Category Archives: London Streets

Where the Victoria Line breaks through an Islington Square

Islington is full of wonderful squares. Created during the first half of the 19th century as London expanded over the agricultural fields that once characterised so much of Islington. Individual developers built terrace streets and often included squares where the houses benefited from a central garden.

These squares offered a peaceful place to live. Away from the traffic and noise of Upper Street and Essex Road, but still with easy travel into the heart of the city. One such square is Gibson Square, however the tranquility of Gibson Square was lost in 1970 when the Victoria Line burst through the surface of the gardens with a rather ornately designed ventilation shaft that now emits the noise of fans across the square.

Construction of the Victoria Line commenced in 1962 following completion of an earlier test tunnel. The line was opened in stages, with the Walthamstow Central to Highbury and Islington section opening in September 1968, with Highbury and Islington extending to Warren Street in December of the same year.

It was this second section to Warren Street that went underneath Gibson Square. The overall line included roughly 50 ventilation shafts, with a shaft being built at the half way point between stations. Gibson Square is roughly half way between Highbury and Islington and King’s Cross St Pancras Stations, so it was here that London Transport decided to build a ventilation shaft.

These were usually of a purely functional design, a concrete block of up to 50 feet high. The residents of Gibson Square were understandably not happy.

Many Islington Squares in the 1960s were run down, and the terrace houses were owned by landlords, only interested in maximising profit, rather than spending on the upkeep and improvement of their buildings. London Transport probably expected minimal opposition to their plans, however a determined group of local residents led a campaign against the ventilation shaft during the 1960s.

They took their protest to London Transport and the Ministry of Transport. They also had the surprising support of the architect Sir Basil Spence. Surprising as he was responsible for a number of buildings in the Modernist and Brutalist style, including the former Home Office building at 50 Queen Anne’s Gate and tower block of Hyde Park Barracks.

After many design iterations, a much smaller ventilation shaft was designed by the architects Raymond Erith and Quinlan Terry. Completed in 1970, the ventilation shaft looks like a small temple, with three niches facing into the park with a pediment above.

Gibson Square

Whilst the architectural style of the ventilation shaft blends in well, the sound emitted by the shaft probably does not. Walk into Gibson Square and the background hum of fans permeates the whole of the square. The following video clip gives an impression:

The Victoria Line cuts diagonally across Gibson Square. The line was constructed in the days before lasers would be mounted on buildings along the route to check for any impact from tunneling. and tunneling did cause some settlement to some of the houses.

The following map shows the route of the Victoria Line between King’s Cross St Pancras and Highbury and Islington stations. The line is shown by a light grey, dashed double line. I have marked Gibson Square by a red oval (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Gibson Square

The gardens were taken over as a construction site for several years, but were restored by London Transport following completion of work on the ventilation shaft. This included the provision of new iron railings around the gardens to replace the chicken wire which had been there since the original railings were removed during the war.

View of the gardens looking south from the ventilation shaft:

Gibson Square

The land on which the square was built was held by the Milner-Gibson family who came from Theberton in Suffolk, hence the name of the street, Theberton Street which was the first to be built to the south of the square.

The majority of Gibson Square was completed by 1839 and by the mid 1840s the square had been finished in much the same way as we can see today.

The view looking north along the western side of Gibson Square from Theberton Street:

Gibson Square

The architect for much of the street was Francis Edwards, and it was his use of pavilion blocks at the end of each long terrace that give Gibson Square a distinctive appearance when compared to other Islington squares. An example of one of these pavilion style buildings is shown below:

Gibson Square

As with so many streets and squares, they were developed in stages, and by different builders and architects. Although Francis Edwards was responsible for much of the square, other designs were used, and this can be seen in the sudden change in style along a terrace:

Gibson Square

The following photo shows the view looking south from the north of the square. The building at the end in Theberton Street also makes use of the triangular pediment at the top of the facade with supporting dual pillars on either side.

Gibson Square

The feature is offset when looking down the centre of the street. I could not work out why. I did wonder if the street had been widened. It could be that the feature at the end is more central when walking on the pavement rather than in the road, or it could be just that Theberton Street was built first before Gibson Square was laid out.

The following photo shows one of the Pavilion style buildings at the northern end of Gibson Square. This block comprises three houses with architectural features on the facade to give the impression that this is a single house. The houses either side of the centre house have the same size windows as the rest of the terrace, however the central house has been given larger windows to help the illusion of a single house.

Gibson Square

The separate doors give the game away. The entrance door to the house on the right is on the side of the house facing the street at the top of Gibson Square.

The fields that Gibson Square was built on was part of a parcel of land that stretched further north, although the shape was rather elongated. Bounded to the east by a large saw mill that would later become the Post Office complex and current apartment, resturant and shopping space of Islington Square, and on the west by Liverpool Road.

The Milner-Gibson family built a second square on this land to the north of Gibson Square, and perhaps unsurprisingly called this second square, Milner Square.

To reach Milner Square there is a short stretch of road named Milner Place. The view from Milner Place looking south along Gibson Square:

Gibson Square

And looking north to Milner Square which is slightly offset to Gibson Square, with the central garden being visible from the eastern road from Gibson Square. The offset was down to the shape of the land available for building.

Gibson Square

Milner Place and Milner Square – preserving along with Gibson Square, the name of the Gibson-Milner family.

Gibson Square

Milner Square is very different to Gibson Square. Completed by the early 1850s by the architects Alexander Dick Gough and Robert Lewis Roumieu, the street presents a continuous terrace of houses with no features to break up the terrace. Even the chimney stacks are hidden from view.

Gibson Square

Unlike Gibson Square, Milner Square was completed to a single plan by the same architects. The terrace also wraps around the corners of Milner Square into Milner Place.

There were plans for a church to be built where part of the above terrace stands. To cater for the spiritual needs of the growing population of Islington, squares often had a church built at the same time. Local examples include Cloudesley Square and Thornhill Square, however for some reason, the Milner Square church was not built.

There are some features in the square which are not that obvious. If you look at the photo below, there is a silver car on the left of the photo, parked side on in the view. Behind the car there appears to be one of the many entrance doors that run at equal intervals along the terrace.

Gibson Square

However, this single door is not a door, rather is an entrance to a passage through to Almeida Street.

Gibson Square

Walking through the passage takes you into a very different place, compared to the regimented rows of terraces along Milner Square. Plants flow over the garden walls at the back of the houses on Milner Square.

Gibson Square

Looking back to Milner Square – one of those London passageways that will always look good at night, with a single lantern providing light to the 19th century passage.

Gibson Square

From the end of the passage, we can see the difference between the front and rear of the houses in Milner Square. The front facade was the expensive part, decorated with stonework, whereas at the rear of the houses, plain brick and no decoration.

Gibson Square

Both Gibson and Milner Squares went into decline after the last war, as did much of Islington. Reading through newspaper reports that mention the squares during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, they tell stories of those living in the squares being involved with thefts and prostitution. Even those who lived in the squares in full time jobs were involved in crimes, for example a porter who worked at Marylebone Station stealing from post bags.

The 1980s onward saw a gradual change in Gibson and Milner Squares as houses were renovated. Milner Square was one of Islington Council’s street renewal projects in 2008.

In May of this year, one of the houses in Gibson Square sold for £2,375,000.

Both squares tell the history of the northward expansion of London through Islington.

Gibson Square also has visible and audible evidence of the Victoria Line that passes below the square.

Gibson Square has one final link with London’s transport system. It is the destination of run number one in the “knowledge” qualification used by London’s taxi drivers. Run number one covers the route from Manor House Station to Gibson Square.

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The Pilot and Ceylon Place, Greenwich

Thirty five years ago, my father was outside the Pilot in Greenwich. Located on the peninsular which now has the O2 Dome at the northern tip, the Pilot is one of the very few original buildings left after the recent and ongoing development of the Greenwich peninsula.

The Pilot pub in 1985:

Pilot

Last week I returned to the Pilot to take a comparison photo and for a beer. Although redecorated, and no longer a free house, the pub looks very much the same.

Pilot

The Pilot is at the end of a short terrace of houses, originally going by the name of Ceylon Place.

Pilot

The location of the Pilot, and the terrace is shown in the following map, marked by the red oval. The O2 Dome is at the top of the peninsula (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Pilot

From the above map, it is hard to appreciate the level of development on the peninsula. The O2 Dome, or Millennium Dome as it was, kick started development of the area, and after a use was finally found for the dome as a major London concert venue, development on the peninsula has been a permanent activity, with apartment towers, offices and hotels of strange design rising from this once industrial landscape.

The Pilot and the terrace at Ceylon Place have are remarkable history, dating back to the early development of this part of Greenwich. The level, and type of change over the last couple of hundred years has been such that the pub and terrace have been surrounded by incredibly different landscapes.

We can explore these by looking at maps. The above map extract shows the area now dominated by the O2 Dome, and the associated developments, however, going back to 1951, and this was a very industrialised place. The Pilot and terrace is highlighted by the red oval in the following map extract (Following maps: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’:

Pilot

There are a few other terraces, in addition to Ceylon Place, however the majority of the land is occupied by Gas Works, Tar Works, Electricity Generation, a Steel Works, and many other smaller industrial sites. The following map extract is an enlargement of the area around the Pilot and Ceylon Place, which are in the centre of the map.

Pilot

The pub and terrace face onto River Way which leads down to the Thames. A cooling pond occupies much of the space directly opposite. A railway runs to the west, Behind the terrace is a steel works.

Much of the development of the peninsular was during the later part of the 19th and early 20th century. If we go back to 1893, we can see the start of the industrialisation of the peninsular.

The Pilot pub and Ceylon Place can be seen, with a longer terrace that stretched to the east. Much of the immediate surroundings are open space, and the railway has not yet arrived. The area to the south are the Greenwich Marshes.

Pilot

Looking at an extract from the above map, we can see the terrace in 1893, with the Pilot (labelled P.H.) at the western end of the terrace as it still is today.

Pilot

At the eastern end of the terrace, there is a large building called East Lodge with open space leading down to the river and bays on either side – presumably bay windows to provide a good view of the Thames.

The majority of the terrace, and East Lodge would disappear in the coming years. By the 1913 Ordnance Survey map, East Lodge had gone. and by 1939 much of the terrace had also been lost, leaving only Ceylon Place we see today, and the Pilot pub.

In all this time, the Pilot has looked out over a very different landscape. Once surrounded by open space and marsh land, the Pilot was then surrounded by some of the most polluting industries to be found in London, then as industry in the area closed, the pub looked out on a derelict landscape.

Today, the Pilot looks out on yet another very different landscape. A ten minute walk from the O2 Dome, in the middle of a green space, and in the process of being surrounded by tower blocks of ever more outlandish design.

The Pilot and the terrace date from 1801. A plaque on the front of the pub to the upper left of the main entrance confirms the date, the name Ceylon Place and New East Greenwich which was the name given to the development, as it was expected to form the basis of a larger development.

The main body of the pub is original, however, as will be seen when comparing my father’s photo, and my photo below, a smaller extension to the right has been added. This now provides accommodation, so if you want to stay on the Greenwich Peninsular, there is an option with a pub attached.

Pilot

The London Metropolitan Archives Collage collection has a photo of the Pilot and terrace dating from 1979. The Pilot looks the same as in my father’s photo, with the same pub sign, however look closely at the terrace of houses and you will see three of these have their window and door bricked up. The 1970s and 80s were the time when industry in the area was in significant decline, and it is surprising that the terrace has survived to this day.

