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May 2020 1 posts

Guy Fairbank | | Guy the London Guide, History
In the mid 1600s two Frenchmen, the grandly named Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers (1618-1696) and his brother-in-law Pierre Ésprit Radisson (c. 1640-1710), were exploring the vast interior of what is now northern Canada. Working their way inland via the many rivers that flow into Hudson Bay, they came across a wealth of fur, in particular on a rodent with a large paddle-shaped tail and prominent teeth. “Ideal for coats,” they reported, and went to find a backer. Their fellow countrymen in Québec and France showed little interest but the English settlers were far more receptive.  The two intrepid trappers travelled to England and managed to gain an audience with the king, Charles II.  He agreed to finance an expedition into the area north of Lake Superior to search for the famed fur.  Chouart’s and Radisson’s trip proved a complete success: they returned with a large quantity of beaver pelts with the promise of more, along with information on potential trading routes. On May 2nd 1670 Charles II signed a Royal Charter which granted exclusive trading rights of the Hudson Bay watershed to “the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay.”  Thus the oldest trading company in North America was born. Given the land they were had rights to was fifteen times the size of Great Britain, the Company established a series of forts along the Hudson Bay coastline. Some developed into important cities such as Winnipeg and Calgary. With those in place they could begin dealing with the local Cree, but if they assumed this would be straightforward they would be disappointed. It took time to develop a protocol with First Nations people. Business began with the passing around of the ceremonial pipe. If the Cree left the pipe at the fort that indicated they would return the following year. Once the usual exchange of gifts was over they could begin bargaining. Firearms were what the locals wanted and not any old musket....

April 2020 1 posts

Guy Fairbank | | Guy the London Guide, History
Currently closed for 3 years, Hammersmith Bridge is one of London’s most attractive crossings. There’s been a bridge connecting Hammersmith and Barnes for nearly 200 years, and ever since the first one was opened in 1827 there have been complaints about its strength. With Hammersmith becoming an important agricultural and industrial part of west London there had been an increasing need to add more river crossings. With this in mind the authorities turned to local engineer William Tierney Clark, who’s best known for the Széchenyi Chain Bridge that spans the Danube in Budapest. Even at the start of the work, when the Duke of Sussex blessed the bridge, there were concerns about the bridge’s capacity to take weight. This came to a climax in 1870 when some 10,000 people gathered on the bridge to witness the annual University Boat Race. Newspapers reported ‘the shameful overcrowding’ as the bridge swayed. There was only one solution: build a stronger, safer structure. This time they turned to Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the go-to engineer most famous for designing London’s sewer system. Work began on the new bridge in 1884 and was completed in 1887, with the Prince of Wales officially opening the bridge on 11 June of that year.  While Bazalgette’s new bridge was being constructed, a temporary bridge was erected alongside it to allow traffic to continue crossing the river between Hammersmith and Barnes. A group of people living in Barnes, concerned about the difficulties they would face to reach Hammersmith while the suspension bridge  was being redeveloped, campaigned for the temporary bridge to be provided, but a letter from a Barnes resident printed in the London Evening Standard on 3 December 1885 gives us an insight into locals’ experiences with this temporary bridge: “Sir, May I inquire, through your journal, how much longer the public is expected to tolerate the miserable and disgraceful condition of the Bridge erected over the...

March 2020 1 posts

Guy Fairbank | | Guy the London Guide, Design
Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington and, among its many treasures, you’ll find a rare survival of pre-Great Fire architecture from the City of London. Peter Pindar’s house originally stood on Bishopsgate, about where Liverpool Street Station now stands. When the station was developed the Chairman and Directors of the Great Eastern Railway Company gave it to the museum.  It’s made of oak and dates from around 1600, when merchant Paul Pindar had it built - more of him later. The impressive full-height windows would have originally been glazed, either with imported glass or local greenish glass. The semi-circular window shape was a type used in grand houses since the 1530s. The storeys project over the one beneath, a feature known as ‘jettying’, a design common in English timber houses from the 1300s. ‘Grotesque’ brackets would have been added to  support the jettying. The panels used to decorate the house were a new concept in design and probably could have been chosen from pattern books. They’re quite thick, 7.5cm deep, and again, made from solid oak, carved and nailed onto the oak framework. You can see the arms of the City of London in the centre; also look for the thistle - in reference to the new king, James I. Pindar would have used the standard London practice of using a pre-assembled timber frame, as it was quicker and cheaper than brick or stone. The timbers would have been measured and cut in the carpenter’s yard, then assembled on the spot, using mortice and tenon joints, and fastened using pegs. You can see some of the carpenter’s marks on the timber. What is extraordinary is that modern buildings in the City are still constructed in a similar way! As the streets are still so narrow, it’s easier to pre-fabricate much of the building off-site, ship it in and build upwards. In medieval times you would have visited  Wood Street, off Cheapside, to get your Ikea-style house. Evidence suggests tha...

February 2020 1 posts

Guy Fairbank | | Guy the London Guide, Business
London loves to give its skyscrapers nicknames, and one of the newest has been christened the ‘Can of Ham’. Its actual name is 70 St Mary Axe, and even that street has an interesting derivation. The Can of Ham has been designed by Foggo Associates, whose distinctive work can also be seen above Cannon Street Station and along Queen Victoria Street. Their latest construction has been designed in response to local views and comprises 24 floors and 28,000 square metres of office space. Its unique design could be said to incorporate just 3 facades and no roof; instead, curved glass and anodised aluminium wrap around the building - almost like a tin (of ham).  With ecological matters at the forefront the Can can boast some very green credentials, with borehole thermal energy and vertical shading fins added to the sides to make the most of the sun. Workers are encouraged to cycle in, and 328 bicycle spaces, 360 lockers and 32 showers have been provided. At present you can gain access to the foyer - and it’s well worth doing so. The polite security guards even give you a booklet all about Foggo. Sidley Austin, a US-based law firm have moved in. It is hoped the public will be able to get to the gallery terrace on the 21st floor, as the Corporation is keen for new builds to have some open access. As for the name of St Mary Axe? It comes from the church of St Mary Axe - or to give its full name:  St Mary the Virgin and St Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins - which no longer exists.  The church is said to have possessed one of the three axes with which the maidens were beheaded by Attila the Hun. The church was suppressed in the 1560s and all that’s left is a commemorative plaque. ...

