A hoard, some butchers and a bridge

Sunday, February 2nd 2014

The weather yesterday was a bit miserable and cold, so we did our shopping and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the Tiger’s Den. (Do tigers have dens? These tigers do…:) ). Today, though the air was cold, the sun was shining and so we decided we really should get out and about. There was something we wanted to see but, first of all – breakfast!

Hamilton Hall
Hamilton Hall
A pub with style

We had our breakfast at Hamilton Hall, a Wetherspoons pub that offers an adequate vegetarian breakfast – something that has been useful to us on many of our trips away from home. The pub is set in the Bishopsgate entrance of Liverpool Street station and its point of interest is the magnificent styling of the decor. It is named after Lord Claud Hamilton who was chairman of the Great Eastern Railway company that originally built the station and the Great Eastern Hotel that accompanied it. The hotel was built in 1884 (though later expanded and modified) and the pub today occupies what was once its glittering ballroom – hence the elaborate, 18th-century-flavoured decorative scheme.

The Museum of London
The Museum of London
Currently displaying the Cheapside Hoard

After breakfast, we made our way to the Barbican and, more specifically, to the Museum of London that resides there. This is worth visiting at any time but today we had come to see a special exhibition: the Cheapside Hoard.

The Cheapside Hoard is a remarkable and beautiful collection of jewellery dating from the Tudor and Elizabethan periods. Its owner is unknown, and the rich cache of gems and precious metals remained hidden in a cellar until discovered by builders in 1914. Why it was hidden and why it was never reclaimed remains a mystery. The Hoard provides a unique opportunity to study, not only Tudor and Elizabethan jewellery designs but also a complete range of actual artefacts. While the jewellery expert may view these objects with professional interest, all of us are arrested by their beauty and the intricate skill with which they were made.

Photography was, of course, prohibited within the exhibition. That’s not all: to be admitted we had first to leave our coats, hats, cameras and bags in one of the lockers. Being unused to such stringency, I made an unfortunate mistake: I left my spectacles in my bag in the locker. By the time I realized this, I was in the exhibition and it was too late to recover them. Fortunately, in order to help examine the details of the jewellery, large magnifying glasses are provided. These helped me see and Tigger kindly read me many of the information panels accompanying the exhibits.

Had photography been allowed, making pictures of the exhibits would have presented a challenge, though I would have tried. This was not allowed, however, but if you have a chance to see the collection for yourself, I would recommend it to you.

The Rotunda
The Rotunda
Where London Wall meets the Barbican

Leaving the museum, we went first to a nearby branch of Costa for hot chocolate before setting out to ramble through the area to see what we might see. Because of the low winter sun, the scene was all of tall buildings picked out in sunlight with canyons of deep shadow around them, as you can see from the photos.

Sunlit towers and...
Sunlit towers and…
…dark canyon streets

Braving the cold and enjoying the patches of sunlight, we eventually reached Bartholomew Close.

Butchers' Hall
Butchers’ Hall
Headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Butchers

Here I was a little surprised to come upon Butchers’ Hall, the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, one of London’s ancient Livery Companies. In fact, there is nothing strange about its location as there are other livery halls in the area and this one is well placed for that other landmark of butchery, Smithfield Market, which is nearby.

Door and coat of arms Coat of arms
Door and Coat of Arms
Omnia Subiecisti Sub Pedibus, Oves Et Boves

Like most livery companies, the Butchers’ has had several halls, one of which was lost in the Great Fire of 1666, and moved here to a new hall, built in 1884-5. This new hall was damaged in the both of the World Wars and the present one was raised in 1959. Over the door is to be seen the company’s coat of arms, featuring various symbols, including mythical winged bulls, and a motto in Latin, OMNIA SUBIECISTI SUB PEDIBUS, OVES ET BOVES (“Thou Hast Put All Things Under His Feet, All Sheep and Oxen” – quoted from Psalm 8).

Stained glass window Butcher's at work
Stained glass window
Butchers at work

The building features stained glass windows, though it is hard to appreciate them from outside where they appear dark. Tigger pointed out one of them in which you can see a pair of rather modern-looking butchers, one of whom is wearing the traditional striped apron and sharpening his knife.