Pilot

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0976_79_5000

The street in front of the pub and terrace now ends in a dead end, rather than running down to the causeway that ran into the Thames. Today, blocks of apartments now separate the Pilot and terrace from the river that for much of their time, must have been a significant influence on the lives of those who lived in the houses and drank in the pub.

Pilot

We can get a good idea of life in the terrace and pub by looking at old newspaper reports. When first built, the rear of the terrace looked out onto the Greenwich Marshes and a maze of ditches draining into the Thames, however in July 1857, the Kentish Mercury reported that:

“The inhabitants of Ceylon-place, East Greenwich complain of the very offensive state of the ditch at the back of their houses. They inform me that this ditch, like all other ditches on the Marshes, was formerly flushed out at every tide, but since Mr Wheatley has lately stopped up a sluice at the entrance to the ditch. The water is, therefore, become stagnant, and is certainly in an offensive state, and thereby causing the nuisance complained of”.

There were the day to day events that would have had significant personal impact, to those who lived in the terrace. On the 30th May 1840:

“POOR MAN’S LOSS – On Saturday evening last, as a poor labouring man was going home, after work, he lost the whole of his wages, amounting to 30s, besides some papers which, to the owner, are of consequence. The finder of the documents would be doing an act of great kindness by forwarding the same to No. 3, Ceylon Place, Greenwich”.

There was the type of crime common when drink was involved. In March 1903 the Woolwich Gazette reported that:

“Frederick Boos, a foreign seaman, of s.s. Hendon, was charged on Thursday at Greenwich  with assaulting a waterman, named Russell Lewis, of 6, Ceylon Place, East Greenwich. The victims head was bandaged and he said he was suffering from several bad cuts, said the prisoner hit him several times without any provocation. Boos alleged that the prosecutor had been making false statements about him and that he (Boos) was drunk at the time – Two months hard labour”.

The victim, Russell Lewis is recorded as being a waterman of Ceylon Place. Checking the census data reveals that this was a common occupation for those living in the terrace in the 19th century. In the 1871 census, there were several watermen, and watermen’s apprentices among the occupants of several of the houses.

Another mention of a Waterman living at Ceylon Place is from the Kentish Mercury on the 3rd April 1885: “A PUGILISTIC WATERMAN – Charles Watkins, waterman, of 8 Ceylon-place, East Greenwich, was charged on summons of assaulting another waterman named Richard Preddy. The complainant said he was sitting on a seat at the Anchor and Hope Wharf, waiting for a ship to come up the river. He heard footsteps and saw Mr Watkins, who pulled off his coat and wanted him to fight; he told him to put on his coat, when the defendant struck him in the face, and then they both fell over the seat”.

Charles Watkins was fined 20 shillings with 2 shillings costs for the attack.

The majority of the other inhabitants were recorded as being labourers. One, a Mrs Elizabeth Elliott, widow, aged 74 was on the Parish Poor Relief. This was a very working class terrace.

There were other professions, perhaps unexpected in such an industrial area. In 1901, a resident of Ceylon Place was up before the Lord Mayor:

“THE SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST A GREENWICH MAN – At the Mansion House on Thursday last week, Charles Rayner, aged 23, described as a music-hall artiste of Ceylon-place, Greenwich was again before the Lord Mayor on the charge of being concerned with another man in stealing £10 from the Falstaff Restaurant, Eastcheap”.

Publican’s were in danger of prosecution if they continued to sell alcohol to those already drunk, and in July 1908, in an article entitled The Peril of the Publican, it was reported that:

“Mary Ann Millington of the Pilot public-house, Ceylon-place, East Greenwich, was summoned for selling intoxicating liquor to a drunken person, and for permitting drunkenness”.

Mary Ann Millington was fined 40 shillings.

When they were living in the terrace, Charles Watkins and Charles Rayner, would have looked out on a rapidly industrialising area, but they would have still been very familiar with the last of the fields and marshes on the peninsular, and the causeway down to the river at the end of the longer terrace would have probably been used by many of the watermen of Ceylon Place.

Looking north from the terrace, the view would have been of cooling ponds and gas works. Today the view is of a park.

Pilot

And replacing the electricity generating station, and steel works are now rows of apartment buildings, which also block off the direct access to the river that the watermen of Ceylon Place formerly enjoyed.

Pilot

At the eastern end of the terrace. an old, painted sign provides a faded view of the original name of the terrace.

Pilot

The view of the terrace hidden behind trees on the walk down from the northern tip of the peninsula:

Pilot

The park is now established, but all along the eastern edge of the peninsula, building is continuing and the park is fenced off from numerous building sites. The following photo is the view looking north from the same position as the above photo. Tall buildings can be seen in the distance, to the east of the O2 Dome, and the building sites to the right are fenced off, so many more tall apartment buildings will soon overlook Ceylon Place and the Pilot pub.

Pilot

The Pilot is a really lovely pub, with an open terrace at the rear which was perfect on a warm August afternoon.

The Pilot and Ceylon Place have been here for over 200 years. They were:

  • Built when much of the Greenwich Peninsula was still field and marsh
  • They saw the building off, and were surrounded by some of the most polluting industries in London
  • They saw the decline of these industries and the derelict state of the much of the peninsula
  • The Millennium Dome came to the end of the peninsula
  • They are now being surrounded by towers of apartment buildings, but with an open space providing a view to the north

I suspect one of the watermen, or a worker in the industries on the peninsula would never have guessed what the place would look like today, and likewise, we probably have no idea what the peninsula will be like in one or two hundred years time, but I hope the Pilot and the Ceylon Place terrace will still be there to see how this part of London develops.

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New Terrace, Duncan Terrace, Colebrooke Row and Charles Lamb

The following photo is from the early 1980s and shows part of a terrace of houses. The house on the left with the pediment has a plaque stating “New Terrace – 1791”.  The location is in Islington, a short distance south east of Islington Green. New Terrace, now Duncan Terrace is separated from Colebrooke Row by a strip of grass which has an interesting history.

Colebrooke Row

This is the same view almost 40 years later. The perspective is not exactly the same as the trees in front of the house with the pediment have grown significantly and obscure the pediment and plaque when looking from the original viewpoint.

Colebrooke Row

Many of the terraces in this part of Islington were in a poor state in the early 1980s, but the decade would bring a transformation to the area. New Terrace at the time seemed to have escaped the problems suffered by many other terraces and was in good condition as the terrace approached the age of 200 years.

The location of New Terrace is shown in the following map extract. To the south east of Islington Green, the terrace is the upper row of houses in the red oval, north of Charlton Place (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Colebrooke Row

The houses in this area have a complex history, with piecemeal construction starting in the 18th century. Originally, the land was comprised of agricultural fields, clay pits and nursery gardens.

In 1613, the New River was constructed, and the route can still be traced today by the grass strip that runs from New Terrace all the way down to City Road. In the above map, the green strip shows the grass and public park between Duncan Terrace and Colebrooke Row, the grass strip running further north in front of New Terrace is not shown on the map, but is indicated by the gap between the terrace and Colebrooke Row.

Duncan Terrace is named after Admiral Duncan the commander of the Naval Fleet at the Battle of Camperdown against the Dutch in 1797.

Colebrooke Row is named after Sir George Colebrooke who developed the Colebrooke Row side of the street.

New Terrace was built in 1791 by James Taylor, a young surveyor and builder. The terrace has gone through a number of name changes from New Terrace to Colebrooke Terrace, to Duncan Terrace, the name which remains to this day.

The grass strip running in front of the terrace was the route of the New River. The river was enclosed in a pipe in 1861 which was covered and planted. The pipe was out of use by 1950 and was then removed leaving the grass strip as a reminder of the early history of London’s water supply.

Colebrooke Row

Looking north along the original route of the New River:

Colebrooke Row

The view to the south showing how the terrace was built at a raised level to the river:

Colebrooke Row

As the terrace could not face directly onto the New River, a raised pavement was built in front of the terrace, and this remains today to give access to the front doors of each house:

Colebrooke Row

In 1793, Taylor continued the southern extension of the terrace and built what are now numbers 46 to 49 Duncan Terrace on the opposite side of the junction with Charlton Crescent. This area was originally known as Clay Pit Field as it had been occupied by clay pits, extracting clay for the manufacture of bricks, but as the clay was exhausted, the land was more valuable as a site for houses.

This southern terrace followed a similar design to the northern New Terrace with a raised pavement between the houses and the New River:

Colebrooke Row

Further south along Duncan Terrace is the rather magnificent church of St John the Evangelist, built as a result of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 which released Catholics from the restrictions that had been imposed on them since the Reformation.

Colebrooke Row

The land was purchased for the church in 1839, and the design completed by the Catholic architect Joseph John Scoles. It took a number of decades for the church to be completed with work on the towers commencing in 1873.

The terraces either side of the church are today in lovely condition, but as with much of Islington this is a result of restoration work over the last few decades and the considerable increase in value of properties in the area.

In 1953, the route of the New River had not yet been landscaped, or turned into a park, as shown in the following photo from 1953, and there was a gap in the terrace where one of the houses had suffered bomb damage.

Colebrooke Row

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_182_53_19

Crossing the route of the New River and into Colebrook Row and the street is lined with similar terraces:

Colebrooke Row

And this is where the Regents Canal enters the Islington Tunnel – this is the view looking along the canal on approach to the tunnel:

Colebrooke Row

The entrance to the Islington Tunnel, under Colebrooke Row. The tunnel runs to Caledonian Road and is 878 meters long.

Colebrooke Row

Walking back along Colebrooke Row, and the park follows the route of the New River and separates Colebrooke Row and Duncan Terrace. They are now landscaped, planted with trees, with a central path running the length of the park:

Colebrooke Row

Although today there is a one way system running through the parks, with the appropriate warning signs about social distancing:

Colebrooke Row

The following photo shows the eastern side of Colebrook Row, with the street, then the New River route on the left, then Duncan / New Terrace (on the left but not visible in the photo). As can be seen from the slight differences in architectural styles, the terrace has changed over time. as different builders added to, demolished parts of, and changed the style of the buildings.

Colebrooke Row

I have walked from New Terrace at the top of the oval in the map, to the Regents Canal at the lower end of the oval, and back again along Colebrooke Row, as there is one house to find that is earlier than all the other houses, and was once the home of a rather interesting character.

The white painted house at the end of the terrace in the following photograph is Colebrooke Cottage, number 64 Duncan Terrace, dating from around 1760.

Colebrooke Row

Colebrooke Cottage was originally a single house, standing alone in the fields that covered the area, and faced onto the New River. It remained a single house until the construction of New / Duncan Terrace on the left. The following photo shows Colebrooke Cottage, New / Duncan Terrace to the left and the route of the New River running between terrace and road.

Colebrooke Row

The following print shows Colebrooke Cottage as it was before the construction of New Terrace. It is rather idyllic view. The cottage is surrounded by trees, the New River runs along the front and a boy is fishing in the river  © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Colebrooke Row

Comparing the two prints shows a number of differences mainly down to 19th century changes, including a reduction in the number of windows. Restoration work in the 1970s uncovered evidence of the side windows that would have had to have been bricked up when New Terrace was built.

The print is titled Charles Lamb’s House At Islington.

Charles Lamb was a poet and essayist. Born in Office Row in the Temple in 1775 where his father worked in the legal profession. On the death of his father’s employer, the family consisting of Charles, his sister Mary and their mother and father had to leave the house tied with his father’s job and move into cramped lodgings nearby.

After a short spell at the South Sea Company, he moved to the East India Company in 1792, where he would spend the rest of his working life. He was employed as a clerk, a job he did not enjoy.

His first published work was a small collection of sonnets that he provided for a book of poems published by Coleridge in 1796.

