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NW8: My Sweet Lord(s)

NW8 is St John’s Wood – home of Lords Cricket Ground and two recording studios amongst other things. And a lot of blocks of flats. We start our walk at the Post Office at 28 – 32 Circus Road, NW8. Take a right out of the Post Office and cross Wellington Road. Then take the […]

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NW7: East from Broadway

NW7 is practically in the country! Even though we are still in a London post code, we are at the very edge of built up London – unlike in the South West and West post districts where the London postcode area ends well before London does. Just to warn you some of the stops on […]

W6: Arts and Crafts and a Familiar Type

W6 is Hammersmith, famed for its flyover and the Apollo music venue but it was also home to William Morris and some other interesting artistic folk. We start our walk at Hammersmith’s main Post Office which is W H Smith in Kings Mall in King Street.

Our first stop is located inside the building that houses the Kings Mall shopping centre.

Stop 1: Lyric Theatre

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It is hard to believe but two floors up in this concrete hulk is a theatre with an interior dating from 1895. Today’s theatre it is not actually on the original site. That was on Bradmore Grove, a street which no longer exists. The Lyric started life in 1888 as a Music Hall but was reconstructed to become the Lyric Opera House in 1890. Five years later the Theatre was again reconstructed, this time by the well known theatre architect, Frank Matcham.

The original Theatre was demolished in 1969 but the Matcham auditorium was preserved and then completely reconstructed in 1979 inside the modern building we see today. Although the auditorium was recreated, it was slightly stretched to fit inside the new space. The proscenium is about 4 feet wider and the height was extended to match. A small studio theatre was also built.  The Lyric is currently undergoing a major redevelopment project, with new facilities for young people and the local community due for completion in November 2014. It is great that this interior survived but it is kind of sad that it has to be in what looks like a building that somehow escaped from communist East Berlin.

Now head down King Street  (past the William Morris pub) and soon you reach the swirl of traffic that is Hammersmith Broadway. Across one road (to the left) is the Hammersmith & City/Circle Line station and across the road ahead is the District/Piccadilly Line station. The two stations are about 200 feet apart door to door. All most confusing for those who do not know the area and want to change trains.

Stop 2: Hammersmith Stations

The first station in Hammersmith was opened in 1864 by the Hammersmith and City Railway which was backed by the Metropolitan Railway and the Great Western Railway (GWR). Their line started from the GWR’s main line a mile west of Paddington station and looped through Shepherd’s Bush to Hammersmith. Initially the  station was a little further north of the present day one but it was moved to the current location in December 1868. It is now used by both Hammersmith and City and Circle line trains.

The other station was first opened on 9 September 1874 as the western terminus of the Metropolitan District Railway when it was extended from Earl’s Court. In 1877, Hammersmith became a through station when there was a further extension west to link at Ravenscourt Park with the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) line from Richmond. The L&SWR line actually ran on to join the Hammersmith and City line just north of their Hammersmith station with a third station called Grove Road – long since disappeared. Once the more direct route via the District was opened, the link through Grove Road was not so attractive. But it carried on for a few more years, eventually closing to passengers in 1916. 

In 1908, the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (now the Piccadilly Line) opened with Hammersmith as its western terminus and the final piece of the jigsaw was the extension of the Piccadilly line westwards in the 1930s. When this extension was made, they went round the remains of the disused viaduct which had carried the line which went through Grove Road station. This is still visible from the trains just west of the Piccadilly and District Line station – a reminder of the link between the two lines that used to exist.

In the early 1990s, the District/Piccadilly line station buildings were demolished along with the neighbouring bus garage and a modern shopping centre and bus interchange was built over the station. Some of the tiles from the old facade were salvaged and incorporated in the northern ticket hall by the designers Minale Tattersfield.

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They now form a frame to a tile mosaic of Hammersmith Bridge.

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Now go though the shopping mall past Tesco’s and follow the signs for the Apollo. Outside you can cross the road on the level and ahead under the flyover on the right is our next stop.

Stop 3: Eventim Apollo (former Gaumont Palace/Odeon cinema)

This is one of the Britain’s largest and best-preserved super cinemas, designed by prolific cinema architect Robert Cromie. It was a joint venture between Israel Davis and the Gaumont British Picture chain and when it opened in March 1932  it was known as the Gaumont Palace.

It is large with almost 3,500 seats. It is very wide and the circle covers almost all the stalls apart from the front dozen or so rows which makes for a relatively intimate venue given the size. It was equipped with full stage facilities which proved useful for live shows and has allowed this to wonderful building to remain in use.

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It was renamed the Odeon in 1962 and operated as a cinema until 1984. It then became a theatrical venue full time under the Odeon name. Then in 1992 it became the Apollo. Since then it has had various owners and sponsors which has led to various prefixes to the Apollo name. Currently Eventim Apollo – Eventim is a german ticketing company who jointly own the building with the american company AEG.

Last year the theatre was underwent a major renovation costing some £5 million, bringing the building back to its original 1932 condition. This included restoring the original foyer floor mosaic panels, long covered by carpet and removing black paint from the circle bar and foyer windows. The theatre’s interior has been repainted in the original colour scheme of green, mauve and black.

Now head back under the flyover keeping the Church on your left and main road traffic on your right. Ahead on the corner you will see a modern office block.

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There was once a cinema building on this corner, known as the Broadway. It was designed by none other than Frank Matcham. It opened in December 1912 and sometime in the late 1920s it became owned by Associated British Cinemas (ABC).  It closed on 12th September 1977 after the collapse of part of the ceiling, and was demolished in June 1978, to be replaced by this commercial development.

Turn left here and go down Hammersmith Bridge Road.

Stop 4: Hammersmith Bridge

Ahead is Hammersmith Bridge.

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This was the first suspension bridge in London originally dating from the 1820s but rebuilt in the 1880s by Sir Joseph Bazalgette reusing the old piers and abutments. Apparently Irish republicans have tried to blow up this bridge three times: first by the IRA in 1939, when the bomb was spotted and thrown in the river; second in 1996 when the detonators of the IRA bomb went off but the bomb itself did not. And thirdly in June 2000 a bomb planted by some dissident republicans actually did explode and caused the bridge to be closed for three week for repairs.

Now just before the bridge take the roadway on the right and when you get to the river, turn right along the riverside.

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Soon on the right is our next stop.

Stop 5: Lower Mall

Number 9 was home to George Devine from 1956 to 1965.

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George Devine was an actor but is most famous for being one of the founders of the English Stage Company in 1955 and then artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre. The English Stage Company took the lease on the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square with the aim of producing new plays. One of these early production was John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger which premiered in May 1956.

Several more of John Osborne’s plays were staged at the Royal Court and George Devine was appearing in one, A Patriot for Me, when he suffered a heart attack. This was followed soon afterwards by a stroke which eventually led to his death at the early age of 55.

The play was a bit of a cause celebre. It was deemed too sexually transgressive by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office who licenced theatrical productions. The play was denied a licence for performance and in order to produce it, the Royal Court was forced to become a private members’ club.  This was one of the plays that finally led to the abolition of theatrical censorship by the state in the UK.

Keep walking along the riverside, passing a couple of pubs (The Blue Anchor and The Rutland Arms)

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You will come to a green and over in the distance across the Great West Road is the back of the Town Hall which we will come to in due course.

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Ahead is a small alley way, down which you will see our next stop, The Dove. 

