Category Archives: London Monuments

The Bellot Memorial at Greenwich

Too often, I walk by the numerous memorials in London with little more than a cursory glance to see if there is anything of specific interest. This is even more true for those that I have walked by so many times, they become a part of the street scene. One such memorial is the Bellot Memorial on the riverside footpath at Greenwich – a slim obelisk on a grass mound between two footpaths.

Bellot

The base of the obelisk facing the river, has the work Bellot inscribed in large letters.

Bellot

Whilst on the side facing inland there is some text which gives a partial clue as to who the memorial is commemorating.

Bellot

The key to finding out who Bellot was, and why he has a memorial on the river path at Greenwich is through the second name.

This is Sir John Franklin, the Arctic explorer and Royal Navy officer.

Franklin was a 19th century experienced Arctic explorer, having been part of three expeditions to explore northern Canada and the Arctic. His fourth and final expedition took place in 1845, where he led two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror on an expedition to explore the final miles of the north west passage, the route from the Atlantic to the Pacific along the north coast of Canada. Finding such a route would reduce the time to travel between the two oceans significantly and would be a major advantage for the Royal Navy and British trade.

The 1845 expedition was the best equipped to date, and included a supply ship which took additional supplies to be transferred to Erebus and Terror at Greenland, leaving the two ships to head to northern Canada fully supplied.

They left the Thames in May 1845, and after transferring supplies, headed west. The last confirmed sighting of the two ships was on the 26th July 1845. They were not seen again.

They were heading to a place where ships did not travel, forms of communication such as radio were still many decades in the future, so it was expected that there would be no contact with the ships for some time, but after two years there was widespread concern as to the state of the expedition and the fate of the crew of the two ships.

Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane Franklin petitioned the Admiralty to arrange an expedition to search for her husband and the crew of the two ships. The Admiralty put up a sum of money for finding the ships, and a number of expeditions set out to northern Canada. One of these was carrying a young lieutenant of the French Navy, Joseph Rene Bellot © The Trustees of the British Museum:

Bellot

The Illustrated Times of the 1st December 1855 provided some background on Bellot:

“Bellot was a native of Paris, and first saw light in March 1826, his father being by trade a farrier and blacksmith. When Bellot reached the age of five, his father removed from the French capital to Rochefort, and the embryo here was educated in that marine town. In his sixteenth year, Bellot was placed at the naval school of Rochefort, and soon afterwards entered upon his professional career.

From a boy, Bellot was remarkable for his sense of duty, sweetness of temper, and nobility of soul; and, as time passed on, these high and generous qualities not only endured him to his friends, but gave him a strong hold on the hearts of all with him he shared peril and fatigue.

The conduct and career of Lieutenant Bellot in connection with our Arctic expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin, are well known. His own diary, recently published, and read by many with breathless interest, furnishes, of course, the best narrative of adventures and enterprises, and the story becomes more and more enchanting as it proceeds. ‘So often’ says a contemporary, ‘as the Golden Book of Modern Travel comes to be made up, one of its best and brightest pages must be reserved for Joseph Rene Bellot; since rarely, in any age, has love of adventure been ennobled by higher motives and mere unselfish feelings than those which stirred the young French adventurer. The nationality of Bellot, too – his gaiety as well as his goodness – makes his journey peculiarly engaging’.

To indomitable courage and indefatigable perseverance, were added the charms of lightness of heart and poetry of fancy. He seems to have been able ‘to laugh and make laugh’, to dance when a young Orcadian Miss was to be found by way of partner, to read Byron, to think of Scott and to hear about Shakespeare, as if he had been merely one of those Parisian carpet travelers, who imagine adventures in foreign lands, while he lounges homewards, cigar in mouth, as if he had not been a real hero in the hour of danger, hopeful and calm when death was upon him.”

Given his apparent thirst for adventure, an expedition to rescue Franklin must have been a brilliant opportunity for Bellot, so much so, that he participated in two expeditions, the last one would cost him his life.

The first expedition under the command of Captain William Kennedy was during the years 1851 and 1852, and the second, this time under the command of Captain Edward Inglefield, set out later in 1852.

It was during Inglefield’s expedition that Bellot lost his life when “this noble minded officer perished in the Wellington Channel in a gale of wind, by the disruption of ice, whilst carrying dispatches from Beechy Island to Sir Edward Belcher, a service for which he generously volunteered”.

Sir John Franklin, HMS Erebus and Terror, and the crew of the two ships were never found. Lady Franklin continued supporting searches, including later searches for written records that the expedition may have left, however she died in 1875 with no firm conclusion as to her husband’s fate, apart from the fact that he had died.

Sir John Franklin © The Trustees of the British Museum:

Bellot

After Bellot’s death, there was considerable interest in creating some form of memorial for a French Lieutenant who had died in the search for one of Britain’s Naval heroes and Arctic explorers.

Sir Roderick Murchision, President of the Royal Geographical Society was the Chair of a committee set up to arrange a suitable memorial. Public meetings were held, money was donated and plans were put in place.

The initial plan was for a memorial to be built in Bellot’s home city of Rochefort, however after correspondence with the Mayor of Rochefort it was understood that the city was already planning a memorial, and two separate memorials was not considered the best approach.

The committee therefore decided on Greenwich as a suitable location, as: “Under these circumstances, and being assured that the French government will cordially approve their decision, the committee have come to the conclusion, that Englishmen, wishing to honour in the most emphatic manner the memory of one who was so esteemed and beloved among them as Lieutenant Bellot, should pay to him the same respect as to their own illustrious dead. In this case, if it be decided that a cenotaph, column, or monument be placed on the banks of the Thames, at or near the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, the committee feel assured that every Frenchman who may pass by on the river, or visit our great naval hospital, would see that we had paid to our lamented friend the very highest compliment in our power, and that our tribute was a pledge to be forever before us, and that we desired to perpetuate the mutual good-will which so happily exists between the two nations”.

Over £2,000 was subscribed towards the memorial. the cost was only £500, with the remaining funds being distributed to the sisters of Bellot. The French Emperor, Napoleon III also granted an annuity of 2,000 francs to Bellot’s family.

The following print from soon after the memorial was installed in 1856 shows the obelisk of Aberdeen granite, standing on a grass mound between two walkways along the Thames and in front of the Royal Hospital – as it does today.

Bellot

Bellot is not just commemorated in Greenwich and Rochefort, there is also a geographic feature named after Bellot. On a previous Arctic expedition he had covered, with William Kennedy, over 1,100 miles on foot and dogsled over the ice. They found a previously unknown feature, a channel of water between Somerset Island to the north and the Boothia Peninsula to the south. This channel of water was named Bellot Strait.

A high level map is below, to show the very remote location of the Bellot Strait  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Bellot

In a very different location to the Bellot Strait, the Bellot memorial looking over the Thames, a stretch of water with which Bellot and Franklin must have been very familiar. Bellot

Although scattered remains would be found of the ship and crew, HMS Erebus was only recently discovered in September 2014. The book Erebus, The Story Of A Ship by Michael Palin provides a detailed account of Franklin’s expedition and the discovery of the Erebus.

But the final word must go to Lieutenant Bellot, who wrote a last letter to friends, to be delivered in the event of his death:

“My dear and excellent Friends – If you receive this letter I shall have ceased to exist, but should have quitted life in the performance of a mission of peril and honour. You will see in my journal, which you will find among my effects, that our captain and four men were necessarily left behind in the ice to save the rest; so, after effecting that, we were compelled to go to the assistance of these worthy fellows. Possibly I had no right to run such a risk, knowing how necessary I am to you in every way; but death may probably draw upon the different members of my family, the consideration of men, and the blessings of Heaven – farewell ! to meet again above, if not below, Have faith and courage. God bless you, J. Bellot”

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The Albert Memorial – A 19th Century World View

The Albert Memorial in Kensington Garden’s is far more than just a memorial to Prince Albert. It is also an embodiment in stone of the Victorian world view. The gleaming gold statue at the centre provides the focal point, but look around the memorial and we can catch a glimpse of how the Victorians saw the world.

The memorial was photographed by my father using Black & White film on a gloriously sunny winter’s day in 1948:

Albert Memorial

The same view on a rather overcast late summer day, 71 years later in 2019:

Albert Memorial

A landscape photo to get a wider view of the base of the memorial:

Albert Memorial

And the same view in 2019:

Albert Memorial

As could be expected, the view is almost the same across 71 years. The Albert Memorial, and the immediate surroundings are the same, as are the majority of the trees in the background.

With London’s ever changing built environment, it is good that there are some places where you can look at a view which has not changed for many years.

The only difference to the memorial is the lack of a cross at the top in the 1948 photo. This was part of the original build, and is part of the memorial today, but was missing in 1948. Bomb damage had knocked off the cross in 1940, and caused damage to the overall memorial. The cross had been replaced by 1955, along with repairs to the overall structure. The following photo shows the Albert Memorial covered in scaffolding in 1954 during post war restoration work:

Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial as it appeared soon after completion in 1876, with the gold cross at the top of the monument (Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London).

