A London Adventure: Pt 1 – The City, Spitalfields & Shoreditch

I was recently in London for a job interview, and seeing as how I was going to have the whole afternoon free from around 2 o’clock until 7 o’clock when my train home left, I decided to plan myself an extensive walk around some of London’s maybe slightly lesser known landmarks…

London Miscellaneous:

Boroughs Covered: Tower Hamlets, City of London, Hackney, Islington, Camden, City of Westminster, Merton

Date: 14/03/2017

Travel: Virgin Trains (Manchester Piccadilly – London Euston), London Underground: Northern Line (London Euston – Moorgate, Leicester Square – Morden, Morden – London Euston) – Circle Line (Moorgate – Tower Hill)

Attractions: George Peabody Statue, Smithfield Market, Christ Church Spitalfields, Spitalfield Market, St Stephen Walbrook, Christ Church Greyfriars, Shoreditch Town Hall, The Old Bailey, St Mary Le Bow Church, St Sepulchre’s Church, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, King Henry VIII Gate, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Covent Garden, Liverpool Street Station etc

My walked started just around the corner from the Bank of England, where, on a pedestrianised street directly behind the Royal Exchange, I came across a large pedestal, atop which sat a statue of George Peabody (1795 – 1869, American Philanthropist born in Massachusetts). George was later made a freeman of the City of London, after a significant financial contribution to the poor people of the city.

Until demolition in 1846, this area had been the site of the Church of St Benet Fink. The statue itself was erected before Peabody actually passed away, but sadly he was too ill by this stage to attend its unveiling.

Moving on, my next stop was Liverpool Street Station. In my various trips to London I have used a number of stations, including Euston, King’s Cross, St Pancras, Paddington and Waterloo, however there are many other well known stations we haven’t explored. Liverpool Street is one of these, and although we have actually taken a train from here to Chelmsford, we arrived by Tube from Euston, and never saw the exterior.

From the outside, Liverpool Street isn’t quite on the same scale as some of the much grander stations like St Pancras, whose street exterior shows off Victorian Architecture at its very best, yet it is still an interesting stop on my walk, and the site of plenty of history.

The Station was designed by Edward Wilson (1820 – 1877, Scottish Civil Engineer from Edinburgh), and originally opened in 1874, becoming the new Southern Terminus of the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML), which runs East towards Norwich and Ipswich, via Essex. Despite having a relatively small number of destinations, it was the largest station in London by 1895, with more platforms than even King’s Cross or Euston.

Directly beneath the station lies Liverpool Street Tube Station, on the Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan Lines, providing good access to most of central London.

During World War II, Liverpool Street was the main arrival point into London of thousands of Jewish Child Refugees from Europe during 1939, through a campaign known as the “Kindertransport”, after the German word for children. They usually arrived in Britain by ferry to Harwich in Essex, and would then take the GEML to Liverpool Street. The rescues ceased after war broke out, and Europe was cut off.

In 2006, a sculpture called “Kindertransport – The Arrival” was installed outside the main entrance to the station. Sculpted by Frank Meisler (Born 1929, German Architect), it features a number of children arriving at the station after escaping Europe.

Leaving the area around Liverpool Street Station, the next stop was Spitalfields Market, across the border into the Borough of Tower Hamlets. The route took me up Bishopsgate, past the striking Heron Tower, whose shiny glass exterior creates an impressive hue amongst the darker, Victorian constructs.

The Heron Tower was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), a firm of American Architects based in New York City, although they also have a regional office here in London. The Tower has a mixture of commercial tenants, as well as a public restaurant on the 38th floor, spread across 46 floors, which total a grand height of 755 ft.

Spitalfields is an ancient area of London, originally named after St Mary’s Spittel, a Priory/Hospital founded in the area in 1197. It also has a lovely historic feel to it, and at the centre of the district lies the famous Spitalfields Market. The Market can trace it’s origins back to 1682, when King Charles II approved the creation of a Market to be held here on Thursdays and Saturdays. It is now held in a vast Victorian complex completed in 1893 (shown left), which has since grown as both the trade, and population in Spitalfields has increased.

In the foreground is the 3.5 metre tall “I Goat” sculpture by Kenny Hunger. The Goat, which is stood atop a mountain of packing crates represents the history of the area, and Goats would have been one of the many animals which were traded here in days gone by.

At the rear of the picture, you can see “Christ Church Spitalfields”, the local parish Church constructed in 1714. By the 18th century, London’s population was expanding rapidly, so in 1710 the “New Churches in London & Westminster Act” was passed, which allowed for the building of 50 new Churches across London, one of which was Christ Church, one of the earliest of the 50. It was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661 – 1736, English Architect from London).

