All posts by Black-Rat

Unanswered Questions

From time to time I am asked a question which I think is worth mentioning – or sometimes where I actually don’t know the answer! Here are some such and in most cases some answers.

UNANSWERED (if anybody can offer answers then please leave a comment)

Where are the Rotherhithe Tunnel ventilation towers?

Was St Paul’s Shadwell rebuilt in its original style?

Where exactly was the News International print works?

Is Wapping station Art Nouveau?

Were there many churches in Limehouse?

Why is St Anne’s, Limehouse so big?

What is served at an Execution Breakfast?
This relates to the Magpie and Stump pub which stands on the street called Old Bailey opposite what was once the site of public executions. The landlord made a nice earning by providing guests with a first floor room where they could watch the action at the gallows whilst enjoying an Execution Breakfast.


ANSWERED

Where are the four Rotherhithe Tunnel ventilation shafts?

From south to north:-
1. Corner of Brunel Road and Canon Beck Road in Rotherhithe
2, Octagon Court, Rotherhithe (visible from shaft 3).
3. King Edward memorial park, Shadwell (visible from shaft 2).
4. Corner of The Highway and Heckford Street, Shadwell. This is not the original building which was demolished in 1967 for a road widening scheme.

Which churches can fly the White Ensign apart from St Anne’s Limehouse?

There are 8 other churches, the only one in London is St Martin in the Fields.

How much must a vessel pay to have Tower Bridge opened?

Not a penny, it is free.

What does the Birchin in Birchin Lane mean?

The Lane of the Barbers.

From whom did JMW Turner inherit the two cottages which became the Old Star pub?

From his Uncle Joseph Marshall, his mother’s brother, who was a butcher in Brentford in West London.

Why and when is a bale of straw hung under London bridges?

An old tradition last observed at Millennium Bridge in December 2023. It is to indicate that workers are underneath the bridge and that headroom is reduced as a result. By night a white light is used instead,

Where can one buy Lord Mayor’s honey?

Some of it is sold on City Giving Day.

Is JP Morgan an American bank?

The original JP Morgan was a British Bank formed in the mid 1800s which merged with Chase National Bank in 2000 to form JP Morgan-Chase. Today, therefore, it is American.

Did Lloyds insure the Titanic?

Yes, the policy was for £1 million and was paid out within 30 days of the sinking.

What did Judge John Jeffries die from?

He died in the Tower of London from kidney disease of which he had been a chronic sufferer.

Where were the pumps feeding the Hydraulic Ring Main?

These were found at Bankside (Southwark), City Road (near Liverpool Street station), East India Dock (Blackwall), Mansell Street (City of London/Tower Hamlets), Pimlico, Rotherhithe and Wapping Wall (Shadwell).

Is the Import Dock (West India Quay) smaller than it was?

The north wall by the Museum is original but part of the south dock has been reclaimed.

Was St Anne’s Limehouse rebuilt in its original style?

Yes

How long does the Plague virus last?

It’s a bacterium rather than a virus. In dry conditions or when exposed to sunlight it lives no longer than 72 hours. In damp dark conditions survival for up to 24 days has been recorded. No long term data seems to be available though bacteria in general cannot survive more than three years without sustenance (unless frozen when they can last for millennia – 120,000 years is the current record).

Was Mozart a freemason?

Yes, initiated into a Vienna lodge at the age of 28.

Did St Anne’s Limehouse suffer bomb damage?

It suffered minor damage during both world wars but nothing structural.

How many churches are there in the City?

I didn’t know the exact number and hazarded a guess at fifty, I was not far wrong.

What are the entry requirements and fees for Christ’s Hospital school today?

Pupils must show “academic potential”. Boarding fees are £14,000 per term though bursaries and the occasional free place are offered. Day pupil fees are £7,000 to £9,000

What was the City population in 1066?

Around 15,000.

Pillar Boxes

You may know Anthony Trollope for his books but we was also responsible for a familiar sight on our streets.

Trollope worked for the Civil Service and on his recommendation a French designed pillar box was trialled in the Channel Islands.

Next year the first ones appeared in London. These were not the familiar round red ones of today but rectangular. They were painted green so they would not be considered an eyesore. This, however, proved impractical as postmen had trouble finding them in the dark. They were painted red from 1874. There is a green survivor in the City in St Martin Le Grande.

Although pillar boxes are basically the same, each postal area had its own designs so watch out for the variations.

