Polydore de Keyser

Polydore de Keyser (13 December 1832 – 14 January 1898), was a lawyer and the first Roman Catholic since the Reformation to be elected Lord Mayor of London (October 1887 – November 1888).

He was born in the Belgian city of Dendermonde, near Ghent. He came to London as a waiter from Belgium sometime before 1849 and became a naturalized English citizen in 1853 and eventually became Lord Mayor of London.

He was knighted on 4 December 1888.

He founded the 400-room Royal Hotel, later to be called the De Keyser’s Royal Hotel, and personally ran it from 1856 to 1887. The De Keyser’s Royal Hotel had approximately 400 rooms and was mostly used by foreigners visiting London, including Americans, Dutch, French and Belgians. (De Keyser himself could speak six languages.) The hotel was very exclusive and initially every guest had to be introduced personally or by letter before they could secure accommodation. It depended almost entirely on this clientele for its success, but was also used for large banquets among City companies. It was taken over by the RAF in 1916.

In 1920, Lord Leverhulme leased the site to build the London headquarters of his soap manufacturing company Lever Brothers, which became Unilever in 1930. Construction did not commence until 1929.

The building design and construction is thought to be a collaboration between James Lomax-Simpson, a member of the Unilever Board, and John James Burnet and Thomas S. Tait, partners in the firm of Sir John Burnet and Partners. However, there is some uncertainty over the credit for the design; a note by Simpson claims exclusive credit, suggesting that Burnet and Tait only approved the final design. Burnet and Tait exhibited the design as a joint work with Simpson at the Royal Academy, and the drawings held at the City of London Record Office are signed by Burnet and Tait alone. John James Burnet, although active in this project, was retiring around this time due to ill health, and Tait, a leading practitioner of modern architecture, worked on aspects of the building design. The main contractor for the construction of the building was Holland, Hannen and Cubitts

The most striking aspect of the building is its enormous curving frontage along the Victoria Embankment, with its giant Ionic columns between the fourth and sixth floors.

The heavily rusticated ground floor is windowless to reduce traffic noise inside the building.

The corners are marked by entrances surmounted by large plinths on which are placed sculptures of human figures restraining horses – called Controlled Energy by Sir William Reid Dick.

Merman and mermaid figures are by Gilbert Ledward who was also responsible for the guards memorial.

The original lift cars were lined with art deco pewter panels designed by Eric Gill.

A refurbishment of 1977-83 saw the addition of parapet figures by Nicholas Munro and a new north entrance lobby in a Neo Art Deco style, by Theo Crosby of Pentagram. The building has been extended along Tudor Street.

In 2004, the firm Kohn Pederson Fox Associates began renovation work in consultation with English Heritage and the City of London to make alterations to the interior work space. As part of the renovations, original fittings were retained or re-used, such as parquet flooring and Eric Gill’s pewter lift car panels, but Crosby’s distinctive and historically-important additions were removed.

A roof garden was created on top of the building.




Saffron Hill

32-34 Saffron Hill

The former Ship Binding Works in Saffron Hill are marked by the sign above, a Swan and Ship and the words L & Co 1726. The works were set up in 1887 as part of the Longman publishing company, when demand for exquisite leather bound copies of their books was outstripping what could be produced in the companies shop in Paternoster Row. (around St Paul’s).  Eventually the binding works became an independent business, being one of the best book binding factories in Britain, and was held as an example of British craftsmanship at trade fairs around the world. Unfortunately a fire caused by bombing caused its closure in 1941.

The Ship and the Swan refer back to the founding of the Longman company. In 1724 Thomas Longman used his inheritance to buy a successful publishing house operating out of a shop called The Ship in Paternoster Road. The company were the publishers of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, which had been published five years earlier. On the back of the sales of Robinson Crusoe Longman was able to acquire the shop next door, the Black Swan. The Ship and Swan came to be used as the companies emblem, even after it had expanded and absorbed other businesses. It remained a family business. It was a sixth generation descendant of Thomas Longman; Hubert Harry Longman, that managed The Ship Binding Works. Family control ended in 1968 when the Pearson Group acquired the business. However, the Longman Dictionary still exists, now online, but still with a ship logo.

Saffron Hill

The land was acquired by John Kirkby in 1272 and he built an estate being awarded by Edward 1 the Bishopric of Ely. On his death he bequeathed the estate to the see as a London Palace. The gardens became famous for their fruit and especially Saffron. This spice was essential to disguise the taste of rancid meat and eventually gave its name to the road running through the estate. In 1575 Elizabeth 1 forced Bishop Cox to lease the gardens to her favourite Sir Christopher Hatton. After that the palace fell into disuse. After the Spanish ambassador lived there for a short time it was used as a prison. The remaining part of the estate became dilapidated and “thieves houses” soon abounded.

