Tag Archives: buildings of london

Hornor’s Panorama

1400px-London_360_from_St_Paul's_Cathedral_-_Sept_2007 A panorama of modern London, taken from the Golden Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral

[T]HE UNITED STATES CAPITOL BUILDING, Taj Mahal and Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore all have their admirers, but for CabbieBlog standing head and shoulders above them all is the largest Cathedral in England, Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It is remarkable that St. Paul’s should have been built under the supervision of only one master-builder, Thomas Strong and one architect. Construction took over 35 years, so long in fact that a lazy workman at the time would have been called a St. Paul’s workman.

In Florence no building is allowed to dominate its beautiful cathedral. It’s a simple principle that has enhanced their city. Unfortunately this has not been the case in the area surrounding St. Paul’s. The buildings after the Second World War were dire and it has only been after the intervention of Prince Charles that adjoining Paternoster Square, completed in 2003, is harmonious.

180px-PaternosterSquare-TempleBar The arch connecting Paternoster Square to St. Paul’s is Temple Bar designed by Wren and originally positioned at the western end of Fleet Street as a ‘bar’ to people approaching the City of London. In 1880, a brewer Sir Henry Meux bought the stones (at the instigation of his wife, Valerie Susan Meux, a barmaid he married amid much scandal) and re-erected the arch as a gateway at his house, Theobalds Park, between Enfield and Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. It remained there, incongruously sitting in a clearing in a wood, until 2003.

Before satellite imagery, before airplanes, and before photography, the only way of obtaining large-scale and factual panoramic views was to get to a good observation point and draw away. Thomas Hornor did just such a thing in 1821: taking advantage of the cross being removed for cleaning from the top of St. Paul’s, he somehow convinced the powers-that-be to allow him to construct an observation post for himself in its place for a long term, uninterrupted and altogether fabulous view of the city of London. He set up shop up there, about 400 feet above the ground, in a shack that was, well, not the safest-looking construction ever to grace atop a cathedral, making minutely detailed drawings of the cityscape, working with a telescope and a great deal of reserve.

hornor panorama

The end result was an enormous, fantastically detailed acre-sized painting which was installed and displayed in a pleasure dome on a site between Albany Street and Cambridge Terrace, on the fringes of Regent’s Park. It was eventually to be called the Colosseum and it was conceived on a suitably grand scale. Designed by a young architect called Decimus Burton, its central feature was a rotunda with a dome 30 feet wider than St. Paul’s and 112 feet high at its apex. The installation was as much an artwork as the painting – it was affixed to the walls and people would view it from a multi-story observation deck in the middle of the building. For those who didn’t want to climb the stairs to get to the viewing room, an ‘ascending car’ was fabricated, making the structure one of the earliest buildings to have an elevator. There is some sort of irony in that: people would pay to see a painting using London’s first elevator to get to the top of a small structure inside another structure to see a painting made from the top of a large structure of a scene that could be viewed for free by walking outside. Nonetheless, the fantabulous painting was viewed by more than a million people before moving on.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 3rd November 2009

Site Unseen: Inner and Middle Temple

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past, they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

Open to the public during daylight hours the Inner and Middle Temples have a rather private appearance which probably put off many curious visitors.

[F]ROM THE ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE cross to the south side of the Strand – the George public house is here. Continue in an easterly direction and the gateway [featured image] to Middle Temple Lane is about 130 yards on the right (opposite Bell Yard).

Most people – even those with only a vague knowledge of London – have heard of the Temple; many, at some point, have taken a bus past its great Fleet Street gateways, but few have ventured beyond its outer bounds, and even less have an elementary insight into its history.

For the absolute beginnings which led to the creation of the Temple here in London, we must look back in time to the early 12th century and those far-off lands of Israel. Like many of the foundations which have their roots buried in religious convictions, the establishment of the Temple can be traced to the dedication of a single person – in this case, Frenchman, Hugh de Paganis. Charged with determination while on a visit to the Holy Land, he and eight admirers set themselves the ungrudging task of protecting pilgrims who thronged the roads en route to the holy shrine. In 1118 the nine were recognised by the King of Jerusalem for their outstanding services and installed as regular canons of the Temple of Mount Moriah, and took the vows of charity, chastity and obedience. Their distinguishing white habit with a red cross won the approval of the Pope and gave rise to their popular name of the Red Cross Knights.

