Category Archives: London Streets

A Bomb Site In Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Road

I was intending to write about Ampton Street a couple of weeks ago, It is the location of one of my father’s photos, taken in 1947, of a street with a cleared bomb site along one side of the street.

This was one of the photos my father had printed, and on the reverse was written Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Road. I had assumed the photo was taken from Gray’s Inn Road (I will explain why later), but when I got home and checked the photos side by side on the computer, it was obvious that I had taken the photo at the wrong end of the street. I had a day off from work last week, so on a rather lengthy walk, I included Ampton Street on the route and finally photographed the scene from the correct end of the street.

Ampton Street is shown in the following map extract. In the very centre of the map, a relatively short street running right from Gray’s Inn Road towards Cubitt Street.  (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

Ampton Street

This is my father’s photo taken in 1947. The  view is looking from Cubitt Street, along Ampton Street, in the direction of Gray’s Inn Road. A length of Ampton Street has been cleared of houses following considerable bomb damage.

Ampton Street

The first house still standing on the right hand side of the street is on the junction with Ampton Place, so the entire terrace of houses from Ampton Place to Cubitt Street has been destroyed.

This area on both sides of Gray’s Inn Road suffered considerable bomb damage during the war.

The LCC Bomb Damage Maps showing the houses on the cleared space as “total destruction”.  The houses on the left of the street are colour coded purple “damaged beyond repair” and red “seriously damaged”. This also applied to many of the buildings in the street directly opposite Ampton Street on Gray’s Inn Road and there are new buildings now covering these areas.

A V1 flying bomb also landed just south of Ampton Street on the area just behind what is now  the Eastman Dental Hospital (the old Royal Free Hospital).

I love the detail in these photos, in this one there are a couple of children playing in the street:

Ampton Street

This is the same view today:

Ampton Street

I took the photo a bit to the left of where my father was standing in order to get a slight view up Amton Street.

The bomb site is now covered by the brick buildings on the right of the photo and the open space on the left is also covered by new buildings.

Ampton Street is now closed off to through traffic with only a pedestrian walkway and cycle lane running through into Cubitt Street. Looking through the gap between trees and buildings it is just possible to see the porticos on the houses on the left, far more clearly shown in my father’s photo as in 1947 there was a clear view along the street.

These are the buildings on the cleared bomb site:

Ampton Street

In my father’s photo, a couple of the buildings have a portico over the entrance. These are still visible today and a couple of buildings have also had porticos added since 1947.

Ampton Street

The LMA Collage archive includes a 1972 photo of the same terrace of houses as shown in my photo above.  A number of the houses look to be in a rather derelict state, with broken windows and boarded up ground floor windows. Rather amazing considering the prices these houses would sell for today.

Ampton Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_333_72_716

This is the view leading into Ampton Place. The house on the left is the one seen at the end of the cleared bomb site in the 1947 photo.

Ampton Street

This is the view looking down Ampton Street towards Cubitt Street. The housing on the left occupies the 1947 bomb site:

Ampton Street

This is the photo I took a couple of weeks ago, looking across Gray’s Inn Road towards Ampton Street, thinking at the time it was the right place.

Ampton Street

In my defence it was a hot day, I had already walked for miles, and I was looking at the original photo as a small printout. I had assumed that the park area on the right of Ampton Street was the old bomb site, however it should have been very obvious that the houses on the left are different to the original photo and the house just visible on the right is too close to Gray’s Inn Road to be the house in the original photo.

Ampton Street was built between 1821 and 1827 by Thomas Cubitt. The land between Gray’s Inn Road and the Fleet River was owned by Lord Calthorpe and in 1814 he applied for an Act of Parliament to approve the paving of streets on his land.

Some of this land was leased to Thomas Cubitt who built Ampton Street, Frederick Street, and the street now named after the builder, Cubitt Street (however at the time it was called Arthur Street.)

The houses that remain in Ampton Street are perfect examples of Cubitt’s early 19th century designs. This is the terrace running from the Gray’s Inn Road to Ampton Place along the northern side of Ampton Street. On the far right of the photo can be seen the new builds on the old bomb site. This original terrace probably shows what the destroyed terrace looked like.

Ampton Street

A rather nice street name plaque:

Ampton Street

It is unusual to walk these early 19th century streets and not find a street without a plaque recording a previous resident and Ampton Street continues this rule with an LCC plaque recording that Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish writer, historian, and key founder of the London Library lived here from 1831 to 1834. It was his first London residence after moving from Craigenputtock, a very rural location in south west Scotland where Carlyle lived with his wife.

Ampton Street

Carlyle wrote about his stay in Ampton Street that they spent “an interesting, cheery, and in spite of poor arrangements, really pleasant winter. We lodged in Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Lane, clean and decent pair of rooms, and quiet decent people. Visitors in plenty, John Mill one of the most frequent, Jeffrey, Lord Advocate, often came on an afternoon.”

Thomas Carlyle’s house in the centre of the photo:

Ampton Street

The area around Ampton Street, covering Lord Calthorpe’s original land still has many of the original early 19th century buildings and shows the development of the city as formal streets and housing spread north. There is a Calthorpe Street, named after the original owner of the estate, running from Gray’s Inn Road to King’s Cross Road to the south of Ampton Street.

It was a pleasure to make a return visit, however also a lesson that I need to more carefully check the original scene.

When my father’s photos include children, I always wonder if they are still alive. The two playing in the middle of the street in 1947 would I suspect now be in their late 70s – and if they came back to Ampton Street, I suspect they would be very surprised by how good the street looks today.

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New Deal For East London – Bethnal Green

On a cold, windy and grey day in February, a day that seems very different to the weather we are having in June, I walked to the sites in Bethnal Green, Mile End Road and Stepney, continuing in my project to visit all the sites listed as at risk in the 1973 Architects’ Journal issue: New Deal for East London.

I had intended to cover all these locations in a single blog post, however I keep finding things of interest during these walks, and I did not have the time to write the full post, and did not want to impose such a lengthy post on readers, so I split into two.

A few weeks ago was the post on Mike End and Stepney, and today I am in Bethnal Green.

The post covers sites 49 to 52, where I also find an 18th century boxer and an interesting walk down to Mile End Road.

Bethnal Green

The area I will be walking is very built up, and has been since the early decades of the 19th century, however in 1746, Bethnal Green was still a hamlet surrounded by fields. Despite the very rural nature of Bethnal Green in 1746 it is possible to see the majority of the streets and features that we can walk through today.

The following is an extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map and I have labelled the key features I will cover in the rest of this post.

Bethnal Green

The area today, with the locations marked. Very different from the rural fields of 1746 (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

Bethnal Green

I travelled out to Bethnal Green on the underground and arrived at Bethnal Green Station which is at the junction of Roman Road, Bethnal Green Road and Cambridge Heath Road, and also located at this busy road junction is:

Site 49 – Soane’s St. John’s Bethnal Green

The church of St. John’s, Bethnal Green looks over this major road junction from the corner of Cambridge Heath Road and Roman Road.

Bethnal Green

The church was designed by Sir John Soane and built between 1826 and 1828.

One of the so called Commissioners Churches as the church was a result of the 1818 and 1824 Acts of Parliament which provided sums of money and established a commission to build new churches.

These were needed in the areas where there had been considerable population growth and Bethnal Green is a perfect example of the transformation of an area from a low population, rural landscape, to a densely populated urban settlement.

The location of the church was on open land directly adjacent to what was already a road junction in central Bethnal Green, however there are also references to there being a Chapel of Ease on the site, or close to the new church, (for example the Tower Hamlets publication: “History of parks and open spaces in Tower Hamlets, and their heritage significance” mentions a Chapel of Ease in 1617). The Roque map does show a building of some form in the road junction which may have been the Chapel of Ease, although this is just speculation at this point and needs some further research.

The church was damaged by fire in 1870 with much of the interior and the church roof being destroyed. The church was reopened the following year after restoration, which included new bells cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The church did suffer some damage during the last war, fortunately not the major level of damage suffered by many other east London churches.

The church was closed on the day of my visit, however it is good to see that the church is still an imposing building overlooking this busy junction, even on a grey and cold February morning.

Diagonally across the junction from the church is the Salmon and Ball pub:

Bethnal Green

Early references to the Salmon and Ball date the pub to the first half of the 18th century, however the current building dates from the mid 19th century and is Grade II listed. The earliest contemporary reference I could find to the Salmon and Ball is from a newspaper report on the 26th November 1795 reporting that:

“This day about two o’clock, in consequence of Advertisements, several thousand Weavers assembled near the Salmon and Ball, Bethnal Green, to take into consideration a Petition to the House of Commons against the Bill brought in by Mr. Pitt, to prevent the people from meeting, &c. Mr. Heron was called to the Chair, when several resolutions were passed and a Petition against the Bill agreed upon.”

There are newspaper references to an east London Salmon and Ball going back to the 1730s, but they do not specifically confirm that they refer to the pub in Bethnal Green.

