From the ashes

I’m certainly not the first to post a ‘first look’ review of the newest museum space in London, and I’m pretty sure that I won’t be the last, but here I go. Just a quick look.

By now I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story of London’s Temple of Mithras. Discovered during the clearance for redevelopment of a bombed out site near Cannon Street (1952-4). Saved for the nation (sort of) due to intense public interest. Relocated to the wholly inappropriate site on the concourse of Temple Court, Queen Victoria Street. And there it sat for 50 years do so until…

Now, finally, returned and restored to (more or less) its original site following the re-redevelopment of the site by Bloomberg for its new European headquarters. So, after much waiting and with high expectations, I was finally there.

Oooooh, it’s good. It is. It’s good. I mean, it’s Bloomberg, who have all the money in the world, so it’s a bit ‘corporate sleek and shiny’ but that’s ok. It’s nicely done. Understated rather than flashy. On entering, visitors’ first encounter is with the modern as the entrance hall, Bloomberg Space, holds (at the moment) a tapestry and sculpture by Isabel Nolan but we’re soon into the Roman, which is what we’re all here for, with a wall of finds from the 2011-14 excavations.

This collection is just a tiny proportion of the ~14,000 artefacts excavated from the site and includes a representative sample of everyday objects, as well as a few star finds.

This is the sort of display that could be a bit frustrating as the floor-to-ceiling format means that many of the objects are way above eye level. But, never fear, visitors are provided with ipads giving close-up views and information about the objects on display. This can also be accessed on your phone, which is handy.

From there, visitors begin to descend down to the earlier street levels, with a timeline running down the stairs for orientation. You can see how far back in time you are travelling, the lower down you go.

At the next level down we’re starting to get into the mithraic mindset. Three interactive stations give information about mithraism, about the cult in the Roman world, its iconography and possible meanings and about the London Mithraeum specifically.

I was particularly interested in the info on the London Mithraeum. This is also, basically, a waiting area as the visit to remains of the mithraeum itself includes an av presentation which gives visitors an impression of the atmosphere and sounds of the mithraeum in use. This runs about every 20 mins and then there’s time to stay and have a proper look at the remains too.

And here it is, finally, the London Mithraeum.

The presentation is, again, quite understated. Nothing too flashy. Even the av atmospherics aren’t over the top. They just give an impression of what a mithraeum would have been like, subtly filling in the spaces where the walls and columns would have been and bringing just enough life into the space. Looking at the remains themselves, this reconstruction is much more sympathetic than the 1960s one. Nuclear cement bonding…gone. Crazy crazy-paving…gone. Instead we have, as far as possible, the original remains, including the timber risers for the steps, the well and (look closely by the entrance) the door pivots.

So, all in all, this new museum space is a bit of a triumph. I could probably have done without Joanna Lumley’s breathy delivery on the voice-over, and I’d like to see some more detailed info about the recent MOLA excavations and the actual process of reconstructing the remains. Maybe just the addition of the MOLA publications for reference or printed copies of the  excellent (and free!) downloadable booklet. But these are minor points and personal preferences.

The London Mithraeum is free to visit but you do need to book a slot. Get booking because it’s proving popular. You get a free booklet when you visit and the use of the aforementioned ipads for info onsite.

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Three days in May

Loop. Three nights of Loop. Three consecutive, ear bashing nights of Loop. 😀

Ear bashing night 1: Bristol Exchange

Bristol. The scene of past Loop disasters and past Loop triumphs.

I met fellow ‘enthusiast’ Dave in Bristol and we went for a nice cup of tea before the gig. Then we trolled along to The Exchange, running into Soundhead Martin and guitarist Dan in the pub.

Support for the night was by Salope (Gareth out of Anthroprophh, Big Naturals and Kuro), which consisted of a drone of electric cello and theramins. I rather liked this.

When Loop came onstage to their usual drone-intro, which is when I always get a bit excited, they launched straight into The Nail Will Burn. The set included several older tracks and two tracks from the most recent Array 1 ep, Precession and Aphelion but, alas, not the groovy Radial.

