Skyscrapers and churches (and more)


We start our trip from Aldgate Underground station (opened in 1876). The name means the site of a former city gate. But the origin of its name is disputed. For the first time, it was called Æst geat (East Gate) in 1052 (changed to Alegate in 1108). But some think that the name means Old Gate. We head SW and pass the church of St Botolph Without Aldgate. "Without" in the name of the church means that the church was located outside the city gates. The church has been on this spot for almost 1000 years, but in the meantime it was demolished and a completely new one was built in 1744. The author of the famous Robinson book, Daniel Defoe, was married here in 1783. St. Botolph (Botwulf of Thorney, Botulph, Botulf) was a 7th-century abbot who became a saint. By the way, he is also the patron saint of travellers (tourists?).

To the left of the church we pass a small park. We arrive at Dukes Place. A mighty gate once stood above this street. We immediately turn into the narrow passage of St James's Passage. We pass through the grounds of the former Holy Trinity Convent. The monastery was founded in 1108 and at one time was one of the most luxurious and richest in London. There were magnificent stone buildings here at a time when the surrounding houses were made of wood. The monastery was liquidated and the property sold by Henry VIII. On the right is a tiny green area called Miter Square Garden. There were once monastery buildings too. Here was the cloister.

Soon we will turn right. We pass The Trinity Bell pub. At the next corner we turn left and after a few steps right again. On the corner is the site of London's first synagogue from 1637. A large cucumber-shaped skyscraper with the official name of 30 St Mary Axe is already visible, the people call it The Gherkin. The building was completed in 2003 and cost £138 m (plus £90.6 m for the plot), the building is 180 m tall. During the construction of the building, a girl was found buried there and on the dark masonry in front of the building there is an inscription: To the spirits of the dead the unknown young lass from Roman London lies buried here. Same in Latin.

We move past the "cucumber" and see a peculiar church. This is St Helen's Church Bishopsgate. It was William Shakespeare's parish church. The poet lived here in ~1590. It is one of the few churches in the city centre that survived both the fire of 1666 and the air raids of WWII. In 1210, a Benedictine nunnery was built next to the church. Robert Hookepilt, the man who discovered the law of elasticity in physics and introduced the term cell in biology, was once buried here. He was later reburied in Westminster Abbey as a mark of respect. Directly to the left is the next high-rise - St Helen's, completed in 1969, height 118 m. Next to it is The Leadenhall Building, popularly known as the Cheese grater. Completed in 2013, cost £1.15 billion, height 225 m. We move towards Bishopsgate. To our left is another skyscraper - 22 Bishopsgate, also known as Twentytwo. Completed in 2020, height 278 m. We cross the main road and in front of us is another skyscraper - Tower 42 (NatWest Tower). Completed in 1981, height 183 meters, cost £316 million. We pass it on the left side, on the way we see a couple of very strange sculptures. We reach Old Broad Street and turn left. Immediately to our left is a very stately building, the City of London Club, from 1832.

Let's move on. At the point where the road forks, we keep to the left. Just before reaching the next street, there is a multi-meter long metal shack resembling a fish fin, and a plaque on the wall with the inscription that Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), a well-known figure of the Catholic Church, was born here. Soon we turn right onto Threadneedle Street. It is interesting to note that originally this street was Three Needle Street, the names change over time. After all, Cannon St was originally Candle St; Maiden Lane, on the other hand, originally means Midden Lane, a rubbish heap, horse manure was transported there. :-)

On the left is the Royal Exchange building, now a shopping centre and cafes. In the passage, to the left of the building as seen from us, a bronze figure sits comfortably in an armchair. This is George Peabody, an American philanthropist. The statue is from 1869, there is also a copy in Baltimore. It is interesting that the statue was erected during the person's lifetime, Peabody died three months later.

Another bust is visible from behind, it is probably a person better known to us. Paul Julius Reuter, creator of the famous Reuters news agency. It was erected here on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the company's foundation in 1976. The man who revolutionized information dissemination was not born with that name. His name was Israel Beer Josaphat when he was born in Kessel, Germany. He got a new name when he joined the Lutheran faith. But right at this statue, we can also enter the back door of the Royal Exchange and walk through it to exit the front. Maybe drink some coffee too, it's quite good here...

We exit at a small square. Directly to our right is a mighty building that resembles a fortress. This is the Bank of England, founded in 1694, this house is from 1734, architect Sir John Soane. It is true that the house has been heavily rebuilt. We can't go in there without a good reason. I have been inside it once. :-) There is a museum around the corner, you can go there if it happens to be open.

In front of us is the London Troops War Memorial. Relatively modest, the 30-meter columns designed by the author were never built... But looking to the left, we see another monument standing on an islet in the middle of the road. There stands James Henry Greathead, worthy of his name because he invented the tunnelling shield. Thanks to his invention, the London Underground is full of tunnels. Directly in front of us, however, we see a equestrian monument. It is the Duke of Wellington, civilian name Arthur Wellesley, who, as a commander, brought about the final victory over Napoleon's forces. He has another equestrian statue and a magnificent triumphal arch at Hyde Park Corner. And in addition, as a kind of curiosity, there is a copy of an antique naked Achilles statue with his head attached to it in the park nearby. The statue weighs 33 tons and was cast from cannons obtained as spoils of war. A gift from the rich ladies of London to a national hero. :-)

But this place here has become known for one more thing in history. The city's first public toilet was located here. Entry there cost one penny. "To spend a penny" is still used as a polite rewording of going to the toilet.