Category Archives: London Vistas

Views across London

St Mary Islington – A Tower with a View

I will take any opportunity to view London from a high point, and just before last Christmas there was a tour of St Mary Islington, which included a climb up the tower to look at the view of London from the point where the tower meets the spire.

I could only make the late afternoon tour, however this provided a view of London after dark, which is always impressive. Hopefully I can return for a daytime tour, and if you are interested in the tour of this historic church, I have put a link at the end of the post to where I found out about these tours.

St Mary Islington is in Upper Street, and is a short walk from Angel underground station, continuing past Islington Green. As you walk along Upper Street, the spire of St Mary’s is a landmark on the right of the street:

St Mary Islington

Then the full front of the church comes into view, which is easier to see in winter when there are no leaves on the trees between church and street:

St Mary Islington

The church we see today dates from two distinct periods. The front façade of the church (except for the portico and columns), the tower and steeple date from the 18th century, however the body of church is from the mid 20th century.

The church was bombed in September 1940 when a bomb landed on the nave, which suffered substantial damage. The tower and steeple survived. The church was rebuilt in the early 1950s to a design by the architectural partnership of Seely & Paget.

The new nave of the church was built on the same outline as the original, and walls lined with tall windows to allow a large amount of natural light into the nave of the church. From the churchyard we can see the new nave and the original tower and steeple:

St Mary Islington

As with the majority of London churchyards, St Mary’s has been cleared of gravestones and has been converted to a garden. The churchyard was closed to new burials by the 1852 Burial Act which applied to churches in the metropolitan London area. As with so many London churches, St Mary’s had been taking very many burials over the centuries, and with Islington’s rapidly growing population, it was impractical to continue to use the churchyard, even without the 1852 Act.

Thirty acres of land was purchased in East Finchley for the use of St Pancras and Islington for burials.

The gardens at the rear of the church on a sunny December afternoon:

Graveyard of St Mary Islington

Looking back towards Upper Street, with the church on the right, and as with many London churchyards, when they were converted to gardens the gravestones were moved to the edge and form parallel rows along the external wall:

Graveyard of St Mary Islington

There is a named grave of a significant Islington resident next to the front of the church, just behind bus stop N on Upper Street. This is the grave of Richard Cloudesley:

Grave of Richard Cloudsley

Richard Cloudesley was born around 1470 and died in 1517. He was an Islington resident and landowner. In his will he left two “stony fields” covering an area of around 14 acres, and these became part of a charitable trust which is still in existence and today is simply known as the Cloudesley.

The fields were rented out and generated an income, however with the northwards expansion of London during the early 19th century, the land was becoming valuable for house building, so in the 1830s, the trust began selling leases to parts of the lands, and what would become the Cloudesley Estate began to be built.

Whilst much of the land and houses have been sold, the Cloudesley charitable trust still owns around 100 properties, and the income from these continues to support the aims of the trust, which includes the health needs of Islington residents, along with a grants programme which helps maintain and repair Church of England churches in Islington.

The grave in the above photo is not where Richard Cloudesley was originally buried. His body was taken from an unknown location in the churchyard, and reburied in the current position in 1812. The grave was originally more ornate than we see today, however being so close to the church it suffered from bomb damage in 1940, and in 2017 the Cloudesley charity provided funding to repair and restore the grave.

The tower of the church supports a spire – the most visible feature in the surrounding streets:

Spire of St Mary Islington

The spire has an interesting history, as in 1787, during repairs to the tower, it was decided to install a lightning conductor on the spire. Rather than construct scaffolding around the spire, the church contracted a basket maker by the name of Thomas Birch, who charged the church £20 to effectively build a wicker casing which fully enclosed the spire. Inside this wicker casing was a set of stairs that allowed workmen to reach the full height of the spire.

The spire, surrounded by its wicker case is shown in the following print from 1787 (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Wicker spire of St Mary Islington

Although Thomas Birch was paid £20 by the church, he found another way of making more money and he advertised the spiral staircase as a means for the public to reach the top and see the view. Apparently charging for the climb and view raised a further £50.

What is not clear from the above print is where someone climbing the spire could have looked out through the wicker and see the view, whether they had to climb the full height and peer out over the top of the wicker, which would have been an experience not for those with a fear of heights.

The site of St Mary’s has been the site of a church for very many years.

It is in a key position. Upper Street has long been an important road from the City of London to the north, and the church is alongside this road.

There is very little evidence to confirm, however there may have been a church on the site in Anglo-Saxon times. Evidence for this seems to be mainly based on the parish of St Mary the Virgin being established in the year 628 by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

There was an 11th century church built on the site, and we were shown a stone with a zig-zag pattern in the crypt which apparently dates from the 12th century church.

The next church on the site was built in 1483, and this version of the church would last until the mid-18th century.

John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the church (circled in the following extract), at a time when Islington was still mainly rural with buildings extending along Upper Street and Lower Street (now Essex Road), gardens, and the wider countryside being fields.

Map of Islington

As well as Rocque’s map, the following print shows what the view of the church would have been at roughly the same time as Rocque’s map (although the print shows a date of 1775, the British Museum record states c. 1750) (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

St Mary Islington

The view is looking across Upper Street towards the church, and shows a cow and sheep being herded along the street. Islington at the time was known as a place where cows were kept with their milk being sold in the City, and Upper Street was also used as a route to Smithfield Market.

There appear to be two houses attached to the west front of the church, facing Upper Street. It is not clear when these were built , or there original purpose, however around 1710 rooms in these buildings were used to provide a school.

If the 1750 date is correct, then the church in the above print is the 1483 version of the church. By 1750 it has fallen into a poor state of repair, and an Act of Parliament was approved to demolish and rebuild the church.

Funds for the new church were gathered by a tax on local land and property owners.

The tower in the above print looks reasonably substantial and this appears to have caused a problem when attempts were made to demolish the church. The first attempt to take down the tower was by the use of gunpowder, which did not work, so a large fire was built in the foundations of the tower, which apparently worked.

A new church was built by a Lancelot Dowbiggin. He was a joiner, and may have been local as he was later buried in the churchyard. This latest version of the church did not include the portico and the colonnades, which can be seen in the second photo in the post, and when viewed from a distance do look a bit as if they have been stuck onto an earlier church. These additions were made in 1902.

It was Dowbiggin’s church that survived until the bombing in September 1940, and his tower remains to this day.

The mid 18th century rebuild of the church included a new set of bells which were cast in the 1770s. These are still in use in the church and were renovated and rehung in 2003. The walk up the tower passed the entrance to where the bells are hung, unfortunately being dark, they could not be seen.

Time to have a look inside the church, but before I walked in, I noticed the following poster adjacent to the entrance to the church:

Christmas advertising

A lovely bit of graphic design, but the reason it really caught my eye was the similarity to the design on the spine of a series of books produced from the late 1940s to the early 1950s.

This was the County Books series, a wonderful set of detailed, illustrated descriptions of English Counties published by Robert Hale Limited of Bedford Square. Each book was written by an author who knew the area.

I have the six books covering London, along with books for a couple of surrounding counties, and the following shows the spine of the book on the left and the main cover on the right. As can be seen “The County Books” graphic at the top of the spine is the same as in the poster outside St Mary’s:

The County Books

I cannot find out who designed the covers for the Robert Hales County Books, but they all have an identical cover design, with only the name of the county, the author and the picture changing from book to book.

Walking into the church, and we can see that this is not an old design, and how the large windows of Seely & Paget’s design let in a large amount of natural light, even on a late December afternoon. The following photo is looking from the entrance towards the altar:

St Mary Islington

The following photo is from near the altar looking back towards the entrance:

St Mary Islington

Due to the degree of bomb damage, there are very few original features to be seen in the church.

As well as the portico and colonnades built on the front of the church in 1902, the work also provided a new font for the church, and the original 18th century font was moved to the crypt, and it was this that saved the font in September 1940.

The 1902 font was destroyed and as part of the 1950s rebuilt of the church, the 18th century font was moved from the crypt, back up to the main church:

Marble Font

And the Arms of George III, which had been hung in St. Mary’s in 1781 were recovered from the ruins of the church, restored and returned to the new church:

Arms of George III

My first visit to the church was during the early afternoon, during daylight, as the tour was late afternoon and after dark, so I left the church for a couple of hours then returned for the tour which took in the main body of the church and the crypt, before heading up the tower, the top of which was reached by a very narrow set of steps.

The view on reaching the top of the tower was well worth the climb. This is the view looking to the City of London on the right, with the Isle of Dogs and the towers surrounding Canary Wharf on the left:

City of London and Canary Wharf

I had set-up the camera with hopefully the right settings to take photos at night, at the top of a tower with a narrow walkway and a light breeze, whilst avoiding any camera shake, and for most of the photos this seems to have worked.

A close-up view looking towards the City of London, with the Shard to the right:

City of London

And zooming into Canary Wharf and surrounding buildings, showing how large parts of the Isle of Dogs is now covered in tall towers, brightly lit at night:

Canary Wharf

Looking towards the south and west, the purple light of the London Eye can be seen on the left edge of the photo, and towards the right is the BT Tower. Upper Street is the road, and to the right of centre is the long roof of the old Agricultural Hall:

Upper Street

The following photo is looking north, with Upper Street running up towards Highbury Corner. Just to the right of the far end of the street are the blue lights of the Union Chapel. I believe the yellow lights on the horizon are those of the Emirates Stadium.

Emirates Stadium

A final look over towards the City, with one of the stone decorations on the top of the tower in the foreground:

City of London

The photos hopefully provide an impression of the view from the tower, however looking at the view from a narrow walkway at the top of the tower, with the spire disappearing into the darkness above certainly adds to the experience.

I understand that there may well be more tours in the future. They are led by Clerkenwell and Islington Guides, and I found out about the walks from their newsletter which can be subscribed to from the home page of their website, here.

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The View from Pratt Street, Camden

Pratt Street is a short walk from Camden Town underground station. It was one of the first streets in this area of Camden when development started in the late 18th century with construction of Pratt Street starting in 1791.

The street was named after Charles Pratt, the 1st Earl of Camden (also the source of the name Camden as he was the owner and developer of the land that we now know as Camden).

Charles Pratt’s use of the name Camden came from his ownership of Camden Place in Chislehurst, Kent. The building is still there, however is now part of a golf course.

Pratt Street still has some original terrace houses, but there has also been considerable redevelopment over the 200 years of the street’s existence.

My visit to the street was not really about the history of the street, but to find one key building at the junction of Pratt Street and Royal College Street. The following map shows Camden Town Station (dark blue circle) and the location of the subject of today’s post, along Pratt Street, in the red circle.

Pratt Street, Camden

After National Service, my father worked as a Draughtsman for the St. Pancras Borough Council Electricity and Public Lighting Department. The part of the council that had responsibility for the generation and distribution of electricity to the borough, along with installation and maintenance of street lighting.

This role would transfer into the London Electricity Board (LEB), which was part of the nationalisation of the electricity industry by the Electricity Act of 1947, which created 15 area electricity boards across the country. These boards were under the control of the British Electricity Authority, which also had responsibility for electricity generation, a role that would later become the Central Electricity Generating Board.

The building my father worked in during the late 1940s and early 1950s was at the junction of Pratt Street and Royal College Street, and is still there today:

Pratt Street, Camden

In 1951 he took some photos from the roof of the building. I have emailed the present owner of the building a couple of times over the last few years (one of the privatised electricity utilities), to see if they would give me access to the roof, but have not received a reply – probably one of those weird requests that is easier to ignore.

