Category Archives: London Monuments

King’s Cross and the Lighthouse

There are just three tickets left for my Southbank walk in July. The Barbican walk has now sold out. Click on the link for details and booking:

The following photo is of a rather strange feature on the top of a building looking towards King’s Cross Station. The photo is one of my father’s from 40 years ago in 1984:

I was in the King’s Cross area last week, it was a sunny day, and the sun was in the right position, so I took the following photo showing the same feature as it appears today, along with a view of the building below:

The shape of the building is down to the convergence of the roads on either side, with Pentonville Road on the left and Gray’s Inn Road on the right.

The building is now called the Lighthouse Building, after one of the possible uses of the structure on the roof. The building is Grade II listed, and the Historic England listing includes the following description:

“Above the 3rd floor windows a further cornice and blocking course, surmounted at the apex by a tall lead-sheathed tower, sometimes said to have been for spotting fires, with a cast-iron balcony at half-height, oculus and cornice capped by a small ribbed dome with weathervane finial.”

The listing suggests that the tower was used as a lookout for spotting fires.

Another frequently reported use for the tower was as a lighthouse, and was down to an oyster bar which occupied part of the ground floor of the building. This was “Netten’s Oyster Bar”, and the story goes that when fresh oysters were available in the shop, the light would go on in the “lighthouse”.

I have no idea whether this story is true, or whether the use of the tower for spotting fires is true, of whether it had a different purpose, or was just an ornamental folly.

I found plenty of adverts for Netten’s oyster bar, and the lighthouse was not mentioned in any of these. Netten’s would advertise in the local newspapers of towns where their local station provided a route into King’s Cross or St. Pancras Stations. For example, the following appeared in the Luton Reporter:

“Luton Travelers To London, Should Dine, Lunch, or take Supper at J. Netten’s Fish Restaurant & Oyster Bar, 297, Pentonville Road – King’s Cross.

Boiled or Fried Fish of all kinds in season, fresh cooked for each customer.

Native Oysters 1/- 1/6 & 2/- per dos. Tripe and Onions and Stewed Eels Always Ready”

Rather than native oysters, boiled or fried fish, the traveler arriving in London from Luton today, would find a Five Guys, burger and fries restaurant in the place of Netten’s Fish Restaurant & oyster Bar, so whilst the foods on offer have changed, the need for travelers to buy some food during their journey has not.

The building was completely refurbished in a project that completed around 2013, and this work included the tower on the roof. In previous years the interior had been derelict for some considerable time, and the tower had been a magnet for graffiti. It had been on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk Register, so the refurbishment possibly saved the building. It had been at risk from demolition in previous years from plans to extend the eastern entrances to King’s Cross underground station.

If you go back to my father’s 1980’s photo, you can see that some of the railings around the tower were missing.

In 2016, I was in the clock tower at St. Pancras Station and took the following photo of the area in front of King’s Cross Station (on the left) and the refurbished Lighthouse Building can be seen looking across to the station:

And this is the view from ground level today. A very busy place with plenty of travelers heading to and from the stations of King’s Cross and St. Pancras:

The metal tower, or lighthouse is not the first landmark structure that has been where Pentonville Road and Gray’s Inn Road meet. Before King’s Cross Station was built, there was a structure that would go on to give both the station, and the local area, the name King’s Cross:

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

On the 26th of June, 1830, King George IV died, and in the year before his death, a monument had been proposed, design and construction had started, to commemorate the reign of the king.

The site chosen was at the junction of what is now Gray’s inn Road, Euston Road, and Pentonville Road as from the late 18th century into the 19th century, this area was developing rapidly (even before the arrival of the railways), and the New Road (which would become Euston and Pentonville Roads) had been built as perhaps the first North Circular Road around London to divert traffic away from the centre, to provide a new east – west route, and to take traffic to and from the expanding docks to the east of London.

The print above shows an “Elevation of Kings Cross” as it was intended to appear when completed.

As recorded on the above print, money for the design and build of the monument was being sourced from public subscriptions, however even with building underway, there were not enough funds being received, as recorded in the following article from the London Star on the 2nd of July 1830:

“Whatever may tend towards the recollection of the revered departed monarch will doubtless be received with that degree of loyal feeling which is so characteristic of the true Englishmen.

The splendid National Monument of the King’s Cross (commenced in February last by a few loyal though humble individuals) to commemorate the reign of George the Fourth, approaches now rapidly to completion, and will be finished according to the design of Mr. Stephen Geary, architect. We hesitate not to say it will form one of the most splendid and ornamental objects that adorn the environs of the metropolis, combining not only simplicity of design, but chastity of Grecian architecture.

The Colossal Statue of his late Majesty, surrounded with the emblematical representatives of the Empire, vis. – St. George, St. Andrew, St. Patrick and St. David, will form additions to the various productions of that eminent artist and sculptor, R.W. Seivler, Esq. who is now busily employed upon them.

Although credibly informed, we can scarcely believe the amount of subscriptions received to this public monument are very far from meeting the amount already expended.

Surely a public appeal need only be made, and we doubt whether there is an Englishman, Irishman, Scotchman, or Welshman, who possesses a spark of British loyalty in his breast, who will not subscribe his mite towards handing down to posterity a public token of attachment towards the departed and beloved Monarch, George the Fourth.”

Financial troubles continued, and in 1832 the Kings Cross monument was put up for auction, with the outcome of the auction reported as follows:

“Thursday afternoon, at the Mart, was sold the ornamental, stone-built erection at the junction of the Pentonville, New, Gray’s Inn-lane and Hampstead Roads, partly built by subscription, and intended to receive on its summit an equestrian statue of George the Fourth.

The auction caused a numerous assemblage, and gave rise to much discussion, and it was objected that there was no title, and that the subscribers had a claim upon it, as well as the assignees of the party who had completed it and under whose direction it was being sold. It was further said it might be removed, being built in contravention of the local Paving Act.

The auctioneer admitted that the only title was the written consent of the Commissioners of Roads, and the approval of the Paris Vestry; but it was not liable to any objection as to the local Act, nor was it likely to be pulled down, as it was of great benefit to the public, protecting passengers in the day and serving as a beacon at night.

It was also a great ornament to the district, and had cost nearly £1,000. It was at present let to the Commissioners of Police at £25 a year. the biddings then commenced, and the King’s Cross was knocked down, and bona fide sold for 164 guineas only.”

The only value in the monument seems to have been the small building that formed the base which, as the above article records, was let to the Police, and was generating an income. in the following years it would also become a shop, and finally a pub / bar.

In the years after construction, there also seems to have been a campaign to downgrade the public perception of the quality of the monument, and the statue of King George IV. Newspaper reports tell of cabmen, watermen, and the general public complaining about the statue, and as traffic on the New Road (Euston and Pentonville Roads) increased, the monument was also becoming an obstruction.

In 1841 there was a letter to the editor of the Globe complaining of the dangers of the monument, and that it did not have any surrounding posts or rails to protect pedestrians, and was also unlit at night.

The days of the monument were numbered and in 1842 the statue of the King was removed, and soon after, the whole monument was demolished. Not exactly “handing down to posterity a public token of attachment towards the departed and beloved Monarch, George the Fourth” as suggested in the appeal for public funds a few years earlier.

The following print shows the demolition of the monument:

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Above the entrance to the room at the base of the monument can be seen the words: “Richard Wirner Licensed To Sell Beer” – the monuments final use.

The text below states that “the dome-topped house in the distance will serve to identify the spot with our own times”, however this building would also soon be disappearing as the area would be part of the construction site for a major transport project. Not King’s Cross or St. Pancras Stations, but the Metropolitan Railway.

The following print shows the cut and cover construction of the Metropolitan Railway, which ran through the site of the George IV monument, and the building that was on the site of the Lighthouse building:

 © The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The building with the tower / lighthouse on the top was then built on the site in around 1875.

I cannot find a confirmed date for the tower / lighthouse, whether it was part of the original 1875 building, or whether it was added later.

A rather strange story, that a monument that could not raise enough public funds to complete the build, does not appear to have been appreciated by the public, and only lasted for just over 10 years before demolition, gave its name to the area, and to one of London’s major railway stations.

An almost throw away comment in the Lincolnshire Chronicle on the 14th of November, 1845, in an article where the paper reported on the introduction to Parliament of the London and York Railway Bill hints at what would become a nationally recognisable name: “And the said Bill proposes to enact, That the said Railway shall commence in the Parish of St. Pancras in the County of Middlesex at or near a certain place called King’s Cross”.

The tower / lighthouse that overlooks the site of the monument to George IV has lasted much longer, and after restoration, should be there for many more years to come.

alondoninheritance.com

The Temple of Mithras and Vine Street Roman Wall

The City of London has been occupied in one form or another for around 2,000 years, and those centuries of occupation have left their mark, whether it is in the pattern of the streets, pushing the embankment wall into the river and reclaiming parts of the foreshore, churches, rising ground levels, and the buried remains of buildings along with the accumulated rubbish, lost possessions, burials and industrial waste of the centuries.

