Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Paul Pinders house

This house of a rich merchant stood on Bishopsgate since it was built around 1599 to its destruction for the expansion of Liverpool Street Station. It was built for the merchant Paul Pinder as a mansion outside the city walls on Bishopsgate due to its proximity to the city and his commercial interests but also due to its space which allowed him to have a large garden to the rear. What was built in 1599 was a new bay between two older properties to the left and right (Buildings to the left and right in the picture left made up the complex of the mansion). The building survived the Great fire of London but afterwards (after the death of Paul Pindar in 1650) was sub-divided and given over to the London work house. The house was demolished in 1890 for the eastern extension of Liverpool street station. There were many similar houses with impressive projecting jetties in medieval London but even then this house would have been striking. Its elaborate work carvings were meant to show off the wealth of the merchant. 

Its former location is now taken up by a large modern office building, (it would have been where the large arch is on the Bank of Scotland building on Bishopsgate). When it was demolished the facade was acquired by Victoria and Albert Museum in the interest of saving some of the vanishing medieval heritage of the city. The bottom of the facade was not retained due to the various alterations. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

1-3 Hare Court - middle temple lane

This row of interesting buildings of Hare court on middle temple lane I found on my way to the Temple Church. They may not be strictly 'medieval' being built in seventieth century but their scarcity and appearance I feel entitles them to a post. 

The set of three buildings are of the late seventeenth century being built around 1693. They were probably built by the lawyers of the middle temple for offices or perhaps residential quarters (I'm not sure on this). They appear to have miraculously survived the blitz in which so much of the temple area was devastated (which is evident from looking around the temple area at dates on the buildings which are mostly reconstructions).

The buildings themselves have little detail being a nondescript mass of white plastering interrupted by rows sash windows. The central building has on the upper floor weatherboarding which was a common material to use on a facade of a building of this date, the others could have originally also been faced like this. They are timber framed and the upper floors have a overhanging jetty to get the most space out of a modest building plot. They are all two star listed by English Heritage probably due to there rarity and survival in central London.  

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Staple Inn

When one walks down High Holborn today between the many modern office blocks there lies a curious fragment of the old medieval street in the form of the picturesque Staple Inn. This half timbered Inn gives an impression of High Holborn before the great fire and redevelopment in seventeenth century when it would have been lined with many similar buildings. The front facade is part of a larger complex of buildings including a hall built around a courtyard to the rear (although most of the other buildings were destroyed during the last war). The current front facade consists of two buildings, one was the original staple Inn (5 bays to the left), the other was a house of similar age (2 bays to the right). The distinction between the two is more evident on the early image left as during restorations the house was incorporated with the inn creating a larger front facade. The 5 bay Staple Inn was built in 1585 and was established as an 'inn of Chancery' which was a medieval school providing training in legal practices. The inn was also a wool staple where wool was weighed and taxed, which gives the inn its name. Staple Inn was once attached along with neighbouring Barnards Inn to Grays Inn, one of the four inns of courts. These 'partnerships' with larger law firms was common to many of the other inns of court and minor inns of chancery. The Staple Inn survived the great fire along with much of the Holborn area but took much damage during the second world war which was subsequently repaired.

As can be observer in the picture of 1880 above left the building was once covered by extensive plaster which obscured the original facade. This was removed during a restoration by Alfred Waterhouse relieving the semi-preserved original facade, Waterhouse also designed the opposite prudential assurance building. In his restoration of 1886 he removed many of the post-medieval alterations but overall was generally sympathetic. The building was again restored in 1937 on the eve of war, although this time it was much less-sympathetic with it being extensively rebuilt in part. Much of the visible woodwork dates from this restoration and only some Tudor elements actually survive. 

Just a few years after the restoration the Inn came under attack from German air raids which caused some damage to the building. However, a later air raid in 1944 was the most destructive in which the courtyard and the old hall were destroyed. The Inn was subsequently restored and remains a attractive example of a timber framed building once common in London. It is one of the most popular and heavily photographed buildings on the High Holborn road due to its striking difference from other dull buildings on the road. Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner described the building as being 'no doubt the most impressive surviving example of timber building in London'. 


