Thursday, 27 September 2012

Mayor of London Discovery Trails - Yellow Route

Pearly Mandeville

For me this was the most surprising of all the mascot trails as it was the part of London I knew least about.  The Yellow Trail started at Liverpool Street Station and toured the East End around Spitalfields and Brick Lane, coming back via Leadenhall Market and Lloyds of London.  It was the most mascot heavy route we had visited thus far, with 16 mascots to find in the 3.2km length of the route.

Lunch at Spitalfields Market

It took awhile to find the right way out of Liverpool Street Station.  This is a station I hadn’t been to for years and my last recollection was of a not very nice and rather dingy place in the 1980s.  It was anything but now, with a light and airy concourse and the old place looked like it had really been spruced up for the Olympics and Paralympic Games.  We were in London this time for an evening trip to the Paralympics and the mascot trails were very much the hors d’oevres of the day.

Christ Church, Spitalfields
Once we had found our way out of the station we headed out along Bishopsgate.  It was lunchtime already and the suits from all the surrounding offices were starting to come out for their Friday lunch.  We decided to have some lunch before getting going too much and so when we had found the first of the mascots (Pearly Mandeville), our next priority was to find somewhere to sit down.  We dropped into Giraffe, a place we had seen before but not tried.  It was pretty good, with super quick service and a nice ambience.  The food was a strange mixture of stuff but they did us all proud!

Spice Wenlock
Spitalfields Market was a revelation.  I am sure this isn’t a well-kept secret but we loved taking a look around the market stalls and some of the stuff on offer was really interesting, even for a hardened non-shopper like me!  Around the market were three more mascots in quick succession; Victorian (a very colourful one that showed off some stylised architecture from that era), Spitalfields Market (done up to show some of the merchandise on offer) and finally a generic Wenlock (yawn).

Welcome to Brick Lane
After browsing some of the stalls and surrounding shops we headed on our way through the back streets to Brick Lane, the thoroughfare that has been immortalised in a book of the same name.  This is an area that was colonised by people from the sub-continent of Asia and we passed by Spicy Wenlock at one end of the street and then Sari Wenlock, two representations depicting the culture of this corner of London.

Dickens Wenlock
In fact as we wandered along the street we had slightly regretted the fact that we had already eaten, for the air was filled with some amazing smells of spice and chargrilling meat.  Some of the restaurants had a vast array of colourful looking sweets and nougats in the windows; all exquisitely and temptingly laid out.  It was all a bit different from the upmarket cake shops we had seen around Covent Garden and Picadilly on earlier routes, but equally mouth watering!

Punk Mandeville
A little further on from Sari Wenlock the advertised mascot had been changed.  It was billed as Graffiti Mandeville, but what we actually saw was Park Wenlock.  Apparently the original one had been vandalised, which was a great shame as the odd picture of it suggests that the original was far more interesting than the late replacement.

Paley Upon Pilars
We turned the corner from Brick Lane into Whitechapel High Street and it was like we were leaving one world and entering an entirely different one!  Gone were the tightly packed streets full of shops to be replaced by a huge main road with lorries, buses and taxis thundering up and down.  Apologetically Aldgate East Station had an entrance at this point too.

Cockney Wenlock
At the corner was the next Wenlock, the rather classical looking Dickens Wenlock, showing scenes from the Old Curiosity Shop, one of the famous novels from this most famous of Victorian novelists.  This mascot my vote as the classiest of all those we saw on all of the trails.

Fenchurch Street Station
Somehow on this trail we had managed to leave the confines of the City of London.  As we made our way to the next mascot (no.9 – have you been counting?), we passed the boundary post which welcomed our re-entry into the famous old city.  I don’t know if it was my imagination but the atmosphere definitely changed from a more working class feel to one of hard nosed commerce.  Certainly the buildings changed to very well appointed and classic places that presumably had once been associated with the nearby docks.  Many of course were now banks and other financial institutions rather than the headquarters of shipping companies.

Londinium Wenlock
We came to Punk Mandeville, a nod to the music movement that had its most famous exponents of the Sex Pistols from this area.  I wonder what Sid Vicious would make of a funny little mascot celebrating what he did.  Interestingly the mascot was a Mandeville rather than a Wenlock as billed – not sure what happened there?  I couldn’t help think that it was a little bizarre.  Along from Punk was Cockney, which tried to capture some of the attributes of this most famous group of Londoners.  Being a true Cockney requires a person to have been born within the sound of Bow Bells, and this was represented within the artwork.

Leadenhall Market
At Aldgate was also a very odd sight in the shape of an antique looking timber frame of a house on stilts.  Apparently this is an art installation called Paleys Upon Pilars and is supposed to be a memorial to the cottage that stood on the top of the Aldgate in which the famous poet Geoffrey Chaucer lived.  Its height is supposed to signify the Dream Poems that he wrote while living here.  It was put here as one of the exhibits in the London Festival of Architecture and the good news is that it is due to be in place until the end of 2012 and not just its original three month stint.

