London Rediscovered

Overview

London Rediscovered explores one of the world's most captivating cities with an eye for both unusual and the famous sites.

This beautiful record of a fascinating city, in all its moods and seasons, captures London's cosmopolitan diversity, its well-known monuments, and hidden treasures. Everyone who loves London will find more than they know, and for visitors, armchair travelers, and dedicated explorers, the book is both an eye-opener to ...

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Overview

London Rediscovered explores one of the world's most captivating cities with an eye for both unusual and the famous sites.

This beautiful record of a fascinating city, in all its moods and seasons, captures London's cosmopolitan diversity, its well-known monuments, and hidden treasures. Everyone who loves London will find more than they know, and for visitors, armchair travelers, and dedicated explorers, the book is both an eye-opener to architectural and decorative details and a fresh look at London life.

London Rediscovered explores how each area developed, from the River Thames and old central districts such as Bloomsbury and Chelsea, to Chiswick in the west and Hampstead in the north, returning to the revitalized South Bank. It captures London's diverse character and appeal in a wealth of beautiful images.

With an eye for the unusual, the author and photographer point out the delights of detailed exploration—a chunk of Roman wall in the city, a curved Georgian shopfront in Convent Garden, or the fall of evening light on a gleaming new building beside the river. Quotations and observations from London's chroniclers, such as Pepys, Wordsworth, and Dickens, are interwoven with the lively text.

Other Details: Over 200 full-color photographs 208 pages 10 1/2 x 10 1/2" Published 1999

Hastings in 1066, he marched to London, burning Southwark and destroying crops in his wake until the people offered him the crown. He established himself at Westminster, the site of a palace built by an earlier English king, Edward the Confessor. Now Westminster became the seat of royal and state power, while downstream in the City the merchants held sway.

In the following centuries, the Thames would be central to the spectacular rise of both the royal City of Westminster and the merchants' City of London—the two eventually combining to form the London we know today.

From earliest times, the river had been the city's main highway. For most Londoners, the fastest way to move across the city was to take a boat. 'Up by 4 a-clock and at 5 by water to Woolwich, there to see the manner of tarring', the diarist Samuel Pepys noted in 1661; 'By water to the Strand and so to the King's playhouse'; and again, 'Up and by water to Whitehall, and there with the Duke of York did our usual business.'

The Thames was also a choice place for aristocrats to set up home. Watergates led to their riverside mansions along the Strand. One that survives is York Watergate, originally part of the home of Charles I's favourite, the Duke of Buckingham.

For the royals, the Thames provided the link between their many riverside palaces as well as an airy backdrop to the pageantry that expressed their power. From the busy city, royal barges accompanied by boatloads of courtiers made their stately progress up- and downriver, drawing crowds as the party moved from one palace to another. The diarist John Evelyn watched Charles II return from his coronation in Westminster Abbey in 1660: 'Crowne Imperial on his head . . . to Westminster Stayres where he tooke Water in a Triumphal barge to White-hall where was extraordinary feasting.' It was for another royal river event in about 1715 that Handel wrote his Water Music for George I. In 1806, amid great pomp, Nelson's body was brought from Greenwich to Whitehall stairs by water, then taken through the streets for burial at St Paul's Cathedral.

The merchants of the City enjoyed their pageantry, too. From 1422 to 1856, the increasingly splendid annual parade of City Livery Companies' gilded barges took the Lord Mayor-elect to Westminster for the sovereign's ritual approval. In 1452 the Mayor launched a new barge with silver oars, but extravagance reached even greater heights in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For Thomas Middleton's journey in 1613, a fleet of Livery Company barges, each decorated with its coat of arms, followed the glistening boat carrying the Lord Mayor-elect past five specially built islands decorated with Indian fruit trees, spices and a fairy castle. Even today, though the Lord Mayor's parade takes place on land, the celebrations end with a spectacular fireworks display over the Thames—as if to commemorate the extravagant riverside displays of the past.

London's river trade increased during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The busiest section was that around the City of London. Cloth, for instance, was shipped from here to the Netherlands, Russia, the Baltic and Turkey, while English adventurers and traders returned from India and China with silks and spices, and from America with tobacco and sugar.

By the end of the eighteenth century, London was the largest port in the world—and a paradise for smugglers and thieves. At any one time, some 8,000 boats of all sizes and types might be crammed into the 6-mile (10-km) stretch of dockland, 2 miles (3 km) of them upstream from London Bridge. The worst chaos was at Upper Pool, just below London Bridge, where ships fought for mooring space. Those anchored midstream had their cargo unloaded by lightermen and dumped on the quay where it might be left unguarded for weeks. An estimated half of all cargo simply disappeared. To counteract this, in 1798 the City merchants founded the River Police, armed with cutlasses and blunderbusses. The world's oldest police force, it still enforces river law today.