Gateway St Bartholomew the Great
St Bartholomew the Great

Soon after, we passed in front of the picturesque gateway of the priory church of St Bartholomew the Great. Adjoining St Bartholomew’s Hospital, it too is often known by the shorter name of St Barts. The Augustinian priory to which this was the church was founded in the 12th century under those pesky Normans. It became a virtual ruin by the 18th century and was restored and rebuilt in the 19th. Today, it is one of the jewels of the neighbourhood. (If, as a vegetarian, I can speak dispassionately about Butchers’ Hall, then I think that, as an atheist, I can speak dispassionately about a church… Their historic importance belongs to us all.)

Smithfield Market
Smithfield Market
Centre of London’s meat trade

Thus we came to Smithfield Market, for centuries London’s main market for meat. The name is said the derive from Smooth Field, dating from when this was an open space, suitable for holding fairs, meetings, riots and executions. Uncountable numbers of sheep and cattle have wended their weary way down the centuries and along dusty roads to meet their fate at the blade of a knife here. (Yep, still trying to be dispassionate…)

In the picture you can see a large lorry parked. It is locked up and curtains have been drawn, covering the windscreen and side windows. We found several lorries in the same state all around the market. I assume this is because TfL (Transport for London) has made rules restricting the movement of heavy lorries over the weekends and that these drivers, caught here after unloading, have to stay put until Monday when they can once again take to the road.

The Central Cold Storage The Central Cold Storage
The Central Cold Storage
Now serves other purposes

What is today the main building attracts most attention but the outlying buildings are not without interest. In them we catch glimpses of the history of the market and of its importance to the capital. This building, built in 1899 and Grade II listed, has a cartouche saying it is “THE CENTRAL COLD STORAGE”, though there are other cold storage units of a similar age dotted around. The cartouche has glazed tiling typical of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras and the design is, I think, rather unusual with its trailing plant motifs breaking away from the serious rectangular form that is more common.

Port of London Authority
Port of London Authority

Next door to the cold store stands a building bearing the name of the PORT OF LONDON AUTHORITY and the date 1914. Also displayed is the Authority’s Latin motto, FLOREAT IMPERII PORTUS (“May the Imperial Port flourish”).

Premises of Herbert & Sons Trade Mark
Premises of Herbert & Sons
Weighing scales and cutlery

Continuing with the imperial theme, we spotted this business house at 6-7 West Smithfield. As it stands today, the building dates from 1888 or 1889 when it was rebuilt by the firm of Thomas Herbert and Sons, manufacturers of scales and cutlery. The ground floor was used as showroom while the factory was in the basement. The company continued to occupy the premises until 1960. Scale making and cutlery already had a long history on the site, although they had at first been practised separately, scales at number 6 and cutlery at number 7. In 1810, the cutler, William Williams, became bankrupt and the partnership of John Wynn and Richard Wood at number 6 were able to buy his property and combine it with theirs. The Wood family continued with the business, John Wynn dying in the meantime, until 1867, when it failed and the property was bought by Thomas Herbert. Their proudly displayed trademark incorporates the Imperial lion, and the equally imperious motto, JUSTICE AND STRENGTH, quite fitting, I suppose, for a manufacturer of scales to weigh heavy loads. (For more details of the Herberts and the history of the site, see the excellent Herbert & Sons Web pages.)

Holborn Viaduct
Holborn Viaduct
Crossing an invisible river

We now left Smithfield, with its butchers and executioners, and entered Holborn. Here we find the bridge I mentioned in the title or, to give it its official name, Holborn Viaduct. From the west, you arrive at the viaduct along Newgate Street and, having crossed this, continue eastwards along Holborn, that is, the street of that name. Below you, as you cross the bridge or viaduct, is what today is Farringdon Road but was once a river, the Fleet. Holborn Viaduct, built in 1863 to 1869, replaced an earlier bridge, but even in the days of this previous bridge, the poor old Fleet had been forced underground.

Incidentally, though we now pronounce  the name of the street and the area as “HOH-b’n”, it derives from the Holebourne, a tributary of the Fleet which, like the bigger river, has also long since disappeared beneath masonry and road surfaces.

Holborn Viaduct
Holborn Viaduct

I have to say that, though it is not large, Holburn Viaduct is a magnificent piece of work. It is every inch a bridge fit for a river, even if that river no longer visibly flows and its waters have been replaced by motor vehicles. Recently repainted in what the Chinese  would recognize as the auspicious colours of red and gold, it brightens up the cityscape and invites close study.

Under the viaduct
Under the viaduct
The themes continue

Do drivers – or for that matter, pedestrians – look up as they pass under the viaduct? If they do, they are no doubt disappointed for here, in contrast to the exterior, all is cold grey, although the decorative themes are repeated. Only a little gilding brightens the dullness.