Stop 6: The Dove

This is a delightful pub and my favourite on this stretch of the river.

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There has been a pub here since the seventeenth century and the brewers Fullers have owned this pub since 1796.

It has an unusual claim to fame. The pub says it is the birth place of the patriotic song “Rule Britannia”. I think more strictly it was that poet James Thomson wrote the poem  ‘Rule Britannia’ here which was then set to music by Thomas Arne. This by the way was part of a masque (a play with music and dance) called Alfred which was first performed in 1740 at Cliveden, the country home of Frederick, Prince of Wales.

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And the building also has another unusual claim. There is a small space to the right of the bar which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest bar room in the world.

Keep walking along the riverside and soon on the right is our next stop.

Stop 7a: Upper Mall (Number 26)

Number 26 (also known as Kelmscott House) is a lovely Georgian brick mansion overlooking the River Thames. It was the London home of designer, artist, writer and socialist William Morris from April 1879 until his death in October 1896

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Morris renamed this house after his Oxfordshire home (Kelmscott Manor) where he had lived from June 1871. Just along the way at Number 16 Upper Mall he started his printing operation, the Kelmscott Press in 1891.

The headquarters of the William Morris Society are in the basement and coach house. They can be visited Thursday and Saturday afternoons.

Prior to Morris ‘ time this building had been known as the Retreat and it has two other claims to fame. It was once owned by Sir Francis Ronalds who constructed the first electric telegraph in the garden in 1816 and there is a stone plaque at the side to commemorate this.

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From 1867 to 1877, it was also the family home of victorian writer George MacDonald.

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Now walk a little further along Upper Mall.

Stop 7b: Upper Mall (Number 48)

Just at the corner with Weltje Road is number 48 which was home to artist and designer Eric Ravilious.

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Ravilious grew up in Sussex, and is particularly known for his watercolours of the South Downs. He lived here between 1930 and 1932. In 1932 he and his family moved to rural Essex.  He also did a lot of work for Wedgwood in the 1930s and amongst his designs was the 1936 celebration mug for the coronation of King Edward VIII. This was withdrawn and revised for the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II.

Fascinating fact: His woodcut image of two Victorian gentlemen playing cricket in top hats has been used on the front cover of the Wisden’s Cricket Almanack since 1938.

He served as a war artist, and died in 1942 when the aircraft he was on was lost off Iceland.

Keep walking along the river past the sailing club and little watch house. Black Lion Lane comes in from the right and ahead you will see a terrace of houses which runs by the river side. This street is called Hammersmith Terrace and is our next stop, where there are in fact three blue plaques.

Stop 8: Hammersmith Terrace

First at Number 3 comes the home of Edward Johnston, creator of that most famous London icon, the London Transport typeface. Unfortunately the building had scaffolding up when I passed and so I could only just see a bit of the blue plaque!

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Johnston was commissioned in 1913 by Frank Pick, Commercial Manager of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London to create a typeface to strengthen the company’s corporate identity. Pick wanted a typeface that would ensure that the Underground Group’s posters would not be mistaken for advertisements. He said it  should have “the bold simplicity of the authentic lettering of the finest periods” and belong “unmistakably to the twentieth century”. It certainly met this brief. One of the typefaces distinctive features is the dot over the lower case letters i and j is in the form of a diamond.

It was first introduced in 1916 and was taken up for by the newly formed London Transport in 1933. The type face which is used today is a slight variant of the original. This created in 1979 and is known as “New Johnston”. It has been slightly tweaked since. This by the way was the type face used for the wayfinding signs at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Second comes Number 7, home of Sir Emery Walker and one of the best preserved original Arts and Crafts domestic interiors.

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Sir Emery Walker was an engraver, photographer and printer. He was a pal of William Morris who as we have seen had a house not so far away, although Walker moved here a few yeats after Morris’ death. They shared both socialist beliefs and an interest in printing. Walker’s collection of 16th century typefaces is said to have inspired Morris to create the Kelmscott Press. After Morris’ death, Walker set up his own printing enterprise, the Doves Press.

When Sir Emery Walker died in 1933 he left the house to his daughter Dorothy, who had grown up with William Morris and Philip Webb. She kept 7 Hammersmith Terrace as much as she could as it had been in her father’s time as did her friend Elizabeth de Haas who inherited the house from her in 1963. Just before Miss de Haas’ death in 1999, the Emery Walker Trust was set up “to conserve, maintain and display 7 Hammersmith Terrace and its contents, and so promote the advancement of the study and appreciation of the Arts and Crafts Movement.” The house is open during the summer months – see link: http://emerywalker.org.uk/

Then finally at Number 12 we come to the home of writer and MP, Sir Alan Herbert, better known as A P Herbert.

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In 1935 he became an independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University and held this seat until the University seats were abolished in 1950. He lobbied for reform of several laws that he felt to be outdated, often using his satirical writing. His targets included laws on divorce, obscenity, licensing and gambling.

Much of his humorous writing appeared in the magazine Punch, in particular his series of Misleading Cases in the Common Law – the work for which he is best remembered. These were in the form of “law reports” or “judgments”, on various aspects of the British legal and judicial system. Many featured the tireless litigant, Albert Haddock. One of the best-known is Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock, also known as “The Negotiable Cow”. Here Haddock tries to pay his tax bill by presenting a cheque in the form of a cow with the following words stencilled on its side:.

To the London and Literary Bank, Limited
Pay the Collector of Taxes, who is no gentleman, or Order, the sum of fifty seven pounds £57/0/0 (and may he rot!)
ALBERT HADDOCK

Fascinating fact time: In his novel ‘The Water Gypsies’, A P Herbert features the Dove pub under the pseudonym ‘The Pigeons’.

Now retrace your steps along Hammersmith Terrace and turn left into Black Lion Lane passing the lovely Black Lion pub.

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Cross the Great West Road by the subway. Take the little road which parallels the Great West Road and soon you will be in St Peter’s Square.

Stop 9: St Peter’s Square

This is quite a surprise. A wonderful square dating from 1825 with a garden in the middle. Apparently in 1912, the area in the centre of the square was threatened with development, so it was bought by the borough council and a garden was created, opening in 1915.

Architectural historian Pevsner suggests this square has the flavour of a suburban Belgravia. Maybe but one odd thing is that whilst the buildings cohere in design, there is no uniformity in the finish. Some are plain grey stucco, some stucco with marking as if they were stone and others painted white or cream. Makes for an odd assortment. How amazing this would look if it were consistently finished as one sees in Belgravia.

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In the centre of the gardens is a statue of a bronze runner by Sir William Richmond, dating from 1926.

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Now cross the square to the far corner and take the road on the left out of the Square

At the corner turn right into King Street. At this corner is the site of the Commodore cinema, replaced by this dull looking office block.

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Keep walking along King Street.

Stop 10: At the sign of the Bull

As we head down King Street, at the corner of Vencourt Place, there is a modernish pub called the Ravenscourt Arms set back off the road just before the Premier Inn.

In the forecourt is a rather strange beast – a bull on a plinth. This came from the Black Bull Inn in Holborn which was demolished in 1904. The sign indicates the inn was mentioned by Dickens in his book Martin Chuzzlewit.

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It was brought here by William (later Sir William) Bull, the local MP to what was then the offices of Bull and Bull, which I assume was the family solicitor’s business.

One question does occur. Why is the pub (presumably built subsequently) not called the Black Bull?

