Friday, 27 December 2013

London's Roman Wall - The Obscured - Part 7


Following on from my previous post regarding the city wall at Trinity Place, this post was to deal with the other "not obscured" section of Roman city wall in the Tower Hill area known as Cooper's Row. However, whilst researching this topic I have discovered a previously unknown (to me that is) section right here, which although I have not attempted to gain access to yet, I have found photographic evidence of.  
City wall at Cooper's Row, London
View from entrance to hotel courtyard on Cooper's Row

Cooper's Row

The street Cooper's Row owes its name to the coopers (barrel / cask makers) who stored their casks in recesses of the city wall in this area. The coopers have long gone, but the city wall remains to this day. Despite being little more than 50 metres from the exits of Tower Hill tube station, many visitors to London and general passers-by are unaware of the remains of the city wall here, as they are tucked away from casual view, being situated between the rear of the courtyard of The Grange - City hotel and The Crescent, EC3. Access can freely be gained either from the west via the hotel courtyard and car park entrance along Cooper's Row or from the east via a passageway between the Fenchurch railway viaduct and the rear of the houses of The Crescent.  
City wall at Cooper's Row, London
The bridge through the archway leads to a passageway to The Crescent.


As with many other sections of the city wall, over time these structures were often lost when incorporated into fabric of other buildings. Having escaped the destruction of the Great Fire of 1666, the area around Cooper's Row would have been in continual usage for dwellings and businesses for over 1,000 years, and when the wall lost it's importance as a defensive structure it would have been swallowed up by surrounding buildings.

By the 19th century this area of London was occupied with warehouses and storage vaults associated with the wharves and quays of the nearby Port of London, many of which were owned by the infamous British East-India Company. Soon after 1860 the site was acquired by a Joseph Barber & Company, a long established family business operating as wharfingers in the City of London.

In 1862 the new owners set about redeveloping site into new bonded warehouses, for the storage and bottling of wines and spirits. According to Pevsner's guide, the architect of new warehouse, was Richard Norman Shaw and it is attributed as his first British building. It was during the building work for this new warehouse in 1864 that this section of London Wall was rediscovered and first formally recorded. The new owners chose to preserve and display the wall within the new building where it was visible on the vat storage floors.

Almost 100 years later, in 1961, these Victorian warehouses were in turn demolished, and the Roman Wall was made even more accessible as part of the current development originally known as Midland House, for Midland Bank and now a hotel complex.  

The City Wall

Looking East where the houses of The Crescent back onto the city wall.
The wall here is regarded as the finest section of London city wall remaining. It stretches for 38m (125ft) in length and to the same height as the nearby Trinity Place section at Tower Hill to 10.6m (35ft). The main part of the wall, visible above modern ground level, is medieval in date with the 2nd Century Roman wall forming the lower parts, which is also visible due to being exposed by the basement level of the hotel car-park and also by a trench along the eastern side revealing the wall to it's Roman ground-level sandstone plinth.

Excavations in 1962 during the last re-development of the site, revealed the foundations of a rectangular Roman inner turret 4.88m (16ft) x 2.39m (8ft), built at the same time as the wall itself around 200AD. This is likely to have contained a timber stairway, to give access to the parapet walk at the top of the wall. Only a small number of similar turrets have been found elsewhere along the wall in London, although practicalities would suggest there were many more, that remain to be discovered.

The eastern side, at the rear of The Crescent gives a view of the best preserved Roman stonework. Here the original ground-level sand-stone plinths can be seen as well as the normal arrangement of regular courses of dressed rag-stone inter-spaced every four courses or so with red tiled bonding layers as can be seen in the photo below. The Roman layer stands to height of over 2 metres.

Eastern (Outer) face of City Wall showing Roman stonework.

The inner western face of the wall has not faired so well down at the Roman levels, where most of the dressed outer stonework has been damaged by later development work cutting in to the wall to bond adjacent walls of other buildings.
Western face showing defaced Roman stonework.

