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 Hounslow 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 Park. 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,

W2: The Bear Necessities

W2 is Paddington and when you say Paddington it usually means one of two things: the station or the bear. We will certainly cover both but there is of course a lot more to W2. So pack up those marmalade sandwiches and off we go.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 118/120 Queensway which is immediately opposite our first stop.

Stop 1: Whiteley’s

 This was once a very big store indeed. Founded by William Whiteley who was apparently inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851 to create his own vast emporium. He worked for various other people but in 1863 managed to open his own premises on Westbourne Grove. By 1900 he had expanded round the corner into Queensway. The whole store was rebuilt with a new frontage on Queensway between 1908 and 1911.

Sadly Mr Whiteley did not get to see his new store, as on 24 January 1907, he was shot dead in his office by a young man who claimed to be his illegitimate son.

Queensway never developed into a major shopping street – much like Wigmore Street did not in W1. Whiteley’s struggled on until 1981 when it was finally closed. However it was rebuilt as a kind of mall in 1989.

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Amazingly the building still has its original stairwell and staircase in the centre.

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But all is not what it seems with this building. It may have an impressive facade along Queensway but Whiteley’s never quite got around to finishing the store at the northern end. Thus when it came to redevelop the site, a modern structure was built at the northern end behind the facade. If you walk down the length of the “mall” you can see how it changes.

It s good to see this building still in use but it has still not become a shopping destination. Even though it has car parking, it just does not have the critical mass of shops to attract people. Hard to see how this will change especially with the Westfield London Mall not so far west of here.

Now walk the full length of the store and to the end of Queensway. Here at the end across Bishops Bridge Road is our next stop.

Stop 2: Former Queens Cinema

The Queens Cinema was built for a small local chain called W C Dawes’ Modern Cinemas. It opened in October 1932 but within three years it had been taken over by the ABC chain. It seems to have kept its name until 1962 when it became known as the ABC. At this time the facade was covered with blue metal sheeting masking all the distinctive original decoration at the top – a deco zig-zag pattern and the name ‘Queens’ set out in multi-coloured terrazzo. Cannon Cinemas took over in April 1986 but the cinema was closed in August 1988.

The building lay unused for several years until it became a TGI Friday’s Restaurant in 1995. The metal cladding which had covered the facade for around 30 years was removed. TGI Friday’s closed in early 2007 and after some years empty and unused, redevelopment of the site started in February 2013. The auditorium has been demolished but the central section of the facade is being retained for the entrance to a new block of flats. Currently the facade is covered by sheeting with a print of what is behind.

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Walk a little way along Bishops Bridge Road and take the first right (Inverness Terrace). Go down to where Porchester Gardens crosses Inverness Terrace.

Stop 3: Statue of George Kastrioti Skanderbeg

Just by this corner is a little garden and a bust on a plinth.

The little garden this is in is dedicated to Beatrice, Viscountess Samuel who was born and died in W2. She was the wife of Viscount Samuel, a Liberal politician. He by the way is credited with making the first party political broadcast on television – in October 1951 when he was leader of the Liberal Party in the Lords.

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The bust is a bit of a curiosity – it is of George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, a 15th-century nobleman who is a national hero to Albanians and said to be one of the key players in Christian resistance to the expansion of the Muslim Ottoman empire. Quite why this bust is in this quiet corner of Bayswater I know not – it is not even close to the Albanian Embassy which is in Pimlico and presumably Skanderbeg never visited the UK, let alone Bayswater, so that cannot be the reason.

Now go right into Porchester Gardens and then turn left into Queensway. Our next stop is just after Bayswater Station on the same side of the road.

Stop 4: Queens Ice Rink and Bowl

Queens boldly claims to be London’s only ice rink and bowl. Now I pondered on what this meant – we know Queens is not London’s only ice rink. There was one in Streatham as we saw in the SW16 walk and which has just been replaced. So you have to read it as “ice rink and bowl”. I thought that there was some unique feature called an ice bowl which went along with the rink. But no. It turns out the “Bowl” bit means a 10 pin bowling alley.  So that is why it is unique in London because no one else has an ice rink and a bowling alley in the same premises.

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It is quite hard to find any information as to its history, but I have established the ice rink dates from October 1930. Not sure when the bowling alley was added but I presume it was in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Queens has quite a modest entrance on Queensway and seems to be in the basement of a block of flat which has shops on the ground floor. Perhaps if it had been a separate building it would have been too valuable a site and it would not have survived.

Now keep going down Queensway to the end and turn left on Bayswater Road. Continue until Porchester Terrace when you should turn left.

Stop 5a: 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens (rear)

Between numbers 23 and 25 Porchester Terrace opposite Fulton Mews, there is a gap in the buildings. Stand there  long enough and you will hear the rumble of an underground train. There is a wall but even though I am tall I could not see over the parapet – but my camera could and this is what it saw. That blank wall over the tracks is actually the back of the facade of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens.

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Now we shall go round the corner to look at that blank wall.

Return down Porchester Terrace and turn down Craven Hill Gardens (19/19A on sign). At the end turn left into Leinster Gardens and cross over. Stop at the end of Craven Hill Gardens (23 to 47 on sign)

Stop 5b: 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens (front)

At first glance this is just a terrace of stucco houses much like many hereabouts. But look very closely between the Henry VIII and Blakemore Hotels and you see the roof line is different and the windows are blanks, with grey paint instead of glass with curtains behind. The reason is two of these houses are just facades. They were built by the Metropolitan Railway in the 1860s to hide the railway from the street, and a very effective job they do too. Without this artifice, the street would not look right. So this is the other side of that blank wall over the railway.

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 Now retrace your steps along Leinster Gardens and turn left into Craven Hill Gardens (13 – 16 on sign). Go down Craven Hill Gardens and it becomes Craven Road. As we go down Craven Road our next stop is on the left hand side.

Stop 6: 32 Craven Road

This was the home of Tommy Handley, a comedian, mainly known for the 1940s BBC radio programme ITMA (“It’s That Man Again”).

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Handley worked with people such as Arthur Askey and Bob Monkhouse, and wrote many radio scripts, but it is ITMA for which he is remembered. ITMA became known for a number of catchphrases. Mostly now forgotten but one that occasionally resurfaces is “TTFN” (Ta Ta for Now) which was said by Mrs Mopp, the office cleaning lady.

Another catchphrase was D’oh! which was the parting shot of a character called Miss Hotchkiss from 1945 to the demise of the programme in January 1949. D’oh! was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004, largely in response to its much later use in the television programme The Simpsons. But it is a 1945 BBC radio script for ITMA that is the earliest recorded use of the phrase.

Continue walking along Craven Road crossing when convenient. At Eastbourne Terrace, Craven Road becomes Praed Street and ahead on the left is Paddington Station and the Great Western hotel.

Stop 7: Paddington Station

Paddington station is a bit of a challenge to get into from the street at the moment because the area to the west of the station is being dug out for the new Crossrail station. But it was always an odd layout because unlike most main line stations the concourse is hidden behind an impenetrable barrier of the station hotel which you have to go round.

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There are a couple of things to see inside the station so go in front of the hotel and down the side street which slopes away from Praed Street. But as go down near the end there is an office building, today called Tournament House. This was built for the GWR in 1933 and if you look up you will see the words GWR Paddington in huge letters atop the building.

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Once on the station concourse, have a look at the train shed. Paddington station was the terminus of the Great Western Railway – which was masterminded by the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The first section of line from Paddington dates from 1838, but the station we see today with its wonderful train sheds (and the hotel  at the front) dates largely from 1850 – 1854. There were originally three bays to the train shed but this was expanded in the same style in 1913 – 1915. The newer section is over the higher numbered platforms.

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Now go across the concourse with the platforms on your right. To your left is a glazed courtyard and beyond that is the Hotel. This glazed courtyard is called “The Lawn” for no obvious reason – there is no sign of grass here!

Just inside this area which is full of food outlets at the foot of an escalator is a little statue of Paddington Bear

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Paddington Bear was created by Michael Bond. He was inspired to write the first story after he noticed a lone teddy bear on a shelf in a London store near Paddington station on Christmas Eve 1956, which he then bought as a present for his wife. Apparently Bond wanted Paddington to have “travelled all the way from darkest Africa”, but his agent advised him that there were no bears in darkest Africa, so it was amended to darkest Peru.

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There is of course a Paddington Bear shop just upstairs from the statue but as far as I can see none of the food outlets offer marmalade sandwiches.

Now go to platform 1.

Walking along Platform 1 you will see an alcove on the left and in this is a statue of the great man Brunel plus a display about Crossrail. This area will I assume become a way into the Crossrail station when it opens in a few years.

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One might have though this statue was old but it is not particularly. It only dates from 1982 – and is by John Doubleday.

Retrace your steps out of the station and up the slope back to Praed Street. At the top do a U turn around the Bakerloo line station entrance.

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Note how this has the distinctive red tiles of the Leslie Green designed stations, but there is no building as such here. It is just a subway entrance.

Go down London Street and follow it round into South Wharf Road.

Stop 8: The Mint Building

We are now approaching St Mary’s Hospital which is spread amongst a number of buildings hereabouts. Take a right turn where it says “Mint Building”.

Although the Mint Building is now used by the hospital, it was actually built by the railway as stables for the GWR’s road delivery department. In 1910/11 concrete ramps and galleries were added so horses could be accommodated on the upper floors. At its height this stables could accommodate 600 horses.

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Now return to South Wharf Road and turn right.

Stop 9: St Mary’s Hospital

St Mary’s is a real jumble of building and plans for a major redevelopment were abandoned, so it looks like it will have to make do with this odd collection of the old and new. There are however a couple of things worth pointing out.

First just along from the Mint building on South Wharf Road is the Lindo Wing.

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This doorway became rather familiar last summer when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took home their first child, Prince George, who was born here on 22 July. This by the way is the same hospital where Diana, then Princess of Wales, gave birth to Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry in 1982 and 1984 respectively.

Now cut through the hospital complex and you reach Praed Street coming out opposite Norfolk Place. Cross over Praed Street and look back to the left of the walkway you have you used.

Here is a plaque telling us that Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in the second floor room above the plaque. We kind of take this for granted but how different the world would have been without penicillin. And how worrying it is that drug resistant strains of bacteria might mean it would not be possible to treat some things or even do complex operations in future.

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Now go down Norfolk Place crossing Sussex Gardens where the street becomes Radnor Place. Our next stop is on the right after the northern road of Gloucester Square joins Radnor Place.

Stop 10: 35 Gloucester Square

Although we seem to still be in Radnor Place the houses on the right are actually numbered as Gloucester Square as their other side faces onto the Square.

Number 35 was the house where Robert Stephenson civil engineer and only son of George Stephenson lived at the end of his life. He was rather in the shadow of his father but many of the achievements popularly credited to his father were joint efforts. Stephenson by the way died just one month after Brunel in October 1859.

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Obviously this building was not the actual building of Stephenson’s time and there is a second plaque explaining about the refixing of the plaque in 1937.

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Fascinating fact:  Stephenson was god-father to Robert Baden Powell, founder of the scouting movement.  Baden-Powell’s full name was Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, the first two names in honour of his godfather, the third his mother’s maiden name.

Now go to the end of Radnor Place and turn left into Southwick Place. Take the first right into Hyde Park Crescent and then the next right into Hyde Park Street.

Stop 11: 12 Hyde Park Street

Some of this street has been redeveloped but on the left at Number 12 is an original house.

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This was the home of William Henry Smith who was the son in the company W H Smith and Son.

The business originated by his grandparents Henry Walton and Anna Smith. The business passed to their two sons, Henry Edward and William Henry Smith, in 1816 and in due course, as William Henry Smith was the more capable businessman of the two brothers, the concern became known as W H Smith. William Henry’s son, also William Henry, was taken into partnership on his 21st birthday in 1846 and so the business changed its name to W H Smith & Son.

In 1848, the company opened its first bookstall at Euston. Other station bookstalls followed and became outlets not just for newspapers but also for cheap editions of other publications which were produced for railway travellers. The company also became the principal newspaper distributor in the country.

In 1868 the younger W H Smith became an MP and in 1874 he decided to devote himself to politics.  In 1877, he became First Lord of the Admiralty, despite a lack of any relevant experience. It is often said that Smith’s appointment was the inspiration for the character of Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1878 comic opera, H. M. S. Pinafore which has the song with the famous line “now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Nav-ee”  It has however also been suggested that the Pinafore character was as much based on Smith’s predecessor as First Lord, Hugh Childers.

Now go to the end of Hyde Park STreet and turn left at the end into Bayswater Road.

As we walk along Bayswater Road, have a look out for number 23 Bayswater Road. This building served as a club of Dutch people who had escaped from German occupied Netherlands during the war. It was named Oranjehaven and I can’t find out much else about it apart from what it says on the stone outside!

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Stop 12: Tyburn Convent

Just after St George’s Fields you will see on your left the Tyburn Convent. Tyburn famously was a place of execution and according to a sign on this building there were 105 Catholics who lost their lives at Tyburn between 1535 and 1681. It was predicted in 1585 that a religious house would be set up here. It only established in 1903 and of course it is a little way from the actual location of the Tyburn Gallows.

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The inscription on the stone is difficult to read because a ramp has been built in front of it.

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This is what it says:

“The circular stone on the traffic island 300 paces east of this point marks the site of the ancient gallows known as Tyburn Tree. It was demolished in 1759.”

And to find that stone, continue walking along Bayswater Road. At the Marble Arch junction on the traffic island in the middle of Edgware Road outside the Odeon Cinema you will find this stone.

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This is in W2 – just. The nearest street signs (for Bayswater Road and Edgware Road) both show W2, even though Marble Arch itself across the road is probably in W1.

Well we have now reached the end of our W2 walk and we find ourselves at Marble Arch where there are plenty of buses plus a tube station for onward travel.

W1: Hey big spender…

And so we start our journey through the W postcodes in W1. There is a lot to choose from in this postcode. W1 is synonymous with the West End. But not the West End of theatre – only 9 West End theatres are actually in W1 (Apollo, Dominion, Geilgud, Lyric, Palace, Palladium, Piccadilly, Prince Edward and Queen’s). Most West End theatres are in WC2.

But W1 is certainly the West End for shopping. As I am researching this in the run up to Christmas and publishing whilst the sales are in full swing, it seems only fitting I should focus the W1 walk on shops.

There are lots of Post Offices in W1 but I have chosen to start at a Post Office which is actually situated inside what used to be a department store. So we begin at the Post Office inside The Plaza, 120 Oxford Street.

Stop 1: The Plaza (former Bourne & Hollingsworth store)

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Until 1983, this building housed a store called Bourne and Hollingsworth. Walter William Bourne and Howard E Hollingsworth started up in Westbourne Grove, only moving to Oxford Street in 1902. The building we see today dates from the 1920s. Bourne and Hollingsworth was never very grand or part of a big chain so far as I can establish, so that is probably why it has not survived.

In the mid 1980s, the building was gutted to create this mini shopping mall, called The Plaza.  This was then remodelled in 1997 when a sculpture of a girl by Michael Rizzello was added on the front.

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There is a little reminder of the previous name if you look high up just below the pediment at each corner on Oxford Street. Oddly at the eastern end of the building, it says “B + H”, whilst the one at the west just says “BH”. Perhaps they are just slightly different sizes.

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Turn right out of the Plaza, and stay on the north side of Oxford Street.  As we walk along, do look at the former HMV flagship shore at 150 Oxford Street (on same side as the Plaza). This dates from the 1930s and was originally built for F W Woolworth & Co, but they moved out in the mid 1980s.

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Our next stop is on the same side of the road between Winsley Street and Great Titchfield Street.

Stop 2: 162 – 180 Oxford Street (Former Waring & Gillow store)

This building is described by architectural historian, Pevsner, as “riotous Hampton Court baroque” and it certainly is. Not sure when this stopped being Waring & Gillow but the building itself was reconstructed in 1977/78 with offices on the upper floors. Today there are a number of shops on the Oxford Street elevation and it is only when you look up you can get a hint that once this block was a whole shop.

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Waring and Gillow had a long history. First as separate entities: Warings was from Liverpool and began in the mid 19th century whilst Gillows was from Lancashire and started even earlier in the 1760s. They were at the upper end of the furniture market and by the late 19th century both had showrooms in London. The two companies began a loose association in 1897 and merged to become Waring & Gillow in 1903. The first part of their new Oxford Street store opened in 1906 with the western part on Oxford Street and into Great Titchfield Street opening in 1933.

There is an interesting touch at the corners. Not initials like at Bourne and Hollingsworth but a sculptural ship’s prow. Perhaps this is a reference to the fact that Gillow did a lot of work providing furnishings for ocean going liners.

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Now just across the road is our next stop at 173 Oxford Street.

Stop 3: Marks & Spencer Pantheon store

This sleek black granite facade dating from 1938 has a little clue to what was here before. If you look right up at the top in the centre, it has the name “The Pantheon”.

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The Pantheon was built in 1772 as a high class place of assembly, and was  so called because the main rotunda had a central dome reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome. Its fortunes declined in the 1780s. There were various failed attempts to use the premises for opera and theatre and in the end the building was reconstructed in the 1830s as a bazaar. In 1867 it was acquired by the wine merchants W and A Gilbey who used the building as offices and showrooms, until the 1930s when Marks and Spencer acquired the site.

A completely new building was put up, designed by Robert Lutyens (son of the more famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens). This building has been extended and rebuilt so many times since, I doubt there is much 1930s original apart of course from this distinctive facade.

Keep walking along Oxford Street, crossing to the south side when convenient before you get to Argyll Street.

Stop 4: Oxford Circus Station buildings (each corner of Argyll Street)

I know I said this was a West End store walk but I have to include the two original Oxford Circus tube station buildings as without them Oxford Street could probably not developed in the way it did. Until the tube came the only way to get to Oxford Street by public transport was by bus – the main line railways had been kept at a safe distance from the West End; the first shallow underground lines from 1863 onwards could not be extended to the West End because of the disruption that the cut and cover construction would have caused; and trams were never ever allowed in the West End.

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On the east corner of Argyll Street is the earlier of the two – the Central London Railway building of 1899/1901, all red brick and biscuit coloured terra cotta. On other corner is the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway’s building of 1905/06. This was on one of three lines developed by what became Underground Electric Railways of London, the main forerunner of London Transport. Almost all their early stations had the same distinctive dark red tiling on the ground floor level and they were deliberately built so that additional floors of offices could be built above, as happened in most cases. The offices above the Oxford Circus Station date from 1922.

We tend to forget these tube lines were built by different companies and in the early days the concept of interchange on the Underground was not well developed, so that is why the two lines at Oxford Circus each had their own station. We also tend to forget that the original deep level stations in central London were all built with lifts. So these buildings would have housed the lift machinery.

Oxford Circus had a major reconstruction in the 1960s when the Victoria Line was built. A new ticket hall was created underneath Oxford Circus itself which became the main way in. But part of these old station buildings continue to be used as exits.

Go down Argyll Street and ahead at the end is Liberty’s.

Stop 5: Liberty’s, Great Marlborough Street

Arthur Lasenby Liberty first set up in half a shop at 218a Regent Street in 1875, using a £2,000 loan from his father in law. The shop sold ornaments, fabrics and objets d’art from Japan and the East. Within 18 months Liberty had not only paid back the loan but had got the lease of the other half of the shop.

The Crown Estate owned the freehold of all the property in Regent Street and started a wholesale reconstruction in the early 20th century. The first world war intervened and so much of what we see today dates from the 1920s. In order to keep trading Liberty’s built a new store on Great Marlborough Street in 1922/23 whilst their main store in Regent Street was being rebuilt. The Regent Street building is now split up into various shops and so today people think of Liberty’s only as the Great Marlborough Street building.

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The two buildings were connected by a couple of bridges, which people rarely notice.

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The Great Marlborough Street store is quite unique. It is built out of the timbers of two 19th Century Royal Navy ships: HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The length of the frontage on Great Marlborough Street is the same as that of the Hindustan. It was built in the traditional manner of a tudor building with no nails or glue. Sadly Arthur Lasenby Liberty did not live to see his new store as he died in 1917.

Pevsner by the way hated this building saying: “the scale is wrong, the symmetry is wrong, the proximity to a classical facade put up by the same firm at about the same time is wrong, and the goings on of a store behind such a facade (and below those twisted Tudor chimneys) are wrongest of all”

Before we leave Liberty’s, look out for a couple of nice touches. The weathervane atop in the centre is a galleon said to be modelled on the Mayflower.

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And then above the main bridge is a clock and underneath a little homily about time: “No minute gone comes ever back again. Take heed and see ye do nothing in vain.”

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Go the full length of the Liberty store and cross Regent Street when you get to it. Look back across the road and you will see the former Liberty building on Regent Street (with its lovely curving facade on the upper floors).

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Our next stop is on the other (northern) corner of  Great Marlborough Street and Regent Street.

Stop 6: 224 – 244 Regent Street (former Dickens & Jones store)

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This building was Dickens and Jones which closed in January 2006, having traded in Regent Street since 1835.  Back then it was Dickens, Sons and Stephens. Then in the 1890s it became Dickens and Jones when Sir John Pritchard Jones became a partner. The Regent Street side of the present building dates from 1919 /1921 and was part of the reconstruction of Regent Street.

The business was acquired by Harrods in 1914 as its first store beyond the original Knightbridge store. Harrods was itself taken over by House of Fraser in 1959 but both stores carried on under their original names. Harrods was subsequently demerged from House of Fraser but Dickens and Jones stayed as a House of Fraser store until it closed. The building is now spilt into a number of stores.

Walk up towards Oxford Circus but turn left into Princes Street. Go into Hanover Square and then right up Harewood Place. Cross Oxford Street when you get to it and go down Holles Street, stopping when convenient to look at our next stop.

Stop 7: John Lewis store

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John Lewis has been trading here on Oxford Street since 1864 – so no doubt John Lewis will have some sort of 150th birthday celebration in 2014.

By all accounts John Lewis was an autocratic employer and his management style led to disputes with his sons, John Spedan and Oswald. It was John Spedan Lewis who in effect gave the company away after his father’s death – first with profit sharing in 1929 and then to full employee ownership in 1950.

The store we see on Oxford Street dates mainly from the late 1950s and has a distinctive sculpture on the corner of Holles Street. What other department store chain would have commissioned leading sculptor Barbara Hepworth to create a work to go on the side of their new store. It is a stringed aluminium piece dating from 1963 called “Winged Figure” and it looks like it has had a bit of brush up for its 50th birthday.

Although the store had been virtually wiped out in the Blitz, the rear of the building is actually pre-war.

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In the 1930s John Lewis had already rebuilt their Peter Jones store and were in the process of rebuilding the Oxford Street store when war intervened. They started at the Cavendish Square end of the store and this part of the store survived the Blitz. You can see the building changes as you get towards Cavendish Square.

Go round the back of John Lewis into Henrietta Place and the next block after John Lewis is the rear of the House of Fraser store.

Stop 8: House of Fraser (former D H Evans) store

This is a fine example of an inter war department store, dating from 1935/37, with streamlining fins making it feel taller than it is. What is interesting about this building is that it does not just have a decorative facade on Oxford Street. As you can see the side and the back of the building are properly finished.

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The man D H Evans was as the name suggests Welsh –  from Carmarthenshire. Dan Harries Evans having learned his trade as a draper in South Wales coming to London in 1878, first setting up business in Westminster Bridge Road but coming to Oxford Street in 1879. House of Fraser acquired this store in 1959 and it traded under its original name until 2001.

Useless fact: This was the first store in London to have escalators serving every floor.

Continue along Henrietta Place and then turn right into Wimpole Street. You will see the modern day Debenhams ahead of you but this will have to wait a while.

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Go down Wimpole Street and cross Wigmore Street when you get to it. Turn left along the north side. Stop outside the Wigmore Hall

Stop 9a: former Debenham & Freebody store

Immediately opposite the Wigmore Hall is another former department store – this was Debenham and Freebody. You can see why this store has not survived. Wigmore Street could not compete with Oxford Street as a shopping destination.

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Debenham and Freebody had quite a history though. It originated with a draper’s business started in 1778 by William Clark. William Debenham became a partner in 1813 and the name changed to Clark and Debenham. In 1851, Clement Freebody became a partner and the name changed to Debenham and Freebody. Expansion occurred after the First World War under its then chairman Ernest Debenham when he acquired the Marshall and Snelgrove company, more of which anon.

The building on Wigmore Street dates from 1907/08 and is faced with white glazed tiles. Unlike other surviving shops from this era, the grand entrance in the middle goes straight to a staircase. In a minute, cross over the road and have a look though the main doors. I think this entrance tells us Debenham and Freebody was a very grand store indeed, unlike its modern day successor.

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But before you that do we cannot ignore the Wigmore Hall, which was sort of a shop.

Stop 9b: Wigmore Hall

On the face of it this building is not a shop, but the Wigmore Hall was originally built as an adjunct to the piano showrooms of the German piano manufacturer, Bechstein. Designed by Thomas Edward Colcutt, the building was opened in 1901 as the Bechstein Hall. It is said to have near perfect acoustics. The external decoration is a of pale terra cotta and has similarities to one of Colcutt’s other buildings, the theatre in Cambridge Circus, now known as the Palace.

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Bechstein was forced to cease trading in June 1916 following the passing of the Trading with the Enemy Act 1916 – what a great title for an Act of Parliament. The property was seized and sold at auction. It was bought by Debenhams for £56,500 somewhat less than the £100,000 it had cost to build. It was rechristened the Wigmore Hall in 1917 and has been called that ever since. No sure when the Debenhams connection ended, but I assume it has.

The Hall today is run by a not for profit organisation but they do not own the freehold of the building. However according to this story this should not be a problem as they have got a 300 year lease starting from 2012! http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a8Lh_ZwQ6Ayg&refer=culture

Now cross over (at a suitable safe location) and take a peek in the main door of  the Debenham and Freebody building. Then go along Wigmore Street and turn left into Welbeck Street.

