Tag Archives: St. Paul’s Cathedral

Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse In Wartime

Yesterday evening, the 29th December, was the anniversary of one of the most intensive bombing attacks on London, when on the 29th December 1940 a mix of high explosive and large numbers of incendiary bombs created significant destruction across the City. It was during this raid that the image of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, rising above the smoke and flames of the surrounding destruction was symbolic of both the suffering of the City and the will to survive.

I have written about the raid in a couple of previous posts including The Second Great Fire of London and the St. Paul’s Watch, and for this week’s post I would like to bring you another perspective from the same night.

Of the many buildings that surrounded the Cathedral to the north along St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row were the offices, factory and warehouses of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. I am not sure how best to describe the company, but at the time they were a form of Fashion House and drapery, manufacturing and selling a wide range of clothes, hats, fabrics, ribbons etc.

The firm was established in 1835 by George Hitchcock and a Mr Rogers, who would leave in 1843.  George Williams who originally joined the company as an apprentice, became a Director with Hitchcock in 1853 when the partnership Hitchcock, Williams & Co was formed. Always based in St. Paul’s Churchyard, firstly at number 1, then at number 72, with the firm expanding to take in many of the surrounding buildings.

George Williams originally joined the business as an apprentice, and as well as becoming a partner with Hitchcock, received a knighthood from Queen Victoria for services, which included the inauguration of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)  which was founded in a room of the company’s premises in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

The buildings of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. were destroyed during the raids of the 29th December 1940. A paragraph in the newspaper reports of the raid included a mention of the company:

“The historic room in which the Young Men’s Christian Association was started was among the places destroyed on Sunday night. With seven other buildings, the George Williams Room – named after the founder, the late Sir George Williams – was burned to ashes. It was situated in the premises of Messrs. Hitchcock, Williams and Co, manufacturers, warehousemen and shippers, of St. Paul’s Churchyard, and was originally one of the bedrooms used by the 140 assistants employed in the Hitchcock drapery business.”

Just after the war, a small book was published by the Company, titled “Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse in War-time”, written by H.A. Walden, an employee of the company.

It is a fascinating book and provides not just a detailed account of an individual business in the City of London, but also as being written at the time, by an employee, provides a view of how a typical City company operated.

The book includes a number of photos which show daily life in the company before the war, during preparations for war and the results of the raid of the 29th December.

The following photo is titled “A Pre-Blitz View of our Blouse Department”:

29th December 1940

“Staff Quoit Competition” – This photo helps show exactly where the Hitchcock, Williams building was located with the main entrance to St. Paul’s Cathedral, facing Ludgate Hill, seen in the background.

29th December 1940

In fact St. Paul’s Cathedral features in the background of many of the photos in the book. The following photo taken in 1940 is titled “Our Firefighting And First Aid Units”:

29th December 1940

In the following view of St. Paul’s Churchyard today, the buildings of Hitchcock Williams & Co occupied the majority of the space now occupied by the buildings, starting with the brick faced building on the right, where the old Temple Bar now stands and the majority of the space occupied by the taller building curving from right to left.

29th December 1940

In the early stages of the war, building owners were encouraged to form their own fire fighting teams, and many City buildings were manned by employees of the company to help defend the building from what was expected to be attacks from explosive and incendiary bombs, although they were mainly equipped with buckets of sand and stirrup pumps, which were to prove of limited use on the night of the 29th December.

Preparations for war included not just the formation of fire fighting and first aid teams, but also protecting the building with sandbags as this photo titled “Sand Shifting Volunteers” demonstrates:

29th December 1940

This photo titled “Stand Easy” shows part of a roof apparently lined with sandbags.

29th December 1940

Hitchcock Williams & Co, as practiced by other large City companies, had a number of residential employees and during the war preparations included converting rooms to overnight shelters for residential staff and those assigned to fire watching shifts. This photo titled “Squeezin Hotel Bedroom” shows one of the converted rooms.

29th December 1940

Judging by the preparations and planning detailed in the book, Hitchcock Williams & Co. was probably as well prepared as any City company at the start of the war, however such was the intensity of the raid on the 29th December 1940 that even with incredibly dedicated staff and detailed planning and preparations, they were insufficient to save the buildings in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

Rather than precis the events described in the chapter of the book that covers the 29th December, the following are the words written by H,A. Walden who was there on the night. The chapter has the perhaps rather understated title:

“The Great City Fire Blitz And How It Affected Our Personnel And Premises”

“It has been said, and written, that not since the Great Fire of 1666 has there been such a conflagration in the City of London as occurred on Sunday night, December 29th, 1940, the result of Nazi incendiary bombs. In this ‘blitzkrieg’ whole areas of the City became smoking ruins within a few hours. Narrow thoroughfares, old familiar places and historic landmarks, were obliterated. To write adequately of the scenes of destruction seems beyond the limit of one’s descriptive powers.

It was an awe-inspiring sight for those of us who witnessed it. St. Paul’s Cathedral, ringed by raging fires and falling masonry, its great dome superimposed and reddened all night by the reflected flames, seemed to take upon itself an even greater dignity, as it stood in the midst of this example of ‘Man’s inhumanity to man.’

Approaching the City from the South, I saw by the lurid sky that the fires must be near the Cathedral, and felt apprehension about our own premises. The journey on foot along Cannon Street, deserted but for firemen, was of a nightmare variety. Several big fires were in progress, particularly a large Queen Victoria Street block, the smoke and sparks of which filled the air. the sound of hostile planes roaring overhead and the hiss of great numbers of falling incendiary bombs, seemed more menacing than usual. Taking cover in various doorways en route, and reaching the Cathedral, I found that our near neighbours, Debenham and Company’s premises were almost gutted and Pawsons and Leaf’s roof alight in several places. The roadway was a mass of fallen masonry, and hose-pipes interlaced towards the brow of Ludgate Hill, where other fires were taking hold. Various buildings in Paternoster Row, Ivy Lane, Warwick Avenue and London House Yard were burning furious, and I shall not forget seeing the faces of some of our fire fighters in the glare, with every detail defined at a considerable distance. It should have been possible to read clearly by the light of the many fires.

Passing into the Warehouse, I learned that hundreds of firebombs had fallen in the near vicinity, some even on the Cathedral. Those which fell on our roof were effectively dealt with by our own squads, some of whom went out into the street to extinguish other incendiaries.

Here it must be recorded that many fires might have been avoided if other Warehouses and buildings nearby had had organised watchers and fire fighting staffs, such as our own. Perhaps, indeed, our premises would have been spared, for there appears to be little doubt that we became the eventual victims of other negligence, or lack of precaution.

In addition to our own fire fighters and first aid men on duty, there were about 80 other occupants of our basement shelters, comprising assistants of both sexes and domestic staff, most of whom were unaware of the close proximity of the fires or the danger outside. Soon word was received that our premises must be evacuated at once, and Mr. Lester instructed me to conduct the women members of the staff immediately to the Crypt of St. Paul’s , where arrangements had been made to receive them. They quietly collected their necessities and blankets, and with one or two excusable exceptions, the calm manner of their journey despite the sight of flames and sparks which greeted them upon coming out of doors at ground level, is worthy of very special mention. The men followed shortly afterwards. All were most kindly received by Canon and Mrs’ Cockin and other clergymen and helpers. We were given cocoa and made as comfortable as possible on pews and forms. The quiet atmosphere of the Crypt made it seem miles away from the outside world. It was the first visit for some of the staff, and one clergyman was soon answering questions from a young lady regarding the Duke of Wellington’s huge funeral carriage standing nearby. By this time, Wren’s Chapter House adjacent to our own premises, was ablaze, and our old building, 69/70 St. Paul’s Churchyard, despite the firemen’s efforts, had caught fire.

It was a hopeless fight from the start. memories of this old part of the House, with its Victorian outline, came crowding in. How it had witnessed so many of the Cathedral ceremonies! How, in happier days, over many years, it had been made colourful and bedecked with flags and bunting to welcome Royalty and others visiting the City and St. Paul’s, the personalities who had worked there and long since passed on – old friends who used to visit its departments – the present staff which manned them, and their reactions when on the morrow they would come and find the old place a ruin of twisted steel! The quiet, philosophic bearing of Mr. Hugh Williams and the Manager as they stood and watched the burning warehouse were an example to us all.

To define in praise the work of our fire fighters would be to limit the extent of their great service. Three times the Police instructed them to leave as the building was becoming dangerous; but they refused to go, and eventually Mr. Lester had personally to order and almost drag them away. Even then they asked to stay and continue the unequal struggle. Stirrup-pumps were futile weapons to deal with such a fire. many of our men were utterly exhausted when finally they withdrew.

As we feared, there was worse to follow. The flames of burning buildings in narrow Paternoster Row fanned by a strong wind contributed to the succumbing of the newer blocks of our premises, the rear portion of which was soon doomed – steel and concrete have their limitations. The task of the squads of regular and auxiliary firemen was hopeless and overwhelming. Water was at a low pressure because of its universal demand over a wide area. Many of us could neither rest nor remain in the Crypt, but came out at intervals to stand and stare, fascinated – and dejected – at the scene confronting us but a few yards away; we were even warmed by the heat of the blaze. It was eerie to see the hoses lit up by the flames. They resembled giant snakes sprawling across the roadways and pavements. Most of the staff had by now put down their blankets on the stone floor of the Crypt and endeavoured to obtain some sleep. My own blanket covered a flat gravestone, the inscription of which recorded the death in 1787 of Elias Jenkins, a former verger of the Cathedral. It was surprising that so many actually slept, particularly those who were shouldering the great responsibilities and anxieties of the future.

