Category Archives: London Streets

Kynance Mews – Kensington

One of the pleasures of walking in London is turning off a very busy road and finding a very different place. The Cromwell Road in west London carries four lanes of traffic in and out of London, with the road being the main road route from Heathrow Airport to central London. It is the A4 that leads to the start of the M4 motorway. Lined with hotels, including the world’s largest Holiday Inn hotel. The road also passes the Natural History and V&A museum.

However, turn off the Cromwell Road opposite the Holiday Inn and after a four minute walk you will find one of the most picturesque of London’s mews.

This is Kynance Mews, which my father photographed in 1986:

Kynance Mews

The same view thirty five years later:

Kynance Mews

The mews are a favourite of “travel and lifestyle” bloggers as well as on Instagram. I resisted the temptation to take any selfies whilst posing in front of the many picturesque locations along the mews.

I have marked the location of Kynance Mews with the red oval in the following map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Kynance Mews

Cromwell Road is the large road running across the bottom of the map.

As well as finding the location of my father’s photo, I took a short walk to have a look at a couple of the streets in the area. I have marked the route on the following map, with the location of the two photos at the top of the post marked by the red circle (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Kynance Mews

Kynance Mews starts on the Gloucester Road, where an arch can be found leading into the mews. The road on the immediate right of the entrance to the mews is called Kynance Place.

Kynance Mews

Looking through the arch and we can see Kynance Mews disappearing into the distance.

Kynance Mews

Kynance Mews is a few feet lower than Kynance Place and separated by a high brick wall.

Kynance Mews

Kynance Mews date from the 1860s, and owes its existance to the estate that was built to the south. The name is also not the original name for the mews.

The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the area thirty years after completion. In the centre of the map is the centre of the development – Cornwall Gardens, and behind the large houses on the north of the gardens is Cornwall Mews  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Kynance Mews

The central area from Gloucester Road on the right and the edge of the map on the left was owned by Thomas Broadwood from 1803. By the 1850s, the area surrounding Broadwood’s land was being developed, and in 1862, Thomas Broadwood’s son (also called Thomas) decided to develop their own estate on the land.

After laying sewers in 1862, construction started on the houses and this work would continue until the mid 1870s. Work included the construction of Cornwall Mews which were built to provide stables to the large houses that the mews backed on to, the houses which formed the northern side of Cornwall Gardens.

The name Cornwall Gardens was chosen as the year when construction started (1862) was also the 21st birthday of the Prince of Wales, who also had the title of the Duke of Cornwall (the future King Edward VII).

The mews seem to have changed name from Cornwall to Kynance Mews around 1924. Kynance retains the Cornish connection with Kynance Cove on the Lizard, near Helson in Cornwall.

The entrance to Kynance Mews from Gloucester Road, with Kynance Place on the right of the mews entrance is one of the many strange street and building configurations on the estate. Kynance Mews is truncated in length and does not run the full length of Cornwall Gardens. Building lengths vary, and there are some rather odd alignments with the houses of neighbouring streets.

The reason comes down to Thomas Broadwood’s original land holding, with these early boundaries dictating the street and house plans we still see today.

In the following map, I have outlined Thomas Broadwood’s land holding, and the boundaries of the Cornwall Gardens development in red. Cornwall / Kynance Mews runs along the top right of the boundary, but stops short as the end of the mews hit another land boundary, with the length of the houses at this point decreasing to align with the boundary  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Kynance Mews

The red line of Broadwood’s boundary reveal some very strange street and building configurations. As we walk into Kymamce Mews, one of these can be seen with the first building in the mews that borders Kynance Place (then St Georges Place).

In the following photo the end of the boundary wall is on the right, followed by the first building, which starts of narrow and then does widen out slightly as Kynance Mews and Kynance Place diverge (see the above map).

Kynance Mews

The first section of Kynance Mews is relatively short, with Launceston Place cutting across (another Cornish connection with the Cornish town of the same name).

At the end of the first section, and start of the second section are two more arches that frame the entrance to Kynance Mews:

Kynance Mews

All three arches are Grade II listed, with their Historic England listing describing them as “Archway. Circa 1860. Simple stucco arch with rusticated piers and vermiculated architrave, cornice over”.

Crossing Launceston Place, and we can look back at the shorter section of Kynance Mews:

Kynance Mews

I visited the mews in April, before the plants and trees along the mews had come into leaf or flower. The two arches in Launceston Place should by now be topped with hanging green branches – part of what makes the mews popular with the Instagram and Lifestyle / Travel communities.

Walking through the arch and there is a sign on the right of the arch that points to a Right of Way and some hidden steps that provide a walking route out of the mews.

Kynance Mews

Walking further along Kynance Mews and we can see the two storey buildings that back onto the houses in Cornwall Gardens. A number of these retain the large doors that once would have been part of the stables.

Kynance Mews

The census of 1911 provides a view of the employment of those who lived in the mews:

  • Groom Domestic
  • Caretaker
  • Coachman Domestic
  • Farrier
  • Carman
  • Chauffer Domestic
  • Horse Keeper

The majority of those living in the mews had jobs that seem to have involved some aspect of providing the transport for those who lived in the large houses in Cornwall Gardens, there were also a number of trades people who were probably employed in local building and maintenance works.

The transition from horse to motor transport can be seen in newspaper reports from the 1910 onwards, including one from the 14th July 1928 when Lady Grace Indja Thomson of Bell Cottage, Kynance Mews was fined 10 shillings for driving without a licence.

Lady Grace Indja Thomson was the wife of Sir Basil Home Thomson, who was typical of many of the residents of the Cornwall Gardens estate, having passed through Eton and Oxford then working in the Colonial Service where he was posted as a Colonial Administrator in Fiji and Tonga. After resigning from the Colonial Service and returning home, he took up appointments first with the Prison Service, then the Metropolitan Police.

I suspect that the original occupiers would have been stunned by the prices the houses in Kynance Mews now sell for, and the rate at which they are increasing. A typical terrace house in the mews sold for £975,000 in 2001 and was sold again in 2020 for £2,175,000.

Despite these prices, and being in a mews, the houses still suffer with road works. This is the reason why my 2021 photo is slightly different to my father’s, which, as far I could work out, was taken in the middle of the road works.

Kynance Mews

The western end of Kynance Mews terminates in a dead end, with houses on another estate, not part of Thomas Broadwood’s original land holding and Cornwall Gardens development on the other side of the wall.

Kynance Mews

There are some rather ornate chimneys lining the roofs of some of the houses in Kynance Mews:

Kynance Mews

To the north of Keynance Mews, on the other side of the boundary wall is Christ Church, Kensington:

Christ Church Kensington

In my father’s 1986 photo, there is a sign projecting from the wall on the left. The sign directs the walker to a set of stairs leading up to Victoria Road, on the eastern boundary of the church. The stairs form part of the pedestrian right of way seen on the sign on the arch leading to this section of the mews.

Kynance Mews

There are a number of stubs of roads in this part of Kensington which reflect the original estate boundaries. Victoria Road has a short stub that passes the church and ends at the boundary wall with Kynance Mews, and this stub of road provides access to the stairs which can just be seen behind the motorbike and adjacent to the lamp post.

Kynance Mews

The above photo also helps to demonstrate the difference between the size of the mews houses in the foreground, and the much larger houses to the rear which faced onto Cornwall Gardens, and that the mews buildings were built to serve.

For the rest of the post, I will take a walk in the streets to the north of Kynance Mews, as the stairs were part of the original 1986 photo and the mews and land to the north show how original owners and land boundaries influenced the current layout of streets and buildings in this part of Kensington.

The land to the north of Kynance Mews was known as the Vallotton estate, as it was developed by the Vallotton family.

John James Vallotton purchased the first parcel of land in the area in 1794. His son Howell Leny Vallotton continued with land purchases to form a significant block of land amounting to around 20 acres.

Development of Victoria Road seems to have started around 1829, and development of the area would continue through the 1830s to 1850s.

The Vallotton estate has a varied mix of architectural styles and construction materials. On the corner of Eldon Road and Victoria Road is number 52 Victoria Road:

Eldon Road

Built between 1851 and 1853 for the painter Alfred Hitchen Corbould, the building has a square blue plaque recording his residence here, and that he was Art Tutor to the children of Queen Victoria.

Opposite the above house, and on the corner of Eldon and Victoria Street is Christ Church Kensington, the church that backs onto Kynance Mews.

Christ Church Kensington

The church was built to a design by Benjamin Ferrey between 1850 and 1851 to serve the growing population of Vallotton’s estate. Vallotton had donated the land, and subscriptions were raised to fund the £3,540 bid for the work from builder George Myers of Lambeth.

Very few changes have been made to the church in the 170 years since completion and the church still looks as it was designed and completed.

Christ Church Kensington also serves the Cornwall Gardens estate, and is possibly one of the reasons why there is a public right of way between Kynance Mews and Victoria Road, to provide easy walking access to the church from the mews and Cornwall Gardens.

A church had been planned on the western end of Cornwall Gardens, however whilst the estate was being developed, the Metropolitan and District Railway was also being built and used land through the western end of the gardens where the church had intended to be placed.

The railway used the cut and cover method of construction and therefore prevented any work on the western end of the estate whilst it was being built, and complicated any construction on the land above when the railway was completed.

From the church, I continued to walk north along Victoria Road, the street that was the first part of the development of the Vallotton estate.

Victoria Road originally consisted of semi-detached pairs of villas, surrounded by substantial gardens. There has been a fair amount of ongoing development of the houses resulting in few being exactly as built.

Despite changes since their original construction, the houses still look magnificent. The street is quiet as the design of the estate and boundaries with other estates mean that it is not a through road.

The flowers and spring blossom on the trees add to the photogenic appearance of the estate.

Victoria Road
Victoria Road
Victoria Road

Victoria Road is a long street that runs all the way north to Kensington Road, and I do not intend to walk that far, rather head back to the start of Kynance Mews, so at the road junction with St Albans Grove, I turn right.

It is here that I cross into another of the original estates that developed this part of Kensington.

In the following map, I have marked the three estates that I am walking through. The Cornwall Gardens estate is marked by the red line. The Vallotton estate is bounded by the dark blue line and can be seen as the larger of the estates as it continues to head north.

At St Albans Grove, I am turning into the third estate, the boundary marked by the green line of the Inderwick Estate (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Inderwick Estate

The land comprising the Inderwick estate was purchased by John Inderwick in 1836 from Samuel Hutchins, who in turn had purchased the land from the manor of Kensington.

John Inderwick was an importer of pipes and snuff boxes who lived in Wardour Street. His pipe business was still in operation until as recently as 2000 when the business was finally closed. It had operated in Carnaby Street since the 1960s.

The relatively small size of the Inderwick estate probably explains the speed of construction, with work starting in 1837 and completed by 1846, with Launceston Place being the last street to be developed.

In the above map you can also see where the railway cut through the western end of Cornwall Gardens using the cut and cover method of construction. This was where the Cornwall Gardens church was intended to be built.

Launceston Place was the street that took me back down to Kynance Mews. The houses in Launceston Place are slightly smaller than Victoria Road, but are still lovely semi-detached villas.

Launceston Place

With some interesting designs at some of the end of terrace pairs:

Launceston Place

Where the gardens at the rear of the houses in Launceston Place meet the gardens at the rear of the houses in Victoria Road, there was an old footpath before the estates were built, that went by the name of Love Lane, which would also have been the original boundary of the Vallotton and Inderwick estates.

I find it fascinating when walking London’s streets that the route of 500 year old footpaths, and ancient land holdings can still be traced today.

Until 1883, Launceston Place was called Sussex Place. the name change seems to have been to extend the Cornish connection across the area.