As we walk down Welbeck Street, we pass number 1, which looks like it was actually part of the Debenham and Freebody building. This was until fairly recently used as the corporate headquarters of the Debenham group of companies. It is currently being refurbished but for now you can still see the Debenham name by the door.

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Ahead of us at the end of Welbeck Street is the building which houses the modern day Debenhams.

Stop 10: Debenhams (former Marshall and Snelgrove store)

So back to Debenhams. This was originally Marshall and Snelgrove, the first store to be acquired by Debenhams. James Marshall started his store in Vere Street in 1837 and was joined by John Snelgrove in 1848. About this time the store moved to new premises on the corner of Vere Street and Oxford Street. Marshall and Snelgrove expanded into fashionable provincial towns like Scarborough and Harrogate. They did not fare well during the First World War and in 1916 started a working relationship with Debenhams which led to a full merger in 1919.

The current building dates from the late 1960s and in the early 1970s the store was rebranded as Debenhams. It was considerably rebuilt in 1987 when a huge atrium was created with escalators running through it. And just recently it has been undergoing a £40 million refurbishment which included cladding the building with 180,000 aluminium tiles which ripple in the wind.  However this is an improvement on what was there before.

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Now go down Vere Street to Oxford Street and turn right. Our next stop is just across the road.

Stop 11: 363 Oxford Street (HMV)

This is the famous HMV store but all is not what it seems.

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There is a blue plaque at the front which proclaims this was the most famous music store in the world and was opened by composer Sir Edward Elgar in July 1921.  Well not quite, as that store burnt down in 1937 and the facade we see today dates from 1939.  And in 2000, HMV moved out so the building was home to a giant Foot Locker store for more than a decade. HMV only came back to 363 Oxford Street in October 2013, when it down sized from its previous flagship store at 150 Oxford Street (which we saw earlier). And by the way that old fashioned looking sign is a replica of what used to be here.

The blue plaque was unveiled by Sir George Martin when the original store closed in 2000. Martin famously produced most of the Beatles tracks and the plaque references a Beatles connection. The store used to have a recording studio and in February 1962 a certain Brian Epstein used the store’s recording facilities to cut a demo disc with a band he was managing – a little-known act named The Beatles. According the HMV store website, “the tracks were heard by publishing company Ardmore & Beechwood, based in the same building, who put the young Epstein in touch with Parlophone’s George Martin and…well, you know the rest.” 

It is hard to believe not so long ago there were two large HMV stores on Oxford Street plus two Virgin megastores not to mention Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus – which by the way was in the lower half of an old department store building (Swan and Edgar). Now this HMV is the last large music store standing. However I would not bet on this HMV store making it to its centenary year in 2021.

Continue walking along Oxford Street and you cannot miss our final stop.

Stop 12: Selfridges

We have to finish at Selfridges which is the largest store in Oxford Street and second largest store in the UK – only Harrods is bigger.

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Where do you begin to start to tell the story of Harry Gordon Selfridge – a man who made his money in department stores in Chicago plus marrying well, and then came to London to shake up the retail scene here. He also credited with coining phrases such as “the customer is always right” and “[x] shopping days to Christmas”.

Selfridge had a colourful life, as we have been seeing in the TV series, Mr Selfridge. And we have already heard in our SW15 walk that he ended his days in reduced circumstances with his daughter in a rented flat in Putney.

He lived life to the full and he loved to gamble. And this was not just at the clubs. In 1917 he and the managing director of Harrods made a bet that 6 years after the end of (First World ) War, Selfridge’s turnover would be greater than of Harrods. He lost and even today Harrods is still the bigger store. The bet was called in in 1927 and Selfridge’s forfeit was to have a model of Harrods made in silver. This can still be seen today in the middle of Harrods Bank. (NE corner of basement- ie the end of the store nearest the tube station).

Selfridges store was not built in one go. The eastern end was the first part to be built in 1909, but the rest was not built until the 1920s, by which time it was looking a little old fashioned.The focus in the centre is the clock and sculpture. The clock dates from 1931 but the sculpture called “Queen of Time” is perhaps a little earlier.

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And so time has run out for our W1 walk which focussed mainly but not exclusively on shops and looked at some of the forgotten ones as well as some of the big names of today.

As we are in the heart of the West End, there are lots of buses for onwards travel – plus of course Bond Street station is just down the road.

Why not join me on one of my walks in January?

The Postcode Walks blog will resume in January but in the meantime why not consider joining me on one of my walks in the real world. Below is my full schedule for January. Hope to see you!

MR SELFRIDGE AND HIS COMPETITORS (Thursday 2 or Sunday 19 January)

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If you are coming to Oxford Street for the sales, why not also come with me to hear fascinating stories about some of the West End’s major stores and the characters behind them. Learn about the bet between Harry Gordon Selfridge and Harrods and what the loser had to do. Find out why John Lewis spent three weeks in Brixton prison in 1903. See the building which housed the very first store with the name Debenhams (and which is not on Oxford Street). Hear why Liberty’s has an unexpected connection to the British Navy and much much more.

THURSDAY 2 JANUARY: 11:00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mr-selfridge-and-his-competitors-tales-of-the-west-ends-greatest-stores-tickets-9591802339?ref=ebapi

SUNDAY 19 JANUARY 14.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mr-selfridge-and-his-competitors-tales-of-the-west-ends-greatest-stores-tickets-9592167431?ref=ebapi

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THE STREETS TO THE STARS: A TOUR OF THEATRELAND (Saturdays 4 and 18 January)

(A City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association walk)

You will almost be able to smell the greasepaint as we explore the star studded West end, enjoying high drama and low comedy. See where Eliza Doolittle sold her flowers, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry stode the boards and learn why every theatre has its ghost.

£8 (£6 Concs)

NO NEED FOR ADVANCE BOOKING: JUST TURN UP!

Meet at 11.00 on Saturdays outside Covent Garden station in James Street – exit side of tube station

I will be taking this walk on 4 and 18 January. But it runs every Saturday morning, with one of my fellow qualified City Westminster guides.

City of Westminster Guides also do regular walks in St James’s every Saturday afternoon and in Mayfair every Wednesday morning (although not 1 January!)

More info at: http://www.westminsterguides.org.uk/

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HOW LONDON CHANGED BETWEEN THE WARS (Sunday 5 or Thursday 23 January)

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London changed dramatically between the two world wars, laying the foundation for the modern city we see today. On this walk, we will see how the development of office blocks, grand showrooms and shops and cinema buildings of all shapes and sizes changed the face of London. And we will hear how things such as the motor car, the telephone and neon lights all had an impact on London.

SUNDAY 5 JANUARY: 14.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-london-changed-between-the-wars-tickets-9609413013?ref=ebapi

THURSDAY23 JANUARY: 14.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-london-changed-between-the-wars-tickets-9609647715?ref=ebapi

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WESTMINSTER BYWAYS (Thursday 9 or Sunday 26 January)

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Westminster Abbey is so familiar but not many people know the streets that lie just behind the Abbey. Here you will find tranquillity and could almost imagine yourself in a small English cathedral city. Join me to explore the little known byways around Westminster. See some of the best preserved 18th century streets in London, plus  a couple of very specialist shops and hear about some of the people who lived hereabouts.

THURSDAY 9 JANUARY: 14:00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/westminster-byways-tickets-9609814213?ref=ebapi

SUNDAY 26 JANUARY 11.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/westminster-byways-tickets-9609930561?ref=ebapi

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WEST END MOVIE HOUSES (Sunday 12 or Thursday 30 January)

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The West End has always been the UK’s premiere location for cinemas. This walk will not just show you some of the cinemas which still operate today but will also point out some of the buildings which once housed cinemas – large and small.

We shall hear about how quite a few of these buildings replaced old Music Halls and how in the 1920s, developers hedged their bets by having stage facilities as well as a projection room. We shall learn about the small specialist cinemas showing foreign language movies, cartoons and newsreels and how many of these declined into seedy places showing X rated movies before finally closing. Sadly most of the wonderful interiors of these buildings no longer exist, but on this walk we can usually get a peek of a couple of the surviving 1920s foyers. And we end up at a pub which started life as a cinema in 1911. But you will certainly get to see the wonderful exteriors and hear the stories associated with these fascinating buildings.

SUNDAY 12 JANUARY: 11.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/west-end-movie-houses-fleapit-to-deco-super-cinemas-tickets-9591585691?ref=ebapi

THURSDAY 30 JANUARY: 11.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/west-end-movie-houses-fleapit-to-deco-super-cinemas-tickets-9591619793?ref=ebapi

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MADE IN CHELSEA (Thursday 16 January)

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Chelsea has long been associated with artists and writers, and there are so many fascinating stories to be told.

In this walk, we hear what happened when actress Ellen Terry came for her portrait to be painted. Then there are the cautionary tales of two different libel cases which turned out rather badly for the libelled party. And what happened to the book of poetry buried with the writer’s dead wife. We will also learn about Dracula author, Bram Stoker’s day job and how american writer Mark Twain got his name.

THURSDAY 16 JANUARY: 11.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/made-in-chelsea-tickets-9591653895?ref=ebapi

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THE POSTCODE WALK BLOGS WILL RESUME IN THE NEW YEAR STARTING WITH W1

SW20: The Good Life … or Bleak Suburbia

I have to confess I have struggled a little with SW20. It is a bit lacking in history. It was just farm land here until the 1870s when development took off. And – dare I say it -SW20 does seem a bit dull on the surface at least.

I have however discovered two people with a connection to SW20 who neatly sum up how people react to this kind of suburban area. The actor Richard Briers, who is forever associated with playing typical, and not so typical, suburban husbands was born and spent his early years in Raynes Park, so he could be said to reflect the “Good Life” aspects. On the other hand there is the Irish writer, Edna O’Brien, who lived in SW20 when she first moved to London in the 1950s with her young family. She hated it, calling SW20 “bleak suburbia”. She could not wait to escape, and she did – eventually.

We start our walk at the Post Office which is at 1a Amity Grove, just off Coombe Lane in the centre of Raynes Park. Go to the end of Amity Grove and turn left. Across the road is our first stop (and the reason why the area built up in the first place).

Stop 1: Raynes Park Station

The railway was built through the area in 1838 but there was no station here until October 1871. The name Raynes Park was originally applied to the area south of the railway line where the local landowner, Richard Garth, planned to develop a new garden suburb similar to that being developed by John Innes at Merton Park. The Rayne family had been previous landowners of the farmland on which Garth intended to build. It did not quite get developed as a coherent “garden suburb” but it did get developed, and we shall visit the roads on the south side of the station shortly.

Like Merton Park, there is no actual park called Raynes Park. It is simply a device to make the area sound nice and leafy. I think John Innes also had this idea when he started to develop nearby Merton Park in 1870. He even persuaded the railway company to change the local station name in 1887 from Lower Merton to Merton Park, as it sounded better. And the same “deception” occurs further down the line at Motspur Park and Worcester Park, neither of which seem to have an actual park of that name.

The station at Raynes Park is unusual. The fast tracks run through with no platforms and but there are two pairs of platforms for the local trains as the station stands at a junction – where the line to Epsom and Chessington peels off the main line out of Waterloo. The Southern reconstructed this in the 1930s as a grade separated junction so the trains from Epsom and Chessington could pass under the main line rather than cross on the level. And I guess this meant the up and down platforms could not be opposite each other.

A distinctive feature of the station is the long footbridge set at an angle over the 4 tracks of the main line. This really stands out as the main line is already on quite a high embankment. However you do wonder what the point is. There is a subway entrance to each set of platforms and so you could interchange by going down to street level. And there cannot be many people who want to interchange between the up platforms and the down ones, so why go to the expense of building – and maintaining – this foot bridge.

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Continue along Coombe Lane, crossing Lambton Road and then taking a left into Lambton Road. Follow this road round to the right where it becomes Worple Road.

Stop 2: Pepys Court

Just along from the corner is our next stop, Pepys Court.

This block of flats was the childhood home of the actor Richard Briers who died in February 2013. Given all the suburban characters he played I associate him with one of the 1930s semis in a street that all looks the same. But he clearly came from more humble beginnings. One of his best known characters was in the sitcom “The Good Life” where he and his wife played by Felicity Kendal gave up all the trappings of modern life to become self sufficient in a 1930s semi – which I believe this was actually filmed a little down the road in Surbiton – or should I say Suburbiton.

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Interestingly there is no connection to Samuel Pepys. The Pepys remembered here and in the adjoining Pepys Road is a very distant relative of the famous diarist. He is Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham who lived locally until his death in 1851 (Hence also nearby is Cottenham Park Road, Cottenham Drive and an actual park called Cottenham Park – Cottenham is a place in Cambridgeshire). Charles Pepys was a lawyer and senior politian and had two spells as Lord Chancellor in the late 1830s and late 1840s.

Now look over the road.

Stop 3: Methodist Church and Lantern Arts Centre

There is a pair of large red brick Byzantine style buildings. The one on the right is a functioning Methodist church. The building on the left looks like it was built as an assembly room or church hall. All this is probably rather too big for the current congregation but the church hall has at least found a purpose, as the Lantern Arts Centre.

