Category Archives: London Streets

Sunday Morning in Thomas More Street

On a Sunday morning in June 1949, my father photographed a solitary man walking along the middle of Thomas More Street. This is a street in the middle of the London Docks, as can be seen by the surrounding warehouses.

Thomas More Street

Fortunately, this photo is one of those that my father labelled, as without that guidance I would not have been able to find the location as there are no features to identify the exact street.

The man is in uniform. I have looked at the original high definition scan of the negative, but cannot see any details that would indicate his job. He is walking towards the river, he may be about to start work, or possibly walking home after ending a night shift.

Thomas More Street

The badge on the hat would almost certainly indicate his role, but it is to indistinct on a 70 year old film negative.

Thomas More Street is to the immediate east of St Katherine Docks. The street runs from East Smithfield down to the junction with St Katherine’s Way and Wapping High Street.

The following map shows Thomas More Street running vertically down the map, just to the right of centre  (© OpenStreetMap contributors) :

Thomas More Street

The name Thomas More Street is a relatively recent change, made at some point between 1895 and 1940 (it had the current name in the 1940 Bartholomew London Atlas). The street is named after Sir Thomas More, who was executed nearby on Tower Hill on the 6 July 1535. The original name was Nightingale Lane, a rather rural sounding name for a street in this location.

I cannot find any reference as to why the street name changed.

The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map shows the street with the name Nightingale Lane:

Thomas More Street

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

The name might imply a reference to the bird of the same name being heard in the distant past in this part of east London, however there is possibly a very old source of the name. Henry Harben’s Dictionary of London states that the earliest mention is by Stow in 1598 as Nightingale Lane. The street formed the eastern boundary of Portsoken Ward. Harben also quotes a publication by the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society on the Anglo Saxon settlement around London, where there is a suggestion that the name may be a corrupted survival of Knightengild.

This source of the name is also mentioned in “The Streets of London” by Gertrude Burford Rawlings  which states: “Nightingale Lane E.1. A corruption of Cnihtena Guild or Knightenguild. This was an ancient London Guild established, as some think, in the time of King Edgar. In the reign of Henry I it was merged in the Priory of Holy Trinity, then newly founded at Aldgate. Its ‘soke’ is represented today by Portsoken ward.”

The 1895 map shows how the street ran between two large docks, St Katherine Docks to the west and London Docks to the east. The map also shows the street lined by warehouses serving the two docks, which is confirmed by my father’s photo as being much the same in 1949.

In John Rocque’s map from 1746, the street (just to the right of centre of the map below) is called Nightingal Lane. The ‘E’ on the end is missing. Assuming this is not just an error in the map, it does add credibility to the origin of the name referenced by Harben and Rawlings.

Thomas More Street

Rocque’s map shows how much this area would change with nearly everything in 1746 obliterated by the St Katherine and London Docks and their associated infrastructure, but Nightingal(e) Lane survives today at Thomas More Street.

I tried to find the location of my father’s photo, but whilst many of the old dock walls remain, the warehouses have long since disappeared, and I suspect entrances through the walls have changed to accommodate the recent building.

Starting at the junction of Thomas More Street with East Smithfield, this is the original entrance to the Western Dock of the London Docks. The 1895 OS map shows this well.

Thomas More Street

The view looking south along Thomas More Street from the junction. The high brick walls remain and give a good impression of how tall and solid these walls were. Theft from the docks and their warehouses was always a major problem and the dock owners built these walls to surround their docks to try to manage access through a limited number of controlled entrances.

Thomas More Street

A couple of lengths of Thomas More Street did have the S shaped curve shown in my father’s photo, but I could not match up the walls at any of the locations.

Thomas More Street

There has been considerable building over the area once occupied by the warehouses that lined Thomas More Street, alongside the London Docks.

Thomas More Street

The different brick colours in the walls around the entrance show some probable rebuilding, so it is not always clear whether the entrances we see today are original, or later changes to the wall.

The development alongside Thomas More Street is named Moretown – an example of a trend seen across many parts of London where new names are given to an area to try to build a new identity – or in developer speak ‘place making’.

The wall continues alongside Thomas More Street:

Thomas More Street

Another entrance:

Thomas More Street

Looking back up Thomas More Street, the curve is going in the wrong direction to my father’s photo.

Thomas More Street

The buildings between Thomas More Street and the site of the London Docks are of steel and glass, whilst those between the street and St Katherine Docks are of brick. A couple of gaps in the building on the western edge of the street show the docks behind.

Thomas More Street

A Waitrose now serves the residents of the area, showing how much the area has changed.

Thomas More Street

Looking back along Thomas More Street showing the height of the walls.

Thomas More Street

At the junction of Thomas More Street and Stockholm Way. Thomas More Street continues to the right, as do the walls, which once had the warehouses of the London Docks behind them.

Thomas More Street

When walking these streets, the continuation of Thomas More Street look strange, as the northern section ends at Stockholm Way, which looks as if it should continue on, however Thomas More Street than continues at a 90 degree bend to the northern section.

This makes sense when looking at the 1895 OS map as Stockholm Way did not exist when the area it now runs through was covered by the London Docks.

The following photo is looking back along Thomas More Street, at the southern end of the street at the junction with St Katherine Way. On the right is an entrance to Hermitage Basin shown on the 1895 OS map.

Thomas More Street

The final street sign:

Thomas More Street

If you look at the 1895 OS map, to the west of the southern end of Thomas More Street was the Red Lion Brewery.

This was owned by the brewers Hoare & Co. but had a very long history as a brewery, possibly dating back to the 15th century. Sir John Parson’s (who gave his name to Alderman’s stairs, see last week’s post) had a brew house here in 1746 as shown in the extract from John Rocque’s map.

The brewery was closed in 1934. The end of the business was widely reported as the end of an industry that had been in operation on the site for over 500 years.

The West London Observer reported on the 15th June 1934:

“The ‘King’s Brew House’ is about to be closed after being used continuously for brewing throughout the last 500 years. The brew house is part of the buildings which form part of the Red Lion brewery, the oldest, and probably the third largest brewery in London. The whole of these buildings will be closed on June 23rd.

The ‘King’s brew house’ is so called because it supplied the beer for the English and French courts in the 17th and 18th centuries, it is believed to be the only brew house in Britain to have had a monopoly on the beer supply to the old French courts. The privilege was obtained in a romantic way by Humphrey Parsons, an 18th century brewer, who was twice Lord Mayor of London, and the manufacturer of the liquor christened by Oliver Goldsmith ‘black champagne’.

Parsons was hunting near Paris with Louis XV, and being well-mounted outstripped the rest of the party and was first in at the death. This was contrary to Court etiquette, and when the King asked the name of the hard riding stranger, he was indignantly told that he was ‘un chavalier de malte’.

The King summoned Parsons and asked the price of his horse. He replied that the horse was beyond any price other than his Majesty’s acceptance.

The horse was delivered to the King and from that time, the ‘Chevalier’ Parsons had the exclusive right to supply the French court with beer.”

There is no sign of the brewery today, after being in operation for 500 years and supplying the English and French Courts with beer.

The St Katherine’s Estate was built on the location of the brewery, and the estate now occupies the land between Thomas More Street and St Katherine’s Way, across the road from Alderman Stairs.

The entrance to the St Katherine’s Estate from St Katherine’s Way:

Thomas More Street

The estate was one of the many built by the London County Council, and above the main entrance arch is a rather lovely reminder:

Thomas More Street

The old walls that defended the warehouses and docks are Grade II listed, so hopefully are protected to provide a reminder of the industry and business that operated in the area for so many years.

It was frustrating that I could not find the location in Thomas More Street of my father’s photo, however I do love the original photo, it is so evocative of another London which has disappeared for forever.

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A Mystery on Catherine Place and Wilfred Street

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

Catherine Place

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

Catherine Place

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

Catherine Place

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine Place

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

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

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

Catherine Place

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

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

This is the Roman Catholic Chapel today:

Catherine Place

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

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

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

Catherine Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine Place

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

Catherine Place

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

Catherine Place

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

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

Catherine Place

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

Catherine Place

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

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

There are not too many of these covers surviving.

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

Catherine Place

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

Catherine Place

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

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

Catherine Place

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

Catherine Place

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

Catherine Place

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

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

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

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

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

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Charing Cross Road, Sandringham Buildings and Newport Market

For this week’s post, I am in Charing Cross Road to track down a couple of photos I took in 1979, and a later “shop front” photo from 1986.

This was the view in 1979, looking north along Charing Cross Road, close to the junction with Great Newport Street.

Charing Cross Road

The same view in 2019:

Charing Cross Road

In 1979, there were two, almost identical buildings on either side of the street. Both of these were named Sandringham Buildings and were constructed when this length of Charing Cross Road was created. The building on the left in 1979 was replaced by the block we see today, running roughly the same length of the street and with a similar approach of shops on the ground floor and flats on the upper floors.

I took these photos specifically because of the impending demolition of the building – something I have always try to do when I see a building at risk. The following photo shows the corner of the block. The signs of the shops that once occupied the ground floor can just be seen behind the scaffolding.

Charing Cross Road

The other location I wanted to track down was this 1986 photo of a tobacconist at number 74 Charing Cross Road, one from a series of shop front photos in the area.

Charing Cross Road

The same location in 2019 – no longer a tobacconist.

Charing Cross Road

The shop is one of those along the ground floor of the remaining block of Sandringham Buildings, along the eastern side of Charing Cross Road. The history of Sandringham Buildings is integral to the reconstruction of the area that resulted from the development of Charing Cross Road.

To understand how Charing Cross Road has developed, we can start with John Rocque’s map of London from 1746. Charing Cross Road does not yet exist as a through route from the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, down to the future location of Trafalgar Square. Part of the road that would become Charing Cross Road can be seen in the centre of the map, but named Hog Lane.

Charing Cross Road

The name probably came from the location of a Pound at St. Giles (roughly around the junction today of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road), where animals were held as they were driven into London, as a stop before the final push into the City markets (I wrote more about Saint Giles Pound at this link).

