Dark Age (Saxon and Viking) London, Pt. I – History and Social History

The Lost City of London - Before the Great Fire of 1666

Another in the series on the history of London up to the time of the Great Fire of 1666, largely taken from my book, “The Flower Of All Cities” (Amberley, 2019) …

History

Map 2.  Dark Age (Saxon and Viking) London.  1 – St Paul’s  Cathedral; 2 – (St) Paul’s Cross, St Paul’s Churchyard (site of folkmoot); 3 – Cheapside; 4 – St Alban Wood Street; 5 – Aldermanbury; 6 – Guildhall, Guildhall Yard (site of husting); 7 – St Lawrence Jewry, Gresham Street; 8 – St Olave Jewry, Ironmonger Lane; 9 – St Mary Aldermary, Watling Street; 10 – Queenhithe; 11 – Old London Bridge (and Port of London); 12 – St Magnus the Martyr, Thames Street; 13 – Eastcheap; 14 – St Dunstan-in-the-East, St Dunstan’s Hill (off Great Tower Street); 15 – All Hallows Barking, Byward Street; 16 – St Olave Hart Street.

Considerably less is…

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Roman London, Pt. 2 – Building Works and Surviving Structures

The Lost City of London - Before the Great Fire of 1666

Another in the series on the history of London up to the time of the Great Fire of 1666, largely taken from my book, “The Flower Of All Cities” (Amberley, 2019) …

Building Works

Map 1 – Roman London.  1 – Blackfriars; 2 – Ludgate; 3 – Central Criminal Court Building, Old Bailey (section of wall); 4 – Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Building, Giltspur Street (section of wall); 5 – Watling Street; 6 – Newgate; 7 – St Vedast-alias-Foster, Foster Lane (fragment of tessellated pavement); 8 – Remains of Cripplegate Fort, Noble Street; 9 – St Alphage Gardens/Salters’ Hall Gardens, London Wall (section of wall); 10 – Remains of Amphitheatre, Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard; 11 – Gresham Street; 12 – Moorgate and Princes Street (line of Walbrook stream); 13 – Poultry and Walbrook (“The Pompeii of the North”); 14 – Remains of Temple of Mithras, Bloomberg Building…

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Roman London, Pt. I – History and Social History

The Lost City of London - Before the Great Fire of 1666

Another in the series on the history of London up to the time of the Great Fire of 1666, largely taken from my book, “The Flower Of All Cities” (Amberley, 2019) …

History

Map 1 – Roman London. 1 – Blackfriars; 2 – Ludgate; 3 – Central Criminal Court Building, Old Bailey (section of wall); 4 – Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Building, Giltspur Street (section of wall); 5 – Watling Street; 6 – Newgate; 7 – St Vedast-alias-Foster, Foster Lane (fragment of tessellated pavement); 8 – Remains of Cripplegate Fort, Noble Street; 9 – St Alphage Gardens/Salters’ Hall Gardens, London Wall (section of wall); 10 – Remains of Amphitheatre, Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard; 11 – Gresham Street; 12 – Moorgate and Princes Street (line of Walbrook stream); 13 – Poultry and Walbrook (“The Pompeii of the North”); 14 – Remains of Temple of Mithras, Bloomberg Building, Walbrook…

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Prehistoric London

The Lost City of London - Before the Great Fire of 1666

The first in a series on the history of London up to the time of the Great Fire of 1666, largely taken from my book, “The Flower Of All Cities” (Amberley, 2019) …

Stone Age London

There is – albeit sparse  – archaeological evidence from Stratford to the east of London, Southwark to the south, Hounslow and Uxbridge to the west, and Hampstead to the north, for hunting and gathering activity in the Late Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age); and for woodland clearance and farming in the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) and Neolithic (New Stone Age), between the eighth and fourth centuries BC/BCE.  There are also the remains of a Mesolithic flint-tool manufactory at North Woolwich, and a Mesolithic timber structure of as yet undetermined function  at Vauxhall.  And of a Neolithic henge at Hackney Wells, and a reportedly Neolithic barrow-burial at  what is now known as “King Henry’s…

