Category Archives: The Bombed City

Photos and stories from the bombed areas of London

Monkwell Street, Barbican – Discovering A Lost Street

For this week’s post, I am back in the Barbican, looking for the location of one of my father’s photos of the area, taken soon after the war and before redevelopment had started.

The photo shows a derelict building standing alone with surrounding buildings having been demolished down to their foundations. There appears to be a street running in front of the building.

Whilst the street has disappeared in the rebuilding between London Wall and the Barbican, I will hopefully bring the street back to life by discovering the history of Monkwell Street.

Monkwell Street

Where was the location of the photo and Monkwell Street? The 1894 Ordnance Survey map shows the street in the centre of the following extract (under the V of St Olave) running roughly north – south, terminating at the junction with Wood Street Square and Hart Street, just south of the church of St Giles Cripplegate which is almost the one fixed point we can find in the same area today (All OS maps are credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ .

Monkwell Street

This photo was from a negative, so there were no written details of the location. I was able to find the location of the photo by using some of the features in the background, and the 1951 revision of the Ordnance Survey map.

If you look at the original photo, just to the left of the derelict building is a church tower. This is the church of St Mary Aldermanbury, and the view to the church tower is just over the small brick extension to the ground floor at the rear of the building.

Drawing a line between the corner of the derelict building and the church tower on the 1951 map gives an idea of where the photo was taken.

Monkwell Street

I have marked up the photo with details of what is in the scene, including some of the background details such as the spires of the Guildhall, and the location of Wood Street and Monkwell Street.

Monkwell Street

There are a couple of additional photos of the same view, and using these I can narrow down the location for all photos to within the yellow oval in the following map, where there is a passageway from Monkwell Street to a small open space in front of the Barbers’ Hall.

Monkwell Street

The Worshipful Company of Barbers’ is one of the City’s livery companies and had an address on Monkwell Street, although was set back from the street and reach through a passageway.

In the following photo of the same view, but from a slightly different position, there is a pavement between the remains of walls in the foreground. This is the passageway leading from Monkwell Street to the Barbers’ Hall.

Monkwell Street

And in the following photo which is slightly further back from the previous two, and looking slightly to the right, there is the remains of a wall, with a door. This is where the passageway opened out to the small open space in front of the Barbers’ Hall. The door must have been to whatever was at the rear of the building on the southern side of the passageway.

Monkwell Street

The majority of the damage done to Monkwell Street was during the night of the 29th December 1940 when the area north of St Paul’s covering the area now occupied by London Wall and the Barbican and Golden Lane estates were devastated by fire and explosives.

The following photo from the London Metropolitan Archive, Collage collection shows Monkwell Street after the raids. The view is looking north with the church of St Giles Cripplegate visible at the end of the street.

Monkwell Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0019302CL

To the left of the photo is an arched passageway leading off from the street. I suspect this was the passageway leading to the Barbers’ Hall. By the time my father took the photos, the area had been cleared down to foundation level to remove the danger of collapsing walls and falling masonry. I do not know why the single building in my father’s photos was left as it does look badly damaged.

Is there anything left of Monkwell Street today? Apart from an element of the name, the answer is no.

I have marked the approximate location of Monkwell Street on today’s map in the extract shown below  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Monkwell Street

The street ran up from what is now London Wall (previously Silver Street and Falcon Square), to just south of St Giles, where a line of buildings separated the end of Monkwell Street from St Giles churchyard.

On a wet day in October of last year I was in the area of the Barbican and went to have a look at the area once occupied by Monkwell Street. These are poor photos due to the weather, I had intended to return this spring to photograph the area again in better weather, but the Barbican is a bit too far for an exercise walk.

There are no physical remains of Monkwell Street. The name does remain in a route that leads off from Wood Street, the name Monkwell Square applies to this route, and the square in front of Barbers’ Hall. This is not a general access road, it has a barrier across so only accessible for residents of the buildings on the right, the hall and the offices on the left.

Monkwell Street

The above entrance street to Monkwell Square runs parallel, but slightly to the south of Hart Street on the 1894 OS map.

The following photo is looking across Monkwell Square to the Barbners’ Hall – the light brick building directly across the square. Monkwell Street ran left to right, almost directly in front of Barbers’ Hall in its current location.

Monkwell Street

The Barbers’ Company is one of the old Companies of the City, dating back to the early 14th century. The company was incorporated by charter in 1461.

For many years there was friction between Barbers and Surgeons. This combination of trades came from the employment of barbers in medieval monasteries for the purpose of blood letting, and as Barbers made use of sharp instruments and their gradual development of basic surgery.  A Guild of Surgeons was based in London in the early 15th century, competing with the Barbers’ Company. In 1462 Edward IV granted the Barbers’ their first Royal Charter to regulate the practice of surgery in London.

In 1540 the roles of barbers and surgeons in London were defined by an Act of Parliament. The act also combined regulation of the two trades within the combined Company of Barbers and Surgeons. The act ensured that Barbers could not perform any surgery and Surgeons could not cut hair or shave another, although both trades could continue to pull teeth.

As the profession of Surgery developed and grew in status, the association of Barbers and Surgeons within the same Company was uneasy and an Act of Parliament in 1745 constituted surgeons as a separate body, one that eventually became the Royal College of Surgeons.

From 1919, links between the Barbers’ Company and the Royal College of Surgeons were established and today surgeons are also members of the Barbers’ Company.

The following photo shows the hall of the Barbers’ Company facing onto Monkwell Square.

Monkwell Street

In the above photo, Monkwell Street ran left to right almost directly in front of the hall. Originally, and as shown in the OS maps, the hall was set back further from Monkwell Street and reached through the alley. The hall was destroyed during wartime bombing and was rebuilt 30 feet to the east, as the earlier hall had included the medieval bastion in the western side of the building, and the rebuild required the bastion to be free standing.

This move of the hall to the east, therefore built over much of what was the alley, and took the front of the hall almost up to where Monkwell Street once ran.

To take the photos, my father was therefore standing somewhere just inside the Barbers’ Hall.

Walking towards London Wall and there is an office block facing onto the southern side of Monkwell Square. It is hard to be precise, but the following photo is looking roughly along the western edge of where Monkwell Street once ran, with the Barbers’ Hall on the left, the Wallside terrace of the Barbican development at the far end, occupying the space once occupied by Hart Street and Wood Street Square.

Monkwell Street

Much of the space to the west of Monkwell Street, apart from the Barbers’ Hall, is now open space, providing grass and a walking route along the old route of the Roman wall, and the medieval bastions.

In the following photo, London Wall is on the right, Barbers’ Hall on the left, and Monkwell Street ran left to right, in front of the brick building directly opposite.

Monkwell Street

Monkwell Street was a very old street. In ‘A Dictionary of London’ (1918), Henry A. Harben  writes the following regarding the name and age of the street:

“First mention: ‘Mukewellestrate’ in the 12th century. Other forms ‘Mogwellestrate’ 1287, ‘Mugwellestrate’ 1306, Mugglestreet’ 1596, ‘Munkes Well Streete’, ‘Mongwell Street’ (1666), ‘Mugwell Street’ (1677), ‘Monkwel Street’ or ‘Mugwel Street’ (1708).

Stow says the street was so named of a well at the north end, which belonged to the Abbot of Garendon, whose house or Cell was called ‘St James in the Wall’, of which the monks were the chaplains.

Riley says that this derivation is purely imaginary, and suggests that the earliest forms were Mogwell or Mugwell Street. This is, however, an error, for though the street was called by these names interchangeably from the 13th to the 18th centuries, the earliest form is, as shown above, ‘Mukwellestrate’ and this may easily have been a contraction of ‘Munkwell’ the ‘n’ being omitted. 

On the other hand, it seems more probable that the name is derived from the family name ‘Muchewella’, ‘Algarus de Muchewella’ being mentioned in a deed of the early 12th century. The family may have been named from the well. There seems to have been a well in existence under the crypt of Lamb’s Chapel in this street.” 

It is next to impossible to be absolutely certain as to the source of a street name, however I have found Harben to be one of the more well researched and accurate sources of information regarding the naming and history of London’s streets.

What is clear is that Monkwell Street was a very old street, dating back to at least the 12th century, but lost during the redevelopment of the area in the 20th century.

In 1746, Rocque shows Monkwell Street looking much as it would do 150 years later in the 1894 Ordnance Survey maps, running between Silver and Hart Streets, with Fell Street (although with a single L) on the right and the courts on the left.

Monkwell Street

The last sentence of Harben’s account of the street mentions a Lamb’s Chapel (also Lambe) in Monkwell Street. The location of this can be seen in the above map where at the top left of Monkwell Street is marked Lamb’s Chapel, above the large number 9.

In the following photo taken from one of the Barbican walkways, the bastion seen to the upper left of the number 9 in the 1746 map is at the far end of the grass space. In the map, the chapel is shown up against the old wall, to the right of the bastion. Although a stretch of the wall has since been lost, the chapel was up against the wall, roughly to the left of where the footpath crosses the water.

Monkwell Street

A corespondent to the Gentleman’s magazine describes the chapel in the 1783 edition:

“Lamb’s Chapel is a place perhaps not one in a thousand of your numerous readers hath ever visited. It is situated in an obscure court, to which it gives its name, at the north west corner of London Wall. It was founded in the reign of Edward I, and dedicated to St. James, when, it was distinguished from other places of religious worship of the same name by the denomination of St. James chapel, or hermitage, on the wall, from it being erected at or near the city wall in Monkwell Street.

At the dissolution of the religious houses, King Henry VIII granted this chapel to William Lamb, a rich clothworker, who bequeathed it, with other appurtenances, to the company of which he was a member, and from him it received its present name.

In this chapel is a fine old bust of the founder in his livery-gown, placed here in 1612, with a purse in one hand and gloves in the other. here are also four very delicate paintings on glass of St Peter, St Matthew, St Matthias and St James the Apostle.

It is in length from east to west thirty-nine feet and in breadth from north to south fifteen. In it are a pulpit, a font, a communion-table, with the portrait of Moses holding the two tablets, and a half length carving of the founder. The chapel is furnished with seats, benches and other accommodations for the master, wardens, and liverymen of the clothworkers company, and also with seats for the almsmen and women. There are also a few gravestones although some the brass plates are taken away, but on others they remain. The only inscriptions now legible are, one to Henry and Elizabeth Weldon of Swinscombe in kent, 1595 and another to Catherine Hird, daughter of Nicholas Best of Grays Inn, 1609″.

Lamb was a member of the Clothworkers’ Company and became their Master in 1569. He died in 1580 at the age of 85 and bequeathed the chapel to the Clothworkers’ in his will

The Clothworkers’ decided to close the chapel and almshouses in 1820, and they were both rebuilt on land the Clothworkers’ owned in Islington. The new church was dedicated to St James’ with St Peter, thereby reinstating the original pre-dissolution dedication of the chapel of St James on the Wall.

The 1612 bust of Lamb mentioned in the Gentleman’s magazine extract was moved to St. James, islington, where it can still be seen.

The crypt of the old chapel was later moved by the Clothworkers’ Company to All Hallows Staining, where it remains to this day.

The almsmen and women mentioned in the above text were from some Clothworkers’ Almshouses built adjacent to Lamb’s Chapel. The crypt of the chapel was still in existence in 1859 when it was part of the first visit to the City by members of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society.

The crypt of Lamb’s Chapel in 1859:

Monkwell Street

As well as the Clothworkers’ the Salters’ Company had a terrace of Almshouses in Monkwell Street for four hundred years. They were located along the east side of the street between Hart Street and Fell Street.

The original almshouses were built in 1578 by Ambrose Nicholas, Lord Mayor of the City. The almshouses accommodated twelve women. The original almshouses were destroyed during the 1666 Great Fire, after which the Salters’ Company rebuilt the almshouses, and it is these buildings which appear in the following drawing of the Salters’ Almshouses in 1818:

Monkwell Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: q8051250

The plaque details the founding of the almshouses and was located above the central door of the terrace.

