A Coronation and a Wedding – Royal Events in London

In my second post of the Jubilee weekend, I am looking at a couple of royal events in London. The 1953 Coronation and 1981 Royal Wedding. Some of these photos have been in previous posts, some are new, and they show how in many ways royal events in London are much the same today as they were seventy years ago.

Many of my father’s photos were taken on bike rides around the city, early on a Saturday or Sunday. This worked due to periods away on National Service, work during the week, and other commitments. The following photos were taken early on Sunday, 31st May 1953, and look at some of the street decorations for the Coronation.

A decorated café in Hoxton, with my father’s bike leaning against the wall.

London cafe decorated for the Coronation

The above photo has been in the header to the blog since I started in 2014, however I have not yet found the location, apart from it being in Hoxton. The building has almost certainly been demolished.

Appleby Street, also in Hoxton:

Coronation at Appleby Street

Ivy Street, Hoxton, between Hoxton Street and Pitfield Street:

Coronation at Ivy Street

Shenfield Street, between Kingsland Road and Hoxton Street:

Coronation at Shenfield Street

The northern end of Whitecross Street, close to the Old Street junction:

Coronation at Whitecross Street

Another view of Whitecross Street:

Coronation at Whitecross Street

The expectation at the time was of a new Elizabethan era with comparisons back to Queen Elizabeth I as shown by the following tableau along the route of the procession. The text on the left is abbreviated from a speech given by Queen Elizabeth I to the Houses of Parliament on April 10th 1593 (1558 was the year that Elizabeth I became Queen) and that on the right from Queen Elizabeth II from her first Christmas broadcast in 1952.

Royal Events - the new Elizabethan age

A map of the Coronation route was produced jointly by the London Transport Executive and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Coronation of Elizabeth II on Tuesday 2nd June 1953:

1953 London Transport map of the Coronation route

Some of the elaborate decorations that lined the Coronation route:

Coronation street decoration

Whitehall:

Coronation street decoration

The ornate decorations that suspended a crown over the Mall:

Coronation street decoration

The 2nd of June 1953 was Coronation Day in London and a public holiday. As usual for such an event, people started lining the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey well before the procession to ensure a good position to see the new Queen.

The weather during the previous May had been excellent with lots of warm, sunny weather broken only by the occasional thunderstorm. This weather broke by the end of May, for the last week of May and the rest of June the country was under many low pressure areas moving from the Atlantic bringing rain and cold temperatures for June. It was the coldest June for a century.

My father took a number of photos of people as they lined the route, along The Mall and round into Trafalgar Square and surrounding streets.

These show people wrapped up for the weather:

Waiting for the Coronation

These two look cheerful despite the long wait and the weather:

Waiting for the Coronation

The newspaper between them was the Daily Mirror from the 29th May. The headline “The Shame Of Piccadilly” and “The rich street forgets” refers to the complete lack of decoration in Piccadilly for the Coronation. There are two photos on the page. The top photo shows Piccadilly without any decoration, the bottom photo shows, what is assumed to be an ordinary working class street decorated with flags and bunting and a Long Live The Queen banner stretched across the road:

The Shame of Piccadilly

The morning of the 2nd of June was more like an autumn day with rain showers and temperatures reaching only 12 degrees centigrade. Very low for early June.

This is Trafalgar Square:

Coronation at Trafalgar Square

On the left is one of the commentary boxes set-up along the route. This was the first Coronation to be televised:

Coronation at Trafalgar Square

Photo of the small group of people on the lion. Not sure how long the man on the far left was going to balance in that precarious position:

Coronation at Trafalgar Square

A wider view of a very busy Mall:

Royal Events in the Mall

The weather did improve later in the day. Again in The Mall and the crowds are growing. In the top left is the faint outline of one of the arched decorations that spanned the Mall (see earlier photo for the suspended crown), and the legs of one of these decorations can be seen among the crowd sitting at the street edge:

Waiting for the Coronation

The following two photos were taken on the day before the Coronation as people found their place ready for the next day’s events. Sleeping in The Mall:

Waiting for the Coronation

This photo was also taken in The Mall. They look well prepared for the wait. The man is obviously not interested in people watching, he looks engrossed in his book. The group in the background also seem very well prepared judging by the number of boxes they have around them.

Coronation

Royal events have always brought people out to the streets of London, and whilst fashions change and the clothes they are wearing look different, there is a common thread between all the street scenes at this events.

I did photograph the 1977 Jubilee, but cannot find these photos / negatives. Hopefully I have not lost them in the intervening 45 years.

I have found photos of another of London’s Royal events, of crowds building for the wedding of Charles and Diana that took place on the 29th July 1981. On the evening of the 28th July I took a walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral and along Fleet Street and the Strand to take some photos.

Starting at St. Paul’s Cathedral, this is where the best positions were and large crowds had already found their place ready for an overnight stay.

I must have had a couple of photos left on some Black and White film before moving to colour.

Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral:

Royal Events outside St Paul's Cathedral

Crowds at this perfect position looking across at the steps leading into the Cathedral:

Royal Events outside St Paul's Cathedral

I must have then switched to a colour film:

Ludgate Hill

Ludgate Hill:

Ludgate Hill

Looking back up Ludgate Hill. Although this was the evening before, the road had been closed and a large number of people were just walking the route, taking in the atmosphere and watching the people who were settling in for the night along the edge of the route. It was a warm evening and I remember there being a real sense of a big event taking place the following day.

Ludgate Hill

The Old King Lud pub, decorated for the event. This was a lovely Victorian pub, built-in 1870:

Old King Lud pub decorated for the Royal Wedding

Now in Ludgate Circus. This was when the railway bridge still ran across the start of Ludgate Hill. The Old King Lud pub is on the left:

Royal Wedding at Ludgate Circus

Moving up into Fleet Street. This road was still open and the pavements were busy with those walking and those waiting:

Royal Wedding in Fleet Street

This was when Fleet Street was still occupied by newspaper publishers. The Express offices on the left and those of the Star on the right. I remember walking along Fleet Street and the side roads leading down to the Thames on a late Saturday afternoon / early evening and listening to the sound of the newspapers being printed and the amount of activity to get the next day’s edition distributed. All very exciting when you are young and exploring London.

Royal Wedding in Fleet Street

Most of the decorations were put up by the owners of the buildings along the route. “Official” street decoration was very limited, mainly these pennants hanging from lamp posts. Union Jacks along with red, white and blue bunting was out in abundance:

Royal Wedding

The George pub in the Strand which fortunately is still there:

Royal Wedding

Along the side of the Royal Court’s of Justice:

Royal Wedding

Prepared for a long night’s wait:

Waiting for the Royal Wedding

Royal events show a rather timeless side to London. Whilst so much in the city changes, the streets repeat previous appearances whenever one of these events take place.

They continue to attract people in their thousands to line decorated streets, many reserving their place on the preceding day, and braving whatever the weather brings down on London.

A shame though that Transport for London no longer issues any special maps for such events.

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Jubilee Beers

As it is the Jubilee Weekend (or rather four days), I have a Jubilee related post on both Saturday and Sunday. Tomorrow’s post is one of my usual posts, with photos of previous events. For today’s post, I dug out my collection of 1977 Jubilee beers and 1981 Royal Wedding beers from the cobweb filled corner of the garage.

The late 1970s and early 1980s involved a lot of pubs. For some reason that I cannot really remember, in 1977 I collected any special Jubilee beer that I could find in pubs across London and Essex. Probably the novelty of finally being able to legally buy alcohol in a pub without any issues.

They have been boxed and stored away for the last 45 years, but I thought I would get them out for this weekend and see how many of the breweries, brewing Jubilee beer in 1977 still exist.

Young & Co – Silver Sovereign, brewed at the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth:

Silver Jubilee beer

Young’s closed the Ram brewery in 2006, and are now a pub company. Their beers were initially brewed by a joint venture with Charles Wells in Bedford, but they have since sold their share in the brewery venture.

They still have a head office in Wandsworth, close to the location of their original brewery.

Wadworths – Queen’s Ale:

Silver Jubilee beer

Wadworths are still brewing beer at their brewery in Devizes, Wiltshire, but according to their website, they do not appear to have a Jubilee beer for 2022. They had an impressive beer label in 1977.

Greene, King & Sons – Jubilee Ale

Silver Jubilee beer

Greene, King & Sons are still brewing at their brewery in Bury St. Edmunds, however again according to their website they do not appear to have a Jubilee beer for 2022.

Shepherd Neame – Silver Jubilee Ale

Silver Jubilee beer

Shepheard Neame are also still brewing at Faversham, Kent, and have produced a “Celebration Ale” for the 2022 Jubilee, however this is only available in casks in pubs rather than bottled.

Paine & Co – Silver Jubilee Ale

Silver Jubilee beer

A company that appears to have sold their pubs and brewery to a rival brewers in the 1980s. The name disappeared and the brewery would later close.

Fullers – Celebration Brew

Silver Jubilee beer

Fullers seem to have gone with a rather basic label for their Celebration Brew, although is does include a picture of a Griffin, from their Griffin brewery in Chiswick. They are still at the Chiswick brewery, however the Fullers company sold the brewery to Japanese international drinks company Asahi, and Fullers are now just a pub company with Asahi owning the brewery and producing beers under the Fullers name.

Fullers do not appear to be brewing a beer for the 2022 Jubilee.

Ridleys – Jubilee Ale

Silver Jubilee beer

Ridleys were brought by Greene King, who then closed their brewery near Chelmsford, Essex, and stopped producing the majority of beers under the Ridleys name. A rather nice silver label for their Jubilee Ale.

Morells – Celebration Ale

Silver Jubilee beer

The Morells company, along with their Oxford brewery closed in 1998.

Hall & Woodhouse – Bicentenary Ale

Silver Jubilee beer

Hall & Woodhouse appear to have ignored the 1977 Jubilee, preferring to celebrate their 200 year anniversary.

They are still in business with pubs and the same brewery in Blandford, Dorset, however as with the 1977 Jubilee, they do not appear to have a Jubilee beer for 2022.

Adnams – Royal Ale

Silver Jubilee beer

Adnams based in Southwold, Suffolk are still in operation, and producing beers from their own brewery. Unfortunately there appears to be no Jubilee Ale for 2022, although Adnams have branched out to produce Gin and Vodka as well as beers.

Royal Wedding Beers – 1981

On the same theme, the Royal Wedding in 1981 between Charles and Diana also resulted in a number of breweries producing special beers to commemorate the event.

Gibbs Mew & Co – Royal Heritage

Royal Wedding beer

Gibbs Mew & Co of Salisbury brewed a Royal Heritage beer, and their bottle featured St Paul’s Cathedral.

The company closed their Salisbury brewery in 1997 and continued as a pub chain, however the pubs and the company were sold to Enterprise Inns in 2011.

Devenish – Wedding Ale

Royal Wedding beer

Devenish was another Dorset brewery, and followed the same fate as Gibbs Mew.

Devenish closed their brewery in 1985, and continued as a pub operator until 1993 when the company was sold to Greenalls.

Berni – Royal Reception

Royal Wedding beer

If you fancied a beer in 1981 to go with your Berni Prawn Cocktail, Steak and Chips and Black Forest Gateau, then a bottle of their Royal Reception strong ale could be yours.

Berni was one of the pub / restaurant chains that would bring the experience of going out for a meal in the 1970s to the masses. Relatively cheap, good service and a simple, standard menu helped with the popularity of the chain, and the most brought meal of Prawn Cocktail, Steak and Chips and Black Forest Gateau becoming representative of eating out in the late 1970s.

Berni Inns was sold to Whitbread in 1995 who rebranded the chain to become part of the Beefeater resturants.

Brains – Prince’s Ale

Royal Wedding beer

Brains offered their Prince’s Ale in 1981. The brewery was based in Cardiff, where they are still brewing, but no special beers for the Jubilee that I can find on their website.

Fullers – Celebration Brew

Royal Wedding beer

Fullers Jubilee beer had a rather simple label, however they went with a more ornate label for their Celebration Brew to mark the 1981 Royal Wedding.

Greene King – Royal Wedding Ale

Royal Wedding beer

Greene King produced their Royal Wedding Ale. The label looks as if it was only designed at the last moment when it would have been too late to produce a more ornate label, so they went with a simple text based label.

St Austell Brewery – Prince’s Ale

Royal Wedding beer

The St Austell Brewery’s Prince’s Ale was rather unusual in that it was a Barley Wine.

Barley Wine is a type of beer, but is generally much stronger than a normal beer, probably why their bottle was smaller than the typical bottle of the time.

The St Austell Brewery is located in St Austell, Cornwall and the brewery and company are still in operation. They do have a Jubilee Beer called “Thank Brew” which apparently is part of an initiative by breweries, pubs and communities to produce a special beer for the Jubilee, and they are selling a bottled Platinum Jubilee Ale, which has a rather nice label.

J. Arkell and Sons – Royal Wedding Ale

Royal Wedding beer

Arkell’s had a rather impressive, gold label to their Royal Wedding Ale.

The company, based in Swindon is still brewing beer, but does not appear to be brewing a Jubilee beer.

Camerons – Royal Wedding Ale

Royal Wedding beer

Camerons featured a drawing of St Paul’s Cathedral on the label of their Royal Wedding Ale.

Camerons are still brewing in Hartlepool, Teeside, and whilst they do not appear to have a Jubilee beer, they have teamed up with the band Motorhead and have a Road Crew beer available both in draft and bottles.

