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 !

covered-so-far-feb-2017

Anyway back to today’s route..

day-36-route

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.

00000img_00000_burst20170208110041

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).

img_20170208_111018

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.

img_20170208_111148

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.

00000img_00000_burst20170208112319

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

img_20170208_113126

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

img_20170208_141355

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.

img_20170208_141810

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.

img_20170208_142736

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).

img_20170208_152509

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.

img_20170208_153510

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).

img_20170208_153439

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).

00002img_00002_burst20170208153000

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.

img_20170208_153721dailyexpress1

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.

day-35-route

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.

p1060263

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.

p1060262

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.

p1060267

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

p1060277

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.

p1060278

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

p1060291

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.

p1060292

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

p1060293

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.

p1060298

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.

p1060301

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.

p1060304

p1060305

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

p1060313

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

p1060311

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

p1060324
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).

p1060326

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.

p1060327

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”.

p1060328

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).

p1060329

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.

p1060330

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.

p1060333

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

p1060325

 

 

 

 

 

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.

day-34-route

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.

p1060200

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.

p1060202

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.

p1060203

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.

p1060205

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.

p1060206

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!”

p1060220

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.

p1060224

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

p1060225

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.

p1060226

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.

p1060227

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.

p1060228

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.

p1060233

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.

p1060237

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).

p1060246

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.
p1060247

 

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.

p1060248

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).

p1060249

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 33 (part 2) – The Strand -Covent Garden -Savoy Place

So the second leg of this walk resumes where we left off last time, on the Strand by the Adelphi Theatre, then heads north towards Covent Garden before crossing back over the Strand to traverse the streets either side of the Savoy Hotel and running down to the Embankment.

day-33-route

The origins of the Adelphi Theatre go back to 1806 when it was originally known as the Sans Pareil (without equal). The current, fourth building on the site, has been around since 1930 when it was constructed by the Pitcher Construction Company to the designs of Ernest Schaufelberg. The design was notable for the absence of any kind of curve (unusual for the thirties) and the building process attracted a great deal of public attention due to the builders frantic attempts to complete on time and avoid a punitive daily over-run penalty of £450. The venue has been home to a good number of successful productions, several of them off the Lloyd-Webber conveyer belt.

p1060168

Just a few doors further east stands the Vaudeville Theatre of which the present building is the third incarnation, opening in 1926. It has less then half the capacity of its near neighbour and therefore tends to present comedies and straight drama rather than musicals. Though it did play host to part of a then record-breaking run by the musical Salad Days in the 1950’s (a 1996 revival was rather less successful, reflecting changing tastes). Dance/performance art troupe Stomp had a five year residency here from 2002.

p1060169

Turn north up Southampton Street where in the 1870’s Vincent Van Gogh worked in the London offices of the French art dealers, Groupil et Cie, commuting from lodgings in Brixton. This clock, outside no.3, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1904 for George Newnes Limited, the publishers of such periodicals as John O’London’s Weekly and the Ladies’ Home Magazine.

p1060170

Turning left back onto Maiden Lane we find the rear of the Vaudeville Theatre which houses the Hungarian Cultural Centre (not looking particularly active it’s fair to say). 150 years before there was any theatre here the French philosopher Voltaire (1694 – 1778) spent a year living in the house that then occupied this spot – he had gone into self-imposed exile as an alternative to imprisonment in the Bastille at the instigation of the aristoctratic de Rohan family with whom he had fallen into confrontation.

p1060171

Across the road is, reputedly, the oldest restaurant in London, Rules, which was founded in 1798 by Thomas Rule to purvey “porter, pies and oysters” to a clientele of “rakes, dandies and superior intelligence’s”. Since then, it appears, just about anyone who is anyone in the literary and entertainment worlds has passed through its doors. And the menu would probably still look pretty familiar to the rakes and dandies of the Regency era.

p1060172

Retrace our steps up Bedford Street then head east towards Covent Garden plaza along Henrietta Street. Another green plaque here, this one in commemoration of the fact that Jane Austen stayed at no. 10 during 1813-14.

p1060173

Turn back down Southampton Street then left into Tavistock Street followed by a right down Burleigh Street. Squashed in between more modern buildings is the former vicarage of St Michael’s Church, dating from around 1860 and now the rectory of St Paul’s (see above). St Michael’s itself was built in 1833 on the corner with Exeter Street but demolished in 1906.

p1060174

Exeter Street runs along the back of the Strand Palace Hotel which was built in 1907 by J.Lyons & Co. to cater for those who wanted  “the maximum of luxury and comfort with the minimum of expense.” To which end they charged 5 shillings and sixpence (27p in new money) for a single room with breakfast. Even today the room rates represent pretty good value for central London. Unfortunately I am unable to unearth any information about the decoration on the bridge across the street or the clock on the rear facade of what is currently the HQ of the nuclear industry association.

Turning the corner brings us back out on to the Strand opposite a somewhat more famous hotel, the Savoy, built by Richard D’Oyly Carte – the man who brought the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan to the world – and opened in 1889. The Savoy was the first luxury hotel in Britain, with electric lights, electric lifts, en-suite bathrooms and constant hot and cold running water among its innovations. The name derives from the historic region of France (which today spreads into part of Italy and Switzerland as well) and specifically Count Peter of Savoy who was the maternal uncle of Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, and accompanied her to England. Henry made Peter Earl of Richmond and gave him the land which lies between the Strand and the Thames where he built the Savoy Palace in 1263.

