5 Secrets Of Barbican

By Daan Deol Last edited 86 months ago
5 Secrets Of Barbican

The Romans built a 20ft wall around London in 200AD, which remained a boundary line for about 1,500 years. The section of the wall that ran along where the Barbican Centre stands now served as the north-west tip of the Roman fort or 'barbican'.

A view of the Barbican Estate. Photo: barbicancentre

1. A ghost town twice over

Originally called Cripplegate after a gate in the London Wall, this was the first  area of the City to be hit by the bombs of the Blitz — on 25 August 1940. Cripplegate suffered extensive damage during the remainder of the war, which led to just 48 people living here by 1951.

The second world war wasn't the first time the area suffered several population losses. The parish of St Giles Cripplegate, now the site of the Barbican Centre, was one of the places where the Great Plague of 1665 started. Roughly 8,000 out of a population of 11,000 lost their lives.

These days a small flat here will set you back about half a million.

A building on the Barbican Estate. Photo: Tim Parker

2. The kissing Edwardian ladies

In 2016, Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson took over the Barbican. The most memorable part of his oddball show? Probably how every weekend while the show ran, two women dressed in Edwardian costume rowed out into the middle of the Barbican's lake... and kissed for three hours. Surely they'd never allow that at the Royal Academy of Arts.

3. Cheeky creatures

A squirrel in Barbican Conservatory. Photo: aridleyphotography.com

The Barbican's conservatory is full of exotic wild and plant life, and there's a particularly funny story behind the terrapins in one of the conservatory's ponds. These cheeky chaps had to be brought over from Hampstead Heath ponds as they were terrorising local wildlife.

4. A movie blunder

The famous Barbican towers make a special appearance in one of Disney's underdog movies, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, released in 1975.  In one scene, the nannies — the heroes of the film — are looking out across the Thames from the South Bank at which point the Barbican tower blocks make it into the shot. However, given that this film was set in the 1920's, it's odd that the towers make an appearance 50 years before they were built.... The Barbican has screened the film in  their cinema.

5. Survivor

St Giles Cripplegate. Photo: TimW_66

The church, St Giles-without-Cripplegate has a long and rather tenacious history behind it. Since being rebuilt in 1394, it survived three fires (1545, 1897, and 1940) and managed to avoid the Great Fire of 1666. The second world war bombings caused extensive damage to the building, leaving just the four walls and the tower standing. It continues to function as a church today.

Last Updated 15 February 2017