Category Archives: London Photography

Lost Bankside Alleys

I have no idea of the exact location of the following photo. It is one of my father’s and dates from 1949. Judging by the photos on the strips of negatives that included this photo, it is probably one of a number of Bankside alleys, although there is a chance it is a bit further east.

The photo shows a police officer walking through an alley, probably between warehouses. At the end of the alley, there is one of the typical walkways that were built to connect warehouses on opposite sides of a street.

I love the photo as it captures what must have been a relatively common event – a lone police officer patrolling his beat.

Policing has changed considerably in the 72 years since the photo. Budget cuts have reduced police numbers, streets now have CCTV and there is the ongoing threat of terrorism.

Along Bankside, there are no warehouses full of goods that would tempt a thieve. The river is quiet and is no longer teeming with barges and lighters, although as the tragic events on London Bridge just a week ago demonstrate, the Thames is still a very dangerous place for anyone who enters the water.

The police officer in the photo was probably on his “beat” – a set route around a district that an officer would patrol. They would get to know the streets, the people, activity that was normal, and what was not normal.

Being assigned to a beat was the first step in a police officer’s career after training and being posted to a station as a Police Constable.

In the book “Fabian of the Yard” (1950) by Superintendent Robert Fabian, he provides an introduction to the activity of “being on a beat”:

“On the beat, an officer should normally walk the regulation 2.5 m.p.h. – if he is hurrying he is probably after someone or more likely going home to his supper. Properly carried out, patrol duty is not half so dull as you might imagine. The most ordinary looking street can to the practiced eye be of absorbing interest. Each doorway, shadow at a window, hurried footstep or meaningful glance may have a tale to tell”.

(Fabian of the Yard is a fascinating account of London policing and crime between the 1920s and 1940s)

Crime was frequently reported after the event, however the benefit of being on the beat, was that anything unusual, and a possible crime, could be investigated as it happened. Detailed newspaper reporting of such events tended to reduce in the 20th century, however in the 19th century, papers were full of long accounts of crimes, often including the conversations that had taken place during an inquest, or the words of the police officers involved.

The following three extracts are examples of the type of action that a police officer on the beat would frequently get involved with, when patrolling along the river’s edge.

From the Shipping and Mercantile Gazzete on Thursday the 8th February, 1877:

“THEFT FROM A BARGE – At the Southwark Police-court, Joseph Sadler, 22, a returned convict, was charged with being concerned with two others in stealing three pieces of oak timber from a barge on the River Thames, the property of Messrs. Shuter and Co., coopers and stave merchants, Shad Thames.

George Barnett, police-sergeant 56M, said that between 10 and 11 on the previous night he was on duty in Bermondsey-wall when he saw the prisoner and two others coming from Eaton’s Wharf. They were each carrying a piece of timber and as soon as they saw him they dropped the timber and ran away. He, however, captured the prisoner, but his companions escaped. He made inquiries, and found that the timber had been stolen from a barge lying off Bermondsey-wall. Mr. William Joseph Littell, of the firm Shuter and Co., identified the three pieces of oak timber as the property of the firm. Mr. Partridge committed the prisoner for trial”.

From the St. James Chronicle, August 1855:

“SOUTHWARK. CHARGE OF BURGLARY – John Richard South, a tall young man, partially dressed in military attire, and who stated himself to belong to the Royal Artillery, was charged with being concerned with another, not in custody, with breaking in to the Watermen’s Arms public-house, Bankside.

Joseph Alley, police-constable, 30M, said he was on duty shortly before three o’clock that morning in Bankside, and when passing the Waterman’s Arms he heard something breaking inside, which induced him to stop.

Another constable then came up, when they again heard the breaking noise, and saw the reflection of a light inside. Witness immediately directed the other constable to go to the rear of the house, while he knocked on the door for admittance and rang the bell. While doing so he heard a rushing noise inside, and a minute or two afterwards, the landlord came down and opened the street door. Witness entered and passed through, when he saw two men climbing up a shed. He got up after them, and saw the prisoner concealed behind a chimney, and as he came near him he exclaimed ‘It’s all right, I’ll give myself up’. He took the prisoner into custody, but his companion made his escape”.

From the Morning Post, 2nd July 1833:

“Yesterday two men, named Morrett and Yates, were brought before Mr. Murray, charged on suspicion of drowning a young woman (name unknown), whose body was taken out of the water at Bankside.

A police sergeant of the M division on proceeding over Blackfriars Bridge on Sunday morning, about four o’clock, saw some persons looking through the balustrades, and heard them exclaim ‘That a woman was in the water’. He looked in the direction of Southwark bridge, and perceiving a splashing in the water at some distance off, he ran round to Bankside, and by the time he arrived saw the body of a young female just brought on shore by a waterman.

He observed two men standing upon a barge moored at some distance out in the river, and he had been informed that these two men were with this female at the time she was drowned. Acting upon this intelligence he procured a wherry, and immediately went on board the barge, and took them both into custody.

The accused were examined separately, and Yates made the following statement voluntarily;- he said that he and the other prisoner were brass founders, and worked at a large factory in St Martin’s-lane. On Saturday night after work, they went to the Cart and Horses in Upper St Martin’s-lane which they left at half past eleven o’clock, and then went home together, but did not retire to rest.

At three o’clock in the morning they left home together with the determination of taking an excursion on the water. On their way to Westminster bridge they met a young female near the Horse Guards, and they spoke to her, and told her they were going to have a pull down the river. She expressed her desire to accompany them; they endeavoured to dissuade her, but when they hired the boat, which was at Mr Lyons, near the bridge, she said she was determined to go with them, and accordingly jumped into the boat along with them.

They then proceeded down the rive, the tide running that way, and in the course of their progress, run against a chain or warp to which a barge was made fast. This was about midway between the two bridges, and in an attempt to extricate it the wherry heeled over and the female rolled into the river. One of them (Yates) got hold of the barge and saved himself, and rescued Morrett, who was on the point of being drowned, and would inevitably have shared the fate of the female had not Yates grasped him by the collar and pulled him on board the barge.

in reply to the Magistrate the accused said he never saw the deceased before; that she appeared to be 18 years of age, and that they were unacquainted with who or what she was. She was dressed in a dark half-mourning dress, and wore a straw bonnet with ribands. The other prisoner gave a similar account of the transaction, and they were ordered to be detained in custody, as there were some mysterious circumstances attending the case”.

The following day an inquest was held and a verdict of accidental death was returned. Much of the critiscm at the inquest seems to have fallen on two other parties, not the two men found on the barge.

When the young woman’s body was first found, “two medical men” had been called, but had refused to attend. One of their assistants only arrived an hour later.

The proprietor of the boat was criticised for “letting out a wherry at that hour in the morning without some experienced person to attend to it; and that it was in consequence of this neglect that many casualties occurred in the river”. A deodand of £5 was levied on the boat. A deodand was a forfeit on an object where it has caused, or been involved with, a person’s death.

A scene that a police officer on the beat may have been interested in is shown in the following photo from the same strip of negatives, so around the same bankside area.

A quiet alley and some activity around a car in the distance.

Again, I cannot identify the location of the alley, there are no features that enable identification, and the area has changed so much in the last 72 years that as far as I can tell, the alley has long disappeared.

A glance at the 1896 edition of the Ordnance Survey map shows the number of alleys that were once along Bankside (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

In the above extract, Tate Modern now occupies the area on the left, and Southwark Bridge is on the right.

From left to right there is: Pike Gardens, leading to White Hind Alley, Moss Alley and Rose Alley, along with narrow streets leading up to the Thames such as Pond Yard and Bear Gardens.

These alleys have now dissapeard when you walk along the Thames, however there are traces further in land, such as Rose Alley, which is now a short stretch of narrow street acting as a service road to the building that now blocks the end of the old alley to the Thames.

There is one alley part remaining, although this is not named on the above map.

Underneath the letter I of the word Bankside (running along the street on the Thames embankment), there is a narrow alley with no name. This is Cardinal Cap Alley, with the entrance being found between two buildings just to the west of the Globe Theatre.

I wrote a post about Cardinal Cap Alley and No. 49 Bankside back in 2015 as the alley and number 49 have a fascinating history.

The alley has been controversially gated off for some years, however looking through the bars of the gate we can see the remains of an old Bankside alley.

Cardinal Cap Alley was open in the 1970s, and the view across to St Paul’s was one of my early photographic attempts, with my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 126 (although the camera did not handle contrast that well, so St Paul’s is only just visible across the river).

I have no idea whether the police officer in my father’s 1949 photo was walking the regulation 2.5 mph, or as Fabian of the Yard also suggested that he may be hurrying home for his supper.

The policing of the river and the land along the river’s edge has changed considerably in the 72 years since the photo was taken, and the majority of Bankside alleys have been replaced with new buildings facing onto the Thames. Both Bankside and the river are today a very different place.

alondoninheritance.com

7th Year of Blogging – A Year in Review

Somehow, I have reached the end of February 2021 without missing a Sunday post for seven years. I really did not expect to get here when I started at the end of February 2014.

At the end of the 6th year of the blog, the COVID virus was across the news, but had not really affected everyday life. A year of lockdowns and restrictions, and the horrendous death toll were yet to come.

It seems rather trivial given the impact on so many people, however it has been a difficult year for walking and exploring London. Luckily I always have a sufficient backlog of posts to cover periods when getting to places is not possible. I still have very many of my father’s photos which need a visit to research and take a comparison photo. I also had a long list of places to visit, long walks to explore and research to carry out which has just not been possible; hopefully later this year.

One thing I did manage to achieve was pass the Clerkenwell and Islington Guide Course.

Walking and exploring London has been a passion for so many years. Writing the blog is a rather solitary activity behind a computer screen and I have been thinking about how to develop the blog and transferring the blog onto London’s streets seemed a perfect combination.

The course was brilliant and I learnt so much from the lecturers and others on the course, and I have to thank those running the course for managing completion in such a difficult year.

I am working on a number of walking tours covering areas such as the Southbank, Bankside, Barbican, Wapping, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Islington and hopefully towards late Spring and early Summer, walking in groups will be possible.

So if you really do want to hear me on the streets of London, unfortunately with even more stories and detail than in the blog, I will announce details in the blog during the coming months.

That is for the future, for now a quick review of the last year.

I have a number of photographic themes which I have tried to maintain for many years. Pub’s, hairdressers (no idea why, but a theme my father started in the early 1980s), closed shops, buildings and places about to be demolished etc.

One theme has been newspaper stands. They fascinate me as they represent a specific moment in time. Newspaper headlines are also very transitory; they seem of the utmost importance at the time, but are quickly replaced by the next days news, and soon fade into history. These stands are glanced at by people rushing by, occasionally picking up one of the papers. They have been a feature of the London streets for many years.

They also tell a story of how an event develops, and so it was with the virus.

The 6th February 2020, outside Charing Cross Station, and the virus still seemed to be  restricted mainly to China:

7th year of blogging

Walking round London that evening and the streets were as busy as normal – outside Green Park station in Piccadilly:

7th year of blogging

Another photographic theme is tracking down some of the hidden views of London. There are so many places which are not normally visible simply walking the streets.

If you walk down Allsop Place, off the Marylebone Road by Madame Tussauds, there is a point where the row of buildings along the street ends and a high brick wall fills the gap. The wall is just too high to look over, but hold your camera above the wall and a hidden world opens up:

7th year of blogging

Part of Baker Street station is visible, the brightly lit platforms surrounded by the dark walls of the surrounding buildings. In February the underground system was just as busy as usual.