When D’Oyly Carte’s daughter Bridget died childless in in 1985 ownership of the hotel fell into corporate hands ending up as part of the Fairmont Hotels estate some twenty years later. I’m sure you won’t be at all surprised to learn that Fairmont Hotels is affiliated with one of the members of the Saudi Royal Family. In 2007 the Savoy closed for a complete renovation, budgeted at £100 million but ultimately costing more than twice that amount. Judging by the reviews when it reopened in 2010 the expense seems to have been worth it with the new Edwardian decor on the Thames’ side and the Art Deco stylings on the Strand side earning lavish praise. FYI – to stay in one of its 267 rooms for the night will give you enough change out of £500 for a couple of beers (though not here) and that doesn’t include breakfast.

We continue east along the Strand past the front of the Strand Palace then head south down Savoy Street which offers us our first glimpse of the river before we turn right onto Savoy Hill and then right again up Savoy Steps. In so doing we encircle the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy. The palace of Peter of Savoy lasted barely a hundred years before being superseded by an even grander palace built by John of Gaunt who had gained control of the land via inheritance of his wife, Blanche (great-great-granddaughter of Henry III). That one had an even briefer lifespan, being burnt to the ground during the peasants’ revolt of 1381 led by Wat Tyler. The site remained semi-derelict until, at the beginning of the 16th century, King Henry VII ordered the building of a foundation hospital which included three chapels, dedicated to St John the Baptist, St Catherine and Our Lady respectively. The first of these, now known as the Queen’s Chapel, is the sole building that survives.

Continuing back down Savoy Hill towards the Embankment and then turning left onto Savoy Place we arrive outside the HQ of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (or just IET as it prefers to call itself) which has an impressive 167,000 members in 150 countries. There’s a statue of our old friend Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867) outside and a suitably tech-inspired art installation in the lobby. A carved inscription on the facade of the building notes the fact that this was the original central London home of the BBC from 1923 to 1932 (when Broadcasting house opened).

We next head back west along Savoy Place then turn north up Carting Lane which runs up to the back of the Savoy Theatre. D’Oyly Carte built the first theatre here in 1881 eight years prior to putting up the hotel on the adjacent lot. A green plaque on the back wall commemorates the fact that that original theatre was the first public building in the world with electric lighting. The building was reconstructed at the end of the twenties and the new Savoy Theatre opened in October 1929 with a production of The Gondoliers (of course). Then in 1990 during another renovation the building was almost completely gutted by fire. Against expectation it arose, Pheonix-like, from the ashes just three years later with an extra storey housing, inter alia, a swimming pool above the stage.

img_20161118_151634

A few steps further on we reach the Coal Hole, another old haunt of mine, which is rumored to occupy what was the coal cellar for the Savoy Hotel in its early years. The pub is Grade II listed but despite its proximity to the Savoy Hotel is no longer part of it.

img_20161118_151705

Turning left along the Strand again we pass another green plaque; this one honouring the fact that the Royal Air Force had its original headquarters in the Hotel Cecil, which then stood on this plot on the Strand, from 1918 to 1919.

img_20161118_152322

Turn south again down Adam Street where at no.8 there is a blue plaque celebrating one of the pioneers of the industrial revolution, Sir Richard Arkwright (1732 – 1792). Arkwright was not, as I erroneously recalled from schooldays, the inventor of the spinning jenny. The patents which brought him his fortune were the spinning frame (later re-dubbed the water frame) and the rotary carding  engine that transformed raw cotton into cotton lap. His factories employed a high percentage of children (aged 7 and up) and although he allowed employees a week’s holiday a year they were not allowed to leave the village in which he housed them. When he died aged 59 that fortune was worth £500,000 (which apparently is only equivalent to about £68m today).

img_20161118_152500

Adam Street leads down to Adelphi Terrace which runs along the rear of the Grade II listed Adelphi. The construction of this purpose-built office building, 1936-8, by Stanley Hamp of Colcutt and Hamp required an act of Parliament (the Adelphi Act of 1933) due to the covenants on the site imposed by a statute of 1771 relating to the original development of the area by John, Robert, James and William Adam from 1772 (Adelphoi is Greek for brothers). The Act gave permission for the demolition of 24 Georgian houses built by the Adams, as well as placing conditions on the height of the new building and requiring the developers to maintain and widen public thoroughfares. Although it sparked controversy at the time of its erection the Adelphi is now regarded as one of London’s premier Art Deco buildings. The four giant allegorical relief figures on the corners of the Embankment front representing west-east are ‘Dawn’ (by Bainbridge Copnall), ‘Contemplation’ (by Arthur J Ayres), ‘Inspiration’ (by Gilbert Ledward), and ‘Night’ (by Donald Gilbert). Turning north up Roberts Street and right onto John Adam Street brings us to the front entrance with its carved reveal panels by Newbury Abbot Trent depicting scenes of industry. However there seems to be some confusion as to whether the building represents 1-10 John Adam Street or 1-11 (perhaps it’s a subtle tribute to Spinal Tap).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Across the road is the home of The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce which, I have to confess, I had never heard of before. The RSA was founded in 1754  by William Shipley (1715 – 1803) with the central credo that the creativity of ideas could enrich social progress. The first meeting was held at Rawthmell’s Coffee House in Covent Garden. Fellows of the RSA over the years have included Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin and William Hogarth. Their current mission statement reads “We believe that all human beings have creative capacities that, when understood and supported, can be mobilised to deliver a 21st century enlightenment.” Amen to that.

