Some graffiti appeared near my home recently and it struck me that they were of a kind I hadn’t seen for a while. Almost the next thought that came to me, an act of off-the-cuff classification, was that there are three types of graffiti.
Fleet Prison, so-called because it was located close to the River Fleet, was located just outside the medieval city walls, and is first recorded in the twelfth century. This building was burned down during the Peasant’s Revolt and its replacement was destroyed during the Great Fire.
More than half a century on, though Sixties London may conjure up ideas of hedonism, rebellion and freedom, there was always a darker side to it. Death came for some, like Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones, while others, like Syd Barrett and Peter Green lost their minds through drugs. And yet it was an accidental death more than any other tragedy that symbolized the decade’s sense of Et in Arcadia ego.
The Tower of London has held a number of notable prisoners, among them Sir Walter Raleigh, Samuel Pepys, and Anne Boleyn. A lesser known prisoner was Chidiock Tichborne, the author of our next poem, who achieved his fame not as a poet but as a member of a conspiracy to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I and enthrone Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, in her place.
As a child of London, Cleopatra’s Needle has long been present in my memory and my imagination. But it wasn’t until I began researching my book City of Verse: A London Poetry Trail/ that I learnt that when this ancient obelisk was erected on the Victoria Embankment in 1878, a pair of what would nowadays be called time capsules were sealed in its base.
Stonehenge may be the best-known Neolithic monument in Britain but it has never stood in glorious, awe-inspiring isolation. In fact, it is situated within what archaeologists call a ritual landscape, defined by Frances Pryor as a ‘concentration of funerary and ceremonial monuments that were constructed in the Neolithic (4000- 2500 BC) and Early Bronze Age (2500-1500 BC)’.