So I cannot do “now and then” photos for this week’s post, however the following photos give an idea of what the north west London skyline looked like in 1951, the local street corner, and those who worked in the office.

The first photo is looking west:

Pratt Street, Camden

The tower is that of the Greek Orthodox Church of All Saints. I suspect my father took this photo in portrait format to include the aircraft trails in the sky. These were reminiscent of the type of circling, multiple trails that he recorded seeing in the sky as a child during the war.

The Greek Orthodox Church of All Saints is on the junction of Pratt Street and Camden Street and the tower looks the same today:

Pratt Street, Camden

The church is Grade I listed, and opened as a Greek Orthodox Church in 1948 to serve the large Greek Cypriot community then based around Camden. It had originally opened as the Camden Chapel in 1824 as part of the Camden family’s development of the area. It would later become dedicated to St. Stephen, then becoming All Saints, a dedication which the Greek community preserved when taking over the church.

The next view is looking roughly to the south:

Pratt Street, Camden

And a second photo taken a little further to the east:

Pratt Street, Camden

I have marked up some of the key feature seen in the above view, in the following photo:

Pratt Street, Camden

St Paul’s Cathedral can be seen in the distance. To the right is the curved outline of the end of the roof of the St Pancras Station train shed (is that the correct term?), with to the right St Pancras Station (click on the photos to bring up larger views).

In the foreground of the photo, Royal College Street is on the left and the back yards of the houses between Royal College Street and College Place (off the photo to the right) run between the terrace houses that line these streets.

A close up look to show these yards and occupants must have been taking advantage of some good weather as a number have their washing out:

Pratt Street, Camden

In the following map, the building in Pratt Street is at top left, marked by the red dot. The long red arrow points to St Paul’s Cathedral, showing that it just grazes the edge of St Pancras Station (green arrow), to confirm that the train shed is that of St Pancras.

Pratt Street, Camden

To the left of the photo, I have marked a number of Gas Holders.

Between the tracks leading into St Pancras and Kings Cross Stations there was, at the time of the photo, a London, Midland and Scottish Railway Coal Depot, and also a large gas works. The location of the gas holders of the gas works are shown in the following extract from the 1940 edition of the Bartholomew Atlas of Greater London:

St Pancras gas holders

These gas holders featured on some other photos taken by my father.  These are some of the earliest photos and the negatives are not in the best condition and were probably from the winter of 1946/47. I wrote a post about them back in 2016 titled “St. Pancras Old Church, Purchese Street, Gas And Coal Works”, and the post can be found here.

The following photo is from the 2016 post and shows the gas holders across a rather bleak, bomb damaged view:

St Pancras gas holders

Back to Pratt Street, and this is the view looking north towards the hills of Hampstead and Highgate:

Pratt Street, Camden

Behind the building in which my father worked was a yard used for storage of electrical cables:

Pratt Street, Camden

The houses on the right in the above photo appear to have suffered wartime bomb damage, and a quick check with the London County Council bomb damage maps show that these buildings were indeed damaged during the war.

The bomb damage map also shows there was a terrace of bomb damaged houses on the site of the building my father worked in, so this confirms the building still there today in Pratt Street was built in the late 1940s, or 1950.

There is still a yard behind the building, although there appears to have been considerable additional building on the site, as it continues to be part of London’s electrical distribution network.

Pratt Street, Camden

As well as the view across the city, my father took a couple of photos looking down at the junction of Pratt Street and Royal College Street. The first shows a horse and cart turning into Pratt Street (the white lines are damage to the original negative):

Pratt Street, Camden

The second shows a traffic collision where the driver of a trader’s vehicle had obviously turned out of Pratt Street without seeing the car that was already travelling along Royal College Street:

Pratt Street, Camden

At the top of both photos, Pratt Street continues onward after crossing Royal College Street, and on the corner is a pub. To the right of the pub is open space, and the London Bomb Damage Maps confirm that the houses on the site, next to the pub, had been damaged beyond repair.

The pub is still on the corner, and is still called the Golden Lion, a name it has retained since opening around 1850:

Golden Lion, Camden

Strangely, the location of the pub looks similar in 2022 as it did in 1951, as in 1951 there was a bomb site to the right, and in 2022 the space is again empty as the ATS tyres, brakes and batteries garage that was on the site has been demolished.

Take a look at the home page of the pub for an indication of what the energy crisis is doing to their business.

Another look at the building in Pratt Street:

Pratt Street, Camden

The building has large glass windows, and there was a reason for this. My father worked as a draughtsman in the drawing office. His role was to create the plans and drawings for the electrical infrastructure that supplied power across the City.

This included cable runs along the streets, electrical substations etc. He was one of a number of people with the same role. This was long before drawings and plans could be created and edited on a computer. In 1951, they were all drawn by hand.

He also took some photos of his colleagues at work in the office on Pratt Street. These were part of an earlier post in 2014 on a march by the  Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsman – the Trade Union that represented these workers.

Draughtsman

The photos show the benefit of the large, almost south facing windows. They let in a large amount of natural light, which was needed for the level of detail that was being created in the drawings.

Draughtsman

Today, the windows all have blinds drawn, so if the same type of work is being carried out, those responsible will be sitting in front of large computer screens with no need for natural light.

Draughtsman

Before the availability of electronic calculators, the slide rule was used for calculations:

Draughtsman

Either resting eyes after a period of intense concentration, or after a lunchtime visit to the Golden Lion:

Draughtsman

Tea break:

Draughtsman

Where today, those who need to map the streets are probably carrying around an iPad or similar device, back in the early 1950s it was a pen, pencil and notebook, and I have a couple of my father’s old notebooks which he used out on the streets before transferring to drawings when back in the office.

electrical norebook

He covered much of London, and in the above example, the left page covers Belgrave Square whilst the right shows the area around Grosvenor Gardens with Victoria Street, Buckingham Palace (B.P.) Road and Ebury Street. The markings are for the position of electric street lamps. The red line across the plan indicates that the transfer to a working plan had been completed.

It would have been good to have taken photos from the roof of the building in Pratt Street. I am sure that the view is rather different now, and on the off chance that someone reads this who works for the company now occupying the building – my email is always open for an opportunity to visit.

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City of London – October 2020

Back in July, I wrote three posts about a walk through the City of London to photograph the pubs. The majority were closed, and being a weekend, the City was quiet. A couple of Monday’s ago I had to be in Clerkenwell, so as usual, I took the opportunity for a walk, this time through the City.

In decades of walking London, I have never seen the City of London as it is today. Offices empty, shops closed, the streets deserted.

The pandemic will pass, but it will be interesting to see whether the City of London will return to a pre-COVID city, or perhaps changes in working patterns will result in a different city.

Last August, I downloaded data from the Department for Transport which shows the impact on transport systems. I have downloaded the latest data which runs from the 1st March to the 26th October 2020. The data provides usage as percentages of an equivalent day or week.

The following graph shows usage on the London Underground.

City of London

The graph shows that after the initial lock down, there was a gradual increase in use, however the graph is now on a downward trend as a second wave arrives.

Interesting that the peaks are the weekends, so as a percentage of the equivalent week, the reduction is not as bad as weekdays, however they are still very low, with the weekend of the 24th and 25th October coming in at 37% and 41% for the two days.

The Monday I was walking through the City, underground usage was 32% of the equivalent day  pre-COVID.

London bus travel has returned to a slightly higher level, but is still averaging 56% of pre-COVID usage, and the initial growth in use has stalled and possibly reducing as shown in the following graph:

City of London

The drop to zero is the period when Transport for London introduced the middle-door only boarding policy, with no requirement to touch in, so obviously lost any meaningful passenger number data.

I started on the south bank of the river as I had been looking at alleys in Bankside and at 10:20 on a Monday morning, walked across a very quiet Millennium Bridge:

City of London

10:45 – standing on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, looking down Ludgate Hill:

City of London

St Paul’s Cathedral has reopened to visitors and a security tent has been erected on the steps:

City of London

Waiting for the visitors:

City of London

If you want to avoid crowds, now is probably a good time to visit the cathedral, although the Whispering Gallery and the Golden Gallery at the very top are currently closed.

10:50 on a Monday morning and Paternoster Square:

City of London

10:57, and looking down Cheapside from the junction with New Change:

City of London

Many of the City’s streets have been closed to traffic, made into one-way streets, and have additional pedestrian and cycle spaces. Cheapside is now closed as a through road with the exception of cycles.

City of London

11:18, the Bank junction:

City of London

The view looking down Old Broad Street, now a single lane street for one way traffic, with the other lane now allocated for cycle lanes.

City of London

I am unsure of the changes being made to the City’s roads. Cycling is far better than traffic, there is no doubt about that, however ever since I started working in London in 1979, the city has been busy and noisy. Busy pavements and busy roads with red busses, black cabs and general traffic, and it is that which makes a city live. Without people, without busy roads, the city feels very hollowed out.

There is a wealth of data made available online by various Government departments and the Mayor of London. I have shown some of the Department for Transport statistics earlier in the post, and the Mayor of London makes data available on the utilisation of the Santander Cycle Hire Scheme. This covers the whole of the scheme rather than just the City.

I downloaded the spreadsheet and created the following graphs.

The first graph shows the number of bicycle hires each month from the start of 2019 till the end of September 2020.

City of London

Whilst in the summer of 2019, bicycle hires peaked once at just under 1.2 million a month, in 2020, they have been running just under the same number for about 4 months which shows a sustained increase in cycling, rather than just a single peak.

The data also includes the average hire time, and throughout the whole of 2019 and early 2020 this averaged just under 20 minutes, since April of this year average hire times increased significantly, although they now appear to be falling back.

City of London

I could not find any 2020 data on taxi usage in London, but this must also be a trade that is suffering significantly.

The Department for Transport does publish data showing the number of licensed taxis (Black Cabs) and Private Hire Vehicles (Uber etc.) going back to 1965 which makes an interesting study in how this form of transport has changed over the years.

The following graph shows the number of licensed taxis in London from 1965 to the end of 2019 (in thousands):

City of London

The DfT spreadsheet is missing data for some years between 2020 and 2019, but the trend is clear.

There was a continuous rise in the number of licensed taxis from 1965, which flattened off from 2010 and now appears to be decreasing possibly due to the rise of private hire vehicles using apps such as Uber. Plotting the number of private hire vehicles in London on the same graph as licensed taxis shows the impact that this new form of transport must be having (left hand column in thousands):

City of London

Private hire vehicles are the orange dots, and the DfT spreadsheet only has data on these from 2005, but the rapid rise in numbers in the last few years is clear, and there is now over a 4 to 1 ratio of private hire vehicles to licensed taxis.

It will be interesting in the years ahead to watch how road usage in the city changes.

Back to walking the City of London.

Many of the take away food shops were closed. Those that were open were frequently empty:

City of London

11:45 Gresham Street:

City of London

Photography helps to record change, and I have been photographing the closed shops in the City to return to later and see how many have reopened.  It is also important to remember that behind each closed shop, there are multiple jobs and lives that are suffering financial impact.

City of London

12:15 An empty Pret:

City of London

The main visible sign of work in the City of London seems to be road works, clsoing roads, diversions and making space for cycle lanes and pavement widening.

City of London

12:30 The North Wing entrance to the City of London Corporation offices:

City of London

12:42 Empty space between the office blocks

City of London

Looking east along London Wall.

City of London

Looking west along London Wall:

City of London

The majority of the city office blocks were open, but there appeared to be very few people working in them. Most entrance foyers just had reception and security staff pacing up and down, waiting for the visitors that will not be arriving.