Continue walking along King Street, stopping on the corner by the Cineworld Cinema.

Stop 11: Hammersmith Town Hall

The older part of Hammersmith Town Hall is a late 1930s big brick box and OK in its own ungainly way but the bit of the Town hall facing King Street added in the early 1970s is just plonked down in front making no attempt to relate to the neighbouring building. However not for much longer. Hammersmith & Fulham Council approved a redevelopment scheme last November which will be see this building and the cinema replaced by new structures, including new offices for the council an a new three screen Curzon cinema.

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The present cinema by the way dates from 1936. Built by Associated British Cinemas, it became the ABC in 1964 and has been called various names since, currently it is Cineworld. It is looking a bit shabby now but then I guess it has not got long left before it is demolished.

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Keep walking along King Street. Our next stop is on the left just before the Kings Mall.

Stop 12: 84/88 King Street

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This was the site of the Cinematograph Theatre opened in 1910 as the eighth in the chain of cinemas operated by Montagu Pyke. Montagu Pyke was declared bankrupt in 1915, and this particular Cinematograph Theatre was closed and sold off. The front part of the building was rebuilt in Art Deco style in the late 1920s/early 1930s and became a shop – I think it may have been Woolworth’s. Today, half the ground floor is an amusement arcade and the other half a fast food take-away restaurant, while upstairs seems to be a hotel.

We are now almost back where we started. Keep on walking along King Street and you will be at the stations for onward travel.

So that was Hammersmith – William Morris’s London house and location of one of the best Arts and Crafts domestic interiors, plus home to some other artistic worthies including Edward Johnston whose familiar typeface is part of the fabric of London.

W6 has been a challenge as there is so much potential material. I have only been able to sample some of it, having to forego the wonderful Ark building, the Riverside Studios and the site of the Palais de Danse amongst other things. I doubt I will have this difficulty in the next postcode – W7 Hanwell.

W5: Something for everyone … a comedy tonight

I have resisted the temptation to make a pun involving Ealing – instead I thought I would reference that W5 is the home of Ealing Film Studios, known particularly for comedies, and also that in the 1960s, two well known (at the time) comedians lived in W5. So, tragedy tomorrow … comedy tonight.

We start our walk at the W H Smith store where the main Ealing Post Office is now located. This as it happens is our first stop.

Stop 1: W H Smith, 21/23 The Broadway (site of Ealing/Hippodrome Theatre & Broadway/Palladium  Cinema)

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This dull looking building which now houses W H Smith is on the site of a theatre and cinema. The history is somewhat complex. First came the Ealing Theatre in 1899. This was rebuilt in 1906 and reopened as the Ealing Hippodrome. But by November 1908 it had become a full time cinema, initially called the Broadway but later it reverted to be the Hippodrome. In January 1910 another cinema opened next door. This was the Ealing Cinematograph Theatre, fourth of a small cinema chain built by Montagu Pyke, who soon went bankrupt.

In August 1913, the new owners of the Cinematograph Theatre purchased the adjacent Hippodrome Theatre and created a common entrance to the two buildings. By this time the Cinematograph Theatre had become the Broadway Cinema. This was  closed and converted it into a dance hall. The Hippodrome was re-named Broadway Palladium Cinema in 1914, but later it was known simply as the Palladium. After a couple of changes of ownership it became part of the Gaumont chain and survived as a cinema until 1958. Both buildings was demolished soon after the Palladium Cinema closed and shops were built on the site.

Now take a left out of W H Smith and walk along The Broadway until the first turning on the left (which also seems to be The Broadway)

Stop 2: 42a The Broadway (location of the former Ealing Club)

At the end of the block of shops on the left above Haart Estate Agents, look up to see a plaque to commemorate the location of “The Ealing Club”. Odd really because the club was in the basement.

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The Ealing Jazz Club opened in January 1959  below what was then the Aerated Bread Company tea shop. The entrance was off a little alleyway reached by descending some steps to the right of the shop. On 17 March 1962 (by which time it was known as The Ealing Club) it became London’s first regular Rhythm and Blues venue with a performance by a band called Blues Incorporated which included musicians Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. Other musicians who played here in the 1960s include Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Charlie Watts, Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart and Manfred Mann (originally the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers). The Who played here in their early career, when they were known as The Detours.

And it was here at this club on 7 April 1962 that Alexis Korner introduced Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to Brian Jones, which led on to the creation of The Rolling Stones. But the venue did not last and became a disco in the late 1960s.

Alexis Korner has sometimes been referred to as “a founding father of British Blues”. In 1970 he helped form a big band ensemble called C.C.S (The Collective Consciousness Society). They had several hit singles. But the one most people will instantly recognise is their version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”,  used as the theme for BBC’s Top of the Pops between 1971 and 1981.

The BBC have been replaying old Top of the Pops shows so you can hear it on these repeats. These are timed to be in the same week as they were originally broadcast 35 years ago. But these repeats do not happen every week. I guess this is because the BBC does not show episodes with persons who have been disgraced or are being prosecuted. So nothing with Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter, Jonathan King, Dave Lee Travis, Rolf Harris … Whatever they may or may not have done, it does seem wrong to write them out of history like this.

Keep walking and soon you will see on the right is Ealing Broadway Station and a right mess it is too.

Stop 3: Ealing Broadway station

The other western termini of the District Line (Wimbledon and Richmond) were rebuilt as coherent integrated stations by the Southern Railway in the 1930s. Ealing Broadway was not similarly rebuilt probably because the Great Western Railway was a long distance railway which did not care much about its London commuter services. So today you can still see three separate stations (District line, Central line and Great Western) which sit next to each other, and are accessed by a rather terrible 1960s ticket hall. Hopefully Crossrail will mean Ealing Broadway finally gets a decent station.

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If you have a moment (and a valid ticket) do go down into the station and have a look at the old District line station (Platforms 7 – 9). This has a curiosity. There are three station signs on the platform which are in the pre Underground roundel style. This had a two semi circular solid red disks rather than a red circular ring.

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This style of sign was first used in 1908. In 1913 the Underground’s publicity manager, Frank Pick, commissioned the typographer Edward Johnston to design a company typeface. The solid red disc became a circle, and the new symbol was registered as a trademark. By 1919 Johnston’s typeface and a standardised roundel symbol was being used on publicity. It began to appear on stations from the early 1920s. So this would suggest these signs have survived from around or before the First World War – assuming of course they are original and not a later copy. Who knows?

Keep walking along past the station. Note the old District line station building dating from the 1880s is now just shops and no longer used as part of the station.

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Stop4: D L Lewis, Chemist. 36 Haven Green

Just a little further on the right is an odd survival of a shop. This is D L Lewis Ltd chemists shop. Ealing Council’s website says this is a Grade II listed building with a complete art nouveau frontage of 1924, and interior fittings dating from 1902 and 1924. And it is still a working chemists shop.

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Now retrace your steps back to the Post Office and keep walking down The Broadway. As you reach the church on the right, look back and across the road you will see a Marks and Spencer store over the road.

Stop 5 Marks & Spencer (site of John Sanders Department store)

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This corner originally housed a department store called John Sanders. The store was destroyed by a flying bomb in 1943 but was rebuilt. Not sure when the store closed but today it is a Marks and Spencer store. But it was certainly still John Sanders in 1970 because this building played a cameo role in episode 4 of season 7 of Doctor Who. Some aliens called Autons started their attack on the human race by bursting out of the shop window of John Sanders store. This was the first season to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor, if you interested in that kind of thing.

