Sunday, April 29, 2018


Blackfriars tube station is an integral part of  Blackfriars rail station. This is the only station to span the River Thames with entrances to the rail station on both sides of the river. Although the rail  trains run over the river, the tube line just runs along the north  of the river. 

The name Blackfriars comes from the black cloaks worn by the monks from a large Dominican Monastery that dominated this area in the 13th century.

This is the view from the southbound platform of the rail station.

The northbound platform gives you a good view of Blackfriars road bridge. The day I visited Blackfriars the heavens opened so I took shelter in the rail station watching the passing river traffic.

In the ticket hall is this wall of stones which were part of the fa├žade of the original Blackfriars station, opened in 1886, when it was the hub for travel to and from the capitals of Europe.

The new station was opened in 2012. Construction took place in two halves over three years allowing the station to remain open on weekdays. The station is also the world's largest solar bridge and the solar panels on the roof provide up to 50% of the station's energy.
The pillars from a previous bridge remain in situ. These red pillars supported the original railway bridge across the Thames in 1864. It was only 4 tracks wide and so 20 years later, a second railway bridge was built next to it to increase capacity. It is this bridge that is the current rail bridge. In 1985 the old bridge was declared too weak to support modern trains and was removed but the supports were left. They were originally in rows of three but the third pillar has been used to support the new bridge when it was built in 1884.

As I left the station I crossed over Queen Victoria Street to the Black Friar pub. Time for some refreshments.
You can't miss the large black friar beneath the clock.

This Arts and Crafts pub is well worth popping in for a look round. Its connection with the past history of this area is obvious with the number of copper reliefs showing the day to day work of the friars whose monastery occupied this area in the 13th to the 16th century.

Sitting in the pub enjoying some lunch I couldn't decide if the loud rumbling noises were from the tube trains running beneath the pub or the trains running over the viaduct next to the pub.

After lunch I walked up Blackfriars Lane to the Apothecaries Hall.
The Apothecaries' hall is the oldest Livery Company hall of the thirty four surviving in the City of London. The Livery Company has been on this site since 1632.

The main door takes you into the courtyard. After the Great fire of 1666, the building was rebuilt around the courtyard  and has been added to and altered since then.

It was the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries that set down the early foundations of modern day medicine. Unlike many of the other Livery Companies it still plays a key role today as an active medical institution.

The very important leeches jar.
 I liked the old jars and bottles that were on display.
On the 350 yr anniversary of the company, a new stained glass window was designed showing the company's coat of arms.

Opposite the Apothecaries Hall are some steps. I walked over to have a look and discovered it was a bridge over the railway lines to and from Blackfriars station. These are for the trains not the tube as that travels underground.

I returned back down Blackfriars Lane to Playhouse Yard. On the left is part of the churchyard of St Anne Blackfriars destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

The garden has been maintained since 1964 by the Corporation of London and covers part of the original medieval Dominican Priory of Blackfriars which stood on this site until it was dissolved in 1538. It was here that the divorce hearing between  Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon took place in 1529. It was this divorce which caused the break from Rome when the King was excommunicated by the Pope as divorce was not allowed in the Catholic Church. The Act of Supremacy in 1534 confirmed the break from Rome and declared Henry as the Head of the Church of England. This led to the Act of Suppression in 1536  whereby small monasteries were closed and their buildings, land and money were taken by the Crown. The Second Suppression Act of 1539 allowed the dissolution of the larger monasteries.

The Blackfriars Monastery was replaced by the parish church of St Anne Blackfriars until this was in turn destroyed by the great Fire of 1666 when the parish was united with St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. The area was used as a churchyard until 1849.You can still see part of the original monastery wall just inside the churchyard.

The grounds and buildings of Blackfriars Monastery were sold off. One buyer, James Burbage purchased the old refectory to convert into the Blackfriars theatre, today the site of Playhouse Yard. The theatre which had a roof , an unusual addition in those days, was used by the King's Men. William Shakespeare was a leading actor with this troupe as well as its writer. I have been surprised by how much history is connected to Shakespeare on this side of the river. I had assumed his connection was with the Globe theatre on the other side of the river.

Playhouse Yard leads into Ireland Yard, now a small street with modern buildings but back in the 16th century this was the main entrance to the monastery.

With the dissolution of the monastery the gatehouse remained and it was bought for £140 by Shakespeare in 1613. He kept the gatehouse in his own name so it could be given to his eldest daughter, Susannah, on his death. He died three years after buying the property. Susannah passed it onto her daughter Elizabeth, the last descendant of William Shakespeare. Elizabeth sold the property in 1667.

