by Walter Jerrold
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List of Illustrations
|Plate 1||An Adelphi By-way|
|Plate 2||"Venice" in London, Paddington|
|Plate 3||Crooked Billet Yard, Shoreditch|
|Plate 4||Amen Corner, Paternoster Row|
|Plate 5||Wardrobe Place, Blackfriars|
|Plate 6||The Record Office, from Clifford's Inn|
|Plate 7||Dr. Johnson's House|
|Plate 8||Queen Anne's Gate, Westminster|
|Plate 9||Shepherd's Market, Mayfair|
|Plate 10||Lancaster Gate Fountain, Kensington Gardens|
|Plate 11||Lancelot Place, Knightsbridge|
|Plate 12||Old Barrack Yard, Belgravia|
"Gem of all joy, jasper of jocundity,
The droll exaggeration of the ancient Scots poet's tribute to London may sound even as nonsense in the ears of many present-day Londoners. It must be recalled, however, that it was inspired by the London of some four centuries since - a London characterized by the opulent splendour of the early Tudors; a London so remote from that of to-day that but few outstanding stones of it, away from the Tower of London, the Temple Church, Westminster Abbey, and Lambeth Palace, could be found by the careful searcher of the great City's highways and by-ways. There are many people who would cordially echo the sentiment, though they might boggle at the phrasing, of the Scotsman's tribute.
London can, indeed, no longer be summed up as a "gem": it has long lacked such essential unity as would justify the figure; it is an agglomeration of cities, towns, and villages that are to-day comprised within its loosely linking name. The square mile of that central City which represented London to one who was in his prime when the fifteenth century passed has come to be multiplied a vast number of times; London has indeed ceased to have the unity of a City and has become as it were an urban confederation. For the vast majority of us it is sufficient to know its story in parts - to know something of the districts in which we have occasion, for one reason or another, to take a particular interest. It is, perhaps, better so; we are thus always getting fresh glimpses of an infinite variety, that age cannot wither nor custom stale, fresh knowledge of an inexhaustible past.
Alike along the highways and about an infinitude of by-ways are to be found great diversity of things to attract and hold the attention, to stimulate the imagination and awaken the interest. Yet great are the material changes that have taken place within the memory of people still living. The march of improvement which has more than once revolutionized conditions of road transport, has meant a tendency to the making of wider and straighter main thoroughfares: Fleet Street is ceasing to be the Fleet Street that Samuel Johnson knew; the Strand is another Strand than that in which Charles Lamb declared that he shed tears "from fulness of joy at so much life". Apart from outstanding public buildings, when road widenings become necessary little of ancientry is allowed to remain. The low timbered houses of early times have given way to loftier buildings of brick and stone; so that a highway "bit" such as that of the Tudor entrance to Staple Inn by Holborn Bars remains unique, a museum specimen, as it were, preserved on its original site. Now brick and stone are so rapidly giving way to still higher stone-faced iron buildings that in a generation or two even eighteenth-century brickwork will need seeking in the by-ways - indeed it is there already that its most notable examples must be sought. Although, generally speaking, it may be said that changes in the by-ways of the metropolis are more gradual than in the highways, yet within the past century whole "areas" have been cleared, replanned, and rebuilt. Among such are notably Trafalgar Square, the Kingsway-Aldwych area, the St. Giles' "Rookery". Such by-ways as the Bermudas and Porridge Island are lost in the history of Trafalgar Square; Holywell and Wych Streets have more recently passed into the merely traditional.
"Venice" in London, Paddington
"Reader, in the course of my peregrinations about the great city, it is hard if I have not picked up matter which may serve to amuse thee."
Although among certain persons there is a common tendency to regard a museum as a musty, fusty, dusty accumulation of odd things, it has really come to be something widely different from that idea of it persistently propounded by the traditional humorist. The museum has come to be a quickening centre of knowledge - a super-library, as it were, where things may be systematically read instead of words about them as in books; a focal point where time and space are brought into unity. In such focal points London is peculiarly rich. Just beyond the point where the western end of Pall Mall and the southern end of St. James's Street angle together by the picturesque Tudor gatehouse of St. James's Palace, is what may be regarded as the best of all places from which to start any exploration of the by-ways of London, and whether we wish to explore London's by-ways as they are to-day, or to search in the by-ways of the past, we shall find in the London Museum what is without doubt the most fascinating and stimulating of starting-places
Old Barrack Yard, Belgravia
Though I have said that this London Museum is the most appropriate place at which to linger before setting out on any systematic excursions into London's by-ways, it is not, of course, possible to attempt anything in the nature of a detailed examination of the wonderful miscellany of things that have here been brought together. Here, however, may be seen things - recovered by excavation of the ground, and from dredging in the muddy deposits of the Thames - which serve to illustrate not only the London that was before any stone of its existing oldest buildings was quarried, but even afford glimpses of that long past when the earliest beginnings of the settlement that was to grow into London consisted of but a few primitive dwellings built on piles driven into the shallower waters of the Thames. The river was then much wider - extending it is said from Wandsworth to Ealing - and it is from the gravel deposits of that ancient river bed that evidence has been recovered of the presence hereabouts of Palaeolithic man. Flint, horn, and early bronze implements are to be seen that indicate and illustrate successive stages in that indefinite era known as the "prehistoric period".
The London Museum has, however, still more to show that is of deepest interest when we come to the historic period when the City was in the stages of its early and growing importance. Apart from the fragment of London Stone encaged within the outer wall of the church of St. Swithin in Cannon Street, some scanty portions of the City's earliest circumvallation, and the bath unearthed in a Strand by-way, we can see little evidence of the days when, in the early centuries of our era, London was the centre of a Roman colony. Here in the Museum, however, apart from the many smaller relics that have been dug up - wonderful examples of coins, pottery, etc. - there is one thing that I find more moving than any other. Stones and mortar have a permanency which makes their age unimpressive when compared with less enduring materials: the Roman occupation seems at a dateless distance as represented by its remaining fragments of London's Wall; it seems but recent when we stand in the basement of Lancaster House and look upon the wonderfully preserved remains of a Roman galley, supposed to be a part of the fleet of Carausius, sunk in the Thames about the close of the third century. This was discovered near the eastern end of Westminster Bridge when the foundations were being dug for the building of the London County Hall. Near it in the Museum is a boat of still earlier days, a large dug-out hollowed from an oak trunk, that was recovered from the bed of the river near Kew Bridge, where it must have lain preserved in the silt for perhaps a couple of thousand years.