In today’s post, I am visiting two places where the remains of Roman occupation are on display. two very different structures and methods of display, but each telling a story of London’s long history, and how these remains have survived, and their discovery, starting with:

The Temple of Mithras

The Temple of Mithras was one of the major post-war discoveries in the City of London as archaeologists rushed to excavate sites, although they had very limited funds and time.

The Temple of Mithras tells an interesting story of Roman occupation of the City, post-war archaeology, and how we value such discoveries.

The Temple of Mithras is now on display at the London Mithraeum, built as part of the construction of Bloomberg’s new European headquarters.

The remains of the temple have been displayed in a really imaginative way. Subtle lighting, a recreation of the sounds of activity in the temple during the Roman period and an image of the god Mithras overlooking the temple from the location of the apse and the block where the final altar in the temple was located.

The view on entering the Temple of Mithras:

Temple of Mithras

The Temple of Mithras was discovered in 1954 by the archaeologist W.F. Grimes.

The post-war bomb sites across the City of London offered a one off opportunity to excavate and explore for remains of occupation of the City from previous centuries, and in 1946 the Society of Antiquaries of London sponsored a short trial session, and then established the Roman and Mediaeval London Excavation Council in order to more formally establish a long term series of excavations.

These continued through to December 1962, with the majority being led by W.F. Grimes.

There were two main challenges to this work, both of which almost resulted in the failure to discover the Temple of Mithras – money and time.

The Excavation Council was able to raise funds from private donors, and in 1968 Grimes published “The Excavation of Roman and Medieval London”, a brilliant book providing an initial record of the work between 1947 and 1962. In the back of the book is a list of donors, which included the Government Ministry of Works (£26,300) and the Bank of England (£2,750) as the top two donors, down to two pages of donors who contributed £1. There were also a large number of donors who gave less than a £1, but were not recorded in the book.

By 1954, donor funds were growing short, and in the many newspaper reports of the discovery, it was reported that “Mr. Grimes had only found the temple because, after private subscriptions fell off, a grant from the Ministry of £2,000 a year had kept him going”.

There was also the challenge of time, and the walls of the temple were found towards the very end of the period agreed with the developer to excavate the site. Such was the importance of the find, that the developers allowed an extra two weeks for excavation.

At the temple today, there are two walkways along the sides of the temple, and at the end of these, we can look back at the interior of the temple:

Temple of Mithras

From the location of the apse, and where the altar was located:

Temple of Mithras

The area that was being excavated, and where the Temple of Mithras was found, was a large almost triangular plot bounded by Queen Victoria Street in the north, Budge Row to the south and Walbrook to the east. Budge Row sort of exists, but is now a covered walkway between two sections of the Bloomberg building, and appears to be called the Bloomberg Arcade.

The importance of the site was that it was part of the valley of the old Walbrook stream, and at the time, very little was known of the extent and nature of the stream and the surrounding valley.

Prior to the temple being found, work had focused on identifying the location of the stream, and sectional cuts were taken across the site which found that the Walbrook was in a shallow basin of around 290 to 300 feet across, and that the stream was around 14 feet wide and relatively shallow.

Excavations also found that the process of raising the land surface had started at a very early date, with dumping of material in the basin of the stream, mainly on the western edge of stream.

A number of timber deposits were found, mainly floors, and also contraptions such as guttering, all to deal with the wet conditions of the land surrounding the Walbrook stream.

There were very few stone structures, and apart from the temple, only one other stone building was found on the site, so although the site was in the centre of Roman London, it was very different to what could have been expected, with no concentration of stone buildings, and probably an area which had a stream running through, and was wet and marshy.

The main body of the temple was found to be rectangular and around 58.5 feet long and 26 feet wide, and consisted of a semi-circular apse at the western end.

In Grimes book, he mentions that the eastern end of the building consisted of a narthex or vestibule, which projected beyond the side walls of the building, and that part of this vestibule lay, and in 1954 at the end of excavation, remained under the street Walbrook. I need to find out if that is still the case, or whether it has since been excavated.

Photo from the book “The Excavation of Roman and Medieval London” by W.F. Grimes showing the Temple of Mithras as finally excavated. The photo was taken from the north east, so would have been next to the street Walbrook:

Temple of Mithras

The photo below is a view of the apse, which was at the western end of the temple, the upper right of the temple in the photo above:

Temple of Mithras

The excavated temple was opened to the public for a short period between excavation and the removal of the stones, and very long queues formed to get a glimpse of this Roman survivor:

Temple of Mithras

However, you can forget all the stories of polite British queuing, as the News Chronicle reported on Wednesday the 22nd of September 1954: “Sightseers Storm the Cordon. When darkness came, hundreds were still queuing. They got angry and dozens stormed through police barriers to see the Temple of Mithras.

Instead of the 50 to 500 people expected at the half acre bomb site near Mansion House, where last week a marble head of the god was unearthed, there were 10,000.

Police reinforcements were called as they milled around. At 6:30 when the site was due to close, thousands were still queuing. Then the contractors – who are to build London’s tallest office block on the site – decided to keep it open till seven.

There was an angry scene when the police announced half an hour later that no more people could be allowed. By then, darkness was falling and hundreds were still queuing. The disappointed crowd shouted ‘We’ve been waiting more than an hour’.”

Looking back at the apse:

Temple of Mithras

There were a number of finds at the site of the temple, including, Mercury, a messenger god, seated on a ram:

Temple of Mithras

Mable head representing the godess Minerva:

Temple of Mithras

And then there was the head and neck of Mithras. This was found by one of the excavators on the site, Mrs. Audrey Williams, and I found a photo of her, holding the head of Mithras, in the book “Buried London” by William Thomson Hill (1955):

Temple of Mithras

Audrey Williams was a highly experienced archeaologist, but was, and still is, rather unrecognised.

She was mentioned in some newspaper reports about the temple, a typical report being “Excavators were about to put aside their trowels when Mrs. Audrey Williams, second-in-command to Mr. W.F. Grimes, director of the London Museum in charge of the excavations, scraped the side of a marble cheek”.

There is a biography of Audrey Williams on the excellent Trowel Blazers site, which also records that it was Audrey who was on site every day, and her work makes up much of the archive as Grimes was also working on another site.

Mithras was one of many Roman gods, and the cult of Mithras started in Rome and eventually spread across the Roman empire. It seems to have attracted those who were administrators, merchants and soldiers within the empire, and meetings were held in temples, often below ground. Dark, windowless places, which the presentation at the London Mithraeum demonstrates well.

The location of the temple, on the banks of the Walbrook stream would have added an extra dimension to the place.

At the end of the time available for the excavation, there was concern about the future of the temple, and whether the cost of preserving or moving the temple would be supported by the Government. A solution was found thanks to the owners of Bucklersbury House, the building that would be constructed on the site, as reported in the Courier and Advertiser on the 2nd of October, 1954:

“The Temple of Mithras, recently uncovered in the City of London, is to be moved, brick by brick, and re-erected on a site 80 yards away.

A Ministry of Works statement yesterday said – It has been decided that the cost of preserving the remains of the Temple of Mithras in its present position, estimated at more that £500,000 cannot be met from public funds. Happily, however, Mr. A.V. Bridgland, and the owners of the site of Bucklersbury House, have made a most generous proposal, which the Government believe will be widely welcomed.

The temple is to be moved from its present low level and put up again in an open courtyard on the Queen Victoria Street front of Bucklersbury House site.

Estimated cost of the removal is £10,000 which is to be borne by the owner of the site.”

Photo from the book “Buried London” by William Thomson Hill (1955), showing the Temple of Mithras being rebuilt in its temporary location in October 1954 before being moved to Temple Court in Queen Victoria Street where it was put on open air, public display in the early 1960s:

Temple of Mithras

It is interesting to speculate just how original many of these early buildings remain.

Grimes, in his book states that the individual stones of the temple were not numbered, rather the walls were photographed and the rebuild of the temple was based on these photos.

The reconstruction in the London Mithraeum also used new mortar between the stones, but using a formula which would have been used at the time..

The Temple of Mithras remained in the open until the Bloomberg building was constructed on a large site, which included the location of the post-war Bucklersbury House.

The Temple of Mithras is not in exactly the same position as when discovered as it is a small distance to the west, but it is close enough, and at the level below ground to its original location.

There is also an exhibition of many of the finds from the site, including a steelyard balance and weights, used for measuring the weight of goods which would have been suspended from the hook on the right:

Temple of Mithras

And rings:

Temple of Mithras

The Temple of Mithras is well worth a visit. As well as the physical remains of the temple and finds from the site, the presentation as part of the London Mithraeum provides a good impression of how the temple may have been used, when it was sitting on the banks of the Walbrook, some 1800 years ago.

Details can be found at the site of the London Mithraeum, here.

There is a British Pathe film of the discovery here.

