Bakers’ dozen from the City

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.

24 Creechurch Lane
24 Creechurch Lane

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.

Cree House
Cree House

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.

Parish Boundary Markers
Parish Boundary Markers

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.)

St Katharine Cree
St Katharine Cree

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.

Hartshorn Alley Hartshorn Alley
Hartshorn Alley

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.

Ships on the roof
Ships on the roof

Lloyd's Register Ship

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.)

Collcutt Building (Lloyd's Register)
Collcutt Building (Lloyd’s Register)

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.

Collcutt Building, detail

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.

The Ship
The Ship

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:

The Ship, detail

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!)

Gate to St Olave's Churchyard
Gate to St Olave’s Churchyard

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.

All Hallows by the Tower
All Hallows by the Tower

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.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Arenas and oversized sculpture

Saturday, March 4th 2017

We started our outing  with what was for me the best part of it. We changed buses at Liverpool Street Station and took the opportunity to visit the pub there called Hamilton Hall.

Hamilton Hall
Hamilton Hall

This pub, owned by Wetherpsoons, occupies what was once the ballroom of the Great Eastern Hotel. Entering through glass doors, you find yourself in the huge space that was once the ballroom. This early in the day, it is full of men singly and in groups boozing away as though beer is about to go out of fashion. However, in one corner is the entrance to a long, narrow room set up as a dining area. We entered this and found a comfortable booth. Then, noting the table number, I elbowed my way through the crowd in the ballroom bar to the counter where I order breakfast. Whatever else you might say about Wetherspoons,you can usually count on them for breakfast and their prices are moderate too.

This pleasant interval over, we resumed our journey. This took us to a strange place called The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This is out in Stratford in the Lea Valley. Come to think of it, it would be better to show you a map.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Click on the above image to view the corresponding Google Map.

The Olympic Park, as the name suggests, was created for the 2012 Olympic Games and Summer Paralympics. It cost huge amounts of money for, to my mind, very questionable results.

Copper Box Arena
Copper Box Arena

I must say that I did not warm to the Olympic Park. In fact, I felt miserable throughout our journey through it and couldn’t wait to leave. It struck me as something of a paved wasteland and the only people we saw there were hurrying or cycling through it on their way somewhere else. The presence of would-be works of art, showing the pointlessness and lack of imagination that characterises so much big-project art these days did nothing to lift my mood.

The Copper Box, should you be interested, is an arena and was built to host some of the activities of the above mentioned games. You can find out what its current use is by looking here.

RUN
RUN
Monica Bonvicini

In front of it are big letters which, when seen from a particular angle, spell the word ‘RUN’. It is by Monica Bonvicini, who is described in all the literature as ‘Internationally renowned artist Monica Bonvicini’, no doubt so that we will understand that this is a really wonderful piece of art and not a rather silly waste of money, as we might otherwise be tempted to think.

The London Stadium and ArcelorMittal Orbit
The London Stadium and ArcelorMittal Orbit

This is a two-for-one picture showing what was called, reasonably enough, the Olympic Stadium and now rejoices in the wonderfully imaginative name of the London Stadium, and a heap of twisted metal unconvincingly posing as a work of art called the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

There’s not much to be said about the stadium which, after all, is just a soup-bowl shaped structure with a central area where some people perform activities that other people in the surrounding circular tiers of seats watch them performing. The basic design had been settled by Roman times and hasn’t changed since.

The Orbit, was a cooperative effort by Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond. It includes a viewing platform and a tunnel slide and looks like something that half-melted and collapsed in a tangle. It is said to be Britain’s largest work of public art but I think the description ‘blot on the landscape’ suits it better.

A river runs through it
A river runs through it

The Lea Valleys is so called because, as you no doubt guessed or perhaps knew, the River Lea (sometimes written Lee) runs through it. Not that much now remains of the ancient riverine landscape.

Installation

This creation intrigued me. Unfortunately, I don’t know what it is. But then, maybe that’s for the best because, to my eyes, it has a delightful inconsequentiality, unlike the earnest dullness of RUN and the self-conscious showiness of the Orbit. It seems that you can wander about in it or sit on it.

Detail

I suppose if you are interested in athletics and pastimes such as football (West Ham United play in the stadium) then you will find this place exciting. As I find such things about as interesting as watching paint dry, I can only regret what could have been made of this place and wasn’t. But, then, anything undertaken by Boris Johnson and a committee is bound to end in disappointment.

Steps to Dace Road
Steps to Dace Road

We left the Olympic Park by a combined pedestrian path and cycle lane called the Greenway and descended by steps into Dace Road. The name of this road and those of the nearby streets – Smeed, Monier, Bream and Roach – remind us that this area was, and to many still is, known as Fish Island, though whether fish were actually traded here, I do not know.

Cafe Greenway
Cafe Greenway

In Dace Road, we were happy to find Cafe Greenway where we tarried a while over cake and tea. Relaxing in these pleasant surroundings helped put me in a better mood for undertaking the journey home.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A fall in Tooting

Sunday, February 26th 2017

Having breakfasted and done the weekly shopping, we thought to pay a return visit to Tooting. We went there last year and I wrote about what we saw, including the street art (see Tooting and its street art). It seemed about time to go back and see whether any new paintings had appeared.

Tooting is a curious name and it would be interesting to discover its derivation. In my original account, I proposed a couple of possibilities but further research shows that these are really no more than stabs in the dark. In essence, no one knows where the name came from, whether its antecedents are Celtic or Anglo-Saxon or indeed anything else about it. Failing unexpected discoveries, it must remain a mystery.

