Friday, November 9, 2018


Barbican station is the 22nd tube station I have visited  on the Circle Line and 92nd altogether. It also serves the  Hammersmith and City and the Metropolitan lines. The station was opened in December 1865 with the name Aldersgate Street. It was shortened to just Aldersgate in 1910. It was renamed again in 1924 as Aldersgate and Barbican and then it took on its current name of Barbican in 1968.

There are four platforms of which 3 and 4 are no longer used. They have been turned into a garden by a group of volunteers and members of staff.

Barbican station is on the  junction of  Aldersgate Street and Long Lane giving me four distinct areas to explore. I decided to start my tour of the area with a look at the Barbican Estate. A walkway from the station takes you above the road and on to the estate.

This area of the City was almost entirely demolished during the bombing raids of WW2 so the architects had a clear canvas to develop an estate from scratch. The designs were finalised in 1959 with construction spread over two decades. The complex was officially opened by the Queen in 1982.

Many high rise brutalist developments of the 60s became the unwanted homes of the Millennium and many have been demolished, for instance the large Aylesbury Estate in SE London. The architects wanted to change the image of high density residential estates by integrating  it with schools,  shops and restaurants, as well as a world class cultural centre.  Gardens and greenery on all levels make this estate a very popular place to live.

There are three 43 storey towers and 13 seven storey blocks. The Corporation of London commissioned the project with the intention of creating a mixed society of residents in the heart of the City of London. In the 1980s Thatcher's government changed things when people were allowed to buy their council house for much less than the market value. This led to the majority of the homes being sold to private owners and landlords. Today the properties are in great demand and sell for as much as £4,000,000.
The architects visualised a car free zone raised above the busy streets with walkways for the visitors and residents to explore the site on foot. There are landscaped gardens everywhere with lakes providing scenic views for residents in their high rise blocks.

This is the entrance into the Barbican Arts Centre where many world class concerts, plays and exhibitions take place. Also on the Estate is the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

The conservatory is full of exotic plants and is open to the public but only when there is no private function taking place.

I could only peep through the windows as they were preparing it for a wedding later in the day.

Balconies from the flats and walkways as well as the Arts Centre overlook this large lake as does the medieval church of St Giles without Cripplegate.

This is one of the few medieval churches to have survived the Great Fire of London.  However it was badly bombed during WW2 and only the shell of the building remained. The church was rebuilt using the restoration plans of 1545. A number of famous people are associated with the church.  Oliver Cromwell was married here as were  the parents of Sir Thomas More. Its parishioners included William Shakespeare and John Milton, poet, who was buried here in 1674.

Leaving the Barbican I came across this piece of street art by Banksy on the corner of Golden Lane and Beech Street. It appeared on 17th September 2017 and features a stencilled police man and woman conducting a search on Basquiat.

Jean Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was an American street artist and a retrospective of his work was being exhibited at the time in the Barbican Arts Centre. It was aimed at the Barbican's treatment of street art which is 'normally very keen to clean any graffiti from its walls'. Personally I'm very pleased that the Barbican Estate is not covered in graffiti. To my mind there is a huge difference between street art and graffitti.

I returned to the Thomas More Highwalk and followed it round towards the Museum of London

It gave me a good view of the Ironmongers Hall. It was built here in 1925 in the Tudor style. The Ironmongers company is one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies and being an ancient guild it seemed only right to replace their previous home with one that shows off their craftsmanship. They received their first Royal charter from Edward IV in 1463. Their third building was destroyed by a bomb in WW1. It was almost destroyed in WW2 when bombs set adjacent buildings alight melting lead pipes and windows.

Backing onto the Ironmongers Hall and accessed from the highwalk is The Museum of London.  The Museum relates the history of London from prehistoric times  to the present day including the Plague, Great Fire and War. It also has a department for Human Bioarchaeology to deal with skeletal remains found during excavation.  Before any new building or existing buildings changed then an archaeological site investigation needs to take place if the area is deemed to have historical interest. As the City of London's history goes back thousands of years then all construction work has to be investigated. The on going building of a new rail line beneath London has revealed thousands of artefacts from the Stone Age onwards. It is here at MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) where the artefacts are cleaned, researched and documented. Items such as coins, pottery, leather boots, amulets, animal bones and more will be seen in exhibitions at this Museum and the London Docklands Museum. The many human skeletons that have been found are also documented but are then reinterred in a consecrated burial ground.