On the 21st February, a news stand in Piccadilly was warning that the killer virus was now spreading fast:

7th year of blogging

Despite warnings that the virus was spreading fast, by the 27th February, the country’s borders were still wide open and large sporting events continued to go ahead, mixing supporters from home and abroad.

Arsenal were playing Olympiakos in the Europa League on the evening of the 27th February. This was the home match, with Arsenal going into the game with a 1-0 advantage following a win in Greece the previous week.

Olympiakos would go on to win 2-1 and knock Arsenal out of the Europa League. As with any London game, the away fans from Olympiakos were in central London before heading out to the Emirates Stadium and when I walked by, they were loudly clustered in Piccadilly Circus.

7th year of blogging

Other news did continue to make the headlines, and on the 6th March a “Hammer Blow For Heathrow Runway” was reported:

7th year of blogging

This referred to a court of appeal decision that the Government’s decision to go ahead with the runway was illegal as they had not considered their climate commitments in coming to a decision.

This decision was overturned by the Supreme Court last December, meaning that the third runway can now move forward to the planning permission stage.

Whether the impact of the pandemic on air travel and the finance of airport operators will influence the need and business justification for a third runway remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, commuters at Waterloo Station were still dashing from Underground to station concourse for the train home as the “Virus War Enters Next Phase”:

7th year of blogging

On the 12th March outside Great Portland Street station, there was an appeal as the “Country Needs You To Join Virus Fight”:

7th year of blogging

But on Sunday 15th March, the previous Friday’s headlines were hinting at the coming lockdown, and that the lockdown may risk even more deaths:

7th year of blogging

Headlines continued in much the same way, and on the 23rd October, headlines had shifted from the risk of the virus to the help needed to overcome the restrictions and challenges of lockdowns:

7th year of blogging

When a packed underground train was a normal expectation, travelling on the underground, even out of lockdown, was a rather strange experience. Having an empty train carriage became a common, rather than an exceptional event.

7th year of blogging

And empty stations – this was Highbury & Islington Station at 3:55pm on Saturday 24th October 2020:

7th year of blogging

Even before the first lockdown in March, the streets were empty. Outside the Natural History Museum:

7th year of blogging

Piccadilly Circus – so much quieter than when Olympiakos fans had gathered there less than a month before:

7th year of blogging

Trafalgar Square:

7th year of blogging

Travelling across Tower Bridge:

7th year of blogging

Piccadilly:

7th year of blogging

I mentioned earlier that pubs are one of my photographic themes. I had long planned to walk around the City to find and photograph all the pubs, and in July 2020 I spent a day doing just that. The majority were still closed, having been closed since the start of the March lockdown. Tiered restrictions and the lack of workers and tourists in the City meant there was no point in reopening – customers were just not there. This continues to be the situation, and even when restrictions are reduced there will probably be a considerable delay until there are sufficient people back in the City to make the number of City pubs economic.

One pub that will not reopen is the Still and Star in Little Somerset Street.

7th year of blogging

The Still and Star is the one remaining “slum pub” and has been under threat for some years, however in December 2020, the City of London Corporation approved revised plans for a 15-storey tower to be built on the land in Aldgate High Street, including the space occupied by the Still and Star.

The new plans include a “reimagining” of the Still and Star with a new pub built facing onto Aldgate High Street. A very sad loss of a one off City pub.

7th year of blogging

In August, I climbed the O2 Dome with my 12 year old granddaughter, something that she had wanted to do for some time. In the following photo, the view is looking across to the water of the Royal Victoria Dock. It looks almost certain that the new “City Hall” will be the low, long building to the left.

7th year of blogging

In 2020 I finally managed to take my father’s old Leica IIIg camera out for a walk around London. The camera that was used for the 1950s photos in the blog, and the lens that was used for all my father’s photos from the 1940s and 50s.

The camera was last used towards the end of the 1970s and needed a repair to fix a sticking shutter, but I was really pleased with the first photo after more than 40 years.

7th year of blogging

As lockdown ends I will be ordering more black & white film, and an attempt at developing my own films is the next challenge.

I also continued to revisit some of my early photos, including the following photo of the Globe in Borough Market which I had taken in 1977:

7th year of blogging

The same pub in 2020:

7th year of blogging

In October, the City was still quiet:

7th year of blogging

The view down Ludgate Hill from St Paul’s on a Saturday afternoon:

7th year of blogging

Two of the businesses hit the most by the lockdowns and lack of people in the City – travel and hospitality:

7th year of blogging

City Thameslink Station:

7th year of blogging

The majority of my posts were not about the impact of the virus, and my most popular post of the year, in terms of the number of times the page was viewed, was my post on Broad Street Station, a station I had photographed in 1986, not long before the building was demolished:7th year of blogging

The same view today:

7th year of blogging

Whatever happens after the pandemic, London will reinvent and thrive, as it has done so many times before, and it will continue (in my fully biased view) to be the best city in the world to walk and explore.

There will be differences. More home working and reduced numbers of people working 5 days a week in the city. Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail has predicted that leisure and holiday travel by train is set to increase, while commuter traffic is likely to continue to fall.

Hopefully many of the trends that have had a negative effect on living and working in the city will change, such as the sale for overseas investment of so many of the flats and apartments being constructed, and there needs to be a reduction in the cost of housing in London.

London also needs its local facilities. it needs local areas with their own specific identity. Some of the recent changes in Soho risk the destruction of the identity of a unique and historic area.

Crossrail (the Elizabeth Line) will finally open. The Museum of London move to Smithfield opens up so many opportunities (and risks) to the area, however the proposed concert hall that was to take the museum’s place at the Barbican has been cancelled due to “unprecedented circumstances” and will be replaced by an upgrade to the Barbican complex.

The upwards growth of the City does look to continue, with at least five new glass and steel towers being planned.

At the end of the 7th year, can I thank you so much for reading the blog. I learn so much from the comments and am grateful for the corrections when I (thankfully not that often) get something wrong. There is a considerable amount of knowledge and experience of London out there.

I also hope that later in 2021 I get the opportunity to take you on a walk around some of the places I write about and show more of the history and stories of this fascinating city.

alondoninheritance.com

Fleet Street in 32 Exposures

Before taking a walk along Fleet Street, a quick update on last week’s post.

Thanks for all the feedback via comments, e-mail and Twitter, which demonstrated that you cannot believe everything that you read in the papers, even back in 1915. Readers identified the following statues as earlier than that of Florence Nightingale, so my list of the first statues of women (not royalty) in London is now as follows:

  1. Sarah Siddons, unveiled at Paddington Green in 1897. Sarah was an actor, also known as the most “famous tragedienne of the 18th century”
  2. Boudicca, unveiled at the western end of Westminster Bridge in 1902. Some discussion about Boudicca as she could be classed as “royal” which the 1915 papers excluded, however I will keep her on the list
  3. Margaret MacDonald,  unveiled at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1914. Margaret was a social reformer, feminist and member of organisations such as the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies
  4. Florence Nightingale, unveiled at Waterloo Place in 1915

So that would put Florence Nightingale’s statue as the 4th public statue of a women unveiled in London (excluding royalty, or perhaps 3rd if Boudicca is classed as royalty).

Leave a comment if you know of any others.

The other point of discussion was the initials on the 1861 lamp post next to the Guards’ memorial. The combination of letters appeared to be SGFCG. Possibilities included the names of Guards Regiments, or a royal link with Saxe-Coburg Gotha (the Prince Consort as Colonel of the Guards was at the unveiling).

I e-mailed the Guards’ Museum and their feedback was that they had not seen the initials of the three Foot Guards Regiments combined in such a way elsewhere, however the initials do appear to fit the Regiments as they were known in 1861 – Grenadier, Coldstream and Scots Fusilier Guards.

Thanks again for all the feedback – there is always so much to learn about the city’s history.

On to todays post. Last summer I took my father’s old Leica camera out for walk. The first time this 70 year old camera had been used in 40 years. To test the camera I had purchased a pack of Ilford black and white film, and as there were some spare, I decided to take my old film camera out, a Canon AE-1 which was my main camera for around 25 years, but last used in 2003.

The Canon AE-1 was a significant camera when it came out in 1976. I purchased mine in 1977 from a discount shop in Houndsditch in the City on Hire Purchase, spreading the cost over a year. It replaced a cheap Russian made Zenit camera which had a randomly sticking shutter as a feature.

The Canon AE-1 was a revolution at the time. The first camera to include a microprocessor, it included a light meter and once the desired speed had been set on the ring on the top of the camera, the aperture (how much light is let in through the lens) would be set automatically. It was also possible to set both speed and aperture manually.

Focus was still manual, via a focusing ring on the front of the included 50mm lens.

My Canon AE-1:

Fleet Street

The camera was powered by a battery in the compartment to the left of the lens in the above photo. Having not used the camera for almost twenty years, my main concern was that on opening the compartment, I would be met by a corroded mess, however the battery, although flat, was in good condition, and after replacing with a new battery, the camera came back to life.

Inserting a new film was much easier than the Leica as the film did not need to be trimmed, simply pushing the end of the film into the take up spool and winding on until the rewind knob moved.

I took the camera for a walk along Fleet Street, hence the title of the post – Fleet Street in 32 Exposures. I was using a 36 exposure film, so lost some in initial testing to make sure the film was winding on correctly.

Fleet Street seemed a good choice, as the street is lined with fascinating buildings. Substantial buildings from when newspapers occupied much of the street, to tall, thin buildings which are evidence of the narrow plots of land that were once typical along this important street. Many of the buildings are also ornately decorated.

This will be a photographic look at the buildings rather than a historical walk. Fleet Street has so much history that it would take a few posts to cover.

So to start a black and white walk along Fleet Street. I started at the point where the Strand becomes Fleet Street and the Temple Bar memorial:

Fleet Street

The Temple Bar memorial dates from 1880 and was designed by Sir Horace Jones. It marks the location of Wren’s Temple Bar which marked the ceremonial entrance to the City of London. The original Temple Bar now stands at the entrance to Paternoster Square from St Paul’s Churchyard.

Statues of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales are on either side of the monument, which is also heavily decorated and shows the Victorian fascination with the arts and sciences, with representations of these lining either side of the alcoves with the statues.

Fleet Street

The Grade I listed Middle Temple Gatehouse which leads from Fleet Street into Middle Temple Lane. The building originally dates from 1684:

Fleet Street

The Grade II* listed Inner Temple Gatehouse between Fleet Street and the Inner Temple location of Temple Church:

Fleet Street

Cliffords Inn Passage and the entrance gate to Cliffords Inn:

Fleet Street

The church of St Dunstan in the West:

Fleet Street

The head office building of the private bank of C. Hoare & Co. Founded by Richard Hoare in 1672, the bank has been based here in Fleet Street since 1690:

Fleet Street

Offices of publishing company DC Thomson, who still publish the Sunday Post and People’s Friend as well as the Beano. This is their London office, with their head offices being in Dundee (hence the Dundee Courier):

Fleet Street

Mitre House, with the entrance to Mitre Court:

Fleet Street

The original home of the London News Agency, also known as the Fleet Street News Agency. The business was here in Fleet Street from 1893 until 1972 when the business moved to Clerkenwell, where it was based until the agency closed in 1996.

Fleet Street

The entrance to 49 and 50 Fleet Street, a Grade II listed building that dates from 1911. Originally Barristers’ Chambers, in 2018 the building was converted into an extension to the Apex Temple Court Hotel.

