Abchurch Yard EC4
UG: Cannon Street/Monument/Bank
Bus: 15 17 25 521 To King William Street
From Monument Station cross to the north side of Cannon Street and continue in a westerly direction. Cross Nicholas Lane and then turn right into Abchurch Lane. Abchurch Yard is almost immediately on the left.
This is one of those retreats in which London is so abundantly rich. Although not one of the City's most secluded byways, it is ideally situated at the side of a tiny lane - an antique area that has changed little in layout since the 12th century.
The bulk of Abchurch Yard, a paved square lying to the south of St Mary Abchurch, was once the graveyard to this outstanding church, and now, during the summer months, is prettily decked with five large tubs of colourful flowers. From the seats arranged along the church wall you can take time out to watch the scurrying lunchtime herds making for Punters Restaurant and Wine Bar on the west side. Leading from the square, along the west side of Wren's red bricked church, is the old churchyard path, now formed as a narrow lane but retaining, through its name (this is still Abchurch Yard), a link with centuries past.
The present church was built in 1681 after its predecessor was destroyed on the 3rd September 1666, a victim of the Great Fire. Although it is one of the smallest of Wren's City churches, the almost square interior is made to appear spacious by the great dome, pierced by stained glass circular windows and richly painted by John Snow in 1708. The magnificent reredos by Grinling Gibbons is one of the largest in London, its central pinnacle almost touching the rim of the dome. Interestingly, the churchwardens' pews still retain the dog kennels beneath the seats, a feature quite common until the 19th century, but now rarely encountered.
St Mary Abchurch was severely damaged in World War II when much of the internal woodwork was shattered and the reredos blown into thousands of pieces. Restoration work carried out in 1953 has returned the place to its former glory. At the time of renovation the floor of the church was lowered to its original level and in the process the crypt of the previous church was uncovered, restored, and opened to public view.
Abchurch is one of those curious names of old London and may have derived from the church builder or whoever donated the money to fund its building. In years gone by the patron of a church was often commemorated by having his name tagged on to the dedication; in the case of St Mary Abchurch the origin is far from clear. It could have come from the Latin, abbatia - the head of a monastic community, or abbas - a monk, even the French, abbé - a priest. John Stow says that he has seen it spelt as Apechurch and Upchurch; a reference to the first church on the site has it as 'Habechirce' which makes the matter even more confusing. Although it is unlikely that a religious community ever inhabited the church, it is possible that such a community financed its building.
Addle Hill EC4
UG: St Paul's
Bus: Any to St Paul's
From the south west corner of St Paul's Cathedral turn into Dean's Court. Turn right into Carter Lane and left into Addle Hill
In this quaint and marginally pretty locality, where the City almost seems to have stood still, Addle Hill is the let-down. Once the stately home of a Saxon nobleman, from whence its name is derived (addle = noble), it has now turned full circle, just about falling into the category of abandoned, with a touch of shabbiness for added descriptive flavour. Almost every building on the west side is presently boarded up and seems destined to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Addle came into common usage about six centuries ago when it applied to eggs that were empty or rotten and so produced nothing. In 1874 George Eliot wrote: Speech is often barren; but silence also does not necessarily brood over a full nest. Your still fowl, blinking at you without remark, may all the while be sitting on one addled egg; and when it takes to cackling will have nothing to announce but that addled delusion. Dr Johnson, one hundred and twenty years earlier, screwed down the lid on any doubt relating to the modern-day definition when he discovered that the word was now transferred to brains that produce nothing.
Is it mere fate, or a happening that owes its circumstance to pure consequence that many of the buildings in Addle Hill now hold nothing, and produce nothing?
Alderman's Walk EC2
UG: Liverpool Street
Bus: 8 11 23 26 35 47 48 100 133 141 172 214 271 505 to Liverpool Street Station
On the west side of Bishopsgate, about 40 yds south of the main line station. Between Liverpool Street and Wormwood Street.
