Day 46 – Hyde Park – Knightsbridge – Belgrave Square

As flagged up in the last post, we’re now finally done with the City of London so for a complete change of scene we switch back over to the west side of our target area and swap the skyscrapers, livery halls and 17th century churches for green expanses, embassies and temples of consumerist excess. Starting out from Hyde Park Corner today’s walk takes us on a circuit of the south-eastern corner of the park before heading down through Knightsbridge to Belgravia and back.

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We enter the park through Apsley Gate, built in 1826-29 from Portland stone and designed by a then 25 year old Decimus Burton (who, if we assume the Jacob Rees-Mogg scoring system must have been at least the tenth child to emerge from his poor mother). We then head north up Lovers Walk which takes us almost immediately past the statue of Achilles. This was installed in 1822 by order of King George III in commemoration of the Duke of Wellington and was made using 33 tonnes of bronze from captured French cannons. Initially the statue was fully nude but a public outcry soon led to the addition of a strategic fig leaf. A short way further on is the memorial to the victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, comprised of 52 stainless steel stelae each representing one of those who died. At the Joy of Life fountain (which was the southernmost point of our previous foray into Hyde Park, what seems like eons ago now) we about-face and head back down Broad Walk. What struck me most about the park on this visit was the sheer number of squirrels around; they were always fairly plentiful but these days they’re giving the pigeons a run for their money in the proliferation stakes.

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At the end of Broad Walk we turn right along Serpentine Road past the bandstand which has stood on the north side here since 1886 when it was relocated from Kensington Gardens seventeen years after it was built. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers’s performance of “Isn’t it a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain” from the 1935 film Top Hat was supposedly set on the Hyde Park bandstand but, sadly, was actually filmed on a soundstage at RKO’s Hollywood studios.

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The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, 11.34 hectares in size, was created in 1727-31 at the instigation of Queen Caroline, wife of George II. It was formed by damming the Westbourne stream and was one of the first artificial lakes allowed to settle into a natural shape. There is a small memorial to Caroline at the eastern end of the lake that was unveiled by HM in 1990. The Serpentine is a big magnet for wildfowl and for visitors willing to feed them. On the other side of the path running along the eastern edge of the lake is another small monument, erected in 1870, with a plaque the first line of which reads “A supply of water by conduit from this spot was granted to the Abbey of Westminster with the Manor of Hyde by King Edward the Confessor.” The spring this refers to supplied water to the precincts of Westminster until it was cut off by drainage work in 1861.

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Skirting the eastern end of the Serpentine takes us down onto Rotten Row which is a corruption of the French ‘Route de Roi’. After just a few yards we head off the road up by the side of the small garden known as the Dell and continue east through the Holocaust Memorial Garden to the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden incorporates two fountains : one with a statue of Diana the Huntress which was sculpted by (the wonderfully-named) Lady Feodora Gleichen in 1899 and the other dating from 1862 with a statue of a Boy and Dolphin by Alexander Munro. En route to the garden we pass a strange looking tree populated by a flock of the much maligned Green Parakeets. Somewhat lazily I was just going to refer to this as a runner bean tree (for obvious reasons) but having bothered to look it up I find it’s called an Indian Bean Tree (though it originates from the US). I like to think it’s related to the runner bean plant anyway; and if I had an allotment I’d stick one of these in there just to freak out the neighbours.

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On reaching the end of Rotten Row we turn west again and follow South Carriage Drive down to Albert Gate. This short stretch of road leading onto Knightsbridge houses two embassies; France on the east side and Kuwait on the west.

On Knightsbridge itself we turn right and pass in front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The building was originally constructed in 1889 as an exclusive ‘Gentleman’s Club’ and was the tallest building in the capital, outraging local residents who petitioned unsuccessfully to have the number of floors reduced. Ten years after it opened a fire caused extensive damage and following restoration it re-opened in 1902 as the Hyde Park Hotel, considered the grandest in London at the time.   Tradition has it that Queen Victoria wouldn’t allow any form of advertising within the Park, and therefore insisted that the main entrance, with the hotel’s name above it, be moved from the Park side to Knightsbridge. As a corollary she decreed that the original entrance be preserved for Royal use, unless permission is otherwise granted by the Royal Household, a practice which has been upheld ever since. The Mandarin Oriental Group took over the property in 1996 and gave it a £57m makeover.

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Across the road is Harvey Nichols which traces its origins back to 1831 when one Benjamin Harvey opened a linen shop in a terraced house on this corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street. Over the next ten years it expanded into several adjoining properties and during this time James Nichols joined the business and eventually married Harvey’s niece. When Harvey died in 1850 his wife, Anne, went into partnership with Nichols and Harvey Nichols was formed. In 1889, by which time the Harveys’ son Benjamin Charles was the sole remaining partner, the block was demolished and a new purpose-built department store built over the next five years to the design of architect, CQ Stephens.  In 1985 Harvey Nic’s was bought by the Burton Group who sold it six years later to Hong Kong magnate, Dickson Poon, who in turn floated it on the Stock Exchange after a further five years. I ventured in and had a look around for the first time in a very long while; Menswear is stuck down in the basement then it’s three floors of Ladies’ fashion and ‘beauty’ products before Homeware on Level 4 and the Café and Foodmarket on 5. Wasn’t especially busy but then I guess even round here there’s a ceiling on the number of women prepared to pay £250 for a pair of jeans that are not so much distressed as given the full Psycho shower-scene treatment.

We turn the corner into Sloane Street and almost immediately fork off right into Basil Street. At no.16 is the former Knightsbridge Fire Station which closed up in 2014 after 107 years of service and is now of course undergoing conversion into luxury residences.

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Beyond the ex-Fire Station we veer left down Pavilion Road then fork right into Herbert Crescent before continuing south round Hans Place into Hans Street.

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Turn east briefly then head north again up Sloane Street. A short way up on the west side is the Danish Embassy and the kindest description I can find for this building is “jarringly modernist”.

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Three doors further up, at no.52, the Peruvian Embassy has a rather more typical home.

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On its own website Sloane Street describes itself as being “internationally recognised as one of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious shopping destinations.” Difficult to argue with that based on the sheer number of brand names lining either side of the road – from Armani to Versace via Dior, Gucci and Prada (to name but a handful). Makes Bond Street seem almost low rent.