Hog Lane ended just north of where Cambridge Circus is today.

Continuing south, there was no single street running the future route of Charing Cross Road. It was a maze of streets, alleys and courts. In the following extract from Rocque’s map, the future location of Cambridge Circus is in the middle of the top edge of the map, and the future location of Trafalgar Square is at The Royal Stables in the middle of the lower edge of the map.

Charing Cross Road

Charing Cross Road has long been known for bookshops. The most famous being Foyles at the northern end of the street, but with many other specialist, new and second hand bookshops lining the street as you walked south.

Many of these have closed over the years, but thankfully a few still remain, holding out against the wave of standardisation across London streets.

Charing Cross Road

Charing Cross Road

Other shops that fill the retail units along the ground floor of Sandringham Buildings.

Charing Cross Road

Charing Cross Road

The development of Charing Cross Road to a single street from Tottenham Court Road towards Trafalgar Square, and the development of Sandringham Buildings can be told through the story of Newport Market.

From the time of Rocque’s map, up to the mid 19th century, the area from what was Hog Lane, around what today is Cambridge Circus, and part of what is now Charing Cross Road to the south was a dense cluster of streets and buildings known as Newport Market.

In the following extract from Reynolds’s 1847 “Splendid New Map of London”, I have circled the area of Newport Market with a red oval. To the north is Crown Street, the new name for what was Hog Lane, and the street that will become the northern part of Charing Cross Road.

Charing Cross Road

Trafalgar Square has replaced the Royal Stables, but there is no single, direct street continuing from Crown Street down towards Trafalgar Square.

In 1654, Lord Newport purchased a block of land, which today covers the area from Little Newport Street up to the location of Cambridge Circus. He built a large house and gardens, which would remain until 1682 when the estate was sold and the house demolished. The land was then redeveloped by Dr. Nicholas Barbon who created Newport Market which consisted of a large central square and operated as one of London’s main meat markets.

By the mid 19th century, the area had degenerated considerably and was recorded as providing slum living conditions. An article in the London Evening Standard of the 26th August 1880 titled “Old Newport Market” records how the market had changed:

“Gone are the glories of Newport Market; gone the glory of its Butchers-row. Fashion has this many a year forsaken its uninviting neighbourhood. Beau and buck know no more of its unsavoury haunts. Filth and squalor reign supreme in its courts and passages. Poverty and vice find within its dingy precincts congenial shelter. The old Market, indeed, exists; its walls are still standing. But how changed, how utterly changed, out of all form and semblance. Its shops and sheds are stables and slaughter-houses, its stalls and stands bricked over and built upon. Its very identity is lost; merged, so to speak, in that of prince’s-row, the narrow lane – foul among the foul – that surrounds and gives access to it. Even the name has been taken from it and applied indiscriminately to the adjoining thoroughfare and the unwholesome butchers court that abuts the southern extremity.

The article then goes on to describe the remaining trades of the market:

“The semblance only, a shadow, as it were, of its former self. A score or so of stalls owned by good-natured Irish women, pipe-loving and rough-tongued. A few eager French women, basket-bearing and garrulous, bargaining for flabby lettuce, unhealthy looking endive and sun-stewed cress. The indescribably nasty row of butchers’; shops in the narrow alley on the right, these constitute the market of to-day, galvanised into fitful activity on Saturday and Saturday night.”

The need for a wide street, linking the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road with Charing Cross and the station of the same name that had opened in the 1860s, was part of the 19th century construction across London of direct, wide streets that would address congestion problems and sweep away what were seen to be dense, slum housing.

Plans for Charing Cross Road developed during the 1870s, but there were challenges with land ownership, how much land could be purchased for the new development and the impact on those who lived in the houses that would be demolished. Newport Market was in the middle of the area planned for the extension and widening of the new Charing Cross Road, and the surrounding development.

Finally in 1882, plans were in place, and purchases of property made along the streets that would be demolished. The Illustrated London News on the 19th August 1882 reported:

“Steps have at length been taken for making, at all events, a beginning of a long-needed public improvement, a new thoroughfare between Charing-cross and Oxford-street. The materials of about forty houses about Newport Market have lately been sold by Messrs. Eversfield and Horne, the structures themselves are in process of demolition, and in the course of another month a large portion of the following streets will have disappeared:- Newport-court, Little Newport-street, Market-row, Market-street, Prince’s-row, Lichfield-street, Hayes-court, and Grafton-street.”

The last mentioned Grafton Street appears in one of the prints made in the early 1880s of Newport Market. The following print titled “North side of Newport Market Soho, Grafton St on the right”. The print is dated 1882, the same year as Grafton Street would be demolished – possibly a 19th century example of recording buildings and streets before their demolition.

Charing Cross Road

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PZ_WE_01_0315

The above view shows a rather good looking location. Open space edged by some well constructed buildings with shops along the ground floor. What the area may have been like can be judged by some of the newspaper reports of the time, such as the following from the Illustrated London News on the 10th February 1872, regarding the remains of a statue of King George II in Leicester Square:

“When the statue was removed, having suffered too much ll-usage and some positive mutilation, the effigy of the horse remained, and became the target of frequent stone-throwing practised by the idle boys of Newport-market and its neighbourhood.

Returning to Sandringham Dwellings, the Metropolitan Board of Works were forced by the Government to construct dwellings for “2,000 people of the labouring classes”, in the area of Newport Market. Agreement to this allowed the Metropolitan Board of Works to commence demolition and the build of Charing Cross Road.

The dwellings for 2,000 people were comprised of the two blocks of Sandringham Dwellings that lined both sides of Charing Cross Road to the south of Cambridge Circus.

As was often the case with these new developments, it was probably not the displaced labouring classed that benefited from the new accommodation.

In the 5th September 1885 edition of the Illustrated London News, Police Superintendent J.H, Dunlap of St. James’s Division wrote “On the site of Newport Market, notorious for everything bad and disreputable, have been erected two splendid blocks of buildings for the accommodation of the working classes, one by private speculation and called Newport Dwellings, and the other by the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, called Sandringham-buildings, a suite of erections of handsome elevation, with no appearance whatever of model buildings, having large shops on the ground floor, with the upper portion allotted in suites of two, three and four rooms. There is every possible accommodation and sanitary appliance. In these buildings, the Superintendent adds, he has sixty-seven police families, occupying 193 rooms.”

The following view of the remaining block of Sandringham Buildings is from the north, looking south along Charing Cross Road.

Charing Cross Road

To show how identical the remaining block is with the demolished block opposite, compare the corner of the building with the corner photo I had taken in one of the photos at the start of the post.

The name plaque recording that the building was erected by the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company can still be seen on the northern corner:

Charing Cross Road

Cambridge Circus is just under half way along Charing Cross Road from the north. It is at the point of intersection with Shaftesbury Avenue. it is named after the Duke of Cambridge who officially opened Charing Cross Road on Saturday 26th February 1887.

The Morning Post reported on the opening:

“The new line of thoroughfare formed by the Metropolitan Board of Works from Charing-cross to Tottenham-court-road, and designated Charing-cross-road, was on Saturday afternoon opened by the Duke of Cambridge. His Royal Highness was at one o’clock met opposite the church of St. Martin-in-the Fields by the members of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and thence drove along the new street to the circus forming the junction of the new thoroughfares.

Crowds had assembled on either side along the whole of the route, and at many points flags were flying from the windows of the houses. Upon reaching the circus the Duke of Cambridge alighted, and addressing those within hearing said – ‘I declare the new thoroughfare – Charing-cross-road – open for public use. I am happy to have the honour of assuring you and the other members of the board that all such improvements as these are of the greatest possible value (hear, hear). there is no question that the growth of this great metropolis has been such that the building of houses east and west through the town has gone on in a manner seriously injuring the public health, and anything the Metropolitan Board of Works or any other body can do to improve the locomotion in such a great city must be a benefit not only to the metropolis but to the country at large (cheers).”

The article also provides some statistics on the new road “The length of the new street is 966 yards, and its width generally 60ft. It widens to about 130ft at St. Martin’s-place but it is restricted at its entrance into Trafalgar Square to 45ft, between St. Martin’s Church and the National Gallery”.

The view across Cambridge Circus towards the Cambridge pub.

Charing Cross Road

The most impressive building facing onto Cambridge Circus is the Palace Theatre, opened in 1891 for Richard D’Oyly Carte who intended the theatre to be the home of English opera and on opening the theatre was known as the Royal English Opera House.

Charing Cross Road

As always, there is so much to see and explore, and I am only touching on a brief part of the history of the street.

The Porcupine pub on the southern corner of Great Newport Street, the building dating from around 1865.

Charing Cross Road

Look on the corner of the building, a boundary marker is partly hidden by the lighting and flowers.

Charing Cross Road

The old Tam O’ Shanter pub:

Charing Cross Road

There has been a pub here since the mid 18th century, originally named the Bulls Head. The new building was part of the realignment and widening of Charing Cross Road and the new building dates from 1896, when the pub changed name to the name that still appears at the top of the building today. The Tam O’ Shanter closed as a pub in 1960.

Charing Cross Road is one of the locations where rumours of a hidden street below the surface persist. In the middle of Charing Cross Road, at the junction with Old Compton Street, there is a large grill on an island in the middle of the road.

Charing Cross Road

Peer down through the grill and you can see a couple of signs for Little Compton Street on the brick wall lining the tunnel.

Charing Cross Road

Personally I am not at all convinced that the wall and street signs are all that remains of a street from before the redevelopment of the area, now hidden below the surface.

For a start, in the 1746 map, Compton Street approaches from the west, and terminates at Hog Lane. In the 1847 map. Compton Street still approaches from the west, then Little and New Compton Street cross over and continue eastwards from what is now Crown Street. The wall below the surface is running north south, in the same direction as Charing Cross Road, not east-west as would be expected if this was a relic of Little Compton Street.

I am also not convinced that street levels along this part of Charing Cross Road changed this significantly during redevelopment to leave a substantial part of a wall buried below ground level.

