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William Blake finally honoured with a gravestone at his final resting place

William Blake gravestone © James Murray-White

William Blake’s new gravestone in Bunhill Fields
© James Murray-White

William Blake (1757-1827) is widely regarded as one of, if not the, greatest artist in British history. The born and bred Londoner was an acclaimed poet, painter, author and printmaker, although never had much success during his lifetime. Nearly 200 years after his death, Blake’s canon continues to amaze and inspire people around the world. Among his more famous works include ‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience’, ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, ‘The Four Zoas’, ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Milton’, ‘And did those feet in ancient time’.

Having been brought up as an English Dissenter (Protestant Christians which broke away from the Church of England), Blake was laid to rest in a Dissenters’ graveyard following his death in 1827. The painter died at home in the Strand and was buried in Bunhill Fields in the London borough of Islington. As well as the location of his parents and two of his brothers’ graves, Bunhill also included the burial sites of Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan and Susanna Wesley. Blake was buried in an unmarked grave on 17 August – on what would have been he and wife Catherine’s 45th wedding anniversary. He was buried on top of several bodies, with another four being placed above him in the coming weeks. His widow Catherine died in 1831 and was also laid to rest at Bunhill Fields, but in a separate plot.

Bunhill Fields was closed as a burial ground in 1854 after it was declared ‘full’, having contained 123,000 interments during its 189 year history, and became a public park. Although William and Catherine Blake had both been buried in unmarked graves, the William Blake Society (founded 1912) erected a memorial stone to the couple in Bunhill Fields on the centenary of the painter’s death in 1927. The stone read: ‘Near by lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake 1757–1827 and his wife Catherine Sophia 1762–1831.’ Re-landscaping in the 1960s following widespread damage during World War II resulted in many of the monuments being cleared. Although the Blakes’ memorial was one of those to survive, it was moved from its location at William’s grave to near Defoe’s memorial stone in 1965.  Read the rest of this entry

Bedford Row water pump: A pretty piece of Georgian street furniture

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The 19th century water pump in Bedford Row, Holborn, has been converted into a street lamp

Long before the likes of Thames Water pumped water directly into our houses, Londoners had to rely on outdoor, public pumps for our essential utility. While these days, we have the luxury of running water inside, many of the outdoor pumps – mostly out of use – remain as part of London’s street furniture.

Located on Bedford Row – a predominantly Georgian road in the heart of London’s legal heartland – is one such remainder the early 19th century utilities. The road is named after the town of Bedford – the hometown of Sir William Harper (1496-1574), Lord Mayor of London in 1562. He bought 13 acres of land in Holborn in 1562, but later bequeathed the land to charities. The cast iron pump sits at the junction between Bedford Row and Brownlow Street, a few metres away from the Gray’s Inn – one of London’s four inns of court.

Built in 1826, the pump features intricate strapwork, two spouts, a handle and the arms of St Andrew and St George near the base. Back in the early 19th century, lawyers from the nearby inns and other locals would draw their water from the pump. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) worked as a junior clerk at Gray’s Inn in 1827-1828 so would have certainly used the pump as one time or another.

In the 20th century, the pump fell into disuse, with the local council adding a lamp to the top of it and surrounding bollards to protect it. It was Grade II listed in 1951.

  • Water Pump, Bedford Row (opposite Brownlow Street), Holborn, WC1R 4BS. Nearest station: Chancery Lane or Holborn.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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Victorian Bath House review: Step back in time for exotic cocktails in one of London’s subterranean hideouts

Victorian Bath House © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The Victorian Bath House is a new bar in a 19th century Turkish bathhouse

I’m always on the lookout for something a bit different when it comes to London nightlife. The latest new opening in the City definitely has that unique feeling. Situated in a churchyard just off bustling Bishopsgate is a 19th century Turkish bath house, now open as a new bar, restaurant and event space called Victorian Bath House.

