men, well armed and Robert Cook and John le Little were chosen to keep the keys of the gate aforesaid.”

The gate required regular repair, and in “1490, Sir Edward Shaa, who had been Alderman of the Ward from 1473 to 1485 bequeathed five hundred marks for the purpose of repairing the Gate”.

The gate was well kept and guarded during the Wars of the Roses during the second half of the 15th century. This was the last time that the City wall was strengthened, and the brick work that was added to the City Wall can be still be seen in the stretch of wall by St Alphage, a very short distance to the east of the old location of the Cripplegate.

As with other City gates, it was used as a processional route, with Elizabeth I apparently using the gate as her access to the City on her journey from Hatfield to London after the death of her sister, Mary I on the 17th November 1558.

The gate was also used to display the bodies of those who had been executed as a warning to those passing through the gate.

Cripplegate as it appeared in 1760 looking north from the City side of the gate, within Wood Street:

Cripplegate Ward

The above print from Baddeley’s book is dated 1760, although it may have been a view of the gate some years earlier, as by 1760 the gate was being described as in a poor condition. The carriageway through the gate was relatively narrow, and London had been expanding considerably to the north of the old gates and Roman wall which by the mid 18th century were no longer effective or needed as a defensive structure to protect the City of London.

Tolls were taken at the gate, but these were insufficient to keep up with the costs of repair, so in early 1760, the decision was taken to demolish the gate.

The City Lands Committee advertised for tenders to demolish and remove a number of the old gates, including Cripplegate, Aldersgate and Moorgate.

A Mr. Benjamin Blackden bought Cripplegate for £91 – buying the gate ensured demolition, and allowed the person buying the gate to keep a considerable quantity of building material.

The same Benjamin Blackden also paid £91 for Aldersgate and £166 for Moorgate.

On the 2nd of September 1760 newspapers were reporting that “Tuesday, the workmen began to erect scaffold at Cripplegate for pulling down that Gate.”

By the 31st of December, 1760, the Kentish Weekly Post was reporting that “Aldgate is quite pulled down, and Cripplegate is about two thirds down; and Moorgate, Aldersgate and Bishopsgate are to be pulled down forthwith.”

Demolition of the gate was completed in early 1761, and Wood Street then provided open access from the City to the northward expansion of London.

Lady Eleanor Holles School and Cripplegate are two lost features of Cripplegate Ward. Both very different, and in different periods of the Ward’s long history.

They have both left their mark in that the school is still functioning today, although in west London rather than the centre of the city, and Cripplegate, one of the City’s gates within the Roman Walls, that appears to have been named after an Anglo-Saxon word for a defensive, covered way, has left its name to one of the City’s most interesting wards.

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The South Bank Shot Tower and Riverside Buildings

I have written a number of posts about the South Bank, and the transformation of the area from industrial and terrace housing, via the Festival of Britain, to the place we see today with the Jubilee Gardens and Royal Festival Hall. The majority of my father’s photos of the area were taken in the streets of the South Bank, however there is one that was taken from across the river featuring the Shot Tower, and part of the Thames foreshore between Waterloo Bridge and the site of the Festival Hall.

1947 view of the Shot Tower and South Bank

The above photo was taken on Saturday 23rd August 1947, and shows the Shot Tower, and the buildings along the river. The approach to Waterloo Bridge can just be seen on the left of the photo, and on the right would today be part of the Royal Festival Hall.

The same view in 2022 (although a bit too much of the Royal Festival Hall):

View of the South Bank

The Shot Tower was just behind and to the left of the yellow stairs seen in the centre of the above photo.

The South Bank today, and the Shot Tower would have been just to the right and further back from the yellow concrete stairs, and the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Hall:

Location of the Shot Tower

The purpose of the Shot Tower, and the process which gave its name to the tower, was the manufacture of lead shot for shotguns.

The Shot Tower was built in 1826 for Thomas Maltby & Company, and in 1839 was taken over by Walker, Parker & Company, who would continue to operate at the site until closure in 1949.

The Shot Tower was designed by David Riddal Roper and stands 163 feet from ground level to the top gallery. A spiral staircase within the tower provided access to two galleries, one half way up from where molten lead was dropped to produce small lead shot, and a gallery at the top of the tower which was used for large lead shot.

It was a considerable brick construction, with 3 foot thick walls at the base of the tower, tapering to 18 inches at the top.

There were a number of shot towers across London, including one on the other side of Waterloo Bridge which I will show later in the post. There was also one in Edmonton and a film was made using the Edmonton tower to show how lead shot was made within the tower.

The film can be found here on the British Pathe site, and shows the process which would have taken place within the South Bank Shot Tower.

The Shot Tower survived the demolition of all the other buildings on the South Bank as part of the clearance for the Festival of Britain, and was included as part of the festival.

It was finally demolished in 1962, clearing the site for the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. A real shame that it was not preserved and space made for it in the design of the new hall. It would have been a fitting reminder of the industrial history of the South Bank.

The Shot Tower survived and was included in the Festival of Britain as it was considered a well known landmark, and as with the lion on the top of the Lion Brewery, there was public concern that such a landmark would be demolished.

The festival organising committee wanted vertical features on the South Bank to draw attention to the site (the Skylon was the primary feature, designed specifically for the festival) and they also wanted the festival to demonstrate Britain’s scientific and technical achievements and advanced British manufacturing, as the country faced the economically difficult post war years and was in desperate need of foreign trade and currency.

The answer was to save the tower, and include it as part of the displays. The very top of the tower was removed and a new structure installed that consisted of a large lamp, emulating a light house, and a large radio dish antenna mounted on an anti-aircraft gun carriage.

The following photo shows the Shot Tower with the additions to the top of the tower for the Festival of Britain:

Shot Tower with radio dish and lighthouse

The intention with the radio dish at the top of the tower was described in the Festival of Britain Guide Book, as: “The radio beacon is above the lighthouse optic. The most obvious part of it is a large reflector which beams a signal to the moon. This is part of the radio telescope and is connected with the display in the Dome of Discovery by underground cable. In the Dome visitors can transmit signals to the moon and actually see them reflected back to the earth after about two and a half seconds”.

The display was in the Outer Space section of the Dome of Discovery, and the use of an anti-aircraft gun carriage at the top of the tower on which the radio dish was mounted, was to enable the dish to move to follow the moon in the sky.

The above description of the intended use of the radio dish is from the official festival guide, and the majority of books on the Festival of Britain repeat this planned use, however it seems that a different use for the dish had to be found after the technically advanced parts for such as radio transmitter / receiver were not available in time.

The Illustrated London News on the 21st April 1951 (not long before the opening of the festival on the 3rd of May 1951) records the new use of the radio dish: “There is to be no moon radar telescope on the top of the 200-ft shot tower on the South Bank: instead , visitors will see radio ‘noises’ or atmospherics from outer space on a television screen.” I assume the guide book had already been printed when the change was made.

The display on a TV of radio noise from sources such as the sun was probably far less visibly dramatic than the radio dish on the top of the old Shot Tower, but it did follow one of the Festival’s aims of showing scientific and technical advancements, just not in such a dramatic way as bouncing a radio signal off the moon.

Mounting an anti-aircraft gun carriage at the top of the tower was not without its dangers as this report from the Evening Telegraph on the 26th of October 1950 describes: “GUN CRASHES INSIDE SHOT TOWER – The gun mounting of a 3.7 A.A. gun being hoisted to the top of the Shot Tower at the Festival of Britain site fell 120 feet inside the tower to-day.

A 20-year-old soldier, Edward Bradley, was taken to St Thomas’s Hospital with slight bruises.

The mounting which weighs about five tons was being placed at the top of the Shot Tower. The gun is to carry a radar set which will send pulsations to the moon during the Festival.

Mr. Morrison told the Commons yesterday the equipment would cost £25,000 and would help in the development of radar astronomy.

Gunner Bradley was half-way up the staircase inside the tower, guiding the load, when he was struck by a falling plank. The gun mounting landed squarely in the centre of the tower and broke through the concrete floor to a depth of a foot.

Also inside the tower at the time were Captain Elliott, in charge of the operation, and a sergeant. The sergeant said ‘We heard a noise as if there was something amiss and we baled out of the tower as quickly as possible'”.

Underneath the radio dish was the “lighthouse” which was in operation from dusk until the evening closure of the festival. It was an electrically operated light (described as “of the most modern all-electric design”) with a lamp of three thousand watts, with a second lamp available should the main fail. The glass of the lighthouse optics which focused the light was made by Chance Brothers, the company that had made the glass for the original Crystal Palace in 1851.

The beam from the lighthouse could be seen up to 45 miles away from the South Bank site.

The following postcard showed the Shot Tower at Night. The lighthouse is the lit section at the very top of the tower, not the beam of light shining down from the tower.

Shot Tower at night

There were discussions on how to decorate the brick tower. Aluminum was suggested (the material was used for the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon), but was deemed too expensive. Cellophane was also suggested but considered a very poor choice. In the end, it was left as the original brick

The two vertical features of the South Bank, Festival of Britain – the Shot Tower, and much taller (300 feet from ground to tip) Skylon:

Skylon

As well as the Shot Tower, a brick building at the base of the tower was retained and used for a small exhibit showing the development of the South Bank site, as well as some control equipment for the radio system at the top of the tower.

A walkway from this building led into the Shot Tower where visitors could look up and see the top of tower, and below a kaleidoscope of changing London scenes was shown.

The following page from the Festival of Britain, South Bank Guide Book shows the Shot Tower and the recommended route:

The Guide Book also included a rather good colour advert from the construction engineers who had completed the work to extend the steelwork at the top of the Shot Tower for the lantern and for supporting the anti-aircraft gun and radio dish:

The following postcard shows the base of the Shot Tower and the adjacent brick building which provided the access route to the tower during the festival:

Shot Tower

My father took the following photo at the base of the Shot Tower:

Base of the Shot Tower

Time to return to my father’s original photo and look at the other buildings facing onto the river:

View of the South Bank in 1947

From left to right:

On the far left edge of the photo is the approach road to Waterloo Bridge. Behind the red arrow pointing to the approach road is one of only two buildings that have survived from the photo, the building is now part of King’s College, London.

To the right is a travelling crane and Canterbury Dock that were part of Grellier’s Wharf.

The name Grellier’s Wharf came from Peter Paul Grellier, who opened a stone and marble business at the site between Belvedere Road and the Thames. Auctions were held at the site of imported stone and marble, for example, on the 20th July 1843, there was an auction of “a very large importation of very fine marble, consisting of statuary, black, black and gold, vein, dove and bardilla. This importation is recommended to the attention of the trade, as being of a very superior description”.

Canterbury Dock was a small inlet of the river into the site. The name Canterbury came from the Archbishop of Canterbury who was a major landowner in the area (and is also why many of the streets with housing developed in the area between Belvedere Road and Waterloo Station in the 19th century were named after Archbishops of Canterbury).

Slightly to the right, in the background can be seen a small part of the main entrance to Waterloo Station, the second building that remains from the 1947 photo.

The buildings of the lead works are next with the Shot Tower behind.

To the right of the Shot Tower, along the buildings facing the river, there is one with the name “Embankment Fellowship Centre” along the top of the building. An enlargement from the original photo is below:

Embankment Fellowship Centre

The Embankment Fellowship Centre was a charitable organisation with an aim of helping unemployed ex-servicemen who had fallen into poverty. Established in 1932 by Mrs. Gwen Huggins the wife of the Adjutant of Chelsea Hospital. She decided to do something to help the ex-servicemen she saw sleeping rough in London, and along the Thames Embankment.

Originally known as H10, and changing name to Embankment Fellowship Centre in 1933, the following article from The Sketch on the 30th of August, 1939 provides a good summary of the organisation’s approach and what took place on the south bank:

“The EMBANKMENT FELLOWSHIP CENTRE provides a constructive solution to the unemployment problem where it affects its most difficult victim, the middle-aged ex-Service man from the Navy, Army, R.A.F., or Mercantile Marine. The Centre does not cater for the vagrant, the work-shy, or the waster, but can claim that every man helped has been reduced by sheer misfortune and no fault of his own to the lowest ebb of poverty.

Painters, doctors, miners, schoolmasters, chauffer’s, stockbrokers, plasterers, mechanics and clerks are all among those who have been assisted. The credentials of all applicants who must be over forty-five, are carefully examined before admission to the Centre, where they are housed, fed and re-clothed and maintained for a period averaging 47 days per case. When a man reaches the Centre he has usually been through a bad period of stress, so the first task is to ‘recondition’ him. To that end he is surrounded by an atmousphere of cheerfulness, comfort and companionship. In the daytime he has occupational work, and every evening he has something to look forward to – a lecture, a show by an amateur dramatic society, a game of darts or billiards, or a film.

Meanwhile officials endeavour to find suitable employment for him; and since many applicants belong to overcrowded or depressed trades, the Fellowship Centre undertakes free training in its own workshops for employment in which middle-age is only a slight handicap, such as valeting, housework, cookery, carpentry, boot and shoe repairs, and so on.

Last year employment was found for 549 men, at an average age of 53 years. The total could have been larger had the premises been capable of accommodating more men. During the past four years some 2000 men have been found employment at an average age exceeding 50 years. Included in the Centre is the Ward of Hope, where a period of free convalescence is provided, following discharge from hospital for homeless and friendless men.

The Council are trying to solve the problem of expansion. They are also trying to raise capital for maintaining a country home, to be modelled on Chelsea Hospital, where veterans of good record with no pension and past the working age can be housed.

Subscriptions to this excellent cause to be sent to Major R.M. Lloyd, Appeal Director, the Embankment Fellowship Centre, 59 Belvedere Road, S.E.1.”

The Embankment Fellowship Centre made a film in 1939 telling the story of a middle aged man named Smith, who lost his job, and could not get another because of his age. Things went downhill quickly with the family possessions being repossessed until he was recommended to the centre. With the centre’s help, he found a new job, and the last scene of the film is Smith and his wife agreeing to donate his recent pay rise to the Embankment Fellowship Centre.

The film “Smith” can be watched here.

The centre on the South Bank was closed not long after my father took the photo, and Hansard records a question in Parliament about the closure, when on the 23rd September 1948, Commander Noble “asked the Minister of Health why the Embankment Fellowship Centre, Lambeth, which provides accommodation for ex-Service men, has just been given notice to quit by 1st December”

Mr. Bevan answered “I understand that this and other notices are occasioned by a London County Council scheme for the redevelopment of the area of the South Bank in which this centre lies.”

The redevelopment of the South Bank would lead to the Royal Festival Hall and the Festival of Britain.

The Embankment Fellowship Centre relocated, and in 2007 changed name to  ‘Veterans Aid’, and is still in operation.

Veterans Aid have their main London centre at ” New Belvedere House”, which is rather nice as hopefully the intention was to name the building after the original location at 59 Belvedere Road on the South Bank.

On the right edge of the 1947 photo is part of the Lion brewery. It would be demolished to make way for the Royal Festival Hall which would be built on the land to the right of the Shot Tower.

The South Bank Shot Tower was not the only shot tower along the south bank of the river. The following postcard is a view from the top of the Shot Tower, looking towards the City of London:

View from the Shot Tower

Between the two chimneys is a much wider tower, with a dome shaped top. This was also a shot tower, and was older than the one on the South Bank.

Built around 1789, it was described as “a new structure, which cost near six thousand pounds, but cannot be considered as an object ornamental to the River Thames”. It was 150 feet high, and in 1826 the top part was destroyed by fire, which was not surprising given the activity carried out within the tower.