Griffins Griffins
Symbols or just decorative?

Griffins are a repeated motif on the viaduct. Griffins are used as a symbol for the City of London and you will find a pair of these mythical beasts at each entrance to the City, facing out as though to challenge whoever approaches. They are a different kind of griffin, however, and not at all like these griffins. These have a whiff of the Chinese about them… or is that my imagination? Either way, I do not know if they are symbolic and if so, what they represent. Nor do I know who designed them.

Winged Lion
Winged Lion
Symbol of the Empire

The other mythical beasts, the winged lions, are easier. They are symbols of the Empire and the Victorians were so proud of their Empire. Other nations copied the Romans and took the eagle as their symbol but the British have always preferred the lion, winged or not. He is everywhere in London, from Nelson’s column to door knockers. The lions on the viaduct were made by Farmer & Brindley, a firm of architectural sculptors, William Farmer (1825-79) and William Brindley (1832-1919).

Agriculture Science
Agriculture and Science
Henry Bursill (left) and Farmer & Brindley

There are four more or less life-size allegorical figure sculptures on the bridge. On the north side are Science and Fine Art by Farmer & Brindley, with Commerce and Agriculture on the south side by Henry Bursill (c1833-1871). Bursill seems relatively obscure as a sculptor but much better know for his books on “shadowgraphy”, the art of projecting shadows of figures by use of the hands. (His books are still available from Amazon, should you wish to try his techniques.)

A view from the bridge
A view from the bridge
Looking south

At each end of the viaduct are buildings known as step-houses, because they accommodate staircases that provide pedestrians to move between the upper and lower levels.

Sir Hugh Myddelton
Sir Hugh Myddelton
Bringer of water to London

The sculptures on these buildings are also by Henry Bursill and represent people famous in the history of London. The one shown is Sir Hugh Myddelton who constructed the New River and brought much needed water to London.

Sunlit tower
Sunlit tower
City Temple

Although the sun was still catching to tops of taller buildings, it would soon depart and the air was getting colder, so we made for a nearby bus stop. Pictured above is the tower of the City Temple, opened in 1874. It suffered badly in the Second World War and much of it had to be reconstructed, though I think the tower is original.

St Andrew's
St Andrew’s
Built by Wren, rebuilt 1961

It’s hard to believe, in these days when falling attendance is causing churches to close down, that the high density of churches in London was ever necessary. But apparently it was in past ages when people were more religiously inclined or perhaps when the strictures of convention made it harder to admit disaffection. Just a few yards from the City Temple is St Andrew’s. This church escaped the Great Fire when the wind changed direction. Nonetheless, Christopher Wren still built a replacement. This is it… and it isn’t. Wren’s church was virtually destroyed in wartime bombing but was rebuilt in 1961 to Wren’s original design. The clock face still bears the date 1752.

Memories of a Bluecoat School
Bluecoat Boy Bluecoat Girl
Memories of a Bluecoat School

St Andrew’s Bluecoat Parochial School was founded in 1696 but in 1721 was moved to Hatton Garden, where traces of it can still be found. The figures of a boy and girl were brought back to St Andrew’s when it reopened. The figures are, I think, rather charming, if a little scarred by time. It’s hard to know whether the boy is holding a Bible or a prayer book but the girl is holding a board with the date MDCXCVI (1696) inscribed on it. I read somewhere that the uniforms of the Bluecoat schools were blue because blue was the cheapest dye and charity schools of course needed to economize. For pictures of the Hatton Garden school, see here.

Holborn Bars
Holborn Bars
Built for the Prudential in 1876

The bus stop was right opposite Holborn Bars, the beautiful headquarters built for the Prudential Assurance Company in 1876. I could not resist taking yet another photograph of this combination of beauty with Victorian confidence and pride.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A symbol that fell from grace

Saturday, January 25th 2014

Early last December, we paid a visit to Hornchurch and Upminster, as I recounted in A quick look at Upminster and Hornchurch. What I did not mention there was that as we were travelling by bus between those two places, we happened to glance into the entrance of a tube station and there saw something in the decor that startled us. We made a note to visit the station another day to take a better look.

What we had seen was a decorative motif executed in floor tiles in the atrium or entrance hall of the tube station. What was so special and so surprising about that? Stations on the London Underground were built at various dates and in various architectural styles and there are many different styles of decoration to be seen within them. Why should one startle us more than another? The simple answer is that the motif or symbol in question, once popular in Britain and Europe for decorative purposes, and still widely seen in Asia, had fallen from grace for political reasons and is today still regarded with fear and horror by many people.

