London: Pt 4 – City of London Part 2

Following on from a thoroughly fascinating wander around some of the City of London’s many Landmarks, from the Great Fire of London Monument to the Bank of England and the Guildhall, as well as numerous Churches in Part 1, we approached St Pauls Cathedral, 1 of England’s most famous Churches…

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St Pauls is 1 of the top tourist attractions in the City, and London as a whole. It remains an iconic building that fills many a Londoner with pride, not least because of this photograph taken in 1940:

As the Blitz raged on in London, with incendiary bombs causing so much devastation that the fire was nicknamed the 2nd Great Fire of London, buildings were being destroyed all over the historic City. But, in the centre of London, untouched and defiant, stood St Pauls Cathedral, despite the chaos and carnage that surrounded it. Firefighters bravely fought to save the Cathedral whatever the cost, and a large bomb even had to be defused on the building and safely detonated elsewhere, producing an enormous crater that would have decimated St Pauls had it exploded there.

British moral won through that dreadful attack, across the 29th & 30th December 1940, and Britain stood tall in the face of the evil sweeping across Europe.

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We entered St Pauls Churchyard at the East end, close to the St Paul’s Cross, shown above. Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield (1856 – 1942) and Sir Bertram Mackennal (1863 – 1931)  the cross was completed in 1910, and consists of a central column topped with a statue of St Paul (5 – 67 AD) who preached the message of Christ all over the world. He also founded various Churches as he went, with numerous Churches in Britain dedicated to him. There is some debate as to whether he even got to Britain, although there is evidence to suggest that he did.

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Also in the Churchyard stands a statue of John Wesley (1703 – 1791, Co-Founder of Methodism). There are a number of statues of him in London, with this Bronze version in the City, and a marble 1 in Westminster. As well as his notable religious work, he was also an avid campaigner for the abolition of Slavery.

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Whilst Sir Christopher Wren helped rebuild various Churches around London, his most famous work was of course St Pauls Cathedral.

The original St Pauls dates back to 604 AD when a small Church was built in honour of St Paul. The most famous version, prior to the current 1, was completed in 1314, with a towering spire in the centre of a large building, with an extended Nave and Chancel. Many of Britain’s Cathedrals today look very similar, including Salisbury Cathedral. The spire of St Paul’s was the 2nd tallest in the country, after that on the central tower of Lincoln Cathedral (which actually made Lincoln Cathedral the tallest building in the world from 1311 until the spire blew down in 1547). Not long after the destruction of Lincolns spire, lightning destroyed the St Pauls Spire in 1561, and 100 years later the Great Fire of London ripped through the rest of the wooden structure, destroying it.

Sir Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723, famous English Architect) was given the task to rebuild the Cathedral, along with the other 50 odd Churches taken by the fire. The new Cathedral was completed by 1711, this time crafted out of stone, although wooden supports hold up the main dome. Today it is the 2nd largest Church in the United Kingdom after only Liverpool Cathedral, reaching a full height at the top of the dome of 365 ft, complimented by twin 221 ft towers at the front of the building.

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Outside the Cathedral’s main entrance stands a statue of Queen Anne (1665 – 1714, 1st Queen of the Kingdom of Great Britain), which at 1st glance appeared to be Victoria. When the new St Pauls was completed on Christmas Day 1711, Anne was still on the throne, so to commemorate the rebuilding a statue of her was erected outside.

In 1886 it was replaced with the present replica, as the original had deteriorated badly enough to warrant its removal. Anne still stands tall and proud today looking out across the City, having survived the Blitz which raged around her in 1940.

North of the Cathedral, which lies West (front entrance) to East (rear) sits a large archway which leads through from St Pauls into Paternoster Square. The arch, another creation of Sir Christopher Wrens, used to sit in the Temple area of the city, close to the boundary with Westminster, as 1 of the 8 Gates into the city. The Arch was removed in 1878 as it was obstructing the road, and is the only surviving Gate of the 8. It was finally re-erected here in 2004, after being assembled brick by brick.

