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Sunday, 20 August 2017

Docks to the north and Docks to the south.

We continued our walk from yesterday down Wapping High Street and more of the Capital's docks.

Wapping Hight Street was created in the 16th nCentury as a route to bring goods landed at the wharves in the City of London to the warehouses furtherout of town. Both side of the street are lined with old and new warehouses, must converted to apartments now. Here a company clearly owned the buildings on opposite sides of the street and built the bridges for ease of ttransporting goods between the two.

It is a lovely quiet part of the city and with these very expensive apartments mixing with some council and housing association homes it has a nice feel to the place. We had some nice chats with the locals who obviously had never moved from from where they had been born and loved the area. I like the fact that the warehousing had to follow the curve of the street.

 I liked these old brick carvings on the side of an old pub. Truman's brewery was obviously Truman Hanbury and Buxton at one time. This pub was called the 'Three Suns' and was built in 1880 and was closed in 1986 but survives as a wine bar type place today.

Hidden behind a wooden fence and hedges in the old London Hydraulic Power company building. As the name suggests this building from 1890 was on a large circuit of hydraulic power pipelines that tranmitted the water around the dock system to power the lock gates, cranes and warehouse machinery right up until 1977. The Wapping Project Gallery was here at one time after the close of the hydraulic Co. but the place seems to be boarded up. A similar system in Hull worked the docks and locks too.

Further on from the Three Suns and Hydraulic Co is you come to the Shadwell Basin, the last of the basins that connetced the London Docks to the River Thames. It is a glorious spot now that now, in the summer holiday hgas plenty of school kids taking part in water sports. These areas of water certainly bring something to the area and provide good distant views of the City

Just by the Basin is St Paul's Church. Shadwell was famous in the 1700's for the number of sea captain's that lived, and died here. &5 were buried in it's vaults and there are several on the list of benefactors boards dipslyed in the church. So much so that it is known as the Church of the sea Captains. James Cook lived here and his son was baptised at the church in 1763. It is one of the 600 churches known as Waterloo Churches as it was was rebuilt after having fallen in to disrepair in 1820's following the Church Building Act of 1818.

Down by the Thames we came to the air shaft for the Rotherhithe Tunnel. It was opened in 1908 by George, Prince of Wales, who became George V. A local chap told us he used to carry his bike up and down the stairs inside to use the tunnel. There is now a big fan inside for ventilating the tunnel of exhaust fumes and no access is allowed.

The detail on the grills reveals LCC for the London County Council. This was set up in 1889 and was in existence until 1965. It covered much of what is called Inner London to day and was replaced by the Greater London Council.

They are digging up King Edward Memorial park and have started to place a cofferdam out into the river as they install the super sewer system here. There will be a shaft down to the sewer with pumps and other systems to make it all. The view back to Canary Wharf is quite stunning on a lovely day. The park will be restored, bigger and better when the whole system is completed.

At this point we decided to return to the Wapping over ground and have a walk on the other side of the river.

We got off at Canad Water, no not the name of a mixer drink, but the stop closest to Canada Dock that opened in 1876 and was one of ten on the south side of the Thames that were owned by the Surrey Commercial Dock Co. Canada Dock specialised in grain and timber that was imported from North America. There is no muck left of it now as a retail park has been built on it. A little walk past the shops brings you to Brunswick Quay and this great view of the extensive Greenland Dock. This was once the largest enclosed dock in the world and was originally called Howland Great Wet Dock when it opened in 1696. The ten dock covered an area of 150 acres and most got filled in as they became uncompetitive. Greenland Dock was first used to fit out East India Company vessels then in the 1720 was used by whaling ships and the smell must have been pretty bad as they rendered down the the blubber brought back to London. Later still it dealt mainly with grain and timber. The Surrey Commercial Dock Co. closed in 1970.

The bust of James Walker is found half way down the north quay. He was the chief engineer that was in charge of building many of the docks of London, including this one in the 19th Century. He was also responsible for several bridges and lighthouses around the country. He seems to have a bit of a 'Mona Lisa' smile about him and then I realised that most sculpture subjects have a very set face with no hint of a grin. You would think they would be smiling as they have made it well enough to be cast in stone or bronze.