Half way up this parade of glamorous excess we turn off to the right down Harriet Street and then follow Harriet Walk round to the bottom of Seville Street. After a quick visit to the latter we head south round the western side of Lowndes Square then circle round to return north up the east side. This brings us face to face with the brutalist monstrosity that is the Park Tower Hotel. Still it’s what’s on the inside that counts we’re always told and this inside will still set you back £300+ a night.

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William Street takes us back up to Knightsbridge where we turn eastward as far as Wilton Place. Go south for about 50m then head west into Kinnerton Street which quickly switches direction to continue southward. This is more of a mews than a street and has tried to cultivate a sort of urban village vibe (which makes a pleasant contrast to some of its neighbours) with a couple of bijou pubs and even a village store.

Kinnerton Street ends at Motcomb Street where a right turn takes us past what is almost certainly the poshest Waitrose in the country (if that’s not a tautology).

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Continue west into Lowndes Street then venture south on Cadogan Place, east on Pont Street and north on another stretch of Lowndes Street. At the top we turn back east onto West Halkin Street before heading south down Belgrave Mews West. This takes us past the back of the Austrian Embassy and through the middle of the complex of old and new that is the German Embassy. This is the new bit which fronts onto Chesham Place.

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The Embassy of Finland is opposite and Spain is on the corner with Belgrave Square.

Belgrave Square was created in the 1820’s for the 2nd Earl Grosvenor, later the Marquess of Westminster. The communal garden (from which the public are naturally excluded) is 2 hectares in size and has a Grade II listing in The Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. In the south western corner of the square is a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus, sculpted in 1992 and gifted by the people of Spain (yes every single one of them).

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We’ve only time to visit the west side of the square this time out and we’ve already noted that the Spanish Embassy is at no.24 and the German at 21-23. The Austrians have had their embassy at no.18 since 1866 when it was actually attributable to the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Foreign Service.

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Turning the corner at the top of the square we pass by the Embassy of Portugal before heading up Wilton Terrace.

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In Wilton Terrace we have the first blue plaque we’ve come across in quite a while – commemorating the residence of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900 – 1979). Earl Mountbatten (born Prince Louis of Battenberg) was an uncle of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s second cousin once removed. During the Second World War he was Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command. In 1947 he became the last Viceroy of India and from 1954 to 59 he served as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. It is particularly sad therefore that for those of my generation he will probably always be best remembered for the manner of his death – blown up by a Provisional IRA bomb planted in his fishing boat in County Sligo, Ireland.

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Well we’re just about at the end for today and we haven’t had a church yet so for those of you suffering withdrawal symptoms we’re going to finish at St Paul’s Church which we reach by cutting across Wilton Crescent and circling back up into Wilton Place. St Paul’s was consecrated in 1843 and was the first church in London to adopt the principles of the Oxford Movement, the so-called ‘Tractarians’ who wished to restore a sense of Catholic order and spirituality to the Anglican church. Accordingly the building is far more elaborately decorated and replete with Christian imagery and symbolism than your average C of E  parish church. Perhaps unsurprising therefore that former-Catholic, the Revered Richard Coles (of the Communards, Radio 4  and now Strictly Come Dancing fame) was curate here in the mid-2000’s.

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Day 45 – Bishopsgate – Leadenhall Market – Lime Street – Monument

Today’s journey’s a little bit different from the usual in that it coincided with the Sunday of this year’s Open House Weekend so I was afforded the possibility of seeing inside a few places en route that would normally be off limits. Case in point is the Drapers’ Hall which we encountered towards the end of Day 44 so we’re going to rewind a bit and kick off with that again this time. From there we’re going to head north up to London Wall then drop south on Bishopsgate to Leadenhall Market before wending our way east and south to finish up at the Monument.

Day 45 Route

As noted, today’s starting point is the Drapers’ Hall on Throgmorton Street. We already covered the history of the Drapers’ Company and the external architectural features last time out so I’m just going to let the images of the interior pretty much speak for themselves (aside from the commentary I’ve added to the individual slides that is). Suffice to say, I had expected something pretty grandiose as befitting third place on the Order of Precedence but I wasn’t prepared for something quite this opulent (and on such a scale).

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You will have noted that the Victorian artist, Herbert James Draper (1863 – 1920) had quite a prominent role in in the decoration of the Hall. Whether he got the commission on account of his name or because the guiding lights of the company appreciated his somewhat risqué interpretations of mythological and Shakespearean themes is not recorded (so far as I can tell). The thinking behind the tapestries and ceiling painting depicting scenes from the Legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece is rather easier to discern.

After leaving the hall we repeat the walk up Throgmorton Avenue to Austin Friars which leads east to the Dutch Church. Originally this was the site of a 13th century Augustinian priory (Austin Friars) before, in 1550, what is regarded as the oldest Dutch-language Protestant church in the world church was founded here. That first building survived right up until the Blitz destroyed it; the present church was built in the early 1950’s. Perkin Walbeck, the pretender to the English crown (he claimed to be the younger son of Edward IV, one of the Princes in the Tower murdered by Richard III), was buried in the original church following his execution by Henry VII. Today the church still acts as a focal point for the Dutch community in London.

Opposite the church is the Furniture Makers’ Hall – which is the one that I could claim entry to by virtue of ancestry. Typical ! If only my Grand-dads had been drapers instead of chairmakers.

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Looping round the rest of Austin Friars we emerge onto Old Broad Street opposite the City of London Club, the oldest Gentlemen’s club in, well, the City of London. This was founded in 1832 by a group of prominent bankers, merchants and ship owners and held its first meetings at the George and Vulture pub (see last post). The original membership numbered 600 and included the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. If you should want to join then you need to make the acquaintance and get the support of at least six people who are already members (and ladies are equally welcome these days apparently).

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As you can see, these days the City of London Club, sits in the shadow of Tower 42, which until 1990 and the construction of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf was the tallest building in the UK. Nowadays it’s only the third highest skyscraper in the City of London having been eclipsed in recent years by the Heron Tower (we’ll stick with that name thank you) and 122 Leadenhall Street (a.k.a “the Cheesegrater”). Tower 42, of course, started life as the NatWest Tower (seen from above the shape of the building echoes the NatWest logo). It was designed by Richard Seifert (1910 – 20011) and built by John Mowlem & Co between 1971 and 1980 at a cost of £72m. At 183m the tower dwarfed everything around it at the time of construction and was extremely controversial. It was built around a massive central concrete core from which the floors are cantilevered (anchored at just one end) making it exceptionally strong but reducing the amount of office space that could have been available with an alternative structure. On a note with contemporary resonance; at the time of design, fire sprinkler systems were not mandatory in the UK and so weren’t installed. It was this omission, coupled with a fire in the tower during a 1996 refurbishment, that prompted the GLC to amend its fire regulations and require sprinkler installations in all buildings. Today the building is multi-tenanted with a high-end restaurant on the 24th floor and a champagne and seafood bar on the 42nd.

