Saturday, 1 August 2009

Cheapside strategy (2)

Out of all the various plans and trends, it is the city's Cheapside initiative that I am most hopeful about. This is, essentially, the plan to build a shopping centre next to st Paul's on Cheapside, along with a load of other new retail space, and return that street to a 7 day shopping area. I did have a few questions about it, so I emailed the corporation. After a long while, they got back to me - and kind of answered. See below...

"1. For the retail units, particularly in One New Change, is there a general policy or idea of what types of shop will inhabit these?

Land Securities are negotiating with a number of large multiple retailers at the moment and we hope to have an announcement soon in terms of which retailers have signed up to One New Change. I can confirm that Land Securities have been selective in their retail choice, focusing on more aspirational retail as opposed to general retail. The aim is to complement the offer at Royal Exchange.

2. Weekend Opening?

The Cheapside Initiative is very much working towards a marketing and promotional campaign to support weekend trade. Working very much in partnership with our developers, we hope to influence a step change in peoples perceptions of the city as very much a Monday - Friday destination. Land Securities have agreed with One New Change and Tenants based in 1 Wood Street that they will open at the weekend from November 2010. With the critical mass being centred around One New Change, we hope this will be a positive step in encouraging other retailers along Cheapside and Bow Lane to consider weekend trade.

3. Are Paternoster Square and Bow Lane part of the area strategy.

Paternoster Square, Bow Land and Royal Exchange are all part of the overall vision for what the Cheapside Initiative is working towards achieving and this will complement the activities and commitments defined within the Cheapside Area Strategy.

4. Festival and Events

The Cheapside Initiative has a number of activities planned for the year which are outlined in the attached brochure. We also have a dedicated website that will notify you of upcoming events not just for Cheapside but the surrounding are -"

So, they're going for a more upmarket theme, which is understandable for the City. Looks like they're just trying to persuade shops to open on weekends, hopefully shops will give a go - I do believe that its a chicken / egg situation, and if you build it, they will come. Well, enough mixing metaphors.

Monday, 15 June 2009

the City of courtyards

The old city was a city of courtyards, a very inward looking city. While there was life aplenty in the streets, these squares and courtyards were perhaps where the real life of the city took place. You can still see this way of life in many European towns that maintain their medieval pattern - and a few survivors in the City of London itself - private little courtyards in the shadows of the mega corporations.

Many of the finest of these courtyards belong to the Livery companies - the fine facade above is in the courtyard of the company of Apothecaries.

Off Old Jewry there is Fredericks court, a wonderful surviving example of a Georgian city courtyard. And further along Old Jewry (The old Jewish quarter - hence the name) I could see another pleasant looking courtyard, this one unfortunately blocked by a gate and a blue platform machine. Unfortunately this is the case for a good few of the surviving courtyards - whether they are owned by Livery companies, inns of court of banking companies, they are not open to the public.

There is another little courtyard off Cornhill that is usually gated off - white Lion court. Once though it was open, and i had a bit of a look inside. I alwalys feel sad though that these houses, with histories of centuries, are now dead brokering houses. Maybe one day they will be resurrected...

Monday, 1 June 2009

Cheapside - the city's oldest, and newest market

The plans for Cheapside are some of the most interesting in the City, and an area I will return to again and again I imagine. The Corporation are driving this area as a centre for retail, and, for what I can see the first time, supporting it as a weekend destination. Of course, originally it was the City's oldest and largest market, and a thriving shopping area up to the second world war, when it was largely destroyed and the shops moved out permanently to the West End. After the War it was rebuilt as a pretty grim office street. Its still fairly grim, architecturally wise, but could once again be a shopping area. This should all be going ahead over the next year or two, and I will be keeping a close eye on it.

A couple of interesting websites -

Cheapside Area strategy

Interesting PDF booklet, showing what they plan for the Cheapside area. The Cultural Programme seems particularly interesting.

in cheapside - seems to be aimed at almost at retailers, trying to get them to sign up to their Cheapside inititative.

"Cheapside is becoming one of the City of London’s most prestigious shopping destinations, offering visitors a variety of contemporary retail and leisure facilities seven days a week."

We'll see if that happens - if it does, then it would change the face of the City of London, in my opinion indesputably for the better.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

London Stone (2)

Near to the ancient and legendary London Stone, there is another London Stone. This one is a faux-gothic pub, all plaster gargoyles, bubbling test tubes and screams in the toilet. It's part of the eerie pub co, and does present a wonderfully incongruous scene - London city boys sitting drinking amonst gothic kitsche. They even seem to have found some goths to serve behing the bar, probably the only goths in the City of London.

Originally I was going to give this a raving review, ignoring its shortcomings and cheesiness for the fact it really was something different in the City. Then I went there to properly review it and get a few pictures. With my beer, I ordered a ham sandwich and some chips. The Chips were soggy and lukewarm, obviously been sitting there hours. The ham was a mysterious pink and white slab. And the bread it was between was mouldy. I quickly lost my appetite and left, and forgot to take any pictures, so you'll just have to use your imagination. I however, won't be returning very soon.

