Category Archives: London History

Samaritans, Physicians, Cutlers, the YMCA and Freemasons

Firstly, a quick apology for an error in last week’s post. I had confused the size of the floors in the Swan pub, at Wapping Dock Stairs. The newspaper article I referred to stated they were 30 feet square on each floor, which I stated would have been just over 5 feet on each side (30 square foot, rather than 30 feet on each side of a floor), so a much larger room, and a reminder to me to read through my posts a couple of times before sending.

Thanks to those who let me know about the error.

For this Sunday’s post (and after reading through three times), a return to discover some of the fascinating stories told by the plaques that can be seen whilst walking around the City of London, starting with;

The Samaritans – St Stephen Walbrook

There is a blue City of London plaque on the side of St Stephen Walbrook, where St. Stephen’s Row heads along the rear of the Mansion House, arrowed in the following photo:

Samaritans

The plaque records that the Samaritans were founded in the church in 1953 by the rector, Chad Varah:

Samaritans

Edward Chad Varah. to give him his full name, was born on the 12th of November 1911 in the Lincolnshire village of Barton-on-Humber. He was the eldest of nine children and the name he would be known by came from St Chad, founder of the parish.

He did not intend to follow his father into the church, however he was persuaded by his godfather, Archbishop Hine.

In the early 1950s, he was based at Clapham Junction, carrying out house visits, and working as the chaplain of St John’s hospital, Battersea, however despite these activities, his stipend was very low, with hardly any money available for his work, and just enough to pay for a secretary. To help generate additional income, he took on a second career as a scriptwriter for children’s comics.

Varah had very liberal views for the time, particularly for a person of the church. He was a strong believe in sex education, and believed this was key for poorly educated young people.

His believe in the importance of sex education, and willingness to listen to people, to provide advice, and eventually to start the Samaritans may have come from an event in 1935 when Varah was an assistant curate in Lincoln. He had to conduct his first funeral which was for a 13 year old girl who had taken her own life. The girl had started her period, however without knowing what was really happening she feared she had a sexually transmitted disease which would result in a slow, painful and shameful death.

His lack of money whilst working in Clapham Junction, along with the responsibility of a parish, prevented any formal development of a system of help for those at risk of suicide, of which there was an average of three a day in London in the early 1950s.

Help came when he was offered the living of St Stephen Walbrook by the Grocers’ Livery Company. This was a City church without any parishioners when compared to Clapham Junction, and this provided Varah with the time to set up the service which would become the Samaritans.

Varah started with a single telephone on the 2nd of November 1953.

His connections in the publishing industry through his work on comics immediately led to some publicity for his new service, such as the following from the Daily Mirror on the 7th of December 1953:

“DIAL 9000 FOR WORDS OF COMFORT – A telephone emergency service, run on the same lines as the police 999 calls, will soon be available to people in distress who need spiritual aid.

All Londoners need do is dial Mansion House 9000, the number of the Telephone Good Samaritans, and advice will be given immediately.

The scheme has been thought up by the Rev. Chad Varah, 42, Vicar of St. Stephen’s in the City, and will be in operation within the next few months.

If a case is sufficiently urgent, a Good Samaritan will dash to the caller and try to comfort and help him or her, said Mr. Varah yesterday.

The Vicar hopes to enroll Samaritans – volunteer workers for his service – from all parts of London.

I want to spread the organisation so that there are at least two Samaritans for every four square miles of Greater London and the suburbs, he said.

I first got the idea from the many letters I received from people in mental and spiritual distress. And I have found that a chat, a kind word and some good advice from an outsider can often save a person’s life.

He said that he intended to deal with personal spiritual problems concerning everything from quarrels between married couples to would be suicides.

The qualifications Samaritans need are tact, patience and the ability to keep other people’s confidences, he said. Religion is a secondary requirement.”

The Daily Herald had a similar report, but ended with the following paragraph, which provides an indication of how many calls Chad Varah was receiving:

“Mr. Varah is now missing meals to keep up with the phone calls he is getting. The former vicar of St. Paul’s Clapham Junction, he has just taken over St. Stephen’s.”

He soon collected a group of volunteers together to take calls, and in February 1954 he handed over the responsibility to take calls to the volunteers leading to the organisation of the Samaritans.

Chad Varah was involved with the Samaritans for the rest of his life. He retired from St Stephen, Walbrook in 2003 after being rector of the church for 50 years. He died in 2007, just a few days before his 96th birthday.

A remarkable man, who started an organisation that must have saved countless lives since starting seventy years ago in St. Stephen Walbrook in 1953.

The City of London plaque to the founding of the Samaritans is next to a small alley, St. Stephens Row which runs alongside the church, and the rear of the Mansion House.

On the wall of the Mansion House close, to the plaque is a stone block, which I think warns that anyone sticking bills or damaging the walls will be prosecuted. There is no date, but from the faded script, and style, it is of some age:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

St. Stephen’s Row leads between the church and Mansion House:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

I suspect St. Stephen’s Row dates from the construction of the Mansion House.

The first stone of Mansion House was laid in 1739 and the home of the Mayors of the City of London was completed in 1758.

Although it was still under construction, by the time of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, it is shown on the map, and there is an alley between the Mansion House and St Stephen’s, which continues to the right of the Mansion House. Although it is not named on the map, it is the route of St. Stephen’s Row today:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

Going back to William Morgan’s 1682 map of London, and the space for the future Mansion House was then occupied by the Woolchurch Market. There looks to be buildings between the market and church, but there is no sign of the alley:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

There was a church which stood where the Mansion House now stands called St Mary Woolchurch Haw. The church was lost during the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt, and the market took the name of the church.

I have written about the church and the market towards the end of the post at this link.

The view along St. Stephen’s Row, with the church on the left and Mansion House on the right:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

The entrance to the churchyard at the rear of St. Stephen Walbrook from St. Stephen’s Row:

St. Stephen Walbrook Samaritans

Now to a very different location:

The Royal College of Physicians

In Warwick Lane, which runs between Newgate Street and Ave Marie Lane, to the west of St. Paul’s Cathedral, there is a plaque shown arrowed in the following photo:

Royal College of Physicians

Recording that this was the site of the Royal College of Physicians between 1674 and 1825:

Royal College of Physicians

The origins of the Royal College of Physicians dates back to the early 16th century when a number of leading medical men, including Thomas Linacre, the physician to King Henry VIII became concerned about the state of medical practice in the country, the lack of any regulation, and the impact that untrained physicians were having on their patients.

Thomas Linacre, along with five other leading physicians, persuaded the kIng to allow the founding of a College of Physicians.

A Royal Charter was received and the College of Physicians was founded in London on the 23rd of September, 1518, and an Act of Parliament in 1523 extended the authority of the College from London to the whole of the country.

The “Royal” was added to the name after the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in the later part of the 17th century.

The Royal College of Physicians original home in the City of London was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire, and nine years later, following some successful fundraising, the Royal College purchased land and property in Warwick Lane.

The new building was designed by Robert Hooke, and had a large central courtyard with wings either side. There was a public gallery, an anatomy theatre which was topped by an octagonal dome, and a large library which was designed by Christopher Wren.

The view of the Royal College of Physicians in Warwick Lane  © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Royal College of Physicians

The large courtyard at the rear of the block facing onto Warwick Lane  © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Royal College of Physicians

By the early 19th century, the City was becoming a crowded, busy and dirty place, and the building in Warwick Lane had deteriorated so was sold in 1825, and finally demolished in 1890.

Following the exit from Warwick Lane in 1825, the College moved to Pall Mall, before moving in 1964 to Regents Park, where they remain to this day.

Although not marked by a plaque as it is still in use, there is an interesting building next to the plaque:

Cutlers Hall

This is Cutlers Hall:

Cutlers Hall

My go to book on the City’s Companies (The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London by John Bromley, 1960) records the following about the Cutlers:

The cutlery trade of the Middle Ages included the making of swords, daggers and knives of all kinds. originally it was a highly specialised industry, comprising the separate trades of hafters who made handles or hafrts, bladesmiths and sheathers, with the cutlers acting as assemblers and salesmen. Both hafters and sheathers were ultimately merged into the Cutlers Company while the bladesmiths were first united with the Company of Armourers, and then allowed by a decision of the Court of Aldermen of 1528 to depart unto the fellowship of Cutlers at will.”

Given their trade, you would expect the Cutlers to be one of the old Company’s of the City, and they are indeed, with the first mention of an organised craft of Cutlers in 1328 when seven cutlers were elected to govern the craft and search for false work.

The Cutlers moved to the hall we see today in Warwick Lane in the 1880s, when their original hall in Cloak Lane was demolished to make way for the construction of the Inner Circle Line by the Metropolitan and District Railway Company (now the route of the Circle and District lines between Mansion House and Cannon Street stations).

I wrote a post about the original hall, and the construction of the railway in this post: Cloak Lane, St John the Baptist, the Walbrook and the Circle Line

The arms of the Cutlers can be seen above the entrance to the hall, and the following image shows the arms:

Cutlers Company

The swords are an obvious reference to one of the products of the Cutlers. The use of elephants in the arms is old, and was recorded in 1445 where members of the Cutlers wore elephants as decorations on their coats or shields when the City welcomed Queen Margaret on her marriage to Henry VI in 1445.

The use of the elephant may be down to the use of ivory in the hafts (handle of a knife) made by members of the Company.

The elephant is featured in the sign hanging from the side of Cutlers Hall:

Cutlers Hall

One remarkable feature of Cutlers Hall is the frieze along the façade of the building. The frieze is a detailed view of the work of cutlers, and was created by the sculptor Benjamin Creswick.

The following image shows the frieze, with the left most panel at the top:

Cutlers Hall

The red terracotta frieze is a wonderful record of the work of the trades that formed the Cutlers Company.

Now to St. Paul’s Churchyard to find two very different organisations, starting with the:

Young Men’s Christian Association

In front of the cathedral, there is an office block with shops on ground level running along the line of St. Paul’s Churchyard. There is a covered walkway in front of the shops, and at the western end of this walkway, next to the old gate of Temple Bar are two plaques, the first arrowed in the following photo:

YMCA

The arrow is pointing to a plaque on the wall recording the founding of the Young Men’s Christian Association:

YMCA

The plaque states that in 1844, George Williams with eleven other young men employed in the City of London…….Founded the Young Men’s Christian Association. But why here?

The Drapery House mentioned in the plaque was the offices, factory and warehouses of Hitchcock, Williams & Co.

The firm was established in 1835 by George Hitchcock and a Mr. Rogers, who would leave in 1843.  George Williams (mentioned in the above plaque) who originally joined the company as an apprentice, became a Director with Hitchcock in 1853 when the partnership Hitchcock, Williams & Co was formed. Always based in St. Paul’s Churchyard, firstly at number 1, then at number 72, with the firm expanding to take in many of the surrounding buildings.

George Williams, as well as becoming a partner with Hitchcock, received a knighthood from Queen Victoria for services, which included the inauguration of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)  which was founded in a room of the company’s premises in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

The history of the YMCA states that the group founded the YMCA as “a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets of London”.

The buildings of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. were destroyed during the raids of the 29th December 1940. A paragraph in the newspaper reports of the raid included a mention of the company and the YMCA:

“The historic room in which the Young Men’s Christian Association was started was among the places destroyed on Sunday night. With seven other buildings, the George Williams Room – named after the founder, the late Sir George Williams – was burned to ashes. It was situated in the premises of Messrs. Hitchcock, Williams and Co, manufacturers, warehousemen and shippers, of St. Paul’s Churchyard, and was originally one of the bedrooms used by the 140 assistants employed in the Hitchcock drapery business.”

As stated in the plaque, “from its beginning in this place inspired of God the association grew to encompass the world” and all because George Williams started as an apprentice here, in one of the many businesses that once lined St. Paul’s Churchyard.

I wrote a post dedicated to the company’s experience in the 1940s in this post: Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse In Wartime.

The Grand Lodge of English Freemasons

There is another plaque in the same place as the plaque recording the YMCA. Directly opposite, in the entrance to the covered walkway shown in the photo of the location of the YMCA plaque is the following:

Freemasons

The significance of the plaque and the site is the reference to the Grand Lodge, as prior to 1717 there had been four London lodges, and on the 24th of June 1717, they met at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard, and elected Anthony Sayer as the first Grand Master.

This was the first Grand Lodge not only in the country, but also across the world of Freemasons.

The four original lodges had all met in pubs; the Goose and Gridiron in St. Paul’s Churchyard, the Crown in Parkers Lane, the Apple Tree in Covent Garden, and the Rummer and Grapes (no location given).

Pubs continued to be used for meetings, but in 1767, the Grand Master, the Duke of Beaufort had the idea for a Central Hall, and a committee was formed to purchase land for a new hall, and a “plot of ground and premises consisting of two large, commodious dwelling houses, and a large garden situated in Great Queen Street” were purchased.

The hall built on the site was opened in 1776, and the Freemasons still occupy the same site, with the current hall being built between 1927 and 1933.

The plaques featured in today’s post show the wide range of organisations that have made the City of London their home over the centuries, or have been founded in the City.

From organisations such as the Samaritans, who must have been responsible for saving and helping so many people since 1953, to global organisations such as the YMCA, City Livery Companies, Medical Institutions and the Freemasons.

And they all continue to make their mark today.

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Wapping Dock Stairs

If you have been on my Wapping walk, you will hopefully recognise the following view, and it is a view that I find fascinating as it represents the history of crossing the Thames between Wapping and Rotherhithe..

Wapping Dock Stairs

The main feature in the photo is Wapping Station, a station on the London Overground that from Wapping crosses under the river to the next stop on the route south at Rotherhithe.

I will touch on the station later in the post, but the main focus of today’s post is at the end of the walkway to the right of the station, a walkway that leads up to Wapping Dock Stairs.

If you have been reading the blog for a few years, you will realise I have a strange fascination with Thames Stairs.

Not so much the physical stair, although these are really interesting, historical structures, rather what the stairs represent.

For centuries, these were the main interface between the land and the river. If you were travelling up, down, or across the river you would use one of the Watermen who would cluster at the base of the stairs, to row you to your destination.

If you were leaving London, you would reach the boat taking you to your destination via a river stair, or if you were arriving back in London, you would return to the land via the stairs.

Countless thousands of people have used these stairs. For some, arriving at the stairs would be their first view of London, for those leaving, it could be their last view of London.

Many of those who have had to flee the country, for political or religious reasons, would have left the country via Thames stairs. Perhaps leaving in disguise, or in the dead of night to avoid recognition, to catch a boat to take them away from the country.

I have covered many such stories in previous blog posts, and will provide links at the end of today’s post, but for now back to Wapping Dock Stairs.

As with nearly all the stairs in Wapping, Wapping Dock Stairs are old, and date back to at least the end of the 17th century, and are probably much older.

In Rocque’s map of 1746, the stairs are shown in the centre of the following extract, with Wapping Dock Street being the street that leads up to the stairs:

Wapping Dock Stairs

Richard Horwood’s map of London from 1799 also shows Wapping Dock Stairs, and when compared to Rocque’s map, Horwood adds a level of detail with individual buildings lining the streets:

Wapping Dock Stairs

The location today, with the stairs and station circled, is shown in the following map  ( © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Wapping Dock Stairs

Turning off Wapping High Street, this is the approach to the stairs. The walkway on the right leads to an entrance to the building on the right. The walkway on the left leads to the stairs.

Wapping Dock Stairs

Nearly every set of stairs in Wapping had a pub by the side of the approach to the stairs. Only two can be seen today, the Town of Ramsgate by Wapping Old Stairs, and the Prospect of Whitby by Pelican Stairs.

Wapping Dock Stairs also had a pub, the Swan, and we can get a view of the pub from an advert in the Morning Advertiser on the 2nd of December,1806 when the lease came up for sale:

“A lease for 21 years, and immediate possession, of the SWAN PUBLIC HOUSE, situate at the corner of Wapping Dock Stairs, as eligible a spot for business as any along the coast; it contains in the basement, an extensive dry cellar; on the ground floor, a convenient bar, large tap-room, and good parlour, and three stories above, with a space of about 30 feet square on each floor, divided into numerous well-proportioned rooms; here is an abundance of accommodation for lodgers, as well as ample conveniences for an extensive business; common industry and attention would assuredly beget here a very lucrative trade. May be viewed at any time for a week prior to the sale. Particulars to be had of Mr. Harris, No. 12, Gracechurch Street.”

There are many newspaper references to these pubs by stairs, and so often they offer a glimpse into a story which you really want to know more about, for example, from the Morning Advertiser on the 26th of August, 1808:

“If the next of Kin of Hendrick Steerwell, late belonging to the West India Merchant ship Ranger, dec. will apply at the Swan, Wapping Dock Stairs, they will hear of something to their advantage.”

This brief advert leaves so many questions unanswered. Who was Hendrick Steerwell, where and how did he die (presumably whilst serving on the West India Merchant ship Ranger). What did he leave that would be of advantage to his next of kin, did they benefit, and also what happened if there were several next of kin.

A whole story could be written based on that single advert from 1808.

The advert also highlights that the stairs were a key part of the pub’s location. Rather than giving an address on Wapping High Street, the pub is specifically mentioned as being at the stairs.

Back to Wapping Dock Stairs, and approaching the stairs there is a strong metal gate preventing any access to the stairs. Behind the gate are the stone steps often found at these stairs which added a bit height and therefore flood prevention from high tides:

Wapping Dock Stairs

Looking over the gate, and we can see why they were fenced off so securely:

Wapping Dock Stairs

There are stone steps that run down to where a series of wooden steps once led down to the foreshore. These wooden steps have completely eroded away.

From the bottom of where the wooden steps should have been, the remains of a causeway leads out across the foreshore, into the river.

Much of the causeway has also eroded, leaving only the wooden stakes on either side that would have held the causeway in position.