The name of the public is interesting, I have only found one reference to the origin of the name. In the East London Observer on the 9th January 1915 in an article titled “Roundabout Old East London” by Charles McNaught, there is the following reference to the Salmon and Ball:

“The Salmon and Ball, by the bye, figures prominently in more than one historical scene in the turbulent days of Bethnal Green Weaverdom. Apart from that, however, it is a tavern sign sufficiently incongruous to awaken curiosity. The early silk mercers adopted the Golden Ball as their sign, because, in the Middle Ages all silk was brought from the East, and more particularly from Byzantium and the Imperial manufactories there. And at Byzantium the Emperor Constantine the Great adopted a Golden Globe as the emblem of his imperial dignity. The Golden Ball continued as the mercer’s sign until the end of the Eighteenth Century and then it gradually passed to the ‘Berlin’ wool shops, and – conjoined with a fish or other animal – its was favourite sign for Taverns in the silk weaving area. 

The Salmon and Ball in Bethnal Green is not the only house with that sign; and other local names of the past include: The Ball and Raven, The Green Man and Ball, the Blue Balls, The Ring and Ball, and many others.”

No idea if this is the true origin of the name, but an interesting possibility.

My next stop was very close, and it was a short walk to:

Site 50 – Early 19th Century Terrace

This location was just opposite the church, a narrow street that runs parallel to Cambridge Heath Road and that goes by the name of Paradise Row. For the main part of the street, houses run along one side, with the opposite side formed by Paradise Gardens, which in February really did not live up to the name.

The terrace of houses in Paradise Row taken from within Paradise Gardens:

Bethnal Green

There is a blue plaque on one of the houses recording that Daniel Mendoza lived in the house:

Bethnal Green

Daniel Mendoza was a fascinating character. A boxer, or pugilist who became heavyweight champion between 1792 and 1795. In an age when it was common to advertise yourself with a memorable name. As the plaque states he proudly billed himself as ‘Mendoza the Jew’ in honour of his Jewish heritage. For an example of how other boxers billed themselves, Mendoza’s first recorded successful prize fight was against the wonderfully named ‘Harry the Coalheaver’.

The plaque refers to Mendoza living in Paradise Row when he was writing ‘The Art of Boxing‘. In the 18th century, boxing was mainly a punching, grappling, gouging match between two fighters.

Mendoza advocated a more formal, scientific approach to boxing which he set out in his book ‘The Art of Boxing‘. In his preface to the book, Mendoza explains his approach and the reasons why boxing should have a more scientific method:

“After the many marks of encouragement bestowed on me by a generous public, I thought that I could not better evince my gratitude for such favours, than by disseminating to as wide an extent, and at as cheap a rate as possible, the knowledge of an ART; which though not perhaps the most elegant, is certainly the most useful species of defence. To render it not totally devoid of elegance has, however, been my present aim, and the ideas of coarseness and vulgarity which are naturally attached to the Science of Pugilism, will, I trust, be done away, by a candid perusal of the following pages.

Boxing is a national mode of combat, and as is peculiar to the inhabitants of this country; as Fencing is to the French; but the acquisition of the latter as an art, and the practice of it as an exercise, have generally been preferred in consequence of the objection which I have just stated as being applicable to the former.

The objection I hope, the present treatise will obviate, and I flatter myself that I have deprived Boxing of any appearance of brutality to the learner, and reduced it into so regular a system, as to render it equal to fencing, in point of neatness, activity, and grace.

The Science of Pugilism may, therefore, with great propriety, be acquired, even though the scholar should feel actuated by no desire of engaging in a contest, or defending himself from an insult.

Those who are unwilling to risque any derangement of features in a real boxing match, may, at least, venture to practice the Art from sportiveness and sparring is productive of health and spirits as it is both an exercise and an amusement.

The great object of my present publication has been to explain with perspicuity, the Science of Pugilism, and it has been my endeavour to offer no precepts which will not be brought to bear in practice, and it will give me peculiar satisfaction and pleasure to understand, that I have attained my first object, by having taught any man an easy regular system of so useful an Art as that of Boxing.”

Daniel Mendoza put his approach into practice throughout his career. He was highly successful and his name became very well known across the country. He made (and lost) a considerable sum of money.

His most famous fights were against Richard Humphreys, his former trainer and mentor. These fights were captured in a series of etchings (©Trustees of the British Museum), published very soon after the fights.

In the following we see the first fight held on the 9th January 1788 in Odiham in Hampshire

Bethnal Green

Mendoza lost the fight and the following etching “Foul Play” shows how Mendoza lost the fight through the actions of Tom Johnson, Humphreys second, who blocked a blow from Mendoza:

Bethnal Green

In perhaps an early version of the tension built up in advance of fights today, in the 18th century Mendoza and Humphreys traded insults and accusations at each other through a series of letters published in newspapers across the country.

In a letter written on the 16th January 1788 when Mendoza was living in London at No. 9, White Street, Houndsditch, Mendoza set forth three propositions for how the next fight should take place. He finishes the letter with:

“The acceptance or denial of Mr. Humphries to the third proposition, will impress the public with an additional opinion of his superior skill, or they must conclude that he is somewhat conscious of his inferiority in scientific knowledge. In imitation of the challenge of Mr. Humphries, I shall not distress him for an immediate reply, but leave him to consult his friends, and his own feelings, and send an answer at his leisure.”

Mendoza wrote a follow up letter on the 27th January 1788:

“To prevent the tedious necessity of a reference to the several letters which I have written, and which have appeared in your paper, I am induced to take my leave of the public, with the insertion once more of the conditions of my challenge to Mr. Humphreys, and I beg that the world will consider them as open to the acceptance of that gentleman, whenever he may think better of his boxing abilities.

The first condition is, that I will fight him for 250 guineas a side, the second, the victor to have the door, the third, the man who first closes to be the loser, fourth and last, the time of fighting to be in the October Newmarket meeting.

Mr. Humphreys would do well to insert this challenge in his private memorandum-book; and as a teacher of the art of boxing, it would not be amiss to have it penned, neatly framed, and hung up in his truly scientific academy.”

Letters continued and finally Humphries accepted the challenge, writing on the 31st July 1788:

“I have seen your letter, and accept your challenge. I am glad that you have at last found out your own mind. The terms shall be settled at a meeting which I will appoint by private letter to you.”

After the loss of the first fight, Mendoza won the next two fights. The following etching shows what looks to be the closing stages of the fight on the 6th May 1789 with Mendoza on the left and a collapsing Humphreys on the right.

Bethnal Green

After his boxing career declined in the 1790s, Mendoza pursued a number of other money making opportunities including landlord of the Admiral Nelson in Whitechapel, the occasional boxing match, running his own academy, and also what today would probably be classed as a ‘bouncer’ at the Covent Garden Theatre.

The theatre management were attempting to increase ticket prices, which resulted in riots and protests in the theatre.

“It is a notorious fact that the Managers of Covent-Garden Theatre have both yesterday and today furnished Daniel Mendoza, the fighting Jew, with a prodigious number of Pit Orders for Covent-Garden Theatre, which he has distributed to Dutch Sam, and such other of the pugilistic tribe as would attend and engage to assault every person who had the courage to express their disapprobation of the Managers’ attempt to rain down the new prices.”

In another newspaper report, Daniel Mendoza was reported as being at the head of “150 fighting Jews and hired Braizers, as Constables.” His actions supporting the theatre management did not help his popularity with Londoners as he was seen to be supporting the theatre management rather than the common theatre goer.

I can find very little information on Daniel Mendoza’s family. He appears to have had two sons and a daughter. One son also named Daniel (so presumably the eldest son) appears in a number of newspaper reports accused of robbery and also wounding a man with a penknife.

In another newspaper report, his married daughter along with another woman were reported as being assaulted by two cab drivers.

Daniel Mendoza died in September 1836. his lasting legacy were the changes to boxing through his approach to ‘scientific boxing’ which started the move of boxing towards a rules based sport.

The contest between Daniel Mendoza and Richard Humphreys was still being used as an example of sporting excellence many years later, as shown in this Guinness advert from 1960:

Bethnal Green

The view from Mendoza’s house on Paradise Row must look very different today, with the volume of traffic on the Cambridge Heath Road, but good to see this terrace of houses still standing.

To get to my next location, I walked along the Cambridge Heath Road, passing the V&A Museum of Childhood, then turned into Old Ford Road, opposite this mix of buildings, including the Dundee Arms pub:

Bethnal Green

Along Old Ford Road is the York Hall leisure centre, swimming pool and in a link with Daniel Mendoza once one of Europe’s most significant boxing venues:

Bethnal Green

To the right of York Hall was part of my next location:

Site 52 – 17th Century Nettleswell House With Adjoining Late 18th Century Terrace: Across Road, Early 18th Century Terrace

This is the early 18th century terrace, across the road from Nettleswell House on Old Ford Road:

Bethnal Green

To get a view of Nettleswell House I turned off Old Ford Road into Victoria Park Square. It was difficult to get a good view of the buildings as they are concealed behind a tall brick wall, however they look in fine condition.

Bethnal Green

Nettleswell House is a Grade II listed building. The listing states that the building is late 17th century with early 18th century alterations.