Middle Temple Lane

In about 1128 Paganis returned to his native France and was received in Paris, amid pomp and ceremony, by Louis VII who presented him with a generous parcel of land for the purpose of building a temple. From Paris, he crossed to England where Henry I endowed him with further widely scattered plots, financial assistance, untold treasures, manor houses and churches.

The establishment of the Knights Templars, as they had come to be known, took place in about 1130 when they settle on a piece of land in Holborn – between Chancery Lane and Southampton Buildings – where they built a church with a round nave, in the style of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Later in the century when the Templars acquired a site on the northern banks of the Thames, this church subsequently became known as the ‘Old Temple’. By 1185, the Round of the ‘New Temple’ was ready for consecration, and the ceremony was performed in the presence of Henry II by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was on a visit to England attending to business with the King.

Temple Church

Being holders of great wealth the Templars served as bankers to kings of all lands and anyone of extensive financial means who wished to take advantage of the security offered by their strongholdings. These dealings aroused vicious envy among the authorities and in 1308 Edward II, being filled with jealousy, ordered the City bailiffs to take strong men and seize the Templars treasures, cast out the Knights, and to issue punishment by any means they thought fit. The king of France was so infuriated that he petitioned the Pope to close the Order down – a move which came to fruition in 1312. It was proposed by the Council of Vienne that all the possessions of the Knights Templars should be granted to their opponents – the Order of St John of Jerusalem – but in effect they secured very little; over two thirds of the estate was taken by the King who apportioned it out to those who happened to be in his favour at the time. That portion which lay outside the City was disposed of by granting it to Walter de Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter, and became known as Exeter Inn; later it passed through the hands of Lord Paget, the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Lancaster, until it was landed by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. The remainder stayed within the control of the Crown and leased off to favourites until the Hospitallers (Order of St John) complained that consecrated ground was being ill-used by various laypersons. This brought about an enquiry which resulted in the Hospitallers being granted the consecrated ground, whilst the unconsecrated was retained by the Crown. In this move, we find the origin of the division between Inner and Middle Temple – Inner, the consecrated; Middle, the unconsecrated. Upon expiry of a property lease in 1343 the Knights Hospitallers gained possession of what they had always thought was their rightful property – the unconsecrated portion.

It seems that the lawyers first obtained a footing in the Temple in 1320 as tenants of the Earl of Lancaster, although it was not until 1346 that a large scale influx was seen when the Knights Hospitallers leased their newly acquired asset to ‘certain lawyers’ in two separate allocations at ten pounds per year. The Hospitallers held control of the Temple, with the lawyers of the two societies – Inner and Middle – as tenants until 1540 when Henry VIII dissolved the Order and seized its property. From this time the lawyers continued as tenants of the Crown, until 1608 when James I reconsidered the unprofitable lease and made plans to sell the Temple. Upon learning this news the lawyers took steps to stop the action by bribing James with priceless treasures so that he had no option but to grant them a new deal which included extra property – all at the same rent as before. Total rights and ownership did not come the lawyer’s way until Charles II decided to rid himself of the responsibility in the mid-17th century.

Middle Temple

With the two societies of Inner and Middle Temple securely established mid-way between the cities of London and Westminster, the lawyers became a prominent element in the life of the citizens of both. The Temple quickly developed into a fashionable place of learning, not only in the study of legal intricacies but as a college of general education. At a time when the students of Oxford and Cambridge were largely made up of sons of the gentry, the Temple offered grooming for these up-and-coming gentlemen, instructing them in charm and graces fitting of a noble society.

As a legal institution, the Temple was modelled in the likeness of the trade fraternities, or livery companies, with the Master at its head. The controlling body, known as Benchers drew their members from the Outer Bar as and when they desired to add to their numbers – which incidentally had no limit. Many of the old customs and ceremonies are still adhered to in modern times; the orders of the Masters of the Bench are the terms under which every member of both societies must abide; by them, members are ‘called to the Bar’. However, before they can be admitted they are required to ‘keep terms’, an ancient custom of dining in the hall for a stipulated number of days in each term, after which they are entitled to plead on behalf of the public in the law courts of England and Wales. Student, of course, is completely at will to follow their legal studies wherever they choose, but all who desire to enter the profession of barristers must succumb to examination and ritual within one of the inns of court. Thereafter they are admitted to the Outer Bar, wearing gowns of ‘stuff’ until such time as they are elected Queen’s Councillors when they ‘take silk’ – don gowns of silk.

