Category Archives: discovering london on foot

Old St Paul’s

July 2nd – On this day in 1462, “old” St Paul’s cathedral received a new spire.
Model in the Museum of London, showing the new spire.
Almost exactly 100 years later, the spire was destroyed by a fire after being struck by lightning.
Detail from Visscher Panorama, 1616

Cripplegate Roman Fort

Today I went on a one of the Museum of London’s periodic tours of the most  substantial surviving part of Cripplegate Roman Fort, preserved in the modern underground car park on London Wall.  The fort was originally built in around 120AD, and housed a garrison of perhaps as many as 1000 or more troops, including cavalry, on a 12-acre site to the north-west of the Roman city of Londinium.  Its  west and north walls  were subsequently incorporated  into the City Wall in around 200.  Part of the west wall, gate, and gate-house complete with guard-rooms and turrets, can still be seen in the modern car park, together with a fine reconstruction making sense of things.

Roman Fort reconstruction

Roman Fort Reconstruction (model)

Medieval London

Today I took Paul on the epic “Medieval London” special walk, through not only the City but also Spitalfields, Southwark, Smithfield, Clerkenwell, Holborn and Westminster.

As always, it was so good to see all the sites on one walk – even if it does make it a bit of a monster!

The Seven Surviving Medieval Churches in the City of London

All Surviving Medieval Churches in the City of London

The Surviving Medieval Churches

 

Top row, left to right: All Hallows Barking; All Hallows Staining; St Andrew Undershaft; St Ethelburga.

Bottom row, left to right: St Helen; St Katharine Cree; St Olave Hart Street.

How “Of Alley” Got its Name

 

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The story may be said to have begun at least as long ago as 1237 or thereabouts, when a house was built on the banks of the Thames for the Bishops of Norwich.  The  house was later handed over by Henry VIII to his brother-in-law Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk,  during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, and then by Queen Mary to the Archbishop of York  in 1556, at which point it  came to be known as “York House”.  York House was then in turn owned or occupied by Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, from 1558; by his son Francis Bacon, from 1617;  by  George Villiers Senior, the First Duke of Buckingham, from 1621; by Villiers’s widow, from 1628;  by General Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax, during the Civil War; and eventually by Villiers’s son, George Junior, the Second Duke of Buckingham, after the Restoration  (by which time he had married Fairfax’s daughter Mary).  The house  survived the Great Fire of 1666.  However, it was substantially demolished in the 1670s, whereupon Nicholas Barbon re-developed the site, and in deference to its former owner set out new streets named George, Villiers, Duke and Buckingham –  and an alley named Of!

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(Incidentally, of York House, only the Water Gate, believed to have been designed and built by the master-mason Nicholas Stone in 1626, survives to this day, in  Victoria  Embankment Gardens).

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Far-Flung Lost London I – Walthamstow

Long ago, outside a chip shop in Walthamstow (sorry, I couldn’t stop myself), stood the “Ancient House”, dating to the fifteenth century.  Miraculously, it stands there still, in the secluded  enclave of Walthamstow Village, alongside the church of St Mary, originally built in the twelfth century (although much modified subsequently), and the Monoux alms-houses, originally built in the sixteenth.
From there it’s a very varied  and interesting three-hour walk to the City, by way of Walthamstow and Hackney Marshes, the Lea River, Hackney Wick, Victoria Park, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch (using the Shard for orientation).

The Mother of Parliaments

The Ship of State
Forever teatime

Today (3rd October) I went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament,  also known as The Palace of Westminster (*).  I found it a strangely moving experience, simply being in the space where so much history has been made.  And felt a particularly strong  surge of emotion on being reminded by the guide of Charles I’s  attempted unconstitutional arrest of five Members of Parliament here in 1642 – essentially the last in the series of events that led to the Civil War.  One of the said “Five  Members” was my distant relative John Hampden, who went on to fight on the Parliamentarian side in the War, and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chalgrove Field. 

The Old Palace was purportedly originally built for Cnut in around 1016, and subsequently rebuilt by Edward, “the Confessor” in 1042-65, and extended by succeeding kings, with Westminster Hall eventually becoming the seat of Parliament, to be succeeded, in 1548, by the then-secularised Royal Chapel of St. Stephen.

Westminster Hall exterior
Westminster Hall interior
Some of  the palace complex was  destroyed in a fire in 1512; and most of what remained, in another, in 1834, with essentially only Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower surviving to this day, together with parts of the Royal Chapel of St. Stephen, including the St Mary Undercroft.
Jewel Tower exterior
Jewel Tower interior
Westminster Hall was originally built as a royal residence cum banqueting house by William II, Rufus,  in 1097-9; and rebuilt, with a spectacular hammerbeam roof, by Henry Yevele, for Richard II, in 1394-1401.  The Jewel Tower was originally built by Henry Yevele, for Edward III, in 1365-6.
The New Palace was built by Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, in the Victorian Gothic style, in 1837-58.
Victoran Gothic extravagance
Victorian Gothic aspiration

(*) For those wanting to see inside the Palace of Westminster – here is a link to the official website with details of how to book …
http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/

Open House London

This is Open House London weekend (21st-22nd September 2013), meaning that many buildings or parts of buildings of architectural or historical merit that aren’t ordinarily  open to the public are, and for free.

Today I went on tours  of the triforium gallery in St Paul’s cathedral, and of the church of St Helen Bishopsgate.

I had to queue up for an hour-and-a-half to book a place on the tour of the triforium gallery in St Paul’s, and then wait another three hours until it started.

Some salvaged  bits of old St Paul’s

But it  was totally worth it, and utterly magnificent.

The Geometric Staircase (this is as close to the edge as I could go with my acrophobia)

The Wren Library  there is now officially  one of my very favourite places of all.  The atmosphere inside is as rich, dark and deep as a cup of coffee from the “Giddy Up” stall in Guildhall Yard – the best anywhere, by the way!

The Wren Library

Link to Open House London :  http://www.londonopenhouse.org/