Behind the facade of High Holborn through the Holborn gateway (through a ground floor passageway) is Staple inn courtyard with the staple inn hall on the opposite side of the courtyard. The old hall was built around 1580 as a banqueting hall. The building is of a basic design with a iconic hammer beam roof like many other great banqueting halls in medieval London. However, this hall is neither as significant nor as big as other halls in London. 

The courtyard on which the hall sits was a undisturbed historic and peaceful oasis in the centre of London until in 1944 the courtyard was hit by a flying German bomb. The hall was completely destroyed, although luckily the inn front was not too badly damaged. The oasis was restored along with a rebuilt hall, built as close as the original as possible and was reopened in the 1950's.

As is demonstrated on the two images left (before and after) the reconstruction was a close copy of the original. In my opinion the reconstruction was a success as the interior too which often loses atmosphere with reconstructions is maintained closely to the original. The picture on the left © shows the hall in 1880 whilst the picture on the bottom left © shows the hall today (2012).   

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

229&230 Fleet Street

These two adjacent timber framed buildings in the heart of London in Fleet Street are curious survivors of destruction and redevelopment London has seen. The two buildings must have come under joint ownership at some point as they are two separate buildings which have been restored in similar fashion around the nineteenth century. Most people wouldn't give these buildings a second glance, not being as impressive and as obviously old as the Inner temple gateway slightly further down the street.  

The first, 229 fleet street (right on image) was constructed in the early seventeenth century in 1625. It is an elegant medieval townhouse built on four stories with a projecting jetty from the second floor fitted with sash windows, probably inserted when altered in the nineteenth century. The ground floor is much altered with the addition of Victorian shop front. Above the door there is a small plaque commemorating its rare survivor of the great fire of London. The building is listed 2* by English heritage for its age and the rare survival of a jetty

230 fleet street (left on image) is a late seventeenth century townhouse with ground floor shop. The building has a full width bay with sash windows which follows the building from the first floor upwards. Although in my view less interesting than 229, this building is listed as Grade 1 by English heritage as a building of the high importance. 

These two buildings are the only survivors from the medieval townhouses which would have once lined Fleet street and are also perhaps the only survivors of London's once plentiful collection of timber framed seventeenth century townhouses. These two managed to survive the Victorian and Edwardian schemes of clearance which destroyed buildings of a similar antiquity and style in the area in streets such as Wych street.

If you want to learn more about fleet street and its development why not take a walking tour by visiting: 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

74 Leadenhall street

This building which stood on 74 Leadenhall street is an quite an enigma as there is very little record of its existence and its destruction. The building dated from sometime in the seventeenth century and was one of the many timber framed buildings built at this time. One of the few records we have is by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner who described  it briefly only in his introduction as one of the few timber framed seventeenth century buildings left in London. There is surprising little information about this building despite areas of interest, its age and also some distinguishing features such as the bay window and some interesting interior work.  

From various sources it appears that the building survived the Second World War and early post-war redevelopment. It is recorded in Pevsner's book which was published in 1957 and also in the image above dating to 1967. Intriguingly the brief description of the building is not altered in Pevsner's 1973 revised edition perhaps suggesting it was still surviving,  however this is uncertain. I would have thought such a building would have been conserved as late as the 1970's (although much demolition in Britain still continued at this time), however land value in the city was increasingly rapidly and it would have been fairly low density compared to a large office building its in place. 

From street level the building is quite unnoticeable and admittedly isn't too handsome. The facade  must have been substantially altered in the nineteenth century when the brick work around the bay was perhaps constructed to its appearance in the image above ©. The bay looks original and is probably part of a older facade. Also the roof is slightly usual being hipped which may also indicate that the building is older than parts of the front facade. The interior of the building was noted for having a interesting ceiling of on the first floor, as a handful of images exist highlighting its interior, although they say little else about the building. Now in its place is a group of modern office buildings perhaps dating to the 1980's which may give an insight to when the building was lost. 

left is an image of the interior showing part of the ceiling work. Source: The guildhall art gallery archives ©

Monday, 13 August 2012

St Ethelburga

This ancient city church squeezed between two large office buildings on the busy road of Bishopsgate has been in existence for over 800 years. It was probably founded sometime in the 13th century and was dedicated to the Saxon abbess of barking, St Ethelburga the virgin. Some of the building dates to the 1390's including the main doorway arch. Above the doorway the large window is from the fifteenth century. In the later medieval period the church constructed a porch with a shop to raise funds for the parish, pictured left ©. The shop projected out into the street and obstructed the facade of the church giving it from the street a picturesque appearance. The shop was demolished in the 1930's for a road widening scheme. The entrance doorway can be found in the museum of London which dates to the fifteenth centuryIn several older images the church the building is depicted as having a spire on top of the small tower. The spire must have been demolished or destroyed before 1775 when a bell turret was added with a seventeenth century weather vane on the top.

