Day 40 – Aldgate – Tower Hill – Fenchurch Street

Shifting slightly further to the east for this excursion which starts out where we left off a couple of months back on Aldgate High Street then heads south down to Tower Hill, stopping short of the Tower itself, before snaking west and north through the City. Because this walk took place on Easter Sunday the area was atypically quiet apart from the inevitable tourist throng near the Tower and, less obviously, in the vicinity of the Gherkin.

Day 40 Route

So we set out on Aldgate High Street  opposite Aldgate tube station and proceed south down Little Somerset Street. Looking behind us gives a background glimpse of what’s to come later.

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Reaching Mansell Street we continue south turn right along Haydon Street and then when this adjoins onto the Minories head northward to return to Aldgate High Street opposite the church of St Botolph without Aldgate. This is the second time we’ve encountered St Botolph; he was “without Bishopsgate” a few posts back. In fact there were four medieval churches built in London in honour of this particular saint, all of which stood by one of the gates of the London Wall (more of that later). Aldersgate is the other one of those that survives while the church at Billingsgate wasn’t rebuilt after the Great Fire. St Botolph’s was often referred to as the “Church of Prostitutes” in the late Victorian period. To escape arrest by the police the local ladies of the night would parade around the island in a sea of roadways on which the church stands.

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Turn south again, this time down Jewry Street which is the site of the Sir John Cass Foundation. John Cass (1661 – 1718) was both a Sheriff and Alderman of the City of London and in 1710 set up a school for 50 boys and 40 girls which originally occupied buildings in the churchyard.  After his death, despite his will being incomplete and contested, his wish to leave the majority of his estate to the school was upheld though it took thirty years. So the Foundation came into being in 1748 and in 1899 a Technical Institute was created alongside the school and this moved into the new-build premises on Jewry Street, becoming the Sir John Cass College in 1950.

After nipping briefly into Saracens Head Yard we take the next right turn, Carlisle Avenue, which takes us into Northumberland Alley which meets its end at the wonderfully-named Crutched Friars. Crutched Friars is one of the alternative names of the Roman Catholic order Fratres Cruciferi (Cross-bearing brethren). Crutched refers to the crucifix-surmounted staff which they carried about with them. Next up, turning north again, is Rangoon Street, which is barely more than an alcove, before we switch eastward down India Street. Turn right next down Vine Street (not the one which forms part of the Orange set of properties in Monopoly – that’s over near Piccadilly) then veer off to the left, down Crosswall which takes us into Portsoken Street. This latter skirts one side of a charming small park wedged in amongst some less than charming buildings.

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At the end of Portsoken Street we swing round Mansell Street and Goodman’s Yard to loop back onto Minories and then turn south under the railway bridge and past Tower Gateway station, one of the two western termini of the DLR.

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So we’re now onto Tower Hill and moving west parallel to the north side of the Tower of London. Here there is one of the most substantial surviving sections of the London Wall built around the city  by the Romans in around 200 AD. In total the wall was about 4km long enclosing some 330 acres and including the four city gates (mentioned previously) with a further entrance to the legionary fortress at Cripplegate.

Turn north into Cooper’s Row and head up past Trinity Square Gardens back to Crosswall (whose name now makes perfect sense). Duck through American Square onto the southern section of Vine Street which seems to lead nowhere but then suddenly and bizarrely emerges into a crescent of replica Georgian houses (some rebuilt immediately post WW2 others as part of a 1980s redevelopment) called, simply and literally, Crescent.

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Double back and cut through a series of alleyways leading out onto Cooper’s Row again. Cross over and proceed west along Pepys Street before turning south down Savage Gardens. This returns us to Trinity Square, to No. 10 Trinity Square in fact, which links neatly back to the previous post for this is the first permanent HQ of the Port of London Authority. It was built in the Beaux Arts style by John Mowlem & Co to a design of Sir Edwin Cooper and was opened by then Prime Minister, David Lloyd-George, in 1922. The façade of the building is interspersed with Corinthian columns and high above the front entrance is a sculpture of Old Father Thames, holding his trident and pointing east in homage to the trade between nations. In 1946 the General Assembly of the United Nations held its inaugural reception here, in what is now known as the UN ballroom. In the 1970’s the PLA moved out to Tilbury and no. 10 was renovated; becoming the home of insurance broker Willis Faber until 2008. Two years after they left a Chinese Investment company bought the Grade II-listed building and after a six year multi-million pound renovation it was brought back to life as a Four Seasons Hotel. In the interim it had a walk-on part in the James Bond Skyfall film as a location for a meeting between M (Dame Judi Dench) and Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).

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Moving on clockwise round the square we come first to Trinity House which is the home of the organisation that began life as The Corporation of Trinity House (or to give it its full name The Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the Most Glorious and Undivided Trinity and of Saint Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond in the County of Kent), under Royal Charter of 1514 with a remit to regulate pilotage on the River Thames and provide for aged mariners. Today Trinity House is the UK’s largest maritime charity dedicated to safeguarding shipping and seafarers as well as incorporating the General Lighthouse Authority (GLA) for England & Wales. The GLA is responsible for a range of aids to navigation from lighthouses to radar beacons but, confusingly, is separate from HM Coastguard (which looks after all aspects of search and rescue).

The building itself dates to 1796 and was designed by architect Samuel Wyatt.

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On the east of the square at no.43 is a blue plaque commemorating Reverend Philip “Tubby” Clayton (1885 – 1972), founder of the international Christian movement Toc H. And next door at no.41 is a memorial to Viscount Wakefield of Hythe (1859 – 1941) who founded the Castrol lubricants company and was a Lord Mayor of London and also Tubby’s mate.

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We now take a stroll through Trinity Square Gardens which is dominated by the Merchant Navy Memorial. The original, post WW1, section was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick and was unveiled by Queen Mary on 12 December 1928.  It commemorates almost 12,000 Mercantile Marine casualties who have no grave but the sea, including almost 1,200 lost when the Lusitania was sunk in 1915. The WW2 extension, which commemorates almost 24,000 casualties, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler and was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November 1955.

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Leaving the gardens on the west side we find ourselves back outside Ten Trinity Square, which as I mentioned is now a Four Seasons hotel having opened a mere three months back in January 2017. On impulse born of curiosity I decide to head inside for a lunchtime cocktail at the Rotunda bar. I have the place to myself pretty much and the very amiable bartender rustles me up a concoction called (appropriately) a Shivering Timbers which will set me back £15 plus service. Still it’s just about worth it to take in the elaborately refurbished interior (and make a luxurious and desperately need toilet stop). As well as the hotel the building incorporates 41 private residences and a private members’ club. At the time of speaking £440 a night for the cheapest room doesn’t include access to the spa and swimming pool as these won’t be open for a few more weeks.

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Leaving the hotel, head west along Muscovy Street and then turn north up Seething Lane before returning eastward along Pepys Street and via another section of Savage Gardens find ourselves back on Crutched Friars. From here we continue north up Lloyds Avenue most of the buildings on which were built under a redevelopment of derelict East India Company warehouses at the turn of the 20th century. Coronation House at no. 4, built in 1904,  eventually became absorbed into the Lloyd’s Register building which stood on the corner with Fenchurch Street.

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Lloyd’s Register (not to be confused with Lloyds of London) began life in 1760 in a London coffee house as a marine classification society. Nowadays it operates as a global provider of risk assessment and technical consultancy services across numerous industrial sectors but is still wholly owned by the charitable Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

It moved into the premises at 71 Fenchurch Street, designed by Thomas Colcutt, in 1901. Almost 100 years later it moved again – just a few yards further along Fenchurch Street – to a glass, steel and concrete skyscraper designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership (who of course had previously been responsible for the much better known Lloyd’s of London building – of which we shall hear more another time).

We’re going east again now on Fenchurch Street and at the junction with Leadenhall Street where it turns into Aldgate High Street we find the Aldgate Pump. This historic water pump, which has stood on this spot since 1876, marks the start of the A11 road that eventually leads to Norwich. It’s also considered by many to be the symbolic start of the East End. The wolf’s head is supposed to commemorate the last wolf shot in the City of London though there appears to be no record of when that might have been.

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Moving on we make a sharp left into Mitre Street and then cut through St James’s Passage to join Dukes Place. Turn the corner and we’re on to Houndsditch. Head up here as far as Creechurch Lane which we follow back across Dukes Place as far as the junction with Heanage Lane which we take back up to Bevis Marks (which Dukes Place merges into and which gets several mentions in Dickens’s Old Curiosity Shop). From here we take the next right, going north, Goring Street to return to Houndsditch. Turn left then left again down the top section of St Mary Axe to revisit Bevis Marks. Turn south this time and then loop round Bury Street past Cunard Place and back onto the lower stretch of Creechurch Lane. Here on the corner with Leadenhall Street stands the actual Cree Church, the Church of St Katharine Cree to be precise. The church was founded in 1280 and the present building dates from around 1630. It is the only remaining Jacobean church in London having survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz practically unscathed.

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Crossing over Leadenhall Street we squeeze through the alley known as Fenchurch Buildings and having traversed Fenchurch Street again navigate a couple more alleys in the form of St Katharine’s Row and French Ordinary Court which take us round the back of Fenchurch Street Station and onto Hart Street. Turning west we reach another medieval church that eluded the clutches of the Great Fire, St Olaves. This one dates all the way back to 1450 in its present form (more or less – it wasn’t so lucky in the Blitz and had to be extensively restored after the war). The fabulously macabre entrance to the churchyard was a 1658 addition. The church is dedicated to the patron saint of Norway, King Olaf II and the Norwegian connection continued during and after WW2 when King Haakon VII of Norway worshipped here in exile and then in 1954 presided over the rededication ceremony. Samuel Pepys was buried here in 1703 and it is also, weirdly, recorded as the last resting place of the pantomime character Mother Goose (?). Her internment apparently took place in 1586 according to the parish registers and the event is commemorated by a plaque on the outside of the church.

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Leaving St Olaves behind we move northward again next, up New London Street into London Street (both doing less than nothing to deserve such names) and round Fenchurch Place to the front of Fenchurch Street Station, gateway to Essex. The station opened in 1841 initially to serve the London and Blackwall Railway but was reconstructed after just 13 years when the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway began operations. It’s one of the smallest termini in London and uniquely has no interchange with the underground.

