London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Lunchtime in the City Then (1990s) and Now

Temping in my other job (legal secretary) in various parts of London I love exploring in my lunchtime. Over the past couple of years I’ve done a couple of posts about things to do in your lunchtime namely Fleet Street, Chancery Lane and Marylebone and I’m currently working on one for Westminster which will follow soon – I just need to try out a few more places!

Starting my assignment last week in the City – EC3 to be precise – I realised that the last time I had worked in EC3 was when I was at Ince & Co (they were then based in Byward Street). I left them in 1996 when I went travelling.

Walking the streets surrounding Fenchurch Street I was struck by how much that part of the City had changed in the intervening 17 years. This wasn’t the first time I’ve visited the area since then but it was the first time I’ve worked there which made me see the area in a different light ie comparing it from then to now.

On a sunny lunchtime last week I thought I would head to Seething Lane Gardens.  This is what I found.

It’s closed until 2014 apparently. The sign on the hoarding says it is closed because of the redevelopment behind it at 10 Trinity Square. The garden will be re-designed for its opening next year. However I can’t help feeling that the historical nature of the gardens will be lost in the re-development. More details about the gardens can be found here.

Feeling a bit shocked by this demolition I was pleased to see something nearby that hadn’t changed. Free regular lunchtime recitals take place at St Olave, Hart Street which I prefer to call by Dickens’ name for the church ie St Ghastly Grim. The recital had started ten minutes previously so I didn’t venture in.

I then decided to go onwards to one of my favourite gardens St Dunstan in the East which thankfully was exactly as I remembered it.

The following day on my way to Petticoat Lane Market (which was a regular haunt back in the nineties) I stumbled across the fairly new Artizan Street Library which has replaced the now demolished Camomile Street library nearby. I had previously seen this library advertised but had no inkling of where it was. I had never heard of Artizan Street, E1. It turns out it’s right next to the Post Office and Travelodge in Harrow Place just around the corner from Petticoat Lane.

After a diversion into the library where I was pleased to find Pevsner’s London: East which I hadn’t found in either E17 or E4, I went on to visit Petticoat Lane.  However I was shocked to discover how different the atmosphere was from back in the 1990s. Although there were lots and lots of stalls I was practically the only customer. I spoke to one of the stallholders who told me it never really got busy; I did wonder why these stallholders kept returning. I returned on the Friday which was sunny and in the past would have meant crowds of shoppers. This was what I encountered.

A lot of things have changed since my last visit to this market namely the use of the Internet for shopping. I don’t think anything can be done to stop the closure of markets like this. Some of London’s lunchtime markets have changed their produce to fit in with what people want ie Leather Lane near Holborn Circus has many more food outlets than previously and Whitecross Street Market near the Barbican is now (as far as I know) solely food. Reading the reviews on this website it seems people have no idea about its previous history. It is sad to see.

However I am guilty of contributing to the markets’ demise as I bought nothing off the clothes stalls but did venture down a side street to where the food outlets were and bought myself a falafel wrap for lunch. £3 for the best falafel wrap I have had in years. It was so good I had it twice in the course of the 4 days!

4 days in EC3 wasn’t enough time to get to all the places I wanted to. I had also planned to go to the Tower of London with my HRP pass and finally get to All Hallows by the Tower but even at the rate I pack things in I wasn’t able to do all this.  I’m looking forward to returning soon to explore some more!

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End 
(and soon in Chingford & Walthamstow too!)
Details of all her walks are listed here.
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