From Cemetery To Suicide Spot

Christopher Fowler
1_Poultry London's past is easily wiped away these days, but sometimes its more peculiar aspects prove hard to shake off. In the last few years Number 1 Poultry in Cheapside has gained an unfortunate reputation as a jumping-off spot for London's depressed bankers, several of whom (six so far) have taken a flying leap from the buildings' buttresses. The present building was completed in 1997, and is a postmodern structure, with unsubtle forms and colours that were out of date before the building was finished. The pink and yellow limestone in stripes and blocks of colour look better in rain or at night. Who would have thought, though, that this was one of London's very oldest addresses? There has always been a building on this spot, right since London began. In fact
Number One Poultry is so old that it had been nicknamed 'The Heart of the City'. It rose in the centre of the Square Mile, covering what had once been the Walbrook, the stream that had fed the ancient Roman town of Londinium, part of the ghost map that exists beneath the pavement's surface. Here a Roman market existed around it, then pig farms and wool markets were replaced by the church of St Benet Sherehog, which had a paupers' graveyard, where the bodies had been thrust so hastily into their coffins that often the nails pierced their limbs. Much later a hat-makers was built on the site, but the mercuric solution used to soften fur had driven the hatters mad (hence the expression) and the building had come down, leaving only the phrase behind. The_Mappin_and_Webb_building,_London_(as_was)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1229496 In its place had risen the fabulous perpendicular elegance of the Mappin & Webb jewellery store, inset with terracotta panels showing a procession of monarchs. It was not unlike the St Pancras Grand, and had shops at its base in keeping with the rest of this very 'London' street. The great triangular edifice could be seen from the Bank of England, and was entirely repurposeable for the modern world. cheap006 But it was not to be; mysteriously slipping through its preservation order the grand building was bulldozed because faddist architects, hated all things Victorian
for a brief period in 1993. Sir James Stirling was the master of big red tubes and green triangles, so the Mappin & Webb building was demolished and replaced with today's pastel toybox.
Unfortunately it had been completed after the Post-Modernism craze had collapsed into ridicule. Now marooned by changing taste and fortune, the top floor houses an expensive restaurant and roof garden frequented by money-shufflers, and presumably remains popular with the suicidal.
Architects keen to express their herd mentality moved on to a brief passion for plank cladding and most recently, upright strips of coloured glass on their buildings. But the site remains through the centuries, and will no doubt always hold a building.


BangBang!! (not verified) Fri, 10/06/2016 - 07:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

These architects are destroying London. Even this building has nothing on the monstrosity that is Central St Giles. How anyone let that through the planning stage is beyond me.

Christopher Fowler Fri, 10/06/2016 - 07:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Central St Giles is what a child would draw, I suppose. Out of keeping with the area - I assume the architects didn't know anything about St Giles or its history, or care.

Christopher Bellew (not verified) Fri, 10/06/2016 - 07:54

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

And the awful One New Change, a temple to Mammon beside St Paul's.

Vivienne (not verified) Fri, 10/06/2016 - 10:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It is simply dreadful and looks as if it is made out of marshmallows - if only if was it could be pulled down easily. Maybe someone who specialises in those trompe l'oeil coverings that they put over building sites could do one of the Mappin & Webb building and wrap it round as a cheap reinstatement.

Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 10/06/2016 - 17:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Central St. Giles - and I have just burned my sensitive eyes with a page full of images - looks as if the facade was designed to echo "old style" design and I have never seen a building that tried so hard to separate its facade from itself. The chief complaint, of course, is the colour. Great Grief! At least 1 Poultry has colours that "look best in rain or at night".

Christopher Fowler Fri, 10/06/2016 - 17:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh Helen you should see C St G at night, it's still eye-watering, and full of crappy chain restaurants.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Sat, 11/06/2016 - 20:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The colours of No 1 Poultry will fade and blend in, in the old days pollution would have done it quicker. (Actually I think that's something we miss more pollution especially on the beaches. Actually I I've already voted in the EU thingy.) but Central St. Giles, good grief and then they let Piano do The Shard. Lovely.

Looked up the Architect on Wikipedia, I know not always reliable but..

Architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff said of Piano's works that the "...serenity of his best buildings can almost make you believe that we live in a civilized world."