The following photo is titled “Our Old Building, December 29th, 1940”:

29th December 1940

On the 29th December 2018 I took the book with me to St. Paul’s Churchyard to track down the location of a couple of the photos. The following photo is of the same view as the above. Part of the Chapter House can be seen on the right of both photos. This is the only building that was rebuilt after the war and remains to this day.

29th December 1940

In the grey light of a chaotic dawn, with buildings still ablaze, breakfast was where one could find it. There was very little water, and it was a strange sight to see people walking about with kettles in their hands trying to obtain it. Most of the staff who had been there all night were now sent home. The Headquarters of the Firm were made temporarily at Messrs. Evans’ Restaurants (next to our own premises), which had, apart from water damage, escaped the fire. We record our grateful thanks and admiration of Miss Richards and Miss Sheer, of their staff, who literally took us in and fed us. They made tea and cooked under the most irksome conditions, and were indefatigable in their cheerful assistance. They had slept in our basements for many weeks previously.

Our staff assembled here on Monday morning, seeking advice and instruction. The addresses of all were registered, and, with a few exceptions they were told to return home and await orders. This went on for two or three days, and about a dozen of us occupied the Crypt for a second night. Parts of our building were still burning, and it was late on this second occasion that some of us had the unusual sight of the Dean of St. Paul’s in his shirtsleeves, surveying our premises from the Crypt door. With a smile he remarked, ‘It takes Hitchcock, Williams an awfully long time to burn’.

The Firm had by now sought and found temporary offices at Textile Exchange, in the Churchyard, overlooking our still smoldering premises. The main room of these offices became a meeting place for everyone seeking information or giving it. A small Counting House and Entering Room staff were occupied acknowledging all mail and dealing with inquiries and urgent affairs. Mr Lillycrop had, fortunately, before leaving our stricken building, removed some books containing our customers’ names and addresses, thus enabling us to inform some thousands of them by January 7th of the calamity which had befallen our premises. A great number of replies were received expressing sympathy and offering help in some form or another. These greatly heartened and encouraged the Firm and staff in their determination to carry on. One letter concluded with, ‘Heil Hitchcock’s! Damn Hitler’.

The following photo is titled “Our Paternoster Row Frontage (after December 29th, 1940)”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is of roughly the same scene today. The above photo extends further to the right than the photo from today, however that part of the view is obscured by the building on the right.

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “One Of Our Departments After The Fire”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “Main Roof Damage”:

29th December 1940

The following photo is titled “Our Warehouse After Hitler Passed”:

29th December 1940

Many problems were now being dealt with, to give but a few – Where should we find premises to house our Departments? In what state were the hundreds of ledgers and account books in the strong room which had now been submerged in debris and 14 feet of water? Where to obtain new stocks with the ‘Limitation of Supplies Act’ in operation? The claims of many members of staff who had lost their personal possessions in the fire? Where to accommodate the previously ‘living in’ staff, of whom there were approximately 150, when they returned to business? Immediately on seeing the staff on Monday morning, Mr. Hugh Williams, the Manager and some of the buyers went to inspect various places with a view to securing the premises and were able to obtain possession of four warehouses in the West End, and two showrooms in Cannon Street. By January 13th all these premises were in occupation by the various Departments which began establishing stocks and dispatching goods, though handicapped by a complete lack of counter fixtures etc.

The floor space in those early days was but a shadow of our former capacity, and indeed still is.

In addition to the complete loss of our main premises, there were also completely destroyed our four factories and workrooms, maintenance workshops at Warwick Lane and resident quarters at Crown Court, with everything they contained. Only Soft Furnishing and Piece Goods Departments were re-established in the City, at Scott House, Cannon Street, but on May 10th 1941, this building was also totally destroyed by enemy action. These departments were eventually transferred to the rehabilitated first floor of what remained of our 72 St. Paul’s premises.

The problem of the flooded basements containing our strong room and in it all our books and records was a serious one. Pumps were installed and operated for several days before the water was cleared, and debris removed, to allow an examination to be made of the contents. The strong room was found to have been badly flooded, and the removal of sodden books and documents and the process of hand drying every page by our already augmented staff will not soon be forgotten. The drying and de-ciphering continued for many months, in many cases figures became obliterated by mildew setting in. The practical help given by our customers who, when remitting, forwarded copies of their own ledgers was of great assistance to us. Many were themselves in a similar case and the difficulties of reconciliation of indebtedness can be appreciated. One customer at Hull had his premises destroyed on three occasions. Our bankers placed their special drying rooms at our disposal for some important documents and books – even a laundry gave assistance through the medium of its special apparatus.

Many of our ‘living in’ assistants and fire fighters had lost most of their clothes and personal belongings and for a few days the Guildhall (also badly damaged) was besieged by claimants for compensation. Each was interviewed by the Relieving Officer, and, in most cases, a cash payment on account was made for immediate necessities. A comprehensive form, setting out personal losses had to be completed and returned within 30 days. The administration at the Guildhall was sympathetic and businesslike. There must have been thousands of claims made as a result of the night of December 29th, 1940.

For some time, members of the staff worked among the debris and basements, clearing and salvaging whatever possible. The builders erected scaffolding at certain points with a view to rendering first aid to that part of our remaining building which might be made habitable for business. Meanwhile in Paternoster Row the Royal Engineers and Pioneers were in full possession continuing their work of demolition of unsafe buildings and walls. What remained of the older portion of our building was finally demolished by explosive charges on February 7th, 1941. Despite great damage, it fell only after great reluctance. Paternoster Row and London House Yard remained closed thoroughfares for the rest of the war.

This scene of desolation in the area at the rear of our buildings was terrible. It could be likened to the result of an earthquake. Publishers, publicans, booksellers, scent makers, cafes, solicitors – in fact, all branches of the professions and industry suffered. Notices and papers strung along railings and ropes indicating location of new or temporary addresses could be compared with washing hanging on a line.

The salvaging, drying and storing of a quantity of packing paper and string provided extremely useful, as these commodities became scarcer in supply. Our artesian well which pumped water from a depth of 500 feet in sufficient quantity to supply all our needs, was rendered useless. The reserve tank, for three days’ supply had a capacity of 18,000 gallons and weighed 90 tons. This provided useful salvage and ‘tank-busters’ was no misnomer for the men who were eventually employed to dismantle it.

Finally, we were indeed thankful that no lives were lost, nor serious injury received by any of our staff. Despite the great material losses the Firm sustained they set an example to all in their determination to rise again, Phoenix like, from the flames. Meanwhile over the front entrance door, the sculptured stone figure of ‘Industry’, undamaged, still smiles serenely down on our undertaking.

What further symbol is needed for this great century old business?”

The following photo is titled “Our Block, December 1940”:

29th December 1940

In the above photo, the white lines shows the boundary of the premises of Hitchcock Williams & Co and demonstrate the size and scale of their operation around St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row. In the lower right corner, part of the shell of a building can be seen with a rather distinctive chimney with lighter colour lower section and darker upper section. This building is the Chapter House of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

My father took a series of photos from the Stone Gallery of St. Paul’s just after the war (I covered these in two posts here and here).

He did not take a photo that exactly covers the area of the Hitchcock Williams building, however he did take the following photo showing the Chapter House with the same distinctive chimney.

29th December 1940

In the above photo, the area occupied by the buildings of Hitchcock Williams are to the left and have now been cleared. The round circles are the marks left from the siting of large water tanks that were built after the raid of the 29th December on cleared land. This was to address the problem of water availability and low water pressure as described in the account of the raid.

To help locate where Hitchcock Williams stood in the area around St. Paul’s today, this is a photo I took a couple of years ago when the Chapter House was being restored showing the same view as in my father’s photo above. The premises of Hitchcock Williams were to the left of the Chapter House.

29th December 1940

Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse in War-time is a fascinating little book, not just for the account of the 29th December 1940, but also for the background as to how a company operated in the City of London covered in the rest of the book. It is amazing how the company tried to operate as normal in the first months of war, including sending sales representatives with samples to the Channel Islands – they just escaped on the last boat as the islands were being invaded.

The company also appears to have had a very paternalistic approach and was very male dominated as were the majority, if not all of City companies of the time. A photo in the book taken on the roof shows the buyers meeting. Of the 25 staff of buyers, only two were female.

29th December 1940

Hitchcock Williams & Co rebuilt their operations during and after the war and continued trading, however changing tastes, foreign competition and the economic recession of the early 1980s all took their toll and Hitchcock Williams closed in 1984. The company had been trading for 149 years and when it closed a fifth generation Williams was a Director of the company.

The area around St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row are very different today, having been rebuilt twice since the destruction of the 1940s. Nothing remains of the buildings of Hitchcock Williams, however it is intriguing to wonder if the remains of their 500 foot deep artesian well can still be found somewhere deep under the current incarnation of buildings – something for future archaeologists to wonder about.

To close, here is a poem from the book which describes what must have been the feelings of those who looked over the bombsites of buildings that had been a significant part of their lives:

City Street, 1942

Desolate and gaunt the ruined buildings brood,

And gargoyles from a long dead sculptor’s mood

Still peer, unseeing, grinning in the dust,

Athwart with twisted girders etched with rust,

Who looks unmoved upon these rubbled mounds

Which once knew friends, and heard familiar sounds?

Has compensating Nature spread its gown

Far from the Country to the heart of Town?

Where basements newly greet the sun and showers,

And nourished rockeries grow Summer flowers

My thoughts rebuild the place I used to know

And sadness comes unbid; my voice is low.

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The Horn Tavern, Sermon Lane And Knightrider Court

One of my father’s photos of the Horn Tavern has been in the blog header since I started the blog, and today I finally get round to covering the location.

