diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Random City of London ward (16): Langbourn

My 16th random ward is an odd'un, being long and thin and mostly unnoteworthy. Langbourn fits into a narrow slot between Bank and Aldgate, somewhat irregularly, and touches more City wards than any other - eight in total. Other than containing half of Leadenhall Market it's not especially blessed with points of interest, but it does have more than its fair share of back alleys to explore. [pdf map][10 photos]

Historically Langbourn followed both sides of Lombard Street and Fenchurch Street, but after several administrative rejigs now only the northern flank remains. The sole southern exception is St Mary Woolnoth which was deemed to have historic connections and so remains inside a tiny arrowhead protruding at the ward's west end. It's the City's sole example of a Hawksmoor church, reimagined 300 years ago because Wren's repairs to the medieval church proved inadequate. Look out for its Baroque tower topped by two turrets facing the Bank road junction, but set back a bit. St Mary's was nearly demolished in 1897 to make way for the City and South London Railway but engineers were persuaded to build their entrance in the crypt instead (which now houses a bank of lifts down to the Northern line platforms).

The ward's only other surviving church is St Edmunds on Lombard Street, with its poky-out clock, although it's now used as the London Centre for Spiritual Direction rather than as a place of worship. It's also where the Bishop of Islington is based should you ever need to see him. Lombard Street was once known for its many hanging pictorial signs, introduced identify businesses before addresses were numbered. The most striking of the four that remain is the golden grasshopper signifying the home of Tudor financier Sir Thomas Gresham, although the current danglers are merely Edwardian replicas.

St Gilbert Fenchurch was never rebuilt after the Great Fire but its churchyard lives on as a small garden off Fen Court. Its benches are a little glum, but tucked behind one tomb is a decent-sized stone labyrinth based on a design found on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly. More striking is a sculpture called the Gilt of Cain, installed in 2008 to commemorate the preaching of anti-slavery sermons nearby. This consists of a granite podium facing a cluster of sugar-cane-like pillars, each engraved with a bit of poem, and I recommend climbing up to the 'lectern' for a different perspective.

Alongside is One Fen Court, Langbourn's only recent tall building. The City's largest public roof garden perches above its 15th floor, in normal times freely accessible by lift and an unexpectedly nice recreational hideaway. I had to make do with accessing the public realm underneath the building, a black-walled cavern that's usually brightened by dynamic art on the ceiling, but when that's switched off it becomes an oppressive inactive void that undoubtedly sounded nicer in the planning application. An abomination twice the height is due to replace Marks & Spencer on Gracechurch Street, its trio of linked towers rising unapologetically above the site of the old Roman Forum.

Leadenhall Market dominates the centre of the ward. Half of it's officially in Lime Street, but everything south of the central arcade lies in Langbourn instead including several smaller offshoot passageways. All the shopfronts are brightly and uniformly painted, concealing whether it's a sandwich shop, a boutique or a Pizza Express until you look closer. Shoppers should be aware that very few businesses have reawoken as yet, but this is excellent news for photographers because it's still uncannily easy to get absolutely nobody in shot.

In Bull's Head Passage I found a holy icon of Harry Potter pilgrimage, the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, as used in the first movie before expensive backlot sets became available. Hagrid leads Harry through the market to a curved doorway whose blank sign magically reveals the name of the pub before they step inside. In reality this is the rear entrance to the Glass House opticians and the sign outside says London Migraine Clinic, which must be a bit of a letdown when the guided tours deposit their Potterphiles outside.

South of Leadenhall the web of streets becomes more mundane, a mix of mostly gents outfitters and unfancy eateries. On Lime Street you can window shop for brogues and dress shirts and ogle cricket memorabilia. In Cullum Street Temple Food offers exceptionally traditional sandwiches and cooked breakfasts immediately opposite the oatmilk macchiatos of the Curators Coffeestudio. Giorgio Italian Menswear closed for refurbishment in the summer of 2018, supposedly for three weeks, but never reopened. Bolton's restaurant has a box of reassuringly retro paper menus outside in the hope that patrons will convert their normal calamari fritti and tiramisu into a boxed takeaway.

Explore the alleyways further and there are proper pubs, the kind tourists never find but are instead frequented by office workers without expense accounts. The entire menu at the Bunch of Grapes consists of rolls, pies and chips, £4.50 max. The Swan Tavern lurks up its own Passage and boasts Edwardian marble bars. Charles Dickens drank regularly in the George & Vulture in Castle Court and mentions it numerous times in Pickwick Papers. It's less a pub and more a restaurant these days. but with a traditional cuisine that peaks at roast beef and breaded veal. Alas I can't yet mention the Jamaica Wine House across the alleyway because local boundaries are seriously counter-intuitive and that's in Cornhill ward.

Langbourn's back alleys are fascinating to explore if less historic than you'd hope. I tried to walk them all, including the wood-panelled squeeze through Bengal Court round the back of the G&V. But I was thwarted by a film crew who'd spotted the benefits of an atmospheric secluded backdrop and had turned up with a fleet of vans, bright lights and security. At every potential entrance off Cornhill and Lombard Street they told me I couldn't pass, until eventually I stumbled upon one unguarded portal. Here a runner asked me ever so politely to wait while a smart-suited youth strode purposefully out of Change Alley... and cut!... and I shall be watching out for that scene in every upcoming drama series for the next eighteen months.

<< 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