Tag Archives: Cripplegate

Cripplegate Ward: Lady Eleanor Holles School and Cripplegate

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

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

Cripplegate Ward

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

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

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

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

Lady Eleanor Holles School

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

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

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

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

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

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

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

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

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

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

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

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

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

Lady Eleanor Holles' School

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

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

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

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

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

Cripplegate

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

Cripplegate Ward

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

Cripplegate Ward

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

Cripplegate Ward

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

Cripplegate Ward

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

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

Baddeley, in his book on Cripplegate Ward provides more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cripplegate Ward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bastion 14, Cripplegate

This week, I am very close to Monkwell Street, the subject of a post a couple of weeks ago. I was going to include this location in the Monkwell Street post, but I did not want to inflict an even longer post on you, so Bastion 14 in Cripplegate gets its own post. At the end of the post, I also have a couple of photos of an archaeological dig in the City which I need help identifying.

The following is my father’s 1947 photo of Bastion 14 of the Medieval City wall. The bombed buildings have been cleared away from around the bastion, which is now almost fully exposed, for the first time in many years.

Bastion 14

This is Bastion 14 today:

Bastion 14

The main difference between the two photos is the height of the bastion. In 1947 only part of the structure was above the surface. Future development including the nearby build of the Museum of London, the Barbican and the landscaping of the green space along the line of the old Roman Wall, resulted in the lowering of the ground level and the exposure of a considerable part of the bastion.

Some of the features on the external wall of the bastion can be seen in both photos. The brick line along the top of the wall extending from the left of the bastion is also the same, although the lowering of ground level has revealed the arched feature in the lower part of the wall.

In the background of today’s photo are the glass and steel office blocks that now line London Wall, whilst in the 1947 photo, the Wood Street telephone exchange is in the background.

Bastion 14 is one of a number of bastions that line the route of the north east corner of the Roman Fort / City Wall, just to the south of St Giles’ Cripplegate. The following map shows the location and numbers of the bastions I will cover in today’s post  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

 

The map shows the green space that was created as part of the post war development of the area. It is now possible to walk from London Wall, through the green space up to Bastion 12. The redeveloped Barber Surgeons Hall is set back from Bastion 13.

The area was so very different before the devastation of the Second World War. The following map shows the area in 1894:

Bastion 14

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

The map shows that in 1894 Bastion 14 was not free standing, indeed it was an integral part of the buildings that ran along Castle Street. To take today’s comparison photo, I was standing roughly where Castle Street once ran looking up at the bastion.

Part of Bastion 13 was visible, and the structure was part of the Barbers Hall. Bastion 12 was facing on to the churchyard of St Giles.

I am gradually documenting how the area has changed. In the above map you can see Monkwell Street, covered in this post and immediately to the south of Bastion 14 is now the new route of London Wall covered in this post.

The following photo is looking west along the southern edge of Bastion 14. London Wall is immediately to the left, and the entrance to the underground car park that runs under much of London Wall can be seen to the lower left.

Bastion 14

There is a Roman wall (not part of the City wall) in the underground car park – a subject for a later post, and for those who walk London, there are some toilets just inside the entrance.

The story of the post war excavation of the bastions is just as interesting as the history of these structures. There are two excellent books I have used to research the bastions, these are:

  • The Excavation of Roman and Mediaeval London by W.F. Grimes (Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited 1968), and;
  • Excavations at Medieval Cripplegate, London by Gustav Milne with Nathalie Cohen and contributors (English Heritage, 2001)

Professor W.F. Grimes was the excavation director for many of the post-war excavations across the City and his book is a fascinating read covering many of these sites, and Gustav Milne’s book covers the post war archaeology between 1946 and 1968 of Cripplegate with a detailed review of post war work and a modern update and interpretation.

The bombing of London resulted in large areas of destruction across the City. As many of my father’s photos show, buildings had been demolished down to their foundations and cellars to remove any danger of the walls collapsing and to prepare the areas for whatever development would be coming next.

This presented an opportunity to excavate and discover what lay beneath the surface – an opportunity never before available on such a scale. However, as with all things, archaeological excavations cost money, and after the war, money for such work when there were so many other demands was not easily available. The Ministry of Public Buildings and Works contributed £26,300, and Grimes’ book records several pages of donations from Business, Livery Companies and individuals, with the names of those donating down to £1 being recorded.

The scale of the work was such that the Society of Antiquaries in London formed the Roman and Mediaeval London Excavation Council to organise excavations across the City, and work began in July 1947.

Grimes writes that there were some twenty one bastions known or recorded along the City walls, with the stretch to the south of St Giles having a number of the bastions that have survived, with Bastion 14 being the best preserved.

