The Duchy of Lancaster

It is not often that you can trace the naming of streets and the ownership of land to events that happened between 600 and 800 years ago, however there is one place between the Strand and the Thames, and the boundary marker for the Duchy of Lancaster shown in the following photo provides a clue:

Duchy of Lancaster

The boundary marker is close to the ground, by the steps from the Embankment up to Waterloo Bridge, on the Somerset House side of the bridge. The marker is circled in the following photo:

Duchy of Lancaster

It must have been the position of the sun, and the strength of light on the stairs, however I have never realised how impressive the stairs leading up to Waterloo Bridge are, despite walking past, and up them, very many times:

Duchy of Lancaster

The marker is to mark the historic boundary of the Manor of Savoy. I got in contact with the Duchy of Lancaster who told me that this is one of a number of boundary markers, including one on the Lyceum Theatre. A future project to locate them all.

So what does a boundary marker of the Manor of Savoy have to do with the Duchy of Lancaster.

The answer goes back to the Middle Ages, and the time of King Henry III and his wife, Eleanor of Provence in the 13th century.

This was a time when the bank of the river between the City and Westminster was being lined with palaces and grounds belonging to the nobility of the country. One of these was Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester, who formed an estate to the west of Somerset House.

de Montfort has a fascinating history and both supported, and fought against the king, and for a time he ran an early form of Parliament. de Montfort died during the Battle of Evesham on the 4th of August, 1265, when he led a small army of rebellious barons against Edward, the son of King Henry III.

Following the death of Simon de Montfort, the king granted his estate to Peter, the Earl of Savoy, from where the estate would get the name “Manor of Savoy” a name which can still be found in a number of streets and buildings in the area.

Edward was the eldest son of Henry III. He would later become Edward I. Henry III had another son called Edmund, and in 1266 Edmund was granted the title of Earl of Lancaster.

Meanwhile, Peter, the Earl of Savoy had died and the Savoy estate seems to have been in the possession of a small religious establishment. Eleanor of Provence, the wife of King Henry III and mother of Edmund purchased the Savoy estate and bestowed it to her son Edmund in 1284, thereby bringing together the names Savoy and Lancaster.

The history of the estate between 1245 and 1399 is rather complex, so rather than write lots of confusing text, I have tried to show this almost as a flow chart:

Duchy of Lancaster

Basically, the Manor of Savoy is formed, and then granted, along with lots of other titles, to Edmund, the second son of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence.

When Edmund died, the estate passed to his son Thomas, who was beheaded in 1322 after leading a rebellion, then the estate passed to Edmund’s second son, Henry, the 3rd Earl of Lancaster. On his death, the estate passed to his eldest son, Henry Grosmont, who was granted the title Duke of Lancaster by Edward III.

Henry Grosmont had two daughters, and as daughters could not inherit a title, it became part of the dowry of his daughter Blanche, who married John of Gaunt, the third son of King Edward III.

Blanche and John of Gaunt had a son, Henry who should have inherited the estate, however during the short reign of Richard II, the king confiscated his estates and banished Henry.

Henry returned with an army, beat Richard II and became King Henry IV, thereby bringing the Manor of Savoy and the Duchy of Lancaster into royal ownership in 1399.

Henry IV defined that the estates belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster should be held by the Monarch as a private estate, separate to all other estates, and should descend through the Monarchy.

The Crown Lands Act 1702 defined that the Monarch could only receive an income from the estate and not benefit from any capital, and that is how the Duchy of Lancaster, including what remains of the Manor of Savoy remains to this day.

The area occupied by the Savoy in 1755 is shown in the following map extract. Somerset House can be seen to the right of the area occupied by the Savoy.

Manor of Savoy

At the lower left corner of the Savoy, you can see the “Savoy Stairs”. These disappeared under the construction of the Embankment which pushed the river wall further out into the Thames, but as I have written about in a number of previous posts, these stairs provide snapshots of life in London and the wider country.

The 1730s and 1740s were decades when the country was often at war, with, for example, the War of the Austrian Succession between 1740 and 1748 which was basically a war between the ruling dynasties of Europe, and who would inherit the Hapsburg crown.

In 1743, the Battle of Dettingen took place where Britain, Austria and Hanover fought the French. This was the last battle where a British monarch (George II) led an army into Battle.

There are many newspaper reports naming the Savoy Stairs, and for this post I will use just two which tell of the risks to Londoners of being press ganged into the Navy, and of those where the stairs were the point where they left London, during this turbulent period of history.

Those working on the river was always at risk of being taken, but they would fight back. Report from the Stamford Mercury on the 21st June 1739 “Yesterday a Press-Gang of Eight, in a Man of War’s Boat, having impressed a Waterman off of Barge-House-Stairs, a Gally was manned from the Temple, by the Temple Watermen, who taking Truncheons, Stones and Brickbats with them, rowed after the Press Boat, boarded them and at last beat the Gang, brought off the Waterman, and the Press-Boat at the Savoy-Stairs, where she sunk by the Holes made in her in the Battle.”

And from the Ipswich Journal on the 30th July 1743: “Yesterday morning a great number of Recruits were put on board a close Lighter at the Savoy-Stairs, in order to be shipped at Gravesend to Portmahon and Gibraltar.

That was a slight detour, but I find the river stairs tell us so much of what life was like in London when the river was a central part of the lives of so many people, whether a place of work, or point of departure or return.

Back to the Duchy of Lancaster.

The boundary marker photographed at the top of the post shows the historical boundary of the Manor of Savoy, that became part of the Duchy of Lancaster.

I have marked the properties that are still owned by the Duchy of Lancaster. along with the location of the boundary marker in the following map  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Duchy of Lancaster

The roads around these buildings still recall the name of the old Manor of Savoy with Savoy Street, Savoy Place, Savoy Hill and Savoy Way.

The long building that runs to the west of the approach to Waterloo Bridge is the 1932 constructed Brettenham House. The southern end of the building can be seen in the following photo:

Duchy of Lancaster

From Waterloo Bridge, the two river facing properties of the Duchy of Lancaster are Brettenham House and the part brick building named Savoy Place to the left is now part occupied by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and is also available as an events space.

Duchy of Lancaster

Savoy Place is the name of the building and the street that runs in front of the building, and continues left between the gardens and buildings.

The building at the southern end of Brettenham House, facing the river is 1 Lancaster Place, and are the offices of the Duchy of Lancaster, with the coat of arms of the Duchy above the door. These date back to Edmund, the first Earl of Lancaster:

Duchy of Lancaster

The entrance to 1 Lancaster Place:

Duchy of Lancaster

Walking from Waterloo Bridge, down to Savoy Place and this is the view up Savoy Street with Brettenham House on the right. The photo shows the slope of the street down from the Strand in the distance, to the Thames.

Duchy of Lancaster

Part of the Savoy Place building seen from Waterloo Bridge in the street of the same name, can be seen to the left of the above photo.

In front of Savoy Place is a statue of Michael Faraday:

Savoy Place

Michael Faraday was a 19th century scientist who investigated electromagnetism and electromagnetic induction, basically how a magnet could induce an electrical current to flow in a wire, which has led to how we generate electricity today.

The society occupying Savoy Place tells the history of how electricity has impacted every element of everyday life. The Society of Telegraph Engineers was formed in 1871. As the use of electricity started to grow, the society changed name to Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians in 1880, and in 1889, the society became the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

These societies had been meeting in the buildings of other London institutions, but in 1909 the Institution of Electrical Engineers took possession of the lease of Savoy Place which had been built in the 1830s for the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Walking up Savoy Street and I found these garage doors in the side of Brettenham House. The photo shows the slope of the road down to the river, and I rather like the lettering used above the doors.

Duchy of Lancaster

Half way up Savoy Street, and hidden among all the 20th and 21st century buildings is a survivor from the hospital built on the land of the Savoy estate by Henry VII in the early years of the 16th century. This is the Savoy Chapel:

Savoy Chapel

The chapel is a private chapel of the Sovereign in Right of the Duchy of Lancaster. Despite appearances of being older, much of the chapel dates from 1865 after the building was gutted by fire. Only part of the outer wall dates from the original construction in 1502.

The Savoy Chapel is maintained by the Duchy of Lancaster. The chapel as it appeared in 1830 (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Savoy Chapel

Despite the later rebuild the chapel today looks much the same as the above print, although there are no sheep to be seen tending the perfect looking grass.

Savoy Chapel

A future post will cover the chapel and the history of the Savoy and the hospital in more detail, as I wanted to look at the Duchy of Lancaster in this post.

Savoy Chapel

The Savoy Tap pub, which although today is built into the surrounding 19th century buildings, a pub has been on the site since the mid 19th century. Again, the street shows the slope between Strand and Thames:

Savoy Tap pub

My map of the buildings owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, shows a couple of buildings along the Strand, west of Savoy Street. These are the first two buildings in the following photo:

Duchy of Lancaster

The main block on the corner is 111 Strand, and has a map carved on the front of the building which I wrote about in this post.

On the eastern corner of the junction between the Strand and the approach to Waterloo Bridge is Duchy House, the Duchy of Lancaster’s single building on this side of the approach to Waterloo Bridge:

Duchy of Lancaster

On the western side of the junction is the corner building owned by the Duchy of Lancaster with Brettenham House to the left:

Duchy of Lancaster

From across the river, we can see the end of Brettenham House, and Savoy Place.

Savoy Manor

The following print from 1736 shows the Savoy from the south bank of the river. the Savoy Stairs are on the left and the tower of the Savoy chapel can be seen to the rear of the left of the print (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Savoy Palace

If the perspective and scale of the buildings in the above print is correct, then Savoy Stairs would have been just to the left of centre of the Savoy Place building today.

The right hand part of the buildings in the above print would today be under the approach to Waterloo Bridge, hence the location of the boundary marker on the eastern side of the bridge.

As well as the remaining parts of the land associated with the Manor of Savoy, the Duchy of Lancaster also owns a considerable portfolio of other holdings associated with the original holdings at the time of Henry IV.

This includes land in Lancashire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire, various mineral rights and parts of the foreshore in Lancashire.

The estates of the Duchy of Lancaster have been owned by the Monarch since Henry IV took over the Lancaster inheritance in 1399, and continue to be owned by the current Monarch, as Duke of Lancaster.

The name goes further back to 1266 when Edmund , the second son of Henry III granted him the title of Earl of Lancaster, the Savoy name originates from Peter, Earl of Savoy who was also granted the estate by Henry III, and the estate goes back to 1245 when Simon de Montfort formed the estate and built a palace on the banks of the Thames.

All from a small boundary marker on the side of the steps up to Waterloo Bridge. Now I need to find the rest of the markers.

alondoninheritance.com

8th Year of Blogging – A Year in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A London Inheritance Walks

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

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

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

Swanscombe Peninsula

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

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

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

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

year of blogging

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

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

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

The Natural England Press Release can be found here.

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

New River Walk

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

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

new river walk

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

The Changing Face Of London

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

south bank

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

south bank

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

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

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

The Grade II listed old War Office building:

old war office

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

My Father’s Photos

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

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

year of blogging

The same view today:

year of blogging

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

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

year of blogging

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.

The National Covid Memorial Wall 

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

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

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

National Covid Memorial Wall

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

National Covid Memorial Wall

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

National Covid Memorial Wall
National Covid Memorial Wall

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

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

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

The City of London

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

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

year of blogging

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

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

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

year of blogging

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

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

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

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

year of blogging

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

City of London

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

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

The Bank Junction where only buses and cycles are allowed:

City of London

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

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

Looking down Lombard and King William Street:

City of London

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

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

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

City of London

View down Old Broad Street:

City of London

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

City of London

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

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

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

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

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

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

year of blogging

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

year of blogging

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

alondoninheritance.com

Cripplegate Ward: Lady Eleanor Holles School and Cripplegate

I am fascinated by the journey that books take over the years. I have a copy of a book titled “Cripplegate Ward” by Sir John James Baddeley, published in 1921.

Baddeley was the Lord Mayor of London between 1921 and 1922, and on the inside cover of the book is pasted a square of paper detailing Baddeley’s presentation of this copy of the book to his sister Emma Louisa Baddeley:

Cripplegate Ward

As it is roughly 100 years since Baddeley gave the book to his sister, I thought it would be a good time to revisit Cripplegate Ward, using the book as a guide.

Baddeley describes Cripplegate as the second largest ward in the City (Farringdon Without being the larger), covering an area of 63 acres, nearly a tenth of the whole City. In the last census (1911) before Badderley’s book was printed, the ward had a population of 36,793, the majority of whom were employed in the various warehouses and factories that could be found across the ward.

Cripplegate was / is divided into Cripplegate Within and Without to describe those parts of the ward that were in the City side of the old Roman wall, and the area on the outside of the wall. That demarcation makes very little difference today, but would have been important when the wall was still a feature of the landscape.

Whilst I have written about Cripplegate in a number of previous posts, what I also find fascinating is gradually peeling back the layers of the history of a place, and finding more detail than I have already covered, so for today’s post I want to explore two places within Cripplegate ward that I have not written about before. The first is:

Lady Eleanor Holles School

There is an elevated walkway underneath Gilbert House within the Barbican estate. The walkway is lined by a number of round, concrete pillars that support the building above, and on one of these pillars is the following plaque:

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The plaque records the foundation in 1711 of the Lady Eleanor Holles School near the site of the plaque. The plaque is on the pillar arrowed in the following photo, which shows the location and view out to the central area of water in the Barbican:

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

Cripplegate Ward by Baddeley, along with an article on the history of the school in the City Press on the 24th of July 1869 both provide some background into the Lady Eleanor Holles School.

Lady Eleanor Holles died in 1708, and in her will asked that her executor, a Mrs Anne Watson, dispose of her estate “to such pious purposes as her executor might think best”. Her estate consisted of land and a number of properties which produced an income of £62 and 3 shillings a year.