There must have been an earlier building on the same site, with the same name as the listing also records what is on the plaque, just visible on the house in the above photo “Netteswell House – AD1553 – Remodelled 1705 and 1862″

In my post on “New Deal For East London – Stepney Green” I found one of the buildings built by the East End Dwellings Company – Dunstan House on Stepney Green. Walking along Victoria Park Square I found another. Montford House was built by the company in 1901, two years after the Stepney Green building.

Bethnal Green

The name apparently is a reference to Simon de Montford and there are stories that he was blinded at the Battle of Evesham 1265 and became a beggar in Bethnal Green (the same story is sometimes given as the source of the name of the Blind Beggar pub).

In reality, Simon de Montfort was killed at the Battle of Evesham and was buried at Evesham Abbey, along with Henry, one of his sons. His other son, also called Simon did arrive in Evesham, but too late to help the cause of his father. He later escaped to France.

There are a good number of the buildings of the East London Dwellings Company remaining.  One of my ever growing list of projects is to map and photograph all their buildings.

Further along Victoria Park Square, I found my next location:

Site 51 – 1700 Group Behind Gardens

Along one side of Victoria Park Square is a magnificent group of buildings, all in good repair, and as indicated by the Architects’ Journal title for these buildings, they all stand back from the street, separated by a good sized front garden.

Some include some rather ornate ironwork between street and garden:

Bethnal Green

The terrace:

Bethnal Green

There is some fascinating architecture along this one street, including what looks to have once been a private chapel built as a rather strange extension to the house behind:

Bethnal Green

Finding this terrace was the last of four locations in Bethnal Green. I then walked down to Stepney, so to complete the post, here are some of the buildings to be found on the route from Bethnal Green to Mile End Road, along Cambridge Heath Road.

This building is along Roman Road, alongside Bethnal Green Gardens.

Bethnal Green

The building is Swinburne House and it demonstrates the change during the early decades of the 20th century from housing built by philanthropic organisations such as the East End Dwellings Company to council built properties.

A stone on the front of the building records that the stone was laid on the 1st July 1922 to commemorate the erection of 166 dwellings by Bethnal Green Borough Council. The names of the housing committee are also recorded.

Bethnal Green

Along Cambridge Heath Road is this closed factory building, Moarain House:

Bethnal Green

I believe that this was the factory of umbrella manufacturers Solomon Schaverien. Many of their umbrellas include a label with the name Moarain on the inside of the umbrella.

I would not be surprised if the factory was replaced by an apartment building in the next few years.

Just after Moarain House, the railway from Liverpool Street Station crosses Cambridge Heath Road. All the railway arches along Malcolm Place have been closed off, and the typical businesses that normally occupy railway arches (car wash, car repair, tyres, light manufacturing etc.) have all moved out.

Bethnal Green

Network Rail are planning to redevelop these arches and the application for planning permission submitted to Tower Hamlets Council shows a row of arches with glazed brick for the piers, glass and stainless steel fascia – very different to the arches as they are now.

The proposed use of the arches are as a cafe, restaurant, drinking establishment, retail, light industrial and warehousing. No doubt increasing revenue for Network Rail, but another loss of the traditional use of railway arches by small businesses in East London.

After passing under the railway I was soon at Mile End Road for the locations in my previous post. It was good to see that all the sites listed in 1973 are still to be found in Bethnal Green, and in good condition.

I find these walks fascinating not just by seeing if the sites listed in the Architects’ Journal have survived, but also the chance finds along the way, and in this walk opening a window on the world of boxing in the late 18th century, another building by the East London Dwellings Company and the evolution from charity to council construction of homes.

I am now almost through all 85 sites listed in 1973, just a couple of groups of buildings to visit, in Greenwich and the area running north and west along the River Lea / Bow Creek. Hopefully these walks will not be as windy and cold as my walk through Bethnal Green.

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Faulkner’s Alley, Cowcross Street

Cowcross Street runs from just north of Smithfield Market, past Farringdon Station where the street becomes Turnmill Street and then continues up to Clerkenwell Road. All these streets have a fascinating history, however for today’s post I want to focus on a single alley, Faulkner’s Alley which can be found in Cowcross Street just before reaching Farringdon Station.

My father took the following three photos of Faulkner’s Alley in 1947:

Faulkner's Alley

As I work through my father’s photos I am more and more convinced that I should switch back to black and white film. The combination of getting the lighting right, and black and white is perfect for this type photography.

Faulkner's Alley

In the above photo there is a sign reading “M&V Coenca – First Floor”. I assume this refers to a business, but I have been unable to find any details of their trade.

I am fascinated by the placing of the chair, what I assume to be a pram and the street lamp.

Faulkner's Alley

Faulkner’s Alley runs between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street, although originally it was much longer. To find the Cowcross Street entrance, walk past the entrance to Farringdon Station towards Smithfield Market and a short distance after the Castle pub is the gated entrance to Faulkner’s Alley.

Faulkner's Alley

The entrance looks as if it is a pedestrian entrance to the same area as the much larger entrance on the right, however there is a wall running back between the two entrances so they are completely separate entrances.

Unfortunately the gate was locked during my visit, so all I could get was a view through the gate showing a similar alley to that in my father’s photos.

Faulkner's Alley

The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Faulkner’s Alley in the centre of the map, between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street. If you follow across Benjamin Street, there is a continuation of an alley indicating that Faulkner’s Alley probably once extended much further.

Faulkner's Alley

As the entrance in Cowcross Street was locked I walked round to Benjamin Street to see if the entrance there was open, as in the past it has always been possible to walk through the alley.

Faulkner's Alley

However I was rather shocked by what I found. The southern side of Benjamin Street is now a building site.

Faulkner's Alley

Which extends a considerable distance along the street. Just here on the right is where the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley was once located.

Faulkner's Alley

It was a similar gated entrance to the one in Cowcross Street, with the same style of ironwork and name above the gate.

I had a look at the planning applications on the Islington Council web site and found the application relating to the building work in Benjamin Street.

The application covers the demolition of the existing buildings and the build of a 6 storey building on Turnmill Street and 5 storey building on Benjamin Street, with both buildings being linked by a 4 storey building. The new building will comprise retail, office and 4 residential units.

The plans show Faulkner’s Alley will still run from Cowcross Street to Benjamin Street and there will be a gate onto Benjamin Street as part of the new build. Along the alley will be a courtyard and residential reception. I wonder with the new development whether Faulkner’s Alley will continue to accessible to the public or with the new residential and office build, it will only be accessible to those living or working in the buildings.

The site is owned by the Girdlers’ Company (one of the City’s livery companies) so hopefully Faulkner’s Alley will have a restoration that recognises its history and as a public alley, although I do worry when I read on the architects’ web site that the alley will be “enhanced” as part of the project.

Along the wooden hoarding, there is a small display of excavation findings which include some Tudor brick, medieval tiles and clay pipes:

Faulkner's Alley

We can get an impression of Faulkner’s Alley in previous centuries from newspaper reports. Some examples:

From the London City Press on the 9th April 1864 in an article on overcrowding in the city:

“I may mention that I found one family with but two moderate sized rooms, in Faulkner’s Alley, had taken in six railway navvies as lodgers. Even if they spend little more time in-doors than what they require for sleep, that is time enough to breed a fever, as was the case in this instance, for one of the lodgers had been prostrated by typhus fever, and sent by the Union authorities to the Fever Hospital.”

From the Islington Gazette on the 9th July 1877:

“A SINGULAR CASE – Dr. Hardwicke held an inquest at the St. Andrew’s Board Room, Great James-street, Holborn, on Friday, concerning the death of a newly-born male child, which was found on a doorstep in Faulkner’s-alley, Clerkenwell, and for which a woman of the name of Mohan is under remand, charged on suspicion with having deposited the child. The facts in connection with this case were reported in the proceedings at the Clerkenwell Police-court, and it will be remembered that on Tuesday night, about 10 o’clock, a constable stated that he saw the woman in question go into Faulkner’s-alley and stoop down, but whether she placed anything on a doorstep he could not say. Upon going up the alley a short time afterwards, however, a brown-paper parcel containing the body of a child much decomposed was found. The woman Mohan denied that she knew anything about the child, and the jury returned a verdict that the child was found dead in a state of decomposition, and that the evidence was insufficient to show the cause of death. They also added that they were of the opinion that the police were in error in charging Sarah Mohan.”

The London City Press on the 5th September 1863 included an article titled “Old Smithfield and its Precincts – A Sanitary and Antiquarian Ramble” where the author took a walk around the area and described what he saw, including this description of Faulkner’s Alley:

“Passing up Cowcross-street to Smithfield-bars, there are some quaint houses and shops. Part of the frounts in Faulkner’s-alley are of wood, and are worth notice.  And here, as well as in some other confined places where the people are very poor, there are, considering the situations, wonderful displays of window plants and flowers. We would, however, just hint that in some instances the windows are so crowded with drooping and other greenery, that it interferes to a great extent with the proper admission of light and with ventilation.”

A report in the Pall Mall Gazette on the 4th September 1878 on the Princess Alice disaster, when the steamboat the Princess Alice was rammed by the collier Bywell Castle near Woolwich, included a list of the survivors, one of which was Mary Brent of Faulkner’s Alley. There was no accurate record of the number on board the steamer, or the number that died, however the Pall Mall Gazette reported that between 700 and 800 people were on board, and the number dead or missing was in the order of 700 – so Mary Brent was one of the few, very lucky, survivors.

