Another side of London
A couple of weeks ago I booked myself and the #orchidwhisperer onto a guided walk around parts of London connected to the 1940-41 Blitz. It started out as novel research and ended up reminding me how much you can miss if you don't keep your eyes peeled.
It was only later that I realised I'd arranged for this to happen on Remembrance Sunday. Of course, strictly speaking this is a day to remember servicemen and women lost in battle, but it still struck me as an appropriate thing to do given how many civilians were killed both in Britain and Germany throughout the Second World War.
The walk was run by Historical Footsteps Tours and our guide was Phil Lewis who has direct family experience of the Blitz. The tour begins at the Royal Exchange and Bank of England which miraculously avoided severe damage in a raid on 11 January 1941 that landed in the middle of the busy Bank junction, smashing through the road and into the underground station booking hall below. An estimated 111 people were killed. I used to travel through Bank station on my way to work every day for about three years and yet I had no idea of the devastation that occured 60 years earlier.
From Bank, Phil led us along small alleys that firemen struggled to get their equipment through, past the Tower of London which took a direct hit, across the river to Southwark, up along the Millennium Bridge and back to one of the most iconic sights of London in general and the Blitz - St Paul's Cathedral. St Paul's took a couple of direct hits causing damage inside the building but thanks to the efforts of its firewardens never succumbed to incendiary bombs despite the surrounding area going up in flames on the night of 29 December 1940.
Nothing beats seeing these landmarks for yourself and if you take a tour with Phil say hello for me.
Below are a few of the photos I took along our journey:
Outside the Royal Exchange on Remembrance Sunday.
This pump is steeped in history and yet most people walk past it every day without noticing - I know I have. A well first stood on this site in 1282 (along with a house of correction apparently) and this pump was first erected in 1799 by the contribution of the Bank of England, the East India Company and local fire offices. It was used during the Blitz as one of the few local direct access points to water in the City.
This photograph was taken while standing with Tower Bridge to my left. Across the water lies Bermondsey and Southwark. Warehouses once lined the riverfront but many were destroyed during the Blitz. The area has been subject to a huge amount of renovation and the Shard (right) is the tallest building on the south side of the Thames (not to mention the tallest building in the European Union).
Not the most exciting image I admit, but it's notable for being one of the very few original Southbank warehouses still standing.
We were lucky with the weather and as we crossed the Millennium Bridge it somehow seemed fitting that my favourite view in all of London was bathed in sunlight. Its flame-red hue is both beautiful and haunting.
Another innocuous looking building, but this is part of Christchurch Greyfriars, the closest thing London has to a Blitz memorial. The black walls are not dirty, that is smoke damage. The photo below shows the remains of the church from the other side. Rose garden beds now sit where the pews would have been and clematis and climbing roses grow up the wooden towers that represent the pillars that once held the church's roof up.