These are things that to the imaginative bridge the centuries as it were by the shortest of short cuts, making us realize a past with which few direct links remain. There are countless others that will make us realize successive stages in the London of the historic past when wandering about it in the present. Among the most notable are the series of beautiful models of old London, a study of which is a pleasant preparation for wandering about the actual places as they have since come to be modified by the devastating hand of Time and his agents. Here, for instance, is London Bridge as it was when that gossiping Londoner Samuel Pepys walked on it, when it supported a street of houses before the Great Fire of 1666 demolished all. Here is Cheapside, seen as it was when that thoroughfare was a broad way of gabled houses; here is the old spired St. Paul's Cathedral as it was before being overwhelmed in the Great Fire. Here, too, is to be seen central London with that Cathedral in process of destruction by the fire, the illusion of flames being hinted at in ingenious fashion by the pulsating of miniature electric lights within the building. So valuable are these models as aids to the imagination that it would be well if their number could be increased. A similar model, in so far as it should prove reconstructible, might well represent to the eye the old walled Londinium of the Romans, and another might help us to realize the old way from the City to Westminster Abbey when betwixt the Thames and the Strand were mainly splendid mansions of the nobles.
There are innumerable other things that may be usefully studied in the London Museum, things too many and too varied for particularization. Mention must be made, however, of the many capital photographs of houses associated with celebrated men and women, and other notable buildings. Some day, perhaps, the museum will be able to exhibit a complete series of views of the houses that have been thought worthy of being marked with commemorative plaques; such a collection, arranged by districts, accompanied by an alphabetical list of the persons commemorated, would prove of real interest and help to a large number of London lovers - residents and visitors alike.
Though I have thus lightly indicated the London Museum as an appropriate starting-point for any intimate study of London, there are other collections possessing notable relics of the great City's past. In the Guildhall Museum much may be seen, including fine specimens of Roman tessellated pavements recovered from time to time during rebuilding operations in the City; for it has been said there are probably but few Londoners who realize that, as they walk about the central parts of their City, they have, but a few feet beneath them, much that was a part of the ancient Londinium. Much of old London in relic form may be found, too, in the great collections of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Crooked Billet Yard, Shoreditch
"You are now
The triumph of the motor as a means of road transport is causing a seemingly gradual but really rapid transformation of London. By-ways are being converted into highways by the inevitable processes of widening and straightening; whole street frontages are being entirely changed. In the course of a generation or two, as I lately heard it declared, London will probably be a very fine handsome city, but it will not be the London that people of middle age now living have known. What the more conservative among us do not perhaps sufficiently realize is that it has been thus for several centuries. Quite apart from the great rebuilding of central London consequent upon the devastating fire of two and a half centuries ago, the old has ever been giving way to the new. So much has this been the case that apart from churches, Inns of Court, and a few public edifices, any buildings of earlier date than the last years of the seventeenth century need to be searched for. The eighteenth century appears to have had a goodly wave of rebuilding energy, while both that century and the succeeding one saw a remarkable extension of residential London in all directions. Domestic architecture is that which, from a variety of causes, is the most rapidly variable, so that urban dwelling houses more than a couple of centuries old are rare indeed.
Glancing first at the by-ways in that central part of London anciently within the City gates - the positions of which remain indicated at Ludgate, Newgate, Moorgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate, Billingsgate, and Dowgate - we shall find a network mostly of short narrow streets, lanes, alleys and courts dominated to-day by offices, warehouses and business premises of all sorts. In olden times when means of communication were slow and difficult there was a natural tendency for men engaged in the same trade to settle down about a common centre, and the result of this is sufficiently notable in the way in which special trades still predominate in certain of the City districts. North, east, and south of St. Paul's Cathedral will be found the warehouses and offices of those concerned in the wholesale distribution of clothing materials and millinery; publishing and allied businesses will be found in large numbers to the north-west of the Cathedral; shipping offices in and about Leadenhall Street; insurance offices about Cornhill, and the fish trade about Billingsgate and so on; the meat salesmen in the neighbourhood of Smithfield and Farringdon have but migrated a little from where their forerunners, the fleshers, congregated about Newgate Street.
It has indeed been claimed for certain sagacious persons that if dumped, blindfolded, in any of the City's by-ways they could discover their whereabouts by the pervading odour of the immediate district's dominating trade. Billingsgate alone would be able to afford that olfactory advertisement to some of us, though it is certainly a very different atmosphere that is inhaled but a little distance away about Mark Lane, where we may breathe hints of all the spicy fragrance of the East.
The settlement which grew to be London began, in all probability, with a group of wattled huts on a hill more or less surrounded by the marshy margin of the Thames and certain small tributaries. On that hill now stands St. Paul's Cathedral, a little to the north of which, it is claimed, is the actual summit. There, one of the shortest of the City's by-ways, linking the eastern ends of Paternoster Row and Newgate Street, is Panyer Alley, almost wholly rebuilt, wherein of old, says tradition, bakers' baskets were sold. Let into a wall on the eastern side of it is to be seen the figure of a naked child seated on a pannier, and underneath the inscription -
"When ye have sought
All about St. Paul's are by-ways the names of which are linked with the history of the dominating Cathedral: Paternoster Row itself, for long associated with the wholesale book trade, is said to have been originally the place where rosaries were sold, but I like better the reason for its name given by an olden writer who says "Paternoster Row was anciently so-called on account of the number of stationers and writers who lived there before the invention of the noble art of printing; who wrote and sold the little books most in use in those times of ignorance, as alphabets with the Paternoster, the Ave Maria, the Creed and Graces". Ave Maria Lane, Creed Lane, Amen Court and Corner, Dean's Yard and Doctors' Commons are other of the by-ways hereabouts obviously owing their names to the contiguity of the Cathedral.
Amen Corner, Paternoster Row
Through this small tract was Watling Street, part of the important Roman highway diminished to the lane of a modern city. Hereabouts we may visit the place where of old stood "an ancient inn of mullioned panes, and crazy beams and over-hanging eaves" - that Mermaid Tavern the very name of which brings to mind the wit and poetry and splendid romance associated with the great men of the Elizabethan age - all the wonder and delight of which has been newly revived by Alfred Noyes in his Tales of the Mermaid Tavern. From Bread Street to Friday Street the old inn stretched; in the first of these was John Milton born, while in the second Geoffrey Chaucer once walked - one of the few facts, trifling though it be, that we know of the personal life of that poet. In Friday Street, too, met that club at which William Paterson, "projector" and founder of the Bank of England, schemed for the union of England and Scotland. To divagate into the by-ways of history attached to old-time buildings of London would need a volume far larger than the present, and that without ever getting beyond the central square mile.