There was already a boys school in Redcross Street, Cripplegate, and Mrs Anne Watson arranged that the properties from Eleanor Holles will were committed to a body of trustees, and the funds used for the creation of a girls school, consisting of “a schoolmistress and the education of fifty poor girls”, and to be known as “the Lady Holles’ Charity School”.

There is no record as to why Anne Watson chose the poor of Cripplegate to be the beneficiary of the Eleanor Hollis will, however Anne Watson appears to have been deeply interested in promoting education for the poor as in her own will she left £500 for a charity school.

Around the start of the 18th century, there were concerns regarding the lack of education for children of the poor, and what this meant for the promotion of “Christian principles”.

According to the City Press, the school “undoubtedly owes its origin to that general movement in favour of the religious education of the poor in the principles of Protestantism which took place in the latter stages of the seventeenth century”. Baddeley also adds that a document in possession of the treasurer of the school and written in 1709 states that “It is evident to common observation that the growth of vice and debauchery is greatly owing to the gross ignorance of the principles of the Christian religion, and Christian virtues can grow from no other root than Christian principles”.

The original school used rooms leased from the boys school, which was located towards the northern end of Redcross Street. In 1831 the enlargement of the school was proposed, and a new school for the girls was built at the southern end of Redcross Street.

I have circled the location of this school (marked as School Girls) on the 1894 Ordnance Survey map below (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The school was located where Fore Street turned into Redcross Street. I have marked the location on a map of the area today (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The plaque photographed earlier in the post is on the walkway under Gilbert House (arrowed in the map above), and the red rectangle shows the location of the school which would have been facing onto Redcross Street, which ran from just above the left of the church, past the school and into what are now the buildings of the Barbican.

The school went through a number of enlargements during the 19th century, and the final build of the early 1860s created a school with a capacity for 300 girls and 100 infants, residence for the school mistresses and a board room for the governors.

In the mid 19th century, the school seems to have been doing financially rather well, as in an 1868 survey of the “Thirty Three City of London Endowed Schools for Primary Instruction for Boys and Girls”, Lady Eleanor Holles school was identified as having the largest endowment, with an annual income of £1,377.

As with many charity schools throughout London, the Lady Eleanor Holles School had the sculptured figure of one of the scholars mounted on the front of the building. The following image of the figure, showing the collar, cap and clothes that would have been worn by the girls comes from Baddeley’s book on Cripplegate Ward:

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The girls were instructed in the practice of the Christian religion. They were taught to spell, read and sew.

Although the school could support a large number of girls and infants, towards the end of the 19th century the majority of pupils were coming from outside the parish of St Giles, Cripplegate. This was down to the reduction in the number of dwelling houses in the area as more factories and warehouses were constructed.

The school was also in competition with the new schools created by the London Schools Board, which were being funded through the rates and parliamentary grants, rather than through charity donations and fees.

The future of the school was decided by the London County County who were looking for a site to construct a large, new fire station.

The LCC offered the trustees of the Lady Eleanor Holles School a sum of £30,000 for the land and buildings. The school trustees accepted, and moved to a new location in Mare Street, Hackney.

The reason for a new fire station in Redcross Street can be seen in this article from Lloyds Weekly Newspaper on the 4th of December 1898:

“Hitherto Watling-street has been the chief City fire station, and the proposed change would be of great advantage, as the warehouses in the vicinity of Wood-street are filled, as a rule, with the most combustible materials. On the northern side the station would be of very great utility to the over-crowded districts of St. Luke’s and Shoreditch, where most houses are old and the danger of fire considerable.”

I have written about the Redcross Street fire station in a previous post, as it was a central feature in one of my father’s post war photos of the area now occupied by the Barbican and Golden Lane estates. The post can be found here, and covers the story of the fire station during the blitz, Redcross Street, and the surrounding area.

What I did not have time to cover in the earlier post was the history of the school, so in the following photo, St Giles is the church which is still a central feature in the Barbican. Redcross Street fire station is the large building on the left, and the rest of the area shows the devastation of bombing, mainly on the night of the 29th December, 1940.

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

So, part of the area now occupied by the central water feature in the Barbican was once the site of the Redcross Street fire station, and before that, was the site of the Lady Eleanor Holles School for Girls.

The school, and fire station were once located in the centre of the lake in the following photo, just behind the tall grasses on the left. The walkway with the pillar and the plaque is in the background, underneath Gilbert House:

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

The above photo also shows how Gilbert House is supported by a relatively few number of slender pillars.

The Lady Eleanor Holles school remained at Mare Street, Hackney until the mid 1930s, when for similar reasons to the challenges of the late 19th century (industrialisation of the area, competition with many other local schools), the school decided to relocate out of central London and moved to a temporary location in Teddington, whilst a new school building was constructed at Hanworth Road, Hampton.

The Lady Eleanor Holles school continues to be based in Hampton and is rated as one of the leading independent girls schools in the country.

A very different location, but maintains the name of Lady Eleanor Holles, who left sufficient money through her property, to establish the original girls school in Redcross Street in 1711.

My second location for this week’s post on Cripplegate Ward is the feature that would give the ward its name:

Cripplegate

Wood Street runs from Gresham Street, across London Wall, finishing with a short stretch where it turns into Fore Street. Just before the junction with Fore Street, Roman House can be found on the right, and on the side of this building is the following plaque:

Cripplegate Ward

Cripplegate was the original northern gate to the Roman fort which occupied the north west corner of the old Roman City. The fort was discovered during post war excavations by Professor W.F. Grimes, and the location and size of the fort is shown by the blue rectangle in the following map of the wall from one of the plaques showing the route of the wall. The location of the gate is shown by the red arrow.

Cripplegate Ward

The plaque is on the right of the following photo of the northern section of Wood Street, the gate would have been across the street, to the left of the plaque.

Cripplegate Ward

The gate is shown in the modified 1633 version of the early Agas map of London, the red circle in the following map surrounds the gate. The orange circle surrounds St Giles, Cripplegate, and Redcross Street, the site of the school and fire station is on the left and Whitecross Street on the right:

Cripplegate Ward

The name of the gate has long been the subject of speculation. A news article from 1904 reads:

“The origin of the name of Cripplegate, in which stands the church of St Giles, has long puzzled the minds of antiquaries. Ben Johnson averred that the street took its name from a crippled philanthropist, but Stow says the name was derived from the thronging of cripples which frequented it for begging purposes. It seems however, now to be decided that the name comes from ‘Crepel-gate’ a covered way in the fortifications. There is still a strong belief prevailing, however, that when the body of St. Edmund was brought from Bury to save it from the Danes, crippled persons by the wayside were cured of their afflictions as the body passed, and that the church of St Giles, the patron saint of cripples, was erected in commemoration of the miracle.”

Baddeley, in his book on Cripplegate Ward provides more:

“The etymology must be sought elsewhere. Cripple-gate was a postern gate leading to the Barbican, while this watch-tower in advance of the City walls was fortified. The road between the postern and the burghkenning (Barbican) ran necessarily between two low walls – most likely of earth – which formed what in fortification would be described as a covered way. The name in Anglo-Saxon would be ‘Crepel’, ‘Cryfele’ or ‘Crypele’, a den or passage under ground, a barrow, and geat, a gate, street or way.”

The book “The Ward of Cripplegate in the City of London”, (1985) by Caroline Gordon and Wilfred Dewhirst also refers to the Anglo-Saxon Crepel, or covered way as the source of the name taken on by the gate, and that Crepel was still used in written references to the gate in the late 20th century. The authors do though dismiss the story of St Edmund as a story that can “hardly be taken seriously”.

Baddeley provides some excerpts from City records to illustrate the history of the gate. In 1297 is was ordered that “Crepelgate should be kept by the Wards of Crepelgate, Chepe and Bassieshawe”, and “At the Gate of Crepelgate, there were to be found at night, from the same Ward Within eight men, well armed; and from the Ward of Bassieshaw six men, well armed; and from the Ward of Colmannestrete, six men, well armed and Robert Cook and John le Little were chosen to keep the keys of the gate aforesaid.”

The gate required regular repair, and in “1490, Sir Edward Shaa, who had been Alderman of the Ward from 1473 to 1485 bequeathed five hundred marks for the purpose of repairing the Gate”.

The gate was well kept and guarded during the Wars of the Roses during the second half of the 15th century. This was the last time that the City wall was strengthened, and the brick work that was added to the City Wall can be still be seen in the stretch of wall by St Alphage, a very short distance to the east of the old location of the Cripplegate.

As with other City gates, it was used as a processional route, with Elizabeth I apparently using the gate as her access to the City on her journey from Hatfield to London after the death of her sister, Mary I on the 17th November 1558.

The gate was also used to display the bodies of those who had been executed as a warning to those passing through the gate.

Cripplegate as it appeared in 1760 looking north from the City side of the gate, within Wood Street:

Cripplegate Ward

The above print from Baddeley’s book is dated 1760, although it may have been a view of the gate some years earlier, as by 1760 the gate was being described as in a poor condition. The carriageway through the gate was relatively narrow, and London had been expanding considerably to the north of the old gates and Roman wall which by the mid 18th century were no longer effective or needed as a defensive structure to protect the City of London.

Tolls were taken at the gate, but these were insufficient to keep up with the costs of repair, so in early 1760, the decision was taken to demolish the gate.

The City Lands Committee advertised for tenders to demolish and remove a number of the old gates, including Cripplegate, Aldersgate and Moorgate.

A Mr. Benjamin Blackden bought Cripplegate for £91 – buying the gate ensured demolition, and allowed the person buying the gate to keep a considerable quantity of building material.

The same Benjamin Blackden also paid £91 for Aldersgate and £166 for Moorgate.

On the 2nd of September 1760 newspapers were reporting that “Tuesday, the workmen began to erect scaffold at Cripplegate for pulling down that Gate.”

By the 31st of December, 1760, the Kentish Weekly Post was reporting that “Aldgate is quite pulled down, and Cripplegate is about two thirds down; and Moorgate, Aldersgate and Bishopsgate are to be pulled down forthwith.”

Demolition of the gate was completed in early 1761, and Wood Street then provided open access from the City to the northward expansion of London.

Lady Eleanor Holles School and Cripplegate are two lost features of Cripplegate Ward. Both very different, and in different periods of the Ward’s long history.

They have both left their mark in that the school is still functioning today, although in west London rather than the centre of the city, and Cripplegate, one of the City’s gates within the Roman Walls, that appears to have been named after an Anglo-Saxon word for a defensive, covered way, has left its name to one of the City’s most interesting wards.

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Hungerford Bridge and Hungerford Market

My father took the following photo of Hungerford Bridge from the south bank in 1947:

Hungerford Bridge

The same view in 2022:

Hungerford Bridge

The photos are seventy five years apart, and as could be expected the core of the bridge is much the same now as it was in 1947.

There are some minor differences. The brick structure above the pier on the right was missing in 1947, although its appearance today may suggest it is part of the original structure.

Two signal gantries can be seen above the tracks in 1947, and on the left of the bridge the entrance to Charing Cross Station can just be seen, where today, the 1991 office block, Embankment Place, above the station is the major feature at the end of the bridge.

The white structures along the length of the bridge in the 2022 photo support the Golden Jubilee Foot Bridge which was completed in 2002. There is a second foot bridge on the other side of the railway bridge, to an identical design.

These foot bridges replaced a single, narrow footbridge that originally ran along the far side of the bridge. It was not that pleasant a foot bridge, always had large pools of water across the walkway after rain, and was often not the route of choice after dark.

Hungerford Railway Bridge was opened in 1864. It was built by the Charing Cross Railway Company to provide a route into the new Charing Cross Station from across the river.

It was not the first bridge on the site, and investigating further reveals the source of the name, a failed market, the original bridge, and a very strange death.

Charing Cross Station was built on the site of the 17th century Hungerford Market, and the site had originally been home to Hungerford House, owned by Sir Edward Hungerford.

The Hungerford family name dates back to at least the 12th century with an early reference to one Everard de Hungerford. The family name came from the Berkshire town of Hungerford, and over the centuries, the family amassed a considerable amount of land and property and became very rich.

Many of the Hungerford’s had key roles in the governance of the country (in  January 1377, Sir Thomas Hungerford was elected speaker of Parliament), and in national events (for example during the Civil War Sir Edward Hungerford was in command of the Parliamentary forces in Wiltshire, where it was reported that he carried out his responsibilities with an unpleasant zeal).

The first record of the Hungerford’s owning a house in the Strand was when Sir Walter Hungerford took up residence in 1422.

The Hungerford’s would own a house in the Strand until the late 17th century, when Sir Edward Hungerford (the nephew of the Civil War Hungerford of the same name) decided to try and create a market to rival the recently opened, nearby, Covent Garden Market.

An Act of Parliament in 1678 granted Sir Edward Hungerford permission to let some of the grounds occupied by Hungerford House for building leases and also to open a market on the site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The market opened in 1682.

Despite being in what seemed to be an ideal location, the market was not really a success. It was sold to Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Stephen Fox in 1685 and after their deaths, it was sold on to Henry Wise around the year 1717.

It would stay with Henry Wise and his descendants until 1830.

The following print from 1825 shows the original Hungerford Market:

Hungerford Market

The image at lower left shows the bust that is on the wall of the market building, and the text below names Edward Hungerford and confirms the opening date of 1682. The coat of arms on the right is that of the Hungerford family.

In the above drawing of the market, there is a sign on the building on the right about Watermen. The text below is too small to be readable. This is probably some reference to the stairs and access to the river at the far end of the market.

The following print from 1830 shows a busy market scene, with the River Thames visible in the gap between buildings in the distance.

Hungerford Market

John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the market between the Strand and the river, and shows Hungerford Stairs running down to the river:

Hungerford Market

As usual, to help with research, I checked newspapers for mentions of the old Hungerford Market. Papers of the 18th and 19th centuries record the numerous accidental and strange deaths that happened across London. I have read hundreds of these and one of the most unusual concerns a worker from Hungerford Market. This is a report from the Ipswich Journal on the 3rd of July, 1725:

“On Sunday Evening, an elderly Man that carried a Basket in Hungerford Market for his Livelihood, was drowned in an excessive Quantity of ‘Strip and go Naked’ alias ‘Strikefire’ alias ‘Gin’, at a notorious Brothel in the Strand; the poor miserable wretch expiring under too great a Dose of that stupefying Benediction.”