Alderman's Walk is one of those names that tend to spark off thoughts of summery strolls along well kept tree lined avenues. Indeed, if we were contemplating our walk in a suburban village or almost any place other than the City of London that is what we may very well expect to find. However, the City of London is where we are and Alderman's Walk is not remotely like that. On the doorstep is Liverpool Street Station, the modernised gateway to eastern England; only yards away and visible from all angles of the City, the Natwest Tower reaches skyward; a mere stone's throw away is the Bank, the old lady who has her thumb on the hub of financial London.
This has been a busy section of the City for centuries; carts and trucks have been rumbling around here ever since the Romans built the Bishops Gate and opened up a main thoroughfare into the City. Despite all this turmoil Frances Dashwood, an 18th century Member of the Common Council of the City, liked it so much that he built his house here, on the south side of the Walk near to Old Broad Street. When Dashwood received a Knighthood the place became known as Dashwood's Court until he was elected to the Court of Aldermen of the City of London and from that time the name changed to Alderman's Walk.
Adjoining the Walk, on the south side, is the church of St Botolph, Bishopsgate, one of three surviving churches dedicated to the seventh century patron saint of travellers. The first church on this site was built about the beginning of the 13th century and was probably twice replaced before the 17th century. On Tuesday the 4th September 1666 St Botolph's was shaking in its foundation as the Great Fire swept across the lower reaches of Bishopsgate, moving round to Throgmorton Street where it took the Drapers' Hall. Although there was a sigh of relief when the danger was past, St Botolph's was not in the best of repair and sixty years after the fire (1725) the church was demolished and rebuilt by James Gold. The unusual interior has two aisles separated from the nave by enormous Corinthian columns supporting a gallery running around the north, south and west sides. Strangely, the square tower is at the east end and therefore above the chancel and sanctuary, an arrangement only occasionally encountered. The marble fluted font is a relic of the 18th century, doubly celebrated because John Keates, poet, was baptised in it in 1795. In the graveyard of the old church Ben Jonson and his family gathered to mourn the passing of his young son, a tragic victim of the plague.
The church once controlled a charity school for fifty poor boys and girls. In 1861 the classrooms were transformed into the parish hall and it can be seen to the west of the church with two charming statues of the charity children; a boy and a girl each wearing a badge and holding a book.
Amen Corner EC4
UG: St Paul's
Bus: Any to St Pauls
From St Paul's Station walk round the station and up the steps, continuing to Paternoster Square. Here turn left towards the Cathedral, down the steps, and then turn right. At the west front of St Paul's continue for a few yards into Ludgate Hill and then turn right into Ave Maria Lane. Amen Corner is about 55 yds on the west side.
Originally called Amen Lane, this short path forms the approach road to Amen Court. John Stow records it as a short lane which runneth west some short distance, and is there closed up with a gate into a great house. This great house was none other than the College of Physicians. Founded in 1518 by Thomas Linacre, the College moved from his own house in Knightrider Street to the site of Amen Corner in about 1540. At the height of the Great Plague the physicians saw at close quarters the ravages caused by the epidemic and fled for their lives. Rumours of the empty house soon spread among the throng of thieves and vagabonds who broke in and used it to hide from their raging victims. Less than twelve months later the flames of the Great Fire swept along the lanes and alleys around St Paul's, taking in their path St Paul's School and then the Stationers' Hall, but so far the old Cathedral stood in defiance. From the Stationers' it moved along Ave Maria Lane and by the evening of Tuesday 4th September (1666) the College of Physicians was no more. In the aftermath they established themselves only a few yards away, in Warwick Lane, then, in later years, in Pall Mall where they stayed until 1964 before moving to brand-new premises at Regent's Park. Just as Stow portrayed it all those years ago, a locked gate is still there to this day and access is only permitted on application to the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral.
John Carey, writing in an edition of the Gentleman's Magazine of 1828 offers the following suggestion for the original naming of these ecclesiastical streets: Let us suppose processioners mustered and marshalled at upper end of Paternoster Row next Cheapside. These commence to march westward, and begin to chant the Paternoster, continued this whole length of the street (thence Paternoster Row). On arrival at bottom of the street they enter Ave Maria Lane, at the same time beginning to chant the Salutation of the Virgin - Ave Maria - which continues until reaching Ludgate Hill, and crossing over to Creed Lane. They there commence the chant of the Credo, which continues until they reach the spot now called Amen Corner, where they sing the concluding Amen.