The upper section of the wall here is from the medieval period, from as late 1200AD. Features on the wall from this period are several archers loopholes, the remains of a double staircase to the upper levels (the v-shaped indentation centred around loophole just to the right of centre in the photo below) and several post sockets holes, thought to have been used to supported a timber platform. This arrangement appears to be unique to this part of the city wall.  
The western side of the wall at Cooper's Row.

London Wall Walk

The original tiled panel number 3 from the Museum of London's "London Wall Walk" is no longer at this location, but there is a brass panel information panel on the railings next to the wall, which can be seen in the photo above, and also another positioned back out on Cooper's Row, on the wall of the hotel just to the right of the entrance to the car park. This is also in brass which does not make for easy reading in bright light, and hence is probably missed by most passers by.

Information plaque on the wall of hotel, Cooper's Row.

And now the obscured bit

From the Cooper's Row site, looking south, there is for the moment a view of the Roman portion of the city wall continuing towards Tower Hill underground station. This has been visible, during 2013, due to the re-development of the site at the end of Cooper's Row adjacent to the station. This development known as Tower House, 38-40 Trinity Square, is planned to be a 9 storey, 370 room hotel complex, but they are proposing the formation of a pedestrian walkway along side the section of Roman Wall visible in the photograph below, which will give public access to this part of the city wall for the first time.

Looking south from Cooper's Row, the western inner face of the Roman Wall
continues towards Tower Hill tube station.
Also visible in the photograph above, in red brick, is the rear of the electricity sub-station built in the 1930's over the Tower Hill underground station platforms. The front of the sub-station is at the southern end of The Crescent. Although there was a basic attempt at an adherence to the aesthetic of The Crescent with the right-hand bay and boundary wall continuing the curve of the adjacent buildings, it is fairly described by Pevsner as "unsightly".

Electricity Sub-Station in The Cresent
1930s electricity sub-station in The Crescent.

The western wall of the sub-station it literally build on top of the Roman city wall here and it's eastern face can be seen with the basement of the building. I have not tried to gain access here yet to see first-hand the wall, but did come across the photograph below in the Archaeological Assessment report, for the proposed hotel at 38-40 Trinity Square.

The foundations of the wall and its original ground-level sandstone plinth. Four courses of rag-stone up to the red-brick bonding layer can clearly be seen here too.
Roman city wall within the electricity sub-station in The Crescent.
I do not own the copyright to this image.
Also during the building of the sub-station, part of one of the Roman bastions which were added at set intervals to the external side of the wall during the 4th century, was recorded to have survived the cutting of the railway, but was demolished as part of the construction in 1935. Notable finds from the construction site in 1935 included part of the tombstone of Classicianus, the Procurator (finance minister) of Britain from the 1st century AD. This, like many other pieces of early Roman stonework, had been reused as rubble in the foundations of the bastions. Two other pieces of this tombstone had been found in 1852 and 1885 during the construction of the underground railway close to this site. This tombstone is now viewable in reconstructed form in the British Museum.

And finally.

During my research for this post, I struggled to limit the focus to the main subject, as there were so many side topics that could have been explored, directly related to the main subject. For one of these topics, the history of The Crescent I have created a separate post which may possibly lead to a new series of posts.
And so this brings me to the end of a post which has taken about six months to research and write. Please refer to my Roman London page for background information to the Roman occupation of London, and see the list below for earlier articles in the series.

Further posts on this topic:


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Towers of London: 20 Fenchurch Street - "Walkie Scorchie" Follow Up

Following on from the late summer media frenzy, over the problem of the "Solar Death Ray" being reflected from 20 Fenchurch Street, as reported in an earlier post, it appears a solution may have been found!

Since that warm sunny spell in early September, the overcast weather has assisted in diminishing the immediate problem, but also the angle of the sun has dropped, and the beam of light has moved from being directly onto the pavement, to higher up the buildings and further along the side street of Eastcheap.  Good news for pedestrians, but bad news for anyone working in the first or second floors of those immediate buildings.

During the height of the problem, temporary scaffolding and hoardings were erected in front of some the shops affected in an attempt shield them but this was remove after only a matter of weeks as the problem lessened.  A longer term solution was still needed.