First poor Irish immigrants followed by Italians moved in. In the 1700’s houses backed onto the river which was a dumping ground that led to cholera outbreaks. In 1850 it was described as a squalid neighborhood, the home of paupers and thieves. In Dickens’s 1837 novel Oliver Twist (Chapter 8), the Artful Dodger leads Oliver to Fagin’s den in Field Lane, the southern extension of Saffron Hill: “a dirty and more wretched place he [Oliver] had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours”. The Fleet Ditch provided a natural getaway for criminals it being a filthy open sewer. Bailiffs and Police never came into the area unless mob-handed. Post was never delivered and even the vicar came with a body guard.

Saffron Hill is mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”, as the Italian Quarter where the Venucci family can be found.

Social work through a Catholic Church mission and the covering of the ditch led to a lot of demolition and warehouses replacing the slum dwellings. A commercial character developed in the area when the burgeoning diamond trade was confirmed when refugee traders came in the 1930’s. Saffron Hill liberty became part of the County of London in 1889. It was abolished in 1900 and formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn until 1965 when it became Camden.

One Tun Public House

The One Tun was patronised by the author Charles Dickens and was mentioned in his book Oliver Twist under the fictional name of “The Three Cripples”. It is described as “a low public-house situate in the filthiest part of Little Saffron Hill; a dark and gloomy den, where a flaring gas-light burnt all day.” Inside the “ceiling was blackened, to prevent its colour from being injured by the flaring lamps; and the place was so full of dense tobacco smoke that at first it was scarcely possible to discern anything more “ The public house was frequented by Sikes, Fagin and Monks. It was where Noah Claypole (alias Mr Morris Bolter), on his arrival in London, by Fagin.

By that time it was already over half a century old and run by William Dixie whose predecessor was a widow by the name of Jane Hamilton. The One Tun started trading on this site as an ale house in 1759; and has always traded under the same inn sign. The present pub is one of two still remaining in London to trade under this name. (The other being in Goodge Street) This name portrays the largest of the range of casks used for beer and wine storage, its capacity being four hogsheads or 252 gallons. The present day pub was rebuilt in 1875 and bears that date on its` frontage with the initials AE.


Willing House

364 Gray’s Inn Road

A statue of Mercury stands on top of Willing House in Gray’s Inn Road. Mercury or Hermes, the messenger of the gods and responsible for the communication between the worlds of gods and men, is rather appropriate! It is now a Travelodge hotel, but it was once the home of the Willing family. They made their name in advertising, their activities ranging from book stalls and posters to billboard advertising. The Beamish Museum has one of their metal advertising boards. Bill-posting was a lucrative business and one of the largest contractors in London was Willing and Co, founded in 1840. They arranged for the wall space, found the advertisers, and arranged the printing and pasting up of the posters. A contractor had the right to a certain wall or hoarding space, often paying good money for it, and employed regular bill-stickers. Those most proficient and capable of climbing ladders with poster and glue without getting the paper torn in the wind could claim higher wages and were called ladder-men.

Wall space was essential in this competitive world of advertising and one journalist in the last century wrote:

“The value of advertising space, where it is secured and not subject to obliteration inflicted by some rival “fly-paster,” is absolutely fabulous. More than £300 a month was paid a short time ago for some hoardings in Queen Victoria Street; and, altogether, I was assured by a gentleman who has been in the trade for a long time, and enjoys every opportunity of making a fair estimate, that upwards of £60,000 was paid annually for the possession of hoarding and wall space in London to let out to advertisers. Indeed, so much money is made in this way, that there are certain houses standing in conspicuous places by the railway lines, which are not pulled down, though in ruins, because it pays the owners better to let the outside walls for advertising than to let the interior for dwelling purposes”.

Alfred Cecil Calmour gives us an insight in the cost of advertising for a play. He listed the costs he had made for one of his plays that he tried in a morning performance at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1883. The cost of advertising came to £7 3s. 7d. and posting by Willing & Co. had cost £1 while the total production, including actors, had come to only “seventy odd pounds”

The bookstalls of Willing and Co. turn up in the addresses where magazines and journals are for sale. But the firm also had works published in their own name, the most well-known being Willing’s British and Irish Press Guide which, according to the write-up in The Electrician of 19 April, 1895, was “the handiest book of the kind published. The method adopted in dividing the book into sections lends itself to ready reference”. The guide was first published in 1874 and is still published today, no longer by Willing; but by Cision.

But not everything was as great a success as their Press Guide. William Tinsley relates how James Willing senior wanted to start a new monthly periodical “England in the nineteenth Century” which was however stopped after most of the work had been done for the first issue, because not enough advertisers were interested in the project, and, as Tinsley states, “the monetary success of any daily paper, or weekly, or monthly, or quarterly magazine, depends to a great extent upon the number of advertisements it contains”.