The lead works which included this second shot tower were also owned for a period by Walker, Parker & Company, the same company that owned the South Bank Shot Tower. They left the works in 1845 to concentrate on their South Bank site. The site was advertised in the Morning Chronicle on the 9th October 1845 as: “EXTENSIVE LEAD WORKS, Shot Tower, Wharf, Dwelling-house, and Buildings, Commercial-road, Waterloo-bridge. To be LET on LEASE for twenty one years, from Michaelmas next, when possession will be given in one or two lettings, all those capital and spacious PREMISES, with Wharf, extending about 120 feet next the river Thames, with the lead works, shot tower, and buildings lately occupied by Messrs.’ Walker and Co. Also a counting house, extensive stabling and premises, lately occupied by Mr. Sherwood”.

By the time of the above photo, the large advertising sign on the side of the shot tower was advertising that the works were “Lane, Sons & Co Limited. Lead and Shot Works”.

The street name in the advert is given as Commercial Road. This was a short lived name for the street which is now Upper Ground.

The shot tower was demolished in 1937 after having been out of use for several years. Today, the IBM offices (in the photo below) occupy the site of this second shot tower and lead works:

It is such a shame that the South Bank Shot Tower could not have been included in revised plans for the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and could today be seen between the Queen Elizabeth and Royal Festival Halls.

A reminder of the industrial history of the area, and adding some historical complexity to the buildings we see today, lining the side of the river.

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County Hall and a Roman Boat

Today, the River Thames runs between embankments on the north and south sides of the river, embankments built over the last 160 years, and were still being completed in the 1980s. For centuries the river had an extended foreshore which would shift with the tides, and particularly on the south bank, large areas of wet, marshy land.

One stretch of the embankment, built during the first decades of the 20th century, is the stretch in front of County Hall, the purpose built home of the London County Council, then the Greater London Council, and now home to hotels and tourist attractions.

County Hall photographed from Westminster Bridge:

County Hall from Westminster Bridge

The London County Council was formed in 1889 to replace the Metropolitan Board of Works and to gradually take on powers covering Education, Health Services, Drainage and Sanitation, Regulation and Licensing of a whole range of activities, dangerous materials, weights and measures, street Improvements – there was hardly an aspect of living in London that would not be touched by the LCC.

The problem with having all this responsibility was that the LCC also needed the space for all the elected officials and the hundreds of staff who would deliver the services.

The LCC initially had an office at Spring Gardens, near Trafalgar Square, the old home of the Metropolitan Board of Works, but quickly started looking for a new location as staff began to be scattered across the city.

A wide range of locations were suggested, but they were either too small, too expensive or too close to the Palace of Westminster – the London County Council wanted to be seen as a completely separate authority to the national government, but still wanted a prominent location, suitable for the governance of London.

The LCC already had a Works Department which occupied a small part of a site on the South Bank, to the side of Westminster Bridge.

The new St Thomas’ Hospital on the other side of Westminster Bridge had already started the improvement of the Lambeth side of the river, which included the creation of a large formal embankment.

The land across Westminster Bridge Road from the hospital provided a sufficient area for the LCC with space to grow. It was in a prominent position, directly facing onto the river, and importantly was on the opposite side of the river to the Palace of Westminster so was close to, but separate from the national government.

As the site was being acquired, attention turned to the design of the new building, and a competition was organised to invite designs for the new home of the LCC.

There were some incredibly fancy and ornate designs submitted, however the winning design was one of relative simplicity by the 29 year old architect Ralph Knott.

Construction of County Hall began in January 1909 with the construction of a coffer dam in the river, which allowed the new river wall to be built, reclaiming an area of land from the river. Work then began on excavation of the ground, ready for laying a concrete raft on which County Hall would be built.

Work was sufficiently advanced, that by 1912 the laying of the foundation stone could take place, and to commemorate the event, a booklet was published, providing some history of the construction of County Hall up to 1912, along with some plans and photographs of the original river frontage, and an important find during digging ready for the construction of the concrete raft.

County Hall foundation stone

County Hall would be built on a 6.5 acre site, and to achieve this area, a significant part of the foreshore and river needed to be reclaimed. In total two and a half acres of the river were reclaimed and a new river wall constructed to hold back the Thames.

A new river wall had been part of the construction of St Thomas’ Hospital, and the alignment of this wall would be continued with the construction of County Hall.

588 feet of new river wall was constructed. the most difficult part being where the wall would come up against Westminster Bridge. The piers of Westminster Bridge had been built on timber piles, and the foundations of the river wall would go a further 6 feet deeper than those of the bridge, so careful construction was needed to avoid damage to the bridge. This included steel piles driven around the foundations of the bridge to provide some protection from the excavations of the river wall.

Construction of the wall started in January 1909 and was completed in September 1910 at a total cost of £58,000.

The booklet includes the following diagram which shows the outline of County Hall, the alignment of the new river wall, and within the outline of County Hall, the original buildings on the site and the alignment of the old river wall, showing just how much was reclaimed from the river.

County Hall

The site was occupied by businesses such as Cross and Blackwell with a jam and pickle factory, and the engineering firm of Peter Brotherhood who had their radial engine factory on the site. Their radial engine was an innovative machine used to power the Royal Navy’s torpedoes, as well as being a source of power for other machines including fans, and dynamos for the generation of electricity.

The booklet also includes the following photo of the site from Westminster Bridge. I suspect the embankment wall now runs roughly where the photographer was standing.

County Hall original river frontage

If you look at the edge of the photo on the right, there are a large flight of stairs leading down to the river, and at the top of the stairs can just be seen part of a pub. The pub had one side facing onto Westminster Bridge Road, and the other facing a small square and the river stairs. With limited research time, I have been unable to find the name of the pub, and it is not mentioned in the County Hall booklet.

This is the view of County Hall today, the photographer for the above photo was probably standing a bit closer to the river wall than I am, but everything in the following photo was built on reclaimed land.

County Hall

The new river wall and embankment was a significant construction, and before work on this could start, a timber dam had to be built to hold back the Thames from the construction site. The dam consisted of a wall of tongue and groove timber piles, which had to be driven through four feet of mud, then eleven feet of ballast (sand, gravel etc.) before reaching London Clay, then driven further into the clay to provide a firm fixing.

This was needed as the dam would have to hold back a significant wall of water, as the tidal range could be over 20 feet, so the dam had to hold back sometimes no water (at very low tides) and at very high tides, a wall of over 20 feet of water pressing on the dam.

The embankment wall was a very substantial construction, reaching down over 35 feet below the original Trinity high water mark. Between the river wall and County Hall, a new public walkway was constructed, and under the walkway there were large vaults within the open space between the walkway and the concrete raft at the base.

The following drawing shows the construction of the wall and embankment:

County Hall Embankment Wall

Behind the wall, a large area was excavated. Due to the marshy, damp nature of the ground a concrete raft was needed across the whole area on which County Hall would be built. It was during the excavation to build that raft that a significant discovery was made of the remains of a Roman boat, seen in the following photo as discovered:

County Hall Roman Boat

The booklet provides a description of how the boat was found:

“The discovery was primarily due to Mr. F.L. Dove, the present chairman of the Establishment Committee. While inspecting in January 1910, with Mr. R.C. Norman, the then Chairman of the Committee, the excavation for the concrete raft, he noticed a dark curved line in the face of the excavation immediately above the virgin soil, and some distance beneath the silt and the Thames mud. The workmen engaged suggested that it was a sunken barge, but Mr. Dove realised from its position that it must be of considerable antiquity, and accordingly requested the Council’s official architect to have the soil carefully removed from above.”

Mr. Dove was right about the considerable antiquity of the find. When excavated, it was found to be a Roman boat, constructed out of carved oak. It was lying 19 feet, 6 inches below high water, and 21 feet 6 inches below the nearby Belvedere Road.

The size of the boat was about 38 feet in length, and 18 feet across.

Within the boat were found four bronze coins, in date ranging from A.D. 268 to 296, portions of leather footwear studded with iron nails, and a quantity of pottery. There were signs that the boat had been damaged as several rounded stones were found, one of which was embedded in the wood, and there was indication that some of the upper parts of the boat had been burnt.

After excavation, the boat was offered to the Trustees of the London Museum, who accepted, and the boat was removed from site, with the following photo showing the transport of the boat from the excavation site. It is within a wooden frame to provide some protection.

Roman Boat

The boat was put on display in Stafford House, then the home of the London Museum. (Stafford House is now Lancaster House, in St. James, a short walk from Green Park station).

The following photo shows the boat on display:

Roman Boat

I contacted the Museum of London to see if parts of the boat were available to view, and was told a sorry story of the limitations of preservation techniques for much of the 20th century.

The boat was found beneath the silt and Thames mud in an area of damp ground. This created an oxygen free environment which preserved the boat’s timber.

As soon as the boat was exposed, it started to dry out, and over the year the timbers cracked and disintegrated. Museum of London staff tried to patch up with fillers, but this was long before the chemical means of conservation that we have today were available.

When the Museum of London moved to its current site on London Wall, only a small section was displayed, and this was removed from display when the gallery was refurbished in the mid-1990s.

Some key features of the boat such as joints and main timbers have been preserved as well as they can be after so many years, and are stored in the Museum of London’s remote storage facility, so not available for public display.

The Museum of London did donate some of the fragments to the Shipwreck Museum in Hasting, so I got in contact with them to find out what remained.

I had a reply from the former City of London archaeologist, Peter Marsden, who advised that much of what was preserved at Lancaster House was modern plaster of paris painted black. He also confirmed that only some ribs and a few bits of the planks survive, and are no longer on display.

Peter Marsden has written some fascinating books on Ships of the Port of London. They are very hard to find, however the English Heritage Archaeology Data Service has the book “Ships of the Port of London, First to eleventh centuries AD” available to download as a PDF from here. It is a fascinating read which includes many more discoveries in the Port of London as well as the County Hall Roman boat.

The age of the boat seems to be around 300 AD which is confirmed by the coins discovered in the boat all being earlier, and Peter Marsden managed to get a tree ring date of around 300 AD from one of the planks.

It is difficult to confirm exactly why the boat was lost on the future site of County Hall. There was much speculation at the time, including in the County Hall booklet, that the boat had been lost during battles in AD 297. The burning on parts of the wood written about in the booklet has not been confirmed, and the stones could have been ballast.

It seems more likely that the boat may have been damaged, or simply lost on what was the marshy Thames foreshore and land of the south bank. Away from the City of London, the boat was left to rot, gradually being covered by the preserving mud and silt of the river until discovery in 1910.

There is another feature on the plan of the new County Hall that suggests the boat could have been on the edge of the Thames foreshore.

On the opposite side of County Hall to the river is a street called Belvedere Road. This was originally called Narrow Wall. The first written references to the name Narrow Wall date back to the fifteenth century, and it could be much older. The name refers to a form of earthen wall or walkway, possibly built to prevent the river coming too far in land, and as a means of walking along the edge of the river.

In the following extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map of London, Westminster Bridge is at the lower left corner, and slightly further to the right, Narrow Wall can be seen running north.

Narrow Wall

Although straightened out and widened, Belvedere Road follows the approximate route of Narrow Wall.

If Narrow Wall was built along a line that formed a boundary between river and the land, then the Roman boat was close to this and would have been in the shallow part of the reed beds that probably formed the foreshore.

I have annotated the original plan from the booklet with some of the key features, including the location of the Roman boat:

County Hall

The following view is looking along Belvedere Road / Narrow Wall, with County Hall to the left:

Belvedere Road

The following photo is a view of the entrance to County Hall from Belvedere Road. The Roman boat was found just behind the doors to the left:

County Hall

There is a curious link between the finding of the Roman boat and the laying of the foundation stone commemorated by the booklet.

The foundation stone was laid on Saturday the 9th of March 1912 by King George V. Underneath the foundation station was a bronze box, the purpose of which was described in newspaper reports of the ceremony:

“Depositing a ‘find’ for some archaeologist of the future, the King and Queen watching the foundation stone of the new London County Hall being lowered into position. Before the stone was lowered into position and declared by the King to be well and truly laid, his Majesty closed a bronze box containing certain current coins and documents recording the proceeding, and caused it to be placed in a receptacle in the stone. Perhaps at some dim future day, when London ‘is one with Nineveh and Tyre’ this box and its contents will come to light beneath the spade of an excavator, burrowing amid the ruins of a forgotten civilisation.”

So having been the site of excavation of a Roman boat, the hope was that the bronze box would form an archeological discovery in some distant future.

I assume the bronze box is still there, below the foundation stone, in the north-east lobby adjacent to the old Council Chamber.

Construction of County Hall continued slowly. It was a large building requiring large numbers of workmen and materials.

The coal and dock strikes of 1912 and building workers strike of 1914 delayed construction. Work continued during the First World War, however war demands such as on the rail network caused problems with the transport of granite from Cornwall to London.

As parts of the building became useable, they were taken over by rapidly growing Government departments such as the Ministry of Munitions and Ministry of Food, who were able to prioritorise their needs over the LCC due to the demands of war.

By the end of September 1919, the LCC were able to retake possession of the building, and work on completion continued quickly, with over one thousand men working on the site by March 1921.

The building was soon substantially complete, was gradually being taken over by an ever expanding LCC staff, and was officially opened in July 1922.

The London County Council continued until the 1st April 1965. The London Government Act of 1963 restructured how London was governed, and this led to the Greater London Council (GLC) which took over from the LCC.

The GLC lasted to the 31st of March, 1986 when it was abolished by the 1985 Local Government Act, primarily down to conflict between the Labour held GLC and the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher across the river.

The building was sold to the Shirayama Shokusan Corporation, a private Japanese company, for £60 million. and in the following years it would be converted to a hotel and the ground floor facing the embankment walkway hosts tourist destinations such as Shrek’s World of Adventure, a Sealife Centre and the ticket offices for the London Eye.

County Hall is Grade II listed, and the original Council Chamber of the LCC has been preserved, and is now available to hire and is used as a theatre.

The architect Ralph Knott worked on County Hall for most of his career. He had been called up into the Royal Air Force during the First World War where he was responsible for the design of airfield buildings, but he still kept in touch with County Hall construction. He returned to the County Hall project after the war to see the main building through to completion.

He was still working on plans for extension of the building late in his career, which were not finished at the time of his death at the young age of 50 on the 25th of January 1929.

County Hall is a fitting tribute to Ralph Knott. A relatively simple, but grand and imposing building facing onto the river, suitable for an institution that was to have so much impact on the 20th century development of London. A building of contrasting design to the Palace of Westminster on the opposite bank of the river.

Sad that the Roman boat has been substantially lost. Preservation of organic remains that have been in waterlogged soil for centuries is difficult, but thankfully now much better, as seen for example, with the preservation of the Mary Rose in Portsmouth.

I hope that no readers comment that the bronze box beneath the foundation stone has been removed. It would be great that it is still there for archaeologists in the distant future to dig up.

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Dr John Leake’s General Lying-In Hospital and Leake Street

On the South Bank, where York Road meets the large junction with Westminster Bridge Road, and just south of Waterloo Station, there is a building that today stands out among the surrounding new hotels. This is the General Lying-In Hospital, an institution founded in 1765 by Dr John Leake.

Dr John Leake

The building we see today was constructed in 1830, after the death of Dr John Leake, however it is here because he was instrumental in founding the first dedicated maternity hospital, which originally was a very short distance away on Westminster Bridge Road.

John Leake was born on the 8th June 1729 at Ainstable in Cumberland. There is not that much written evidence of his early life, however he went to Bishop Auckland Grammar School, and became a Doctor of Medicine at Rheims at the age of thirty four, and was admitted to the College of Physicians three year later.

In the mid 18th century, the requirements for entry to the medical profession were rather basic. The ideal candidate was a “cultured and highly educated gentleman”, who only needed an adequate knowledge of medicine. One could become a Doctor via an apprenticeship, and a physician would need only one year’s training in medicine, although up to 1812, the College of Physicians required only six months hospital practice.

There is no record as to how Dr John Leake became interested in child birth, but on Wednesday the 7th of August 1765, he was calling together a meeting of the sponsors of the new hospital at Appleby’s Tavern in Parliament Street.