City of London

At the start of Aldersgate Street:

City of London

The Old Red Cow – Long Lane. The interior of the pub is a small space and a sign on the window states that the Old Red Cow is now closed “until normality ensues once again”.

City of London

Costa – Long Lane. I suspect that the hi-vis workers from the nearby Crossrail works are helping to keep this coffee shop open.

City of London

Ask for Janice bar and resturant – Long Lane. Closed until “this is all over”.

City of London

15:15 Old Bailey

City of London

Closed shops in Old Bailey. Two of the hardest hit industries – travel and hospitality:

City of London

15:28 City Thameslink Station

City of London

WH Smith store temporarily closed in the station entrance:

City of London

Fleet Street – old Vodafone shop up for sale.

City of London

Fleet Street has many closed take away food shops. Itsu:

City of London

Sainsbury’s Local – Fleet Street, temporarily closed

City of London

A hopefully temporary halt to fresh Mexican food:

City of London

Along with Thai food:

City of London

A number of shops and takeaways have been boarded up, adding to the impression of a City and business model in trouble.

City of London

Photographing the signs that will one day be a distant memory:

City of London

Just outside the border of the City of London, Simmons Bar closed and boarded.

City of London

The City without people is really a collection of buildings without purpose, and this is probably the City of London until next Spring. It will be fascinating to watch how the City develops next.

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The View from the O2

A few weeks ago at the start of August, I walked up to the top of the O2 / Millennium Dome. It was my second walk to the top, the first visit had been brought for me as a present a couple of years ago, and this second visit was to take my 12 year old granddaughter as it was something she has wanted to do for some time, and with the reopening of the site, it seemed the ideal time to visit.

I will also take any opportunity to walk up to a high point, as these provide the perfect location to get a different perspective of London, which is sometimes difficult from street level.

This is not a blog that focuses on commercial / tourist experiences, so I will not be covering these aspects, just what can be seen from the top, and what it tells us about the way the city is changing. There is significant change to be seen as the Greenwich Peninsula is in the process of having almost all of its industrial history demolished.

The O2 Dome photographed from the river a couple of years ago. The walkway to the top can be seen, suspended above the material of the roof of the dome.

O2

The weather on our visit was really good. Perhaps a bit too warm for such a climb, but the views from the top were worth the effort. The following photo is looking roughly north east, across the River Thames. An area of water can be seen. This was the Royal Victoria Docks.

O2

On the far right of the photo can just be seen the old Millennium Mills building. The building with what appears to be white scaffolding along the roof line is the Excel exhibition centre, the location of the London Nightingale Hospital.

Two of the towers carrying the cable car across the river can be seen, and to the left of the water of the Royal Victoria Docks is a low, angular building with glass sides. This is the Crystal, a building which may play an important part in the future life of the city.

The Crystal was built in 2012 by the German engineering company Siemens. It was intended to be a location for some of the company’s staff, as well as being an exhibition centre and demonstration capability on the technology that would drive future cities.

The Crystal was designed and constructed to show how future buildings could be environmentally friendly and sustainable, and use recycled rain water to drinking water, used heat pumps to draw heat from the environment to heat the building in winter and cool the building in summer. Building management technologies, and sensor systems to adjust the building’s environment to the number of visitors.

Unfortunately, the building did not attract the number of visitors expected, so the original exhibitions closed, and the building is now owned by the Great London Authority and used as an events and exhibition space.

City Hall on the south bank of the Thames, just to the west of Tower bridge is the current base of the Mayor of London, and the “head office” of the Greater London Authority (GLA). The building is leased and currently costs the GLA £11.1 million a year in rental costs. The GLA can exit the lease in 2021, and the Mayor has proposed a move to the Crystal building as this is already owned by the GLA and will make substantial savings of rental costs.

Whilst I can understand the reasons, and the financial benefits make absolute sense, it does seem a shame that the symbolic location of the GLA will relocate from a prime position in central London, to a location that will only really be seen by those working at the GLA, or visiting exhibitions at the Excel.

Turning a bit further round to the north, and we can see the entrance to Bow Creek.

O2

Bow Creek is where the River Lea runs into the River Thames. The Lea is a significant river and runs through Bedfordshire and Hertfordshore before reaching greater London, through numerous twists and turns, diversions and reservoirs. Water from the River Lea was taken to feed into the New River when additional capacity was needed over and above that available from the original springs.

To the left of the point where the Lea meets the Thames is a small brick building, with a rather unusual structure on the end. This is London’s only Lighthouse.

O2

Built between 1864 and 1866, it was not that sailors on the river needed a visible navigation sign to find the entrance to the Lea in thick river fog, it was built as a place to test out lighting systems and measure their effectiveness and efficiency, so that the best systems could be installed in the lighthouses around the coast of the country.

The lighthouse is at Trinity Buoy Wharf. Now used for weddings, office space and a rather nice cafe after a long walk. The site was owned by Trinity House and as well as testing equipment at the lighthouse, the area was used for the storage and maintenance of buoys and navigation markers that were used in the waters under the responsibility of Trinity House.

It would have been fascinating to see a light from the lighthouse sweeping the dark, misty waters of the Thames when tests were underway.

Now looking to the north and we can see a cluster of different coloured towers.

O2

These apartment towers form City Island, a recent development that sits on the small peninsula of land in one of the meanders of the Bow Creek. The following map extract shows the area where the apartment blocks have been built, with the River Lea / Bow Creek passing on three sides (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

O2

A location map at the entrance to City Island shows how the buildings have been packed into this small area of land. Note the thick red line at the top of the map.

O2

The shape of the peninsula and the lack of access apart from the roads to the south meant that those living at City Island had very limited public transport options, so a foot bridge was constructed at the northern end of the peninsula (the thick red line) to connect City Island to Canning Town Station.

The view from the northern end of the footbridge looking into City Island.O2

Slightly to the west of City Island, there is an old locked entrance to the river with a small patch of water behind.

O2

This is all that remains of the East India Dock complex. The section that remains is the basin between the river and main docks, which are now filled in and built over.

I find it interesting that the buildings that now occupy the old East India Docks are today some of the largest Data Centres, supporting major Internet hubs. From places that once moved physical goods, the same space is now being used for one of the 21st century’s most important commodities – data.

Just to the west there are two buildings with solid lines down their facade, and to their left another building with a broken line running down the balconies, all giving the impression of a vertical line facing Greenwich.

O2

These three towers form the Elektron Buildings. The individual names of the towers from left to right are the Elektron Tower, Neutron Tower and the Photon Tower. The towers were built on the southern part of the old Brunswick Wharf Generating Station, and the names of the towers are meant to reflect this electrical history.

The broken brown line running up the balconies of the tower on the left is meant to show the route of the Greenwich Meridian, however the tower is offset a couple of metres to the west, so the prime meridian defined by Sir George Airy in 1851 passes just to the east of the block. This is probably fortunate (or possibly planned) for the tenants as when the meridian laser shines from Greenwich to mark the route of the meridian, it passes just to the east of the tower. If the tower has not been in its current position, it would have blocked the laser.

Just to the right of the right tower of the three, the ArcelorMittal Orbit at Stratford can be seen , along with (to the right), the towers that are springing up around Stratford.

Moving further to the west and there is a building in the centre of the following view with satellite dishes on the roof.

O2

I had a meeting in this building in the early 1990s. It was almost the only building here, and was surrounded by an expanse of derelict buildings, and spaces in the process of being cleared.

But again, there are reminders of the old industries that once lined the river here. In the following extract from the above photo, look to the right of the photo and there is an entrance from the river with Blackwall Yard written on the river facing side.

O2

This was part of the Graving Dock on the right of the cluster of docks and launching sites in the centre of the following extract from the 1893 Ordnance Survey map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

O2

Surprising that this small part of what was once a complex web of docks, railways and warehouses survives.

Continuing towards the west, and the tower blocks that form the Canary Wharf complex come into view, however tower block development along the edge of the Greenwich Peninsula is starting to block the view across the river.

O2

Slightly further to the west and we can see the entrance to what was the South Dock on the Isle of Dogs.

O2

An enlargement from the above photo showing the dock entrance. The first white building to the right of the entrance is the Gun pub.

O2

The view is now turning to the south west, and on the western edge of the Greenwich Peninsula is one of those strange oddities that were built here when I suspect someone was trying to find how to make money out of all the empty space. The green space is the Greenwich Peninsula Golf Range.

O2

In the lower right hand corner, the upturned electricity pylon created by Alex Chinneck as an artwork for the 2015 London Design Festival, can be seen.

In the far distance, the TV and Radio mast at Crystal Palace can just be seen. Getting up this high also shows why the mast was placed at Crystal Palace. As well as being a site with the space for a mast, it is already a high point overlooking much of the lower land of greater London.

Looking further south, and we can see where the river turns to pass the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs.

O2

To the left of the golf driving range is yet another large building site with the next part of the peninsula’s transformation about to be constructed.

Although there are already many new tower blocks here, the Greenwich Peninsula is only at the start of a transformation which will significantly change the above view, and indeed nearly all the views from the O2.

The Greenwich Peninsula Masterplan shows the developments planned for the area, with a dense cluster of towers transforming the area beyond all recognition.

The view below is looking to the south. Much of the area closest to the dome is covered with car parking space, used for the big events at the dome, however compare with the Greenwich Peninsula Masterplan and this view will look very different.

O2

The above view also shows how the industrial history of the Greenwich Peninsula is continuing to be demolished. The photo below is an extract of the above photo and shows nothing remarkable.

O2

My first climb up the dome was a few years ago (family present) and in the following photo showing roughly the same view is the outer framework of large gasholder.

O2

The gas holder was demolished earlier this year and was originally one of a pair dating from the late 1880s / early 1890s. The gas holder in the above photo is number 1. The larger number 2 gas holder was demolished in 1985 and will be the site for the Silvertown Tunnel workings and entrance, with construction expected to start this year with completion around 2025.

The Silvertown Tunnel is another of the construction projects that will be transforming the Greenwich Peninsula. The tunnel is being financed through a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) model. When open, a toll will be charged for using either the Blackwall or the Silvertown Tunnels which will be used to pay the PFI charges. The tunnel developers take the risk with construction costs, however Transport for London take the risk with usage and whether this will be sufficient to cover the PFI costs.

in 2015 I photographed the gas holder from the river. In the foreground were dry docks for the Thames tourist boats. These will also, or perhaps already have gone.

O2

Still looking to the south, and there are several features in the following photo:

O2

In the middle of the photo is the entrance arch to the Blackwall Tunnel. This can be seen in the following extract from the above photo:

O2

And in the distance (see photo below) we can see Greenwich Power Station, used by TfL to provide backup power to the Underground network. On the hill behind the power station, the Royal Observatory can just be seen, and on the right of the photo, the towers of the old Royal Naval College.

O2

These sights will be disappearing from the top of the O2 Dome as the towers planned for the western edge of the peninsula are built.

The eastern edge of the peninsula perhaps provides some indication of what the western edge will look like in the years to come. Development along the eastern edge has already progressed and now consists of multiple apartment towers of differing designs.

O2

The Greenwich Peninsula is a great place to watch the eastwards march of development along the Thames.

The peninsula will soon be a completely different place if all the proposed towers and associated buildings are built. There will be very little evidence of the peninsula’s industrial past, and what remains, such as the Pilot pub, will be very out of place.

My granddaughter really enjoyed the climb of the O2 Dome, and the views of London from the top. Hopefully she will be back at some point in the future to compare the view then, with her photos taken in August 2020.