Before Launceston Place cuts across Kynance Mews, I turn into Kynance Place, a short street that to the south has the narrow buildings and brick dividing wall with Kynance Mews, maintaining the division between the Inderwick and Cornwall Gardens estates.

The northern side of Kynance Place has a line of small shops:

Kynance Place

The early history of Kynance Place illustrates the problems that the early developers of these estates had with infrastructure.

Whilst Inderwick could complete the sewers across his estate, he would have needed a larger sewer to connect with to drain away from the estate. When he started to build the estate, no such sewers were available. There were plans to build a large sewer along Gloucester Road, however Inderwick would have had to pay the full costs of such a project.

Until there was a connecting sewer available, Inderwick was forced to construct a large open cesspool where Kynance Place now stands. Although Inderwick improved his own infrastructure, the estate had to wait until the 1860s when the Gloucester Road sewer was finally completed.

And at the end of Kynance Place, I am back to where I started the walk through Kynance Mews.

Kynance Mews probably looks even better now as the greenery will probably be out, and it is well worth a visit for a fascinating walk through an area where the boundaries of the three original estates that formed the area can still be found.

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The Star – Belgrave Mews West

This week, I am back to exploring pubs of the 1980s, and unlike the last post on the Narrow Boat in Ladbroke Grove, today’s pub is still open. This is the Star in Belgrave Mews West:

Belgrave Mews West

The same view today:

The Star Belgrave Mews West

Apart from some minor cosmetic changes, and a change of colour for the ground floor of the pub, it has hardly changed in 35 years.

There is one minor difference which tells a wider story of how pubs have changed. Go back to the 1986 photo at the top of the post and look at the ground floor window to the left of the pub, and there is an Xpelair fan installed at the top of the window.

These were so common in pubs (there is one in the centre of the Horse and Groom Pub, Groom Place, Belgravia from a few weeks ago). They were needed as this was long before the smoking ban came into force in 2007, and pubs were mainly for drinking with a much smaller side line in food. I had a part time job in a pub in the early 1980s and I am sure I was on the equivalent of 20 day sometimes, just by breathing the air.

There is also a change at the top of the arch. In 1986 the top was plain, however in 2021 there is a wheatsheaf. The wheatsheaf is the symbol of the Grosvenor Estate, of which the mews are part.

The Star is located at the northern end of Belgrave Mews West, which runs between Chesham Place and Halkin Place, just to the west of Belgrave Square. I have highlighted the location of the mews in the following map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Belgrave Mews West

The Star was part of the westward expansion of Belgravia in the 1830s / 1840s, with the development of the Grosvenor Estate. The pub has retained its original name, and the first reference I can find to the pub implies that it opened in 1848, as from the Morning Advertiser on the 13th March 1848, in the column detailing the results of licence applications:

“Star, Belgrave-mews West, Belgrave-square – Mr Woolff appeared for Richard William Ledger, a beer-house-keeper, and applied for a licence on the grounds that there were a great many workmen and servants of the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood, who required that accommodation which only a licensed house could afford, and that there was no public-house nearer than the Turk’s Head which is distant 400 yards from the petitioner’s. There was no objection – Licence granted”.

The Turk’s Head mentioned in the licence application is still a pub, but is now called the Alfred Tennyson, and can be found at 10 Motcombe Street, Belgravia.

The Star looks to be in a purpose built pub building, so I am not sure what came first, the building or the licence application? I assume the building was designed with the sole purpose of being a pub.

The licence application is also interesting as it clearly identifies the target clientele. You would probably not have found any of the wealthy owners of the large houses around Belgrave Square in the Star, however for their servants, and those working in the area, the Star must have been a welcome escape.

The following photo is looking south down Belgrave Mews West. Belgrave Square is to the left and the buildings on the left of the mews back onto the houses in Belgrave Square, which is probably where many of the pubs clientele worked.

Belgrave Mews West

The Star – currently closed, but opening soon.

The Star Belgrave Mews West

The Star seems to have been a place where the rich and famous, as well as many of the major criminals of the time met in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is the place where members of the gang who carried out the Great Train Robbery met to plan the raid.

A description of the pub in the Tatler on the 23rd July 1966 describes the rather colourful landlord at the time:

“The Star, 6 Belgrave Mews West. Pat Kennedy’s voice sounds like gravel-chips being steamrollered. It is heard at full blast any time of day or night, as he holds court in the upstairs bar. Paddy’s, as the pub is known, has seen it all. Name a personality, and he or she has been there. Nuff said”.

Those reported as frequenting the Star included actors Albert Finney, Diana Dors and Peter O’Toole, A couple of months after the above report, in a section on London’s best bars, the Tatler described the Star as “it attracts fanatical partisans of darts and pin-tables, and creates an illusion of spies and illicit rendezvous”.

The pub sign features a view of the pub to the side, looking through the arched entrance to the mews, where a coach and horses are waiting.

The Star Belgrave Mews West

Looking through the arch with the Star to the left:

The Star Belgrave Mews West

Walking further down the mews and this is the view looking up, with the pub at the far left:

Belgrave Mews West

The majority of the buildings that line Belgrave Mews West are the type of buildings you would expect to find in such as place. Two storey buildings, many with large entrances on the ground floor which would have once been the stables for the large houses in Belgrave Square. The rear of these buildings face onto a small open space between them and the larger houses on Belgrave Square, allowing easy access when a servant needed to get the horse and carriage round to the front door in Belgrave Square.

The difference with Belgrave Mews West is that towards the southern end of the mews there are two embassy buildings.

The Austrian Embassy has a very impressive frontage onto Belgrave Square, however to the southern end of the mews, on the left, we can see the Austrian flag above the very plain rear of the embassy.

Belgrave Mews West

At the far end of the mews, between the arch that mirrors the arch by the Star is the German Embassy which occupies a large area of land between Belgrave Mews West and Chesham Place.

Belgrave Mews West

View through the southern arch of Belgrave Mews West:

Belgrave Mews West

The LCC Bomb Damage Maps show that the buildings in the space occupied by the Austrian Embassy in Belgrave Mews West suffered severe damage, and the houses that were along Chesham Place and the mews were damaged beyond repair, so bomb damage probably explains why the original early 19th century buildings have been replaced by more the more recent embassy buildings.

The following photo shows the entrance to Belgrave Mews West from Chesham Place, which passes underneath the German Embassy. I was surprised that it was so easy to walk around the embassy and take photos, however there were plenty of CCTV cameras around.

Belgrave Mews West

Belgravia has been a preferred location for embassies since the area was first built. In “Knightsbridge and Belgravia” E. Beresford Chancellor (1909) writes about Chesham Place, including that the “Russian Embassy has been located here since 1852”.

The Star is one of those wonderful pubs that make wandering the side streets so very enjoyable, even more so when the pub reopens on the 17th May. Brilliant to see that the Star is still to be found, and another pub added to the list to revisit when open.

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Lost Bankside Alleys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the St. James Chronicle, August 1855:

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

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

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

From the Morning Post, 2nd July 1833:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Minories – History and Architecture

I have been to the Minories in a previous post when I explored the lost Church of Saint Trinity, or Holy Trinity in the Minories, and when I went to find the pulpit from the church which is now at All Saints’ Church, East Meon in Hampshire.

I wanted to return to explore the street, the abbey after which the street is named, and one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the city.

The following photo is from Aldgate High Street at the northern end of the Minories, looking down the street.

The above photo shows what looks like an ordinary London street. Lined by commercial buildings, fast food stores, and the obligatory towers rising in the distance; the Minories has a far more interesting history than the above view suggests.

The following ward map from 1755 shows the Minories running down from Whitechapel, just outside the City wall.

In the above map, the area of land between the city wall and the Minories was once part of the ditch that ran alongside part of the walls. Look across the map at the top of the Minories, and running to the top left is another reminder of the ditch, the street Houndsditch, the last part of the name can be seen.

Being outside the City walls, the area may have been the site of a Roman cemetery, and in 1853 a large Roman Sarcophagus with a lead coffin was found near Trinity Church, just to the right of the street.

In the map the street is called The Minories, however today “The” has been dropped and the street name signs now name the street just Minories (I am continuing to use “the” in the post as I suspect it helps the text to flow”.

The name derives from the sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare. The sisters of the order were known as Minoresses and the book “A History of the Minories, London”, published in 1922 and written by Edward Murray Tomlinson, once Vicar of Holy Trinity Minories, provides some background as to the origins of the order:

“The Order of the Sorores Minores, to which the abbey of the Minores in London belonged, was founded by St Clara of Assisi in Italy, and claimed Palm Sunday, March 18th 1212, as the date of its origin”.

The Order’s arrival in London, and establishing an abbey outside of the City walls dates back to 1293. It appears that the first members of the Order in the Minories came from another of the Order’s establishments just outside Paris.

The land occupied by the 13th century Order can be seen in the following map, enclosed by the red lines to the right of the street (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

The land supported a Church, Refectory, Guest House, Friars Hall, and along the right hand wall, a Cemetary and Gardens.

The Order received a number of endowments, and rents on properties that had come into their possession, and by 1524 they were receiving £171 per annum.

The lists of rents received in 1524 provide an interesting view of the costs of renting in different parts of the city. The following table lists the rents received from Hosyer Lane (now Hosier Lane in West Smithfield).

The majority of documentation that survives from the Order are mainly those relating to endowments, rents received, legal and religious documents. There is very little that provides any information on day to day life in the Minories. The only time we have a view of the number of sisters who were part of the Order, is at the very end of the Order, when on November 30th 1538, the Abbey buildings and land in the Minories were surrendered to Henry VIII.

The Abbess of the Order probably realised what was happening to the religious establishments in the country, and that by surrendering to the King, the members of the Order would be able to receive a pension, and it is the pension list that provides the only view of the numbers within the Order.

In 1538 there was an Abbess (Elizabeth Salvage) who would receive a pension of £40, along with 24 sisters, ranging in age from 24 to 76, and each receiving a pension of between £1 6s 8d and £3 6s 8d.

There were six lay sisters who do not appear to have received a pension – the name of one of the lay sisters was Julyan Heron the Ideote, indicative of how even religious establishments treated people who probably had learning difficulties.

It appears that the King granted the land and buildings to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and many of the original Abbey buildings were still standing in 1797, when a large fire destroyed many of the remaining buildings of the Abbey. The last religious building on the site was the church of Holy Trinity, which closed as a church at the end of the 19th century, but the church survived as a parish hall until the Second World War when the building suffered severe bomb damage. A wall did remain until final clearance of the area in the late 1950s.

The remaining abbey buildings of the Minories in 1796:

As well as the name of the street, Minories, a side street also recalls the order. The street in the following photo is St Clare Street, after the Order of St. Clare. It runs through the land of the old abbey, and at the end of the street was the church of Holy Trinity.

The pub on the corner of the Minories and St Clare Street is The Three Lords. The current pub building dates from around 1890, however a pub with the same name has been on the site for much longer. The earliest newspaper reference I could find to The Three Lords dates to the 11th January 1819 when the Evening Mail reported on the arrest of a man for robbery. He was formerly a respectable man with carriage and servants, one of whom in 1819 kept the Three Lords and a pot from the pub was found in the room of the alleged thief.

Walk along the Minories today, and apart from the street name, there is nothing to suggest that this was once the site of the Abbey. The street is mainly lined with buildings from the first half of the 20th century.

With a mix of different architectural styles and construction materials.

Towards the southern end of the Minories is one of the most architectually fascinating buildings in the city. This is Ibex House:

Ibex House was built between 1933 and 1937 and was designed as a “Modernistic” style office block by the architects Fuller, Hall and Foulsham.

it is Grade II listed and the Historic England listing provides the following description: “Continuous horizontal window bands, with metal glazing bars. Vertical emphasis in centre of each facade in form of curved glazing (in main block) and black faience strips”

“faience” was not a word I had heard before, and the best definition I could find seems to be as a glazed ceramic. Black faience is used for the ground floor and vertical bands, with buff faience used for the horizontal bands on the floors above ground.