Collision sounded great and Arc Lite was spot on 😀 Ending on Burning World is a lovely way to go out too.

I’d say that this was a good solid Loop gig, very enjoyable and a great start to the weekend of Loop gigs.

Set list:

Ear bashing night 2: London, Raw Power Festival

Baba Yaga’s Hut, one of the best London promoters, also presents one of the best London weekenders, Raw Power, now in its fourth year. At The Dome (Boston Arms) in Tufnell Park from Friday to Sunday evening various levels of psych heaviosity is hurled out onto an expectant audience. This year included some Loop heaviosity.

As is the way with me, I didn’t go for the whole day straight through. The Dome is not far from where I live so I can pop in and out. This time I popped in for Japanese New Music Festival (brilliant and hilarious), Qujaku (scary wailing), Cosmic Dead (very hairy) and, obviously, Loop. I think that Loop worked really well in the context of this event. They’re heavy enough to hold their own in the assembled line-up but also dancey enough for people who don’t really know them to just have a good old frug. The sound at the Dome was pretty well spot on so we were getting all the volume and distortion as it’s meant to sound without any mess or superfluous fuzz.

The audience was upbeat and totally went with the band on this journey into sound 😀 Robert was pretty jolly too so there was a nice level of banter: audience member, “play Fix to Fall”,  Robert, ” we can’t play that. It’s too hard” and (while tuning his guitar) “I’m having trouble with my g-string” (how we laughed!).

The setlist was the same as in Bristol.

Ear bashing night 3: Manchester, Transformer Festival

Ooh, controversy. When The Victoria Warehouse announced the ‘too good to be true’ line-up which included Swans, The Fall, Royal Trux and, of course, Loop, the gig-hivemind drew in its collective breath and said, “smells like Barry Hogan”. Barry Hogan; he of a swathe of ATP triumphs and disasters. This assumed connection, together with a couple of, frankly, disastrous and heavily criticized events at the Victoria Warehouse seemed to really put people off buying tickets, despite the hilariously cheap price.

Sure enough, when we got to the venue it was nowhere near full. On the plus side, this made it a much more comfortable experience than friends of mine have had there in the past; no queues for the bar or loos, no crushes getting into the different rooms, plenty of space to just hang out with friends and we were able to actually see the bands. On the minus side, the lack of bodies may have contributed to the extremely echoey sound, rattling around inside this giant box. The Fall sounded (from the back of the main room) like they were playing in a tin can and Loop’s set was definitely affected by an eerie echo.

It sounded like they spent the first couple of songs battling valiantly with the sound onstage before giving up on subtlety and wacking everything up to 11. I think that Wayne (drums) in particular, was having to work extremely hard to hold it all together.

Nevertheless, Loop playing a ridiculously loud, ridiculously heavy set in a disused warehouse is a scenario that I can happily get behind and I enjoyed the gig enormously, despite the problems. And I wasn’t the only one. New best occasional pal Rob was seeing Loop  for only the second time and responded with a level of joie de vivre that is to be applauded. He was giving out badges!

So, of the three nights, I enjoyed all of them but the London gig was the best. A great atmosphere, pretty heavy playing and excellent sound all worked together to make this the best one. Lots of Soundheads were out and about over the weekend so it was also nice to see people and catch up with them (you all know who you are. Thanks for being great company x).

And now I’m looking forward to Liverpool Psych Fest in September for some more Loop action.

PLAY RADIAL!!

Open Doors at The People’s Palace

Yesterday I was out in North London, visiting a site that has always been a visible part of my life. Literally visible; from my school, from my parents’ house, from places I’ve worked, from my balcony at home…

Alexandra Palace. The People’s Palace of North London.

