When a thousand pound bomb hit St James’s Church Piccadilly on the night of 14th October 1940, almost 72 years ago, followed by incendiaries which burnt out the interior of the church, a banker was dining a few hundred yards away at Wiltons Oyster Bar in King Street. Wiltons’ website reports:
The license was taken over in 1930 by Mrs Bessie Leal until 1942 (sic), mid-war, when Olaf Hambro, who happened to be eating oysters alone at the bar as a bomb landed on St James’s Church, Piccadilly, asked for the restaurant to be added to his bill as Mrs Leal folded her tea towel and apron and declared Wiltons closed.
Wiltons — still owned by the Hambro banking family — and St James’s Church survived: the Church with no permanent roof until the 1950s and without a spire until the 1960s. The current spire is made of steel, plastic and fibreglass, the restoration money having run out.
Pathé newsreel reports captured the aftermath of the bombing, the church smouldering and being played with water (click the two following images for video launch pages)…
…and the dedication of the Garden of Remembrance in 1946:
The area round Piccadilly Market and St James’s Church, courtesy of Apple Maps (and a kind friend with an iPad who knows how to screengrab). But where are the people and traffic? It’s like London after a Triffid attack….
I bought a kaleidoscope from your stand at Piccadilly Market a couple of years ago. I’m a children’s author and my retro-style adventure story, “The Bother in Burmeon” was published earlier this year. It’s a time-slip story in which the young hero goes back to 1962 via a mysterious kaleidoscope (it’s silver in the book). I bought the kaleidoscope to use as a prop for school visits (where it has been much admired!) and to use in the book trailer which we’ve now finished…
If you do manage to construct a time-travel kaleidoscope, I’d love to know!
Piccadilly Circus Circus comes to Piccadilly! The men in yellow jackets were out in force on Piccadilly this morning, preparing for tomorrow’s central London extravaganza.
Regent’s Street and Piccadilly will be transformed into a ‘pedestrianised paradise’ with tightrope artists, circus trapeze, aerial dance and bungees, BMX bike tricks and street dance, a Latin circus, a Moroccan circus and much more.
Over the course of tomorrow afternoon and evening there will be 143 performances of 48 different acts by 33 companies across 15 spaces, with 247 performers! Details here.