From the top of Wapping Dock Stairs, we can look across the river to Rotherhithe. This view would once have been full of ships, with ships being moored around the stairs, some of which were often for sale, such as on the 20th of November, 1805 when the following auction was advertised:

“This day, the 20th Instant, at Three precisely, The good Smack Ocean, built at Burnham in Essex, in 1798, is a strong, clinch-built vessel, and is well adapted for the Oyster Trade, a Pilot Boat, &c, well founded in stores. Lying at Wapping Dock Stairs.”

Wapping Dock Stairs

To pursue my rather nerdy interest in Thames Stairs, I have finally got hold of a copy of a book published by the Port of London Authority, titled “Access to the River Thames. A Port of London Authority Guide”, with the sub-title of “Steps, Stairs and Landing Places on the Tidal Thames”:

Port of London Authority

Although the book is not dated, I believe it was published around 1995.

It covers all the steps, stairs and landing places on the part of the Thames managed by the PLA, the tidal Thames, and covers from Richmond down to Southend.

There is an outline map, based on the area covered by a PLA chart for sections of the river, with the stairs along that stretch of the river marked and named.

There is a table for each set of steps, stairs and landing places describing key features of each. I copied the details for Wapping Dock Stairs into the following table:

Wapping Dock Stairs

The categories for each set of stairs, landing places etc. in the book are the same, allowing them to be compared.

For Wapping Dock Stairs the stairs are described as having a broken causeway and wooden stairs. This probably means that the wooden stairs were part there, but in the following 30 years they have disappeared completely.

Bathing is dangerous, and public access to the stairs is blocked by a fence which the London Borough of Tower Hamlets will remove when the stairs below Mean High Water Mark are made safe.

I have always wondered about responsibility for these stairs. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets were responsible for putting in the metal gate, but are they responsible for the stairs down to the foreshore, or is it the Port of London Authority who, along with the Crown Estate are the primary owners of the foreshore.

I have emailed the PLA asking who is responsible for the stairs, it will be interesting to see the reply.

The tables for all stairs, from Richmond to Southend list whether the stairs were a landing place in 1708 and 1977. Wapping Dock Stairs is listed as a landing place in 1708, which sets a minimum age for the stairs as over 300 years.

I do not know why 1708 has been used for all stairs, steps and landing places along the tidal Thames. A few quick searches have not revealed any surveys or maps that were made of the whole tidal river in 1708 – probably another question for the PLA.

The Grade 2 listed building that the table states that the stairs are adjacent to is the 1920s Gun Wharves that runs along 124 to 130 Wapping High Street.

I wrote at the start of the post that the photo of Wapping Station and Wapping Dock Stairs show the methods of crossing the river that have been in use for hundreds of years.

In the early 19th century, the increase in the numbers of people crossing the river by boat resulted in a proposal for a foot tunnel under the river.

The result was a foot tunnel where the rail route under the river is today. I walked through the tunnel in 2014, and the following is a brief extract from my post on the tunnel, which you can find here.

A Thames Tunnel was badly needed. It was a four mile circuit between Rotherhithe and Wapping via London Bridge and ferries carried 4,000 people across the Thames every day at Rotherhithe.

Marc Brunel was convinced that a tunnel could be built and had the concept of a shield to protect workers at the face of the tunneling work. A meeting with investors was held on the 18th February 1824 and a company formed with Brunel appointed as engineer.

The shaft was started in March 1825 and all appeared to be going well, however in January 1826 the river burst through, but work pressed on and by the beginning of 1827 the tunnel had reached 300 feet.

As work progressed, in addition to the risk of the river breaking through, there were all manner of problems including strikes, mysterious diseases (the River Thames was London’s main drain, polluted with a considerable amount of sewage) and explosions from “fire-damp”.

The river continued to burst through. On Saturday 12th January 1828 six workman were trapped and drowned and despite the hole being filled with 4,000 bags of clay the project was temporarily abandoned due to lack of funds. The tunnel was bricked up and no further work carried out for seven years.

Work started again on the 27th March 1835 and carried on for a further eight more years.

In March 1843 staircases were built around the shafts and Marc Brunel  led a triumphant procession through the tunnel. Marc Brunel’s son Isambard worked with his father during the construction of the tunnel and was appointed chief engineer in 1827, however his work with the Great Western railway took him away from the tunnel during the later years of construction. Marc Brunel worked on the tunnel from start to finish.

As one of the sights of London, the Thames Tunnel was a huge success. Within 24 hours of the tunnel’s opening fifty thousand people had passed through and one million within the first fifteen weeks.

It did not remain a foot tunnel for long. The Thames Tunnel was purchased by the East London railway in 1866 and three years later was part of London’s underground railway system.

View along one of the tracks in the tunnel:

Wapping tunnel

The wall between the two tracks in the tunnel had arches spaced at roughly regular intervals along the length of the tunnel.

When the tunnel first opened for foot passengers, a number of enterprising Londoners set out stalls in these arches selling to those who had come to walk through the tunnel. There were reports at the time of how all these stalls selling food, souvenirs etc. degraded the walk through the tunnel. Low level crime was also attracted to the tunnel.

Looking at the arches in what is now a railway tunnel shows a quality of design and finish that was meant to be seen by people walking through, rather than speeding past in a train.

Wapping tunnel

So in summary, the view across to Wapping Station and the adjacent Wapping Dock Stairs shows:

  • The means of crossing the river between Wapping and Rotherhithe for hundreds of years by taking a boat from a Thames Stair
  • The introduction in 1843 of a foot tunnel which offered a new and unique way of crossing the river, and;
  • The purchase of the tunnel by the East London railway in 1866 and integration into London’s rail network, part of which it has remained to this day

There was another feature that I wanted to find related to the station. Walking slightly in land, along Clave Street, then Clegg Street, where on the corner is this building, part of the landscape of Wapping prior to the development of recent decades:

Industrial history

With some lovely metal fittings that allow the wooden door to be rolled along the front of the building:

Industrial history

Which I suspect have not worked for many years:

Industrial history

At the back of the building, there is a small green space, with a children’s playground in Hilliards Court. At the side of the playground is this structure:

Tunnel air vent

Stand here for a few minutes and you will soon hear the very clear sound of a train, either pulling away from, or slowing down into, Wapping Station. An unexpected sound in this very quiet Wapping green space, coming from an air vent to the tracks below.

Openstreetmap includes the route of the railway, even though it is underground at this point. I have circled the air vent at the top of the following map  ( © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Wapping Station

The PLA book on Steps, Stairs and Landing Places on the Tidal Thames lists a total of 241 from Richmond to Southend, along both banks of the river – so I have only scratched the surface.

If you are interested in reading about the other Thames stairs I have covered, then:

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Prudential Building and Furnival’s Inn

A quick advert – if you would like to explore Wapping or the Barbican, there are only a few places left on my upcoming walks:

All other walks have sold out.

Walk along Holborn and one of the most impressive buildings you will see is the old head office of Prudential Assurance:

Prudential building Holborn

The Prudential moved into their new office in 1879, which was quite an achievement given that the company had only been founded 31 years earlier in 1848.

The building exudes Victorian commercial power and was a statement building for the company that was at the time the country’s largest assurance company.

The lower part of the building uses polished granite, with red brick and red terracotta across all upper floors. If you stare at the building long enough the use of polished granite gives the impression that there has been a large flood along Holborn, which has left a tide mark on the building after washing out the red colour from the lower floors.

The building is Grade II* listed and was designed by Alfred Waterhouse with help from his son Paul. After Prudential initially moved into the building, constriction continued as could be expected on a building of this size which extends back from Holborn for some distance. The front range facing onto Holborn was completed between 1897 and 1901.

In the centre of the façade is a tower, with a large arch leading through into inner courtyards around which are further wings of the building:

Prudential building Holborn

Alfred Waterhouse was born in 1830 in Liverpool. His father was involved in the cotton trade, working as a cotton broker. The family had quite an influence on the future, with one of his brothers founding an accountancy firm that would eventually become PriceWaterhouse, and a second brother, Theodore, starting a legal company that became Field Fisher Waterhouse (the company has since dropped the Waterhouse name).

After attending a Quaker school in Tottenham, Alfred Waterhouse started work in Manchester where he worked on a number of private residences and public buildings, however he first major commission came when he won a competition for the Assize Courts in Manchester in 1858.

The Assize Courts were badly damaged by wartime bombing, and were condemned by the post-war decision not to rebuild. The Gothic style of Waterhouse’s work was not in fashion with architectural styles of the 1950s and 60s.

The following photo of the Manchester Assize Courts shows what an impressive building it was, and the similarities with the Prudential Building (Attribution: Old stereoscope card, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons):

Manchester assize courts

His other work in Manchester included Strangeways Prison (now just HM Prison Manchester), and Manchester Town Hall, which did survive wartime bombing of the city, and still looks glorious today. Again, the same Gothic style and parallels with the Prudential building can be seen:

Manchester town hall

Waterhouse moved his architectural practice from Manchester to London in 1865.

He lost out on a competition to design the Law Courts in the Strand, but did win the competition for the Natural History Museum in Kensington, which again follows a similar style to his previous works, although with the museum, at the centre of the wide façade is the main entrance, which has two smaller towers on either side of the central block.

The Natural History Museum also displays a move from Gothic to Romanesque as an architectural style.

The design of the new building was considered such a success by Prudential that they commissioned Alfred Waterhouse and his son Paul to design a further 21 office buildings for the company in cities across the country. Some of these, such as in Southampton, can still be seen.

Waterhouse died in 1905, just a few years after Queen Victoria, and his Gothic designs with large buildings often including central towers have come to be symbolic of a style of Victorian architecture, that ended at the very start of the 20th century.

The Prudential adopted the figure of Prudence in 1848 as the symbol for the company. Prudence was said to have the qualities of memory, intelligence and foresight, enabling a prudent act to consider the past, present and future.

The figure of Prudence can be seen in a niche above the main entrance into the building and was the work of the sculptor Frederick William Pomeroy:

Prudential building Holborn

The Prudential Mutual Assurance Investment and Loan Association was founded in 1848 in Hatton Garden, and their target market was the sale of life assurance and the provision of loans to the emerging Victorian middle and industrious classes.

The company advertised the sale of shares in January 1849 to raise capital, and their advert gives an idea of the financial products that were starting to become widely available in the middle of the 19th century:

“The following important new features and advantages in Life Assurance, now introduced by this Association, are earnestly impressed on the attention of the public, particularly of the industrial classes, viz :-

  1. To enable members subscribing for £20 shares, payable by small monthly or quarterly instalments, to securely invest their savings and participate in the whole amount of profits, or in the case of death their representatives to receive the amount of each share in cash.
  2. To enable Members to purchase real or other property, by advances from the Association on such property.
  3. To grant members loans on real or other security.
  4. To create by periodical subscriptions an Accumulating Fund, the profits arising from which to be from time to time divided amongst its members.
  5. To afford an opportunity to a borrower of securing his surety from future payments in case of his (the borrower’s) death.
  6. Life Assurance in a reduced scale for the whole life or term of years, on lives, joint lives, or on survivorship.

The comment “payable by small monthly or quarterly instalments” is reminder of the method used by the company to collect payments, with the “Man from the Pru” becoming the term for an insurance salesman who calls door to door to collect regular payment for Prudential’s products.

The Man from the Pru was also the title of a 1990 film which was based on the true story of a Prudential employee who was convicted of the murder of his wife.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death, however employees of the Prudential raised several hundred pounds and the case went to appeal and he was found not guilty, mainly due to very flimsy evidence being presented.

Immediatly after being acqutted, he continued his employment with the Prudential.

The “Man from the Pru” operated across the country, and was supported by company offices in multiple towns and cities.

There is a frieze along the façade of the Prudential building, which includes coats of arms of many of the places where the company had an office:

Prudential building Holborn

I have been able to identify a few of these arms. In the above photo, the arms of Belfast is at the left, then could be Norwich, although the castle should be above the lion, on the right is Bristol.

In the photo below, Leeds is second from left, then Coventry:

Prudential building Holborn

Look up when walking in through the main entrance, and admire the incredible brickwork:

Prudential building Holborn

When built, the Prudential building was very advanced for its time. There was hot and cold running water, electric lighting, and to speed the delivery of paperwork across the site, a pnematic tube system was installed, where documents were put into canisters, which were then blown through the tube system to their destination.

Ladies were provided with their own restaurant and library, and had a separate entrance, and were also allowed to leave 15 minutes early to “avoid consorting with men”.

The façade onto Holborn is just part of the Prudential complex as it extends some considerable way back from the street. The size of the building was not just because of the number of workers, but was also to enable storage of the sheer volume of paperwork resulting from insuring almost one third of the UK population at the peek of the Prudential’s size.

Walking through the main entrance and there is a small open space, where we can see a connecting bridge between wings of the complex, with ornate windows above a large arch:

Prudential building Holborn

There is a plaque on the wall, recording that Charles Dickens lived here. He lived here between 1833 and 1836 when the site was occupied by Furnival’s Inn, more of which later in the post:

Prudential building Holborn

More stunning brickwork in the arch over the entrance to the courtyard at the back of the complex:

Prudential building Holborn

The overall Prudential site was expanded and remodeled during the years of their occupation.

Being an information intensive business, their building needed to adjust to changing technology, and methods of recording and storing data.

In the 1930s the interior of the original blocks were rebuilt with large open plan floors in the art deco style in order to accommodate punch card machinery.

There was another major refurbishment in the 1980s which completed by 1993, but by then the Prudential’s days in their Holborn office complex were numbered. Departments had been moving out of central London for a number of years, for example their Industrial Branch administration had moved to Reading in 1965.

In 1999, the Prudential’s Group Head Office relocated to Laurence Pountney Hill.

Since 2019, the Prudential has been focused on Asia and the Far East. The UK businesses were transferred to M&G which today is a completely separate company to the Prudential, although Prudential still retain a head office in London and are quoted on the London Stock Exchange.

The following photo shows the rear courtyard of the complex, now named Waterhouse Square after the original architect of the buildings. The dome in the centre provides natural light to the space below:

Prudential building Holborn

But what was on the site before the Prudential building? To discover that, we need to look at the Corporation of London blue plaque to the right of the main entrance from Holborn:

Furnival's Inn

The plaque records that the Prudential building is on the site of Furnival’s Inn, which was demolished in 1897 to make way for the Prudential building.

The name comes from William de Furnival who, around the year 1388, leased part of his lands in Holborn to the Clerks of Chancery, who prepared writs for the King’s Court, assisted by apprentices who received the first stages of their legal training at the Inn.

By the 15th century, the Inns of Chancery had become a type of preparatory school for students, and by 1422, Furnival’s Inn was attached to Lincoln’s Inn, who later in 1548 took on a long term lease.

Furnival’s Inn was described as the equivalent of Eton with Lincoln’s Inn being King’s College at Cambridge. At the end of each year, Lincoln’s Inn would receive students from Furnival’s who had received their training, and reached the standard required to move up, and receive the next stage of their training, along with the greater freedoms that an Inn of Court could offer.

The scale of Funival’s Inn can be seen in the following extract from William Morgan’s 1682 map of London, where the inn can be seen in the centre of the map:

Furnival's Inn

Furnival’s Inn occupied much of the space currently occupied by the old Prudential buiding. The map also includes some of the many legal institutions based in this part of Holborn. Part of Grays Inn can be seen to the left, and below and to the left of Furnival’s Inn is another Inn of Chancery, Staple Inn.

To the right of the map is Ely House which I wrote about in a post a couple of weeks ago.

As with the Prudential building, Furnival’s Inn had a very impressive front onto Holborn. This is from the early 19th century (the following prints are © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Furnival's Inn

This drawing from around 1720 shows the scale of Furnival’s Inn:

Furnival's Inn

As with the Prudential building, Furnival’s Inn had a central entrance from Holborn. Once through this entrance, there is an inner courtyard surrounded by buildings, and behind this courtyard is a garden, again surrounded by buildings.

The following print is from 1804 and shows part of the inner court:

Furnival's Inn

By the 17th century, the Inns of Chancery had begun to turn into societies for the legal profession, and Furnival’s Inn became residential, offices and dining clubs.

Their use as places of training and education for students before they transferred to the Inns of Court had been reducing over time and by the 19th century, Furnival’s Inn had ceased to exist for its original purpose, with only what were classed as “6 ancients and 16 juniors”.

It was dissolved in 1817, and when Lincoln’s Inn did not renew their lease a year later, some of the buildings were sold off and demolished, with apartments and a hotel occupying part of the site.

Parts of the old Furnival’s buildings were still used by those in the legal profession, and there were a number of adverts and articles in the press from solicitors based in the buildings, for example in 1880 a solicitor J.C. Asprey who had an address of 6 Furnival’s Inn was advertising for any claimants to the estate of a deceased resident of Hackney.

Final clearance of the site ready for the Prudential removed the last of the Furnival buildings and name from the site, however the Prudential building retained a similar layout with a large façade along Holborn, with inner courtyards surrounded by buildings.

Whilst the architecture and brickwork of the Prudential building is impressive, the drawings of the interior of Furnival’s Inn show a place which had evolved over time, with buildings that were probably put up at different times and for different purposes, which must have been an interesting place to explore.

The following print is dated 1820, just after the Inn had ceased to function as an inn of Chancery. On the range of buildings to the left, an open arch can be seen which leads through to Holborn, and at the far end on the right is a building which looks as if it could have been a central hall, with a large bay window looking out onto the courtyard.

Furnival's Inn

After the Prudential left the building, work was done to extend at the rear and refresh / build new, along part of the western side of the building. The streets, part of which are pedestrianised, surrounding three sides of the complex are called Waterhouse Square.

The building is now used by multiple companies as office space, but I understand is still owned by the Prudential.

Fascinating to think that, whilst the buildings have changed across the centuries, this part of Holborn has been occupied by the buildings of only two institutions across almost 700 years – Furnival’s Inn and the Prudential.

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Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the Rye House Plot

The first of my walks “The South Bank – Marsh, Industry, Culture and the Festival of Britain” for 2023 is now available. Details and booking on this link.

