London at Large

This section started as an attempt to show pictures of things that were frequently accused of being parish boundary markers, but were actually something quite different. After not very long at all, it was obvious that it was going to develop along altogether different lines. It would actually comprise examples of things that struck me as interesting and worth (in my opinion) drawing attention to. Nevertheless I must stress that if anything appears on this page then it is not a parish boundary marker!

Artefacts that are not parish boundary markers

Enough has been said on the main page to explain what parish boundary markers are and why they are located where they are. Free-standing markers are very unusual in built up areas, where they would be an obstruction, and markers are nearly all set into walls or placed up against walls, or affixed within or marked upon a pavement or kerb. Survivors often appear in pairs, though it must be conjectured that most boundaries were once marked by pairs of co-located markers, one for each of the bordering parishes.

All this is mentioned because there are various other pieces of street furniture that were marked up with the name of the parish (and later the borough council). This was no doubt principally because being made of cast metal, which had intrinsic value, and human nature being what it is, some kind of ownership mark discouraged theft, especially if the mark were difficult to remove. In addition there was the small matter of civic pride, and a visible manifestation that ratepayers money was being deployed doing something useful.

The obvious things to receive civic marks of some kind were buildings, lamp standards, rubbish receptacles and traffic bollards. Few if any lamp standards are known with parish markings, hardly a surprise since ubiquitous electric lighting is a twentieth century phenomenon and parishes had disappeared by then. The humble traffic bollard is a far more enduring feature of the streetscape and there are still quite a few around with parish markings.

Each highway authority (usually but not always a civil parish, for there could be separate highway parishes or local boards of health which had highway responsibilities) was inclined to use its own design of bollard. Having said that, there is evidence that 'standard' designs were available from iron-founders. A popular standard design was that of a cannon, said to be because when the navy no longer required cannons the patterns could conveniently be modified for use making street furniture. In Hampstead (in the appropriately named Cannon Lane) there are ancient looking bollards that could well be real cannons with open muzzles or muzzled sealed with cement. More usually cannon-type bollards have a stoppered end in the form of a cannon ball; possibly older ones were really stoppered in this way, but most clearly have the ball incorporated into the moulding.

It is true that a Camberwell cannon bollard is found in use in Sydenham Hill near (but not on) a boundary; however close examination of the site reveals the actual marker is a stone one referencing a boundary 27ft away and the bollard appears to be next to it to protect it from damage, as it is located at a busy junction.

Other kinds of Street Artefacts

From what has already been said it will be obvious that quite a lot of street furniture will carry initials or armorial bearings relating to the owning authority, usually parish or borough. There are many other things in the street that will be owned by others, and there are examples adjacent of two decorative marks that relate to property ownership. Other public authorities (gas, water and electricity authorities for example) will often have equipment or manhole covers with interesting markings on them.

The photographs below relate to things that I have found interesting, with as much of an explanation as I can muster. No doubt when I have added enough entries I will need to sort them out by topic.

Quick Links

Go To Property Markers
Go To Traffic Bollards (on a different page)
Go To Kerbstone Markers
Go To Milestones (on a different page)