Budge Row EC4
UG: Cannon Street
Bus: 6 8 9 11 15 21 22 23 25 43 76
Off the north side of Cannon Street, about 80 yds west of the main line station.
A street so called of the Budge furre and of skinners dwelling there. This Budge furre to which John Stow referred was a sort of woolly material prepared from lamb's skin.
About 500 years ago the area surrounding here was closely associated with the clothing trade. If you had walked along Cannon Street in those times you would probably have seen a representation of few other trades than drapers and skin merchants selling their wares. In the adjoining alleys and courts the wives of traders would be busy throughout the day and night making up articles of clothing for the stalls. It was no coincidence, but for local convenience, that the Skinners Company, in 1327, established their Hall in nearby Dowgate Hill and have held their gatherings there ever since.
It might be of interest to note that women of the day were restricted in their choice of clothing according to their status. In 1338, and again twenty years later, the City authorities ordered that women of low standing should not wear clothing made from buge or wool. If the like had bought an old fur coat for a penny or two at the local jumble sale her fate could well have been a prison sentence for wearing it.
Since the years of World War II, Budge Row has seen many changes; it now survives as a pedestrian way, covered at its southern end by a large concrete block of offices. Even the line of its path has changed direction since chess fanatics from the City wide scurried along here to book a table at the Gambit Café. They didn't come to discus the minutes of last week's chess club meeting, whilst at the same time satisfying the needs of a grumbling belly - but to play. Every table was equipped with its own chequered board and the gobbling was ancillary to the game - the waiters' cue was on the call of check mate.
Most notable of all memories associated with Budge Row is the church with an original dedication to St Anthony but from very early years called St Antholin's. It stood at the northern end of the Row, on a site previously occupied by three predecessors. The first church was probably founded during the 12th century but complete rebuilding took place about 1400 and again in 1513. On Monday 3rd September 1666, almost as the bells stopped pealing from evensong of the previous day, Mr Farriners Great Fire was lapping at the doors of Watling Street. It took hold of St Mary Aldermary, across the road, and then leapt onto St Antholin's, reducing it to ashes within minutes and leaving its bells as a pool of molten metal. Christopher Wren completed the rebuilding in 1682, topping his creation with the most slender spire imaginable. In 1874, many years after the death of Wren, and when they thought he would not mind, the diocese declared St Antholin's redundant and pulled it down. The spire was sold as scrap for five pounds but someone considered it worthy of preservation and erected its upper part in the garden of Roundhill House at Sydenham in Kent.
The Wren church of St Antholin once stood on the corner of Budge Row. It was demolished in 1875 to clear a site for the new Queen Victoria Street. In more recent years considerable redevelopment has taken place and the Row is not as it used to be. Surrounded and covered by a 13 storey modern office block and paved in Tarmac, the name is all that survives of the old alley.
Cooper's Row EC3
UG: Tower Hill
Bus: 15 23 42 47 56 78
Copper's Row leads from the north east corner of Trinity Square, just by Tower Hill Station, northwards, under Fenchurch Street Station and emerges into Crutched Friars.
Among the historical landmarks of London, Cooper's Row rates highly. Most visitors have probably never heard of it and many locals have not the slightest knowledge of its historical possession - a fragment of the Roman City wall.
In a courtyard, accessed from an opening between numbers 8 and 10 Cooper's Row, is perhaps the most impressive remnant of the wall built by the Romans probably between 190 and 220 AD. It towers to a height of 35 feet and the medieval parapet, where guards kept a constant watch, still survives. On the south side, still detectable with a tight squint, is a faint indication in the masonry of the stone steps leading up to the parapet. In the upper part of the wall are the round-headed embrasures of about the 12th century through which archers fired at the unsuspecting enemy.
