St Augustine’s Watling Street




The church stood on the north side of Watling Street, at the corner with Old Change.

It was first mentioned in 1148. It was enlarged and repaired in 1630-31.  John Stow, writing at the end of the 16th century called St Augustine’s ” a fair church,” adding that it had been “lately well repaired.” The church was partly rebuilt, and “in every part of it richly and very worthily beautified” in 1630–1, at a cost to the parishioners of £1,200.

The church had been rebuilt 1680-4 following the Great Fire of 1666, and the tower was completed in 1695-6 with a tall leaded spire designed by Nicholas Hawksmore which was modified in 1830.

However, the body and spire were destroyed in 1941 bombing and a 1953 photograph shows all that remained standing were the bottom two stages of the tower with its four Baroque obelisk finials.

In 1966, Paul Paget of Seely and Paget reconstructed the spire according to its original design. Drawings survive in the hand of Nicholas Hawksmoor to show that he designed the original spire, with its brackets rising to an open stage with urns and the distinctive elongated onion dome. His drawing c.1695, however, shows the onion dome as an elongated pineapple with the crown serving as an extra finial. This design, but with the onion, not the pineapple, is largely what we see today, although it is an immaculate post-war reconstruction.

The remains of the church were designated a Grade I  building on 4 January 1950.

The adjacent Grade ll* St Pail’s Cathedral Choir School was built in 1962-67 and the brief dictated that the new building should incorporate the restored spire of St Augustine and that no part of the school would be higher than its cornice.

INTERIOR: Stages of the tower include a full height open well staircases that serves as a fire escape for the attached school

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: A 1695-6 Wren tower with post-war restored Hawksmoor spire that forms an ensemble of outstanding special interest. It is one the more admired City church spires with its spire culminating in the distinctive elongated onion dome. It has particularly strong group value being the closest of the City Churches to Wren’s Cathedral. Although the most characteristic feature is post-war in date, and the church body is now lost, it remains a special landmark tower, both for its original design and for its strong relationship with St Paul’s.


In 1552 there were five bells and a sanctus

1666 Church destroyed in the Great Fire.

1680-87 Church rebuilt by Wren.

1695 the tower rebuilt by Hawksmore with a 140ft spire.

1824 Record of one bell

1896 Record of one bell

1941 Church destroyed in a bombing raid, also the bell.

1966 the spire was rebuilt and the the bell chamber now contains a water tank.

The church cat, named Faith, became quite well known after the air raid which destroyed St Augustine’s. Days before she was seen moving her kitten, Panda, to a basement area. Despite being brought back several times, Faith insisted on returning Panda to her refuge. On the morning after the air raid the rector searched through the dangerous ruins for the missing animals, and eventually found Faith, surrounded by smouldering rubble and debris but still guarding the kitten in the spot she had selected three days earlier. The story of her premonition and rescue eventually reached Maria Dickin, founder of the PDSA, and for her courage and devotion Faith was awarded a specially-made silver medal. Her death in 1948 was reported on four continents.


Historic England, Church Bells of the City of London,Purr-n-fur UK, Simon Bradley & nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London: The City Churches


Thomas Coram

Thomas Coram was a philanthropist and campaigner whose greatest achievement was the Foundling Hospital. But this was just one of many philanthropic projects he pursued throughout his life.

Born in 1668 in Lyme Regis in west Dorset, Thomas Coram’s early life was tied to the shipbuilding industry. At 11, his father sent him to sea and later he was apprenticed to a shipwright. In the early 1690s, a London merchant engaged the young Thomas Coram to sail to Colonial America to oversee the supply of cheap merchant ships for the ever-increasing cross-Atlantic trade. By 1693, we know that Coram was in Boston and that in 1697 or 1698 he moved to Taunton, some 40 miles away, where he set up his own shipbuilding businesses.

The ten years he spent there were to have a profound effect both personally and professionally. Along with establishing his business he also campaigned for the rights of minority groups in America. He also left a direct legacy of books aimed at encouraging the spread of Anglicanism.

Little is known about Coram’s time in Boston except that it is where he met his future wife, Eunice Waite, the daughter of an established Boston family originally from England. She was a Congregationalist but there is no evidence of any friction over religion between them. Letters show that Eunice and Thomas Coram were happily married for 40 years, until her death after a long period of poor health.

Thomas Coram chose Taunton for his new shipbuilding business because the deep water there meant that he could build large ships. But Coram’s new neighbours did not welcome his fierce loyalty to the British Crown, nor his robust Anglicanism. For his part, Coram hoped that the inhabitants one day ‘should be more civilised than they now are.’

Religious differences soon surfaced. These were played out in the courts where seemingly trivial issues quickly escalated; claims and counter-claims were made; violence was often threatened and sometimes used against Coram. He frequently had to go to the Boston courts to receive a fair hearing as local magistrates, out of fear of their neighbours or personal enmity towards Coram, invariably ruled against him. His various disputes with the people of Taunton came to a head when a mob attacked his home. Despite his combative nature, he and Eunice returned to Boston and sailed for England and though he did not sell his house in Taunton until 1742, he never came back to America.

While in America, Coram had met and befriended the Rev Thomas Bray, the Anglican clergyman behind the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Bray was especially interested in setting up public libraries in Britain and America, and to establish colonial missions to native Americans. Coram was an enthusiastic supporter of Bray’s work, especially through the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which Bray founded.  Their close friendship continued on Coram’s return to London.  When Thomas Coram returned to England from America, he continued his relationship with the country in the shape of determined campaigning. Projects he was involved in included establishing a colony for the poor, the education of native Americans and relief for poor sailors stranded in London.

When he returned to England with his American wife, Eunice, he was shocked to discover destitute and dying children on London’s streets. He decided to petition the king for a charter to create a foundling hospital supported by subscriptions to protect such children. This was not a success.

His lack of social graces, which offended some of the influential upper class, didn’t help. He once complained in a letter that he might as well have asked them to “putt down their breeches and present their backsides to the King and Queen”. We don’t know whether there was a particular incident that aroused his compassion, or whether it was because of his staunch Anglican faith, or because he had experienced a difficult childhood himself after his own mother died when he was only three or four.

What we do know is that Coram was a determined campaigner for people who could not stand up for themselves and that he could not and would not ignore destitute children on London’s streets.

He found it impossible to gain the backing of anyone influential enough, and there was opposition to the idea because of attitudes to illegitimacy. Undaunted, and inspired by the role of French women in caring for foundlings in Paris, Coram decided to ask English noblewomen to lend weight to his petition and gain the interest of influential men along the way.

Coram’s idea to petition noblewomen to join his cause was a triumph. Not only did 21 ladies ‘of quality and distinction’ sign a petition, he also won the support of many aristocratic and influential men who, along with the ladies, helped turn the establishment of a hospital for foundlings into a fashionable cause. All 21 ladies were Ladies of the Bedchamber to Queen Caroline and it appears she was supportive of Coram’s campaign. We know that Caroline was interested in the Foundling Hospital because she commissioned a pamphlet about the running of a similar institution for lone children in Paris. Before it was published, however, Caroline died. Her husband, King George II was distraught but finally, on 17 October 1739, after 17 years of Coram’s campaign, he signed a royal charter. Governors were quickly appointed from those who had donated to the cause, and the work of the Foundling Hospital could begin and on the evening of March 25, 1741, at a temporary site in Hatton Garden, the hospital opened its doors.