Through the lens (1) - Property Marks

Skinners St Gabriel City of London
This mark is the armorial device of the Skinners Company and is affixed to a property which they owned or may still own (they own much property in the Euston area). It is nothing to do with local administration. A pub 'The Skinners Arms' is nearby. This mark looks as though it might be a parish boundary mark for St Giles Camberwell parish, coincidentally quite nearby. It is, however, one of a number of property boundary markers along the boundary of St Gabriel's College, near Stockwell, which is what the initials stand for. Located in Lambeth parish, it was built in 1898. This mark is the armorial device of the City of London and marks the south east corner of a parcel of land it owned alongside Tottenham Court Road and Alfred Mews. As it happens it does lie on a parish boundary but it is a property mark and has no administrative significance. Property and parish boundaries often ran together, especially those of large estates that had manorial origins.
Bond Street
This City of London mark is one of a pair in New Bond Street and has some (but not many) characteristics of a parish boundary mark, though clearly is not one. It appears to mark properties owned by the City (see also stone mark in Tottenham Court Road - separate photo above). It represents the City of London Estates Committee. This is clearly a boundary marker and specifically states where boundary line is situated. It even refers to parishes. It is not however a parish boundary marker and relates to the property boundary of endowed land (Walcott Estate) that happens to benefit the two parishes mentioned (it is nowhere near a parish boundary). This stone (part of a gatepost at 112 Kennington Road) looks just like a parish boundary marker, even down to the dividing line. There was nowhere where Lambeth actually bordered any parish beginning with 'St O' and it is not on a parish boundary. It is in fact quite close to the picture to the left and marks the property boundary of the same estate, round the corner. On the side it is marked recut 1923, and it may be of interest that someone took this trouble. The Lambeth monogram was not present to signify its involvement as the parish but because the estate was divided in 1815 in order to benefit different parishes and this line was installed at that boundary. A comprehensive description of the estate and its division may be found HERE.
Walcot Post St Barts Hospital Property St Barts Property Plate 2
This stone post is also connected with the Walcot estate and is located at the east end of magnificent Walcot Square, on south side of road near corner of Sullivan Road. It is easily confusable with a parish mark but is nowhere near any parish boundary and is a property ownership mark for the trustees of the estate (which included the parish of Lambeth).The Lambeth monogram is just visible on all three faces, with the date 1779. It is hard to believe it is nearly a quarter of a millennium old. A useful map of the walcot estate may be found HERE. This mark is close to, but does not quite lie on, a parish boundary and is close to PBM 399. In fact is is not a parish boundary mark but a property marker relating to St Bartholomews's Hospital (whose armorial bearings are shown on the plate). The hospital presumably once owned this block and there is a similar mark at the other end of the block. This St Bartholomews's Hospital plate is the counterpart of that in previous description, and is located in Bentley Road.
Charterhouse Property Mark Charterhouse Property Mark Charterhouse Property Mark
These marks could so easily be confused with parish boundary marks but are nowhere near any boundary. In fact they are property marks placed at the extremities of the Charterhouse Estate, which extended beyond the limits of the walled extra-parochial area a little to the south. This one is on corner of St John Street and Great Sutton Street. This property mark is around the corner from previous mark, as property boundary changes course here. It is good to see the armorial bearings correctly painted. This is the third of the set, in what is now Clerkenwell Road, but was once Wilderness Row. It is above No 62 where the property boundary shifts from the building frontage and drops back to Great Sutton Street.
Charterhouse Property Mark Girdlers Orphans
This appears to be the final surviving mark at the east end of Clerkenwell Road where the estate boundary returns along Goswell Road. This mark, suspiciously close to a parish boundary, is the mark of the Girdlers Company and was affixed to a shop in Turnmill Street, opposite Farringdon Station. This is similar in style to many parish boundary stones but is an old property boundary, dated 1873, and relates to an institution called the Orphans Working School. There is a second stone nearby.
St Pancras Property Mark Clerkenwell Road Scrubs Lane
This mark, in Grove Place Hampstead, clearly represents St Pancras. It is nowhere near a parish boundary. The mark probably represents some property interest St Pancras Parish had in the building to which it is attached. (Where this pattern is used as a boundary mark the blank space is occupied by the distance from mark to boundary line.) This shield represents the Clothmaker's Company and is attached to a building they own in Old Street. Above is a very old traditional pawnbroker's sign, happily left behind after the need for it finished. This looks superficially like a parish boundary mark but is in fact a property boundary mark for the War Department (the letters WD and the war office arrow may just be seen). Located at Wormwood Scrubs, it is numbered 31 in the set. (Courtesy Doug Rose)
Weald Stone Boundary Mark
This lump of rock, apparently dumped here at random, is the historic Weald Stone, after which this district in Harrow was named. It is one of a small number of sarsen stones in this area, brought millennia ago from at least a hundred miles away. Its history is inconclusive and although by repute it might be a boundary stone there isn't actually any evidence, it is not on any modern boundary, and alternative explanations are more plausible. Druid Street SE1, west side. This 1794 marker is a mystery as it is not located on a parish boundary and may, for some reason, have been relocated. The top 'S' is clearly 'St' for 'Saint' and the letter 'I' was often used by masons to represent the letter 'J'. Assuming the marker is in some way related to the vicinity, St Olave and St John Horsleydown are the parishes implicated. The latter was created from part of the former in 1733. It may be significant that the St Olave workhouse was located on the other side of the road (in St John parish) and this could therefore be a property marker. There are identical markings on right hand face.

Through the lens (2) - Kerb Markings

The above marks (representative of hundreds of marks) are examples of markings excised upon granite kerbstones from the Victorian era. Their purpose is as yet quite unknown but they exist by the thousand and so far as a couple of years research pounding the streets is concerned there is no correlation with parish boundaries. I am amassing data and a web page will emerge in due course.