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.


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.

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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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.

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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.

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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).


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.


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.


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.


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.

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(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.


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


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.)


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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).


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.


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).


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.

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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).


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.


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”.



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.


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.


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.









Day 31 (part 1) -Spitalfields – Broadgate – Liverpool Street Station

Back on the east side again with a sizeable trek that starts off on the edge of the City of London, where we were a few weeks back, on Norton Folgate. We then tour the streets either side of Commercial Street (a.k.a the Commercial Road), taking in Spitalfields Market (both Old and New), before doing a circuit of Liverpool Street station and the various Broadgate developments that surround it.

The area immediately to the east of Bishopsgate and north of Spitalfields market is on the frontline of the battle between City developers and conservationists and after a long-running struggle it looks as though the former have gained the upper hand with Boris Johnson green-lighting the Blossom Street office development in January 2016. This could mean the end for the historic Victorian-era warehouses that inhabit the space between Folgate Street and the west side of Blossom Street.

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Turning right onto Fleur de Lis Street and then north on Elder Street takes us out onto Commercial Street.


Returning west on Fleur de Lis we turn left onto the southern stretch of Elder Street where many of the terraced properties from its origin in the 1720’s are still intact. Among these are nos. 19 & 21 which are both listed. In the doorway of the former still just visible painted lettering proclaims the leasehold of a straw-chip dealer named Troake and a printer named Leghorn.



Across the street at no.32 is a blue plaque commemorating the residence here of the painter Mark Gertler (1891 – 1939). Gertler was unrequitedly in love with his fellow artist, Dora Carrington, who was equally devoted to the gay author Lytton Strachey. In 1939 Gertler took his own life just seven years after Carrington had herself committed suicide. His most famous work is probably Merry-Go-Round painted in 1916.

Turn left onto Folgate Street again and then branch off down Lamb Street which emerges on the north side of Spitalfield market. Head back west and reach Spital Square, home to gourmet French restaurant Galvin La Chapelle which occupies a former Victorian chapel.


Doubling back we take a turn round Bishops Square which was created as part of the 2005 Spitalfields regeneration programme. During the excavations the remains of a charnel house (repository for human bones) dating back to the 14th century were uncovered. These remains have been preserved as part of the development beneath a glass pavement.


Return eastward on Lamb Street where the open-air food stalls are preparing for lunchtime business then about-turn again to enter into Old Spitalfields Market. Spitalfields takes its name from the hospital and priory, St. Mary’s Spittel that was founded in 1197. The origins of a market on this site go back to the years immediately following the Great Fire of 1666; then in 1682 Charles II granted another of his charters – this time to one John Balch, giving him the right to hold a market for fresh produce here on Thursdays and Saturdays. After several decades of success the area went into decline from the 1820’s onward and it was only when a former market porter called Robert Horner bought a short lease on the market, and started work on a new market building which was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000, that its fortunes recovered. The City of London took control of the market in 1920 and it continued to prosper. By the end of the 1980’s however the same congestion issues that forced the closure of Covent Garden resulted in the removal of the fruit and veg market to Leyton further out east. Following this the aforementioned regeneration programme was embarked upon (not without a good deal of controversy). Nowadays, the Old Market continues as a mix of temporary stalls with mainly a vintage/arts & crafts flavour whereas the New Market, further west in the redeveloped section and surrounded by chain restaurants, is filled with permanent stalls with more of a fashion and design feel.

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Having arrived back in Bishops Square we turn east again down Brushfield Street. Beyond the southern side of the street the City’s relentless eastern march is in full swing though a few of the 18th century buildings are holding their ground. Despite appearances this one below is home to yet another coffee shop.


As we continue up Brushfield Street with the market to our left Nicholas Hawksmoor’s imposing Christ Church looms ever closer. This Anglican church, built between 1714 and 1729, was another product of the “Commission for Building Fifty New Churches” created by a 1711 act of parliament (we have already encountered other examples of these in our previous travels though only twelve were actually built). Christ Church is probably the finest of these twelve with its impressive Tuscan columns out front and its soaring Gothic steeple. A major restoration of the interior of the church, begun in 2000 and completed in 2004, removed nineteenth- and twentieth-century alterations and reinstated the original arrangement of galleries, returning them to something as close as could be established to Hawksmoor’s original design. In 2015 the Crypt was also restored and converted into a cafe area. The organ which was originally installed in 1735 was the largest in England at the time with over 2,000 pipes.  After it fell into disuse and disrepair in the 1960’s the organ’s parts were removed for safe-keeping during the restoration project. Following its own restoration it was reassembled in the church in 2014.

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The monuments on either side of the altar recess are to Edward Peck and Sir Robert Ladbroke respectively. The former was one of the Commissioners who authorised the building of the church and the latter was a one-time Lord Mayor of London. When I visited the church was manned (if that’s the right word) by an Indian lady called Ava Bose who showed me a programme advertising Billy Graham’s crusade appearance in Victoria Park in 1996 when she shared a platform with him (I suspect she shows it to most visitors).

Continue east away from the church down Fournier Street. This area saw the arrival of many of the Huguenots driven out of France following the 1685 edict of Nantes (which featured in one of the Leicester Square posts). The Huguenot silk weavers were followed by a later wave of Irish weavers in the mid 1700’s and then from 1880 onward an influx of Jewish migrants fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe. The current population of the area is of largely Bangladeshi origin.


Turn north on Wilkes Street and stop off at Puma Court to take a look at some Victorian almshouses built in 1860.