For further information on the Greenwich Peninsula I can recommend the Greenwich Industrial History Society, and any of the books and articles by Mary Mills.  “Greenwich Marsh – The 300 years before the Dome” provides a fascinating account of the history of the place.

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The View from Greenwich Park – Watching the City Evolve

Last Sunday was one of those lovely autumn days when it was sunny, clear blue sky, and views were clear, with a lack of haze. To take advantage of the weather, I headed to see the view from Greenwich Park, one of my favourite locations to watch how London has been evolving over time.

My first visits to Greenwich Park were in the 1970s when our parents would take us for walks across the park and down to the river. The park has been a destination for repeat visits every few years since, with the high point adjacent to the Royal Observatory providing a location to view the changes across the Isle of Dogs and the City.

I wrote about the view from Greenwich Park in one of my first posts in 2014, and it is dramatic how the view has changed in just the five years since.

I am also slowly working through scanning of my own photos, and recently found a few more photos of the view from Greenwich Park, so for this week’s post, I thought I would explore how the view has changed over the centuries, and the rapid developments of the last few years.

The view from Greenwich Park has always attracted artists. the proximity of the Royal Observatory, Queen’s House, Royal Naval College and Hospital added interest to the view over the River Thames, and west towards the City of London.

I will start with the seventeenth century, and a view from:

1676

This print from 1676 shows the Observatory looking to the north, with the Queen’s House and the City of London in the distance. I am not sure if it is geographically accurate, but the river is on the left of the print with the City in the distance.

View from Greenwich Park

The print was made 10 years after the Great Fire, and before the completion of St Paul’s Cathedral, so this future landmark in the City is not yet shown in views from the park, but this would change in the 18th century:

1750

The following print is dated between 1740 and 1760, and provides a more accurate representation of the view from Greenwich Park.

View from Greenwich Park

The Royal Observatory is on the left, the Queen’s House to the right, and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral with the spires of the City churches very visible in the distance. This would be the view of the City for much of the following two hundred years.

On the right, the river curves around the southern edge of the Isle of Dogs, still very rural with the 19th century industrialisation, docks and housing yet to appear.

1811

This print by J.M.W. Turner from 1811 shows the buildings of the Royal Naval College and Hospital. which have been constructed between the Queen’s House and the river.

View from Greenwich Park

In the distance we can still see St Paul’s Cathedral and the spires of the City churches. There is more shipping in the river and the print gives the impression of a more industrial environment along the river’s edge.

(The above three prints are © The Trustees of the British Museum)

1926

In 1926, the book Wonderful London included a photo of the Queen’s House and the Royal Naval College.

View from Greenwich Park

The photo looks across to the Isle of Dogs rather than the City, but the low rise nature of the buildings across the river are hidden in the haze and photo / print quality from the 1920s.

1953

In 1953, my father photographed the view from Greenwich Park, looking across to the Isle of Dogs.

View from Greenwich Park

The view across the river is still of low rise construction. The cranes lining the docks, the occasional chimney, and some large warehouses and grain stores.

I only wish my father had taken a photo of the view across to the City, but like the majority of photos taken from the high point adjacent to the Royal Observatory, it is the view across the park to the Queen’s House and Royal Naval College that provide the historic / scenic interest.

Working on this blog, and looking at the historical record in photos, what interests me is how photos record how the city changes, so I take photos of even the most mundane scene as you never know what the same view will be like in years to come.

I now come to the first of my photos:

1980

I took the following photo many years before I had seen or scanned my father’s photos, but it is remarkable how similar it is to the above photo, even the trees on the right look as if they have hardly grown in the 27 years between the two.

View from Greenwich Park

The view across to the Isle of Dogs is much the same, however there are now a number of tower blocks of flats starting to appear across east London.

The Cutty Sark, which arrived in Greenwich in 1954 is just visible on the left of the photo.

When I started taking photos of the view from Greenwich Park, I did photograph the view across to the City, not with any intention of seeing how the view would change, but I remember taking this photo because the first large office tower built in the City was now visible from Greenwich Park.

View from Greenwich Park

The NatWest Tower (now Tower 42) had just been completed when I took the above photo and the tower can seen in the centre of the photo – an indicator of the changes to come.

1986

In 1986 I was back in Greenwich. I have not yet found the negative with the view from the top of the park, but I did find this view from one of the paths leading down from the viewpoint by the Royal Observatory towards the river.

View from Greenwich Park

Again, the view across to the Isle of Dogs has very little in the background.

I also took the following photo during the same year looking across to the City.

View from Greenwich Park

The NatWest Tower is visible in the City. The chimney towards the left of the photo is at Deptford Power Station.

Both the above photos were taken during visits at the weekend, on lovely sunny days. They highlight how visitor numbers have changed over the last couple of decades, as in the 1980s, even on a sunny day, the park was not that busy.

1989

Three years later and we can see 1 Canada Square, the focus of the Canary Wharf development starting to be built.

The quality of my 1989 photos is not good. I have tried several processing options, but I cannot get the colour balance right.

in the distance there are cranes and a mass of steel frame where 1 Canada Square (the tallest building in the Canary Wharf development) has started construction, along with a number of other buildings of the development. The first indications of the considerable changes to the view from Greenwich that will take place over the coming years.

Looking to the west and the view is much the same, with the original NatWest Tower being the stand out feature of the City of London.

Looking to the east, with the four chimneys of the power station, and the gas holder on the Greenwich Peninsula.

I have not yet found any negatives with photos from the 1990s, so lets jump to the year 2007 and some dramatic changes have started.

2007

In 2007, the office towers clustered around Canary Wharf present a dramatic change in the view from Greenwich Park

View from Greenwich Park

And looking towards the City of London, and whilst the NatWest Tower is still prominent, it has now been joined by the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe), completed in 2003.

View from Greenwich Park

St Paul’s Cathedral stands out to the left of centre.

I had started playing with stitching photos together to make panoramas when I took these photos and the following is made from a number of photos from the Royal Observatory on the left across to the Millennium Dome on the right (click on the photo to enlarge).

View from Greenwich Park

My next visit was in:

2010

And the view across to the Isle of Dogs is much the same as it was in 2007:

View from Greenwich Park

Four years later I was back again:

2014

I took the following photo for one of my first blog posts, in April 2014 when I first wrote about the view from Greewich Park.

View from Greenwich Park

The view across to the Isle of Dogs is much the same as in 2007, but the view of the City has changed.

View from Greenwich Park

The NatWest Tower is still visible, with the Cheesegrater (the Leadenhall Building), completed in 2013 to the left of the NatWest Tower. The just completed Walkie Taking building (20 Fenchurch Street) is to the centre left, with the Heron Tower (completed in 2011) on the right.

Now jump 5 years later to:

2019

This was the view last Sunday from Greenwich Park across to the Isle of Dogs.

View from Greenwich Park

One Canada Square, the tower block with the pyramidal top, is almost lost among a jumble of different towers, which now consists of not just office blocks, but residential towers.

Note how the four blocks of flats on the left, which were first seen in my 1980 photos when they stood out as some of the tallest buildings in the view, have now been dwarfed by their new neighbours.

The view across to the City has changed.

View from Greenwich Park

The Shard is now visible on the left, and the office blocks in the City have grown.

The view of St Paul’s Cathedral is still unobstructed:

View from Greenwich Park

The recent completion of 22 Bishopsgate, the large block to the left of the Gherkin, almost completely hides the NatWest Tower, with the edge of the building just peeping out at the side of its much taller neighbour.

View from Greenwich Park

There is another viewpoint just to the west of the Royal Observatory. It is a good place to look at the view without the crowds that now cluster around the statue of General Wolfe, just outside the Royal Observatory, and from this viewpoint there is a better view of the cluster of towers across in the Isle of Dogs.

View from Greenwich Park

It is remarkable how rapid the development has been. Comparing with my 2014 photos show the degree of construction in just the last 5 years.

A 2019 panorama:

View from Greenwich Park

The view from Greenwich Park must be one of the most photographed views in London. The area outside the Royal Observatory, in front of the statue of General Wolfe is frequently crowded with people taking photos or just looking across to the towers of glass and steel that now dominate the view.

View from Greenwich Park

If I manage to keep up the blog for another 5 years, I will have to return to Greenwich and see how the view has changed and how many more towers have grown across London, and hopefully by then I can also fill in some of the missing years when I find and scan the negatives.

The Greenwich Peninsula is fast developing, and the Peninsula, Isle of Dogs and the City will be  three large clusters of towers that dominate the future view from Greenwich Park.

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A Walk in the City in 1980 and 2019

Last Sunday I was walking along the South Bank in 1980, for today’s post, I have crossed over the river for a walk in the City with a few of my photos, also from 1980.

I am starting on Lower Thames Street, opposite the old Billingsgate Market. This is the view looking up the street St. Mary at Hill.

Walk in the City

This is the same view 39 years later in 2019:

Walk in the City

The street is named after the church on the street, however it is not the church which can be seen in the distance – that is the church of St. Margaret Pattens which is across East Cheap which runs along the top of St. Mary at Hill.

The church after which the street is named is where the ornate clock overhangs the street. Although the street is named after the church, the tower and main entrance to St. Mary at Hill are on Lovat Lane. I visit the church in this post.

In 1980, the area around the street of St. Mary at Hill was still dominated by the Billingsgate fish market, which would not move from Lower Thames Street until 1982. The street still had some open spaces which had not yet been redeveloped following wartime damage, however the financial industry was expanding into the area as show by the relatively new TSB building on the right in the 1982 photo.

If you look at the 1980 photo above, a short distance along St. Mary at Hill on the left, by the trailer, half on the street, there is a shop with a plaque above the shop front.

In 1980 I photographed the plaque:

Walk in the City

In 2019, the plaque is on the same building, but has been relocated from above the first, to above the second floor window.

The ground floor is no longer a shop.

Walk in the City

The plaque reads:

“This Hall was built Anno Domini MDCCLXXXVI The Right Honourable Thomas Sainsbury, Lord Mayor, Alderman of this Ward and Governor of the Fellowship. John Kittermaster, Deputy. William Banister, Upper Ruler.”

Walk in the City

The building is part of Watermen’s Hall – the City hall of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames.

The main hall building is immediately to the left. The ground floor with the old shop was redeveloped as part of the hall complex in 1983.

The Worshipful Company of Watermen and Lightermen has its origins in an Act dating from 1555 when a form of licensing was introduced for watermen on the river between Gravesend and Windsor. The aim of licensing was to ensure a standard rate of fares for customers of watermen, rather than the free for all and often extortionate fares that had been charged.

Eight Watermen were appointed each year by the Mayor, and they had the responsibility to ensure the rules of the act were being carried out.

Lightermen were included with the watermen by an Act of Parliament in 1700, and in 1827 the company was incorporated as the Master, Wardens and Commonality of the Watermen and Lightermen.

The scope of the Company’s authority was reduced in 1859 when the western limit was moved from Windsor to Teddington (the tidal limit of the Thames), and in 1908 the licensing powers of the Company were transferred to the Port of London Authority.

The Company did not have Masters until 1827, prior to 1827 the company was administered by Governor, Deputy and Rulers – hence the titles used on the plaque.

The Armorial Bearings of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen on a rather lovely door knocker on the door of the building that in 1980 was occupied by the shop.

Walk in the City

The main Hall dates from around 1780 (the plaque dates the building of the hall to 1786), and is the only original Georgian Hall in the City of London.

Walk in the City

Armorial Bearings on the front of the Hall:

Walk in the City

Across Lower Thames Street and St. Mary at Hill is Billingsgate Market:

Walk in the City

This was still a working market in 1980 when I took these photos. I have more photos on another film which I have not scanned yet, but on this film I photographed some of the barrows by the side of the market.

