8th Year of Blogging – A Year in Review

The end of February marks the end of my 8th year of blogging, so time for a bit of a ramble through some of the themes of the past year, and how these have had an impact on London.

But first, a couple of blog admin comments. Firstly e-mail,

When I set up the blog in 2014 I used all the default WordPress widgets including one for “Contact” where the e-mail address was displayed, and could be clicked on to launch an e-mail client. The problem with this approach was that the address was easily discoverable and found by all the spammers who pollute the Internet.

The original blog e-mail was full of e-mails with dodgy links, attachments full of viruses, all the usual messages trying to fish for bank account details, etc.

There was so much that I have missed many genuine e-mails, so my apologies if you have messaged and I have not replied.

I have now changed to a Gmail address and this can be found down the lower right of the home page of the blog, displayed as a picture, so whilst not as convenient to use, it should stop much of the spam the old account received.

I have also added a “Blog roll” down the lower right of the home page. This is a listing of other blogs, or sites which may be of interest. I will be adding more in the coming weeks.

A London Inheritance Walks

The main blog related event for me during the past year, was the start of my guided walks. Two walks, one covered the South Bank and the other the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates. The walks were a sell-out and it was brilliant to meet so many readers, and my thanks to all who came on a walk.

I have been working on three new walks which will follow the same format, and will cover Bankside, Bermondsey and Wapping, as well as continuing the South Bank and Barbican walks.

I plan to have dates advertised from late April. They will be on the blog, and for early access to all dates, you can follow my Eventbrite page here.

Swanscombe Peninsula

Last September I visited the Swanscombe Peninsula, a large area of land that pushes out into the River Thames, to the east of the city.

The peninsula is under threat of development with the London Resort proposals for a large theme park to be built on much of the land.

The Swanscombe Peninsula has a long industrial heritage, but is now mainly marsh and grasslands. Walking the area provides a wonderful feeling of walking an isolated and natural section of north Kent, an environment that is all the more important as London pushes east along the river.

The Swanscombe Peninsula is an important site of biodiversity, with wetlands and marsh occupying significant parts of the space,

year of blogging

A key decision that may impact whether the London Resort goes ahead, was the decision last November by Natural England to confirm the peninsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and in their announcement stating:

Natural England has today confirmed Swanscombe Peninsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in recognition of its national importance for plants, geology, birds and invertebrates – including one of the rarest spiders in the country.

A valuable green space abundant in wildlife lying close to major urban areas, the 260 hectare site alongside the Thames Estuary forms a corridor of habitats connecting Ebbsfleet Valley with the southern shore of the River Thames between Dartford and Gravesend.

The Natural England Press Release can be found here.

It remains to be seen whether confirming the site as an SSSI is sufficient to stop the proposed development, but it was a very hopeful step.

New River Walk

In October, I walked the first part, from Ware to Cheshunt, of the New River Path, a walk that follows the 17th century New River from source near Ware in Hertfordshire to New River Head in Islington (the final part from the east and west reservoirs around Woodberry Wetlands, just south of the Seven Sisters Road to New River Head being a heritage walk along the route of the river).

It was a fascinating walk, along manmade infrastructure and 19th century pumping stations that are still key in providing water for London’s growing population.

new river walk

Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I will complete the remainder of the walk from Cheshunt to Islington.

The Changing Face Of London

The face of London continues to change with what seems a continuous stream of new glass and steel towers. Last May, I wrote about Three Future Demolitions and Re-developments, one of which was the old ITV Studios on the South Bank (the square tower in the centre of the following photo):

south bank

The building is now securely fenced off, and scaffolding surrounds the lower buildings and appears to have started creeping up the tower. presumably in preparation for demolition:

south bank

Coin Street Community Builders and the Waterloo Community Development Group have organised a petition in opposition to the planning application. Their page on the proposal can be found here

Meanwhile, the transformation of many of the city’s buildings to either expensive apartments or hotels continues. I was in Westminster on Friday and the old War Office building is now being transformed into the “OWO Residences”, and “London’s first Raffles Hotel”, which will offer “Privileges and Amenities Beyond Compare” which gives an idea of the price range and target market.

