I passed No. 8 Russell Street on my explorations during my recent visit to London. The property was occupied by Thomas Davis, a bookseller and publicist, in the mid 18th Century. This is where Mr James Boswell and Mr Samuel Johnson met for the first time one May evening in 1763. Boswell was apprehensive about meeting Johnson because of his prejudices towards Scottish people and he subsequently wrote about 'The Life of Johnson' (published in 1791).
It was nice to come across a building of historical interest in the midst of a very busy and touristy area of Covent Gardens.
I have gone on at length on my homepage here in VT about the concept of not having to travel far to discover fascinating things. It is a concept I firmly believe in and I try to enncourage people to explore their local areas as there is so much they can share with the VT readers. This tip is a case in point as I have lived close to it in various places for about 25 years and yet had never seen the monument it refers to, much less the historical context, so I have learned something along the way. I was just out for one of my frequent wanders around the East End of London recently when I happened upon the memorial you see. Bearing in mind, I used to live less than a mile away for nearly two years, I was amazed that it had never come to my attention.
Approaching from a distance, I immediately thought it was a war memorial of some sort and probably First World War due to the style. Well, I was correct in both particulars but when I got close and read it I was somewhat taken aback. If you mention the East End to people, one of the things they are likely to mention is the Blitz, the German Luftwaffe attacks on the area in the Second World War. Undoubtedly, the area suffered horribly during that time. What I did not know, however, was that the area was also aerially attacked during the First World War. I suppose I had always somehow thought that the aircraft of the time would not have been capable of flying from mainland Europe to bomb London but apparently they were. Initially, there were Zeppelin raids at night but then fixed wing aircraft began bombing and daylight raids commenced.
The first day of this raiding was 13th June, 1917 with a group of fourteen Gothas led by Squadron Commander Hauptmann Ernst Brandenberg coming across the Channel and starting bombing the East End of London just before noon. In all, 104 people were killed but the single worst incident was the bombing of the Upper North Street School and it is this that the memorial commemorates. A bomb dropped through the roof of the school passed through the girls class on the top floor, the boys class on the middle floor and finally exploded in the infants class on the ground floor. Eighteen children were killed, all but two of them in the infants class aged between four and six. The names and ages on the memorial pictured tells it's own tragic story.
A week later a huge funeral service was held with fifteen of the poor children buried in a mass grave, the others being fortunate enough to have had private family graves.
The memorial was opened two years later in June 1919 after the end of the War and really is one of the most poignant memorials I have ever seen.
I am not suggresting that most visitors to London will make a special trip to see this but if you are local to it, it really is worth a look. If you do, it is situated in Poplar Recreation Ground which is just South of the A13 East India Dock Road between Hale street and Woodstock Terrace. Use the gates either at the North end of Woodstock Terrace or the one beside Willis House on Poplar High Street. If you use the gate beside St. Matthias Community Centre you cannot get to the memorial without climbing over a spiked fence.
Broadway Market used to be a proper East End street market. Everything from fruit and veg to pots and pans were sold there and the air was filled with the cries of the Cockney costermongers selling their wares. But on a summer's day in 1917 different sounds rang out in Broadway Market ..... the sounds of violence.
On 17th July 1917, 24 years before the Blitz and three years into World War I, terror struck London from the skies. 22 German bombers made their second daylight raid on London, killing 57 people.
The next day a crowd of two or three thousand people from the London Fields area carried out violent demonstrations against Germans or supposed Germans.
They smashed up a butcher's shop belonging to Adolph Wenninger, a naturalised German, at 11 Broadway Market, looted a baker's in nearby Pownell Road, and attacked another baker's in Westgate Street owned by 'an enemy alien'.
Various individuals, mostly boys in their late teens, were charged with looting and assaulting police constables.
Ten days later the British Royal Family changed its name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.
The market today is a shadow of its former self. The only shop left that I remember from my childhood is the pie and mash shop. Today there are more restaurants and gastro-bars than there are shops, although the Market is home to a thriving organic/retro market every Saturday.
Hackney has, as its southern boundary, the Regent's canal. Walk along its towpath westwards and you will come to Islington; eastwards to Victoria Park and the Olympic site in Stratford.
It was constructed over eight years, between 1812 and 1820, and was named for the Prince Regent of the time. The canal linked the Thames Docks to the Grand Union canal at Paddington.
8.5 miles long, the Regent's canal drops 96 feet through 12 locks, one of which, at the end of Broadway Market, was named after the Acton family who owned the land through which the Hackney part of the canal was dug.