The Foundling Hospital continued to flourish, in part because of Coram’s famous friends and supporters. The artist Hogarth donated a portrait of Coram to the hospital while the musician Handel held annual benefit concerts of his Messiah. In 1742, a year after the first child was received into the Foundling Hospital, Thomas Coram fell out with his colleagues and failed to qualify for the General Committee that managed the institution’s affairs. From the start, the governors of the Hospital went to considerable lengths to protect the children from the infectious diseases that were responsible for many deaths in similar charitable institutions.

Children entering the Foundling Hospital were screened and turned away if they showed any signs of infection. Following their admission, they were sent to wet nurses in the countryside to give them a good start. There they remained until they were five and six and returned to the hospital where they enjoyed a healthy diet including vegetables, meat, fruit and clean milk from the hospital’s own cow

But his vision for the protection and welfare of foundling children remained at the Hospital’s heart, especially in terms of promoting their health and giving them an education so that they could support themselves through work.  As an experienced campaigner, Coram knew the importance of making his radical idea for a foundling hospital acceptable to existing and potential supporters. Accordingly, his campaign not only outlined the plight of foundling children, but also the benefits to society of removing them from the streets and creating useful citizens.

Thomas Coram was a champion for vulnerable children at a time when most people thought that helping ‘unwanted’ children would encourage promiscuity.

Coram remained a passionate advocate for girls’ education until late in life, producing a scheme that promoted the education of native American girls in the American colonies. But although Coram always hoped to return to America, he never did.

Coram had a vision in which foundling children were cared for and educated so that, ultimately, they could support themselves. In this he was both humanitarian and ahead of his times. During his lifetime, it was widely believed that foundlings didn’t deserve charity because they were the product of immoral behaviour. And while workhouses did exist, it was argued that the act of receiving aid should be made

unattractive to ensure only the truly destitute would apply. This included putting children to work as soon as possible.

Children were also inoculated against the endemic disease smallpox, probably on the advice of Coram’s old friend, Dr Richard Mead who, as well as being a pioneer of smallpox inoculation, was an influential governor of the Hospital and eminent physician. He played an important role in the early days of the institution, often attending to look after sick children and advising on their care. It was probably down to him that by 1756, of the 247 foundling children who had been inoculated against smallpox, only one had died of the disease.

During his campaign to establish the Foundling Hospital, Coram had stressed that once they were educated, foundlings could become useful members of society. Accordingly, the children’s education was geared towards giving them skills to undertake and sustain an apprenticeship. Emphasis was placed on practical training, partly for its moral benefits but also to instil habits of industry. Practical skills of a domestic nature were particularly important for the girls. Both boys and girls were also taught to read and instructed in the principles of religion.

Unusually for the period, music also became a part of their education. Generally, music was thought to be an unsuitable subject for charity children. But the governors of the hospital thought that it would give blind and disabled children, who were unable to do manual labour, a means to support themselves. Over time, music was taught more widely throughout the Hospital with performances given to raise money.

The fact that foundling girls were taught to read was in line with Coram’s advanced views on the education of girls. In 1739, he said in a letter to the prominent American minister, Benjamin Colman, that it was as, if not more, important for girls to be educated than boys because they were more likely to be responsible for their children’s formation.

Coram’s hope was that, given an education, foundling children, who had no family to support them when sick or old, would be able to earn a living and gain security. Work at the Hospital prepared them for this. The boys were employed in the garden or pumping water and mangling laundry while girls did all sorts of household work to make them fit for service.

Generally, the children were apprenticed from around 11 years old. The plan was for them to work on the land or at sea or in domestic service but, in reality, they were employed in a wider variety of occupations, in particular with London’s increasing numbers of tradesmen who were meeting the expanding capital’s needs.

Significantly, the Hospital maintained its contact with the foundling children while they were apprenticed – considering it a duty to care for them until they were discharged from apprenticeship in their early 20s. Apprentice masters had to provide references and registers kept by the Hospital documented where and to whom the children were sent where they were frequently visited by Hospital staff. Some disabled children and those unfit for work remained at the Hospital. For example, one Blanch Thetford, admitted in 1758, was paid as a singer in the Hospital chapel. Later she also taught music to another blind foundling and remained at the Hospital until her death at the age of 75.

The legacy Coram left behind, however, continues to this day. The Foundling Hospital continued to help children until it was closed in the 1950s. Its work continues today as the charity Coram, which helps more than a million children and young people each year.

Coram died on 29 March 1751, aged 83, and was buried on 3 April in the chapel of the Foundling Hospital. An inscription was placed there, and a statue of him by William Calder Marshall was erected in front of the building a hundred years afterwards.  Richard Brocklesby describes him as a rather hot-tempered, downright sailor like man, of unmistakable honesty and sterling goodness of heart.

In 1935, the Foundling Hospital moved from Bloomsbury to new premises in Berkhamsted  in Hertfordshire, and the old Hospital building was demolished. A chapel was erected at the Berkhamsted Hospital with a crypt specially designed to hold Coram’s remains. In 1955, the building was sold and Coram’s remains were exhumed and moved to the St Andrews Holborn,  in London. The chapel still stands today, now part of Ashlyns School. & wiki

photo wiki


History of The Broderers

The Worshipful Company of Broderers, or The Brotherhood of The Holy Ghost of the City of London, was formed to promote and protect the art of embroidery, a major trade in the Middle Ages.

Though the first hard evidence of their existence in the 13th century but its thought to have been around a lot longer.

In 1515 when there were only 48 livery companies and the Broaderers was not one    of these. Come 1837, the Court of Aldermen produced a revised list and on that the Broderers appeared as Number 48

The Company received a Grant of Arms in 1558, while Queen Elizabeth I granted its first Charter on 25th October 1561.

City functions used to take place at the Broderers’ Hall, until it was destroyed by bombs in 1940. They are the only Livery Company to have their own Master’s Song, which the Master has to sing solo and seated at all dinners in reply to the Toast to the Company.

This is the official Broderers’ Toast:
“The Worshipful Company of Broderers Root and Branch: May it continue and flourish for ever”.

The Broderers held their first embroidery exhibition in Mansion House’s Egyptian Hall in 1894, followed by a grander three-day show in the Mansion of the Royal School of Art Needlework, Kensington.

In 1982 the Court accepted the P.R.Levy Embroidery Trophy as a permanent prize for competition among Company Members, with entries judged by a panel appointed by the Royal School of Needlework.

In recent years, the Competition has been widened to include all Freemen and Liverymen of the City of London, their spouses and their children. This trophy is still awarded every two years.

So we look at Embroidery which has been around almost as long as clothes themselves, needlework believed to originate in the Orient and Middle East

The oldest European embroideries in existence date back to the Anglo Saxon period, and include the 10th-century stole of St Cuthbert, embroidered in gold thread and currently in Durham Cathedral. The oldest extant European embroidery is a vestment fragment circa 850 at Maaseik in Belgium.

One of the greatest periods was 1250-1350, when ‘English work’, or opus anglicanum, was exported and admired all over Europe. This was viewed as an art form on a par with stained glass, sculpture and architecture.

Coinciding with the height of English illuminated manuscripts, artists and manuscript illuminators were probably involved in the designs, mostly for church vestments and furnishings, including diplomatic gifts abroad. Few secular examples have survived.

The labour-intensive pieces, such as the Syon Cope in London’s V&A Museum, were created by skilled craftsmen. Records show that women were skilled in the art too. These workshops paid modest wages, funded by merchants and noblemen who took the bulk of the profits.

Many masterpieces for the church were worked in silk and silver gilt thread, using pearls and precious stones, making some embroidered vestments highly valuable.

