PICTURE: Hala AlGhanim/Unsplash

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Sundial

In honour of the sun and the heatwave it’s brought this summer, here’s the giant “equinoctial” sundial on the north bank of the Thames, just east of Tower Bridge. Known as Timepiece, it is the work of London-based sculptor Wendy Taylor and was installed here, beside the lock that leads into St Katharine Docks, in 1973. Measuring more than 3.5 metres across, the dial is made from stainless steel and is supported by three chunky chain link cables. According to the plaque, it was commissioned by Strand Hotels Ltd. It’s now a Grade II-listed structure.

Templars

Not much remains today of the original early medieval home of the Templar Knights which once existed just west of the City of London. While the area still carries the name (as seen in the Underground station, Temple), most the buildings now on the site came from later eras. But there are some original elements.

First though, a bit of history. The Templar precinct which become known as the Temple area of London was the second site in the city given to the military order, known more completely as the Knights of the Temple of Solomon (thanks to their Jerusalem HQ being located near the remains of the Temple of Solomon).

Temple-churchThe first was in Holborn, located between the northern end of Chancery Lane and Staple Inn, and was known as the ‘Old Temple’ after which, in the latter years of the 12th century, the Templars moved their headquarters to the new site – ‘New Temple’ or Novum Templum – on unoccupied land on the bank of the River Thames. 

This new precinct included consecrated and unconsecrated areas. The consecrated part was a monastery and was located around what is now Church Court with the monastic refectory built on the site of what is now Inner Temple Hall – the medieval buttery is the only part of the original building which survives.

The lay or unconsecrated part of the precinct lay east of Middle Temple Lane, where a second hall was built on the site of what is now the Middle Temple Hall (you’ll find more on that here) which was used to house the lay followers of the order.

The original buildings also included the still existing Templar Church (pictured, along with a monument depicting the Templars outside the church), which was consecrated in 1185 during the reign of King Henry II by Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, on a visit to London. Like all other Templar churches, its circular design was based on the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (the chancel was added later and consecrated in the presence of King Henry III in 1240 – for more on the Temple Church, you can see our earlier post here.

The New Temple become an important site in London (and the kingdom as a whole – the Masters of the Temple were the heads of the order in England) and was used by many of the nobility as a treasury to store valuables (and to lend money). It also had close connections with the monarchy and was, as we saw earlier this week, a power base for King John and from where he issued what is known as the King John Charter in 1215. He also used it for a time as a repository for the Crown jewels.

In an indication of the Temple’s prominence in state affairs, some of the great and powerful were buried here during this period including William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, who died in 1219, and his sons William and Gilbert (for more on those buried in the Temple, see our earlier post here). There were also apparently plans to bury King Henry III and his Queen here – this apparently spurred on the building of the chancel on the church – but they were eventually buried in Westminster Abbey instead.

Numerous relics were also apparently housed here during the Templar times including a phial believed to contain Christ’s blood and pieces of the true Cross.

The Templar era came to an end in 1312 when the order was dissolved on the authority of Pope Clement V amid some heinous allegations of blasphemy and sexual immorality which had the support of King Philip IV of France. While the pope awarded their property to the rival order, the Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (also known as the Hospitallers), King Edward II had other ideas and ignored their claims with regard to the London property and instead, claimed it for the Crown (a dispute which went on for some years).

It later became associated particularly with lawyers, although lawyers would have certainly been at work in the New Temple given its role as banker to the wealthy (but more on its later associations with lawyers in later post).

For more on the history of the Templars, see Malcolm Barber’s The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple.

The-Knights-Templar

Located in a former bank at the corner of Chancery Lane and Carey Street, this pub takes its name from the Crusader order known as the Knights Templar who once owned the land upon which the lane was constructed.

The Knights Templar was founded in Jerusalem in 1118 to protect Christian pilgrims and took its name from the Temple of Solomon upon the remains of which its headquarters in Jerusalem was built.

The order arrived in London later that century and Chancery Lane was created to connect the site of their original headquarters in Holborn with their subsequent home which lay between Fleet Street and the Thames – with the latter centred on a chapel (consecrated in 1185) which still stands and is now known as the Temple Church.

The pub, which opened in 1999, was formerly the home of the Union Bank of London Ltd, built in 1865 to the design of architect FW Porter.

Original features inside the Grade II-listed building – built in the ‘high Renaissance’-style – include cast iron columns and ornate detailing.