It's curtains for 20 Fenchurch Street!
It's curtains for 20 Fenchurch Street!
Whilst walking along Eastcheap this afternoon, I spotted some activity on the tower, and what looks like an attempt to provide a solution to the issue.  What seems to be black voiles are being draped over the entire southern aspect of the tower.

At this point in time I'm not certain whether this is just another temporary fix, or will develop into the long term solution, but there is no doubt the developers have been pressured into producing a fix for this problem which is set to reoccur each year.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Towers of London: 20 Fenchurch Street - "Walkie Scorchie"

New "Hot Spot" in Eastcheap, London

With the sudden media interest following an incident reported in the press in the last day or so regarding a Jaguar car being partially melted whilst parked on Eastcheap in the City of London, I thought I'd pop over and take a look for myself this lunch-time.

The issue is being caused by the convex shape of the new tower at 20 Fenchurch Street known as the "Walkie-Talkie".  At this time of the year and for a few hours of the day the angle of the sun is just in the right spot to have its rays focused onto the pavement due to the reflections of the convex glazed south-side of the new tower.  This tower has been almost fully glazed just this year and so this is the first time this phenomena has been noticed.

As you can see from my photos, there is a considerable bright spot on the pavement, and this was during a slightly overcast day! Walking past this spot you can feel a definite difference in temperature to the point of being uncomfortably hot, and on my return there was even a chap being photographed trying to fry an egg in a small frying pan!?

There was a media frenzy taking place with press photographers, and TV crews as well as bemused passers-by crowding the pavement as the hot-spot tracked its way along the pavement.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

London's Roman Wall - The Obscured - Part 6


During my somewhat disappointing search for hidden remains of the Roman wall along Bevis Marks (see previous article in this series), I was chatting to a tower crane operator working on 6 Bevis Marks, as you do, who reminded me of another hidden section of wall back over at Tower Hill that I read about in the Survey of Antiquities but had dismissed at the time as likely to be out of date information and no longer visible. So having an excuse for another blog post, I headed back over towards the Tower Hill area to find this hidden wall and whilst in the area thought I might as well visit the less "obscured" sections of wall in that area too.

View London's Roman City Wall in a larger map

Trinity Place, Tower Hill, London EC3

The Tower Hill area has some the best preserved and impressively large sections of the city wall.  The sections under ground and hidden in basements I have already written about in earlier posts, but the two large and easily accessible sections do deserve attention, even if not "obscured".

The first and most obvious of these sections being the very large remnant of city wall in Trinity Place, immediately by the main entrance to the Tower Hill Circle and District line underground station. The second, less obvious, but even more impressive section is off nearby Cooper's Row, and is worthy of a separate post for itself.

The Trinity Place section has only been made fully visible during the 20th century, where like others it been partially incorporated within buildings and with the older Roman layer still submerged below the modern ground level. 

City Wall, Tower Hill
City Wall, Tower Hill, London
What is now revealed is one of the largest parts of the city wall remaining.  Running for about 25m (82ft) and standing to a total height of 10.6m (35ft), with the now exposed Roman layer dating from AD 200, forming the lower part up to a height of 4.4m (14.5ft), and the remaining 6m or so being of medieval origin.

The original Roman city wall is thought to have been about 6.4m (20ft) in total height, including the battlements, so the Roman section here is probably up to the height of what was the sentry walk level.

The wall is best viewed from it's western (inner) side where the usual Roman method of construction using regular courses of squared kentish ragstone, spaced with red tiled bonding layers can clearly be seen. The face of the wall has been cut into at several intervals to support the once adjoining buildings of a much later period, exposing the less ordered rubble and mortar core.  This is again noticeable at the southern end of the wall were the complete cross section is visible.

Statue of Trajan, by City Wall, Tower Hill, London
Statue of Emperor Trajan, by City Wall, Tower Hill

Just to the west of the wall stands a late-eighteenth century, bronze statue of Emperor Trajan.  This statue was donated to the Tower Hill improvement Trust by the Reverend P. B. 'Tubby' Clayton MC, vicar of All Hallows by the Tower (across the road), after he had found the statue in a scrapyard in Southampton, and was placed here in 1980.  Considered by the senate as "Best Emperor ever", Trajan who was emperor from AD 98-117 has no particular association with London or Britain unlike his adopted son Hadrian, of wall fame, who succeeded Trajan as emperor from AD 117-139.