On the same side of the road as the church on that opposite corner was another department store, a branch of Bentalls. I believe that Bentalls moved into the new shopping centre across the road but they sold this stop to another department store chain called Beales who subsequently closed it. It is now a Primark. I guess this is symptomatic of the decline of Ealing as a shopping destination. I doubt Ealing will ever recover being quite close to the massive Westfield Mall at Shepherd’s Bush.

Continue walking along The Broadway past the church and soon on the right you will reach Ealing Town Hall.

Stop 6 Ealing Town Hall/Perceval House

The Town Hall dates from 1888 and is gothic in style. With the local government reorganisation in 1965, the new larger council chose Ealing as the main centre of business rather than Acton, and Acton disappeared as a council name.

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Just beyond the side street (Longfield Avenue) is where the public come to do business with the Council. This is an early 1980s block which was built as a speculative office development and later taken on by the council. Note it is called Perceval House. 

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Now turn around and look over the road.

Stop 7: Former Forum Cinema, 59/61 New Broadway

What you can see today (January 2014) is the facade of an old cinema held up by steelwork. This is all that is left of the cinema which started life as the Forum, went through many name changes and finally closed in September 2008 as the Empire cinema.

 

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The Forum was one of two near identical movie houses built for Herbert Yapp in 1934 (the other being in Kentish Town). Within a year of opening they had been taken over by Associated British Cinemas. It kept its name until 1961 when it was rechristened ABC.

After closure in 2008, the auditorium and foyer areas were demolished in early 2009. There were plans for a new multiplex cinema to be built behind the original facade. But this seems to have come to naught and no work appears to have been done on the site for some considerable time. Sad really given this is a major site in the middle of Ealing.

Now continue back along the Broadway and turn right into Bond Street. At the end of the buildings turn right and continue until you reach the second car park entrance on the right (almost opposite the gateway to Pitzhanger manor across the way).

Stop 8: facade of Walpole Picture House

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Now here is an unexpected find. On a wall by the car park entrance is what is left of the Walpole Picture Theatre.

This cinema started out life in December 1908 as the Walpole Hall Roller Skating Rink and became the Walpole Picture Theatre in 1912 and these tiles date from that date.

The Walpole was taken over by the Odeon chain in 1936 and it remained open until October 1972. The building was converted into a carpet store and when this closed it became a rehearsal studio for rock groups. It was demolished in May 1981 and an office block named Walpole House was built on the site. This is used by the University of West London (UWL). The tiles are located a short distance from where the facade used to be.

And standing in front of this fragment of the old cinema, you can actually see the back of the facade of the old Forum Cinema and see how big that development site is.

The Walpole name by the way seems to come not from the 18th century Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole but a descendant of his younger brother, Horatio. That descendant was  Sir Spencer Walpole who owned the land hereabouts. Through his mother, he was the grandson of Spencer Perceval, more of whom anon.

Stop 9: Pitzhanger Manor

Our next stop is just over the way from the remains of the Walpole cinema tiles. This is Pitzhanger Manor. We are practically in the centre of Ealing and yet here is a little country house.

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The building we see it today owes its design largely to the architect John Soane. He owned it for ten years from 1800 but radically rebuilt it to his own designs. Soane intended it as a country villa for entertaining and eventually for passing to his elder son. He demolished most of the existing building except the two-storey south wing built in 1768 by George Dance, who had been his first employer. But Soane sold the house in 1810. It then passed through several owners until in 1843 it became home to the daughters of Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval. One of them married a Walpole.

In 1900, the house was acquired by the local council (then Ealing Urban District Council) to serve as a Free Public Library. But work on converting the building did not start until after the death of its last resident, Frederika Perceval in May 1901.

The Library moved out in 1984 and the building underwent restoration. The house reopened to the public in January 1987 as Ealing Council’s main museum, known as the PM Gallery & House. It is certainly worth a visit both to the house and the gallery.

Now the spelling of the name has been troubling me because sometimes you see this written as Pitshanger and  other times Pitzhanger. Since Soane’s time, the spelling has varied, but it would appear it has now formally reverted to the name given to it by Soane which is spelt with a Z.

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You can leave the grounds through the grander gate which turns out to be a war memorial. Once out of the grounds, turn right and continue down Ealing Green.

Stop 10: Ealing Studios

Not too far along on the right is Ealing Studios which claims to be the oldest continuously working film studio in the world. It lurks behind this modest white villa.

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A man called Will Barker bought the White Lodge on Ealing Green in 1902 as a base for film making, and films have been made on the site ever since.

It is best known for a series of classic comedy films produced in the 1940s and 1950s. There is a blue plaque on the main building to Sir Michael Balcon who was closely associated with Ealing Studios.

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He produced some of its best known films including Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Whisky Galore! (1949), Passport to Pimlico (1949), the Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955).

Sir Michael also has another plaque to him which I mentioned in passing when we were in SW1. It is a green City of Westminster one at number No 57A Tufton Street where he lived between 1927 and 1939.

The BBC took over in 1955 and used the facilities until 1995.  It is still a film studios and has made films such as the revived St Trinian’s franchise, The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). Ealing Studios is also home to the Met Film School London, which has a purpose built film school on the lot as well as use of the studios. And apparently Ealing Studios is where the servants quarters in the ITV drama Downton Abbey were shot.

Now keep walking down Ealing Green, crossing over when convenient. You will want to turn left into Warwick Road. This has a UWL building at the corner with a blue plaque to Lady Byron, widow of poet Lord Byron. She  founded a local school.

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Continue down Warwick Road until you reach the green open space. Here turn right into the street called Warwick Dene. Our next stop is ahead on the right at the road junction. 

Stop 11: All Saints Church

The church dates from 1905.
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The land on which the church is built belonged originally to Elm Grove, the country home of Spencer Perceval and was later given for the building of the church by Leopold de Rothschild.

So now we get to Spencer Perceval. He has the unfortunate distinction of being the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. He lived at Elm Grove from 1809 until his death in 1812.  Spencer Perceval was born on 1 November which is All Saints Day so I guess that is why the church was dedicated as All Saints.

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Perceval was shot dead in the lobby of the House of Commons in May 1812 by John Bellingham, who had some grievance against the government and took it out on the Prime Minister. Bellingham was tried, found guilty and hanged just seven days later.  They certainly did not hang about in those days. (Sorry couldn’t resist using that phrase!)

Fascinating fact time: Henry Bellingham, who is descended from a relative of Bellingham, was elected in 1983 as MP for North West Norfolk. In 1997, he lost the seat by 1,339 votes. It has been suggested that this could have been affected by the 2,923 votes received by the Referendum Party candidate Roger Percival, who claimed to be descended from Perceval.

Continue along Elm Avenue until you reach the main road which is called Gunnersbury Avenue. This is the A406 North Circular Road. Turn right and walk along the right hand pavement.

Stop 12: Gunnersbury Avenue

Curiously this road has two blue plaques to dead comedians.

The first one you come to is at Number 35 Gunnersbury Avenue. This is for Carry On veteran, Sid James, who lived here between 1956 and 1963.

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The second one is a bit of a trek. But if you keep walking, you will (eventually) come to Gunnersbury Drive. On the opposite side of Gunnersbury Avenue is a mock tudor house with the other blue plaque recording the fact that comedian Arthur Haynes lived here between 1963 and 1966.

