6. 10 historic stairways in London – 3. The Monument stairs…
5. 10 historic stairways in London – 8. The King’s Staircase, Kensington Palace…
Running up the centre of the tallest free-standing stone column in the world, this 311 step stairway takes the visitor straight to the top of the Monument erected to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666.
The Monument – actually a Doric column – was built close to Pudding Lane in the City – where the fire is believed to have started – between 1671 and 1677. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in collaboration with City Surveyor Sir Robert Hooke.
The cantilevered stairway – each step of which measures exactly six inches high – leads up to a viewing platform which provides panoramic views of the City. Above the platform stands is a large sculpture featuring a stone drum topped with a gilt copper urn from which flames emerge as a symbol of the fire (King Charles II apparently squashed the idea of an equestrian statue of himself lest people think he was responsible for the fire).
Interestingly, the circular space in the centre of the stairway was designed for use as a zenith telescope (a telescope which points straight up). There is a small hatch right at the top which can be opened up to reveal the sky beyond and a subterranean lab below (reached through a hatch in the floor of the ticket both) where it was envisaged the scientist could take measurements using a special eyepiece (two lenses would be set into the actual telescope). But it wasn’t successful (reasons for this could have been vibrations caused by passing traffic or the movement of the column in the wind).
Hooke also apparently attempted to use the staircase drop for some other experiences – including measuring differences in air pressure.
Among those who have climbed the stairs was writer James Boswell who visited the Monument and climbed the stairs in 1763. He suffered a panic attack halfway up but was able to complete the climb.
WHERE: The Monument, junction of Fish Street Hill and Monument Street (nearest Tube station is Monument); WHEN: Check website; COST: £5.40 adults/£2.70 children (aged five to 15)/£4.10 seniors (joint tickets with Tower Bridge available); WEBSITE: www.themonument.org.uk
We have finished our series on 10 of the most memorable (and historic) views of London. And while there’s plenty of views we didn’t mention (we’ll be featuring more in an upcoming series at some point), we think we have captured 10 worth seeing. So, in case you missed any, here they are again…
1. View from St Paul’s Cathedral’s dome…
2. The city skyline from Primrose Hill…
3. View from General Wolfe, Greenwich…
4. View from King Henry’s Mound, Richmond Park…
5. View from the top of The Monument…
7. View of the Houses of Parliament from across the Thames…
8. View from Point Hill, Greenwich…
9. High level views from Tower Bridge…
10. View of Maritime Greenwich…
We’ll kick off our new special Wednesday series next week…
Inside The Monument, built to commemorate the Great Fire of London, in the City of London. For more on the history of The Monument. PICTURE: Flickr/CC BY 2.0.
To end our series on memorials in London commemorating the Great Fire of 1666 – marking the event’s 350th anniversary – we’re taking a look at what is one of the smallest monuments in the City (and, despite all rumour, possibly not a memorial to the Great Fire at all).
Midway up the wall of a building at the corner of Eastcheap and Philpot Lane, not far from The Monument (for more on its history, see our earlier post here), can be seen two brown mice fighting over a piece of cheese.
The mice are commonly said to be a memorial, not to anyone who died during the fire, but to two men who died while building The Monument itself.
The cheese apparently relates to the story in that the two men fell to the deaths while fighting after one accused the other of eating his cheese sandwich. The two mice, one for each of the men, relate to the fact that it was apparently mice who were later found to be the culprits.
But we need to point out that not all agree on the memorial aspect of the mice, which have apparently been decorating the building’s cornice since the mid-1800s – and there are legitimate questions: why, for example, would the Victorians when constructing the property commemorate two long dead workers and how had the story even reached them of their deaths?
One theory is that the mice do commemorate two men who died in the circumstances described, but while building the property they are located upon and not The Monument at all.
The building, meanwhile, is said to have been constructed as offices and warehouses for spice merchants Hunt & Crombie – it’s been suggested the mice were merely part of the decorations made for the building and not a memorial at all.
Whatever the origins of the mice – and whether they represent a memorial or not – we thought they were a nice way to close out the special series on Great Fire of London commemorative sites. We’ll kick off a new Wednesday series shortly.
Located just to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral can be found Paternoster Square in the centre of which stands a column.
The 75 foot (23.3 metre) tall Corinthian column of Portland stone, which was designed by Whitfield Architects and erected in 2003, is topped by a gold leaf covered flaming copper urn which is lit up at night.
While it has been said that the column is “purely decorative”, the developers of Paternoster Square claim on their website that it actually serves several purposes in this case including both commemorative and practical.
Not only is it part of the ventilation system for the carpark underneath, they say its design is apparently a recreation of columns designed by Inigo Jones for the west portico of Old St Paul’s Cathedral.
And then there’s the three metre high urn on top which, not unlike that found on The Monument, they say commemorates the fact the site of the square has twice been destroyed by fire – the first time in the Great Fire of 1666 and the second in the Blitz during World War II.
The area around Paternoster Square was once home to booksellers and publishers’ warehouses.