Plaque No.2 from the London Wall Walk
Panel No.2 from the London Wall Walk

Here also is panel number 2, from the Museum of London's "London Wall Walk", giving details of this section of wall.

Medieval Postern Gate

Panel number 1 is meant to be just beyond the under-pass next to the remains of the medieval Postern gate to the south, but has been missing for a good while.  It has been replaced by three small stainless steel engraved panels which are mounted on the railings around it.  A postern gate is usually a small side-entrance, typically for pedestrians only.  This one dates from about 1270, and was made of Caen stone, from Normandy, France, like the rest of the Tower of London.  It was situated at the very edge of the moat to the Tower of London and due to this proximity it's foundations gave way and it partially collapsed in 1440The gate was resited slightly north of the original location and rebuilt before becoming once again derelict and finally disappearing in the 18th century to be rediscovered again in 1979. 

Medieval Postern Gate, Tower Hill
Medieval Postern Gate, Tower Hill
There remains however Panel '0' or one the introductory panels still in place, marking the start of the walk, situated at the foot of the steps leading back up to street level from the south side of the under-pass. 

Panel '0'  - Introduction to the The London Wall Walk

And finally, the "Obscured" bit

Immediately adjoining the northern end of the wall at Trinity Place, a section of wall 22.25m (73ft) long was uncovered in 1882 during the construction of the Inner Circle Railway.  As can be seen in the photograph below, which shows the outer / eastern face, the wall was in good shape with the base-level plinth, four courses of rag-stone, three of tiles and a further six of ragstone visible. According to descriptions of the time there was a further bonding bonding layer with another four courses of ragstone when first uncovered, which I would estimate to make a total height of about 3.5-4m (11-13ft).

Demolition of Roman Wall at Tower Hill for Inner Circle Railway, 1882
Demolition of Roman Wall at Tower Hill for Inner Circle Railway, 1882. Copyright Museum of London.

Unfortunately this section of wall was demolished to make way for Inner Circle Railway, but a small section was left visible within the station itself.

To view it, you'll need to purchase a Tube ticket and head to Platform 1, the West-bound platform for the District and Circle line. Walk east along the platform (the direction the trains are coming from), and almost at the end up high on southern retaining wall (across the tracks) is a small recess, probably only a metre square, where you can see the exposed part of the Roman wall.  

Roman Wall Platform 1, Tower Hill underground station
Roman Wall Platform 1, Tower Hill underground station

It looks like there is a spot light, but this was not working at the time of my visit and due the usual underground railway grime it looks rather like just any old dirty bit of brick work, but is in fact the remains the Roman city wall constructed some 1,800 years ago!

Roman Wall - Detail. Platform 1, Tower Hill underground station
Roman Wall - Detail. Platform 1, Tower Hill underground station.

Further posts on this topic:

Part 1 - One America Square
Part 2 - Emperor House
Part 3 - London Wall House
Part 4 - Hennessy's Bar
Part 5 - Bevis Marks
Part 7 - Cooper's Row (coming soon)

For more general background information on the city wall and Roman London please refer to the Museum of London's web site on this topic. Better still, go make a personal visit to this often overlooked but truly excellent (and free) museum.


Monday, 8 July 2013

Modern London : 20 Gracechurch Street

Situated on the northern corner of Lombard Street and Gracechurch Street, this building was previously known as 54 Lombard Street, and was the long-time head-quarters site of Barclays Bank Plc.  Barclays can trace their occupation of this site back to 1728, when founding partners moved to a building with the sign of a "Black Spread Eagle", which later was adopted as Barclay's official emblem in 1937.

The current building was designed by GMW, and completed in 1994 and had replaced a relatively young office complex completed in 1969 after being in use for just over 20 years.  However this time, after just over 10 years, the site was finally vacated by Barclays, when in 2005 they relocated to London's new banking hub in Canary Wharf.