The main cargoes transported in the horse-drawn barges were coal, for the various gasworks on the south bank, and timber, for Shoreditch's furniture trade. The horses that pulled the barges needed three feeds a day and re-shoeing once a month.
Now it is the ringing of the cyclist's bell which warns you of oncoming traffic the other side of a bridge, back then it was the crack of the bargee's whip.
Katharina Fritsch, a German sculpture, is exhibiting her Hahn/Cock sculpture for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Opinions are split about the cockerel sculpture which will reside in the square until January 2015 and I must admit I'm not sure myself.
An article from the Guardian Newspaper
A biography about Katharina Fritsch via Wikpedia
Hackney Town Hall was built between 1934 and 1936 and was designed by architects Lanchester and Lodge. The building is square planned, has a flat roof and shows other features typical of the Art Deco style in its external low walls, lamp piers and bronze lanterns. Internally there are also some fine examples of Art Deco design, with recent refurbishments making the most of the detailing on the staircases and fittings. Sometimes described as 'austere', the building is not showy, but rather conventional. The trees and shrubs at the open area at the from of the building are a welcome sight on busy Mare Street and take some severity from the Town Halls appearance.
Hackney's first Town Hall, today's 'Old Town Hall' at the bottom of the Narroway, was built in 1802. It replaced Church House, also known as Urswick's House after its builder, the Rector Christopher Urswick. Church House, built in 1520, was an irregular brick building which provided rooms for the parish clergy. It also housed a charity school and a secure lock-up for criminals, with a nearby 'cage' (wooden prison cell) and a whipping post for the public humiliation of prisoners. The building remained intact for nearly 300 years and was demolished in 1797.
The Old Town Hall was a two-storeyed block of four bays when it was erected in 1802. Like Church House it had many uses: as a savings bank in 1818; as the civil registry of births, deaths and marriages by 1837; and as the home of the parish fire engine in the mid 19th century. By 1900 the addition of a pediment, balustrades, and embellished doorway and stone cladding, the building took on a more elaborate, baroque appearance.
But Hackney had changed. When the Metropolis Management Act of 1855 came into being more office and committee space was needed. A new site was found on Mare Street and the building of Hackney's second Town Hall began.
Hackney's second Town Hall was completed by 1866. It was built on an open green called 'The Grove' and designed by Hammack and Lambert. Built in the 'French-Italian' style, faced with Portland stone, balustrade and amply supplied with windows, it boasted its very own Doric porch. The building costs of the new Town Hall were greatly exceeded. This Town Hall was only in use for 70 years, Hackney had increased in size and even more space was needed. It was demolished in the 1930s and its site became the open space in front of Hackney's third Town Hall, the building you see in Mare Street today.
The Hackney Empire was designed by architect Frank Matcham was built in 1901. Originally opened as a music hall, the theatres stage was graced by many famous music hall acts of the day. Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, Stanley Holloway, Stan Laurel and Marie Lloyd all performed there.
The television company ATV bought the Empire in the 1950s, and programmes such as Take Your Pick and Oh Boy! were broadcast live. Some scenes from the popular series Emergency Ward 10 were also filmed there. In 1963 the Mecca Organisation bought the theatre and thereafter it was used as a bingo hall.
In 1984 Mecca found the building to expensive to maintain and offered it to C.A.S.T., a satirical touring theatre group. C.A.S.T. took aver the Empire and mounted a series of variety nights headlined by a new breed of alternative comedy acts, such as Ben Elton, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Many other well-known comedians have performed at the theatre, Jo Brand, Harry Hill, Paul Merton, Harry Enfield, Russell Brand, Frankie Boyle and John Cleese, to name but a few.
The theatre was threatened with demolition in `1986, actor-manager, Ronald Muldoon, started a campaign to acquire the freehold and to re-open it as a permanent performance space, allowing the Empire to return to its theatrical roots for its 85th anniversary.
In 2001 the theatre was closed for a much needed refurbishment costing £17 million. Restorations included a 60-seat orchestra pit to make the theatre suitable for operatic productions, a fly-tower and the reduction of the stage rake from 1 in 24 to 1 in 30. In addition to the restorations new facilities were added including a studio theatre, educational and hospitality suites, and improved dressing rooms. The adjacent Marie Lloyd public house was incorporated into the new extension.
In addition to Roland Muldoon, comedian Griff Rhys Jones led the restoration appeal, and the appeal fund was boosted by a large donation from local businessman Sir Alan Sugar.