The house itself is a survivor of the development by the Adam Brothers in the 1770’s and it’s our final port of call on today’s journey.

p1060185

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 33 (part 1) – National Gallery – St Martin’s Lane – The Strand

Today’s walk starts out with a quick tour around the National Gallery then meanders up St Martin’s Lane to explore the streets in between Leicester Square and Covent Garden before heading east along the Strand and then wending its way back west through the streets adjacent to the north bank of the river. (There’s so much of note crammed into this part of town though that I’ve split this into two posts again).

day-33-route

The National Gallery has its origins in the 1824 purchase for £57,000 of the banker, John Julius Angerstein’s, collection of 38 paintings to form the core of a new national art collection. In 1831 the King’s Mews on the north side of Trafalgar Square was chosen as the site for a permanent building to house this collection. The original architect was William Wilkins and construction was completed in 1838. The building wasn’t exactly garlanded with praise however and thirty years later another architect, E.M Barry, was asked to submit designs for a reconstruction. In the end this just resulted in an extension which included the now iconic dome. In 1907 five new galleries were built at the rear and a further extension on the north side was completed in 1975. 1991 saw the opening of the Sainsbury Wing on the west side; sponsored by the eponymous supermarket magnates and the inspiration for the Prince of Wales’ notorious “monstrous carbuncle” rant against modern architecture.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Probably the most famous work in the collection (and certainly the one which prompts the most selfies) is Van Gogh’s Sunflowers though personally I prefer his Crabs (so to speak).

 

The following slideshow features a selection of the 3o paintings which the Gallery itself classes as highlights of the collection including Velazquez’s “Rokeby Venus”, Cezanne’s Les Grandes Beigneuses (immortalised as “the big bathers” in the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch, still priceless after nearly fifty years – the sketch that is) and Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire subject of a recent episode of Melvyn Bragg’s excellent In Our Time programme on Radio 4 and due to appear on the new plastic £20 note when it arrives.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just about the only one of these artists I wasn’t previously familiar with is Paolo Uccello (1397 – 1475) who has instantly become my early renaissance artist of preference – partly because his work seems to eschew that era’s ubiquitous depictions of the Madonna and child. His rendering of Saint George and the Dragon is one of my three top picks from the works currently on show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leaving the Gallery we head east along the north side of Trafalgar Square towards St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, running the gauntlet of two Yodas and one Imperial Stormtrooper.

St Martin’s  originated on this site in the late Norman era. That first church was built over in 1542 at the instigation of Henry VIII. His church was demolished in turn in 1721 and replaced by the current building designed by James Gibbs. In the 20th century St Martin’s has been at the forefront of the fight against homelessness as well as championing other social and humanitarian causes. It is also renowned for its programme of music concerts which dates back to the age of Handel and Mozart. This includes at least a couple of free (donation suggested) lunchtime recitals every week. Below you can see Russian pianist, Anna Schreider, limbering up for her performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons which I popped back to listen in full ( a somewhat chastening experience for someone struggling to learn to play the wretched instrument).

A little way further up St Martin’s Place is a monument to Edith Cavell (1865 – 1915) the British nurse executed by a German firing squad during WW1 after aiding the escape of 200 Allied soldiers from occupied Belgium. The charge was treason even though Edith was not a German national and had also helped German soldiers escape fire – bastards !

Surprised to see Count Arthur Strong paying his respects.

p1060132

We continue up Charing Cross Road towards Leicester Square tube and then cut through Cecil Court. The fact that this prime location is still lined with independent vintage book and music shops implies that there is some kind of special arrangement going on with the rents – and long may that continue. At the turn of the 20th century Cecil Court earned the soubriquet Flicker Alley due to the number of businesses associated with the embryonic British Fil Industry that found a home here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Emerge on to St Martin’s Lane and turn left to arrive at one of the three theatres on the street, the Noel Coward Theatre. This one opened in 1903 and was designed by W.G.R Sprague for Sir Charles Wyndham; the same combination responsible for the Wyndham’s Theatre on Charing Cross Road which was completed four years earlier. It was originally (somewhat unimaginatively) known as the New Theatre, then in 1973 became the Albery Theatre and finally in 2006 was renamed in honour of the eponymous actor, playwright, director and flamboyant wit.

p1060143

On the other side of St Martin’s Court is the Grade II Listed Salisbury pub named after the three-time 19th century Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury. The pub is notable for its art nouveau interiors and was used in the 1961 film Victim starring Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Sims; the first British feature to mention the word “homosexual”.

A few steps further south another branch of Browns Restaurants occupies what used to be the Westminster County Courts and across the road what was once the Green Man & French Horn pub is now a French restaurant of the same name.