At the corner of Ireland Yard and  St Andrew's Hill is the  Cockpit Pub dating back to the  18th century, The name comes from the so called sport of cock fighting. It is a small pub but you can still see the gallery where you would stand and watch the fighting from below.

A number of the buildings on St Andrew's Hill are 19th century. Outside one of them are these two post boxes attached to the railings. They are no longer in use but they are unusual. The one on the left is from the reign of Edward VII (1901-1910) and the other is from the reign of George V (1910-1936). I am not sure why they are situated next to one another. If this is their original position I would have expected the newer one to replace the older one. 

At the end of  the street is this house with an unusual corner bay window.

The house is next to St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe church.

St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. There has been a church on this site since the 13th century but it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. Eighty eight churches were destroyed in the fire. The office of Christopher Wren rebuilt 51 of them including this one. Within two weeks of the Fire, Wren presented a detailed plan to King Charles II to rebuild the area. He wanted to get rid of the narrow streets with their overcrowded buildings but he wasn't granted permission. Instead he was asked to rebuild 51 new churches to replace the ones that had been destroyed. Of the 51 he designed there are 23 still in existence within the City of London as well as St Paul's Cathedral.  The others were either destroyed during the blitz or unbelievably destroyed during the 19th century to  make way for new buildings!

The church was gutted during WW2 in 1941 but the walls and tower survived. It was reconstructed in 1959-61. The name St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe came about when the Great Wardrobe where Royal ceremonial clothes were stored,  moved from the Tower of London to a building nearby. The Wardrobe was also destroyed in the Great Fire.

 Across the road from the church is Baynard House, a brutalist office. Luckily, legislation protects  the sightline of St Paul's Cathedral so that it can be seen from bridges across the Thames as well as specific places in Putney and Richmond Park and that meant that the height of Baynard House was restricted to just three levels. The building is owned by British Telecom. I made my way from street level up to the first level to walk through to the River.

I spotted this sculpture on my way through the building. Turns out it is a tribute to William Shakespeare by Richard Kindesley and is called 'The Seven Ages of Man'. It is a 22ft column of seven sculpted heads on top of each other with the youngest at the bottom. The sculpture was commissioned by Post Office Telecommunications and unveiled in April 1980. Around the base of the sculpture are lines from Shakespeare's play 'As You Like It'
At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwilling to school.
And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow.
Then a soldier
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, 
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the canon's mouth.
And then the Justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

I walked through the dismal concrete passages of Baynard House and ended up on St Paul's walkway by the River Thames.
From here you have a good view of the Tate Modern Art Gallery across the river. Once a power station, it now holds the national collection of art from 1900 to the present day as well as international modern art.
Behind the Tate Modern are these almshouses. Built in 1752 with money left by philanthropist  Charles Hopton. 26 poor men were selected to live in the almshouses and since then they have been continually occupied. They were modernised in 1988 and again in 2013 and now these 1 bedroomed cottages provide homes for Southwark residents over 60 who have lived in the Borough for more than 3years 
Now they are dwarfed by the new extension to the Tate Modern and the new Bankside apartments.

To the left of the Tate Modern is the Globe theatre.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, plays were performed in private houses, inns or yards. It wasn't until 1576 that the first purpose built theatre was built over in Shoreditch. Shakespeare joined the resident players at the theatre in the 1580s. The company was called the Chamberlain's and then became known as the King's Men. It was a popular and successful venue for the next 20 years but when there was a problem with the renewal of the lease the theatre was demolished and rebuilt South of the river. At the same time the theatre in Playhouse Yard was also performing some of Shakespeare's plays. The Globe performed many of Shakespeare's plays including all the tragedies and flourished for the next 14 years. However, during a performance of Henry VIII a stage cannon ignited the thatched roof and the theatre burnt down. The theatre  was rebuilt soon afterwards and was active until all theatres were closed down in 1642 under the Puritans.
Sam Wanamaker, an American actor and director wanted to reconstruct the Globe after a visit to London in 1949. It took 23 years to raise the funds and to do all the research into the appearance of the original theatre.  In 1996, three years after the death of Sam Wanamaker, the new Globe was complete. A special licence was required for the thatched roof as thatching has been banned in London since the Great Fire.

 I returned to the North side of the river via the Millennium pedestrian Bridge. The bridge was the first new bridge to be built over the Thames in 100 years. It is often referred to as the wobbly bridge as when it first opened in the year 2000, the sheer numbers of people crossing caused it to rock from side to side. An estimated 80,000 people crossed the bridge on opening day, with as many as 2000 on the bridge at any one time. The bridge is a suspension bridge and began to sway very slightly with the pedestrians beginning to synchronise their walking to counteract the sway but it had the effect of making it worse. Apparently it is standard practice for soldiers crossing a bridge to break step as marching in step can create enough vertical force to destroy a bridge. Who would have thought it?