Albert Memorial

Prince Albert died on the 14th of December 1861 at the age of 42. There had been plans for a statue of Prince Albert in Hyde Park following the 1851 Great Exhibition, however these had not progressed and the prince had made it known that he was not in favour of statues of himself.

After his death, there were many memorials planned and implemented across the country, but the one that attracted the majority of attention, was for a memorial in London. Hyde Park seemed the obvious location as this would build on the original plan for a statue following the 1851 Great Exhibition, however the location would be moved to Kensington Gardens, opposite the Albert Hall which was completed in 1871, a few years prior to the Albert Memorial.

In 1862 a committee was formed to raise funds for a memorial, and proposals were submitted for a memorial from a range of sculptors and architects. Many of the initial designs featured an obelisk. The following is one such early design for the Albert Memorial (Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London):

Albert Memorial

The obelisk idea would be dropped in favour of designs that featured a central statue of Prince Albert, surrounded by ornamental statues. Options included the central statue being both covered and open.

Proposals for the memorial took on more of an architectural influence, and one of the submissions was by George Gilbert Scott, who commissioned a model of his proposed design from Farmer and Brindley of Westminster Bridge Road. The model in the following photo shows a Gothic inspired canopy, with spire and cross enclosing a gilded statue of Prince Albert (Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London):

Albert Memorial

Scott’s plans were included in plans submitted to Queen Victoria for approval, and in 1863 Scott’s plans for the Albert Memorial were approved and given the go-ahead, including a sum of £50,000 voted by Parliament to add to the sums already raised by subscriptions.

Construction of the overall Albert Memorial was divided across a number of builders and sculptors.

The builder John Kelk was responsible for the central memorial. The initial sculptor of the central statue of Prince Albert was Baron Carlo Marochetti, however Marochetti died before the work was complete, and the sculptor J. H. Foley was chosen to complete the statue of Prince Albert.

Albert Memorial

The gilding of Albert’s statue was rather controversial after being unveiled. The Globe on Thursday, March 9th 1876 reported:

“The statue of the Prince Consort, facing the Albert Hall, appeared uncovered this morning, glittering in all the splendour of gold. It is most difficult to judge of the artistic value of the work, from the fact that it is very dazzling to the eye, but this result of the work, so long waited for, does not upon a first glance leave a very favourable impression.”

In addition to Prince Albert, there are eight statues to the practical arts and sciences on the pillars and niches of the canopy. There are also eight works surrounding the central canopy.

Four, mounted at each corner on plinths extending from the base of the central canopy represent the “industrial Arts”. These are Agriculture, Manufactures, Commerce and Engineering.

The four outer works, at the corners of the railings that separate the memorial from the granite steps leading down to the street, represent the four corners of the globe – Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

All of these works were created by a different sculptor, but in overall form and size had to conform with Scott’s overall design for the memorial.

These eight surrounding works were to represent the interests to which Prince Albert devoted his life, along with the global view of the British Empire, and the memorial was to be viewed as a whole, not just the central statue of Prince Albert.

Construction of the memorial was over a number of years, with the gilded statue completing the memorial in 1876.  As well as the newspaper report on the controversial gilding of the statue, completion finally allowed the memorial to be viewed as a whole, as this report from the Globe on the 10th March 1876 describes:

“The Albert Memorial has at last been completed, and was yesterday dedicated to the public, the statue of the Prince having been uncovered without any attending ceremony.

It is scarcely possible as yet to fairly criticise the effect which the final addition to the monument produces. The colossal statue of the Prince dazzles the eye from the brilliancy of the fresh gilding, and makes the rest of the structure appear rather to disadvantage in point of contrast. An English climate and a city atmousphere will, however, soon correct these defects. Even as it is, the merits of the statue are apparent. hitherto, the memorial had a straggling and incomplete appearance. the several groups which composed it, admirable in point of detail and as separate pieces, wanted concentration and unity. The superb designs representing the four quarters of the world had no structural identity with the architectural part of the monument, and seemed isolated and disconnected. the public can now judge how happy was the idea of giving to the central figure a gilded surface. This mass of glowing lustre attracts the eye at once, and by its importance reduces all the rest of the sculpture to its true subsidiary position.

The gilding of the figure connects the gilding of the roof and shrine above with the gilding of the railwork that forms the extreme limit beneath, and thus makes the whole harmonious. It is necessary, perhaps to insist a little on this advantage, for other points have necessarily been sacrificed to attain it.

A gilded statue can neither be as satisfactory in resemblance, taken by itself, as bronze or as marble. But the true view of the memorial is to regard it as an example of decorative art. Its perfection consists in its entirety. The shrine is as valuable as the treasure which it encloses. We are not to treat the memorial which “Queen Victoria and her people have erected for posterity as a tribute of their gratitude” simply as a statue of the Prince Consort, with suitable surroundings. That would be to miss the whole scheme and design of its originator.

The monument of the Prince happily illustrates those arts and sciences which the devotion of his life nobly fostered in the midst of a not too enlightened people.

The whole structure is as much a memorial of Prince Albert as the statue which recalls his well-known presence.

We see it at last completed after a lapse of ten years, and welcome it as an answer to that piece of flippant generalisation which proclaims that nothing in this country which attempts to be artistic can be successful.”

Around the base of the central canopy and out to the railings that surround the memorial are eight groups of sculpture. The inner four represent the “Industrial Arts” and the outer four represent the four corners of the globe. Each work was by a different sculptor.

Three of my father’s photos were of these works. Photographed on a sunny day, with the sun in the right position, and in black & white film, which after looking at my colour photos, I am of the view that black & white is one of the best ways to photograph this type of work.

Europe:

Albert Memorial

Another view of the Europe sculpture grouping with the central canopy in the background:

Albert Memorial

Africa:

Albert Memorial

On a rather dull, late summer’s day, I photographed all the sculpture groupings, starting with the outer works of four corners of the globe.

This is Asia by John Henry Foley:

Albert Memorial

Europe by Patrick Macdowell:

Albert Memorial

The figures in each of these works were symbolic of the countries they represented, so in the Europe grouping above, the central figure as viewed from this perspective is that of France – a military power, holding a sword in the figure’s right hand, and a laurel wreath in the left hand.

America by John Bell:

Albert Memorial

Africa by William Theed:

Albert Memorial

Now come the inner groupings, the industrial arts, starting with Agriculture by Calder Marshall:

Albert Memorial

Manufacturers by Henry Weekes:

Albert Memorial

Engineering by John Lawlor:

Albert Memorial

Commerce by Thomas Thornycroft:

Albert Memorial

There are further works, around the base of the podium with a continuous frieze of reliefs which represent poets, musicians, painters, architects and sculptors. The frieze was split between two sculptors, J.B. Philips was responsible for architects and sculptors and H.H. Armstead for the rest of the works.

Albert Memorial

Detail of part of the musicians section of the frieze:

Albert Memorial

Each individual is named either above or below the figure.

Detail from the musicians frieze:

Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial is a complex object, and was both loved and criticised when revealed as a completed work.

The gilding of the statue of Prince Albert, the arrangement of the surrounding sculptures, the sculptural work and interpretation of the theme of each work. The Gothic canopy. The whole memorial needs to be considered as a single piece of work, and was intended to reflect the interests of Prince Albert. The choice of characters and their interpretation reflects the mid Victorian outlook on the world, and the central frieze acts as an encyclopedia of those considered important in their respective cultural fields.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the Albert Memorial was in a critical state.

The statue of Prince Albert had been blackened during the First World War, to prevent it being a target during Zeppelin raids. The surrounding sculptures were damaged, and the whole memorial was in need of cleaning and repair.

A decade long restoration of the memorial was completed in 1998, which included Prince Albert being re-gilded. He now shines in the sun, as intended, as he looks out over south Kensington.

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A Mystery on Catherine Place and Wilfred Street

In 1986 my father photographed what I assume to be a statue of the Virgin Mary. In the photograph was a street name sign, Catherine Place, so I was able to identify the location and I went to take a look and see if it was still to be seen.

Catherine Place

Catherine Place is in the cluster of streets between Victoria Street, Buckingham Gate, Palace Street and Buckingham Palace. A short walk along Buckingham Gate, turn into Wilfred Street and at the junction with Catherine Place, the image remains.

Catherine Place

The overall view of the building on the corner of Wilfred Street and Catherine Place is shown in the photo below. The design of the building clearly tells that it was originally a pub. The rounded brick corner – designed for pub signage. The wooden facade on the ground floor, rather than the brick of a normal house. The large corner door. This was originally the Palace Arms.

Catherine Place

Knowing that this was originally a pub, and now converted to a residential building, did not give any clue as to why a religious symbol would be on the wall of the building. The name of the pub gave no clue, Palace Arms probably refers to either Palace Street or Buckingham Palace.

I can find no reference to the image in any of my usual reference books or research sources. The City of Westminster Conservation Area Audit includes the following reference to the building but does not include any mention of the statue:

“On the corner of Wilfred Street and Catherine Place is a redundant pub front. Although no longer in use, the frontage survives, with Corinthian pilasters marking each window opening and projecting console brackets to either side of the entablature that projects over the blocked entrance.”