The Hackney Empire has produced enormously successful, highly regarded pantomimes since 1988 and has used as a film location in films, television series and adverts, and music videos.
I must say, I really love wandering about old cemeteries, and this one is a classic. It is very unusual in that it has never apparently been consecrated. This led to it's being the last resting place of many Dissenters, Quakers and others who were not in favour with the established Church. It was much favoured by Puritans and a couple of members of the Cromwell family are buired there.
There appears to be a disproportionate amount of literary people amongst the 120,000 souls buried there. There are the graves of, or monuments to, Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame, John Bunyan (Pilgrim's Progress) and William Blake the poet.
Another interesting grave, in the open area, is that of Dame Mary Page, who apparently was "tap'd" 68 times in the last 67 months of her life resulting in the removal of 240 gallons of water! I have no idea what medical procedure this was, nor do I really wish to know.
The last interment there was of a 15 year old girl in 1834 after which the place was set aside as a park and recreation area. I love to go for a walk here.
Although most of the graves are behind fences, you can access them by arrangement with the park-keeper or by telephoning the number given.
A tin tabernacle is a type of pre-fabricated ecclesiastical building made from corrugated galvanised iron, developed in the mid 19th century, initially in Great Britain.
The tin tabernacle on Shrubland Road was build in 1868. Originally clad in corrugated iron, it has been re-clad in asbestos sheeting. It has been described as 'An early, rare and complete example of a temporary iron Mission Church'. The building has a Grade II Listed status and is now being used as an Evangelical church.
Corrugated iron was first used for roofing in London in 1829 by Henry Robinson Palmer and the patent sold to Richard Walker who advertised 'portable buildings for export' in 1832. The technology for producing corrugated iron sheets was improved and to prevent corrosion the sheets were galvanised with a coating of zinc, the process being developed by Stanislas Sorel in Paris during the 1830s. After 1850 many types of churches, chapels and mission halls were produced.
The Industrial Revolution was a time of great change. Towns and cities expanded as the workforce moved into the new industrial areas resulting in the building of more than 4,000 churches during the mid 19th century and an upsurge of non-conformism led to a demand for even more buildings.
The Church of England, influenced by Pugin, the Cambridge Camden Society and John Ruskin, was sceptical about the buildings. But manufacturers found other markets, namely the colonies of the British Empire. Nineteen churches were build in Melbourne, Australia by 1851, and a 65 foot by 40 foot church built entirely of cast and wrought iron clad in corrugated iron erected in Jamaica at a cost of £1,000. William Morris, the founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, wrote a pamphlet in 1890 decrying the construction of corrugated iron buildings 'that were spreading like a pestilence over the country'.
The tin churches, chapels and mission halls were built in new industrial areas, pit villages, near railway works and in more isolated rural and coastal areas. Landowners and employers donated plots of land and sometimes the cost of the building, although many were funded by public subscription.
Early tin churches were easily erected, but at an average cost of between £2 and £4 per sitting were expensive. St Mark's Church in Birkenhead, Liverpool, built in 1867, cost more than £2,000 for 500 seats. Prices decreased towards the end of the century to nearer £1 per sitting. David Rowell and Co's 1901 catalogue advertised a church to seat 400 persons, delivered to the nearest railway station and erected on the purchaser's foundations, at a cost of £360. Isaac Dixon's 1898 catalogue mentioned that the company had supplied 150 churches over the previous ten years and the price had dropped from 35 shillings (£1.75) to 20 shillings (£1) per seating plus the cost of foundations. Heating and lighting could add another £70 for a church to seat 200.
Several tin tabernacles survive as places of worship, some have listed status, others have been converted to other uses. Some redundant churches have been moved to museums for preservation.
London Fields is one of the many green spaces in Hackney. As well as grassy areas it has two children's playgrounds, a small BMX track, tennis courts, a table tennis table, cricket pitch, a small enclosed football pitch and an open-air swimming pool (lido) which is the only 50m outdoor, heated pool in London.
It also has a barbeque area, a wildflower meadow and a mosaic seating area and sculpture, which the children of nearby London Fields Primary School helped to create some years ago. A cycle path runs through it from the Martello Street entrance to the Broadway Market entrance.
The 'Fields', as it is known locally, measures 31.3 acres (12.65 hectares), about one-third of its original size, and was awarded a Green Flag in 2008.
