4th March 1942: London in Wartime

To London, to find harvest carts. Caught 7.32, in a fine drizzle. Felt ill almost as soon as I got on the bus to go to the station. Liverpool Street soon after 9. Went to Hamilton House to see the LNER Traffic Office about old railway drays. Vast labyrinth of corridors, all painted in yellow and chocolate, lit by solitary unshaded bulbs. Old fashioned lift, worked by counter weights and a rope. Could get nothing very definite there.

At Whitechapel Road took a trolley bus to Brady Street. London Hospital still standing, but the old almshouses near Brady Street are damaged and stand fallow and empty.

Went along Brady St. to Johnson’s Yard at the bottom. Many Mann, Crossman and Paulin’s teams standing in their loading bays, some three-horse (unicorns). Odd to see a devastated site at the back of the brewery, yet the huge modern flats on both sides of the street are untouched, not even showing broken windows.

Johnson’s Yard is alongside the line, in fact the stables are actually in arches under the railway itself. I must have ridden over them dozens of times on journeys to and from London. In the yard was a black she-goat, obviously in kid. The rain was harder now, and the whole yard ran with water, which made little rivulets among the cobble stones. A fat very cross-eyed stableman came forward out of one of the arches, and I told him what I wanted. He promised me 6 old coal-trolleys, but I doubt if we shall hear any more from him. Had a long talk about horses. He thought the future of horses very doubtful, prophesied they would all be off the road in a few years. He said that Mann, Crossman’s lost 37 horses in a raid. I afterwards found the number to have been 25.

Went to Norway Wharf, Commercial Road. Went through endless dull, dirty streets, the rain still teaming, full of bomb holes, demolished sites, emergency water tanks, shelters, Yiddish signs, Yiddish shops and papers, Jews everywhere. Among dozens of others I noticed the names Skotniki, Cohen, Cohan, Bergmann, Wiseman, Dorée, and, most delightful of all, Spector. [EJR found the carts he wanted to buy in readiness for the harvest at stables at Norway Wharf and the details of this visit are recounted in his book].

Left the stables. Tube to Charing Cross, and went on to the Embankment to look at the river. Went into the National Gallery. There was an exhibition of Yeats and Nicholson, most curiously juxtapositioned. Yeats I did not like at all, but Nicholson’s drawings are most delightful, Victorian and Edwardian things.

Then on to Burlington House. Royal Archaeological Institute meeting well attended. I spoke again about raid damage to churches. Saw [Philip] Corder [a fellow archaeologist], and had a long talk. Had tea in the Haymarket, same place as I have often done. No damage to see in this area except Jermyn St. and St. James’ Church and a shop in Piccadilly. Home 7.30, very tired, but feeling better than when I went.


Barbara Critchley said...

Interesting account of the area. I imagine the almshouses referred to are to the east of both Brady Street and Cambridge Heath Road. They are known as the Trinity Almshouses and were built in 1695 for 28 decayed masters and commanders of ships or their widows. They were constructed behind an enclosing wall with spiked railings that screened them from public view and stood on land given by Captain Harvey Mudd of Ratcliff who was an Elder Brother of the Trinity House. They were badly damaged during the Blitz, as E J Rudsdale witnessed, but were restored to an approximation of their original condition, with modernised interiors in the 1950s.

E J Rudsdale said...

Thanks for sending this very helpful information, Barbara - much appreciated. From your description, I've now been able to link this diary extract to a website showing the Trinity Almshouses and how they look today. Thanks again, CP