City Spires and Towers #1

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A new occasional series looking at the City of London’s classic spires and how most are now dwarfed by skyscrapers.

The ultimate aim of this project is to find spires that are not dwarfed by towers. There are hardly any! Those that have not been previously affected are finding new builds rising up above their patch. One would assume the protected sightlines to St Paul’s would have helped but it seems that’s barely been the case.

The recent controversy of Manhattan Loft Gardens in Stratford is a good example of how London’s traditional views are being disfigured. Let’s face it the views over London have always been disfigured, no less by man and his need for anti-nature.

It’s no surprise then that despite laws that are said to protect certain views, the pressures of modern society means these protections are slowly being reneged – the notion of having protected views towards St Paul’s is pretty well dead in concept these days.

There are at least six new skyscrapers in planning or build stage for the City of London, one of which requires the demolition of an existing skyscraper – the St Helens building at 1 Undershaft and these will ensure further impact upon London’s historical fabric.

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The White Tower – once Britain’s tallest building.

Before St. Pauls (both MkI/MkII) towered over everything in London, it had been the White Tower that was dominant. Now its the other way round and everything dominates both St. Paul’s, the White Tower and other historic buildings. The days when the City’s spires had a clear view to the heavens are no longer with us.

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All Hallows-by-the-Tower with the Tower/White Tower in the background at left.

As the White Tower was once London’s tallest building we start with All Hallows by the Tower. This is the oldest church in the City of London with a history going back to 675 and whose spire overshadows the White Tower. Nowadays we have a progression of sightlines which rise up from the White Tower to All Hallows and the Walkie Talkie itself, not forgetting the Shard and others that can be seen too. The new order is most definitely the dominant one here despite the area’s thousand year history.

Even though All Hallows is a fair distance from London’s skyscrapers its quite dominated by them because of the lower profile buildings that surround it (clearly to appease the valuable sightlines towards the Tower of London. The huge air space around All Hallows gives prominence to the dozens of new builds, and no matter where one looks, it is clearly overshadowed to a considerable extent.

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All Hallows with the Walkie Talkie and Cheesegrater – which have conquered it’s once sacred skies.

Its not the worse of the lot though. It’s got off lightly one could say. Out of the forty or more churches in the City, whether in a stage of completeness or just with a tower remaining, there’s far worse locations than being at All Hallows.

In using the term ‘worse’ we must deem whether these churches are totally subsumed by their modern counterparts or if they are more likely to be more at ease in their new surroundings. It can be argued some of the City’s churches have a new life and focus due to the many skyscrapers within London’s square mile. This aspect will be investigated this as we work through the different locations in this series.

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