There are so many locations and landmarks scattered throughout London that are possibly little known and as a result, don’t always get top-draw billing – but, although not necessarily significant historical landmarks – they still retain that sense of being an important part of London’s history, as their original character still remains.
For this week’s inclusion onto my London Shoes website, I trotted off to explore one of these lesser known locations – but one that happens to have loads of influential history behind it.
The subject matter for this week was “Wardrobe Place” and it’s surrounding “St. Andrews Hill” area.
‘Wardrobe Place’ and ‘St. Andrews Hill’ are literally less than a 5 minute walk ‘up’ from Blackfriars tube station or ‘down’ from St. Pauls tube station – and can be found just off of Carter Lane, a narrow little street that runs parallel to Queen Victoria Street.
“Wardrobe Place” is small alley situated down Carter Lane that leads into a small courtyard of old Georgian buildings/houses.
Wardrobe Place is so named because up until the Great Fire of 1666, it was the site of the “King’s Wardrobe” (the storage, administration and expenditure office for the King).
The “Kings Wardrobe” was a 14th Century building that was sold to King Edward III shortly after the death of its owner in 1359.
This building in ‘Wardrobe Place’ was used as a storehouse for the State and ceremonial robes, as well as those items relating to members of the Royal Family and Household, to ambassadors, ministers, Knights of the Garter and various other people relating to State regalia.
Ceremonial costumes and regalia used at coronations, funerals and other occasions of State were also kept there, as were items such as beds and other furnishings for royal and official use.
All these type of items had previously been stored at the Tower of London, but space there was becoming increasingly in demand for the necessary storage of weaponry, amour and ammunition – and so a bespoke ‘Wardrobe’ was acquired.
High quality cloth could also be purchased at the Wardrobe by wealthy punters – in fact, archived records show that in 1604 one William Shakespeare (who lived next door in Ireland Yard, just off of St. Andrews Hill) purchased 4 ½ yards of scarlet cloth from the Wardrobe enabling him to attend state entry into London of James I.
The ‘Royal Wardrobe’ as it was, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Following the Great Fire the Wardrobe was not rebuilt on the site – instead it was relocated to a large building across the other side of the City.
New buildings were built following the Great Fire, most of which still remain within the original courtyard to this very day, and of these buildings still retain their original features which were essential to living and working in London in those times:-
> No. 2 Wardrobe Place – was built around 1680 and is today a Grade II listed building.
> No’s 3 to 5 Wardrobe Place – date from around 1715.
> No. 4 Wardrobe Place – has 2 old doorbells either side of the front door – that depict the ‘class’ distinction of that time, as the doorbell on the left is for the “Office” and the one on the right is for the “Housekeeper”.
On one of buildings at the far end of the courtyard are the remains of an old ‘ghost sign’ from over a century ago, advertising the buildings previous use and occupier:
SNASHALL & SON – Printers. Stationers & Account Book Manufacturers
Back into Carter Lane and more or less right next door to “Wardrobe Place” is the street “St Andrews Hill” which sloped downwards towards the Thames.
On display on the exterior wall of the first building at the top of St. Andrews Hill is one of the many original City ‘boundary’ markers that can still be found across the ‘smoke’.
Many of the buildings situated along St. Andrews Hill originate from the early 1800’s and are a mix of style and function including offices, shop fronts and warehouses.
In front of the Grade II listed ‘36 St. Andrews Hill’ are two Post Office letter boxes that are well over 100 year old – but obviously no longer in use.
The post-box on the left is from the reign of Edward VII (1901 – 1910) and on the right is from the reign of George V (1910 – 1936)
Just past St. Andrews House are alleys around the church of “St. Andrew-by-the Wardrobe” – a place that sounds like something out of the Tales of Narnia!!!
A church has been on the current “St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe” site since before the 1200’s.
It acquired its unique name because of the importance and significance of its neighbour “Wardrobe Place”
Just like “Wardrobe Place”, the original “St. Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe” church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 – but was then re-built by Sir Christopher Wren a few years later.
The church was again destroyed during the London blitz by German bombing in WW2 – only the tower and walls survived, and so the rest of the church as it is today, was rebuilt around that.
Inside the church at its north side, there is a figure of St Andrew, dating from around 1600.
William Shakespeare was a member of this parish for about fifteen years while he was living in the area and working at the Blackfriars Theatre nearby – and there is a memorial in the church, in his honour.
The church was designated a Grade I listed building in 1950.
Before setting off back home, I popped in to the strangely unique “The Black Friar” pub – just across the road from Blackfriars station – for the customary ‘cheeky’ one.
The pub building was constructed in 1875, on a site that was originally an old Dominican friary – and was designed by the architect H. Fuller-Clark and artist Henry Poole, who were both viewed as a little way ‘out there’ free-thinking pioneers of the Arts and Crafts Movement at that time – and the interior and exterior designs of the pub certainly reflect that – as the inside & outside of the pub are decorated throughout with weird sculptures and mosaics of friars and monks – giving it a really unique ‘vibe’.
The Black Friar is today a Grade II listed public house – and is well worth a visit for a ‘cheeky’ beer or two.
So – although maybe not as significant as other historic landmarks – both “Wardrobe Place” and “St. Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe”, the immediate surrounding area and the Blackfriar pub – are in my opinion, definitely an interesting place to while away a couple of hours.