The former War Office building really is in a prime position, on Whitehall and opposite the Household Cavalry Museum and the tourist trap in front of the Horse Guards building.

The Grade II listed old War Office building:

old war office

The only constant in London is the level of change, however it does seem that so much local identity is being lost. There must have been so many other creative uses for such a building. I wonder what has happened to the tunnels that once connected to the building.

My Father’s Photos

The original aims of the blog were rather selfish. To provide me with an incentive to find the current locations of my father’s old photos, and to find out more about London, which I had probably taken for granted for too many years.

I featured more of my father’s photos during the last year, one of my favourites was the following photo of an art exhibition in 1952 in Embankment Gardens:

year of blogging

The same view today:

year of blogging

I have many more of my father’s photos still to go, and there is so much else of interest in London, so hopefully the blog will be still be going for a few more years.

London is fascinating to explore, but sometimes it is just good to sit and watch. Whilst walking through Bankside last year I noticed a couple had moored their boat in the river and were reading and looking at the view.

year of blogging

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.

The National Covid Memorial Wall 

For a second year running, Covid has had a significant impact on London. The impact to businesses, significantly reduced tourism, working from home, etc. all have a visible impact on the city, however the hidden tragedy is the number of deaths.

The daily release of figures of deaths and infections become hard to grasp. Last Friday’s figures identified another 120 deaths.

The National Covid Memorial Wall, along the embankment opposite the Palace of Westminster, between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges, really brings home the impact of these figures, with each heart along the wall representing an individual death.

National Covid Memorial Wall

The memorial was created by 1,500 volunteers starting on the 29th of March 2021, coordinated by Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, and Led By Donkeys. Further information on the wall can be found here.

National Covid Memorial Wall

The memorial wall stretches almost the entire length between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges:

National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall

Each of the hearts represents an individual death. Families have added the names of those who have died to many of the hearts which really brings home that the daily figures represent the loss of an individual, and the impact on their family.

National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall

There are calls to make the wall a permanent memorial, however I suspect this Government will want to move on very quickly from the previous two years.

The City of London

Whilst much of London is almost back to “normal”, the City of London is still very quiet compared to pre-pandemic days. Much of this can probably be attributed to the attractions of working from home for at least part of the week. Why spend a fortune on commuting, frequently in a crowded commuter train, when you can work at home for a few days a week.

Back on the 3rd of August 2021, the Evening Standard was telling older workers that apparently they had a “duty” to go back to the office:

year of blogging

The impact on Transport for London has been considerable. Probably the only transport system in a capital city that has to rely on fares for the majority of its revenue.

The latest data from the London DataStore, runs up to December 2021 and shows the impact of the last couple of years on travel on the Underground.

I downloaded the data and created the following graph, which shows how travel on the Underground has gradually been rising over the ten years from April 2010 to 2020, and then fell off a cliff at the start of the first lock down.

year of blogging

The above graph uses monthly data, and shows the peaks and troughs of travel patterns through the year, and also that travel volumes have still not returned to their pre-pandemic numbers.

Where a system is so dependent on fare revenue, the graph shows the impact on TfL’s finances and why Government support is needed. The challenges of negotiating this when you have a Labour London Mayor and a Conservative National Government have resulted in only short term solutions, rather than a long term agreement on how London’s transport can be funded for both day to day running costs and future investment.

The impact on the City can be seen walking the streets. There are a number of businesses that are dependent on people, such as cafes, restaurants, dry-cleaners etc, which have closed.

This includes the Cards Galore shop on the corner of Cheapside and Wood Street. (I wrote about the location in September of last year):

year of blogging

The core of the City is strangely quiet. There is hardly any traffic in Cheapside, as from close to St Mary-le-Bow, the street is closed to traffic apart from buses and cycles:

City of London

This appears to include taxis, as whilst walking from Cheapside to Liverpool Street I did not see a single black cab. There was a queue of people waiting for a taxi at Liverpool Street, so I assume taxis in this area are in short supply, perhaps due to the number of road closures.