The ground floor, facing onto the Minories consists of the main entrance, sandwich bar and a pub, the Peacock:

The Peacock is a good example of the way developers have integrated a business that was demolished to make way for a new building, in that new building.

A pub with the same name had been at the same location since at least the mid 18th century. It was demolished to make way for the Ibex building, and a new version was built as part of the development.

An 1823 sale advert for the Peacock provides a good view of the internal facilities of the original pub, from the Morning Advertiser on the 19th May 1823:

“That old-established Free Public House and Liquor Shop, the PEACOCK, the corner of Haydon-street, Minories, in the City of London, comprising five good sleeping rooms, club room, bar, tap, kitchen, and parlour, and good cellar, held on lease for 18 1/4 years, at the low rent of £45 per annum.”

Newspaper reports that mention the Peacock include the full range of incidents that would be found at any city pub over the last couple of hundred years – thefts, the landlord being fined for allowing drunkenness, betting, sports (boxing seems to have been popular at the Peacock, etc.) however one advert shows how pubs were used as contact points, and tells the story of one individual travelling through London in 1820. From the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser on the 29th May 1820:

“WANTED, by a PERSON who is 30 years of age, and who has been upwards of three years in the West Indies, a SITUATION to go to any part Abroad, as CLERK in a Store or Warehouse, or in any way he may be able to make himself useful. Address (post paid) for A.B. to be left at the Peacock, in the Minories”.

It would be fascinating to know “A.B’s” story, did he get another job, and where he went to next.

On the southern corner of Ibex House is a rather splendid sandwich bar, all glass and chrome:

The main entrance to the building looks almost as if you are entering a cinema, rather than an office building:

During the first couple of decades, occupants of Ibex House illustrate the wide variety of different businesses that were based in a single London office block, including:

  • Shell Tankers Ltd – 1957
  • Johnston Brothers (agricultural contractors) – 1952
  • Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd – 1950
  • Vermoutiers Ltd (producers of “Vamour”, sweet or dry Vermouth) – 1948
  • The Royal Alfred Aged Seamen’s Institution – 1948
  • Ashwood Timber Industries – 1947
  • The Air Ministry department which dealt with family allowances and RAF pay – 1940
  • Cookson’s – the Lead Paint People – 1939
  • Temple Publicity Services – 1938

The Associated Lead Manufacturers advertised “Uncle Toby’s Regiment of Lead” as their special lead alloy was used widely in the manufacture of toy soldiers. It would not be till 1966 that lead was banned as a material for the production of toys due to the damage that lead could cause to the health of a person.

The front of Ibex House is impressive, but we need to walk down the two side streets to see many of the impressive details of the building. Ibex House is designed in the shape of an H, with wide blocks facing to the Minories, and at the very rear of the building, with a slightly thinner block joining the two wider.

Walking along Haydon Street we can see the northern aspect of the building (Haydon Street was also the southern boundary of the Abbey of the Order of St Clare / the Minories).

The central glazed column contains small rooms on each floor level. There are few sharp corners on the building, mainly on the very upper floors, with curves being the predominant feature.

Looking back up towards the Minories:

The stepped and curved floors and railing on the upper floors give the impression of being on an ocean liner, rather than a city office block:

Curved walls feature across the building, including the corners of the ground floor which are tucked away at the end of the street:

Portsoken Street provides the southern boundary of the building:

Detail of the projecting canopy roof at the very top of the central, glazed column:

With a small room at each floor level:

The design detail includes curved windows in the glazed column that open on a central hinge:

Larger room at the top of the glazed column – a perfect location for an office with a view:

As well as the main entrance on the Minories, each side street also has an equally impressive central door into the building:

Ibex House is a very special building.

The view back up the Minories from near the southern end of the street:

The sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare have left very little to tell us about life in their Abbey, and there are no physical remains of their buildings to be found, just the street names Minories and St Clare Street. Just one of the many religious establishments that were a major part of life in the city from the 12th century onwards.

So although we cannot see anything of the abbey, the Minories does give us the architectural splendor of Ibex House to admire as a brilliant example of 1930s design.

alondoninheritance.com

St John’s Lane – First World War Bombing, Passing Alley and the Census

For this week’s post, I am back in Clerkenwell, an area I have explored in a number of recent posts, and today I will take a walk along St John’s Lane, a street that runs from St John’s Street, up to St John’s Gate.

Although St John’s Lane is relatively short, there is so much that the street can tell us about the history of the area, events across London, and the people who have passed through London.

St John’s Lane is a very old street, dating back to the 12th century. The street originally ran through the outer precinct of the Priory of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, leading from a gate at the southern end, to St John’s Gate at the northern end, which formed the gateway to the inner precinct. The following map is repeated from my earlier post on the Order of St John, and shows St John’s Lane between the two blue rectangles, which represent the gatehouses into the outer and inner precincts (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

St John's Lane

St John’s Lane today, photographed from the south, looking up towards St John’s Gate just beyond the trees at the end of the street.

St John's Lane

St John’s Lane today is mainly lined by late 19th and early 20th century buildings, along with a number of post war buildings, mainly on the western side of the street which suffered a higher degree of bomb damage during the last war.

During the time that St John’s Lane was part of the outer precinct of the priory, the street was lined by buildings associated with the priory, including a number of large houses with gardens to the rear, owned by important members of the Order of St John.

The Clerkenwell News of the 16th December 1863 included a very imaginative and colourful description of St John’s Lane in an article on the history of the street “What a glorious picture does imagination, aided by the indubitable facts of history, present of the splendid pageants which, in the days of chivalry, passed along this highway, their pomp and splendor offtimes swelled by the gorgeous retinue of some kingly potentate or prince of royal blood. What an array have we of glittering lances, blazoned shields, and fluttering pennons – heralds in their gaudy tabards – knights, the flower of England’s nobility, mounted on stately charges, richly caparisoned. Obsequious esquires, and the fair dames and daughters of nobles, grace by their presence the magnificent cortege, pleased to follow their lords and loves to the tournament in the neighbouring Smithfield”.

After the priory was taken by Henry VIII during the dissolution in the 1540s, many of the buildings and much of the land was sold off, however evidence of the large houses that once lined the street could still be seen in the 17th century.

The following extract from William Morgan’s Survey of London from 1682 shows St John’s Lane in the centre of the map, and to the left of the upper part of the street is the house and grounds of the “Earl of Berkleys”.

St John's Lane

By the end of the 19th century, the street was a mix of different type and use of buildings. There were terrace houses, a pub, a Friends Meeting House, a Smithy, along with a mix of industrial buildings and workshops supporting the trades that had moved into Clerkenwell.

Only a few of these buildings can be seen today. The Friends Meeting House was destroyed during the war, and in 1992 the following building was completed on the site.

St John's Lane

This is Watchmaker Court, an office building with a name that recalls one of the crafts / industries that was based in Clerkenwell from the late 17th to the early 20th centuries.

A clock stands out from the front of the building, telling the time in Roman numerals.

St John's Lane

There are eight plaques along the front of the building, each naming a significant clock maker in chronological order, starting with Dan Parkes:

St John's Lane

One of those named is Christopher Pinchbeck, who lived in Albion Place, one of the streets that runs off St John’s Lane to the west. Pinchbeck invented an alloy of copper and zinc which very nearly resembled gold.

St John's Lane

On the northern side of Watchmaker Court is the building that was once the pub, the Old Baptist’s Head:

St John's Lane

The building that we see today is a rebuild of the pub dating from the 1890s, however the pub had been on the site for many years, originally being part of the house of Sir Thomas Forster, who died here in 1612.

There seem to be various post war dates for when the pub closed, however by 1961 the building had been converted to a warehouse.

There is nothing really remarkable about the old pub building, in what is now a relatively quiet street. The pub has played a part in the life of so many who have passed through London over the centuries.

From the same article of the Clerkenwell News that I quoted above, is a comment that the Old Baptist’s Head was a halt for prisoners on their way to Newgate. The British Museum archive includes a 1780 print of prisoners stopping at the pub  (the two following prints are ©Trustees of the British Museum, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license):

St John's Lane

The New Prison was the Clerkenwell Prison, or the Middlesex House of Detention that I wrote about in a previous post on Sans Walk, a Fenian Outrage and the Edge of London. The Old Baptist’s Head, or just the Baptist’s Head as it was in 1780 was about half way between the prison and Newgate, so I assume the prisoners were allowed a stop for refreshments.

A very different stop at the Old Baptist’s Head was recorded in the District News on Friday the 29th June, 1900. There is an article by a St John Ambulance volunteer who was on his way from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire to the Transvaal in South Africa.

He arrived in London at King’s Cross and then made his way to the Old Baptist’s Head where accommodation had been arranged by the St John Ambulance (who had their headquarters at the nearby St John’s Gate). The article tells of an early morning, 5 a.m. exploration of London, before heading to Aldershot via Waterloo for training, then to Tilbury to catch a boat to South Africa.

Whilst buildings such as the old pub now serve a different purpose, it is fascinating how many have passed by the Old Baptist’s Head; from prisoners to volunteers heading from Yorkshire to South Africa. There must be millions of such individual stories across London.

A relic of the time when the Old Baptist’s Head was a pub can today be seen in St John’s Gate. A fire place originally belonging to the pub is now in the Old Chancery room of St John’s Gate. The fireplace includes the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Forster, so is presumably from his house prior to part being converted to the pub.

The following print shows the fireplace in the Old Baptist’s Head:

St John's Lane

The following photo is of number 29 St John’s Lane. An early 1880s warehouse built for the wholesale stationers Fenner Appleton & Co.

St John's Lane

Although now converted to offices and flats, the building retains the large doors on floors one to three that would have been used to move goods between the street and the warehouse floors.

On the front of the building is a superb clock:

St John's Lane

On one face of the clock is an outline of the world, and on the other side is the name E. Higgs Air Agency Ltd.

St John's Lane

I am always rather cautious with relics such as this clock as to whether they are actually genuine.

There does not seem to be much information available on the company. They were on the delegate list to a World Air Transport Conference held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel on the 8th and 9th of May 1974, but despite leaving a rather good clock, they do not seem to have left much else in Clerkenwell.

There is today a company called Higgs International Logistics that provides logistics for the publishing industry, and given Clerkenwell’s history with the printing industry, perhaps the company now in Purfleet, Essex is the latest incarnation of the business in St John’s Lane.

If it is, I am pleased that they left their clock.

At number 28 is a large warehouse and offices dating from 1901:

St John's Lane

This building is part of a tragic period of London’s history, as hinted at by the plaque on the front of the building.

St John's Lane

Although minimal compared with the Second World War, London was bombed during the First World War.

Early attacks during the war were by Zeppelin airships (see my post on Queen Square), and during the later years of the war, the Germans switched to the use of aircraft to bomb London.

The first fleet of German aircraft attacked London on Wednesday, the 13th of June 1917. Sporadic raids continued during the following months, and night raids commenced in September.

On the night of the 18th December 1917, a fleet of sixteen aircraft set of from Belgium, and thirteen “Gotha” bombers and a single “R-plane or Giant” bomber reached London, where they dropped their bombs across the wider city causing considerable damage, including in St John’s Lane.

On the route from Belgium and return via London, the planes dropped 2475kg of high explosive on London, 800kg on Ramsgate, 450kg on Margate and 400kg on Harwich. One of the Gotha bombers was shot down by a Sopwith Camel flying from an airfield at Hainault in Essex. The bomber crashed in the sea off Folkestone.