It’s a lovely place, even if it has that rather bonkers Victorian/Edwardian nuttiness about it. Norf Landan’s version of the Crystal Palace, cursed by witches*, plagued by financial woes and fires (I remember being stood on a table in my classroom at school, watching it burn down). By rights it should have been demolished years ago but we just like it too much so we just keep trying to make a go of it, and this time it actually seems to be working. There’s an ice rink and a playground (that I played in as a child), a boating lake, it was the site of the first regular TV broadcasting studio in the UK. There’s a barely-known ‘hidden’ theatre (I saw a highly inventive production of the Odyssey there), crazy golf and, in the grounds below the Palace, a million zillion blackberry bushes (there are some serious blackberrying opportunities at Ally Pally).

But today I wasn’t here for all that, but for an Open Doors Construction Tour. I’ve been on these before at a few different building sites, and they’re a great way to get a nosey at some of the most interesting construction projects going on in London**. Craig also managed to bag a ticket at short notice. This project is the restoration of the East Wing, where the theatre is situated, and the ongoing works are restoring the structure and decoration improving access, renovation the East Court, building in areas for a new museum of the the early history of television, cafes and function rooms, and generally making it an even better place for visitors.

 

We got to visit some of the area that were used by the BBC as studio, recording and staff spaces.

I was delighted to get out onto one of the balconies overlooking the view of London.

 

Here, a small section of an earlier decorative scheme. And someone has scrawled on the wall in pencil:

“The wages of sin is death. The wages of a carpenter is worse”

As the works have been ongoing, a number of artefacts have been unearthed and are on show, including a copy of the Haringey Star with the front page highlighting the “yes” vote from locals to the renovation of the recently-burnt Palace. And look, the man from the ministry said “no”.

A lot of the documents and images have been scanned by Google so, I guess, they’ll be available online at some point.

Outside of Islington, North London isn’t exactly flush with theatre spaces, despite its reputation for showbiz lovies, so the renovation of the beautiful theatre at Ally Pally is pretty exciting. We went into the theatre via the backstage passageway and ended up standing on the stage.

This is the view out into the auditorium.

The raked floor is being levelled up and the stalls area will have flexible seating so that the space can be used for a range of different types of events, including plays and concerts, maybe cabaret and, I’d guess, weddings. This would be a stunning place for a party.

There’s something delicious about visiting a place that is really really familiar (I’ve lived within sight of it virtually all my life) and getting to see bits of it that I’ve never seen before, or from angles that I’ve never seen before.

The Friends of Ally Pally Theatre have been campaigning for donkey’s years to make this possible, so kudos to them. The renovation has also been funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Local Authority. http://www.alexandrapalace.com/about-us/regeneration/masterplan/

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* The whole witch thing is completely made up 😀

** These open days aren’t only in London. Check out their website to find tours near where you live.

Caught by the fuzz.

Another day, another London outing with pal Craig.

London is an interesting city, it’s not all bankers and luxury flats and Russian money laundering, you know. Talking of money laundering (and tenuous connections), our latest London day out included a visit to one of those off-the-beaten-track relatively little-known sites that London is so good at. Today it was the City of London Police Museum, a fairly new addition to the London museum-scape.

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Truncheon made by the Worshipful Company of Bakers, 1737.

Since 1839, the City of London Police force has been policing the Square Mile and that’s what this museum is about; the force itself. How it came into being, how it has developed, its methods, successes, setbacks, it’s role  in counter-terrorism, and in the financial frauds that have tainted the City. The exhibits are used as prompts to highlight how the cases were cracked using careful investigative method and science, and how the investigation of crime has developed, rather than going for sensation and gore.

That doesn’t mean that it’s boring though. There are installations; there’s a view into a police cell containing a rather huffy hologram of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes.

She was banged up for being flat out drunk in the street, and then later released and sent on her way, only to be murdered shortly afterwards. Whenever I see that there’s a Jack the Ripper display, I start to roll my eyes but, for once, in this display the victim is a person not just a prop in a gory story.  The display is actually fairly low key and looks at the police officer’s beat, the murder spot, and how the unfortunate Eddowes ended up where she ended up.

There is a larger display on The Houndsditch Murders of December 1910, and the associated Siege of Sydney Street in January 1911.