Based on that small survey it seems that there are a very small number of beers brewed for the 2022 Jubilee, and I have not seen any on recent pub visits.

Probably brewers have to be more commercially focused these days, and the costs of producing a one off product outweigh the potential benefits.

What I did notice when revisiting all these bottles was that the labels do not show the alcohol content / ABV. If you were drinking a bottle of Berni’s Royal Reception Strong Ale, then you had no idea what strong actually meant.

The excellent Boak & Bailey site has researched the introduction of this labelling and found that it was a result of the UK implementing an EEC (European Economic Community) directive, and that labeling beers with the alcohol content became law on the 17th July, 1989.

All these 1977 Jubilee beers and 1981 Royal Wedding beers are unopened, although I very much doubt their contents are drinkable. and probably very unwise to try.

They will now be returned to a very dusty corner of the garage.

Whatever you are drinking (or not), I hope you are having a very good Jubilee four days.

alondoninheritance.com

Christchurch Greyfriars

Before heading to Christchurch Greyfriars, if you are interested in a walk exploring the history of Bankside, I have had one ticket returned from someone who cannot now attend the walk on Sunday 5th of June, and a couple of tickets are available for the walks later in July. The walk can be booked here.

I took the following photo in 1973, taken from Cheapside, looking towards the church of Christchurch Greyfriars using my very first camera, a simple Kodak Instamatic:

Christchurch Greyfriars

Not a very good photo, the Kodak Instamatic was a very simple camera. All the film was contained within a large cartridge, which included the exposed film. Pre-set focus and the only setting for exposure and speed were a single switch which could be moved either to sunny or cloudy. A very child friendly camera.

Roughly the same view, around 50 years later, in 2022:

Christchurch Greyfriars

Christchurch Greyfriars is an interesting, and distinctive church. A very different history to many other City churches.

It is distinctive, as whilst the tower of the church is intact, the body of the church is now a garden, with only one main side wall standing, and a short stub of the other sidewall. The rear wall is completely missing.

Christchurch Greyfriars

The church was destroyed during the night of the 29th December 1940, when much of the area surrounding, and to the north and south of St Paul’s Cathedral, was engulfed by the fires started by incendiary bombs. This was the raid that destroyed the area that would later be rebuilt as the Golden Lane and Barbican estates.

Christchurch Greyfriars was in one of my father’s photos taken from St Paul’s Cathedral just after the war, and can be seen in the following extract from one of the photos (the full series can be seen in this post, and this post):

Christchurch Greyfriars

As can be seen in the above photo, the church still retained its four walls. The church was destroyed by fire which burnt the contents of the church along with the roof, but left the walls standing.

In my 2022 photo you can count 5 windows in the remaining side wall. In the above photo, there are 6 windows (part of the 6th window on the right can just be seen to the left of the end wall of the church). There is also a two storey building which runs south from the end wall of the church.

The reason for these differences, and for the loss of the rear and southern side wall were changes in 1973 to allow the widening of King Edward Street, and the construction of a spur from Newgate Street into King Edward Street.

Christchurch Greyfriars was Grade I listed in 1950, however this protection appears to have been insufficient to prevent the demolition of much of the surviving walls.

In the following map, Newgate Street runs from left to right, and the spur of King Edward Street can be seen cutting across where the two storey building was located. This, along with widening of King Edward Street, and the footpath along the street, resulted in the demolition of the end wall and shortening by one window of the north wall  (© OpenStreetMap contributors).

Christchurch Greyfriars

The church was included in the series of postcards “London under Fire”, issued during the war:

London Under Fire

The church was also included in a couple of works by the artist Roland Vivian Pitchforth for the War Artists Advisory Committee. Both show the burnt out church with the surviving tower and walls:

War Artists Advisory Committee
Post Office Buildings : the Telephone Exchange (Art.IWM ART LD 938) image: a view looking down on a cleared bomb site in between other burnt-out buildings in the City. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/21822

And both show the two storey building to the south of the church where the slip road from Newgate Street to King Edward Street now runs:

War Artists Advisory Committee
Post Office Buildings (Art.IWM ART LD 939) image: a bomb site in the foreground with steel girders sticking up out of the rubble. In the background buildings remain standing, however men can be seen at work securing the building on the right. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/21823

Note that in the Imperial War Museum commentary for the above two prints, the focus in on the Post Office Buildings, one of which was the large building to the right of the church.

The Post Office, or British Telecom has had a long association with King Edward / Newgate Street, but has now moved away. In my 2022 photo there is a large building covered in white sheeting. This was the 1980s head office of British Telecom. It is now being converted into a mixed use development, and is unusual in the City in that the new building will retain the structural framework of the original rather than the usual full scale demolition and complete rebuild.

What has no doubt helped this approach is the height limitation around St Paul’s Cathedral so the usual high glass and steel tower was not an option.

A sign close to the tower of the church confirms when and how Christchurch Greyfriars was destroyed (perhaps there should be a second plaque explaining how and why some of the walls disappeared).

Christchurch Greyfriars

The plaque also informs why there was no requirement to rebuild the church, as the old parish of the church was united with that of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate. The number of people living in the City had reached a point where there was an insufficient number of parishioners and regular church attendees to justify many of the old City churches.

A wooden font cover was rescued from the burning church on the 29th December 1940, and it can now be seen in the church of St Sepulchre.

To the west of the church is a small open space – the Christchurch Greyfriars churchyard:

Christchurch Greyfriars

This is not the traditional churchyard. William Morgan’s 1682 map of London provides a clue:

Christchurch Greyfriars

The church can be seen to the right of centre (although it is facing the wrong way), and to the left of the picture of the church, there is a rectangle labelled “Old Church”.

The original church was the church of a monastery established around 1228 on land to the north of the church by the Franciscan’s, or Greyfriars.

The first church on the site was built in the 13th century, demolished in 1306, and a new church built in 1325. This church was much larger than the church we see today, and as well as the space occupied by the current church ruins, also occupied the green space to the west of the church, hence the comment “Old Church” in the map extract.

The church attached to the monastery was of some size. According to “London Churches Before The Great Fire” (Wilberforce Jenkinson, 1917), the church was described as being “300 feet in length, in breadth 89 feet, and in height 64 feet”.

The book also states that “no other parish church contained the remains of so many of the great, there being there buried four queens, four duchesses, four countesses, one duke, two earls, eight barons, thirty-five knights, etc”.

The queens I can identify are:

  • Queen Margaret, the second wife of King Edward I
  • Queen Isabella, the wife of Edward II
  • Queen Eleanor of Provence (just her heart so not sure if this really counts)

Cannot find who the fourth queen was, some sources reference Queen Joan of Scotland, however most sources state that she was buried in Perth.

Whether it was two and a bit queens, three or four, the church appears to have been a large and important church, as was the Franciscan monastery, with only St Paul’s Cathedral being greater in size.

The monastery was taken by the Crown during the Dissolution when Henry VIII took the properties of religious establishments across the country in the mid 16th century, and after a short period when the building was used for storage, the church became a local, although rather impressive, parish church.

“London Churches Before The Great Fire” records that Sir Martin Bowes, mayor of the City, sold all the ornate alabaster and marble monuments from the church for £50 in 1545.

Ornate memorials did continue after the church became a parish church, and the same book also records a memorial to Venetia, the wife of Sir Kenelm Digby who was buried in the church:

“Her husband tried to preserve her beauty by cosmetics and after her death had her bust of copper-gilt set up in the church. The bust was injured in the fire and was afterwards seen in a broker’s stall. She was painted by Vandyke.”

Bit of a lesson there on fame and beauty, that no matter how good looking, or famous, eventually we may all end up on the equivalent of a broker’s stall.

van Dyke’s portrait of Venetia, Lady Digby:

Venetia, Lady Digby
Venetia, Lady Digby
by Sir Anthony van Dyck
oil on canvas, circa 1633-1634
NPG 5727
© National Portrait Gallery, London. Creative Commons Reproduction

View down the alley between the remaining side wall to the north, and what were the old Post Office buildings:

Christchurch Greyfriars

The church was one of those lost during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

It was rebuilt by Wren between 1687 and 1704 on the foundations of the chancel of the original church. There was no need for a parish church to be the same size as the pre-fire church, and it was also expensive to rebuild with even the smaller church being one of Wren’s most expensive at a cost of over eleven thousand pounds.

It is remarkable just how many churches there were in the City of London. Today it seems as if you only need to walk a short distance to find another church but there were many more in previous centuries.

When Christchurch Greyfriars was rebuilt after the Great Fire, the church absorbed two smaller parishes, the parish of the wonderfully named St Nicholas in the Shambles, and that of St Ewin or Ewine. The churches for these two smaller, adjacent parishes were not rebuilt.

The base of the tower has a number of monuments which were rescued from the war damaged church:

Christchurch Greyfriars

After the church and the monastic buildings of the Franciscans were taken by the Crown, the buildings continued to have a close relationship.

There was always a need to provide help for London’s poor. There were many children throughout the city who did not have a father, or were part of a family that was struggling to feed them. In 1552 King Edward VI responded to this need by working with the mayor of the City to form a charitable organisation to provide for some of these children.

The result being that the old buildings of the Franciscans were taken over, donations were received, a Board of Governors set-up and in November 1552, Christ’s Hospital opened with an initial 380 pupils.

There is a sculpture on the southern side of the church of some of the children of Christ’s Hospital in their traditional school uniform:

Christ's Hospital

Christchurch Greyfriars became the church for Christ’s Hospital.

The buildings of Christ’s Hospital were damaged during the Great Fire, rebuilt after, with a frontage designed by Wren.

The following print from 1724 shows the church to the right, along with the impressive buildings of Christ’s Hospital  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Christ's Hospital

The text below the print provides some background on the school in the early 18th century:

“This Hospital, formerly a House of Grey Friars was first founded by that pious Prince Edward the 6th and has since received many donations from other persons by which Charities poor Children to the number of about 820 boys and 80 girls are not only provided with Lodging, Diet, Clothing and Learning, but when discharged of the House are bound out Apprentices and some of the Boys who have made large advances in Learning are sent to University. The House is divided into handsome Wards, where the Children lodge and a particular Ward where the sick are removed. For their instruction, here are a Grammar School, a Mathematick School a Writing School, a School where Girls learn to Read, Sew and Mark, and of late years, Boys have been taught to Draw. This Hospital is under the care and patronage of the City and by prudent care taken therefor it has produced many famous for Wealth, Learning and Servicableness to the public.”

Christ’s Hospital school left the site in 1902 and moved to Horsham in West Sussex where the school continues to this day.

View from next to the tower into the old body of the church:

Christchurch Greyfriars

View looking south towards St Paul’s where only one window and surrounding part of the southern wall remains:

Christchurch Greyfriars

What was the interior of the church was laid out as a rose garden in 1989, with a major update to the gardens in 2011. The configuration of this garden is intended to reflect the Wren church with the position of pews marked by the box edges and wooden towers where the old stone columns were located:

Christchurch Greyfriars

The northern wall of the church from what was the interior of the church:

Christchurch Greyfriars

If you return to my father’s photo of the church, you can see at the top corners of the church walls, there were stone pineapples. The ones rescued from the demolished walls can be found on the ground in the garden, next to the tower:

Christchurch Greyfriars

View along the centre of the church, pews would have been on either side with the small box hedges marking the edge of the pews:

Christchurch Greyfriars

A view of the tower of the church and part of the garden earlier in the year:

Christchurch Greyfriars

Christchurch Greyfriars is a survivor. Originally dating from the 13th century, it has survived being part of a Franciscan monastery, a charitable hospital / school, the Great Fire, the London Blitz and post war road construction and extension.

During many of these events, the church has shrunk in size, leaving the view we see today.

There was a campaign a number of years ago to rebuild the missing walls of the church, and for the church to become a memorial “to honour all Londoners who have been the victims of bombings in wartime and peacetime during the modern era”, however nothing seems to have come of this.

On a sunny spring or summer’s day, the gardens are a wonderful place to sit and contemplate the history of the church, surrounded by plants, flowers and bees.

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The Champion Pub and Oxford Market

All my walking tours have sold out, with the exception of a few tickets on the Bankside to Pickle Herring Street tour. Details and booking here.

In 1980 I was wandering around London trying out a new zoom lens for my Canon AE-1 camera, taking some not very good photos. One of these was of the Champion Pub at the junction of Eastcastle Street and Wells Street, with the Post Office Tower in the background:

Champion pub

The photo was taken from the southern end of Wells Street towards Oxford Street, and a sign for Eastcastle Street can be seen on the right of the Champion pub. I think I was trying to contrast the old pub and the new telecoms tower.

A wider view of the same scene today, with the BT Tower as it is now known, starting to disappear behind the new floors being added to the building behind the Champion:

Champion pub

A closer view of the pub in 2022, 42 years after my original photo:

Champion pub

Given how many pubs have closed over the last few decades, it is really good that the Champion has survived, although it is a shame that the curved corner of the building has been painted, and it has lost the name which ran the full length of the corner of the pub.

The large ornamental cast iron lamp still decorates the corner of the building.

The curved corner to the upper floors was a key feature of many 19th century London pubs. They were meant to advertise the pub, the name could be seen from a distance on crowded streets, and the name would often give an identity to the junction of streets.

For an example of a pub which had a very colourful corner in the 1980s, and today displays the current name of the pub on the curved corner, see my post on the Perseverance or Sun Pub, Lamb’s Conduit Street.

