This overview relates to two City Wards – Dowgate and Walbrook. Their original outlines are shown with red dotted lines on the Google map, with which most people are familiar these days. The boundary of the City of London is shown with a red solid line.
Dowgate is the name of a riverside ward which is close to the mouth of the tiny River Walbrook – near the point where it joins with the Thames. The ward’s name consists of two syllables. The first syllable comes from an ancient word ‘dwr’ meaning ‘water’ and the second syllable implies a gate in the ancient riverside length of Roman Wall. This gate probably guarded the entrance to the City via the River Walbrook. The name, therefore, means ‘water-gate’.
At one time the ward had two parish churches – All Hallows the Great and All Hallows the Less – but neither parish church exists today.
The ward has more than its fair share of company halls, considering that it was quite a small area. There were the Dyers’ Hall, the Innholders’ Hall, the Skinners’ Hall and the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall and they are all still standing today. At one time the Joiners’ Hall also stood within the ward.
The ward is sliced in half by Upper Thames Street which is now a dual-carriageway and is choked daily by the busy traffic travelling along it. All around the ward are large office blocks and very little green space. One of the largest ‘footprints’ in the ward is that of Cannon Street Station which has two large offices built above the platforms – Cannon Bridge House (with its large roof garden) and the more recent Cannon Place.
This ward lies to the north of Dowgate Ward, with a City street known simply as ‘Walbrook’ within its boundary. Both ward and street take their name from the stream of the same name. The River Walbrook has its source at Shoreditch and it once flowed above ground, crossing the line of today’s Shoreditch High Street and then flowing near the west side of the street called Bishopsgate, crossing land now covered by Finsbury Circus. The course followed a route via Lothbury and Poultry before finally flowing on the western side of the street that bears its name. The river now flows underground and there is no point today where it can be seen.
In 1954 the Roman Temple of Mithras was discovered deep in the ground at a point which was on the east bank of the River Walbrook. In the 1950s, the statutory provision for archaeology was almost non-existent and the remains of the temple were not conserved. The stones were removed and poorly assembled in a new position. Since the recent completion of the large Bloomberg Building, the original masonry of the temple is being displayed in the original position.
This ward once had four parish churches – St John, Walbrook; St Mary Bothaw; St Stephen, Walbrook; and St Swithin, London Stone. Only St Stephen remains standing today.
The only company hall in the ward was that of the Salters’ Company. It was bombed in the Second World War and the Company then had a long period without a hall. A new hall was eventually built on a new site to the north of London Wall (Street), near the northern boundary of the City.
Within the ward is the Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London (the title of the Lord Mayor for the City of London). The grand premises were built 1739-53. Before it was built, each Lord Mayor had to find his own suitable premises in which to live for the year of office. By the 18th century, that was becoming more and more difficult and so a permanent official residence was built. The ward is also the ‘home’ to the famous Rothchild’s Bank – in New Court, St Swithin’s Lane. Although steeped in tradition, they have rebuilt their bank recently in an ultra-modern style.
Part of Cannon Street – originally known as Candlewick Street – crosses the southern part of the ward. The two streets near the northern end – Queen Victoria Street and King William Street – were both cut through the ancient street plan in the 19th century. Much of the old medieval street plan is still to be seen, within the ward, although it has to be said that much of the land is being overdeveloped as ever taller offices tower over the narrow streets and lanes.