It is stated that a Company called the Tapissers or Tapestry Makers who were in existence in 1331, and mentioned by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales, was absorbed by the Broderers’ Company. Unfortunately, most records describing the part they played in Middle Ages embroidery were destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666.

What we do know is that price fixing was difficult thanks to competitors working privately outside the guilds, which included nuns, and that the Broderers helped settle disputes.

During the Middle Ages huge naturalistic embroideries representing historical events also became popular, with many brought by wealthy households. The famous Bayeux Tapestry* depicting the 11th century Norman Conquest is an early example – Norman work executed in England. Despite its name, it is actually embroidery. Influenced by Mediterranean countries, English works, dyes and tools gradually became more intricate, with Spanishwork (blackwork), Whitework, Assisiwork and Crewel growing in popularity.

After the 1300s, the Black Death, wars and economic stresses combined to cause a decline in standards, while the Reformation reduced the demand for ecclesiastical works.

Embroidery in Tudor times became more confined to wealthier households, on court dress and home furnishings. Servants were often hired because of their skills with a needle. Popular designs included floral motifs with twining rose stems and other English flowers entangled with birds and butterflies. Many used expensive silk, which had to be imported from the Levant.

By the 1600s and 1700s, samples and pictures were in vogue and the craft was increasingly a domestic product. During Queen Anne’s reign, Robert Adam was designing patterns, though most were self-designed or customised to suit the purpose of the piece. But, thanks to expanding world trade and colonisation, the growing middle class were able to afford more ready decorated imported textiles.

During the 1800s, elaborate freehand stitched thread embroidery began to dwindle as machine embroidery developed.

The Royal School of Art Needlework (now Royal School of Needlework), devoted to hand embroidery was founded in 1872 and moved to Hampton Court Palace in 1987.

* the town was sacked by Henry 1 in 1106 and was besieged during the Hundred Year’s War and religious wars of the 16th century.  The first French town liberated  in June 1944

photo wiki

If you are interested there are currently 110 Livery Companies ranked in order of seniority by the Court of Aldermen



Crystal Hale

In the late 1960s Crystal Hale took on the British Waterways Board to save the City Road basin of the Grand Union Canal on the edge of Islington, north London. The result of her victory was her founding in 1970 of the Islington Boat Club, used by 7,000 children a year. Hale was once described by her brother as having all the qualities of Queen Bodicea – excluding the bloodthirsty ones. Others drew parallels with Lady Bracknell, Florence Nightingale and Barbara Castle.

Crystal had loved boats and boating all her life; from her house in Noel Road by the Regents Canal, she had looked out over the Basin and thought “Crystal, along with friends, family and neighbours, worked with the local authorities to set up a local management committee and create the club, which opened in 1970. At the same time, they fought the closure of City Road Basin. Originally, this had extended under and beyond City Road – when the club opened this had been filled in, but the water extended up to the bridge. Since the late 1960s, British Waterways had plans to fill in the entire basin and build on new land.

Throughout the mid-70s the “Save the Basin” campaign continued and eventually, through Crystal’s efforts, the Greater London Council rejected the BWB’s plans. Eventually only a small portion of the Basin was lost at the City Road end, for the electricity sub-station. The club was originally set up on the east bank of the basin, with access from Wharf Road through the council depot, which the children had to go through to reach the club. The club base was an old Thames barge, brought up from the river, and named The Water Gipsy, after the novel by Crystal Hale’s father AP Herbert. Initially everything was in the barge – equipment, changing rooms, old armchairs round a wood stove, and a place to brew up hot drinks. Some basic wooden pontoons were made and there was a fleet of rowing boats, optimist sailing dinghies and a rack of kayaks. Soon a couple of old prefabs were moved into the council yard for improved facilities, boat maintenance and an office for the club leader. There was no other land access to the basin. It was in fact quite isolated, surrounded by wood yards and building firms and by the disused and derelict warehouses of BDH, but it provided a uniquely secluded and safe area of water.

Then in the late 70s, plans went ahead to develop the land round the Basin and the old buildings were demolished; in fact it was sadly just a few years too soon for some of the old warehouses to be preserved (later they would almost certainly have been converted into attractive waterside apartments). During this redevelopment the club was re-sited on the west bank with access from Graham Road, and the developers provided a purpose-built club house, with full facilities for the members, offices and maintenance areas. There was now a strip of land for the club’s use; the Water Gipsy was refitted and remains today as an additional recreational space and a games room.

Originally the club was envisaged as a place for children to enjoy being in boats; as an adventure playground on water. This it still is, but as the club has developed, there has been a growing emphasis on watersports skills and expeditions to other waters, combined with an equal emphasis on youth work and the personal development of the young people through their participation in these activities. The aim is that the club should be a resource and facility for use by a variety of groups from schools and other organisations. The club has always aimed to appeal equally to children who just want to have fun on water, and those who want to specialise in skills and qualifications.

Crystal was born the eldest daughter of the writer Sir Alan (AP) Herbert. He wrote the musicals “Bless the Bride” and “The Water Gypsies, about the enchantment of the inland waterways. It was a delight his daughter shared. She and educated at the Dragon school, Oxford – where the girls played rugby – and St Paul’s school, Hammersmith, where the family house was by the river and her father wrote extensively about the Thames and life on the river. Crystal carried on her father’s great enthusiasm for everything to do with boats – on the sea, river, and canal – throughout her life. She then lived with a family in Frankfurt, avoided marriage to a young German, and learnt the language. Back in England, aged 18, she married John Pudney, a writer, radio producer and poet, whose poem, For Johnny, was made famous by Michael Redgrave in the 1945 film The Way To The Stars.

The newly-weds motor- cycled off to make their home in Cornwall, and Crystal acquired a converted lifeboat. She once enticed the editor of the New Statesman, Kingsley Martin, to crew for her. As war closed in, John and Crystal took on a farm in Essex. From there she worked on the BBC radio programmes, The Country Magazine and Woman at War, a precursor of Woman’s Hour. Post-war she edited Family magazine.

In 1955 Crystal and John were divorced, and she married Lionel Hale, the playwright and sometime co-chairman of the radio programme, Round Britain Quiz. Thirteen years later they moved to an Islington house overlooking the Grand Union Canal.

Crystal was an obvious god-earth mother of the Islington chattering classes. Chris Smith, when a young MP, earned her approval and they continued to hold each other in great affection. She moved amongst  “fellow socialists” such as Diana Duff-Cooper, Freya Stark, Rebecca West and Moira Budberg, who claimed friendship with Chekhov and Maxim Gorky.

She continued to be an active member of the Boat Club committee for the rest of her life. In 1975 she founded the Angel Community Narrowboat Association to provide residential canal trips for Islington young people, designing the boat herself and, in 1987, with the late Jim Lagdon she founded the Angel Canal Festival in City Road Basin.

In 1996 the Royal Yachting Association gave her its award for social achievement on the water. She passed away in 199, aged 83. In September 2011 an Islington People’s Plaque was unveiled by her daughter Rebecca, sited on the wall of Hanover School, looking down towards the City Basin. Crystal is survived by a son and two daughters from her marriage to John Pudney, and by a daughter from her marriage to Lionel Hale. At her funeral, as she had requested, her coffin was carried through the Islington tunnel on The Angel narrowboat.



Water supply and services – Case study: New River Company

Despite the opening of Peter Morice’s London Bridge Waterworks in 1582, London at the end of the 16th century was still suffering from an inadequate supply of fresh water.  A possible solution was proposed in 1602 by Edmund Colthurst from Bath, who came up with the idea of channelling water into London from the Chadwell and Amwell Springs in Hertfordshire.  King James I granted him a charter in 1604 to carry out the work. He planned the route the channel would take using gently sloping terrain all the way to Clerkenwell, a distance of about 40 miles.  He got the first two miles of the channel dug but then run out of funds and could not complete the project.

