My spirits were low today, so, before embarking on ‘the route’ I visited Lincoln’s Inn to see how the garden was progressing in our rather gloomy spring weather. It was beautiful, and tranquil.
‘We now proceed from Temple Bar westward, and enter the Strand…’, leaving the City and entering the City of Westminster.
‘..Before us is the Church of St Clement’s Danes..,’. Apparently the Danes established a church on this site in the 9th century, and they named it after St Clement, the Patron Saint of feltworkers and hat makers; but there are also other explanations of the name, and history. The Church was ‘..rebuilt in 1682 by William Pierce, who received the design from Wren..’, and James Gibb raised the spire in 1719. St Clement Danes was destroyed in WWII and restored by appeals in the RAF, probably the fourth church on the site. Now the official RAF Church, on this afternoon I shared the Church with elderly men, and their wives, and there was a real sense of association with the past.
(More photographs of the interior here.)
There is no churchyard – the church is its own island with traffic whizzing past on either side. A few gravestones lie on the pavement surrounding the church, and despite the noise I noticed a cabby standing to attention in front of these gravestones, in his own space and time – I felt he was remembering.
‘On the right, .. is the entrance to Clement’s Inn..’. The building was demolished in 1934, and is remembered in the name of a little passageway. Clement’s Inn was attached to the Inner Temple and was closed down in 1903.
‘Holywell Street is chiefly tenanted by newsvendors, second-hand booksellers, and renovators of faded garments’, says Mr Bradshaw, but no longer. The street was removed when the Aldwych was built in 1902-03; see here for article and images. Apparently the well, after which the road was named, can still be found under the Australian High Commission in the Strand. The redevelopment also removed Wych Street (noted for pornography, apparently), and its Olympic Theatre, and Lyon’s Inn in Newcastle Street. The Inn was attached to the Inner Temple and by its dissolution in 1863 had a poor reputation.
‘Essex Street, leading down to the river, where there is a pier at which the steamboats call, stands partly upon the site of Essex House..’. Essex House was demolished in the the 1670s and the street built by property speculator Nicholas Barbon. His full name was Nicholas Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebon, understandably he used the abbreviated form!
‘..From the 12th century onwards, large mansions lined the Strand including several palaces and townhouses inhabited by bishops and royal courtiers, mainly located on the south side, with their own ‘river gates’ and landings directly on the Thames..’ – none remain.
‘The Strand Theatre [in Arundel Street], a small establishment devoted principally to the production of burlettas and burlesques..’ was one of the many theatres so important to the Victorians. However, it too was demolished when the area was redeveloped in the early years of the 19th century.
The Whittington Club was also in Arundel Street: ‘..established in 1847, [it] occupies spacious buildings in Arundel Street, Strand, on the site of the old Crown and Anchor tavern, one of Dr. Johnson’s favourite hostelries. The club mainly owes its existence to the exertions of the late Douglas Jerrold and his friends, and is designed to afford the principal advantages of a “West End Club,” at a sufficiently moderate rate to meet the views of members of the middle class.’ The club closed in 1873 and was reopened as The Temple Club, but I assume this was also demolished at some point – I certainly couldn’t find it.
The Old Roman Bath lies between Strand Lane and Surrey Street. This article disputes the age of the bath and suggests that it may have been a feeder for Essex House or Arundel House, and was eventually converted to a plunge pool. The water, according to Mr Bradshaw, comes from the Holy Well in the Strand.
‘The Church of St Mary-le-Strand was built by John Gibbs in 1717 and stands on the site of an ancient maypole..’. It is the official church for the WRNS, the Womens Royal Naval Service, and, like St Clement Danes, stands on an island in a sea of traffic.
It wasn’t a particularly beautiful church, but I love the blue light and so I sat for a while and remembered my mother, who died a year ago, and whose ashes blew away in the wind a year ago last week. And then I lit two candles, for my sister and me.
Somerset House was originally built by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, regent of England from 1547-49, and one of the grand mansions overlooking the Thames. It was rebuilt completely by Sir William Chambers in 1786. Now the home of the Courtauld Institute, and a major arts centre, the signs over the doors tell of past functions.
King’s College was ‘..founded in 1828-9 by a group of eminent politicians, churchmen and others. They wanted a Church of England alternative to what later became University College London (UCL, founded in 1826), known as ‘the godless college in Gower Street’. King’s was granted a royal charter by King George IV on 14 August 1829. The University of London was established in 1836 with King’s and UCL its two founding colleges..’.
