If you like history, and like finding little gems of architecture with a story attached, then Cardinal’s Wharf is great to see when you visit this part of London.
Saint Paul’s Cathedral is on the north bank of the River Thames in London, as the river flows eastward to the sea.
It was designed by Sr Christopher Wren to replace the old St Paul’s that was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The fire raged from Pudding Lane to Pie Corner (really!) and there’s a monument near the spot where the fire started, about 1,000 yards down river from Saint Paul’s, near the new London Bridge.
You can climb inside the 160-foot high monument and look out over London, or bits of it.
The fire spread so rapidly that people were afraid it would burn its way across London Bridge and burn through the boroughs on the south bank of the Thames.
The houses on the south bank were so closely packed, that if the fire had reached there, all of south London would have burned. The fire didn’t cross the bridge, but the buildings on the bridge were gutted.
Across the river via the Millennium footbridge, is the Shakespeare Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern.
The Shakespeare Globe
The Globe is an open-air theatre, copying the style of the original. The people in the posh seats are under cover if it rains. The people in the front are standing room only. The name for them is groundlings, and groundlings have no cover if it rains.
The players often use the area in front of the stage, so groundlings get a very close view of the action. If you look closely, you can see some actors to the left of the photo.
Cardinal’s Wharf, The Hidden Gem
And that brings us to the street that is very easy to miss, tucked between the Tate and the Globe. It is a short dead-end street. On it there is Cardinal’s Wharf, where Christoper Wren lived while overseeing the rebuilding of St. Paul’s.
It’s a pretty house, painted a creamy white, and above the door is inscribed ‘Cardinal’s Wharf’.
On the front of the building is a plaque that reads –
Here lived Sir Christopher Wren during the building of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Here also, in 1502, Catherine Infanta of Castille and Aragon, afterwards first Queen of Henry VIII, took shelter on her first landing in London.
So that dates the building back to at least 1502, and probably somewhere in the 1400s. Walk along the street and you are almost bound to be walking in the footsteps of Henry VIII’s first wife as she began her life in England, and in the footsteps of Sir Christopher Wren.
The Rebuilding Of Saint Paul’s Cathedral
The rebuilding of Saint Paul’s began in 1677 and the cathedral was completed in 1708. So for more than thirty yers, one could guess that Sir Christopher Wren would get up in the morning and look out of one of the upper windows of Cardinal’s Wharf to see his creation rising out of its foundations across the river.