Willing House itself is a red brick building on Gray’s Inn Road and stands on a site that was first developed as a residential area in the second half of the 18th century by John and Richard Smart. The Metropolitan Railway (1861) cut through some of the houses; the north corner of the Willing site is now situated over the railway tracks. By the 1890s, the Willing family occupied number 366 which stretched from the Gray’s Inn Road, along St. Chad’s Place to Wicklow Street where they had their stables. They gradually acquired and developed the rest of the site to what is now the Travelodge hotel at 356-364 Gray’s Inn Road. From 1910 onwards, their architects were Alfred Hart (1866-1953) and Leslie Waterhouse (1864-1932) who designed the house in the ‘Free Baroque’ style which is called ‘a free mix of Tudor and Baroque elements’, although the Listed building site just calls it ‘French Baroque’. Over the years, smaller and larger alterations have been made to the building complex. In the 1970s – the building had by then been acquired by the Haslemere Group – substantial moderations were made to the place to create more office space, but the frontage has remained more or less what it was.

The statue of Mercury is by Arthur Stanley Young (1876-1968). It was made from cast and sheet bronze sculpted around a hand-carved elm structure. It was recently restored to its former glory by Rupert Harris Conservation. When they analyzed the paint, it transpired that Mercury had originally been painted in a pale grey and that the caduceus had been gilded. He has been repainted and re-gilded and now proudly stands once again surveying the area from above.

The frieze over the porch that seems to be resting on two winged lions was carved by William Aumonier (1891-1943), the father of Eric Aumonier who designed the reliefs in the lobby of the Daily Express building.


New extracts from Samuel Pepys’s Diary

Have recently been discovered by the Museum of London. These extracts cover just one day in the year after the Great Fire of London (1666) when the Barbican Area, as was, had been devastated and a new look concrete housing development had been speedily erected to house the displaced families.

Tueʃday 11th June 1667

I went with my friend the Duke of York to viʃit a new ale houʃe called the Tueʃday Club. An odd tavern that apparently is only open for two hours on a Tueʃday afternoon. It ʃounded promiʃing as these ale houʃes that open at ʃuch times are for rogues who want ʃomewhere to dock between their lunchtime beakers and their dinner time flagons. The liquor must be ʃtrong at the Tueʃday Club, if it is open only once a week. The Hell Fire club needs to look to its laurels, methinks.

We walked in and the other cuʃtomers were ʃitting around in a circle, a bit like the early pilgrims uʃed to do, before they departed to the world’s end, God reʃt their poor ʃouls.

‘A cup of tea?’ the ʃerving wench aʃked.

‘Anything ʃtronger?’ I pleaded.

‘Well we could put two tea bags in, but you will have to go eaʃy on the Hob Nobs as we only charge a groat.’ ʃhe pointed diʃcreetly to the honeʃty box.

The Duke of York ʃaid a tea would do handʃomely well, as he had been in his cups the night before with his brother…the King.

Eyebrows were raiʃed at the mention of the Monarch and the converʃation ʃoon turned to the Royal Court and the Popiʃh plots. We treaded a little carefully on the ʃubject of Rexit and the demiʃe of Charles I. However this topic was nothing compared to the hubbub when the Club members ʃtarted talking about their medical problems. One member had late-onʃet Type 2 Pox which drew gaʃps, but greater was the reaction when I ʃaid that I had a kidney ʃtone removed, with nothing to dull the pain other than a glaʃs of port. That got their attention and they were verily all agog (even the varlet who was ʃurreptitiouʃly attacking the honeʃty box with a hammer) as I deʃcribed the operation, although two did faint.

One wench aʃked me to join her in the back room for a ʃpot of waʃhing-up. I am too old a dog not to recognize what the wench intended and repaired thither ʃpeedily, and left the Duke of York to his tea and his Jammy Dodger. Although from the look of it, it did not as much dodge jam, but verily embrace it. The Club members ʃeemed pleaʃed with the Duke and ʃaid that the beʃt they had achieved ʃo far, in terms of VIPs, was a Lord Mayor and a ʃmattering of aldermen – the rogues.

The waʃhing-up wench ʃaid that ʃhe lived in Cromwell Turret – four full ʃtoreys including the baʃement, if I wanted to drop by anytime (although not Tueʃday afternoons obviouʃly).

‘Cromwell?… Cromwell? You have named your reʃidence after him? Madam we dug him up and hanged him uʃing chains. ʃurely naming a reʃidence after an anti-royaliʃt is High Treaʃon.’

‘Weren’t you a Parliamentarian – not ʃo long ago?’, ʃhe ripoʃted.

M’yes … but I changed ʃides when I diʃcovered that Drinking and Wenching were on the Barred Roʃter. His Royal Highneʃs, Charles II, likes his revels, verily … and not ʃuft on Tueʃdays.

However, it muʃt be ʃaid that my Cromwellian connections are a ʃlightly ʃore point, ʃo I was glad when another Club member popped in at that moment, mentioning that that he lived in Andrewes Lodgings.

