History on our streets

On Friday evening I went on a guided walk through the Borough and London Bridge area just south of the Thames. Because it was VE Day, the walk centred on the effects of conflicts – largely but not entirely of World War Two.

On Friday evening I went on a guided walk through the Borough and London Bridge area just south of the Thames. Because it was VE Day, the walk centred on the effects of conflicts – largely but not entirely of World War Two. So, we were told that Borough High Street received 20 direct hits in the Blitz, and also of the tragedy when a passageway under London Bridge railway line was used as a shelter, with doors blocking off each end for protection. Unfortunately, a bomb penetrated the railway lines above, and the enclosure only made the carnage worse.

But there were also charming details. We looked at a sturdy black and white striped bollard, which was made from a cannon from the Napoleonic wars – apparently this use was common. And the stripes? Added during the Blitz because black was not visible in the blackout, and cars kept driving into them. The history of our buildings and our cityscapes is often fascinating and worth knowing.

The walk was led by playwright and poet John Constable, What could be more English? Only the fact that I spent the next day at Flatford Mill, scene of the most famous painting by the ‘real’ John Constable.

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