It is remarkable that aircraft of 1917 had the range and lifting capabilities to carry heavy loads of high explosive bombs from Belgium to London and across Essex and Kent.

The Gotha was a twin engined heavy bomber that entered service in August 1917. It had a range of about 520 miles and a maximum speed of 87 mph. The Gotha was capable of carrying up to 14, 25kg high explosive bombs. For the crew, it was unpressurised and there was no heating, so it must have been incredibly uncomfortable for the crew on long night flights from Belgium to London and back.

The Gotha Heavy Bomber of the type that attacked London on the night of the 18th December 1917:

St John's Lane
GERMAN AIRCRAFT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 67219) Gotha G.V heavy bomber. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205234223

A single R plane was also involved in the raid on the night of the 18th December 1917. The R plane, also known as the Giant, was a four engined heavy bomber, with a maximum bomb load of 4,400 lbs of high explosive bombs and a range of 500 miles.

The R plane had two engines on each wing, one in front of the other. The front engine had a forward facing propeller that pulled the aircraft, the rear engine had a rear facing propeller and pushed the aircraft. Remarkably, the engines were capable of being serviced in flight and a mechanic was stationed in each of the engine pods during the flight.

The R Plane, or Giant bomber of the type that attacked London:

St John's Lane

(image source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zeppelin-Staaken_R.VI_photo1.jpg):

A map in the Imperial War Museum archive provides an overview of the Gotha bomber attacks on London, Kent and Essex during the later years of the First World War and illustrates the considerable numbers of bombs dropped on London, casualty numbers and the number of Gotha bombers lost.

St John's Lane
THE GERMAN AIR FORCE IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 73542A) Map of the locations of German Gotha raids on Britain and casualties on both sides. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205360173

The attacks on London during the First World War, though relatively small in number, were an indication of what was to come in just over 20 years time.

The building next to number 28 has an interesting ground floor frontage to the street, part of which provides access to an alley.

St John's Lane

Behind this building, in space between St John’s Lane and St John’s Street was a large area for the stabling of horses. The large arch on the left of the building was originally an access tunnel to the stabling area.

The smaller arch to the right provides access to Passing Alley, an alley that allows pedestrian access through to St John’s Street.

St John's Lane

Passing Alley gives the impression of being one of London’s ancient alleys, however in London terms, it is relatively recent. The alley was originally around 40 feet to the north of its current location, however late 19th century development, which included the building that now provides access to the alley, required the shift of the alley to the south.

In the following map, I have outlined Passing Alley with a red oval. Look to the left of the alley, across St John’s Lane, and Passing Alley is to the south of Briset Street.

St John's Lane

In the following extract from a 1755 parish map, I have circled Passing Alley with an orange oval. In this extract, the alley is in its original medieval position and was a continuation of Briset Street. The map also seems to imply that it was a slightly wider street than the narrow alley we see today.

St John's Lane

The name of the alley seems to have changed in the late 18th century. In the key for the above parish map the alley was called Pising Alley, and in Rocque’s 1746 map it had the name Pissing Alley.

I cannot find any firm evidence for the source of this earlier name, however it may be down to the location of cesspits in the area.

St John's Lane

Alan Stapleton’s 1924 book “London’s Alley, Byways and Courts” records that the alley was blocked for many months during the Great War due to the bomb dropped on the adjacent building on the night of the 18th December 1917, and that some hundredweights of bricks fell into the alley, killing an unfortunate man who happened to be passing through.

Walking through the alley today, and it is still lined by high brick buildings and walls, and one can imagine the impact of so many bricks falling into such a narrow alley.

St John's Lane

The way the alley curves means that as you enter from either entrance, you do not get a view of the full length of the alley and what is around the corner.

As a complete diversion, I have mentioned a number of times the pleasure of finding things that previous owners have left in second hand books. My copy of Alan Stapleton’s book on London’s alleys contains a bookmark that was issued by Air France, detailing their flights from London. There is no date on the bookmark, but at the time, a flight from London to Paris would have cost £6, 15 shillings.

St John's Lane

The following photo shows the St John’s Street end of the alley:

St John's Lane

And the entrance to Passing Alley in St John’s Street:

St John's Lane

If you are reading this post on the day of publication (Sunday 21st March 2021), then it is census day, the day every ten years when every household is expected to complete a census return providing details of those living at each address on the day.

A census has been carried out every ten years since 1801. The amount of information collected changes each census and 1841 was the first census when the names of all the individuals at an address were collected.

The census has been conducted every ten years apart from 1941, when the impact of the war meant that there other priorities. The 1931 census data for England and Wales was destroyed by fire – an early example of why backing up data is so important, although using the technology of the time with thousands of paper returns, this would have been difficult.

There was a register taken in 1939, not a full census, the data was needed to create ID cards and ration cards as part of the measures brought in during the war.

Availability of census data is goverened by the Census Act 1920, and the later 1991 Census (Confidentiality) Act. These acts restrict the disclosure of personal information from census returns until 100 years have elapsed, meaning that the 1911 census is the latest to be fully available. The 1921 census will be published online in 2022.

Given that the day of post publication is census day, I thought I would take a look at who was living in St John’s Lane in 1911, when the census was taken on the 2nd of April.

By 1911, St John’s Lane was home to a number of warehouses and business premises (as can be seen by gaps in the street numbering), however there were still 125 people living in the street, as detailed in the following extract from the 1911 census covering all the entries for St John’s Lane:

St John's Lane
St John's Lane
St John's Lane

If you have seen the Government’s current advertising for the 2021 census, the emphasis is on the importance of the census to planning services such as transport, education and healthcare, however they also have an incredible historical importance as they provide a snap shot of the population at a point in time.

The 1911 census tells us the names of those living in St John’s Lane, their age, profession and their place of birth. We can therefore see the type of occupancy for the houses in the street (for example, in number 34, all the residents are single and recorded as Boarders).

We can get an idea of mobility by looking at their birth place. Many of those living in St John’s Street seem to have stayed relatively local. Out of the 125 residents, 82 are recorded as being born in London, of which 34 were born in Clerkenwell.

Only one family came from outside the United Kingdom. The Valli family at number 33 came from Italy, and we can get an idea of when they moved as their 18 year old daughter was born in Italy, but their 15 year old son had been born in London. The children also had some modern sounding jobs. The son was an apprentice to a Civil Engineer, and the daughter’s job shows the jobs that new technologies were bring to London as she had “Employment in the Telephone”.

The census also shows the tradition of people from Wales being associated with London’s dairy industry. At number three lived John Thomas Howells with his wife Margaret, both from Wales, with John being listed as a Dairy Man. They also had living with them two others from Wales listed as Servants.

A surprisingly high number were single, with 78 out of 125 being recorded as single, either as an adult, or because they were a son of daughter, widow or widower.

Displaying census data graphically helps with understanding what St John’s Lane was like in 1911. The following graph shows the age distribution, and highlights that the largest age group in the street was aged between 10 and 19.

St John's Lane

The graph also shows the rapid decline in ages after the age of 59, with only three residents in their seventies. Of these three, two were married, Emma and John Cottrell at number four. Emma was 75 and had come from the small village of Frettenham in Norfolk. John was born in the City of London and at age 72 was still recorded as working as a locksmith.

So, as you complete the 2021 census, you may well be helping those who want to understand the history, demographics, mobility and professions of your street when the data is made public in 2122. Will your current job sound as strange to those in 2122 as an Ostrich Feather Curler sounds today?

alondoninheritance.com

Fleet Street in 32 Exposures

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment if you know of any others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Canon AE-1:

Fleet Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fleet Street

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

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

Cliffords Inn Passage and the entrance gate to Cliffords Inn:

Fleet Street

The church of St Dunstan in the West:

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

Mitre House, with the entrance to Mitre Court:

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

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

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

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

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

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

Fleet Street

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

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

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

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

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

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

Fleet Street

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

The clock on Ludgate House:

Fleet Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Essex Road, Islington

One of the pleasures of London is a random walk through the city’s streets. I have found very few streets where there is not something of interest. Unusual buildings, hidden bits of history, the new and the old showing how the city’s long expansion and development has taken place, and continues. One such street is Essex Road, Islington, and for today’s post, join me for a walk along part of this busy north London street.

Essex Road starts at Islington Green, where it runs from the north east corner of the green up to Balls Pond Road. To keep the post a manageable size, I will only cover the southern section from Islington Green up to the New North Road.

This stretch of the road is shown in the following map, starting at the Start (S) at upper right, and finishing at the Finish (F) at lower left (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Essex Road is an old street, going back very many centuries. In 1746, the upper part of the street was called Newington Green Lane – because that is to where the street led, with the lower section called Lower Street, which continued on along the eastern edge of Islington Green. The Lower part of the name was because of the drop in height across Islington Green from Upper Street on the west, down to Lower Street on the east.

In 1746, the area was still rural. Fields surrounding the upper part of the street, with a number of large houses and inns lining the lower section. The New River crossed and ran under the street in a tunnel which continued further south to where the river emerged as it headed to New River Head.

London was fast approaching these Islington fields, and whilst Essex Road would continue as a main route from Islington Green, the large houses and fields would soon disappear under a dense network of new building that would leave the area unrecognisable by the end of the 19th century. The following map shows the area in 1894. Islington Green is the triangle of land at lower left, and Essex Road as it was now called, follows the same route, up from the north east corner of the green (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

I am starting at the junction of Essex Road and the New North Road (S) in the map at the start of the post, and walking south to Islington Green.

The New North Road is, as the name suggests, a new road, although new is relative. It was not on the map in 1746, but was constructed in the first couple of decades of the 19th century as a more direct route from Shoreditch to what is now Highbury Corner.

On the southwest corner of the junction is Essex Road station, opened in February 1904 by the Great Northern and City Railway, and is now part of the Great Northern rail network, with trains running to and from Moorgate in the City of London.

Essex Road

The station is unusual as it is the only underground station in London operated by a rail company. The original British Rail symbol can still be seen on the corner of the building:

Essex Road

On the opposite corner to the station is the old Three Brewers pub, now the Akari Japanese restaurant.

Essex Road

Most sources seem to date the pub to around 1830, however this may be the current building. The earliest reference I can find is to December 1808 when the Morning Advertiser carried an advert for a sale of general household furniture at a location near the Three Brewers, Islington. Pubs were often used as landmarks when describing a local location.

The view south along Essex Road near the station – a wide, busy street.

Essex Road

Heading south, we come to a rather ornate old cinema building. This is the old Carlton Cinema which opened on the 1st September, 1930.

Essex Road

The cinema really stands out due to its Egyptian façade which was the creation of Architect George Coles. The Egyptian theme was probably due to the discovery in 1922 of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

The Carlton offered not just film, but also stage shows, and in February 1931 the residents of Islington could be entertained by Al Davison and his band.

The Carlton became the ABC in 1962, but closed as a cinema ten years later in August 1972, when it was then converted into a Mecca Bingo Club, which would run to 2007. It was then purchased by Resurrection Manifestations, who use the old building as a place of worship.

The view along the side road (River Place, which runs up to the old route of the New River), shows typical cinema construction of a very ornate front façade, with a simple and functional rear of the building.

Essex Road

The old Carlton Cinema is Grade II listed.

To the left of the cinema, an end of terrace building extends into the street, and on the side of the building is a part exposed sign.

Essex Road

The sign refers to the Eagle Dining Rooms. I found a couple of references to the dining rooms to confirm the full name in the Islington Gazette. On the 1st July 1902, there was an advert for:

“Wanted, a young girl for Stove Work; one used to the business. The Eagle Dining-rooms, 159 Essex Road, Islington”, and on the 13th June, 1910, under the advertisement section of the Islington Gazette, which had the remarkable title of “Servants and Girls Wanted”, there was;

“Respectable Girl Wanted, about 18, to Assist House and Kitchen; sleep out; closed Sunday. Eagle Dining Rooms, 159 Essex Road”.