In 1606 an act of parliament granted the Corporation of London the power to make a “New river for bringing water to London from Chadwell and Amwell in Hertfordshire”.  The Common Council of the City of London was interested, but offered no financial backing to the scheme. It was left to Hugh Myddelton to take over the project at his own expense in 1609.  Myddelton (1560-1631) was a Welshman who came to London to be apprenticed to a goldsmith. He became very successful in that trade and was appointed jeweller to King James I. He was made a baronet in 1622.  In 1610 opposition to the project from Hertfordshire landowners and farmers, who feared that it would result in the flooding of their properties, delayed construction and by 1612 Myddelton also found that he had insufficient means to finish the work.  He managed to gain the support of the King who agreed to pay half of the project’s expenses in return for a half of its profits. The course of the waterway would run by the royal residence, Theobalds Palace near Cheshunt. The King’s support meant that the huge project could finally be completed and the opposition to it was silenced.

The New River, was officially opened on 29 September 1613 with a ceremony including a procession, cannon fire and music.  It was a trench ten feet wide and four feet deep, originally all overground, and as many as 300 men were employed in its construction, which cost an estimated £18,500.  The water was fed into a reservoir called the “Round Pond” at a waterworks in Finsbury known as the New River Head from where it was distributed in elm pipes to the City.  Over the next 200 years, until they were all replaced with cast-iron ones, these pipes required constant repair and renewal.

In 1619 the New River Company was incorporated with Myddelton as its governor.  Sir John Backhouse (1584-1649), a politician and land owner in Islington, was a director.  Myddelton gave some shares in the company to Edmund Colthurst, who had acted as his overseer in the project.

Customers were charged for their water supply from the New River.  Initially those who could afford to have water piped directly into cisterns inside their houses paid a connection charge and also quarterly payments.  These payments were fixed according to the size of the property and were higher for trade users than domestic ones. Before the formation of the New River Company payment was due at Hugh Myddelton’s house in Basinghall Street.  In 1619 the Company was incorporated and payment was due at the Water House at New River Head, but customers could also arrange to pay local collectors at certain times at coffee houses and inns. For those without a piped supply, water carriers on the street sold New River water by the bucketful.

The venture was not at first entirely successful.  People are reported as having said that the New River water was not so good as the River Thames water which the London Bridge Waterworks was supplying.  Eels and mussels occasionally turned up in the water supply. Turncocks in each street controlled the water and in the early days of the company these would only be turned on for one to two hours a day, two or three times a week.  In fact, as late as 1853 Charles Dickens described his supply of water from the New River Company as “often absurdly insufficient”. If a fire broke out someone would have had to find a company official to turn the water on to fight it.  In 1631 King Charles I sold the royal share-holding back to Sir Hugh Myddelton for £500 a year.

Gradually profits improved and the company expanded its headquarters at New River Head in the 1690s.  The company became a significant landowner in Clerkenwell and much later in Victorian times it laid out streets and squares in the area which take their names from people and places associated with it, including Amwell Street, Chadwell Street, River Street and Myddelton Square.  Additional premises along the Thames were built, including a timber wharf where elm trunks used to make the water pipes were delivered. New offices were opened firstly at Puddle Dock and, from 1717, in a large building at the mouth of the River Fleet which was destroyed by fire in 1769.  By 1888 it was considered to be the most remunerative and successful of all the trading corporations of the world. The City of London website describes it as “one of the first companies in the world, the first in England to be financed by the king, and one of the longest lived companies to have existed, operational for over 300 years”.  The New River is still supplying drinking water to London, approximately 8% of the daily consumption.

Other water companies opened in the 18th century.  These included the Chelsea Waterworks established in 1723; waterworks at West Ham in 1743; at Lea Bridge before 1767; the Borough Waterworks Company in 1770; and the Lambeth Waterworks Company in 1785.  Tests in October 1876 showed that the water supplied by the New River Company was the purest of all these.

When water supply was taken into public control in 1904 the New River Company was taken over by the newly-formed Metropolitan Water Board, which was renamed the Thames Water Authority in 1973.  In 1989 it once more became a private company called Thames Water Utilities Ltd.


  1. Book – London’s New River / by Robert Ward.  Historical Publications, 2003.

Websites – City of London website; Thames Water website; London Historians website; Enfield Museum website.

Paul Stokes

Union Chapel

In 1799 a small group of Anglicans from St. Mary’s parish church in Islington, dis­illusioned by their worldly vicar, broke away and began to worship with a group of Nonconformists at 18 Highbury Grove. Theirs was a “Catholic and liberal plan intended to unite Christians of different denomin­ations in religious worship and brotherly affect­ion”. The first full-time minister, Thomas Lewis, was appointed in 1804.  This spontaneous ecumenical initiative was so successful that seven years later, in 1806, they built their own chapel in Compton Terrace and called it Union Chapel.

The name embodied the “enlarged and liberal principles” of the congreg­ation. It was proudly recorded at the time that the Chapel “neither belongs to, nor takes, the exclusive denomination of any one party of Christians, but is the friend of all …” For the next forty or so years, both Anglican and Nonconform­ist services were held there.

Eventually, Anglican membership declined, as St. Mary’s became a more vigorous evangel­ical church, and by 1844 Anglican services had ceased. In 1847 the Chapel joined the Congregational Union of self-governing Nonconformist churches. Today, the Chapel is still run by its congregation with each member, including the minister, having equal authority, and is a member of the Congregational Federation.

The dominating figure in the Chapel’s history is Dr. Henry Allon, a friend of Gladstone and one of the great figures of Victorian church life. He came to Union Chapel in 1844 and remained as minister for forty-eight until his death in 1892. It was under him that the present Chapel was built. He is comm­emorated in the fine set of six stained glass windows by Lavers & Westlake above the south gallery. For many years he was editor of British Quarterly Review, a heavyweight journal for nonconformists with intellectual interests.

One of the congregation between 1864 and 1872 was H.H. Asquith, then in his teens, who later became Prime Minister. He moved away from Islington, but kept in contact with Dr Allon for some years and wrote reviews for the British Quarterly Review.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Islington was a village of 10,000 or so. Sunday was not much associated with church going. As Lewis wrote with intense disapproval, “thousands were in the habit of flocking from the metropolis to the tea gardens in the village, and no pains were taken to dissipate the moral darkness.”

By 1870 there had been dramatic changes. The population had risen to just over 200,000. Between 1800 and 1840, 24 new Anglican and Nonconformist churches were built to minister to this expanding population. Union Chapel itself had 650 members, with many more coming to its services. Another 191 members were in branches in the south of the borough towards Spitalfields.

By 1866 the original building had been enlarged and given a grand colonnaded façade by Lander Bedells Architects. In 1872 it was decided to build a new and larger Chapel. The congregation bought the houses on either side of the Chapel, 18 and 19 Compton Terrace, in order to build in their gardens. Alfred Waterhouse was retained as adviser, and there was an architectural competition. From a field of seven, he had no hesitation in commending the design submitted by James Cubitt. It was, he rightly said, “unique”, and the Building Committee unanimously agreed. James Cubitt (1836-1912) was the son of a Baptist minister, and was not related to the famous Cubitt family of builders and engineers. He practised as an architect, almost exclusively building nonconformist churches. Other churches by him, which survive, include

  • Emmanuel Congregational Church in Cambridge, and the
  • Welsh Presbyterian Church in Charing Cross Road.

