London’s Wren-connected streets: from Wren Street to Pineapple Court

As today is Sir Christopher Wren’s birthday, let’s take a look at some of the London streets with a connection, obvious or not so obvious, to him. First, speaking of obvious connections, as @oldmapman pointed out, there is a Wren Street in Bloomsbury, so named because Wren once lived there.

St Mary at Hill takes its name from the church there, which dates back to at least the 12th century and was called ‘on the hill’ because of the steep ascent from the Thames. It was damaged in the Great Fire of 1666, and was rebuilt by Wren.

Not a street, but a building: the Royal Hospital, now home to the Chelsea Pensioners, was built by Wren. For many years, there was a rumour that Nell Gwynn had beseeched Charles to build the hospital after she heard had been moved by the story of an injured soldier. Once the hospital had been built, old soldiers there would toast Nell as their benefactress.

Lamb’s Conduit Street involves a conduit provided for the residents of the area by 16th-century William Lambe, “a rich citizen and clothworker”. He spent a vast sum of his own money to have several springs connected to form a head of water, which was then conveyed by a lead pipe around 2,000 yards long to Snow Hill where a derelict conduit was rebuilt. The conduit was damaged in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt the following year from a design by Sir Christopher Wren.

Czar Street in Deptford was named for Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, who lodged here at the end of the 17th century, a tenant (by means of various sublets) of the diarist John Evelyn, who had moved to Deptford to escape the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire. The Czar did not treat the house or garden in a seemly manner and Evelyn later wrote of his  “now ruined garden, thanks to the Czar of Moscovy”. The government later agreed to compensate him and Christopher Wren, along with the King’s gardener, was assigned the job of assessing the situation and supervising those repairs that were possible.

The church of St Peter’s Cornhill was, for a time, considered to be the oldest church in England and has the only chancel-screen known to have been designed by Christopher Wren. The church is possibly more famous for its view of a building with three 19th-century gargoyles known as the Cornhill Devils. These are, supposedly, an architect’s revenge on an obstreperous rector.

When the buildings in that area were being designed, the rector of the time discovered that one of the buildings would encroach fractionally on church land. He insisted the plans be redrawn so, forced literally back to the drawing board, and facing no small expense as a result, the architect gave one of the gargoyles the face of the rector.

Queen Victoria Street (named for Queen Victoria), which runs from Cheapside to Victoria Embankment (also named for the queen) and is roughly parallel to the Thames, was originally part of Wren’s plans for rebuilding the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666. However, it was more than two centuries before the street was built; it was officially opened in 1871 and was fitted with the first permanent electric lighting system in the City.

The parish church of St James Garlickhythe was yet another building destroyed in the Great Fire and then rebuilt by Wren. The church is home to Jimmy Garlick, an almost perfectly mummified corpse, discovered in 1839 when workmen were closing up the old vaults. It is possible that he is (or, rather, was) either Richard Rothing, who built the original church, or one of the six early Lord Mayors of London who were buried there.

From the obvious connection of Wren Street to the tenuous link (yes, I had to get one of those in) of Pineapple Court, which took its name from the fruit, which was introduced to England in the 17th century;. Like the artichoke, its shape and novelty made it popular on signs, especially those of confectioners. Christopher Wren was said to be so taken with the shape that he adopted it in the decorations of all his buildings (though many of them resemble acorns more than pineapples).

London’s watery streets: from Jacob’s well to Lamb’s conduit

Here’s another Twitter buddy-inspired blog: was there, someone asked me, a story behind Lamb’s Conduit Street?

Indeed, there is. And there’s also a story behind Jacob’s Well Mews in Marylebone, so let’s start (because it’s first alphabetically) with that. This story involves both Jacob and a well, and for those of you who have read some of this blog, a straightforward name like that is relatively rare in London streets.

The mews was named for an 18th-century resident and landowner of Marylebone, Jacob Hinde, who also gave his name to nearby Hinde Street (where the novelist Rose Macaulay lived) There was a Jacob’s Well tavern at the end of the mews until 1893. The Tyburn river flowed through the area, which is probably where the water for the well came from.

The young Michael Faraday lived in a house in this mews, his journeyman blacksmith father having moved his family there in 1796 when the boy was five years old.

And on to Lamb’s Conduit Street which, like Jacob’s Well Mews, has a water connection and is what it says it is: there was someone called Lamb, and there was a conduit.

The 16th-century William Lambe (or Lamb) was “a rich citizen and clothworker” who was something of a philanthropist, and the conduit was one example of his generosity. In 1577 he spent £1,500 of his own money to have several springs connected to form a head of water, which was then conveyed by a lead pipe around 2,000 yards long to Snow Hill where a derelict conduit was rebuilt.

The generous Mr Lamb also provided for “poor women, such as were willing to take pains to carry and 120 pails therewith to carry and serve water”.

The original pump from which they drew water has long vanished, but a stone inscribed ‘Lamb’s Conduit, the property of the City of London. This pump is erected for the benefit of the Publick’ was fixed into a building on the site. (On the corner of Long Yard; I missed that one in my London’s ‘length street’ post.)

The conduit was damaged in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt the following year from a design by Sir Christopher Wren.

The area around the conduit, known as Lamb’s Conduit Fields, later became a favourite area in which local residents would stroll and where the air was clean enough that convalescents could be sent there to recover.