Where’s London’s oldest…(still-in-use) bridge?

There’s several candidates for the title (and, of course, it depends on what exactly we mean). So here we go… 

First up is the Clattern Bridge, which crosses the River Hogsmill (a small river which runs into the Thames), in Kingston upon Thames in the city’s south-west.

The earliest known reference to this three-arched bridge dates back to 1293 and the medieval name, ‘Clateryngbrugge’, is thought to refer to the sound horses’ hooves made as they clattered across.

While the bridge (pictured above and right), which had replaced an earlier wooden Saxon bridge, was altered in the 18th and 19th centuries, its Historic England Grade I listing notes that it remains a “good example of a medieval multi-span bridge which survives well” and includes some “impressive medieval masonry”.

Second is another Grade I-listed bridge that doesn’t even cross a river but rather a moat at Eltham Palace in the city’s south-east.

The stone north bridge, now the main entrance to the palace, is described by English Heritage as “London’s oldest working bridge” – although it’s not as old as the Clattern Bridge.

It was constructed in 1390 on the orders of King Richard II, replacing an earlier wooden bridge (it was apparently Geoffrey Chaucer – yes, that Geoffrey Chaucer – who supervised the building works as part of his job as Clerk of the Works to Eltham Palace).

The bridge features four arches, pointed cutwaters with chamfered tops on the outside and a red brick parapet on top.

Thirdly, is the Richmond Bridge which, although not in the same (medieval) league as the previous two, is the oldest bridge crossing the Thames.

The now Grade I-listed structure was built between 1774 and 1777 as a replacement for a ferry crossing and while it was slightly altered in 1939-40, it remains substantially original.

PICTURE: Top – Clattern Bridge (Maureen Barlin/licensed under  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Right – Julian Walker (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Middle – The bridge at Eltham Palace (John K Thorne/Public domain); Bottom – Richmond Bridge (Marc Barrot/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

London Pub Signs – The Hoop and Grapes, Farringdon…

This historic pub in Farringdon bears a common enough name (and it’s not to be confused with the Hoop and Grapes located in Aldgate which we’ll look at in an upcoming post).

PICTURE: Edwardx (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The hoop in the name refers to the metal bands binding together barrels staves and the grapes are obviously a reference to wine. But the ‘hoop’ could be a corruption of hops with the sign possibly once featuring a garland of hops and a bunch of grapes.

The pub, the current sign of which depicts grapes wrapped around a hoop (pictured below), is located in a four storey building first constructed for a vintner in about 1720 as a terraced house and converted to a pub more than a century later in the early 1830s.

Located on ground which one formed part of the St Bride’s Burial Ground, the brick vaults underneath are said to pre-date the rest of the building, having been built as warehouse vaults in the 17th century.

Its location on 80 Farringdon Street means it stood near the Fleet River (now covered) and close by to the former Fleet Prison (largely used as a debtor’s prison before its demolition in 1864).

As a result, it has been claimed that it was one of a number of pubs which hosted so-called ‘Fleet Marriages’, secret ceremonies performed by dodgy clergymen – for a fee – and without an official marriage license. But, as has been pointed out to us, the timing of the passing of the Marriage Act in 1753 outlawing such activities – and this only becoming a pub, according to its Historic England listing, much later – does make this seem unlikely (we’d welcome any further information on this claim).

The location also meant it was popular with printers who worked in nearby Fleet Street (in fact, it was apparently given a special licence to serve such customers at night or in the early morning).

The pub was scheduled for demolition in the early 1990s but saved with a Grade II-listing in 1991.

A rare survivor from an earlier time among the street’s more modern buildings, it is now part of the Shepherd Neame chain and it’s during renovations held after this purchase that burials were uncovered (the remains were moved into the British Museum). This has apparently led to rumours that the pub is haunted.

For more, see www.hoopandgrapes.co.uk.

