Category Archives: Victorian London

“Nearly as old as the Fire” (Arthur Mumby, 1868)

3 - Newgate Market on Christmas Eve in 1845 (from the Illustrated London News)

On this day in 1868, Arthur Mumby wrote evokingly in his diary:

“ … I rambled through the old-fashioned streets about Cripplegate; attracted first by the fine massive antique tower of [St Giles] Cripplegate church … .  In the quiet of a Saturday afternoon, when offices are closed and busy men departed, the world of modern life disappears for a moment, and these old 17th & 18th century streets and alleys, these deserted old churches, bring back something of the interest and delight with which one rambles through a medieval street abroad.  Far better it is to ramble here, at such a time, than in some bustling suburb, mean, newfangled, fashionable or vulgar.  I went, probably for the last time, through the mazes of old Newgate market: long low alleys, …  walled on both sides with butchers’ shops nearly as old as the Fire: open sheds, with massy beams and rafters and blocks, browned and polished by age and friction.  Many of the alleys were …  dark, for the butchers had moved to the new Market at Smithfield: but two or three were lighted up & busy with buyers and sellers – long rude vistas of meat and men”.

1 - What was left of Cripplegate after the bombing of the Second World War

Sadly, the area was substantially razed to the ground during the incendiary bombing of the Second World War.  However, the subsequently restored church of St Giles still stands, at the heart of the Barbican complex.

Romford

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Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Romford, which lies approximately halfway between London to Colchester, was first recorded in Saxo-Norman times as Romfort, from the Old English “run”, meaning wide, and “fort”, ford (across the river known presently as the Rom, but previously as the Beam).  The original settlement, now known as Oldchurch, was found to be prone to flooding, such that subsequent  development took place on higher, drier ground to the north.  In  the later Medieval period, Romford was a small market town surrounded by agricultural land, but  by the post-Medieval, it had become a   centre of industry, in the form of brewing, metal-working, charcoal-burning, cloth-making and weaving.  Further (sub)urbanisation and industrialisation took place in the eighteenth century, following the establishment of a  coaching link to London, and, especially, in the nineteenth and twentieth, following the arrival of the railway.

Historically part of the county of Essex, the town has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

Romford Church

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The church of St Edward the Confessor, or Romford Church, on Market Place, was originally built in 1410, and subsequently rebuilt in 1850.

Golden Lion

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The “Golden Lion” on the High Street dates back to 1440, although the present building is chiefly of sixteenth- and seventeenth- century construction.  It is “a fine specimen of the old inns which [once] abounded in the town”; its stables “full of reminiscences of the days of the stage coach with its spanking team of horses”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deptford

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Deptford  was first recorded in 1293 as Depeford, meaning deep ford (across the River Ravensbourne, a tributary of the Thames).

The ford, and the trackway leading to and from it, had almost certainly been in existence in the pre-Roman period, and became incorporated into Watling Street in the Roman.

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By Medieval times, a small village had sprung up here, on what had by then become part of the pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury, and it was  referred to in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”, written in 1400.  The Battle of Deptford Bridge was fought here in 1497.

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In later post-Medieval times, the former village  grew into a sizeable town, with strong and lasting links to the Royal Navy, and to maritime trade (including the iniquitous slave trade).  One of the Royal Naval Dockyards was built here in 1513, Trinity House in 1514 (the first master being Captain Thomas Spert of the “Mary Rose”), and the East India Company Yard in 1607.

In 1549, a mock naval battle was staged here for the entertainment of Edward VI; in 1581, Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake here aboard his ship the “Golden Hind(e)”, recently returned from its successful circumnavigation of the globe; and in 1698 the Russian Czar Peter the Great stayed in John Evelyn’s house here in order to study the shipyards.

The area’s comparative prosperity began to decline in the eighteenth century, after the seventeenth-century rebuilding of Chatham Dockyard, which was more accessible to ocean-going shipping, being situated in the Thames estuary, some twenty-five miles further downriver.

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The decline continued into the nineteenth century, as evidenced by William Booth’s “Poverty Maps”, and was accelerated by the bombing of the Blitz of the Second World War in the twentieth, but is now in the process of being reversed by regeneration.

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Deptford was historically part of the county of Kent, but since 1965 has been officially part of Greater London.