The Champion is Grade II listed, and the Historic England listing details provide some background:

Corner public house. c.1860-70. Gault brick with stucco dressings, slate roof. Lively classical detailing. 4 storeys. 3 windows wide to each front and inset stuccoed quadrant corner. Ground floor has bar front with corner and side entrances and fronted bar windows framed by crude pilasters carrying entablature- fascia with richly decorated modillion cornice. Upper floors have segmental arched sash windows, those on 1st floor with keystones and marks. Heavy moulded crowning cornice and blocking stuccoed. Large ornamental cast iron lamp bracket to corner. Interior bar fittings original in part with screens etc, some renewal.

The “some renewal” statement refers to a few changes to the pub since it was built.

The first post-war renewal came in the 1950s. As with so many Victorian pubs across London, the Champion was in need of some refurbishment. Over 80 years of serving Wells Street, and open during the years of the second world war, resulted in the owners, the brewers  Barclay Perkins, engaging architect and designer John and Sylvia Reid.

The Reid’s were better known as interior, furniture and lighting designers rather than architecture, and their changes to the Champion were mainly of design.

The large Champion name down the curved corner of the pub was a result of their work. The lettering was in 30 inch Roman, and the letters were shaded to give the impression that they had been engraved rather than painted. The new name replaced a number of old wooden signs that were mounted on the corner. The corner of the pub was floodlit at night, which must have looked rather magnificent, and ensured the pub stood out if you looked down Wells Street when walking along Oxford Street.

The interior had been rather plain and was painted in what were described as drab colours.

The Reid’s divided what had been two bars to form three, added button leather seating around the edge of the bars, restored the bar and some of the original iron tables, and they added new glass windows consisting of clear glass for the upper half and frosted, acid cut glass for the lower half.

Features inside the pub included the use of mahogany panels, etched and decorated glass windows between bars, and textured paper on the ceiling. refurbishment also included the first floor dining room.

Their refresh of the Champion pub did get some criticism as there were views that it was returning to Victorian design themes. The early 1950s were a time when design and architecture were looking at more modern forms, typified in the themes and designs used for the 1951 Festival of Britain.

The early 1950s update to the pub included plain and frosted glass on the external windows, not the remarkable, stained glass windows that we see today. These are the work of Ann Sotheran, and were installed in 1989.

They feature a series of 19th century “champions”, with figures such as Florence Nightingale and the cricketer W.G. Grace.

On a sunny day, these windows are very impressive when seen from inside the bar:

Champion pub stained glass

The missionary and explorer David Livingstone:

Champion pub

Newspaper reports mentioning the Champion cover all the usual job adverts, reports of crime and theft etc., however I found one interesting article that hinted at what the inside of the pub may have been like in the 1870s.

In September 1874, the Patent Gas Economiser Company held their first annual general meeting, where they reported that they had installed 50 lights in the Champion. Seems a rather large number, but spread across three floors, entering the pub in the 1870s would have been entering a reasonably brightly lit pub, with the hiss of gas lamps and the associated smell of burning gas.

The same report also mentions that the company had installed 1000 lights at the Royal Polytechnic Institution in Regent Street, 600 lights in the German Gymnastic Society in St Pancras Road, and 50 lights in the Hotel Cavour in Leicester Square.

To the left of the Champion pub, along Wells Street, building work is transforming the building that was here, and is adding additional floors to the top, which partly obscures the view of the BT Tower from further south along the street:

Champion pub

There was one further site that I wanted to find, and this required a walk west, along Eastcastle Street.

Eastcastle Street was originally called Castle Street, a name taken from a pub that was in the street. The name change to Eastcastle Street happened in 1918. I cannot find the reason for the name change, but suspect it was one of the many name changes across London in the late 19th / early 20th centuries, to reduce the number of streets with the same name.

At 30 Eastcastle Street is this rather ornate building:

Eastcastle Street

Dating from 1889, this is the Grade II listed Welsh Baptist Chapel, the main church for Welsh Baptists in London.

Eastcastle Street is a mix of architectural styles. Narrow buildings that retain the original building plots, buildings with decoration that does not seem to make any sense, and rows of the type of businesses that frequent the streets north of Oxford Street.

Eastcastle Street

At the end of Eastcastle Street is the junction with Great Titchfield Street and Market Place:

Oxford Market

In the above photo, Great Titchfield Street runs left to right, and the larger open space opposite is part of Market Place.

The name comes from Oxford Market, a market that originally occupied much of the space around the above photo, with the market building on the site of the building to the left, and the open space in the photo being part of the open space around the market building.

in the following map, the Champion pub is circled to the upper right. On the left of the map, the blue square is where the market building of Oxford Market was located, the red rectangles show the open space around the market with the upper rectangle being where the open space can still be seen today (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Oxford Market

Rocque’s map of 1746 shows Oxford Market, just north of Oxford Street:

Oxford Market

Oxford Market had been completed by 1724, however the opening was delayed as Lord Craven, who owned land to the south of Oxford Street feared what the competition would do to his Carnaby Market, however Oxford Market was finally granted a Royal Grant to open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The market was built to encourage activity in the area, as the fields to the north of Oxford Street were gradually being transformed into streets and housing.

The market took its name, either from Oxford Street to the south, or more likely, Edward, Lord Harley, the Earl of Oxford who was the owner of the land on which the market was built as well as much of the surrounding land.

Harley had come into possession of the land through his wife, Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles, who was the only child of John Holles, the Duke of Newcastle, the original owner of the farmland around Oxford Street.

The original market buildings were of wood, and the market was rebuilt in a more substantial form in 1815. The following view of the second version of Oxford Market comes from Edward Walford’s Old and New London:

Oxford Market

We can get a view of what was for sale at Oxford Market from newspaper reports:

  • February 8th, 1826 – john Wollaston & Co were selling their Gin in quantities of no less than 2 gallons at a price of 15 shillings per gallon
  • January 20th, 1824 – A “Great Room” of 45 feet square in the interior of the market was being advertised as being suitable for upholsterers, warehousemen and flower gardeners. The room was fitted with an ornamental stone basin and fountain and was suited for a flower garden
  • April 25th, 1841 – The Oxford Market Loan Office was advertising loans of Ten Guineas, Ten and Fifteen Pounds, which could be had from their office at the market
  • May 18th, 1833 – Rippon’s Old Established Furnishing Ironmongery Warehouse was advertising Fire Irons, Coal Scuttles, Knives and Forks, Metal Teapots and Tea Urns for sale from their warehouse at the market
  • December 15th 1827 – The lease of a Pork Butcher and Cheesemonger store at the market was being advertised. The store had been taking in £3,800 per year
  • June 27th, 1801 – Several lumps of butter, deficient in weight, were seized by the Clerks of the Oxford Market and distributed to the poor

So traders in the Oxford Market were selling a wide range of products, butter, pork, teapots and coal scuttles, flowers and gin, and you could also take out a loan at the market.

Nothing to do with Oxford Market, however on the same page as the 1801 report of butter being seized, there was another report which tells some of the terrible stories of life in London:

“Wednesday were executed in the Old Bailey, pursuant to their sentences, J. McIntoth and J. Wooldridge, for forgery, and W. Cross, R. Nutts, J, Riley and J. Roberts, for highway robbery. The unfortunate convicts were all men of decent appearance, and their conduct on the scaffold was such as became their awful situation.

Some of the above prisoners attempted on Monday to make their escape from Newgate through the common sewer – they explored as far as Milk-street, Cheapside, when the intolerable stench and filth overpowered their senses; with great difficulty they found their way to the iron-grating and intreated by their cries to be liberated. assistance was immediately procured, when they were released without much difficulty.”

These two paragraphs say so much: that you could be hung for forgery, the statement that their conduct on the scaffold was “such as became their awful situation”, and their desperation in seeking an escape via the sewer. Milk Street is roughly 568 metres from the site of the Old Bailey so they had travelled a considerable distance in an early 19th century sewer.

Back to Oxford Market, and the following view is looking down Market Place towards Oxford Street which can be seen through the alley at the end of the street:

Oxford Market

In the above photo, the market building was on the left, and open space in front of the market occupied the space where the building is on the right, the corner of which is shown in the following photo. The block was all part of the open space in front of Oxford Market.

Oxford Market

Oxford Market was never really a financial success. For a London market it was relatively small which may have limited the number of suppliers and the range of goods available.

By the late 1830s, part of the market had been converted into offices from where out-pensioners of Chelsea Hospital were paid.

The market buildings was sold in 1876, demolished in 1881, and a block of flats built on the site.

Although Oxford Market is long gone, the street surrounding three sides of the old market building is still called Market Place, and the footprint of the building, and the surrounding open space can still be seen in the surrounding streets, and the wider open space and restaurants along the northern stretch of Market Place.

alondoninheritance.com

The Sad Fate of Two Greenwich Murals

The 1980s were a boom time for large, colourful murals across London, and for today’s post I am revisiting two of these, to find the sad fate of two Greenwich murals.

Walk east along Creek Road which leaves central Greenwich near the Cutty Sark DLR station, turn right down Horseferry Place, and in 1986 you would have seen the El Salvador mural in all its pristine colours, as photographed by my father:

El Salvador Mural

I recently visited the site, and found the mural in a very sad condition. Very faded and with Sky satellite dishes and a number of lights installed across the mural:

two Greenwich murals

The El Salvador mural, or as it was originally titled “Changing the Picture”, was created for the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign in 1985, the year before my father’s photo.

The El Salvador Solidarity Campaign was based in Islington Park Street and was formed to express support for the people of El Salvador.

El Salvador is a country in central America and during the 1980s was suffering from a violent Civil War that would not really end until 1993, and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of the country’s population.

The civil war was mainly a conflict between the left wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), supported by the neighbouring countries of Nicaragua and Cuba, and the Government of the country, supported by the United States.

The people of the country paid a terrible price during the civil war. There were atrocities committed by both sides, however the military of El Salvador along with “Death Squads” who operated outside the official knowledge of the military or government, would commit the majority.

As well as the internal issues within the country, it was also a proxy conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, with US concern about the potential growth of Communist supporting governments in central America, which could have been the outcome if the US supported government had fallen to the FMLN.

There were a number of international groups supporting the people of El Salvador and the FMLN, including in the US and the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign in London.

The aim of the mural is to show the ordinary people of El Salvador (on the right) taking back control of their country, lives and future by “rolling up the picture”.

The people on the right are depicted in bright colours, with more muted, grey colours for the military, and the military / industrial support that contributed large quantities of arms to the country.

I believe the following extract from the mural shows Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher to the left with a figure representing El Salvador’s military on the right, controlling a puppet soldier:

two Greenwich murals

Whilst the mural was commissioned by the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign, it was funded by the Greater London Council (GLC), and support of initiatives such as the mural was one of the many reasons why the Conservative government of the 1980s would abolish the GLC at the end of March 1986.

The mural was created by the artist Jane Gifford, along with Nick Cuttermole, Sergio Navarro and Rosie Skaife D’Ingerthorpe.

I could not get a photo of the mural at the same angle as my father’s. He was standing in the adjacent school playground, and today this is completely fenced.

The following view shows a wider view of the El Salvador mural, on the side of Macey House which is part of the Meridian Estate:

two Greenwich murals

Macey House is on Horseferry Place, a road that leads down towards the Thames. The name of the road records a ferry that once ran from near the southern end of the road across to the Isle of Dogs.

The following map shows the location of the two murals that feature in today’s post. The El Salvador mural is the red circle, number 1 (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

two Greenwich murals

A short distance from the El Salvador mural, heading back towards Greenwich, along Creek Road was the “Wind of Peace” mural, at point number 2 on the above map:

Wind of Change Mural

Although the El Salvador mural is very badly faded, the Wind of Peace has suffered an even worse fate – the mural, along with the building on which it was painted, have completely disappeared.

In the photo below, there is a large new building on the left, with a terrace of smaller buildings further back, heading along Creek Road back into the centre of Greenwich.

two Greenwich murals

The mural was on a building which stood where the large building with the clock is now located. The mural was on the side wall and would have been facing the camera.

The development on the left leading back into Greenwich was following the completion of the Cutty Sark DLR station, which is accessed through a pathway to the left of the van, at the junction of the large and smaller buildings.

The Wind of Peace mural was commissioned by the London Muralists for Peace initiative, as part of the 1983, Greater London Council’s Peace Year.

The mural was painted by artists Stephen Lobb and Carol Kenna, and replaced an earlier mural showing the river and the land alongside the river in Greenwich.

The mural has Greenwich in the centre of the mural, with the residents flying around the view of Greenwich, resisting and destroying missiles which symbolised the threat of nuclear war.

The GLC 1983 Peace Year comprised not just murals, but a whole series of events throughout London. A typical newspaper campaign advert covered:

“Peace is the most important issue facing us all. London could not survive a nuclear holocaust, irrespective of whether it is triggered by miscalculation in Washington or Moscow.

The GLC has declared 1983 Peace Year to give Londoners the opportunity of making a personal commitment to this highest of human ideals.

There can be no better way for people to express their desire for peace than through the Arts. That is why a major part of GLC Peace Year activities will involve supporting drama, film and the visual arts.

Come along and enjoy GLC Peace Year events and activities listed below. Support the cause of peace in London and give a peaceful lead to the world.

