Posted in Architecture, London, Travel

Mounts and Crosses

I’ve travelled to London since I was child. Then we moved around by Tube. I think my mother felt that London was a dangerous place for young children, and thus clung to the perceived safety offered by the underground. If it wasn’t near an underground train station we simply didn’t go there. South Kensington had a tube station, so all the museums in Exhibition Road museums were all duly visited. Even better the pedestrian tunnel under the road allowed uninterrupted subterranean access. Fifteen minutes on foot, above ground, from St Pancras, the British Museum remained inaccessible, unvisited and unknown.

Enamelled road sigh, around the corner from Kings Cross Railway Station.
Enamelled road sigh, around the corner from Kings Cross Railway Station.

More recently, and no longer a child I still travel to London on the same mainline trains, though replete with confidence and rather longer legs, I avoid the tube and walk. There is so much to see – like this enamelled Kings Cross sign. Beautifully clear, it is also highly ambiguous: is it the King’s crossroad; or even the sign for the local public toilet.

'Art Deco' (?) tower on the corner of the Mount Pleasant Post Office
‘Art Deco’ (?) tower on the corner of the Mount Pleasant Post Office

Just along the road is the Mount Pleasant sorting office. A twelve acre mail centre it was once the largest in the world, and famous, at least to me for dealing with the post to Blue Peter, the children’s programme. It is also the centre of the Mail Rail, a narrow gauge railway that once ran across London from Whitechapel to Paddington. It boasts this splendid Art Deco tower on one corner.

IMG_6224Wandering further down the same road on my way to the City, I saw this remarkable eatery. It describes itself as a “Progressive Working Class Caterer”. Inside there are what appear to be wooden pews from a chapel. Sadly, it was closed so no photos yet.

The walk to the City from St Pancras is just over two miles, and around halfway you’re greeted with this view of its evolving skyline.

The old and the new, London's evolving skyline.
The old and the new, London’s evolving skyline.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the walk though was St John’s gate, home to the museum of the Order of St John. Best known perhaps as the organisation behind the eponymous ambulance service. Dating back to 1504 it was originally the entrance to the Priory of the Knights Hospitallers. Sadly, though it looks really old it seems that it is largely rebuilt in the 19th century.

The second cross I encountered was the ironically named Cow Cross – just across the road from the Smithfield meat market. Again a place I had long known about and yet had never seen. It has been in continuous use as a meat market since medieval times. It was so important that the Great North Road (now the A1) starts here. The building dates from the 19 century and reminds me of London’s railways stations, complete with multi-faced clock that can be read from any direction.

Creative Commons License The images of London on this page are by NoelG and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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"I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng" — Earnest Dowson, 1867 –1900 Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae (1896) (Excerpt)
The lovely image of an owl is courtesy of Michael Gäbler [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. The coffee image is public domain

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