January 2020 1 posts

WebBoss | | General Articles, Education
Renowned actors, sportsmen and musicians have been educated in Hammersmith. Earlier this month a group of 30 followed me along the River Thames to learn about some former pupils of Latymer School and St Paul’s School. Latymer Upper School is nearly 400 years old, having been founded in 1624 by Edward Latymer (1557-1627). A prosperous lawyer, he eft part of wealth for the clothing and education of “eight poor boys” from Hammersmith. The clothing, which included a doublet, a pair of breeches, a shirt incorporated a red cross on the left sleeve, a pair of woollen stockings and shoes, was to be distributed twice a year on Ascension Day and All Saints Day.The boys were to learn reading in English and 'God's true religion' at existing petty schools, where they were to remain until the age of 13.  Its motto was paulatim ergo certe (‘Slowly therefore surely’), incorporating his name. Latymer was the son of an Ipswich cleric, who later became Treasurer of Westminster Abbey. Edward went to St John’s College, Cambridge and eventually became a wealthy lawyer. He purchased manor of Butterwick in Hammersmith but lived mostly near St Dunstan-in-the-West ‘at the sign of the Cock’, where he died in 1627. He never married, had no children and left most of his money to the parish of Hammersmith. Latimer Road Tube station and Latymer Roads and Court named after him. The school was initially at Fulham but by 1863 it moved to King Street, Hammersmith. In 1950s it became a direct grant grammar school, with many pupils’ fees paid by local government but became fully private in 1975. Famous people who went there include: Music: two members of White Lies; jazz musician Cliff Townsend, father of Pete; Sport: rugby player Dan Luger; bowler and cricket correspondent Simon Hughes; Politics: MPs Andy Slaughter MP for Hammersmith; Others: Heston Blumenthal, Lily Cole, Milton Jones; Film and theatre: Ian McKellen’s uncle teacher; Mel Smi...

August 2018 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Places & Travel
  Brompton Cemetery lies within the shadow of Chelsea FC’s football stadium but you’ll find many more famous people buried under its 40 acres. It’s one of the 7 great cemeteries that sprung up around London from the 1830s to solve the chronic shortage of burial plots. Highgate Cemetery might be the most famous one but Brompton gives it a run for its money. The construction of the cemeteries coincided with the coming of the railways, which meant the trains could transport the stone and granite needed to construct the impressive monuments that fill the grounds. For the first time funeral directors sprung up, and you could order your memorial from a shop in Regent Street. Location mattered, with the more prestigious plots to be found on the main avenue. Catacombs became a new feature but didn’t prove as popular as abroad. Cheaper than a dug grave they appealed to those who feared being buried alive! Brompton started burying Londoners from 1840 and was run as a commercial concern - not that the owners managed to make a profit. Eventually it was taken over by the council but now it’s curiously part of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Recently the Cemetery received funding to restore the space and chapel, and build a new visitors’ centre and cafe. For £1 you can pick up a map and start discovering the deceased, which include: John Snow: aside from being a pioneer of the use of chloroform, it was he worked on finding the cause of cholera - which he did, when he traced an outbreak to a polluted water pump in Soho. There’s a pub named after him. Emmeline Pankhurst: the eldest of 10 children, this founder of the Women’s Suffragette Movement and her husband, who was 20 years her senior, were both politically active.  Her memorial may well be by Eric Gill. Sir Henry Cole: this developer of the Victoria & Albert Museum lies in a sad and broken grave on the eastern side. There are hopes it can be restored. Frederi...

June 2018 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Christianity
High in the triforium, some 16m above the nave of Westminster Abbey, are The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. It’s accessed by the Weston Tower, designed by Surveyor to the Fabric Ptolemy Dean and the first structural addition to the 1,000 year-old Abbey since the 1700s.  As you ascend the 108 steps look for the 17 bands of stone used in its construction, which includes Purbeck marble, Reigate stone, Kentish ragstone and Caen stone - different building material used throughout the Abbey’s history.  When you finally reach the top you’re in for a treat, for here the Abbey has on display some of its finest treasures. The galleries are divided into 4 sections: the Abbey and National Memory, Building Westminster Abbey, Worship and Daily Life, and Westminster Abbey and the Monarchy. Mind your head as you study the objects: the gallery is reinforced with oak beams installed by Sir Christopher Wren. Highlights include the funeral effigy of Viscount Nelson (St Paul’s Cathedral, where he’s buried, wasn’t too happy); the mortuary roll of Abbot Islip, which gives us a glimpse of what the Abbey looked like before the Reformation, the medieval Westminster Retable altarpiece and corbel heads from the 1200s. There’s even the marriage certificate of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. On the north side are the royals: funeral effigies of previous kings and queens, dating back to Edward III. His wooden effigy shows evidence of the stroke he had just before he died, aged 64.  Mary I displays a prominent belly, perhaps the effect of the ovarian cancer that killed her. More chillingly is the head of Henry VII, an unpopular king whose death in 1509 was cheered by the people.  Further on are wax effigies of the Stuart kings: a tall Charles II, wearing the oldest example of the Order of the Garter, and a diminutive William III beside his more stately wife Mary II.  But it’s not the wonderful exhibits that steal the show, it’s the...

May 2018 2 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
In southeast London lie the remains of what was once a favourite palace of a young King Henry VIII, his father and grandfather. Eltham Palace dates back to the 1300s, when it was given to Edward II. In the 1470s Edward IV had a grand hall built - it was where he spent his last Christmas in 1482 - but by the 1600s this moated manor had gone out of fashion. It took a member of the textile magnates, the Courtaulds, to transform it into a place of luxury, with all the latest designs and gadgetry. For the last 20 years English Heritage have looked after it, and on a sunny spring day it is a glorious site. Eltham Palace is very much a palace of two halves. On one wing stands the still impressive 15th century hall, while to the south is the 1930s wing, designed by architects Seely and Paget. The palace was bought by Stephen Courtauld and his Romanian-born wife Virginia, who wanted to create a house that would entertain the bright, beautiful and talented of 1930s society - even royalty. Courtauld also used his millions to follow his passions for collecting art, sailing his yacht Virginia and developing the British film industry. You step foot first into the round entrance hall, which has been used in countless films and TV series (most recently, in The Crown). It features impressive intarsia inlay and a round rug that demands to be walked upon (you’re not supposed to). Leading off the hall you’ll come upon the elegant Italianate dining room, the boudoir and library, while two staircases take you to the bedrooms of Stephen and Virginia, as well as her nephews Peter and Paul, whose shared bathroom was the only one with a shower (that dispensed cold water). It was also where the Courtaulds’ pet lemur Mah-Jongg slept in its special cage. Go past the Art Deco delights and you’re in the magnificent medieval hall, with its stunning hammerbeam roof. Once 2,000 people were entertained here, while later a young Prince Henry Tudor was brought up her...