At the end of Wilkes Street, on Hanbury Street, is the Old Truman Brewery. A brewery was originally established here around 1666 and the Truman name arrived a decade or so later when one Joseph Truman took control of operations. Under the guidance of Joseph’s younger son, Benjamin (who inspired the Ben Truman brand), the brewery expanded rapidly to become one of the largest in London. Growth both organically and through acquisition continued under subsequent generations and by 1873 Truman had become the largest brewery in the world. Nothing lasts forever though and in 1971 Truman lost its independence when it was taken over by the conglomerate, Grand Metropolitan, and shortly thereafter merged with Watney Mann. A switch into keg beer in the late seventies and early eighties combined with a growing consumer preference for lagers proved to be the undoing of Truman and the brewery eventually closed in 1989. In a bizarre case of things turning full circle though the Truman brand name was bought from Scottish & Newcastle in 2010 by two London businessmen who opened a new micro-brewery in Hackney Wick producing a range of cask ales. The brewery site itself has over the last twenty years been turned into a centre for the arts and creative and media industries with gallery spaces, restaurants and independent retail outlets.

Head north up Corbet Place and then Grey Eagle Street which flanks the brewery (see bottom right above). Turning left onto Quaker Street there are three blocks of buildings which were put up by the Great Eastern Railway Company in 1890 in order to rehouse those whose homes had been demolished to accommodate the expansion of Liverpool Street Station. These buildings currently lie derelict (for how much longer) but like many other spots in the vicinity have provided a ready canvas for the local street artists. As have the walls on either side of Wheler Street and Braithwaite Street which combine to link Quaker Street with Bethnal Green Road.

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Retracing our steps back underneath the railway we enter the southern section of Wheler Street passing Bedford House. This Grade II listed building was built in 1894 to house the Bedford Institute, named in honour of Peter Bedford, a Quaker philanthropist and silk weaver who formed the Society for Lessening the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency. The institute moved out in 1947 and the building was converted for industrial use as a warehouse and bottling plant for E.J.Rose & Co Ltd, wholesale suppliers of spirits and wine. When they too left in the late eighties the building was empty for more than 20 years before squatters moved in 2011 followed shortly after by an artists’ collective from Berlin. Despite the group carrying out restoration work on the building and the owner, reputed to be in the UK top ten rich list, seemingly having no plans of his own, they were evicted after only four months. The building still lies empty a further five years on.


Next we take a left down Calvin Street and then follow Jerome Street round to rejoin Commercial Street.



Cross over and take a second stroll down Folgate Street, past Dennis Severs House at no. 18 – a museum recreating the world of he 18th century Huguenot silkweavers. Arriving back on Bishopsgate head south briefly then turn west down Primrose Street. Almost immediately swing north again and cut through one of soulless new developments that cluster around Liverpool Street Station – all tinted glass and Pret A Manger. This brings us out onto Worship Street where we turn left and then swing round into Appold Street. From here we do a circuit of Snowden Street, Vardy Street, Finsbury Market, Clifton Street and Pindar Place to bring us back round to Exchange Square which sits on the site to the north of Liverpool Street Station which until 1986 was occupied by Broad Steet Railway Station. By that time only around 6,000 passengers a week were using this outpost of the North London Line so there was every imperative for British Rail to cash in by selling the site. The station was the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s 1984 album and film of the same name Give My Regards to Broad Street. Whether or not this contributed to the closure is open to conjecture. Exchange Square is a popular lunchtime destination for many of the thousands of workers in the surrounding offices and during the winter hosts an ice rink.

Cut through the eastern section of the Broadgate development and we’re back on Bishopsgate and turning right to cover the hundred metres or so to the eastern entrance of Liverpool Street Station. The station was fully opened as the new London terminus for the Greta Eastern Railway in 1875. When I used to travel from here to University in Norwich in the late Seventies and early Eighties it was (like most London mainline stations at the time) not somewhere you would want to linger for any length of time. The major redevelopment of the station was begun in conjunction with the Broadgate project (see above) and completed in 1991. Oddly this didn’t include an electronic departure display boards but a new mechanical “flapper” model that was the last of its kind when finally replaced in 2007 (by the one you see below).


After traversing the concourse we emerge on the western side in Sun Street Passage then nip round into Broadgate Circle which used to be home to the ice rink that has now moved to Exchange Square but nonetheless remains a “dynamic food, drink and leisure offering to the City” (according to the Broadgate website).


And that brings us to a close for this particular post though not for this particular day’s walk. We’ll be back to test your patience with highlights of the rest of that in around seven days or so I guess.



Day 30 Pt2 – Drury Lane – Covent Garden

Bit of a summer recess but finally we’re back with the second leg of the tour of Covent Garden and its environs. Picking up where we left off at the upper end of Drury Lane we circle east and back through the densest concentration of theatreland then loop round the Royal Opera House and into the piazza itself.

Day 30 Route

To start we head down Drury Lane then turn left along Kemble Street back up Wild Street and cut through to Kingsway via Keeley Street. Double back down Kemble Street then take Kean Street to return to the bottom stretch of Drury Lane. Move straight on down Tavistock Street and into Catherine Street where there are theatres every way you look . The Duchess Theatre  dates from 1929 and has the dubious honour of playing host to the world’s shortest theatrical run. On the 11th March 1930 a show called The Intimate Review opened and closed on the same night. Current production is The Play That Goes Wrong whose popularity completely eludes me – the concept is lame enough but the fact that they had to fully disclose it in the title speaks volumes about the deemed intelligence of the average West End theatregoer. It’s as if Shakespeare had called Hamlet the Play In Which Everyone Dies.


