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On Top Of Britannic House With Lew Tassell

September 13, 2018
by the gentle author

Detective Constable Tassell of the City of London Police Serious Fraud Squad magically escorts us thirty-five years back in time and onto the roof of Britannic House in Ropemaker St to enjoy the view

“In the summer of 1983, I was part of the City of London Serious Fraud Squad, operating from Wood St Police Station. A friend and ex-colleague of mine became head of security at British Petroleum in Britannic House, Ropemaker St and he invited me to photograph the views of London from the rooftop, so I took the opportunity. I went along one June morning and took my pictures.

Britannic House was the first building in the City of London to be taller than St Paul’s Cathedral and remained the tallest until the NatWest Tower was built in 1976.  It is now known as City Point – since BP moved out some years ago – and has been refurbished with extra storeys, so it is even taller.” – Lew Tassell

Looking towards Christ Church, Spitalfields

Looking northeast towards the Bishopsgate Goodsyard with Bethnal Green beyond

Looking east to Old Broad St and Liverpool St Station with Spitalfields beyond.

Car park at Old Broad St Station where the Broadgate Estate is today

Looking east along Liverpool St towards Bishopgate and Dewhurst’s Butchers

Looking southeast to Finsbury Circus and the City of London

Looking southeast across the City of London towards Tower Bridge

Looking southwest along London Wall with St Paul’s Cathedral

The dome of St Paul’s with Westminster and Big Ben

Looking west towards Old Bailey and Trafalgar Sq

Looking northwest towards the Post Office Tower with the Barbican to the right

Looking northwest across Clerkenwell with St Pancras Station in the distance

Looking north to Whitecross St Market

Looking down onto the Barbican

St Giles Cripplegate

Looking down from the top of Britannic House

Looking down on Silk St

City of London mounted police in Fore St

Photographs copyright © Lew Tassell

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A Walk Around The Docks With Lew Tassell

22 Responses leave one →
  1. September 13, 2018

    Fantastic photos! Valerie

  2. Susan Jackson permalink
    September 13, 2018

    Thank you, Gentle Author and Lew Tassel, I live in the Barbican on Fore Street and so this is very close to home. It is a great area and fascinating to see these photos. Sue

  3. VANDA HUMAN permalink
    September 13, 2018

    Fantastic photos but just looking at some of them from the height they were taken makes me dizzy. Terrified of heights

  4. Helen permalink
    September 13, 2018

    I started work in the City in 1983 and remember how much post-war brutalist redevelopment there was then. It’s fascinating to see these snap shots in time and realise how much of it has now been swept away. I know many decry this type of architecture but at the time it was a positive move to re-build London after the ravages of the war, and its sad that this relatively short period of building history is rapidly being erased from memory.

  5. Ken permalink
    September 13, 2018

    The car park shown was on the site of the former Broad Strret goods yard – there was still a passenger service from Braod St.

  6. Greg Tingey permalink
    September 13, 2018

    Bishopsgate ex Goods Yard ( Please! )
    Note the amazing dereliction in the surrounding area – and the rattly 3-coach train approaching Broad St station – which is visible in the next picture.

    ( Incidentally, I have a couple of photos of the inside of Broad St shortly before closure & another one, even older, of St Giles Cripplegate, before the Barbican was built. )

  7. September 13, 2018


  8. Mary G permalink
    September 13, 2018

    These photos are a wonderful record of the London skyline in 1983. It is interesting to note that then, as now, Big Ben is clothed in scaffolding.

  9. Helen Breen permalink
    September 13, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks for sharing the Lew Tassell photos from 1983. I never tire of images of London …

  10. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    September 13, 2018

    Thank goodness for DC Tassell and his camera…

    I was in London around that time; my first time. I was nineteen years old. I suppose it’s telling that when I think of “Old London” this is not what I think about, but I guess it is, now!

  11. pauline taylor permalink
    September 13, 2018

    Wonderful. Thank you to Lew Tassell and you GA, what a fantastic record of how London used to be. I particularly like the view of Whitecross Street as my grandfather was born there in 1874

  12. Connie permalink
    September 13, 2018

    These are so much fun to look at, I feel that I’m in the city again. Hopefully, they keep a little bit of the Old town. So many new buildings.

  13. Rab Bennetts permalink
    September 13, 2018

    Great photos. I was working on the design of the Finsbury Avenue and Broadgate developments at that time. The cranes beside Broad Street car park bring memories flooding back. It was the beginning of huge change to a largely derelict part of London. Can someone take the same pictures now?