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Design
     Though the City today seems dominated by high rise developments and soaring skyscrapers, you can still find some pockets of earlier office buildings. One such gem is Holland House, tucked away in Bury Street, behind the iconic Gherkin. This impressive Art Nouveau structure was designed for the Dutch shipping magnate Kroller-Mullers by a fellow countryman Hendrik Petrus Berlage. It dates from 1914-1916 is quite unlike any other building within the Square Mile. Berlage was inspired by a visit to the United States; indeed Holland House wouldn’t seem out of place in Chicago or New York. It has a narrow, 4-storey frontage that faces south east. Its heart is steel framed but its exterior is clad in wide, grey-green faience tiles and chamfered uprights. Step up to the entrance and look up to the ceiling and you’ll see some remarkable mosaics. Inside there are more delights apparently, with glass lanterns and stained glass, the result of a collaboration between Berlage and the artist Bart van der Leek. Don’t forget to walk around the building as you’ll see an addition from the 1960s, a ship’s prow by J Mendes da Costa. Now I need to charm the present tenants, Landmark Plc and gain entry…       ...

April 2018 2 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Christianity
Within a stone’s throw of St Paul’s Cathedral stands the impressive church of St Vedast-alias-Foster. St Vedast was an obscure 6th century Flemish saint and Foster is the English corruption of that name, and on Foster Lane you’ll find this Wren church. The church itself is well worth a look inside, as it contains many 17th century furnishings which have been taken from other City churches. The steeple is very fine too. It’s been attributed to Nicholas Hawksmoor but there’s no actual evidence. What marks the church out is what is found to the north of the entrance. Fountain Court is a charming little garden, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Cheapside. You’d hardly know you were in the City. Around the paved courtyard are several interesting artworks to discover. In the north-east corner is a Vintners’ Company plate dated 1711. What it’s doing there is a slight mystery but the Company did own property in Foster Lane (Nos. 3 & 4) in 1548 and sold it in 1945 to provide a new rectory for St Vedast's. Since the church was bombed during World War Two it may simply have been moved. In another corner is an elegant stone relief of Canon Mortlock, who was  rector of the church after the war and oversaw its reconstruction by Stephen Dykes Bower. It is by the distinguished sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein, who carved it in 1936. Mortlock was a friend of Epstein’s and gave the eulogy at Epstein’s funeral in 1959. While Mortlock was rector the distinguished archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan worshipped at the church. He was the second husband of the crime writer Agatha Christie and spent many years digging in Iraq. A souvenir of his excavations can also be seen in the courtyard. It’s a baked brick from ancient Kalhu in northern Iraq, inscribed with cuneiform writing from the 9th century BC Assyrian king Shalmaneser. Pop in during the week and you’ll find more little gems within this shady courtyard.     ...

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Design
How many times have you crossed Westminster Bridge and gazed up at the large Lion Brewery feline on the southern end of the bridge? Or admired the two Chinese figures above the doorway to Twining’s in the Strand? Both sculptures were the product of a remarkable businesswoman by the name of Eleanor Coade. She was born in 1733 in Devon, the daughter of an unsuccessful wool merchant. In her thirties she headed for London and began to set up her own drapery business. She added the title ‘Mrs’ as a courtesy as it was highly unusual at the time for an unmarried woman to run their own company. Before long Mrs Coade had gone into partnership with a Daniel Pincot, who ran an artificial stone business in Lambeth but they soon fell out. Undaunted, Eleanor Coade established her own factory at Narrow Wall, the present day site of the Royal Festival Hall.Mrs Coade did not invent artificial stone - that had been around for some time. What she did do, however, was perfect the formula.  She called her product ‘lithodipyra’ (Greek for twice-fired stone), though in fact it wasn’t stone - it was a ceramic, a mix of clay, terracotta, silicates and glass, fired at a very high temperature for four days. The result was an extremely durable material, impervious to rain and pollutants and ideally suited to sculpture. The eighteenth century was a boom time for architecture and design. The neo-classical designs of Robert Adam, William Chambers and Sir John Soane craved ornamentation and Mrs Coade’s factory was much in demand.  She used her entrepreneurial skills to the maximum, keeping the recipe a closely guarded secret and only employing the most talented of people. You can find her work all over the country, from her home in Lyme Regis to stately Ham House in Surrey as well as in the City. On the exterior of Trinity House look out for two medallions containing portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte, the arms of the Corporation, and a friez...

February 2018 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
It was in 1518 that King Henry VIII granted his physician Thomas Linacre the right to establish an institution that would grant licences to those with qualifications in 'physic' to practise their art. Initially this was in London and its surroundings but 5 years later their remit was extended by Act of Parliament to the whole of England. 500 years ago its membership numbered just 12; today that figure is 15,000. The Royal College of Physicians has had 5 addresses in that time. For many years they  were in Amen Corner and Warwick Lane in the City (a plaque marks their original home) but since 1964  they’ve been in Regent’s Park, surrounded by the cream stucco buildings of John Nash. Their Grade 1 listed headquarters was designed by the controversial modernist architect Sir Denis Lasdun, famous for his work on the National Theatre. Though its exterior cream tiles and dark brick may clash with their Regency neighbours, inside Lasdun created an airy and functional space, inspired by anatomy. Around the central atrium distinguished physicians look down on today’s doctors, while many cabinets show a fascinating collection of historical medical instruments and artefacts. Some are not for the squeamish. A 17th father and son by the name of Pujean left a chest of some particularly painful pieces: a corkscrew-type mechanism for removing bullet holes from the battlefield; a trepanation saw for relieving head pain; instruments for performing lithotomy  - an excruciating operation a 25 year-old Samuel Pepys experienced and survived. Other fascinating objects include an impressive display of 17th and 18th century apothecary jars, made in Lambeth, which contained everything from simple concoctions to ground-up foxes’ lungs. A rare survival is a set of anatomical tables from Padua. They contain real human veins, nerves and arteries and were used as teaching aids. There are only 2 surviving sets, the other is with the Royal College of Surge...

