Historical research connects us to our past

It seems I’m on a history kick, where I enjoy historical research that educates me about our past.

Earlier this year I listened to a talk – Ragstone to Riches –  by historian and archaeologist Simon Elliott. His talk was on how Kentish Ragstone, a very hard grey limestone found in seams in Kent, was used by the Romans as a major building resource for London.

Around AD200 the Romans decided to surround Londinium with a protective wall. Large parts of that wall remain, with a prominent part at Tower Hill near the Tower of London. To build the wall the Romans needed a source of building material. They found it in seams of Kentish Ragstone, which they quarried, then shipped by boat into the heart of London via the River Medway and River Thames.

Simon Elliott’s research identified the quarries they were used by the Romans, concluding that the quarrying, dressing, and shipping of the Ragstone was on an industrial scale, where the Roman military were key to the smooth running of the process. Simon calculated that they shipped more than one million blocks of ragstone, quarried near Maidstone, in Kent – amounting to some 1750 boatloads – up the Thames, and set about building a massive wall around the city. The remains of a medium sized ship was unearthed, containing ragstone, during building excavations.

While the locations of quarries has changed, the exact same seam is still used today by The Gallagher Group, the company which owns the last two ragstone quarries in Kent at Hermitage Lane, Maidstone and Blaise Farm, West Malling. Hermitage Quarry supplies everything from quarried aggregates to blocks for walling and high-quality finished stone for use in London and across the South East.

Here’s a photo of the Roman wall at Tower Hill, courtesy of Rept0n1x in Wikipedia. This is followed by photos of some of Simon’s slide show of his talk. [Click on images to expand]

Fun discoveries from zooming into old photos

Much thanks are due to Stuart Humphryes and his BabelColour twitter feed for the fun discoveries of zooming into old photos of London.

This photo, posted by Stuart on BabelColour, is of the building of Holburn Viaduct on Saturday 11th September 1869. The photo delivers much from zooming in. I’ll not tell everything that can be seen in the photo, and let you discover things yourself. I would though say you should look at the couple in the bottom right hand side of the photo, where you can see a lady in a crinoline dress.

Beneath the photo, again thanks to Stuart Humphryes, are three zooed in images from the photo. Clicl on images to expand.

BabelColour, a source of early colour film and photos of London

I seem to be in luck in finding interesting tweets on Twitter. The originator of this tweet is Stuart Humphreys and his BabelColour Twitter site. Have become a follower of this site.

Waterloo Station platform upgrades seem now to be complete

Here’s what I said in my last report on the upgrade to Waterloo Station in May this year,

Since late 2015 I’ve been taking photos of the progress of the Waterloo Station redevelpment, from the same location, which, should you be interested, I’ve written about HERE. I take my photos from the mezzazine balcony overlooking what was the Eurostar terminal, now platforms 20 to 24.

Here’s my latest photo, taken on Tuesday this week. Seems that the platform redevelopment is now complete, just the lower level retail and restaurant area to complete.

Answer to Photo Quiz No.54: Who are depicted on the four plinths in Trafalgar Square

This photo quiz is, I consider, a pretty tough one. There are four plinths in Trafalgar Square, not including Nelson’s Column of course. Who or what is depicted on the four plinths. Answer later today.

For the answers to the Photo Quiz I have posted photos of the four plinths with the names on the statues, below them are the original quiz photos in thumbnail size. For more information about Trafalgar Square see HERE, and about the fourth plinth see HERE. Click on photos to enlarge.

Tower Bridge celebrates its 125th anniversary

On 30 June 1894 Tower Bridge was officially opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales, making this year its 125th anniversary.

The City of London Corporation oversee the management of the bridge by Bridge House Estates. Events to celebrate the 125th anniversary can be viewed at towerbridge.org.uk

Discussions about the need to find a solution to the river crossing problem at the Pool of London began with the Special Bridge or Subway Committee in 1877.