The new hospital was to be called the Westminster New Lying-In Hospital, and at the meeting Leake reported that sufficient funds had been received to purchase a plot of land for the new hospital, on Westminster Bridge Road, probably today under the railway bridge leading into Waterloo Station.

Dr John Leake:

Dr John Leake

The new hospital was to be for “the Relief of those Child-bearing Women who are the wives of poor Industrious Tradesmen or distressed House-keepers, and who either from unavoidable Misfortunes of the Expenses of maintaining large Families are reduced to real Want. Also for the Reception and Immediate Relief of indigent Soldiers and Sailors Wives, the former in particular being very numerous in and about the City of Westminster”.

The first stone of the new hospital was laid on the 15th August 1765 during a Governors visit to the building site. A view of the hospital when complete:

Dr John Leake

The location of the original hospital is shown in the following extract from Smith’s New Plan of London from 1816:

Dr John Leake

In 1766, there were problems with cash flow and raising sufficient funds to complete the hospital. As well as subscriptions from individuals, events were planned, including a benefit play. The play appears to have taken place at Covent Garden on Boxing Day, 1766, when £114 was raised. There had also been an earlier benefit play at Drury Lane Theatre.

Dr John Leake must have been very busy during the 1760s. As well as the challenge of funding and building the new hospital, he was also a practicing doctor as well as training and lecturing. An advert in the papers of 1767 provides a view of how his lectures were carried out:

“On Monday the 5th October next, at seven in the Evening, will begin, A Course of Lectures on the THEORY and PRACTICE of MIDWIFERY, and the Diseases of Women and Children, in which the true principles of that Science will be distinctly laid down and the several Operations clearly demonstrated, by an artificial representation of each difficult Labour, upon Machines of a new Construction, exactly resembling Women and Children.

By John Leake M.D. Member of the Royal College of Physicians, London and Physician Man-Midwife to the Westminster New Lying-In Hospital. Where the Students for their more expeditious and effectual Improvement, will be admitted to attend as Pupils.”

The title “Physician Man-Midwife” for John Leake came into force on the 2nd June 1767 when he was unanimously elected to the position, as the first medical appointment for the new hospital.

Whilst the earlier statement about who would be admitted to the hospital implies quite an open policy, it did require an introduction from a subscriber and a standard letter had been prepared where a subscriber would request a named person to be admitted as a patient and was “an Object worthy of Charity”.

Governors would have to approve an introduction, and as in the mid 18th century anti-natal care was almost non-existent, Governors would only admit a patient in their last month of pregnancy.

Between the 20th April 1767 and 20th April 1769, the hospital had delivered 218 babies, three of which had been still born. The hospital had an infant death rate of 90 per 1,000 births, and a maternal mortality of 4.7 per 1,000 births. Very much higher than today, but believed to be considerably better than giving birth outside of such an institution.

The hospital would only allow women entry in the last month of their pregnancy. This resulted in over ten percent of women who had been approved to give birth in the hospital, not attending as they had delivered at home, prior to the last month. There is no record of the results of such home births.

An ongoing problem for the hospital came from the Parish in which the hospital was located. At the time, the Parish would become responsible for children where the mothers could not support them, and on the 6th December 1769, Lambeth Parish made a complaint to the hospital about ten children born in the hospital who had become chargeable to the parish.

It even appears that some mothers were claiming their babies had been born in the hospital to get the support from the parish, as the parish were checking names with the hospital to confirm they had been a patient.

Dr John Leake died in 1792, and newspapers on the 16th August carried a rather simple notice of his death: “Yesterday died, in Parliament Street, Dr John Leake, Physician to the Westminster Lying-In Hospital, of which he was the founder, and the author of several useful publications”.

It was a rather underwhelming tribute given his achievements, the main one being instrumental in setting up the hospital.

After John Leake’s death, there were a number of months when the hospital went through an unsettled period. People competed for positions within the Governors and for medical appointments in the hospital, and new management started to change some of the hospital’s processes, however by mid 1793, the hospital had settled down into a new phase of running without the key founder.

A critical issue for the hospital for the following few decades seems to have been having sufficient funds to maintain operations, with regular appeals for donations and subscribers.

A report at the start of 1827 provides an indication of the number of patients both within the hospital, and being seen as out-patients:

Dr John Leake

By the early 1820s, there was a need to find a new location for the hospital. The existing site had a complex set of leases with different owners, which each had to be renewed at different times. The old building was also becoming unsuitable given advances in midwifery and maintaining hygiene within a hospital environment.

After some searching, a site was found, that would become the site of the hospital we see today. To help with funding, more subscribers were needed, and the search for subscribers sheds some light on how they were involved with the selection of patients “That is future Subscribers of Twenty Guineas at one payment be allowed to recommend yearly two in-patients and two out-patients and one for advice”. Ten guinea subscribers could only recommend one patient for each of the categories.

The move to the new hospital seems to have taken place in 1828, however the hospital has the date 1830 on the far right of the façade in the photo below. This seems to be when the Common Seal was affixed to the lease for the land which had been given by the Archbishop of Canterbury. By this time, Westminster had also been dropped from the name of the hospital and it became simply the General Lying-In Hospital.

Dr John Leake

Care during pregnancy during the first half of the 19th century was almost non-existent. Recognition of complications during pregnancy was very limited unless such complications were catastrophic. Standards of hygiene were poor in many of the Lying-In Hospitals. Many of the approaches to complications were horrendous and carried out without anesthetic. The mortality rate for Caesarian section was dreadful. Of the fifty-two operations carried out in 1838, only thirteen women survived.

The General Lying-In Hospital published numbers of deliveries and maternal deaths for the years 1855 to 1875, as shown in the following table:

Dr John Leake

The figures recorded by the hospital do not state whether a delivery was a single child, or whether a delivery covered twins where these were born.

Assuming each delivery is a single child per mother, then the average death rate of mothers was fifteen per thousand. For comparison, I checked the World Bank statistics for Great Britain, and today the mortality figure is seven per 100,000 live births. A phenomenal improvement since the first half of the 19th century.

Many of the problems with child birth in the first half of the nineteenth century were not just through medical complications, but were caused by the level of poverty that was effecting so many of London residents at the time. Malnutrition and rickets resulted in a disproportionate size of fetal head and that of the pelvis. This resulted in many cases of difficult delivery.

The rates of child mortality were also high, and whilst the working population was most effected due to poor diet, housing conditions, poverty etc. child death also affected all levels of society and could influence history.

When King William IV died in 1837, he had no legitimate heirs. His wife, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen had suffered the death of five children. Three, including twin boys were stillborn and two died within six months of birth. Perhaps because of these deaths, Queen Adelaide was a sponsor of the General Lying-In Hospital, contributing £10 per annum to the charity.

As William therefore had no legitimate heirs, the crown would pass to Victoria, who would reign from 1837 to 1901 and stamp her name on two thirds of the 19th century, a significant period of the industrial revolution, and when the basics of the modern world were formed.

Above the main entrance to the hospital is an inscription – “Licensed for the public reception of pregnant women pursuant to an Act of Parliament passed in the thirteenth year of the reign of King George the Third”.

This act, passed in 1773, long before the new hospital building was constructed, attempted to address the problem with local parishes objecting to taking on the expense of illegitimate babies, by making the Governors of such hospitals apply for a licence to continue. The hospital could therefore claim that it was operating legally under an Act of Parliament.

Dr John Leake

The issue of unmarried mothers had long been troubling for the hospital and in 1774 the Governors decided to exclude unmarried mothers from the hospital, however to moderate this decision, the Governors retained the ability to admit unmarried mothers at their discretion.

The second half of the 19th century did see considerable improvement in the practice of midwifery, hygiene, and general medical practice, and at the start of the 20th century we can get a remarkable glimpse into the life of the hospital.

When researching this post, I found a series of photographs of staff at the hospital in 1908, held by the Wellcome Collection. Fortunately these can be used under a Creative Commons licence.

General Lying-In Hospital Nurses

General Lying In Hospital, York Road, Lambeth: nurse sitting with baby in incubator. Photograph, 1908.. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

The nurse in the above photo is shown in a second photo in a far more relaxed pose, holding one of the babies in her care. It is a wonderful photo from 1908:

General Lying-In Hospital Nurses

General Lying In Hospital, York Road, Lambeth: nurse sitting holding baby. Photograph, 1908.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionPublic Domain Mark

The General Lying-In Hospital had run training sessions, which included work at the hospital, since Dr John Leake had originally founded the hospital and the following photo from 1908 shows the Labour Ward Nursing Staff and Pupil Midwives:

General Lying-in hospital Nurses

General Lying In Hospital, York Road, Lambeth: labour ward staff and students. Photograph, 1908.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionPublic Domain Mark

A larger group of hospital staff:

General Lying-In Hospital Nurses

General Lying In Hospital, York Road, Lambeth: hospital staff. Photograph, 1908.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionPublic Domain Mark

As well as the hospital staff in the above photo, look at the central window in the rear of the photo, and there are a couple of faces looking at what is happening on their neighbouring building:

Dr John Leake

A smaller group photo:

Generl Lying-In Hospital Nurses

General Lying In Hospital, York Road, Lambeth: group of nurses. Photograph, 1908.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionPublic Domain Mark

In a similiar way to the faces in the window in the earlier photo, look to the right edge of the above photo and there is someone sneaking a look at what is going on.

Weighing a baby:

Dr John Leake

General Lying In Hospital, York Road, Lambeth: nurses weighing a baby. Photograph, 1908.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionPublic Domain Mark

Another smaller group photo, this time of the senior staff of the hospital. The woman on the right of the photo is the same nurse / midwife as in the first two photos.

Dr John Leake

General Lying In Hospital, York Road, Lambeth: senior staff. Photograph, 1908.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionPublic Domain Mark

Unfortunately there is only one photo that records the name of those in the photo. This is Nurse Woodyer (note the scissors tucked into the belt):

Dr John Leake

General Lying In Hospital, York Road, Lambeth: nurse Woodyer. Photograph, 1908.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionPublic Domain Mark

By the time of the above photos, the treatment of patients had improved considerably. This included the use of anesthetic. There had been much clerical objection to the use of pain relief during labour – no doubt from those who did not have to suffer such pain, however the use of anesthetic during child birth gained popularity after Queen Victoria used chloroform for births in 1853 and 1857.

There were still challenges, for example in 1877, the hospital was suffering high mortality rates of 1 in 19. The cause was believed to be overcrowding, dirty linen and poor ventilation. Recommendations to address these problems included moving the toilets outside of the main building, replacing sacking which had been used on the base of bedsteads with iron battens, more space between patients and improved ventilation.

Despite the challenging issues in 1877, the 19th century saw gradual improvements in care, as the following table of the maternal death rate shows;

Dr John Leake

As had been the practice of the hospital since founding, there was a continual training programme and in 1907, the numbers trained covered 33 Midwives, 83 Maternity Nurses, and in the district for house calls, 16 Maternity Nurses had been trained.

The procedure whereby subscribers could recommend patients had been in force since the opening of the hospital and lasted a remarkably long time. It was only in 1922 that the Governing Committee decide to abolish the use of the procedure, however probably to keep subscribers financial support, they still had a route where they could apply to the Lady Almoner of the hospital if they had a patient they wanted to recommend.

The hospital did try to run an open access approach, however as seems to have been the problem since opening – funds were always tight and additional support was always wanted.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the General Lying-In Hospital had been expanding. There was a Post-Certificate School in Camberwell for advanced training, and the hospital had opened up a unit at St. Albans, and it was the St. Albans operation which grew in use from 1940 when 50 patients a month were being transferred from York Road to St. Albans due to the dangers of bombing.

The end of the General Lying-In Hospital in its charitable form came with the National Health Service Act of 1946, when the hospital became part of the NHS in July 1948. The hospital was no longer dependent on subscribers and charitable donations, and the Board of Governors was disbanded.

The Ministry of Health had arranged for the General Lying-In Hospital to come under the Board of Governors of St Thomas’s Hospital, and an indication of the future loss of independence came in 1949 when the hospital was informed that it would become part of the Obstetric and Gynecological Department of St Thomas’s Hospital.

St Thomas’s was also the site where all new high-tech diagnostic equipment would be housed, so the long term future of the General Lying-In Hospital was starting to look rather limited.

in the mid 1960s there were three local hospital’s with facilities for child birth. Lambeth and St Thomas’s as well as the General Lying-In Hospital. The late 1960s also saw a reduction in the number of births and the number of children born per mother was also decreasing. Changing social attitudes, increased use of contraception and the introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1961, initially for married women, but generally available for all from 1967 resulted in the viability of three hospitals for child birth being questioned.

The end of the General Lying-In Hospital came in 1971 when the hospital closed, and services moved to St Thomas’s.

Today, the building is part of the adjacent Premier Inn, and although there is a Premier Inn sign on the side of the building, there is no plaque or sign commemorating the founder of the hospital – Dr John Leake.

To find Dr John Leake’s name we must walk a short distance from the General Lying-In Hospital.

I have circled the location of the hospital in the following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’.

Leake Street

I have also marked the start and end points of York Street with two red arrows. Part of the street passes under the rail tracks leading into Waterloo Station.

By the time of the 1951 Ordnance Survey Map, the name had changed from York Street to Leake Street, again highlighted by the red arrows in the following map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’:

Leake Street

The name change was due to early 20th century attempts to reduce the number of duplicate street names across the city, as reported on the 28th September 1920 in the Westminster Gazette: “There are five streets within a radius of 1.5 miles from Piccadilly Circus all named York-street. It has been decided to re-name York-street, Lambeth, Leake-street in honour of Dr John Leake, who was largely instrumental in founding the general lying-in hospital in the street”.

So Dr John Leake finally had his name close to the pioneering hospital that he founded back in 1765. The street can still be found today, although most of the street passes under the tracks of Waterloo Station as shown in the following map, with the red circle showing the location of the old hospital building (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Leake Street

I went to take a look at the street named after Dr John Leake, and this is where this is a post of two very different halves:

Leake Street

To find Leake Street walk past the hospital, and past the adjacent Premier Inn, then an office block until you find a street heading towards the arches beneath Waterloo Station. Unfortunately there are no street name signs to confirm that this is Leake Street, however this is the current view of the street from York Road:

Leake Street

The first part of the street has a somewhat derelict feel, and this is an indication of what is to come:

Leake Street

The entrance to Leake Street Arches where Leake Street runs underneath Waterloo Station. At least here we can find Leake’s name, although I doubt very much whether many of those who pass this way realise the association of the name and hospital.

Leake Street

Looking down Leake Street Arches:

Leake Street Arches

Almost every available space is covered in graffiti.

Leake Street Graffiti

This dates back to May 2008 when the artist Banksy, along with 29 other street artists decorated much of the tunnel with graffiti.

Up untill then, Leake Street had been a rather gloomy, disused road. The arches on either side were generally used for storage, including a rather unusual use as an oil company kept core samples retrieved during drilling in a couple of the arches.

The Leake Street Arches are today a bit of an institution, with bars occupying many of the arches that lead off from the main tunnel.

Leake Street Graffiti

As well as the side walls, the brick roof of the tunnel has been used as a canvas:

Leake Street Graffiti
Leake Street Graffiti
Leake Street Graffiti

A riot of colour:

Leake Street Graffiti
Leake Street Graffiti
Leake Street Arches

Graffiti is not static and is continually being refreshed. During my walk through the tunnel a couple of weeks ago, an area of wall had been prepared for a new work, and paint cans were ready on the floor:

Leake Street Arches

New works are not just painted in isolation, they frequently have a film crew ready to record the process.

Leake Street Arches

A glimpse inside one of the side arches that is not in use shows the size of the space and the wonderful brick work that makes up the arches and tunnel that support the station platforms and tracks above:

Leake Street Arches

Almost every surface has been painted:

Leake Street
Leake Street

Graffiti changes regularly and is actively encouraged throughout the tunnels of Leake Street.