The church survived the great fire and so made up a large cluster of medieval buildings around Bishopsgate (most redeveloped in Victorian period apart from churches of St Helena and St Andrews). The church also luckily escaped much damage in the bombing of the Second World War making it only one of a handful to have avoided destruction of both events. 

Architectural Historian Pevsner uses the word 'humble' twice in his relatively small extract of the building in his guides. 'Humble' is however a very good description as it was indeed a very small church and smaller than most in the city. The church is a reminder of what many of the city medieval parish churches once looked like before the great fire which destroyed so many. The survival of the church is almost unique, most other surviving medieval churches are larger.  

The interior was rather insignificant being as humble as the exterior. Of note were the Flemish fifteenth stained glass window as well as other English seventeenth century glass work (Both Lost). The inside of the church consisting of only a south aisle and a nave giving it a shape of a small rectangle. The church like many was restored in the Victorian era, although with mostly only the addition of furnishings. 

However despite so much history, this humble piece of medieval London was ultimately destroyed in 1993 in a massive IRA bomb left ©. The bomb reduced much ancient structure to rumble, only the south arcade and east wall survived intact. The church had survived the great fire, the blitz and redevelopment only to be destroyed in the modern era. It being destroyed so recently makes one think how the protection of our ancient buildings is not guaranteed. The bomb also damaged the nearby church of St Helena Bishopsgate as well as devastating much of Bishopsgate.

The story would have stopped there if some people in the church had got their way. They proposed to clear the site and sell the land for redevelopment but the discovery that the south aisle and east window survived and a public outcry led to the rebuilding of the church. In 2002 the long reconstruction project came to an end and the church was reopened as a centre for peace and reconciliation. Of the 3 million pounds it cost to rebuild the Clothworkers company contributed 1.2 million to the project. The rest of the money was collected from a variety of sources from individual donations to the heritage lottery.  

It was incredible that the facade was rebuilt closely to the original when these days architects like making great distinctions between the old and the new, in one proposal one of these architects wanted to replace the facade with glass but was quickly dropped due to its insensitive nature. The building today offers a haven in the centre of the busy and noisy commercial district, if not rebuilt the church would have only been replaced by characterless dull office block. It also helps to give a sense of the original scale of the street, where once the church was the tallest building it is now the smallest, the street being dominated by ever more high rise office blocks. left how the church looks today, a tribute to the determination of people to maintain the cities medieval heritage.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Brief history of Southwark Cathedral

Southwark cathedral is one of London's oldest Gothic buildings and is one of the few churches in London of the early English style (only other example is the temple church which is of a transitional period). It began life as a priory founded in 1106 by two Norman knights known as St Mary's Overie, The latter part of the name meaning St Mary's over the water (to London). In 1212 there was a devastating fire and the priory was mostly rebuilt in the early English Gothic style. After the dissolution of the monasteries the church was renamed St Saviour and remained royal property until it was bought by a group of merchants in 1611. It was a parish church since the reformation and a cathedral since 1905. 

The new London bridge of the 1830's played a pivotal role in the history of the cathedral. The bridge committee wanted to demolish the entire church and rebuild it smaller further west as London bridge was moved closer to the church. However, after much debate and persuasion the decision was finally taken to restore the church. Despite the church being saved it would lose much of its medieval fabric, first the lady chapel (to the east of the church) was demolished for the new approach to London bridge and also in the 1830's the nave was pronounced unsafe. By the early nineteenth centuey most of the church was in a poor state and at risk of collapse. Its savior was the young George Gwilt who strengthened the tower in 1818 and in 1821 restored the chancel and the retro-quire. The crumbling thirteenth century nave was in dire need of restoration, although it was decided to demolish it instead, using a unorthodox method of demolition they took off the roof leaving it exposed to the elements for 8 years. After the nave had degraded to a ruinous state they blew what remained of it up. They then employed Henry Rose to build a Gothick (not a misspelling) nave which so horrified people no records of its design were kept and it was demolished in less than a century. In 1890 the present nave was completed by Sir Arthur Bloomfield, as a close copy to what once stood for hundreds of years in an early English style. 