  • April 3 Easter Parade featuring specially commissioned Peace Float, Battersea Park at 3pm
  • May 1 May Day Festival, Victoria Park – at noon
  • May 5 Songwriters Competition for Peace – launch
  • June 4 Free Music Concert for Peace, crystal Palace Bowl at noon
  • July 16 Peace Concert of Classical Music, Kenwood Lakeside at 8pm
  • August 6 Hiroshima Day Peace Festival, Victoria Park at noon
  • August 7 Peace Concert of Classical Music, crystal Palace Bowl at 8pm”

There were many more events in addition to those listed above, including a Festival for Peace at Brockwell Park on May the 7th, which included the Damned, Madness and Hazel O’Conner.

As well as the Arts, Peace Year included other projects such as the construction of a number of “peace gardens” across London, such as the Noel-Baker Peace Garden in Islington.

The civil war in El Salvador ended almost thirty years ago, and the mural is gradually fading as are memories of the war (although the country still does suffer from some instability, including the recent bizarre decision to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender within the country).

The Wind of Peace mural disappeared as did the apparent threat of nuclear war, however with current unpredictable world events – perhaps it may be time for another mural.

alondoninheritance.com

New River Walk – Alexandra Palace to New River Head

I have finally completed the post covering the last stage of the New River Walk, which covers from Alexandra Palace to New River Head in north Clerkenwell.

At the end of the previous stage, we had reached Bowes Park, where the New River disappeared in a tunnel, and for today’s post, we rejoin the New River where it exits the tunnel, opposite Alexandra Palace station.

This stage of the walk will follow the New River from Alexandra Palace to the east and west reservoirs, just south of the Seven Sisters Road, where it ends as a river. Then, the walk follows a Heritage Walk that follows the original route of the river to New River Head before the river was truncated at the reservoirs.

The map of the final stage, with key locations covered in the post is shown below  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

New River Walk Alexandra Palace to New River Head

Point S on the map: Alexandra Palace station is at the north west tip of a patch of open, green space, and at the south east corner of this space, the New River exits the tunnel through which it has flowed from Bowes Park:

Alexandra Palace

There is nothing to see of the actual river between Bowes Park and Alexandra Palace, however there are a number of these New River Company pipe markers:

NRC Pipe

Point 1 on the map: Here, a rather over exposed Alexandra Palace can be seen on the high ground in the distance. Hornsey Water Treatment Works are behind the green metal fencing and the New River runs under the footbridge between the fencing:

Hornsey

The route through Hornsey is an example of where the New River has been straightened and does not follow the original early 17th century route.

The following map from 1861 shows the original early 17th century route (dark blue), along with the proposed new straightened route (light blue):

Hornsey

Hornsey Water Treatment Works are to the left, and the New River runs at the bottom of these works, and heads to Hornsey High Street which it crosses, before turning and crossing Middle Lane. It then heads towards the church and crosses the High Street again, heading up to the junction with Tottenham Lane.

Towards the top of the map, the Great Northern Railway runs from left to right, and below the railway can be seen the proposed new route of the New River, which is straight, and cuts of the large loop around Hornsey.

Roughly the same area as the above map, is shown in the following map of the area today, which includes the new route of the river just below the railway, and streets and buildings now covering the original route of the river around Hornsey  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Hornsey

There are a number of similar examples on the New River Walk where the route follows where the river has been straightened rather than the original route. It would be an interesting exercise to follow the early 17th century route, however I think I will put that walk on the long list of London walks.

Point 2 on the map: There were very few places on the entire route where it was not possible to follow the New River walk, however one place on this final stretch was also in Hornsey where the path had been closed off as Thames Water are carrying out some repair works on the river:

New River Walk

Following photo is looking along the closed section of the walk. This is another straightened section of the New River:

New River Walk

Point 3 on the map: The New River then runs through a housing estate which was built around the New River. The following map extract shows the river running between terrace housing and under streets. There is no path alongside this section of the river, and walking to where the river crosses each street, then back, would add a considerable distance to the walk, so the Thames Water New River path runs along Wightman Road to the left  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Wightman Road

The view looking down one of the streets from Wightman Road, the New River crosses the street half way down:

Wightman Road

In the above photo, the streets is dropping in height towards the point where the river crosses about half way down. This stretch of the New River demonstrates how the river follows the contours of the land, from the source in Ware to New River Head. A considerable distance which needed some careful planning, and is remarkable given the survey technologies available in the early 17th century.

The following map shows land height by colour, with blue being lower land, then increasing in height through green, yellow and red (from the excellent topographic-map.com):

New River height map

I have marked the route of the New River which is following the boundary between the higher land on the left (around Crouch Hill station), and the lower land on the right (south Tottenham and Seven Sisters station).

At one point in the map, an area of higher ground (yellow) juts out, and the New River has been tunneled under this, before emerging and running through the streets to the east of Wightman Road.

Point 4 on the map: After weaving through the streets of terrace housing, the New River emerges into the north east corner of Finsbury Park:

Finsbury Park

Where there is a plaque recording the origins and purpose of the river:

Finsbury Park

The New River stays in just the north east corner of Finsbury Park, before crossing under Green Lanes, and reaching:

Point 5 on the map: where the river runs along a narrow green space between an industrial area to the north, school and housing to the south:

New River

In the height map above, the New River is heading towards the reservoirs and is skirting around some higher land to the south, and this is visible as we walk alongside the river, with a downward slope from right to left requiring the river to be banked on the northern side:

New River

North of the M25, between Cheshunt and Ware, there were a number of points where water was being extracted from boreholes and pumped into the New River. There were no examples of this south of the M25, except for one point along this stretch of the walk where four pipes were pumping water into the river, although it was not clear from where this was being extracted.

New River

There is a brick building visible just to the left of where the water is pouring into the river. This is on Eade Road. It houses infrastructure of some sort, and has a 2003 plaque on the outside, but no indication of its function.

The British Geological Survey borehole map lists a borehole under this building, however it is marked as “Confidential” with no data available.

I assume the water running into the New River is from this borehole, however it is strange as to why the record is confidential.

This section of the walk was incredibly muddy, with some sections rather difficult to pass.

At the end, the path runs up to meet Seven Sisters Road, with an information panel covered in graffiti:

New River Walk

For a short distance, the New River Path has joined with another walking route, the Capital Ring:

Capital Ring

And one final loop through housing, with a rather muddy path:

New River Walk

Point 6 on the map: The New River now reaches the reservoirs, with what must have been a gauge house, some means of regulating or measuring the flow of the river, straddling the New River just before the reservoirs:

New River Walk

The New River was truncated at the reservoirs at Stoke Newington in 1946, and now feeds water into the reservoirs, as well as running to their north, through the Woodberry Wetlands, an area surrounding the reservoirs that is now managed as a wildlife haven:

New River Walk

Between the east and the west reservoirs is a building that was once part of the New River infrastructure and has now been refurbished as the Coal House Café. The area outside the café was full of families, so I will not include a photo online, however at the side of the building is a record of the creation of the reservoirs by the New River Company:

New River Company

Also on the side of the building is a wall tie with the initials of the Metropolitan Water Board, the organisation that took over the running of the New River Company’s assets:

New River Walk

View across the east reservoir:

New River Walk

View across the west reservoir:

New River Walk

And a short walk from the west reservoir, we reach the very end of the remaining route of the New River. The last point in the walk from Ware in Hertfordshire, where the river can be seen above ground. It ends in a rather sad dead end:

End of the New River

Just to the left of the above photo is the wonderful 19th century pumping station built by the New River Company:

Castle pumping station

The Metropolis Water Act of 1852 required that water companies supplying water to London, filter the water prior to distribution, and that any subsequent reservoirs after filtering be covered. The aim was to improve the quality of water and prevent much of the pollution from an industrial city from entering the water supply.

Prior to the act, the New River Company was supplying water directly from the reservoirs, however the act now required filter beds to be constructed, along with infrastructure such as a pumping station, and the building in the above photo was built between 1852 and 1856 by William Chadwell Mylne, the Surveyor for the New River Company.

The building housed steam engines and boilers until 1936 when these were replaced by diesel engines.

By 1971, the pumping station was rather dated and too small, and the design of the building did not support an upgrade, so the Metropolitan Water Board applied for permission to demolish the building.

There was considerable local support to retain the building as it was such a local landmark, resembling an industrial castle alongside Green Lanes.

This campaign resulted in the building being given a Grade II* listing in 1972, however it would continue to stay empty, and under threat.

The Historic England listing record provides a perfect description of the old pumping station, and why it is known as the Castle (Historic England source here):

Large building designed to resemble a mediaeval fortress with keep and bailey. 1854-6 by Chadwell Mylne. Stock brick with stone dressings. Battlements and large stepped buttresses all around. The “keep” is of 2 storeys with a tall basement plinth. 6 windows on main south-west front. At north-east and south-west corners round towers with square bartizans the former with a tall conical roof and both having battlements crow-stepped up towards them. Continuous quasi-entablature, with cable moulding, running right around towers. Taller octagonal chimney tower to east. 8 steps (the top one with bootscraper!) to entrance in forebuilding running along north wall and into “bailey” building, which is lower with segmental arcading and 2 slit windows in each bay. Important picturesque landmark.”

The building was empty until 1994 when it was converted into a climbing centre. The large internal spaces perfectly suited for such a use. If you walk past, it is worthwhile having a quick look inside, as the building is still the Castle Climbing Centre.

Leaving the pumping station, we are now following the heritage section of the New River Walk. This section of the route has not seen the New River as a stream of water for many years, as the river was buried in pipes during the 19th century, and since 1946, New River water has ended at the reservoirs.

Point 7 on the map: Here we turn off from Green Lanes and into Clissold Park.

The park retains a couple of stretches of the New River, however these are for decorative purposes only, and start and end within the park.

There is a bridge across one of these decorative runs of the river, which has the arms and motto of the New River Company on the side. “ET PLUI SUPER UNAM CIVITATEM” or “And I caused it to rain upon one city” indicated by the hand reaching down from a cloud, and showering rain drops on the city below.

Clissold Park

Part of the decorative New River feature running up to Clissold House:

Clissold House

Leaving Clissold Park, and walking along Stoke Newington Church Street, there is another reminder of the New River with the New River Café on the corner with Clissold Crescent:

New River cafe

Walk a short distance along Clissold Crescent, and there is a reminder of the New River:

Clissold Crescent

The plaque reads “The Park Lane bridge was demolished and the road widened June 1881”.

Park Lane was the original name of Clissold Crescent, and the bridge carried Park Lane over the New River.

A version of the Ordnance Survey map from the 1890s shows the Park Lane bridge and the New River, although by this time, the New River should have been carried underground in pipes, and as the plaque reads, the bridge was demolished in 1881 and the road widened, so I suspect the OS map was not updated at this point  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“).

Clissold Crescent

In the above map, the New River heads south between houses, and the route has been preserved and now forms a series of allotments running along the old course of the river:

New River Walk

The path between the allotments ends at Green Lanes (again, almost a constant companion on the southern section of the walk). We cross over Green Lanes to reach;

Point 8 on the map: this is Petherton Road where the New River once ran down the centre of the street, and is now a walkway with trees and grass on either side:

Petherton Road

A rather nice ghost sign for Barnes Motors along Petherton Road:

Barnes Motors

At the end of Petherton Road, the green space gives way to a street which still follows the route of the New River, past Canonbury Station and cross over St Paul’s Road into another section of the New River route that has been transformed into a long green space, with a decorative water feature running the length of the space:

New River Walk

Towards the end of this green space is:

Point 9 on the map: where there is a round brick building alongside the original route of the New River:

New River Watch House

The building appears to be a late 18th century watch hut. To protect the New River, the New River Company had a watchman or linesman stationed at points along the route of the river to keep the river clear of debris and also to prevent fishing and swimming in the water, or anything that could pollute the supply.

The brick hut is an example of where such a person would have been stationed to keep watch over the river.

The final stretch of the ornamental water that follows the original route of the New River:

New River Walk

Where the above green space ends, we then walk south along Essex Road, and turn off just before reaching Islington Green, to find Colebrooke Row.

This is another street where the houses were built facing on to the New River, and the space occupied by the river is now a green space running the length of the street.

In the following photo, the houses on the right once looked onto the New River where the grass and trees now run, with the street being on the left:

Charles Lamb's House

The white house on the right in the above photo was occupied by the poet and essayist Charles Lamb in the 1820s. The following print shows the house as it was, with the New River running directly in front of the house:

Charles Lamb's House

I have written a detailed post about Colebrooke Row and Charles Lambs which can be found here.

Leaving Colebrooke Row, we cross over City Road and Goswell Road, and cut through to St John Street. Then down to Owen’s Row (which is on the alignment of the New River, I wrote about Owen’s Row within this post).

Crossing over St John Street into Rosebery Avenue, and this is the view along the old route of the New River, with Sadlers Wells on the right (a post on Sadlers Wells and the New River is here):

Sadlers Wells

At the end of Sadlers Wells, turn right into Arlington Way, then left into Myddelton Passage, where we come to the official end of the New River Walk, at the viewing platform looking over what was New River Head:

New River Head

The route is marked on the ground of the viewing platform:

New River Head

And that completed the New River Walk, over four days / two weekends, from Ware in Hertfordshire to New River Head, Clerkenwell.

It was a fascinating journey, and whilst the route has been straightened at a number of points and does not fully trace the original early 17th century route, it did leave me with considerable admiration for those in the early 17th century who surveyed and built the route, following the contours of the land so it would only fall by roughly 20 feet along the entire route ( 5.5m in total or 5 inches per mile). This enabled the water to flow naturally without the need for any pumping.

You can find my posts covering the first two stages of the walk at the following links:

I have also written about the history of New River Head and London’s Water Industry, which you can find at this link.