But the task of protecting cargoes from thieves and smugglers, and of alleviating the congestion of London's old docks, was not dealt with fully until the building of the enclosed docks in the nineteenth century. By then the Pool of London was struggling to cope with Britain's huge increase in trade, the result of its successful Industrial Revolution and its ever-growing Empire.

The enclosed docks were constructed piecemeal by private companies on the flat land east of the City. First came the West India Docks, covering 54 acres (22 hectares) of water and built by the West India Company. They opened in 1802 and were an instant success, cutting the time needed for merchants to discharge their cargoes from four weeks to four days. Other enclosed docks quickly followed, among them the London Docks (1805) and Thomas Telford's 23-acre (9-hectare) St Katharine's Dock (1828). The vast Royal Docks complex came last. Eleven miles (17 km) long and covering 245 acres (100 hectares), this consisted of the Royal Victoria (1855), the Royal Albert (1880) and the King George V Docks (1921). With their surrounding markets, the Royal Docks soon became a magnet for migrant workers and immigrants.

Before the enclosed docks came to the east of the City, the area was sprinkled with small villages. At Shadwell on the north bank, sailors and boatmen lived among the roperies, tanneries and taverns. Captain Cook stayed here in the eighteenth century between his three expeditions to the Pacific. Limehouse, renowned for its clean air and lime kilns, became a shipbuilding centre and, in the eighteenth century, home to London's first Chinese immigrants who ran the exotic opium and gambling dens, as visited by Oscar Wilde's desperate Dorian Gray. Downstream, the Isle of Dogs' marshy meadows and cornfields were once drained by windmills.

On the south bank, Rotherhithe was the site of Edward III's palace. Here his son, the Black Prince, fitted out a fleet of ships for an invasion of France. Later, in 1620, Captain Jones set sail from Rotherhithe, bound for the New World in the Pilgrim Fathers' boat The Mayflower. At neighbouring Deptford, Henry VIII built a Royal Dock or 'King's Yard' for his navy in 1513; and Elizabeth I knighted Sir Francis Drake after he circumnavigated the world in his ship the Golden Hind.

Greenwich, further downstream, was the heart of London's naval life and provided the inspiration for much of its scientific leadership. The proof may be seen in its hilltop Royal Observatory, its National Maritime Museum, and its position on the Meridian Line and at the centre of world time.

Beyond Greenwich, the Thames widens along the Greenwich and Blackwall reaches. It was from Blackwall on the north bank that John Smith and the Virginia Settlers left in 1616 to found the first permanent colony in America. And it was here, in the nineteenth century, that the large ships of the powerful East India Company docked and the Cutty Sark unloaded her precious China tea.

Further east along the south bank beyond Busby's Reach is Woolwich, where Henry VIII built his first Royal Dockyard in 1512. The Great Harry, the largest ship of its day and the flagship of Henry's navy, was constructed in this year. The docks were to impress Daniel Defoe in the 1720s as 'exceeding spacious and convenient; and are also prodigious full of all manner of stores of timber, plank, masts, pitch, tar and all manner of naval provisions'.

With the arrival of container ships, the enclosed docks became obsolete. In 1982, the Port of London moved out to Tilbury and the great docks, which had employed two million people when the Empire was at its peak, fell silent. Riverside buildings had once presented their finest façades to the river, but for a few years London would turn its back on its lifeblood.

For a while it had a mere token of river life: a ferry between the Tower and HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy cruiser now open to the public; dredgers clearing up silt; the River Police out on the beat; sailing boats at Richmond; motor yachts riding out from St Katharine's Dock and public pleasure boats plying the routes between the few surviving piers.

The river's revival began in the late 1980s and now Londoners have returned to living beside the Thames, whether in converted warehouses or in dramatic contemporary buildings such as Piers Gough's Cascades flats on the Isle of Dogs. Old riverside buildings have been given new life—the London Aquarium is housed in one by Westminster Bridge and Sir Terence Conran has put a clutch of restaurants in disused warehouses by Tower Bridge. The marshy south bank east of Greenwich is also being regenerated. The Thames is even to have a new bridge, the only new span to be built in the twentieth century, linking the City with Bankside.