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Interesting that Sid James seems to have moved out of the area as Arthur Haynes moved in. I wonder whether Sid James did not want to live in the same neighbourhood as Arthur Haynes. Haynes was perhaps even more down market than Sid James. Haynes was really only a TV star whereas Sid James was in the movies too (!). Or maybe it was the Haynes house was grander.

Out of curiousity, I checked on the council tax banding to see whether one was higher than the other – and they both turn out to be Band G (of course this is based on the alleged value at 1 April 1991, so may have been different then or indeed now). This is a bit of a surprise as Band G is the second highest and puts these properties in the top 4% of properties in England by value. And yet here they are on a busy main road where the traffic flows like almost set concrete.

So that concludes out W5 walk. A bit of comedy with the studios and Sid and Arthur, but also a bit of tragedy involving the assassination of a Prime Minister, the decline of a shopping centre and the loss of interesting entertainment buildings.

Given how the traffic is here, your best bet for onward travel is to carry on walking along Gunnersbury Avenue to the next junction and take a left into Gunnersbury Lane. Not far down here you will see the distinctive outline of Acton Town station which we saw in the w3 walk.

W4: Only connect

Only Connect is quite a good motto for this blog as we are seeing London in bite sized chunks and every so often there is a connection with somewhere or something else.

Now today if people know the phrase they probably associate “Only Connect” with a fiendishly difficult panel game programme on BBC4 hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell. But the phrase itself was originally used as the epigraph to E. M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End. And why have I chosen this phrase for W4 as opposed to any other postcode? Well E M Forster lived for over 20 years in W4 as we shall see.

We start our walk at Chiswick Post Office, 1 Heathfield Terrace, just off of Chiswick High Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and almost immediately you are in Barley Mow Passage.

Stop 1: Voysey House

Our first stop is just a little way along Barley Mow Passage on the left past the Lamb Brewery. It is a white tiled building which turns out to be by Charles Voysey, best known for his country houses and for his Arts and Crafts wallpaper, fabrics and furnishing designs. This was his only factory building, according to architectural historian Pevsner.

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This building dates from 1902 and was built as an extension to Sanderson’s wallpaper factory which was opposite. It is faced with white tiles with black bandings. Apparently these were originally blue brick but at some stage they were painted black. If only all factories were this lovely! The building was restored in 1989 and is now offices, fittingly called Voysey House.

Retrace you steps back to the Post Office and then keep walking along Heathfield Terrace. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 2: Chiswick Town Hall

This italianate building looks to me a bit like a railway station but it was Chiswick’s Town Hall. The central section dates from 1876 but the three bays on the left in our picture and the one bay to the right  were added in 1900. Apparently it has well preserved interiors.

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Chiswick was first an urban district but after merger with neighbouring Brentford in 1927, it became a municipal borough in 1932.  This then became part of the new London Borough of Hounslow which was created in 1965. These buildings are still used by the borough council, although the main civic centre is in Hounslow.

Immediately opposite the Town Hall is Town Hall Avenue – such originality in the naming of this street. Go down this and just past the church at the end turn left into Chiswick High Road. A little way along on the left is Sutton Lane North. Go down this a short way. Our next stop is the first block on the right hand side of the road.

Stop 3: Arlington Park Mansions

Across the road is a fairly ordinary looking block of mansion flats dating from around 1900.

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The reason we are pausing here though is because this was where Edward Morgan (E M) Forster lived for over 20 years from 1939. There is a blue plaque.

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E M Forster only published 5 novels in his lifetime – four between 1905 (Where Angels fear to tread) and 1910 (Howards End) and a fifth (A Passage to India) in 1924. A sixth novel, Maurice, was only published after his death. No doubt this was because it is a gay love story, and that was why it came out later, so to speak. Although there were no more finished novels, he did produce some short stories and some non fiction writing, and he broadcast on the radio. And with Eric Crozier, he wrote the libretto for Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd in 1951.

Only Connect as I mentioned was the epigraph for Howards End. An epigraph by the way is a phrase, quotation, or poem at the beginning. It can be a preface, a summary or a link to some other work. In Howards End it is kind of the first two of these. And it has been said that “only connect” is applicable not just to practically all his work but to E M Forster himself.

Forster had a long standing relationship with a younger man called Bob Buckingham but he was also on friendly terms with Buckingham’s wife and was godfather to their son. There is a fascinating article from the Guardian about this.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/feb/17/e-m-forster-my-policeman

Now return to Chiswick High Road and cross over and go down the road opposite, past the entrance to Sainsbury’s

Stop 4:  Chiswick Park Station

Ahead you can hardly fail to miss Chiswick Park station.

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The first station here was opened in 1879 by the Metropolitan District Railway on its extension from Turnham Green to Ealing Broadway. Initially it was called Acton Green which is nearby to the east. It was renamed Chiswick Park and Acton Green in 1889. Finally it became known as Chiswick Park in 1910. The station was rebuilt between 1931 and 1932, in preparation for the western extension of the Piccadilly Line from Hammersmith. However this was to provide the extra tracks for the Piccadilly Line but only platforms were provided for the District line at this station.

The new station was designed by Charles Holden in a modern European style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. Apparently this was inspired by Krumme Lanke station in Berlin. But it is odd to have gone to the trouble of building such a significant building when it is only served by Ealing Broadway District line trains, the Richmond trains pass close by and of course the Piccadilly line has no platforms.

The platforms with their concrete canopies are well preserved and there are some interesting original signs.

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Now retrace your steps to Chiswick High Road and turn left. Our next stop is a short distance along the High Road, on the left.

Stop 5: 414 Chiswick High Road (site of Chiswick Empire Theatre)

There is a modern parade of shop, all mostly empty and above at Number 414 is a dumpy glass office block. This was the site of the Chiswick Empire Theatre.

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The theatre opened in September 1912. Apparently it took promoter Oswald Stoll over a year to gain planning permission as the locals thought that a music hall or variety theatre was not an appropriate form of entertainment for Chiswick. This building was designed by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham. The exterior was neo-classical style with a two storey centrally placed opening, which contained an open verandah. The auditorium seated almost 2,000.

Chiswick Empire was not just a twice nightly variety theatres, it also hosted revues, plays and even the occasional opera. As happened in so many other places the audiences declined after the Second World War and the theatre was eventually closed in 1959. But it went out with a bang. The final shows in June 1959 were sell outs by the flamboyant American entertainer Liberace. Now all we have is this rather boring (and disused) office block in its place.

Continue walking alomg Chiswick High Road and take a right into Dukes Avenue (There is a catholic church on the corner). Continue to the end of this street. Ahead at the end is the Great West Road, but to cross this we need to use the subway which is the continuation of the left hand pavement. On the other side, take the right hand passage, and follow the signs for Chiswick House.

You cannot miss the gates to the grounds of Chiswick House. This is a fabulous Palladian Mansion, now managed by English Heritage. However the House opens only from April to October and as it is now January, we cannot actually go inside. Maybe next time. But you can look down the lovely tree lined avenue or even go and view the outside of the House.

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Follow the signs for Hogarth’s House along the main road and soon you will see a gate on the right.

Stop 6: Hogarth’s House

Artist, printer and engraver, William Hogarth lived and worked here for the last 15 years of this life. He is of course best known for his moralistic pictures, such as the Rake’s Progress, Marriage a la Mode and Beer Street and Gin Lane. Although some of these started out as paintings the reason they became so well known was that he also made engravings of them. So there were many copies in circulation.