It has been going almost 20 years according to the signs and has no doubt been home to myriad am-dram productions. Their aim is to involve members of the local community in their productions and they aim for creativity with a christian ethos at its heart. I see they are doing Aladdin as their panto this year  - I guess they were not best pleased to discover that the big local commercial theatre (New Wimbledon Theatre) is doing the same story this year. But I suppose it does not really matter as you do not exactly go for the story!

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Now continue along Worple Road and follow the one way system right (into Pepys Road)

Stop 4: Site of Rialto Cinema, 3 Pepys Road

Just around the corner on the right is St George’s House – one of those uninspiring 1980s suburban office blocks. This was the site of Raynes Park’s one and only cinema.

Raynes Park never had a grand super cinema but it did have just one modest little picture house dating from the silent era. Built in 1921 and originally called the Raynes Park Cinema, it was refronted in 1933. It then re-opened as the Rialto Cinema and kept this name until it closed on 23 September 1978. From what I can find out it was never part of a big chain and stayed independent until the end.

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The building stood empty and unused for several years, and was finally demolished in the mid-1980s. Not sure why the new building got called St George’s House. It is a bit of a shame that the Rialto name was not used for the building on this site.

Go under the railway bridge and ahead you will see the library and to the left is Kingston Road. The roads going off the main road to the right form our next “stop”

Stop 5: The Apostles

Estate agents always have to find a tag for an area if it does not have one already and sometimes even if it does. This chunk of Raynes Park is known as the Apostles. Not because of any religious connection or because the roads have saints names – They do not (unless Sydney and Edna count which I don’t think they do). 

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No, nothing as obvious as that. The area gets its estate agent name because there are twelve parallel streets off of Kingston Road running towards, but not actually going into, Bushey Road. (And wouldn’t it have been great if Edna O’Brien had lived in Edna Road but sadly she did not)

This area was the first part of Raynes Park to be fully developed once the station had opened in 1871.

Just as an aside, isn’t it rather fitting that at the corner of one of the Apostles streets is the Kingston area office of the Church of England’s Southwark diocese.

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Now it is a bit of a trek to our next stop. You can walk all the way down Kingston Road following the bend round to the right and the turning left at the traffic lights (into what continues to be Kingston Road). Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is on the left. Alternatively you can hop on a 152 or 163 bus from outside Raynes Park station on Approach Road for a couple of stops to Wimbledon Chase station.

Stop 6: Wimbledon Chase Station

This sad looking building dates from 1929 and was one of a number of new stations which the Southern Railway built between the wars. The story of how this station (and the line it is on) came to be built by the Southern Railway is down to the rivalry between train companies.

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This station was only built by the Southern Railway because of a compromise between them and Underground Electric Railways of London (UERL) who in the 1920s owned most of the tube. UERL needed more traffic on their lines and wanted to extend their City and South London Railway (C&SLR) from Clapham Common to Sutton and their District Railway from Wimbledon to Sutton. The two would join just near a little village called Morden. Needless to say the Southern with their virtual monopoly of train services in south London objected.

UERL said it had to extend the C &SLR at least as far as Morden because that was the first place the line could get to the surface where a depot could be built. Southern could see this would not impact too much on their traffic as it would largely steal from the London County Council tramway which paralleled most of that route. So a deal was struck. UERL could build as far as a station originally to be called Morden North and get their depot. Southern would build the line from Wimbledon to Sutton on the planned alignment but the two would not connect.

UERL opened their line first in 1926 and they had the last laugh. They included a bus turn round at Morden which allowed the area around the station to be served by feeder bus routes, as indeed it is today. The Underground route was much more attractive and gave a faster route direct into the city and west end. So the Wimbledon – Sutton line never really took off and even now only gets a train every half hour.

By the way, next time you look at a map of this area, see how you have to go through Morden station to get to the Underground depot and then if you carry on, you are close by Morden South station on the Wimbledon – Sutton line. This is just about where the junction of the two lines would have been. And of course because the Underground only built one station at Morden, they called it simply Morden although it was nowhere near the old village centre which was actually south of Morden South station.

Continue along Kingston Road and after the Nelson Hospital site (currently under reconstruction – and in SW19 so that is why it is not covered!) turn right down Watery Lane. Keep going down Watery Lane as it curves to the right.

Stop 7: Rutlish School

Just beyond Manor Gardens on the right is our next stop – Rutlish School is on our left.

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We saw the tomb of William Rutlish in nearly St Mary’s Churchyard on our SW19 walk. He was embroiderer to King Charles II. He died in 1687 and left £400 for a school for the education of poor children of the local parish (around £61,000 in today’s money according to Wikipedia). By the 1890s the charity had accumulated a considerable excess of funds. John Innes (of whom we have also already heard) was chairman of the board of trustees and was instrumental in using some of the excess to establish a school. This was in Rutlish Road, SW19 – next to Merton Park station.

The school moved to its present site in 1957. This had been the location of the John Innes Horticultural Institution which itself had been set up under the terms of John Innes’ will in and around his old house, known as the Manor House. This building still stands as part of the school and has a blue plaque – I think this is probably the only blue plaque in the whole of SW20!

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Now it may not have turned out like this. John Innes’ will specified that his bequest should be used for either a school of horticulture that would provide “technical instruction in the principles of the science and art of horticulture and the application thereof to the industry or employment of gardening”, or a Public museum for the collection of paintings and other works of art. The trustees responsible for the money opted for the former and in 1910 the John Innes Horticultural Institution opened here. It moved to Norfolk in 1945 and of course it is this institution which created the famous John Innes compost mixes long after he died – John Innes may have been somewhat bemused that his name is generally associated with compost rather than as a philanthropist or property developer. There are also lots of varieties of fruit tree which have the name Merton because they were developed by the John Innes Horticutural Institution.

Useless fact: probably the most famous old boy of Rutlish School is Sir John Major who was prime minister from 1990 to 1997.

Now continue down Watery Lane to the end and you will see a little pathway round to Manor Road go down this to the end and turn left into Cannon Hill Lane

Stop 8: Cannon Hill Lane

Cannon Hill Lane meanders from Kingston Road to Grand Drive and it s somewhere on this road, that Edna O’Brien lived out her miserable years in “bleak suburbia”.

I do not know exactly where she lived but in a documentary on her a couple of months back I think it showed the bit of Cannon Hill Lane by the Common, which is beyond Martin Way.

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Just a by the by – according to Merton Council, Cannon Hill Common is not and never has been a common. It did not exist as a public open space until 1925 when the Merton and Morden Urban District Council purchased part of an estate around Cannon Hill House – which was built in the 1760s and demolished between the wars. 

As we have no idea where exactly to go on Cannon Hill Lane, I suggest you just go as far as the roundabout with Martin Way.

Stop 9: Joseph Hood Recreation Ground

When Cannon Hill Lane meets Martin Way at the roundabout, go right into Martin Way. A little way along on the left is the entrance to Joseph Hood Recreation Ground

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Now I am sure that most locals do not know who Joseph Hood was and why this recreation ground is named after him.

He was a local bigwig. Originally from Leicestershire, he was a solicitor, who worked on the creation of British American Tobacco Company Ltd and became one of its deputy Chairman. He was MP for Wimbledon from 1918 to 1924. He and his wife were granted the freedom of the borough of Wimbledon in 1924. In 1930 he was elected mayor of Wimbledon, an office he held until his death in January 1931.  Hood was known as a generous benefactor to the area he represented in parliament. He donated a recreation ground to Merton and Morden Urban District Council and following his death this was renamed Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields. But this is not where we are standing. The Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields are in Motspur Park. I cannot seem to find out why the recreation ground off Martin Way also has his name (but not as a memorial!) or why there are two recreation grounds with such similar names within a couple of miles of each other.

There is also a local primary school called Joseph Hood, just off Martin Way but again I cannot seem to find out why this particular school bears his name.

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Now return along Martin Way to the roundabout.

Stop 10: St James Church

Just past the roundabout on Martin Way on the left is our final stop – St James church

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St James Church dates from 1957. It had been planned in the 1930s when the housing in the area was developed. The church hall dates from 1936 but war intervened before the church could be built.

The church hall is very typically of that period and had a role in a recent film called “Run for your Wife” – the Ray Cooney farce. This film had vast numbers of well known faces popping up in tiny cameo roles and the scene shot in St James’ church hall included Maureen Lipman and June Whitfield.

The film was however not exactly a great success. When released in February 2013, it had the dubious distinction of taking just £747 in the first weekend. Richard Briers also appeared in this film but not at St James. I had thought this was his last movie but apparently not. The last part he played in a film was in the equally obscure “Cockneys vs Zombies”. Oh dear, he did not exactly go out with a bang!

Although the church looks quite plain on the outside, it has a little gem on the inside. It has a mural by the German jewish artist, Hans Feibusch. He fled Germany in the 1930s and after the war he had a number of commissions to paint church murals. Others in London can be found in St John’s Waterloo and St Alban’s Holborn.

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The St James’ mural is a triptych of the resurrection – all in soft pastel tones to go with the very pale green interior of the Church. And yet it is very powerful.

Sadly this is another Church that is rarely open. Even if the door is open you can only go as far as the side chapel and not into the main church.

So this brings us to the end of the SW20 walk. It has some interest but not as much as most of the other SW postcodes. For some this area represents a safe peaceful area for others it is too quiet or too soulless, or both. You pays your money; you takes your choice.

For onward travel there are buses outside the church to Morden (164 or 413) or across the road to Wimbledon (164)

And this also is the final SW postcode, so that means we are one sixth of the way through the 120 London postcodes. After Christmas, we go west, starting rather unoriginally with W1.

SW19: Liberty, Fraternity and Infidelity

When you look for property in SW19 you will see places advertised as being in Wimbledon Village, Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon, Merton Park and Merton Abbey. But sometimes you will find it just says plain old SW19. This generally turns out to be Colliers Wood, the bit of SW19 that dares not speak its name. I am sure that the folks who live on the hill (ie Wimbledon Village) probably do not even realise their postcode extends to Colliers Wood!

SW19 is huge and I cannot possibly cover it all. So I have decided not to do my SW19 walk in Wimbledon which most people associate with SW19 but I am going to start it right here in Colliers Wood.

We start at the Post Office in Christchurch Road just a couple of doors left out of Colliers Wood Tube Station. Come out of the Post Office and ahead you will see our first stop.

Stop 1: Former Brown and Root Tower

At 17 stories, this is the tallest building in the Borough of Merton and it has the distinction of having been voted the ugliest building in London in a 2006 BBC poll and one of the 12 ugliest in the UK in a 2005 Channel 4 poll for its programme Demolition.

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Unaccountably it seems to have dropped off of the lists of ugliest buildings in more recent polls, but then I guess there is a lot of competition.

This tower was first known as the “Lyon Tower” as it was originally the headquarters of property company Ronald Lyon Holdings. But for most of its life it was known as the “Brown and Root” Tower because of the american construction company that occupied it.

It has been empty for years. Planning permission to develop the site was first granted in 2003 but not much has been done except to demolish the old car park structure at the back. Maybe 2014 will see something actually happen to the building and this eyesore will become something useful like a block of flats.

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Just as a by the by: we are here at the end/beginning of one of the Mayor’s Super Cycle Highways. This was the first one to be finished – the CS7 which runs between Colliers Wood and the City. Note the map shows the route as almost a straight line. This is no accident because the main road here (A24) broadly follows the old Roman Road to Chichester. Interestingly just south of Colliers Wood the modern road veers off this straight alignment. The roman road would have had to cross the valley of the river Wandle here at an angle and maybe it was more practical to take a diversion to avoid the boggy areas around the river. But if you draw a straight line from here southwestward it goes though Merton Abbey Mills and Morden Hall Park and then south of Morden the modern road aligns with the roman one once again.

Now cross the main road and a little way along on the right you will see a park. Go in the gate.

Stop 2: Wandle Park

Wandle Park is owned by the National Trust but managed (after a fashion) by Merton Council. It is not what you would call a very pretty park, but it has some interesting history.

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Almost immediately inside the gate is the first of two fountains – now both sadly out of use.

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This stone drinking fountain was erected through private subscription in memory of Robert Bloomfield Fenwick (1835-1897), who had lived at Wandle Park from 1867 to 1895.

On one side is a verse which runs as follows:

“Calm soul of all things! Make it mine
To feel, amid the city’s jar,
That there abides a peace of thine,
Man did not make, and cannot mar”

This feels almost biblical but actually it is by Victorian poet Matthew Arnold and is the penultimate verse of his poem “Lines written in Kensington Gardens” dating from 1852. Not such a calm position here today – being right by the entrance with the incessant traffic close by.

Now follow the path round and turn left over the bridge. Eventually you will come to a second fountain. This is a memorial to John Feeney.

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Walking on from here you will see another bridge. This one is over the River Wandle. But before you do look ahead at the modern block of flats, this was the location of the Wandlebank House.

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According to the Merton Council website, Wandlebank House was built in 1791 by James Perry and owned by him until his death in 1821. The house was demolished in 1962. Perry owned the corn mill next door (which we shall see shortly) and he was editor of the ‘Morning Chronicle’ newspaper.  Perry was also associated with the construction of the Surrey Iron Railway which followed the Wandle valley and so would have run somewhere nearby, not that there is anything to see of that here now.

