Shepherdess Walk and City Road

Notes on a junction, November 22nd, 2020.

The junction where I’ve been drawing is changing rapidly. When I drew the picture of the café, I stood in an area under the tree, with my materials conveniently positioned on top of a utility box. A homeless person’s tent was on the waste ground under the tree. The next day, I came back to draw the Eagle. The area where I had been standing had been absorbed into a construction site, and was no longer accessible. Hoardings extended onto the pavement. The homeless person’s tent had been moved out onto the paving slabs.

Many bombs fell on this area in the 1939-45 conflict. They are mapped by the amazing site “Bombsight.org”. Here is a portion of their map:

Map of the bombs that fell
on the area of the junction of Shepherdess Walk
and City Road, from BombSight.org

The circled bomb is labelled: High Explosive Bomb : Fell between Oct. 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941 Source: Aggregate Night Time Bomb Census 7th October 1940 to 6 June 1941.

Most of the bomb sites have now been redeveloped. This one remained undeveloped until now, with the characteristic uneven land, partly demolished walls, and exposed cellars. Next to the tree is a circular construction, a sort of bench, that was in the public domain earlier this week. It is now absorbed by the construction site.

It’s hard to work out what the building was before the bomb destruction. On the Shepherdess Walk side, there are strange lintels and fancy ventilation grills facing the road.

It seems, from a 1940s map, that it was a hospital.

Map c 1940. from “Maps-of-london.com”
The arrowed building is one of the old ward buildings.

The history of this hospital is on the “Lost Hospitals of London” site, on this link. The following description is from that website:

During WW2 a quarter of the ward accommodation was destroyed by a high explosive bomb in 1940. Fifty male patients, 33 female patients and 3 nurses were killed. It was one of the worst incidents of bomb damage involving a hospital during the war. The Hospital was evacuated and remained vacant for the next two years. The wards reopened in 1942, but closed again shortly afterwards. By 1945 it had returned to normal, but with only 320 patients in eight wards.

In 1973 the wards were modernised. Medical and nursing care for old people continued but with an increasing emphasis on rehabilitation. The Hospital had 188 beds.

It closed in 1995.”

The gates of the construction site still bear the initials “SM” for St Matthews Hospital.

Here is the edge of the site now (22 November 2020). The homeless person’s tent is on the pavement.

I hope the tree survives.