Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Square Mile and Beyond

This is yet another post about my visit to London last year, I thought I'd better try and get the rest of them done before I go away in a couple of weeks. I use my blog as a record of places I've visited and things I've done so this is for my benefit really while I can still remember it:) It's worth clicking on many of the photographs as you will see much more detail that way.

The area around St Paul's Cathedral is always busy whatever the season or day of the week but if you walk round to the back you will find yourself in the quiet oasis of Paternoster Square. Prior to WW2 a street called Paternoster Row stood here, it was the centre of the London publishing trade and had been since the early eighteenth century. However on the night of December 29th 1940 the whole of this area was devastated during the Blitz and the offices and stores of twenty-seven publishing firms were destroyed and several million books went up in flames. Paternoster Square was part of the post war rebuilding programme and the elegant Corinthian coloumn you can see in the photo above is, I believe,  a memorial to the books that were lost.

This famous photograph of St Paul's Cathedral was taken on the same night that Paternoster Row was destroyed.

 Paternoster Square is now home to  the original Temple Bar a stone arch built of Portland stone completed in 1672 and reputedly designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Temple Bar was one of the entrances or gates through which people and traffic had to pass into the City. If you look you can see the gates (replicas I should think) which were closed at curfew every night. It originally stood where Fleet Street now meets the Strand, the photograph at the beginning of an earlier post shows the dragon that marks the boundary these days.

I don't suppose that Smithfield is the first place you'd think of heading to after leaving the area around St Paul's but if you pass under Temple Bar, cross Newgate St and walk down King Edward St and Little Britain you will eventually see this lovely old building. It is the entrance to one of London's hidden gems - The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great. The stone archway was the entrance to the south aisle of the original 13th century church. This part of the church was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries but the choir and transepts were allowed to remain as the parish church.

This is the other side of the gateway showing the back of the little Tudor house that was built on top of the original stone archway in 1559. It was one of the few timber-framed buildings to survive The Great Fire of London. I love this little house.

The font dates from 1405 and the painter William Hogarth was baptized here in 1697. His works include The Rake's Progress and Marriage a la Mode, he is very famous and much admired but not by me:) The architect Inigo Jones was also baptized here in 1573.

This is the tomb of Prior Rahere, former courtier and minstrel to Henry I, who founded an Augustinian priory on this site in 1123.At the same time he founded a hospital for the sick poor nearby and that became the world famous St Bartholomew's Hospital. Better known as Bart's, it still stands on its original site and is the oldest hospital in London.

Part of the original cloister still survives and is now in use as a small cafe which was unfortunately closed during my visit - it was a very hot day and a cold drink would have been welcome.

St Bartholomew's has one of the finest Norman interiors in London, this is the ambulatory with its wonderful Norman pillars and vaulted ceiling. It encircles the main body of the church, the high altar is on the right and the entrance to the Lady Chapel is on the left. The church has had a somewhat chequered history over the years and at one point the Lady Chapel housed a printers where Benjamin Franklin, one of the men who drafted the American Declaration of Independence, was employed.

To north  side of St Bartholomew's is a street called Cloth Fair once the site of the  St Bartholomew Fair which was one of the great annual events of medieval London and a source of considerable income for the Priory from tolls levied on the goods for sale. Originally the fair was just for clothiers and drapers (from which came the name Cloth Fair) but after the Dissolution the fair moved into Smithfield and became a more of a funfair with a very dubious reputation. It was finally closed down in 1855 because it 'encouraged debauchery and disorder' - so much for the Good Old Days! The two houses in the photo are Nos 41 & 42 Cloth Fair built between 1592 and 1614 and they too are survivors of the Fire of London.

I think that quite a lot of people know that the Great Fire of London started in Pudding Lane near the Monument but I wonder how many are aware of this monument marking the place where it finally burned itself out? This is the junction of Cock Lane and Giltspur St and originally the monument was fixed to the front of an ancient pub called The Fortune of War which was demolished in 1910. I had no idea it existed until I walked past it and stopped to read the inscriptions.