Walk in the City

And the space to the right of Billingsgate Market which was used by vehicles carrying goods to and from the market. Unlike earlier years, Lower Thames Street was a major east – west route across the City so could not be blocked by market vehicles. The space provided a good view across the river – the tower of Southwark Cathedral can be seen on the right.

Walk in the City

This is roughly the same view today as the above photo. The space has been occupied for many years by office blocks.

Walk in the City

I want to include my next 1980 photo in a time sequence of photos showing the area outside Billingsgate Market, looking along Lower Thames Street and up Monument Street towards the monument to the Great Fire of London.

The first is from the book Wonderful London:

Walk in the City

The second is my father’s photo taken in 1949 (the majority of the buildings are the same as in the Wonderful London photo):

Walk in the City

My photo from 1980:

Walk in the City

And my latest photo from April 2019:

Walk in the City

This is an area that has changed significantly, both in the trades and business that occupy the area as well as the architecture that also has to change to accommodate the business of this part of the City.

In my father’s 1949 photo there is a rather ornate entrance on the right of the photo. This was the Coal Exchange and is shown in more detail in my post on Lower Thames Street and the view to the Tower of London.

To get to my next location, I walked west along Lower Thames Street and continued along the street as it changes name to Upper Thames Street.

It was across Upper Thames Street, from Broken Wharf, that in 1980 I photographed the solitary tower of St Margaret Somerset.

Walk in the City

The same view today:

Walk in the City

On first view, it may be thought that the tower of the church remains as the rest of the church was bombed in the last war, however St. Mary Somerset was the victim of population changes in the 19th century when the church was included in an 1860 Act of Parliament that allowed the demolition of a number of City churches.

The 19th century architect Ewan Christian campaigned for the tower to be preserved, so the tower is the only survivor of Wren’s post Great Fire of London rebuild of the church.

A church has long been on the site. In the 1917 publication London Churches Before The Great Fire, Wilberforce Jenkins describes the church:

“The Church of St. Mary Somerset, or Summers Hythe, was near Broken Wharf, on the north side of Thames Street. William Swansey is mentioned as rector in 1335, but the church must have been much older than the fourteenth century. In a deed of the twelfth century mention is made of a certain Ernald the priest of S. Mary Sumerset.

The church was burnt down in the Fire and rebuilt, the parish of St. Mary Mounthaunt being annexed. Nothing remains of the rebuilt church except the tower. A small piece of the churchyard may be seen fenced in.

In 1980 my photo shows a clear view of the tower from across Upper Thames Street however today, as part of the later 1980s building over Upper Thames Street, the view is now significantly obscured by building that covers over Upper Thames Street.

It is at this point that Upper Thames Street passes through a concrete box structure around which new buildings have been constructed. The street emerges by Puddle Dock.

Part of the small piece of churchyard mentioned in the 1917 book may still be seen today to the right of the tower.

A better view of the tower of St. Mary Somerset, and where Upper Thames Street disappears into a tunnel.

Walk in the City

To get to my next location, I walked up to Queen Victoria Street, to where Peter’s Hill crosses the street. This was my 1980 view up to St. Paul’s Cathedral:

Walk in the City

The same view today (although by mistake I took the photo in landscape rather than portrait to mirror my 1980 photo).

Walk in the City

Originally, in 1980, there was a set of steps leading up from Queen Victoria Street, then a reasonably flat stretch of pathway up to St. Paul’s Churchyard. The height different between St. Paul’s and Queen Victoria Street has now been smoothed with a gradual slope and smaller steps.

To prove that the photos were taken from roughly the same position, the building on the left is the College of Arms. Although in my 2019 photo this is mainly covered in sheeting, the single storey bay extension can be seen in both photos (although somewhat in the shade in my 2019 photos).

The buildings on the right have all changed since 1980, and unlike 1980, the walk heads onward across Queen Victoria Street to the Millennium Bridge and is a very busy tourist route. The main attraction seems to be the bridge’s appearance in one of the Harry Potter films judging by the couple of guided groups I walked past.

I also covered this area in my post on The Horn Tavern, Sermon Lane And Knightrider Court.

The City of London is ever changing, and it is almost to the point where you need to walk every few weeks to capture every change.

One change that has been underway for a while and has revealed, if only for a short time, a church that was once boxed in on all sides, is at the construction site for the Bank Underground Station improvements. The church is St. Mary Abchurch, enjoying its time in the sunlight, before disappearing again in a few years when construction on the station has completed and new buildings occupy the site.

Walk in the City

The City always looks fantastic in the sunshine. Deep contrasts of bright light and the dark shadows of the buildings often make photography difficult, however where it works, many buildings look stunning.

This is the wonderful 30 Cannon Street, a brilliant example of 1970s architecture.

Walk in the City

The building was constructed between 1974 and 1977 and designed by the architectural practice of Whinney, Son & Austen Hall. Originally built for the French bank Crédit Lyonnais, and was the first building of this type to be clad in double-skinned panels of glass-fibre reinforced cement which helped with the unique exterior design.

30 Cannon Street is Grade II listed, so hopefully is unlikely to be replaced by one of the glass and steel towers that are coming to dominate the City.

As with my South Bank walk, a series of random photos of London, but that is what I enjoy, walking the city and taking photos to tell the story of the city’s evolution.

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Walking the South Bank in 1980 and 2019

In the summer of 1980, I went for a walk along the South Bank, taking a few photos of the area, and of the extension of the embankment and walkway onward from Waterloo Bridge.

Last Saturday, the weather was perfect and the light ideal for photography. The sun was out and unusually, there was no haze in the sky, so 39 years later I took another walk along the South Bank to photograph the same scenes and consider the changes.

I walked down from Westminster Bridge, straight into the crowds in front of County Hall and through the queues waiting for a ride on the London Eye.

In 1980, this was the view along the South Bank, in front of Jubilee Gardens and looking towards Hungerford Bridge.

Walking the South Bank

The same scene today (I should have been slightly further along, but the space was occupied by a street entertainer and large crowd).

Walking the South Bank

The South Bank today is an extremely busy part of London. The wonderful weather and long Easter weekend added to the crowds, but walk along here nearly any weekend and there are crowds of people walking along the southern bank of the river.

In 2017, the Southbank Centre (the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall) was the UK’s seventh most visited attraction with a total of 3.2 million visitors. By 2018, the London Eye had rotated 70 million visitors over the previous 18 years.

It was very different in 1980, as whilst a popular place to walk. County Hall was still the GLC seat of government, not the hotel and site of tourist attractions it is today. The river walk ended at the National Theatre and the London Eye was still many years in the future.

The stretch of the embankment between Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge was part of the development work for the 1951 Festival of Britain which occupied much of this space.

The South Bank does provide some superb views across the rivers, many of these views must have been photographed millions of times by the stream of visitors.

In 1980 I took this photograph of the view across the river to the Palace of Westminster.

Walking the South Bank

The London Eye and the river pier have changed both the views and the numbers of visitors to the South Bank. The same view in 2019.

Walking the South Bank

Looking towards Hungerford Railway Bridge in 1980:

Walking the South Bank

In 1980 there was a single, narrow walkway running along the eastern side of the bridge so not visible in the above photo. In 2002, the Golden Jubilee foot bridges were opened, one on either side of the bridge, and their concrete piers and white supports have changed the view of the bridge as shown in the 2019 photo below.

Walking the South Bank

The other significant change between the above two photos is the building above Charing Cross Station. The station is on the left side of the above two photos, and in the first photo the original station buildings can be seen at the end of the bridge, whilst in 2019, the office blocks that were built above the entrance to the station obscure the view of the station buildings.

The South Bank is a magnet for street entertainers. As well as the usual floating Yoda’s, a wide variety of street entertainers attract large crowds, and frustratingly the space below was where I wanted to take the first comparison photo.

Walking the South Bank

Passing underneath Hungerford Railway Bridge, we find the Royal Festival Hall. Built for the Festival of Britain, and the only permanent structure left over from the festival on the South Bank. It is still a magnificent building, however the immediate surroundings of the building have changed significantly.

In the photo below, I was standing at the end of the footbridge, looking along the front of the Royal Festival Hall and the space between building and river.

Walking the South Bank

This is the same view today (I could not get to the exact same viewpoint as the original walkway has been demolished).

Walking the South Bank

The grass slope running from the river walkway down to the lower level of the hall has been replaced by steps and restaurants now run along almost the entire length.

I have written about this area a number of times as my father photographed the site of the Royal Festival Hall and the streets between the river and Waterloo Station just before they were demolished to build the Festival of Britain.

The following photo is one of my father’s, taken from a building at the end of Hungerford Bridge, looking south towards Waterloo Station.

Walking the South Bank

In 1980 I took the following photo of the same view:

Walking the South Bank

In 2019, the same scene is shown in the photo below (I could not get to the same position as for the 1980 photo otherwise I would have been standing in among the restaurant tables with a very limited view).

Walking the South Bank

The three photos above symbolise what I really enjoy about this project. My father started photographing London in the late 1940s. I started in the 1970s and it is fascinating to continually watch and photograph the city as it evolves.

The view looking from the eastern end of the Royal Festival Hall.

Walking the South Bank

As part of the Festival of Britain, a pier was built to allow visitors to arrive and depart by river. An updated version of the Festival Pier is still in operation.

Walking the South Bank

The view from Waterloo Bridge in 1980, looking towards the City.

Walking the South Bank

In 1980, the South Bank river walkway ended by the National Theatre. After the Festival of Britain there were plans to develop the area to the east of the Royal Festival Hall as a cultural centre.

The London County Council developed a master plan for the site in 1953, and it was this plan that gave the name South Bank. The plan identified a programme of development for the following 25 years and this resulted in the National Film Theatre (1956-8), Queen Elizabeth Hall complex (1963-8) and the National Theatre (1976).

The South Bank further east from the National Theatre would be commercial, but the long term plan was for a single embankment walkway stretching from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge. This would be developed over the following decades, and in 1980, the first stretch extending eastwards from the National Theatre was being built.

Walking the South Bank

The same view in 2019.

Walking the South Bank

A better view of the works in 1980 is shown in the photo below. The National Theatre is on the right. The building under construction to the left of the National Theatre was being built as offices for IBM.

The National Theatre and IBM buildings have a similar style and they were both the work of the architect Denys Lasdun.

The London Weekend Television building is the tower block closest, whilst the tower furthest from the camera was Kings Reach Tower, occupied by the IPC publishing company.

Walking the South Bank

In the above photo, the extension of the embankment and walkway can be seen as the very clean white stone, compared to the original embankment to the right.

The same view today is shown in the photo below. The stone of the embankment extension has now been weathered and blends in with the original.  Kings Reach Tower has been vacated by IPC and has been converted to apartments, with several floors added to the top of the original tower.

Walking the South Bank

The 1980 view across the river from Waterloo Bridge to the City. The three towers of the Barbican are on the left and the relatively new Nat West Tower stands tall in the centre of the City.

Walking the South Bank

The same view in 2019. the Barbican towers can still be seen, however the original Nat West Tower has now been dwarfed and almost concealed by the many new tower blocks that have been, and continue to be built.

Walking the South Bank

The walk along the South Bank from Waterloo Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge, whilst not as busy as the length between Westminster and Waterloo Bridges, is still busy with walkers. On a warm and sunny spring day, food traders were being kept busy.

Walking the South Bank

Although there is always an option to get away from the crowds at low tide.