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Back on Fenchurch Street we continue west for a bit and then proceed north up Billeter Street resurfacing on Leadenhall Street. Keep the westerly trajectory before turning north again up the bottom-most section of St Mary Axe. On the right here is yet another of the City churches that survived the double whammy of the Great Fire and the Blitz. The present St Andrew Undershaft was built in 1532 in the Perpendicular style (a subdivision of Gothic, so-called because of its fondness for vertical lines). The church’s name derived from the shaft of the maypole that was set up opposite the church – though only until 1547 when it was seized by a mob and destroyed as a “pagan idol” (now that’s a show I’d like to see).

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Continuing north we arrive at the foot of St Mary Axe’s most famous resident, no. 30 more commonly known as “The Gherkin”.  The Gherkin, designed and engineered by Norman Foster and Partners and the Arup Group respectively, was completed in December 2003 and opened in April 2004. 41 storeys and 180 metres tall, it stands on the site of the former Baltic Exchange which was irretrievably damaged by the IRA bomb of 1992. It has a floor area of just over half a million square feet including a restaurant on the 39th floor. In November 2014 the building was bought by the Safra Group, controlled by the Brazilian billionaire Joseph Safra, for £700m (£150m than the price originally anticipated). The sculpted head you can see below is another work in the Sculpture in the City 2016 series; “Laura” by Jaume Plensa.

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After a circuit round the base of the Gherkin we meander off to the west again down the dead end that is Undershaft. Doubling back and then turning left down Great St Helens we pass in front of St Helen’s Bishopsgate which, you’ve guessed it, also survived the Great Fire and the Blitz (it’s almost like there was some kind of divine providence at work here). Wasn’t so fortunate when it came to that IRA bomb in 1992 however; that took the roof off and also destroyed one of the City’s largest medieval stained glass windows. The church started out as a priory for Benedictine nuns in the early 13th century and was Shakespeare’s parish church when he lived in the area in the 1590s. The artwork on display outside the church, Shan Hur’s “Broken Pillar #12” has been left in place from the 2015 Sculpture in the City collection.

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At the end of Great St Helens we emerge onto Bishopsgate and head north towards Liverpool Street station. Final point of interest on today’s journey stands at no.110 bounded on its other three sides by Camomile Street, Outwich Street and Houndsditch. Completed in 2011 the building was originally known as the Heron Tower after its owners Heron International but in 2014 its primary tenant pressed for the name to be changed to the pitifully naff Salesforce Tower. The City of London eventually ruled that it should officially be called simply 110 Bishopsgate. Whatever its name the building stands 230 metres tall (including the 28 metre mast) with 46 floors. It currently holds the record as the City of London’s tallest structure, having eclipsed Tower 42 when construction reached the 44th floor.

Situated on floors 38 and 39, Sushi Samba restaurant is one of the top restaurant destinations for the young, aspiring (and easily impressed) denizens of the Home Counties and for those without a head for heights, the lobby contains a 70,000 litre aquarium.

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And I think that’s us finally done for this time around (and I really expected this one would reverse the trend for longer and longer posts).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 39 – Smithfield – St Bartholomew’s Hospital – Newgate Street

Today’s trip covers the triangle formed by Charterhouse Street to the North, Holborn Viaduct/Newgate Street (A40) to the South and Aldersgate Street (A1) to the West, encompassing both Smithfield Market and St Bart’s Hospital. Another compact area but once again one that’s teeming with historical echoes of the likes of William Wallace, Wat Tyler and Henry VIII (of course).

Day 39 Route

We start out from Holborn Circus and head east along Charterhouse Street, almost immediately taking a detour into Ely Place, apparently the last privately-owned street in London. This is the site of the first of several churches we’re going to cover this time out, St Ethelreda’s RC. It might not look that impressive from the outside but St Ethelreda’s is the oldest Catholic church in England and one of only two remaining buildings in London from the reign of Edward I. It was the town chapel of the Bishops of Ely from about 1250 to 1570 (hence Ely Place). Ethelreda, daughter of King Anna, ruler of the Kingdom of East Anglia, was born in 630. She wanted to be a nun but agreed to a political marriage with a neighbouring King, Egfrith, on condition that she could remain a virgin. When the King tried to break the agreement she fled back to Ely where she built a magnificent church on the ruins of one founded by St Augustine. For reasons more obvious than is generally the case with such designations she is the Patron Saint of Chastity.

Continuing along Charterhouse Street we cross Farringdon Street and enter the surrounds of Smithfield Market. This area was originally known as Smoothfield, meaning a flat plain, from the Saxon word smeth, eventually corrupted again to become Smith. In the 12th Century it was used as a vast recreational area where jousts and tournaments took place and by the late Middle Ages had become the most famous livestock market in the country. It was also the location of Bartholomew Fair – three days of merrymaking, dancing, trading and music which over the centuries became the most debauched and drunken holiday in the calendar. This went on for almost 700 years before it was eventually closed in 1855.

Before we get to the actual market though there are a couple of buildings on Charterhouse Street to take stock of. First up is the Port of London Authority (PLA) building. The PLA is the self-funding public trust that governs the Port of London and has responsibility the maintenance and supervision of navigation on the tidal stretch of the Thames from the estuary upstream to Teddington. Built in 1914, this only lasted five years as the main HQ of the PLA before being superseded by a grandiose monolith adjacent to the Tower of London.  The motto at the top of the building “floreat imperii portus” translates as “let the imperial port flourish” (curse of the commentator as it turned out of course).

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Right next door is the Central Cold Store (constructed in 1899 for the Dutch margarine manufacturers, Van Den Bergh). In 1992 the two buildings were gutted and behind their facades a power station was installed; the Citigen CHP (combined heat and power) plant which supplies 31 MW of electricity to the London Electricity network and provides heat and cooling through a system of heating and chilled water pipes to a variety of buildings in central London.

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In total contrast, just a few steps further along is the recently-reprieved, world famous nightclub, Fabric.
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The building just to the right of Fabric at 79-83 dates from 1930 and was home to the Corporation of London Meat Inspectors. 

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Following the relocation of Covent Garden and Billingsgate, Smithfield is the last of London’s three big food & produce markets still operating from its original home. Just to rub this in it also goes by the alternative name of London Central Markets and, not surprisingly, its the largest and oldest wholesale meat market in the country. It came into being when the livestock market was re-sited north of Islington in 1852 and plans were drawn up to create a new market in the area which would specialise in cut meat. Built to a design of Sir Horace Jones, the cathedral-like structure of ornamental cast iron, stone, Welsh slate and glass was completed in 1868. It consisted of two main buildings linked under a great roof and separated by a central arcade, the Grand Avenue and also included an underground area where fresh meat delivered from all over the country by the new railways could be unloaded in specially constructed sidings.
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Within in a few years four more buildings had been added including the Poultry Market, opened in 1875, which is the only one still in use today.  The original building however was destroyed by a major fire in 1958. A new building was commissioned, at a cost of £2 million, and was completed in 1963. While unremarkable from the outside, inside it is a feat of engineering: at the time its domed roof was, at 225 feet, the largest clear spanning dome roof in Europe. The appositely named West Poultry Avenue and East Poultry Avenue run beneath the arches either side and taking the former we emerge onto West Smithfield.

 

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Head west from here then take a sharp right down Snow Hill before returning to the market via Smithfield Street. Nip up East Poultry Avenue, turn right and then duck into the aforementioned Grand Avenue. The market opens for business at 2 a.m. and is pretty much done for the day by 7 a.m. Some of the local pubs have adjusted opening hours to cater for this, and they no doubt pick up a bit of extra business when Fabric chucks out.

Opposite the southern end of the Grand Avenue is where the underground railway used to terminate. Nowadays it’s a car park and is topped by the West Smithfield Rotunda Garden which features a bronze statue of Peace courtesy of John Birnie Philip (1824-1875), echoing the statue of Lady Justice atop the Old Bailey which you can see in the distance below. 

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Circling round to the other side of the garden/car park we reach the west gate of St Bartholomew’s Hospital (or just Barts Hospital as it is generally known).  Barts and the adjacent priory of St Bartholomew the Great (of which more later) were established it 1123 by the priest/monk Rahere, a favourite courtier of King Henry I. It was refounded by Henry VIII in 1546 on the signing of an agreement granting the hospital to the Corporation of London which endowed it with properties and income entitlements that replaced the support from the priory taken away by the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Barts is the oldest hospital in Britain still providing all medical services and which occupies the site it was originally built on. The west gate continues to be the main public entrance; and the statue of Henry VIII above it is the only remaining statue of him in London.

Passing through the gate we arrive almost straight away at the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less St Bartholomew-the-Less. The church’s tower and west façade date from 15th century, with two of its three bells dating from 1380 and 1420 respectively. These hang within an original medieval bell frame, believed to be the oldest in the City of London.

The North Wing of the hospital contains the Barts Museum which tells the story of this renowned institution and showcases historical medical and surgical equipment as well as displaying a facsimile of that agreement between Henry VIII and the City of London.

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The museum overlooks the main square which was designed by James Gibbs (1682 – 1754) and built in the 1730’s. The fountain in the centre dates from 1859.
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After a circuit of the square we exit the grounds of St Barts onto Giltspur Street, almost immediately crossing over and proceeding west along Hosier Street. This takes us back to Smithfield Street where we turn south to reach the lower section of Snow Hill. The police station here has a plaque commemorating it as the site of the Saracen’s Head Inn (demolished 1868) which merited several mentions in Samuel Pepys’ Diary and one in Dicken’s Nicholas Nickleby. The station also has a bit of an homage to yours truly painted on the street in front.

The quaint No.1 Snow Hill Court was formerly a parish schoolhouse but these days is a suite of consulting rooms for hire. Next port of call, Cock Lane, is closed off for building work so we have to trek all the way back round Hosier Street to get to the eastern end.

Once we get there we’re in the presence of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner. This small wooden statue covered in gold marks the reputed spot where the Great Fire of 1666 was brought to a halt. The inscription immediately beneath the (pretty surly looking) boy reads This Boy is in Memmory Put up for the late FIRE of LONDON Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony. Presumably that’s a reference to the fire having started in the baker’s on Pudding Lane. I won’t repeat the full inscription positioned at eye level but it’s worth clicking the link to see that. Suffice to say that papists get equal billing with gluttony here when it comes to the causality of the fire.