Yet again, I was aghaʃt. ‘Named after Launcelot Andrewes?’ I exclaimed. ‘The vicar of ʃaint Giles? I am afraid, ʃir, that he neglected his duties and conveniently repaired to one of his country pariʃhes when the Great Pox was attacking London. Not that he cauʃed the pox, I will own. Indeed I am sure it was the French who brought this Pox upon us and, as for the Great Fire, well I think the French again have a lot of queʃtions to answer. If only they could ʃpeak Engliʃh we could aʃk them – the rogues.’

I popped back into the main room and noted that ʃir Peter Lely, the famous portrait painter – who has a Barbican ʃtudio apparently – had been ʃummoned to knock up a few ʃelfies with the Club members and the Duke. I know that the Duke does not like to ʃit ʃtill for too long – and who would if you have had the New Model Army chaʃing you around England for moʃt of your early years? ʃo I and the Duke bade them farewell and departed for the ‘Centre for the Revels’ at the heart of this strange concrete world.

I was mightily diʃappointed that the ale houʃe there is called Bonfire, when the memory of the Great Fire of London is ʃo raw. A fine Lake nearby, but there were no handy fire buckets. Are the leʃʃons of hiʃtory never to be learnt? Although looking at the concrete it might well withʃtand a ʃtrong blast. The previous buildings had thatched roofs. Thatch, like a fair maid, is pretty but there are always conʃequences.

After a flagon or two we paʃʃed by the Barbican Art Gallery but I could make neither head nor tail of what I was looking at. They ʃaid it was an inʃtallation, which left me none the wiʃer. Where were the Velazquezes or the Titians? A Titian you can pick up on the Rialto for a few ʃovereigns if you can perʃuade the rogue to ʃpend a few lire on a canvas and not paint on walls and ceilings just becauʃe it is cheaper.

The Muʃic Hall looked fine with a delightful echoing acouʃtic – all the rage with the King’s players. I noted that Mr. Purcell’s music was programmed. It was a Crumhorn concerto and a ʃonata for two ʃackbuts. Not his ʃoft delicate works.

We decided to wend our way home, I eventually to my houʃe in ʃeething Lane, the Duke to Weʃtminʃter. I don’t think we will be back very ʃoon.

On the way back, whilʃt dodging the chamber pots, we heard the local urchins playing ‘ʃimple ʃimon’ and singing the catch ‘ʃhe ʃells ʃea fhells by the fea fhore’. Although why the wench in the ʃong would confider the ʃea ʃhore ʃuch an ideal ʃpot to ʃell ʃhells when any varlet could ʃimply pick them up freely is beyond me.

ʃtill, that gave the Duke and me a topic to discuʃs while at our cups in a hoʃtelry or three on the way home.

And ʃo to bed.

Kevin Kiernan a Barbican Resident

Elizabeth Jesser Reid

Was a

  • social reformer
  • philanthropist,
  • anti-slavery campaigner

She is best known as the founder of Bedford College, Britain’s first facility to cater for the advancement and further education of women.

Elizabeth Jesser Sturch was born on Christmas day 1789 to Elizabeth and William Sturch. The younger of two daughters, she grew up in a wealthy, liberal household. Her father was a successful ironmonger and Unitarian theological writer.  In her youth, although afforded the best education available to a young lady of the time, Elizabeth was frustrated at the limitations put upon her schooling because of her gender.

In 1821, Elizabeth married physician Dr. John Reid and moved to Glenville Street, however the marriage was short-lived when her husband died just 13 months later. Dr Reid was the heir to his brother’s land on Glasgow’s River Clyde so he left his 32-year-old widow with a sizeable income.  Now financially independent, Elizabeth was able to actively pursue and support causes close to her heart.

With a keen interest in

  • social reform,
  • liberty, and
  • education

she took on sponsorship of individual pupil’s studies, became a member of the Garrisonian London Emancipation Committee, and attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London 1840. She supported women’s benevolent programmes, and concerned herself with international political affairs, in particular, the then current European revolutions and struggles for independence.

Following the death of their parents Elizabeth and her sister Mary moved into the parental home together at York Terrace, Regent’s Park. Respected in the community, their close friends included Jane Martineau, Anna Swanwick, Augustus De Morgan, and prominent lawyer and diarist Henry Crabbe Robinson.

Prompted by her circle of esteemed peers, and encouraged by the Queen’s College University programme of governess training in 1848, Reid decided to found her own venture in order to provide non-sectarian formal education for women. She took a lease on the Bloomsbury property at 47 Bedford Square, and later also 48, and opened her “Ladies College” in 1849. Prior to this, female education consisted of lessons conducted by a governess in basic subjects, and without recognised qualifications.

Crabbe Robinson who charted the difficulties Elizabeth faced in setting her College on a sound financial footing and her frustration at the lack of financial support from men.

Friends noted her single-mindedness and tactlessness, but also her philanthropy and support for progressive causes, including the anti-slavery movement.

Primarily, her students numbered a few dozen. Using her Unitarian and social connections, as well as support from the University College London, Elizabeth commandeered respected professors to teach at the college, and began to build an illustrious alumni. Some of Bedford’s first attendees include

  • artist and educationalist Barbara Bodichon,
  • feminist campaigner Bessie Raynor Parkes,
  • Lady Byron,
  • Charles Dickens daughter, Katey.