This portion of the wall is approximately 100 feet long, but of course, it originally encircled the entire City, at that time contained in the area between the Tower and Blackfriars Bridge. At strategic positions along its length the wall was breached and gates erected, usually giving access to main roads; all of these gates have long since disappeared but are still remembered in their names: Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate Newgate, and Ludgate. The first gate from leaving the Tower, and the nearest to Cooper's Row would have been Aldgate, giving access to the road leading east to Colchester, now the approximate direction of the A12 trunk road.
Many are not aware that the Roman City wall existed in its entirety until little more than two centuries ago. It had been regularly maintained and almost worshipped by some until 1766 when an unworthy committee responsible for the sewage systems of the City got their heads together and decided that the wall was a health hazard. Ah! you might say, a wise and considerate move; large pieces of loose masonry could easily fall from the dizzy heights and injure an innocent bypasser. But this perilous possibility was far from their minds; the obscure theory of this committee was that the enclosed City was being denied the free passage of clean air and thereby causing unnecessary sickness and disease. Their argument was accepted and the City governors issued an order that as many as are willing to demolish the wall may take for their own use as much as they can remove.
The self-appointed contractors set to work and the vast structure of something like 1,000,000 cubic feet of stone was quickly reduced to flat earth. Every trace of the wall was demolished except for a few isolated sites where it was undetected or passed through private property. Here in Cooper's Row the enormous task of demolishing this remaining section was avoided when Joseph Barber and Company incorporated its length as a supporting wall into their new bonded warehouse. To make way for modern buildings the warehouse itself is now demolished and the wall is once again exposed to the elements in a modern courtyard with seating and a fountain.
Dean's Yard SW1
Bus: 3 11 12 24 29 53 88 94
From the west end (main entrance) to Westminster Abbey through the gateway in the row of offices called The Sanctuary.
Dean's Yard is quite different from the rest of the yards covered in this book - yards which are usually associated with inns and taverns, consisting merely of an alley or at the extreme, an alley leading to a small courtyard. In contrast Dean's Yard is a large quadrangle and is entered through a grand archway situated amid a row eight Gothic style houses, built in 1854 as part of the Westminster Improvement Act. Before that time, the area to the west of the Abbey was littered with several narrow streets and alleys which, unofficially, retained the privilege of sanctuary, stemming from monastic days. Behind these houses, Dean's Yard is made up of a lawn with scattered trees, forming the Abbey gardens, and on the four sides there are a variety of old and not so old buildings. Until the late 18th century this was a relatively small place with only a tiny patch of greenery, where the bulk of the space was taken up by the bakehouse, the brewery, and the grain store.
The oldest of the buildings are to be found on the east side of the quadrangle. In the north east corner is a small side entrance formerly used by the monks as their private way into the Abbey via the cloisters. Right of here is number 17, the house occupied by the Headmaster of Westminster School and further along, through a worn archway, is the entrance to the school.
There is evidence that the Benedictine monks had their own school here as early as the 12th century; it functioned quite happily until Henry VIII dissolved the monastery in 1533, ousted the community and, with no masters, the school was abandoned. A few years later the Abbey was given the status of Cathedral and the school was reformed under the title of the King's Grammar School with places for 40 pupils. Two years after the crowning of Elizabeth I in 1558 she re-established the original Westminster School. The buildings which face Dean's Yard are the restored old monastic buildings but much of the school is housed in later buildings of the 17th and 18th century around Little Dean's Yard. Before the Yard was laid out in 1790 Little Dean's Yards was no more than a cobbled lane leading through to College Garden.
The school now educates some 850 pupils including forty Queen's Scholar's and about 80 girls, first admitted after a decision made in 1972. Among its celebrated pupils of Westminster have been Ben Jonson, Christopher Wren, Charles Wesley, Edward Gibbon, William Cowper, and in our own time, Andrew Lloyd Weber. The ceremony of tossing the pancake takes place on Shrove Tuesday every year with one boy from each form competing. At the appointed time the chef tosses the pancake high in the air and the pupil retrieving the largest piece of pancake is rewarded by the Dean of Westminster.
