36 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London (Essex Mansions) was built between 1886 and 1888, in the days when every room in the ‘residential apartments’ of the four storey building had a coal fire and so there were a lot of chimneys to be potted.
A little under one hundred years later, in January 1981, I worked in the offices that then occupied the first floor when workmen were doing stuff to the roof which meant removing one of the banks of chimney pots. The ten pots on the outside of the banks of twelve were well worn and in danger of falling but the inside two were hardly worn at all.
It was cold work for these chaps up on the roof so we made them cups of coffee and chatted to them as they went up and down the stairs past our office door. At the end of the week the chimneys were brought down and the two from the inside were carefully placed in the back of my Ford Capri. (This was 1981, I could drive into London and park on the street outside all day every day, religiously feeding the meter.)
In the years that followed the two chimney pots came with me as I moved house, divorced, moved house, re-married, moved house, divorced, moved house, re-re-married, moved house….. Those two chimney pots moved with me eleven times until 2011 when one was destroyed by a careless builder’s van. The survivor moved house yet again and now sits on the corner of the terrace in the Isle of Wight awaiting its winter trailing geraniums.
Last week I had to go up to London, not something I do lightly. On Thursday evening I walked along Maiden Lane to see what had happened to my old offices. ‘Look up there,’ my tall current husband said. I stepped off the pavement into stage doorway of the Vaudeville Theatre and looked up.
Just visible between aerials was our pot’s twin.
While my chimney pots had travelled from London to Kent to Surrey, to Berkshire, back to four different houses in Kent, then down to Cornwall, then back to Kent, then up to Worcestershire, then to South Shropshire and to North Shropshire (where the reversing builder demolished one) and finally down to the Isle of Wight, this one had stayed atop 36 Maiden Lane watching over the changes that had occurred in London.
One hundred years occupying the same roof and thirty four apart – reunited in photos on this blog.