The area that is now London Fields was recorded as common pasture land adjoining Cambridge Heath in 1275. In 1540 the name London Fields was recorded as a separate item consisting of around 10 acres in a changing of ownership of the land. The Fields was one of the many 'commonable lands' of Hackney where commoners of the parish could graze their livestock from Lammas Day, (Anglo-Saxon for bread mass), 1 August, celebrating the first loaf to be baked after the crops had been harvested, to Lady Day, 25 March. This arrangement was known as Lammas Rights and was protected by law.
London Fields was the areas main footpath to the City of London, used by market traders and drovers to take produce and walk animals to within the City or to Smithfield. People knew that when they had crossed the Fields they were within two miles distance of the City of London.
In the 16th century sixty-one acres of London Fields was owned by the Hospital of Savoy. The hospital was dissolved in 1553 and its holdings passed to St Thomas's Hospital. It was later recorded that the land was divided into six strips owned by four different people.
Cricket matches were first played on London Fields in 1802. The local team, London Fields CC, based at the nearby Pub on the Park, hosts games from late April to September.
The development of the area began in the 19th century. Part of the land was lost to housing in 1862, the developers dismissed the Lammas Rights as of little or no use, and gravel digging on the site caused near riots and started litigation.
London Fields became a park in 1866 and many plane trees were planted. An OS (Ordinance Survey) map from 1894 shows a bandstand, which was later demolished and replaced by a larger, grander one, which was later removed after World War II. Eight oak trees were shown on an OS map dating from 1913, three of which are still standing to this day. The Fields suffered major bombing in 1940 during World War II.
London Fields Lido was built in 1932 and closed in 1988. In the 1990s the demolition of the lido was resisted by the people of Hackney, including standing in front of the bull dozers. Local people cleared away vegetation from the site and started a campaign to re-open the pool. The children's paddling pool, attached to the lido, was closed in 1995 and was subsequently re-opened by local people for summer seasons.
In 1998 the lido was squatted for housing, a café and communal events, and in August of that year the Carnival of the Dispossessed, a benefit for Reclaiming the Streets, was held of the site. The lido was squatted for the second time from 2002 - 2005.
It was finally renovated and re-opened in 2006.
More photographs of London Fields can be found in my travelogues 'Fun in the Fields' and 'Flowers in the Fields'.
St Augustine's Tower stands in St John's Church Gardens in Hackney Central. It is all that remains of the early 16th century parish church of St Augustine of Hippo, which replaced a 13th century medieval church founded by the Knights of St John. The Tower is made up of four stages beneath a restored parapet with diagonal buttressing. A working 16th century turret clock has remained on the third floor since at least 1608. The Tower and it's contents are Grade I listed.
The parish church of Hackney became a sinecure rectory in 1275. This meant there was a Vicar and a Rector representing the parish, and the parish served the entire area of the present Borough of Hackney until it was eventually divided up in the 18th century. Man of the clergy were absentee pluralists, which meant they had other jobs, and Hackney formed just part of their incomes. From the 14th to the 17th centuries the church was dedicated to S Augustine. But from 1660, the church was dedicated to St John of Jerusalem, St John the Baptist, and was known as St John-at-Hackney.
The Tower was constructed as part of the early 16th century re-building of the church, commemorated by the coat of arms of Sir John Heron, who died in 1521, carved between each arch of the nave, and also placed, with the coat of arms of rector Christopher Urswick, who died in 1522, in the chancel. After the re-building the church consisted of a chancel, aisled and clerestoried nave, and a south-west tower. The Rowe Chapel, a mausoleum, was built on the north side of the church. In 1741, the measurements of the church were 105 feet (32.0m) along its north wall, 64 feet (19.5m) across; the Tower bore a weather vane surmounted by a crown which reached to 118 feet (36.0m). The walls of the church, c.1500, showed a variety of building materials, as they did at the time of its demolition, when the exterior presented 'an incomprehensible jumble of dissonant repairs, without a trace of original building, except the windows of part of it.'
The ~Tudor Age many members of the court used the church, including Thomas Cromwell and the Earl of Northumberland, and the diarist, Samuel Pepys visited the church in 1667.
Hackney's growing population meant that galleries had to be added to the church, and by 1789 it was able to hold a congregation of 1,000. This was still inadequate for the needs of the parish, and on the advice of architect William Blackburn, the vestry petitioned Parliament in 1790 for the complete re-building of the church on an adjacent site to the North. Blackburn died suddenly later that year and James Spiller was chosen to replace him as the designer of the church.