Walking the South Bank

Sand sculpture on the Thames foreshore.

Walking the South Bank

Getting closer to Blackfriars Bridge, and the latest construction that will subtly change the river can be seen. This is one of the construction sites for the Thames Tideway super sewer, and when finished, will be the site for an embankment extension into the river, covering the access shaft.

Walking the South Bank

Reaching Blackfriars Bridge, I walked a short distance along the eastern side of the bridge, to take a photo from the same position as I took the following photo in 1980.

Walking the South Bank

This short space of land is between the road bridge, and to the left the rail bridge, that carried the rail tracks over the river to Blackfriars Station. In 1980, this space was still many years from being part of the walkway along the southern bank of the river.

One of the original pier’s from the railway bridge can be seen on the left. On the right are steps which provided direct access to the foreshore.

The 2019 photo of the same scene is shown in the photo below.

Walking the South Bank

The steps that once led directly down to the river have now been blocked off. The walkway along the river now runs underneath the scaffolding, as this part of the walkway seems to be a continuous construction site.

The large building behind the railway viaduct, covered in sheeting can just about be seen in the 1980 photo. This was built as a cheque clearing facility for Lloyds Bank and also operated as a Data Centre for the bank. In the last few years it was used by IBM, but is now being demolished to make way for a number of office and apartment towers.

Despite the crowds, I really enjoy a walk along the South Bank and London always looks at its best when the sun is shining and the sky is clear. There is something about walking alongside the river and watching the changing relationship between the city and the river.

The South Bank continues to evolve. New apartment towers are rising adjacent to the Shell Centre office block. The Lloyds building next to Blackfriars Bridge will be replaced by more tower blocks and there have been plans for more towers adjacent to the old London Weekend Television tower block.

It will be interesting to see what the area looks like in another 39 years – although I very much doubt it will be me taking the photos.

Some other posts as I have written about the area:

Building the Royal Festival Hall

A Walk Round The Festival Of Britain – The Downstream Circuit

A Walk Round The Festival Of Britain – The Upstream Circuit

A Brief History Of The South Bank

Tenison Street and Howley Terrace – Lost Streets On The Southbank

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Panorama Of London

In May 2015 I published the photos I took in 1980 from the viewing gallery at the top of the Shell Centre tower on the Southbank. The viewing gallery was closed for public viewing soon after opening, however I recently found a copy of a booklet titled Panorama of London that was part of the public visit to the gallery and provided fold out views, labelled with the sights to be seen, distances to towns surrounding London and heights of the hills on the horizon.

Walking around the viewing gallery with the booklet, visitors would have been able to pick out all the key features of the view before them. There is no date in the booklet to date publication, however I would estimate it to be from the mid to late 1960s. There is an introduction which provides some statistics on oil consumption with 1960 being the most up to date figure and 1975 being used as a date for expected future consumption.

The views also include Millbank Tower, built in 1963 so the booklet is not from the early 1960s.

The cover of the Panorama of London:

Panorama of London

The booklet starts with an introduction to the Shell Centre complex, informing the visitor that the viewing gallery is on the 25th floor of the Shell Centre tower, 317 feet above sea level. The tower block in total is 351 feet high, just 14 feet lower than the cross of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The booklet has four fold out views, corresponding to the view from each side of the tower. Each view consists of a transparent layer, labelled with the sights to be seen, which overlays a detailed drawing of the view.

So, lets commence a walk around the viewing gallery, starting with the view to the south-east and east from the rear of the tower. (Click on the pictures to open much larger versions).

In this view, Waterloo Station occupies much of the area immediately to the frount, however moving from the east we can see Southwark Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Guy’s Hospital, the Old Vic Theatre. Elephant and Castle, and the Imperial War Museum.

On the horizon, Shooters Hill at 425 feet and a distance of 8.5 miles away, Knockholt Pound at 587 feet is 17.5 miles away and Tatsfield Gt. Farm at 784 feet is at 16.5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

Moving to the side of the tower, we can look towards the north-east and the north. Here we can see the City of London. Bankside Power Station with a smoking chimney is on the south bank of the river. Cranes can still be seen along the south bank of the river between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges. St. Paul’s Cathedral is still the highest building in the City. The view moves to the north passing through Shoreditch, Islington, Holborn and to part of Bloomsbury.

On the horizon is Fox Hatch at 338 feet and 20 miles distant. Epping Forest is 14.5 miles away, and we can see Alexandra Palace on the horizon.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

We now move to the part of the viewing gallery that is at the frount of the Shell Centre Tower, looking from the north-west to the west. On the north-western edge is Senate House of the University of London. We then come to the G.P.O. Tower (now the BT Tower), then Charing Cross Station and Hungerford Railway Bridge, Nelson’s Column, the three parks of St. James’s, Green and Hyde, then the Albert Hall and on the far west, the start of the museums of Kensington with the Victoria and Albert.

On the horizon is Elstree at 478 feet and 12 miles, Harrow Weald at 486 feet and 18 miles, and the Kensal Green Gasholder at 5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

The final view in this Panorama of London is to the south-west and south, from the side of the Shell Centre tower. The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey are across the river, and moving to the south, the chimneys of Battersea Power Station are smoking. We then come to Millbank Tower, Vauxhall Bridge, Lambeth Palace and the Kennington Oval.

On the horizon is Windsor Great Park at 20.5 miles, Oxshott at 257 feet and 15.5 miles, Coulsdon at 468 feet and 12.5 miles and finally Woldingham at 868 feet and 16.5 miles.

Panorama of London

Panorama of London

In 1980 I walked around the Shell Centre viewing gallery and created my own Panorama of London series of black and white photos of the view. Following the same route as taken in the Panorama of London booklet, I am starting at the rear of the tower, looking towards the south-east:

Panorama of London

Looking over the tracks that lead into Waterloo Station:

Panorama of London

Then round towards the east with the rail tracks running through Waterloo East and onward towards London Bridge.

Panorama of London

Now with the City coming into view with at the time the tallest tower in the City, the NatWest Tower, completed in 1980 and now known as Tower 42.

Panorama of London

In the following view, Stamford Street is leading off towards the east. Kings Reach Tower is adjacent to Stamford Street, completed in 1972 and was the home of IPC Media, the publishing group behind a diverse range of publications from Loaded and NME to Country Life and Marie Claire. The tower has now been converted to apartments with several floors added, and renamed the South Bank Tower. I took photos from the top of this tower in the late 1990s.

Panorama of London

At the junction between Waterloo Bridge, Stamford Street, Waterloo Road and York Road was this large roundabout, now the home of the BFI IMAX cinema.

Panorama of London

Looking over towards the north-east and the towers of the Barbican come into view.

The tall building closest to the camera is the London Studios – ITV’s main home in London. Built in the early 1970s as the home for London Weekend Television (seems strange now remembering the Friday evening switch over to LWT). The studios here had been hosting some of ITV’s daytime output (now moved to the remaining studios at the old BBC Television Centre at White City) and large Saturday night shows. The site is about to be redeveloped with new offices for ITV, a set of smaller studios so that the daytime TV shows can return, and (you have probably guessed) a much taller residential tower which will be built on the site of the existing tower.

Panorama of London

Moving along in my Panorama of London, this is the view over Waterloo Bridge.

Panorama of London

The white building adjacent to the river is the old Shell-Mex House building and moving back, towards the left is Centre Point, at the top of Charing Cross Road.

Panorama of London

Charing Cross Station and the BT Tower.Panorama of London

Slightly further to the left.

Panorama of London

The Ministry of Defence building along the Embankment to the right.

Panorama of London

And finally the Palace of Westminster. The London Eye would now be obscuring much of this view.

Panorama of London

The skyline of London is rapidly changing. For Shell Centre, the office blocks surrounding the base of the tower have been demolished and new apartment blocks are being built around three sides of the original tower.

It would be interesting to see if I can get back up to the viewing gallery in two years time for a 40 year then and now set of photos, as the view will be very different to the Panorama of London and my 1980 photos.

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London And The War Artists Advisory Committee

The problem with this blog is that I am constantly finding out how much I do not know. When I am researching the background for a new post, I find a new subject which takes me off on a tangent – an example being the subject of today’s post, the War Artists Advisory Committee.

Before getting into the detail of the post, I must apologise for the length, the more I looked, the more I found – I hope you will find it interesting.

When i was researching my post of a couple of week’s ago on the Temple church, I found some paintings of the damaged church in the Imperial War Museum online archive. I was aware of the work of a number of war artists, but what I did not know about was the organisation that these paintings referenced, and that was the driving force behind the breadth and depth of artistic records from the Second World War.

The War Artists Advisory Committee was part of the Ministry of Information and the creation of Sir Kenneth Clark who was already involved with a considerable number of artistic enterprises, including the organisation that would later become the Arts Council.

Clark’s plan was that a pictorial record of the war would be produced and as many artists as possible would contribute to the project which would help in keeping artists in employment during the war years. A secondary aim was that by employing a large number of artists, it would save many artists from the fate that befell a generation of artists in the First World War.

The Ministry of Information supported the creation of the War Artists Advisory Committee and the Treasury was persuaded to give financial support, however there was a challenge from the armed forces who saw the War Artists Advisory Committee as removing responsibility for war art from the control of the War Office and the Admiralty.

A compromise was reached, with four artists being allocated to the War Office and one for the Admiralty, who would also pay their salaries, however the War Artists Advisory Committee would have a say in the selection and direction of their work, and full control of the work produced.

The War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC) was given a budget of £5,000 for the first year of operation, and met for the first time on the 23rd November 1939.

The WAAC included representatives from all three of the Armed Services and the wartime Ministries that, due to their wartime importance, were to be covered by artists commissioned by the WAAC. Sir Kenneth Clark was the chairman of the WAAC.

During the war, the WAAC employed a number of artists on a salaried basis, commissioned artists to provide works on a specific subject, and purchased the work of artists presented to the committee.

Over 300 artists would be commissioned by the WAAC. 5,570 works of art would be produced (about half of these works were given to the Imperial War Museum), and the committee’s artists had a global reach, working in all theatres of war.

The WAAC commissioned and purchased a range of works covering the impact of the war in London and it is these works which are the theme of today’s post.

The work produced would cover a wide range of London related topics, however considering that the WAAC was part of the Ministry of Information, work was not commissioned which would show a negative view of the population’s reaction to the war. There are therefore no artistic records of looting, riots or large numbers of the population leaving stricken areas. Where there was injury or death, it was normally shown in a heroic context.

I have chosen a sample of works held by the Imperial War Museum to illustrate the work commissioned by the WAAC across London. These are all  © IWM and are reproduced under the IWM’s  non-commercial share and reuse licence. For each picture, I have included the title, IWM reference and embedded in the title and reference a link back to the original IWM work.

To research this subject, I have also used the book “The War Artists” by Meirion and Susie Harries published in 1983 by Michael Joseph in association with the Imperial War Museum and the Tate Gallery.

So, lets start with:

Roland Vivian Pitchforth

Roland Pitchforth started work with the WAAC at the start, during the so-called phoney war. He had served in the First World War with the Wakefield Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. As a result of this service and the noise of the guns, Pitchforth was stone deaf which caused some problems for the WAAC when considering which commissions he should be sent on. For example, there was real concern that Pitchforth would be shot by an over enthusiastic sentry as he would not have heard any challenges or commands shouted at him.

Despite being deaf, Pitchforth was able to produce a wide range of work for the WAAC, which included initial work across the UK, before being sent further afield to work on board shipping and to the Far East.