Moving on we duck into Pinners Alley (by the side of Pinners Hall where I worked from 1996 to 2004) heading west briefly before turning north up Austin Friars Passage – which I always though should’ve been the name of a second division 1970’s pro-rock band.

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At the other end is Great Winchester Street which is home to Deutsche Bank’s London HQ. Among the artworks in their lobby is one of Damien Hirst’s multi-coloured dot efforts (more of him later).

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Turning left we end up back on London Wall which as we head east morphs into Wormwood Street. At the junction with Bishopsgate (a.k.a the A10) we switch southward and drop all the way down to Leadenhall Market. On the way we pass a NatWest building of a different vintage altogether; this one built in the 1860’s to a design of the architect John Gibson (1817 – 1892) when the bank was known as the National Provincial Bank of England.

At Leadenhall Market I was able to tag along with a tour that had just started (courtesy of Open House again). I wish I had made a note of the guide’s name so I could give a well deserved shout-out as she was excellent. Anyway, Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century and stands on a site that was once the heart of Roman London. As early as 1321 it was a meeting place of the Poulterers while the Cheesemongers (I think we must have missed them on our travels) sold their wares here from 1397. In 1411 the Corporation of London acquired the freehold of the site and it became an established market for fish, meat, poultry and corn. The present wrought iron and glass roofed structure was designed by City Architect, Horace Jones (1819 – 1887) and erected in 1881. The Market has been used as a location in a number of films, most notably Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where it represented Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron pub.

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We leave the market via Whittington Avenue and, turning right on Leadenhall Street, pass the Lloyds of London building (not to be confused with the Lloyds Register building which we encountered previously). This iconic, Richard Rogers designed edifice, caused even more of a stir when it was put up (between 1978 and 1986) than the NatWest Tower had. In spite of this, 25 years after its completion it became the youngest structure ever to be granted Grade-I listed status. Lloyds is a leading example of what has been dubbed Bowellism, the practice of putting service areas of a building on its exterior so as to maximise space in the interior (c.f. Paris’s Pompidou Centre). The building consists of three main towers and three service towers around a central, rectangular space. Its core is the large Underwriting Room on the ground floor, which houses the Lutine Bell within the Rostrum. (It wasn’t taking part in Open House this year but the queues are normally prohibitive anyway).

The Lloyd’s building is at no.1 Lime Street; opposite at no.52 construction is underway of yet another skyscraper, The Scalpel. This time that’s an official designation, the developers yielding to the “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” maxim. This one will top out at 38 storeys and be the new European HQ for insurers W.R Berkley (no me neither).

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Turn south down Lime Street and then return to the Market along Leadenhall Place. Take a left into Lime Street Passage and then traverse the Market a couple more times via Beehive Passage, Bull’s Head Passage and Ship Tavern Passage. This finds us back on Lime Street which we follow southward to Fenchurch Street. From here we go west back to Gracechurch Street then continue south before cutting round Talbot Court down onto Eastcheap. Turn east as far as Philpot Lane and use this to return northward, poking our noses into Brabant Court on the west side before arriving back on Fenchurch Street. This route takes us around no.20 Fenchurch Street, better known to you, me and everyone else as the “Walkie-Talkie” and the 2015 winner of Building Design Magazine’s Carbuncle Cup for the worst building in the UK. It is notorious of course because its concave shape makes it reflect sunlight into a concentrated beam that on reaching street level has been known to melt the bodywork of parked cars and facilitate the frying of eggs on the pavement. Those incidents took place in 2013, since when the glass exterior has been covered with a non-reflective film. In an interview with The Guardian the building’s architect, Rafael Vinoly, blamed the problem on global warming “When I first came to London years ago, it wasn’t like this … Now you have all these sunny days”.  The ‘sky garden’ at the top of the building was claimed to be London’s highest public park, but since opening there have been debates about whether it can be described as a ‘park’, and whether it is truly ‘public’ given the access restrictions. On the day there was a queue of about eighty or so people waiting to be allowed up.

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This time we strike eastward until we reach Cullum Street which curves back onto Lime Street. At the junction here that man Damien Hirst makes a second appearance in today’s post, lowering the tone of the neighbourhood with one of his giant anatomical models as part of Sculpture in the City.

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This time we make an easterly retreat from Lime Street along Fenchurch Avenue and after a short distance cut back to Fenchurch Street via Fen Court. There is a small garden here in what was once the churchyard of St Gabriel Fenchurch, lost in the Great Fire. The sculpture “The Gilt of Cain” by Michael Vissochi was unveiled by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2008 and commemorates the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. It takes its name from a poem of Lemn Sissay which is inscribed on the sculpture and combines Old Testament text with the language of the Stock Exchange.

You’re probably wondering by now where all the churches had got to but don’t worry, there are one or two on the menu today – though fewer than you’ve had to put up with in the last few posts. First up is All Hallows Staining which we reach by taking Star Alley south from Fenchurch Street through to Mark Lane. Mind you, all that remains of this one is its tower which was built around 1320 AD. The rest was demolished c.1870 when All Hallows merged with nearby St Olave Hart Street (see Day 40). The latter was badly damaged in WW2 so a prefab church was erected next to the tower and named St Olave Mark Lane (as you see the sign in the photo confusingly still refers to St Olave). The tower is maintained by the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers, whose hall sits in nearby Mincing Lane.

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Next we follow Mark Lane down to Great Tower Street which at its eastern extremity adjoins with Byward Street which as it heads west turns into Lower Thames Street. At the juncture here sits The Hung Drawn & Quartered pub which acts as a reminder of the public executions which once took place on nearby Tower Hill, including those of Thomases More and Cromwell.

