April 15, 2016
Famed for its mention in Geoffrey Chaucer’s iconic 14th century work, The Canterbury Tales, The Tabard Inn once stood on Borough High Street in Southwark.
The inn was apparently first built for the Abbot of Hyde in 1307 as a place where he and his brethren could stay when they came to London and stood on what had been the main Roman thoroughfare between London and Canterbury.
It became a popular hostelry for pilgrims making their way from the Chapel of St Thomas á Becket on London Bridge to the saint’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral and was one of a number of inns which eventually came to be built in Southwark at the London end of the pilgrim route.
It’s in this context that it earns a mention in Chaucer’s 14th century work as the pilgrims set off on their journey.
The inn passed into private hands following the Dissolution and in 1676, 1o years after the Great Fire of London, burned down in a fire which devastated much of Southwark (the back part of it had been damaged by fire a few years earlier). Earlier patrons may have, it’s been suggested, included the Bard himself, William Shakespeare.
It was subsequently rebuilt as a galleried coaching inn and came to be renamed The Talbot (it’s been suggested this was due to a spelling mistake by the signwriter). Its neighbour, the George Inn, still stands in Talbot Yard (it was also apparently burnt down and rebuilt after the 1676 fire).
Business for the coaching inns dropped away, however, with the coming of the railways and the building was converted into stores before eventually being demolished in 1874.
A plaque to the inn can be seen in Talbot Yard (named for the inn’s later incarnation) – it was unveiled by Terry Jones in 2003.
September 29, 2015
London photographer Ian Wylie captures the “supermoon” rising over Canary Wharf in London’s east on Sunday, ahead of the lunar eclipse in the early hours of Monday. As seen from London Bridge at 6:54pm – 20 minutes after moonrise and six minutes after sunset. A supermoon occurs when the moon reaches the closest part of its orbit to Earth and hence appears larger than normal. This week’s supermoon coincided with a lunar eclipse – in which the moon passes behind the Earth through its shadow (also known as an umbra) – which later made the moon appear red (a lunar eclipse is also known as a “blood moon”). Last seen in 1982, the phenomena will apparently not be visible again until 2033. PICTURE: © Ian Wylie/Flickr
Some of 16 hybrid images showing London’s bridges old and new which have been released by the Museum of London Docklands to mark the recent opening of the museum’s new free art exhibition Bridges. The images have been created using historic photographs showcased in the exhibition which opened last Friday and runs until 2nd November. The photographs were taken by renowned late 19th and 20th century photographers, including Henry Grant, Henry Turner, Sandra Flett, Christina Broom, Roger Mayne and George Davison Reid. Above is Tower Bridge, taken by Christina Broom (c. 1903–10) from Shad Thames Jetty. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/. PICTURE © Christina Broom/Museum of London.
Albert Bridge (unknown photographer), Chelsea. Glass lantern slide, c. late 19th century. © Museum of London.
Vauxhall Bridge from Cambridge Wharf (taken by Albert Gravely Linney), 1928. Taken from the north bank of the Thames. © Albert Gravely Linney/Museum of London
Looking north across London Bridge (taken by George Davison Reid), c. 1920s. Taken from inside on the 5th floor of No1 London Bridge. © George Davison Reid/Museum of London
Richmond Bridge, glass lantern slide, c. late 19th century. Taken from the south side of the river. © Museum of London.
November 25, 2013
Often noted as the second greatest English dramatist of his generation (after that Shakespeare guy), the playwright Ben Jonson stands tall in his own right as one of the leading literary figures of the late 16th and early 17th century.
Born in 1572, Jonson was educated at Westminster School in London and possibly went on to Cambridge before he started work as a bricklayer with his stepfather and later served as a soldier, fighting with English troops in The Netherlands.
It was on his return to London that he ventured into acting – among his early roles was Hieronimo in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedie – and by 1597 he was employed as a playwright.