Crossing Cheapside and passing up Wood Street, one of the many by-ways tangled beyond its northern side. we presently arrive at the church where John Milton is buried. This is St. Giles, Cripplegate, where Frobisher the Elizabethan seaman, and Foxe, author of the Book of Martyrs, are also buried, and where Oliver Cromwell was married. As we go along Wood Street we pass in the Wren-built church of St. Alban's one of the oldest religious foundations of London and the probable centre of the Saxon City. Milton's association with the district will be found celebrated in Milton Street, believed to be the old-time Grub Street of the hack writers. Somewhat to the west is Little Britain, another centre long associated with the bookselling business, leading through to the beautiful old church of St. Bartholomew's, and so to the picturesque haven of Charterhouse, and to the strangely contrasting ways of old and new Clerkenwell - given fresh literary fame in the Riceyman Steps of Arnold Bennett. Eastward by London Wall, with fragments of the ancient wall itself to be seen, and Bishopsgate, we may go to another interesting old church and its surrounding in St. Helen's, not far from which stood for many centuries the ancient Crosby Hall which was some years since removed to Chelsea. Whichever way we go there are innumerable lesser by-ways tempting to exploration and often revealing interesting survivals of the domestic architecture of the past in carved doorways, decorative ironwork, fanlights and other details that remain though the buildings to which they belong have become shops or offices. Sometimes, too, as between Fenchurch Street and Eastcheap, we may happen upon old houses up tiny courts that give yet fuller reminders of the days when the citizens of London lived over or closely contiguous to their business premises.
"To the left is the renowned realm of Alsatia, the Temple, the Mitre, and the abode of Richardson; to the right diverse abodes of Johnson; Chancery Lane, with Cowley's birthplace at the corner; Fetter Lane, where Dryden once lived; and Shire or Sheer Lane immortal for the Tatler."
Dr. Johnson's House
In a twisty by-way now strangely known as St. Bride's Avenue stands St. Bride's Church which, rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire, is assuredly one of the most beautiful of the City's parish churches. It is interesting as the burial place of the cavalier lyrist Richard Lovelace, the sentimental printer-novelist Samuel Richardson, and the more famous printer Wynkyn de Worde. As Richardson lived long in the parish it may fairly be hazarded that he took the name of his roué in Clarissa from the poet buried in his parish church. In another of the by-ways here - Salisbury Square, then included in Salisbury Court - Richardson carried on his work as printer and as novelist, employing for a time as corrector of the press a greater novelist, Oliver Goldsmith. From the south-west corner of Salisbury Square, at the top of the strangely named Primrose Hill, is to be had the most beautiful view of the lovely tiered spire of St. Bride's. At No. 13 Salisbury Court is to be seen a plaque indicating the site of the house wherein the diarist Samuel Pepys was born - a site only lately identified.
The many streets, courts, and alleys that run riverwards from Fleet Street penetrated in olden times that Alsatia which was bordered by the muddy foreshore of the Thames. Many of the twisty ways that remain hint at what a warren it must have been when the upper storeys of the houses almost met overhead. How Alsatia during the seventeenth century formed a sanctuary for all sorts and conditions of "wanted" persons who here sought refuge from the law is well shown in certain of the Restoration dramas - most notably in Shadwell's lively The Squire of Alsatia - and in certain chapters of Scott's Fortunes of Nigel. The district long retained privileges of sanctuary attached to the old monastery of the Carmelites, or White Friars, that stood hereabouts until dispossessed by Henry the Eighth. The district is still known as Whitefriars, and many place-names old and new recall the ancient foundation. Though the by-ways hereabouts have but little to hold the visitors' attention now, some of the lesser ones are worth visiting to "spring the imagination" concerning the past. Hanging Sword Alley, starting out of and then running closely parallel with Whitefriars Street, a narrow canoned footway between the backs of high buildings, is perhaps the most notable of the Alsatian ways remaining, though projecting timbers appear to have given way in the eighteenth century to the sheer flatness of brick. Here, it may be recalled, Dickens placed the private lodgings of that extremely unpleasant person Mr. Jerry Cruncher.
Immediately west of Whitefriars lies the Temple's more or less enclosed network of by-ways wherein are to be found far more visible examples connected with a storied past that takes us far back in history and offers a wealth of such personal association as provides the most pervading charm to a locality. Here in the beautiful old Temple Church, with their effigies before us, we may recall the old Knights Templar who were organized early in the twelfth century with the knightly object of maintaining a right of way for pilgrims to the Holy Land; here are the gardens wherein leaders of the rival factions plucked those red and white blossoms which gave name to the consequent sanguinary Wars of the Roses of the fifteenth century; here we may visit the Halls of the Temple - that of the Middle Temple being a fine and interesting example of Tudor architecture; while at the top of Middle Temple Lane we have an engaging scrap of the domestic architecture of the same period still surviving. Hereabouts we may in imagination walk with many later Templars of literature who have given new and gracious memories to the place: Johnson and Goldsmith, Lamb and Thackeray, and many more. Though in all too many instances the homes in which the men named sojourned have been replaced by newer buildings, their haunts retain much of that old-world charm which has made the Temple beloved of successive generations.
To the north of Fleet Street - between it and Holborn - are by-ways scarcely less interesting. Here, even within the memory of the middle-aged, the hand of change has been more marked, though here and there may be seen some noteworthy survivals. In shabby Nevill's Court, running eastward from mid-Fetter Lane, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century houses yet remain, with tiny forecourt "gardens", rare reminders of the time when this was still to a considerable extent a residential district. Further to the north, linking Fetter Lane and Bartlett's Buildings, is Bartlett's Passage, near to which a century or more ago was another alleyway wherein was a day school in which Charles Lamb passed some time before he proceeded to Christ's Hospital. In Bartlett's Buildings and the neighbouring Thavies Inn may still be seen some good carven doorways and other reminders of days when the business premises of the present were comfortable dwelling houses.