Go to the bridge.

Stop 3: Connolly’s Mill

Pause a while on this bridge and have a look down stream. You will see a three storey building literally over the river. This is Connolly’s Mill.

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This is a large former water mill building, dating from around 1805, and designed by the engineer John Rennie. This was the mill owned by James Perry, and according to the plaque is on or close to a site which has been used for milling for at least 750 years.The building was converted into flats in 1994. (By the way this plaque is actually on the left hand side of building as you approach it from the bridge you are just crossing).

Go over the bridge turn left and go down the street running by the river – imaginatively named “Wandle Bank”. At the end of  Wandle Bank, turn right into Merton High Street and cross the road.

Stop 4: Merton Bus Garage

Just here is a big bus garage. It is only has a small facade to the street but it goes back a long way and can house well over 100 buses.

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The  garage was opened by the London General Omnibus Company in November 1913. And recently they had an open day to celebrate its centenary. It is rather fitting that this garage is now operated by the modern day London General bus company and the building next door (a former pub) is London General’s head office.

Useless fact: the code for Merton Garage is AL – see the SW15 walk for an explanation of these codes.

Opposite the bus garage, the river Wandle runs parallel to the street and on the other side of the river is a huge shop (now a combined Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer, but originally it was Sainsbury’s Savacenta).

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Cross the bridge to the shop and go straight ahead, either through the ground floor area of the building or else skirting round it. You want to get to the other side of the car park almost directly opposite where you started.

Stop 5: The site of Merton Priory

You will see ahead of you a subway with a sign saying “Footpath to Merton Abbey Mills”.

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Stop a while here because just here at this edge of the car park and down towards the petrol station was the location of a medieval priory church.

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Now this area is today called Merton Abbey but there never was an abbey here. Actually the monastic establishment here was called Merton Priory – a Priory is lower in the pecking order than an Abbey.

Merton Priory was established in the 12th century and has several claims to fame. Thomas Becket was educated here as was Walter de Merton, who went on to found Merton College, Oxford. It was the place where in the 1230s the first comprehensive statute since the Magna Carta was agreed.  This was the Statute of Merton which allowed amongst other matters Lords of the Manor to enclose common land provided that sufficient pasture remained for their tenants. As this was the first recorded statute of the first recorded parliament, it can be viewed as the starting point for parliamentary democracy.

But with the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s, the buildings were largely demolished. Much of the stone was taken down the road to build Henry VIII’s Nonsuch Palace, which itself was later demolished.

There is a fascinating website with more info: http://www.mertonpriory.org/

There is precious little left of Merton Priory today. We will see a gateway at the end of our walk and there is a bit of wall which we shall see shortly. But the most significant remains are actually below the road by the Sainsbury’s/M & S building. What is left of the Chapter House was preserved below the road built in the late 1980s (and fancifully called Merantun Way).

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You cannot actually see the remains except on special open days because they are behind some sad boarded up windows. However it looks like some money has been found to sort this out in 2014. The plan is to create a new glass wall on the south side (other side from Supermarket) just by that pylon you can see in the picture above.

Now go under the subway under Merantun Way and across the car park taking a right on the service road. Ahead is our next stop.

Stop 6: Merton Abbey Mills

At Merton Abbey Mills, there is a reminder of the Wandle’s industrial heritage.

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The Wandle powered a number of mills and so all sorts of industry sprung up along the banks. Here at Merton Abbey, a calico manufactory was established in 1724 and a second one in 1752. They not only bleached the cloth but also dyed it here.

William Morris, at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts Movement, relocated his dye works to Merton Abbey Mills in 1881 after determining that the water of the Wandle was suitable for dyeing. The complex, on 7 acres included several buildings and a dye works, and the various buildings were soon adapted for stained-glass, textile printing, and fabric and carpet weaving. The Morris works closed in 1940.

Another business associated with this location was Littler and Company.  In 1875 Littler’s started to print goods for Liberty. The hand block printed quality that Littler used became synonymous with Liberty. Liberty’s purchased the Merton print works in 1904, ceasing production in 1972.

Today Merton Abbey Mills is a crafts market with food stalls, mainly operating at the weekend.

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A number of buildings from the Morris period, and even earlier, survive, and there are displays on the history of the site. There is even one building surviving from the mid 18th century.

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This is the Colourhouse built around 1740 or 1750 and today used as a children’s theatre.

And there is a working waterwheel dating from 1860. This is unusual in having seven spokes and is said to have been the inspiration for the Merton Council logo, which is a waterwheel.

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The building now houses a pottery which uses the waterwheel.

This is a lovely enclave and could have been so much nicer. But the modern development around it sadly detracts from the atmosphere – especially the american style drive-through KFC and Pizza Hut buildings.

Cross the river by the water wheel building and then turn right, go over the main road at the crossing and pass through the archway.

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This little arch is a reconstruction of an old archway but apparently some of the walls either side are the old wall of the priory.

Walk along the road ahead (this is Station Road, although the station has long since disappeared) and at the end turn right into Abbey Road. Continue to the end of Abbey Road.

Stop 7: Nelson Arms

At the junction of Abbey Road with Merton High Street, stands the Nelson Arms.

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This pub is at the site of the lodge and gates to Merton Place, which was Admiral Lord Nelson’s home between 1801 and 1805. The pub dates from 1910 and is somewhat reminiscent of the Leslie Green tube stations with this deep red glazed tiling. There are some lovely tile murals of Nelson and HMS Victory.

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Now walk along Merton High Street going in front of the pub. Soon the old buildings finish and there is a modern housing estate. A little further along just before by what looks like a horses’ drinking trough, you will see a rectangular blue plaque on the end of one of the buildings. 

Stop 8: site of Merton Place

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This plaque explains where Merton Place used to stand.

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It is hard to work out just where the house might have been but I reckon it is probably somewhere around where these garages now stand.

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Nelson lived in Merton Place after he separated from his wife Fanny in 1801. Nelson shared Merton Place with both Sir William and Lady Emma Hamilton – a somewhat unusual arrangement. Emma Hamilton was the hostess. She had a lavish lifestyle and after Nelson’s death in 1805, she soon ran into debt and Merton Place was sold. The house was demolished in 1823 and the land developed for housing and industry. The grounds of the house were on both sides of Merton High Street and apparently there was a tunnel to link them. There is a little clump of roads to the north of Merton High Street which all have Nelson connected names: Hamilton, Hardy, Nelson, Trafalgar,Victory.

From the High Street, take a left down Pincott Road and at the end you will reach High Path. Turn right. At this junction there is another pub. This one is called the Trafalgar. It is tiny and looks like a real locals’ local (I did not venture in)

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Stop 9: St John’s Church, High Path

Just along High Path from the Trafalgar pub on the left is St John’s Church.

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This church lies in what were the grounds of Merton Place, but this is not the church Nelson would have gone to – for one very simple reason. It was not even built when he was alive. This church dates from 1913/14 to mark the anniversary of Nelson’s death – a bit late! The altar piece is apparently made from timber taken from HMS Victory and there is some stained glass by pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones. Not that you can see this as here is another church which appears hardly ever to be open. It does look very lovely in these pictures. You feel you could almost be in the country but this is deceptive. The other side of the road is much more workaday London – an estate of not very special blocks of flats.

Just past the church on the left is a small garden, go in the gates.

Stop 10: Nelson Gardens

Like the church, this garden is on land donated by the great nephew of Rear Admiral Issac Smith to commemorate the centenary of Nelson’s death. There is a plaque which explains this. It is flanked by two small cannons. These are 12 pounder guns (whatever that means) and are thought to have adorned the lawn of Merton Place at one time.

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Rear Admiral Issac Smith is not a name you may have heard of, but he does have an interesting claim to fame. He was a cousin of Captain James Cook’s wife Elizabeth, and Smith accompanied Cook on two voyages of exploration in the South Pacific. Smith was the first European to set foot in eastern Australia and the first to prepare survey maps of various Pacific islands and coastlines including Tierra del Fuego in South America. On his retirement he shared a house in Clapham with Cook’s widow until in the 1820s he inherited Merton Abbey and then until his death in 1831 he split his time between Clapham and Merton.

Continue along High Path and turn left at the end (Morden Road)

Stop 11: the end of Merantun Way

Go a short way along Morden Road and you come to the end of Merantun Way. But look carefully at the road layout.

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It it rather odd. The carriageway splits and there is a wide grass verge in the middle. This is because Merantun Way was never finished as intended. The plan was to extend it further along the disused railway track to join Kingston Road thereby bypassing the level crossing on Kingston Road. It would have sliced through Merton Park but it never happened because of local opposition in the late 1980s. That opposition mutated into a strong community group which put up candidates in the borough elections and today Merton Park continues to be represented by independent councillors. This does not usually matter but it has since 2006 because the main parties are so evenly balanced in Merton. So the Merton Park councillors have been the king makers, allowing the Conservatives to run the administration from 2006 until 2010 and then Labour from 2010. It will be interesting to see whether Merton Park councillors will play such a pivotal role following the 2014 elections.

If it is not too muddy you actually walk along the route of the old railway line on the other side of Morden Road from Merantun Way (see picture)

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But if it is wet, you can head back past the Staples store and turn left and go down a street called The Path which then leads you into Melbourne Road and then onto an open space. Either way you will end up in the same place a junction of pathways. Here you can take a short diversion following the signs for the Merton Park tram stop. 

Stop 11a: former Merton Park station building

This path will lead you to the end of Rutlish Road and there where the traffic has to turn round, there is a building that looks like a station building.

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The reason it looks like a station building is because it is the original station house of Merton Park station. The rest of the station is gone and is now just a tram stop with nothing to show that there was actually a railway station here.

Retrace your steps to the path junction and follow the other path (or if you have not made the diversion, take this path)

Go over the tram line and into Merton Park.  At the end of the path cross Dorset Road and go down Sheridan Road. When you reach Church Lane, turn left and soon you will reach St Mary’s Church. This is a bit of a trek but it is worth it.

Stop 12: St Mary’s Church

You could almost be in a country village. All that is missing is the village pub (there are no shops or pubs in the Merton Park estate).

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Now this is the actual church which Nelson went to and it still has his pew apparently. If you can, go in and see the various memorials as well as stained glass by Burne Jones and Morris and Co made locally at Merton Abbey Mills.

There are a couple of interesting tombs in the graveyard. At the front between the war memorial and the lych gate, is a fairly weathered one, which is of William Rutlish, who was embroider to King Charles II. Presumably this was a well paid trade and Rutlish left money to found a school. Rutlish School still exists just over the border in SW20 as we shall see in the next walk.

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And then if you go into the graveyard, you pass by an archway on the right and a fair way in on the left is John Innes’ grave. We will hear more of him in SW20 also.

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Returning back to the entrance do have a look at the archway between the churchyard and the vicarage.

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This is a norman arch which came originally from Merton “Abbey” and was reconstructed here in 1935, paid for by Gilliat Edward Hatfeild (yes that is the right spelling). Hatfeild was the last owner of nearby Morden Hall Park and it was he who bequeathed that property to the National Trust. However it is over the border in SM4.

We have reached the end of our SW19 walk. Much of the story of this part of London can only be told with the fragments of what is here today and it is kind of sad that more has not survived of this historic part of London.

It seems we are in a country village here by St Mary’s but if you go down Melrose Road and then turn left into Dorset Road you will be at Kingston Road and then Merton Park tram stop in less than 10 minutes. Alternatively there are buses to Wimbledon and South Wimbledon from Kingston Road.

SW18: Forever Youngs

We have reached Wandsworth, which for me is forever Youngs, even though Youngs Brewery closed down in 2006. Well the town centre is not the prettiest with the one way system carrying both the radial route to Portsmouth (A3) and the orbital South Circular Road (A205). No wonder the place seems permanently congested. Then there is the Southside Shopping Centre which is still called the Arndale by many locals even though it was rechristened in 2004. And it is here that the river Wandle reaches the Thames – it is surprising that many people do not make the connection between the Wandle and Wandsworth. Maybe people do not realise the river is here – it is not easy to see as the Southside Shopping Centre is built over it.

We start our SW18 walk at the Post Office on the High Street, just to the west of the Southside Shopping Centre.

Turn left out of the Post Office and just a little way along across the road is our first stop.

Stop 1: W G Child and Sons, 106 – 108 Wandsworth High Street

This is a remarkable survival. This company has been producing bespoke suits for over 120 years spanning 5 generations, making them one of the oldest family run tailors in London.

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According to the company’s website, the business was established by William George Child in 1890 and although the family were tailors before this date, this was the starting point of the current business. The location of Wandsworth was chosen at that time as it was known as a prosperous and thriving area with many potential customers and no rival tailoring businesses.

They opened a second shop at Clapham Junction, run by one of the two sons of William George, with the original Wandsworth shop run by the other son Charles. This situation continued on through into the 1940s when with the start of World War II production was given over to the war effort, and uniforms were made instead of suits. In 1944 both branches were hit during German bombing raids with the total destruction of the Clapham Junction branch and the partial destruction of the Wandsworth branch. The Wandsworth shop was rebuilt and continues to operate to this day. Sadly it was the end for the sister shop in Clapham.