Then on the west side it’s the second of those three theatres, the Duke of York’s. This was the first one built on St Martin’s Lane, in 1892, and was originally named the Trafalgar Square Theatre. The change of name, in honour of the future King George V, came just three years later along with a rather hasty re-opening. Between 1980 and 1992 the theatre was owned by Capital Radio before becoming part of the ATG estate.

p1060146

Opposite is the imposing London Coliseum (though not quite as imposing as the one in Rome), home of the English National Opera Company. The Coliseum opened in 1904 as the London Coliseum Theatre of Varieties having been designed by Frank Matcham for the impresario Oswald Stoll who intended it to be the “largest and finest music hall” of the age. Large it certainly was; its 2,359 seats mean it is still the largest theatre in London. At the time of construction it was the only theatre in Europe with lifts to its upper levels. In 1908 it apparently hosted a cricket match between Middlesex and Surrey (I’m still trying to get my head round that one). Then from 1931 onward it transitioned from a variety to a playhouse theatre and post WW2 housed successful runs of the likes of Annie Get Your Gun and Guys and Dolls. In 1968 the Sadlers Wells Opera Company moved in and then in 1974 changed its name to ENO. In recent times, despite many acclaimed productions, ENO has been struggling financially, mainly due to the pressures of trying to fill such a large auditorium. It’s probably also fair to say that it doesn’t have quite the same cachet for the traditional opera-going audience as the Royal Opera House. I know which I prefer, though there are times when I opera definitely sounds better if you can’t follow the words.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the bottom end of the street is the Chandos pub c.1839 which is distinguished by the mechanical statue of a barman opening a barrel perched on a balcony at the top of the building.

p1060135

We head back up St Martin’s Lane and cut right down Brydges Place – one of the narrowest alleys in London – into Bedfordbury (it’s just called that and that’s the only interesting thing about it).

p1060151

Cut back again down May Court and then head up to the top of St Martin’s Lane and take a right into New Row. Couple of pubs here that I used to frequent back in the day – the Roundhouse, whose address is actually 1 Garrick Street and which isn’t actually round, more of a semi-octagon and the White Swan (in the background below) occupying a Grade II listed building from the turn of the 18th century and which features in Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novel, Murder Must Advertise.

Next we turn southward down Bedford Street and arrive at the front entrance to St Paul’s, the Actors’ church, which we touched on previously in Day 30. The interior is filled with plaques commemorating a host of departed great British thespians as well as a memorial stone for Thomas Arne (1710 – 1778), the composer of Rule Britannia, who is buried here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nxt up we turn right onto Chandos Place then again onto Agar Street. On the west side here stands Charing Cross Police Station. The core of this building was erected in 1831 as a new home for the Royal West London Infirmary which was then renamed Charing Cross Hospital. The hospital was extended several times over the next two hundred years and was used for the treatment of war casualties in both World Wars. When it became part of the NHS in 1948 it was as a teaching hospital but even in this guise it had outgrown the premises by the early sixties and in 1973 was relocated to a new hospital in Fulham that was ten years in the building. Strangely enough it kept the Charing Cross name. The Agar Street building remained vacant for many years until the Met took it over in the 1990s.

At the junction with the Strand we find Zimbabwe House. This was built in 1908 as the first headquarters of the British Medical Association. The architect was Charles Holden and the series of 18 8ft high naked figures that adorn the exterior were the (at the time) controversial  work of the sculptor Jacob Epstein (1880 – 1959).  The National Vigilance Association (a Victorian version of Mary Whitehouse’s NVALA) and the Evening Standard published their opposition to anyone having to see the sculptures, which caused people to flood into London to do just that. Artists and critics were equally vocal in support of Epstein and the BMA decided to withstand the pressure to remove the sculptures. However, in the 1930’s, the Rhodesian High Commission, which had bought the building in 1923, decided that the sculptures were no longer appropriate. Under the pretext that their protruding parts (including heads) were potentially dangerous the sculptures were hacked into the state you see below. After UDI in 1965, Rhodesia House, as it had been renamed, became merely a Representative Office with no official diplomatic status, until the triumph of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF in 1980 and the country re-entry into the Commonwealth as Zimbabwe with fully recognized independent status.

Veer off west again to cover the length of William IV Street then double back and turn south down Adelaide Street to arrive on  the Strand opposite Charing Cross Station.

p1060162

Head east along the Strand before turning north again up the bottom section of Bedford Street then continue eastward along Maiden Lane. On the site of the Porterhouse craft beer emporium once stood the house in which our old friend John Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851) was born.

p1060166

A short way further along Maiden Lane, Bull Inn Court leads down to the Nell Gwynne public house, built on the site of the Old Bull Inn and named after Charles II’s most infamous mistress of course. Had I known beforehand that this is one of the few pubs that still has a proper working jukebox I would definitely have gone in for a drink.

In 1897, William Terris, a well-known actor of the day, was murdered yards from the pub by a stage hand from the neighbouring Adelphi Theatre which is where we shall resume in part 2.

p1060167

Bobble hat, anorak and shorts – what were you thinking mate ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 32 – Royal Courts of Justice – Kingsway – Lincoln’s Inn Fields –

Another compact area today but one packed full of history, sights and places to visit. We start on the border between the Strand and Fleet Street with a tour round the Royal Courts of Justice then head north up Kingsway to Holborn tube before working our way back south through Lincoln’s Inn Fields and surrounding streets, taking in Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Hunterian museum along the way. And there’s a pretty good pub of the day thrown into the mix as well. On the downside none of those ports of call (apart from the pub) allow internal photography so either take a bit more notice of the external links than usual or better still go and visit yourselves – especially since they’re all free admission.

