…… and elsewhere! wishing you all a great 4th July As everyone knows, America was really started by the Brits…well okay, so maybe you didn’t know, but it’s true! Almost!! But, On July 4, 1776, USA declared its independence from Britain. If you did deep enough and sometimes go underground (and I don’t mean on the tube), you can find all manner of memorials to famous Americans, who were either from London (Britain) or lived in London, and honoured in London. Finding America in London: in no particular date order or importance, here are just a few that I know:
St Paul’s Cathedral – The American Memorial Chapel “At the east end of the Cathedral behind the High Altar is the American Memorial Chapel. The Chapel is also known as the Jesus Chapel, as the space was known prior to World War II. This part of the building was destroyed during the Blitz and as part of the post-war restoration it was decided that the people of Britain should commemorate the 28,000 Americans who were killed on their way to, or stationed in, the UK during the Second World War. Their names are recorded in the 500-page roll of honour encased behind the high altar. This was presented by General Eisenhower in 1951 and a page of the book is turned every day. The American Chapel was designed by Stephen Dykes Bower and constructed by Godfrey Allen, Surveyor to the Fabric 1931-1956. The images that adorn its wood, metalwork and stained glass include depictions of the flora and fauna of North America and references to historical events.The three chapel windows date from 1960. They feature themes of service and sacrifice, while the insignia around the edges represent the American states and the US armed forces. The limewood panelling incorporates a rocket – a tribute to America’s achievements in space“. St Paul’s Cathedral – A plaque dedicated to Billy Fiske, the first US WW2 pilot to lose his life on British soil reads; “An American Citizen, who died that England might live.”
All Hallows-by-the-Tower Church: William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, baptised on 23 October 1644 John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, married 1797
St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church – “Captain John Smith, first governor of the State of Virginia, USA, is buried in the South aisle of the church. Smith sailed to America in “the little ships” in 1607 where he was captured by Indians and freed by Princess Pocahontas. He is commemorated in a beautiful stained-glass window on the South wall“.
St Mary le Bow Church – While living in London, Pocahontas worshipped at St Mary Le Bow Church, a ‘Cockney Church’ in the heart of the City of London. A statue of the man who owed his life to her, Captain John Smith can be found standing outside in the small square.
Pocahontas (born Matoaka, known as Amonute, & later known as Rebecca Rolfe, c. 1595 – March 1617) – “said to have saved the life of an Indian captive, Englishman John Smith, in 1607 by placing her head upon his own when her father raised his war club to execute him. In April 1614, she married tobacco planter John Rolfe, and bore him a son in January 1615; Thomas Rolfe. In 1616, the Rolfes traveled to London. Enroute back to America Pocahontas died at Gravesend of unknown causes. She was buried in a church in Gravesend, but the exact location of her grave is unknown“.
Historic Royal Palaces – “Historic Royal Palaces, Inc. was formed by Americans with a passion for iconic royal buildings, namely the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. Over hundreds of years the palaces have survived war, revolt and royal scandal as well as seeing great periods of prosperity, peace and enlightenment“. ref HRP.org Tower of London – Captain Franz von Rintelen, alias E. V. Gache – “In 1915, Captain Franz von Rintelen, alias E. V. Gache, was apprehended at sea and spent two days at the Tower pending his trial. He was charged with espionage acts in America against shipping bound for England. After his trial, he was deported back to America and was sentenced to four years hard labour. In February 1921 he went back to Germany and published his memoirs entitled The Dark Invader“. ref HRP.org
Parliament Square – Next to Supreme Courts – Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865. The 16th President of the United States of America (1861-1865), he led the country through the American Civil War, preserving the Union and abolishing slavery. At Gettysburg in November 1863, he gave the most famous speech in American history, declaring the war effort necessary to uphold the principles of liberty and equality for all. The war for the future of democracy would ensure that ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth’. He was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington DC on 14 April 1865. The statue, a copy of that found in Lincoln Park, Chicago, was presented to Britain in 1920 to mark 100 years of peace between the English-speaking peoples following the War of 1812.
36 Craven Street, London, WC2N 5NF – “In the heart of London, is Benjamin Franklin House, the world’s only remaining Franklin home. For nearly sixteen years between 1757 and 1775, Dr Benjamin Franklin – scientist, diplomat, philosopher, inventor, Founding Father of the United States and more – lived behind its doors“. ref Benjamin Franklin House
Grosvenor Square – American Embassy: “Grosvenor Square has been the traditional home of the official American presence in London since John Adams established the first American mission to the Court of St. James’s in 1785. During the Second World War, Dwight D. Eisenhower established a military headquarters at 20 Grosvenor Square, and during this time the square was nicknamed “Eisenhower Platz”. A statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt, sculpted by Sir William Reid Dick, stands in the square, as does a later statue of Eisenhower, sculpted by Robert Lee Dean. John Adams lived in the house which still stands on the corner of Brook and Duke Streets from 1785 to 1788.