The building has fragments from each period of medieval architecture in England. In the wall of the north transept are fragments of the original Norman monastery. The church is dominated by the Early English style which is evident in the chancel and the retro-quire (and the old nave). The two most distinguishing features of the church are the early English retro-quire and the Triforium (pictured left- {the arcade of arches underneath the windows}). It also has some of the Decorated style which is evident in the south transept. The church also displays the late Gothic style of Perpendicular in the tower which was built around 1400 after rebuilding from a small fire in the 1390's. Also in the church is the Victorian Gothic revival style in the nave and extensions on the north and south transepts. Although it does not have the character and age of the medieval fabric the rebuilding on the inside at least has been generally sympathetic. On the outside however, the building has been much more altered, most obviously with the black flit covering which was added in the late nineteenth century restoration. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The George Inn

The George inn is one of London’s many relics from its medieval past. Although built in the late seventeenth century it is similar in design and function to many Inns which of the medieval city. The George Inn is tucked away off Borough high street south of the river. It was rebuilt in 1676 after a fire destroyed much of the south bank. It remains now the last galleried coaching Inn in London and only one of two coaching inns left. It would have originally stood in an area with many similar Inns on the approach to London however over the years they have been slowly removed mostly by the railway companies who also almost destroyed the George. Although the Inn was not lost like many others, two of the Inns sides and much of the back of the building were taken down to build a goods warehouse leaving only the south side (shown above left) of the inn as authentic. 

The building is listed grade one by English heritage as it is a rare example of the old coaching inns which would have once been common through-out London. The George inn is almost unique in having managed to escape the bulldozers which flattened most of the cities coaching inns. The inn is now maintained and conserved by the National Trust, although it is far from a museum with a lively pub on the ground floor. The best example of a London coaching Inn was the Oxford arms which was sadly demolished in the Victorian era.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Brief history of St Giles Cripplegate

The church of St Giles Cripplegate was first built in 1090 and was dedicated to St Giles the patron saint of Blacksmiths and cripples. The part of the name 'Cripplegate' existed before the church (it was Anglo-Saxon). The site stood just outside the walls and Cripplegate (a large section of wall is visible to the south of the church) in a marshy area known as Moorfields. It was rebuilt in 1390 in a perpendicular style but suffered a major fire in 1545, although after the fire it was rebuilt much as it was before. The church was saved from destruction in the great fire by the city walls which prevented it from spreading further northwards. The top of the tower was rebuilt in brick in 1682 which was also when the wooden cupola was added (although the present one is modern). During the Georgian era as the surrounding area became more habitable and the residents more affluent the church was gentrified with the addition of pews and galleries. In the Victorian era as with many other churches the building underwent a large restoration project. Much was done to the church, the Georgian alterations were torn out and the building was enriched with battlements and a rag stone facing giving the church a more medieval appearance. 

The church was gutted by the bombing during the Second World War which decimated the surrounding area. Until the war the church was surrounded with a maze of lanes and houses, after the war much was destroyed and those which were left were demolished for the new Barbican estate. The church now stands marooned in the centre of the Barbican estate. The image left © shows the destruction war brought in the nave.  

The church was restored relatively sympathetically by Geoffrey Allen in the 1950's and was reopened along with the opening of the Barbican complex. The Image bottom left shows a modern drawing of the church. The image bottom right ©  shows the church within its original context with houses pressed up against it. 

Friday, 29 June 2012

Houses in Three Colt street

This row of seventeenth century houses in east end on Three colt street represent the picturesque appearance of many London's streets at turn of the last century.

The houses were of a basic design with weatherboarding and three of them with  gables. Weatherboarding was a common form of cladding which protected brickwork or a less resilient material from erosion. Each building had a shop on the ground floor and accommodation on the upper floors. For most of their lives they would have been overlooked as architecturally insignificant and were similar to many other buildings in London, once being a common occurrence. It is only now after the demolition of most of these buildings that they seem to be significant, no house such as these with weatherboarding and very few of the same age have survived. They were seen as slums or just old and withered in their time today if they had survived today they would have been conserved and appreciated for their likeness for how much they represented pre-modern London. These buildings which lasted for centuries would no doubt outlived their 1950's replacements if they hadn't been lost. 

