A City Relic In Deepest Hampshire

Do you ever wonder what happened to the contents of all the City churches that have disappeared over the centuries? Probably not, however this rather obscure interest took me recently from the Minories in the east of the City to a small village in deepest Hampshire.

The Minories is currently the name of a street leading from Tower Hill to Aldgate High Street. The name derives from the sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare. The sisters of the order were known as Minoresses and their religious house as the Minories, and it was one of these houses or abbey that occupied the area to the east of the street currently known as Minories.

The abbey had an associated church, and following the dissolution, the church became the parish church  and was known as the Church of Saint Trinity, or Holy Trinity in the Minories. It is the later name that was most commonly associated with the church.

Holy Trinity was located at the end of a street leading from the Minories. The street is currently called St. Clare Street  (taking its name from the religious order).

The book “A History of the Minories” written by a vicar of the church and published in 1922 provides a fascinating history of the abbey and the church. It also includes a drawing of the church at the end of the side street leading from the Minories.

Minories

This is the same view today. The church was at the end of the street, with the front of the church just in front of the building that terminates the end of the street.

Minories

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of the church, in the centre of the following map extract, at the end of what was then Church Street (now St. Clare Street).

Minories

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

A map of the same area today. I have marked where the church was located by a red rectangle  (© OpenStreetMap contributors) .

Minories

You will see on the 1895 map that there is a public house on the southern corner where Church Street meets the Minories. The building is still a pub – The Three Lords:

Minories

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

The view from the far end of St. Clare Street looking back towards the Minories. The street is still cobbled.

Minories

Holy Trinity church was closed in 1899. One of the closures of City churches under the Union of Benefices Act of 1860 where churches were closed and their parish amalgamated with another parish (St. Botolph’s Aldgate for Holy Trinity).

Closure of churches was a very controversial act for the Vicars of the churches involved along with their parishioners. There is an interesting letter in the London Evening Standard on the 30th May 1893 from the Vicar of Holy Trinity. The letter addresses errors about the history of the church in an earlier article, and demonstrates the passion resulting from the way in which the closure was managed. It is a long letter, but provides some fascinating insight into a small parish at the end of the 19th century. It also demonstrates the interest of a parish vicar in their church. Frequently the image of the Vicar is of a remote character, mainly interested in the income that could be generated from the role.

The letter reads:

“HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, MINORIES – Under the above title an article has gone round the papers purporting to give particulars of my church and its past history, some extracts of which appeared in your Morning and Evening Editions of the 25th instant. Will you permit me, then, to say that none of the statements in that article are correct.

In the first place, the name of my church is not ‘St. Mary in the Minories’ but  Holy Trinity, Minories. Secondly, the mummified head which we have could not be that of the Duke of Norfolk, as the writer states, for that nobleman never had anything to do with the abbey or the church that I am aware of; but it may be the head of the Duke of Suffolk, to whom the abbey was given for a residence, by Royal letters patent, in the reign of Edward VI, and who, whilst resident there, was beheaded for attempting to place his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, upon the throne. The head was found in 1853 in one of the vaults, in a box of oaken sawdust, which, acting as an antiseptic, has marvelously preserved the skin of the face.

(The book “A History of the Minories” includes a rather gruesome photo of the mummified head)

Thirdly, the writer says that ‘the ancient Priory of Holy Trinity was founded by Matilda, Queen of Henry I, in 1108 whereas we know that the abbey (not priory) and its church was built in 1293 by Queen Blanche, widow of Henry le Gros, King of Navarre, who afterwards married Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. The arms of the Queen, with those of the Earl of Lancaster, are now in our vestry.

Fourthly, the writer states that on ‘the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII, the priory and its precincts were given to Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor of England, who after pulling down the church, made the place his residence until his death in the year 1554’. These mistakes are even worse than the former ones, for Henry VIII gave the abbey to the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Dr. John Clerk) for a place of residence, where he died and was buried in the vaults of our church, though afterwards his body was, for some cause, removed to Aldgate Church. This was the man, who took to the Pope of Rome a copy of King Henry’s book against Luther, which led to that Sovereign receiving the title of ‘Defender of the Faith’, still used, though with a very different meaning.

The church was not pulled down on the dissolution of the abbey, but remained until 1706, when, being in a very dilapidated state, it was taken down and rebuilt from the ground with the exception of the north wall, upon which the chief monuments are placed.

Then the writer says that the parishioners of St. Katherine Cree, in 1622, obtained leave of Charles I to rebuild the priory church with the assistance of Lord Mayor Barkham.

From this it is quite evident that the writer of the article has mixed up our church and the abbey with another church and some priory. What in the world could see the parishioners of St. Katherine Cree have to do with Holy Trinity, Minories? Also, as the church was not rebuilt until 1706, Lord Mayor Barkham certainly did not assist to rebuild it in 1622, but Sir William Pritchard, who was Lord Mayor in 1683, purchased the abbey, and resided in it during his mayoralty, calling it, I believe, the Mansion House.

May I add that I was at first greatly opposed to the amalgamation of Holy Trinity, Minories, with St. Botolph Aldgate, and wrote a little history of the church in order to raise funds for its restoration, when the Charity Commissioners came down upon us and confiscated the church property devoted by the churchwardens to the maintenance of public worship, leaving them only thirteen pounds a year to pay the salaries of organist, pew-opener, bell-ringer, fire insurance, repairs, gas, coals, water, &c. ? Also they seized funds for giving every Christmas all the widows living in the parish five shillings, accompanied with coal and bread tickets.

This unrighteous impoverishment of the church led me to consent to the amalgamation scheme now about to take place, but I shall leave my parish and people with much regret.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant, Samuel Kinns, Vicar.”

I walked down St. Clare Street, to where the street takes a sharp right turn. In the following photo, the front of the church was just behind the gates, roughly in line with the red bin on the left.

Minories

Nearly all the buildings at this end of the street are relatively recent.

Holy Trinity, Minories closed as a church at the end of the 19th century, but the church survived as a parish hall until the Second World War when the building suffered severe bomb damage. A wall did remain until final clearance of the area in the late 1950s.

Taking the sharp right turn on St. Clare Street, in front of where the church was located, and there is one remaining building, an old warehouse that would have probably been around at the same time as the church.

Minories

Finally, getting to the theme of the post, does anything remain of the church?

The following drawing of the interior of the church from the book “A History Of The Minories London”, shows a pulpit on the left, where the rows of pews end.

Minories

The pulpit can still be seen today, but in a very different location to the Minories.

The church was closed in 1899, and in 1906 the pulpit from Holy Trinity, Minories was presented to All Saints’ Church, East Meon in Hampshire.

East Meon is a village in Hampshire, to the west of Petersfield in the South Downs. It is close to the source of the River Meon. In the following map extract, the location of the village is indicated by the red circle.  (Maps © OpenStreetMap contributors) 

Minories

Zooming in further and the following extract shows the village in the centre of the map, the River Meon flowing through the village, which is surrounded by countryside.

Minories

A couple of weeks ago, I headed out to East Meon to find Holy Trinity’s pulpit.

East Meon is best reached either via the A3, turning off near Petersfield, or from the A32 at West Meon. The final few miles of travel along either of these routes is along country lanes with very little traffic and the rolling hills of the South Downs on either side.

In the centre of the village is a finger post showing the nearest villages and towns and also signposting the village shop, school, village hall and car park.

Minories

The River Meon flows through the centre of the village.

Minories

The first view of All Saints’ Church, East Meon from the centre of the village. The church has a rather dramatic location, on raised ground overlooking the village, and with the towering Park Hill rising directly behind the church.

Minories

A closer view of the church.

Minories

The church was built between the years 1080 and 1150. Although with later renovations, repairs and changes, the layout of the church is the same cross-shaped design as when originally built. A central tower dominates over a nave, chancel and transepts which lead off either side from the base of the tower.

Major restoration was carried out during the early 20th century, and as part of this restoration, the Holy Trinity pulpit arrived in East Meon.

The main entrance porch to the church provides a superb view looking back over the village of East Meon.

Minories

On entering the church, the pulpit comes into view.

Minories

A close up view of the original Holy Trinity pulpit. At first sight, perhaps not very impressive, but it dates from 1706 and spent almost 200 years serving the parishioners of the Minories in the City.

Minories

This is the pulpit from which Edward Murray Tomlinson, the author of the book I have on my desk – A History of the Minories London – would have preached from during his time as a Vicar of Holy Trinity.