I have never heard of “Strip and go Naked” or “Strikefire” as a drink, and assume it was a form of Gin as this was the last alias.

It was with some trepidation that I put the name into Google, and the search results imply that it is now an American drink made out of beer, vodka and lemonade, also a cocktail made from beer, gin, vodka, lime juice, orange juice and grenadine.

Whatever it was in 1725, its description as a “stupefying Benediction” does sound rather appropriate.

18th century newspapers provide a view of the trades within Hungerford Market. These were in the paper for events such as bankruptcy so are not a complete list, but provide an indication: Wine Merchant, Butcher, Slaughter House, Oyster Merchant, Indigo Maker, Ironmonger, Coal Merchant.

As with any location which attracted people, there was also a public house – the Bull’s Head.

During the early decades of the 19th century, the market was becoming rather run down, dirty and surrounded by squalid housing.

The descendants of the Henry Wise, who had owned the building since 1717, sold the land and buildings to the Hungerford Market Company which had been formed in 1830.

The new company believed that by rebuilding, and providing a much improved market environment, the Hungerford Market could be just as big a success as Covent Garden and could also tempt some of the fish trade away from Billingsgate.

The new market buildings were much increased in size compared to the original market. New houses were built alongside, which included a number of pubs. The market buildings pushed the river embankment out by a further 150 feet and a set of stone stairs were constructed down to the river.

The following three prints of the opening ceremony on the 2nd of July, 1833, give an impression of the scale of the new market buildings and the grandeur of the opening, which was intended to give the market a considerable amount of publicity, and attract Londoners from as far afield as possible into the market.

The following print shows the view from the river, with crowds of people in front of the market and on boats on the river.

Hungerford Market

The opening of Hungerford Market was the place to be seen for the fashionable Londoner of 1833 as the following account from the Morning Advertiser on the 3rd of July, 1833 records:

“It having been announced that the opening of this splendid work was to take place yesterday at two o’clock in the afternoon, crowds began to assemble in the forenoon. By the specified hour, the concourse of people which thronged every part of the market, and all places adjoining, whence a view of what was going on could be had, was truly immense.

Of the numbers present it was impossible to form any conjecture which could be depended on. The large hall was most densely crowded with an assemblage of the most respectable kind, including much of the female beauty and fashion of this vast metropolis. The lower quadrangle was no less densely filled with an assemblage of the same class. The same may be said of the space appropriated to stalls and benches, underneath the colonnade. The quadrangle fronting the Strand, being open to all, was literally crammed with human beings. Indeed the open space in that particular part looked like a living mass of human beings.

The pavement on the south side of the magnificent building, which projects into the Thames, was so crowded with persons of all descriptions, that it was next to impossible to move from one part of it to another. The balconies at the top of the building, though a much higher price was demanded for admission to them, were filled with an assemblage of ladies and gentlemen. The view from these balconies was exceedingly interesting. It commanded an extensive prospect of the Surrey hills, and of a very considerable part of London, including a large portion of the Thames. Westminster and Waterloo Bridges were crowded with spectators, as were the tops of a great many houses in the neighbourhood of Hungerford-market.

The river was a most interesting scene; it was covered with boats, all as full as a regard to safety could justify. The coal barges in the neighbourhood of the market were so numerous and so close and so well filled that one could scarcely persuade himself they floated on water.

Taken altogether, we should say, it is very seldom indeed that so many human beings are congregated together.”

The following print shows the main attraction during the opening of Hungerford Market, a balloon ascent:

Hungerford Market

And the following print shows the balloon taking of from the quadrangle of Hungerford Market.

Hungerford Market

The balloon was piloted by George Graham, a prolific 19th century balloonist, who took two passengers with him in the basket.

The balloon took of at 4:30 in the afternoon. It went straight up for about sixty feet before heading in a south-easterly direction. Those in the basket waved their hats to cheers from the crowd as the balloon gained height.

By the time it had been up for 20 minutes it was described as being as small as a kite and after 30 minutes it was all but invisible, as it headed in the direction of Gravesend.

George Graham undertook many flights during the first half of the 19th century, and his wife was also a balloonist.

Margaret Graham was the first British woman to undertake a solo balloon flight, when in 1826 she took off from White Conduit Gardens in Islington, the location of her first flight with her husband just a couple of years before.

Individually, the couple would have a number of accidents. In one flight in 1838 George’s balloon hit a chimney on take off causing bricks to fall on an onlooker who died as a result. In a flight with his wife in 1851, the basket hit a rooftop just after launch causing him to fall from the basket and sustaining serious injuries.

In 1836, Margaret sustained serious injuries when during landing, her passenger stepped too early from the basket causing the balloon to rise, and Margaret to fall from a height.

In 1850 she suffered serious burns when a balloon caught fire.

George and Margaret had three daughters and the couple got them involved with ballooning. In 1850 Margaret flew with her three daughters causing something of a public outcry for taking all her children with her on what was considered a dangerous activity.

Despite having taken part in very many balloon flights Margaret died peacefully in her bed in 1880 at the age of 76.

Back to the opening of Hungerford Market, and in the evening there were fireworks and a ball was held which was “numerously and fashionably attended, and was kept up till a late hour with great spirit”.

The market buildings cost around £100,000 to build, and were expected to be a considerable success and rival Covent Garden and Billingsgate. At opening, all the market space had been rented out.

In the main hall, shops on the eastern side sold fruit and vegetables, butchers, selling meat, poultry and animal food took shops on the western side. There were large cellars and store rooms beneath the building and space for a large number of fish mongers. Space was provided for small traders with benches and stalls.

To try and tempt customers to the market, steam boats were run from east and west London along the Thames to the river stairs at the market. The market had one final trick to tempt what they called “the housewives of Lambeth and Southwark” to the market, and that was a bridge.

Hungerford Bridge

The above and below prints show the Hungerford Suspension Bridge which was opened to provide direct access to the market from the south bank of the river, and to provide another route over the river, as compared to cities such as Paris, London was believed to have too few bridges.

Hungerford Bridge

The bridge was designed by Sir Isambard K. Brunel and consisted of four individual chains running the length of the bridge, with two brick piers providing support for the chains.

The bridge was a considerable financial success. In their 1845 report for the first year of operation, the Directors recorded that tolls to cross the bridge raised £9,000 in a year. When the bridge was built it was expected that the daily traffic would be about 8,000 people, however after opening the bridge was attracting nearly 14,000 people.

The success of the bridge was such that the Board decided to pay the Directors £500 for their services to the company.

In a sign of what was to come, at the Board meeting in 1845, the Directors agreed to lease the bridge to the Central Terminus Rail Company for a fee of £186,000.

In the 1830s / 1840s, the area around Hungerford and Waterloo Bridges was being seen as a location for a railway terminus that would service the south east and south of the country, and connect into London Bridge – a subject way out of the scope of today’s post.

An interesting print from 1850 about flooding caused by a high tide shows some of the advertising for the Hungerford Bridge. The following print shows flooding in Vine Street which once ran where the Shell Centre building now stands on the South Bank, up to York Road. A large banner across the street directs people to the bridge, with another sign on the side of the terrace of houses towards the end of the street on the right:

Vine Street flooding

The south bank, being part of low lying Lambeth Marsh was subject to frequent flooding at high tides as shown in the print.

In the following extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey map, I have ringed the location of Vine Street (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

Vine Street

Despite the optimistic opening, steam boats bringing customers from along the river and the bridge to tempt customers from south London, the market was not a success.

In 1851 a Hungerford Hall was built on part of the site for lectures and exhibitions, however this building burnt down during an accident when lighting gas lamps. The fire also caused damage to the main market hall.

The market would close by the end of the 1850s.

Plans for new railways and stations had been developing during the mid 19th century, and the entire site of the market was purchased by the Charing Cross Railway Company in order to construct Charing Cross Station.

The station would serve as a terminus of a route from the south of the river, therefore a new bridge was needed, and this resulted in the demolition of the original Hungerford Bridge. The railway bridge was approved by the 1859 Charing Cross Railway Act, and construction of the new bridge started in 1860.

Charing Cross Station (and therefore the bridge) opened on the 11th January 1864, and quickly became a busy rail route between south and north sides of the river.

Demolition of the bridge was not the end for parts of the original suspension bridge.

One of Brunel’s projects had been the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This had run into delays and financial problems and Sir John Hawkshaw and William Henry Barlow took over construction of the bridge as consultant engineers, working to complete the bridge.

They were aware of the demolition of the Hungerford Bridge, and to help with the financial difficulties in completing the Clifton Suspension Bridge, they purchased the chains and ironwork from the original Hungerford Bridge for £5,000.

Many of these chains still remain, and look out on a very different view than when they spanned the River Thames (see my post on the Clifton Suspension Bridge and my visit to the hidden chambers beneath the bridge in this post):

Clifton Suspension Bridge

As well as some of the chains still being in use, the core of the piers from the first bridge were used in the construction of the piers for the new railway bridge.

The new Hungerford Railway Bridge initially provided a route for pedestrians across the river, with two footpaths on either side of the bridge. A toll of a half penny was charged up to 1878.

Initially the bridge provided four tracks across the river, however this was later widened to six tracks by the removal of the pedestrian routes, which were moved to a pedestrian way along the outside of the bridge.

The pedestrian route alongside the bridge as it appeared in the early 1950s:

Hungerford Bridge footbridge

The entrance to Charing Cross Station as it appears today:

Charing Cross Station

The ornate construction in the forecourt is a reconstruction (not a replica) of the Eleanor Cross that was located nearby and destroyed in 1647. The original Eleanor Cross was one of several built across the country in the late 13th century to mark the route when the body of Queen Eleanor was carried from Nottinghamshire for burial in Westminster Abbey.

Although the main market buildings were very slightly further back from the front of the above building, they were built on the site of part of the building, the station concourse and the platforms down to roughly where Villiers Street is today, with the steps extending down into the river. The later construction of the Embankment pushed further into the river

The following postcard shows Charing Cross Station as it appeared at the turn of the 19th / 20th century when the main building served the planned purpose of a hotel. Designed by Edward Middleton Barry in the French Renaissance style and which became one of the most fashionable hotels in London. Barry also designed the cross in the station forecourt:

Charing Cross Station

Plans for the reconstruction of London after the war proposed demolishing bridges such as Hungerford Bridge and routing rail traffic in tunnels, however there was no way in which this could be financially justified and the plans did not progress further than a paper proposal.

Hungerford Bridge now stands as a reminder of a centuries old family name, who had a house off the Strand in the 15th century, a site which became a market and is now occupied by Charing Cross Station.

All prints in this post are from the British Museum collection and reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

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Three Halls and a Hospital – City of London Blue Plaques

If you have walked the street of the City of London, you may possibly have noticed one of the City of London blue plaques.

The City of London Corporation have their own plaques to mark the locations of lost churches, hospitals, halls of the Guilds of the City, famous names and events etc. Whilst English Heritage are responsible for the circular blue plaque outside of the City, within the City, the rectangular blue plaque is the standard, and there are around 170 to be found.

New plaques are still occasionally installed, however the process is slow as there is approximately five years for a successful application, with many authorities being consulted regarding the subject of the proposed plaque, along with the owner of the building on which the plaque will be installed.

They display a minimal amount of information – “Site of”, “Near this spot” etc. followed by a name of a building or institution. Where an individual’s name is the subject of a plaque, there is usually a small amount of additional information, although limited by the standard dimensions of the plaque.

One of my many photographic side projects has been to photograph these over the years, so to start a very occasional series of posts on the City’s plaques, for today’s post, the story of three halls and a hospital.

Upholders’ Hall

The first plaque is not that obvious. Walk up towards St Paul’s Cathedral, along Peter’s Hill from Queen Victoria Street, and towards ground level on one of the buildings on the right, partly covered by some planting, is the plaque recording the site of Upholders’ Hall (see bottom right corner in following photo):

Upholders Hall

Site of Upholders’ Hall, destroyed in the Great Fire 1666:

Upholders Hall

My go to book on the City’s Guilds is “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London”, by John Bromley and published in 1960. The book provides an overview of each Guild or Company, along with their coat of arms. The book describes an Upholder as:

“An upholder, or upholster, was originally one who dealt in soft furnishings which involved the use of stuffing to ‘uphold’ them”.

Therefore an upholder is an upholster, and the origin of the word upholster which is now generally used as a verb, is from the act of stuffing an item of furniture.

The Upholders’ formed around 1360, and as with most of the City’s Guilds at the time, their main role was to regulate their craft and ensure that goods produced met certain standards and quality, and were sold at a fair price (to both the customer and other craftsman to minimise any undercutting of members of the Guild). In 1474, the scope of the Upholders’ included “feather-beds, pillows, mattresses, cushions, quilts, curtains and spervers” (a sperver was the canopy over a bed).

The scope of the Upholders’ was enlarged in 1495 to provide them with powers of inspection and control “throughout the kingdom”, and the manufacture of clothing also came within their scope, including mourning clothes which led the Upholders to be spoken of as:

“The upholder, rueful harbinger of death, Waits with impatience for the dying breadth”

As the plaque describes, their Hall was close to Peter’s Hill and was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666. As with a number of Guilds, their hall was not rebuilt and they were able to use the halls of other Guilds for their ceremonial events.

The Worshipful Company of Upholders, as they are now known, is still in existence. As with many of the City’s Guilds or Companies, they lost their regulatory powers during the 19th century, and are now mainly a charitable organisation, but still have strong links with those in the upholstery business and upholstery trade organisations.

The Upholders were granted their Coat of Arms in 1465, and Charles I granted a Royal Charter which was lost during the fire in 1666.