Former student Sarah Parker Remond, the first black woman to conduct a lecture tour of Britain on anti-slavery issues, also shared Reid’s home while she studied at Bedford college between 1859-61.

In 1866, at the age of 77, Elizabeth Jesser Reid died. Prior to her death, she set up trust fund to ensure her estate went to the continued support of Bedford.

Thirty-four years later the College became a constituent school of the University of London, and began accepting male students in 1965.

Bedford merged with Royal Holloway in 1985 and is now known as The Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, with an administrative staff of 2,300 and students numbering over 8,000.

A plaque to commemorate Elizabeth Jesser Reid can be found on the property at 48 Bedford Square as the foundation of the United Kingdom´s first institution for the advancement of women´s education.

Canary Wharf College

Miss Jean Price – established the Welcome Institute in damp, cramped premises at 333 Westferry Rd. It provided:

  • hot meals at affordable prices to factory girls (serving anything between 70 and 170 girls a day)
  • evening classes in dressmaking and needlework
  • bible classes for boys
  • club-rooms for local football teams. I

In 1905, the institute moved from its to a new building at 197 East Ferry Rd. The ground floor originally contained a common dining-hall and a small dining room, served by a kitchen and ancillary wing at the rear of the entrance lobby. The coalhouse and lavatories formed a separate block at the back of this wing. On the other side, a second, larger, wing contained an assembly room, with a platform at one end. Staff quarters were placed on the first floor. The bay to the right of the street entrance was originally a single storey.

In 1913–14 the premises were enlarged by the addition of a small two-storey wing comprising a chapel over a first-aid room. Seating up to 25, the chapel was intended particularly for the use of girls preparing for confirmation. The first-aid room really came into its own for treating football injuries on Saturdays, when teams playing on the ground adjoining could use the Institute.

In 1923, following Miss Price’s retirement, the Welcome Institute closed and the building was handed over to a youth-club organization founded by the former playwright Reginald Kennedy-Cox (1881-1966).  Its official name became Dockland Settlement (No. 2), joining Dockland Settlement (No. 1) in Canning Town. In the following years there would be more settlements opening in Rotherhite, Stratford and in other cities.

Between then and the Second World War the premises were extensively added to, which included the construction of a gymnasium and a new chapel, with a distinctive square tower and copper-covered spire. For his work in this field, Kennedy-Cox was knighted in 1930. He retired from his full-time work in 1937. In 1944 his war work earned him a CBE.

In 1939 Queen Mary visited to see the George the Fifth Memorial room dedicated to her late husband.

For a brief period at the start of World War II, the Dockland Settlement was used as a military billet. After the war, the Dockland Settlement continued its important function as not only the organiser of various sporting activities, but also as a base for other sporting clubs not related to the Dockland Settlement. Of course, being surrounded by docks and water, the Dockland Settlement had its own boat.

Marie Smith was a well-known and liked figure at Dockland Settlement, being involved in many music and dance activities. The Docklands Settlement continued its activities until into 21st century but, the building became increasingly costly to maintain.

It was in many respects an impractical building, being made up of different sections and rooms, which were built at different times. The Dockland Settlements organisation felt compelled to sell the buildings, which were purchased by the Canary Wharf College. The college planned to redevelop the site, and demolition of the street-facing buildings started in about 2009. The new building, opened in 2011, is in striking contrast to the old building(s). The brickwork is intended to represent the Canary Wharf skyline. The buildings at the rear, including the chapel and its spire, were preserved. The memorial plaque is in honour of Harold Kimberley, a long serving warden of Dockland Settlement after whom Kimberley House in Galbraith St is named.

There was quite some upset when the Dockland Settlement buildings were demolished, and not everyone is mad about the design of the new building. Understandable…many people have many fond memories of the place and it’s difficult to see yet another piece of the old Island disappear. However, at least has retained its social and community function. As the Dockland Settlements organisation state on their website

The Docklands Settlements has recently sold this Community Centre to the Canary Wharf College – a new free school on the Isle of Dogs. It was sad to say good-bye to the building but we could not think of a better use for the building than the education of children aged from 4 to 12


Glengall Bridge

The Crossharbour name is a reference to the Glengall Bridge, which originally carried Glengall Road (now divided into Pepper Street and Glengall Grove) across Millwall inner dock, via a pair of ‘knuckles’ protruding into the dock on either side. The bridge’s construction was a concession by the developers to obtain planning approval for the dock when it was built in 1868.

The London and Blackwall Railway’s Millwall Docks station operated from 1871 until 1926 at a site a fraction to the north of the present Crossharbour station. The over ​​complicated hydraulics of the Glengall Bridge failed repeatedly and in 1945 it was replaced with a concrete-​​filled barge, moored between the knuckles as a pontoon for pedes­trians. For years afterwards all manner of options – including a tunnel and a cable car – were debated as a permanent solution before a high ​​level bridge opened in 1965.

