Holborn Viaduct: The history of London’s first flyover with a royal seal of approval
Linking the City of London and Holborn is a rather ornate road bridge. While other bridges in the capital attract a lot more attention due to their location and viewpoints, the Holborn Viaduct isn’t such a familiar sight to many Londoners. The bridge dates back to the Victorian era when London’s road and sewage system were given a massive overhaul. Built between 1867-69, it spans the valley of the River Fleet, which now exists underground and flows out into the River Thames by Blackfriars Bridge, a short distance south. It connects the steep hill of Holborn (the actual road) and Newgate Street, crossing Farringdon Street below, which follows the trail of the Fleet. It was designed by architect and engineer William Haywood (1821–1894) to improve access to nearby Smithfield Market and the City in general. Haywood had worked closely with Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1818-1891) on improving London’s sewer works in the 1860s, including the creation of pumping stations, like Crossness. Before construction began, city authorities agreed to demolish a series of old streets and buildings by the Fleet Valley, with the owners being financially compensated for the loss of their homes. The plans also meant destruction of St Andrew Holborn’s north churchyard, leading to an estimated 11,000-12,000 remains being reinterred elsewhere.
Holborn Viaduct is 1,400ft long, 80ft wide and made of cast iron. It covers three spans and is supported on granite piers. When it was completed, it became the first flyover in central London. Along the bridge are bronze statues, winged lions and replica Victorian-style globe lamps. The female statues represent Agriculture, Commerce, the Fine Arts and Science. Henry Bursill (1833-1871) sculpted Commerce and Agriculture on the south side, while Science and Fine Art on the north side are by the sculpture firm Farmer & Brindley.
Two step buildings were erected either end of the viaduct, with steps on both north and south sides allowing pedestrians to move between the upper and lower street levels. The upper storeys now contain offices and have ornate details, including more Bursill sculptures and wrought iron balconies. Each of the four buildings feature a statue of famous Medieval Londoners on the façade: merchant Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579); engineer Sir Hugh Myddelton (1560-1631); and London mayors Sir William Walworth (d.1385) and Henry Fitz Ailwin (1135-1212). Gresham founded the Royal Exchange in the City, while Sir Hugh headed the construction of the New River to bring clean water into London. Meanwhile, Alwin was the first ever Mayor of London and Sir William is particularly notorious for killing Wat Tyler during the Peasants’ Revolt. Read the rest of this entry
Bedford Row water pump | A pretty piece of Georgian street furniture
The history of an old pump in Holborn’s legal district.
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 at 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 by Historic England in 1951.
- Water Pump, Bedford Row (opposite Brownlow Street), Holborn, WC1R 4BS. Nearest stations: Chancery Lane or Holborn.
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The Old Curiosity Shop: A little piece of 16th century London with a literary link
A historic shop proclaims to have inspired the classic novel, but what’s the real story?
Down a little unassuming side street in the back roads of Holborn is historic shop. Just two storeys high, it is dwarfed by the modernity surrounding it. At first glance, fans of Charles Dickens may be thrilled to see the author’s name emblazoned across the upper storey as it claims to be his Old Curiosity Shop from the Victorian novel of the same name. Perhaps on close inspection the truth isn’t so clear-cut.
Built in 1567, the building is believed to be the oldest surviving shop in London. It was constructed using wood from old ships, with a tiled, hipped roof. The ground floor windows today still feature 17th or early 18th century frames, with 19th century glazing. It managed to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666 as the fire died out before it reached the Holborn area. At one point the building was used as a dairy on an estate owned by Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth (1649-1734) – one of the mistresses of King Charles II (1630-1685) and mother to one of his illegitimate children. The estate was a gift from Charles and the road takes its name from the Duchess.
Charles Dickens’ (1812-1870) originally serialised The Old Curiosity Shop in his serial Master Humphrey’s Clock from 1840-1841, before publishing it as a complete book in 1841. The novel told the story of orphan ‘Little’ Nell Trent and her grandfather, who live at The Old Curiosity Shop. The book was incredibly popular with the Victorian public, with even the Queen remarking it was ‘cleverly written’.
The idea that Dickens was inspired by this very shop in Holborn is untrue – although he lived for many years in the area and knew of the building. In The Old Curiosity Shop, the author himself writes “the old house had been long ago pulled down, and a fine broad road was in its place”. The actual shop which inspired Dickens’ tale is widely believed to be either 10 Orange Street (behind the National Gallery) or 24 Fetter Lane (off Fleet Street).
