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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Merchant Navy Memorial and Tower Bridge

 "Three hundred years ago a prisoner condemned to the Tower of London carved on the walls of his cell this sentiment to keep up his spirits during his long imprisonment: 'It is not adversity which kills, but the impatience with which we bear the adversity.'" ~Father James Keller, American Priest

   After wandering about Seething Lane, Les and I wandered through nearby Trinity Square Gardens and visited the Memorial to the Merchant Navy and those lost at Sea in WWI and II. It is a very touching monument, with Father Thames above it, on the side of the Port of London Authority Building, pointing the way to the River and out to sea. The engraved words convey the loss and loneliness of those whom these thousands of drowned souls left behind.
"The twenty four thousand of the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets whose names are honoured on the wall of this garden gave their lives for their country and have no grave but the sea."
   In a sober mood we crossed the street to Tower Hill and read the information boards regarding The Tower of London. Begun by William the Conqueror to subdue the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, this once magnificent and formidable palace fortress was added to by several other monarchs over the centuries; once it was a palace from where every Monarch's coronation route began. Now it is a well kept tourist attraction, dwarfed by 21st century buildings. I wouldn't mind taking the night tour of the tower but for now, walking around and considering its long history was enough for me to take in. We ate fish and chips while people watching. 
  I love these two pictures above and below because one cannot tell if it the year 1314, 1514, or 2014.
 
The infamous Traitor's Gate at the Tower: This gate leads to the grandest of all the river stairs. It was built by King Edward 1 (1272-1307) as a royal entrance. Later many prisoners accused of treason were brought to the Tower through this gate, including Sir Thomas More, Queen Anne Boleyn, and her daughter Elizabeth.
   The gate at St. Thomas' Tower as it was originally known opened straight into the river, but the wharf was eventually extended across its front in later centuries. The entrance gate and a portcullis guarded the water filled basin beneath, which was deep enough for boats to dock. 
   In March 1554 during a thwarted rebellion against the unpopular Queen Mary 1 (Henry and his first wife Katharine's daughter raised as a devout Catholic), she had her younger half sister Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower and questioned as to her part--if any--played in the rebellion. Elizabeth is said to have said as she rose from the rocking boat and stepped out at Traitor's gate, "Here stands as a true a subject, being prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs."
   Mary's councilors recognized her reign would never be secure as long as her Protestant half sister was still alive. Some of the councilors were working to bring the twenty one year old Elizabeth to trial for treason to the crown. 
   Fortunately the young princess had supporters of her own amongst the government and they convinced Queen Mary to spare her sister's life. After three tense and dismal months Elizabeth was removed from the Tower and held under house arrest in the gatehouse of Woodstock Manor for over a year. 

The Queens' Stairs: Elizabeth and her mother are the only two queens to have used both the stairs at Traitor's Gate and these stairs. One can well imagine the many times Gloriana--The Virgin Queen--both names by which Elizabeth was known, gave a pause to consider that very poignant thought. 
I can close my eyes and hear the night time sounds of ancient London floating across the Thames; the lap of oars and the whisper of voices as a regal woman's laughter crosses the water ahead of her. Elizabeth is returning from an evening at the Globe theatre and one of Master Shakespeare's plays...
A menagerie was also kept at The Tower--animals given as gifts to the Sovereign. These incredible lions stand guard on one of the old walkways. They remind me of my friend Artist Rhea Giffin's papier mache pieces. I don't know how the artist created them but they are magnificent. Hard to believe they are created out of chicken wire!
   As the afternoon advanced we walked over to Tower Bridge and took the tour. The feat of engineering which produced such an amazingly beautiful and functional bridge led me to tell Les that now I can understand how the British built the Suez canal. One look at the marvels of this bridge and it is easy to think, "A canal across the Isthmus of Egypt?  No worries mate."
   Of course the views up and down the Thames are amazing. There was also an exhibition titled The Sixties with large photos of 26 cultural icons. Les commented at one point that we were looking at his youth on the walls! The music was fabulous--early rock and roll, and the exhibit was wonderful. Les will write a post with further details about it soon.
Looking up the Thames, from left to right: The HMS Belfast moored of the South bank, St. Paul's dome in the distance of the North bank; London bridge directly upstream.
The upper deck of the tower is enclosed in two linear sections. The far side displayed an exhibition of great bridges of the world. The near side in the picture above held the 1960's exhibit.
It's a spectacular view no matter how overcast the weather!
   Brits have given the modern architecture nicknames. The large building sticking up directly at left, above, has been christened the "Walkie-Talkie." Directly on its right is the "Cheese Grater," and to its right is the Gherkin thrusting upwards. Sadly these modern architectural marvels dwarf the Tower and other magnificent older pieces of architectural history such as the London Monument which is lost in the maze of skyline above. It commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The Pickle...
   Treated to amazing views of the London skyline I enjoyed my own private joke: I've nicknamed two famous buildings: London City Hall is the "Olive," and 30 St. Mary Axe in the heart of the financial district which Brits call the "Gherkin," I call the "Pickle!" It's an American thing. 
 