Walking round the dock you pass over several footbridges like this original one where it takes you to the Thames and a closed off lock. The system is accessed by the vessels that are in the north end of the dock via a still working lock at the neighbouring South Dock via the Greenland Cut. South Dock is now London's largest marina. In WWII they built some of the units that went to make the Mulberry Harbour off the D Day beaches.

From the riverside we could look west and see the Cutty Sark at Greenwich. It is well worth a look around the south dock area as it is even quieter than Wapping and Shadwell and far enough from Greenwich to be clear of the many people there. We had decided enough was enough as we had to catch the train home. We caught a bus to London bridge and the tube back to the hotel to pick up the bag and head to Kings Cross and The Hull Trains train back to the City of Culture.

Do gooders and docks.

After our visit to the Highgate cemeteries we did some of another walk around the area.

The land in the area below Highgate Hill had belonged to Angela Burdett-Coutts of the banking family. Angela new the great and the good of the times, The Duke of wellington, Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens dedicated 'Martin Chuzzlewit' to her. She and her husband used their wealth in very philanthropic ways. Part of this land held the Lady Workers' Homes Co. that provided homes for single girls as secretaries and clerks etc. After her death her husband sold the land and the Holly Lodge Estate sprang up in the 1920's. I have never seen mock Tudor apartments before. The roads are gated and it seems to be quite a nice spot to live.

Further down the hill is Holly Village that was built in the 1860's with 8 houses round a green and was probably built for the elderly and retired estate workers to live in, once again by Angela Burdett-Coutts. It is now a private residence. Apparently the statue you can see is of Mrs Burdett-Coutts. On the other side of the arch is her companion Hannah Brown.

This is just part of the Neo-Gothic detail on the building.

The Alexandra Trust Dining Rooms were built in 1898 just north of Old Street near our hotel. It was from an idea from the Royal Family but the majority of the money was put up by Thomas Lipton the tea Merchant. He thought that good meals could be provided commercial for much less than the normal price by 'up scaling'. In fact the kitchens were on the top, fourth floor and below were three large dining halls where 500 could sit down at a time in each one and be served by 100 waitresses in smart uniforms. They could serve 12000 meals a day. For 1/2d you got a cup, of tea or coffee, soup or porridge, slice of bread and butter with jam or marmalade, piece of cake pastry or pudding and veg and pickle. For 41/2d you could have a full three course meal with all the trimmings. At this time a labourer may have been earning about 14s.

Another building of note close to our hotel is the Leysian Mission. It was built between 1903 and 1906 and rstored following WWII in 1953. It was set up by past pupils of the Methodist Leys School in Cambridge who were very concerned about the welfare of the poor in London. The Mission was built not far from Wesley's Chapel just round the corner and provided medical facilities, services of a lawyer, a relief committe and feeding programmes as well as clubs and meetings for men and women and musical training. After WWII and the Health service it was sold off and the building is now apartments and shops in a very grand building.

The next day we decided to return to our nautical theme and St. Katherine's Dock. There is an elephant statue on each of the pillars of the gate into the Ivory Dock and they give you a clue as to why the name. Ivory, including mammoth tusks, and other rare and valuable items were brought here.

After leaving the dock down Wapping High Street you come to a lovely quiet garden area called the Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden and it is dedicated to the civilians lost in East London during the World Wars. The dove frames today.s picture of the Shard

These are dock officials homes that were once at the entrance to the lock into Wapping Basin. There was another Basin at Hermitage as well as at Shadwell. These were like half tide basins leading into the main London docks that were built a little further inland in 1805. I wonder how much the building is worth today. It has a great view of the river and is in a nice peaceful spot too.

This was the School of St Johns Church. As you can see the school was built in 1760 four years after the church was erected. All that remains of the church is the tower. The rest was destroyed in the blitz. There were plans to pull that down after the wr but the locals protested and it has been preserved tacked on to a development of apartments that blend in quite well.

This was the wall that was built round the Tobacco Dock. The dock was built in 1812 to receive tobacco spirits and wine and the like. They made sure there would be little pilfering with walls like this.

The main gate is adorned with a sculpture of the barrels and boar's heads  to mark the use of the dock. Animal pelts was another of the rich commodities that were stored here. The Grade 1 warehousing in the Dock are the only major piece of the London Docks that have been preserved since their closure in 1971.