Adverts mentioning the Eagle Dining Rooms in the Islington Gazette appear limited to between 1902 and 1910, so perhaps this gives an indication of the period of time that the establishment was in operation.

The following photo shows the opposite side of the street. Essex Road has a mix of architectural styles and building age. The photo shows some buildings (the smaller central terrace) that probably date back to the early years of the development of Essex Road, and where their original front gardens have been replaced with shops as the street developed and there was a growing population to serve.

Essex Road

The Green Man pub on the corner of Essex Road and Greenman Street.

Essex Road

Greenman Street was named Greenmans Lane in the 1828 C&J Greenwood map, so is probably an old lane.

The site of the Green Man pub was apparently the site of the first Congregationalist Chapel in Islington. The chapel was built in 1744, and grew during the following decades as the congregation expanded. The lease on the building expired in 1865 and the chapel moved to a new location in River Street.

In March 1866, there was a license application by a George E. Muddyman, and a Mr Sleigh opposed the application as there were already many licensed houses in the district. The license was granted as the Peabody Buildings just behind the pub (which are still there) had recently been completed and were now occupied by “700 or 800 persons” and the Superintendent of the Peabody buildings stated that “all the tenants had signed the petition in support”.

So the Green Man pub probably dates from 1866, the occupants of the Peabody buildings behind the pub must have made up the majority of the pubs initial customers, and it was built on the site of the first Congregationalist Chapel in Islington. The pub must have originally been larger, as if you look at the photo, the Domino’s take-away occupies the ground floor of a building with exactly the same architectural features as the pub.

Opposite the Green Man is the closed shop of Attenborough Jewellers, who have now moved to their original main branch in Bethnal Green Road (I have some 1980s photos of the Bethnal Green branch to re-visit).

Essex Road

The shop also operated as a pawnbroker. Note the door marked as the entrance to the Pledge Dept on the left.

Essex Road

And the traditional sign of a pawnbroker on the front of the building:

Essex Road

Continuing along Essex Road and we come to the South Library:

Essex Road

The foundation stone was laid in 1915 and the library opened in December 1916. A plaque inside the library states that it was presented by Andrew Carnegie, so it must have been one of the many libraries that Andrew Carnegie, the wealthy Scottish-American industrialist funded.

Essex Road

The coat of arms above the door of the library provides a quick history lesson on original land ownership in Islington. This version of the coat of arms was granted in 1901, and the four quarters of the shield are each part of the coat of arms of significant Islington landowners.

The Order of St John is at top left. George Colebrooke who owned the Manor of Highbury is at top right. Below that the arms of the landowners the Berners family and at bottom left is part of the coat of arms of Sir John Spencer who owned the Manor of Canonbury.

These arms were replaced in 1966 when the larger borough of Islington was formed, and the council probably thought that historical landowners did not reflect modern Islington, but it is good to see that the earlier coat of arms can still be found.

Opposite the library is this terrace of houses, which again reflect the diverse range of architectural styles, and the haphazard way that the buildings lining Essex Road have developed over the years.

Essex Road

The third building to the left is strange, The upper floors jut out without being in line with the adjacent building of the terrace. It would be interesting to understand the reasons behind this unusual design.

The small road to the right of the above terrace is Dibden Street, and in the entrance is a mural of Gandhi by graffiti artist Gnasher.

Essex Road

The text reads: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Further south at the junction with Cross Street is this collection of small shops with some interesting, concrete, architectural detail running along the top.

Essex Road

A short distance further along is the Alpaca pub:

Essex Road

The Alpaca is a very new name, dating from when the pub reopened in March 2020 – unfortunately probably the worst time for a new pub to open in recent years.

It was the New Rose, and originally the Half Moon.

The Half Moon dates from the early 19th century, and the first written record I can find of the pub dates from the 15th July 1824, when the London Sun recorded an inquest being held in the pub “on the body of Thomas Smith, aged 23, a Kentish town stage-coachman, whose death was occasioned in a pitched battle with a person of the name of Harry Bastie”. The inquest records how Thomas Smith’s brother described the battle, when he found him at:

“Copenhagen-house; he spoke to him, endeavouring to persuade him from fighting, saying that he was too fat, and had not an equal chance with the person he was going to fight, who was a good man, and had two ways of fighting: the deceased replied that unless he was to fight now that it had come to such a pitch, he would not be able to stand by his coach and get a single passenger.

A ring was formed, and his brother entered the ring first, and threw up his hat. The deceased was knocked down several times by his antagonist, who had the knack of tripping him up: witness was informed that the fight lasted two hours and fifteen minutes. During the fight the witness entered the ring and saw his brother lying on his back and was desirous of ending the fight, but the seconds interfered and turned him out of the ring.

He did not go to his brother until the fight was over, when his brother said ‘I’ll fight no more’. The deceased requested to sit down on witness’s knee, and he died soon after”.

The inquest was adjourned so the seconds could be found and interviewed. What the report does not record is the reason for the fight and why Thomas Smith would not be able to get a single passenger in his coach without going ahead with the fight.

The scene of the fight, Copenhagen-house is also in Islington, and I have written about the site in a previous post.

Opposite the Alpaca is another early terrace with on the side of the terrace facing Popham Street, another faded advertising sign.

Essex Road

The sign is advertising an American treatment which was advertised as a night cure of problems such as Catarrh and Influenza. The product went by the rather unusual name of X-Zalia, which probably sounded scientific during the first decades of the 20th century when it was sold.

Essex Road

A view of the same terrace from the opposite end, another good example of the mix of architectural styles of the early houses along Essex Road.

Essex Road

The tallest building on the right is Grade II listed as it dates from the early 18th century and was one of the buildings on the 1746 map. The building was once the home of John C. Aston & Sons, Wholesale Ironmongers and Builders Merchants and behind the house, running along the lane we can see in the photo was a long, two-storey range of warehouses. The shop facing onto the street was the shop for John C. Aston’s business. Today it is a very different shop providing hair extensions.

Across the road is a business that has been in operation for over 100 years. Established in  1918, W.G. Miller is the oldest family run funeral directors in Islington.

Essex Road

Further on is the Cumming Estate:

Essex Road

A rather functional block of flats, however they are named after two brothers who were responsible for much development around Islington and Pentonville. The brothers were John and Alexander Cumming who were one of the main developers of the Penton Estate in the late 18th century.

The brothers were Scottish and had built a reputation as watchmakers and businessmen. Alexander appears to have had royal and aristocratic patronage which probably explains their ability to fund their developments along Pentonville Road, centered around Cumming Street.

The housing block in Essex Road was developed by the London County Council and bears the typical coat of arms of the LCC, which can be found on many of their developments, although the one in Essex Road looks to be in a rather poor condition.

Essex Road

On the opposite side of Essex Road is Horse Yard. A narrow, cobbled alley that leads up to a yard, and which almost certainly was once the site of stables.

Essex Road

We now come to another pub, the Kings. When I was walking Essex Road, the pub was boarded up, which is always a very worrying sign with London pubs, however it was only for a change in ownership and the pub reopened at the end of 2020 – again not a good time to open a pub.

Essex Road

The pub was until recently called the King’s Head, and although the current building dates from the 19th century, this is an old pub and was probably one of the cluster of buildings on Lower Street in the 1746 map, as this stretch of Essex Road was then named.

The earliest reference I can find to the pub dates to the 22nd July 1758 when an article in the Oxford Journal reads:

“Sunday Morning early died Mr Cupit, master of the King’s Head in the Lower-Street, Islington. He went to bed on Saturday Night seemingly in good Health, and ordered his Wedding Sheets to be put on his Bed, saying, as they were his Wedding Sheets, perhaps they might be his Dying Sheets”.

An article that raises more questions than it answers.

And almost opposite the King’s Head is rather appropriately the Old Queen’s Heads (Essex Road really does have a lot of pubs).

Essex Road

The Old Queen’s Head is a lovely tiled 19th century pub, but like the King’s Head, a pub has been here for a long time. and the earliest reference I can find dates to the 24th February 1748, when the following incident was reported:

“On Sunday Evening, about Seven o’Clock, three Persons returning to Town, were attacked in that part of Frog Field that leads to the Queen’s Head in the Lower Street, Islington, by three Fellows, but Mr John Scott, Foreman to Mr Gregory, a Taylor, Old Broad-street, thinking to save what he had, ran from them, when immediately one of the Roques followed him with a drawn Hanger, and cut him down on the back Part of his Head, so as to let out his Brain; they then made their Escapes, leaving his two Companions, whom they had robbed, to take care of him”.

18th century newspapers were always graphic in their descriptions of violence. A Hanger is a small sword.

The Frog Field does not exist anymore, however the 1746 map at the top of the post shows Frog Lane and Frog Hall to the east of Lower Street. At the time the area was still rural and after dark, it was a dangerous place to be.

I like photographing shops and this is Natur House on the corner of Essex Road and Colebrooke Row.

Essex Road

And a final pub before we reach Islington Green – the Winchester on the corner of Essex Road and St Peter’s Street.

Essex Road

Originally the Market Tavern and the Carved Red Lion, this is the first of the many pubs on Essex Road that travelers heading north along the street would meet.

And we now reach Islington Green after a short walk along part of Essex Road. To keep the post a manageable size, I have missed out a number of buildings and have tried to show a sample of what can be found in just one London street.

Digging a bit deeper into the streets and buildings around us is what makes walking London so interesting.

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Sans Walk, a Fenian Outrage and the Edge of London

There are three photos in my father’s collection that I have not been able to identify. They were labelled “Sans Walk area”. Sans Walk is in Clerkenwell, and the first photo shows what appears to be an empty shell of a building, probably damaged during the war.

Sans Walk

The second photo shows a corner house, in good condition and still occupied, with a lovely street lamp on the corner of the building:

Sans Walk

The third and final photo shows part of a terrace of houses, with a streetlamp and bollards in the foreground.

Sans Walk

No street names, or any other identifiable features to help locate the photos.

I thought if I walked the area around Sans Walk, I should be able to identify some of the locations. I had no idea whether the houses in the photos had been restored or demolished, but armed with printed copies of the photos I set off to walk the area on an early Autumn day.

Although I could not find the locations of the photos, what I did discover was an area packed full of history, and that once formed the edge of London as the city gradually expanded to the north.

The following map shows the places covered in the rest of the post (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Sans Walk

Sans Walk is the nearly horizontal street in the centre of the map. I did walk the rest of the streets around Sans Walk, but this post was getting rather long with just the stops shown.

I started in Clerkenwell Close, opposite the Horse Shoe pub, a very traditional pub that probably dates back to the 18th century. The earliest written records I could find date to 1824 when a newspaper report referred to an inquest into a suicide which was held in the Horse Shoe.

Sans Walk

This area of Clerkenwell is full of narrow streets. Some new buildings intrude, but many 18th and 19th century buildings survive, along with warehouses and factories from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Looking east along Clerkenwell Close:

Sans Walk

Clerkenwell Close is a strange street as it consists of a number of branches. Starting at Clerkenwell Green, it runs north-west, up to Pear Tree Court and the Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate, with the branch I am walking along turning off and running up to Bowling Green Lane and Corporation Row. At one point the street runs parallel to a pedestrian alley, both called Clerkenwell Close, and indicative of how the area has developed as large warehouses replaced earlier streets, alley and buildings.

Sans Walk

New buildings had been added, but they are generally at the same height as the existing buildings, so despite the architectural and material changes, they blend in. Providing they are in keeping with the scale of the area, and there is a justification to replace rather than restore the  original building, it is good to have new buildings. The streets in the area have buildings from the last few centuries and 21st century additions are part of the continuous development of London.