Nearly 30 years after book was published, the shop’s proprietor decided to cash in on Dickens’ popularity. A bookbinder and bookseller named Tesseyman (d.1877) renamed it The Old Curiosity Shop, proudly declaring it was the very one ‘immortalised by Charles Dickens’. It’s been claimed Tesseyman was given the idea by Dickens’ illustrator Clayton Kyd Clarke (1857-1937) following the author’s death in 1870. Tesseyman’s brother confirmed to the Pall Mall Gazette in 1884 that the Curiosity Shop sign had been painted on the façade “for purely business purposes, as likely to attract custom to his shop, he being a dealer in books, paintings, old china, and so on”. According to the Gazette, Tesseyman ran the shop from 1868-1877 and was known as ‘Thackeray’s bookbinder’ and was acquainted with William Makepeace Thackeray, Douglas William Jerrold and Dickens, the latter he referred to as “lightning”. (See a watercolour of the shop during Tesseyman’s time).
From the 1880s until 1911, 13-14 Portsmouth Street was home to Horace Poole’s waste paper and jobbing stationery business. It was then taken over in the 1910s by stationers Gill and Durrant. In January 1925, it fortunately escaped destruction by a fire on the first floor, which made the Westminster Gazette headlines. By 1937, it appeared to be split into two businesses; The Society Tailors and Souvenir and Gifts with projecting signage and lamps erected on the first floor façade. The various businesses which resided at the address all preserved the Dickens’ signage, which surely ensured its survival, despite being untrue. The nearby Clare Market slums and shops were demolished in 1905 to create Aldwych and Kingsway, including the tramway subway. The Clare Market area today is mostly occupied by the London School of Economics (LSE).
At some point before 1950, the building became an antiques store, eventually closing in the 1970s. When it shut its doors, receipts and documents dating back as far as the 1920s were found. The building was Grade II listed by Historic England in 1958. Since the 1990s, the shop has been selling shoes by Japanese designer Daita Kimura. Why not pop in to see the low ceiling beams and winding staircases?
- The Old Curiosity Shop, 13-14 Portsmouth Street, Holborn, WC2A 2ES. Nearest stations: Holborn or Temple.
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London Never Dies: Enjoy a James Bond-style evening at London Cabaret Club
With the release of new James Bond film Spectre this week, everyone is talking about 007. So why not have your own super spy-inspired experience at a sexy and entertaining evening at London Cabaret Club?
The pop-up club will be setting up camp at London’s Art Deco Bloomsbury Ballroom ahead of their grand opening in the same venue next year. Every week, over the weekends of 30-31 October and 6-7 November, the talented cast will be bringing the glamour, mystery and excitement of Bond to life.
Having kicked off earlier this month, the LCC will be performing different shows every week based on a different Bond film. Diners will find their meals inspired by the exotic locations of each film. Guests can expect to be dazzled with fabulous costumes, original choreography, exclusive music and high production values as the dancers bring Bond to life.
Following a three or four-course dinner and the show, live DJs will take to the decks so you can shake a tailfeather until the early hours.
Evelina Girling, CEO and Co-Founder of the London Cabaret Club said: ‘To celebrate the James Bond fever that is soon to hit London, we are launching our Boutique Shows this Autumn, celebrating 50 years of British espionage presenting the show London Never Dies.’
Tickets start from £40 (Show only), £75 (Gold tickets, includes 3-course dinner and access to Rose Room Lounge), and £105 (Diamond tickets, includes VIP seating, 4-course dinner, theatrical cocktail and access to Rose Room Lounge).
- The London Cabaret Club Ltd is on at Bloomsbury Ballroom, Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, WC1B 4DA. Nearest station: Holborn. London Never Dies is on until 7 November 2015. LCC will also be returning for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve shows. For more information and booking, visit The London Cabaret Club website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
London’s oldest public drinking fountain on Holborn Viaduct
The history of the water fountain outside St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church.
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.
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 stations: City Thameslink, St Paul’s or Farringdon.
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Charles Dickens’ London: Retrace the author’s steps at these historic locations
A guide to Charles Dickens’ London landmarks – where he lived, worked and socialised.
Nearly two centuries after Charles Dickens’ first works were published, the author is still considered a legend in the literary world and is still read by millions across the world in many different languages. Many visitors (and residents) come to London in search of Charles Dickens every year. Sadly, many of the locales he frequented or wrote about are long gone, but there are still some homes in existence and sites for those wanting to make a Dickensian pilgrimage. Metro Girl has composed a list of where to find your own Dickens experience. To help you find them, they have been marked on the map below.
- Charles Dickens Museum
Dickens lived in this Bloomsbury house from March 1837 until December 1839 when he wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. He had a three-year lease on the property, costing £80 a year. Now a museum, the Georgian house contains many artefacts and rare editions. Open daily 10am-5pm. Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 2LX. Nearest station: Russell Square. For more information, visit the Museum website. For Metro Girl’s review of the museum, click here.