The building then underwent extensive refurbishment, both inside and out, to the designs of architects ORMS, and has been transformed by the re-cladding of the street-level facade to the third storey in Portland stone.  This work was completed in 2009 and the building was renamed at that time to 20 Gracechurch Street, to lessen the association with the site's previous occupants and to make the new office space more appealing to the insurance market as prospective tenants.

20 Gracechurch Street
20 Gracechurch Street

Saturday, 29 June 2013

London's Roman Wall - The Obscured - Part 5

The Roman city wall of London dates from the 2nd century AD, and had many "upgrades" by the Romans up until the 4th Century AD. Even though the city walls were enhanced throughout medieval and Tudor ages, the original line remained unaltered. The city wall was a prominent feature of the city for the best part of 1400-1500 years.  

During the 17th century it's defensive purpose effectively expired as the city grew beyond its confines, and the wall was gradually dismantled during the 18th and 19th centuries, as it was pillaged for building materials.  Many parts of the wall became incorporated into the party walls, cellars and the foundations of shops and warehouses that grew in its place, or simply covered over and buried to make way for new or widened roads.  

Throughout the late Victorian and 20th century much of the wall has been rediscovered, during excavations for the the installation of sewers and railways lines.  The slum clearances of this period also saw the demolition of large parts of the city to make way for wider roads and the building of banks, warehouses and offices. During the Second World War, much of the city of London fell victim to intense bombing and as bombed-out structures were cleared, the hidden wall was once again revealed.

So after the abundance of rediscovered and preserved sections of wall I had seen along the eastern part of the city wall, from Tower Hill to Aldgate, as featured in my previous posts on this topic (See navigation bar), I was hoping for similar successes as I turned my attention north and west to follow the line of the wall as it continues from Aldgate along Dukes Place, Bevis Marks, Camomile Street towards Bishopsgate.

Looking North-West along Bevis Marks, from Dukes Place
The path of the wall runs North-West along the eastern (right if looking North) side of Bevis Marks, and Camomile Street towards Bishopsgate.  The mast on the top of the Heron Tower, the rather tall building in the background, marks the line of wall as it meets up with the site of the Roman Bishopsgate.

A few of the signs from the Museums of London's Roman Wall Walk, which inspired this series of posts, still remain in this area but there is no mention of surviving wall sections on these plaques.

The London Wall Walk - Plaque 5
The London Wall Walk - Plaque 5 - One the wall of Sir John Cass School, St. Botolph Street, London.
Plaque No.6 is no longer accessible, as it was positioned on a now vanished exit to a subway which used to emerge in Duke's Place.  This is a shame as there was also a representation of the Roman Wall illustrated in tiles at exact the point the subway intersected the line of the city wall.

The London Wall Walk - Plaque 7
The London Wall Walk - Plaque 7 - By the entrance to the Synagogue, Bevis Marks, London.
Plaque No.7 is sited by the entrance to the Bevis Marks synagogue and describes the wall as illustrated in the "Agas" map of 1560-1570, where the wall and several bastions can be clearly seen.

Plaque No.8 would have been where the Heron Tower now stands, and I guess they thought nailing it to the outside, might spoil the look of their shiny new tower.

So with no obvious evidence of any wall sections, I began an exhaustive search on-line  using as my main points of reference, the on-line copy of "The Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 3: Roman London (1928)" which is an extremely detailed survey up to the time of publication, and also the detailed monument records on the English Heritage web-site.

The inventory from 1928, records many sections of wall found along my path of interest, but sadly also records much subsequent destruction of these during building projects. There however remained a couple of potential locations, including wall sections and bastions number 9 and 10, the latter being famed for it's significant bounty of statues and decorated stone work that was recovered during inspections carried out in 1876.

These objects were headstones from graveyards, being reused as hardcore rubble to fill the bases of the bastions that were a 4th century addition to the then 200 year old wall.  These finds are now on show at the museum of London, with perhaps the most well known being the incredibly detailed 1st century tombstone of a Roman soldier.

