Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mansion House

Mansion House station is the 15th station on the Circle Line that I have visited on my 'Above the Underground' challenge.
The station is situated on Cannon Street in the City of London. In the 1920s the station's entrance was rebuilt by Charles Holden who designed a number of underground stations. However, the station was closed in 1989 for redevelopment and  the construction of a new entrance. It reopened in 1991.


The station has three platforms. One goes eastbound and one goes westbound for both the Circle and the District lines. The other platform used to be for terminating eastbound tubes but is no longer used. Strangely, the station was named after the building, Mansion House which is the official home of the Lord Mayor of London but  the Grade I listed building isn't close to the station.

The station is very close to three other tube stations. Cannon Street is about 300m away and St Paul's and Bank stations are not much further so I kept my visit to just a three minute walk from the station but there was still plenty to see. If you want to see how close, check out the Youtube link on a man racing the tube to the next station at Cannon Street Runner v tube












There are four exits from the station. I left via Exit four and came out to see St Paul's Cathedral in the background and the unusual building of 30 Cannon Street.











The site has a lot of history attached. Once a medieval church destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Wren built St Mildred's on the site but this was destroyed in the Blitz 250 years later. This building was completed in 1977 on this,the last of the bomb sites to be built on in the City. The shape of the building was determined by its site between Cannon Street and Queen Victoria Street. To give the interior as much space as possible, the building was designed to lean out at an angle of 5 deg with each floor being larger than the one below. It was the first building in the world to be clad in glass fibre reinforced cement (GFC) panels.

The repeated arched white frames make sure the building stands out.



A stone's throw from the station on Bow Lane is St Mary Alderbury.  Another of Wren's churches, this one is very different as he built it in the Gothic style. Although the church did sustain some damage during the Blitz, by and large it remained mainly in one piece and is one of the few original Wren churches still standing.

The name of Bow Lane was changed from Cordwainer Street in the middle of the 16th century as a reference to St Mary Le Bow church at the end of the Lane. The word cordwainer is derived from Cordwain or Cordovan which is a soft leather produced in Cordoba in Spain and imported to London. The cordwainers first organised a guild around 1160 and became prominant traders in the area from the 16th century. The leather was used to make shoes and it was on this lane that the shoemakers lived and worked. Cordwainers were forbidden to mend shoes and cobblers forbidden to make them.
In fact just around the corner on Watling Street is this bronze statue of a cordwainer.

The plaque underneath the statue reads 'you are in the Ward of Cordwainer which in medieval times was the centre of shoe making in the City of London. The finest leather from Cordoba in Spain was used and gave rise to the name of the craftsmen and the Ward. The cordwainer statue was erected in 2002 to celebrate the century of the Ward of Cordwainer Club.



On the corner of Bow Street and Watling Street is Ye Olde Watling Street pub.
It is claimed this pub was built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1668 to house the workers rebuilding St Paul's Cathedral which is close by. The pub was constructed from timber from old ships which were sold cheaply to builders. The pub's upstairs rooms were used as drawing offices during the building of the cathedral which was opened in 1697. It was another 15 years before the dome was completed.
Watling Street is thought to be one of the oldest streets in the city running from Dover on the South coast to Chester in the North West of England.

There are a number of alleyways leading off the Lane. Many of which were laid out in medieval times. 







At the end of Bow Lane is St Mary Le Bow church, probably the most famous of the City's churches.

Prior to the Great Fire of London there were 120 churches within the square mile of the city walls.  The fire destroyed 87 of them as well as St Paul's Cathedral. Wren rebuilt 51 and the new St Paul's Cathedral. Many of these were bombed in the Blitz during WW2. Some were rebuilt after the war and there are now 39 churches within the square mile of the city. St Mary Le Bow  is well known for a number of reasons. I'm sure many of you know the nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons' which mentions many of the churches including Bow bells.

'Oranges and lemons'
Say the bells of St Clements.
'You owe me five farthings'
Say the bells of St Martins.
'When will you pay me?'
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
'When I grow rich'
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
'When will that be?'
Say the bells of Stepney.
'I do not know,'
Says the great bells of Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes the chopper to chop off  your head.
The verses were originally sung to imitate the sound of the bells of the various churches.