The audit report includes a photo of the building which includes the statue, but there is no reference – either it has no historical significance, or perhaps the authors of the Conservation Area Audit also could not find any reference as to why it was there.

I checked the London Metropolitan Archives Collage image site. There are some photos of the area, including the following from 1974, but no images which show the building when the pub was open, or images of the building older than 1974. The photo does confirm that the statue of the Virgin Mary was there in 1974.

Catherine Place

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_454_74_19310

The statue of the Virgin Mary is obviously maintained. If you look at the 1986 and 2019 photos, it has been repainted and a forearm and hand has been added.

I then turned to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map to see if there were any clues. In 1895, Catherine Place was named Catherine Street. Look above the end of the word “Wilfred”, and the corner building labelled P.H. is the pub.

Catherine Place

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

There is a possible clue as to the source of the Virgin Mary statue. Look down along Wilfred Street to the junction with Palace Street, and on the corner is a building labelled as a Roman Catholic Chapel.

This is the Roman Catholic Chapel today:

Catherine Place

This was the chapel of St Peter and St Edward. Originally built in 1856 , with an upper floor added between 1857 and 1858, the lower section of the building was used as a school and the upper section as the chapel.

The chapel provided a special Mass for guardsmen from Wellington and Chelsea Barracks and was known as the Guards Catholic Chapel. It closed in 1975 and later converted to offices. The building is Grade II listed. Visitors to the chapel included in 1965, the former United States First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

The side view of the chapel in Wlifred Street shows the windows providing light into the central space of the chapel.

Catherine Place

The chapel closed in 1975. The statue of the Virgin Mary was on the side of the building in 1974 – I cannot find any reference to when it first appeared.

Is it possible that the statue was originally part of the chapel, and knowing that the chapel was to close, for some reason it had been moved to the side of the old pub building?

It cannot have been part of the original pub. There appears to have been no relationship between the pub and the chapel, and the name of the pub (Palace Arms) has no religious reference.

Why on the pub building? It is a prominent corner position, looking down Wilfred Street towards Buckingham Gate, but I can find no other reasons why it should be there.

I have also looked for any newspaper reports providing any reason for the statue, but again cannot find any reference. The only reports are of the usual events that you would expect from a London pub, for example from the Morning Post on the 14th November 1842:

“James Coffee, an Irish labourer, was charged with being drunk and disorderly at Wilfred Street, Westminster at 3.15 on Saturday. Police Constable Frazer proved that at the time in question he was called by the landlord of the Palace Arms to eject the prisoner, who was drunk, and annoying customers. He was got out of the house and in the streets said he would ‘smash the witness’s head with a stick’ and if he had a revolver ‘he’d shoot him as they did landlords in Ireland’. At length he was taken to the station-house. The prisoner said he had never been in trouble before, he had been five years from Ireland, and he was a hard working man. He had only threatened to hit the constable with a stick after he had knocked him down. 

He was fined 7s or seven days, and he was removed crying out that he had only 3s in the world.”

It remains a mystery and I cannot find any reference as to why the statue of what I assume to be the Virgin Mary is on the frount of the old Palace Arms.

The area around the old pub is a mix of architecture styles. 18th and 19th century survivals, early 20th century and some very recent building.

An example of recent building is shown in the following photo, opposite the old Palace Arms and on the site of the school shown on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map:

Catherine Place

The view along Catherine Place from Wilfred Street. The street is a mix of residential and offices.

Catherine Place

The opposite corner of Catherine Place to the old Palace Arms:

Catherine Place

The use of different coloured bricks for decoration of the above house indicates that whilst emulating many of the features, it is a later building than the Georgian survivals on the street.

The following photo shows a late Georgian terrace along Catherine Place. The brickwork is simple, the sash windows recessed, but note the different door styles.

Catherine Place

As well as looking up at the buildings, the pavement can also provide some fascinating survivors. Along Catherine Place is this cover from the Westminster Electric Supply Corporation Ltd.

Catherine Place

The Westminster Electric Supply Corporation was one of the many local electricity generation and distribution companies, formed in the late 19th century, that powered London. Each company served their own specific area and the Westminster Electric Supply Company had generating stations at Millbank, Eccleston Place and Davies Street.

In the first decades of the 20th century, many of these companies merged or were taken over. The Westminster Electric Supply Corporation lasted until 1938, when it was taken over (along with a couple of other companies) by the Charing Cross Electric Supply Company, to form the Central London Electricity Company Ltd.

There are not too many of these covers surviving.

The mix of architectural styles and building materials shows how the street has developed over the centuries. At number 53 is an interesting red brick 19th century building.

Catherine Place

Wilfred Street is also full of interesting buildings and has two pubs. The Cask and Glass is on the corner of Wilfred Street and Palace Street. A lovely pub, but very small and possibly one of the smallest pubs in central London.

Catherine Place

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map does not label this building with P.H. so it may not have been classed as a pub, rather as a “beer shop” – possibly due to its small size. The Cask and Glass is a relatively recent name, it was originally the Duke of Cambridge.

Some of the earliest houses on Wilfred Street are these early 19th century, single bay brick houses.

Catherine Place

The view along Wilfred Street, with Catherine Place a short distance along on the left.

Catherine Place

A short distance along Wilfred Street, half way between what was the Palace Arms and the Cask and Glass is another pub – the Colonies.

Catherine Place

Three pubs within a short distance along Wilfred Street – the original occupants of the street were well served.

The Colonies is marked as a Public House on the 1895 map, sandwiched between the school and the Roman Catholic Chapel.

As with the Cask and Glass, the Colonies is a relatively recent name, dating from 1976. The original name was the Pineapple, and the pub dates from the early 19th century.

Catherine Place and Wilfred Street were an interesting couple of streets for a bit of exploration. Streets that I suspect do not get that much attention, tucked away between Victoria and the area surrounding Buckingham Palace.

I still have no idea why the old Palace Arms pub has a statue of the Virgin Mary above what was the main entrance door – there is probably a very mundane reason, however it is good to still have some mysteries on the streets of London.

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Dorich House Museum

I had not heard of the Dorich House Museum until I was researching my post on a plaque in Gray’s Inn Place published a few months ago. The plaque was the only identifiable feature on a bombed building that my father photographed, and it was the plaque which guided me to the same location today although a new building has been constructed on the site, the plaque remains.

The plaque is of Sun Yat-sen and the sculptor was Dora Gordine (read the original post here).

Dorich House is the studio, gallery and living space designed by Dora Gordine in the 1930s and the building today forms a museum of the work of Dora Gordine as well as a remarkable example of a house designed by a sculptor. A few weeks ago I made the trip out to the edge of Richmond Park where the Dorich House Museum is located on the A308, Kingston Vale.

My father’s photo showing the plaque of Sun Yat-sen by Dora Gordine in Gray’s Inn Place:

Dorich House

The same location today:

Dorich House

Dora Gordin (she added the ‘e’ to the end of her surname in 1925) was born in Latvia on the 8th of June 1895 into a Russian Jewish family. The family soon moved to Estonia where she attended the National School of Applied Arts and Crafts in Tallin. After the Russian Revolution Dora’s brother Leopold left Estonia for London where he married an English women, studied engineering at Edinburgh University and then settled in Pimlico, became a British Citizen in 1930 and started a career as a civil engineer.

In 1924 Dora moved to Paris and established a home studio and started work. Whilst in Paris her work was exhibited in a number of exhibitions and she also worked as a painter in the British Pavilion at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Industriels Modernes.

In Paris she met David Gourlay  and his girlfriend Janet Vaughan, members of the Bloomsbury Group, and it was through them that she moved to London in 1926, staying at Taviton Street where she met many other artists, writers and photographers.

Whilst in London, her work was being purchased by influential collectors including the millionaire businessman Samuel Courtauld.

She had a studio home designed and built in south-western Paris and in 1930 moved to Singapore for four and half years, where she became a British citizen by marrying Dr George Herbert Garlick, the deputy medical officer of the State of Johore. Although she was living in Singapore, her work was still being exhibited in London.

In 1935 she left Garlick and returned to London via Paris where she was soon involved with the Hon. Richard Hare, the son of Richard Granville Hare, the 4th Earl of Listowel.  It was Richard Hare who purchased the land in Kingston Vale in the same year for Dorich House which was completed the following year, when they were also married at Chelsea Registry Office.

Her separation from her original home and family in Estonia was complete and she never returned to Estonia, or appears to have been in much contact with her family. Her mother died in 1930, her brother Nikolai was murdered by the Nazis in 1941. Although not recorded, her sister Anna was almost certainly also murdered by the Nazis, the fate of all the Jews remaining in Estonia.

Dora Gordine on the stairs of Dorich House:

Dorich House

Dorich House was built in 1936 to a design by Dora Gordine. The name of the house is a combination of their first names DORa and RICHard, and Dora lived and worked in the house until her death in 1991 (Richard died in 1966 and after his death Dora never remarried and continued to live and work in the house).