‘City policemen murdered by alien burglars’

Three officers were killed in the line of duty, and another two wounded while attempting to capture members of a Latvian gang who were robbing a jewellery shop in Houndsditch. After the robbery and murders, members of the gang were captured or killed but the last two suspected members were holed up in a house in Sydney Street, which was besieged by the police, and a shoot-out ensued. The building in which the miscreants were hiding then caught fire and, once the fire was damped down, the bodies of the two were found inside.  Some of these events were actually caught on film by Pathé news and the whole kerfuffle was immortalized in the 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much and again in 1960 in The Siege of Sydney Street.

In the museum there’s quite a lot about this case and they really reflect on evidence and detection techniques at the time. These small jars contain bullet fragments carefully collected and labelled as evidence and a replica of the murder weapon.

There are also mugshots of suspected gang members and an image of the ‘Wanted’ poster, which was printed up in Hebrew and Russian as well as English (Sydney street is in what was the Jewish East End).

The museum also contains a range of items and images to do with the history of terrorism in the City. Interestingly, and perhaps controversially, Suffragette action is included in this section. The point made is that the actions taken by Suffragettes could today fall under the modern definition of terrorism:

The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

This innocent looking tin of Keen’s mustard is, in fact, a bomb!

And there are images of the destruction caused by IRA bombings in the City. I remember this stuff.

I loved the rather alarming display of weapons used by criminals, some improvised, including this crude but effective rock-in-a-sock.

Right at the end, as is so often the case in museums, there’s the opportunity to dress up. Craig, as always, obliged 😀

This is actually a really good little museum (it is actually really little, but packs a lot in). It’s also free to visit so go and have a look.

The City of London Police Museum can be found at The Guildhall. Go towards the Guildhall Library entrance on Aldermanbury and follow the arrows.

https://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/about-us/history/museum/Pages/default.aspx

Roman walls in car parks. This is actually a ‘thing’.

In 2012, archaeology in car parks hit the headlines. The perfect mix of the prosaic and the sensational; the ancient and modern, seemed to excite the interest of people who usually had no interest at all in archaeology. Of course, you throw in a king and an ‘odd feeling’ and that gets the tabloids going. But I am a Romanist and we don’t do kings. We do, however, do car parks.

On my wanderings I have found myself in many a car park, squeezing between Vauxhall Astras and Ford Focuses, tramping about the place to look at…what? Walls. There’s loads of them. So many that I’ve decided that ‘Roman walls in car parks’ is an actual ‘thing’. So here are a few.

York (Eboracum).

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Ok, that doesn’t look like much but York was an extremely important and powerful city in the Roman period. Founded by the soldiers of the ninth legion in 71CE;  the seat of Roman power under Septimius Severus’ from 208-11 (and the site of his death in 211), the capital of Britannia Inferior under Caracalla; the location for Constantine’s accession to the purple in 306.

This is all big stuff. Seriously.

It’s ok. Those bits of wall in the car park aren’t the only surviving Roman walls. There are some quite impressive sections still surviving to full height. With bastions.

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There is also Roman wall in other British car parks. Here in London (Londinium), you have to go underground. Under the aptly-named London Wall is the London Wall Car Park and if you go along to the motorcycle bays (around Bay 52), you can find… the London wall.

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I like this because you can see the construction methods clearly, the inner core made from rubble with tile courses for stabilization, faced with nicely worked  stones on the exterior, all on a beautifully chamfered  plinth.

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Nearby, hidden behind a nondescript door by the side of the ramp down to the bit of the London Wall Car Park that’s under the Museum of London…

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This is what remains of the west gate of the fort and it’s associated guardroom, which stood in the north-west corner of Londinium. Built in about 120CE, the fort predates the city wall and was utilized to form the north-western corner of the enclosed city when the wall was built  in the third-century.

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This isn’t always accessible but the Museum does do regular tours/talks so look out on their website for those.

And here’s Colchester (Camulodunum).

In Colchester you can see a mixture of original and recreated Roman wall. Here’s a bit of the recreated.

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Basically you can just see what the Roman wall looked like when it was pretty new, and you can, again, see the way that the wall is built using courses of stone blocks with layers of terracotta tile for stabilization.