In the late 1960s the Fred Olsen shipping line put up two massive warehouses on the east quay of the Millwall inner dock to store fruit and tomatoes from the Canary Islands. The northern warehouse, known as J Shed, was refur­bished and extended in 1984 at a cost of £7 million – but the value of the site was by then increasing so rapidly that within four years the building had been demolished and replaced by the nine ​​block Harbour Exchange complex. Around the same time, K Shed (or Olsen Shed 2) was converted into the London Arena, a business and enter­tainment venue hosting concerts, ice shows and sporting events. It was not a success and has also since been demolished and replaced. The most signi­ficant new structure on the arena’s site is the twisty Baltimore Tower.

Meanwhile, the high ​​level Glengall Bridge proved a failure in every respect and it was demolished by the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1983. Two short-term replacements were succeeded by the present Dutch ​​style double-​​leaf bascule bridge.

Several commentators (including the blogging bridge engineer Mark Yasinsky) have noted the Glengall Bridge’s resemblance to the former Langlois drawbridge at Arles, which – partly because of its Dutchness – inspired a series of paintings and drawings by Vincent Van Gogh.

To the south of the Crossharbour connection, the Glengall Bridge estate, completed in 1991, provided more than half a million square feet of resid­ential, commercial and retail space on either side of the inner dock. More skyscrapers are likely to appear now that the local planners seem to have accepted a trade-​​off that permits great height in return for generous ‘plazas’ at ground level, when earlier restrictions had tended to result in shorter, fatter devel­opments that squeezed the neigh­bouring public realm to an absolute minimum. Immediately west of Glengall Bridge, the proposed Glengall Quay project includes a central tower of about 45 storeys.

In the vicinity of Crossharbour station, East Ferry Road is the dividing line between modern Millwall to the west and old ​​style Cubitt Town to the east, where in 1969 Tower Hamlets council completed the St John’s estate of flats, maisonettes and a few houses

John Nash

Nash was born in 1752 at Lambeth, the son of a Welsh millwright also called John.. From 1766 or 67, John Nash trained with the architect Sir Robert Taylor; the apprenticeship was completed in 1775 or 1776. Initially he seems to have pursued a career as a surveyor, builder and carpenter. This gave him an income of around £300 a year. He established his own architectural practice in 1777 as well as being in partnership with a local timber merchant

On 28 April 1775, Nash married his first wife Jane Elizabeth Kerr, daughter of a surgeon. The couple set up home at Royal Row Lambeth. The couple had two children, John, on 9 June 1776 and Hugh on 28 April 1778. However In June 1778 he sent her to Wales because he claimed Jane had faked her pregnancies and then passed babies she had acquired off as her own. His wife however developed a relationship with a local man Charles Charles. In an attempt at reconciliation Jane returned to London in June 1779, but she continued to act extravagantly and was send back to another Welsh cousin where she gave birth just after Christmas, and acknowledged Charles Charles as the child’s father. Nash instigated and gained a divorce in 1787.

His career was initially unsuccessful and short-lived. After inheriting £1000 in 1778 from his uncle he invested the money in building his first known independent works; 15–17 Bloomsbury Square and 66–71 Great Russell Street. However the property failed to let and he was declared bankrupt on 30 September 1783 with debts of £5000 that included £2000 he had been lent by Robert Adam and his brothers.

Nash left London in 1784 to live in Carmarthan to where his mother had retired, her family being from the area. In 1785 he and a local man re-roofed the town’s church for 600 Guineas. Nash and Saxon seem to have worked as building contractors and suppliers of building materials. Nash’s London buildings had been standard Georgian terrace houses, and it was in Wales that he matured as an architect. His first major work in the area was the first of three prisons he would design, Carmarthen 1789–92; planned with John Howard the penal reformer and followed by Cardigan and Hereford. It was at Hereford that Nash met Richard Payne Knight whose theories on the picturesque as applies to architecture and landscape would influence Nash.

By 1789 St David’s Cathedral was suffering from structural problems, the west front was leaning forward by one foot, Nash was called in to survey the structure and developed a plan to save the building.

Work came Nash’s way and one of Nash’s most important developments were a series of medium-sized country houses that he designed in Wales based on the villa designs of his teacher Sir Robert Taylor. Most of these villas consist of a roughly square plan with a small entrance hall with a staircase offset in the middle to one side, around which are placed the main rooms, there is then a less prominent Servants quarters in a wing attached to one side of the villa. The buildings are usually only two floors in height, the elevations of the main block are usually symmetrical.

He met Humphrey Repton at Stoke Edith in 1792 and formed a successful partnership with the landscape garden designer. The pair would collaborate to carefully place the Nash-designed building in grounds designed by Repton. The partnership ended in 1800 under recriminations, Repton accusing Nash of exploiting their partnership to his own advantage.