Fleet Street

The following photo is of 53 Fleet Street and is a good example of where black and white is the wrong film to capture the features of a building. The upper floors are decorated with dark red bricks with green bricks forming diamond patterns, which can just be seen in the photo. It looks much better in colour.

Fleet Street

The following building is the Grade II listed former office of the Glasgow Herald built in 1927. The building is relatively thin and tall and the challenges with photographing the building using a fixed 50mm lens are apparent as I could not get in the top of the building without the front being at too oblique an angle.

Fleet Street

The 1920’s Bouverie House, with entrance to St Dunstans Court at lower left:

Fleet Street

Almost opposite Bouverie House, Whitefriars Street leads off from Fleet Street. A plaque on the wall records that this was the location of the office of the Anti-Corn-Law League between 1844 and 1846.

Fleet Street

A wider view of the building on the corner of Whitefriars Street and Fleet Street. The above plaque can be seen on the wall to the left of the corner entrance. The pub just to the right of the corner building is the Tipperary at 66 Fleet Street.

Fleet Street

The following photo shows a view along the northern side of Fleet Street and highlights the mix of different building ages, materials and architectural styles that make this street so interesting. One of the oldest building on the street is in the centre of the view. The Cheshire Cheese pub dates from 1538 with the current building dating to 1667.

Fleet Street

Next to the Cheshire Cheese is this rather ornate building which is currently home to a Pret on the ground floor. This is the Grade II listed, 143 and 144 Fleet Street. The statue in the centre of the first floor is of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Fleet Street

The building in the above photo was constructed in 1905 for Sir John Tollemache Sinclair, a Scottish MP, and designed by the architect  R.M. Roe.  Whilst researching for the reason why the statue is on the building (Sinclair was a fan of Mary Queen of Scots), I found the following newspaper report from The Sphere on the 17th August 1946 which provides a description of the use of the building:

“Although at first glance, this life-size statue of Mary, Queen of Scots appears to be in an ecclesiastical setting, it is, in fact, situated above a chemist’s shop and a restaurant in one of the older and grimier buildings of Fleet Street. No. 143-144 Fleet Street, known as Mary, Queen of Scots House, contains a typical selection of Fleet Street tenants – newspaper offices, advertising agents and artists agents”

Next to the above building is a lost pub, the building in the following photo was once the Kings and Keys pub.

Fleet Street

The name of the pub can still be seen carved in the decoration between the first and second floors.

Fleet Street

The Kings and Keys closed in 2007, and in the days when Fleet Street newspapers had their local pub, this was the pub for the Daily Telegraph. Although the building dates from the late 19th century, a pub with the name Kings and Keys had long been on the site. A newspaper report from 1804 highlights the dangers for those travelling through London and stopping at a pub:

“Last week a young midshipman, from Dover, going to Oxford on a visit to his relations, stopped at the King and Keys, in Fleet-street, for refreshment, when a fellow-traveler, whom he had supported on the road, attempted to rob him of his box, containing his money and clothes, which was prevented by the waiter; the ungrateful villain unfortunately made his escape”.

Across the road is a closed and boarded Sainsbury’s Local. One of the casualties of the lack of people travelling to work in Fleet Street during the lock-downs.

Fleet Street

On the front of the above building is a plaque recording that it was the site of Bradbury and Evans, Printer and Publisher of Dickens and Thackeray between 1847 and 1900.

Fleet Street

And to the left of the building is a memorial to T.P. O’Connor, Journalist and Parliamentarian 1848 to 1929 – “His pen could lay bare the bones of a book or the soul of a statesman in a few vivid lines”.

Fleet Street

Next to the old Kings and Keys building is the old offices of the Daily Telegraph newspaper. Built for the newspaper in 1928 and now Grade II listed.

Fleet Street

The building is a good example of the power and authority that the newspapers wanted to project when they were still the main source of news, before radio and television had become a mass market source of news.

Next to the Telegraph building is Mersey House, built between 1904 and 1906:

Fleet Street

Mersey House is yet another Grade II listed building, and was the London home of the Liverpool Daily Post (which is probably the source of the Mersey name after the River Mersey). The newspaper cannot have been using all the space in the building as in 1941 they were advertising:

“Do you want a London Office with a Central and Appropriate Address? Accommodation can be had in Mersey House, Fleet Street, E.C. 4 – Apply the Daily Post and Echo, Victoria Street, Liverpool”.

There are substantial stone clad buildings on many of the corners of Fleet Street. This is 130 Fleet Street on the corner with Shoe Lane:

Fleet Street

And a typical bank building on the corner with Salisbury Court. The plaque to the right of the door records that “The Fleet Conduit Stood In This Street Providing Free Water 1388 to 1666”.

Fleet Street

The majority of buildings that line Fleet Street are of stone, however there is one spectacular building of a very different design and using very different materials. The following photo shows the lower floors of the Grade II* listed Daily Express building dating from 1932.

Fleet Street

The above photo shows the limitations of using a fixed lens. impossible to get the whole building in a single photo. These are the upper floors:

Fleet Street

The art deco building was designed by architects H. O. Ellis & Clarke with engineer Sir Owen Williams. The materials used for the building could not be more different than the rest of Fleet Street.

Vitrolite (pigmented, structural glass) along with glass and chromium strips formed the façade of the building, to give the building a very modern, clean and functional appearance at the start of the 1930s.

Four years after completion, the building was used as an example in an article on “Architecture – the way we are going” in Reynolds’s Newspaper to demonstrate the battle of architectural ideas, and the type of design and materials that will be the future of office and industrial buildings

The building can really be appreciated when seen as a complete building, and the following postcard issued as construction was finishing, shows the building in all its glory:

Fleet Street

On the opposite side of the street is the old building of the Reuters news agency, one of the last of the news agencies to leave Fleet Street in 2005. The following photo shows the main entrance to the building and according to Pevsner is recognisable as the work of the architect Sir Edward Lutyens by “the wide, deep entrance niche on the narrower Fleet Street front”. Above the door, in the round window is the bronze figure of Fame.

Fleet Street

View looking down Fleet Street, with the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance:

Fleet Street

The following photo is looking back up Fleet Street. in the centre of the road is one of the old police sentry boxes introduced during the early 1990s in response to the IRA bombing campaign in the City of London.

Fleet Street

I have now come to Ludgate Circus, where Fleet Street meets Farringdon Street, and where the old river that gave the street its name once ran.

The clock on Ludgate House:

Fleet Street

That is Fleet Street in 32 exposures, and it proved that my 44 year old camera is still working.

The Canon AE-1 was a joy to use. Taking photographs with a film camera does feel very satisfying. After each photo, the act of pulling the lever to wind the film feels like you have done something a bit more substantial than just the shutter click of a digital camera.

There is a story that Apple used the sound of the shutter on the Canon AE-1 as the sound when taking a photo on an iPhone – it does sound very similar, but I am not convinced.

Black and White photography is good for certain types of photo. It does bring out the texture in building materials, but I still have much to learn to use this type of film for the right type of photo (when using the Canon I mainly used colour film).

The fixed 50mm lens was also a problem with trying to photograph larger buildings in a confined space. In my early years of using the camera I could not afford any additional Canon lens, but did buy compatible Vivitar 28mm and 135mm lens which I need to find.

Fleet Street has such a rich collection of architectural styles, and the legacy that the newspapers have left on the street is still very clear. It is a fascinating street to walk.

alondoninheritance.com

London with a Leica – First Light

I hope you will excuse a rather self indulgent post this week, but it is a post I have been wanting to write for a long time – my first attempt at using my father’s Leica IIIg camera.

He used two main cameras for the 1940s and 1950s photos. A Leica IIIc for the earlier and a Leica IIIg for the later photos. He sold the IIIc to help pay for the IIIg, and gave the Leica IIIg to me about 20 years ago.

He last used it at the end of the 1970s, when it developed a problem with the shutter sticking, and rather than getting it repaired, he purchased a new SLR camera.

I have been wanting to use the camera for some years. A couple of years ago I had it repaired to fix the sticking shutter problem, and a few weeks ago I finally had the time to learn how to use the camera. I purchased some film, and took the camera on a walk through London to take a reel of film and see how it performed – mainly how I performed using a very different camera to my digital cameras and my old Canon AE-1 film camera.

The Leica IIIg is completely manual. Everything has to be set, shutter speed, the aperture opening of the lens and the focus. The film also needs to be moved to the next frame ready for the next photo.

The Leica IIIg:

Leica

The lens is not the lens meant for the camera. It is from my father’s earlier Leica IIIc. He wrote the following in his notes to the camera “the lens is not the standard lens that should accompany the body, but is from my previous Leica IIIc bought, because it was the best lens to be used in both camera and enlarger”.

He developed and printed his own films, therefore the reference to the enlarger is to the item of equipment that you would use to shine a light through the negative and focus onto photo paper during the printing process. The lens would be unscrewed from the camera and placed in the enlarger to allow negatives to be printed onto photo paper.

The lens is therefore the lens through which the majority of my father’s photos which I feature on the blog from the 1940s and 1950s were taken.

Luckily, I have the instruction booklet that came with the camera, and a diagram in the booklet details all the functions of the various knobs, levers and windows on the camera.

Leica

You may have noticed there is no light meter on the camera, to measure the amount of light and therefore setting the correct speed and aperture – I will come on to this later.

You may also be asking why on earth I would want to use such a camera, limited to 36 photo films, with the cost of film and developing, when digital cameras are so good, and after buying the camera, the cost of photos is almost zero?

A couple of reasons. Obviously the sentimental one that it was the camera and lens that my father used for so many of his early photographs, but also because using such a camera really forces you to think and perhaps relearn the whole process of photography.

The number of photos available on each roll of film, and the cost of film and processing means you really have to be selective and think about the photo you want to take – I could not take the 200 to 400 photos that I would normally take on a walk around London.

It also makes you really think about light. Having to manually measure the light coming from the scene you want to photograph, deciding the combination of speed and aperture, focusing on the specific object you want to be the focus of the photo, all combine to make you think more about the process. I know all these combinations of manual options are available in many digital cameras, but so often using the auto option is the easiest way, along with the internal light meter.

The first challenge was to load the film.

The choice of film was relatively easy. I went with Ilford FP4 Plus. The reason being it is a very tolerant film which “will give usable results even if it is overexposed by as much as six stops, or underexposed by two stops” (a stop is basically either the halving or the doubling of the light hitting the film, so the film can still give good results if too much or too little light hits the film for the ideal photo).

My first attempt at loading the film in the camera was not good. Firstly, the film has to be trimmed with scissors so there is a long enough length of half width film to avoid the winding mechanism, then the film needs to be securely and accurately wound onto the take up spool.

And you will not know if it has worked correctly until the film is in the camera and you start winding on the film.

The pages from the manual detailing the film loading process:

Leica

Trimming the film – Ilford FP4 already comes trimmed, but not enough for the Leica, so I had to measure and cut a longer trimmed length of film. There must be a winding mechanism at the top of the slot behind the lens, which the film cannot be inserted over, but engages with when the film is pulled through the camera.

Leica

The end of the correctly trimmed film then needs to be inserted into the take up spool. This is where I had most problems as the film has to be parallel with, and tightly up against the lower end of the take up spool as in the following photo. If the film is not correctly positioned (as I found on the first two attempts), the film does not grip and wind onto the take up spool.

Leica

The film cassette, film, and take up spool is then carefully inserted into the slot at the rear of the camera, and the cassette and spool pushed into their positions at the two ends of the camera.

Leica

My first two attempts failed. You cannot confirm the film is inserted correctly until you try winding on the film.