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We leave Lower Thames Street almost immediately and wend our way through Bakers Hall Court, Harp Lane and Cross Lane to St Dunstan’s Hill where lie the ruins of the church of St Dunstan in the East, now set within a public garden that was laid out in 1967. St Dunstan’s wasn’t completely destroyed in the Great Fire so it was patched up in the immediate aftermath and then a Wren-designed tower and steeple were added at the end of the 17th century. Apart from a couple of walls this tower was all that remained intact after the WW2 bombing and it was decided not to rebuild again. Personally I like it as it is now – as do the birds.

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Dropping back down onto Lower Thames Street it’s time for another Open House visit – to the Billingsgate Roman House and Baths (or rather the very partial remains thereof) located beneath a drab 1980’s office block. Discovered in 1848 during the construction of the Coal Exchange building (more of that in a while) these are the only remains of a Roman house accessible in London. It is believed that the house was originally built around the late 2nd century AD and the baths added in the following century. The latest theory is that at the time the baths were constructed the building had become a resting-place for travellers, essentially a Roman version of a hotel. I have to again commend the guides who were exceptionally informative and engaging. Visits to the site are restricted but you can book a tour through the Museum of London outside of Open House weekend.

Opposite here, straddling the area between Lower Thames Street and the river is another Open House destination, Custom House. An English Customs service on an ad hoc basis has existed since at least the middle of the 8th century and was formalised by King Edward I in 1275 as a means of beefing up the royal finances. The current Custom House is thought to be the fifth such to have been built on this site, chosen because beyond this point London Bridge has historically prevented ships from going further upriver. The present building was put up between 1813 and 1817 and initially designed by David Laing (1774 – 1856), Surveyor to the Customs. However within a few years of completion the ceiling of the Long Room had partially collapsed and the floor completely given way. The latter event occurred just a day after Sir Robert Smirke (1780 – 1867) had concluded an inspection of the premises and advised staff to evacuate. Smirke was then engaged to oversee the rebuilding and Laing’s career suffered the same fate as the floor. The Custom House now comprises a west wing built by Laing, a central block built by Smirke and an east wing dating from 1962-66. The southern façade, made of Portland stone, is much more aesthetically-pleasing than the northern face of yellow stock brick; this is because the building was designed to be seen from the river and impress shipfarers from overseas.

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The Great Long Room was an innovation of Christopher Wren (prolific doesn’t even begin to do the man justice) for his version of the Custom House, built in 1671. This was to be the public room where all import and export business was to be transacted. Because of this room, the public rooms in Custom Houses around the world have become known as ‘Long Rooms’ irrespective of their shape or size. The current Long Room is the work of the aforementioned Sir Robert Smirke, it is 190 feet long and 63 feet wide and has one of the largest unsupported wooden ceilings in Europe.

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The Long Room

The Coal Exchange which I mentioned earlier was one of the glories of Victorian Architecture, built in 1847-49 to the designs of City architect, James Bunstone Bunning (1802 – 1863) and opened to great fanfare by Queen Vic herself. The interior was one of the earliest and most remarkable examples of cast-iron construction in the world, several years before the Crystal Palace. However that didn’t cut any ice with the town planners of the 1960’s who had little regard for Victorian extravagance. Despite the objections of the Victorian Society and Sir John Betjeman (naturally) the building was demolished in 1962 in preparation for a road-widening scheme that didn’t actually take place until the 1980s. Why do I mention this ? Because the alternative would have been to shave off that unlovely north face of the Custom House, an option which from a 21st century perspective appears immeasurably more appealing.

Coal Exchange

James Bunning was also responsible for the original Billingsgate Fish Market built just to west of the Custom House in 1850 but rendered obsolete by increased levels of trade within 25 years. Work on a new market building, designed by Horace Jones in the Italianate style, began in 1874 and was completed three years later. In 1982 the fish market was relocated to the Isle of Dogs and the building on Lower Thames Street was refurbished under the guidance of Richard Rogers (he gets about a bit as well). The Grade II listed building is now used as an events venue.

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Time we got moving again I think. Head up Idol Lane which runs to the west of St Dunstan’s and turn right on Great Tower Street before proceeding north (with a manly stride) up Mincing Lane. Next move is west along Plantation Lane which leads into Rood Lane. Venture northward first before doubling back towards Eastcheap. On the corner here stands the Guild church of St Margaret Pattens (unlike Parish churches Guild churches hold regular weekday services rather than serving a Sunday congregation). The church’s exterior is notable for its 200-ft high spire, Wren’s third highest and the only one that he designed in a medieval style. The name of the church derives from pattens, wooden-soled overshoes which historically enabled Londoners to walk about the city without sinking too deep into the mud and effluent which covered the streets. The church still has an affiliation with the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers.

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Cross over Eastcheap and drop down St Mary at Hill back towards the river. At no.18 we find the Watermen’s Hall, home to the Company of Watermen and Lightermen (in a riverfaring context the Watermen were the equivalent of taxi-drivers and the Lightermen the truckers). The hall was built in 1780 by William Blackburn and is the only remaining Georgian hall in the City of London. The Watermen are not a Livery Company as such, hence no Worshipful before the name. This is because the Waterman are governed by statutes and Royal Charters that extend beyond the boundaries of the City of London. So unlike the Pattenmakers (no.70) they don’t appear in the Order of Precedence.IMG_20170917_153709

So we’re almost at our final stop and to get there we have to negotiate as follows: north up Lovat Lane, left turn into Botolph Alley, north up Botolph Lane, west along Eastcheap, south down Pudding Lane, left along St George’s Lane back to Botolph Lane, south this time and then west into Monument Street. Which, as you might have guessed, brings us to The Monument itself. As I’m sure you’re aware, this was erected in commemoration of the Great Fire of 1666 and the subsequent rebuilding of the City and was completed in 1677. The fire was alleged to have begun in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane and the height of The Monument is equal to its distance from that starting point, 202 feet. The designers of the memorial were Sir Christopher Wren (goes without saying really) and his friend Dr Robert Hooke (1635 – 1703). They came up with the idea of a classic Doric column with 311 steps up to a viewing platform and a summit topped with a drum and copper urn from which flames emerge. A total of seven people died falling from the viewing gallery (six suicides and one who accidentally fell after leaning over the balcony to look at a live eagle kept in a cage) before it was enclosed in an iron cage in 1842. It costs £5 (cash only) if you want to ascend up to the platform.

Keeping my five pounds in my pocket I walk on by and finish today’s epic with a stroll up and down Fish Street Hill.