In the following panorama from the viewing platform at New River Head, I have labeled some of the key features. On the right are the engine and pump house which will soon become the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, a wonderful new use for these historic buildings.

Panorama of New River Head

David Fletcher creates remarkable 3D photogrammetry captures of heritage sites and has one for the historic buildings at New River Head. Hopefully this will work as I have embedded the model in the post (if you do not see this in the e-mail, click here for the post on the website).

You can walk through the site, both inside and out to see this remarkable, historic site in detail:

And finally, if you have not had enough about the New River, I purchased the following book, the Mercenary River by Nick Higham a few weeks ago.

The Mercenary River

It really is a fascinating history of London’s water supply, including, off course, the New River, and is highly recommended.

alondoninheritance.com

St Saviour’s Dock

Before heading to St Saviour’s Dock, a quick thank you for ordering tickets for this year’s walks. At the time of writing, the Barbican walks and Wapping walks are sold out. Many of the Bankside dates have sold out, but there are some tickets remaining on later dates, and there are a few on the Southbank walks.

St Saviour’s Dock is an inlet from the Thames in Bermondsey, just to the east of Tower Bridge on the south bank of the river. We can look across the river near Hermitage Moorings on the north bank, and see St Saviour’s Dock just to the left of Butlers Wharf.

St Saviour's Dock

I have circled the location of St Saviour’s Dock in the following map (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

St Saviour's Dock

Cross over to the south bank of the river, and on approaching the dock, there is a walkway spanning the entrance:

St Saviour's Dock

View from the footbridge across to the north bank of the river, at low tide, with thick mud across the foreshore:

St Saviour's Dock

Looking along St Saviour’s Dock – a carpet of mud:

St Saviour's Dock

St Saviour’s Dock is a very old feature of this section of the river. Originally the mouth of the River Neckinger, although it is very hard to pin down exactly where the Neckinger ran with any certainty, and how much of the water course was a natural river.

There were many streams and ditches in this area of Bermondsey and much of the land was low lying marsh. Some of the ditches which may have once been part of the Neckinger can be seen on 18th century maps, which I will come to later in the post.

Looking south along St Saviour’s Dock, the bends in the dock give the impression of a natural feature. Early maps show the sides of the dock as relatively straight, so the curves we see today may have been the result of extending some of the warehouses that line the dock as an attempt to maximise warehouse space.

At the far end of the dock, it comes to an abrupt halt at “Dock Head” at the junction of Jamaica Road and Tooley Street.

St Saviour's Dock

It is impossible to know for sure as to the origins of St Saviour’s Dock. It appears to have been part of the lands of Bermondsey Abbey, and what was then a natural watercourse, had banks created on either side, and a mill built on one side of the dock by the abbey at some point around the 13th century.

Just to the east of St Saviour’s Dock is Mill Street, apparently named after a mill stream which ran along the route of the street and which powered the mill, which was used to grind corn for the abbey. Mill Street is on the other side of the warehouses that line the eastern side of the dock, so is very close and complicates the mapping of waterways in the area.

The land around St Savoiur’s Dock was fully developed between the 16th and start of the 19th centuries, as maps from the 17th and 18th centuries confirm.

The following is an extract from William Morgan’s map of London from 1682. St Saviour’s Dock is located just to the lower right of centre of the map:

St Saviour's Dock

Note that the name of the dock in the map is Savory’s Dock. This may be a simple corruption of the name, or it could have been a rather sarcastic description of the dock given that there was much pollution from the surrounding buildings, and Bermondsey’s growing industry, that ended up in the dock.

I like the depiction of a small boat in the dock. It looks too wide to be a waterman’s boat, and could have been a lighter that transported goods between boats moored in the river and the warehouses lining the dock.

By the time of Morgan’s map in the late 17th century, it appears that buildings were lining the majority of the dock, and streets had been built to the east.

If you click on the above map to enlarge, you can see that to the right of St Saviour’s Dock were a number of water channels, and that to the lower centre edge of the map, there are what appear to be two water channels either side of a road, with a name of “The Neckincher” along the street. presumably this name applies to the water channels, and is a version of the name Neckinger.

This is the problem with being sure as to the route of the Neckinger, and how much of the route was a natural feature, and how much were artificial channels and ditches used to perhaps provide water to the industries in the area, or to drain what was low lying, marshy land.

Seventy three years after Morgan’s map, a 1755 map has St Saviour’s Dock on the edge of the map, with the surrounding area looking much the same as in 1682:

St Saviour's Dock

It is interesting that the name Savory Dock was again used on this later map. This name does not appear to be used when reporting anything about the dock in newspapers. For example on the 10th of January 1730, the Kentish Weekly Post used the name Saviour in a report that “Last Sunday, a Man, well dressed, was found drowned in St Saviour’s Dock”.

I can find no newspaper reference to the Savory spelling of the dock’s name.

Newspaper’s do give us an idea of the type of businesses and properties that surrounded the dock in the years around the publication of the above map. For example, on the 11th of January 1762 there was a report of a fire in one of the buildings along the dock:

“Thursday morning a fire broke out in a granary belonging to Mess. Hemmock and Co. Corn Lightermen, at St. Saviour’s Dock, near Dock Head, which was consumed, together with 8 dwelling houses, and a great many warehouses, and other out-buildings; three other dwelling houses were greatly damaged. Mr Allport, a biscuit maker, and his family, ran into the street almost naked, not having time to save anything. It being low-water, it was with difficulty a whole tier of ships was preserved, as they lay upon the mud close to the Dock, and nothing parted them from the flames but a crane house, which took fire several times, but by the activity of the firemen was prevented from getting to a head. We hear no lives were lost.”

So in 1762, St Saviour’s Dock was surrounded by a granary, dwelling houses, and a great many warehouses, which does align with the view presented in the above maps. As well as the granary, there are also mentions of a “Mr John Robinson’s Rope Warehouse” in the dock in the mid 18th century.

The following map is dated 1813 and includes the names of the wharfs along the dock. Only two also have the names of products stored, with a granary at lower left of the dock and a lime yard at upper right.

St Saviour's Dock

What is interesting about the above map is the area to the left (east) of St Saviour’s Dock.

On this map there are a number of streams / ditches shown, along with bridges over these. I have highlighted the waterways with arrows.

The area between the waterway on the left and St Saviour’s Dock is the area that would become known as Jacob’s Island (after Jacob Street running through the centre). It was Charles Dickens who would bring some notoriety to this small patch of Bermondsey when he apparently located Fagins den and Bill Sykes death in Jacob’s Island in his novel, Oliver Twist.

In the lower left of the map, I have included the photo of Bridge House, a house that was built over one of the bridges (arrowed). I have researched and written about the location of Bridge House in my post “A Return To Bermondsey Wall – Bevington Street, George Row And Bridge House”.

The above map does confirm that the area was still a place of ditches and streams in the early 19th century, all possibly once part of the Neckinger, but would disappear during the rest of the 19th century as new warehouses and roads were built. The ditches do not appear to have any connection to St Saviour’s Dock or the River Thames, so must have just held stagnant water.

The following print shows a view of St Saviour’s Dock around 1840 – but the print is not quite what it seems (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

St Saviour's Dock

Underneath the name St Saviour’s Dock is the name “Southwark” rather than Bermondsey. The above print is really of the dock just to the north west of Southwark Cathedral, where the replica of the Golden Hind is now located.

Southwark Cathedral was originally the church of St Mary Overie. The church was renamed St Saviour’s at some point around the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, and this name would remain in place until 1905 when it became Southwark Cathedral.

The small dock just to the north west of Southwark Cathedral was originaly Mary Overie Dock, but with the renaming of the cathedral, the dock took on the name of St Saviour’s Dock and is shown with this name in Rocque’s map of London from 1746, and in this 1811 print which shows the church of St Saviour (Southwark Cathedral) at lower centre, and St Saviour’s Dock to upper left.

St Saviour's Dock

The 1895 OS map continues to show the Southwark dock as St Saviour’s Dock.

So there were two St Saviour’s Docks, and we need to be careful with references to the name. Today the Southwark dock is the location of the Golden Hind replica, and the address on the Golden Hinde’s website is back to the original name of St Mary Overie Dock.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map of the Bermondsey St Saviour’s Dock shows that the dock was lined with warehouses, wharfs and factories, including a flour mill, coal wharf, packing case factory and lime wharf – the typical mix of industries that you would find along any stretch of the industrial Thames in the 19th century.

As with so much of the London docks, St Saviour’s Dock went into decline after the war. Warehouses located down a narrow inlet just were not suitable for the size and type of ships, and containerisation would kill off any hope of using warehouses such as those found in the dock.

St Saviour’s Dock remained as an open inlet to the Thames, but the buildings along the edge of the dock started a path to dereliction.

St Saviour’s Dock has been used in a number of films. One of these in the years before the buildings were transformed is Derek Jarman’s 1978 film Jubilee.

Jarman lived for a time in Butler’s Wharf, between the dock and Tower Bridge, and the film, which is still available as a DVD, whilst a typical Jarman film and very much of its time, is good to watch for one interpretation of punk and the late 1970s, but also for some London location spotting.

In the following clip, the characters Bod, Mad and Chaos are about to throw a body over the side of St Saviour’s Wharf, to the mud below, with the empty warehouses in the background:

St Saviour's Dock

From the 1980s onwards, the majority of the wharfs lining St Saviour’s Dock would be converted to apartments and offices. A walk along the side streets that follow the dock to the east and west reveals how many have survived.

Starting in Mill Street which runs along the eastern side of the dock, and to the north east corner is New Concordia Wharf:

New Concordia Wharf St Saviour's Dock

New Concordia Wharf was originally built in 1882 as St. Saviour’s Flour Mill, however after one of the fires that seemed to be a frequent risk to the wharfs along the river, it was rebuilt between 1894 and 1898.

St. Saviour’s Flour Mill / New Concordia Wharf included a flour / corn mill, continuing a tradition of milling flour that goes back to the original mill built on the banks of the dock by Bermondsey Abbey in the 13th century.

Rather than being powered by water, the mill was steam powered, and the water tank and chimney remain, although the water tank has been somewhat hidden by changes to the roof of the building.

The chimney was truncated in 1979, and now looks rather ungainly with what appears to be a concrete slab on the top of the chimney, but is still an unusual sight on the end of a warehouse.

New Concordia Wharf St Saviour's Dock

Conversion of New Concordia Wharf to apartments was carried out between 1982 and 1983 and was one of the first examples of the warehouse conversions that would become the standard for the type of building along the Thames.

We then come to Grade II listed St. Saviour’s Wharf:

St Saviour's Wharf

St. Saviour’s Wharf was built in 1868, and was for sale by auction in 1870. The advert for the auction provides some details of this 1868 building:

“Saint Saviour’s Sufferance Wharf, together with the modern pile of warehouses in Mill Street erected in 1868 in the most substantial manner under the superintendence of an eminent architect and so arranged as to fulfil all the requirements of the Metropolitan Buildings Act and of the Fire Insurance Companies. The premises comprise three double warehouses each with five floors and basement, having a frontage of 117 feet next Mill-street.

The various floors are carried on columns from basement to roof, and are strongly timbered. The ground floor is asphalted. The party walls are 2 feet 3 thick, and there is no communication between the three warehouses, except on the basement.

There are two staircases to each warehouse, and loophole doors and windows on each floor fronting the land and waterside.

The floors of two of the warehouses are divided by brick walls 2 feet 3 thick, communicating by chambers, enclosed by wrought iron folding double doors.”

The details of the construction of the buildings were important for potential buyers. Not just to show the strength of the building, but also that the building was designed to limit the spread of fire.

Fires in warehouses were a continual risk. Buildings on top of each other, all crammed with highly combustible goods resulted in frequent fires, and the newspapers almost always had reports of fires in warehouses along the Thames (for example, see my post on the “The Great Fire at London Bridge”).

No idea what the purchaser of St Saviour’s Wharf paid for the buildings, however today, a 2 bedroom apartment is for sale at £1.2 million.

The view along the southern end of Mill Street, with more wharfs and warehouses. Unity Wharf nearest.

Mill Street St Saviour's Dock

Unity Wharf is Grade II listed and is now mainly office / commercial space. In the 1953 publications “London Wharves and Docks”, Unity Wharf is listed holding Canned and Cased Goods, Bagged produce and General.

To the side of Unity Wharf is the entrance shown in the following photo:

Unity Wharf St Saviour's Dock

It was gated half way along on my visit, but appears to be one off, if not the only passage through the wharfs to the side of St Saviour’s Dock.

In the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map, the passage is shown, and marked as “Free Landing Way”, which I assume meant that it could be used by anyone to land something by boat in St Saviour’s Dock, and the passage provided a route between water and Mill Street. I would have loved to have got to the end of the passage and looked over the edge into the dock.

At the end of Mill Street, we reach the junction of Jamaica Road and Tooley Street. In the following photo, the steps to the left of the red bins lead up to the wall at the very end of St Saviour’s Dock – the point labeled Dock Head in the 17th and 18th century maps earlier in the post.

Dock Head St Saviour's Dock

Climb the steps, look over the wall, and we can look down on St Saviour’s Wharf:

St Saviour's Dock

Towards the northern end of the dock where it meets the River Thames and is spanned by the footbridge:

St Saviour's Dock

We can now walk along Shad Thames, the street that runs along the wharfs on the western edge of the dock.

Shad Thames St Saviour's Dock

The buildings have a couple of footbridges between the wharfs on the right and additional warehouse space on the left. These were used to transport goods between buildings without having to travel up and down floors and across the street, although looking closely at one of the bridges, I doubt these are original, they look either very good restorations or new copies of what would have spanned the street.