Across Holborn from here are Ely Place and Hatton Garden, both cut from the grounds of that town mansion which Queen Elizabeth compelled the Bishop of Ely to hand over to her supple favourite Christopher Hatton. The "garden" which retains the Lord Chancellor's name has become the Tom Tiddler's ground of dealers in diamonds and other XX precious stones. From Ely Place to Hatton Garden runs Mitre Court, within it an isolated old inn with a mitre let into the wall - a mitre which tradition likes to regard as a remnant of the old-time episcopal residence. In and about the neighbouring Saffron Hill are established many of London's Italian itinerant vendors of various wares.
The Record Office, from Clifford's Inn
Most of the numerous by-ways tangled about the irregular tetragon bounded by Fleet Street and Holborn, Fetter Lane and Farringdon Street, have been transmogrified within recent decades. Gone are the old overhanging buildings that some of us remember in some of the courts, and most of the ways now present a shabby mingling of quasi-old and undistinguished or frankly commonplace new. Wine Office Court, but for its briefest beginning - between the Olde Cheshire Cheese and oldish brick houses - has become lamentably "improved" into a passage-way of white-tiled buildings, and but for the old hostelry can show little that met the eyes of Johnson and Goldsmith. At the top this T-shaped court turns right to Shoe Lane and left to Gough Square, wherein is perhaps the most interesting building within the immediate area, interesting both as a good specimen of the domestic architecture of the early eighteenth century and for its personal association. This occupies the western end of Gough Square, and is the house wherein Samuel Johnson lived and worked for a number of years. It is now preserved as a Johnsonian Museum. Many of the courts hereabouts retain the names of old-time taverns, but few have any old-time buildings remaining. In Crane Court, a cul-de-sac terminated by the turreted red-brick building of the Scottish Corporation, are still two or three handsome old houses. Where the Scottish Corporation's building now stands stood the second home of the Royal Society as they moved westward from Gresham College in the City. Their one-time home in Crane Court was burned down nearly fifty years ago.
"There Essex' stately pile adorn'd the shore,
The poet's couplet indicates something of the way in which the names of the by-ways neighbouring the Strand are survivals from distant days when residences of the great nobles occupied much of the ground between the City barrier of Temple Bar and royal Westminster. Here our by-ways, despite the quaintness and antiquity of their names, have little left of material ancientry to show, though Essex Street with its plain old houses still terminates in a flight of steps that once led down to the Thames when that river was London's main highway, and that now but leads us to the broad reclaimed tract of the Embankment. On the north side of the Strand wholesale clearances of old network lanes and alleys have been made, first for the Law Courts and later for the making of Kingsway and Aldwych. On the south changes, apart from the Embankment, have been less revolutionary, but have nevertheless been sufficient to leave few of the by-ways with any old-time characteristics.
Somerset House alone remains to remind us of the days when the river-way was a way of noblemen's mansions - and it does so but indirectly, for the range of buildings as we know it was rebuilt between 1775-1853. To the east of it runs Strand Lane, a footway that appears to be a survival of an old public right of way to the river between the grounds of two of the great houses. In Strand Lane we may visit the excavated "Roman Bath", a link with the oldest historical London. Apart from these, the old York Gate at the foot of Buckingham Street and the Chapel Royal of the Savoy, there is little to recall the splendid past of this long riverside track, and the Savoy Church is but the surviving fragment connected with the old palace established here in the thirteenth century. As burial place of Gavin Douglas, "the Chaucer of Scotland", it should be a place of pilgrimage for visitors from the north.
An Adelphi By-way
Though but a narrow strip of buildings lies between the Strand and the river, it includes storied ways and some interesting survivals. The districts lying north of the Strand between it and the next east-and-west highway of Holborn and New Oxford Street are also rich in story, and association, though modern changes, the clearing away of slum areas, the forming of new thoroughfares and the widening of old ones have within the past hundred years transformed almost the whole series of districts from vanished Shire Lane by Temple Bar to the engulfed Porridge Island where now is Trafalgar Square.
Covent Garden, with the by-ways leading to it, is so familiar to us as a crowded centre of flower, fruit, and vegetable marketing that it is not easy to realize that when the square was planned by Inigo Jones it was described as promising to be the finest in Europe, while the same architect's church at its western end was described as one of the most perfect pieces of architecture that the art of man could produce. Its old enclosed churchyard on the west is a delightful by-way. Now it is the market that has become the dominating feature, occupying the main part of the square and extending into numerous by-ways, and on market mornings, especially Saturdays in May and June, the sight here is one not to be forgotten, when all the floral wealth of spring seems to have been brought together for distribution over the great City.
In by-ways hereabouts may be recalled past events, past fashions, and past men of fame. In Maiden Lane was born our supreme master of the palette - J. M. W. Turner, - and in the same brief thoroughfare in earlier times dwelt Andrew Marvell and Voltaire. Bow Street was once the centre of West End fashion; at the westerly corner of Bow Street and Russell Street was the celebrated Wills' Coffee House where Dryden and Wycherley pontificated and Pope visited, and above which, a century later, Charles and Mary Lamb lived. Here we are roughly between
"the houses twain
The whole district is crowded with interesting story and history though rebuilding is constantly changing its character.
Near to Drury Lane Theatre is a new theatre reviving the name of one that flourished in the time of Shakespeare, The Fortune, and in the neighbourhood there may be noticed a happy tendency to name the by-ways after people associated with the old-time "patent" theatres. Drury Lane itself, to the east, and St. Giles's to the north have been greatly changed within living memory and have little surviving left of the shabby picturesqueness of the past. Charing Cross Road, which to the west has been cut through from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Street, is neighboured by a number of modern theatres, and has in its midmost part come to be London's new Booksellers' Row. At its southern end the memorial to Edith Cavell stands between the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and the "National Portrait Gallery; near its northern end is the other church "in the fields", that of St. Giles.
"I pray you, let us satisfy our eyes
The by-ways of Westminster for the majority of us mean rather the ways about the neighbourhood of the Abbey than those of that City of Westminster which covers a considerable part of Central London, extending from Victoria in one direction to the Temple, in another to Knightsbridge, and from, the Thames to the Marble Arch, Oxford Street, and Holborn.