Turn south from Holborn, or east from Kingsway, away from these busy streets, and through some side streets you will find Lincoln’s Inn Fields:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Lincoln’s Inn Fields is a wonderful open space, and was looking good during my visit on a sunny spring day. Immediately to the west of Lincoln’s Inn, after which the space takes its name, it has been an open space for a considerable time.

View looking to the east with the buildings of Lincoln’s Inn on the eastern border:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

In the 1561 Agas map of London, the area now occupied by Lincoln’s Inn Fields was still open space. Although it is very difficult to be precise about the location on the Agas map, due to the accuracy of the map, perspective and scale, it is possible to roughly locate the position by comparing with other streets, which I have marked in the following extract with the yellow oval showing the very rough location of what would become Lincoln’s Inn Fields:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

The map shows footpaths across the fields, limited building to the north along Holborn, and the building and gardens that then lined the length of the Strand.

The fields were named Cup Field and Purse Field and at the time of the Agas map, they were pasture lands owned by the Crown.

Lincoln’s Inn were concerned about the growth of the city around their buildings and objected to any building on the two fields. In the 1630s, the fields were sold to William Newton of Bedfordshire. He managed to reach an agreement to start the building of houses with Lincoln’s Inn and also secured a royal licence to develop the land.

These agreements included leaving the area that is now Lincoln’s Inn Fields as an open space, to the west of Lincoln’s Inn, and by 1660, Lincoln’s Inn Fields was in existence as an open space, and was surrounded by buildings on three sides:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

The map shows that on the north and south sides of the Fields, the streets had not been fully completed with housing lining just part of the boundary.

The map also shows that in 1660 there was an area of open space at the south east corner called Little Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The west side of the space had started to be developed in 1638, and development of the north and south sides started in 1657 when Sir William Cowper, James Cowper and Robert Henley purchased Cup Field. This was just three years before the date of the above map, which explains the partial development of the north and south sides of the fields.

The new owners also had the open space leveled, grassed over, trees planted, and gravel walks laid out. Again, the outline of these can be seen in the 1660 map, and the design was apparently the work of Inigo Jones.

Although the intention must have been to create a pleasant open space for the owners of the new houses along the edge of the fields, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Lincoln’s Inn Fields did suffer from crime and much anti-social behaviour.

For example, from the Kentish Weekly Post on the 23rd of February 1732: “At night, one Mr. Henshaw, of Gray’s Inn, returning home over Lincoln’s Inn Fields, was attacked by two Street Robbers, who took from him 3 Guineas and a Half, 4 Shillings in Silver, and a Gold Headed Cane; a Light appearing at a Distance, they made off and he had the Fortune to save his Gold Watch.”

The comment about the light appearing at a distance shows just how dark places such as Lincoln’s Inn Fields must have been, without the level of street and general lighting we have now. There would have been no lights across the field, and any lights from the surrounding houses would have been very dim.

Whilst these crimes must have had a terrible impact on the victim, the sentences on those who carried out the crime were often very severe, as indicated by this report from 1733: “George Richardson, John Smithson and Laurence Grace, who were executed at Tyburn on Saturday last, for robbing a Gentleman in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, of his Hat, Wig, and Half a Guineas.”

The same newspaper report also stated that in the same sessions at the Old Bailey which had condemned the three from Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Francis Corcher received the death sentence for robbing an Agate Snuff-Box set in Gold, and of a separate robbery of a Gold Watch and 5 shillings in Hyde Park.

The fields were known as “the head-quarters of beggars by day and of robbers at night”, and there were “idle gangs of vagrants” who went by the names of the “Mumpers and Rufflers”.

A number of those convicted of theft were executed in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the 17th century.

To try and address the level of crime in the fields, in 1734 the residents applied to Parliament for an Act which would allow them to raise a rate on the residents surrounding the fields, and this would be used to enclose the square, provide keys for the residents only, pay for watchman and a “scavenger” who would ensure the fields and surrounding streets were kept clean.

The railings were put up around the square in 1735.

By 1755, development of the north and south sides had been completed, joining the houses along the west of the fields. To the east of the fields, the land was part of Lincoln’s Inn, and the “Little Lincoln’s Inn Fields” shown in the 1660 map had been built over, as shown in the following parish map:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Today, the streets surrounding the central space also go by the name of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, however back in 1766 they had individual names: Newmans Row, The Arch Row, Portugal Row and Lincoln’s Inn Wall.

Newmans Row remains as a short street from the north east corner of the fields up to the alley that leads to High Holborn.

Lincoln’s Inn Wall describes the wall to the east of the street, separating off Lincoln’s Inn.

The Arch Row and Portugal Row also have interesting stories to tell about their naming, but I will leave these to a future post, as I run out of time within the constraints of a weekly post.

The following map shows the area today, with Holborn to the north, Kingsway to the west and Lincoln’s Inn to the east (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Walking from the south, into Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and there is a shelter in the centre of the space:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

In the middle of the shelter, there is a plaque on the floor, recording that “Near this spot was beheaded William Lord Russell a lover of Constitutional Liberty 21 July AD 1683”:

William Lord Russell Rye House plot

Surprising that such an execution took place in Lincoln’s Inn fields, however I have read that in central London, you are never further than around 500 yards from a place of execution. It would be interesting to test this out.

Who was William Lord Russell and why was he executed?

He was born on the 29th of September 1639 as the second son of Sir William Russell, the 5th Earl of Bedford.

He became an MP after standing for the  family borough of Tavistock at the general election of 1660. His Parliamentary records state that he was a rather inactive member, only being a member of two committees, one looking at the drainage of the fens, and the other looking at turning the Covent Garden precinct into a parish. He would have had an interest in Covent Garden as his father owned much of the land.

Although he was member for Tavistock, apparently he never visited the town.

William Lord Russell was a Whig – a political party / faction that opposed the principle of absolute monarchy and of Catholic emancipation. Whigs were supporters of the primacy of Parliament.

His work in Parliament did increase, with more activity within various committees and debates, and he also became the member for both Bedfordshire and Hampshire. Even with the election standards of the time, it was rare for a member of Parliament to represent two counties, and he eventually settled for just Bedfordshire.

William Lord Russell (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

William Lord Russell Rye House Plot

It was his views on Catholicism and the Crown that would lead to his death sentence.

Charles II was on the throne, however on his death it was expected that James, the second surviving son of Charles I would become King.

James was a Catholic, and a grouping within the Whigs were strongly opposed that a Catholic could become King, and that as James had a son, it would be the start of a Catholic line of monarchs.

This opposition by the Whigs led to the Rye House plot, which was a plot to murder Charles II and his brother James, Duke of York when they returned from Newmarket to London in March 1683.

The name of the plot comes from the building in which some of the plotters met, and where the King was expected to pass at the time of the attempted assassination. Rye House was near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. Following the assassination, an uprising in London was planned.

There was very flimsy evidence as to the seriousness of the plot, who was involved, and whether it would have succeeded. Apparently Charles II returned to London earlier than planned which was the story put about to explain the failure of the plot.

Despite limited evidence and whether or not the plotters would have gone through with their plans, Charles II wanted everyone involved with the plot aggressively caught, tried and punished. This seems to have been due to Charles II determination to destroy Whig opposition in revenge following Whig efforts to exclude his brother James from the line of succession.

William Lord Russell was one of those caught up in the conspiracy. He was put on trial, where he would admit only that he had not given information about one of the conspirators, rather than having been an active participant in the plot.

The following print shows the trial of William Lord Russell. He is standing at the witness stand on the right. His wife is at the small table in front of him, taking notes and looking up at her husband (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

William Lord Russell Rye House Plot

Despite his protestations of limited involvement in the plot, and that it does not seemed to have been a well planned activity, he was sentenced to death.

Print from 1796 showing William Lord Russell’s last interview with his family (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

William Lord Russell Rye House Plot

A number of pamphlets were published at the time, about the Rye House Plot, and the fate of the alleged conspirators. One of these graphically shows some of their fates (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Rye House Plot

The images at the top show the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, who was known to be one of the leading conspirators against a Catholic succession if Charles II died, and the spiritual leader of the Rye House plot. When the king had been ill, Shaftesbury had already convened a number of people sympathetic to the cause to discuss what should be done when the King died, and that an uprising should take place to enable Parliament to make the decision on the succession.

Shaftesbury’s attitudes to Charles II and his brother James led to him fleeing the country to the Netherlands at the end of 1682, however the journey had an impact on his health and he died in Amsterdam on the 21st of January 1683.

At lower left is Arthur, Earl of Essex who committed suicide in the Tower of London by cutting his throat. The two figures are saying that he murdered himself of horrid guilt.

The next panel to the right is showing Thomas Walcott and John Rousee being executed at Tyburn (I cannot tie down the second name to one of those executed at Tyburn). They were sentenced to be hung drawn and quartered, and the lower drawing showing “the heart of a traitor”.

To the right is a drawing showing a mouse and a frog arguing whilst a kite descends on both. The text reads:

“The Frog and Mouse at variance which shall be king. The Kite destroyed both. The Morall. So Factious Men Conspiring do Contend. But Hasten their own Ruin in the End.”

Then there is a drawing of William Lord Russell’s execution at Lincolns Inn Fields, and finally at lower right “September, 9th next to be observed as a day of Thanksgiving throughout all England.”

The drawings show only a small proportion of those executed, imprisoned or exiled in what was a very revengeful approach to sentencing. It took two strokes of the executioners axe to kill William Lord Russell, however perhaps one of the worse examples is that of Elizabeth Gaunt.

Elizabeth and William Gaunt were London Whigs and were active in the dissenting politics of the time. In 1683 she was living in Old Gravel Lane, Wapping.

James Burton was alleged to have been present when the Rye House plot was being discussed. As a result, Burton had been outlawed, and Elizabeth helped him escape to the Netherlands, by providing him with money and a boat from Wapping to Gravesend, from where to took a boat to Amsterdam. You can imagine him sneaking down one of the Thames Stairs in Wapping, late at night, to make his escape.

Burton later returned to the country as part of the Monmouth rebellion. He was captured whilst again trying to escape to the Netherlands, and to avoid a death sentence, he gave evidence that Elizabeth Gaunt had helped him escape following the earlier plot.

Elizabeth Gaunt was tried, and sentenced to death by being burned at the stake at Tyburn. She was burnt to death on the 23rd of October 1685. Such was the vindictiveness against anyone involved, however remotely, in the plot, she was not strangled before being burnt, as was the usual custom.

James Burton was from then on known as someone who would incriminate anyone, even those who helped him, in an attempt to save his own life.

The sentences passed seem to have been to act as a deterrence to would be conspirators, and also to anyone who may help a conspirator.

Elizabeth Gaunt was the last woman to be executed for a political offence (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Elizabeth Gaunt

Although the Rye House plot failed, the ultimate aim of the conspirators did succeed.

James did become King James II on the death of his brother, Charles II.

James II and his wife, Mary of Modena had a son, confirming fears that the country would have a Catholic line of kings. A group of Protestant Earls, Viscounts and a Bishop invited William of Orange to the country to take the crown. William was married to Mary, the daughter of James II.

This resulted in the Glorious Revolution, where William of Orange and Mary jointly reigned, James II fled to France, the threat of a Catholic succession was removed and England had a Protestant monarch – all the aims of the Rye House conspirators.

And today there is a reminder of the plot with a simple plaque on the floor of the shelter at Lincolns Inn Fields.

Looking along the northern side of the fields – hard to believe that this was the site of a number of executions:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

The public were not allowed in the fields after the railings were put up in 1735, however by the middle of the 19th century there was public campaigning to open up the field – this being such a large area of green, open space in a very built-up part of the city.

The London County Council purchased the field in 1894 from the Trust that had been maintaining the fields, and they were opened up to the public. The railings were removed in 1941 due to the need for iron for wartime weapons manufacturing. A real shame as these were over 200 years old.

New railings were installed in the 1990s, and the fields also had a tennis and netball courts and putting green built in the south-western corner. The central shelter was also built, which at times has been used as a bandstand.

A neat row of bins line the path to the shelter:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

As befits such a place, there are a couple of 19th century monuments around Lincoln’s Inn Fields, including this drinking fountain, with the following religious message around the upper part of the fountain “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life”:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Along the north of Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the house and now museum of Sir John Soane:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Sir John Soane, who was the architect of the Bank of England, moved into Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1794, having rebuilt the house which he had purchased a couple of years earlier.

He eventually acquired numbers 12 to 14, the three houses in the above photo with the same darker grey brick and architectural style, although Soane added the façade to number 13, the central house which he completed, along with a rebuild in 1813.

Sir John Soane’s house at it appeared in 1836 (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Soane was a collector, and during his life he amassed a very large collection of sculpture, furniture, antiquities and paintings.

He died in 1837, and following an Act of Parliament he had obtained in 1833, the house and his collection was held in a trust, and opened to the public as a museum, which continues to this day, with many of the exhibits being as organised by Sir John Soane.

Along the western side is Lincoln’s Inn:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

With the gateway into this side of Lincoln’s Inn. Both the above and below buildings are not that old, but I will save these for a future post on Lincoln’s Inn.

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Another 19th century drinking fountain at the opposite corner of the fields to the first. This one is in memory of Philip Twells, who was a Barrister at Lincoln’s Inn, as well as being the MP for the City of London.

Lincoln's Inn Fields

On the south eastern corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields is this fine building. Once the home of the Land Registry, it is now part of the London School of Economics:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Also along the south side of the fields is the building of the Royal College of Surgeons:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

The Royal College of Surgeons received their new Royal Charter in 1800, and built their new home in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The building was bombed during the last war and was rebuilt, so is not fully an original.

The following print, dated 1813, shows the view along the southern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields and shows how the post war rebuild of the Royal College of Surgeons building included additional floors at the top of the building (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Royal College of Surgeons

The same view today, where the horse and carriage has been replaced by cars, vans and bikes:

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Almost all the buildings of Lincoln’s Inn Fields have been rebuilt since the original construction around the fields. There is one building that dates from the very first period of building, and this is Lindsey House, which was built between 1640 and 1641 (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Lindsey House

Lindsey House looks very much the same today:

Lindsey House

Lindsey House has been attributed to Inigo Jones, however there is no firm evidence from the time to confirm this, but the style is typical of Jones’ work.

Whilst the exterior has changed little since construction in the mid 17th century, the interior is very different as in 1752 the house was divided in to two, and this work incolved the loss of much of the interior.

I had planned to cover more about the buildings that line Lincoln’s Inn Fields, however, as usual, I ran out of time. It is a lovely place to be on a sunny spring or summer day, and there is much to discover, including the simple plaque on the floor of the shelter, a plaque which hints at the politics and religious conflicts of the 17th century, and how vindictive the state could be to those who it considered a threat.

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Ely Place and St. Etheldreda​

Walter Thornbury’s opening description of Ely Place in Old and New London is a perfect summary: “A little north of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, and running parallel to Hatton Garden, stand two rows of houses known as Ely Place. To the public it is one of those unsatisfactory streets which lead nowhere; to the inhabitants it is quiet and pleasant; to the student of Old London it is possessed of all the charms which can be given by five centuries of change and the long residence of the great and noble.”

From St. Andrew’s church, cross the approach to Holborn Viaduct, then across Charterhouse Street, we can see the entrance to Ely Place:

Ely Place

Thornbury’s description hints at the long and complex history of the street and surroundings, and the gatehouse at the entrance to Ely Place confirms that this is not a normal London street.

Much of the street remains lined with houses from the 1770s development of Ely Place, although many have been modified and restored, and there was considerable bomb damage to the area during the last war, however the view still demonstrates what a fine late 18th century London terrace would have looked like:

Ely Place

Along the western side of Ely Place is a curious indentation in the terrace, and here we can see the church of St. Etheldreda, with to the right Audrey House, which according to the Camden Council “Area Appraisal and Management Strategy” is 19th century. I assume late 19th century (Audrey was another version of the name of Etheldreda):

Ely Place

View looking south. The terrace house immediately to the left of the church has a strange ground floor, which I will discover soon:

Ely Place

As Thornbury hinted, Ely Place has a very long history.

In the 13th century, the land appears to have been in the possession of John de Kirkeby, Bishop of Ely, as on his death in 1290, he left the land and nine cottages to his successor Bishops of Ely.

It was normal in the medieval period for important figures in the church to maintain a residence in London. This was so they had somewhere to stay when visiting the city, where they could entertain, and to ensure that although they might be representing places far across the country, they could still have a presence close to the centre of royal and political power.

The Bishops of Ely originally had a house in the City of London, however there seems to have been a falling out with Hugh Bigod who was the Justiciary of England in the mid 13th century, and who tried to deny them access to their property in the Temple. It may have been this event which either gave John de Kirkeby the idea, or he was persuaded, to leave the land following his death to the Bishops.

The Bishops won a legal case to continue use of their City house, but following the bequest of such a large area of land, in the still semi-rural area to the west of the City, it must have seemed a good idea to build a new London home for the Bishops of Ely.

The Bishops than started the development of the land, into a property suitable for use as their London home. A chapel to St. Etheldreda was probably one of the first buildings on the site, along with the bishop’s house. William de Luda, the bishop that followed John de Kirkby purchased some additional land and houses and left these to the Bishops of Ely on his death.

The house and grounds were continuously added to, and developed during the 14th century, and we can get an idea of the size of the place from the so called Agas map from around 1561:

Ely Place

I have marked the streets that formed the boundaries to the Bishop’s land, Holborn to the south (you can see the name Ely Place and St. Andrew’s church just to the right of where I have marked Holborn).

Saffron Hill is to the east, then just a lane winding along the top of the bank down to the River Fleet. Hatton Wall formed the boundary to the north and Leather Lane (identified using its earlier name of Lither Lane) to the west. To confirm locations, I have also marked Fetter Lane in yellow to the south of Holborn.

The house and chapel were in the southern part of the estate, with gardens and extensive grounds up to Hatton Wall.

The quality of the fruit from the gardens must have been well known as Shakespeare has Richard III saying to John Morton, the Bishop of Ely:

“When I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there
I do beseech you send for some of them.”

