Category Archives: 1900s

Two Crutched Friars

On Tower Hill, about 300 yards north-east of Fenchurch Street station, we find this piece of art nestling in the corner of a 1980s office block. It depicts a meeting of two monks or friars.

Created by sculptor Michael Black, it was installed here when the building was constructed in 1985 and is called “Two Crutched Friars”.

Black, who passed away in 2019, is best known for works in his native Oxford though he has one other piece in the City: a statue of the journalist Paul Reuter which you may find at the back of the Royal Exchange.

Black worked mainly with stone and was known to ply visitors with home made beer.

This work is inspired by the title characters from a book called “Narziss and Goldmund” by the Swiss author Hermann Hesse.

Narziss, on the right, holding a staff and a sack is a teacher.
Goldmund, on the left, with a parchment or scroll, is an artist and sculptor.

If you look above Goldmund, you’ll see that we are at the corner of a street called Crutched Friars.

From the 13th to the 16th century this was the site of an Augustinian Friary belonging to what was known as the Order of the Holy Cross.

Its members were called “crossed” or “crutched” friars because they carried staffs with a crucifix attached.

As mentioned, the piece is called Two Crutched Friars but this is a misnomer. The characters in Hesse’s novel have their story set in Germany and not the medieval City of London.

Let’s look at the statues in detail.

The robes are light brown granite, the same as that used for the walls of the building.

The heads, hands and feet achieve their grey colour from Bardiglio marble.

Scroll and staff are bronze, coated in black paint.

The scroll is said to contain a secret message – but you’ll need to bring a stepladder to find out!

Police call posts

The standard UK police box was the one exemplified by the Doctor Who “Tardis”. This had a phone in an outside compartment for use by the public and the inside was a miniature police station where a copper could fill in reports, grab a meal break or even deploy as a cell to detain a suspect until assistance arrived.

These weren’t used in The City because they were too big.

Instead the “call posts” were used.

They had an unlocked compartment for the phone which the public could use to contact the police in event of an emergency. Below was a locked compartment containing a first aid kit.

The red light on the top was to notify a constable on the beat that there was a call from the station.

First introduced in 1907 there were 50 in the City and the last one did not go out of service until 1988 – which is interesting chronologically as it was 3 years after the introduction of the first London mobile phone network.

Eight survive and they are grade 2 listed structures!

  • Aldgate, outside St Botolph’s Church
  • Friday Street, at the corner of Queen Victoria Street
  • Guildhall Yard, off Gresham Street
  • Liverpool Street, east side
  • Old Broad Street, by Adam’s Court
  • St Martin’s le Grand, by the entrance to Postman’s Park
  • Victoria Embankment, south side, close to the City boundary dragons
  • Walbrook, close to the Mansion House

Port of London Authority

To the west of Trinity Gardens by the Tower of London you will see a tall white building called the Four Seasons hotel. It was built in the Beaux-Arts style by Edward Cooper and is 100 years old this year.

Near the top, a statue of a bearded figure holding a trident. One might think of the god Neptune but this is our very own watery deity, Old Father Thames, and this gives a clue to the first occupants of the building: the POLA

In the early 1900s things were not well on the river. The Thames was unregulated, many docks and wharfs were in need of improvement, and businesses serving the river were in chaotic competition. In short, something of a shambles and it was felt that ships would start favouring rival ports, especially in Europe.

In 1908 the Port Of London Act was launched in parliament and successfully navigated through the House of Commons by a Liberal party member called Winston Churchill.

The POLA was formed in 1909. So what did it do?

  • Some overdue dredging of shallow parts of the rivers.
  • Effectively nationalised the various dock companies.
  • Provided investment and modernisation.
  • Co-ordinated the port’s operations.

Ax a result London stayed as a successful port.

Today the Authority still looks after the river.

  • It looks after the Thames Barrier which guards against flooding by large tides.
  • Patrols the tidal river 
  • Surveys the bed of the river to find obstructions and where necessary, organises dredging.
  • Monitors river users for compliance with the various regulations.]

One service it provides is Pilotage. What is this?

Let us say that a container ship enters the Thames. The captain may not be familiar with the river’s features – its currents, hidden hazards such as sandbanks and perhaps not the exact location of where they are meant to dock.

To deal with this, they are met by a small boat, or even a helicopter, carrying an official called the Pilot who will board the ship and join the captain on the bridge. The Pilot is a skilled navigator, knows the river, and ensures that the vessel makes safe passage.