   We walked on across the bridge to the south side of the river and sat drinking very good Italian lattes and enjoying the ground view of the "Olive," which actually slants away from the Thames in the back like a wonky growth straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

...and London City Hall--or the "Olive", from the North side of the river in front of The Tower.

Monday, April 14, 2014

In addition to the last post

Came across this and it might explain the way water reached the reservoirs.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thirsty? Try canal water.

The Grand Junction Canal Company arrived in Paddington in 1801. Paddington became a very busy terminus with goods being shipped on by horse and cart across London.

This block of  old canal warehouses is just about all that remains in the basin of a very busy industrial scene. I was always curious as to why the building carried on past the corner of the basin.
The building through the gap in the distance is part of the hospital but has an interesting history that surfaced during research of this post. Will blog it soon.

As you can see in this shot it`s not the floating walkway that gives this impression the building does move away from the canal edge. The other warehouse doors make easy work of loading/unloading of boats but the far left one always looked wrong to me.

My fascination with the Grand Junction Water Co. led me to find this map. As you can see in the top left there is an arm at this point in the basin. This led to a builders merchants The other things of interest are the reservoirs made originally for supplying the canal in case of water shortages. In 1811 the Grand Junction Canal Co. having an excess of water decided to go into the water supply business to properties in Paddington. Yep it was canal water they were supplying. It did lay in the reservoirs and became clear but was far from healthy so in 1820 they started taking water from the River Thames at Chelsea quite near a sewage outlet. That went on until in 1835 they moved to Kew, now the steam museum, and pumped water back 5 miles to the Paddington reservoirs through a 30" pipe. In 1855 after it became illegal to take water from the tidal part of the river they moved to Hampton and still pumped water via Kew to Paddington.
Notice the street name below the reservoirs, Grand Junction Street, now Sussex gardens. Further down the page is a link to an 1817 map and you can see the canal company was here all alone giving  them no opposition to name things as they wish.

The south reservoir is here at Norfolk square.

The Lower reservoir is at Talbot square both of these are protected from development by an act of parliament granted when they were first built.

The North reservoir is here in London street and has been built on. All three were sold 1842-1851 and this site was shown on ordnance survey maps of 1872 (click 1872) as being part of St Mary`s hospital.  The map also shows this side street as being called Amber Mews and Francis Mews running down the other side of the building. Today they are Winsland street and W`mews.
The part to the right of picture is to this day still part of the hospital. The GJWC built in 1855 a larger reservoir in nearby Kensington. Just 50 years later and the GJWC became Metropolitan Water Board.

Links for further reading HERE  HERE 
1817 map showing the basin, 2 of the reservoirs and the pumping station HERE

Thursday, April 10, 2014

London 2014: St. Olaves Church and the Tower Hill Neighborhood

"I went out...to see General Major Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could in that condition." ~Samuel Pepys, English diarist and passionate citizen of London