Tombstone of a Roman soldier, 1st century. Image Copyright Museum of London

There is a whole articles worth of information to say about just this one statue, but the key bits are that he appears holding a set of writing tablets, indicating his duties were more cleric than military. Also when found his head had been placed between his legs, perhaps reflecting some burial rite of the time.

So despite the detailed sources of information, some stating that sections of city wall and bastions had been "preserved as scheduled monuments", there is confusion and contradictions in these records too, mostly due to the fact that the property addresses given in both sources have changed so much due to the intense and continuing redevelopment in this area.

I have been in contact with English Heritage for more information, scoured the City of London's Planning web-site for archaeological assessments performed for building projects in the area and even conducted my own house-to-house enquiries along the length of Camomile Street and Bevis Marks, to make certain that there are no exposed sections of wall featuring in basements or otherwise in this area.  I had hoped that the archaeological reports carried out during the construction of the Heron Tower in 2007 would yield useful information, but it seems that little if nothing of the city wall had survived on this site most likely due to earlier building works.

View London's Roman City Wall in a larger map

From this field-work I can deduce that Bastion 10 is likely to be sited under the junction of Camomile and Outwich Streets. It's exact position has not been recorded since 1905.  Bastion 9 is under the roadway of Goring Street close to it's junction with Bevis Marks.  There is a section of wall under the roadway St Mary Axe again at it's junction with the eastern side of Bevis Marks.  Both of these are scheduled monuments and feature in the archaeological assessment for a proposed new tower at 60-70 St Mary Axe, nicknamed the "Can of Ham".

60-70 St Mary Axe
Proposed 60--70 St. Mary Axe. Image Copyright: Miller Hare
The one section I had the most hope for viewing is recorded as being at the rear of 58-60 Houndsditch adjoining the churchyard of St. Martin Outwich.  It was recorded as surviving above ground at this location in 1905, and the English Heritage has a record noting it's most recent inspection of 1989.

Churchyard of St. Martin Outwich, Camomile Street
Churchyard of St. Martin Outwich, Camomile Street
The churchyard of St. Martin Outwich has survived from 1538, but was previously the churchyard for St Augustine in the Wall which dated from the 12th century. Similar to the nearby church of All Hallows by the Wall with whom it shared a united parish during the early 15th century, St. Augustines was built up against the city wall.  It was conveyed to the Brethren of the Papey in 1430, and then became known as St. Augustine Papey.  The church was finally pulled down as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries c1540, with the churchyard then being passed to the parish of St Martin Outwich.

Today it is a rather anonymous raised garden on the east side of Camomile Street, with no plaque or signage to denote it's past.  There is a tombstone of c.1810 set into the brickwork of the garden's floor, but alas no sign of Roman wall!

Tombstone in churchyard of St. Martin Outwich.

So in conclusion it would seem, as at the time of writing, the North Eastern sections of the Roman city wall from Aldgate to Bishopsgate remain distinctly "obscured".

Earlier posts on this topic:
Part 1 - One America Square
Part 2 - Emperor House
Part 3 - London Wall House
Part 4 - Hennessy's Bar

For more general background information on the city wall and Roman London please refer to the Museum of London's web site on this topic.  Better still, go make a personal visit to this often overlooked but truly excellent (and free) museum.

Monday, 24 June 2013

London's Roman Wall -The Obscured - Part 4

By some twist of fate, the far eastern section of the Roman city wall, running in a straight line all most due north from the Tower of London to Aldgate, contains some of the best preserved, and importantly visible sections of the wall.  

The large sections by Tower Hill and Cooper's Row are the most easily viewed, (see Green push-pins on map) being accessible above ground and in public spaces.  However, always up for a challenge, I have been trying to discover and get access to visit all the remains of the Roman wall that are now preserved with private buildings along this eastern section (see Red push-pins on map), of which there are a good few.  All you need is the time, patience and a bit of courtesy to winkle your way into these buildings, and enter a world of hidden cellars and forgotten basements hosting these magnificent monuments.