He took two photos of the rather ornate light on the corner of the Horn Tavern which was at the junction of Sermon Lane and Knightrider Street, just to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Horn Tavern

Horn Tavern

This is the same view today, the frame of the light is still there, however there have been some changes to the pub and the surrounding streets have changed significantly.

Horn Tavern

The differences in the photos highlight what has happened to the pub since my father took the original photo. The pub had a long history as the Horn Tavern, with references to the pub going back to the 17th century (although it is sometimes difficult to confirm that whilst the name may be the same, it may not be the pub at this location).

The pub changed its name to the Centre Page in 2002. I have no idea why the name changed, or the meaning behind the current name. I would have thought that a name as old as the Horn Tavern would have been preferable, especially given the location on the walk up from the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s with the attraction of an old name to the passing tourist trade.

I will continue referring to the pub as the Horn Tavern as I much prefer the original name.

The frame of the light in my father’s photo looks to be the same as the light in place today, however the wonderful glass with the pub name has been replaced with rather bland clear glass.

The original light must have looked brilliant and very inviting when lit on a dark London night.

There have been many changes in the immediate vicinity of the Horn Tavern. In my father’s photo, the name plate for Sermon Lane can be seen. Sermon Lane still exists but only really in name rather than as a lane.

To set the location and changes in context, the following map shows the area today. Peter’s Hill is a wide walkway from Saint Paul’s Church Yard down to Queen Victoria Street.

Just over half way down on the left can be seen Knightrider Street. Where this meets Peter’s Hill, the Horn Tavern is on the upper corner of the junction. There is a truncated street running up and down from this junction and within Peter’s Hill can be seen the words Sermon Lane.

Horn Tavern

Peter’s Hill is one of the major changes to the area. The area between the cathedral and the river was once densely packed with office buildings, warehouses etc. Peter’s Hill carved through these buildings and streets to provide a wide pedestrian walkway from river to cathedral and opened up the view of the cathedral from the river and Bankside.

The following map is from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Greater London. In the middle of the map can be seen Sermon Lane, when it was a street with buildings on either side. To the right of Sermon Lane is Knightrider Court – this has had a strange move which I will cover later in this post.

Horn Tavern

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the area in more detail. The Horn Tavern is the P.H. on the corner of Sermon Lane and Knightrider Street.

Horn Tavern

Going back further to Rocque’s 1746 map, we can still see Sermon Lane, however to the right, Knightrider Court was then called Doolittle Alley (the second ‘o’ is missing from the map).

Horn Tavern

Doolittle Alley was the Doolittle Lane mentioned in Ben Jonson’s plays, for example from “The Magnetic Lady”, licensed for performance in 1632 and first performed by the King’s Men at the Blackfriars Theatre in the same year:

“She dwelt in Doolittle Lane, atop o’the hill there, I’the round cage was after Sir Chime Squirrel’s. She would eat naught but almonds, I assure you.” 

I had assumed the origin of the name Sermon Lane was religious given the proximity to the cathedral, however the London Encyclopedia states “perhaps named after Adam Sermoneinarius, a 13th century property owner, or since it was once known as Sheremongers Lane, its name may have come from the sheremongers, who sheared or cut, and rounded the silver plates used in the minting of coins”.

There appears to be a common explanation leading back to John Stow’s Survey of London for the name Knightrider Street and Court. In the Streets of London, Gertrude Rawlings states that “Stow says it was supposed that the name refers to knights riding this way from Tower Royal to the tournaments at Smithfield. It has also been stated that a “knightrider” meant originally a King’s messenger, but no such word is known in our dictionaries”.

Photos of the area today show the changes to these streets. In the following photo, the Horn Tavern is on the corner and the paved area edged by the trees, leading up towards the cathedral is Sermon Lane, however this is all open space and the steps on the right form the only boundary with Peter’s Hill.

Horn Tavern

A large sign on the corner of the pub documents a link with Dickens and also states that the pub was formerly known as the Horn Tavern – again why change, there is even a Dickens reference to the original name.

Horn Tavern

View of the entrance to the Centre Page in Knightrider Street – again with the reference to the former name.

Horn Tavern

The current Horn Tavern building dates from the 19th century. Remarkably with the level of destruction around St. Paul’s Cathedral, the building survived the blitz.

The Horn Tavern appears in newspapers over the years for all the usual reasons – the meeting place for clubs, adverts for staff and rooms, people staying in the tavern being involved in local events etc. In October 1874 there was a rather intellectual contest held between teams from north and south of the river when twelve of the best players from the City of London Chess Club, played against twelve of the best players from the Bermondsey Chess Club. Unfortunately I cannot find any results to confirm whether the north or south of the river came out on top.

This is the view looking down what was Sermon Lane from the end near the cathedral. This space still retains the name Sermon Lane, however it is only a line of trees and steps that separate Sermon Lane from the main part of Peter’s Hill.

Horn Tavern

Looking down from the centre of Peter’s Hill, Sermon Lane is on the right.

Horn Tavern

In the above photo, Knightrider Court once ran through the buildings on the left, as can be seen on the 1940 and earlier maps, and Sermon Lane terminated directly on Knightrider Street, however fast forward to today, and Knightrider Court has moved.

The name is now used for the small section of street from just before the pub, and includes a small space after the junction with Knightrider Street.

In the following photo, One Knightrider Court can be seen above the entrance to the building to the right of the Horn Tavern (although today it is separate, this entrance and the building above was part of the Horn Tavern).

Horn Tavern

From the above viewpoint, turning slightly to the left and looking straight down there is this small length of street which also has the name Knightrider Court.

Horn Tavern

So although the original Knightrider Court has been lost, the name has transferred to take over the end of Sermon Lane and an additional small length of land in front of the opposite building.

I like the fact that names are retained, however it is deceiving that the name looks to be in the right place (it is a court shaped stub of land off Knightrider Street) but in reality it is in the wrong place.

This is the view looking down Knightrider Street.

Horn Tavern

As can be seen in the maps at the start of this post, Knightrider Street once continued on towards Friday Street, however Peter’s Hill now terminates the street. I explored the extension of Knightrider Street, past the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey in an earlier post: Distaff Lane – How London Streets Have Changed Over The Centuries, which also covers how the streets have changed in the area to the south of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I would be really interested to know why the Horn Tavern’s name was changed to the Centre Page. I would have thought that retaining such a historic name would have been a good commercial decision. It would also be great to see the light with the name of the pub once again etched into whitened glass and shining on a cold London night.

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My London 5 Peaks Challenge – The Monument, Sky Garden And St. Paul’s Cathedral

I do a considerable amount of walking around London, on foot being by far the best way to explore and understand the city. When not hunting down the locations of my father’s photos, then either a random walk or a walk with a specific theme or target.

I also like looking at London from above. My first view of London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral was over 40 years ago and during occasional visits since it has been possible to witness the changing skyline of the city.

Viewing London from above also gives a geographical context to London. The relationship with the River Thames, the route to the open sea, the surrounding hills and how London has expanded from the original settlement around the City of London.

When thinking about a possible theme for a walk, I had been talking to someone who had recently completed  the Three Peaks Challenge – climbing Scafell Pike in England, Snowdon in Wales and Ben Nevis in Scotland within a period of 24 hours. London does not have any equivalent peaks but what it does have is a number of tall buildings with viewing galleries, so on a Saturday in August I went for my own very unambitious 5 peaks challenge, to see London from the top of 5 locations – The Monument, Sky Garden, St, Paul’s Cathedral, Shard and the London Eye.

Only two of these needed climbing and it is there that any comparison with the 3 peaks challenge ends, but it did provide an opportunity to see the changing London skyline from different locations, understand the structure of London (for example only by looking from above can you really understand how the railways have carved up the south of the river) and just to enjoy the view of this remarkable city.

As you would expect, this is rather photo heavy, so I have split into three posts over the next few days. The first covering the Monument, Sky Garden and St. Paul’s Cathedral, the second post covering the Shard and London Eye, with the third post answering the question of the furthest man-made object visible from London (I am afraid the sort of question I find fascinating).

I am going to stay clear of any discussion of the buildings in these posts, rather just enjoy the views across London.

So, at 10:00 on an overcast Saturday morning in August (with the forecast for improving weather), I arrived at:

The Monument

Completed in 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke to commemorate the Great Fire of London, the Monument provides a view-point in the heart of the City. When built, the Monument at 202 feet high would have stood clear of the surrounding buildings but today is starting to feel rather enclosed with the continuing growth in height of buildings across the City.

The viewing gallery is 311 steps from the entrance up a narrow cantilevered staircase, so after paying at the entrance it was a swift climb to the top for views across London from the oldest of the viewing points that I will looking from today.

First view from the Monument, looking down Monument Street towards the old Billingsgate Market and running across the Thames, Tower Bridge.

monument-1

A series of postcards were published in the early 20th century showing the view from the Monument – the first showing a similar view to the above:

monument-10

Looking up Gracechurch Street towards the towers of the City:

monument-2

Looking up King William Street with the towers of the Barbican in the distance and the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the left.

monument-3

Similar early 20th century view to the above photo. The growth in height of City buildings is obvious by how the church steeples once towered above their surroundings.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Post Office (BT) Tower in the distance.

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This view was once dominated by the roof of Cannon Street Station:

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View back across the City towards the towers of Canary Wharf in the distance. The looming presence of 20 Fenchurch Street (the Walkie Talkie building) dominates this part of the City. The Sky Garden at the top is my next stop.

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Although the River Thames is hidden by the buildings in the foreground, this is looking towards Bankside with the chimney of Tate Modern along with the new extension and viewing gallery to the left of the chimney. The top of the London Eye can be seen in the distance – my final stop later in the afternoon when hopefully the weather will have improved.