And the thing is that this is not some dowdy survivor. It is a working business and they clearly put a lot of work into keeping the shop front well maintained and also in having proper window displays. But it must be a struggle.

Stop 2: Former Wandsworth Borough News Offices, 144 Wandsworth High Street

Now just a little way further along after before the start of West Hill is an old business which did not survive beyond a few years into the 21st century.

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Here was the office of the Wandsworth Borough News. First published in the 1885, its 123-year history finally came to an end just before Christmas 2008. In its last years it had been a sub-edition of the Surrey Comet. In effect now it has been incorporated into the Wandsworth Guardian which gets distributed free across the borough. The Guardian is the last local newspaper standing in this part of London.

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Today their old office is an estate agents but there is this lovely sign – a silhouette of a man reading a newspaper – to remind of what used to go on here.

Now retrace your steps back down the High Street, crossing over when convenient. 

Stop 3: former Youngs Brewery

Just opposite the Southside Shopping Centre, you can see on the left of the road the River Wandle flowing down towards the Thames, having come out from a tunnel under the shopping centre. On the right hand bank is the now defunct Youngs Brewery. Until its closure in 2006, the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth was claimed to be Britain’s oldest brewing site in continuous operation, with a history dating back to the 1550s when a Humphrey Langridge leased the Ram pub here.

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In 2006 the brewing operation was transferred to a new company, Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Ltd, which was a joint brewing venture with Charles Wells of Bedford. Young’s held 40% of the shares in the new company but sold their stake in 2011. However the Young’s name continues in beers produced by Wells & Young’s, and the Young’s company still runs pubs.

There have been plans for redeveloping the site but in the current financial climate they have so far come to nothing. However in July 2013 Wandsworth Council gave consent for the redevelopment by a company called Minerva. This will provide 661 new homes and will include a 36 storey residential tower. There will also be shops, cafes, bars and restaurants plus space for a micro brewery and museum.

Brewing has apparently continued at the Ram Brewery site since Young’s departed for Bedford.  John Hatch, one of the Young’s brewing team, was retained as site-manager by Minerva and was charged with making sure that brewing continues in the interim period until any microbrewery or brewpub can be developed.

Youngs famously has a ram as its logo. This can be seen on a weathervane on the site.  And the pub at the corner of the brewery, dating from 1883, was latterly known as the Ram, although it had at one time been called The Brewery Tap. This became the visitor’s centre for the Brewery and so is now also closed.

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Take a left at the Ram Inn and go down Ram Street (here are a lot of Rams here). 

Stop 4: Surrey Iron Railway plaque and stones, Ram Street

You may wonder why we are coming down this desolate street. But there is something worth seeing here. Once you go past some gates to the Brewery, soon on the left you will see some stones in the wall and a metal plaque.

This is virtually the only tangible reminder of the Surrey Iron Railway which is claimed to be the first public railway in the world.
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The Surrey Iron Railway opened in 1803 between Wandsworth and Croydon to bring lime, chalk, fuller’s earth and agriculture products to London. This had horses drawing wagons down cast iron railway tracks. But what makes it the first public railway is that it was open to anyone who wanted to carry their goods along the route – in effect a different kind of toll road. The company did not operate its own trains, and passengers were not part of the equation. The initial route was around 9 miles following along the River Wandle, by then was becoming industrialised with numerous factories and mills. Later there was a branch to Hackbridge and an extension to Coulsdon.

In 1823  the engineer George Stephenson was approached to supply a locomotive for the line but he realised that the cast-iron rails could not support the weight of a steam locomotive. This meant the Surrey Iron Railway never made it as a “proper” railway. It was not a commercial success, and in 1844 the proprietors sold it to the London & South Western Railway, which sold it on to the London and Brighton Railway. They obtained an Act of Parliament authorising closure in 1846. Part of the route did get reused as a railway towards Croydon and some of this route remains in use today but as part of the Wimbledon – Croydon tram line.

Now retrace your steps back down Ram Street and turn left in to the High Street (actually you get a better view of our next stop from across the road by stop 6, which is where this photo was taken)

Stop 5: Former Palace/Gaumont Cinema

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Although it was opened as the Palace Theatre in 1920, this was a purpose built cinema and does not appear ever to have been an actual live theatre, apart from performances on the cinema organ perhaps. It was initially independent but came under Gaumont British Theatres management in July 1930. It was re-named the Gaumont Theatre in 1954. Having closed as a cinema in 1961, it was a bingo club until 1979. The building lay unused for three years until 1982 when it became a church. In 1992 it came back into entertainment use as a nightclub called the Theatre. It is now a gym. So I guess apart from this facade there is not really much left of the old cinema.

Cross over the High Street and just a little way to the left is our next stop (again you actually get a better view of the whole building from the other side of the road – ie where you have just come from.)

Stop 6:  The Spread Eagle, 71 Wandsworth High Street

Here we have the magnificent Spread Eagle pub, one the many Youngs pubs in Wandsworth. The current building dates from 1898, although this site had been a coaching inn for many years before that.

This is a splendid pub , with a lovely porch over the pavement. But inside is a real treat with fabulous glass and mirrors. Some nice pictures on http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=221

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Now just around the corner in Garrett Lane, there is a building dating from 1890 which was constructed as the Assembly Room for the Spread Eagle pub.

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From 1908 it was operating as a cinema, the Biograph, and it is claimed this was the first licensed cinema in the country. It was subsequently known as the Picture Palace, the Picture Palladium and the Court Cinema. It closed in 1931. The building was later used mainly as a warehouse – after the war, Young’s Brewery used it to store beer crates. Wandsworth Council have put up one of their green plaques.

Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 7: Southside Shopping Centre (formerly the Arndale Shopping Centre)

Opened in 1971 and originally called the Arndale Centre, it was said to be Europe’s largest indoor shopping centre at the time. Southside has 530,000 square feet of retail space. Interestingly this is just a little smaller than Selfridges, the UK’s second largest single store.

The centre was looking a bit sad by the 1990s but there was a concerted effort in the naughties to sort the place out, including that name change from the Arndale Centre. However it has an odd mix of shops – there cannot be too many shopping centres where two of the largest stores are Waitrose and Poundland! There is more redevelopment going on the northern and eastern sections involving the demolition of office accommodation and the creation of a further 220,000 square feet of retail space, which will include a Debenhams, apparently.

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Useless fact: The name “Arndale” is a combination of  parts of the names of the two people who set up the original company – Arndale Property Trust: “Arn” is from Arnold Hagenbach and “dale” is from Sam Chippendale. Just think if they had used another combination, we could have had the Old Chip shopping centres.

Just before you reach Sainsbury’s you will see a garden. This is the old burial ground of the parish. Take the path through this green space. (Actually the second photo of the shopping centre is taken looking back through this garden)

At the end follow the road straight ahead until you reach St Ann’s Hill where you turn right. A little way along on the left is our next stop. 

Stop 8: St Anne’s Church

At the top of the hill is a church called St Anne’s, which is odd given the street is called St Ann’s Hill. It is a so-called “Commissioner’s” church – built as a result of an 1818 Act of Parliament which set up a Commission for “promoting the building of churches and chapels in populous parishes”. The first of these churches were also termed Waterloo churches because they were looked upon as national monuments built in thanksgiving for the victory over Napoleon at Waterloo.

St Anne’s dates from the early 1820s and was designed by Robert Smirke, best known for the facade and main block of the British Museum. Architectural historian, Pevsner does not like this church describing it as having “unhappy outer proportions … and a circular tower, exactly twice as high as it should be.” But I think it is lovely but then I am not an expert on Greek Revival architecture.

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Now go back down St Ann’s Hill right to the end and at the bottom you will see the corner of Wandsworth Town Hall across the road on the left.

Stop 9: Wandsworth Town Hall

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The Town Hall we see today was built in three phases, and as Pevsner puts it “none distinguished”. The part at the far end along the High Street (almost next to the Pavilion Theatre) is the 1970s brick bit which houses the modern day reception. Then comes a mid 1920s section and finally the bit on the corner of Fairfield Street is from the mid 1930s  You can see why after the boroughs of Wandsworth and Battersea merged in 1965, the new borough chose to make Wandsworth Town Hall its main home.

The 1930s section is triangular and goes around a courtyard and with forecourt gardens. There is a frieze around the outside showing Wandsworth’s history, although I find it impossible to distnguish what events are portrayed.

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And there is a lavish entrance hall. One thinks of the Thirties as a time of austerity but clearly the council felt it could spent what must have been a significant amount of money on these new offices. It does not look like it was done on the cheap.  Interesting though the council chose to call this “Wandsworth Municipal Offices” according to the words set in the stonework – it was not the town hall or civic centre. I wonder why.

Now cross over the High Street and go to the right (eastern) side of Fairfield Street.

Stop 10: The Royal “Pool”

On the eastern side of the junction between the High Street and Fairfield Street is a curved brick wall with a large stone plaque, in front of which is a round brick walled bed with a tree and other plants in it.

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The stone plaque explains about this odd arrangement which derives from a Royal visit on 14 July 1937. The plaque reads as follows:

“This pool, with its surroundings, has been provided from a fund subscribed by local citizens of the Borough of Wandsworth commemorating the visit to Wandsworth of Her Majesty Queen Mary on July 14th 1937 to open the new municipal offices. Her Majesty drove through the borough escorted by the Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor and Mrs W H Heath when she was welcomed by 500,000 people. By the fund raised, 55,000 flags were distributed down the line of route, 42,000 bags of sweets given to the children and 250,000 people attended firework displays at King George’s Park, Streatham Common and Clapham Common. On the site containing the pool, Her Majesty paused after the opening ceremony and a choir of 2,000 children sang”

Well isn’t it unusual to have a Royal visit recalled in a such a way. Sad though there is no actual pool here now and judging by the size of that tree in front of the stone, there probably has not been a pool there for a long time! And you do have to wonder about some of those numbers.

Go up East Hill away from the Town Hall. This is the A3/A205.

Stop 11: Huguenot Burial ground

At the top of the hill the A3/A205 splits into two one way streets. In the middle is a grand looking Italianate building called Book House.

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It was built in 1888 for the Board of Works – I assume this was for the local Wandsworth District Board of Works, which was in effect a predecessor body to the borough council. Behind Book House flanked by these two one way streets is something rather unusual – the Huguenot Burial Ground

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The burial site was opened in 1687 and closed in 1854. It was used by the Huguenot refugees who settled in Wandsworth during the seventeenth century, fleeing France after the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The burial ground later became known as Mount Nod.  In 1911 a memorial was erected to the memory of the Wandsworth Huguenots. This describes says how they “found in Wandsworth freedom to worship God after their own manner. They established important industries and added to the credit and prosperity of the town of their adoption”.

It looks like it has been tidied up a bit but it seemed very closed. Mind it is not a transquil spot with major roads on either side. At the far end a footpath separates the burial ground from St Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church. Funny how there should be a catholic church hard by the last resting place of so many French protestants.

Cross to the north side of East Hill and go down Alma Road.

I am conscious that this walk has not really had much about the residents of this area – it’s been all about buildings and artifacts. At this point I offer you a little diversion off Alma Road to see the street where someone famous once lived. As you go down Alma Road you will see Dighton Road on your right. Take this and then take the third on the left. If  you do not want to do this just carry straight on.

Stop 11a Bramford Road

Bramford Road is a fine street of small mainly gentrified terraced houses. You used to be able to tell the gentrified houses because they did not have net curtains. Now you can tell them because they tend to have these little wooden blinds which usually only cover the lower half of the window. Normally painted a off white or pale grey, they prevent the curious passersby seeing too much without the owners having to have the dreaded net curtains.

However I did not bring you down here to talk about blinds. I thought I would just mention that according to Wikipedia, Tony Blair shared a house here with Lord (Charlie) Falconer in the late 1970s when they were both young barristers. Don’t know exactly when or which house, but I thought it was worth sharing!

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To regain our route turn left at the end of Bramford Road, and go straighht on to the Alma. If you have not taken the diversion then you will find our next stop at the end of Alma Road.

Stop 12: The Alma and Old York Road 

Here the enclave of tiny terraced houses comes down to Old York Road – a little local centre with a few shops and cafes. Some of the shops are still old school but mainly this has been thoroughly gentrified. There is a nice pub on the corner called the Alma. This name derives from the Battle of the Alma which took place  on 20 September 1854 and which is usually considered the first battle of the Crimean War (1853–1856). The battle is named after the River Alma in the Crimea.

Interestingly the actual pub dates from 1866, according to the pub’s website, wich is a bit later than one might expect. It was first leased by Youngs in 1872 and they bought the freehold in 1883. Still owned by Youngs, it now has a “boutique hotel” attached at the back. Lovely as it undoubtedly looks I cannot help wondering what visitors from outside London might be expecting and whether they might find this gentrified corner of Wandsworth just a little bit disappointing.

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So this brings us to the end of our SW18 walk. Wandsworth undoubtedly suffers from being sliced up by the one way system which carries both the A3 and the South Circular Road. But there are some nice bits and some interesting historical connections. And with the renaissance of the Shopping Centre and the development of the Brewery with its riverside location, it has the potential to be a great deal better.