A brass plate on the door of the pulpit confirms the origin, and provides some background as to how the pulpit found its way from the Minories to East Meon.

Minories

The Rev. Edmund Murray Tomlinson who presented the pulpit to the church must have noticed a considerable difference between his 12 years as Vicar of Holy Trinity, Minories and his following 12 years as Vicar of East Meon.

The pulpit arrived at a time when the East Meon church was undergoing considerable renovation. The East Hampshire Chronicle on the 3rd November 1906 reported that the church had just reopened for public worship and that restoration had cost £1,130.

Restoration included major works such as the lowering of the floor to the original Norman level to reveal the “dignity of the massive Norman arches”. The article also references the arrival of the pulpit from Holy Trinity, Minories to confirm the facts given on the brass plate.

The interior of the church is fascinating, not just the architecture, but also the decoration and furniture of the church.

The church provides a home for the East Meon Millenium Embroidery. Started in 2002 and completed in 2008, the embroidery provides a wonderful snapshot of the village, created by local people. Unfortunately, no matter where I stood, I could not take a photo without a reflection in the glass.

Minories

Windows and Easter decorations:Minories

There is a strange stone set into one of the interior walls of the church. the words “Amens Plenty” inscribed.

Minories

The church guidebook provides an interesting local legend about the stone. It was lifted from the floor of the church in 1869 and underneath the stone was found the remains of four men. They were buried vertically which added to the mystery. The local legend is that they were four Parliamentary soldiers killed in the village before the Battle of Cheriton on the 29th March 1644. Cheriton is about 12 km to the north west of East Meon.

An interesting feature of the central tower is that access to the tower is via stairs up along the wall in one of the transepts, with a small balcony and doorway at the top of the stairs providing access to the tower.

Minories

Some very large capitals on the crossing arches that support the tower.

Minories

View along the central nave of the church with the Holy Trinity pulpit on the left at the end of the pews.

Minories

The church has two fonts. The first is a very plain stone font of unknown date. As with the Holy Trinity pulpit, churches seem to accumulate from other religious buildings and this font came from the ruined chapel of St. Nicholas near Westbury House in East Meon. Although being of unknown date, it looks very old.

Minories

The second font is much more ornate and has a more identifiable history. This is the Tournai font:

Minories

The font derives its name from the location of manufacture – Tournai in Belgium. It was delivered to the church in East Meon around the year 1150, and probably was a gift from Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester. The fact that East Meon has such a font illustrates the importance of the church and village in the 12th century. There is another Tournai font in Winchester Cathedral.

Minories

The font is highly decorated, although this was rather difficult to photograph in the strong light streaming through the windows. Two sides of the font tell the story of Adam and Eve whilst the other two faces and the top of the font are covered in symbolic designs.

The following photo shows the west side of the font. The pillars are holding up the flat earth above which some rather strange monsters or dragons are carved.

Minories

The east side of the font relates part of the story of Adam and Eve. Rather difficult to see in the following photo, however the structure on the right is a representation of the Gates to Paradise. There is a figure to the left holding a large sword. The figure also has wings and is a representation of an angle who has expelled Adam and Eve from Paradise. Adam and Eve are to the left of the angel and are both trying to hold their fig leaves in place.

Minories

The font is a remarkable example of 12th century craftsmanship.

In the outside wall of the church, there are some gorgeous doors:

Minories

Minories

The central tower of the church. The spire dates from 1230 when the final additions were made to the church including the Lady Chapel and the south aisle.

Minories

Detail from the top of the tower. Wavy carving around the clock, open windows and along the wall of the tower.

Minories

The rear view of the church shown below includes the original chancel on the right, with the 1230 Lady Chapel on the left.

Minories

The straight line distance between the location of Holy Trinity, Minories and East Meon is not that far, only 88km, or 55 miles, but they are very different places and that difference must have been even more apparent in the 19th and early 20th centuries when the Vicar and Pulpit moved from the Minories to East Meon.

A modern day comparison of living in a village such as East Meon with living in the city is the difference in public transport. The bus stop timetable highlights the limited bus service to take residents to the nearest town.

Minories

Although the City still has a remarkable number of churches, so many have been lost over the years, from the Great Fire, the wave of late 19th century closures that included Holy Trinity, the Blitz and other occasional closures and parish amalgamation.

Church contents would have been lost through fire and bomb damage, but there must still have been a considerable amount sold or relocated to another church. The 1706 Holy Trinity pulpit is one item that can still be found, and continues to serve the same function as its makers intended over three hundred years ago.

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A Walk in the City in 1980 and 2019

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

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

Walk in the City

This is the same view 39 years later in 2019:

Walk in the City

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

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

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

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

In 1980 I photographed the plaque:

Walk in the City

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

The ground floor is no longer a shop.

Walk in the City

The plaque reads:

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

Walk in the City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walk in the City

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

Walk in the City

Armorial Bearings on the front of the Hall:

Walk in the City

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

Walk in the City

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

Walk in the City

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

Walk in the City

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

Walk in the City

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

The first is from the book Wonderful London:

Walk in the City

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

Walk in the City

My photo from 1980:

Walk in the City

And my latest photo from April 2019:

Walk in the City

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

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

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

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

Walk in the City

The same view today:

Walk in the City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walk in the City

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

Walk in the City

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

Walk in the City

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walk in the City

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

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

Walk in the City

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

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

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

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London Protests – Extinction Rebellion

I take a lot of photos of London. As well as photos for the blog, I also take photos of buildings, street scenes, the river, views from the top of buildings, protests and demonstrations, and indeed as many events as I can fit in with work and other commitments. Probably far too many photos, however I have realised a number of things whilst working through my father’s photos.

I wish he had taken far more, there are so many other places that I would love to have seen how they looked after the war and in the following decades. The constraints of photographic film limited the number of photos that it was affordable to take.

It is also the ordinary scene that I find interesting. Not the carefully crafted photo, but photos which show normal, day to day events, street scenes, buildings etc.

Last Sunday’s post was an example. I started photographing London in the late 1970s and the photos of the South Bank in 1980 were just ordinary photos of an ordinary London day – however for me, they tell part of the story of how London continues to develop and change. Both physically, but also in the way London is used by people. I also wish I had taken more photos, but until the arrival of digital photography I was also limited by the cost of film and developing (and time).

On the same day as my walk along the South Bank, the Extinction Rebellion protests were underway, and as usual, I photographed the event, as I have with many other different protests and demonstrations over the years.

Whenever I photograph London, I try to take an impartial view. Whether a protest, or new buildings – it is the ongoing life and development of London that I find fascinating.

My father’s first photos of protests were taken in 1953, when the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsman marched through Oxford Circus:

London Protests

London is obviously a magnet for protests and demonstrations. The capital of the country, seat of government, assured media visibility for anything that happens in London, these and many other factors play a role in why many of these take place in London.

I have photographed many over the years, and to start, here is a view of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, photographed on Saturday 20th April 2019.

Waterloo Bridge

Waterloo Bridge was blocked and had been closed off to traffic for a number of days:

London Protests

London Protests

The camps of people across the bridge included large numbers of plants.

London Protests

Catering:

London Protests

Lorry used as a performance stage:

London Protests

On top of the lorry:

London Protests

London Protests

Campaigning:

London Protests

Slogans on the side of the bridge:

London Protests

Meetings:

London Protests

London Protests

London Protests

On the Saturday the protest was lightly policed, this would soon change when the bridge was cleared.

London Protests

London Protests

London Protests

Compelling slogans:

London Protests

London Protests

Parliament Square

Up until recently the area around the Houses of Parliament were the scenes of pro and anti Brexit demonstrations with the world’s media occupying College Green. With the delay to October the media and demonstrators have left – almost certainly to return at some point later this year. For now, Parliament Square was also closed to traffic, with the Extinction Rebellion protesters occupying many parts of the square. It is perhaps not a surprise how much better the streets of London are without traffic.

London Protests

David Attenborough was a feature of the Parliament Square protests:

London Protests

As with Waterloo Bridge, the roads around Parliament Square were covered in chalked slogans and campaigning:

London Protests

London Protests

London Protests

Very relaxed scenes across the square:

London Protests

The People’s Podium:

London Protests

London Protests

In Broad Sanctuary, alongside Westminster Abbey:

London Protests

London Protests

Between Parliament Street and Square:

London Protests

There were other protests at Marble Arch and Oxford Circus – I ran out of time to get to these as I was also exploring some locations in the City for a future blog post.