The almshouses survived to 1864, by when they had become rather dilapidated. They were demolished after the move of the residents to new Almshouses in Watford. A report in the Illustrated London News provides the reason for the remove, one which sounds very similar to today, where the value of London land is often the driver for a change to more profitable use: “The rebuilding of the almshouses of the civic companies in the environs of the metropolis instead of the densely crowded City, as occasion requires, is a sanitary change much to be commended. It is true that we miss many a quaint old building in a quiet City nook and on the margin of the great town; but the value of property in these localities has increased to such an extent as to render the removal profitable to the funds of the company, besides adding to the lives and comforts of the poor almspeople”

As well as the drawing of the almshouses, I found a couple of photos of the passageway that led from Monkwell Street to the Barbers’ Hall.

The first photo dates from 1863 and shows the entrance to the passageway, with the courtyard and Barbers’ Hall part visible at the end of the alley. At the time the entrance was described as “Inigo Jones’s picturesque entrance”. It was around this courtyard that my father took the photos of a devastated landscape.

Monkwell Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: m0010600cl

In 1863 / 1864 after the above photo was taken, it appears that the building with the passageway at the lower right was demolished and a new building and passageway constructed. The following photo from 1864 shows the new entrance to the Barbers’ Hall.

Monkwell Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: m0010599cl

I like to really understand who lived and worked in London’s streets. the architecture can only tell you so much. It is the details of those who lived and worked in the street that can really bring the street to life.

Monkwell Street had long between an industrial / commercial street. Census reports list very few people actually living in the street, with the buildings instead being occupied by manufacturers, agents and warehouses. The move of the almshouses consolidated the street as one long run of industrial / commercial premises, and we can get a good view of the trades working in Monkwell Street by looking at the directories of the time.

Let’s take a walk along Monkwell Street in two separate years to understand the occupancy of the street and the type of business operating in this part of the City.

Looking at two years also allows a comparison of how trades changed and how long lasting businesses were in London.

I will start at the Coopers’ Arms Public House on the corner of Silver Street, walk along the east side of the street, then back along the west side of the street, as shown in the following map:

Monkwell Street

The following table is an extract from an 1895 directory, listing the building number, name of the occupying business and their trade:

Monkwell StreetMonkwell Street

With a few exceptions, Monkwell Street was occupied by companies that manufactured things that people would need in their day to day life. – gloves, shirts, umbrellas, collars, dressing gowns. They also made items that would ornament clothing such as ostrich and fancy feathers and braid.

There were a number of agents, typically in multi-occupancy buildings. I imagine these were single person or small businesses who facilitated trade between different businesses and shops.

Numbers 41 and 42 were occupied by the Artisans Dining and Refreshment Company – that is the type of name that I would expect to find for a coffee shop in east London today.

There was one strange address on the street, number forty and a half. This was occupied by Mrs Jane Davies whose trade was listed as “Dairy”, so I assume Jane Davies was running a small business selling milk, cheese and other basic products to the workers on Monkwell Street.

Now jump forward 20 years to 1915, and the following table is a walk in the same direction, listing the businesses occupying Monkwell Street. I wondered how many of those in the street in 1895 were still there twenty years later – I have highlighted these businesses still in Monkwell Street in yellow.

Monkwell Street Monkwell Street

Monkwell Street was still an industrial / commercial street, as it would be until the devastation of 1940. Still with the same types of trades, manufacturing for the clothing market, and agents who must have acted as the middlemen between those who produced products and the shops that would sell them.

Of the 59 businesses in the street in 1895, only 12 were still there 20 years later. I did not include the Coopers’ Arms at number 1A or the Dairy at number 40.5, as although these were still in business, they were run by different people. For example in 1895 the dairy was run by Mrs Jane Davies and in 1915 by Miss Margret Blott.

I suspect the dairy was a job for someone who was widowed, or not yet married. In 1915 the dairy was run by a “Miss” and in the 1901 census Mrs Jane Davies was listed as a Widow. She had been born in 1853 in Machynlleth in Wales. She lived in number 40 Monkwell Street with here sister Bridget Edwards, aged 41 and listed as single. They are both listed as Confectioners, so I assume they sold more than just dairy produce.

The census also perhaps helps with the strange address of the dairy as forty and a half. I suspect the dairy was in number 40 Monkwell Street, but they used a separate door / window for the dairy business and labelled this as 40.5.

The dairy must have been doing reasonably well, as at the time of the census they also had a General Domestic Servant, 18 years old Daisy Bedford.

There is so much more to be written about this historic lost street.

It was reported that Shakespeare lodged in a house on the north east corner of Silver and Monkwell Streets, and that the pub, the Coopers’ Arms was later built on the site. He lodged there for a number of years with a French Hugenot family named Mountjoy. In 1931 it was reported that the Coopers Arms has an old inscription commemorating Shakespeare’s stay, which ran from roughly 1601 to 1606. Every pub needs a Shakespeare connection.

Many London pubs were also a centre of some form of sporting activity. Pubs along the Thames often supported some form of river sport such as rowing, but at the Coopers Arms it was billiards. On Saturday November 8th 1890, the Sporting Life reported that:  “Last Thursday evening a large company assembled in the billiard saloon at the Cooper’s Arms, Monkwell-street, E.C. so ably presided over by Mr George Schneider. Two important events were set for decision, the first being the final heat of Mr Schneider’s Annual Amateur Handicap, for which prizes valued at £12 were given, and afterwards Mr Aldrich, a player in the front rank of amateurs, played a match of 1,000 up, three spots allowed, against Mr T.W. Horner, to whom he conceded 500, or half the game”.

There are many more newspaper reports that provide additional background to life in Monkwell Street, along with adverts for the products produced by the businesses occupying the street.

The earliest I could find was from the 28th September 1753, when: “About six weeks ago a Journeyman, who worked with Mr. Hearne, a Farrier in Monkwell Street, was bit by a mad dog, that belonged to a Jeweller in Noble Street. The said dog bit two or three other Persons who were afterwards dipped in Salt Water. They endeavour’d to persuade the Farrier to go along with them, but he seemed to make a Joke of the Affair, saying, that his Wound was but trifling, and would soon be healed; but on Sunday Morning he was seized with Symptoms of Madness, and yesterday he died raving mad“.

Other reports covered what was probably day to day life in such a street. Theft (for example one incident where 3,000 ostrich feathers were stolen), the occasional fire, and the follow up sale of damaged goods, adverts for staff and the sale or rent of premises.

Monkwell Street is long gone, after at least 800 years in this historic part of the City. The area was part of the Roman city and fort. Human occupation may have been for much longer. In London by George H. Cunningham, his final sentence in the entry on Monkwell Street is “Stone implements of Paleolithic man have been found in this street, far below the surface”.

The only part of Monkwell Street that remains today is part of the name in Monkwell Square, but at least we can stand in this quiet part of the Barbican and consider the many thousands of Londoners who have called this lost street home and workplace.

Some of my other posts that cover related places mentioned in this post are:

The church of St Mary Aldermanbury

London Wall

St Giles Cripplegate and Red Cross Street Fire Station

alondoninheritance.com

London Wall – A Location Shifting Historic Street

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

London Wall

This is roughly the same scene today, in 2020:

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

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

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

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

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

London Wall

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

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

London Wall

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

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

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

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

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Hotwater Court, Fann Street and Golden Lane Estate

For today’s post, I am back in the area of the Barbican, Golden Lane Estate and Fann Street, searching for the locations of the photos taken by my father and showing a very different scene to that of today.

A few week’s ago, I wrote about the Baltic Street School as this appeared in one of the photos. This week’s photos are from roughly the same position, however looking east rather than to the north, and this was the post war view:

Fann Street

In the following photo, he had walked up closer to the building that remains on the site, and we can see part of the name of the business that occupied the building.

Fann Street

Locating the building was easy as I had already located the position from where the first photograph was taken to identify the Baltic Street School, and there is some overlap in the buildings in the distance.

The following map extract shows the large area, with all the buildings demolished and cleared following wartime destruction, ready for the future construction of the Golden Lane Estate.

Fann Street

The building circled by the red oval is the building that appears in my father’s photos. The premises of Maurice Rosenberg – Skirt Manufacturer. The edge of the building is on to Fann Street and the long side of the building faces the wonderfully named Hotwater Court.

Hotwater Court, although not visible, would have been in front of the building in my father’s photos.

This is the same location today  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Fann Street

The overall length of Fann Street has been straightened out, however the section where Maurice Rosenberg’s premises were located is very much the same, and possible to identify in the street pattern of today.

To the right of the junction of Viscount Street and Fann Street is the Jewin Welsh Church. This is marked on the 2019 map, and is marked as a “ruin” in the earlier Ordnance Survey map, however the current incarnation of the church stands on the same site as the original.

Hotwater Court was just across and to the right of the Viscount Street / Fann Street junction, and today’s map shows a narrow street leading north in the same location as the original Hotwater Court.

On a wet and overcast day, this was the view looking across from Fann Street to where Hotwater Court was located, which today provides an entrance from Fann Street into the Golden Lane Estate.

Fann Street

I tried some very amateur Photoshopping to show where the building in the original photo, facing onto Hotwater Court, would appear today – this was the result:

Fann Street

However, I can show a much better photograph. Post war London was used in a wide range of films in the late 1940s and 1950s, and following one of my earlier posts on the Golden Lane Estate, I was sent a reference to a 1950 film “No Place for Jennifer”, and a link to the wonderful Reel Streets site which features a number of locations from the film, including Fann Street and Hotwater Court.

I found a copy of the DVD online for £3.66, and ordered. The film dates from 1950 and tells the story of the impact on Jennifer of her parents divorce. Towards the end of the film, she runs away through the streets of London, Euston Station, the Underground, and at one point, hides from a strange pursuer in the ruins around what is now the Golden Lane Estate.

It is very much of its time, much of the dialogue is in received pronunciation, but the London street scenes are brilliant, and include a brief sequence looking across Fann Street to Hotwater Court, with the premises of Maurice Rosenberg on the corner:

Fann Street

The building on the right edge of the above still from the film is part of the ruins of the Jewin Welsh Church.

The building still looks intact, with none of the damage that the rest of the area suffered. No idea whether the building was just lucky, or whether it had been repaired after the bombing and resultant fires devastated so much of the area in 1940 / 41.

Checking the 1942 Kelly’s Post Office Directory, and the address of Maurice Rosenberg is still given as 40 Fann Street (although the longer edge of the building was on Hotwater Court, it had a Fann Street address). The entry also has an emergency address for Maurice Rosenberg at 87 Aldersgate, so he may have kept the original building and had some operations remain there, but had also moved to a building on Aldersgate Street possibly due to the damage around Fann Street.

Hotwater Court is an interesting name. I cannot find a source for the name, and Henry Harben in A Dictionary of London, states:

“Hot Water Court – North out of Fann Street at No. 49. A portion only within the City boundary. First mention: L.C.C List, 1901”

Although Harben gives 1901 as the first mention of the name, I did find earlier references to Hotwater Court, including the following letter printed in the Police Intelligence section of the London Sun on the 15th November 1847. It is a rather grim read, but does confirm the existence of the name at a much earlier date, and illustrates the dreadful conditions around Golden Lane in the mid 19th century:

“Sir, – I respectfully beg to submit the following report for your information, in consequence of illness and death in the neighbourhood of Barbican, Bridgewater-square &c, supposed to be caused by exhalations emanating from a burial ground situated in Golden-lane, part of which is within the City, belonging to a man named Bamford, who has it on a lease.

I sent police-constable 125 (Eade), who is on the beat, to the burial ground on Sunday last, when he saw 11 graves open, about 28 feet deep; one of them contained nine coffins on each other. the graves are merely covered over with planks, until they are quite full, leaving them about a yard from the surface when the ground is covered in. 

They are frequently left open as described, for a week or ten days; the ground is therefore seldom free from the effluvium of decomposed matter. On my rounds at night I have witnessed the obnoxious smell arising from the rear of the graveyard in Sun-court, which is almost suffocating. I am also informed by police-constable 125 (Eade), that a shopkeeper named Bouverie, 10, Golden-lane, opposite the burial ground, states, that during the last three of four years he has kept the house, 32 persons have died there; and at certain times he has absolutely been compelled to fumigate his shop, the smell from the graveyard and sewers being so offensive.

A publican named Duffy, in Golden-lane, is very seldom without a medical man in his house attending his family. A person named Parrock,, 12, Brackley-street, is compelled to leave his business (although a good one) through illness.

The courts leading from Golden-court, Crown-court, Collins-court, Sun-court, Hotwater-court, Turk’s Head-court, and Willis’s-court are thronged by very poor persons, and are much affected by the stench.