Ely House also appears in Richard II, where the dying John of Gaunt includes the following well known lines:

“This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself,
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,”

John of Gaunt did stay in Ely House from 1381 until his death in 1399. His London residence at Savoy Palace had been destroyed during the Peasants Revolt. John of Gaunt was one of those that the leaders of the revolt demanded to be handed over for execution.

Other visitors to Ely House included Henry VII who attended a banquet in 1495 and Henry VIII with Catherine of Aragon, who both attended the final day of a five day “entertainment” in November 1531. A prodigious amount of food was recorded as being consumed during the five days.

The extract from the Agas map shown above dates from around 1561, and the grounds of Ely House would soon start to be developed.

Queen Elizabeth I required that the Bishop of Ely lease part of the grounds to her Chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton in 1576.

Hatton started the developed of the land, which included construction of a new house for him in the gardens. The lease would stay in the Hatton family until 1772 when the last Lord Hatton died. It then reverted to the Crown.

In the years of Hatton ownership, Ely House had a varied history. During the Civil War the house was used as a prison for captured Royalists, as well as a hospital for injured soldiers. The Bishops of Ely returned in 1660 to part of the property, but by then much had been developed and was held by the Hatton family.

We can get an idea of the development of the area in the years before the death of the last Lord Hatton from the following extract from a map of St. Andrew’s parish, dated 1755:

Ely Place

We can see a considerably reduced Ely Garden just to the north of Holborn Hill, with Ely House marked, and the chapel just below the word House.

Hatton Street (now Hatton Garden) had been built, and housing and streets had been constructed up towards Hatton Wall at the north, to Leather Lane in the west and Saffron Hill to the east. The banks of the fleet had also been built on by 1755, and the words “The Town Ditch” rather than River Fleet give some idea of the state of the old river by the middle of the 18th century.

The Bishops of Ely finally left the property in 1772, when they were given Ely House in Dover Street. This probably worked well as the above map extract shows, the area was heavily developed, and the house and grounds were in a state of disrepair.

The following print issued in 1810, but probably drawn in the second half of the 1700s is recorded as showing Ely House in London  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Ely Place

The view of the house in the above print does not look too much like the house shown in the parish map extract, however the following print dated 1772 from Grose’s Antiquities of England and Wales provides a better view as this shows the chapel on the right and house in the background, in the correct orientation as shown in the parish map  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Ely Place

The parish map implies that there is an open space between the house and chapel, however in the above two prints, the two buildings appear to be connected.

The old chapel on the grounds of Ely House is the only structure remaining from the time when the Bishops of Ely owned the site. Today, recessed slightly from the street, the chapel is now the church of St. Etheldreda.

It is shown in this 1815 print, with the two late 18th century terraces on either side  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

St. Etheldreda

The lower part of the church appears to have changed since the time of the above print. The original entrance looks to have been up some steps from the street and there seems to be two doors through into the church.

Today, if I have understood the layout of the church correctly, the altar would be behind these doors, so the church now has a different entrance, shown in the photo below:

St. Etheldreda

Today, the entrance to St. Etheldreda is through a door into the ground floor of the terrace house on the left of the church. From here, the door leads through to a corridor that runs along part of the south wall of the church:

St. Etheldreda

The church is dedicated to St. Etheldreda, and this dedication can be traced back to the Ely heritage of the church.

An 1825 newspaper description of Etheldreda provides some background:

“This day, October 19th, is the anniversary of St. Etheldreda; she was a Princess of distinguished piety, and daughter of Aunas, King of the East Angles, and Heriswitha, his Queen, and was born in the year 630, at Ixning, a small village in Suffolk; at an early age she made a vow of perpetual chastity, which is recorded she never broke, though she was twice married, first to Thombert, an English Lord, and afterwards to Egfrith, king of Northumberland, in 671. Having lived twelve years with this King, she retired from the world, and devoted herself to God and religious contemplation, erecting an Abbey at Ely, of which she became superior, and where she spent the remainder of her days.”

There appears to have been a bit more to her “retiring from the world”. She had married Egfrith when he was aged 15, but by age 27 he wanted a more normal marital relationship. Egfrith tried to bribe Etheldreda, but she was standing firm and left him, becoming a nun at Coldingham, before going on to found an abbey at Ely.

Ely Cathedral was dedicated to Saints Peter, Etheldreda and Mary in 1109, and the Bishops of Ely carried the dedication to Etheldreda to their chapel in London.

Along the corridor is the entrance to the crypt:

St. Etheldreda

But before looking at the crypt, there is an interesting feature just to the right of the door:

St. Etheldreda

There was an article in a 1926 edition of the Illustrated London News, which discussed the Roman City. The article states that “Equally curious is the fact that digging has revealed only the slightest signs of Christian worship in Roman London, although it is known that there was a Christian community in Londinium, and that it was ruled by a Bishop as early as the third century. The chief ‘clue’ is at St. Etheldreda’s Church, Ely Place. It is a curiously archaic bowl shaped font of limestone of similar form to the two which are preserved at Brecon Cathedral. it was found buried in the undercroft.

Of the St. Etheldreda’s font, Sir Gilbert Scott said ‘You may call the bowl British or Roman, for it is older than the Saxon period’; and some support to this statement is provided by the fact that Roman bricks have been found on the site.”

A quick Google for the Brecon fonts shows these to be Norman, not early Christian, and the main font in the church does look like the Brecon font, so I have no idea whether this feature on the wall is the one referred to in the article, whether the article is right, and whether St. Etheldreda had, or has an early Christian font.

A walk down into the crypt reveals a dimly lit space, presumably with seating laid out for a function such as a marriage:

St. Etheldreda

Niches in the walls with religious symbolism:

St. Etheldreda

The crypt is very different to how it was many years ago. In May 1880, members of the St. Paul’s Ecclesiological Society visited St. Etheldreda’s and their description of the church includes some history on the crypt:

“The members of the St. Paul’s Ecclesiological Society held their second afternoon gathering for the present summer on Saturday, and inspected the chapel of St. Etheldreda, in Ely-place, Holborn. At the construction of the chapel, which was formerly the private chapel of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely, was fully explained by Mr. John Young (the architect under whom the fabric has recently been renovated throughout), who discoursed on its early history and on the salient points of its chief architectural features, its loft oak roof, its magnificent eastern and western windows, full of geometrical tracery, its lofty side lights, its ancient sculptures, and lastly its undercroft or crypt, which till very lately was filled up with earth and barrels of ale and porter from Messrs. Reid’s brewery close by.

Removing the earth from the crypt, it may be remembered, there were discovered the skeletons of several persons who had been killed 200 years ago by the fall of a chapel in Blackfriars, and were here interred.

The ‘conservative’ restoration of the fabric – in the general plan of the late Sir George Gilbert Scott, had been frequently consulted – was much admired by the ecclesiologists.”

The fall of a chapel in Blackfriars occurred on the afternoon of Sunday 26th of October 1623, when around 300 people had assembled to hear a Catholic sermon by the Jesuit preacher, Robert Drury, at the French ambassador’s residence.

As it was a Catholic sermon, the congregation of people was considered illegal.

The roof of the hall in which the sermon was underway collapsed and around 100 people were killed. Rather than any sympathy, anti-Catholic feeling at the time unleashed a religious riot at the site of the tragedy.

I understand that the skeletons of those who died at Blackfriars, and were buried and subsequently discovered in St. Etheldreda’s were reburied, and still rest in the church.

View from the rear of the crypt:

St. Etheldreda

One of the niches that line the crypt walls:

St. Etheldreda

The church above is a lovely space. I do not know if this is the normal form of lighting, but it added to the impression of the age and history of the church. Very different to the typical brightly lit London church:

St. Etheldreda

St Etheldreda was caught up in the religious changes brought about by Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries.

The mass which had been celebrated by the Bishops of Ely in the Church of St Etheldreda since it was first built in the 13th century, was abolished, and the Book of Common Prayer became the standard for religious services.

Apart from a short period of five years when the Catholic Queen Mary was on the throne, the Catholic service was banned, and anyone participating in, or preaching a Catholic service would be treated as a criminal, with a death sentence often the result.

A special allowance was made in 1620 when the Spanish Ambassador, the Count of Gondomar, moved into Ely Place. Due to his position as Ambassador, and the custom that the ambassadors residence and grounds are considered part of the country they represent, which in the case of Spain was a Catholic country, Catholic services were allowed to be held in St. Etheldreda’s. 

When Gondomar was recalled to Spain, his replacement was not allowed to take up residence at Ely Place, and permission for Catholic services was removed.

Detail of the stained glass above the altar:

St. Etheldreda

The church was included in the use of Ely house and grounds as a hospital and prison during the Civil War.

Anti-Catholic feeling can be seen in the treatment of the uncle of Sit Christopher Wren. Matthew Wren was Bishop of Ely and tried to restore the grounds of Ely Place from the Hatton family, however he was reported for his “Popish ways” and imprisoned in the Tower of London. When he was finally released, the land which he had tried to restore had been built over and was very much as shown in the earlier parish map extract.

The change to the way that the State viewed the Catholic faith started in 1829 when the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed. This Act allowed Catholics to have their own churches, and for the Catholic mass.

In 1843, St. Etheldreda’s church opened as a Welsh language church, however the church reverted to the Catholic faith in 1873 when the church was purchased by the Rosminians – a Catholic congregation also called the Institute of Charity.

The church has featured in commemorations of Catholics who had been executed in earlier centuries. In 1912, it was reported that “Several hundreds of ‘the faithful’ marched in procession on Sunday afternoon from Newgate to Tyburn, along the route followed by the Catholic martyrs in a less tolerant age. The pilgrimage is the third of its kind, having been inaugurated three years ago.

Following the Crucifix, which was held aloft by Father Fletcher, came 150 men who marched in front of 190 women, most of whom recited prayers along the route.

The first stop was at the church of St. Etheldreda, the ancient church of the Bishops of Ely at Holborn. Thence the procession, the numbers of which increased with every mile covered, visited in turn the Catholic Church in Kingsway and St. Peter’s, Soho, and finished up at the Convent, near Tyburn.”

A sign today outside the church states that it was returned to the Old Faith in 1874 and that it continues in the care of the Rosiminian Fathers.

View towards the rear of the church:

St. Etheldreda

Side windows of stained glass:

St. Etheldreda

St. Etheldreda’s was badly bombed during the last war. There was significant damage to the roof and all the original stained glass was lost. When one bomb fell, there were people sheltering in the crypt, luckily there were no casualties.

The church was restored over the following years, and officially reopened on the 2nd of July, 1952 as commemorated by a plaque embedded in the wall under the Royal coat of arms:

St. Etheldreda

Walking back outside, and along the corridor there must have once been a café on the other side of this door, with an old Luncheon Vouchers sticker on the door:

St. Etheldreda

Back in Ely Place, and it is officially a dead end, although there is a doorway through to Bleeding Heart Yard, which the general walker is encouraged not to use:

Ely Place

There is some rather wonderful tiling on the blank arches at the end of the street which presumably also records the date when this wall was built:

Ely Place

On the western side of Ely Place is an entrance to Ely Court:

Ely Court

Along the alley is the pub Ye Old Mitre:

Ye Old Mitre

The Mitre (a bishops hat) is believed to have been founded in 1546 for the servants at the Bishop of Ely’s house, although the present buildings are later. The Grade II listing of the building states that it is “Circa 1773 with early C20 internal remodelling and late C20 extension at rear”, and that “near entrance glazed in to reveal trunk of what is believed to be a cherry tree, marking the boundary of the properties held by the Bishop of Ely and Sir Christopher Hatton”. There are also stories that Sir Christopher Hatton and Queen Elizabeth I danced around the tree, however I always find such stories somewhat doubtful.

The Mitre seen from further along the alley shows the late 18th century origins in the architectural style of the building:

Ye Old Mitre

On the front of the building is a mitre, and I have read some sources that state that this is from the original Ely House, however I can find no early source for this, and it is not stated in the Historic England listing details so I am dubious that it is from the original house:

Ye Old Mitre

Again, only a very brief description of a place with so much history, and a church that tells much about the state and country’s attitudes to the Catholic faith over the last five hundred years.

Ely Place was once a part of the church of Ely in London. Many of the rights associated with such a status have been removed over the last couple of hundred years, however it is still a very distinctive place, and the street and St. Etheldreda are well worth a visit.

You may also be interested in my post Ely Cathedral and Oliver Cromwell, when I visited Ely to find the location of some of my father’s photos from 1952.

alondoninheritance.com

1953 – A London Year Book

Seventy years ago, the Evening News published the London Year Book 1953.

London Year Book

Despite its small size (7 by 4.5 inches), it was packed with information about London. Statistics, stories and facts, then and now photos, lists of events and dates, 192 packed pages on the city. The book claimed to have “10,000 facts and the answers to the many questions on Britain’s capital which are constantly being asked”.

As with 2023, 1953 was also a Coronation year, and in an article looking at the accommodation of Coronation visitors, the following new challenge is identified in estimating the numbers who would visit the city “Circumstances have changed considerably since the last Coronation in 1937. There is an unknown factor in the development of television services, which will take the brilliant panoply of the Coronation procession right into the home.”

Organisers were expecting records to be broken, with more than 150,000 overseas visitors arriving in London for the Coronation. In the same period in 1952, the city had 47,624 visitors from overseas, so 1953 would see at least a trebling in numbers.

As well as the Coronation, there were many other events in London during 1953, and the book included the following London Diary listing with a rather diverse set of events:

London Year Book

The Empire Stadium and Empire Pool were at Wembley, and the Empress Hall was at Earls Court. The football matches listed are only for teams who were in Division 1 (now the Premier League), so in 1953 London only had four teams, Charlton, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. Today, all these teams are still in the equivalent of Division1 with the exception of Charlton who are now in Division 1 (which in 1953 would have been Division 3).

The Year Book included a large and diverse range of statistics that show London in 1953, and how the city had changed. One of these was a table of population increases and decreases covering London and the surrounding counties, between 1931 and 1951:

London Year Book

London was a smaller entity in 1953 than it is today, boundary changes in the following years would increase the size of the city and take land from some of the surrounding counties, however the table does show some significant changes.

Between 1931 and 1951 the population of London declined by 1 million people. Much of this was due to wartime damage across London. Large areas of residential streets had been bombed and rebuilding was still to come.

Comparison of London with the surrounding counties shows that whilst the population of London decreased significantly, there were large increases in the surrounding counties. Some of these populations would later be taken back within London (for example parts of Essex and Middlesex), however the table really illustrates the impact the war had on the population of the south east of the country.

Another set of statistics shows the number of people killed or injured on the city’s roads:

London Year Book

The figures in the above table show just how dangerous the city’s streets were seventy years ago. In 1951 a total of 665 people were killed and 40,736 injured. Compare with the latest set of figures from Transport for London, and their “Casualties in Greater London during 2021” data release reports that in 2021, 75 people were killed, 3,505 seriously injured and 23,092 slightly injured – a significant reduction over the past 70 years.

This again is across a wider area than 1951, with a higher population and more traffic on the roads. The TfL data release does consider that COVID may have led to a reduction in traffic, however the figures for 2021 were part of an ongoing reduction in deaths and casualties across the city streets.

The Year Book includes a series of “Then and Now” photos, which illustrated how the city had changed. Along with photos under the heading of “Time Marches On….” which illustrated the many aspects of the city that were changing and developing.

The first compares two methods of global transport, with a photo of the Cutty Sark under tow to a berth in Millwall Docks, following a collision on the Thames with a tanker, in 1952. This is compared with the latest form of global travel with the De Haviland Comet, the world’s first jetliner service taking of from London Airport on a flight to Johannesburg.

De Havilland Comet

The excitement of the crowds in the bottom of the photo as they wave off the de Havilland Comet would be short lived. The first production release of the Comet suffered a number of fatal crashes. Design problems and structural issues would be identified and would result in redesigned versions of the aircraft, however by the time they were in production, other aircraft companies such as Boeing had jumped ahead.

The aircraft in the above photo with the registration G-ALYP was one of those that crashed. This happened on a flight back to London from Singapore. Soon after taking off from Rome, the aircraft exploded and debris fell into the Mediterranean, killing all 35 people on board.

Another changing form of transport was the London tram, with the last tram on the 5th of July 1952 being featured. My father also took some photos during “Last Tram Week” which are in this post.

Londo's Last Tram

The above photo shows the sealed off entrance from the Embankment to the Kingsway tram subway, which was made redundant following the closure of the tram network.

The majority of the buildings of the Festival of Britain on the Southbank had been demolished by 1953 and the Year Book includes a photo of the site, with the remains of the Dome of Discovery in the background (see this post for photos of the Festival of Britain site before demolition):

Dome of Discovery

The above photo shows parts of the concrete supports to the Dome of Discovery with County Hall in the background. The focus of the photo is on the helicopter landing on the Southbank site, which was the first of a series of tests to enable the site to become a “helidrome”.

The site did become the Waterloo Air Terminal, offering check-in services and coach travel to Heathrow Airport. There was a limited helicopter service for a period offering faster travel to Heathrow (see this post for more on the Waterloo Air Terminal).

Some photos under the “Time Marches On” theme also showed the repair of wartime damage, as with the Temple Church:

Temple and Bankside Power Station

And the above photo shows bricklayers at work on the last 20 feet of the 320 foot chimney of the new Bankside Power Station – from the days when most protective headgear in construction work seemed to consist of a flat cap.

Time Marches On also applied to reconciliation with Germany, as in the following photo of the first time that a “top-flight German athletics team” arrived in London since before the war:

White City

And the above photo highlights the return of one of the many London buildings used by the Government during and after the war.

London Transport

Several pages in the London Year Book were devoted to London Transport, with the following introduction to how London’s public transport system had been organised up to 1953:

“London’s transport system was first united under the name London Passenger Transport Board in July 1933, when 170 different undertakings were taken over, including the Metropolitan Railway, the London County Council Tramways, the Central London Railway, and the London General Omnibus Company.