The coat of arms of the Upholders is shown below:

City of London Blue Plaques

The book has a rather complex description of the coat of arms, which seems to reduce to three canopies (or spervers) with one covering the lamb of god and a cross (for religious significance) with the lamb sitting on a pillow of gold. Both the canopy and pillow being products of the Upholders trade.

My next plaque records the location of:

Poulters’ Hall

Just to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral is King Edward Street, next to the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars, there is a plaque on the left column of a rather impressive arched entrance that leads to the offices of Bank of America. One of the very few places where I have had a security guard come out and ask me why I was taking photos.

City of London Blue Plaques

The plaque records that near the location of the plaque stood the site of Poulters’ Hall, between 1630 and 1666:

Poulters Hall

The Worshipful Company of Poulters are an old company, with their origins dating back to at least 1299, when, according to “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London”, “poulterers were one of the trades of the City of London, which elected men to supervise their respective trades in accordance with a proclamation for the regulation of food prices”.

The first documentation stating how the governance of the Poulters’ would work dates from 1370, and the Company was incorporated around 1503.

The company had the power to regulate the trade in poultry, swans, pigeons, rabbits and small game, along with butter and eggs.

Prices for these products were set by either Government, or the Mayor and Alderman of the City, and it was the Poulters’ responsibility to be answerable for any infringements of these prices.

The charter of incorporation dated June 1665 includes “all persons within seven miles of the City who trade of ‘meere poulters or selling poultry wares'”.

Companies such as the Poulters’ were almost an early form of Trading Standards. The type of action against an infringement that the Poulters’ would take, was recorded in newspaper reports on the 22nd June 1749: “Was tried in the Court of Kings-Bench at Westminster-Hall, a Cause wherein the Poulterers Company were the Prosecutors, against one Francis Patterson, for following the Trade of a Poulterer, having no Right or Title thereto; on which the said Patterson was convicted and fined £22. And we hear the said Company are determined to prosecute all Offenders in that Way, which will be a general benefit to the Public, there being no Trade in which Buyers are more imposed upon by Hawkers, and other Interlopers, who send bad and unwholesome Goods, at greater Prices that the Fair-Trader would good ones”.

As stated on the plaque, the Poulters’ Hall was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666 and was not rebuilt, becoming one of the City Companies that use the facilities of other Halls. Since the end of the last war, the Poulters’ have used the Armourers’ Hall in Coleman Street.

The coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Poulters’ is shown below:

City of London Blue Plaques

The book “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London” has a different view of the birds on the shield to the Poulters’ Company, who describe the birds as storks.

The book believes these to be Cranes and claims that the evidence of storks is meagre, with the earliest reference to storks being from around 1780.

A manuscript dated 1587 and held in the British Museum refers to the birds as cranes, and the crane as a food source was far more popular than the stork.

The two birds on either side of the shield are Pelicans, which provide the religious reference as the symbol of the pelican with blood on its breast comes from a pre-Christian legend that in times of famine, a mother pelican would pierce her breast, allowing her young to feed on her blood, thereby avoiding starvation (see my post on St Martin Ludgate for more on this).

Today, the Worshipful Company of Poulters’ run a number of charitable trusts, including one that aims to develop training and education in the poultry, egg and game industries and trades.

My next two plaques are along Aldersgate Street:

Cooks Hall

Walk up from Cheapside, along St Martin’s Le Grand to Aldersgate Street, just before the roundabout that circles part of the Museum of London, and opposite the junction with Little Britain is a building with two plaques.

City of London Blue Plaques

The first plaque, on the right in the above photo records that this was the site of Cooks Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1771:

Cooks Hall

The Worshipful Company of Cooks is one of the City’s old Guilds or Companies, with origins dating back possibly to the twelve century.

The Cooks received their first charter in July 1482, however in the years prior to the award of a charter, the definition of a Cook was not clear, and different groups involved in the production of food were setting up their own Guilds.

The book “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London” provides some background (and uses the original word for a Guild, a Mistery):

“Some confusion exists as to the early functions of the Cooks, the Pastelers, and the Pie-Bakers, each of which appears to have existed formerly as a separate mistery with its own master and ordinances. Regulations of 1379 and 1388, forbidding pastelers to buy ‘garbage’ (probably offal) from cooks for the purpose of making pasties, indicates that the pasteleres’ trade was concerned with the manufacture of meat pies.”

It appears that if Pastelers and Pie-Bakers had existed as separate Guilds, by the time the Cooks received their charter, these separate Guilds may have simply integrated with the Cooks over time or just disappeared. A shame as I rather like the idea of a Worshipful Company of Pie-Bakers (there is still a Company of Bakers however their origins appear to be more aligned with those who baked bread).

The Cooks purchased land in Aldersgate for their hall around 1500, and remained on the site until the fire of 1771. Their hall survived the Great Fire of 1666, although was rebuilt shortly after, which implies there may have been some damage. There was another fire in 1764 before the fire which finally destroyed the hall in 1771.

Newspapers on the 16th August 1771 reported on the fire, and give an idea of the surrounding area of this part of Aldersgate Street:

“Yesterday morning, a little before One o’Clock, a Fire broke out at Cooks-Hall, in Aldersgate Street, which consumed the same, with a large Quantity of Timber in Mr. Hatton’s timber-yard adjoining; it likewise burnt the greatest Part of the Nag’s Head Alehouse, with a Stable and Outhouses belonging to it, and damaged the back part of several of the Dwelling-Houses that front the street”.

Fires were a regular occurrence across the city, and the above report gives an idea of how many buildings were clustered in a small area, and the inflammable materials that would help a fire to spread.

Companies such as the Cooks guarded their role in the setting of rules and regulation of their trade, as was typical of the City of London. On the same page as the above report of the fire, there is the following report, showing how far the City was prepared to go in protecting their privileges:

“My Lord Mayor, we are told, has declared he will spend every shilling he is worth sooner than submit to any Encroachments on the Privileges of the City, though by the King himself, to which end he is getting proper Information and is exceedingly assiduous to come to Action; and in order to enable him to go through with his design, ’tis said he will be again elected Lord Mayor for the Year ensuing”.

It may have been just electioneering, as having a Lord Mayor prepared to spend all their money in defense of the City’s privileges would have been a good message in the campaign for another term as Lord Mayor.

As the hall did not burn down until 1771, it was shown on the Roque map of 1746:

Cooks Hall

The coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Cooks is shown below:

City of London Blue Plaques

A pheasant is standing at the top, and to either side is a buck and a doe. Originally these were shown transfixed by an arrow – presumably to represent dead animals ready for cooking, however the arrows were removed from 1634 onwards.

The plant shown three times on the central shield is a Columbine, and there are a couple of theories as to the use of this flower as it does not have an obvious association with cooking.

It could be that the flower represents one of the three forms of ginger which apparently was known as colambyne, or it could have been down to possible medicinal properties of Columbine, and included in the arms of the Cooks to show the benefits of using a member of the Cooks Company for the cooking of food.

The Worshipful Company of Cooks are still an active City Company. After the loss of their hall, they met in the Albion Tavern in Aldersgate Street, and when this was demolished, they moved their functions to the Innholders’ Hall.

The Cooks are the only City company to have two Masters. The Cooks believe this was so that the Sovereign and Lord Mayor of the City could call upon the Master of the Cooks. with two Masters allowing this to happen at the same time.

The plaque recording the location of the Cooks Hall is interesting for those with a rather geeky love of what can be found on the City’s streets. It is one of a few that has the details of when it was made in the lower right corner of the plaque:

City of London Blue Plaques

The details imply that the plaque was made on the 26th December 1985, by David Birch of the London Pottery at 96 Kingston Road, SW19.

The London Pottery now seems to be part of the London Design Studio which is still at 96 Kingston Road.

The second plaque, just to the left of the Cooks Hall plaque is to mark the site of:

St Mark’s Hospital

The plaque records that this was the site of St Mark’s Hospital, founded by Frederick Salmon in 1835:

City of London Blue Plaques

Frederick Salmon was born in Bath in 1796, and moved to London to take up a position as a medical student at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. After qualification, he set up in practice in Broad Street, where he developed a special interest in rectal diseases, which seems to have originated from his apprenticeship in Bath where patients with intestinal problems would be found as taking the Bath waters was thought to be a cure.

To further this interest, and to help the large numbers of people he was seeing with these problems at his Broad Street practice, he purchased a building at 11 Aldersgate Street in 1835 where he established the “Infirmary for the Relief of the Poor afflicted with Fistula and other Diseases of the Rectum”.

The infirmary was set up as a charity, and was small, with only seven beds available.

The infirmary was not in Aldersgate Street for long. The size of the building and the number of beds that could be accommodated was a problem, so three years after opening, the infirmary moved to a larger building at 38 Charterhouse Square, with Frederick Salmon continuing to run the infirmary almost single handed.

The infirmary would not stay for long in Charterhouse Square, and the next move would also include a name change. Although the plaque in Aldersgate Street states St Mark’s Hospital, the full name of the establishment was the “Infirmary for Fistula and Other Diseases of the Rectum”.

Despite covering serious medical conditions, this was probably not a good name to use for fund raising, or perhaps for patients to admit where they were attending for treatment, so at a meeting of the Committee of Management reported in the Morning Post on 27th April 1852: “the Chairman directed especial attention to that part of the Committee’s Report which recommended the change in the title of the Charity from that of Fistula Infirmary to St Mark’s Hospital” – the recommendation to change name was universally carried.

By 1852, Frederick Salmon had additional support as the Committee of Management stated that “the cordial thanks of the Governors be given to John Daniel, M.D. the Honorary Physician and to Frederick Salmon, the Hon Surgeon, and Founder of the Institution, for the gratuitous and effective discharge of their duties during the past year”.

The change in name also took place at the same time as the third change in location. In 1851 a site in City Road was purchased from the Worshipful Company of Dyers, and following conversion, the hospital, with the new name, opened in April 1852.

Cuthbert Dukes in a brief history of Frederick Salmon and the hospital, claimed that the source of the name was the move of the hospital to City Road on St. Mark’s Day, the 25th of April I852. (The history can be found as a PDF here)

St Mark’s Hospital would stay in City Road until 1995, when it moved to Watford Road
Harrow, as part of Northwick Hospital.

St Mark’s continues to be a specialist hospital for diseases of the bowel, and with St Mark’s Academic Institute, works to develop skills and treatment for intestinal and colorectal disorders, so has stayed true to Frederick Salmon’s original specialist interest and intention for his original infirmary in Aldersgate Street.

Perhaps one of the most well known names treated by Frederick Salmon was Charles Dickens who was treated for an anal fistula in 1841, which Dickens blamed on too much sitting at his desk.

Frederick Salmon died at the age of 72 on the 3rd of January 1868 at Droitwich, which had become his home after retiring from St Mark’s Hospital in 1859.

Just four of the roughly 170 plaques that can be found across the streets of the City of London, but each hinting at a long and comprehensive history, of which I have only just scratched the surface in today’s post.

The St Mark’s Hospital plaque is historically wrong as the name would not come into use until the hospital moved to City Road, however I suspect the City of London were not too keen on the plaque recording the site of the “Infirmary for Fistula and Other Diseases of the Rectum”, but it is brilliant that Frederick Salmon, the founder of the hospital is named.

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The South Bank Shot Tower and Riverside Buildings

I have written a number of posts about the South Bank, and the transformation of the area from industrial and terrace housing, via the Festival of Britain, to the place we see today with the Jubilee Gardens and Royal Festival Hall. The majority of my father’s photos of the area were taken in the streets of the South Bank, however there is one that was taken from across the river featuring the Shot Tower, and part of the Thames foreshore between Waterloo Bridge and the site of the Festival Hall.

1947 view of the Shot Tower and South Bank

The above photo was taken on Saturday 23rd August 1947, and shows the Shot Tower, and the buildings along the river. The approach to Waterloo Bridge can just be seen on the left of the photo, and on the right would today be part of the Royal Festival Hall.

The same view in 2022 (although a bit too much of the Royal Festival Hall):

View of the South Bank

The Shot Tower was just behind and to the left of the yellow stairs seen in the centre of the above photo.

The South Bank today, and the Shot Tower would have been just to the right and further back from the yellow concrete stairs, and the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Hall:

Location of the Shot Tower

The purpose of the Shot Tower, and the process which gave its name to the tower, was the manufacture of lead shot for shotguns.

The Shot Tower was built in 1826 for Thomas Maltby & Company, and in 1839 was taken over by Walker, Parker & Company, who would continue to operate at the site until closure in 1949.

The Shot Tower was designed by David Riddal Roper and stands 163 feet from ground level to the top gallery. A spiral staircase within the tower provided access to two galleries, one half way up from where molten lead was dropped to produce small lead shot, and a gallery at the top of the tower which was used for large lead shot.

It was a considerable brick construction, with 3 foot thick walls at the base of the tower, tapering to 18 inches at the top.

There were a number of shot towers across London, including one on the other side of Waterloo Bridge which I will show later in the post. There was also one in Edmonton and a film was made using the Edmonton tower to show how lead shot was made within the tower.

The film can be found here on the British Pathe site, and shows the process which would have taken place within the South Bank Shot Tower.

The Shot Tower survived the demolition of all the other buildings on the South Bank as part of the clearance for the Festival of Britain, and was included as part of the festival.

It was finally demolished in 1962, clearing the site for the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. A real shame that it was not preserved and space made for it in the design of the new hall. It would have been a fitting reminder of the industrial history of the South Bank.

The Shot Tower survived and was included in the Festival of Britain as it was considered a well known landmark, and as with the lion on the top of the Lion Brewery, there was public concern that such a landmark would be demolished.

The festival organising committee wanted vertical features on the South Bank to draw attention to the site (the Skylon was the primary feature, designed specifically for the festival) and they also wanted the festival to demonstrate Britain’s scientific and technical achievements and advanced British manufacturing, as the country faced the economically difficult post war years and was in desperate need of foreign trade and currency.