It is now part of the Wetherspoon’s chain. For more information, see www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/home/pubs/the-knights-templar-chancery-lane.

 

LambethThe origins of the Thames-side district Lambeth’s name are not as obscure as it might at first seem.

First recorded in the 11th century, the second part of the name – which apparently is related to/a derivative of the word ‘hithe’ or ‘hythe’ – means a riverside landing place while the first part of the name is exactly what it seems – ‘lamb’. Hence, Lambeth was a riverside landing or shipping place for lambs and cattle.

There has apparently been a suggestion in the past that the word ‘lamb’ actually derived from an Old English word meaning muddy place, hence the meaning was ‘muddy landing place’. That theory, however, is now generally discounted.

Lambeth these days is still somewhat in the shadow of the much more famous Westminster river bank opposite but among its attractions is the Imperial War Museum (located in the former Bethlem Hospital, see our earlier post here), Lambeth Palace (pictured above) – London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and, of course, the promenade of Albert Embankment (sitting opposite Victoria Embankment).

The headquarters of MI6 is also located here in a 1994 building designed by Terry Farrell (among its claims to fame is its appearance in the opening scenes of the James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough).

Lambeth – the name is also that of the borough in which the district is located – was formerly home to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which closed in the mid 19th century (see our earlier post here).

The-George-and-Devonshire

The last remaining pub in old Chiswick village in west London, The George and Devonshire has a history dating back to the 1650s.

The-George-and-Devonshire2Initially known simply as The George (like so many taverns and pubs, apparently after England’s patron saint), by the 1820s the name had changed to The George and Devonshire – the Duke of Devonshire’s former showpiece property, Chiswick House, can still be found nearby (for more on Chiswick House, see our earlier post here). The coat of arms of the Dukes of Devonshire now hang over the door.

The Grade II-listed building at 8 Burlington Lane, which is conveniently located just metres from a Fullers brewery, dates from the 18th century.

There was apparently once a secret passageway which led from the pub under the nearby St Nicholas’ Church (burial place of artist William Hogarth) to an opening located among a group of small cottages near the Thames – it is said to have been used by rum and spirits smugglers in the 1700s. The remains of the entrance can still apparently be seen in the pub’s cellar.

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

Lost London – Alsatia…

November 28, 2014

A Thames-side slum area located between Temple and Whitefriars Street (and south of Fleet Street), an area previously occupied by the Whitefriars Monastery, Alsatia was known as something of a lawless district where residents resisted any intervention by City officials.

The district came into existence following the dissolution of the monastery by King Henry VIII (he apparently gave the buildings and land to his physician Dr William Butts) and the area, despite some initial efforts to build substantial houses there, eventually degenerated into an overcrowded slum (apparently even when the priory was still existent, some of the surrounding areas had been somewhat disreputable).

The right of sanctuary apparently existed in the area which meant that debtors and criminals who entered gained immunity from arrest while they remained here.

Authorities were certainly loathe to enter the district given the strength which residents showed in resisting any attempts to grab hold of wanted persons and the maze-like narrow thoroughfares of the area and it became mockingly referred to as Alsatia in a reference to Alsace, a much disputed region on the French-German border which was historically outside normal legal jurisdiction.

Among those who took refuge here was Daniel Defoe – he is said to escaped here in 1692 after he was wanted by authorities for writing seditious material.

There were several attempts to clean up the slum but these had little effect (although the Great Fire of London did burn through here in 1666) and in 1608, King James I confirmed the area’s liberties in a formal charter. The rights remained in place until 1697 when they were abolished by an Act of Parliament (along with those of other liberties), although the area maintained its disreputable character for some time after.

Alsatia was mentioned in several books including in Thomas Shadwell’s 1688 play The Square of Alsatia and Sir Walter Scott’s 1822 novel, The Fortunes of Nigel, and the term continued to be used to refer to run-down neighbourhoods until late in the 19th century.

Shakespeare

This week (and next week) as part of our look at Shakespeare’s London, we’re taking a look at a few of the many memorials to William Shakespeare located around London…

• Westminster Abbey: Perhaps the most famous of London’s memorials to Shakespeare can be found in Poet’s Corner, an area of the abbey which has become noted as a burial place and memorial site for writers, playwrights and poets. Designed by William Kent, the memorial statue of Shakespeare was placed here in January, 1741 (there had apparently been some earlier talk of bringing his bones from Stratford-upon-Avon but that idea was squashed). The life-size statue in white marble, sculpted by Peter Scheemakers, was erected by Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, Dr Richard Mead, Alexander Pope and Tom Martin. The memorial also features the heads of Queen Elizabeth I, King Henry V and King Richard III on the base of a pedestal and shows Shakespeare pointing to a scroll on which are painted a variation of lines taken from The Tempest. A Latin inscription records the date the memorial was created and an English translation of this was added in 1977. For more on the abbey, see www.westminster-abbey.org.