This is close up of The Golden Boy, you will need to click on the photo and also the one below if you want to read the words of the inscription.

This is well worth enlarging and reading! Bear in mind that both the churchyard and Barts Hospital are very close by - Barts is literally just across the road.

If you walk down to the bottom of Giltspur St you are back on Newgate with the Old Bailey opposite. This is the Central Criminal Court of England, it was built in the early 1900s and stands on the site of the infamous Newgate Prison. To the right of the modern building is the street called Old Bailey and it is here that public executions took place until 1868. These executions drew huge crowds and they were regarded as a source of considerable entertainment.

The golden statue of Justice on the top of the Old Bailey, she carries a double edged sword in her right hand and the scales of justice in her left. A walk down Old Bailey will bring us back onto Lugate Hill where we turn right and head towards Fleet St but that had better be for next time:)


Mac n' Janet said...

Great walk to parts, with the exception of St. Pauls, I've never seen. Love the tiny Tudor house, and what beautiful weather you had!

Von said...

She who is tired of London is tired of life and what a beautiful day it was. Many memories of my London days came flooding back in cluding the brutal draining of my sinuses at Barts back in the 1960's!They were butchers!
Adore the Tudor house, what a survivor with it's little railings and gate.Nice post Rowan.

Anonymous said...

This is a great tour, with wonderful pictures. Thank you so much for sharing !!
Have a great weekend.

Dog Trot Farm said...

What a lovely and interesting tour. A great source of information along with lovely photos, thank you for sharing. Where are you off to on your next adventure?

Dartford Warbler said...

Thank you for such an interesting walk. Although I lived in London as a student, I don`t know the City very well. I love the way that unusual buildings appear unexpectedly as you turn a corner.

Gretel said...

I have to confess, I am not over fond of London and only go when I have to, once every two or so years. But you have persuaded me to look a little closer and upwards next time I'm there I shall ignore the crowds and enjoy the history instead! Lovely to see that little surviving timber house, make you realise how cramped and crowded London must have been back then.

Rosie said...

Such an interesting post, Rowan. I'm going to read it again later. From your descriptions and the photo of the surviving Tudor house I could imagine what the pre-fire city must have been like. I was also intrigued by the inscription about the 'body snatchers'. So much history on every street and street corner. Thanks for the tour:)

Jean said...

Lovely photos Rowan and I found the tour very interesting, it is many years since I went to London, must be about thirty years ago!

Jane said...

Really enjoyed the tour. I was intrigued by the reference to gluttony below the Golden Boy and had to look up the history behind this statue. Funny what superstitions man grabs onto to make sense of his world. I wonder how much we've advanced - not much I suspect - certainly not judging by the world news...

WOL said...

I'm with you. I love the little gatehouse too. I wonder what it's like inside and how it's laid out -- must be quite tiny to take up no more space than it does.
Your post sent me off into Wikipedia researching the Great Fire.

Tramp said...

Very interesting, Rowan. Next time I get dragged to London I'll take a look.

ahomespunyear said...

How fascinating...I have been to St Paul's but knew nothing about the area's history until now. The Tudor house is amazing, tucked away like that.

Morning's Minion said...

This is as close as I will ever get to seeing the places spoken of in history books, to say nothing of the names dropped in English novels.
A good tour.

Gracie said...

Thanks for another walk through London, I can't wait to be back again!

Anonymous said...

Breathtaking tour Rowan, I love that little tudor house as well. Amazing history behind these pictures but to be there in person would be so much more spectacular. Thank you for sharing them.
I really love your new header it jumps out at you the moment your page opens so time for Spring.
Have a wonderful week,

A Heron's View said...

Wonderful photo's of London Rowan and for me who never ever truly got the feel of the place beyond Earlscourt exhib centre.
Your pics are an education of what I might have seen if I hadn't of always been in a rush to return to Devon!

Anonymous said...

I love that little timber framed house too. Going to read t he next installment now.

Comfrey Cottages said...

So enjoying your travel posts Rowan! thank you! xx