day-32-route

The Royal Courts of Justice is home to both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The former deals with higher level civil disputes and is comprised of three divisions; the Queen’s Bench division, the Chancery division and the Family division. The latter is split into two divisions which hear referrals from the Crown Court (criminal cases) and the High Court (civil cases) respectively. However, since the establishment of the Supreme Court in 2009, the Court of Appeal at the RCJ is no longer the last chance saloon for those who wish to challenge their convictions. Most of the Courts’ proceedings are presided over by a single judge but certain cases may be heard by a bench of two judges and very exceptionally, usually for cases against the police, a jury will sit. Cases being heard on any particular day are published on the Daily List which is available for public view just inside the entrance. On this occasion there were no cases sitting which I was inspired to look in on – but you would have to be very lucky to come across anything juicy if just visiting on spec.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This soaring Gothic edifice was opened by Queen Victoria in 1882 following eleven years of construction. The architect, George Edmund Street (1824 – 1881), beat off competition from ten of his peers to win the commission but since, as you see, he didn’t live to see its completion that may have something of a pyrrhic victory. The cathedral-like quality of the building is perhaps unsurprising  given that when the architects bid for the contract that was exactly what they were led to believe it was for. You need to pass through security control to enter the building as a visitor and, as already noted, no photography is permitted. However you can wander around quite freely including along the corridors lined by the 19 courtrooms where barristers and their clients will often be huddled together discussing strategy. There are bookable guided tours or you can pick up a self-guided tour leaflet at the reception desk. This I didn’t do until I’d already been round once so I’d spent some time looking for the “Bear Garden” in the mistaken belief that this might be an actual garden. The lady on the desk set me straight by explaining that the Bear Garden is just a room where solicitors, barristers and their clients meet to discuss cases (and so I had already passed through it a couple of times). The name arose after Queen Victoria, on one of her visits, described the noise in the room as sounding like a “bear garden” (i.e. a place where bear baiting takes place). I have to say it was a bit more subdued than that when I was there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once back outside we turn up Clements Inn which flanks the western wing of the RCJ and then along St Clement’s Lane and Portugal Street which cut between the main buildings that make up the London School of Economics (LSE). (I had intended to make a visit to the LSE library to look at some papers but had overlooked the fact that this was Freshers’ week so that turned out to be a non-starter). Emerge onto Kingsway by the Peacock Theatre (which is affiliated with Sadlers Wells and presents a more family-oriented dance programme) and head north.

On the corner with Sardinia Street you’ll find this sculpture called Square the Block by the artist Richard Wilson which was commissioned by the LSE for the opening of its New Academic building in 2009.

img_20160923_122527

A bit further up on the eastern side of Kingsway is the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Anselm & Saint Cecilia. Despite being a bit on the shy and retiring side as far as RC churches go there were quite a few members of the faithful paying their respects this particular lunchtime.

img_20160923_123046

Next block along on the same side is the grade II listed Africa House. This was built in 1921 and both the name and the large scale sculptural group above the central colonnades are a somewhat bathetic evocation of the British Empire which was already only just holding together by that time. The sculpture is by Benjamin Clemens (1875 – 1957), assistant master at the Royal College of Art. The group has Britannia at its centre, flanked by noble Arab traders with their camels and a big game hunter oiling his rifle. A native bearer carries a pair of tusks while the hunter’s victim lies open-eyed next to them. Other animals include a lion, a crocodile, a bison and a massive python. After a major overhaul in 2013 the building is now home to international law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP. But on its ground floor it also houses a branch of Ladbrokes and a Wetherspoons Pub – which couldn’t make more of a mockery of the pretensions of its original designers.

img_20160923_123519

On the other side of the road is what was originally Holy Trinity Church, built around 1910 following the demolition of Little Queen Street Chapel of 1831 whose foundations were destroyed during the building of the Piccadilly Line. Holy Trinity Church was badly damaged by fire in 1985 and was closed. At the turn of the millennium it was redeveloped as offices and incorporated into the adjacent Aviation House which is home to both Ofsted and the Food Standards Agency.

img_20160923_123640

Turn right past the tube station then cut down the alleyway that is New Turnstile, take a right again on Gate Street back to Kingsway, go past Africa House and left down Twyford Place. At the end turn left into Gate Street again before veering off up Little Turnstile, another alleyway, which re-emerges on High Holborn. Heading east from here takes us past the Rosewood Hotel, yet another 5* job, opened in 2013 in the former Chancery Court which was built in 1914 as the headquarters of the Pearl Assurance Company in which capacity it lasted up until 1989. (From 2000 to 2011 it was The Renaissance Hotel, part of the Marriott Group).

About a hundred yards further along turn south down Great Turnstile (the third and final of the turnstile alleyways). Return west along Whetstone Park which has nothing park-like about it and is, considering its length, one of the most unremarkable streets in the capital apart from these two very strange tiny doors on the southern side about half way down.

img_20160923_125039

After a quick look up and down Remnant Street we switch eastward again along the northern stretch of Lincoln’s Inn Fields which is the location of Sir John Soane’s Museum. This inhabits nos. 12 to 14 which were all owned by SJS, no.12 bought initially as family home and the other two acquired subsequently to house his burgeoning and eclectic collection of paintings, sculptures and historical artefacts, and then bequeathed to the nation on his death in 1837. Four years before that, he had negotiated an Act of Parliament: to preserve his house and collection, exactly as it would be at the time of his death – and to keep it open and free for inspiration and education.