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View across the river to the Shard. The church of St. Magnus the Martyr in the lower centre of the photo with London Bridge hidden behind the building to the right of the church. This building is on the route of the original London Bridge.

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Time to descend the Monument and head off to the Sky Garden, always easier to climb down rather the climb up.

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The Monument is the City’s original viewing gallery and although now rather hemmed in by the surrounding buildings still offers good views of the City of London.

Above the viewing gallery is the flaming orb which is hollow and reached by a further small flight of stairs. At the very top, not visible from ground level is a CCTV camera which provides a 24 hour time-lapse view on the Monument’s web site, which can be found here, although it does not appear to be updating at the moment.

Now on to my next stop:

The Sky Garden

Access to the Sky Garden was quick and efficient and the lifts provided a rest in between climbing the Monument and the next climb to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Completed in 2014 and at a height of 525 feet, the design of the Sky Garden results in the best views being towards the south.

My first view was back towards the Monument which now looked busier than during my visit. Look closely at the top of the orb and the CCTV camera can just be seen along with the hollow top of the orb.

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Views towards Tower Bridge, City Hall and HMS Belfast. From this height it is easy to understand the flooding risk to London with the height of the river and how low and flat the surrounding land is, and this was not a particularly high tide. It is also at this height that you can start to see the higher ground that surrounds London to the north and south.

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View to the west with the Post Office Tower in the distance with Euston Tower just to the right. As yet, there are few tall buildings across this part of London.

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Wembley Stadium can be seen between the Post Office Tower and Euston Tower.

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Internal view of the Sky Garden.

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Through the revolving doors in the above photo, there is an external viewing gallery. Although there is still a glass barrier it is possible to look down on the City. The church of St. Mary at Hill is at lower centre with the old Billingsgate Market in the top centre.

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Across the river towards the Shard:

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And unlike the Monument, the view of the river from the Sky Garden is unobstructed.

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Looking down towards the Bank junction with the Bank of England building at the centre right.

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Looking north towards the other towers of the City. Tower 42 on the left, the 122 Leadenhall Street building (the Cheesegrater) in the middle and 30 St. Mary Axe (the Gherkin) on the right.

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Tower 42, originally know at the NatWest Tower when completed in 1980 and at 600 feet high was the first really tall tower building in the City. I remember this being built and at the time bought a copy of, if I remember correctly, the Illustrated London News which had a superb photo of the building by a photographer who was suspended in a large bucket away from the top of the tower by a crane also mounted on the top of the tower. Rather precarious, but a superb photo.

The Gherkin building was completed at the end of 2003 and stands at 591 feet high with the Cheesegrater being completed in 2013 at 738 feet.

View towards Canary Wharf with the Tower of London at lower right. From this height we can start to see the route of the river as it heads east towards the sea.

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View towards the east along Fenchurch Street and Aldgate High Street. The church of St. Botolph Without Aldgate can be seen to the left of centre, in front of the yellow crane.

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From this height we can also start to see how the construction of the railways carved through London. Here, the rail tracks running from Fenchurch Street Station out towards the east.

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Leaving the Sky Garden, with the promise of improving weather with the cloud breaking in the west, it was time for a walk to:

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral is my favourite place to look out across London. It is the history of the building, location, the climb up the 528 steps through the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery and finally to the Golden Gallery, along with the chance to admire the internal architecture and  the construction methods used.

My first climb of St. Paul’s was over 40 years ago and I started taking photos from the Lantern and Stone Galleries about 35 years ago. My father took a series of photos from the Stone Gallery just after the war showing the devastation around the Cathedral. These can be found here and here.

At the top of the final climb through the Dome, there is a small glass window at the centre which looks down to the floor of the church. This produces a strange optical effect as this is not looking through the roof of the dome directly above the floor, but through the space between the external and internal domes. The distorted view of the stairs that run up above the internal dome to get to the Golden Gallery can be seen in the periphery of this photo. It does though create the impression that you are directly above the internal dome.

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The first glimpse of the view through the door out to the narrow walkway that runs around the base of the Golden Gallery. The cloud is breaking and the sun is out.

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The view as you pass through the door, looking down between the two west towers to Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street.

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The view towards the Post Office Tower and Euston Tower. The Old Bailey can be seen to the lower centre right, just to the right of the red cranes.

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Paternoster Square:

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The three tower blocks of the Barbican with the low-rise block running between the left and centre towers. The church of St. Giles Cripplegate can be seen at the base of the right-hand tower.

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The view towards the east showing the cluster of towers in the City. This view also shows how the 20 Fenchurch Street building is separate from the main cluster of towers and much closer to the river. More towers will be added to this view over the coming years.

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Close up of the Monument from St. Paul’s Cathedral:

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The Shard and Cannon Street station:

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By climbing to the Golden Gallery we can get an understanding of the construction technique used to build the internal and external domes. From the gallery we can see some of the external construction techniques, for example the screen walls which were used as a method to hide the tops of the flying buttresses which were needed to strengthen the core of the cathedral. In the photo below, the roof of the Choir is in the centre, below the Dome with the screen walls running around the edge. The use of screens also avoided the need for expensive decorative work along the top of the choir walls and roof.

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View looking across the Millennium bridge towards Tate Modern, the old Bankside Power Station.

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The view from the Golden Gallery includes many of the local churches. Here, the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey alongside a new building site. As soon as this new building is in place, the view of the church from the cathedral will be mainly hidden again apart from the very top of the tower.

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St. Benets Metropolitan Welsh Church surrounded by Queen Victoria Street, the road down to Lower Thames Street and the City of London School.

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View across to the South Bank with the London Eye which will be my final stop.

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Close-up view of Bankside. This was once an industrialised area, but is now home to the reconstructed Globe Theatre. 49 Bankside, the building partly covered by the central tree and with the red door is a centuries old survivor of large amounts of change along Bankside.

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View along Ludgate Hill and into Fleet Street. The way that both these streets drop down towards Farringdon Street is a reminder that they originally ran down towards the River Fleet. The church of St. Martin-within-Ludgate is the dark tower on the right of Ludgate Hill. Further along on the left is the tower of St. Bride’s. Further along Fleet Street is the tower of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, and as Fleet Street curves towards the left behind the buildings is the tower of St. Clement Danes.

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View to the west looking up towards Waterloo Bridge. If the Garden Bridge is built it will cut across the river in the centre of the photo, obstructing views of the cathedral from the South Bank and Waterloo Bridge.

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The church of St. Vedas alias Foster in Foster Lane:

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Looking northwest to the high ground around Hampstead Heath and East Finchley. A number of the old rivers that originate in the north of London come from this area including the Fleet, Tyburn and Westbourne. The maximum height of the land at Hampstead Heath is around 443 feet and at the base of St. Paul’s Cathedral is around 36 feet showing the considerable change in height from the centre of London to the ring of hills around the north and south of the extended city.

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The tower of Christchurch Greyfriars alongside King Edward Street with the shell of the church a reminder of the bombing in this area during the last war:

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View across to Alexandra Palace and Alexandra Park with the Emirates Stadium on the right. The land in the distance sloping down from the heights of Hampstead Heath:

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The view from the Golden Gallery at St. Paul’s is superb. Standing 279 feet above the floor of the Cathedral on a narrow walkway in the open air is a wonderful way to experience the views across London.

After a quick look around the Cathedral and a much-needed drink in the Crypt Cafe, it was time to head to the Shard for number 4 in my London 5 Peaks Challenge which, along with the London Eye, will be the subject of my next post.

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London Under Fire

London Under Fire is the title of a set of postcards issued during the last war showing some of the damage caused by bombing around the city.

You might think that this was a strange subject for a postcard, and given the levels of censorship at the time, why would photos showing considerable damage to London be published?

The envelope containing the set of twelve postcards, “passed by the censor”:

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Although showing how much damage had been caused, these postcards had a very serious message. Firstly, the photos were mainly of the City of London, not the main population centres, for example across east London that had suffered so much damage which directly impacted the lives of Londoners.

The postcards were meant to inspire and motivate the population, London has taken this much damage and has come through and will be rebuilt again. The rear of the postcards carried exerts from the speeches of Winston Churchill:

“Let us all strive without failing in faith or in duty”

“This is a time for everyone to stand together and hold firm”

This was after the initial Blitz but before the V1 and V2 weapons fell upon London. The war still had an at the time unknown number of years to run so the message carried by the postcards was very clear, we have taken this much so this is not the time to weaken in any shape or form.

As well as an example of one of the many forms of subtle propaganda employed during the war, today they are helpful in understanding how the city has changed so a couple of weeks ago, I took the postcards up to the city for a walk to see what the locations looked like now and how much remained from these original photos.

The first postcard is of St. Paul’s Cathedral from Paternoster Row, this whole area across Paternoster Square was destroyed during the attack on the night of the 29th December 1940. The area today is now covered by the Paternoster Square development, I located the position where I suspect the photo was taken from, but looking across towards St. Paul’s I was looking into an office wall with no sight of the Cathedral.

As well as the cathedral, the only building that remains today is the Chapter House. This had been reduced to a shell and is the building in the centre of the photo below the dome of St. Paul’s. The Chapter House was rebuilt and has recently finished a full restoration.

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I had better luck with the next postcard, again of St. Paul’s but now from Cannon Street.

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The photo was taken on the corner of Friday Street and Cannon Street. As can be seen in the postcard by the remains of buildings leading up to St. Paul’s along the right hand side of Cannon Street, this view was only possible due to the destruction of these buildings and in the plan for rebuilding the City, the area around the cathedral was opened up making the views we see today possible.

