10 (more) curious London memorials…10. Memorial to 16th century navigators…


In the final of our series looking at London memorial, we head out to Shadwell in the city’s east where on the bank of the Thames, we find a memorial tablet dedicated to a group of 16th century navigators who set sail from near this point.

Located in Edward VII Memorial Park, the tablet can be found – rather oddly – on the landward side of the Wapping cupola, built to disguise a ventilation shaft and spiral staircase for the Rotherhithe road tunnel which opened in 1908 (the road is the A101). The cupola has a twin on the other side of the river in Rotherhithe.

Erected in 1922, the memorial specifically names arctic explorers Sir Hugh Willoughby, Stephen Borough, William Borough, and Sir Martin Frobisher but then goes on to state that it is also dedicated to the “other navigators who, in the latter half of the sixteenth century, set sail from this reach of the River Thames near Ratcliff Cross to explore the Northern Seas.”

Sir Hugh and his crew died while on an expedition in 1553 after becoming separated from the other ships on the expedition (Stephen Borough, master of one of the other ships, survived that expedition) while Sir Martin Frobisher made several unsuccessful attempts to find the North West passage in the late 1500s.

Ratcliffe Cross was a point on the northern bank of the river located just to the east of the park at the top of Ratcliffe Stairs and was an important navigation point for Thames watermen.

Where is it?…#64…And the answer is…


Can you identify where in London this picture was taken? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Jamie, this is indeed the tower of St Giles Cripplegate, located  just off Fore Street in the Barbican Estate. The church – the oldest building in the area – dates from about 1090 and was rebuilt in 1545 after it was destroyed by a fire. The new building survived the Great Fire of 1666 but didn’t fare so well in a fire of 1897 or in the Blitz when all but the outer shell was destroyed. Oliver Cromwell was married here in 1620 and the poet John Milton was buried here in 1674 (he had written much of Paradise Lost locally) (interestingly, his body was apparently exhumed about 100 years later, workman took some souvenirs including teeth and a rib). Others buried here include explorer Sir Martin Frobisher, John Foxe, author of The Book of Martyrs, and Bible translator Lancelot Andrews. For more on the church, see www.stgilescripplegate.com.