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from Judith Clute to Neil (November, 2005)

A Walk From Aldgate to Tower Hill

 This is a ramble into hidden bits of old London.  It is fairly short, can be done in half an hour.  Or longer depending on the mood of the moment.  There are some good pubs here.  It works well on a dusky winter afternoon or evening.  As with all explorations into the streets of London there are two things you must have with you - a detailed map (in this case I’m providing one) and an umbrella.   The walk starts at Aldgate Station on the Circle and Metropolitan lines and finishes at Tower Hill station on the District and Circle lines.  As you organise for this walk, make sure you go to Aldgate and not Aldgate East.   They are on different lines. 

Introduction

My name is Judith Clute and I’m a friend of Neil’s.  I do guiding with the Original London Walks, and because some visitors to his site ask about exploring in old London, he thought I might help.  The following walk is designed specially for Neil’s site, but it is fairly general until at the end we talk about a couple of characters from Neverwhere.   

So here we are out on the pavement in front of Aldgate Station.  In the accompanying map, our route is marked in pale yellow high-lighter with stopping places marked in red.  The first pause is here at Aldgate Station and the last, at Tower Hill station.  

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A Journey Through Time

London was the first city in the world to have underground tracks laid down for passenger travel.  It was in the mid-Victorian period, (1850's and 1860's) when a “cut and cover” route was put through from Paddington Station to Farringdon Station.  Then in 1876 it was extended here to Aldgate as part of the Circle Line.  The British navies who did the digging used tools similar to those hefted by Roman slaves two thousand years earlier.  Picks, shovels, pulley-blocks, tackles and so on.  Nothing more advanced.  The clay excavated was made into bricks and those very bricks were used along the sides of the line.  Electrification began in the 1890's.  On the 7th of July 2005 at 0850, in the narrow tunnel between the stations of Liverpool Street and Aldgate, a bomb exploded killing seven commuters and the bomber Shehzed Tanweer.  As surviving commuters left the carnage and walked single file through the darkened tunnel to Aldgate station, several individuals took cell-phone photographs.  The Victorian tunnel and the dark queue of shapes looked Grand Guignol.

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St Botolph’s 

We turn right and there’s a church alongside.  Its full name is St Botolph, Aldgate.  Reverend Brian Lee, the rector, comforted the walking wounded as they emerged on that Thursday morning, the 7th of July.  For a couple of weeks afterward the church was kept open round the clock with two clergy always on duty.  People came and talked about their anxieties.  Rescue workers, seizing a few moments away from the gruelling tasks, stretched out on the pews. 

 

The first church dedicated to St Botolph on this site was built in the 11th century.  Botolph was a saint who founded a monastery near Lincoln in 654.  He was the special guardian saint for journeys.  The medieval traveller would make an offering to him as protection against robbery, murder etc.  It became a custom to erect chapels dedicated to this saint near gates and bridges of a town. The current church dates from 1744.  George Dance, the Elder, was the architect (1694-1768).  A few years earlier, during the dismantling of the older church, the body of a child was found plastered into an upright position in one of the vaults.  People paid tuppence to have a peep.  Apparently the intestines were in a good state of preservation.  We are standing close to the famous “Aulde Gate” of old London.  We’ll explain in a moment.  St Botolph links with Boston in the USA via Boston, Linconshire, where St Botolph founded the monestary mentioned above.  Boston is a corruption of Botoloph.  It took just a few hundred years for the consonant shifts; Boston Massachusetts got its name because many of the leading settlers came from Boston, Lincolnshire. 

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Glancing to the left of St Botolph’s we see on the City skyline  a harlequin patterned glass skyscraper, affectionately called the “Erotic Gherkin”, or the “Faubergé Egg”.  Designed by Norman Foster (Forster & Partners) it opened in May 2004 and was built for Swiss Re, the second largest Re-insurance company in the world.  In spite of the tower’s convex surface, the only curved piece of glass is at the very top.  Without the new parametric computer-modelling techniques of today’s architecture, this type of building would be impossible.  At night it seems rather like a space ship ready for lift-off.  By the way, its proper name is 30 St Mary Axe.  It is on the site of the handsome old Victorian Baltic Exchange which was completely flattened by an IRA bomb in 1992.  So this building can be said to function as a memorial as well.