Victorian Bath House © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Bottled From The Lost City Of X (left) and Craven & Dunhill Ceramic Duo, served with a mini bottle of Peanut Butter Rum to add

The bath house was originally built as an underground palace of relaxation and hygiene, opening in February 1895. Designed by architect G Harold Elphick for Victorian entrepreneur James Forde Neville and his brother Henry, the bath house was narrow so it could fit between two 19th century office buildings – now long gone. With Turkish baths being all the rage at the time, the Bishopsgate ones were a huge hit with the public, who loved their marble floors, hot rooms and mosaics. The tiles were designed by Elphick and specially made at Craven Dunnill in Shropshire. The baths managed to survive the Blitz, but closed in 1954. Over the decades, the Grade II-listed building was used for various restaurants, a nightclub and storage space, before it was reopened as the Victorian Bath House in April 2016.

Today, the space is used primarily for special events, with the bar open ‘By Appointment Only’ from Thursdays to Saturdays. Last month, two girl friends and I booked a table on a Friday night to experience a night of decadence down below the streets of London. Walking into the courtyard, your eyes are immediately drawn to the Moorish pavilion entrance to the Bath House with its onion-shaped cupola and terracotta tiling. It certainly stands out among the modern, uninspiring office blocks surrounding it. After checking in our coats, we stepped down the winding, tiled staircase to the main bar – split into two rooms. A lot of the original tilework is still in situ, with the modern, Moorish-style furnishings complementing the interior. Low glass lamps and oil burners certainly made the bar very atmospheric.

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The interior of the bar still features the original tile work and mosaics

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Rhubarb Flip (Egg Yolk, Rhubarb Vodka and Granulated Sugar)

The menu features a range of wine and cocktails inspired by Victoriana with a modern twist. Of course, gin being the 19th century tipple of choice, it features prominently on the menu, with different flavoured gins available so you can mix your own cocktail. In a throwback to the building’s original use, the ‘Wash, Rinse… Repeat’ is a mini bath tub served with mini cocktail bottles to make your own boozy bath water. However, I started with the ‘Craven & Dunhill Ceramic Duo’, two versions of Peanut Butter Rum to mix to your own taste. Despite being a fan of peanut butter and rum separately, I wasn’t sure how well they would work together, but it was sweet and had a nice kick. Clearly I was in the mood for something sweet, so next I ordered the ‘Rhubarb Flip’, a smooth combination of Egg Yolk, Rhubarb Vodka and Granulated Sugar, which was thick and delicious. Meanwhile, my friends tried the intriguingly named ‘Bottled From The Lost City Of Z’ – a glass bottle filled with Coconut Water, Sugar Cane Rum infused with Almond, Pink Peppercorn, Rose Water and Fresh Pineapple, which they said was nice and refreshing. Served in a bottle with a straw reminded us of drinking school milk.

The evening was thoroughly relaxing with the setting really bringing a different dimension to what would be a typical Friday night social practice. The service was excellent and we found the waiters very informative and friendly. The drink menu was certainly imaginative and unique, which would really put cocktail and gin aficionados in their element.

  • Victorian Bath House, Bishopsgate Courtyard, EC2M 3TJ. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Victorian Bath House website.

For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.

Why not try out a bar in converted Victorian men’s toilet, Cellar Door in Aldwych?

Square Meal
By Appointment Only Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Leadenhall Market: Shop in one of London’s oldest commercial hubs dating back to Roman times

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Leadenhall Market as seen from Whittington Avenue with a Portland Stone pediment over the entrance

Leadenhall Market is one of London’s oldest markets, dating back to the 14th century. However the site has actually been one of the city’s commercial hubs since the Roman invasion, when it was the location of the Basilica and Forum. Originally built in 70AD, it was expanded in 120AD, covering 2 hectares. The forum was a large open-air square and became a popular meeting place, with market stalls erected within the walls. However, the buildings were destroyed by Rome in 300AD as punishment for London supporting Carausius (d.293AD), who declared himself Emperor of Britain to the chagrin of Rome. It wasn’t until the early 5th century that the Romans finally left and Britain was independent from Rome.