• Guildhall Art Gallery (pictured above): Facing into Guildhall Yard from niches under the loggia of the Guildhall Art Gallery are four larger-than-life busts of historical figures connected with the City of London. As well as one of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, architect Christopher Wren, and diarist Samuel Pepys (along with a full-length statue of Dick Whittington and his famous cat) is a bust depicting Shakespeare. Carved out of Portland stone by sculptor Tim Crawley, the busts were installed in 1999. Much attention was apparently paid to creating a bust which resembled pictures of Shakespeare. Follow this link for more on the gallery.

Former City of London School: This Thames-side building, dating from the 1880s, features a full length statue of Shakespeare who gazes out over the river. He’s not alone – poet John Milton, Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Thomas More and Sir Francis Bacon stand nearby, selected, apparently, to represent various disciplines taught at the school. The statues were the work of John Daymond who depicted Shakespeare flanked by representations of classics and poetry and drawing and music. The school vacated the building on Victoria Embankment  in the 1980s and it’s now occupied by JP Morgan.

We’ll be looking at some more works depicting Shakespeare next week…

New galleries dedicated to exploring the history of World War I will open – along with the rest of the refurbished building – at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth on Saturday. The First World War Galleries span 14 areas displaying everything from shell fragments and lucky charms carried by soldiers to weapons and uniforms, diaries and letters, photographs, art and film. Interactive displays include ‘Life at the Front’ featuring a recreated trench with a Sopwith Camel plane and Mark V tank, and ‘Feeding the Front’ featuring an interactive table of more than four metres long which looks how troops were kept fed. There are also reflective areas in which visitors are encouraged to reflect on some of the most difficult aspects of war. The museum – which features a dramatic new atrium – is also launching the largest exhibition and first major retrospective of British World War I art for almost 100 years. Truth and Memory includes works by some of the UK’s most important artists. Entry to both is free with Truth and Memory running until 8th March. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

London’s memorials to those who died in World War I are the focus of a new exhibition which opened at Wellington Arch near Hyde Park Corner yesterday. The English Heritage exhibition, which has a particular focus on the six memorials cared for by English Heritage but also looks at other memorials, will include designs, statuettes and photographs of the memorials including the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Also featured in We Will Remember Them: London’s Great War Memorials are official documents – including a note of condolence and medals certificates – received by the family of author and broadcaster Jeremy Paxman on the death of his great uncle Private Charles Dickson, who died at Gallipoli in 1915. Runs until 30th November. Admission charge applies. For more see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/. Meanwhile, coinciding with the opening of the exhibition has been news that five of London’s key war memorials – including the Edith Cavell Memorial in St Martin’s Place and the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner – have had their heritage listing upgraded.

In case you missed it, the 24th annual Festival of Archaeology kicked off last weekend and features a range of events across London. Highlights include the chance again to go ‘mudlarking’ on the Thames river bank below the Tower of London and have your finds assessed by archaeologists (this Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm), guided 90 minute walks around Islington and Highbury this weekend with a particular focus on the 1940s, and a look behind the scenes at the London Metropolitan Archives (2pm to 5pm today). The festival continues until 27th July. Check the website for a full program of events – www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk.

Expect people to be out and about around London at all hours this weekend with the kick-off tonight of Museums At Night, Culture24’s annual festival of after hours visits. This year’s packed program features everything from ‘Arts on Ice’ – a look at the Victorian ice trade – at the London Canal Museum to art nights at the Government Art Collection building, nocturnal tours of Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College, and, for the first time, the chance for adults to sleep over at Hampton Court Palace and kids at Kensington Palace. Other London organisations taking part include the Handel House Museum, the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Benjamin Franklin House, the National Gallery and Somerset House (and that’s just a few off the list!). For more information on the night – including a full program of events – check out the Culture24 Museums at Night website.