St Mary-Le-Bow Church is commonly known as 'Bow Bells' church due to its historic association with the ringing of the bells. It is reputed that hearing the ringing of the bells persuaded Dick Whittington, in 1392, to return to London where he would become Lord Mayor. To be born within the sound of Bow Bells means that you can be called a 'cockney'. 
Every year at the end of September the pearly Kings and Queens who originate from the costermongers or street traders of London meet at the church to celebrate Harvest Festival. The church was founded around 1080 as the London Headquarters of the archbishops of Canterbury. It survived three devastating collapses before being completely destroyed in the Great Fire. Rebuilt by Christopher Wren it was destroyed once again in 1941 but  was rebuilt in 1964.The bells were recast using the original metal and sounded again for the first time in 1964. The crypt of the church dates from 1080 and is largely intact making it one of the oldest rooms in continuous use in London.







Outside the church in the courtyard is this statue of Captain John Smith, one of the leaders who established Jamestown Colony in Virginia, the first English settlement in the Americas. A member of the Cordwainers Company he delivered a sermon at St Mary Le Bow Church to promote settlements in the New World.

The churchyard was re-landscaped in 2009, paved in a distinct pattern which reflects the area's long standing connection with Cordoba in Spain.



At the top of St Mary Le Bow's steeple is a dragon weathervane. The dragon is the symbol of the City of London and dates from the 1679.
I walked out from St Mary Le Bow churchyard onto Cheapside. The word 'chepe' means market and in the 12th century market buildings were built alongside the road. Side streets had names which indicated their trade.

There is also Honey Street, Milk Street, Garlick Street and Wood Street.

Not sure I would want to buy old fish though.
On the South side of Cheapside is an archway leading to Crown Court. Apparently this passage was once the private entrance for the king to Crown fields where joustings took place. The open field has since gone but Crown Court is still there. Now home to offices.


At the next  junction you have King Street on the right and Queen Street on the left. On the corner is a Grade II listed building. 




This  imposing building on the corner of King Street was the headquarters of the Atlas Assurance Company and became known as the Atlas building.



I walked down Queen Street, named after the wife of Charles II, turning left at Pancras Lane. At the end of the lane is this small garden.

St Pancras Church garden is on the site of St Pancras Church, an 11th cent church destroyed in the Great Fire. The church was never rebuilt and the site was used as a burial ground and then just left until 2010 when the City of London obtained the leasehold of the site and turned it into a public garden. The City and Guilds of London Art School was commissioned to produce the benches. The designs are based on the Romenesque architecture of the destroyed church.









So pleased I was here early on a Sunday morning as there was no-one sitting on the benches and I could have a good look at the intricate carved designs.
Back on Queen Street I walked past Sweetings restaurant. Formally a wet fish shop, opened in 1889 as a 60 seat fish and oyster restaurant in what is now a Grade II building. It only opens for lunch and you can't book. Next to the restaurant is the Sugarloaf pub.

In the 18th century, the area of the Three Cranes Wharf, Queen Street and Upper Thames Street was home to several sugar refineries but they were demolished for the building of Southwark Bridge in 1819. Prior to this the area had been producing sugar for over 100 years. The sugarloaf was the traditional form in which refined sugar as produced and sold until the late 19th century. The sugarloaf is a tall cone with a rounded top from which lumps could be broken off.

Crossed the road and walked down Trinity Lane. There was a lot of roadworks and construction but glad I made the effort to walk to the bottom of the hill. I visited on a Sunday so it would be less busy but you just can't get away from the scaffolding and roadworks.






On Trinity Lane is the  Painters Hall. The worshipful company of Painter-Stainers  is one of 110 Livery Companies in the City of London. The guilds evolved during the Middle Ages when tradesmen from the same areas of work got together to protect their trade by regulating competitors and maintaining professional standards. Artists joined together to form the Paynters Guild and received its first Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth in 1581. Alongside the painters were the stainers who stained the cloth to make decorative wall hangings.  Today the Company is involved supporting the education of arts and crafts.


At the bottom of Trinity Lane is Garlick Hill 
At the bottom of the hill  is the church of St James Garlickhythe. The name of the church is derived from the word 'Hythe', a Saxon word for a landing place. The part of the river closest to the church was London's most important landing place since possibly Roman times. Garlic was unloaded here and probably traded on Garlick Hill. During the Middle Ages garlic was used in medicine and as a preservative. The sign of the church is a scallop shell, as pilgrims visiting the grave of St James the apostle buried in Santiago de Compostelo in Spain, would bring back the shell to show they had been to his shrine. This information is of particular interest to me as one month from now I will be walking in their footsteps on the Pilgrim's way to Santiago de Compostelo. I wonder if I will find a shell there that I can bring back to the church.


Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt the church after the Great Fire in 1666 and it reopened in 1682. It took another 35 years before the steeple was completed. The forty foot high ceiling is the highest in the City other than St Paul's Cathedral. The church is lit with so much natural light that it became known as 'Wren's Lantern'.