Finally, the article I quoted earlier from the Morning Post on the 28th February 1887 probably gives the real reason; “A subway has been formed under the whole length of this street to receive the gas, water, and other mains, telegraph wires, &c.; it is placed under the centre of the carriageway, and is 12ft wide and 7ft, 9in. in height, formed of a semi-circular arch of brickwork.”

I suspect the street names may have been painted on the wall, or recovered from Little Compton Street and attached to the brick wall of the subway so that those working below ground, installing or repairing utility services would know where they were, as they worked their way, below ground, along the centre of Charing Cross Road.

As usual, I have only scratched the surface of the history of the area I visit to track down the location of our old photos of London. In a post a few years ago I wrote about Foyles and the College for the Distributive Trades to the north of the street.

Newport Market has long disappeared beneath Charing Cross Road and the buildings that now line the street, but the name can still be found in Newport Place, Little Newport Street and Great Newport Street – all references to Lord Newport who purchased the land in 1654 and who also gave his name to the market.

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America Square

After finding the location of Holy Trinity for last week’s post, I walked to another location just off Minories which was my main reason for visiting the area. I wanted to find the location of the photo my father had taken of America Square in 1949.

America Square

The photo was taken at a bit of an angle and does not show the full view of America Square. The photo appears to be looking across to the far side of the square. There is an obelisk to the right, in front of a bridge, which carries the railway into Fenchurch Street Station which is to the right.

As could be expected, the area has changed significantly, and this is America Square in 2019:

America Square

The following photo shows where a street leading from America Square heads underneath the railway bridge. The obelisk would have been just in front of the bridge and to the right of the street.

America Square

America Square was built between 1768 and 1774 as part of a development which extended from America Square, south towards Tower Hill. The architect was George Dance the Younger who worked for the developer of the estate, Sir Benjamin Hammett.

The square consisted of 16 residential houses. The northern edge along what was John Street (now Cross Wall) was the only side of the square without any development.

The name America Square was a reference to American traders in the City of London, or possibly to attract these traders to purchase the houses.

The East London Observer on the 28th August 1915 provides some detail on the American association:

“America Square in John Street, Minories, in the middle of the last Century, wast the Rialto an open-air club of the officers of the beautiful sailing vessels from the States, which, for a time, outclassed the British commercial marine on the Atlantic, and filled the London and Liverpool Docks. The outbreak of the Secession Civil War brought many changes; the long blockade of the Southern Ports rid England for a full generation of a dangerous rival in international ocean trade. The ‘skimmers of the sea’ disappeared from the Atlantic or changed into armed blockade-runners and privateers; the dashing dandy Yankee and Charleston captains were improvised into Admirals of the improvised Navies of the North and the South, and found a seaman’s grave; the glory, bustle, gaiety and profusion of America Square departed.”

On an overcast Saturday morning in America Square, it was hard to imagine it as a place of ‘glory, bustle, gaiety and profusion’.

It is also hard to really appreciate how many people have walked the same streets over the centuries and the random events that connect London streets with the rest of the world. Newspapers from the last couple of centuries are full of the usual range of adverts, positions vacant, sales, passages on ships available, imported goods for sale, births, deaths and marriages etc. all with an address in America Square. On the basis that only bad news is salable news, there are also many stories of tragic and criminal events taking place.

The first reference to America Square in the newspapers is from the 16th February 1773 when John Stainbank, of America Square, Lead Merchant was included in the weekly list of bankrupts.

In the London Evening Standard of the 16th April 1863 there is a reference that a “Frederick Walker, a shrewd-looking young foreigner, was charged with robbing a hotel in America Square”.

One of the hotels in America Square was Kroll’s Hotel and an unfortunate resident was the main suspect in the Great Coram Street murder of Harriet Buswell at 12 Great Coram Street in December 1872.

Dr Henry James Bernard Gottfried Hessel was traveling from Germany to Brazil in the ship Wangerland when the vessel became stranded on the Goodwin Sands. The shipped was floated, but taken into Ramsgate for checks and repairs. Dr Hessel and his wife first stayed in a hotel in Ramsgate then traveled to Kroll’s Hotel in America Square.

In a case of mistaken identity, Dr Hessel was arrested and charged with the murder. The lack of any firm evidence, contradictory prosecution evidence and the support of those who knew Dr Hessel resulted in him being found not guilty, as the judge’s summing-up reported by the Morning Post on the 31st January 1873:

“This case has been most fully investigated here, and the witnesses on both sides have been subjected to a close and searching cross-examination, and I am satisfied that the witnesses who have spoken to the identity of Dr Hessel are entirely in error. But even supposing that their evidence had been stronger and free from discrepancies, i should have considered that the case on the part of the prosecution had been entirely destroyed by the evidence of the witnesses for the defence. It is therefore my duty, and a duty with which I discharge with great satisfaction to myself, to state that the prisoner is released, as far as I can see, and I can say that he leave this court without suspicion.”

Poor Dr Hessel – finding yourself stranded on a sandbank off the Kent cost resulting in an unexpected stay in a country which you did not expect to visit, then finding yourself on a charge of murder – a travelers nightmare.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey Map shows America Square, just above the railway shown running across the middle of the map.

America Square

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

America Square originally extended further south than its current boundary with the railway, however building of the railway in 1841 started the process of chopping bits of the square as the railway expanded.

The City Press on the 28th January 1860 reported that the London and Blackwall Railway Company had applied for an Act to enable them to provide additional station accommodation, along with other works on the northern side of the existing railway. The report stated that “The public ways proposed to the absorbed or partially interfered with by the scheme, are Gould-square, America-square, Hanover-court, the Minories. The railway is to be carried on arches through the City, and those arches which already span the public ways of Vine-street and the Minories will practically be widened by the addition of others at the side of them.”

The impact on America Square can be clearly seen in the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

The London Metropolitan Archives, Collage collection has a number of drawings and photos that help tell the story of America Square.

The first is a drawing by Thomas Colman Dibden from around 1850, showing the square when it was still surrounded by the original 18th century houses. The obelisk features in the centre of the drawing, and supports a couple of lanterns hung on either side.America Square

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: v9010129

The following direction of view of the following photo is very similar to my father’s photo, however the scene is very different.

America Square

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: m0017453cl

The photo shows America Square in 1944, soon after being hit by a V1 flying bomb. The buildings on the eastern side of the square consisted of offices for the railway’s goods yards and a parcels office. Rubble was strewn across the square, but the obelisk has survived.

This explains the state of the buildings in my father’s photo, and possibly why he photographed the scene.

The following photo from 1957 shows the obelisk still in place, but looking in rather poor condition.

America Square

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: m0026573cl

I could not find exactly when the obelisk was removed, and I assume it was destroyed. I suspect it was during the 1980s when the buildings on either side of America Square were developed.

There were many pubs around America Square, but they have now all disappeared. The building of one remains, directly opposite America Square on the junction of Crosswall and Vine Street.

America Square

This was the Angel and is shown in the 1895 Ordnance Survey map. The pub closed in 2006 and it is now a bar / restaurant called the Missouri Angel – continuing the American links of the area.

After exploring America Square, I walked under the railway to explore another part of George Dance 18th century development.

I always find the tunnels under London’s railways oddly fascinating. Look to the upper right and at the top of the wall is a street lamp with the red cross from the coat of arms of the City of London.

America Square

The streets on either side of the railway are tarmac, however the part of the street under the railway is still cobbled.

America Square

There are some interesting alleys leading off from the streets south of America Square:

America Square

Looking back through the tunnel under the railway towards America Square:

America Square

A very short distance south of America Square is the next part of George Dance and Sir Benjamin Hammett’s development that I wanted to find. If you go back to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, you will see just below the railway is a semi-circular development called The Crescent.

In an area that consists of steel and glass office buildings from the 1980s onward, The Crescent is a rather unique place, not on any direct walking route, reached through a small street that leads from the Minories and from America Square.

America Square

The original buildings were badly damaged by bombing during the last war. The damage started with total destruction on the right and progressively reducing along the buildings to the left.

Pevsner’s guide to the City of London explains that there were originally 11 houses, and only numbers 6 to 11 can be seen today. Numbers 6 and 7 (the two on the left of the terrace) retain their original doorcases. The facades were extensively restored in 1985-6 when replicas of numbers 8 to 11 (the houses to the right) were built.

Although only two originals survive (with much restoration), it is good to see that George Dance’s crescent design can still be seen, having avoided being replaced by yet another glass and steel block.

The London Metropolitan Archive, Collage site includes a photo of the Crescent in 1913:

America Square

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_008_79_4342

There is still more to explore here. There is a remarkable section of the Roman wall in the basement of One America Square. It was excavated in the late 1980s, but had been found much earlier. The reference to America Square in the 1927 edition of London by George H. Cunningham records that “In 1908 a large portion of Roman wall was discovered here”. A topic for a future post with a bit of Roman wall exploration.

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Warren Street and J.Evans, Dairy Farmer

Warren Street is probably better known by the underground station of the same name, at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road.

Warren Street runs parallel to Euston Road between Tottenham Court Road and Cleveland Street and my reason for being in Warren Street was to track down the location of one of my father’s 1980s corner shop photographs.

This is the corner shop of J. Evans, Dairy Farmer on the corner of Warren Street and Conway Street, photographed in 1986.

Warren Street

The same location, 33 years later in 2019, now occupied by The Old Dairy coffee shop.

Warren Street

The shop front and the railings are Grade II listed. The listing states that the building was constructed around 1793 with the shop front dating from 1916. I suspect that J. Evans was one of the Welsh dairy farmers who set up shop in London. The inside of these corner shops are very similar, shelves packed high with tinned and packet goods.

An enlargement of the view through the door shows a wonderful tiled picture of a field and cows, part of a set of scales can be seen to the right and the shop assistant is behind the counter.

Warren Street

This was only 33 years ago, but this type of local shopping is now dominated by the big supermarket brands, and a small store like this could probably not afford the rent or business rates.