But it was not until the 1820s that he achieved a degree of fame when he published a series of essays in the London Magazine under the name of Elia (a name he adopted, allegedly the last name of an Italian man that had also worked at the South Sea Company)

However in many ways he had quite a tragic life which probably influenced his writing.

After the death of his father’s employer, the family were forced to move to cramped lodgings, and Charles and his sister Mary seem to have been responsible for supporting the family, and it was the resulting pressure which probably led to his sister Mary, in a fit of insanity to kill their mother and badly wound their father.

Charles took Mary to an asylum, and to avoid her imprisonment, he agreed to look after her at home, which he did for the rest of his life.

Mary did suffer mental health problems for the rest of her life, but she also published works with Charles, including a retelling of Shakespeare for children, a book which is still published today.

He did not marry. His first proposal of marriage to one Ann Simmons was rejected which led to a short period of what at the time was called insanity, probably what we would now call depression.

His second attempt at marriage, with a proposal to an actress Fanny Kelly was rejected, probably because she could not contemplate a life which involved looking after Mary.

He moved to Colebrooke Cottage in 1823 and stayed there for only 4 years, but it was here that he was the happiest he had ever been. He retired from work at the East India Company, and lived here with Mary, surrounded by books and the Islington countryside, and entertained literary friends. He described leaving his job as “33 years’ slavery…a freed man, with £441 a year for the remainder of my life”.

He described the house as a cottage, “for it is detached, with six good rooms. The New River runs close to the foot of the house and a spacious garden is behind. I feel like a great lord, never having had a house before”.

However the writer Thomas Hood called it a “cottage of ungentility for it had neither double coach house nor wings, and like its tenant, it stood alone”. Some author snobbery or competition perhaps.

The New River caused occasional problems for his guests as the myopic writer George Dyer fell into the river after leaving the house.

In 1827 he left Islington and moved to Enfield, followed by a move to Edmonton in 1833, where he died the following year after a fall.

A print of Charles Lamb dating from 1828  © The Trustees of the British Museum:

Colebrooke Row

A London County Council plaque is on the front of Colebrooke Cottage to commemorate Charles Lamb’s time on Colebrooke Row, Islington.

Colebrooke Row

Walking along Colebrooke Row, there is not really anything that would stand out – it’s a street of rather nice late 18th / early 19th century terrace houses as can be found across much of Islington. I went there to find the location of one of our 1980s photos. However, what makes this street so special is a single house that remains from the time when this was all agricultural land and clay pits. Finding one of the few places where the route of the New River can still be clearly seen, and how houses were built to face on to the New River.

And finding a literary character who was in the shadows of the major literary characters of the time, who should have had a happier life, but who seems to have enjoyed a few years surrounded by the Islington countryside.

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London Wall – A Location Shifting Historic Street

For this week’s post, I am back to tracing the locations of my father’s photos, and this photo dates from 1947. Locating the photo is helped by the street name, London Wall being displayed on one of the low walls built to separate street from bomb damaged buildings. Much of London Wall today is a very different place, not only with the buildings that line the street, but also the location of the street.

London Wall

This is roughly the same scene today, in 2020:

London Wall

There are a couple of features in the 1947 photo which help to confirm the location. I have ringed the first of these features in extracts from the 1947 and 2020 photos below:

London Wall

This feature can be found on top of the magnificent number 84 Moorgate, or Electra House, built in 1903 for the Eastern Telegraph and Allied Companies, one of the early telecommunications companies that built cable networks across the world.

London Wall

The two storey entrance to the building, with the dome at the top, and the feature that can be seen in my father’s 1947 photo.

London Wall

Above the main entrance is this magnificent coloured glass. A figure sits on top of the world, with a glowing orb above her head which sends rays across the seas, where a sailing ship and lighthouse can be seen. Eastern Telegraph was responsible for the installation and operation of a number of sub-sea communications cables that gradually connected the continents, so I suspect the glass mural in some way represented sub-sea cables shedding light across the world by providing the means for instant communications.

London Wall

The feature at the very top of Electra House, and visible from London Wall is in the photo below. For a company that was involved with technologies leading the global communications revolution, I was surprised to see the signs of the zodiac surrounding the world.

London Wall

The second feature that helped to identify the location is this two storey building seen at the end of the section of London Wall shown in the 1947 photo.

London Wall

Although only visible when you are near the building today, as new developments along London Wall have hidden the building from view along much of the street, the building still exists today.

It is the Armourers’ Hall of the Armourers and Brasiers’ Company, a rather nice Georgian building in the neo-Palladian style.  Due to new buildings, I could not photograph the Armourers’ Hall from the same direction as in my father’s photo, so this is the view looking across London Wall.

London Wall

The Armourers and Brasiers Company was formed in 1322 by a number of craftsman looking to maintain standards in the manufacturer or craft of armour.

London Wall

London Wall is two very different streets. The section of London Wall west of Moorgate is a wide dual carriageway, leading from the roundabout with the Museum of London at the centre at the junction with Aldersgate Street. East of the Moorgate junction, London Wall is a narrower street with many pre-war buildings still lining the street.

The following map shows the location of London Wall today, running left to right along the centre of the map, with the roundabout that forms the junction with Aldersgate Street on the left  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

London Wall

The area between Moorgate and Aldersgate Street suffered terrible damage during the war. A large part would be redeveloped as the Barbican Estate, and a major change was made to London Wall. From just west of Moorgate, the road was diverted to a new southerly routing to a large new roundabout.

in the following map extract, the original route of London Wall can be seen coming from the right then moving diagonally up along the map. I have marked the first third with red lines.

London Wall

A third of the distance along, the new London Wall then takes a completely new direction, carving the new dual carriageway through a series of old streets and buildings, many of which had been badly damaged by wartime bombing.

The location of Armourers’ Hall is the green circle on the right. To the left, the red circle is the new roundabout that forms the junction with Aldersgate Street and is the location of the Museum of London. In the centre, there is another landmark that helps confirm the location. This is Brewers’ Hall, set back a short distance from London Wall, with the original, smaller hall shown as the blue oval in the above map.

London Wall

This new section of London Wall between Aldersgate Street and Moorgate Street was opened on the 7th July 1959. As the plaque shown in the following photo indicates, this was intended to be the first part of a major new traffic route through the City of London. A due carriageway providing a northern, east to west route, with the planned Upper and Lower Thames Street providing the southern, east to west route.

London Wall

The new dual carriageway would be lined with new office tower blocks, and the planned Barbican to the north would be the future of City residential living. This was how post war City planning was based on the assumption that car travel would be the future and City streets were needed that provided easier traffic flow, with pedestrian walkways above the streets separating pedestrians from traffic.

Fortunately, the full east and west extensions of the new London Wall did not get built, although part of the eastern stretch of the street was extended to dual carriageway, but not as drastically as the western section.

The differences between the two sections of London Wall can best be seen by taking a walk along the complete length of the street. This is the start, looking at the roundabout junction with Aldersgate Street, with part of the Museum of London in the centre of the street.

London Wall

From the junction with Aldersgate Street, we can look east along London Wall, a view which clearly shows a wide dual carriageway, designed to carry large amounts of traffic, quickly through the City.

London Wall

The buildings that line London Wall, and occupy space over the street are the second incarnation of office blocks along this street, having largely replaced the 1950s / 1960s office blocks that originally lined either side of London Wall.

London Wall was designed specifically for the car, and this can be seen both above and below ground.

Underneath London Wall is a large underground car park operated by the City of London. The car park runs for a large part of the new section of London Wall. The photo below was taken roughly underneath the lamp-post in the above photo.

London Wall

There is a section of the original London wall in the car park – a subject for another post.

The majority of the space either side of London Wall is occupied by gleaming new glass and steel office blocks. One exception are the ruins of the tower of the church belonging to the medieval hospital of Saint Elsyng Spital.

London Wall

The new office blocks that line London Wall are not just tall, they occupy large areas of land, and dwarf older building such as Brewers’ Hall which can be seen in the lower right of the following photo.

London Wall

The building in the following photo is the one that obscures the view of Armourers’ Hall, which is located just behind the building, where Coleman Street meets London Wall (although traffic access between the two streets is now blocked by a pedestrian route along London Wall).

London Wall

Nearing the junction of London Wall and Moorgate, where London Wall continues into the heart of the City as indicated by the gleaming towers in the background.

London Wall

From London Wall, we can look across to Moorgate, and set back from the road is this row of buildings, with a large pedestrian area and small green space between the buildings and London Wall, which help show how the area has changed.

London Wall

The building on the right of the terrace is a pub, the Globe, and this pub, and the other two buildings that make up this terrace can be seen in the map extract below.

London Wall

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

These buildings were originally on Fore Street, a street that once ran all the way up to St Giles Cripplegate. Fore Street has been shortened and blocked of by one of the new buildings alongside London Wall.

Fore Street ran just north of the original alignment of London Wall, and we can still walk part of the original route.

I have ringed a section of the original route of London Wall in the following map extract. Just above the word London, is a small space with the words London Wall.

London Wall

This is the section of Roman Wall in St Alphage Gardens, shown in the following photo:

London Wall

This section of wall helps explain why the street is called London Wall, as the street originally ran along the wall, just inside the City.

The following photo is looking west along what was the street London Wall, the section of wall at St Alphage Gardens can just be seen to the right.

London Wall

The following photo is looking along St Alphage Gardens, what was London Wall, from the junction with Wood Street.

London Wall

The above photo highlights one of the things I find fascinating about the city. Despite the amount of change, you can still trace out many lost streets, and although London Wall has been widened and moved to the south, we can still find the original junction with Wood Street and the original route down to Moorgate.

Returning now to the junction of London Wall and Moorgate, and the three houses on the left that once faced onto Fore Street, this is the old Fox umbrella shop.

London Wall

Now Grade II listed. Thomas Fox first opened an umbrella shop in Fore Street in 1868 and umbrellas were both made and sold on the premises for many years.

The wording below the FOX sign give an indication of the business at the site today, however Fox Umbrellas are still being made and sold from the company’s new location in Shirley, Croydon.

Now lets continue along the street, east of the Moorgate Junction, and this is the original London Wall with a much narrower street and still with many pre-war buildings. Thankfully the original scheme to extend the dual carriageway of the moved length of London Wall was never carried out in full.

London Wall

We have already seen the halls of the Armourers and Brasiers’ Company and the Brewers’ Company, and there is a third hall along London Wall. In the photo below, on the right, the building with the Corinthian Pillars is the hall of the Carpenters’ Company.

London Wall

The Carpenters’ have had their hall on this site in London Wall since 1429. The hall today is the third hall, as the previous hall had been badly damaged during the war.

On the opposite side of the street, old and new buildings sit on opposite corners.

London Wall

The building on the left in the above photo still has original London Wall street signs. Not sure of the exact age of these, but they must be pre-war.

London Wall

Just east of the Carpenters’ Hall, London Wall widens again from a single carriageway to a dual carriageway, as part of the scheme to create a major through route, however along this part of the street, the widening has not been as dramatic as on the section from Moorgate to Aldersgate Street,

Almost at the eastern end of London Wall is the church of All Hallows on the Wall, the name referencing the fact that the church is located up against the Roman wall, with the original church on the site being built on a bastion of the wall.

London Wall

The present church was built in 1767 to replace the earlier church which had become derelict. The church did suffer damage during the war, but was restored in the 1960s, and is now the Guild church of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters.

A short distance further east from the church, just by the green van and traffic lights in the above photo, London Wall comes to an end, where the road continues as Wormwood Street.