The main part of the old church was pulled down in 1798, with many of its monuments being moved to the new site. The stone was sold as building material. The original site of the old church is marked by four cornerstones to the East of the Tower. The Tower was left standing to house the eight bells of Hackney, which were finally moved to the new church in 1854, after the new church tower was underpinned to take their weight.
The Tower was then used as a public mortuary, and a tool shed for the gardens of St John-at-Hackney. The Metropolitan Borough of Hackney became responsible for the maintenance of St Augustine's Tower and the gardens of St John's in 1912.
In more recent times, St Augustine's Tower was made safe in 1983; and has been used for occasional art exhibitions. It is normally open as part of 'London Open House' each year. Since 1990, the Tower has been in the care of the Hackney Historic Buildings Trust. A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has made it possible for repairs and improvements to be carried out and a permanent exhibition of the Tower and its church to be put on display. The church is now open to the public on the last Sunday of every month, and it is now possible to climb its narrow winding staircase to the roof.
St John's Church Gardens, around the Tower and the later church were awarded both a Green Flag Award, and Green Flag Heritage status in 2008.
The Church of St John-at-Hackney was designed by James Spiller and built in 1792. The vast, classical style building, on a Greek cross plan, can hold up to 2,000 people. It is a Grade II listed building and houses monuments dating back to the Tudor Age.
The former churchyard is now a complex of gardens that was awarded Heritage Green Site status in 2008.
It is possible that a church stood here before the Norman Conquest, but no records survive of any buildings on this site before 1275 and any church prior to that date would have been part of the parish of Stepney. In the 14th century the church was dedicated to Saint Augustine of Hippo, until, in 1660, it was rededicated to Saint John the Baptist, later becoming commonly known as St John-at-Hackney.
In the 13th century, much of the land around Hackney was owned by the Knights Templar. When the order was disbanded its possessions passed to the Order of St John of Jerusalem, who owned a mansion on nearby Church Street. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the land was claimed by the Crown, and was divided amongst Tudor nobles, including Thomas Sutton and Ralph Sadler.
Hackney's proximity to the City of London and the court made it a popular place with courtiers, city merchants and businessmen, and for an increasing number of private schools which were established in some of the older houses in the area. By 1789, the capacity of the church, with the addition of numerous galleries, had reached 1,000. This however was not enough.
In 1779, surveyor, Richard Jupp, proposed rebuilding the church to increase the capacity to 1,480, but no action was taken at that time. By 1788, a committee found that the parish population had increased so much that the church should seat 3,000. The architect, at the time, William Blackburn, rejected the idea of building a new church on the old site, advising that a budget of £15,000 be created to buy land on which to construct the new church.
In April 1789, the committee put the matter to a parochial vote, and won their case by 313 vote to 70, and a Bill was put top the House of Commons. Opponents of the proposal undertook yet another survey with a view to building on the old site. Finally, a compromise was reached; the Bill became an Act empowering the Trustees to buy, for £875, Church Field which lay north-east of the existing churchyard. The existing tenants, a butcher and a corn merchant, were given three months to leave.
A new church, tower and vestry room were built within three years of laying the foundations, and then the old church of St Augustine was demolished. The initial estimates of the costs of building the new church were badly underestimated and two further Acts had to be passed through Parliament to allow extra money to be raised.
William Blackburn died suddenly in November 1790; a month later James Spiller was appointed architect in his stead. St John-at-Hackney was his largest project to date and remained his greatest work. Believing that a building seating 3,000 would have poor acoustics, he persuaded the Trustees to allow him to reduce the church's capacity to 2,000, but he remained convinced that the acoustics would not be good unless the church was full.
Work began in the spring of 1792, and the main structure took more than two years to complete. On 15 July 1794, the church was consecrated, with a wooden box-like structure where the tower was later added.
Trustee, Harry Sedgwick, oversaw a subscription for planting the churchyard. 129 subscriptions allowed for 200 elm and horse chestnut trees to be planted in the avenues. Sedgwick was late buried in the churchyard; his planting achievement is commemorated on his tomb. Sedgwick's only son was killed in action in the Napoleonic War; and there is an elaborate memorial to him inside the church.
In March 1798, the demolition of the old church was complete and several of the tombs were moved to the new church. The tower of St Augustine's was left standing to hold the bells, as there was not enough money left to build a tower on the new building. A tower was added to the new church in 1814, and in 1816 a stained glass east window was installed behind the altar.
The tower of St Augustine's is still standing today and is incorporated in Hackney's coat of arms.
On 18 May 1958, a fire started in the church roof, destroying the roof, many of the pews and the 1799 church organ. During the major reconstruction work there was some re-ordering of the interior.