The tiled picture of fields and cows could have been the scene where Warren Street is located back in 1746. At the time when John Rocque complied his map of London, the city had not yet reached as far as Warren Street and the area was still mainly fields, with some limited building just north of the future junction of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road. In the following extract from Rocque’s map, Tottenham Court Road is on the right. I have marked the approximate location of Warren Street with red lines, running across the full width of a field.

Warren Street

One hundred years later, and all the fields of Rocque’s map would be buried under a significant northward expansion of the city. The following map extract from Reynolds’s 1847 map (now I have the map out the shoe-box for last week’s post, I will use it more) shows Warren Street just above the centre of the map, with building covering the entire area (apart from the corner of Regent’s Park shown top left).

Warren Street

Warren Street was built between 1790 and 1791. The street is named after the daughter of Sir Peter Warren, Anne Warren the wife of Charles Fitzroy, the 1st Baron Southampton who was the owner and developer of the land on which Warren Street was built.

Warren Street is relatively quiet, a mix of architecture, but retaining many original buildings.

The street runs parallel and a short distance to the south of the busy Euston Road. Standing in Conway Street and looking across Warren Street, Euston Road can be seen, along with the new office buildings of the Regent’s Place development.

Warren Street

Looking south down Conway Street from Warren Street and a mainly original street plan and buildings survive.

Warren Street

In the above photo, the J. Evans corner shop can be seen on the right. Note the lighter bricks on the second and third floors.  The difference in bricks is due to a mid 20th century re-build of the top two floors.

The London Metropolitan Archive, Collage site has a couple of photos of J. Evans shop. The following photo dates from 1978.

Warren Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_337_78_689.

A couple of large adverts are on the Warren Street facing wall. Also note that just along Warren Street were some other shops. Difficult to see exactly what they are selling, but they look to be typical of the shops serving the day to day needs of local residents that were once found all across London. Today, these shops have been converted to a couple of private clinics.

The buildings in which these other shops were located have what appears to be a secret entrance to a different place – this is the entrance to Warren Mews.

Warren Street

Warren Mews is a short street, even quieter than Warren Street, although I dread to think how much the houses that line the mews cost.

Warren Street

After having found the old shop frount, I walked back down Warren Street towards Tottenham Court Road, viewing an interesting series of buildings as I walked.

The Smugglers Tavern:

Warren Street

I do get depressed when walking the streets of London looking at the loss of one off shops, specialist shops and businesses, however in Warren Street I found a survivor. This is the London premises of Tiranti – a UK manufacturer and supplier of Sculptors equipment.

Warren Street

The business was founded in High Holborn by Giovanni Tiranti in 1895.  The business relocated to a number of different locations over the years, and whilst the main business is now located in Thatcham, Berkshire, Tiranti still retain a London premises.

The shop window of Tiranti in Warren Street:

Warren Street

Tiranti has a fascinating history. Their web site can be found here, and contains an “About” page with a history of the business and their moves across London.

Although Tiranti has survived, another specialist business in Warren Street recently closed.

At the junction of Warren Street and Fitzroy Street is a large corner store, currently occupied by the Loft furniture business as their London showroom.

Warren Street

Until early 2017, this was the building occupied by French’s Theatre Bookshop:

Warren Street

The French’s business was established in London around 1830. The bookshop occupied several locations across London and moved to the Warren Street / Fitzroy Street location in 1983, so whilst not a long term occupier of the site, it was good to find a specialist business serving the acting community of London and further afield.

After closure, French’s went fully online, but has now reopened a bookshop at the Royal Court Theatre.

A few years ago I photographed the original entrance sign for Samuel French. It is remarkable how quickly places change.

Warren Street

The LMA Collage site identifies the same corner shop, now occupied by Loft, previously by French’s Theatre Bookshop, was in 1972 occupied by a second-hand car business.

Warren Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_340_72_1023.

Used car dealing was a specialty of Warren Street for much of the first half of the 20th century with car dealers occupying many of the buildings and also second-hand cars for sale lining the street. The business on the corner with Fitzroy Street must have been one of the last in operation on the street.

The car dealing business in Warren Street attracted a number of dubious characters, one of whom was Stanley Setty, a car dealer who operated outside a cafe on the corner of Warren Street and Fitzroy Street (on the opposite  side to the above photo) . Setty dealt in cash only and was always in possession of large amounts of cash.

He had an associate in Brian Donald Hume who dealt in black market goods. In 1949, after an argument and a fight, Setty was murdered by Hume, who disposed of his body parts over the Essex Coast from a hired plane.

The Daily Herald on the 24th October 1949 included a graphical report of the murder (©British Newspaper Archive)

Warren Street

Hume was found not guilty of the murder, only the lesser offence of being an accessory to the murder by disposing of the body. After his release from prison he was happy to report to the press that he had carried out the murder – the defence of double-jeopardy protecting him from a new trial.

Warren Street is a very different street today.

On the Fitzroy Street side of the Loft / French’s Theatre Bookshop building is a blue plaque which has an interesting connection to recent excavations.

Warren Street

Captain Matthew Flinders was instrumental in identifying Australia as a continent, by being the first western explorer to circumnavigate the land, which he would also play a part in naming.

His name was all over the media earlier this year when his grave was discovered during the excavations of St James’s burial ground as part of the HS2 extension to Euston Station, a short distance along the Euston Road from Warren Street.

Captain Matthew Flinders (source here).

Warren Street

Warren Street has some interesting shop fronts:

Warren Street

Original terrace of houses, shops on the ground floor, offices and / or flats above. Work on the buildings over the years shown by the different brick colours.

Warren Street

At the junction of Warren Street and Tottenham Court Road is the underground station that bears the street’s name.Warren Street

The first underground station opened here in 1907, with the current building dating from 1934.

The station is on the Northern and Victoria lines, and is a very busy station during week days.

Large numbers of people use the station for the offices at Regent’s Place, University College Hospital, University College London, and the businesses that line Tottenham Court Road and the surrounding streets. It is a station I have used many times and during the early morning peak hours the automatic ticket gates are usually left open to speed passengers through from the escalators to the street.

Since being a field on the northern edge of John Rocque’s London, Warren Street has been home to some lovely late 18th century buildings, the discoverer of Australia as a continent, the arrival of the underground, used car dealers, and J. Evans – Dairy Farmer, the shop that was the reason for my walk along Warren Street.

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The Perseverance or Sun Pub, Lamb’s Conduit Street

Today’s post is not the one I intended, it has been a busy week so not enough time to complete research for the planned subject, however I was in the area of Lamb’s Conduit Street last Tuesday so made a visit to the pub on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street. Today, the pub is named The Perseverance, but back in 1985 it was the Sun and had the most brilliant decoration on the rounded corner, so typical of the architecture of 19th century London pubs.

The Perseverance

This is the same view in March 2019, a change in name and rather more subdued signage on the corner of The Perseverance.

The Perseverance

Lamb’s Conduit Street has two main, historical, landowners. The Bedford Charity (which I wrote about here) owned and developed the southern part of the street, whilst the Rugby Charity owned and developed the northern section of Lamb’s Conduit Street.

The Rugby Charity still owns much of the original land, including The Perseverance with the income from the street being used to fund bursaries and scholarships to Rugby School. (There are still a number of Rugby boundary markers in place, so a future project is to walk the boundaries and look for all the remaining plaques that identified the estate).

The pub retained the name of the Sun from the early 19th century, to the 1990s when the name changed a couple of times, including being called Finnegans Wake prior to the final name change around 2005 / 2006 to The Perseverance.

I have always wondered why pubs change from names that have lasted well over 100 years. I can understand if the pub wants to completely separate from a previous existence, but when the pub continues to serve the same function to the same target market, I would have thought the marketing benefits of retaining a historical name far outweigh the benefits of a new name.

There are many other examples of name changes across London. I wrote about the Horn Tavern in Sermon Lane which only relatively recently changed name to The Centre Page.

The full view of The Perseverance on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street.

The Perseverance

I did not take a similar view in 1985 – the photo at the top of the post was the last on the strip of negatives so this must have been the end of a roll of film. One of the benefits of digital photography is the almost endless capacity for taking photos.

The photo above shows a different style to the buildings immediately joined on to the pub. These buildings, along with the original corner building date from the early 18th century, however the pub was refronted in the early 19th century to the style we see today.

The building is Grade II listed.

The Perseverance retains the feel of a “local” and has a bar area on the ground floor and a dining area on the first floor. It was still rather empty when I stopped for a quick drink as shown in the photo below.

The Perseverance

The Grade II listing states that the pub retains an original cast-iron column, which I assume is the column on the left of the bar.

Back outside, I had a couple of minutes for a quick look around.

One side of the eastern branch of Great Ormond Street has a fantastic array of potted plants lining the pavement.

The Perseverance

Whilst the opposite side of the street has a terrace of brick built houses from the original development of the land, looking good in the sunshine.

The Perseverance

Along the western branch of Great Ormond Street, a short distance along from The Perseverance is this building with a Blue Plaque.

The Perseverance

The plaque records that “John Howard, 1726 to 1790, Prison Reformer Lived Here”.

John Howard was the prison reformer after who the Howard League for Penal Reform was named. Howard was born in Hackney, but spent much of his life in Bedford. He became the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire which came with the responsibility for the county gaol.

He was horrified by the conditions of the gaol and the way in which it was administered, with control basically being down to the way in which the appointed gaolers wished to manage the prison and make money out of those with the misfortune to be held.

His experience in Bedford resulted in many journeys throughout the country exploring and reporting on the conditions of numerous gaols – all of which suffered from the same problems.

His journeys between 1775 and 1790 were described in a book “The State of the Prisons In England and Wales” which provides a comprehensive review of conditions in 18th century goals. The first paragraph of Section 1 – General View of Distress in Prisons introduces the state of the country’s gaols:

“There are prisons, into which whoever looks will, at first sight of the people confined there, be convinced, that there is some great error in the management of them; the fallow meager countenances declare, without words, that they are very miserable; many who went in healthy, are in a few months changed to emaciated dejected objects. Some are seen pining under diseases, ‘sick and in prison’ expiring on the floors, in loathsome cells, of pestilential fevers, and the confluent small-pox; victims, I must not say to the cruelty, but I will say to the inattention of the sheriffs, and gentlemen in the commission of the peace.”