Propaganda-v9-cmyk Government spin comes under the spotlight in a major new exhibition which opens tomorrow at the British Library in King’s Cross. Propaganda: Power and Persuasion examines how state have used propaganda in the 20th and 21st centuries and features more than 200 exhibits including Nazi propaganda and everyday objects such as banknotes and badges. Admission charge applies. There’s a series of events running to coincide with the exhibition which runs until 17th September. For more, see www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/propaganda/index.html.

It’s 10 years since the Museum of London Docklands opened in a converted Georgian warehouse on West India Quay and to celebrate they’re holding an exhibition celebrating the Thames estuary. Titled (appropriately enough), Estuary, the exhibition features the work of 12 artists in a variety of mediums – from film and photography to painting. Entry is free. The exhibition, which opens tomorrow, runs until 27 October. The museum is also holding a special day of family activities to celebrate its creation this Saturday. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.

On Now: STEADman@77. This exhibition at The Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury looks at the work of graphic artist Ralph Steadman (who is celebrating his 77th birthday) and features more than 100 original works published in magazines ranging from Private Eye to Rolling Stone, Punch and the New Statesmen as well as his illustrated books (these include Sigmund Freud, Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking-Glass, I, Leonardo, The Bid I Am, and Animal Farm). Runs until 8th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

While the Greenwich foot tunnel may these days be more well-known due to the fact it is still open to pedestrians, London’s oldest under-Thames tunnel (also credited as the oldest underwater tunnel in the world) actually runs between Rotherhithe on the river’s southern bank and Wapping on the northern.

Thames_Tunnel-in-2010First opened in 1843, the Thames Tunnel (pictured left during a brief reopening to pedestrians in 2010) was the first major project of star Victorian engineer (and delightfully named) Isambard Kingdom Brunel (who, at the age of just 19 started work on the job with his father, a French engineer named Marc Isambard Brunel) and was known for a time as the eighth Wonder of the World.

It was constructed after demand grew for a way to transport goods across the crowded Port of London to the east of London Bridge. Given the height of the masts of larger ships, a bridge was deemed impracticable with the ramps required to take wheeled transport to the necessary height far too long (although this problem was overcome at the end of the 1800s by the use of new bascule technology in the construction of Tower Bridge).

Following several failed attempts to dig a tunnel under the Thames, Marc Brunel was given permission to build the new tunnel in the mid 1820s. The project relied on the use of a ‘tunnelling shield’, a then state-of-the-art technological solution to under river tunnelling which had only a few years earlier been patented by Marc Brunel and Thomas Cochrane, and Brunel initially thought the project would only take three years (it ended up taking as many as 18).

Construction by the newly formed Thames Tunnel Company, which had the support of none other than the Duke of Wellington, commenced in early 1825 at the Rotherhithe end. The shield enabled miners to dig out the tunnel while bricklayers came along behind them. While it significantly reduced the risk of a collapse (although several floods still did occur, taking the lives of six men – a fact which didn’t apparently much deter the sightseers who paid for the privilege of seeing the shield in operation), working conditions remained terrible with the men constantly showered with water from the river which was at that time the city’s main sewer. How many died indirectly as a result of working on the project is unknown.

Brunel-plaqueIndeed, such was the stress of the project that Marc Brunel, later knighted for his efforts in building the tunnel, himself suffered a stroke during its construction. Isambard Brunel, who took over as the project’s engineer when the resident engineer fell ill in 1826, himself came close to being killed when he had to flee the flooding tunnel.

After much delay (including seven years in which the unfinished tunnel was left untouched) and several more disasters, the tunnel was finally completed in November, 1841.

After being fitted out with lighting, spiral staircases and roads in the following years, it was finally opened to pedestrians only on 25th March, 1843. While it was originally envisaged that the primary purpose of the tunnel would be to transport goods under the river, this never occurred.

Still, it did capture the public’s attention and as many as 50,000 people walked through the tunnel on the opening day (among the initial visitors to the tunnel was Queen Victoria herself). Within 10 weeks of its opening, a million people (a figure equal to what was then half the population of London) had reportedly passed through it.

Despite the number of people initially using it, however, the tunnel was still not a financial success and over the ensuing years became noted as a gathering place for unsavoury types. In 1865 it was purchased by the East London Railway Company which subsequently incorporated the tunnel into its railway network with both the Wapping and Rotherhithe entrance shafts converted into stations. It later become part of the London Underground network – the  – and since 2010 has been part of the London Overground.