There is an absolutely fascinating lecture by Sadie Watson on the Return of the Temple of Mithras in London, part of the Gresham College series of lectures. It can be found here.

The Vine Street Roman Wall

The City Wall at Vine Street is the name of a new exhibition of part of the Roman London wall in the basement area of a new building complex that seems to consist of student accommodation and offices.

Although the name of the exhibition includes Vine Street, the entrance is at 12 Jewry Street. The overall building complex sits between Jewry Street and Vine Street.

After entering at ground level, a walk down to the lower level reveals the section of London wall:

Vine Street Roman Wall

The face of the wall in the above photo is the side that was on the inside of the City of London.

The presentation of the wall is really very good, because it shows not just the Roman wall, but also tells the story of how it has survived for so long.

Today, in preparation for a new building, the existing building on the site is usually fully demolished, down to a big hole in the ground. The new building is then constructed without any use of parts of the structure of the previous building.

This is starting to change, for example the old BT building on Newgate Street is being completely remodeled, and the building’s structural frame will be mainly retained in a building that will look completely different from the outside.

In the past, where there were existing walls, it was often very cost effective to incorporate these into a new building. I have written about a couple of examples in previous posts such as St. Alphage on London Wall, the Bastions and Wall between London Wall and St. Giles, Cripplegate, and the Roman Wall on Tower Hill, and it was only by being included in much later buildings that these earlier structures have survived.

The Roman Wall did continue in use during the medieval period, when medieval brick and stone work extended the height of the wall as the ground level in many parts of London was gradually rising, but it was becoming redundant.

The City was expanding outside the wall, so although parts were demolished and stones often reused as building material, other parts of the wall were built against, and included in new structures, and the section on display became part of a number of buildings on the site.

In the construction of a new building on the site in 1905, the wall was exposed, and thankfully it was preserved in the basement.

In the above photo, the black piers supporting the wall are from the 1905 construction, and underneath are jacks installed as part of the build of the current building on the site.

And to the left of the Roman wall in the above photo, and more clearly in the photo below, can be seen the walls of the last building on the site, and how they butted up to the Roman wall:

Vine Street Roman Wall

Walking to the other side of the wall and we are now presented with the wall that would have faced outside of the City:

Vine Street Roman Wall

And we can also see the remains of a bastion, a small building on the side of the wall, usually with a semi-circular end, that was used for defensive purposes:

Vine Street Roman Wall

As with the London Mithraeum, there is a large display of the many finds from the site and surrounding area:

Vine Street Roman Wall

The finds represent the whole period that the wall has stood on the site. As the level of the ground increased in height, centuries of London’s rubbish, broken pottery and china, accidently lost personal items, animal bones and the waste from industrial activities have all accumulated:

Vine Street Roman Wall

One of the finds is a bit of a mystery. It was found further to the south in 1957, during construction work in Crosswall. It appears to be a stele (an upright stone slab bearing a relief and / or an inscription, and often used as a gravestone):

Vine Street Roman Wall

It is believed to have come from the eastern Mediterranean and dating from around 200 BC, with the inscription perhaps being added a couple of centuries later.

It is unclear how the stone came to be in the City of London, and one of the theories put forward was that the stone was brought to London many centuries later during a Grand Tour, when those rich enough and still relatively young, would embark on a tour through the major cultural and historical centers of Europe and bring back artifacts from their travels.

The Vine Street Roman wall is also very well worth a visit. A different form of presentation to the Temple of Mithras, but it shows how the wall survived by becoming part of much later buildings.

Details can be found at the website of the Vine Street Roman Wall, here.

alondoninheritance.com

The Cyprus Street, Bethnal Green, War Memorial

One of my father’s 1980s photos was of the war memorial in Cyprus Street, Bethnal Green:

Cyprus Street War Memorial

Forty years later, I went back to take a 2023 photograph:

Cyprus Street War Memorial

There are a couple of interesting changes to the overall memorial. The small memorial below the main First World War memorial is for the Second World War, presumably also for those from the street who died during that war. In my 2023 photo, this plaque has had a name added since the 1980s.

Below that there is a new plaque which has been added:

Kohima memorial

And below the above plaque is one of the ceramic poppies from the 2014 display in the moat of the Tower of London to commemorate the start of the First World War.

The memorial in Cyprus Street:

Cyprus Street war memorial

The memorial is not in its original location. I have read a number of slightly different stories online about the fate of the original memorial, and move to the current location. I will use the following quote from the publication “Not forgotten, A review of London’s War Memorials”, published by the Planning and Housing Committee of the London Assembly in 2009:

“The memorial was originally on the wall between numbers 45 and 47
but in the 1960s, when one end of the street was redeveloped for a
new housing estate, the main memorial was broken while it was being
removed. The community rescued the plaques and for a while the
fragments lay around the local pub, the Duke of Wellington. After a
number of years the community took the opportunity to use the
refurbishment of their street to make a collection to pay for a replica
of the original memorial to be made at a local stonemasons and got
permission from the housing association to relocate it to where it now
stands.”

The London Assembly document states that the current memorial is a replica of the original. I have read other accounts that state it was repaired, however if that is true, then it must have been a very good repair.

The problem with determining which sources are correct is difficult as even in the London Assembly document there is an error. It states that “The original Cyprus Street memorial was erected at the end of 1918 to commemorate the residents of the street who died in the First World War”, however I have found a number of reports from newspapers of the time which state that the memorial was unveiled in 1920, perhaps there was a two year delay between erecting the memorial and unveiling, however I doubt it.

It is always difficult to be 100% confident in many statements that are recorded as facts.

What ever the truth of the memorial, nothing can detract from what it represents – the impact of war on one small London street.

The plaque was unveiled on Saturday the 5th of June, 1920, and the East London Observer had a report of the unveiling in the following Saturday’s issue:

“A BETHNAL GREEN WAR MEMORIAL – In Memory of Cyprus Street Men. A touching ceremony took place last Saturday afternoon at Cyprus Street, Bethnal Green, where there was unveiled and dedicated a War Memorial Tablet to the men of the street, which is in the parish of St. James-the-Less, Bethnal Green, who had fallen in the Great War. The memorial was raised by the members of the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged and Demobilised Solders’ Benefits Club, of which Mr. Keymer is the Chairman.

The St. James Brass Band opened the service and after hymns, prayers and lessons, the Rev. J.P.R. Rees-Jones, Vicar of the parish, unveiled and dedicated the memorial tablet.

The tablet is of white marble with imperishable lead lettering, with a beautiful scroll, the work being executed by Messrs. B. Levy and Sons, ltd. monumental masons, Brady Street, Whitechapel, a firm which has gained much notoriety by virtue of the excellence of workmanship and design, and the tablet was greatly admired by all who attended the interesting ceremony.

The Vicar gave a short but inspiring address, and after an anthem, “What are these arrayed in white robes”, given by the St. James’s choir, and the hymn “Lead Kindly Light”, the blessing was pronounced, followed by the “Last Post”, the “Dead March” and “Reveille”. There was a large assembly, and for once in a way Bethnal Greeners stopped to think of something else than their every day cares.”

The names on the memorial joined the names on thousands of other war memorial that were erected after the First World War, and the problem with war memorial is that the sheer number of names hides that fact that these were all individuals, and I have tried to find out about some of those listed.

In the 1911 census (the nearest I can get to the First World War for a full list of those living in Cyprus Street), there were 827 people recorded as living in the street.

Given that 26 people are listed as having died during the First World War, assuming roughly the same number of people were living in the street as in 1911, then 3% of the street’s residents would die in the war.

Whilst this may initially seem a relatively low number, many families at the time would have large numbers of children, so as a percentage of adults in the street, it was much higher than 3%.

When comparing the names on the memorial, I was surprised that a relatively high number were not listed in the 1911 census, implying that they were not then living in the street, I did wonder if those commemorated were from surrounding streets, however the memorial clearly states that they are the men of Cyprus Street.

I did find a number listed in 1911, and the census records provide a more rounded view of the names on the monument, for example:

  • A. Gadd – The Gadd family lived at number 51 Cyprus Street. There were two Alfred Gadd’s in the family. The father who was 45 in 1911 and the eldest son who was 18. The father was a Cabinet Maker, and the son was Linen Collar Sorter. I suspect that it was the son who died in the war, as the father would have been approaching 50 by 1914. As well as the father and oldest son, there was the wife Elizabeth (44), daughters Rosalie (20, a Brush Hair Sorter) and Elizabeth (16, a Dressmaker)
  • J. Goodwin – The Goodwin family lived at number 91 Cyprus Street. There were two John Goodwin’s in the family, however the eldest son John was only 6 in 1911, so it is the father, who was aged 27 and listed as a Butcher who died in the war. As well as the father and oldest son, there was the wife Elisa (26) and children Robert (5), Charles (4), daughter Grace (2) and youngest son Sidney (0, born in 1911)
  • T. Hamblin – The Hamblin family lived at number 59 Cyprus Street. T. Hamblin refers to Thomas Hamblin who was 32 in 1911 and listed as a Dock Labourer. He lived in the house with his wife Elizabeth (30 and a Tailoress). No children are recorded.
  • W. J. Gardner – There was no W. J. listed in the 1911 census, but there was a William Gardner at number 64, so I assume he may have left his middle name out of the census. William Gardner was 27 and a Builders Labourer. He lived in number 64 with his wife Florence (25 and a Skirt Machinist) and daughter Florence who was 4.