And that’s us finally just about done with the City of London. Next time we’ll be heading back west over to Hyde Park for a complete change of scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 44 – Bank – Threadneedle Street – Cornhill – Lombard Street

So we’re back after a bit of an extended summer break and we’re still in the City of London. Today’s expedition is all about the streets that radiate eastward from the Bank tube station junction, Threadneedle Street, Cornhill, Lombard Street and King William Street but also extends north up to Moorgate and London Wall. Might not look like a very wide area on paper but on pavement, once you’ve added in all the courts and alleyways, there’s a fair bit of shoe leather laid to rest. Highlights en route today include the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange along with the inevitable Wren churches and a couple more of those Livery Companies.

Day 44 Route

I’ve referenced it fleetingly in previous posts but for this outing I’m going to delve into this a bit more extensively as a source for the commentary (I don’t know the exact year of publication but it was some time in the 1930’s). Direct extracts will appear in italics.

Guide

We begin today from Bank underground station from where exit 1 leads us up to Princes Street heading northward. Set back from the west side of Princes Street is Grocers’ Hall, home to The Grocers’ Company, another of the original Twelve Great Livery Companies and proudly ensconced at no.2 in the Order of Precedence (appropriately in a “Nation of Shopkeepers”). This mob started out as the Ancient Guild of Pepperers as far back as 1100 then in the 14th century founded a new fraternity of spice traders in the City of London which came to be known as the Company of Grossers. It took them three years before they realised that this might cause a few sniggers come the 21st century and changed it to Grocers in 1376. They received their Royal Charter from Henry VI in 1428.  The current hall, the fifth, was built in 1970, its predecessor having survived WW2 only to be burnt down in 1965 reportedly due to a poorly situated lightbulb being left on in a cupboard.

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At the top of Princes Street we turn right into Lothbury and proceed along the back of the Bank of England where there is a statue of Sir John Soane (whose wonderful museum we visited on a previous excursion), architect and surveyor to the Bank from 1788 to 1833 during which time it doubled in size to 3.5 acres. It first moved to this site between Threadneedle Street and Lothbury in 1734, having previously leased the Grocers’ Hall (see above) from 1695, the year following its foundation. When the Bank was rebuilt between 1925 and 1939 by Sir Herbert Baker, the outer walls erected by Soane in 1828 were retained while all the interior buildings were demolished. Regarding these walls it will be observed that, for the purposes of security, they are completely windowless, all the rooms being lighted from interior courts; but even a Raffles who succeeded in passing this barrier would be baffled at the extraordinary series of defences surrounding the vaults, which include concentric walls of steel and concrete between which armed guards patrol day and night.

On the other side of Lothbury stands St Margaret’s Church, the first of a number of post-Great Fire Christopher Wren rebuilding jobs we’ll encounter today.

Right next door to the church is 7 Lothbury, built in 1868 and designed in a Venetian Gothic style by architect George Somers Clarke (1825 – 1882) as a head office for the General Credit and Discount Company. In the 1960’s it was taken over by the Overseas Bankers’ Club but despite a Grade II listing had fallen into disrepair by the early 21st century. It has now been converted for residential use.

Turn left next up Tokenhouse Yard then left again along King’s Arms Yard to Moorgate. Across the street is another Grade II listed building, Basildon House, which dates from the late 1800s and is in a Baroque style with Grecian details.

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Head north a short way then look in on Great Bell Alley on the westside before crossing back over and proceeding east down Telegraph Street. Loop round Whalebone Court and Copthall Court into Copthall Avenue and after a few paces north turn west again along Great Swan Alley. This is the site of the headquarters of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, though technically the address is no.1 Moorgate Place which is about half way along the street. Chartered Accountants’ Hall was built between 1890 and 1893 and is another Victorian neo-Baroque job courtesy of architect John Belcher. The façade on Great Swan Alley is part of an extension to the original building completed in 1930-31. In 1964-70 a much more extensive redevelopment was undertaken which included the creation of a Great Hall with five stories of office space above it. The ICAEW was granted a royal charter in 1880 and today has over 147,000 members. Presumably that’s one of them in the photo below (no not the guy the yellow jacket – he looks more like a Certified Accountant).

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After this it’s back to Moorgate and a continuation northward up to London Wall where we turn east and then head south once more all the way down Copthall Avenue. Swing round to the east and head up and back down the top section of Throgmorton Avenue with just a cursory glance at the Carpenters’ Hall – royal charter granted in 1477 and no.26 in order of precedence. Return along Copthall Avenue and then stroll down Angel Court to Throgmorton Street. Turn right a short distance to arrive at Bartholomew Lane which skirts the east flank of the Bank of England and houses the entrance to the museum. The Bank of England museum has two main things going for it; one it’s free and two it’s not that big. This does mean it can get quite crowded but it’s worth putting up with that.

The Bank was the brainchild of Scottish entrepreneur William Paterson (1658 – 1719). The aim was to provide a secure and continuous loan to the nation (at a healthy profit of course). Public subscriptions raised £1.2 million in a few weeks, which formed the initial capital stock of the Bank of England and was lent to Government in return for a Royal Charter. The Royal Charter was sealed on 27 July 1694, and the Bank started its role as the Government’s banker and debt manager. I’m not going to write at length about the history of the Bank but it does make for interesting reading so it’s worth clicking on the link.

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Just a bit about the gold held by the Bank to finish off with – as I know that’s what you’re really interested in. The Bank itself only owns two of the gold bars in its vaults (one of which is actually on display in the museum). The rest are stored on behalf of HM Treasury, other central banks and some commercial firms. As of April 2017 the vaults held a total of 164.7 million Fine Troy Ounces of gold (about 5.1m kg or c.400,000 gold bars). Gold is currently trading at around £1,000 an ounce so I guess you can just about do the math as they say.

After leaving the museum we return to Bank station along Threadneedle Street. The Bank has of course long been known colloquially as “the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street”.

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Across the street from the Bank, in the angle of Threadneedle Street and Cornhill, is the Royal Exchange, founded by Sir Thomas Gresham (1519 – 1579) in 1566 as London’s first purpose built centre for trading stocks and commodities. The first exchange, opened by Queen Elizabeth I in 1871, came to grief in the Great Fire and its successor also burnt down in 1838. The present building, designed by Sir William Tite and inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844. After WW2, during which the building was damaged, the traders moved out and the building fell into disuse until the 1980s’ when it was repaired and taken over by LIFFE (the London International Financial Futures Exchange). By the turn of the millennium LIFFE had also moved on and the building was extensively remodelled to transform it into a luxury shopping and dining destination. In front of the building stands a memorial, designed by Sir Aston Webb, to London troops who fell in the Great War.  Close by is an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington (riding without stirrups) by Chantrey cast from bronze from captured enemy cannons in 1844 . Historically the steps of the Royal Exchange have been one of the places from which the accession of a new monarch is proclaimed. It remains to be seen if this tradition is maintained.

