Tag Archives: Black Swan Alley
As The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) / Bleeding London said: “it is one of the most ambitious photo projects that the capital has ever seen. Over the past year, hundreds of Londoners and visitors have been walking the 58,000 streets of London and photographing every single one. The images will be used to create an electronic archive of inestimable social and historical value. The photographs illustrate the exhilarating diversity that constitutes the fabric of the city – from the iconic sights to the lesser-known backstreets of the suburbs.”
1,200 images from this project were displayed at City Hall, sponsored by Quilter Cheviot Investment Management, expertly curated by Jonathan Taylor.
When I was asked if I wanted to join in the project, under the Square Mile group, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. But the more I found out the more excited I became. My initial thoughts on how I would take the photos soon disappeared when I realised that the actual street sign had to be visible in the photo, one of the requirements, unless the street was recognisable. It took my first visit to find my feet and then I was well away.
When I started the project is was Summer (2014) and my first few trips were boiling hot days. The weather started to cool down and then Autumn came. I left home early to maximum the day before it got too dark. Being a Winter person the months that then followed didn’t deter me, even the freezing cold days when after a couple of hours I couldn’t feel my feet and had on so many layers I’m surprised I could even move around.
We each reserved a number of streets and then covered the remaining ones as we went along. For someone who isn’t great with directions, and is not much better with map reading, I managed to take near on 200 photos. Some of my favourites are included in this blog; some of which surround a story.
For instance there was the occasion when on one trip I tried to find New Change Passage. Having worked in the City I knew this area, or so I thought! It is some years ago and there has been much building work and redevelopment. This proved more difficult than I had anticipated – there were no visible road signs and no emblems with the City of London crest.
Eventually, having not found the location, and being led off in a variety of directions, I was advised to head back to New Change, towards the passageway of shops and restaurants, and look out for the landmark of Barbecoa, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.
I found the restaurant and passageway no problem. I had already been here earlier, but I still couldn’t see the street sign. Then quite by chance I looked down and there in the corner of each restaurant and shop was a grey block saying – “20 New Change Passage One New Change”
I knew that I was in the right place, and in any event I was outside Barbecoa (number 20)! It wasn’t quite what I was looking for so I went inside Barbecoa and took a business card in the hope that I could lay it down on the ground and photograph that, looking up or down New Change Passage.
Having taken a variety of images, and as Barbecoa had featured as the main focal point in locating New Change Passage that then inspired me to put together a collage of images. So two of my photographs are New Change Passage and the collage of New Change Passage together with the Barbecoa restaurant. Sometimes having something that is a little bit different isn’t a bad thing.
Another day in the City found me trying to locate Black Swan Alley. Despite looking at Google Maps, the A-Z and help from the City of London police and the Guildhall, I have been unable to locate it. I began to think it no longer existed.
Not one to be beaten, after another final search, I found The Hunt House (“a site for people who love maps, books, London and history”). I contacted The Hunt House to see if they could help with the exact location of the alley. Bruce Hunt confirmed that Black Swan Alley could be seen on maps up until the 1970’s. I followed the directions but when I reached the alley it was all boarded up, and this is all that remains of Black Swan Alley.
Another time I went looking for Pindar Street, Pindar Passage and Pindar Plaza. I found Pindar Street easily and then tried, unsuccessfully, to locate Pindar Passage and Pindar Plaza, which aren’t in the A-Z. I did find a reference to Pindar Plaza, which is now represented by a sketch of a face in bright coloured steel referenced as EYE-I by Bruce McLean, which is located at 199 Bishopsgate. It would be my guesstimate that both Pindar Plaza and Pindar Passage have been knocked down and incorporated into the Bishopsgate complex/Exchange Square, for which there are a couple of photos attached.
I contacted Bruce Hunt (of The Hunt House), who informed me that Pindar Street once ran all the way from where it is now, parallel with Primrose Street to Bishopsgate, at the site of Sir Paul Pindar’s house. He couldn’t find any old reference to a Pindar Passage or a Pindar Plaza, although he thought that these might well have been part of a pedestrian only link from Bishopsgate to Pindar Street and possibly the names were planned for the development but rejected by the Post Office as superfluous.
It would now seem that the once Pindar Passage and Pindar Plaza are part of this complex. However, if anyone else has another story, I would love to hear it.
Then there was the time I discovered why no one had opted to photograph Inner Temple and Middle Temple. With one other group member, we went from Embankment where we could clearly see in but the gates were all bolted and secure. We walked round in the hope that the streets could be accessed via Fleet Street.
Having found Middle Temple Lane it didn’t look like we were going to get through. The double gates appeared securely locked, as did the single door. However, seeing someone push the door and walk through we quickly followed. We have no idea whether we should have been there or not but no one said anything and the result was that all the streets within Middle Temple and Inner Temple were photographed.
Some of my favourites are attached – Middle Temple, Dr Johnson’s Buildings, Crown Office Row, Serjeants Inn, Brick Court, Garden Court and Mitre Court Buildings.
Whilst these street signs don’t have the City of London crest or follow in the vein of the regular street sign, in my mind that’s what makes the City so quirky with these hidden gems, and maze of quirky alleyways and passageways.
I had on my list Austin Friars Passage, Austin Friars Square and Austin Friars. I knew where Austin Friars Passage was so made my way there and assumed if I walked through I would come to the other two. As I started to walk around looking for street signs I was approached by security men asking if they could help (or more to the point wanting to know who I was). I guess the City is far different from when I worked there and it had closed down for the weekend. Whilst no offices are open and only limited shops there is a constant flow of tourists. However, in this small area, it is so work dominated that you wouldn’t expect to find any tourists and as I was armed with a camera they were more concerned with what I was doing. Before too long the big boss came out. As my being there was bona fide there wasn’t a problem but it was unusual to find people wandering around on a weekend. At least they were able to point me in the direction of Austin Friars Square and as I came through I found myself in Austin Friars where another security man told me he had heard all about me! It was worth the interruption for an other 2/3 streets.
Another day in the City and I have been trying to locate Black Swan Alley. Despite looking at Google Maps, the A-Z and help from the City of London police and the Guildhall, I have been unable to locate it. I am beginning to think it no longer exists.
Not one to be beaten, after another final search, I found The Hunt House (“a site for people who love maps, books, London and history”). I contacted The Hunt House to see if they could help with the exact location of the alley. Bruce Hunt confirmed that Black Swan Alley could be seen on maps up until the 1970’s.
I followed the directions but when I reached the alley it was all boarded up, and this is all remains of Black Swan Alley.