Turning westward along Exeter Street and into Wellington Street we reach the Lyceum Theatre. The Lyceum has a long and interesting history going back to the 18th century. The grand portico you see below survives from the 1834 designs of Samuel Beazley but the rest of the building was fully reconstructed in 1904. In 1939 the building was bought by the London County Council who planned to demolish it but that was put on ice due to the onset of war and in 1945 it was acquired by Matthews and Sons who converted it into the Lyceum Ballroom. During its years as a dancehall it also played host to the Miss World Contest (from 1951 to 1968) then from the late sixties onward it became one of London’s foremost pop and rock concert venues. Bob Marley and the Wailers recorded a 1975 live album at the Lyceum and during the heyday of punk all of the most successful bands played there. By 1986 however it had run its course as a live music venue and the building fell dark for ten years before being reconverted for theatrical use. In 1999 The Lion King opened and looks like it will stay here until every single living soul has succumbed to see it (may I be the last).


Keep going west on Exeter Street then turn right up Burleigh Street and head back east on Tavistock Street to Catherine Street again and switching northward pass the front entrance to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Four theatres have been built on this site, the first of these by the dramatist Thomas Killigrew under charter granted by Charles II in 1663. The present theatre was built in 1812 to a design of Benjamin Wyatt. In its early years it became synonymous with the success of the Shakespearean actor, Edmund Kean (after whom the nearby street is named of course). During WWII the theatre was used as the headquarters of ENSA. In the post-war period Drury Lane’s notable successes have included a five year run of My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews and Miss Saigon which ran for ten years. The Monty Python team recorded a live album here in 1974. The bust outside the theatre is of Augustus Harris who was its manager in the latter part of the 19th century and known as “the father of modern pantomime”.

Just around the corner on Russell Street is the somewhat more understated Fortune Theatre, built in 1922-24 in the Italianate style. It was the first theatre to be built in London after the end of the WW1 and since the demolition of the original Wembley Stadium is now the oldest remaining public building designed wholly using concrete as a textured and exposed façade. The theatre’s famous figurine, Terpsichore, overlooking the entrance, was sculpted by M. H. Crichton of the Bromsgrove Guild, a noted company of artisans from Worcestershire. The supernatural thriller, The Woman in Black, has been playing here since 1989 which means it must have been seen by over half a million people even though this is the second smallest theatre in the West End.


As you can see in the picture above, the theatre, rather incongruously, incorporates an entrance to the next door Crown Court Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland has been active in London since time of James I (originally James VI of Scotland of course). It took up residence here in Covent Garden from 1719 though the present building only dates back to 1909. Rather confusingly the name of the church implies no kind of legal jurisdiction but simply references the thoroughfare on which it sits, Crown Court, which is where we turn next.

At the top of Crown Court we turn left into Broad Court which brings us out on to Bow Street right by the eponymous magistrates’ court. The original Bow Street court was established in 1740 across the road on what is now the site of the Royal Opera House. A few years later the author Henry Fielding took charge of the court in his capacity as London’s Chief Magistrate. The extant building was completed in 1881 and among the famous and infamous names to have occupied its dock are such as Oscar Wilde, Dr Crippen, the Kray twins, the Pankhurst sisters, Jeffrey Archer and General Pinochet (some dinner party that would be). However the final session at what had become the most well-known magistrates’ court in Britain (if not the world) took place in 2006. The Grade II listed building, put up for sale by its joint owners, the Greater London Magistrates’ Courts Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority, was originally acquired by a property developer, Gerry Barrett, who had intended to turn it into a boutique hotel. His plans never came to fruition and in 2008 it was sold on to Austrian developers, the Ploberger brothers, who hoped to retain the police cells and create a World Police Museum (alongside a boutique hotel). However, having finally obtained planning permission in 2014, the brothers in turn decided to sell on just a year later – at a price tag of £75m.

That brings us on to the Royal Opera House which as already noted is across the road, occupying the whole of the north-east section of Covent Garden. This site has been occupied by three theatre buildings and has witnessed opera and ballet performances since the 1730’s. The current building (the first two were both destroyed by fire) was opened in 1858 having been built by the Lucas Brothers Company (who were also responsible for the Royal Albert Hall). At that time it was known as the Covent Garden Opera House. It was only after WW2, during which it had been used as a dancehall, that the building became the permanent home of the companies now called the The Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet. In 1997 the building closed for a thirty month major redevelopment at a cost of over £200m. The Royal Opera Company curently performs an annual repertoire of around twenty operas here amounting to 150 separate shows.


We finally head towards the piazza itself along the western stretch of Russell Street which bears a plaque commemorating the first meeting of Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell in 1763.


As anyone born in the 20th century should know, Covent Garden was originally London’s main fruit and vegetable market. The earliest recorded market on the site dates back to 1654, a time when the land was part of the estate of the Russell family a.k.a the Earls and then the Dukes of Bedford. It wasn’t long (1670) before the incumbent Earl of Bedford acquired a private charter from Charles II  for a permanent fruit and vegetable market, permitting him and his heirs to hold a market every day except Sundays and Christmas Day.  Unfortunately, the presence of the market led to the area becoming increasingly insalubrious and by the 18th century it had descended into a fully-fledged red light district attracting such notable prostitutes as (the brilliantly-named) Betty Careless. Descriptions of the prostitutes and where to find them were provided by Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, the “essential guide and accessory for any serious gentleman of pleasure”. In 1830, in an attempt to improve the image of the area, the 6th Earl commissioned Charles Fowler to design the neo-classical market building that remains at the heart of Covent Garden today. The Floral hall and the Charter Market were added later and in 1904 the Jubilee Market for foreign flowers was created. The Covent Garden Estate passed out of the hands of the Bedfords in 1913 when the 11th Duke sold out to the first in a series of property investors. Then in 1962 the bulk of the remaining properties in the area, including the market, were sold to the newly established government-owned Covent Garden Authority for £3,925,000. By the end of the 1960s however, traffic congestion had reached such a level that the use of the square as a modern wholesale distribution market had become untenable, and significant redevelopment was planned. Following a public outcry, buildings around the square were protected in 1973, preventing redevelopment. The following year the market moved to a new site in south-west London while the square lay idle until its central building was eventually rejuvenated in 1980 as a retail mall with a bias toward independent traders and artisans. In the picture below you can just about still make out the inscription commemorating the building’s origin.


