Our day started with a trip on the new Overground from Malcolm’s local station Sydenham Hill which is an incredible place in itself…..you almost float through the trees to get down to the platform via slopes and steps…
‘The station is at the north-western portal of the Sydenham Hill Tunnel, located in a deep cutting with access to all platforms (and the station itself) via steps. Originally the station was known as Sydenham Hill (for Crystal Palace), due to its proximity to the Crystal Palace until 1936 when the palace was destroyed by fire.’
Anyway our first stop for the day was the newly opened Mail Rail and associated museum. Its story can be found here but basically it was the now defunct underground rail system for the Royal Mail which linked the main and huge Mount Pleasant Sorting Office with main line railway stations. Why on earth it hasn’t been updated and expanded is beyond me but our guide said that by 2003 it had been decided that it was uneconomic against diesel lorries. As a logistics man myself I would question that conclusion. Unbelievable! However, it does mean that it is now re-born as a tourist attraction, and one we all enjoyed very much.
At one or two loading points we stopped and enjoyed a very dramatic history of the system viewed in large screen on the tunnel walls…..
And we learned some very interesting stories about the prototype pneumatic network which was its precursor…
Mention museum and most people think unexciting or worse. The Postal Museum which we visited after our journey was anything but. Full of human interest and social history, and with vivid and exciting displays and films and objects you could spend a long time there.
I suppose Mount Pleasant isn’t the highest class area in London, but I must admit I was surprised to find a throw-back display of cards and telephone numbers in a passing phone box! More appropriate to Soho of the Sixties or Seventies, maybe it should have a place in the museum……
After the mornings work we sought refreshment in a curious but lovely pub The Jerusalem Tavern a re-working of a Georgian building -it has only been licensed premises since 1996, and so is really pastiche. Didn’t detract from our enjoyment though!
We didn’t just have beers…the sandwiches on artisan bread were fantastic.
Outside we saw the St John’s Gate further up the street – a little known historic building and one of the few tangible remains from Clerkenwells monastic past; it was built in 1504 by prior Thomas Docwar as the south entrance to the inner precinct of Clerkenwell Priory.
We then had a quick look round Smithfield and St Bart’s Hospital where we were able to see inside the chapel which is St Bartholomew-the-Less. Lots of monuments to surgeons as you would expect. A rather sad sight was that on one of the monuments where war medals had been built into the display all of the medals had been prised out by some disrespectful idiot leaving just the ribbons. In terms of its history, the Chapel of the Holy Cross established in 1123, moved to the present site in 1184. Henry VIII established it as a parish church in 1547, the parish being the St Barts Hospital site. The entrance, original tower and vestry of the present building are 15th century in origin. The octagonal worship space was originally designed by George Dance the Younger in 1789-91, adapted by Thomas Hardwick in 1823-25 and embellished in 1862-63 by P.C. Hardwick. After suffering bomb damage in the Second World War the repaired church was re-opened in 1957.
Because Malcolm used to be a solicitor, he was able to take us into the Law Society building very impressive and we had a good look at the Library and the Council Chamber etc. I liked the portrait of Lloyd George, he being the only solicitor to have become Prime Minister. We then at my request had a good tour around some of the four Inns of Court beautiful, historic and very like Oxford Colleges with their Halls and Chapels (and pretty gardens).
Something we saw quite a lot of today was side-by-side telephone boxes, one larger than the other….His and Hers? My research indicates a K6 and a K2……
A tiring but fulfilling day capped off by a visit to a pub theatre in the evening at the Brockley Jack pub to see a production of Frankenstein….an interesting experience to say the least…..your seats are virtually on the stage.