A replacement organ came from All Saint's, Kensington; altar hangings designed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey were donated; and the east wing window was replaced with a new one by Christopher Webb. The church was re-consecrated on 24 July 1958 (St John's Day).
The repair work carried out on the roof in 2004 was funded by English Heritage; an electrical fire in January 2006 caused minor damage to the church and the organ suffered smoke damage. The 200-year old building still requires major maintenance and the parish has prepared an action plan for this purpose.
At the Church fete of 2008, the church and its churchyard were re-dedicated by the Archdeacon of Hackney in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the reconstruction of the church in 1958 and the major works undertaken to regenerate the churchyard in 2007. St John's Church Gardens was awarded both a Green Flag award and Green Flag Heritage status in 2008.
In 2011, the church played host to the 'Little Noise Sessions' in aid of Mencap. These concerts featured artists such as Elbow, Marina and the Diamonds, Goldfrappe, Example, Coldplay and Sinead O'Connor, and they were hosted by Jo Whiley.
If you travel to England by Eurostar you will arrive in London at St Pancras Station. Probably you will be tired after your journey and will not give the station more than a passing glance. But on your way home things will be different, and you will almost certainly have allowed some slack time in your itinerary. One thing you might like to do while waiting for your train is to pay a brief visit to this statue of one of Britain’s best-loved poets, a former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman.
Betjeman was a strong advocate of preserving the best of Victorian architecture and campaigned successfully for St Pancras Station not to be pulled down. He described:
“that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill and outlined against a foggy sunset, and the great arc of Barlow's train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from gloomy Judd Street.”
Betjeman is also closely associated with various forms of architecture of the 20th century, including the 1930s Metroland style which he seems to have had a fondness for, despite bemoaning the destruction of the countryside around London:
”Gentle Brent, I used to know you
Wandering Wembley-wards at will,
Now what change your waters show you
In the meadowlands you fill!
Recollect the elm-trees misty
And the footpaths climbing twisty
Under cedar-shaded palings,
Low laburnum-leaned-on railings
Out of Northolt on and upward to the heights of Harrow hill.”
He was less polite (with some reason) about the 1930s development of Slough, west of London. I often travel there for business and can never arrive in its less than attractive centre without thinking of the opening lines of his poem:
“Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!
Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.”
Many visitors to Brick Lane come only to eat curry, and many more come for the vibe and the growing number of bars and cafés, but relatively few venture north beyond the old Truman Brewery and the bridge over the railway line. A shame, as for those who do there’s much more to discover, and if you enjoy urban street photography, especially graffiti, there is a goldmine waiting to be discovered!
Here you are on the southern fringes of Shoreditch, one of the capital’s old working class districts now being colonised by the young and trendy. The London College of Fashion is situated here so expect to see lots of individual and quirky styles both in the shops and on passers-by. If like me you’re a long way the wrong side of thirty, you will probably feel even older here, but if you can deal with that do come and explore.
To find graffiti like this try Cheshire Street (where I photographed the blue and pink cat), Bacon Street, Redchurch Street, Buxton Street (among others), and Brick Lane itself north of the railway bridge. Then find a coffee shop or bar to settle down and watch the activity, or browse the vintage shops for a bargain. You can easily while away an afternoon here and you’ll have seen an aspect of London life that many visitors miss.
Our 2nd stop on our rainy day in London was the Old Operating Theatre Museum, I had printed out a 2 for 1 offer for it in case we had some spare time. For the longest time I thought this museum had to do with theatre, as in actors and plays, but of course the Operating part should have been a clue that this is a museum devoted to medical science.
The 1st room is the old herb garret in St. Thomas' church, used at the time to store herbs used in healing and now filled with medical devices that look more like torture devices than medical instruments. There is a particularly horrifying section with devices used in the delivering babies.
The 2nd part is the oldest known operating theatre in the UK, built in the roof space of St. Thomas church in 1821 for poor women. It has been restored with original furniture and equipment, the benches set around the operating table were for students to watch the surgery being performed. The surgeries here were done before anesthetics were discovered, I shiver to think of having an amputation performed with no anesthetic! Not to mention the general lack of understanding about infections, surgeons were more likely to wash their hands after an operation than before.
The closest tube station is London Bridge, we stopped by the Borough Market first to grab a snack, better to do this before visiting rather than after.
There are many well-beaten paths in London as befits one of the major travel destinations in the world, but that is not the whole story. Visitors may well visit Buckingham Palace, the...