musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: City of London

Counting down the days

Having left South Africa we are almost at our destination… sort of.

En route to London

My post for 02/03/2013 has the following to say:

“It was time to put my new visa to the test, and surprisingly enough passing through immigration was easy. Now I had to find my way to Kennington in South London which was where I was staying until 8 Feb. There were 3 options: Heathrow Express, Tube, or Coach. I suspect I am sucker for a train so chose the Tube. I had to change trains at 3 different places but surprisingly that in itself was a breeze.  I do remember sitting on that tube from Heathrow with my luggage and heavy eyes from the lack of sleep; with people all around tied up in their own world of cell phones, headsets or books. They were on their way to work, I was on my way to a new life.” 

I have never forgotten that tube ride, it was my first time riding the tube too, but I think at that point I was feeling very uncertain of what I was doing. Fortunately finding your way on the tube is reasonably simple, assuming you know how to read a tube map  you can get almost anywhere in London. The only tube line that runs to Heathrow is the Piccadilly Line, and I rode it to Leicester Square where I changed to the Northern Line and bailed out at Kennington, and then did a short hop to Oval Station for some or other odd reason.

When I exited Oval Station I was very disorientated and I had been hoping to find a taxi to take me to my destination, but contrary to my expectations there were no taxis at Oval. I re-orientated myself, grabbed my suitcase by the hand and headed down the road. My suitcase was not one of the wheelie bags, it was a suitcase with a set of wheels on one corner and a handle on the other. It rolled easily enough assuming that the pavement was level. By the time I got to where I would be staying I was exhausted. But I had arrived. 

Camberwell New Road

The owner of the flat had cooked me breakfast although she was not at home at the time and a friend of hers showed me the ins and outs of where the loo was and how the shower worked and all that sort of stuff. I seem to recall I only met the owner the next morning. While I had not really crossed too many time zones I was still tired after being on the go from the afternoon of the 28th up till the afternoon of the 1st. I did not have a sim card for my phone yet and that was something I needed to do and I seem to recall that afternoon heading down to Camberwell after having a shower to buy myself a watch and a sim for my phone. The shenanigans of my watch having finally cheesed me off enough! Strangely enough I still wear that replacement Timex that I bought at Argos for $19.99.  

I spotted a cellphone shop somewhere and did some enquires about airtime packages. The person on the other side of the counter was a South African and she recommended I rather go try a place up the road because the people she worked for were overpriced. It was quite an odd encounter but I did appreciate her honesty so ended up going elsewhere and was connected probably an hour later. That cell phone package would come back and bite me in the rear end as we got to the end of the month, and my time in London. 


Opening a bank account was easy as it had been pre-arranged, all I had to do was sign on the dotted line and bob was my uncle! However, the banking worked slightly differently to how we do things in South Africa and it took me a long time to get used to it. It too would bite me in the rear end when I left London in March. 

St Mark’s Church, Kennington

My immediate need for accommodation was solved when my landlady (another South African), let me stay for another month while I sorted myself out. She was very helpful and weaned me off the tube and showed me how to use buses! I had not travelled on one of those in years either and the bus service is London is amazingly efficient although it can be very crowded at peak times. Do not expect to see any smiles either because nobody seemed to smile on the buses. If only they had experienced the poor public transport back in SA they would have jumped for joy at what they had in this incredible city. 

I will admit I did a lot of the touristy things in that month, but it was very clear that there were a few snag in my job search. For starters I had to get my qualifications assessed and that would take at least 3 weeks. I was a tad too old to work in the customer service industry and I was really struggling with my hearing. There was a lot of competition for some of the jobs and I was at somewhat of a disadvantage. I was however prepared to relocate, although did not find any jobs outside of London at the time. The usual lack of feedback or responses by agencies also happened in the UK, and of course I also sat with that almost 2 year gap in my CV after my retrenchment. I did know one thing though, I had to get out of London and Southampton was really my city of choice. With hindsight it was a bad choice, if anything I should have headed to Reading or Basingstoke, but purposely avoided the latter  because it supposedly had a lot of South Africans in it. I wanted to avoid those if I could. It is not that I dislike my countrymen, its just that I tend to see things differently to how many of them see it.   

