Our London Adventure- Trinity Gardens and the Tower of London

Tower Hill over looks the Tower of London and historically it was the place of countless public executions. A plaque marks the site of the old scaffold, and there were several small plaques naming many of the famous people who lost their lives there.

Two persons listed were Sir Ralph and Sir Henry Vane, who are connected to the village where members of my Bell family lived for six hundred years. That is the wonderful thing about family history. You can find these small threads in the most unlikely places.


This website gives a wonderful history of the area including maps and illustrations of the progress of Trinity Gardens.

Here is an extract from the above-

The Tower Hill area lagged behind the development to the areas of the City on London to the North and West and stood out as neglected compared with its surroundings. There were no defined roads and it was apparently used as a rubbish dump and even a quarry. At the turn of the 18th Century, local aldermen, residents and occupants of Tower Hill promoted a Parliamentary Bill for Paving, Lighting, watching, cleaning, watering, improving and keeping in repair Great Tower Hill and for removing and preventing nuisances and annoyance. An Act was passed in 1797 and included construction of a highway and the enclosure and laying out of Trinity Square Gardens. The work was led by the Corporation of Trinity House and the gardens designed by Samuel Wyatt. Wyatt was one of the greatest engineers of his age. Compared with his other accomplishments, including construction of Trinity House itself, Albion Mill (the most advanced industrial structure of its day) and lighthouses at Dungeness and Flamborough, the design of the Trinity House Gardens must have been a relatively trivial task.

The Act empowered the formation of the Tower Hill Trust to oversee the construction and management of Great Tower Hill and the Gardens. The Trust was entitled to levy a rate from all residents of the Square to pay for the works and their ongoing maintenance. The gardens were completed around 1797-8 and were laid out very simply in the form of an oval, and consisted of a central grassed area with small flowerbeds surrounded by a footpath, shrubbery and iron railings on stone plinths. The land to the south of the Gardens remained clear to the Tower and the river. Access to the gardens was controlled by the Gardener and the Trust laid down regulations for its use – which was restricted to subscribers and the residents of Tower Hill – there was no public access at this time.”

There is also a Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial for the men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets, who died in both World Wars and who have no known grave, but the sea.


Wikipedia gives a brief description-

The memorial was designed by Edwin Lutyens with sculpture work by William Reid Dick.

The World War I memorial takes the form of a vaulted corridor, 21.5 metres long, 7 metres wide and 7 to 10 metres high. Inside are 12 bronze plaques engraved with 12,000 names.

The World War II memorial takes the form of a semi-circular sunken garden located behind the corridor, to its north. It contains the names of 24,000 British seamen and 50 Australian seamen, listed on the walls of the sunken garden. In the centre of the garden is a pool of bronze, engraved with a compass pointing north. Between the two memorials are two columns with statues representing an officer (western column) and a seaman (eastern).

The Second World War extension was designed by Edward Maufe with sculpture work by Charles Wheeler.

Not all Merchant Seamen who died during wartime, and have no known grave, are commemorated here – they may be commemorated elsewhere, for example, the Liverpool Naval Memorial.

The memorial was unveiled by Queen Mary on 12 December 1928 and the Second World War extension by Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November 1955.

We found this interesting as earlier in the month, we had taken a tour of the Australian battlefields of World War I, in France and Belgium, where we had seen numerous memorials, but hadn’t previously seen any in England recording Australian soldiers or seamen.

After we had wandered around the garden we went down to the Tower of London.


As we walked through the huge gate towers we were jostled by the crowds. Sure it was high summer and a fine hot day and all the tourist were out in force, but hundreds of years ago it was likely to have had similar crowds of people moving in and out of the castle complex, carrying on their daily lives. There is a whole ‘town’ squeezed within the walls with a number of buildings and palaces.

The building, which we know as the ‘Tower of London’ where a number of royals were held prisoner is just one huge building within the complex.


This Tower has an incredible history of over a thousand years, being build soon after 1066 when William the Conqueror landed in England, however London had been actually founded nearly a 1000 years before, about 50AD by the Romans.