Temple Gardens

Through the ages, the Temple has suffered a sequence of setbacks, but none has hit it quite so severely as that curse of old London – fire. Late in the afternoon of Tuesday 4th September 1666, the Great Fire had feasted its flames on Ludgate Hill and was advancing with tremendous vigour along Fleet Street. As dusk fell, St Bride’s church was completely engulfed and in minutes transformed into a burnt out shell. Next, the mighty furnace swallowed Dorset House in Salisbury Square, progressing swiftly westward, reaching Serjeants’ Inn and Mitre Court before the smoke-filled day had passed into night. These were the first of many Temple casualties; the whole of King’s Bench Walk was destroyed, as too was Tanfield Court, most of the buildings around Inner Temple Hall, and the Master’s House. Complete destruction of the entire Temple buildings was only avoided by the liberal use of gunpowder, under the direction of the Duke of York. Within six years of the Great Fire all rebuilding was completed, but in 1677 another fire broke out in King’s Bench Walk and many of the new buildings in the immediate area were again razed to the ground. As the lawyers counted the cost of the endless renovation work, a further setback saw them shaking their heads in despair. One perishing night in the winter of 1678 Mr Thornbury at his chambers in Pump Court was aroused by clouds of smoke pouring through the gap beneath his door; this was the evidence of a fire which was to prove far more fatal than the Great Fire itself. It broke out as the midnight chimes echoed out from the clock of Inner Temple Hall, and burnt for nigh on twelve hours destroying Pump Court, Hare Court, Brick Court, Elm Court, The Cloisters, and part of the Hall. By a stroke of misfortune, the Thames was thickly frozen, preventing the fire-fighters from drawing water so that they had to resort to using ale from a nearby tavern brewery. Total obliteration of the Temple Church was only avoided by blowing up the intervening buildings and thus starving the fire of fuel.

World War II inflicted devastation on the buildings of the Temple when few emerged unscathed. Middle Temple Library and Serjeants’ Inn were among the first casualties, being wrecked by bombs on the 30th December 1940. Middle Temple Hall suffered a hit the next day and less than two weeks later Mitre Court was left as a gaping hole. Some of the most horrendous injuries to the Temple came on the 10th May 1941 with the Church, Pump Court, Tanfield Court, Lamb’s Buildings, and the Master’s House all alight, illuminating the sky, the like of which had not been experienced since 1678. But all is now back in order and the Temple continues in its own tranquil way, as it always has – even if disasters have upset the apple cart from time to time.

Images: Middle Temple Lane by Marathon (CC BY-SA 2.0). The Middle Temple is one of the Inns of Court. There are a number of linked courtyards and gardens. In the 19th century, Charles Dickens wrote of the Inner and Middle Temples “who enters here leaves the noise behind”. This is certainly the case with Middle Temple Lane which runs from Fleet Street down to Victoria Embankment. It is seen here from the Fleet Street end.

Fountain Court, Middle Temple by Marathon (CC BY-SA 2.0). The Middle Temple is one of the Inns of Court. There are a number of linked courtyards and this is Fountain Court.

Temple Church by Graham Horn (CC BY-SA 2.0). The church was founded in the 12th century by the Knights Templar. It is now the church serving the Inner and Middle Temples, two of the four Inns of Court. This is the view east of the main church, looking from the round church.

CabbieBlog-cabMuch of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no more. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.

Cabinet of Curiosities

[A]ll men like to collect and catalogue ‘stuff’ and Victorian gentlemen were no different from today’s men. Amongst their collections could be found animal skulls, fossils, shells, a miniature book or maybe a small timepiece. They would display their finds in a cabinet , a cabinet of curiosities. In the same spirit of inquiry CabbieBlog gives you its London Cabinet of Curiosities.

Rose Square A pastiche of a pastiche
In Rose Square on the Fulham Road all is not what it seems. When these very smart apartments are finally pulled down, it will reveal a 21st century re-working of a mid 19th century re-creation of a Tudor college or cloister. It was built originally for a hospital for consumptives in 1844 by architect F. J. Francis who promptly vanished into Victorian obscurity.