These days of course, Covent Garden is a serious tourist magnet fueled by the presence of myriad street performers and artists as well as the ubiquitous “living statues”.

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In the background of a couple of the above slides you can see St Paul’s Church which was completed in 1633 having been designed by Inigo Jones. It was the first entirely new church to be built in England since the Reformation. It is also commonly referred to as “The Actors’ Church” due to its associations with the theatrical community. Since 2007 it has been home to its own in-house professional theatre company, Iris Theatre – currently staging a production of Treasure Island. Opposite the church is the Punch and Judy pub – default reunion destination for generations of students since the 1980s.

As we circle back round the north side of the square we pass the new flagship store for Brazilian footwear brand Melissa which occupies 43 King Street a.k.a Russell House, a Grade II listed building from 1716, making it the oldest survivor in the piazza. It was designed by the Baroque architect Thomas Archer as a townhouse for Lord Russell, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time. Between 1891 and 1929 it was also home to the National Sporting Club, the organisation responsible for the creation of the sport of glove boxing, under its president Hugh Cecil Lowther, the fifth earl of Lonsdale (after whom the Lonsdale belt is named). This is testified by the green plaque outside the building.


Just round the corner from here is a shrine to the modern-day religion of techno-worship in the form of the Apple Store. Been a while since I was last in here and I had forgotten just how massive it is inside.


Head away from the square up James Street, which is where the “living statues” ply their trade (see slideshow above), then veer right down Floral Street which flanks the north side of the ROH. In doing so we pass beneath the “Bridge of Aspiration” which links the Royal Ballet School to the ROH.

Emerge out onto Bow Street again and turn north to reach Long Acre where we head west past the tube station. Covent Garden station is notorious for two things – firstly for being party to the shortest distance between any two adjacent stations on the London underground network, Leicester Square is a mere 20 second journey, and secondly for the overcrowding (if you eschew the wait for a lift it’s 193 steps up the stairs to reach the surface). For both these reasons TFL go to great lengths to try to discourage anyone from using the station at all.

This is the view from James Street which was a better shot 

Moving swiftly on we duck down Langley Court on to another section of Floral Street and continue west. Loop round Rose Street, Long Acre again and Garrick Street to get back to Floral Street. At no.15 Garrick Street is the Garrick Club, founded in 1831 by a group of literary gentlemen under the patronage of the Duke of Sussex, brother of King William IV, and named after the 18th century actor, David Garrick. Today this private members’ club has around 1,300 members and anyone wishing to join has to overcome the credo “that it would be better that ten unobjectionable men should be excluded than one terrible bore should be admitted”.

I can only assume that the Garrick Club has some kind of status in the Far East that has escaped me up until now.

Lazenby Court and the southern dog-leg of Rose Street surround the Lamb and Flag pub, one of the most historic and well-known hostelries in London. The very first mention of a pub on this site dates from 1772, when it was known as The Coopers Arms (the name changed to The Lamb & Flag in 1833). The pub acquired a reputation in the early nineteenth century for staging bare-knuckle prize fights earning it the nickname ‘The Bucket of Blood,’ and the alleyway beside the pub (see below) was the scene of an attack on the poet John Dryden in 1679 by thugs hired by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, with whom he had a long-standing conflict.

We return to the square along King Street then go back past the church and along the southern side of the arcade. On the building at the south-west corner you can still just about make out the lettering advertising this as the one-time premises of Butler’s Medicinal Herb warehouse.


The south-east corner of the square is occupied by the London Transport Museum (which I may or may not return to but with an hour until closing was reluctant to part with £17 on this occasion). Doubling back along Henrietta Street we pass the modern incarnation of the Jubilee Hall where general tat has now replaced the foreign flowers of yesteryear.

Arrive back at Garrick Street and complete the circle bringing today’s epic to a close. If you made it all the way here I salute you.




Day 30 Pt1 – Seven Dials – Neal Street – Long Acre

Today’s jaunt starts out at Leicester Square tube and ticks off all of the streets that radiate out from Seven Dials before looping eastward round the back of the Royal Opera House and circumnavigating the tourist inferno that is Covent Garden piazza. Passing just the odd theatre or two along the way. A wealth of material to cover on this trip so it’s another one split into two posts.

Day 30 Route

First up is Cranbourn Street then a return to Charing Cross Road via Great Newport Street. Here at nos. 10-11 is a green plaque marking the fact that this was home to trad jazzman Ken Colyer‘s Studio 51 basement jazz club in the Fifties. Not quite as wild as Studio 54 but the concept of the all-nighter did probably take root here for the first time as far as the UK is concerned.


Charing Cross Road has historically been known for its second-hand and antiquarian bookshops. Fortunately there are still a few of these hanging on, though no.84 which inspired an eponymous book of 1970 that was made into a 1987 film starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft hasn’t housed a bookshop since the late sixties. It’s now a MacDonald’s.


Turning right down Litchfield Street brings us to St Martin’s Theatre which has been home to The Mousetrap for the last 42 years of its record-breaking 64 year unbroken run on the West End stage. It first became the longest-running show in British theatre history as early as 1958. During its entire run 442 actors and actresses have appeared in the play, there have been 256 understudies (including one 15 year stint), 142 miles of shirts have been ironed and over 500 tons of ice cream sold. Of course the ending of the play is the worst kept secret in the world of stage – everybody knows that the big red plastic colander thing falls on top of the mouse.