Nash returned to London in 1797. He married 25-year-old Mary Ann Bradley on 17 December 1798 at St George’s Hanover Square. In 1798, he purchased a plot of land of 30 acres at East Cowes on which he erected 1798–1802 East Cowes Castle as his residence. It was the first of a series of picturesque Gothic castles that he would design and which were built in various parts of the country.

Nash was a dedicated Whig and was a friend of Charles James Fox through whom Nash probably came to the attention of the Prince Regent). In 1806 Nash was appointed architect to the Surveyor General of Woods, Forests, Parks and Chases. From 1810 Nash would take very few private commissions and for the rest of his career he would largely work for the Prince.

His first major commissions in (1809–1826)[ from the Prince were Regent Street and the development of an area then known as Marylebone Park. With the Regent’s backing, Nash created a master plan for the area, put into effect from 1818 onwards, which stretched from St James’s northwards and included Regent Street, Regent’s Park (1809–1832) and its neighbouring streets, terraces and crescents of elegant town houses and villas. No two buildings were the same, and or even in line with their neighbours. The park villages can be seen as the prototype for the Victorian suburbs.

Nash was employed by the Prince from 1815 to develop his Marine Pavilion in Brighton, originally designed by Henry Holland. By 1822 Nash had finished his work on the Marine Pavilion, which was now transformed into the Royal Pavilion. Nash was also a director of the Regent’s Canal Company set up in 1812 to provide a canal link from west London to the Thames in the east

Together with Robert Smirke and Sir John Soane, he became an official architect to the Office of Works in 1813, (the appointment ended in 1832) at a salary of £500 per annum. This marked the high point in his professional life. As part of Nash’s new position he was invited to advise the Parliamentary Commissioners on the building of new churches from 1818 onwards. Nash produced ten church designs each estimated to cost around £10,000 with seating for 2000 people, the style of the buildings were both classical and gothic. In the end Nash only two were built and included the classical all Souls Church, Langham Place (1822–24).

Nash was involved in the design of two of London’s theatres, both in Haymarket; The King’s Opera House (now rebuilt as Her Majesty’s Theatre) and the Theatre Royal Haymarket (1821), , which still survives, facing down Charles 11 Street to St James’s Square. Nash’s interior no longer survives (the interior now dates from 1904).

In 1820 a scandal broke, when a cartoon was published showing a half dressed King George IV embracing Nash’s wife with a speech bubble coming from the King’s mouth containing the words “I have great pleasure in visiting this part of my dominions”. Whether this was based on just a rumour put about by people who resented Nash’s success or if there is substance behind is not known.

Further London commissions for Nash followed, including the re-modelling of Buckingham House to create Buckingham Palace (1825–1830), and for the Royal Mews (1822–24) and Marble Arch (1828). The arch was originally designed as a triumphal arch to stand at the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It was moved when the east wing of the palace, designed by Edward Blore, was built at the request of Queen Victoria whose growing family required additional domestic space. Marble Arch became the entrance to Hyde Park and The Great Exhibition.

Many of Nash’s buildings were built by property developer James Burton, who also lent him financial assistance when he encountered financial problems during his projects on Regent Street. In return, Nash promoted the career of Burton’s son, Decimus Burton, who assisted him with several of his designs.

Nash’s career effectively ended with the death of George IV in 1830. The King’s notorious extravagance had generated much resentment and Nash was now without a protector. The Treasury started to look closely at the cost of Buckingham Palace. Nash’s original estimate of the building’s cost had been £252,690, but this had risen to £496,169 in 1829; the actual cost was £613,269 and the building was still unfinished! This controversy ensured that Nash would not receive any more official commissions nor would he be awarded the Knighthood that other contemporary architects received. He retired to the Isle of Wight to his home, East Cowes Castle where he died on 13 May 1835. His was buried in the local churchyard.

His widow acted to clear Nash’s debts (some £15,000). She held a sale of the Castle’s contents selling paintings by J.M.W. Turner and Benjamin West and several copies of old master paintings by Richard Evans. His books, medals, drawings and engravings were also sold and The Castle itself was sold for a reported figure of £20,000 to Henry Boyle, 3rd Earl of Shannon.

Nash’s widow retired to a property Nash had bequeathed to her in Hampstead where she lived until her death in 1851. She was buried with her husband on the Isle of Wight.

A blue plaque commemorating Nash was placed on 66 Great Russell Street by English Heritage in 2013


Isle of Dogs

Was once a rural and relatively wild area of marshland that was mainly used for animal pasture. Now it is now the financial hub of London and home to the impressive skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, The area has seen some massive changes. The original name for the island was Stepney marsh or Stebunheath. It is thought that the Isle of Dogs name originated in the 16th century. Nobody really knows where this name came from, but there are plenty of theories. Some say that the name was given to the area because of the number of dead dogs that washed up on its banks. Others think that the modern name is a variation of other names given to the area, such as the Isle of Dykes or the Isle of Ducks.

