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.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


"Come said the wind to the leaves one day,
Come o'er the meadows and we will play.
Put on your dresses of scarlet and gold,
for summer is gone and the days grow cold."

The photograph was taken about this time last year at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire. It's always a wonderful place to visit but on this beautiful golden autumn day it was perfect.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Square Mile - Sunday Morning

I'm finally getting round to writing more about my visit to London earlier this year - as you can see from the cloudless blue skies and brilliant sunshine I managed to time my visit to coincide with wonderful weather:) The photo above shows the statue of a dragon that marks the boundary between the City of London and the City of Westminster on Fleet St. The dragon is the emblem of London and ten of them stand guard at various points on the City boundaries. As always clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

I decided that on Sunday morning I would join one of the 2 hour guided tours run by London Walks. You just turn up outside Monument Underground station at 10am and pay the guide, there's no need to book in advance. I'm not normally a guided tour enthusiast but I thought that I might see a few things that I wouldn't find on my own and then I would have the afternoon to make my own discoveries. I set off early and got off the Underground at Bank so that I could walk slowly down to the Monument. The station at Bank is, of course, named for the Old Lady of Threadneedle St otherwise known as the Bank of England. The Bank was established in 1694 to raise money for a war against France. Quite a large part of our history over the last 1000 years or so has involved wars against France! Some chap called William the Conqueror started it all I think:)

Across the road from the Bank of England is Mansion House which has been the official residence of the Lord Mayors of London since 1753. There has been a Lord Mayor of London since 1189 but the one whose name nearly everyone knows is Dick Whittington. Most people think of him as a character in a fairy story or pantomime but Richard Whittington was a real person who lived from around 1354 to 1423. He was the younger son of minor Gloucestershire gentry and was sent to London as an apprentice to the Mercer's Company. He became a wealthy cloth merchant and was four times Lord Mayor of London. He died childless and left his fortune to The Charity of Sir Richard Whittington which is still in existence today. Was Richard Whittington leaving London with his cat when he heard Bow Bells ringing out the message 'Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London' ? We shall never know but he certainly married a girl called Alice and it's a nice story isn't it?

This blue plaque is on the wall of Mansion House - the Stocks Market has nothing to do with the Stock Exchange, it was a livestock market built in the reign of Edward I. The new market got its name from the stocks that had previously stood on this site.

Tucked away behind Mansion House is St Stephen Walbrook which was built by Sir Christopher Wren after the 15th century church was destroyed during the Great Fire of London.
The street is called simply Walbrook and it marks the east bank of one of London's many lost rivers. The River Walbrook was culverted and built over in the late 1400s but it still runs underground and flows into the River Thames near Cannon St Railway Station.

Almost all the City churches are closed on Sunday so I returned on Monday to take one or two pictures of the interior. It is very simple inside but absolutely flooded with light. The church was badly damaged by bombing in WW2 but Wren's original 17th century wooden pulpit survives. In the centre is the controversial altar by sculptor Henry Moore. It is very plain and simple but in my opinion rather beautiful.

The dome was the forerunner of the great dome of St Pauls. St Stephen Walbrook is considered to be Wren's finest City church and is well worth a visit if you in the area.

Walking down Lombard St one passes this rather unprepossessing branch of Sainsburys which is built on the site of Edward Lloyd's coffee house. It became a popular place for sailors, merchants, and ship owners to meet, and Lloyd provided them with reliable shipping news. He opened his first coffee house in 1688 in Tower Street, London but in 1691 it was relocated to Lombard Street where it remained until 1795. The shipping merchants met here to discuss insurance deals among themselves and from these informal beginnings grew the world's leading insurance market - Lloyds of London.

The blue plaque on the wall by the entrance is the only reminder of what once stood here. If you look around as you walk you will find these plaques all over London marking the places where historic buildings once stood and linking them with the famous figures from the past who lived or worked there.

The sign of the grasshopper appears a good deal in the City, it is the emblem of the Gresham family. This one at 68 Lombard St marks the site where Sir Thomas Gresham (c1519 -1579) lived. He was an English merchant and financier who was a trusted agent of Queen Elizabeth I and founder of the Royal Exchange. The Royal Exchange building that stands near the Bank of England now is the third one on the site, Gresham's original building was destroyed in the Fire of London.

