Friday, March 10th 2017
On Friday evening, with the weekend in view, we are not in so much of a hurry to go home and we sometimes tarry a while in town and perhaps go for a meal out. So we did this evening.
The City of London is a rather chaotic place, architecturally speaking. Old and new buildings stand crowded together, not always with felicitous results. What follows below is a baker’s dozen of photos of things that caught my eye.
I don’t know anything about this building or its history but liked it for its elegant if sober design. I am guessing it’s Victorian but could not find a date for it. The ground-floor window nearest the camera was obviously once a door. You can tell that by the elaborate arch and the fact that the legend ‘No. 24’ is inscribed within it. It once housed the Fibi Bank UK and was therefore called Fibi House but now provides accommodation for several companies. I am not sure whether the ‘To Let’ notice refers to the whole building or just to the office suite adjacent to it.
Further along Creechurch Lane, on its corner with Mitre Street, is a tall corner building that attracts attention with its terra cotta ornamentation. Right at the top of the façade is a gable bearing the name Cree House. The PMSA dates it to the 1890s which seems about right.
Affixed to the wall of Cree House are some iron plaques. The text consists only of numerals and some initials, so you could be forgiven for not knowing what they signify. They are in fact markers showing the boundaries of church parishes. For each parish, there would be a series of numbered plaques strategically placed to indicate the parish boundary. Once a year there would be the ceremony of ‘Beating the Bounds’, when a party of parishioners would visit all the plaques. Not all plaques bear the same year number, presumably having being installed at different times. The top one, dated 1897 and numbered 12, belongs to St James Duke Place, a church that no longer exists. I don’t know what the initials GMIR stand for. The lower plaque is dated 1907 but its number isn’t clear – perhaps it is a 1. It belongs to the parish of St Katharine Cree. (I don’t know what the rectangular plate in the middle is. It bears no inscription.)
On the corner of Creechurch Lane and Leadenhall Street, stands the church that gave its name to the lane and to Cree House, St Katharine Cree. The name has nothing to do with Native Americans but is said to be a corruption of ‘Christ Church’. It is the second church on the site (the first was founded in 13th century) and dates from 1630. It is one of a small group of buildings that survived the Great Fire of London in 1666.
In Leadenhall Street, we entered a narrow thoroughfare called Hartshorn Alley after a pub that once stood nearby. There are many such passages and alleys in the City, some dating back to medieval times. If you know the area, they often provide short cuts to your destination but can sometimes seem gloomy and even sinister, especially when their twists and turns prevent you seeing what lies ahead.
I took a picture of this building without realizing what it is. My interest was caught by the model ships on the roof. I assume these are made of brass as they shine golden in the sunshine. On the left is a somewhat blurred ‘close-up’ of one of the ships, obtained by cropping the main picture. (This little photo does not form part of the baker’s dozen, having been added as an afterthought!)
The building is at number 71 Fenchurch Street and is called the Collcutt Building after Thomas Edward Collcutt (1840-1924), the architect commissioned to build it. The customer was Lloyd’s Register of Shipping who moved into the new premises in 1901 and lives there still. (For more details see here.)
The building, apparently in ‘Italian Palazzo’ style, is highly and beautifully decorated, as befits the important and historically significant company that owns it. Below is a close-up of the relief running across the façade.
I understand that the building is as impressive inside as it is outside but I have not so far had the privilege of visiting it.
We left Fenchurch Street along Mark Lane. Branching off this is Hart Street where, at number 3, we found this delightful pub called The Ship. I scrutinized it carefully, looking for a date. I found this scallop shell decoration over the main window:
Highlighted in black we read ‘Jubilee Year 1887’. That, of course, refers to the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria who came to the throne in 1837. I was unsure (and still am) as to whether this indicated the building’s completion date or whether the shell and its date were a later decorative addition in honour of the monarch. Historic England, in giving the pub a Grade II listing, sees it as the former and I will not argue with the experts! (Not without good reason, anyway!)
Continuing into Seething Lane, we saw the gate that leads into the churchyard of St Olave’s. The church is mainly 15th century with an 18th-century tower, and was damaged by bombing in WWII. The patron saint was King Olaf II of Norway who helped King Ethelred ‘the Unready’ fight the Danes at the Battle of London Bridge in 1014. The gateway is notable for the three skulls carved above it. The inscription reads ‘Christus Vivere Mors mihi lucrum 11mo April 1658’. The motto is generally translated as ‘Christ lives, death is my reward’. (17th-century Christians were such a cheerful bunch.) I thought at first that the skulls might indicate that plague victims had been buried here but, though some 365 were indeed interred in that graveyard, that was not until 1665. St Olave’s is the second of our lucky survivors of the Great Fire.
My last photo of the walk was this distance shot of the Church of All Hallows by the Tower. This is one of London’s oldest churches and consequently a patchwork of additions and episodes of rebuilding through the ages, including repairs necessary after WWII bomb damage. We visited this Grade I listed church in 2013 – see From Tower to Dock. It is the third of our survivors of the Great Fire.
We left the City and travelled west, looking for supper. We ended up in Frankie & Benny’s Italian restaurant in the Strand. The music was awful – they really need new loudspeakers as the current ones are clapped out – but the food was acceptable and not too expensive.