Below is a range of his London based work, starting with “Wings for Victory Week: Trafalgar Square, London WC2 (Art.IWM ART LD 2845)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Wings for Victory Week was held in 1943 to raise money for the construction of aircraft. the event ran across the whole of the country. In the above work, a Lancaster Bomber is on display in Trafalgar Square, there are flags of the allied nations in front of the National Gallery. Note the sign for the Public Shelter in the foreground.

Although the next work is located in the outskirts of London, it is an iconic image showing the work of the control room in Uxbridge which had responsibility for analysing all the input from spotters and radar to track enemy aircraft and the coordination the resources needed to attack the enemy.

The work is titled “Group Headquarters, Uxbridge : radiolocation plotters (Art.IWM ART LD 2320)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Pitchforth completed a range of works showing the impact on London when enemy aircraft did get through the defences around London. The first shows demolition workers clearing a bomb site, and is titled: “Demolition Workers, Oxford Street, London W1 (Art.IWM ART LD 1525)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The next work is titled “Jewin Crescent, London EC1 (Art.IWM ART LD 1202)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Jewin Crescent is one of the many streets that were lost under the development of the Barbican. If you walk past the church of St. Giles Cripplegate, past the City of London School for Girls which is on the right. this brings you to an open space of grass and gardens. This was the location of Jewin Crescent.

The following extract from the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London shows Jewin Crescent on the right hand side, just over half way up the map.

War Artists Advisory Committee

The next work is titled “Post Office Buildings (Art.IWM ART LD 939)” and shows a bomb site with steel girders sticking out of the ground.

War Artists Advisory Committee

The next work, titled “Post Office Buildings : the Telephone Exchange (Art.IWM ART LD 938)” shows the church of Christchurch Greyfriars and the Post Office buildings to the right of King Edward Street.

War Artists Advisory Committee

Pitchforth also produced a series of drawings showing the work of those involved in responding to the impact of bombing. The following drawing titled “ARP Practice (Art.IWM ART LD 371)” shows ARP officers in the foreground carrying stretchers to an ambulance, whilst a civilian is being attended to on the ground. In the background, firemen are fighting a fire in the 3rd floor of the buildings.

War Artists Advisory Committee

As well as scenes showing the aftermath of bombing, Pitchforth’s work included many other works showing those involved in the defence of London. The following is an example and is titled “AFS Practice with a Large Pump : On the banks of the Serpentine, London (Art.IWM ART LD 155)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The view is of the Auxiliary Fire Service practising on the side of the Serpentine. A large pump is pushing water through the hoses and I suspect the training is focused on how to keep hold and direct a flow of water under such large pressure.

Roland Vivian Pitchforth was employed throughout the war by the WAAC. Rather than taking up individual paid commissions, Pitchfork was a salaried employee which provided him with permanent employment and also helps account for the large number of works he completed for the WAAC.

Anthony Gross

Before the war, Anthony Gross had spent almost 20 years as an artist in France. After his return to England, and at the start of the war he was taken on under the WAAC and soon became a salaried War Office Artist. He spent the first couple of years drawing and painting army life before embarking on a lengthy tour throughout the Middle East.

The following work is one that Gross completed of a scene in London and is titled “Roof Spotters (Art.IWM ART LD 684)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The year is 1940 and the scene is of a couple of roof spotters looking out across London. Their role was to watch for, locate and report enemy aircraft and the impact of bombs across the city. In the foreground  is a mapping table and St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge can be seen in their field of view.

His travel as a war artist in the Middle East was extensive. Starting in  Egypt, he then worked through Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. He was described by other war artists as being exceptionally good company and his travel diaries record a succession of “piss ups” and “beanfeasts”.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore was already an established artist and art teacher at the start of the war. He had served in the First World War and been injured during a gas attack.

Whilst not formally employed by the WAAC, a number of his works were purchased and he was commissioned for a number of specific projects.

His work was not simply an image of what he saw. Blurring much of the image and lack of detail produced an image that focused the eye on a specific subject. Moore produced a series of works showing Londoners huddled in the Underground stations, and the following is an example. Titled “Women and Children in the Tube (Art.IWM ART LD 759)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The women and children in the front of the picture are clearly drawn, however the figures become more ghost like as the view moves to the right.

Henry Moore was directly impacted by London bombing. His Hampstead house and studio was badly damaged by a bomb, so much so that he had to move out and relocated to a hamlet in Hertfordshire which would be his home for the rest of his life.

Edmond Xavier Kapp

Edmond Kapp also fought in the First World War. During the conflict he was gassed after which he withdrew from front line fighting and worked in an intelligence role.

During the Second World War, Kapp received a number of commissions to provide drawings of people sheltering under London during the blitz. A series of drawings were made in the crypt under the church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields and the following drawing titled “Ready for Christmas: the Canteen under St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields (Art.IWM ART LD 800)” is an example from the series.

War Artists Advisory Committee

The drawing shows the canteen ready for a Christmas celebration, with a couple of figures standing at the bar.

Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland was an established pre-war artist, teaching at the Chelsea School of Art. He received his first commission from the WAAC in June 1940 and second set of commissions in August 1940. These were to produce works from around the country rather than in London. It was in January 1941 that he received a salary of £325 to cover six months of work, which ended up covering the City and East End.

During this period, he would spend occasional nights in the City, including sleeping in the deck chairs arranged around the Gallery of the Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. His works from this period are very dramatic views of the devastation he found. An example being the following work titled “The City : A fallen lift shaft (Art.IWM ART LD 893)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Sutherland’s experiences at the time reveal the response of many of the victims of London bombing, often not portrayed in stories of the “blitz spirit”.

Sutherland requested a camera so he could quickly take photos of the scenes he wanted to paint. This would avoid spending time at a site drawing or painting as “it is difficult to draw in some places without rousing a sense of resentment in the people”.

It was a common experience among many of the war artists concentrating on the impact of London bombing. Those living in the areas they wanted to paint, and had suffered the impact of bombing often complained that war artists were “cashing in” on their misfortunes.

Harold Sandys Williamson

Harold Williamson was a commercial artists who also fought and was wounded in the First World War. He completed a short series of commissions for the WAAC, which included the following “An Emergency Telephone Office in the City: January 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1189)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The image shows on the left an exterior view of a couple of figures looking over a bomb site, and on the right is a public telephone office with temporary booths set up in the foreground. Temporary telephone services were setup across the city where services into offices, warehouses and homes had been destroyed.

Dennis Flanders

Denis Flanders was an east London artist and draughtsman who used his skills during the war as part of the School of Military Engineering and later when he would create models of landscapes based on aerial reconnoissance photos.

The WAAC purchased a number of his works, showing bomb damaged buildings across the country, including Exeter, Canterbury and London.

His skill as a draughtsman is clear when looking at these drawings of the interiors of bombed buildings. The following is “The Church Of St Anne and St Agnes : Gresham Street, EC2 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1233)

War Artists Advisory Committee

These drawings are excellent, not just by showing the damage to these buildings, but also the level of architectural detail.

The following is titled “St Stephens, Walbrook, 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1381)

War Artists Advisory Committee

As well as detailed studies of the interiors of bombed buildings, Flanders also produced view of bombed streets and buildings, again with an attention to detail. The following is of “London : Clearance of debris between Gresham Street and St Paul’s, 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 2214)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The picture shows the level of damage between Gresham Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The church in front of the cathedral is St. Vedast, Foster Lane.

Flander’s life’s work was drawing the landscape and ancient buildings of Britain. He would cover the country by train in search of new subjects. Many of these drawings were finally published in a book “Britannia” in 1984. The subtitle to the book is “Being a Selection of the Work of Dennis Flanders Who for Half a Century has Observed, Drawn and Loved the Landscape and Architecture of the British Isles” – that’s a rather good summary for a life’s work.

Leonard Henry Rosoman

Leonard Rosoman was teaching life classes at the Reimann School in London in 1939. He joined the Auxiliary Fire Service during the war and his experience during the blitz provided him with the source material for a number of his works.

His most well known work is the following, “A House Collapsing on Two Firemen, Shoe Lane, London, EC4 (Art.IWM ART LD 1353)” The wall collapse happened in front of Rosoman and the two firemen underneath the collapsing wall are his colleagues.  As an example of the challenges of accurate source data, the book “The War Artists” states that both firemen were killed whereas Rosoman’s obituary states that one of the firemen was the novelist and travel writer William Sansom (a friend of Rosoman), and the other, unnamed fireman, died in the collapse. It was this fireman that had just taken over the hose from Rosoman. The event would go on to haunt Rosoman for the rest of his life.

War Artists Advisory Committee

No matter which of the sources are correct, the painting depicts a scene that Rosoman experienced and graphically portrays the very real dangers faced by the firefighters on a daily basis.

As well as his work during the blitz, Rosoman was recruited by the war office to illustrate fire fighting books.  When Rosoman painted the above picture he was not employed by the WAAC. The painting was purchased by the WAAC in August 1941 following an exhibition of work by Firemen Artists and Civil Defence Artists. Later in the war he was employed by the WAAC when he would spend some considerable time with the British Pacific Fleet, painting the shipping and ships crew.

The following photo (© IWM D 2617) shows Leonard Rosoman (sitting on the right) and the next artist, Bernard Hailstone (sitting on the left) on the rubble of a bomb site somewhere in London in 1940.

War Artists Advisory Committee

Bernard Hailstone

Bernard Hailstone was also a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service and would have experienced the same death and destruction as Rosoman.

The following is an example of his work and is titled “An Evening in the City : April 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1354)”. The painting shows the final damping down of a fire in the rubble of an earlier raid. The church in the background is St. James Garlickhythe.

War Artists Advisory Committee

After his work in the Auxiliary Fire Service, the WAAC commissioned Hailstone to travel with elements of the Merchant Navy Service and he toured the world working on this subject until the end of the war.

His post war career saw Hailstone become a very successful portrait painter. His work included subjects such as Winston Churchill and Laurence Olivier.

Ernest Boye Uden

Ernest Boye Uden was a commercial artist living in Greenwich at the outbreak of war. From 1941 onwards he was an artist for the National Fire Service and his work covers many scenes from across London during the blitz.

The following painting is titled “NFS Relief Crews Arriving at Millbank, London, May 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1359)” The location is at what is now the roundabout at the end of Lambeth Bridge, looking along Millbank to the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster.

War Artists Advisory Committee

In the next painting by Uden, we are close to the River Thames and a fire crew are moving their equipment to a fire on the right as indicated by the billowing smoke. The painting is titled “A Large Fire near the Thames, October 1940 (Art.IWM ART LD 1358)

War Artists Advisory Committee

After the war, Uden taught at the Reigate School of Art and continued his work as a commercial artist.

Henry Samuel Merritt

Merritt was commissioned to record the ruins of London after bombing raids. The following image shows the devastation to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is titled “St Nicholas Cole Abbey : Queen Victoria Street, EC4 (Art.IWM ART LD 1509)” and shows the ruins of the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey on the left.

War Artists Advisory Committee

The illustration is very similar to a photo that my father took of the church and area to the south of the cathedral, however by the time my father has taken the following photo in 1947 the remains of the badly damaged buildings seen in front of the cathedral in Uden’s picture had been cleared (see my post on the church here).

War Artists Advisory Committee

Merritt’s wartime work was very different to the country and coastal scenes that were his typical subject matter.

Paul Nash

Paul Nash had been a War Artist during the First World War and had created a series of works that uniquely captured the horror of the battlefields. Although he was chronically ill with bronchial asthma he took up an artist position with the Air Ministry at the start of the Second World War (the Air Ministry wanted to run their own separate scheme outside the WAAC), however Nash was later recruited as a salaried artist into the WAAC.