The warehouses themselves are struggling to find a use, but there are some shops opening up. This is a view from the entrance to the Tobacco Dock where you can see the wine vaults. You can see a statue of a bear to the left and just to the right is part of a boy and a tiger. These celebrate the fact that near to this site was Jamrach's animal emporium, a competitor to Wombwell's Menagerie whose tomb we saw in yesterdays post. Seaman would arrive in the docks with all sorts of animals bought on their travels and sell them to him.

Just by Tobacco Dock is the church of St. George in the East that is only one of six churches built by W£ren's pupil Nicholas Hawksmoor. The tower is 160 and was designed so the clock could be seen from the river. It was burned out during WWII but the exterior was saved and the interior has been rebuilt to a modern design.

I thought I would close this blog with something maybe a little more worthy than usual. Just back downtowrds the river is Raine's Charity School. Like the St John's School there are figures of period boys and girls above the entrance, and between them is this quote from when the school was erected in 1719. An early form of 'mission statement' I think.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Museums, Masons and memorials.

Our first port of call today was the Sir John Soane Museum.

The Soane Museum is found at the north side of Lincoln's Inn Field and is free to go round. I think there is a limit of 90 allowed in at a time as it is very cramped with exhibits etc. No photography is allowed inside but it is full of an architectural hodge podge. As and architect he was very interested in the Classical period and his most famous work, the Bank of England shows this. The house is full of statues and pices of buildings that show off design that he and his pupils could draw into their work. He first purchased No.12 to the left and then next door and finally just before his death No.14 too. He used the block to experiment on how to light interiors and other matters as well as being a place full of inspiration. He had two sons, but only one out lived him. He had to seek an Act of Parliament to leave the estate to the Nations, 'as largely unchanged as possible' as he didn't want his son George to inherit as he thought of him as a gambler and waster and knew that everything he had collected etc would be sold off. The collection has two series of Hogarth's paintings that are housed in a special small gallery that the walls open up to reveal more paintings behind. A clever use of space. They open the walls to see the Hogarths a few times a day and is well worth looking out for. They also do free tours of the private apartments above a few times a day and I would really recommend signing up for them as soon as you get there as they are also beautiful. The museum is well worth going but for we it was just too busy, not really in visitor numbers, although there were plenty there, but in the number of exhibits crammed into the very small space that runs around the house that is really unrecognisable behind all the items.

We were walking over to Soho to complete a book guided walk when we passed Freemason's Hall and saw that they had a free museum to look around. The building is very grand and we would have been silly not to take a peek inside, especially as it is the 300th Anniversary of Freemasonary. The museum is up stairs and just the staircase was worth going for. This chair was made for when the Prince of Wales was installed as the Grand Master. It is over 6' tall and could fit at least two bottoms I think,

This is one of the numerous lodge rooms in the building. The Master's chair is to the left and in front is the junior wardens chair. The senior Warden would sit on the opposite side of the rectangle to the Master. There are many ceremonies and symbols that are supposed to mean something in the many rituals that they perform that is supposed to reinforce the bonds between the members.

I loved this corridor as it just oozed oppulance despite it just being a corridor.

This is the museum proper and has much regalia and items from the past to the future. There is much to see and it is good that the Freemasons are making efforst to breakdown the idea that they are in some way a 'Secret Society'.

The Masons have had a place on Great Queen Street since 1775 and this is the third building on the site. It was built between 1927 and 1933 as a memorial to the 3225 Freemasons that lost their lives in WWI. It was originally called the Masonic Peace Memorial, but changed to Freemason's Hall on the outbreak of WWII. It is in the Art Deco style and the money to build it was raised by the Mason in a Million Memorial Fund. It is home to the Grand Lodge and Chapter and most of the lodges in Greater London and some of the Home Counties too.

Helen took this photo as we were waiting for the bus near our hotel. Despite BREXIT building seems to be going on apace and there seems to be as many cranes on the skyline as ever.

