Tag Archives: London buildings

London’s oldest

Sykes & Son Limited based on Essex Street, just off Strand since 1759 Is moving. As London’s oldest builder Sykes & Son was formed by John Willis in 1759 and its earliest records show that it worked at St Clement Dane’s Church in 1759 – where it worked again some 250 years later. Other clients include the Tower of London, Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and English Heritage.

They haven’t remained in the same Essex Street building [featured]: 1759-1799 at number 23; 1799-1881 at number 47; 1881-1895 at number 9; 1895-1949 at number 10; 1949-1969 at number 8; 1969-2020 they moved to 23 Devereux Court which is a small turning off Essex Street.

They have worked on Royal palaces, world-renowned museums, galleries and universities but a new possible client for the company has been uncovered, ironically at the same time, Sykes moved to Bloomsbury.

At 54A High Street, High Barnet a crown post timber roof was found intact dating to 1397, or perhaps earlier, which would make it the oldest known surviving timber structure in London. To put it into perspective Westminster Hall with its huge hammer-beam roof, commissioned by Richard II was completed in 1401.

This shop was being converted from a hairdresser to a florist when the discovery was made. Built-in the days when High Barnet was on the route of animal drovers who stopped the night at taverns or perhaps sold animals at a fair. Barnet fare is one of the most well known and oldest in the country.

At some point, it is thought the building was amalgamated into a group of taverns that became the Mitre, which was established in 1633 and is Barnet’s oldest former coaching inn.

Analysis by Historic England has shown that the oldest timbers were from trees felled between 1330 and 1362, those mature trees would have been saplings at the time of the Norman Conquest.

Welsh dairies

J. Evans Dairy a Grade II listed building on the corner of Warren Street and Conway Street.
Built 1793 and tiles circ. 1916 a rare surviving example of a Welsh dairy.

[I]T IS A CUT THROUGH we cabbies once used when wishing to turn into Euston Road from Tottenham Court Road, by turning down Warren Street we once missed the traffic and join the bus lane at Great Portland Street which also had the added advantage if you timed it correctly of enabling you to collect your evening newspaper without the inconvenience of having to stop as the friendly vendor standing on the corner presses the paper into your hand. I have used this cut through numerous times and have always admired this little corner shop with its blue tiles hardly realising how important the shop was once. Unfortunately Camden council had now put pay to this useful detour.

French's Dairy, Rugby Street

French’s Dairy, Rugby Street

Before we had supermarkets which now supply all our provisions, we were served quite adequately by door deliveries and one of the last to survive is the milkman.

From about 1860 onward, as a result of hard times in Wales, many Welshmen, especially from Cardiganshire set up dairy businesses in London.

Cows in the back of the shop

Keeping cows on the premises in the middle of London, many if these dairies were set up in close proximity to the Marylebone/Euston Road which leads directly from Paddington Station, the mainline terminus of the Great Western which serves South Wales (in fact until very recently all early morning trains were still called ‘milk trains’).

Diary Outfit

In King’s Cross Road there is a faded sign of a company that supplied all the paraphernalia needed to produce milk products.

Lloyds Dairy Amwell Street

Lloyds Dairy, Amwell Street

London is home to the oldest and largest Welsh community outside Wales. The middle of the 19th century saw an exodus of Welsh dairymen to London with many setting themselves up as dairies. By 1900 it is estimated half of all dairies in the capital were Welsh.

Even by 1950 there were still over 700 Welsh dairies in the City. The last survivor in Clerkenwell is believed to have closed as recently as 2001.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 25th May 2012

223 Bow Road

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building which you might have passed without noticing, and this at the side of the main road one took quite a time to find.

[T]he building this month is passed unnoticed by thousands every day standing as it does incongruously next to a drive-in McDonald’s close to the Bow flyover, so anonymous are its outward features they belie the building’s importance.

The origin of Bow

There is a story that the name Bow was derived from the shape of the arch of the 12th-century bridge which spanned the river Lea where Bow flyover now stands. This bridge is thought to have been the first stone-arched Bridge in Britain and this was 60 years before the first such bridge was built across the Thames in London.

There is a story that this bridge was commissioned to be built by Queen Matilda after she ‘had been well washed in the waters’ when trying to cross by the ford when on her way to Barking. During the 14th century, there was a chapel on the bridge dedicated to St Katherine and in this, there lived a hermit. Chaucer referred to Bow in his Canterbury Tales which takes the name back at least to the 14th century.

9-day Morris dance

No. 223 Bow Road seems to sit rather shyly near to the brash new MacDonald’s nearby. The building dates back to the 17th century and so it is possible that Will Kempe, a leading Shakespearean actor, who crossed the river Lea at Bow in 1600 on his 9-day Morris Dance from Stepney to Norwich, might have known this little house with its two quaint bay windows on the first floor.