Leadenhall Market Wenlock
From here we wandered down Fenchurch Street and it was clear from the hustle and bustle on this Friday lunchtime that business was winding down for the week.  The buildings had certainly become bigger and the people in suits more numerous, suggesting that we were really heading into the heart of the financial district.  Peeping out from one of the side streets was Fenchurch Street Station, surely the most incognito of all the London Railway Termini and the only one that does not manage to get its own Tube Station.

Almost Unnoticed

 On the left hand side of our route was the enormous building officially called 30 St Mary Axe, but known to the rest of the world as the Gherkin Building.  The design of this place is remarkable and for a modern building I think it will get the same kind of attention in 100 years time as many Victorian buildings do now.  Against the blue skies and the puffy clouds it looked particularly good.

The Gherkin

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of this business district the Mayor’s Office had managed to find a small courtyard off Fenchurch Street where they had placed the next mascot, Contemplative Mandeville.  It is hard to think of a more appropriate setting for such a theme!

Scary Sculpture

Perhaps the biggest and most welcome surprise was entering Leadenhall Market.  Firstly I had never heard of the market before and secondly it was the most wonderful Victorian architecture I had seen.  There was an amazing buzz about the place as everyone was enjoying their lunch hour, either by sitting and chatting in the open air cafes or browsing the wonderful looking stalls.  The two mascots here were very fitting – the first was Londinium, a mascot dressed as a Roman Soldier to recognise that this was the original part of London that was founded in Roman times.  The second was Leadenhall Market Wenlock, possibly my favourite mascot of all the ones we found on any route.  It was decorated as a facsimile of the market itself and made for a very colourful statue.  I’m sure it sold for a lot of money – most went for around £10,000.  I would have to make do with pictures.

Bishopsgate Wenlock
We turned out of the market and headed around the Lloys of London building to find most appropriately Business Mandeville standing around the back.  Across the road was a pink Mandeville figure, which was supposed to be Splashy Mandeville.  Sadly for us the original had been changed but a new plaque had not been given.  I later found out that this one was called City Cycling Mandeville, although no explanation had been given as to why it was replaced.  Next to the mascot was a sculpture of a different kind – I’m not sure what it was but it looked like a rather sinister Guy Fawkes, its face stripped away to reveal the skull underneath.  We moved on quickly…

St Botolph's Church

After such a cluster of mascots it was surprising how far we had to walk to the last one on the trail – called Bishopsgate.  On the way we finally passed right underneath the Gherkin and also a number of building sites for some equally large glass fronted buildings in various stages of construction.  Walking around this part of London made me realise how much the city was changing now that the old buildings are being replaced by these shiny and gleaming towers.

Liverpool Street Station

Bishopsgate Wenlock didn’t disappoint.  It was outside St Botolph’s Church and showed a representation of one of the original gates to the City of London.  We were now practically outside Liverpool Street Station once again and finished with the Yellow Route.  I have to hand it to the planners of the route – it was possibly the most varied and certainly the most surprising of all the routes.  I hadn’t expected such great sights and atmosphere from this part of London but it was really buzzing.  We enjoyed this one a lot!


  1. Looks an interesting route. I agree with you about the Gherkin/St Mary Axe building. I'm not a huge fan of modern buildings generally but I do like this one a lot. Also quite like the new Shard building on the other side of the river. Leadenhall market is a lovely place too.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jon. I enjoyed the Shard too - despite its enormous size it still manages to be a building of delicate beauty. One more London walk before 'normal' service is resumed...

  2. Glad you enjoyed "my" corner of London so much! It has changed enormously over the last 20 years, when I left there was only one tower at Canary Wharf and the idea of the Olympics coming to the Eastend would have made your average cockney fall off his 'lions lair' ;-)
    The rise of docklands has completely changed the area and Liverpool Street began its transformation then. So much diversity within such a small space, the extremes of wealth and culture, are what makes it such an exciting and dynamic part of London. That said, I have no intention of ever living there again!! If you ever want to meet a true cockney, I'll introduce you to my dad - its a 'cultural experience'. :-))

    1. Thanks Erica - my lasting impression from this walk is that the transformation is far from over. There is still so much building going on that the financial district will threaten to engulf the area around Aldgate before too much longer. That would be a great shame for as you say, the 'different' parts of London living cheek by jowl with each other is what makes the city so vibrant and interesting. Although we did the trails to spot the mascots, I found the trails so much more interesting than that and was pleased to have had the excuse to explore London better.

      One more route to come when I get round to writing it up :)

  3. Hi Paul

    You mentioned vandalism of a wenlock - I wondered how long that would take to happen, unfortunately another sign of the times we live in.

    As for the 'The Gherkin', I am sorry but it's not for me, I much prefer buildings such as you photographed in Regent Street.


    1. Hello Bill,
      I heard of surprisingly few stories of vandalism - but a couple were damaged. I think it was easily fixed in both cases, but came with a colour scheme change. I suspect the organisers had a few spares in case.

      I think a mixture of old and new makes the city look vibrant. Too many of one at the expense of the other is not healthy. I don;t like the history being overshadowed, but neither to I want the city to look like a museum.

      Keep up the good work