 Using evidence from old maps it seems the two buildings highlighted in  red were demolished some time between 1916 and 1919. The other three survived for a few more years as in 1923 there is photographic evidence (bottom) showing the remaining three still  standing although in a extreme state of decay in which two were derelict. Between 1923 and 1947 the remaining buildings disappear from the map. I can only speculate how they were lost as they seemed insignificant and unworthy of recording. They could have been damaged in the war, although its more likely they fell down or were demolished as a dangerous building. From a map of 1947 it can be seen that Lance street was extended, passing through the site of the houses to join up with the street Ropemakers fields. Currently on the site is Padstow house, a bleak 1950's housing block. Lance street no longer exists nor does ropemakers fields opposite the houses, both have been swallowed up by roadless large post-war housing  estates. 

The image above is superimposed on current location with the older image dating to 1900. The older image was used on the front cover of Phillip Davies's 'Lost London'. The image left © shows the row in a advanced state of decay in 1923. They appear to be in a dire state with no windows. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Aldgate high street

Aldgate high street was once a street leading to one of the eight gates of London and was thus a important travelling route in and out of the city. Due to this the street developed a collection of grand timber framed buildings, of which many used as pubs and inns for travellers. Most of the buildings on the road dated from the seventeenth century, although there were too some of the mid sixteenth century. The great fire of London left the area untouched, it stopped only 50 meters from the street which allowed many of these buildings to survive until the Victorian era.

The image left shows the south side of the street showing an area known as 'the shambles'. One of the most interesting set of buildings on the high street (in my personal opinion) are the two buildings on the right of the photograph. Unlike many ordinary buildings of a similar date (look at those to the left) they seem to be elaborately carved with some interesting fine detail on the woodwork. The work could of course be entirely fake, perhaps a Victorian concoction, but from the photograph there is really no way of knowing. If they are original then it may suggest they were occupied by a wealthier owner and perhaps they were up to their demolition as they look better kept than others in the photograph.

The photograph left shows the Saracen's Head Inn which was also on south side of Aldgate (on the corner with Jewry street) with a name taken from crusades. However, the inn is not as old as might be suspected as there is only evidence for its existence after 1721. The building itself on the other hand is older, perhaps mid-late seventeenth century with rectangular bays, quite similar in design to the Hoop and grapes pub. Through the passage which can be glimpsed when you look to ground level (under the left bay) led to 'poor' Jewry lane. By 1868 the Inn had gone and by 1909 the building was being used as a restaurant (photograph taken in 1880) the building was demolished sometime after 1909. It stood on what is today Jewry street (just off the high street) and there is a plaque marking the site of Saracens head yard.

On the North side of Street were more timber framed buildings, most of them were pubs and inns. Most of the pubs had a coaching Inn attached and a yard to the rear. They were built to serve travellers as accommodation when visiting the city, the street was on route to Aldgate gate (an exit & entrance to the city) hence the large number of coaching inns. The pubs had a variety of names, there was the Black horse pub as well as the Bull yard (image shown left), the strangest name perhaps was the Three nuns yard. The Bull yard left is typical of most of these inns, a pub at the front with a passageway through the ground floor usually leading to accommodation in the lane at the rear. The image was drawn in 1890, and the building must have survived until the late Victorian era, through the passage is Aldgate high street.  

The late Victorian period changed the look of Aldgate drastically. In less than five years most of these buildings mentioned were destroyed. They were demolished as they stood in the way of progress, more specifically the development of London's railway infrastructure. Much of the north side was demolished first to build Aldgate station in 1876, although some of the pubs survived (e.g Bull inn) but they were too demolished later for offices. Most of the south side was then demolished in 1880 to build the south bound extension of the Metropolitan railway to tower hill which was completed in 1882. Today much of the street feels drained of character with many empty gaps on the south side and large modern office buildings on the north. Quite a contrast to the medieval buildings which stood compactly on small pieces of land.