Just four out of the twenty-six who are listed on the memorial, but it reminds us that these were individuals with jobs and families, who would have impacted by their loss for very many years to come. The youngest child, Sydney Goodwin would hardly have known his father and Sydney could have lived to the end of the twentieth century.

It is also interesting to compare the number of names on the memorials for the First and the Second World Wars, with far less from the street who died in the Second World War.

This comparison shows the absolutely appalling death rates from the trench warfare of the First World War.

The reference on the memorial to the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged And Demobilised Soldiers And Sailors Benevolent Club refers to the Duke of Wellington pub in Cyprus Street. The pub was built around 1850 as part of the development of Cyprus Street and surrounding streets. The pub closed in 2005, but today still very clearly retains the features of a pub, including a pub sign:

Duke of Wellington pub

The Duke of Wellington, like many other pubs in the working class areas of London, had a tradition of hosting benefit and loan societies.

In 1911 there was a large advert for the Duke of Wellington in the Eastern Argus and Borough of Hackney Times headed “Important Notice”. It was one of the very many adverts that publicans would place in the local newspapers when they took over a pub. The advert would tell potential customers that all classes would receive a warm welcome, that only the very best beers and spirits would be served, and the advert of the Duke of Wellington also included that:

“The United Brothers Benefit Society meets here every alternate Tuesday evening and the Duke of Wellington Loan and Investment Society (which has been established for over 20 years) every Saturday evening. New members to both societies respectfully invited and heartily welcomed.”

It was hosting societies such as these, as well as the very many clubs and societies involved with sports and games that put these 19th century pubs at the heart of the communities that developed around them.

The pub, as well as much of the original Cyprus Street terrace houses are Grade II listed.

A chunk of the western part of Cyprus Street was badly damaged during the Second World War and the Cyprus Street Estate was built across the area that was damaged. This has effectively separated two parts of the original street.

In the following map, the red oval shows where Cyprus Street has been separated by the new estate, with a short stub of the street to the left, and the main section of the street to the right ( © OpenStreetMap contributors ):

Bethnal Green map

The new estate can be seen just to the west of the old pub:

Cyprus Street

Cyprus Street is fascinating, not just for the war memorial, and architecture of the terraces, but also the way they are decorated, with many of the houses having a brightly painted front door and window shutters:

Cyprus Street

View along the main surviving section of the street:

Cyprus Street

Cyprus Street is identical to many other mid 19th century streets that appeared as Bethnal Green was developed, what has made it special is the war memorial and the retention of the majority of the original terrace houses.

As indicated by the Duke of Wellington’s Benevolent Club that erected the memorial, the pub must have played an important part in the community that lived along the street.

There were so many pubs in Bethnal Green (as there was across much of London), and in Bethnal Green the majority have closed, with many being demolished or converted into flats.

As I was walking to Cyprus Street, along Bonner Street, I saw another old pub just after the junction with Cyprus Street.

This is the Bishop Bonner, on the corner of Bonner Street and Royston Street:

Bishop Bonner, Bonner Street

Another 19th century pub, which finally closed in 1997. The first floor appears to be flats, however the ground floor looks rather derelict. It would be interesting to look in and see if any of the remaining bar furniture survives.

Name sign on the corner of the pub:

Bishop Bonner, Bonner Street

Always interesting to think of the thousands who have walked through these doors, when the pub was the hub of the local community for well over 100 years:

Bishop Bonner, Bonner Street

Whilst so many of London’s pubs disappear or are converted, the memorial in Cyprus Street remembers not just the residents of the street who died in the First and Second World Wars, but also remembers the community that was in the street at the time, that enabled the memorial to be created and maintained during the following decades.

alondoninheritance.com

Temple Bar – A Historic Boundary to the City

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

Temple Bar

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

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

Temple Bar

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

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

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

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

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

Temple Bar

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

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

Temple Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theobald's Park

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

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

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

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

Paternoster Square

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

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

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

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

Old Temple Bar

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

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

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

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

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

Heads on spikes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queen Victoria visit to the City of London

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

Temple Bar

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

Temple Bar

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

Temple Bar

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

Temple Bar

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

Temple Bar

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

Edward was the father and Joshua the son.

Master Masons

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

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

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

Temple Bar memorial

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

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

Queen Victoria

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

Queen Victoria

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

Prince Edward

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

Prince Edward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temple Bar

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

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

Temple Bar

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

Temple Bar

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

Temple Bar

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

St Clement Danes parish boundary marker

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

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

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

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

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

alondoninheritance.com

Westminster School Gateway

In 1949, my father photographed the Westminster School Gateway:

Westminster School Gateway

I am really grateful to the Archivist at Westminster School who provided access during the Spring half term, and told me about the history of the gateway and the surrounding area (although any errors are down to my memory).

The same photo of the Westminster School Gateway at the end of May 2022:

Westminster School Gateway

There has been very little change in the 73 years between the two photos. The main change being a couple of CCTV cameras to the left of the gateway.

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

The day of my visit was one of those days where London weather changes from sunshine to pouring rain in a matter of minutes, and that is exactly what happened when I arrived. The sky clouded and the rain fell, resulting in an overcast view of the gateway in my photo, compared to my father’s photo taken in bright sunshine.

Due to the different lighting conditions, the inscriptions are far more visible in my father’s photo than mine. In the 1949 photo, the stones are generally dirtier due to the amount of pollution from coal fires and other industrial sources across London. This blackened the inscriptions in the 1949 photo which helps them to stand out.

The Westminster School Gateway is in Little Dean’s Yard, which is accessed from Dean’s Yard. I have circled the location of the gateway in the following map  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Westminster School Gateway

The view looking across Little Dean’s Yard towards the gateway, with the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster in the background:

Westminster School Gateway

The School Gateway was built in 1734 and was the main entrance to the school. Little Dean’s Yard was originally occupied by buildings, and a passageway led from Dean’s Yard (via Liddell’s Arch) through these buildings to reach the school gateway.

The gateway is believed to have been built by Lord Burlington. This was Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, who as well as the gateway, was responsible for the construction of a dormitory at the school between 1722 and 1730.

The school gateway is therefore also known as Burlington’s Arch.

The following print from 1880 shows the school gateway with the route of the passageway, although by the time of the print, the buildings surrounding the passageway had been demolished (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Westminster School Gateway

The view looking back towards Liddell’s Arch from near the school gateway:

Liddell’s Arch

On the right of the above photo is a sculpture of Queen Elizabeth I, who became the royal patron of the school in 1560 and is celebrated as the founder of the school, although the foundations of the school are much earlier, the school having its origins in a charity school run by the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey.

The following map is an extract from the 1950 edition of the Ordnance Survey (a year after my father’s photo). The school gateway is circled, and the map shows the area in detail as it was, and within the area of the school, as it is today (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“).

Little Dean's Yard

To the south of Little Dean’s Yard are the two remaining buildings of an 18th century terrace of three. This is the Grade I listed numbers 2 and 3 Little Dean’s Yard:

Little Dean's Yard

The building on the right of the above terrace, which has broken up the symmetry of the original terrace is a rebuild of 1896, and is Grade II listed number 1 Little Dean’s Yard.

Listed buildings continue on the northern side of the yard, with the Grade II listed Turle’s House, dating from 1884 on the right. This building was built over fragments of an 11th century reredorter (a communal latrine), and part of the original monastery’s cloisters.

Little Dean's Yard

On the left of the above photo is the Grade I listed Ashburnham House, which includes parts of various structures that have occupied the site over the centuries.

The building includes the masonry structure and kitchen and hall walls from the 14th century Prior’s Lodging. The building became a substantial town house in the mid 17th century, when red brick was added to the 14th century rubble walls.

A west wing (furthest from the camera) was added in 1910, and this later wing can be seen in a slightly different colour brick, and the arched entrance on the ground floor of the earlier wing.

The following print shows the north east corner of Little Dean’s Yard in 1808, showing the school gateway, and to the left is what was described as Dr Bell’s House, along with an entrance to the cloisters. These buildings were replaced by Turle’s House in 1884 (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Little Dean's Yard

The school gateway in 1808 (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

The entrance to Westminster School

Westminster School Gateway is a fascinating historical structure simply as a gateway, but what adds further interest are the names and dates carved onto the gateway on almost every available space:

Westminster School Gateway

Westminster School has created a dedicated website to the gateway, which includes a remarkable degree of research to provide an inventory of the names carved on and around the gateway, with background details to the names.

The website can be found here.