The houses in those courts are small and thickly inhabited, nine or ten persons living in a room, which causes the fever to rage rapidly. A metropolitan police-constable informed police-constable Eade that six persons are now lying dead and a great number are lying very ill in the locality of Golden-lane, between the burial ground alluded to and another burial ground being only 300 yards apart in Golden-lane.

I further beg to call your attention to the undermentioned names, persons who have died within the last three weeks in the immediate neighbourhood of Golden-lane; also to the names of persons who at the present time are labouring under illness – it is presumed fever.”

An appalling account of conditions around Golden Lane in 1847. Not just how nine to ten people were crowded together in a single room, but they were also living almost on top of the dead.

The article does at least confirm that Hotwater Court was, along with a number of other courts, in existence in 1847.

The area around Golden Lane is very different today, with empty space in the post war Ordnance Survey map now occupied by the 1950s and early 1960s Golden Lane Estate.

The building on the left of what was Hotwater Court is now Cuthbert Harrowing House, built between 1954 and 1956 and named after Public Health Committee former chair, Thomas Cuthbert Harrowing .

Fann Street

Adjacent to the entrance is this brilliant 3D map of the Golden Lane Estate, which I understand dates to around the time of construction of the estate.

Fann Street

Whilst I was taking a photograph, I was talking to a resident of the estate, who knew about the map, but had not looked at the map in detail. Whilst the Community Centre is still there, he was not sure what building 12, the workshop was or is.

Building number 6, Bowater House, is the building where the Maurice Rosenberg building was located, and between buildings 6 and 7, and up alongside building 11 was the location of Hotwater Court.

Directly opposite, on the corner of Fann Street and Viscount Street is the Jewin Welsh Presbyterian Chapel:

Fann Street

This is the building marked as a ruin in the Ordnance Survey map, and a corner of the building is seen in the film clip.

The roof and interior of the church had been destroyed during the war. The following photo from the LMA Collage site shows the front of the church in Viscount Street.

Fann Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0078083CL

The Jewin Welsh Church or Chapel is the oldest Welsh church in London, although it has not always been at this location. Formed in Cock Lane, Smithfield in the 1770s, the church moved a couple of times before arriving in Jewin Crescent in 1823 (Jewin Cescent is one of the many streets lost under the Barbican development, I wrote about the street in my post on the Cripplegate Institute and Jewin Crescent.

The church moved from Jewin Crescent to the current location in 1879. A new church was built at a cost of around £10,000, and the church retained the name of Jewin, thereby providing a link between a church we can see today, and a street lost under the Barbican.

Apart from the outer walls, the church was destroyed in 1940, but rebuilt after the war, with the building we see today opening in 1960.

Dwindling attendance almost resulted in the closure of the chapel in 2013, however a campaign to raise awareness of the chapel resulted in closure being avoided, and although a relatively new building, it is good to see that the chapel remains and continues serving much the same function as when the original church formed in the 1770s.

There are a couple of interesting plaques along the Fann Street side of the church, one in the pavement, the second on the wall.

Fann Street

The plaque on the wall records the Huguenot Fan Makers who settled around Fann Street, and that the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers had their common hall nearby.

Fann Street

It would be an obvious association between the street name, and the fan making occupation, however this does not appear to be the case.

A number of references I checked with confirmed there was no association between the Fan making trade and the street name. Henry Harben in A Dictionary of London writes:

“Fann Street – east out of Aldersgate Street, at No 106 to Golden Lane. Part of the street is in Aldersgate and Cripplegate wards Without, and part is in the Borough of Finsbury outside the City boundary.

First mention: Fan Street (Horwood, 1799)

Former names: Fanns Alley (Ogilby and Morgan’s map of London 1677, Strype 1720)

Fanns Alley (Rocque, 1746)

Stanns Alley (Strype, 1720 and 1755)

Bridgewater Gardens (Company of Parish Clerks 1732, ordnance Survey, 1875)

In former times the street extended only from Aldersgate to Bridgewater Gardens, but in 1878 the name Fann Street was adopted for the whole street to Golden Lane, including Bridgewater Gardens.

The early forms suggest that it was named after an owner or builder.”

Other references suggest the same origins of the name, with The London Encyclopedia by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert stating that “The origin of the name is uncertain but it is thought to be that of a 17th-century land owner or builder.”

So no connection between the name of Fann Street and fan makers, however the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers is an interesting company, and demonstrates how a traditional City Livery Company has had to adapt to changing technologies and fashions, whilst maintaining an interest in the traditional craft.

The origins of the formation of the Fan Makers Company go back to the late 17th century, when there was a large influx of protestant fan makers from the Continent to London after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. These were the Huguenot Fan Makers mentioned on the plaque on the side of the chapel.

The native fan makers started to organise to preserve their trade, and the Fan Makers were Incorporated on 19th April 1709 as a result of a petition to Queen Anne. They were concerned with both the impact of dilution on the indigenous trade by those migrating to the country, and also with the unrestricted import of fans.

The Company was granted Livery status in 1809, however by then the Company was past its peak as the Fan trade had peaked in the 18th century. It was then a story of gradual decline, but with occasional highlights including fan making competitions in the 1870s, the support of Queen Victoria (who donated £400 for prizes), and regular presentations of fans at events such as Coronations.

In the 20th century, the Fan Makers had to adapt further, and in 1939 extended their scope to the manufacture of industrial fans, and post war with aerospace technologies such as the fans used in jet engines.

The Fan Makers continue to champion the traditional fan, and have established an endowment fund to support the development and retention of fan making skills.

The Harben explanation of the street name includes a reference that part of the street is outside the City boundary, and physical proof of this can be seen along the pavement outside the Welsh Chapel where there is a boundary marker showing the boundary between St Luke’s Middlesex and the City of London.

Fann Street

The area bounded by Fann Street, Goswell Road, Golden Lane and Baltic Street is now unrecognisable from the dreadful description of the area in 1847. By the late 19th century many of the courts seem to have disappeared, although Hotwater Court, Turks Head Court and Bridgewater Square remained.

Late 19th / early 20th century development produced buildings of the type occupied by Maurice Rosenberg, however the area was devastated during the raids of 1940, and only recovered with the build of the Golden Lane Estate.

Few traces remain of the pre-war landscape, however the rebuilt Jewin Welsh Chapel continues the religious role, and association with the Welsh community of London from pre-war, and the lost Jewin Crescent.

Hotwater Court is an intriguing name. Names often had some local meaning, but I have not been able to find any reference as to the origins of the name.

The space occupied by Hotwater Court is today an entrance to the Golden Lane Estate – it would be nice to see the name return to maintain a link with the area’s history.

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Baltic Street School and Great Arthur House, Golden Lane Estate

For today’s post, I am back in the area of the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates, exploring the location of one of my father’s photos of the area taken a couple of years after the war, prior to any clearance or construction of the new estates.

This is the view looking across an area that would later become part of the Golden Lane Estate:

Golden Lane Estate

With this photo there is one very obvious landmark, and a couple of other buildings that have helped to confirm the exact location.

The church spire in the photo is that of St Luke’s on Old Street. To the left of the photo there is a building with a rather distinctive bow front. This was the Baltic Street School, and fortunately this building is still there, and is now the London College of Fashion.

To the right of the school, and just below the church spire is a corner building, on the corner of Golden Lane and Garrett Street, and to the right of this building are a couple of other three / four storey buildings – all these have survived, and can still be found.

From some other photos in the same series, I know my father was standing on the edge of Fann Street to take this photo. There are two other street surfaces to be seen in the photo. If I have the alignments right, I suspect the short stub of street on the right edge of the photo was Little Arthur Street, and the street surface in the centre of the photo was Great Arthur Street – a name that can still be found on the estate today, but not as a street.

The following map shows the locations today, with arrows leading back to where I suspect my father was standing. The longest arrow points to St Luke’s and the shorter arrow to the Baltic Street School  / London College of Fashion with the distinctive bow front to the building also shown on the map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Golden Lane Estate

The view in my father’s photo is the rear of the school building as Baltic Street was on the opposite side of the school, however this view shows the forward thinking design of the school building as this is the south-facing facade, and the large bay of the building has tall, almost floor to ceiling windows, to let in as much light as possible. The rooms either side of the bay also have a considerable number of windows.

This view of the school is still visible today from Golden Lane, and the sun streaming onto the building shows how much natural light must have been let into the school.

Golden Lane Estate

The site immediately in front of Baltic Street School was occupied by the Richard Cloudesley School, built as part of the post war reconstruction of the area. This school has since been demolished as a new school for the City of London Primary Academy Islington is being built on the site, along with a number of residential flats.

The earliest written evidence I can find for the Baltic Street School dates from around 1890, so this would put the construction of the school within the period of time (1870 to 1904) that the London School Board were constructing some magnificent schools across London.

From the early 1890s onward there are numerous reports of prize-givings and events at the school, perhaps one that is most indicative of the poverty of the area was an article in the Hackney Express and Shoreditch Observer describing Christmas morning in 1902:

“Then I took a tram car to Golden-lane and in Baltic-street board school found a vastly different sight. Seven hundred boys and girls were tucking in a dinner of roast beef, bread and baked potatoes, some ravenous as young lions, and others overcome by the liberal helping. Last week Mr John Kirk, secretary of the Ragged School Union, received an offer of this dinner from Messrs. Pearks, Gunston, and Tee, Ltd, if he would find the guests. That was soon settled, and Mr Lewis Burtt went round to the board schools leaving batches of tickets for the poorest scholars.

The ticket cordially invited the bearer to dinner at 12 o’clock, and added ‘Please bring a knife, fork and spoon with you.’ I am afraid some came without these implements, and towards the end, as food was abundant, scores of hungry waiters outside were admitted.”

It is pointless to take a photo of the same view today, as although Fann Street is still there, the view is completely obscured by the buildings of the Golden Lane Estate which was built on the land in the foreground of my father’s photo in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The following photo is looking back from Golden Lane with the school on the right, towards where the original was taken from, just behind the central tower block.

Golden Lane Estate

I looked through the school gates to see what was probably a small rear playground to the school. The tall windows seen on the central bay are replicated on the side of the building. To the left is a high brick wall.

Golden Lane Estate

This is an original wall and if you look closely at my father’s photo, it was visible in his photo. The brick wall originally separated the school grounds from Hatfield Street – one of the many streets now lost under the post-war development of the area.

The following photo is looking down Baltic Street from Golden Lane. the school is the dark brick building on the left, and the flat facade shows the difference in design between this north facade to the south-facing, with the large bay.

Golden Lane Estate

Going back to the original photo, to the right of Baltic Street School, on the opposite side of Golden Lane, is a lower corner building with a larger warehouse behind. These two buildings can still be seen on Garrett Street, although what was a warehouse building is probably now only a facade:

Golden Lane Estate

Also back in the original photo is another building with rows of closely spaced windows. This building also survives and the rear of the building (the facade seen in my father’s photo), can be seen in the photo below:

Golden Lane Estate

A better view of the building is on Garrett Street, where the building’s unusual design is easier to see. Long rows of relatively small, but closely spaced windows line the three floors of the building:

Golden Lane Estate

Signage on the front identifies the purpose of the building:

Golden Lane Estate

The building dates from a time when horses were still responsible for much of the haulage of goods across London and many thousands of horses needed to be stabled close to the centre of the city.

The building was purpose-built and designed to provide relatively good stabling for the horses of the Whitbread company – not I suspect out of any real concern just for the welfare of the horses, rather these were financial investments, and their ability to lead a reasonably long and productive life was an important concern for the Company.

The last horses left the stables in 1991. Although lorry transport had taken over nearly all of Whitbread’s transport, a limited number of shire horses were retained, mainly for show and a limited number of deliveries across the city.

The building is now occupied by the building materials distributor, Travis Perkins, whose initials are displayed on the main entrance from Garrett Street, on what could possibly be the original doors.

Golden Lane Estate

There was one last landmark from the original photo that I wanted to find, so leaving Garrett Street, I walked back up Golden Lane, along Old Street to find the church of St Luke, which provided one of the main landmarks in my father’s original photo:

Golden Lane Estate

The spire of St Luke’s is one of the most distinctive in London, being a fluted obelisk rising up from the tower.

The church was consecrated in 1733, and owes its existence to the 1711 Act of Parliament which proposed the build of 50 new churches across London to serve the spiritual needs of Londoners as the city rapidly expanded.

