Sunday, January 6th 2013
We thought we would start the day with breakfast or brunch at our current favourite cafe, Cafe Par. Apart from that, we had no particular plans and followed our usual practice of wandering more or less at random and hoping to make interesting discoveries.
I start this account with a picture of the cattle trough in St John Street (which I have already shown you before) for two reasons. Firstly, because I like it and, secondly, because that way, as you will see, I start and end with a trough. They make a fine pair of virtual bookends.
It was Tigger who spotted something in this garage, workshop or storage area. The object of interest is on the floor.
“Is it a Pooley?” I heard her say. We looked and that was exactly what it was, a weighbridge made by H. Pooley & Son Ltd. I don’t know the date of this one and the absence of any superstructure in the vicinity shows that it no longer functions and is now just a vestige of a past age. Pooley scales and weighbridges were once common and can still be found, usually no longer in working order, in old factories, marshalling yards and older railway stations that haven’t been ruined by modernization. We discovered a nice example on Great Malvern station and I wrote about the firm then (see Bristol 2011 – Day 3).
In St James Walk, we met a squirrel who showed that usual mixture of caution and interest in us, hoping we might give him some food. When he saw that we had nothing to offer, he made straight for the pair of plastic bin bags outside a house. After rummaging for a few seconds, he found something that was obviously to his taste. People should not complain that squirrels, foxes, rats and gulls scatter rubbish if they are foolish and lazy enough to leave rubbish in plastic bags instead on in proper bins. As usual, the animals are blamed for human failings.
In Sans Walk, we came upon this impressive building. It has recently been cleaned but this does not disguise its age. Today it accommodates a mixture of residential apartments and business offices. The date plaque (upper right in the photo) gives a clue to its origins.
The letters ‘LB’ separated by a long ‘L’ form what we would today call the logo of the London Schools Board, for whom this building was completed in 1892 as the Hugh Myddelton School. The playground and exercise yard is today a residents’ car park.
The property is surrounded by a tall and robust wall, suggesting that the Victorians were no less concerned with the security of their pupils than we have become in the modern period. To take a photo of the building, I had to poke my camera through the wrought iron gate of the car park. The wall is pierced by doorways – one of which appears above – and the inscriptions on their lintels show what this building once was.
However, the large playground or car park, hides a secret. It turns out that the school was built on the site of the notorious Clerkenwell House of Correction. This dated from the 17th century but was burnt down in 1780 during the Gordon Riots. Remnants of that prison still remain under the car park and can be visited, though by invitation only. An account of such a visit may by found on the Londonist blog.
After brunch at Cafe Par, we returned home for a while and then, in the afternoon set out once more, again on foot. My attention was drawn to this old pub, the Three Kings, in Clerkenwell, firstly, by the decorative pillars at the windows and, secondly, by the pub sign. The pub is late 18th century and the sign is designed to match it, adopting the style of old pub signs. However, it is clearly modern and shows a sense of humour in the choice of “kings”. The only traditional king is Henry VIII, on the right. On the left we have legendary cinema monster, King Kong. Leaping above them is the person who still for many is The King, Elvis Presley. It would be interesting to know the design of the pub’s original sign.
Even though we had not left home long before, my little problem asserted itself again and I had to seek a toilet urgently. Fortunately, the Hope tavern was nearby and I quickly went inside. It turned out to be a small but very handsome pub with beautiful curved glass used with advantage in the design of a bow window. The rest of the glass work is very fine too. There has been a pub called the Hope on the site since the 18th century but this building dates from the late Victorian period, 1890 or so. A charming period piece discreetly modernized as necessary.
In Gresham Street we passed by the Wax Chandlers’ Hall. The Wax Chandlers are one of London’s historic Worshipful Companies, originally founded by royal charter to protect and maintain good working practices and standards of quality in the industries that they represented. Each company had a hall as its headquarters and these are dotted all over the city and even beyond its boundaries in some cases. The Wax Chandlers have been on this site since 1501. The current hall was rebuilt to the original design of the old hall destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire.
This is where we were heading, to the Guildhall or, rather, to the splendid Guildhall Art Gallery. The huge courtyard presents a stunning vision on its own account and there is something almost hypnotic about the pattern in the flagstones. In the annual Lord Mayor’s Show, the Lord Mayor’s coach starts and ends its journey here.
We had come to see an exhibition entitled John Bartlett: London Sublime. The gallery is very security conscious, perhaps because someone once decapitated a statue of that awful woman Margaret Thatcher. (I hardly need say, I hope, that I disapprove of such violent acts while understanding the sentiments that motivate them.) You are required to submit any bags to a machine that is a small version of those that scan baggage at airports. This is the only gallery where I have seen this done. Photography is allowed in the rooms housing the permanent collections but not in special exhibitions such as this one.
While I think that John Bartlett is a capable painter and has some interesting things to say, I also feel that he allows his “ideas” to interfere too much with the simple task of painting a picture. Others may disagree with this opinion, of course.
Across from the Guildhall is AldermanBury Gardens, site of the demolished Church of St Mary Aldermanbury. Incorporated into the wall is a drinking fountain, quite a neat little design, without a motto but sporting a cross. It is one of the few that still has its chained cup attached. Beneath the basin is an inscription but it is so worn that I was unable to read it. I would guess though that the fountain was donated sometime in the second half of the 19th century.
The Church of St Mary Aldermanbury goes back to the 12th century or possibly beyond. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, only to be gutted in 1940 in the London Blitz. The remains were transported to Fulton, Missouri, in the US, in 1966 and rebuilt as a memorial to Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech, made at Westminster College, Fulton, in 1946. The church grounds were laid out as a public garden in 1970.
In the garden is a bust of Shakespeare on a plinth that quotes from his works. It was done in 1895 by Charles J. Allen. You might reasonably assume that this is a memorial to the great playwright himself but your reasonable assumption would be incorrect. It is in fact a memorial to his fellow actors, Henry Condell and John Hemmings, who played a role in the printing of the first folio of Shakespeare’s works and who were buried in St Mary Aldermanbury church.
Nearby are two works of of public art. The first is a glass fountain designed by Allen David and presented to the Corporation of London by Mrs Gilbert Edgar, wife of Gilbert H. Edgar CBE, Sheriff 1963-4. It was accepted by the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Sir Ian Bowater, on December 10th 1969. (Restored and reinstated in July 2012.)
The second is a bronze of a pair of nude figures entitled Beyond Tomorrow (1972) by Karin Jonzen. The attached plate records that it was “given by Lord Blackford”.
We made our way back on foot towards the Barbican. It was cold and when we saw Pret A Manger, we decided to see if we could have some hot soup. Unfortunately, their soup had meat in it and so we settled for hot chocolate instead.
We had enjoyed our outing – not to mention the hot chocolate – but felt it was time to catch a bus home. So we did, but first I took a photo of my second bookend, a nice clean cattle trough in London Wall. The cup is missing but the ring to which it was attached is still in place.