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Round the corner is a decent stretch of the real thing.

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It’s looking a bit less pristine but then, it is pushing 2000 years old. The city was fortified with walls when it was rebuilt after its destruction during the Boudiccan revolt of 60/61.

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The walls were built fairly rapidly and utilised whatever building material they could find. Within the wall structure you can see bits and bobs, like this piece of roof tile (tegula), some of which show signs of burning.

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Again, there are other, pretty extensive, Roman walls surviving in the city. And they are easy to follow round, taking in some of the city gates on the way

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I’ve observed that this is not just a British thing.

Arlon (Orolaunum)

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Further afield, in the Belgian city of Arlon, is this magnificent section of wall, complete with a bastion.

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The foundations were built using old bits of worked stone, inscriptions and tomb stones, and it’s possible to still see some of those in-situ.

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An earlier blog post has a few more pictures of the delights of Roman Arlon and some more of the many many carved stone monuments found there.

Paris (Lutetia)

There is a rather sorry little section of the Roman city wall in Paris. The door here was locked so I could only see it through the glass but it’s not that impressive in any case. Still, here it is.

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It’s in the stairwell of an underground carpark on Boulevard Saint-Michel.

As far as I’m aware, that’s about it for the Roman city wall of Paris but I discovered that there are some other Roman walls in a car park in Paris. The brilliant Crypt Archeologique at Notre Dame is one of the best places to see the remains of Roman Paris (see also the amphitheatre, the ‘arènes de Lutèce’; and the great big bathhouse at Musee Cluny). I had thought that Crypt Archeologique was just next to the Notre Dame carpark…

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…but a display about the discovery of the remains shows that the site is actually inside the carpark, albeit separated from the vehicles, so I’m claiming this one too.

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The crypt contains, among other things, Roman houses, a bathhouse, a bit of a bridge abutment and part of a quay on  the River Seine.

Nimes (Colonia Nemausus )

Nimes is another city where it is possible to follow the circuit of the old Roman walls, happening upon gateways, decent sections of standing wall and sorry little scraps along the way.

Here’s one of the sorry little scraps.

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On the Rue Armand-Barbès, just by the side of the pavement, are these hardly-noticeable remains of the city wall.  It’s a bit more obvious when you look at the run of the wall that leads into the nearby car park.

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It’s not much to look at but it’s just a small element of the, quite extensive, remains of Roman Nimes and so, for a Romanist like me, worth looking out for on my way round town.

Angers (Juliomagus Andecavorum)

In Angers, in terms of Roman remains, there is, frankly, not much. In the Roman period there were the usual houses, bath-houses, bridges and temples, including a Temple of Mithras. All of this has been built over,  plundered for later building work, and swept away for the construction of the castle and later ramparts.

So what is left?

Apart from some artefacts, now in the local museum, there is only this stretch of wall on Rue Toussaint.

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It’s a chunky stretch of wall made mostly of petit appareil but also looks like it has been altered, built on and up against, and knocked through so that it contains elements of Roman and later construction. It’s actually by the side of a road but there are designated parking spaces all along this stretch, so I’m calling it a car park.

A few kilometres away, there’s more.

Tours (Civitas Turonum)

Enclosing the carpark behind the Studio Cinema on Rur des Ursulines is this stretch of the Roman city wall.

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The wall has clearly been built from reused material with a mixture of petit and grand appareil

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There’s another stretch in the Jardin de St Pierre le Puellier. This area has actually been set out as a public garden with signage about the walls and the bastion.

Cologne (Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium)

And, lastly, I was just in Cologne, a city with some quite decent stretches of its city wall still standing, on my latest car park-related jolly. So here it is, the Roman wall of Cologne, in a car park.

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And another car parky-bit.

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These are in an underground car park right underneath the Cathedral. The remains of the north gate of the city have been reconstructed up at ground level but down here we can see the in-situ remains. This being a rather historical car park, there’s also a medieval well!

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And down the road is another section of the wall bordering another car park.