Only 12 were built, with St Luke’s being one of the last, and on a much restricted budget to many of the earlier churches, which could have led to the problems which nearly resulted in the loss of the church.

Throughout its existence, the church needed a considerable amount of repair work and underpinning, culminating in major subsidence in 1959 which left a number of the supporting pillars detached from the roof.

The roof of the church was removed and it was effectively left derelict with a very uncertain future.

Despite being Grade I listed, the state of the church gradually deteriorated as it was left roofless from 1959 to the 1990s, when it was taken over by the London Symphony Orchestra and rebuilt as a rehearsal and events space. After a considerable amount of work, the building reopened at the end of 2002.

The following extract from the 1896 Ordnance Survey map shows the area covered by my father’s photo. Fann Street is to the lower left, Golden Lane runs from top to bottom to the right of the map and the outline of the school, with the distinctive bay, can be seen to the left of the upper part of Golden Lane.

Just above Fann Street are Little Arthur Street and Great Arthur Street, the street surfaces of these I suspect were in my father’s photo if I have my alignments correct. Whilst these streets have disappeared, the name can be found in a different context, which I will explain shortly.

Golden Lane Estate

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

The following 1953 Ordnance Survey extract shows the same area as the above map and highlights the size of the area destroyed, mainly as a result of the fires created by the attack during the night of the 29th / 30th December 1940.

Golden Lane Estate

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

Whilst Little Arthur Street and Great Arthur Street have disappeared, the name lives on in the form of Great Arthur House, which was built between 1953 and 1957 as part of the Golden Lane development, This is the building that is in the background of my photo from next to the Baltic Street School, looking back to where my father took the original photo. It must have been just to the right of where I was standing to take the photo below of Great Arthur House:

Golden Lane Estate

The architects of Great Arthur House were Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, and at completion, it was the tallest inhabited tower block in England. Built using reinforced concrete, the roof of the block has a rather distinctive, concrete canopy sweeping out from the block that accommodates the equipment rooms on the roof.

The roof of Great Arthur House was open during Open House weekend this year. I booked my visit on the Sunday – a day of cloud and rain following the sunny, blue sky Saturday, however the views from the roof of the building were brilliant, and provided another viewpoint  to compare the area with my father’s photo.

In the following photo the Baltic Street School / London College of Fashion building can be seen. The area once occupied by Richard Cloudesley School has been cleared ready for the construction of the new school. Basterfield House of the Golden Lane Estate runs in the foreground across the photo, and part of Hatfield House (a reminder of Hatfield Street that once ran in front of the school) is just visible, with the blue panels on the left of the photo.

Golden Lane Estate

Fascinating how the names of some of the streets destroyed by the bombing of 1940 and the subsequent construction of the Golden Lane Estate, have been retained in the names of the buildings.

The concrete canopy seen from the rooftop (and with raindrops on the camera lens):

Golden Lane Estate

The arched roof to the equipment room:

Golden Lane Estate

I was dodging showers whilst on the roof, but it was still a spectacular view. The following photo is looking across Golden Lane’s neighbour, the Barbican Estate with two of the estate’s towers. St Paul’s Cathedral can be seen to the left of the central tower. It is only from height that the  white domes that cover the roofs of the lower blocks of the Barbican Estate can really be appreciated.

Golden Lane Estate

Looking to the west and the BT Tower is still a very prominent building on the skyline.

Golden Lane Estate

Looking towards the City.

Golden Lane Estate

To the immediate right of the Barbican tower on the left is the old NatWest building (now Tower 42, but for me the original name is still the natural name). I remember when this tower was built, it was the highest and most prominent building in the City – a gleaming example of the expansion of the financial sector in the City. Today, the tower is overshadowed by the developments of 21st century, and at times seems almost to disappear.

I am pleased to have found the location of another of my father’s photos looking across the space now occupied by the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates.

I am pleased that some of the old street names can still be found in the buildings of the Golden Lane Estate, and that many of the buildings seen in the original photo still remain, including the wonderful Baltic Street School building.

What does worry me is the future of the building. It is currently occupied by the London College of Fashion, one of several sites the college operates across London.

In 2022, the London College of Fashion will consolidate all their London sites to a new campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. What will this mean for the building at Golden Lane, a building that has served an educational function for well over a hundred years? I just hope it is not converted to yet more expensive apartments.

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Cripplegate Institute and Jewin Crescent

For this week’s post I am back in the Barbican, exploring Cripplegate with another of my father’s photos showing the area in 1947.

The church of St Giles provided a very clear landmark in last week’s photo, but when I first scanned the photo for this week’s post, there were no obvious landmarks or points of reference to help with identification.

Cripplegate

I always look for any building that may still be there today. In the above photo, all the buildings in the foreground have been demolished, apart from one, which looks badly damaged and will also probably be demolished.

There is the paved surface of a street just above where my father was standing.

Many of the buildings in the background do appear damaged, although there are a couple that appear to have minimal if any damage, so could possibly remain today if they were not demolished for the Barbican development.

One building had a rather distinctive design, and also looked in good condition. I have marked this building in the photo below:

Cripplegate

An enlargement from the original photo showing the distinctive features of this building:

Cripplegate

After much checking on Google StreetView, followed up by walking the area, I found the same building. It now has a roof extension, but the external features are identical to those in the 1947 photo. This is the building of the old Cripplegate Institute on the corner of Cripplegate Street and Golden Lane.

Cripplegate

I now needed to track down where my father was standing, and the location of the building in the cleared area. As ever, the Ordnance Survey maps held by the National Library of Scotland provided further evidence.

The following extract is from a post war Ordnance Survey map.

Cripplegate

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

St Giles church is shown to the bottom right. The Cripplegate Institute is marked as a Library (it served multiple purposes which I will explain later in the post) towards the top of the map.

In the centre of the map, there is an empty area, with hashed lines for streets. This is the area demolished after the fires and bombing of the war.

There is one building still marked, a rectangle on what was Jewin Crescent, just above the ‘F’ of Fire Station. Could this be the large building in my father’s photo?

Between where my father was standing and the derelict building, there appears to be two streets. The first is easy to see, the second is a little distance back. This second street cannot be Jewin Crescent as it is not up against the derelict building. I therefore suspect that my father was standing at roughly the point marked where my red lines converge in the map extract.

This street, next to where my father was standing, was Edmund Place.

The alignment of the derelict building and the Cripplegate Institute / Library look right (centre arrow) and the arrows at the side show the approximate field of view in the 1947 photo.

I found some more evidence to confirm from the London Metropolitan Archive, Collage collection. In the following photo we can see the same derelict building that appears in my father’s photo, however now we can clearly see the crescent shaped street, and the location of the building at a street junction, exactly as shown in the map extract.

Cripplegate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0020321CL

It is hard to imagine just how densely built these streets were prior to the destruction of 1940. My father’s photos show large areas of empty space, occupied only by cellars, low walls and the remains of paved streets.

Jewin Crescent was a relatively narrow street with tall buildings on either side. It was originally named simply “The Crescent”, but took on the name jewin Crescent in 1878.

The destruction of 1940 was not the first time that fire had damaged a large area of Cripplegate. On the 19th November 1897, another large fire destroyed much of Cripplegate. The following text is from the start of an article from the London Daily News on the 22nd November 1897 titled “The Terrible Fire – Acres of Ruins – Plans To Relief Sufferers – Four Thousand Persons Out Of Work – Narrow Escape of Firemen”  which gives some idea of the scale of the fire:

“Yesterday crowds of persons from all parts of London  visited the scene of the disastrous fire in the City to view all that remained of the warehouses and factories which were burned out on Friday. The police, who were again on duty in strong force, had the greatest difficulty in keeping the people back from the approaches to the ruined district, and all traffic in Aldersgate Street had to be suspended. It now appears that the thoroughfares affected more or less by the fire are seventeen in number, as follows: Hamsell-street, Well-street, Jewin-street, Jewin-crescent, Redcross-street, Monkwell-street, Edmund=place, Bradford-avenue, Australian-avenue, Nicholl-square, maidenhead-court, Fore-street, Paul’s Alley, Wood-street-square, Falcon-square, Hart-street and Peel-street.

It was on Saturday definitely discovered that the fire broke out at 15, Well-street, in the occupation of Messrs. Lewis and Company, ostrich feather dealers, and not at 30 and 31 Hamsell-street, as at first reported. This mistake is, however, explained by the fact that the rears of these two premises occupied by Messrs. Waller, Brown and Co., mantle manufacturers, and Messrs. Lewis, the former firm carrying on business in the top portions of the two houses. The fire, which it has now been ascertained was undoubtedly caused by an explosion of gas, broke through the premises of the firms in Hamsell-street, and it was in consequence of this that the flames spread with such rapidity along the two streets.

Of course, in some of the above mentioned street only a few of the houses have been touched but Jewin-crescent, Hamsell-street, Well-street, and the greater part of Jewin-street have been wholly destroyed.”

The City Press published a special supplement on the fire, showing the level of destruction across the street. One photo shows Jewin Crescent.

Cripplegate

(reproduced from Grace’s Guide under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike Licence)

If you look in the above photo, there is a building on the right of the street that looks very similar to the building in my father’s 1947 photo, however counting the windows in the 1897 photo, it is not exactly the same, although it appears to be in the right position on Jewin Crescent.

I suspect that it was this building, but rebuilt and modified after the 1897 fire, as I did find a later view of the building, and it is identical to that in my father’s photo.

Cripplegate

Jewin Crescent, London EC1 (Art.IWM ART LD 1202)

The above drawing is by Roland Vivian Pitchforth, one of his works for the War Artists Advisory Committee and is looking west along Jewin Crescent. At the end of the view, on the right of the street is a building that looks identical to that in my father’s 1947 photo.

Both the 1897 photo and wartime print provide a good impression of Jewin Crescent. A narrow, curving street, lined on both sides by tall shops, factories and warehouses. I suspect the building in the 1897 photo was modified or demolished after the fire, and a new building of similar style constructed on the same plot of land, but with changes to the floor layout and windows.

The area where Jewin Crescent and the 1947 building were located is so very different today.

I have marked on the following map extract the approximate locations of Jewin Crescent (red line), Jewin Street (blue line), and the building on Jewin Crescent seen in my father’s photo (orange rectangle), in what are now Thomas More Gardens. The Cripplegate Institute is the orangae circle (© OpenStreetMap contributors).

The following photo shows Thomas More Gardens today. The left part of the 1947 building would have been in the middle of the photo, leading off to the right.

Cripplegate

The same location could hardly be more different. Instead of a densely built, narrow street, which must have been busy with workers and the movement of goods on a work day, Jewin Crescent is now covered by grass, and is a peaceful place surrounded by the buildings of the Barbican estate.

As an aside, a lower level view from around the gardens, provides some interesting perspectives of the Barbican’s architecture. In the following photo, it is clear to see how Gilbert House traverses the lake, held high above the water by a series of (at this distance) surprisingly slender pillars.

Cripplegate

Returning to the building that initially helped me to identify the location, the Cripplegate Institute building is hard to photograph from the south as there is a raised walkway and buildings of the Barbican estate which obscure a full view of the south facing side.

The main part of the building faces onto Golden Lane. The following photo shows the part visible in the 1947 photo, with the main facade on the right.

Cripplegate

The Cripplegate Institute provided a of range educational and cultural services to the residents and workers of the area. A good description of the scope of services offered by the institute, and the very high level of usage of these services is well described in an article from the Shoreditch Observer, dated the 7th November 1908:

“CRIPPLEGATE INSTITUTE – Cripplegate demonstrated its warm interest in its foundation institute on Wednesday night by attending the 12th anniversary conversaxione in strong force. Close upon 400 guests accepted invitations, and they were received in the handsome gold-and-white theatre hall by Mr. B.T. Swinstead, the chairman of the Governors and a member of the Corporation, many of whose members greatly assist the work. The prizes won in the various classes were presented by Deputy and Sheriff Baddeley, and the chairman, in referring to the work of the Institute, said that in the lending part of the library, in which there were 52,000 volumes, some 1,500 books were issued daily, while the average attendance in the newsroom was 5,000 per day.