Sorry for the confusion – We’ve corrected references to grapes in the second paragraph (and amended our comments on the current sign). And we’ve also clarified comments that the pub was used for Fleet Marriages given the timing discrepancy.

LondonLife – ‘Rivers of the World’…

River inspired artwork created by young people from across London, the UK and around the world is one show on South Bank as part of the Totally Thames festival. The art for Rivers of the World was created during the coronavirus lockdown under the guidance of professional artists who provided briefs and films to help the young artists. The outdoor exhibition, on Riverside Walkway near the Tate Modern, is free to visit. For more on Totally Thames, London’s annual month-long celebration of its river, head to https://thamesfestivaltrust.org. PICTURES: Young artists with work created as part of ‘Rivers of the World’ (Courtesy of Totally Thames).

This Week in London – The Havering Hoard on show; and, Totally Thames returns…

With the impact of the new rules being put in place to counter the coronavirus outbreak still being assessed, some scheduled events may be subject to change. As we would always advise anyway, please check with organisations before making any plans…

The ‘Havering Hoard’ goes on display at the Museum of London Docklands on Friday, the first time it’s ever been on public display. Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery features all 453 objects found during an archaeological investigation in Havering in London’s east, in September, 2018. Dating from between c900 and c800 BC, the cache of items – the largest Bronze Age hoard ever found in London and the third largest find in the UK – includes fragments of swords and spears as well as tools including axeheads, sickles, gouges and awls, and terret rings, believed to prevent reins from tangling when horses were pulling a cart (these are the first examples found in England). There are also bracelet fragments, part of a double-sided razor, a ceramic loomweight and bronze pin decorated with amber which may have been used to secure a cloak. The display will explore questions surrounding who buried the hoard and why as well as why it was never recovered. Runs until 18th April. Admission charge applies. For more – including how to prebook tickets to the museum – see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/haveringhoard. PICTURE: Part of the hoard found in Havering (© Archaeological Solutions).

Totally Thames – London’s annual celebration of its river is once again underway with a program featuring art exhibitions and installations, tours and online performances. The events include an online performance of Whittington about the life of the City’s famous mayor, ‘Words on the Wind’ – an outdoor art installation in Kingston featuring a soundscape of recorded poets, and online tours of The Golden Hinde, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous ship. Many events are free and the festival runs to the end of the month. For more, see https://thamesfestivaltrust.org.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

10 disease-related memorials in London…8. Former site of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases…

A blue plaque on a building in Euston marks one of the former sites of the  Hospital for Tropical Diseases – a short-lived episode in the life of a hospital which started life aboard a ship on the Thames.

The hospital, the idea for which originated with the Seamen’s Hospital Society and was funded by public subscription, was founded in 1821 aboard the former naval ship, the HMS Grampus for the relief of ill seamen with none less than King George IV himself as patron.

It was moved aboard the HMS Dreadnought in 1831 and then to the HMS Caledonia, renamed the Dreadnought, in 1857, before finally moving into a section of the Royal Greenwich Hospital in 1870 which in turn became known as the Dreadnought Hospital.

In 1919 the hospital moved to the Endsleigh Palace Hotel at the corner of Endsleigh Gardens and Gordon Street in Euston which was at the time being used as a hospital by the Red Cross. There it was joined by the School of Tropical Medicine which had been founded at the Albert Dock Seamen’s Hospital in 1899 (although this merged with the School of Hygiene in the 1920s and moved out).

It only remained there, however, until the start of World War II when it was temporarily relocated back at the Dreadnought Hospital where it remained for the war’s duration.

After the war – with the hotel damaged during then Blitz, the hospital relocated to 23 Devonshire Street in Marylebone before, in 1951 it became part of the National Health Service and moved into the then vacant St Pancras Hospital as part of the University College of London Hospital group.