While one of his early play-writing efforts (The Isle of Dogs, co-written with Thomas Nashe) led to a term of imprisonment in Marshalsea Prison in 1597 (he was also briefly imprison about this time for killing another actor in a duel, escaping a death sentence by pleading “benefit of the clergy”), the following year – 1598 – the production of his play Every Man In His Humour established his reputation as a dramatist. Shakespeare, whom some suggest was a key rival of Jonson’s during his career – is said to have been among the actors who performed in it.
Further plays followed including Every Man Out Of His Humour (1599), his only tragedy Sejanus (1603), the popular Volpone (1606) and The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614) and it was during these years, particularly following the accession of King James I in 1603, that he became an important figure at the royal court).
His political views continued to cause trouble at times – he was again imprisoned in the early 1600s for his writings and was questioned over the Gunpowder Plot after apparently attending an event attended by most of those later found to be co-conspirators – but his move into writing masques for the royal court – saw his star continue to rise.
All up he wrote more than 20 masques for King James and Queen Anne of Denmark including Oberon, The Faery Prince which featured the young Prince Henry, eldest son of King James, in the title role. Many of these masques saw him working with architect Inigo Jones, who designed extravagant sets for the masques, but their relationship was tense at times.
In 1616 – his reputation well established – Jonson was given a sizeable yearly pension (some have concluded that as a result he was informally the country’s first Poet Laureate) and published his first collection of works the following year. Noted for his wit, he was also known to have presided over a gathering of his friends and admirers at The Mermaid Tavern and later at the Devil’s Tavern at 2 Fleet Street (Shakespeare was among those he verbally jousted with).
Jonson spent more than a year in his ancestral home of Scotland around 1618 but on his return to London, while still famous, he no longer saw the same level of success as he had earlier – particularly following the death of King James and accession of his son, King Charles I, in 1625.
Jonson married Anne Lewis – there is a record of such a couple marrying at St Magnus-the-Martyr church near London Bridge in 1594 – but their relationship certainly wasn’t always smooth sailing for they spent at least five years of their marriage living separately. It’s believed he had several children, two of whom died while yet young.
Jonson, meanwhile, continued to write up until his death on 6th August, 1637, and is buried in Westminster Abbey (he’s the only person buried upright in the abbey – apparently due to his poverty at the time of his death).
For an indepth look at the life of Ben Jonson, check out Ian Donaldson’s Ben Jonson: A Life.
September 9, 2013
The street, which is just 180 metres long, bears the same name as a great Roman road which ran all the way from Dover through London to the long gone Roman town of Viroconium (now known as Wroxeter in Shropshire).
The Roman road followed, to some extent, the route of an ancient Celtic pathway. But while the Celtic pathway crossed the Thames at Westminster, the Roman road, once the bridge was constructed, crossed at London Bridge and headed through London, apparently taking in this surviving piece.
The building itself – located on the intersection with Bow Lane – is said to have been constructed from old ship’s timbers by none other than Sir Christopher Wren in 1668. The upstairs rooms were said to have been used as a drawing office during the construction of Wren’s masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral. It may have also been used as pub by the workmen building the cathedral – in fact it’s said to have been the first pub built after the Great Fire of 1666.
The pub is part of the Nicholson group. For more on it, check out www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/yeoldewatlingwatlingstreetlondon.
PICTURE: Duncan Harris/Wikipedia
London’s railway network stands out as one of the greatest achievements of the Victorian age for it was during the 19th century that much of the railway infrastructure still in use today was first established.
The first railway line in London opened in February 1836 (six years after the UK’s first line opened) and ran between Spa Road in Bermondsey and Deptford on the south bank of the River Thames. The line was extended to London Bridge in December that same year and again to Greenwich, from cross-Channel steamers left – in April the following year.
That same year – 1837 – the station at Euston opened as the final stop for trains from Birmingham (an earlier terminus as Chalk Farm was deemed too far out). It was followed by Paddington in 1838, Fenchurch Street – the first permanent terminus in the City – in 1841, Waterloo in 1848 and King’s Cross in 1850.