We are now right by Wandsworth Town station which has a reasonable weekday daytime service into Waterloo, Putney and Richmond – not so good evenings and Sundays though. Otherwise there are buses to places like Fulham and Tooting.

SW17: Power to the people

If you were around in the late 1970s, then Tooting will always be associated with Citizen Smith and the eponymous hero who strode out of Tooting Broadway station at the start of this sitcom.  The show was written by John Sullivan, a local lad from Balham who went on to write Only Fools and Horses.  Citizen Smith starred Robert Lindsay as “Wolfie” Smith, who is the self-proclaimed leader of the revolutionary Tooting Popular Front (who are just a small bunch of his friends). Their goals are “Power to the People” and “Freedom for Tooting” but really Smith is a lazy disorganised unemployed dreamer.

A couple of fascinating facts about Citizen Smith: 1) the title of episode 2 of series 3 is “Only Fools and Horses”. Obviously this was too good a title to waste. In case you wonder where this comes from it is from a saying which originated in American Vaudeville: “why do only fools and horses work for a living?”. And 2) in the penultimate episode Sullivan finally revealed Smith’s first names: Walter Henry (think about that one)

We start our walk at Tooting’s main Post Office which is situated in a side street called Gatton Road which is just off the main road where Upper Tooting Road meets Tooting High Street. Take a left out of the Post Office and then a right at the High Street. Go a short way along to our first stop which is across the road on the left.

Stop 1: Defoe Chapel building

Although most of Tooting is late Victorian or Edwardian, there are some older buildings and this simple two storey yellow brick pedimented building next to Tooting Market  is one of them. It was built in 1776 for a Methodist congregation which had been founded some years before. It was known as the Defoe Chapel because there is supposed to be a connection to Daniel Defoe (best known today as the author of Robinson Crusoe)  but the evidence seems to be sketchy. British history online  says: “At the time of the Revolution Tooting is said to have been the residence of Daniel Defoe, according to tradition the first person to form the Nonconformists of this neighbourhood into a regular congregation.” (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43038 ) Anyhow Mammon seems to have taken over from God – the building is a shop now, which is kind of fitting given one of Defoe’s well known quotes is:

“Wherever God erects a house of prayer the Devil always builds a chapel there; And ‘t will be found, upon examination, the latter has the largest congregation.”

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Just next door is our next stop.

Stop 2: Tooting and Broadway Markets

One of the features of Tooting which marks it out from other shopping areas is the existence of these two indoor markets.

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There are a few food stalls, including a fishmonger and a couple of butchers, but for the main part these markets are for household goods, fabrics, clothes and bags, that kind of thing.  But you can buy almost anything here – there is even a pet shop. Tooting Market is slightly older dating from 1930 and is a simple L shaped arcade. Broadway Market is slightly younger dating from 1936 but it somewhat larger with two entrances on Tooting High Street and one at the rear on Longmead Road.

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Together there must be well over 120 stalls and there seem to be very few empty units. I wonder if this would have survived in quite the same way if it had been an outdoor street market controlled by the borough council.

Now go right through Broadway Market and come out on Longmead Road, turning right. Go to the junction with the main road (Mitcham Road). (If the market is closed go instead down to Tooting Broadway and turn left into Mitcham road).  Ahead in Mitcham Road across from Longmead Road is our next stop.

Stop 3: Former Broadway Palace Cinema, Mitcham Road

Today you see a Specsavers and a 99p shop, but behind this dull looking 1950s facade was a 1912 cinema.

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Originally called the Broadway Cinematograph Palace, it had a white stone facade with a curved arch over the entrance was topped by a large statue of Britannia. The name was changed to Broadway Palace Theatre around 1936. It was hit by a German rocket bomb in 1944 which destroyed the front of the building. It never re-opened as a cinema. After the war a new plain front was put on the building and it was converted to retail use.  But if you look behind this facade you can see a ridge of a roof and I can only surmise this is where the auditorium was.

Now turn left and walk along Mitcham Road. Across the road you cannot miss our next stop.

Stop 4: Gala Bingo Hall (Former Granada Cinema)

This is probably the best preserved 1930s cinema in the country – built as the Granada in 1931. It may look vaguely classical on the outside but inside is a baronial hall, a hall of mirrors and a massive auditorium, with sort of gothic features. It closed as a cinema in 1973 and after a few years of disuse finally found a use as a bingo hall. Although this means bright lights and a revamped stall areas , the circle is untouched and more to the point it is still here and being used unlike so many cinemas built in this era. It was given Grade II* listing in 1972 but this was upgraded to Grade I by English Heritage in 2000. There are some nice pictures on this wonderful site: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/9424

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Walk just a little further down Mitcham Road and our next stop is the library at the corner of Undine Street.

Stop 5: Tooting Library

This building was apparently built in two stages. The lower floor dates from 1902 and the upper floor from 1908. It is a handsome building of brick with (as Pevsner puts it) much terra cotta decoration.

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It has a copper galleon atop the weathervane, for no obvious reason. Do look up the side street (Undine Street) and there on the hill floating like another stately galleon is the church of All Saints which we shall eventually get to.

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Now retrace your steps, cross the road by the Bingo Hall and continue to the tube station which is a little further along on the left.

Stop 6: Tooting Broadway Station and “piazza”

This is one of Charles Holden’s lovely stations on the 1926 extension of the City and South London Railway from Clapham Common to Morden built by the Underground Electric Railway Company of London . These stations are very simple and functional but are brilliantly branded with the roundel which had been adopted by UERL. It is in the window but also at the tops of the columns which break up the windows. The roundel was later adopted as its logo by London Transport soon after it was formed in 1933.

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The junction outside Tooting Broadway station was once called Tooting Corner but it seems to have got the name Broadway by the time the trams arrived around 1900. There is a wonderful old lamp standard (presumably once gas) with sign post and of course there is the statue of King Edward VII. Both of these were here before the station.

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The observant amongst you may realise that the layout here is not quite how it looks in the opening sequence of Citizen Smith. This is because at some point in the 1980s, Wandsworth Council moved the statue from the middle of Mitcham Road to a new “piazza” in front of the station.

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Now cross Tooting High Street and turn left. Go down the High Street away from the Broadway taking the third turning on the right (Coverton Road). Then take the first on the left (Effort Street) and go in the pedestrian gate to St George’s Hospital.

Stop 7: St George’s Hospital

Founded in 1733, St Georges is one of the largest teaching hospitals in the country. It moved from Hyde Park Corner to Tooting in the late 1970s to this site which had housed two other hospitals, the Grove Fever Hospital and the Fountain Hospital. As you come in the pedestrian gate turn to the right and you will see a little gateway with a bust on top. This was taken from Hyde Park Corner and re-erected here. The bust is of Dr John Hunter who was appointed as surgeon at St George’s in 1768. He was one of the most distinguished scientists and surgeons of his day and was an early advocate of careful observation and scientific method in medicine.

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Now do a U turn and walk down the right hand side of the internal road (this is the only side with a footpath).

You will come to the Grosvenor Wing, followed by the St James’ Wing and then the Atkinson Morley Wing. The first of these (like the nearby Lanesborough Wing) are reminders of the original site at Hyde Park Corner. The original building was on the site of Lanesborough House (hence the hotel there now is called the Lanesborough) and the building stood at the corner of Grosvenor Crescent on the edge of the Grosvenor Estate. St James and Atkinson Morley are closed hospitals (in Balham and Wimbledon respectively) whose activities were transferred to this site.

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Most of the buildings on this sprawling site are post 1970s. But as you leave the site into Blackshaw Road, there is a group of buildings on the left which must have been part of one of the old hospitals.

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When you reach Blackshaw Road turn left. Go straight, crossing over Tooting High Street, and go into Longley Road. Sorry this is a bit of a trek but I thought we just had to include the next stop.

Stop 8a: 46 Longley Road

As you walk along Longley Road you get to a group of double fronted detached houses on the right.  At number 46, you will see a blue plaque stating “Sir Harry Lauder 1870 – 1950), Music Hall Artiste lived here 1903-1911″

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Lauder was a singer and comedian from Edinburgh who usually performed in full ‘Highland’ regalia—Kilt, Sporran, Tam o’ Shanter, and twisted walking stick and he used to tell stories and jokes involving the alleged parsimony of the Scots. This portrait of a scot did not exactly endear him to his fellow countrymen. He wrote most of his own songs. These included Roamin’ in the Gloamin’, I Love a Lassie and Keep Right on to the End of the Road. This last song was written following the death of his son in action in 1916. Strangely given its genesis, this song is used by Birmingham City Football Club as their club anthem.

Stop 8b: 72 Longley Road

But there used to be another blue plaque on this street, just a little further on at Number 72. This was for music hall comedian Harry Tate. However the building was demolished in the early 1990s and a new development of flats is on the site.  It does look like they made provision for the possibility of a blue plaque on at about where Number 72 would have been. Well maybe. Harry Tate was not his real name by the way. He was also a Scot, born Ronald MacDonald Hutchinson. He took the stage name Harry Tate when working for the sugar company, Henry Tate and Company. We of course heard a little about Henry Tate in SW16.

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Possibly fascinating fact: There is at least one other blue plaque in SW17 (they are a bit thin on the ground out here). Believe it or not it is for the writer Thomas Hardy who lived at 172 Trinity Road between 1878 and 1881. This house is just south of Wandsworth Common and so a little far to include on this walk.

Now almost opposite this new flat development is Charlmont Road. Go down this to the very end which takes you to Mitcham Road. At this corner is the Mitre pub (now rechristened “the Long Room” presumably because the main bar is one big long room). Opposite is a little pedestrianised area and on this at the corner of Church Lane is what we are going to look at next.

Stop 9: Tooting Parish Pump

Here at the corner of Church Lane and Mitcham Road is a monument which commemorates the location of the Tooting Parish Pump of 1823. There is an interesting plaque which explains that the pump was paid for by principal inhabitants of the parish and was in use until the end of the 19th century. It has a reference to two other local pumps which were privately owned and I guess they would have charged. This would have been the centre of the old village of Tooting and just close by is the parish church of St Nicolas. There has been a church here certainly since medieval times but this building only dates from 1833.

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And just a little way along Church Lane on the left is the old village school. The part you come to first dates from 1895, according to a foundation stone, which someone had badly overpainted! But then you come to an older bit which dates from 1828 (The stone is hard to read but it is just legible). Today this building is used by a muslim group.

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Keep walking up Church Lane and soon on the right you will see an entrance way with brick pillars. This was the entrance to St Benedict’s Hospital. Keep walking a little further on and turn right into St Benedict’s Close.

Stop 10: St Benedict’s Estate

This 1980s development is built on the site of St Benedict’s Hospital. The hospital building had started life as a Roman Catholic school in 1887. The upkeep proved too expensive and the school moved to Beulah Hill in 1895 when it became a home for older people. It was used as a military hospital in the First World War and into the early 1920s. The London County Council bought the site in 1930 and reequipped it as a hospital for long-stay patients. It reopened in 1931 as St Benedict’s Hospital, closing in the 1970s.

Laing Homes bought the site for housing development in the mid 1980s. The surviving remnants of the hospital buildings are the entrance gateway with its posts still which we saw on Church Lane, and the main hospital block’s portico and clock tower, which were positioned at each end of a walkway called Limetree Walk.

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Return to Church Lane, continue up the hill and turn left into Lessingham Avenue. 

Stop 11: Totterdown Estate

Lessingham Avenue is one of four parallel streets which form the major part of the Totterdown Estate. This is one of the first London County Council housing estates and is heavily influenced by the Garden City movement, having cottage like houses in a varied street scene and with Arts and Craft features – big gables, Tudor style chimneys, single and double storey bay windows and a range of door styles and porch designs.  1,229 houses were built in the period 1903 to 1911, but there are only four shops. These are where Lessingham Avenue crosses Franciscan Road. This is in stark contrast to the speculative builders who were developing the rest of Tooting at this time. They put a shop on almost every corner and of course almost none of them are still shops. Interestingly although the style of houses is Garden City like, the LCC did not follow the concept completely and make the place self sufficient. No places of work were built nearby and the residents had to rely on the electric trams which ran along Upper Tooting Road to get them to and from work. (It is easy to forget that the tube did not get here until 1926 by which time the whole area was developed. This is why the tube is still in tunnels this far out)

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When you reach those four shops turn right up Franciscan Road  and a short way along on the left is our final stop.

Stop 12: All Saints Church

All Saints Church  stands just off Franciscan road a little way along Brudenell Road. It was built in 1906 under a bequest from Lady Charles Brudenell-Bruce in memory of her late husband, the first Marquis of Ailesbury. She wanted it in a godless part of South london –  so Tooting was chosen! This church may look handsome outside but inside is quite a surprise.

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The first vicar, Canon Stephens, acquired quite a few bits of Italian and Spanish church furnishings, including a copy of a Crucification painting – the original by Velazquez is in the Prado in Madrid. The installation of the choir stalls, ironwork and other furnishings (including said painting on the high altar) did not go down too well with the architect Temple Moore who felt it spoilt the design of his church. He walked off the job in protest and another architect had to finish the work. Sadly this church is rarely open, except for services. If you are lucky, you may find it open on a Saturday morning.

