Above: Looking east on the north side of the street called London Wall. The new open space at London Wall Place has new walkways above it and provides an attractive setting for the old ruins of Elsing Spital.
London Wall is the name of a street that runs east-west near the southern side of where the original Roman Wall used to stand. After the Second World War, the western part of London Wall – the part that is to the west of Moorgate – was realigned at a slightly different angle and turned into a dual carriageway. The work took place in the 1960s. Either side of the new road, tall uninteresting ‘pencil-box’ tower blocks were added.
That was not the worst of it. Another unwelcome feature was introduced. The 1960s thinking on architecture was that the ‘Brave New World’ was about to arrive and that called for new solutions. Since pedestrians have a habit of stepping off the pavement and being injured or killed by passing traffic, some well-meaning architect decided to design the road with no pavements, thus reducing pedestrian accidents. Instead, pedestrians were required to climb long stone stairs and continue their journey on ‘High Walks’, about 40 feet about the level of the roadway. These High Walks remained in place for about 50 years and have gradually been removed. The last part of the HIgh Walks was removed in 2017-18 when a new development in London Wall, called London Wall Place, was constructed.
The work was an ambitious project to remove the remaining High Walks. They were seldom used and, once on the High Walk, there were few crossings to enable pedestrians to access the opposite side of the road. New offices were constructed and, instead of the High Walks, pedestrian bridges allowed those who needed to cross the roadway and avoid the traffic were constructed. Due to the heavy 1960s stonework, much of the remaining historic features of the area were either hidden away in stone casings or made almost inaccessible by the overbearing modern architecture.
In its place, much more sympathetic walkways were added, threading their way around features that few people probably realised were still there. The new walkways were opened during 2018 and, although there are even larger offices on the site than in the 1960s, it was possible at ground level to create a new, much-needed garden and open space. The garden provides easy access to a large stretch of the ancient Roman Wall, the old churchyard of St Alphage, London Wall, and the old ruins of the medieval Elsing Spital which had been ancient almshouses, later looked after by Augustinian canons. As if this was not sufficient history to be getting on with, the modern Salters’ Hall, with its splendid Victorian gates from an earlier building, has been brought into the plan. Just around the corner is the northern end of Wood Street where the site of the Roman Fort and Cripplegate are recorded by a modern tiled plaque.
While the architecture of the modern offices on the site, which made the whole project possible, might be of questionable value, the new gardens are a welcome addition to the City’s open spaces. The care that was taken to see that all the relevant historical features were brought together is to be complimented. These new gardens are about two minute’s walk from Moorgate Station. That site is already a railway terminus and an underground station. By the end of 2018, a third interchange will be added in the form of the new Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) platforms and the station will become an even more important railway hub than it already is.
At last, this part of London has shaken off its 1960s image and the area is looking forward to its new role as important office space within a short distance of London’s new railway line.
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