Monday, September 3, 2018


This is the 90th station I have visited on my 'Above the Underground' challenge so I have now walked around, researched and written about one third of the 270 separate tube stations. The number of lines that are shown on the tube map are ever increasing with the Elizabeth Line on the map from 2019. I decided when I first set out on this challenge that I would not include the DLR, the Overground, the TFL line, the Emirates  cable car or the new Elizabeth Line. I will only visit the Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith and City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria and Waterloo and City lines.
So here I am at Aldgate station which serves the Circle and Metropolitan lines. It was built in 1884 on the site of a huge 'Plague Pit'. During 1665 the bubonic plague killed almost 25% of the population of London. Pits were dug as burial sites for large numbers of bodies. It is thought that more than 1000 bodies were buried in the Aldgate pit.

As with many of the Circle Line stations they were built using a simple cut and cover method of construction.  This is where a trench is excavated and then roofed over. This photo was taken from ground level and shows the staircase down to the platform. You can look across to the opening at the other side of the station. When this line was built they used steam trains so parts of the roof were left open for ventilation. 

In the ticket hall there is a memorial to the terror attacks of 7th July 2005 when a bomb exploded on a Circle line train near this station. Seven people were killed and many more injured.

As I left the station I turned left onto Aldgate High Street. At No 47 is the Hoop and Grapes public house, possibly the oldest pub in the City. These timber framed  houses are all that is left of Butcher's Row, a medieval row of buildings that was still intact at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The current building probably existed before the Great Fire of 1666. The foundations certainly date back to the 13th century.  The pub was converted from a private house about 100 years ago with structural work being carried out in the 1980s. It is rumoured that there was once a tunnel from the pub to the Tower of London.

A closer look shows how the building has moved over the centuries.
From the High Street I turned left onto Middlesex Street to see the boundary marker. Ten locations around the City, mark the boundary with a dragon. During Roman times there was a wall encircling the city which had seven large gateways. In between there were access routes for pedestrians known as 'posterns'.  On some of the gates they would display the heads of traitors. Others such as Newgate were used as a prison. One of the gates was at Aldgate hence this boundary marker of the Dragon supporting the City's crest. The others were Bishopsgate, Moorgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, Newgate and Ludgate. The gates lasted until 1760 when they were destroyed so that the roads could be widened.                                                                                                            

 Across the road was this sculpture which I think is a very recent addition as there was no name plaque nearby or information on the internet that I could find.

Petticoat Lane  market here was established over 400 years ago by the French Huguenots who sold petticoats and lace from the stalls. The Victorians were not happy about a name that referred to women's underwear and renamed the street Middlesex Street in the early 1800s. However, the market is still known as Petticoat Lane today and has hundreds of stalls on Sundays. It is still a clothing market focusing mainly on women's fashions.

Just off Petticoat Lane is this piece of colourful artwork  by the street artist Ben Eine

Close to the market is New Street. This is Tapestry building, an 18th century warehouse built by the East India Company. Formerly called the Old Bengal Warehouse, it used to store exotic silks and textiles from India. The East India Company was one of the largest and most successful companies in the world in its heyday. It controlled much of India and brought back a wide range of goods to England and needed buildings for storage. The Company built many buildings including a number of warehouses. Many of these have been restored and converted to offices and residential apartments including this one which has been converted into 14 exclusive, expensive apartments (in excess of £2,000,000). On the ground floor is a bar named the 'Old Bengal Bar'.

The Magpie pub on the other side of the road has a unique history. It was here that one of the first electric ambulances was stationed  in 1909. Before 1907 there was no ambulance service in the City. As other councils put plans in place for ambulance provision, the City started its own service. The City bought two electric ambulances to be manned by City Police officers. These were replaced by petrol driven vehicles by 1927. Police used a system of 52 white call boxes placed around the City to call for the ambulance when needed. The NHS took over the Ambulance service in 1949.

I left New Street and walked into Devonshire Square with its Georgian houses.

 One of the houses is home to the Worshipful Company of Coopers. The Company has been around since at least the 11th century focusing on the ancient craft of cask making.

This impressive statue of a mounted knight is made entirely of beaten bronze and not from a mould as most statues are. The knight represents one of 13 nobles who were granted land in this area in the 10th century.
The horse's armour is made up of bird like shapes of beaten metal decorated with blue crystals. The artist, Denys Mitchell had previously made some railings for the Standard Life Insurance Company and was commissioned to create something for Cutlers Gardens now renamed Devonshire Square.

