Docklands and the Thames,

Victoria Park to Paternoster

Square. Take a nostalgic

trip back to the East End in

the 1950’s or a stroll around

the Square Mile of the City

of London. It’s all here at

Copyright 2002 - 2024 ©Barry Carter. All rights reserved

Rebuilding of the City

Eighty percent of the City was destroyed in the blaze of 1666. During the blitz the it was again almost destroyed. Almost the whole of the City’s buildings obliterated in two separate eras. After the war many building and developments were initiated at speed to get the City back on its feet. Today, in the 21st. century, many are outdated, unsightly and no longer fit for purpose. In the first decade of the new millennium I saw more tower cranes appear in the Square Mile than ever before. New building projects taking place everywhere. In 2020 it seems even worse. The building work seems to be unending! Demolition and rebuilding everywhere. Most new buildings overshadow the few remaining parts of the old City. Some take into account any existing trees or plants and have to be built around them. At the moment there is a clause in any new development plans, that a public space or garden has to be included in the project at the developer’s expense. Once completed, the City of London Parks and Open Spaces Department maintains it. Some are built on rooftops.

College of Arms

The College of Arms is the official heraldic authority for Great Britain and much of the Commonwealth. It is housed in a 17th. century building in Queen Victoria Street where it moved to after the previous home was lost in the fire of 1666. Luckily, their scrolls and records were saved. As well as being responsible for the granting of coats of arms, the College maintains registers of arms, pedigrees, genealogies, Royal Licences, changes of name, and flags. The heralds, besides having ceremonial duties, advise on all matters relating to the peerage and baronetage, precedence, honours and ceremonial as well as national and community symbols including flags. Their original charter dates back to Richard III in 1484. The present building was designed by the Master Builder to the Office of Works, Maurice Emmet. The gates and railings were given by an American benefactor in 1956. The College of Arms is still in use today recording pedigrees and examining armorial bearings.

Tower 42

This was the start of it all. High rise mania in the Square Mile. Designed by Richard Seifert who also was responsible for the Centrepoint building in the West End of London. He died in 2001. Formerly known as the Nat West Tower, it was built between 1971 and 1979, opening in 1980. It now belongs to another company, a law firm I believe. The 600 foot high Tower 42 remained the tallest building in London for ten years until it was beaten by the Canary Wharf development in Docklands. It was also the highest cantilever structure in the world. When you stand at it’s base at 25 Old Broad Street you can see there is nothing supporting it on either side. Considering it’s age, it still looks very modern and doesn’t seem to have deteriorated like some. You can book a place in the Vertigo Champagne bar for some stunning views of London.

The Erotic Gherkin

Originally built as the Swiss Re Building but sold on a few years later. It retains it’s nickname of the "Gherkin". As most of the old historic buildings were destroyed during the second World War, why not replace them with some memorable modern architecture. Sir Norman Foster, the designer, is only doing what Sir Christopher Wren did, designing structures that stand out from the rest! It stands at 30 Saint Mary Axe, but can be seen on the skyline for miles around. It was built to replace the old Baltic Exchange building destroyed by IRA terrorists in the nineties. It is constructed almost entirely from glass and metal and incredibly, does not contain a single curved pane of glass.

Tivoli Corner

Tivoli Corner is attached to the curtain wall at the rear of the Bank of England, at the junction of Princes Street and Lothbury. It is a much later addition to the rest of the building although the same style of architecture has been adopted. I can only assume it was added to the bank (in 1936) because of the high volume of traffic within the Square Mile, and the narrow pavement making it difficult for pedestrians to navigate. There is a circular hole in the ceiling bearing the inscription: “The Bank of England made this way through Tivoli corner for the citizens of London 1936”. It is a grand structure with pillars and two great arches, simply (I presume) to cut off the corner when walking.