The book “London – Alleys, Byways and Courts” by Alan Stapleton, published in 1924, also includes a brief description of Faulkner’s Alley:

“A few yards past here on the left, by No. 31, is the alley with the wooden frontage, with its name, Faulkner’s Alley, at the top. This old wooden front dates from about 1660 when the alley was formed, and built in.”

The book also includes the following drawing of the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley from Cow Cross Street:

Faulkner's Alley

We can trace the development of the alley over the centuries. In 1746 Faulkner’s Alley was shown in John Rocque’s map:

Faulkner's Alley

In Rocque’s map, the alley extended across Benjamin Street into what is now the edge of St. John’s Gardens. The map also provides a clue to the origin of the name.

In 1746 Rocque labelled the alley Faulconers Alley which may possibly have some reference to the Falcon bird, as Faulcon was an early spelling for the bird, a name with French origins, and the word Faulconer was given to the person who would look after the birds. I have not been able to find any written reference as to why this name should have been used for the alley.

Going back further, Ogilby’s map of 1676 shows the alley as a much longer alley. Unfortunately Ogilby does not provide the name of the alley as it would be interesting to see if the name was the same as in 1746.

Faulkner's Alley

Faulkner’s Alley was a good example of the type of alley that was once so common across the city. My father’s photos from 1947 show the alley much as it must have been during the 19th century and possibly earlier – a narrow alley with tall, brick-built buildings lining the alley occupied by people and businesses.

I hope that when the building on Benjamin Street is complete, Faulkner’s Alley is open again and that whatever “enhancement” has been made during building work, Faulkner’s Alley retains much of its original character.

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St. Chad’s Place And A Lost Well

There are places in London where the subterranean history of the city touches the surface and it is easy to imagine finding long lost geological features beneath the city streets.

This post is about one such place that I found whilst hunting for the location of this photo that my father took in 1986:

St. Chad's Place

My 2018 photo of the same location:

St. Chad's Place

I am in King’s Cross Road, a street that runs from Pentonville Road to Farringdon Road. The building was the location of Dodds the Printers in 1986 who occupied numbers 193 and 195.

I am not sure when the business closed in King’s Cross Road, however I believe it was relatively recently. The shop front has changed and the lovely signage above the shop has disappeared, however the terrace of 19th century buildings are much the same.

On the right side of both photos is an alley disappearing through the buildings. This is St. Chad’s Place. The following extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location. St. Chad’s Place can be seen running left to right in the middle of the map – suitable for vehicles to just after crossing the rail lines where it turns into a pedestrian alley, with a sharp bend and a narrow stretch running up to King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad's Place

This is the type of view I love – a small alley to explore:

St. Chad's Place

Walking into St. Chad’s Place from King’s Cross Road, you first pass through the terrace lining King’s Cross Road before continuing down a narrow stretch between high brick walls.

Looking back towards King’s Cross Road:

St. Chad's Place

At the end of the narrow stretch, the alley does a 90 degree bend and opens out slightly:

St. Chad's Place

This is the view back down the alley with the buildings lining King’s Cross Road in the distance:

St. Chad's Place

The alley passes a number of old brick, industrial buildings, gently rising in height. Half way along the alley there are high metal walls. This is where St. Chad’s Place passes over a railway.

St. Chad's Place

It is just possible to peer over the top of the metal walls and look at the railway beneath. This is the original Metropolitan Railway, built between 1859 and 1862, which ran from Paddington to Farringdon.

The railway was built below street level, using a mix of cut and cover, as well as leaving the railway in an open cutting, as in the stretch that passes underneath St. Chad’s Place.

The route today is used by Thameslink trains and the London Underground Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines. In the following photo, looking south towards Farringdon is a Thameslink train, with the red of an underground train just visible to the upper right.

St. Chad's Place

The railway cuts a wide path between King’s Cross and Farringdon, but for the most part is not that visible. Walking along King’s Cross Road or Gray’s Inn Road, you would not know there is a railway running close by, it is only when you walk through the streets between these major roads that you pass over, and get a view of the cutting through this part of the city.

This is the view looking north from St. Chad’s Place where the railway runs into King’s Cross, St. Pancras underground station:

St. Chad's Place

The building of the railway must have been very disruptive to the area. Streets were cut off and before construction of the railway could start, demolition of hundreds of houses, factories, warehouses and workshops was required.

The following print shows the building of the railway near King’s Cross:

St. Chad's Place

Walking up towards Gray’s Inn Road, this is the view back down St. Chad’s Place. A narrow, cobbled roadway in the centre, sloping down to where the blue metal wall of the railway can be seen on the right.

St. Chad's Place

The black sign on the left is for Meat Liquor bar and restaurant, probably the main reason for anyone to walk down St. Chad’s Place. Apart from the person sitting outside the restaurant, I did not see anyone else walk through for the whole time I was in St. Chad’s Place.

At the top is the junction with Gray’s Inn Road.

St. Chad's Place

A walk through St. Chad’s Place is a glimpse of the many old alleys that once ran between major streets (I will be writing about one that is in the process of disappearing in a future post), and the view of the railway provides an insight into what is just below London’s surface, however, as usual, there is always more to discover.

Starting with the name, St. Chad’s Place, this is an indication of what was once here.

The route of the River Fleet was once alongside where King’s Cross Road now runs, and the geology of the area gave rise to a number of springs at Bagnigge Wells, Clerks’ Well (Clerkenwell), and a St. Chad’s Well. All running close to the River Fleet.

St. Chad’s Well was to be found at the junction of St. Chad’s Place and Gray’s Inn Road.

The well was very popular in the middle of the 18th century, with around 1,000 visitors a week travelling along Gray’s Inn Road to take the waters.

The following advert from the 29th May 1807 edition of the Morning Advertiser gives an impression of how St. Chad’s Well was sold to Londoners:

“St. Chad’s Wells – Health restored and preserved, by drinking the Battle-Bridge Waters, commonly called St. Chad’s Wells, formerly dedicated to St. Chad, first Bishop of Lichfield. These Waters are recommended by the most eminent Physicians as the best Purging Waters in England, they are found highly efficacious in removing all Complaints which affect the Urinary Passages such as Stone, Gravel, etc, They likewise cure the Scurvy, Bile, Worms, Piles, Indigestion, Nervous Complaints, Seminal Weaknesses, and various other Disorders too numerous for an advertisement. Several attestations of their wonderful Effects may be seen in the Pump room.

N.B. These Waters may be drank every morning, at 4d each Person, or delivered at the Pump-Room at 8d per gallon. The Gate leading to the Wells opens at the end of Gray’s Inn-lane Road, near the Turnpike.”

The name Battle-Bridge Waters refers to the Battle Bridge, a brick arched bridge over the River Fleet just north of St. Chad’s Place. The name Battle Bridge is often taken to refer to a battle fought here between Boadicea and the Roman army, however this is very unlikely as the name in medieval manorial court rolls was Bradeford Bridge.

Chad refers to a 7th century Mercian churchman who founded the first monastery in Lichfield. St. Chad allegedly preached at Stowe, just outside the centre of Lichfield , and a medieval St. Chad’s Church was built at Stowe along with a holy well with St. Chad’s name. This association with a well could be why the well in Gray’s Inn Road took St. Chad’s name – a more virtuous, health promoting name than Battle Bridge.

The following print from 1850 show the St. Chad’s Well pump house, built close to Gray’s Inn Road. At the rear of the house, gardens stretched back towards King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad's Place

By the time of the above print, the well was declining in popularity. I cannot find exactly when St. Chad’s Well closed, however St. Chad’s Place was built over part of the garden in 1830 and the majority of the gardens were lost in 1860 when the Metropolitan Line was built. I suspect it was the building of the railway which finally swept away the well.

Now this is where this post starts to get very speculative.

I am sure though of the route of the River Fleet. I have checked a number of sources, including the book “The Lost Rivers of London” by Nicholas Barton and Stephen Myers (a well researched and illustrated history of London’s lost rivers and their routes through the city) as well as “The History of the River Fleet” by the UCL River Fleet Restoration Team, and they all show the River Fleet running along the western edge of King’s Cross Road, under where St. Chad’s Place meets King’s Cross Road.

The River Fleet is also shown on the OpenStreetMap extract, running parallel to King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad’s Place descends very gradually as you head from Gray’s Inn Road towards King’s Cross Road, which could be expected for a spring rising near Gray’s Inn Road running through the gardens of the pump-room and down to the River Fleet.

As I walked along St. Chad’s Place, the sunlight glinting off running water below a small grating in the middle of the cobbled street caught my eye.

It was hard to judge the depth, but it must have been around 10 to 15 feet below the road surface. It looked to be a fast flow of clean water, and yes I did take a sniff and it did not smell like a sewer.

St. Chad's Place

I have no evidence to support this, apart from the view through the grating, however it is interesting to imagine that perhaps the waters of the St. Chad’s Well still rise here, and run along St. Chad’s Place, heading towards the River Fleet.

They would now be cut off by the cutting made for the Metropolitan Railway, however perhaps there is a pipe that carries them across, or a separate sewer that runs along the western edge of the railway.