Just opposite the theatre is The Ivy, a restaurant that has long been something of a cliché as a lunchtime rendezvous for luvvies and their agents. The Ivy was created in 1917 by Abel Gandolini and Mario Gallati and the name was inspired by actress Alice Delysia who, quoting a popular song of the day, told the pair “Don’t worry, we will always come to see you, we will cling together like the ivy” when Gandolini’s original cafe closed for work to begin on the new venture.


Next we head up to Shaftesbury Avenue via West Street passing another theatre, the Ambassadors, en route. This one has been around since 1913 and played host to The Mousetrap for the first 21 years of its run up to 1973 when it moved a few yards down the street. The aforementioned French actress and singer, Alice Delysia (1889 – 1979) appeared in revue here regularly during the WW1 years and the theatre later witnessed the stage debuts of both Ivor Novello and Vivien Leigh.

Turn briefly on to Earlham Street then fork right down Tower Street and when this merges into Monmouth Street head north up the latter for the first of several visits to Seven Dials.


As its name implies, Seven Dials is the hub of seven different streets and was the brainchild of Thomas Neale, MP in the early 1690s. He devised the idea of laying out the area in a series of triangles to maximise the number of houses; as rentals were charged per foot of frontage and not per square foot of interiors. Neale commissioned England’s leading stonemason, Edward Pierce, to design and construct the Sundial Pillar you see above as the centrepiece of his development. Unfortunately for Neale the area didn’t become the fashionable address he had hoped for and rapidly degenerated into a slum renowned for its gin houses. At one time each of the seven apexes facing the monument housed a pub and all their basements were connected for ease of escape in the event of a raid. Sadly, only the 19th century Crown (see above) remains.

Back along Earlham Street then continue north-east along Shaftesbury Avenue past the Chinese Church in London which was born out of a prayer meeting of Chinese Christians held on Christmas Eve 1950.


Return to Seven Dials via Mercer Street and arrive opposite the Cambridge Theatre ( I did warn you). This is one of a number of theatres that opened in 1930 and had an original capacity of 1,275. It has had something of a chequered history including a couple of stints as a cinema and an ill-fated 1984 reinvention as a soi-disant Theatre of Magic called the Magic Castle which lasted just a year. The current production of Matilda, which has been here since 2011, and its predecessor, Chicago, which ran for eight years represent a welcome upturn in fortune.


Head back north on the upper stretch of Monmouth Street stopping en route to visit Neal’s Yard, named after the aforementioned Thomas, which has been the home of alternative medicine, occultism and astrologers, attracted by the sundial and the symbolic star layout of the streets,since the 17th Century. Not very well hidden in the bottom right picture below are at least six signifiers of poncey Metropolitanism that will have anyone living north of Watford Gap frothing at the mouth.

Swing right into Neal Street and half way down turn right again down Shorts Gardens and find ourselves back at Seven Dials. This time we leave by the eastern section of Earlham Street (roughly 3 0’clock on the dial) which is where you’ll find a theatre of a different stamp in the Donmar Warehouse. The Donmar is a 252 seat not-for-profit theatre that has been staging innovative and much-acclaimed productions of both classic and contemporary plays for the last 24 years. Despite its size it’s attracted stars like Nicole Kidman (The Blue Room), Jude Law (Hamlet) and Tom Hiddleston (Coriolanus) to tread its boards over the past decade.


Emerge onto Endell Street by the Cross Keys pub which was mentioned a few posts ago. This time I pop in for a quick half and have to endure the blaring of some new London-based golden oldies radio station. Christ knows why these things are so popular – in the Seventies we weren’t subjected to non-stop segues of forty-year old Gracie Fields and George Formby records in the way that Billy Joel and Queen are forever polluting the airwaves of today.


Across the road is the building where the firm of Lavers, Barraud and Westlake produced stained glass windows between 1855 and 1921.


Return westward next along Shelton Street and make a quick detour up and down Nottingham Court before resuming as far as the bottom of the middle section of Mercer Street and nipping up this to get back to Seven Dials for one final time. From here it’s back down Monmouth Street which morphs into Upper St Martin’s Lane before hitting Long Acre. Heading east here we pass across the road from Stanfords, the self-proclaimed premier map and travel bookshop in the world, which has been trading from this site since the start of the last century. In 1941, during one of the biggest raids on the capital, Stanfords was hit by an incendiary bomb which all but destroyed the top two floors of the building. However, the thousands of Ordnance Survey maps stocked by the shop in tightly constructed stacks helped halt the path of the flames and saved the rest of the shop from destruction. Subsequently, in a business move which his grandfather, the founder of the company, would have been proud of, Fraser Stanford continued to sell these maps withe their charred edges for years afterwards.


Next up we loop round Slingsby Place back to Shelton Street then turn south again on the bottom stretch of Mercer Street back to Long Acre. From this point we traverse between Long Acre and Shelton Street using Langley Street, the lower part of Neal Street and Oddhams Walk before continuing east along Long Acre as far as the top of Drury Lane which is where we’ll leave things for now…



Day 29 – Bunhill Fields – Whitecross Street – Barbican

This walk begins opposite where the last one finished, on the western side of City Road at Bunhill Fields, the last remaining historic burial ground in central London. It then winds its way westwards and southwards, taking in Whitecross Street market before ending up at the behemoth of modernist architecture that is the Barbican Centre and estate.

Day 29 Route

Bunhill Fields is the final resting place for an estimated 120,000 souls, a large proportion of them interred at the time of the great plague of 1665 when the area first came into use as a burial ground. As the ground was never consecrated by the Church of England it became a popular burial site for Nonconformists and Radicals among whose number were  John Bunyan (1628 – 1688), the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress and a Baptist, Daniel Defoe (1660 -1731), writer of Gulliver’s Travels and Moll Flanders and a Presbyterian, and William Blake (1757 – 1827), poet, artist and religious iconoclast.