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Walk through the Royal Exchange, without pausing to sample the fine dining though I did have a look in the Paul Smith sample store. Outside the eastern entrance on Royal Exchange Buildings are statues to George Peabody, founder of the Peabody Trust (several of whose housing estates we have encountered on previous journeys – and which look more and more like exemplary models of social housing with the passage of time) and Paul Julius Reuter, founder of the eponymous News Agency which had its first home nearby.

East of the Peabody statue, at the entrance to Royal Exchange Avenue, is a former drinking fountain dating to 1878 adorned by a sculpture entitled La Maternité by Jules Dalou (this was originally in marble but that weathered badly and so was replaced by a bronze copy in 1897). This was partly paid for by the Merchant Taylors’ Company, whose hall is just round the corner but falls into one of today’s blind spots.  So the Livery Company which is either 6th or 7th on the OOP (they alternate each year with the Skinners) miss out on their write up.

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Walk down Royal Exchange Avenue into Finch Lane, turn south down to Cornhill and then head back towards Bank. In the middle of Cornhill is a statue of James Henry Greathead (1844 – 1896), a Civil Engineer who was instrumental in the creation of the London Underground and patented a number of inventions that facilitated the tunnelling operations. The statue was erected in 1994 and is positioned on a plinth which hides a ventilation shaft for the Underground.

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Just a little way further back no. 24 Cornhill (now a cocktail bar and restaurant) has a Grade II listed façade designed by that man Sir Aston Webb (1849 – 1930) again. Webb’s most famous works are the façade of Buckingham Palace and the main V&A building.

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As we approach Bank station once more the Mansion House hoves into view. We pretty much circumvented this last time out so for the sake of completeness here are a few 80 year-old snippets about this official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London. It was built between 1739 and 1753, mainly, it is said from fines levied on stalwart Nonconformists. It has a fine Corinthian portico from the platform of which official announcements are often made. The chief room is the Egyptian Hall where the somewhat lavish hospitality expected from London’s chief citizen is exercised. The Lord Mayor receives a salary of £10,000 a year, but if rumour speaks correctly he is generally out of pocket at the end of his year of office.

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Just before we reach the Bank intersection we cut down Pope’s Head Alley to Lombard Street then turn right to where this apexes with King William Street. Here stands the church of St Mary Woolnoth, which surprise. surprise is not part of the Christopher Wren portfolio but one of the Queen Anne churches designed by that other great ecclesiastical architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor. Today the church is used by London’s German-speaking Swiss community and doubles up as the official London church of the government of British Columbia (why that is even a thing heaven knows).

Next up we switch between Lombard Street and King William Street for a while courtesy of Post Office Court, Abchurch Lane, Nicholas Passage and Nicholas Lane before we find ourselves heading south down Clement’s Lane at the bottom of which is the decidedly underwhelming St Clement’s Church (of “Oranges and Lemons” say fame). Clement was a disciple of Saint Peter and was ordained as Bishop of Rome in AD 93. Legend has it that his was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the Black Sea, hence his status as patron saint of sailors. The church is currently home to the administrative offices of the human rights’ charity the Amos Trust. So in lieu of shots of the interior here’s a reflection of the day.

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Back on King William Street we turn east and swing round past House of Fraser into Gracechurch Street. Continue north before turning west down Lombard Court and then cutting up Plough Court to return to Lombard Street. To the left here is the Church of St Edmund King & Martyr, reconstructed to a design of Wren incorporating a tower ornamented at the angles by flaming urns in allusion to the Great Fire that destroyed the medieval church.

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Across the street the entrance to the Royal Insurance Building is guarded by this bronze sculpture of three “allegorical” female figures – the lady on the left holds an anchor to represent the power of the sea, the one on the right a flaming torch to represent, well, fire and the sphinx in the centre (according to some sources) signifies the uncertainty of the future. The work is by Francis William Doyle Jones (1873 – 1938) and is entitled, with commendable literalness, Chimera with Personifications of Fire and the Sea.

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We double back a short distance and then proceed north into George Yard as far as the George & Vulture pub. This self-proclaimed Old Pickwickian Hostelrie dates from 1748 and is reputed to have been one of the meeting places of the notorious Hell-Fire Club. Dickens was a regular punter and the inn is mentioned at least 20 times in The Pickwick Papers.IMG_20170823_161505

Just before the pub we turn left down Bengal Court then cross Birchin Lane and follow Cowpers Court back to Cornhill. Turn eastward here as far as Ball Court on the south side which doglegs round to St Michael’s Alley where, opposite the George & Vulture is another legendary City drinking-hall, The Jamaica Wine House. Known locally as “the Jampot” this was originally the first coffee house in London, opening in 1652 and counting Samuel Pepys amongst its clientele.

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Taking St Michael’s Alley back to Cornhill we reach St Michael’s Church  rebuilt by Wren after the Fire and restored by Sir G.G. Scott. It has a fine Gothic tower, modelled on Magdalen Tower, Oxford and a pulpit carved by Grinling Gibbons. The organ of St Peter’s Church, almost next door, was played several times by Mendelssohn and in the vestry his autograph is treasured. The church was founded, according to an ancient tablet in the vestry, by “Lucius, the first Christian king of this land called Britaine”. Many remains of Roman London have been discovered hereabouts and many authorities place here the site of the Roman forum.