That completes a walk along London Wall. A historic street that originally followed the path of the Roman Wall, but now only does this for the eastern section up to Moorgate. Passing Moorgate, London Wall diverts to the south and becomes a large dual carriageway, reflecting the post-war view that city design had to accommodate the car.

However the magic of London is that we can still find the line of the original London Wall, and that these old routes and boundaries have been retained.

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Euston Station and HS2 – A 2020 Update

HS2 has been in the news during the week with the announcement that the scheme will go ahead. I have been following the development of the Euston end of the line since 2017 when I photographed St James Gardens before the area was closed allowing the archaeological excavations of the original cemetery to start.

I wanted to follow the development of the area as this will be the largest above ground transport project in central London for at least the next ten years, so I planned to revisit the site in February of each year to see how the site and the new terminus for HS2 develops.

My posts so far are:

An exploration of the St James Gardens in 2017

The Streets Under The HS2 Platforms And Concourse in 2018

Euston Station and HS2 – A 2019 Update

Why am I interested in following the progress of the HS2 station at Euston? I have always tried to visit and photograph sites before, during and after development, an interest that probably came from first seeing some of my father’s photos. For example, the construction of the Royal Festival Hall, and Bankside Power Station. When the new station is complete, the area will look very different, and it will be fascinating to look back and watch how the development progressed.

The weather was sunny and calm last Saturday, Storm Ciara would arrive the following day, so I used the opportunity for a walk around Euston to see how the site has changed and what progress has been made since February 2019.

The following photos are a record of the area in February 2020.

Euston Station HS2

The Government’s announcement of the go-ahead for HS2 implied that initially trains will terminate at Old Oak Common, with Euston following later, and that HS2 had lost responsibility for the development of Euston Station.

The map below shows the area to the west of Euston Station that will be occupied by the platforms for HS2 when the scheme is complete. The numbers are the locations from where the photos in today’s post were taken.

Euston Station HS2

This is the view from location number one, looking north along Melton Street. Euston Station is to the right of the photo.

Euston Station HS2

It is still possible to exit the station, walk along the pavement of Melton Street (the wooden panels on the left of the photo below separate the pavement from the street which is fully closed). There is a crossing point to cross over Melton Street and get to Drummond Street. This is the view looking back along the closed Melton Street towards the Euston Road from location two on the map.

Euston Station HS2

Although the majority of the surrounding buildings have been demolished, the disused underground station entrance on the corner of Melton and Drummond Streets is still there. The station housed an air conditioning system for the tunnels below and also has access to the tunnels, so I suspect it is a more complex structure to demolish.

Euston Station HS2

When I took the London Transport Museum, Hidden London tour of Euston Station, the entrance to the tunnels was through the building shown in the above photo. The tours are still being run so the entrance is possibly still in use, or an alternative route is being used.

The following view, also from location two on the map, is looking north along Cardington Street, fully closed to pedestrians and traffic.

Euston Station HS2

The following photo shows the view looking slight further to the left. In both the above and below photos, the old St James Gardens over the original cemetery was on the left, and on the immediate left was an Ibis Hotel.

Euston Station HS2

The following photo from 2017 soon after the cemetery was closed is from roughly the same place as the above photo and shows the same view before demolition commenced.

Euston Station HS2

The stretch of Drummond Street leading up to the junction with Coburg Street is closed to traffic, however again, it is possible to walk along the pavement which is fenced off by wooden panels.

The following photo is from location three and is looking back towards Euston Station. The underground station entrance is the remaining building on the right.

Euston Station HS2

Walking south along Coburg Street, I get to location four on the map. The length of Euston Street up to Melton Street is closed off, but this was the view looking through the wire fencing from location four.

Euston Station HS2

The following photo shows the same view prior to demolition of the Bree Louise pub, and the houses running along Coburg and Euston Streets.

Euston Station HS2

Looking through the wire fencing, the view towards Euston Road.

Euston Station HS2

The view also from location four, looking back along Coburg Street. The terrace houses to the left of the Bree Louise once ran along where these hoardings now run.

Euston Station HS2

Back to the junction of Drummond and Coburg Streets and this is looking along the northern leg of Coburg Street. The rear of the Ibis Hotel was behind the hoardings on the right.

Euston Station HS2

Looking down the closed section of Drummond Street.

Euston Station HS2

In the above photo, the gap on the right was originally the Calumet photography store, shown in the following photo.

Euston Station HS2

At the end of Coburg Street (location 5 on the map) is the Exnouth Arms, on the edge of the HS2 demolition area and still open.

Euston Station HS2

The view in the following photo is again at location five, and is looking through the gate to the right of the Exmouth Arms.

Euston Station HS2

In the above photo, and the photo below where I put the camera lens between the wire mesh of the gate, the area shown is the location of the St James Gardens and the original cemetery. When I was here last, the archaeological excavation of the cemetery was still in progress and there was a very large marquee covering the whole area.

Euston Station HS2

The following photo is an extract from the photo above. The trees are those that originally lined Cardington Street, opposite St James Gardens. The photo illustrates the depth of the excavation of the cemetery. An earth bank can be seen descending down to the level excavated, and the depth of this can be gauged by the roof of a digger which can just be seen. Clearance of the old graveyard was a major exercise.

Euston Station HS2

The above photos show the area once occupied by St James Gardens. The photo below shows the gardens in 2017, just before closure – hard to realise looking at the area now that these photos occupy the same space.

Euston Station HS2

Looking back across Coburg Street towards Euston Station. The Ibis Hotel once blocked the view.

Euston Station HS2

The area being demolished for HS2 also runs along the Hampstead Road, the location of the next set of stops, and the following photo was taken from location six. The photo is looking back towards Euston Station, again across the space once occupied by St James Gardens. The old underground station is at the base of the left most crane.

Euston Station HS2

Location seven, and this shows a better view of the depth of the excavated St James Gardens/ cemetery.

Euston Station HS2

Last year, HS2 had built a small community space which included a number of artifacts from the cemetery, and the London Temperance Hospital, which once occupied the site. This was in the area to the left in the photo below, but now appears to have been cleared, apart from some of the information panels, one of which can be seen on the left.

Euston Station HS2

The temporary buildings at the end of the pathway are HS2 site offices, however the ground floor door provides an entrance to an “HS2 in Camden” information centre. Unfortunately not open at the weekends, so I could not visit. The community space had on display one of the foundation stones from the London Temperance Hospital, so not sure where this has moved to (see last years post).

The following photo is from location eight.

Euston Station HS2

This is where Cardington Street joined the Hampstead Road, however as Cardington Street alongside the old gardens has all but disappeared, the short stub of road is closed off and only provides access to the HS2 site.

The following photo shows the one remaining building along this eastern side of the Hampstead Road, the former Saint Pancras Female Orphanage building.

Euston Station HS2

After the orphanage moved, the building was an annex of the London Temperance Hospital and is now an NHS facility.

That completed my 2020 view of the area being demolished for the future HS2 platforms and station extension at Euston, following much the same route as in the two previous years.

Euston Station will also be transformed, so I have been taking photos of the station as can currently be seen. The following photo is off the main entrance for traffic to the station from the Euston Road.

Euston Station HS2

Since February 2019, most of the buildings that occupied the area that will become the HS2 station at Euston have been demolished.

Excavation of the cemetery that was under St James Gardens has been completed, so I assume the site is now ready for the build phase to start, however this is such a large area and there is a considerable amount of construction work to take place so I expect it will take many years.

Up to the announcement of the go-ahead there seemed to be some genuine doubt as to whether the new Government would support the project, which raised the question of what would be done with such a large area of prime London space. My fear was that it would have been sold off to property developers to recover some of the costs, which would have created another bland area of towers.

Whatever your views on HS2 (in many ways the name is wrong, whilst it is high-speed, this hides the real benefit of a significant addition of capacity and freeing up the existing lines for more local services), it now seems certain that London will be getting the first major new rail route and station extension since the rail link to the channel tunnel was built.

I will be returning in February next year, and it will be interesting to see if work has changed from demolition to construction.

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Rosebery Avenue, St John Street and Amwell Street

A couple of week’s ago I wrote about the New River Head. Whilst in the area, I took advantage of a walk along Rosebery Avenue, St John Street and Amwell Street to visit the location of some of our 1985 photos, and also to explore the area in a bit more detail. What follows is therefore a rather random walk, but as with any London street, there is so much interesting architecture, history and people to discover.

The following map shows some of the key locations in this week’s post (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Rosebery Avenue

  • Location 1 is the starting point, at the junction of Rosebery Avenue and Clerkenwell Road
  • Location 2 is the site of a hairdressers photographed in 1985
  • Location 3 is a row of 18th century houses which in 1985 looked doomed to demolition, and also where Rosebery Avenue meets St John Street
  • Location 4 is a long open chemist in Amwell Street
  • Location 5 is an old engineering business also in Amwell Street
  • Location 6, for reference, is New River Head, the location of the post a couple of weeks ago.

Rosebery Avenue runs from points 1 to 3 on the map, and is one of those late Victorian streets, built to support the increasing volume of traffic across London, and to provide a wide through route where before only a maze of narrow streets existed.

Clearance of the route commenced in 1887, and the new street was opened in July 1892. The new street was named after Lord Rosebery, the first chairman of the London County Council. Lord Rosebery had resigned from the LCC a few days before the opening of Rosebery Avenue, so John Hutton, the vice chairman took on the task of formally opening the street.

Compared to many other 19th century London street openings, that of Rosebery Avenue seems to have been rather subdued. The Illustrated London News reported simply that:

“The new street from the Angel at Islington to the Holborn Townhall, Gray’s Inn Road, called Rosebery Avenue, was opened on Saturday, July 9, by the Deputy Chairman of the London County Council. It is 1173 yards long, straight and broad, with a subway under it for laying gas and water mains and electric wires. It has cost £353,000, but part of this expenditure will be recovered by the sale of land”.

As well as being the first chairman of the LCC, Lord Rosebery was a prominent politician of the late 19th century and was a Liberal Party Prime Minister between March 1894 and June 1895 after William Gladstone had retired. In 1895 Rosebery’s government lost a vote of confidence and the resulting general election returned a Unionist Government. He continued to lead the Liberal Party for a year, then permanently retired from politics.

Lord Rosebery after whom Rosebery Avenue is named:

Rosebery Avenue

The following map extract is from “Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London; Showing The Grand Improvements for 1847”, and shows the area before the construction of Rosebery Avenue.

Location 1 is the same as in the above map, where the future Rosebery Avenue would meet Clerkenwell Road. Point 3 is where the new street will meet St John Street and point 6 is New River Head, with the ponds as they were in 1847.

The red oval is around a House of Correction. This was Coldbath Fields Prison, where the Mount Pleasant Post Office buildings would later be constructed. The south-east corner of these buildings are close to Rosebery Avenue.

Rosebery Avenue cut across the Fleet valley, cut through numerous streets, and cut short many streets including Exmouth Street which originally ran up to the site of the prison.

The following photo is at location 1, looking from Clerkenwell Road, across to the start of Rosebery Avenue:

Rosebery Avenue

Construction of Rosebery Avenue would displace a large number of people, as housing would be demolished to make way for the new street. The LCC mandated the construction of new housing to the south of the street before work commenced on the northern sections.

A short distance along Rosebery Avenue we can see the evidence of the LCC’s requirement with two identical blocks of flats lining the street – Rosebery Square, east and west. The following photo shows Rosebery Square east.

Rosebery Avenue

The new buildings were completed and ready to house those displaced by the new street in July 1891. A plaque on the wall records the names of the parish church wardens at the time of construction:

Rosebery Avenue

Parts of the southern section of Rosebery Avenue, between Laystall Street and Coldbath Square, are higher than the surrounding land. (See this post on Laystall Street) This allows extra lower floors to be part of buildings such as Rosebery Square, and also requires a viaduct as shown in the photo below where the street crosses Warner Street.

