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Tag Archives: Blitz

Cabbie’s Curios: St Alban’s Tower

Pictured below amongst the jumble of modern office blocks is the St Alban Tower which stands on an island in the middle of Wood Street, close to the Guildhall.

St Alban's Tower, Wood Street

St Alban’s Tower, Wood Street

Dedicated to the Christian martyr, Saint Alban this isolated spire is all that remains of a church created by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1680s as a replacement for an earlier design by Inigo Jones.

Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren, two great architects associated with St Alban's, Wood Street

Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren, two great architects associated with St Alban’s, Wood Street

There have been several churches in honour of St Alban on this ancient thoroughfare. The earliest reference dates back to 1085, although it is believed the association goes back a lot further.

Contemporary image of Wren's St Alban's, Wood Street

Contemporary image of Wren’s Wood Street church

Sadly, Wren’s design was badly bombed during WWII causing severe damage to much of the church.

The ruins of St Alban's, Wood Street in 1952

The ruins of St Alban’s, Wood Street in 1952

The blitzed ruins were eventually pulled down in 1955, but the relatively undamaged tower was maintained. In the 1980s the surviving section was converted into residential space and is now off limits to the public.

The tower today, now a private residence

The tower today, now a private residence

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Cabbie’s Curios: A Victorian Thirst Quencher

If you ever find yourself feeling thirsty within London’s historic square mile then head for St Paul’s churchyard where, standing opposite the southern side of the magnificent cathedral, you’ll find this equally monumental structure:

St Lawrence Jewry Fountain

This is the St Lawrence Jewry Memorial Fountain which dates back to 1866. It has not always been at this site- its first home was a short distance away in the courtyard of St Lawrence Jewry church, Guildhall.

The fountain at its original location in the Guildhall courtyard.

The fountain at its original location in the Guildhall courtyard.

The original St Lawrence Jewry church was one of many destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

It was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren and the fountain was installed 200 years later by the Victorians as a way of marking the bicentenary.

Close ups of the fountain's religious detailing.

Close ups of the fountain’s religious detailing.

On the night of December 29th 1940 the church suffered appalling damage during what would turn out to be the heaviest night of the blitz.

The ruins of St Lawrence Jewry following the devastating December 1940 raid.

The ruins of St Lawrence Jewry following the devastating December 1940 raid.

Amazingly the fountain survived, standing proud in the midst of the bombsite and holding the fort until the 1950s when St Lawrence Jewry was skilfully restored to Wren’s original design.

St Lawrence Jewry church today.... fully restored (image: Wikipedia).

St Lawrence Jewry church today…. now thankfully fully restored (image: Wikipedia).

In the 1970s the Guildhall underwent extensive redevelopment which required the fountain to be dismantled.

Divided into 150 pieces, the Victorian masterpiece was reduced to a complex jigsaw, stashed away on pallets and stored at a barn in Epping where it would remain hidden for four decades.

The Guildhall Fountain in its original Victorian form.... (image: London Illustrated News).

The Guildhall Fountain in its original Victorian form…. (image: London Illustrated News).

The fountain finally returned to the streets of London in 2010 when it was lovingly pieced back together and installed at its new home opposite St Paul’s Cathedral; that other great survivor of the December 29th air-raid.

The iconic image of St Paul's Cathedral, photographed on the night of December 29th 1940.

The iconic image of St Paul’s Cathedral, photographed on the night of December 29th 1940.

Two survivors together... St Paul's Cathedral & the St Lawrence Jewry Fountain.

Two survivors together… St Paul’s Cathedral & the St Lawrence Jewry Fountain.

If you fancy a sip from the fountain, the pipe can be found around the back; on the south side which faces towards Distaff Lane and the Millennium Bridge. 

A cyclist fills up from the Victorian fountain- the pipe is ideal for topping up water bottles.

A cyclist fills up from the Victorian fountain- the pipe is ideal for topping up water bottles.

Cabbie’s Curios: The Waterloo Siren

As the clip below demonstrates, the eerie, banshee-like howl of the air-raid siren was one of the most defining sounds of WWII.

Although the conflict ended in 1945, the UK maintained a fully working network of these chilling devices right up until 1992- primarily thanks to the Cold War.

Most air-raid sirens have now vanished from the streets… but an intriguing example can still be spotted in central London; perched high up on one of the numerous bridges which ferry slowly rumbling commuter trains past Waterloo Station.

Location of the siren- which sits on a railway bridge spanning Waterloo Road, just outside the mainline station (image: Google)

Location of the siren- which sits on a railway bridge spanning Waterloo Road, just outside the mainline station (image: Google)

Information on this siren is pretty much non-existent.

Waterlo Siren

Personally speaking, I’m inclined to believe that this particular example is post-WWII; installed to warn unfortunate Londoners of flooding (a grave threat before the Thames Barrier opened in 1984) or, worse still, an impending Soviet nuclear attack.

Perhaps though this siren isn’t a relic at all… on closer examination, wires can be seen trailing from the device… and the alarm still appears to be plugged in.

Siren Wires

Let’s hope it never gets the chance to be cranked out of retirement…

Waterloo Siren