Sunday, October 12, 2008

The REAL Paternoster Row

One recent distraction is that I'm preparing for a long-overdue overhaul of the Paternoster-Row website, including some new material. One new bit that I'm particularly happy about is that I've finally found a decent, copyright-free map (from a survey made in 1762, I think) that clearly shows the original Paternoster Row in London. (as always, click to enlarge)


(Lots of old London maps can be found online, by the way -- for instance here, here, and here.)

If you're not familiar with London geography, Saint Paul's is in the western part of the old City of London -- the central "square mile" of London that lies inside the Roman walls. You can get an approximate idea of where this is here. (It's a map of sites mentioned in Charles Dickens, but I've had trouble finding good diagrams of the City -- most show far too much detail and you can't see the boundary.)

A view of the Paternoster Row area with a bit more context is here. I've taken the liberty of marking the old London city wall in bright blue and highlighting Paternoster Row in yellow. The upper part of the map including St. Paul's is the City Ward of Faringdon Within. (There's also a Faringdon Without, which logically enough is outside the old walls.)

Faringdon Within and Bayard's Wards in the City of London

I had hopes, when I was in London a couple of years ago, of having someone take a photo of me for the website showing me casually leaning against a Paternoster Row street sign. It would have been lovely, but there's a slight problem:

Paternoster Row street sign, London

The only street sign I could find was twenty feet up on the side of a building.

I also discovered that modern "urban renewal" has obliterated parts of the old Paternoster Row in order to create an open space called Paternoster Square. Personally, I wish they hadn't: when I was there, admittedly in rather chilly March weather, Paternoster Square struck me as one of the bleakest, least friendly and most utterly deserted spaces I saw. It's an expanse of bare paving with one sculpture, a column, a few granite block "benches" and not much else, and the building fronts around it are equally blank.

Here's a pretty good aerial photo of Paternoster Square from Wikipedia.

The two exceptions to the universally blank building fronts that I found amusing were these:


I'm old enough to remember when geeks were called "squares," so I also wanted to someone to take a photo of me leaning up against the doorway under this sign, but the only bystanders at the time were most uninterested.

And this one just seems totally incongruous -- though perhaps not to Londoners, for whom Paternoster Row is just another familiar street name.