• The 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London is upon us and to mark the event, the City of London is playing host to London’s Burning, a “festival of arts and ideas”, over the coming weekend. Produced by Artichoke, the festival includes everything from Fire Garden – an installation by French street art group Compagnie Carabosse at the Tate Modern, and Holoscenes – a six hour underwater performance installation by Los Angeles-based company, Early Morning Opera, in Exchange Square, Broadgate, to Fires of London: Fires Ancient and Fires Modern – two large scale projections by artist Martin Firrell onto St Paul’s Cathedral (pictured right) and The National Theatre, Station House Opera’s Dominoes – a kinetic sculpture of breeze block dominoes which retraces the path of the fire through the streets, and London 1666 – a 120 metre long wooden sculpture of Restoration London by American artist David Best working in collaboration with Artichoke which will be set alight on Sunday at a site on the river between Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge (the sculpture is pictured above – you can also watch it live online here). Events run until 4th September. Head here to see the list of events in London’s Burning and to download a copy of the programme complete with map. PICTURES: © Matthew Andrews and C Totman.
• Entry to The Monument – built as a permanent reminder of the great conflagration of 1666 – will be free from 2nd to 4th September in celebration of the Great Fire anniversary. Opening hours at the iconic 202 foot tall column have also been extended for the weekend but be warned that due to limited capacity, tickets mist be booked in advance with allotted time slots for entry. To book, head here.
• A free exhibition telling the story of London’s bakers and their cakes, bread and puddings over the 350 years since 1666 has opened at the London Metropolitan Archives this week. London’s Baking! Bakers, Cakes, Bread and Puddings from 1666 takes its inspiration from Thomas Farriner and his Pudding Lane bakery, ground zero for the fire. And along with the displays, it features recipes for you to take away and bake including almond cakes from 1700, suet puddings from 1850 and “questionable” school dinner chocolate sponge traybake from the 1970s. Runs at the Clerkenwell-based organisation until 1st February. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/Pages/event-detail.aspx?eventid=2749.
• Of course, these are just some of the events taking place as part of Great Fire 350. Others include the Fire Food Market in Guildhall Yard, running from 6.30pm to 10pm Saturday night and from 5pm to 10pm Sunday night, as well as events we’ve previously mentioned including the programme of events running at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Fire! Fire! exhibition at the Museum of London. For more of the walks, talks, performances, installations and other events taking place, head to www.visitlondon.com/greatfire350.
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• Join Queen Caroline, wife of King George II, for a garden party in the grounds of Kensington Palace this weekend. The celebrations include music, military drills and live performances in a bid to bring the era of the Georgians to life. Visitors can listen to court gossip, learn how to play popular music and devise ways to amuse the queen as they pop in and out of a range of tents set up in the gardens, each of which contains a different activity, from uncovering dress secrets to designing a mini-garden fit for a king or queen. There’s even the chance to sample some Georgian ice-cream in the ice-house. The days will be held from today until 21st August. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/. PICTURE: Via HRP
• The Great Fire 350 Festival – marking the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London – is underway and there’s a range of events being held in London over this month and next. While we’ll be mentioning some of these a little closer to actual anniversary date, meantime there are bi-weekly walks, a ‘Fire Trail’ treasure hunt and a new Monument app to keep you busy. The latter allows visitors to conduct a self-guided ‘Great Fire journey’ focusing on the fire itself, the commemoration of the blaze and London as we know it now as well as taking users into the minds of Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke – designers of The Monument. Available for download from Android Market and Apple App Store. For more on the events running as part of the anniversary, see www.visitlondon.com/greatfire350/events.
• Take a behind the scenes look at the Museum of London – and see some rarely exhibited objects – in an exhibition which opened late last month. The free display allows visitors to catch a glimpse of some of the work that goes on behind the scenes and see objects usually housed in the museum’s extensive stores including a detailed model of the process engraving department at the Evening Standard newspaper in 1977, an ice-cream maker and moulds from around 1910, and a confectioner’s icing stand from about 1900. The exhibition can be seen until 15th September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
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View of the top of the Monument from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral. For more on the history of The Monument, see our earlier post here.
It’s widely known that Pudding Lane was the place where the Great Fire of London is believed to have started in 1666 – hard to miss given the site is commemorated nearby in the form of The Monument, the world’s tallest freestanding stone column – but what about where it was stopped? Standing in a niche on the corner of a building overlooking the junction of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane is a small gilt statue known as the ‘Golden Boy of Pye Corner’.
It’s not known how old the statue is but it is known that it was previously located on the front of a pub, The Fortune of War, which stood on the site until it was demolished in 1910 (and was apparently used by body-snatchers as a place to display stolen corpses for surgeons to peruse).
The statue – which apparently marks the place where the fire was ‘stayed’ (that is, buildings were destroyed to stop the fire spreading any further) – is accompanied by an inscription which reads “This Boy is in Memmory put up for the late Fire of London Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony 1666”.
Below it an explanatory note below explains that the boy was made deliberately fat in reference to the fact the fire was started in Pudding Lane as a result of gluttony and not by Papists as was claimed on The Monument (this reference – “But Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched” – was added to the inscriptions on the Monument in 1681 but was removed in 1831).