Walking across the bridge, the Cathedral is framed by its two supports.

Once across the bridge you pass the headquarters of the Salvation Army which has  a very nice, reasonably priced cafe in the basement with excellent free toilet facilities!

I crossed Queen Victoria Street and then turned left down Carter's Lane. This is a very old lane dating back to the 12th century. The Lane is parallel to Ludgate Hill which would have been full of traders and  cattle. Carters probably used the Lane as it was much less congested, hence the name.

On Carters Lane at the Dean's Court is the old St Paul's Cathedral choir school dating from 1875. It is now a Youth Hostel. On the front of the building you can still see the stencilled Latin inscription.

Interesting inscription on the side of a modern building opposite the Youth Hostel.

This passage leads into Wardrobe Place. The name gives you a clue as to what used to be here, up until the Great Fire. It was,of course the King's Wardrobe.

On the right hand side of Wardrobe Place are some typical 17th century town houses built after the Great Fire.The windows and door frame of this house have been altered but essentially it is the same.

To the right of this door you can see the boot scraper. The streets would have been filthy when this house was built and it was necessary to clean off some of the muck of your boots before entering the house.

A later addition to the door frame would have been these bells.  One for the office and one for the housekeeper. I returned on to Carter's Lane walking to the end and then taking a right turn which bought me out close to Ludgate Circus.

Ludgate Circus is a very busy junction connecting Ludgate Hill, Fleet Street, Farringdon Street and New Bridge Street. I crossed the road here onto Fleet Street. The street is synonymous with newspapers and journalism but although many of the newspaper buildings are still here, they  no longer produce newspapers.

This black and transparent glass building was once the Daily Express building. The printing presses were in the basement but could be seen from the street level. I was lucky enough to see inside the building a number of years ago during an Open House weekend. It has a magnificent art deco interior and I recall the staircase had chrome snakes as handrails.The Daily Express moved from Fleet Street in 1989.

Mersey House was once home to the Liverpool Post and Liverpool Echo.

Next door is this giant of a building which used to be the home of the Daily Telegraph

Built in the 1920s in an art deco, Egyptian style, it has a magnificent clock protruding from the frontage.

The Daily Telegraph moved out in the 1980s and the building is now known as Peterborough House.

A little further along Fleet Street is one of London's most famous pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Although rebuilt in 1667, there are parts of the building older than that. The entrance is not on Fleet Street but down an alley. Once inside you enter a different world. On the ground level there are just two small  rooms. This bar had a fire burning and the sign on the door said 'Gentlemen Only'.It is a bit like a rabbit warren with nooks and crannies all over the place. 

Not sure whether I went down 3 or four levels to the basement
It is a dark and gloomy pub full of character. It has been here since the days of Christopher Wren and Samuel Pepys. It is said that the writers Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson enjoyed a drink here although not at the same time as they were born 100 years apart.

On the other side of Fleet Street  there are more famous buildings such as Reuters, the last of the major news buildings to leave Fleet Street. Designed by Edward Lutyens it was built in 1939.
In between the old Reuters building and its neighbour you can see St Brides Church. Known as the journalists's church it is one of Wren's gems. It is completely surrounded by former newspaper offices. The steeple which is the tallest of Wren's steeples at 68m (226ft) is made up of 'octagonal arcades pulled out like a telescope'.  Inside, the woodwork has been replaced after it was bombed in WW2. There has been a succession of churches on the site, long before Wren's 'wedding cake' steeple, as it is known, appeared on the scene.

There is an exhibition about the history of the church in the crypt which has a number of interesting artefacts including this iron coffin. It was used  to prevent the stealing of bodies which were stolen and sold to medical students at the nearby St Bartholomew's hospital.

In the 17th century when this church was built, news sheets began to appear and in 1665 the London Gazette, a government publication of government notices was launched. In the same year the Great Plague arrived when 238 parishioners of St Bride's died in one week.

Next to the church is the St Bride's Foundation Institute. Housed in a Victorian  Grade II listed building, the foundation was originally set up for the benefit of the printing trade. Now home to the St Bride's library which has 100,000 items related to printing. as well as some of the old printing presses.

The foundation holds workshops on traditional printing and engraving techniques.

The building also had a swimming pool but this was converted into a small theatre in 1994. As well as evening productions they run a Lunchbox Theatre where local city workers can bring their own food and drink and enjoy a 45 minute performance.

The theatre bar.

On leaving St Bride's Foundation I turned right down Bride Court onto New Bridge Street and back to the station.