In the early 14th century, the Manor of Leadenhall was owned by Sir Hugh Neville. Originally the local area was a meeting place for poulterers, then cheesemongers from 1397. The market sprung up in a series of courts beside Nevill House – known for its lead roof – on Leadenhall Street.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The current building was designed by Sir Horace Jones in the 1880s

In 1411, the Corporation of London acquired the freehold of the land as a gift from former Mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington (1354–1423). After the manor house was destroyed in a fire, it was replaced by a public granary, chapel and school as a gift to the public from Mayor at the time, Simon Eyre, Meanwhile, the market was expanded with traders selling poultry, grain, eggs, butter, cheese and herbs. Around this time, Leadenhall was considered the most important market in London and became quite the tourist attraction, with visitors coming to marvel over the bustling trade within the stalls. Over the 15th and 16th century, the market also offered wool, leather and cutlery for sale. The market was mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary in 1663 when he bought a leg of beef for six pence.

When the Great Fire ravaged London in 1666, the stone of Leadenhall Market actually prevented the flames from spreading north-east and escaped largely unscathed in comparison to most of the City. Leadenhall was subsequently rebuilt as a covered stone market with the stalls divided into sections; the Beef Market, The Green Yard and Herb Market. The Green Yard was listed as having 140 butchers stalls at one point, with fishmongers in the middle. Read the rest of this entry

Regency London, John Nash and the Third Reich: Visiting The Royal Society’s Carlton House Terrace with Open House

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Only a staircase with blue and white Regency-style wood panelling is all what is left of John Nash’s original interiors at Carlton House Terrace

At Open House London this weekend (19-20 September 2015), The Royal Society are opening the doors to their headquarters for tours. The UK’s national science academy has been based at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace since 1967. However, their HQ was originally separate houses with an interesting history dating back nearly 200 years. I visited during Open House London last year and was charmed by the varied layers of history within the building.

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The Wolfson Library, in what used to be No.6, features a spectacular ceiling and was used at the turn of the 20th century for lavish parties

Carlton House Terrace is a road comprising of two Regency terraces (Nos.1-9 on the west side, Nos 10-18 on the east) in a Roman classical style designed primarily by London-born architect John Nash (1752-1835), with input by Decimus Burton (1800-1881), among others. The road’s name refers to the site’s former royal residence Carlton House, which was demolished on order of its former resident King George IV (1762-1830) when he moved into nearby Buckingham Palace. The King wanted to give the site to the public on the condition new dwellings for the upper classes were erected on the site. Nash’s original idea was to link the two terraces with a large fountain, but the King vetoed his plans so the flight of stairs down to Pall Mall were built instead. The four-storey terraces were built between 1827 and 1832, with the Duke Of York column erected in between the blocks in 1834 in memory of the King’s younger brother Prince Frederick (1763-1827).

While the houses have changed and some have been merged over the years, only a small portion of Nash’s original interiors still exist. In what used to be No.7, Nash’s Staircase is still in situ, featuring white and blue wood panelling and wrought iron bannisters. It’s a small, but fine display of Nash’s regency interior style, of which hardly any examples exist these days due to it falling out of fashion.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The stunning mother of pearl detailing on the first floor ceiling of what used to be No.6

The houses remained as homes for around 100 years, with Prime Ministers Lord Palmerston, Earl Grey and William Ewart Gladstone among the high-profile residents. American millionaire Charles Henry Sanford, who lived at No.6 in 1890-91, had the house madeover in an opulent Italianate style when he moved in. Today, his stunning marble staircase and ceiling – featuring carved timber and mother of pearl inlays – can still be seen. Upstairs, the Wolfson Library features gold leaf detailing and a painted ceiling and was formerly used as a ballroom for lavish parties at the turn of the 20th century, hosted by American Mrs John W Mackay, who lived at the residence between 1892 and 1920. The Milwaukee Journal wrote of her abode: ‘Her beautiful house in Carlton House Terrace is always open and her gracious hospitality is chronicled by foreigners and her own countrymen.’ Read the rest of this entry