There are two knobs at either end of the top of the camera. The Film Transport and Shutter Tensioning Knob – which pulls the film forward, out of the cassette and onto the take up spool after each photo has been taken, as well as tensioning the shutter ready for release. The second is the Rewind Knob that engages with the film cassette and is used to rewind the film back into the cassette when the full length of film has been used.

If the film is inserted correctly, winding the film transport knob, should also result in the rewind knob turning as film is pulled out of the cassette.

With my first attempt, the film had slipped off the take up spool, and with my second, the film was winding on correctly, but there must have been so much slack in the cassette that the rewind knob was not turning. I wasted that film as I was not sure how much film had been wound on and therefore exposed when I opened the camera to see what was going on.

With the film correctly loaded (hopefully) in the camera, there was one final element to learn before taking the camera out on the streets of London – how to set the speed and aperture correctly.

Basically, the aperture sets how much light the lens allows through to the film, and the speed is the speed with which the shutter opens, also changing how much light is let through to the film. They also impact the photo in different ways. Low speed can lead to a blurred photo of a moving object and with aperture you can change the elements of a photo which are in focus, for example by a blurred background with the foreground object in focus.

To know the correct range of settings, you need to know how much light is coming from the scene you want to photograph towards the lens of the camera. Today, cameras have built in light meters, but 1940/50s Leica’s needed a different solution, and this was by using an external, hand held light meter, and along with the camera, my father had given me his Weston Master Exposure Meter.

Leica

As the text describes “Your ‘Master’ meter is a photo-electric instrument which measures the reflected light of the subject with scientific accuracy”.

There is a photo cell in the rear of the meter, which generates an electric current dependent on the strength of the light. This electric current drives the pointer on the meter on the front of the meter.

The pointer, points to a scale of numbers. The light meter first needs to be set up correctly with the speed of the film (tab E and window D as described in the instructions), then the exposure dial is turned to point at the number the pointer in the electric meter is pointing at, and the range of aperture and speed combinations can be read from the scales F and G in the instructions.

One of the problems with using the meter was that the pointer would be moving up and down depending on where I was pointing the meter in the overall scene to be photographed. It was relatively stable in a scene where there was little change in light, but looking at a combination of river, buildings and sky, the meter would change considerably with minor changes in position.

The same challenge happens with digital photography, but again using an entirely manual method really gets you thinking about light.

Using the light meter on London Bridge (photo taken on my phone which handled light measurement, speed, aperture and automatically focused without me having to do anything – how photography has changed)

Leica

So, with film loaded, a reasonable understanding of how the camera and light meter worked, I went out for a walk to see if the camera worked, did the light meter still give accurate readings, and could I take photos using a Leica IIIg.

Back at home, the film was wound back into the cassette, posted to Aperture (who as well as repairing cameras, also develop and print), and I waited expectantly for 10 days for the negatives and prints to drop through the letter box.

The first photo taken by the Leica IIIg in over 40 years – looking to the north bank of the river from the south bank.

Leica

Much to my surprise, the photo came out well. The river, buildings and sky all gave different light readings, so I used an average to see what would happen.

I was not aiming to take photos of specific objects, or scenes of any historic or architectural value, it was just a random walk looking for different scenes to see how the photo would come out. This following photo did not do so well.

Leica

The photo is of the Frank Dobson sculpture “London Pride” in front of the National Theatre. The sculpture was backlit with bright sunshine, The photo works well for the National Theatre, but the sculpture is too dark.

A view across the river to St Paul’s:

Leica

The following photo did not work well. On the left was the brightly lit view across to the City. The view on the right should have been really good as shafts of sunlight were breaking through the tree cover onto the walkway. I had set the exposure for the view on the left, not the view through the trees.

Leica

Really not sure what happened with the following photo, but it seems out of focus.

Leica

Focusing needs to be set manually on the Leica IIIg. There is a separate viewing window to focus the view. Looking through this window and if the scene is out of focus, you will see two views of the same object, each slightly apart.

To focus the camera on the scene, you need to turn the lever adjacent to the lens, which should bring the two views of the scene together. When the views of the primary object in the scene meet as one, the camera is correctly focused.

The Anchor pub:

Leica

I was starting to get to grips with the light meter and camera, and took the following photo in Winchester Walk. Borough Market on the right and Southwark Cathedral at the end of the street.

Leica

I took the above photo as my father had used the same camera, 67 years ago to take a very similar view (I did not have the original with me, so I was not at exactly the right location). The same camera and lens – 2020 above and 1953 below:

Leica

The following photo was taken from London Bridge, where the colour photo earlier in the post with the light meter was taken. It was a difficult scene. Point the light meter at the sky and it would shoot up, down at the river and a much lower light reading. Going for an average reading seems to give a reasonable result.

Leica

I took the following photo as there was plenty of detail on the base of the monument, a building in the background, and the scene in relative shade due to the surrounding buildings.

Leica

View down Fish Street Hill to the church of St Magnus the Martyr:

Leica

The view looking up Gracechurch Street from Eastcheap:

Leica

Entrance to Monument Underground station in King William Street. I wanted to see if I could get the exposure right for the street scene and the steps below ground, and also focus on a close object and with the rest of the view in focus.

Leica

Construction site for the new entrance to Bank Underground station in Cannon Street with the tower of St Mary Abchurch in the background.

Leica

Temporary bike lane in Cannon Street. Pleased with this as both the adjacent barriers and the tower of St Paul’s at the end of the street are all in focus.

Leica

View down Laurence Pountney Lane:

Leica

Entrance to Cannon Street Station – I should have exposed more for the darker interior of the station, but I was trying to get the way the lights swept into the station.

Leica

Dowgate Hill at the side of Cannon Street Station, with the Strata Tower at the Elephant and castle in the distance:

Leica

One of my favourite City buildings – 30 Cannon Street:

Leica

The main entrance to 30 Cannon Street:

Leica

Really pleased with the above photo. Architectural photography is one of the areas where black and white photography seems to work well.

The St Lawrence Jewry Memorial Drinking Fountain at the top of Carter Lane. A good spot for skateboarding down into the lane.

Leica

Welcome To The City Of London – map near the visitor information center.

Leica

I took the above photo as I was interested in the level of detail that could be recorded on film. The map had lots of text and detail within the map, and the photo below is a small extract of the above. It shows that extracting a small part of the photo and enlarging still retains an excellent level of detail.

Leica

Walking down Ludgate Hill and I noticed this closed shop. Originally a “traditional” sweet shop, probably catering to the tourist trade on the route to and from St Paul’s Cathedral. Now closed and empty – possibly a victim of the lack of tourists for most of the year.

Leica

Looking up Ludgate Hill towards St Paul’s Cathedral – I have never seen it so quiet on a Sunday afternoon in late August.

Leica

Road works and temporary traffic lights looking down Ludgate Hill:

Leica

The film I was using was theoretically capable of 36 exposures, however I only managed 29 photos from the roll of film. I suspect I lost some at the start of the film by needing to trim an extra long length, then winding the film on too much to make sure it was on the take up spool and the rewind knob on the film cartridge was turning. Whilst this showed that the film was correctly loaded – it did waste some of the total number of photos that should have been available.

The camera does have a dial that shows the number of photos that have been taken, and the dial is manually set to zero before the first photo is taken, however the dial assumes the film is loaded with minimum film on the take up spool to give 36 exposures.

The final couple of photos on the film showed problems with double exposure, the following photo is an example. Not sure why as the film did appear to wind on correctly, but obviously a problem at the very end of the film.

Leica

The photos are very routine photos of the south bank of the river and the City of London, however, for me, they are very special.

They show that the Leica camera and the Weston light meter are working well, and that I have a basic understanding of how to use them.

There is something rather special taking photos with such a camera. The lens is over 70 years old, and was already taking photos of London in the late 1940s.

One of the problems of taking the “now” photos to compare with the photos from the 1940s and 1950s is that my current camera is so very different to the Leica. Completely different lens, different method of capturing the photo etc. This means that whilst I can take a “now” photo of the scene, it is never exactly the same as the original. What I hope to do is revisit the sites of my father’s original photos with the Leica and take new comparison photos. With the same lens and camera I should be able to get the new photos to be exact comparisons.

I also still have much to learn. The camera also came with a number of accessories such as an open frame sports viewfinder, red and yellow/green filters to add contrast to a black and white photo etc.  I suspect I will be experimenting with the Leica and film far more over the coming months.

alondoninheritance.com

The Queen’s London

The Queen’s London was published in 1896 and described as “A pictorial and descriptive record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis in the Fifty-Ninth Year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria”.

The book is a fascinating snapshot of London at the end of the 19th century and the last years of Victoria’s reign. It was a century that had seen considerable change across the city. Railways, Underground Trains, Sewers, new streets such as Queen Victoria Street, new cultural institutions, dramatic growth of the London Docks, industry, the emergence of a middle class.

It was these themes that the book portrayed, the Great Metropolis at the heart of an Empire on which the sun never set.

What the book did not show was the poverty, the impact of industrialisation, crowded and insanitary housing which was still to be found across large areas of the city.

The photos can look rather strange, almost a combination of photography and drawing. Some of the people in some of the photos look as if they have been added. This may all be down to the photographic and printing processes of the time.

The photos in the book change between photos that are instantly recognisable today (take away the horse and carts and replace by cars and the scene is almost the same). to photos of places which have changed beyond all recognition.

I was planning to do a then and now sequence of photos, but the current lock down has stopped that, although I have included a couple of examples. Hopefully something to revisit.

The photos and their supporting text also help understand how well known locations have developed, one such example is:

The Scottish Gathering at Stamford Bridge (1895)

Queen's London

The text with the photo states “Stamford Bridge, on the Fulham Road is the best known athletic ground in the Metropolis, being the headquarters of the London Athletic Club and the scene of the amateur championship competitions whenever they take place in London. The annual Scottish Gathering is one of the most popular fixtures held here”.

This is the same Stamford Bridge that 10 years later in 1905 would become the home for the newly formed Chelsea Football Club. Additional land was purchased around the ground, but the home of the London Athletic Club since 1877 would become the core of Chelsea’s ground. Another London ground featured in the book was:

Football At The Crystal Palace

Queen's London

The text states “Football has become so popular with all classes of the community that the Crystal Palace authorities were well advised in laying out a part of the fine gardens at Sydenham as a football ground. The lake was filled in for this purpose; and from the spectators point of view, there is no finer ground in the country. Our picture shows in progress the final tie for the Football Association Cup in the 1894-5 season. This match, the most exciting of the year under Association rules, was won by Aston Villa, who defeated West Bromwich Albion by a goal to nothing”.

Although Crystal Palace would not become a professional club for another 10 years (in 1905), Crystal Palace as an amateur team had been formed a couple of decades earlier to enable the cricketers of the Crystal Palace Company to play sport during the winter.

What I cannot work out with the photo is why the people in the immediate foreground appear to be standing on some form of terraced stand, so far back, with a grass space between them and the pitch.

St. Pancras Station: The Exterior

Queen's London

The railways, one of the great 19th century changes to London, here show by St. Pancras described as “this splendid Gothic pile, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, is ornate to a degree seldom seen in such structures, and is of a rich red, well calculated to defy the begriming effects of London’s atmosphere. The front, facing the Euston Road, constitutes the Hotel. The clock tower is the finest feature of the facade. On the right of the picture is shown the entrance to King’s Cross railway station, the terminus of the Great Northern Railway, with part of the station hotel”.

