No. 684: Undershaft, EC3
Undershaft, London, EC3. Photo © Roger Dean 2012
Guard-posts, or bollards as we now more commonly call them, were originally wooden. They were placed on the edge of the road to prevent the wheels of the coaches and carts running over the footpath and damaging it in the process. In the early 1800′s there was a lot of military scrap available and this often included cannon sourced from our own Navy, through upgrade or surplus, and also from those captured during battle and brought back to England. These cannon were sold off in public auctions and road owners started buying them to use as bollards. Although many of the bollards that now litter our city’s pavements are reproductions and never would have fired a ball in anger a few examples of ex-cannons do exists. In Undershaft in the shadow of St Helen’s Church in the heart of the City of London can be found one such example, buried muzzle-down, as can be seen in the photograph above.
For a more exhaustive history of the cannon as bollard see this article by Martin H. Evans by clicking here and to see the wide variety of bollards in London take a look at the excellent http://www.bollardsoflondon.co.uk by clicking here. R.D.