At the southern end of Giltspur Street where it joins Holborn Viaduct as it turns into Newgate Street is the Church of St Sepulchre without Newgate. As seems to often be the case, a church has existed on this site since Saxon times. It was rebuilt after being destroyed in the Great Fire (a few yards further up the street and it might have made it) and extensively restored in Victorian times. Today it is the largest parish church in the City. The bells of Old Bailey in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons refer to those of St Sepulchre which were tolled on execution days as the condemned were led to the gallows of Tyburn.  For hangings at the even nearer-by Newgate, between the 17th and 19th centuries, a handbell was rung outside the condemned man’s cell by the clerk of St Sepulchre’s. This handbell had been acquired for the parish in 1605 at a cost of £50 by London merchant tailor Mr. John Dowe for this express purpose. It now resides in a glass case to the south of the nave.

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The church has been the official musicians’ church for many years and is associated with many famous musicians. Its north aisle is dedicated as the Musicians’ Chapel, with four windows commemorating John Ireland, the singer Dame Nellie Melba, Walter Carroll and the conductor Sir Henry Wood respectively. Wood, who “at the age of fourteen, learned to play the organ” at this church and later became its organist, also has his ashes buried in this church. The south aisle of the church holds the regimental chapel of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)  and its gardens are a memorial garden to that regiment.

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Proceed eastward next along Newgate Street then cut through Christchurch Greyfriars Garden to King Edward Street. The site of the Franciscan church of Greyfriars was established in 1225.  Four queens were buried in the medieval church, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, including Margeurite, 2nd wife of Edward I, Isabella, widow of Edward II and Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III (though in her case it was only her heart that was interred here) . A new church, designed by Wren, was completed in 1704 and survived until incendiary bombs destroyed the main body of it in 1940. Only the west tower now stands.

 

A short way up King Edward Street is a statue to Sir Rowland Hill (1795 – 1879) the inventor and social reformer generally credited with the concept of the postage stamp.

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Continue east along Angel Street as far as St Martin Le Grand and follow this north as it turns into Aldersgate Street. Here there is one of the few remaining (though no longer used) Police “Call Posts” which from 1888 to 1969 provided bobbies on the beat and the general public with the means to make emergency calls to the local Old Bill station. The larger variant of these, the Police Call Box, was of course the inspiration for Dr Who’s TARDIS.

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Turn west again through Postman’s Park which contains a real oddity in the form of G.F Watts’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. Conceived and created by the Victorian Artist George Frederic Watts (1817 – 1904) this wooden pavilion contains an array of 120 tile plaques commemorating individuals who lost their lives trying to save others.

Double back to Aldersgate Street via Little Britain (and no I’m not going to mention that TV series – doh !). Then proceed clockwise round the Museum of London roundabout to Montague Street and take this back to the northerly section of Little Britain which runs along the back of St Barts. On the eastern side more major development work is taking place.

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(I just liked the colours of the crane). Anyway we’re back now at the north face of St Barts where there are separate memorials to the two historical figures I mentioned right back at the start of the post (I know it seems at eternity ago), Wat Tyler and William Wallace.

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Taking these chronologically we’ll deal with William Wallace (c.1270 – 1305) first. Wallace led a Scottish rebellion against Edward I. Having won a famous victory at the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 Wallace was defeated by a much larger English force at Falkirk a year later. He fled to France and in his absence Robert the Bruce negotiated a truce with Edward that he was excluded from. A large reward was posted on him and 2 years after his 1303 return to Scotland he was captured and brought to London where he was hung, drawn and quartered at Smithfield having been dragged there behind a horse. (Again I shall say nothing about that Mel Gibson film – doh!)

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The main trigger for the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 was the levying of new taxes to finance wars in France. A group of rebels from Kent and Essex marched on London under the leadership of Wat Tyler, Jack Straw and John Ball. After they had burnt and ransacked part of the city and supporters had murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury they were met at Mile End by the 14-year old King Richard II. After he had heard their grievances and made certain promises some of the mob dispersed and the rest set up camp at Smithfield. When the King returned to see them accompanied by a number of loyal soldiers and William Walworth, the Mayor of London an altercation broke out which led to Walworth stabbing Wat Tyler who was dragged into the church of St Bartholomew the Great. Troops then surrounded the rebels who effectively surrendered. Tyler was beheaded and his head placed on London Bridge. The memorial below commemorating the Great Rising of 1381 (alternative title) was unveiled in 2015.

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This brings us on to the aforementioned Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great which is more than worth a visit despite an entrance fee of £5 (keeps the rabble out). As noted earlier this was founded as an Augustinian Monastery by the monk cum priest, Rahere, in 1123 making it the oldest church in London. During the dissolution of the monasteries (1539 remember) the nave of the Church was demolished and one Sir Richard Rich (seriously), Lord Chancellor from 1547-51, took possession of the remaining buildings. During the religious rollercoaster of the reigns of Queens Mary and Elizabeth I a number of Protestant and Catholic Martyrs were burnt at the stake outside the west gate of St Bartholomews. The Tudor timber frontage of the gate that remains intact today was erected by Lord Rich.

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The Lady Chapel at the eastern end was used for secular purposes from the 16th century until the 1880’s including as a printing works where Benjamin Franklin was employed and a lace and fringe factory. In the latter years of the 19th century it was restored along with the rest of the church.

The church today contains a number of works by notable contemporary artists; some permanent fixtures, others on temporary loan (details in the slide show below). It has also featured extensively as a location for many recent films including Four Weddings and a Funeral (the fourth wedding), Shakespeare in Love and (somewhat incongruously) Avengers:Age of Ultron.

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The church also has a resident squirrel who must be the tamest one in London.

Leave the grounds of the church via steps down into Cloth Fair which connects with Long Lane via the alleyways of Barley Mow Passage, Cloth Court and Rising Sun Court.

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There are several pubs in this small area including the Hand & Shears on Cloth Fair which claims to have been established in 1532. The name of the pub derives from the prevalence of cloth merchants trading in the area in Tudor times (as does teh name of the street self-evidently). Apparently St Bartholomew’s Fair (see above) was for many years officially opened by the Lord Mayor from the doorway of the inn.

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The pub is on the corner with Kinghorn Street which we turn down as far as Bartholomew Court which is a dead end due to the building works. So we zig-zag west to east courtesy of Newbury Street, Middle Street and East Passage which all intersect with Cloth Street. Long Lane then sends us back to Aldersgate Street across the way from the Barbican Complex and turning south we finish up at the steps leading to the Museum of London – which you will be relieved to hear can wait for another day.

 

 

 

Day 38 – Fleet Street – Victoria Embankment – St Bride’s

So this walk takes place just a few days after the visit to Middle and Inner Temple and, beginning on the eastern side of the latter, completes the area between Fleet Street and the river.

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As noted, we start out today from the eastern entrance to the grounds of the Temple Inns, heading south down Temple Avenue. On the way we pass the Temple Chambers building c.1887 with its two splendid warrior king sculptures (artist unknown). Technically these kind of sculptures, in the form of a man and acting as a column or support, are known as atlantes or atlases (after Atlas the Titan responsible for holding up the sky in Greek mythology). The female equivalent are called caryatids (see Day 7 post).

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At the junction with the Embankment stands Hamilton House a.k.a no.1 Temple Avenue. A listed building dating from 1880 this was once home to the Callender Cable and Construction Company.

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Continuing east along the Embankment we arrive next at Sion Hall, an 1886 tour-de-force of the Gothic perpendicular style designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield. This was built as new premises for Sion College, founded by Royal Charter in 1630 as a college, guild of parochial clergy and almshouse, under the will of Thomas White, vicar of St Dunstan’s in the West. In the mid nineties it was sold for redevelopment as offices and is now occupied by a subsidiary of the German insurance behemoth, Allianz.

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Sion Hall sits on the corner of John Carpenter Street, sadly not named after the director of such cinematic classics as Assault on Precinct 13 but after the man tenuously responsible for the next building along to the east, the City of London School (CLS). John Carpenter the younger (about 1372 – 1442), was  elected as Town Clerk to the City of London during the reigns of Henry V and Henry VI. He was also the author of the first book of English common law, known as Liber Albus (the White Book). In his will Carpenter bequeathed a plot of land (not here) “for the finding and bringing up of four poor men’s children with meat, drink, apparel, learning at the schools, in the universities, etc., until they be preferred, and then others in their places for ever.”To cut a very long story short this ultimately led, in 1834, to the founding of the City of London School, which still exists today as an Independent School for Boys. In 1883 the CLS moved into the Victoria Embankment building, designed in a high Victorian style with a steep pitched roof resembling that of a French chateau, by Davis and Emanuel and constructed by John Mowlem & Co at a cost exceeding £100,000. On the front of the building are statues of Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, Newton and Sir Thomas More. After a hundred years give or take the school moved to a new home in 1987. Investment bank, JP Morgan, are now in residency here.

As we reach the end of Victoria Embankment, joining with the north side of Blackfriars Bridge and the southern end of New Bridge Street we find ourselves in front of no.100, the impressive Unilever House. This was built between 1929 and 1933 in the hybrid Neoclassical Art Deco style and the design was a collaboration between James Lomax-Simpson ( a member of the Unilever board) and architects John James Burnet and Thomas Tait; though the precise apportionment of credit has been somewhat contested. The corners of the building are marked by entrances surmounted by large plinths on which are placed sculptures by Sir William Reid Dick of human figures restraining horses (entitled Controlled Energy) . The merman and mermaid figures elsewhere on the exterior are by Gilbert Ledward. There have been two major refurbishments of the interior, one in 1977-83 and the other from 2004 to 2007 which won an RIBA Award for architects KPF.

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Just around the corner on New Bridge Street is Blackfriars House built 1916 architect F.W Troup. Ten years or so ago this was converted from offices into the Crowne Plaza Hotel which somewhat wince-inducingly boasts a restaurant called the Chinese Cricket Club.

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Skirt round the back of the hotel via Watergate and Kingscote Street and emerge onto Tudor Street. Turning left back down John Carpenter Street we come across the first permanent home of the Guildhall School of Music, opened just seven years after the school was founded in 1880.   Designed by architect Sir Horace Jones, the new building incorporated a Common Room for Professors and 45 studios, each surrounded by a one foot thick layer of concrete to ‘deaden the sound’ and each containing both a grand piano and an upright piano. As you can see in the photo below the facade of the building includes a series of round windows memorialising renowned British composers.