A special feature was made of the St. John Ambulance and Nursing classes for men and women, and it was hoped to make the Institute the centre for first aid and nursing work in the City. The penny dinner-hour concerts had been attended by 13,284 persons during the year, and over forty societies and clubs had their headquarters in the building. An excellent musical and dramatic entertainment followed.

Owing to the tremendous pressure on the various departments of the Institute, the governors are considering the question of adding another storey to the building, to accommodate the physical drill and other sections of the educational and recreative work.”

The last paragraph explains how the building came to look as it does today. The original building was smaller and of plainer design. The majority of the features we see on the building today, are from the addition of an extra storey.

Some of the figures quoted in the article are remarkable – 1,500 books issued daily, and 5,000 people using the newsroom a day. The institute must have provided much needed services for those living and working in the area.

The Cripplegate Institute opened in 1896, however the foundation stone was laid by the Duke of York two years earlier in 1894:

Cripplegate

The laying of the foundation stone was a typically ceremonial event, with an honour guard from the Honourable Artillery Company, and a band from the same regiment providing the music.

The speeches included very clear references to why such an institution was needed and to the literary importance of Cripplegate:

“The great increase in English literature which had taken place during recent years rendered it most necessary that every effort should be made to place some of that knowledge within the reach of those who were unable to provide themselves with books, either for recreation or instruction, and it was a very natural feeling that the ward of Cripplegate, where Milton and Defoe and other noted authors lived and worked should endeavour to place our literature at the disposal of even the very poorest of our fellow citizens by means of free libraries such as that institute could afford.”

The Duke of York was presented with an inscribed trowel – given the amount of foundation stones laid over the years, I imagine that in some Royal collection somewhere, there must be thousands of trowels, collected from a couple of centuries of foundation stone ceremonies.

The Cripplegate Institute was largely funded by the Cripplegate Foundation, a charity formed in 1891 by the London Parochial Charities Act based on the charitable assets of St. Giles Without Cripplegate, with original gifts dating back to 1500.

The Cripplegate Institute closed in 1973, and the building reopened soon after as the Golden Lane Theatre. The theatre presented a number of professional productions, but was also a focal point for amateur, educational, theatre and dance groups to put on productions.

The Golden Lane Theatre closed around 1988 and the interior has since been converted into office space, and is currently occupied by the Swiss bank UBS.

Cripplegate

I suspect it disappeared during the office conversations, but the facilities of the Cripplegate Institute included a rifle range, and in 1940, when the possibility of a German invasion seemed very real, workers were encouraged to sign up for rifle training. 400 workers from the City of London trained at the Cripplegate Institute. Hopefully for the photographer, their guns were not loaded.

Cripplegate

View of the old Cripplegate Institute building from slightly further along Golden Lane, at the junction with Brackley Street.

Cripplegate

When I first scanned the 1947 photo, I was really not sure that I would be able to track down the location, but starting with the Cripplegate Institute I now know the buildings and street in the photo and roughly where my father was standing when he took the photo.

The development of the Barbican means that it is impossible to take a view of the same scene today, but it is brilliant when walking around the Barbican Estate to think about what was here before, and the fascinating history of this area.

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St Giles Cripplegate and Red Cross Street Fire Station

This coming Saturday, the 14th September, I will be at Barbican@50, which is taking place from 12 to 6pm at the church of St Giles Cripplegate, Fore Street, Barbican EC2Y 8DA

The Barbican@50 fair is organised by local residents to celebrate the Estate’s 50th birthday.

I will be featuring photographs taken by my father in 1947 across what is now the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates, and how they relate to the locations today, as seen in my latest photographs.

You will also be able to pick up a historical adventure map from Tales of Cripplegate, and learn more about events in the area’s past and those who lived and worked there, with a history exhibition by Rebecca Walker of Ancestreemakers and free local history tours led by Peter Clarke, also of Ancestreemakers.

The tours start from the main door at St Giles’ Church at 1.30, 2.30 and 4pm.  Each tour lasts around 30 minutes and follows an accessible route.

There is more at the fair – exhibitions by local artists, book-signings, and refreshments.

One of the photos I will have on display is the subject of this week’s post, taken in 1947, and is looking across a rather devastated landscape to the church of St Giles Cripplegate.

St Giles Cripplegate

There are three main features in the photo, two of which survive to this day, although the area is now completely different following the development of the Barbican.

The church of St Giles Cripplegate is in the centre, the church looks relatively unscathed, however it suffered very badly and lost the main roof and contents of the church.

To the right of the church is a pile of rubble, and to the right of this, is the round shape of a Roman bastion, which can still be seen.

The large building on the left was the Red Cross Street Fire Station, demolished as part of the final land clearance in preparation for the build of the Barbican.

The following map extract is from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map. The fire station was yet to be built, and part of the site was occupied by a girls school, so I have marked the location of the fire station with a red rectangle. St Giles Cripplegate is just below, on the opposite side of Fore Street.

St Giles Cripplegate

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

Locating the fire station and church on the map allows the streets to be identified, and if you look at my father’s photo, he was standing to the left of a street. the buildings have disappeared, but the paved surface of the old street remains.

This was Jewin Street which ran from Aldersgate Street to Red Cross Street, where the junction was directly opposite the fire station.

If you also look at the 1947 photo, in front, and to the left of the fire station is what looks to be a door frame, surrounded by a pile of rubble. This was all that remained of one of the first houses on Jewin Crescent, or The Crescent as it was labelled in the 1895 map.

The development of the Barbican obliterated all the original streets, and the only points of reference that remain to this day are the church and Roman bastion.

In the following map extract showing the Barbican today, I have marked the location of the old Red Cross Street fire station with a red rectangle  (© OpenStreetMap contributors).

St Giles Cripplegate

There does not seem to be a consistent usage of the street name Red Cross Street, as Redcross Street is also used. The London Encyclopedia attributes the naming of the street to a red cross which probably stood outside a house belonging to the Abbot of Ramsay, with a first mention in the 13th century.

In A Dictionary of London by Henry Harben (1918) the first mention of the street is as Redecrochestrete in 1274. The entry for the street also mentions a Redcrosse tavern. The Dictionary also provides a similar source of the name as the London Encyclopedia “the names of the street and of Whitecross Street were derived from the armourial bearings of the Abbey of Ramsey and of the Priory of the Holy Trinity respectively, who both possessed houses in these street. But it seems more probable that the name was derived from the Red Cross standing at the north end of this street, whether a house bearing this sign or an actual wayside Cross, it is not easy to determine.”

Stow, writing in his Survey of London in 1603, described Red Cross Street – “In Red crosse street on the west side from saint Giles Churchyard be many fayre houses builded outward with divers Alleyes turning into a large plt of grounde, of olde time called the Jewes Garden, as being the only place appoynted them in England, wherein to bury their deade, till the year 1177”

The burial ground for the Jews is the source of the name Jewin Street.

The building of the Barbican means it is impossible to take any form of meaningful equivalent photo of the same scene today. The nearest I could get (shown in the photo below), was from alongside Thomas More House, however to get the angle correct, I should have probably been standing in the tennis courts to the south of Thomas More House, however there is no view of St Giles Cripplegate from that location today.

St Giles Cripplegate

The majority of the destruction of the area now occupied by the Barbican and Gold Lane estates occurred on the night of the 29th December 1940, with the fires created by incendiary bombs causing much of the devastation.

I wrote about this night attack in my blog post on “The Second Great Fire Of London” and in that post included part of an account of the night by Commander Firebrace of the London fire Brigade detailing his experiences at Red Cross Street fire station:

“In the control room a conference is being held by senior London Fire Brigade (LFB) officers. How black – or, more realistically, how red – is the situation, only those who have recently been in the open realise.

One by one the telephone lines fail; the heat from the fires penetrates to the control room and the atmosphere is stifling. earlier in the evening, after a bomb falls near, the station lights fail – a few shaded electric hand lamps now supply bright pin-point lights in sharp contrast  to a few oil lamps and some perspiring candles.

The firewomen on duty show no sign of alarm, though they must know, from the messages passing, as well as from the anxious tones of the officers, that the situation is approaching the desperate.

A women fire officer arrives; she had been forced to evacuate the sub-station to which she was attached, the heat having caused its asphalt yard to burst into flames. It is quite obvious that it cannot be long before Redcross Street Fire Station, nearly surrounded by fire will have to be abandoned.

A few minutes later L.F.B. officers wisely evacuate Redcross Street Fire Station, and now the only way of escape for the staff and for the few pump crews remaining in the area lies through Whitecross Street”.

The high wind which accompanies conflagrations is now stronger than ever, and the air is filled with a fierce driving rain of red-hot sparks and burning brands. The clouds overhead are a rose-pink from the reflected glow of the fires, and fortunately it is bright enough to pick our way eastward down Fore Street. Here fires are blazing on both sides of the road; burnt-out and abandoned fire appliances lie smouldering in the roadway, their rubber tyres completely melted. the rubble from collapsed buildings lying three and four feet deep makes progress difficult in the extreme. Scrambling and jumping, we use the bigger bits of masonry as stepping stones, and eventually reach the outskirts of the stricken area.

The fire station did survive the war, and bomb damaged was repaired, but the remains of the buildings around Redcross Street, Jewin Street and Jewin Crescent had already been demolished during the war to make the area safe, leaving the exposed cellars, foundations, paved streets and piles of rubble shown in the 1947 photo.

I did get a surprise when researching this post, when looking through newspaper references to Redcross Street fire station as I found a report dating from April 1938 of the death of a distant relative – “A fireman who received a violent electric shock when he cut a cable while fighting a fire in Camomile-street E.C. on Tuesday, died in St. Batholomew’s Hospital. He was a 31 years old member of the Redcross-street Station. The fire, which started in the upper floor of a warehouse, was confined to the building.”

After the destruction of 1940, the firemen of Red Cross Street started a large vegetable plot on the land directly opposite the fire station alongside Jewin Street. The following photo from 1944 shows the firemen at work. The Roman bastion is visible behind the small trees, directly below the dome of St Paul’s.

St Giles Cripplegate

Growing apple trees in the vegetable plot:

St Giles Cripplegate

The Roman bastion shown to the right of the 1947 photo, survived the bomb damage and the development of the Barbican. It had been at the corner of the churchyard of St Giles Cripplegate, and before the war was surrounded outside of the churchyard by office buildings and warehouses. The following pre-war postcard shows the Roman bastion at the corner of the church yard.

St Giles Cripplegate

This rather rural looking print from 1800 shows the bastion and the “Venerable Remains of London-Wall in the church yard of St Giles Cripplegate”  (©Trustees of the British Museum).

St Giles Cripplegate

Today, the church yard has disappeared and the Roman bastion is separated from the church by a stretch of water, which gives the appearance of a moat separating these two survivors.

St Giles Cripplegate

A year after my father took the photo at the beginning of this post, the following  report appeared in the London Letter section of the Scotsman newspaper on the 30th August 1948:

Heart of the City – Even in the sun to-day the ruined area around St Paul’s presented a melancholy sight. Few of the millions who travel to and from the City each day can be aware of the ruins through which it is possible to walk for half and hour without coming to an intact building. There is little sign of new building. The only structure – a giant marquee used for the Honourable Artillery Company’s Ball by Finsbury Pavement – is now being dismantled.

By the shell of St Giles’s Cripplegate, office workers stop each day to inspect the excavations where shards of pottery, pieces of bone, and splinters of horn are daily coming to light. Nearby, where office buildings once stood, message boys now play cricket, their pitches fast becoming a riot of coltsfoot, cornflowers, rosebay and hollyhocks.

In St Giles’s Churchyard, this growth has been halted by firemen from the Red Cross Street fire station, who have been growing peas and potatoes by shattered tombstones.

The ruins extend to Smithfield, where a shabby board announces this was the site of the Old Red Cow.”

The years immediately after the war were a time for excavations around Cripplegate and the Roman bastion and remains of the Roman wall were excavated by the Roman and Medieval Excavation Council, under the direction of W.F. Grimes, Keeper of the London Museum.

As has probably been the problem with all archaeological excavations, the full funding needed for the work (estimated at £3,000) was not available, and the sum of £1,500 was allocated. It seems to have been a rather blunt approach to excavation as reports of the dig talk about modern building tools being used, with the roar of pneumatic drills rising from the trenches all day long.

The area around St Giles Cripplegate probably very rarely hears the sounds of pneumatic drills these days, but the church has lost its churchyard, is separated by water from the Roman bastion, the surrounding street network has long disappeared, and the church is dwarfed by the surrounding buildings.

