St Clements Hospital

2474127813Boris Johnson is coming to London’s East End to drive a bulldozer to start pulling down bits of an old Victorian hospital…a jolly wheeze eh!


Sadly this once beautiful building will soon be gone, then building can then start on Britain’s first urban land trust housing that he gave the green light to.

442711898_b96640739cApparently the scheme ‘by the East London Land Trust is the result of a 10-year campaign first raised as a permanent solution to London’s rising cost of housing when Ken Livingstone was mayor at a London Citizens assembly in 2004’.










guess it has to be done, as the population of our metropolis expands…however maybe they could just take the brownside land that has been held on to by builders and build on there thus saving great buildings for the nation!



Crystal Palace: revisited?

great-exhibition-03-gtyI like this idea quite a lot, in fact lots. Plans have been drawn up to build a replica of the Crystal Palace which housed the 1851 exhibition.

A billionaire Chinese developer has backed the plan to copy the cast-iron and plate-glass building designed by Sir Joseph Paxton in London’s Crystal Palace Park.

brett-ticketBuilt specifically for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was the largest enclosed space in the world at the time.During the five months that the exhibition was open, over 6,000,000 people paid at least a shilling to visit and at its peak some 40,000 people were admitted each day from around the world who saw all manner of items brought back from the British empire, they would’ve seen stuffed elephants and Tunisian bazaars among the 7000 British and 6000 foreign entries.  

While the building, boasting 300,000 panes of glass, was first built in Hyde Park, it was moved to Crystal Palace in south east London, where it remained until it burnt down in 1936.

Shanghai based ZhongRong Holdings, which was set up by Ni Zhaoxing who has what is thought to be a $1.25 billion fortune, hopes to recreate the building, Property Week has reported.

I think it would be awesome and a huge attraction.

Stationary Heritage

_68942467_8754_bury_st_edmunds_signalbox_22_june_2006Amazingly Twenty-six of the “rarest” signal boxes in England have been granted Grade II listed status by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, minister Ed Vaizey said interest in trains and railways was one of the country’s “most endearing and enduring national preoccupations”.

I can’t say I have ever been into train spotting…but it takes all sorts. Saying that the above image of the signal box built in 1888, the Bury St Edmunds Yard signal required four resident signal men to work the levers and it does look quite cool. I just love Victorian architecture and yes this does count as such!

English Heritage with the help of the government will preserve 26 “highly distinctive” signal boxes would provide a “window into how railways were operated in the past,” he added.

Hebden Bridge signal box is a fine example. It was built in 1891 and will be preserved as it and still retains its original 1914 signage.


Signal platforms were first introduced in the 1840s, but British engineer John Saxby first created a building housing levers in 1857. They were designed by private contractors and railway companies, such as Great Western Railway, leading to a huge variety of designs.

The new designations are as follows:


  • Hebden Bridge, Calderdale, West Yorkshire
  • Hensall, Selby, North Yorkshire


  • Bournemouth West Junction, Poole, Dorset
  • Lostwithiel, Restormel, Cornwall
  • Marsh Brook, Shropshire
  • Par, Restormel, Cornwall
  • Totnes, S Hams, Devon


  • Brundall, Broadland, Norfolk
  • Bury St Edmunds Yard, St Edmundsbury, Suffolk
  • Downham Market, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, Norfolk
  • Skegness, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
  • Thetford, Breckland, Norfolk
  • Wainfleet, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
  • Wymondham South Junction, South Norfolk, Norfolk


  • Aylesford, Tonbridge and Malling, Kent
  • Canterbury East, Kent
  • Cuxton, Medway, Kent
  • Eastbourne, East Sussex
  • Grain Crossing, Medway, Kent
  • Littlehampton, West Sussex
  • Liverpool Street, City of London
  • Maidstone West, Maidstone, Kent
  • Rye, Rother, East Sussex
  • Shepherdswell, Dover, Kent
  • Snodland, Tonbridge and Malling, Kent
  • Wateringbury, Maidstone, Kent

Alfred Waterhouse and The Natural History Museum

Ah…the museum of my childhood, the natural history museum was a place of choice that my friends and I would go off and visit firstly because it was free and secondly because of the awesome dinosaur exhibits.

On taking my daughter to share in my childhood delights recently I was struck not so much by the some 70 million items within five main collections of Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology but by the building itself, it is an awesomely impressive structure.

The site for the museum was chosen back in 1862 where the  International Exhibition building stood and was known as ‘the ugliest building in London’.

Captain Francis Fowke, who won the design competition for the new Natural History Museum which was a little on the odd side when he was the architect of the ‘the ugliest building in London’ but Fowke died quite suddenly in 1865 and the contract was awarded to up and coming architect Alfred Waterhouse.

Waterhouse altered Fowke’s design. Originally it had been of a renaissance theme but was to changed to German Romanesque style and that is the majestic building we have today.

From Great Buildings

The building has a bilaterally symmetrical plan around a central entrance which leads to a cathedral-like hall with grand staircase to second floor galleries. The street facade marches 680 feet along a Kensington street. Two three story wings of side-lit galleries with tower pavilions at their ends flank a slightly projecting central entrance with two towers around a recessed arched portal. Behind this layer, internal courtyards separate top-lit back galleries, which are parallel to the central cathedral gallery and perpendicular to the facade. The facade’s towers and those in the back which house stairs and mechanical shafts give the simple rectangular massing a romantic and punctuated skyline.