The book records the state of each prison that he visited and Howard’s records of Marshalsea Prison in Southwark are as follows:

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

Howard’s book The State of the Prisons In England and Wales is available online at archive.org and provides a fascinating insight into 18th century prisons.

I did not have time to explore much further along Great Ormond Street, so I backtracked to The Perseverance to head back down along Lamb’s Conduit Street, which deserves a dedicated blog post, however one building just a short distance from the pub has some interesting decoration above the first floor windows.

The Perseverance

I could not photograph from directly opposite as the branches of a tree partially obscured the view. Detail of the first floor decoration is shown in the photo below which consists of a date along with a sheaf of wheat, tied with rope, with four hands pulling on the rope.

The Perseverance

The symbol is of the United Patriots National Benefit Society which was founded in 1843 with offices here in Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as other offices and branches across London and the rest of the country.

The society was one of a number of benefit societies to which members contributed a regular subscription and were then able to call on financial support in times of hardship. The sheaf symbol was used extensively by the society on their buildings, certificates of membership, documentation and badges.

Like many 19th century societies, the United Patriots National Benefit Society appear to have enjoyed members meetings in pubs which seemed to have consisted of entertainment and toasts (and probably lots of beer). An account from the Islington Gazette on the 4th November 1884 reads:

“The members of the Caledonian-road branch of this society celebrated their fortieth anniversary by a supper, at the ‘Prince of Brunswick’ Tavern, Barnsbury-road on Thursday evening last. Subsequently, the members having disposed themselves for the evenings entertainment.

The Chairman (Mr. W.E. Beer), in a few prefatory remarks condemning the recent disquieting rumours in the press concerning the Navy, proposed the ‘loyal and patriotic toasts’ which were drunk enthusiastically.

Mr G. Coel (the branch secretary), in responding to the toast of the evening, said that, up to the end of last year, the members on the books numbered 95. the receipts for 1883 amounted to £116 14s 11d, and the disbursements £114 17s 7d leaving a balance of £1 17s 4d in their favour, he regretted not being able to lay before them a better statement of affairs, but owing to the unfortunate prevalence of sickness during that time, there has been an extra call upon the funds; but it was, at the same time, gratifying to know they have been more than able to meet the demands made, without applying for aid from the mother society. He concluded by thanking them all for their courtesy and kindness accorded to him during his connection with them, extending over seven years (Cheers).

The proceedings throughout were enlivened with songs by the company, which separated after cordially approving votes of thanks to the Chairman and the host (Mr. Wilson).

I suspect those who had been able to call upon the society during times of sickness were the fortunate ones, with those not able to be members having very little to fall back on.

I should not be surprised as I have been walking London for decades, however it is always brilliant how much history can be found within a very short distance from a specific point. I went to find the pub which had a very colourful decoration in the 1980s and also found one of the key early founders of prison reform and the home of one of London’s benefit’s societies. Digging deeper there is the history of the Rugby Charity which received the original donation of land and has owned, developed and managed much of the local area since, and before that one of the early water supplies to London and the land owner that gave the street its name.

Hopefully subjects for future posts.

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Simmonds Stores, Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Before getting into this week’s post, can I thank everyone who commented and e-mailed following last Sunday’s post on the 5th anniversary of the blog. Your feedback is really appreciated.

There are a number of then and now photos that I find sum up the changes to an area. A few years ago I wrote a post about the location of the Gun Tavern in Wapping. My father photographed the post war ruins of the old pub. Today, the same location is occupied by a Foxton’s estate agent.

For today’s post I have another pair of photos that sum up how an area has changed. This time I am in Chelsea, and this is Simmonds Stores, on the corner of Godfrey Street and Cale Street. The photograph was taken in 1986.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The same view in February 2019:

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The two photos typify how the area has changed. A corner shop that once sold household wares, piled high outside the shop to tempt passers-by, is now the Chelsea Green Valet. It is not just the shop that has changed, the building has been “restored”, although some of the changes attempt to replicate original features which were not part of the building’s design. An example being the new door on the left of the building which replaces an original window. The use of a door surround that attempts to give the door an original appearance was part of the work to bring the building to its current appearance.

The building of Godfrey Street dates from the 19th century. The first newspaper reference I have found to the street was from 1830 which implies the street was developed in the first decades of the 19th century. The name probably comes from Walter Godfrey who was a landowner in Chelsea during the 18th century. The corner store probably dates to the original construction of the street.

The 1891 Kelly’s Directory records that Albert Simmonds, Oilman was in residence, and it is this reference that provides a clue to the early function of the store and the large jars that are still mounted on the side of the building.

These represented Tuscan oil jars and indicated that oil was sold in the store. There is another example to be found in my post on Lower Marsh in Lambeth.

The 1891 census provides some additional information on Albert Simmonds. He was aged 30 and was born in Shipton, Oxfordshire. He lived in the building with his wife Mary (31) and children Mary Ann (7), Albert (6) and Frederick (1). Also in the house there was a servant Florence Hele, aged 17 and listed as a General Servant.

I do not know when the stores closed, or whether it was still in the Simmonds family when my father photographed the building in 1986, however it retained the Simmonds name for around 100 years.

The London Metropolitan Collage archives has a photo of the stores dated from 1971.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_067_71_2348.

In 1971 the shop had a rather nice lantern over the door which had disappeared by 1986, All the windows on both the ground and first floors looked stuffed with goods for sale.

A wider view of the location of Simmonds Stores.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

I have marked the location of the building in the following map extract to show Simmonds Stores on the north-west corner of Godfrey Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

As usual, I always use the opportunity of finding these locations to take a walk around the immediate area. The shop sits between Godfrey Street on the left and Danube Street on the right. Danube Street’s main function is to provide access to the rear of the buildings on the adjacent streets.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Godfrey Street is interesting. A considerable mix of architecture with houses much altered since their original build. Many of the buildings have been painted in bright colours.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The council’s conservation reports have concerns about this approach in a conservation area – “The buildings within the area were not intended to have painted masonry finishes. Today many houses have been painted. In some cases where the whole terrace was painted many years ago in a consistent scheme, this paint has become part of the street’s character. However, in other places, where individual houses have been painted in a brick terrace, they have harmed the uniformity of the terrace and the appearance of the conservation area”.

View from the southern end of Godfrey Street looking up towards Cale Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

It is fascinating to look up newspaper references to the locations I visit. They frequently provide an insight into the lives of those who have lived in these streets. One tragic report from one of the earliest mentions of Godfrey Street, documenting an example of domestic abuse was reported in the London Courier and Evening Gazette on the 20th November 1832:

“LOVE AND SUICIDE – It may be recollected, that a few weeks ago Mr. Hilde, a Hanoverian by birth, was charged at Queen-square Police Office by a Mrs. Arthur, a young widow of 19 Godfrey Street, Chelsea-common, with frequently assaulting her, and treating her in such a manner that she considered her life in danger from his violence. He was then ordered to enter into sureties to keep the peace towards her, but he would still continue to come to the house and annoy her, although he had moved her lodgings  to No 22, Pulteney-street, Golden-square. Mr Hilde, had been a lodger of Mrs. Arthur’s and during the time he was there she was arrested and confined in Whitecross-street prison. he paid the debt for her, and she was released, and they then cohabited together as man and wife, until they had frequent quarrels, and he was in the habit of beating her continually. The last time he was brought to Queen-square was about a month ago for attempting to get into her house, and he had then great trouble to procure bail, as his friends found it difficult to keep him from going to the house where Mrs. Arthur resided, so devotedly did he appear to be attached to her, not withstanding his ill-usage of her.

On Sunday afternoon he called upon Police Sergeant King, of the V division, No. 10 at Battersea, who had him in custody at the Police-office, and he dined and drank tea with him. They afterwards went out and took a walk, and he returned and had supper with him. During the whole of the day he appeared very much depressed in spirits, and frequently exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, in broken English ‘My God ! how I love that woman ! – nobody knows how I love her !’

About a quarter to ten o’clock in the evening, he left King’s house to go home, and in less than half an hour afterwards King was informed that a man was in the Thames. An alarm was instantly given, boats put off, and in about twenty minutes the body of the unhappy man was picked up by Abraham Graves, a waterman, quite dead. The body was taken to the Adam and Eve public-house, in Duke-street, Chelsea, and Mr. Fletcher, the surgeon, promptly attended, but every effort to restore life was ineffectual. the body now awaits the Coroner’s inquest”.

The article highlights what Mrs. Arthur had to suffer, however the sympathy of the article appears to be with Mr. Hilde despite the fact that he was the one inflicting violence on the young widow. Sadly what happened in Godfrey Street was suffered by woman all across the City with minimal impact on the male perpetrators.

At first glance, Godfrey Street ends in a dead-end with a house appearing to close the street, however the street does a 90 degree bend to the right, where it meets the narrow Danube Street (the southern section of which is also called Godfrey Street).

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

On the corner is a rather nice bollard.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Turning the corner at the end of Godfrey Street and the house between the main street and the small side street is painted bright blue.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Looking down Godfrey / Danube Street that runs at the rear of the houses. A narrow service alley that provides access to the rear of the buildings.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Godfrey Street ends at the junction with Burnsall Street. I turned right into Burnsall Street to look at the buildings that are on the opposite side of the alley that runs at the back of Godfrey Street. These houses are very different. This is Astell Street which runs parallel to Godfrey Street, up to Cale Street.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

These buildings are very different to those in Godfrey Street. A look at the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows that this street was named Blenheim Street and was comprised of workman’s houses, very similar to those in Godfrey Street, however early 20th century redevelopment demolished the original terraces of two storey houses and replaced them with much larger, and more expensive houses.

