London's oldest survivors - 3 historical buildings you need to know
London is an antique city encapsulated within the 21st century. Wrapped in a veneer of modernism and technology, the capital exudes antiquity from every crack and corner. Precarious tenements rub shoulders with glass fronted shopping centres and there are buildings which date back to a time when the cars parked outside them would have been something out of science fiction.
London is a beautiful city with vintage coursing through its very veins; you just have to know where to look…
41 Cloth Fair
It’s said that there were only a handful of houses in the whole of the city that survived the fire of London; and one of these such houses is believed to be 41/42 Cloth Fair in Farringdon. Records lead us to believe that this house in Cloth Fair survived the flames due to the fact that it was surrounded on all four sides by tall priory walls.
Although this is an incredibly unique house within the city of London, in 1929 it was considered for demolition as part of the City of London Corporation’s sanitary scheme. Fortunately, the house evaded demolition but was later served with a dangerous structure notice. A family fell in love with the building and purchased it in 1955 to renovate and restore the old building. It’s due to these outstanding renovations that the building was eventually awarded a City Heritage award.
It’s encouraging news to know that such a historic home has successfully been integrated into society; especially since the home has been visited by the likes of Winston Churchill and the Queen’s Mother. As well as having several celebrity visits, the house at 41 Cloth Fair is rumoured to host skeletons within its foundation.
The Church of St. Bride
The majority of tourists and tour guides will have you believe that the oldest and best buildings within our capital are the Tower or Westminster Abbey. Although these landmarks are quite spectacular and hold a large portion of London’s history, the Church of St. Bride predates them both.
The origins of the Church of St. Bride at the end of Fleet Street are estimated to date back to the 2nd Century where an ancient temple dedicated to the Celtic goddess of fertility, Brigit, used to stand. The temple has long since ceased to exist but the holy well was visited regularly up until the 6th century. It was during the 6th century that the early Christians moved in and altered/replaced the pagan goddess with the saint of fertility, St. Bride.
It’s rumoured that the holy well of Brigit can still be found in the crypts of the church but the religious young women that wished to give birth to a healthy child do not visit or leave offerings anymore – is it surprising, considering its location?
The Station at Baker Street
The underground train station at Baker Street in the West End is the oldest underground station not only in the whole of London, but also the world. Easily outdating the metro systems of New York, Paris and Berlin; it’s doubly surprising to find out that the oldest train tracks in London aren’t in Baker Street – but located between Paddington Station and Farringdon Street Station.
The underground station was built in 1863 and is still frequented as it has been built and rebuilt numerous times and now has four platforms. Over the years the Baker Street tube station has seen its fair share of action as two bombs have been found in carrier bags since 1973. Miraculously the bomb squad was able to diffuse both bombs without any loss of life or injuries.
London truly is a wonderful city, not only for its culture and diversity, but also for the history that permeates the brick in almost every building and the stone in every other structure. There are a number of other interesting locations and venues tucked away in the city of London but to appreciate these significant sites you should experience them for yourself. You won’t regret it.
Author: Andreas Johnson is the resident architecture enthusiast at ABC Selfstore, a company dedicated to making the most of space and developing new methods of storage. On more than one occasion Andreas has been caught building matchstick models of London when he really should be working…