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Sunday, 26 September 2010

It's like collecting blue plaques in Nazi Germany part II

So we find our guide outside the Bishopsgate entrance to Liverpool Street station and soon our motley band is assembled and we debarked across the road through a maze of what were once East India Company warehouses, mute witnesses to the trade that made the city great and of course one of the driving imperatives of the immigrant communities.

We found ourselves on Middlesex Street otherwise known as Petticoat Lane, not that there was an awful lot of activity at 11a.m. on Saturday and spotted the Blue Plaque dedicated to the Jewish Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor again a reminder not only of the Immigrant community but also to the immense poverty in the area. Which is of course why Petticoat Lane market and its schmutter is there. We also spotted a discarded Pilsner Urquell half pint glass which made its way mysteriously inside M's carrier bag. Next stop on the trail was the discreetly hidden Sandy's Row Synagogue which looked so damnedly intriguing. But it being a Saturady and a high holiday as well there was no chance of gaining entry. We found our way down past a couple of the best preserved Hugenot shops around Gun Street and Artillery Lane so called for the Tudor armshouses created by Henry VIII to an old Almshouse used by many of the working girls of the area - Not least Mary Kelly the last of the canonical Ripper victims and across the way a soulless carpark on the site of a warren of old streets including Millers Court where Jack has his way with her... and she was his final victim. The culmination of a long hot summer of mounting insanity. London Walks has a couple of Ripper Walks which Id like to go on but there was a bit of crossover on this walk the alleys of Whitechapel and its teeming hordes providing Jack with his choice of victims. We turn from BellLane and its faded adverts for businesses long closed and turn East past Spitalfields Market. On either side of the entrance to Fournier Street are gorgeous Christchuch Spitalfields a Hawksmoor church saved from the demolition and on the other The Ten Bells which again has Ripper connections. "It was widely rumoured that Annie Chapman had been seen in a pub near Spitalfields Market at c.5.00 A.M. on the morning of her murder" and Mary Kelly's pitch was outside the pub and Mary Kelly was also reported to have been drinking there the night before her death...

Monday, 20 September 2010

It's like collecting blue plaques in Nazi Germany

As Eddie would say...
We had a really good Saturday taking the Liverpool St. train a little before 9 and arrived in 10.15 in good time for the Immigrants London walk which started from the Bishopsgate entrance to Liverpool Street station. Fortunately we found our guide in good time. Theres a blue plaque actually on Liverpool Street station dedicated to the first Bethlehem hospital (1247-1676). It's recognised as the worlds first institute for psychiatric disorders. Its also where we get the word Bedlam from whhich speaks volumes as to the conditions that the unfortunates there undewent. It started as a religious institute, a priory run by the Order of the Star of Bethlehem. It firsat became a hospital in 1337 and first admitted psychiatric patients in 1357. Early sixteenth century maps show the hospital as a few stone buildings grouped around a courtyard, a church and a garden. The "care" provided there was shall we say minimal. Patients were routinely manacled to the floor, the lucky ones were licenced to beg . It was a royal hospital but administered by the corporation of London and managed by the governor of Bridewell. The other plaque in Liverpool Street station is rather more recent and depicts five children surrounded by parcels and bags at ground level. Behind them are the train tracks that have brought them to this point. Train tracks that began in Berlin, Leipzig, Mannheim, Hamburg, Vienna, Prague.
The story continues soon

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


On the eve of Pope Bendicts visit to these shores I'm glad to report that my magnificent octopus is finished (at least for the time being) The map of visited blue plaques is pretty much up to date. I'm missing a few which I think are on Marie's camera but it will do as a start. Were off to London at the weekend for the London Open House day so hopefully will be able to get a few more sorted out.

Last years Open House we spent around Fleet St and I was placing last years Blue Plaques and there are a couple which seemed in the light of the book that I've just began - Dissolution by C.J.Sansom. They are both very central (Newgate Street and Ludgate Broadway) and both are dedicated to monastic institutions - Grey Friars and Blackfriars. Blackfriars was a Dominican Monastery which was moved from Holborn in 1276 and was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538 and Grey friars refers to a Franciscan house set up between 1306 and 1348 which grew into quite the institution being the second largest church in London (300 ft long and 89 feet across) featuring 11 alters. Big Hal also put an end to the monastery and donated Christ's Church to the city which underwent a bit of a reverse with materials being half-inched and monuments being defaced. The church was destroyed in the Great Fire and was rebuilt by Wren.

Im enjoying Dissolution. Ive got quite the thing for geographical/historical moiders. Im still making my way through the Cetin Ikmen back catalogue. Its quite the recreation of Tudor times and the reforming zeal that lead to the religious background of modern Britain.
And so we return to the Popes visit. There have been a couple of interesting pieces on the TV - most notably Peter Tatchell's take on the visit which was pretty close to my own. There were some nutbar interviewees most notably a Filipino lawyer who so no merits in contraception as they had a failiure rate and the home counties loon who insisted that stem cell research was murder because the most miniscule collection of cells are due human rights. Now I'm not saying that science has all the answers, I'm not saying that modern society is perfect. What I am saying is that when dogma trumps common sense its time to take stock.