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“The Exile’s Silent Lament” – London’s Connection to the Welsh Revolt (1400-1415)

Catrin Glyndwr memorial

The Welsh freedom-fighter Owain Glyndwr’s daughter Catrin and her children were captured by the English at the Siege of Harlech in 1409.    They  were  then brought to London and imprisoned in the Tower, and at least most if not all of them died there in 1413, under circumstances best described as “mysterious” The children had a claim to the English throne through their late father Edmund Mortimer (who was descended from Edward III).  Some suspect that they were done to death so as to prevent them from making any such claim.

Surviving records indicate that Catrin and two of her daughters were buried not in the Tower but in the churchyard of St Swithin London Stone on the other side of the city (there are no records of what became of her other daughter or of her son Lionel).

A modern Gelligaer bluestone sculpture by Nic Stradlyn-John and Richard Renshaw, inscribed with a Welsh englyn by Menna Elfyn, marks the spot.  Freely (by me) rendered into English, the  englyn reads: “In the Tower, now her home,|Her heart-song turns to longing:|The exile’s silent lament”.

New Book Announcement – “Soldiers and Sportsmen All … “

I am delighted to announce that my latest book, “Soldiers and Sportsmen All … ” has just been published by Amazon, priced at £4.99 for the electronic format or £8.99 for a print-on-demand paper version (link below).

Contained within is the Great War story of the 24th (2nd  Sportsmen’s) Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (The City of London Regiment). The Battalion served on the Western Front  for over three years, fighting in the Battles of the Somme  in 1916, in  the Battles  of Arras and Cambrai in 1917, and finally in the   First and Second Battles of the Somme, 1918, the   Battles of the Hindenburg Line, and the Final Advance in Picardy, in 1918.  It suffered just over eighteen hundred  casualties over the course of the war, including just under  six hundred fatalities.  Even those   who  survived the war  are also  now  long-dead; the war  itself, no longer  living memory but   history.

The story is  one of  ordinary  men, of diverse origins, living and dying in the midst of an extraordinary time in  history.   It   is told from the viewpoint of an ordinary  soldier in a trench somewhere in France.  It features  photographic images and/or at least brief biographical sketches  of a sample of over two hundred   such men   from the 24th Battalion.   

One of the men who served in the 24th Battalion in the Great War was  Private Charles Reuben Clements from Hammersmith in what was then Middlesex and is now London, a former shop assistant – and the author’s  maternal grandfather.

The Second Great Fire of London

The Second Great Fire of London (image: Herbert Mason)

On the night of 29th/30th December, 1940, during the Second World War, an air raid by the German Luftwaffe resulted in the so-called “Second Great Fire of London”. Tens of thousands of incendiary bombs were dropped, and the small individual fires that they set off soon coalesced into a great conflagration that threatened the entire city centre. 

Painting by Leonard Rosoman of a house collapsing on two firemen on Shoe Lane (image: Imperial War Museum)
Memorial to Sidney Alfred Holder

Around two hundred civilians were killed across London that night – and perhaps as many as thirty thousand over the entire course of the war. Among them was Auxiliary Fireman Sidney Alfred Holder, who was crushed by a collapsing building on Shoe Lane.

“Bomb Damage Map” of the area around St Paul’s. Magenta shading indicates seriously damaged buildings; violet, those damaged beyond repair.

Damage to property was on a then unprecedented scale.  The area around St Paul’s was essentially razed to the ground, although the cathedral  itself miraculously survived essentially intact, thanks to the heroic actions of the firefighters of the St Paul’s Watch, who put out no fewer than twenty-eight individual incendiary-bomb fires inside the building.   

Ten other  Wren churches were struck by bombs, namely, Christ Church Newgate Street, St Alban Wood Street, St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, St Anne & St Agnes, St Augustine-by-St-Paul’s, St Lawrence Jewry, St Mary Aldermanbury, St Mary-le-Bow, St Stephen Coleman Street and St Vedast-alias-Foster.