There are numerous websites that can give lots of information about the site. I found the Museum of London one really worth looking at http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk

We took a tour with one of the ‘Beef-eaters’ or guards who entertained us with various stories of the history of the place. Again in many places you couldn’t take photos, but I did purchase a book on the history of the Tower, and took hundreds of photos of the areas we could take photos, such as ‘Traitors Gate’ and outside of the palace where the Royal Jewels are kept.

After our visit we decided to take the train back to the area of London where we were staying, and right near the entrance to the station, there were exposed ruins of the original ‘Postern gate’ for the walls of the Tower. Although I knew there were sections of the original walls of London could be found scattered through out the ‘city’, this was the first example we had come across. London is certainly an amazing place.


Our London Adventure- The Monument and Pudding Lane.

In my last blog I wrote about our visit to several places around St Paul’s Cathedral that had significance in the lives of ancestors in my Baxter family.

We then walked down Cheapside, Eastcheap and Poultry before turning down King William Street, towards The Monument.


The Monument is a fluted Doric column in the City of London, near the northern end of the London Bridge, which commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666. This is the area where the fire started, and then burned across the city to the west of St Paul’s Cathedral. In fact the whole area we had just traversed.

I have recently found at least one branch of my family in London at the time of the fire, and so they would probably have witnessed it. To put this family into context I have researched this topic, not only from books and paintings, but found much helpful material on the Internet.

I have summarised the information from the following site.


September 2nd  – On this day in 1666, the Great Fire of London broke out in the bakery of Thomas Faryner in Pudding Lane. The fire soon spread from Faryner’s bakery to nearby buildings and went on to take a firm hold of the City, largely built of wooden houses, weatherproofed with pitch, and separated by only a few feet

The  spread of the fire was further facilitated by the weather, with the strong easterly wind.

The fire eventually essentially halted in its own tracks, spent, after the wind dropped, on the fourth day.

However, eighty percent of the area within the walls was more or less completely burnt out, and only the extreme north and east had survived substantially  intact (the walls had essentially confined the fire to the City within, although some areas without to the west had also been affected).  Around 13,000 private residences and places of business within and immediately without the walls of the City were either essentially or entirely destroyed, alongside 85 parish churches and St Paul’s Cathedral, 45 Livery Company Halls, the Custom House, the Guildhall, the Royal Exchange, the Royal Wardrobe and Castle Baynard.  Damage to property and trade was on an entirely unprecedented scale, as was associated homelessness and loss of livelihood.  Around  100,000 persons were made homeless, and had to be temporarily rehoused in camps,

The rebuilding of London was initiated by the Lord Mayor, essentially straight away, and within weeks a commissioned detailed survey of the fire-damaged area had been completed.

The man selected to oversee and implement the chosen reconstruction plan was Christopher Wren, an architect and a  member of an aristocratic family

Wren and his  office set about their reconstruction work as speedily,  as practicable, so as to provide  the City with the opportunity of re-establishing itself with the minimum of delay and loss. 

In all, they rebuilt 51 parish churches within and immediately without the walls, that is, around half of those that had been destroyed in the Great Fire’ together with St Paul’s Cathedral, and also rebuilt numerous other public and private buildings, many in the High (English) Renaissance or Early Baroque style – the cost of the entire enterprise being covered by a tax on coal.” 

The Great Fire of London of 1666 is not the only great conflagration that London has experienced. We must not forget the bombings of the 1940’s, which of course has a great bearing on what we see today in London.