Over 50 designs were submitted. It was not till 1884 that a design was approved. The proposed design by Sir John Wolfe Barry and Sir Horace Jones wsa for a [from Wikipedia] “bascule bridge with two bridge towers built on piers. The central span was split into two equal bascules or leaves, which could be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans were suspension bridges, with the suspension rods anchored both at the abutments and through rods contained within the bridge’s upper walkways.”

An Act of Parliament was passed in 1885 authorising the bridge’s construction, specifying an opening span of 200 feet (61 m) and a headroom of 135 feet (41 m). Construction began in 1886 and took eight years to complete. The Portland stone and Cornish granite cladding were to protect the steel framework, and to give a pleasing and harmonious association to the adjacent Tower of London.

Looking at the bridge today it’s difficult to imagine how it was constructed. Photos taken during the construction shown how it was done. [Photos courtesy of Huffington Post, Wikipedia and Londonist].

Visting the Foreign Office in Open House London weekend

Open House London says of itself,  “Open House London is the world’s largest architecture festival, giving free public access to 800+ buildings, walks, talks and tours over one weekend in September each year”.

It’s an amazing festival. We’ve visited many buildings that in the normal course of events we’d never see inside. Among the varied places we’ve visted are, Crossness Pumping Station, Draper’s Livery Hall, Segal Method Houses, Spring Grove House, Custom House, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Visiting the Foreign Office is certainly one of the the most memorable of our visits. Watching the press conference on TV of President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May in the Durbar Court in the Foreign Office is what reminded me of our visit.

The Grand Staircase, Durbar Court, and Locarno Suite are some of the wonderfully impressive parts of the Foreign Office, in which important events in Britain’s past have taken place. Walking up the Grand Staircase is to walk with history, so many famous people have done so.

If you get the chance to visit on Open House London weekend, it’ll be well worth it, especially the Foreign Office.  Here are photos of the major parts.


Waterloo Station progress photo update

Since late 2015 I’ve been taking photos of the progress of the Waterloo Station redevelpment, from the same location, which, should you be interested, I’ve written about HERE.

I take my photos from the mezzazine balcony overlooking what was the Eurostar terminal, now platforms 20 to 24.

Here’s my latest photo, taken on Tuesday last week. As you can see, work in not yet complete on the staircases to the lower level that will eventually become a retail and restaurant area. Otherwise, it looking like the platform redevelopment is nearing completion.

Touching a statue of Captain Cook to show respect

When I neared Admiralty Arch on the Mall in London last week  I saw a well-dressed man walk past the statue of the explorer Captain James Cook RN FRS.

As he neared me I asked him why he touched the statue as he walked by it. He said Captain Cook was one of Britain’s greatest hero’s, and touching the statue was a mark of respect to the great man.

In our short conversation I asked if he had been to Whitby with it’s strong connection to Captain Cook. He replied that he hadn’t, I suggested that were he to do so, then both the Whitby Museum and the Captain Cook Memorial Musuem were must visit places. On which we then parted. I then took this photo of the statue of Captain Cook.

Throngs of happy tourists in central London

Yesterday I journed to central London, primarily to attend the AGM of Prudential plc, and afterwards to become a tourist.

The Board of Prudential plc presented an excellent report of trading for the last financial year, after which attendees enjoyed a small stand-up lunch, and had the opportunity to talk to the board members, both of which yours truly took advantage of.

I wandered round Parliament Square, up Whitehall, past the Treasury, past Horse Guards Parade, into the Mall, then into Trafalgar Square, finally ending with a short visit to the National Gallery.

Parliament Square was populated with tourists, as was St James’s Park, and Trafalgar Square. With warm sunshine to accompany their tourisical adventures, happy faces abounded, including mine too. There’s so much to see in these parts of central London.

I did get to sit in front of Seurat’s painting of The Bathers in the National Gallery, though not for long. It was like meeting an old friend. Here are a few of photos of my tourist adventure.