On this page: The Strand - St Pancras - Inns of Court - Barnes - Walthamstow and Lloyd Park - Law Courts
SEPTEMBER - From Fleet Street we walked up the side of the Royal Courts of Justice into Carey Street where we found a well preserved group of listed early GPO red telephone boxes. After coffee in The Knights Templar pub and a - not to be missed – visit to its super-stylish loos we picked up on our earlier walk covering the Inner and Middle Temple and Lincoln’s Inn. A look in the rear windows of Ede and Ravenscroft - the oldest tailor in London. Operating since 1689 it is the traditional outfitter to barristers. Wigs start at around £500 – originally made of human hair but in 1830s Humphrey Ravenscroft patented their current design which uses horse hair. We entered Lincoln’s Inn through the Gateway into New Square. Past members included Sir Thomas More, Oliver Cromwell, John Donne, and William Pitt. Lincoln’s Inn’s records begin in 1422 eighty years before the three other Inns. The name is derived from Henry de Lacy, third Earl of Lincoln (d.1311) he was probably the Inn’s first patron and lived in nearby Shoe Lane. Old Hall built in 1490s used to be one of London’s main courts and features in the opening scene of Dickens Bleak House in connection with the case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce, which became a by-word for the greed of lawyers and the futility and cost of endless litigation. The Chapel was built 1619-1623 and the dedication ceremony was conducted by John Donne, then Dean of St Paul’s. (for more info see Inns of Court South Walk). We continued up to High Holborn through a passageway beside the Cittie of York Pub, which may have been founded as early as 1430, and entered the South Square of Gray’s Inn to be greeted by a Statue of Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) philosopher, statesman, scientist and a prominent members of Gray’s Inn. No 1 South Square once housed the offices of Ellis and Blackmore, where the teenage Charles Dickens worked as law clerk in 1827. The Chapel, dating from 1689, was built on the site of the original chapel of early 1300s. It was restored in a late gothic style in 1893 but was destroyed by enemy action in 1941 and rebuilt to designs by a one time Master of the Inn, Sir Edward Maufe, the architect of Guildford Cathedral and the original stained glass windows which had been removed for safety were replaced. Beside the Chapel The Hall dates from 1556 but again was extensively renovated after the Blitz. Glass, pictures and Treasurer’s shields had been removed to a place of safety and were returned after the war. The Third Earl of Southampton, a patron of William Shakespeare, was a member of the Inn and the first performance of A Comedy of Errors was given in the Hall. The Inn’s records state that a performance was given by a ‘company of base and common fellows’ on 28 December 1594 during Christmas celebrations. During this period Elizabeth I was the Patron Lady of the Inn and many of her inner circle were members of the Inn including Admiral Lord Howard of Effingham (who masterminded the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588) and Sir Francis Walsingham. The larger Gray’s Inn Square – named after Reginald de Grey a Chief Justice whose London mansion housed the original Gray’s Inn after he died in 1308. The Square was carefully restored in the rebuilding after WWII. The beautiful Gray’s Inn Gardens were first laid out by Sir Francis Bacon in 1606 when he was Treasurer of Gray’s Inn. The gardens were known as The Walks and were popular for promenading by fashionable society. In 1660 Samuel Pepys recorded “went to Gray’s Inn where I saw many beauties and proceeded to Walks where I saw a great store of gallants, but above all Mrs Frances Butler is the greatest beauty”. Leaving the gardens we found fine Georgian houses on Bedford Row popular with firms of solicitors. After lunch we re-crossed High Holborn into Lincoln’s Inn Fields, at 12 acres London’s largest Square, said to have the same dimensions as the base of the Great Pyramid at Giza and to have been the inspiration for Central Park in New York. Once rural fields, the Square was laid out in the early 17thc by Inigo Jones. The area had previously been a popular site for duelling and public executions. Around the sides of the square were the offices of Farrer & Co since 1790 solicitors to the Royal Family and English aristocracy, Sir John Soanes Museum, the Royal College of Surgeons and the old Land Registry Office now part of the London School of Economics. We left the square passing the Old Curiosity Shop dating from 1560, one of the oldest shops in London but probably not actually the inspiration for Dickens’ story. We returned to Fleet Street for the return bus from outside the Royal Courts of Justice. (Report to Anita Butt, Photos: Owen Randall)
WALTHAMSTOW & LLOYD PARK
