Tag Archives: history of london

London Over and Under

London Over and Under: 

This is the post I have intended to write for a very long time but which has been sparked by the Tuesday Falling. In it the heroine lives under London in the forgotten and secret places and streets that still exist from all the previous Londons that have been built on and covered up.

I am going to go through the secret places that are mentioned in the book and then I will talk about some of the other secret places that exist. I take my research from a number of websites but also several books: Shakespeare’s London by Stephen Porter; I never knew that about London by Christopher Winn; London’s Lost Rivers by Paul Talling; Underground London by Stephen Smith; Vanished City by Tom Bolton; and London – City of Disappearances by Iain Sinclair.

 Places mentioned in Tuesday Falling:

The Marquis of Granby pub is at 41 Romney Street in the area known as Fitzrovia and also at 2 Rathbone Street!  Interestingly they are both owned by Nicholson’s.  It was named after the an 18th century war hero who rewarded officers from his own coin.  Only officers it would appear… John Manners – the Marquess as it was titled then, was a Lieutenant-General 1721-1779 and served in the 7 years war (which affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines) and eventually was named Commander In Chief of the Forces. It is said that he has more pubs named after him than any other person because he had the practice of setting up old soldiers from his regiment as publicans.

Brydges Place, Convent Garden,  is known as London’s narrowest alley. It is by the Coliseum and connects St Martin’s Lane with Bedfordbury.  The Marquis of Granby pub backs onto the alley – and it is this pub that was where Dickens drank. The Harp pub also has a back entrance into this alley harp-covent-garden-10.

Convent Garden itself is the heart of the market of the old Saxon town of London. Aldwych means ‘port’ in old Danish and we see his reference in the name of the church that peals out ‘Oranges and Lemons’ ie St Clemens (or Clements) Danes. [See the nursery rhyme details below] This current church is a Wren design on the ruins of an older church an dthe rumoured burial place of Harold Harefoot, the Danish king.

Westminster also sees the River Tyburn flowing through it. ‘Ty’ meaning boundary and one can see why here as there were many boundaries for it to chart through the ages.

Convent Garden is of course famous for its Flower Market and theatres and opera house where one could find various forms of companionship amongst those wandering there as well as purchase the odd nosegay…

Now it has been revitalised as a tourist destination with outdoor entertainment and stalls selling handicrafts and other trinkets as well as some trendy eateries.

Nursery Rhyme:

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

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 Bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Interestingly the earlier versions of the rhyme do not have the last 2 lines in them – those which are of course, the childrens’ favourites! However there is a another version of the rhyme which is more sinister:



Capitalism and the Jubilee Line: Tube discourses

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A History of Capitalism According to the Jubilee Line
by John O’Farrell

This was a very different book and I really think that Penguin have pushed the boat out by commissioning this series with tfl to celebrate the 150 years of the Tube.
According to the description this is: John O’Farrell, author of The Man Who Forgot His Wife, An Utterly Impartial History of Britain and Things Can Only Get Better, turns his comedic genius to the problem of capitalism, encapsulated in a Tube train full of passengers stuck underground; and what we get is a story and exposition wrapped up as a dream and his thoughts on just why things got bad in banking and for the economy. We get to the finger in the dyke problem and just who was responsible and various philosophers and philosophies explaining and arguing about the situation.
If nothing else read the blurb on the back where O’Farrell describes himself as 6 foot in his stilettos, 7 out of 10 on the Tube geekiness scale and was once caught adding a new tube line which went to house in a meeting..
However, we picked up this book up at random and now I love the whole series and can’t wait to read more – particularly the one Mind The Child: The Victoria Line by Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company.

4 stars for me – almost but not quite 5! oh and is it fiction? Well, yes of course, but also the contents of the arguments aren’t – so also non-fiction with quite a bit of history – and we have a really soft spot for the Jubilee Line as we use more than any other and its trains usually run every 2 minutes or less, so there is always one coming!

Jubilee Line

Jubilee Line (Photo credit: tiexano)


Walking London: Homerton and Hackney

Sutton House, the oldest house in Hackney. (Se...

Sutton House, the oldest house in Hackney. (September 2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently  we went to Hackney via Homerton. Yes, the East End of London and discovered a real gem of a Tudor House, and Georgian streets (conservation areas it turned out) and old houses rather disguised by not the best of shop-fronts .