The Royal Docks complex has given way to the London City Airport, which provides visitors from Europe with an airport close to the City of London. For local people, there is waterskiing, sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, motorcycle training and, at the London Arena, sports events, concerts, exhibitions and light entertainment.

Near here, the great metal fins of the Thames Barrier, built 1975-82 and the world's largest movable flood barrier, rise out of the water. They close the river off from its sea routes, protecting London from the perilous high tides which threaten to flood the city as it sinks slowly but steadily into its clay foundations.

The water of the river has been cleaned up too. Dace, whiting, flounder, herring, the fussy salmon and a hundred other species of fish have been spotted recently. Gap sites are being used to add to Greater London's impressive count of 67 square miles (175 square km) of parkland, while along the towpaths and in patches of wetlands sightings of snipe and lapwing, and blossoming celandine and marsh ragwort evoke the wild, uncultivated land the Thames watered when London's story began.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789204882
  • Publisher: Abbeville Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 10.75 (w) x 10.71 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The River Thames, From Westminster to the Thames Barrier

'The old river on its broad reach unrolled at the decline of day after ages of good service done to the race that people its bank . . . spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth . . . It has known and served all the men of whom the nation is proud—the adventurers and the settlers . . . hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they had all gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of the spark from sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth . . . The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealth, the germs of empires.'

Joseph Conrad, who wrote these words in 1902 in his novel Heart of Darkness, was a Polish immigrant who became a master seaman before turning to writing. He was just the man to capture the constancy, the greatness and the romance of the Thames at the height of its 'good service'. Rising among the hills and villages of Gloucestershire, Britain's longest river snakes its way eastwards across England, to empty into the North Sea. As it twists and turns for 20 miles (32 km) through the vastness of London, its waters lap against the buildings, docks and bridges that tell the capital's story.

This story began when the Thames basin was a wild, forested and uncultivated land, regularly flooded with tidal surges. Bronze and Iron Age traders used the river as their highway to the Continent, sailing down it and across the sea to the Rhine. In 54 BC, Julius Caesar arrived from Gaul and travelled by land to the spot where Londonnow stands, where the Thames was still tidal but could easily be crossed. Once he had defeated the local tribesmen he left.

A century later, in AD 43, the Romans returned with a greater force. Under the Emperor Claudius, an army of 40,000 forded the Thames and secured the north bank, making it the link between Colchester, the capital of their new province, and the Kent ports. Londinium, as they called it, was well situated. Not far from the sea, the Thames here was deep enough for a port while the north bank was protected by two flat-topped hills with a marsh behind and a river, the Walbrook, to the west. Trade flourished.

When the British tribes rebelled in AD 61 and the defiant Queen Boudicca led them in the destruction first of Colchester, then of Londinium, Roman forces promptly rebuilt their burgeoning port.

By AD 70, the Thames had its first London Bridge. It led to Southwark, the Romans' military supply base and London's earliest suburb. Towards the end of the second century, the port was enlarged with a 600-yard- (550-m-) long quay, and by about the year 200 Londinium had a strong defensive wall. It became the hub of the Romans' impressive road system and the sophisticated capital of the Roman province. Ships arrived with dried fruit from Palestine, marble from Turkey and Greece, oil from Spain, amber from the Baltic, wine from Italy—and sometimes pirates.

In 410, with their empire dwindling, the Romans left. Londinium declined, but the port's continuing wealth attracted invaders. Among these were the Vikings. Sailing up the Thames in their dragon-prowed ships, they came repeatedly in the ninth and tenth centuries, to be ousted first by the Christian Saxon king Alfred (who ruled 871-99), then by Aethelred II ('The Unready', who ruled 978-1016).

But in 1016, the young Danish Viking, Canute, was proclaimed King of all England and made London his capital. This City of London became the trading centre of an increasingly unified England. Its international prestige soared, its population exploded, and soon wharves lined the waterfront from what is now Blackfriars Bridge almost to the Tower of London.

The arrival of the Normans signalled the rise of the City of Westminster, 21/2 miles (4 km) upstream from the City of London. After William the Conqueror crushed King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, he marched to London, burning Southwark and destroying crops in his wake until the people offered him the crown. He established himself at Westminster, the site of a palace built by an earlier English king, Edward the Confessor. Now Westminster became the seat of royal and state power, while downstream in the City the merchants held sway.

In the following centuries, the Thames would be central to the spectacular rise of both the royal City of Westminster and the merchants' City of London—the two eventually combining to form the London we know today.