St Andrew's Wharf St Saviour's Dock

The following photo shows the “B” warehouse of St Andrew’s Wharf:

St Andrew's Wharf St Saviour's Dock

This building dates from 1850 and is Grade II listed, but as can be seen by the changes in brickwork, it has been partially rebuilt a number of times, most recently when it was converted for residential use.

We then come to the point in Shad Thames where it leaves the wharfs that line St Saviour’s Dock, and turns west to head towards Tower Bridge.

At this corner point is the much rebuilt and restored Butler’s Wharf:

Butler's Wharf St Saviour's Dock

And that brings me to the end of a look at St Saviour’s Dock, and the wharfs and warehouses that line this ancient inlet from the River Thames.

Although the buildings have been converted to residential and commercial, they do still provide a really good impression of what the dock would have looked like from the late 19th century onwards.

The thing that is missing is noise and activity. Walking the area today and it is quiet. No lighters in the dock, no goods being loaded and unloaded and very few people walking the streets.

The dock itself is always thick with mud, and I have never seen anyone searching the dock or foreshore. A good thing as it looks highly dangerous, but intriguing to imagine what is buried beneath the mud given the centuries of use of St Saviour’s Dock.

alondoninheritance.com

A London Inheritance Walks 2022 – Wapping, Bankside, Barbican and Southbank

Last year was my first year of running a number of guided walks based on the blog.

I really enjoyed talking about some fascinating places in London, and meeting so many readers of the blog.

For 2022, I have two new walks, exploring Wapping, and Bankside to Tower Bridge. I did intend to include a Bermondsey walk, but have run out of time to complete this, hopefully later in the summer.

I am also running a few of my Barbican and Southbank walks.

The walks are based on the blog, and use some of my father’s photos to show viewpoints as they were in the late 1940s.

The four walks are described in detail below, along with links for booking (or just go to my main Eventbrite page here).

I hope you find something of interest, and I plan to add additional dates, so please check again later if you do not find a suitable free date.

Wapping – A Seething Mass of Misery

A London Inheritance Walks

Wapping – A Seething Mass of Misery. So wrote Francis Wey in the 1850s in his book, “A Frenchman Sees the English in the Fifties”.

As London’s docks expanded to the east, Wapping developed to serve the docks and the river, and this expansion resulted in living conditions that would lead to Francis Wey’s description.

Wapping was different to the rest of east London as it developed a nautical subculture, one that existed to serve and exploit sailors arriving on the ships that would moor on the river, and the docks and wharves that lined the river.

This walk will discover the history of Wapping, and will run from near Tower Hill underground station, along Wapping High Street and Wapping Wall, across the old Ratcliff Highway to Shadwell Overground and DLR stations.

We will explore the development of the docks, the ancient gateways between land and river that are the Thames stairs, lost and surviving pubs, the history of the River Police, a sailor’s experience of Wapping, warehouses, crime and punishment, murders and a burial at a crossroads.

We will also meet some of the people who lived, worked and passed through Wapping, such as the Purlmen who worked on the river, and John Morrison, a ship’s boy on a collier, who in 1832 almost froze to death whilst waiting to row his master back to his ship after a night in Wapping’s pubs.

The walk will use some of my father’s photos to show the area post-war, and will look at how Wapping has developed to become the place we see today, and should be considerably more enjoyable than Francis Wey’s description.

The walk is about 2.5 miles and will take between two and a quarter, and two and a half hours.

The following dates for my tour of Wapping are available to book on Eventbrite. Click on any of the dates to go to the site where they can be booked.

Bankside to Pickle Herring Street – History between the Bridges

A London Inheritance Walks

This walk explores the remarkable history of Bankside and Southwark between Blackfriars and Tower Bridges.

Looking at how the river bank along the River Thames has developed, and using my father’s post-war photos to show just how much the area has changed, and what was here when this was a working part of the river.

From the sites of Roman discoveries to recent development of old wharfs and warehouses, the walk will explore pubs, theatres, Thames stairs, lost streets, the impact of electricity generation, fires, alleys, and the people who lived and worked along the river.

The walk will also look at how being opposite the City of London led Bankside and Southwark on a unique path through history.

Lasting around two and a quarter hours, the walk will start near Blackfriars Bridge and end at Tower Bridge.

The following dates for my tour of Bankside are available to book on Eventbrite. Click on any of the dates to go to the site where they can be book.

The Lost Streets of the Barbican

A London Inheritance Walks

On the evening of the 29th December 1940, one of the most devastating raids on London created fires that destroyed much of the area north of St Paul’s Cathedral and between London Wall and Old Street.

The raid destroyed a network of streets that had covered this area of Cripplegate for centuries. Lives, workplaces, homes and buildings were lost. Well-known names such as Shakespeare and Cromwell and their connection with the Barbican and Cripplegate will be discovered, as well as those lost to history such as the woman who sold milk from a half house, and that artisan dining is not a recent invention.

Out of the wartime destruction, a new London Wall emerged, along with the Barbican and Golden Lane estates that would dominate post-war reconstruction. Destruction of buildings would also reveal structures that had been hidden for many years.

On this walk, we will start at London Wall, and walk through the Barbican and Golden Lane estates, discovering the streets, buildings and people that have been lost and what can still be found. We will explore post-war reconstruction, and look at the significant estates that now dominate the area.

Lasting around two hours, by the end of the walk, we will have walked through 2,000 years of this unique area of London, the streets of today, and the streets lost to history.

The following dates for my tour of the Barbican are available to book on Eventbrite. Click on any of the dates to go to the site where they can be book.

The South Bank – Marsh, Industry, Culture and the Festival of Britain

A London Inheritance Walks

This walk will discover the story of the Festival of Britain, the main South Bank site, and how a festival which was meant to deliver a post war “tonic for the nation” created a futuristic view of a united country, and how the people of the country were rooted in the land and seas.

We will also discover the history of the South Bank of the Thames, from Westminster to Blackfriars Bridges, today one of London’s major tourist destinations, and with the Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre, also a significant cultural centre.

Along the South Bank we will discover a story of the tidal river, marsh, a Roman boat, pleasure gardens, industry, housing and crime. The South Bank has been the centre of governance for London, and the area is an example of how wartime plans for the redevelopment of London transformed what was a derelict and neglected place.

Lasting around 2 hours, the walk will start by Waterloo Station and end a short distance from Blackfriars Bridge.

At the end of the walk, we will have covered 2,000 years of history, and walked from a causeway running alongside a tidal marsh, to the South Bank we see today.

The following dates for my tour of the Southbank are available to book on Eventbrite. Click on any of the dates to go to the site where they can be book.

Details covering the location of the meeting point for all walks will be sent in the week prior to the walk.

I look forward to seeing you on a walk.

Normal posts will resume next Sunday.

alondoninheritance.com

Soho Square

Soho Square can be found near the junction of Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street. A busy square, with lots of traffic, parking and occasionally it is used as a film set.

The centre of Soho Square is a large open space, and the square is surrounded by a considerable mix of architectural styles, reflecting the number of times that buildings have been demolished and rebuilt since the square was originally laid out, and the range of individuals. organisations and companies that have made the square their home.

Soho Square is the rectangular green space in the centre of the following map (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Soho Square

Soho Square was part of London’s northwards expansion and the first houses on the square were originally built around 1670.

The following extract from Rocque’s 1746 map of London shows Soho Square, with Oxford Street to the north, but still much open space further north, which would be developed during the second half of the 18th century.

Soho Square

Soho Square, as well as many of the surrounding streets, was built on open space known as Kemp’s Field or Soho Fields.

The site of the square was leased to a bricklayer by the name of Richard Frith, who started construction of the first houses, with the first leases of these houses dating to the 1670s and 1680s.

The square was originally called King’s Square, presumably after Charles II, who was on the throne during the early years of the square’s construction. It would keep this name until the first decades of the 18th century, when it would gradually become known as Soho Square, with formal recognition of the new name of the square on maps such as Rocque’s in 1746.

Today, only a couple of the original houses remain, although in a much modified state.

Soho Square has seen continual waves of development, and a walk around the square today reveals a large range of building size and architectural type. Some buildings are on the original narrow plot, larger buildings have incorporated several adjoining plots of land.

On a weekday, the square is a hive of activity. There is a considerable amount of traffic through the square, parking along both sides of the road around the square, and on the day of my visit, filming had taken over one side of the square.

The open space in the centre of the square was separate from all this activity, and provided a space to look at the buildings surrounding the square before being blocked by leaf growth on the trees.

The following photo is looking to the east, with the tower block of Centre Point in the background.

Soho Square

The brick tower in the background is part of St Patrick’s Catholic Church. During the first years of the square, there were a number of large houses leading back from the square, one of these was Carlisle House, which was built by the Earl of Carlisle around 1690.

Carlisle House was leased by Father Arthur O’Leary, a Franciscan Friar, who managed to raise sufficient financial support from a number of wealthy Catholic families.

The house was converted so that it could be used as a place of worship, and was consecrated on the 29th of September 1792. It was one of the first Catholic places of worship opened after the Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791, which removed many of the restrictions placed on the Catholic faith during the reformation.

The current church was built on the site of Carlisle House between 1891 and 1893.

In the centre of the square is a small wooden building:

Soho Square

The wooden building is Grade II listed, and is described by English Heritage as a “Garden arbour/tool shed”. It was built around 1925 for the Charing Cross Electricity Company to provide access to an electricity sub-station below ground. It did not serve this purpose for too long as the underground space would become an air raid shelter during the Second World War.

The electricity substation was not the first utility to be built in Soho Square.

When the first houses in the square were built, there was competition from the water companies that served London to provide water. One of these companies was the New River Company who supplied water from their reservoirs at north Clerkenwell.

Whilst the supply worked to the City, Soho was on higher ground, and this small difference in height between the reservoir and Soho Square, along with the haphazard way in which the water distribution system had grown, resulted in a poor, low pressure supply to the new houses of Soho Square.

Sir Christopher Wren was asked to help with understanding the problems of distributing water to Soho Square and the developing area of the West End, however Wren looked at the whole system and recommended that the problems could only be addressed by effectively replacing the entire system with a new, integrated design.

The New River Company also commissioned John Lowthorp (a clergyman, who was also a member of the Royal Society) to look at the distribution problems,

Lowthorpe established that it was not water supply problems to New River Head (indeed the New River supplied enough water for the whole of London), as with Wren, Lowthorpe identified the distribution network and the organisation of the company.

This would only be fixed over a number of years, one of the short term fixes was the construction of a cistern in Soho Square to store water from the New River Company’s reservoirs for onward distribution.

The north east corner of the square:

Soho Square

The north west corner of the square:

Soho Square

The above two photos show the range of different buildings around the square, and the changes in building height and roof line.

This is very different to when the square was built, as this print from around 1725 shows, with terrace housing lining three sides of the square  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Soho Square

The view is looking north, and shows that in the first decades of the 18th century, Soho Square was really on the northern edge of the built city. The name of the square at the top of the print uses the original name of King’s Square, as well as the future name of Soho Square.

The hills in the distance are those of Hampstead and Highgate, and the street running north from the square crosses Tiburn Road.

This would later be renamed Oxford Street, and was named Tiburn Road as it led to the Tiburn or Tyburn tree or gallows at the western end of Oxford Street, at the junction of Oxford Street with Edgware Road and Bayswater Road.

The above map uses the spelling of Tiburn, rather than the more common Tyburn. Rocque also uses the Tiburn spelling for the street and the gallows.

By the time of the above print, the centre of the square had been laid out as formal gardens.

A statue can just be seen in the centre of the above print. I have enlarged this below:

Charles II

The statue is of Charles II, above a fountain with a small surrounding pond.

Old and New London included a description of the statue and fountain:

“In the centre was a fountain with four streams. In the middle of the basin was the statue of Charles II, in armour, on a pedestal, enriched with fruit and flowers; on the four sides of the base were figures representing the four chief rivers of the kingdom—Thames, Severn, Tyne, and Humber; on the south side were figures of an old man and a young virgin, with a stream ascending; on the west lay the figure of a naked virgin (only nets wrapped about her) reposing on a fish, out of whose mouth flowed a stream of water; on the north, an old man recumbent on a coal-bed, and an urn in his hand whence issues a stream of water; on the east rested a very aged man, with water running from a vase, and his right hand laid upon a shell.”

Old and New London also comments that “the statue is now so mutilated and disfigured, and the inscription quite effaced”. There is also a comment that the statue could be the Duke of Monmouth (who we will come to later), rather than Charles II, however the consensus seems to be that it is the king rather than duke.

The statue was removed around the time that Old and New London was published. An article in the Illustrated London News on the 26th February 1938, records what happened to the statue, and its eventual restoration to the square:

“The statue of Charles II, by Caius Gabriel Cibber, the father of Colley Cibber, Poet Laureate, actor and dramatist, has been restored to Soho Square after an absence of sixty-two years. It was placed in the Square, then called King’s Square, during Charles II’s reign and surrounded a fountain bearing the emblematical figures of the Thames, Severn, Tyne and Humber.

In 1876 it was in such a bad condition that it was taken down and removed to Mr Goodall’s residence at Grims Dyke, Harrow Weald. There it was re-erected in the middle of a large pond, where it remained during the subsequent tenure of Sir. W.S. Gilbert. When Lady Gilbert died in 1936 she bequeathed the statue to the Soho Square Gardens Committee, who had it skilfully restored and have placed it on the north side of the Gardens.”