Look for the symbol on the side denoting the monarch of the time. If it’s a V for Victoria then you are looking at the oldest. Most common are those from the reign of Elizabeth II – around 70,000 out of a total of 115,000. The rarest example is Edward VIII of which there are between 134 and 171 – and none in the City Of London.

Events

Upcoming events involving or sometimes merely tangential to the City and Docklands. Dates a little sparse at the moment as many places have not yet released their 2024 schedule.

2024

April 7th. London Landmarks Half Marathon. Alongside the Marathon, free walking tours in several parts of the City. [Details to follow]

June 2024. Knolly’s Rose Procession. Delivery of a single rose to the Lord Mayor to settle a 600 year old planning permission problem (don’t you just love the City?!) . [Details to follow, date unconfirmed].

Sunday September 21st. Sheep Drive. Freemen exercise their right to drive animals across a City bridge. Details to follow, [date unconfirmed].

Tuesday September 24th. City Giving Day.

Saturday November 10th. Lord Mayor’s Show. Welcoming in the new Lord Mayor. Details to follow.

Saturday December 14th. North Wood Morris Xmas Day of Dance. All day traditional entertainment opposite the City on the South Bank. [Recheck date nearer the time].

Saturday December 22rd, 10:00am to 11:30am. Head for Smithfield Market and grab a meaty bargain at the Annual “Xmas Eve” meat and turkey auction [not confirmed]

2025

Dates provisional

Sunday January 5th, 12:30. Blessing Of The River. Takes place on London Bridge. Details will be at calendarcustoms.com/articles/blessing-the-river-thames . [Date not confirmed].

The Black Rat

Rats are not indigenous to the UK. The first rat, Rattus Rattus or the Black Rat or Ship Rat came from India and arrived with the Romans during their occupation of England (43-410ad) . Despite being called black, some were light or dark brown.

The rat was unjustly blamed for spreading the Bubonic Plague.

Rattus Norvegicus– the Brown Rat or Sewer Rat – arrived in the 1700s and this is the rat you’ll see these days.

Despite the Latin name, the Norwegian connection is uncertain and the Brown Rat is believed to have come from China.

They don’t make themselves evident in the City except on the site of St Gabriel Fenchurch off Fen Court where they may be seen quite often, day and night.

The Brown rat is in the same category the Grey Squirrel and Signal Crayfish: a successful invasive species which ousted its incumbent counterpart.

In the UK the Black Rat was last recorded in the Hebrides in 2018 but is now probably extinct in the wild in the UK, though small colonies may survive on some offshore islands and across the river in Southwark. It is still bred in captivity and sold as pets or used in laboratory experiments.

SQUIRRELS

It amuses me that people will feed a squirrel but run away from a rat. They are very similar and both, of course, vermin. A squirrel is effectively a rat with a hairdresser and a PR agent.

City Churches

There fifty churches in the City. Of these seven are no longer functioning and are either in ruins or only the tower survives.

Here is the list, a * indicates an ‘extinct’ church.

All Hallows by the Tower
All Hallows on the Wall
*Christ Church Greyfriars
City Temple
Holy Sepulchre
*St Alban
St Andrew by the Wardrobe
St Andrew Holborn
St Andrew Undershaft
St Anne and St Agnes
*St Augustine
St Bartholomew the Great
St Bartholomew the less
St Benet Paul’s Wharf
St Botolph without Aldersgate
St Botolph without Aldgate
St Botolph without Bishopsgate
St Bride’s
St Clement Eastcheap
*St Dunstan in the East
St Dunstan in the West
St Edmund, King and Martyr
St Ethelburga
St Giles Cripplegate
St Helen’s Bishopsgate
St James Garlickhythe
St Katherine Cree
St Lawrence Jewry
St Magnus the Martyr
St Margaret Lothbury
St Margaret Pattens
St Martin without Ludgate
St Mary Abchurch
*St Mary Aldermanbury
St Mary Aldermary
St Mary at Hill
St Mary le Bow
St Mary Moorfields
*St Mary Somerset
St Mary Woolnorth
St Michael Cornhill
St Michael Paternoster Royal
St Nicholas Cole Abbey
St Olave Hart Street
*St Olave Old Jewry
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Peter Cornhill
St Stephen Walbrook
St Vedast Foster
Temple

50 churches in total, 43 extant, 7 in ruins or repurposed.