Though to a great extent they have been re-built within the past half-century the by-ways in the neighbourhood of Westminster Abbey are of the most varied character, ranging from mean streets to mean streets rebuilt into new importance; with, between these as it were, and more attractive than either, such streets of simple dignity with a gravely old-fashioned aspect as Cowley Street, which with the neighbouring Barton Street, is said to have been built early in the eighteenth century by the actor Barton Booth. The quaint, old, irregular houses with panelled rooms that some of us knew in Great College Street have given place to more pretentious modern buildings; that one-sided street has become renewed but still fronts the ancient wall enclosing the Abbey precincts. At the western end of the street a gateway gives on to the quiet quadrangle of Dean's Yard, long the playground of the Westminster School boys, who later secured a more extensive ground in Vincent Square, part of the old-time Tothill Fields, somewhat to the south-west.
Just south of Dean's Yard runs Tufton Street, wherein will be observed the interesting, but architecturally insignificant, Royal Architectural Museum. Up to within half a century ago there were still to be found in the by-ways of Westminster ancient houses with upper storeys overhanging the streets - now it is mainly in place-names that we get hints of ancientry so recently manifest. Broad and Little Sanctuary tell of old days when safety was to be sought within the precincts of great ecclesiastical foundations. Petty France - an ancient name happily restored - denotes where of old a French colony lived. Now it is mainly large buildings, blocks of offices, "mansions" of flats that are found in many of the Westminster by-ways lying to the west of the Abbey. Where Victoria Street was cut westward in the middle of last century was a veritable network of by-ways. Even where the by-ways have remained less drastically changed, south-westward of the Abbey there is little enough to recall the past. Winding and twisting ways will take us through a densely populated area to Pimlico and Vauxhall, more or less parallel with the riverside highway, past the back of the Tate Gallery and the site of the old Millbank Prison, beyond the Horseferry Road. Here at least we have name reminders of the past when, where Lambeth Bridge now is, was an old ferry for taking horses across the Thames, and here, on the Middlesex side, stood a mill. Romney Street, near by - which owes its name to a peer, not to the painter - was of old Vine Street, and is said traditionally to mark the site of the vineyard at one time attached to the royal palace of Westminster. In that "fam'd Vine Street" it was that the eighteenth-century satirist Charles Churchill was born, and he has given it something of a bathetic fame in referring to it as the place -
Queen Anne's Gate, Westminster
"Pall Mall is the great social Exchange of London now - the mart of news, of politics, of scandal, of rumour - the English town, so to speak, where men discuss the last dispatch from the Crimea, the last speech of Lord Derby, the next move of Lord John. And, now and then, to a few antiquarians, whose thoughts are with the past rather than the present, it is a memorial of old times and old people, and Pall Mall is our Palmyra. Look! About this spot Tom of Ten Thousand was killed by Konigsmarck's gang. In that great red house Gainsborough lived, and Culloden Cumberland, George III's uncle. Yonder is Sarah Marlborough's palace, just as it stood when that termagant occupied it. At 25 Walter Scott used to live; at the house, now No. 79, and occupied by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, resided Mrs. Eleanor Gwynn, comedian. HDW often has Queen Caroline's chair issued from under yonder arch! All the men of the Georges have passed up and down the street. It has seen Walpole's chariot, and Chatham's sedan; and Fox, Gibbon, Sheridan, on their way to Brookes's; and stately William Pitt stalking on the arm of Dundas; and Hanger and Tom Sheridan reeling out of Raggett's; and Byron limping into Wattier's; and Swift striding out of Bury Street; and Mr. Addison and Dick Steele, both perhaps a little the better for liquor; and the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of York clattering over the pavement; and Johnson, counting the posts along the streets, after dawdling before Dodsley's window; and Harry Walpole hobbling into his carriage, with a gimcrack just bought out at Christie's; and George Selwyn sauntering into White's."
From the matter of this somewhat lengthy quotation it may be recognized that much the same kaleidoscopic history might be presented of any part of London, for the London enthusiast who described the Thames as "liquid history" might have gone much further and described every one of these old thoroughfares as compact of the very stuff of history itself. Sedan chairs and chariots were duly followed by carriages, and motor-cars have now taken their place, but still by-ways such as Pall Mall maintain much of their traditional character. Just to the north, between it and Jermyn Street, is St. James's Square - residence of many great folks from Pitt to Gladstone, and every side street here has its association for those who would praise famous men. Here we are in the heart of St James's, in all the by-ways of which are to be recalled memories of men and events; the pleasant stately houses that form the linking ways westward to Arlington Street and the Green Park have for a couple of centuries been associated with rank and fashion, though in changing conditions many of them are being converted to purposes other than residential.
"I like to walk among the Hebrews of Wardour Street, and fancy the place, as it once was, crowded with chairs and gilt chariots, and torches flashing in the hands of running footmen. I have a grim pleasure in thinking that Golden Square was once the resort of the aristocracy, and Monmouth Street the delight of the genteel world."
Bounded roughly by Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Shaftesbury Avenue, though extending beyond the last-named highway of theatres, the large roughly triangular district generally known as Soho has come to be famed chiefly as a "colony" of foreigners resident in London, as a centre of old curiosity shops, and also as a centre of popular and quasi-fashionable "Bohemian" restaurants; indeed, the last-named may be said to afford the dominating note to-day. In many of the narrow ways here we may find old house fronts, ornamental door-knockers, and fanlights dating back to the days of sedan chairs and link-boys, survivals from the days when, at the close of the seventeenth century, this district came to be developed for residential purposes, and for some time enjoyed the reputation of being a fashionable locality until still farther westward the tide of Fashion took its way.
Apart from such survivals of the domestic architecture of our forbears, there is not very much to take the eye of the wanderer in the by-ways hereabouts, though the whole district is redolent of memories. The church of St. Anne, Soho - where the modern highway of Shaftesbury Avenue cuts across the old by-way of Wardour Street - is notable to lovers of literature as the burial-place of William Hazlitt, the essayist, whose later years were passed in furnished lodgings in the neighbouring Frith Street where, in the presence of Charles Lamb, he passed away with the words, "Well. I've had a happy life". King Theodore of Corsica, also buried at St. Anne's, probably compels but few pilgrims thither.
That the whole of Soho district, centring in Soho Square - or King's Square as it was originally named - was for some time a fashionable residential district, is made plain to the observant wanderer about its tangled ways. It has, however, come to be dominated by commerce and manufactures, and from occasional turnings lofty chimney stacks may be seen. Among the surrounding streets are some particularly favoured by the trades associated with music, and many shops of dealers in delicatessen, newspapers and books, and other things imported from abroad such as might be looked for in one of the chief centres in which sojourners from the Continent are accustomed to congregate.