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Ok, this doesn’t look very Roman, does it? But, trust me, it is. The Roman wall core has subsequently been faced with brick so it all looks much later but, at its core this is still in-situ Roman wall. You can see this better at the exposed end of the wall.

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In the making of this post I gatecrashed a tour being run by one of the Curators of The Museum of London. He raised an interesting point about how the decision to preserve the particular bit of wall we were looking was taken. As a car park is, essentially, a big empty space, I started to wonder about the discussions that preceded the decision to preserve or not preserve, and how that discussion might differ if it was, say, a row of houses rather than a big empty space that was being built. How many chunks of Roman wall have been swept away, demolished to make way for new homes and shops? Probably loads. Maybe it’s easier to argue for the preservation of ancient monuments in car parks specifically because a car park is big empty space. That might explain why there are so many bits of Roman wall in car parks.

And so I rest my case. Roman walls in car parks are clearly a ‘thing’. The evidence speaks for itself.

Oh, and if you’re planning to seek out random archaeology in random places people will, inevitably, wonder why on earth you’re taking photos of a crappy bit of old wall in a car park, so be prepared for funny looks.

Looking for Londoners: Working the Walbrook

Having to get a job.

If I was independently wealthy I wouldn’t have had to have gone to a job interview the day before yesterday but, things being as they are, I did have to go to a job interview the day before yesterday.

I blame my parents.

Anyway, after the interview I went off to meet my pal Craig for one of our, now pretty regular, weekly wanders. After doing a few others things, we ended up at the Museum of London. This is always a great place to pop in, see what’s new and have another little look at familiar things, and there’s currently a really good free exhibition of images of blitz-damaged London (http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/perspectives-of-destruction).

In the space dedicated to ‘Looking for Londoners’, there is also a free display of Roman hand tools, excavated from various sites along the Walbrook Valley, which I was very keen to get a look at.

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The Walbrook, one of London’s famous ‘Lost Rivers’ cut a north-south slash through London from Finsbury Circus to Canon Street and along its banks were workshops of all kinds. Leatherworkers, metalworkers, coopers, jewellers, carpenters and more all set up shop along the Walbrook and archaeologists excavating sites along its course have found the lost and discarded remnants of their trades.

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One thing to flag up straight away: check out the condition of these artefacts! Some of them are pristine. This superb preservation is the result of the waterlogged conditions of the sites. The thick wet mud lacks a crucial ingredient for decay and rust; air, so these anaerobic conditions slow down the normal processes by which objects deteriorate and, often, entirely disintegrate.

So let’s have a look.

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This fantastic looking implement is actually a double-ended scraper/brush tool, found at Bucklersbury House. To the left is a cutting/smoothing tool (think of a paint scraper or polyfiller knife), and to the right, a socket into which bristles would have been packed to create the brush. It’s exact use is unknown but it may have been used for applying gold leaf or for smoothing and painting small areas of wall plaster like this (below), found at St. Mary Axe (the Gerkin),

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Sometimes tools feature text; stamps giving a maker’s name as a form of advertising, stamps marking goods made by or for the Roman state, owner’s name, and so on.

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The stamp above is inscribed, in reverse, with ‘MPBR’, which has been interpreted as an abbreviation of Metalla Provinciae Britanniae: ‘the mines of the province of Britannia’, so may have been an official stamp to mark ingots of metal.

These two tools, a bradawl found at Moorgate Street and a chisel found at Bucklersbury House, have marks stamped into them.

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The chisel has been stamped with ‘MARTIA(L)’. Possibly the maker’s name.

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The, possible, maker’s mark on the bradawl hasn’t been punched very clearly and is illegible.

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Nevertheless, in these tools we see evidence of two layers of London’s industrial life. The stamps represent evidence for those making the tools, either locally or further afield, that other workers then used to make products for Londoners.

As well as the tools, there are are a few pieces of the products being made. This scrap of cut and printed (or maybe stencilled?) leather, found at Lower Thames Street, is the vamp of a slipper (the front and centre part of a shoe’s upper), decorated with a  gilded design.