New construction cheek by jowl with old architecture.
   London is many things: a physical location, a geo-cache of history, architecture and human experience; a lifestyle, a mindset. London is never quite finished--it is a city always in the process of renewal and rebirth. While not a fan of urban landscapes or the masses of humanity that come with them, London is in a league all its own. The only decent way to experience this ancient energetic bed of British creativity in my humble opinion, is to come into the city by ship on the Thames or by Narrow Boat into Paddington Basin or further along the Regents canal.
   One can visit London a thousand times and never really see the same thing twice due to the vast layers of history that are draped over everything, unseen or unrecognized by those eking out their survival or in the throes of climbing the rungs of finance, industry, and class upon which this particular ladder to the stars depends. And yet so much of London is available for free.
   The first time we came into "The City" I ran around like a frantic, headless chicken attempting to take it all in at once. Now I am smart enough to sip London like a fine wine (or good ale depending upon which part of town you are visiting). It is gratifying in the extreme to leave early, spend all day seeing the sites on one's list and return at dusk, unlocking the boat and magically one is home! Everything one needs to be comfy is right at hand. In the damp cold of a raw London evening, the fire burns a bright welcome as we remove our coats, set about fixing dinner and sit over a good meal reviewing the day like some rare found treasure washed up at one's feet.
   Since Les was born and raised in Paddington, drove Routemaster buses through London suburbs in the late 1960's and later worked as a private courier within the boundaries of Greater London, he is a smashing tour guide. With my personal agenda shaped by literature, history, and a fascination with the Plague, our daily journeys throughout the various boroughs of London have led us to parts of the city even Les had no idea existed. 
   This trip I decided to focus on the EC1-EC3 post code area, drifting across the Thames to the South bank. EC1-EC3 is an ancient section of the city first formally recognized in written history as Londinium by the Romans. The old Roman wall is still in view where it escapes from the confines of soil and centuries of building over the top of it.
   This area contains The Museum of the Order of St. John (Hospitallers), Tower Hill, Tower Bridge, All Hallows at the Tower Church, St. Olaves Church with plague graves, St. Katherine Docks, and across the Thames, the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret, Borough Market, The ruins of Winchester Palace, the replica of Commander Drake's ship The Golden Hind, and the old prison aka The Clink.
    We started out early on Saturday with bus pass and Oyster card in hand. It takes two buses (the 23 and the 15) to travel from Paddington to Tower Hill. We were accompanied on our travels by dozens of French tourists--many school aged kids with chaperones in tow. The bus filled with French chatter and the scent of Rive Gauche parfum. It was packed to overflow capacity and the bus driver had to forgo letting anyone on at a couple of stops.
   We removed ourselves at Tower Street across from the Hung, Drawn, and Quartered Pub which as one can guess by its name, overlooks Tower Hill. On the side of the building is the quote I used at the top of this post, by none other than neighborhood local Samuel Pepys! I had no idea he actually lived in this area. (I've had a link to the electronic version of Pepys' diary on my blog So this is Love...for four years.)
   The condemned commemorated in the quote was responsible for signing the death warrant of King Charles the First. Cromwell and the Parliamentarians took over and remade the government without king and crown.
St. Olaves crouches beneath the weight of modern buildings.
   After the Civil war and Cromwell's death, King Charles II was invited back to retake the crown only if he would also secede power and authority to Parliament and the monarchy was restored with limited powers.
   With the son of Charles I on the thrown, Major General Thomas Harrison was found guilty of regecide though he went to his death without apology; his public beheading eulogized forever after by a well known diarist in the audience.
 