- Westminster Abbey
Charles Dickens was buried in Poets’ Corner on 19 June 1870 – five days after his death. This went against his own wishes to be buried in his home county of Kent in Rochester Cathedral. Westminster Abbey, 20 Dean’s Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3PA. Nearest station: Westminster. For more information, visit the Westminster Abbey website.
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
This famous pub on Fleet Street has stood on the site since the 16th century, with the present building rebuilt after the Fire of London in 1666. As a young reporter, Dickens is known to have drunk here and also featured the establishment in his novel A Tale Of Two Cities. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, 145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU. Nearest station: Blackfriars.
- Charles Dickens’ Coffee House
A café on the ground floor of Dickens’ former offices at No. 26 Wellington Street near Aldwych. The building housed the author’s offices for his weekly magazine All The Year Round and he also resided in an apartment in the building following his separation from wife Catherine. 26 Wellington Street, WC2E 7DD. Nearest station: Covent Garden.
- The Old Curiosity Shop
This 16th century shop was actually named The Old Curiosity Shop after Dickens’ 1840/41 novel of the same name was published, probably in a bid to cash in. However, given that Dickens lived in the area for many years, it is likely he visited it. Regardless, it’s unusual to have such an old shop still in use. The Old Curiosity Shop, 13-14 Portsmouth Street, WC2A 2ES. Nearest station: Holborn. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the full history of the shop.
- Angel Place (Marshalsea Prison – demolished)
A brick wall is all that is left of Marshalsea Prison, where Dickens’ father John was imprisoned for debt in February 1824 when the author was just 12. Two months later, his mother and his three younger siblings also ended up at Marshalsea. Dickens, who was working at Warren’s blacking factory at Hungerford Stairs in Charing Cross at the time, visited them at the prison every Sunday until he was able to move closer at lodgings at Lant Street (the road is now home to a primary school named after him), a few minutes walk away. He used his experiences to write Little Dorrit, where the main character is born at Marshalsea. The prison was closed in 1842, although many of the buildings remained in use by small businesses throughout the Victorian era. Today, Angel Place is an alley running along the brick wall leading from Borough High Street (near the John Harvard Library) going down to Tennis Street (near Southwark Coroner’s Court), SE1. Nearest station: Borough. For the history of the prison, click here.
- Gray’s Inn
After leaving Wellington House Academy, Dickens got a job as a junior clerk working in the offices of Ellis and Blackmore at Holborn Court in Gray’s Inn in May 1827. He worked there for 18 months, before leaving to become a reporter. The site of Holborn Court is now known as South Square. To access South Square, you can walk through Gray’s Inn Gate on High Holborn – next to the Cittie Of York pub. South Square, Gray’s Inn, Holborn, WC1R 5HP. Nearest station: Chancery Lane. For more information about Gray’s Inn, visit their official website.
- Holborn Bars (Furnival’s Inn – demolished)
The Holborn Bars building is built on the site of Furnival’s Inn – a 14th century Inn of Chancery which was attached to Lincoln’s Inn. Dickens rented rooms at the Inn between 1834 and 1837, during which time he worked as a political journalist and started to write The Pickwick Papers. Unfortunately, the Inn was demolished in 1897, with Holborn Bars being built on the site soon afterwards. Holborn Bars, 138-142 Holborn, EC1N 2NQ. Nearest station: Chancery Lane. (see a sketch of Furnival’s Inn from 1830).
- 15 – 17 Marylebone Road (1 Devonshire Terrace – demolished)
Dickins and his family lived at 1 Devonshire Terrace in Marylebone from 1839 until 1851. The building was demolished in the late 1950s and now an office block called Ferguson House stands on the site. A mural of Dickens has been carved into the wall, featuring the author and some of his creations, including Scrooge, Barnaby Rudge, Little Nell and Granddad, Dombey and daughter, Mrs Gamp, David Copperfield, and Mr Micawber. 15-17 Marylebone Road, NW1 5JD. Nearest stations: Regent’s Park or Baker Street. (see a photo of 1 Devonshire Terrace in 1957).
- 22 Cleveland Street
Dickens lived in this house as a boy on and off from 1815-16 and 1828-31. The Georgian building was a few doors down from the Cleveland Street Workhouse – which is believed to have inspired the workhouse where Oliver Twist was living at the beginning of the novel. The Grade II-listed, 18th century Workhouse building still exists, but is under threat of demolition. To find out about the campaign to save the Cleveland Street Workhouse, click here. Cleveland Street, W1T. Nearest station: Goodge Street.