Although much has gone from the medieval built past, there is a small row of buildings still remaining huddled together on a large junction at the east end of the street. The Hoop and Grapes and two adjacent buildings make a row of Sixteenth century timber framed survivors of the destruction of the street. The pub, the Hoop and Grapes was built around 1593 with the other two buildings probably from a similar period some time at the end of the sixteenth century. The building to the right was refaced in the eighteenth century in brick but behind the facade is a sixteenth century core which still survives. There is evidence for the buildings age in the gable on the roof above the parapet. Underneath the pub are a impressive set of thirteenth century cellars from an earlier building on the site. 

The pub has recently reopened after refurbishment, although not as drastic as when it and next door left were completely restored in the 1980's. The 1980's restoration by Lewisham based contractors Wynn involved the very expensive operation of propping up the fragile original timber frame with a specially designed steel frame, at a cost £1.2m. The timber frame was weak and the building had sheared sideways by 18inches, it was in danger of impending collapse and was served a dangerous structure notice. The timber is no longer a structural element to the building, it was stripped back to frame and decaying timbers were replaced with the building being rebuilt to the original design. This restoration has saved the building and the final medieval composition of the street.

There was once a forth building completing the composition which had a gable and a double height bay window. It was demolished sometime after 1908 and stood next to the right brick building where there is now a advertising board on a empty site. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

St Etheldreda

St Etheldreda is a rare medieval Catholic church just off high Holborn in the centre of London. The name originates from the Anglo-Saxon saint who founded the monastery at Ely in 673 by the name of AEthelthryth (or Etheldrea). She was a popular saint at the time of the churches construction and many religious buildings commemorated her. The church was built in the thirteenth century around 1290 as a chapel. built by William De Luda the bishop of Ely on top of an earlier possibly roman structure. From its construction to 1570 it served as the bishop of Ely's town chapel in London, once part of a palace for the bishops of Ely for their visits to the city. The picture bottom left shows the palace complex, with the chapel in red and the Bishops palace below it. The area around the chapel was not damaged by the Great fire in 1666 as it stood some way out of the city walls. In the eighteenth century the bishops were forced by an act of parliament to sell the chapel to the crown. The crown then sold to Charles Cole, an architect and developer who demolished everything on the site but the chapel. He built Ely place which is lined with fine Georgian houses and restored the chapel which was reopened in 1786.

Barely a century later the chapel changed hands again as it was bought in 1874 by the Roman Catholic church. This makes St Etheldreda one of only a few medieval buildings own by the Catholic churchIt became a scheduled ancient monument in 1925 by the royal commission on historical monuments who recognising its importance. However, it came under attack from German air raids during the Second World War. It was badly damaged when a bomb tore a hole in the roof, destroying much of the roof and shattering the Victorian stained glass. Thankfully the fine thirteenth century tracery in the west window miraculously survived the bombing unscathed. After the war the church was sensitively restored and remains a interesting piece of history in a quiet corner of the busy centre of London. 

The church consists of two levels, a chapel above and a under croft below, a layout typical in private chapels. The most distinguished feature of the church is its fine thirteenth century early decorated tracery in the west window (the Ely place street side of the chapel). The church is a rare example of the decorated style in the city of London, the tracery being some of the only of this style and date in the city. The west window also claims to be the largest stained glass window in London which seems unlikely but is in fact true.  

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Oxford Arms

The Oxford arms was one of London's many seventeenth Century galleried coaching inns. Its demolition in 1876 was as controversial as the demolition of the Euston arch some 85 years later. Like the arch it resulted in a change of public opinion as people finally came to valve historically important buildings. The Inn was one such building. It stood in a courtyard off Warwick Lane near Ludgate hill in the shadow of St Paul's cathedral. The area around it was devastated by fire in the great fire of London but the Inn was rebuilt afterwards bigger and better than before. Its  destruction in 1876 led to the Formation of Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings a year later in 1877 set up among others by William Morris. 

The building itself is a galleried Inn on three or four sides (There is no record showing west side of inn). The East side (shown on the 1875 image consists of three floors with attic windows. The north and South side are of similar design but with one less floor. On the east side the first and second floors have a gallery where when it was used as a inn people would have had a room. In the courtyard below there would have been a stable block and most likely a pub.