Tomb of John Bunyan
Memorials to Daniel Defoe and William Blake

The last burial here took place in 1854 and the site was configured into its current layout in the 1860’s with a public garden area created alongside a hundred years later. The burial ground now contains 2,333 monuments, mostly simple headstones (of which there are 1,920) arranged in a grid formation. Among the more extravagant memorials is that of Dame Mary Page, wife of Sir Gregory Page, first baronet, wealthy City merchant and East India Company director. As you can see below, the tomb is unusual in bearing an inscription setting out the graphic detail of the disease that brought about the lady’s demise – believed to be what is now known as Meigs’ Syndrome.

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After a circuit of Bunhill Fields we head north up City Road a short distance before turning left into Featherstone Street and proceeding west to Bunhill Row with a brief deviation into Mallow Street. Cross over into Banner Street just off the south side of which sits the Bunhill Fields Quaker Friends House, originally the caretaker’s house of a set of Quaker mission buildings, the rest of which were destroyed in WWII. The surrounding gardens and playground occupy the site of the old ‘Quaker Burying Ground’ where the movement’s founder, George Fox, is buried along with many thousand early adherents.


At the next intersection with we turn north for the first of several visits to Whitecross Street. This has been home to an eponymous market since the 17th century though by the late 19th century the area had become a by-word for poverty and alcohol, known colloquially as Squalors’ Market. When I used to visit it occasionally ten years or more ago it was very much in the “pile it cheap and high” tradition of street markets with just the odd food stall among the DVDs, kitchen implements and cut-price clothing. Nowadays the “street food” has effectively taken over completely and the market is more-or-less just a lunchtime affair. Naturally (in keeping with established tradition) I got here just as all the stalls were packing up.

We hit Old Street just opposite St Luke’s and resume west as far as Golden Lane where we turn south then east along Garrett Street back to Whitecross Street. The restaurants that line the street have gone pretty upmarket and edged out most of the old-school retailers. The second-hand record store run by a couple of aging Teddy Boys is long gone but one or two of the old guard cling on as you can see.


Whitecross Street and its offshoots have also succumbed to the encroachment of “street art” (spreading west from its Shoreditch heartland). Topically and appositely, the latest manifestation is an image of someone very cross and very white.

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Next up it’s the western stretch of Banner Street which returns us to Golden Lane where we look in on Nags Head Court before turning back east along Roscoe Street. Loop round Baird Street then continue east along Chequer Street (through another Peabody Trust estate). On the return to Bunhill Row we dip south briefly then make a right into Dufferin Street and complete a circuit of Dufferin Avenue and Cahill Street before crossing Whitecross again, this time into Fortune Street. Where this meets Golden Lane once more we encounter what can only be a sign of things to come.


Turning south we arrive at no.1 Golden Lane which is now offices of UBS Bank but started life in 1896 as the home of the Cripplegate Institute; a charitable foundation set up by the City of London Parish of the same name. The building, designed by architect Sidney Smith, who was also responsible for what is now known as Tate Britain, incorporated a reference library, news and magazine rooms and classrooms for teaching such subjects as photography, dressmaking and first aid. In 1898 a theatre, staging mainly amateur productions, was opened in the building. The institute left the premises in 1987 and relocated to Chiswick, having sold the building for £4.5m.


At its southern end Golden Lane emerges into Beech Street, a lengthy stretch of which forms the Barbican Tunnel. Heading east again we pass the Barbican Cinema which is now housed in a separate building from the rest of the arts complex.


Passing this we turn back into Whitecross Street where the last vestiges of the old 3-for-a-fiver style street market are huddled in a concrete forecourt to a Waitrose supermarket. I once bought a checkered trilby hat here for £6 and still get occasional use out of it when the sun deigns to make a proper effort.


Next right is Errol Street which forks right again into Lambs Buildings where you can find the home of the Royal Statistical Society in a converted Victorian Sunday School building. In 1833 the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) created a statistical section following a presentation by the Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet to its fellows. This proved so popular that, a year later, a Statistical Society was founded by Charles Babbage, Thomas Malthus and Richard Jones with the Marquis of Lansdowne as President. Florence Nightingale became the first female member in 1858. I failed miserably to come up with any interesting actual statistics about the RSS but a mildly interesting fact is that Harold Wilson was its President in 1972-73 whilst leader of the opposition to Ted Heath.


Just around the corner is St Joseph’s Catholic Church featuring the memorial Cardinal Hume Quiet Garden.

Turning left we’re back on Bunhill Row which was originally called Artillery Walk (as it runs along the western side of the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company – as featured in the last post). John Milton lived here for a time, during which he completed Paradise Regained.


We go south from here onto Chiswell Street and then complete a circuit of Lamb’s Passage, Sutton’s Way and Whitecross Street (for one final time) before crossing into Silk Street and entering the Barbican Centre just as the rain starts to fall.


The Grade II listed Barbican is Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue and one of London’s best examples of Brutalist architecture. It was developed from designs by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon as part of a utopian vision to transform an area of London left devastated by bombing during the Second World War. Although the first proposals were submitted in 1955 it wasn’t until 1971 that construction started and 1982 when the Queen formally opened the building. For a whistle-stop  history of the Barbican site from medieval times to the present day I would recommend this animated video inspired by an essay from the pen of Peter Ackroyd. The image below shows how things looked in 1955, with only the church of St Giles Cripplegate having miraculously survived the carnage wrought by the German air raids.