So although Charles II is no longer on his high pedestal, and the fountain and pond have long gone, he is back in Soho Square:

Charles II

There is a small plaque near the northern entrance to the central garden that records an event in recent history.

Two trees can be seen in the following photo, with a small concrete block between them:

Great Storm of 1987

The plaque records that one of the trees (I assume the one on the right) was planted to replace a tree lost during the Great Storm over the night of the 16th to 17th October 1987:

Great Storm of 1987

On the north west side of the square, the French Protestant church glows red and orange in the low sun of an early spring day. The church was built in 1891 on the land released when two of the original houses on the square were demolished.

Soho Square

The following photo shows the rather wonderful, number 3 Soho Square:

Soho Square

The building is very narrow compared to many of the other buildings on the street, and although it is the third building on the site, the width of the building is because it is on the same plot of land as the original house when the square was first built.

The first house was built in 1684, it was rebuilt in 1735, which in turn was demolished for the current building which dates from 1902. The mix of the concave upper floors with the large bay windows on floors one and two, along with subtle decoration make number 3 one of the more interesting of the 20th century buildings on Soho Square.

To the right of number 3, is a single building that now occupies the space of numbers 4 to 6, the corner brick building shown in the following photo:

Soho Bazaar

The building was originally constructed as a warehouse in 1804 by John Trotter, a contractor for army supplies.

With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, just eleven years after the warehouse was completed, John Trotter converted the warehouse into the Soho Bazaar.

The Soho Bazaar was a market place for a wide range of goods, and the bazaar would last for much of the 19th century. A newspaper report from the later years of the bazaar provides a good description of what could be found inside, and also why the bazaar was under pressure from the shops opening on nearby Oxford Street, and across the city. Published on the 17th of October, 1885:

“It is a long time since I walked round the Soho Bazaar, for the pretty stalls there have been greatly superseded by the many fancy shops that are now everywhere in London. but the old place, though somewhat changed in character, is the depot for many specialties which of themselves would not pay if a whole shop had to be hired for their sale.

All sorts and kinds of fancy work, of contrivances for the comfort of invalids, and such like inventions are to be seen, and, moreover, there is a large register office for domestic servants and convenience for interviews with them, in connection with the bazaar, and one great recommendation of it to me is that all the stall holders are women, not flighty girls, and they are attentive and pleasant to inquirers or purchasers of their own sex, and not on the look out for a possible flirtation, which is the great drawback to most bazaars.

I went there the other day to see myself the ladies work stall, and its appearance is most encouraging, for the work I saw was well executed, attractive, and useful. Every lady who desires to sell her work there is expected to pay a fee of a guinea a year for expenses.”

The stalls in the bazaar seem to have sold all manner of homemade products, and there was also a kindergarten, where babies were given special rugs to play / crawl on. The rugs had cutout animals and other figures to attract attention.

The following print shows the Soho Bazaar in 1819, soon after opening  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Soho Bazaar

Compare the above print with my 2022 photo of the building, and although the ground floor has been significantly remodeled, the upper floors are the same, after 200 years.

On the south side of the square is the Hospital for Women, which combined / rebuilt houses already on the site:

Soho Square

At the very top of the left building of the hospital, is the date “Founded 1842”. This refers to when the hospital was originally founded in Red Lion Square as the Hospital for the Diseases of Women, before moving to Soho Square in 1852.

Records in the National Archives state that “The Hospital was closed in 1939 on the outbreak of war, and a First Aid Post was opened in the Outpatients Department by Westminster City Council”, and that in 1948, the hospital “was amalgamated with St. Mary’s Hospital and The Hospital for Women became part of The Middlesex Hospital Group”.

The first building on the site of the Hospital for Women, was one of the earliest buildings to face onto Soho Square.

Monmouth House was built for the Duke of Monmouth, however he seems to have spent very little time there.

After Charles II’s death, Monmouth led a rebellion with the aim of taking the throne. He was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor on the 6th of July 1685. After capture, Monmouth was executed on Tower Hill on the 15th of July 1685.

Monmouth House  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Monmouth House

The house was sold after Monmouth’s death, converted to auction rooms in 1717, and demolished in 1773.

The house on the south east corner of Soho Square, at the junction with Greek Street, is the House of Charity / House of St Barnabas.

On the day of my visit, it was being used as a film set:

House of St Barnabas

Despite appearances, the building is not one of the original houses on the square. The house we see today was completed in 1747 after the original house on the site was demolished.

The building was used by one of the organisations that would eventually become the GLC. In 1811, the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers occupied the building, then the Metropolitan Board of Works who stayed on Soho Square until their move to Spring Gardens, before moving to County Hall on the South Bank as the London County Council.

When the Metropolitan Board of Works moved out, it was sold to the House of Charity, which had been established in 1846 for the relief of the destitute and the homeless poor in London.

Now the House of St Barnabas, which works to get people into secure, paid employment, through training and support. The interior of the building still has many of the original features, and is why the building is attractive as a film set.

To the west of the square, Sutton Row provides a route to Charing Cross Road, and St Patrick’s Catholic Church is on the right:

Sutton Row

On the left is Grade II listed, number 21 Soho Square, an 1838 / 1840 rebuild of the original house on the site, which, during the late 18th century had, as Old and New London tactfully described, been a “place of fashionable dissipation to which only the titled and wealthy classes had the privilege of admission”, basically a high-class brothel.

After being rebuilt, the building was taken on by Crosse & Blackwell, and numerous 19th century adverts give Soho Square as the address for Crosse & Blackwell – manufacturers of Pickles, Sauces & Jams etc.

There are three interesting buildings in the north-east corner of Soho Square. The building on the right in the photo below is one of the original houses on the square. Although considerably modified, it does give an indication on what the terrace houses would have looked like as the square was completed.

Mary Seacole

The centre house has a blue plaque, recording that Mary Seacole lived in the house:

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole was a Jamaican nurse who learnt many of the local techniques for practicing medicine. She traveled widely, and was involved with the treatment of people suffering from cholera outbreaks in Jamaica and Panama.

In 1853 she was responsible for nursing services for the British Army in Jamaica, however she had heard about the suffering of soldiers in the Crimean War, and asked that she be sent to the Crimea to work as an army nurse.

This request was not approved, so she funded her own trip to Crimea where she set up the “British Hotel” to provide a place of rest and treatment for injured and sick soldiers. This was the same war where Florence Nightingale was also working, but Mary’s British Hotel was closer to the front.

After the end of the Crimean War she returned to Britain, however she had very little money left, having funded the trip to the Crimea, and in 1856 she was declared bankrupt, as the Globe on the 7th November 1856 reported:

“The bankrupts, Mrs Mary Seacole and Thomas Day the younger, are described as of Tavistock-street, Covent-garden, and Ratcliff-terrace, provision merchants, and formerly of Balaklava and Spring Hill, front of Sebastopol. Mrs. Seacole is a lady of colour, and has been honoured with four government medals for her kindness to British soldiery. She was present in person, and attracted much attention, the gaily coloured decorations on her breast being in perfect harmony with the rest of her attire.”

Whilst in London, she wrote and published her biography, and a review sums up how she was viewed:

“The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands has just been published by Mr James Blackwood of Paternoster Row. Of Mrs Seacole, Dr. Russell says in a brief preface ‘If singleness of heart, true charity and Christian works; if trials and sufferings, dangers and perils, encountered boldly by a helpless woman on her errand of mercy in the camp and battlefield, can excite sympathy and move curiosity, Mary Seacole will have many friends and many readers’. Mrs Seacole’s autobiography is interesting, includes many strange episodes, and, we doubt not, will obtain numerous readers.

Proceeds from the book, along with a fund raised by the Prince of Wales provided Mary with sufficient funding to live in comfort for the rest of her life. She died in London in 1881, and newspaper announcements of her death started with the headline “DEATH OF A DISTINQUISHED NURSE”.

Over the following decades, her name disappeared, with Florence Nightingale being more associated with the Crimean War.

A group of nurses from the Caribbean visited Mary’s grave at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green, and started to campaign for greater recognition for her. This was supported by the local MP to Kensal Green and in 2016, a statue was unveiled in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital on the south bank of the Thames just to the west of Westminster Bridge.

Mary Seacole

The large disk behind the statue of Mary is an impression taken from the ground in the Crimea where Mary Seacole worked to help soldiers during the Crimean War.

I cannot find out exactly when Mary Seacole lived in Soho Square. Newspaper reports of her life after she returned from the war mention a number of different addresses in London so she seems to have moved around.

Very little of the original Soho Square remains, the statue of Charles II, and a couple of the houses, although all have been repaired and modified, but the square does show how London streets have changed and adapted to different uses over hundreds of years, and how much there is to find in a London square.

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An Accountant, Hall, Church and Shakespeare – City of London Blue Plaques

A couple of months ago, I wrote the first post of a series in which I hope I will track down the roughly 170 City of London plaques. The plaques tell a small part of the City’s long history, however due to the limited size of the plaque, they often just provide a name, leaving the viewer to wonder what is actually being commemorated.

For today’s post, I take a look at another five, some of which have plenty of information, others need some digging.

City of London plaques record the churches, Guild and Livery Company Halls, infrastructure, key events and people that have contributed to the City’s history. The majority of people are men, there are very few plaques to women, so to start this week’s wander through the City of London, let me start with:

Mary Harris Smith FCA – The Worlds First Female Chartered Accountant

Walk north along Queen Victoria Street, and just before the junction with Poultry and the Bank, you will find number 1 Queen Victoria Street. Walk to the right of this building, along Bucklersbury, and on the side you will see one of the most recent of the City of London plaques. Arrowed in the following photo, as in the shade on a bright day:

City of London Plaques

This plaque is less than two years old, and was installed on the building in September 2020. It records Mary Harris Smith, the world’s first female Chartered Accountant:

City of London Plaques

The story of Mary Harris Smith is the story of many women who were struggling to gain recognition in male dominated professions.

Mary Harris Smith had been an accountant for many years, firstly working for a City firm before setting up her own practice in Queen Victoria Street in 1887.

Despite working as an accountant, she was repeatedly refused admission to the accountants professional body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, either through the route of recognition of her years of work, or through taking the exams set by the Institute.

Whilst there was some support for her admission, the Institute’s solicitor advised the applications committee that the charter only used the male terms of he, him etc. to refer to members, and there was no support to change the charter.

Mary Harris Smith’s persistence eventually worked. She had been seeking the support of other City professionals, members of the Institute and MPs, and in 1919 she was finally admitted to her first professional body, the Incorporated Society of Accountants and Auditors.

The Journal and Express on the 6th of December 1919 recorded the event:

“AFTER 31 YEARS – At a recent meeting of the Council of the Incorporated Society of Accountants and Auditors it was resolved to admit Miss Mary Harris Smith to the Honorary Membership of the Society. Miss Harris Smith has been in public practice in the City of London since the date of the Society’s incorporation and first made application for admission to membership in the year 1886. After 31 years of waiting Miss Harris Smith has seen removed the last obstacle to the admission of women to the Society, and we think there will be general agreement in the profession with the compliment the Council have paid Miss Harris Smith by electing her to Honorary membership”.

Although now a member, the above article refers to her admission as being the “compliment the Council have paid Miss Harris Smith” rather then her right to membership through her ability and years of experience.

A year later, in 1920, she was admitted to the Institute of Chartered Accountants – the event which is commemorated on the plaque.

The Vote newspaper, (subtitled the Organ of the Women’s Freedom League) had been running a series of articles on women in the professions and on the 8th of February 1924 included an article on Women Accountants which featured Mary Harris Smith, who had been elected as a Fellow.

The article also mentions Ethel Watts, who was the first women to pass the Institute of Chartered Accountants exams and gain the ACA qualification:

“The Institute of Chartered Accountants has at present two women members. One of these, Miss Harris Smith, admitted a Fellow of the Institute in May, 1920, was the first woman accountant in public practice before the examination system was started, and has been engaged on highly skilled work for over 30 years.

The other, Miss Ethel Watts, B.A. passed her final examination early this year, and is the first woman to write ‘A.C.A.’ after her name. She served her articles with a Manchester firm, but took her Honours degree at London University. During the war, she became an administrative assistant at the Ministry of Food, and was at one time the private secretary to the Director of Oils and Fats in the Ministry.

She had intended to study law, but her work at the Ministry gave her an interest in business, so she turned to accountancy. In addition to these members, there are 30 women training under articles.”

No idea if there is a plaque to Ethel Watts in Manchester. If not, there should be.

Mary Harris Smith had waited a long time for professional recognition, she was 76 when finally becoming a member. Ill heath forced her to give up work in the late 1920s and she died in 1934.

Mary Harris Smith photographed around the time of her membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1920:

Mary Harris Smith

I can think of only two or three City of London plaques to women, and Mary Harris Smith is a very recent addition – hopefully the first of many more to come.

The next plaque is to one of the many men commemorated across the City:

William Shakespeare and the Mountjoy Family.

If you start at the roundabout with the Museum of London in the Centre, and walk a short distance along London Wall, you will come to a small garden which is the site of the church of St Olave, a church that was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire.

On one of the low walls in the seating area, there is another of the City of London plaques, highlighted by the arrow:

City of London Plaques

The plaque records that “William Shakespeare had lodgings near here in 1604, at the house of Christopher and Mary Mountjoy“:

City of London Plaques

The discovery that William Shakespeare lived for a time at or near London Wall was made in the first decade of the 20th century. A Dr. Charles William Wallace who was Associate Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Nebraska, had, along with his wife, spent their holidays in records offices searching for references to Shakespeare.