Both stations are still in use and you can get a good sense of what the tunnel was like by riding the overground between Rotherhithe and Wapping. The Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe – actually housed within a building originally used to house machinery for draining the tunnel – see plaque above – is also a great place to find out more about the project and Brunel. Visit www.brunel-museum.org.uk for details.

PICTURES: Top – Lars Plougmann (Wikipedia)/Other – David Adams

For more on the life of Brunel, see Steven Brindle’s Brunel: The Man Who Built the World.

Sailing high over the River Thames between North Greenwich in the river’s southern bank and the Royal Docks on the river’s northern bank is the cable car formally known as the Emirates Air Line. Opened in late June and running every day, the cable car – the UK’s first in an urban area – is operated by Transport for London and links into the Underground and Docklands Light Rail network. Travelling at about 90 metres above the ground along a course of more than half a mile, passengers can take in the City, Docklands, Greenwich and as far eastward down the river as the Thames Barrier. This image, which shows the 02 Arena in the background, was taken just after the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games in August. For more, see www.emiratesairline.co.ukPICTURE: © Transport for London

What’s in a name?…Pimlico

September 10, 2012

Tradition holds that this small triangular area, wedged between Westminster and Chelsea on the north bank of the Thames, takes its name from Ben Pimlico, said to be the 17th century owner of an famous alehouse or tea garden in Hoxton, on the north side of the City, and brewer of a particularly sought-after “nut brown” ale.

The story goes that so popular was his brew that Hoxton Street was then known as the “Pimlico Path”  due to the numbers making their way to his alehouse and that the area of Pimlico somehow adopted this name (although to be fair we should note that it’s also been suggested that the name comes from the Pamlico tribe of American Indians who exported timber to London around the same period).

While references to Pimlico go back to the 17th century, the area was largely uninhabited until the 19th century when it was developed by Victorian planner Thomas Cubitt under contract to the land owner, the Grosvenor family.

Initially in demand among the well-to-do, the fortunes of the area had declined by the end of the nineteenth century before a resurgence of interest took place in the early 20th century.

Among the projects constructed at that time was Dolphin Square (pictured) – with more than 1,200 apartments, it was the largest apartment complex in Europe at the time and has since proved particularly popular among politicians keen to be close to the action in Westminster and Whitehall.

Famous residents of Pimlico have included Winston Churchill, who lived briefly at 33 Eccleston Square between 1908-11.

Worth noting is that there is a racecourse in Maryland in the US known as the Pimlico Race Course which is also named for Ben Pimlico’s tavern.

For a photographic essay of Pimlico, check out Brian Girling’s Pimlico Through Time.

Now one of the world’s largest long distance running events, the first London Marathon was held on 29th March, 1981, and saw some 6,255 people lead across the finish line by American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen, who finished in a dead heat. The first woman to finish was the UK’s Joyce Smith.

The idea of holding such an event in London arose after John Disley and the late Chris Brasher (a former Olympian), both members of Richmond’s Raneleigh Harriers running club, decided to enter the New York Marathon in 1979. Returning to London exhilarated by their experience, they began investigating the possibly of holding such an event here and, meeting with a positive response from authorities, pushed ahead with it.

About 20,000 people applied to enter the first London Marathon but only 7,747 people were accepted to run. The course, which is still roughly the same, starts at various locations in Blackheath and passes through Charlton, Woolwich and Greenwich before crossing the Thames at Tower Bridge, looping around through the East End and Docklands before following the river into Westminster.

While the first race finished at Constitution Hill, between Green Park and Buckingham Palace, the race now finishes in The Mall (although for many years in between it finished on Westminster Bridge).

Such was the success of the first event – which was covered by the BBC – that the following year more than 90,000 people applied to run in the race from all around the world. Slightly more than 18,000 were accepted to run.

At the end of this year’s event – held on 22nd April (a runner from which is pictured) – more than 882,000 people have now completed the race. Now formally known as the Virgin London Marathon, a record high of 37,227 completed the run this year.

This year’s men’s race was won by Kenyan Wilson Kipsang who completed the race in  2:04:44 – the second fastest time over the London course – while the women’s was also won by a Kenyan – Mary Keitany – who, in taking back-to-back titles, completed the course in 2:18:37.

Since its inception, one of the key aspects of the race has been its fund-raising for a variety of charitable causes. Key among these is The London Marathon Charitable Trust which, established at the race’s outset, helps fund community sports facilities and develop recreational projects around the city.

For more on the Virgin London Marathon, see www.virginlondonmarathon.com.

PICTURE: © photocritical/istockphoto.com