London's Rare Views No.2: Anchor At Bankside

Christopher Fowler
IMG_2221 Most views that tourists assume to be very English have, in fact, been massively tampered with. Bankside had a power station plonked onto it, but a couple of 450 year-old houses survived by themselves by Cardinal Cap Alley. There's a rather good book on the subject called 'The House by the Thames, and the People Who Lived There', by Gillian Tindall, one of my favourite London writers, but anyone venturing there today will be disappointed by what they see. Although I believe the houses remain in private hands, they're tarted up with white and yellow paint jobs, the road is closed off and the alley has steel bars over it to deter tourists. One can always find rich people's homes unmarked by the passage of time. Finding working class houses is rare as they tend to be bulldozed. That's why I've always loved this particular view, just around the corner from the smartened up ones. The Anchor gets plenty of tourists - it
was originally built in 1615 and stands next to the newly restored Globe theatre. The present brewery would have you think Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London from it and Doctor Johnston wrote part of his dictionary there, but even if that's the case
there's still something pleasingly disreputable about it. The brickwork is never cleaned and it remains an unsophisticated venue. The view here is messed about with too - the road was pedestrianised relatively recently and the bollards are new, as is the beer garden. But it really doesn't matter, because the spirit of the corner, with the river just beyond, feels right. And of course, there is St Paul's, which I can still see from my bedroom, and which still acts as a compass centre for Londoners, no matter how many glass boxes they put up near it.
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Dan Terrell (not verified) Mon, 09/12/2013 - 14:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You do live an interesting area. History to the left of you, views to the right.
I think the Bollards could be the name of a TV or radio show about an uptight, upright, upper class family; pillars of the community.

Vivienne (not verified) Mon, 09/12/2013 - 14:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was walking along this part of the embankment a year or so ago when there was a fire in a warehouse on the north bank: I have pictures somewhere. Apart from the thrill of seeing fire tender boats dashing up, it was quite wonderful to look across at St Paul's in the smoke and think of the great fire being watched by Pepys from the same spot.

Helen Martin (not verified) Mon, 09/12/2013 - 20:59

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That is a marvelous memory to have, Vivienne, although no one would wish a fire onto London or anywhere else.

Dan Terrell (not verified) Tue, 10/12/2013 - 15:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I agree with Helen, Vivienne, and you didn't have to ride a phone booth to experience it.