Whether or not you agree with the method, the message was important, and as ever, London takes on the role of providing a stage for these events.

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Walking the South Bank in 1980 and 2019

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

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

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

Looking towards Hungerford Railway Bridge in 1980:

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

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

Walking the South Bank

The same view in 2019.

Walking the South Bank

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

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

Sand sculpture on the Thames foreshore.

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

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

Walking the South Bank

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

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

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

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

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

Some other posts as I have written about the area:

Building the Royal Festival Hall

A Walk Round The Festival Of Britain – The Downstream Circuit

A Walk Round The Festival Of Britain – The Upstream Circuit

A Brief History Of The South Bank

Tenison Street and Howley Terrace – Lost Streets On The Southbank

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Warren Street and J.Evans, Dairy Farmer

Warren Street is probably better known by the underground station of the same name, at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road.

Warren Street runs parallel to Euston Road between Tottenham Court Road and Cleveland Street and my reason for being in Warren Street was to track down the location of one of my father’s 1980s corner shop photographs.

This is the corner shop of J. Evans, Dairy Farmer on the corner of Warren Street and Conway Street, photographed in 1986.

Warren Street

The same location, 33 years later in 2019, now occupied by The Old Dairy coffee shop.

Warren Street

The shop front and the railings are Grade II listed. The listing states that the building was constructed around 1793 with the shop front dating from 1916. I suspect that J. Evans was one of the Welsh dairy farmers who set up shop in London. The inside of these corner shops are very similar, shelves packed high with tinned and packet goods.

An enlargement of the view through the door shows a wonderful tiled picture of a field and cows, part of a set of scales can be seen to the right and the shop assistant is behind the counter.

Warren Street

This was only 33 years ago, but this type of local shopping is now dominated by the big supermarket brands, and a small store like this could probably not afford the rent or business rates.

The tiled picture of fields and cows could have been the scene where Warren Street is located back in 1746. At the time when John Rocque complied his map of London, the city had not yet reached as far as Warren Street and the area was still mainly fields, with some limited building just north of the future junction of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road. In the following extract from Rocque’s map, Tottenham Court Road is on the right. I have marked the approximate location of Warren Street with red lines, running across the full width of a field.

Warren Street

One hundred years later, and all the fields of Rocque’s map would be buried under a significant northward expansion of the city. The following map extract from Reynolds’s 1847 map (now I have the map out the shoe-box for last week’s post, I will use it more) shows Warren Street just above the centre of the map, with building covering the entire area (apart from the corner of Regent’s Park shown top left).

Warren Street

Warren Street was built between 1790 and 1791. The street is named after the daughter of Sir Peter Warren, Anne Warren the wife of Charles Fitzroy, the 1st Baron Southampton who was the owner and developer of the land on which Warren Street was built.

Warren Street is relatively quiet, a mix of architecture, but retaining many original buildings.

The street runs parallel and a short distance to the south of the busy Euston Road. Standing in Conway Street and looking across Warren Street, Euston Road can be seen, along with the new office buildings of the Regent’s Place development.

Warren Street

Looking south down Conway Street from Warren Street and a mainly original street plan and buildings survive.

Warren Street

In the above photo, the J. Evans corner shop can be seen on the right. Note the lighter bricks on the second and third floors.  The difference in bricks is due to a mid 20th century re-build of the top two floors.

The London Metropolitan Archive, Collage site has a couple of photos of J. Evans shop. The following photo dates from 1978.

Warren Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_337_78_689.

A couple of large adverts are on the Warren Street facing wall. Also note that just along Warren Street were some other shops. Difficult to see exactly what they are selling, but they look to be typical of the shops serving the day to day needs of local residents that were once found all across London. Today, these shops have been converted to a couple of private clinics.

The buildings in which these other shops were located have what appears to be a secret entrance to a different place – this is the entrance to Warren Mews.

Warren Street

Warren Mews is a short street, even quieter than Warren Street, although I dread to think how much the houses that line the mews cost.

Warren Street

After having found the old shop frount, I walked back down Warren Street towards Tottenham Court Road, viewing an interesting series of buildings as I walked.

The Smugglers Tavern:

Warren Street

I do get depressed when walking the streets of London looking at the loss of one off shops, specialist shops and businesses, however in Warren Street I found a survivor. This is the London premises of Tiranti – a UK manufacturer and supplier of Sculptors equipment.

Warren Street

The business was founded in High Holborn by Giovanni Tiranti in 1895.  The business relocated to a number of different locations over the years, and whilst the main business is now located in Thatcham, Berkshire, Tiranti still retain a London premises.

The shop window of Tiranti in Warren Street:

Warren Street

Tiranti has a fascinating history. Their web site can be found here, and contains an “About” page with a history of the business and their moves across London.

Although Tiranti has survived, another specialist business in Warren Street recently closed.

At the junction of Warren Street and Fitzroy Street is a large corner store, currently occupied by the Loft furniture business as their London showroom.

Warren Street

Until early 2017, this was the building occupied by French’s Theatre Bookshop:

Warren Street

The French’s business was established in London around 1830. The bookshop occupied several locations across London and moved to the Warren Street / Fitzroy Street location in 1983, so whilst not a long term occupier of the site, it was good to find a specialist business serving the acting community of London and further afield.

After closure, French’s went fully online, but has now reopened a bookshop at the Royal Court Theatre.

A few years ago I photographed the original entrance sign for Samuel French. It is remarkable how quickly places change.

Warren Street

The LMA Collage site identifies the same corner shop, now occupied by Loft, previously by French’s Theatre Bookshop, was in 1972 occupied by a second-hand car business.

Warren Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_340_72_1023.

Used car dealing was a specialty of Warren Street for much of the first half of the 20th century with car dealers occupying many of the buildings and also second-hand cars for sale lining the street. The business on the corner with Fitzroy Street must have been one of the last in operation on the street.

The car dealing business in Warren Street attracted a number of dubious characters, one of whom was Stanley Setty, a car dealer who operated outside a cafe on the corner of Warren Street and Fitzroy Street (on the opposite  side to the above photo) . Setty dealt in cash only and was always in possession of large amounts of cash.

He had an associate in Brian Donald Hume who dealt in black market goods. In 1949, after an argument and a fight, Setty was murdered by Hume, who disposed of his body parts over the Essex Coast from a hired plane.

The Daily Herald on the 24th October 1949 included a graphical report of the murder (©British Newspaper Archive)

Warren Street

Hume was found not guilty of the murder, only the lesser offence of being an accessory to the murder by disposing of the body. After his release from prison he was happy to report to the press that he had carried out the murder – the defence of double-jeopardy protecting him from a new trial.

Warren Street is a very different street today.

On the Fitzroy Street side of the Loft / French’s Theatre Bookshop building is a blue plaque which has an interesting connection to recent excavations.

Warren Street

Captain Matthew Flinders was instrumental in identifying Australia as a continent, by being the first western explorer to circumnavigate the land, which he would also play a part in naming.

His name was all over the media earlier this year when his grave was discovered during the excavations of St James’s burial ground as part of the HS2 extension to Euston Station, a short distance along the Euston Road from Warren Street.

Captain Matthew Flinders (source here).

Warren Street

Warren Street has some interesting shop fronts:

Warren Street

Original terrace of houses, shops on the ground floor, offices and / or flats above. Work on the buildings over the years shown by the different brick colours.

Warren Street

At the junction of Warren Street and Tottenham Court Road is the underground station that bears the street’s name.Warren Street

The first underground station opened here in 1907, with the current building dating from 1934.

The station is on the Northern and Victoria lines, and is a very busy station during week days.

Large numbers of people use the station for the offices at Regent’s Place, University College Hospital, University College London, and the businesses that line Tottenham Court Road and the surrounding streets. It is a station I have used many times and during the early morning peak hours the automatic ticket gates are usually left open to speed passengers through from the escalators to the street.

Since being a field on the northern edge of John Rocque’s London, Warren Street has been home to some lovely late 18th century buildings, the discoverer of Australia as a continent, the arrival of the underground, used car dealers, and J. Evans – Dairy Farmer, the shop that was the reason for my walk along Warren Street.

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Reynolds’s Splendid New Map Of London

I have a real addiction to maps, almost any type of map. Folding maps, maps in books, street maps, transport maps – they all fascinate me. Whenever we go anywhere new, other people will be using their phone to guide them, I will have brought a paper map.