It remained located there until 1998 when it moved to new purpose-built premises in Capper Street in Bloomsbury and then in 2004 made the move to its current location in the University College Hospital Tower in Euston Road. The hospital remains the only dedicated institution of its kind within the NHS.

The plaque on the Gordon Street property (the blue dot seen in the image above) was erected by the Seamen’s Hospital Society.

PICTURE: Right – Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0/image cropped)

10 disease-related memorials in London…6. Human BSE (vCJD) memorial…

Located on the Albert Embankment outside St Thomas’ Hospital just to the south of Westminster Bridge, is a small plaque commemorating the victims of Human BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), sometimes referred to as the human form of ‘Mad Cow Disease’.

The memorial, which was erected by the now defunct Human BSE Foundation, reads: “In loving memory of the victims of Human BSE (vCJD). Always in our thoughts.” There’s also an image of a chrysanthemum, a flower sometimes placed on graves to honour the dead.

It was reported in March, 2010, that since 1990, 168 people have died from Human BSE, also known as vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease).

There has in recent years been a push to relocate the plaque from its position on the Albert Embankment to a more prominent place.

PICTURE: Cograng (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

10 disease-related memorials in London…3. The Lambeth cholera epidemic memorial…

Located at White Hart Dock on Albert Embankment in Lambeth is a plaque with a rather lengthy inscription commemorating residents who died in the cholera epidemic of 1848-49.

More than 1,500 inhabitants of this waterfront district died in the outbreak first reported in September, 1848. The River Thames was believed the cause – with people drinking the river water due to lack of alternatives – and the absence of sanitation in the area and close living conditions were seen as exacerbating factors.

The plaque records that the first victim was recorded as John Murphy, a 22-year-old unemployed labourer who lived at of 26 Lower Fore Street. He fell ill on 30 September, 1848, and died the following morning.

The inscription also states that at least 1,618 Lambeth waterfront residents perished in the outbreak and and were buried in unmarked graves in the burial ground in Lambeth High Street, now the Lambeth Recreation Ground. However, the plaque adds that “it is likely many victims were unrecorded and the death toll was much higher.”

The plaque also features the text of a letter to the editor written concerning the cholera outbreak which had waned by autumn 1849.

The plaque, the text of which was written by Amanda J Thomas – author of two books on the subject of cholera in the Victorian era, was erected on a public artwork commemorating the former White Hart Dock in 2010.

PICTURE: White Hart Dock with the plaque on the right-hand side (via Google Maps).

Lost London – Jenny’s Whim…

This Pimlico establishment consisted of a tavern and attached tea garden which were famous for their interactive wonders.

These included mechanical devices which, when triggered, would cause harlequins or monsters to pop-up in order to give patrons a thrill.

There were also floating models on an adjacent reservoir designed to give the impression of mermaids or great fish rising up out of the water. Other attractions in the garden included its many arbors, a grotto, bowling green and the chance to take part in skittles or duck hunting.

The red brick property, which was located at the end of Ebury Bridge (apparently also referred to as “Jenny’s Whim Bridge”), is said to have been named for an early proprietor or, among other alternative stories, after a famous pyrotechnician from the era of King George I.

While the gardens were popular with the middle classes during the 1700s, this popularity had waned by the turn of the 19th century and by 1804 only the tavern remained. It was demolished in 1865 to make way for an extension of Victoria Station.

PICTURE: Guy Bianco IV/Unsplash

LondonLife – And so Brexit Day passes…an ending or a new beginning?…

PICTURE: Marcus Lenk/Unsplash

LondonLife – London’s tranquil top 10…

 

Woodlands, former churches and secluded city parks are all among the top 10 most tranquil places in London, according to the Tranquil City Index. According to a list published by the London Evening Standard, the top 10 puts Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington (pictured above) at number one followed by the church ruins (now a park) of St Dunstan-in-the-East in the City of London (below), Cody Dock at Bow Creek and Beckenham Place Park. Postman’s Park in the City of London comes in at number five, followed by the Red Cross Garden in Southwark, Myatt’s Fields Park in Camberwell, Southmere Lake at Thamesmead, the Japanese Garden in Hammersmith Park (pictured) and, at number 10, the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. The index is the work of Tranquil City, an organisation which explores “our relationship with tranquillity in the urban environment to promote health, wellbeing and balance”. PICTURE: Top – diamond geezer (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Below – James Stringer (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).