Leake Street
Leake Street

Walls, ceiling and occasional parts of the floor are covered in graffiti:

Leake Street Arches

At the far end, there are steps up to Station Approach Road which runs alongside Waterloo Station, or follow the walkway on the left, under Station Approach to get to Lower Marsh. The road curves to the right as shown in the following photo to a fenced off dead end.

Leake Street Arches

Looking back along Leake Street Arches:

Leake Street Arches

Apart from the sign for Leake Street Arches at the entrance to the tunnel, there is no further mention of the name, and no reference as to the source of the name. The web site for the tunnel and arches. Leake Street Arches, makes no reference to the source of the name, focusing instead on the cultural, entertainment, food and drink venues within the tunnel.

I have no idea what Dr John Leake would have thought if he could see the only place on the South Bank where his name can be seen. What would be good is if Premier Inn could add a plague to the building.

As well as the tunnel and arches, I am sure Dr John Leake would be fascinated by how much the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth has developed, how the mortality rate for mothers and babies has reduced to levels perhaps unimaginable during the mid 18th century, and that care is now available to all via the NHS without any need for subscribers recommendations.

As well as old newspapers, I have used a fascinating book to research this post. In 1977 Professor Philip Rhodes published “Dr John Leake’s Hospital”. Just under 400 pages of detailed history of the hospital, Leake, social conditions across London and attitudes to pregnancy and child birth, as well as the development of this specialised area of care.

Professor Philip Rhodes was on the consultant obstetric staff at the General Lying-In Hospital, eventually becoming Dean of the Medical School and Governor of St Thomas’s Hospital.

His book is a fascinating history of an aspect of London life, and an institution where over 150,000 people where born from 1767 to 1971 – all thanks to Dr John Leake.

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Middlesex Guildhall, City of London School and White Swan Pub

One of the brilliant things with writing the blog posts is the feedback from readers in the comments section. Readers frequently provide additional information, or clarify questions that I had not been able to answer, and last week’s post was no exception.

The reason I could not find any further UK census information or references to the later life of Llewellyn Wooderson is that it appears that he emigrated to New Zealand. The answer to the age difference between Henry Wooderson and his wife Sarah in the 1881 census appears to be an error in Henry’s year of birth, in addition to the spelling of Leicester Square as Lester Square – you cannot always believe everything in census data and need to double check with multiple sources where possible. There was also some feedback on the Toronto, Canada birth of their son.

I had taken the 2021 photo of the old shop not that long ago, and Cards Galore, the shop that now occupies that of L&R Wooderson is reported to have closed. If so, a sad casualty of the lack of office workers in the City.

My thanks for the feedback to last week’s post, and indeed, feedback to all posts.

Now to the subject of this week’s post. Two rather lovely London buildings, and an update on another city pub at risk.

Middlesex Guildhall

The Royal Aquarium was the subject of one of last year’s posts, and to illustrate the location of the building, I included the following map. To the right was another building, marked as “Guildhall”, circled in red in the map below:

Middlesex Guildhall

Middlesex Guildhall is a rather impressive building, facing onto Parliament Square. Once the home of Middlesex County Council and Quarter Sessions, the building is now home to the Supreme Court.

The inclusion of Middlesex in the name refers to the old County of Middlesex that once included much of London, dating from a time when the country was split into counties, rather than many of the City and Metropolitan Boroughs and administrative divisions that we have today, for example Greater London, which took over much of the County of Middlesex following the London Government Act 1963, although London had already been chipping away at the boundaries of counties such as Middlesex and Essex for some time.

The site of the Middlesex Guildhall was the site of Westminster Abbey’s Sanctuary Tower and Old Belfry. The name sanctuary refers to the expectation that fugitives could claim sanctuary from pursuers if they could make it into the building. The name can still be found today as I will show later in the post.

An old court house had existed on the site during the 19th century, however in 1889 this was replaced by the first Middlesex Guildhall, however this was too small for both the administrative and legal functions carried out in the building, and the building that we see today was built between 1906 and 1913. This was the building in the early 1920s:

Middlesex Guildhall

And 100 years later the building remains exactly the same, although now cleaned, and the trees in the foreground have grown:

Middlesex Guildhall

The architect was James Gibson, who designed a late Gothic style building, faced with Portland Stone, although with a steel frame which helped take on much of the load bearing functions and supported features such as the tower which rises from the centre of the façade facing onto Parliament Square.

Gibson’s other work in London included West Ham Technical College, completed in 1895.

Some of the very distinctive features of the building are the sculpture by Henry Charles Fehr, which can be found across the building. Fehr was also responsible for some of the carving on the wood seating and panels in the Court Rooms. The Middlesex Guildhall would be considered the peak of his career.

The following photo shows the cluster of sculpture above the main entrance to the building:

Middlesex Guildhall

This shows Henry III (on the left), granting a charter to the Abbey of Westminster. Above are the arms of the County of Middlesex (the three Seaxes, or swords, with the crown above), and below is what looks to be a view of Westminster Hall:

Middlesex Guildhall

There is more on either side of the main entrance, including Lady Jane Grey being offered the crown by her father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland:

Middlesex Guildhall

And King John with the Barons at Runnymede:

Middlesex Guildhall

Fehr’s work is finely carved and very detailed:

Middlesex Guildhall

The building was designed with courts of law for the administration of justice, and this role has continued to this day as the building is now home to the Supreme Court. Figures holding the symbols of Justice:

Middlesex Guildhall

The courtrooms within the Middlesex Guildhall have seen many trials over the years. Some of the more unusual were possibly the court martial of spies during the First World War. For example from the Evening Telegraph on the 14th July 1915:

“TWO GERMANS ARRESTED ON CHARGE OF BEING SPIES, On His Majesty’s Fleet – The authorities announce the arrest of two alleged German spies. Their trial will take place by Court Martial on Friday next at Middlesex Guildhall. The whole proceedings will be held in camera.

They will be charged with collecting and attempting to communicate with the enemy, information about His Majesty’s Fleet.”

The above trial followed an earlier trial of the alleged spy Robert Rosenthal which was the subject of some publicity at the time as the London Daily News reported on the 7th July 1915:

“TRIAL OF ROSENTHAL. Proceedings in Camera at Middlesex Guildhall – The trial of the alleged spy, Robert Rosenthal, began before a general court martial at Middlesex Guildhall yesterday. He is accused of coming to this country for the purpose of obtaining information both of a naval and military character.

Originally it was announced that part of the evidence would be taken in public, but at the last moment it was decided that the whole trial should take place in camera.

Prisoner was defended by Mr. Frampton. A large crowd assembled outside Middlesex Guildhall to witness the arrival of the members of the court. None of the public was allowed in the building. The entrance to the court where the trial was conducted was guarded by soldiers, and inside Rosenthal was placed between soldiers with fixed bayonets.”

Robert Rosenthal was a German, born in Magdeburg in 1892. At the age of around 16, he went to sea, and spent time in America where he presumably learnt, or improved his American accent as in 1914 he was in England using the assumed name of Harry Berger and travelling as an American.

He travelled between England and the continent a couple of times without any problems, but on his final trip in May 1915 he was arrested as he tried to board a ship.

His arrest was down to a strange error in the direction of post. He would travel back to Copenhagen as travel to Germany was not possible, and when in Copenhagen he had posted a letter to Germany, detailing his plans. This letter was accidently put into a mail bag heading to England, which was opened on arrival by the postal censorship authorities, revealing his identity and travel plans.

The court martial at Middlesex Guildhall found Rosenthal guilty and he was sentenced to death as a spy. Rather than the typical execution by firing squad, Rosenthal was hanged at Wandsworth prison just 8 days after the trial, on the 15th July 1925.

Whilst the Middlesex Guildhall today does not see any court martials, as the home of the Supreme Court, the building will now often see the ultimate determination of justice. Probably the most high profile recent cases have been the challenges to the Brexit vote and the process of leaving the European Union a few years ago.

As well as the historic and legal sculpture, there are also a number of cultural references, including the following reclining figure with an artist’s palette and brushes.

Middlesex Guildhall

A walk to the rear of the Middlesex Guildhall will be rewarding. The name of the street, Little Sanctuary, recalls what was here when Westminster Abbey allowed privilege of sanctuary to law-breakers who took refuge in its north west precincts.

Middlesex Guildhall

More of Henry Charles Fehr’s ornate sculpture can be found:

Middlesex Guildhall

And then there is a rather different entrance:

Middlesex Guildhall

The stone gateway surround is all that remains of Bridewell or Tothill Fields prison which originally stood roughly where Westminster Cathedral is today, set back from Victoria Street.

The plaque above the door reads:

“Here are ….. Sorts of Work for the Poor of this Parish of St Margaret’s Westminster. As also the County according to Law and for Such as will Beg and Live Idle in this City and Liberty of Westminster. Anno 1665.”

A sign adjacent to the door explains how the gateway arrived at the Middlesex Guildhall:

Middlesex Guildhall

The Middlesex Guildhall is Grade II* listed, however this did not stop some significant internal change when the building was reconfigured to be ready to function as the Supreme Court.

The three Court Rooms, with the main court room originally being the Council Chamber for Middlesex Council, were planned to have much of their wooded seating, paneling and decoration removed and many of the internal rooms reconfigured for their new purpose.

Save Britain’s Heritage campaigned for the changes to be abandoned, however although they had the support of many in the arts and architecture communities, judges and MPs, Westminster Council approved the plans, and on appeal it was decided that it was in the national interest to have a Supreme Court and for the court to be located in Middlesex Guildhall, and that these national interests over-rode listed buildings law.

The original plans had included the removal of the arms of Middlesex from above the main entrance doors, however, as the photograph shows earlier in the post, the arms remain as a reminder of the original function of the building.

The second building for this week’s post is the:

Old City of London School

Viewed from across the River Thames, just to the west of Blackfriars Bridge, and between the cranes of the works for the Thames Tideway Tunnel is the building that was home to the City of London School.

City of London School

The origins of the school date back to around 1442, when John Carpenter, a former Town Clerk of the City left a property for the education of four choristers at the Guildhall Chapel.

In the early 19th century, the City of London decided to review the provision of education in the City, including that provided to the Guildhall Choristers, and in 1883 decided to found a school for the “religious and virtuous education of boys, and for instructing them in the higher branches of literature and in all other useful learning”.

The result was the first City of London School which was built on the site of Honey Lane Market, north of Cheapside. This market was not far from the site of last week’s post on the corner of Wood Lane and Cheapside, see the same map from the post showing the location of Honey Lane Market:

City of London School

The Honey Lane Market school opened in 1837, however by 1878 the school was becoming far too crowded, and the decision was taken that a new site and larger school was needed. The school was described as “affording educational facilities, to, on an average, upwards of 600 boys at one time. The sons of people residing in, and within a few miles of the City of London, and engaged in commercial, professional or trading pursuits, at moderate cost, and without removing them from the care or control of their parents”.

The original school on the site of Honey Lane Market:

City of London School

Source: Wikimedia Commons – Engraving by J. Woods of the City of London School in Milk Street. Original steel engraving drawn by Hablot Browne (1815-1882) after a sketch by Robert Garland (1808-1863). This was published in The History of London Illustrated by Views in London and Westminster (1838)

By coincidence, Henry Charles Fehr, who was responsible for the sculpture on the Middlesex Guildhall, had been a pupil at the City of London School on the Honey Lane Market site.

A site alongside the recently constructed Victoria Embankment was chosen, and in December 1882, the new school was opened by the Prince of Wales.

The new school would support up to 700 children and was intended to provide a level of education that would “lead to Universities for those who seek it”.

The new school photographed at the end of the 19th century, about 15 years after opening:

City of London School

To the rear of the building facing the Victoria Embankment were a number of additional school buildings along with a large playground and gym. Below ground there was a rifle range.

In 1937 for the centenary of the school, a biology lab was opened along with “one of the finest swimming pools in London”. In 1956 a Junior School was added to the site and two years later new Science rooms were added.

View of the school from Blackfriars Bridge, partly hidden by the Thames Tideway Tunnel works where a new intercept junction is being built, so that flow from the city sewer system can be intercepted and fed into the new tunnel. A new public space will be created when the work has completed.

City of London School

In the above photo, it looks as if the new river wall to the new space is being installed. Taking a closer look at this I was fascinated to see that the words “Bazalgette Embankment, Tunnel 48m Below”. Brilliant to see that the creator of the Embankment is being remembered, along with the latest engineering project at the site, with the depth of the tunnel far below.

Detail on the new river wall:

City of London School

A side view of the old City of London School shows the different materials used, with stone facing to the front of the building and much cheaper brick to the sides:

City of London School

The school on the Embankment would continue in use until 1986, when a new school was built, a short distance along the river, on a large site between Queen Victoria Street and the river. Part being constructed over Upper Thames Street.

The front of the building from the Victoria Embankment:

City of London School

If you look at the above photo, just below the parapet that lines the base of the roof, you will see four statues which reflect the educational focus of the school in literature, poetry and science with Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton and Newton being represented, however one of these has a strange spelling:

City of London School

Look at the statue to the left, and the spelling of the name on the plinth is Shakspeare, missing out the “e” between the k and s, as in the normal spelling of Shakespeare.

I know there have been alternative spellings of Shakespeare’s name, however the version with the “e” seems to have been the standard for many years.

Was it a simple spelling mistake? Did one letter need to be dropped so the longer name would fit across the plinth? or is there some other reason? I would love to know.

Following the move of the school in 1986, the building was refurbished and is currently occupied by the asset management company J.P. Morgan.

The Middlesex Guildhall and the City of London School have found new uses, and appear safe for the time being from any further redevelopment, however for my final building of this week’s post, there is a pub that may be at risk:

The White Swan – Fetter Lane

I photographed and wrote about the Swan in Fetter Lane last July when I went on a walk to find all the pubs of the City of London.

White Swan

Plans have recently been approved for the redevelopment of 100-108 Fetter Lane, however these plans include two options for the pub:

Option A is for a new office building, but with the White Swan Pub relocated and “reimagined in an enhanced manner”.

Option B is for flexible office space, a pedestrian route, gardens and the White Swan retained as part of an extension of new commercial space.

Source: Buildington

Option A, where the pub appears to be demolished, and a new pub built in the dreaded words of “reimagined in an enhanced manner” sound rather ominous.

White Swan

Just three buildings out of the thousands that can be found across London, and representative of the change that always has, and will continue to take place across the city’s streets. I do hope though, that the White Swan survives. A fine example of a 1950’s brick built, London pub.

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Churchill Gardens and Battersea Power Station

If you travel along Grosvenor Road, the road that runs along the Thames embankment in Pimlico, opposite Battersea Power Station, you may catch a glimpse of a tall, round tower between the blocks of flats that form the Churchill Gardens estate.

It looks rather out of place. An industrial construction within an area dedicated for residential housing. It is now 70 years old, and is the remains of an innovative solution to make use of waste heat from Battersea Power Station to warm the homes of those living on the opposite bank.

Churchill Gardens

The tower is the most visible part of a highly complex system, that took hot water from Battersea Power Station, pumped it under the Thames through specially constructed pipes, stored water in the tower, then distributed it across both the Churchill Gardens and Dolphin Square estates for heating and hot water.

The system is described in considerable detail in a book published in 1951 for the Festival of Britain by the Association of Consulting Engineers. A large book that celebrates the work of civil engineering and construction across a wide range of projects.

The introductory paragraph to the section on the Churchill Gardens project provides an excellent description:

“In the ancient City of Westminster, almost within the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, so severely damaged by German bombers in 1942, great blocks of new flats are rising to meet the needs of London’s teeming millions, thousands of whom are still living in bomb-shattered houses built a century ago.