Great emporiums form one boundary of the district front on Regent Street, while several theatres, are along the Shaftesbury Avenue side. In the network of small streets, courts, and alleys are to be found many curious by-ways of London life, queer little restaurants patronized by special circles of customers, other restaurants that have come to be the recognized rendezvous for fashionable Bohemianism, and small clubs associated with the nationals of the various foreign colonies resident in London, and quaintly named clubs housed inthe picturesquely adapted stables of one-time mews fallen into disuse through the all-pervading triumph of petrol. It is indeed a district of striking contrasts, for we may pass almost directly from the broad highway of the renewed Regent Street, with the fresh stone facades of its great shops, , to narrow ways and a colourful street market - even to a mere flagged passage where the shops so nearly .meet across the way that we have something of a reminder of the times when such alleys were common features of city life. This narrow way, Walker's Court, connects Little Pulteney Street with Peter Street and Berwick Street, all of which together form one of the most notable of London's colourful street markets - little known to thousands of those who pass within a few yards of it at Piccadilly Circus or along Shaftesbury Avenue.
Though two or three streets cross, or nearly cross, the Soho area - as for example Wardour Street, which has adjectivally come to signify the sham antique - it is mostly a criss-cross of shorter ways with two notable squares - that which gives its name to the whole district in the angle formed by Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road, and to the south-west that Golden Square, which, as Charles Dickens tells us, had already come down in the world and was largely given over to lodgers in the days when Mr. Ralph Nickleby dwelt in one of its houses and Mr. Newman Noggs lodged with the Kenwigs family in a shabby street near by. Still can it be said that the square "is not exactly in anybody's way to or from anywhere". Though "has been" is written in many of the ways of Soho, the wave of commercial rebuilding is considerably changing its borders, and near its north-western corner the range of neo-Tudor premises calls for particular mention.
" Give me the sweet shady side of Pall Mall."
From the days when noblemen's mansions bordered the Thames from the city boundaries to the neighbourhood of the Royal Palace of Westminster, there has been a constant succession of districts to which the well-to-do have moved, pressed more or less westward by the ever-growing commercial community. Covent Garden and Bloomsbury, St. James's, Mayfair, and Belgravia, have all at one time or another been looked upon as centres wherein the socially successful were housed. Mayfair, which is one of the latest and most notable of them, seems to be gradually penetrated by shopping streets, and will seemingly follow the usual course of decline and fall - will perhaps prove the last of London's special Society areas, for development of the motor car has so shortened distances that well-to-do folks can dwell farther afield and still remain within easy access of the social amenities of the metropolis, while the growth of the habit of utilizing hotels for residential purposes is tending to the same end.
Shepherd's Market, Mayfair
Through all the manifold by-ways of Mayfair we find small houses or large mansions mostly wearing the aspect of comfortable wealth, with here and there narrow mews wherein, before the coming of the motor-car, were housed the carriages and horses of the well-to-do. Here and there are interesting old ironwork and even surviving examples of the iron extinguishers at which the link boys of the past put out their torches.
If we cross the broad highway of Oxford Street we pass into what may be regarded as a northerly extension of Mayfair, though the name of that district does not appear properly to extend to it. Here are Portman, Bryanston, and Manchester Squares, which, with their linking by-ways, have been associated with wealthy residents. It is this district - with its western "expatiation" along the north side of Hyde Park, to which the social satirists of some years ago gave the name of "Tyburnia", from the sinister "Tyburn tree" or gallows that of old stood somewhat to the west of the Marble Arch. The squares and by-ways here are formed of solidly comfortable houses, with but little to call for a lingering stay. An exception must be made in the case of Manchester Square, the north side of which is occupied by one of the most notable of our treasure-houses of art. This is Hertford House, in which is to be seen the great Wallace Collection of fine pictures, armour, furniture, etc. A little to the east of it runs the narrow tortuosity of Marylebone Lane, which later becomes the High Street. The last house in this latter thoroughfare, in the direction of the Marylebone Road, was for some time the home of Charles Dickens, then at the height of his fame.
An extension of Mayfair lies eastward of Bond Street and reaches to Regent Street - a district which, while it has been largely annexed by commercialism, includes in Hanover Square a centre famous in social chronicles, for a little off the square, in George Street, is St. George's Church, which has long been regarded as the appropriate scene of Society weddings. From the end of Savile Row - traditionally the oracular near centre of fashionable tailordom - runs the quaint by-way of the Albany, a short covered way on either side of which is a row of "maisonnettes", which was built in the early years of last century to serve as bachelor chambers, inhabited by a succession of famous residents from Byron to Macaulay and Gladstone, and figures frequently in fiction as the home of gilded youth.
"Oh, mine in snows and summer heats,
Bloomsbury is a district in the by-ways of which we shall find the British Museum, the Foundling Hospital, and University College, with literary and personal associations of endless variety. The district, for our present purposes, may be said to extend from Tottenham Court Road on the west to Gray's Inn Road on the east, and from Euston Road on the north to New Oxford Street and High Holborn on the south - something not far short of a square mile in area, its innumerable ways inviting to recollections of all manner of famous men and women: Thackeray lived here in his early married life (13 Great Coram Street); and Dickens at the house in Doughty Street (No. 48) which remains much as it was when the story of Pickwick and his companions was being written there, and also at Tavistock House at the corner of the square of the same name. John Ruskin was born at 54 Hunter Street, while those men of fame who have sojourned in Bloomsbury by-ways would afford a catalogue of many of the most famous names in nineteenth-century literature and art. Among those who dwelt in the district for shorter or longer periods were Shelley (26 Marchmont Street); Carlyle (6 Woburn Buildings and 5 Ampton Street); Darwin (110 Gower Street); John Leech (32 Brunswick Square); Christina Rossetti (5 Endsleigh Gardens and 30 Torrington Square); while Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Burne-Jones, and Ford Madox Brown are all associated with 17 Red Lion Square - and some of them with other Bloomsbury houses also. From that dingy square came much of the joyous note of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and the beginnings of Morris's renaissance of domestic decoration. Bloomsbury had already its association with art in Sass's Academy (6 Charlotte Street, the southern continuation of Gower Street), the first school of the kind established in London, and one that counted among its pupils Millais, Frith, and Edward Lear, whose literary "nonsense" has eclipsed his pictorial landscapes.