There are far more people walking the City streets than there has been for the last couple of years, however the City just seems so quiet, more like a Sunday than the working week.

The Bank Junction where only buses and cycles are allowed:

City of London

I am in two minds regarding the changes to the City’s streets. It is possible to stand in the middle of the street and take photos, air quality is much better, however the City seems to have lost something which made the City – the City.

The City of London has always been busy during the working week. Pavements busy with people, roads with cars, vans, taxis and buses. That was part of the attraction, what made the City of London unique and different to the rest of London. A busy centre of trade and finance, and in the past, industry and markets.

Looking down Lombard and King William Street:

City of London

Other planned changes for the City include the move of Smithfield Market to Dagenham Dock, far to the east of the City, where Billingsgate, New Spitalfields and Smithfield markets would be consolidated into a single site.

Smithfield is the last wholesale market in central London and would be a further change to the historic functions of the City. Many of the tenants are not happy.

Looking back over the Bank junction to Queen Victoria Street and Poultry:

City of London

View down Old Broad Street:

City of London

Old Broad Street on the left and Threadneedle Street on the right:

City of London

In the background of the above photo are the glass and steel towers that continue to be built within the City – will there be enough office workers to support all the space?

It will be interesting to see how the City of London reinvents itself. Will it return to a pre-pandemic “normal” after a few years?

If not, what happens to all the buildings? Conversion to expensive hotels and apartments will contribute to the loss of the City’s distinct identity. Trading too much on tradition could turn the City into a museum.

The move of the Museum of London to the empty Poultry and General Markets in Smithfield is a good move, but what are the benefits to the history and culture of the City by moving the remaining market at Smithfield?

Then just when you think that the last two years of terrible news is coming to an end, Russia starts a horrific invasion of Ukraine.

Walking along Whitehall on Friday, there was a small group opposite the entrance to Downing Street:

year of blogging

And the news stands across the city continue to provide a record of historical events:

year of blogging

And with that rather rambling review of my 8th year of blogging, can I thank you all for subscribing, commenting and just for reading my weekly explorations of London, and if you feel like a guided walk later in the year, I look forward to meeting you.


32 thoughts on “8th Year of Blogging – A Year in Review

  1. Joachim Wolbert

    Some years ago I have got knowledge of your work through the Web Site of Leica. Thank you very much for your fantastic work. I collected all your emails and I will be using some of them for the planning of my next trips to London.

  2. Anthony Quinn

    I have so enjoyed this blog and the treasure of your father’s photographs. It continues a great tradition of street-level reporting in London, a natural heir of Mayhew and Dickens, and something to be proud of. Hats off to you.

  3. John Potter

    I’ve been following the blog since May 2020 and have gone back over some of the pre 2020 posts with great pleasure. I studied in London in the 1970’s and lived there on and off until the early 1980’s and I’ve always been interested in the buildings and history since my early visits as a child in the 50’s and 60’s.
    Thanks for all your posts over the years and please keep on going.

  4. Gail Parker

    Thank you for taking the time to write these really interesting posts, I’ve learned a lot through them. It’s a remarkable achievement and I wish you the very best and hope you will continue.

  5. Jean Sheppard

    I so look forward to your Blog on a Sunday morning, with a cup of tea. Having grown up at Cripplegate Institute in the early 60’s, when all aound were the bomb sites of the 2nd World War, were fascinating and fun times. Your blogs are so interesting and I have learnt so much more about the London I grew up in. I am horrified to hear about what may happen to the Smithfield Meat Market though.

  6. Diana Kelsey

    I am a great lover of London and your blog brings me such pleasure. I am touched by your comments about the emptying of the City. Since Roman Times It has always risen again after disasters and retained its beating heart as a great trading centre…….please, please let’s hope it does so again.
    Thanks for your blog. It was a great sustenance to me during the long days of Covid. I look forward to coming on one of your walks.

  7. Bruce Fleming

    Thank you for all your work. Swanscombe Peninsular was probably the highlight for me.