AUGUST - A short walk from Walthamstow Central station brought us to the heart of Old Walthamstow Village. Walthamstow (a place where travellers are welcome) was well established by the time of the Domesday survey in 1086. From the middle ages rich City merchants built country houses in the lovely wooded countryside around the village. Sir George Monoux, Lord Mayor of London in 1514 was a generous benefactor founding the Monoux Almshouses and Grammar School and paying for the rebuilding of the church. The Squires Almshouses were founded by Mrs Squries for six decayed tradesman’s widows. The National School & Workhouse built in 1819 to take the overflow from the Monoux School was in use until 1907. The Vestry House (1730) was a combined workhouse and vestry office, the Vestry being the local authority in those days. The building subsequently became a police station, a private house, and now houses the delightful local history museum. Outside the museum is the top of a stone column from the old GPO tower in St Martin’s Le Grand brought here by a local resident in 1912 when the tower was demolished. The enclosure of all old common land in the 1850s and the coming of the railway which drove a deep cutting through the village left the way open for speculative builders to transform the old village into a modern suburb. The Victorian High Street has become the centre of the Walthamstow Village conservation area with shops, cafes and the East London Sausage Company! Close by the Ancient House, a timber framed structure from the 15th century, is a rare Victorian letter box designed by Penfold in 1871. We walked through the three-acre churchyard of medieval St Mary’s church with many fine tombs reflecting the former up-market status of the area. Although badly damaged during WWII the Monoux Alms Houses and original school alongside the churchyard were restored in 1955 and are well cared for today. Nearby Vinegar Alley got its name because vinegar was used in an attempt to disinfect plague graves. We then took the bus to Lloyd Park and the recently restored William Morris Museum. The house was built in the mid 18th century and William Morris moved there with his parents in 1848. Eight years later his father lost a lot of money in the City and they had to leave. It has been a museum to celebrate William Morris’s achievements as a designer, craftsman, poet and social reformer in 1950. The £5 million refurbishment completed at the end of 2012 has brought the museum up to 21st century standards with stunning displays of Morris designs and fabrics and a delightful café with terrace overlooking the park. (Report: Anita Butt, photos: Owen Randall)
We travelled on the Jubilee line from Stratford and then the recently
upgraded OVERGROUND to Barnes Bridge via Clapham junction. The Thames at Barnes
Bridge is 162 miles from its source at Ewen in the Cotswolds. The three-arch
cast-iron bridge was designed by Joseph Brassey and built by Joseph Locke in
1849 to take the newly arrived railway. It has been called the ugliest of the
Thames bridges. It was strengthened and a footbridge added in the 1890s. It is a
well known landmark in the closing stages of the Boat Race.
INNS OF COURT
The walk began in the area known as Inner Temple. The four Inns of Court
serve as the HQ of the branch of the legal profession known as Barristers
who have held the rights of audience in the English courts since medieval
times. A student barrister must be affiliated to one of the Inns – Inner
Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn - and on qualification
is called to the ‘bar’, originally the railing that enclosed a judge in the
courtroom. The Temple area was once owned by the Knights Templar – a
religious military order founded in Jerusalem in 1119 during the Crusades.
Created originally to protect pilgrims visiting the Holy Land the Templars
built up a vast network of estates and commercial interests across Europe.
The English branch moved to this area from an original HQ in Holborn and
owned land stretching from what is now Fleet Street down to the Thames. From
about 1307 a number of European monarchs, supported by Pope Clement V,
decided the Templars were becoming too powerful for their own good and began
to persecute them. In 1312 the Order’s London properties were taken over by
the Crown and given to the Knights Hospitallers – another similar religious
military order also founded in Jerusalem. The land reverted to the Crown
during the time of Henry VIII. In King’s Bench Walk the buildings date
largely from 1670 and are by Christopher Wren. Outside each entrance is a
list of the names of the barristers operating from those chambers. Charles
Dickens sited the office of Sir John Chester in Barnaby Rudge in Paper
Buildings (1610 rebuilt 1828) Down the years a number of well known authors
have been members of Inner Temple – John Mortimer, Bram Stoker (Dracula) and
possibly even Geoffrey Chaucer.