From earliest times, the river had been the city's main highway. For most Londoners, the fastest way to move across the city was to take a boat. 'Up by 4 a-clock and at 5 by water to Woolwich, there to see the manner of tarring', the diarist Samuel Pepys noted in 1661; 'By water to the Strand and so to the King's playhouse'; and again, 'Up and by water to Whitehall, and there with the Duke of York did our usual business.'

The Thames was also a choice place for aristocrats to set up home. Watergates led to their riverside mansions along the Strand. One that survives is York Watergate, originally part of the home of Charles I's favourite, the Duke of Buckingham.

For the royals, the Thames provided the link between their many riverside palaces as well as an airy backdrop to the pageantry that expressed their power. From the busy city, royal barges accompanied by boatloads of courtiers made their stately progress up- and downriver, drawing crowds as the party moved from one palace to another. The diarist John Evelyn watched Charles II return from his coronation in Westminster Abbey in 1660: 'Crowne Imperial on his head . . . to Westminster Stayres where he tooke Water in a Triumphal barge to White-hall where was extraordinary feasting.' It was for another royal river event in about 1715 that Handel wrote his Water Music for George I. In 1806, amid great pomp, Nelson's body was brought from Greenwich to Whitehall stairs by water, then taken through the streets for burial at St Paul's Cathedral.

The merchants of the City enjoyed their pageantry, too. From 1422 to 1856, the increasingly splendid annual parade of City Livery Companies' gilded barges took the Lord Mayor-elect to Westminster for the sovereign's ritual approval. In 1452 the Mayor launched a new barge with silver oars, but extravagance reached even greater heights in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For Thomas Middleton's journey in 1613, a fleet of Livery Company barges, each decorated with its coat of arms, followed the glistening boat carrying the Lord Mayor-elect past five specially built islands decorated with Indian fruit trees, spices and a fairy castle. Even today, though the Lord Mayor's parade takes place on land, the celebrations end with a spectacular fireworks display over the Thames—as if to commemorate the extravagant riverside displays of the past.

London's river trade increased during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The busiest section was that around the City of London. Cloth, for instance, was shipped from here to the Netherlands, Russia, the Baltic and Turkey, while English adventurers and traders returned from India and China with silks and spices, and from America with tobacco and sugar.

By the end of the eighteenth century, London was the largest port in the world—and a paradise for smugglers and thieves. At any one time, some 8,000 boats of all sizes and types might be crammed into the 6-mile (10-km) stretch of dockland, 2 miles (3 km) of them upstream from London Bridge. The worst chaos was at Upper Pool, just below London Bridge, where ships fought for mooring space. Those anchored midstream had their cargo unloaded by lightermen and dumped on the quay where it might be left unguarded for weeks. An estimated half of all cargo simply disappeared. To counteract this, in 1798 the City merchants founded the River Police, armed with cutlasses and blunderbusses. The world's oldest police force, it still enforces river law today.

But the task of protecting cargoes from thieves and smugglers, and of alleviating the congestion of London's old docks, was not dealt with fully until the building of the enclosed docks in the nineteenth century. By then the Pool of London was struggling to cope with Britain's huge increase in trade, the result of its successful Industrial Revolution and its ever-growing Empire.

The enclosed docks were constructed piecemeal by private companies on the flat land east of the City. First came the West India Docks, covering 54 acres (22 hectares) of water and built by the West India Company. They opened in 1802 and were an instant success, cutting the time needed for merchants to discharge their cargoes from four weeks to four days. Other enclosed docks quickly followed, among them the London Docks (1805) and Thomas Telford's 23-acre (9-hectare) St Katharine's Dock (1828). The vast Royal Docks complex came last. Eleven miles (17 km) long and covering 245 acres (100 hectares), this consisted of the Royal Victoria (1855), the Royal Albert (1880) and the King George V Docks (1921). With their surrounding markets, the Royal Docks soon became a magnet for migrant workers and immigrants.

Before the enclosed docks came to the east of the City, the area was sprinkled with small villages. At Shadwell on the north bank, sailors and boatmen lived among the roperies, tanneries and taverns. Captain Cook stayed here in the eighteenth century between his three expeditions to the Pacific. Limehouse, renowned for its clean air and lime kilns, became a shipbuilding centre and, in the eighteenth century, home to London's first Chinese immigrants who ran the exotic opium and gambling dens, as visited by Oscar Wilde's desperate Dorian Gray. Downstream, the Isle of Dogs' marshy meadows and cornfields were once drained by windmills.

