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Peter Murray


For the Society’s February walk Peter Hayes conducted a tour of the City of London’s ‘pedways’. Finbar Bradley of Innes Associates went along for a stroll….

From the moment we met at the Barbican tube station and he erupted with his theatrical personality, it was clear to see on the faces of the surrounding audience members that Peter Hayes was going to be a delight. The eight pages of notes that I mustered tell a tale not only of entertainment but embellished knowledge and fantastic contemporary history.

We started on the upper deck Beech Street highlighting the benefits which could be granted from raising the pedestrians above traffic level. The area was a wasteland following the second world war and many schemes were proposed on the site of the Barbican from the County Council [Modernist] and the City Corporation [conservative]. The most important incident occurred with the implementation of the London Wall dual carriageway by the LCC and the implementation of Pedways to allow pedestrians to traverse the road.

The LCC had requested therefore that the architects of Powell Chamberlain and Bon continue the pedways through their vision; a suggestion that was greatly welcomed. Their incorporation was in somewhat of a contradictory manner however as these pedways were no longer used to separate the roads and the pedestrians. Peter points out some interesting water features and highlights that the City walls never had a moat and that in his opinion these are a Barbican construct to “give the pedways a reason to exist.”

Continuing along the Barbican “High streets” a look at the ruined medieval/ roman remains of the city walls present themselves as Peter enlightens us on some of the other ideas which existed at this level. Originally the plan was that each office would only be allowed an entrance at Pedway level and not at Ground Floor. A great example of this is the Museum of London Which is only approachable at this level still today; “a purest building”. Furthermore, Kiosks were placed on pedway level however it appears that in doing so, this created two competing markets. The street level market has since won out.

By the time we reached Terry Farrell’s Alban Gate, we start to see the carving up of pedways past. An old connection removed and in its place, a gaping hole to the south of Alban Gate. Replacing this is a new corten steel section, delightfully opening a view to the ruins of the home for the blind below which required an uncomfortable lean over a hand rail to view below. Surrounding this area is in Peter’s opinion, the main reason why the pedways failed. The Brewers Hall and the Salters Hall along with others in the area did not open up to the concept and instead, retained their ground floor entrance leaving the pedways broken and disjointed.

As proof of this, we are taken on a whirlwind tour of pedways lost, including pedways which end with fire escapes from victorian buildings, granite lined innards of commercial buildings and reminders that areas are no longer part of a public right of way. A proposed map of the pedways from 1963 can be found with a quick search and perhaps highlights another issue in planning as it was proposed that a pedway would cut through St. Paul’s Cathedral! I urge you to visit the pedway adjacent the junction of London Wall and Old Broad Street, still brandished with the arms of the City of London. It is tremendous to see that these areas still exist in some guise.

We finished with a fanfare of church bells as the glimmers of spring sunshine cascade from the glistening buildings above and a pristine view over the River Thames. The pedways made their way to this location and abruptly end with no real reason to their termination. Running along perpendicular to our view however, the pedways sibling and absorber of much of its funding: the Thames paths.

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Peter Murray

On 3 October, Michael Welbank, Chief Commoner and Past Chairman of the Planning and Transportation Committee talked to the Society as part of our Great Estates series. Barry Coidan was in the audience.

A sizeable audience was treated to a brisk canter through the byways and backwaters of the City of London and its Great Estates. Chief Commoner Michael Welbank was a most convivial guide whose obvious delight in his subject matter carried us along with him.

Before detailing the three Estates – the Bridge House Estate, City Fund and City’s Cash – and the use to which their incomes are put, Mr Welbank gave us a brief history lesson.

There is no surviving record of a charter first establishing the Corporation as a legal body, but the City is regarded as incorporated by prescription. Around 1189, the City gained the right to have its own mayor, later being advanced to the degree and style of Lord Mayor of London.

The origins of what we now know as the City of London were lost in the midst of time. London was a centre of trade in Saxon times long before the Normans tried unsuccessfully to quell the citizens. William I wanted the City and its wealth generating prowess, and in 1067 he granted it a charter. It read “William King greets William the Bishop and Geoffrey the Portreeve and all the citizens in London, French and English, in friendly fashion; and I inform you that it is my will that your laws and customs be preserved as they were in King Edward’s day, that every son shall be his father’s heir after his father’s death; and that I will not that any man do wrong to you. God yield you“. The City was allowed to continue as it had done before the Conquest.

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