Owing to its central position - and perhaps also to its lying immediately to the south of the great London railway termini of Euston, St. Pancras, and King's Cross, Bloomsbury has come to be regarded as a neighbourhood wholly given over to lodgings, boarding-houses and hotels. Such have not, however, yet monopolized the whole of Bloomsbury; still do its comfortable streets and squares afford private homes for many people, though some of those streets and squares have during recent years been in course of change: Southampton Row and Great Russell Street, Russell Square and the tract immediately behind the British Museum, for instance, have greatly changed within the memory of many of us.
The clearance behind the British Museum is a reminder that a century and a half ago open fields stretched thence to Paddington and Primrose Hill, and that in the near neighbourhood of the Museum was the mysterious Field of the Forty Footsteps, or the Brothers' Steps. The story ran that at the time of the Monmouth Rebellion two brothers there fought a duel in which both were slain, and the footmarks made during their terrible encounter, as well as the places where their bodies lay, remained ever afterwards bare of any herbage. Sinister as this story is, however, it has been powerless to keep the fatal field free of bricks and mortar.
Of the British Museum itself little can here be said beyond the fact that it may well be regarded as the supreme sight to be found in the by-ways of Bloomsbury. Within it is the world's greatest library of books, and the greatest collection of miscellaneous "specimens" from all lands and all ages, that may be said to illustrate with actuality the whole range of man's knowledge recorded in the millions of volumes.
Another building that calls for special mention is the Foundling Hospital in Guilford Street - a place erected a few years before Montague House became the British Museum. Standing well back from the road, and flanked east and west by Mecklenburg and Brunswick Squares, the Foundling occupies one of the most open sites left in Central London. Captain Coram's great institution is, however, after nearly two centuries of existence, to be moved to country surroundings and its grounds will presumably be built over. The Hospital with its many small inhabitants is one of the most moving of places to be visited, and the Sunday service at the chapel something not to be forgotten, as William Blake wrote:
"Oh, what a multitude they seemed, these flowers of London town!
To the south-eastward Bloomsbury touches the confines of Gray's Inn with its pleasant greenery of trees and turf, its old hall, solidly comfortable looking chambers, and recollections .of Lord Verulam and other dignitaries of law and literature. The neighbourhood of the Inn is much inhabited by lawyers, the broad way of pleasant old-fashioned residences, Bedford Row, still symbolizing as it were all lawyerdom. Behind its eastern side runs the narrow Jockey Field Row, the name of which seems to suggest a somewhat distant past when the gentlemen of Gray's Inn were able to indulge in equestrian exercise in fields contiguous to their Inn.
Eastward from Bloomsbury, towards Clerkenwell and the City, are many and varied by-ways, inviting now to lingeringly residential places in some of the squares that lie about the slope that leads up to Islington, and now to Leather Lane and Saffron Hill, and so to Hatton Garden, and beyond to the Charterhouse, and a variety of other places glanced at in earlier pages.
"Its manor house, its college, its botanic garden, its amusements at Ranelagh, its waterworks, its buns, its china and its custard."
Not by any means exhaustive was this list of things for which the one-time village of Chelsea - now a populous riverside district - has from time to time been famous. Its most recent fame has perhaps been won by the notable folks who have made their homes in its olden ways, and by the fact of its being a centre specially favoured by artists. There is much to be seen - and far more to be recalled - in the by-ways that turn inland from the river front, stretching from Chelsea Bridge to the gasworks, and the other by-ways that link them. And, firstly, perhaps mention should be made of Crosby Hall, that old transplanted building which is to be seen near the corner where Danvers Street turns off from famed Cheyne Walk just eastward of Battersea Bridge. Though new walls had to be made, the doorways, windows, roof, and other details are those of the fifteenth-century building that stood until a few years ago in Bishopsgate in the City. Though amid new surroundings, Crosby Hall affords an unequalled example of the home of a wealthy citizen of London of some four hundred years ago.
Chelsea's associations with men of fame in literature and the arts may be said to vie with those of Bloomsbury in number. Apart from those who made their homes along Cheyne Walk - Turner, Whistler, Rossetti, and many more - are others who dwelt in the quiet turnings. Principal shrine of the district for many visitors is that modest house on the east side of Cheyne Row where Thomas Carlyle lived and worked for many years. Preserved as it is as a Carlyle Museum, we may therein see much that was there when it was the home of the "Sage of Chelsea". No longer do the windows of Carlyle's house look out on hayfields, as they did when he first went there. Yet still much of the description which he gave of Chelsea as a whole may be said to be applicable. "Chelsea is a singular heterogeneous kind of spot, very dirty and confused in some places, quite beautiful in others, abounding in antiquities and the traces of great men - Sir Thomas More, Steele, Smollett, etc. Our Row, which for the last three doors or so is a street, and none of the noblest, runs out upon a 'Parade' (perhaps they call it), running along the shore of the river, a broad highway with huge shady trees, boats lying moored, and a smell of shipping and tar." The Parade is that Cheyne Walk from which Turner and Whistler made immortal pictures and which has come to be marked among its huge trees with the statue of one of Chelsea's "great men" - Thomas Carlyle himself.
Farther up Cheyne Row, where it narrows towards the busy highway of the King's Road, lived Leigh Hunt. A little beyond again, in the easterly Glebe Place, the remains of an old Tudor building - traditionally known as King Henry VIII's Hunting Lodge - have been tastefully incorporated into an artist-home with a stone-flagged garden in which is still demonstrated Chelsea's traditional floral fertility. Here and elsewhere in the district are blocks of "studios" arranged for the convenience of many artists drawn to a district that has become, as it were, especially consecrated to Art. Still may we mark that heterogeneity which struck Carlyle close upon a hundred years ago, passing from narrow ways of low-built houses with small forecourt gardens to the blare of the town in the highways that . go on westward to Brompton, Fulham, and Hammersmith, with their numerous by-ways of associations into which we cannot here pass.
Lancaster Gate Fountain, Kensington Gardens
West of the Palace - between the two main western highways - runs Kensington Palace Gardens, the substantial houses of which include (No. 2) that built by William Makepeace Thackeray for himself, and wherein he died. Immediately west, again, comes the criss-crossing of by-ways about Campden Hill - with memories of Macaulay, John Leech, and other celebrities - on the farther side of which is the beautiful expanse of Holland Park, famous as a centre of London's social and intellectual life as long ago as when Joseph Addison lived there a couple of hundred years back. Between the park that bears one of the titles of Addison's countess-wife and the road to which his name has been given are some handsome houses built by artists and others in the latter half of last century. Principal of these, from the sightseer's point of view, is Leighton House in Holland Park Road - the sumptuous home of that master painter of the sumptuous, Lord Leighton, P.R.A., preserved by way of memorial much as it was in his time.