London Stone (1)

The London Stone is one of those strange bits of London esoterica which few people know about - but in this case, was in its day a pretty major landmark of London.

This is the mystical heart of London. Possibly a Roman waymarker, possibly just a big stone that early Londoners attached significance to in their pagan way. Like the Ravens at the tower of London, it's safety is linked to the safety of the Kingdom, and indeed it survived having a bomb dropped on the church it was situated in in WW2.

It has been moved however, and seems to have lost somewhere a lot of its size - once it was a tall freestanding obelisk, now its just a large oblong rock with a hole in the top.

Currently its behind a little cage on a bank building on the North side of Cannon street, hard to notice and pretty hard to see even if you do notice it!

The building it's under is now empty and due to be demolished, I don't know what will happen to the Stone. Hopefully it'll be a little bit better looked after in its next home, though I don't know if I want it to be 'discovered' - its quite nice to have it there, the forgotten heart of London lying at the feet of commuters.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Hotels in the City

For decades, the City was a hotel free area - deliberately, for like residential buildings the City Corporation banned them and refused planning permission. I have no idea what this policy was to achieve, but in recent years the Corporation has relaxed this stance, and there are now a rash of interesting proposals.

Just today I read of a new 'six star' hotel being planned for the waterfront at Blackfriars. While I'm not instantly taken by its design, that section of waterfront - like the vast majority of the City waterfront, is utterly dreadful, and that conference centre should not be missed.

Nearby, the Grange hotel St Pauls is almost finished. Architecturally its a bit of a damp squib (I don't recall what was there before, its rather likely it replaced some concrete monstrosity) but I have great hopes that these two hotels will be able to bring some life into the Blackfriars area. Its a lovely little area, a little snapshot of what the City was like before the bombers and the bulldozers.

I was also told - by a corporation guide, no less - that the former Lloyd's bank headquarters on Cornhill at the heart of the City is going to get turned into a luxury hotel by a Russian oligarch. I haven't found any evidence of this online, and the credit crunch seems to have reduced the spending power of the oligarchs, but the building is still being renovated for mysterious purposes.

And at the East end of the City, the redevelopment of Trinity Square into a hotel has been given approval. Besides being a glorious building, its in a great location, just across from the Tower of London.

And up on Bishopsgate, there's a hotel planned in the proposed 'Baby Heron', which will go up next to the currently under construction Heron Tower office block.

Of course, all these hotels will be 'luxury', and far beyond my price range, but it does warm my cockles that soon there will be thousands more people living in the City of London - even if only for a few days at a time.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The centre of London

How you define the centre of London is pretty tricky - many, including my trusty rough guide, would have it as Trafalgar Square. Apparently, Black cabs have it as Charing Cross. Certainly, the centre of the City has moved west, and has been moving west for a long time - such that the City itself is now considered to be in East London!

But I think that it is beginning to shift back again. Not to the city for sure - not yet anyway (More on that later - there's a new change coming to the City) but in the last couple of decades the south bank has exploded, and new bridges have connected it to the North bank and St Pauls. In the East, Spitalfields is hotting up, and Bricklane and Spitalfields market are now attractions in their own right across the whole of London. And of course we have the olympics even further east, establishing east London as the place to be in 2012 - and after?

So what will people think of as the centre in a few years time? There is a void between all those areas - the jammed west end, the busy south bank, the trendy east end. If you go there at the weekend now, bar a few isolated pockets, you'll just find a deserted wasteland, devoid of humanity - what the Corporation of London has spent fifty years trying to create, a business park. I do not however believe it will remain like that for long thogh - like it or not, by sheer geography, by architecture and the City towers rising as waypoints, the City of London is returning to its place as the centre of London.

And I like it. Only one question though - where's the centre of the City? St Pauls? The Guildhall? The London stone?...

Friday, 24 April 2009

Welcome to OtherCity!

Hello all! Welcome to my blog!

This is a blog about the City of London. Not Greater London, the City of seven million that stretches across Southern England - and not the financial City of trillions of pounds that turned out to be more boast than being.

This is a blog about the City, the famous square mile, but about the other City - the City that was founded two thousand years ago, that for most of London's history was all the City that existed, the City within the walls. The City of Pepys and Johnson, the great plague and the great fire, ghosts and ghouls, taverns and churches.

That City has suffered much - Victorian 'improvements', German bombing, Sixties developers, and international business that cared little for its surroundings and above all the relentless growth of Greater London, a child that came close to suffocating its mother.

Yet patches of that City still remain - an alley here, a pub there, a church on every corner. This blog is on those survivors - their past, their present, and what may become of that OtherCity in the future.

All your comments - positive and...'constructive'... are more than welcome.

Thanks for reading OtherCity!