I finally arrived at the Monument and joined up with the other people waiting to do the walk. Our guide spent some time giving us an outline of London's history but eventually we set off. The photos from this part of the day are poor as I had to snap them quickly and then race after the tour party again. There were a couple of occasions when I nearly lost them as they disappeared round corners and down narrow medieval lanes! Our guide took us up a little alley off Eastcheap to show us these mice carved on the wall of one of the buildings. When it was being constructed many years ago an argument broke out when one of the workman accused another of stealing the cheese from his sandwich. During the row one of the men fell to his death. It was later found that the thieves were actually mice and these two mice eating cheese were added to the wall as a kind of memorial. If you want to see it for yourself the alley is called Philpott Lane - it's one of the old medieval streets and is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' Diary.

Leadenhall Market is built on the site of the Roman Forum - did I say that London's history goes back to Roman times? This was the most important medieval market in London though it looked very different then, the present building is Victorian.

One of the many dragons that greet you at every turn.

The Lamb Tavern dates back to 1780 and is a favourite lunch place for City workers. Fans of Harry Potter might recognize Leadenhall Market - it was used as the location of Diagon Alley in one of the films! If you need a new wand, a cloak or The Standard Book of Spells then this is the place to go - though unfortunately if you are a Muggle it will just look like Leadenhall Market! Only wizards can see the entrance to Diagon Alley:)

Down another medieval alley off Lombard St stands The George and Vulture built in 1746. It is mentioned many times in The Pickwick Papers and Charles Dickens drank here regularly. There has been an inn on the site since 1268. We carried on to the Bank of England and Royal Exchange which I'd already visited earlier but I hadn't noticed that right on top of the Royal Exchange is.......

.....the beautiful golden grasshopper of the Gresham family. Tradition says that it is the same one that graced the top of the original Royal Exchange.

Here is one of the things I would certainly never have noticed if I hadn't done this guided walk. Although I've been familiar with the name Poultry for a large part of my life I'd never really thought about why this London street has such an odd name. The answer is obvious really - this area was once the poultry market. The stone figure of a child holding a goose sits high above the street on No 36 Poultry as a reminder of this.

Of course it's only a reminder if you actually see it! The reason that Poultry is so familiar to me is that No 36 Poultry was, until recently, the Head Office of Midland Bank which is now part of HSBC and my husband worked there for several years when we were first married. He says that until I showed him this photograph he had never seen the sculpture!

This bronze statue, The Cordwainer, stands outside St Mary Aldermanbury church on Watling Street which was the area where the cordwainers (leatherworkers) lived and worked. Watling Street is considered to be the oldest street in London – it was the Saxon Athalingestrate and is also the only remaining section in the City of the old Roman road that ran from Wroxeter through London to Dover.

The Olde Watling stands on the corner of Watling Street and Bow Lane. It was re built in 1668 on the site of its predecessor which was burnt down during  the Great Fire of London. It acted as a hostel for the men who were building the new St Pauls cathedral which stands at the end of Watling Street.

By now we were running late so this part of the walk was done at some speed  as we dashed down Bow Lane, across Cheapside and down King St to the Guildhall. This has been the administrative centre of the City of London for over 800 years. The line of black paving stones that you can see in the photograph(you'll need to click on this one) marks the outline of the Roman amphitheatre which lies below the Guildhall. Unfortunately time didn't allow us to visit the remains which lie beneath the Guildhall Art Gallery.

We were fortunate enough to be allowed inside to see the magnificent medieval Great  Hall though. This is where royalty and important visitors from overseas have been entertained for centuries and The Lord Mayor's Banquet is held here every year. It was one of the few buildings to survive the Fire of London and WW2 but the roof was badly damaged in the Blitz and was restored in the 1950s.

Among the features of the Great Hall are the statues of the legendary giants Gog and Magog. The original Elizabethan figures were made of papier mache and were destroyed in the Great Fire. In 1708 they were replaced by 14 foot high ones made by Richard Saunders in oak. These,too, were destroyed by fire in the Blitz and were replaced in 1955 by two 9 foot high figures made of limewood. The one in the photo is Magog. It would have been nice to have more time to look round Guildhall but that will have to be for a future trip.

We said goodbye to our guide opposite St Paul's Cathedral. Happily, after walking a fair distance on a very hot day, I found myself right outside Haz restaurant on the corner of Foster Lane so in I went for a long cold drink and some lunch.