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He married Jane Thornhill, daughter of artist Sir James Thornhill in 1729. The Hogarths had no children, although they fostered foundling children. He was one of the first Governors of the Foundling Hospital which was set up in 1741 by the sea captain Thomas Coram. This was not a hospital in the medical sense. It was rather a place of hospitality, established for the education and maintenance of children who had been abandoned.

The Hogarths lived in Leicester Square (sadly their house no longer exists having been demolished in 1870) but they bought this building in 1749 as their country home. It now belongs to the London Borough of Hounslow and is open to visitors free of charge. It is well worth a look in. The only sad thing is the location which is right next to the A4 with its dual three lanes of constant traffic. Rather different from how it must have been in Hogarth’s time.

Go out of Hogarth’s House and turn right at the street. Ahead you will see the Hogarth roundabout and the flyover – often refered to in the traffic reports on local radio and television. 

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Beyond you can see the Fuller’s Brewery. Now if we had more time we would go down Church Street, to St Nicholas Church where Hogarth is buried and then go along the river for a bit. It is a beautiful spot here and hard to believe there is a working brewery in the midst of this. But sadly we have to be selective. However you can book a Brewery Tours if you are interested and there is even a virtual tour on the Fullers website: http://www.fullers.co.uk/rte.asp?id=98

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So once across to the far side of the Hogarth roundabout you will see a pub.

Stop 7: Mawson Arms/Fox and Hounds

Have a closer look and you will see it has two names. First it says “The Fox and Hounds” and then “The Mawson Arms”

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This is bacause once there were actually two pubs here but now there is just the one.

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But turn the corner and you find there is a blue plaque.

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Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) was an 18th century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. Apparently he is the third most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson.

Just in front of the Mawson Arms is another subway. Go under this and you will come out by Chiswick Lane. Go along this road with the playing field on your right. At the end of this street is Chiswick High Road. Turn right here and cross over. Our next stop is a little way down on the left hand side as you are walking.

Stop 8: 70 Chiswick High Road

There is a sign over the entrance to No 70 Chiswick High Road which proclaims “The Power House”.

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The reason is simple. The brick building just behind here was a power station built for the London United Electrical Tramway Company in 1899-1901. These were the days before the national grid and electricity had to be generated close to where it was needed. As architectural historian Pevsener puts it “The Chiswick building is the best surviving example in London from the early heroic era of generating stations whose bulky intrusions in residential areas was tempered by thoughtful architectural treatment.”

So we have a vast Baroque brick box with stone trimmings. You cannot really see that much from the street but walk a little along to the next side street (Merton Avenue). Look down there and you will see how this building looms over its surroundings.

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And here was also a tram depot here. This is now become Stamford Brook bus garage, which fittingly is home to buses operated by the London United bus company – but as we saw with London General in SW15 and SW19 this is a modern day resurrection and today’s company has no direct link to the original company. By the way, London United is owned by RATP which operates the metro and bus system in Paris!

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Retrace your steps along Chiswick High Road. Our next stop is on the same side of the road as the Power House

Stop 9: 160 Chiswick High Road (“The Old Cinema”)

This was originally built in 1887 as a ballroom and function room called the Chiswick Hall. It converted to become the Royal Cinema Electric Theatre in May 1912 and it survived as a cinema until around 1933 or 1934.

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By 1939 it was a furniture store known as Chiswick Furniture Galleries. Since the mid 1980s it has been an antique shop known as ‘The Old Cinema’. Whilst it has been changed to work as a shop, you can just about see the skeleton of the old cinema lurking here and there – both in the internal structure of the building and its decorative features.

Continue along the High Road. Note the modern statue of Hogarth across the road just as we reach the junction of Turnham Green Terrace.

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Turn right down Turnham Green Terrace. I should just mention in passing, this street has a number of nice looking food shops. There are two delis, a cake shop, a fishmongers and a butchers – the latter had people queueing out the door.

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Stop 10: Chiswick Back Common/Acton Green

Just before the railway bridge, there is a green on the left. This is Chiswick Back Common.

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Have a look at the display board to the left of the name board.

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This explains that hereabouts was fought one of the major battles of the English Civil War. This was the Battle of Turnham Green which occurred on 13 November 1642.

On the battlefield, there was a standoff between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians.  By successfully blocking the Royalist army’s way to London, the Parliamentarians gained an important strategic victory. The King and his army to retreat to Oxford for secure winter quarters. This was as close as the Royalists would get to London and without control of London they could never win. As far as I can discover there is not actually anything to see apart from this display board but I thought it was still worth a mention.

Now continue under the railway bridge. On our left the open space is called “Acton Green Common” which must have been a bit confusing. As we have heard Chiswick Park station was originally called Acton Green and yet Acton Green Common is actually almost outside Turnham Green station

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So far so confusing. But Turnham Green is the open space by the High Road where the Town Hall is and where the Empire Theatre used to be. So here you have it. Turnham Green Station is actually by Acton Green and the station that used to be Acton Green is actually the nearest station to the open space called Turnham Green. These railway companies have a lot to answer for.

Stop 11: Bedford Park – St Mary’s Church and Tabard Inn

Just after the station, ahead of us is the early garden suburb of Bedford Park. Bedford Park was a speculative development by a man called Jonathan Carr. And what makes this so special is not only the green spaces and trees but the fact that the suburb takes the red brick and tile of a market town rather than classical, italianate  or gothic styles. The importance of Bedford Park was recognised in 1967 when 356 Bedford Park buildings were Grade II listed and then in 1969 it became one of the first conservation areas.

We do not have time to explore fully the whole of Bedford Park. But we can just drop by two of its buildings, both designed by Norman Shaw, who was estate architect from 1877 – 1880 and then a consultant until 1886.

The road running off to the right is Bath Road and just on the corner ahead is St Michael and All Angels Church. This has a really wonderful interior. But the outside on Bath Road (shown in picture) looks very unchurchlike. It seems more like a church hall or school.

Poet, Sir John Betjeman described St Michael’s as “a very lovely church and a fine example of Norman Shaw’s work.” He said that Shaw had written in a letter to an architect friend saying: “I’m a house man – not a church man – and soil pipes are my speciality.” Nevertheless this is a fine church.

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Then opposite the church (on the same side as the railway) is the Tabard Inn, dating from 1880. The current inn (it does not seem right to call it a mere pub) incorporates the Bedford Park Stores, which was a shop built for the new estate.

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Keep walking along Bath Road.

Stop 12: 62 Bath Road

Our final stop (the house at Number 62) is on the right, just before a green and the boundary between Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham. But I guess we are still technically in Bedford Park.

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This is the house where artist Lucien Pissarro lived with his family for a few years from 1897. Between 7 May and 20 July 1897, his father Camille stayed there while Lucien was convalescing from a stroke. Camille had been in London before, most notably in the 1870s when he stayed in Norwood.

When he was at Bath Road he painted a number of pictures locally, one of which is owned by the Ashmolean in Oxford. It is called Bath Road, London and includes his daughter in law Esther and grand daughter Orovida playing in the front garden. It is unfinished, unfortunately. But here’s a link anyway:

http://www.ashmolean.org/ash/objects/makedetail.php?pmu=730&mu=732&gty=asea&sec=&dtn=15&sfn=Artist%20Sort,Title&cpa=1&cnum=&mat=&pro=&anum=&art=Camille%20Pissarro&ttl=&sou=&rpos=2

In 1902, Lucien and his family a short distance to 27 Stamford Brook Road and there is a blue plaque to him there. Although this is just down the road, we are not going there because it is over the border in W6!