The interior was also featured:

St. Pancras Station: The Interior

Queen's London

“Without question, the London terminus of the Midland Railway Company can challenge favourable comparison with any other station in the world. The station itself is not so extensive as the Great Eastern terminus, in Liverpool Street, but it is said to have the largest roof, supported by a single pillar, in existence. This triumph of construction was designed by Mr. Barlow”.

It was not just railway stations that had wonderful 19th century arched roofs. Another was at the Agricultural Hall, Islington:

The Cattle Show, 1895

Queen's London

“Many Londoners never realise that Christmas is at hand until the Smithfield Club’s annual show of fat beasts is opened at the Agricultural Hall, Islington. Our view was taken after judging was completed, and on the notices above the exhibits are recorded the awards won, the weights, and the names of the butchers who had purchased the beasts for Christmas beef”.

Whilst the photo of the Agricultural Hall is clearly a photo, with the following example, it is not clear whether elements of the overall scene may have been drawn, or somehow added to the photo.

St. Clement Danes

Queen's London

Whilst the church is obviously a photo, I am not sure about the people. Look close and they just do not look right. Possibly the way the photo was printed, real people may have been enhanced in the process, or they may have been added.

The text states that “St. Clement Danes’ occupies a commanding position near the eastern end of the Strand. It was built in 1682, under the superintendence of Wren, the tower, however, being added in 1719; and it was restored in 1839. The tower is 115 feet high”.

Fleet Street, Looking East

Queen's London

“Our view shows this narrow, though main, thoroughfare, the headquarters of London journalism, in a characteristic state of bustle. On the left is the resplendent office of the Daily Telegraph, marked by an electric lamp, on the other side is the advertisement office of the Daily Chronicle. The figure of Atlas a little further on calls attention to the office of the World, and in the same court, which leads to St. Bride’s church, Mr Punch is at home”.

St. Saviour’s, Southwark

Queen's London

St. Saviour’s, Southwark became Southwark Cathedral in 1905, up till then the church had been known as St. Saviour’s, and much earlier, before the reformation, as the Priory Church of St Mary Overy.

I have no idea what the strange wooden contraption  is at the front right of the photo. It may have been part of restoration work on the building, which happened a number of times during the 19th century. In 1840 when the nave was rebuilt, with a later rebuild of the same nave as the earlier had been to such a poor standard.

The Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street

Queen's London

The Memorial Hall (the building in the centre of the photo with the tower), was built by the Congregationalists “in memory of the two thousand clergymen who, for their non-subscription to the Act of Uniformity, were deprived of their livings in 1662″.

The Act of Uniformity restored the Anglican Church and the two thousand clergymen refers to those with a Puritan leaning who could not support the restored church.

The building contained a hall capable of holding 1,500 people, a library and offices. The building occupied the site of the Fleet Prison and was demolished in 1968.

Another lost building is:

Columbia Market

Queen's London

“In the belief that one of the crying needs of London was ampler market provision, the philanthropic Baroness Burdett-Coutts had Columbia Market built in Bethnal Green, in the Columbia Road, off the Hackney Road, near Shoreditch Church”.

It was intended that the market would sell meat, fish and vegetables, however the market was never really a success. The central market was enclosed by residential buildings, originally named the Georgina Gardens, but were more often referred to as the Baroness Burdett-Coutts Buildings. The building was later taken over the by City of London and demolished in the 1950s.

Sloane Square

Queen's London

“Sloane Square, as well as other places in the neighbourhood, owes its name to Sir Hans Sloane, the founder of the British Museum who purchased the Manor of Chelsea early in the last century”.

Hampstead Heath: The Flagstaff With Approach To “Jack Straw’s Castle”

Queen's London

“That part of ever-attractive Hampstead Heath marked by the Flagstaff is one of the highest and breeziest points. Our view embraces part of the pond dear to dogs and horses; and ever attractive to children, and in winter to skaters of all ages”.

The view of the Flagstaff is one of the photos where people in the scene are obviously photographed, rather than added or enhanced as in a number of photos. Fascinating to see these late 19th century Londoners on the streets of the city.

Ostrich Feathers At Cutler Street Warehouses

Queen's London

The Cutler Street Warehouses in Houndsditch were owned by the London and St. Katherine’s Dock Company. Covering four acres and with a floor space of 630,000 feet, they provided a vast amount of storage space for goods of all kinds.

Ostrich feathers were classed as of “great value” and are shown in the photo being stored in the warehouses. The caption to the photo adds that “Such feathers such as those shown above may well have a fascination for all womankind, from a duchess to a coster’s sweetheart”.

Wentworth Street On Sunday Morning

Queen's London

“Wentworth Street is off Middlesex Street, once known as Petticoat Lone – and appropriately so, for it was the headquarters of the old cloth trade – not far from Aldgate Railway Station. In Wentworth Street, any Sunday morning, may be seen such a spectacle as is portrayed in our picture”.

Newgate Prison

Queen's London

“At the corner of Newgate Street and of the Old Bailey is the gloomy granite building which was once the chief prison in London, but is now only used for prisoners awaiting trial at the Central Criminal Court, and for those condemned to death”.

Although Newgate Prison was demolished many years ago, the pub on the corner, the Viaduct Tavern, is still there and looking over a very changed view.

Olympia

Queen's London

The Victorians made good use of the materials and ability to construct large spaces, covered by an arched roof. Railway stations, the Agricultural Hall in islington, and in the above photo, Olympia, providing, until Earl’s Court was built, the largest stage in London.

Olympia could seat ten thousand spectators and hosted shows such as Barnum’s Show, the Paris Hippodrome, the Spectacle of Nero, Venice in London, the Sporting and Military Show.

The text adds that an innovation at Olympia was the ability to reserve seats in all parts of the building.

The Strand, With St. Mary’s Church, Looking East

Queen's London

St Mary-le-Strand was designed by James Gibbs, the first of the so called fifty churches planned during the reign of Queen Anne. It was substantially completed in 1717. Today, the church sits on an island with the Strand passing on both sides. When the photo was taken, the Strand ran to the right, and the narrow street to the left of the street was Holywell Street, which would later be demolished to allow for widening of the Strand.

Old Weavers’ Houses At Bethnal Green

Queen's London

The photo is of Florida Street, Bethnal Green, a street that still exists but looks very different with all the old weavers houses demolished. Just think how much they would be worth now if they had survived.

View From St. Paul’s Looking South-West

Queen's London

The view of an industrial city, where chimneys competed with church towers. The shed of  Blackfriars station of the London, Chatham and Dover railway, with the railway bridge on the left long with Blackfriars Bridge. Waterloo Bridge in the distance.

I took a photo of the same scene a couple of years ago. The station is now hidden, and apart from the bridges, the only features which remain are the Houses of Parliament in the distance and in the foreground, the tower of St Andrew by the Wardrobe.

Queen's London

View from St. Paul’s Looking North-West

Queen's London

Paternoster Row is in the foreground of the above photo, an area that would be obliterated just under 50 years later. The tower of the Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street (earlier photo in the post) is the large building on the left. The church tower to upper right of centre is that of St. Andrew’s Holborn.

The same view today. The tower of St. Andrew’s Holborn is just visible in the upper centre of the photo.

Queen's London

The Old Bailey appears in the “now” photo and not in the 1896 photo, as work on this latest incarnation of the Old Bailey would not be started until 1902, opening in 1907. Even in the first years of the 20th century, the skyline of the city could change very quickly.

View From St. Paul’s Looking North-East

Queen's London

Again, an area that would see heavy damage almost 50 years later. In the centre of the photo is the distinctive tower of St Giles Cripplegate. In 120 years St Giles Cripplegate would just about remain visible in the same view.

Queen's London

In the above photo, apart from the church, there is just one other building that has remained. On the lower left of the above photo is a building on a street corner – this building can also be seen in the 1896 photo.

I wonder what the Victorian readers of The Queen’s London would have thought if they could have known what London would look like around 120 years later. Comparison photos like this always make me wonder what the same view will look like in another 120 years.

Cannon Street, Looking West

Queen's London

“This view of ever-busy Cannon Street is taken from the rising ground just east of the railway station of the South-Eastern and Metropolitan Companies. The church on the extreme right of the picture is St. Swithin’s with the exterior wall of which is incorporated an old stone, believed to be that from which distances on the British roads were measured during the Roman occupation”.

St. Swithin’s church is one of those lost during the last war. Badly damaged, the church was not rebuilt. The old stone referred to in the text is the London Stone, which can still be seen in Cannon Street, now located in a new housing.

Interior Of Charing Cross Station

Queen's London

Another of the iron and glass covered buildings of the 19th century, Charing Cross Station was the terminus of the South-Eastern Railway. The station included a Customs House where passengers arriving from the Continent were “examined”.

A London County Council Band In Battersea Park

Queen's London

The London County Council was responsible for many of the “improving” initiatives across London during the later decades of the 19th century. This included the organisation of a number of Council bands, funded by the council. The Queen’s London commented that “The Council’s bands, it must be said, are capitally organised, and no ratepayer with any music in his soul can feel that he does not get his money’s worth”.

The Lord Mayor’s Procession (1895) From Punch Office In Fleet Street

Queen's London

The 9th November 1895, and the new Lord Mayor, Sir Walter Wilkin is on his way to the Law Courts to be sworn in to his new role.

Covent Garden Market

Queen's London

“Covent Garden is, as all the world knows, the chief fruit, vegetable and flower market in London. it stands in a district abounding with the most interesting historic memories, but the present market buildings were only erected in 1831: and although they have been enlarged since then, they are quite inadequate for their purpose. Since the middle of the sixteenth century, Covent Garden has been the extremely profitable property of the Dukes of Bedford”.

The Dukes of Bedford ended their ownership of Covent Garden in 1913 when they sold the building and land. The estate is now owned by the listed company Capital & Counties Properties PLC.

Holborn Viaduct, From Farringdon Street

Queen's London

Holborn Viaduct was opened just 27 years before The Queen’s London was published. Before then, travelers had to pass along the descent of Holborn Hill. The text with the photo gives an indication of the importance of infrastructure within the city during the 19th century as the text remarked that a great deal of the engineering skill of the bridge, was in carrying the gas and water pipes across, without being visible.

The Monument

Queen's London

A photo from the time when the Monument still rose above the surrounding buildings. There is an indication of new services being rolled out across the city, with on the roof of the building to the left of the Monument, a telegraph pole, carrying the wires of the early telegraph / telephone system across the city.

Leicester Square

Queen's London

Leicester Square looking very different to today. The Alhambra Theatre of Varieties is the large building with domes on the roof. The brick building to the right is Archbishop Tenison’s Grammar School.

Euston Station

Queen's London

In the Queen’s London, Euston Station was described as having a “less lofty roof than any other London termini of the great railway lines; but it is the oldest of them all”. The book states that seventy trains go in and out of Euston daily; and that there are three hundred leavers in the station’s signal box.

In an indication of the expected readership of The Queen’s London, the text states that “the station presents a remarkably crowded appearance in August during the two or three days prior to the beginning of the shooting season in Scotland”.

The Palace Theatre

Queen's London

“It is generally admitted the the Palace Theatre is the most beautiful playhouse in London. Regardless of expense it was built for Mr R. D’Oyly Carte by Mr. T.T. Colcutt, the architect of the Imperial Institute, who was fortunate in obtaining such a splendid site as Cambridge Circus. The Royal English Opera House was opened with a great flourish of trumpets, and with the highest hopes on January 31st 1891, Sir Arthur Sullivan’s grand opera Ivanhoe being for the first time produced. But Mr. Carte’s operatic scheme did not gain the support it deserved, and in July of the following year, the name of he house was changed to the Palace Theatre”.