The answer was to save the tower, and include it as part of the displays. The very top of the tower was removed and a new structure installed that consisted of a large lamp, emulating a light house, and a large radio dish antenna mounted on an anti-aircraft gun carriage.

The following photo shows the Shot Tower with the additions to the top of the tower for the Festival of Britain:

Shot Tower with radio dish and lighthouse

The intention with the radio dish at the top of the tower was described in the Festival of Britain Guide Book, as: “The radio beacon is above the lighthouse optic. The most obvious part of it is a large reflector which beams a signal to the moon. This is part of the radio telescope and is connected with the display in the Dome of Discovery by underground cable. In the Dome visitors can transmit signals to the moon and actually see them reflected back to the earth after about two and a half seconds”.

The display was in the Outer Space section of the Dome of Discovery, and the use of an anti-aircraft gun carriage at the top of the tower on which the radio dish was mounted, was to enable the dish to move to follow the moon in the sky.

The above description of the intended use of the radio dish is from the official festival guide, and the majority of books on the Festival of Britain repeat this planned use, however it seems that a different use for the dish had to be found after the technically advanced parts for such as radio transmitter / receiver were not available in time.

The Illustrated London News on the 21st April 1951 (not long before the opening of the festival on the 3rd of May 1951) records the new use of the radio dish: “There is to be no moon radar telescope on the top of the 200-ft shot tower on the South Bank: instead , visitors will see radio ‘noises’ or atmospherics from outer space on a television screen.” I assume the guide book had already been printed when the change was made.

The display on a TV of radio noise from sources such as the sun was probably far less visibly dramatic than the radio dish on the top of the old Shot Tower, but it did follow one of the Festival’s aims of showing scientific and technical advancements, just not in such a dramatic way as bouncing a radio signal off the moon.

Mounting an anti-aircraft gun carriage at the top of the tower was not without its dangers as this report from the Evening Telegraph on the 26th of October 1950 describes: “GUN CRASHES INSIDE SHOT TOWER – The gun mounting of a 3.7 A.A. gun being hoisted to the top of the Shot Tower at the Festival of Britain site fell 120 feet inside the tower to-day.

A 20-year-old soldier, Edward Bradley, was taken to St Thomas’s Hospital with slight bruises.

The mounting which weighs about five tons was being placed at the top of the Shot Tower. The gun is to carry a radar set which will send pulsations to the moon during the Festival.

Mr. Morrison told the Commons yesterday the equipment would cost £25,000 and would help in the development of radar astronomy.

Gunner Bradley was half-way up the staircase inside the tower, guiding the load, when he was struck by a falling plank. The gun mounting landed squarely in the centre of the tower and broke through the concrete floor to a depth of a foot.

Also inside the tower at the time were Captain Elliott, in charge of the operation, and a sergeant. The sergeant said ‘We heard a noise as if there was something amiss and we baled out of the tower as quickly as possible'”.

Underneath the radio dish was the “lighthouse” which was in operation from dusk until the evening closure of the festival. It was an electrically operated light (described as “of the most modern all-electric design”) with a lamp of three thousand watts, with a second lamp available should the main fail. The glass of the lighthouse optics which focused the light was made by Chance Brothers, the company that had made the glass for the original Crystal Palace in 1851.

The beam from the lighthouse could be seen up to 45 miles away from the South Bank site.

The following postcard showed the Shot Tower at Night. The lighthouse is the lit section at the very top of the tower, not the beam of light shining down from the tower.

Shot Tower at night

There were discussions on how to decorate the brick tower. Aluminum was suggested (the material was used for the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon), but was deemed too expensive. Cellophane was also suggested but considered a very poor choice. In the end, it was left as the original brick

The two vertical features of the South Bank, Festival of Britain – the Shot Tower, and much taller (300 feet from ground to tip) Skylon:

Skylon

As well as the Shot Tower, a brick building at the base of the tower was retained and used for a small exhibit showing the development of the South Bank site, as well as some control equipment for the radio system at the top of the tower.

A walkway from this building led into the Shot Tower where visitors could look up and see the top of tower, and below a kaleidoscope of changing London scenes was shown.

The following page from the Festival of Britain, South Bank Guide Book shows the Shot Tower and the recommended route:

The Guide Book also included a rather good colour advert from the construction engineers who had completed the work to extend the steelwork at the top of the Shot Tower for the lantern and for supporting the anti-aircraft gun and radio dish:

The following postcard shows the base of the Shot Tower and the adjacent brick building which provided the access route to the tower during the festival:

Shot Tower

My father took the following photo at the base of the Shot Tower:

Base of the Shot Tower

Time to return to my father’s original photo and look at the other buildings facing onto the river:

View of the South Bank in 1947

From left to right:

On the far left edge of the photo is the approach road to Waterloo Bridge. Behind the red arrow pointing to the approach road is one of only two buildings that have survived from the photo, the building is now part of King’s College, London.

To the right is a travelling crane and Canterbury Dock that were part of Grellier’s Wharf.

The name Grellier’s Wharf came from Peter Paul Grellier, who opened a stone and marble business at the site between Belvedere Road and the Thames. Auctions were held at the site of imported stone and marble, for example, on the 20th July 1843, there was an auction of “a very large importation of very fine marble, consisting of statuary, black, black and gold, vein, dove and bardilla. This importation is recommended to the attention of the trade, as being of a very superior description”.

Canterbury Dock was a small inlet of the river into the site. The name Canterbury came from the Archbishop of Canterbury who was a major landowner in the area (and is also why many of the streets with housing developed in the area between Belvedere Road and Waterloo Station in the 19th century were named after Archbishops of Canterbury).

Slightly to the right, in the background can be seen a small part of the main entrance to Waterloo Station, the second building that remains from the 1947 photo.

The buildings of the lead works are next with the Shot Tower behind.

To the right of the Shot Tower, along the buildings facing the river, there is one with the name “Embankment Fellowship Centre” along the top of the building. An enlargement from the original photo is below:

Embankment Fellowship Centre

The Embankment Fellowship Centre was a charitable organisation with an aim of helping unemployed ex-servicemen who had fallen into poverty. Established in 1932 by Mrs. Gwen Huggins the wife of the Adjutant of Chelsea Hospital. She decided to do something to help the ex-servicemen she saw sleeping rough in London, and along the Thames Embankment.

Originally known as H10, and changing name to Embankment Fellowship Centre in 1933, the following article from The Sketch on the 30th of August, 1939 provides a good summary of the organisation’s approach and what took place on the south bank:

“The EMBANKMENT FELLOWSHIP CENTRE provides a constructive solution to the unemployment problem where it affects its most difficult victim, the middle-aged ex-Service man from the Navy, Army, R.A.F., or Mercantile Marine. The Centre does not cater for the vagrant, the work-shy, or the waster, but can claim that every man helped has been reduced by sheer misfortune and no fault of his own to the lowest ebb of poverty.

Painters, doctors, miners, schoolmasters, chauffer’s, stockbrokers, plasterers, mechanics and clerks are all among those who have been assisted. The credentials of all applicants who must be over forty-five, are carefully examined before admission to the Centre, where they are housed, fed and re-clothed and maintained for a period averaging 47 days per case. When a man reaches the Centre he has usually been through a bad period of stress, so the first task is to ‘recondition’ him. To that end he is surrounded by an atmousphere of cheerfulness, comfort and companionship. In the daytime he has occupational work, and every evening he has something to look forward to – a lecture, a show by an amateur dramatic society, a game of darts or billiards, or a film.

Meanwhile officials endeavour to find suitable employment for him; and since many applicants belong to overcrowded or depressed trades, the Fellowship Centre undertakes free training in its own workshops for employment in which middle-age is only a slight handicap, such as valeting, housework, cookery, carpentry, boot and shoe repairs, and so on.

Last year employment was found for 549 men, at an average age of 53 years. The total could have been larger had the premises been capable of accommodating more men. During the past four years some 2000 men have been found employment at an average age exceeding 50 years. Included in the Centre is the Ward of Hope, where a period of free convalescence is provided, following discharge from hospital for homeless and friendless men.

The Council are trying to solve the problem of expansion. They are also trying to raise capital for maintaining a country home, to be modelled on Chelsea Hospital, where veterans of good record with no pension and past the working age can be housed.

Subscriptions to this excellent cause to be sent to Major R.M. Lloyd, Appeal Director, the Embankment Fellowship Centre, 59 Belvedere Road, S.E.1.”

The Embankment Fellowship Centre made a film in 1939 telling the story of a middle aged man named Smith, who lost his job, and could not get another because of his age. Things went downhill quickly with the family possessions being repossessed until he was recommended to the centre. With the centre’s help, he found a new job, and the last scene of the film is Smith and his wife agreeing to donate his recent pay rise to the Embankment Fellowship Centre.

The film “Smith” can be watched here.

The centre on the South Bank was closed not long after my father took the photo, and Hansard records a question in Parliament about the closure, when on the 23rd September 1948, Commander Noble “asked the Minister of Health why the Embankment Fellowship Centre, Lambeth, which provides accommodation for ex-Service men, has just been given notice to quit by 1st December”

Mr. Bevan answered “I understand that this and other notices are occasioned by a London County Council scheme for the redevelopment of the area of the South Bank in which this centre lies.”

The redevelopment of the South Bank would lead to the Royal Festival Hall and the Festival of Britain.

The Embankment Fellowship Centre relocated, and in 2007 changed name to  ‘Veterans Aid’, and is still in operation.

Veterans Aid have their main London centre at ” New Belvedere House”, which is rather nice as hopefully the intention was to name the building after the original location at 59 Belvedere Road on the South Bank.

On the right edge of the 1947 photo is part of the Lion brewery. It would be demolished to make way for the Royal Festival Hall which would be built on the land to the right of the Shot Tower.

The South Bank Shot Tower was not the only shot tower along the south bank of the river. The following postcard is a view from the top of the Shot Tower, looking towards the City of London:

View from the Shot Tower

Between the two chimneys is a much wider tower, with a dome shaped top. This was also a shot tower, and was older than the one on the South Bank.

Built around 1789, it was described as “a new structure, which cost near six thousand pounds, but cannot be considered as an object ornamental to the River Thames”. It was 150 feet high, and in 1826 the top part was destroyed by fire, which was not surprising given the activity carried out within the tower.

The lead works which included this second shot tower were also owned for a period by Walker, Parker & Company, the same company that owned the South Bank Shot Tower. They left the works in 1845 to concentrate on their South Bank site. The site was advertised in the Morning Chronicle on the 9th October 1845 as: “EXTENSIVE LEAD WORKS, Shot Tower, Wharf, Dwelling-house, and Buildings, Commercial-road, Waterloo-bridge. To be LET on LEASE for twenty one years, from Michaelmas next, when possession will be given in one or two lettings, all those capital and spacious PREMISES, with Wharf, extending about 120 feet next the river Thames, with the lead works, shot tower, and buildings lately occupied by Messrs.’ Walker and Co. Also a counting house, extensive stabling and premises, lately occupied by Mr. Sherwood”.

By the time of the above photo, the large advertising sign on the side of the shot tower was advertising that the works were “Lane, Sons & Co Limited. Lead and Shot Works”.

The street name in the advert is given as Commercial Road. This was a short lived name for the street which is now Upper Ground.

The shot tower was demolished in 1937 after having been out of use for several years. Today, the IBM offices (in the photo below) occupy the site of this second shot tower and lead works:

It is such a shame that the South Bank Shot Tower could not have been included in revised plans for the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and could today be seen between the Queen Elizabeth and Royal Festival Halls.

A reminder of the industrial history of the area, and adding some historical complexity to the buildings we see today, lining the side of the river.

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East London 1980s Shops – Fordham Street

Thanks for the feedback to last week’s post. The pub at the top of the stairs leading down to the Thames, next to Westminster Bridge Road was identified as the Coronet, and there is a good drawing of the pub and the stairs on the Closed Pubs site. It was good that I did not get any comments or e-mails that the bronze box beneath the foundation stone of County Hall has been removed, so hopefully it is still there for archaeologists in the distant future to dig up.

For this week’s post, I am in East London, looking for the location of a shop in Fordham Street, photographed here in 1986:

Fordham Street

The same location today. The old general stores type of shop has been replaced by the Algiers Barber and Café:

Fordham Street

The 1986 photo is typical of the type of shop. Goods piled high in the window, bread, bottles of Fairy Liquid and Woodbines advertising running along the top of the window.

No idea whether that is a customer entering the shop, or the owner locking or unlocking.

Fordham Street is in the heart of east London, roughly half way between Whitechapel and Commercial Roads. The street leads from New Road which is a main street leading between Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road, and is part of a residential area that has long housed the changing populations of east London.

In the following map I have circled the location of the shop photographed at the top of the post:

Fordham Street

A view of the corner location of the shop, at the end of a short terrace of houses:

Fordham Street

Although a relatively short street, as was typical in east London of old, the street had two pubs, both now long closed. On the corner opposite the shop is the building that housed one of the pubs:

Bricklayers Arms pub

The pub was the Bricklayers Arms. I can find very little information about the pub, and there are only a couple of newspaper reports that mention the Bricklayers Arms. The first is when a 19 year old labourer, Frederick Perrie was sentenced to six months hard labour after trying to use a counterfeit florin in the pub in 1893.

Throughout the first decade of the 20th century, Friday evenings seem to have been the time when the East London (Jewish) branch of the London Central Council met in the pub. Regular adverts about the event featured in newspapers. The licensee at this time appears to have been Isaac Ernest Marks.

The last reference to the pub is in 1911 when Isaac Ernest Marks had his license renewed. It does not appear to have stayed open long after 1911 as Closed Pubs suspects the pub was closed by the 1920s, and there are no newspaper reports mentioning the pub after 1911.