Church of St Nicholas

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The church of St Nicholas was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, and subsequently rebuilt in the fourteenth or fifteenth century and again, partly through the benefaction of the East India Company,  in the late seventeenth,  around 1697, only to be badly damaged in the Blitz of the twentieth.  The fourteenth- or fifteenth- century tower still stands.

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The poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe – he of the “mighty line” – is buried in the churchyard, having been murdered in a  nearby tavern in 1593.  There are also a number of surviving post-Medieval memorials in the interior, including those to Sir Richard Browne of Sayers Court (d. 1604), who was John Evelyn’s father-in-law, and to other members of both Browne’s and Evelyn’s families; and to Jonas Shish (d. 1680) and his sons  Michael (d. 1685) and John (d. 1686), all of them Master Shipwrights.  And a late seventeenth-century carved wooden panel of “Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones” that has been attributed to Grinling Gibbons, who is known to have once lived and worked nearby.

Nicholas is the patron saint not only of children but also of mariners and fishermen (and of those wrongly condemned).

Ealing

 

1 - General view of exterior

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Ealing was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of c. 798 as Gillingas, meaning “(settlement of) the family or followers of Gilla”.  In the thirteenth century, it was sometimes recorded as Chircheylling, with reference to the church of St Mary, so as to distinguish it from the then separate settlement of Westyilling.

The much-loved “Ealing Comedies” of the 1940s and 1950s were filmed here, in Ealing Studios.

Church of St Mary

The church of St Mary was originally built in the twelfth century, and subsequently rebuilt in the eighteenth, having by then become structurally unsound.  The Georgian church was then remodelled in the Victorian era, between 1865-73, by S.S. Teulon, in a bizarre Byzantine  style, the result being described by the wonderful Ian Nairn as “a rag-bag with enough ideas for a dozen churches”, although at the same time “electrified with …  astonishing life-force”.

Some of the memorials from the Medieval to post-Medieval incarnation of the church still survive in the interior.

My parents were married in the church in 1954, and I was christened there in 1958.

Battersea

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Former Raven public house

Battersea was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 693 as Badrices ege or Batrices ege, from the Old English personal name Beaduric and eg, meaning island, or high, dry land in an otherwise  marshy area (*).  The Medieval to post-Medieval settlement was centred around what is now Battersea Square: the church of St Mary was built here sometime before 1067; and the former Raven public house during the reign of Charles II.  Development began to spread during  the Georgian period of the eighteenth century, although the area remained essentially rural, and the economy  predominantly agricultural, and subordinately industrial, until the Victorian period of the nineteenth.  Urbanisation and heavy industrialisation began with the arrival of the railway at nearby Nine Elms in  1838, although approximately  200 acres of  green space was preserved when Battersea Park  was created in 1853, following recommendations made to Queen Victoria’s “Commission for Improving the Metropolis” in 1843.   The present Battersea Bridge  was built by Joseph Bazalgette between 1886-90, to replace an earlier, wooden one built between  1771-2 (and immortalised in Whistler’s evocative nocturnes).  Battersea Power Station was built in 1933, and decommissioned in 1983.

Church of St Mary

The church of St Mary was originally built sometime before 1067, and at this time given by William I to the monks of Westminster Abbey.  It was partially rebuilt by the master mason Henry Yevele in 1379, and extended in 1400  and 1469, when the south aisle and chapel were added, and in 1613   and 1639, when the north aisle and tower were added; and subsequently substantially rebuilt again, by the local architect Joseph Dixon, between 1775-7 (**).   The visionary poet and artist William Blake was married in the church  in 1782; and the high-ranking soldier  Benedict Arnold, who famously defected from the American Continental Army  to the British during the American Revolutionary War, was buried here in 1802.  The church also has links with J.M.W. Turner, who used to sit in one of the windows overlooking the Thames  to paint the play of the light on the water.

The east window, of  stained-glass depicting Margaret Beauchamp, Henry VII and Elizabeth I, survives from  the seventeenth century.

(*) There is also evidence  of even older human presence, in the form of Stone, Bronze and Iron Age artefacts,  the most famous being the Iron Age Battersea Shield, now in the British Museum.

(**) Most of the manor house that used to stand near the church was demolished in 1778, and the remaining part in the early twentieth century, some materials being salvaged and shipped to the United States for re-use at this time.