It is perhaps indicative of Britain’s will to survive and to surmount her economic troubles, that this great new housing estate, together with, it is expected an existing group of flats – probably the largest in Europe – is to have complete space heating and water heating by means of a district heating plan, thus banishing the dust and drudgery of the open coal fire, and the nuisance caused by the delivery and removal of fuel and ash for each block of flats. This plant is unique in two respects: it’s the first public heat supply in London, and it is also London’s first district heating plant wherein the heat is the byproduct of electricity generation. By this means the thermal efficiency of electric generating stations may be raised from its present figure of 25 per cent, to a figure approaching 75 per cent, for stations generating both electricity and heat.”

The section in the book is titled “District Heating Scheme, Pimlico Housing Estate and Dolphin Square”, as at the time the book was put together, the estate had not yet been given the name of Churchill Gardens.

The book includes diagrams and photos of the project.

In the following diagram, we can see Battersea Power Station at lower left, pipes leading under the river to the Churchill Gardens estate which is bounded by Lupus Street, Claverton Street, Grosvenor Road, and Westmoreland Terrace on the western boundary (now an extension of Lupus Street).

Churchill Gardens District Heating System

In the lower centre of the estate is the tower, labelled as the “Hot Water Accumulator”. Dolphin Square, which also received hot water from the scheme is to the right.

The pipes under the Thames were installed in a pre-existing Metropolitan Water Board tunnel, and they consisted of 12 inch bore pipes for feeding water from Battersea and pipes for the return of water. They were insulated by being covered in 2 inches of compressed cork.

The water sent from Battersea Power Station was up to a maximum of 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius) and was stored in the tower, or to use its correct name, the “Hot Water Accumulator” before being distributed across the estate.

Hot water was fed directly to radiators for heating and to a calorifier for hot tap water (a calorifier is basically a coil of pipe inside a tank of water allowing heat to be transferred between the two, so water from the mains supply was delivered at the tap, rather than water from the power station).

The purpose of the tower was to store a sufficient supply of hot water to balance demand, for example when there was higher demand than could be provided immediately through the pipes under the river.

Water temperature was regulated by the injection of the cooler return water to the hot water as by the time water had been used to heat the estate and it was being pumped back to Battersea, it was 70 degrees Fahrenheit cooler then originally sent.

The following diagram shows the supply chain from power station to flats:

District Heating System

The hot water accumulator tower, along with the rest of the heating system was constructed at the same time as the rest of the Churchill Gardens estate:

Churchill Gardens

The system had a number of safeguards built in as the Ministry of Health required assurance that the system would prevent the release of water at 200 degrees onto anyone who was working on the system. This included measures such as automatic stop valves which would operate when a fall in pressure was detected.

The outer surface of the tower consists of a steel framework with translucent glass panels.

Within the tower was the accumulator vessel which was 126 feet in height, and 29 feet in diameter. Constructed of mild steel plates and with a 3 inch layer of cork to provide insulation.

Hot Water Accumulator Tower

The project would save a considerable amount of coal, with the text in the book calculating a total of 10,000 tons of coal saved each year by taking the waste hot water from Battersea Power Station.

The amount of heat supplied to the individual flats across the estate was not measured, and a standard charge was applied to all residents for the service. For other buildings, the charge was based on the surface area of the installed radiators.

The hot water accumulator tower, and the first blocks of flats on the estate on the day of the official opening in 1951:

Hot Water Accumulator Tower

The following map shows the area today, with the Churchill Gardens estate within the red box, Dolphin Square with the blue box, and the hot water accumulator tower marked by the orange circle. Battersea Power Station is across the river marked by the light blue box (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Churchill Gardens

I went for a walk through the Churchill Gardens estate to find the accumulator tower and to take a look at the estate. Starting at the eastern side of the estate, I walked through the road that runs through the centre of the estate – Churchill Garden Road.

This is the view looking into the estate from Claverton Street:

Churchill Gardens

Map of the estate at the entrance from Claverton Street:

Churchill Gardens

Along with an early speed limit sign:

Churchill Gardens

The A.G. Dawtry. Town Clerk mentioned on the speed limit sign was Sir Alan Dawtry, who was town clerk, then chief executive of Westminster City Council from 1956 to 1977. He lived for 61 years in the nearby Dolphin Square complex and was instrumental in saving the building when in the 1960s the company that owned Dolphin Square was going through financial problems, and there was a risk that the buildings would be sold off and converted to a hotel.

The above sign probably dates from the later part of the 1950s, as the estate was being completed.

Pre-war, the area occupied by the Churchill Gardens estate had consisted of industrial buildings and terrace houses. Bomb damage during the war, and the slum conditions of the housing meant that the area was ideal for redevelopment.

The 1943 County of London plan had proposed the development of large, well planned estates, and at the end of the war, Westminster City Council launched a competition for the design of a new estate.

The competition was won by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, who were also responsible for the design of the Skylon for the Festival of Britain, the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster and the Museum of London building at London Wall.

The winning design by Powell and Moya included buildings with a variety of heights, consisting of eleven storey blocks to three and four storey houses and maisonettes. This was intended to break up any monotony across the estate, and to attract a broad cross section of residents.

Gardens and playgrounds would be provided between the buildings, and to address the urgent need for post war housing, the estate was designed to accommodate a high density of 200 people per acre, which was the maximum allowed at the time.

The first part of the estate that we reach from Claverton Street was the last finished. Built in the early 1960s, this part of the estate makes more use of glass than the rest of the estate:

Churchill Gardens

One of these 1960 to 1962 blocks crosses Churchill Garden Road, almost creating the impression of a gateway to the rest of the estate:

Churchill Gardens

Looking along Churchill Garden Road, we can see the main blocks of flats:

Churchill Gardens

The road curves as it runs through the estate, so the main blocks of flats do not form a continuous wall along the road. They are also aligned north – south so as to maximise the amount of day light that would fall on their main east – west facing windows.

The blocks that were built during the first phase of construction, from 1946 up to 1951 have large, glazed stairways protruding from the sides of the blocks. Later blocks would have galleries running along the length of the blocks.

Churchill Gardens

Well kept gardens between the blocks:

Churchill Gardens

Shelley House with a glimpse of the hot water accumulator tower to the right:

Churchill Gardens

In the above photo, a blue plaque can be seen on the wall.

Shelley House was one of the first four blocks completed by 1950 and the blue plaque is a Festival of Britain Award for Merit granted to these first blocks. These four blocks (Chaucer House, Coleridge House, Shelley House and Keats House) along with Gilbert House and Sullivan House on the western edge of estate, and the accumulator tower are also Grade II listed, and indeed the whole estate has been designated as a conservation area.

The Festival of Britain Award for Merit:

Festival of Britain

Looking back along Churchill Garden Road, and the block on the left has another plaque:

Churchill Gardens

This plaque marks the official opening of the estate on the 24th July 1951 when the first phase of the estate, including the hot water accumulator tower, had been completed:

Churchill Gardens

In the 1951 book by the Association of Consulting Engineers, the estate was called the “Pimlico Housing Estate”, as the estate had not yet been given an official name. A newspaper article in the Westminster and Pimlico News dated the 23rd March 1951 provides the sources of the name:

“It was disclosed at Westminster Council meeting that the name ‘Churchill Gardens’ was the brainwave of Housing Committee chairman, Councilor Miss Paton Walsh.

Mrs. Winston Churchill has agreed to perform the opening ceremony of the estate and of the district heating undertaking on Thursday, July 19.

Miss Paton Walsh pointed out that Mr. Churchill had many connections with Westminster in that he had lived and worked there and he was also their first honorary freeman of the city.”

The official opening covered the first phase of the estate and construction would continue into the 1960s. The 1950s were a difficult time for construction as there were so many competing demands for workers and materials as post war reconstruction gathered pace. This was also having an impact on Churchill Gardens as this article from the 3rd of August, 1951 edition of the Westminster and Pimlico News reported:

“Heartbreaking – It will be heartbreaking for home-seekers if flats at Churchill Gardens are held up while huge Government buildings started in the city are favoured and supplied with all the steel they need.

Sir Harold Webbe, Westminster’s MP attended the opening of Churchill Gardens. He is fully acquainted with the position. If there is a grave delay in the building of these flats he will undoubtedly use his influence in an effort to get things moving.”

Although the streets and houses that Churchill Gardens replaced had suffered bomb damage, with many regarded as slums, they were still occupied, and people were only moved when building had reached their part of the future estate. In 1959, contractors were preparing for demolition of the houses on the eastern edge of the estate ready for construction of the blocks that would be built in the early 1960s, however as the Westminster and Pimlico News reported on the 31st July 1959, there could still be delays:

“Demolition of houses in Claverton Street and Ranelagh Road, Pimlico on the site of Section IV of Churchill Gardens housing estate depends on rehousing the families still there.

Ald. C.P. Russell, chairman of the housing committee, said this at the Westminster Council meeting in a reply to a question put by Cllr. O.M. Boyd.

If rehousing proceeded at the anticipated rate, he expected demolition to start in the sprint of 1960.”

Another plaque from A.G. Dawtry. Town Clerk, this time banning Hawkers, Canvassers and Street Musicians, along with cycling on paths, throwing stones or other missiles, and that exercising dogs on the paths and lawns is not allowed.

Churchill Gardens

It is at this point in the estate that we meet the hot water accumulator tower:

Hot Water Accumulator Tower

At the base of the accumulator tower are buildings that house equipment for the heating system.

The supply of hot water from Battersea Power Station ended in 1983, when the final generators at the power station closed.

The system supplying heat to Churchill Gardens was then converted to what we would now call as District Heat and Power system. In the buildings at the base of the accumulator tower are boilers along with heat and electricity generating systems which produce heat for distribution across the estate, along with electricity which is fed into the National Grid, which provides revenue to help subsidise the costs of the system.

A poor view through the fence into the equipment rooms at the base of the tower, along with a graphic of the tower on the glass:

Churchill Gardens

The range of the system has extended from the original 1951 installation. As well as Churchill Gardens, the system now provides heating for Abbots Manor, Russell House and Lillington Gardens, with 5km of underground pipes serving 3,250 homes along with schools and commercial premises.

Another view of the equipment rooms, with the brick base of the hot water accumulator tower in the right:

Churchill Gardens

When you get up close, you can see that the tower is built within a deep pit, the following photo shows part of the side walls to this pit:

Belgrave Dock

These walls look as if they have some age, older than the Churchill Gardens estate, and their original purpose is rather surprising.

Before the war, there was a considerable amount of industry in the area now occupied by the Churchill Gardens estate. A distillery, saw mills, engine works and a furniture stores. There were also a number of wharves and docks, including one long dock called Belgrave Dock. This can be seen in the following extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey Map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’:

Churchill Gardens

In the map, I have outlined the area occupied by Churchill Gardens in red and Dolphin Square in green. Note the difference in street layout between the area to the south of Lupus Street and the area to the north, which still remains much the same.

In the centre of the map is a long stretch of water – this is Belgrave Dock. I have marked the location of the hot water accumulator tower with the orange circle, and you can see that it stands in the middle of the dock.

The brick walls that can be seen in the pit next to the tower are the original surviving walls of Belgrave Dock. Rather amazing that these reminders of the areas industrial past survive.

Belgrave Dock seems to date from the early 19th century. The first written reference I can find is from the 26th February 1832 when the London News reported on a number of accidents during some of the very thick fogs that were covering parts of London at the time. As well as the Belgrave Dock, the report mentions the Grosvenor Canal, which was just to the left of the railway tracks on the left of the above map:

“FATAL ACCIDENTS DURING THE LATE FOG – Between eight and nine o’clock on Friday evening, a police constable discovered a woman in the Grosvenor-canal, Pimlico, quite dead: with assistance he got the body out, and conveyed it to the station-house, in Elizabeth street. The body was owned yesterday, and proved to be Mrs. Ann Hart, aged 72 years, residing in St George’s-row, near the wooden-bridge, Pimlico. There is no doubt that the poor old woman had, during the intense fog, walked into the Canal, which is very dangerous from its unguarded state, as she had her clogs on and a basket in her hand when found. She had merely gone out on an errand.

On Friday morning, john Dillon, a police-constable of the B. division, discovered the bodies of two men at the entrance of Belgrave Dock. They proved to be the bodies of Mr. Wilson, of No. 22, Prince-street, Lambeth, a wadding manufacturer, and his son-in-law, Mr. York; who it is supposed walked into the water during the fog.

The place is in a most dangerous state, particularly in foggy weather; and the only wonder is, that more accidents have not occurred. The place belongs to the Marquis of Westminster; and it is to be hoped that his Lordship will give immediate orders to have the evil remedied. We have heard that another female was brought out of the Canal yesterday morning.”

The report provides an impression of what the area was like in the early 19th century, and I like the address for poor Ann Hart as “near the wooden-bridge, Pimlico”.

Walking down the side road to the tower, and this is the view of the tower from the south:

Accumulator Tower

In the above photo, and in the photo below there is a large building completely covered in scaffolding, including scaffolding stretching across the road, presumably to provide some buttressing support to the building.

Balmoral Castle

Buried underneath the scaffolding is a closed pub – the Balmoral Castle. A painted sign can just be seen on the side of the pub.

Balmoral Castle

The Balmoral Castle dates from the mid 19th century and was part of the original development of the area. It can be seen in the 1894 Ordnance Survey extract above under the dark blue circle.

The pub seems to have been the focus for a number of sporting clubs, with the Metropolitan Cabdrivers Rowing Regatta and Mechanics’ United Rowing Club, along with the Pimlico Athletic Club all using the Balmoral Castle as their meeting place.

It was retained during the development of Churchill Gardens as the intention was to include community facilities for the residents. The pub closed in 2004, and the scaffolding was erected in 2014.

There have been plans to redevelop the area occupied by the pub and nearby Darwin House, but these do seem to be progressing rather slowly. In the meantime, part of the pub also seems to be supported by an incredible growth of what looks from a distance like a form of ivy.

Balmoral Castle

Continuing along Churchill Garden Road, and we can see blocks built during later phases. These do not have the multiple external stairs, but have galleries along each floor.

Churchill Gardens

There are design features such as concrete canopies over the entrances to the blocks:

Churchill Gardens

As well as the Balmoral Castle pub, a school was retained during the construction of the estate. This is St. Gabriel’s Church of England Primary School.

Churchill Gardens

The block of flats behind the school has the distinctive white rendered, rooftop drums for water tanks and lift equipment found on the top of the blocks across the estate.

At the end of Churchill Garden Road, I reached the western end of Lupus Street which forms the western boundary of the estate. The following photo is looking back through the estate:

Churchill Gardens

We then walked along Grosvenor Road, along the Thames for another view of the hot water accumulator tower, with the scaffolding surrounding the Balmoral Castle to the left:

Accumulator Tower

Part of the Churchill Gardens estate faces directly onto Grosvenor Road, however there are some original buildings that have survived:

King William IV

One of which was another pub that has recently closed and is now being redeveloped. This was the King William IV, originally from the mid 19th century and rebuilt in 1880:

King William IV

The future of the old pub seems to be some form of housing. The Health and Safety Executive Notification of Construction Project taped to one of the windows states that the address is now “Travel Joy Hostels Ltd” and the project will consist of 6 new apartments being designed and built, an extra floor added, and a basement to be constructed to the rear.

The old doors to the pub, with a gutted interior behind:

King William IV

A short distance along Grosvenor Road is Dolphin Square. This large estate was also provided with heating from the original Battersea Power Station / Churchill Gardens system:

Dolphin Square

My original reason for exploring Churchill Gardens was to find the hot water accumulator tower, and there was one final part of the original system that I had to visit, and this was Battersea Power Station, which supplied the waste hot water across the river to heat the estate.

Battersea Power Station seen from across the river:

Battersea Power Station

I also wanted to see how development of the old power station and the surrounding area was progressing. In the above photo, the large, glass apartment block that now sits between the power station and railway bridge can be seen on the right.

In the following photo, the additional building on top, and to the side of the power station can be seen:

Battersea Power Station

Crossing the river on Chelsea Bridge, and the apparently random jumble of towers that are spreading along the side of the Thames in Vauxhall can be seen:

Vauxhall

Battersea Power Station closed in 1983, and for many years the building was empty, roofless and derelict. After many false starts, much of the old building has been redeveloped. This included the complete reconstruction of the chimneys as the originals were structurally unsafe.

One of the chimneys is planned to included the Battersea Power Station Chimney Lift, which will lift visitors to the top of the tower to get a view from above. It is planned to open in 2022.

The redevelopment of the area follows the standard plan for any London developments – glass and steel apartments above, restaurants, cafes, shops and entertainment venues at ground level.

Alongside one of the new apartment blocks, restaurants, bars and a cinema have been built into the arches that line the railway viaduct:

Battersea Power Station

From the Battersea side of the river, we can look across the river to the blocks of Churchill Gardens, and the hot water accumulator tower that was once supplied by the power station:

Battersea Power Station

The new apartment block on the right closes in on the power station. There are restaurants on the ground floor and a small area of landscaping up to the river:

Battersea Power Station

Looking between the power station and apartment building. A similar glass and steel building has yet to be built on the opposite side of the power station as the area links up with the tower blocks currently being built along Vauxhall.

Battersea Power Station

The area behind and to the east of the power station is still blocked off for construction work, so there is not that much to see, apart from the area in front and around the new apartment building.

On a sunny Sunday, the cafes and restaurants seemed to be doing reasonably well.

The district heating system for the Churchill Gardens estate was the first of its type in London, and probably in the country. There have been a number of systems built since, the latest is the Bunhill 2 Energy Centre, built at the location of the long closed City Road underground station. Rather than waste heat from a power station, Bunhill 2 is unusual in that it takes heat from the Northern line tunnels below.

Bunhill 2 is an addition to the existing Bunhill energy centre built in 2012, which makes use of the more traditional gas powered engine to produce heat and generate electricity. The energy centre is open during this years Open House London event.

That was a rather long post, so thank you if you made it this far.

As usual there is so much to explore and discover. I find the combination of the hot water accumulator tower, built into the old Belgrave Dock, with the original side walls fascinating – relics of two very different industrial activities in Pimlico.

Churchill Gardens does have its problems, but is an estate that shows what can be done to provide housing with innovative design, well chosen materials, and importantly continuous maintenance of the buildings and landscape.

It was a fascinating walk.

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Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration and New River Head

House of Illustration is a small arts and education charity dedicated to the art of illustration – an art form that can be found on almost every aspect of modern life. Originally based in King’s Cross, the charity is moving to a very historic location and transforming into the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration.

Quentin Blake has been one of the most prolific and high profile illustrators of the 20th and early 21st centuries, with his work across many forms of illustration, including illustrating the works of the author Roald Dahl.

The new location for the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration will be at New River Head in north Clerkenwell / Islington, the site of the reservoir that terminated the first man made river bringing supplies of water to the city of London in the early 17th century.

Having been empty for many years, the base of the early 18th century windmill, the engine house and coal store at New River Head will be sensitively transformed over the coming year into the new centre. This transformation will ensure that these buildings are preserved and after being hidden away for so many years, will be given a new life hosting one of London’s small, but so important charities and exhibition spaces. The centre will also eventually be the home for Quentin Blake’s archive.

So why is this the subject of this week’s blog post? A while ago, a colleague from the Clerkenwell and Islington Guide (CIGA) Course was offered the opportunity to visit the site and create a walk that would illustrate how water has been key to the area’s development, and to visit the interior of the windmill and coal stores and the exterior of the engine house before work begins to create the new centre. 

Offered the opportunity to be involved, it took about a second to say yes, and for one week only there is a series of walks exploring the Fluid History of Islington, which, with the support of the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, includes access to the base of the early 18th century windmill, the coal stores and around the outside of the engine house at New River Head. I will be guiding on some of these walks, and colleagues from CIGA will be guiding the rest.

This is a unique opportunity to explore how water has influenced the development of the area, see these historic buildings up close, and learn about their future use.

The full set of walks are available to book here

As an introduction to the walk, the following illustration is the proposed plan of the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration.

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Credit: Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, Tim Ronalds Architects

In the above plan, the round building to the lower left is the base of the early windmill. I took the following photo of the building on a recent visit:

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

The large building to the right is the old engine house. The interior will not be open for the visit as it is currently difficult to navigate, however we will walk around the outside of the building and talk about the part the engine house played in the development of New River Head and London’s water supply, along with the future of the site.

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Credit: New River Head © Justin Piperger

The old coal store forms the longer building to the right, and will be open during the visit:

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

As can be seen from the following illustration, when transformed to a new exhibition area, the fabric of the building will retain its industrial heritage:

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Credit: Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, Tim Ronalds Architects, Prospective Gallery

The location for the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration is at a place that played a key part in the supply of clean water for London’s growing population for a considerable period of time.

The New River and reservoirs at New River Head were the first serious attempt at bringing significant volumes of water into London from a distance, and avoiding the need to draw water from the Thames, which by the end of the 16th century was not exactly a healthy source of drinking water.

The New River dates to the start of the 17th century, a time when there was a desperate need for supplies of clean water to a rapidly expanding city. Numerous schemes were being proposed, and the build of the New River tells the story of how the City of London, Parliament, the Crown and private enterprise all tried to gain an advantage and ownership of significant new infrastructural services, the power they would have over the city, and the expected profits.

The New River proposal was for a man-made channel, bringing water in from springs around Ware in Hertfordshire (Amwell and Chadwell springs) to the city. A location was needed outside the city where water from the New River could be stored, treated and then distributed to consumers across the city.

The site chosen, called New River Head, was located between what is now Rosebery Avenue and Amwell Street. The red rectangle on the following map shows the area occupied by New River Head (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

The story of the New River dates back to 1602 when a former army officer from Bath, Edmund Colthurst who had served in Ireland, proposed a scheme to bring in water from Hertfordshire springs to a site to the north of the city.

As a reward for his military service, he was granted letters patent from King James I, to construct a channel, six feet wide, to bring water from Hertfordshire to the city.

Colthurst’s was not the only scheme for supplying water to the city. There were a number of other private companies, and the City of London Corporation was looking at similar schemes to bring in water from the River Lea and Hertfordshire springs.

Whilst Colthurst’s project was underway, the City of London petitioned parliament, requesting that the City be granted the rights to the water sources and for the construction of a channel to bring the water to the city.

In 1606 the City of London was successful when parliament granted the City access rights to the Hertfordshire water, a decision which effectively destroyed Colthurst’s scheme, which collapsed after the construction of 3 miles of the river channel.

It was an interesting situation, as Colthurst had the support of the King, through the letters patent he had been granted, whilst the City of London had the support of parliament.

The City of London took a few years deciding what to do with the water rights granted by parliament, and in 1609 granted these rights to a wealthy City Goldsmith, Hugh Myddelton. He was a member of the Goldsmiths Company, an MP (for Denbigh in Wales), and one of his brothers, Thomas Myddelton was a City alderman and would later become Lord Mayor of the City of London, so Myddelton probably had all the right connections, which Colthurst lacked.

Colthurst obviously could see how he had been outflanked by the City, so agreed to join the new scheme, and was granted shares in the project. Colthurst joining the City of London’s scheme thereby uniting the rights granted by James I and parliament.

Work commenced on the New River in 1609, but swiftly ran into problems with owners of land through which the New River would pass, objecting to the work, and the loss of land. A number of land owners petitioned Parliament to repeal the original acts which had granted the rights to the City, however when James I dissolved Parliament in 1611, the scheme was given three years to complete construction and find a way to overcome land owners objections, as Parliament would not be recalled until 1614.

There were originally 36 shares in the New River Company. Myddleton had decided to enlist the support of James I to address the land owners objections, and created an additional 36 new shares and granted these to James I who would effectively own half the company.

in return, James I granted the New River Company the right to build on his land, he covered half the costs, and Royal support influenced the other land owners along the route, removing their objections, as any further attempts to hinder the work would result in the king’s “high displeasure”.

The New River was completed in 1613. It was a significant engineering achievement. Although the straight line distance between the springs around Ware and New River Head was around 20 miles, the actual route was just over 40 miles, as the route followed the 100 foot height contour to provide a smooth flow of water, resulting in only an 18 foot drop from source to end.

The New River Head location was chosen for a number of reasons. A location north of the city was needed to act as a holding location, from where multiple streams of water could then be distributed through pipes across the wider city.

The location sat on London Clay, rather than the free draining gravel found further south in Clerkenwell, and it was also a high point, with roughly a 31 meter drop down to the River Thames, thereby allowing gravity to transport water down towards consumers in the city.

The site already had a number of ponds, confirming the suitability of the land to hold water.

By the end of the 17th century, London had been expanding to the west and developement was taking place around the area now called Soho, including Soho Square.

The challenge the New Rver Company had with supplying water to London’s expanding population was down to having sufficient volumes of water available, and with maintaining water pressure.

The City of London was much lower than New River Head, and water pressure was generally good, however further to the west of the city, the land was higher, and the difference in height between places such as Soho and New River Head was insufficient to provide a good supply to new developments.

This is when the windmill appeared. The New River Company built a new reservoir at Claremont Square, towards Pentonville Road. This new reservoir provided extra storage capacity, and was also higher than New River Head, thereby able to deliver water at greater pressure.

A method was needed to pump water to the new reservoir and the method chosen was a windmill. This was in operation by 1709, but was never very efficient and the top of the windmill was severely damaged by a storm in 1720. Newspaper reports of the storm refer to “the upper part, quite to the brickwork, was blown of the Windmill at New River Head”

The storm also damaged large numbers of ships anchored in the Thames, and: “The Horse-Ferry boat, that passed to and fro from Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs was lost and is not yet found, and the Storm was so violent as to lay the Isle of Dogs under Water by the beating of Water over the Banks”

The following print shows the windmill in the 1740s with the sails and top section missing after the storm  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

By 1775, the top of the windmill appears to have been castellated. The first engine house is in operation to the left. The engine house replaced the windmill and later horse power by providing the power for the pumps.  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

The following print from 1752 shows the New River Head complex with the remains of the windmill after the 1720 storms  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

New River Head

To the lower left of the windmill is a small building that would have housed the horse-gin, used between the storm and the installation of the steam engine to power the pumps, pumping water to the reservoir which can be seen in the lower part of the view.

If you look closely between the reservoir and the windmill, you can see what appears to be a couple of pipes running between the windmill and a building on the edge of the reservoir from where water is pouring into the reservoir.

Although now reduced to just the base, it is remarkable that part of the windmill has survived over 300 years, and it is the base of the windmill that we will see inside during the walk.

After the storm, a “horse gin” was employed which consisted of a small building adjacent to the windmill that provided room for a horse to walk in a circle whilst harnessed to a wheel. The rotation of the wheel was transferred to the pumps to provide the power to move water from New River Head to the higher reservoir.

Later in the 18th century, this was replaced by a steam engine. Whilst we will not be able to go into the engine house, we will walk alongside to explore the history of the building:

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Credit: New River Head © Justin Piperger

Behind the engine house is a coal store used to store the fuel for the steam engines in the engine house. The following photo shows the coal store buildings on the left, with a storage area marked with dimensions on the right:

New River Head

Some photos of the interior of the engine house:

New River Head
New River Head
New River Head
New River Head
New River Head

New River Head would continue to play a part in the supply of water into the 20th century.

Reservoirs eventually built at Stoke Newington were of the size needed for London’s ever growing population, and the New River would come to terminate at these reservoirs rather than continuing on to New River Head.

The central Round Pond was drained in 1913. The remaining filter beds had disappeared by 1946, and New River Head became the head offices of the Metropolitan Water Board, along with supporting functions including a large laboratory building.

New River Head continues to be a key part of London’s water supply with one of the shafts to the London Ring Main on the site. The shaft is one of the 12 main pump out shafts across the ring main where water is taken out and distributed locally.

New River Head appeared in a 1748 print with astronomical drawings describing an eclipse of the sun. New River Head is at the bottom of the print, then fields and with the City in the distance  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

New River Head

One of the two characters at bottom right is using a telescope, presumably to observe the eclipse which took place on the 14th July 1748.

The above print is the type of find that sends me searching for something that is not really related to the subject of the post, however as New River Head is in the view, there is a tenuous link.

The 1748 eclipse was an event well publicised in advance, and numerous papers published recommendations on how to view the eclipse, which sound very similar to what we would do today (apart from the candle).

1. Make a pin-hole in a piece of paper, and look through it at the eclipse. Or,

2. Hold a piece of glass so long over the flame of a candle, till it is equally blackened; and then the eclipse may be viewed through it, either with the naked eye, or through a telescope. Or,

3. Let the sun’s rays through a small hole into a darkened room, and so view the picture of the eclipse, upon a wall, or upon paper. Or,

4. Transmit the image of the sun through a telescope, either inverted, as usual on a circle of paper or pasteboard.

In London the eclipse would start at four minutes past nine in the morning and end at ten minutes past twelve. The eclipse was partly visible, however for much of the time it was obscured due to what were described as “flying clouds”.

I can guarantee that there will not be an eclipse at New River Head during the week of the walks, however the walks will provide a unique opportunity to view some of the buildings that contributed to the development of London’s water supply, learn about their future use, and to hear how water has influenced the development of Islington.

The walks can be booked here.

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The Angel, Islington and Plackett’s Common

Even if you have not visited the area, or travelled to the underground station with the same name, you probably recognise the name of the Angel, Islington.

This is probably down to the game of Monopoly, where The Angel, Islington can be purchased for £100, and is one of the light blue board positions, along with Euston Road and Pentonville Road.

Monopoly is probably why the name Angel is nearly always followed by Islington. Unlike the majority of other places on the Monopoly board, the Angel, Islington is not a street, and when you buy a hotel for the location in the game, you are bringing some historic reality to the game.

The original Monopoly game was a US invention, and its migration to the UK happened when the board game makers John Waddington licensed the game for UK sale. The game required UK locations, and the story is that the Managing Director of the company, Victor Watson, along with his secretary, Marjory Phillips, visited the capital looking for locations for the game. Dependent on different Internet sources (always a dangerous thing), they either met, or had lunch at the Angel, and decided it would be a good location and name for inclusion in their new game.

The Angel, Islington had been a key London landmark and meeting place long before its appearance on the Monopoly board.

It appeared in the 1896 book “The Queen’s London”, published as a pictorial and descriptive record of London in the 59th year of the reign of Queen Victoria.

In the book, the Angel, Islington is described as:

“Trams and omnibuses give an invaluable gratuitous advertisement to the inns at certain points on their route; and one of the hostelries best known in all London – by name at least – from this cause is the Angel. For here trams start and stop, and innumerable omnibuses converge and diverge. The Angel occupies a commanding position at the corner of the High Street, Islington, and of Pentonville Road, leading to King’s Cross, while it faces the end of the City Road, Goswell Road, and St. John’s Street Road. It is no wonder, therefore that the pavement in front of it should be always thronged.”

The photo from the 1896 Queen’s London showing the Angel, Islington:

Angel Islington

The text from the Queen’s London sums up why the Angel, Islington became such a well known location – its position at the junction of four important London Roads.

In the following map, I have circled the location of the Angel (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Angel Islington

To the left is Pentonville Road, opened in 1756 as the eastern section of the New Road. It took its current name in 1857 after the Pentonville Estate which had been built on land around the road.

To the right is the City Road, completed in 1761, to continue the New Road on towards east London. These streets formed an 18th century “North Circular” allowing traffic to pass around the City, and to reach the best street for entering the City. One of these was Goswell Road which in the map above branches off to the south from City Road.

To the south is St John Street which led to the City and provided a direct route to Smithfield Market.

To the north, Islington High Street now forms the A1, indicating the street’s importance as the start of a key route to the north of the country.