Rosebery Avenue

The photo above also shows how the buildings facing onto Rosebery Avenue drop down below the level of the street, and are therefore much larger than they appear.

A short distance further along, just before the junction with Mount Pleasant and Coldbath Square is the first of the locations photographed in 1985. In 2019, this is the Pleasant Barbers:

Rosebery Avenue

Who twenty-four years ago, were The Pleasant Gent’s Hairdresser, but at the same location:

Rosebery Avenue

It is interesting how the name of a trade changes over time. In the 1980s, to get your hair cut (for a man) you went to a Hairdresser. Today, you go to a Barber.

Hairdressers / Barbers are a type of shop we have been photographing for the past 40 years. They are usually local businesses, not part of a chain and have individual character. One of the few types of business that is not under threat from the Internet.

A few years ago I wrote a post about Hairdressers of 1980s London, featuring a selection from 1985 and 1986. Many have since disappeared, but there are still plenty to be found across London.

After the building with Pleasant Barbers, we find the south-east corner of the Royal Mail sorting office at Mount Pleasant.

Rosebery Avenue

The area occupied by the Mount Pleasant sorting office was the site of the House of Correction shown in the 1847 map – a location that deserves a dedicated article.

On the opposite side of Rosebery Avenue is the Grade II listed, former Clerkenwell Fire Station.

Rosebery Avenue

A fire station had existed on the site before the construction of the building we see from Rosebery Avenue. The site increased in importance over the years, becoming the Superintendent’s Station for the Central District by 1890.

The original fire station was extended over the years, and the section facing onto Rosebery Avenue was constructed between 1912 and 1917, and included parts of the original fire station buildings and the 1896 extensions to the building.

The architectural quality of the building draws from the London County Council’s development of London housing, as architects from the LCC housing department also had responsibility for fire station design from the start of the 20th century.

Clerkenwell Fire Station closed in 2014 – one of the ten London Fire Stations closed in the same year due to budget cuts when Boris Johnson was Mayor.

A reminder of the London County Council origins of Clerkenwell Fire Station:

Rosebery Avenue

The fire station stands at the south-eastern corner of the junction of Rosebery Avenue and Farringdon Road. This is where Exmouth Street was shortened slightly. In the photo below, I am looking across the junction to Exmouth Street.

Rosebery Avenue

If you look at the 1847 map, Exmouth Street was originally on a main route between Goswell Road and Gray’s Inn Road, along with Myddelton Street (a New River reference).

The construction of Rosebery Avenue faced a number of legal challenges and one of these was from the Marquis of Northampton who was after £22,000 of compensation due to the impact on his properties around Exmouth Street and that “the remainder of the estate would be seriously depreciated by the diversion of traffic from Exmouth Street to the new thoroughfare, thus converting that street into a back street”.

Exmouth Street today is a back street as far as traffic is concerned, but now is the location of the Exmouth Street market.

The Marquis of Northampton, or Lord Northampton and his landholdings in Clerkenwell featured in a map created in 1909 by William Bellinger Northrop and titled “Landlordism Causes Unemployment”.

Rosebery Avenue

Map from Cornell University – PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography and reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Unported License

The aim of Northrop’s map was to show how “Landlordism” was strangling London, with large areas of the city being owned by the rich and powerful. Northrop claimed that Lord Northampton owned 260 acres in Clerkenwell and that this estate produced an annual rent of £1,600,000.

Continuing along Rosebery Avenue and the gradual increase in height is more apparent now, showing again why New River Head was located at close to the end of Rosebery Avenue as the drop to the city aided the flow of water from reservoir to consumer.

There are plenty of interesting buildings along the street, and a mix of architectural styles, one rather ornate building is the old Finsbury Town Hall:

Rosebery Avenue

Finsbury Town Hall was built between 1894 and 1895 on land cleared following the construction of Rosebery Avenue. The original vestry building was in a southern corner of the same plot, however a much larger triangular plot of land had been reduced to a much smaller triangular plot as Rosebery Avenue cut through Rosamond Street (now Rosoman Street).

In the following extract from the 1847 map, the red line is the rough alignment of how Rosebery Avenue would cut through the area. The blue rectangle is the original vestry building, and the red dashed lines show the location of the Finsbury Town Hall which now faces onto Rosebery Avenue.

Rosebery Avenue

Soon after completion, in 1900, the building became the town hall of the new Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury.

As well as conducting council business for the borough, the town hall also had two large rooms available for council functions and public hire.

Typical of the events held in the town hall was a Carnival Ball of Costermongers belonging to the National Association of Street Traders held at Finsbury Town Hall on the 30th January 1928:

Rosebery Avenue

Local government changes meant that in 1965 the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury was integrated with the London Borough of Islington, and the majority of council functions moved to Islington Town Hall, with only a small number of council operations remaining in the old Finsbury building.

The building entered a gradual state of decay, and by the end of the 1980s, council functions had to be moved out of the building.

Finsbury Town Hall almost fell to the “luxury flat” fate of so many other buildings across the city, however in 2005 the dance school, the Urdang Academy commenced the redevelopment of the building, moving in, in 2006.

The building continues to be the home of the Urdang Academy, with some of the large halls still available for hire.

The ornate entrance to the old Finsbury Town Hall from Rosebery Avenue:

Rosebery Avenue

Leaving Finsbury Town Hall, we reach New River Head, which I explored a couple of weeks ago, and then Sadler’s Wells, which demands a dedicated post, so I will continue to the end of Rosebery Avenue, and to the junction with St John Street, where the next location of my 1985 photos is to be found.

Across St John Street, and just to the south of the junction with Rosebery Avenue is a short stub of street by the name of Owen’s Row, with a terrace of late 18th century houses. In 1985 these were boarded up, and appeared to be at risk:

Rosebery Avenue

Thankfully in 2019, they are still here and looking in good condition. A wider view in the photo below to the 1985 photo, showing Owen’s Row with the terrace, and the former Empress of Russia pub on the corner with St John Street.

Rosebery Avenue

The Empress of Russia pub dates to the early 19th century. The pub closed in 2000, went through a series of food related businesses, before returning to a pub in the form of the Pearl and Feather.

From 1985 the Empress of Russia was the regular London performance venue of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, where it was usual to hear the music of the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground played on the Ukelele.

The alignment of Owen’s Row is down to the New River.

Building of a row of houses along the eastern bank of the New River commenced in 1773 by Thomas Rawstorne, who started building from the St John Street junction. When built, the houses faced onto the New River.

Look in the centre of the following extract from the 1847 map. Just above the S in the word Street of St John Street, is the word Owens, and to the left of this is the channel of the New River, flowing to the bottom of the map towards New River Head. In 1847 this section of the New River was still uncovered.

Rosebery Avenue

Owen’s Row would not become a street until 1862 when this section of the New River was enclosed and covered.

Today, the terrace consists of just four houses, but following the start of the street in 1773, houses extended further along the eastern edge of the New River. The following photo from 1946 shows the extended terrace, with a row of three floor buildings after those with four floors. These were later demolished, and the end of the original Owen’s Row is now occupied by the Sixth Form College of the City and Islington College.

Rosebery Avenue

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_087_F3305

What is interesting in the above photos, is that in all photos of the remaining terrace, the bricks of the fourth floor are a very different shade to those on the lower three floors. It is more clearly visible in the 1946 photo, and would indicate that the terrace was originally built with three floors, with a later addition of a fourth floor.

Really good to see that part of the terrace remains, and that although boarded up in 1985, they were not demolished. Owen’s Row is also a physical reminder of the route of the new river, and when this terrace of houses looked out onto water flowing through the channel to New River Head.

Although I still had two 1985 photos to track down, I find wandering the streets fascinating, and in the streets around St John Street there are so many interesting places.

On the corner of St John Street and Chadwell Street are Turner & George, butchers.

Rosebery Avenue

The Turner & George business is new, only opening in the last few years, however the shop has long been a butchers.

In the tiling below the windows is the word BLAND. This refers to the Bland family who ran a butchers in St John Street from 19th century.

In 1882, there was a Mrs Sarah Bland recorded as Butcher of 563 St John Street-road, Clerkenwell, The present building is at number 399 St John Street, so Sarah Bland’s butchers may have been at a different location, or more likely, at the current corner location, which has changed number, as streets were frequently renumbered as streets changed over the years.

On the corner of Arlington Way and Chadwell Street is the business of Thomas B. Treacy – Funeral Directors.

Rosebery Avenue

I have not been able to find any evidence, however I suspect the building may have originally been a pub. The corner location, and the round corner for the building are typical of 19th century pubs.

One pub that does survive is The Harlequin in Arlington Way.

Rosebery Avenue

The Harlequin was first recorded as a beer house around 1848, with the current name being in use by 1894.

Although there is plenty of interest in the streets around Rosebery Avenue and St John Street, I had two more 1985 photo locations to find, so I walked across to Amwell Street to find the location of W.C. & K. King, Chemists, who had this wonderful lantern hanging outside the shop in 1985.

Rosebery Avenue

In 2019, the shop is still a chemists, and the same shop front survives, however the lantern has disappeared.

Rosebery Avenue

The lantern claims 1839 as the year the business was established, however I can find no evidence of when the business opened, or when W.C. & K, King where proprietors.

I continued walking down along Amwell Street, past the point where I photographed the base of the New River Head windmill, and then found this rather magnificent building – giving the appearance of a large brick built castle guarding Amwell Street:

Rosebery Avenue

This is the Grade II listed Charles Rowan House.

Built between 1928-1930 to provide accommodation for married police officers, the building was design by Gilbert Mackenzie Trench who was the architect for the Metropolitan Police.

Built of red brick, the large rectangular building provided 96 two and three-bedroom flats, arranged around a central courtyard. The longer sides of the building are along the roads leading off from Amwell Street, and it is in these two side streets that the arched entrances to the central courtyard and the flats can be found.

The building transferred to local council ownership in 1974. I am not sure how much of the building remains as council provided housing. I suspect many of the flats have transferred to private ownership through right to buy, and today, a 2 bedroom flat in Charles Rowan House can be had for £650,000.

The building is named after Sir Charles Rowan, the first Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and his obituary published on the 11th May 1852 in the London Daily News, reveals a link between the Metropolitan Police and the Battle of Waterloo:

“Death of Sir Charles Rowan K.C.B. – Sir Charles Rowan, later Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, died at his residence in Norfolk-street, Park-lane on Saturday the 8th inst. he entered the army as an ensign in the 52nd Light Infantry, in 1797, and served with that distinguished regiment in the expedition to Ferrol in 1800; in Sicily, in 1806-7; and with Sir John Moore’s expedition to Sweden in 1808. He joined the army in Portugal after the Battle of Vimiera, and served from that time with the reserve forces of Sir John Moore, and in the Battle of Corunna. he also served with great distinction both in Spain and Portugal, and commanded a wing of the 52nd at the Battle of Waterloo, when he was wounded; he was also wounded at Badajoz, on which occasion he received the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1815 he was appointed companion of the Bath. From 1829, the year the Metropolitan Police Force was instituted, until 1859, he was chief commissioner, and for his services in that capacity was, in 1848, nominated a knight commander of the Bath”.

Fascinating that the building is named after someone who fought at the Battle of Waterloo, and that same person became the first chief commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

The construction of Charles Rowan House obliterated a street and a large number of houses, and it was here that Amwell Street ended.

In the following extract from the 1896 edition of the Ordnance Survey map, I have marked the location of Charles Rowan House with the large red rectangle.