Kennington Park

My time in London spanned from 01 March till I left on 7 April. I saw a lot of things in that month and literally walked myself into exhaustion. The one issue that had plagued me in London was what I suspect may have been shin splints, although it may have been as a result of the extended cramped conditions on the 2 flights. Irrespective of what it was I was in pain for quite a lot of the time. Unfortunately I am allergic to ibuprofen and almost everything that I saw had Ibuprofen in it!  I also discovered that many of the pharmacists are really poor compared to what I was used to in SA. I battled for quite a long time to rid myself of the problem, but it was not fun at the time. 

I won’t even try to explain all I saw or all I did in London, there was just so much. My London folder has over 13000 images in it, and it is doubtful whether there are 2000 of them on this blog.  I started blogging halfheartedly in January 2011 and it really took off when I hit London. All of my travels are in here, and I often go back and reread what my thoughts were back then. I recall that I was at Lewisham one day and while I was there I found the old military hospital, and it was at that hospital where my grandfather was treated after being wounded at Delville Wood. It was a strange encounter, and I could not help but wonder what he thought of the place. I had a love/hate relationship with Lewisham for some unfathomable reason, and yet it turned out to be a very handy location for some of the places I visited. 


A lot of the places that I visited were “cities of the dead”;  when I left South Africa I thought that I would not be doing any war grave photography in the UK. I was very wrong and have photographed twice as many war graves here than I photographed in South Africa.  

At this point I will stop my waffling and draw your attention to the London galleries that I have added to the blog. They can be found under the old Photo-Essay pages.  My London Memorials page is at allatsea

It is also worth looking at the index for March 2013 and the many links inside it. Theoretically they all open in a new tab/page

Finally  I would like to thank my landlady in Kennington, we lost touch in 2014, and I hope that she is still well and has managed to sort herself out with a decent job. Thank you for everything you did for me. 

DRW © 2013-2018. Initially created around about 01/03/2013 but still adding bits as I go along. 

Updated: 18/03/2018 — 16:13

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral was the first cathedral in the UK that I saw the interior of, and it does have a special significance to me because my grandmother grew up very close to the building and may even have attended there are one time.
Unfortunately it has become hemmed in and tends to blend with the surroundings, making you forget that there is a cathedral right under your nose.
This was also the first cathedral that I photographed and back then did not know too much about the structure of such a building and what to my pics are really a hodge podge. 
Parts of it were also out of bounds so I did not get to see everything, and the little old ladies at the door were very insistent that flash photography was not allowed, and that a permit was needed to photograph within the cathedral.
It was also in this cathedral that I saw my first effigy, I had seen wall memorials in a local parish church, although that had just piqued my curiosity more.
As mentioned before, trying to fathom the complete building is quite difficult, and of course a map is always a handy thing to be able to refer to.
and a model helps a bit as well.
I am not sure whether my grandmother or her siblings were baptised in the cathedral, although she was born in the late 1890’s and by then it was still a parish church. If she had been baptised here then as a baby she may have seen the font cover depicted below.
Of course there are many aspects to a cathedral that are merely decorative and some are decorative and functional too.
Yet, a cathedral is also a place where you attended church on a Sunday (or whenever you could or had to), and the pulpit was the place where the sermon was delivered from.  Many of these pulpits are ornately carved creations and very old. Could my grandmother have listen to the parish priest preaching from this pulpit?

What I did find strange was that there were no real pews as I know them, instead there are loose chairs. It must have been quite noisy when everybody stood up to sing a hymn and pushed their chairs backwards.

And yes, there is a war memorial, but instead of showing that I would like to show two other memorials that are in the cathedral.
And of course there is the Marchioness Disaster Memorial. This happened on the 20th of August 1989 near Canon Street Railway Station Bridge. 51 People lost their lives and the event is commemorated at the cathedral.
Southwark Cathedral has been around for a long time, and the history within it is not always pleasant. It is in the nature of buildings like this that they become a beacon of hope for those around them, and centres for the community to engage with their “Maker”. The hopes and dreams of people are within these walls too, and for many it was the place where they were laid to rest. The churchyard here has been swallowed up a long time ago and I really had to look to find evidence that it even existed at all.
There are enough clues to be able to say that part of the graveyard is outside these windows, but there are no visible headstones to confirm anything. One of the information signs does mention a churchyard, but was not too specific about the location, or extent of it. Within the walls of the Cathedral are excavated areas that are on display, and there is a stone coffin amongst those excavations.
If buildings could talk, just what would Southwark Cathedral have to say to us?