  
    We struck out first for Hart street and Seething Lane to see St. Olaves church. I was astonished by how the modern world had nearly swallowed up this lovely ancient church and its famous yard. Sadly neither the building or the churchyard were open. 
   Why did I want to see St. Olaves? A church has been on the premises since the 12th century, dedicated to King Olav of Norway who fought with the Anglo-Saxon King 
Eathelred the Unready against the Danes in 1014. Local citizenry who contracted the plague in the last epidemic of 1665-66 were buried in the churchyard. During WWII King Haakon VII worshiped at St. Olaves while in exile.
   This was the church of diarist Samuel Pepys and his wife, both of whom are buried within. Charles Dickens nicknamed it Saint Ghastly Grim for the five skulls with bones atop the churchyard gate.
  Of it Dickens said, "It is a small small churchyard, with a ferocious, strong, spiked iron gate, like a jail. This gate is ornamented with skulls and cross-​​bones, larger than the life, wrought in stone; but it likewise came into the mind of Saint Ghastly Grim, that to stick iron spikes atop of the stone skulls, as though they were impaled, would be a pleasant device. 
Therefore the skulls grin aloft horribly, thrust through and through with iron spears. Hence, there is attraction of repulsion for me in Saint Ghastly Grim, and, having often contemplated it in the daylight and the dark, I once felt drawn towards it in a thunderstorm at midnight." (Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveler, Ch.9)
This tiny corner is all that is left of the famous churchyard.
The list of the famous interred here includes none other than Mother Goose, and there are plague graves here as well. 
   "The five skulls act as guardians to this repository for the dead. Underneath the trio of skulls reads the inscription ‘Christus Vivere Mors mihi lucrum’, which means ”Christ lives, death is my reward’. In a City that has seen as much death as it has change, these three skulls saw Plague sweep the City, witnessed the flames of the Great Fire almost lick the walls of the Church itself and seen Charles Dickens peering up at them in the soaking rain. They still gaze down on us, as we scuttle up and down Seething Lane and will be doing so for many more years to come." (Sheldon, co-creator of The Cemetery Club blog, accessed on-line on 04/07/14.)
Note the sign above indicates Mother Goose was buried here in 1586!
   I love the names of the streets around and the thoughts of all those feet both famous and ignominious who've trod them; Seething Lane, Mincing Lane, Crutched Friars Lane, Savage Gardens, Pepys Street. Seething Lane is thought to have come from the old Corn market which to be held nearby with all its chaff "seething" in the street. 1 Seething Lane was the residence of Queen Elizabeth the First's spy master. Walsingham House is still there, now featuring an educational institute. It gives me goos bumps to think the spy master and I have walked the same street!
   Mincing Lane is a corruption of Mynchen Lane for the tenements that were held there by the Benedictine "Mynchens" or nuns. The Crutched Friars were a group from Italy--the Frateres Crucifari who were allowed to establish a home in 1249. These mendicant monks were known by their long wooden staffs surmounted by crosses--the crutch with which they walked the streets of London.
   I can stand alone with eyes closed and the sounds of the 21st century fade away, replaced by layer upon layer of history as it unfurls around me. Voices call out in Latin, the Anglo-Saxon which birthed Olde English, Middle English and modern English--its all there for those who an imagination with  have eyes to see and ears to hear.
The Ship pub, 27 Lime Street, EC3. Originally built in 1447, "The Ship has always been closely connected with ship owners and master mariners. The notices of the Port of London Authority



Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Entering London(Paddington Basin)


This is where boats were gauged and tolls were levied.



 http://www.londoncanals.co.uk/index.html
Same place when it was covered.
From the toll house bridge looking into Brownings pool or more commonly known as Little Venice.

Sharp left in the pool and you enter Regents Canal through north London and onto the Rivers Lee and Stort.

Our route is to the right and into the basin
 
A close up of the entrance to the basin
 

Looking back to toll house bridge where we came in



Along this stretch are land based coffee shops and restaurants. The same are represented afloat plus  book and jewellery boats.  Also if a certain crew is reading this, we did spot you but for reasons of privacy and security will not name you.

 This bridge marks the point boats enter the inner basin. It comes under the control, the land that is, of Merchant Square a large property company.

The water disturbance at this point is caused by air pumping in from below the surface. The idea is that any rubbish will not drift in and make the basin untidy for residents and commercial occupiers.

A bend to the left past the only remaining canal buildings

and here is our home mooring for a few days. nb Valerie is just past the rolling bridge on the left.

A better view. Not sure why they rolled the bridge up as usually it`s only done on Friday at noon.

The end of the basin has been dammed and drained to make way for a new bridge.

Boats will never pass through the bridge as the end of the basin is surrounded by residential flats. The money they pay means they will not want a lot of narrow boats moored under their windows running engines and lighting smoky fires.


Sunday, April 06, 2014

So much rubbish

This is Bulls bridge and the start of the 12 miles lock free journey into London.
 
The rubbish just here is bad. never have I seen so much in this area.
 
These are hire boats being prepared for people arriving Saturday. I wonder what they will think of the rubbish and will it put first timers off canal holidays for ever.



 All the way along are these little monuments of  rubbish. Pulled from boat`s propellers and left as memorials to the lazy b!*;*!s who are to thick to realise these will by wind or some one's boot end up back in the canal and on a propeller again.

The little piles on the towpath told me to expect the worse and sure enough amongst the plastic bags we have a nice pink shirt.

Our first load from the prop.
 
The floating muck is still with us.
 
This is the second of four lots.
Eventually about 4 miles out of London the rubbish disappeared and we arrived to a basin that had a choice of three moorings. About a week here in the big city and Mrs Biggs is a happy girl so you can rely on a few good blog posts.