The first regular London bus services was inaugurated in 1829, when George Shillibeer began a service with a single horse-bus running through the streets of London. In 1856 an Anglo-French company, known as the London general Omnibus Company, began operations, an organisation which grew to become the largest of its kind in the world.

L.P.T.B. ran London’s transport until 1st January 1948, when under nationalisation it became the London Transport Executive.

Today, the London transport area is 1,986 square miles, roughly one twenty-fifth of the whole of England. it covers two counties and parts of seven other counties, as well as serving parts of a tenth county. The estimated population of this area is 9,800,000.”

Part of this extensive network, and one that served the counties around London was the coach service, with Green Line providing timetabled services to places around London, as well as sight-seeing and private hire coaches:

London Year Book

The London Year Book includes the passenger journeys made in 1950:

London Year Book

The Year Book appears to have used the term Railways for the Underground network. For comparison, from the last reporting period, from the London Datastore, comparison figures are:

  • Buses: 1,490,700,000
  • Underground: 748,300,000

The use of buses shows a considerable drop over 70 years, however the figures come with the caveat that the scope of central buses in 1950 and the bus network today may be very different.

Underground journeys do show an increase of over 100 million, which sounds about right given the enlargement of the underground network over the last 70 years.

The London Year Book includes a number of statistics that show the scale and complexity of the Underground network, including:

  • 106 lifts are maintained at 37 stations
  • The longest railway station escalator in the world is at Leicester Square Station with a vertical rise of 80.75 feet
  • The shortest escalator is at Chancery Lane Station with a vertical rise of 15 feet
  • 106 lifts are maintained at 37 stations
  • The deepest lift shaft ay 181 feet is at Hampstead Station
  • The shortest lift shaft at 30 feet 6 inches is at Chalk Farm Station
  • There are 1,150 automatic ticket machines in use which issue 85 per cent of all tickets and use more than 15,000 miles of paper a year

The Year Book identifies a number of “London Transport Records”:

  • Highest point on the road is a country bus and coach route at Botley Hill, Warlingham, Surrey
  • Deepest point is in the railway tube 67 yards south of Waterloo Station , where the tunnel is 67 feet below ground
  • longest continuous tunnel in the world runs from just south of East Finchley Station to Morden Station via Bank on the Northern Line. 17 miles 528 yards in length, it has been in use since 1939
  • Longest railway journey direct is from Liverpool Street to Aylesbury at 41.8 miles
  • Longest railway journey changing once is from Epping to Aylesbury at 58.8 miles
  • Longest Green Line Coach route is the 716 Hitchen to Chertsey at 66 miles
  • Shortest bus route for Central buses is the 249 which runs from Upminster Station to Corbets Tay at 1.3 miles

What I did find strange was the statement that the deepest point in the tube network is just south of Waterloo Station, where the tunnel is 67 feet below ground, however in the previous statistics it states that the deepest lift shaft at 181 feet is at Hampstead.

I assume the deepest point just south of Waterloo Station is referring to depth below sea level. Hampstead Station is at a height of 351 feet above sea level, with the area around Waterloo Station at around 3 feet above sea level, so the statement about the tunnel south of Waterloo being the deepest is correct, relative to sea level.

There is a list of the longest bus routes on the network:

  • On summer Sundays: 112 from Palmers Green to Hampton Court (22.3 miles)
  • On winter Sundays: 59 from West Hampstead to Chipstead Valley (22 miles)
  • On weekdays: 25 from Victoria to Hornchurch (19.6 miles)
  • On country buses: 414 from West Croydon to Horsham Station (32.6 miles)

The oldest bus route in 1953 was the one running between Shepherds Bush and Liverpool Street Station. It was founded in 1866 and in 1953 was route 11, this number being in use from 1905. Today route 11 runs between Fulham Town Hall and Appold Street where it terminates two stops after Liverpool Street Station.

The change from Shepherds Bush, first to Hammersmith seems to have happened around 1970, then to Fulham around 1994.

The challenge with full comparisons between 1953 and 2023 are the significant changes to the transport network, as well as where and how people liver and travel.

For the underground network, completely new underground lines would be constructed in the decades after 1953. The war had put a hold on expansion of the network, and the Year Book identifies the sections where work had recommenced and been completed:

London Year Book

Back to some of the photos in the book, and under the “Time Marches On….” category, there is a photo of the figure of Justice above the Central Criminal Court / Old Bailey, to highlight the major restoration of the building:

Old Bailey

Which is followed by a photo of the Japanese flag in front of the Japanese Embassy, following the signing of the peace treaty with Japan, and the restoration of relations between the two countries.

The following photo shows a Roman coffin discovered during excavations in Furnival Street, Holborn. The years following the war were a time of significant reconstruction in the City, and although much was discovered, I have always wondered how much archaeology was lost.

Roman Coffin

The above photo shows a rally of holders of the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Conduct Medal in Horse Guards Parade.

The “Then and Now” theme continues with two photos showing Kingsway. In the top photo, taken in 1905, the Kingsway tram subway had just been completed. By the time of the second photo in 1952, the subway had become redundant and the right side of the street had been developed.

Kingsway

Supplying London with Electricity

The London Year Book includes a few pages on the supply of electricity across London. This was a time when electricity generating stations were operating across London, and the use of coal was one of the major causes of air pollution.

The following table lists the locations of power stations across London, along with their generation capacity in kilowatts:

London Year Book

My grandfather worked in the St. Pancras power station up until 1948.

Note that the Bankside figure is for the original power station on the site, not the power station that was being constructed (see this post on Building Bankside Power Station).

As with the London transport system, the post-war period had seen the consolidation of electricity supply in London, and the Electricity Act of 1947 formed the British Electricity Authority which consisted of fourteen individual electricity boards across the country, with the London Electricity Board serving London.

Bringing together the electricity supply industry was also aimed at standardising electricity supply. The early 1950s was not a time when you could have taken your mobile phone charger (assuming there could have been such a thing), and simply plug it in to any electricity socket in the city.

There were still many non standard electricity supplies, and the Year Book records some figures in the change over of consumers’ supply, with 6,112 consumers having been transferred from Direct Current (DC) supplied to Alternating Current (AC) – the supply type we use today, as well as 1,337 consumers from non-standard to standard AC supplies.

These changes were part of creating the world we take for granted today, where standard electricity supplies resulted in standard appliances, lower costs and easier availbility.

There was still much change to complete however, as the Year Book records there were still 155,998 DC services being provided.

Over the coming decades, all the power stations within London would close down as larger power stations were built along the Thames, out towards the estuary, and London was integrated into the wider country grid. In turn, these stations along the Thames would also close.

Back to “Then and Now”, and two photos showing Marble Arch, the top photo from 1904, and the second showing how the area had been developed by 1953:

Marble Arch

Two photos showing Swiss Cottage, showing that the “place has changed surprisingly little during the last sixty years”. The view of Swiss Cottage is a bit different today.

Swiss Cottage

Brompton Road, before and after redevelopment, including the construction of Harrods:

Brompton Road

The Post Office and London Telecommunications

Some of the statistics in the London Year Book show numbers and technologies that would change beyond all recognition in the years between 1953 and 2023, for example, in 1953:

  • Number of telegrams delivered: 5,885,300
  • Number of telephones: 1,755,919
  • Number of telephone calls: 1,730,000,000
  • International (radio) calls: 249,000
  • Telephonists: 16,117
  • Number of letters and packets posted: 2,737,394,100
  • Letters and packets at Christmas: 83,745,200
  • Number of pillar and other post boxes: 11,688
  • Number of postmen: 32,195

The telegram has disappeared, there are probably still a high number of telephones, but more mobile phones, with many of the traditional land lines not being used. Although there were sub-sea telephone cables in 1953, radio was still being used to put through international calls, for example from the very tall radio masts that were at Rugby, alongside the M1.

The job of a telephonist is now redundant, and I suspect many of the telephone calls and letters have been replaced by messaging and email applications.

In 1953, the Internet and mobile phone would have been more science fiction than reality.

Many of those telephones would have been installed across the expanding city suburbs, and the following “Then and Now” photo from the London Year Book illustrates how the city had expanded during the first half of the 20th century.

The photo at the top shows the rural area in 1905 that would become Golder’s Green, shown in the lower photo:

Golders Green

Although London was building and expanding at a rapid pace, there was still a reasonable amount of green space across the city, as listed in the following table, although east London was very poorly provided for compared to the rest of the city:

London Year Book

The Airports of London

The Year Book provides some details on the airports and airlines serving London.

At the time, the London Year Book records that British airliners flew the equivalent of five times around the world every day, and during a year carried over a million passengers.

The heaviest traffic was between London and Paris, with during the summer fifteen flights a day on the route. The longest route served by a London airport was to Tokyo. There were sixteen flights a week to New York.

Three airports serviced London.

The main airport was London Airport, the site that would become Heathrow. In 1953 23 airlines used London Airport, carrying around three quarters of a million passengers in a year. London Airport had “long range radar apparatus, which is able to pick up aircraft flying at more than a hundred miles away”.

The central passenger terminals and tunnel between airport and roads were in the plans, but had yet to be constructed.

Northolt was the second of London’s airports, originally the busiest airport in the country, until being overtaken by London Airport, but in 1953 it was still a busy place, as shown by the following photo of Northolt:

Northolt Airport

The third London airport was at Croydon, which by 1953 was mainly serving charter aircraft, and handling around 9,000 passengers a year.

Back to central London, and the following photo shows the “basket race”, when market porters ran around a track whilst carrying a large number of baskets on their heads.

Covent Garden

The following photo is accompanied by the text “The three London buses which made a 12,000 mile tour of America and Canada are seen in this picture after they had arrived back in Britain in August 1952. Large crowds gathered on Horse Guards Parade for a ‘welcome home’ ceremony.”

London buses

I suspect that the buses are the ones that were sent to America and Canada to advertise the Festival of Britain. London buses had also be sent across Europe to advertise the Festival.

I covered earlier the power stations across London that generated electricity for the city. There was a more polluting industry that provided energy for London, and the following photo shows hot coke being guided through a retort at the Beckton Gas Works.

Beckton Gas Works

Prior to the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea, gas was produced from coal, an incredibly dirty and polluting process.

As with electricity, the production and distribution of gas had been consolidated into the North Thames Gas Board, that as well as serving London, provided for customers out to Bracknell, High Wycombe and Marlow in the west, and Southend and Shoeburyness in the east.

In the year 1950 to 1951, 367,084,958 therms of gas were sold, with 4,528,789 tons of coal being carbonised to produce the gas.

As well as 1,937,155 tons of coke, this process also produced 227,000 tons of tar, 6,500,000 gallons of Benzole and 111,000,000 gallons of ammoniacal liquor – a highly polluting process.

Crime and Policing

The City of London Police had a strength of 616 officers in 1951. They dealt with a range of crimes, and those classed as larcenies (robbery, theft by a servant, theft of motor vehicle, fraud etc.) totaled 2,506 in 1951.

The following table shows the type and numbers of offences against the person and property:

London Year Book

Motoring offences across London were rising rapidly, probably due to increased car ownership. In 1949 there were a total of 77,326 offences, rising to 89,002 in 1951.

Some other statistics from London policing:

  • There were 138,745 registered aliens across Greater London in 1951
  • 19,820 firearms certificates were issued during 1951
  • There were 8,038 licensed premises in the ‘off’ and ‘on’ trade
  • There were 19,727 arrests for drunkenness in 1951
  • 404 men and 14 women were charged with begging. 247 men and 134 women were charged with sleeping out
  • 1,076 persons were recorded as missing during 1951
  • Police rescued 24 people from drowning, however 83 bodies were recovered including that of one child

The early 1950s were a time when the police used the BBC to broadcast messages and appeals, and in 1951, 172 messages were broadcast on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, of which 84 were successful.

The police were probably involved with maintaining order at football games, and one featured in the Year Book shows “Ditchburn pushes the ball off the head of Souden in the Spurs v. Manchester City match at Tottenham on September 1st, 1951” – although according to the 11v11 website, on September 1st 1951, Spurs were playing Newcastle away, with Newcastle winning 7 – 2, so I have no idea which game is captured in the photo.

Spurs v Manchester City

The London Year Book included a number of adverts, including one showing the story of Arding & Hobbs at Clapham Junction:

Arding & Hobbs

The Civil Service Stores in the Strand:

Civil Service Stores

Although the Civil Service Stores as a business closed many years ago, the building can still be seen. It has been modified a number of times, although the clock is still a feature on the corner of the building:

Civil Service Stores

And an advert for London Stadiums Ltd. who ran greyhound racing at Wandsworth, Park Royal and Charlton Stadiums:

Wandsworth Stadium

The London Year Book covers far more than I have been able to write about in this post. In the introduction, the editor claims that “we think it will help to solve problems and settle arguments, and believe it will prove of real help to everyone living in, or interested in, the world’s greatest city”.

The intention was that the London Year Book would become an annual publication. As far as I know it was only published in 1953 and 1954.

So much of what is covered in the 1953 London Year Book seems like another world, and London certainly has changed considerably in the last 70 years. Reading through the book, it suddenly occurred to me that years I remember really well and are so familiar are actually closer to 1953 than to 2023.

For example, 1983 was only 30 years after 1953, but is now 40 years ago. In 1983, I was in my 4th year of my first full-time job in London, and;

  • Blue Monday by New Order, Sweet Dreams by the Eurhythmics and Lets Dance by David Bowie were in the music charts.
  • The Falklands War was the previous year, and in June 1983 Margaret Thatcher won a large majority, helped by victory in the Falkland’s.
  • ARPANET (the US Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was configured to use the protocol that would become the Internet, a technology that would transform so much.
  • The one pound coin was introduced.
  • The comedy series Blackadder was first shown on TV.
  • The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament march in London had over a million people protesting against the deployment of US nuclear cruise missiles in the UK. They would arrive at Greenham Common in November.
  • An IRA car bomb killed six people when it exploded outside Harrods.

All the above events were much closer to 1953 than they are to today.

As the title above many of the photos in the London Year Book confirms: “Time Marches On…..”

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Temple Bar – A Historic Boundary to the City

The City of London has always regarded the boundaries of the City as important in defining where the jurisdiction of the City extended. This included having very visible symbols of where you were crossing from the wider city into the City of London. One such symbol was Temple Bar in the Strand:

Temple Bar

The above photo dates from 1878, and comes from the book Wonderful London, which describes the scene as “Scaffolding and buildings show signs of the housebreaker on the left, where the Law Courts are in the process of erection. Their site alone cost £1,450,000, and in the years that have gone since the camera made this precious record, most of the scene has changed out of all recognition. Four buildings remain, St. Dunstan’s Church, the top of whose spire can just be seen, the façade of the entrance to the Middle Temple beyond the southern footway of Temple Bar and the two white houses on the right where the ladders are leaning.”

Not long after the above photo, Temple Bar was demolished, the Law Courts were completed, and a new monument was built on the site of Temple Bar, and Wonderful London recorded the changed street scene:

Temple Bar

There was a forty year gap between the above two photos, and the caption in Wonderful London to the above photo reads “On the right the white building of No. 229 still stands, but it is its neighbour that is under repair this time. These two houses are said to have escaped the Great Fire, which destroyed much of the street. St. Dunstan’s is just visible above the winged griffin that ramps on the monument marking the site of the old Temple Bar. The width of the street is almost double what it was, and it would obviously be impossible to get the modern column of traffic through the old narrow arch. The pediment over the gateway of Middle Temple Lane can be seen on the right.”

Although Temple Bar had disappeared from the Strand, the City of London saved the stones that made up the structure. Numbering each individual stone and keeping a plan of their location, the stones of Temple Bar were stored in a yard in Farringdon Road.

The stones of the old gate were purchased by Lady Meux, wife of Sir Henry Bruce Meux (of the Meux’s Brewery Company), who owned a house in Theobalds Park, near Cheshunt, and Temple Bar was rebuilt there in 1888.

The London Evening Standard reported on the laying of the foundation stone at Temple Bar’s new location on the 9th of January 1888: “The foundation stone of Temple Bar was laid on Saturday afternoon by Lady Meux at the entrance to Theobald’s Park, Cheshunt. Her Ladyship was accompanied by Sir Morell Mackenzie and several other ladies and gentlemen. There was a large gathering. At the platform which was erected, her ladyship was received by Mr. Elliot of Newbury, the contractor for the re-erection of the bar, and Mr. Poulting, the architect. Before the ceremony of laying the foundation stone commenced Mr. Elliot presented Lady Meux with a model of Temple Bar worked in oak, a silver trowel, and a mahogany mallet. After depositing a bottle, some of the current coins, several newspapers, and other articles, the stone was lowered, and was declared well and truly laid. About 400 tons of the stones have already been carted to Cheshunt at a cost of £200.”

The book “The Queen’s London” published in 1896 included a photo of Temple Bar in its new location at Theobald’s Park:

Temple Bar

Apparently Lady Meux used the room over the central arch for entertaining. The gate frequently appeared in sporting newspapers which included photos of the local fox hunt and hounds meeting in front of the gate.

By the 1920s, Wonderful London’s photo of the gate showed the accumulated dirt of the years since it was rebuilt in 1888. Note the smoke rising from the chimney of the gatehouse to the left.

Temple Bar

Almost as soon as Temple Bar had been demolished, and rebuilt in Cheshunt, there were murmurings that it had not been the best decision by the Corporation of London, and that a location for the historic structure should have been found in London. For example, on the 8th of October, 1906, a Mr. H. Oscar Mark wrote to the Westminster Gazette lamenting the removal of the old Temple Bar to Theobald’s Park:

“Surely a site could have been and could now be found in the widened Strand, or in Aldwych, or, if necessary, in the open space west of the Law Courts buildings where old Temple Bar could be seen and admired, as everyone with any sense for the antique or artistic could not help doing. I would suggest that strenuous efforts should be made by Londoners who love their London and its old landmarks – of which we have too few left – to reacquire this fine old relic, and to re-erect it on one of the sites named or in the heart of London.