The no-photo rule is strictly enforced here and mere words would struggle to convey the remarkable nature of the collection and the unique ways in which it is displayed so I would urge you to take a look at the website or simply go and see it for yourselves. I will just mention a couple of things though. Firstly, the original paintings of Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress form part of the collection that is ingeniously housed in the tardis-like Painting Room. If you’re not familiar with this series of eight tableaux, they depict a salutary tale of the perils of a life of dissolution and ignoring the love of a good woman. Secondly, down in the basement you will find the astonishing Alabaster sarcophagus of the Egyptian Pharaoh Seti of the XIX dynasty. This is regarded as one of the most important relics of Ancient Egypt ever found. It was discovered by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in 1825 and was originally offered to the British Museum but when they baulked at the £2,000 asking price Soane stepped in to acquire it (then held three separate parties to celebrate its arrival.)

 

rakes-progress-the-orgy
Tom Rakewell at peak dissolution

After leaving the museum we cut through Lincoln’s Inn Fields itself (the park rather than the fours streets surrounding it) where there is no shortage of folk taking advantage of the Indian summer weather.

Once out the other side we head south down Newman’s Row and enter into the grounds of Lincoln’s Inn. I won’t repeat the origins of the four Inns of Court that we covered when visiting Gray’s Inn a few posts back but just note that this is considered the earliest of the four with records dating back to 1422. The Great Hall and Library which are the first buildings you come to, on the north side of New Square, completed in 1845 these have a touch of the Hogwarts about them though the former is basically just a glorified refectory cum common room. From the north-east corner of New Square we head up through Old Square into Stone Buildings passing Chambers that mostly date from the last quarter of the 18th century.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Retracing our steps we return to the Chapel the basic structure of which dates back to 1620.  This was laid by John Donne (1573 – 1631) who was preacher of the Inn at this time prior to becoming Dean of St. Paul’s. The Chapel bell, cast in 1615, also has an association with John Donne. In addition to ringing for curfew at nine each evening, the Chapel bell, cast in 1615,  is by ancient custom rung at midday on the death of a bencher of the Inn. This a practice is held to be the inspiration for the quotation from Donne’s poem beginning “No Man is an Island” which concludes “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. The stained glass windows on the north and south sides are original 17th century. The window on the east side depicts the crests of the 228 treasurers from 1680 to 1908. The window at the west end shows the colours of the Inns of Court regiments. Inside the entrance there is a Latin-inscribed memorial to Spencer Perceval (1762 – 1812), the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated whilst in office and who studied at Lincoln’s Inn.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next door to the Chapel is the Old Hall which was erected four years into the reign of Henry VII, three years before Columbus set foot in America (do the Math). Sir Thomas More, who joined the Inn in 1496, spent much of his professional life here. In the 18th and 19th centuries the Old Hall was used as a court of justice and the opening scene of Dickens’ Bleak House, with the start of the interminable Jarndyce vs Jarndyce case, is set here. (Had I known all this beforehand I would have taken more notice of the building – which only just about made it into the shot below).

img_20160923_141733

Circle round the back of the Chapel through Old Buildings and return to New Square by the Hardwicke Building. After a circuit of the square we exit Lincoln’s Inn via New Square Passage and the southern entrance onto Carey Street.

Here we turn left and then left again up Star Yard which is home to Ede & Ravenscroft, founded in 1689 and thought to be the oldest firm of tailors in the world. Beginning with the coronation of William and Mary they added royalty to their client base for the supply of ceremonial robes alongside church, judiciary and academia.

img_20160923_142323

Also in Star Yard is this decorated cast-iron structure which is apparently a urinal (though one which hasn’t been in use since the 1980’s). It’s the sort of thing you might expect to commonly find in Paris but I’m not aware of anything similar in London; which is why it has a Grade II listing no doubt.

img_20160923_142404

Bishops Court takes us out onto Chancery Lane and from there we go south and turn west back onto Carey Street. We’ve passed many red telephone boxes on our previous travels without comment but the collection at the back of the RCJ is unusual enough to warrant some remark. As hinted at in the last post, the designer of the first all metal red box was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. This came about as a result of a 1924 competition to find a replacement for the concrete boxes (known as K1’s) introduced four years earlier but rejected by the London Metropolitan Boroughs.  At the time Scott had just been made a trustee of the SJS Museum and his design for the K2 includes a dome inspired by Soane’s self-designed mausoleums. After going through a number of iterations the design was refined by Scott until in 1935 he arrived at the K6 version which is the one which can still be seen everywhere today. The USP of the group on Carey Street is that the outer pair are original K2 models which can be compared to the two common or garden K6s in between.

img_20160923_142810

Opposite the phone boxes is today’s pub of the day, the Seven Stars. One of London’s oldest pubs, this dates from 1602 when it was reputedly a popular haunt Dutch sailors. Nowadays of course the clientele is principally from the legal profession, something reflected in the decor of the pub, as you can see the photos below. Based on the merguez sausages with couscous I had the food here is highly recommended. Not surprising as the landlady, the fantastically and genuinely named Roxy Beaujolais, has form presenting one of the BBC’s  myriad of food programmes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(You might also have spotted the long overdue return of reflection of the day in amongst the above). Also on Carey Street, another family business dating back to the later 17th century – it’s a different world round here and long may it stay that way.

img_20160923_142840

We’ve already mentioned Sir Thomas More in connection with Lincoln’s Inn and in the south-western corner at the junction of Carey Street with Serle Street, on the Chambers that bear his name, is this statue, designed by George Sherrin and erected in 1888. The inscription reads :

Sir Thomas More Kt
Some time
Lord High Chancellor
of England
Martyred July 6th 1535
The faithful servant
both of God and the King

img_20160923_152147

At the end of Serle Street we turn left into the southern section of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, go past the old Land Registry building (now another part of the LSE) and arrive at the Royal College of Surgeons, built 1813, which is home to the Hunterian Museum.

