Mr Bradshaw was, I believe, a Victorian gentleman, proud of his capital city, ‘..that metropolis of the world..’, placed at ‘..nearly the centre of the terrestrial hemisphere..’, and the manifestations of its power and wealth which he saw in its buildings. And so he begins the tour in the City, ‘..the heart of London..’, and the centre of trade, business, and wealth generation.
St Paul’s Cathedral is ‘..the largest Protestant Church in the world..’. In 1860 entry was free; now it costs £15 (concessions available). Last Thursday there was a steady flow of visitors plugged into personal audio commentaries, groups of school children, and guided tours, but somehow it remained spotlessly clean, thanks to cleaners with microfibre dusters. Sitting quietly under the dome I felt I was in a religious building, although looking up at the wonderful mosaics I felt in much older times and was reminded of Ravenna. The mosaics date from 1890s, designed by Sir William Blake Richmond, so Mr Bradshaw never saw them.
He points instead to the monuments of ‘..the illustrious dead..’ which trace the reach of the British Empire and its activities abroad – Afghanistan, Russia, Egypt, Sevastopol, South Africa, the Kingdom of Nepaul, Bengal, France, Spain. The Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War, the South African Wars, The Great War, WWII – so much fighting, so many deaths. But there is also a recognition of artistic talent and scientific skill – Joseph Turner, Anthony van Dyck, Sir Alexander Fleming. Sir Christopher Wren’s tomb is in a corner of the crypt, next to a radiator, rather ignominious you might say, but the splendour of his building is the memory which stays with you.
Leaving St Paul’s on the south side Mr Bradshaw directs me through the open arched passage which led to Doctors’ Commons, but both no longer exist, and only a blue plaque on the Faraday building in Knightrider Street marks the site. The Doctors’ Commons was a legal society which ended in the 1860s, was established by the Dean of Arches. In Dean’s Court The Old Deanery built by Wren can still be found and is now the Residence of the Bishop of London.
On the north side of the Cathedral, Paternoster Row, was ‘..the great literary market..’, the heart of the publishing trade, but no more. Significantly Stationers’ Hall is in the vicinity but not mentioned by Mr Bradshaw and I should not stray as the agenda is very full!
As I left the Cathedral precincts I felt Mr Bradshaw would be quite pleased by the open aspect as he bemoaned the building being ‘..so hideously clogged up on all sides by houses..’, although he might not approve of the new position of Temple Bar.
On the eastern side is St Paul’s School, founded by Dean Colet, (who is buried in St Paul’s), in 1510, although now a contemporary building.
‘The Post Office, in St Martin’s-le-Grand, …next demands our notice and admiration.’ It is a fine building but was also a remarkable institution. I think the buildings were on both sides of the road, and now only one section, on the west side of St Martin’s-le-Grand remains. The Money Order Office in Aldersgate Street has also disappeared.
The history of the site is remembered in Postman’s Park, with its humbling Watts Memorial. Mr Bradshaw talks of the frequent fires in London and the Memorial remembers those ordinary people who died in some of the blazes.
Mr Bradshaw does not mention the Lutheran church of St Anne and St Agnes in Gresham Street, a Wren church, so I continued to Goldsmiths Hall.
The Goldsmiths’ Company is a City Livery Company and one of the Great Twelve. When Mr Bradshaw was writing about these ancient guilds there were only eighty three companies; now there are 108. And close by, in Gutter Lane (not Cheapside as in Mr Bradshaw’s time) is the Saddlers’ Company, with a fascinating little courtyard seen through railings off Priest’s Court, and backing on to St Vedast alias Foster.
Cheapside, ‘..the first great street of splendid shops..’ continues the tradition, and leads to St Mary-le-Bow, a Wren Church and now the Australian Church in London. I found the church quite austere, but the rood is remarkable, although not there in Mr Bradshaw’s time.
City of London School, Milk Street – now only a plaque on the wall, above a Pizza Express, and just before coming into Guildhall square there was an interesting plaque on the wall.
The Guildhall is magnificent, and now has a marvellous Art Gallery, and beneath that the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre – you must visit! The Guildhall itself saw many gruesome events such as the trial of ‘..Anne Askew: Protestant, 1546. Tried for heresy, tortured on the rack in the Tower, carried to Smithfield in a chair and burnt (25)..’.
In the gathering gloom I popped into St Lawrence Jewry, somewhat grimy on the outside, and noted all the free concerts!
Mercers Hall is in Ironmongers Lane, and the Grocers’ Hall is now hidden behind dull buildings. Old Jewry, still a narrow street, is now home to non-UK institutions, showing the reach of the UK is still wide in business terms. And I ended the day, having only completed half of Mr Bradshaw’s agenda for the First Day, in Bucklersbury – a small cobbled street leading to the Mansion House and St Stephen Walbrook. Currently there is a large building site on one side. This sounds unappealing but the hoardings have fascinating pictures of archaeological finds because the Walbrook ran down here, towards the Thames. (This blog has fascinating information about the latest archaeological finds.)