Hornchurch Station
Hornchurch Station
The wrong one

There are some days when nothing seems to go quite right. I expect you known the sort of thing I mean. You are trying to do something but your efforts continually misfire and you have to keep starting again.

To start with, we were sure that what we wanted to see was at Hornchurch tube station. We took a bus to the Monument and from there, a District Line train bound for Upminster, disembarking at the third stop from the end of the line. This is quite a long journey but we sat it out patiently and eventually reached our destination.

“Have your camera ready,” whispered Tigger as we left the train and headed for the stairs to the exit. Her caution was justified because London Underground seems to have banned photography on its property and while I see people happily clicking away with camera phones without let or hindrance, if I try to take a photo with my camera, a member of the station staff is almost certain to spring out of the woodwork shouting “No photos! No photos!” This was possibly going to be a “click and run” job!

Hauling ourselves up the steps, we arrived at the ticket barrier. But… where was what we were looking for? It wasn’t there. Oops, we had come to the wrong station!

The District Line at Hornchurch
The District Line at Hornchurch
The Underground often runs above the ground

Which, then, was the right station? As we had spotted our quarry on the way from Upminster to Hornchurch, the answer seemed to be that the station we wanted was in between the two. That would be Upminster Bridge. Right, no problem, let’s go to Upminster Bridge.

“It can’t be far,” said Tigger. “Let’s walk.” So we started walking. We went on walking and then we walked some more. “Tube stations tend to be farther apart out here in the sticks than they are in the city,” I remarked, casually. “You’re right,”said Tigger, “It’s further than I thought. We’d better take the bus.”

While Tigger was trying to work out what bus we should catch and where we should catch it from, we spied an elderly couple, obviously locals, and sought their advice on transport. Pleasant people were they, and only too happy to help. Following their advice we caught the indicated bus and sat down to wait for our destination to appear. We waited rather a long time and then realized: we were going in the wrong direction! Our advisors had misunderstood our destination and unwittingly sent us on a wild goose chase. (Not that we saw any geese, wild or otherwise.)

Co-operative Store
Co-operative Store
Elm Park

We got off the bus in Elm Park. We had a quick look around and I took a photo of this building that must once have been a major Co-operative store, though I do not know its date or anything about it. There is a single-storey extension, in the same style, making the corner though this is now a pharmacy and apparently no longer  part of the Co-op.

Upminster Bridge Station
Upminster Bridge Station
The right one

We took a bus back in the opposite direction. It was fun seeing again lots of things we had seen on the outward journey – or so we told ourselves! At last we arrived where we had wanted to get to all along: Upminster Bridge Station.

Upminster Bridge Station looks like a typical suburban Underground station of 1930s vintage. Built in the 1930s it certainly was, but not by London Underground. It was built by the London Midlands & Scottish Railway (LMS) in 1934 though I think the track always belonged to the Metropolitan Railway (one of the lines of the present Underground network).

Entrance hall
Entrance hall
Upminster Bridge Station

We readied our cameras in case we met hostile station staff and would have to “click and run”. In the event, we saw nobody and had a clear field. In the above photo, you can see what had surprised us when seen from the bus: in the middle of the floor, made of tiles, is a swastika! Why is there a swastika in a London tube station, albeit one built in the 1930s?

Swastika motif
Swastika motif
A commonly used design before the Second World War

The lazy answer, of course, is “Why not?” Until the swastika became notorious as the symbol of the German Nazi Party, it was a commonly used motif in decoration. Even in 1934, when the station was built, the motif had not yet become infamous. We should also point out that the version of the swastika used by the Nazis was in any case rather different (for example, see here).

The symbol is very ancient and appears in the iconography of several Eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. Its name derives from a Sanskrit word that is usually transcribed as svastika and it stands for good luck and auspiciousness. It was doubtless used for decoration in Europe as a meaningless shape whose symmetry appealed to Art Deco designers. The presence of a now notorious symbol of German Nazism in an English tube station may seem strange – even shocking – at first sight, but in reality is not so surprising after all.

The Civic Centre
The Civic Centre
Formerly Dagenham Town Hall

Having satisfied our curiosity with regard to Upminster Bridge tube station, we started back for home but stopped off in Dagenham. Prior to the 1965 reorganization of London boroughs, Dagenham was an independent Municipal Borough within the county of Essex. From 1965, it has been combined with Barking to make the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. The Art Deco building shown above is known today as The Civic Centre but was originally Dagenham Town Hall. The Coat of Arms of Dagenham, with its motto JUDGE US BY OUR DEEDS is still proudly displayed over the main door.

