Bradshaw’s walk today follows the new route opened through the City from St Paul’s Cathedral – Cannon Street, King William Street, London Bridge – to relieve the crowding in Cheapside, and with diversions along the way to view significant buildings and fine warehouses. And, as before, we are asked to be aware of the continuation of the old alongside the new.
Starting at St Paul’s Cathedral I walked down Dean’s Court to find Doctors’ Commons, a group of brick buildings housing doctors of law, with ‘commons’ meaning a ‘coming together’. However, the buildings were sold in 1865 and demolished shortly thereafter. A blue plaque in Queen Victoria Street now marks the site.
Mr Bradshaw encourages exploration, ‘..deviating a little from his direct course..’, and so I did, in the narrow lanes between St Paul’s and Queen Victoria Street – Carter Lane, Creed Lane, Ludgate Square, St Andrews Hill, Ireland Yard… (Interesting document here.)
Knightrider Street is nearby – the main thoroughfare for Knights riding from the Tower of London to jousts in Smithfields in Tudor times? As always there is controversy over the history of names and this is no exception! (Interesting comments.) And what did I find there…
The College of Arms, founded in 1484, is on Bennett’s Hill and the present building was ‘erected in the reign of Charles II..’. Its purpose was, and still is, ‘..to keep records of the genealogical descent of all noble families in the kingdom and to search for coats of arms…’. Only the Marshal’s Court is accessible so I ventured in and was fortunate to find a very helpful and knowledgeable lady in reception. The College is controlled by the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, and the office is hereditary in the family. I would have liked to linger in the warmth but my guide called!
I always feel excited when I walk down Watling Street – it is 2000 years old, and still a busy street for pedestrians.
Queen Street was a new street laid out after the Fire of London and directly linked Cheapside to Southwark Bridge. North of Cheapside it becomes King Street and leads to the Guildhall, i.e. a direct route was created from the Guildhall to the Thames (at first to river steps), and then the river crossing of Southwark Bridge.
The first Southwark Bridge opened in 1819. Mr Bradshaw relates that it took five years to build and cost £800,000. Foot passengers paid 1 penny to cross (35p at today’s values), while steam-boat passengers crossed for free. (Steam-boats?) The current bridge, the second one, was opened in 1921. (It was a very gloomy day – the bridge is actually quite garish.)
Bradshaw invites me to investigate ‘..the cross street about here, with their narrow causeways and long lines of lofty warehouses and dark offices, [because they] are worth turning into for the signs of busy traffic they present, and the picturesque old-mansion appearance which many of the houses still retain…’.
Queenhithe was a ‘..thriving Saxon and Medieaval dock and the only inlet surviving along the City waterfront today..’. (This site shows a map from 1755, with an illustration of St Michael’s Queenhithe Church, demolished in 1875, and here and here for further information.) One of the major imports was skins, remembered in nearby Skinners Lane, and the Skinners Company is in nearby Dowgate Hill. Indeed, in the 18th and 19th centuries this was the leading international centre of the fur trade.
St Michael’s Church was built by Wren in 1677, but demolished in 1875
Vintners’ Hall is hidden away off a small doorway on Upper Thames Street, where I now encountered the noise and din on which Mr Bradshaw comments. The Vintners Company owns the swans on the Thames and this is marked in the small statue outside St James Garlickhythe.
The church itself was dismissed by Bradshaw as ‘..admitted to be the worst specimen of Wren’s architectural abilities in London..’.
Bradshaw remarks that Thames Street was known for the Cheesemongers’ shops in the mid-18th century, and that garlic was sold in the area. Did you know the Victorians ate garlic? But I couldn’t find warehouses and Pevsner tells me the warehouses and industrial premises of the City were cleared by WWII bombing and postware clearances, particularly north and south of St Paul’s, and redevelopment along the river. ‘..As a result two important types are now almost extinct: the bonded warehouses of the foreshore, and the monster textile warehouses around Wood Street and St Paul’s Churchyard.’.
St Michael’s Paternoster Royal on College Hill was made a collegiate church by the executors of Sir Richard Whittington. He also founded almshouses on the north side of the church, but these were moved to Highgate, although now demolished and new houses built in East Grinstead. He was buried (three times!) in the church. This small area gives a good feel for the groups of brick buildings and the narrow streets which Bradshaw describes.
The Tower Royal, also known as ‘Queene’s Wardrobe’, was a considerable building used as accommodation for the Kings of England. Pevsner tells me ‘Tower Royal’ as the previous name for the current College Hill. Reading Pevsner after my tour I find that there are warehouses in Queen Street, College Hill, Dowgate Hill but, perhaps because their function has changed, I did not notice them – I will have to return!
In Suffolk Lane the Merchant Taylors School has been demolished although the company continues its educational work, and so I diverted to Lawrence Pountney Hill to see merchants’ houses from 1703 at nos 1 and 2
In King William Street the statue of William IV has been moved to Greenwich Park.
The Monument, reminding us of the Great Fire of 1666 came next; then I walked down the road to St Magnus the Martyr. It was hard to photograph, surrounded by tall buildings, but there used to be a straight road leading past the church to the old London Bridge. The interior was beautiful, and warm, and the woman having a singing lesson had a most beautiful voice. I just sat for a while, and thought about my mother who I saw for the last time time a year ago, and then I lit a candle for her, my sister, and me.
Bradshaw notes that the Boar’s Head Tavern was one of the buildings demolished when the road was widened to build the new bridge.
London Bridge has always been the most important river crossing, and the first was possibly a pontoon type crossing. The second bridge was built c.900AD; it was rebuilt in 1066, and again in the early 1100s, probably; again in 1170s. Bradshaw’s bridge was opened in 1831, and he speaks with pride of a bridge which ‘..connects the heart of the City , where the mercantile world is so busily occupied and so densely concentrated, with the almost equally thickly populated Borough..’, presenting a ‘..scene of bustle and traffic unsurpassed by any bridge probably in the world..’. Today’s bridge, the 7th, was opened in 1973 to deal with yet more increase in ‘bustle and traffic’!
The above picture clearly shows Fishmongers’ Hall on the left side of the bridge, with the Government Emigration Office opposite, and adjacent to an obvious warehouse. St Magnus the Martyr stands out between the two buildings.
Which brings us back to wareshouses and trade as Bradshaw points out Fishmongers’ Hall; in Lower Thames Street the New Coal Exchange; the new (built 1849) fish market of London, Billingsgate Market; and the Custom House. And in Mark Lane, the Corn Exchange, (and here), which is now a modern office block.
Mr Bradshaw finally led me to St Dunstan’s in the East which was quite magical after the constant traffic and noise of Upper Thames Street – a completely unexpected oasis. I will return. (And here for the Church in the summer – a wonderful blogsite.)