These changes were happening across Chelsea, causing the Chelsea Society in 1937 to express concern about the social mix of the area changing as working class homes were being demolished and replaced with the type of building we can see in Astell Street.

At the junction of Astell Street and Britten Street is another rather nice original bollard, dating from 1844.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

Walking down Britten Street and by a lucky coincidence there is the type of place where I like to end a walk. This is the Builders Arms.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

The pub has the date c. 1820 at the very top of the building, however the written references I have found for the pub appear to date the building to around 1841. The reference to 1820 is a recent addition as this was not on the building in the 1970s.

The Builders Arms was located adjacent to the Anchor Brewery. The site of the Brewery has been considerably redeveloped, however an entrance gate can still be seen.

Godfrey Street, Chelsea

I am not sure if I remember correctly, however I believe the arch is a rebuild of the original arch, although I may be wrong.

Simmonds Stores typifies how Chelsea has changed over the last few decades, however as with the references to Astell Street, the gradual change from original working class housing to the multi-million pound housing we find today has been going on for very many years.

I have covered a number of these 1980s corner shops, and have very many more to find, however for the next series of posts, I will be returning to 1940s and 1950s London, and also discovering some other aspects of London.

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Euston Station and HS2 – A 2019 Update

The excavations of St. James Gardens, in preparation for the expansion of Euston Station for HS2, have been underway for some time and make the headlines every few months when a significant discovery is made. The last time was a few weeks ago when the grave of Matthew Flinders was found. Flinders was the first European to circumnavigate Australia. He died in 1814 and his headstone was removed from St. James Gardens during previous clearances and expansion of the station. His grave was assumed to have been lost, but was identified during the current excavations by the use of a lead plate on his coffin.

One year ago, in February 2018 I took a walk around the streets to the west of Euston Station to look at the streets that would be under the HS2 Platforms and Concourse. This followed on from an earlier post on St. James Gardens.

I thought that it would be interesting to take another walk around the same area, almost exactly one year later and get a 2019 update on the changes that have taken place.

Most of the roads have now been closed to traffic, although there is still pedestrian access along some of the roads immediately to the west of Euston Station. There has been very little demolition yet, just lots of scaffolding and hoardings. The main focus of work appears to be at the location of St. James Gardens.

The following map provides an overview of the area and I have marked the locations of the photos that appear in the post.

Euston Station

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

Euston Station is the large area in the upper right part of the map. The current HS2 expansion of Euston is roughly covering the area bounded by where I was taking photos, although the final area will be larger and there is already work commencing between the station and Euston Road.

The first few photos are from location one. Leaving Euston Station, this is the view towards Euston Street.

Euston Station

It is possible to walk north a short distance to the point where Cardington Street began. This is the street that ran to the east of St. James Gardens.

Euston Station

The following view is looking up Cardington Street. The iBis Hotel was on the left of the street. The large white marquee is covering the excavations of the graveyard at St. James Gardens. The size of the marquee provides some idea of the scale of work involved.

Euston Station

On the corner of Melton Street and Drummond Street is the original Euston station of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway. The station is one of Leslie Green’s distinctive station designs.

Euston Station

Looking back along Melton Street towards Euston Road.

Euston Station

Although closed for traffic, this part of Drummond Street is still open for pedestrians, so I walked down and turned right into Coburg Street. This section is still open for traffic and the Exmouth Arms is open (see location two). The large marquee over the St. James Gardens excavations can be seen in the background.

Euston Station

Looking back down Drummond Street from location three in the map.

Euston Station

The other side of Coburg Street is open, but the buildings alongside are hoarded off, presumably waiting for demolition.

Euston Station

The following photos are from location four. At the junction of Coburg Street and Euston Street, yet more buildings covered in scaffolding.

Euston Station

The Bree Louise pub is still there, but fenced off.

Euston Station

Back to the junction with Drummond Street and this is the view along the northern leg of Coburg Street. The old iBis Hotel is underneath the sheeting on the right.

Euston Station

I then walked up to Hampstead Road to see what impact HS2 preparation is having. Most of the buildings along a significant section of the east side of Hampstead Road have been demolished, including the old London Temperance Hospital. This is the view (location five) of the rear of the marquee covering the St. James Garden’s excavations.

Euston Station

HS2 have built a small community space along Hampstead Road (location six).

Euston Station

On display in the space are the foundation stones recovered from the London Temperance Hospital.

Euston Station

The first foundation stone, with above, a decorative lintel retrieved from the main building.

Euston Station

An information note advises that time capsules were retrieved from underneath the foundation stones and that these are currently being conserved. Unfortunately there is no information on what was in the time capsules.

There is also a memorial stone recovered from St. James Gardens. This is a Ledger Stone for the Griffiths family, made of Welsh slate possibly to reflect their Welsh heritage.

Euston Station

The second foundation stone from the London Temperance Hospital.

Euston Station

There are a number of large information panels which tell the history of the area and the impact the expansion of the railways.

Euston Station

The railways have had a significant impact on the area, HS2 is just the latest expansion. 19th century expansion of Euston Station had already taken a section of St. James Gardens and the construction of the tracks into the station had a major impact on the graveyard of St. Pancras Old Church.

Information panels showing the history of the wider area.

Euston Station

This was the northern end of Cardington Street which is closed a short distance along (location seven in the map above). I suspect many satnavs have not been updated as in the short time I was there, a number of cars turned into the street and had to turn round.

Euston Station

View along Hampstead Road to the south. The area to the left of the photo will look very different when HS2 is complete.

Euston Station

In the year since I last visited the site, the main focus of work appears to be at the old graveyard at St. James Gardens which is not surprising given the considerable amount of archaeological excavation and investigation that is needed.

It is still possible to walk many of the streets, although for how much longer is not clear, the majority of buildings lining these streets appear to be ready for demolition.

It will be interesting to make a return visit in February 2020 to see how far work has progressed. What is clear is the scale of the impact that HS2 will have on Euston. This will be a very different station when the new service is operational.

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New Deal For East London – Bromley By Bow to Poplar

Two years ago I started a project to revisit all the locations listed as at risk in an issue of the Architects Journal. dated 19th January 1972. This issue had a lengthy, special feature titled “New Deal For East London”. The full background to the article is covered in my first post on the subject here.

I have almost completed the task of visiting all 85 locations, there are just a few more to complete. I had a day off work last Monday, the weather was perfect, so I took a walk from Bromley by Bow to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs to track down another set of locations featured in the 1972 article, and also to explore an area, the first part of which, is not usually high up on the list for a London walk.

There was so much of interest on this walk, that I have divided into two posts. Bromley by Bow to Poplar today, and Poplar to the tip of the Isle of Dogs, hopefully mid-week.

I had five sites to visit, which are shown in the following map from the 1972 article, starting at location number 29, passing by sites 56, 28 and 27 before finishing at site 26.

To get to the start of my planned route, I took the Hammersmith & City line out to Bromley by Bow station. There have been some considerable changes to the area in the years since the 1972 article, changes which are still ongoing. The following map shows the area today with the five locations marked. One obvious difference between the 1972 and 2019 maps are the major roads that have been cut through the original streets, and it is by one of these new roads that I would start the walk.

Map  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

The entrance to Bromley by Bow underground station has been a building site for the last few years, although with not too much evidence of building work underway. The exterior of the station entrance is clad in hoardings and scaffolding.

Bromley by Bow

The underground station entrance opens out onto a busy road. Three lanes of traffic either side of a central barrier. This is the A12 which leads from the Bow Flyover junction with the A11 and takes traffic down to the junction with the A13 and the Blackwall Tunnel under the River Thames.

Directly opposite the station is a derelict building. This, along with surrounding land has been acquired by a development company ready for the construction of a whole new, mainly residential area, including a 26 storey tower block.

Bromley by Bow

In the photo above, i am looking across the 6 lanes and central barrier of the A12. The construction of this road in the 1970s had a major impact on the area. It was once a network of smaller streets, terrace housing and industry, much of which was due to the location adjacent to the River Lea. The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London shows a very different area. Bromley Station (now Bromley by Bow) is towards the top of the map with St. Leonard’s Street passing the station, leading down to Brunswick Road. Parts of these streets remain, however as the north to south route they have been replaced by the six lane A12. Many of the side streets have also disappeared or been shortened.

Bromley by Bow

There are still many traces that can be found of the original streets and the buildings that the local population would have frequented. This photo is of the old Queen Victoria pub at 179 St Leonard’s Street.

Bromley by Bow

The pub is surrounded by the new buildings of Bow School, however originally to the side of the pub and at the back were large terraces of flats which presumably provided a large part of the customers for the Queen Victoria. The pub closed in 2001 and is presumably now residential.

Walking further along the road, the road crosses the Limehouse Cut, built during the late 1760s and early 1770s to provide a direct route between the River Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs loop and the River Lea.

Bromley by Bow

New build and converted residential buildings have been gradually working their way along the Limehouse Cut, however there are a few survivors from the light industrial use of the area, including this building where the Limehouse Cut passes underneath the A12.

Bromley by Bow

A short distance along is another old London County Council Fire Brigade Station for my collection. This was built in 1910, but has since been converted into flats.

Bromley by Bow

The building is Grade II listed, with the Historic England listing stating that the building “is listed as one of London’s top rank early-C20 fire stations“. The building originally faced directly onto Brunwsick Road and was known as Brunswick Road Fire Station, however with the A12 cutting through the area, the small loop of the original Brunswick Road that separates the fire station from the A12 has been renamed Gillender Street.

The short distance on from the fire station is the first of the Architects Journal sites on my list:

Site 29 – Bromley Hall

The view approaching Bromley Hall:

Bromley by Bow

For an area that has been through so much pre and post war development, the original industrialisation of the area and wartime bombing, it is remarkable that Bromley Hall has survived.

Although having been through many changes, the building can trace its origins back to the end of the 15th century when it was built as a Manor House, later becoming a Tudor Royal Hunting Lodge. The site is much older as it was originally occupied by the late 12th century Lower Brambeley Hall, and parts of this earlier building have been exposed and are on display through a glass floor in the building.