Paternoster Square takes it name from an old street in London named Paternoster Row, which was at the centre of the publishing industry in the city until it was completely obliterated in the Blitz, along with millions of books. An area next to St Pauls was designated to become a new public square, and this was the result, although it was only completed in its present form in 2003.

In the centre of the square stands a 75 ft tall Portland Stone Column, topped with a flaming urn reminiscent of the Monument to the Great Fire of London. Whilst partly being decorative, it is also functional, as it allows air to circulate down to a service road underneath the square.

Aside from the Column, there is another piece of artwork in the square, called “Shepherd & Sheep”, shown in the 2nd picture. The brainchild of Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930 – 1993, noted English Sculptor), it features a shepherd with a number of sheep walking in front of him.

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Leaving St Pauls & Paternoster Square, we headed West along Ludgate Hill, which is the road that begins just in front of Queen Anne. Further down the road the Midland Bank cuts an instantly recognisable form with its alternating rows of Terra Cotta in Pink, and Brick. Designed in 1891 by T F Colcutt, I assume it was custom made for the Bank, which was formed in 1836 as the Birmingham & Midland Bank in the West Midlands. In 1992 Bank was bought out by HSBC, and the name has all but disappeared.

We soon left Ludgate Hill, which becomes the famous Fleet Street, named after the River Fleet which runs underneath the city, emptying out into the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge. For many centuries from 1500 the street was home to a number of publishing companies, and by the 18th century various newspapers had their homes here, including the Daily Courant, a daily newspaper circulated around London from 1702.

The Street was also featured in a novel called “The String of Pearls: A Romance”, released in 1846. The notorious fictional character Sweeney Todd made his debut in the story, which is set in London in 1785, where Todd had set up a Barber Shop near St Dunstans. In a sinister twist however, he was actually murdering his customers and giving the corpses to his partner, Mrs Lovett, who used them to create pies.

If you enter Fleet Street from Ludgate Hill you will go through a large road junction, where Farringdon Street crosses the space between Fleet & Ludgate.

In the background the Spire of St Bride’s Church is visible, whose history is very similar to many other Churches around the City of London. St Brides was already centuries old by the time the Great Fire of London swept through the area in 1666, and it was soon rebuilt by none other than Sir Christopher Wren. His new design provided the tower that still exists today, which has been compared to a Wedding Cake.

The Blitz would destroy the Church again in 1940, although it provided a unique opportunity to excavate the site, and it threw up some astonishing results. As stated on the Churches own website, the foundations of all the previous Churches on the site, totalling 6 in all, were unearthed, offering an incredible glimpse back through history.

Pausing for a moment, we took the chance to look back towards St Pauls, which glistened in the sunlight, with 122 Leadenhall Street, or the “Cheesegrater” rising high into the sky behind it.

Looking straight ahead, the tower of the Church of St Dunstan-in-the-West dominates the other buildings around it. Thought to date back to some time around 1185, the Church was lucky enough to escape the Great Fire of London, and it wouldn’t see any major changes until 1830 when the building was actually demolished to widen Fleet Street. It was rebuilt further back on the land that was the previous Churches burial ground, to a new design put forwards by John Shaw (1776 – 1832) which included the distinctive lantern tower, which is very reminiscent of the Wills Memorial Building which forms part of the University in Bristol.

The Churches counterpart is St Dunstan-in-the-East, which is featured in the 1st part of my City of London post, available here. It was built around 1100, and after major repair work after the Great Fire of London, it was left an empty shell in 1940 thanks to the Blitz, and remains a ruin to this day as a memorial.

Briefly leaving Fleet Street, we cut through to Gough Square, where you will find the house of Dr Samuel Johnson (1809 – 1784) a famous English Writer who had various other jobs from a Teacher to a Poet. He was a very well known Literary Critic, and is widely recognised as having a huge effect on Literary Criticism as a whole. He lived at 17 Gough Square, the building at the very back of the square as shown above. The house was built in 1700, by Richard Gough, which explains the name of the square itself.