The bastions are not Roman, they form part of the medieval City defences and were built up against the medieval wall, which used the Roman wall for foundations. Their use as a defensive structure did not last long and for much of their time they were used for other purposes, and with Bastion 14 that included being an integral part of a warehouse built across the site.

A quantity of pottery was found at the base of the excavated bastion during the work in 1947, however it was not till later that this was used, along with other findings during the excavations, to firmly date the bastions to the thirteenth century.

Bastion 14 displays medieval stone work and features on its outer facing, but internally the bastion has been faced with much later brickwork and other features. The following photo shows the internal view of Bastion 14.

Bastion 14

In the above photo, the gravel covering the floor of the bastion marks the floor level at the time of the excavations. The work digging below this floor level revealed a number of finds that helped date the bastion and also exposed the medieval base of the bastion.

The following photo is from Grimes’ book, and I have identified the main features of the bastion. By comparing with the above photo, you can see where the floor level was dug out revealing the medieval base.

Bastion 14

Grimes included the following drawing of Bastion 11 at All Hallows on the Wall in his book. It looks very similar to Bastion 14 with the bastion built up against the line of the original Roman wall, with the City ditch falling away in front of the bastion.

Bastion 14

The reduction of ground level in front of Bastion 14, and the way the ground slopes down from the base of the bastion means the view today must be very similar to when the bastion was originally built.

Grimes also included a photo in his book showing a section cut through the interior of Bastion 14 “showing gravel floor (arrows) overlying the Roman city ditch, its inner end coinciding with the top of the Roman fort wall (extreme right) as surviving”.

Bastion 14

The exterior of the bastion retains a number of early features which are still visible today. I have labelled these on my father’s photo of Bastion 14.

Bastion 14

The area between bastions 14 and 12 is a lovely bit of green space, and as well as the bastions, parts of the walls remaining from the buildings that occupied the site can still be seen.

This is the view looking back at Bastion 14 from the north, with a line of wall extending from the bastion (built on the original alignment of the Roman Wall). London Wall is on the elevated structure behind the bastion.

Bastion 14

The following view is looking in the opposite direction to the above photo, and shows the post war Barber Surgeons Hall.

Bastion 14

The location today of Barber Surgeons Hall is slightly different to the pre-war location and the large bay windows are relevant to the previous location.

The hall was originally built right up against Bastion 13, but as part of the planning for the new hall, it was a requirement to move the hall 30 feet to the east, separating the hall from the bastion (see my post on Monkwell Street).

That is the reason for the gap between the hall and Bastion 13 which is shown in the following photo.

Bastion 14

Grimes writes that Bastion 13 was once part of the courtroom of the Barber Surgeons Hall, the shape of which is today mirrored in the large bay which now faces the bastion across the 30 foot gap,

Bastion 13 is not in such good a condition as 14, and as well as once forming part of the Barber Surgeons Hall, the north west section was at the end of St Giles churchyard which as can be seen in the 1894 map above, originally curved around Bastion 12 and had a narrow extension down to Bastion 13.

Grimes writes “Bastion 13 survives only to the level of St Giles’ churchyard and has suffered extensive mutilation in other ways. Recent investigation has shown that on the north externally it ends on the city wall; to the south the junction has been destroyed. Internally, the ends of the bastion have been cut away or underpinned by modern foundations. In spite, however, of the low level of the cellar enough remained to show that the foundation, a little over 2 feet deep, was set in the floor of the Roman city ditch, the base of which has survived”.

A closer view of Bastion 13 and the adjacent Barber Surgeons Hall:

Bastion 14

Continuing walking north and there are more walls from the buildings that once stood here.

Bastion 14

On a sunny morning it is hard to believe that you are so close to London Wall and the Barbican:

Bastion 14

Approaching the northern end of the green space, part of what was St Giles’ churchyard and the buildings along Well Street have disappeared under one of the lakes built as part of the Barbican development.

Bastion 14

At the end we find Bastion 12 which formed the north west corner of the Roman Fort / City Wall, and from here the wall turned to the right, running to the south of the church which was “without” the City wall.

Bastion 14

Grimes does not have too much to say about Bastion 12, and refers to it as “the well known Cripplegate bastion”. Bastion 14 had been hidden within pre-war buildings, Bastion 13 had been part of the Barber Surgeons Hall, so they were the main points of interest.

In Gustav Milne’s book, reference is made to the bastion as standing “some 9m above the contemporary ground surface, which has been substantially lowered since the 1950s during landscaping”. So, the exterior probably looked like Bastion 14 in my father’s 1947 photo with much of the bastion still below the pre-war ground level.