The house was specifically designed to provide studio space for Dora to work, gallery space and a floor designed as a self-contained flat. The flat roof provides a viewing space to look over Richmond Park and the surrounding area.

On first sight, Dorich House presents a fortress like appearance with the outer walls constructed of industrial red brick. Large windows provide an indication of the light needed for the studio and gallery space.

Dorich House

Side view of the house showing the large glass windows of the studio and gallery space:

Dorich House

There is a panel outside the house showing the original plans:

Dorich House

From outside, there are clues to the displays to be found inside the house:

Dorich House

After Dora’s death in 1991, the house was purchased and restored by Kingston University and is now open as a museum displaying Dora’s work, and to see a building, designed by an amateur architect in the 1930s which perfectly suited her work as a sculptor and provided a remarkable living space.

The overall construction of the house is of brick outer walls with reinforced concrete floor slabs and flat roof. The use of reinforced concrete floors allowed large floor spans in the studio and gallery which provided the space to work and display.

The plaster studio on the ground floor is now used to display a film on the life of Dora Gordine, information panels and displays of her work:

Dorich House

Also in the plaster studio is a copy of the bronze relief “Power” by Dora Gordine, commissioned for the Administration Block of the Esso Refinery at Milford Haven.

Dorich House

Walking up the stairs to the 1st floor, the height of the floors is visible as are the large windows throughout the building that provide a wonderful use of light.

Dorich House

Half way up to the 1st floor landing:

Dorich House

On the first floor landing, arched doorways lead to the gallery area:

Dorich House

Where many examples of Dora Gordine’s work are on display. The high ceilings and large windows provide a perfect gallery space. The gleaming wooden floors were part of Dora’s design and she would get visitors to put on slippers to protect the wood.

Dorich House

The 2nd floor provided a self-contained flat where Dora and Richard lived. The rooms have been restored and furnished to provide an impression of how they would have looked during Dora and Richard’s occupation of the house, and they also display some of Dora’s early paintings and drawings along with the Russian art and artifacts collected by Dora and Richard.

Dorich House

Throughout this floor, large semi-circular windows provide considerable amounts of light into the rooms:

Dorich House

The dining room:

Dorich House

Connecting the two main rooms on this floor, which are now furnished as dining and living rooms, is a large circular door. The door has a unique design, in that it does not open outwards, but opens by the two individual panels retracting into the walls (although there was no sign saying not to, and although very tempting, I thought it better not to try to open the door).

Dorich House

There are photos in the house showing the door fully open with the panels concealed within the wall and the doorway providing a large, circular opening between the two rooms, changing the way in which these spaces are viewed.

The opposite side of the door from the living room:

Dorich House

View of the living room. An intimate space, but again well lit by the large semi-circular windows.

Dorich House

The 2nd floor living area contains smaller examples of Dora’s work:

Dorich House

Original tiling around fireplaces:

Dorich House

Dorich House

Views across to Richmond Park:

Dorich House

The flat roof has a central covered area and two large open spaces on either side. In the centre of the covered area is the figure “Running boy with balloon”:

Dorich House

The large, flat roof:

Dorich House

The height of the building is clear from the roof when looking over the surrounding buildings:

Dorich House

Dorich House was Dora Gordine’s dream home. The home was designed by Dora, her strong personality was very different to her husband Richard’s reserved character and this comes through in a house that was designed for her work and based on her views of modernism. There is a small room in the house that was Richard’s study, considerably smaller than the spaces within the house used by Dora.

The house was designed to promote healthy living with plenty of natural light and the roof terrace providing access to fresh air (Dora and Richard would have their meals on the roof terrace when the weather was good) and a high vantage point to look over their surroundings.

Walking through the house, it is also apparent that whilst the windows provide plenty of natural light into the house, they are also designed and positioned so that the viewer is not distracted by the external view and the focus is on the sculpture displayed within the rooms. The one exception to this are the living rooms where the lower, semi-circular designs provide good views of the surroundings.

Dora and Richard appear to have enjoyed an idyllic life at Dorich House. After 1950 they do not seem to have employed a house keeper and managed the house on their own. Dora worked on her sculpture and Richard continued his academic work on Russian art and literature. They had a very active social life at the house with a wide circle of friends from Richard’s former diplomatic work, artists, collectors of Russian art and their neighbours.

Dora Gordine had a long and fascinating life, from her birth in Lativia to her death in Kingston. She had traveled widely and avoided the fate of so many of her generation and background in both the Russian Revolution and the 2nd World War.

As usual, I feel I have not been able to do justice to such an interesting subject in such a short post (working out of the country this week has not helped), however it was fascinating to visit the Dorich House Museum and explore both the sculpture and architecture of Dora Gordine.

I will finish the post in the same place as I started with the plaque of Sun Yat-sen by Dora Gordine, unveiled in 1946 on the bombed building in Gray’s Inn Place. At the unveiling by Mr C.K. Sze, the Chinese charge’ d’affaires at the London embassy, Lord Ailwyn (President of the China Association) thanked Dora Gordine “for her worthy memorial and for her interest and inspiration born of her love and experience of China and the East which has enabled her to execute this simple and dignified bas-relief”

Dorich House

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Trafalgar Square – Coronations, British Housewives And Christmas Trees

Trafalgar Square, one of the most well known locations in London. Visited by thousands of tourists every day, a rallying point for demonstrations, where the 2012 Olympic medals were revealed, and where commemorations and vigils are held, the most recent being after the dreadful terrorist attack at Westminster.

The location of Trafalgar Square is important. It is a key junction, with the Strand leading to St. Paul’s Cathedral and the City, Whitehall leading to the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey and The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace. It is this junction of streets that has resulted in Trafalgar Square being on the route for so many of the processional events the city has witnessed over the last couple of centuries.

Trafalgar Square is also home to Nelson’s Column – the column and the name of the square commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar. On the northern edge is the National Gallery, the church of St. Martin in the Fields is on the north eastern edge and as reminders of the days of Empire the square is fringed by South Africa House, Uganda House and Canada House.

My father took a couple of photos looking across Trafalgar Square 70 years ago in 1947. They show either the preparation for, or dismantling after an event. I do not have a record of the date within 1947 and there are no photos of the event. In 1947 my father was on National Service so I suspect these photos were taken during one of the brief periods back in London on leave.

View across Trafalgar Square looking towards Charing Cross in 1947:

Trafalgar Square

And the same view in 2017:

Trafalgar Square

The following photo is looking towards Whitehall. There is a man working on what appears to be lights in the top of the fountain and more around the base of the fountain. You can see part of a stage on the left, in front of the base of Nelson’s Column.

Trafalgar Square

The same view today – very little has changed in the past 70 years.

Trafalgar Square

Without a date I have not been able to identify the event that required these preparations, and there were no clues in the photos. There were a number of events in and around Trafalgar Square in 1947:

  • The wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten took place on the 20th November 1947 and passed the square. Both the square and the surrounding roads were full to capacity with spectators. Police had to form a “crush barrier” with their horses to control the enormous crowds in the square.
  • There were a number of demonstrations in the square during 1947. One of which was the “We Work and Want” protest organised by the British Housewives’ League in June 1947. The Aberdeen Press and Journal reported that “More than 100 motor coaches from Scotland and the North of England are expected to carry women to London for Friday’s rally of housewives at the Royal Albert Hall. Seven thousand angry women will attend the meeting, organised by the British Housewives’ League, at which speakers will denounce the Government’s powers of regimentation and food rationing. On Saturday, 30,000 housewives wearing red, white and blue rosettes will march through the West-End of London after a protest meeting in Trafalgar Square.”
  • 1947 was also the year of the first gift of a Christmas Tree from Norway. A newspaper report from the time reported that “Trafalgar Square is changed as never before. A 48ft Christmas Tree has sprung up on the west side of Nelson’s column. It arrived last week in the Thames, brought from Norway in the S.S. Borgholm. The tree is a Christmas gift to England’s capital from Oslo, Norway’s capital, and tomorrow the Norwegian Ambassador, Mr. Prebensen, will hand it over to our Minister of Works, Mr. Key. This charming gift, to be lit and decorated with artificial snow, is the outcome of a happy thought of Mr. Pieter Prag, manager of the Norway Travel Association. In Oslo every Christmas a giant fir is set up in University Square, where the children flock to see it. Now, in London’s best-known square, British Children will have a similar treat”

I cannot confirm that my father’s photos were connected with any of the above events. I also found newspaper reports of work in the square in 1947 to repair the electrical cabling and lighting, and to remove the hoardings erected around the base of the column during the war, so it could be this work that my father photographed.

As an aside, whilst reading through newspaper articles and letters on Trafalgar Square, I came across the following letter written to the Kent & Sussex Courier regarding the British Housewives’ League which may be one of the earliest “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” letters:

Sir – I recently attended a British Housewives’ League meeting at Christ Church Hall, Tunbridge Wells. the speaker was Dorothy Crisp, chairman of the League.