On the south bank, Rotherhithe was the site of Edward III's palace. Here his son, the Black Prince, fitted out a fleet of ships for an invasion of France. Later, in 1620, Captain Jones set sail from Rotherhithe, bound for the New World in the Pilgrim Fathers' boat The Mayflower. At neighbouring Deptford, Henry VIII built a Royal Dock or 'King's Yard' for his navy in 1513; and Elizabeth I knighted Sir Francis Drake after he circumnavigated the world in his ship the Golden Hind.

Greenwich, further downstream, was the heart of London's naval life and provided the inspiration for much of its scientific leadership. The proof may be seen in its hilltop Royal Observatory, its National Maritime Museum, and its position on the Meridian Line and at the centre of world time.

Beyond Greenwich, the Thames widens along the Greenwich and Blackwall reaches. It was from Blackwall on the north bank that John Smith and the Virginia Settlers left in 1616 to found the first permanent colony in America. And it was here, in the nineteenth century, that the large ships of the powerful East India Company docked and the Cutty Sark unloaded her precious China tea.

Further east along the south bank beyond Busby's Reach is Woolwich, where Henry VIII built his first Royal Dockyard in 1512. The Great Harry, the largest ship of its day and the flagship of Henry's navy, was constructed in this year. The docks were to impress Daniel Defoe in the 1720s as 'exceeding spacious and convenient; and are also prodigious full of all manner of stores of timber, plank, masts, pitch, tar and all manner of naval provisions'.

With the arrival of container ships, the enclosed docks became obsolete. In 1982, the Port of London moved out to Tilbury and the great docks, which had employed two million people when the Empire was at its peak, fell silent. Riverside buildings had once presented their finest façades to the river, but for a few years London would turn its back on its lifeblood.

For a while it had a mere token of river life: a ferry between the Tower and HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy cruiser now open to the public; dredgers clearing up silt; the River Police out on the beat; sailing boats at Richmond; motor yachts riding out from St Katharine's Dock and public pleasure boats plying the routes between the few surviving piers.

The river's revival began in the late 1980s and now Londoners have returned to living beside the Thames, whether in converted warehouses or in dramatic contemporary buildings such as Piers Gough's Cascades flats on the Isle of Dogs. Old riverside buildings have been given new life—the London Aquarium is housed in one by Westminster Bridge and Sir Terence Conran has put a clutch of restaurants in disused warehouses by Tower Bridge. The marshy south bank east of Greenwich is also being regenerated. The Thames is even to have a new bridge, the only new span to be built in the twentieth century, linking the City with Bankside.

The Royal Docks complex has given way to the London City Airport, which provides visitors from Europe with an airport close to the City of London. For local people, there is waterskiing, sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, motorcycle training and, at the London Arena, sports events, concerts, exhibitions and light entertainment.

Near here, the great metal fins of the Thames Barrier, built 1975-82 and the world's largest movable flood barrier, rise out of the water. They close the river off from its sea routes, protecting London from the perilous high tides which threaten to flood the city as it sinks slowly but steadily into its clay foundations.

The water of the river has been cleaned up too. Dace, whiting, flounder, herring, the fussy salmon and a hundred other species of fish have been spotted recently. Gap sites are being used to add to Greater London's impressive count of 67 square miles (175 square km) of parkland, while along the towpaths and in patches of wetlands sightings of snipe and lapwing, and blossoming celandine and marsh ragwort evoke the wild, uncultivated land the Thames watered when London's story began.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

The River Thames: From Westminster to the Thames Barrier

The Merchants' City and Port: The City of London, Docklands and the East End

The Seat of Power: The City of Westminster, Victoria, Whitehall and Trafalgar Square

The Law, Learning and Entertainment: Holborn, Bloomsbury, Covent Garden and Soho

Arts and Aristocrats: St James's and Mayfair

The Prince Regent's London: From Regent Street to Regent's Park, Camden Lock and Little Venice

West London Parks and Museums: Kensington, Holland Park, South Kensington and Notting Hill

Embassy Heartland to Riverside Village: Belgravia, Pimlico, Knightsbridge and Chelsea

North London Villages: Islington, Highgate and Hampstead

Palaces, Prospects and Villas: Hampton Court, Richmond, Kew and Chiswick

The South Bank: From Battersea to Southwark and Greenwich

Map of London

London Chronology

Index

Acknowledgments

Author Biography: Louise Nicholson has written twenty books, including Fodor's London Companion and London: Louise Nicholson's Definitive Guide. She has been a freelance journalist since 1981 and has contributed many articles to leading newspapers. Richard Turpin specializes in architectural and landscape photpgraphy. His work has appeared in the book The Most Beautiful Villages of France, as well was many newspapers and magazines.

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