The surviving tower of Christ Church Newgate Street (now a private residence)
Christ Church Newgate Street – or Christ Church Greyfriars – plaque
The tower of St Alban Wood Street (also now a private residence)
A broken Gothic arch on the tower of St Alban Wood Street

Of these, Christ Church Newgate Street and St Alban Wood Street were substantially destroyed, with only their towers  remaining intact.

Site of St Mary Aldermanbury
St Stephen Coleman Street plaque

And St Mary Aldermanbury and St Stephen Coleman Street were essentially completely destroyed.

The reconstructed St Mary Aldermanbury

Remarkably, St Mary Aldermanbury was rebuilt, out of salvaged material, and according to Wren’s original design, in Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, in 1966 (as a memorial to Winston Churchill, who had made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech there in 1946).

Brewers’ Hall plaque
Coopers’ Hall plaque

A number of historic Livery Company Halls were also destroyed, including those of the Brewers and the Coopers (barrel makers).

The shell of the Banqueting Hall at the Guildhall (image: London Fire Brigade). Somewhere among the wreckage lie the statues of Gog and Magog, the mythical guardians of London.

And the Medieval Guildhall, which had survived the Great Fire of 1666, was seriously damaged, although mercifully not irreparably so.

The Lost City of London - Before the Great Fire of 1666

Hawksmoor Churches viewed from the Shard

Here are a few photographs –  taken from the top of the Shard – featuring three of the six London churches wholly designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736). Hawksmoor was employed by Christopher Wren as a clerk from the age of about 18. In time he became one of the greatest masters of English Baroque architecture. All six of Hawksmoor’s London churches remain standing.  (Hawksmoor also collaborated with John James on two other London churches, one of which still survives.)

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The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War

Today I remember the men of the Royal Fusiliers who were killed in the Great War, in particular those of my grandad Charles Reuben Clements’s Battalion, the  24th (2nd  Sportsmen’s) …

The Royal Fusiliers (the City of London Regiment)

The Royal Fusiliers – the City of London Regiment – was founded as long ago  as  1685, in the aftermath of the failed Monmouth Rebellion, from two companies of guards from the Tower of London.  It went  on to see service in, among others, the American War of Independence,  the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812, the Crimean War, the “Indian Mutiny”, the Second Afghan War, the Boer War, the Great War, the   Second World War, and the Korean War, before being   incorporated into the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in 1968. 

The Fusilier Museum in the Regimental Headquarters in the Tower of London. image: http://www.fusiliermuseumlondon.org
The Association Room in the Regimental Headquarters. Note the Battalion colours. Image: http://www.fusiliermuseumlondon.org

There is a  fine Fusilier Museum in  the Regimental Headquarters in the Tower of London, which houses  an extensive archive together with a range of artefacts, including the colours of the 24th Battalion. 

The Royal Fusiliers War Memorial, Holborn, City of London

There is also  a regimental   war memorial, dedicated  “to the glorious memory of the 22 000 Royal Fusiliers who fell in the Great War” at  Holborn Bars at the western entrance to  the City of London.  The memorial, designed by Alfred Toft, features the figure of a fusilier  on a parapet, “encircled by the vast radius of air that extends from head to bayonet tip to trailing foot”, with  “this framing circle … [rendering] … the sculpture …  both more powerful and more vulnerable, …  fixing our attention, as if through a sniper’s sights, on the soldier at its dead centre”. 

The Royal Fusiliers Memorial Chapel in the Church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, City of London. Note the Roll of Honour in the foreground, the Battalion colours in the middle ground, and the stained-glass window in the background.
Detail of the stained-glass window in the Royal Fusiliers Memorial Chapel. Note the Royal Fusilier in full dress uniform in front of the Tower of London. Note also the ornamental border recording the Regiment’s Great War battle honours, including the Somme, Arras, Cambrai, and the Hindenburg Line.