Mayflower Pub Rotherhithe – “Rumour has it, to avoid paying mooring taxes Christopher Jones, sea captain, tied up alongside the Mayflower pub where passengers boarded the ship, which then sailed to Plymouth to pick up the remaining passengers before their voyage to America.
The one hundred and two passengers and crew, setting out from their last port of call at Plymouth, on the 6th September 1620, were embarking on a journey which would appear to be the most daunting and perilous by modern nautical standards“.
St Mary’s Church, Rotherhithe – Christopher Jones, Master of the Ship, lived in Rotherhithe; his children were baptised at St Mary’s and his body buried in the churchyard. Although the exact site of Captain Jones’ burial is unknown, a tablet is placed inside the church, at the East end.
Sailing of the Mayflower: On Thanksgiving Day 25th November 2004 a new ‘Blue Plaque’ was unveilled on the outside of St. Mary’s church tower.
American connections: Guildhall – Memorials to two British Prime Ministers with American connections:
Pitt the Elder – William Pitt; 1st Earl of Chatham PC (15 November 1708 – 11 May 1778) a British Whig statesman, Chatham sought to find a compromise on the escalating conflict with the American colonies. Chatham’s warnings regarding America were ignored.
After war had broken out, he warned that America could not be conquered. Due to his stance, Pitt was very popular amongst the American colonists. ref wikipedia
Pitt the Younger – William Pitt the Younger (28 May 1759 – 23 January 1806) was a British politician of the late 18th and early 19th centuries Pitt the Younger denounced the continuation of the American War of Independence, as his father strongly had.
Instead he proposed that the prime minister, Lord North, make peace with the rebellious American colonies. ref wikipedia
Guildhall Art Gallery – “The Defeat of the Floating Batteries (1791) by the American John Singleton Copley, which depicts the British victory at Gibraltar in 1782.
This amazingly huge oil painting was removed to safety just a month before the gallery was hit by a German bomb in 1941 and spent 50 years rolled up before being restored in 1999“.
Statue of George Peabody – (February 18, 1795 – November 4, 1869) an American-British entrepreneur, a social visionary and the first great modern philanthropist.
In 1816, George Peabody moved to Baltimore, where he became involved in the import business; shipping dry-goods in from Britain.
In 1835 he established a bank in London: ‘George Peabody and Co.’ He set up the ‘Peabody Trust’ in London in 1862, a trust which is still going strong today. A statue of this great man can be found directly behind The Royal Exchange in the City of London opposite the Bank of England.
Rennie’s London Bridge – relocated in 1831 to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, United States, bought by Robert P. McCulloch from the City of London. The bridge spanned the River Thames in London, England, until it was dismantled in 1967.
The Arizona bridge is a reinforced concrete structure clad in the original masonry of the 1830s bridge. Urban legend maintains he thought he was in fact buying Tower Bridge…..this is of course not true.
Tower Bridge – 1 April 2010 – an April Fool’s joke
Berkeley Square – Peter Standish, a character from the play Berkeley Square written by John Balderston, about a Yankee who lives in a house on the square and is transported back to the 18th century. The play was produced as a movie in 1933, with Leslie Howard, and 1951 and on television in 1959. ref wikipedia “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” written for New Faces in 1940. Manning Sherwin (January 4, 1902 – July 26, 1974) an American composer, born in Philadelphia, attended Columbia University before embarking upon a long career in musical theatre and films. His most enduring composition is the music for “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, with lyrics by Eric Maschwitz.
Selfridge’s – Harry Gordon Selfridge (11 January 1858 – 8 May 1947) born in Ripon, Wisconsin visited London as a child in 1906. He later returned to London and set up shop on the western end of Oxford Street; the American-style ‘Selfridges’, opened on 15th March 1909 as a temple to commerce.
‘Bryanston Court’ – on Seymour Place; a quiet street not too far from Marble Arch. During the 1930’s Bryanston Court was home to Wallis Simpson; an American socialite who married the ‘King who abdicated for love'; Edward VIII .
Although not always the case, America and Americans have long been allies of the United Kingdom, fighting alongside of Britain in the Second World War, visiting frequently and often puzzled by the very quirky, eccentric and often crazy traditions, events and sayings of the Brits….often known as cousins!
Allies – On a bench in Mayfair, where Old Bond Street meets New Bond Street, is a bronze statue called ‘Allies’. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, portrayed sitting on a park bench ‘talking’ together. A gift from the Bond Street Association; the shops and businesses of Bond Street, to the City of Westminster to commemorate 50 years of peace.
Lawrence Holofcener, a sculptor with dual nationality created this landmark. It was unveiled on 2 May 1995 by Princess Margaret. Lawrence Holofcener (born February 23, 1926, Baltimore, Maryland, United States): an American poet, lyricist, playwright, artist, novelist, actor, director and sculptor with dual British and American nationality.
Take a stroll past the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square and you’ll see a statue of George Washington. Where are your favourite ‘America in London’ places?
Did you know: Halloween, although seemingly an American tradition was actually a British export.
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