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Aulde Gate  

Cross the central traffic island and stop at the information plaque on the other side.  The Romans had built a wall surrounding Londinium (their name for the part of London we now call simply the “City”) and in it were several gates, this being the eastern one.  The Saxons rebuilt the wall everywhere and at this place built a sturdy gate-way with rooms above it.  The Normans again rebuilt it in the 13th century.  We can see a rendering of their version depicted on the plaque.  It was still known by the Saxon name “Aulde Gate”.  Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), lived in the suite of rooms above the gate in the 1370's.  At that time he was working as a government official in charge of import taxes.  (Note: in those days everyone outside of the City of London was a foreigner.  Even if you were a baker from Bow you had to pay a tax on your product as you entered the City.)  Then later, Chaucer moved to Westminster and wrote Canterbury Tales.  Nearly a century after his death, the pioneer printer, Caxton, published The Canterbuy Tales in a beautiful printed edition.  The Canterbury Tales is unfinished.  If the proposal made by Harry Bailey, the host of the Tabard Inn at Southwark, had been carried out - namely that each pilgrim should tell two stories on the outward way to Canterbury, and two more while returning to Southwark - then there would have been 120 tales.  Or more, because actually the reckoning is thirty-one pilgrims, including Chaucer.  But this is pedantry.  It doesn’t matter.   

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Aldgate Pump 

Continuing west we find, on the wedge between Leadenhall Street and Fenchurch Street, the famous Aldgate PumpIts spout is in the form of a brass hound’s head, glowing metal smoothed from many hands stroking it.  There is a clamp on the handle so the pump can’t be used.  It is now several yards to the west of the place of the original.  (It would have been in the middle of the present road junction.)  The water from the Aldgate pump was well known for its medicinal and excellent tasting qualities.  In the 1870's, however, the Medical Officer of Health for the City discovered that the water ran through an old churchyard and was consequently impregnated with dangerous impurities.  Human bone calcium would have added to the taste, of course.  The Health Officer ordered the source closed off and the pump was connected to the New River Co's supply.  He chose to do this in secret and let the locals still believe they were drinking their own special medicinal waters.           

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Lloyd’s Register of Shipping 

Walk into Fenchurch Street and stop at the junction with Lloyds Avenue.  Opposite is an ornate grey stone building:  Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.  It was designed by Thomas Collcut, and finished early 1900's.  The exterior sculptures are by Frampton.  There are two ranges of tourelles with figure friezes.  (Tourelles are like turrets growing out of the wall.)  There are naked sea nymphs, and sea monsters.  Also strategically placed on the facade are masted ships and maidens bearing instruments of navigation.  This style is called French Renaissance.  On the front gates, in Fenchurch Street, we see several decorative shields.  One of these is featured in a recommended little book by Jane Peyton called looking Up in London.  Her sister Jane took the very fine photographs.  (Wiley-Academy 2003).

Lloyd’s Register has to be explained in terms of Lloyd’s of London, which came first.  Edward Lloyd had a coffee house in Tower Street back in the 1680's.  Lloyds was a place, not a firm.  No merchant could be without insurance.  Deals were done there.  Wealthy and not so wealthy speculators would take a share of the given risk, signing their names on the policy, one beneath the other, with the amount they agreed to cover.  For this reason there were known as Underwriters.  Lloyd’s of London, then, is a unique insurance market which has no shareholders and accepts no corporate liability.  To help the insurers make their judgments, information was published in Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.  (This was Lloyd’s initiative.)   Lloyds Register remains an independent classification society.

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6/

17 Fenchurch Street

Here’s a surprise.  We come off the street, through a portal as it were, and discover the 1997 extension of Lloyd’s Register.  It was built by Richard Rogers.  Earlier he had built the more famous Lloyds of London over in Leadenhall Street.  A salient feature of his Lloyds’ High Tech style is the placement of lifts on the outside.  They whizz up and down the external structure.  Strange blue lights in the evening.  This is also the site of the Church of St Katherine Coleman and we see railings from the old church as we walk around to the right.  It was a 14th century church which had escaped the Great Fire of 1666.  It became dilapidated in the mid eighteenth century and was finally pulled down in 1929. 

(Note after the bombings of the 7th of July, the gates were closed with security guards on duty.  If, as you read this, the courtyard in front is still closed off, you need to continue along Fenchurch Street and walk around the pub, East India Arms, and look back in through the railings from the west.)