Having seen a boom period during the 1840s, development of new lines took a back seat in the 1850s but resumed apace the following decade with the opening of Victoria Station, connecting the city to Brighton and Dover. Stations followed at Charing Cross, Ludgate Hill and Cannon Street and alongside the grand terminus’ around the outskirts of London where trains arriving from distant destinations arrived, numerous smaller railways began to be built, such as the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway and the Victoria Station and Pimlico Railway, which took passengers on only short journeys across the city (these smaller railway companies all disappeared by 1923 when the 1921 Railways Act resulted in the creation of what are known as the “Big Four” British railway companies).
And, of course, the London Underground, has its first journey in 1863 but we’ll look at that in more detail next week.
Interesting to note that there were three classes of rail travel and while first and second class passengers had seats, this wasn’t always the case in third class where, writes Michael Paterson in Inside Dickens’ London, passengers, such as those on the Greenwich line, were initially forced to stand in open topped carriages known by some as ‘standipedes’.
Naturally, with the building of the railways came some spectacular stations – among the most spectacular is the late Victorian building which stood at the front of St Pancras Railway Station and housed the Midland Grand Hotel (pictured above). An exemplar of the Gothic Victorian style, it was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and, following a massive recent refurbishment, is now home to the five star Renaissance London Hotel and apartments.
We can, of course, only touch on the history of the railways in such a brief article – but we will be looking in more detail at some more specific elements of the system in later posts.
October 29, 2012
Perhaps not so much a sign as a pub name, the strangely monikered Doggett’s Coat and Badge in South Bank is named after a rowing race – said to be the oldest continuous sporting event in the country – in which apprentice waterman traditionally competed for a prize consisting of waterman’s coat and badge and named after Irish-born actor and theatre manager, Thomas Doggett.
The race – which is held in July and runs over a course of four miles and seven furlongs from London Bridge to Chelsea (the starting and finishing points were originally both marked by pubs called The Swan) – was first held in 1715 when it was first organised by Doggett who financed it up until his death in 1721 after which he left instructions in its will for it to be carried on by The Fishmongers’ Company (which it still is today).
While there’s a nice story that Doggett, who managed the Drury Lane Theatre and later the Haymarket Theatre and carving out a name for himself as a ‘wit’, started the race as thanks to Thames watermen for rescuing him when he fell off a watercraft while crossing the Thames, Doggett – a committed Whig – actually started the race to commemorate the ascension of King George I – the first ruler of the House of Hanover – on 1st August, 1714, following the death of Queen Anne.
This year’s race winner was Merlin Dwan (London Rowing Club) who beat four others to finish in 24 minutes, 28 seconds.
The pub, one of the Nicholson franchise, is located in a multiple storey modern building complex and sits along the course of the race in South Bank. It features a range of bars including Thomas Doggett’s Bar and the Riverside Bar as well as a dining room and other function rooms.
For more on the pub, see www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/doggettscoatandbadgesouthbanklondon/. For more on the race (which we’ll be mentioning, along with more on Thomas Doggett, in more detail in upcoming posts), see www.DoggettsRace.org.uk.
September 26, 2012
In the first of a new series looking at some of London’s most historic markets, we take a look at the history of Borough Market in Southwark, now the city’s most famous food market.
The origins of a food market in the area go back to at least to the reign of the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unready in early 11th century (some have suggested as far back as Roman times) with food vendors clustering around the southern end of London Bridge. The market was relocated to Borough High Street in the 1200s.
In 1755, traffic congestion saw Parliament close the market but Southwark residents raised £6,000 and bought a small area of land known as The Triangle – once part of the churchyard of the now long gone church of St Margaret’s – and reopened the market there.
The Triangle still remains at the heart of the market which sits partly under railway arches just to the south of the Southwark Cathedral churchyard. New market buildings were constructed in the mid 1800s but deemed “impractical”, they were replaced by new buildings in the late 1800s and 1930s (the latter was when the art deco entrance on Borough High Street was erected).
The market was refurbished in 2001 and the ornate Grade II-listed Floral Hall, which was originally the south portico on the Floral Hall at Covent Garden (taken down to make way for the Royal Opera House), was installed in 2003.