Initially, all tuition was on a part-time basis, but full-time courses were introduced by public request in 1920. Departments of Speech, Voice and Acting were added and by 1935 the School had added “and Drama” to its title. In 1977, as you may recall from one of our earlier posts, the school moved into the Barbican complex.

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Complete a circuit of Tallis Street (named after  one of those composers), Carmelite Street and Temple Avenue again before returning down Tudor Street and then continuing further up New Bridge Street. Next left, Bridewell Place, takes us unremarkably back onto Tudor Street from where we head north next up Dorset Rise. Having dipped very briefly into Dorset Buildings we take the next right down St Bride’s Passage. At the end of this we find the St Bride Institute (as it says on the building) though Foundation is the preferred title nowadays. This was established in 1891 to provide a social, cultural and recreational centre for London’s Fleet Street and its burgeoning print and publishing trade. Today it still acts as a hub for local community events and projects.

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Head down the steps to the left of the entrance and descend on to Bride Lane, the location of the Foundation-supported Bridewell Theatre which, in addition to an evening programme,  puts on 45-minute lunchtime plays for the edification of local office workers.

Loop up round the intersection of New Bridge Street and Ludgate Circus into Fleet Street again, pausing at no.99, the Punch Tavern. This was originally called the Crown and Sugar Loaf but around the middle of the 19th century the landlord changed it in honour of the sadly-departed satirical magazine, founded in 1841, whose staff had begun to frequent the tavern. At the end of the 19th c. it was refitted as a so-called Gin Palace with a requisitely ornate tiled entrance and interior.

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Next turning on the left is Bride Lane which takes us to St Bride’s Church. It is believed that the current church is the eighth to have stood on this site. The seventh rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1666 under the guiding hand of Sir Christopher Wren taking nine years to complete. The famous spire was added later in 1701 and it is popularly believed that it inspired (sorry) the apprentice to a local baker, one William Rich, to create the tradition of the tiered wedding cake for the celebration of his marriage to the baker’s daughter. It took nearly twice as long to rebuild again after German bombs had reduced the main building to a burnt-out shell in WW2 though the “wedding cake” steeple survived.  During this period a series of  excavations led by the medieval archaeologist Professor W. F. Grimes uncovered the foundations of all six previous churches on the site together with part of a Roman Road; which if you venture down into the crypt you can see elements of as part of a standing exhibition.

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The church became indelibly associated with  the printing and press industries that took over the surrounding area from the 18th century on – earning such soubriquets as “the Printers’ Cathedral” and “the Journalists’ Church”- but the links went even further back. England’s first printing press was brought to the pre-fire church, in 1500, nine years after the death of William Caxton by his assistant Wynand “Wynkyn” de Worde (how brilliantly apposite a name is that !). In 1702 London’s first regular newspaper, the Daily Courant, began publication nearby. The Guild of St Bride reputedly dates back to 1375 and since its reconstitution in 1953 has comprised one hundred Liverymen representing a cross-section of Fleet Street interests and activities. On the morning of my visit they were out in force in their orange robes officiating at the funeral of one of the old school Fleet Street press photographers.

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Adjacent to the church at no.85 Fleet Street is the 1939 building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to be the new home of the Reuters news agency. The building was also the headquarters of the Press Association up until 1995. A decade later Reuters themselves jumped ship.

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As we venture down Salisbury Court we pass a plaque marking no.4 as the place where the first issue of the Sunday Times was produced, on 20 October 1822.

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After a circuit of Salisbury Square we return down Dorset Rise, cut through Hutton Street, do a quick up-and-down of Primrose Hill (not that one obviously) and then find ourselves in Whitefriars Street. Whitefriars Street itself has little to commend it and we quickly find ourselves back on Fleet Street before turning southward again on Bouverie Street. Quickly veer off down Pleydell Street, which turns into Lombard Lane and then joins with Temple Lane which runs down to Tudor Street. Head back up Bouverie Street as far as the Polish Embassy – which is no doubt pretty busy these days.

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Then cross over the road into Magpie Alley which runs round the back of the offices of lawyers, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer at no.65 Fleet Street. As you can see the alley is adorned with tiles illustrating the history of Fleet Street.

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At the end of the alleyway though is something more interesting. Descending some steps you come across the screened off remains of a crypt which is the last surviving vestige of the medieval priory that was home to the Carmelite order known as the White Friars. The order was founded on Mount Carmel (in present day Israel) in 1150 but driven from the Holy Land by the Saracens in 1238. The crypt was unearthed during building works in 1895 and then cleared and restored in the 1920’s when the site was taken over by the News of the World. The NOTW and its sister paper, the Sun, occupied the Whitefriars Building until 1986 and the Wapping exodus. Northcliffe House next door, named after Lord Northcliffe (born Alfred Harmsworth) the creator of the Daily Mail along with his brother Harold (Lord Rothermere), saw a hundred years of publication of the dreaded Mail, up until 1988 when the printing operations moved to Surrey Quays. Northcliffe and Whitefriars are currently both leased to Freshfields

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Continuing onto Ashentree Court we come back to Whitefriars Street and trudge back up to Fleet Street. As this is the final visit to the former “Street of Shame” I guess we can’t leave without a couple of words on its other iniquitous association – that with Sweeney Todd the “Demon Barber”. Sweeney Todd is a fictional character who first appeared as the villain of the Victorian penny dreadful The String of Pearls (1846–47). Numerous claims have been made that he was based on an actual living person but none of these have gained any serious traction. Fascination with the character is enduring however; he has inspired at least five feature films, up to and including Tim Burton’s 2007 effort, plus the Sondheim musical, a 1959 Ballet and several television adaptations (not counting The Sweeney though that of course did get its name from the rhyming slang Sweeney Todd – Flying Squad).

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Day 37 – Fleet Street – Middle Temple – Inner Temple

Another compact itinerary today; starting out at St Clement Danes Church on the Strand, dropping down to visit Two Temple Place  and then meandering through the labyrinth of courts and squares that comprise the two Inns of Court, Middle Temple and Inner Temple.

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St Clement Danes Church sits on its on island in the middle of the eastern end of the Strand just across from the Royal Courts of Justice. Approaching from the rear end we first make the reacquaintance of Dr Samuel Johnson (see last post) and then moving round to the front entrance find statues to two of Britain’s wartime RAF leaders, Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris (1892 – 1984) and Sir Hugh Dowding (1882 – 1970) along with a memorial to Prime Minister W.E Gladstone (1809 – 1898) erected in 1905.

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The church traces its origins back to the 9th century when Danish settlers (converted to Christianity) took over an Anglo-Saxon church dedicated to St Clement which then became known as St Clement-of-the-Danes. It was first rebuilt in the time of William the Conqueror, again in the 14th century and then after the Great Fire by Sir Christopher Wren (the fire didn’t reach this far but the church was in such poor condition that it was decided to knock it down anyway). The new church was completed in 1681 but the steeple, designed by James Gibbs, was only added in 1719. It had to be reconstructed again after WW2 when German bombs spared only the steeple and part of the walls. That work was instigated in 1956 by the RAF and two years later St Clement Danes was reconsecrated as its official church.

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We head south from the church down Arundel Street (for a second time) and at the bottom cross over into the Temple (and final) section of Victoria Embankment Gardens. Here stands a statue to John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) the great philosopher and liberal thinker. Mill was one of the foremost proponents of utilitarianism (along with Jeremy Bentham) – simplistically “the greatest good of the greatest number”. He was also the first member of Parliament to advocate women’s suffrage.

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The other eminent Liberal commemorated in the gardens is William Edward Forster (1818 – 1886). He was the guiding force behind the Elementary Education Act of 1870 which established for the first time a framework for primary education of all children from the age of 5 through to 12.

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Exit the garden into Temple Place opposite Globe House, the HQ of British American Tobacco (BAT), owners of the Dunhill and Lucky Strike cigarette brands (inter alia). BAT had turnover of around £14bn in 2016 and is the sixth largest company by capitalisation in the FTSE 100 (yes there’s still plenty of money to be made out of fags people).

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A few steps further along and we arrive at Two Temple Place. This was built, entirely of Portland stone, between 1892 and 1895 for William Waldorf Astor, the man behind the Waldorf hotels and one of the richest people in the world at the time (as mentioned a couple of posts back). Incredibly, this faux Elizabethan/neo-Gothic creation of architect John Loughborough Pearson with its opulent interior, was originally primarily  intended to serve as Astor’s estate office – though he did eventually use it as his London residence. The man responsible for the interior decoration, after the French Renaissance style, was John Dibblee Crace, who also decorated Cliveden for Astor.

The building is now looked after by registered charity, the Bulldog Trust and, in addition to its use as a venue for corporate and private entertaining, hosts regular high-profile exhibitions. The latest of these, Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion runs to 23 April 2017 and well worth a visit.

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The main staircase is embellished with seven mahogany carvings by Thomas Nicholls representing characters from The Three Musketeers and Nicholls continues the literary theme with a frieze around the first floor gallery depicting 82 of Shakespeare’s dramatis personae and another in the main hall incorporating characters from Rip Van Winkle, The Scarlet Letter and The Last of the Mohicans. The entrance door to the Great Hall is made of mahogany, has a beautifully carved head and nine decorative panels in silver gilt by Sir George James Frampton which portray the nine heroines of the Arthurian Legend according to the version by  Thomas Malory. Guinevere is depicted in the central panel.

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After leaving Two Temple Place head round the back of the building and up Milford Lane before swinging right into Little Essex Street and then turning south again down Essex Street. This is the western edge of Middle Temple, the third of the three Inns of Court established in the 14th century we have visited (Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn being the first two).  The Inn’s name derives from the Knights Templar who were granted this site in the latter part of the 12th century. After the fall of the Crusading Orders’ strongholds in the Holy Land in 1291 the Knights Templar retreated to Cyprus and their fortunes continued to wane thereafter. The lands south of Fleet Street then passed for a time to the Order of the Hospitallers (aka The Order of St John) whom we have encountered previously. Come the Reformation the land was seized by the Crown and divided between the newly formed Inns of Middle Temple and Inner Temple.

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Down the steps back into Temple Place and then along the Embankment, skirting Middle Temple Gardens, before entering into the heart of the Inn via Middle Temple Lane.