The Angel, Islington was therefore located where drovers and farmers bringing their sheep and cattle to Smithfield Market would stop off before making the final journey. Where those heading north or south would stop before continuing their journey. Where those travelling around the City would stop, as the junction was a key meeting point, a place where people could relatively easily travel to and meet others from across both London and the rest of the country.

The area has long been associated with livestock. Local cattle farms as well as the fields around Islington providing stopping off points to feed and fatten cattle on their way to Smithfield Market. The Royal Agricultural Hall, built a short distance away in 1862 continued this tradition.

Long before the construction of Pentonville Road / New Road / City Road, the Angel had been a key stopping point. In the following extract from Rocque’s map of 1746, I have circled the location of the Angel, at the junction where the road that would become the start of City Road, with the branch of what is now Goswell Road, meet the street that continues south to Smithfield.

Angel Islington

Looking towards the upper half of the map, we can see how three key streets converged just before the Angel, which also contributed to the location’s importance.

The Angel, and the buildings lining the road up to Islington Green, Upper and Lower Streets are surrounded by the fields that were used for livestock and for the temporary provision of grazing prior to completing their journey to Smithfield Market.

The building seen in the photo from the Queen’s London was originally built in 1819, however by the time of the 1896 photo it had been heavily modified over the years and was known as the Angel Hotel. It was demolished to make way for a new version of the Angel, built by the owners of the site, Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. – the London brewery company.

The 1903 building (again, modified a number of times over the years) is the building that we see on the site today:

Angel Islington

The location of the Angel has long been the site for an inn or tavern. Some of the first references are to an inn on the site towards the end of the 16th century, when the property on the site was called Sheepcote.

The name Angel for the inn appears around 1614. There is a Wikipedia reference as to the origin of the name, however I cannot find any written references, either to confirm the Wikipedia suggestion, or to offer an alternative. When researching these posts, I prefer to have at least two different written sources, so for the purposes of the post I cannot find the source.

The excellent “Streets with a Story – The Book of Islington” by Eric A. Willats does state that early in the 17th century, the Angel had a sign of the Angel of the Annunciation, with wings outstretched, however the sign only aligns with the name, and does not identify the source.

The inn was a staging post for travelers from and to the city, and it was a good place to spend a night before entering the city. There are numerous 18th century newspaper articles about thefts and muggings across the fields, paths and roads between Islington and the built edge of the city, so after dark it was not a safe place to travel, and the Angel Hotel was the perfect place to stay until the following morning.

The following print shows the Angel as it appeared in 1808  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Angel Islington

The view is from what is now Islington High Street. The singe storey buildings to the left of the picture are stables that were on land owned by the Angel, located where Pentonville Road now runs, and extending across the street to the opposite side of the Angel.

The following print shows the view from the Angel, looking down the City Road. Goswell Road is the road branching off to the right  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Goswell Road

The print mentions the Blue Coat Boy public house. This is the building on the left of the print.

The print is also a perfect example of how easy it is to go off on a tangent with London’s history. The text at the bottom of the above print mentions Jack Plackett’s Common as the space where the obelisk now stands, (to the right of the print) at the junction of City Road and Goswell Road.

I suspect that Jack Plackett was John Plackett who was executed on City Road in 1762. A newspaper report of the time reads: “Yesterday the report was made to his Majesty at St. James’s, by Sir William Morton, Knight, Recorder of this City, of the Six Capital Convicts in Newgate, when John Plackett, for robbing Mr. Jacob Faye, was ordered, for Execution on Wednesday next, near the Turnpike-House, on the New Road from Islington to Old-Street”.

John Plackett was a career criminal who had already served seven years transportation for house robbery. At the end of this sentence, he returned to England and continued to commit a series of robberies between Islington and London.

The crime that led to his execution happened on the 10th June 1762, after he had spent the day drinking in a pub in Wapping. He left the pub around midnight and met the Norwegian merchant Jacob Faye (also written as Fayne).

Faye was trying to find his lodgings in Shadwell, however because of his poor English he could not explain where he wanted to go, or get any directions. Plackett met him and indicated that he should follow. Faye assumed he was taking him to Shadwell.

They walked for a lengthy time, and ended in the fields around Islington. It was here that Plackett hit Faye on the head from behind. Faye collapsed to the ground and after a while awoke to find that Plackett had stolen all his clothes and possessions, including his pocket book and money.

A reward was offered, and Plackett was quickly found, still in possession of Faye’s shirt. He was sentenced to be hung, and was executed on the 28th July 1762, on City Road, close to where he had committed his crime in the fields of Islington.

Although the obelisk has gone, there is still a landmark where City and Goswell Roads divide and at the point where Jack Plackett’s Common was located.

A short walk down City Road from the Angel, and this is the view where the roads divide:

City Road

A clock tower is now at the space once occupied by the obelisk – the area identified as Jack Plackett’s Common in the print.

Apparently, the obelisk was replaced by a clock tower, which in turn was replaced early in the 20th century by the clock tower we see today.

City Road

Around the base of the clock tower are the words from the third verse of the nursery rhyme “Pop goes the weasel”, as the City Road in the rhyme passes to the left of the clock tower:

Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel

The clock tower was made by the St Johns Square, Clerkenwell firm of J. Smith & Sons, and they donated the clock to replace the previous version. It was originally clockwork, and the company retained responsibility for maintaining and winding the clock. It is now electric.

It was somewhere on the space that stretches south from the clock tower that John Plackett was executed for the crime he had committed in the surrounding fields.

The view looking back towards the Angel, from where City and Goswell Roads divide, shows how both the height of the land, and the corner location contributed to the Angel being in such a prominent position for those travelling the roads in and out of the City of London:

Angel Islington

Although many of the 18th century newspaper references to the area around the Angel often refer to crime, there are the occasional reports that bring to life the people that once walked these streets. A report from the 5th January 1793:

“Saturday, a cutler, in the City road, undertook for a wager of five shillings, to hold by the spokes of a carriage wheel, while it was turned round for a given distance. A Hackney Coach was in consequence procured, and he placed himself on the outside of the wheel, holding the spokes with his knees and hands, and in this position continued from the Angel at Islington, to the turnpike, the coachman driving for the most part of the way with great velocity. At the turnpike he leaped from the wheel while in motion, and when the horses were in a smart canter, resumed his station on his return, eating with much composure, an orange”.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, there are many adverts for staff, adverts for auctions taking place at the Angel, and also references to the many meetings that would take place, many with an agricultural theme, continuing the Angel’s long term association with those bringing their livestock to Smithfield Market, and also those visiting the nearby Royal Agricultural Hall. For example, in December 1900, there was a meeting of the Cotswold Sheep Society, who held their annual general meeting in the Angel Hotel.

The Angel was also a stopping place for coach and mail services. The following print dated 1828, shows the Royal Mails at the Angel Inn, Islington, on the night of his majesty’s birthday  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Angel Islington

The destinations listed on the side of the coaches are Holyhead, Manchester and Liverpool, illustrating the routes that would be taken by those passing the Angel.

Lettering on the side of the building reads “Angel Inn Tavern and Hotel for Gentlemen and Families”.

The Angel would change significantly in 1921, when the lower three floors of the building were converted into a Lyons’ Café, with a Grill in the basement, Café on the ground floor, and cafeteria on the first floor.

The Lyons’ Café lasted until 1959, with the site then being sold to the London County Council.

The Angel had long been at an important road junction, with an ever increasing volume of traffic moving through the junction in front of the building. In 1932, Harold Clunn in The Face of London was describing the junction as “the busiest traffic centre of north London”.

The road junction was the reason for the London County Council’s purchase of the Angel site. There had long been proposals for ways in which the junction could be improved, however in the 1960s and early 1970s, a rather large roundabout was proposed as the solution for the amount of traffic using the junction, and the traffic bypassing the junction and using residential streets as alternative routes.

In January 1973, Mr. George Cunningham, the MP for Islington, South-West asked a parliamentary question about the plans for the junction and whether the Greater London Council or the national Government would be funding the costs.

Cunningham describes “The proposal at the Angel is for an enormous roundabout, the central island of which will be an acre or perhaps 1.1 acres in area. It will be surrounded by a relatively narrow carriageway of 20 yards—relatively narrow, that is, in relation to the central island”

There was strong opposition to the loss of the Angel, and such a large roundabout taking so much space, and in 1975 the GLC started researching less ambitious options for the junction. There was an updated proposal in 1979, however with political changes, proposals for the junction disappeared and the junction remained as we see it today.

The Angel, along with the Angel side of Islington High Street is now part of the Angel Conservation Area. In 1979 it was sold by the GLC to the New River Company, which by then was a property company and a subsidiary of London Merchant Securities. The building was refurbished and opened as offices and a bank on the ground floor. It now appears to be owned by an offshore property company.

The western side of Islington High Street, with the Angel at the southern end has an interesting range of buildings, that tell part of the story of the evolution of this part of Islington.

Angel Islington

In the above photo, the old Angel Hotel is on the far left. To the right is a Wetherspoons pub called the Angel. This is on land that was part of the original Angel Inn.

The narrow building with the tower is the remains of the Angel Cinema, built in 1911, the building was the narrow entrance foyer to the cinema, which led back to a large auditorium on land behind the buildings that face onto Islington High Street.

The building to the right dates from 1891, then the large brick building, along with the much smaller three story building on the right edge of the photo mark the site of another old inn, serving the people passing along these roads. This was the Peacock Inn that lasted from 1564 to 1962.

The large brick building was the final version of the Peacock and dates from 1931. The small building on the right is all that survives of the terrace that formed the 1700 version of the Peacock.

This was a fascinating walk around a very small area, and as usual there is so much to discover. Opposite the location of the clock tower was the original entrance to Angel underground station, which I covered in an earlier post.

The Angel is still a well known landmark, as it was well before the game of Monopoly brought the name to the attention of those who had never been to the area.

When exploring London, it is always interesting to find long lost places and place names, that tell some of the history of London life, and discovering Jack (or John) Plackett’s Common was a perfect example.

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Carlton House Terrace

For today’s post, I am in Carlton House Terrace. It is one of my favourite types of post as I am looking for a place that has been demolished, the site has changed significantly, however I can still find part of a building that helps to confirm the location.

The following photo was taken by my father in 1949, and shows a house in some form of courtyard, with some steps to a street on the right.

Carlton House Terrace

The location should be easy to find as the house has the address 22A Carlton House Terrace next to the door. The photo appears to have been taken from underneath some form of archway.

As well as finding the location of the above photo, I took a walk through the area to the north of Carlton House Terrace to explore the stairs and streets which few people seem to walk.

The following map shows my route, starting at S, where Carlton House Terrace meets Waterloo Place, and ending at E, on Pall Mall. Also on the map, the arrow shows the location of the photo (start of the arrow) pointing in the direction of the stairs through to the wall seen in the background of the stairs in the 1949 photo. Although there is a very different building on the site today, I will explain how I found the location in the rest of the post  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Carlton House Terrace

This is the view along Carlton House Terrace from the junction with Waterloo Place. The street is a dead end with no exit for vehicles.

Carlton House Terrace

On the right of the above photo are the houses that were originally part of the plan by the architect John Nash to enhance the background to St James’s Park as the other side of the houses face onto The Mall, with the park on the other side.

Although part of the plans developed by Nash, much of the terrace seems to have been heavily influenced by architect Decimus Burton. The terrace was constructed in 1831.

Carlton House Terrace consists of a run of terrace houses, divided by the stairs that lead down from the end of Waterloo Place down to The Mall. The houses provide an impressive background to the northern edge of The Mall, however it is in Carlton House Terrace that we find the front of the buildings with their entrances and forecourts, and facades whilst not as impressive as on The Mall, still with considerable grandeur.

Carlton House Terrace

The round plaque in the above photo records that William Gladstone, the Liberal politician and Prime Minister lived in the house.

The view along the southern edge of Carlton House Terrace. The rear of these buildings face onto The Mall:

Carlton House Terrace

On the opposite side of the street is a relatively modern development. The number on the first building – 24 Carlton House Terrace – shows that the building is close to the 22A in my father’s photo.

Carlton House Terrace

A wider view of the northern side of Carlton House Terrace.

Carlton House Terrace

The large building on the left dates from the 1970s and is the former head office of the mining company Anglo American. It is this building that is on the site of my father’s photo.

To identify the location, I turned to the 1951 revision of the Ordnance Survey map as this was only two years after my father’s photo.

In the following photo I have marked the position from where the photo was taken with the red dot (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Carlton House Terrace

The red dot is under a feature which has an X arcros the dark grey for a building. The use of X is to show a building which has a walk / roadway through at ground level, and the buildings continue above. This explains the dark walls of such a feature on either side and above the immediate location of the 1949 photo.

Following the arrow across the open courtyard, and on the left of number 22A is the symbol for a set of stairs, exactly as seen in my father’s photo.

As usual, there is so much to discover in these maps. To the right of the above map is a building labelled “Old County Hall”. If we go back further to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, we can see the same building labelled London County Council Office (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Carlton House Terrace

This was the first offices of the London County Coucil after it was formed in 1889, and prior to the move to County Hall on the Southbank in 1922. Prior to the London County Council, the building was occupied by the Metropolitan Board of Works, which the London County Council replaced.

The above 1895 map also shows the same features as the 1951 map, providing confirmation of the same features in my father’s photo.

if you look at the above two maps, the arrow in the first map is pointing to the houses on the south side of Carlton House Terrace, and there is a curving feature to the edge of the forecourt in the centre of the terrace.

The same feature can be found today, with the railings curving from street to building:

Carlton House Terrace

My father’s photo is looking towards some stairs which lead up to Carlton House Terrace, and through the gap above the stairs we can see part of the wall of a building.

To the left of the hut in the above photo is a drain pipe, and this can also be seen above the stairs. In the following photo, I have outlined the area of wall in red and included an extract from the 1951 photo to show the same area of wall.

Carlton House Terrace

The following photo is from the south side of Carlton House Terrace, in front of the building in the above photo, looking across to the location of the stairs in my father’s photo. If I have worked out the exact location correctly, the stairs were just behind the car in the middle of the photo.

Carlton House Terrace

The above building was built during the 1970s. I cannot find when the buildings, courtyard and stairs in my father’s photo were demolished, however I suspect they were part of the demolitions to free up space for the building which now covers much of the northern side of this stretch of Carlton House Terrace, and occupy a large area of space back to Warwick House Street.

The following photo is from the eastern end of Carlton House Terrace, looking back to the junction with Waterloo Place and the stairs down to The Mall. The Duke of York’s Column (dating from 1834) which marks the stairs to the Mall and the split between the two sections of the terrace can be seen in the distance.

Carlton House Terrace

The street and terrace are named after Carlton House, which occupied much of the space now occupied by Waterloo Place. Carlton House had a considerable area of gardens which covered the space where today we can find the two sections of the terrace, on either side of the Duke of York’s Column.

I will save the story of the house and the rest of the terrace for another post, as my walk explored a couple of the streets to the north, between the terrace and Cockspur Street / Pall Mall (see map at start of the post).

Although Carlton House Terrace is a dead end for traffic, there is an exit for pedestrians, with some stairs at the far north eastern corner of the terrace.

Carlton House Terrace

Looking back up the stairs, and there is an artwork by the sculptor David John Kent titled “States of Mind” at the top of the stairs:

Carlton House Terrace

Close up view of “States of Mind”:

Carlton House Terrace

The stairs take us into a short street called Cockspur Court that leads from Spring Gardens. Cockspur Court is a dead end, and its only function seems to be to provide a service access to the surrounding buildings.

In the centre of Cockspur Court appears to be the loneliest tree in London. No other trees within view, and a tree that must spend much of its time in shade due to the height of the surrounding buildings.

Cockspur Court

Looking across the court, and a building on the far side has the words “Grand Trunk Railway” displayed.