  14. Georgina Briody permalink
    September 14, 2018

    Thank you for the memories.

  15. Bob permalink
    September 14, 2018

    I worked in this amazing building in the nineties. The below ground plant rooms were huge and always reminded me of ships engine rooms.

    There is /was? a ventilation shaft through the centre of the building. Special forces people would use this for abseiling practice.

  16. Malcolm permalink
    September 14, 2018

    I worked in Britannic House in the 1970’s, before these pictures were taken. I was one of the team of Post Office Telephone engineers who were permanently on-site. This was before the digital age when telephone switchboards were old-fashioned electro-mechanical beasts with plugs and cords, and buildings like Britannic House had teams of telephone operators manning the banks of manual switchboards. We used to get up on the roof quite a lot in the summer, the view was wonderful. When the NatWest Tower was built I was transferred there for a while. I went up on the roof there, too. I can proudly say that I installed the fireman’s telephone on the roof of NatWest Tower! I have photographs of London taken from NatWest Tower and the skyline of London was very different then, very few tall buildings existed, although London Wall had the three monoliths along the north side and there was the Hong Kong and Shanghai bank building at 99 Bishopsgate. Now it’s hard to see the sky from the City of London streets. It’s a shame that London has lost much of its personality and history to developers and become just another city of glittering glass fingers that grow ever taller, more aggressive and remote from the ancient streets of our city. I remember when St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in London and I wish it were still. Great pictures, as always.

  17. September 24, 2018

    I was reminded to look back at this post by his magnificent night photos posted today.

    In particular the photo above ‘Looking west towards Old Bailey and Trafalgar Sq’ has a certain irony in that it looks down on Shell-Mex House designed by my grandfather, Ernest Joseph. BP’s Britannic House, which never looked good to me, but is improved by its recent makeover was designed by F Milton Cashmore. He was my grandfather’s junior partner, who became senior partner at Josephs when my grandfather died. Some time after my grandfather died Cashmore, and then his widow, started to claim that the latter had also designed Shell-Mex House.

    All the original drawings that I have seen at the RIBA just say ‘Josephs’ and were not signed, this being the way at the time.

    Whoever designed Shell-Mex House it has certainly stood the test of time better than Britannic House and has great views from the clock tower though clearly not as far reaching as those from Brittanic House

  18. mlaiuppa permalink
    September 29, 2018

    Too bad there are no contemporary photos for comparison. I have a book of my own city. A “Then and Now” book that shows vintage photos, then the same photo taken from the same spot currently.

    I think it is a powerful tool to be used when seeking changes to redevelopment plans and curbing excessive destruction. When you see what you had and then lost, it can put the brakes on. Likewise, when you see what blight there was that was replaced with something both pleasing and functional, it can be celebrated.

    I’d still like to see brakes put on that entire Bethnal Green project and a halt to the destruction of the Mulberry. If laws and regulations have been broken by the developers, they should not be allowed to profit from it and continue their unbridled destruction.

  19. Alastair Cumming permalink
    February 14, 2020

    Great photos. I used to show visitors round the building and to the viewing floor on a Saturday in the late 60s!

  20. Mary o Doherty permalink
    June 6, 2020

    I worked for bp finance in britannic house in 1988/89. I remember there was a fast lift and a slow lift.

  21. December 15, 2021

    I worked at Britannic House in the 80’s. Loved the staff shop and brilliant lunch for 5p (glass of wine extra) lol. What I am desperate to remember is the name of the pub that was in the square. Please can someone help me?? Thanks Louise

  22. Clive Barton permalink
    April 25, 2023

    Very interesting pictures bringing back lots of happy memories of working in BP House Milton Court in 1969 – 73 period . I visited this week and the area is almost beyond recognition.

    I was in the Operations Department of a Computer Bureau taken over by BP who then moved the Computer centre part from the West End in to BP House. The days of punch cards , paper and magnetic tapes !

    Worked on shifts covering 24 hours / 7 days a week with daytime meals in the BP House restaurant ( got in to trouble for calling it a canteen) and evening meals in Britannic House.

    I remember the public weighbridge , the Brewery and it’s horses and St Pauls Tavern( think that was the name of the pub on corner of Milton Street and Chiswell Road ) . Any pictures of those from that period?

    In olde age,now regret not taking pictures of our everyday surroundings

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