Main door Coat of Arms of Dagenham
“Judge us by our Deeds”
The Coat of Arms of Dagenham

This impressively huge town hall was designed in 1930 by E. Berry Webber in the then popular Art Deco style. The foundation stone was laid in July 1936 and the building formally opened in October 1937. The original plan called for a complex comprising town hall, fire station and public library. While the town hall itself and the fire station were completed, the library unfortunately never became a reality.

Civic pride and optimism
Civic pride and optimism
Have they gone to waste?

In Greater London, one finds many old town halls that ceased to have that function as a result of the 1965 reorganization. All are of interest architecturally and historically but few are as big as this one. It speaks clearly of civic pride and optimism for the future and I feel there is something sad about the way this has been swept aside. Those present at the opening ceremony could hardly have suspected that a mere 28 years later, having endured the Second World War in the meantime, the Borough would cease to exist and the town hall would be relegated to a subsidiary role. Contemplating this once proud structure, we cannot but experience a certain feeling of vulnerability as we wonder what other changes await us in the future.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Fridge disaster

Sunday, January 19th 2014

Today, we had a serious mission to carry out. So, after fortifying ourselves with breakfast at the Angel Inn, we set out by bus to accomplish it. We did not do our usual Sunday supermarket run for reasons that will become apparent. The bus dropped us off in Gower Street and we walked to our destination via Grafton Way where we encountered this “pigeon buffet”.

Pigeon buffet
Pigeon buffet
Grafton Way

As I have said many times before, I am fond of our feral pigeons and enjoy seeing them waddling around about their business or the males, puffing themselves up and courting the females with their cooing love song. I agree that pigeons can cause a nuisance, mainly because of their large numbers, but there is no reason to blame the pigeons, much less to maltreat them. Only idiots talk about a “pigeon problem”. There is no such thing. What there is is a “people problem” and it is illustrated above. If people disposed of rubbish properly then pigeon numbers would quickly decline to a more acceptable level.

We were in Grafton Way to visit a shop on Tottenham Court Road where we hoped to buy a major appliance. Fortunately, the store in question was selling some at a reduced price and we hoped to take advantage of this.

Yesterday, I happened to glance across at our fridge-freezer and see that the red light was flashing. Its storage space divides about equally between the fridge at the top and the freezer at the bottom and on closer inspection, I saw that someone (no names, no pack drill, as my old Latin teacher used to say) had left the door of the freezer slightly ajar. I assumed that this had caused the temperature within to rise and this had triggered the warning light. We closed the door and waited for the green light to reappear. It didn’t.

Eventually, we realized that, however many times we pressed the buttons and switched the electric current off and on, the fridge-freezer was not going to start working. I had recently noticed strange noises coming from it on a couple of occasions and now think this meant that the motor was beginning to fail. Leaving the freezer compartment door open seems to have finished it off. Instinct told us that the cost of calling someone out to repair it – even assuming it could be repaired – would probably be prohibitive. The best plan seemed to be to take advantage of the sales and buy a new one.

We had bought the present fridge-freezer in June 2007 (see Rematch and associated posts) and it is rather big. It was our first, and in our naivety we bought larger than we needed. Once you have the capacity, the temptation is to fill it, taking advantage of special offers, and buying spare items “just in case”. So we were now left with a stock of frozen food that was quickly becoming unfrozen. We ate up what we could of the perishables, put some of the other stuff to one side to use until it becomes unusable, and just had to throw away the rest. We have learned the lesson from this and have bought a smaller model with less room for reserves.

I say we have bought it, not that it has been installed. We have to wait two weeks for it to arrive and in the meantime we are living in the old fashioned way, buying perishable foodstuffs daily, instead of just once a week.

The technology has moved on since 2007 and you can now choose models that are “eco-friendly” and feel correspondingly virtuous for doing so. We made sure the new machine was “frost free” and that the company that delivers it takes away the old one for recycling free of charge.

Remembering my childhood, when few people owned a fridge, let alone a freezer, it seems strange to be caught on the hop, in the dead of winter, by your fridge-freezer breaking down. On the other hand, this is quite understandable because we now live in an age when technology supports every aspect of our lives and we are completely reliant on it. This makes our lives that much more comfortable but the disaster is all the greater when our appliances fail.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Domestic matters | 2 Comments