Views From The Top
At Ludgate Hill, stop 11, a few people from the top deck of the tour bus hop off and no one else hops on. Andy and I make our move upstairs.
I find a seat but Andy has to kneel beside me in the aisle. Peter, our tour guide doesn’t say anything, however… probably because he is taking up 2 seats himself! It’s just a matter of time though before more people hop off and we can sit side by side.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
For more than 1400 years a church or cathedral dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle has stood here on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London.
Saint Mellitus and Saint Augustine founded St. Paul’s in 604 AD after Pope Gregory the Great sent them on a mission to Britain. The earliest Cathedral buildings were relatively short-lived structures repeatedly damaged by fires and Viking attacks. It was the Cathedral begun around 1087 AD by Bishop Maurice, the chaplain to William the Conquerer, which would provide the longest standing home for Christian worship on this site for almost 600 years.
St. Paul’s was a Catholic church until the English Reformation. In the 1500s Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of Rome and the Crown took over religious rule.
Lightning struck the Cathedral spire in 1561 causing irreparable damage. Restoration that began in 1633 was never finished and left the building in serious disrepair once again by1650. Leading architects were consulted as to how best to restore the medieval structure until Christopher Wren’s proposal to add a dome was approved in 1666. A week later, the Great Fire of London destroyed what was left of St. Paul’s, leaving Wren with the task of designing and building a whole new cathedral. After 9 years of fastidious planning, construction began in 1675 and the last stone was laid in 1708, although the first service took place in 1697 celebrating the peace between England and France. (stpauls.co.uk)
The iconic dome, built by Britain’s famous architect Christopher Wren, is 365 feet high and was the tallest building in London from 1710-1967. (stpauls.co.uk)
The funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were held at St. Paul’s. Both the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Queen Elizabeth II were celebrated here. And of course in 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in this cathedral. (stpauls.co.uk)
The building below, the HQ of Midland Bank, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and erected in 1935. The architect commissioned the sculpture William Reid Dick to add 2 statues to the structure, suggesting one be a boy with a goose. (looking-at-london.com)
And why was this? Well, interestingly enough, Midland Bank is on Poultry Street, a name that commemorates an actual business from the Middle Ages. Yes, that’s right, domestic fowl were raised and roamed through here. (lookingatlondon.com)
Another interesting building we drive by is much newer and, instead of statues, the front of the structure itself is designed to resemble the front of an ocean liner.
The Monument commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666 and celebrates the rebuilding of the City. It was built between 1671 and 1677 at the intersection of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill. (themonument.info)
The fire began in a baker’s house on Pudding Lane on Sunday September 2nd and finally extinguished on Wednesday September 5th, after destroying most of the City of London. Fortunately very few lives were lost. Unfortunately, however, lives were lost.
As part of the rebuilding of the City, it was decided to erect a permanent memorial of the Great Fire near the place where it began. Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke drew up plans for a Doric column containing a stone staircase of 311 steps leading to a viewing platform. (themonument.info)
The Monument is 202 feet high… the exact distance between it and the site where the fire began on Pudding Lane. (themonument.info)
As we approach the London Bridge, the modern building, nicknamed the Walkie Talkie, looms above.
As we cross the River Thames we get a great view of Tower Bridge, which I always thought was London Bridge.
I don’t even realize we are on London Bridge as I was expecting something more spectacular. It turns out several bridges named London Bridge have crossed the Thames in central London. The one we’re on opened to traffic in 1973. It replaced a 19th Century stone-arched Bridge, which in turn superseded a 600-year-old stone-built medieval structure. This was preceded by a number of timber bridges, the first one built by the Romans. (en.m.wikipedia.org) Fire was why London Bridge was always falling down.
Just beyond the bridge this brightly painted establishment pops into view.
Since 1884 the Shipwrights Arms has served pints on the corner of Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street. Shipbuilders once frequented this pub with the interesting sculpture holding up a ledge. (shipwrightsrms.co.uk)
Peter told us the story behind the statue, but I can’t remember it nor can I find any information about it anywhere… yet.
There’s the Shard again, a 1,016 foot high (309.6 meters) 95 story skyscraper… the tallest building in Western Europe. (the-shard.com)
Now we cross the River Thames again, but this time on the quaint Tower Bridge.
As we travel across the Tower Bridge, 3 modern buildings can be seen from left to right: the Crash Helmet, the Walkie Talkie, and the Gherkin.
A close-up of the Crash Helmet…
Built between 1886 and 1894, Tower Bridge is a combined drawbridge and suspension bridge. Two bridge towers support an upper level horizontal walkway on each side. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
As I continue reading this online entry, my confusion with the London Bridge is validated:
The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. Because of this, Tower Bridge is sometimes confused with London Bridge, situated some 0.5 mi (.80 km) upstream. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
More views of the Walkie Talkie and the Shard…
Just across the bridge is the Tower of London.
This fortress was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman conquest of England. It is a complex of several buildings set within 2 concentric circles of defensive walls and a moat. The White Tower was built by William the Conquerer in 1078 as a resented symbol of oppression. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
The Tower of London was a grand palace in its early years, serving as a royal residence. And although not it’s primary purpose, it was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, but especially in the 16th and 17th centuries. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
The Tower has served variously as an arsenal, a treasury, a zoological garden, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and currently as the home of the Crown Jewels of England. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
Just past the Tower of London we come across a remnant of the Roman Wall that once enclosed the city of London.
The Wall was originally built by the Romans in the late 2nd or early 3rd century around the current city of London. Londonium was settled and established around 43 AD as a major commercial center in Roman Britain ( Britannia) until its abandonment in the 5th century. The Wall, however remained and was maintained until the 18th century. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
In 1984 the Museum of London traced the path of the Roman Wall from Tower Hill to the Museum and marked 21 locations of remnants along the 2 mile walk. (archaeology-travel.com)
From Tower Hill Street we take Lower Thames Street to Victoria Embankment to Waterloo Bridge.
The Boomerang is another nicknamed modern building.
These little green huts, no larger than a horse and cart, stand on the public streets. Called cabmen’s shelters, there were 61 of these buildings around London between 1875 and 1914. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
By law, taxis could not leave the queue area while parked and waiting for passengers. This made it difficult for cabbies to get a hot meal and, in the days of horse-drawn cabs, stay out of inclement weather. With the help of other patrons, the Earl of Shaftesbury set up a charity called the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund to construct and run these small kitchens and sitting areas at major cab stands. An attendant cooked and sold food and non-alcoholic drinks. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
Crossing Waterloo Bridge…
The Cheese Grater… an appropriate name for the shape of this building…
The London Eye… Parliament… Big Ben…
Waterloo Train Station is the largest and busiest station in Britain. Opened in 1848 by the London & South Western Railway it was just called Central Station. In 1899 a complete rebuild begins for the next 22 years.
Below is a glimpse of the Victory Arch, unveiled in 1922, commemorating the railroad staff who died in World War I. (networkrail.co.uk)
A closer look at the Eye from York Road…
A cool building we pass near the Westminster Bridge…
The General Lying-In Hospital was one of the first maternity hospitals in Great Britain, opening in 1767 on Westminster Bridge Road. It closed in 1971.
A Lying-In Hospital is a maternity hospital, lying-in referring to the month long postpartum rest. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
But due to traffic congestion and the arrival of royal guests to the Queen’s garden party, we cannot cross the Westminster Bridge and take Lambeth Palace Road to Lambeth Bridge.
I really need to take a break here! With the help of date-and-time-stamped pictures, 2 maps of London, and online resources, I have pieced together our tour as best as I can.
Stay tuned for the rest of our tour!