An example from the inventory, covering the name in the following photo:


LEGGE, GEORGE AUGUSTUS, eldest son of Hon. and Rev. Augustus George Legge FSA, Chancellor of Winchester, and Honora, eldest dau. of Walter Bagot 
Westminster School Gateway

The website also provides advice for those aspiring to leave their mark, and uses George August Legge’s carving as an example of why punctuation is important and that his name really needs a “.” between the initial and surname.

There are a couple of inscriptions in non English languages, as shown in the following photo with inscriptions in Hebrew and Devanagari (a North Indian script):

Westminster School Gateway

The Westminster School Gateway website has discovered the background to the above inscriptions, which can be found here.

Five brothers:

Westminster School Gateway

The quality of the carving on the gate is excellent, the reason being is that the majority of the inscriptions were carved by stonemasons from Westminster Abbey, paid by the pupil to carve their name.

This is obvious when looking at the five Ryde brothers in the above photo as each instance of Ryde is identical to the other four.

There are a number of names which have obviously been carved by the pupil, and the quality of these is very different from those by a trained stonemason as shown in the following photo:

Westminster School Gateway

As well as the main body of the gateway, the side walls running up the stairs behind the gateway also have plenty of names:

Westminster School Gateway

And they are also on the rear of the gateway:

Westminster School Gateway

The school gateway leads to a small flight of stairs, a left turn which then opens out into the main school room, which on my visit was set-up for exams:

Westminster School room

This room was originally part of the monks dormitory in the time of the Benedictine monastery and it was first used as a schoolroom in 1599.

The LCC Bomb Damage maps show damage to some of the buildings on the eastern side of Little Dean’s Yard, including the schoolroom. This resulted in the refurbishment of the space, including the installation of a new roof which can be seen in the above photo.

The following print shows the schoolroom in 1850. Desks and benches are set against the side walls (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Westminster School room

On the walls between the windows there appear to be lots of inscriptions, so I assume the approach of carving inscriptions on the school gateway extended also into the schoolroom.

I could not see these inscriptions in the schoolroom today, so I suspect they were covered up during restoration work following the wartime bomb damage.

I was really pleased to recreate my father’s photo, one of those rare places in London where the view is almost exactly the same.

My thanks to the Archivist for providing access and information.

I have kept the post relatively high level as the school’s website dedicated to the gateway is comprehensive and fascinating.

I really recommend a read of the dedicated site to the gateway: “The School Gateway – The story behind Burlington’s Arch”

.alondoninheritance.com

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

I find it fascinating the random bits of information you discover when researching London’s history. Last year I had taken some photos of the cluster of memorials in the centre of Waterloo Place, just north of Pall Mall. They perhaps give the impression of a cluster erected at the same time, commemorating aspects of the Crimean War, however they are from different centuries, parts were very controversial at the time, and in 1915 newspaper reports of an addition to the cluster reported that it included “The First Public Statue of a Woman in London” – other than those of Royalty, such as Queen Ann or Victoria.

It is an interesting statement from 1915. Firstly that even with the Victorian love of statues, there had not been a statue of a woman (apart from the many statues of Queen Victoria), and secondly, that it was an event that newspapers recorded, perhaps an early indication of changing attitudes, however reports were just a statement of fact and there was no further discussion.

Statues often seem to generate polarising views, the latest example being the sculpture by artist Maggi Hambling for Mary Wollstonecraft at Newington Green which was unveiled last year, and those in Waterloo Place were equally controversial at the time. They also signify events and people who were considered important at the time, and views change over time.

The following photo shows the cluster of statues in Waterloo Place, viewed from across Pall Mall, from the southern section of Waterloo Place.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

The cluster is facing to the south east, so the best view is after walking up the steps from The Mall and through the lower part of Waterloo Place. Regent Street St James’s is directly behind the group, leading up from the north western side of Waterloo Place towards Piccadilly.

A closer view of the cluster of statues on their island location:

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

Although the cluster of statues may give the appearance that there were part of a single installation, there were fifty four years between the central monument (1861) and the two statues at the front of the cluster (1915).

The “First Public Statue of a Woman in London” is one of the statues installed in 1915, and I will come to these later in the post.

The central monument is the Guards’ Memorial and was erected in 1861 as a memorial to the 2,162 soldiers of the Brigade of Guards who had lost their lives in the Crimean War. It was the work of the sculptor John Bell, who was also responsible for the 1856 marble Crimean memorial in Woolwich and the “America” group on the base of the Albert memorial.

The current location of the memorial was the third option, after sites in Hyde Park and St James’s Park had been considered.

At the top of the monument is the figure of Honour, standing with outstretched arms.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

Below the figure of Honour are three soldiers dressed in full marching uniform representing the Grenadier, Coldstream and Fusilier Guards.

The figures were cast at the Elkington and Co. foundry in Birmingham and they were made from guns taken from Sebastopol in the Crimea. The old guns were broken up at Woolwich, then sent to Birmingham.

One hundred tons of granite was used for the pedestal and surrounds of the monument. The granite came from the Cheesewring quarries in Cornwall.

The Illustrated London News on the 13th April 1861 was very scathing about the new monument:

“The Guards’ memorial as it now stands before us, must be confessed to be an eyesore, and an obstruction of the public view of one of the most agreeable outlooks which our crowded thoroughfares afforded; and suggests the absolute necessity of some provision being made in this ‘testimonial’ age to prevent our streets and squares being blocked up in all directions with unsightly effigies to departed worth, however honourable the sentiments which may lead to their construction.

As a work of art this memorial is almost beneath criticism. It may be said of it with perfect truth that it is unique; nothing like it has ever been seen – nothing else like it, we trust, ever will be seen. It is neither sculpturesque nor architectural, nor jointly both. A heavy, irregular structure of granite is the principal object, filling up a considerable area in the roadway. 

Independently of the hideousness of the granite pile, the arrangement of the figures outrages all accepted rules of artistic treatment, That of ‘Honour’ is the only one which can be seen from all sides, but from her attitude it is obvious that it is only intended to be viewed from the front; its character and vocation being problematical from all other parts, sometimes suggesting the idea to the irreverent multitude of a street acrobat throwing his four rings. The guardsmen can be seen only from the front – not the front facing the public thoroughfare, but that facing the vacant space between the Athenaeum and United Service Clubs, where nobody goes, except on purpose”.

The Illustrated London News article continues in a similar vein for several more paragraphs – they really did not like the new monument. These views were common across many other newspaper reviews of the Guards’ Memorial, for example, from the Illustrated Times on the 4th May 1861:

“Our monuments are unfortunate. In the vacant space between the Athenaeum and the United Service Clubs in Waterloo-place, stands the ‘Guards’ memorial’ and it may be doubted whether anything more incongruous in design can be discovered in the metropolitan streets. The principal figure – if the figure of ‘Honour’ which surmounts the pedestal may be called the principal when the others consist of three massy Guards in their great coats and bearskins – although it may be well proportioned, stands at an attitude at once ungraceful and dubious, while the wreaths which adorn the hands and wrists are held out as though they were a species of circular dumb-bell of considerable weight, and requiring some muscular exertion to extend at the requisite angle.

It is painfully evident, too, that the whole monument is only intended to be seen directly from the front – a fatal mistake in street sculpture, and one which utterly disfigures one thoroughfare for the sake of another,

With respect to the pedestal, it is like nothing in the world, and the palpable ill-combination of sculpture and building (not architecture) has an effect absolutely painful”.

Criticism of the monument was not just limited to the sculpture, plinth and setting, but also how the inscriptions were written. From The Atlas on the 24th November 1860:

“Unfortunately, as though to convince the world how necessary are competitive examinations, the military committee have drawn up inscriptions, in which the laws and maxims of the English language are violated and by which a great scandal has been proclaimed against the heroes of the Crimea. ‘To those who fell by their companions.’ In aiming at the epigrammatic, the author has descended in nebulas infernas. Would it have been too much trouble to have added ‘by the side of’, and thus saved the honour of those to the memory of whose glorious achievements this monument forms a cruel though unintentional charge?”

There were even questions in the House of Commons regarding the text on the memorial:

“Mr JAMES asked the First Commissioner of Works what was the meaning of the figures inscribed on the Guards’ memorial in Pall-mall, which seemed to mix together the masculine and neuter gender.

Mr COWPER sad the inscriptions were temporary, and could be removed. Perhaps the remarks of the hon. gentleman would be useful to the gentleman who had charge of that monument”.

Those responsible for all aspects of the Guards’ memorial must have been thoroughly depressed after reading all the newspaper reviews which seem to have been highly critical of all aspects of the new memorial – design, architecture, construction, location and inscriptions.

Many of the criticisms regarding the location of the monument were about the direction that the main figures of the monument were facing. The longer approach to Waterloo Place is along Regent Street St James from Piccadilly, and this approach road offers a view down to the location of the monument, however it is the rear of the monument we see from this approach.