It is really amazing to see this building on Homerton Road which, as you approach, is full of modern council flats, schools and so-on including warehouses and other business buildings, and then suddenly, there is a Tudor House facing you. A large (brick) Tudor house!

Sutton House is a National Trust owned Tudor house surviving in the heart of East London. It was built in 1535 by prominent courtier of Henry VIII, Sir Ralph Sadler, Sutton House retains much of the atmosphere of a Tudor home despite some alterations by later occupants, including a succession of merchants, Huguenot silk-weavers, and squatters…!

We didn’t manage to go in as it was actually closed, but noted when it was open, and also noted that at weekends there were markets that we could go to also.

We were actually going to pick up my husband’s bike from a shop which had resprayed it as the factory colour wasn’t to his liking. And as we continued walking down Homerton Road we saw Georgian row houses and cobbled side streets. The remnants of the original village of Homerton obviously.

Coming near to the centre we found a church with a walled garden which was the graveyard originally, as shown below.

The Walled Garden

Plan of Walled Garden

And even though the church seems old, just look at what was next door – a church tower from the original church from the 13th century and originally owned by the Knights Templar – the organisation that was originally set up to nurse soldiers in the Crusades but then seemed to acquire a lot of wealth and power as well as lands, and then fell foul of the Kings and Popes of Europe and was thus disbanded.

Wikipedia has the following details about Homerton:

The hamlet of Homerton (Humberton or Hummerton, named for the farm of a woman named Hunburh) developed for about a half-mile along the road on the north side of the now buried and lost Hackney Brook, within the vale formed by the brook. This led from the hamlet of Clopton, passing near the church of St Augustine at Hackney, then across the marshes and the crossing points of both the River Lea, and its tributary, Hackney Brook.

Homerton became a desirable suburb of London in the Tudor period, with many estates and grand houses being formed from the former Templar lands (Knights Templar of St. John of Jerusalem). The village was divided between Upper and Lower Homerton, with the later extending towards the marshes and the house at Hackney Wick. Upper Homerton was divided from the village of Hackney by the width of the rectory manor’s Church Field, and a path led to the churchyard. In 1538, this estate, including other fields lying along the brook, passed to the Tudor diplomat Sir Ralph Sadler.. This land formed part of his endowment of the Hospital of King James in Charterhouse, who continued to own the property until the 20th century.

Of interest to our American colleagues is the fact that at the Unitarian Gravel Pit Meeting House, the moral and political philosopher Richard Price, known for his support of the American Revolution, became morning preacher in 1770, while continuing his afternoon sermons at Newington Green Unitarian Church, on the green where he lived. Those who attended his sermons in Homerton included American politicians such as John Adams, who later became the second president of the United States, and his wife Abigail

The coming of the railways and the building of the fever hospital drove many of the wealthier residents away. The tightly packed Victorian streets provided homes for the clerks and employees of the new purpose built factories (like Berger Paints) being built in the area. From 1937 onwards, the London County Council built mass housing, sweeping away the worst of the slums, but also eliminating many older buildings containing shops on Homerton High Street, effectively destroying it as a commercial area.

Homerton is close by Hackney (and part of the London Borough of Hackney) as we have said above and Hackney has an even earlier known history as the Roman road, Ermine Street, forms the western edge of the borough. Most of the land was covered with open oak and hazel woodlands, with marshland around the rivers and streams that crossed the area. Hackney lay within the Catuvellauni tribal territory. The eastern boundary of the borough is marked by the River Lea. This was an ancient boundary between pre-Roman tribes, and in the Roman era, was tidal up to Hackney Wick.

Just for interest I took this photo of the outside of an old Irish pub – now semi-derelict but still it should be conserved I think! But why the elephant in the centre of the top panel I can’t say as that was not the pub’s name…

Old Irish Pub

Perhaps the best thing of modern Hackney is the Hackney Empire where many notable acts are performed. We  booked our seats for a great event the premiere of the ‘Songs of Migration’ by Hugh Masekela –South African trumpeter and composer. The show, they said, would be like an extravagant jazz gig with music and song from across Africa. It was a standing ovation for many minutes on its completion and it did fulfil all our expectations and more. But, for us there was a flaw. Much of the dialogue and the songs were in various languages and very few were in English. As a result we had to guess much of the action. We would really have appreciated a crib sheet with the main ideas of each song so that we could follow the story better. That said, we did enjoy the music and were not the only ones judging from the following review: http://msethnicminorityuk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/songs-of-migration-at-hackney-empire.html. If you get a chance to go to see this show – do!