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The next postcard was taken from London Wall and is looking north across to the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate.

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With the amount of building along London Wall, I could not get to the exact position of the original photo, however I did find one position in London Wall where the church tower is visible today. This also shows the Barbican development which would cover so much of this area in the post war redevelopment.

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Postcard showing the remains of the interior of St. Giles, Cripplegate. Again, the church suffered this damage mainly on the night of the 29th December 1940.

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The church was rebuilt after the war, and apart from the remains of the Roman city wall, is all that remains in this area from the pre-war city following the development of the Barbican.

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The next postcard is showing Fore Street, no idea where in Fore Street as there are no points of reference.

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But this is Fore Street today. The Barbican is on the left and office buildings between Fore Street and London Wall are on the right.

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The following postcard is titled New Basinghall Street.

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I could not find a New Basinghall Street in the City today. There is a Basinghall Street, but not a “New”, so it was to the 1940 Batholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London to check and this is where I found New Basinghall Street, a short extension of Basinghall Street from London Wall to Fore Street.

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Today, New Basinghall Street does not exist. In the photo below of Fore Street today, it was on the right, just past where the road is closed and passed to the right under the new office development to meet up with London Wall. Returning to the postcard of Fore Street, this shows a road leading off to the right and this may have been New Basinghall Street.

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The next postcard is of the buildings of the General Post Office from Newgate Street. Strange that the postcard does not mention the church in the foreground, only the buildings of the G.P.O in the rear. The church is Christ Church, Greyfriars.

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I could not get the same angle due to new building in the area, so I took the following of the church. The church was not rebuilt after the war, the tower was preserved and the main body of the old church turned into a garden. One of the few reminders in the area of the damage suffered during the last war.

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We are now at Ludgate Hill, looking down towards the junction with Fleet Street. The church tower on the left is that of St. Brides.

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Ludgate Hill today still has the slight bend to the left, however since the photo for the postcard was taken, the railway bridge has been removed and new building on the left has obscured the view of St. Brides with only the very tip of the steeple visible if you find the right place. The buses also look very different as well.

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Now moving slightly to the west, the following postcard is titled “View from High Holborn”. The buildings in the background to the right are those of Smithfield Market.

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Although I could find the position from where I suspect the photo was taken, the view is totally obscured by new building, so I walked back to where Holborn Viaduct crosses Farringdon Street and took the following photo of the market buildings.

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The next postcard is of St. Andrew’s Church from High Holborn:

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And another view of High Holborn. There is a single building in this wartime view that remains to this day.

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The building is the one in the centre of the photos above and below. I could not get the same angle as the original photo as the photographer must have been standing on the ruins of buildings between High Holborn and Charterhouse Street so the original photo is looking onto the side of the building which in my photo is off to the right.

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The final photo is of Temple Church, closed during my walk around London.

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It would be interesting to know how many of these postcards were posted. I suspect the majority were purchased and kept as a record of the destruction of the City rather than for posting.

They provide a fascinating view of the city at a point in time, before the start of the post war redevelopment that in many areas such as the Barbican and Paternoster Square, would result in so much change.

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Autumn In The City

Whilst the majority of my father’s photos came to me as negatives, a number were printed, and of these some had the location written on the back. As well as the location, a few are also specific about the time of year as the photo reflects how London appears as the seasons change.

For this week’s post, I bring you two photos on which my father had written the simple title “Autumn in Finsbury Circus”.

Both were taken early in the morning and show autumnal light shining through the trees, with the first autumn leaves on the path. There are two photos, one showing a woman pushing what looks like a pram, whilst the second shows a man starting to sweep the fallen leaves.

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I suspect that he had taken these photos either for exhibition or competition at the St. Brides Institute Photographic Society as they have a more composed quality rather than the straight forward recording of London’s buildings and streets.

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To try and find the location of these photos, a day off from work last Friday provided the opportunity for an autumn walk around London.

Finsbury Circus is much the same today, with one significant exception being that it is a major construction site for Crossrail with the centre of the gardens in the middle of the square being used for access to Crossrail and sections of the path that runs round the perimeter of the gardens also being closed.

If I correctly located the buildings in the background, they were behind part of the closed off path, however parts that remain open provided the opportunity to show that not too much has changed (if you ignore the major construction site to your left).

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The layout of Finsbury Circus was established in the early 19th Century, with the office buildings we see today being built over the following century, with some redevelopment continuing today.

As one of the few areas of green space, the gardens were very popular with city workers, with a bandstand and bowling green occupying part of the centre of the gardens. A small, temporary bandstand remains today. The gardens at the centre of Finsbury Circus will be restored after the Crossrail works are complete.

The main entrance to the Crossrail construction site which currently occupies much of the gardens in the centre of Finsbury Circus.

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Walking in central London, there are very few indicators of the season of the year. Apart from temperature and the times of the rising and setting of the sun, it could be any time of year. The natural indicators of whether it is spring, summer, autumn or winter are few and far between.

Taking inspiration from the title of my father’s photos, I thought it would be interesting to take a walk through the City and look for any other examples of where autumn can be found in amongst such a built environment.

The weather last Friday at least was very autumnal with strong winds and alternating between heavy showers of rain and clear blue sky (although in fairness that could be English weather at any time of year).

There are very few green spaces left in the City, the majority that remain are usually associated with a church, either still remaining or one that was lost in the last war, and it was to one of these that I headed to after Finsbury Circus.

This is the garden that occupies the site of St. Mary Aldermanbury. a church that was heavily damaged in the last war, not rebuilt and the remains shipped to America (see my first post here). Just south of London Wall at the corner of Aldermanbury and Love Lane.

A heavy rain shower as I stood in the garden, and a strong wind blowing the fallen leaves up against the far wall.

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The next stop was the garden that occupies the graveyard of the church of St. Anne and St. Agnes at the corner of Noble Street and Gresham Street.

This garden occupies a relatively small space, however some mature trees reach up to the sky in amongst the surrounding buildings, with the leaves starting to turn to their autumn colours.

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Walking to the end of Gresham Street, then turning up St. Martin’s Le Grand I came to Postman’s Park. At this time of year, the sun does not reach above the buildings to the south in order to shine on Postman’s Park, so the park spends much of this time of year in shade that appears to be made darker by the sunlight on the surrounding buildings. Many of the trees here had already lost the majority of their leaves.

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Walking out from Postman’s Park into King Edward Street and I was back in the sunshine of an autumn day.

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Heading south from Postman’s Park to one of the larger areas of green open space remaining in the City, the churchyard of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Here plenty of mature trees can be found around the eastern half of the cathedral and their autumn colours looking spectacular against both the stone of St. Paul’s and the sky.

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From St. Paul’s, it was then a walk down Cannon Street, Eastcheap and Great Tower Street to Trinity Square Gardens. (I did miss out the garden at St. Dunstan in the East as the sky to the east was getting very dark and I wanted to get to Trinity Square before another heavy shower of rain).

This large (for the City) open space also benefits from a lack of tall buildings to the south so the rare combination of a City garden that also gets the sun at this time of year.

The pavements showing the signs of recent rain. Overhung by mature trees, the pavements will soon be covered by leaves.

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The old Port of London Authority building in the background with the new memorial to Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Merchant Seamen who lost their lives in the Falklands Campaign. The mature trees around the edge of the gardens just starting to change to their autumn colours.

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My final visit was to the churchyard of St. Olave in Seething Lane. A small churchyard just catching the last glimpse of an autumn sun, with leaves on the trees starting to fall.

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It was a fascinating walk through the city on a typical autumn day with extremes of weather from heavy rain showers to clear blue sky. Even with the amount of building there are still places were it is possible to observe the changing of the seasons and retain contact with the natural cycle through the year.

I fear though that with the ever increasing height of buildings in the City, these valuable survivors of the natural world will be spending more and more of their days in the shadow of their surroundings.

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Postcards From London

The photos we as a family have been taking of London only go back to 1947, so to go back further I also collect any old London postcards I can find with photographs of London. These really help to understand how London has changed, what specific areas looked like at a moment in time and what it would have been like to have been walking the streets when the photographs for these postcards were taken.

The following postcard is from the top of the Monument and shows how much the London skyline has changed over the last 100 years. Long gone are the days when the City churches stood well above their surroundings.

The road to the right is King William Street running up to the Bank. On the left of the photo is the original Cannon Street Station. The platform roof running off the edge of the photo with the station hotel being the large building to the right of the station roof. One of the adverts on the building to the lower right is for the “Aerated Bread Company” – a company formed in 1862 by a Dr. John Dauglish using a special yeast free process to produce an additive free bread. the company also had well over 200 tea shops, many of which were in London.

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The next postcard is also from the Monument but this time the photographer has moved to the left and much of Cannon Street station is now visible. These old postcards also show how dominant St. Paul’s Cathedral was on the London skyline.

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In the following postcard the photographer has moved further round the viewing platform at the top of the Monument and is now looking towards Tower Bridge. Billingsgate Market is to the lower right. Opposite Billingsgate Market is the London Coal Exchange, the building with the ornate tower on the corner. The church tower on the left is that of St. Dunstan in the East.

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As it still is today, St. Paul’s Cathedral was another favourite spot for views of the London skyline. This time we can look back at the Monument. Compared to today where the Monument is surrounded by much taller buildings,  in the early years of the last century it was one of the City’s highest points. This photo also provides another view of Cannon Street station and the substantial hotel / station entrance at the front.

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We can continue past St. Paul’s and now have a look at the City from the tower of St. Brides Church, Fleet Street. This photo again shows how dominant the cathedral was and by far the tallest building in London. The church in the foreground is St. Martin-within-Ludgate. The large building to the left is the old Post Office headquarters.