The plaque reads:
King Edgar (959-1075) granted this derelict land to thirteen knights, on condition that they each perform three duels, one on land, one below ground, one on the water. These feats having been achieved, the King gave the knights or Cnihtengild certain rights over a piece of land from Aldgate to the place where the bars are now towards the east, on both sides of the lane, and extended it toward the gate now known as Bishopgate in the north to the house of William the priest and to the south to the Thames as far as a horseman riding into the river at low tide can throw a lance.'

I walked back through Devonshire Square and into the area of the City with its many high rise office blocks .

Some new office blocks are appearing on the skyline.
This one is on St Mary Axe, the same street as the Gherkin.

A bomb exploded in St Mary Axe in 1992 and destroyed the Baltic Exchange, a Grade II listed building which housed the last of the Edwardian trading floors in London. Swiss Re, an insurance company bought the site and commissioned Norman Foster to design their new London headquarters. Planning restrictions meant there was a limit on its height and resulted in this bulbous circular building, known affectionately as the Gherkin.

During Open House weekend in 2014 I had a look inside the building. it wasn't a tour but you were allowed up to the top floor to have a look around.

From here I could see the Cheesegrater which is just along the road.

The coloured glass of the windows of the garden at 120 Fenchurch Street creates interesting reflections on the street below. This is a new public garden and restaurant that is yet to open on top of this building. As soon as I can gain access I'll be investigating this one.

This is another new one, known as the scalpel for its wedge shaped top. Difficult to show you from ground level photos.

St Andrew's Undershaft is dwarfed by the Gherkin but not dominated. The name undershaft refers to a very tall maypole that was erected alongside the first church on this site (c1140) every Spring - St Andrew's under the shaft. The use of a maypole lasted until 1549 when the curate of a local church declared that it was idolatrous and it was chopped down.

Also within the shade of the Gherkin is St Katherine Cree Church. This is one of just eight city churches that survived the Great Fire

The tower dates from 1504 making it one of the oldest in the City. It was part of a previous church on the site which itself originally formed part of the medieval Priory of the Holy Trinity (1108). Bells from the tower have rung out since at least the 16th century. There have always been at least five bells in the Tower. In 2009 the bells were removed and taken to the Whitechapel bell foundry to be cleaned and retuned. It is hoped they will ring out for another 500 years.

The cupola was added to the tower in the 18th century.

Inside is a very unusual vaulted plaster ceiling supported on arches. The church was restored in 1962.

The church is Grade I listed having survived the Great Fire of London,1666, the Second World War, with just some damage to the roof, and the Baltic exchange bomb of 1992, which blew out the central part of the 17th century window.

I continued my walk along Creechurch Lane onto Bevis Marks. It is here that you find an archway leading to the Bevis Marks synagogue. Built in 1701, it is the oldest synagogue in the country. Jews were officially allowed to return to England by Oliver Cromwell in 1655, after their expulsion by Edward I in 1290. When the synagogue was planned the authorities insisted that the entrance be on a side street fearing the reaction of non Jewish locals to the building of a new synagogue. 

The architect was a Quaker, Joseph Avis and the building deliberately looks like a simple Christian church. Everything inside the synagogue is original except the windows. The seven candlelabras still use candles which are lit for special occasions and in the evenings.

After leaving the synagogue I walked through  Mitre Square.

Mitre Square is a very small London square recently renovated with a new office block and landscaped gardens. However this Square has a gruesome history. It was here that Jack the Ripper murdered his fourth victim, 46 yr old prostitute Catherine Eddowes on 30th September 1888. Between August and November 1888 a number of brutal murders were committed in this area. The killer became known as Jack the Ripper as all the victims, who were prostitutes, were horribly mutilated.  Jack the Ripper was never identified or caught. Looking at this modern, landscaped square it is hard to imagine the dark, dismal area it was in the late 19th century when it was surrounded by warehouses.

The Old Tea Warehouse next to St Katherine Cree church perhaps gives us a glimpse of how it might have looked. Although these have now been modernised with the obligatory bar in the courtyard.

From Mitre Square I walked back to the corner of Fenchurch Street and Leadenhall Street  where the Aldgate pump stands. Built in the early 1870s it was used by local people for collecting water before homes were connected to the mains supply. The pump was connected to a nearby well that had been used as a water supply since the 13th C but unfortunately for the local people the supply was filtered through a local graveyard and was closed down in 1876 until it could be reconnected to a new water supply from outside the City.