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French Ordinary Court

Walk into St Katherine’s Row.  It seems at first a cul-de-sac and if it’s evening it looks dark and dubious.  But I don’t know of it ever being dangerous.  After walking under a modern concrete viaduct, we see a brick wall and a street sign: French Ordinary Court.  We enter an improbable place with a high vaulted ceiling which is a testament to the skill of brick-layers.  This was built as part of the supporting structure for the elevated tracks carrying trains to Fenchurch Street Station in the 1850's.  More later. Let’s explain the name, French Ordinary.  From the early 17th century the word “ordinary” referred to the everyday meal sold by a small restaurant.  The French eating place, or “ordinary”, on this site was burnt to the ground in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt, but the name has lasted.  We exit under a lower arch, and cross the street.  Standing here we can look back at the archway.  The structure over it and to the left is Georgian, that is, 18th century.  Pilasters on the door case.  Tall windows on a flat facade. 

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We also look to our right, the east, and glimpse part of the railway viaduct leading to Fenchurch Street station.  Fenchurch was the terminus of the London and Blackwall Railway.  It opened in 1836 to provide easy access to the East and West India Docks, and it was the first railway constructed in London.  The carriages were propelled by an endless metal wire rope worked by stationary engines at both ends.  Because of stress on the wire ropes and the way they would too often fray into pieces, this system was abandoned in 1849.  Steam engines took over.  The London terminus was first in Minories.  Then in 1853 the station was extended to its present Fenchurch Street site.  The arches we see and the ones we walked under in Ordinary Court were built at that time.

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This street is called Crutched Friars.   In the late 13th century there was a convent founded here, and it was called Crossed Friars.   Full name - “Crossed Friars of the Holy Cross”.  At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530's the fine old buildings were given to a carpenter, who converted the whole lot into workshops.  The Great Hall of the Friars was turned into one of the City’s first glass factories.  A fire in the late 16th century destroyed the buildings.  The name shifted over the years.  “Crossed” became Crutched.  

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St Olave’s Hart Street

We’re standing at the corner of Pepys Street and Seething Lane.  Seething Lane is one of the surviving old streets of this area.  It was named Sything Lane up until the 16th century, because of the corn market around the corner in Fenchurch Street.  We look across at an old churchyard.  St Olave’s is named after the Norwegian king who came to London and supported Ethelred the Unready against the Danes in 1014.  Olave (or Olaf) became sainted shortly after his death and within that century the church of St Olave’s Hart street was built.  Not exactly this church, but a wooden edifice.  Major parts of this present church are from around 1450.  It escaped the Great Fire of 1666, and the brickwork of the top section was added in 1732.  Then it was bombed in WW2.  It was sensitively repaired by Ernest Glanfield.  The weathervane and turret were renewed in 1954.  Just in time for King Haakon of Norway’s official visit for the re-dedication service of that year.  The gateway was built in the 17th century.  Cross bones and five skulls are dominantly set on the top of it.  This theme  “Memento Mori” (Remember, you shall die) was commonplace then.   Charles Dickens wasn’t too comfortable about it though: “the churchyard of St. Ghastly Grim”: “iron spikes a-top of the stone skulls, as though they were impaled ... the skulls grin aloft horribly, thrust though and through with iron spears.  Hence there is attraction and repulsion for me...”  

St Olave’s was Samuel Pepys’s church, “our own church” he called it.  In the mid 17th century he wrote his diary which has since become famous.  He intended to record the little things in his life but momentous events also happened.  The Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of 1666.  He’s the main chronicler of it all.  (One of his good friends was Sir William Penn, father of the founder of the founder of Pennsylvania, and this friend saved St Olave’s during the Great Fire by ordering the surrounding buildings be demolished.)  But it’s the self portrait of Pepys, the man, which comes through in the diary.  There’s a direct intimacy in the way he describes his petty foibles.  There’s no self-justification.  He just gets on with his life story.  Domestic cowardice, lying evasions.  And lots of superficial comments on current affairs in Charles’s 11 Restoration London.  A pleasurable read.  His diary was written in code and was left with his other papers at Magdalen College, Cambridge.  Not until the early 19th century did it get decoded by one, John Smith, and he published it in 1825.

A detail about Samuel Pepys’s marriage.  Two years after leaving university when he was just 22 he married Elizabeth St Michel, a beautiful teenage girl aged 15 years.  She brought no dowry to the union.  For an ambitious young man, this was unusual.  In those days a man would marry for money and position.  Samuel Pepys, however, was passionately in love and believed he could make the marriage work in spite of everything.  When we read his diary and learn various intimate details we might come away with a distorted the picture of the central relationship with Elizabeth.  But, in the final analysis and despite his many other loves, they seem to have made a good life for themselves. 