Sans Walk

The above building was built on the corner of the playground of a Victorian school. The curving wall at street level retains a plaque recording the gift of Sir Robert Wood to the parish in 1844. I suspect this refers to the land:

Sans Walk

We are still in Clerkenwell Close, and the following building tells of the late 19th century expansion of London schools and the London School Board.

Sans Walk

The London School Board was responsible for the development of many of the large, brick, late 19th century schools that can still be found across London. As well as their construction, the London School Board was also responsible for their operation, and the supply of all the goods and materials needed to fit out, and keep a school running.

The Board consolidated the process of standardisation and supply, and one of the methods used was large central warehouses. The buildings in Clerkenwell Close were built between 1895 and 1897 as warehouses for school furniture, stationery and needlework supplies.

The growth in the volume of space needed grew in the early 20th century, and in 1920 an extra floor was added to the top of the Stationery and Needlework warehouse on the right of the above photo, and this addition is still visible in the change of brick colour from red/orange to  a brown brick for the 20th century addition of the top floor.

In the above photo, the furniture store was on the left, and the Stationery and Needlework departments were on the right, and these functions are still recorded in stone, above the doors.

Sans Walk

The initials at the top are those of the London School Board.

One of the schools that the warehouse would have supplied is directly opposite:

Sans Walk

The school was the Hugh Myddelton School, built by the London School Board in 1893 and with the distinction of being the only London School Board school opened by a member of the Royal family after it was opened by the Prince of Wales in December 1893.

Such was the importance of the visit of the Prince of Wales that the London School Board allocated £100 towards preparations for the visit, which caused some consternation as the money was thought better spent on education.

In his opening speech, the Prince of Wales said that the London School Board had contributed to a “marked advance in education, diminution in crime and an undoubted increase in general intelligence”.

Lesson in the Hugh Myddleton School in 1906:

 

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0208_3943

Drill in the open area outside the school, also 1906:

Sans Walk

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_02_0208_68_4984

When opened, the school was the largest and most expensive built by the London School Board. The school had a number of special departments, including the Hugh Myddleton School for the Deaf. The site on which the school stands has an unusual history.

From 1845, the space occupied by the school had been the site of the Middlesex House of Detention, built as a short stay prison due to overcrowding in other prisons, the Middlesex House of Detention was demolished in 1886.

Some of the reception cells of the prison were in the basement, and these survived the demolition of the main building and were incorporated in the basement of the Hugh Myddelton School, and are presumably still there.

The school closed in 1971, was a Further Education College for the next couple of decades before being sold for development into flats and offices in 1999.

The site of the school, when occupied by the Middlesex House of Detention was the site of a bomb explosion in December 1867 reported extensively as the Fenian Outrage in the newspapers of the time.

This took place at the perimeter wall of the prison which ran along the northern edge of the site, in Corporation Street:

Sans Walk

The Fenians was another name for the Irish Republican Brotherhood, an organisation formed in the 1850s to fight for an independent, democratic Ireland.

The bomb was an attempt to free Ricard O’Sullivan Burke and Joseph Casey who had been arrested earlier regarding Burke’s attempts to purchase arms and ammunition in Birmingham, and a previous attempt to free a prisoner in transit, when a guard had been killed.

The view along Corporation Row in the immediate aftermath of the explosion:

Sans Walk

The Illustrated London News carried the following report of the explosion:

“The whole neighbourhood of Clerkenwell was startled at a quarter to four on Friday afternoon by an explosion, which resembled an earthquake. The houses were shaken violently, the windows in many cases were broken, and in some instances persons were thrown to the ground by the violence of the concussion. The scene of the explosion proved to be the wall of the House of Detention, opposite Corporation-row, some sixty feet of which were knocked down, and it was not long before the discovery was made that numerous persons were seriously, and some fatally injured, and that the calamity had been wilfully caused. It was at once attributed to the Fenians, the motive alleged being a desire to rescue Burke and Casey, who are confined in the prison, and facts which have since come to light show that this theory is the correct one.

The clearest account of what actually took place is given by a boy about thirteen years of age, named John Abbott, who is now in St Batholomew’s Hospital, happily not very much hurt.

This youth who lived in Corporation-row, says that at about a quarter to four o’clock he was standing at Mr Young’s door, No 5, when he saw a large barrel close to the wall of the prison, and a man leave the barrel and cross the road. 

Shortly afterwards the man returned with a long squib in each hand. One of these he gave to some boys who were playing in the street, and the other he thrust into the barrel. One of the boys was smoking and he handed the man a light, which the man applied to the squib. The man stayed a short time until he saw the squib began to burn, and then he ran away. A policeman ran after him, and when the policeman arrived opposite No 5, the thing went off.

The boy saw no more after that, as he himself was covered in bricks and mortar. The man, he says, was dressed something like a gentleman. He had on a brown overcoat and black hat, and had light hair and whiskers. He should know him again if he saw him. 

There was a white cloth over the barrel, which was black, and when the man returned with the squib he partly uncovered the barrel, but did not wholly remove the cloth. There were several men and women in the street at the time, and children playing. Three little boys were standing near the barrel at the time. Some of the people ran after the man who lighted the squib.

The effects of the explosion were soon visible in all directions. The windows of the prison itself, of coarse glass more than a quarter of an inch thick, were to a large extent broken, and the side of the building immediately facing the outer wall in which the breach was made, and about 150 feet from it, bears the marks of the bricks which were hurled against it by the explosion. The wall surrounding the prison is about 25 feet high, 2 feet 3 inches thick at the bottom, and about 14 inches thick at the top.

As to the number of persons injured it was impossible for some hours to learn anything satisfactory. It was found, however, that something like fifty at least had been hurt, and that two or three were killed. Thirty six of the sufferers were removed to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where three died in the course of the evening, and six to the Royal Free Hospital in Gray’s Inn Road. Of the wounded some were mere infants, and the husband of a women, who has since died of injuries she sustained, lies in St Bartholomew’s; shockingly bruised and prostrated. Others are missing”.

In the following days, 12 were confirmed to have died in the explosion, with very many injuries.

A number of Fenian sympathisers were arrested, but after trial only one, Michael Barrett, was found guilty, and was sentenced to death. Barrett was the last person to be publically hung outside Newgate Prison.

The scene in Corporation Row after the explosion. A temporary wall has been erected to plug the gap caused by the explosion, and the walls of the opposite houses are being held up with timber supports.

Sans Walk

On a quiet autumn day in 2020 it is hard to imagine the explosion and devastation in Corporation Row.

As well as the Hugh Myddleton School built on the site of the prison, there is another closed school near by. Parts of the wall surrounding the playground and one of the entrances for infants can be seen in front of the recent building that now occupies part of the playground space.

Sans Walk

This is Bowling Green Lane School, built in 1874:

Sans Walk

Another London Board School, part of the site was originally a parish cemetery, along with housing and a tavern.

When the Hugh Myddleton School opened, Bowling Green Lane School became the junior school for the Hugh Myddleton.

Sans Walk

Having built and run many schools in the later part of the 19th century, the London School Board would become part of the London County Council when the authority took over responsibilities for education across London.

A rather nice London County Council coat of arms can still be seen on the side of the school facing the street.

Sans Walk

Bowling Green Lane school closed in 1970, but continued to provide additional space for Islington Green Secondary School until 1982 when it was converted into a range of business spaces, and today, a sign adjacent to the Girls and Infants entrance confirms that Zaha Hadid Architects now occupy the old school.

Sans Walk

The name of the school is after Bowling Green Lane, the street that runs in front of the school. This is both an old street and name and is named after the Bowling Greens that once occupied the land to the north of the street as shown in this extract from Ogilby and Morgan’s map of London published in 1677:

Sans Walk

For many years, Bowling Green Lane and Corporation Row were the northern edge of this part of London, with open space on the northern side of the streets.

The following map extract is from a map produced in 1755 for Stowe’s survey of London. The orientation is rather strange as north is to the left, east is at the top of the map.

Sans Walk

The built areas of Clerkenwell are to the right (south) and open space to the left (north) until we come to the New River Head.

Hugh Myddleton was the driving force behind the construction of the New River and round pond at New River Head, and the large new London School Board school was named after him.

Sadler’s Wells were just north of New River Head and the open space between Sadler’s Wells and Clerkenwell was often a dangerous place for those returning in the dark from entertainments – see my post on Sadler’s Wells.

I now reached Sans Walk, the street that was apparently the centre for the three photos.

Sans Walk appears to have been in existence at the time of the Middlesex House of Detention, but seems to have gone by the name of Short’s Buildings – the name of a terrace of buildings on the southern edge of the street.

The name Sans Walk seems to have come into use by 1893 and the name comes from Edward Sans, the oldest member of the parish vestry at the time.

In the western side of Sans Walk, there are new buildings on the southern edge and the old Hugh Myddleton School on the northern edge of the street:

Sans Walk

Ornate, carved name of the school, high up on the wall to the left of the building.

Sans Walk

The initials of the London School Board are also prominently displayed on the right of the school building:

Sans Walk

The eastern stretch of Sans Walk – I could not match any of the buildings in the street with those shown in my father’s photos.

Sans Walk

On the side wall of the house at the eastern end of Sans Walk is this plaque making clear that the entire wall is the property of the County of Middlesex. No idea if that applies to the rest of the house behind the wall, or just the wall.

Sans Walk

Looking down Sans Walk from the east.

Sans Walk

The building on the left does look like a restored version of one of the terrace of houses in the first photo, however the location is completely wrong. the house above is only a single house on the end of a very different terrace, and there is a road passing immediately in front of the house, with Sans Walk on the right.

At the end of Sans Walk is Woodbridge Street. I could not find any houses that matched the photos.

Sans Walk

Running along the opposite side of the houses to Woodbridge Street is Sekforde Street, lined with early terrace houses, but again nothing that matched my father’s photos.

Sans Walk

Half way along the street is an interesting building. painted white, that stands out from the terrace of houses on either side.

This is the former head office of the Finsbury Bank for Savings.

Sans Walk

The Finsbury Bank for Savings opened in August 1816 at St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell Green. Formed to provide a service for small traders, labourers etc.

The bank moved premises to the building in Sekforde Street shown in the photo above in April 1841 after being built for the bank during the previous year.

Although the bank was intended for customers with limited savings, it was used by many more affluent customers, including the author Charles Dickens.

The Finsbury Bank for Savings went through a series of mergers, eventually becoming part of TSB, which in turn was taken over by Lloyds Bank.

I failed in the aim of the walk, to find the locations of my father’s photos around Sans Walk, although one of the aims of searching for these locations is to explore the surrounding area, and there was plenty to be found around Sans Walk.

The schools and warehouses of the London School Board, a 19th century bomb planted by the Fenians, the northward limit of Clerkenwell in the 18th century and streets that record lost bowling greens and one of London’s early saving banks – all within a short walk.

London is always best explored on foot and almost every street tells a story.

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Seven Dials and Monmouth Street

The following photo shows a brick terrace house, advertising a saddler and harness maker, but in a rather poor condition. We are in Monmouth Street in Seven Dials and the photo was taken by my father in 1984.

Seven Dials

Thirty six years later and the building is in a far better condition, with the advertising signage restored.

Seven Dials

I was going to try and be clever and title the post “Seven things about Seven Dials”, but as I dug into the history of the area there are far more than just seven things of interest.

The sign is advertising the business of B. Flegg, a Saddler and Harness Maker, established in 1847.

B. Flegg was a William Flegg and the building in Monmouth Street was not his only premises. I suspect this may have been his central London sales room, where he would sell everything needed for the thousands of horses that kept London moving in the 19th century.