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The following postcard is from the Second World War. On the rear of the postcard is an extract from a broadcast speech made by Winston Churchill on the 11th September 1940 at the time when the major air raids on London had begun:

“This is a time for everyone to stand together, and hold firm!”

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The next postcard also has an aerial view of St. Paul’s Cathedral before the devastation of the area by bombing. This shows how close the buildings used to press up against the cathedral. The area behind the cathedral, Paternoster Row and Square was a major location for the publishing trade with many book sellers and book warehouses. For a view of the devastation to this area see my posts with my father’s photos taken just after the war which can be found here and here.

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Some old postcards capture a moment of major change in London. The following postcard shows not only the original Waterloo Bridge, but also the temporary bridge to the right that was constructed to carry traffic during the demolition of the old bridge and construction of the new.

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I find the subject matter of some postcards rather surprising. The following two postcards show bomb damage in London during the last war. I would have thought to maintain morale, postcards showing significant bomb damage in the heart of London would not have been available, alternatively they could also have been used to inspire when coupled with the speech extracts on the reverse of the cards.

The first postcard shows the damage to Paternoster Row to the north of St. Paul’s. Both postcards carry extracts from speeches made by Winston Churchill. The first postcard has the same extract as the one above.

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The following postcard shows St. Andrew’s Church from High Holborn. Note the “Passed by the Censor” statement on the lower right of the card.

On the rear of this postcard is the following extract from one of Winston Churchill’s speeches:

“Let us all strive without failure in faith or in duty”

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The following postcard shows the view from the Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament. This is a post war card of the late 1940s / very early 1950s, and what I find interesting with this one is the empty patch of land on the right between Hungerford Bridge and County Hall. The photo for this postcard had been taken at a moment in time when the land had been cleared in preparation for the construction of the Festival of Britain. The Shot Tower can also be seen between Hungerford and Waterloo bridges.

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Postcards also show the busy streets of London during the first years of the 20th century. The following postcard shows the view down Cheapside with the church of St. Mary-le-Bow on the right. If you look on top of the buildings on the left you can see the telegraph poles that carried the wiring for the early telegraph / telephone system in the City. This was before the installation of underground cabling and much of the wiring was carried across the roofs of the City.

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And this postcard shows a very busy Piccadilly Circus.

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The following postcard is looking down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square. The building to the right is Marconi House. Originally built as the Gaiety Restaurant, it was taken over by the Marconi Company in 1912 and played a key part in the development of wireless. During 1922 and 1923, the original 2LO – London Broadcasting Station was broadcast from this building.

Wrapped around the stairs on the buses are adverts for some of the consumer brands of the time – Wrigley’s, Swan Vestas and Dunlop.

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Postcards also show that London has always been a centre for tourists and visitors with some of the postcards above being sent from London to destinations across the world.

Today, with the ability to take a photo on a phone and instantaneously send it across the world, the future of postcards looks rather bleak, however for roughly the past 150 years they provide a fascinating view of a changing city.

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Walking The Streets On The Evening Before The 1981 Royal Wedding

A couple of weeks ago I published the photos my father took of people waiting for the Coronation in 1953. That post can be found here.

Just under 30 years later there was another royal event in central London, and on the evening before people were finding the best position along the route to watch the events of the following day.

This was the wedding of Charles and Diana that took place on the 29th July 1981 and 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:

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Crowds at this perfect position looking across at the steps leading into the Cathedral: Royal Wedding St. Paul'sI must have then switched to a colour film:Royal Wedding St. Paul's

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.

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The same view today looking back up Ludgate Hill towards the cathedral. St. Martin Ludgate on the left is still there, along with many of the buildings on the right.

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Just to the right in the above photo in 1981:

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Now in Ludgate Circus. This was when the railway bridge still ran across the start of Ludgate Hill.

Royal Wedding Ludgate Circus

Just to the left of the railway bridge is the Old King Lud pub, decorated for the event. This was a lovely Victorian pub, built-in 1870,

Royal Wedding Ludgate Circus

After going through some changes in the 1990s, the pub finally closed in 2005 and became yet another of London’s lost Victorian pubs. The site is now occupied by a fast food store with offices above:

Ludgate Circus

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

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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.

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Prepared for a night’s wait:

Royal Wedding Fleet Street

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

Royal Wedding Law Courts

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

Royal Wedding Strand

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 Strand

One of many events that have taken this route to St. Paul’s Cathedral, but a special event for me as this was my first opportunity to get out and photograph the streets and people preparing for the following day.

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Cardinal Cap Alley And No. 49 Bankside

If you visit Bankside today, by far the main attraction is the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, however I would argue that there is a far more important historical building right next door to the Globe.

The following photo was taken by my father in 1947 and shows Cardinal Cap Alley. The building on the left of the alley is No. 49 Bankside, a building that exists to this day and has somehow managed to survive the considerable rebuilding along Bankside, and whilst having a well documented history, No. 49 also pretends to be something which it is not.

Cardinal Cap Alley

In the above photo, No. 49 and Cardinal Cap Alley are between one of the many industrial buildings along Bankside (Craig & Rose, paint manufacture’s ) and a short terrace of houses that were damaged by bombing in the last war.

The following photo is my 2015 view of the same area and shows No. 49 and Cardinal Cap Alley are now in between the Globe and the rebuilt terrace of houses, which were also reduced from three down to two houses in the post war reconstruction.

Cardinal Cap Alley

Cardinal Cap Alley and No. 49 have a fascinating history that tell so much about how Bankside has changed, and also how the history of the site can be traced to what we see along Bankside today.

As a starter, the following is from the London County Council Survey of London, Volume XXII published in 1950:

“The name Cardinal’s Hat (or Cap), for a house on the site of the present No. 49 Bankside, and for the narrow alley which runs down beside it, dates from at least the time of Elizabeth and perhaps earlier. The suggestion that it was named in compliment to Cardinal Beaufort is attractive but untenable, for Beaufort died in 1447, and the original Cardinal’s Hat was not built till many years later.

The site was described in 1470 as “a void piece of ground”. It is possible that it was named after Cardinal Wolsey who was Bishop of Winchester from 1529-30, although no buildings are mentioned in a sale of the site from John Merston, fishmonger, to Thomas Tailloure, fishmonger in 1533. Stowe lists the Cardinal’s Hat as one of the Stewhouses but he may possibly have been mistaken, including it only because it was one of the more prominent inns on Bankside in his day.

It is shown in the Token Book for 1593 as in occupation of John Raven and as one of a group of houses which in the book for 1588 is described as “Mr. Broker’s Rentes”. Hugh Browker, later the owner of the Manor of Paris Garden, was in possession of ground there in 1579 and it seems likely that he was responsible for the formation of Cardinal’s Cap Alley if not for the building of the original house.

Thomas Mansfield was the tenant of the inn when Edward Alleyn dined there with the “vestrye men” of St. Saviour’s parish in December 1617.

A few years later John Taylor, the water poet makes reference to having supper with “the players” at the Cardinal’s Hat on Bankside. Milchisedeck Fritter, brewer, who tenanted the house from 1627 to 1674 issued a halfpenny token. He was assessed for seven hearths in the hearth tax rolls.

The freehold was sold by Thomas Browker to Thomas Hudson in 1667. The later died in 1688 leaving his “messuages on Bankside” to his sister Mary Greene, with reversion to his great nieces Mary and Sarah Bruce. It was at about this date that the older part of the present house was built. During the 18th century it was bought by the Sells family who both owned and occupied it until 1830. in 1841 Edward Sells of Grove Lane, Camberwell, bequeathed his freehold messauge and yard and stables, being No. 49 Bankside, then in the tenure of George Holditch, merchant, to his son, Vincent Sells. The house is now owned by Major Malcolm Munthe. It has previously been occupied by Anna Lee, the actress.”

Although today the main Bankside attraction is the adjacent Globe Theatre, what does draw the attention of visitors to Bankside is the old looking plaque on No.49 with ornate script stating that Sir Christopher Wren lived in the building during the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral and that Catherine of Aragon took shelter in the building on her arrival in London. This can be seen to the left of the doorway to No. 49 in my 2015 photo.

Sir Christopher Wren

But a close-up of the 1947 photo shows no evidence of the plaque to the left of the door and there is no mention of it in the 1950 Survey of London.

Cardinal Cap Alley

The origin of this plaque is documented in the really excellent book “The House by the Thames” by Gillian Tindall.

As the name suggests, the book is about the history of No. 49 Bankside, the occupiers of the house and the industries around Bankside. It is one of the most interesting and well researched accounts of a single house and its’ surroundings that I have read.

In the book, Tindall confirms that the plaque is a mid 20th Century invention. Malcolm Munthe, who purchased the house just after the end of the war, probably made the plaque himself and installed on the front of the house. There was a plaque on a house further up Bankside, claiming the occupancy of Wren, however this house was pulled down in 1906.

A close-up of Cardinal Cap Alley and the entrance to No. 49, showing the Wren plaque to the left of the door.

Cardinal Cap Alley

Also note that Cardinal Cap Alley is now gated. This use to be freely accessible and I took the following photo from inside the alley in the 1970s. Could not deal with the contrasting light very well, I was very young and this was with a Kodak Instamatic 126 camera – my very first.

Cardinal Cap 11

I did not take a photo looking down into the alley, probably thinking at the time it was not as good a view as across the river, however it is these views which are so important as they show, what at the time, are the day to day background of the city which are so important to record.

I am very grateful to Geraldine Moyle who sent me the following photo taken in 1973 looking down into Cardinal Cap Alley:

1973 Cardinal Cap Alley

The garden of No. 49 is on the left. Just an ordinary alley, but so typical of all the alleys that would have run back from the water front, between the houses that faced the river.