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A word about the big building looming behind the church, the one with the pointy roof, making a fantasy-looking edge to the sky-line.  It’s called Minster Court, designed by a firm known just by their initials: RHWL.  It opened in 1993 as the London Underwriting Centre.  Various insurance companies from all over the world use the facilities.  Brokers and Underwriters all under one strange roof.  Also if we’re here at dusk, we can see another of London’s skyscrapers in the distance.  It is just peeping over the buildings to the right and is lit up in blue and turquoise.  It’s now properly called Centre 42, but also is known as the Nat West Tower.  It was finished in 1980 and at 600 feet it was for a while the tallest building in Europe.  (Its architect is Richard Seifert.)

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Memories of Samuel Pepys

Turning from a view of St Olave’s, we see that we are standing by a little park and in the shrubbery is a blue Doulton tile plaque.  It says  Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) worked here at the Navy Office.  We just mentioned Samuel Pepys’s reckless marriage.  It turns out he was very lucky.  He had a kinsman, Sir Edward Montague, who helped him get worthy employment.  Montague was "Conjoint General at Sea" with another man named Blake.  Pepys became Montague’s agent at home, and in due course, Clerk of the Acts of the Navy.  He was given a house here in Seething Lane, close to his work place.  In his new position young Samuel Pepys worked directly under the Duke of York, brother to King Charles 11.  Now he was moving in Court circles.  Centred on a plinth in this park sits a life size bust.  A frivolous note on his appearance.  There are several entries in his diary where he wonders whether or not to take the plunge and opt for the fashionable wig.  It would mean shaving his head for one thing.  Eventually he goes for it and describes a Sunday attendance at his church.  It is his first venture out into the world with his new wig and he reckons it a success.  Then he had a portrait painted wearing that wig and the bust in front of us is based on the portrait.  This park has just the right lighting for an evening visit.  Old style lamps and subtle modern uplifts. 

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Muscovy Street

At the bottom of the park is Muscovy Street which commemorates Peter the Great, founder of the Russian Empire, who visited London in 1698.  He came here to learn the art of shipbuilding, and was a regular visitor to a tavern nearby in Great Tower Street.  The tavern soon after took on the name of The Czar of Muscovy.  So the name and the memory travelled through time.  But in fact Muscovy Street Itself is as recent as 1910.  Before that there were several little courts - White Horse Yard, Catherine Court, Blue Raven Court, all running off the east side of Seething Lane - and then there was All Hallows by the Tower.  Seething Lane ran right down all the way past this church, which was originally  tucked into a mass of surrounding houses.  Now we can see how everything has changed.  All Hallows by the Tower looks beautifully focussed.  Actually the newest part of the church is the spire.  During WW2 many of the surrounding buildings were destroyed and afterwards the roads were widened.  The church was suddenly more visible and the old surviving tower looked somewhat weak and stubby.  It needed something.  Lord Mottistone designed the spire we see today and it is the only shaped tower in the City of London since Christopher Wren’s time.  Also in Muscovy Street we see a sign indicating Tower Hill station.  For the short version of the walk, turn left here and jump to... 13/.

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Byward Street

We walk straight on past All Bar One on the left.  We turn right (westward) along Byward Street, passing the Pizza Express.  Pause at the lights and look back at All Hallows.  We see how dominant it is from this direction, and how appropriate the new tower is.  Cross with the traffic lights to The Hanged, Drawn and Quartered pub, on the right.  The name resonates rather horribly with the fact that in old London executions were a spectator sport.  The eastern site in London, Tower Hill, provided enough space for the crowd to assemble.  (Although it is very close by, we’ll note the site only in due course.)  Several categories of death punishments were carried out there, but the most spectacular was for treason.  It was the full “cruel” punishment.  First, the victim was hanged by the neck, then pulled down just before death so he would undergo the next stage of torture alive.  The victim was castrated and disembowelled and these parts were burnt before his eyes.  He was then beheaded and the body divided into four parts.  The head and the quarters were parboiled to prevent rapid decomposition and the gruesome items were displayed in various parts of the capital to deter further would-be traitors.  The term “drawn” has in some judgmental sentences been inserted first, indicating that the victim was pulled to the place of execution on hurdles.  But as most often stated, and in the name of this pub, the term “drawn” referred to the pulling out of the body parts.  This terrible spectator sport was last seen in London in 1820.  Perhaps the most famous traitor to die in this fashion at Tower Hill was Guy Fawkes, January 30th, 1606.  But in his case, because he had already been so tortured on the rack, he died instantly at the hanging stage.  The rest of the performance was done for the benefit of the crowd.  It should be noted that in the American War of Independence, captured colonists were treated as prisoners of war, rather than traitors, to spare them this “cruel” punishment. 