Outside the Museum is the John Wesley conversion place memorial. The Aldergate Flame, as it is known was erected in 1981 as closely as possible to the original conversion place in Nettleton Court in 18th Century Aldersgate.  John Wesley's Conversion Day, 24th May 1738, is widely celebrated in Methodism. The words on the bronze plaque described what happened to him that day, recorded by Wesley himself in his journal

I returned to ground level and turned off the busy Montague Street and onto Albion

Following the narrow streets and alleyways I came out on Cloth Fair.

It was in this area that St Bartholomew's Fair began in 1133. It became the most important cloth fair in England. It was an annual event until 1855 when the City banned it due to its reputation for lewd behaviour. A ballad 'Rome for Company in Bartholomew Faire' was registered by John Trundle in 1614 and tells us a little more about the fair and the various trades around in Medieval England.
Cobblers and broom-men, jailers and loom-men,
    Room for company, Bartholomew Fair.
Botchers and tailors, shipwrights and sailors,
    Room for company, well may they fare.
Paviers, bricklayers, potters and brickmakers,
Pinders and pewterers, plumbers and fruiterers.
Pointers and hosiers, salesmen and clothiers,
Horse coursers, carriers, blacksmiths and farriers.
Colliers and carvers, barbers and weavers,
Sergeants and yeomen, farmers and ploughmen.
Billfolds, felmongers, bellowsmenders, woodmongers,
Pumpmakers, glassmakers, chamberlains and matmakers.
Collarmakers, needlemakers, buttonmakers, fiddlemakers,
Fletchers and bowyers, drawers and sawyers.
Cutpurses, cheaters, bawdy-house door-keepers,
    Room for company, Bartholomew Fair.
Punks, ay, and panderers, and cashier'd commanders,
    Room for company, ill may they fare.
( From The Pepys Collection of Ballads)

At Number One  Cloth Fair is the Founders' Company, one of the oldest Livery Companies in the City of London tracing its existence back to 1365. It was one of the early medieval guilds formed to ensure high standards of quality and workmanship when working with bronze and brass. The Company moved to its new headquarters here in 1987.

This coade stone representation of the company's coat of arms was made in 1800 but lost in the 19th century. It was later returned and gifted to the company and has pride of place outside the Founders Hall.

I was now on Bartholomew Passage  with a view of St Bartholomew-the -Great church.

It was founded in 1123 as an Augustinian Priory and although only a small part of the original 12th Cent church remains it is
 a wonderful medieval church that escaped both the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the bombs of WW2. It has been the setting for films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and is one of the best examples of Norman architecture in London.

Leaving the church I turned to my left  and entered a gated archway into St Bartholomew's Hospital. St Bart's Hospital is the oldest hospital in Britain that still provides medical care from its original site. Bart's was founded in 1123 by Rahere, an Anglo-Norman priest and monk. It survived both The Great Fire of London and the Blitz and being a hospital it was not affected by the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-41). However, that act did mean an end to its income and consequently Henry VIII refounded the hospital in 1546 by signing an agreement granting the hospital to the Corporation of London.

This is the main public entrance to the hospital, the King Henry VIII gate.

 The statue above the gate is the only remaining statue of Henry VIII in London.

Whereas all hospitals will have a chapel, St Barts is the only hospital to have a parish church within its grounds. St Bartholomew-the-Less has a 15th Cent tower and vestry. It was very difficult to photograph as I couldn't get back far enough.

Inside is this early 20th cent stained glass window of a nurse.

This is the 18th Cent square created by James Gibbs. Overlooking the square in the hospital's historic North wing is St Bart's Museum.

Displayed in the museum are copies of Rahere's grant of 1137 and the 1546 agreement between Henry VIII and the City of London.
This is an original document from 1331 bearing  the new seal of the hospital.

This is the hospital ledger from 1726
Ledgers were kept by the hospital from 1547 as a record of the money received and paid out. This page shows the annual salaries paid to staff. You can't help admiring that beautiful handwriting.

Other displays include surgical instruments like this case of amputation equipment.It is believed that this case belonged to the founder of the medical school John Abernethy(1764-1831). Before
 anaesthetics, the speed of operation was very important to minimise not only the pain but the loss of blood.
There are also audio tapes describing how the lives of doctors and nurses have changed over the centuries. It is a small but very interesting museum with lots of snippets of information that grab your attention.
'No women, including sisters, were allowed in the men's ward after 7 o'clock. Any patients who swore, blasphemed, were disobedient or refused to go to bed were punished in the stocks after one warning.'