I probably have far too many maps of London, hidden away in shoe boxes in a cupboard. I feature John Rocque’s map and the 1940 copy of Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London frequently in my posts, however I use many other maps to learn about how an area has evolved.

For a change, for today’s post, I thought I would feature one of these maps. This is “Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London; Showing The Grand Improvements for 1847”.

Map of London

James Reynolds was a London mapmaker with a shop at 174 Strand. The 1847 map was one of his first publications, and he would go on to produce regular updates to his London maps throughout the 19th century, also gradually incorporating colour into the maps. It is fascinating watch how London evolves with each new issue of Reynolds’s London map.

Many of his maps are online, however there is nothing better than the feel of an original paper map and to imagine the people who have used these maps to navigate the city – I did admit to having this strange addiction.

The map show features that have long disappeared and areas where key features have yet to be built.

Take the following extract showing Westminster and Millbank.

Map of London

The most distinctive feature is the hexagonal shape in the lower centre of the map. This was the Millbank Penitentiary or prison which occupied the site adjacent to the approach road to Vauxhall Bridge for much of the 19th century.

Although Vauxhall Bridge crosses the river, the rest of the river looks rather empty until Westminster Bridge, however look midway between the two bridges and there is the location of a “Proposed Bridge”. This was the site of the future Lambeth Bridge which would open in 1862.

The area occupied by the prison can be easily located today, by referencing Vauxhall Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge Road, although the rest of the area has changed considerably. The following map extract shows the area today with the location of the prison now occupied by the housing to the north of Bessborough Gardens and up to Tate Britain. Map  (© OpenStreetMap contributors) 

Map of London

The geometrical shape of the Millbank Prison is shown in the following drawing from An Account of Millbank Penitentiary by G.P. Holford, dated 1828 and shows how the prison was divided into six pentagons arranged around a central chapel.

Map of London

The following print from 1829 shows the prison – it must have been a forbidding place to be sent to – often before transportation to Australia (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Map of London

The prison has a considerable history and a couple of traces of the prison can still be found today – a subject for a future post.

Let’s now head to the east of the map and visit the Isle of Dogs in 1847:

Map of London

Nearly all of the Isle of Dogs is still marked a being “Marshes”. There is some building along the western edge and a couple of roads leading to the southern tip where the ferry provides a crossing of the river over to Greenwich.

There are a number of interesting features on the map. The limit of building on the eastern edge was this little row of buildings, with the label “Police”. This was the location that the recently established Police force operated from before moving a short distance north to Coldharbour. Their primary aim was preventing theft from the shipping moored in the River Thames, the Docks and Warehouses.

Map of London

The first docks had opened at the start of the 19th century and would continue growing across the Isle of Dogs for the rest of the century. The following detail shows the West India Import and Export Docks. The full South Dock had not yet been built, the space being occupied by the Canal (which also served as a dock) that led between the east and west sides of the Isle of Dogs and the Timber Dock. Poplar Dock had yet to be built just to the north of the Basin on the right.

Map of London

How the area looked when dock building had completed and be seen in the following map from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas, showing the same area as the above 1847 map.

Map of London

In the 1847 map extract, on the eastern edge of the Isle of Dogs between the Basin entrance and the Ship Yard is a street labelled Cold Harbour, with some building along the street. This is one of the earliest built streets on this stretch of the river.

The artist William Daniell produced a series of prints of the new docks in 1802 and the following print shows Coldharbour as a line of buildings along the river front, between the entrance to the Blackwall Basin on the right and the South Dock to the left. (see my post where I explored the area which can be found here).

Map of London

Industry has started spreading along the western edge of the Isle of Dogs. The following extract shows an iron Foundry and Oil Manufacturers, along with a couple of the windmills that once lined this edge of the river.

Map of London

At the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs was a ferry across to Greenwich. The following extract shows the location of the ferry. The map also highlights the reason why much of the Isle of Dogs was labelled as Marsh as the land was below the high water mark – 7 foot at the southern tip.

Map of London

Billingsgate in the City was not the only place in London where the name could be found – look across the river from the Ferry in the above map and there is a Billingsgate on the river bank at Greenwich.

Maps also show where the boundaries of the city’s growth were, and looking at maps over the years shows how the city gradually expands. In the following extract we can see that much of the land north of Limehouse and Poplar and east of Stepney was still open land in 1847. Bromley New Town has a few buildings, and to the north there is limited construction following the route of Bow Road.

Map of London

The detail below from the above map shows the late 18th century Limehouse Cut running between the river at lower left and the Lee Navigation / Bow Creek at top right. The Limehouse Cut was built to provide a route to the River Thames whilst avoiding having to travel around the Isle of Dogs, and also avoiding the multiple bends in the lower section of the Bow Creek.

Map of London

Industry alongside the Limehouse Cut includes a Rope Walk, Pearl Ash manufacturers, and a Patent Cable Manufacturer. Also, to top right, Bromley Hall is labelled. I found this building a couple of months ago when I walked from Bromley-by-Bow to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs. The hall has survived to this day:

Map of London

Crossing the river we can look at how far the Surrey Docks had developed by 1847.

Map of London

The first docks were in place, and the Grand Surrey Canal provided a transport route from the docks to industries inland, reaching up to Peckham.

The map below from the 1940 Atlas shows the same area as the above map. The docks were at their peak and the rest of the land had been built up between 1847 and 1940.

Map of London

Zooming out there is another interesting feature. In the map below a long black lines stretches from upper left to lower right. This is the brick viaduct carrying the London & Greenwich Railway from the location of London Bridge Station out to Deptford and Greenwich. Much of the route is still through open land – this would soon be developed.

Map of London

Heading back north again, and we can see one of the many developments across London where a name was given to a specific area. Many of these names can still be found in use today. In this example, we can see Globe Town.

Map of London

The railways had not yet made their mark along what would become Euston Road. In the following map, the station that would become Euston Station is the black rectangle on the far left of the map.

Map of London

St. Pancras and King’s Cross Stations have yet to be built. The reason that stations were built along Euston Road was a recommendation from an 1846 Royal Commission into the various railway schemes proposing stations in central London.

The Commission recommended that on the north of the river, railways should not be built through a central area of London  bounded by the streets that would later become Euston Road, Marylebone Road, City Road, Bishopsgate which is why the stations serving central London form a ring around the outskirts of what was the centre of London in the 1840s.

If you look to the left of Euston Station, you will see St. James Chapel. The top right corner of the graveyard has already been lost to the first incarnation of the station, and the graveyard is currently being excavated today ready of the HS2 extension of Euston Station.

As well as stations not yet built, the 1847 map shows stations that have since disappeared.

The following map is an extract of one of the maps above and shows the London & Greenwich Railway as the straight line running from Deptford off to the right and London Bridge off to the left. Below this straight railway is the curved route of the Dover Railway, which ends at Swan Street Station, alongside what is now the Old Kent Road.

Map of London

I have only seen the station called Swan Street Station a couple of times, it is better known as the Bricklayers Arms Station after a nearby pub.

The station was built by the Croydon and South Eastern Railway Companies, opening in 1844. The station was their alternative to the London & Greenwich Railway’s terminus at what is now London Bridge.

The station was advertised as a terminus for the West End and omnibuses were arranged to meet trains arriving at the station and take passengers onward to the City and West End. It was not a success and the passenger services ended in 1852 (apart from a brief resumption between 1932 and 1939). The station continued in use as a goods depot.

The Bricklayers Arms continued in a variety of railway related services until closure in the late 1970s and the sale of the land to developers in the early 1980s. The station and spur of the Dover Railway to the station has been demolished and replaced by commercial premises and housing.

If you look at the straight railway line above and to the right of Swan Street Station is another lost station – Spa Road Station which I wrote about here.

Spa Road Station as it appeared in 1836, eleven years before Reynolds’s map:

Map of London

I have not really concentrated on the central city, rather focusing on the edges of the map as these were the area that were starting on their development from open land to the built-up  city we walk around today. Another example can be found at the top right corner of the map where the original buildings of Bromley and Bow can be found.

Map of London

Note that at the time, the River Lea formed the boundary with Essex. Greater London has since pushed many miles to the east.

One final look at something yet to be built in the following map extract with the Tower of London in the centre right of the map.

Map of London

The landmark that is missing is Tower Bridge. In 1847 when the Reynolds’s map was printed, London Bridge was still the most easterly bridge over the River Thames.