    Just a heads-up that some annotated archive footage of Cripplegate, and Lambeth, from 1946, will be posted on Reelstreets during the spring.

  8. Greg

    Thank you for writing. I always enjoy reading it. Things will change, but as you say hopefully the city will be able to come back to something that isn’t a museum piece.

  9. R.L. Moore

    Your blogs are most appreciated by me; your subject matter and insane levels of detail are most admirable. I have always been interested in London, and you constantly find another obscure location or topic to focus on; whilst living there years ago, I often enjoyed finding little out of the way places to investigate. You are my first read after breakfast, finishing up my tea along the way. Your stories have also caused me to purchase more books than I wish to admit. Seriously, I thank you for your efforts, and always look forward to next Sunday’s read.

  10. Dr. Gordon How

    Love your notes!
    But can’t open this one either in email or web browser. Frustrated!
    Thanks again,
    Gordon H. Vancouver, Canada

  11. Roger

    Thank you for your weekly blogs. My father and his family and ancestors came from London, but I have only been there a few times as a visitor. It is great to know what it was like when they were growing up and lived there.
    If people keep working from home and the city has a lot of vacant office space, will this make the Swanscombe Peninsula development uneconomic? I have always like the idea of cities expanding upwards instead of outwards.

  12. Ann Pearson

    Over the two years that we’ve been deprived of our annual stay in London your blog has been a comfort and a stimulus for planning a return. Your photographs of post-war London have been a useful reminder that much worse was endured by our parents’ and grandparents’ generation. All being well we expect to be back this May and if possible to join you on one of your walks. Hoping to meet you in person soon.
    Ann Pearson and Allan Smith, Vancouver, Canada

  13. john mccullogh

    Congratulation on your achievements with your blogs, and your 8th year of doing such absorbing work.

    Your in-depth knowledge and research is always reliable – even on topics and locations on which I have deep personal knowledge.

    Keep up the good work.

    best wishes john mccullogh

  14. John Campbell

    Congratulations on this anniversary. Like many of your other regular readers I would like to thank you for this excellent body of work that you have created. Your work is something you should be very proud of and is a weekly treat for me and so many others and I hope (selfishly) that you may continue for a long time to come. Your Dad would be very proud of you.

  15. Celia Crangle

    Thank you so much for your wonderful work. I hope London’s hustle and bustle returns.
    The only good think is the City and air appear cleaner. I loved working in the city as a young woman, but am sad to see how much has been demolished, especially Plantation House on Mincing Lane. & Dunster house on Mark Lane. Happy years!
    Hope to return and enjoy London again
    Celia Marus Crangle, Ontario, Canada.

  16. Charles Rhind

    Well done, thank you for your posts! Keep up the good work.
    I rarely visit London but find your explorations fascinating.
    Charles Rhind

  17. Annie Green

    Fine round-up. I still look forward, every Sunday, to opening up the laptop and see what you have in store for us. Yes, it has led me down many, many rabbit holes (all to the good) and filled me with useful information – some of which I try to pass on to others, if they don’t glaze over. Here’s to another year!

  18. Joy McLaughlan

    I love your blogs! Your level of research into detailed historic records makes everything you write deeply interesting and factual for this Londoner. Thank you for all the blogs over the years, please keep doing this work and I do hope someone is archiving your blogs for historians in the centuries to come. Social history is vital. It is what makes us. Thank you for giving us such in depth knowledge and understanding of our city.

  19. Richard Piland

    Just a brief note to let you know that I thoroughly enjoy you blog entries. Thy are highly informative and a treat to read. I especially enjoy the photos–yours and your father’s–that accompany the text. I wanted o point out that there are several “video walks” of various parts of London including the South Bank. Some have no commentary, just a camera’s view as the person walks the streets. Many thanks from the resident of the USA for your excellent blog.

  20. Judy Brickell

    Thank you for all the fascinating blogs and for this thought provoking one. Such hard work you have put in and very much appreciated by your readers.

  21. Peter Holford

    Congratulations on another year of superb blogging. And thank you. Here’s to the next eight.


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