diamond geezer

 Thursday, September 20, 2012

3) Barbican → Tower Hill
[map] [20 photos altogether] [boundary history]

And now for the third side of the triangle (if the Square Mile can be equated to a triangle, which is pushing it, but you get the idea). From the edge of the Barbican, beneath Cromwell Tower, the City boundary starts a zigzag crawl along several lesser known streets. The Moorgate area is a compact grid infilled with office blocks, with each passing decade more glassy and more lofty than the last. Much of the architecture is uninspired, but some of the taller towers revel in reflective rectangles and swooping sheen. On Ropemaker Street is "the most Luxurious Health, Fitness and Spa facility in The City of London" (their capitals) for financial types in need of a gentle buffing up. Walk by on a weekday to be surrounded by bustling suits - come at the weekend to encounter cranes and roadworks.

At the Red Lion pub, time once again to make a devious diversion to the north. This is another of the boundary's 1994 extensions, this time to swallow up the entire Broadgate development rather than only some of it. The City side of the road is a fortress of international service industries doing whatever they do behind anonymous ramparts. The opposite bank not so, especially as Islington turns into Hackney where the buildings become increasingly "ordinary", even tumbledown in places. Sun Street genuinely does feel like some kind of border between richer and poorer, ditto Appold Street round the corner. Look carefully and you'll spot evidence of the City's insidious Ring of Steel. There are no blatant cameras, chicanes and checkpoints here, but more subtle one-way systems and blocked off roads. Snowden Street has been pedestrianised rather than allowing vehicles to pass, Vandy Street has been completely grassed over, and the junction with Curtain Road split impermeably to divide Hackney from the City. This is security paranoia as ingrained infrastructure, and may never be reversed.

Look up, that's the Broadgate Tower, the northernmost of the City's skyscrapers as yet with no supporting cluster. Peer over the bridge, those are multiple tracks running deep out of Liverpool Street station. And stare ahead, that's Norton Folgate. No longer a Liberty, this brief peripheral street is under relentless threat of redevelopment. Whilst one bar successfully fought off speculators a few years back, the terrace of cafes and small businesses to the east is slowly being boarded up and will surely soon be reborn as something big and characterless. A brief stroll down Bishopsgate follows, then the City boundary turns left towards Spitalfields Market. Don't worry, we're not stepping inside this tourist-over-friendly makeover. Instead a minor alleyway beckons, just one horse-and-cart wide, increasingly narrow and twisty as it goes. Walking through you can almost imagine you were back in 19th century London, so long as you don't look up above the chimneypots and spot the 21st.

Welcome to Petticoat Lane, or Middlesex Street as the main thoroughfare's better known. If you're expecting a bijou market à la Portobello, think again. This is a much less touristy place, more t-shirts and pan scourers than pashminas and bric-a-brac. Only on Sundays do the traders spill out along the entire street, while on Saturdays a few empty metal-framed stalls are the only sign of impending hubbub. If the shops are shut look out for the individual letters of the alphabet spray-painted onto consecutive shutters. And however much this looks and feels like Tower Hamlets, do try to convince yourself that the council flats and textile wholesalers down the right hand side of the road are part of the richest Square Mile in Britain.

The Aldgate one way system's up next, less gyratory than it used to be, with Braham Street (round the back of RBS) recently replaced by a less-than-inspiring "ribbon park". There's no need to use the subways any more, not now the traffic island where the City's dragon stands guard has become part of a pedestrian crossing. And then it's onward down Mansell Street - an unexpectedly underwhelming thoroughfare. That's another stack of City flats and sheltered housing on the right, not part of the East End, all run by the Guinness Trust. Expect increasing pressure on London's financial district to spread gradually east into Aldgate, replacing mere housing with sky-rise towers, but for now residential obscurity suffices.

Nearly there. A Travelodge and a multi-storey car park are some of the 'delights' round the back of Tower Gateway DLR, before the proper sightseeing section starts again. The unmistakeable turrets of the Tower of London appear across a major road junction, but the City boundary stays well outside the moat, indeed skirts around the back of the tube station for good measure. Trinity Square Gardens are managed jointly by Tower Hamlets and the City, such is their borderline status. Look carefully beyond the war memorial to find the cobbled area marking the site of the scaffold where Sir Thomas More was topped, just outside the City limits. Across Tower Hill is tourist hell, a flurry of fast food opportunists and souvenir outlets luring in international visitors because they know no better. And so the invisible line passes down to the waterside, where the City boundary meets the Thames, right back where I began. The Square Mile mile may not be square, but its perimeter is six miles of fascinating variety.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards