diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Random City of London ward (8): Walbrook

My eighth random ward, Walbrook, is named after a stream that once ran through the heart of the City. Walbrook lies right at the centre of things, at Bank Junction where as many as nine roads meet. What gives the ward its peculiar shape is that only five of the intervening wedges lie within Walbrook - Mansion House and the Bank of England included - and the other four will have to be documented elsewhere. [9 photos] [pdf map]

This is the ward where the Lord Mayor lives, or at least has his official residence. Mansion House was built in the mid 18th century in Palladian style, and still impresses. Its main entrance is on the first floor balcony, past some whopping lanterns, while a minor tradesmen's entrance provides access at ground level. A more practical front door exists just around the corner, outside which I spotted a pair of bootscrapers and the Lord Mayor's Lexus. Fans of blue police callboxes should be advised that the original here is no longer operational (Please Use Nearby Payphone). Also if you walk along the alleyway round the back of the building beware if you hear a klaxon sound because that means the metal fire escape is about to lower itself on top of you.

The building that dominates the ward, however, is the fortress-like home of the Bank of England. This occupies an entire City block between Lothbury and Threadneedle Street as well as a substantial amount of storage underground. The Bank took root here in 1734 and was famously rebuilt by Sir John Soane at the turn of the 19th century. Alas it was infamously rebuilt by Sir Herbert Baker between 1921 and 1942, replacing Soane's masterpiece with "a hotch-potch, a pasticcio, a patch-work of symbolical odds-and-ends". One of the most striking features is a total absence of windows around the curtain wall, as befits a national gold reserve the Governor would rather nobody broke into. Doors are in very short supply too, especially on the west and south flanks, and where they do exist tend to be mighty bronze portals with ornate symbolic decoration. In one recess a speaking tube is labelled 'For Night Service Only', 'To Deliver Letters Etc. Ring Bell And Await Instructions'. The only concession to the public is a cut-through passageway at Tivoli Corner, freely-accessible, but if you look up through the circular skylight expect to see two CCTV cameras looking down at you.

Unsurprisingly this is a favoured spot for other banks to have clustered. The Midland Bank had its headquarters across the road at 1 Princes Street, which became surplus to requirements when HSBC took over and relocated to Docklands so the building now contains a super-luxurious hotel called The Ned. Nat West are nextdoor in another splendid Lutyens creation, incorporating a proper high street branch in case you still want to withdraw some coinage. At the other end of the street is One Lothbury, now home to the City flagship of the Bank of China because times change. Meanwhile the 26-storey tower two blocks east of the Bank of England used to be home to the Stock Exchange between 1972 and 2004, and has since been reclad in shiny glass.

Financial agglomeration dominates Walbrook to such an extent that the ward lacks a network of characterful back alleys. Promising starts turn into unwelcoming service roads, or lead you round the back of office buildings much younger than their preserved frontage. Pope's Head Alley has morphed into a steel and glass corridor overlooked by emblematic beehives (and yes, a Pope's head), while historic Change Alley has become something much drabber. The only cut-through of merit is St Olave's Court off Old Jewry where a half-demolished Wren church conceals the offices of a maritime law firm, but I wouldn't go out of your way just for that.

Another easily missed minor street is St Swithin's Lane, a turning off King William Street, where the Rothschild financial dynasty is based. Banker Nathan moved into New Court in 1809, so was expertly poised with a supply of gold when the Bank of England suffered a liquidity crisis a few years later. New Court has been rebuilt four times since, the latest (2011) iteration presenting a steel colonnade to the street behind which lies a strictly anonymous glass facade. Old masters hang in the windows behind gold tickertape drapes, reflecting the fact that the price of gold was set here for the best part of a century. Step up to the podium and you can look down into the garden of St Stephen Walbrook, presently trapped behind a low glass wall.

The church is one of Wren's finest with an altarpiece by Henry Moore. When originally founded in 1428 it lay on the banks of the Walbrook stream, but that's been lost longer than most lost rivers and the church now fronts a street of the same name. Most of the eastern side is now occupied by a ribbed office block (resembling a either a wobbly black jelly or a metal armadillo) called the Walbrook Building. The architects squeezed in a Little Waitrose, a gym and a restaurant in an attempt to activate the perimeter, but all of these are currently closed. They also planned to display the London Stone here...

...but heritage inertia kept it further up the road opposite the entrance to Cannon Street station. The previous incarnation of this building was a grotty W H Smith with the Stone trapped behind an intrusive grille, but the latest financial office has sleek white frontage and a protective chamber it's much easier to photograph. All you need to know about this chunk of oolitic limestone is on the website www.londonstone.org.uk, as the information panels to either side confirm in text and in Braille.

Let's finish with a look at some of the City of London heritage plaques I found dotted around the ward while I was exploring, of which Walbrook seems to have more than its fair share.

» Elizabeth Fry had already moved out to East Ham before starting her compassionate work at Newgate Prison.
» The first postmark was called a 'Bishop mark' because it was introduced by Postmaster General Henry Bishop.
» Poet Thomas Hood had a head start in the literary world because his father was a bookseller on Poultry.
» St. Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange was demolished when the City Corporation widened Threadneedle Street.
» Mansion House now covers the site of Stocks Market, for centuries the City's largest food & produce market.
» Mary was only allowed to become an accountant after the passing of the Sex Disqualification Act in 1919.
» Cardinal Newman became the fifth City-born saint when he was canonised by the Pope in October 2019.
» Anti-Semitism in the late 13th century drove Jews from their City ghetto and forced their relocation overseas.
» Jonathan's Coffee House in (Ex)Change Alley became the location of the City's first ever Stock Exchange.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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 me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  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
2020 2019 2018 2017 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
Herbert Dip
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