The following photo is a view of the rear of the monument. Colours look a bit weird as the sun behind the monument caused the detail to be too dark so some extreme processing was needed.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

The plaque on the rear of the monument  states “To the memory of 2162 Officers, Non-Com Officers and Privates of the Brigade of Guards who fell during the war with Russia in 1854, 5, 6. Erected by their comrades”.

The side panels on the monument are shields recording the names of battles at Alma, Inkerman and Sebastopol.

Plaque recording how the monument was funded (which strangely states that it was erected in 1867 despite all newspaper reports of the Guards’ memorial being in 1861):

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

This is the view from alongside the monument, looking up along Regent Street St James towards Piccadilly, and illustrates why those writing when the monument was completed in 1861 claimed that it was facing the wrong way as when travelling down this street, you would see the rear of the monument.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

Base of lamp post, installed at the same time as the Guards’ memorial.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

After unveiling in 1861, the Guards’ memorial stood in Waterloo Place alongside Pall Mall, exactly as designed by John Bell, however changes were to come and in 1914, the Guards’ memorial was pulled down and re-erected 30 feet north of its original position, to allow the installation of two new statues.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

The change in position can be clearly seen in these before and after Ordnance Survey maps (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

Which means that we can finally come to one of the two new statues that was described in the newspapers of 1915 as the “First Public Statue of a Woman in London” – the statue of Florence Nightingale:

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

Florence Nightingale came to public prominence with her work in the Crimea and at the military hospital at Scutari. The conditions for wounded soldiers taken to military hospitals were appalling and more died of disease than on the battlefield.

Her work, along with the rest of her team of nurses in the Crimea would greatly improve conditions for wounded soldiers, and she is credited with turning nursing into a profession, and following her return from the Crimea published “Notes on Nursing” in 1859, and was instrumental in promoting the training of nurses and the better design of hospitals for the rest of her life.

The proposal for a statue of Florence Nightingale was made at a public meeting in the Mansion House in March 1911. At the same meeting it was also proposed to create a fund that would give annuities to trained nurses who had been unable to provide for old age or infirmity. A total of £4,000 was provided for the creation of a Trained Nurses Fund and six nurses were immediately identified as needing help.

The funds were mainly raised by many small donations from nurses, soldiers and sailors.

The panel on the front of the pedestal shows Florence Nightingale standing at the doorway to a hospital as wounded soldiers arrive.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

The new statues were unveiled with very little ceremony. On a chilly February morning in 1915, two workmen put a ladder up against the statue to pull of the covers:

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

Newspaper reports of the Florence Nightingale statue were much more appreciative than those of the original Guards’ memorial. A typical syndicated newspaper report from the 24th February 1915 read:

“A NATION’S GRATITUDE – BRITAIN PAYS HONOUR TO FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE. Without ceremony the statue raised to the memory of Florence Nightingale will today be privately unveiled. The event is of special interest at a time when the sailors and soldiers, fighting for the country’s very existence, are reaping the fruit of the great work set on foot by Florence Nightingale. The statue has been erected in Waterloo Place, London, by the side of Foley’s statue of Sidney Herbert, with the Crimean Guards’ memorial a few yards in the rear, the whole forming an interesting and imposing group.

It was the suggestion of Lord Knutsford that Florence Nightingale’s statue should be placed alongside that of the man through whose instrumentality she undertook her great Crimean mission and by whom she was supported, and that two figures prominently associated with the Crimean War should be brought into close proximity to the Guards’ memorial”

There were however some negative comments about the low-key way in which the statue was revealed. A typical letter is from a Mary E. Pendered in the paper “Common Cause” (a weekly paper that supported the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies):

“MADAM – I was truly astonished to see your acquiescence in the insult to Florence Nightingale, for it was surely an insult to that great woman to let her statue be unveiled at 7.30 a.m. by a workman; and not only to her, but to all the nursing profession which she founded, if not to womanhood in general. There could have been no better time to raise as demonstration of the national homage to one who served her country so splendidly than the present, when our nurses are so valiantly doing their duty at the front, and are acknowledged by all the world as a valuable part of the army’s organisation. It is amazing and it is enraging to find that such an opportunity as this should have been missed”.

Inspecting the new statues in April 1915, a couple of months after they were unveiled:

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

The second statue unveiled early the same morning in February 1915 was the one on the right in the above photo, a statue of Sidney Herbert:

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

Sidney Herbert, or 1st Baron Herbert of Lea was the Secretary of State for War during the Crimean War.

He had known Florence Nightingale when along with his wife Elizabeth, they had met in 1848 whilst travelling in Italy. Elizabeth Herbert was one of the governors of the Establishment for Gentlewomen During Illness where Florence Nightingale had her first professional nursing job.

Following growing public anger at the conditions of military hospitals in the Crimea, Sidney Herbert commissioned Florence Nightingale to go out to the Crimea and lead nursing efforts.

Herbert’s statue was originally installed in front of the War Office in Pall Mall, however following the demolition of the building, it was relocated to stand adjacent to that of Florence Nightingale within the overall Crimea memorial cluster.

The plaque on the plinth of Sidney Herbert’s statue again shows an image of Florence Nightingale standing in the door of a hospital watching over wounded soldiers.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

The claim that this was the first public statue of a woman in London was made in numerous newspaper reports in 1915 (apart from Royalty), the reports were not syndicated (an early version of cut and paste the same report into different newspapers), so many different papers made the same statement in their own words.

After this post was published, I received a comment from Joanna Moncrieff of Westminster Walks that the first was actually a statue to Sarah Siddons at Paddington Green, and that her statue was unveiled in 1897, which would put it 18 years earlier than Florence Nightingales statue.

No idea why the 1915 papers made the claim regarding Florence Nightingale’s statue. Perhaps they were unaware of the Siddons statue, or perhaps they considered Paddington Green as outside central London, the City to Westminster area.

One hundred and three years later, it is still unfortunately a headline when a similar event occurs and in 2018 a statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett was unveiled as the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square.

I photographed the statue with the continuous flow of people wanting to see and photograph the statue soon after unveiling.

First Public Statue of a Woman in London

In a link between Florence Nightingale and Millicent Fawcett, the statue of Florence Nightingale was a focal point for the suffragist movement. In May 1915, the suffragist newspaper Votes for Women included the following article:

“Wednesday in this week being the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, an interesting little ceremony, arranged by the Women’s Freedom League, will take place that afternoon after we go to press. Some ten or twelve Suffrage Societies are sending representatives, including Mrs Ayton Gould from the United Suffragists, to lay wreaths on the newly-unveiled Florence Nightingale statue in Waterloo Place.

Owing to the somewhat incomprehensible opposition of the authorities to any demonstration in memory of a woman whose name should be revered in every British family just now (which led to the secret unveiling of her statue by a workman at 6 a.m. on a wet winter’s morning), no speeches or procession will be allowed.

But perhaps this silent tribute to her memory will not be out of keeping with what we know of this great woman’s hatred of publicity; and the speeches will be made afterwards in the Essex Hall at 8 p.m. where a meeting will be held, also under the auspices of the W.F.L, who are to be congratulated on having arranged this commemoration as so appropriate a moment in our history”.

If you are ever in Waterloo Place, take a look at the Crimea memorial complex, and consider the difficulties in designing a monument and getting the location right, along with the sacrifices of those who died in the Crimean War.

Also appreciate that after Sarah Siddons, you are looking at what should have been reported in the papers of 1915 as the “Second Public Statue of a Woman in London” – unless you know any others?

alondoninheritance.com

Pickfords Wharf and the original Seven Dials Pillar

Pickfords Wharf and the original Seven Dials Pillar. A strange title for this week’s post about two subjects. The only relationship they have is one with London. The original Seven Dials pillar is a follow-up to my post on Seven Dials a couple of week’s ago, and Pickfords Wharf is the subject of the following photo that I took from London Bridge in 1979.

Pickfords Wharf

The same view of Pickfords Wharf from London Bridge, forty one years later, in 2020:

Pickfords Wharf

Much of the south bank of the river between London Bridge and Southwark Bridge is unrecognisable compared to the late 1970s. Some of the outer walls of some buildings have survived, but as can be seen with Pickfords Wharf, where they have, they have been subject to very substantial rebuild.

In my 1979 photo, there are two named buildings on the site. Pickfords Wharf and Cole & Carey.

Pickfords Wharf was originally Phoenix Wharf and comprised four warehouses that had been built and modified at different times over the life of the complex. The original riverside warehouse was built in 1864, however, as can be seen in the 1978 photo, the front of the building does have very different architectural styles, with the section to the right almost looking like an early example of facadism, where the ornate columns and facade have been retained on a modified building behind.

Some of the warehouses of Pickfords Wharf were on the other side of Clink Street to the rear of the building seen in the photo, and included parts of the walls of the original Winchester Palace.

Originally built by wharfingers (an owner or operator of a wharf) Fitch & Cozens, with the wharf being named Phoenix Wharf. The Pickfords name came in 1897 when Pickfords & Co purchased the site and renamed the wharf.