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Middle Temple Hall is probably the finest example of an Elizabethan Hall in London. It is 101 feet long and 41 feet wide, and spanned by a magnificent double hammer-beam roof. Begun in 1562 when Edmund Plowden, the famous law reporter, was Treasurer of the Inn, it has remained little altered up to the present day. The High Table, believed to be a gift from Elizabeth I., is 29 feet long and made from a single oak tree which was floated down the Thames from Windsor Forest. The first recorded performance of Twelfth Night took place in the Hall on 2nd February 1602 and you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s in constant demand as a film location – everything from Bridget Jones II to Shakespeare in Love. If you’re not short of a bob or two you can also hold your wedding reception here.

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Wend our way through Fountain Court then south past the various Chambers before emerging back onto Essex Street and heading back up to the Strand. On the way we pass the Edgar Wallace pub which in its original guise of the Essex Head, dating back to 1777, was another of Samuel Johnson’s haunts. It was renamed in 1975 in honour of the centenary of the eponymous crime-writer’s birth. Wallace was also a prolific screenwriter, principally for RKO. He penned the first draft of the script for King Kong but never got to see his efforts on the screen; dying of a combination of diabetes and double pneumonia a year before the film (based on a reworked script) was released.

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Just around the corner where the Strand morphs into Fleet Street is another historic pub, the George. Originally founded as a Coffee House in 1723 the George became a public house early in the 19th century. One regular visitor back then, along with the ubiquitous Dr Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith and Horace Walpole, was the con-man Henry Perfect who had a propensity for impersonating vicars. The building was reconstructed in the late Victorian era (that exterior is only mock-Tudor). Reputedly there is a carving depicting a naked man chasing pigs somewhere on or inside the pub but this eluded me.

Turn right almost immediately down Devereux Court which is where the Instituto Cervantes, the Spanish cultural centre, is tucked away.

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Wend our way back through the heart of Middle Temple then escape back up to Fleet Street through an archway and up a set of steps which lead to the building known as Outer Temple. This was erected as an office building in Victorian times and although it is thought there may have been an Inn of Chancery called Outer Temple prior to the 16th century it had nothing to do with this location, so the name was purely taking advantage of the proximity to the Temple Inns. The building is now used as a branch of Lloyds Bank, almost certainly the most extravagantly decorated one in the country. I definitely doubt you’ll come across ATM’s with more luxuriant surroundings than the two in the entrance here.

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A short way further east on Fleet Street is the Temple Bar memorial. The memorial marks the spot where Wren’s Temple Bar (more on that to come in a later post) used to stand, as the ceremonial entrance to the City of London from Westminster . The bronze free-standing statues of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, facing the road on each side, are by Sir Joseph Boehm. They are celebrated here because in 1872 they were the last royals to pass through the old gate, in order to attend a thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral for the Prince’s recovery from typhoid. The rampant “griffin” (as it is traditionally known) crowning the Temple Bar Memorial is really a dragon, the symbol of the City of London.

On the south side of Fleet Street adjacent to the memorial is a plaque commemorating the site of the Devil Tavern which was demolished in 1787. This was renowned as the home of the Apollo Club, a literary dining society founded by the Elizabethan playwright Ben Johnson .  Members of the club are said to have included Shakespeare, Swift, Pope and (yet again) Dr Johnson (no relation) – he did get about.

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Head south towards the river down Middle Temple Lane once more and after a circuit of Essex Court on the west side switch to the east side and Pump Court which takes us in to Inner Temple territory.  Inner Temple suffered the ravages of the Great Fire far worse than Middle Temple and many of the few original buildings that survived were lost to subsequent fires and 20th century war damage. Consequently, the Hall, Treasury Office, Benchers’ Rooms and Library were all reconstructed after World War II.

After a tour of Hare Court, Elm Court and Crown Office Court we arrive at the Temple Church itself. The church, founded by the Knights Templar as already noted, is in two parts: the Round and the Chancel. The Round Church was consecrated in 1185 by the patriarch of Jerusalem. It was designed to recall the holiest place in the Crusaders’ world: the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Chancel dates from the 1230’s. The Temple served as the London headquarters of King John and it was here in January 1215 that the barons confronted him for the first time with the demand that he subject himself to the rule of a charter, which ultimately lead to the signing of the Magna Carta later that same year. Although the church survived the Great Fire unscathed it was refurbished by Sir Christopher Wren shortly thereafter. A couple of centuries later the Victorians carried out work to try and restore the church to its original appearance but most of that was destroyed in the Blitz. Post-war restoration wasn’t completed until the second half of the 1950’s. By a stroke of good fortune the architects, Walter and Emil Godfrey, were able to use the reredos designed by Wren for his 17th-century restoration. Removed in 1841, it had spent over a century in the Bowes Museum, County Durham.

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Return to Fleet Street via Inner Temple Lane then head east as far as Old Mitre Court which takes us back into the heart of the Inner Temple and segues into King’s Bench Walk, named after the King’s Bench Office which was based there until the 19th century.  This row which contains the Inner Temple’s best preserved chambers buildings, which date from the 17th century.

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And that’s where we end things for today before shuffling back to Fleet Street for a couple of glasses of the old fermented grape juice in El Vino’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 36 – Chancery Lane – Fetter Lane – Fleet Street

“If you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this great City you must not satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts..” These words, which could stand as a mission statement for this blog, were spoken by Dr Samuel Johnson, creator of the first proper dictionary of the English language and the man who also coined the immortal aphorism “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life”. We visit Dr Johnson’s house in Gough Square towards the end of today’s itinerary but before we get there we have to wend our way through the labyrinth of streets and squares and courts that huddle in between Chancery Lane and Farringdon Street as well as picking out the major points of interest along the north side of Fleet Street.

Before all that though here’s a quick update on how much of the designated target area we’ve now covered overall since beginning this a year and a half ago..And I thought I’d be done in six months !

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Anyway back to today’s route..

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Starting point is on Chancery Lane by the eastern gate of Lincoln’s Inn. From here we head north and take a right into Southampton Buildings where we find the former home of the Patent Office, purpose built at the turn of the last century some fifty years after the founding of the Patent Office in 1852. In 1991, having outgrown these premises, the Patent Office (now called the Intellectual Property Office) was relocated to Newport in South Wales.

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Just around the corner is Staple Inn which is the last of the so-called Inns of Chancery to survive largely intact. The building dates from the the second half of the 16th century and the original half-timbered Tudor frontage still adorns High Holborn in incongruous fashion. The rest of the building behind this was pretty much fully reconstructed in 1937 though the courtyard and garden at the rear retain their original structure. Since 1887 it has been the London home of the Institute of Actuaries and was Grade I listed in 1974.

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Once out onto High Holborn by Chancery Lane tube station we turn right briefly then venture south down Furnival Street. Next turn is into the dog-leg that is Took’s Court where the early 18th century property at no.15 has been renamed Dickens House, not because this was another of the writer’s residences but because this building featured in Bleak House (under the guise of Cook’s Court).

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Took’s Court emerges onto Cursitor Street where we turn right and come out onto Chancery Lane again; opposite a blue plaque installed by the Cromwell Association in commemoration of John Thurloe (1616 – 1668). Thurloe joined Cromwell’s government after he seized power, first as Secretary of State then as Head of Intelligence and finally as Postmaster General. In 1660 following the Restoration he was arrested for high treason but never tried (he was released on condition that he assist the new government on request). He died at Lincoln’s Inn in 1668 and was buried in the chapel there.

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After a quick detour to Quality Court (which doesn’t really live up to its name) we double back down Cursitor Street, nip back up Furnival Street and then swing right into Norwich Street. This takes us into Fetter Lane where we head north to Holborn Circus then switch south again down New Fetter Lane. Cut back westward along Plough Place then continue on Greystoke Place before Mac’s Place takes us through to Breams Buildings. (This area was hit particularly hard in the Blitz so there was a lot of post-war rebuilding which has been undergoing redevelopment in recent years). Anyway just here on Breams Buildings is what remains of the overflow burial ground for St Dunstan-in-the-West Church (which we shall come to later) dating back to at least the 17th century.

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Turning right on Breams Buildings returns us to Chancery Lane where to south you have the Law Society’s Hall on the west side and King’s College Maughan Library to the east. The Law Society is the professional association representing the interests of the UK’s solicitors (barristers have the Bar Council). It was founded in 1825 then acquired its first Royal Charter six years later as “The Society of Attorneys, Solicitors, Proctors and others not being Barristers, practising in the Courts of Law and Equity of the United Kingdom”.   No doubt to everyone’s relief, a further Royal Charter in 1903 changed this to simply “The Law Society”. Women members were first admitted in 1922. It’s not entirely obvious from the pictures below but today the building is also home to the swanky 113 Restaurant.

The neo-Gothic Maughan Library building was originally built between 1851 and 1858, to a design of architect Sir James Pennethorne, in order to house the Public Record Office. The PRO had been formed in 1838 to streamline the maintenance of government and court records. The Domesday Book was one of the records transferred here, in 1859 from Westminster Abbey. It now resides at the National Archives in Kew, the successor to the PRO, formed in 2003 when that merged with the Historical Manuscripts Commission. King’s College took over the building in 2001 to create the largest new university library in Britain since WW2 with a £35m renovation. The library is named after, Sir Deryck Maughan, an alumnus and major benefactor of King’s College.

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The library contains a dodecagonal reading room which features in The Da Vinci Code (I’m sure the University is delighted with that !). The bronze statue of Confucius in the garden was donated in 2010 by the Confucian Academy to mark the official launch of the Lau China Institute.

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Entering Fleet Street from Chancery Lane and turning east we reach the aforementioned St Dunstan-in-the West church. There has been a church on this site since around the turn of the first millennium, named in honour of St Dunstan who was elected as Archbishop of Canterbury in 960 and was instrumental in bringing about peace with the Danes. That original church lasted right up until the early 19th century when it was rebuilt in 1831. The most well known feature of the church is its clock, which dates from 1671, and was the first public clock in London to have a minute hand. Figures of two giants strike the hours and quarters, and turn their heads. The courtyard also contains statues of King Lud, the possibly mythical ruler of pre-Roman times, and his sons. Lud gave his name to Ludgate, one of the original gateways to the City of London, where these statues stood before they were moved to the church.  Above the porch where they hide away is a statue of Queen Elizabeth I from 1586, the only one known to have been carved during her reign.

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As well as being an Anglican church, St Dunstan’s is home to the Romanian Orthodox Church in London. The beautiful iconostasis (altar screen) was brought here from a monastery in Bucharest in 1966. The high altar and reredos are Flemish woodwork dating from the seventeenth century. The church hosts classical music recitals on Wednesday lunchtimes so I was fortunate enough (along, sadly, with only about half a dozen other people) to hear a young pianist from the Guildhall giving the ivories a proper working over.