Until industrialisation started to spread outside of the City of London, the island was a quiet place. Most of this area was marshland that was relatively uninhabitable until the land was drained and reclaimed in the 13th century. Even then, it did not have many inhabitants and most people who lived there were farmers or fishermen. In the 1600s, life started to change on the island. Windmills were erected on its west side to grind corn and millers joined the local community. This area of the island became known as Millwall because of these mills.

London started to expand during the next couple of centuries. The East End’s proximity to the Thames saw a big boom in shipbuilding and maritime industries in the area.  Seeing a need to expand dock areas, a group of sea merchants asked to build docks on the north of the island. By 1802, the West India Docks opened. These were followed by the East India Docks, bringing with them shipyards, iron works and a lot of related businesses.

The island’s population also increased significantly, as workers moved into the area to work for local businesses. This led to the need for more housing and developments such as William Cubitt’s “Cubitt Town”. It is thought that the local population grew to over 14,000 by the mid 1800s and to over 20,000 by the start of the 20th century. In the early part of the 19th century, the Isle of Dogs had been home to just a few hundred people.

By the middle part of the 19th century, the island shifted away from shipbuilding and focused more on engineering, food processing and chemical businesses. The need to manage grain and timber imports led to the opening of new docks at Millwall in 1868. Some of the country’s best-known businesses set up sites here, including McDougall’s and Duckham’s. There was plenty of work to go round and the island was booming.

The docks on the Isle of Dogs made the area a prime target for German bombing raids during the Second World War, and the island and its residents had a fairly torrid time, especially during the Blitz. The island was home to some anti-aircraft guns that helped defend London against attack.

After the war, a lot of council housing went up all over the island to replace properties that had been destroyed or were badly bomb damaged. Industry on the island continued to thrive up until the 1970s. At this point, a lot of the traditional businesses in the area moved away and, in the 1980s, the West India and Millwall docks closed down. The island, like much of the East End at that time, suffered from high unemployment and became relatively deprived. The island also reverted back to being a quiet and sleepy place once again.

This was to change, however. The area went through a major redevelopment program under the management of the London Docklands Development Corporation starting in the early 1980s. The corporation created the financial centre at Canary Wharf that now dominates the area. Regeneration programs also improved the local transport links. It now rivals the City as a financial centre!


T.S. Eliot

Thomas Stearns “T.S.” Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 26, 1888. He attended Smith Academy in St. Louis and then the Milton Academy in Massachusetts, as his family was originally from New England. Soon after the turn of the century, Eliot began seeing his poems and short stories in print, and writing would occupy him for the rest of his life.

Eliot began courses at Harvard University in 1906, graduating three years later with a Bachelor of Arts degree. At Harvard, he was greatly influenced by professors renowned in poetry, philosophy and literary criticism, and the rest of his literary career would be shaped by all three. After graduating, Eliot served as a philosophy assistant at Harvard for a year, and then left for France and the Sorbonne to study philosophy.

From 1911 to 1914, Eliot was back at Harvard, where he deepened his knowledge by reading Indian philosophy and studying Sanskrit. He finished his advanced degree at Harvard while in Europe, but due to the onset of World War I, he never went back to Harvard to take the final oral exam for his Ph.D. He soon married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and took a job in London, England, as a school teacher. Not long after, he became a bank clerk—a position he would hold until 1925.

It was around this time that T.S. Eliot began a lifelong friendship with American poet Ezra Pound, who immediately recognized Eliot’s poetic genius and worked to publish his work. The first poem of this period, and the first of Eliot’s important works, was “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which appeared in Poetry in 1915. His first book of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, followed in 1917, and the collection established Eliot as a leading poet of his day. While writing poetry and tending to his day job, Eliot was busy writing literary criticism and reviews, and his work in the criticism field would become as respected as his poetry.

In 1919, Eliot published Poems, which contained “Gerontion.” The poem was a blank-verse interior monologue, and it was unlike anything that had ever been written in the English language. As if that didn’t garner enough attention, in 1922 Eliot saw the publication of “The Waste Land,” a colossal and complex examination of postwar disillusionment. At the time he wrote the poem, Eliot’s marriage was failing, and he and his wife were both experiencing “nervous disorders.”

“The Waste Land” almost immediately developed a cult-like following from all literary corners, and it is often considered the most influential poetic work of the 20th century. The same year “The Waste Land” was published, Eliot founded what would become an influential literary journal called Criterion. The poet also edited the journal throughout the span of its publication (1922-1939). Two years later, Eliot left his bank post to join the publishing house Faber & Faber, where he would remain for the rest of his career, shepherding the writing of many young poets. (He officially became a British citizen in 1927.)

Whatever else was afoot, Eliot continued to write, and his major later poems include “Ash Wednesday” (1930) and “Four Quartets” (1943). During this period he also wrote The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), After Strange Gods (1934) and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1940).

Part of the ex-pat community of the 1920s, he spent most of his life in Europe, dying in London, England, in 1965. For his vast influence—in poetry, criticism and drama—T.S. Eliot received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.