St Ethelburga’s Church

Posted by Ruth

Where: Bishopsgate, EC2
Twitter: @StEthelburgas

A calming atmosphere and sense of tranquility is not something one expects to find in the City of London. More typical is the rush of the business ecosystem, keeping the area pumping with suits and wealth. However, if you search them out there are hidden gems dotted about the Square Mile, offering a different experience in this infamous area.


St Ethelburga’s is one such place. With the Gherkin towering in the near-distance, the City of London’s smallest church stands proudly within this concrete landscape. Built in approximately 1250, this little church has experienced its fair share of difficulty. Having just survived the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, this plucky church was hit again in the 1993 IRA Bishopgate bombing, suffering significant damage.

The church was subsequently rebuilt, and has reinvented itself as a Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, aiming to unite people of different faiths, and build relationships across conflict lines and cultural divides. It houses an interfaith tent – a place to pray and reflect on the commonality of our humanity – something which seems particularly appropriate in this spot.


St. Paul’s and Tower Bridge seen through a telescope from the Royal Observatory Greenwich

Posted by Colin

St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge must be two of the most photographed landmarks in London. But chances are they haven’t been snapped like this before…

On Wednesday night I was leading a telescope viewing session at the Royal Observatory Greenwich as part of their annual Evening With The Stars season. At the start of the night our view of the Moon and Jupiter was obscured by cloud and so I turned the telescope’s attention to something a little more terrestrial: Central London.

If you’ve ever been up on Greenwich Hill you’ll know what a spectacular view of the Capital it provides. I was able to centre the telescope on the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is beautifully bracketed by Tower Bridge from the vantage point up on the hill.

Being such a cold night the view was pin sharp and I was able to stick my iPhone at the eye piece and capture this unique view of the two famous landmarks (click image for larger version).

You can spot the coat of arms of the City of London sitting on the gantry of the bridge on the far left of the picture. The glowing “ropes” are also clearly visible.

The telescope eyepiece with Wren’s St. Paul’s in view, and another of his creations in the background

It was even possible to see the flag of St. George fluttering atop the bridge (look closely, and perhaps zoom in and you’ll see it. It is a little dark due to being in shadow but you can definitely see the cross on the flag!) We could even tell the time by the cathedral clock.

Such a gorgeous view was particularly apt as the cathedral’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, was also responsible for designing Flamsteed House – the Observatory’s flagship building.

So from a distance of 5 miles (as the crow flies) I was able to unite two of Wren’s most stunning creations. We got to see Jupiter and the Moon once the clouds had lifted, but sometimes London can be just as beautiful as the heavens.

Related Posts:

There is more than one St. Paul’s Cathedral in London…

A photo of London from space

The Shard, The Moon and Jupiter

In search of the cousin of the T.A.R.D.I.S.

Posted by Colin

Where: St. Martin’s Le Grand, EC2

As big Doctor Who fans it is disappointing that, apart from a replica outside Earl’s Court Tube Station, London is now devoid of any of the blue police boxes the like of which the 900 year old Gallifreyan uses in his travels around the universe.

In the 1950s there were almost 700 sprinkled across the city. By 1969 the Home Secretary (and future Prime Minister) James Callaghan ordered their removal as they were no longer useful.

However, those searching out blue phone boxes in the Capital will have some luck in the City of London, even if this particular breed doesn’t quite live up to the grandeur of the Mackenzie Trench-style.

Smaller and a brighter shade of blue, this cousin of the T.A.R.D.I.S. is no longer operational but it was once used by policemen to contact their nearest stations. They also acted as an emergency phone box for members of the public.

It is interesting to note that in older pictures of this particular box on St. Martin’s Le Grand it is painted the same colour as the T.A.R.D.I.S. style boxes. Was it changed due to the re-introduction of the popular BBC series in 2005? If you know, then let us know!

Solved: The Mystery of Satin Park and the Ginger Cat

Posted by Colin

There has been a lot of interest in a post we put up a few weeks back about Satin the Ginger Cat. Curious to find out who this famous feline was I have been trying to find out the story behind this little green area on Old Street in Islington.

I found some success with the kind people at the Wenlake Estate of which Satin Park is part. The official name of Satin Park is actually Anchor Yard, once home to the Anchor Tavern – an 18th century drinking den. However, the pub was demolished in the 19th century and a small area of grassland now sits where the beer once flowed.

Satin was a cat that had seemingly been abandoned and liked to spend her days in and out of the bushes of Anchor Yard and became somewhat of a local celebrity amongst the residents of the estate. Tragically, however, one day a dog from another estate was being walked through the area and attacked Satin causing fatal injuries. The residents were very upset and got together to mark the Queen of Anchor Yard.

So the mystery of Satin the Ginger Cat turns out to be a sad tale but one that can now be told. Googling Satin the Ginger Cat or even Satin Park returns very little information, save for a few Flickr photos of the plaque above. Hopefully now more people will know the story of this little enclave of EC1 that has captivated me ever since I discovered it almost three weeks ago.