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Fleet Street is of course synonymous with the newspaper and magazine publishing industry even though the actual printing presses and the businesses that ran them have long since departed. In the pictures of the exterior of the church you will have seen glimpses of its next door neighbour, the London office of Dundee-based D.C Thomson, best known  as the publisher of the Beano and the Dandy. Thomson also print a number of Scottish regional newspapers and when in 2016 they relocated the two London-based correspondents for their Sunday Post paper its was perceived as being the very final end of newspaper journalism on Fleet Street.

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Heading back up Fetter Lane we pass, on the corner with Rolls Buildings, a statue to the radical English parliamentarian John Wilkes (1725 – 1797). Wilkes was expelled from Parliament on several occasions for his outspoken views but he was far from your typical social reformer. As well as being a member of the Hell-Fire Club, infamous for its debauched gatherings and Black Mass rituals he was also not beyond voter bribery in his efforts to get elected to the Commons. In 1754 he stood for election in the constituency of Berwick-upon-Tweed and was unsuccessful despite bribing a ship’s captain to land a boatload of opposition voters coming from London in Norway instead of Berwick.

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Forking right into New Fetter Lane and following this to its northern end we then turn tight into the heart of the modern developments I referenced previously. So we can move rapidly through Bartlett Court, Thavies Inn, St Andrew Street, the upper part of Shoe LaneNew Square, Great New Street, Nevil Lane, West Harding Street and Red Lion Court with nothing to detain us apart from this, frankly quite unexciting, water feature in New Square.

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So now we’re back on Fleet Street and the next little alleyway to the east, Johnson’s Court, will via a rather torturous route take us appropriately up to Gough Square where we finally encounter the house occupied by Dr Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) while he was compiling his dictionary. That was during the years from 1747 until 1755 when the dictionary was published. It wasn’t the first dictionary of the English language produced but it was far greater in scope and erudition than any of its predecessors. Its pages were nearly 18 inches (46 cm) tall, and the book was 20 inches (51 cm) wide when opened; it contained 42,773 entries and it sold for the (then) extravagant price of £4 10s. Not surprisingly therefore it didn’t sell terribly well and Johnson and his publishers were forced to rely on subsequent abridged versions to make any money from it. Johnson had married Elizabeth Porter, who was 20 years his senior, in 1735 and when she died in 1752, Francis Barber, a former slave from Jamaica, joined his  household as a servant along with his wife and children.. He lived with Johnson for more than 30 years and was ultimately named as his heir.

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On the opposite side of Gough Square is a statue of Dr Johnson’s favourite cat, Hodge, unveiled in 1997 by the Lord Mayor. The statue shows Hodge sitting next to a pair of empty oyster shells on top of a copy of Johnson’s dictionary, with the inscription “a very fine cat indeed”. Unlike today, in Johnson’s time oysters were plentiful around the coasts of England and so cheap that they were a staple food of the poor (and cats).

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Moving on we wind our way through Pemberton Row, East Harding Street, Gunpowder Square, Hind Court, St Dunstan’s Court and Bolt Court dipping in and out of Fleet Street until we reach the Grade II listed Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub at no.145. Reportedly there has been a pub here since 1538 and according to the sign outside the current hostelry dates from 1667 when it was rebuilt after the Great Fire. Inside the pub is a warren of numerous wood-panelled rooms all deprived of natural lighting which lends a sombre, conspiratorial air even when the several open fireplaces are lit in the winter. Past patrons of the pub are said to include the ubiquitous Charles Dickens along with Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, P.G Wodehouse and G.K Chesterton. Dr Johnson must also have been a regular though his writings coyly neglect to mention it by name.

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Running up the side of the pub is Wine Office Court at the entrance to which is affixed this handy resumé of its history (from where you will see I nicked the opening to this post).

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We follow Wine Office Court up to Printer Street and then return to Fleet Street via Little New Street and the lower section of Shoe Lane (shown below).

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Now we’re right in the epicentre of Fleet Street‘s historic association with the Fourth Estate as we emerge in between Peterborough Court, the former home of the Daily Telegraph at nos. 141-135 and the Daily Express building at 128-121. These two very different looking buildings are both icons of the Art Deco age and both Grade II listed. Peterborough Court, with its “monumental facade” and Egyptian themed decoration, was built in 1927-8 and designed by architect Thomas Smith Tait. The Telegraph group decamped in the 1980’s post-Wapping and this is now the European HQ of mega-Investment bank Goldmans Sachs (who reputedly pay rent of £18m a year to the Qatari owners of the building).

 

The slightly younger Daily Express building with its striking black vitrolite panelling was built in 1931-2 and designed by architects Ellis and Clarke with the assistance of Sir Owen Williams. The flamboyant lobby, designed by Robert Atkinson, includes plaster reliefs by Eric Aumonier, silver and gilt decorations, a magnificent silvered pendant lamp and an oval staircase. The drawn curtains on the ground floor ensure that this, one of the very finest masterpieces of British Art-Deco, is invisible to the public except on Open House weekend. If you’ve never seen it I would urge you to seek out that opportunity (as I did many years ago though I couldn’t locate the photographs I took at the time so the one below is courtesy of http://manchesterhistory.net/architecture/1930/dailyexpress.html.)

The Express Group left the building in 1989 and following a major redevelopment of the site in the nineties it was also let to Goldman Sachs in 2000.

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Beyond the Daily Express Building we turn north again up Poppin’s Court into St Bride Street from where we criss-cross into Farringdon Street via Harp Alley, Stonecutter Court and Plumtree Court before finishing up under the Holborn Viaduct whence we shall return in the not-too-distant future.

 

 

Day 35 – Victoria Embankment – Aldwych – Somerset House

Not that many actual streets ticked off today but a reasonable distance covered and yet again a wealth of material to relay. It was also a fabulously bright (if cold) day as you will gather from the photographs. We start with a stroll through Victoria Embankment Gardens before doubling back and then dodging the joggers on the riverside promenade up to Waterloo Bridge. After that we head north to Aldwych and circle round to get back to Somerset House before ducking down onto the Embankment again and continuing eastward as far as Temple tube.

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The Victoria Embankment, as you might surmise from the name, is one of the great engineering feats of the Victorian era. The driving force behind this was the desire to improve the capital’s sanitation system by the creation of a new super sewer running west to east into which all other sewers would empty rather than into the Thames. This scheme gained the backing of Parliament when the dry summer of 1858 created what was known as “the Great Stink” with the raw sewage building up in the river making the atmosphere in the Houses of Parliament intolerable. Work began in 1864 and was completed in 1870.  Embankment walls were built close to the low-water mark and the area behind them filled in, making made space not only for the sewer but also for a road and for the new, partially underground, District Line. It also allowed for the creation of Victoria Embankment Gardens where our journey today begins.

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Prior to the construction of the Embankment this gateway on the topside of the gardens stood on the north bank of the river. Known as the York Watergate it was built in 1826 for our old friend George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham and, as we have reported previously, King James I’s “favourite”. Built as a point of access from Villiers’ garden to the river, the Watergate was created by Sir Balthazar Gerbier who modelled it on the Fontaine de Medicis at the Palais de Luxembourg.

First of several statues in the gardens is that of Robert “Rabbie” Burns (1759 -1796) to all intents and purposes the national poet of Scotland. This is the only statue of Burns in England whereas there are 16 in the USA and 9 in Canada. Oddly the Soviet Union was the first country to put him on a commemorative stamp (in 1956). There is also a crater on Mercury named after him.

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In the middle of the gardens stands this memorial to the Imperial Camel Corps which was comprised of battalions made up of British, Australian, New Zealand and Indian soldiers and formed part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in WWI. In total the brigade deployed around 4,800 camels which, fully loaded, could cross the desert at between three and six miles an hour. The corps was disbanded after the war.

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Continuing east through the gardens there are further memorials to : Sir Wilfred Lawson (1829 -1906) Liberal politician and temperance campaigner; Robert Raikes (1736 – 1811) philanthropist and founder of the Sunday school movement and Sir Arthur Sullivan (of popular duo Gilbert & Sullivan) who we have encountered before hereabouts. On the south side there is also Portland stone monument (listed grade II) designed by Edward Lutyens (1869-1944), erected to the memory of Major General Lord Cheylesmore, soldier, administrator, and philanthropist which incorporates a small water garden complete with Koi carp (and very popular with the local pigeons). On the north side in contrast there’s a rather odd little lilting hut whose function is not entirely clear. All in all the collection of memorials in the gardens is pretty random; though none the worse for that.

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Leaving the gardens and heading back west along the Embankment we pass the monument created by Blomfield and Victor Rousseau as an expression of thanks to the British nation from the people of Belgium for this country’s part in the liberation of Europe in 1944-5.

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Back at Embankment tube station we cross the road to the riverside walk. You have to feel a bit sorry for W.S Gilbert (the other half of Gilbert & Sullivan) since, whereas his musical partner gets a full bust job with a half-naked floozy draped across the plinth, all he gets is this somewhat unremarkable plaque on the wall by Hungerford Bridge.

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In 1878 Victoria Embankment became the first street in Britain to be permanently lit by electricity. The lampposts with their distinctive entwined fish (sturgeons apparently) on the bases were designed by George John Vulliamy.

Vuilliamy also designed the faux-Egyptian cast- bronze Sphinxes that flank the most famous landmark on this stretch of the north bank of the Thames, Cleopatra’s Needle. This hieroglyph covered obelisk was created in the Ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis around 1450 BC. It stands 21 metres tall and weighs 224 tons. So it was no mean feat to transport it over to England in 1877 from Alexandria (where Cleopatra had had it moved by the Romans in 12 BC). The sponsor of this enterprise, at a cost of £10,000, was the renowned anatomist Sir William James Erasmus Wilson. The Needle was housed inside a massive iron cylinder which was then converted into a kind of floating pontoon, named Cleopatra, so that it could be towed by ship, the Olga to be precise. Disaster struck when a storm in the Bay of Biscay caused the pontoon to list uncontrollably and the rescue boat sent across from the Olga capsized with the loss of its volunteer crew of six. Cleopatra was left “abandoned and sinking” but remarkably stayed afloat and was found four days later by Spanish trawlers and then towed into port by a Scottish steamer. Its journey was eventually completed in the wake of the paddle tug Anglia, under the command of one Captain David Glue.

