Category Archives: History

Far-Flung Lost London VII – Fulham

Fulham Palace was originally built in the eleventh century, as an official residence for the Bishop of London.  The oldest part of the present palace, surrounding the Fitzjames Quadrangle,  was built by Bishop Kemp in the late fifteenth century (circa 1495) and Bishop Fitzjames in  the early sixteenth (1506-22).  The  rest of the palace is  eighteenth to  nineteenth century.  The palace is currently in the care of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, and parts of it are open to the public, as also are the extensive grounds, with their notable botanical collections.

Entrance to Fulham Palace

Entrance to Fulham Palace

Fitzjames Quadrangle

Fitzjames Quadrangle

Victorian Gothic Lodge

The Victorian Gothic Lodge

Far-Flung Lost London VI – Chelsea

Between 1466-75, the wealthy grocer John Crosby built Crosby Hall, described by John Stow, in his “Survay of London” of 1598, as “very large and beautiful”, on  Bishopsgate in the City of London.  The Hall survived the Great Fire of 1666.  Bizarrely, in 1909, it was relocated to Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, where it can still be seen to this day (photos below).

There are some wonderfully evocative old black-and-white photographs of the Hall in its original location on Bishopsgate in 1907 in Philip Davies’ “haunting and heartbreaking” book “Lost London” (English Heritage, 2009).  There are also some sumptuous recent colour photographs of the interior of  the Hall in its new location in Chelsea in Davies’s “London – Hidden Interiors” (English Heritage, 2012).

Crosby Hall

Crosby Hall (photo by Bob Jones)

Crosby Hall and adjoining building

Crosby Hall and adjoining building from Chelsea Old Church (photo by Bob Jones)

Crosby Hall and adjoining building from river

Crosby Hall and adjoining buildings viewed from the river (photo by Bob Jones)


And now for something completely different….with surprising relevance

Today I received the advance copies of my latest book, published by Cambridge University Press, and entitled Foraminifera and their Applications. (When not treading the streets of London earlier this year, I was busily scribbling away with my other academic and scientific hat on). Although seemingly a completely different field of study, Foraminifera have helped to reveal aspects of London’s past.

Foraminifera and their applications

The front cover of my new book

What are Foraminifera?

This is a question I am often asked.  I tend to try to keep my answer simple, so as to be as comprehensible as possible to the layman.  I say that they are microscopic single-celled organisms similar to Amoebae, but differing in possessing shells.

Why should I care?

This is another question I am often asked in one form or another (such as “So what?”), usually immediately after I have given my answer to the previous one.  I say: on account of the numerical importance of living ones in modern aquatic environments and of fossil ones in the ancient rock record; and of their practical importance to Science and to Humankind, in developing an understanding of modern environments and the ancient rock record.

Applications of Foraminifera

Foraminifera have wide ranges of academic and economic applications, for example in environmental science and archaeology, and in petroleum, mining and engineering geology.  In environmental science and archaeology, their principal application is in the interpretation of environmental conditions, including  salinity (e.g., fresh-water, brackish or marine), hydrography  (e.g., supra-tidal, inter-tidal or sub-tidal), sedimentology (e.g., estuarine, deltaic or reefal), and  depth (e.g., marginal, shallow or deep marine).

The Environmental Archaeology of the Medieval Deposits of the River Fleet in the City of London

The Medieval deposits of the River Fleet in the City of London were subject to an environmental archaeological study in the 1970s.  Over 140 species of aquatic organisms were found to be present in the deposits, including Foraminifera such as Nonion germanicus  (pictured above, on the front cover of my book).  Most proved to be fresh-water to slightly brackish.  Associated rare, non-aquatic parasitic nematodes were interpreted as having been introduced into the deposits in dung dumped into the river by humans, alongside food waste and  what might be thought of as industrial waste, including  hide (waste from butchery or tannery) and horn cores (waste from glass manufacture).  The dumping of organic pollutants into the river evidently resulted initially in fertilisation, and in the proliferation of some opportunistic species such as Horned and Opposite-Leaved Pondweed.  However, it also resulted subsequently in poisoning and in the effective elimination of all species, as also indicated in the archive records for 1343.  In consequence, it was ordered in 1357 that “no man shall take … any manner of rubbish … or dung … to throw … into the rivers of the Thames and Fleet … .  And if any one should be found doing the contrary thereof, let him have the prison for his body, and other heavy punishment as well, at the discretion of the Mayor and the Aldermen”.