I was thoroughly disgusted that a woman would use her talent as a speaker to create strife, ill-feeling and unrest, in this Britain of ours. Her whole attitude took me back to the days when Mosley and his gang held meetings.

She stated that she had already booked Scotland Yard for protection at her mass Rally to be held at Trafalgar Square on June 7. Why the secrecy over the name of the other Party who are joining at Trafalgar Square? Are they Fascists, Communists or Conservatives?

I should like to know the real organisation who are paying to cause this unrest and to fool housewives and use them as camouflage to hide sinister intentions that are obviously in mind.”

As far as I can tell, the British Housewives’ League was a right wing organisation that campaigned for women to stay at home and look after the family, christian values and opposition to state intervention and control. Post war austerity and the Welfare State were claimed not to be in the interests of a free and happy home life. There is a fascinating BBC radio programe on the British Housewives’ League. “The League of Extraordinary Housewives” can still be found on iPlayer Radio here. It is well worth a listen

Another of my father’s photos of Trafalgar Square in 1947:

Trafalgar Square

In these 1947 photos there were a number of illuminated advertising signs on the buildings along the southern side of the square, almost like the start of a mini Piccadilly Circus. Luckily this is one area of London where advertising did not subsequently take over.

The area now occupied by Trafalgar Square was originally part of the Royal Mews, where horses were stabled and carriages stored along with a reasonably dense area of buildings. The following extract from John Rocque’s map from 1746 shows the area now occupied by Trafalgar Square. The church of St. Martin in the Fields in the upper right is a good reference point to see that all the land to the left and above Charing Cross is now occupied by the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square

In the lower right of the map is Northumberland House. The following photo shows Northumberland House prior to its demolition in 1874. It was the last remaining of the “Strand Palaces” and had been built in 1605. The lion on top of Northumberland House is now at Syon House.

Trafalgar Square

The preperations for the construction of Trafalgar Square were in the Charing Cross Act of 1826. This enabled the land to be used for an open square and the National Gallery.

Work on the National Gallery commenced in 1832 with the Gallery being completed in 1838 to a design by William Wilkins. Trafalgar Square was constructed over a couple of decades. The core design was by Charles Barry, although his design did not include the fountains and he opposed Nelson’s Column being part of the square, arguing that it would dwarf the National Gallery.  The fountains were completed in 1845 and the layout of the square in 1850.

Work on Nelson’s Column began in 1839 with the statue of Nelson being raised into position in November 1843. The bronze lions were added in 1867.

There were a number of alternative proposals for the design of the naval monument, as Nelson’s Column was originally called during the planning stages, including the following by John Goldicutt from 1833 (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square today, continues as a central hub towards the west of London and is always busy. The terrace area in front of the National Gallery is from where my father took his photos looking across the square. Today, it is mainly selfies in front of the National Gallery and with the square in the background, and also the home to that essential visitor attraction – the floating Yoda, of which there are far too many both here and across London.

Trafalgar Square

Although the more traditional form of street artist still survives:

Trafalgar Square

One of the major attractions for children at Trafalgar Square was feeding the once significant number of pigeons. Vendors would sell seed in the square and I remember doing this as a child in the 1960s. Feeding the pigeons was made illegal in 2003 which has resulted in a much improved environment – although probably rather boring for small children. Today there are still signs stating that pigeon feeding is banned.

Trafalgar Square

On the south east corner of the square is the very small building that was used as a police lookout during major events in the square.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square’s location puts it on the route for any procession between the City, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the Place of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. Crowds have long used Trafalgar Square as a location to watch these events and in recent decades it provides a good location for the media to assemble.

My father also took a number of photos on the morning of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on the 2nd June 1953. The full post with these photos can be found here, and I have included two from Trafalgar Square below. The first photo is looking north from the southern edge of the square and shows crowds around one of the lions.

Trafalgar Square

The same view today:

Trafalgar Square

I wonder how many people have sat in front of the lion over the years. Whilst I was there, numerous children were being lifted to sit for photos between the paws of the lion.

Another of my father’s photos from 1953:

Trafalgar Square

And again in 2017:

Trafalgar Square

And it is not just in this century that Trafalgar Square has featured in such events. This drawing from 1838 shows the procession of Queen Victoria to her coronation passing the square, with the National Gallery in the background and the church on St. Martin in the Fields on the right (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Trafalgar Square

The notable feature absent from the above drawing is Nelson’s Column. Work on the column would begin the following year.

As well as being a bystander to events, the square has also been the subject of major ceremonies, for example on the Centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st October 1905. The square was crowded and Nelson’s Column decorated for the special event as shown in the postcard below:

Trafalgar Square

It was not just the centenary event that attracted crowds. The Pall Mall Gazette reports on the 11th October 1905 “Steeplejacks in Trafalgar Square – Preparations for the decoration of the Nelson Monument in Trafalgar Square in connection with the forthcoming anniversary have already been commenced. This morning the operations of three steeplejacks, who were engaged in girding the column with stout ropes from ladders strapped to the structure, were watched with great interest by a large crowd.”

Ladders strapped to the side must have been a rather risky exercise given the lack of health and safety at the start of the 20th century.

Another view of the square in the early 20th century. The traffic and complexity of the road layout remains to this day and is a result of the square being at the point where so many major streets meet.

Trafalgar Square

Although I have not checked, I suspect Trafalgar Square has featured in the majority of Coronations. The following postcard shows the procession during the coronation of King George V passing Trafalgar Square on the 22nd June 1911.

Trafalgar Square

I have been working out of the country for much of the past week, and as with most of my posts, I feel I have only just scratched the surface of the history of this area. There is so much more on the area prior to the construction of Trafalgar Square, the work on building the square and column, the fountains and their water supply, the many other events that have taken place in and around Trafalgar Square (for example whilst researching 1947 I also found the story of an alleged terrorist bomb blast at the Colonial Welfare Club in St. Martin’s Place off Trafalgar Square which injured six airmen). You can though read about one of the tunnels under Trafalgar Square here.

But at least if you are ever in a London trivia quiz and you need to know who was responsible for the first Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree, it was Mr. Pieter Prag, Manager of the Norway Travel Association.

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The Roman Wall On Tower Hill

Tower Hill is one of the best places to see remnants from London’s early history. A couple of weeks ago I featured the church of All Hallows by the Tower with the Saxon arch and Roman floor, this week it is the turn of the Roman Wall on Tower Hill.

This is my father’s photo from 1947 showing a length of Roman wall on Tower Hill.

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-2

It was easy to locate this length of wall, the cut out section at the end of the wall is a clear marker of which side of the wall is the subject of the photo. My father took the photo in the afternoon as the sun was shining directly onto the wall. When I visited, I made the mistake of being there in the morning when the sun was just over the eastern edge of the wall and caused problems trying to get the same photo, so I took the following slightly edge on, still with some impact from the sun, however it clearly shows the same cut out section and has the benefit of positioning the location of the wall by showing the Tower of London in the background.

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-3

Today, this length of wall stands in isolation, however this area of Tower Hill was once full of buildings and as can be seen from my father’s photo there is a building at the end of the wall and parts of the roof of a building on the other side of the wall can just be seen.

The wall today is just outside Tower Hill Station, however in 1947 the station did not exist. An earlier Tower Hill Station had closed in 1884 and Mark Lane Station (located opposite All Hallows by the Tower) had served the area. Mark Lane Station (more on this in a future post) closed in 1967 when the present Tower Hill Station opened.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London shows the route of the underground (the black and white line) with Mark Lane Station clearly marked in the centre of the map opposite the church, and no mention of Tower Hill Station, as it did not exist at this time.

map-2

One of my books on London is a little publication with the title “London Wall Through Eighteen Centuries”. Published in 1937 for the Council for Tower Hill Improvement, the book is a detailed history and survey of the London Wall with articles on the history of the wall in Roman, Medieval, Tudor and later times, and a detailed guide of where to find the wall (one of my many future projects is to use this book as a guide to walking the wall today to see how the wall, its visibility, condition and the route has changed since 1937).

One of the photos in the book is the same section of the wall as my father photographed with the same cut out section at the end of the wall and the same markings on the wall. I will have to return one afternoon and get a better photo with the sun in the right position.

The photo shows how the wall was part of the surrounding buildings – very different to today.

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-7

My father also photographed parts of a Roman tombstone which had been found on Tower Hill. Two parts of the tombstone were found, with the first top section in 1852 and the lower section during construction of an electricity substation at Tower Hill in 1935. The following photo shows these parts, which I believe are the originals inserted in a surrounding stone with the missing lettering added to the smooth stone on the top block.

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-1

The words Dis Manibvs confirm this to be a tombstone as they mean “to the shades of the dead”. The middle section is missing, however the tombstone appears to be to Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, the procurator of the province of Britain after Boudica’s revolt, so very early in the Roman occupation of Britain. The tombstone was set up by his wife, Julia Pacata Indiana.

If the stones in my father’s photo are the originals, I believe they have since been moved to the British Museum and today a modern replica exists at Tower Hill. I have not had time to check, but if you know if the originals are at the British Museum, or another location I would be interested to know.

