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.
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|
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 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 .
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.
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.
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.
Inside is a very unusual vaulted plaster ceiling supported on arches. The church was restored in 1962.
After leaving the synagogue I walked through Mitre Square.
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 façade.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back at the station.
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