In references to the churches rebuilt by Wren– “Of  these 51 churches, 30 are still standing, together with St Paul’s Cathedral, and 21 are not.  Of  the 21 that are no longer  standing, 17,   far more than one might have hoped, were demolished by our own over-zealous town planners and engineers in the pell-mell expansion of London following the Industrial Revolution – in some cases, at least marginally justifiably,  to  allow for development, but in many others simply because they were deemed, under the Union of Benifices Act of 1860, to be surplus to requirements!  Only 4, far fewer than one might have feared, were completely destroyed by German bombing during the Blitz of the Second World War.  However,  a number of others were also damaged to varying extents at this time, some of which were subsequently restored, and  some left as empty shells.   Two, St Mary Aldermanbury and St Stephen Coleman Street, were destroyed,  and 8,   Christ Church, St Alban, St Andrew by the Wardrobe, St Anne and St Agnes, St Augustine, St Bride, St Lawrence Jewry and St Vedast alias Foster, damaged, on a single, fateful night, Sunday 29th December, 1940, when thousands of incendiaries were dropped on an essentially unguarded City.”

There are several other sites that have detailed information about the Great Fire including the following


http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk › Stuart England

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk › Education

Then there are You-tube ‘clips’ that are well produced depictions of the time and event.

I like ‘Peter Ackroyd’s London’ which is a history series, and includes some well delivered ‘interviews’ with witnesses of the event, such as Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn.

For London before the fire, my favourite is ‘Pudding Lane Productions, Crytek off the Map’, which gives you a small window into what this part of London probably looked like before the fire.

In Pudding Lane itself there are plaques that commemorate the Great Fire and mark the spot where it all began.

The family I am researching appear to have lived at Clerkenwell and Holborn and so just outside the area devastated by the fire. However, if they were of the Tile and Bricklaying trade, which I believe they were, they no doubt would have been very busy in the task of rebuilding London. What a fascinating time period to be researching family history in this city and beyond, as building in brick came into its own.

After visiting the Monument and Pudding Lane, we continued walking along Great Tower Street and Byward Street, passed All Hallows (Barking), to Tower Hill.

Our London Adventure- St Paul’s Cathedral and the surrounding area.

Our cruise ship the Marco Polo returned to Tilbury on Tuesday 29th July. After we disembarked we took a train to London, where we had arranged accommodation to stay for several days, while we took in some of the sites, and did some family history research at the National Archives.

One of the places I wanted to visit was St Paul’s Cathedral. The present St Paul’s is the fifth cathedral to have stood on the site since 604AD.

My Baxter ancestors had lived close by St Paul’s for several generations. For nearly fifty years, their parish church had been St Faith’s- under-St Paul’s.

To begin our London adventure we had taken a train to St Paul’s Station, which is adjacent to the cathedral.

We entered the cathedral by the main entrance to join a tour. A visit to this magnificent church was a very moving experience for us. However, we were very disappointed not to be able to take photographs inside. We did visit the bookshop to purchase postcards and books to complement our outside photos.

The most important area of St Paul’s Cathedral, as far as our family is concerned, is what is known today as the OBE Chapel, but was formerly known as St Faith’s-under -St Paul’s.

St Faiths was originally in Castle Baynard Ward, and was one of the ancient churches of London..

The original church was at the eastern end of Paternoster Row, a street adjacent to St Paul’s. In 1256, St Faith’s was pulled down for the expansion of St Paul’s. The church was not rebuilt, but the parishioners were given space to worship in the actual crypt under St Paul’s Cathedral, hence the name St Faith’s-Under-St Paul’s. It was destroyed along with St Paul’s in the Great Fire of London.

When the new St Paul’s was built to Christopher Wren’s design between 1675 and 1711, the new chapel of St Faith’-under-St Paul’s was built in the east end of the crypt. This is where the children of James and Elizabeth Baxter (nee Dixon) were baptised between 1767 and 1784.

In 1960 this chapel became the spiritual home of the Order of the British Empire, and award holders of the OBE, and members of their family, may still be baptised and married here.

Another church which stood close by St Paul’s was St Augustine’s Watling Street. It was here that James Baxter had married Elizabeth Dixon by banns on 29 August 1766.


This church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 too, but was rebuilt facing Watling Street in the 1680s.Its distinctive tower was constructed in the 1690s and it is thought to have been designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.

The church was destroyed in 1940 in a World War II bombing. It was not rebuilt, but the tower was reconstructed as part of a new choir school for St Paul’s Cathedral.

