“ST P P M” (St Pancras Parish, Middlesex)

Above: In Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2.

Malcolm Tucker wrote in GLIAS Notes and news — February 1976:

“Members will be familiar with the cast iron bollards, to be seen particularly at street corners and in alleyways in inner London, which prevent vehicles from mounting the kerb or entering footpaths. There are as necessary in this age dominated by the motor vehicle as they were 150 years ago when streets were ill paved and kerb lines undefined.

New cast iron bollards based on traditional styles are again being installed in some boroughs, for they have been found to be much stronger than their concrete counterparts. I gather, however, that at least one outer London borough will not use them because of the damage they might cause to a car travelling at speed. The new bollards can be distinguished by their slimmer lines and the lack of encrustations of paint.

The older bollards, often with the name or initials of the parish vestry which installed them, are of recognised historical value and the Borough of Camden is notably keen to conserve such street furniture. This may necessitate removal, storage and later re-erection on some quite different site, so archaeologists beware! In Highgate Road, Kentish Town (National Grid Reference TQ 288855) is one which started life in 1817 in “Sommers Town” (sic), nearly two miles to the south near the Euston Road. Not far away in Gordon House Road (TQ 284 857) are some massive bollards emblazoned “G IV R” which must have been taken from the Crown Commissioners’ land near Regents Park. Camden Passage, despite its name, is in the heart of Islington (TQ 316 835). There, beside a bollard from St John’s Parish, Clerkenwell, is one with the initials “ST P P M” (St Pancras Parish, Middlesex), which the neighbouring borough of Camden should claim back as one of theirs. Do members know of any other such examples? There are some early bollards, for instance in Finsbury, which look like small cannon, complete with flared muzzles topped with a hemispherical ball. When the Napoleonic Wars ended, ironworks had surplus productive capacity to divert from armaments to peaceful purposes and this probably accounts for the resemblance. Around the Tower of London there are some real cannon used as bollards, which were captured from the enemy during the Peninsular War (information from Christine Vialls). They can be easily recognised by their larger size and the sealing of the hole with wood, cement or iron.

Some bollards appear to serve as boundary markers. I have found a pair beside the kerb in Wenlock Road, Hoxton (TQ 323 831) which seem to define the limits of a canal-side wharf. They are embossed “IMPERI(A)L /SAW/MILLS” and are unusually ornate.

Do any members know of other street bollards erected by private firms?

On the same topic, a black mark to the Borough Engineer of Islington (or is it the City?) for erecting some hideous new bollards in the area north of Smithfield, where a few charming pockets of 18th & 19th century Clerkenwell remain, as in Britton Street, EC1. The new bollards are steel posts of square section and look like over-size matchsticks painted vivid yellow and black.”


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