There was a happy meeting of minds between Cubitt and Allon.

In his book Church Design for Congreg­ations, published five years earlier in 1870, Cubitt had expounded his views. He attacked convention­al nave and aisle design as obsolete. When the “columns are thick or moderately thick, it inevitably shuts out a multitude of people from the service … When, on the other hand, its columns are thin, the inconvenience is removed, but the architect­ure is ruined … The type as it remains is but a shadow of its former self-a medieval church in the last stage of starvation”. Too many convention­al architects were failing the main test: “to produce a grand and beautiful church in which everyone could see and hear the service” Allon’s requirements, as set out in the notes he issued as guidelines for the architects, were in almost perfect harmony with what Cubitt had already written: that “every person should see and hear the preacher without conscious effort”; that the acoustics should also be suitable for prayer, and “he who prays cannot shout in addressing the Almighty”; and that since the function of the choir was to lead the congregation “it should be in it and of it- under no circumstances separated from it”. He ended with a ringing declaration that “Our church buildings are for use, not for the realisation of conventional ideas which unfit them for use”. This must have been sweet music to Cubitt whose vision it was “to step out of the enchanted circle of habit and precedent … to break through the tyranny of custom”.  Cubitt’s solution was dramatic and ingenious: a massive irregular octagon placed within a rectangle and crowned with an elaborately decorated wooden ceiling soaring above the central space. The pews are carefully arranged, including a raked ground floor, so that nearly every member of the congregation can see and hear whoever is in the pulpit.

The tower, which so dominates the Islington landscape, was the last part to be built, and was only completed twelve years after the chapel itself had been dedicated. Cubitt said that he had modelled the Chapel on the Romanesque church of St. Fosca at Torcello, near Venice.

It was designed to seat 1,700, with a large Sunday school hall at the rear to accommodate 1,000 children. It cost over £47,000 all told to build-a staggering sum at the time.

The splendid pulpit is the focus of the whole building and is based largely on medieval Tuscan examples. Cubitt designed it and the stone carving was by Thomas Earp.

The rose window above the organ, depicting angels playing musical instruments, is contemporary with the building of the chapel. It was designed and made by Frederick Drake of Exeter and was the gift of Dr Nathaniel Rogers.

The four lancet stained glass windows showing St Michael, St Gabriel, Phoebe, and Mary, are by Messrs Powell, 1912, and are a memorial to Mrs Henry Spicer.

The Chapel made Cubitt’s reputation as an architect, and is probably his best work. It is still very much as he created it.

The Chapel was dedicated in December 1877, just over 18 months after the laying of the foundation stone, with celebrations, which lasted a fortnight. Gladstone came to the ceremony, so did a success­ion of well-known preachers like Newman Hall and Charles Spurgeon, who preached to 3,500 people who crammed into the new building to hear him. Spurgeon no doubt took it in his stride, he regularly preached to crowds of 10,000-and for several hours at a time.

A few weeks after the Chapel’s dedication, the organ was inaugurated, and Spurgeon was once again invited to preach. This was a less successful occasion. The service had opened with singing and organ music. Spurgeon then took a stand in front of the new organ and denounced the practice of spending large sums “upon worthless noise boxes” as a “sinful waste” for, “they drowned the only sound of praise God cared to hear, the human voice”. He would like, he said, to see every organ in the country smashed up. The astonished congregation hissed vigorously, and understandably, for under Henry Allon the Chapel had become famous for its music.

When he started his ministry in 1843, Dr Allon found the services, as he bluntly put it, “musically at zero”. Forty years later a contemp­orary noted, “the audible participation of a thousand worshippers induces a sense of communion which appeals most powerfully to the religious emotions”. The singing was in parts, which the congregation practised at weekly classes throughout the winter. The choir led the singing, but Allon disapproved of “the delegated worship of the choir” and required high standards from the congregation, whose repertoire included the “Hall­elujah” Chorus. The Chapel boasted some distinguished organists, such as H.J. Gauntlett (who wrote the music for “Once in Royal David’s City”) and Ebenezer Prout.

Henry “Father” Willis designed the present organ especially for the Chapel. Willis was one of the outstanding organ builders of the last century, and was responsible for those in the Albert Hall and Alexandra Palace. Situated behind the pulpit, the organ has the beautiful voicing characteristic of Willis. Apart from one stop (the original choir gemshorn has been replaced by a piccolo), it remains as Willis designed it, which is a rarity. Part of the quality of its sound derives from the fact that the pipes extend below floor level into a well, which enriches its resonance. Part also comes from the acoustics of the Chapel, which Cubitt disarmingly described as “unexpectedly, and it may perhaps be said, unusually good”.

The Chapel’s architectural importance has been recognised by its listing Grade I and by English Heritage and the Lottery Fund providing grants towards the restoration of the building, conditional on the Chapel and the community raising considerable sums. The Friends of Union Chapel, a registered charity, was set up in 1982 to try to secure the maintenance and improvement of the Chapel and to stimulate wider interest in and use of the buildings. From the mid 1980s under the dynamic leadership of the Chapel’s then minister, the Rev Janet Wootton, great advances were made towards these objectives by the congregation, including the setting up of Union Chapel Project. It is the outstanding example of the reuse of a historic building without damaging its function as a church and its unique late Gothic Revival style.


Beau Brummell

George Bryan Brummell, famously nicknamed “Beau”, was born on 7 June 1778, the younger son of Billy Brummell and Mary Richardson. He was born in Downing Street, where his father worked as private secretary to Lord North. In 1783, Billy Brummell retired from politics and bought an estate, Donnington Grove in Berkshire. In 1786, Brummell was sent to Eton with his elder brother, William. They were Oppidans or fee-paying boys and boarded. Brummell mingled with the aristocracy, becoming known for his gentlemanly manners and ready wit, which kept him out of trouble. He developed an interest in dress and his elegant bearing earned him the nickname Buck Brummell.

When Brummell’s father died in 1794, he left his estate to be shared equally between his three children, rather than the whole going to his eldest son. The estate, valued at around £60,000, was to be held in trust until the children came of age. This was a huge fortune. Brummell went up to Oriel College, Oxford, in May 1794, but after just one term, he asked his father’s executors for a commission in the army. He became a cornet in the 10th Light Dragoons – the Prince of Wales’ own regiment. The dragoons wore elaborate uniforms and liked to be known as Hussars. They were disorderly, hard drinking and known for their lack of morality, and included many of the Prince of Wales’ set, of which Brummell soon became an important member. Brummell obtained promotion to lieutenant in 1795 and then captain in 1796, and with each promotion came a new, and grander, uniform. But life in the army had its costs. A fall, or possibly a kick, from his horse broke his nose, damaging his classic profile.

It seems incredible that a non-aristocratic boy of sixteen should be accepted into the Prince’s own regiment and then into his circle of intimate friends. How Brummell first came to the Prince’s notice is not known, but it seems likely that it was his wit and dress sense that attracted the Prince, probably while Brummell was still at Eton. Brummell supported the Prince at his wedding to Princess Caroline in 1795; he was also one of the drunken companions whom she accused of ruining her honeymoon. When the regiment were ordered to Manchester in 1798, Brummell sold out, anxious not to lose his position of influence with the Prince. The following year, he came into his inheritance. He was now a man of means and meant to make his mark.
Brummell moved into 4 Chesterfield Street in 1799 and determined to become the best dressed gentleman in London. His levées became events of great importance as gentlemen, including the Prince of Wales, came to see how he dressed. It was around 1800, after Brummell’s first season in London, that he acquired the nickname Beau.
His style was understated elegance, with a limited palette of colours, rather than the gaudy finery of the Georgian gentleman. He was famous for the intricate folds of his neck cloth and the Bath coating material of his blue jacket. He patronised a variety of tailors so that no one could say that they made him famous.