There are now more than 100 stalls in the wholesale and retail food market, making it one of the largest in London. It is owned by a charitable trust, The Borough Market (Southwark), with the volunteer trustees all local residents. Sections in the market include the Jubilee Market and the Green Market and a blue plaque, declaring the market London’s “oldest fruit and veg market”, was installed by Southwark Council earlier this year.
The amazing variety fine food on offer will tempt even the most jaded of palates but be warned that you have to queue as it can get a little packed with tourists at lunchtimes!
WHERE: 8 Southwark Street (nearest Tube Stations are London Bridge or Borough); WHEN: 10am to 3pm Monday to Wednesday, 11am to 5pm Thursday, 12pm to 6pm Friday, and, 8am to 5pm Saturday; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.boroughmarket.org.uk
Around London – The Shard celebrates; Crossrail archaeology; new sheriffs named; and, Blackpool at Wellington Arch…
July 5, 2012
• Europe’s tallest building marks the completion of its exterior structure today with a spectacular light show. The Shard, a £450 million development located over London Bridge Station in Southwark, stands 310 metres tall and was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The controversial glass clad structure, work on which commenced in 2009, features a jagged top with the design reportedly referencing the city’s many church spires. While the exterior of the building is now complete, work is expected to continue on the building’s interior – which will contain offices, luxury shops and restaurants, a five star hotel and 10 top-end apartments (the highest in the UK) – until next year. It is expected that the building’s viewing decks – which offer panoramic 360 degree views over the city – will become a major new tourist attraction in the city. The Shard will be formally opened today by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani and Prince Andrew, Duke of York. The hour long light show, which features lasers and searchlights, kicks off at 10pm and those who can’t see it in person can watch it streamed live at the-shard.com.
• A skeleton from the St Bethlehem Burial Ground and 55 million-year-old fragments of amber are among the artefacts which will go on display this Saturday at a special public exhibition of archaeological discoveries made during the construction of Crossrail. Almost 100 objects found at 10 different sites will be in the Bison to Bedlam – Crossrail’s archaeology story so far exhibition which marks the halfway point of the Crossrail archaeology program, first launched in 2009. Finds have dated from prehistoric times through to the Industrial Revolution and, as well as those aforementioned, also include some medieval ceramic wig curlers, 17th century gravestone markers and stakes made out of animal bone. All the items will be eventually donated to the Museum of London or Natural History Museum. The exhibition will be held from 10am to 5pm this Saturday at the Music Room, Grays Antiques, 26 South Molton Street (nearest Tube station is Bond Street). For more, see www.crossrail.co.uk.
• Alderman Jeffrey Evans (Ward of Cheap) and Nigel Pullman have been elected the new sheriffs of the City of London in a poll held late last month. The office of the sheriffs dates back to the Middle Ages – current duties include assisting the Lord Mayor of London in his official duties and attending sessions of the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey. The two new sheriffs take up their post in late September.
• On Now: Blackpool: Wonderland of the World. A new exhibition held in the Quadriga Gallery at the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, this looks at how Blackpool transformed in the 19th century from a small village to become became the first resort in the world to cater for the working classes. Focusing on two of the town’s key attractions – the Winter Gardens and the Blackpool Tower – the exhibition’s highlights include a silver model of Blackpool Tower dating from 1893, rare Victorian and vintage posters advertising performances by some of the stars who shone there, and early 20th century photographs of the interiors of the Winter Gardens. In addition, two crowns will illuminate the top of Wellington Arch in a taste of Blackpool’s famous light show. Organised by English Heritage in partnership with Blackpool Council, it runs until 27th August. Admission fee applies. See www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/exhibitions-at-the-arch/current-exhibition/ for more.
June 12, 2012
Says the photographer, Ed Walker: “The picture was taken from my girlfriend’s roof garden in New Cross using a 50mm prime lens. I’ve been experimenting with increasing clarity in my pictures to bring out the textures and sharpness especially in landscapes. With the reds, yellows and purples in the sky the cityscape contrasts perfectly.” For more of Ed’s work, follow this link www.flickr.com/photos/spooke/7191263460/in/set-72157629741433536.
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