The facts remain:

A church has stood on this site for over 1400 years
A convent was founded in 606AD
A monastery established by St Swithun in the 9th Century became and Augustinian Priory under the Normans in 1106AD, and Norman stonework can still be seen. After the dissolution of the monastery in 1539 the Priory Church became the Parish Church of St Saviour in the diocese of Winchester.
It is the first Gothic church to be built in London (1212)
It was consecrated as a cathedral in 1905

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016 

Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:54

Photo Essay: Tower Bridge

When I first saw Tower Bridge up close and personal in 2008 my first thought was “Wedding Cake!” Because the bridge is literally an explosion of beauty and functionality at the same time.

Our hotel was next to the bridge, although the sun did rule out any photography from the late afternoon, and I was never much good with “night shots”.

I visited “The Engine Room” at the time and it was one of those glorious cathedrals of huge silent machines and polished brass. The bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge and was built in 1886–1894. It is now owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. 


There are 4 boilers of which two were fired up at any one time to supply steam to the pumping engines. Two steam engines provided enough power to operate the bridge. The ram sucked water from the storage tank and and pumped it into the hydraulic pump system. There were 6 hydraulic accumulators: two in the pumphouse and  two in each pier, maintaining a constant pressure in the pipe system. Two out of the 8 bascule drive engines were capable of raising the bascules. Horizontal cylinders and single acting pistons rotated the crankshaft which moved the rack pinions (or cogs). Expanded water went back into the storage tank by way of the return pipe. The 2 bascules weigh 1200 tonnes each and are supported in pivots and balanced by counterweights. Above the counterweight is a quadrant with gear teeth on the outer edge. The rack pinion engages the teeth and its rotation causes the bascule to move up or down through a maxim arc of 83 degrees. (information board at the engine room)

(Information board in the engine room)

At the time It was too late in the afternoon to visit the bridge itself so it was added to my long list of things to see/do in London if/when I ever got there again.

In 2013 I got there again, and this time I went on the bridge tour. I cannot give an exact date when this happened but I think it was on the same day that I did the mammoth walk. I covered a lot of ground on these excursions though, but this one was very early in March 2013.

The tour takes you up the southern tower by lift, across the walkway and down the other tower. The surprising thing is that instead of the towers being solid structures they are really hollow spaces with girders and stairs and nothing more substantial than that. Granted, the building was a product of the Victorian age so even the inside was spectacular. 

The biggest design consideration was that sailing ships must be able to pass underneath it, ruling a normal flat bridge out.  The design that was approved was submitted by Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect. He was also one of the judges of potential designs. His engineer, Sir John Wolfe Barry, devised the idea of a bascule bridge with two towers built on piers. The central span would consist of two bascules of the same length which could be raised to allow ships to pass underneath. The two side-spans were suspension bridges, with the suspension rods anchored both at the abutments and through rods contained within the bridge’s upper walkways. (

Looking up inside the one tower


As far as I know the walkway between the towers was a popular place for the Victorians to promenade, in fact it is a pity that they don’t open them up once again for regular use, although the “‘ealth ‘n safety” implications would be onerous. 


The view from the walkways is stunning. (the images below are 1500 pixels long and open in a new tab)

Looking East (1500×803)

Information sheet by City of London (1500×580)

HMS Belfast and the Shard. River Thames looking West (1500×1050)

Information sheet by City of London (1500×602)

St Paul’s Cathedral and “the Monument” (1497×796)

And then it was time to go. The walkways were altered slightly not too long ago and I believe that there is a clear glass panel that allows you to view the street below. No thanks, I may give that a miss.  

I have seen the bascules raised a number of times, and in June 2016 saw it from a different angle.

I also was close and personal when a ship went through the raised bascules.

This is the raised roadway, and the bascules were raised at least 10 minutes before the ship went through and the traffic stacked up very quickly behind the barricades. At least when it was built the traffic jams would have been much smaller than they are now, although the bascules would have been raised more often because of the amount of shipping passing beneath to access the Pool of London.

The underside of a bascule

Whichever way you look at it, Tower Bridge epitomises London and is probably one of the most easily recognised bridges in the world. It comes from an era when aesthetics were as equally important as good engineering. It has been with us over a century, and if properly maintained could be around for another.  I am fortunate to have seen it up close and personal, and I still think it looks like a wedding cake, and a glorious wedding cake it is indeed. 

© DRW 2013-2018. Created retrospectively 05/03/2017 

Updated: 18/03/2018 — 16:13
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