For many years, it was Brummell’s opinion that mattered. He could bring someone into fashion by showing them favour or put someone out of fashion by cutting them. He was a member of Whites, Brooks and Watiers. A bow window in his club at White’s became known as the Beau window because that was where Brummell liked to sit. He was the perpetual president of Watiers which was established to provide better suppers to the gentlemen who ate in their clubs.
Though he flirted prolifically, Brummell’s affections were rarely engaged. Brummel’s first love was reputedly Julia Storer, later Julia Johnstone, who became a famous courtesan.
He was particular friends with Lady Hester Stanhope, the eccentric bluestocking; Lady Elizabeth Howard, Duchess of Rutland, until his rudeness alienated her; and the Duchess of Devonshire who wrote poems for his collection. But his closest lady friend was Frederica, Duchess of York. He loved her unstructured house parties at Oatlands and shared her love of animals. He gave her a dog, Fidélité; she sent him gifts in exile, including a comfy chair. One of the few items in Brummell’s possession at his death was a miniature of Princess Frederica’s left eye. This suggests a level of intimacy that can only be guessed at. Brummell claimed it was out of respect for promises to the Princess that he refused to publish his memoirs even when he was desperate for money.

Brummell was famous for his wit, but infamous for his rudeness. It was this rudeness which eventually cost him the Prince of Wales’ regard. “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?” he asked, referring to the Prince. Brummell ran up debts through his extravagance, but also through his heavy gambling losses. He was continually borrowing money, but matters came to a head when a man named Richard Meyler discovered that Brummell was going to renege on his debt to him. He sat in White’s and told all who came of Brummell’s infamous conduct. He was, effectively, asking him out. Meyler became known as Dick the Dandy-killer.

On 18 May 1816, Brummell fled. He travelled through the night to Dover and on to Calais, which was as far as he could go without a passport. He stayed at Dessin’s Hotel and entertained in his apartments whilst learning French and writing his memoirs.
Brummell had escaped his debts, but he could not escape the reality that he was ill. He probably acquired the habit of visiting prostitutes whilst in the army, and at some point, late in his time in London, he was infected with syphilis. Before he died in 1830, George IV made Brummell the British consul in Caen. The salary enabled him to start paying off the debts he had already accumulated in Calais. He celebrated his freedom in Paris before taking up his post. In Caen, he lodged with Madame de St Ursain and fell in love with her teenage daughter, Aimable. By now, he was suffering from terrible headaches and depression from the progression of his illness. But his position as consul did not last and when the post was abolished in 1832, his debts became pressing and he had to hide to escape the bailiffs.
that summer, Brummell suffered a temporary paralysis. His letters to Aimable were discovered and her furious mother evicted him from his lodgings.
On 4 May 1835, Brummell was arrested for the money he owed to the owner of Dessin’s Hotel in Calais. George Armstrong, a Caen grocer, agreed to travel to England to seek pecuniary help on Brummell’s behalf. Brummell was awarded compensation for the loss of the consulship and was duly released from prison on 21 July 1835.Brummell struggled on as the syphilis took its course. He was increasingly in pain, delusional, depressed and subject to seizures and eventually insanity. In January 1839, he was transferred to an asylum. On 30th March 1840 Brummell died penniless and insane from syphilis at Le Bon Sauveur Asylum on the outskirts of Caen aged 61. He is buried at Cimetière Protestant, Caen, France. His death went virtually unnoticed in England.


Regency History


William Smith MP

1756 – 1835 was a leading independent British politician, sitting as MP for more than one constituency. He was an English Dissenter and was instrumental in bringing political rights to that religious minority.

He was a friend and close associate of William Wilberforce and a member of the Clapham Sect of social reformers, and was in the forefront of many of their campaigns for social justice, prison reform and philanthropic endeavour, most notably the abolition of slavery. He was the maternal grandfather of Florence Nightingale..

William Smith was born on 22 September 1756 at Clapham (then a village to the south of London), the only son of Samuel Smith by Martha, daughter of William Adams of London.

He was educated at the dissenting academy at Daventry until 1772, where he began to come under the influence of Unatarians. He went into the family grocery business and by 1777 had become a partner. Smith had a long career as a social and political reformer, joining the Society for Constitutional Information in 1782.

On 12 September 1781 he married Frances Coape daughter of John and Hannah Coape, both Dissenters. Their daughter, Frances Smith, married William Nightingale and was the mother of Florence Nightingale.

According to Cambridge University Library records, William and Frances had four other daughters: Joanna Maria, Julia, Anne and Patty.

Joanna Maria married the MP John Bonham-Carter

William Smith was elected in 1784 as MP for Sudbury in Suffolk. in He was active in his support for the Whigs while in opposition.  In 1790 he lost his seat at Sudbury, and in the following January he was elected as M.P. for Camelford,  Cornwall.  In 1796 he was once again returned for Sudbury, but in 1802 accepted the invitation of radicals to stand for Norwich, although he was defeated in the 1806 election, which was fought on a local issue.

The Whig party were, however, elected and formed the next government under Lord Grenville. Smith was returned again in 1807 and 1812, and became a popular and outspoken radical Member of Parliament for Norwich, which was known for being a gathering place for dissenters and radicals of all kinds.

William Smith held strong dissenting Christian convictions – he was a Unitarian, and was thus prevented from attaining the Great Offices of State. (The doctrine of Unitarians was to deny the truth of the Trinity, a central tenet of the C of E.),

He nevertheless played a leading role in most of the great contemporary parliamentary issues, including the Dissenters’ demands for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts (for the first time since the 1730s).

Although the campaigners were unsuccessful in 1787, they tried again in 1789. When Charles Fox introduced a bill for the relief of Non-trinitarian..ism in May 1792, Smith supported the Unitarian Society, publicly declaring his commitment to the Unitarian cause. The same year he became one of the founding members of the Friends of the People Society. In 1813 Smith challenged the established church, and was responsible for championing the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813, known as ‘Mr William Smith’s Bill’, which, for the first time, made it legal to practice Unitarianism.

In June 1787, Smith was one of the first to campaign for the abolition of the slave trade, becoming a vocal advocate for the cause.

In 1790 he supported Wilberforce in the slave trade debate in April. While he had been out of parliament he had given his support to Abolitionism by writing a pamphlet entitled A Letter to William Wilberforce (1807), in which he convincingly summarised the  arguments for abolition.

Once the trade had been halted, he turned his attention to freeing those who were already slaves. In 1823 with Zachary Macauley he helped found the London Society for the Abolition of Slavery in our Colonies, thereby launching the next phase of the campaign to eradicate slavery.

In the beginning, at least, William Smith was sympathetic to the revolutionary movement in France. He visited Paris in 1790, where he attended the 14 July celebrations, and later recorded his reactions to the momentous events he witnessed. In April 1791 he publicly supported the aims and principles of the newly formed Unitarian Society, including support for the recently won liberty of the French.

Smith was swiftly gaining a reputation as a radical, even a Jacobin. Because he had business contacts and friends in Paris, he was more than once asked to act as a go-between for the government. In 1792 he arranged several meetings between William Pitt and Maret, Napoleon’s foreign minister, in a desperate attempt to avoid war.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1806 as “a Gentleman well versed in various branches of Natural Knowledge“. Smith’s final major contribution to British politics was to finally successfully see through parliament the repeal of the Test Acts in 1828.  He died on 31 May 1835 in London.


