This week a new lighting scheme has been unveiled at the Angel. The Angel, Islington is one of those buildings that people have heard of even if they haven’t even been to London, thanks to it’s inclusion in a certain board game. However it isn’t obvious to people arriving in Islington which building the Angel is. Hopefully the new lighting scheme will draw attention to the former Angel Inn, now used as a Coop bank.
There has been an Angel Inn on the site since at least the mid 17th century, and probably before that. Situated at the start of the Great North Road, it was the ideal place for visitors to London to pause before making the dangerous journey through footpad infested Clerkenwell, while drovers on their way to Smithfield would use the Angel Inn as a place to sell on cattle to dealers who would fatten the cows up before sale. Minstrels and theatre companies provided entertainment making the Angel Inn a colourful place to stay, as depicted by Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson.
The current building dates back to 1901, its distinctive terracotta coloured bricks feature little cherub like angels as an architectural joke, while its domed roofed tower became a local landmark. It didn’t stay an inn for long however, becoming one of Lyons restaurants in 1921. Here smartly dressed nippies waited at the tables after their daily uniform inspection. Wedding parties were a speciality and displays of wedding cakes tempted passing couples to book the domed room at the top for their special day. It was to this restaurant that Victor Watson of the Waddington Games Company, and his assistant Marjorie retired during their fact finding mission for the Monopoly Game. Northerner Watson had no clue about which streets should be go on the board for the game, so the pair traipsed the streets looking for suitable places to include, until a foot sore Marjorie could stand it no longer and demanded they call the last square on the board Angel Islington after the restaurant they had paused in.
After Lyons moved out the building has had some undistinguished uses, offices, university buildings and now a bank. However we are lucky to have the building at all. As recently as 1980, demolition was being considered to make way for a huge roundabout scheme that would have rivalled the one at Old Street for ugliness and pedestrian unfriendliness. Since then however the Angel has acquired distinctive neighbours – Angel Square one of London’s best examples of the eclectic Post Modernist style and a refurbished BT building across the road in the 21st century modernist glass and steel look. With the Angel area being so busy at night time let’s hope that the new lighting scheme at least draws attention to one of Islington’s most important buildings.
You can hear more about the Angel in our forthcoming walks Alternative Angel and Islington – London’s Larder
Charles I in Whitehall, photo by Dave Brown. Our walk “Return of the King” looks at the first ten years of the reign of his son, Charles II, and visits the sites associated with his flamboyant court and glamorous mistresses.
The other day Ray forwarded this great video clip from the BBC website and it set us thinking – where can you find fossils in Central London
Here are some of our suggestions
- Fossil filled Jurassic Limestone is being used in a lot of new buildings – have a look at Plantation Place on Fenchurch Street
- Jenni can show you a megalosaurus footprint on the wall of a Post Office near Bank
- The new entrance to Green Park tube is covered in fossils, and if you really get stuck its decorated in fossil patterns too
- As part of the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace park a section of geological strata was created, some of it containing fossils http://www.victorianweb.org/science/geology1.html
- If you really want to see fossils in situ head to Lesnes Abbey Woods in South East London where a small fossil bed often yields sharks teeth from the Eocene period
Still stuck? We can show you some fossils like the ones in our picture on our Walking the Hidden River Fleet walk see http://footprintsoflondon.com/walkingthefleet for details, the next walks are on 28th March and 19th May
The redevelopment of the former Kings Cross goods yard is moving into a new phase this year as work concentrates on building the residential areas at the North of the huge site. This means new streets are being laid out, and new streets need new street names. Interestingly the developers have asked the public for ideas, which they can contribute at their website or via Camden and Islington libraries. It’s not often you get the chance to name part of London so the Footprints of London team have entered their suggestions. We thought we would try and get some of our London heroes and heroines a well deserved mention, and also stick with a Kings Cross theme. There are ten streets that need a name – here are five we came up with.
1 Bessemer Street
Sir Henry Bessemer lived and worked in Kings Cross during the 1840s. It was here that he carried out some of the early experiments that would lead to the Bessemer process – a revolutionary way of making better and cheaper steel. This invention makes cutlery affordable, and ships fast enough and strong enough to make Transatlantic trade more viable. Although there are towns named Bessemer in his honour in the USA, there isn’t even a blue plaque to record the site in Kings Cross.
2 Wollstonecraft Square
In her lifetime Mary Wollstonecraft was named the most famous woman in Europe, and in her short life she lived in many places. By the age of 30 she had already written a novel, set up a school for girls and written a treatise on education for women. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman she sets out ideas that go on to form the basis of feminism. Sadly she died not long after giving birth to her daughter Mary Shelley and was buried in St Pancras Churchyard. While there is a campaign to build a statue of her on Newington Green, a street in Kings Cross near the university might be a good way to remember her too.
