Bradshaw in hand I left St John’s Priory and walked back down St John’s Street. Having been trained by Mr Bradshaw to be aware of trade in the City, I noticed the warehouse of George Farmiloe, Merchant in lead and glass. The building has hardly changed since it was built in 1868. The company traded until 1999 and even had a wharf at Wapping.
And also in the street, ‘.. the Cannon Brewery founded in 1720 by two brothers, Samuel and Rivers Dickinson. Beer was still being produced here until 1955 when Allied Lyons turned it into a distillery and a warehouse..’. Now it is a major redevelopment – shops, offices, and housing.
I changed Mr Bradshaw’s route at this point and went to look for the site of Farringdon Market, ‘..a roofed avenue with shops all round..’. The market was a replacement for the Fleet Market (abandoned when Farringdon Road was built) and was mainly vegetables and had not been a success. (Marvellous article here on City markets, and here.) Mr Bradshaw remarked that the site was likely to become the terminus of the Metropolitan Railway, which would be the world’s first underground railway. This was the case and a major collapse during building in 1862 reminds us of the Fleet River in this area. Now further redevelopment is taking place with the Crossrail Project.
The Charter House was founded as a Carthusian Monastery in 1370 by Sir Walter Manny. He was actually Sir Walter de Manny, 1st Baron Manny, who originated in Masny, near the county of Hainaut in Belgium, and who was eventually buried in the Monastery. ‘The Charter House’ is the English form of La Grande Chartreuse, the order founded by Saint Bruno in 1084 in a remote area of the mountains north east of Grenoble. Perhaps the buildings of English Charter House of 1370 was not dissimilar to the current Grande Chartreuse? And why did he establish a Carthusian Monastery, a closed order, – there were many religious orders in the Medieaval times.
After the Dissolution of the monasteries the monastery was sold in 1611 to Thomas Sutton who was a Civil Servant and businessman. He leased manors close to Newcastle and made his money from importing coal to London. He also owned many other properties and was considered one of the wealthiest men in England. He converted the buildings into a hospital, Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse, for ‘..forty-four boys, and eighty decayed gentlemen..’! It was effectively a home for people who had fallen on hard times, many of whom were distinguished people, and a very fine school.
Mr Bradshaw does not mention the church of St Bartholomew the Great, next to the hospital, probably because it had fallen into disrepair during his time, but I think this is one of the most amazing places in London, and I must deviate from the tour. Anyway, it originally offered care through St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which I previously visited. St Batholomew was originally an Augustinian Priory, with Long Lane marking the old northern boundary of the Abbey. Unlike the Charterhouse, the order was concerned with care, and went out into the community. The church remains as the most important Norman interior in London.
Lord Richard Rich acquired the Priory lands from the King and redeveloped the site, creating the streets of Cloth Fair, Newbury Street, Middle Street, and East Passage. The streets around the church are quiet, and well-kept, and one can easily imagine earlier times, although perhaps not the less savoury aspects of life in the area.
In Aldersgate Street Mr Bradshaw asks me to note the highly ornamented City of London Literary and Scientific Institution, now the YMCA. Well, I think he would be disappointed in the dull grey buildings and the heavy flow of traffic and no sight of either building.
Mr Bradshaw diverts somewhat to Whitecross Street so show us the Debtors’ Prison. The inmates can be investigated here and this article gives a fascinating background into the history of the prison which was closed down in 1869. The northern part of the Barbican is now built over the site. The scene below seems quite pleasant, but these views present a very different story about life in the prison. (I must admit that, believing I knew the street, I did not divert to see the site of a demolished building – I will remedy later.)
Back to Newgate Street via Panyer Alley and the plaque to Caffe Nero.
From Newgate Street we go down Skinner Street to the foot of Holborn Hill where there was once a bridge across the Fleet River. I eventually found Skinner Street on an old map:
In 1869, just twelve years after Mr Bradshaw took us through the area, Holborn Viaduct was opened.
Today it looked less grand, and it was hard to imagine that this was once a river valley.
It was hard to get a sense of the steep hill down to the river, except by seeing the height of the viaduct over the street.
The Fleet River rises on Hampstead Heath and flows 6.4 miles to the Thames. It is London’s largest underground river.
It was a busy river and Newcastle Close and Old Seacoal Lane remember the wharves which used to lie along the river, used especially by the coastal coal trade from the North of England.
In the Middle Ages the river was considered unhealthy, even a sewer, but despite this various prisons were built in the vicinity. It was canalised after the Fire; by 1769 the lower section had been covered over and the entire river was underground by the end of the 1800s.
The river was covered over to allow for the building of Farringdon Street, ‘..a new street communicating with the northern suburbs..’.
I walked up Holborn Hill, under the Viaduct, to find St Andrew’s Church, rebuilt by Wren in 1686.
There are two beautiful statues over the door, children dressed in blue. Blue was a cheap dye and so was used for the clothing for Charity School children. These statues came from the Hatton Garden School (originally St Andrew Parochial School), and were transferred to St Andrew Holborn when the Church was rebuilt after WWII
Thomas Coram, who started the Foundlings Hospital, is buried in the Church, and it was as a result of finding a dying girl at the Church that William Marsden set up the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, and the Royal Marsden Hospital.
And in the churchyard, against the wall of the viaduct road, was a reminder of the Great War, honouring the employees of A W Gamage and Co Ltd, and Benetfink & Co. I looked up the names and found another remarkable story.
Still at the turn of the 20th century there was a night watchman who used call out the hours, and even now the gates are locked at the end of the day.
St Etheldreda’s Chapel is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in England and a former private chapel of the Bishops of Ely, and it is absolutely beautiful. The photographs don’t really capture the peace – you must visit.
The Mitre Tavern can be accessed from both Ely Place and Hatton Garden – it is on my list of revisits!
Law courts used to abound along Holborn. Bradshaw mentions Thavie’s Inn (demolished in c.1785, and the site of a modern office block), Staple Inn, and Furnival’s Inn. John Thavie was an armourer who left his property as an endowment to St Andrew’s Holborn, and the estate still supports the upkeep of the church. Thavie’s Inn was one of the Inns of Chancery, institutions associated with the development of the legal profession and dating from c.1340s.
Staple Inn dates from 1585 and has been rebuilt over the years. Furnival’s Inn, established in 1383, was demolished in the c.19 and the old Prudential building is now on the site. “Furnivalles Inn, now an Inn of Chancery, but some time belonging to Sir William Furnivall, Knight, who had in Holborn two messuages and thirteen shops, as appeareth by record of Richard II, in the 6th of his reign.” (Stow, p. 145)
Holborn Bar marks the boundary of the City, and commercial vehicles had to pay a toll to enter. Now the site is marked by two gryphons, the symbol of the City.
Mr Bradshaw suggested a return to St Paul’s via Fetter Lane and Fleet Street. I was so cold by now that all further photographs ‘wobbled’!