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A papal edict of the 9th century ordered every church to be mounted by a cockerel, which explains the prevalence of weathervanes on churches. Sir Christopher Wren designed a different one for each new church he built after the Great Fire of 1666.

Any comments - or a suggestion for a London secret? Please e-mail me.

Ship Ahoy! 1 2

St Nicholas Cole Abbey

A gilded three-masted ship tops off the spire of this Wren-designed church. ‘Cole Abbey’ comes from ‘coldharbour’, a medieval word for a shelter for travellers. Bombed in 1941, it was only rebuilt in 1962, the ruined shell appearing in the 1951 Ealing Comedy, The Lavender Hill Mob.

114 Queen Victoria Street EC4
Tube: Mansion House

Liberty’s

There is quite a nautical theme in this famous shop, built by Captain Stewart Liberty. A frieze in the attic shows the transport of goods from the Orient to Britain, while bronze galleons adorn the balustrade. Timbers from two warships were also used in the frame. The weather-vane is the Mayflower.

Regent Street SW1
Tube: Oxford Circus

St Olave Old Jewry

Although the Christopher Wren church of 1679 was demolished in 1887, this 30m tower (built using rubble from the old St Paul’s) remains. The three-masted, fully-rigged ship weathervane came from St Mildred Poultry. Old Jewry was the area in London where Jews lived until the expulsion from England in 1290.

Ironmonger Lane EC2
Tube: Bank

Lloyd's Register of Shipping

Appropriately, this weathervane is a gilded ship, with great detail. Every large ship in the world is registered by Lloyd’s, not be confused with the insurance company of the same name. This old building is on the site of the original coffee house which both Lloyds grew out of.

71 Fenchurch Street EC3
Tube: Bank

St Olav’s

This weathervane in the shape of a Viking longboat adorns a church built in 1927 to serve Norwegian sailors on whaling and timber ships at Surrey docks. The church was a focus of Norwegian resistance during WW II and is still a centre for those in London, with a shop selling goods from Norway.

Albion Street SE16
Tube: Rotherhithe

Trinity House

Trinity House started life as a Guild of Pilots in Deptford in the 14th century, and began operating lighthouses in 1566. This fine headquarters building was designed by Samuel Wyatt and dates from 1796. It was rebuilt in 1953, repairing damage from World War II bombing.

Trinity Square EC3
Tube: Tower Hill
www.trinityhouse.co.uk

Bawley Fishing Boat

This weathervane atop a roof opposite the Old Billingsgate Fish Market near Tower Hill, is a memorial to fishmonger Gordon Young (1904-1976). These Bawley boats fished for whitebait in the Thames until 1950. The Young family, fisherfolk in the mid-1700s, had become Britain’s largest fish brand by the 1950s.

Monument Street EC3
Tube: Tower Hill

Trinity Square

On the other side of Trinity Square, hidden away among the roof tops, is this fine weathervane in the shape of  a galleon. It is on the roof of Crawfords & Co, a large insurance company with offices worldwide – but I suspect the ship predates their occupation... If you know more, please contact me.

Trinity Square EC3
Tube: Tower Hill

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Missions to Seamen

This impressive block was built in 1936 as the Church of England Missions to Seamen. It lasted for less than 40 years before coming a Merchant Navy College and was then recently converted to smart apartments and artist studios. The tower on top once housed a flashing light to beckon in passing seafarers.

Victoria Dock Road E16
DLR: Custom House

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St Katherine’s Dock

There has been a dock here since the C11th and the staggering sum of £1.3million was spent in 1825 to upgrade them. They fell into disuse after heavy WWII bombing and the arrival of the container trade. At their heights, they handled expensive cargoes such as ivory; hence the stone elephants above the gateway.

East Smithfield E1
Tube: Tower Hill
www.skdocks.co.uk

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