Beginning with St Peter’s Alley we trace a double loop southward additionally involving Corbet Court, St Michael’s Alley again (this is at least three alleys for the price of one) and Bell Inn Yard. That brings us back to Gracechurch Street where we drop further south to Lombard Street and then proceed west to Birchin Lane which takes us north again. After a quick detour exploring the labyrinth that is Change Alley we resume northward, crossing over Cornhill into Finch Lane then over Threadneedle Street into Old Broad Street. Almost immediately veer left down Threadneedle Walk to return to Throgmorton Street generally crowded by bare-headed individuals of varying degrees of frivolity, whose presence betrays the whereabouts of that important institution, the Stock Exchange in Capel Court. The Stock Exchange referred to is the one that was created in 1801 as the first purpose-built and regulated “Subscription Room” for brokers to ply their trade. Prior to that they had gravitated away from the Royal Exchange to conduct their business in the coffee-houses of Change Alley and beyond. Capel Court no longer exists as such; in 1972 a new Stock Exchange Tower was opened on Old Broad Street and the original site redeveloped. However, come the ‘Big Bang’ and the introduction of electronic trading in 1986, the Tower became something of a white elephant and when an IRA bomb blew a whole in the 26-storey building four years later the writing was firmly on the wall. It closed permanently in 1992 and it was another 20 years before this unloved totem of the “Brutalist” era was stripped back to its core and redeveloped as a 21st century glass-clad monolith. In 2004 the London Stock Exchange eventually found a new home in Paternoster Square. Coincidentally the company I worked for made the same journey from Old Broad Street the same year.

Bit of a digression there but back to Throgmorton Street and the Drapers’ Hall. The first hall here was bought from King Henry VIII in 1543 for the sum of 1,800 marks (c.£1,200) and had previously been the home of Thomas Cromwell (up until his execution in 1840). The hall was rebuilt after the Great Fire and again in 1772 after another fire. In the 1860’s the frontage and the interior were redesigned by Herbert Williams. Further changes at the end of the 19th century included the creation of the two Atlantes (male equivalents of Caryatids); turbaned and muscular Djinns that guard either side of the entrance. These are believed to be the work of sculptor H.A Pegram (1862 – 1937).

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The full title of the Drapers’ Company is “The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London”. The word Mystery comes from the Latin “misterium” meaning professional skill. You wouldn’t get away with that if you were much lower than no.3 on the Order of Precedence. We follow Drapers’ Hall and its gardens all the way up  Throgmorton Avenue to where it joins Copthall Avenue.

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There is a bit more to come  but since we’ve just about breached the 3,000 word barrier we’ll continue from this juncture next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 43 – Queen Victoria Street – Cannon Street – Cheapside

So what have we got for you today ? Well, we’re still in the City of London but no major landmarks this time so it’s half a dozen more of those Wren churches, a couple more Livery Halls and a lot of building sites. Fear not though, we’ll try and get through this a bit more briskly than of late and see if we can’t extract some reasonable entertainment value out of it.

Day 43 route

We begin at Bank tube station and making our way down the west side of Mansion House arrive at the first of those Wren churches, St Stephen Walbrook. This is considered to be among the very finest of Wren’s work, particularly admired by the great Italian sculptor-architect, Canova. The geometry of the church is perfectly rectangular, unusually for Wren, but it’s the interior that really impresses. In 1953 the rector at the time, Dr Chad Varah (1912 – 2007), founded the Samaritans charity in the church vestry.

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(Of course the exterior would look a little bit more impressive without another one of those bloody white vans parked in front of it). Head back up to Queen Victoria Street along Bucklersbury and then turn west. To the south, between here and Cannon Street, the massive Bloomberg Place development has been taking shape since 2014 under the combined force of architects, Foster & Partners and constructors, McAlpine. As the name suggests this is intended as Bloomberg’s new European HQ (though I imagine in 2014 they didn’t have much inkling that the UK would be in the process of divorcing itself from Europe come 2017).

Circumnavigate the development via the top section of Queen Street and east on Cannon Street before heading back to the church up Walbrook Street. After a quick peek at Bond Court on the south side of the church we turn eastward in between the north side and the back of Mansion House down St Stephens Row.  This leads into Mansion House Place which in turn emerges on St Swithin’s Lane. At the bottom of this we continue east on Cannon Street before switching northward again up Abchurch Lane. Here we find the second of today’s Wren reconstructions, St Mary Abchurch. The most striking feature of the church is the painted domed ceiling (though there is no exterior dome) believed to be the work of local artist, William Snow, who was paid £170 for his efforts according to the church accounts of the time – 1708.  Painted in oils directly on the plaster, the decorations are divided in two horizontally by a painted Trompe-l’œil cornice. Above this a choir of angels and cherubs in adoration surrounds a golden glow, in the centre of which it the name of God in Hebrew characters.

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Skirt left round the church via Abchurch Yard and follow Sherborne Lane up to King William Street. Turn right for a short distance then go all the way back down Abchurch Lane to Cannon Street again. Keep going east as far as the junction by Monument station where we turn south briefly (still on King William Street) before veering west down an alley that runs into Arthur Street. Next up is Martin Lane which is home to The Olde Wine Shades, one of London’s oldest pubs. Built just three years before the Great Fire as a Merchants house it managed to survive the conflagration and was later, reportedly, used by smugglers who exploited a tunnel running from the cellars to the river. It’s now part of the El Vino chain and currently under refurbishment.

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Back up to Cannon Street and then down the next turn on the left which is Laurence Pountney Lane. The name is a relic of St Laurence Pountney church which was one that wasn’t rebuilt after its destruction by the Great Fire. Pountney is a corruption of Pultneye, as in Sir John de Pultneye, one time Lord Mayor.

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With their street cobbles and heritage brickwork Laurence Pountney Lane and the adjoining Laurence Pountney Hill are a brief but welcome antidote to the frenzy and modern bluster of Cannon Street and its construction sites.

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We’re back on Cannon Street soon enough though having completed a circuit of Laurence Pountney Hill, Suffolk Lane, Gophir Lane and Bush Lane. Cross the road for a quick excursion into Oxford Court where we catch sight of what has to be the most reductive attempt to retain a historic façade yet encountered.

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Back on the other side we continue west passing the eponymous Cannon Street Station. The original incarnation of this terminus, now serving south east London and Kent, dates back to 1866. That Victorian station was fronted by a five storey hotel in the Italianate style which was converted into offices in the 1930’s. Prior to that though, in 1920, it had hosted the first meetings of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The station was  pretty much wiped out during the Second World War and after a 1960’s redevelopment overseen by the infamous John Poulson (1930 – 1993) all that remained of the original station were its 120ft twin red brick towers (Grade II listed in 1972). In the 1980’s office blocks were constructed above the platforms and Poulson’s main station building was replaced as part of a major regeneration programme by Network Rail starting in 2007.

