Postcards from 100 years ago




St. Brides;     Aldwych;     The Strand;     Thames Embankment; 

Cheapside;    Ludgate Hill 

There are places where history passes by with a step as light as gossamer, leaving no trace. St. Bride's, 'the cathedral of Fleet Street', is not one of them. This site spans two thousand years' development of an island people - seven previous churches have occupied the site. Little of importance that has happened in England's story has not been echoed in St. Bride's. From the time when the Romans built here through the rise and fall of its seven previous churches, this place has been nationally, and indeed, internationally, involved. Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Normans, so many peoples, made this place. Today, in the exchange of news, it is parish pump to the world.

41 Birds eye view from St Brides

41 From the roof topFor seventeen years after a wartime bomb had left the church a smouldering shell, Fleet Street had only a makeshift in place of the church it had always called its own. But there was a dramatic reward for this deprivation. For restoration meant excavation and this gave the archaeologists, led by Professor W. F. Grimes, the chance to explore. As a result of their efforts nearly a thousand years were added to St. Bride's known history.  



42 Aldwych

42 Aldwych in 2009The Aldwych and Kingsway scheme was the London County Council's first large urban improvement scheme in central London. It was opened in 1905 and signalled the council's vision of London as a modern city of tree-lined boulevards, office blocks and free-flowing traffic.

There had long been calls for a new route for traffic between Holborn and Fleet Street, but it was not until the London County Council (L.C.C) came into existence that the scheme took shape. A new road was proposed between Holborn and Fleet Street. The slum properties and crowded alleys at the east end of the Strand would first have to be cleared, which was seen as a further advantage of the scheme.

Although modern in spirit, the scheme respected London's past. The new crescent at the south end was designed around the historic church of St Clement Danes. The Saxon-sounding name given to the new crescent, Aldwych, was chosen as a reminder of London's long history of continuous settlement.

The scheme's large boulevard, running north to Holborn, was named Kingsway in honour of Edward VII. A hundred feet (30 metres) wide, it was London's widest street and thoroughly modern in spirit, not least because a tunnel for electric trams ran beneath it. The building plots on either side of the new boulevard were leased to speculative builders, the intention being that this would become London's new commercial district.

From its beginning, the Aldwych and Kingsway district had overseas associations. Aldwych's location on the royal route between the palace and St Paul's Cathedral made it suitably symbolic for buildings associated with the Empire. Australia House, constructed between 1913 and 1918, was the first of the large Dominion headquarters in the area, and India House followed in the late 1920s. However American associations came to dominate this part of London. The Waldorf Hotel was built in the north side of the Aldwych crescent between 1906 and 1908 and soon became a meeting place for Americans in London. Several American firms established their headquarter buildings in the new office blocks that were erected along Kingsway, among them Kodak, whose 1911 building was one of London's most architecturally modern buildings at the time. 


43 The Strand

The Strand is a street in the City of Westminster, London, England. It currently starts at Trafalgar Square and runs east to join Fleet Street at Temple Bar, which marks the boundary of the City of London at this point, though its historical length has been longer than this. In former times the eastern part of the Strand was part of the Liberty of the Savoy and had administrative autonomy, distinct from both the City of London to the east and the City of Westminster to the west.
43 in 2009
Two tube stations were once named it: the former Piccadilly line Strand tube station, now called Aldwych but no longer in use, and the former "Strand tube station" on the Northern Line now part of Charing Cross tube station. "Strand Bridge" was also the name given to Waterloo Bridge during construction, it was renamed for its official opening on the second anniversary of the victory.

Strand derives its name from the Old English word for "shore" or "river bank". (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, Finnish, German and Dutch have all derived their word for "beach" from the same Germanic root; many beaches in Ireland are still called "strands".)

The street is popularly referred to as the Strand although the street address is actually just "Strand", hence, strictly speaking, "377 Strand" and not "377, the Strand". On the Monopoly board it is written as "Strand", while on the title deed card it is "The Strand". 

 45 Thames embankment

The Thames Embankment is a major feat of 19th century civil engineering designed to reclaim marshy land next to the River Thames in central London. It consists of the Victoria and Chelsea Embankment.

There had been a long history of failed proposals to embank the Thames in central London. Embankments along the Thames were first proposed by Christopher Wren in the 1660s, then in 1824 former soldier and aide to George IV, Sir Frederick Trench suggested an embankment known as 'Trench's Terrace' from Blackfriars to Charing Cross. Trench brought a bill to parliament which was blocked by river interests. In the 1830s, the painter John Martin promoted an embankment to contain an intercepting sewer. In January 1842 the City Corporation's adopted a plan designed by James Walker but the plan fell foul of Government infighting. The Government itself built the Chelsea Embankment in 1854 from Chelsea Hospital to Millbank.

Started in 1862, the present embankment on the northern side of the river was primarily designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, incorporates the main low level interceptor sewer from west London, and an underground railway over which a wide road and riverside walkway were also constructed, as well as a retaining wall along the north side of the River Thames. In all Bazalgette's scheme reclaimed 22 acres of land from the river. 46 Embankment 2009

410 Thames Embankment

47 CheapsideCheapside is a street in Cheap ward of the City of London that links Newgate Street with the junction of Queen Victoria Street, Cornhill, Threadneedle Street, Princes Street, Lombard Street and King William Street (via a small section called 'Poultry'). In mediæval times it was known as 'Westcheap', as the opposite to Eastcheap. 