January 2018 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
Thanks to London Transport Museum’s Hidden London programme, a number of lost Tube stations and forgotten tunnels are occasionally open to the public. One such gem is Clapham South’s deep-level shelter. Descending 180 steps and 36m down you get to an engineering marvel: a series of tunnels built during World War Two to protect London’s citizens during the Blitz. At the height of the Luftwaffe’s bombing raids the Government commissioned 8 shelters, capable of holding some 64,000 citizens and well away from any potential raid. They employed miners to hand dig 2x 30m vertical shafts down. Then the miners created 2 horizontal shafts, each one over 400m in length. These were named after British naval commanders, from Anson (Lord Admiral 1697 - 1762) to Parry (Arctic explorer 1790 - 1855). Conditions were pretty primitive. Those seeking refuge had to bring their own bedding and provisions but there was free medical care available and a canteen selling food. London Transport wasn’t subject to rationing, so jam tarts and sandwiches were available and proved very popular, though they complained about the exorbitant price for tea (2d). Quarters were cramped, smelly and smokey but safe. The shelters became available after the Blitz eased off but when the V-1 and V-2 rockets began to hit London they came back into use. After the War the tunnels’ use was changed to offer cheap if basic accommodation. When some West Indian immigrants arrived on the Empire Windrush in 1948, they ended up staying underground. Fortunately they soon found accommodation and work, many appropriately with London Underground, and no one stayed more than a month. Later on the shelter was used for the Festival of Britain in 1951. For 3s a night you could stay a night, then catch the F1 bus direct to the festival. Up until the late 1990s it was used for storing archives and now it’s occasionally open to the public. Register with the London Transport Mu...

November 2017 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Higher Education
  Dominating the leafy and literary area of Bloomsbury is the monumental Senate House. It’s part of the University of London and was built in the 1930s by that great architect of the London Underground, Charles Holden. It was built on land given by the Dukes of Bedford and funded by, amongst others, the Rockefeller family, Marks and Spencer and City livery companies. The shell of the building was made from steel, encased by hardy Portland stone, which has remarkable anti-pollution qualities: it’s only been cleaned twice in its 80 years. When it was completed in 1937 the Senate House was the tallest building (64m high) after St Paul’s and was the first true skyscraper. Its first 4 floors houses the administrative offices of the University, a collection of 18 institutions, which include University and King’s Colleges, SOAS and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Above the first few levels lies the library, which houses nearly 2 million books and stages regular free exhibitions. During World War Two Senate House became the Ministry of Information, who made propaganda films here. The writer George Orwell worked there too, drawing inspiration for his Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984. There’s even a Room 101! Inside, the ground floor is an Art Deco gem, with travertine tiles, geometric decoration and seeing staircases. Not surprisingly it’s been used regularly in filming, standing in for Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, as well Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Jack Ryan, Muppets Most Wanted, The Theory of Everything; and the Bollywood Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Occasionally  you can visit the rooftop, where you can enjoy an unrivalled 360º view of the London skyline; over to the City, with its skyscrapers; or as far as Battersea Power Station. Best of all, is the birds-eye view of the British Museum: you look down over the Great Court and the round Reading Room. There was once  a plan to con...

October 2017 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Automotive
The Mail Rail once transported letters and parcels from Paddington Station to as far as the Tower of London. When it closed in 2003 after more than 75 years’ service the Post Office were stuck with what to do with it. Ideas varied from converting it to a subterranean cycle lane to creating an extensive mushroom farm. But then they thought: why not open it to the public?  London’s newest attraction opened in 3 years ago and has already proved popular. Discovering a part of hidden London is always exciting and this journey under the streets of London is no exception. You travel about 1.6km along the tracks, at no great speed but enough for younger visitors to be excited. In tiny carriages with room for only one or two passengers we trundled along, stopping at several points along the way, where the history of the line is revealed in colourful and amusing high-tech displays. But not everything is ultra-modern - look out for stalactites!  The commentary is supplied by two former workers, who lend an air of authenticity and provide many an anecdote. At one point all the lights went out, which might unsettle those of a nervous disposition, but it added to the thrill of the ride and illustrated how important back-up power was. Once you disembark from the carriages do make time to learn more about how the Mail Rail worked. Look out for the displays of items employees left - it’s as though they’ve just popped out for a cigarette. Then if dressing up is your thing - and it definitely was for a certain City Guide - then don a brown coat and cloth cap and start sorting out the letters. Why should children get all the fun? Mail Rail is open everyday from 10am to 5pm. Visit postalmuseum.org for more information.     ...

June 2017 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Arts
The City of London is not well-known for its 1930s buildings. Between the Daily Express and Daily Telegraph buildings on Fleet Street, the impressive Ibex House in the Minories and the delightful Fox Fine Wines shop in Moorgate (formerly the Fox umbrella shop) you could be stumped trying to think of any more modernist monuments within the Square Mile. Walk out of Cannon Street Station, however, and look for the small Nii Haw sushi bar straight ahead of you. Before it fed local office workers with dim sum this cute and curvaceous outlet was a branch of TM Lewin. But 80 years ago 115 Cannon Street - to give its correct address - was the Mortimer Gall Electrical Centre showroom. The previous building had had a traditional shop front, and perhaps because they were after a contemporary look that reflected the state-of-the-art products they sold, the retailer commissioned the architects E. Maxwell Fry and Walter Gropius to design something more eye-catching. The result: a sleek combination of glass and metal, and a rare example of Bauhaus architecture in London, or indeed Britain. Fry and Gropius chose to use Vitrolite, a shiny glass material that first appeared in Britain in 1930 and was widely used as cladding for shopfronts and fascias at that time Vitrolite can be best seen on that gem of Art Deco architecture, the Daily Express building (Owen Williams 1930-32). Its white version even featured in operating theatres, since it was easy to clean and impervious to water. The first thing you notice when you see Maxwell Fry and Gropius’s shop is the striking way the black glass and wide, clear windows curve inwards at an angle, away from the street, with the entrance door set into the side. The plain glass doors are made from stainless steel and given a satin finish: the long cellulosed pull handles and neat locks complete the utilitarian look. Below the broad windows runs a course of glass bricks that form the stall-riser, while ...