- Chandos Place and Charing Cross Station (Warren’s Blacking Warehouse – demolished)
The site of the TGI Fridays restaurant on 6 Chandos Place was one of the two locations of Warren’s Blacking Warehouse, where Dickens had to work 10 hour days to pay for his board after his father John was imprisoned at Marshalsea from 1824-25. Initially, Dickens worked on Hungerford Stairs, near the present site of Charing Cross station, where he earned six shillings a week pasting labels on bottles of boot polish. He later worked slightly north at the site on Chandos Place. Dickins hated his time there, which inspired many of his later tales. Today, a blue plaque is on the TGI Fridays building commemorating him. Nearest station: Charing Cross.
- Le Méridien Piccadilly Hotel (St James’ Hall – demolished)
The Le Méridien Piccadilly Hotel stands on the site of St James’ Hall – where Dickens gave his last public ‘Farewell Readings’ in March 1870 – less than three months before his death. St James’ Hall was a Victorian, Gothic designed music hall which stood on the quadrant between Piccadilly and Regent Street. It was demolished in 1905, with the Piccadilly Hotel built on the site four years later. 21 Piccadilly, W1J 0BH. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus.
- St James’s Hall (demolished)
- Warren’s Blacking Warehouse (demolished)
- 22 Cleveland Street
- 1 Devonshire Terrace (demolished)
- Furnival’s Inn (demolished)
- Gray’s Inn Gardens
- Marshalsea Prison (demolished)
- The Old Curiosity Shop
- Charles Dickens’ Coffee House
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
- Westminster Abbey Cloisters
- Charles Dickens Museum
For more of Metro Girl’s blog posts on London history, click here.
To retrace William Shakespeare’s steps in London, click here.
photo credit: Penn State Special Collections Library via photopin cc
Bounce review: A perfect social package of cocktails, pizza and Ping Pong
Bounce is a unique London night out – combining drinking, eating and Ping Pong. Having opened in late 2012, I had the Holborn venue on my wish list for a while, so recently I finally got round to going with a friend for meal, drinks and a catch-up. For those who want to play Ping Pong, I highly recommend booking a slot on a table in advance. We only decided to go Bounce a few hours before our meal there on a busy Saturday night and weren’t fortunate enough to get a Ping Pong table booking.
Located a short walk from Chancery Lane tube station, Bounce is an expansive underground venue, featuring a restaurant at the back, 40 foot cocktail bar and 17 Ping Pong tables. Although subterranean, the large space and high ceilings mean the space feels far from claustrophobic or gloomy, in fact, quite the opposite. Upon arrival, we headed straight to our table and ordered one of the original cocktails from the menu. I opted for a Hatton Garden Spritz – named after the nearby road famous for its jewellers – a fruity, long drink consisting of Vodka, elderflower cordial, fresh raspberry and rhubarb, lemon topped with Prosecco, which was refreshing and light. My friend was in the mood for something a bit harder – and definitely not for the faint hearted – a Daddy Mac – a concoction of Chivas 12 year Scotch whisky, Stones ginger wine, Havana seven-year rum, agave syrup, fresh lemon and mint. The Daddy Mac has a sub-heading ‘not for girls’, which obviously gave my (female) friend a challenge, who managed to finish the drink, while admitting it packed a punch!
Although there was a selection of pizza breads, antipasti and other starters, we went straight for the pizzas. I ordered a Mozzarella, spinach, egg, parmesan, nutmeg and black pepper pizza. Cooked in proper Italian style with a crisp, thin base. The pizza was nicely floury and tasty and swiftly vanished from my plate, a good sign! After a whole pizza each, we felt pretty full and decided against a dessert and headed to the bar for some cocktails. Being a Saturday night, the bar and Ping Pong tables were packed. It made for quite humorous scenes when the odd Ping Pong ball bounced off your leg as you stood drinking. As the night wore on, we went off the cocktail menu and ordered simple spirits and mixers and cider from the extensive bar selection. The service both at the restaurant and bar was friendly and swift, despite the busy night. I am looking forward to returning and getting a game in next time! Bounce is a great place for a bit of mid-week fun, or a Friday or Saturday venue to unwind after a long week at work.
To find out about Bounce’s New Year’s Eve party and other ‘welcome 2014’ events in the capital, click here.
- Bounce, 121 Holborn, EC1N 2TD. Tel: 020 3657 6525. Nearest tube: Chancery Lane. The Ping Pong tables are bookable in 30 or 60 minute slots, starting from £10-£18. For more information and booking, visit the Bounce website.
To read Metro Girl’s other restaurant and pub reviews, click here.