LondonLife – Tranquil waters at Little Venice…

Little Venice, Paddington. PICTURE: Matthew Waring/Unsplash

10 (more) historic London garden squares…6. St George’s Square…

 

This rather long square in Pimlico was laid out in the mid-19th century and is, like the church parish in which it stands (St George Hanover Square), named after the patron saint of England.

Development of the area, owned by the Marquess of Westminster, was underway by 1835 and by the early 1840s, the formal square had been laid out. The construction of homes – and the lay-out of the square itself – was supervised by Thomas Cubitt and the first residents moved in the 1850s.

The north end of the square is home to the Church of St Saviour, designed by Thomas Cundy the Younger and constructed in 1864, which shields the remainder of the square from Lupus Street.

The square, now looked after by the City of Westminster, was apparently popular thanks to its being the only residential square open to the Thames (across Grosvenor Road. Until 1874, it had its own pier for watercraft to pull up to.

Famous residents in the square include Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who died at number 26 in 1912, author Dorothy L Sayers, albeit briefly, and Nobel laureate and scientist Francis Crick, who lived at number 56 between 1945 and 1947.

The Thames is located opposite the square’s southern end, across Pimlico Gardens. The gardens feature a statue of MP William Huskisson, the first person to be run over and killed by a railway engine. The work of John Gibson, the Grade II-listed statue, which depicts Huskisson in Roman dress, is a copy of one which was originally placed in Huskisson’s mausoleum in St James’s Cemetery. It first stood in Liverpool Customs House but Gibson wasn’t satisfied with the location so it was moved to the office of Lloyds of London in the Royal Exchange and then again to its current location in 1915.

PICTURE: Top – Homes in St George’s Square (James Stringer/licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0); Below – The north of the square looking towards St Saviour Church (Philip Halling/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)  

 

 

A Moment in London’s History – The opening of Tower Bridge…

This year marks 125 years since the opening of Tower Bridge.

The bridge, which took eight years to build and was designed by City of London architect Sir Horace Jones in collaboration with engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry, was officially opened on 30th June, 1894, by the Prince and Princess of Wales (the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra).

Others among the tens of thousands who turned out to mark the historic event were the Duke of York (later King George V), Lord Mayor of London Sir George Robert Tyler and members of the Bridge House Estates Committee.

A procession of carriages carrying members of the royal family had set out from Marlborough House that morning, stopping at Mansion House on its way to the bridge.

Once there, it drove back and forth across before official proceedings took place in which the Prince of Wales pulled a lever to set in motion the steam-driven machinery which raised the two enormous bascules and allowed a huge flotilla of craft of all shapes and sizes to pass under it.

The event was also marked with a gun salute fired from the Tower of London.

Plaques commemorating the opening can be found at either end of the bridge. The event was also captured in a famous painting by artist William Lionel Wyllie who had attended with his wife. The painting is now held at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Tower Bridge has been running a series of special events to mark the anniversary this year. For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk.

Tower Bridge today. PICTURE: Charles Postiaux/Unsplash

 

This Week in London – Totally Thames kicks off; ‘The London That Never Was’; and an evolutionary garden at Kew…

London’s annual, month-long celebration of the River Thames, Totally Thames, has kicked off and this year’s program includes everything from concerts in Tower Bridge’s bascule chamber to the largest ever exhibition on mudlarking and a mass boat regatta at the end of the month. The programme includes more than 100 events stretching over 42 miles of the river as it winds through London, covering everything from art installations to heritage-related walks and talks, family-oriented offerings and the chance to get out on the river itself. Other highlights include the Rivers of the World Retrospective art exhibition, a scented heritage exhibition –The Barking Stink, a heritage walk through riverside Rotherhithe, open days at the RNLI Tower Lifeboat Station and this weekend’s Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine Docks. Many events are free. Runs until 30th September For the full programme, head to https://totallythames.org/. PICTURE Courtesy of Totally Thames.

