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The Dustshoveller's Gazette: May 2011

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Parish of St John's Smith Square

More strolling round Westminster of a lunchtime, on the way back from Pret (mine's a Hoisin Duck wrap, a mango pot and diet coke, since you're asking).  I like finding pockets of the borough which are pretty much as they would have been in 1834 (except for the cars) ...

First up, Lord North St, looking towards St John's, Smith Square. 
The St John's parish engine was one of the first on the scene of the fire.

Fancy railings outside well-to-do townhouse in
Lord North Street

St John's, Smith Square, famously known as "The Footstool"
because Queen Anne apocryphally kicked one over when asked
by the architect Thomas Archer what it should look like
(four towers at each corner sticking up in the air).  Nice restaurant, too!

More modest dwellings on Gayfere Street - I love the wonky
line of the windows and door frames of the terrace.

Looks respectable enough today: St Margaret's
Church, the next parish along from St John's.  But at
the time of the 1834 fire, this green lawn was a graveyard
and well-known cruising ground, where William Bankes MP
was caught with a soldier called Private Flowers

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Saturday, 14 May 2011

Kerb Crawling for History

Despite some strange looks, I've been studying the pavement outside the east end of Westminster Abbey recently.  We know that in 1834 there was a street plug (ie access to underground fire mains) in "Speaker's Corner", which was the name for the outside area between the apse of Henry VII's chapel and the Chapter House (as well as the better known area inside).  I'm wondering if the water main still flows along the same route and this manhole cover is the current day access to it - signalled by the yellow fire hydrant sign.  A tad nerdy maybe...?

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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Slumming it in Westminster

At lunchtime today, I walked down Old Pye Street, once one of the worst 'rookeries' in London.  Both Joshua Cross and Patrick Furlong, the labourers who started the 1834 fire, lived nearby.

Today the street is lined with Peabody Trust mansion blocks, built there in the late 19th century, when the "The Devil's Acre", as it was called, was cleared.  The Trust still provides social housing for Londoners in the heart of Westminster.

The Old Pye Street Estate buildings are red and black striped brick (above), while the nearby Orchard Street Estate round the corner (below left) is yellow and grey.  Above all, they are elegant and dignified.

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