Clambering around in the spiritual home of British journalism

Following my last post, here are a few more highlights from my do-it-yourself tour of Fleet Street last Sunday, when I was looking for remaining vestiges of the street’s history of printing and journalism.

There are still quite a few pubs which had strong connections to writing and journalism. Here’s some photos of a few of them. The first one is a plaque commemorating the site of The Devil Tavern, at 2 Fleet Street, which was demolished in 1787. I took a photo of it because I assumed the “Devil” referred to a printer’s devil. I may be wrong on that connection, but The Devil Tavern housed the Apollo Club which included writers such a Pope, Shakespeare, Jonson, Johnson and Swift.

Plaque for The Devil Tavern

The Punch Tavern, journalists ub,
originally known as “Crown and Sugar loaf”

Ye Olde Cock Tavern. Pepys, Tennyson, Dickens drank here

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – P.G.Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Tennyson, Conan Doyle – you name them, they’ve drunk here

El Vinos, famous journoes’ pub

Entrance to St Bride’s church

I had a wonderful walk around St Bride’s Church, known as ‘the spiritual home of British journalism’. There is a superb crypt which houses an interesting museum. As I was clambering around in the crypt I saw this plaque to the memory of dear old Derek Jamieson, who was certainly a tabloid journalist through and through:

Plaque to Derek Jamieson in the crypt of St Bride’s church

I also found a bench in the church commemorating Julius Reuter, who founded Reuters news agency and was known as “the man who knew everything first”.

Bench commemorating Julius Reuter in St Bride’s church

There is a printing museum behind St Bride’s church but it was not open when I was visiting.

On the other side of Fleet Street is the old Daily and Sunday Telegraph building which is now used by Goldman Sachs. What caught my eye is that it is now called “Peterborough House” and has “Peterborough Court” next to it, which is an endearing tribute to the Telegraph “Peterborough” diary column, which ran for half a century.

Peterborough Court on the site of the old Telegraph building

The former Reuters building

Detail above the old Telegraph building door

Here are a few more writing/journalism linkages which I noticed in Fleet Street:

Statue to Dr Samuel Johnson

The old D.C.Thomson building

London News Agency name on building which housed the Fleet Street News Agency

Dennis the Menace is one of the last signs of Fleet Street’s glorious past

Dennis the Menace and Gnasher in the front showroom of D.C.Thomson

I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon on Sunday mooching about Fleet Street in London.

When I last visited, it was 1968. Then, as I walked down the street, and a few of its offshoots, I could see the buildings (housing offices and printing works) of every national newspaper in the country. It was tremendously exciting.

Now that has all changed. The last couple of news journalists (from The Sunday Post) left Fleet Street in 2016 following the exit of Reuters from their grand Luytens building in 2005. Bear in mind that Fleet Street was not just the heart of journalism, it was the London heart of printing and writing.

D.C.Thomson sign on their London office in Fleet Street

There is a Press Gazette article which lists the remaining buildings and plaques in Fleet Street and its surrounds which hark back to the era when the street was the heart of British journalism. But yesterday I didn’t have the benefit of that article in front of me, and instead had a poke around to see what I could find as I walked up the street. The spirit of discovery heighten my enjoyment of the visit.

One of the things that caught my eye, was the wonderful, colourful image of Dennis Menace and Gnasher from Beano (right above). This is in the front ground floor of the London office of newspaper publisher, D.C.Thomson.

Printing press in D.C.Thomson’s front showroom

So, although there are no journalists here, it is a vestige, a remaining office of a newspaper publisher.

The D.C.Thomson front showroom also has an antique printing press proudly displayed to the public.

Just off Fleet Street is Bouverie Street. Harmsworth House at 13-15 Bouverie Street is, I suppose, the former Daily Mail building – perhaps even the site of the former News Chronicle, which was a Liberal supporting newspaper. I cannot ascertain that.

Also just off Bouverie Street is the wonderfully named Magpie Alley. This has a fantastic, informative mural about the history of printing and journalism in Fleet Street/Bouverie Street.

By going down some narrow alleyways (of which Dr Samuel Johnson was very keen) you come to Gough Square, which has writer Dr Johnson’s house (which is open to the public) and a lovely statue of his faithful cat, Hodge.

Harmsworth Court, Bouverie Street

Magpie Alley

Samuel Johnsons house observed by his faithful cat, Hodge

I’ll continue my story of this visit in a future post.