Bromley by Bow

The London Metropolitan Archives, Collage site has a few photos of Bromley Hall. The first dates from 1968 and shows the hall, apparently in good condition, but surrounded by the industry that grew up along the River Lea.

Bromley by Bow

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01 288 68 5683

The photo highlights the impact that the A12 has had in the area. The above photo was taken from Venue Street, a street that still remains, but in a much shorter form. Everything in the above photo, in front of Bromley Hall, is now occupied by the six lane A12.

An earlier photo from 1943 showing Bromley Hall. The windows have been bricked up, I assume either because of loss of glass due to bombing, or as protection for the building.

Bromley by Bow

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_288_F1262

Bromley Hall is Grade II listed and has been open during Open House London weekends and is well worth a visit.

Further along is another example that this area, now isolated across the A12 was once a thriving community. This imposing facade is of Bromley Library, built between 1904 and 1906.

Bromley by BowBromley Library was one of four libraries in Poplar. The others being Poplar Library in the High Street, Cubitt Town Library in Strattondale Street and Bow Library in Roman Road. These libraries were open from 9 in the morning till 9:30 in the evening, and in 1926 almost half a million books were issued across the four libraries.

The Bromley Library building is now Grade II listed. It closed in 1981 and after standing empty for many years, the old library building has been converted into small business units.

I walked on a bit further, then took a photo looking back up the A12 to show the width of the road.

Bromley by Bow

Bromley Hall is the building with the white side wall to camera, and the library is just to the left of the new, taller building.

There is a constant stream of traffic along this busy road, when I took this photo it was during one of the occasional gaps in traffic when a pedestrian crossing just behind me was at red. There are not too many points to cross the road, with crossings consisting of occasional pedestrian traffic lights and also a couple of pedestrian underpass.

Much of this lower part of the A12 widening between the Limehouse Cut and East India Dock Road was originally Brunswick Street. The following Collage photo from 1963 shows Brunswick Street before all this would be swept away in the 1970s for the road between the Bow Flyover and the Blackwall Tunnel.

Bromley by Bow

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_288_AV63_989

Before the road meets the East India Dock Road, there are additional lanes to take traffic under the A12 and across to Abbott Road to the east.

Bromley by Bow

Close to the junction between the A12 and the East India Dock Road is the Balfron Tower.

A whole post could be written about Balfron Tower, the flats design by Erno Goldfinger and built in 1967. Balfron Tower tends to generate either love it or loathe it views of the building. dependent on your appreciation of high-rise accommodation and concrete construction.

The recent past has also been controversial in the history of the building. Like many estates from the 1960s, Balfron Tower suffered from lack of maintenance, failing lifts, problems with plumping and anti-social behavior.

In 2007 the building was transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to the housing association Poplar HARCA. The transfer included a commitment for refurbishment of the building which required considerable work and cost.

Tenants were initially given the option to remain whilst refurbishment was carried out, or move to a new local property. Whilst a number of residents took up the option to move, a number of residents remained.

The remaining residents were moved out in 2010, the reason given being the difficulty of managing a significant refurbishment project along with health and safety issues whilst there are residents in the building. Initially there was an indication that the residents may have a right of return, however this option disappeared as work progressed, and the costs of building works grew.

The redevelopment work is being undertaken by a joint venture including Poplar HARCA, LondonNewcastle and Telford Homes. There will not be any social housing in the refurbished building and all flats will be sold at market rates.

A long hoarding separates the building from the A12 with artist impressions of the new Balfron Tower and the address of the website where you can register your general interest, or as a potential purchaser of one of the flats.

Bromley by Bow

Balfron Tower photographed in February 2019, clad for building work.

Bromley by Bow

A couple of years ago, I climbed the clock tower at Chrisp Street Market and photographed Balfron Tower:

Bromley by Bow

This is a development that will continue to be controversial due to the lack of any social housing and the sale of the flats at market rates. Another example of the gradual demographic change of east London.

To reach my next destination on the Architects’ Journal list, I turn into East India Dock Road. A terrace of 19th century buildings with ground floor shops runs along the north of the street and above Charlie’s Barbers there is an interesting sign:

Bromley by Bow

Interesting to have this reference to a north London club in east London. I put this photo on Twitter with a question as to the meaning and one possible reference is the boring way Arsenal use to play and results would only ever be one nil. I would have asked Charlie, if he still owns the barbers, however they were shut during my visit.

Bromley by Bow

A short distance from Charlies Barbers and across the East India Dock Road was my next location.

Site 56 – Early 19th Century All Saints, Poplar, With Contemporary Rectory And Terraces

Buildings seem to have a habit of surrounding themselves in scaffolding whenever I visit and All Saints, Poplar was certainly doing its best to hide, however it still looks a magnificent church on a sunny February morning.

Bromley by Bow

Poplar was originally a small hamlet, however the growth of the docks generated a rapid growth in population. The East India Dock Road was built between 1806 and 1812 to provide a transport route between the City and the newly built East India Docks.

Alongside the East India Dock Road, All Saints was constructed in the 1820s by the builder Thomas Morris who was awarded the contract in 1821.

The church survived the bombing of the docks during the last war until March 1945 when a V2 rocket landed in Bazely Street alongside the eastern boundary of the churchyard, causing considerable damage to the east of the church.

The church was designed to be seen as a local landmark along the East India Dock Road and across the local docks. The spire of the church is 190 feet high and the white Portland stone facing would have impressed those passing along the major route between City and Docks.

Burials in the churchyard ended in the 19th century and the gravestones have been moved to the edge, lining the metal fencing along the boundary of the church.

Bromley by Bow

The area around the church was developed during the same years as construction of the church. A couple of streets around the church now form a conservation area. These were not houses built for dock workers. Their location in the streets facing onto the church would be for those with a substantial regular income, rather than those working day-to-day in the docks.

This is Montague Place where there are eight surviving terrace houses from the 1820s.

Bromley by Bow

At the eastern end of Montague Place there is another terrace of four houses in Bazely Street. These date from 1845 and are in remarkably good condition.

Bromley by Bow

The church and two terraces of houses form a listed group and are part of a single conservation area.

A short distance further down Bazely Street is one of my favourite pubs in the area – the Greenwich Pensioner. The pub closed for a few years recently but has fortunately reopened.

Bromley by Bow

One of the problems of walking in the morning – the pubs are still closed.

I continued along Bazely Street to Poplar High Street, then turned south to the large roundabout where Cotton Street (the A1206) meets the multi-lane Aspen Way. This is not really a pedestrian friendly area, however I needed to cross under the Aspen Way to continue heading south for my next destination.

This photo looking towards the east, is from the roundabout underneath the flyover that takes the Aspen Way on its way to the Lower Lea Crossing.

Bromley by Bow

As with the A12 along Bromley by Bow, this area has been cut through with some major new multi-lane roads as part of the redevelopment of the docks.

A poster seen underneath the flyover alongside the roundabout.

Bromley by Bow

A poster that is relevant to a specific point in time. I was not sure who would see the poster as it is facing inwards, away from the traffic on the roundabout, and I doubt that many pedestrians take this route.

Emerging from underneath the flyover and the developments on the northern edge of the Isle of Dogs can be seen.

Bromley by Bow

Crossing over Trafalgar Way, and one of the old docks can be found. This is Poplar Dock looking west with two cranes remaining from when the dock was operational.

Bromley by Bow

The site is now Poplar Dock Marina and is full with narrow boats and an assorted range of other smaller craft. Poplar Dock opened in 1851, however the site had originally been used from 1827 as a reservoir to balance water levels in the main West India Dock just to the west. In the 1840s the area was used as a timber pond before conversion to a dock.

Poplar Docks served a specific purpose, being known as a railway dock. The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Poplar Docks almost fully ringed by railway tracks and depots of the railway companies.

Bromley by Bow

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

Again, the docks deserve far more attention than I can give in this post, so for now, I will leave Poplar Docks at their southern end and walk along Preston’s Road to get to my next location on the Architects’ Journal list.

Site 28 – Early 19th Century Dockmaster’s House, Now Empty

Those last two words must have been the reason for inclusion in the list. An empty building in the docklands in the 1970s would have been at risk, however fortunately the building has survived and this is the view when approaching the location along Preston’s Road.

Bromley by Bow

The Dockmaster’s House goes by the name of Bridge House and is now occupied by apartments available for short term rent.

The house is alongside the Blackwall entrance to the docks, a channel that connects the River Thames to the Blackwall Basin so would have seen all the shipping entering from the river, heading via the basin to and from the West India Dock.

Evidence of the historic function of the place can be found hidden in the gardens between the house and the channel.

Bromley by Bow

Bridge House was built between 1819 and 1820 for the West India Dock Company’s Principal Dockmaster. The entrance to the house faces to the channel running between docks and river, however if you look at the first photo of Bridge House taken from Preston’s Road you will see large bay windows facing out towards the river. This was a deliberate part of the design by John Rennie as these windows, along with the house being on raised ground would provide a perfect view towards the river and the shipping about to enter or leave the docks.

The Architects’ Journal in January 1972 were right to be worried about the future of Bridge House. Later that same year a fire destroyed the roof. The rest of the house survived and a flat roof was put in place.

The house was converted to flats in 1987 and a new roof to the same design as the original replaced the flat roof. The luxury flats did not sell, and Bridge House has hosted a number of temporary office roles before apparently now providing a short term let for flats which have been constructed inside the building.

The view from in front of the house. This side of the house is facing down to the channel that leads from the Thames to the Blackwall Basin.

Bromley by Bow

A view from the bridge over the channel showing the house in its raised position, overlooking the channel and to the right, the River Thames (although that view is now obstructed by buildings).

Bromley by Bow

Before continuing on down through the Isle of Dogs in my next post, I will pause here on the bridge over the channel between docks and river to enjoy the view.

This is looking west towards the original Blackwall Basin:

Bromley by Bow

This is looking east, the opposite direction towards the river with the Millennium Dome partly visible across the river.