May 2017 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
Under an undistinguished office block in Lower Thames Street, opposite the Custom House and below St Dunstan-in-the-East lies a hidden gem of Roman London: a Roman house and bathhouse. It lies some way back from the river but in its heyday this building complex would have overlooked the River Thames from its hillside location. It may have been a ‘mansio’, which offered comfortable accommodation to officials - a bit like the nearby Premier Inn! When you venture down there’s a surprising amount to see. What survives are the north and east wings of the L-shaped house but there’s no trace of the west wing. The east side was kept warm with underfloor heating (most welcome during those cold and damp British winters), which is well preserved. The house is believed to have been built in the late 2nd century AD. In the following century a bathhouse was added in the courtyard. Bathers entered it from the north side, where there were two small rooms either side - a tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room) - before they finished cooling off in the frigidarium (cold room). It seems the northern wing was abandoned before the rest of the building complex. A hoard of over 270 coins, dated to after 395AD, was found in the furnace wall, which suggests it was still in use well into the 400s. A mid-5th century Saxon brooch was also unearthed, which may have been dropped by an early tourist. Between April and November you can also visit this underground bathhouse on Saturdays, which is run by the Museum of London. For more Roman ruins in the City of London, check out the amphitheatre under the Guildhall Art Gallery or trace parts of the city wall around Barbican or Tower Hill.    ...

April 2017 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
When the Romans arrived in Britain in AD43 they looked for a place to found a settlement along the Thames. A patch of high ground to the north, between two rivers, was the ideal spot - and so the city of Londinium was founded. Those rivers were the Fleet and Walbrook, two sources of drinking water. Today you can still follow the courses of those lost rivers: the Fleet flows into the Thames at Blackfriars, while the Walbrook begins around Finsbury Circus and ends up going down Dowgate, by Cannon Street.The Walbrook may originally have acted as a sort of boundary. Whatever its purpose was, this waterlogged valley has preserved some remarkable finds unearthed by archaeologists from the Museum of London. Recently some went on show at the Museum. Digs took place at Copthall Court and Angel Court, to the east of Moorgate, as well as the National Safe Deposit Company and Bucklersbury House, close to the Mansion House.   Among the artefacts they found were some Roman tools, including a bradawl and stamp, the latter with the mark ‘MPBR’, which stands for M(ETALLA) P(ROVINCIAE) BR(ITANNIAE). Items with a stamp are quite common, but the tool used to make such market are rare. Other implements were also marked with the owner’s name; Agathangelus operated throughout Gaul for some 50 years in the 1st century AD. Some tools also indicated the various skills and occupations of these early citizens, such as a coopers’ croze, used for making the groove in which the barrelhead was inserted. Excavations at the new Bloomberg building, situated on the Walbrook, have also yielded some amazing finds, including the first known reference to London.  ...

February 2017 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
One of the oldest documents the Corporation hold is a slip of parchment that's over  950 years old It is the Charter of King William I to the City of London and it is the oldest document in the Corporation’s archives. After defeating Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William marched on London. He never conquered the City - that’s why he’s never referred to as ‘William the Conqueror’ there. Instead he came to an agreement with the City that he would uphold the rights and privileges of all Londoners if they would acknowledge him as sovereign - which they did. Apart from its amazing survival, what makes this document so remarkable is that was written in Old English, not in William’s Norman French.  The seal is another important relic. The wording is as follows: ‘William, king, greets William bishop and Geoffrey portreeve all the burghers within London, French and English friendlily and I inform you that I will that ye-two be all of the laws worthy which ye-two were on Edward the king’s day and I will that each child be his father’s inheritance-taker after his father’s day and I will not suffer that any man to you any wrong offer. God you keep.’   In 2010 the William Charter was inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register.    ...

October 2016 2 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, sculpture
A few miles north of London, just off the M25, lie the market towns of Waltham Abbey and nearby Waltham Cross. Both settlements have seen better days but they’re full of history that stretches back 1,000 years. Waltham Cross takes its name from one of the Eleanor Crosses that King Edward I erected after his wife Eleanor of Castile (d. 1290) died at Harby, Nottinghamshire.    Eleanor and Edward were happily married for 36 years and she bore him 14 children. When she died he was devastated and planned to erect a series of funeral monuments, wherever the funeral cortege stopped on its way to Westminster Abbey. Of the 12 he erected, from Lincoln to Charing Cross, only three still stand: Geddington and Hardingstone, both in Northamptonshire; and the one at Waltham Cross. As the cortege reached London, the final two were erected, at Cheapside and at Charing Cross. Both were pulled down in the English Civil War. The original Charing Cross is the place from where distances to London are measured. Today it’s marked by a plaque behind the equestrian statue of King Charles I. It was also where executions took place: in 1660 Samuel Pepys witnessed the hanging, drawing and quartering of Major-General Thomas Harrison and famously remarked he was ‘looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition’. The present Charing Cross, outside the station, was designed in 1865 by EM Barry. The Eleanor Cross at Waltham was the work of Roger de Grundale and Dymenge of Leger and was erected in 1294. Though it has been restored somewhat (the original statues are said to be in the V&A Museum), it still stands out among the usual chain stores and charity shops of the High Street. You can see the shields bearing the ancient arms of England, Ponthieu, as well as Castile quartering Leon. Above, Eleanor looks down.  ...