London’s oldest public drinking fountain on Holborn Viaduct

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London’s first public drinking fountain is situated in the railings of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church in the City of London

With water taps now in every home and bottled waters on sale everywhere, there isn’t such a high demand for public drinking fountains these days. While public fountains are still found to be popular in places such as parks, leisure centres and museums, ones outside on the street… not so much.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Following its opening, the fountain proved incredibly popular with thirsty Londoners

Although these days we expect drinking fountains to be free and clean, back in the first half of the 19th century, it wasn’t so simple. Private companies had a monopoly on water so there wasn’t much regulation on quality, often providing contaminated water to the public. As a result, many people used to drink beer, which was considered a safer alternative to water. It was thanks to the work of physician John Snow (1813-1858), who traced the beginning of a cholera outbreak to a water pump in Soho, that authorities began to prioritise water quality. Following the passing of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers Act 1848, it was made compulsory that water had to be filtrated. In 1859, MP Samuel Gurney (1816-1882) and barrister Edward Thomas Wakefield (1821-1896) joined forces to set up the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association, with the aim to provide free drinking water to the public. This later changed its name to Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association in 1867, to also include cattle troughs.

The first public drinking fountain was built into the railings of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church on Holborn Hill. It opened in April 1859 and was funded by Gurney. The fountain is made of marble and stone, with two cups on chains to drink out of. It features three inscriptions, the top reading: ‘The gift of Sam Gurney MP 1859’. The bottom reminds users to ‘replace the cup’, while inside under where the water used to flow reads: ‘The first Metropolitan drinking fountain erected on Holborn Hill 1859 and removed when the Viaduct was constructed in 1867.’ Just eight years later after being installed, the fountain was relocated while the Holburn Viaduct was built, before finally being reinstated in its original setting in 1913.

The fountain was incredibly popular with hundreds of people using it daily – which I’m sure caused quite a queue of thirsty Londoners! As a result, the society built 85 more fountains around the city over the next six years. Public drinking fountains were heavily supported by the church and Temperance movement, and as a result many were situated near churches and opposite public houses. Now, the fountain still exists, but the water appears to have been turned off.

  • The drinking fountain is set in the southern gates around St Sepulchre’s Church on the eastern end of Holborn Viaduct (near the junction with Giltspur Street), City of London, EC1A 2DQ. Nearest station: City Thameslink, St Paul’s or Farringdon.

To read about the Buxton Memorial Fountain in Westminster, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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Sit back and enjoy one of London’s best views: The swan benches on the Albert Embankment

Swan bench © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The swan benches line Albert Embankment between Lambeth and Westminster Bridge

I’ve previously blogged about the creation of the Victoria and Albert Embankments in the 19th century which coincided with the creation of the camel and sphinx benches, the sturgeon lamps and Cleopatra Needle’s sphinxes. However, there is another item of street furniture which appeared around the same time – the swan benches on the Albert Embankment.

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Bringing some grace to the Thames: The benches are often used by patients and visitors to nearby St Thomas’s Hospital

In Victorian London, the rapidly expanding population were creating major issues including the disposal of waste and sewage, most memorably the ‘Great Stink’ in 1858. The local government recognised the infrastructure couldn’t cope with surge of people living and working in the city and established the Metropolitan Board Of Works in 1855. One of board’s biggest projects was the creation of the Victoria and Chelsea Embankments on the north bank of the River Thames and the Albert Embankment on the south. The MBW’s Chief Engineer Sir Joseph Bazelgette (1819–1891) oversaw the extensive project, which involved reclaiming marshland and making the river slimmer in that part of the capital. As well as creating a sewage system and new streets to relieve traffic congestion, a lot of slums on the banks of the river were cleared. In regards to the south bank, the creation of Albert Embankment was also designed to protect low-lying areas of Lambeth from flooding at high tide. The creation of the Victoria Embankment started in 1862, with work commencing on the Albert Embankment in July 1866 and was finished in November 1869. The Chelsea Embankment wasn’t finished until 1874. The embankments were named after the reigning monarch of the time Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert, who died in 1861.

