The City Walk 10th June 2006
A Group of Guild Members and Friends assembled at the top of Dowgate Hill alongside Cannon Street Station and perambulated around The City in a version of “The Day we went to Birmingham by way of Bethnal Green” in as much as our route was anything but direct to our destination. We were to tack our way to The Bishops Finger Pub in Smithfield. On the way we noted the entrances to Skinner’s Hall, Tallow Chandler’s Hall, and Dyer’s Hall, all on the Hill.
We moved over the road and into Cloak Lane along which, your informant and others from the Southeast who taught or who were taught at CLS in Blackfriar’s days, walked after commuting in to the terminus. Among those recalled on the staff side were Nobbs who walked with Ellingham and Riddle who walked with Carruthers while Riddle jnr, White and Bennett tracked them at a respectful distance talking about rowing.
In Cloak Lane we noted the site of the former Church and Commune of St John the Baptist. According to record a number of miscreants who lodged at the Commune were brought to book, for their misdeeds at the Old Bailey, and sentenced to swing or to be deported, or some to lesser punishment. The site of The former Church is noted with a plaque which records its existence. The sound of District, Inner Circle and other line, underground trains passing beneath can be heard through a grating. Just occasionally the odd dosser secretes himself here and one wonders at the how the ‘comfort’ he enjoys now might compare with that enjoyed by the lodgers in the former commune.
On the other or south side of the lane is the 50 meter frontage of Pellipar House currently undergoing refurbishment and to be leased from real estate advisors BH2 at prices from £15 to £25 per square foot for the 9000+ square foot available. We took another look at this House from a different viewpoint later on.
Further along the lane towards its junction with College Hill we noted College Chambers which now occupies the site of the former Whittington College, a Seminary for Clerics, but before turning south down College Hill it was recalled that in earlier days small boys had been impressed by the six-foot plus City Police Officers wearing steel helmets who had descended a flight of steps from a Police Station on the southwest corner of the Junction.
We moved on down College Hill noting that Richard Whitiington had lived in a house on the east side. At the bottom of the Hill we found St. Michael Paternoster Royal, for one of the constructions of which the thrice Lord Mayor had once paid. Turning east and walking back towards Dowgate Hill again we found Innholder’s Hall, which to the observant eye had been extended more than once. Such observations were confirmed by the notices on the face of the building. Were they carved wooden grapes or hop bines that flanked the doors? Take a look and decide for yourself, they are fine examples of the carver’s art.
Walking back along College Street until opposite St Michaels we entered Whittington Green a pleasant little bit of lawn with large trees and furnished with benches, a fountain which features many near equal sized pebbles in the base and elsewhere. Of note were two equestrian statues at the west end of the green unveiled in January 2006 in the presence of The Italian Ambassador and The Lord Mayor. They are a gift to The City from Italian President Carlo Ciampi. A restful green hedge to the south absorbs some of the noise emanating from Upper Thames Street traffic. To the south side are Distiller’s Hall and also the former wine cellars of vintner John Chaucer the father of, inter alia, Collector of Customs for the Port of London Geoffrey Chaucer. Looking up and to the north (if you want to see well use binoculars) we were able to see the handsome sundials on the south and west faces of Pellipar house.
Moving on west along College Street we came on Garlick Hill. At the south-east corner of Garlick Hill stands the Church of St James a sacred place since 1100. In ancient times there was a garlic market nearby, called Garlick Hythe, from being a wharf on the bank of the river. Burned to the ground in 1666, a new St James was completed by Wren in 1682, it is notable for the profusion of natural light enjoyed within. From the church projects a large clock dial, on the top of which is a statue of St James. This Church is remarkable in the number of City Companies closely associated with it, 11 out of 104 at the 2003 date of record, there are now 105, ranging from the Skinners who were chartered in 1327 through Vintners 1364, Dyers 1471, Painter-Stainers 1502, Joiners and Ceilers 1571, Horners 1638, Needlemakers 1656, Glass Sellers 1664. Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers 1693, to Fanmakers 1709. Those alert among you will note I have only listed 10 so far, the eleventh is not strictly a Livery Company being without Livery but is a City Company and is the second oldest of those associated with St James having been chartered since 1442. Does this year ring a bell with some of you ex-scholars from CLS?
We continued along to the west and to the south of what in the late 40’s and early 50’s was the province of the Hudson’s Bay Company which now serves as the London HQ of The Royal Bank of Canada, before heading up Little Trinity Lane past the elegant façade of Painter Stainer’s Hall which has been on this site since Alderman Sir John Browne Sergeant=painter to Henry VIII donated the first Hall in 1532 . Further up the lane we turned left into an attractive garden area with several informative notices, one of which tells us it was started on a then recently bombed out site, in the days when the Nazis were about their damnable pursuit of trying to precipitate our surrender.
This Garden did not start off being associated with the name Cleary but the Common Council man whose name it bears helped to develop it into the sanctuary it is today. The following paragraph, taken from a visitor’s travelogue describes the ambiance:-
“…………sunken Cleary Garden is easy to miss. That would be a pity, because it is a wonderfully relaxing and quiet enclave in a particularly busy part of town.
Facing busy Queen Victoria Street, the benches on the northern side of Cleary Garden give little hint of the green terraces and vine-hung trellises just behind them. Heading down the stairs next to the benches, you come to a secluded garden of climbing roses and leafy vines. There are more benches in the shade of the vines, and a pleasant patch of south-facing lawn if you prefer to catch a bit of sun.