Far-Flung Lost London IV – Bromley-by-Bow

Bromley  was first recorded as Braembelege in around 1000, taking it’s name from the Old English for a woodland clearing or “leah” where brambles grew.

It is the  home of Bromley Hall, originally built around 1500,  and still standing, on what is now part of the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road.

Bromley Hall

Bromley Hall

Random Camels of Old London Town

To tie in – loosely – with the beginning of Advent, here are images of some of the Random Camels of Old London Town …

Random Camels of Old London Town

Clockwise from top left: Camel Corps memorial, Victoria Embankment Gardens; Camel public house, Sugar Loaf Walk, Globe Town; ‘Camel and Artichoke’ – whaaat? – public house, Lower Marsh, Waterloo; seat with camel motif, Embankment (near Cleopatra’s Needle); “amusing relief of camels and a driver” (Pevsner), Peek House, Eastcheap (once a tea and coffee warehouse, hence the “singular Graeco-Egyptian details”).

The Alignments of St Paul’s

Recently quite a few of my walkers have asked me about the deviating alignments of the plans of new and “old” St Paul’s, as depicted in the Churchyard.

The alignment of the modern cathedral (built by Christopher Wren between 1675-1710 after the Medieval one was burnt down in the Great  Fire of 1666), picked out in grey Purbeck Marble, is toward  the direction of the sunrise on the Easter Sunday of the year in which the foundations were laid, April 14th, 1675, at  approximately 75deg, a full 15deg north of true geographic east.

In contrast, the alignment of the ancient, Medieval cathedral (itself far from the first, and indeed actually the fourth, on the site), picked out in black and white, is 10deg closer to true geographic east, at approximately 85deg, and may have been toward Medieval magnetic east, which may in turn have just  happened to more or less coincide with  modern magnetic east.

Plan showing alignment of old and new St Paul's

Plan of old and new St Paul’s – in the churchyard – showing deviating alignments

Plan of Old and New St Paul's alignments

Close up – Plans of old and new St Paul’s, showing deviating alignments

Note in this context that because of variations in the earth’s magnetic field, the locations of magnetic north, south, east and west with respect to true geographic north, south, east and west have actually varied considerably through time!  Measurements acquired in London indicate that the angle between magnetic and true north, or “magnetic declination”, here was +10deg (i.e., magnetic north was 10deg east of true north) in the mid-sixteenth century;  then fell to  -25deg (i.e., magnetic north was 25deg west of true north) at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth; and has since risen again to <-5deg, which is the present value.  There are no measurements from before the post-Medieval period.

To see a graph showing the variation over time of magnetic north in London, on a different website, click here

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.

The Cheapside Hoard

I’ve just got back from a very interesting lecture on “The Cheapside Hoard – A World Encompassed”, organised by the City of London Archaeological Society, and delivered by Hazel Forsyth, a Senior Curator at the Museum of London, and the author of “The Cheapside Hoard – London’s Lost Jewels”, published by the MoL.

Stafford intaglio - dating evidence for the Cheapside Hoard

Stafford intaglio – dating evidence for the Cheapside Hoard

The Hoard, of some 500 precious and semi-precious jewels and items of jewelry from all around the world, was discovered in a cellar in “Goldsmiths’ Row” in Cheapside in 1912.  It includes an agate cameo of Elizabeth I dating to around 1600; two watches, one set inside an exquisitely –  and extremely skilfully – cut Colombian emerald, dating to 1600-1620; and a carnelian intaglio  bearing the arms of William Howard, First Viscount Stafford, dating to sometime  after his ennoblement in 1640.

It tells us a great deal about London on the eve of the English Civil War as a centre of world trade, craftsmanship,  conspicuous consumption and ostentation – but  leaves tantalisingly unanswered the question of who buried it, and why he or she never returned to recover it …

Readers may be interested to know that there is currently an associated exhibition on “The Cheapside Hoard” at the MoL.   Mike Paterson of the London Historians has written a review of it on the LH web-site, link below: