There is plenty to see as you walk the streets of the City of London. If you join a guided walk, it is surprising how many interesting buildings are to be found, especially in the side streets where you may not normally walk. There are, of course, the parish churches which are always a source of inspiration if you are fortunate enough to find the door is open. There are over 30 company halls, some of which allow visitors at specified times of the year. If you enjoy modern architecture, you are spoilt for choice in the ‘Square Mile’.
This article is not about any of the above. It concentrates on objects that are of great historic interest but, although they are mainly mounted on the walls of buildings lining the City streets, they are often missed and they often take a keen eye to see them.
ABOVE: Two Parish Markers and Two Property Marks.
The picture shows four such objects which are to be found high up on the walls of two adjacent buildings on the south side of Lombard Street. The two types of object in the picture are called ‘Parish Markers’ and ‘Property Marks’. There are two of each.
Firstly, the parish markers. In the days when maps of the City were not very accurate and probably rather a small scale, people needed to know in which parish their house or shop was situated. Most of the City parishes were made up of a series of straight lines, with many of those lines meeting at right-angles. At each ‘corner’ of a parish, a marker was placed to identify precisely the outline of each parish. At a point defined by one parish, it follows that it touched another one. Sometimes three parishes could meet at one point.
In the picture, the elegant blue and gold oval is a parish marker with initials ‘A L H’ representing ‘All Hallows, Lombard Street’, a church which once stood on the north corner where Lombard Street joins onto Gracechurch Street. The church was demolished in the 19th century but this parish marker is a reminder of one point on the boundary of its parish. It was placed in position in 1883, a date at the top of the oval. Each year the priest would lead the choir and officials of the church in a perambulation of the parish, starting with a marker numbered ‘1’. They would then process to ‘2’ and so on. This marker tells us that it was the tenth one on the walking route.
The adjacent parish marker (lower right) is inscribed ‘St E K’ standing for ‘St Edmund the King’ a church which still stands in Lombard Street. This marker was placed in position in 1863. Its number along the boundary of the parish is not recorded on the marker.
It is quite normal to find a pair of parish markers without any other marks beside them. Of course, if only one parish marker is found it means that the adjacent marker is missing. It may have fallen off the wall due to bomb damage, for example, or when one building was rebuilt the developer was not interested in putting it back in position.
In our picture, we have two property marks as well. Such a situation is seldom found in the City these days. The property mark on the far left is the arms of the Fishmongers’ Company. It indicates that, when the building was erected, the land was owned by their company. It may still be owned by them today, in which case the Fishmongers are collecting a handsome rent on the property.
Above the small oval marker (on the right) is a second property marker. It is square with a circle on it. Around the circle is inscribed ‘Haberdashers’ Company’.
The topic of parish markers and property marks is an interesting one. They are only small plaques, usually only about one foot (30 cm) across. However, they all contribute to the rich history of the City of London. If the subject is new to you, it just shows how easy it is to miss them as you walk around the City.
The City is changing beyond recognition in the space of a decade or so as developers rip down Victorian buildings and erect large glass and steel structures in their place. There are several instances of parish markers going missing in the process. Take a good look as you walk about, it is surprising how many parish markers are still to be seen!