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On the other side of the station we head south once more down Dowgate Hill and on the right here we have three Livery Company halls all in a row. First up is the Tallow Chandlers Company, granted its charter by King Edward IV in 1462. The trade in tallow (rendered animal fats) candles had pretty much run its course by the 17th century as tallow was superseded by new materials such as spermaceti (a waxy substance found in the head cavities of the sperm whale) and paraffin wax. This decline was partly offset by the use of tallow in the manufacture of soap in the 19th century (in 1853 Lord Palmerston,  seeking to encourage public cleanliness, removed all duty on tallow). Today like most of the Livery Companies, as we know, the Tallow Chandlers are a purely charitable institution. They do nonetheless sit at a fairly lofty no.21 in the Order of Precedence.

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Right next door is the Skinners’ Hall, the Grade I listed home of the Skinners’ Company (re)-built in 1670. The Skinners (developed out of the medieval guild of fur traders) are one of the so-called Great Twelve Livery Companies, incorporated by Royal Charter in 1327 and standing firm right up there at no. 6 in the OoP (you have probably twigged by now how much I enjoy a good chart). For a ten year period at the turn of the 18th century the hall was rented by the East India company who, upon departure, left as a gift a mahogany East India table which is still in use today.

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Final member of this triumvirate is the Worshipful Company of Dyers with their, frankly, quite disturbing coat of arms. The Dyers received their first charter from Henry VI in 1471 and they occupy the 13th position on the OoP. That might have had something to do with the fact that having been rebuilt after the Great Fire the Dyers Hall burned down again just 14 years later.

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And just round the corner in College Street we have a fourth, the Worshipful Company of Innholders, number 32 on the OoP and receiving its first charter from Henry VIII in 1514.  In a familiar story, the hall was rebuilt after the Great Fire and completed in 1670.

Back then, in the 17th century, there was often a shortage of small denomination coins of the realm and tradesmen found it impossible to give change for small items – in the case of innkeepers for a drink of ale or a bale of hay. They therefore solved their problem by issuing their own tokens which could only be redeemed where they had been issued.

The Innholders’ motto, Hinc Spes Affulget, is Latin for Hence Hope Shines Forth.

Further along College Street we arrive at the Church of Saint Michael Paternoster Royal which is strongly associated with our old mate Richard Whittington, four times Mayor of London. In 1409 good old Dick paid for the rebuilding and extension of the church and in 1422 he was buried here, though the actual tomb has not survived. The three stained glass windows you can see below where designed by John Hayward in 1968. The main window depicts St Michael trampling a red-winged Satan and the windows on either side show, respectively, the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus and Adam and Eve with St Gabriel and the serpent. There is a separate window depicting Dick Whittington with his cat.

Whittington also founded an almshouse and chantry college adjacent to the church on College Hill which lasted there until the early 1800s when they moved to Highgate. The façades of both institutions from the late 17th century can still be seen on the east side as you go up the hill (one of them with a distinctly Pirates of the Caribbean feel).

Halfway up College Hill we turn right into Cloak Lane then follow a loop of Dowgate Hill, Cannon Street and College Hill again to return to the western section of Cloak Lane and then head south down Queen Street. At the bottom we turn right again into Skinners Lane which leads down to the Church of St James Garlickhythe. Unfortunately (or not depending on your perspective) this one wasn’t open for visits today. The name of the church is derived from the Saxon word ‘hythe’ meaning a landing place.  So this spot, formerly on the river, was where garlic (a vital medicine and preservative in the Middle Ages) was unloaded and probably traded on Garlick Hill at the foot of which the church stands. The forty foot ceiling in the church is the highest in the City apart from St Pauls. In the landscaped area to the west of the church stands a bronze statue of ‘The Barge Master and Swan Marker of the Vintners Company’.

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We ascend the aforementioned Garlick Hill and two thirds of the way up turn east again along Great St Thomas Apostle (just that, no Street no Lane). At the end we do another loop back round Queen Street, Cannon Street and the top bit of Garlick Hill and this time go west on Great Trinity Lane which is much smaller than Little Trinity Lane which occupies us next. Backtrack up to Queen Victoria Street  take a few steps to the west and then head south again down Huggin Hill (which is only an alleyway) to Upper Thames Street. Continue west alongside the Castle Baynard section of the east -west cycle superhighway before returning to Queen Victoria Street via Lambeth Hill. Turning east then north up Friday Street and Bread Street we reach the One New Change shopping mall. This was created only a few years ago, not without controversy given its proximity to St Pauls. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the exterior if not for the range of stores contained within. In my judgement it also hasn’t exactly achieved the desired level of footfall since it opened.

On the edge of the small garden to the south of the mall is a memorial to Admiral Arthur Philip (1738 – 1814) the first Governor of New South Wales and the man who founded the British penal colony that eventually formed the basis of the city of Sydney. His early years were spent in a tenanted family home near Cheapside.

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And Cheapside is where we head next, cutting through the shopping complex to make this latest visit. Proceeding east we arrive at the church of St Mary-le-Bow, famous of course for its bells which, according to tradition, you have to be born within earshot of to be considered a true Cockney. The bells also feature prominently in the story of how that man Dick Whittington (yes him again) came to be Lord Mayor. Hearing the sound of them supposedly persuaded him to return to London (with his cat) when he was on his way to leaving the capital. As he was reported to have heard the bells in Highgate this would incidentally imply quite a large catchment area for your native Cockneys. During WWII the church was hit by a bomb which brought the bells crashing to the ground. New bells were cast in 1956 and ringing only resumed in 1961. Since the early 1940s, a recording of the Bow Bells made in 1926 has been used by the BBC World Service as an interval signal for its English-language broadcasts.

In Bow courtyard stands a statue of Captain John Smith (1580 – 1631) the soldier and explorer, best known these days (thanks to the Disney film) for the story of his capture by the Powhatan Native American tribe and his release courtesy of the chief’s daughter Pocahontas who, according to Smith, threw herself across his body: “at the minute of my execution, she hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown”.

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Cut through the courtyard and into Bow Lane then turn south down to Watling Street which we complete a quick up and down of before resuming on Bow Lane and taking in our final church of the day, St Mary Aldermary. According to the eminent architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, this is one of the two most important 17th century Gothic churches in England. It was one of the very few churches rebuilt by Wren to employ the Gothic style.

After that it just remains to complete the return to Bank station via a circuit of Queen Street, Pancras Lane and Sise Lane. Thank you and goodnight.