The 1847 Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London; Showing The Grand Improvements in its full glory:

Map of London

As with photography, mapping today is mainly digital, and rather than exploring London with a paper map, today, visitors to London, or anyone else looking for a new location will almost certainly be looking at their phone.

I wonder how in 172 years we will be able to look back at maps of how London appeared in 2019? I will though continue my addiction and carry on buying paper maps.

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Down at the Old Bull and Bush

For last week’s post I was looking at the building that was once the pub Jack Straw’s Castle. This week, I have walked from Jack Straw’s Castle, along North End Way towards Golders Green to find another famous Hampstead pub. This is the Old Bull and Bush as photographed by my father in 1949:

Old Bull and Bush

The same view 70 years later in 2019:

Old Bull and Bush

If you have not been to the Old Bull and Bush, you probably recognise the name from the music hall song “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” made famous by Florrie Forde in the early years of the 20th century. The song has the following chorus (there are some minor variations, dependent on the source):

Come, come, come and make eyes at me
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Come, come, drink some port wine with me,
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Hear the little German Band,
Just let me hold your hand dear,
Do, do come and have a drink or two
Down at the Old Bull and Bush, Bush, Bush
Come, come, come and make eyes at me

The song appears to date from 1903 / 1904. There is a recording apparently dated from 1903 by a Miss Edith Manley. The song may also been a re-work of a song with much the same words titled “Down at the Anheuser Bush” – a song commissioned by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company which also seems to have appeared in 1904.

The Anheuser Bush origin my be correct as the Old Bull and Bush version has a German band reference and the Anheuser Busch company grew out of the 1860 take over of the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis by Eberhard Anheuser.

The song appeared in a number of pantomimes at Christmas 1904, but it was Florrie Forde’s recording of the song and live performances that appear to have given the song popular appeal at the time, and the longevity needed to keep the song in the cultural background 115 years later.

The song may well also be the reason why the Old Bull and Bush did not go the same way as Jack Straw’s Castle.

Florrie Forde  was born on the 16th of August 1875 in Melbourne, Australia, She was the sixth of eight children of Lott Flannagan, an Irish-born stonemason and Phoebe Simmons. Although her last name was Flannagan, she adopted the surname of a later step father to become Florrie Forde.

She had success in Australia, but moved to England in 1897 where she started to appear in London music halls. This was the start of a very successful career which would last until her death in 1940.

Old Bull and Bush

The Old Bull and Bush at it appeared in the first decade of the 20th century:

Old Bull and Bush

The style of the building is much the same as my father’s photo and the pub you will see today, however it has also clearly had some major redevelopment.

Hampstead pubs were major attractions during summer weekends and public holidays, when Londoners would have a rare opportunity to stop work and head to the open space and clean air of the heath. As well as the open space, fun fairs could be found on the heath as well as the Vale of Health and the pubs would always be a popular destination as shown in the following photo where crowds are heading into the Terrace and Gardens which could be found at the rear of the pub.

Old Bull and Bush

An example of the impact that the bank holiday trade could have for the country, and the pubs of Hampstead can be found in the following newspaper report from The Standard on Tuesday 17th April 1906 reporting on the previous day’s Bank Holiday:

“A RECORD BANK HOLIDAY – CROWDS EVERYWHERE – DAY OF SUNSHINE – SIGNS OF PROSPERITY. Absolutely empty was the Londoner’s verdict about London yesterday, as he strolled about the sunny streets of the metropolis. The fact remains that it was a wonderful Easter Monday, and that many holiday records were broken. The weather had a good deal to do with it. It was bright enough for June, and nearly warm enough for July. But the weather was not all. This is a time of good trade, and everybody is doing reasonably well. They are in the mood to enjoy a holiday, and they can afford to do it in ease and comfort.

The railway companies are unanimous in paying tribute to our satisfactory prosperity, as shown by the money we spend on pleasure. The passenger traffic on the Great Western was the highest ever recorded for Easter. Forty-four excursion trains left Paddington during the holidays. Liverpool Street station was a scene of unprecedented activity for the time of year, and 100,000 passengers left it during the week. More people went to Germany by way of the Hook of Holland, than ever before.

Fifty crowded excursion trains poured into Blackpool yesterday morning. 

Coming to smaller matters, the landlords of The Spaniards, Jack Straw’s Castle, and the Bull and Bush at Hampstead Heath, say it was the best Easter Monday they have known for years; and the refreshment and amusement caterers of Epping Forest admit that they have done better than ever before. At a rough estimate, some quarter of a million excursionists have thronged the glades of the forests during the four days of the holiday.”

I am always struck when reading these old newspapers, that whilst some things have changed, so much remains the same. This coming Easter weekend, crowds will not be taking excursion trains, indeed long public holidays are often when stations close for engineering work as Euston is during the coming Easter weekend. However if the weather is good, it is almost guaranteed that TV reporters will be at one of the seaside resorts with scenes of crowded beaches and interviews with ice cream sellers praising the increase in business.  Hampstead Heath will also be busy, as will the Old Bull and Bush and The Spaniards.

To the side of the Old Bull and Bush was the entrance to the Terrace and Gardens as shown in a postcard dated 1906:

Old Bull and Bush

The Terrace and Gardens appear to have been a key part of the success of the Old Bull and Bush. The following view shows part of the gardens. Change the clothing of those sitting at the tables and this could be a pub garden today.

Old Bull and Bush

The above two photos shows lights strung along the gardens. This must have been a popular destination for a summer evening’s drink.

The Bull and Bush as it appeared in the 1880s:

Old Bull and Bush

Some history of the Old Bull and Bush can be found in the Hampstead and Highgate Express dated the 15th September 1888. Note that in the following article the pub is called the “Bull and Bush” so the Old was added at some point between 1888 and the end of the century – an early attempt at marketing the history of the pub to visitors to the heath.

“No tavern situated in the suburbs of London is better known than the Bull and Bush. Contiguous to some of the loveliest bits of Hampstead scenery, and possessing pleasant garden grounds, the Bull and Bush is all that can be desired of an old fashioned, comfortable, roadside hostelry. These characteristics, added to the attractions of its rural surroundings, have made the Bull and Bush a favourite resort for Londoners.

The Bull and Bush was originally a farm house and the country seat of Hogarth (by whom the yew bower in the garden was planted); and which, after its transformation into a roadside place of refreshment, attained some reputation as a resort of the London wits and quality. Tradition informs us that the place was visited by Addison and several of his friends. North-end must have charmed them by the picturesque beauty of its situation.

This feature of the spot still retains, notwithstanding the innovations of brick and mortar, and the construction of roads through regions once sacred to grass and wild flowers. The approach to the Bull and Bush from the town of Hampstead, with its glimpses of gorse and brushwood near Heathbrow, and the foliage in the gardens of Wildwood, remains one of the most beautiful places in suburban London.

The Bull and Bush, like other old Hampstead taverns, has many interesting bits of gossip connected with its history.

‘What a delightful little snuggery is this said Bull and Bush!’ So Gainsborough the painter is reported to have said on one occasion, while surrounded by a party of friends, who, like himself, were enjoying good cheer at the tavern.”

The peak in popularity of the Old Bull and Bush appears to have been around the time that Fred Vinall was licensee as the majority of photos of the pub have Fred’s name in large letters along the top of the building.

Old Bull and Bush

I wonder if that is Fred, standing outside the pub in the white apron in the above photo? He took over the pub in 1905.

Comparing the photo above, with the 2019 photo below shows that while the style of the pub has remained the same, the building has undergone some significant redevelopment, including the separation of the pub from the road by the wall and pavement.

Old Bull and Bush

The road to the right of the pub has a lovely terrace of houses. I suspect the buildings on the left were originally stables.

Old Bull and Bush

The attraction of the Old Bull and Bush has always been its location, and the 1888 newspaper article mentioned that the area “remains one of the most beautiful places in suburban London”. Whilst the road heading down into Golders Green is now surrounded by housing, the road continuing up towards Jack Straw’s Castle and then into Hampstead retains the appearance it must have had in the heyday of the Old Bull and Bush.

This is the view looking up in the direction of Jack Straw’s Castle from where I was standing to take the photo of the Old Bull and Bush.

Old Bull and Bush

It is a lovely walk on a sunny day up from the pub to Jack Straw’s Castle and Whitestone Pond.

A short terrace of houses hidden in the woods.