Although the wharf still carries the Pickfords name today, the company only owned the building for twenty four years as Hay’s Wharf Ltd. took over the site in 1921.

Pickfords Wharf was used for the storage of a wide variety of different products over the years. The 1954 edition of the Commercial Motor publication “London Wharves and Docks” has the following details for Pickfords Wharf:

  • Cargo dealt with: General canned goods, sugar
  • Cargo specially catered for: General
  • Maximum cranage: 60 cwt
  • Storage space: 400,000 cubic feet
  • Customs facilities: Sufferance and Warehousing privileges
  • Parking facilities: Yes
  • Nature of berth: Quay
  • Maximum length of ship accommodated: 150 feet
  • Depth at High Water: 17 feet

The building to the left of Pickfords Wharf with the Cole & Carey sign was St. Mary Overy’s Wharf. Originally built in 1882 for a George Doo, for use as a granary.

He would only use the building for eight years as in 1890, Cole & Carey, listed as general wharfingers would take over the building. It was purchased by the company behind Hay’s Wharf in 1948 to add to their adjacent Pickfords Wharf building.

Cole & Carey were still operating at the wharf when the 1954 edition of the Commercial Motor guide was published and the details for the wharf are recorded as:

  • Cargo dealt with: General canned goods, dried fruit
  • Cargo specially catered for: Canned goods
  • Maximum cranage: 25 cwt
  • Storage space: 380,000 cubic feet
  • Customs facilities: Sufferance and Warehousing privileges
  • Parking facilities: Yes
  • Nature of berth: Quay
  • Maximum length of ship accommodated: 60 feet
  • Depth at High Water: 17 feet

Cole & Carey had the benefit that their warehouse was alongside the river and also had a small inlet, St Mary Overy’s Dock alongside.

Both warehouses ceased to be used from the late 1960s, and they were left to slowly decay. There was a fire at the Cole & Carey building in 1979, not long before I took the photo, and the exposed metal frames of the roof, a result of the fire, can be seen.

The Cole & Carey building (St Mary Overy’s Wharf), and the core of Pickfords Wharf were demolished towards the end of 1983. Pickfords Wharf was substantially rebuilt to leave the building we see today, St Mary Overy’s Wharf was not rebuilt.

A wider view of the south bank of the river, east of Southwark Bridge, with Pickfords Wharf in the centre:

Pickfords Wharf

One of the 1950s editions of the Ordnance Survey map shows Pickfords Wharf with St Mary Overy’s Wharf alongside, with St Mary Overy’s Dock. Note the walkways constructed over Clink Street to the warehouses on the southern side of Clink Street which were part of the same warehouse complex (maps ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Pickfords Wharf

The 1894 edition of the Ordnance Survey Map shows the building with its original name of Phoenix Wharf. St Mary Overy’s Wharf is labelled as a Warehouse and is alongside, but is yet to be extended out, and to be integrated with the jetty running along the river facing side of both buildings.

Pickfords Wharf

In 1894, the inlet alongside the warehouse appears to have been named St Saviour’s Dock. I need to research further, however perhaps the name was changed to avoid confusion with the St Saviour’s Dock to the east of Tower Bridge in Bermondsey.

The inlet that was St Mary Overy’s Dock is still there, but is now semi-closed off from the river and the space is used as a dock for the Golden Hinde, the early 1970s replica of the ship that Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the world between 1577 and 1580.

The masts of the ship can just be seen in the following photo:

Pickfords Wharf

The replica Golden Hinde had a remarkable couple of decades sailing, including a circumnavigation of the world and a number of crossings of the Atlantic.

The following photo is of the bow of the Golden Hind, the eastern side of Pickfords Wharf, and some of the new buildings, built to resemble warehouses.

Pickfords Wharf

This is a fascinating area that needs a more detailed post. Winchester Palace could be found here, and the short distance between London and Southwark Bridges form a key part of Southwark’s history.

That will be for a future post, as for today’s post I also wanted to follow-up on my post of a couple of week’s ago on Seven Dials, as I went to find the:

Original Seven Dials Pillar

A couple of week’s ago I wrote about Seven Dials, and the pillar that now stands at the junction of the seven streets. The current pillar is a recent replica, as the original had been removed around 1773 as it had become the focal point for so called undesirables and the Paving Commissioners ordered the removal of the pillar to prevent this nuisance.

The remains of the demolished pillar were stored at the home of the architect James Paine, at Sayes Court, Addlestone.

In 1822, the demolished pillar was re-erected at Weybridge, Surrey, and last week I was in the area so a short diversion took me to the place where the original, 1694, Seven Dials pillar can still be seen today:

Pickfords Wharf

The pillar stands appropriately on Monument Green, alongside the street that leads to Thames Street, which leads down to as you have probably guessed, the River Thames.

Pickfords Wharf

An information panel provides some history of the original location of the pillar (note the map of Seven Dials), and the reason for its relocation to a green in Weybridge, which was to commemorate local resident “Her Royal Highness The Most Excellent and Illustrious Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina Duchess of York” who lived in the parish for upwards of thirty years, and died on the 6th of August 1820.

Pickfords Wharf

Panels added to the base of the pillar also explain why the pillar was erected in Weybridge:

Pickfords Wharf

The Duchess of York came to be living in Weybridge as her marriage to Prince Frederick, Duke of York was not a long term success and there were no children which as is often the case with royal marriages, having children appears to have been the main reason for the marriage. They separated towards the end of the 1790s, and the Duchess moved to Oatlands in Weybridge, a house owned by the Duke of York.

Pickfords Wharf

Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina, Duchess of York and Albany  by A. Gabrielli, after Edward Francis Cunningham (Calze) stipple engraving, published 1792 NPG D8581 © National Portrait Gallery, London

One of the panels at the base of the pillar implies that she must have been charitable to the poor of the parish as “Ye poor suppress the mournful sigh, her spirit is with Christ on high”.

Pickfords Wharf

When plans were being developed for the renovation of Seven Dials in the 1980s, which included the return of a pillar at the junction of the seven streets, attempts were made to move the original pillar back from Weybridge, however the local council were against the move and refused to allow the pillar to leave.

Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina Duchess Of York, a Prussian Princess who married a British Prince, is buried in St James Church, Weybridge, and still commemorated 200 years after her death by a pillar that was originally erected in the late 17th century development of Seven Dials by Thomas Neale.

Pickfords Wharf and the original Seven Dials pillar – two very different subjects for today’s post, but share some similarities in that they have both survived an amount of demolition, and they are now serving very different purposes to those which were intended at the time of their creation.

alondoninheritance.com

The Great Fire at London Bridge

If you walk out of London Bridge Station into Tooley Street, walk west up towards London Bridge, you will see a memorial to a fireman who died during what was described as the Great Fire at London Bridge in 1861 (also known as the Great Fire in Tooley Street), when a considerable number of the warehouses between Tooley Street and the River Thames were destroyed, alongside millions of pounds worth of goods.

Chances are that you will miss the memorial, installed on the first floor corner, along the side of a building facing on to Tooley Street. Although the lane alongside the building is now gated, it is called Cottons Lane, a name relevant to the warehouses destroyed in the fire.

Great Fire at London Bridge

Although the words on the memorial are difficult to read, it really does deserve a closer look. It records the death of James Braidwood, Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade who “was killed near this spot on the execution of his duty at the great fire”. These details are in the centre of the memorial, surrounded by a wreath.

Great Fire at London Bridge

Around the wreath are some details of the fire brigades profession, along with an image of the Great Fire at London Bridge.

At bottom left is a fireman’s helmet, sitting on the end of a nozzle through which jets of water were directed. To the right is an axe, followed by a water hose. Above this is the wheel of a fire engine.

At top left is a burning warehouse, with flames and smoke covering the top of the monument.

The fire that the memorial records, broke out on Saturday 22nd of June 1861. It would burn for days, destroy many warehouses and cause millions of pounds worth of damage and loss.

The following newspaper report provides a good indication of the scale of the fire:

“DREADFUL CONFLAGRATION IN LONDON. UPWARDS OF TWO MILLIONS’ LOSS – The metropolis on Saturday evening was visited by one of the most terrific conflagrations that has probably occurred since the great fire of London. Certainly for the amount of property destroyed, nothing like it has been experienced during the last half century.

The scene of the catastrophe was on the water side portion of Tooley-street, nearest London bridge, a locality which has been singularly unfortunate during the last 25 years, some of the largest fires having occurred here. The outbreak took place in the extensive range of premises known as Cotton’s Wharf and the bonded warehouses belonging to Messrs. Scovell.

They had an extensive river frontage, and the whole place on the land side extending to Tooley-street was covered with eight or nine warehouses six stories in height, some of which had formerly been used as ordnance stores, and the whole occupying, as we were informed, about three acres.

These buildings were filled with valuable merchandise of every description. There were some thousands of chests of tea and bales of silk stored in the upper floors, while in the lower was an immense stock of Russian tallow and tar, oils, bales of cotton, hops and grain. Every portion of the establishment might be said to have been loaded with goods, and of the whole of this property, not a vestige remains but the bare walls and an immense chasm of fire, which at dusk on Sunday evening still lighted up the Pool and the east end of the City.