View Roman City Wall of London in a larger map

I have posted earlier articles on my visits to these hidden sections of the wall. Please refer to Part 1Part 2 and Part 3 of this series using these links or the navigation panel at the side.

This post features Henessey's Bar, formally The Three Tuns public house, which is located at the northern end, and eastern side, of Jewry Street, close to the location of the Roman gateway of Aldgate.

There has been a pub on this site since the early 18th century, with map records showing a pub on here in 1747.  The present building though is 20th century, having been rebuilt to it's present form in 1939.

Hennessy's Bar, 36 Jewry Street, London, EC3
Hennessy's Bar, 36 Jewry Street, London, EC3

There are several connections with the notorious Jack the Ripper and this pub, with the possibility that the "Ripper" may have hidden in the pub's cellar to escape police on several occasions by using the cellar flap and chute at the rear of the building, accessed from the dead-end of Vine Street.  The full story can be found on Hennessy's web site.

The line of the Roman wall here is right under the front walls of the properties on the eastern side of Jewry street, which include the Sir John Cass foundation, Hennessey's Bar and the appropriately named Centurion House. 

Centurion House, Aldgate / Jewry Street
Centurion House, Aldgate / Jewry Street

In fact the Roman wall for this site is acting as part of the front cellar wall and foundations of the building, but has been exposed and preserved for viewing behind a large perspex panel.

Roman Wall in Hennessy's Bar, 36 Jewry Street, London, EC3
Roman Wall in cellar of Hennessy's Bar, 36 Jewry Street, London, EC3

The hole section of wall is about 5m (17ft) in length.  The sandstone plinth, marking the original Roman ground level, is visible just above the cellar floor at 2.69m (8ft 10in) below modern street level.  Above the plinth are the usual four courses or ragstone, a tiled bonding course, with a further six courses of ragstone towards to top of the visible wall. The wall is 2.39m (7ft 10in) thick above the plinth and 2.67m (8ft 9in) just above the cellar floor.

This post is probably the last of my posts dealing with the eastern section of the Roman wall, as I have now to my knowledge visited all but one of the preserved sites.  The last one being a small section of wall within the Sir John Cass Collage, 31 Jewry Street.  I have attempted to get access to view this section, as they proudly mention it's existence on their web-sitebut I have been told that it is just a view of a small cross section of the wall, behind a small glass panel about  1m (3ft) by 1.5m (4.5ft).  This is located in a secure financial vault within the basement and is not available for public access. Yet!

For more general background information on the city wall and Roman London please refer to the Museum of London's web site on this topic.  Better still, go make a personal visit to this often overlooked but truly excellent (and free) museum.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Art Deco London : 51-54 Gracechurch Street

Almost opposite the building I am currently working in is another fine example of Art Deco architecture. It's modest size and location, next to a complex and busy road junction, perhaps causes it to be ignored among other buildings of the same period in the city, such as nearby Adelaide House mentioned in an earlier post. However, on closer inspection it reveals a wealth of interesting Art Deco ornamentation that possibly warrants an elevation in it's status and interest.

51-54 Gracechurch Street, City of London
51-54 Gracechurch Street, London.

Despite much Googling, inspection of the outside of the structure and even inquiring with the building's reception desk, I could find no information about it's history.
So, having reached a dead end, I decided to contact the planning department of the City of London, in the hope that they would not be too busy to answer my trivial questions and after a few days of waiting, they very helpfully provided the information I was after and suggested some additional references that could be helpful in the future.

51-54 Gracechurch Street, City of London
51-54 Gracechurch Street, West Elevation
From the information provided the City of London, the architect was one Leo Sylvester Sullivan (1878-1964), and the date of construction circa 1928-30.  This architect is also responsible for other better known, listed buildings in the City and West-End (future posts to come) as well as many civic projects around the country.  He also attended school with Sir Winston Churchill in the 1900s.

The building sits 8 storeys high and 9 bays wide and it likely to steel framed with the front clad in Portland stone.  The nine bays are separated by ribbed piers with the outer four piers emboldened to provide vertical framing of the frontage.  The metal window aprons  were once ornamented but have been unsympathetically replaced, along with the windows at some point, which is likely the cause of it's lack of listed status.