Leaving Spitalfields behind me, I began to head in the direction of Shoreditch High Street, roughly 3/4 of a mile North into the Borough of Hackney.

The area between Spitalfields and Shoreditch is certainly one of contrasts, as evidenced by the picture above. Old Georgian/Victorian terraces line cobbled streets, whilst behind them, an ever growing array of steel and glass rises above the skyline.

This picture was taken on Fleur De Lis Street, with the 541 ft tall Broadgate Tower in the background, completed in 2009.

Onwards to Shoreditch, and a charming walk up Shoreditch High Street. Shoreditch itself grew up around “Ermine Street”, a historic Roman Road from London to York via Lincoln, exiting the City of London at Bishopsgate and heading North through Shoreditch.

The central feature of the High Street is the Church of St Leonard, which has Saxon origins. The Tower of the original Church collapsed in 1716, necessitating a rebuild by George Dance the Elder (1695 – 1768, City of London Architect) during the 1730’s. The Steeple now stands an impressive 192 ft tall.

Turning left off the High Street onto Old Street, Shoreditch’s second most prominent landmark is the Town Hall, whose existence was brought about by the “Municipal Reform Act 1835” which made provisions for new Municipal Corporations to cover the major areas of London. Shoreditch was an up and coming area, and was designated as such. The new Town Council needed somewhere to make a base, so during the 1830’s a Vestry Hall was built here. This was the section to the right with the main Tower. It was the most expensive new Vestry Hall in London, and it’s grand design celebrated this.

The functions of the Council soon outgrew the Hall, so in 1866 the foundation stone for Shoreditch Town Hall was laid. This was the first phase of building work, completed by 1867, covering the area left of the main tower, with the five large bay windows. To the far left of the bay windows is a smaller, set back section comprising just one window, and a door on the ground floor, which was added sometime prior to 1897.

The second phase of building work commenced in 1899, when a new act created Municipal Boroughs, covering larger populations and granting extra powers to the new local authorities which covered them. The Vestry Hall and phase one of the more recent Town Hall were combined to create one large building, which we can still see today. This part of the building houses the main Council Chamber.

Moving away from Shoreditch, I re-entered the City of London near Moorgate Underground Station, shown above, after following Tabernacle Street to the border with the City from Shoreditch.

I had changed tube trains at Moorgate earlier in the morning to get from London Euston to Tower Hill, but only ever saw the platforms, not the exterior.

Moorgate Station opened in 1865, as part of the “Metropolitan Railway”, the worlds first underground line, although at the time it was called Moorgate Street Station. The Railway eventually became what we now know as the Circle Line, the Yellow Line on the Tube Map around Central London. In 1900, the “City & South London Railway, which eventually became the Northern Line, was constructed and was routed to connect up with Moorgate. Sadly the station itself is most famous for the Moorgate Tube Crash of 1975, which killed 43 people. The exact cause of the disaster is unknown, however the driver made no attempt to stop the train as it over ran the station at high speed and crashed into a set of buffers.

Behind the station is “Moor House”, a large office block built in anticipation of the arrival of Crossrail, in 2004. The building has a large ventilation shaft directly beneath it specifically for Crossrail, and at the time of construction it had the deepest foundations in the whole of London.

My next planned stop was the Old Bailey, so I took a scenic route via Bank to St Paul’s Cathedral. Bank is covered by an area known as Walbrook, named after a subterranean River called the Walbrook which has long since been covered over. The area is marked by the Church of St Stephen, just behind Mansion House.

The original St Stephen’s was one of many Churches which succumbed to the Great Fire of London in 1666. A vast programme of rebuilding was instigated after the Fire, lead by Sir Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723, Famous English Architect) who rebuilt many of the cities Churches, including St Paul’s Cathedral. The new St Stephen’s was completed in 1679, based on an early design for the reconstructed St Paul’s.

Closing in on St Paul’s Cathedral, I took a wander up Watling Street, past a sculpture called “The Cordwainer”. A Cordwainer is another name for a Shoemaker, after a town in Spain called Cordoba, which was well known for its quality leather.

Created by Alma Boyes, it originally stood outside St Mary Le Bow Church, until it was moved to Watling Street a few years later. Cordwainers had become important parts of London society after the Crusaders brought the materials and techniques back to England many centuries ago.

Watling Street also offers a stunning view up towards St Paul’s itself, with it’s distinctive dome the stand out landmark in this area of the city. Watling Street was originally based on another Roman Road, which ran from Canterbury in Kent, through London towards St Albans, and then on to the Roman Fort at Wroxeter in Shropshire.

