For its May meeting London Studies 1, guided by the very able Janet Willcox and Pat Jones, explored the environs of Cannon Street. The group were amazed to discover that Cannon Street is not named after the manufacture of cannons but candles! The Cannon Street area was initially the place of residence of the candle makers. The name first appeared in 1190 when the street was called Candelwrichstrete (Candlewright Stree).The station was built in 1865-7 on a site used for at least 2000 years and the Hanseatic League had a trading base here from around 1320 called the “steelyard” after the large scales used to weigh imported items.
The highlight of the day was a visit to the London Mithraeum - a Roman temple that lies beneath the new Bloomberg European Headquarters. This free museum was only open a couple of years ago and the third century Roman temple on the site is well worth a visit. The excavations in advance of the construction of the Bloomberg building produced more Roman finds than any other single site in the city. Some of these finds are displayed at the museum in a very attractive way.
The exploration of the area included the Walbrook Building named after the Walbrook River which was Roman London’s starting point and main water supply. The buildings innovative design by Foster and Partners is encased in solar shading to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter – worth finding if you visit the area and also to step inside the small garden in Salter’s Hall court which was formerly the churchyard of ancient St. Swithin’s.
Another fascinating discovery during the visit to this part of London was to Laurence Pountney Hill. The street contains some of the finest early 18th century houses remaining in the city. On nearby Laurence Pountney Hill, parts of which date to the 14th century is Rectory House. The house is thought to have the largest private garden in the City of London and a section of Roman wall in its basement. It also has as part of its structure a former Hop/wine merchant premises complete with a trapdoor in the pavement to allow for bales of hops to be delivered from boats from the nearby Thames. Just around the corner is the oldest wine bar in the city – the Old Wine Shades in Martin Lane.
If all of this was not enough the group managed to also find time to be briefed about Fishmongers Hall.The current hall just by the London Bridge was built in 1834 and replaces halls dating back to the 14th century. The Fishmonger Company is one of the few Livery Companies that still performs its original function. It is also responsible for organising the oldest annual event in British sport – the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race, which is rowed over a 4.5 metre course from London Bridge to Chelsea. Competed by six Thames watermen.
Why not join one of our London Studies Groups and learn a lot more about our Capital’s fascinating history