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As you can imagine the tribulations of Cleo’s transportation were front page news at the time as you can see here daily-news-19-october-1877-cleopatras-needle.

The presence of cormorants along the river attests to the cleanliness of the water in the Thames these days and the concomitant increase in fish stocks.

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As we reach Waterloo Bridge there is yet another memorial, this time to the Victorian novelist and historian Walter Besant (1836 -1901). These days little more than a footnote in literary history, Besant’s work was extremely popular in his own lifetime. His novel, All Sorts and Conditions of Men, about the working-class inhabitants of London’s East End slums sold 250,000 copies and introduced a vogue for so-called “slum fiction” in the last decades of the Victorian era.

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Climb the steps up onto Lancaster Place and head up to Aldwych on the other side of the road from Somerset House.

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The Waldorf Hotel on Aldwych was established in 1908 by William Waldorf Astor of the fabulously wealthy and well-connected Astor Family who had arrived in England in the late 18th century from Walldorf in Germany (natch !) before heading west to America. At the time he had the Waldorf’s namesake in New York built in 1890 Astor was reputedly the richest man in America.

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Opposite the Waldorf, now part of the Hilton empire, stands India House; home to the Indian High Commission in London (or embassy if you prefer). Designed by Sir Herbert Baker the building was inaugurated in 1930 by King George V. The decorations on the outside of the building represent the various states of India, as they were under the Raj. The closest one in the picture below signifies Madras. Every time I go past here there seems to be some form of demonstration going on but I didn’t manage to ascertain what this one was about.

Duck round the corner down the steps into India Place where there is a bust of Nehru which was unveiled by John Major in 1991. That year also saw the fatal stabbing of 26 year old D.C Jim Morrison, just yards away, trying to arrest a thief while off duty. His killer has never been found.

India Place morphs into Montreal Place and emerges on the Strand opposite to north entrance to Somerset House.

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Turning east we almost immediately pass by the church of St Mary-le-Strand which now sits on a traffic island in the middle of the Strand (stranded you could say). This is another one of the churches built at the start of the 18th century under the “Commission for the building of fifty new churches”. The steeple was completed in September 1717, but the church was not consecrated for use until 1723. Bonnie Prince Charlie is alleged to have renounced his Roman Catholic faith here in favour of Anglicanism during a secret visit to London in 1750.

Beyond the church we turn left up Melbourne Place then left again to arrive at the front of Bush House The building, opened in 1925, was designed by the American architect Harvey Corbett and financed by an Anglo-American trading organisation headed by Irving T. Bush, hence the name. By the end of that decade Bush House had been declared the ‘most expensive building in the world’, having cost around $10 million. The BBC World Service (or the Empire Service as it was then), with which the building is indelibly associated, first moved some of its operations here in 1940 and had fully taken the place over by the late 1950’s. Given the nature and purpose of the World Service the inscription made above the main portico by the original owners, “to the friendship of English-speaking peoples” was always something of an embarrassment to the BBC. By 1972 more than 750 hours of programming a week in 40 languages from French to Somali were being broadcast from Bush House. In 2012 the BBC departed and World Service staff were transferred to new offices on the Broadcasting House site. The building has been taken over by King’s College as an extension to its Strand campus.

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Doubling back round the arc of Aldwych brings us to Australia House which is, yes you’ve guessed it, the home of the Australian High Commission – both the oldest Australian diplomatic mission and the longest continuously occupied foreign mission in London. Construction of the building began in 1913 but it was only fully completed just after the end of WWI (for obvious reasons). The two sculptural groups that flank the entrance are named The Awakening of Australia and The Prosperity of Australia and are the work of the Australian artist Harold Parker. The flashing chap on the roof is Phoebus driving the horses of the sun the creation of another Australian sculptor, Bertram Mackennal. The building’s luxuriant interior (merely glimpsed below) was used at the setting for Gringott’s Wizarding bank in the first Harry Potter film.

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Turning the corner back onto the Strand we pass what was the entrance to the now disused Aldwych tube station (originally called Strand station).  The station sat on a branch line of the Piccadilly Line and although there were various plans to extend this it remained just a single-stop shuttle from Holborn up until closure in 1994 (having only operated during peak hours for the 32 years previous to that). Due to its self-contained nature (and the fact it was closed most of the time) the station was always in high demand for film and TV productions. This has continued post-closure with Atonement, 28 Weeks Later, Mr Selfridge and Sherlock amongst the productions to have shot scenes here.

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Next block along is the rather unlovely main campus building of King’s College.

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And once past that we’re back at the northern entrance to Somerset House. This riverside site was once occupied by a palace built by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset in 1547 and lived in by Elizabeth the First during the five years prior to her coronation. When Anne of Denmark (wife of James I) moved in in 1603 it was renamed Denmark House in her honour. The palace survived the ravages of the Great Fire but after decades of neglect following the departure of its last royal resident, Catherine of Braganza, in 1693 it was demolished in 1775. Within a year work had started on a replacement designed by Sir William Chambers. The new Somerset House (initially just the North Wing) opened in 1779 with the Royal Academy of Arts as its first occupant. The South Wing was completed in 1786 and the East and West Wings two years after that. At which time the Navy Board and the Stamp Office moved in. 1836 saw the establishment of the General Register Office, responsible for the recording of births, deaths and marriages, with which Somerset House became synonymous. Then in 1849 the Inland Revenue was created from the merger of the Board of Taxes and the Board of Excise and took over Somerset House for the next 15o years or so. The Registry Office actually moved out as long ago as 1970 and HMRC finally left for good in 2011. In between times the Courtauld Gallery moved into the North Wing in 1989 and in 1997 the Somerset House Trust was established to preserve and develop Somerset House for public use. The Riverside Terrace was first opened to the public in 2000, the same year that saw the first installation of a temporary ice rink in the piazza that was once, ignominiously, relegated to the status of a car park for Inland Revenue employees.

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Arriving to find the dismantling of the ice rink in full flow I initially cursed my sense of timing (again) but on reflection the photographs are probably more interesting than they would otherwise have been. The (free) exhibition on in the South Wing – until 26 February 2017 – is the Eye of Modern Mali a retrospective of work by the late Malian photographer, Malick Sidibe, and is highly recommended. Superb accompanying music as well.

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View across the Thames from River Terrace

Leave Somerset House via the Riverside Terrace and head down the steps on the east side of Waterloo Bridge to return to the Embankment. At the intersection with Temple Place stands this sadly rather obscured memorial to the godfather of Civil Engineering, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 – 1859).

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Veer left up Temple Place and then again into Surrey Street which features some splendid red-brick terrace houses dating form the late 1760’s.

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In the bottom right of the picture above you can see the entrance to Surrey Steps which leads down into Strand Lane which, according to the signage, is the site of a “Roman Bath”.

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The provenance of the bath appears to be a matter of debate but most sources believe it actually originated as the feeder cistern for a grotto-fountain built in the gardens of the first Somerset House for Anne of Denmark in 1612 (some time after the Romans left Britain I think it’s fair to say). Shortly after the construction of the Georgian terraces, the owner of no.33, a Mr James Smith , converted the derelict cistern into a spring-fed cold bath which he opened to the public. It was only in the 1830’s when the management of the bath was taken on by one Charles Scott that the spurious Roman connection began to be advertised. The National Trust took possession of the Bath in 1948 and opened it to the public in 1951 following restoration. Nowadays visitors are only by appointment, otherwise you just have to peer through the very murky basement window to get a view of the bath (that’s if the outside light switch is working).

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Back on Surrey Street is the old Norfolk Hotel which was patronised at different times by both the agents of the Special Operations Executive French Section and Joseph Conrad, author of The Secret Agent.

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At the top of Surrey Street we turn right then head south again down Arundel Street. The Arundel House which now stands at the end of the eastern side of the street is a 19th century Tudor revival-style building which is currently the HQ for the International Institute of Strategic Studies. It takes its name from the Arundel House which occupied this riverside site in the middle ages and was the townhouse of the Bishops of Bath & Wells.

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We’ve now arrived at Temple tube station and the small elevated garden which sits on top of it affords good views of the Thames down towards London Bridge and the back of Arundel Great Court a 1970’s carbuncle that is in the throes of a long-running demolition and re-development project. In front of the garden on Temple Place is one of the so-called Cabmen’s Shelters. These green huts dotted around central London were originally put up between 1875 and 1914 by an eponymous charity with the aim of providing drivers of hansom cabs with somewhere they could get refreshments (non-alcoholic) without having to leave their vehicles prey to theft. Because they were situated on public highways the huts were not allowed to be larger than a horse and cart. All of the remaining huts are Grade II listed.

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So after all that it’s one final scoot along the Embankment back to Waterloo Bridge and we’re done.

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Day 34 – Bishopsgate – Middlesex Street – Finsbury Circus

Today’s walk sees us back east again; first of all south of Spitalfields in the streets taken over by the stalls of Petticoat Lane market then skirting Aldgate before heading back into the City across Bishopsgate and west into Finsbury Circus.

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We kick things off on Liverpool Street, which runs south of the eponymous mainline station. This takes us into Bishopsgate where, passing the front entrance of the station and crossing the road, we arrive at the Bishopsgate Institute.  Since the 1st of January 1895, when it was established using funds from charitable endowments made to the parish of St Botolph without Bishopsgate, the Institute has operated as a public library, public hall and meeting place for people living and working in the City of London. The architect behind this now Grade II-listed building with its elements of styles ranging from Byzantine to Art Nouveau was Charles Harrison Townsend (1851-1928). Today, in addition to being a venue for a disparate selection of cultural events, the Institute is best known for its adult education course covering over 120 different subjects.

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Turning right down Artillery Lane we head into the area between Bishopsgate and Commercial Street which is a twilight mix of the rapidly vanishing old East End and new upscale development. Dip in and out of Brushfield Street (which borders Spitalfields) using Fort Street, Stewart Street and Gun Street before heading further south down Crispin Street. On the east side here is a massive new development on the site of the old Fruit and Wool Exchange, something else we have our old friend Boris Johnson to thank for. On the other side of the street the historic painted signwriting for the Donovan Brothers paper bag making business, which they set up here in the 1830’s, still survives. As does the family business itself though it now operates out of the New Spitalfields Market in Leyton.