London’s grand building plans that never went ahead are the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Guildhall Art Gallery tomorrow. The London That Never Was imagines a city where the Tower Bridge is clad in glass and where a colossal burial pyramid looms over Primrose Hill. The free exhibition can be seen until 8th December. For more, head here. (To see some of the projects that were never built, see our previous series, 8 structures from the London That Never Was).

A new garden celebrating the evolution of plants has opened at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The Agius Evolution Garden is divided into eight sections to form “garden rooms” with each room containing closely related plants, revealing fascinating stories such as the connection between strawberries and nettles and why the Asteraceae family have “false flowers”. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

LondonLife – Wandsworth Bridge at sunset…

Wandsworth Bridge over the River Thames in west London. It was opened in 1940, replacing an earlier bridge which was demolished a couple of years before. PICTURE: Frederick Tubiermont/Unsplash

This Week in London – Beasts at Smithfield; Food at Hampton Court; and ‘The Barking Stink’…

Smithfield will play host to a “fantastical” free street party in which animals take centrestage this Bank Holiday Sunday. Curated by the Museum of London, Culture Mile’s Smithfield Street Party: A Beastly Adventure features music, performances, workshops, and games with families able to bring their four legged canine friends to join in the fun. Highlights include aerialists swinging from the rafters of the markets, a ‘beastly den’ in the Rotunda Garden, food, both local and global, in a ‘watering hole’ located in Long Lane and a host of free activities around the West Smithfield Rotunda including London’s biggest ‘play street’. The event runs from 11am to 7pm. Head to www.culturemile.london/festivals/smithfield-street-party.

The Hampton Court Palace Food Festival is on this weekend featuring plenty of mouth-watering opportunities for your tastebuds. As well as an array of street food from more than 100 artisan producers and companies, there will be cookery demonstrations from chefs and experts including Michel Roux Jr, Nadiya Hussain and Rhiannon Lambert and live music, all set in the palace’s East Front Gardens. Admission is included in palace entry. The festival runs over Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10am to 6pm. For more, including the programme of events, head to www.hrpfoodfestivals.com/hampton-court-palace/whats-on/the-kitchen.

The smells and stenches that tell the story of Barking’s industrial past are the subject of outdoor exhibitions opening at Valence House Museum in Dagenham and outside the National Theatre on South Bank this Saturday. The Barking Stink, being held as part of this year’s Totally Thames festival, takes a journey into the past through smell when, from the mid-19th century factories including those producing bitumen, asphalt, paint, chemicals and fertiliser joined with the iron foundries, breweries, soap factories and timber mills, not to mention the smell of fish, already found around Barking Creek. Runs at Valence House until 6th November and on South Bank until 5th October. For more, head here.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

LondonLife – Angles on an iconic bridge…

Tower Bridge marked its 125th birthday last weekend so to celebrate, here’s some different angles on London’s most photographed bridge. The Victorian Gothic bascule and suspension bridge, which spans the Thames just to the east of London Bridge (with which it’s not to be confused), took eight years to build and was officially opened on 30th June, 1894, by the then Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). For more on the celebrations taking place at the bridge over the coming weeks and months, see www.towerbridge.org.uk/125/.