The Society of Photographing Relics of old London who took visual records of buildings under threat of demolition (to which we owe the few images of the Inn) tried to lobby the owners to prevent its destruction however they could not save it. The loss galvanised public opinion and became a land mark in the conservation movement. London's most famous coaching inn was redeveloped to be replaced  by warehouses. In reality the Inn could not have been saved, for many years it had been derelict and as can be seen on the photo it was in a dire state of disrepair. In the Victorian era it would not have found another use and would have probably continued to decay until finally being demolished years later. It also would have probably been lost in the Bombings of the Second World War if it had of survived since the whole district around St Paul's was badly damaged. The only one example of a galleried Inn which remains is the George Inn south of the river in Southwark. 

Its present day location is not known but by re-creating the view shown on the picture of 1875 the area in which it once stood can be traced. Note in the picture in the middle above from Google Earth the building in the foreground is not in the same position as the Oxford arms and as it is on the opposite side of the road. The location of this image is just behind Amen corner above the modern St Paul's house. Amen corner consists of a row of seventeenth century houses which I the Oxford arms once stood behind. On the picture of 1875 on the top right corner there are several chimney stacks which I believe to be part of the Seventeenth century row of houses which still remain today. The red circle on the image bottom above shows the approximate location of the former Oxford arms where the modern St Paul's house is today. 

left  an image showing the North east corner of the Inn

Thursday, 24 May 2012

All Hallows staining

On Mark street around the corner from Fenchurch Station stands a curious old tower now dwarfed by modern office blocks. The tower belonged to the medieval church of All Hallows staining. The name All hallows staining refers to the stone used in its construction which distinguished itself from the other fourteenth century churches which were predominantly wooden in this area of London. Many churches were still made of wood with only a few made of expensive stone, as London became more prosperous the number of stone churches increased. The church was first mentioned in the twelfth century when it would have most likely had a small nave and primitive tower. The tower was rebuilt around 1320 to the one which we see today and it could be assumed that the nave was also rebuilt around this time. 

The photo top left shows the church in a map of London during King Henry VIII rule (1509 to 1547) with the nave in yellow and the tower to the left. During the Great fire of London the church was not initially destroyed but the nave of the church collapsed a few years later, probably due to the heat of the fire. The nave was rebuilt afterwards in 1674 in a similar form to the old one. The church continued to be used for 200 years with little change until 1870 when the parish of All Hallows Staining and St Olave Hart street were combined. The church became redundant and everything was demolished in 1870 except the tower which was saved by the cloth-workers guild and retained.  

During the war the tower was undamaged but the neighbouring church of St Olave Hart street was left a burnt out shell. A temporary church was set up at the site of all hallows in a new nave constructed from timber. This temporary structure provided the parish with a church until St Olave could be restored which it was after the war in 1954. The churches third nave was demolished leaving the tower to standing alone once again. The tower was partly restored some time after the war in which the large arches at the base were filled in creating a small room inside the tower. This created a usable space so the tower could have more of a use than standing as a redundant ruin. Before the war the ground floor of the tower had been open as can be seen on the photograph of 1941 left ©. The photograph also shows in the background the ruins of the cloth-workers' hall after an air raid. Underneath the tower are the remains of a twelfth century crypt which was preserved by the cloth-workers moved from St James in the wall when it was demolished in 1873

From a architectural perspective the tower is underwhelming and has few features of real interest. Most of the windows are of Perpendicular Gothic apart from the west window which is Decorated Gothic. This suggests that most windows were added some years after the tower was built (with exception of west window). The north-west side of the tower is corned by a small octagonal stair turret which like the rest of the tower is topped with castle like castellations. Architectural historian Nikolaus Pervsner had little to say about the tower and summed it up in two lines- 'Pulled down in 1870 except for the small west tower, which now stands against the huge wall of Dunster House'. Despite this it was listed a grade 1 by English heritage in 1950.

A drawing showing the church before the demolition of the nave 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

24 Cloth Fair

24 Cloth Fair or the Dick Whittington Inn was a building of the sixteenth century once part of a row of medieval buildings lining the street. It stood at the end of cloth fair with the junction to Kinghorn street. It was a simple three story building once common in the ancient streets of London with an attic gable and slightly jettied (overhang) on the second floor. It was allegedly the oldest Inn in London although it was actually only given a licence in 1848 and there are many pubs in London older than this, one of the oldest is believed to be the Seven Stars on Carey street Holborn

The building was acquired by the corporation of London and along with many other medieval houses along cloth fair which had stood for hundreds of years they were demolished in 1916 for 'slum clearance'. On the opposite end of the terrace there is one survivor of the slum clearance (41&42 Cloth fair) which was restored instead of demolished showing that they could all have been retained without too much effort. Today the space is taken by a dull modern building showing that the replacement for this priceless piece of history did not even last one century. Note the Victorian building in the background which has managed to survive mostly unchanged when all other buildings have vanished.