The following selection of images feature :

  • a spatial installation in the foyer (until 10/09/2016), exploring the theme of collision, in which two revolving arms narrowly evade each other in a mobile of light and sound in constant motion.
  • the Barbican Muse – a sculpture, created by artist Matthew Spender, of a woman holding the separate masks of tragedy and comedy.
  • the Guildhall School of Music and Drama – founded in 1880 and taking up residence in the Barbican complex in 1977.
  • the “lakeside” terrace (thronged on this day with graduating students from King’s College)
  • the residential tower blocks (now some of last remaining from their era)

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Nip in to see the latest exhibition in the art gallery which is a retrospective of work by the Icelandic performance artist, Ragnar Kjartansson which you can catch until the first week of September 2016. Centrepiece of the exhibition is a work entitled Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2011) a live performance featuring ten guitar-strumming troubadours singing for up to eight hours a day against a backdrop of a clip from an Icelandic softcore film of the Seventies starring the artist’s parents.

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Leave the Barbican by the Silk Street entrance again, head east and loop round Milton Street and Moor Lane. This area is home to several of the monolithic glass skyscrapers that have come to dominate the City and these days there are as many residential as there are office blocks and I find myself asking if there isn’t perhaps a finite pool of people who can stump up £3.75m plus for an apartment, however stunning the view.

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Moor Lane backs onto another massive instalment of the Crossrail redevelopment.


Fore Street takes us round to the southern side of the Barbican complex where we find the aforementioned St Giles Cripplegate church.  It is believed that there has been a church on this site since Saxon times though it was during the Middle Ages that it was dedicated to St Giles. The name “Cripplegate” refers to one of the gates through the old City wall, which had its origins in Roman times as a fortification to protect the Roman city from attackers. There is no definitive explanation of the origin of the word ‘Cripplegate’ but it is thought unlikely that it relates to cripples despite the fact that St Giles is their patron saint (along with beggars and blacksmiths).  It is more likely that the word comes from the Anglo-Saxon “cruplegate” which means a covered way or tunnel, which would have run from the town gate of Cripplegate to the original Barbican, a fortified watchtower on the City wall. Sections of the old wall can still be seen near the church.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950 and it was extensively restored in 1966. Against the northern flank of the church is one of 14 artworks located around central London which were organised during Lent 2016 into a trail telling the story of the Passion of Christ under the umbrella title Stations of the Cross. Some of these (like the Jean Cocteau mural reported on a couple of posts back) are longstanding features of the city but the one you can see below, station no.9 by G.Roland Biermann, is one of four freshly commissioned pieces in 2016.

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As you see, after an absence of several weeks, some more of my pigeon friends have managed to inveigle themselves into this final collection of images.

Leaving the many fascinations of the Barbican behind we finish for today by walking down Wood Street to London Wall (which we will return to on other occasion).







Day 28 – Where Shoreditch meets the City

This walk took place on 22 June, the day before London pegged its colours to the masts of tolerance and enlightenment and practically the whole of the rest of England laughed in the face of this exhortation on the Great Eastern Road.


Which is where we begin this time; heading north west initially then veering due north up Curtain Road before covering the area west of there as far as City Road and south as far as Worship Road which is pretty much the northern boundary of the City now.

Day 28 Route copy

First though there’s a brief detour back on to Old Street to take a look at two Grade II listed buildings on opposite sides of the road. On the north side is the former Old Street Magistrates Court and Police Station, constructed in the Edwardian baroque style in 1906 to the design of architect John Dixon Butler. This has recently been converted into a 5-star 128-room hotel (opening just last month in May 2016 in fact). In somewhat dubious taste perhaps, five of the old 5ft by 15ft cells where East End felons including the Kray twins were banged up have been incorporated into the hotel bar as VIP booths which can be hired out for the night. The bar will also serve cocktails with a range of crime-oriented names including “slammer”, “clink” and “nick”.

Facing the hotel is Shoreditch Town Hall which was designed by Caesar Augustus Long opened in 1866 as the Vestry Hall for Shoreditch. Throughout the building the motto ‘More Light, More Power’ can be seen beneath the crest of Shoreditch. This motto, together with the statue of Progress on the front of the tower, commemorates the reputation that the Vestry, (later the Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch), had as a progressive local government, particularly in its provision of electric power to the borough. Shoreditch Town Hall ceased to be a centre of municipal administration in 1965, when the boroughs of Shoreditch and Stoke Newington merged with Hackney to form the larger London Borough of Hackney.  For the next four years the Assembly Hall became one of the East End’s premier boxing venues until in 1969 when, after a hard-hitting fight against Joe Bugner, the tragic death of Trinidadian boxer Ulric Regis led to a ban on boxing throughout Hackney. After this the building’s future became increasingly uncertain as neglect and disrepair set in. In the early 1990’s there was colourful interlude in the shape of the Whirl-Y-Gig weekly trance nights before in 1997 a trust was formed with a mission to regenerate the building. This eventually led to a reopening in 2004, following major restoration work, as an independent arts and events venue.

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So next we track back west along Old Street and turn down Charlotte Road. Then it’s right into Rivington Street which leads out onto Great Eastern Street again where we turn left as far as Garden Walk. Head up here back to Rivington Street then complete the southern stretch of Charlotte Road. Crossing over Great Eastern Street we go west on Leonard Street where Joy Division meet Marvel’s Avengers – a near unbeatable combination in my book.


On the corner with Ravey Street (well-named for this part of town) is the Grade-II listed Griffin pub which dates from c.1889. Before its closure for refurbishment in 2014 it was described by Time Out as a “typical old blokes’ boozer”. What odds it will still warrant that description once it re-opens.


At the top of Ravey Street squeeze past some more new development to get to Willow Street then west to Paul Street and up to the apex of Old and Great Eastern Streets where stands this pink and grey polished granite monument which was originally a drinking fountain installed nearby by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1880. When it was moved a short distance in 2002 as part of street improvements the fountain aspect seems to have been discarded.


Behind this to the north east is this giant geisha mural by artists Core246 & Kaes on the wall of Red Gallery.


So we retrace our steps down Paul Street, look in briefly on Blackall Street and then return along Leonard Street stopping off at Westland Antiques which occupies the former Church of St Michael and All Angels. This Victorian Gothic revival  church was built in 1865 and designed by James Brooks (1825 – 1901) who was the architect of many East End churches of this era. Westland, who took over the site in 1977, specialise in salvaged Antique Chimneypieces and Fireplaces . But their collection extends far beyond that as you can see  in the pictures below. If you find yourself in the area its more than worth looking in.

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So after a circuit of Mark Square which lies behind the church we turn south down another section of Ravey Street into Luke Street then north east on Phipp Street and east on Gatesborough Street to reach the lower stretch of Curtain Road. From here we weave back and forth along Luke Street and Christina Street passing the splendidly-named but hugely disappointing Motley Avenue.


When we return to Curtain Road we find ourselves opposite one of the most decrepit (though presumably still financially viable) NCP Car Parks in the land.


Given everything else that’s going on in the area I can’t help but feel its days are numbered (though I also feel a tinge of regret about that – for the Star Wars mural alone it deserves a shot at survival for a few years yet). Anyway, continuing down Curtain Road we arrive at the site of the absolutely massive new residential, leisure and retail development known as the Stage. In 2011 the remains of Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre were discovered 3 metres below the surface of the development. The intention now is to incorporate these remains into the development as a tourist attraction with a purpose-built visitor’s centre and sunken amphitheatre.


As you can see below, the Curtain Theatre was built in 1577 as London’s second playhouse, just a year after the first, simply known as The Theatre and only a few hundred yards away (and covered in a previous post). The Curtain’s heyday was really only the three years from 1597-1599 when it became the premier venue of Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, during the time it took for the Theatre to relocate to the South Bank and become the Globe. In this time though it did see the openings of both Romeo and Juliet and Henry V.


Hewett Street which was the actual address of the Curtain still survives as does the Horse and Groom pub (more like barely clinging on in truth) but Hearn Street to the south and Plough Yard to the east have both been wiped out by the redevelopment (though they still show up on Google maps).

That partially completely development you can see in the background above is Principal Place which some marketing genius has branded as the Unsquare Mile. It’s also subtitled (with rather more legitimacy) as the place where the City meets Shoreditch. (For the purposes of entitling this post you will note that I’ve switched that around).


In the background above is the well-known music venue, the Queen of Hoxton (teetering on the right side of the line for now). Moving on; at the eastern end of Worship Street we meet the junction of Shoreditch High Street and the wonderfully-named Norton Folgate (more of that another time).


Turning away from the City dragon we go up the A10 and revisit Great Eastern Street this time turning west down Holywell Lane. On the other side of Curtain Road this turns into Scrutton Street and where that forks into Holywell Row we have today’s pub of the day, the Old King’s Head – half of Estrella and a bacon, chicken and avocado sandwich for £5.95.


Holywell Row merges into Clifton Street which takes us back to Worship Street. After a brief stint westward we turn north again on Paul Street then east for the remainder of Scrutton Street and then left up New North Place. Emerging back on Luke Street we resume west into Clere Street (which was formerly Paradise Street – and you can see why they changed the name).


We then find ourselves on Tabernacle Street and veering northward takes us right back up to the Old Street/Great Eastern Street nexus. After turning briefly west on Old Street we take a left down Singer Street and then a right into Cowper Street which is home to one of my favourite music venues, XOYO, though this puts on far more club nights than gigs these days.


Across the road is the Central Foundation Boys’ School established in the 1860’s by the Reverend William Rogers to provide affordable secondary education (£4 a year) for the sons of skilled workers and tradesmen. It was originally called the Middle Class School (back when becoming Middle Class was still an aspiration).


We’re now at the Old Street roundabout and from here we head a short way south before turning east down Leonard Street. At the junction with Tabernacle Street we resume southward as far as Epworth Street which crosses over to Paul Street and then switch back via Bonhill Street. The final yards of Tabernacle Street run down to Worship Street almost at the apex with City Road and turning back up the latter represents the final stage of today’s journey. The western side of this stretch of City Road is dominated by the home of the Honourable Artillery Company. The HAC is the oldest regiment in the British Army and the second most senior unit of the Territorial Army. It traditionally traces its origins to 1537, when Henry VIII granted a charter to the ‘Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handguns’ which was also to be a perpetual fraternity of St George. The building you can see below, which fronts onto City Road is the Finsbury Barracks designed by the architect Joseph Jennings and completed in 1857. Behind this is the gargantuan Armoury House, most of which dates back to 1735, and in front of that the extensive Artillery Garden (and sports grounds).

A little way further up, on the other side of the road, is our final stop of the day, Wesley’s ChapelJohn Wesley (1703 – 1791), the founder of the Methodist branch of Protestantism, built the chapel in 1778 to be his London base. Its designer was George Dance the Younger, surveyor to the City of London. Although it has undergone some alteration the Grade I -listed chapel is still one of the finest extant examples of Georgian architecture. Margaret Thatcher was married here in 1951 and the communion rail was presented by her as a gift. To the right of the chapel is the house in which John Wesley lived for the last eleven years of his life. Wesley’s tomb is in the garden at the rear of the chapel alongside the graves of six of his preachers, and those of his sister Martha Hall and his doctor and biographer, Dr John Whitehead. The statue of Wesley which stands at the entrance to the courtyard bears the inscription “the world is my parish”. The ground floor of the chapel houses the Museum of Methodism which is well presented but, if I’m being honest, not exactly a riveting experience. It may be sacrilegious to say so but perhaps  the best reason to visit the chapel is to take a look at the toilets; specifically the gents which are the only surviving original Victorian conveniences in London. These were installed at the end of the nineteenth century with cisterns by the one and only Thomas Crapper (1836 – 1910) who provided the colloquial name for the W.C even if he didn’t invent it as such.

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