Like many of the City of London’s other green spaces, Cleary Gardens came about as a result of bombing during World War II. 1941 bombing led to the area being cleared of buildings, and the park was created in 1982. It certainly feels more modern than the City’s other green spaces—with its angular brickwork reflecting the modern buildings that surround it. It does however lay claim to some archaeological pedigree, with the subsequent discovery of evidence suggesting the existence of roman baths on the site. “
In April last year just prior to our visit the following appeared in a Corporation account :- “ a delegation of 20 people, including local government MPs, from the Shimane region of Japan will visit the City of London on Tuesday 25 April to view 200 peonies which they donated to the City in 2004.
The group will visit the Cleary Garden on Queen Victoria Street (London
EC2) at 2.00pm on Tuesday 25 April to view the peonies, which is the Japanese national flower. They will be met by former Lord Mayor Sir Paul and Lady Newall, and the Chairman of the City of London’s Open Spaces Committee, Christine Cohen, who will make a short speech.
The Group, called the London and Paris Executive Council for the Promotion of International Economic and Cultural Exchange, is from the Shimane District in Japan. As part of their trip to Europe, they will also be visiting Paris and Chartwell, both of which also received peonies from the group.”
Shimane in on the northwest coast of Japan not far from Hiroshima.
We next crossed Queen Victoria Street to look at our second “ timepiece”on the face of Bracken House.
This building (1955-1959) is named after Bernard Bracken, former chairman of the Financial Times, which was published here until the 1980s. The building was among the first post-war buildings in the City to be listed and its redevelopment has retained the entire outside facade, including the elegant astronomical clock approximately 1 metre in diameter bearing at its centre a face of Winston Churchill, a personal friend of Bernard Bracken.
The work of Philip Bentham in gilt metal and enamel, it has echoes of the formality and sophistication of a dial. Embellished with Roman numerals, it depicts months of the year, signs of the zodiac and a sunburst motif.
We moved on to look down Disdaff Lane toward Nicholas Cole Abbey. A record of this site advises:-
Licence to crenellate issued, in 1312, to Johannes de Pelham, clericus for 'mansum suum in ... Distafflane'
This site has been described as a Fortified Manor House. The confidence that this site is a medieval fortification or palace is Possible. Nothing visible remains
A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1311 Nov 2. to the said cleric Johannes de Pelham From Disdaff lane we crossed Cannon Street and walked around The Festival Garden, which has a green lawn and borders, together with some attractive fountains but what has had me searching for some time is for confirmation of my recollection of a record flight from this site in The City to the middle of Paris. My recollection is that The Lord Mayor sent a convivial message to the Mayor of Paris. The message was carried by RAF helicopter to Biggin Hill and after a rush across the tarmac was handed to a Gloucester Meteor Pilot who flew it to Paris. Was it Le Bourget? From there the message was delivered by another helicopter to the Mayor in the centre of Paris. The time taken, again according to my recollection, was 49 minutes, I think this was in about 1949, but is the name Festival Garden associated with the Festival of Britain in 1951 or some other Festival.
We moved up to the gate of St.Paul’s Churchyard only to find it locked so the time was getting on. We were however able to see the magnificent Yew inside before moving on across Newgate Street to look at another picturesque garden on the site of the Christ Church Greyfriars Church demolished in WWII. Now as we were pressed for time we hurried up King Edward Street past the state of Roland Hill of penny stamp fame, and the one time General Post Office, On the other side of the road we noted Postman’s Park which contains a couple of attractive water features and a large number of ceramic memorial tablets to a number of brave countrymen who gave their lives in heroic circumstances.
On and into the maze of lanes, which penetrate St Bartholomew’s Hospital where according to some accounts Watt Tyler from Kent and prominent in the 1381 Peasant’s Revolt was taken after first being stabbed by a City Mayor Walworth.
As well as being, like many others a proud Citizen of London, I am an equally proud Kentish Man and Walworth is not my favorite Mayor. He was never a Lord Mayor the Lord came later. We went Iin search of Butcher’s Hall, This brought back to me memories of a OC Liverymen Dinner arranged by Ashley Heard. Within the foyer was an elegant engraved glass screen, perhaps a gift of the Vesty Brothers, which featured a few nubile nymphs. Audrey Heard expressed curiosity as to what interest Butchers might have in these nymphs, to which I responded one should not be surprised at their being connoisseurs of fine flesh.
We just had a glimpse of the Church of St Bartholomew the Great which like St James Garlickhythe has attracted the attention of a large number of Livery Companies, From the Church Website:- The Haberdashers' Company The Butchers' Company The Founders' Company The Fletchers' Company The Farriers' Company The Farmers' Company The Information Technologists' Company The Hackney Carriage Drivers' Company The Tax Advisers' Company The Guild of Public Relations Practitioners
As you will no doubt recognizes, some of them are high in the order of precedence and several are much younger ones!
St Bartholomew the Great, is one of London's oldest churches, and was begun in 1123 an extract from their website reads:- St Bartholomew the Great is an active Anglican/Episcopalian Church in that part of London known as The City. The Smithfield area, which includes St Bartholomew's Hospital and Smithfield Market is very popular. At the heart of it all is a church built when Henry I, son of William the First (Conqueror), was King of England. It survived the Great Fire of 1666 and the bombs dropped in Zeppelin raids in World War I and the Blitz in World War II. Today the Church has a reputation for wonderful architecture, traditional formal worship, marvelous music and intelligent preaching. It also appears in the award-winning films Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love and The End of the Affair, and in BBC 2's Madame Bovary.
Lastly across the road to Bangers (3 of the same from a choice of 10 or so) and Mash, at the Shepherd Neame Hostelry known as The Bishop’s Finger, where in an upstairs room we engaged in fortified and lubricated conversation before heading off home.