Walking back towards King’s Cross Road, and where St. Chad’s Place passes through the building facing King’s Cross Street, there is a run of old paving slabs, and an old manhole cover.

St. Chad's Place

This is exactly where the River Fleet is shown to run parallel to Kings Cross Road.

If you walk past 193 and 195 King’s Cross Road, take a detour into St. Chad’s Place. Walk up to Gray’s Inn Road and you will cross the River Fleet, the original Metropolitan Railway and the site of St. Chad’s Well – not bad for a couple of minutes walk.

And with some imagination, perhaps you will also see the waters of St. Chad’s Well still running beneath a small, four hole grating.

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Goodwin’s Court

A couple of months ago, I wrote about XX Place in Stepney. It was a location I found in the little book Curious London by Hugh Pearman, published in 1951.

Pearman divided the city up into ‘towns’ and identified six locations of interest in each of these towns.

The book is fascinating as it provides a whole range of different locations to visit, places I may not normally visit, to see if the items of interest in each of the areas Pearman defined as a town are still there, and to learn a bit more about London.

I was recently in Westminster and checked the book for any interesting detours, and found a reference to Goodwin’s Court, with the following text:

“This unique row of delightful bow-fronted cottages forms one side of Goodwins Court, an old-world thoroughfare off S. Martin’s Lane. In one of the cottages lived Nell Gwynn the orange seller at the nearby Drury Lane Theatre, who became the sweetheart of the ‘Merry Monarch’ and the darling of the populace. The narrow windows are still iron-barred, although the dungeon like cells have been empty for many, many years.”

The book included the following rather grainy photograph of Goodwin’s Court showing a dark alley, with the bow-fronted cottages on the left.

Goodwin's Court

Goodwin’s Court is a narrow alley running between St. Martin’s Lane and Bedfordbury, a busy area in the West End, just north of Trafalgar Square. The entrance from Bedfordbury is through an alley in two of the houses which look to be contemporary with the buildings in the court and have the same style of bow fronted windows.

Goodwin's Court

A plaque along Goodwin’s Court dates the houses to 1690:

Goodwin's Court

The view along Goodwin’s Court from the Bedfordbury end. The original 17th century terrace is along the southern side of the Court. Each has a bow fronted window on the ground floor with two additional floors above.

Goodwin's Court

Compare this photo with the 1951 photo at the top of the post and it can be seen that the court has hardly changed.

If the houses were built in 1690, they would have been over 50 years old when John Rocque printed his map of London in 1746.

The following map extract shows Goodwin’s Court as one of a number of narrow streets or alleys between St. Martin’s Lane and Bedfordbury (which looks as if it may have been two separate words in 1746). Goodwin’s Court is at the top, just below New Street.

Goodwin's Court

As well as Goodwin’s Court, some of these other alleys can still be found, including Hop Gardens and May’s Court, although in 1746 the name was May’s Buildings.

One point I cannot reconcile between the age of the houses and Rocque’s map is that the map shows a much wider open space on the left of the alley and another open square space on the right with only a short straight section between. The map does not mirror the straight line of terrace houses along the majority of the southern side of the court, if they were indeed built around 1690.

All the sources dating the houses to 1690 seem to refer to the same rate book reference as appears on the plaque in the Court, so perhaps an error in Rocque’s map or perhaps the terrace of houses was built later.

The view from half way along the court looking towards St. Martin’s Lane.

Goodwin's Court

As can be seen, the houses run all the way to the covered alley which leads under the buildings along the side of St. Martin’s Lane. The alley does indent to the left here so perhaps the surveyors of Rocque’s map just made an error, or did not investigate the court in detail.

For the whole time I was in Goodwin’s Court there were no other pedestrians using the route as a short cut between St. Martin’s Lane and Bedfordbury, despite the surrounding streets being busy. It really was like walking into a hidden court as no one else followed, the only exception being two tour groups. Both groups seemed to focus on a Harry Potter reference for the street.

One of the groups was in English and the tour leader was describing the alley as the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films, and that the location could not be used for filming as the alley was too narrow for the required equipment.

The second tour group was Spanish, but the words Diagon Alley and Harry Potter were mentioned several times so I assume the theme of the visit to Goodwin’s Court was the same for both tour groups.

I have no idea whether there is any truth in these references, however there are numerous Internet references to Goodwin’s Court being Diagon Alley, but also many Internet sites that claim Cecil Court to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley with Harry Potter fans apparently split between the two options.

I much prefer the fact that there is a terrace of houses along Goodwin’s Court that are probably over 300 years old.

Goodwin's Court

In curious London, Pearman stated that “In one of the cottages lived Nell Gwynn the orange seller at the nearby Drury Lane Theatre”. Given that Nell Gwynn died in 1687 it would not have been in one of the existing houses in Goodwin’s Court and I can find no reference to confirm that she ever did live in Goodwin’s Court, however I did find an Internet reference to one of the houses having a plaque above the door stating an association with Nell Gywnn – I did not notice this on my visit.

Goodwin's Court

What ever the truth behind the inspiration for Diagon Alley, or Nell Gwynn, Goodwin’s Court is a perfect example of the many alleys that could once be found in this part of London.

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Lawrence Street And Chelsea China

The streets north of Cheyne Walk in Chelsea were a centre for the manufacture and decoration of china during the 18th and 19th centuries. I wrote about one factory in my post on Cheyne Row, and in today’s post I come across another, earlier factory where Chelsea china and porcelain were manufactured in the 18th century.

I am in Lawrence Street, to find the location of one of my father’s photos from 1949:

Chelsea China

This is the same scene today:

Chelsea China

I was standing on the steps up to one of the houses to try to recreate the same view, with the railing shown to the lower left of both photos. The plant was growing up from the small garden space in frount of the house, I thought it best not to try to bend or break to remove from the view.

The view is much the same (although whilst I was sure I was standing in the same place, the perspective is slightly different between the two photos, possibly due to camera and lens being very different).

The major difference is the number of cars which now seem to line almost every street in Chelsea, making is really difficult to get good, full length photos of the buildings. The single car in 1949 has now multiplied many times.

Lawrence Street can be found in the following map, running north from Cheyne Walk in the centre of the map:

Chelsea China

The street name comes from the Lawrence family who lived in the manor house that was on the land to the north of Lawrence Street and Upper Cheyne Row.

The first Lawrence to arrive in Chelsea was Thomas Lawrence, a London goldsmith who arrived in the sixteenth century, the manor remained in the hands of the Lawrence family until 1725. Thomas was originally from Shropshire, but moved to London where he married Martha Sage. They would go on to have eleven children, with only five surviving.

The Lawrence Chapel in the nearby Chelsea Old Church is named after Thomas and includes a memorial to him

The manor house was replaced by Monmouth House (after the Duchess of Monmouth who occupied the house on the site from 1714).

As you walk up Lawrence Street from Cheyne Walk, the age of the houses gets older as you approach the top of the street. The size of the houses also reduces, starting with the four storey house shown below:

Chelsea China

To these smaller, terrace houses at the top of the street:

Chelsea China

It may have been one of these houses that was the subject of an advert in the Morning Advertiser on the 13th January 1818:

“To be LET a small modern genteel HOUSE, at 26 guineas per ann, well laid out for saving of window lights, box window to the parlour, and French sashes, and balcony to the drawing room. This house contains six good rooms, two kitchens, with dry wine and coal vaults, is in a very healthy situation, being in Lawrence-street, Chelsea, from whence a Stage goes six times a day to town – Enquire of Mr Lewer, 30, Eaton-street, Pimlico.”

At the top of Lawrence Street is the junction with Upper Cheyne Row.

From here we can look back on the houses on the western side of the top of the street.

Chelsea China

There is a London County Council blue plaque on the end house:

Chelsea China

Tobias Smollett was a Scottish poet and novelist who originally had a career in medicine, including as a naval surgeon which provided the opportunity to travel widely.

Before Chelsea he was living in central London with his wife and daughter, however with his only daughter suffering from tuberculosis, the family moved to Chelsea with the hope that the air would benefit his daughter. Living in Chelsea did not have the desired effect, and his daughter died aged 15, after which Smollett left Chelsea, and with his wife, went travelling in France “overwhelmed by the sense of domestic calamity, which it was not in the power of fortune to repay.”

The plaque also makes reference to the manufacture of Chelsea China at the north end of Lawrence Street.

It is not clear when the production of china started in Chelsea, however the first recorded owner of the Chelsea china works was Charles Gouyn who arrived at the works in 1745. In 1749, the works were managed by Nicholas Sprimont who had arrived in London from Belgium. Originally a silversmith he changed his trade to working with clay. His influence changed the design of Chelsea china, with his experience of the design of silver products being mirrored in the designs of Chelsea china and porcelain.

The range and output of the Chelsea China Works increased steadily during the 1750s and received Royal patronage from George II. Royal support continued with George III who purchased a dinner service for the considerable sum of £1,200 as a gift for the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

Nicholas Sprimont retired a wealthy man in 1769 and the Chelsea China Works was taken over by William Duesbury who had apparently arrived from Derby. Duesbury ran the Chelsea works for a further ten years, however in 1779 the lease on the factory premises expired, and within five years the Chelsea China Works closed.