The image below right © from Google maps shows the location of the former Whittington Inn (in red) and around where the picture was taken (in yellow). The image below left © from 1888 shows the Inn in the context of its neighbours where it can be seen to be in a very ancient area of London. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

13 Portsmouth street

13 Portsmouth street or the old curiosity shop as it is known is a modest timber-framed building in Holborn London. It would have been insignificant and overlooked for most of its life, that is until that is it acquired the name ‘the old curiosity shop’. Soon afterwards it became very popular with tourists believing it to have a literature connection. It claims to be the inspiration of Dickens novel by the same name. This unfortunately is not true as It was also only added after the novel was released. It was a hoax by the shop owner who wanted to attract more business. The building has been used for many things over the years, it was a dairy in King Charles II reign, a waste paper merchant in the Victorian era until around 1900, a Antique shop and since 1992 a upmarket shoe shop. When it shut as a antique shop in the 1970's it was founded frozen in time with notes and receipts dating back to the 1920's. 

It was built in 1567 with wood from old sailing ships. It has managed to survive the eighteenth and nineteenth century redevelopment of Holborn and the blitz unscathed. Although the building survived, much of the area around it has been redeveloped with the Holborn new road scheme which means that today the building is dwarfed by much larger and newer buildings. From an architectural point of view there is very little to describe, it is a simple two story timber framed building with an overhanging first floor and hipped roof. It is listed 2 * by English heritage due to its literacy connection with Charles Dickens. 

This was one of the only survivors of the clearances from 1900-1905 for the new Kingsway road which passed straight through the area. Many buildings of similar antiquity were lost especially in the clearance of Wych Street .

Get your very own model of the old curiosity shop at  http://www.englishvillagedesigns.co.uk/sheet-models-1.htm

Friday, 13 April 2012

Prince Henry’s room – Inner temple gateway (No. 17, Fleet Street)

(1) (2)

The inner temple gateway is one of few medieval buildings surviving on the busy medieval thoroughfare of Fleet Street which linked the city of London to Westminster. Most were lost due to damage during the great fire and subsequent redevelopment. Prince Henry’s room was originally built in 1610 although much of what can be seen heavily restored from the 1905 restoration. It was restored due to the discovery in 1900 that the nineteenth century facade (2) was obscuring the original seventeenth century half-timbered front (1). In picture (2) just above the parapet one can just make out the two roofs which appear to be gables in (1) but look more hipped in (2), most likely restored afterwards. This shows to the extent that a facade was just stuck on the front of the seventeenth century building. The old facade apart from the oriel windows was preserved under thick layers of paint which covered the whole front. The facade was restored to its original form with the reconstruction of the oriel windows giving it its 1610 appearance. The ground floor was altered in the mid eighteenth century including the arch surrounding the gateway. In 1905 during the restoration the whole building was moved back to widen fleet street. 

It was tavern known by the name of the ‘prince’s arms’ after its claim that prince Henry of Wales who was the eldest son of King James I had a room on the 1st floor set aside for him as a council chamber. However, this theory is dispelled as records state that the building was built as a tavern and it used the name two years before the prince was born. 

In 1975 the first floor 'Prince Henry's room' was acquired by the Samuel Pepys club as a museum in which they display memorabilia of his life. Samuel Pepys was born on fleet street and lived in the local area for a number of years. The inside of the building on the first floor has some fascinating Jacobean panelling and plastering, the museum displaying the Samuel Pepys Exhibition conveniently allows one to look inside the interior of the building. The panelling around the room is original seventeen century Jacobean work. The ceiling (which can be glimpsed from the image above ©)  is described as the 'best remaining Jacobean-enriched plaster ceilings in London'. The timer framing is also of note with the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner describing it as 'the best pieces of half-timber work in London'.    

If you want to learn more about Samuel Pepys visit this website:
Other medieval houses 
If you want to learn more about the history of Fleet street and its development why not take a walking tour by visiting: