blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Reminders of old London

After visiting Wales, I spent a weekend in London. Alexander had been learning about The Great Fire of London from his teachers at school, so on Saturday the idea was to take him to latter-day Pudding Lane, the place where the great fire had first begun. The Monument, a doric column 202ft high, stands at the corner of Pudding Lane with its Latin inscriptions; we read them, and ate a packed lunch at its base, pigeons joining in.

The fire raged for four days. Carved on the monument is a description of the dramatic event, in Latin. Translated into English, the story tells of the fire's "astonishing swiftness and noise", how it "altogether vanquished all human counsel and resource" and how it was meant "to remind us of the final destruction of the world". The inscription ended like this:
At the bidding, as we may well believe of Heaven, the fatal fire stayed its course and everywhere died out. (But Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched.) These last words were added in 1681 and finally deleted in 1850.
 There was a plaque to commemorate the song London's Burning as well. After all this we were duty bound to visit the exhibitions at the Museum of London (free of charge) to learn some more about the fire. Thomas had a sleep in his pushchair during this. Alexander took notes and I dare say he told his class later about the things he'd seen and learned.

On our way back to Waterloo Station to catch the train home, the boys were delighted to sit at the front on the top deck of a London bus, and so was I, especially when we passed St. Paul's Cathedral at close quarters and rode down the Strand. Best of all was my lucky chance to get a visionary shot of the Thames from Waterloo Bridge with a view of the tall buildings, ancient and modern, and a rainbow over all of it!
Emma and boys on the bus

St. Paul's, seen from the bus
Ancient and modern London, with rainbow!

The following afternoon we walked around the Crane Park Island Nature Reserve, close to Heathrow, and found some more evidence of history in the Shot Tower, a building that may once have been used for the manufacture of lead shot for ammunition in early firearms. "Molten lead was poured through a copper sieve at the top of the hollow tower. As it fell, it formed small round pellets which cooled and hardened as they hit water in a large tank at the bottom of the tower." The inventor of this process had apparently once fallen asleep and dreamed of leaden raindrops falling on him as he lay in a field.

Next to the tower is an island in the River Crane. Between 1766 and 1928, this location was a gunpowder mill that in the mid nineteenth century had a workforce of 320: men, women and children. Several people lost their lives through this dangerous work––55 accidental explosions occurred. The ingredients of the gunpowder were sulphur, saltpetre and charcoal. Barrels of gunpowder were transported by horse and cart, van and barge to London and the docks and then it was shipped to Canada, for example, to be used against the Americans during the war of 1812.

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