The next day we decided to go the Highgate and look round the cemeteries there as well as a walk form our book. The weather was lovely so it was very nice to walk around the east cemetery looking round. Before paying our £4 entry we went over to the Eastern Cemetery and booked on the walk round there as it is normally closed to the public. The cost of the walk included the entry to the west cemetry. The Cemetery was needed as by the 1830's the industrial revolution had brought about a huge increase in the population of the capital and this in turn had meant that London's graveyards had reached capacity too. An Act of Parliament was passed to allow private companies to set up on the outskirts of the city to take new burials. Highgate was one of seven companies that set up in competition. The broken column in this memorial is a symbol that often meant that the dead were taken young, but not in this case, as it represented the broken column of life.

Douglas Adams was of course the author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. He was born in Cambridge but died in California, at the gym. (Who says fitness is good for you). His ashes were placed here. More modern memorials are much plainer than of old, but the addition of the pen pot certainly brings colour to the stone.

In the early 1970's the cremation of the dead became very popular and private cemeteries suffered a 'loss of trade' and most went bust. Highgate was just left and there was much vandalism. In 1975 the Friends of Highgate Cemetery were formed and by 1981 they had got the freehold of the east and west cemeteries. Their plan is to preserve them in a state of managed neglect and the atmosphere that is evoked around both sites is just right. As and when money becomes available they recover and restore tombs and areas, meanwhile the land does it's thing that just adds to the feel of the place.

As it was a money making idea plots at the front were more than at the back. The Victorians don't seem to have had a problem with walking over other graves as there are no paths between rows etc. There are around 170000 people buried here in 53000 graves. You may think that it would have a bit of a sinister feel to it but on a beautiful sunny day like today with the dappled shaded it just felt a great place for a walk, which is what folk did in the past. At it's peak there were around 30 burials a day. It must have been a real jam trying to get all the undertakers, hearses and horses let alone the mourners in and out in that time.

These vaults have recently been restored and when built were very expensive so were definitely the place to be buried. I think up to 6 people could be placed in the tombs. 

Many of the tombs and memorials carried symbols that gave clues to the occupation of the occupant. This lion asleep on the grave of George Wombwell reveals that he was a Menagerist or circus owner who made a fortune from his travelling show.

This tomb of Thomas Sayers was the most visited one in the place at the time as Thomas was a bare knuckle fighter and is famous for his last fight that is thought of as the first world championship as he fought John Heenan of America. Bare knuckle fighting was illegal but a bling eye was turned. In fact the police chief was a spectator. Thomas was eight years older than Heenan, forty pound lighter and five inches shorter, plus his arm was damaged early on and he fought most of the match with one arm. He had managed to close Heenan's eye. The fight went on for over forty round and well over 2 hours in legth. Heenan then tried to finish the fight by strangling Sayers and the crowd went wild. In the end the police had to intervene and the fight was declared a draw. Thomas died a few years later partly through drink, but he was so well loved the street were lined with mourners for miles on the approach to the cemetery. Before his death he  discovered that his wife had had several affairs so decided to have his very loyal dog 'Lion' by his grave as a permanent symbol of his snubbing his wife.

The girl showing us round told us that this memorial was her favourite in the cemetery and with the dappled light on it it certainly looked beautiful. The symbol of a sleeping angel is there for all to see and the stonework is beautiful.

A visit to both the east and west cemetery is well worth the trip, especially on a lovely sunny day like to day. I would certainly book the tour as well. On entry to the east cemetery you receive a plan that marks the more prominent people that are 'resting' there, so you can carry out a sort of people watching as you walk around the beautiful grounds.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Quite a wide beam and a good paint job.

Our trip to London on Hull Trains was uneventful and very speedy. Hull Trains have a top 97% customer satisfaction score that make them the top rail company. Something else that Hull can be proud of. We went to see our daughter and have a bite to eat and a drink, and to make plans for the rest of the weekend.

The first visit of the trip was to HMS Belfast. I had been before a good while ago, maybe 1985 as I was on a ship that tied up alongside her. We also made use of a two for one voucher from Hull Trains! Being on board her gives you a good view of the Tower of London too.