APRIL - After a frustrating journey during which we were turned off our bus due to a major traffic incident on the Euston Road we arrived at the Wellcome Trust Building for a late but well deserved coffee. We spent some time looking at the Medicine Man Exhibition, the collection of medically related objects collected by Henry Wellcome. Some rather primitive models and surgical instruments made us grateful for the poor old NHS. An exhibition of intricate paintings, drawings, models and fabric collages by patients in Japanese psychiatric institutions also gave much food for thought. We then walked down to St Pancras New Church designed in Greek classical style by Henry and William Inwood in 1822 at a cost of £76,679. Nearby Woburn Walk presented an elegant bow-fronted street by Thomas Cubitt 1822 with a blue plaque to W. B. Yeats at No 5. In Flaxman Terrace, named for John Flaxman, sculptor (1755-1826 and buried in St Pancras Gardens), we found on the railings the small repeated motif showing the boy Martyr St Pancratius beheaded in Rome in 304CE from whom St Pancras takes its name. Stylish Cartwright Gardens now boasts a large number of small hotels. At the heart of the community in lively Marchmont Street we found, still at No 66, the Gay’s the Word bookshop - named after an Ivor Novello Musical. The bookshop opened in 1979 and was raided by Customs and Excise in 1984 for selling books by Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal and Christopher Isherwood. The owners were charged with conspiracy to import indecent books but after vigorous protests the charges were dropped. There was a fine selection of blue plaques, actors Kenneth Williams and Emlyn Williams living in flats opposite each other but not in the same era; earlier residents included Percy and Mary Shelly. At the corner of Handel Street, named for the composer who raised money for the nearby Foundling Hospital by donating the proceeds from performances of Messiah to the charity, we turned into St George’s Gardens, once the burial ground for two parishes, now a public park with a path of flag stones still indicating the parish boundary. Amongst the remaining tombs that of Oliver Cromwell’s grand-daughter Anna Gibson (died 1727) and also John Flaxman. After lunch in piazza of the lively and revived Brunswick Centre we made for Russell Square and home with the opportunity to look at the elaborate foyer of the Russell Hotel – opened in 1906 and designed by Charles Fitroy Doll – the hotel was so posh in its heyday and everyone put on their glad rags to go to dine or dance there – the origin the expression “getting Dolled up”. (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Harry Dennehy)
MARCH - The first outing of the New Year was a landmark walk (so to speak), Anita having planned and undertaken her 50th London Walk which started started in the forecourt of Somerset House built between 1547-50 for Lord Protector Somerset who was executed 1552.It was given to Princess Elizabeth (I) who used it occasionally and rode out from here to welcome her sister Mary to London as Queen. In 1603 it was given to Anne of Denmark who loved to dress up, and where many masques were performed there organized by Ben Johnson and Inigo Jones. The original buildings had a chequered history down the centuries until in 1775 they were pulled down and the site allocated for Government buildings. The current buildings were designed by Sir William Chambers, and over the years it has been home to the Royal Academy, the Royal Navy, Stamp Office, Tax Office and the Inland Revenue, which occupied the east wing until 2005. The Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages were held there from 1836 -1993. The Courtauld Institute of Art moved into the North wing in 1990 and Courtauld Gallery took over the fine rooms once used by the RA in 1998. Somerset House also houses the Gilbert Collection and Hermitage Rooms which hold rotating exhibitions with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The magnificent courtyard was for many years used as a car park, now a venue for concerts, with an ice-skating rink at Christmas and most recently up-market marquees for London Fashion Week
King’s College, one of the two founding colleges of London University, was founded in 1828 by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington and the bishops of the Church of England as an Anglican alternative to the non-denominational University College, the architect was Robert Smirke. After looking at the photos of distinguished alumni of the College lining the outside walls of the building on the Strand we went up to the second floor to see the stunning chapel. Tim Ditchfield, the chaplain, welcomed us and gave a brief history of the chapel. The original, rather plain chapel, although in the same situation as the present one, was re-constructed in 1859 to designs by George Gilbert Scott with double columns of iron decorated with brass. As the chapel is directly above the Great Hall, Scott had to employ great ingenuity using a lightweight construction system concentrating the loading above the iron columns on the floor below. The apse at the east end hangs out over Strand Lane (see picture below). The original 1860s organ by Henry Willis has been re-built over the years and the most recent work in 2000-2001 revealed the beautiful angel designs on the largest front-facing organ pipes. The original stained glass was lost during the Blitz and in the late 1990s the growth of King’s and its development as a place of excellence and learning in a multi-cultural setting led to a further restoration and refurbishment of the chapel for use in the 21st Century. Modern stained glass designed by Joseph Nuttgens echoes the original windows showing characters from the Old and New Testaments. The windows depicting the life of Christ hint at the university faculties of Physical Science and Engineering (Christ in the carpenter’s shop) and the School of Law (Christ and the lawyers); Christ healing the sick (Institute of Psychiatry, Nursing and the medical and dental schools of Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s. You can visit the King’s website to see them in their full glory. www.kingscollegelondon.org.