St Giles Cripplegate

It was so very different in 1830, the date of the following print, when the church was surrounded by a traditional grave yard  (©Trustees of the British Museum).

St Giles Cripplegate

Many of the gravestones can still be found in the area around the church, as shown in the following photo where a sample are embedded in the wall that separates the water from the higher ground where the church is located.

St Giles Cripplegate

The following photo shows the wartime damage to the buildings south of the church, in the space now occupied by the Wallside building, and facing onto Wood Street Square and Hart Street. The square and street are now under the Wallside building.

St Giles Cripplegate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0019965CL

Whilst the tower and walls of St Giles Cripplegate survived, the interior and roof was completely destroyed, demonstrating that the destruction around the Barbican was the result of fires rather than high explosive bombs (many did fall on the area, but the majority of the damage was caused by fire).

The following photo taken in the days following the raid on the 29th December 1940, show the damage to the interior of the church.

St Giles Cripplegate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: m0017971cl

It is hard to imagine this level of damage when standing in the church today:

St Giles Cripplegate

The full name of the church is St Giles without Cripplegate, referring to the fact that the church was outside the original City walls – confirmed by the nearby location of the Roman wall showing that the church is indeed north of the wall.

There may have been a church here in Saxon times, and the first stone church dates from 1090.

The church has been through a number of rebuilds over the centuries. The distinctive tower with a stone lower section and brick upper section dates from 1682, when the upper section of the original stone tower was removed, and 15 feet of brick tower added.

The church was severely damaged by fires in 1545 and 1897, but escaped the Great Fire in 1666.

St Giles Cripplegate claims to be the burial-place of the poet Milton and a life-size statue of Milton watches over visitors to the church:

St Giles Cripplegate

The Milton statue dates from 1904 when it was unveiled by Lady Alice Egerton as part of the reconstruction work after the 1897 fire.

The statue had a rather close shave on the 29th December 1940:

St Giles Cripplegate

Newspaper reports of the unveiling of the Milton statue also included a rather gruesome story about Milton’s body dating from 1790, when:

“There are probably many who will be surprised to hear that the body of Milton was once on view at the charge of threepence a head within a few yards from the site chosen for this splendid tribute to his memory. It was in 1790 after a little carousal, that two overseers and a carpenter entered the Church of St Giles Cripplegate, where Milton lay buried, and, having discovered the leaden coffin which contained his body, cut open its top with a mallet and chisel. When they disturbed the shroud, the ribs fell. Mr Fountain confessed that he pulled hard at the teeth, which resisted until someone hit them with a stone. Fountain secured all the fine teeth in the upper jaw, and generously gave one to one of his accomplices. Altogether the scoundrels stole a rib-bone, ten teeth, and several handfuls of hair; and to crown the diabolical business, the female gravedigger afterwards exhibited the body to anyone willing to pay threepence for the spectacle.”

St Giles Cripplegate is also the burial-place of the late 16th / early 17th century map maker John Speed.

St Giles Cripplegate

John Speed was a member of the Merchant Taylors Company, and it was this company that restored Speed’s memorial after being badly damaged in 1940.

Whilst Milton and Speed have some rather impressive memorials, there is one in the church that is much more modest.

St Giles Cripplegate

“That is all” sums up the memorial to the life of Thomas Stagg who was vestry clerk of the parish from 1731 to 1772. There are many other historical names who have an association with the church, including Oliver Cromwell who was married in St Giles Cripplegate in 1620.

The view along the southern aisle of the church, Milton’s statue on the left:

St Giles Cripplegate

This has been a brief description of a very historic area. I will be exploring more of the streets and buildings covered by the Barbican and Golden Lane estates, and the streets that have disappeared, during the coming weeks, and showing many more of my father’s photos of the area at the Barbican@50 event on the 14th September at St Giles Cripplegate.

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America Square

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

America Square

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

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

America Square

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

America Square

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

America Square

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

America Square

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

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

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

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

America Square

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

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

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

America Square

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

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

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

America Square

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

America Square

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

America Square

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

America Square

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

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

America Square

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

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

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

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

America Square

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

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

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Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse In Wartime

Yesterday evening, the 29th December, was the anniversary of one of the most intensive bombing attacks on London, when on the 29th December 1940 a mix of high explosive and large numbers of incendiary bombs created significant destruction across the City. It was during this raid that the image of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, rising above the smoke and flames of the surrounding destruction was symbolic of both the suffering of the City and the will to survive.

I have written about the raid in a couple of previous posts including The Second Great Fire of London and the St. Paul’s Watch, and for this week’s post I would like to bring you another perspective from the same night.

Of the many buildings that surrounded the Cathedral to the north along St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row were the offices, factory and warehouses of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. I am not sure how best to describe the company, but at the time they were a form of Fashion House and drapery, manufacturing and selling a wide range of clothes, hats, fabrics, ribbons etc.

The firm was established in 1835 by George Hitchcock and a Mr Rogers, who would leave in 1843.  George Williams who originally joined the company as an apprentice, became a Director with Hitchcock in 1853 when the partnership Hitchcock, Williams & Co was formed. Always based in St. Paul’s Churchyard, firstly at number 1, then at number 72, with the firm expanding to take in many of the surrounding buildings.

George Williams originally joined the business as an apprentice, and as well as becoming a partner with Hitchcock, received a knighthood from Queen Victoria for services, which included the inauguration of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)  which was founded in a room of the company’s premises in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

The buildings of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. were destroyed during the raids of the 29th December 1940. A paragraph in the newspaper reports of the raid included a mention of the company:

“The historic room in which the Young Men’s Christian Association was started was among the places destroyed on Sunday night. With seven other buildings, the George Williams Room – named after the founder, the late Sir George Williams – was burned to ashes. It was situated in the premises of Messrs. Hitchcock, Williams and Co, manufacturers, warehousemen and shippers, of St. Paul’s Churchyard, and was originally one of the bedrooms used by the 140 assistants employed in the Hitchcock drapery business.”

Just after the war, a small book was published by the Company, titled “Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse in War-time”, written by H.A. Walden, an employee of the company.

It is a fascinating book and provides not just a detailed account of an individual business in the City of London, but also as being written at the time, by an employee, provides a view of how a typical City company operated.

The book includes a number of photos which show daily life in the company before the war, during preparations for war and the results of the raid of the 29th December.

The following photo is titled “A Pre-Blitz View of our Blouse Department”:

29th December 1940

“Staff Quoit Competition” – This photo helps show exactly where the Hitchcock, Williams building was located with the main entrance to St. Paul’s Cathedral, facing Ludgate Hill, seen in the background.

29th December 1940

In fact St. Paul’s Cathedral features in the background of many of the photos in the book. The following photo taken in 1940 is titled “Our Firefighting And First Aid Units”:

29th December 1940

In the following view of St. Paul’s Churchyard today, the buildings of Hitchcock Williams & Co occupied the majority of the space now occupied by the buildings, starting with the brick faced building on the right, where the old Temple Bar now stands and the majority of the space occupied by the taller building curving from right to left.

29th December 1940

In the early stages of the war, building owners were encouraged to form their own fire fighting teams, and many City buildings were manned by employees of the company to help defend the building from what was expected to be attacks from explosive and incendiary bombs, although they were mainly equipped with buckets of sand and stirrup pumps, which were to prove of limited use on the night of the 29th December.

Preparations for war included not just the formation of fire fighting and first aid teams, but also protecting the building with sandbags as this photo titled “Sand Shifting Volunteers” demonstrates:

29th December 1940

This photo titled “Stand Easy” shows part of a roof apparently lined with sandbags.

29th December 1940

Hitchcock Williams & Co, as practiced by other large City companies, had a number of residential employees and during the war preparations included converting rooms to overnight shelters for residential staff and those assigned to fire watching shifts. This photo titled “Squeezin Hotel Bedroom” shows one of the converted rooms.

29th December 1940

Judging by the preparations and planning detailed in the book, Hitchcock Williams & Co. was probably as well prepared as any City company at the start of the war, however such was the intensity of the raid on the 29th December 1940 that even with incredibly dedicated staff and detailed planning and preparations, they were insufficient to save the buildings in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

Rather than precis the events described in the chapter of the book that covers the 29th December, the following are the words written by H,A. Walden who was there on the night. The chapter has the perhaps rather understated title:

“The Great City Fire Blitz And How It Affected Our Personnel And Premises”

“It has been said, and written, that not since the Great Fire of 1666 has there been such a conflagration in the City of London as occurred on Sunday night, December 29th, 1940, the result of Nazi incendiary bombs. In this ‘blitzkrieg’ whole areas of the City became smoking ruins within a few hours. Narrow thoroughfares, old familiar places and historic landmarks, were obliterated. To write adequately of the scenes of destruction seems beyond the limit of one’s descriptive powers.

It was an awe-inspiring sight for those of us who witnessed it. St. Paul’s Cathedral, ringed by raging fires and falling masonry, its great dome superimposed and reddened all night by the reflected flames, seemed to take upon itself an even greater dignity, as it stood in the midst of this example of ‘Man’s inhumanity to man.’

Approaching the City from the South, I saw by the lurid sky that the fires must be near the Cathedral, and felt apprehension about our own premises. The journey on foot along Cannon Street, deserted but for firemen, was of a nightmare variety. Several big fires were in progress, particularly a large Queen Victoria Street block, the smoke and sparks of which filled the air. the sound of hostile planes roaring overhead and the hiss of great numbers of falling incendiary bombs, seemed more menacing than usual. Taking cover in various doorways en route, and reaching the Cathedral, I found that our near neighbours, Debenham and Company’s premises were almost gutted and Pawsons and Leaf’s roof alight in several places. The roadway was a mass of fallen masonry, and hose-pipes interlaced towards the brow of Ludgate Hill, where other fires were taking hold. Various buildings in Paternoster Row, Ivy Lane, Warwick Avenue and London House Yard were burning furious, and I shall not forget seeing the faces of some of our fire fighters in the glare, with every detail defined at a considerable distance. It should have been possible to read clearly by the light of the many fires.

Passing into the Warehouse, I learned that hundreds of firebombs had fallen in the near vicinity, some even on the Cathedral. Those which fell on our roof were effectively dealt with by our own squads, some of whom went out into the street to extinguish other incendiaries.

Here it must be recorded that many fires might have been avoided if other Warehouses and buildings nearby had had organised watchers and fire fighting staffs, such as our own. Perhaps, indeed, our premises would have been spared, for there appears to be little doubt that we became the eventual victims of other negligence, or lack of precaution.

In addition to our own fire fighters and first aid men on duty, there were about 80 other occupants of our basement shelters, comprising assistants of both sexes and domestic staff, most of whom were unaware of the close proximity of the fires or the danger outside. Soon word was received that our premises must be evacuated at once, and Mr. Lester instructed me to conduct the women members of the staff immediately to the Crypt of St. Paul’s , where arrangements had been made to receive them. They quietly collected their necessities and blankets, and with one or two excusable exceptions, the calm manner of their journey despite the sight of flames and sparks which greeted them upon coming out of doors at ground level, is worthy of very special mention. The men followed shortly afterwards. All were most kindly received by Canon and Mrs’ Cockin and other clergymen and helpers. We were given cocoa and made as comfortable as possible on pews and forms. The quiet atmosphere of the Crypt made it seem miles away from the outside world. It was the first visit for some of the staff, and one clergyman was soon answering questions from a young lady regarding the Duke of Wellington’s huge funeral carriage standing nearby. By this time, Wren’s Chapter House adjacent to our own premises, was ablaze, and our old building, 69/70 St. Paul’s Churchyard, despite the firemen’s efforts, had caught fire.

It was a hopeless fight from the start. memories of this old part of the House, with its Victorian outline, came crowding in. How it had witnessed so many of the Cathedral ceremonies! How, in happier days, over many years, it had been made colourful and bedecked with flags and bunting to welcome Royalty and others visiting the City and St. Paul’s, the personalities who had worked there and long since passed on – old friends who used to visit its departments – the present staff which manned them, and their reactions when on the morrow they would come and find the old place a ruin of twisted steel! The quiet, philosophic bearing of Mr. Hugh Williams and the Manager as they stood and watched the burning warehouse were an example to us all.