The museum houses the collection of human and animal anatomical and pathological specimens put together by John Hunter (1728 – 1793) considered as the founding father of scientific surgery. Much of the collection of 14,000 items was lost when the College was struck by bombs in 1941. The present form of the museum, with the remainder of Hunter’s collection at its core, took shape more than 20 years later in 1963. Due to the nature of certain of the exhibits photography is again disallowed here so I’m afraid we’ll have to make do with this shot of the staircase leading up to the museum and this report on the 1963 re-opening in the Illustrated London News at the time hunterian_2. (The skeleton of the “Irish Giant” is still on display.)

img_20160923_160207

From the south-western corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields we do a round trip of Sardinia Street back in the heart of LSE territory. The London School of Economics was founded in 1895 by Beatrice and Sidney Webb with support from Graham Wallas and George Bernard Shaw. These four, who were all members of the recently created Fabian Society, decided to establish the School following a bequest of £20,000 in the will of Derby lawyer Henry Hunt Hutchinson who wished to advance the Fabians’ objectives of a fairer society. Today the LSE has a student body of over 10,000 around 70% of which are international (the highest proportion at any British University) representing over 150 different nationalities. And, as an illustration of how far things have changed since the LSE’s origins, a recent survey revealed more billionaires amongst its alumni than those of any other European university.

At no.13 Portsmouth Street is this representation of Dickens’ (yes that man again) Old Curiosity Shop. The old part is certainly apposite as the building is 16th century and was once the dairy on an estate given by Charles II to one of his mistresses. There is though no direct evidence that this actual building was the inspiration behind the novel. At the time of writing the shop is an upmarket men’s and women’s shoe store.

img_20160923_161324

Fork right into Sheffield Street then left into Portugal Street past the LSE library on the other side of which is a building that from 1920 to 1076 was the head office of WH Smith, as celebrated by this plaque.

img_20160923_161638

Here we veer off right for another visit to Carey Street and once beyond the phoneboxes turn south along the eastern flank of the RCJ to end up back where we started and so bring today’s marathon – in terms of word count rather than distance travelled – to a close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 31 (part 2) -Finsbury Square – Golden Lane – Charterhouse Square

Second part of today’s walk is itself split into two. First off we continue west from Liverpool Street Station and make a circuit of Finsbury Square before pausing on the eastern side of the Barbican Centre. Then it’s a return trip through the Beech Street tunnel to get to Golden Lane and its eponymous estate; after which we loop round the extensive site occupied by the Charterhouse and one of the four campuses of Queen Mary University traversing Clerkenwell Road, St John Street and Charterhouse Street to finish in Charterhouse Square.

day-31-route_2

day-31-route_3

Leaving Broadgate Circus we turn right along Eldon Street then turn back north up Finsbury Avenue which leads into Finsbury Avenue Square which contains both table tennis tables and a few pieces of public art including this piece, Rush Hour.

p1050953

Exit the square from the north-east corner into Sun Street first turning left then swiftly right into Crown Place and completing a figure of eight involving those two along with Christopher Street, Earl Street and Wilson Street. Continue south on the latter past the Wilson Street Chapel which is currently besieged by both roadworks and redevelopment of the Flying Horse pub next door. The chapel was built in 1889 which (à propos of nothing) is one of the longest Roman Numeral dates to have yet occurred – MDCCCLXXXIX.

 

p1050954

At the end of Wilson Street turn right along South Place then right again into Dominion Street facing directly towards the back entrance of City Gate House. This was constructed in the mid 1920’s to the design of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960) son of the better known and much more prolific George Gilbert Scott, creator of the Midland Hotel St Pancras (as was recorded many posts ago). Giles’ main claim to fame rests on the design of something on a much smaller scale but that’s one for our next post. City Gate House was originally built as a gentleman’s club but it’s not clear how long it lasted as such. American media giant Bloomberg acquired the building in 1991 though in 2015 they sold it on to developers (leasing it back on a temporary basis).

p1050956

Turn left next along Lackington Street then north up Finsbury Pavement (part of the A501) before turning the corner into Finsbury Square. First building you come to is the Norman Foster designed no.50 which is adjacent to City Gate House and which Bloomberg expanded into in 2000. Two years later they created the Bloomberg Space on the ground floor as a showcase for newly-commissioned contemporary visual art. The exhibitions there are generally worth a visit but the current offering left me distinctly underwhelmed I’m afraid.