Pubs such as the Bricklayers Arms would have served those living in the densely populated terrace housing that lined the streets around Fordham Street. Whilst many of these have been demolished, some remain, although the following photo shows the challenges of taking photos with a low winter sun on a bright day:

Fordham Street

Many of the corner shops in Fordham Street have survived, and have changed over the 20th century to serve the changing population of east London:

Fordham Street

The second pub in the street was the Duke of York. The Bangla Super Store on the corner of Fordham Street and Myrdle Street now occupies the building that was once the pub:

Duke of York pub

The Bangla Super Store maintains the tradition of a corner shop stacked high with a wide range of goods for the local community.

Rather strangely, I cannot find any newspaper report mentioning the Duke of York, and cannot find any record as to when the pub opened or closed. It is marked as a Public House on the 1894 Ordnance Survey map of the area, and the building has the large, flat corner on the upper floors, so typical of 19th century pubs where their large pub name / advertising signs were located.

Myrdle Street runs across Fordham Street, and the straight lines of this network of streets indicate that they were laid out as part of a significant development of the area, however the street plan that we see today appears to be the second since the fields that once covered the area were built on.

In 1746, John Rocque’s map was showing the area now occupied by Fordham Street as a field, surrounded by other fields, ponds and cultivated land (the red line indicates the future location of Fordham Street):

Fordham Street

The following is an extract from the 1816 edition of Smith’s New Plan of London. I have ringed the area now occupied by Fordham Street and surrounding streets:

Fordham Street

Comparing with the map of the area today (see below), and the streets, along with their street names are very different. To confirm the location, Whitechapel Road runs along the top of both maps, the start of the Commercial Road development runs along the lower part of the 1816 map, and one of the few consistent street names is Fieldgate Street which runs just south of Whitechapel Road in both maps.

New Road can be seen in both maps, new as this was a major new road built as part of the development of the area.

I cannot find exactly when Fordham Street was initially developed. It is shown in the 1894 OS map. The first newspaper reports which mention the street date to the 1880s, including one from 1886 which advertises a building plot available to be leased in Fordham Street.

Charles Booth’s poverty maps include Fordham Street, with the occupants of the street falling within the classification “Mixed. Some comfortable, some poor”. There was one area described as “Very poor, casual. Chronic want” on part of the land now occupied by Fieldgate Mansions (see further in the post). The street may then date to the early 1880s, however this does seem rather late.

I like that the Footpath to Stepney in the 1816 map is now the Stepney Way, to the upper right of the following map.

Fordham Street

So the streets we see today are not those from the original development of the area, and were built in the decades following the 1816 map. Interestingly, in 1816 there was a York Street roughly where Myrdle Street is today, where the Duke of York pub was located on the corner with Fordham Street, so this lost pub may have been named after the name of the original street.

Myrdle Street was a long run of terrace houses, but one side of the street has been replaced by Fieldgate Mansions:

Fieldgate Mansions

Fieldgate Mansions is a large complex of tenement dwellings that extend along Myrdle Street and further back towards New Road. They were built between 1903 and 1907 to replace the much smaller terrace houses that ran the length of the street. They take their name from Fieldgate Street which runs at the northern end of Myrdle Street.

The original tenants were mainly Jewish immigrants, which probably explains why meetings of the East London (Jewish) branch of the London Central Council were held in the pub at the end of Fordham Street.

Post war, the blocks were neglected by their landlords, some had suffered bomb damage, and by the early 1960s prostitution was a considerable problem in the area.

Many of the apartments in the blocks were empty by the late 1960s and 1970s, and were occupied by squatters campaigning for the restoration and use of derelict property.

They were redeveloped during the 1980s and it is the restored Fieldgate Mansions that we see today:

Fieldgate Mansions

Unlike the Duke of York pub, there are plenty of references to Fieldgate Mansions in the press, that tell of everyday life, and the challenges of those who lived here.

On the 4th of December 1942, the East London Observer has a Naturalization Notice, where “Notice is hereby given that H. LEVY of 48, Fieldgate Mansions, Myrdle Street, E.1. is applying to the Home Secretary for naturalization, and that any person who knows any reason why naturalization should not be granted should send a written and signed statement of the facts to the Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, S.W.1.”

On the 5th December 1941, Fieldgate Mansions were advertising for “two fire watchers, good references essential”. An important role where fire watchers would look out for fires started by incendiary bombs and then do their best to extinguish fires before they took hold. This was a role my grandfather had in his flats.

A strange case reported on the 31st March 1944 was when Morris Lakin, 32, a traveler of Fieldgate Mansions was in court accused of receiving stolen goods, described as property of the Canadian Army. A strange combination of “five revolvers, 83 rounds of ammunition and 63 pairs of woollen socks”. He was also charged, along with two others of receiving a “quantity of cosmetics, a wireless set and an Eastman cutting machine”.

The tenants of so many east London apartment blocks were subject to rent rises, and there were frequent strikes where tenants refused to pay their rent. On the 4th of July 1939, one rent strike ended and another began “Sixty-four tenants of Fieldgate Mansions, who have withheld their rents for 20 weeks, have reached agreement with their landlord. Rent reductions are to be made from May 1st, some amounting to 3s a week. At Linden Buildings, Brick-lane, Bethnal Green, 68 tenants started a rent strike yesterday”.

Just five years where within Fieldgate Mansions we have rent strikes, protecting the community by fire-watching, stolen goods, and H. Levy’s application for naturalization.

Myrdle Street crosses Fordham Street and on the south-western corner of the junction is another business housed in what was an original corner shop. The wooden decoration just visible around the top and to the right of the current shop signs demonstrates that this has long been a corner shop.

Fordham Street

The following photo shows the view west, along Fordham Street at the junction with Myrdle Street. The towers of the City can be seen in the distance.

Fordham Street

Fordham Street is a very ordinary east London street, but it can tell so much about how the area has developed from the field of the 18th century to the network of streets we see today.

The demise of east London pubs, changing populations, and snapshots of the lives of people who have made this part of the city home for a brief few years.

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County Hall and a Roman Boat

Today, the River Thames runs between embankments on the north and south sides of the river, embankments built over the last 160 years, and were still being completed in the 1980s. For centuries the river had an extended foreshore which would shift with the tides, and particularly on the south bank, large areas of wet, marshy land.

One stretch of the embankment, built during the first decades of the 20th century, is the stretch in front of County Hall, the purpose built home of the London County Council, then the Greater London Council, and now home to hotels and tourist attractions.

County Hall photographed from Westminster Bridge:

County Hall from Westminster Bridge

The London County Council was formed in 1889 to replace the Metropolitan Board of Works and to gradually take on powers covering Education, Health Services, Drainage and Sanitation, Regulation and Licensing of a whole range of activities, dangerous materials, weights and measures, street Improvements – there was hardly an aspect of living in London that would not be touched by the LCC.

The problem with having all this responsibility was that the LCC also needed the space for all the elected officials and the hundreds of staff who would deliver the services.

The LCC initially had an office at Spring Gardens, near Trafalgar Square, the old home of the Metropolitan Board of Works, but quickly started looking for a new location as staff began to be scattered across the city.

A wide range of locations were suggested, but they were either too small, too expensive or too close to the Palace of Westminster – the London County Council wanted to be seen as a completely separate authority to the national government, but still wanted a prominent location, suitable for the governance of London.

The LCC already had a Works Department which occupied a small part of a site on the South Bank, to the side of Westminster Bridge.

The new St Thomas’ Hospital on the other side of Westminster Bridge had already started the improvement of the Lambeth side of the river, which included the creation of a large formal embankment.

The land across Westminster Bridge Road from the hospital provided a sufficient area for the LCC with space to grow. It was in a prominent position, directly facing onto the river, and importantly was on the opposite side of the river to the Palace of Westminster so was close to, but separate from the national government.

As the site was being acquired, attention turned to the design of the new building, and a competition was organised to invite designs for the new home of the LCC.

There were some incredibly fancy and ornate designs submitted, however the winning design was one of relative simplicity by the 29 year old architect Ralph Knott.

Construction of County Hall began in January 1909 with the construction of a coffer dam in the river, which allowed the new river wall to be built, reclaiming an area of land from the river. Work then began on excavation of the ground, ready for laying a concrete raft on which County Hall would be built.

Work was sufficiently advanced, that by 1912 the laying of the foundation stone could take place, and to commemorate the event, a booklet was published, providing some history of the construction of County Hall up to 1912, along with some plans and photographs of the original river frontage, and an important find during digging ready for the construction of the concrete raft.

County Hall foundation stone

County Hall would be built on a 6.5 acre site, and to achieve this area, a significant part of the foreshore and river needed to be reclaimed. In total two and a half acres of the river were reclaimed and a new river wall constructed to hold back the Thames.

A new river wall had been part of the construction of St Thomas’ Hospital, and the alignment of this wall would be continued with the construction of County Hall.

588 feet of new river wall was constructed. the most difficult part being where the wall would come up against Westminster Bridge. The piers of Westminster Bridge had been built on timber piles, and the foundations of the river wall would go a further 6 feet deeper than those of the bridge, so careful construction was needed to avoid damage to the bridge. This included steel piles driven around the foundations of the bridge to provide some protection from the excavations of the river wall.

Construction of the wall started in January 1909 and was completed in September 1910 at a total cost of £58,000.

The booklet includes the following diagram which shows the outline of County Hall, the alignment of the new river wall, and within the outline of County Hall, the original buildings on the site and the alignment of the old river wall, showing just how much was reclaimed from the river.

County Hall

The site was occupied by businesses such as Cross and Blackwell with a jam and pickle factory, and the engineering firm of Peter Brotherhood who had their radial engine factory on the site. Their radial engine was an innovative machine used to power the Royal Navy’s torpedoes, as well as being a source of power for other machines including fans, and dynamos for the generation of electricity.

The booklet also includes the following photo of the site from Westminster Bridge. I suspect the embankment wall now runs roughly where the photographer was standing.

County Hall original river frontage

If you look at the edge of the photo on the right, there are a large flight of stairs leading down to the river, and at the top of the stairs can just be seen part of a pub. The pub had one side facing onto Westminster Bridge Road, and the other facing a small square and the river stairs. With limited research time, I have been unable to find the name of the pub, and it is not mentioned in the County Hall booklet.

This is the view of County Hall today, the photographer for the above photo was probably standing a bit closer to the river wall than I am, but everything in the following photo was built on reclaimed land.

County Hall

The new river wall and embankment was a significant construction, and before work on this could start, a timber dam had to be built to hold back the Thames from the construction site. The dam consisted of a wall of tongue and groove timber piles, which had to be driven through four feet of mud, then eleven feet of ballast (sand, gravel etc.) before reaching London Clay, then driven further into the clay to provide a firm fixing.

This was needed as the dam would have to hold back a significant wall of water, as the tidal range could be over 20 feet, so the dam had to hold back sometimes no water (at very low tides) and at very high tides, a wall of over 20 feet of water pressing on the dam.

The embankment wall was a very substantial construction, reaching down over 35 feet below the original Trinity high water mark. Between the river wall and County Hall, a new public walkway was constructed, and under the walkway there were large vaults within the open space between the walkway and the concrete raft at the base.

The following drawing shows the construction of the wall and embankment:

County Hall Embankment Wall

Behind the wall, a large area was excavated. Due to the marshy, damp nature of the ground a concrete raft was needed across the whole area on which County Hall would be built. It was during the excavation to build that raft that a significant discovery was made of the remains of a Roman boat, seen in the following photo as discovered:

County Hall Roman Boat

The booklet provides a description of how the boat was found:

“The discovery was primarily due to Mr. F.L. Dove, the present chairman of the Establishment Committee. While inspecting in January 1910, with Mr. R.C. Norman, the then Chairman of the Committee, the excavation for the concrete raft, he noticed a dark curved line in the face of the excavation immediately above the virgin soil, and some distance beneath the silt and the Thames mud. The workmen engaged suggested that it was a sunken barge, but Mr. Dove realised from its position that it must be of considerable antiquity, and accordingly requested the Council’s official architect to have the soil carefully removed from above.”

Mr. Dove was right about the considerable antiquity of the find. When excavated, it was found to be a Roman boat, constructed out of carved oak. It was lying 19 feet, 6 inches below high water, and 21 feet 6 inches below the nearby Belvedere Road.

The size of the boat was about 38 feet in length, and 18 feet across.

Within the boat were found four bronze coins, in date ranging from A.D. 268 to 296, portions of leather footwear studded with iron nails, and a quantity of pottery. There were signs that the boat had been damaged as several rounded stones were found, one of which was embedded in the wood, and there was indication that some of the upper parts of the boat had been burnt.

After excavation, the boat was offered to the Trustees of the London Museum, who accepted, and the boat was removed from site, with the following photo showing the transport of the boat from the excavation site. It is within a wooden frame to provide some protection.

Roman Boat

The boat was put on display in Stafford House, then the home of the London Museum. (Stafford House is now Lancaster House, in St. James, a short walk from Green Park station).

The following photo shows the boat on display:

Roman Boat

I contacted the Museum of London to see if parts of the boat were available to view, and was told a sorry story of the limitations of preservation techniques for much of the 20th century.

The boat was found beneath the silt and Thames mud in an area of damp ground. This created an oxygen free environment which preserved the boat’s timber.

As soon as the boat was exposed, it started to dry out, and over the year the timbers cracked and disintegrated. Museum of London staff tried to patch up with fillers, but this was long before the chemical means of conservation that we have today were available.

When the Museum of London moved to its current site on London Wall, only a small section was displayed, and this was removed from display when the gallery was refurbished in the mid-1990s.

Some key features of the boat such as joints and main timbers have been preserved as well as they can be after so many years, and are stored in the Museum of London’s remote storage facility, so not available for public display.

The Museum of London did donate some of the fragments to the Shipwreck Museum in Hasting, so I got in contact with them to find out what remained.

I had a reply from the former City of London archaeologist, Peter Marsden, who advised that much of what was preserved at Lancaster House was modern plaster of paris painted black. He also confirmed that only some ribs and a few bits of the planks survive, and are no longer on display.