Cockspur Court

The following photo was taken towards the end of Cockspur Court, looking back towards Spring Gardens, again showing the lonely tree. The stairs down from Carlton House Terrace are behind the tree, and the large building behind the tree, and also running over Cockspur Court is the British Council Building, much of which occupies the space where the first London County Council building was located.

Cockspur Court

Although a dead end for vehicles, at the end of Cockspur Court, there is another set of steps:

Cockspur Court

Walking up these steps, and between two buildings:

Warwick House Street

Which leads into Warwick House Street:

Warwick House Street

Despite appearing to be just a service road for the buildings on either side, Warwick House Street is actually a very old street, which predates Carlton House Terrace, and survives from the time of Car;ton House and the extensive gardens just to the south.

In the following extract from Rocque’s map of London from 1746, I have ringed Warwick Street, now Warwick House Street:

Warwick House Street

Referring back to the maps earlier in the post, it can be seen that the street follows the same route as the much earlier Warwick Street, apart from a slight change at the final junction with Cockspur Street.

In the 1747 map above, large gardens can be seen to the south. Carlton House Terrace now occupies this space.

Warwick House Street consists of the backs of buildings that face onto other streets. To the north is Cockspur Street and Pall Mall, and there are a number of interesting buildings that have their backs on Warwick House Street, for example, this interesting mix of materials and shapes:

Warwick House Street

And on the same building that had “Grand Trunk Railway” displayed at the top, has “The Grand Trunk Railways of Canada” inscribed above the ground floor of the rear of the building:

Warwick House Street

Looking back along the street towards Cockspur Street and Trafalgar Square along a street that was here in 1746:

Warwick House Street

To take a look at the front of these buildings, I walked round to Cockspur Street.

The Brazilian Embassy occupies the buildings which has the ground floor with a mix of materials and shapes:

Brazilian Embassy

And the building with the railway references also has one on the front with the “Canadian National Railway Company”, the company that the “Trunk Railways” became part of. It is now the London Visitor Centre, and if I remember rightly, in the 1980s was the US Visitor Centre.

Canadian National Railway Company

Confirming the building’s Canadian heritage, between the windows of the upper floors are the coats of arms of the provinces and territories of Canada:

Canadian National Railway Company

I am pleased I found the location of the photo at the top of the post. Buildings and a view that have long been lost, however it is always good to find the exact location, and some remaining part of the view.

The sides streets are very close to Trafalgar Square, but are very quiet, mainly as they are basically service roads to the buildings on either side, but finding one that has been here since at least 1746 shows that whilst major houses and gardens come and go, and spaces are significantly reconfigured, in London, it is always possible to find traces of the past.

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Embankment Gardens Art Exhibition and the Adelphi

The Victoria Embankment Gardens has often been the location for an open air art exhibition, and a couple of the photos in my father’s collection show the 1952 exhibition:

Embankment Gardens Open Air Art Exhibition

This could have been a difficult photo to locate, however the feature in the background made it easy to find the exact place. This is the same scene on a very sunny June day in 2021:

Embankment Gardens

The first exhibition appears to have been in 1948, as an article in the Sphere on the 23rd May 1953 describes that year’s exhibition as the sixth annual open air exhibition of contemporary art. The article also states that the exhibitions were sponsored by the London County Council, and that “On all days except the final day the pictures are for sale”, which seems rather strange, not also to sell them on the final day of the exhibition.

Exhibitions also seem to have been during part of the month of May, which would explain the coats worn by those in the photo, although that could really be any summer’s day given typical British weather.

The little girl in the photo looks to be around five or six. She would now be around 75 and the only one from the photo still alive.

The Illustrated London News on the 12th May 1962 describes that year’s exhibition as opening on the 30th April and running to the 12th May, with 700 paintings on display from both amateur and professional artists.

There is some British Pathe film of the 1949 exhibition which can be seen here, where “Our Roving Camera Reports”.

The monument behind the exhibition which enabled the location to be found, is to Henry Fawcett, the rather remarkable blind MP who championed the cause of women’s suffrage. His interests in the cause led him to meet Elizabeth Garrett who rejected his proposal of marriage in order to concentrate on becoming a doctor. He went on to marry Elizabeth’s younger sister, Millicent Garrett.

A statue of Millicent Garret Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square in 2018 with the words from one of her speeches “Courage calls to courage everywhere”.

The wall behind the monument is part of one of the air vents to the cut and cover underground Circle and District lines, a short distance below the surface.

The monument to Henry Fawcett:

Embankment Gardens

A wider view of Embankment Gardens, with the monument on the left.

Embankment Gardens

The gardens are looking very green with plenty of plants and trees, which would cause a problem trying to recreate the following photo of the art exhibition:

Embankment Gardens Art exhibition

My father took the above picture from the Adelphi Terrace, overlooking the gardens. The art exhibition is running along the pathway through the gardens, and shows how far to the right the exhibition ran, as the edge of the Fawcett monument can just be seen on the very left edge of the photo. The Thames and Waterloo Bridge can be seen in the background.

Adelphi Terrace, from where the above photo was taken is shown in the following photo:

Adelphi Terrace

I walked up and down the terrace looking over the wall to the gardens below, trying to recreate my father’s photo, however the trees and bushes have grown considerably since 1952, and the best I could get was the following photo:

Embankment Gardens

There is a small bit of wall visible in the gardens in the centre of the photo. This is not the monument or wall in the 1952 photo, rather a nearby fish pond, a short distance from where the art exhibition was held, and the nearest I could get to recreating the photo.

The Adelphi Terrace is in front of the Adelphi building, and raises the street around the Adelphi up above Savoy Place which runs at ground level between the Adelphi building and Embankment Gardens.

The following photo was taken from Savoy Place looking up at the terrace and the rather magnificent Adelphi building, and shows the height of the terrace:

Adelphi

The main entrance to the Adelphi building is on John Adam Street, and the building consists of two outer wings which extend over the terrace as shown in the above photo, with the core of the building between and behind the two wings, up to John Adam Street.

The Adelphi building is in the centre of the following map, which also shows the Victoria Embankment Gardens and the Henry Fawcett memorial to the right of the gardens (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Adelphi

I thought I had a photo of the Adelphi from across the river, but I cannot find it. I did find a photo I took a few years ago which shows the three wings of the Adelphi as the building on the left of the photo.

Adelphi

From this distance the building does not look that impressive. It is only when you walk around the building that its unique decorative features can be seen.

The Adelphi was built between 1936 and 1938, by architect Stanley Hamp of the partnership Colcutt and Hamp.

Of standard steel frame and reinforced concrete construction, what makes the building rather special is the large amount of architectural decoration and design that follow the art deco approach.

In the photo of the building from Savoy Place, two large allegorical relief figures can be seen on the two wings that extend over the terrace. There are four of these (the other two are on the other corners of the wings). These represent Dawn, Contemplation, Inspiration and Night, with Contemplation and Night being seen in the above photo.

The following photo shows a detailed view of “Night” by the sculptor Donald Gilbert.

Adelphi

The following photo shows “Dawn” by Bainbridge Copnall, with architectural decoration extending above the sculpture to fill in part of the curved corner of one of the wings.

Adelphi

There is detail across the building. The following photo shows a side entrance on Robert Street. Note also that where the building faces towards the river, Portland stone is used, with brick used for the other facades, but retaining Portland stone for the ground floor and architectural detailing.

Adelphi

The sides of the building have small decorative panels between the brick pillars:

Adelphi

And carved coats of arms of UK cities between the ground and first floors. Three of these can be seen in the above photo, and in close up, the arms of Sheffield, Derby and Birmingham can be seen below:

Adelphi

Another view of Adelphi Terrace, which was constructed in part due to the 1930s expectation of the rise of the car as a means transport within the city, as well as replicating the original terrace:

Adelphi Terrace

Construction of the Adelphi in the 1930s required the demolition of an historic estate.

The original Adelphi estate was the work of Robert Adams and his three brothers, John, James and William. The name Adelphi comes from the Greek word adelphós, meaning brothers.

In the mid 18th century, the area now occupied by the Adelphi had been a rather run down area called Durham Yard, which had been the location of Durham House. At the time, the Embankment Gardens had not been built, so the space now occupied by the Adelphi was then facing on to the foreshore to the Thames. The damp conditions and flooding at high tide meant that this was not a good area to build the type of quality houses intended by Adams.

The plan developed, mainly by Robert Adams, was to build the houses and streets on a series of arches, which increased in height as the land descended from the Strand down to the river.

This was how the terrace came into being as the end of the estate overlooking what was then the edge of the River Thames. The following print from 1795 shows the terrace as it appeared soon after construction  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Adelphi Terrace

However the Adelphi Terrace in the above print is not in the same position as the Adelphi Terrace we can walk along today. In the above print, the block of buildings on the right were demolished to make way for the Adelphi building (not the building at the far end as we shall see).

In preparation for the construction of the Adelphi building, the whole of the block of houses that occupied the area, included the arches and space underneath the houses, was demolished all the way back to John Adam Street. As part of the build of the Adelphi, construction was pushed forward up to Savoy Place, so the terrace is now forward of the terrace in the above print.

The following photo from just before demolition in 1936 shows the Adelphi Terrace on the left, with the block of houses which would also soon be demolished. In the background is the recently completed Shell Mex House (1932) with Savoy Place running to the lower right of Shell Mex House.

Adelphi Terrace

With the construction of the new Adelphi building and terrace, the terrace was pushed forward to also run up against Savoy Place, in line with Shell Mex House, so the area in the lower right of the above photo is now under the terrace.

Another view of Adelphi terrace around 1897 before the construction of Shell Mex House:

Adelphi Terrace

If you look to the left of the second lamp post in the above photo, you can just see a round plaque. This was a medallion of the Royal Society of Arts recording the fact that the actor David Garrick had lived in the house. It was in one of the back rooms of the house that the actor died in 1779.

The large building on the right on part of the site now occupied by Shell Mex House was the Hotel Cecil.

And if you had been living in one of the houses in the terrace, this would have been your view as you looked along the river to the east, with the corner of Hotel Cecil on the left, and the first Waterloo Bridge crossing the river.

View from Adelphi Terrace

At the time of the above photo, the Adelphi was described as “one of the finest places to live in all London, as well as for pleasantness of situation as for convenience. The noise of the Embankment is sufficiently far away, and the hooters and sirens on the river suggest that sense of freedom and open space which goes with ports and their kinship with the sea. All too uncommon in London, late at night, the loudest noise is often the wind in the trees which move the lights of silent shipping“. Not from an early 20th century Estate Agents description, the quote is from the book Wonderful London.

Continuing a walk around the Adelphi building, and more door surround decoration:

Adelphi

Looking back between the wings of the building, we can see bow windows extending outward, with metallic decoration:

Adelphi

More decorative carvings:

Adelphi

Balconies:

Adelphi

The main entrance to the Adelphi on John Adam Street:

Adelphi

What is confusing is if you look above the doors, is the address John Street, however if you look to the lower right, is the full name John Adam Street.

John Street seems to have been the original name, as it is used on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, and by the time of the 1951 revision, the current full name John Adam Street is used. I suspect the name change was when the Adelphi was built in the 1930s.

Having had a walk around the Adelphi building, time for a look at what remains of Robert Adam’s original estate. This is the view along Robert Street, with a fine terrace of buildings lining the side of the street. The end of the building on the left would have originally faced onto the original terrace, and is the same building at the far end of the terrace as in the 1795 print.

Robert Street

The scheme proposed by the Adams was highly ambitious. The land was sloping down to the river, and indeed consisted of part of the foreshore. The area would often flood at times of high tide.

Rather than building houses down along a sloping plot of land towards the river, with the resulting problems of damp and flooding, the plan consisted of building brick arches with the houses building on the platform created above.

The space within the arches would be sold or leased, and this approach would create a considerable improvement to the embankment of the Thames.

The following print from 1784 shows the completed estate with houses built above the arches which provided storage space easily accessible from the river  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Adelphi

The plan and construction was ambitious, and the financial side of the project was rather risky, as a lease on the land was only signed a year after construction had begun in 1768, and parliamentary approval to build the new embankment along the river was not granted until 1771.

Costs for the project were so high that the money had run out by 1773 when much of the estate had yet to be completed. To raise additional finance, a method common in the 18th century was used whereby a lottery with 4,370 tickets selling for £50 each raised enough to complete the estate. Prizes for lottery winners included some of the houses on the estate as well as storage space in the arches below.

The following plaque on the terrace in Robert Street identifies some of those who have lived in the houses:

Robert Street

View of the terrace in Robert Street from the junction with John Adam Street:

Robert Street

Strange that with street renaming, John Street changed to John Adam Street, however Robert Street kept the original name without a rename to the full Robert Adam.

The houses were highly decorated including Adam fireplaces. Many of the first floor ceilings were also painted by either the Swiss artist Angelica Kauffman or Giovanni Battista Cipriani from Florence.

Walking to the north of the Adelphi, along John Adam Street, and we find this building which was clearly not built as one of the terrace houses:

Royal Society

A plaque on the front identifies the building as the home of the Royal Society for the encouragement of arts, manufactures and commerce, which was founded in a coffee house in Covent Garden, and then moved to this building by Robert and James Adam in 1774. The building is still their home.

Royal Society

During the 1930s demolition ready for the construction of the Adelphi, demolition reached to the southern side of John Adam Street, so the street and home of the Royal Society are part of the original build, and the basement of the Royal Society building retains some of the brick arches built to raise the area above the sloping land.

In the 19th century, the arches and vaults below the houses had become somewhat different to what had been intended. The Sketch in 1903 includes the following description “The houses were built on deep arches that rivalled the Catacombs of Paris and these, at one time, were a great thieves kitchen, a tramps paradise, or doss house, that defied Watchmen and Bow Street Runners, and their successors the modern Peelers”.

There is probably some journalistic exaggeration in the above quote, however the following print from the mid 19th century does show a rather dark and gloomy place, underneath the Adam’s terrace houses  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Adelphi vaults

Looking along John Adam Street to the junction with Adam Street and we can see how the Adam’s plan included focal point houses at the end of the streets, and the type of decoration used.

The building in the background is Shell Mex House. When researching this post and after taking the above photo, I found the following print which shows the Royal Society building on the left, and the same building as in the photo, at the end of the street  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

John Adam Street

I should have found the above print before visiting the site as I would then have taken the photo slightly further back to include the Royal Society building. If you stand in the street today, ignore the new Adelphi to the right, and Shell Mex House, the view does look much the same as in 1795.

The following photo is looking up Adam Street. The junction with the Strand is further along the street to the left, with an original house at the end of the terrace with a curved extension to the smaller width of the street. Adam Street was cut through to the Strand as part of Adam’s construction of the Adelphi.

Adam Street

The house behind the white car has a GLC Blue Plaque stating that the 18th century industrialist and inventor Sir Richard Arkwright lived in the house, with English Heritage’s background to the plaque stating that Arwright lived some of the final years of his life here in Adam Street before his death in 1792.

Looking above the houses in the above photo, there is an unusual sight hidden within the dense building of this area south of the Strand. A brick chimney with some robust steelwork providing support from Shell Mex House.

Chimney by Shell Mex House

The type of brick chimney seen in the above photo was once relatively common across London, but now is an unusual sight. No idea of the chimney’s purpose, whether it was or maybe still is, part of the Shell Mex House heating system.

That was rather a detour from my father’s original photo of the open air art exhibition in the Victoria Embankment Gardens, but that is why I started the blog, as a means of getting out to find the location of a photo and discovering a wider area.

There is more to the story of the Adam’s brothers and the surrounding area, including the creation of the Embankment Gardens, Shell Mex House, and Lower Robert Street which still routes under part of the estate. The old river stairs that would have entered the river roughly along where Savoy Place is today, and some of the lost streets down to the river – hopefully all subjects for future posts.

And returning to the original photo, I wonder if the little girl in the photo can today remember walking in the gardens and alongside the art exhibition?

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