To be added to this very serious loss is the destruction of the whole of the western range of Alderman Humphrey’s warehouses flanking the new dock, known as Hay’s Wharf, the burning of four warehouses comprising Chamberlain’s Wharf, adjacent to St Olave’s Church, besides many other buildings in Tooley-street”.

Smaller fires were a frequent hazard in the warehouses lining the Thames. The article extract above lists some of the goods stored in the warehouses. All very inflammable, and it had been a hot summer with little rain, so the buildings and their contents were dry and ready to burn.

The following print from the time gives an impression of the scale and ferocity of the fire. The southern tip of London Bridge can just be seen on the right edge of the print.

Great Fire at London Bridge

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: p5354642

As well as the size of the fire, the print shows some of the fire fighting methods of the time. On the river are two steam powered fire boats. This method of firefighting was essential in London due to the number and size of the warehouses hard up against the river. It was frequently only possible to fight a fire from the river. One issue facing the fire boats at the London Bridge fire when they arrived was a very low tide. This prevented them getting close to the warehouses and drawing sufficient water. It was only when the tide came in that the height of water in the river was sufficient for the fire boats to be effective.

To the right of the fire, a cluster of firefighters can be seen in front of the large building at the end of London Bridge. They are directing their hoses on the western edge of the fire.

The river is full of boats carrying spectators, and I suspect the watermen of the river found it very profitable to give people a close up view of the fire, although this could be dangerous. Look at the larger boat on the left edge of the print. A fire has started on the boat, and a figure is seen jumping into the river from the boat.

Fires were almost entertainment events for Londoners, who lined London Bridge and filled the many boats on the river at all hours of the day and night. The following newspaper extract illustrates how the fire spread and the onlookers responses:

“While Chamberlain’s Wharf was in full blaze it was feared by many that St Olave’s Church and Topping’s Wharf would follow, but fortunately, a vacant piece of ground interposed, which no doubt saved both. On the other hand, Hay’s Wharf, it became evident, had caught fire in the roof, through which clouds of smoke and sharp spires of flame were darting. The iron shutters for a long time kept in the fire here, except at intervals when it forced its way upwards; it must have been at least an hour after the top floor was blazing before the fire descended to the floor below. After that the other floors followed. When Hay’s Wharf was included the river sweep of the conflagration must have been 300 yards, with a deep foreground of blazing oil and tallow. The higher the tide rose the wider became the sheet of flame, as cask after cask of tallow melted and rolled, liquidwise, into the Thames.

As the tide rose attention became fixed upon the dock at the end of Hay’s Wharf, for the spectators were anxious upon two points – first, they wished to see if there was a possibility of escape of the two vessels lying there, close to the walls of the fire proof, but fire filled buildings; and secondly, they feared that the fire would leap the narrow chasm of the dock and seize on Beal’s Wharf, and then, as must have happened, burn down a great extent of wharfage property beyond. After midnight, when the water had risen sufficiently high, the screw steamer was towed out amid the cheers of the onlookers, and ten minutes later two tugs drew out an American barque, just as the iron shutters of the building fell out of the side next to the dock, and the conflagration shot forth its fiery tongues”.

The following print of the fire shows the masts of one of the ships that were rescued from the fire. They can be seen on the left of the print, with the flames of the burning warehouses getting dangerously close.

Great Fire at London Bridge

The following plan shows the buildings destroyed in the fire:

Great Fire at London Bridge

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: p5354659

The fire as viewed from Tooley Street:

Great Fire at London Bridge

There were a number of casualties during the fire. Five men who were in a boat collecting tallow floating on the river were either burnt to death or drowned when their boat caught fire. A number of men working in the area of the warehouses fell into the river and drowned.

Those suffering burns were taken to St Thomas’s Hospital, which also included a man who had his neck broken when the chain from a fire boat was caught around his neck.

Many of the boats on the river were collecting goods that had fallen out of the warehouses which they then sold for profit. Papers also reported that numerous mudlarks were out on the river foreshore using old sacks, saucepans, baskets, anything they could use to hold the goods from the warehouses being washed up on the shore.

The fire also brought out the worst in human behavior with groups of pickpockets making their way among the crowds watching the fire. Twenty four pickpockets were caught and taken to Mansion House for immediate judgement.

The memorial in Tooley Street records the name of the most high profile casualty – Mr James Braidwood of the London Fire Brigade.

Braidwood was the Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade and had many years of experience. The following report details the circumstances of his death, whilst he was visiting the individual groups of fire fighters in among the warehouses:

“Mr Braidwood, who had visited the men several times, was engaged in giving them some refreshment, when, all of a sudden, a terrific explosion occurred. In an instant it was seen that the whole frontage of the second warehouse was coming down, falling outwards into the avenue. Mr Henderson, the foreman of the southern district of the brigade, who was standing within a few paces of Mr Braidwood, shouted for all to run. The men dropped their hose branches. Two, with Mr Henderson escaped by the front gateway, and the others ran in the opposite direction on to the wharf where they jumped into the river. Mr Braidwood made an effort to follow Mr Henderson, but was struck down by the upper part of the wall, and buried beneath some tons of brickwork. His death must have been instantaneous. Several of his men rushed to extricate him, hopeless as the task was, but another explosion happening, they were compelled to fly. The sad fate of their chief had a most depressing effect upon all, and, to add to their trouble, the conflagration now assumed a most awful ascendancy”.

James Braidwood played a key part in establishing the London Fire Brigade. Born in Edinburgh in 1800, he was appointed superintendent of the Edinburgh fire brigade at the age of 23, and quickly gained a reputation for increasing the efficiency of the fire service in Edinburgh. In 1830 he published “On Construction of Fire-Engines and Apparatus, the Training of Firemen and the method of proceeding in the Cases of Fire”. In London at the time, the fire service was still run by individual insurance companies. This often resulted in a fire engine arriving at a fire, determining that the building was not insured by their company, and turning around.

Braidwood’s publication gained the attention of London’s insurance companies, and in 1832 he was appointed to the supreme command of the embryonic London Fire Brigade.

He initially had to overcome the prejudices and dislike of innovation from the London firemen, but gained their support and trust when they could see the benefits of the changes he put in place.

London’s fire service was very small for a city of such size and complexity, with numerous warehouses full of combustible goods. For comparison, Braidwood took on a force with 120 firemen, when at the same time, Paris had a force of one thousand trained firemen, and numerous fire appliances.

One of Braidwood’s innovative methods was his approach to fire prevention. He took an active part in advising owners of buildings how to implement precautions against fires.

He was also known for acts of bravery. In a fire in Edinburgh where barrels of gunpowder were stored in a burning building, he went in alone and carried each barrel out after having wrapped the barrels in wet blankets. In London he rescued a child from a burning building, having to walk across a plank to the room where the child was, and return via the same route.

He left a widow and six children. His wife had already suffered a similar bereavement, as a son from a previous marriage had died fighting a fire in Blackfriars Road in 1855.

His funeral took place at Abney Park Cemetery. The funeral procession was almost a mile and a half in length, and as well as the London Fire Brigade, there were members of the City and Metropolitan Police forces, members of the remaining private fire-brigades, along with many prominent persons of mid Victorian London.

The memorial in Tooley Street was installed in March 1862. I suspect it was in a more prominent place than now, as when installed it was on the west wall of a building on Tooley Street. Today it is on the eastern side of the building.

As well as the memorial, a short distance east there is a Braidwood Street, also to commemorate James Braidwood:

Great Fire at London Bridge

The inquest into the death of James Braidwood reached a conclusion of accidental death.

The jury at the inquest heard that he had been in among his fire fighters handing out brandy and encouragement when the wall fell on him, killing him instantly.

The inquest recorded the enormous quantities of goods held in the warehouses, the majority of which were highly inflammable, including a considerable quantity of salt peter, which is the natural mineral form of potassium nitrate.  Among its many uses, it is the principal ingredient in gunpowder, and as an oxidizer for fireworks and rockets. Having such an explosive chemical stored in such large quantities in a very busy warehouse complex in the centre of London shows the complete lack of any regulations at the time for the safe storage of such materials.

The area between Tooley Street and the river were still smoldering two weeks after the start of the fire. Over 200 police were employed to stop the public trying to get into the area. The fire brigade were kept busy pulling down dangerous walls and getting access to the burning vaults.

The area was though, quickly rebuilt and by the time of the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, the area is again full of warehouses. Hay’s Wharf was rebuilt, and it is the post 1861 fire version of Hay’s Wharf that we see today. ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’

Great Fire at London Bridge

If you find yourself in Tooley Street, glance up at the memorial to remember the Great Fire at London Bridge and the Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade, Mr James Braidwood.

alondoninheritance.com

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”

alondoninheritance.com

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.

alondoninheritance.com