The church was not greatly damaged during the blitz although a 500lb bomb did land in the SE corner but fortunately didn't explode.  The Tower clock was destroyed by a bomb in 1941 but was restored in 1988 with a donation from the Vintners Livery Company. Above the clock is the figure of St James. The Vintners use the church regularly. Every July there is a re-enactment of a 700 year old ceremony in the church.Wardens carrying flowers and herbs to ward off bad smells walk at the head of a procession to the church. They are followed by two wine porters, wearing top hats and white coats  sweep the road with branches of birch.

Outside the church is a statue of the barge master and swan marker of The Vintners Company.
The ceremony of 'Swan Upping' takes place each July. It dates from the twelfth century when The Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans which were considered an important food source for banquets and feasts. Today the Queen retains the right of ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water. The Vintners and Dyers Livery Companies were granted right of ownership in the fifteenth century and it is their responsibility to count the number of cygnets each year and ring them.  You will be pleased to know they are no longer eaten.


Across the road from the statue is the home of the Worshipful Company of Vintners. One of the most ancient of the Livery Companies of the City of London.  Their motto is Vinum Exhilarat Animum (Wine Cheers the Mind). With its origins in the import, regulation and sale of wine, the Company continues to maintain strong links with the UK wine trade. The Hall is known as the Trade's .spiritual home'. The members give five, rather than three cheers when toasting, in commemoration of a 1363 feast attended by the five kings of England, Scotland, France, Denmark and Cyprus.

This is the shield of the Vintners' Company with the three tuns or barrels that were used for transporting wine.




The Vintner's Hall began in 1357 and has been on the same site by the Thames ever since although not the same building. There have been many halls built on the site with the present one dating from 1820 although part of the hall from 1670 remain.



This is Southwark Bridge, first opened in 1819 to relieve the congestion on London Bridge. However it made no difference as it was a toll bridge so people continued to use London Bridge which was free. The tolls were removed in 1864 when the  bridge was purchased by the City of London Corporation. As cars increased in number, the bridge became busier and wasn't really strong enough or wide enough. The new bridge was opened after the war in 1921.








From the bridge I returned to Queen Street via Great St Thomas Apostle

At No 28 Queen Street are these two Grade II listed Georgian buildings. The symmetry and uniformity of the windows against the black brickwork make this mid 18th century building stand out from the rest of the properties. They were built on the site of St Thomas Apostle church and are the finest examples of Georgian buildings in the city with their elevated position emphasizing their height.






Cleary Gardens just off Cannon Street, a delightful, beautiful gem on two levels. One of the things I love about this crowded City is its parks and green spaces. I have yet to visit another City the size of London that not only has a number of large well kept  parks but can create a green sanctuary from any small space.

As a result of wartime bombing of the City, this previously built up area was destroyed and the site  released for post-war development as a leisure and amenity area. To mark the centenary in 1982 of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, it funded the laying out of Cleary Gardens. The gardens are named after Mr Frederick Cleary, a member of the Court of Common Council from 1959 to 1984.












I returned to the station via this subway opened in December 1913.

9 comments:

  1. Well as usual I am lost for words with your tour around what is a small area in London. So much history packed into a small space. I love that garden at the end. You need to write a book after this

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  2. Deep breath. That was a long read, and what research you must have put into the post! Love the blue faced clock and the rather odd 1977 Cannon Street building.

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  3. I can't believe all the history within a three-minute walk. Well, yes I can believe it because: London!! But how amazing and wonderful. Just from the tiny bit of THE CITY we experienced, I know what you mean about gardens. I told everyone how surprised we were at that -- viewing gardens/parks wasn't why we went, but was one of the big things we'll always remember about our 3-month stay. Loved all the churches and the bells (nursery rhymes weren't for the faint-of-heart were they!) and the streets named after the occupations ... and the history of the cordweiners ... everything was fascinating. (And you know I agree with the comment above about a book!)

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  4. What a nice walk through places I know or rather remember. Also Circular line I have taken so often !

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  5. You just keep reminding me of how much there is to see in London besides the well-known tourist spots. Can't wait to get back! Just finished reading A Chelsea Concerto (excellent memoir of the Blitz) and my head is still in London circa WWII.

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  6. What a fascinating mix of medieval and contemporary and in between. I had never heard of a cordwainer. And then the 1913 station -- what a journey!

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  7. So much history packed into a small space!

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  8. Good grief - you packed so much in to that! So much research - and/or knowledge. Fabulous read. And I do agree about London's small spaces - some of them are just perfect. The trip to Santiago de Compostelo is something huge to look forward to!

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