There has been considerable recent development on the northern side of St Paul’s, including what would have been Paternoster Row and Ivy Lane, where the Baxter family lived in the 18th Century. We judged it would have been about where Paternoster Square is now. What really surprized me was the entrance to the square- Temple Bar.


In a former blog I wrote about a coloured print that hangs on my office wall called ‘The York Mail Leaving Temple Bar’. This ornate arch designed by Christopher Wren had stood on a section of the roadway where Fleet Street (City of London) became the Strand (Westminster).

In Medieval times the authority of the City of London Corporation reached beyond the ancient city walls in several places and these were known as the ‘Liberties of London’. To regulate trade in the city, barriers were erected on the major roads wherever the true boundaries were a substantial distance from the old gate house,. Temple Bar was one such place.

A Wikipedia entry from the Internet gives an interesting history of this London icon, a summary of which I have included below.

The first record of the bar was in 1293, and was probably a simple barrier such as a chain between some posts. More substantial structures with arches soon followed. By the late Middle Ages a wooden archway (with a prison above) stood on the spot.

Although it was spared in the Great Fire of London, it was decided in the rebuilding of the city, a new structure should be erected. Christopher Wren was commissioned to design this arch. This he did, and between 1669 and 1672 the beautiful Portland stone arch was erected.

Some two hundred years later the City of London Corporation, eager to widen the roadway, had it taken down. It was soon purchased by the wealthy brewer, Henry Meux and was re-erected as the gateway into his estate, Theobald Park, in Hertfortshire.

In 1984, a hundred years on, it was repurchased by the City, from the Meux Trust for £1, and brought back to London and incorporated into the Paternoster Row area and now marks the entrance to the Square.

What a fitting home for Wren’s beautiful arch, beside perhaps his greatest achievement, St Paul’s Cathedral.

The other entrance to Paternoster Square is the Newgate Street entrance. This was originally the other end of Ivy Lane, where my Baxter family lived.

Just along Newgate Street and around the corner was the ‘Old Bailey’ where my ancestor, Thomas George Baxter had first faced the Court in 1832.

We retraced our steps along Newgate Street and crossed the road at the King Edward Street intersection, to the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars. This was the church in which my ancestor George Baxter married Mary Brayne Kington on 13 Aug 1809.


Another extract from Wikipedia- The original church was constructed between 1306 and 1348, as the church of a Franciscan monastery. This church ranked as the second largest in Medieval London.

The church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was rebuilt, although not as large, to the design of Christopher Wren..

Over the next 300 years significant modifications were made. The church was destroyed in a World War II blitz on 29 December 1940.

The Tower survived, and today is used as offices, but the ruined nave and other sections of the church were not rebuilt, and now is a beautiful park in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.

We continued our walk up King Edward Street a short distance to an area known as Little Britain. This where my ancestors, George and Mary Brayne Baxter were living when their eldest children were baptised.

We then crossed King Edward Street in front of the old Post Office, and entered an ancient gate with a plaque announcing it was part of Greyfriars. This led us into a beautiful park, which is now known as Postman Park.

This area was originally the burial grounds of St Botolph’s, St Leonard Foster and Christ Church Greyfrairs. Even today you can see the odd monument tucked away in the corner, or a row of headstones hidden amongst the foliage against a wall.

This is also the site of the George Frederic Watts Memorials to the Heroic Self Sacrifice of the Ordinary people. There are several wall- tile memorials in a covered area and is an interesting place to visit. You can find the history of the place on several websites on the Internet, as well as many photos.

On the other side of the park we found St Botolph’s Church, which was facing Aldersgate Street. This was the church where most of the children of George and Mary Bayne Baxter were baptised between 1810 and 1822.

The Medieval church was a Gothic building and although it escaped the Great Fire of London, by the 18th Century was deemed unsafe and was demolished about 1788. Under the supervision of Nathaniel Wright a new brick church was built on the foundations of the old church, with a low square bell tower at the west end.

After a quick visit to this church, which we could only view from the outside, we made our way back to Cheapside and headed down towards London Bridge.