His modernist style was often viewed as not suitable to depict the events of war, however the works he did create provide a very unique viewpoint of events during the war, which included the following titled “Battle of Britain (Art.IWM ART LD 1550)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Although not strictly a London scene, the viewpoint is from above London with the River Thames winding towards the estuary and the sea. Barrage balloons protecting the city can be seen at lower left and the trails of dogs fights run across the sky. To the upper right a formation of planes can be seen, possibly a formation of bombers making their way to the city. There is also the trail of dark smoke coming from a stricken plane as it crashes into the water.

The painting captures so much about the Battle of Britain and the raids on the city.

Nash would die soon after the war in July 1946, however his work from both the First and Second World Wars capture the horror and scale of these conflicts.

Louisa Puller

Louisa Puller was an artist who worked for the project funded by the Pilgrim Trust to Record the Changing Face of Britain, a project to record the rapidly changing countryside and urban landscapes of Britain in the 1940s.

The WAAC also purchased some of Puller’s work, one of which was “St Paul’s Cathedral : seen from Chiswell Street, near Moorgate Street,London (Art.IWM ART LD 1692)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The view shows the devastation caused by the raids of 1940/41 across the City and are in stark contrast to her work for the Recording Britain project which documented the rural side of the country as shown, for example, in the following work from 1942 of a livestock market in Cross Hayes, Malmesbury (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London):

War Artists Advisory Committee

Duncan James Corrows Grant

Duncan Grant was a member of the Bloomsbury Group of artists and lived at 21 Fitzroy Square. During the war he was commissioned by the WAAC to produce two paintings, one of which is “St Paul’s 1941 (Art.IWM ART LD 1844)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The painting is from the south of St. Paul’s and again shows the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey. The wooden fencing is alongside Queen Victoria Street and the remains of the cellars that were under buildings that once stood on the southern side of Queen Victoria Street are in the foreground of the picture.

Henry Rushbury

Henry Rushbury had been a First World War artist and was employed by the WAAC for the duration of the Second World War. He was known for his ability to record busy scenes and the majority of his work appears to have been munitions factories and shipbuilding. As an example of how the WAAC worked, Rushbury was commissioned by the WAAC for 100 guineas to complete three large drawings of shipbuilding on the Clyde.

He also produced some London based work, which included the following titled “Warships Week, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2, 1942 (Art.IWM ART LD 1929)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The scene shows Trafalgar Square decorated with flags, including naval signal flags with a mock-up of part of a war ship in the centre of the square.  Warship Week was an event organised by Narional Savings to raise money to fund the build of warships and associated naval craft.

John Edgar Platt

John Edgar Platt was an art teacher before the war, and worked on a number of commercial projects which included the design of posters for the London Underground.

During the early years of the Second World War, a number of his works were purchased by the WAAC and in 1943 he received a contract to produce paintings of river and coastal based transport. This commission was only made possible when a representative from the Ministry of War Transport joined the WAAC in 1943 and persuaded the Treasury to provide the funding for two artists to work on transport based subjects.

The following work is an example of his depiction of River Thames traffic and is titled “War-time traffic on the river Thames: War-supplies at Paul’s Wharf (Art.IWM ART LD 2640)

War Artists Advisory Committee

Note the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral which is just visible in the gap between the buildings on the far side of the river.

William Lionel Clause

Although William Lionel Clause lived in London, he was mainly a landscape artist. Rather than works covering bomb sites, ruins, military equipment etc. his work for the WAAC always included people as the main subject. The following being an example “Civil Defence Day – 15th November 1942 : At the south door of St Paul’s Cathedral. The march past of representatives of all Civil Defence Services. (Art.IWM ART LD 2864)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The street edge in the foreground has the standard wooden fencing used across the City to fence of the street from the remains of building basements and cellars. In the background a couple of barrage balloons can be seen in the sky.

His work for the WAAC were his last main commissions as he died soon after in 1946.

Ian Strang

Ian Strang’s work consisted mainly of drawings and etchings as he was an accomplished draughtsman. He had served in the First World War and produced a number of works during this period.

Although not directly employed by the WAAC in the Second World War, a number of his works were purchased by the WAAC. These consisted of detailed drawings of bomb sites in London. The title of the first drawing by Strang is “Cassell’s Tower and the Spire of St Bride’s, Fleet Street, London, EC4 (Art.IWM ART LD 3782)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The view is looking across ruins of bombed building towards the spire of St. Bride’s Church. In common with other wartime works, barrage balloons can be seen in the sky.

The next drawing is titled “St Michael Paternoster Royal, College Hill, London, EC4 (Art.IWM ART LD 3785)

War Artists Advisory Committee

A railway viaduct runs along the left of the picture and from this descend a couple of large pipes that then run along the ground in the direction of the church. These were probably put in place to replace underground services that were damaged, or could have been pipes leading up from the river which carried water to a number of temporary reservoirs put in place across the City to provide emergency suppliers of water for fire fighting.

The next drawing is titled “Ruins in Cripplegate, London, EC1 (Art.IWM ART LD 5305)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The steps, now without a destination, are all that remain of the building that once stood on the site.

Frederick T.W. Cook

Frederick Cook sold a couple of works to the WAAC. In the following painting the main theme of the work is easy to miss at first glance, however look above the right hand tower of Tower Bridge and a Flying Bomb can be seen, the orange flame from the missile running back across the top of the bridge. Search lights are scanning the sky and one appears to have found its target. The painting is titled “A Flying-bomb over Tower Bridge (Art.IWM ART LD 4719)

War Artists Advisory Committee

C. Eliot Hodgkin

Eliot Hodgkin worked for the Ministry of Information during the war, and although he do not work directly for the WAAC, he was making paintings of bomb sites, mainly focusing on the plants that were colonising these sites in the later years of the war. He was offered a commission in 1945 and delivered two paintings to the WAAC, one of which was accepted so this is Hodgkin’s only work within the scope of the WAAC. Although it is basically a view of another bomb site, the difference is the focus on the plants growing in the foreground.

The work is titled “The Haberdashers’ Hall, 8th May 1945 (Art.IWM ART LD 5311)” and shows the ruins of the Haberdashers Hall with examples of the plants that had swiftly colonised the City bomb sites in the foreground.

War Artists Advisory Committee

Ethel Gabain

Ethel Gabain was a French / British artist who spent much of her life in Hampstead. Gabain was one of the first artists commissioned by the WAAC in early 1940 and she worked across the country, mainly focusing on detailed portraits of people.

The WAAC commissioned a series of paintings of women who had taken over the jobs of the men who had been called up to the services. Her work also included women employed in many of the auxiliary services and the following is an example, titled “Sandbag Filling, Islington Borough Council (Art.IWM ART LD 1443)

War Artists Advisory Committee

The final work by the WAAC in today’s post is the following by Gabain. One her commissions by the WAAC was a series of five lithographs on the theme of Children in Wartime. Although in Southend rather than London, this scene of children being evacuated by train would have been a common site in London – my father was one of those evacuated at the start of the war, but he quickly returned after only a few weeks away.

The title of the work is “The Evacuation of Children from Southend, Sunday 2nd June 1940
by Ethel Gabain. (Art.IWM ART LD 264)”

War Artists Advisory Committee

Gabain produced a significant number of works for the WAAC during the war years, with a total of 38 being purchased. This level of output was completed despite poor health, and having to travel the country in search of her subjects.

The War Artists Advisory Committee managed to last through the war, despite financial challenges from the Treasury and continued competition from the Armed Forces who believed they should own the responsibility for the art produced by their own part of the forces.

The War Artists Advisory Committee continued to the end of 1945, however with the end of the Ministry of Information, there was no home for the WAAC and the committee was dissolved after 197 meetings. Administration of the collection produced for the WAAC passed to the Imperial War Museum.

The War Artists Advisory Committee was responsible for producing a considerable body of work, documenting nearly all aspects of the war.

I hope that this sample of works covering London has illustrated the work of the WAAC and the considerable talents of the artists working for the committee.

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A Bankside Panorama In 1949 And 2017

I have covered Bankside a number of times, however in this week’s post I want to show a different perspective of Bankside, as it was in 1949 from the north bank of the River Thames, before any of the developments that would transform the area from industrial to the arts and leisure Bankside that we see today.

For the post, I am covering the area of Bankside from Tate Modern (the old Bankside Power Station) up to Southwark Bridge.

My father took the following photo of part of Bankside in 1949:

Bankside Panorama

And here is my photo of the same area on a grey day in 2017:

Bankside Panorama

In the centre of the 2017 photo, behind the two trees is the Globe Theatre. To the right of this are the only couple of buildings that are the same in the two photos. Just behind the tree to the right of the Globe is 49 Bankside, the three storey white building (I covered 49 Bankside and Cardinal Cap Alley in detail in a post which can be found here).

To the right of 49 Bankside is a short row of houses, which again are the same in both photos. Everything else in the two photos has changed.

The building immediately to the left of 49 Bankside in the 1949 photo was the office and factory of Craig and Rose. Their name can be seen in large white letters along the top of the first floor. Between the ground and first floors are the words “Forth Bridge Brand Paints”.

Craig and Rose were a paint manufacturer who are still in business today and claim to be the UK’s oldest independent paint manufacturer.

The company was established in 1829 by James Craig and Hugh Rose, two Scottish entrepreneurs who set up the business in Edinburgh. The business expanded rapidly and in 1880 won the contract to supply paint for the Forth Bridge, with their Red Oxide paint being supplied to paint the bridge until 1993.

The Bankside building was constructed in 1897 for Craig and Rose, and operated until the early 1950s. Craig and Rose are now based in Scotland.

When I was sorting through my files of scans of my father’s photos I found the following photo which was taken on the same day as the above 1949 photo.

This is of the original Bankside Power Station on the left and the Phoenix Gas Works on the right. I wrote about the original Bankside Power Station in this post where there are photos of the first phase of the new power station built over the site of the gasworks.

Bankside Panorama

On the left of the above photo is a conveyor belt running from almost the top of the power station down to the ground on the extreme left of the photo. I believe this was to transport coal into the power station ready to be burnt.

This conveyor belt is also visible in the photo at the top of the post with 49 Bankside and Craig and Rose, so despite the photos being different orientations I put the two together to produce the following view of the wider Bankside:

Bankside Panorama

And with a bit of cropping and some very amateur joining of photos I present a Bankside Panorama in 1949 and almost seventy years later in 2017.

Bankside Panorama

Only a small part of the Millennium Bridge is shown as for the photo on the left, I had to take this from almost under the bridge to provide a slightly angled view otherwise with a straight on view, 49 Bankside, the key building in both 1949 and 2017 was obscured by the tree.

I am not sure what is the most remarkable – that this stretch of Bankside has changed so much, or that 49 Bankside and the short row of houses to the right have managed to survive when everything else along this stretch of the river has been redeveloped.

The two photos also show how use of the river has changed. In 1949 the river was busy with lighters and barges moored along the river. Today, the river is quiet apart from tourist boats and the Thames Clipper river buses. I believe the moving boat on the left of the 1949 photo is a police launch as it looks identical to photos I have of moored police launches by Waterloo Bridge.

It was interesting to stand on the north bank of the river with the 1949 Bankside panorama in hand, looking at the view of Bankside seventy years later.

I do need to return when the leaves have fallen from the tree in front of number 49, and the lighting is better so I can get an improved 2017 view, with the bridge and avoiding the grey backdrop, however I hope you find the two panoramas of Bankside as interesting as I have.

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