Queen Anne Statue

a Grade 1-listed statue of Queen Anne stands on a pedestal alongside the north wall of No. 15 Queen Anne’s Gate.

The figure represents the Queen standing, with the left foot slightly advanced and the head inclined to one side.

A small crown rests lightly on the head, and the hair falls down in curls to the shoulders, while a necklace supplies a touch of feminine adornment.

The dress is cut low on the shoulders, with the corsage affixed with jewels, displaying the lines of the waist, and the basque is scalloped.

The half-sleeves are festooned and have ruffles and lace frills, leaving the lower parts of the arms bare.

The skirt is richly brocaded, the folds being cleverly shown, and is finished with a frilled hem.

From the shoulders is suspended the mantle, lined with ermine and brought forward in draped folds, while the cordons are knotted in front and depend from the waist with tassels.

The Queen is represented as wearing the Collar and George of the Order of the Garter, with the Star attached to the left breast, and carrying the Orb and Sceptre.

The workmanship is most skilful, and the statue forms an interesting record of the state robes and regalia worn at that time.

The statue, carved from Portland stone, stands on a plinth of the same material with the inscription ANNA REGINA. The pedestal consists of a fat “engaged” cylinder with a flat volute on either side, each with scrolls adorned with carved flowers and leaves. Neither the sculptor’s identity,

The back of the statue has been left quite rough, and has no connection with the brickwork in its present situation. The statue is now under the charge of H.M. Office of Works

Banker William Paterson built Queen Anne’s Gate in 1704–5, it originally formed two separate closes divided by a wall with two openings, with Queen Square to the west and Park Street to the east.

The statue is first mentioned in Edward Hatton’s A New View of London (1708) as being “erected in full proportion on a pedestal at the E.End of Queen. Square, Westminster“.

An engraved map of 1710 depicts the statue of Queen Anne in the middle of the wall, flanked by the gateways on either side. At some point in the early 19th century the statue was moved to a new position in the square. The Gentleman’s Magazine reported in 1814 “the statue until of late occupied a conspicuous situation on the East end of the square, but now we find it huddled up in a corner”.

By 1862, the statue had lost its nose and right arm. The Earl of Caernarvon and other local residents pressed the Office of Works to repair it, saying in a letter that the residents had long been dissatisfied with the statue’s poor condition.

His request received a favourable response from the First Commissioner of Works, William Cowper. Although Cowper regarded the statue as being of “little merit as a work of art”, he did not “think it desirable that a statue of an illustrious sovereign should be left in a public place without a nose or right arm.”

The sculptor John Thomas was hired to repair it. He based the face on a “squeeze” (plaster cast) of Francis Bird’s ‘s statue of Queen Anne outside St Paul’ Cathedral.

The right arm was replaced with a marble substitute and a replacement bronze sceptre was also installed.

The statue’s poor condition was due in large part to the local children’s mistaken belief that the statue represented the ill-reputed Queen Mary. They would ask “Bloody Queen Mary” to come down from her pedestal, and upon “receiving, naturally, no response, [they would] assail it with missiles”. Cowper recommended in 1862 that “if the name of Queen Anne be written in legible characters on the pedestal, their puerile outrage will not be repeated.” John Thomas as part of his restoration work therefore added the inscription. Nonetheless the vandalism continued, and it was not until a generation later that the complaints ceased.

Another legend concerning the statue holds that on 1 August, the anniversary of Queen Anne’s death, the statue climbs down and walks three times up and down the street.


Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel was born on 26 August 1819 near Coburg in the Saxon duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, to a family connected to many of Europe’s ruling monarchs. He was the second son of Duke Ernest 111 and his first wife, Louise. In 1825, Albert’s great-uncle, Frederick, died which led to a realignment of Saxon duchies the following year and Albert’s father became the first reigning duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Albert and his elder brother, Ernest, spent their youth in a close companionship marred by their parents’ turbulent marriage and eventual separation and divorce. After their mother was exiled from court in 1824, she married her lover and never saw her children again, and died of cancer at the age of 30 in 1831. The brothers were educated privately at home and later Albert studied in Brussels before attending the University of Bonn, where he studied law, political economy, philosophy and the history of art. He played music and excelled at sport, especially fencing and riding.

The idea of marriage between Albert and his cousin, Victoria, was first documented in 1821 and by 1836 this idea had also arisen in the mind of their ambitious uncle Leopold, who had been King of the Belgians since 1831. At this time, Victoria was the heir presumptive to the British throne. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent, was the sister of both Albert’s father—the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha—and King Leopold. Other suitors were proposed and Victoria well aware of the various matrimonial plans critically appraised a parade of eligible princes and favoured Albert.

Victoria came to the throne aged eighteen on 20 June 1837 and she, resisted attempts to rush her into marriage. However in October 1839 Albert visited and mutual affection led to the Queen proposing to him on 15 October 1839 and they were married on 10 February 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s. Just before the marriage, Albert was naturalized by Act of Parliament, and granted the style of Royal Highness by an Order in Council.

Initially Albert was not popular with the British public; he was perceived to be from an impoverished and undistinguished minor state, barely larger than a small English county The Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, advised the Queen against granting her husband the title of “King Consort” and Parliament also objected to Albert being created a peer—partly because of anti-German sentiment and a desire to exclude Albert from any political role. Albert’s religious views were a little controversial although he was a Protestant but some of his family were Roman Catholic. Melbourne led a minority government and the opposition took advantage of the marriage to weaken his position further. They opposed the ennoblement of Albert and granted him a smaller annuity than previous consorts, £30,000 instead of the usual £50,000. For the next seventeen years, Albert was formally titled “HRH Prince Albert” until, on 25 June 1857, Victoria formally granted him the title Prince Consort.

The position in which the prince was placed by his marriage, while one of distinction, also offered considerable difficulties. He was a husband but “not the master in the house.” as he put it and he had to manoeuver to dislodge a Baroness who ran the household. Within two months of the marriage, Victoria was pregnant. Albert started to take on public roles; he became President of the Society for the Extinction of Slavery (which was still legal in the southern United States and the colonies of France); and helped Victoria privately with her government paperwork. Thanks to incidents such as the shot fired at them by the insane Edward Oxford while out riding  gained Albert  public support as well as political influence, which showed itself practically when, in August, Parliament passed the Regency Act 1840 to designate him regent in the event of Victoria’s death before their child reached the age of majority. Nine children were born over the next seventeen years. All nine children survived to adulthood, which was remarkable for the era and which has been credited to Albert’s “enlightened influence” on the healthy running of the nursery.

After the 1841 election, Melbourne was replaced as P. M. by Sir Robert Peel, who appointed Albert as chairman of the Royal Commission in charge of redecorating the new Palace of Westminster which had burned down seven years before. Albert was also a private patron and collector buying pictures of the highest quality.

Albert and Victoria were shot at again on both 29 and 30 May 1842, but were unhurt. The culprit, John Francis, was detained and condemned to death, although he was later reprieved. Some of their early unpopularity came about because of their stiffness and adherence to protocol in public, though in private the couple were more easy-going. Their first time apart since marriage was not till 1844 when Albert returned to Coburg on the death of his father.

By 1844, Albert had managed to modernize the royal finances and, through various economies, had sufficient capital to purchase Osborne House on the Isle of Wight as a private residence for their growing family. Over the next few years a house modelled in the style of an Italianate villa was built to the designs of Albert and Thomas Cubitt with Albert laying out the grounds and improving the estate and farm. Albert managed and improved the other royal estates; especially the farm at Windsor and under his stewardship the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall steadily increased.