To define in praise the work of our fire fighters would be to limit the extent of their great service. Three times the Police instructed them to leave as the building was becoming dangerous; but they refused to go, and eventually Mr. Lester had personally to order and almost drag them away. Even then they asked to stay and continue the unequal struggle. Stirrup-pumps were futile weapons to deal with such a fire. many of our men were utterly exhausted when finally they withdrew.

As we feared, there was worse to follow. The flames of burning buildings in narrow Paternoster Row fanned by a strong wind contributed to the succumbing of the newer blocks of our premises, the rear portion of which was soon doomed – steel and concrete have their limitations. The task of the squads of regular and auxiliary firemen was hopeless and overwhelming. Water was at a low pressure because of its universal demand over a wide area. Many of us could neither rest nor remain in the Crypt, but came out at intervals to stand and stare, fascinated – and dejected – at the scene confronting us but a few yards away; we were even warmed by the heat of the blaze. It was eerie to see the hoses lit up by the flames. They resembled giant snakes sprawling across the roadways and pavements. Most of the staff had by now put down their blankets on the stone floor of the Crypt and endeavoured to obtain some sleep. My own blanket covered a flat gravestone, the inscription of which recorded the death in 1787 of Elias Jenkins, a former verger of the Cathedral. It was surprising that so many actually slept, particularly those who were shouldering the great responsibilities and anxieties of the future.

The following photo is titled “Our Old Building, December 29th, 1940”:

29th December 1940

On the 29th December 2018 I took the book with me to St. Paul’s Churchyard to track down the location of a couple of the photos. The following photo is of the same view as the above. Part of the Chapter House can be seen on the right of both photos. This is the only building that was rebuilt after the war and remains to this day.

29th December 1940

In the grey light of a chaotic dawn, with buildings still ablaze, breakfast was where one could find it. There was very little water, and it was a strange sight to see people walking about with kettles in their hands trying to obtain it. Most of the staff who had been there all night were now sent home. The Headquarters of the Firm were made temporarily at Messrs. Evans’ Restaurants (next to our own premises), which had, apart from water damage, escaped the fire. We record our grateful thanks and admiration of Miss Richards and Miss Sheer, of their staff, who literally took us in and fed us. They made tea and cooked under the most irksome conditions, and were indefatigable in their cheerful assistance. They had slept in our basements for many weeks previously.

Our staff assembled here on Monday morning, seeking advice and instruction. The addresses of all were registered, and, with a few exceptions they were told to return home and await orders. This went on for two or three days, and about a dozen of us occupied the Crypt for a second night. Parts of our building were still burning, and it was late on this second occasion that some of us had the unusual sight of the Dean of St. Paul’s in his shirtsleeves, surveying our premises from the Crypt door. With a smile he remarked, ‘It takes Hitchcock, Williams an awfully long time to burn’.

The Firm had by now sought and found temporary offices at Textile Exchange, in the Churchyard, overlooking our still smoldering premises. The main room of these offices became a meeting place for everyone seeking information or giving it. A small Counting House and Entering Room staff were occupied acknowledging all mail and dealing with inquiries and urgent affairs. Mr Lillycrop had, fortunately, before leaving our stricken building, removed some books containing our customers’ names and addresses, thus enabling us to inform some thousands of them by January 7th of the calamity which had befallen our premises. A great number of replies were received expressing sympathy and offering help in some form or another. These greatly heartened and encouraged the Firm and staff in their determination to carry on. One letter concluded with, ‘Heil Hitchcock’s! Damn Hitler’.

The following photo is titled “Our Paternoster Row Frontage (after December 29th, 1940)”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is of roughly the same scene today. The above photo extends further to the right than the photo from today, however that part of the view is obscured by the building on the right.

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “One Of Our Departments After The Fire”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “Main Roof Damage”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “Our Warehouse After Hitler Passed”:

29th December 1940

Many problems were now being dealt with, to give but a few – Where should we find premises to house our Departments? In what state were the hundreds of ledgers and account books in the strong room which had now been submerged in debris and 14 feet of water? Where to obtain new stocks with the ‘Limitation of Supplies Act’ in operation? The claims of many members of staff who had lost their personal possessions in the fire? Where to accommodate the previously ‘living in’ staff, of whom there were approximately 150, when they returned to business? Immediately on seeing the staff on Monday morning, Mr. Hugh Williams, the Manager and some of the buyers went to inspect various places with a view to securing the premises and were able to obtain possession of four warehouses in the West End, and two showrooms in Cannon Street. By January 13th all these premises were in occupation by the various Departments which began establishing stocks and dispatching goods, though handicapped by a complete lack of counter fixtures etc.

The floor space in those early days was but a shadow of our former capacity, and indeed still is.

In addition to the complete loss of our main premises, there were also completely destroyed our four factories and workrooms, maintenance workshops at Warwick Lane and resident quarters at Crown Court, with everything they contained. Only Soft Furnishing and Piece Goods Departments were re-established in the City, at Scott House, Cannon Street, but on May 10th 1941, this building was also totally destroyed by enemy action. These departments were eventually transferred to the rehabilitated first floor of what remained of our 72 St. Paul’s premises.

The problem of the flooded basements containing our strong room and in it all our books and records was a serious one. Pumps were installed and operated for several days before the water was cleared, and debris removed, to allow an examination to be made of the contents. The strong room was found to have been badly flooded, and the removal of sodden books and documents and the process of hand drying every page by our already augmented staff will not soon be forgotten. The drying and de-ciphering continued for many months, in many cases figures became obliterated by mildew setting in. The practical help given by our customers who, when remitting, forwarded copies of their own ledgers was of great assistance to us. Many were themselves in a similar case and the difficulties of reconciliation of indebtedness can be appreciated. One customer at Hull had his premises destroyed on three occasions. Our bankers placed their special drying rooms at our disposal for some important documents and books – even a laundry gave assistance through the medium of its special apparatus.

Many of our ‘living in’ assistants and fire fighters had lost most of their clothes and personal belongings and for a few days the Guildhall (also badly damaged) was besieged by claimants for compensation. Each was interviewed by the Relieving Officer, and, in most cases, a cash payment on account was made for immediate necessities. A comprehensive form, setting out personal losses had to be completed and returned within 30 days. The administration at the Guildhall was sympathetic and businesslike. There must have been thousands of claims made as a result of the night of December 29th, 1940.

For some time, members of the staff worked among the debris and basements, clearing and salvaging whatever possible. The builders erected scaffolding at certain points with a view to rendering first aid to that part of our remaining building which might be made habitable for business. Meanwhile in Paternoster Row the Royal Engineers and Pioneers were in full possession continuing their work of demolition of unsafe buildings and walls. What remained of the older portion of our building was finally demolished by explosive charges on February 7th, 1941. Despite great damage, it fell only after great reluctance. Paternoster Row and London House Yard remained closed thoroughfares for the rest of the war.

This scene of desolation in the area at the rear of our buildings was terrible. It could be likened to the result of an earthquake. Publishers, publicans, booksellers, scent makers, cafes, solicitors – in fact, all branches of the professions and industry suffered. Notices and papers strung along railings and ropes indicating location of new or temporary addresses could be compared with washing hanging on a line.

The salvaging, drying and storing of a quantity of packing paper and string provided extremely useful, as these commodities became scarcer in supply. Our artesian well which pumped water from a depth of 500 feet in sufficient quantity to supply all our needs, was rendered useless. The reserve tank, for three days’ supply had a capacity of 18,000 gallons and weighed 90 tons. This provided useful salvage and ‘tank-busters’ was no misnomer for the men who were eventually employed to dismantle it.

Finally, we were indeed thankful that no lives were lost, nor serious injury received by any of our staff. Despite the great material losses the Firm sustained they set an example to all in their determination to rise again, Phoenix like, from the flames. Meanwhile over the front entrance door, the sculptured stone figure of ‘Industry’, undamaged, still smiles serenely down on our undertaking.

What further symbol is needed for this great century old business?”

The following photo is titled “Our Block, December 1940”:

29th December 1940

In the above photo, the white lines shows the boundary of the premises of Hitchcock Williams & Co and demonstrate the size and scale of their operation around St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row. In the lower right corner, part of the shell of a building can be seen with a rather distinctive chimney with lighter colour lower section and darker upper section. This building is the Chapter House of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

My father took a series of photos from the Stone Gallery of St. Paul’s just after the war (I covered these in two posts here and here).

He did not take a photo that exactly covers the area of the Hitchcock Williams building, however he did take the following photo showing the Chapter House with the same distinctive chimney.

29th December 1940

In the above photo, the area occupied by the buildings of Hitchcock Williams are to the left and have now been cleared. The round circles are the marks left from the siting of large water tanks that were built after the raid of the 29th December on cleared land. This was to address the problem of water availability and low water pressure as described in the account of the raid.

To help locate where Hitchcock Williams stood in the area around St. Paul’s today, this is a photo I took a couple of years ago when the Chapter House was being restored showing the same view as in my father’s photo above. The premises of Hitchcock Williams were to the left of the Chapter House.

29th December 1940

Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse in War-time is a fascinating little book, not just for the account of the 29th December 1940, but also for the background as to how a company operated in the City of London covered in the rest of the book. It is amazing how the company tried to operate as normal in the first months of war, including sending sales representatives with samples to the Channel Islands – they just escaped on the last boat as the islands were being invaded.

The company also appears to have had a very paternalistic approach and was very male dominated as were the majority, if not all of City companies of the time. A photo in the book taken on the roof shows the buyers meeting. Of the 25 staff of buyers, only two were female.

29th December 1940

Hitchcock Williams & Co rebuilt their operations during and after the war and continued trading, however changing tastes, foreign competition and the economic recession of the early 1980s all took their toll and Hitchcock Williams closed in 1984. The company had been trading for 149 years and when it closed a fifth generation Williams was a Director of the company.

The area around St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row are very different today, having been rebuilt twice since the destruction of the 1940s. Nothing remains of the buildings of Hitchcock Williams, however it is intriguing to wonder if the remains of their 500 foot deep artesian well can still be found somewhere deep under the current incarnation of buildings – something for future archaeologists to wonder about.

To close, here is a poem from the book which describes what must have been the feelings of those who looked over the bombsites of buildings that had been a significant part of their lives:

City Street, 1942

Desolate and gaunt the ruined buildings brood,

And gargoyles from a long dead sculptor’s mood

Still peer, unseeing, grinning in the dust,

Athwart with twisted girders etched with rust,

Who looks unmoved upon these rubbled mounds

Which once knew friends, and heard familiar sounds?

Has compensating Nature spread its gown

Far from the Country to the heart of Town?

Where basements newly greet the sun and showers,

And nourished rockeries grow Summer flowers

My thoughts rebuild the place I used to know

And sadness comes unbid; my voice is low.

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Flockton Street – A Bermondsey Mystery

The location for this week’s post is a bit of a mystery. The notes my father wrote for the following photo were “Flockton Street looking south from Bermondsey Wall. 19th century slum dwellings ravaged by the blitz – Summer 1948”.

Flockton Street

I will explain why this photo is a bit of a mystery as I go through the post, but firstly, where was / is Flockton Street?

The location is on the south of the River Thames, east of Tower Bridge. The street ran south from Bermondsey Wall, a short distance to the east of St. Saviour’s Dock. The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the location. I have rotated the map so north, and the River Thames is at the bottom of the map and south at the top of the map. This rotation is to align the map with my father’s photo.

Flockton Street

So far, all looks good. I have marked the position from where I assume the photo was taken, and Flockton Street is the street running upwards from the red circle. My father’s photo is looking along a street with housing either side (although not as much housing in the map close to the camera as there is in the photo). The space on the right of the photo could be the location of the slate works shown on the 1895 map.

In my father’s photo there is a taller building on the left, behind the terrace houses. In the 1895 map, roughly where this building would have been located there is a school, and the limited view of the building in the photo does look like a typical Victorian London school.

But when I went to find the site, I started to have doubts.

As would be expected, the area is very different today. Flockton Street was a long street in the 1895 map, but today, only a couple of short stretches remain, one of which did not exist in 1895,

The following map shows the area today (with north and the River Thames at the top of the map). (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”)

Flockton Street

I have circled one stretch of Flockton Street at the top of the map. This stretch meets Bermondsey Wall at the top of the map, and presumably the point from where my father took the photo.

At the other end of this short stretch is Chambers Street, a street that did not exist in 1895.