51-54 Gracechurch Street in 1974. Copyright City of London - Collage project

A carved pediment above the ground floor has a parallel zig-zag or chevron dancette with a chain-like pattern above.  This chevron pattern is repeated around the entrances and also the north-side elevation of the building.  At the top of the stone facade and between the fifth and sixth floors are two rows of carved heads.  Each appears to be unique, but they are a little too high to observe with my phone's camera.

One interesting detail is the parallel chevron dancettes framing the door ways feature convex and concave half-round carvings.

The north side and rear of the building is accessible via Talbot Court.  The side appears to be clad in terracotta with the lower windows and entrances framed again with chevron moldings and also beak-head stops.

Beak-head stops

Terracotta moldings
Finally, the rear of the building is stepped down to meet the roof heights of neighbouring properties.

Rear North-side elevation.

That about wraps things up for this building.  I may write more about Leo Sylvester Sullivan's other buildings in my immediate area as I photograph and research them.  

His other buildings that I know of so far are...

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Art Deco London : Adelaide House

I had been meaning to write a post on Adelaide House since I first took notice of it a few weeks ago, whilst out one rare and sunny lunch-time looking for remnants of Roman London.  What prompted to get it done today was some seeing this incredible vintage film footage which is doing the rounds on-line this week.

The video appears to have been on-line for a while on Vimeo, but the news and social-media world seems to have found it again this week. (See references at the foot of this post).  The footage was shot by Claude Friese-Green, a pioneer of colour film in the UK.

Adelaide House, London Bridge
Adelaide House.  Southern aspect from London Bridge.

Adelaide House is located in one of London's most prime positions on the north-east shoulder of London Bridge. It, in fact, replaced an earlier building of the same name on the same site, which was named after King William IV's wife, who, in 1831 had performed the opening ceremony of the adjacent London Bridge.

Designed by the Scottish architect Thomas F. Tait, of the firm Sir John Burnet & Tait, and completed in 1925, it was a pioneering building in many ways.

Firstly, it was, at the time of construction, the tallest office building in London.  By today's standards, at only 11 storeys high (45m / 148ft) this is hard to imagine.  However, the video footage above allows it to be seen in the context of that period and clearly shows a brand new Adelaide House. And in a panning shot of the city skyline there are only the spires of churches and The Monument itself to be seen towering above the London roof-line of the time.

It also was the first building in the UK to have air-conditioning, a mechanised internal mail system. It was the first in the city to use stone cladding over a steel-framed structure.  There was even a putting green on the roof.

Entrance to Adelaide House
Main entrance on the Western side of Adelaide House

The stone work is broadly Art Deco in style, with, fashionable at the time, Egyptian references and many other ornamental details.  The entrance from London Bridge pictured above features bold pseudo-Doric columns in contrasting black granite.  The main exterior is faced in white Portland stone, with the base and a frieze around the ninth storey in grey granite.

North aspect of Adelaide House
North aspect of Adelaide House on Lower Thames Street.

Interestingly, the east side of Adelaide House is faced in plain brick, and was only exposed after the post-war demolition of a neighbouring building.

As can be seen in the photo above and below, Adelaide House is sited extremely close to the ancient church of St Magnus the Martyr (once situated on the roadway to the Old London Bridge).  This was controversial at the time of construction, and The Times
commented that "the new 'architectural Matterhorn' ... conceals all but the tip of the church spire".

St Magnus the Martyr, with Adelaide House in the background
St Magnus the Martyr, with Adelaide House in the background.

Adelaide House is now a Grade II listed building, and underwent extensive renovation from 2005-2007 by the current occupier Berwin Leighton Paisner.

Daily Telegraph 14/May/2013
London Evening Standard 14/May/2013
English Heritage Listing

Update 2012-05-20:
I found some amazing historic photographs taken from scans of postcards or slides over on

London Bridge circa 1927  Source: Lost London thread on
London Bridge pre 1925.  Note the earlier Adelaide Buildings. Source: Lost London thread on