Tooting Broadway Underground Station
Tooting Broadway Underground Station

We travelled to Tooting on the Underground. There are two Tootings on the tube map, Tooting Bec and Tooting Broadway. We emerged into daylight at the latter. In front of it stands Louis Fritz Roselieb’s statue of Edward VII, unveiled on November 4th 1911 (a year after the king’s death) and paid for by public subscription. (There is a close-up picture of the subject in the above mentioned blog post.)

Bordeliase
Bordelaise, Broadway Market

We had a look round Broadway Market and allowed ourselves to be tempted by the menu of a small restaurant within the market. Called Bordelaise, it promoted itself as French but what clinched matters was that they had a vegetarian macaroni cheese dish on the menu. It is a doll’s house of a restaurant but functions efficiently enough.

Art by Olivier Roubieu
Art by Olivier Roubieu

We set out to visit the sites where we had found street art on our previous visit. We were disappointed. There was little new and most of that not worth the trouble of photographing it. The only worthwhile new piece I spotted was this engaging portrait by Olivier Roubieu.

We spent the remainder of our time walking along Upper Tooting Road looking at any buildings of interest until our visit came to an abrupt end, as I shall recount.

Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society Store
Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society Store

On this Art Deco structure one can read ·R·A·C·S·Ltd but that is the only indication that it once belonged to the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society Ltd. The Society was formed in 1868 and built this store in the 1920s but went out of business as a separate entity in 1985. Since then, the premises have served various purposes and came under threat of demolition under a plan by developers to build a student accommodation block and a hotel on the site. (Because we really need yet more student accommodation blocks and hotels, don’t we? In a word, no.) Happily, local residents got together in organized protest and the demolition plans were dropped. The building will be preserved to form part of whatever development plans finally gain council approval.

Khalsa Centre, Tooting Gurdwara
Khalsa Centre
Tooting Gurdwara

If I had to nominate one of the buildings I saw in Tooting as my favourite I think it may be this one. It is now a Sikh temple but you can see from its architecture and the coat of arms above the door that it was originally something quite different. It is in fact a pretty little building that was put up in 1904 to serve as the local Royal Mail sorting office. I do not know when the Royal Mail moved its sorting elsewhere or why, but the building came up for sale and was bought by the Sikh community in 1984. The ex-sorting office doesn’t seem to be listed but I think it ought to be.

The King's Head
The King’s Head

The rather exuberant design of this pub, the King’s Head, caught my eye and would have done so even without the flags of five nations (Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland and – odd one out – France) flapping merrily in the breeze. There has been a pub here from at least the 18th century but this one was built in 1896, as indicated by a plaque on the façade. It is a Grade II listed building and here is part of Historic England’s enthusiastic description of it: ‘1896 by W M Brunton, a prolific designer of public houses. Perhaps his master-piece and his least altered interior. Florid symmetrical composition; brashness of detail typical of late 19th Century gin palace. Red brick with stucco ornamentation. Slate roof. Central portion 3 windows 3-storeys, steep hipped roof rising to a dome. Large decorated lucarne over second floor windows, bears inscription “The Kings Head”…’ We didn’t go inside but I understand the interior is worth a look too.

Tooting Telephone Exchange
Tooting Telephone Exchange

Telephone exchanges are usually very noticeable and immediately recognizable for their sheer size and blocky red-brick design. Tooting’s is no exception. In an age when one carries one’s telephone in one’s pocket or handbag, one may wonder why telephone exchanges needed to be so big. Whatever the reason, Tooting’s has an added excuse because this building, dating from 1939, was intended to be both the telephone exchange and the employment exchange, as indicated by the lettering above the two doors.

The Classic Cinema
The Classic Cinema

Tigger once worked for a well-known cinema chain and retains her interest in cinemas and their history. All the more reason why we notice cinemas when we are out and about. The heyday of the cinema has passed and while some still survive, many have disappeared or been converted to other uses. The Classic fits into the latter category. It opened in 1910 as the Central Hall Picture Palace with seating for nearly 900 patrons. The circular feature on the roof above the door was originally topped by a dome. It changed its name in 1923 to the Central Cinema and again in 1936 when it became the Classic Cinema and the exterior was modified to appear as it does now. Unfortunately, it suffered from the decline in cinema-going and closed in 1983. Today it advertises itself as a restaurant and ‘banqueting suite’.

We were about to continue our ramble when there occurred the event mentioned in the title. A street sweeper’s cart was obstructing the pavement and I stepped into the road to get past it. As I stepped back onto the pavement, I must have caught my foot on the kerb, which was quite high and that point, and I fell full length on the ground.

I was touched by the way the street sweeper and some passers-by rushed up to ask whether they could help me up but, mustering as much dignity as is possible in a horizontal configuration, I thanked them but said I preferred to get up by myself. This was so that I could remain where I was for a moment and mentally review the damage. This done, I regained a vertical stance with the help of a handy window sill. I seem not to have suffered more than a few knocks and bruises and am happy to say that my camera, which was in my hand, has also escaped harm.

Even though I was relatively unhurt, Tigger proposed that this was a good time to start our journey home and I was in no mood to disagree. We thus betook ourselves to Tooting Bec tube station a little further along the road and from there the Northern Line carried us back to the Angel and a comforting cup of home-brewed tea!

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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