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-4

There is a small park area on the opposite side of the wall, this was occupied by buildings in the earlier photos above.

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-6

There is another large section of wall on Tower Hill, although not so visible. This sections runs further back from the above section between offices on the right and the CitizenM hotel on the left.

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-5

The book “London Wall Through Eighteen Centuries” has another photo of the wall at Tower Hill, but of a section that does not now exist. The following photo is captioned “The Roman Wall at Trinity Place, Tower Hill, being destroyed when that part of the Inner Circle Railway was constructed in 1882. The east side of the wall showing the foundations, external plinth and one bonding course.”

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-8

I assume that this part of the wall needed to be destroyed due to the cut and cover technique of building this section of the underground.

The book provides more detail on the wall at Tower Hill. In the section titled “Where to find the wall” by Walter G. Bell, he writes about the Tower Hill section:

“It is built into Barber’s Bonded Warehouses, which you enter from Cooper’s Row, Trinity Square – or, more truthfully, I might say this part of the wide-spreading vaults and floors is added to the old City Wall. Long ago, when Barber’s premises were about to rise under scaffolding, the builder found the City Wall there standing, and I picture him gazing at it, lost in thought, in puzzling wonder what he should do. To destroy it with pickaxe and shovel would be a herculean and costly task. It is immensely thick, and hard as iron. How long ago that was I cannot tell, but the partner of Messrs. Joseph Barber & Co. who showed me the wall, with lamp held at the end of a lath and lighted that I might explore its intricacies, mentioned to me his great-grandfather as having been a member of the firm owning these vaults.

Why waste a good wall? The question had only to be asked to be answered, and with a few shallow windows added at the bulwark level and a course or two of brick, the warehouse roof was sprung from the top. So the structure continues to do good service, as it has done eighteen or more centuries ago, and to the builders happy inspiration (with the added savour of economy) is owning the preservation of the most complete fragment of the City Wall today, and one may hope for all time, now that the Corporation are beginning to realise the value of the City’s historical antiquities.”

These paragraphs by Walter G. Bell tell us so much about how London’s wall has survived and the attitude to the wall. Those sections that still remain are there because they could serve some purpose over the centuries. They are there as they could provide a wall without the need to build a new one, they are there as sometimes they would have cost more to destroy. Written in 1937, it was only then that the historic value of the wall was starting to be considered.

It is the Barbour’s Warehouse Buildings that be seen in my father’s photo and the photo from the book with the roof above the Roman Wall and at the end of the wall.

There is one final intriguing photo in the book on the wall at Tower Hill. The following photo is captioned “A medieval window in the Wall in Barbour’s Warehouse, Cooper’s Row, Tower Hill, November 1936”.

roman-wall-on-tower-hill-9

Coopers Row is shown in the 1940 map above, to the right of Trinity Square. I believe this may be in the section running back past the CitizenM hotel, but I could not get close enough to check, but again it demonstrates how the wall has been incorporated in other buildings over the centuries.

The book “London Wall Through Eighteen Centuries” provided a complete survey of the wall as it was in 1937, just as the importance of preserving antiquities such as the wall was starting to be understood.

Hopefully, one day I will get the time to explore the full length of the London Wall using the 1937 book as my guide, but until then I will try and get back to Tower Hill and take a better photo with the right lighting of this lovely remaining section, now standing free of Barber’s Bonded Warehouses.

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Caledonian Park – History, Murals And A Fire

Caledonian Park in north London in the Borough of Islington is today a green space in a busy part of London, with few reminders of the areas rich history.

I have much to write about Caledonian Park so I will cover in two posts this weekend. Today some historical background to the area, some lost murals and finding the location of one of my father’s photos. Tomorrow, climbing the Victorian Clock Tower at the heart of the park to see some of the most stunning views of London.

Caledonian Park is a relatively recent name. Taking its name from the nearby Caledonian Road which in turn was named after the Caledonian Asylum which was established nearby in 1815 for the “children of Scottish parents”.

Prior to the considerable expansion of London in the 19th century, the whole area consisted of open fields and went by the name of Copenhagen Fields. There was also a Copenhagen House located within the area of the current park.

The origin of the Copenhagen name is probably down to the use of the house (or possibly the construction of the house) by the Danish Ambassador for use as a rural retreat from the City of London during the Great Plague of 1665.

Copenhagen House became an Inn during the early part of the 18th century and the fields were used for sport, recreation and occasionally as an assembly point for demonstrations, or as Edward Walford described in Old and New London, the fields were “the resort of Cockney lovers, Cockney sportsmen and Cockney agitators”

The following print shows Copenhagen House from the south east in 1783, still a very rural location.

1125319001 ©Trustees of the British Museum

During the last part of the 18th century, Copenhagen Fields was often used as a meeting point for many of the anti-government demonstrations of the time. Old and New London by Walter Thornbury has a description of these meetings:

“In the early days of the French Revolution, when the Tories trembled with fear and rage, the fields near Copenhagen House were the scene of those meetings of the London Corresponding Society, which so alarmed the Government. The most threatening of these was held on October 26, 1795, when Thelwall, and other sympathisers with France and liberty, addressed 40,000, and threw out hints that the mob should surround Westminster on the 29th, when the King would go to the House. The hint was attended to, and on that day the King was shot at, but escaped unhurt.”

The meetings and threats from groups such as the Corresponding Societies led to the Combination Acts of 1799 which legislated against the gathering of men for a common purpose. It was this repression that also contributed to the Cato Street Conspiracy covered in my post which can be found here.

The following is a satirical print from 1795 by James Gillray of a meeting on Copenhagen Fields “summoned by the London Corresponding Society” which was “attended by more than a hundred thousand persons”.

140569001

©Trustees of the British Museum

Copenhagen Fields continued to be used for gatherings. In April 1834 there was a meeting in support of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who had been sentenced to transportation to Australia for forming a trade union. Walter Thornbury provides the following description: “an immense number of persons of the trades’ unions assembled in the Fields, to form part of a procession of 40,000 men to Whitehall to present an address to his Majesty, signed by 260,000 unionists on behalf of their colleagues who had been convicted at Dorchester for administering illegal oaths”.

The final large meeting to be held in Copenhagen Fields was in 1851 in support of an exiled Hungarian revolutionary leader. The role of this rural location was about to change very dramatically.

Smithfield in the city was originally London’s main cattle market however during the first half of the 19th century the volume of animals passing through the market and the associated activities such as the slaughter houses were getting unmanageable in such a densely populated part of central London.

The City of London Corporation settled on Copenhagen Fields as the appropriate location for London’s main cattle market and purchased Copenhagen House and the surrounding fields in 1852. The site was ideal as it was still mainly open space, close enough to London, and near to a number of the new railway routes into north London.

Copenhagen House was demolished and the construction of the new market, designed by the Corporation of London Architect, James Bunstone Bunning was swiftly underway, opening on the 13th June 1855.

A ground penetrating radar survey of the area commissioned by Islington Council in 2014 identified the location of Copenhagen House as (when viewed from the park to the south of the Clock Tower) just in front and to the left of the Clock Tower.

The sheer scale of the new market was impressive. In total covering seventy five acres and built at a cost of £500,000. There were 13,000 feet of railings to which the larger animals could be tied and 1,800 pens for up to 35,000 sheep.

Market days were Mondays and Thursdays for cattle, sheep and pigs, and Fridays for horses, donkeys and goats. The largest market of the year was held just before Christmas. In the last Christmas market at Smithfield in 1854, the number of animals at the market was 6,100. At the first Christmas market at the new location, numbers had grown to 7,000 and by 1863 had reached 10,300.

The following Aerofilms photo from 1931 shows the scale of the market. The clock tower at the centre of the market is also at the centre of the photo with the central market square along with peripheral buildings in the surrounding streets.

EPW034971

The 1930 edition of Bartholomew’s Handy Reference Atlas of London shows the location and size of the market:

Caledonian map 1

As well as the cattle market, the construction included essential infrastructure to support those working and visiting the market. Four large public houses were built, one on each of the corners of the central square. The following Aerofilms photo from 1928, shows three of the pubs at corners of the main square. The two large buildings to the left of the photo are hotels, also constructed as part of the market facilities

The clock tower is located in the middle, at the base of the clock tower are the branch offices of several banks, railway companies, telegraph companies along with a number of shops.

EPW024272

A 19th century drawing shows the clock tower and the long sheds that covered much of the market:

Die_Gartenlaube_(1855)_b_089

By the time of the First World War, the cattle market had started to decline and was finally closed in 1939 at the start of the Second World War, with the site then being used by the army.

After the war, the slaughter houses around the market continued to be used up until 1964, when the London County Council and the Borough of Islington purchased the site ready for redevelopment. The Market Housing Estate was built on much of the site, although by the 1980s the physical condition of the estate had started to decline significantly, and the estate had a growing problem with drugs and prostitution. Housing blocks were built up close to the clock tower and there was limited green space with many concrete paved areas surrounding the housing blocks and the clock tower.