Johnson moved in for 10 years from 1748 until 1759, and it now contains a Museum dedicated to Johnson, a statue of which stands in his home city of Lichfield in Staffordshire. Also in Gough Square is a statue of Johnson’s Cat, called Hodge, for whom he had a particular fondness. The statue was erected in 1997, and sits gazing towards his house, waiting for his master to return.

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Moving back into Fleet Street, we gazed along the row of large imposing buildings that typify the street, but also contain a plethora of secrets, starting with Numbers 49 & 50 Fleet Street, a large 3 storey building designed by Jack McMullen Brooks and completed in 1911. It was inhabited by the Norwich Union Insurance agency, who had their offices split across numbers 49 (Norwich Union Life Insurance Society) and 50 (Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society).

Further along the road, approaching the Temple Bar Monument and the Royal Courts of Justice, sits a fine Tudor Building which is a rare example of a structure that predates the Great Fire of London. It is called Number 17 Fleet Street, and was built in 1610 as the Prince’s Arms Tavern. 1 of the rooms in the building was named after Prince Henry (1594 – 1612, the then Prince of Wales, son of James I/VI) and is situated up on the 1st floor. This was due to Henry being invested as the Prince of Wales around the same time it was built. He sadly died at the age of just 18, never getting the chance to succeed his father as King of England & Scotland.

Another building further along the road, whilst newer and smaller is called “Ye Olde Cock Tavern”, and was 1st constructed in the 17th century, although it actually stood on the other side of the road. A new branch of the Bank of England replaced it, and the Tavern was moved to its present location. You can find out more on their official website here.

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Further down the road lies another building that survived the fire, the only 1 in this area, called the Strand. It was built in 1625, and currently houses a restaurant called “Thai Square”, although it is technically a few metres outside of the official City of London Boundary.

What I love about these 3 buildings is that they are now sandwiched between much more modern structures, swept along by the waves of time as the rest of the city grew around them.

Our next stop was the Royal Courts of Justice, which actually lies just outside the Cities boundaries in the City of Westminster. George Edmund Street (1824 – 1881, Essex Architect) won the competition to design the building, but sadly he would never see it completed as he died the year before. Begun in 1873, it was only completed in 1882. It houses 2 different courts, the Court of Appeal covering England & Wales, as well as the High Court, and is 1 of the largest Court buildings in the whole of Europe, due to various expansions which have added numerous extra court rooms.

In front of the Courts sits the Temple Bar Monument, which marks the entrance to the City coming from Westminster, and was also the site where an old custom had the British Monarch stopping to ask permission to enter the City. It is also the site where the Temple Bar Arch we saw earlier at Paternoster Square once stood.

The Temple Bar Monument marks the place where the Arch used to stand, and was designed by Horace Jones (1819 – 1887, English Architect who worked for the City of London) in 1880. It is topped by a large Dragon statue, a notable symbol of the City.

The boundary between Westminster & The City actually runs between the Monument and the Royal Courts, but I have included it with the City for continuity.

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We left the Royal Courts, and headed South down Essex Street towards Embankment, and on the way (still officially in the city of Westminster), we passed a building called the “Incorporated Accountants Hall” which was designed by John Loughborough Pearson (1817 – 1897, Belgian Architect) in 1895 as the offices of an Estate Agent called Astor.

We soon reached the Embankment by the river, where 2 large Dragon statues act as boundary posts, 1 on either side of the road, signaling entry into the City of London. The Dragons were cast in 1849, and once sat above the main entrance to a building called the “Coal Exchange”, located near to where London Bridge terminates in the City today. It was the 3rd Coal Exchange, after the demolition of previous versions from 1770 and 1805, and was opened in 1849 by Prince Albert (1819 – 1861). Coal was an important commodity in London, being heavily used in the City, and also providing a good income from the taxes levied on it. The exchange was eventually demolished in the 1960’s to allow the road it sat on to be widened, coupled with the fact that it was damaged during the Blitz and it was never fully restored.