They found one set of documents from a legal case dating from May and June 1612, where Shakespeare had been a witness, and the documents included a very rare signature of Shakespeare.

The Illustrated London News on the 16th of February 1910 carried an article on the discovery, which included the core of the legal case:

“Christopher Montjoy or Mountjoy, a Huguenot refugee, living in Silver Street, with a wife and only child, Mary, carried on there the business of a tiremaker. The occupation would seem to have combined the making of Ladies head-dresses with the work of milliner.

In 1598 Mountjoy took as apprentice one Stephen Bellott, whose mother, a woman of Huguenot family, had married as a second husband an Englishman named Humphrey Fludd. Young Stephen Bellott proved an apt workman, and was much liked by his master and his master’s family.

The daughter, Mary Mountjoy, was attracted by her father’s apprentice, and her parents approved a marriage between the couple. But Stephen Bellott was no ardent wooer, and some pressure had to be brought to bear on him to ‘effect’ a match.

According to the evidence, ‘one Mr. Shakespeare laye in the house’ of the Mountjoy’s when their daughter’s engagement was under discussion. The statement suggests that Shakespeare lodged at the time with the Mountjoy’s, or, at any rate, that he was then staying there. Both parents appealed to Mr. Shakespeare to use his persuasions with the young man.

According to Shakespeare’s evidence, Mrs Mountjoy ‘did sollicitt and entreat’ him ‘to move and perswade’ Stephen Bellott to marry her daughter, and ‘ accordingly he did move and perswade’ him thereunto.

The young man regarded the proposal in a sternly practical light. He asserts that he yielded on specific conditions, namely that the young lady should receive from her father the sum of fifty pounds on her marriage, and the sum of two hundred pounds on her father’s death, together with ‘certaine house-hold stuff’ of substantial value.”

The marriage of Mary and Stephen took place on the 19th of November 1604 in St Olave’s, Silver Street, the site of the plaque.

Mrs Mountjoy died in 1606, and the relationship between Stephen Bellott and his father-in-law became very strained. He claimed that the “household stuff” that Mountjoy had given his daughter was old and worthless, and Mountjoy then denied he had ever made the promises to Bellott.

Bellott then took the case to court, trying to compel his father-in-law to comply with the terms of the alleged contract, and it was because of this that Shakespeare was a witness for the plaintiff.

In his signed deposition, Shakespeare stated that he had known both Mountjoy and Bellott for ten years, that Bellott did “well and honestly behave himself”, and that Mountjoy had promised a “marriage-portion” with his daughter, but he could not remember the amount.

The documents found by Dr. Wallace in the National Archives do not record the outcome of the case, and it seems to have been refered to another authority for judgement.

Dr. Wallace assumed that Shakespeare had lived with the Mountjoy’s from 1598 to 1604, which was the period of Bellott’s apprenticeship, although there is no evidence to confirm this. Dr. Wallace also made a number of claims, including that Shakespeare used the name Mountjoy as the French herald in Henry V from the name of the family he had been living with. Again, there is no evidence to confirm this.

Mountjoy’s house was on the corner of Silver Street and Monkwell Street – two streets that disappeared during the rebuilding of the area following the bombing of the last war. The following map is from Roque’s 1746 map of London, and I have marked the location of the house with a red circle. Just below the red circle is St Olave’s cemetery, the site of the garden we can see today.

Mountjoy House

The location today of Mountjoy’s house is just slightly north of the location of the plaque, and is probably under the current route of the dual carriageway of London Wall.

A pub, the Coopers Arms was later built on the site of the house and in 1931 it was reported that the Coopers Arms had an old inscription commemorating Shakespeare’s stay.

The Coopers Arms – Silver Street to the right, Monkwell Street disappearing to the left. Strange to think that London Wall now runs through this scene.

Coopers Arms

Two plaques covering people who have lived or worked in the City. Now for one of the staple of City of London plaques – one of the City’s Guilds or Companies.

Curriers’ Hall

Not far from the Shakespear / Mountjoy plaque is one to mark the site of Curriers’ Hall. Walk a short distance east along London Wall, up Wood Street, and a short distance along is a pedestrianised walkway to the east, which has some remnants of the City Wall alongside.

Opposite the wall is the goods entrance to one of the new buildings that cover the area, and to the right of the entrance is a City plaque:

City of London Plaques

The plaque marks the nearby sites of Curriers’ Hall between 1583 and 1940:

City of London Plaques

A Currier was a leather worker. Currying leather was the process by which tanned skins were stretched and shaved into a fine finish to produce leather which was suitable for the production of leather goods, such as shoes.

The coat of arms of the Curriers’ shows arms rising at the top, with hands holding the tool of the Currier, the shaving knife which was scrapped across a skin, gradually reducing the thickness and producing a smooth finish to the material. The tool is also shown on the shield.

Curriers Company

Curriers were originally part of the Cordwainers’ Guild, but an ordnance of 1272 brought about the separation of the professions by requiring that they should have separate working regulations.

Full self governance by the Curriers was achieved through a 1415 ordinance, with an extension of their powers through an Act of 1516, and the grant of a Charter on the 30th of April 1606.

The grant of a Charter was rather late, and was given “by prescription” where a company that had existed for a long time was assumed to have been granted a charter, but which had been lost.

The walkway shown in my photo of the plaque’s location was the original route of the street London Wall (see my post on the history of London Wall).

The location of the plaque is roughly where an entrance to a courtyard in front of the Curriers Hall would have been located.

The same extract from Roque’s 1746 map that I used for the Mountjoy’s house, also shows the location of the Curriers’ Hall, which I have ringed in the map below:

Curriers Hall

Halls of the City companies were often built back from the street, accessed via an alley from the street, into a courtyard with the hall. I assume this approach separated the hall from the busy street (see also my post on Monkwell Street and Barber Surgeons Hall).

The following print from the mid 1850s shows the alley leading from London Wall to Curriers’ Hall. I assume that the coat of arms of the Company are above the entrance (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Curriers Hall

The last version of Curriers Hall was destroyed during the heavy bombing and fires that the area suffered in December 1940.

The Worshipful Company of Curriers still exist today. They do not have a hall, and use the halls of other City companies for their ceremonial events. As with other City companies, they do not have regulatory powers, and today support charitable activities in trades still involved in working leather, or where leather products are used, such as horse riding.

Another City Guild or Company that produced products that would have been used along with those of the Curriers is the:

Loriners’ Trade

Walk along Poultry, towards the Bank junction, and on the right is 1 Poultry. There is an access under the building just before reaching the Bank junction, called Bucklesbury Passage. Underneath the name sign for the passage is a plaque:

City of London Plaques

Stating “Site of the Loriners’ Trade 11th – 13th Centuries”:

City of London Plaques

I love the City of London plaques, however they are also rather frustrating. A casual passerby would have no idea what Loriners’ Trade means.

The Loriners were an old City Guild or Mistery, and were granted ordinances in 1260 / 1261 along with their rules of self government.

A Loriner is an example of how specific many of these skilled trades were, as a Loriner was a maker of bridle bits and other examples of metal work used for horses. The Loriner was also a maker of spurs, however spurs became a separate company before joining the Company of Blacksmiths in 1571.

The arms of the Loriners Company show three horse’s bits, along with three black metal bosses:

Loriners Company

The plaque in Bucklesbury is unusual in that it is recording where the trade was carried out, rather than the location of a hall.

The Loriners’ did have a hall, which remained until the mid 19th century. The hall was located on London Wall, opposite Basinghall Street (not sure if there is a City plaque at the location of the hall – I need to check). Rocque’s map again is useful in confirming the location of the hall, as shown circled in the following extract:

Loriners Hall

By the end of the 19th century, the Loriners’ Company had very little involvement with any aspects of the old profession, and it was more a club for social and dining activities. This was common with many other City companies, as this article from the Evening News on the 21st of January 1914 implies:

“They endure, these old guilds, because of the dinner. The Loriners who have very little knowledge of the loriners’s trade. Gold and Wire Drawers who might essay in that delicate little job of drawing gold and silver wires. I know a Citizen and Fishmonger whose lore is not enough to help him in choosing a middle cut of salmon at the stores. Nevertheless, these Loriners and Fishmongers and Wire drawers still flourish, branch and root, dining as their ancestors dined.”

The Worshipful Company of Loriners is still in existence, and still dining, using some of the other City Company halls for their events, but is also involved in a wide range of charitable and educational activities.

My final location in this ramble through a number of the City of London’s plaques is not far away from the Loriners.

Walk through number 1 Poultry to Queen Victoria Street and walk up to the Mansion House, where on the Walbrook corner of the building is a plaque recording the location of:

St Mary Woolchurch Haw

Tucked away on the corner of the Mansion House is a plaque, arrowed in the following photo:

City of London Plaques

Which records that the plaque marks the site of St Mary Woolchurch Haw:

City of London Plaques

St Mary Woolchurch Haw was one of the City’s churches that was destroyed during the 1666 Great Fire, and not rebuilt. It is remarkable how many churches were in the City before 1666. Many were not rebuilt. A further wave were lost during the late 19th century rebuild of much of the City, and a number were lost and not rebuilt during and after the last war, yet still whenever on a City street we are not far from a church.

The name of St Mary is interesting, but the plaque gives no further information. The dedication is to Mary Woolchurch a name which implies that the church was near to, or had some involvement with wool, but what does Haw mean?

To find out, I referred to the book I use most for learning about pre-1666 City churches – “London Churches Before The Great Fire”, by Wilberforce Jenkinson and published in 1917.

The section on St Mary Woolchurch Haw includes the following:

“St Mary Woolchurch formerly stood near the Stocks Market, which was on the site of the present Mansion House. Stow writes that it was so called ‘of a beam placed in the church yard, which was therefore called Wool Church Haw, of the Troanage, or weighing of Wool there used’

The church was built by Hubert de Ria in the time of William the Conqueror. The first rector whose name is recorded being William de Hynelond, 1349-50. The patronage was partly with the Crown and partly with the Convent of St John the Baptist, Colchester. The church was rebuilt in the 20th year of Henry VI.

John Tireman, rector in 1641, at the commencement of the Civil War was compelled to retire in consequence of his loyalty. john Bull was preacher during the Protectorate, and was afterwards Master of the Temple. The church was not rebuilt after the Fire, but the parish was annexed to that of St Mary Woolnoth”.

So a Haw was a form of beam which was used in the weighing of wool. The Victoria and Albert Museum have a Wool Weight which would have been used with a Haw (Source Link).

St Mary Woolchurch

The wool weight in the above photo dates from between 1550 and 1600. As can be seen in the photo, the weight has a hole at the top, and through this would have been threaded a leather strap which allowed the weight to be hung on one end of a beam or Haw.

Weights were typically of 7, 14 and 28lbs. The one in the photo is 14lbs.

The beam was pivoted in the middle, with wool suspended at one end, and weights added to the other end of the beam. When the beam balanced, the weight of the wool could be read from the number and weights of the weights used.

The extract from the book mentions that “St Mary Woolchurch formerly stood near the Stocks Market“.

The Stocks Market dates from the 13th century with a charter issued by Edward I. The market was named after the only set of fixed stocks in the City which were used for punishments, such as when William Sperlynge was pilloried in the stocks for trying to sell rotten meat, which was burnt under his nose whilst he was held in the stocks.

The market gradually specialised and by the 15th century it was known as a meat and fish market.

The market was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666, along with the church of St Mary Woolchurch Haw.

Although the church was not rebuilt, the market was, and expanded to included the land once occupied by the church. It became a general market, which as well as meat and fish, included fruit and vegetables and was one of the major markets of the City.

The following print from 1753 shows the market in operation (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Stocks Market

The church in the background of the above print with the dome and tower is St Stephen Walbrook. The large statue at the front of the Stocks Market is of Charles II, but it has a very interesting history.

The statue originally came from Italy and was an unfinished work showing the King of Poland, John Sobieski on his horse which was trampling on a Turk,

The statue had been brought to London by Sir Robert Vyner who was Lord Mayor of the City in 1675.

A Polish king would make no sense in a City market, and Robert Vyner had the head of the statue replaced with one of Charles II, and the head of the Turk was replaced by one of Oliver Cromwell (or possibly the original head was reworked).

The following side view of the statue gives a better idea of the modified statue. The rider does look like Charles II, however I am not sure whether the person underneath the horse looks like Oliver Cromwell, but this was probably not important. The statue was meant to show the triumph of the Monarchy over the Commonwealth created by the Civil War (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Charles II

When the statue was removed, it was given to a descendant of Sir Robert Vyner who apparently relocated it from the City to a family estate in Lincolnshire, from where it was later moved to Newby Hall in North Yorkshire, where the statue that was originally on the site of the Stocks Market, and what is now the Mansion House, can still be seen today:

Charles II

Image credit / attribution: Chris Heaton / Statue at Newby Hall / CC BY-SA 2.0

When the Mansion House was built in 1739 on the site of the Stocks Market, a stone believed to have come from the church was found in the new foundations (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

St Mary Woolchurch

That is five more City of London plaques. They are fascinating as each one, although brief, opens up a whole volume of the City’s long history.

I also find it interesting how bits of London can be found scattered across the country. I have found numerous examples of these, with the statue of Charles II being the latest.

Now that Mary Harris Smith has a recent plaque, I hope that many more of the women who have been a part of the City’s history will also be getting their own plaques in the years to come.

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