On the left hand side of Fenchurch Street is

the head office of the Lloyd's register of shipping. In 1764 they produced the first register of all sea going merchant ships over a certain size (100 tonnes). The hulls were graded by a letter -'A' being the best and the ship's fittings with a number - '1' being the highest. Hence the phrase everything is A1.

Ships remain on the register until they are wrecked, sunk or scrapped. This  register of ships is produced annually.

In the following 70 years Lloyd's register expanded into 4 adjacent office blocks and became a jumble of buildings. Rather than moving premises a major redevelopment took place where the facade of Coronation House was kept but the whole structure behind it was demolished. Richard Rogers,the architect, has married the old with the new and created a very interesting building. The existing outer shell had to be retained due to planner's restrictions so Rogers built two glass towers 12 and 14 storeys high with another 7 storeys of space behind the Coronation fa├žade.

The best of the original building has been retained such as the old reception hall with its marble staircase.

This is the Rose window above the staircase which has a ship at its centre surrounded by the emblems of the UK: the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Irish shamrock and supposedly the Welsh leek (but I can't see it).

The barrel vaulted ceiling  inspired by Michelangelo's Sistine chapel ceiling.

The friezes around the building have sea nymphs and monsters; sailing ships and maidens holding navigation equipment.

A little further along Fenchurch Street is this pub.
The East India Arms pub is situated close to where the headquarters of the East India Company used to operate. Information about the company is on a plaque on the wall of the pub.

 Queen Elizabeth I signed the charter creating The Company of Merchants of London trading to the East Indies. Over 200 subscribers raised almost £70,000, a huge amount at the time for a voyage to the East.The Company was granted a monopoly on all English trade east of the Cape of Good Hope.
For more than two centuries The East India Company acted as the vehicle for British commercial and imperial expansion in Asia. Until its demise in the aftermath of the Indian mutiny(1857-59), it dominated both trade and Empire.
At one time, a tenth of the British exchequer's revenue came from customs duties on the imports. The East India lobby played a leading role in London's commercial, cultural and political life as well as a huge influence on the development of the Port of London.
The East India Company ceased trading in 1834 and came to an end in 1873.

From the pub I walked round the corner to Fenchurch St station.

The station was built in 1841 to replace the original terminus for the London and Blackwall Railway Company and for three years trains were wound by cable into the station. The station was extended in 1854 when steam trains were introduced and a new company took over, the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. Fenchurch Station only caters for local trains and not any high speed ones. It is also the only main rail terminus that does not have an adjoining tube station.

I turned off Fenchurch street onto Crutched Friars. So named as this was where a monastery was founded in 1249. The monastery remained until it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The official name of the friars was the Canons regular of the Order of the Holy Cross. They always carried a staff with a cross on the top hence the name - Crutched Friars. At the corner of the street is a cavity with the statues of two friars.

The Street leads me into Jewry Street. In the 16th century this was home to the first Jewish community since Edward I expelled the Jews from Britain in 1291. On returning to England in the 1650s they initially settled in this area. This remained a large Jewish community for many centuries. In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century there was still about 200,000 Jews living in this area but over the last hundred years the community has dispersed into the suburbs of London.

On Jewry Street is the headquarters of the Sir John Cass Foundation. He was born in 1661 and during his life he served as an Alderman, Sheriff and Member of Parliament.  The Foundation funds schools and organisations benefitting young people from inner London and provides support with education costs to young inner London residents from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Across the road in Aldgate Square is the Sir John Cass's Foundation primary School which was founded in 1710.

It then had 50 boys and 40 girls and rented buildings in St Botolph's churchyard.


The church of St Botolph without Aldgate was erected in 1744 but there has been a church on the site for over 1000 years. During the 1665 plague thousands of bodies were buried in the churchyard. Then in the 19th century it became known as the 'prostitute's church' as the area surrounding the church is where many of them worked. During the period of the  Jack the Ripper murders, the police offered an amnesty to prostitutes if they restricted their trade to the triangular island on which the church stood.

That island no longer exists as the authorities have constructed a new square that runs alongside the church. You now have a clear side view of the church from the square. This area used to be the churchyard before planners decided it would be good to use it as a road. This is the first time I have been here since the square opened and what a difference it makes. The old gyratory traffic system has gone and a large open square has made a huge improvement to the area.

There is a new cafe in the sqaure run by the Kahaila charity so any profit that is made goes into supporting local community projects and other charitable causes.

Walking back to the station I passed this old police telephone box

Back at the station.
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