Its rounded bays on the ground floor were added later in the early 19th century to make a shop front in the rural village of Bow. The oldest photograph of this building is of M. Howes was an old established corn and flour dealer selling animal feed, horse mixture, straw, and hay from this double-bay 17th-century house. Grade II listed it is one of the oldest properties in East London.
A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 3rd September 2013

Site Unseen: K2

K2Every 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.

End of the line for K2. As iconic as my black cab, the K2 telephone boxes have since 1936, been an intrinsic part of London’s urban landscape. But who actually uses telephone boxes these days or even notices them?

With almost universal mobile phone ownership, you could say that red telephone boxes are hidden in plain sight. Their original function has been overtaken by a number of uses its designer couldn’t have imagined possible.

[T]HEIR USE as a rather well-designed notice booth for call-girls (or boys) is now falling by the wayside as they find more effective ways of advertising their services and using it as a public urinal has its limitations, not least that its cramped compartment renders the user in danger of watering their shoes.

With brilliant originality they named it K2 for Kiosk No. 2, it was a course preceded by K1 which was constructed in concrete. The design this time in cast iron, by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott had won a Post Office competition three years earlier and started a whole series of similar looking telephone boxes.

Its distinctive domed roof and all-over red make it the prototype of the classic K6, which was introduced nearly ten years later. Ventilation was provided via the crown in the roof section – it was made up from small, round holes!

Legend has it that the dome was Scott’s homage to the 18th Century architect Sir John Soane, R.A. (1753-1837) whose family tomb is surmounted by a very similar feature. Unlike the tops of modern British phone booths, Scott’s Soanian dome is a proper roof, dealing effectively with rain and litter while also being aesthetically pleasing.

But what makes K2 special is that it was mostly restricted to the London area and considerably bigger than its successors.

In London kiosks positioned by tourist locations have survived BTs desire to replace them with utility “shower cabinets” and stand as an iconic feature of London. Their purpose now would seem only to be as a photo opportunity for visitors.

Without ever suggesting their removal, could we not find some new use for these beautiful structures? For a start, the London Tourist Board should come to an arrangement with BT to pay for their maintenance and cleaning, covered in grime they’re a disgrace.

Perhaps we could use them as one man internet cafes, or greenhouses with orchids.

I am indebted to wallyg at flickr for permission to use his photo of K2; his pages contain a wealth of images and background information on London.

Site Unseen: Grosvenor Gardens

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.

If ever a building proclaimed its original function, this is it. Standing in Bishopsgate Churchyard is this Ottoman Hamam in the heart of the City dedicated to Mammon.

[T]HE FASHION FOR TURKISH BATHS was petering out a decade after this little curiosity was constructed in 1895for the king of Turkish baths James Forder Nevill who owned nine Turkish baths in London.

Built on a site so constricted that its entry is via a small kiosk, it was said to be modelled by the architect Harold Elphick on the 19th-century shrine at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. This Moorish gem of blue faience, brick, and terracotta, surmounted by an onion dome (to house the water tanks), continued the Alhambra theme inside with three hot rooms, shampooing room, shower bath and plunge bath, all with mosaic floors, tiled walls, marble seats and stained glass windows.

Against all the odds, it survived Hitler’s valiant attempt to destroy it and every other redevelopment scheme, continuing as a Turkish bath until the 1950s. Fighting a lone battle against the pressures of surrounding developers and encircling demolition work a Turkish gentleman; Mr Mourat saved the building and converted it into the Gallipoli Turkish restaurant.

It is now an Italian restaurant and bar, and at last years’ Open House had Londoners queuing to view this rare surviving Moorish temple in the heart of The City.

Featured image: Bishopsgate Churchyard, London, EC2 by DavidHallam-Jones (CC BY-SA 2.0). With St Botolph’s-without-Bishopsgate churchyard behind them pedestrians walking towards New Broad Street find themselves facing the entrance to this former underground Turkish Bath establishment. Apparently there had been baths of one kind or another on this site since 1817. These “new” (replacement) baths were opened as “The New Broad Street Turkish Baths” on 5 February 1895. They were situated partly underneath the original New Broad Street House (since demolished) and partly beneath Alderman’s Walk (now called Bishopsgate Churchyard). Potential bathers entered the kiosk that is topped by an onion shaped cupola and decorated with a star and crescent and went down a faïence-lined (earthenware tiled) winding staircase to a vestibule where s/he bought a ticket. Although Grade II-listed, it seems that it has been adapted into a restaurant.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 19th February 2010