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
  Chiswick may be more famous for its eponymous Palladian house, Arts and Crafts Bedford Park and Fuller's Brewery but it’s also the site of the first recorded V2 rocket attack during the Second World War. On the evening of 8 September 1944, a rocket exploded in the middle of Staveley Road, Chiswick, outside number 5. Staveley Road lies just south of Chiswick House, the elegant mansion built in the 1720s for the 2nd Earl of Burlington by William Kent, and comprises a series of smart family houses constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. The explosion created a crater 9m in diameter and 2.5m deep. Three people were killed, including a 3 year-old girl, Rosemary Clarke. She died in her cot and was probably suffocated by the blast. Next door at number 3, Ada Harrison, aged 68 was also killed. She and her husband ran a handful of sweet shops and newsagents. The final casualty was Sapper Bernard Browning, whose family lived in nearby Elmwood Road. He was on leave and was on the way to Chiswick Station to visit his girlfriend, when he was caught in the blast. Though he was buried in the family plot his headstone is white, signifying a war grave as he died in active service. The V2 rocket had been launched by the Wehrmacht from the Netherlands and took just 7 minutes to reach its destination. Measuring nearly 14m long and carrying a 1 tonne warhead, more than 3,000 of these ballistic missiles were fired. The highest number of casualties took place on 25 November 1944, when 160 people were killed in New Cross, South East London. A memorial to this tragic event was unveiled by the mayor of Hounslow in 2004, with a similar memorial being unveiled in Wassemar, a suburb of The Hague, where the V2 was launched.   ...

May 2016 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
  Tower Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world, and behind its iconic structure lies an amazing story. In the late 19th century London had grown to a city of 6 million, with a third of them living in the East End. To cross the river was a real problem - it still is - with the building of a foot tunnel by the Tower of London wholly inadequate. To solve the problem a competition was launched to design a bridge that had a clearance of 9 metres, so masted ships could pass beneath it and reach the Pool of London . The winners were Sir Horace Jones (who happened to be on the selection committee) and Sir John Wolfe Barry, son of Sir Charles. Their ingenious design is made from steel, with brick and Portland stone covering the metalwork. The solid piers took 4 years to build and involved employing divers, who were sent down to level the river bed. The work was hazardous and 5 workers lost their lives, but compared to other huge projects at that time fatalities were very light. The steel components were made in Glasgow and shipped down in 5 ton segments, so the gas-powered lifts could manage the weight. Scotsmen were also responsible for its construction too, using their experience and expertise from building the recent Forth Railway Bridge. Tower Bridge finally opened in 1894 at a cost of £1.1m. The bridge is a mix of brilliant engineering: part suspension, part cantilever and part box girder. It works on a bascule system (French for see-saw), using steam-driven hydraulics to raise or lower the roadway.  Nowadays electricity is used. The whole system takes just 90 seconds to open. In its first year Tower Bridge was lifted 6,100 times and even today it’s used over 1,000 times a year. When it opened the walkway above the road proved popular with all sorts of people, including pickpockets and ‘women who should know better’, so it was decided to close it. The walkway reopened only recently, with a new £900,000 glass floor -...

March 2016 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
    In an anonymous-looking warehouse in Hackney you’ll find the Museum of London Archaeology Archives. And behind the brick and steel building in N1 I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a tour, led by two enthusiastic volunteers. Here are all manner of finds, from masses of bones to shards of pottery and large items deemed to big to store, are safely stored in buff-coloured boxes, clearly labelled. When anything is found at a dig they are deemed either ‘registered’ - of significant interest or man-made - or ‘general’, for items like broken shards or fragments of bone. Whenever a developer wants to build a new structure they have to let the archaeologists survey and excavate the area - and pay for it. The City is enjoying a building boom at the moment and MOLA have never been busy but this has not always been the case: the archives for recession-hit 1990 looked very thin compared to other years. Sadly I wasn’t allowed to take any photos but I did see some fascinating objects. First up was a brick, but no ordinary brick, because it was found in Pudding Lane. It was there, on 2 September 1666 that the Great Fire of London broke out. Several nearby buildings stored tar for repairing ships and this was extremely flammable. It was wonderful to touch this piece of charred clay, scorched black from 17th century flames. Bone has been a common tool for Man for millennia, and we saw artefacts from Roman and Saxon times, including a comb that was used for nits. There were glass bottles found from the Olympic site in Stratford, medieval tiles from Westminster and - my favourite - a medieval ‘Guy’ jug, made from earthenware and given a green glaze. It was in perfect condition. We saw archaeological reports, drawings  and photos from sites and even visitors’ books, complete with comments (“don’t build!”, “do!”). Our last stop took us to the Glass and Ceramic Store, which houses complete pieces, including the archive fr...

February 2016 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
The Trial of the Pyx is an ancient ceremony that dates back to the 13th century. Its purpose is to check that all UK coinage produced at The Royal Mint is of sufficient weight and composition. The name ‘pyx’ refers to the boxes in which the coins are carried and comes form the Pyx chamber in Westminster Abbey, where important artefacts were housed. We believe there was some quality control in early medieval times but it was in the reign of Henry II (1154-89) that regular tests took place By the mid-13th century the Trial had begun to take the form we know today. Early trials were first held in Westminster until 1580, when Elizabeth I decreed that: “My friends the Wardens of the Mystery of Goldsmiths of the City of London” should take over responsibility - and it has done so to this day. In practical terms this made sense, since the Assay Office, who issue the leopard’s head hallmark that you’ll see on any London sterling silver, was sited next door. The Trial is presided over by the senior judge on the Royal Courts of Justice, who is known as the Queen’s Remembrancer.  It is the oldest judicial position in the country and the present holder is Barbara Fontaine, who is the first female to hold that office. She begins proceedings by giving a short speech about the role, before the jury, comprising Wardens and selected liverymen of the Goldsmiths’ Company, along with the head of the Assay Office.  The benchmark against which coins are to be tested for “form and fineness” is known as the Trial Plate and include modern-day gold, silver and cupro-nickel metal plates. We saw the counting and weighing of the coins, which represented each batch of each denomination minted. Each set of coins, numbering 50, were in sealed packets. In front of each juryman and woman were 2 bowls, one wooden and one copper. Each member then counted the set, placed one coin in the copper bowl for assaying and the rest in the wooden b...