 

This Week in London – Tower Bridge turns 125; Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery; and, Félix Vallotton at the RA…

•  Tower Bridge marks its 125th anniversary on Sunday and in honour of the event, there will be celebrations inside and outside the bridge right across the weekend. Entry to the bridge will be priced at just £1.25 and visitors will also receive a one-off souvenir bookmark as well as £5 off the official Tower Bridge book. Tickets cannot be booked in advance. Among the activities is a new photographic exhibition on the high-level walkways showcasing rare archival images and new photographs while costumed performers depicting historic figures – including the bridge’s first and only Indian engineer, divers who dug the foundations and the bridge’s first female employees – will be re-enacting scenes which (might have) happened during construction. Visitors can also join in the bridge architect Sir Horace Jones’ 200th “big birthday bash” in the Engine Rooms and view a new installation on the piers imagining some of the alternative river crossings that could have been built in place of the bridge. Special events will be continuing until the end of the year. For more, see www.towerbridge.org.uk/125/. PICTURE: Paul Varzar/Unsplash

Contemporary artist Cindy Sherman’s ground-breaking series, Untitled Film Stills (1977-80) has gone on public display for the first time in the UK in a major new retrospective of the artist’s work. Hosted at the National Portrait Gallery, Cindy Sherman explores the development of the artist’s work from the mid-1970s to the present day and includes all 70 images from the Untitled Film Still series as well all five of Sherman’s Cover Girl series, completed while she was a student in 1976 and being displayed together for the first time. There will also be a range of source material from the artist’s studio to give insights into her working processes. Runs until 15th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

The work of Swiss artist Félix Vallotton (1865–1925) is being exhibited in a dedicated display for the first time in the UK since 1976. Opening in the The Jillian and Arthur M Sackler Wing of Galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts on Sunday, Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet features about 100 works from public and private collections across Europe and the US and is organised in three sections spanning his career. Highlights include Self-portrait at the Age of Twenty (1885), The Sick Girl (1892), The Visit (1899), Gabrielle Vallotton (1905), Nude Holding her Gown (1904),  This is War! (1916), Red Peppers (1915), and Sandbanks on the Loire (1923). On show until 29th September after which the exhibition will travel to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

LondonLife – Ham House gets flowery…

Part of the garden at the historic Thames-side mansion Ham House has been redesigned with the aim of bringing some new life to the manicured lawns. Rosie Fyles, head gardener at the 17th century property in Richmond – now in the care of the National Trust, has overseen the planting of a series of “plats” – each the size of a tennis court – with some 500,000 bulbs and wildflowers to create a “pageant of colour” from early spring and throughout summer. The plats have also been created with wildlife and diversity in mind, using naturalising bulbs to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Fyles hopes the project will prove inspirational for home gardeners. “You can easily use pots, planters or a small area of border to create a pollinator-friendly bulb display over a few early spring months; in fact you can curate your own sequence of flowering from February to May at least,” she said. “We have used Crocus ‘Ruby Giant’, four types of species tulips (including bright red Tulipa linifolia) and Muscari latifolium to create a bright, deep blue carpet of colour.” For more, head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house-and-garden. ALL PICTURES: National Trust/Chris Davies.

Lost London – St Chad’s Well…

Located in Gray’s Inn Road at the corner with St Chad’s Place near King’s Cross this was a medicinal well dedicated to St Chad (he was the first Bishop of Lichfield and was said to have been cured of disease by drinking healing waters in the area).

The well – which was one of a number of such healing wells previously in London and which had waters said to resemble those at Lichfield – become popular in the 18th century and at one point was said to have some 1,000 visitors coming every week to sample the healing waters.

Its popularity had declined by the 19th century and it subsequently became a pleasure garden but part of them were built over by St Chad’s Place the following year. A new pump room – where the waters could be sampled – was apparently built in 1830 but just a decade later it was reported as having already fallen into decline.

The last part of the gardens was removed in 1860 thanks to the construction of the Metropolitan Railway Line.

PICTURE: Where St Chad’s Place meets with Gray’s Inn Roadl; St Chad’s Place is said to be the site of St Chad’s Well (courtesy Google Maps).