Postman’s Park

One of many parks in the City, a short walk from St Paul's Cathedral. Near the site of the former headquarters of the General Post Office. The name reflects its popularity amongst workers from the sorting office. It was opened in 1880 on the site of the burial ground of St Botolph's Aldersgate church. Over the next 20 years it incorporated the adjacent burial grounds of Christ Church Greyfriars and St Leonard, Foster Lane. In 1900 the park became the location for the artist George Frederic Watts's Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, a memorial to ordinary people who died while saving the lives of others. It is located in a loggia housing his ceramic memorial tablets. Only four of the planned 120 memorial tablets were in place at the time of its opening, with a further nine tablets added during Watts's lifetime. Watts's wife, Mary, took over the management of the project after his death in 1904. She oversaw the installation of a further 35 memorial tablets in the following four years along with a tiny sculptured monument to Watts himself. In 1972 the park, including the plaques were grade II listed. In June 2009 the Diocese of London added a new tablet to the loggia, the first new addition for 78 years.

The Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge opened as a footbridge across the Thames in 2000. It was immediately nicknamed the wobbly bridge because it swayed as people walked across it. The more people walking across it, the more it swayed. Unfortunately this was unintentional and led to it’s closure for another year in order to rectify the problem! Designed by the office of Norman Foster along with Arum and Sir Anthony Caro, It was the first new bridge across the Thames since 1894 when Tower Bridge was built. It is purely for pedestrians and links the Saint Paul’s area of the city to the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre on the Southbank.

The Mansion House

The Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the London. It completes an imaginary triangle with the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. It is used for many of the City's official functions. Designed by George Dance the elder, it took thirteen years to complete the building, from 1739 to 1752. Parts of it’s upper levels were demolished in 1794 and 1843 apparently due to being too large structures in comparison with the rest of the building. At the annual Lord Mayor’s Show scaffolding is erected all along the front, where the incoming Lord Mayor, outgoing Mayor and other officials watch the parade pass by on the way to Saint Paul’s and the Royal Courts of Justice.

Temple of Mithras

The Temple of Mithras stood on the bank of the Walbrook river. The remains of the temple were uncovered during excavation work in 1954. It was reconstructed and stood in Queen Victoria Street until the Walbrook Square project was purchased by the Bloomberg company in 2010. The Temple of Mithras can now be visited at it’s original Roman position 7 metres below the modern street level, as part of an exhibition space beneath the Bloomberg building.

The Royal Exchange

The Exchange was founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham and built at his own expense. It was used as a centre for commerce in the City of London. It was known as The Exchange until 1571 when Elizabeth I officially opened it as The Royal Exchange. The great fire of 1666 destroyed the original, and a new building opened three years later. This suffered the same fate, burning down in 1838. The present building was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844 and remained the centre of commerce until 1939. The 21st century saw it become an up market shopping arcade for designer goods, and a plush bar while preserving the original outside architecture. A sculpture of Gresham looks down from the top of the building and the family crest, the Golden Grasshopper forms the weather vane.

The Lloyds Building

Although still referred to as the Lloyd's building it seems to have a bit of history. According to Wikipedia: "The building was previously owned by Dublin-based real estate firm Shelbourne Development Group, who purchased it in 2004 from a German investment bank. In July 2013 it was sold to the Chinese company Ping An Insurance in a £260 million deal". It is located on the corner of Leadenhall Street and most of Lime Street. Due to it's stainless steel structure is unmistakable. Designed by Richard Rogers and built over eight years from 1978 to 1986. The stairs, elevators, electric and water pipes are all located on the outside of the building, and the 12 glass lifts were the first of their kind in the UK. The original 1928 building was demolished to make way for the present one. Only the original entrance in Leadenhall Street remains. It was left standing and forms an uncomfortable looking appendage. It was designed to allow sections to be added or moved but in 2011 it was given a grade 1 listing, which means it cannot be altered.


A view of the City The College of Arms Tower 42. Formerly the NatWest Tower The Base of Tower 42 Mansion House. Lord Mayor's residence for a year. Temple of Mithras before moving to Bloomberg building Temple of Mithras in Bloomberg Building The Royal Exchange The Lloyds Building faces the Willis Building The Gherkin. 30 St. Mary Axe Tivoli Corner George Frederick Watts sculpture The Millenium Bridge