In the typically Victorian way, the new Embankment needed to have suitable ‘street furniture’ to give London – heart of the British Empire – a look of prestige and style. English architect George John Vulliamy (1817–1886) was hired as the Superintending Architect. Among one of his many projects in addition to the iconic London ‘dolphin’ lampposts, were creating benches for both sides of the Thames. On the north side, the benches’ panels and arms were designed in the shape of Egyptian sphinxes and camels – complementing Cleopatra’s Needle. On the south side of the river, there aren’t quite as many ornamental benches. However, on the stretch of Albert Embankment between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges are 15 benches featuring cast iron swan panels and arms. These benches were Grade II listed in 1981 and are established within Lambeth’s Conservation Area due to their aesthetic and historical significance. Although I am yet to find official confirmation, I would assume the swan benches have been similarly designed by Vulliamy and made by Z.D. Berry & Son of Regent Street. While the reason behind the Egyptian theme of the Victoria Embankment benches is established, the significance of the swans is not clear.

Swan bench Westminster Embankment © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Enjoy the view: Take a seat on the swan benches and gaze across the River Thames at the Houses Of Parliament

The name Henry Doulton is stamped on the base on the benches. I admit I couldn’t find a definite answer (but would welcome anyone who knows to comment below), but perhaps Sir Henry (1820-1897) contributed to the funding of the Embankment. Sir Henry was a key player in the expansion of the family ceramics company Royal Doulton, which was founded by his father John (1793-1873). The company had factories on various sites in Lambeth over the years located just a couple of minutes walk from the Embankment. Sir Henry’s brother Frederick (1824–1872) was a MP for the Liberal Party and a member of the Lambeth Vestry of the Metropolitan Board Of Works from 1855 to 1868. Today, the only remainder of the pottery industry which once stood there is the former Royal Doulton headquarters building on the junction of Black Prince Road and Lambeth High Street, a neo-Gothic building (built 1878) now renamed as Southbank House. Royal Doulton left the Lambeth premises in the 1950s for Stoke-on-Trent.

Whatever the reasoning behind the design of the swan benches, today they stand elevated on a concrete plinth so people can sit and admire the fine view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Located so near to St Thomas’s Hospital, the stretch of Embankment and benches are popular with hospital patients and visitors.

  • The swan benches are on the Albert Embankment, in between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges. Nearest stations: Westminster, Lambeth North or Waterloo.

For Metro Girl’s blog post on the Vulliamy’s camel and sphinx benches on the Victoria Embankment, click here.

Or for more on Vulliamy’s Dolphin lamps, click here.

To read Metro Girl’s other blog posts on London history, click here.

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Metro Girl’s Must Do Series – Part 2: Borough Market

Welcome to part 2 of ‘Metro Girl’s Must Do’ series, a guide to my essential sights or activities to do during your visit to London. Many tourists may only spend a few days in the capital before escaping to the likes of Oxford or Bath or jumping over the English Channel to see the continent. So if time is of the essence and you’re torn between where to go, this is my opinion on London’s top attractions.

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Feast for foodies: Head to Borough Market for a culinary adventure

Many visitors to London these days may find they are not coming into contact with the ‘real London’. One of pitfalls of tourism – in many cities not just London – is you end up following the usual checklist of sights and sharing them with other non-Londoners.

However, one of the long-running places that has always attracted Londoners in the city is the traditional market. There’s something special about the capital’s markets that make them differ from those abroad. Now of course there are many markets I can highly recommend to visitors – Brick Lane, Portobello and Camden. However, this post is on my favourite, Borough Market. Known as the city’s foodies destination, it draws chefs, amateur cooks, restaurateurs… or just people (like me) with a healthy appetite.