Peter Marsden has written some fascinating books on Ships of the Port of London. They are very hard to find, however the English Heritage Archaeology Data Service has the book “Ships of the Port of London, First to eleventh centuries AD” available to download as a PDF from here. It is a fascinating read which includes many more discoveries in the Port of London as well as the County Hall Roman boat.

The age of the boat seems to be around 300 AD which is confirmed by the coins discovered in the boat all being earlier, and Peter Marsden managed to get a tree ring date of around 300 AD from one of the planks.

It is difficult to confirm exactly why the boat was lost on the future site of County Hall. There was much speculation at the time, including in the County Hall booklet, that the boat had been lost during battles in AD 297. The burning on parts of the wood written about in the booklet has not been confirmed, and the stones could have been ballast.

It seems more likely that the boat may have been damaged, or simply lost on what was the marshy Thames foreshore and land of the south bank. Away from the City of London, the boat was left to rot, gradually being covered by the preserving mud and silt of the river until discovery in 1910.

There is another feature on the plan of the new County Hall that suggests the boat could have been on the edge of the Thames foreshore.

On the opposite side of County Hall to the river is a street called Belvedere Road. This was originally called Narrow Wall. The first written references to the name Narrow Wall date back to the fifteenth century, and it could be much older. The name refers to a form of earthen wall or walkway, possibly built to prevent the river coming too far in land, and as a means of walking along the edge of the river.

In the following extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map of London, Westminster Bridge is at the lower left corner, and slightly further to the right, Narrow Wall can be seen running north.

Narrow Wall

Although straightened out and widened, Belvedere Road follows the approximate route of Narrow Wall.

If Narrow Wall was built along a line that formed a boundary between river and the land, then the Roman boat was close to this and would have been in the shallow part of the reed beds that probably formed the foreshore.

I have annotated the original plan from the booklet with some of the key features, including the location of the Roman boat:

County Hall

The following view is looking along Belvedere Road / Narrow Wall, with County Hall to the left:

Belvedere Road

The following photo is a view of the entrance to County Hall from Belvedere Road. The Roman boat was found just behind the doors to the left:

County Hall

There is a curious link between the finding of the Roman boat and the laying of the foundation stone commemorated by the booklet.

The foundation stone was laid on Saturday the 9th of March 1912 by King George V. Underneath the foundation station was a bronze box, the purpose of which was described in newspaper reports of the ceremony:

“Depositing a ‘find’ for some archaeologist of the future, the King and Queen watching the foundation stone of the new London County Hall being lowered into position. Before the stone was lowered into position and declared by the King to be well and truly laid, his Majesty closed a bronze box containing certain current coins and documents recording the proceeding, and caused it to be placed in a receptacle in the stone. Perhaps at some dim future day, when London ‘is one with Nineveh and Tyre’ this box and its contents will come to light beneath the spade of an excavator, burrowing amid the ruins of a forgotten civilisation.”

So having been the site of excavation of a Roman boat, the hope was that the bronze box would form an archeological discovery in some distant future.

I assume the bronze box is still there, below the foundation stone, in the north-east lobby adjacent to the old Council Chamber.

Construction of County Hall continued slowly. It was a large building requiring large numbers of workmen and materials.

The coal and dock strikes of 1912 and building workers strike of 1914 delayed construction. Work continued during the First World War, however war demands such as on the rail network caused problems with the transport of granite from Cornwall to London.

As parts of the building became useable, they were taken over by rapidly growing Government departments such as the Ministry of Munitions and Ministry of Food, who were able to prioritorise their needs over the LCC due to the demands of war.

By the end of September 1919, the LCC were able to retake possession of the building, and work on completion continued quickly, with over one thousand men working on the site by March 1921.

The building was soon substantially complete, was gradually being taken over by an ever expanding LCC staff, and was officially opened in July 1922.

The London County Council continued until the 1st April 1965. The London Government Act of 1963 restructured how London was governed, and this led to the Greater London Council (GLC) which took over from the LCC.

The GLC lasted to the 31st of March, 1986 when it was abolished by the 1985 Local Government Act, primarily down to conflict between the Labour held GLC and the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher across the river.

The building was sold to the Shirayama Shokusan Corporation, a private Japanese company, for £60 million. and in the following years it would be converted to a hotel and the ground floor facing the embankment walkway hosts tourist destinations such as Shrek’s World of Adventure, a Sealife Centre and the ticket offices for the London Eye.

County Hall is Grade II listed, and the original Council Chamber of the LCC has been preserved, and is now available to hire and is used as a theatre.

The architect Ralph Knott worked on County Hall for most of his career. He had been called up into the Royal Air Force during the First World War where he was responsible for the design of airfield buildings, but he still kept in touch with County Hall construction. He returned to the County Hall project after the war to see the main building through to completion.

He was still working on plans for extension of the building late in his career, which were not finished at the time of his death at the young age of 50 on the 25th of January 1929.

County Hall is a fitting tribute to Ralph Knott. A relatively simple, but grand and imposing building facing onto the river, suitable for an institution that was to have so much impact on the 20th century development of London. A building of contrasting design to the Palace of Westminster on the opposite bank of the river.

Sad that the Roman boat has been substantially lost. Preservation of organic remains that have been in waterlogged soil for centuries is difficult, but thankfully now much better, as seen for example, with the preservation of the Mary Rose in Portsmouth.

I hope that no readers comment that the bronze box beneath the foundation stone has been removed. It would be great that it is still there for archaeologists in the distant future to dig up.

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Pickle Herring Street Revisited

It is remarkable how some places in London have changed beyond all recognition within living memory, and this week’s photo is a prime example. It was taken by my father in 1947 in Pickle Herring Street, a lost street that ran behind the warehouses on the south bank of the Thames, west from Tower Bridge.

I last wrote about Pickle Herring Street six years ago, when I featured a photo taken from underneath the arch on the approach road to Tower Bridge. This photo was on the same strip of negatives, but I was not sure of the location, whether west of Tower Bridge, or east along Shad Thames, so I put the photo aside to look at later.

I recently spent some time checking maps, and aligning some of the features between map and photo and can now confirm that the following 1947 photo shows an additional section of Pickle Herring Street, not seen in my original 2015 post.

Pickle Herring Street

It is difficult to be precise with the exact location of the photo given the total redevelopment of the area, however as best as I can estimate, my father was standing somewhere on the grass between where I am standing to take the photo, and the tree, looking towards City Hall:

Pickle Herring Street

The building behind the tree is City Hall, the current home of the Mayor of London, which will soon be moving to an existing building called the “Crystal” at the Royal Docks in Newham. (Strangely on the Mayor of London website, the pages describing City Hall have text that refer to the existing building, but with a photo of the new building at the Royal Docks).

To find the location of the photo, I checked the features in the scene against the 1950 revision of the Ordnance Survey map, published three years after the photo had been taken.

In the following graphic, I have aligned features in the photo with those on the map  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

Pickle Herring Street

The red dot and arrow show where my father was standing to take the photo and the arrow is the direction of view.

The first two arrows point to the overhead walkways connecting warehouses on either side of Pickle Herring Street.

A patch of light can then be seen on the street, this is coming from the street Potters Fields which runs to the left of the photo.

The street than narrows with a building seen blocking part of the street, and a narrow section to the right, where in the distance, a larger overhead structure can be seen spanning the street. This is the greyed in block in the map with an X which shows this is an upper floor which runs over a street.

The southern approach to Tower Bridge can be seen on the right of the map.

So having located this 1947 photo, I can add to the photo from my 2015 post to give a fuller view of Pickle Herring Street. This was the view from under the approach to Tower Bridge:

Pickle Herring Street

If you refer to the 1950 map, you can see the point in the street where the building on the right juts out into Pickle Herring Street, and it was there that my father was standing to take the photo at the top of today’s post.

The following photo is my 2015 version of the above, from underneath the approach to Tower Bridge:

Pickle Herring Street

Pickle Herring Street is an old street, and is shown in Rocque’s 1746 map of London. The following extract shows the western extent of the street, the part in my father’s photo was in the join on my printed copy of the map so did not photograph well.

John Rocque map of Southwark

The map does show that there was also a Pickle Herring Stairs to the western end of the street. I do not know what came first, the stairs or the street, but I suspect the stairs as the river stairs are some of the oldest features along the river’s edge.

There are also multiple theories as to the source of the name of the street and stairs. I cannot find any confirmed written reference to the source, but it is probably safe to assume it has some reference to the fish herring that may have been landed at the stairs, but it is impossible to be sure.

The first written references to activities within the street date to the start of the 19th century, and a newspaper advert from the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser on the 14th of February, 1805 refers to the street, and also an interesting way of buying access to a property at the time:

“WHARF, DWELLING-HOUSE and WAREHOUSE, PICKLE HERRING STREET, Southwark, at Garraway’s Coffee-House, Cornhill. The Life Interest of Two Persons, aged 45 and 44, in the above estate, is now to be sold, and the purchaser will be entitled to the property for the life of the longest liver; both are insurable at a very trifling premium, but as there are now two lives, no insurance is necessary”.

Interesting way of buying access to a set of buildings, where the length of time you have access is entirely dependent on the remaining length of life of two people. Presumably they still held the freehold, which at the death of the last, would then pass to whoever was named in their will, and the person who had purchased the property would either have to leave, or negotiate with the new owner.

There is an earlier written reference to Pickle Herring Stairs, which dates from the 16th October 1727, when a newspaper reported that a Waterman’s Boy had fallen in the Thames at the stairs and drowned.

It is safe to assume that Pickle Herring Street has been in existence for centuries, and served the warehouses and wharves that lined the river.

That would all end not long after my father took the above photos. The 1953 edition of London Wharves and Docks, published by Commercial Motor lists the two wharves that were still in operation.

Mark Brown’s Wharf and Cold Stores are the buildings in the first photo at the top of the post. These were owned by the Hay’s Wharf Company and dealt with “provisions, dried fruit, spices, canned goods and refrigerated produce”.

As seen in the 1950 map, there was a long jetty in the river to serve the wharf, with travelling cranes. The jetty could accommodate and fully unload ships up to 420 feet in length.

The buildings seen from underneath the approach to Tower Bridge in the second photo were part of Tower Bridge Wharf, which dealt with “hides, skins, wool and leather”.

The buildings were empty and derelict for much of the 1960s and 70s, were demolished, and for some years the space became a temporary car and lorry park before the building of the area as we see it today.

The grass in the photo is part of Potters Fields green space, an area that runs from close to Tower Bridge, round the back of City Hall and up to Tooley Street.

The space where City Hall is located occupies the western end of Pickle Herring Street, at the far end of the photo at the start of the post.

It is interesting how streets dissapear, and the space occupied by these streets become part of private developments.

Large parts of London have long been owned by individuals. In the past these tended to be members of the aristocracy, who owned the land, then built and developed as the city expanded, and ended up owning large areas of streets and buildings. Many of these are still in existence, however they have reduced from their peak.

Property companies have built significant collections of buildings, and a change over the last few decades has been the rise of the foreigh property owner.

The area from City Hall, almost to Hays Galleria and up to Tooley Street now goes under the name of More London.

The area is owned by St Martins Property, which is the UK investment vehicle of the sovereign wealth fund of Kuwait.

So the space occupied by Pickle Herring Street is now under private ownership, and in common with many of these spaces, is patrolled by private security.

The name Potters Fields referred to the street that ran from Tooley Street to Pickle Herring Street and was the street that allowed light to fall on the street in the distance in my father’s photo. It can still be found as a small stub of the street remains off Tooley Street, and in the name of the green space.

Originally, Potters Fields was the name given to the space to the west of the approach to Tower Bridge, and today occupied by City hall. Part of this space was occupied by a pottery, set up by the Dutchman Christian Wilhelm in around 1618, and which went by the name of Pickle Herring Pottery.

I suspect the name of the pottery came from the street or stairs as it is a rather strange name to give to a pottery.

The pottery operated on the site for around 100 years, before moving to Horsley Down to the east of Tower Bridge, early in the 18th century.

The British Museum has a collection of what is attributed as Pickle Herring Pottery, including the following dish dating from 1668 and showing Charles II crowned and in armour (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Potters Field pottery

Much of the early output of the Pickle Herring Pottery appears to have had a delftware influence, which was probably down to the Dutch founder of the pottery.

Sad that the centuries old name Pickle Herring which referred to both the street and river stairs can no longer be found in the area, however I am pleased to have confirmed the location of another of my father’s photos and at least these two photos help to remember this lost London street.

My original 2015 post on the street can be found here.

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Tunnelling the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

A couple of week’s ago, I wrote about the construction of the Greenwich foot tunnel, based on a pamphlet published in 1902 by the Institution of Civil Engineers. The pamphlet included details of another recent tunnelling project, constructing the tunnels of the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway (known from the start as the Bakerloo line), under the Thames between Embankment and Waterloo Stations.

Parliamentary Acts of 1893 and 1896 had approved construction of the Baker Street and Waterloo Electric Railway, initially running from Dorset Square near Marylebone Station, to Waterloo Station. Further requests for extensions were approved and by 1904 the line ran from Paddington to Elephant and Castle.

The route of the Baker Street and Waterloo railway ran beneath the Baker Street Station of the Metropolitan District Railway, by Regent’s Park and Crescent Gardens into Portland Place, through Langham Place to Oxford Circus (where the tunnels pass over those of the Central Line with a clearance of only 6 inches at one point), down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, along Haymarket and Cockspur Street to Charing Cross, along Northumberland Avenue, then under the Thames to College Street, Vine Street and Waterloo Station.

The majority of the tunnel went through London Clay and was a relatively easy construction project, however there was a challenge where the tunnel went underneath the Thames.

The following diagram from the pamphlet shows the route under the river, from Northumberland Avenue to College Street on the opposite side of the river. The station shown above Hungerford Bridge, labelled Charing Cross Station, is now Embankment Station.

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

The diagram shows a “River Stage” extending south from Hungerford Bridge. This was a large platform, 50 feet wide and 370 feet long on which were built workshops, stores, steam cranes, boilers and air-compressors, staff buildings along with two shafts down to where the tunnels would be built.