William Duesbury returned to Derby, taking many of the moulds with him, and the buildings of the china works were demolished.

Fragments of china were found in 1970 in the garden of number 15 Lawrence Street (the house to the left of the house with the blue plaque) which helped to confirm the location of the Chelsea China Works.

The British Museum has a number of examples of the output from the Chelsea China Works, starting off with one of the earliest examples from 1745 – a “goat and bee” jug made from soft paste porcelain. Goats are on either side of the base and a bee is climbing up to the lip of the jug.

Chelsea China

The two sides of a porcelain vase, dating from 1750:

Chelsea China

A rather ornate porcelain clock case dating from between 1752 and 1758:

Chelsea China

The following pair of figures are known as the “Tyrolean Dancers” and date from the years 1755 to 1757:

Chelsea China

A porcelain dish dating from between 1750 and 1752:

Chelsea China

For a brief period, Chelsea was manufacturing china and porcelain probably as good as anywhere else in the country, however after the closure of the Chelsea works, it was the factories around Derby and Stoke-on-Trent, where companies such as that run by Josiah Wedgwood would further develop the technical skills and scale of manufacturing to continue in business for the following centuries.

Lawrence Street would continue as a quiet, residential street.

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The Streets Under The HS2 Platforms And Concourse

This weekend is the fourth anniversary of the blog – a point I did not expect to reach when starting out.

I would really like to thank every reader and subscriber, for your comments and e-mails, and just for knowing that there is someone out there reading my weekly exploration of London.

For this anniversary, I hope you will permit me three self-indulgent posts, today, Saturday and Sunday.

The post today is a return to the site of my most read post from the last year. Back in August I wrote about the closure of St. James Gardens as part of the preparations for the HS2 developments at Euston Station.

I have been trying to find the time to get back to the area and see what has happened since August, and finally had some spare time a couple of Saturdays ago.

The day of my visit was unfortunately wet and gloomy however this was rather suitable for the subject.

I started my walk around the area in Melton Street, along the western edge of Euston Station, where there is an information stand with a map of the area.

HS2 Demolitions

I have put a red rectangle around the streets that I will walk today. The map still shows the area before the closure of St. James Gardens which can be seen at the top of the red rectangle.

HS2 platforms and concourse will occupy this space as the station extends to the west to accommodate the extra rail tracks.

HS2 Demolitions

Starting off in Melton Street, this is the view towards Cardington Street (which runs past St. James Gardens), and is now closed off. White wooden hoardings now block any further access along the street.

HS2 Demolitions

There is a small window in the hoarding blocking off Cardington Street. The transparent plastic of the window did not help with a clear view, however this is looking down Cardington Street.

An Ibis Hotel occupied the building on the left, and just past the hotel is St. James Gardens.

HS2 Demolitions

I took some photos of Cardington Street last August just after St. James Gardens were closed. The following photo shows the corner of the Ibis Hotel with the trees of the gardens in the background:

The following photo was looking down Cardington Street towards the Ibis Hotel and Euston Road. It appears that all the trees in the gardens have now been removed.

Even relatively recent buildings will suffer the same fate as their older neighbours. This new building is on the corner of Melton Street and Euston Street. Further along is one of Leslie Green’s distinctive underground station designs. This was the entrance for one of the Hidden London tours I wrote about in this post on the lost tunnels of Euston Underground Station.

HS2 Demolitions

This is the view looking up Euston Street.

HS2 Demolitions

The opposite side of Euston Street. Buildings on both sides are now closed with hoardings protecting their ground floors.

HS2 Demolitions

At the junction of Euston Street and Cobourg Street is the pub, the Bree Louise.

HS2 Demolitions

The pub dates from the early 19th century and was the Jolly Gardeners until being renamed by the most recent landlord as the Bree Louise, the name of the landlord’s daughter who died soon after birth.

The Bree Louise was a basic, but superb local pub and it is sad to see how quickly after closing at the end of January, the pub has taken on such air of being abandoned.

HS2 Demolitions

The pub sign is still in place:

HS2 Demolitions

As are adverts of when the Bree Louise was North London’s Camra pub of the year in 2016:

HS2 Demolitions

This is the view in Cobourg Street looking back towards the Bree Louise. There is a row of houses, which although not yet closed off, and some still looking occupied, will also be under HS2’s platforms.

HS2 Demolitions

On the corner of Cobourg Street and Drummond Street is the old Calumet photographic shop:

HS2 Demolitions

Cobourg Street continues after crossing Drummond Street and it is along here that the rear of the old Ibis Hotel can be seen, again closed.

HS2 Demolitions

There are now a number of information posters along the old hotel. One example covering the history of Euston Station:

HS2 Demolitions

And another covering the St. James’s burial ground:

HS2 Demolitions

Looking down Cobourg Street towards the junction with Starcross Street. All these buildings will be demolished.

HS2 Demolitions

Back to the point where Cobourg Street crosses Euston Street, looking down towards Euston Station:

HS2 Demolitions

The old underground station at the junction of Euston Street and Melton Street:

HS2 Demolitions

A wider view with rain drops on the camera lens:

HS2 Demolitions

Walking back along Melton Street and some of the trees have colourful cloths wrapped around their trunks. This was the result of a “yarn bombing” where hand knitted scarves are wrapped around the trunks of trees to draw attention to their fate.

HS2 Demolitions

The opposite corner, on the junction of Euston Street and Melton Street, also with hoarding around the building.

HS2 Demolitions

A partly visible sign carved into the stone around the entrance records that this was once the home of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association.

HS2 Demolitions

The impact of HS2 will not just be felt to the west of the station. major developments will take place all around the station and the gardens between the station and Euston Road are already being fenced off.

HS2 Demolitions

The weather added to the rather sombre mood that covers the area around Cobourg Street. The closure of Cardington Street seems to have added to the traffic in the area. Both sides of Euston Street and Drummond Street were occupied by parked cars, many of which appeared to be Ubers waiting for their next passenger. A single line of cars were trying to squeeze between.

I was pleased to finally get to photograph these streets and buildings before they disappear, however still more to visit when I get time and hopefully with better weather.

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The Horn Tavern, Sermon Lane And Knightrider Court

One of my father’s photos of the Horn Tavern has been in the blog header since I started the blog, and today I finally get round to covering the location.

He took two photos of the rather ornate light on the corner of the Horn Tavern which was at the junction of Sermon Lane and Knightrider Street, just to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Horn Tavern

Horn Tavern

This is the same view today, the frame of the light is still there, however there have been some changes to the pub and the surrounding streets have changed significantly.

Horn Tavern

The differences in the photos highlight what has happened to the pub since my father took the original photo. The pub had a long history as the Horn Tavern, with references to the pub going back to the 17th century (although it is sometimes difficult to confirm that whilst the name may be the same, it may not be the pub at this location).

The pub changed its name to the Centre Page in 2002. I have no idea why the name changed, or the meaning behind the current name. I would have thought that a name as old as the Horn Tavern would have been preferable, especially given the location on the walk up from the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s with the attraction of an old name to the passing tourist trade.

I will continue referring to the pub as the Horn Tavern as I much prefer the original name.

The frame of the light in my father’s photo looks to be the same as the light in place today, however the wonderful glass with the pub name has been replaced with rather bland clear glass.

The original light must have looked brilliant and very inviting when lit on a dark London night.

There have been many changes in the immediate vicinity of the Horn Tavern. In my father’s photo, the name plate for Sermon Lane can be seen. Sermon Lane still exists but only really in name rather than as a lane.

To set the location and changes in context, the following map shows the area today. Peter’s Hill is a wide walkway from Saint Paul’s Church Yard down to Queen Victoria Street.

Just over half way down on the left can be seen Knightrider Street. Where this meets Peter’s Hill, the Horn Tavern is on the upper corner of the junction. There is a truncated street running up and down from this junction and within Peter’s Hill can be seen the words Sermon Lane.

Horn Tavern

Peter’s Hill is one of the major changes to the area. The area between the cathedral and the river was once densely packed with office buildings, warehouses etc. Peter’s Hill carved through these buildings and streets to provide a wide pedestrian walkway from river to cathedral and opened up the view of the cathedral from the river and Bankside.

The following map is from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Greater London. In the middle of the map can be seen Sermon Lane, when it was a street with buildings on either side. To the right of Sermon Lane is Knightrider Court – this has had a strange move which I will cover later in this post.

Horn Tavern

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the area in more detail. The Horn Tavern is the P.H. on the corner of Sermon Lane and Knightrider Street.

Horn Tavern

Going back further to Rocque’s 1746 map, we can still see Sermon Lane, however to the right, Knightrider Court was then called Doolittle Alley (the second ‘o’ is missing from the map).

Horn Tavern

Doolittle Alley was the Doolittle Lane mentioned in Ben Jonson’s plays, for example from “The Magnetic Lady”, licensed for performance in 1632 and first performed by the King’s Men at the Blackfriars Theatre in the same year:

“She dwelt in Doolittle Lane, atop o’the hill there, I’the round cage was after Sir Chime Squirrel’s. She would eat naught but almonds, I assure you.” 