Mr Bradshaw describes John Rennie’s Waterloo Bridge, which opened on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1817. It carried a railway, vehicles, and allowed foot passengers who ‘..pay a toll of one halfpenny..’.
However, there proved to be structural problems and the current Waterloo Bridge, built by Sir Gilbert Scott, opened in 1945.
Unfortunately the views described by Mr Bradshaw no longer exist, particularly the ‘..misty line of hills..reaching to the very heart of the most picturesque and pastoral portion of Surrey..’. Even the view towards the City is very different: we can still see St Paul’s, but a ‘..bristling forest of masts dwindling into the hazy perspective of the Pool..’ has gone.
The Lyceum Theatre in Upper Wellington Street, opened in 1834, is still in use:
‘The shops which we now pass on our progress westward, are generally devoted to the exposition of some one of the multifarious shapes of art.’ But no longer; the Strand is a busy thoroughfare, moving traffic and people from the City to the West End, via Charing Cross Station, and as such it captures the noise and grubbiness of which Mr Bradshaw spoke in the beginning of his Guide.
Next we find Savoy Street, the site of John of Gaunt’s Savoy Palace which was considered the grandest London residence but was burned down in 1381. It was replaced by the Savoy Hospital, built by Henry VIII and opened in 1512 to care for the poor. The hospital closed in 1702 and the buildings were demolished in the 19th century. What remains is the hospital chapel of St Mary-le-Savoy in Savoy Row, although the name lives on in the hotel and theatre, and street names.
This beautiful, tranquil Chapel, so close to the grubbiness of the Strand, has been controversial in recent times.
Exeter Hall was demolished in 1907 and the site is now the Strand Palace Hotel. The Hall opened in 1831 and its two halls could accommodate 1,000 and 4,000 people. The Anti-Slavery Society met in the Hall, it was the YMCA headquarters, and a concert hall, where Berlioz conducted.
The Adelphi Theatre is the fourth theatre on this site.
Maiden Lane lies behind the Theatre and ‘..almost certainly occupies the site of an ancient track from Drury Lane through the convent garden to St. Martin’s Lane. The south side of the street probably marks the line of the old mud wall of the garden and, after c. 1610, the line of the brick boundary wall built by the third Earl of Bedford…’. Mr Bradshaw has encouraged me to divert in the past and so I did!
Corpus Christi Church in Maiden Lane only dates to 1873, but it feels older and is unexpectedly peaceful in a busy area.
Crossing over to the south side of the Strand, John Adam Street leads to the Adelphi Terrace, built by the Adams brothers in 1768-72. These eleven large houses, with warehouses underneath, were the first neo-classical buildings in London. Durham House was demolished for their construction. The print below is interesting because, without the Embankment, the close relationship with the Thames is very obvious. The buildings were demolished in the 1930s and replaced with the Art Deco Adelphi building – why?
The land slopes down to the river but the houses are level with the Strand. The warehouses underneath accommodated the slope of the land, and the tunnel in Lower Robert Street today remains as part of those warehouses – a quick cut through to the Embankment. (Interesting article here.)
And we can also find The Royal Society of Arts, established in 1754. ‘..At the heart of the RSA’s contemporary mission and public debates about the future prospects for the human race is the question: ‘Can we go on like this?’ Will the ideas and values which transformed our world in the last two centuries be sufficient to find solutions to the challenges we now face or do we need new ways of thinking?..’
Buckingham Street has an old water gate, built by Inigo Jones, and this is the ‘..only remnant of a princely mansion, built for George Villiers, the second and last duke of that family..’, remembered also in Villiers Street, and of course in Buckingham Palace.
Embankment gardens were rewarding today –
Hungerford Market opened in July 1833 on the site of an older market, and sold fruit, vegetables, and fish along the river. There was ‘..a direct entrance to Hungerford Suspension Bridge, …and a steam-boat pier..’.
Charing Cross was built on the site of Hungerford Market in 1864, just after Mr Bradshaw’s time. Brunel’s Hungerford Suspension Bridge was demolished in 1863 for the railway bridge, and the chains were used in the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.
Opposite the Market was the Lowther Arcade. The Strand was a favoured shopping area and although the Arcade is no longer there the building remains.
Charing Cross Hospital at the corner of King William Street was built in 1833, and remained in use until 1973, when it relocated to Hammersmith, and the building became a police station.
At this point the rain began in earnest and I stopped for the day. I had mixed feelings – so much had changed because of the new road layout, and the creation of the Embankment. But then change is a leitmotiv in London. However, Westminster is very different to the City!