Ely Place The Holborn Fens
Ely Place is the archetypal London street, tall, prosperous Georgian buildings, solid trustworthy, elegant and private, it’s even gate and guarded by a beadle. His tiny one-roomed lodge is nothing more than a door, a window, a fireplace and a chimney which is curiously supported by the window. This quiet cul-de-sac was the site of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely in Cambridgeshire, and therefore out of the jurisdiction of London.

1561712927_d09325835c Elizabethan Toolshed
This octagonal building was designed as a summer house to form part of a £200 improvement in 1886 of what was then a private square. It is now one of the most picturesque garden sheds you will find in London. A fountain previously stood on the site with four jets, representing the Thames, Severn, Tyne and Humber rivers, but has vanished just as have Centre Point’s fountains nearby.

Old Curiosity Shop The Old Curiosity Shop
This charming one-bay, two-story, 17th century shop with an overhanging upper story is conspicuously picturesque but obliterated by the dull buildings towering around it. In Dicken’s story of the same name, Little Nell and her grandfather fled the shop leaving it in the hands of the evil dwarf Quilp. Dickens described the shop as ‘the old house was a patch of darkness among its gaily lit neighbours’. Today the roles are reversed, Portsmouth Street where it stands, is one of the bleakest, most anonymous byways in central London.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 31st October 2012

Site Unseen: Colcutt Tower

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past, they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

At nearly 300ft. Colcutt’s Tower is higher than the dome of St. Paul’s but the subsequent development surrounding the building has ensured the building’s total anonymity.

[D]ESIGNED BY by T. E. Colcutt, it was he I discovered who designed the Savoy, Simpson’s-in-the-Strand and the Palace Theatre. When completed Colcutt’s Tower marked Queen Victoria’s 50 years on the throne.

The Renaissance-style tower originally had two siblings each with copper roofs, the towers rising up above the Imperial Institute founded after the grand-sounding Colonial Exhibition of 1886. On the anniversary of Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the tower was christened The Queen’s Tower.

The Imperial Institute was completed in 1893 and although regarded as Colcutt’s masterpiece a proper function was never found for its use. Its cavernous great hall was used for examinations and was notorious among students in the 1950s for its leaking ‘temporary’ plywood ceiling and the loose-bowelled sparrows that inhabited it.

In the 1960s the Imperial Institute was demolished despite protests led by the poet laureate John Betjeman. Only the single tower was spared, but as the buildings originally had propped it up the tower’s foundations had to be considerably strengthened thus allowing it to stand proudly on its own.

The only sign that this monument to colonialism exists, is when 11 times a year on Royal anniversaries its bells are rung much the surprise of local residents (who must wonder where the sound is coming from) and the sparrows.

Featured image: View from the top of Colcott Tower

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 16th July 2013

Site Unseen: Winfield House

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past, they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

On the eve of the arrival of America’s most controversial modern President, we’re looking at a house only accessible after interrogation by armed police officers.

[T]HIS GEORGIAN STYLE BUILDING on the site of St. Dunstan’s, a Regency villa, built by Barbara Hutton in 1936. With a $40 million inheritance, and fearing kidnap of her son, she wanted a more secure home for her family than their Marble Arch house.

The Woolworth chain store group had been founded by Hutton’s grandfather, Frank Winfield Woolworth, his middle name being adopted as the company’s brand.

Unfortunately, the house was only used by the family for three years, her marriage breaking up Barbara Hutton returned to America at the start of World War II.

Winfield House was commandeered by an RAF barrage balloon unit, its windows boarded up and the manicured garden used as a football pitch.

After sustaining during the war buckled floorboards, peeling Chinese wallpaper, broken windows and damage from a flying bomb which had landed 40 yards away, the house was near derelict. Barbara Hutton visited her home and immediately instructed her lawyer to sell the premises for $1 to the United States Government.

The house and grounds were to be used as the official residence of the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.

Winfield House is unique among American residences in that not only was it originally a gift to U.S. Government but it has since been showered with riches in the form of antique furniture, paintings, porcelain, china, glass, chandeliers, objets d’art.

This therefore is ‘a hidden gem’ as few get to see the property from the outside (I once had the pleasure of taking a lady there to attend a formal ball), with 24-hour security outside by armed officers you’re not likely to be invited to see this little piece of America in Regent’s Park.