Bromley by Bow

I really enjoyed this part of the walk, what could be considered an unattractive route, walking down from Bromley by Bow station is completely wrong. It is an area going through considerable change but there is so much history and so much to explore.

In my next post I will continue walking south towards the far end of the Isle of Dogs to find the remaining two locations from the 1972 issue of the Architects’ Journal.

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A Corner Shop In Old Ford Road

Last Sunday, I took advantage of some glorious winter sunshine and headed out to Bethnal Green and Old Ford Road to find the location of a corner shop my father had photographed in 1986, when small, family owned corner shops still catered for the day to day needs of many Londoners.

This was Fowlers Stores at 33 Old Ford Road:

Old Ford Road

The same shop today in February 2019:

Old Ford Road

The 1986 photo shows a typical London corner shop. Shelves up against the window stocked with items such as Mothers Pride bread, a rather random assortment of household goods in the window on the left, always plenty of cigarette advertising, milk bottles in crates left outside for collection, and in Fowlers Store, an advert for Tudor Colour Films at the top of the door – a film brand I tried once as it was cheap before returning to Kodak.

What can be seen of the outside of the shop today looks in very poor condition, although I am surprised that the 33 Old Ford Rd sign is still there – 33 years after the original photo.

I would love to look behind the shutters and see how much of the original shop survives.

I am not sure when the shop closed, on the occasions I have walked along Old Ford Road in recent years it has always been closed with the shutters down.

There is a National Lottery Instants sign just above the door in my 2019 photo. I believe these were distributed when the National Lottery started scratchcard games in 1995, so the shop was open in the middle of the 1990s.

I checked the historic view feature in Google Streetview and the shop was closed in all images back to the first in July 2008, so the Fowlers Stores must have closed between the mid 1990s and 2000s.

33 Old Ford Road is located at the Cambridge Heath Road end of Old Ford Road, on the corner with Peel Grove, a street that is now a short dead end after the grounds of a school took over the central section of Peel Grove.

The shop is at the end of a terrace of 19th century houses / shops.

Old Ford Road

The buildings do not date from before 1850 as an 1844 map shows a limited amount of buildings here, along with some subtle road changes as Old Ford Road originally terminated further to the right of the above photo and this stretch appears to have been a combination of North Street and Gretton Street. The North East London Cemetery was located just to the north where the school adjacent to Peel Grove is now located.

I suspect it has been a shop for most of the life of the building.  In the 1891 Kelly’s London Post Office Directory, 33 Old Ford Road is listed as being occupied by William Stone – Grocer.

Given that the shop has probably been closed for at least 10 years, I am surprised it has not been converted for some other use.

The map below shows the location of the shop marked by a red circle.

Old Ford Road

Maps  © OpenStreetMap contributors. 

As usual, I use visiting a specific location as a reason for exploring the local area and after finding 33 Old Ford Road, I went for a brief walk.

I have already explored part of the area when I was tracking down sites listed as at risk in the Architects Journal focus on East London in 1973, but there were a couple of other streets I wanted to visit.

Turning off Cambridge Heath Road into Old Ford Road, before I had reached number 33, is the magnificent York Hall.

Old Ford Road

This magnificent building, opened in 1929, was at risk a few years ago, but fortunately has been saved and is owned by Tower Hamlets Council.

The building has housed Turkish Baths in the basement and all manner of functions in the large hall. Boxing matches were a regular feature and in the early days of the hall, political functions attracted the attention of the political groups trying to create trouble across East London. A newspaper article from the 17th February 1939 reports:

“LIVELY TIME FOR LIBERAL LEADER – FASCISTS HURL TOMATOES AND LIGHT BULBS: Tomatoes and electric light bulbs were thrown at the platform, when Sir Archibald Sinclair, Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, was subjected to noisy interruptions while addressing a Liberal meeting in York Hall, Bethnal Green, London last night.

Three hundred Fascists had got into the hall with tickets which, it was alleged, they had printed themselves. It was not until the police had ejected a large number of people that Sir Archibald Sinclair was able to make himself heard. He was continually interrupted, and there was an uproar as a man was ejected.

When Sir Archibald rose the Fascists sang their marching song “We Want Mosley”.

There were attempts to drown his voice by singing. ‘Some people want to hear Mosley’ Sir Archibald shouted into the microphone, ‘but he isn’t here to be heard. The reason they are anxious to stop me speaking is that they know the words I speak will express the opinion of the great majority of people in Bethnal Green. I could not do so much for the Liberal cause as these people are doing’.

When the crowd again began to chant ‘We want Mosley’ the chairman said, ‘We will telegraph to Mr. Hitler and say that his hirelings have been playing his game’. 

In his speech Sir Archibald said: ‘The question which the Liberal party asks is how we are to defend democracy, to uphold the values of liberty, justice and international good faith – to expand the bounds of freedom, to raise the material and spiritual standards of our civilisation, to give every man and woman in these islands the opportunity of living a fuller, richer and more useful life in a peaceful and orderly world.”

York Hall hosted other, rather more peaceful events, for example, a couple of years earlier the hall was hosting an exhibition by the Bethnal Green Chamber of Commerce, where there was a miniature brewery on display, demonstrating the complete process of brewing and bottling.

Old Ford Road is an interesting road. It reaches almost to the River Lea having crossed the Regent’s Canal. The name is a reference to an old crossing point through the River Lea. I will save that walk for another time, as last Sunday, just after number 33 Old Ford Road, I turned right into Globe Road.

The name Globe Road is a reference to the pub, the Old Globe on the corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road.  The street has been through several name changes, the northern end through which I am walking was originally named Back Lane.

Globe Road is another long road that reaches down to Mile End Road, but for this post I only walked the length of the road to Roman Road (see the above map).

Most of the development of this stretch of Globe Road is down to the East End Dwellings Company who built large blocks of flats, as well as a rather nice terrace of houses.

The following photo comprises Gretton Houses in the distance and Merceron Houses nearer the camera.

Old Ford Road

The name Gretton is the same as the original name given to the short stretch of Old Ford Road roughly where number 33 now stands. I have not yet found the origin of this name.

The East End Dwellings Company was formed in the early 1880s by the vicar of St. Jude’s, Whitechapel, the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett. The intention of the Company was to provide housing for the poor, including those who other philanthropic housing companies often avoided, such as casual day labourers.

Gretton Houses were built in 1901 and designed by Ernest Emmanuel.

Old Ford RoadMerceron Houses were built in the same year, also to a design by Ernest Emmanuel.

Old Ford Road

The name Merceron is from one of the east London families who had control over large parts of Bethnal Green. The excellent book The Boss of Bethnal Green by Julian Woodford details the story of the family and their impact on Bethnal Green.

The buildings of Gretton and Merceron Houses that we see today are only part of the original construction as two blocks of these houses were demolished in 1982.

Directly opposite Merceron Houses is a wonderful terrace of houses, also by the East End Dwellings Company. the central pair of houses has a plaque naming the company as the builders of the terrace and that they were constructed in 1906.

Old Ford Road

The terrace of houses were designed by Henry Davis and built on the site of a row of weavers cottages.

Old Ford Road

Further down Globe Road is another large block of flats by the East End Dwellings Company.

Old Ford Road

This is Mendip Houses:

Old Ford Road

Mendip Houses running along Kirkwall Place from Globe Road:

Old Ford Road

This short stretch of Globe Road is rather unusual for east London as two pubs remain open in the street.

The first is The Camel:

Old Ford Road

The second is the Florist Arms:

Old Ford Road

Both pubs have the same owners so hopefully an indication that their safety is assured for some time.

This short stretch of Globe Road soon arrives at Roman Road. It continues across Roman Road and the next stretch of Globe Road is a story of lost railway stations and demolished pubs which I will save for another day, but on the corner of Globe Road and Roman Road is one of the magnificent, 19th century London fire stations.

This is the Grade II listed Bethnal Green Fire Station:

Old Ford Road

The building ceased operation as a fire station in 1968 and was empty for 10 years until it was taken over by the London Buddhist Centre who retain the building to this day.

Although the building looks really good today, the brickwork glowing in the winter sunshine, it was even more impressive after it was first built in 1888. the following photo from 1906 shows a very impressive tower on the right side of the fire station. I assume this may have been for hanging and drying hoses.

Old Ford Road

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0474_3601

Unfortunately the tower was considerably truncated at some point. The following photo from 1973 shows the closed fire station with the main doors boarded up.

Old Ford Road

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0474_3601

Considering the length of time that the fire station was empty it is remarkable that it has survived. Grade II listing in 1973 must have helped save the building, 5 years after the London Fire Brigade stopped using the building and with still no use planned.

The restored plaque on the side of the fire station in Bessy Street dating the construction of the building:

Old Ford Road

There is an interesting street sign here in Bessy Street:

Old Ford Road

To the left of the street name is the name and symbol of Globe Town:

Old Ford Road

I suspect the street sign dates from around 1986. Globe Town is a much older name, however after the GLC was abolished in 1986, responsibility for the area transferred to Tower Hamlets Council who created seven neighbourhoods, one of which was Globe Town.

The name Globe Town can be traced back to the start of the 19th century. Estate building to the east of Bethnal Green started in the closing years of the 18th century and by the early 19th century, the name Globe Town was being used for this new area.

The following map extract from 1844 shows the location of Globe Town.

Old Ford Road

As there have been a number of changes since this map was created, I have marked the key locations from today’s post. The red dotted line indicates the route I have walked – a very short distance.

I wonder how long the remains of the shop at 33 Old Ford Road will be there? With the speed of redevelopment across London I am really surprised that if indeed it has been closed since at least 2008, it has not already been converted into flats.

After finding the East End Dwellings Company buildings in Globe Road, I am also a good way through a side project to track down all their remaining buildings across London.

Finding one location also always identifies new areas to walk, so the rest of Old Ford Road, Globe Road and indeed Globe Town have been added to an ever increasing list. Returning will enable me to keep track of the old shop at 33 Old Ford Road.

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