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Tower Place West & Tower Place East.

Having crossed back towards All Hallows, by either traffic lights or a subway, we come to an expansive large glass structure.  The architects are, again, Foster & Partners.  They did the Faubergé Egg skyscraper.  Here they have made an interesting connection between the Tower Place East and Tower Place West by designing a glazed atrium.  See how rows of glass panels are hung between the buildings by cables.  This is such a contemporary environment for Old All Hallows church that for contrast we should imagine the site during the Commonwealth in the 17th century.  There was a tavern here surrounded by small streets and houses.  On the 4th of Jan 1649 a huge stash of barrels of gunpowder exploded beside the churchyard, blowing up over 50 houses, as well as the tavern where the annual parish dinner was being held.  It caused many deaths.  The tower of the church was rebuilt in the 1650's, and Samuel Pepys climbed to the top in 1666 and saw the “Saddest sight of desolation".  He was watching, to the west, the Great Fire sweep through the heart of old medieval London.  To the east we see two of London’s most famous icons.  The Tower was begun in the 11th century and remains Britain’s most perfect medieval fortress.  Tower Bridge dates from the 1890's and is the epitome of late Victorian public style.

We take a flight of steps around All Hallows by the Tower which was originally called All Hallows Barking.  (Barking was then a village east of London.)  The Bishop of London in the 7th century founded an Abbey at Barking for his sister, Ethelburga, and endowed it with lands on which this church was built.  All Hallows by the Tower is more logical and so finally, mid 20th century, it was so named.  Walk around the church to the front.  In the daytime this church is open and is well worth a visit. 

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The Scaffold of Tower Hill

We have made a small circuit with All Bar One in front of us.  We cross under the street through an old subway.  Sometimes the Underground trains rumble overhead.  Before Tower Hill station was added to the system, this was a station called Mark Lane.  We come to another corner pub, this time the Liberty Bounds.  To the right, across the river, we see new The City Hall, the  centre for the Greater London Authority.  It was designed by Foster and Partners (yet again) in 2002 and with its distorted off-centre head shape it has become a Thames-side landmark.  Walk left around the pub towards the dominant old Port of London Authority Building (PLA).  It has a huge portico with Corinthian columns and a massive tower.  It is public architecture in the “Edwardian Optimistic” mode.  This especially works with dramatic lighting at night.  We can see in the topmost tier of the tower the figure of Father Thames gesturing to the open sea. 

But we pause en route to note on our right the park called Trinity Square Gardens.  At night the gates are locked, but we should know that just inside is a little rectangle of bricked paving, with chains around it.  It is the site of the old scaffold of Tower Hill.  One quick story in the context of executions as a London spectator sport.  The Jacobite Lord Lovat was about to be executed.  The date was 1747 and he had just walked up to his position on the elevated scaffold.  Around him was the usual auxiliary scaffolding built for spectators, but this time, perhaps because it was overcrowded with thousands of excited bystanders, suddenly major supports broke and whole thing came down.  Twelve people were killed instantly.  Lovat smiled and said “The more mischief, the more sport.”  A few minutes later he lowered his head onto the block and was killed with one neat blow.  

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Old Port Of London Authority Building

An Act of Parliament for the Port of London Authority was passed in 1908.  London had been losing trade to Amsterdam and Rotterdam by the end of the 19th century and only a concerted effort could get London back in the running.  And so the PLA headquarters building was built here and plans were hatched under the massive tower.  Twenty eight members, seated in a set of chambers within the domed roof sent out directives.  They enlarged entrances to docks, raised the level of others, rationalized the West India Docks with new cuttings and new quays.  They made deeper basins for the new generation of large vessels, and even organised the large passenger port at Tillury.  During the Blitz, which began in September 1940, the night-time bombs had a devastating effect on all the docks of the Port of London.  But amazingly, after the war, ships came back and trade thrived.  The PLA worked hard at repairing and they brought in the latest in mechanization.  So it wasn’t WW2 which killed off the docks.  It was the final bit of mechanization they couldn’t quite master - containerization.   Now the old PLA building is in the private sector - occupied by the insurance brokers, Willis Faber.  And note that, confusingly, in the map provided, the site is labelled for the building alongside: Trinity House. 