Only Henry VIII statue in London

Posted by Colin

Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived…

Thanks to his penchant for partners and his reformation of the Church, Henry VIII is one of England’s most famous monarchs. And yet, curiously, there is only one outdoor statue of the Tudor king in the Capital.

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To see it for yourself, you’ll have to head off to the entrance gate of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital next to Smithfields Market. St. Barts, the UK’s oldest surviving hospital on an original site, was initially part of a priory and so when Henry VIII tore up the religious rulebook in the 1530s it was under threat of closure.

Whilst the priory itself was dissolved, the hospital survived and in 1546 the King handed the hospital over to the City of London. In recognition of the fact he spared the hospital, his likeness was installed above the entrance in 1702.

Look Mum No Hands

Where: 49 Old Street, EC1V
When: 04/11/12
Twitter: @1ookmumnohands

It seems cycling’s star has never burned so brightly; a British man has finally won the Tour de France, Team GB smashed almost allcomers in the Olympic velodrome and Boris bikes are now a fixture on the streets of the capital. As 2012 has seemingly been the year of the bike, we decided to have some Sunday lunch at Look Mum No Hands – a cycling themed cafe on old Street.

Decked out from floor to ceiling in cycling clobber and bicycle bits, the cafe even has bikes hanging in the window. For the serious cycling enthusiast you can also buy equipment and get your bike fixed in their on-site workshop. Others were there for the free wi-fi with a smattering of Macbooks dotted about the place. There is also a small collection of books and magazines to peruse.

Having over-indulged in Champagne the night before at a friend’s wedding, we were in need of some comfort food. On that level, Look Mum No Hands definitely delivers. The lunchtime menu offers an array of home-made pies, croquettes and soups, along with daily specials.

We went for the steak and cheese pie, and beef and chorizo croquette. The pie was the winner, with crisp pastry and gooey cheese – though it could have done with more steak in the filling. The croquette, while tasty, had no discernable chorizo and the overriding flavour was just of the potato. Both meals were served with a refreshing salad of lettuce leaves, seasonal vegetables and pasta. The coffee was rich and strong, just the ticket for a Sunday hangover.


Definitely worth popping in if you are hungry and in the area, but maybe don’t go out of your way to pay a visit. The food was fresh and the team behind the cafe take pride in sourcing as many of their ingredients locally as they can. The breakfast menu looked very tasty, although we arrived too late in the day to sample it. At £8.50 for a pie and salad, the price is probably right on the cusp of what is reasonable. But, with people queuing to get a table, it is certainly a popular place.

Satin the Ginger Cat

We were walking along Old Street today to grab a bite to eat before going to check out Skyfall at the cinema. Along the way we spotted this plaque fronting a cute little garden:

Satin Park. In memory of the Ginger Cat. Satin. 1993-2005

The area is obviously dedicated to a cat that once prowled these parts, but whose cat? I am intrigued as to the story behind this tiny corner of Islington and I am going to do some digging and see what I can discover. I’ll report back on anything I find, but do let us know if you know anything about this heralded feline!

UPDATE (23/11/12): Mystery solved. Find out who Satin the Ginger Cat was.

The Cat’s Pyjamas!

Where: Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, EC2
When: 24/02/12 (exhibition open till 28th May)
Price: Free

Intrigued by the idea of an event combining art, gin cocktails and 20s music, we went along to the Cat’s Pyjamas night with high hopes. This was a late night opening of the Guildhall Art Gallery , displaying the Age of Elegance exhibition. Unfortunately our expectations were not quite met by the event, and on leaving we were a little disappointed, with a feeling that the evening could have delivered much more.

On entering the gallery we were unsure which way to turn, there was a useful handout on the different activities, but no clue as to where these were located. Unsure, we headed up to the main gallery, which was filled with people dressed in 20s attire, and a small group dancing to the Charleston . Many people had gone to considerable effort to dress up- which did add to the atmosphere. However the bright lights of the gallery, and mix of statues and much older paintings seemed to jar with the exhibition. The combined effect felt like a 20s night by numbers, rather than a transportation back to the jazz age.

In search of the promised cocktails, we eventually located a small pop up drinks area, which had already accumulated a rather large queue. We both tried the Trilby; gin, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and sugar. While delicious, this was not great value at £9 each, especially as it was served pre-prepared in a very small glass.

The exhibition was split across two areas and so we decided to explore, hoping to find more. Whilst the paintings were attractive, they did not capture the essence of the age of elegance that we were expecting and failed to keep us sufficiency interested. Fortunately the evening did improve when we went to the literary section. Mark Oostervan read a short story called ‘The Truth About George’ by P.G. Wodehouse; an intriguing tale of man overcoming his stammer and shyness. The audience were enchanted and this was definitely the highlight of the night. Elsewhere dancing lessons took place, but with our combined lack of coordination we decided to give this a miss.

We felt on balance that given the event was free it was worthwhile going along, and good fun to get dressed up in pearls and braces. What was missing was a certain speakeasy atmosphere of decadence and danger, that the best 20s nights in London deliver. So while it could have been much more, it was still an interesting night, and it was good to explore one of London ‘s lesser known galleries.