The Plaques Of Lost London

By M@ Last edited 24 months ago
The Plaques Of Lost London

London is peppered with plaques to notable people. But did you ever notice the many commemorations marking vanished buildings, sculptures and even trees? Here we round up just a few of the more notable.

Gone gates

Like many medieval cities, London was encircled by a wall. It was punctured by seven gates. Their names are still familiar today, even though the gates themselves are long gone: Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Moorgate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate. The site of each is marked by a blue-glazed plaque like this one at Aldersgate. Watch our video to find out more.

Erstwhile underground

London contains dozens of disused tube and rail stations. Surprisingly few are marked with plaques. An exception is the King William Street stop on the Northern line, which carries one of these handsome City of London Corporation plaques.

Beloved bookshop

Have you ever read Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road? You really should — one of the most subtle, alluring books set in our fair city. It's based on correspondence to and from an actual book shop (Marks & Co.) at the same address. A plaque on the wall marks the former Marks.

Perished pubs

The most important things in life tend to happen down the pub, so it's only fitting that many vanished watering holes are commemorated with plaques.

You'll find them all over town, particularly in the Square Mile where a series of square blue plaques document former coaching inns and meetup spots. Who wouldn't want to drink in the Devil Tavern on Strand, for example? Perhaps the most grand is this three-dimensional memorial to the long-vanished Castle Inn near Cheapside. The photos above show two near neighbours with literary connections, both in Southwark. Yet another literary pub is commemorated with this wordy stone on Carter Lane, south of St Paul's:

Carked-it coffee shops

Your local Starbucks probably won't get a plaque when it eventually dies, but some of London's Georgian coffee houses made an important mark on the city. Lloyds on Lombard Street, for example, was such a gossip shop for insurers that Lloyds of London and Lloyds Register both had their genesis here. Garraway's coffee shop in Change Alley — an important early venue for stock trading — gets an even more elaborate sculpted plaque, featuring the grasshopper motif of Thomas Gresham.

Bygone Balti

Image via London Remembers.

London's first curry house, the Hindoostane, could be found on George Street, Marylebone from 1810. It's today marked by this slightly hidden plaque on a modern office building.

Consumed churches

The City of London has lost dozens of churches over the centuries. The Great Fire and Blitz ruined many, while others were made redundant by parish mergers. Many of these lost churches are marked by blue City of London Corporation plaques, perpetuating such evocative names as St Benet Sherehog and St Dionis Backchurch. Our favourite plaque (shown above) celebrates a church that had a very different fate. St Mary Aldermanbury decamped to Missouri in 1966, as a memorial to Winston Churchill.

Lost livery halls

After churches, the most important buildings in the medieval City were the livery halls. The Great Fire of London destroyed 44 of these halls. City of London Corporation plaques now mark where many of these stood.

Scarpered street art

It's not just vanished buildings that are marked by plaques. If you visit the Village Underground site in Shoreditch — the events venue with a pair of old underground carriages on the roof — you might spy the following plaque.

Image Jared Barr via London Remembers.

Crunchy was a dragon-like creature invented by street artist Ronzo. As the plaque attests, it stood alongside the tube carriages for two years. A version of the statue can still be seen overlooking the Old Truman Brewery yard off Brick Lane.

Wandering wardrobe

Surely the world's only memorial to a vanished wardrobe, at least this side of Narnia. The plaque can be found off Carter Lane. The wardrobe is better thought of as a department of the royal household rather than a piece of bedroom furniture.

Tree testimony

Even living organisms can attract 'woz ere' plaques. The Barnsbury Beech was a massive tree, growing in the back streets of Islington. It was so impressive that it was nominated as one of the inaugural 11 Great Trees of London. Unfortunately, the roots became riddled with fungus and the faulty Fagus was chopped down. The following plaque marks the site on Barnsbury Park.

Another example is the Reformers Tree mosaic in Hyde Park.

Nixed noose

A different type of tree is commemorated close to Marble Arch. It was here that the notorious Tyburn Tree stood for many centuries. The triangular gallows could hang up to 24 malefactors in one go. The last execution took place in 1783, after which hangings took place primarily at Newgate.

What's your favourite plaque to lost London? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 29 March 2017