The Dragons were saved, and moved to their new home on Embankment. The Dragon as an emblem is based on the legend of St George & The Dragon, and is also featured on the Coat of Arms of the City of London. You will find other Dragon boundary markers at other areas on the way into the city, including Holborn, and Blackfriars Bridge. You can find out more about the Dragons, and where to find them, on this handy website detailing them all here.

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A number of bridges cross the Thames into the City of London, with the newest being the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian bridge designed jointly by Arup (London Firm), Foster & Partners (London Architectural Firm) and Sir Anthony Caro (1924 – 2013, English Sculptor). Spanning 325 metres, it opened in 2000, and leaves Southwark outside the Globe Theatre, emptying out into the City by St Pauls, as shown above.

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Interestingly, the boundaries of the City of London as its own distinct political entity extend out halfway across the Thames, where they meet those of Southwark, Lambeth, Westminster etc. There is a small anomaly however, as the boundaries also cover the entire length (to the South bank) of both Blackfriars and London Bridges, making them an extant part of the city, with small gaps in the boundaries of Southwark where they make landfall.

Blackfriars Bridge is shown above in red, with St Pauls behind it. The Bridge has had at least 2 incarnations, beginning with the original Bridge which opened in 1769, to the designs of Robert Mylne (1733 – 1811, Scottish Architect from Edinburgh). The name Blackfriars comes from an old Monastery which used to stand in the City. It was eventually replaced in 1869 as the bridge had begun to deteriorate and various repair works had been carried out. The 2nd and present Bridge, with 5 Iron Arches (whereas the previous was Portland Stone) was opened by Her Majesty Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) in 1869.

London Bridge (not pictured) is far older, and lies further upstream towards Tower Bridge. Its famous medieval version was opened in 1776, and stood for more than 600 years, before the expansion of traffic in the City made the bridge impractical for further use in an expanding city. It was replaced with a new stone version, which by the 20th century had begun to sink, so it was sold to an American called Robert P. McCulloch who had it shipped piece by piece to the USA, and the present bridge was built in its place in 1973.

The City of London is an incredible place, far more ancient than any other part of the large metropolitan area that now comprises London. It has some beautiful historic buildings, and a wealth of history spread across numerous Churches, Bridges, Monuments etc. The City has undergone much hardship in its time, recovering from the Great Fire of 1666, and then the Blitz of 1940 which caused even more damage to this almighty City. Modern skyscrapers, which have made the City the joint financial Capital of the World alongside New York City, tower over the old landmarks from centuries past, to create a modern city that is proud of where it has been, and always will be.

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There is so much to see in the City, and you could spend days exploring the many back streets, squares, gardens and attractions. It is well connected in the centre of London, with 3 road, 1 pedestrian and 2 rail bridges linking it with Southwark. In the City alone there are 11 Tube Stations on 8 different lines, along with the DLR, London Buses, and 3 major terminus stations, at Liverpool Street (for Chelmsford, Colchester, Essex & Stansted), Cannon Street (for Lewisham, Greenwich, Woolwich & Ramsgate) & Fenchurch Street (for Southend & Grays).

Cannon Street Station is shown above, with its distinctive 120 ft towers marking the entrance, with trains passing over the Thames via Cannon Street Railway Bridge straight into the station building. Cannon Street 1st opened in 1866, when it became the terminus of the South Eastern Railway between London & Dover. The station was badly damaged during the Blitz, and eventually rebuilt, with the only remnant of the original station being the towers, which help it stand out from further along the river.

So if you ever get the chance to visit London, the City of London itself is a must see, as this is where it all began, a small, square-mile settlement on the banks of the Thames, which has grown into 1 of the most well known, respected and visited cities in the world…


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