3 Gresley Way
Sir Nigel Nigel Gresley designed some of the most famous and advanced steam locomotives in the world, notably the iconic A4 class typified by the record breaking Mallard, and the famous A1 class Flying Scotsman. His office was based by the side of Kings Cross station, near where the new departure hall is today. Sadly the Blue Plaque to record this has yet to reappear, but a street named after him would be nice.
4 Burdett-Coutts Street
Angela Burdett-Coutts was the most generous philanthropist of the nineteenth century, using money inherited from the banking business to support hundreds of charities and improvement schemes, all over the world. She supported social housing, education for the poor, created employment opportunities for the homeless, and with her friend Charles Dickens set up a home to help women who had been forced to work as prostitutes. In the Kings Cross area she paid for a sundial recording the names of those who had their graves disturbed by the building of the railways, and set up the Boot Black Brigade, a scheme to teach homeless boys how to clean shoes so they could earn a living, while educating them during the evenings.
5 Keskidee Rd
This one is named after a building rather than a person, the Keskidee Centre which opened in 1971 in nearby Gifford Street, and was Britain’s first black cultural centre. Opened by Guyanese architect Oscar Abrams, it provided educational and cultural facilities and pioneered the teaching of black history, which was ignored by mainstream teaching at the time. Sadly the Centre itself closed down many years ago and last year the building that housed it burnt to the ground. Perhaps the best tribute would be for a new community building to be built bearing the Keskidee name, but failing that a street name would at least keep the memory alive.
So what would you name these new streets? Footprints have already entered our suggestions in the competition, but it would be interesting to hear your ideas.
If you are going on Tinas next tour around the Guildhall on Thursday, I reccomend a quick browse around the new Guildhall Library bookshop. It may be small but it has a fantastic selection of books about City of London history, historic maps and a postcards featuring the library collection. The only risk is you will end up buying more than you bargained for.
The bookshop is open at the same time as the library details here
There are many reasons to visit Southwark Cathedral, the gothic gem of a building nestled on Bankside next to London Bridge and the Shard.
Until 29th March you can add one more: the opportunity to see the dramatic sculpture of Christ’s head with crown of thorns by acclaimed British sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green.
The giant eight-foot head, cast in lead with a gilded crown of thorns, is on display in front of the high altar during Lent and the Holy Week.
It is powerful not just because of its sheer size but also because when you look beyond the thorns you see the humanity in the face of Christ, says Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark.
Entitled Christ Rests in Peace, the sculpture is the result of over 20 years work on the face of Jesus by Fiddian-Green. The sculptor is best known for his equestrian sculptures, especially the 33-ft head of a drinking horse installed at Marble Arch in 2010.
Christ Rests in Peace is already proving extremely attractive to Southwark Cathedral visitors, almost overshadowing in popularity the permanent sculpture of William Shakespeare in the south aisle of the nave.
But why not combine a look at both sculptures with a fascinating Shakespeare-themed guided walk around Bankside in the company of Footprints of London guide Ray Blackburn.
His walk is one of three Shakespeare-themed tours regularly offered by Footprints of London guides. Also coming up in the next month or so are Anne Tickell’s Shakespeare in the City and Jenni Bowley’s Shakespeare in Shoreditch.
All these walks and many more, on a variety of themes and subjects, can be found at the Footprints of London home page.
The exciting discovery yesterday that the skeleton found in Leicester is indeed that of Richard III creates an interesting problem – what should happen to the skeleton next? Towns are vying to be the final resting place of the bones, but does London have a good case?
Of course some are saying that Richard should return to the Leicester car park where he was found, having been buried once before. Perhaps with a suitable memorial. It would make it one of the most interesting car parks in the country, perhaps on a par with car park in St Albans where the Wars of the Roses first broke out. A more formal reburial in Leicester Cathedral might be fitting for a King, but would you want to be buried in a town where you were defeated. Perhaps York might be a more appropriate place for a Yorkist King? A strange compromise has been suggested by John Mann MP for Worksop, which is halfway between Leicester and York.
A good number, but by no means all English monarchs have been buried in Westminster Abbey, and the honour being extended to Richard III might please his fans. However with the most impressive part of the Abbey being built at the command of Richard’s enemy Henry VII, perhaps it too isn’t ideal.
Crosby Hall – originally built in Bishopsgate in 1466 it was Richard Duke of Gloucester’s home in London. Some of the building still survives, though now in Cheyne Walk where it was re-erected in 1910.