We can ill afford to lose ancient monuments, the more so when they are of so highly interesting a character as this one must be to thousands of London’s inhabitants.”

Despite languishing in Theobald’s Park, Temple Bar refused to be forgotten in the minds of Londoners. In 1921, the Illustrated London News published a photo of Temple Bar at Theobald’s Park with the caption “To be restored to London?”.

In November 1945, a syndicated newspaper column stated that “I see that the suggestion of bringing Temple Bar back from Theobald’s Park to the City of London has once more been made, this time as part of the scheme for rebuilding the destroyed portions of the Inner and Middle Temples. The suggestion may stand a better chance of being carried out now; but whenever it was made in the lifetime of Admiral Sir Hedworth Meux, owner of Theobald’s Park, he greeted it with caustic comments on the vandalism of Londoners and their unworthiness to possess so fine a piece of architecture as Temple Bar.

Nor were these strictures unjustified. When Temple Bar was pulled down from its old position across Fleet Street at the City boundary, Londoners openly rejoiced at this removal of a traffic obstruction that had long been a nuisance; and the numbered stones lay about in unsightly heaps, derided by all, until they were sold.”

Post war rebuilding would perhaps have been the ideal time to restore Temple Bar to London, however money for such a project was short, and the approach to rebuilding tended to take two divergent views, either to restore to what had been, or to build buildings that fitted the view of a more modern City.

Meanwhile Temple Bar continued to slowly deteriorate in Theobald’s Park:

Theobald's Park

(Image credit: Temple Bar, Theobalds Park cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Christine Matthews – geograph.org.uk/p/185643)

Plans to return Temple Bar to London began to take on a more positive aspect in 1976 when the Temple Bar Trust was formed, specifically with the aim of returning the structure to the City.

Rebuilding of the area to the north of St. Paul’s Cathedral offered an opportunity for Temple Bar, where it could form part of the Paternoster Square development. A landmark location, where there were no concerns about traffic restrictions that such as structure would impose.

Temple Bar was again dismantled, transported back to London and rebuilt over one of the entrances to Paternoster Square. Temple Bar was officially reopened at its new, third, location on the 10th of November 2004 by the Lord Mayor of London:

Paternoster Square

But the version of Temple Bar we see at the entrance to Paternoster Square was only the last of a series of barriers across Fleet Street / the Strand, to mark the boundary of the City of London.

The first references to a barrier across the street date back to the 13th century when a bar was recorded as being across the street. This was not a stone structure, and would probably have been some form of wooden or chain barrier that could be moved across the street. The bar, and location close to the Temple appears to have been the source of the name Temple Bar.

The historian John Strype, writing in the early 18th century stated that at Temple Bar “there were only posts, rails, and a chain, such as are now in Holborn, Smithfield, and Whitechapel bars. Afterwards there was a house of timber erected across the street, with a narrow gateway and an entry on the south side of it under the house.

It is difficult to be sure of the appearance of earlier versions of Temple Bar. One print dating from 1853 which claimed to be copied from an old drawing of 1620 shows what Temple Bar may have looked like in the 17th century (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Old Temple Bar

Temple Bar was rebuilt between 1670 and 1672 by Sir Christopher Wren, and it is Wren’s version that we can see in Paternoster Square today. Built of Portland Stone, the structure continued to provide an impressive gateway to the City of London.

The location of Temple Bar is perhaps further west of what could be considered the traditional boundaries of the City, the original City Wall and the Fleet River.

Temple Bar is where the Freedom of the City of London met the Liberty of the City of Westminster, and originally whilst not part of the original City of London, it is where the freedoms granted to and by the City of London extended beyond the original City walls, up to the point where Westminster took over jurisdiction.

The location is also where Fleet Street and the Strand met. We can still see this today if you stand by the monument on the site of the gate and look across to the Law Courts where there is a street sign for the Strand, and opposite on the old building of the Child & Co. bank is the sign for Fleet Street.

The following print shows Temple Bar in 1761 (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Heads on spikes

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the above print is that even at this point in the 18th century, heads of the executed where still being displayed on poles high above the gate.

The display of heads seems to have been just part of everyday life for 18th century Londoners. Newspaper reports on the 7th of February 1732 simply reported that: “On Sunday the Head of Colonel Oxburgh, who was executed for being in the Preston Rebellion, and had his Head stuck on a Pole, fell off from the Top of Temple Bar.”

The last heads to be displayed above Temple Bar were those executed following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, including Colonel Francis Townley and George Fletcher.

They were hung on Kennington Common, cut down, then disemboweled, beheaded, and quartered, after which their hearts were thrown into a fire, and at the end of August 1746, newspapers report that “On Saturday last the Heads of Townley and Fletcher were brought from the New Goal, and fixed on two Poles on Temple Bar. The Heads of Chadwick, Barwick, Deacon and Syddall, are preserved in Spirits, and are to be carried down to Manchester and Carlisle, to be affixed on Places most proper for that Purpose.”

A few days later, on the 13th of August, 1746, the Kentish Weekly Post carried a report that showed how feelings were still running high after the 1745 rebellion: “On Friday a Highlander, as he was passing by Temple Bar, and observing the Heads there, uttered several treasonable expressions, upon which he was severely handled by the Populace.”

The heads stayed on their poles for a considerable number of years, until March 1773, when a strong March wind brought down one head, with the second following soon after.

Temple Bar was also the scene of less grisly punishments, with a pillory being set up at the gate. In 1729 it was reported that a Mr. William Hales “Received sentence to pay a Fine of ten Marks upon each Indictment, to stand in the Pillory twice, viz. once at the Royal Exchange, and once at Temple Bar, to suffer five years imprisonment, and to give Security for his good Behaviour for seven years.”

Temple Bar was though the scene of far more enjoyable activities with numerous processions passing through the gate and ceremonies being held at the gate. When the Monarch entered the City, they would be greeted by City dignitaries at the gate.

On the 9th of November 1837, Queen Victoria was greeted at Temple Bar where she was presented with the ceremonial sword of the City of London.

During the funeral of Lord Nelson, his funeral procession was met at Temple Bar by the Lord Mayor and representatives of the Corporation of London.

The following print shows another of Queen Victoria’s visits to the City where the Queen and Prince Albert in the royal carriage, are being presented again with the ceremonial sword of the City of London as they arrive at Temple Bar(© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Queen Victoria visit to the City of London

In the second half of the 19th century, much of the area around Temple Bar was being redeveloped, with the Law Courts being the major development to the north of the gate. The following print, dated 1868, shows buildings being demolished ready for construction of the Law Courts and is titled, and shows the “Forlorn Condition of Temple Bar” (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Temple Bar

And almost ten years later, a print showed the structure ready for demolition, with the title of “Temple Bar’s Last Christmas Day” (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Temple Bar

And today we see the gate between Paternoster Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral:

Temple Bar

There are a number of statues on the gate. The following photo shows the statues that originally faced to the east and Fleet Street. On the right is James I. The figure on the left is often referred to as Anne of Denmark, the wife of James I, although there are other references, including in Old and New London by Walter Thornbury who claims the statue is of Queen Elizabeth. Anne of Denmark seems to be the most probable.

Temple Bar

On the old western, Strand side of the gate are statues of Charles I and Charles II:

Temple Bar

A plaque in the ground by the gate records the names of Edward and Joshua Marshall, Master Stone Masons, Temple Bar, 1673.

Edward was the father and Joshua the son.

Master Masons

They were stones masons who worked on a considerable number of 17th century buildings and monuments in the city. It is believed that the majority of the work on Temple Bar was completed by Joshua, as his father was in his sixties by the time of the gate’s construction.

So what of the monument that can be seen today at the old location of Temple Bar?

It was still important to mark the boundary to the City of London, and soon after Temple Bar was demolished, a new monument was built in the centre of the widened street:

Temple Bar memorial

In 1880, the Illustrated London News described the new monument: “The new structure will be of an elaborate and handsome character, from designs by Mr. Horace Jones, the City Architect. It will be 37ft high, 5ft wide and 8ft long. The base will be of polished Guernsey granite, the next tier of Balmoral granite, and above that will be red granite from the same quarry as that used in the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park.

In niches in the north and south sides will be life size figures in marble of the Queen and the Prince of Wales, by Mr. Boehm, and in panels in the sides will be reliefs in bronze by Mr. Mabey and Mr. Kelsey, of the Queen’s first entrance into the City through Temple Bar in 1837, and of the procession to St. Paul’s on the day of the thanksgiving for the Prince of Wale’s recovery. The superstructure will be of hard white stone, and will be surmounted by a griffin, the heraldic emblem of the City, which is being executed by Mr. Birch.”

Queen Victoria

As well as marking the location of Temple Bar, the monument was claimed to offer a refuge for those crossing the street, however the Illustrated London News did not understand this justification, or the need for marking the boundary: “We know of no sufficient reason for marking this particular boundary. Other similar landmarks – such as Ludgate, Aldgate, Cripplegate, and Bishopsgate – have been removed without loss of municipal prestige, rights, or privileges worth preserving. The need of a refuge is much more obvious where the thoroughfare is wide, like Regent Street, or still more where roads intersect.”

Queen Victoria

Victoria’s son, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales on the side of the monument facing the Law Courts:

Prince Edward

On either side of the statues there are columns of carvings, with the left column representing Science and the Arts on the right column. On the narrow ends of the monument there are columns of carvings representing War and Peace.

Prince Edward

The new monument was far from universally popular and there was much criticism about the design and location.

in 1881, the Corporation of London had appointed a committee to look at the memorial and decide whether it should be removed and placed in some more convenient spot.

The Times included an article which referred to the monument that the “erection is an eyesore in point of taste, a mischievous obstruction instead of a public convenience and reckless expenditure. As to its future, the best that we could hear would be that it was likely to disappear and be no more seen. The 10,000 guineas or more that it cost would be wasted, no doubt, but they could not be more thrown away than they are at present on a monument which no one likes, and everyone laughs at.”

The monument was even vandelised, despite being guarded. The Weekly Dispatch reported on the 7th of August 1881 that “Notwithstanding the vigilance of the City and Metropolitan Police who are appointed to guard the memorial, it was on Friday morning discovered that there had been further mutilation of the bas-relief representing various events in civic history.”

And on the 29th of August 1881 “On Saturday evening a young man who was lodged in the Bridewell police station on a charge of wilfully damaging the Temple Bar Memorial. A gentleman who was passing by saw the prisoner deliberately disfiguring the heads and legs of the figures with his fists. The attention of a police-constable was called to the matter, and he immediately took the offender into custody. When asked by the Inspector why he had done it, the prisoner replied, ‘I did it for fun. It is only an obstruction, and I didn’t see why I should not have a go at it as well as other people.”

The monument seems to have gradually been accepted, receiving less attention as time went by, although being in the middle of the busy Fleet Street / Strand, with growing levels of traffic in the 20th century, the monument was occasionally still referred to as an obstruction.

Below the statues, there are four reliefs on the four sides of the pedestal.

The first is a rather accurate reminder of the location of Temple Bar:

Temple Bar

The text reads: “Under the direction of the committee for letting the City lands of the Corporation of London. John Thomas Bedford Esq. Chairman. The west side of the plinth is coincident with the west side of Temple Bar and the centre line from west to east through the gateway thereof was 3 feet 10 inches southward of the broad arrow here marked.”

On the end of the monument facing Fleet Street is a relief of Temple Bar:

Temple Bar

On the side is a relief titled “Her most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria and his Royal Highness Prince Albert Edward Prince of Wales going to St. Paul’s February 27 1872”:

Temple Bar

And on the other side of the plinth is a relief titled “Queen Victoria’s progress to the Guildhall, London Nov. 9th 1837.

Temple Bar

The importance of this location as a boundary, not just as the boundary to the City of London, can be seen by a boundary marker set in the pavement on the south side of the street, directly opposite the monument:

St Clement Danes parish boundary marker

This is a boundary marker of the parish of St. Clement Danes. The relevance of the anchor is that it became the symbol of St. Clement as he was apparently tied to an anchor, then thrown into the sea to drown.

I assume that the parish of St. Clement Danes would have ended at the boundary with the City.

What is fascinating about the story of Temple Bar is the recurring theme of how buildings and architecture are treated in London. For example, from Mr. H. Oscar Mark’s letter earlier in the post where he suggested that “strenuous efforts should be made by Londoners who love their London and its old landmarks – of which we have too few left – to reacquire this fine old relic, and to re-erect it on one of the sites named or in the heart of London“.

This was followed by a chorus of criticism about the new monument that replaced Temple Bar at the meeting of Fleet Street and the Strand.

However I suspect there would be concern and criticism if there were proposals today to remove the monument. How we view buildings and architecture in general is very much related to time and their age.

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Doctors Commons to the Daily Courant – City of London Plaques

Today’s post continues my exploration of all the plaques in the City of London, today covering Doctors Commons, St Thomas the Apostle and St. Leonard’s churches, Haberdashers Hall and the Daily Courant, the country’s first daily newspaper.

Doctors Commons

Walk along Queen Victoria Street, and to the right of one of the doors to the magnificent Faraday Building (see this post), is a blue plaque:

Doctors Commons

Recording that this was the site of Doctors’ Common, demolished in 1867:

Doctors Commons

Doctors Commons was founded on the site in 1572 as the College of Advocates and Doctors of Law. The buildings housed the Ecclesiastical and Admiralty Courts, along with the advocates who practicsed within these courts,

There were a total of five courts within Doctors Commons:

  • Court of Arches which was the highest court belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The name comes from the arches of the original Bow Church in Cheapside which was the original location of the court.
  • Court of Audience. This was another of the Archbishop’s courts, and was where the Archbishop would make a judgment on the cases that were brought to the court.
  • Prerogative Court. This was the court where wills and testaments were proven.
  • Court of Faculties and Dispensations. This was where special permission was granted to do something which the law would not normally allow. There are newspaper records of this court being used to allow quick marriages without the normal requirement for banns to be read in church.
  • Court of Admiralty. This court belonged to the Lord High Admiral of England and is the court where matters relating to mariners, merchants, ownership of ships etc. were settled.

The accounts of the cases brought to these courts are fascinating and shed a light on the legal system of the time. One of the activities of the Court of Admiralty was to decide on the ownership of captured enemy ships, for example, in July 1744:

“Last Monday a Court of Admiralty was held at Doctors Commons, when the Santa Rosetta, a Spanish Ship, taken by the Romney, Man of War, Greenwill, was condemn’d as a legal Prize, and the Shares ordere’d to be paid to the Captors forthwith.”

And in June 1747:

“On Tuesday was held at the Court of Admiralty at Doctors Commons, when the French Ships taken by the Admirals Anson and Warren, were condemned as lawful Prizes.”

The decision that these ships were prizes seems to have been a formality as I could not find any report where the status of a prize was not the outcome. Many a ship’s captain must have come away from Doctors Common a very happy, and financially better off, person.

The plaque next to the door of Faraday House implies that Doctors Commons was specifically at that location, however it occupied a much larger area. I have outlined the area occupied by Doctors Commons in the following extract from Rocque’s map of 1746:

Doctors Commons

Queen Victoria Street had not been built when the above map was created. It was built during the 1860s and is why the plaque gives the end date of Doctors Commons as1867 (see this post for the story of Queen Victoria Street). To get an idea of the route of Queen Victoria Street, the College of Arms can be seen to the right of the above map, and this now sits on the northern side of Queen Victoria Street, so the street ran along the southern edge of the College of Arms, down to the left where it met Thames Street.

Doctors Commons was mentioned by Charles Dickens in David Copperfield and the Pickwick Papers, and it seems to have been the type of place where the intricacies of the law, were often dragged out, and mainly to the benefit of the legal profession at the time.

The Prerogative Court dealt with wills and probate, and before its closure, was recorded as having a vast store of wills, including those of Sir Isaac Newton and Inigo Jones. This store also included a will written on a bed post, which was presumably a will written in the very last moments of life.

The following print shows the Prerogative Office in Doctors Commons in 1831, This office is marked in Rocque’s map, in the top left of the extract I have shown above  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Doctors Commons

By the time of demolition, many of the buildings of Doctors Commons had fallen into disrepair. Various acts of Parliament had changed the way that legal matters were dealt with, and the Court of Probate Act and Matrimonial Causes Act, both in 1857, along with the High Court of Admiralty Act of 1859 ended the majority of legal work at Doctors Commons.

The land was sold off and rebuilt. The southern tip of the area was incorporated into Queen Victoria Street, and this old legal area was reduced to a blue plaque.

St. Thomas the Apostle Church

The next plaque is to one of the many City churches that were destroyed during the 1666 Great Fire of London and were not rebuilt. The plaque is on a low wall on the corner of Great St. Thomas Apostle:

St Thomas the Apostle Church

Next to the street name sign:

St Thomas the Apostle Church

I cannot find any prints of this church, and there is little information available. My source for all pre-Great Fire churches is Wilberforce Jenkins “London Churches Before The Great Fire” (1917), and he writes about the church:

“The Church of St Thomas Apostle was in Knight Rider Street, at the east end of the street where the modern Queen Street crossed. from the earliest times it belonged to the canons of St. Paul, and is mentioned in the register of the Dean and Chapter in 1181. William de Sleford was priest in 1365 and William Stone was chaplain in 1369, being appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

And yet the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s presented William Brykelampton in 1415. The church would appear to have been rebuilt before this date, for Stow tells us that ‘John Barnes Mayor in 1371 was a great builder of St. Thomas Apostle parish church as appeareth by his arms there both in stone and glasse’. the same John Barnes left a chest and 1000 marks, to be lent to young men ‘upon sufficient pawne, and for use thereof”.

John Barnes was the Lord Mayor at the time, which probably explains why he had his arms inscribed on the stone and glass of the church.

The church has long gone, but the street name and plaque records that it was here.