The Palace Theatre a couple of years ago, looking identical to 1896.

Queen's London

St. Batholomew’s Hospital: The West Entrance

Queen's London

The western edge of the hospital is similar today, but a very different hospital can be found behind. The church behind the gate is St. Bartholomew the Less, founded at the same time as the hospital.

In almost all of these photos, there are little details that add to an understanding of how London functioned at the time. There are some horse and carts in the centre of the above photo. Enlarging these we can read the text on the side.

Queen's London

These were the “white vans” of the time – the delivery vehicles of the Great Eastern railway. The one on the right being number 224 from the Bricklayers Arms Station, Old Kent Road. These, along with carts from the other railway companies, would be seen all across London, collecting and delivering goods for transport on the railways.

Drury Lane, Theatre Royal

Queen's London

Drury Lane Theatre was founded in 1663. The building shown in the photo was built between 1811 and 1812. The Queen’s London refers to the theatre being famous for its Christmas pantomimes.

The Mile End Road

Queen's London

The view is looking east along the Mile End Road from the junction with Cambridge Heath Road.

On the left of the photo is the Vine Tavern, a pub possibly dating back to 1625, but demolished not long after the photo was taken, in 1903. If the photographer had looked to the left, we would see the pub on the corner of Mile End Road and Cambridge Heath Road – the White Heart – a pub which is still there today.

The Victoria Embankment, From Westminster Bridge

Queen's London

The photo is from Westminster Bridge, with one of the “floating steam boat piers” shown to lower left. Two of the steamboats that carried passengers between piers along the river are seen. The lower boat is now on its way to London Bridge, whist the second boat is arriving at Westminster Bridge, before departing for Chelsea – a 19th century version of the Thames Clippers that transport passengers along the river today.

The Queen’s London provides a snapshot of London at the very end of the 19th century. The city had changed much over the previous century, and would change again during the following 100 years. Considerable damage during the Second World War, the loss of industry and the docks, and the growth in height of many of the new buildings of the later decades of the 20th century.

The Queen’s London also provided a very positive view of London, from a particular perspective. The nearest the book gets to showing working class homes are the Weavers Houses of Florida Street. There are no photos of the crowded and poor condition housing that remained.

Given how much has changed, many of the scenes are still very similar, and if a reader from 1896 was standing on Westminster Bridge today, the view would still be very familiar.

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A Very Different London

Last Monday afternoon, I had to take a relative to Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital at London Bridge (fortunately nothing to do with the Coronavirus). The hospital had advised not to take public transport, so the only other option was to drive.

Although this was before the formal lock down and the direction to stay at home, I had already stopped walking around London and was missing the experience of walking the city, particularly as the weather was so good.

To take advantage of a drive up to London Bridge, I mounted a GoPro camera on the dash of the car and left it filming the journey there and back.

It was a London I had not seen before on a Monday afternoon, more like an early Sunday morning. Very few people on the streets and not much traffic. I cannot remember driving in central London on a weekday without any queues. The only time I needed to stop was at traffic lights.

A frightening reminder of the impact of the virus.

The weather was sunny and bright and perhaps due to the lack of traffic on the roads and therefore reduced pollution, the air seemed clearer and the views of distant objects more sharp than usual.

The following are a sample of views from my journey. The GoPro was set in Wide mode, hence the format of the photos, clicking on any photo will show the view full screen.

Starting on the Cromwell Road, passing the Natural History Museum. Normally the pavement would be full, with queues up to the main door of the museum. On a Monday afternoon, the pavements were clear and the museum closed.

A very different London

Further along the Victoria and Albert Museum, again closed and facing onto empty streets.

A very different London

Driving along a quiet Brompton Road alongside Harrods. Hardly anyone to be seen, and a single optimistic taxi waiting outside the closed store.

A very different London

Knightsbridge and one of the entrances to Knightsbridge underground station on the left. The Mandarin Oriental hotel is on the left after the station entrance. Normally the street outside the hotel is full of chauffeur driven cars, but now the street was empty.

A very different London

Up to Hyde Park Corner with the Wellington Arch in the centre and Apsley House on the left after the entrance to Hyde Park. Normally continuous traffic on this busy junction and lots of people crossing the road, but today very quiet.

A very different London

Along Broad Sanctuary with the entrance to Westminster Abbey on the right and the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on the left. Normally a tourist hotspot for the abbey.

A very different London

Parliament Square at the junction with Parliament Street.

A very different London

Crossing Westminster Bridge with only a couple of walkers across the length of the bridge.

A very different London

End of the bridge with the Park Plaza hotel.

A very different London

York Road with the new entrance to Waterloo Underground Station on the left. Waterloo Station is behind the office block on the right. Normally busy streets with lots of people crossing the road from station to the South Bank and Hungerford Bridge.

A very different London

Stamford Street empty of people and traffic. The South Bank Tower (formerly Kings Reach Tower) is the tower on the left and the One Blackfriars tower on the right.

A very different London

At the junction of Marshalsea Road and Borough High Street, with the stunning church of St George the Martyr opposite.

A very different London

The journey to London Bridge took me along the south side of the river from Westminster Bridge. On the return journey, I crossed Tower Bridge and headed north of the river.

Crossing Tower Bridge and there was very little traffic and even fewer people.

A very different London

Along Tower Hill and there was no one to be seen. As we passed, i had a look down the space where the Tower ticket offices and entrance are located and the place was empty.

A very different London

A very quiet Embankment.

A very different London

At the junction of Northumberland Avenue and Trafalgar Square.

A very different London

Piccadilly Circus. Just a couple of people sitting on the steps of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain.

A very different London

Piccadilly, approaching the Ritz, again, empty.

A very different London

This was a very different London, a London that I never thought I would see, and never wanted to see, but it was good to see that so many people had heeded advice and were staying away from the streets. The only places where we saw work ongoing was at a number of the building sites across the city.

The NHS staff at Guy’s and St Thomas were as usual so considerate and caring, and doing a superb job under pressure.

I will certainly never take the freedom to walk the streets for granted again.

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A Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

The photos from Hungerford Bridge for last Sunday’s post were part of a walk over the New Year from Tower Bridge to Westminster. I sometimes think that at this time of the year, London looks better after dark than during the short, grey days when a low sun and cloud cover conspire to subdue the city. Having said that, a sunny winter’s day brings out all that is best in the city.

I also take plenty of photos, because the city keeps changing, and because I just find all aspects of the city fascinating. For a mid-week post, here is a selection showing just how good the city looks when the grey sky is hidden by the dark of night, and the lights are on across London.

I started on the south bank of the river, looking back at Tower Bridge:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

And across to the Tower of London:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

The ever growing number of office towers in the City:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

London seems to have hit peak Christmas Market, and now wooden sheds selling vaguely Christmas related products can be found anywhere across the city where high footfall and  tourists are likely to congregate. Along the south bank, they start near Tower Bridge and can then be found dotted along the route to the London Eye.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Hay’s Galleria, the old Hay’s Wharf with more Christmas market themed shops.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Themed sculpture trails have been a trend of the last few years, and this year London Bridge City (another trend whereby areas of the City are given brand names to promote a sense of identity, usually by the corporations who own large areas of the city) are hosting a sculpture trail where twelve of Raymond Briggs Snowman characters have been individually decorated to represent the twelve days of Christmas.

The is “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” by Jodie Silverman:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Crossing London Bridge, it was down into Borough Market. Very quiet at this time of the evening, with the majority of stalls packing up, although hot mulled wine was still available.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Brightly lit interiors contrast with the dark of the exterior arches.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Borough Market:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Taking a photo of someone else taking a photo – Monmouth Coffee in Stoney Street by Borough Market:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Pubs always look very welcoming at this time of year – the Market Porter on the corner of Stoney Street and Park Street:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

The Anchor, Bankside:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Many of London’s bridges are now part of the Illuminated River project where the intention is to light up each bridge with a unique lighting scheme from the Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge. Many of the inner City bridges have been completed and the aim is to complete the rest during 2020.

This is Southwark Bridge:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

A good place to view the project is where multiple bridges can be seen at the same time. The following photo is looking back at Southwark Bridge, Cannon Street Railway Bridge and London Bridge.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

The Illuminated River project will be in place for 10 years, after which the lighting and associated running and maintenance costs will be transferred to the bridge owners.

The changing light schemes across multiple bridges does focus the attention on the river rather than the surrounding buildings which is good.

A short distance along are the buildings that are part of the Globe Theatre complex on the corner of Bankside and New Globe Walk. Very different to the Emerson Wharf building that once stood on the site.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Entrance to Blackfriars Station on the south bank of the river:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Passing Blackfriars Bridge and this is the view looking over to the north bank of the river:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

The three cranes are part of the construction site for the Thames Tideway Tunnel, which will also be one of the intercept points between the existing sewage system and the new tunnel.

On the right is the Unilever Building. The illuminated building in the centre is the old City of London School.

Further along we come to the South Bank complex, and here is a good point to look back towards the lights of the City, framed by the Oxo Tower on the right and St Paul’s Cathedral on the left.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Fast food on the South Bank:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

South Bank walking:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

The night and lighting softens the architecture of the buildings along the South Bank. This is the National Theatre:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Evening book browsing and selling under Waterloo Bridge:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

The South Bank has many restaurants, and during the Christmas period, these dining pods are a colourful addition:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Opposite is the under croft of the Queen Elizabeth hall which from 1973 has been used for skateboarding:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Threatened with closure in 2013 / 2014, the space has been saved and refurbished and continues to offer a long term space for skateboarding on the South Bank.

Possibly a bit optimistic for mid -winter is this ice cream van:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Illuminations between the Royal Festival Hall and the river:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

From here, I crossed over the river to take the photos from the Golden Jubilee Bridge for last week’s post, then continued up to just north of Trafalgar Square, where the London Coliseum looks impressive after dark:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Seven St Martin’s Place is between the church of St Martin in the Fields and William IV Street and faces the Edith Cavell Memorial. Back in July i wrote a post about the building which at the  time was undergoing conversion to a hotel.

That conversion now appears to be complete and the hotel open.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

One of the reasons for my interest in the building was the future of the sculptured panels on the facade of the building facing St Martin’s Place. These panels were the work of Hubert Dalwood, a sculptor in the Modern British movement.

The conversion looks complete and I am really pleased that the panels are in their original position, and look to continue to decorate the building in its new function.

Whilst much of the West End was relatively quiet, Leicester Square was busy, with the central square being occupied with another Christmas Market (further confirming that London must by now have reached peak Christmas market).

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Brightly lit market stall in Leicester Square:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

The surroundings of Leicester Square were full, and the area continues as a centre for the brands that attract the tourist trade.

In the following photo, a reminder of the old Swiss Centre is in the centre, with the M&M store on the right.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Directly opposite is the Lego Store, and whilst walking between the two stores you can still get your portrait drawn.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Trying to avoid the crowds, I headed down Waterloo Place, across the Mall, then into Horse Guards Road, and there was not a person in sight.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Apart from a single walker, I did not see anyone whilst walking the full length of Horse Guards Road between the Mall and Birdcage Walk.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

An empty Horse Guards Road:

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

Westminster was the destination of the walk from Tower Bridge and here Westminster Abbey was looking impressive against a dark sky. Again, the area was deserted apart from a couple of people looking in the window of the closed visitor centre.

Winter Walk from Tower Bridge to Westminster

And then it was back to Westminster Underground Station. Although this was a walk along what could be described as the tourist focused areas of the city, it is always a pleasure to walk alongside the river, and it is fascinating to see how London is evolving.

