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.
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.
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.
Sadly, Wren’s design was badly bombed during WWII causing severe damage to much of the church.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Information on this siren is pretty much non-existent.
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.
Let’s hope it never gets the chance to be cranked out of retirement…