The building has a structural iron framework of columns and beams, supporting concrete vaults masked by plasterwork ceilings or iron and glass roofs. Fawn and blue-grey colored terra cotta both faces and ornaments the building. Inexpensive and durable, terra cotta was both resistant to acids and washable, ideal for use in facing buildings in dirty Victorian cities. 

Waterhouse hoped  “that the Gothic revival would be more than a mere revival — that it would turn from a revival into a growth.” and this still stands as a monument to his ideal.

The Lighthouse of London

You wouldn’t think you’d find a lighthouse in London would you, I certainly didn’t but there is in fact a lighthouse in London and it is situated at Trinity Quay Wharf.

The interest for us and our era is not so much that this is the only lighthouse in the metropolis, that in itself is quite interesting in itself but it is that Michael Faraday, the chap that discovered electromagnetic induction (the principle behind the electric transformer and generator) in 1831.

In 1836 Faraday was appointed Scientific Advisor to Trinity House, the corporation responsible for Lighthouses throughout he UK. He worked on the optical adjustments of lighthouse lenses, ventilation and improvements.

He invented a new form of chimney for lighthouses which would prevent the products of combustion settling on the glass of the lantern.

The lighthouse at Trinity Wharf was built in 1864.

Looking upwards…..

Now I quite like lighthouses but the problems is I am terrified of heights and quite recently we visited one in Southwold which is on the north Suffolk coast. This too was constructed by Trinity House from 1887 and was taken into service in 1890

The inside was fascinating…

…well from the ground anyway!

Cleopatra’s Needle

Cleopatra’s Needle sits proudly along the Thames Embankment in London, it’s quite near to the Embankment underground station.

Cleopatra’s Needle (not to be confused with the one in the United States) was presented to the British Government in 1820. However it weighed over 200 tones and although there had been plans to bring it back in 1801 it was not until 1877 that it found its way to the grand metropolis that was the centre of the British Empire, London.

It was presented to Great Britain by Mohammed Ali, Viceroy of Egypt as a ‘worthy memorial of our distinguished countrymen Nelson and Abercromby’ celebrating the victories over the French in Egypt. The Needle was originally carved Tuthmose III and the Hieroglyphics praise him and commemorating his third ‘sed’ festival, this festival would be celebrated after 30 years of a king’s rule and thereafter every three years. The ritual was supposed to provide regeneration and was meant to assure a long reign in his afterlife. The other inscriptions were added by Ramesses II to commorate his victories…so quite a fitting gift.

However, how do you move such a huge object over such a huge distance?

Well first off you encase it encased in an iron cylinder which was then rolled by means of levers and chains down a track into the sea, yiou then fit it with a deckhouse, mast, rudder and steering gear…and voila you have a very special, if not heavy ocean going craft.

The ship was named, not surprisingly the Cleopatra and was to be towed to Great Britain by the steamship Olga and set sail with a Maltese crew and captained by Henry Carter who also had supervised her construction.

They set sail on 21 September 1877 but the journey was not without it’s problems. Because of the weight the two vessels could only make 7 knots and disaster struck in the Bay of Biscay when the tow ropes had to be cut in a violent storm.

Sadly six men were drowned attempting to get others off the Cleopatra but eventually Captain Carter and his crew were rescued, the Cleopatra was cut loose and drifted away in the storm and assumed lost. However it was sighted by the Fitzmaurice and towed to Ferrol Harbour, Galicia in North Western Spain, she was towed back to England by the paddle tug Anglia arriving at Gravesend on 21 Janaury 1878, a journey of some 4 months and costing 6 lives from the Olga.

Those who died were:
William Askin, Michael Burns, James Gardiner, William Donald, Joseph Benton, William Patan. Perished in a bold attempt to succour the crew of the Obelisk Ship Cleopatra during the the storm October 14th 1877. (this plaque is at the base of the obelisk)

The Obelisk was raised on the thames embankment and far more fitting than a large ferris wheel in my opinion!

There are two large bronze Sphinxes which lie on either side of the Needle, not Egyptian by any means but Victorian.

The needle on the Embankment, London

Downton Abbey

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Downton Abbey has exceeded all expectations and become a great success. If you have not heard of it, it is about a family set in the fictional Downton Abbey, Yorkshire.

It’s a huge but beautiful country house of the Earland Countess of Grantham, it follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants early in the reign of George V. The first series spans the two years prior to the Great War, commencing with news of the sinking of the Titanic on 15 April 1912 and it is this sets the story in motion.

So it’s not exactly Victorian but it is a cracking good watch. However it’s not so much that story or the family we are interested in here it is the building.

Downton Abbey is in fact Highclere Castle in Hampshire. Owned by Lord and Lady Carnarvon, it has been used for exterior shots as well for some of the interior filming.

Highclere Castle was commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Canarvan and built by Sir Charles Barry who also built the current Houses of Parliament in Westminster. The new “Highclere Castle” dominated its surroundings in a stunning way, in fact Benjamin Disraeli remarked “How scenical! How scenical!”.

It went on to became quite a part of Victorian Era political life