So this brings us to the end of the W4 walk. It has been a full assortment taking in a writer, a couple of artists, the sites of a civil war battle, a theatre and a cinema, plus an early power station. And it was not just the latter we could only connect to.

From here there are buses to Shepherd’s Bush and beyond. Or else you can go down the next side street from where there is a pathway to Stamford Brook station. Alternatively you can retrace your steps to Turnham Green station.

W3: Lights, Camera …. Acton?

W3 is Acton and Acton is the place in London with the most railway stations bearing one place’s name. There are seven. They cover all the points of the compass plus Central, Town and Main Line. The curious thing about this is that even though there are 7 stations with the name Acton, none of them is particularly convenient for the town centre, even the so-called Central Station!

We start our walk at Acton’s main Post Office which is in King Street a short pedestrianised road by the Parish Church.

Stop 1a: St Mary’s Church

Our first stop, St Mary’s Church, is across the road from the Post Office. The Church dates back to at least 1228 but the building we see today results from a complete rebuild in the mid 1860s. Some monuments were preserved from the old church but I did not get to see them as the church has been closed when I have been there.

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However there are a couple of interesting things to see at the west end of the Church.

First at the left had corner is the old parish pump.  The pump is inscribed “1819 T. FREETHY, MAKER, ACTON, ERECTED BY THE REV WM. ANTROBUS”.

It was originally located in the High Street but was moved when the High Street was set back in 1919.  In 1952, it was taken to Gunnersbury Park and stored. The Acton History Group website suggests it was restored and resisted here in 1992.

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Just to the right of the pump is the Acton Milepost. It was originally located on the opposite side of the High Street, a little further to the west of its current location. It was saved during road widening, and relocated here when the Pump was restored. The road was known as the “Uxbridge Road”  and it was a turnpike or a toll road with the money going to pay for maintenance. The distances on the post were measured from Tyburn (Marble Arch) which we saw in our W2 walk. There was a tollgate at the 4 mile post, about where now Bromyard Avenue joins the Uxbridge Road, which as it happens is where we finish our walk.

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In the street by the church is a little market area – from a quick glance, it looked a bit cheap and tacky, like much of modern day Acton.

Just over from the West Door of the Church is an entrance to Morrison’s Supermarket, which at least was bright, clean and tidy.

Stop 1b: Morrison’s Supermarket (site of Odeon cinema)

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This site, where King Street joins the High Street, once housed a cinema built for Oscar Deutsch who ran the Odeon chain. Opened in November 1937, it was a large Art Deco style building with those distinctive cream faiance tiles and featured a tower at the side.

The Odeon was the last cinema to operate in Acton, finally closing in October 1975. The building was converted into a B & Q store. When that closed, the building was demolished and in 1988 a Safeway Supermarket was built on the site. This later became Morrison’s.

There are some photos of how it looked on the attached link.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/sets/72157603922593077/

It is a bit sad to see the loss of such a distinctive building from the street scene to be replaced by this identikit supermarket.

Fascinating fact: there’s a mnemonic (or is it an acronym?) for ODEON. Apparently Odeon at one time claimed that the name of the cinemas was derived from Deutsch’s motto, “Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation”. However Odeon had been used for cinemas in France and Italy in the 1920s. Also the name “Nickelodeon” dates from 1905 and was widely used to describe small cinemas in the United States in the early days of cinema. And of course the word is ultimately derived from Ancient Greek. So who knows!

Now walk down to the High Street and turn right following the road round. You will see Morrison’s across their car park, with St Mary’s Church sticking up behind.

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This is sad enough but across the road on the other side of the roundabout is perhaps even a bit more depressing. And here in this parade of shops, we will find our next stop.

Stop 2: 263 Acton High Street

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This Edwardian row of shops is rather grand but as so often happens, the locale is not now and the shops in these buildings reflect this.

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Cross over and go to number 263. Today it is a fast food establishment called “Pizza Babylon” but this was the site of the very first Waitrose store in 1904, although it was called Waite, Rose and Taylor then. You will find a little plaque in the pavement to commemorate this fact.

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The company name changed to Waitrose in 1908 and the business was bought by John Lewis in 1937. I cannot seem to find out when this Waitrose closed but I guess it was when they, like all the other grocers, moved away from these small shops and into bigger premises that could house supermarket sized stores.

Odd to reflect that the food being served up here today is rather far removed from the image one associates with Waitrose! And I somehow doubt there will be a Waitrose anytime soon in this locality.

Keep walking along the High Street and after the church turn left into Gunnersbury Lane. It is now a bit of a walk to our next stop, which is just after a mini roundabout down a little private road on the right, called Museum Way. On the way, we pass an old hospital building. This was built as the Passmore Edwards Cottage Hospital around 1900. More of Passmore Edwards shortly.

Stop 3: London Transport Museum Depot

We cannot come to Acton without acknowledging the importance of London Transport to this area. There is a huge depot here and on part of the site is the store for the London Transport Museum. 

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This is not open everyday but there are guided tours once a month ( last Friday and Saturday of each month) plus art and poster tours (about every third month). There are occasional open days and they will open up for groups of visitors booked in advance. More info at:  http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot

Last year, I went to see the archive collection of posters with a group of fellow guides belonging to the City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association . There were two rooms, one of which contained the orignal artworks and the other copies of printed posters.

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It is an extensive collection and was very impressive, as it goes back over 100 years. Plus the volunteers who take you round are very knowledgable.

Just across from Museum Way is Acton Town Station.

Stop 4: Acton Town station

Acton Town seems so important when you are on the tube as it is an interchange between the District and Piccadilly lines, but I have never had cause to get off here or indeed see what it looks like from the road – until now.

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Acton Town station was originally called Mill Hill Park when it was opened in July 1879 by the Metropolitan District Railway on its extension from Turnham Green to Ealing Broadway. It became a junction in 1883 with the opening of a line to Hounslow. The station was rebuilt in 1910 and at that point it became known as Acton Town. It was rebuilt again when the Piccadilly line was extended west from Hammersmith in 1932.

Acton Town is a rather lovely station by the prolific Charles Holden. We saw some of his earlier work in the stations at the southern end of what is now the Northern line when we were in the SW postcodes. Now we see an example from the early 1930s. It has an impressive ticket hall and also has its original concrete platform canopies and waiting rooms. And yet when you come at this station from the street, it comes as a surprise to find this beacon of design in an otherwise dull street.

Now retrace your steps back up Gunnersbury Lane and turn right into Avenue Road.

Stop 5: Avenue Crescent/Gardens

As we walk down Avenue Road note the streets on the right (Avenue Crescent/Avenue Gardens) have rather grand gateposts.

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These streets were developed by William Willett. He and his son (also William) were prominent house builders in the late 19th century and had their head office in Sloane Street, just south of Sloane Square.

Not sure if these gateposts were the entrances to the original estate on this site or whether they were gateways to the new housing development, as that had been built with private roads.