Rosebery Avenue

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

Amwell Street ran to the northern tip of what would later become Charles Rowan House, and from then down to Rosebery Avenue, the street was named Rosoman Street.  Today, Amwell Street extends onto Rosebery Avenue, replacing the Rosoman Street name.

This is relevant as it helped me find more details of the following location, photographed in 1985:

Rosebery Avenue

In the 1901 census, the address was 95 Rosoman Street rather than 13 Amwell Street.

The building was occupied by:

  • Frederick Bowman, aged 52 and occupation Brass Founder
  • Ellen Bowman, aged 39, his wife
  • Irene Bowman, aged 14, daughter
  • Ruby Bowman, aged 13, daughter
  • Theophilus Bowman, aged 11, son
  • Christie Bowman, aged 7, daughter
  • Helen Munto, aged 32, servant

If the business was founded in 1865 as recorded on the front of the building, then I am not sure it was the Frederick Bowman of the 1901 census, as he would have been too young, and all his children were recorded as being born in Chingford, Essex.

I cannot find any reference to an earlier F. Bowman. In the 1911 census, Frederick Bowman was still living at 95 Rosoman Street, aged 64 and still working as a Brass and Aluminium Founder. All his children still lived at home, however Helen Munto had left (perhaps returning to her native Scotland), and the new servant was Edward Redgrave, aged 30.

Frederick seems to have been a name used by the family over the generations, as Theophilus middle name was Frederick. Chingford also seems to have been a family connection as Theophilus would marry Florence May Jerome at Chingford in 1922.

Theophilus would go on to live in Chingford, but he would also carry on the family trade, as in the 1939 census, his occupation is given as Brass Moulder – what is not clear is whether he worked in Chingford, or commuted to the Rosoman / Amwell Street business.

The same location in 2019:

Rosebery Avenue

The 1985 photo implies that the entrance to the business was in the centre, with the entrance to the family home to the right.

In 2019 it looks as if the building has been converted to a home, with a single entrance door to the right, and the paving leading to the business door removed to open up the cellar.

Frederick Bowman’s name still looks onto Amwell Street.

A short distance on, and I was back on Rosebery Avenue. Although the walk did not have a theme, to me it is the fascination of what can be found on random walking across London, on this walk using some 1985 photos as a guide.

Businesses that continue to (hopefully) thrive on London’s streets such as the Pleasant Barbers, Lord Northampton’s hold over the land of Clerkenwell, a row of houses that owe their alignment to the New River, a block of flats named after a Waterloo survivor, and a street named after the first chairman of the London County Council, and future Prime Minister are typical of the fascinating stories to be found all over London.

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Drury Lane, Amos Jones and S. Krantz

The streets of London have lost so many of their local, specialist shops over the years. Shops that catered for the practical needs of everyday life, and also supported activities that were concentrated in the local area. For today’s post, I am in Drury Lane, looking at two shops which highlight how these streets have changed over the last 30 years.

This is the shop of Amos Jones, Chemist, on the corner of Drury Lane and Long Acre, photographed in 1985.

Drury Lane

This is the same shop in 2019:

Drury Lane

Amos Jones, the Chemist, has now been replaced by The Fine Gift Company, a shop specialising in the sale of handmade Italian silver jewelry – a very different form of business. Although the street sign visible in the photo states Drury Lane, the shop address is 78 Long Acre. There is a Long Acre street sign above the left edge of the shop.

The panel on the right of the shop in the original photo claims that Amos Jones was established in 1785, and also highlights the chemist’s prime location in the theatrical hub of the city by advertising “Specialists in Theatrical Toilet Requisites”. I cannot find any evidence that the chemist was trading at this location as Amos Jones back to 1785. I did find a 1921 reference to Amos Jones being the chemist, and in volume 129 of the “Chemist and DruggistThe Newsweekly for Pharmacy” from 1938 there is a reference to what appears to be a purchase of the chemist trading as Amos Jones at 78 Long Acre.

The shop also advertises the developing and printing of photos – a sideline for chemists that was swept away by the arrival of digital cameras.

I have not been able to find too much history of the chemist, however one reference I did find is when Amos Jones appears to have been caught up in a rather strange toothpaste related crime.

in July 1921, Amos Jones was summoned to Bow Street Court as part as a court case against Alphonse Carreras and Enrique Carreras of King Street, Hammersmith.

Alphonse and Enrique were on trial for running a lottery called “The Enolin Tooth Paste Competition”. The lottery or competition was for prizes to accurately estimate the number of tubes of toothpaste sold during a certain period. The first prize was a motor-car valued at £2,250, with £500 in cash. There were over 3,000 other prizes with a combined value of £5,000.

Amos Jones was summonsed for selling the “chances” .

The court case appeared to hinge on whether the competition involved skill or luck (in which case it would be considered a lottery). The prosecution did agree that the competition was bona-fide and that prizes were awarded, but that it was still a lottery. The judge agreed as he “could not help thinking that the good fortune of the prize winners was the result of a lucky shot, and did not depend upon the exercise of any real skill”.

Alphonse and Enrique Carreras were each ordered to pay a penalty of £50, and costs of £10, 10 shilling.

Amos Jones, listed as a chemist of Long Acre was charged with publishing the scheme, but was dismissed under the Probation of Offenders Act, on payment of £5, 5 shillings costs.

An Enolin Toothpaste show card, of a type which possibly could have been displayed in Amos Jones shop. At the very bottom of the card, A&E Carreras were “Perfumers” who had obviously branched out into the toothpaste trade.

Drury Lane

(Source: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/nantqzph)

Above the shop in both photos there is a plaque on the wall:

Drury Lane

The plaque reads “Eight feet of ground from the front of this house were given by the Mercers Company in the year 1835, for the purpose of widening the entrance of Long Acre”.

This work was part of the widening and straightening of many streets in the area carried out during the first half of the 19th century.

The Mercers Company is a name that I keep finding all over the city. They were significant landowners and the building with the chemist shop was just part of their landholding in Drury Lane and Long Acre.

Walking north along Drury Lane, crossing Dryden Lane and there is another block of buildings with very different architectural styles, however the larger building closer to the camera also was / is part of the Mercers property in Drury Lane.

Drury Lane

If you look at the top of the building, directly above the main entrance door there is a Mercers Maiden – the symbol of the Mercers Company and displayed on buildings owned by the company to indicate their ownership.

Drury Lane

There are many of these to be seen across London, one of my side projects is to photograph and map these for a future post.

Rather worryingly, the building is empty and boarding covers the ground floor.

The Mercers still own a significant amount of land around Long Acre, and have a map on their website showing their property portfolio in the area.

In the following map, I have marked the old Amos Jones chemist shop with a red circle. The red rectangle indicates that the whole block within the boundaries of Drury Lane, Long Acre, Arne Street and Dryden Street is still owned by the Mercers Company (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).Drury Lane

The building with the Mercers Maiden is the building further north bounded by the green rectangle. This building is not part of the current Mercers portfolio so must have been sold at some point.

Further down Long Acre, the majority of the land to the north of the street, between Neal Street and Upper St. Martin’s Lane is still owned by the Mercers Company. It is a good area for Mercers Maiden spotting and there is also a Mercer Street running north from Long Acre to Seven Dials.

The following photo shows the block of buildings along Drury Lane, the old Amos Jones shop is at the far end of the block.

Drury Lane

On the corner of the block, facing the camera was the old Marlborough Head, a pub dating  from the early 19th century (the first reference I can find dates from 1818). The building has the curved corner which is an indicator of a building specifically designed as the pub, as this is where the pub name would have been prominently displayed.

The building is now the Lowlander – not so much a pub, rather an establishment which is advertised as “London’s Premier Belgian Grand Cafe”.

The name of the original pub can still be seen carved at the top of the building.

Drury Lane

The LMA Collage collection has a photo of the Marlborough Head dated 1971:

Drury Lane

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0974_71_3915

The image of a typical 1970s London Watney’s pub.  The store on the right in the above 1971 photo was an Ironmongers, again the type of shop that has almost disappeared from the streets of central London.

To the left of the Marlborough Head, between the pub and Amos Jones was:

  • The Drury Tea and Coffee Company
  • Enrico’s Sandwich Bar
  • Air Express Travel Ltd

Enrico’s is still a sandwich shop, but now called Wings, and the travel company shop is now a dry cleaners.

Walking further north along Drury Lane, and in 1986, at number 180 was S. Krantz & Son, Specialist Shoe Repairers – Proprietor Alfred Krantz.

Drury Lane

The same shop today, now Vanity Nails & Beauty:

Drury Lane

S. Krantz also advertised their specialty of Theatrical, Municipal and Surgical, which I guess covers everything from theatrical footwear needed for the theatres of the West End, to surgical footwear, perhaps for the medical community of Bloomsbury, and municipal, which I suspect covered everything else.

The shop to the right of S. Krantz in the original photo was a general hardware and tool shop, A couple of wood saws can be seen in the window of the shop on the right of the photo. Today the same shop is selling retro clothes.

The following enlargement from the original photo perhaps shows Alfred Krantz working in the shop?

Drury Lane

The above photo also shows an interesting poster in the doorway of S. Krantz, advertising a street party on Saturday 25th in nearby Parker Street, with a Disco, Sports Challenge, BBQ and Yard of Ale – not an event you would see on the streets of the West End today.

There seems to be an ever reducing number of these small, one-off shops, catering for local day-to-day needs, and with a local specialism (the theatrical focus of both Amos Jones and S. Krantz). London’s streets will be poorer without them.

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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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Queen Victoria Street – A 19th Century City Improvement

Queen Victoria Street is probably one of those London streets that you only walk along if you are going to one of the buildings that line the street, or using it as a short cut between Blackfriars, Mansion House and Bank.

The majority of people who come into contact with the street, probably cross the street when walking between the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral.

I have written previous posts about some of the sites alongside Queen Victoria Street, however a couple of my photos from 1982 prompted a walk along the full length of the street, and an attempt to get a better understanding of how the street was built, as one of the 19th century’s major attempts to relieve congestion in the City and provide faster east – west travel.

This was the view in 1982, looking up along Queen Victoria Street, with the decorative gates of the College of Arms on the left.

Queen Victoria Street

The same view in 2019 (although with some lighting difficulties due to the bright sun from the south).

Queen Victoria Street

In the 1982 photo, post war office blocks line the right side of the street, including the Salvation Army building closest to the camera. In the 2019 view, these buildings have been replaced with new buildings which show the change in architectural style that has predominated all recent City development, where a stone facade with windows has changed to a facade mainly of glass.

In the distance in 1982 is the office block that would later be replaced by 20 Fenchurch Street, the Walkie Talkie building seen in the 2019 photo.

The pavements on each site of the street have been widened and the letter box moved out further.

Looking down along Queen Victoria Street from roughly the same position, towards Blackfriars in 1982:

Queen Victoria Street

The same view in 2019 – not that much change really.

Queen Victoria Street

Opposite is the church of St Benet’s:

Queen Victoria Street

I explored this church a few years ago in my post on “The Lost Wharfs of Upper Thames Street and St. Benet’s Welsh Church”  and also the excavations of Baynard’s Castle and Roman foundations just south of the church.

The church today:

Queen Victoria Street

Queen Victoria Street was built to provide a wide and direct route from the major junction at the Bank and Mansion House directly down to Blackfriars Bridge and the Embankment.

In the following map extract, Queen Victoria Street is the street running from the junction at upper right, down towards Blackfriars Station and Bridge at lower left (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Queen Victoria Street

The construction of Queen Victoria Street resulted in the demolition of numerous buildings and streets. The book “A Dictionary of London” by Henry Harben (1918) provides a good description of the impact of the street:

“Construction recommended 1861 and provided for in Metropolitan Improvement Act, 1863. Opened 1871. Nearly two-thirds of a mile long.