January 2016 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
    Across the river on the Southwark side, opposite Cannon Street Station, you can see a small Tudor-like ship. This is the Golden Hinde II, a full-sized replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous ship that circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580 and made Drake and Queen Elizabeth I very rich. In December 1577 Drake set out from Plymouth with 5 ships, which included the Pelican; however this was changed to the Golden Hinde, in honour of Sir Christopher Hatton, one of the patrons of the voyage. His coat of arms featured a female red deer - a ‘hinde’. This epic voyage brought Drake into the Pacific, where he managed to plunder Spanish ships and settlements. He hugged the American coast for a considerable way and some historians believe he may have sailed as far as Vancouver Island - even beyond. When he arrived back in England he was knighted on deck by Elizabeth I, who no doubt was pleased with her share of the spoils, which paid off the national debt and made Drake a hugely wealthy man. The Golden Hinde became a museum at its home in Deptford but it gradually fell into disrepair and was broken up. All that survives is a chair in the Bodleian Library , Oxford and a table in Middle Temple Hall, in London, both made from timbers. This replica was the dream of American businessmen Art Blum and Albert Eldridge was built in Appeldore, Devon and launched in 1973. Since then it has sailed over 140,000 miles and has featured in several TV programmes, including BBC TV’s Henry V: The Hollow Crown. This square-rigged galleon measures 102 ft long, with its main mast reaching to a height of 92 ft and a displacement of 300 tons. There was room for 55-60 men and boys, which would have made the ship incredibly crowded. You can visit the ship on a self-guided tour and it’s fascinating clambering aboard and exploring the cramped quarters, the hold which stored all the provisions and seeing Drake’s cabin. Sailing on this small...

November 2015 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
  In 1915 a young army chaplain, Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton (1885-1972) opened the Everyman’s Club at Talbot House, in the small Belgian town of Poperinge. The club was situated close to Ypres but was a world away from the horrors of the front line. Instead, soldiers found an oasis of peace and tranquillity, where they could, for a short time, forget about the war. Talbot House was named in memory of Lt. Gilbert Talbot, the brother of Padre Neville Talbot. Soldiers called it Toc H, the army signallers’ code for TH. Formally owned by a brewer who had fled the war, it needed complete refurnishing. Gifts, including 2 pianos, hundreds of books - even soft furnishings - were donated by people in England. If a soldier wished to borrow a book they had to leave their cap badge as a deposit - a sure-fire way of ensuring the book would be returned. Talbot House welcomed all soldiers; indeed, above the entrance was a sign saying: ‘All rank abandon, ye who enter here’. A private could chat to a general, a sergeant pray with a major. Upstairs, the attic was converted to a chapel and was called the ‘Upper Room’. The altar was made from a carpenter’s bench found in the garden, the candlesticks from old bedposts.  Several services were held a day and it is thought by the end of the war attendances had totalled 100,000. After the war Clayton became vicar of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, a post he held for 40 years. He’s buried there.   ...

October 2015 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Christianity
   Every October for the past 366 years an unusual service has taken place in the church of St. Katharine Cree, in Leadenhall Street. It is the Lion Sermon. On the 16th October 1643, while travelling to Arabia on a trading mission, Alderman Sir John Gayer became separated from his companions and, as night fell, became aware that a lion was lurking. But it did not attack him. In the morning he was found sleeping peacefully, with the lion’s footprints all around him. Like Daniel in the lion’s den, he had survived. In gratitude for his survival, Sir John made various gifts to good causes and in his will established an annual commemorative service, the ‘Lion Sermon’, to be held on the 16th October every year at St Katherine Cree. The bequest included a proviso that the sermon should contain a lion theme and that there should be a donation to the poor of the parish. He became Lord Mayor in 1646 and died 3 years later. The year I attended it was held a day early (presumably Friday was inconvenient) and the service was suitably leonine, with a lesson from the Book of Daniel, read by a descendant of Gayer, and the hymn ‘He who would valiant be’ (albeit a modern version). We were also joined by the Lloyd’s Choir. The guest speaker was the Revd. Nadia Nassar, who is the only Syrian priest in the Church of England. A native of Lattakia, he is a frequent lecturer and adviser on the Middle East. The words ‘charismatic’ and ‘passionate’ are often overused but in Nassar’s case they were most appropriate. He delivered a dramatic and poignant address, focusing on the troubles in his native land and lambasting the extremists and fanatics. He spoke a lot of sense and left us in no doubt that we must not forget the people of Syria, and not just the struggling Christians. When he finished Revd. Nadia received a huge round of applause and was presented with a bottle of malmsey wine - another tradition. St Katharine Cree...

September 2015 1 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Food
Beekeeping has become quite trendy around London now and the City has caught onto this. It fills many companies' CSR and at the same time adds interest and a talking point. Indeed, if you’re a valued client of Nomura, you may receive a jar of honey as a present. Around the City you’ll find a hive or two on top of the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square as well as the Mansion House. I wonder if the Lord Mayor enjoys a dollop of honey on his toast in the morning? Today I had the pleasure of taking round some German students from Bavaria, some of whom are beekeepers. I naturally had to include a couple of spots along the way! Sadly the Guildhall was closed that day, but if you go and see the monument to William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham, you’ll notice a beehive on John Bell’s sculpture. It’s a sign of industry. There was better success at the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers in Gresham Street. Their hall, the 5th one on the site, has a plaque of a beehive above the door. It’s made from Coade stone and came from the previous 1791 hall. This medieval guild was once responsible for providing beeswax candles for churches - they still give candles to St Paul’s Cathedral. In the Middle Ages they were also responsible for embalming.  Their heyday was in the 15th century, thanks to the rise in chantry chapels, where priests would pray for the souls of prominent people. Richard III granted their charter in 1484 (his only one), and when the King in the Car Park was reinterred in Leicester Cathedral in March the Wax Chandlers provided the candles for the service.  Nowadays the livery company  still maintain connections: they sponsor the National Honey Show and are members of the British Bee Keepers’ Association. They’re even having a hive installed soon! And where to end the walk? Why naturally in Honey Lane, off Cheapside!    ...