Unlike many landowners who approved of child labour and opposed Peel’s repeal of the Corn Laws, Albert supported moves to raise working ages and free up trade. In 1846, Albert was heavily rebuked when he attended the debate on the Corn Laws in the Commons to give tacit support to Peel. During Peel’s premiership, Albert’s authority behind, or beside, the throne became more apparent. He had access to al the Queen’s papers; was drafting her correspondence and was present when she met her ministers, or even saw them alone in her absence. The clerk of the Privy Council, wrote of him: “He is King to all intents and purposes.”

In 1847, Albert was elected, in a close contest, Chancellor of Cambridge University and used this position to campaign successfully for reformed and more modern university curricula, expanding the subjects taught beyond the traditional mathematics and classics to include modern history and the natural sciences

That summer, Victoria and Albert spent a rainy holiday in the west of Scotland but heard from their doctor, that his son had enjoyed dry, sunny days farther east at Balmoral Castle. The tenant of Balmoral died suddenly in early October, and Albert leased it although he had never visited, and in September 1848 he, his wife and the older children went there for the first time. They came to relish the privacy it afforded.

The year of European revolutions in 1848  spread as the result of a widespread economic crisis. Throughout the year, Victoria and Albert complained about Foreign Secretary Palmerston’s independent foreign policy, which they believed destabilized foreign European powers further. Albert was concerned for many of his royal relatives, a number of whom were deposed. The family went to the safety of Osborne House. Although there were sporadic demonstrations in England, no effective revolutionary action took place, and Albert even gained public acclaim when he expressed paternalistic, yet well-meaning and philanthropic, views.

A man of progressive and relatively liberal ideas, Albert not only led reforms in university education, welfare, the royal finances and slavery, he had a special interest in applying science and art to the manufacturing industry The Great Exhibition of 1851 arose from the annual exhibitions of the Society of Arts, of which Albert was President from 1843, and owed most of its success to his efforts to promote it. Albert served as president of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition, and had to fight for every stage of the project. The Queen opened the exhibition in a specially designed and built glass building known as the Crystal Palace on 1 May 1851. It proved a colossal success and a surplus of £180,000 was used to purchase land in South Kensington on which to establish educational and cultural institutions and what became the Royal Albert Halll and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In 1852, John Camden Neild, an eccentric miser, left Victoria an unexpected legacy, which Albert used to obtain the freehold of Balmoral and extensively improve it. The same year, he was appointed to several of the offices left vacant by the death of the Duke of Wellington, including the mastership of Trinity House and the colonelcy of the Grenadier Guards. With Wellington’s passing, Albert was able to propose and campaign for modernisation of the army, which was long overdue. Thinking that the military was unready for war, and that Christian rule was preferable to Islamic rule, Albert counselled a diplomatic solution to conflict between the Russian and Otterman Empires. Palmerston was more bellicose, and favoured a policy that would prevent further Russian expansion. Palmerston was manoeuvred out of the cabinet in December 1853 but returned after the Russian attack on the anchored Ottoman fleet at Sinop. The press response caused Palmerston’s popularity to surge as Albert’s fell and the Crimean War began.

During the war Albert arranged the marriage of his fourteen-year-old daughter, Victoria, to Prince Frederick William of Prussia, though Albert delayed the marriage until Victoria was seventeen. Albert hoped that his daughter and son-in-law would be a liberalising influence in the enlarging but very conservative Prussian state.

Albert promoted many public educational institutions such as the need for better schooling. His espousal of science met with clerical opposition; after he and Palmersto unsuccessfully recommended a knighthood for Darwin, after the publication of” On the Origin of Species”, which was opposed by the Bishop of Oxford.

Albert continued to devote himself to the education of his family and the management of the royal household. He was described as unusually kind and patient, and joined in family games with enthusiasm. He felt keenly the departure of his eldest daughter for Prussia when she married her fiancé at the beginning of 1858, and was disappointed that his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, did not respond well to the intense educational programme that Albert had designed for him. At the age of seven, the Prince was expected to take six hours of instruction, including an hour of German and an hour of French every day and when he[failed at his lessons, Albert caned him. Corporal punishment was common at the time, and was not thought unduly harsh.

In August 1859, Albert fell seriously ill with stomach cramps. In March 1861, Victoria’s mother and Albert’s aunt, the Duchess of Kent, died and Victoria was grief-stricken; Albert took on most of the Queen’s duties, despite continuing to suffer with chronic stomach trouble. The last public event he presided over was the opening of the Royal Horticultural Gardens on 5 June 1861. In August, Victoria and Albert visited the Curagh Camp, Ireland, where the Prince of Wales was doing army service. At the Curragh, the Prince of Wales was introduced, by his fellow officers, to Nellie Clifden, an Irish actress and shortly after Albert was informed that gossip was spreading in gentlemen’s clubs and the foreign press that the Prince of Wales was involved with Nellie. Albert and Victoria were horrified by their son’s indiscretion, and feared blackmail, scandal or pregnancy. Although Albert was ill and at a low ebb, he travelled to Cambridge to see the Prince of Wales on 25 November to discuss this indiscreet affair!. In his final weeks Albert suffered from pains in his back and legs

When the Trent Affair—the forcible removal of Confederate envoys from a British ship by Union forces during the American Civil War—threatened war between the United States and Britain, Albert was gravely ill but intervened to soften the British diplomatic response

On 9 December, one of Albert’s doctors, William Jenner, diagnosed him with typhoid fever. And he died at 10:50 p.m. on 14 December 1861 in the Blue Room at Windsor, in the presence of the Queen and five of their nine children. The contemporary diagnosis was typhoid fever, but modern writers have pointed out that Albert’s ongoing stomach pain, leaving him ill for at least two years before his death, may indicate that a chronic disease, such as Crohn’s disease, renal failure or abdominal cancer or, was the cause of death

The Queen’s grief was overwhelming, and the tepid feelings the public had felt previously for Albert were replaced by sympathy. The widowed Victoria never recovered from Albert’s death; she entered into a deep state of mourning and wore black for the rest of her life. Albert’s rooms in all his houses were kept as they had been, even with hot water brought in the morning and linen and towels changed daily-such practices were not uncommon in the houses of the very rich. Victoria withdrew from public life and her seclusion eroded some of Albert’s work in attempting to re-model the monarchy as a national institution setting a moral, if not political, example. Albert is credited with introducing the principle that the Royal Family should remain above politics something Victoria did not observe early in her reign.

Albert’s body was temporarily entombed in St George’s Chapel at Windsor.  A year after his death his remains were deposited at Frogmore Mausoleum, which remained incomplete until 1871. The sarcophagus, in which both he and the Queen were eventually laid, was carved from the largest block of granite that had ever been quarried in Britain. Despite Albert’s request that no effigies of him should be raised, many public monuments were erected all over the country and across the British Empire.

This equestrian bronze at Holborn Circus is by Charles Bacon erected in 1874 and made of Scottish granite. It was put here as the area was redeveloped. The Prince is in Field-Marshal’s uniform raising his hat; the usual return salute of a Field Marshall in the 19th century. On either side of the oblong plinth are bronze figures of History towards City and Peace towards Westminster. The plinth depicts the Great Exhibition of 1851. It also shows Albert laying a piece of the Royal Exchange and the other side is the Great Exhibition.  A seated angel, representing history, reads a book dated 1851-1862 although the Prince died in 1861. It was presented to the City of London by Charles Oppenheim of the diamond trading company De Beers, whose headquarters is on nearby Charterhouse Street. It cost £2,000.