The City of London is not renowned for its abundance of trees, but right in the heart of the City, just a stones throw from St Paul's cathedral on the corner of Cheapside and Wood Street is a reasonably resplendent Plane tree, threatening to usurp the row of tiny shops beneath it.
It feels almost like the tiny little square was made specifically for the tree, but in fact, it was previously the site of a medieval church, St Peter Cheap, which was one of the 87 churches that burnt down during the Great Fire of London, 1666. However, it was also not one of the 51 rebuilt after the fire by Christopher Wren. Cheapside incidentally, is a medieval word for market, hence why a number of the streets leading off it, relate to produce that would have been bought and sold in the area; Bread Street, Milk Street and Poultry ... for instance.
The area where the Plane tree stands, was instead preserved as a tiny grave yard and public space and that very same tree features in a poem by William Wordsworth, called 'The Reverie of Poor Susan', inspired (allegedly) after hearing a thrush singing in its branches. If you happen to pass by, the verse in question has been handily painted on to a board for your perusal.
Funnily enough (and this has nothing to do with anything) I worked in a telephone call centre years ago with a thoroughly nice chap called John Wordsworth, a budding actor and descendant of the poet himself. If you happen to read this John, I hope you're well.
On the corner of the little row of houses I mentioned, you can perhaps see in the photo above, there is currently a shop that sells greetings cards and party masks of celebrities and Royals, but if you look carefully at the back wall, you'll find a little stone tablet, with the date 1687, which was the year the shops were built.
There are over 200 little parks, squares and churchyards within the City of London, otherwise known as the 'Square Mile'. St Peter Cheap is particularly small; just a few benches clustered around a paved area, three weathered headstones and a few trees, but all of these spaces have a story to tell and are oozing history. In fact, the railings of St Peter Cheap are the same ones they put there in the early 1700's.
8/10/2013 07:44:42 am
Aw, this was a genuinely quality article. In theory I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real effort to make a excellent article... but what can I say... I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done. Best wishes.
20/2/2014 09:38:36 pm
I worked for a couple of weeks in the office that runs down the side of Wood St there and was intrigued by this little garden. I found it a peaceful place to sit and have lunch. I'll bet 95% of the people in that office never gave it a second glance.
15/10/2017 11:08:33 pm
i love this little poem .I am glad i have researched the area .So much history in london and its stories . Margaret R
5/6/2018 04:32:43 am
I love this article. I have been listening to Robert Elms on BBC London Radio and they have been talking about old trees in London - this little gem came up. I have sat in this tiny garden previously and had no idea of the history (I once worked in Atlas House in Cheapside). Thank you.
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