I have circled the next identifiable stretch of Flockton Street in the middle of the map. This is a short length from George Row that also did not exist in 1895.

Flockton Street in its original alignment has all but disappeared, although there is what appears to be an unnamed street running from Chambers Street roughly where Flockton Street would have been, although today this is more a walkway in between the flats that now cover the area, rather than a street.

Whilst walking around the site of Flockton Street, there were two main issues with confirming it was the location of my father’s 1948 photo. The first is the short stub of Flockton Street where it joins Bermondsey Wall.

Bermondsey Wall is an old street, that as its name implies was at one time aligned or part of the wall / embankment along the edge of the river. I am not sure when the name Bermondsey was used for the street, in Rocque’s map of 1746 it is called Redriff Wall for the section just east of St. Saviours Dock, then Rotherhithe or Redriff Wall for the rest of the street (Redriff was one of the earlier names for Rotherhithe, hence the alternatives shown on Rocque’s map).

Flockton Street is also not the original name. The London Evening Standard on the 8th August 1878 reported that “Salisbury Lane, Neckinger Road, Bermondsey will be renamed Flockton Street and also renumbered”. There is no additional information to explain why the renaming was needed, or why the name Flockton was chosen. The only person named Flockton that appears in 19th century newspapers is a Thomas Flockton of Leadenhall Street who was a shipping and insurance broker.

Today, Bermondsey Wall has been divided into two sections (with the addition of east and west to the street name) by the works for the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

In the following photo I am standing in Chambers Street looking down Flockton Street towards Bermondsey Wall.

Flockton Street

And in the following photo I am at the Bermondsey Wall end of Flockton Street looking in the direction of my father’s photo.

Flockton Street

There is a significant difference between my father’s photo and the above view. The street is very narrow (as confirmed in the 1895 map) and there is a significant dip in the street unlike my father’s photo which shows a much broader, flat street.

The dip in the street is significant as this hints at the undisturbed nature of this section of Flockton Street.

One of the documents that the Thames Tideway Tunnel had to complete as part of the application for development consent was a Heritage Statement. This document provides an interesting read to get a better idea of the history of the area. For Flockton Street there is the following text:

Flockton Street

The dip in this section of Flockton Street is therefore the evidence for a deep 19th century drainage channel. It does not appear in my father’s photo.

My next thought was whether the 1948 photo was taken from Chambers Street looking along Flockton Street, rather than from Bermondsey Wall. I checked the 1940 edition of Batholomew’s Atlas of Greater London and Chambers Street was not there in 1940. The following extract shows Flockton Street (just to the right of centre of the map) running up to Bermondsey Wall.

Flockton Street

The 1940 map does show the school in the same possible as in 1895 and in the right position as regards the 1948 photo. I doubt that Chambers Street would have been built between 1940 and 1948.

Walking to the other side of Chambers Street, opposite the entrance to the small stretch of Flockton Street is this view.

Flockton Street

This is looking along where Flockton Street was on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map. In this lower part of Flockton Street, there is an open area on the left and the new school buildings that have replaced the Victorian building.

On the right is a block of flats, the first of the flats that cover the land up to where Flockton Street originally met George Row to the south.

It is the design of these flats that also gave me a problem with confirming that this was the location of my father’s photo. Another view of the flats is shown in the photo below, standing in the open space that would once have been Flockton Street.

Flockton Street

My problem with these buildings is that they do not look like post war design, and indeed they are not. I could not find the exact date of construction, however there are newspaper reports which mention some of these blocks in the 1930s. One of these reports, from the Daily Herald on the 9th November 1938 concerns Weller House, one of the blocks of flats between George Row and the original southern end of Flockton Street. The report itself hints at what appears to have been some rather tragic events in the area:

“Police Seek Clue From Blonde – South London police are seeking a young, fair haired girl, who, they think, may be able to help them trace 16 year-old Violet Rose Dicker missing from Weller House, George-row, Bermondsey. Violet is the fifth girl to disappear from Weller House, a block of flats, in six weeks. 

Rosie seemed quite happy until she went to a dance a fortnight ago, her mother said last night. She said she had stayed away two nights, and said she had been with a girl friend.”

I can find no further reports of what happened to Violet Rose Dicker or the other four girls who disappeared from Weller House so no idea whether this was normal teenage rebellion, or something more sinister.

This is the view of Weller House from Scott Lidgett Crescent (part of what was East lane in the 1895 map). The southern end of Flockton Street would have been through the middle of the flats, roughly where the building moves from light to shade.

Flockton Street

So I am still not sure whether Flockton Street is the location of my father’s photo. The notes were generally written after he had taken the original photo, often after he had developed the negatives and printed some of the photos. As I have worked through his photos, it is very rare for the written notes to be wrong, however I suspect with this photo the location may well be wrong.

The school is in the right position, but if the view of Flockton Street is from Bermondsey Wall, the narrow section with the dip is not visible and I doubt Chambers Street was in existence in 1948 – it was not on the 1940 map.

Also the blocks of flats between George Row and Flockton Street appear to be of pre-war construction, certainly those to the southern end of what was Flockton Street are pre-war.

The photo is in Bermondsey, photos on the same negative strip either side of this photo are in Bermondsey. Perhaps some time spent in local archives may reveal the location, but at the moment, this is still a mystery location.

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Building The Tybalds Close Estate

After the devastation of the last war, there was an urgent need to rebuild and housing was a key priority in post war redevelopment. The construction techniques and architectural style were often very different from pre-war housing and new estates sprung up to replace the old street plan. One such location is the Tybalds Close Estate, just north of Theobalds Road.

My father took a couple of photos of the first blocks of the estate being built in 1949:

Tybalds Close Estate

The following photo was taken looking to the right of the above photo and shows the tallest of the first blocks to be built, along with a house in the lower right corner which enabled the location to be identified and also surprised me by showing that you cannot believe that buildings are the age they appear – more on that later in the post.

Tybalds Close Estate

Approval to develop the Tybalds Close Estate was given in 1946 and the estate gradually grew from the late 1940s (when my father’s photos were taken) through to the 1960s when the final tower block was complete.

The first blocks were of a steel frame construction and consisted of one block of 10 storeys (the one on the right in the above photo) and four 7 storey blocks (two of which can be seen on the left of the above photos with the remaining two being built later).

The architects were Robert Hening and Anthony Chitty. They had started their architectural work in the years before the war when their work included a number of regional airports. One of these airports was at Ipswich where despite being Grade II listed, Hening and Chitty’s airport terminal buildings were demolished in 2005.

After war service, Hening and Chitty reformed their partnership and worked on a number of housing developments, commercial, industrial and schools. As well as the Tybalds Close Estate, Hening and Chitty were also responsible for the housing blocks alongside Cromer Street in St. Pancras. The style of both sets of housing blocks is very similar, although the Cromer Street blocks have been through a complete re-cladding.

The buildings were constructed by William Moss and Sons, a company original founded in 1820 and with a long history as an independent construction company until being taken over by the Kier Group in 1984.

The following map shows the location of the Tybalds Close Estate. The overall estate being roughly within the blue oval, with the original parts of the estate as shewn in my father’s photo being within the red oval.  (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

Tybalds Close Estate

As can be seen, the area between the housing blocks and where my father was standing was open ground. Originally dense housing, but badly bombed with the area cleared ready for reconstruction.

It is impossible to get a similar view today as the area has been completely built over with large office blocks. The following photo is looking across in the general direction of the original photos. My father was standing somewhere under this large office block to take the originals.

Tybalds Close Estate

The taller of the blocks on the right of the second photo is Blemundsbury House. This is the view of Blemundsbury House today, looking down Harpur Street.

Tybalds Close Estate

This is Windmill House. Not yet started when my father took the original photos, but of the same style and one of Hening and Chitty’s designs. To the left of Windmill House can be seen one of the buildings that was also a steel frame in my father’s photos, at right angles to Blemundsbury House.

Tybalds Close Estate

I mentioned earlier in the post that the location of the photo could be identified by the old house in the lower right corner and that I also found something that demonstrates you cannot always believe what you see.

The following is an extract from the second of my father’s photos. It is an enlargement of the house at the lower right corner of the photo.

Tybalds Close Estate

The house is on the corner of Harpur and Dombey Streets. The following is a photo of the same house today.

Tybalds Close Estate

The house in the original photo looks the worst for wartime damage, however the layour of the windows is the same, the same entrance door, the same seperator at the top of the 3rd floor and the street name sign is in the same place on the corner of the house.

What is really stange is that in the original photo there is no building to the right of the corner house, although today there is a substantial house which looks original in all aspects.

Tybalds Close Estate

This is another view of the two houses. The further being the one in the original photo and the house closest to the camera must be a post war reconstruction of the original house on the site.

The attention to detail is remarkable. The brickwork is the same, the style of the house is the same as the houses in Dombey Street. If I did not have my father’s photo for evidence I would have thought that this was an original Georgian house.

The entrance door to the reconstructed house is shown in the photo below. Note how identical the brick work and the size of the coarse between the bricks is to the wall on the left. There must have been piles of bricks in the area from the bomb damage and I can only assume that bricks and probably door and windows were reused from demolished houses to construct this new house.

Tybalds Close Estate

In the enlargement of the original photo there is a doorway visible to the right of the main house and this was probably the entrance to the original house, but not to Harpur Mews as the sign above the entrance advertises today.

The following map is an extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

Tybalds Close Estate

Harpur Street can be seen to the lower right. Harpur Mews is in the middle of the block and there is no entrance to the mews from Harpur Street. the entrance was from East Street (now Dombey Street) as shown by the building with the X which denotes a building above a through entrance.

The map also shows the dense housing across the area, much of which is now covered by the Tybalds Close Estate. Blemundsbury House occupies the space occupied by the houses to the north of East Street, starting from just to the right of the junction with Harpur Street and running to the left.

I could not find too much information on the area, however I did find a photo of Ormond Yard, the largest space in the centre of the map and now occupied by the Tybalds Close Estate. The following photo was published in The Sphere on the 2nd December 1933 and is one of a series of photos taken by a Mr. William Clark in 1918. Mr. Clark was apparently a Birmingham businessman who was fascinated by London in the time of Dickens and set out to photograph what he could find that was typical of Dickens time and also mentioned in Dickens novels.

The following photo is titled “Ormond Yard, Bloomsbury – Galleried cottages of Dickensian days whose quiet charm is in strange contrast to 20th century London”.

Tybalds Close Estate

The first mentions that I could find of Ormond Yard date back to 1770, and through one hundred plus years there are the usual reports of the casual crime, accidents and violence that could be found across the dense housing of London.

The pub in the centre of the yard was The Crown. A report in the Sporting Life on the 2nd of June 1885 offers a glimpse of life in the yard:

“The Crown, Ormond Yard, Bloomsbury – A high class show took place at this establishment on the 31st, the exhibits consisting of bulldogs, bull terriers, mastiffs, pugs, dachshunds, and almost every variety of choice toy pets. The house, as usual, was well attended by fanciers and dealers. the chair was occupied by Mr. Alfred George faced by Mr Currie, supported by the following;- Messrs Strugnell (champion pugs), Clarke (bull dogs), Anderson (white half-bred dogs), Painter (champion spaniels), Matthews and Taylor (toy black and tan terriers) and Nicholls (mastiffs); also a gentlemen with some remarkably fine dachshunds, and many others together with many strangers. The handsome silver collar for the best bull terrier was taken by Mr. A. George’s Prince, a very handsome dog.

The land on which the Tybalds Close Estate is built was part of the early 18th century expansion of London. Rocque’s map from 1746 shows the area below:

Tybalds Close Estate

The fields to the north and west show that the area at the time was on the edge of built London. At the time, and as probably built, Ormond Yard was a separate smaller yard and the main area was Ormond Mewse – the two areas would later combine as shown in the 1895 map.

The area in which the Tybalds Close Estate is built was originally part of the land donated by Sir William Harpur in 1566 by Sir William Harpur. See my post on Tracing Harpur’s Bedford Charity Estate.

One final point, the larger of the two blocks being built in my father’s photo is Blemundsbury House. The name provides an old connection to the area of Bloomsbury.

Blemundsbury was the original name of Bloomsbury. In turn, Blemundsbury took its name from a 13th century drainage ditch in the area known as Blemund’s Dyke.

The Tybalds Close Estate is at the heart of a fascinating area.

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