Numerous courts and alleys, as well as streets of a larger extent, were swept away for its formation. Amongst those which had occupied the site previously were Five Foot Lane, Dove Court, Old Fish Street Hill, Lambeth Hill (part), Bennet’s Hill (part), St Peter’s Hill (part), Earl Street, Bristol Street, White Bear Alley, White Horse Court.

Considerable difficulties were experienced in the formation of the street owing to the steep gradients from Upper Thames Street to Cheapside. In some cases the existing streets had to be diverted in order to give additional length over which to distribute the differences in level. The net cost was over £1,000,000. Subways for gas and water were constructed under the street and house drains and sewers below these.”

There is no doubt that the new street was needed to support the ever-growing volume of traffic across the City, but all those lost names, although the remains of some can still be found. For example, Harben mentions Five Foot Lane. This is a name that in various spellings dates back to at least the fourteenth century with the first record of a Fynamoureslane. Later spellings included Finimore Lane, Fine Foote Lane, Fyve Foote Lane, Fyford Lane and Fye Foot Lane.

It is with this latter spelling that the lane can still be found – a narrow alley between new office blocks that leads from Queen Victoria Street down to Upper Thames Street.

The following extract from the 1847 Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London shows the area where Queen Victoria Street would later slice through the middle.

Queen Victoria Street

I have tried to show the approximate route of Queen Victoria Street by the red line in the following map:

Queen Victoria Street

The name of the new street, after Queen Victoria, was agreed in December 1869 when a meeting of the Metropolitan Board of Works were presented with a report recommending the name.

The Illustrated London News described the opening of Queen Victoria Street in November 1871:

“The ceremony of formally opening this new street, from Blackfriars Bridge to the Mansion House, was performed at half past three o’clock on Saturday afternoon. There was a procession of the officers and some members of the Metropolitan Board of Works and of the Corporation of the City headed by Colonel Hogg, Chairman of the Metropolitan Board, with the Lord Mayor, walking arm-in-arm, the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, and several of the Parliamentary representatives of the metropolitan boroughs. These walked from Blackfriars, along the newly made roadway from New Earl-street to Bennet’s-hill, which has not hitherto been passable, and thence along the first-made portion of the new street to the Mansion House.

Having arrived at the hustings erected on the triangular space at the side of the Mansion House, Colonel Hogg and the Lord Mayor briefly addressed the persons there assembled, reminding them of the various City and Metropolitan improvements which had been accomplished during the last ten or fifteen years – the Thames Embankment, the Holborn Viaduct, the rebuilding of Blackfriars Bridge and Westminster Bridge, the opening of Southwark Bridge, the Metropolitan Meat Market, Southwark-street, Garrick-street, Burdett-street, Commercial-road, the removal of Middle-row Holborn, The opening of Hamilton-place, Park-lane, the laying out of Finsbury Park and Southwark Park.”

The above text highlights that Queen Victoria Street had been built and opened in sections, with the lower part down to Blackfriars being the final section (that shown in my photo above looking down towards Blackfriars)

The final paragraph also shows how much change there was in London during the later decades of the 19th century. It was the work during these decades which has shaped so much of the city we see today.

The opening ceremony next to the Mansion House:

Queen Victoria Street

It was a brilliant sunny day when I walked Queen Victoria Street – the type of day when even a Victorian street built as a major through route looks fantastic. There are also some fascinating buildings along the street, although only a few buildings date from before the creation of the street.

This building is the Faraday building, once one of the major hubs for international and national telephone circuits and operator services.

Queen Victoria Street

The Faraday building is interesting as it is the only building (as far as I am aware), that has components of the first, fully automatic, electromagnetic telephone exchange, carved onto the facade of the building. See my post on the Faraday building for views of these.

South of the Faraday building is this lovely building, currently occupied by the Church of Scientology.

Queen Victoria Street

The building at 146 Queen Victoria Street dates from 1866, so was probably built as part of the development of the new street, possibly one of the first new buildings alongside Queen Victoria Street.

The building was by the London architect Edward I’Anson in the classical, Italian style for the British and Foreign Bible Society. The building is grade II listed.  I’Anson’s other London works included the Royal Exchange Buildings.

The next building south is one from well before the construction of the street. This is the church of St Andrew by the Wardrobe:

Queen Victoria Street

The church is at a higher level to the street. The extract from Harben mentioned one of the difficulties with construction of the streets being the steep gradient down to the river, and it is at places such as the church where this is still visible. The surrounding land could be leveled off towards the street, but this was obviously not possible with the church.

This end of Queen Victoria Street has always been a centre for Post Office / British Telecom infrastructure. The Faraday building being one of the first examples, and across the road is Baynard House, the 1970s brutalist offices and equipment building, built for British Telecom.

Queen Victoria Street

Baynard House is built on part of the site of Baynard Castle, hence the name.

Looking up along the facade of Baynard House:

Queen Victoria Street

The design of Baynard House included the post war concept of raised pedestrian walkways, separating pedestrians from streets and traffic. There is a rather underused walkway through Baynard House into Blackfriars Station.

In all the times I have used this route, I have not seen anyone walk to and from the station. It mainly seems to be used by smokers and those taking a break from the surrounding building.

Part of the walkway includes a large open space, with the rather intriguing state of the Seven Ages of Man, by Richard Kindersley from 1980.

Queen Victoria Street

The sculpture is based on the Shakespeare monologue from As You Like It, which begins with “All the world’s a stage” and then goes on to chart the stages of life from an infant to the point at the end of life where a person is “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

Along the walkway there are views to Queen Victoria Street and down to the River Thames. The following photo is from the walkway looking along Castle Baynard Street.

Queen Victoria Street

The empty corridor leading up to Blackfriars Station:

Queen Victoria Street

The benefit of a raised walkway is that there are some different views than would be possible at street level. This photo looking across the junction of Queen Victoria Street and Puddle Dock, to St Andrew by the Wardrobe and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Queen Victoria Street

By chance, I found the following photo of the construction of Queen Victoria Street taken from a similar position. I should have been a bit further south, but there were no viewpoints, so the above photo is as close I could get.

Queen Victoria Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PZ_CT_02_1067

From the photo it looks as if a narrow section of street was open (this may have been the original Earl Street), whilst the main part of Queen Victoria Street was constructed.

In front of the church tower are some of the original buildings at the lower end of St Andrew’s Hill. These would later be replaced by the brick building facing onto the new street shown in my photo from the walkway.

There have been some major changes in the southern end of Queen Victoria Street since the original construction. The following photo is one of my father’s photos which I featured in one of my early posts.

Queen Victoria Street

The photo shows the original southern end of Queen Victoria Street, with Upper Thames Street merging from the rights.

The following photo from the 2014 post shows the same scene.

Queen Victoria Street

The pedestrian walkway ends up in Blackfriars station, but I had lots more to see in Queen Victoria Street, so it was down the stairs and back out onto the street, but not before admiring the destination panels from the original station.

Queen Victoria Street

These stone panels date from 1886, and were replaced in their current position after development work at the station.

The panels show continental destinations that were accessible from the station via a channel ferry. I love how very different destinations are next to each other: Herne Bay and Florence, Sheerness and Vienna, Westgate on Sea and St Petersburg.

Back out of the station and opposite the southern end of Queen Victoria Street.

Queen Victoria Street

Marked by one of my favourite central London pubs – the Black Friar:

Queen Victoria Street

The Black Friar was built around 1875, so not long after Queen Victoria Street opened. The pub was Grade II listed in 1972, which probably explains how the pub has survived the development of the area. The triangular shape of the building is down to an original street and the new street.

To the left of the pub is a short stub of a street leading to a dead-end. On maps this is currently named as Blackfriars Court, but was originally Water Lane. The plot of land originally extended further south to make a more rectangular plot, however Queen Victoria Street sliced through the lower part of this plot and created a triangular plot on which the Black Friar was built.

The Black Friar was not open yet, and I still had the northern part of Queen Victoria Street to walk, so I headed back to the location of my 1982 photos.

The edge of the College of Arms building appeared in my 1982, today much of the building was covered in sheeting to protect some restoration / building work.

Queen Victoria Street

The College of Arms was also impacted by the construction of Queen Victoria Street. Initial proposals for the route of the street called for the demolition of the whole building, however protests by the College Heralds resulted in the route of the new street moving a bit further south.

However even with the new route, parts of the two wings of the College of Arms were demolished, and the building was remodeled as a three-sided building, with shorter wings down to the new Queen Victoria Street.

The College of Arms building dates from after the Great Fire of London when the original building was destroyed.

The following print from 1768 shows the building before the late 19th century changes.

Queen Victoria Street

A short distance to the north is the place where St Peter’s Hill crosses Queen Victoria Street. During the day this is a rather busy crossing being on the direct tourist and walking route from the Millennium footbridge across the Thames up to St Paul’s Cathedral.

The view looking north:

Queen Victoria Street

And the view looking south with the chimney of Tate Modern / Bankside Power Station just visible.

Queen Victoria Street

At the point where the southern approach of St Peter’s Hill reaches Queen Victoria Street, there are a pair of steel gates.

I had not realised this before, but there is a name carved into the lower section of the gates which identify them as the HSBC Gates – presumably after the company that paid for them.

Queen Victoria Street

They were designed by the artist Sir Anthony Caro and installed as part of the development of the walkway at the time of the build of the Millennium Bridge,

A 2012 report by the City of London, Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee identified a number of problems with the walkway between the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s, and with maintaining the gates:

“Not originally designed and set out to deal with the numbers of people now using it,
this area has suffered a noticeable decline in the local environment since the
Millennium Bridge opened. The HSBC gates are often used for graffiti and urination
and require frequent cleaning and sticker removal.”

The point where St Peter’s Hill crosses Queen Victoria Street is probably the busiest point on the street.

Queen Victoria Street

Further north along the street is the church of St. Nicholas, Cole Abbey.

Queen Victoria Street

A church has been on the site since at least the 12th century. The church was badly damaged during 1940, along with much of the area south of St Paul’s Cathedral.

My father took the following photo in 1947 looking across Queen Victoria Street with the shell of the church (from my post on St Nicholas, Cole Abbey):Queen Victoria Street

Across the road from the church are Cleary Garden’s:

Queen Victoria Street

The gardens are not built on the site of a lost church or churchyard, as so many other City gardens. They are built on the site of houses destroyed during the Blitz. The garden was created by a shoemaker called Joe Brandis who started the garden in the rubble of destroyed buildings.

The name comes from Fred Cleary who was Chairman of The Corporation of the City of London’s Trees, Gardens and Open Spaces Committee for three decades prior to his death in 1984.

Fred Cleary’s involvement with the City of London Corporation resulted in many of the gardens that we see across the City today. He was a firm supporter of the need to create and maintain green spaces across the City, and as with the garden’s that carry his name, made good use of the many bomb sites, some of which had already the foundation of a garden, such as that created by Joe Brandis.

I have now reached the junction of Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street. The tower is that of the church St Mary Aldermary.

Queen Victoria Street

Street name sign and boundary markers. the one on the left is unusual in that it has the names of the church wardens engraved presumably from the date of the marker in 1886.

Queen Victoria Street

Crossing the road junction and looking back along Queen Victoria Street, and on the right, between the street and Cannon Street is the distinctive form of 30 Cannon Street.