St. Leonard’s Church

In Foster Lane, between the ground and first floors of a modern building is a plaque:

St Leonard's Church

Recording that St. Leonard’s, another of the churches not rebuilt following the Great Fire, was located here:

St Leonard's Church

Again, the book “London Churches Before The Great Fire” is my main source for information on this long lost church, and the book records that:

“St. Leonard’s, Foster Lane, formerly stood on the west side of that street, being a small parish church designed for people of St. Martin-le-Grand, and founded by the dean and canons of the priory on the thirteenth century. Outside of the church was a monument to John Brokeitwell, one of the founders and new builders of the church.

Francis Quarles, the somewhat eccentric poet, well known as the author of The Emblems was buried here in 1644.

The first rector of the church was William de Tyryngton who died in 1325. William Ward was rector in 1636, and was censured by a committee of Parliament for innovations. He was forced to fly, plundered, and at last died of want.

In 1636 the yearly income, including a house, was £139. the church was burnt in the Great Fire and not rebuilt, the parish being united to that of Christchurch.”

Francis Quarles seems to have been an interesting character. He took the Royalist side during the Civil War, and published several pamphlets in support of the Royalist cause, but he is one of those research rabbit holes that I must avoid going down so I can get a weekly post completed.

All that remains now of the church is the City of London blue plaque.

Haberdashers Hall

On the corner of Staining and Gresham Streets is a plaque:

Haberdashers Hall

Recording that this was the site of the Haberdashers Hall from 1458 to 1996:

Haberdashers Hall

The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers dates back to the 14th century when those engaged in the trade of selling items such as ribbons, pins, gloves, toys and purses formed a Company. They were joined by the Hatmakers in 1502.

The name Haberdasher may have an origin with the name of the coarse, thick cloth used under a suit of armour. In two lists of custom dues on cloths and furs coming into London during the reign of Edward I (1272 to 1307), the word “hapertas” appears in one list and “haberdassherie” appears in the second list. Given that they both appear in lists of cloths and furs, and they are similar words, they may have the same meaning.

The word “hapertas” was the word used for the cloth used under armour, so this may be the origin of the word haberdashery, but, at this distance of time it is difficult to be sure.

The corner location of the plaque had been the site of the Haberdashers Hall for over 500 years. The first hall was built in 1458, but was destroyed in 1666 during the Great Fire. It was followed a couple of years later by a second hall which was built on the same site.

This second hall lasted until 1940, when it was destroyed during wartime bombing of the City.

A third hall was built in 1956, but was not a standalone hall, rather it was part of a larger office development. This hall would only last for 40 years, as in 1996 the whole site was redeveloped as office space. The Haberdashers moved to a new hall in West Smithfield, which they still occupy today.

The following print shows the Haberdashers Hall in 1855:

Haberdashers Hall

A bit difficult to see, but the arms of the Haberdashers can be seen above the door in the above print. These arms can still be seen today at the site. If you look to the left of the blue plaque, the following arms are set on the wall:

Haberdashers Hall

I assume this is a boundary or ownership marking, implying that whilst the Haberdashers have moved location, they still own the property on the site of their old hall.

The Aldermanbury Conduit

On the wall in Love Lane alongside the location of the church of St. Mary Aldermanbury, is a plaque:

Aldermanybury Conduit

Which records that the Aldermanbury Conduit stood in this street providing free water from 1471 to the 18th century:

Aldermanybury Conduit

Whilst the plaque is accurate for the presumed opening date of the conduit, it just lists the 18th century as the end of the conduit. I wondered if there was an illustration of the conduit in prints of the church. The earliest print I found was from 1750 and no sign of the conduit.

Rocque’s map of 1746 has a couple of squiggles were the conduit should be, but I think these are trees, so the conduit probably disappeared in the early 18th century.

What was a conduit? It was basically a structure where water was stored and dispensed to people in need of water. Water could be fed into the conduit through pipes, a stream or spring, or being carried in buckets from another source.

I have photographed two conduits, so whilst I have no idea of what the Aldermanbury Conduit looked like, these others provide an example of their basic form and function.

The first is a possibly 14th century conduit at New River Head in Clerkenwell. The following photo shows the conduit to the rear of the site of the old Metropolitan Water Board building:

Aldermanybury Conduit

It is not in its original location, as it was at located next to Queen Square in Bloomsbury, and moved when the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square was being extended to the rear.

The following is typical of newspaper reports of the discovery:

“The extension scheme of the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square includes the acquisition of Chalfort House, and in the garden of the latter there is a very interesting old relic of the past. It is the conduit head which leads down to a small reservoir from which, since the thirteenth century, the water supply has been conveyed through a pipe to the Grey Friars, and later to Christ’s Hospital, more than a mile away.

The masonry is still entire, but owing to changes of levels is now all several feet below ground. It has been known both as the Chimney Conduit and the Devil’s Conduit. there is also a brick-built tunnel which leads to a well several yards away.

Dr. Philip Norman some time ago made some very interesting discoveries regarding the ancient water supply of the old monastic house, and it would be a pity if this old conduit would be destroyed. If it could be in some way preserved it would certainly become an attractive showplace for American visitors.”

The conduit was rescued by Charles Fitzroy Doll, the architect of the Imperial Hotel which was built between 1905 and 1911 (the predecessor of the current Imperial Hotel). The Chimney Conduit name is rather descriptive of the appearance of the conduit, however I cannot find a confirmed source for the Devil’s Conduit name.

View from the entrance of the conduit showing the steps leading down into the space that once stored water:

Aldermanybury Conduit

Inside the conduit, showing how the walls arched to form a continuous wall / roof to the structure:

Aldermanybury Conduit

I found another conduit last year in Grantham as I was following the sites of the Eleanor Crosses.

This conduit also has its origins with the Grey Friars who purchased the land around a spring outside of Grantham and piped the water to their property.

In 1597 the water supply was extended by pipe to the conduit in the market place. The conduit and pipeline was constructed by the Corporation of Grantham.

The conduit has seen many repairs since it was built, in 1927 the roof was replaced, along with three of the distinctive pinnacles.

Aldermanybury Conduit

I have no idea whether the Aldermanbury Conduit looked like either of the above two examples, however there cannot have been too many variations as it was basically a stone box used to store water ready for distribution, either by pipe, or at the conduit.

Now the site is marked by the blue plaque.

The Daily Courant – London’s First Daily Newspaper

Where Ludgate Hill meets Ludgate Circus is a blue, City of London plaque:

Daily Courant

Recording that in a house near this site was published in 1702 the Daily Courant. The first daily newspaper (except Sunday’s) in London:

Daily Courant

The following is from a number of newspapers in January 1870, reporting on the Daily Courant:

“The first daily paper published in England was the Daily Courant, which was commenced on the 11th of March, 1702. It was published by E. Mallet, against the Ditch at Fleet-bridge, not far, we may presume, from the present head-quarters of the Times or Daily Telegraph. It was a single page of two columns; and unlike the papers of our own time, it professed to give merely the home and foreign news, the editor assuring his readers that he would add no comment of his own, ‘supposing other people to have sense enough to make reflections for themselves’. In 1785 the Daily Courant appears to have been absorbed into the Daily Gazetteer.”

A fascinating description of the location as being “against the Ditch at Fleet-bridge” recording that in 1702, the Fleet was still uncovered at this point where today New Bridge Street meets Farringdon Street, that there was a bridge to cross over to Fleet Street, and that it was very much a polluted ditch.

The article mentions that the paper was published by E. Mallet, this was Elizabeth Mallet who was already successful in the book publishing trade when she started the Courant. She seems to have used the initial E rather then her full first name due to the lack of women in the trade , and possible bias against the Courant if it was known that a woman was the publisher.

The sentence that the “the editor assuring his readers that he would add no comment of his own” is interesting. 18th century newspapers were based on written reports, letters, copy from other newspapers etc. Papers such as the Daily Courant did not have a network of reporters producing copy for the paper to publish.

The Daily Courant simply published the reports and letters they had received, and left it up to the reader to judge the truth, implications and wider context of the report. The paper did try and get more than a single source and often published reports from two or three different foreign newspapers about a single place or event.

The paper also published the following advertisement in the first few issues to reinforce the point:

“It will be found from the Foreign Prints which from time to time, as Occasion offers, will be mentioned in this Paper, that the Author has taken Care to be duly furnished with all that comes from Abroad in any Language. And for an Assurance that he will not under pretence of having Private Intelligence, impose any Additions of feigned Circumstances to an Action, but give his Extracts fairly and Impartially; at the beginning of each Article he will quote the Foreign paper from whence it is taken, that the Public, seeing from what Country a piece of News comes with the Allowance of that Government, may be better able to Judge of the Credibility and Fairness of the Relation: nor will he take upon him to give any Comments or Conjectures of his own, but will relate only Matter of Fact; supposing other People to have Sense enough to make Reflections for themselves.”

This approach did lead to problems for the Daily Courant, when in 1705 it reported on a great naval disaster for allies of Queen Anne. A report which turned out to be false.

The Daily Courant defended itself by stating that it had only been reporting what it had received in a “Paris Letter”, and it had assumed that its readers would not give much credibility to the report as it had come from a pro-French source.

The first issue of the Daily Courant:

Daily Courant

Image attribution: Edward Mallet from rooms above the White Hart pub in Fleet Street, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I found the above image on Wikipedia and copied the attribution required where the image is used, however this attribution states Edward rather than Elizabeth Mallet, and the majority of sources regarding the Daily Courant, including academic studies do refer to an Elizabeth Mallet.

18th century newspapers are fascinating, and they started to flourish in the years following the Daily Courant’s publication in 1702.

They became broadsheets full of content of what was happening across the country, across Europe and the wider world, and comparing with newspapers today (and much of the media in general), readers in the 18th century were much better informed about world news than a 21st century reader.

However, in the 18th century, readership was confined only to those who could afford a newspaper and could read, and much of the content was simply repeating accounts that had been received. Many reports begin with “We hear that” or “Letters received from XXXXX report that”, so much like the Daily Courant, what was written needed to be tested, and could not always be assumed to be the truth.

Global content also reflected the Empire and Britain’s trading links with much of the world, along with the wars and disputes that the country seems to have been involved in for much of the time.

It is interesting that the defence given by the Daily Courant in 1705, that readers should be aware of the source before establishing the credibility of a news report should still apply three hundred years later with much of today’s news reporting and social media.

That is six more plaques explored, and which again show the fascinating stories that can be uncovered by these simple plaques that can be found across the walls of the City of London.

alondoninheritance.com

9th Year of Blogging – A Year in Review

The end of February marks the time when I first started the blog back in 2014, so this February is the completion of 9 years, a point I did not expect to get anywhere near.

The aim of the blog has always been the same, to provide an incentive to locate, and a means of recording, my father’s photos of London, and occasionally further afield, and to act as an incentive to explore somewhere that I had probably taken for granted for so many years.

What has been wonderful is that so many people regularly read what started out as a rather selfish endeavour, and I would really like to thank the thousands who have subscribed to the blog. It goes out every Sunday to a subscriber list I would not have considered possible when I started.

For me, the blog has also acted rather like a diary. I have never had much luck keeping a diary, with various attempts usually ending in mid January, however looking back on old blog posts, the text and photos act as a reminder of what was happening in the wider world at the time, and what I was doing.

So, for today’s post, a review of the blog from the end of February 2022 to 2023.

Walks

Thank you to everyone who came on one of my walks last year. Not only is it brilliant to meet readers, and take the blog posts out into the streets, the money from ticket sales has been a real help with covering the costs of the blog.

I am planning to add some new walks for 2023, currently working on Limehouse, Bermondsey and / or Clerkenwell, and I will be providing details of these and my existing walks in a future blog post.

I put them on Eventbrite first, so for early notification, give my Eventbrite account a follow here.

London Institutions at Risk

As usual, change is continuous in London, and two London institutions closed during the year.

Simpson’s Tavern in Ball Court in the City – the oldest chophouse in London closed after they were locked out by their landlord.

I have written a post about Simpson’s Tavern, based around a couple of photos my father took of the establishment in 1947, including the following:

Simpson's Tavern

Simpson’s are challenging the actions of their landlord, and their website has links and updates on their appeal.

Pollock’s Toy Museum in Scala Street also closed due to a change in ownership of the building (read their statement here).

My father had taken a couple of photos of Pollock’s Toy Museum in the 1980s:

Pollock's Toy Museum

And it was on my long list of potential posts.

Pollock's Toy Museum

Hopefully, a new location will be found for the museum.

Whilst change is inevitable, and essential as change is what has made London what it is, the loss of small, unique institutions, and the loss of local character risks turning the city into a place where all the streets are the same.

My greatest concern for London is not so much change, but the “blandification” of the city, where there is no unique local character, no small, unique shops and institutions, streets lined with the same architecture and the same major brands.

No doubt the coming year will throw up more challenges, and it will be interesting to see what happens with the planned redevelopment of the old London Weekend Television Studios on the South Bank and of much of Liverpool Street Station.

Now for a quick run through of the year with a sample of the posts from each month.

February 2022

I have many themes when taking photos of London, one of which is taking photos of the street news stands across London. I have been taking photos of these for years and included in the last few year reviews.

They provide a reminder of significant events, and if the last few years is anything to go by, the news seems to keep coming thick and fast.

I also wonder how long these will be a feature of London’s streets. As well as telephone boxes, they are part of an older technology, where most people now probably get their news from the Internet.

The days of everyone on a train or underground train reading the evening newspaper on their way home are long gone. The mobile phone is now the entertainment device of choice.

The Evening Standard is the one remaining evening newspaper in London. The Evening News has been off the streets for decades, and you originally had to buy these evening papers, where now the Evening Standard is free, trying to use advertising as a way to generate revenue.

At the end of February 2022, the news of Putin’s invasion of Kyiv was across the streets of London:

Evening Standard

March 2022

In March 2022, I went to find the site of the following photo of Pennyfields, Poplar, from the 1920’s publication “Wonderful London”:

Poplar

The photo is titled “Gloom and Grime in the East End: Chinatown”, and has the following description: “A view of Pennyfields, which runs from West India Dock Road to Poplar High Street. There is a Chinese restaurant on the corner. A few Chinese and European clothes are all that are to be seen in the daytime”. The location is very different now.

In March I also completed the New River Walk, following the route of the original New River, which still carries water from Hertfordshire to provide drinking water for London.

The walk included the stretch where the New Rover is carried over the M25:

New River

April 2022

April saw another visit to Poplar to find the site of the following photo “Welcome to the Isle of Dogs” in Prestons Road:

Prestons Street Isle of Dogs

In April, the Evening Standard was warning that “Shoppers Turn Off The Spending Taps”, and the article on the right of the front page advised that there was “No question of Boris quitting over parties”:

Evening Standard

May 2022

In May I was in Greenwich to find “The Sad Fate of Two Greenwich Murals”. One has been lost, however the “Changing the Picture”, which was created for the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign in 1985 is still there, but looking very much faded from the vibrant colours in my father’s photo from the time the mural was completed:

Greenwich Mural

May also saw significant resumption in air travel after the previous two years of lockdown, however this resulted in the almost predictable headlines about airport travel chaos:

Evening Standard

June 2022

In June, I was fortunate to get access to see the Westminster School Gateway, which my father had photographed in 1949:

Westminster School

The Westminster School Gateway is a historic feature of the school for two main reasons. The age and purpose of the gateway, and the inscriptions of pupil names that cover almost all the stones of which the gateway has been built.

In June I also had a walk along part of the Greenwich Peninsula, another area of London undergoing significant change, and the following 1980s photo is from my post Lovells Wharf and Enderby House, Greenwich Peninsula:

Greenwich Peninsula

The 21st of June was the first day of the country wide rail strikes, which coincided with a strike on the London Underground. I was in London on the day, and the following photo shows part of the closed platforms at Waterloo Station:

Rail Strike

Union members outside Waterloo Station:

Rail Strike

Closed underground station:

Rail Strike

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was also celebrated in early June, as reported in the Evening Standard:

Evening Standard

The Evening Standard reported that Cabinet Minister Sajid Javid was telling rail unions to “Grow Up And Drop Rail Strikes Now”:

Evening Standard

And the Standard also reported that the Government’s Rwanda plans were hit by “Fresh Disarray”:

Evening Standard

The Evening Standard on the 21st of June reported that London was in lockdown 2.0 due to the rail strikes, and that “Boris Braces Britain For Months of Misery as RMT Pledges More Action”:

Evening Standard

July 2022

In July I was back to a location I have featured in a couple of previous posts – Pickle Herring Street, but this time to visit Pickle Herring Stairs, one of the old stairs down to the river foreshore which have been lost in redevelopment of the area:

Pickle Herring Stairs

And despite earlier assurances in the Evening Standard, Boris Johnson had resigned and there was now a race for No. 10:

Evening Standard

And “Truss and Rishi Lock Horns As Tory Race Hots Up”:

Evening Standard

And Chelsea probably made a good decision:

Evening Standard

August 2022

In August I went to find the site of an old cemetery which had been cleared as part of the construction of the District Railway, in my post “Cloak Lane, St John the Baptist, the Walbrook and the Circle Line”:

Cloak Lane

The summer of 2022 was exceptionally dry, and London’s parks and open spaces were not looking that green. In August I took the following photo in Greenwich showing very little green grass across the park:

Greenwich

September 2022

In September I went to East Ham where my Great Grandfather lived for a few years.

He became a fireman in 1881, joining the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) at Rotherhithe, south east London, later moving to West Ham in 1886 as a Fire Escape man, where he remained for ten and a half years. At the time the MFB recruited only ex seamen and naval personnel as the Brigade was run on Naval discipline with a requirement for familiarity of climbing rigging and working at heights.