Also, London does look really good after dark.

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The View from Hungerford Bridge – 1985 and 2020

I usually try to get in a couple of evening walks in that quiet period just after Christmas and before the main return to work at the start of January. This year, part of one of these walks crossed the River Thames using the Golden Jubilee walkways alongside Hungerford Bridge. I wanted to photograph the same scenes as 35 years ago in 1985, and to have a look at what has changed. Although the formal name of the crossing is the Golden Jubilee Bridge, I have called the post the view from Hungerford Bridge, as this was the original 1985 walkway and seems to be the most used name for the crossing.

This was the view in 1985, looking south across the river towards the Royal Festival Hall.

View from Hungerford Bridge

The same view 35 years later:

View from Hungerford Bridge

The viewpoint is slightly different, as seen by the different location of the tall office block on the left, however the area around the Royal Festival Hall is still an illuminated focal point on the South Bank.

The 1985 photo does include a feature that was a focal point of the South Bank. To the left of the Royal Festival Hall was a tall, illuminated lattice structure. The coloured lights were continuously changing.

I was working on the South Bank for much of the 1980s, and these ever changing lights were always in the background when working or walking in the area after dark. I moved abroad for a few years at the end of the decade, and cannot remember when these lights disappeared. It is these subtle changes that are so easy to miss.

The following photo shows a detailed section from the original 1985 photo, which includes the lights, and also another unique feature from the 1980s.

View from Hungerford Bridge

In a previous post on London postcards, I included one of a large birthday cake created by the Greater London Council on the South Bank as an exhibition and celebration of 95 years of the London County Council / Greater London Council. I had visited the exhibition within the cake, and taken photos, but had not yet scanned the negatives. In scanning negatives I finally found some which included the GLC cake.

This can be seen in the 1985 photo above, and also in the extract, which does give an indication of the size of the cake, and how incongruous a traditionally decorated birthday cake looked against the concrete architecture of the South Bank.

The following photo is from the original postcard which shows the cake close up.

View from Hungerford Bridge

There was also some event advertising along the front of the Royal Festival Hall. The following is an extract from the 1985 photo which shows this advertising along the front of the building.

View from Hungerford Bridge

The red banner requests “Keep GLC Working for the Arts in London”. The mid 1980s was a time of conflict between the Thatcher led Conservative Government and the Labour majority Greater London Council led by Ken Livingstone.

This resulted in the 1985 Local Government Act which dissolved the GLC in 1986. Campaigns by the GLC could not influence the majority of the Conservative Government, and at the time there were serious concerns about future funding of South Bank complex. Probably one of the reasons why now the majority of the exterior ground level of the Royal Festival Hall is occupied by commercial businesses.

In the centre of the hall, there is a banner advertising that “EROS: Back in Town at the Royal Festival Hall”. I had completely forgotten about this, but in the 1980s the statue on the top of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Circus (so I assume technically correct to state Eros, which is frequently applied to the whole fountain), had been removed for restoration.

Prior to the return of the statue to Piccadilly Circus in 1985, it was displayed for a short period in the Royal Festival Hall.

The banner on the right advertises the “Mars London Marathon Exhibition” in advance of the marathon which took place in April of that year. Perhaps strange now that a health focused event would be sponsored by a brand such as Mars, but at the time (and for many years previously), the energy giving benefits of glucose were a major advertising feature of Mars bars.

The following 1985 photo again shows the GLC cake, and also the Festival Pier.

View from Hungerford Bridge

The same view from a slightly different angle, as to the right, the Kings Reach Tower office block now appears from behind the square office block of what was London Weekend Television.

View from Hungerford Bridge

A similar view in 2020 is shown in the photo below. The Kings Reach Tower building is now much taller having had several floors added during conversion of the block from offices to apartments.  The future of the old London Weekend Television building (known after the closure of London Weekend Television as the London Studios and operated by ITV) is not clear. ITV moved out of the complex a few years ago, originally intending to return to refurbished studios, but they now uses studios at the redeveloped BBC Television Centre site in White City. I am sure that this high value location on the South Bank will become yet more expensive apartments.

View from Hungerford Bridge

The following 1985 photo is looking along the river towards Waterloo Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London.

View from Hungerford Bridge

In the above photo, the cathedral stands clear, as does the old Nat West Tower to the right. This building, now called Tower 42, was the tallest building in the City.

The same view today is shown in the following photo. The Nat West Tower is now dwarfed and almost lost by the City developments of the last few decades.

View from Hungerford Bridge

The following 1985 view is of the north bank of the river from the Hungerford Bridge walkway. The brightly lit building is the wonderful 1931, Grade II listed, Shell-Mex House, occupied at the time by Shell UK.  The building is now known as 80 Strand. To the left is the Adelphi building, and the Savoy on the right.

View from Hungerford Bridge

The same view today, although a bit later in the evening so a somewhat darker sky. The front of the Shell-Mex building is covered in sheeting as part of an ongoing refurbishment.

View from Hungerford Bridge

Walking along the walkway towards the north bank, and this was the 1985 view from Hungerford Bridge looking towards the Embankment.

View from Hungerford Bridge

The same view in 2020:

View from Hungerford Bridge

The Embankment is much the same, however the main change is the scale of the Embankment Pier. This is a relatively small feature in the 1985 photo, which has since been replaced by a much larger pier by the 2020 photo. This is indicative of the considerable growth in passenger transport along the Thames in the 35 years since 1985, when river piers were mainly used for tourist focused cruises of the river. The opening of the Thames Clipper Service in 1999 has contributed significantly to passenger traffic on the river, with the resulting upgrades and additions of river piers to support this traffic.

The main change between 1985 and 2020 has been the bridge across the river from which the photos were taken.

In 1985 there was only a single walkway on the side of the bridge looking towards the City. It was a narrow walkway, frequently covered in large puddles of water, and from experience, not somewhere that you would really want to walk across late at night.

The following photo shows the original walkway:

View from Hungerford Bridge

Today, there is a walkway on either side of Hungerford Bridge. Officially named the Golden Jubilee Bridge, these new walkways were completed in 2002 and provide a considerably improved walking route between the north and south banks of the River Thames.

With the growth of attractions and events along the South Bank, the number of people walking across the bridges has grown considerably. According to the website of the architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, who with engineering company WSP, won the competition for the bridges, they are the busiest walking routes across the river in London, with 8.4 million pedestrians in 2014.

The following photo is the view south along the walkway, towards the Royal Festival Hall.

View from Hungerford Bridge

A view during the day of the Golden Jubilee bridge:

View from Hungerford Bridge

The architects state that the bridges “are slung from inclined pylons that pay homage to similar structures created for the 1951 Festival of Britain, held on the adjoining South Bank”.

As evidence of this, the following photo was taken by my father from the southern end of Hungerford bridge, just after the Festival of Britain had closed, and shows the structures referenced by the architects.

View from Hungerford Bridge

The view looking north along the walkway towards the illuminated buildings above Charing Cross Station.

View from Hungerford Bridge

One final photo before I headed off north of the river – the Embankment from the walkway looking unusually quiet:

View from Hungerford Bridge

The Golden Jubilee Bridge is a considerable improvement over the previous walkway and provides a wonderful location to look at a spectacular view of the river, north and south banks, and the City, whether by day or night. The second walkway on the other side of Hungerford Bridge provides superb views towards Westminster.

The opening up of a walking route from the South Bank through Bankside and to Tower Bridge and beyond, along with attractions such as the London Eye and growth in the numbers of bars and restaurants has significantly increased walking across the river, along with the always present use of the bridge as a route between the north bank of the river and Waterloo Station.

Use of the river has grown since 1985 as evidenced by the considerably enlarged Embankment Pier.

In another 35 years time, the Royal Festival Hall will be just over 100 years old – it will be interesting to see how the area changes in the coming decades. One change I suspect will happen is the growth of tower blocks on the south bank beyond Waterloo Bridge and across the City. The area around the old London Weekend Television tower block and the London Studios will certainly look very different.

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My Tea Shop – Duke Street Hill

A rare week day post today with a short account of just one of the small changes that take place every day all across London.

I was at London Bridge Station earlier this week, and noticed that a cafe photographed in 1986 had changed to a kebab shop. I think the change was relatively recent, but it is indicative of small changes across the streets of the city that can easily go unnoticed.

Duke Street Hill runs from the junction with Borough High Street down to Tooley Street, alongside the brick railway viaduct that exits London Bridge Station on the route to Cannon Street Station, and with a couple of entrances to London Bridge Underground Station.

The area was very different in 1986 when the following photo was taken, the rebuild of London Bridge Station was still some years in the future and at number 23 Duke Street Hill was My Tea Shop:

My Tea Shop

This was in the years before Starbucks, Costa, Pret and the multiple other chains and individual specialist coffee shops and cafes spread across London and My Tea Shop was representative of the type of small cafe serving Londoners in the mid 1980s.

It was small, served a brilliant breakfast, and also had a rather unusual name.

Their target market was those looking for breakfast and lunch, being open from 7 in the morning till 2:30 in the afternoon. A cup of tea cost 20p, and bacon, egg, and two sausages could be had for £1.05

This is the same location today, with the site of My Tea Shop now occupied by Londoner kebabs.

My Tea Shop

I took a wider view to the 1986 photo to show the exact location. The entrance to London Bridge Underground Station is on the left of the photo.

The fascia has completely changed to align with the new business, however I do hope the original sign was left underneath the new sign which projects forward from the wall.

To prove this is the same location (as there are no location specific indicators in the 1986 photo), brick patterns offer a useful confirmation and the following two photos show the wall to the right of the cafe in 1986 (left) and 2019 (right) and the brick patterns, including those I have circled, confirm this is the same location.

My Tea Shop

The type of cafe that My Tea Shop was a good example of, were once relatively common across London, but changing tastes, populations, high rents, growth of global chains, have all contributed to their decline.

I am not sure when My Tea Shop closed, I have walked past many times and not noticed, it was only because I had 30 minutes of spare time that I had a walk to take a closer look at how the area has changed that I noticed – such is the way of gradual change. It was also then that I realised it was one of the many locations in my collection of 1980s photos.

Google Street View shows the cafe still as My Tea Shop in 2015. By 2017, the cafe had changed to My Tea & Coffee Shop, perhaps trying to respond to the change from tea to coffee drinking and the challenge from the chain coffee shops. In January 2018, the cafe was still My Tea & Coffee Shop, but by 2019 had changed to the Kebab Shop we see today.

I do not know when the cafe first opened, but it seems as if My Tea Shop was open for at least 30 years.

The ever-changing London street scene.

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London In Pictures – A London County Council 1937 Guide

The London County Council (LCC) along with the metropolitan boroughs, transformed London.

The LCC was responsible for the coordination and provision of a wide range of services across London, for example the growth of council provided housing, education, provision of medical services, parks and gardens, infrastructure and consumer services. The LCC, along with authorities such as the Metropolitan Water Board, the London Passenger Transport Board, the London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Borough Councils transformed London from the 19th century city to the city we recognise today.

The London County Council produced a considerable number of publications on almost any aspect of the running and organisation of a major city that you could imagine. Within these publications there is a common theme – a considerable pride in the city and the services that the LCC provided to Londoners.

Much of this can look strange from a 21st century viewpoint – too intrusive, too organising, too much “authority knows best”. However with austerity, drastic reductions in council services, library closures, funding challenges for the NHS, Police and Education, the past can look deceptively attractive, but dig deeper and comparisons are never simple.