Having walked around the massive front portico, we stand on the corner of Savage Gardens and Trinity Square.  This huge PLA headquarters building was designed by Sir Edwin Cooper and finished almost two decades later in 1923.  The adorning sculptures are by  C.L.J. Dorman.  The most famous of these is beside us - a big, semi-naked woman representing navigation.  Her left hand rests on a steering wheel, appropriate for the functions of the PLA.  The best way of describing the original impact and function of this building comes from a 1930's description (Arthur Mee’s “The King’s England”): “Sailors see the tower from afar and know it to be the symbol of Authority which controls 70 miles of tidal river and all the docks of the first port of the Empire.”

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Trinity House

Trinity House is a fine sample of the elegant poise of late 18th century London.  It was designed by Samuel Wyatt.  Bombed in WW2, it was sensitively repaired behind the intact facade.  The Corporation that inhabits it, the Brethren of the Trinity, goes way back, some say to King Alfred’s reign, though its charter dates only from 1514.  It controls all lighthouses and sea-marks.  Also pilotage.  Trinity House consults the Admiralty in cases of difficulty.  In WW2 Trinity House helped to evacuate Dunkirk but also it guided the Mulberry Units for the invasion of Normandy.  The Mulberries were artificial harbours as large as medium-sized ports.  There were two of them and they were towed across the Channel in sections, the operation beginning on D-day (6th of June 1944).  By the 18th of June 629,000 men had been put ashore and the Mulberries, though not quite completed, were bringing their tons of supplies to the shore.  Oil pipelines were laid under these artificial harbours.  And strange tracked vehicles carried prefabricated bridges.  Carpets of a new sort were laid on the sand.  But on the next day, the 19th of June 1944, a strong and unseasonable storm blew up and lasted for five days.  It wrecked one Mulberry, damaged the other and blew some 800 craft onto the shore.  Pains and pressures for Trinity House.  Thousands of Allied lives were lost.  But the outcome of the Normandy invasion was, in the end, victory.

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Tower Hill Station

One major view from the concourse in front of this station is, again, the old Tower of London.  As we said before it is Britain’s most perfect medieval fortress.  Inevitably it has become an Ancient Monument and one of the large sights of London.  However, in this walk, we’re searching out different things.  We see alongside us, one of the finest surviving portions of the old Roman wall, and if we walk around to the grassy bit behind the wall, we can quietly pursue a concluding line of thought.  First we should note that the Roman Wall was built in the late 2nd century with Kentish ragstone from Maidstone.  It was nearly 2 miles in length, enclosing an area some 330 acres.  It was about 18ft high with a cat-walk and a parapet on the top.  We see the medieval addition on top.  Only the genuine Roman part has the tile coursing.  The medievals inserted tiles in a random fashion.  It’s easy to envisage a special part of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere here. 

It’s nighttime and the character called Old Bailey has dragged a body tied onto a baby carriage to the base of this wall.  He carries the body up onto the wall.  "The moon was bright and small and high in the cold night... A nightingale fluttered onto the wall, examined the corpse of the Marquis de Carabas, and chirruped sweetly.  "None of your beak," said Old Bailey, gruffly.  "You birds don't smell like flipping roses, neither."  The bird chirped a melodious nightingale obscenity at him, and flew off into the night."  Then Old Bailey pulled a rat out of his pocket.  The black rat had been asleep.  It stared about, "then yawned, displaying a ratty expanse of piebald tongue".  Old Bailey put him down on the stones of London Wall, "and it chittered at him, gesturing with its front paws."

Following these instructions Old Bailey put a silver box on the chest of the dead man and opened the lid.  Inside was an egg, "pale blue green in the moonlight".  He pulled a toasting fork from an inner pocket and with considerable force he brought the fork down on the egg.  "There was a whup as it imploded."  Then there was a wind.  Fallen leaves and newspaper were driven through the air.  After some time it died down and in the following silence, there was a horrible wet coughing.  The dead body was alive.  And so the Marquis de Carabas lived to see another day and as he prepared to climb down the wall he said hoarsely and perhaps a little sadly, "It would seem, Old Bailey, that I owe you a favour". 

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was first published in 1996.  (The BBC series followed shortly after.)  I don’t need to tell readers to his site what a delightfully clever alternate world he created in this book, woven beneath and around old London.  Nor do I need to point out the satisfying way Underground Station names, like Knightsbridge and Angel, take on emblematic lives of their own in the telling.   

It only remains to say that, having come this route right through from Aldgate to Tower Hill, there might now be a pressing need to back-track to explore various of pubs we’ve passed.   Each pub is within hailing distance of this tube station.  Do remember, though, that the Underground system closes a little before midnight.

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