Ely Place – the site of the Bishop of Ely’s palace is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Richard III
Baynard Castle – originally a Norman Castle, Richard is offered the crown of England here by Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. It is now marked by an ugly BT building called Baynard House
The College of Arms – nearby to Baynard Castle the college was set up by Richard III in 1484. It is still the leading heraldic authority in the country
The Tower of London – what actually happened to the Princes in the Tower is too contentious to get into here. However Richard III was the key beneficiary of the princes deaths in this Royal Palace
Of course our view of Richard III is coloured by his treatment by Shakespeare, who was writing long after Richard’s death. For an insight into the world of Shakespeare why not go on one of our regular Shakespeare walks. Next one is Shakespeare in the City which discusses the College of Arms, and our guides will gladly talk Richard III with you
A walk that I never meant to create has now become rather an obsession. I am certain I am not alone in this. The river itself is fascinating but the origin of the name is also a mystery.
Stow in A Survey of London 1598 assumes the name comes from the river running under the Roman Wall. Seems a reasonable enough explanation.
Peter Ackroyd in ‘London the Biography’ writes of the ‘weala broc’ translated as the brook of the Welsh. In old deeds ‘walbroc’ (c. 1114-33) Anglo Saxon ‘walk’ to mean a stranger or foreigner, the Welsh were seen to be so at that time. They are of course a country in their own right today.
Fabyan who wrote his chronicles at the end of the 15th Century refers to an ancient battle on the Bucklersbury site between the Franks and the Romans. The victorious Roman General was known as Lucius (of) Gallus – Gallus being the name given to that part of Britain known as Wales and Cornwall – which over time evolved into Wallusbroke – and in popular usage since 12th Century.
The ‘Walbrook where art thou?’ has proved a popular walk come sun, rain or snow and it is still improving at each outing. I was particularly lucky that a splendid ‘visual aid’ was supplied by Blomberg’s and MOLA in the form of a hoarding down the whole of Walbrook. With QR codes for the technically minded.
Plus the bonus on one of the walks to be privy to the discovery of a Nero coin at the very moment we passed by, which delighted us all including MOLA Discovery who were following me on Twitter that day! See http://walbrookdiscovery.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/feeling-drained/ for more on MOL’s activities.
… at plans for an old Shakespeare playhouse which include a new theatre.
It was only a few months ago that Museum of London archaeologists announced they had concrete evidence for the site of one of the oldest theatres in London – the Curtain.
Built in the 1570’s this venue entertained thousands of Elizabethan Londoners. William Shakespeare’s acting company used it, Almost certainly the man himself would have performed on its stage.
Where was this Tudor playground? Just outside the old city’s boundary – and regulations – in a racy neighbourhood called Shoreditch. In more recent times, this part of town became industrialised and densely settled. All visible traces of the Curtain were obscured years ago.
Now potential building work has enabled part of a site to be cleared, and walls and foundations came to light. If new plans for the area go ahead, the remains will be preserved and accessible, a new open-air theatre will be built, and another tower block – 40 storeys this time – added to the London skyline.
Sounds like the usual mixture of Good News and Bad News? For more details, pictures and opinions see these news sources:
For a stroll around the parts of Shoreditch and the City that Shakespeare knew in the early years of his London career, try the Footprints of London Shakespeare in Shoreditch guided walk (Act I of our regular series) this Saturday 2nd February at 11am.
We have other Shakespeare walks on offer, and the Shoreditch leg is also available on Saturday 9th March.
As devotees of the Bard, we’re only too happy to draw our readers’ attention to what promises to be a fascinating talk on Shakespeare by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum.
MacGregor, whose BBC Radio 4 series ’100 objects that shaped the world’ became almost required listening, is delivering an illustrated talk on Monday 3rd December about the dynamic and dangerous world that Shakespeare knew.
The talk will be delivered from 7pm to about 8pm in Southwark Cathedral, the church William Shakespeare and his fellow actors on Bankside knew simply as St Saviour’s. It was the single most important church for the theatrical profession during the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period, when Bankside was London’s major red-light district. About half the actors listed in the front of Shakespeare’s first folio, published in 1623 by two key members of The Kingsmen acting company, also appear on the parish register at St Saviour’s.
MacGregor’s talk will offer us a fascinating three-way conversation between objects of the time – a dagger, a magical mirror, a woollen cap – the men and women whose lives they touched, and the words of Shakespeare himself.
He will build a picture of a world which had expanded in size with the discovery of the New World yet was crumbling in many of its central assumptions about identity, religion and history.
The talk will be chaired by the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark Cathedral.
Tickets, priced at just £5, can be purchased at the Southwark Cathedral shop or online from restlessworld.eventbrite.co.uk . Ticket holders will be entitled to £5 off the publication Shakespeare’s Restless World by Neil MacGregor, available from the Cathedral Shop.
A short tour of the Shakespeare-related monuments and artefacts in Southwark Cathedral is included in Act II of our regular guided Shakespeare walk http://footprintsoflondon.com/shakespeare . It captures the Bard at his creative and financial peak in the 1590s and very early 1600s. See the Globe and Rose theatres with a full supporting cast of narrow cobbled streets, coaching inns, bear-bating pits, brothels and intense thespian rivalry.