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A couple of doors along is Lilian Knowles House which now provides accommodation for post-graduate students of the LSE and is named after a former Professor of Economic History but was once the Providence Row night refuge for homeless women and children. Anecdotally, it is believed that Jack the Ripper’s final victim, Mary Jane Kelly, lived and worked here – she was found murdered in a nearby alley which no longer exists.

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From here we turn east down White’s Row then dip briefly south down Toynbee Street before taking a right into Brune Street. On the corner here is the Duke of Wellington pub which I mention because (a) it’s one of the few pubs in this part of the world that has a beer garden (of sorts), when I worked in the City we would occasionally trek all the way over here in the summer for that reason alone and (b) I’m surprised it’s still here.

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On the north side of Brune Street is the ceramic-tiled facade of the soup kitchen established here in 1902 to serve impoverished members of the local Jewish community. Amazingly, the facility existed right up until 1992. In earlier times it was providing groceries to up to 1,500 people a day.

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After a quick visit to Tenter Ground, at the end of Brune Street we turn left down Bell Lane then right into Cobb Street and right again into Leyden Street. On the bend where this turns into Strype Street is tucked away the 1938-built Brody House, a rare surviving example of thirties architecture in this part of town. The street itself was named after the clergyman and historian John Strype (1643 – 1737 good innings !) who in 1720 produced a new survey of London which revised and expanded the pre-Great Fire original by John Stowe (1525 – 1605) published in 1598.

Next we’re out onto Middlesex Street and bang in the midst of Petticoat Lane Market. There has been a clothing market here, in the heart of the area that has been home to the various iterations of the garment industry for centuries, since the mid 1700’s. And the name of the market has endured even though the street ceased to be called Peticote (or Petticotte) Lane in the reign of William IV c.1830. Today the Middlesex Street section of the market is only open on Sundays (this walk took place on a Sunday) whereas the Wentworth Street stalls are in situ six days a week. It’s still predominantly clothing up for sale and the majority of vendors and customers these days are drawn from the local Bangladeshi community. It’s remains a vibrant place but (and it’s hard to avoid being snotty about it) the merchandise on offer is basically an ocean of tat.

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Check in on the remaining section of Cobb Street then navigate the Wentworth Street section of the market before turning northward into Toynbee Street with its unkempt charms and note of blind faith (see left side of top right photo).

At the apex with Commercial Street we turn south again past a welcome nostalgia tug in the form of a graffiti-ed Snagglepuss. Out of the same Hanna Barbera stable as Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss actually appeared first in the Quick Draw McGraw Cartoon Show in 1959 (so he’s precisely the same vintage as me). “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”

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Turn back into Wentworth Street and then continue south towards Aldgate East via Old Castle Street, Pommel Way and Tyne Street. On the former is a vestige of the Public Wash House that was completed in 1846 and construction of which therefore started prior to the passing of the Baths and Washhouses Act by parliament in the same year. That was down to the “Committee for Promoting the Establishment of Baths and Wash-Houses for the Labouring Classes” founded in 1844 under Robert Cotton, the then Governor of the Bank of England.

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Moving on we head back towards the market up Goulston Street where these pigeons seem blissfully unaware of the danger lurking in the background;

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before cutting west down New Goulston Street which has some more striking street art. The rat crawling out of the brickwork is by graffiti artist ROA, and the horror themed building facade was created by Zabou specifically for Halloween 2016.

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Then we’re back on Middlesex Street again and turning south down towards Aldgate again we stop in the shadow of this condemned sixties’ block and turn the corner into St Botolph Street. St Botolph, the patron saint of wayfarers, lived and founded a monastery in East Anglia in the 7th century. Unusually for a Saint he lived to a ripe old age and died of natural causes.

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Nothing special about this other than the fact that it’s pretty much the last man standing in terms of the post-war concrete boxes round here being demolished and their sites redeveloped. Next up, in rapid succession, we traverse Stoney Lane, White Kennett Street (named after an 18th century Bishop of Peterborough), Gravel Lane and Harrow Place. This funky fire escape brings the next pause for breath at the end of Clothier St cul-de-sac.

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Cutler Street, which was once the site of the largest tea warehouse in the city, leads into Devonshire Square. Rather confusingly this is both the name of the road feeding into and the original Georgian square itself and also the name of the mammoth 2006 office, retail and residential redevelopment of the Cutler Gardens Estate (land owned by the East India Company back in the day). Even further back than that, the end of the 10th century in fact, the land was supposedly given by King Edgar to thirteen of his knights on condition of them each performing three duels; one on land, one below ground and one on water. Sounds pretty apocryphal to me but the creator of this work on the edge of one of the courtyards was obviously a believer.

The original square is the site of Coopers Hall home to the smallest of the London Livery Companies, The Worshipful Company of Coopers. The origins of this Company go back to the 11th century, barrel-making being one of the oldest of all the trades I guess. Not one of the most highly respected though unfortunately; apparently there is a hierarchy of Livery Companies and the Coopers only rank 36th.

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From the square we loop round Barbon Alley and Cavendish Court to arrive in Devonshire Row which takes us back into Bishopsgate. On the way the spaces created by impending new developments allow for some interesting views of the ones that have recently been completed.

Turn north on Bishopsgate then east along New Street which dog-legs left and then merges into Cock Hill. At the top here we turn left into the highly insalubrious Catherine Wheel Alley which snakes back to Bishopsgate. This is named after the Catherine Wheel pub, which was reputedly the haunt of notorious highwayman thief Dick Turpin, and stood for more than 300 years before it was demolished in 1911. The name of the pub derives from the instrument of torturous execution linked with the martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in the 4th century. Consequently, the name of the alley was briefly changed at one point to Cat and Wheel Alley in order to placate Puritans who objected to the association of a filthy, crime-ridden alley with a martyred saint.

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Swiftly moving on, we finish off the rest of Middlesex Street then do a circuit of Sandy’s Row, Frying Pan Alley and Widegate Street before returning once more to Bishopsgate. Frying Pan Alley, perhaps unremarkably, gets its name because it once housed a shop selling pots and pans that had a huge cast iron frying pan suspended from chains as its sign.

We’re crossing over Bishopsgate next and heading south past Liverpool Street Station again. We turn right into Bishopsgate Churchyard which actually runs through the churchyard of the Church of St Botolph without Bishopsgate. As is so often the case it seems, the presence of a church on this site dates back to Saxon age. The original Saxon church was replaced twice, with the third version even surviving the Great Fire, before that was demolished in 1725, and the present church was completed four years later to the designs of James Gould, under the supervision of George Dance (the Elder). It is aisled and galleried in the classic style, and is unique among the City churches in having its tower at the East End, with the chancel underneath. Having got through WWII with the loss of just one window, the church fared less well during the IRA bombing campaign of the early 1990’s. The explosion on 24 April 1993 opened a hole in the roof and took out all the doors and windows. It was three and half years before the church was returned to its former state.

St Botolph’s was the first of the City burial grounds to be converted into a public garden. At the time this was strongly opposed but today it is treated as a welcome place of retreat from the bustle of the City. For the more energetic there is also a netball and tennis court there now.  The church garden also hosts St. Botolph’s Hall, once used as an infants’ school, but now a multipurpose church hall available for hire. Either side of its front entrance stand a pair of Coade stone figures of a schoolboy and girl in early nineteenth century costumes and nearby is the tomb of Sir William Rawlins, Sherriff of London in 1801 and a benefactor of the church.

The free standing partially-opened door you can see in the photos below is the work “Ajar” by Gavin Turk, erected in 2011 as part of the Sculpture in the City programme.

 

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Just beyond the churchyard is one of the most striking buildings in the City, the Turkish Bathhouse built by Henry and James Forder Nevill in 1895. The baths themselves were underneath the Moorish-style kiosk you see below; which as well as being the entrance originally housed water tanks. The baths were open from seven in the morning until nine at night and  a ‘plain hot-air bath, with shower’ cost 3/6d (17.5p in new money) and the ‘complete process’ 4/- (with reduced prices after 6pm). Also available were perfumed vapour, Russian vapour, Vichy, and sulphur vapour baths. There were scented showers, together with ascending, descending and spinal douches. Sounds terrifying. The baths closed in 1954 and the building was used for storage up to the 1970’s when it was converted into a restaurant for the first time. It is currently an events venue, catering for up to 150 guests at a time (it has a lot in common with the Tardis).

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The adjacent pub has outside TV screens for the convenience of its smoker clientele so I was able to freeze my nuts off watching the last 15 minutes of Bournemouth 4 Liverpool 3.
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Hurrying on (to try and thaw out) I emerge onto Old Broad Street turn right up to Liverpool Street then back down Blomfield Street to New Broad Street (which completes the loop back to its Old namesake). New Broad Street, with its masonry-faced late Victorian and Edwardian blocks on either side, is a designated conservation area and no-through road. In the distance is the Heron Tower, one of the new mega-skyscrapers constructed in the City since the turn of the millennium. More of that another time.

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Turn right on Old Broad Street this time down to London Wall and then head west past All-Hallows-on-the-Wall church. This one also traces its origins back to the 12th century when a church was built here on a bastion of the old Roman wall. The current church was built in 1767, again replacing one which had survived the Great Fire only to fall into dereliction. The new build was the work of George Dance the Younger (son of the George Dance associated with St Botolph’s).

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Back up Blomfied Street and a swing to the left and we arrive at our final destination of the day, Finsbury Circus. The circus was created in 1815-17, following demolition of the second iteration of the Bethlem Hospital that previously stood on the site, with central gardens, including a sweep of lime trees, also designed by the junior George Dance. None of the original early 19th century houses survive, all having been replaced by offices. Several of those replacement buildings are listed including Lutyens House (Nos.1-6 Finsbury Square), designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, 1924-7 (listed grade II*); London Wall Buildings (No.25), designed by Gunton and Gunton, 1901 (listed grade II); and Salisbury House (No.31), designed by Davis and Emmanuel, 1901 (listed grade II). Salisbury House is now yet another upscale hotel. Up until recent times the centre of the gardens was occupied by a bowling green of 1925 vintage and a pavilion built in 1968, when the bowling green was enlarged, as a bowling pavilion and wine bar, to the south. To the west of the bowling green was a bandstand that was erected in 1955 and restored in the 1990s. Whether any of this remains now is extremely moot since the gardens were commandeered for the construction of a 42m deep temporary shaft to provide access for construction of the additional Crossrail station at Liverpool Street. Just as I was thinking I might have to consider taking up Lawn Green Bowls in the not too distant future.

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