The construction platform and shafts on the Thames were needed due to a strange anomaly found in the bed of the river when test boreholes were made along the route of the tunnels.

In the middle of the river there was a sudden depression in the London Clay through which the rest of the tunnel had been bored. This had filled with gravel, which was porous to water and required a different tunnelling method to the rest of the route, which would use compressed air to help keep out water as the tunnel went through the gravel.

The following diagram shows the route under the Thames of the Baker Street and Waterloo railway, the depression in the London Clay and short distance of gravel through which the tunnel would need to run.

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

The diagram also shows the shafts sunk down to the level of the tunnels for their construction, along with the temporary work platform created on the river.

College Street on the right is now under the Jubilee Gardens.

Note also in the diagram how the depth of the two tunnels diverge as they route under the Thames, with the “up” line having a rising gradient towards Waterloo (shown as dotted lines) and the “down” tunnel having a descending gradient towards Waterloo.

The ground beneath the streets and buildings of London is generally invisible, but is just as interesting as the surface. I have written about some of the areas where the geology beneath the city has influenced the development of an area, for example, how water shaped north Clerkenwell, Bagnigge Wells, St. Chad’s Place and a Lost Well, and also when oil was found beneath the streets of Willesden.

There are many features below the surface, some as a result of ice and freezing, some as a result of water, for example when the Thames was a much wider river, and the multiple smaller rivers that ran into the Thames, and some the result of human activity.

I wondered whether the feature shown in the 1902 pamphlet was still there. I suspect we look at the Thames at low tide, and assume a uniform bed to the river as it descends from one side of the river, to rise on the opposite side.

The Port of London Authority (PLA) have a complete set of survey and navigation charts on their website, detailing the river from Teddington to Southend. They show a very different view of the Thames, a view that is essential to those on the river. The depth of water, obstructions, navigation lights, moorings etc.

A view where bridges almost disappear, with only the piers supporting the bridge shown on the chart, as these are the key features for those on the river.

The PLA kindly gave permission for me to include an extract from the chart for Lambeth Reach in today’s post, an extract which covers the area where the tunnel for the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway was constructed.

Port of London Authority chart for Lambeth Reach

Hungerford Bridge can be seen in the centre of map, although only shown by black lines, with the piers supporting the bridge as the key feature.

The depth of the water is shown in metres (the depth is the average depth at the lower of each day’s two tides, which should show the minimum depth of water for those travelling along the river). The green areas along each side of the river are where the land is exposed at each low tide, with the height being shown (numbers underlined).

The depth of the Thames is typically between 2 and 3 metres at low tide in the central part of the river, however as can be seen just south of Hungerford Bridge (arrowed) there is a small area where the depth increases to a maximum of 5.4 metres, which is the same area as the depression in the London Clay shown in the 1902 diagram. Today’s Bakerloo line runs a short distance below the deepest area of this depression.

The PLA charts show how the depth of water gradually increases as the Thames heads towards the estuary, which is to be expected. They are some other similar features to the depression by Hungerford Bridge. For example, just off Limehouse Marina, there is a small area where the bed of the river suddenly descends from an average depth of between 6 and 7 metres, down to 11.7 metres, which is quite a depth at low tide.

Returning to the 1902 diagram of the route of the tunnels, it shows the tunnels running under College Street on the south bank of the river. This is one of the many streets that were lost following clearance of the area for the Festival of Britain.

The 1894 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of College Street (underlined in red) in the following extract  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

College Street

Interesting to compare the above map with the PLA chart. In the OS map, the priority is the land, so the river is shown as a blank stretch of water, with no defining features.

The location of College Street today, is under the northern edge of the Jubilee Gardens. The Thames has also been pushed back, with the construction of the embankment and walkway along the river for the Festival of Britain. In the following map, I have marked the location of College Street, pre-1950 edge of the river, where the shafts to the tunnels and the working platform were located, along with the route of the tunnels which today form the Bakerloo line ( © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

Looking at the area today, the tunnels of the Bakerloo line, run roughly under the blue van in the photo below. The edge of the grass to the right is the approximate pre-1950 boundary with the Thames.

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

This view is looking back towards Waterloo Station from the walkway along the south bank, following the route of the Bakerloo line tunnels and College Street:

College Street

in the following view, the work platform extended from the first bridge pillars on the opposite side of the river (in front of the white boat) and extended 370 feet to the left. The depression in the London Clay is in the centre of the photo, and the Bakerloo line tunnels are running from the white ship to where I am standing to take the photo.

River Thames

One of the benefits stated in the 1902 pamphlet of the work platform in the river was that material excavated during the construction of the tunnels could be taken away by barge, saving the transport of large amounts of material through the city’s streets.

The river continues to be used for a similar purpose, with close to the route of the Bakerloo tunnels, a new construction site on the edge of the river for the Thames Tideway Tunnel or the Super Sewer, being dug at a much greater depth to the Bakerloo line tunnels, but with the same need to understand the geology through which the tunnel will be bored beneath London, and to transport materials via the river.

Thames Tideway Tunnel

There is a superb aerial view on Google Maps of the above Tideway Tunnel construction site showing the shaft down to the tunnel, which can be found on this link.

The two tunnels of the Bakerloo are each 12 feet in internal diameter, and were located in the gravel bed at a distance of 23 feet apart from the centre of each tunnel. As the tunnels approach the south bank, they move closer and the east bound tunnel will be running vertically over the west tunnel along the old route of College Street. This was done to keep the tunnels within the limits of the street.

Presumably this was done to avoid any damage to the buildings on either side of the street, or to create problems with later construction on the street, where deep cellars may have been built.

To get from College Street to Waterloo underground station, the tunnel crossed Belvedere Road and then routed along Vine Street. This street was also lost during clearance for the Festival of Britain, and in the late 1950s, the Shell Centre complex was built over the site of the street (only the tower block still remains).

I worked in the building during the 1980s, and fortunately working in what would today be called IT (lots of network, radio and telephone cabling), was able to access many of the tunnels built as part of the complex. There were two tunnels between the upstream (with the tower block) and downstream buildings of Shell Centre (on the opposite side of the railway viaduct to Hungerford Bridge). One of these tunnels was for pedestrians, and the other was a service tunnel.

The service tunnel had a raised section which went over the upper tunnel of the Bakerloo line, and it was possible to hear trains rumbling through the tunnels below.

To start construction of the Baker Street and Waterloo railway tunnels, two shafts of cast iron, 16 feet in internal diameter, were sunk from the work platform on the Thames. They reached down 50 feet. I like to assume these cast iron shafts are still below the surface, filled in, as probably too difficult and expensive to remove.

From a chamber at the bottom of the shaft, tunnels were started heading in both directions, with special attention paid to the tunnels under the Thames due to the gravel. The gravel was waterlogged, and at high tide, the combination of river and waterlogged gravel gave a head of 70 feet which created a considerable pressure of water through which the tunnel had to be driven.

A special shield was constructed, weighing 29.5 tons and with an outer steel cylinder of 13 feet in diameter. The shield included 14 hydraulic rams, each 6 inches in diameter, to push the shield forward as the gravel in front of the shield was excavated.

The following diagrams show some of the detail of the shield’s construction, including the hydraulic rams, their controls and the pipes feeding the rams, along with elevations of sections of the shield. Each hydraulic ram could be operated independently

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

Specially constructed iron rings were designed for the tunnel wall under the river. Each ring was 18 inches wide, and constructed of seven segments. Initially, the joints between the rings were machined to give a smooth fit between rings where bolts were inserted to join the two, however this design was soon revised with rough surfaces on the joints, which were then packed with creosoted pine wood (figures 7 and 9 below).

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

Gaps were grouted using a specially designed grouting machine (figure 10 above), which applied the grout at pressure, through special grouting holes, to help make the rings water tight.

The first part of the tunnel was through London Clay, however as the tunnel approached the centre of the Thames, it hit the water bearing gravel shown in the diagram earlier in the post. This required a change in tunneling method.

Compressed air was now used to keep the tunnel pressure at a level slightly higher than the pressure of the water through which the tunnel was being bored. This prevented water entering the tunnel, but required adjusted working conditions for the workers, with shifts reducing from 12 to 8 hour shifts.

Air pressure was also adjusted as the tide above rose and fell as the pressure of the column of water above the tunnel through the gravel and the river changed.

As the air pressure in the tunnel was higher than the water column, air would escape from the tunnel, up through the gravel, and could be seen by those on the side of the river as water spouts, with the position of the spouts changing as the tunnel progressed across the river.

The configuration of the shield needed to change as the shield approached and entered the gravel. The following drawings show the shield as it approached and then went through the gravel (called ballast in the diagrams).

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

Work on the first tunnel commenced on the 19th March 1900. it had taken the previous January and February to construct the shield at the bottom of the shaft. On the 2nd of April, work was stopped to allow the construction of an 8 foot thick bulkhead brick wall in the tunnel. This would form the airlock to the section of the tunnel through the gravel where compressed air would be used.

Tunneling restarted on the 2nd of May and on the 6th of June the shield entered the gravel, and on the 15th July, the tunnel was fully within the gravel.

During the period of tunneling through the gravel, there were a few “blowouts” where water entered the space behind the shield. The design of the shield allowed time for the men working to escape, and provided a means of re-entering sections, and continuing work.

On the 27th September, the tunnel re-entered London Clay, with the last of the gravel seen on the 6th October 1900.

Tests were then carried out by removing the pumped air pressure to check for leaks, repairs carried out and compressed air was ended on the 27th October, with the airlock being demolished in November 1900.

The second tunnel was constructed in 1901, with the majority of the same workers, and using many of the lessons learnt on the first tunnel. This second tunnel was completed separately as the shield from the first tunnel was reused.

There were no deaths during construction, two “illnesses” due to working in compressed air, neither of which appear to have been serious. Workers were provided with hot coffee, clean work clothes, and a place to change before and after work. A doctor was assigned to the project to monitor those working in the part of the tunnels with compressed air.

Figure 11 at the top of the following diagrams highlights the method of tunneling in loose, water-bearing gravel:

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

The Baker Street and Waterloo Railway commenced services in 1906, from Baker Street to Elephant and Castle. The Middlesex & Surrey Express on March the 9th, 1906 provided a description of the new railway:

“The Bakerloo, London’s new tube railway, running from Baker-street to Kennington-road, will be opened tomorrow. There are intermediate stations at Waterloo, Embankment, Trafalgar-square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus and Regent’s Park, and a novelty about the new stations is that they are each treated in a separate colour scheme.

A uniform fare of twopence for the whole or any distance is to be charged, and trains will run at frequent intervals from half-past five in the morning until twelve thirty at night. The cars are of the usual type, well lighted, and with good, if not excessive provision made for ‘strap-hangers’ and one can imagine a scramble for straps taking place during the busiest hours. Collisions are rendered practically impossible for a most ingenious system, of automatic signaling has been adopted. Should, however, there be a prolonged breakdown, passengers will be able to leave the trains as a lighted footway has been provided between each stopping place along the whole length of the line.

The booking halls at the various stations are almost palatial in their design, and a feature of the lift accommodation is the use of compressed air in the rapid opening and shutting of the gates. All the wood used in construction has been rendered fire resisting”.

What is not mentioned in any of the news reports covering the opening of the Bakerloo is the tunnel under the river, and the challenges that were overcome in building two rail tunnels through water logged gravel under the Thames.

There was speculation at the time that the depression in the clay was caused by dredging for an earlier tunneling project for the Whitehall and Waterloo Railway.

This was a scheme to build a pneumatic railway in an iron tube under the river, the tube being sunk into the river bed rather than bored. The Railway News on the 20th of May, 1865, provided a description of project;

“THE WHITEHALL AND WATERLOO RAILWAY. Arrangements have now been completed which will admit of the commencement of works of this proposed railway immediately on the necessary Parliamentary powers being obtained. The bill has passed the Commons, it is now unopposed in the Lords and in a few days it may be expected to receive the Royal assent.

The railway is to be worked on the pneumatic principle, and is to be carried under the River Thames from Scotland-yard to the Waterloo Station of the London and South Western. The work must, of course, be finished before the wall of the Thames Embankment on the north side is built up, hence the necessity of pushing forward the preliminary arrangements as quickly as possible.

The railway will be formed by an iron tube, twelve feet in diameter, sunk into the bed of the river and supported in piers – a bridge, in fact, built in, not over the waters. the iron tubes will be made by Messrs. Samuda, and the laying of the tube and the other works will be undertaken by Messrs. Brassey and Co. The principle upon which the line will be worked will be much the same as that adopted on the experimental railway in the grounds of the Crystal Palace. The machinery will be on the Surrey side at the York-road Station.

The whole of the works will be completed in twelve months from the date of commencement. The cost of the undertaking will be about £130,000. The total weight of iron in the tube will be about 5,000 tons, and it will be sunk in four separate sections.”

The project soon ran into financial difficulties, the proposed timescale and costs for the project were hopelessly optimistic. In February 1868, papers were reporting that “The Whitehall and Waterloo Railway is at a complete standstill, and the directors advise the abandonment of the concern, unless, as they say, something turns up between this and the spring. They, of course, hope the South Western will help them in their difficulty, but one would think nothing could be farther from the thoughts of the directors of this company.”

In 1871, the company formed to build the Whitehall and Waterloo Railway was wound up.

The route of this earlier railway did follow much the same route as the later Baker Street and Waterloo Railway, and some parts of the iron tube were found during excavation for the construction of the Shell Centre complex, however I am not sure whether the depression in the London Clay was caused by dredging for this abandoned project.

The shape looks natural, the plan was to dig in the tunnel across the river to bury the iron tube, however the PLA chart shows the change in depth running along the river.

Whether natural or man-made, it was a considerable achievement to bore two tunnels that would become the Bakerloo line, through water bearing gravel, under a considerable head of water, at the start of the 20th century.

If you travel from Embankment Station to Waterloo on the Bakerloo, you will pass through this area of gravel soon after leaving the station.

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