The heart of London is full of strange old places with unusual names and odd stories, but there is one place that for a very long time was not a true part of London at all. Ely Place, just to the north of Holborn Circus, was until relatively recently considered to be a part of Cambridgeshire. For centuries, it was an enclave – an area of land physically located in the City of London but not under its jurisdiction. Instead, it was privately owned by the Bishops of Ely, and even today the street has its own gatehouse and beadles.
When visiting Lord’s, the Home of Cricket, one of the many famous sights for cricket fans is the Father Time weather vane. Its appearance – Father Time, complete with a Grim Reaper-esque scythe, removing the bails in the manner of an umpire at the close of play – seems oddly morbid, until one reads the Law of Cricket that it is inspired by: “After the call of Time, the bails shall be removed from both wickets.” Over the years, Father Time has had a few adventures, falling foul of the weather on more than one occasion and most notably, being the only casualty at Lord’s during the Second World War.
Winchester, England’s ancient capital, is home to a great many fascinating old buildings. The area was originally settled in the Iron Age, then became the Roman town of Venta Belgarum and there has been a cathedral in the city since the 7th Century. King Alfred the Great was buried at Winchester and his links with the city are commemorated by an imposing Victorian statue of him in the city centre. Visitors to the city flock to the grand Gothic cathedral and its beautiful cathedral close , the medieval almshouses of St Cross and Winchester Castle’s Great Hall, which is the subject of today’s blog post.
Like many of the sites and objects detailed in this blog, it’s quite possible to walk past the London Stone and never realise that it is there. It’s easy to miss the grate pictured below, which is situated at street level on the front of a nondescript modern building on Cannon Street in the City of London.
The London Stone has a long and singularly odd history, with its origins shrouded in legends, fairytales and hearsay. Similar to the superstition surrounding the ravens of the Tower of London, a saying goes that “So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so will London flourish.” However, like the ravens, it is likely that this romantic myth dates from the Victorian period, although both superstitions still persist today.