Back on the Strand we turned down Surrey Street past the original entrance to Aldwich Underground station which opened 1907 as Strand Station (Leslie Green Transport Architect) and closed since 1994. It was used as an air raid shelter during WWII. Elgin Marbles and other treasures from the British Museum were stashed away in the tunnels, and Henry Moore is reputed to have made sketches of people sleeping on the platforms and stairs during the Blitz. Turning into Strand Lane it is possible to see the purported remains of a Roman bath, which may only be from the 18th century but it is true that this was the route of a stream that ran from Drury Lane to the Thames; Dickens subjected David Copperfield to several icy plunges here. On looking up one can see the overhanging apse of Kings College Chapel. Continuing down to the Embankment we climbed the steps to the roof of Temple Station passing the Taxi Cabmen’s shelter. Originally the drivers of horse drawn cabs were not allowed to leave their vehicles when parked, so in 1874 the Earl of Shaftsbury set up the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund to provide shelter and “good wholesome food” for cabbies at moderate prices and chiefly to keep them out of the pubs. There then sprung up 61 of these wooden shelters, which because they stand directly on the public highway so that they could be are no bigger than the length of a horse and cart, even so they manage to squeeze in a working kitchen and a space for over ten men. Now dwindled to about 12 (cabbies have freedom to get out of their cabs), and all are now listed buildings. Only cabbies are allowed to sit inside but anyone can get a take-away bacon roll with brown sauce, “tea, four sugars, thanks
love” – through the serving hatch.
Permanently moored below is HMS Wellington floating Livery Hall of Honourable Company of Master Mariners. Built in Devonport 1934, it was used in South China Sea during WWII, and has recently been announced that it is to be opened to the public, in particular to allow school children to visit the ship.
Temple Place once the site of Electra House, an inter-war office block, was HQ of Cable & Wireless Co and home to a secret Foreign Office department involved in planning propaganda during WW2. Beneath the building a number of telephone lines linked to the Central Telegraph Exchange in Moorgate which monitored calls to and from every foreign embassy in London. Continuing our walk we encountered: Mock Tudor Arundel House which is the headquarters of military think-tank International Institute for Strategic Studies; Temple Station, which opened in 1870 as part of eastern extension of the Metropolitan & District Railway with its colonnaded roof built to complement the local surroundings (Somerset House) – had to be closed after a few months as it became a haunt of prostitutes; Embankment Gardens, built in the 1860s on land reclaimed from the river, during Joseph Bazalgette’s construction of the 82-mile stretch of sewers and drains, which was begun after the great stink of 1858 in three sections - the gardens stretch all the way to Westminster. Temple section is populated by many monuments to the great and the good. The raised embankment, to contain the Thames, is also used to "house" the Circle Line. Sitting in the gardens at a quiet time of day you can hear the trains passing through the, not so obvious, ventilation shafts.
In the gardens are statues of: W. E. Forster, Henry Pinker’s 1890 Bronze; Quaker, MP Chief promoter of the 1870 Elementary Education Act which made provision for compulsory State Education; Lady, Isobella, Henry Somerset, 1851-1921. Small bronze of a young girl, bird bath and drinking fountain, Victorian Temperance crusader – President of British Women’s temperance Assn 1890-1903 – founded a farm for inebriate women near Reigate – her monument too became legless – G.E.Wade’s original bronze was stolen in 1971 when it was sawn off at the feet – now restored it bears a delightfully inappropriate inscription – “I was thirsty and you gave me drink”; John Stuart Mill. Seated bronze, 1878, by Thomas Woolner. Victorian philosopher.
After lunch in the Devereux Arms (named after the Earl of Essex whose riverside house could be reached by secret stairs from the river), we visited No 2 Temple Place (Astor House) built in mock Tudor style as an office for William Waldorf Astor in the 1890s. Above the roof the stunning beaten copper weathervale is a representation of the Santa Maria, the caravel in which Columbus discovered America, by J. Starkie Gardner. The arden was once a dock before the Thames embankment was constructed. The portico was designed by W. S. Frith (William Silver Frith, remembered more as a teacher of sculpture (one of his pupils was George Frampton who created Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens), than for his own works). The two stone pedestals with bronze lamp standards (also W. S Frith), were once exhibited at Royal Academy and represented a miniature ship with cherubs representing the marvels of electric light, telegraphy and the telephone. At one time these also looked towards the HQ of Cable and Wireless.
We visited the house which is not normally open to the public to see the exhibition "Amongst Heroes": The artist in Working Cornwall, a fascinating collection of Cornish paintings by late 19th century artists. The paintings were displayed against the stunning background of the carved panelled rooms and mock Tudor staircase created for William Astor’s pleasure. Details to come. (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Harry Dennehy)