August 2015 2 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Food
In Bride Lane, a narrow street off Fleet Street, you’ll find the City’s only gin distillery. Walk down the steps and it seems you’re entering a smart gentlemen’s club, with leather sofas and dimmed lighting. A quick glance to the right, however, and you’ll spot a still, all gleaming copper and twisted pipework. In recent years gin has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance. It was only a few years ago that Beefeater was the sole London maker but now a whole load of boutique businesses have cropped up: Sipsmith, Portobello Road and Bloom. It seems the thirst for a G & T is unquenchable! The City of London Distillery was founded in November 2012 and is the first distillery in the City for 200 years. Though its output is small and its gin is not that widely available, they are gradually building up a reputation. Only recently their (excellent) sloe gin won plaudits - and awards. The gin is produced from the two stills, named Clarissa and Jennifer, after the celebrated Two Fat Ladies. Being big gin drinkers I think they’d heartily approve! Each gin makers’ recipe is a closely guarded secret but they always have to have one thing in common: to be called gin the recipe must include juniper seeds. CoLD make 3 types: their Dry Gin contains a blend of coriander seeds, angelica and 3 types of citrus, while a stronger blend, Square Mile Gin, has an aroma of coriander. My favourite, however, was their Old Tom, sadly only exclusively available from the Dorchester Hotel. You can take tours of the distillery: there’s a brief 30-minute overview but for a more informative tasting I recommend the 90-minute tour, with tastings. Cheers! ...

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
College Hill, a narrow lane parallel to Queen Street is one you’ve may never gone down. At the bottom of it stands St Michael Paternoster Royal. A Wren church, it was one of the last to be built after the Great Fire. It’s named after the paternosters, the ‘Our Father’ chants the priests used to utter, and the town of La Reole, in Bordeaux, which had connections with the wine trade. Now the church is the headquarters of the Mission of Seafarers but its claim to fame really lies in one of the burials, for it was here that Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of London was buried in 1423. His house once stood next door. What we know of Dick Whittington and what the pantomime tells us is very different. He was born in fact in 1354, the younger son of a Gloucestershire knight, who went to London to become an apprentice to the Mercers’ Company, dealing in fine fabrics. He did very well and made a massive fortune. So much so, in fact, that he lent money to Richard II, helped build the Guildhall and bought Leadenhall Market for the Corporation. At a famous feast he ceremoniously burned a debt of £60,000 owed by Henry V on a pyre of sandalwood. Whittington became a City alderman and, when the incumbent Lord Mayor Adam Bamme died in office in 1397, the king chose him to succeed. He was subsequently re-elected and became mayor again in 1407 and 1419, so he ended up being Lord Mayor 4 times under 3 kings. He married an Alice Fitzwarren but there were no children from the marriage. When he died in 1423 he used his great wealth to benefit the City.  He built almshouses for the poor people, which are still going strong but are now in East Grinstead. His Whittington Charity, set up to help disadvantaged Londoners still functions and is run by the Mercers’ Company. Fortunately his public lavatory, known as Whittington’s Longhouse, has long gone! As for the cat, we’ll never know but it may have referred to a ‘catte’, which wa...

July 2015 2 posts

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, Government & Organisation
Thanks to my fellow City of London Guide Lindsay Schussman, today I enjoyed a visit to The Elizabeth Tower, part of the Palace of Westminster, which houses Big Ben. It’s a stiff climb up the 334 steps but it’s worth it! To see the famous bell and its 4 smaller companions, then hear them chime (wearing ear plugs!) was unforgettable. The 96m tower was designed by architect Charles Barry, assisted by the Gothic genius that was AWN Pugin. The bell itself was not the first one; that 16 tonne one, built in Stockton-on-Tees, was damaged, so the Whitechapel Foundry made a new one. The new 13.7 tonne bell was hauled up by hand, 63m up to the belfry. And why is it called Big Ben? There are 2 theories: either it was named after a popular champion boxer Benjamin Caunt; or Benjamin Hall MP, who was one of the men in charge of the work and quite a big fellow! Some facts: Big Ben chimes 156 times a day, to the tune based on Handel’s ‘Messiah’. The bell is 2.2m tall and 2.7m wide and has a hairline crack in it.The bells are fixed and hit by a hammer, so do not swing. In the turret, there is a microphone to pick up the chiming sounds for the BBC. As for the clock face, each dial is 7m across and made from cast iron. The hour hand is 2.7m long, each minute hand 4.3m.  A team of experts abseil on ropes every 5 years to carry our repairs. Inside the Mechanism Room, the 4.4m-long pendulum swings side to side every 2 seconds. On top of the pendulum is a stack of old pennies which help make sure the time is exactly right. Adding or taking off a coin changes the clock’s speed by just under half a second a day. The clock is wound 3 times a week to make sure the correct time is kept.  Tours are available to UK permanent residents only, via your local MP: visit http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/tours-of-parliament/bigben/    ...

fairbankguy | | Guy the London Guide, History
  Crossrail is Europe’s largest construction project. As work continues archaeologists from the Museum of London have had the chance to investigate Bethel Burial Ground, near Liverpool Street Station. From 1569 and for another 170 years some 20,000 corpses were buried, mainly from the working and middle classes. During that time London’s population quadrupled to half a million. Archaeologists have made some fascinating discoveries as they dug up 3,000 bodies. They haven't identified any of the corpses but volunteers have trawled through some of the parish records of the 124 churches. Many of the deceased were not Londoners but came from as far as Cornwall, Scotland, Europe - and the Caribbean and Africa, all trying to seek their fortune in this boom city.  Osteoarchaeologists have had a chance to study the bones: they found repetitive sprain injuries (from weaving) and ground-down teeth, thanks to the newly acquired taste for tobacco that was smoked from clay pipes. There was evidence of violence, no doubt caused by the high antics of a youthful population.  If they weren’t stabbed then there was the chance of catching the French pox (syphilis), from visiting the prostitutes in Southwark. As for children, infant mortality was very high - some 50%. Rickets was a frequent killer. And researchers have found more surprises: African citizens lived in the City and not all were slaves. They came to London for work and money, and many found employment as servants. In the parish records they were often classed as ‘strangers’ as the clerks did not know how to categorise them. In 1597 at St Botolph’s without Aldgate, a Mary Phyllis, the 20 year-old daughter of a basket maker was baptised as a ‘blackmore’.  London archaeologists continue to surprise and excite us.     ...