I had assumed the origin of the name Sermon Lane was religious given the proximity to the cathedral, however the London Encyclopedia states “perhaps named after Adam Sermoneinarius, a 13th century property owner, or since it was once known as Sheremongers Lane, its name may have come from the sheremongers, who sheared or cut, and rounded the silver plates used in the minting of coins”.

There appears to be a common explanation leading back to John Stow’s Survey of London for the name Knightrider Street and Court. In the Streets of London, Gertrude Rawlings states that “Stow says it was supposed that the name refers to knights riding this way from Tower Royal to the tournaments at Smithfield. It has also been stated that a “knightrider” meant originally a King’s messenger, but no such word is known in our dictionaries”.

Photos of the area today show the changes to these streets. In the following photo, the Horn Tavern is on the corner and the paved area edged by the trees, leading up towards the cathedral is Sermon Lane, however this is all open space and the steps on the right form the only boundary with Peter’s Hill.

Horn Tavern

A large sign on the corner of the pub documents a link with Dickens and also states that the pub was formerly known as the Horn Tavern – again why change, there is even a Dickens reference to the original name.

Horn Tavern

View of the entrance to the Centre Page in Knightrider Street – again with the reference to the former name.

Horn Tavern

The current Horn Tavern building dates from the 19th century. Remarkably with the level of destruction around St. Paul’s Cathedral, the building survived the blitz.

The Horn Tavern appears in newspapers over the years for all the usual reasons – the meeting place for clubs, adverts for staff and rooms, people staying in the tavern being involved in local events etc. In October 1874 there was a rather intellectual contest held between teams from north and south of the river when twelve of the best players from the City of London Chess Club, played against twelve of the best players from the Bermondsey Chess Club. Unfortunately I cannot find any results to confirm whether the north or south of the river came out on top.

This is the view looking down what was Sermon Lane from the end near the cathedral. This space still retains the name Sermon Lane, however it is only a line of trees and steps that separate Sermon Lane from the main part of Peter’s Hill.

Horn Tavern

Looking down from the centre of Peter’s Hill, Sermon Lane is on the right.

Horn Tavern

In the above photo, Knightrider Court once ran through the buildings on the left, as can be seen on the 1940 and earlier maps, and Sermon Lane terminated directly on Knightrider Street, however fast forward to today, and Knightrider Court has moved.

The name is now used for the small section of street from just before the pub, and includes a small space after the junction with Knightrider Street.

In the following photo, One Knightrider Court can be seen above the entrance to the building to the right of the Horn Tavern (although today it is separate, this entrance and the building above was part of the Horn Tavern).

Horn Tavern

From the above viewpoint, turning slightly to the left and looking straight down there is this small length of street which also has the name Knightrider Court.

Horn Tavern

So although the original Knightrider Court has been lost, the name has transferred to take over the end of Sermon Lane and an additional small length of land in front of the opposite building.

I like the fact that names are retained, however it is deceiving that the name looks to be in the right place (it is a court shaped stub of land off Knightrider Street) but in reality it is in the wrong place.

This is the view looking down Knightrider Street.

Horn Tavern

As can be seen in the maps at the start of this post, Knightrider Street once continued on towards Friday Street, however Peter’s Hill now terminates the street. I explored the extension of Knightrider Street, past the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey in an earlier post: Distaff Lane – How London Streets Have Changed Over The Centuries, which also covers how the streets have changed in the area to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I would be really interested to know why the Horn Tavern’s name was changed to the Centre Page. I would have thought that retaining such a historic name would have been a good commercial decision. It would also be great to see the light with the name of the pub once again etched into whitened glass and shining on a cold London night.

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Crewe House – Curzon Street

For today’s post (and the next few weeks), I am returning to the core purpose of the blog, to track down the location of my father’s photos. I am in Curzon Street which leads off from the lower part of Park Lane, opposite Hyde Park.

This is Crewe House, Curzon Street in 1953.

Crewe House

And the same building today:Crewe House

Crewe House is an interesting survivor from the time when large houses would be surrounded by their own grounds. The original building was constructed in the early 18th century, however it has been considerably modified over time.

Today, the building is part of the Saudi Arabian Embassy, and this is the reason why my photo is from a different perspective to my father’s photo. When I reached the building, hoping to take a photo from the same viewpoint, I found a group of rather heavily armed police guarding the front of the building roughly where the cart is in the original photo. Suspecting they would not appreciate being photographed, or being asked to move, I walk a short distance further and took today’s photo.

The facade of the building looks much the same, although I suspect internally it has been significantly modified. In 1953 it would have been possible to step over the wall into the garden. Today (in addition to the armed police) railings, gates and CCTV protect the building from Curzon Street.

The presence of armed police highlighted another aspect of how London has changed. It is only in recent years that it has become almost normal to see armed police walking the street of London. In the 1970s’ 80s and 90s this would have been the exception. If I remember rightly the first time I saw armed police walking openly it was at Heathrow Terminal 4 soon after it opened in 1986. It was a novelty to see this at an airport and would have been highly unusual on the streets. Weapons were obviously available to the police – they were just not so openly visible.

Today, whether guarding embassies, high-profile buildings, or just walking in busy parts of London, this is now a common site.

A sad comment on the times we live in that police have to be armed in this way.

The building was renamed Crewe House in 1899 when it was purchased by the Marquis of Crewe. Before the name Crewe House, it had been owned for a couple of generations of Lord Wharncliffe’s who also gave the house their name when it was named Wharncliffe House – it has this name on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

One of the Lord Wharncliffe’s (the Right Hon. James Archibald Stuart-Wortley Mackenzie), died in the house aged 69 in 1846 of suppressed gout which I believe was a catch-all for many possible causes which could not have been diagnosed at the time.

Curzon Street has a fascinating history and I had been planning to write about the street in today’s post, however a very busy work week has not given me the time for this, so I will save for a future post, however I cannot finish off a post without a map, and the following extract from John Rocque’s survey of London from 1746 shows the area around Crewe House.

Crewe House

Curzon Street runs along the lower part of the map. Chesterfield House was the large and ornate London home and gardens for Lord Chesterfield. The house was demolished in 1937, although the gardens had been built on in the years before.

To the right of Chesterfield House is a rectangle with gardens at the top, the dark hatching for a building and white, open space in front. This is Crewe House, and whilst the house has been modified significantly over the years, the layout of a house with large, enclosed gardens to the front, is the same as today. With the loss of Chesterfield House, it is remarkable that the house and gardens of Crewe House have survived for well over 250 years.

Above Crewe House are several enclosed areas, but are shown as blank spaces, apart from one which has a row of buildings along one side. These must have been unbuilt areas of land, marked out ready for development, although the street plan shown in 1746 does not match the street plan of today

I will return to Curzon Street, however for the next couple of weeks I have visits to a London pub and a City restaurant planned.

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XX Place – London’s Strangest Street Name?

I came across XX Place in the book “Curious London” purchased by my father in 1951. The book was written by Hugh Pearman, a London taxi-driver who described the book as:

“This little book is the result of the accumulated knowledge gathered during the years that I have been a London taxi-driver and it is my earnest hope that my readers will enjoy this guide to Curious London as much as I have enjoyed compiling it. It deals not with the London that most tourists visit, but with, as its name implies the unusual, the quaint and the curious.”

XX Place

The book takes each of the (at the time) twenty nine boroughs and cities that made up the county of London and identifies six curious features of each.

I was browsing through the book and a small photo of a street sign with the unusual name of XX Place, E1 stood out on the page covering Stepney. The description in the book reads:

“Half hidden in Globe Road is a little turning with the oddest of all odd names, XX Place, so called, it is believed, because it was built to house their workers, by the owners of the huge brewery in whose shadow it stands. lending colour to that belief are the two little beer barrels, carved in stone, high up in the wall of one of the cottages”.

It was such an unusual name that I thought it would be interesting to see what I could find of XX Place, a search that took me via the Tower Hamlets Archives to standing in Globe Road opposite the entrance to the street that was demolished in the 1950s.

The book stated that XX Place was a turning off Globe Road in Stepney, it was therefore easy to find on the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map.

In the extract below, Mile End Road is running along the lower part of the map. Globe Road is the street that runs from above the word “Tramway” in Mile End Road, northwards.

Follow Globe Road and on the left, running back down towards Mile End Road is clearly marked XX Place.

XX Place

To try and find some history on XX Place I carried out an online search on the Tower Hamlets Archives, and armed with a couple of reference numbers visited the archives on a Saturday morning. (The Tower Hamlets Archives are a wonderful resource, and the staff very knowledgeable and helpful).

My first source at the archives was a small booklet published in 2001 by Ron Osborne titled XX Place. The booklet provided a description of XX Place.

It was built in 1842 for locally employed workers. It was only a short street of 10 small terrace houses running along one side of the street. It was about 10 feet wide and the majority of those living in the street were employed at the nearby Charringtons Brewery.

The local name for the street was either 2X Place, or, as known by older locals, Double X Place,

On the side of the street opposite to the terrace houses was a Stepney Borough Council paving depot where cobble and kerb stones were stored.

The houses were small – two rooms upstairs and a living room and kitchen downstairs. The front door opened directly into the living room, there was no passage between the front door and the rooms of the house.

