The Moorgate Lighthouse

Stroll up Moorgate Street from the Bank of England, and about a third of the way along on your right, look up and, set into a niche in the corner of number 42, you will see a stone model of a lighthouse.

This is because this was once the headquarters of the Ocean Accident & Guarantee Corporation which, through various takeovers and mergers, is now just a footnote in Aviva’s corporate history.

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Bleeding London

Bleeding London avatarBleeding London is an exceptionally ambitious, and potentially quite wonderful, project to capture a picture from every street in London.

It wasn’t something I was aware of until I stumbled across a piece about it on the BBC News site and (I may be wrong) it doesn’t seem to have had a huge amount of other publicity, but it’s the sort of thing that’s worth getting behind, particularly as “Anyone can participate and pictures can be taken on any device. There are no restrictions on subject matter”. I might even dust off the old box brownie, set the fedora at a jaunty angle and hit the streets round SW11.


My favourite piece in the British Museum

You can keep your hoards of gold and silver, your Egyptian mummies, your blockbuster Viking exhibitions. For me, the most wonderful piece in the whole British Museum is a bit of graffiti, not done by any artist or craftsman, but by a bored squaddie looking for ways to kill time.

Scratched onto a flat part of the base of one of the extraordinary Assyrian winged bulls are a couple of dozen squares. They’re the board for a dice game and were incised around 710BCE (although earlier examples of the game have been found dating back 4500 years). The thing seems to have been a sort of “race” game with counters (think of Ludo).

I love it because they give a human dimension to people we can never know – we can have no idea of what these people experienced, their sensibilities, their world view, but we can still relate to trying to find ways to fill in the time when the job gets boring, or enjoying a spot of ‘playtime’ with colleagues.

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Henry VIII’s Wine Cellar

Buried under the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall is an extraordinary historical survivor.   Henry VIII’s Wine Cellar is one of the few remaining parts of Whitehall Palace – the main London residence of Kings and Queens (and Lord Protectors – because Oliver Cromwell also lived there) for over 150 years.

Today Whitehall is the name of the broad road linking Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, or it’s used as a synonym for ‘government’, but Whitehall was once the biggest palace in Europe – bigger than the Vatican, bigger even than Versailles – covering over 93,000 square metres between the river and Green Park.   It became a royal palace when Henry VIII confiscated a residence called York Place from Cardinal Wolsey. As well as being Lord Chancellor of England and the most powerful commoner in the realm, Wolsey was also Archbishop of York whose London seat since the 13th century had been York Place.  

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Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner


Today I was going to go round Banqueting House, the last properly surviving bit of the old Palace of Whitehall, but when I got there it was closed for an event, so I went off and photographed some war memorials instead.

Of all the memorials in London, the most striking is the Royal Artillery Memorial located on (essentially) the traffic island at Hyde Park Corner. You can see it as you sit on the bus as it heads north, but it’s well worth taking the time to get up close.

Designed by Charles Jagger and Lionel Pearson, the Memorial is a stunning piece of realist sculpture and one of the finest examples of statuary anywhere in London.

There are some pictures below of details from the bronze figures around the monument and from the sculpted friezes, and a broader selection can be found here

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The Post Office Central Power Station

Another door, this time on Barge House Street, in the outer wall of what is now the Oxo Tower complex.

The Royal coat of arms above the door is because prior to being a cold store for the company that made Oxo, the building had been a power station for the Post Office.

From looking at the old maps of the area, we can see the power station was built after 1896. (The map images below are from 1896 and 1919)

According to the Wikipedia entry, much of the power station was demolished in 1928 and the building rebuilt in Art Deco style by Albert Moore, although the river-facing facade was retained. Obviously the Barge House Street facade was also left relatively unchanged.

Edwin Evans and Battersea Rise

clapham sect plaque

The closing of a small estate agent’s office in South West London is hardly big news (some might even raise a cheer), but the closure of the Edwin Evans office on Lavender Hill marks a break with a significant piece of Battersea history. Because it was the original (Sir) Edwin Evans who bought, demolished and developed Battersea Rise House and its 22 acres of land on the north west corner of Clapham Common. His consortium paid £51,000 for the whole plot and parcelled off lots for development, with 475 houses being built on the land between 1908 and 1915.

Battersea Rise House dated from the early 18th century, but it came to prominence from 1792 when Henry Thornton, a wealthy banker, bought it and moved in with his cousin William Wilberforce. Two of Thornton’s brothers owned villas on Clapham Common Southside and Thornton’s aim in buying Battersea Rise House and the land surrounding it was to create a community of like-minded (and high-minded) friends. Two substantial houses, Glenelg and Broomfield were built in the grounds, with Wilberforce moving into Broomfield House when he married in 1797.

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The end of an era – Time Out goes free

Back in the day – and I mean way back, ooh, two decades ago – Time Outruled London. You got your copy on Thursday and planned the weekend and the following week.
It was a great bid doorstop of a magazine, packed full of listings details in dense san serif and, like a lot of indispensable magazines, much of it went unread – the listings that were indispensable to me might be irrelevant to you and vice versa. And it kept getting bigger, adding more and more categories and more and more detail. When City Limits attempted to take it on in the early 1980s they eventually found themselves steamrollered into history by the sheer usefulness of Time Out; it had (it seemed) all of London’s events crammed between its covers.
For over a decade that’s how things stood. If you wanted to do anything, or go anywhere in London, you needed Time Out to help you plan it. And for over a decade Time Out had London to itself. Newspaper supplements came and went, the odd freebie had a crack at stealing some market share, but none of them came close to denting Time Out’s monopoly.
And it all came down to the listings.
But then came the internet and the availability of all sorts of information for free. Want to know what’s on at the pictures? Click, click, click – there it is and, what’s more another couple of clicks will book you the tickets, find out the nearest pub and tell you what bus to catch. Time Out stopped being indispensable. And then came smartphones, and Time Outsuddenly became an anachronism.
So now it’s relaunched, for free, available at a tube station near you. 80 odd pages of features, reviews and recommendations.
But no listings.
So it’s not really Time Out any more, just another freebie to glance at on the commute. One more little shared experience evaporates.