Lancelot Place, Knightsbridge
"In the south suburbs, at the Elephant."
Although the hostelry of which Shakespeare made mention lay in the south suburbs of that vague city in Illyria in which the scenes of Twelfth Night are placed, the line is peculiarly applicable to London, inasmuch as a meeting-point of many highways about a mile southward of the most northerly bend of London's river is popularly known as "the Elephant". The highways which lead thence upwards to the various bridges and downwards through suburbs extending away into Surrey and Kent, are linked by by-ways innumerable, which in a necessarily cursory survey must be left unexplored. Here we limit ourselves more or less to some of those by-ways which neighbour the right bank of the river - for these pass through the most storied parts of the south side - though it may be hinted that excursions radially extended from "the Elephant" would take us to Clapham, Camberwell, Dulwich, the Norwoods, Blackheath, Bermondsey, and other one-time villages become urbanized, each the centre of much historical or personal association.
If we cross London Bridge we are at once in what is now a busy railway and commercial centre, and also probably in1 what is the oldest part of transpontine London. Here we are at once in Southwark and though we find the by-ways hereabouts are now largely given up to factories, warehouses, and other business premises, there is much within easy reach of the southern end of London Bridge to stir the imagination. Eastward, if we follow as closely as may be the course of the river, we get glimpses from dockside turnings of the busiest parts of the great waterway, with views across the crowded "Pool" to the Custom House and the long-famed Tower, and then after passing the lofty Tower Bridge - approached on this side from strangely named Pickle-herring Street - our riverside glimpses give us views of dockside warehouses, dock entrances, and quaint old bits of waterside London. Following along here we come to Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, and Deptford, all of them associated with England's long sea-story - with, facing us on the farther bank beyond the shipping (ever shifting yet ever seemingly the same) other places linked with the past and present of our seafaring population, Wapping, Shadwell, and Limehouse.
Immediately to the west of London Bridge rises the tower of that cathedral church of St. Saviour's - once know as St. Mary Overie - which is one of the principal shrines for literary pilgrims to Southwark, and one calling for a lingering visit. A little beyond the church and we reach Bankside, now broken by the southern approach to Southwark Bridge but still affording notable cross-river views of the City of London. From this view-point, too, one receives a definite impression of the fact that the cathedral of St. Paul's is builded upon a hill.
Though Southwark Street has been cut through to form a link with the highway approaches to London and Blackfriars Bridges, and though the streets old and new that turn and twist about the neighbourhood are largely made up of factories, printing and other works, yet the riverside part especially is attractive for the views it affords and for the memories it evokes. Hereabouts stood that old Globe Theatre which looms large in the story of Shakespeare and Elizabethan drama - its site long since occupied by a brewery which in the eighteenth century comes into the story of Samuel Johnson; while hereabouts also were the Bear Garden and the Paris Garden at which Tudor Londoners took their pleasures roughly at bear-baitings and such-like crude forms of entertainment.
Somewhat to the south where Great Dover Street and other thoroughfares branch from the Borough High Street may be explored the neighbourhood of the old Marshalsea Prison - already described as "mean and ruinous" in the mid-part of the eighteenth century - made famous by the story of Little Dorrit. Far older, however, are the literary associations of Southwark, beginning as they do with the very beginning of our modern literature:
" On a day
Where Chaucer's hostelry stood still stands a Tabard Inn - to quicken the memory, however, by name and site alone, for the ancient inn was destroyed half a century ago. We may, however, still see in the "George" here what is perhaps London's best remaining example of the old-time open-yarded inns, though this after being destroyed by fire was rebuilt in Stuart days.
Passing through by-ways that neighbour the Borough High Street and Road we may come to a junction of highways at St. George's Circus - a parting of the ways whence by radiating roads we may reach over half a dozen of the bridges across the Thames: Lambeth, Westminster, Charing Cross, Waterloo, Blackfriars, Southwark, and London. Here we are but a little northwards of that other radial centre already mentioned, "the Elephant". The Lambeth Road trending to the southwestward in little more than half a mile reaches Lambeth Bridge - that spot which in antiquarian interest most nearly approximates to our starting-place at London Bridge. Here was the old horse-ferry across the Thames - seemingly the only point at which, for centuries, horses were habitually taken over other than by the old London Bridge - so that we are here rather on a highway than on a by-way. Looking up-stream, before leaving the bridge-end, we have on our left the Albert Embankment leading to Vauxhall - famed for old-time gaiety - and Kennington Oval where cricketers do constant homage to "Willow the King". On the opposite side of the river, a prominent feature is the handsome Tate Gallery of British Art. Looking down-stream we have the beautiful range of the Houses of Parliament, its fretted river front between the fine Victoria Tower and the loftier Clock Tower, affording a striking contrast with the red brick of the St. Thomas's Hospital range on the right. Close to us are the ancient walls and dingy red brick of Lambeth Palace, for centuries the London residence of successive Archbishops of Canterbury, and in parts one of the oldest of London's buildings. The gate-house dates from the fifteenth century, while the chapel is some two hundred years older still.
By the terrace walk along the riverside front of the hospital, with one of the grandest of the many fine and varied views that the south side affords, we soon reach Westminster Bridge and that strikingly handsome London County Hall which is giving new dignity to this bank of the Thames, and opening visions of a time when the whole shall be worthy of the great City. If we follow the by-ways that keep closest to the river, from brief turnings that here and again reach to the wharf side we may get fresh and striking views across the river to the roofs and towers above the trees of the avenued Embankment and its gardens, with now the memorial to British airmen who fell in the Great War - a modern and moving version of the Winged Victory - and now the ancient Egyptian monolith ("Cleopatra's Needle") breaking the line of the riverside balustrade. The Charing Cross railway bridge forms, it is true, an unsightly feature, but hope tells a flattering tale of its possible replacement by something worthier of the position. Up-stream and down-stream are Westminster and Waterloo Bridges in dignified contrast with the impudent iron contraption in between.
For maybe the vast majority of Londoners and sightseeing visitors the views of London's Thames are those of the south side seen from the Embankment - views as some of us think made hideous by modern manifestations of advertising; far finer, far worthier of the great City are the views to be had in the reverse direction, from bridge-ends or by-ways along the southern side.
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