Friends, swingers and the security conscious

Today was a slightly mixed day, as you will see. It started with a trip to Archway tube station and from there I walked up the hill to the Whittington Hospital to collect a new supply of batteries for my “dolbies” (hearing aids). On the way I noticed this building.

Royal London Friendly Society, Junction Road
Royal London Friendly Society, Junction Road

I had already walked past it many times but, for some reason, only really noticed it today. Perhaps the idea of a “friendly society” appealed to me.

The name, proudly displayed
The name, proudly displayed

I have to admit that I know next to nothing about the RLFS – or the Royal London Friendly Society For Granting Policies Of Insurance To The Working Classes, to give it its full title – except that it was around in the days of Charles Dickens.

The Society's main entrance
The Society’s main entrance

Nor do I know the date of this building, though it looks  Victorian to me. The door is nicely decorated but perhaps a little understated – perhaps they wanted to avoid overawing “the working classes” coming in for their insurance policies. Buildings belonging to the society survive in other parts of London and in other towns.

Entrance to Roydon Mansions
Entrance to Roydon Mansions

According to the cartouche above it, the other door gives access to Roydon Mansions, presumably living or office accommodation included in the original building to raise a little extra income.

New name on the letterbox
New name on the letterbox

I do know that the Friendly Society mutated (in 1908, I think) into the Royal London Mutual Insurance Society and is today part of the Royal London Group. The building is currently occupied by a firm of solicitors.

Cleaning the Heron Tower
Cleaning the Heron Tower

In the evening, we changed buses beside the Heron Tower and I was amused to see these window cleaners swinging from side to side as they washed the window frames. Their cables go all the way to the top of the tower, so that when they swing sideways they move almost horizontally.

"When I'm cleaning windows..."
“When I’m cleaning windows…”

It was interesting to see how each man arranged his kit differently and how they swung so nonchalantly from side to side, even sometimes crossing over one another.

Later we walked through Finsbury Square where the massive Britannia House forms the corner with City Road. We started photographing the sculptures that decorate the façade in such profusion.

Floral man
lady with trousers Floral lady

We got thus far when we were challenged by a security man who shot out of a door to confront us.

“Why are you photographing the building?” he demanded to know.

“Er, because we like it,” I replied, not finding anything more convincing on the spur of the moment.

That seemed to satisfy him, however, and he explained that photographing a building was “a security issue”, though without explaining exactly how. He then asked if we would like brochures about the building and fetched one for each of us.

This ridiculous obsession with “security” is a modern form of social hysteria. What is silly is that you can click away happily if you use a pocket camera but if you use a “professional” camera, you will be often be challenged, whether by the police or by private security officers. This encounter ended peacefully, though, and we parted on amiable terms.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to Friends, swingers and the security conscious

  1. WOL says:

    Interesting building, the RLFS, but I have to say, I like the one to the left of it better, with its turret and bay windows. People using “good” cameras to photograph buildings might be terrorists in disguise making photographic studies of buildings to try to deduce their internal structure with a view toward the best way to blow them up, you know. Seriously.

    • SilverTiger says:

      The turret is actually part of the Royal London building. It contains the front door.

      If terrorists want to take photos they can do so easily enough. They can come by at night or at weekends or they can use long lenses and work from a distance. Anybody walking past a building could could be a terrorist carrying a bomb but the security staff do not rush out and search them. There is absolutely no justification for this ridiculous behaviour.

      In any case, I do not believe it has anything to do with security. For example, I was once barred from taking photographs of a building when I was standing on a forecourt that nominally belonged to the building. I was told by the security guard that it was prohibited to take photos on land owned by the company. He told me I need only walk a couple of yards to the public pavement where I could take as many photos as I pleased.

      In other words, these prohibitions have more to do with an anal retentive sense of obsessive ownership than with any genuine concern about terrorism.

      Recently, a man was stopped by police from photographing the London Eye and after complaining, received an apology from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who agreed that the officers had exceeded their authority.

      The whole issue of photography in a public place is plagued by confusion and ignorance. The fact is that, although I chose to treat the security man at Britannia House courteously, I could have maintained that I have a perfect right in law to photograph his building from the public space. Only a police officer can stop me and he has to have a very good reason for doing so.

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