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I was trying to work out what kind of shoe it might have been and it looks like it might have been part of a toe-post sandal, with the post held in place by the hoop at the top.

The display also contains a really unusual tool.

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I don’t think that I’ve seen one of these before but it’s actually a sort of saw, used in barrel- and bucket-making. It’s for cutting a groove around the inside of the bucket or barrel, into which the base would sit. It’s called a croze.*

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It’s unusual to find the wooden elements of barrels and buckets as, unless they are found in anaerobic conditions (they’re sometimes found in wells), these organic elements just rot away and disappear. This croze is clear evidence for the coopers who made the buckets and barrels needed in London, and the specialist tools used.

Lastly, there is this lovely, near complete pot from St Thomas St. Southwark.

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A close look at the neck of the pot reveals these details. The pot is decorated with tools of a trade; a smith’s hammer, anvil and tongs.

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The pot was found at the bottom of a timber-lined well and it’s not unusual to find objects deposited in wells as part of a ritual closure deposit. Perhaps the well belonged to the smithy and was ritually closed down when the smithy ceased trading, with an offering of thanks to the god Vulcan.

There are lots of other tools in the display. This is just a small selection. The Museum of London is free to visit so do go along and have a look.

This display was curated by Owen Humphreys (@Roman_Tools), PhD student, Museum of London & University of Reading.

http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/roman-rubbish-reveals-lost-londinium

*UPDATE: Someone I used to work with just read his blog and then messaged me to say hat her Dad had one of those crozes, which his Dad, a blacksmith, had given him some time in the 1940s. Hand tools really haven’t changed in millennia.

Follow your nose

Gather round for a tale of Strange London; of randomness and hidden mysteries. A tale of noses.

One of London’s (many) mysteries-that-isn’t-actually-that-mysterious, is that of The Seven Noses of Soho. Dotted about the city, attached to various walls, are life-sized noses. The fable says that if you can find them all you will gain great wealth. This, of course, is rubbish. The real story is less mysterious but still pretty good. In 1997, artist Rick Buckley decided to stage an artistic protest against the pervasiveness of CCTV cameras, but art-bombing the streets. Basically he wanted to see if he could get away with gluing noses all over the place.

He could.

He is supposed to have set up about thirty-five noses but these have been whittled down to seven. Mostly around Soho and Covent Garden.

So me and my friend Craig set off to see if we could find any of them. Starting at Trafalgar Square we scouted the first site; Admiralty Arch and, after a little while, we found the nose (1).

nose-2

Craig is actually pretty tall so we did wonder if the artist had gone about the place with a pair of steps because that nose is quite high. I kept saying “no, no, no” but looking at this photo, now I think he would have needed steps. Certainly for this one.

nose-1

Next we trotted up to Piccadilly and wandered about in confusion looking for…(2)

nose-5

nose-6

We found it in a random ‘ah ha!’ moment on Coventry Street.

nose-4

We searched and searched on Great Windmill Street and just couldn’t find the one that was supposed to be there. We couldn’t find the one of D’Arblay Street either 😦 I don’t know if this was because of renovations to the buildings meaning that the noses aren’t there any more or just us not being eagle-eyed enough but, either way, we couldn’t find them.

Then we went towards Dean Street and immediately spotted the oversized hooter on Meard Street (3).

nose-7

nose-10

The extra-large size of this nose has lead to speculation about whether this was one of the original noses or not. As well as being larger, it’s up much higher than any of the others. It could be an extra one, which would mean that we’re really looking for eight noses.

Anyway, then we stopped for coffee and to warm up a bit.

Setting off again in the direction of Covent Garden, we quickly spotted the one at the end of Bateman Street (4).

nose-11

Then at St. Giles, we easily bagged the one at the top end of Endell Street (5).

nose-12

By this time it was raining a bit but we weren’t deterred.

Alas, we just couldn’t find the one on Floral Street but we did find an ear!

nose-14

So we went out looking for seven (or eight) noses, but found five noses and an ear. Not bad, I reckon.

London is so random   😀