These three valves are those that select which set of turbines the steam goes through to drive the propeller. There is the full speed ahead, cruising speed and astern sets. I'm not sure how many of the 760 odd crew were working in the engineering department but there are many and various things to oil and grease and open and shut. She had four water tube boilers that made the steam for the four Parson's turbines. her maximum speed was 32.5 kts. The boilers and turbines were placed such that if one was knocked out they would be able to continue with the other set. The pipework and ancillary machinery made it very cramped and it must have been warm. Maybe the best spot when she was on Arctic Convoy and North Atlantic patrol duty.

HMS Belfast was launched on St. Patrick's Day 1938. By the time she finished her trials and was accepted into the Royal Navy at the beginning of August 1939 it was less than a month to the start of WWII. Her 6" guns could throw a shell over 14 miles so may well not be insight of what they were firing at. The vessel was protected from torpedoes by a 4.5" belt of steel armour at the waterline and the turrets by 4" of steel. But Belfast was just a battle cruiser. The heavy battleships had 15" and 16" guns

We had a good view of the Thames barge 'Ardwina' as she was stemming the tide waiting for the lifting of the Tower Bridge. She is on the historic ships register as she was built in Ipswich in 1907. She was engaged on general trade on the est Coast for many years. She was once abandoned  in the North Sea but was salvaged. She later changed to the stone trade from Portland to Greenwich until 1952 and was a house boat off Chelsea in the 1970's. She is not on a long voyage as she is berthed at St. Catherine's Dock just the other side of Tower Bridge.

The bridge finally lifted and she made her way through. You can see that she really couldn't pass with out the bridge lifting as her mast is massive. You can go on line and find the schedule for Tower Bridge being raised if you want a picture of it in that position. We were lucky enough to squeeze under when it was lifted on 'Holderness' the other year when it was the Tall Ships Race in London last and we were heading up to Brentford.

We made our way up to my normal working territory of the past and had a good view from the Admiral's Bridge and the ship's bridge/wheelhouse. A merchant ship of this size would normally only have one man on the bridge in daylight and two at night, but the Royal Navy would have endless numbers. I could never get bused to the crowds when I worked with the Navy. The next bridge up is London Bridge and it certainly doesn't have the appeal of the Tower Bridge. 

 Helen seemed at home on the bridge and it did seem very familiar to the old ships I started my career on. Another oddity I also thought was that the wheel was not where the ship was conned from and orders had to be transmitted to the helm. I wonder if anybody could work out how long a tiller would have to be to allow it to turn 'Belfast'? She thought she was in the Captain's Chair but it was only the Navigating Officers. Maybe my position is honorary Captain of 'Holderness' will survive a while.

Following our very interesting tour of the battle cruiser we decided to see some smaller ones. Helen had never been to St. Catherine's dock so we decided to shamble over and have a quick look before heading back to the hotel. We spotted the Royal barge 'Gloriana'. Hard to miss with all that gold leaf shinning in the sun. She is propelled by 18 oarsmen (and two electric motors) when on official service. The electric motors are not normally used when rowing but for more mundane passages. She can travel at 3 to 4 knots under oars.

She was built at Brentford and Lord Sterling put up most of the £1.5 million costs. She was officially launched in April 2012 and was designed as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth on her Diamond Jubilee. The cabin has space for 34 passengers, but 20 is a more comfortable number, as well as the oars men. Apparently if you are fit and able you can apply to be an oarsman on her.

Helen's favourite London building has to appear when ever we go to London, so here is today's image.

In the evening we went to see our daughter perform in her choir in an 'immersive experience' It really made you realise that singing as part of a choir is good for you physically and emotional as they thoroughly enjoyed themselves as well as the audience. On the way from the station to the venue we passed the Cable Street Mural. The mural was completed to commemorate the Battle of Cable Street that occurred in 1936. In October of that year Oswald Mosley's British Union of Facists were to carry out a march through the area. Anti Facist protesters, made up of local Jewish, Irish Communists and anti-Facists set up barricades to prevent the march passing.

David Binnington was commisioned to carry out the work and he started in 1979 and it was supposed to take under a year, but it took much longer. Before it was finished, in May 1982, right wing slogans were daubed over the lower part and Binnington resigned in disgust. The work was taken up by several other artists and it was finally completed in March 1983. It has sadly been vandalised several times since but has been coated with special lacquer that protects it and means it can easily be cleaned. You may notice that the protesters are shown full face bu the police and the Facists are not.