William Flegg’s main location seems to have been on the Old Kent Road in south London where he occupied numbers 585, 586 and 592. Adverts in the South London Chronicle stated that he had “Stable utensils of every description. Whips and all kinds of horse clothing always on hand. A waggonette to let, to hold four or six persons”.

It could be that saddler and harness maker was a family trade and that the family were from south London. As well as William Flegg there was an H. Flegg, also a saddler and harness maker, who had premises at 7 Deptford Bridge, but had to move to 2 Church Street, Deptford in 1880 due to rebuilding of the bridge over the Deptford Creek.

Flegg is not that common a name so I suspect that H. and William Flegg were related.

The final references to the name Flegg as a saddler are in 1905, when a George Flegg, aged 40 and a saddler of 654 Woolwich Road, Charlton was found drunk in Woolwich Road and fined two shilling and six pence, or three days if he did not pay the fine.

Monmouth Street is the street leading off to the south from the central Seven Dials junction, just to the east of Charing Cross Road and south of Shaftesbury Avenue. The seven streets radiating out from the central junction form a distinctive pattern on the map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Seven Dials

The layout of the streets around Seven Dials has not changed for a very long time. The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the same distinctive layout (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’):

Seven Dials

Going back to a 1755 map of the Parish of St Giles’s in the Fields, and the same distinctive layout is in the lower left corner:

Seven Dials

Detail of Seven Dials from the above map:

Seven Dials

Comparison of the maps tells us a number of things about Seven Dials. Firstly the streets radiating out from the central junction have changed names over the years:

Seven Dials

In 1755 the street name stayed the same as the street crossed the central junction, however by 1895 the names had been changed slightly to give each branch a distinctive name, so St. Andrew’s Street became Little and Great St. Andrew Street.

By 2020, the 1755 approach of extending the same street name across the junction had been put back in place, and a new set of names given.

When William Flegg was in Monmouth Street, he would have known the street as Little St. Andrew Street.

The maps also tell us something about the pillar in the centre of the junction. The 1755 map shows the pillar, however by 1895 the pillar had gone, and there was a Urinal in the junction. By 2020 the pillar was back in place.

I will come on to this later, however for now, lets take a walk along the southern section of Monmouth Street.

The terrace of houses with William Flegg’s premises in the centre:

Seven Dials

Looking up Monmouth Street from the southern end of the street:

Seven Dials

Buildings along the western side of Monmouth Street:

Seven Dials

The rather magnificent Two Brewers pub, Monmouth Street:

Seven Dials

The streets around Seven Dials are now full of clothing and jewelry shops, restaurants and cafes. Mainly small, one off shops rather than the large chain shops that can be found across much of London.

We can also walk through the street in 1895 and look at the businesses that occupied the houses by using the 1895 Post Office Directory.

Seven Dials

We can see William Flegg occupying numbers 16, 17 and 18, so not just the single house with the sign on the wall. The numbers are different to today’s numbering as this was when this branch of Monmouth Street was Little St. Andrew Street.

The directory has a few abbreviations of which I have not yet found the meaning such as the “size ma” for George Oliver at number 11 and “rms” for John Thomas Blake at number 20.

This was a street of small manufacturers and traders, trading in everything from bread and meat to birds and fishing rods.

At the top of the southern branch of Monmouth Street is the Seven Dials junction, where the seven streets come together:

Seven Dials

The streets running around the central Seven Dials junction were built during the later part of the 17th and early 18th centuries. Thomas Neale obtained the lease for the land in 1693. Prior to this, the area was already built-up, but with Cock and Pye Fields occupying the space where part of Earlham and Monmouth Streets now run.

In the following extract from William Morgan’s 1682 map of the city of London, I have marked the location of the central Seven Dials junction with a red circle.

Seven Dials

There is only a single street that remains to this day. White Lion Street can be seen running through the red circle. This would stay White Lion Street when the central junction and seven streets where completed. Today White Lion Street is Mercer Street.

Note also that the street that would become Shaftesbury Avenue was Monmoth Street in 1682.

The central feature of the junction of the seven streets in Thomas Neale ‘s plans was a pillar.

The British Museum has a copy of the original drawing of the pillar designed by Edward Pierce (©Trustees of the British Museum):

Seven Dials

The text at the bottom of the drawing states “A Stone Pillar with Sun Dyals to which are directed 7 streets in St Giles’s Parish commonly called the Seven Dyals, formerly a Laystall”.

The word Laystall can refer to a place where rubbish or dung is deposited. It can also refer to a place where cattle are kept. This might be related to the location of the sun dial being at the entrance to Cock and Pye Fields in the 1682 Morgan map.

The 1895 Ordnanace Survey map shows the central junction without the pillar. It had been removed over 100 years earlier as it had become the focal point for so called undesirables and in 1773 the Paving Commissioners ordered the removal to prevent this nuisance.

The pillar eventually turned up in Weybridge, where the pillar, without sun dials, can be seen today at the junction of Monument Hill and Monument Green.

By the 1980s, the majority of Seven Dials was derelict, and there were plans for the demolition of the majority of buildings in the area. Restoration plans were proposed by the Seven Dials Monument Charity and fortunately this approach was supported, otherwise we would see a very different Seven Dials today.

There were efforts to bring the original pillar back from Weybridge, however the local council refused.

Architect A.D.Mason designed a new pillar based on the original design by Edward Pierce, which included making measurements of the original pillar in Weybridge. The new pillar and sun dials were unveiled on the 29th of June, 1989.

The new pillar would become the focal point for the restoration work of the streets surrounding the pillar, and the work has been a considerable success with the area packed with people in more normal times.

Looking down the southern branch of Monmouth Street from the central junction:

Seven Dials

The Crown pub facing the central junction, between the northern branch of Monmouth Street and Short’s Gardens.

Seven Dials

A plaque on the pub shows how the solar time shown by the pillar can be converted to Greenwich Mean Time:

Seven Dials

The new central pillar:

Seven Dials

The Cambridge Theatre (opened on the 4th September 1930), between Earlham and Mercer Streets:

Seven Dials

The Crown pub, then Short’s Gardens, then Earlham Street:

Seven Dials

During the first decades of the 1700s, the new area of Seven Dials quickly become a reference point for news reports and a sample of reports between the years 1723 and 1749 tells us much about life in these brand new streets:

21st March 1723: There is just finished by Mr John Noble, living near Seven Dials, an Organ, which by using bellows only, without the help of an Organist, sounds several Tunes to Perfection.

6th February 1725: One Murphy, a Centinel in the 2nd Regiment of Guards, was on Saturday last seized near the Seven Dials, on Suspicion of being concerned in the robbing of the Chester Mail. One of the Chester Bags (out of which letters were stolen) having been found near a hedge, was brought to the General Post-Office yesterday morning.

1st November 1729: Late last night one Welch, who buys and sells old Cloths, was set upon by two Street-Robbers at the Corner of St Andrew’s-Street, near the Seven Dials, who took from him in Cloths and Money to the value of seven pounds and upwards.

There was a pillory at the Seven Dials in the early decades of the 18th century, and the risks of being sentenced to the Pillory can be seen from the following newspaper report:

22nd June 1732: Last night, the Coroner’s Inquest upon the body of John Waller, who stood in the Pillory at the Seven Dials in the Parish of St. Giles’s in the Fields last Tuesday, and brought in the Verdict wilful murder with unlawful weapons.

Later in 1732, the person who had killed John Waller was included in a list of those sentenced to death, but the report does not provide any background as to why he was murdered:

14th September 1732: Richard Griffith, for being concerned in the Death of Waller who was killed in the Pillory at Seven Dials.

24th November 1733: Last Saturday Mr Rambert, a Coal Merchant in Tower Street, near the Seven Dials, received an Incendiary Letter threatening to set his House on Fire, and kill him, if he did not leave twelve Guinieas in a certain place mentioned in the letter, which was written in French. That night Mr Rambert left twelve Half-pence in the Place, and at about One in the morning, some Neighbours who watched to see the consequence, observed four fellows pass by, when one of them took up the half pence and walked off with the imaginary prize. We hear nothing however of their being pursued.

Strangely, 16 years later, there is a report of someone being arrested for writing incendiary letters:

24th November 1749: On Saturday night, one Franks, a shoemaker, was taken at a house near Seven Dials, on the Oaths of his Accomplices, for writing Incendiary Letters to several persons, in order to extort Money thereby.

People living in the streets leading off from the Seven Dials pillar could be very wealthy:

15th October 1741: On Saturday last died at his House in Earl-street, near the Seven Dials, Mr. Philips, a Distiller, said to have died worth 30,000 pounds, and on Thursday Morning his Corpse was carried out of Town, in order to be interred near his deceased relations, about three miles from Nottingham.

29th November 1744: The same day, Hannah Moses, otherwise Samuel, the Widow of one of the three Jews who were hanged about three sessions ago, was committed by the same Gentleman to New-prison, and her accomplice, Benjamin David Woolf, to Newgate, for stealing out of the shop of Mr John Barber, a Silversmith, at the Seven Dials, an Ingot of Silver.

19th May 1749: A few days since a Sailor went into a Chandler’s Shop in Earl-street, near the Seven Dials, to ask for a Lodging; but the man telling him there was none to let, he asked for a Halfpenny-worth of Tobacco, which as the Shop-keeper was serving, he drew his Hanger, cut him down behind the Counter, and made off; and yesterday the unfortunate man died of the wounds he received.

25th August 1749: Two Sawyers belonging to Mr Neale’s Yard in King’s-Street, Seven Dials, quarreled and fought, and one of them, by a fall, fractured his skull and died immediately, and the other being carried before a Magistrate, was by him committed o New-prison, Clerkenwell.

By the late 19th century, many of the streets around Seven Dials were crowded, with many poor occupants. Gustave Dore drew the entrance to Monmouth Street from Seven Dials. People crowd the street, shops and basements with shoes for sale line the side of the street and children play in street, blocking the path of a carriage (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Seven Dials

George Cruikshank had earlier produced a drawing around 1836 as an illustration to Charles Dickens’s Sketches by Boz. The drawing shows two women being urged to fight in front of a gin palace in Seven Dials (©Trustees of the British Museum):

Seven Dials

Despite the impression created by Gustave Dore, Charles Booth’s poverty map of London, between 1898 and 1899 shows most of the streets around Seven Dials as “Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings”, although the dark blue along Queen Street is classed as “Very poor, casual. Chronic want”.

Seven Dials

The following photo from the 1897 publication “The Queen’s London” shows a street leading up to the Seven Dials junction. The photo gives a different impression of the area to that of Gustave Dore’s drawing.

Seven Dials

By the 1970s, the area was very much in decline. The streets were all open to traffic, there was no central pillar and cars would pass across the central junction between streets. Some of the space in the streets was used for purposes that seem very strange when looking at the area today.

In 1974, a Texaco petrol station occupied the space between Earlham and Monmouth Streets. This is the space to the right of my earlier photo looking down the southern branch of Monmouth Street from the central junction,

Seven Dials

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_152_74_21025

There is much to discover in the streets that lead off from the central junction of Seven Dials. I have only covered the southern branch of Monmouth Street and a general history of area. It would take a very much longer post to cover the whole area.

There are a couple of houses in the southern section of Mercer Street that I want to show. They are a pair of late 17th century terrace houses that date from the original construction of Seven Dials. This is number 27 Mercer Street:

Seven Dials

And number 25. Both are Grade II listed.

Seven Dials

The view looking up Mercer Street towards the pillar from the junction with Shelton Street:

Seven Dials

During the summer and autumn period, many of the streets have been closed, providing more space for pedestrians and the cafes in the area.

Seven Dials is usually very busy. Tourists, visitors to London, those visiting the theatres and restaurants of the West End add to those who live and work in the area.

in the run-up to Christmas, the streets around Seven Dials are crowded, and a couple of years ago I photographed a Saturday evening around Seven Dials. Here are three examples.