Old Bull and Bush

Which contrasts with the very different view walking down the hill from the Old Bull and Bush towards Golders Green station:

Old Bull and Bush

The street leading down to Golders Green station has a wide range of different architectural styles, probably a result of the speculative building on smaller plots of land that developed the area between Golders Green and Hampstead.

I spotted a couple of Blue Plaques in the street. One for Anna Pavlova, the Russian prima ballerina, who spent much of her life living in the Ivy House on North End Road. The following plaque is for the writer Evelyn Waugh who also lived along North End Road.

Old Bull and Bush

The short walk between Golders Green and Hampstead station is a lovely walk. If you start from Golders Green and walk up the hill, the Old Bull and Bush is a perfect stop before the final climb to the highest point in metropolitan London.

If you take the underground, do not follow the instructions in the “Getting Here” section on the pub’s website, which strangely states that the pub is “Located a quarter of a mile from Bull and Bush Underground station” – this was a planned station that was part built but never opened. Intended to serve building on the heath to the north of the Old Bull and Bush, which fortunately was never built. Next time I am in the pub I will have to ask them for directions to Bull and Bush Underground station (there is a surface building for the original entrance shaft, but it is clearly not a station – a subject for another post, even better if TfL could let me see the old station shafts and tunnels!).

It was relatively quiet during my visit, but if we have the same weather as reported in The Standard from 1906 for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in a couple of weeks, the Old Bull and Bush, as well as the other pubs around Hampstead Heath will be looking forward to the additional trade that good weather has always generated.

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The Brexit Bridge or New London Bridge

Readers of the blog will be very aware that I spend most of my time in the past, writing about London’s history, and unlike may other blogs I do not explore future plans for London and the many exciting developments in transport and architecture.

Today is an exception, and for an extra post on the 1st April, I have a scoop that I have not yet read about anywhere else.

A couple of week’s ago I was at the end of a walk from Deptford to London Bridge and had stopped in one of the well known coffee chains that frequent the area. I had sat down at a table, drinking tea, looking through the photos on my camera, and started to hear snatches from a rather loud conversation on an adjacent table.

Around the table were six smartly dressed people, who I gathered were from a construction company and an architectural practice. They were about to give a presentation at City Hall, and in a text book example of why you should not discuss confidential business in a public place, they were doing exactly that.

The words that caught my interest were Brexit Bridge, followed by New London Bridge. I now had a challenge to make my almost empty cup of tea last much longer so I could listen in to the discussion, and this is what heard.

The team was about to present their proposals for a new bridge across the Thames and were having a final run through of their presentation, and looking for anything they may have missed to make the presentation, and the proposal for the bridge, more compelling.

The proposal was for a new bridge across the River Thames in the same location as originally planned for the Garden Bridge. Where the bridge would differ from the Garden Bridge is that it would be a much larger copy, with modern materials, of the earlier version of London Bridge when the bridge was lined by houses.

The working name for the project was officially “New London Bridge”, but the team were discussing that the Brexit Bridge would have been a great alternative for the previous Mayor, with an alliterative name, and the option to put his first name at the beginning.

The new bridge would stretch from the South Bank to the Temple underground station and would consist of eight storey houses on either side. These would use modern materials for strength and durability, but from what I could make out of the design from their conversations, would emulate the appearance of the earlier London Bridge.

The bridge would not be open for traffic, pedestrians only and to emulate bridges such as the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the ground floor would be lined with shops. They expected considerable demand from all the expensive international brands hoping to get a store in such an iconic landmark.

The team had obviously learnt from the issues with the Garden Bridge:

  • The bridge would be self funding as sales of the apartments in the buildings lining the bridge would generate more than enough funding to build the bridge
  • Rental from the shops, and annual maintenance fees from the apartments would more than cover the maintenance costs of the bridge

So no public money, or private donations would be needed.

The team had also considered other objections to the Garden Bridge and part of their pitch was that the, and I quote “heritage lobby”, could not object as the bridge was a recreation of a historical bridge that once crossed the river.

Other arguments for the bridge consisted of:

  • It would demonstrate that London continues to be “Open for Business”
  • The concept had already been tested with potential purchasers in China, Malaysia, the Middle East and Russia, and there was no shortage of buyers – what billionaire would not want such an address to boast to their peers, so funding would not be a problem
  • It would bring to London a significant new tourism attraction, thereby increasing London’s attraction to international tourists
  • It would provide another pedestrian route across the river

I continued to listen (pretending to drink from an empty cup and looking through my photos for the 10th time) as the conversation seemed to get increasingly far-fetched. They also discussed options for other uses for the bridge, and how potential purchasers could be better served (and charged more).

  • The original London Bridge had narrow arches so the flow of water was constricted, and passing underneath London Bridge could be a dangerous exercise, with travelers often preferring to get back onto land to bypass the bridge before getting back on the river. Modern construction techniques would allow wide arches, however as an additional tourist attraction, technology used at the Thames Barrier in the form of raising barriers could be used to simulate the rush of water under the old bridge, which could provide an additional tourist attraction for the Rib tourist boats that currently ply the river (although the team did expect objections from the Port of London Authority and the RNLI to this feature)
  • Gatehouses would guard the entrance to the bridge. These would provide a security control to check the pedestrians attempting to cross (this would after all be private land), but they were discussing other historical features such as simulated heads on spikes waving above the entrance to the bridge
  • The type of potential client for the apartments on the bridge also have large yachts which could not pass under the City bridges, so the team were planning to make use of the space where the plans for the cruise liner terminal at Greenwich appears to have been abandoned, by providing a dedicated mooring space, with a concierge river taxi service taking clients from Greenwich to their apartments – they estimated that another £5 Million per year per apartment could be charged for this feature

The team finally packed aware their laptops, and with a final few motivational encouragements, headed off to City Hall to make their presentation.

I have no idea of the outcome of their presentation, or whether we may be seeing a future recreation of the following bridge across the river:

London Bridge

The site was chosen as to redevelop the existing London Bridge was not viewed as an option as the bridge was a key traffic route between north and south banks of the river. The proposed location was also wider than the central City location, so could accommodate more apartments and therefore generate a greater return to cover the costs of the bridge and profit for the investors.

The location of the bridge will be across the river in the middle of this photo (only taken a few years ago, but surprising how the City has since changed).

London Bridge

The Serious Bit

The above is my attempt for April Fool’s Day, but there is a serious element to it. The more I thought and wrote about such a bridge, I more I thought that this could actually happen.

The city is growing at a very rapid rate. I took the above photo in December 2014, and less than five years later the number of towers in the City has grown considerably.

Buildings that previous generations could never have imagined have been built across London, and their geographic spread, height and design variations seem to be growing on a monthly basis. The function of areas of the city have also changed considerably – the Isle of Dogs was once devoted to industry and the docks. These disappeared within a generation to be replaced by offices and apartment blocks which continue to be built and spread in area and height.

London has always changed, and what we see today is only a snapshot of the city, a view that is different to yesterday and will be different tomorrow.

I have a theory that our baseline of London is from when we first encounter the city. Mine is from the 1970s, and I still reference changes to what the city was like then. We took our granddaughter up to the Skygarden a few months ago, and she loves the building and the view – this is part of her baseline of the city, where I would consider the building in relation to what was there before and the impact that buildings like this have had.

The city will therefore be very different in the future. Buildings we cannot imagine now will at some point grace London’s skyline. London appears in one of the Star Trek films (Into Darkness) where St. Paul’s Cathedral is surrounded and dwarfed by towers that rise in all directions (see 26 seconds into the YouTube extract which can be found here). This view seems very plausible for the future given the current trend in building.

I have no idea whether a New London Bridge, lined with apartments will ever be built, but with money and the right connections, I am sure there is very little to stop such a construction.

If it does ever get built, just remember that you heard it here first.

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Jack Straw’s Castle, Hampstead

For today’s post, I am at the highest point in the metropolitan London area, standing opposite Jack Straw’s Castle.

Jack Straw’s Castle was one of the most well known pubs around Hampstead Heath. A coaching inn as well as a place for those walking across the heath to visit, along with weekend and Bank Holiday crowds.

My father photographed the building just after the last war and the photo below is his view of Jack Straw’s Castle in 1949.

Jack Straw's Castle

This was my view in March 2019:

Jack Straw's Castle

You may well be wondering how I know that my father’s photo is of Jack Straw’s Castle, given the changes between 1949 and 2019, however if you look at the very top of the tallest building, the faded words Jack Straw’s Castle can just be seen. Also, the building on the far left of both photos, along with the brick wall with two pillars, are the same in both photos.