On the north side of Little Dean's Yard is Ashburnham House, formerly the mansion of the Earls of Ashburnham. It was built in the 1660's incorporating some of the structure of the ancient Prior's House, previously on the site. Ashburnham House now houses the library, which is open to the public Monday to Friday during the Easter school holiday.
Moving round Dean's Yard to the south side is Church House, the headquarters of the National Assembly of the Church of England and a number of associated societies, built by Sir Herbert Baker in 1940. When the Houses of Parliament were bombed in the Second World War, Church House was used as a debating chamber for both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Church House itself was also a victim of the war when the Assembly Hall suffered structural damage. It was restored in 1951.
Durham House Street WC2
UG: Charing Cross
Bus: Any to Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square
Turn right out of Charing Cross ML Station and immediately right again down Villiars Street. turn left into John Adam Street and continue for about 100 yds. Durham House Street is on the left.
On the south side of the which street, in the liberties of Westminster (beginning at Ivy bridge), first is Durham house, built by Thomas Hatfielde, bishop of Durham, who was made bishop of that see in the year 1545, and sat bishop there thirty-six years.
If John Stow had turned back a page or two in his reference books he would have found that the Bishops of Durham had held land here from about 1220. Their inn, or mansion, first built around this time for Richard le Poor, faced onto the Strand behind a grand gatehouse, with its chapel and banqueting hall reaching down to the banks of the Thames. What Stow was looking at was a wooden replacement for the old house, built after the Reformation.
When Thomas Cromwell drew up the schedule for religious house closures, Durham House was high on the list, and only three years after Henry VIII declared a severance with the church of Rome it fell into the hands of the Crown. Henry, who at this time was beginning to acquire too much property to cope with, made a gift of the house to the Earl of Wiltshire, and when he had finished with it, it became the home of Princess Elizabeth. Within the walls of Durham House Lady Jane Grey gave up her freedom and her life when she pronounced those terminal words, I do; here she stayed until that fateful day when she was taken by barge on her final journey along the Thames to the Tower.
Originally this was two separate streets. The part directly off John Adam Street was James Street and the continuation round the bend was William Street.
When profoundly Roman Catholic Queen Mary succeeded to the throne she returned the House to the Bishop of Durham, but Elizabeth I was not at all pleased with the Bishop so she terminated his position and seized the house. Sir Walter Raleigh was next on the scene and while he remained in the Queen's good books, carried on his affairs at the house, but when he lost favour he also lost his house, and a little while after, his head followed suit. For a short period the Bishop of Durham returned but could not hit it off with his neighbour, Lord Salisbury, and so quit for all time. As time elapsed the fabric deteriorated, the house fell into disrepair and was demolished. The land was leased out to various building speculators who each erected their individual groups of small houses and sold them off to traders and small-time business men. By 1750 the area had become a place of squalor and the houses were so in need of repair that many of them were on the verge of falling down.
In 1768 the site aroused the interest of the Adam brothers, John, Robert, James and William, for inclusion in their major building project, later to be known as the Adelphi - (Adelphoi = brothers), and they obtained a lease on the land from the Bishop of Durham. Building commenced in 1772 and the complex of streets as we see them today were all laid out to their plan. It was the first riverside housing complex to be built in London; an estate of charming properties built to a regular plan developed by the brothers. To the south, along the riverside, they constructed a series of ground-level arches on which was built the Royal Terrace, a line of four storey houses facing the Thames. Unfortunately the elaborate houses they built didn't sell and the project ended up in financial disaster. Finally the properties were disposed of by selling lottery tickets.
Catastrophically, the Victorian's held little regard for the Adam's creations, adding cumbersome balconies, other out-of-place adornments, and covering the frontages with a hideous stucco finish. In 1936, it was the disease of 20th century man - a compulsion to replace merely for the sake of it - that won the day when almost the entire line of the Royal Terrace was pulled down. All traces of the past buildings have gone except for the Royal Society of Arts building at number eight John Adam Street, erected in 1774. Opposite the rear side of the RSA a flight of steps ascends onto the Strand.