Looking up Monmouth Street towards the central junction:

Seven Dials

Around the central pillar:

Seven Dials

Crowds and the Cambridge Theatre:

Seven Dials

Many of the buildings of Seven Dials have been redeveloped, and the original pillar is now to be found in Weybridge, but the general layout is still the same, and some of the original buildings survive.

I suspect that Thomas Neale would be rather pleased that his Seven Dials development is still here 300 years later.

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Albion Place, Clerkenwell – A Lost Terrace

Walk up St John Street, north of Smithfield, and turn up St John’s Lane towards St John’s Gate, and on the left you will find Albion Place. My father’s 1947 photo of the street shows a pedestrianised street with a row of terrace houses. In the distance the street descends rapidly towards Farringdon Station, the descent of the street indicating that this was once down to the valley of the River Fleet.

Albion Place

Albion Place in 2020:

Albion Place

The name Albion Place was in my father’s notes to the strip of negatives which included this photo. I was concerned whether this was indeed the right location. Apart from the way the street descends, there are no other visual clues. All the buildings in the 1947 photo have since been demolished. Albion Place is no longer pedestrianised, and the street today looks wider than it appeared in 1947.

Albion Place is shown in the lower right of the following map, between St John’s Lane and Britton Street. Benjamin Street then continues on towards Turnmill Street and the tracks of the railway into Farringdon Station (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Albion Place

The main cause of my doubt about the location was the junction with Britton Street. This is on the right, at the end of Albion Place, just before Benjamin Street descends towards Farringdon.

The junction with Britton Street cannot be seen in my father’s photo – indeed the street appears to be a continuous row of buildings.

I have been able to confirm this is Albion Place through a single visual clue, as well as a couple of other pointers.

Firstly, towards the end of Benjamin Street, there is a building that juts out and narrows Benjamin Street towards the junction with Turnmill Street.

The building has a unique outline. Today, a tree has grown up against the building and hides the edge of the wall and roof:

Albion Place

However I can demonstrate this is the same building as one seen at the very end of the 1947 photo.

In the photo below, on the left, is an enlargement from my father’s photo showing the very end of the street. There is a building jutting out and I have outlined in red the shape of the upper wall, up towards the roof.

In the photo on the right, I have marked the same outline of upper wall and roof.

Albion Place

The two buildings both edge out into Benjamin Street, and both appear to have the same upper wall and roof shape. Would be clearer without the tree, but they appear to be the same.

I also checked the 1894 Ordinance Survey map, and in Albion Place, there is a row of terrace houses in exactly the right place (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’):

Albion Place

The OS map also shows Britton Street (then Red Lion Street) and the junction with Albion Place. I have no idea why this does not appear in my father’s 1947 photo, I assume the junction is there – just the perspective of the photo, and the way the buildings line the route of Albion Place and continue straight down to Benjamin Street.

I found one final confirmation of the location. The London Metropolitan Archives, Collage Collection has a single photo of Albion Place, dated 1956 which although photographed in the opposite direction towards St John’s Lane, includes a view of the same terrace.

Albion Place

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01 080 56 4132

The houses look the same, even the house on the left having the two steps to the door, with single steps serving the rest of the houses – exactly the same as in my father’s photo.

In the 9 years between the two photos, Albion Place has lost the rather nice lamp posts. In 1956 a new concrete lamp post is in place.

The following photo is looking up Albion Place from the junction with Britton Street, and shows the same building at the end of the street, on St John’s Lane, as in the Collage photo above.

Albion Place

Albion Place has a long history. The land was originally part of the outer precinct of the Hospitallers’ Priory of St John of Jerusalem, which extended down to Cowcross Street by Smithfield Market, Turnmill Street to the west and St John (‘s) Street to the east.

The street seems to have been built in the late 17th century, and was probably part of the gradual growth of the City northwards, as housing and industrial premises were built over what had been the lands of St John’s Priory.

The following map extract from William Morgan’s 1682 map of London shows the area as it was with the location of Albion Place marked by the red oval, on space then occupied by what appears to be the Earl of Berkleys property.

Albion Place

When built, the street was originally called George’s Court, and had changed name to Albion Place by 1822 when the court had been rebuilt to the form seen in my father’s photo, and is presumably from when the terrace of houses date.

The growth of Clerkenwell was linked to industries such as watch and clock making and Albion Place was home to the inventor of an alloy which would reduce the price of ornate 18th century clocks.

Gold was originally sold as 18 carat standard, and was therefore expensive when used as the casing for a clock or watch. Christopher Pinchbeck, who lived in Albion Place invented an alloy of copper and zinc which very nearly resembled gold. Pinchbeck moved from Albion Place to Fleet Street in 1721.

The name “Pinchbeck” was given to this new alloy, which was widely used for the cases of clocks and watches up until the mid 19th century when the sale of lower carat gold was legalised.

By the time of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, the street that would become Albion Place was now shown on the map as George’s Court. Benjamin Street had also been built down to Turnmill Street.

Albion Place

The following photo shows Benjamin Street. Albion Place has a shallow reduction in height, which is far greater in Benjamin Street, as the land descends to what was the Fleet valley which ran just across the railway tracks into Farringdon Station, roughly along the route of Farringdon Road.

Albion Place

The following photo shows the view along Britton Street – the street originally named Red Lion Street. This is the junction that caused me to doubt whether the photo was of Albion Place as it could not be seen in my father’s photo.

Albion Place

View back up Benjamin Street and Albion Place. To the north of Benjamin Street (to the left in the following photo) is a small green space – St John’s Gardens.

Albion Place

St John’s Gardens was originally the burial ground of St John’s Church – the parish church that was in St John’s Square, and following wartime bombing, now rebuilt as the Priory Church of the Order of St John.

The area was taken on by the parish in 1754 and used until 1853 when it was closed under the Burials Act. The burial ground originally did not face directly onto Benjamin Street. As shown in the 1894 OS map earlier in this post, a line of buildings ran along Benjamin Street with St John’s Gardens being an enclosed square. This can also be seen in the 1947 photo where buildings line the far end of the street.

Today, the gardens form a valuable bit of green space.

Albion Place

Albion Place

There is a rather poignant mural in the gardens.

Albion Place

It was created by Emma Douglas in memory of her son Cato Heath who died aged twenty one in 2010. Each coloured rectangle represents a day in the life of her son, with the colour of the rectangles representing an event, for example a black rectangle for a doctor’s appointment.

The mural created by Emma in St John’s Gardens is one of a number to be found.

On the corner of Albion Place and Britton Street is a rather interesting building:

Albion Place

This is the Grade II listed 44 Britton Street originally built for Janet Street-Porter and designed by Piers Gough.

Before her career in the media, Janet Street-Porter trained at the Architects Association where she met Piers Gough. She wanted a house that did not follow the old English tradition with rooms being in well defined places. She also wanted a house that did not look too friendly and looked a bit hostile, so there is no outward facing door to the building. The entrance is tucked away at the rear of the building in a courtyard.

The bricks used in the construction are shaded, starting with dark bricks at the base, getting gradually lighter towards the top of the walls. This was to give the impression that the base of the building is in shade, with the top of the building in perpetual sunlight.

The external lintels above the windows are in the shape of concrete logs.

Janet Street-Porter lived in the house from 1988 to 2001. There is an episode of the BBC programme Building Sights dating from 1991 with Janet Street-Porter talking about, and showing the interior of the building. The programme can be found on the BBC iPlayer here – it is worth a watch.

On the opposite corner of Albion Place and Britton Street there is another interesting building. This is the Goldsmiths Centre:

Albion Place

The Goldsmiths Centre was founded by the Goldsmiths Company, one of the twelve great livery companies of the City of London, as a charity for the professional training of goldsmiths.

The centre provides a location where the technical skills of gold and silversmithing and jewelry working can be taught and developed. The building also provides support for developing business, with shared studio space in which to work.

The Goldsmiths Centre is in a rather appropriate location given the history of Clerkenwell with the trades associated with metal working.

The Goldsmiths Centre was opened in 2012. The building on the Albion Place corner is a modern addition to a Grade II Listed 1872 Victorian London Board School, which together form the Goldsmiths Centre.

The main entrance to, and the main school building is in Eagle Court which runs from Britton Street back up to St John’s Lane.

Eagle Court is shown in Rocque’s map, and in the earlier 1682 map by Morgan appears to be shown as Vinegar Yard, so Eagle Court is older than Albion Place.

The name Eagle Court comes from Eagle’s House which appears to have been a mid 14th century mansion built along the western edge of St John’s Lane. The house was named after the Templar preceptory of Eagle in Lincolnshire and acted as the Clerkenwell residence of the bailiff as the senior official of this preceptory.

The view up Eagle Court towards St John’s Lane:

Albion Place

Before the school was built, Eagle Court had long been a dense court of workshops and houses. Industrial processes being performed next to living space.

Work was dangerous and accidents were frequent. for example on December 5th, 1738 “A fire broke out in the workshop of Mr Tabery, a Japanner in Eagle Court, St John’s Lane, occasioned by the Varnish Pot boiling over. Two men were so miserably burnt that their lives are despaired of”.

The area around Albion Place and Eagle Court was densely populated and criminality was rife. The location for the school was chosen by the London School Board for this very reason, as introducing a formal education was seen as one of the means to improve the future prospects of the residents.

When the school was being built in 1873 and 1874, the workmen and the location needed a police guard to protect them and the building materials for the school from the lawless elements of the local population.

The school backs onto Albion Place, and is often referred to as being in Albion Place. The following article from April 1906 provides another example of the crime in the area which was probably heightened by the precious metals which could be found in the workshops:

“DESPERATE BURGLARS – SCHOOL CARETAKER ATTACKED WITH JEMMY. The caretaker of the London County Council School at Albion Place, Clerkenwell, was found lying in a pool of blood with his head severely cut on Saturday night under mysterious circumstances.

When the premises next door were opened the ground floor window was found to have been forced and the entire premises ransacked. The second floor was occupied by a gold refiner. Several hundred pounds worth of gold and silver were on this floor, and the men removed a considerable quantity.

It was when the burglars were leaving via the schoolyard that they were surprised by the caretaker. He was rendered unconscious by blows from a jemmy, which the men dropped.

The caretaker has not yet been able to give any account of the affair. The burglars worked leisurely, and cleaned the window before leaving to remove all traces of incriminating finger prints”.

The increasing level of workshops and industry in the area resulted in the reduction of family homes and the number of children resulting in the closure of the school in 1918.

For the rest of the 20th century, the old school buildings hosted a wide range of educational functions including Cordwainers’ Technical College, the LCC Smithfield Institute and Smithfield College of Food Technology, the College of Distributive Trades, and following a merger with the London College of Printing, the old school buildings became the London Institute.

The current use of the building as the Goldsmiths Centre therefore continues a long educational tradition, including a century of use as a technical educational centre.

Unlike many buildings created by the London School Board, the building consists of only two floors. This was intentional so as not to cast the buildings opposite in this narrow street, in permanent shadow,

Albion Place

I have walked just a few short streets, down Albion Place, along Benjamin Street, then back up to St John’s Lane via Eagle Court, but these few streets reveal their part in the long history of Clerkenwell. From the Priory of St John of Jerusalem, through the industrialisation of the 18th and 19th centuries when the area was home to watch, clock and metal working, an area of dense population with high levels of crime.

The terrace shown in my father’s photo survived until the late 1960s. If the terrace had been renovated, and if Albion Place had stayed a pedestrianised street, with bollards and cast iron lamps, this could have been a lovely street. Although, we always need to be careful when looking back at the past, and remember the lessons of Christopher Pinchbeck’s alloy that all that glitters is not gold.

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