A second redevelopment of the area was planned and planning permission granted in 2005. The last of the Market Estate housing blocks was demolished in 2010 and it this latest development which occupies much of the area today.

In 1982 a number of murals illustrating the history of the market were painted on the ground floor exterior of the main Clock Tower building of the original Market Estate. In 1986 my father took some photos of the murals during a walk round Islington. As far as I know, these murals were lost during the later redevelopment of the area.

The introductory mural providing some history of the market:

Cattle Market Murals 1

A scene showing the opening of the market by Prince Albert in 1855. A lavishly decorated marquee hosted a thousand invited guests to mark the opening of the market.

Cattle Market Murals 2

The central clock tower painted on the Clock Tower building of the housing estate:

Cattle Market Murals 3

Other scenes from around the market:

Cattle Market Murals 4

Cattle Market Murals 5

As well as the photos of the murals, almost 40 years earlier in 1948 my father had taken a photo of the aftermath of a fire. I was unsure where this was and I published the photo below a few weeks ago in my post on mystery locations.

Old Pub Road 1

One of the messages I had in response to this post (my thanks to Tom Miler), was that the building at the back of the photo looked like one of the pubs at the Caledonian Market.

I took a walk around the periphery of the site trying to work out which of the streets and pubs could be the location of my father’s photo and found the following:

Pub Road 1

This, I am sure, is the location of my father’s photo. The street is Shearling Way running along the eastern edge of Caledonian Park. I probably should have been a bit further back to take the photo, however the rest of the road was closed and full of cars unloading students into the student accommodation that now occupies the southern end of Shearling Way – an indication of how much the area has changed.

The pub is hidden behind the tree, although it is in the same position and the chimneys are clearly the same and in the right position. The old yards and sheds that had burnt down on the right of the original photo have been replaced by housing.

I was really pleased to find the location of this photo, it is one I thought I would not be able to place in modern day London.

This Aerofilms photo from 1948 shows the pub from the above photo at the top left of the main market square with the road running up to the right. Above the road is the area that was the scene of the fire.

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This is another photo of the scene of the fire and the housing in the background can also be seen in the above Aerofilms photo, further confirming the location.

Unknown Locations 17

Walking down the street I took the following photo of the pub, the front of the pub has the same features as on the 1948 photo.

Pub 1

The pub was The Lamb, unfortunately, as with the other pubs on the corners of the old cattle market, it is now closed.

To the left of the first half of the street, adjacent to the park, the original market railings are still in place:

Market Railings 1

A short time after the opening of the Cattle Market, a general or flea market had become established alongside. This market grew considerably and was generally known as the Cally Market, a place where almost anything could be found for sale. By the start of the 20th century, the size of the Cally Market had outgrown the original Cattle Market.

The journalist and author H.V. Morton visited the market for his newspaper articles on London and later consolidated in his book “London” (published in 1925) and wrote the following:

“When I walked into this remarkable once a week junk fair I was deeply touched to think that any living person could need many of the things displayed for sale. For all round me, lying on sacking, were the driftwood and wreckage of a thousand lives: door knobs, perambulators in extremis, bicycle wheels, bell wire, bed knobs, old clothes, awful pictures, broken mirrors, unromantic china goods, gaping false teeth, screws, nuts, bolts and vague pieces of rusty iron, whose mission in life, or whose part and portion of a whole, Time had obliterated.”

The Cally Market was also used during both the first and second world wars for major fund raising events. This poster from the first world war:

IWM PST 10955

 © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10955)

Along with the murals, my father took a photo of the Clock Tower in 1986. The original housing blocks that reached up to the clock tower can be seen on either side. The clock tower is surrounded by concrete paving.

Old Tower View 1

This is the same scene in 2015 from roughly the same point (although I should have been more to the left). The old housing blocks have been demolished and the clock tower is now surrounded by green space.

New Tower View 1

Looking at the above photo, the wooden steps that provide the route up inside the Clock Tower can be seen through the two windows.

Join me for tomorrow’s post as I climb the tower to the viewing gallery at the top for some of the best views across London.

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The Cornhill Water Pump

The City of London appears to be changing by the day with construction sites on every corner, however there are still some locations that have changed remarkably little over the past 70 plus years. This week’s post is about one such location, centred on the Cornhill Water Pump.

Cornhill is one of the streets that meet at the major road junction adjacent to the Bank of England. Originally the location of the north wall of the first Roman settlement, and later at about the centre of the city as Roman London developed from the original settlement.

My father took the following photo of the Cornhill Water Pump in 1948:

Cornhill Water Pump 1

This is the view of the pump from the same location, 67 years later in 2015:

Cornhill Water Pump 2

I will come on to the history of the pump, but what did surprise me as I was taking the photo is how little has changed. Not just the stonework of the buildings opposite (which have been cleaned in the intervening years), but also the windows, the large lamps either side of the door on the right and the stone decoration on both buildings. The man standing on the right of the 1948 photo could stand in the same position today and (apart from the traffic and the post box) see little change.

The building on the right of the photo was occupied by the Commercial Union Assurance Company, and to the right of this (just out of the photo) is the building originally built for Lloyds Bank.

During construction of the Lloyds Bank building in 1927, the roadway in Cornhill collapsed, with the result that part of the original Commercial Union building also collapsed. The damage was so bad that the Commercial Union building had to be rebuilt. It was completed in 1929 and it is that building we see today.

The collapse of the roadway was put down to the loose condition of the soil due to the Walbrook stream having once flowed across this part of the City down to the Thames.

The following photo from August 1927 shows the collapse of the roadway. It was taken from the main Bank junction looking down Cornhill. The Royal Exchange building is on the left. Note the tripod crane structure occupying the whole of the road at the approximate position of the water pump.

Cornhill Water Pump 7

The pump has been restored a couple of times since 1948, the last restoration was a few years ago, when the stone water trough between the pump and the road was also removed. The pump provides some historical background:

The well was discovered much enlarged and this pump erected in the year 1799 by the contributions of the Bank of England, the East India Company, the neighbouring Fire Offices together with the bankers and traders of the Ward of Cornhill

The view of the pump from the pavement. A real shame that it is also used as a prop for traffic signs.

Cornhill Water Pump 3

The road facing side of the pump provides an indication of the antiquity of the site:

On this spot a well was first made and a house of correction built thereon by Henry Wallis, Mayor of London in the year 1282 

Cornhill Water Pump 4

Sir Walter Besant writing in “London – The City”  in 1910 refers to the origin of the pump, using the original spelling of the mayor, Henry Wallis: “A conduit built by Henry le Waleys in 1282, and there was a standard for Thames water brought their by the contrivance of one Peter Morris, a Dutchman.”

Besant also refers to several conduits and a spring in the area of Cornhill, but it is not clear whether he is referring to the location of the pump. There were many pumps and wells sunk all over the City, typically shallow and reaching a depth of 30 feet. They would have about 14 foot of water in the winter reducing to 3 foot in the summer.

At some point, the well was covered, as the rediscovery in 1799 was caused by “a sinking of the pavement in front of the Royal Exchange, March 16, 1799” according to Springs, Streams and Spas of London by Alfred Foord. This book was published in 1910 and contains a detailed account of the many water sources across London. It also features the Cornhill pump on the front cover:

Cornhill Water Pump 6

Writing in 1910 Foord also states that “The well and pump have been disused for some years past; the water which fills the trough, so much enjoyed by the many horses of passing vehicles, being derived from the New River Company’s mains. The iron case of the pump remains, but deprived of handle and spout. The whole structure would be much better for a coat of paint, which would not only improve its appearance, but would also tend to arrest decay.” 

I am sure that 105 years later, Foord would be very pleased with the condition of the pump today.

Continuing the theme of public water supplies, a short distance away from the water pump is a large and ornate drinking fountain:

Cornhill Water Pump 5

This was erected in 1911 and unveiled by the then Lord Mayor of London, Sir T. Vezey Strong on the 3rd May 1911. It replaced an earlier drinking fountain from 1859.

The current fountain was built to commemorate the jubilee of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association.

The association, originally called just the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association, (the Cattle Trough reference was added in 1867 to highlight the need to provide water for the many animals still on the streets of London), were responsible for the provision of a large number of drinking fountains across London. Another survival can be found at the north end of Blackfriars Bridge (see my post which can be found here)

The fountain today, like the pump, is just decorative without a supply of water and therefore unable to fulfil the intended function, however they are both a reminder of the many water fountains, wells, pumps and conduits that helped provide water to the inhabitants of London over the centuries.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • London by George Cunningham published in 1927
  • Springs, Streams And Spas Of London by Alfred Stanley Foord published in 1910
  • The Face Of London by Harold Clunn published in 1932

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Trinity Square Gardens – Memorials To Execution And Wartime Sacrifice

This week’s photo is from early 1947 and is one of the photos for which I did not have any location information and I was not sure whether I would ever find the location. There are no obvious landmarks or features that would help identify where the photo was taken.

We are in a park in London and a boy is looking at some form of memorial. I should have realised where it was, but such are the changes looking in this direction across the park, it was not immediately obvious.

