123 Cheapside, EC2

In “A London Inheritance” I read a fascinating article about this corner of Cheapside and Wood Street, near St Paul’s Cathedral. When I passed the corner last week I noticed that the shop had closed down. Fearing that this closure would presage demolition of this interesting building, and replacement with a 39-story office block, I rushed to draw the corner shop while I could. It was raining. But I could find a bit of shelter under the glass canopy of M&S in One New Change opposite.

123 Cheapside, from across the road. 2nd October 2021, 10″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 10

This is a very ancient row of shops. The shop on the corner was, from before 1908 and until at least 1986, L.R. Wooderson Shirtmakers. In recent years it has been “Cards Galore”, but is now closed and the windows are obscured with brown paper.

The corner shop is a wonderful little building. I especially admire the curved glass of the two windows either side of the door, which seem to invite you in. Curved glass windows are rare, especially at street level, so these deserve recognition and admiration. Even more amazing is the mirror on the ceiling! If you step between the curved glass windows and look up, you see that this entrance space is reflected in a mirror. Perhaps this was a device so that if needed, you could see your newly purchased shirt or hat from above?

L.R. Wooderson is shown in a London Metropolitan Archives photo from 1908 (below).
The author of “A London Inheritance” photographed it 78 years later, in 1986. In his 1986 photo, the notice on the side of the shop says “Est 1884”. He has further information about L.R. Wooderson and the Wooderson family on his blog entry, and there’s yet more information in the comments on his article.

Here’s the photo from 1908:

123 and 124 Cheapside, 1908
LCC Photograph Library image © London Metropolitan Archives (City of London)
Record number 38726 Catalogue number: SC_PHL_01_006_79_7728
Accession number: 0577c . Used with permission.

Here’s the same row of shops circa 1870, showing a predecessor of L.R. Wooderson.: Joseph Williams, seller of “pianofortes”, with a warehouse in Berners Street in the West End.

View of shops and figures on Cheapside, also shows the corner of Wood Street, c1870
by WH Prior image © London Metropolitan Archives (City of London)
Record Number: 1884 Catalogue number:q2824343. Used with permission.

You see that “F. Passmore Stationer and Printer”, describes itself as “under the tree” – see the notice high up on a hoarding. This huge plane tree is famous, and at that time clearly famous enough to help in locating the shop. The commentary on the 1908 photo (above) in the London Picture Archive says:

124 Cheapside, City of London, by Wood Street. Front and side elevations of a two-storey shop, L & R Wooderson hosiers. In view is a street lamp. Towering above the premises is a Plane tree. The tree sits in the churchyard of St Peter Cheap. It’s thought the tree could date from the 1760s and is currently protected so can’t be cut down. The church of St Peter Cheap perished in the 1666 Great Fire and missed out on being rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.

There is much more about the tree in an article on the “London Walking Tours Website” on this link.

I was interested to note how the tree size changes. In the 1870 drawing it is already huge. 40 years later, in the 1908 photo, it seems smaller, and more compact. I wonder if it was pollarded? Today it is again enormous. Here are the photos above again, with a modern picture to compare.

It remains famous. It is no. 1 in the “Top Ten Trees” of the City of London according to the “Friends of City Gardens”.

I completed the pen and ink of my drawing outside M&S, and then retreated from the rain and added the colour at my desk.

The colours are:

  • Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue for the greys, with a bit of Transparent Brown Oxide in the the road,
  • Buff Titanium for the white of the shop with some Mars Yellow,
  • Green Apatite Genuine and Green Gold for the tree, and
  • a tiny bit of Transparent Pyrrol Orange for the City of London bollard tops and refections.