And,  in the city church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate (Holy Sepulchre London), on Newgate Street, a few minutes walk east of  the war memorial, there is a Royal Fusiliers  Memorial Chapel, and a Garden of Remembrance, dedicated in 1950.  

The 24th (2nd Sportsmen’s) Battalion

The 24th (2nd Sportsmen’s)  Battalion was  a “Service” Battalion, a part of Lord Kitchener’s “New Army”, raised in 1914,  in the Hotel Cecil on the Strand in London, part of which served for a while as a Drill Hall. 

Mrs Emma Pauline Cunliffe-Owen, the founder of the Sportsmen’s Battalions. Mrs Cunliffe-Owen had been an active sportswoman in her youth, but later in life came to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and often had to resort to travelling in a wheelchair. Also in this picture of her are, to her left, her husband, Mr Edward Cunliffe-Owen, and, to her right, her son, Lt Alexander Rober tCunliffe-Owen, of the 24th Battalion. Image: http://www.inspirationalwomenofww1.blogspot.com

It  was raised by a remarkable woman named Emma Pauline Cunliffe-Owen.  Emma was born in 1863, to an English father, Sir Francis Philip Cunliffe-Owen, the Director of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert), and a German mother,  Jenny von Reitzenstein, whose father, a Baron, had been an  aide-de-camp to Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia.  She married her cousin, Edward Cunliffe-Owen, a barrister, in 1882, and the couple settled in London, and had four children together, before becoming estranged.  The story goes that in 1914, on the outbreak of war, Mrs Cunliffe-Owen chanced to meet two big-game hunters of her acquaintance while walking down Bond Street, and,  half-jokingly, asked them why they had not yet enlisted in the Army.  They in turn,  and in similar vein,  asked her why she had not yet raised her  own battalion.  And so she did.  She and her husband, with the sought approval of the Secretary-of-State for War, Lord Kitchener, advertised in The Times for “Sportsmen, aged 19 to 45, upper and middle class only”, to sign up at the Hotel Cecil “at once”, to constitute  a Sportsmen’s Battalion around fifteen hundred strong.   In  the event, the response was such that two Sportsmen’s Battalions were constituted, the 23rd (1st Sportsmen’s), the Royal Fusiliers, on September 25th, 1914, and the 24th (2nd Sportsmen’s), on November 20th

The memorial marking the site of the former entrance to Hare Hall Camp, Romford. The “Artists’ Rifles” Officers’ Training Corps was based at the camp  from 1915-1919.  The other faces of the memorial feature poems by Wilfred  Owen and Edward Thomas, and a painting by John  Nash, all of whom served with the “Artists’ Rifles”.  Both Owen and Thomas were killed in action.

Before it began its  basic training at Hare Hall Camp in Romford, the 24th Battalion was  marched through London for inspection, in the presence of Mrs Cunliffe-Owen, at  Horse Guards’ Parade.    After its basic training, the 24th Battalion  deployed to the Western Front, and received its “first taste of the trenches”, in November, 1915.  It went on to fight  in the Battles of the Somme  in 1916, in  the Battles  of Arras and Cambrai in 1917, and finally in the   First and Second Battles of the Somme, 1918, the   Battles of the Hindenburg Line, and the Final Advance in Picardy, in 1918. 

Grave of Private John Robert Warriner, 24th Battalion, Lowrie Cemetery, Havrincourt. On the far side of the embankment lies the Canal Du Nord, which effectively formed part of the HIndenburg Line. My grandad was wounded on or near this spot during the Battle of Havrincourt, the first of the Battles of the HIndenburg Line, on September 12th, 1918.
Bac-du-Sud Cemetery, Baiileulval. This cemetery stands on the site of No. 46 Casualty Clearing Station, where my grandfather was treated for his wounds before being sent to a hospital further to the rear, and
– eventually – home.

The 24th Battalion sustained 1 853   casualties over the course of the war, including 557  fatalities.  It is believed that only six men from the 1914 cohort served with it throughout the Great War.