There is only one part of this photo that remains the same in 2015 and that is the building on the left of the photo. When walking in London, I carry my father’s photos with me on an iPad which makes checking locations so much easier and chance finds I can compare with the original photo I believe I have found.

After taking last week’s photos under the southern approach to Tower Bridge, I walked across the bridge and cut through into Trinity Square Gardens at the top of Tower Hill, just past the Underground Station. Behind the war memorial I found the location of the 1947 photo.

This is Trinity Square Gardens and the boy is looking at the memorial to the executions carried out on here, and the buildings across the gardens are in Coopers Row.
Tower 1

This is the same scene in 2015. The layout of the execution memorial has been changed and looks slightly smaller but still appears to be in the same position. Much of the grass in the 1947 photo is now covered by the World War 2 memorial to merchant seamen. Nearly all the buildings in Coopers Row have changed with the exception of the building on the left, behind the tree. This was the building that confirmed this as the correct location.

Tower 2

The Execution Memorial is on the approximate spot of the scaffold and has a number of plaques listing the names and year of execution of many of the more well-known victims. The central plaque states that the memorial is:

“To commemorate the tragic history and in many cases the martyrdom of those who for the sake of their faith, country or ideals staked their lives and lost.

On this site more than 125 were put to death. The names of some of whom are recorded here.”

Around the edge of the memorial are four plaques listing the names of those executed.

plaque 1a

plaque 2a plaque 3a plaque 4a

Whilst the names of some of Henry VIII’s victims such as Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell are recorded, the names of his wives who were executed are not as they were executed more privately inside the Tower of London rather than suffer the public spectacle of an execution on Tower Hill.

As well as the Execution Memorial, Trinity Square Gardens is also home to two other memorials.

The World War 1 memorial to those lost on the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets is not visible in the 1947 or 2015 photos, but is just to the right. This was finished in 1928 and design by Sir Edwin Luytens who was also responsible for the design of the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

This memorial consists of a number of vaults with plaques recording the names of those lost at sea.

Looking through the 1st World War memorial:

Tower 7

Below the 1st World War memorial is the much larger memorial to those lost in the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets during the 2nd World War. This occupies the grassed area in my father’s 1947 photo and can be seen in my 2015 photo.

The following photo is looking across to the 2nd World War memorial from that of the 1st World War. The inscription on the large stone block between the two seats reads:

“The twenty-four thousand of the merchant navy and fishing fleets whose names are honoured on the walls of this garden gave their life for their country and have no grave but the sea”

This memorial was opened by the Queen on the 5th November 1955. It was designed by Sir Edward Maufe who was also responsible for Guildford Cathedral and the Runneymede Air Forces memorial.

Tower 4

This map extract from 1940 shows the location of Trinity Square Gardens. I find these old Bartholomew maps interesting as they also show the routes of underground lines. The dashed lines routing through Trinity Square just above the red block of the war memorial is the Circle Line. This was built using the cut and cover technique where the tunnel was dug from the surface then covered over. In the above photo, the tunnel is below the grass section between the 1st and 2nd World War memorials.

trinity map 1

Steps either side provide access to the main area of the memorial. The following photo is looking back towards the 1st World War memorial. The Tower of London can be seen to the left. Tower 3

Arranged around the edge of the memorial are a number of alcoves, each with panels listing the names of those lost during the war.

It is all too easy to get desensitized to large numbers, but walking around this memorial and reading the names, each an individual with their own unique story, really brings home the sacrifices made by so many.
Tower 5

Between each of the alcoves is a sculpture by Sir Charles Wheeler representing the sea. Here, directly opposite the entrance is Neptune:

Tower 8

Looking through the names In the 1st World War memorial, which are organised by the name of the ship, I found the King Lud, which seemed an appropriate connection with London. The memorial lists the names of those lost with the ship.

Tower 6

Although in the 1st World War memorial, this ship was lost in the 2nd World War. There was a King Lud in the 1st World War, however the crew survived. It was captured by the German cruiser, the Emden on Friday 25th September 1914 off Point de Galle, Sri Lanka. The crew were taken off and the ship sunk.

The King Lud that this memorial refers to was sunk on the 8th June 1942 by a Japanese submarine, the I-10. The King Lud was sailing from New York to India when it was attacked in the Mozambique Channel (the area of sea between mainland Africa and Madagascar).  The ship was carry military personnel and government supplies. There were no survivors.

The Master of the King Lud was Benjamin Roderick Evans who was 52.  Among the crew there were also three, 17-year-old cadets and apprentices on board.

Built in 1928, the ship was owned by King Line, an operator of merchant ships based in London. Off the 20 ships owned by King Line at the start of the war, 14 were lost during the war.

To be lost off Mozambique must seem so remote from London. The King Lud:

StateLibQld_1_148727_King_Lud_(ship)

Just one ship and crew out of so many recorded across the two memorials.

Trinity Square Gardens is an interesting juxtaposition of two memorials. One to those executed on the site over the centuries, the other to those who died in war, far from London.

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Unilever House, De Keyser’s Royal Hotel and the Drinking Fountain Association

Many of my recent posts have covered sites in London where the view has completely changed, however there are still views in London that have seen very little change over the last 70 years.

In 1948 my father took the following photo from the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge:

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I took the following photo 66 years later standing in exactly the same position:

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Very little has changed. The curved building that sits at the north end of the bridge, Unilever House has some cosmetic changes during renovations but is basically the same. Construction of Unilever House was completed in 1933 and since then has been the London head office of Unilever PLC.

Unilever House was built on the site of the De Keyser’s Royal Hotel. This can be seen in the following early photograph that was taken from the opposite side of the bridge to my father’s photo and shows the hotel following the same curved façade to the road as the current building.

blackfriars pc scan

De Keyser’s Royal Hotel was opened on the 5th September 1874 by Sir Polydore de Keyser who came to London as a waiter from Belgium and eventually became Lord Mayor of London.

The hotel was very exclusive and initially every guest had to be introduced personally or by letter before they could secure accommodation.

The hotel had 400 rooms and was taken over by the RAF in 1916 and after the war was acquired by Lever Brothers as their London offices. Lever Brothers became Unilever in 1929 when they merged with the Dutch company Margarine Unie.

Also in the above photo, the building at the end of the bridge on the right is Bridge House, which is still standing, but not in use (more of this later).

The following photo shows the partly constructed Unilever House on the site of De Keyser’s Royal Hotel:

unilever house construction

Note the adverts for Lifebuoy soap on the panels around the base of the construction site, one of Lever’s earliest products.

After taking the new photo to compare the view with my father’s I took a walk across the bridge to the north side. On the north-east side of the bridge, just before reaching the new Blackfriars Station is the now empty Bridge House and tucked in the curve of this building is an old drinking fountain erected by the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association, which now stands rather forlorn in front of Bridge House which from its current state I suspect will soon be demolished, or hopefully renovated.

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The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association was formed in 1859. There is an excellent history of the Association on the site of the Drinking Fountains Association which is well worth reading not just for a history of the association but also for description of Victorian London that supported the formation of the Association.

To quote from the Association’s history:

The supply of drinking water generally available to the poorer classes in London was in those days lamentably deficient both in quantity and quality, coming as it did mainly from pumps and surface wells. A report made in 1866 showed how contaminated this water was, and not only was the impurity of the water held to be largely responsible for the outbreaks of cholera in 1848-49 and again in 1853-54 but the heavy consumption of beer and spirits was in great measure also attributed to this cause. It was therefore high time that something was done to provide a readily available supply of pure drinking water in the cause of temperance, as well as of hygiene and it was to meet this need that the Association came into being.

At the inauguration of the association on the 10th April 1859 the objects of the Association were stated in the resolution:

That, where the erection of free drinking fountains, yielding pure cold water, would confer a boon on all classes, and especially the poor, an Association be formed for erecting and promoting the erection of such fountains in the Metropolis, to be styled “The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association“, and that contributions be received for the purposes of the Association. That no fountain be erected or promoted by the Association which shall not be so constructed as to ensure by filters, or other suitable means, the perfect purity and coldness of the water; and that it is desirable the water-rates should be paid by local bodies, the Association only erecting or contributing to the erection, and maintaining the mechanical appliances, of the fountains.”

The plaque on the bottom of the Blackfriars drinking fountain states that it was erected by the Association in July 1861 by the Chairman Samuel Gurney MP.

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Bridge House with the fountain is shown in the following photo. A telephone box and the fountain, both symbols of earlier ages (with phone boxes I suspect being largely made redundant by mobile phones).

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There is much more to say about Blackfriars Bridge which for this post I have only used to cross from the south to the north banks of the Thames, however it has been a busy week so I will leave this for another post to do the bridge justice.

What I hope this post has highlighted is that in almost every corner and building across London there is a fascinating history to be discovered that provides a tangible link back to the lives of Londoners across the centuries.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • The Face of London by Harold Clunn published 1932
  • London by George H. Cunningham published 1927
  • Old & New London by Edward Walford published 1878
  • The Drinking Fountain Association

 alondoninheritance.com