At the back of the museum is the Grand Staircase leading to the Grand Hall. (This is not accessible to the public but the staircase can be seen through the doorway.) The governors wanted to have a spectacular entrance and considered inviting a Venetian artist to decorate the walls. However, William Hogarth (1697-1764) heard of their intentions and offered his services for free. He was well known for his paintings at the time and his generous offer was not to be missed. The two vast paintings were completed between 1734-37.

Just outside the museum is a collection box for the poor. It looks Victorian but I haven't been able to confirm the date. Admission to the Museum is free although donations are always welcome.

Outside the hospital mounted on the wall is this memorial to Sir William Wallace or 'Braveheart'. He was a Scottish warrior who rebelled against King Edward I and was brutally hanged, drawn and quartered here in 1305.

This site of public executions is now a large circular grassed area, once known as 'smooth field' the origin of its current name of Smithfields, beneath which is an underground car park.

On the opposite side from the hospital is the elegant Victorian ironwork of Smithfield market. There has been a livestock market on this site in the City of London for almost 1000 years. By the end of the 18th cent the number of animals being brought to London's Smithfield Livestock Market was causing havoc in the local streets and so by 1852 it was decided by Act of Parliament that the livestock market be relocated  to the North of London. Immediately plans were put into operation to develop a new market on this site specialising in cut meat.
It took a year to complete the new market which opened in 1868. Made from cast iron, stone, Welsh slate and glass it is a huge cathedral like structure with two main buildings under one large roof and separated by the Grand Avenue.

Smithfield reached its heydey during the pre war period as the centre for the meat trade of the British Empire. The market and its related businesses were huge employers preparing, smoking, butchering and selling. In the 1990s the market was modernised and upgraded but that did not detract from the beauty of the original ornate cast iron structure.

The market is open from 2am so by mid morning all the selling has ceased and it looks deserted.

I walked through the Grand Avenue exiting on the other side of Smithfield Meat market and turned right onto Charterhouse Street. At the end of the street is the Square. Charterhouse Square, close to the City of London is home to Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse more commonly referred to as London Charterhouse. Originally a Carthusian monastery, it has been a private mansion, boy's school and is today an almshouse. The monastery was built in 1371 on land used as a  plague pit following the Black Death epidemic of 1348

In 2013, during excavations for London's Crossrail project a number of human skeletons were found at the edge of Charterhouse Square confirming that this area between the lands of the Abbey of Westminster and those of St John of Jerusalem (known as No Man's Land) had indeed been used as a plague pit.

You enter the Charterhouse through this 15th cent wooden gate. The monastery was one of 9 Carthusian houses built in England. It housed  a prior and 24 monks who lived in two storey houses around the cloister.

There was already a small chapel erected  there by the Bishop of London who was shocked at the internment of plague victims buried on unsanctified ground. The chapel became the church for the monastery and parts of the medieval brickwork can be seen today behind the wooden cladding.

In 1535 the monks refused to accept Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy. The Prior was hanged, drawn and quartered with one of his severed arms pinned to the Gatehouse, with the others also executed. The monastery then became the property of the Crown. A number of members of the nobility lived here including Lord North who constructed a Tudor mansion on the land. Elizabeth I stayed at Charterhouse prior to entering the City of London when she became Queen in 1558.

In 1611 the mansion was bought by Thomas Sutton, the wealthiest commoner in England and this enabled the continued existence of this building to the present day.  He used his wealth to set up a charitable foundation to educate boys and to care for elderly men. The school became the well-known public school, Charterhouse which moved to Godalming, Surrey in 1872. The almshouse continues today and provides a home for 40 pensioners. It has its own infirmary, laundry and of course, kitchens.

I took a tour around the Charterhouse last week which was given by one of the residents. Although elderly, his recall of historical events and dates was wonderful and he was a very entertaining guide.

Looking back at the photos I took I can't recall the dates of the different parts of the building so just enjoy the visual tour and if you have time to spare, when visiting London, I would suggest booking a tour to see the Charterhouse, only one of three medieval buildings in London that are still in use. The other two are Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.

Thomas Sutton's tomb in the chapel.

The talbot, part of Sutton's coat of arms is much in evidence in the building.

Part of the Tudor mansion.

The Great Hall, now used as a dining room by the present residents, has much of its interiors intact from the 1570s.

17th cent graffiti

On the other side of Charterhouse Square on the boundary of the City of London is this block of art deco apartments.

Some of you might recognise it as 'Whitehaven Mansions', Hercule Poirot's home in the TV series  'Poirot'. Built in the mid 1930s it makes the perfect location for Poirot which is set during that period.

From Charterhouse Square it is just a few minutes walk back to Barbican station.