p1050957

Continue round the square anti-clockwise passing the front of City Gate House and the drinking fountain that was erected by Tom and Walter Smith as a memorial to their mother Martha who died in 1898. Their father, another Tom, was the man who, in 1847, invented the Christmas Cracker. The business he created on the back of this, Tom Smith & Co., subsequently taken on by his three sons, operated from premises in Finsbury Square up until 1953 (when they moved to Norwich).

p1050959

The north side of the square is dominated by the former Triton Court (now known as the AlphaBeta Building). Triton Court was constructed in 1920, comprising three buildings, Mercury, Jupiter and Neptune Houses, internally arranged around a full height 9 storey central atrium. It underwent a first major refurbishment in 1984 and another, costing £36m, has just been completed following the change of name. On top of the tower stands a statue of the messenger of the Gods; Hermes or Mercury depending on whether you favour the Greeks or the Romans.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After completing the circuit of Finsbury Square we head west on Chiswell Street where we pass Longbow House which now houses a branch of Currys PC World. This post-war building incorporates a relief of an archer, referencing back to the days when this area was to archery what St Andrews is to golf. That was before the advent of the musket though and the establishment of the Honourable Artillery Company whose grounds lie just to the north of here (see Day 28).

p1050964

Turn south down Finsbury Street and onto Ropemaker Street then continue west past the Barbican Centre and through the Beech Street tunnel to resume the trail at the southern end of Golden Lane. Take the first left into Brackley Street and when this junctions with Viscount Street head south initially into Bridgewater Street then double back and enter the Golden Lane estate from Fann Street.

The Golden Lane Estate was built in the 1950’s in an area which, as we have seen previously, was effectively razed to the ground by the blitz. A competition for the  design had been launched in 1951 and was won by Geoffrey Powell, a lecturer in architecture at Kingston School of Art. He then formed the partnership of Chamberlain, Powell & Bon with two of his fellow lecturers in order to carry out the project – the three had entered into an agreement that if any one of them won they would share the commission. The first  phase was opened in 1957 and the final block completed five years later. The estate consists of a series of relatively low-level maisonette blocks and the 16-storey centrepiece, Great Arthur House, which was the first residential tower block in London over 50 metres in height. The architectural style takes definite inspiration from the work of Le Corbusier but is softened by the use of primary colours on the facades.

At the time of construction the estate was regarded enthusiastically as a template for integrated social housing and it has indubitably stood test of time better than most of its contemporaries. Unsurprisingly, given the location, slightly over half of the 559 flats have been sold on leasehold since the Thatcher government’s introduction of the right to buy scheme. The attractiveness of taking advantage of such opportunity is enhanced by a level of on-site facilities replicated in scant few other London council estates – including a leisure centre with tennis courts and an indoor pool. Since 1997 the estate buildings have been Grade II listed.

So we exit the estate back out onto Golden Lane itself and continue north before turning west onto Baltic Street East and completing a grid consisting of this, Honduras Street, Timber Street, Domingo Street, Crescent Row, Memel Street, Memel Court, Sycamore Street and Baltic Street West. And the only thing of note to record in this whole area is this doorway of a former school which I can find no information about.

p1050969

Anyway, after all that we find ourselves out on the Goswell Road and then turning the corner into Clerkenwell Road where the mural that we saw back in Day 14 has now been replaced by a giant-sized Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Turn south all the way down St John Street to arrive opposite Smithfield Market then take a left down Charterhouse Street which soon splits in two. Take the left fork which takes us past a couple of pubs of note. First is the Smithfield Tavern which on the website which is still running advertises itself as Smithfields’ only vegetarian and vegan pub. You can see how well that worked from the picture below. Second is the Fox and Anchor which in its current four-storey art-nouveau facaded Grade II-listed incarnation has been around since the tail end of the 19th century (though there has been a pub of some kind here for several centuries).

Continuing on we arrive at Charterhouse Square. On the north side of the square sits the Charterhouse,  a former Carthusian monastery which since Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century the house has served as a private mansion, a boys’ school and an almshouse which it remains to this day. The site was originally set aside in the middle of the 14th century as a burial ground for victims of the Black Death and the monastery was established in 1371 on the unused portion of the land. In 1611, the year of his death, Thomas Sutton (1532 – 1611), businessman, civil servant and philanthropist, founded an almshouse for “80 impoverished gentlemen” and a school for 40 boys. Charterhouse School eventually outgrew its premises and moved to Godalming in Surrey in 1872 selling the site to another school, Merchant Taylor’s, which itself moved on in 1933. Today this part of the site is occupied by one of the four campuses of Queen Mary University London. The almshouse, which remains, is formally known as Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse and is a registered charity. For historic reasons the residents are still known as “Brothers”.

p1050974p1050975

 

The entrance to the University campus is via Rutland Place at the north-east corner of the square. On the east side of this lies Dean Rees House, part of the University now but built in 1894 as the Headmaster’s House and still bearing the motif of the Merchant Taylor’s School.

p1050976

The east side of Charterhouse Square itself is dominated by the Art Deco Florin Court built 1935-37 by Guy Morgan & Partners. When the building was refurbished in 1988 the original roof gardens were reinstated and a basement swimming pool added. Post-refurb and through the nineties it found fame in the guise of Whitehaven Mansions home to the TV version of Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

p1050978

Leaving the square via Carthusian Street (named after those monks of course) we arrive on Aldersgate Street, flanking the west side of the Barbican complex, and the finish of today’s perambulations.