Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Golden Galleons

It’s not just me who’s ever said that by wandering around London with your eyes cast downwards, looking at nothing more than trying to avoid pigeons, idiot tourists and chewing gum (in that order) you miss a heck of a lot of stuff that’s going on at eye level or even higher.
I was reminded of that sentiment the other day when at the bottom of the steps to the entrance to Tower Hill tube station I noticed a shining golden galleon weather vane perched atop of rounded cupola.
The cupola is dead centre - there is a weather vane on the top, honest!
Those instant questions of; what? why? where? leapt to mind so I thought a sort of magical mystery tour to see if I could find the source of the rainbow, or in this case, the weather vane and why the building was deemed important enough to have been crowned so.
From the top of the steps with the entrance to the tube just to my left, I could see that the building was in the centre of two streets which run north from my current location; there was The Minories (or the A1211 to its friends) on the right and Trinity Square running into Cooper’s Row on the left.
Skirting round the remains of the roman walls and the children’s play park I walked up The Minories to a junction on the left called The Crescent which curves back up north along a row of very gracious looking terrace houses.

Weather Vane dead centre again, honest!
The weather vane could still be seen just poking over the roof line and just to the end of the houses I could see a small alleyway leading further into the centre of the buildings.

This short alleyway led to another hidden section of roman wall, quite a sizable chunk to be honest, and the path had been modernised around it meaning you could pass through to a very pleasant courtyard with a couple of shops.

Somewhat disappointingly this very short magical mystery tour had ended because on the left hand side of the courtyard was the building itself with the weather vane just visible by craning one’s neck vertically.

That Weather Vane again.
It wasn’t all disappointment though as the wall of the building sported an impressive coat of arms and a plaque declaring it to be “City Heritage Award - Presented by the City Heritage Society and the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers”. This proved rather a puzzle as some internet investigations showed that the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers’ ceremonial hall (Painters’ Hall) is now located quite a distance away in Little Trinity Lane and the coat of arms they have on display here looks nothing like the one I could see in front of me. But there again perhaps the Painter-Stainers were only sponsoring the award and had no relation to the coat of arms on display. Perhaps a puzzle for another time?

My route then took me through the underpass by the Grange Hotel and I was then almost back to where I’d started at the junction of Trinity Gardens and Cooper’s Row.

View back through the hotel car port to the courtyard.
But that wasn’t the end of the interesting things.
Firstly there was a “Ward Sign” which can be spotted all around “The City” marking out the various wards of the city – perhaps there’s another tour in its own right to see as many of these as possible? Secondly there was a Blue Plaque which is always nice to stumble across. This one marked the one-time resident of the Reverend P.T.B. "Tubby" Clayton who was a founder of the Toc H, a respite club for soldiers from the Great War established in Belgium. Finally there was another plaque but this one is set in stone and was a memorial to Viscount Wakefield of Hythe who (according to the plaque) “….. with his wife led tower hill restoration and gave this house for good to church and people MCMXXXVII” and was also a good friend of the afore mentioned Rev Clayton.

But of course whilst I’d found the weather vane I was still no further in understanding who owns it or why it was there. The ownership was quickly cleared up as the building is currently occupied by Crawfords & Co, a firm of global insurers, so I can only presume they inherited the building complete with weather vane rather than having installed it themselves.
What I did discover though was that I should perhaps practice what I preach, as whilst I was researching the weather vane, I discovered thanks to the brilliant Secret London website, Trinity House which is on the corner of Trinity Square, almost exactly opposite from Vicount Wakefield’s plaque, also sports another shining galleon style weather vane! And I’d completely missed it! This one’s originals are slightly easier to work out though as Trinity House is the headquarters of “Trinity House” who are the “General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar” no less.

The Weather Vane on Trinity House.
So mystery not quite solved, but shows that it pays to keep your eyes peeled!

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