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Sweet tooth: It looked like every flavour going was at the Turkish Delight stand, while cooks were perusing some of the fruit and vegetable stands for ingredients

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For the carb lovers: A bakery stand was a big draw

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Grab a bite to eat under the shadow of Southwark Cathedral

Now located a stone’s throw from London Bridge train and tube station, Borough Market has existed in the area since as far back as the 11th century. The original market lay closer to the actual bridge – then the only river crossing in London – and sold fish, vegetables, grain and livestock. In the 13th century, the market then moved to Borough High Street, just south of St Margaret’s Church. Despite being located on the south of the River – and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the City of London – the boy King Edward VI (1537–1553) changed all this in 1550 when he extended the City’s power to Southwark’s markets.

The market thrived until 1755 when it was closed by an Act of Parliament, as politicians were unimpressed with the congestion in the area. However, some proactive locals in Southwark clubbed together to raise £6,000 to buy a patch of land, then known as The Triangle, in the hope of re-opening the market. In 1756, it reopened on the new site which still forms part of the market today (where Furness Fish & Game is located on Middle Road).

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Under the arches: The market is made of predominantly Victorian metal and glass

By the 19th century, the market was thriving – no doubt to its location close to the ‘Pool of London’, where most of the wharves were situated. The current building you see today was designed by architect Henry Rose and erected in the 1850s, with the Art Deco entrance at Southwark Street added in 1932. In 2004, the South Portico from Covent Garden’s Floral Hall was installed at the market’s Stoney Street entrance after the Royal Opera House was redeveloped. The market was further enhanced in 2013 with the opening of the Market Hall, a glass structure opening on to Borough High Street which provides a place for shoppers to relax and sample their purchases. Columns reaching up to the roof house pots with growing hops, fruits, flowers, herbs, olives and salad leaves. There also features a demonstration kitchen, with various events taking place throughout the week.

Today, there are over 100 stalls featuring most kinds of food from the UK and further afield. Weekends are particularly busy so it’s worth trying to get there early on a Saturday. As well as a wide range of stalls, the market also contains several restaurants and pubs, including Tapas Brindisa, The Globe, The Rake and Elliot’s Café. On Beadale Street in the market, there is also the old school-style Hobbs Barbers for men in need of a trim.

  • Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, Borough, SE1 1TL. Nearest station: London Bridge. Open for lunch from Monday-Tuesday 10am-5pm, or the full market is open Wednesday-Thursday 10am-5pm, Fridays 10am-6pm and Saturdays 8am-5pm. Closed on Sundays. For more information, visit the Borough Market website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Decisions, decisions: More types of Cheesecake than you can shake a fork at


For Part 1 of Metro Girl’s Must Do series on the London Eye, click here.

Or to read about Metro Girl’s trip up to the nearby View From The Shard, click here.

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The South Bank Lion: A historic big cat looking a bit off colour…

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The South Bank Lion has moved around a bit since he was sculpted in 1837

The South Bank is one of London’s most heavily tourist-populated areas, thanks to the London Eye, London Dungeon, Aquarium and view of the Houses of Parliament to name but a few. Those who have lived in London a long time, know this is a relatively recent phenomena, having really kicked off with the opening of the London Eye by the southern shores of the Thames in 2000. Prior to the 1950s – when the Royal Festival Hall was built for the Festival Of Britain – the Southbank was a place of industry, which has long since gone.

Standing on the south side of Westminster Bridge, just by the pedestrianised steps leading down to the front of County Hall, is a proud-looking stone lion. Tens of thousands of people – predominantly tourists – walk over Westminster Bridge every day to get a selfie of themselves with Big Ben behind or to board the Eye for a 360 degree vista of the capital and many not even notice him. He stands tall at 12 feet at a width of 13 feet, weighing an impressive 13 tonnes.

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Standing guard: The lion is now located around 400 metres away from his original home in the early 19th century

While the grey-coloured lion looks very comfortable against the backdrop of the similarly coloured County Hall building, his origins weren’t quite so low-key. This sculpture was originally red and belonged to the Red Lion Brewery, an imposing great building on the site of the Royal Festival Hall. The brewery was designed by Francis Edwards and built between 1836–7 for owner James Goding. The site spread south of Belvedere Road after Goding acquired land for stables and warehouses as his beer empire expanded. (For an image of the Red Lion Brewery, click here). Our current lion was one of two red ones which stood at the brewery – a great emblem for the beer brand. What makes these lions special is they are made of Coade stone – a type of stoneware made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, named after its creator Eleanor Coade (1733-1821). Coade’s Artificial Stone Company stood not far away on Westminster Bridge Road.