Cheapside is the former site of one of the principal produce markets in London, cheap broadly meaning "market" in mediæval English (see below Etymology and usage). Many of the streets feeding into the main thoroughfare are named after the produce that was originally sold in those areas of the market, for example, Honey Lane, Milk Street, Bread Street and Poultry. 

During the reign of King Edward III (in the 1300s) tournaments were held in adjacent fields. The dangers were however not limited to the participants since a wooden stand, built to accommodate Queen Philippa and her companions, collapsed during a tournament to celebrate the birth of the Black Prince in 1330. No one died but the King was greatly displeased and were it not for the Queen's intercession, the stand's builders would have been put to death. 

On the day preceding her coronation during January 1559, Queen Elizabeth I passed through a number of London streets in a pre-coronation procession and was entertained by a number of pageants, including one in Cheapside. 

Meat was brought in to Cheapside from Smithfield, just outside Newgate. After the great Church of St Michael le Querne, the top end of the street broadened into a dual carriageway known as the Shambles (referring to an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market), with butchers shops on both sides and a dividing central area also composed of butchers shops. Further down, on the right, was Goldsmiths Row, an area of commodity dealers. From the 14th Century until the Great Fire, the eastern end of Cheapside was the location of the Great Conduit. 

Literary connections

It was the birthplace of John Milton, and Robert Herrick. It was for a long time one of the most important streets in London. It is also the site of the 'Bow Bells', the church of St Mary-le-Bow, which has played a part in London's Cockney heritage and the tale of Dick Whittington. Thomas Middleton's play A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1613) both satirizes and celebrates the citizens of the neighbourhood during the Renaissance, when the street hosted the city's goldsmiths. 

Geoffrey Chaucer grew up around Cheapside and there are a scattering of references to the thoroughfare and its environs throughout his work. The first chapter of Peter Ackroyd's Brief Lives series on Chaucer also colourfully describes the street at that time.[1] 

Jane Austen, in her 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, characterizes Cheapside as a London neighbourhood frowned upon by the landed elite

"I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney in Meryton"

"Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside."

"That is capital," added her sister, and they both laughed heartily.

"If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside," cried Bingley, "it would not make them one jot less agreeable."

"But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world," replied Darcy."

 Charles Dickens, Jr wrote in his 1879 book Dickens's Dictionary of London: 

" Cheapside remains now what it was five centuries ago, the greatest thoroughfare in the City of London. Other localities have had their day, have risen, become fashionable, and have sunk into obscurity and neglect, but Cheapside has maintained its place, and may boast of being the busiest thoroughfare in the world, with the sole exception perhaps of London-bridge. "

Hugh Lofting's book Doctor Dolittle, published in 1951, names a quarrelsome London sparrow with a Cockney accent Cheapside. He lives most of the year in St. Edmund's left ear in St. Paul's Cathedral and is invited to the African country of Fantippo to deliver mail to cities because the other birds are not able to navigate city streets. 

In a more contemporary treatment, the Cheapside of the Middle Ages was referenced in a derogatory sense in the 2001 movie A Knight's Tale—as being the poor, unhealthy and low-class birthplace and home of the unlikely hero. 

Also, Mary "Jacky" Faber lived there in Bloody Jack by L. A. Meyer

Contemporary Cheapside44 Ludgate Hill

Cheapside today is a street of offices and developments of retail outlets encouraged by the City of London's planning policies from the beginning of the millennium.[citation needed] It can no longer be described as "the busiest thoroughfare in the world" (as in Charles Dickens, Jr's day) and is instead simply one of many routes connecting the East End and the City of London with the West End.

Cheapside was extensively damaged during Luftwaffe Blitz raids in late 1940 and particularly during the The Second Great Fire of London. Much of the rebuilding following these raids occurred during the 1950s and 1960s and included a number of unsympathetic contemporary attempts at recreating the centuries-old architecture that had been destroyed. In recent years many of these buildings have themselves been demolished as a programme of regeneration takes place along Cheapside from Paternoster Square to Poultry.

 44 Ludgate in 2009

Ludgate Hill is a hill in the City of London, near the old Ludgate, a gate to the City that was taken down, with its attached jail, in 1780. Ludgate Hill is the site of St Paul's Cathedral, traditionally said to have been the site of a Roman temple of the goddess Diana. It is one of the three ancient hills of London, the others being Tower Hill and Cornhill. 

Ludgate Hill is also a related street which runs west from St. Paul's Churchyard to Ludgate Circus (built in 1864), and from there becomes Fleet Street. It was formerly a much narrower street called Ludgate Street. 

The legendary King Ludd is another traditional or mythical founder of the settlement or City of London, Caer-Ludd in the 1st century BCE. 'London' is allegedly derived from 'Ludd-deen' or 'Valley of Ludd'. St. Paul's is situated on top of Ludgate Hill, the supposed settlement of Ludd. 

Many small alleys on Ludgate Hill were swept away in late 1860s to build Ludgate Hill railway station between Water Lane and New Bridge Street, a station of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. It was closed before World War II and the railway bridge and viaduct between Holborn Viaduct and Blackfriars stations was demolished in 1990 to enable the construction of the City Thameslink railway station in a tunnel. This also involved the regrading of the slope of Ludgate Hill at the junction. 

There is a blue plaque near the bottom of the hill with these words "In a house near this site was published in 1702 The Daily Courant first London daily newspaper". 

About halfway up Ludgate Hill is St Martin, Ludgate church. This was physically joined to the Ludgate. 





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