Tindall’s book runs through the whole history of No.49 and demonstrates how the history of a specific site over the past centuries has influenced the site to this day.

The occupiers of No. 49 and the adjacent buildings ran the ferry boats across the river, were lightermen and watermen and then moved into the coal trade. The Sell’s family who lived in the house for a number of generations, and who built a very successful coal trading business, finally merging with other coal trading companies to form the Charrington, Sells, Dale & Co. business which generally traded under the name of Charrington (a name that will be very familiar to anyone who can remember when there was still domestic coal distribution in the 1960s and 1970s).

How the history of Bankside has evolved over the centuries:

– the original occupations of many Bankside residents of ferrymen, lightermen and watermen. Working on the River Thames with the transportation of people and goods.

–  as the transport of coal became important to London, the development of many coal trading businesses along Bankside, including that of the Sell’s family

– the local coal trading led to the development of coal gas and electricity generation plants at Bankside (the Phoenix Gas Works are shown on the 1875 Ordnance Survey map covering the west side of the current Bankside Power Station / Tate Modern.)

– the first electricity generating plant being replaced by the Bankside Power Station that we see today and is now Tate Modern.

To quote Tindall:

“And this is why at the end of the twentieth century, a huge and distinctive brick red building was there to make an iconic focus for the regeneration of a Bankside from which industrial identity had by then fled.

Thus do patches of London’s ground, which are nothing in themselves but gravel and clay and river mud, and the ground down dust of brick and stone and bones, wood and wormwood and things thrown away, acquire through ancient incidental reasons a kind of genetic programming that persists through time”

This last paragraph sums up my interest in the history of London far better than I could put into words.

I really do recommend “The House by the Thames” by Gillian Tindall.

Going back to 1912, Sir Walter Besant writing in his “London – South of the River” describes Bankside at the height of industrialisation:

“Bankside is closely lined with foundries, engineering shops, dealers in metals, coke, fire-brick, coal, rags, iron and iron girders. the great works of the City of London Electric Lighting Corporation, which lights the city, is also here. On the river-side is a high brick building containing the coal-hoisting machinery. All is automatic; the coal is lifted, conveyed to the furnaces, fed to the fires, and the ashes brought back with hardly any attention whatever, at an immense savings of labour.”

Standing in Bankside today, the area could not be more different.

Another view of No. 49 Bankside. The street in front of these buildings is the original Bankside. As can just be seen, this comes to an abrupt stop due to the land beyond being occupied by the Bankside Power Station complex. It is perhaps surprising that N0.49 and Cardinal Cap Alley have survived this long given the considerable redevelopment along this stretch of the river. It is ironic that perhaps the false plaque claiming Sir Christopher Wren’s occupancy may have contributed to the survival of the building during the last half of the 20th century.

The Globe Bankside

My father also took a photo from Bankside across the river to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The larger ship traveling from left to right is the Firedog, owned by the Gas Light & Coke Company. Originally founded in 1812, the company had a fleet of ships to transport coal to the gas works it operated around London (this was before “natural” gas was discovered in the North Sea. Prior to this, gas was produced from coal). The Gas Light & Coke company absorbed many of the smaller companies across London before being nationalised in 1948 as a major part of North Thames Gas, which was then absorbed into British Gas.

St. Paul's Cathedral

The same view in 2015. The only building on the river front to have survived is the building on the far right.  Note the building in the middle of the 1947 photo. This is the head office of LEP (the letters can just be seen on the roof), the company that operated the last working crane on the Thames in central London, see my earlier post here. It is really good to see that the height of the buildings between the river and St. Paul’s are no higher today than they were in 1947. A very positive result of the planning controls that protect the view of the cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral

There is one final reminder of Bankside’s past. Walk past the Globe and on the side of a modern building with a Greek restaurant on the ground floor is the Ferryman’s Seat:

Ferryman's Seat

The plaque states;

“The Ferryman’s seat, located on previous buildings at this site was constructed for the convenience of Bankside watermen who operated ferrying services across the river. The seat’s age is unknown, but it is thought to have ancient origins.”

Although there is no firm evidence of the seat’s antiquity, the 1950 Survey of London for Bankside includes a drawing of the seat in the building on the site at the time and states that “Inserted in a modern building at the corner of Bear Gardens and Bankside is an old stone seat said to have been taken from an earlier building and to have been made for the convenience of watermen.”

Ferryman's Seat

Read Gillian Tindall’s book, then visit Bankside. Ignore the crowds around the Globe and reflect on Cardinal Cap Alley, No. 49 and the lives of countless Londoners who have lived and worked on Bankside over the centuries.

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VE Day In London – 1945 And 2015

Friday, 8th May was the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day, the day in 1945 when the war in Europe officially came to an end. There are plenty of photos and film showing the celebrations in London on the day and throughout the night. The lights are starting to come back on and crowds throng the West End.

Apart from being evacuated for a couple of weeks at the very start of the war, my father lived in London throughout, in flats which still exist, just off Redhill Street in Camden. As well as a large collection of photos, he also left a detailed account of his experiences in London during the war. Written shortly after, these tell of the horror and also the sense of adventure that comes from the perspective of someone growing up in London.

His account finishes with a few paragraphs covering VE Day, written from the perspective of someone who has spent all their teenage years in London during the war, and for that generation, VE Day meant not going back to normal, but rather a future with plenty of uncertainty.

I decided to take a walk on Friday night and follow his footsteps exactly 70 years after his walk through London on VE Day, 1945, but before my account, the following is how my father saw VE Day on the 8th May 1945:

So now the long war was finally over, in Europe at least, which to many seemed the real war. Locally, as throughout the country preparations were quickly made for a celebration. Trestle tables magically appeared, placed end to end in the courtyards beneath the blocks of flats, where they could be fitted in between the surface shelters and the bicycle sheds, for a grand children’s party. Similarly, flags and bunting appeared at windows and were strung between balconies, reminiscent to me of my last children’s party, for the Coronation of 1937. Indeed, it was clear that cardboard cut-outs of their Majesties, together with slogans of “God Bless The King And Queen” had been safely stored since then.

Elsewhere bonfires in the streets were made ready for the evening of the 8th. A huge bonfire was prepared on part of Cumberland Market, the local boys dragging old doors and any timber they could lay their hands on to add to the pile.

As for myself, I had made arrangements with my friend Gus, whom I had known since infants school days, that on that evening, we would make our way to the West End to watch the celebrations.

Outrageous it may sound, but I didn’t feel like celebrating, and it became clear that Gus felt the same. The war had begun when I was eleven and, now being seventeen, the whole of those six years, despite every hardship, had been the only real and normal life that I could recognise, for I was a child before September 1939. therefore peacetime presented a prospect of the Great Unknown, in which the unity of wartime would vanish.

So it was that I felt a complete outsider, observing only the dancing, singing and general merrymaking taking place in the West End. Servicemen would now rightly look forward to a return to civilian life, with the promise of a better life than the one they had left; but with the war in the far east not yet over, Gus and I had to await our call-up to the services and I, as a temporary Civil servant, would be without a job to return to, if and when I did.

Darkness had fallen by the time we had managed to reach the end of Regent Street, where the crowds were vast and well lit by the unaccustomed brilliance from the lights, made even brighter by roving searchlights picking out the revellers for the benefit of the cine cameras.  On one of the balcony’s overlooking Piccadilly Circus, the musical star, Zoe Gail appeared, dressed in top hat and tails to sing “I’m Going To get Lit Up When The Lights Go On In London” which was rapturously received by the crowds.

However as observers, we eventually left the Circus, walking south along Regent Street to Waterloo Place. Here we came across the Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall, which to me presented the most spectacular illumination of the night. The building, constructed in Ancient Greek style, had been freshly painted a pale yellow colour and subtly lit. The balustrade bordering the Club surmounted by torches. Each had been filled with oil or similar and lit, producing a spectacular dish of flame, adding to the warm light bathing the building.

And so we made our way through central London taking it all in, the lights, the shop windows, the decorations and individual celebrations, until we found ourselves in Chiltern Street, which runs parallel with Baker Street. Celebrations at the London Fire Brigade building were well underway. The station gates were wide open and in the drill yard blazed a large fire. In one corner a piano was playing old favourites, while several elderly ladies performed a nifty “Knees Up Mother Brown”. We didn’t join in the dancing or sing any songs, but the beer and food was welcome, and I felt at home in the fire station.

Now the early hours of the morning, V.E. Day was over. we made our way home both wondering what life held in store for us.

Preliminaries to the 1945 General Election being contested by our great wartime leader, Winston Churchill, for me set the seal on the end of an era. I watched Churchill campaigning at Mornington Crescent, Camden Town, his open car surrounded by a rather hostile crowd. The great man was standing, raised hat in his left hand, cigar in his right. from an onlooker came a cry “Ere, Winston, try one of our fags!” followed by a Woodbine pack hurled at Churchill who turned the other cheek as his car drive on.

The future must have seemed very uncertain at the time. I suspect that he “felt at home in the fire station” was due to his grandfather, my great-grandfather being the Superintendent of East Ham Fire Station.

On Friday night, I set out from the West End to reach Chiltern Street by dusk and find out if the fire station was still there, and then walk back during the late evening to photograph the West End as it is now, very different to the same night 70 years earlier.

Turning off Baker Street and a short walk down to Chiltern Street, it was easy to spot the old Fire Station, the exterior looks much as it must have done when my father and Gus stopped here 70 years earlier, although now the building has a very different purpose. The building is now the Chiltern Firehouse, a bespoke luxury hotel and restaurant.