In 1896 he became the Superintendent of the new East Ham Fire Station, and the following photo shows the site of the Fire Station in Wakefield Street, East Ham:

East Ham Fire Station

The Queen died on the 8th of September, and the Evening Standard reported on her return to London:

Evening Standard

Continuing a tradition that I think started with the death of Princess Diana, people left masses of flowers to mark the death of the Queen. An area had been set aside for this in Green Park, and I went to take some photos:

Flowers in Green Park
Flowers in Green Park
Flowers in Green Park
Flowers in Green Park
Flowers in Green Park
Flowers in Green Park
Flowers in Green Park
Flowers in Green Park

There were also people camped out along the Mall in order to get prime position to see the funeral procession:

Queen's Funeral
Queen's Funeral
Queen's Funeral

And the queue to see the Queen’s coffin stretched far along the south bank of the Thames. View by Lambeth Bridge:

Queen's Funeral

South Bank:

Queen's Funeral

Bankside:

Queen's Funeral

October 2022

In October I went to find where my father worked for the London Electricity Board in the late 1940s and early 1950s in Pratt Street, Camden, where he had taken a series of photos looking at the view from the roof of the building:

Pratt Street Camden

In October I also went for a wonderful walk along the Broomway, off Foulness in Essex, said to be one of the country’s most dangerous footpaths. The London connection is that this could have been the site of London’s Third Airport in the early 1970s.

Broomway

And in October, the Evening Standard was reporting that Liz Truss, who had won the Tory leadership election, was telling the Tories that she would “Get Us Through The Tempest”:

Evening Standard

The war in Ukraine had largely disappeared from the headlines, however this headline brought back memories of the Cold War:

Evening Standard

November 2022

In November, I wrote about a project that I would not have done if I had not been writing the blog – we followed the route of the 13th century funeral procession of Eleanor of Castile, from Harby in Lincolnshire where she had died, to her final resting place in Westminster Abbey.

It was a really fascinating journey, and one I would not have done if it was not for the blog. The following photo from the post Eleanor Crosses – Grantham, Stamford and Geddington, shows the best preserved of the crosses in Geddington:

Geddinton Eleanor Cross

Whilst in London there was the threat of rail strikes for Christmas:

Evening Standard

December 2022

The BBC’s Ghost Story for Christmas was part of my childhood, with the M.R. James stories being a theme of both TV programmes and reading. In December I went to Eton Wick Chapel near Windsor to find his rather modest grave:

M.R. James

And also in December I went on my annual visit to walk around the construction site for HS2 in Euston:

HS2

There seems to be considerable interest in HS2 and Euston as it is one my most read annual posts. It also seems to be a rather marmite project – it is either the best project to free up capacity on the existing rail network between London and Birmingham and improve connectivity to the north, or a waste of a vast amount of money.

It will be interesting to see how it survives and how far the original plans will be cut back, as there is already talk of reducing the numbers of trains and reducing the highest speed they will be able to run.

January 2022

For the past nine years, the majority of blog posts have been about London, north of the river, with the exception of along the south bank of the river from Lambeth to Greenwich. I have loads of photos of south London to revisit and in January I started to address the balance between north and south London with a visit to find Macs Pie and Mash shop in Peckham:

Macs Pie and Mash

And that was the ninth year of the blog.

As well as learning so much through researching and writing the posts, it has been wonderful to learn far more from the many comments on the blog and the emails I receive provide more detail on many of the subjects covered.

For the tenth year, I will have many more posts on south London, some lengthy posts on a couple of the London Docks which I have not written about so far, posts about London’s impact on the rest of the country, and much more, along with hopefully a couple of special blog related projects.

Thanks for reading, thanks for subscribing, and perhaps I will see you on a walk later in the year.

alondoninheritance.com

Admiral’s House, Plaques and Cholera in Hampstead

In last Sunday’s post, I complained about the lack of sunlight when I was taking photos of Peckham. The day that post was published was a glorious February day, bright sunlight and clear blue sky, so I took the opportunity for a walk around Hampstead, starting with Admiral’s House, the location of one of my father’s photos from 1951.

Admiral's House

The same view in February 2023:

Admiral's House

The view of Admiral’s House is much the same, however if you look to the right of my father’s photo, there is a brick wall and a rather nice lamp. These are not visible in my photo.

The reason being that both photos were taken a few feet along a walkway that follows the brick wall on the right. In the 72 years between the two photos, a large amount of small trees and bushes have grown up alongside the wall, so I could not get into the exact same position as my father when he took the 1951 photo:

Admiral's House

The lamp on the end of the wall is still there, it looks the same design, so I assume it is the same lamp, however there are some shiny washers and bolts now holding the mount to the wall, so these have been replaced:

Admiral's House

Admiral’s House is a short walk from Hampstead Underground Station. North along Hampstead Grove, then turn left into Admiral’s Walk, where there is a large sign on the corner, helpfully pointing to Admiral’s House:

Admiral's House

The house appears to date from the early 18th century, when it was built for a Mr. Charles Keys. At that time, the building was known as the Golden Spike, after the Masonic Lodge that met in the building between 1730 and 1745.

Admiral’s House can be seen in Rocque’s 1746 map, shown circled in red in the following extract, where, for reference, I have also circled Fenton House in blue, with the distinctive squared shape of its garden between Fenton and Admiral’s Houses.

Admiral's House

From 1775 to 1810 the house was occupied by Fountain North, apparently a former naval captain. North changed the name of the house to ‘The Grove’.

Fountain North is a rather unusual name, and I did find some basic information about him. He died on the 21st of Spetember, 1810 in Hastings. The brief line recording his death in newspapers at the time states that he was of Rougham Hall in Norfolk. There is no mention of Hampstead. I could only connect this record with the Fountain North who lived in Hampstead, when I found the report of the death of his wife, Arabella North, who died in Weymouth in 1832, and the record states that she was “the widow of Fountain North, of Rougham Norfolk, and Hampstead, Middlesex”.

It was Fountain North who constructed the quarter deck on the roof of the house, and it was from here that he apparently fired a cannon to celebrate naval victories, however I cannot find any references to this from the time, so difficult to say whether or not it is true.

This is where there has been confusion with an Admiral Barton, a genuine Admiral who lived between 1715 and 1795, who has been alleged to have built Admiral’s House, but in reality had nothing to do with the house in Hampstead.

Even publications such at the Tatler recorded Admiral Barton as being responsible for the house, for example, in an article on the 14th July, 1940 on Pamela Lady Glenconner, who was then living in the house with her family, the Tatler reported that “Admiral’s House was built in the eighteenth century by Admiral Barton who, after an adventurous career which included shipwreck on the Barbary Coast, being sold into slavery, rescue and court martial, ended his days firing guns to celebrate victories in the Napoleonic wars”.

Barton did have an adventurous career, but he did not live in Admiral’s House.

Admiral’s House is Grade II listed, and I have used the Historic England history of the house in the listing record as hopefully the most accurate record for the history of the house.

Admiral Barton certainly did not build the house, and whether cannons were ever fired from the roof must be questionable.

Pamela Lyndon Travers (born Helen Lyndon Goff in Queensland, Australia on the 9th of August, 1899) was the author of Mary Poppins which features Admiral Boom, who fired a cannon from his roof. Travers was working on Mary Poppins during the 1920s (it was published in 1934).

Admiral’s House is referenced as Travers inspiration for Admiral Boom’s house. There is no record that she ever lived in Hampstead, or whether she saw the house when she was writing Mary Poppins, however as shown with the Tatler article in 1940, the story of the Admiral and cannon was in circulation in the early decades of the 20th century.

Admiral’s House as seen whilst walking along Admiral’s Walk:

Admiral's House

Admiral’s House has been modified many times over the years. The entrance from Admiral’s Walk, along with the conservatory on the first floor which can be seen in the above photo, were both 19th century additions.

The large garage which can be seen to the right of the house is a recent replacement of an earlier structure, and the house has also had a kitchen extension and underground swimming pool added.

To the side of Admiral’s House is another building, Grove Lodge. It is not clear what the original relationship was between the two buildings, and whether there was any dependency, however they do appear to have been in separate ownership for most of their existence.

Recent building work on Grove Lodge made the national newspapers, when construction of a basement at Grove Lodge, allegedly caused damage to Admiral’s House, as reported in the Daily Mail.

If you look at the following photo, there is a brown plaque on Admiral’s House, and a blue plaque on Grove Lodge:

Admiral's House

The brown plaque on Admiral’s House was also in my father’s 1951 photo, and is a London County Council plaque, recording that the architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott lived in the house.

He was the architect for the Midland Grand Hotel at St. Pancras Station, the Albert memorial, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as large number of other public buildings, restorations of churches and cathedrals, and domestic houses.

Prior to Hampstead, he was living in St. John’s Wood, however the continued expansion of London resulted in a move in 1856 to Admiral’s House. He would not stay there for too long, as his wife Caroline found the place rather cold and the location isolated which restricted their social life (Hampstead Underground Station would open years later in 1907).

The blue plaque on Grove Lodge, to the left, is to record that the novelist and playwright John Galsworthy lived in the house between 1918 and 1933. Galsworthy’s best known work was the Forsyte Saga, and he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1932.

The house in Hampstead was his London home, and it was here that Galsworthy died in 1933.

After a look at Admiral’s House, and ticking off another of my father’s photos, the weather was so good that we went for a wander around Hampstead.

The following map shows the route covered in the rest of the post with red circles indicating a place I will write about. Admiral’s House is at the start of the route on the left of the map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

And from here, a short walk brings us to the following house in Hampstead Grove:

George du Maurier

Which has a plaque recording that cartoonist and author George du Maurier lived in the house:

George du Maurier

The du Maurier name has many associations with Hampstead, and I wrote about finding his grave at St John, Hampstead. in this post.

We then headed east, crossed over Heath Street and walked along Elm Row, where there is this house:

Henry Cole

With a plaque recording that Sir Henry Cole, who “originated the custom of sending Christmas Cards” lived in the house:

Henry Cole

Sir Henry Cole seems to have been a far more complex and busy man than the plaque suggests. He appears to have been a workaholic, and also did not suffer fools gladly (or those that disagreed with him). His obituary, published after his death in 1882, records that “It is now fifty-five years since he commenced his career of working himself and making everybody else within the sphere of his influence work also”, and that he entered public service under the Record Commission when he “allowed little time to pass before making his presence felt”.

He found the Records Commission was in a terrible state and set about reorganising the way records were kept, in such a way that brought him into conflict with a number of powerful people.

The Record Commissioners dismissed him following a feud within the organisation, however when he was proved to be right, and had gathered his own support, the Record Commissioners had to take him back, and promote him to the office of Assistance Keeper of Records.

The reference to Christmas Cards probably relates to the following entry in his obituary “He took an important part in the development of the penny-postage plan of Sir Rowland Hill, occupied the responsible post of Secretary to the Mercantile Committee on Postage, and gained one of the £100 prizes offered by the Treasury for ‘suggestions'”.

He also had concerns about standards of architecture, fashion and the design of everyday objects, stating that “In 1840 England had not yet recovered from the fearful degradation of taste under Farmer George” (the nickname given to George III), and he preached for the alliance of art and manufacture.

This is only a small snapshot of his life and his obituary ran to a full column and a quarter of news print. I suspect it was a clever marketing idea to introduce the custom of sending Christmas Cards when he was involved with the penny-postage plan.

Following Elm Row, then turning into Hampstead Square and there are two large, brick buildings. The one on the left has a brown plaque on the side:

Newman Hall

The brown plaque reads “In memoriam – Newman Hall, D.D. Homes for the aged given by his widow”.

Newman Hall was described as “one of the oldest residents in Hampstead” when he died in 1902 aged 85. He was a Reverend and Preacher, author and artist. The titles of his book included “Songs of Heaven and Earth” and “Come to Jesus”.

The plaque refers to numbers 7, 8 and 9 Hampstead Square, which were bequeathed by the Will of Newman Hall’s wife, Harriet Mary Margaret Hall as almshouses for pensioners in 1922.

The charity, the Newman Hall Home for Pensioners exists to this day, continuing to maintain the properties in their use as almshouses.

Now continuing along Cannon Place, and the view along Christchurch Hill shows the height of Hampstead, compared to the city to the south, which was one of its attractions when development started during the early 18th century.

View from Hampstead

Opposite the junction with Christchurch Hill is another blue plaque. This one to Sir Flinders Petrie, 1853 to 1942, Egyptologist:

Flinders Petrie

Flinders Petrie was a prolific archaeologist of Egyptian history. He began archaeological training began in 1872, when he surveyed Stonehenge, and his first visit to Egypt in 1880 resulted in his first dig in the country in 1884 and which started a lifetime of work exploring Egyptian history.

He gathered a very large collection of Egyptian antiquities, and ensured that during excavations, everything was recorded, no matter how small.

University College London now has the Petrie Museum. This was formed around the department and museum created in 1892 through the bequest of Amelia Edwards. a collection of Egyptian antiquities.

Amelia Edwards, who for a while lived in Wharton Street on the Lloyd Baker Estate (see this post) was a 19th century novelist and author of travel books which she would also illustrate. After a visit to Egypt she became fascinated by the ancient history of the country and the threats to the archaeology and monuments that could be found across the country.

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

Flinders Petrie was the first Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London. The Flinders collection of Egyptian antiquities is also now in the museum that bears his name.

At the end of Cannon Place, at the junction with Squire’s Mount is Cannon Hall:

Cannon Hall

Cannon Hall dates from around 1729 and is a Grade II* listed building.

The house is another Hampstead connection with the du Maurier family, as Gerald du Maurier purchased the house in 1916 and lived there until his death in 1934.

Gerald was the son of George du Maurier who we met earlier in Hampstead Grove.

Gerald was an actor-manager and his most famous parts were probably when he played significant roles in premieres of two J.M. Barrie plays, including the dual role of George Darling and Captain Hook on the 27th of December, 1904 at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

He lived in Canon Hall with his wife Muriel Beaumont and their three daughters, Daphne du Maurier (future author and who we will meet again in Hampstead, Angela (who would also become an author), and the future artist, Jeanne du Maurier.

Canon Hall had a number of other notable, previous residents, including in 1780, Sir Noah Thomas who was physician to King George III, and from 1838, Sir James Cosmo Melville of the East India Company, who when he purchased the house was chief secretary of the company.

It seems that from around the time of Meville’s ownership, the cannons that gave the name to the place were installed along the street.

Walk past Cannon Hall, and turn down Squire’s Mount (named after Joshua Squire who purchased some land here in 1714), follow the wall alongside Cannon Hall, to find a strange door and pair of windows:

Hampstead parish lock-up

The plaque on the wall states that this was the parish lock-up, built into the garden wall of Cannon Hall around 1730. The hall was the site of a magistrates court, and prisoners would be kept in the single room cell, until more suitable arrangements could be found.

The Hampstead News on the 2nd of June 1949 stated that from old title deeds, the names of former magistrates appear to have lived in Cannon Hall. The article also stated that the lock-up later housed the manual fire engine belonging to the parish, however I doubt it would have fit through the door, unless alterations have been made to the entrance.

The lock-up lasted 100 years, as its use ended in 1832, when the temporary holding of prisoners was moved to the Watch House in Holly Walk.

Hampstead parish lock-up

The lock-up is Grade II listed, and the listing states that inside there is a vaulted brick single cell. The London Borough of Camden’s Conservation Statement for Hampstead records that on the other side of the wall, modern houses have been built in part of the garden of Cannon Hall, and the old lock-up is now the entrance to one of these houses.

Back in 2015 there was a planning application for a three storey house to be built replacing the single storey building behind the wall. I assume this did not go ahead as no evidence of such a house can be seen above the wall.

Squire’s Mount turns into Cannon Lane, at the end of which is another of the wonderful street name signs that can be found across Hampstead. Nothing like a pointing finger to indicate the direction.

Squire's Mount

At the end of Cannon Lane, we turned west into Well Lane, and soon found another mention of the du Maurier’s presence in Hampstead:

Daphne du Maurier

The plaque states that the novelist Daphne du Maurier lived in the house behind the wall, between 1932 and 1934. Probably best known for the books Jamaica Inn, Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek, her last book, Rule Britannia, published in 1972, was a interesting and prophetic account of the country leaving the European Union.

Finally, towards the end of Well Road is another plaque on the walk alongside the house and buildings in the following photo:

Mark Gertler

This plaque records that the artist Mark Gertler lived in the building. He was born in Spitalfields and there is a house in Elder Street that also records his time in the area. He was a painter of figure subjects, portraits and still-life, and one of many artists that have made Hampstead their home.

At the end of Well Road, at the junction with New End is a tall, brick building, with a stone plaque on the narrow end of the building:

Cholera in Hampstead

The lettering along the top of the plaque is somewhat worn, but appears to read: “These buildings were erected by voluntary contributions for a dispensary and soup kitchen. It was intended as a thank offering to almighty God for his special mercy in sparing this parish during the visitation of cholera in the year 1849. The site was purchased in 1850 and the building completed in 1852. He shall deliver thee from the noisome pestilence. Thomas Ainger M.A.”

Cholera in Hampstead

The building, that was constructed as a dispensary and soup kitchen is now a fee paying, independent school.

The visitation of cholera in the year 1849 was one of the many cholera outbreaks in the mid 19th century (see my post on John Snow and the Soho Cholera Outbreak of 1854). John Snow’s suspicion about the source of a cholera outbreak was further confirmed when a local resident of Golden Square moved to Hampstead, but still sent for a bottle of the “sparkling Broad Street water” every day. She was the only person in Hampstead to be diagnosed with cholera.

The cholera outbreak of 1849 was serious across the whole of London, although south London suffered more than north London. The Lady’s Newspaper on the 29th of September 1849 carried an account of the outbreak during the first part of the year and reported that 35 out of 10,000 inhabitants of north London died, compared to 104 out of 10,000 inhabitants of south London.

The following table from the Weekly Dispatch provides a list of deaths from Cholera and Diarrhea reported on the 31st of August 1849:

Cholera in Hampstead

The table shows that for the reporting on that one day, Hampstead had one of the lowest levels of death across London.

That was a short walk, starting at Admiral’s House, which still looks much as it did when compared with my father’s 1951 photo.

The rest of the walk demonstrated just how much there is to explore in Hampstead. Other posts I have written about the area include:

alondoninheritance.com