My father’s photo shows the pub as it was following bomb damage in 1941 and subsequent demolition of some of the walls to make the building safe. The Daily Herald on the 29th March 1941 carried a report titled “Jack Straw’s Castle Bombed – the old Hampstead hostelry, was among places recently damaged during air-raids. Its neighbour, Heath House, the home of Lord Moyne, leader of the House of Lords, was also damaged.”

The building was demolished and rebuilt in 1964 to a rather striking design by Raymond Erith, however it is no longer a pub, having been converted into apartments and a gym. The building is Grade II listed which has helped to preserve key features of Erith’s design, despite developers trying to push the boundaries of how much they could change.

Jack Straw, after who the pub was named, is a rather enigmatic figure. General consensus appears to be that he was one of the leaders of the Peasants Revolt in 1381, however dependent on which book or Internet source is used, he could either have led the rebels from Essex, or been part of the Kent rebellion. Jack Straw may have been another name for Wat Tyler and some sources even question his existence. Any connection with Hampstead Heath and the site of Jack Straw’s Castle seem equally tenuous – he may have assembled his rebels here, made a speech to the rebels before they marched on London, or escaped here afterwards.

Jack Straw is mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer in the The Nun’s Priest’s Tale of The Canterbury Tales:

Out of the hyve cam the swarm of bees.
So hydous was the noyse — a, benedicitee! 
Certes, he Jakke Straw and his meynee
Ne made nevere shoutes half so shrille
Whan that they wolden any Flemyng kille

Given The Canterbury Tales were written not long after the Peasants Revolt, this reference by Geoffrey Chaucer does probably confirm his existence. The reference to “Flemyng kille” is to the targeting of the houses of Flemish immigrants in London by the rebels.

I cannot though find any firm evidence of Jack Straw’s association with Hampstead or the site of the pub.

My father’s photo was of a rather sad looking building, however before the bombing of 1941, Jack Straw;s Castle was a rather lovely coaching inn. The following photo is from a postcard from around or just before the First World War showing Jack Straw’s Castle, and demonstrating that part of the series of buildings was the Castle Hotel.

Jack Straw's Castle

It all looks rather idyllic. A cart is parked outside, a well dressed couple are entering the Castle Hotel, and there are small trees and plants growing in frount of the buildings. The road to Golders Green disappears off past the buildings.

The rear of the postcard reveals that London was not so idyllic when it was posted. The card is dated 10th September 1915 and the author has written “The Zeppo did a lot of damage here”, probably referring to the raid on the 8th September 1915 when a Zeppelin attacked London, dropping the largest bomb to land on the city during the first war, with the raid killing 22 people in total.

Jack Straw's Castle

A later photo than the above postcard as the pub has now lost the bay windows on the ground floor and has the windows that would remain in my father’s photo.

Jack Straw's Castle

The two carts in the above photo possibly delivering Nevill’s Bread to Jack Straw’s Castle and Hotel, along with a delivery from the Civil Service Cooperative Society.

In the following photo, the cart is delivering High Class Table Waters.

Jack Straw's Castle

The above photo shows how there are frequently traces of previous buildings in the buildings we see today. Jack Straw’s Castle was a Coaching Inn, and the large doors on the left have “Livery & Bait Stables”, but compare the position of these large doors with my 2019 photo above and you will also see a large set of doors in roughly the same position, although the 1964 version of Jack Straw’s Castle had no need to provide a stables.

A view of Jack Straw’s Castle, the origin of the name and some of the visitors to the inn is provided by Edward Walford in Old and New London (published in 1878);

“To Hampstead Heath, as every reader of his ‘Life’ is aware, Charles Dickens was extremely partial, and he constantly turned his suburban walks in this direction. He writes to Mr. John Forster: ‘You don’t feel disposed, do you, to muffle yourself up and start off with me for a good brisk walk over Hampstead Heath? I know of a good house where we can have a red-hot chop for dinner and a glass of good wine.’ ‘This note’ adds Forster, ‘led to our first experience of Jack Straw’s Castle, memorable for many happy meetings in coming years.’

Passing into Jack Straw’s Castle, we find the usual number of visitors who have come up in Hansoms to enjoy the view, to dine off its modern fare, and to lounge about its gardens. The inn, or hotel, is not by any means an ancient one, and it would be difficult to find out any connection between the present hostelry and the rebellion which may, or may not, have given it a name. The following is all that we could glean from an old magazine which lay upon the table at which we sat and dined when we last visited it, and it is to be feared that the statement is not to be taken wholly ‘ for gospel’ – Jack Straw, who was second in command to Wat Tyler was probably entrusted with the insurgent division which immortalised itself by burning the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, thence striking off to Highbury, where they destroyed the house of Sir Robert Hales, and afterwards encamping on Hampstead heights. Jack Straw, whose castle consisted of a mere hovel, or a hole in the hill-side, was to have been king of one of the English counties – probably of Middlesex; and his name alone of all the rioters associated itself with a local habitation, as his celebrated confession showed the rude but still not unorganised intentions of the insurgents to seize the king, and, having him amongst them, to raise the entire country.

This noted hostelry has long been a famous place for public and private dinner-parties and suppers, and its gardens and grounds for alfresco entertainments.”

Gardens at the back of pubs and inns have probably been a popular attraction for as long as these establishments have existed, and today a pub with a garden is a perfect place to spend a summer’s evening or weekend afternoon. The garden at the back of Jack Straw’s Castle looks perfect in this drawing from 1830 by George Scharf (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Jack Straw's Castle

The drawing is interesting as it appears to contain notes for a later coloured version. Scribbled text alongside the building record that the chimney is light yellow, the boards are stone colour and the brick wall is yellow.

Jack Straw’s Castle was obviously a local landmark in what was a very rural area. The following print from 1797 showing an old cottage surrounded by trees and bracken and is labelled “Near Jack Straw’s Castle, Hampstead Heath” as the inn was probably the only local reference point (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Jack Straw's Castle

My father’s photo was of the building just after the war showing a shadow of the former inn. The following photo from 1941 shows Jack Straw’s Castle in 1941 in the days following the bombing.

Jack Straw's Castle

The windows have been blown out, but difficult to see what other damage has been caused to the structure of the building. From this photo I would have expected that Jack Straw’s Castle could have been repaired, however shortage of materials and people during the war probably prevented any repair work, and over the years any structural damage and the building being left in this state resulted in the building being unsafe, and walls demolished to result in the building that my father photographed.

Although Jack Straw’s Castle is very different, the buildings to the left look as if they are much the same as their original construction.

Jack Straw's Castle

There appear to be four individual houses in the above photo. The name adjacent to the entrance is “Old Court House”. The Victoria County History volume for Hampstead refers to these buildings as having been built by Thomas Pool who purchased Jack Straw’s Castle in 1744 and built two houses in 1788. The Victoria County History states that in 1820 they were converted into a single house, with name changes over the years of Heath View, Earlsmead, and finally Old Court House.

Underneath the name plate is an intercom system with four buttons so I assume they are four individual homes, but how and when they converted from the original two houses to the current buildings, I am unsure.

Jack Straw’s Castle sits on a very busy road junction, where roads from Hampstead, Highgate and Golders Green converge. Whilst I was trying to take photos there was a continuous stream of traffic.

In the following photo, the road on the left leads to Golders Green, the road on the right leads to Highgate (passing a building which is still a pub – the Spaniards), and I am standing by the road that leads up from Hampstead.

Jack Straw's Castle

After visiting Jack Straw’s Castle, I walked down into Hampstead. This took me alongside Whitestone Pond.

Jack Straw's Castle

The pond was originally named Horse Pond as it was a drinking point for horses on the passing road, I will find the origin of the new name in a moment.

This area is the highest point in London, with according to the Ordnance Survey map, the pond being at 133m above sea level and Jack Straw’s Castle being at 135m.

It was originally fed by rain water and dew, however I believe it now also has an artificial supply as the height of the pond means there was no natural underground or stream sources of water.

This view dates from 1936 and shows Whitestone Pond, with the side of the Old Court House and Jack Straw’s Castle in the distance.

Jack Straw's Castle

I took the following photo of the same view, but I have no idea why I stupidly did not move to get the tree in a different position as it is obscuring the war memorial which can be seen in the distance in the 1936 view.