Each house had a very small backyard.

Along with the booklet, the archives also had some other single page references to XX Place. One of these was composed of notes that confirmed the above and also included the recollection of a local to XX Place, that a friend who was one of eight children lived with their parents in one of the houses, so a family of ten lived in one of these small houses – a common situation across much of east London.

There was a corner shop at the junction of XX Place and Globe Road. In the 1920s this was classed as a “rag shop”, then a Doctor had it as a surgery before moving to the corner of Alderney Road, it then became a baby dress shop and finally a radio shop where people would take their wireless batteries to be charged.

The following photo shows XX Place, with the photo matching the description of the street. Note the street name plaque at the upper right.

XX Place

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London, catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_406_F8775 

Tower Hamlets Archives also had a book which described a visit to XX Place, and unfortunately not being able to resist collecting London books I found a copy of the book on Abebooks. The book is A Londoner’s Own London by Charles G. Harper and published in 1927.

Charles G. Harper was a typical travel writer of the time. People who could enhance his visits and stories always seemed to be there at the right time, and the writing displays a somewhat condescending attitude to many of the people he meets. However if you cut through this, Harper does provide some accurate descriptions, and his record of a visit to XX Place is as follows:

“Among the streets of London is ‘XX Place’. It is in a sense an unknown quantity because the London Post Office Directory has no mention of it, although the Post Office Guide notes its existence. A policeman at Aldgate knew it; ‘It’s not worth going to look at’ he said.

But I prefer to see for myself; so I got on a tramcar.

Put me off at Globe Road, I said; I want to find XX Place. I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of it.

Oh ! yes, I have, said the conductor to my surprise. I used to be an insurance agent, and I got some proposals from the people living there, and when I sent the papers in to the office, they wrote and told me there wasn’t any such place…..Thought I was having ’em on, I suppose, as you might say….So I took the Superintendent there, and showed him.

I can explain it, said I; the Post Office Directory ignores XX Place; and of course, when the insurance people looked for and didn’t find it, they naturally thought there was not and could not be, a street with a name like that.

It was a summer’s evening when I happened upon XX Place. Oh ! yes, there is such a street; I have not imagined it.

XX Place is a little by-way out of Globe Road which turns out of Mile End Road at Stepney Green railway-station. There is a public house, the Globe at the other corner. There would probably be another pub at the first named corner, except that the station is there. indeed, it is likely that one was disestablished to make way for the station.

But however that may be, there is a public house on the farther side of Stepney Green Station. It is the ‘Black Boy’. There were two policemen at the corner of XX Place at the time of my advent. The westering sun shone in my eyes, as I looked about me and could not read the name plate on the corner house.

Where is XX Place, I asked.

You’re looking at it, said one of the constables.

i looked at little more, and perceived a, well, cul-de-sac if you like; a short street with little four roomed houses on the right, the dead wall of one of the Stepney Borough Council’s yards on the left, and at the end another dead wall.

What sort of people live there?, I asked one of the constables.

I don’t know. he answered, rather loftily, I never speak to them.

I will, I made reply, caustically; do you think it’s safe? If you hear me presently call for help, come to the rescue. The constable turned away daunted. Such is the effect of a sub-acid humour.

So I made the acquaintance of the people of XX Place myself. Approaching one, who was drinking, he poured some of it out of a jug into a glass and offered it to me. With my customary bonhomie, I accepted, and found it to be ale; the product, probably of either the neighbouring brewery of Charrington, or of the equally neighbouring Mann, Crossman and Co.

The natives of XX Place are not less urbane than those of Grosvenor Place; and perhaps a little more human. They are likeable folk. It is, you may be surprised to learn, as much de riguer in XX Place to wear a collar (and not merely a neckcloth) as it is in the West End.

They are rather proud of the implied distinction conferred upon them in living there, but they have their conventions. You must, if you please, style it ‘Double X Place’; or they will not be pleased.

Amiably they do the honours, pointing out the tablet set in the front on the middle house, which displays the semblance of the projecting half of a barrel, surmounting the inscription ‘1823. I.S., J.S.’ It appears that those initials stand for members of the Stayner family, who built it. There is a considerable Stayner estate in the neighbourhood, and the inhabitants render their rents to a firm of solicitors. The little houses were formerly let at five shillings weekly; but now at ten shillings.

Nothing seems to have survived to account for the naming of XX Place; but the evidence of the barrel on the tablet hints obviously at some connection with a brewery which produces ale of that double X quality. 

The sole grievance of the denizens of XX Place appears to be that the former right of way through to the ‘Black Boy’ inn has been abolished. I advised them to bear up against this adversity; and pointed out that the ‘Globe’ in the other direction was no greater distance. But you have to cross the road to reach that. Nothing, therefore, short of the reopening of the former footpath, will appease them; and as that appears to be unlikely, I am afraid the grievance of XX Place will not merely go unredressed, but will remain a sorrow until the memory of its sometime existence is forgotten.”

Harper included his own drawings in the book. The following drawing shows the entrance to XX Place from Glove Road with the shop on the corner:

XX Place

The following drawing by Harper shows the tablet mentioned in his text with the barrel. The 2001 booklet by Ron Osborne mentions that the tablet is still to be found, although in a very sorry state. I walked the area that was once XX Place but could not find any hint of the tablet, so not sure if it has been removed since 2001, or if I was looking in the wrong place. I would be interested in any information as to the location or fate of the tablet.

XX Place

Harper’s text mentions the Black Boy pub. If you go back to the 1895 map and follow XX Place down, there is a long building that runs down to Mile End Road and is labelled PH. This is the Black Boy pub and it was obviously an easy walk for the inhabitants of XX Place down to their local pub.

The right of way to the Black Boy was closed up at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a letter in the East London Observer on the 28th November 1903 referring to the closing up of XX Place. This was probably down to the redevelopment of this corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road associated with the coming of the railway. The 1895 map does not show Stepney Green station which is on the left hand corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road. The station was opened in 1902 by the Whitechapel and Bow railway.

The main reason that XX Place appeared in newspapers seems to be not for any newsworthy event in the street, rather the strangeness of the name. A typical example is an article in the London Daily News on the 6th August 1904 titled “Stepney’s Nature Study”. The article traces a number of street names in Stepney that have an animal as part of the name, and then goes on to say:

“In addition, some curious names are to be found, for there is an Elbow Lane, a Frying Pan Alley, and Shoulder of Mutton Alley, but none of these are so curious as XX Place in Mile End.”

XX Place was also mentioned in the Shoreditch Observer on the 3rd June 1899 as the most curiously named street in London. It also names a couple of other street names which would have been contenders if the names had not been changed: “Hocum Pocum Lane in Hither Green and Kicking Boy Alley have been altered”.

XX Place was demolished around 1957/58 as part of the London County Council slum clearance programme. The site was then occupied by a council run laundry, including a later self-service launderette which closed in 1975. There then followed a period of temporary use until the area was cleared in 1989 to make way for the Stocks Court student accommodation block which now occupies much of the length of Globe Road which included the entrance to XX Place.

After visiting the Tower Hamlets Archive I walked along Mile End Road to Globe Road. This is Stocks Court. The junction of XX Place and Globe Road was to the left of the bus stop, roughly where the tree is located.

XX Place

I walked around the back of Stocks Court trying to find the tablet which Ron Osborne had mentioned was still to be found in 2001, but could not find any evidence of the tablet’s survival.

This is the view looking back towards the rear of Stocks Court. XX Place would have run roughly down the centre of the photo. To the right would have been the rear entrance to the Black Boy pub. I suspect there would have been many late night, drunken walks from pub back to house in the area covered by this photo, and probably explains why the residents objected to the blocking up of XX Place as they lost a short and safe route between house and pub and now had to risk crossing a road.

XX Place

Returning to Mile End Road, this is the building that was once the Black Boy pub, until closure in 1996. The original pub on this site dates back to the 18th century, however the current building was a 1904 rebuild of the pub during the redevelopment of the area when Stepney Green station arrived (which is just to the right of the photo).

XX Place

Stepney Green station on the corner of Mile End Road and Globe Road:

XX Place

I walked around the area once occupied by XX Place, and the surrounding streets in the hope of finding the tablet with the barrel that was once to be found in the terrace in XX Place and recorded as still being seen, although in a poor state in 2001 by Ron Osborne.

Although I was unable to find the tablet, I did find a rather nice London County Council “Stop” sign at the entrance to the car park for Withy House, an LCC built housing block on Globe Road.

XX Place

I am not sure if XX Place is London’s strangest street name, however it is one of the more unusual.

Although the street was demolished in the 1950s, the name can still be found locally with the XX Place Health Centre on the Mile End hospital site in Bancroft Road. As mentioned earlier in this post, a Doctor had a surgery on the corner of XX Place before moving to the corner of Alderney Road.

Alderney Road was almost directly opposite XX Place and leads through to Bancroft Road opposite the Mile End Hospital site. Perhaps the current health centre can trace its root back to the doctor’s surgery at XX Place, hence the retention of the name.

I would be really interested if anyone knows the location of, or what happened to the XX Place tablet. It would be the last physical link with this unusual Stepney street.

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