I took the following photo of the Fire Station as the light was fading on Friday evening. The original function of the building is very clear, the three large doors providing access to where the fire engines would have been waiting for a fast exit to the street.

VE Day 1

Just to the left of the main building is the old drill yard mentioned in my father’s account. This  also forms part of the Chiltern Firehouse and the original entrance still remains.

I stood for a while looking at what is a wonderful building, the architecture a clear statement of the standing in which the Fire Service at the time was held. As I waited, there was an almost constant stream of taxis dropping people off for either the restaurant or hotel and entering via the old drill yard entrance. Very different to the same place, 70 years earlier.

VE Day 2Pleased to have found that the Chiltern Street Fire Station building is still there, I then headed back through Manchester Square, to Oxford Street and then to the top of Regent Street.

In Regent Street looking back up to Oxford Circus:

VE Day 4Regent Street is still lined with shops as it was in 1945, but the shops are now rather different than they were. Walk down the street now and you pass the status shops of global brands:

VE Day 3

Shops with displays, variety and colour that would still have been a distant dream along the Regent Street of 1945:

VE Day 5

Regent Street is well-lit, but on reaching the end of this part of the street, the brighter lights of Piccadilly Circus beckon:

VE Day 6Piccadilly Circus is brilliantly lit at night and was one of the centres of celebration on the 8th May 1945. Late evening in 2015 and it is still busy, but nothing like the crowds my father was in, that were here in the same evening in 1945.

VE Day 7Eros as it is now generally known, or the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain to use the original and full name is the focal point of Piccadilly, but sits almost in the shade of the surrounding buildings:

VE Day 8

Illuminated advertising has always been a central feature of Piccadilly Circus:

VE Day 9I followed my father’s route through Piccadilly Circus and down to the lower end of Regent Street to Waterloo Place.

Waterloo Place is at the junction of Pall Mall and Regent Street and leads down to the 1834 column that forms the monument to the Duke of York. Much quieter than Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street.

Steps lead down from Waterloo Place to The Mall and I can imagine that in 1945 this was a far busier celebration route from Buckingham Palace to Piccadilly Circus.

Looking from Waterloo Place, up Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus:

VE Day 10

The Athenæum Club still faces onto Waterloo Place and as my father described in 1945 is still “painted a pale yellow colour and subtly lit” although on this 8th May the torches, which can still be seen around the 1st floor balustrade were unfortunately not lit:

VE Day 11The Athenæum Club on the left with the Crimean War memorial in the centre of Waterloo Place, looking up to the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus:

VE Day 12He did not say where else he walked on VE Day, but having been in Waterloo Place, there is a good chance that he probably walked down to The Mall and to Trafalgar Square, so I took the same route. Looking from the centre of The Mall towards Admiralty Arch:

VE Day 13Flags on Admiralty Arch with the light from the searchlights in Trafalgar Square shining on the clouds. The searchlights had been set-up for the weekend as part of London’s celebrations of the 70th anniversary.

VE Day 14And in Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery in the background, the “V” searchlights pick out the top of Nelsons Column:

VE Day 15After Trafalgar Square I took a quick walk down to the footbridge alongside Hungerford Railway Bridge to see if the “V” searchlights from St. Paul’s Cathedral were visible. The view along the Thames to the City from here is fantastic during the day, but takes on an additional dimension at night. 70 years ago, this view would probably still have been dark, although searchlights that had been used a few years earlier to pick out enemy bombers were being used that night to illuminate the Cathedral.

VE Day 16And a final close-up clearly shows the V searchlights from St. Paul’s Cathedral:

VE Day 17It was fascinating to walk the same route as my father and his friend Gus, exactly 70 years later and consider how London has changed. I was really pleased to find that the Chiltern Street Fire Station is still there.

My father’s account of his life in London during the war was written soon after. The lack of much detail about VE Day itself, rather thoughts and concerns about the future probably reflect how many Londoners of the same age were feeling. After six years of war, the years of bombing, the V1 and V2, the threat to London had at last been removed, however the war in the far east was far from an end and National Service was imminent.

He did not take any photos on the night, as he did not get his first camera until 1946. When he did, one of the first photos was of St. Paul’s Cathedral lit up by searchlights. So, to finish off, this must have been how the Cathedral appeared on VE Day:

VE Day 18

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Wardrobe Place And St. Andrews Hill

All to often, walking the City of London it is too easy to get depressed with how much character is being lost. At street level much recent development looks the same. Standard materials, bland architecture and design that could equally be at home in Shanghai, Dubai or New York.

Fortunately there are still many places that retain that sense of being part of London’s history and where character remains.

For this week’s post I want to explore one such area, Wardrobe Place and St. Andrews Hill, both can be found off Carter Lane, which runs parallel to Queen Victoria Street and Ludgate Hill / St. Paul’s Churchyard, to the south-east of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

This area is part of the St. Paul’s Cathedral Conservation Area, one of the City Conservation Areas where special planning controls are in force to manage development within the area. The document covering the St. Paul’s Conservation Area is an interesting read and can be downloaded here.

Unlike much of the City to the south, east and north of St. Paul’s Cathedral, this area did not suffer from the extensive fire damage caused by bombing during the last war, and has had limited major development in the decades since.

Walk down Carter Lane from St. Paul’s and on the left you will find the entrance to Wardrobe Place, an alley through the line of buildings along the street.

Wardrobe 4

At the end of the alley, the view opens up to Wardrobe Place, enclosed by buildings on all four sides with the main entrance being the alley into Carter Lane.

From this perspective, the buildings on the left are relatively recent developments, it is the buildings on the right that are off interest as a surviving post Great Fire development.
Wardrobe 12

Immediately to the right is No. 2 Wardrobe Place. This is a Grade II listed building from around 1680.  The listing states that “the house retains its late-C17 domestic plan and stair, panelling and other original or early features. The two overmantel paintings have outstanding interest as early examples of a once-widespread artisan tradition, and are now of great rarity.”

The paintings refer to two original wall paintings that were discovered during building work in the 1970s.

The exterior of the building has later alterations with the stucco windows and the round-headed frame around the door from 1860, however the building is still essentially a London town house from the post fire redevelopment of London.
Wardrobe 6

Next along are numbers 3 to 5 Wardrobe Place. These are from around 1715, three broadly similar, three bay town houses. Wardrobe 8

Look closer at these buildings and they retain features essential to living and working in London in the past.

On No. 4, inset just to the right of the front door is a foot scraper. A device essential to cleaning shoes prior to entering a building. London’s streets are today relatively immaculate compared to a time when filth was commonplace, thousands of horses worked across the City streets and efficient waste removal was limited.
Wardrobe 13

Also on No. 4 are two bell pushes, either side of the front door. Not easy to see after many layers of black paint, but the one of the left is for the Office and the one on the right for the Housekeeper. Wardrobe 14

Wardrobe Place is so named as up until the Great Fire of 1666, it was the site of the King’s Wardrobe (the storage, administration and expenditure office for the King). The Wardrobe was moved here from the Tower in the 1360s into the mansion owned by Sir John Beauchampe. From Stow’s Survey of London:

“Then is the kings greate Wardrobe, Sir John Beauchampe, knight of the Garter, Constable of Dover, Warden of the Sinke Portes builded this house, was lodged there, deceased in the yeare 1359.  His Executors sold the house to King Edware the third”.

The Wardrobe name does not give away the intrigue that must have taken place here, for according to Stow:

“The secret letters and writings touching the estate of the Realme, were wont to be enroled in the Kings Wardrobe, and not in the Chauncery, as appeareth by the records”.

Today, there is a plaque recording the earlier function of this area:

Wardrobe 9

And on the later buildings at the far end are the remains of a sign recording the buildings previous use and occupier:

SNASHALL & SON

Printers. Stationers &

Account Book Manufacturers
Wardrobe 7

Good to see that this sign has been preserved. There are too few of these remaining across the City. Signs which once must have been on almost every City building.

The view from the far end looking back up towards the Carter Lane entrance. The buildings on the right are part of a 1980s development which at least retained some of the architectural character of Wardrobe Place.
Wardrobe 5

Now walk back into Carter Lane and a short distance further we come to St. Andrews Hill. This leads down to Queen Victoria Street, opposite where Puddle Dock was originally located and according to George Cunningham in his 1927 Survey of London, was originally called Puddledock Hill (although I have been unable to find any other reference that confirms this, however it could well have been an earlier or alternative name as the street leads up from both Puddle Dock and the church of St. Andrew’s by the Wardrobe.)

The street displays the characteristic downward slope towards the river.
Wardrobe 1

And one of the many boundary markers that can still be found across the City:

Wardrobe 10Many of the buildings along St. Andrews Hill are 19th century in origin and a mix of style and function including offices, shop fronts and warehouses.

In front of the listed 36 St. Andrews Hill are two Post Office letter boxes, not now in use, but unusual, 100-year-old survivors.

The box on the left is Edward VII (1901 – 1910) and on the right is George V (1910 – 1936)

Wardrobe 11

And just past the letter boxes is St. Andrews House with a strange first floor, corner bay window:

Wardrobe 2And just past St. Andrews House are alleys around the church of St. Andrew by the Wardrobe:

Wardrobe 15

Also in St. Andrews Hill is the excellent Cockpit Pub:

Wardrobe 16A fascinating shape being on both St. Andrews Hill and Ireland Yard. The current building is mainly from 1842, however a pub is alleged to have been here from the 16th century and the name is a reference to cock-fighting and the associated gambling that once took place here.

Wardrobe Place and St. Andrews Hill, not significant historical locations, but thankfully places where it is still possible to get a glimpse of the development of City streets from after the Great Fire through to the 20th Century.

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