Jack Straw's Castle

Just to the left of where I was standing for the above photo, is the source of the name Whitestone Pond. Jack Straw's Castle

This is a milestone and states “IV miles from St Giles, 4 1/2 miles 29 yards from Holborn Bars”. There is a similar milestone near the Flask pub in Highgate (see my post here) which gives a distance of 5 miles from St Giles Pound. These two milestones show that there were two main routes, either side of Hampstead Heath, leading down to St. Giles and then via Holborn, into the City.

There is one final unexpected find before heading off down into the centre of Hampstead, close to the milestone is a covered reservoir with an unusual looking dome on top.

Jack Straw's Castle

This is the astronomical observatory of the Hampstead Scientific Society – a rather unique place to observe the night sky, high above the rest of London. One of the very few locations across London that provides public viewing. Unfortunately, the observatory is currently closed whilst restoration work is carried out.

It is a shame that Jack Straw’s Castle is no long a pub. It is an impressive building in an equally impressive location – although I must admit that i prefer the pre-war building. I have read so many different interpretations of the origin of the name Jack Straw and possible associations with Hampstead so i suspect we will never know the truth behind Jack Straw, but it is good that there is still a very visible reminder of the Peasants Revolt at the highest spot in Hampstead, 638 years after the event.

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The Perseverance or Sun Pub, Lamb’s Conduit Street

Today’s post is not the one I intended, it has been a busy week so not enough time to complete research for the planned subject, however I was in the area of Lamb’s Conduit Street last Tuesday so made a visit to the pub on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street. Today, the pub is named The Perseverance, but back in 1985 it was the Sun and had the most brilliant decoration on the rounded corner, so typical of the architecture of 19th century London pubs.

The Perseverance

This is the same view in March 2019, a change in name and rather more subdued signage on the corner of The Perseverance.

The Perseverance

Lamb’s Conduit Street has two main, historical, landowners. The Bedford Charity (which I wrote about here) owned and developed the southern part of the street, whilst the Rugby Charity owned and developed the northern section of Lamb’s Conduit Street.

The Rugby Charity still owns much of the original land, including The Perseverance with the income from the street being used to fund bursaries and scholarships to Rugby School. (There are still a number of Rugby boundary markers in place, so a future project is to walk the boundaries and look for all the remaining plaques that identified the estate).

The pub retained the name of the Sun from the early 19th century, to the 1990s when the name changed a couple of times, including being called Finnegans Wake prior to the final name change around 2005 / 2006 to The Perseverance.

I have always wondered why pubs change from names that have lasted well over 100 years. I can understand if the pub wants to completely separate from a previous existence, but when the pub continues to serve the same function to the same target market, I would have thought the marketing benefits of retaining a historical name far outweigh the benefits of a new name.

There are many other examples of name changes across London. I wrote about the Horn Tavern in Sermon Lane which only relatively recently changed name to The Centre Page.

The full view of The Perseverance on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Great Ormond Street.

The Perseverance

I did not take a similar view in 1985 – the photo at the top of the post was the last on the strip of negatives so this must have been the end of a roll of film. One of the benefits of digital photography is the almost endless capacity for taking photos.

The photo above shows a different style to the buildings immediately joined on to the pub. These buildings, along with the original corner building date from the early 18th century, however the pub was refronted in the early 19th century to the style we see today.

The building is Grade II listed.

The Perseverance retains the feel of a “local” and has a bar area on the ground floor and a dining area on the first floor. It was still rather empty when I stopped for a quick drink as shown in the photo below.

The Perseverance

The Grade II listing states that the pub retains an original cast-iron column, which I assume is the column on the left of the bar.

Back outside, I had a couple of minutes for a quick look around.

One side of the eastern branch of Great Ormond Street has a fantastic array of potted plants lining the pavement.

The Perseverance

Whilst the opposite side of the street has a terrace of brick built houses from the original development of the land, looking good in the sunshine.

The Perseverance

Along the western branch of Great Ormond Street, a short distance along from The Perseverance is this building with a Blue Plaque.

The Perseverance

The plaque records that “John Howard, 1726 to 1790, Prison Reformer Lived Here”.

John Howard was the prison reformer after who the Howard League for Penal Reform was named. Howard was born in Hackney, but spent much of his life in Bedford. He became the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire which came with the responsibility for the county gaol.

He was horrified by the conditions of the gaol and the way in which it was administered, with control basically being down to the way in which the appointed gaolers wished to manage the prison and make money out of those with the misfortune to be held.

His experience in Bedford resulted in many journeys throughout the country exploring and reporting on the conditions of numerous gaols – all of which suffered from the same problems.

His journeys between 1775 and 1790 were described in a book “The State of the Prisons In England and Wales” which provides a comprehensive review of conditions in 18th century goals. The first paragraph of Section 1 – General View of Distress in Prisons introduces the state of the country’s gaols:

“There are prisons, into which whoever looks will, at first sight of the people confined there, be convinced, that there is some great error in the management of them; the fallow meager countenances declare, without words, that they are very miserable; many who went in healthy, are in a few months changed to emaciated dejected objects. Some are seen pining under diseases, ‘sick and in prison’ expiring on the floors, in loathsome cells, of pestilential fevers, and the confluent small-pox; victims, I must not say to the cruelty, but I will say to the inattention of the sheriffs, and gentlemen in the commission of the peace.”

The book records the state of each prison that he visited and Howard’s records of Marshalsea Prison in Southwark are as follows:

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

The Perseverance

Howard’s book The State of the Prisons In England and Wales is available online at archive.org and provides a fascinating insight into 18th century prisons.

I did not have time to explore much further along Great Ormond Street, so I backtracked to The Perseverance to head back down along Lamb’s Conduit Street, which deserves a dedicated blog post, however one building just a short distance from the pub has some interesting decoration above the first floor windows.

The Perseverance

I could not photograph from directly opposite as the branches of a tree partially obscured the view. Detail of the first floor decoration is shown in the photo below which consists of a date along with a sheaf of wheat, tied with rope, with four hands pulling on the rope.

The Perseverance

The symbol is of the United Patriots National Benefit Society which was founded in 1843 with offices here in Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as other offices and branches across London and the rest of the country.

The society was one of a number of benefit societies to which members contributed a regular subscription and were then able to call on financial support in times of hardship. The sheaf symbol was used extensively by the society on their buildings, certificates of membership, documentation and badges.

Like many 19th century societies, the United Patriots National Benefit Society appear to have enjoyed members meetings in pubs which seemed to have consisted of entertainment and toasts (and probably lots of beer). An account from the Islington Gazette on the 4th November 1884 reads:

“The members of the Caledonian-road branch of this society celebrated their fortieth anniversary by a supper, at the ‘Prince of Brunswick’ Tavern, Barnsbury-road on Thursday evening last. Subsequently, the members having disposed themselves for the evenings entertainment.

The Chairman (Mr. W.E. Beer), in a few prefatory remarks condemning the recent disquieting rumours in the press concerning the Navy, proposed the ‘loyal and patriotic toasts’ which were drunk enthusiastically.

Mr G. Coel (the branch secretary), in responding to the toast of the evening, said that, up to the end of last year, the members on the books numbered 95. the receipts for 1883 amounted to £116 14s 11d, and the disbursements £114 17s 7d leaving a balance of £1 17s 4d in their favour, he regretted not being able to lay before them a better statement of affairs, but owing to the unfortunate prevalence of sickness during that time, there has been an extra call upon the funds; but it was, at the same time, gratifying to know they have been more than able to meet the demands made, without applying for aid from the mother society. He concluded by thanking them all for their courtesy and kindness accorded to him during his connection with them, extending over seven years (Cheers).

The proceedings throughout were enlivened with songs by the company, which separated after cordially approving votes of thanks to the Chairman and the host (Mr. Wilson).

I suspect those who had been able to call upon the society during times of sickness were the fortunate ones, with those not able to be members having very little to fall back on.

I should not be surprised as I have been walking London for decades, however it is always brilliant how much history can be found within a very short distance from a specific point. I went to find the pub which had a very colourful decoration in the 1980s and also found one of the key early founders of prison reform and the home of one of London’s benefit’s societies. Digging deeper there is the history of the Rugby Charity which received the original donation of land and has owned, developed and managed much of the local area since, and before that one of the early water supplies to London and the land owner that gave the street its name.

Hopefully subjects for future posts.

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