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Just across the Brudenell Road from the church is a small development called Bruce Hall Mews. This was the site of the original church hall, which was called the Bruce Hall. It became unsafe and had to be demolished. A new church hall was built in the early 1980s tucked away round the south side of the church and directly linked to it. So all that is left to remind us of the old church hall is the name of this small street.

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That brings us to the end of the SW17 walk. I have just realised I have walked through Tooting without mentioning what many people regard as synonymous with Tooting – the curry house. Sorry about that but it just did not seem to fit in! But suffice it to say there are lots of excellent and not so good indian restaurants all around this area.

For onward travel you can retrace your steps down hill along Franciscan Road to Tooting Broadway or else go along Brudenell Road and turn right at Upper Tooting Road for Tooting Bec station.

SW16: Pleasure and Payne

When one thinks of Streatham (at least when I think of Streatham), one associates it with two larger than life characters – Cynthia Payne and Naomi Campbell – the former ran her “business” from Streatham, the latter was born here. I know where to go for the Payne connection but have no idea where there might be a Campbell connection in Streatham. And of course her adventures such as those with mobile phones and staff occurred elsewhere. But it did set me off thinking that if there is to be a theme to our Streatham walk it should be “Pleasure and Payne”. Afterall what great pleasure we have had from their exploits, and there is so much more other pleasurable stuff connected to Streatham.

We start at the Post Office which is located in the W H Smith store on Streatham High Road. Our first stop is just across the road.

Stop 1: Odeon (Former Astoria) Cinema

This is a rare survivor of an inter war cinema building still being used as a cinema. This building dates from 1930.

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Although now called the Odeon, this cinema was originally called the Astoria and there is a little reminder of this in the building next door. This is a block of flats over some shops and it is called Astoria Mansions. Unfortunately when I visited it was shrouded in scaffolding so this is the best shot I could get of the name plate.

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This cinema is the same family as the one in Brixton (which is now the Academy). It originally had egyptian style decoration but this was almost all lost in a “modernisation” of 1961. There are now 8 screens in this building.

Turning right out of W H Smith go down the High Road. Just a little further on across the road is our second stop

Stop 2: Tate Library

This Tate Library is somewhat grander than the one we saw in South Lambeth Road, SW8. Maybe this was because Streatham was more important and so warranted a bigger splash. Or maybe it was because Henry Tate, the benefactor, lived locally – as we shall shortly see.

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The building dates from 1890 but the clock is somewhat later. This was added in 1912, as a memorial to King Edward VII who had just died. It was funded by public subscription. The plan was for a clock tower, but they did not raise enough money!

The library is currently having a major facelift costing £1.2 million, paid for by Lambeth Council and the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund. It is due to re-open in 2014.

Continue walking along the High Road. At the next major junction, the main road forks. Just here on the right is our next stop.

Stop 3: St Leonard’s Church

This is the old church at the heart of Streatham. There has been a church here since Saxon times, but it has been substantially rebuilt. According to architectural historian, Pevsner, the mediaeval tower remains but was rebuilt in 1841 whilst  the church itself was substantially rebuilt in the 1830s and then enlarged in 1863 to the designs of Victorian painter, William Dyce. Unfortunately there was a major fire in 1975 which badly damaged the church and destroyed most of Dyce’s decoration.

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At the far eastern end of the church beyond the main altar is what remains of a very old tomb – 13th century?

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There are also some nice monuments dating from the 17th century. The ones below are from John Massingberd and wife from 1653 and John Howland from 1686.

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There is also an 18th century monument to the Thrales – the local big family who lived at a house called Streatham Park (demolished 1863). But I unaccountably failed to take a picture of their monument.

The Thrales owned the Anchor Brewery in Southwark. Dr Samuel Johnson met Henry Thrale and his wife Hester in 1765 and was a regular visitor both at Streatham Park and at Southwark until Thrale’s death in 1781.

The epitaphs of Henry Thrale and his mother in law (died 1773) are both by Dr Johnson – in latin, but there is a translation. And Hester Thrale’s documentation of Johnson’s life during this time, in her correspondence and her diary, became an important source of biographical information on Johnson after his death.

One of the fascinating links I stumbled across in my research was a website dedicated to all things Thrale:  http://www.thrale.com/

From the west end of the church, go out into the road below and turn right.

Stop 4: Bishops House, Tooting Bec Gardens

Although we are in the heart of Streatham, this road is called Tooting Bec Gardens – another example of road names to fool the unwary!

As we walk away from Streatham on the right is an elegant house with a drive. This turns out to be the official residence of the Bishop of Southwark. Southwark diocese was only formed in 1905. Previously most of it had come under Winchester and indeed there are some remains of a medieval bishop’s palace (Winchester Palace), close to modern day Southwark Cathedral, near London Bridge. Somewhere for the bishop to stay when in London.

That was a long time ago. I can see that the area round the Cathedral has not until recently been a desirable place to live. But quite why the Church chose Streatham for the bishop’s residence (and when)  is anyone’s guess – it is not exactly convenient for the Cathedral.

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Continue along Tooting Bec Gardens and cross Garrad’s Road. Ahead is Tooting Bec Common. walk along the main road keeping the common to your right. Go over the railway bridge. This is the main railway line out of Victoria to Croydon and Brighton. Strange there is no station here, as this is the closest point this main line gets to Streatham but unaccountably there is no station here. The railway chose to put the stations at Balham and Streatham Common. Maybe the big landowners did not want a station here.

Stop 5: Tooting Bec Lido

Just over the railway on the right is Tooting Bec Lido. I know it seems wrong but believe me Tooting Bec Lido is in SW16 (Streatham) and not SW17 (Tooting)

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I thought I would not be able to get near but amazingly the gate was open, as there were some hardy souls swimming (apparently during the winter the pool is only open to members of the local swimming club) . So I was able to take some pictures – these are from the deep end.

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The Lido dates from 1906, although it only got the name “Lido” in 1936. It is claimed to be the largest fresh water swimming pool by surface area in the United Kingdom, being 100 yards (91.44 m) long and 33 yards (30.18 m) wide – just by comparison an Olympic size swimming pool is 50m x 25m. And it has these great little changing cubicles with bright coloured doors.

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Return to the main road. (by the way the Thrales’ house, Streatham Park was located near here on land on the other side of the road from the common)

Go back over the railway and at the traffic light junction take a right into Ambleside Avenue.

Stop 6: 32 Ambleside Avenue

As I alluded to already, I do not think we can come to Streatham without mentioning Cythnia Payne, aka Madame Cyn. Her “infamous” house is on the left hand side of Ambleside Avenue as the road curves round.

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She first came to national attention in 1978 when police raided her home and found a sex party was in progress. Gentlemen of a certain age were being entertained by ladies of a somewhat younger vintage; the currency being used in the house was luncheon vouchers. When the case came to trial in 1980, she was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, reduced to a fine and six months on appeal.  She actually served four months.

In the late 1980s there were two films loosely based on her life. Wish You Were Here, about her adolescence starring Emily Lloyd, and Personal Services about her adult life starring Julie Walters.

Isn’t it an interesting juxtaposition that this house is just around the corner from the Bishop of Southwark’s.

Continue along Ambleside Avenue until you reach the crossroads with Mitcham Lane. Turn left and cross this road. Go along Mitcham Lane a bit. You will pass a pub called the Manor Arms on your right and just beyond is a green sloping down to another road.

Stop 7: Streatham Green

Streatham Green is the historic centre of the old village of Streatham. In the middle is a rather sad looking monument. This is a drinking fountain designed by William Dyce, the Victorian painter who we came across in connection with St Leonard’s church.  Dyce is perhaps best known for his frescoes in the Palace of Westminster. He was actually working on them when he collapsed, and soon after died at his home in Streatham on 14 February 1864. The drinking fountain was subsequently dedicated to him by the parishioners of St Leonard’s. The fountain is not looking too good and is surrounded by fencing presumably because it is unsafe.

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Go across the green and turn right into Streatham High Road.

Stop 8: Former Bedford Park hotel

Just a little way down across the road, is a former pub dating from the late 1880s. This was the Bedford Park Hotel and like so many pubs these days, it has given up the battle and has a new use. Unusually this is now a shop, selling linens. All there is to remind us this was a pub is the sign in a panel above the left hand first floor window.

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There is a review from a few years back on the “fancy a pint” site see: http://www.fancyapint.com/Pub/london/bedford-park-hotel/1296

Here it is in full:

“We’ve tried with this place – we really have. It’s still awful. Yes, it should be well placed almost bang opposite Streatham station and with a fine Victorian frontage. But inside… we can only describe it as ‘grotty’. And that’s probably unfair to grot. It’s emphasis is firmly on live music and videos of music the rest of the time. We can only imagine who the regulars might be and it’s not pretty. There are worse places to drink in London – oh, heavens, we hope there are.”

Maybe some of these places deserved to close because basically they were terrible.  Time has moved on and the business model of the pub as a money making machine come rain come shine has certainly taken a dent.

Continue walking down Streatham High Road past Streatham Station.  Our next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 9: new Tesco development (site of 1930s Ice Rink and a bus garage amongst other things)

Here we have a massive new Tesco, a bus turn round and a new Leisure Centre, topped off with a block of flats. This is a huge site.

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Not sure Streatham actually needs another supermarket – we have just passed a Morrisons by Streatham Station and there is a big Sainsbury’s just down the road. But at least this Tesco development is putting something back in terms of housing and leisure facilities.

According to a quote from Cllr. Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth council: “The entire project has been a triumph of design and construction – it’s only the second time in the world that an ice rink has been built above a swimming pool.” Mmm – sounds like a recipe for problems in the future.

It is sad though that the old ice rink dating from 1931 had to go but it is good the long established ice hockey team, the Streatham Redskins, still have a home. The old leisure centre and swimming pool also went but they apparently needed a huge amount of money spent on them. And the former Streatham bus garage, which latterly found itself used for go karting, was also demolished.

But oddly this new development wraps itself around a United Reform Church – you can just see the church in the first picture. Nice to see this Edwardian building survive but you cannot help feeling that the church could have got a great deal from Tesco for the land.

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Now cross the High Road and continue until you reach the war memorial at the corner of Streatham Common North. Turn left up this road. The next stop is quite a hike uphill and so you may want to catch a 249 bus a few stops to Leigham Court Road. Otherwise just walk up the road beside the Common.

Stop 10: Henry Tate Mews (Park Hill)

At a bend in the road there are some whitish pillars and gates. This was the entrance to Park Hill where Sir Henry Tate (of sugar, gallery and library fame) lived. The house is a stuccoed neo classical villa dating from the 1830s. Pevsner describes Park Hill and its grounds as having all the ingredients of 18th century picturesque reduced to a suburban scale.

After Sir Henry Tate’s death in 1899, it became St Michael’s Convent. Then in 2004 it was turned into a private gated estate, so casual passers-by cannot get near the house, but you can get glimpses from the road through the trees and shrubs.

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Return back towards Streatham – there is only a path on one side. When you can, cross over to the Common side of the road and by the disused paddling (?) pool, go left into Streatham Common South. You will see a car park to your left and just ahead but to the left of the cafe there is an entrance pathway.

Stop 11: The Rookery

Go though the gate and you come into an area known as the Rookery. This was the site of Streatham Spa in the 18th century and then a house called the Rookery. After a local campaign, the site became a garden in the summer of 1913. It has just celebrated its 100th birthday, as can be seen in the floral display and the blue plaque.

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It is a delightful garden with some sloping grassed areas, some formal gardens and a cascade area. There is also a white garden, which was sadly depleted of white blossom at this time of year. However it is said this predates the more famous White Garden of Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.

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Retrace your steps out of the Rookery and at the entrance gate turn left.

As you head back down Streatham Common South look at the views. Ahead you can see a large very white building in the distance. That is St Helier Hospital. And looking down Covington Way, you can see the two chimneys, originally of Croydon Power Station and now marking the IKEA store in Croydon.

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At the bottom of the hill you get to the main road, cross over.

Stop 12: Sainsbury’s (former silk mill)

We are going into the Sainsbury’s site, but just before we do I have to point out the Pied Bull pub to the left of the entrance to Sainsbury’s. No doubt an excellent establishment, but look at the pediment over the doorway on the far left. There is a round blue plaque which says Evening Standard 1973 pub of the year”.  Only 40 years ago!

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But we are not here to speculate on pubs of the year. We have a little bit of industrial heritage to see.

The Sainsbury’s supermarket replaced Cow’s India Rubber works in the late 1980s. But one old building from this industrial site survived. This is a three storey textile mill dated from around 1820. Pevsner says this was built by someone called Stephen Wilson in an attempt to convert the Spitalfields silk weaving industry to the factory system. The subsequent owners used the site for other purposes but did not redevelop the whole site. They just added bits piecemeal, hence the survival of this mill building.

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So that brings us to the end of our tour round SW16. A few little pleasures and a couple of surprises in there I hope.

For onward travel, you are now between Streatham and Norbury Stations but there are lots of buses running along the main High Road.