Bastion 12 was excavated in 1947, but unlike Bastion 14, no artifacts were recovered from the interior. The bastion had already been excavated at the start of the 20th century and it had been through a number of restorations which made interpretation of the age of phases of the bastion somewhat complicated.

Bastion 12 may have been part of Lamb’s Chapel which I explored in my Monkwell Street post.

Looking back at some of the pre-war walls that remain:

Bastion 14

The following print from the LMA Collage archive and dated 1779 shows Bastion 12 at the point where St Giles’ churchyard curves round to extend down to Bastion 13.

Bastion 14Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: q4769128

At the right edge of the print is Bastion 13 as it was included in the Barber Surgeons Hall. The following print from 1800 shows the bay extension to Barber Surgeons Hall in detail. The medieval bastion 13 was incorporated within this feature.

Bastion 14

 

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: v9041147

The following print from 1841 shows Bastion 12 with the churchyard of St Giles’ curving round the bastion  © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Bastion 14

Grimes book was published in 1968 and allowed some discoveries to be included which had not been part of the original excavations. As part of the Barbican development, the churchyard around St Giles’ was lowered ready for the Wallside building along the southern edge of the development, with space for grass and a water feature.

This lowering of the ground level revealed the remains of a new bastion. This was identified as Bastion 11A as it was between the known Bastion 12 and Bastion 11 at All-Hallows-on-the-Wall.

This new bastion survived as two curving stumps built against the city wall. The outer part had been cut away by a 17th century sewer which had been following the line of the ditch built along the external side of the city walls.

The remains of Bastion 11A can be seen in the photo below which is looking along the remains of the city wall towards Bastion 12. The remains are the low curved stones jutting out into the water.

Bastion 14

These bastions provide a fascinating glimpse of the medieval defences of the city, and how London made use of these features as the need for a walled city was replaced by the ever expanding need for warehouses, housing and halls. Thankfully the integration of bastions 13 and 14 meant that they survived, and Bastion 12 seems to have survived as the corner feature of St Giles’ churchyard.

I suspect that there was concern as to whether the bastions would survive the redevelopment of the City. On the 12th October 1942, a Mr Sydney R. Jones wrote to The Times:

“Recently I proceeded from Guildhall to the garden of St John Zachary and its adjacent neighbourhood to find not only interest but excitement as well. It is now possible to trace the line of the Roman wall in a manner which has not been known for hundreds of years. A sharp eye may detect many relics of the rampart incorporated in the work of subsequent buildings. These show all along London Wall on each side of the upstanding relic that had always been visible in the disused churchyard of St Alphage. At St Giles, Cripplegate, the wall joins the well-known bastion, and at that point, the right angled turn, carrying the wall southward, may be plainly followed until it meets another bastion which, though known of, hitherto has remained hidden. The once hidden bastion, now in full view, and other relics make a visit to this spot well worth while for those interested in the story of London. I do hope that all these Roman remains will be adequately recorded, for they may be lost for ever when London rises again glorious on its ancient foundations”.

My father took the original photo in the same year as W.F. Grimes had started excavations. He was limited in the number of photos he could take by the cost and availability of film, but it is always frustrating when looking at these photos as I always wonder what else could be seen – could he have photographed the inside of Bastion 14 and seen the excavations underway?

The book by W.F. Grimes provides a fascinating account of post war excavations across the City of London, and the book by Gustav Milne, along with Nathalie Cohen and contributors provides an equally fascinating update and appraisal of these excavations of Roman and Medieval London. Together they provide a comprehensive view of how our understanding of Roman and Medieval London developed during the later half of the 20th century.

The Sphere on the 15th November 1947 included a report on the excavations with the following photo of “Mr W.F. Grimes, Keeper of the London Museum, assisted by Miss Adrienne Farrell, a volunteer worker”:

Bastion 14

An Unknown City Excavation

I have recently scanned more of my negatives and came across a number of photos of an excavation somewhere in the City in the early 1980s. I cannot remember where it was and did not make any notes, so would be really grateful if by any chance, a reader recognises the site:

Bastion 14

There are some interesting features exposed at the bottom of the excavations.

Bastion 14

Today, with the number of photos limited by the size of memory card, I would take lots of photos of the surroundings of the excavation. Back then I was using 36 exposure film, and these were on the end of a film. How very different photography is today – I currently have a 4TB hard drive filling with photos and scans.

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Cripplegate Institute and Jewin Crescent

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

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

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

Cripplegate

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

Cripplegate

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

Cripplegate

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cripplegate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cripplegate

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

Cripplegate

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

Cripplegate

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

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

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