Queen Victoria Street

30 Cannon Street dates from 1977 and was by the architectural partnership of Whinney, Son and Austen Hall.

The building fits into a triangular plot of land – probably that shape after the creation of Queen Victoria Street cut through the lower triangular section of what had been a rectangular plot of land.

The shape of the windows, the rows of windows leading to the curved section facing onto the street junction, and the brilliant white of the material all help make this a stunning post war building.

The panels surrounding the windows are made from glass fibre reinforced cement – the first building to use this material.

If you also look along the sides of the building, it appears to bow out towards the street. which is down to the 5 degree outward lean of each window section.

Floors 1 to 4 have the window arches at the top of each window, but look at the top floor and the arch is upside down with the side legs of the arch around each window facing upwards.

The building is Grade II listed, the justification being the design, usie of innovative materials and the way in which the building integrates with the remaining Victorian buildings around the junction – a justification with which I fully agree.

I have now reached the northern end of Queen Victoria Street, where the street runs up to the major junction by the Mansion House and Bank of England.

The building in the photo below is the City of London Magistrates Court with the address of 1 Queen Victoria Street, so the street starts here.

Queen Victoria Street

This was the location of the opening ceremony shown in the print earlier on in this post. In both photo and print, a corner of the Mansion House can just be seen.

And in the photo below I am at the very end of Queen Victoria Street, looking towards the heart of the City, and the major junction where Lombard Street, Cornhill, Threadneedle Street , Princes Street and Poultry all meet.

Queen Victoria Street

Standing here, the need for the construction of Queen Victoria Street becomes clear. The street provides a direct route from the heart of the City to the station at Blackfriars, and for traffic it also offers a quick route across the river via Blackfriars Bridge, and to the west along that other Victorian engineering marvel, the Embankment.

However it is also a sad loss of all the small streets and alleys that once covered this section of the City, and were swept away by Victorian improvements. Also the archaeological remains that may have been lost as I suspect the Victorians were more interested in getting the street completed, than investigating what lay below the ground.

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Ironmonger Lane – Two Thousand Years of History

A couple of week’s ago I was in ironmonger Lane in the City of London, a narrow lane running between Cheapside and Gresham Street.

The buildings in the lane are relatively recent, and difficult to photograph due to the width of the lane, however Ironmonger Lane has a fascinating history, so for this week’s post, let me take you on a journey through time starting with the earliest traces of habitation in ironmonger Lane.

As with many City streets, ironmonger Lane suffered bomb damage in the last war, hence the relatively young age of the buildings that line the lane today.

The bomb damaged remains of number 11 Ironmonger Lane were being demolished after the war and the Guildhall Museum led an excavation of the site.

Number 11 is in the centre of the photo below:

Ironmonger Lane

Adrian Oswald, working on behalf of the Guildhall Museum excavated the site, and 16 feet below street level the remains of a Roman house and Roman mosaic were found.

Ironmonger Lane

The excavation was notable at the time as this was the first Roman mosaic that had been found since excavations at the Bank of England.

The mosaic and house were dated to around the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

It is intriguing to imagine that Ironmonger Lane was a street in Roman times, and this was the earliest traces of the buildings and people living in this part of the City.

Ironmonger Lane

The next traces of occupation in Ironmonger Lane are possible 9th to 11th century foundations found in the churchyard of St. Olave during an excavation in 1985 / 86. The churchyard is in the centre of the lane, and Roman bricks were also found during the excavations, providing further evidence of Roman building.

Early in the 12th century, Thomas Becket, who would become Archbishop of Canterbury and murdered at Canterbury Cathedral at the apparent command of King Henry II, was born in a house on the corner of Ironmonger Lane and Cheapside, a plaque marks the site today:

Ironmonger Lane

The Becket family owned part of the land at the southern end of Ironmonger Lane and alongside Cheapside.

Also in the 12th century, we see the first references to the church of St Olave (roughly half way along the lane), although certainly much older, and also to the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon (dedicated to Thomas a Becket), when hospitals were mainly religious establishments.

The Hospital of St Thomas of Acon was founded in 1227 on land at the southern end of Ironmonger Lane, between ironmonger Lane and Old Jewry, facing onto Cheapside.

The hospital would be important for how we see the southern end of Ironmonger Lane today.

Now for my first map. This is John Rocque’s map of 1746, although I have not yet reached the 18th century, the map is helpful in showing the location of some of these 12th century establishments.

Ironmonger Lane

Ironmonger Lane is in the centre of the map. Cheapside at the southern end, and Cateaton Street (which would later become Gresham Street) at the northern end.

Look to the southern end, and to the right of Ironmonger Lane is a block of building and the abbreviation “Cha” for Chapel – this is the area where Thomas a Becket was born and also the site of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon.

The hospital was built on land purchased from the Becket family. The name Acon is the anglicised version of Acre (now part of Israel), and dates from the Third Crusade between 1189 and 1191, and possibly originates from an order of monks / knights formed during the Crusade and the siege of Acre.

In Rocque’s map, you can see that the Mercers Hall is also shown where the hospital was located.

The Mercers Company represented the interest of merchants who traded in materials such as wool, linens and silks and it was the Mercers who became patrons of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon, and used the hospital’s chapel as a ceremonial meeting site from when the chapel was built in the 13th century in 1248.

Also in the 13th century, the second church in Ironmonger Lane is first mentioned. This is the church of St Martin Pomary which was located between the church of St Olave and Ironmonger Lane – two churches adjacent to each other. To see how close these churches were, look at Roqcue’s map above, to the left of St Olave, you will see the text “St Martin’s Church Yard”.

I have not yet mentioned anything about the name – Ironmongers Lane.

The name relates to the trade of Iron Mongers as in the medieval City, trades generally clustered around specific streets. The first mention of the name is from the 13th century, and there were many variants of the name, starting with Ysmongeres Lane, with other variations between the 13th and 14th centuries. The Agas map of 1561 records the street as Iremongers Lane.

The ironmongers would not stay too long in the area as it appears they have moved to the Fenchurch Street area in the 15th century – so the name is a remarkable survival of a medieval trade with a specific area.

In the 15th century, the Mercers were continuing their long association with the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon as in 1407 the Mercers purchased their own chapel in the Hospital’s church.

Moving a century later, and the 16th century was a time of dramatic change in ironmonger Lane.

In 1524, the Mercers built their first Hall on land purchased from the Hospital.

In 1538, the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon was taken over by the Crown during the dissolution. The Mercers negotiated the purchase of the land, and subsequently purchased all the hospital’s properties, and the company built the Mercers School on part of the land. I suspect they were a company never to pass by a good commercial opportunity.

The Agas map of 1561 shows Ironmonger Lane densely built, with the church on the east side of the street and the Mercers Hall facing onto Cheapside.

Now travel forward to the 17th century and in 1665, as with the rest of London, the occupants of Ironmonger Lane lived in dread of the plague, and as a preventative measure, the Mercers closed their school.

The following year, 1666, the Great Fire took hold of the area and burnt down the churches of St Martin Pomary and St Olave, along with the Mercers Hall.

Wren rebuilt the church of St Olave in the 1670s, but St Martin Pomary was not rebuilt, the parish was amalgamated with that of St Olave.

The Mercers second Hall and Chapel on the site were also rebuilt, opening in 1676 to continue the Mercers long association with ironmonger Lane. The fire had also destroyed all remaining evidence of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon.

In the 19th century, Ironmonger Lane was a busy commercial street in the heart of the City.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows St Olave and Mercers Hall, along with a Police Station and a Public House at number 11 – this was Mullen’s Hotel.

Ironmonger Lane

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

Census reports provide an insight into Ironmonger Lane, and the City of London in general. In the 1861 census, it was recorded that there were 23 people living in the Mullens Hotel at number 11:

  • 5 family members and the owner of the hotel
  • 8 workers, all female and listed as servants
  • 10 visitors to the hotel including;
    • Drapers from Ireland
    • Drapers from Cornwall (one with two sons)
    • A Commercial Traveler from Norwich

As ever, London was a temporary home for travelers who had business in the City.

In 1892, the church of St Olave was demolished, apart from the tower of the church. The demolition was under legislation brought in to reduce the number of City churches. The tower was converted into a rectory for St Margaret Lothbury.

The tower is difficult to photograph from street level when the trees are in leaf, but it is there.

Ironmonger Lane

View of St Olave as it appeared in 1830, before demolition of the body of the church and with the tower visible from ironmonger Lane.

Ironmonger Lane

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: q8051273

The gates that lead from the street into the old churchyard of St Martin Pomary with the tower of St Olave behind.

Ironmonger Lane

So into the 20th century, and Ironmonger Lane suffered badly from bombing during the Second World War.

The Mercers Hall, built after the Great Fire, was destroyed during the night of the 10th / 11th May 1941, and it was bomb damage that opened up number 11 to the excavation work that revealed the Roman house and mosaic.

Walking the street today, and we can still see the tower of St Olave, the old church of St Martin Pomary would have been just to the right and in front of the tower.

A number of parish boundary markers can be seen on the walls of buildings along the street, including that of St Martin Pomary:

Ironmonger Lane

The third Mercers Hall is at the southern end of the street, rebuilt after the Second World War. If you look on the corner of the hall, and along the hall and buildings along the south eastern side of Ironmonger Lane, you will see several carvings of the head and shoulders of a woman with a crown.

Ironmonger Lane

The figure is part of the armourial bearings of the Mercers Company, known as a Mercers Maiden, the figure is probably that of the Virgin Mary, although there is no written evidence to confirm this.

Ironmonger Lane

Ironmonger Lane

The Mercers have long been associated with the charitable building of houses across London, and there would have been a carving, or statue of a Mercers Maiden on the outside of the building. I have photographed a number of these including a very fine example alongside the church of St Dunstan and All Saints Stepney, and also along Hardinge Street.

The Ironmongers Lane entrance to Mercers Hall:

Ironmonger Lane

The following photo shows the view along Cheapside. The entrance to Ironmonger Lane is just to the left of the red circled street signs..

Ironmonger Lane

The large building running along Cheapside in the centre of the photo occupies the land between Ironmongers Lane and Old Jewry originally the location of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon.

The following drawing shows the Mercers Hall occupying the same site in 1881. Ironmonger Lane is at the left.

Ironmonger Lane

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: q7707062

The above view shows the post Great Fire version of the hall after considerable refurbishment. It was this version of the hall that was destroyed in May 1941.

The photo of the building from Cheapside shows more memorials to Thomas a Becket on the building corner at the junction of Ironmonger Lane and Cheapside..

Ironmonger Lane

It was the original association of the Mercers Company with the Becket family dating back to the 12th century, and their patronage of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon, that almost 900 years later has the Mercers Hall still on the same site.

Looking up Ironmongers Lane from Cheapside, the open space on the right is at the entrance to the Mercers Hall, the narrow width of the lane can be seen continuing north.

Ironmonger Lane

There are a couple of passages leading off from ironmongers Lane.

The wonderfully named Prudent Passage leads to King Street. originally this was Sun Alley, and this original name was in use in the 18th century, with the first mention of Prudent Passage being in 1875.

Ironmonger Lane

St Olave’s Court runs to Old Jewry, alongside the location of the church of St Olave, and probably over the site of St Martin Pomary.

Ironmonger Lane

The view looking north towards the junction with Gresham Street:

Ironmonger Lane

The view south along Ironmonger Lane from Gresham Street showing the narrow width of the lane.

Ironmonger Lane

Number 11 Ironmonger Lane is just along the lane on the left. No longer a hotel, a new building was constructed on the site following the 1949 excavations, and refurbished a number of times since, and it is here that the Roman house and mosaics were found, which brings us full circle on almost 2,000 years of history of Ironmonger Lane.

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