The red lions stood on the site for nearly 100 years until the brewery was damaged in a fire in 1931. The semi-ruined building was briefly used as storage for waste paper before lying derelict for years before it was demolished in 1949 to make way for the Royal Festival Hall. Apparently King George VI (1895-1952) rather liked our lion and encouraged city planners to find a new home for him. The lion was then moved to Station Approach outside Waterloo railway station, but that home didn’t last long either when the station was later expanded.

Finally, in 1966, the lion was restored to his original Coade Stone grey colour and placed on a plinth outside County Hall, where he remains today. During his final move, the name of the noted sculptor William F Woodington (1806-1893) was found engraved on one of the paws, along with the date 24 May 1837. He is now Grade II-listed by English Heritage. As for his twin, the other lion is now painted gold and stands at the Rowland Hill Memorial Gate at Twickenham Stadium 12 miles away. (For a photo of the Twickenham lion, click here).

  • The South Bank Lion stands on the south east corner of Westminster Bridge. Nearest station: Waterloo or Westminster.

For the history of the nearby 19th century swan benches and the Albert Embankment, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s London history posts, click here.

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Step to it: The Duke of Wellington’s mounting stone

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The Duke of Wellington’s horse mount on Waterloo Place

The 1st Duke Of Wellington is one of the country’s most famous soldiers and statesmen, having defeated Napoleon at the Battle Of Waterloo and serving as Prime Minister twice. Although there has been seven subsequent Duke Of Wellingtons since his death, it is Arthur Wellesley most of us think of when we hear the title.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duke_of_Wellington_Photo_cleaned.jpg

Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke Of Wellington, was a regular at the Athenaeum (daguerreotype photo from 1844)

Around London there are many monuments to the late, great Duke Of Wellington (1769 – 1852), such as the Wellington Arch in Hyde Park Corner, his sarcophagus in St Paul’s Cathedral and an equestrian statue of him outside the Royal Exchange in the City of London to name but a few. There are also many buildings connected to the Duke, such as Apsley House on Hyde Park Corner and Walmer Castle in Kent, where he died at the age of 83.

While Wellington’s belongings can be seen in museums and stately homes, one piece of memorabilia remains on a busy London street, with thousands passing it each day unaware of the significance. Sitting on the pavement outside the Athenaeum Club, on Waterloo Place near the junction with Pall Mall is a pair of unassuming granite stones. To those walking by, they may not even be noticed at all or simply dismissed as a plain old piece of London street furniture.

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The pair of unassuming granite stones remain outside the Athenaeum Club

However, to those who take a closer look, these stones are in fact a mounting step to get on and off a horse. During the Duke’s tenure as Prime Minister (January 1828 – November 1830), he was a regular at the Athenaeum Club, of which the original building still stands today. Designed by architect Decimus Burton (1800 – 1881), it is one of the country’s most famous gentlemen’s clubs, with Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Joseph Conrad, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy among its prestigious alumni of past members. As the transport of choice for many in the 1800s, the Duke used to arrive at the club on horseback. In 1830 – six years after the club was founded – Prime Minister Wellesley suggested the club should erect some mounting stones to assist in getting on and off horses. Then in his 60s, the Duke would not have been as amble as he once was so the stones would have encouraged a more graceful dismount.

Over 180 years later, the stones remain on the kerb, although these days unused. On the inward facing side, a rusty plaque reads: ‘This horseblock was erected by desire of the Duke Of Wellington 1830.’

  • The mounting stones are on Waterloo Place, just south of Pall Mall and outside the Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall, St James, SW1Y 5ER. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus or Green Park.

For a post on the Wellington Arch in Hyde Park Corner, read A monument to victory, grand park entrance and an upset Duke: History behind the Wellington Arch.

For more Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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