I have collected a wide range of LCC publications over the years, they provide considerable insight into the development of the city from the formation of the LCC in 1889 until the transfer to the Greater London Council in 1965.

For this week’s post, I would like to feature a publication which provides an overview of all the services provided by the LCC and other London authorities. A snapshot in one specific year – 1937.

This is London In Pictures – Municipal London Illustrated.

London County Council

London in Pictures is a guide-book, but a guide-book with a difference as the foreward to the book describes:

“Many London guide books are published every year and many picture books illustrating the external beauties of London streets and street scenes and buildings of architectural and historic interest. None of these publications, however, devotes adequate attention, even if any notice at all be given, to the municipal interests of London”

The guide-book was targeted at visitors to, and those on holiday in London, and the foreward goes on to explain that if the visitor can understand the government of the city and how London is delivering municipal activities, they can take back this knowledge to help solve problems in their own town or city. Possibly a very limited readership, but again, this demonstrates the LCC’s pride in the way that London was administered and the services provided to the city’s inhabitants.

The book is divided into sections focusing on a specific aspect of the LCCs services, so lets start with – Block Dwellings built by the Council.

In 1937 the LCC owned around 25,000 flats across London. These were typically in estates with blocks of flats to a common design, however many designs were unique and still look good today.

One of these was the Oaklands Estate in Clapham. This estate occupied around 3 acres and provided 185 dwellings with a total of 582 rooms. The estate was built between 1935 and 1936 and the following photo is of Eastman House on the Oaklands Estate.

London County Council

The Clapham Park Estate is of the more traditional London County Council design. This is a view of Lycett and Cotton Houses on the estate which was built between 1930 and 1936, with the overall estate comprising 759 dwellings.

London County Council

The LCC also developed Council Cottage Estates. These estates consisted of houses and smaller flats, providing a low-rise appearance and reduced housing density. This is the Old Oak Estate – the estate which is located between Westway (the A40 road) and Wormwood Scrubs.

London County Council

In 1937 the Old Oak Estate consisted of 1,055 houses and flats.

Occupying around 202 acres of land across Chislehurst and Sidcup districts was the Mottingham Estate. In 1937 the estate consisted of 2,356 houses and flats with further growth planned by the reservation of space for a cinema, shops, schools and a church and 25.5 acres of open space.

London County Council

Londoners also needed education and the London County Council designed new school buildings with large windows for natural lighting, assembly halls, gymnasium, libraries and rooms designed for specific subjects such as science and art. The book highlights that LCC schools were provided with hot water facilities (with the implication that earlier schools lacked this feature).

This is the King’s Park School in Eltham. The senior school in the two storey block with the single storey infant school to the right.

London County Council

As well as education, health care was important, and in 1937 the NHS was still a distant dream. In 1930 the LCC took over responsibility for hospitals controlled by Boards of Guardians and the Metropolitan Asylums Board. This allowed the council to start a programme of modernisation and standardisation of health services across the city and in 1937 there were 43 general hospitals and 31 special hospitals controlled by the LCC.

This is the Operating Theatre and X-Ray Unit completed in 1936 at St. Mary Abbots Hospital, Kensington.

London County CouncilAs with new schools, LCC designed hospitals also featured large windows to maximise natural lighting and a belief in the importance of fresh air to aid recovery. This is the Sun Balcony at St. Olave’s Hospital:London County Council

One of the departments within the London County Council was the rather 1984 Orwellian named “Public Control Department”.

This department had a wide range of services which today would be included within the scope of departments such as Trading Standards.

The Public Control Department was responsible for services such as for weights and measures, testing of gas meters, control and storage of petrol, licensing employment agencies and massage establishments, administration of the Shops Act, diseases of animals, sale of fertilizers and animal feed stuffs and the registration of theatrical employees.

The following three photos from the book show the type of activities carried out by the Public Control Department. The first is testing a weighbridge:

London County Council

Measuring the weight of a sack of coal to ensure that the contents met the specified and charged for weight:

London County Council

Checking the weights and measures in a shop:

London County Council

The London County Council became the local education authority for London in 1904, and was responsible for:

  • To co-ordinate the activities of its predecessors, the School Board for London and the Technical Education Board,
  • To place those elementary schools provided by voluntary bodies on the same basis as regards maintenance as those provided by the Council itself,
  • To establish a system of secondary schools linked to the elementary schools by a scholarship scheme,
  • To reorganise the former ‘night schools’ into a comprehensive system of continuative education,
  • To expand technical, commercial and art education,
  • To build up a system of school medical inspection and treatment, and of special schools for children with physical and mental defects.

In 1937 the LCC was responsible for nearly 800,000 pupils. 512,000 under the age of 14, with 125,000 between 14 and 18 and a further 163,000 in adult education.

An annual nativity play by junior boys and girls:

London County Council

Mid-morning milk at a junior school:

London County Council

Practical work – Domestic Subjects:

London County Council

Residential schools in camp:

London County Council

The scope of education covered by the London County Council included training colleges which focused on specific subjects and skill sets. These colleges included teacher training colleges and in the photo below, poultry farming:

London County Council

A teacher training college:

London County Council

The London County Council was also responsible of the main drainage services for London, which in 1937 meant servicing the needs of 5.5 million people.

The main treatment works were at Beckton, which dealt with 280 million gallons of sewage a day, with effluent being discharged into the river, and 2 million tons a year of solid matter being dumped at sea by a fleet of four, wonderfully named “sludge vessels”.

This view is of part of the 7.5 miles of aeration channels at Beckton:London County Council

An example of the tunnels that transported sewage for treatment – 10 foot and 11.5 foot diameter sewers:

London County Council

Included within the wide range of infrastructure services for which the LCC was responsible were ferries, tunnels and piers, including the Rotherhithe Tunnel:

London County Council

Greenwich Pier:

London County Council

And the Woolwich Ferry, which in 1937 carried 4,000 vehicles and 7,000 pedestrians daily between the weekday hours of 6 a.m. and midnight.

London County Council

Originally, fire brigade services had been built up across London by private enterprises such as insurance companies, however by the 1860s, the costs of providing the service were escalating and the insurance companies requested that the Government took over the service.

This was achieved by the 1865 Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act which consolidated the individual services into a single, London fire service.

In 1889 the London County Council took over the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and in 1904 the name was changed to the London Fire Brigade.

In 1937 the new headquarters building and fire station for the London Fire Brigade on the Albert Embankment had only just been completed. The fire services moved from this building a few years ago, and it is currently being redeveloped, however it will retain a link with the fire service as the London Fire Brigade museum is planned to return to a new and upgraded facility within the building.

In 1937, the London Fire Brigade were equipped with a range of leading edge appliances, including a Hose Lorry:

London County Council

And a Breakdown Lorry:

London County Council

The London Docks were a high fire risk, due to the dense storage of large amounts of inflammable materials, with probably a lack of attention to fire prevention measures. The following photo from the book shows a typical fire that the London Fire Brigade had to deal with, a large fire in July 1935 at Iceland Wharf, Old Ford.

London County Council

The Municipal Hospitals of London were the responsibility of the London County Council, with 74 hospitals taken over from the Boards of Guardians and Metropolitan Asylums Board.

In 1937, these hospitals contained at total of 38,500 beds. This was before the establishment of the NHS, so treatment was not free for all. The book explains that “Admission may usually be secured on the certificate of a private doctor, without any suggestion of poor law ‘taint’, and except in certain circumstances, patients are required to contribute according to their means.”

The Children’s Ward at a LCC hospital:

London County Council

A London County Council hospital operating theatre:

London County Council

The London County Council also ran medical inspections and treatment of school children. Children would be ‘inspected’ at the ages of 7, 11 and between the ages of 13 and 14. This included dental inspections with the possibility of follow-up treatment at 74 medical and dental treatment centres across London.

Probably a nightmare for most children – school dental treatment:

London County Council

A minor ailment centre:

London County Council

The London County Council set-up the London Ambulance Service in 1915, initially to focus on street accidents. There was a separate ambulance service run by the Metropolitan Asylums Board, which was used for the transfer of patients with infectious diseases, and another service run by the Boards of Guardians. All these services came under the central control of the LLC in 1930 under the Local Government Act of 1929.

The interior of a 1930s ambulance:

London County Council

Control of ambulances was from County Hall and an ambulance could be summoned by calling WATerloo 3311.

in 1937 there were 153 ambulances covering London. These were based at 6 large ambulance stations and 16 smaller stations. By comparison in the financial year 2017/18 the London Ambulance Service consisted of over 1,100 vehicles based at 70 ambulance stations and support offices across London. In the same year the service dealt with 1.9 million 999 calls – a truly extraordinary number.

If you needed an ambulance in 1937, this is the vehicle that would arrive:

London County Council

Parks and Open Space were also the responsibility of the London County Council, with a total of 6,647 acres of space managed by a staff of 1,500.

The LCC provided and managed parks such as Battersea Park, as well building and managing facilities within parks, such as the open-air swimming pool at Victoria Park:

London County Council

One of the responsibilities of the LCC, in the terms used in the 1937 book was the “Care of the Mentally Afflicted”. The LCC had started to change how mental health was treated with a move from the custodial approach to proper nursing care, however it was a very institutionalised approach with 20 hospitals and institutions providing treatment for 33,600 patients from a staff of 9,000.

This is Forest House, the admission and convalescent villa in Claybury Hospital:

London County Council

In the same hospital, the Needleroom where “many patients can still do useful work”.

London County Council

The guide-book also included the other governance authorities within London, including the City of London Corporation. This included the City markets, with this superb aerial view of the London Central Markets at Smithfield:

London County Council

And a very quiet Spitalfields Market:

London County Council

The other key element of London governance were the Metropolitan Borough Councils. These were formed by the 1899 London Government Act and were responsible for a number of local services such as the collection of refuse and the maintenance of streets.

In 1937, 16 out of a total of 28 borough councils were still electricity supply authorities, having their own local generation and distribution capabilities. These services would not consolidate further until after the war with the creation of the Central Electricity Generation Board and the regional distribution boards, such as the London Electricity Board.

The establishment of the Metropolitan Borough Councils resulted in the building of impressive Town Halls across London. The book includes a night view of St. Marylebone Town Hall:

London County Council

Municipal Borough Councils also provided local facilities, for example, local parks and playgrounds, libraries and swimming pools.

One impressive example in 1937 was the Poplar Swimming Bath and the books show how the same building could support very different uses:

London County Council

In 1937. the London docks were still major centres of trade. Containerisation and the shift of ports from inland rivers to coastal centres such as Southampton and Felixtowe was still decades in the future.

The Port of London Authority was responsible for the management of the ports and river. In 1937 the Port of London dealt with more shipping than any other UK port and over a third of UK overseas trade passed through London. In 1937, approximately 43 million tons of goods were managed through the London docks.

A ship entering the King George V Dock:

London County Council

The Wine Gauging Grounds operated by the Port of London Authority:

London County Council

London County Council publications are always fascinating and London in Pictures provides a really good overview of the governance of London and the breadth and depth of the services provided by the LCC.

Two years after the guide was published, the Second World War would bring devastation to the city, but would also mark one of those break points in history with, for example, the coming NHS taking over the provision and considerable expansion of health services.

The London Docks would soon start their gradual decline which would end in the closure of all central London docks. The population of London would also reverse the centuries long expansion and would go into a decline that would only start to recover in the 1980s.

Council house provision would reduce to almost nothing and “right to buy” would transfer council owned accommodation into private ownership.

The 1937 guide therefore provides a snapshot of LCC services at the end of an era.

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