Fascinating fact time – again: The younger William Willett was a great proponent of Daylight Saving Time. In 1907 he published a pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” in which he proposed that the clocks should be advanced by 80 minutes in four incremental steps during April and reversed the same way during September. It was only the advent of the First World War that led to the introduction in 1916 of daylight saving (or British Summer Time as we would call it now) but this of course was much simpler with only one change of a single hour in the spring and autumn. Sadly William Willett did not live to see this as he died in 1915.

Continue along Avenue Road and the character changes as we get to a large estate of tower blocks.

Stop 6: Harlech Tower, Park Road East

We are heading for Harlech Tower which is the one by the corner of Avenue Road and Park Road East.

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Now this may look familiar. This is because it is the block that was used in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses as the location of Delboy and Rodney Trotter’s flat in Nelson Mandela House. So there is a little bit of W3 which is forever Peckham. I guess this was used as it was easier to get to from the BBC Television Centre than Peckham would have been.  However it was only used in series 1 to 5. Later episodes used a tower block in Bristol!

Go back to Avenue Road and continue a little way until you get to Church Road where you turn left. Continue to the end of Church Road and you will be back at the High Street. Turn right and a little way along on the other side of the road is our next stop.

Stop 7: Oaks Shopping Centre

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You can tell how prosperous an area is by the shops in the shopping mall. Here we have the likes of Sports Direct and Iceland, so clearly not much money here.

This was the site of the Globe Cinema which opened in March 1921. Within months of opening, the cinema was taken over by the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres chain which itself was taken over by Gaumont in 1929. The Globe was re-named Gaumont. It closed as a cinema in April 1959. The building was demolished and the site redeveloped, although the current building dates from sometime after the closure judging by the look of what is here today. The entrance to the Oaks Shopping Centre is now where the Globe once stood.

And I guess it is called the Oaks because it has been said that the name Acton means “Oak Town”

Walk along the High Street and soon on the other side of the road from the Oaks shopping centre is our next stop

Stop 8: Acton Municipal Buildings

This is a grand collection of municipal buildings dating from when Acton had its own local government. First you come to the library, dating from 1898/99. This is a Passmore Edwards library, one of at least 16 in London.

John Passmore Edwards was born in 1823 in a small Cornish village, Blackwater, which is between Redruth and Truro in Cornwall. He became a journalist and then editor of a leading London newspaper called the Echo. He was a life-long champion of the working classes and is remembered as being a generous benefactor. In a period of 14 years, over 70 major buildings were established as a direct result of his gifts and donations. These funded not only libraries but also hospitals, schools, convalescent homes and art galleries. He died in 1911.

If you want to find out more about him and his philanthropy, there is an interesting website dedicated to Passmore Edwards:  http://www.passmoreedwards.org.uk/index.htm

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Then across the side road (Winchester Street)  is the Town Hall itself which includes a council chamber. Then comes the public baths and  swimming pool. The oldest parts are the baths at the far end dating from 1904 and the offices facing Winchester Street dating from around 1910. At this time Acton just had an urban district council. It became a borough in 1921. Further additions were made the buildings in the 1920s and 1930s.

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There is currently some redevelopment going on to create a new leisure centre, which is due to open later this year.

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Note the crest and motto under it. The motto is “Floreat Actona” which means Let Acton Flourish.  This echoes the motto of Eton College (“Floreat Etona”). Today this formulation for Acton would suggest delusions of grandeur or perhaps an “in joke”. But I suspect this was chosen in deadly seriousness by the newly formed County Borough of Acton in 1921 as symbolic of where they wanted Acton to go and what they wanted it to be associated with.

The oak in the arms and crest references the name Acton as meaning ‘oak town’. Within the shield, the book (on the left) represents education and the cog-wheel (on the right) the motor industry, whilst the Crown and three swords in the middle are from the Middlesex County crest.

The local government reorganisation of 1965 meant that Acton became part of Ealing. The name Acton disappeared as a borough and the main centre of administration became Ealing.

Continue walking along the High Street.

Stop 9: Gala Bingo Hall (former Dominion Cinema)

Our next stop is on the left a little before we get to the railway bridge. We have seen the sites of two cinemas but here is one that has survived until today, although now a bingo hall.

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This was the Dominion Cinema which was opened in October 1937  by the small Bacal & Lee Circuit. It has lovely Art Deco style features outside and apparently the auditorium is pure streamline deco with hidden troughs of concealed lighting. The Dominion was taken over by Granada in 1946 and became known by that name. It closed as a cinema in August 1972 and has been a Bingo Hall ever since.

It is a Grade II Listed building, so hopefully will survive now in some form.

Continue walking along the main road soon after the railway, there is a gate into Acton Park on the left. Go in there and head towards the little chalet building.

Stop 10: Acton Park

Acton Park was laid out in 1888 after the local board (predecessor of the council) bought the land mostly from the Goldsmiths’ Company who had been left this by one of their number, a man called John Perryn. The Goldsmiths’ Company had grand plans for an estate of large houses. However after only building a few houses, the plan was dropped and they sold the site.

At the centre of the park was a bandstand, but there is no sign of this now. However the little chalet like building is a tea room, where one can stop for refreshment (or to warm up on a cold winter’s day!)

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Take the path with the tea room on your left and as we head out of Acton Park, on the left is an obelisk and below a slightly weathered board which explains the story – well possibly.

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This is allegedly a memorial to James Radcliffe, Earl of Dewentwater (apparently pronounced “Darwentwater”) executed for treason in 1716. He was one of the leaders of what the board describes as “the Rebellion” which of course was the Jacobite rebellion. The family estates were in Northumberland and were confiscated. The connection to Acton appears to be that his widow leased a house in Horn Lane in 1720 which then became known as Derwentwater House.

However the Acton History Group website  (http://www.actonhistory.co.uk/acton/page8.html)  says: “Whilst the wording on the label sounds a great story, the connection of James Radcliffe with Acton is probably only a legend, and the Monument is nothing more than a decorative garden ornament from Derwentwater House.”

And I guess this is why the architectural bible Pevsner is so tentative, saying: ” East of the railway is Acton Park (created 1888, mostly on Goldsmith’s Company land), with obelisk probably from the grounds of one of the older houses.”

Now leave the park and go into East Churchfield Road.

Stop 11: Goldsmiths Almshouses

Across East Churchfield Road from the park you can hardly fail to miss the Goldsmiths Almshouses. There were originally twelve Almshouses built in 1811 with a further eight added in 1838.

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These are quite delightful but sadly we have to view them from afar as one cannot get past the railings.

Now follow the park round to the end of East Churchfield Road and turn right into East Acton Lane. Go to the end of East Acton Lane and turn left into The Vale. Continue along The Vale until you get to a half moon shaped green on the left. this is where Bromyard Avenue meets The Vale.

Stop 12: Bromyard Avenue (former Government Offices)

As you look down Bromyard Avenue, you will see stretching ahead of you on the right hand side of the road a substantial 5 story building. This was purpose built for the Ministry of Pensions – started in 1914 and only finished after the war in 1922. It is impressive – a kind of Georgian terrace on steroids. And perhaps even it has the look and feel of Edinburgh.

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Today this building has been converted into apartments.

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So that brings us to the end of the W3 walk. W3 held a few surprises such as being the home of the first Waitrose as well as the real “location” of Rodney and Delboy’s flat and an 18th century memorial which may just have been  garden ornament!

Now for onward travel, there are buses along The Vale back west to Acton or east to Shepherd’s Bush,