City and Thames

The area by St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, an Anglican church a few hundred yards south of St Paul’s Cathedral fascinated me when I first walked by it in the 1970s, and of course I’ve tried to photograph it over the years with various success, though mainly failure.

This picture, taken from the steps up to a locked door into the church is one that I found impossible on colour film, with the gloomy alley – with a light on even in the middle of the day when I took this picture contrasting with the more brightly lit street with The Cockpit pub. But the day was overcast, reducing the contrast and the digital camera coped well, though needing some dodging and burning in Lightroom to give the results here.

I didn’t go into the church though I have been inside on at least one previous occasion, just following an Indian Orthodox service there, when the atmosphere was thick with incense. The site has an interesting history, with a church here for perhaps a thousand years or more, though the first written mention is in 1170 or . It became part of an ancient royal residence, Baynard’s Castle, and in 1361¬†Edward III or Edward IV moved his royal clothes and arms from the Tower of London to a more handy site in a building close by.

Like most of London it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, and was rebuilt in 1695 to one of the simplest and last of Christopher Wren’s many church designs. Although it now looks ancient, it was mostly destroyed again by German bombing in 1940 and rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1961, with most of its internal decor being salvaged from previously demolished Wren churches. Among the memorials on its walls is a modern carved wood one for William Shakespeare, a parishoner for 15 years.

From the church I crossed Queen Victoria St and made my way down to the riverside walkway. There was an extremely low tide and I went down the steps onto the foreshore, which here is sand and shingle with many remains of wooden posts.

I walked the short distance along to Queenhithe, a historic monument as London’s first dock though the Roman and Saxon docks are now all buried beneath the mud and stones or hidden behind the visible more modern river walls and the area is surrounded by rather boring modern offices.

I went back and up onto the riverside walkway and then made my way to meet with friends for a short walk through the city, on which I took a few more photographs. One of the places we visited was where I had begun taking pictures, and this time we went inside The Cockpit on St Andrews Hill opposite the church, one of London’s smaller and more fascinating places.

Although the text for it’s grade II listing states tha the building is ca 1860, but the interior is in part older. The pub claims to have been established in 1787 and to have been rebuilt in 1842 and that it was once Shakespeare’s home – and certainly it is on the corner of Ireland Yard where he is known to have lived.

The interior is literally a ‘cockpit’ and the bar and seating is on the very floor where the pair of gamecocks, equipped with razor-sharp metal spurs would be set to fight to the death while gamblers looked on from the balcony above. Cock-fighting was banned in England and Wales by the ¬†Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 and the last fight in this pub was said to have been in 1849. Apparently there are still some illegal fights in the UK.

More pictures at City & Thames.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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