Instead of approaching St Paul’s head on, I turned right off Watling Street onto Bow Lane, which brought me out into Bow Churchyard, by the famous St Mary Le Bow Church.

Much like St Stephen’s Church, the original incarnation of St Mary’s, completed in the Norman Era, was destroyed during the Great Fire of London, and it fell to Sir Christopher Wren to design and build its replacement. The new Church was one of the first Churches to be reconstructed, as at the time it was one of the most important Churches in the City of London, behind only St Paul’s itself. This was because St Mary’s was, and still is the home of the “Arches Court”, which gives it jurisdiction from the Church of England over religious matters in the area.

During World War II, London was heavily bombed by the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe. Many of the City of London’s Churches would not escape unscathed, during a fire-storm which many have dubbed the Second Great Fire of London, due to the sheer area of devastation which was left. A number of them were rebuilt, whilst others were left in a ruinous state as a permanent reminder of the horrors of war. I came across one such Church during my walk, as shown above.

This is Christ Church Greyfriars, although it is sometimes referred to as Christ Church Newgate Street. It lies at the junction of King Edward Street and Cheapside, not far from St Paul’s Underground Station just round the corner from the Old Bailey. It was a monastic Church until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530’s, when it was seized by Henry VIII and became a Parish Church. Rebuilt by Wren in 1687 after the Great Fire, it was bombed out on December 29th, 1940.

The Parish it covered was later merged with St Sepulchre’s, negating the need for the building to be repaired.

Speaking of St Sepulchre’s, that happened to be my next stop. It is just a little further up Newgate Street, which follows on directly from Cheapside, almost directly opposite the Old Bailey itself. It faired slightly better than some of the other Churches in the City, originally created by the Saxons prior to 1137. It was rebuilt in the 15th century, before being completely gutted by the Great Fire in 1666. The stone Tower, and outer walls survived however, which immediately stands out as many of the Churches completely rebuilt by Wren used Portland Stone. It survived the Blitz intact, and is one of the stand out historic buildings in the area.

You can see one of London’s new Routemaster Double Decker Buses passing by in front of the Church. They continue the well known tradition of the Red London Bus, but with a modern touch. They are a Hybrid design, with a mix of diesel and electric power, and have been serving the Capital since 2012.

Moving across the road, I stopped to admire the grand exterior of the Old Bailey, the highest court in the land in England. The Old Bailey’s origins relate to the original Courts held by the Lord Mayor/Sheriffs of the City of London, which also covered the historic county of Middlesex at this time.

They built a courtroom sometime prior to 1585, although it burnt, along with the rest of London, in 1666 in the Great Fire. A new building was completed by 1674, and stood near the old Newgate Gaol. A new act was passed in 1856, called the “Central Criminal Court Act”, which allowed anyone who committed a crime to be tried at the Old Bailey, regardless of whether it was committed in London. This was to ensure impartiality when it came to high profile cases, as the accused may be discriminated against in their home county.

In 1902 the Newgate Gaol was demolished, and the new Old Bailey, still standing today, was built in it’s place, to designs by Edward William Mountford (1855 – 1908, English Architect who also designed Lancaster Town Hall, Sheffield Town Hall and Battersea Town Hall, all of which still survive). The famous statue of Lady Justice can be seen atop it’s great dome, with both the statue and the rest of the building surviving bomb damage from the Blitz.

The final stop in the first half of my walk was St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which can be found just up Giltspur Street, heading North away from the Old Bailey. The Hospital was founded in 1123 by a Monk called Rahere, and is the oldest hospital in the UK that is still a practising medical establishment on it’s original site.

The original St Bartholomew’s was run by the Priory of St Bartholomew the Great, until the 1530’s when the Dissolution of the Monasteries almost bankrupted the Hospital when the main source of income, the taxes levied by the Priory, were removed. The instigator of the Dissolution, King Henry VIII, didn’t let the Hospital close however, he refounded it with Letters Patent, and it came into the care of the City of London Corporation.

Of the buildings themselves, the present complex was designed by James Gibbs (1682 – 1754, Scottish Architect from Aberdeen), and opened during the 18th century. The hospital consisted of the North Wing (1732), South Wing (1740), West Wing (1752) and finally the East Wing (1769). At the Hospitals heart there is also a small Church, called “St Bartholomew the Less”, a 15th century construct founded by the Priory in 1123.

The main entrance to the Hospital consists of a large gate which features a statue of King Henry VIII above it, the only statue of him in London.

I carried on, passing St Bartholomew’s, towards the King Henry VIII Gate, and approaching the large wooden archway which leads into the Churchyard of St Bartholomew the Great, the original Priory Church here…


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