E5: Blame it on the Rivoli


E5 is Clapton which is often confused with Clapham, but of course it is a completely different place.

We start our walk at Upper Clapton Post Office which is just at the start of Mount Pleasant Lane near its junction with Upper Clapton Road.

Turn right out of the Post Office and walk along Mount Pleasant Lane. The road straight ahead becomes Mount Pleasant Hill and goes over the railway. Keep going straight past the former industrial buildings on your left. Turn left into Theydon road (there is a Co-op store on the corner). Our first stop is just on the left.

Stop 1: De Havilland House

This is now flats but was once part of a factory.



It seems that this building was designed in the 1930s by Sir Owen Williams (1890 -1969), who was the forefront of developing the use of concrete.

He was the engineer responsible for the three 1930s Daily Express buildings (London, Glasgow and Manchester) and was also architect for the latter. His practice was responsible for a number of road structures, most notably Gravelly Hill Interchange (better known as Spaghetti Junction) which was completed after his death.

According to the View from the Bridge website


“The De Havilland Building is an early modern movement building in the international style.

It is a concrete frame building with a very thin single layer of reinforced concrete forming the building envelope. De Havilland House is a former ‘Metal Box’ factory.

The attribution to De Havilland, the aircraft company, has not been sourced, but may speak to the first flight of an English aircraft by an English pilot of A.V. Roe nearby.”

But the aircraft connection makes it sound better than if it were just a plain old metal bashing factory.

Carry on walking along Theydon Road. It turns to the left. just before it goes under the railway there is a bit of a yard on your right. This has a way through to the River. Go down the yard and then when you get to the riverside path turn left and go under the railway


Stop 2: Riverside walk (and Anchor and Hope pub)

So here we have the River Lea. It is quite attractive here


However it is very flat. And it is crisscrossed by pylons and railway lines with much dull building in the distance.


Now as you may know singer Adele has a song on her latest album called “River Lea”. She spent her early years in Tottenham, so probably would not have come this far along the river. However I thought I would mention it as we are by the River Lea – although for the first few times I heard the song I thought she was singing about “The Rivoli”, which of course she isn’t.

Keep on walking and there is a reasonable looking pub The Anchor and Hope. I wonder if the name comes from people who are not used to sailing boats and when they stop they put down their anchor and hope…


It is all very modest, although I guess in summer this gets mobbed.

Stop 3: Springfield Park

Just a little further along the path, there is a children’s playground on the right and then on the left is the entrance to Springfield Park.

Springfield Park opened in 1905 and was the grounds of three houses, one of which was retained as we shall see.


Go in this entrance and follow the path which goes up the hill to your left. You can look back across the River Lea to the other side.


As we saw this bit of the river Lea is not at all industrial and the view is quite pleasant in a low key unflashy way

Follow the path round and head for the pond. Keeping the pond to your left.


Then ahead of you you will see a house.


This is now the Ranger’s Office and a cafe with toilets, but was one of the original houses whose grounds now form this park

Go out the gate at this end of the park. Go right into the road (which is called Springfield) and at the end turn left into Upper Clapton Road. Our next stop is quite a walk along the main road.

Stop 4: Clapton Station

Clapton station is on the left. The station building is quite unprepossessing and rather too close to the road.


Downstairs the old station has half survived.


That is the London bound platform still has what looks like the original canopy and a covered stairway, whilst the outbound platform has lost what ever canopy it might have originally had. It also has an open staircase. However there is an ugly looking modern canopy so you are not completely in the open if you are waiting for a train going to Walthamstow or Chingford.

Keep walking along Upper Clapton Road. Our next stop is on the right at the corner of Brooke Road.

Stop 5: site of Brooke House

Today there is a college on this site.


But once there was a grand house. According to the architectural bible, Pevsner, Brooke House was Hackney’s most important mansion.

It was a courtyard house of medieval origin. Its owners included Thomas Cromwell amongst others. It was demolished in 1954/55 after partial war damage. Pevsner says that a 15th Century wall painting from the Chapel is in the Museum of London, whilst panelling is in Harrow School.

A secondary school was built on the site in the late 1950s. The building was reclad later and is now used as a sixth form college.

Just beyond here is a roundabout which seems totally out of keeping with the streets around. It must have been part of a bigger plan which never got realised.

There is a bus park in the middle. This is where the buses which stop at Clapton Pond go to rest.


Go straight on at the roundabout which takes you into Lower Clapton Road.

Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 6: Former Kenninghall Cinema

This building currently looks disused


But it was once a cinema. You can see there is some kind of hall structure behind the entrance.

This started as a cinema in 1910. that was when the function room of  the White Hart public house built in 1896 was converted into a cinema, known as the Clapton Cinematograph Theatre. In 1919 it was given a new name – the Kenninghall Kinema after the nearby Kenninghall Road.

It was taken over by the Odeon chain in April 1938 and a new modern facade and foyer was added to the building, designed by architect George Coles. The plan was eventually to demolish the Kenninghall Kinema and build a modern Odeon Theatre on the expanded site of the cinema and the adjacent pub.

Due to the Second World War the redevelopment never happened and the Kenning Hall Cinema (as it had become) carried on as an unimportant outpost of the Odeon circuit.

It was leased out to an Independent operator from 1958 and eventually closed in June 1979. It was unused for a while until 1983 when it was converted into a nightclub. initially called Duggies. Then it had a couple of name changes; Elite Nightclub and the Palace Pavilion.

This was not the nicest of areas gaining the tag “The Murder Mile”. The White Hart pub building next door closed down after shootings and drug related crime which also affected the nightclub. That seems to have closed down in April 2006.

A local community group, The Friends of Clapton Cinematograph Theatre, was set up in December 2006  with the aim of preserving and restoring cinema. This Group still appears to exist as they have a meeting in May 2016. But it is unclear what has happened to the idea  of reviving the cinema.

The Friends website http://www.saveourcinema.org/ seems silent on the matter and the sign on the outside the building says it is the property of a rather obscure church.


Keep walking along Lower Clapton Road. There is then a C of E church and our next stop is just past that.

Stop 7: Site of ABC cinema

Another anonymous block of flats, you might say.


But once this was the site of another cinema. It opened in October 1939 as the Ritz Cinema, although it was built by Associated British Cinemas (ABC). It was in Art Deco styles with seating in stalls and circle.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the Ritz Cinema had a very uneventful life. The only significant happening was in 1962 when its name was changed to ABC to bring it into line with all the other cinemas in the circuit.

The ABC closed in September 1973 and within weeks the building was demolished. The empty site stood unused apart from cars parking on it. In 1994 a block of flats was built on the site.

Keep walking along the main road and cross over.

Stop 8: Clapton Pond

You can hardly miss our next stop surrounded as it is with railings.


I have often seen Clapton Pond as a destination of buses. And here it is. A fairly small pond in a fairly small garden.


On the far side from the main road are some older houses – from the time when Clapton was a country village.


Our next stop is on the far side of the pond from the main road.

Stop 9: Bishop Wood almshouses

This is the range of buildings to the left as you look from the main road.


And there is a plaque explaining about the almshouses.


The almshouses were built with money left by Thomas Wood (1607 – 1692), who was born in Clapton and became Bishop of Lichfield after the English Civil War.

The homes were refurbished in the 1880s and again in the 1930s. A gothic style chapel was added in the 19th century and it was said to be one of England’s smallest places of worship.

It seems to be up for sale. Indeed it may even have been sold by now.

Here is a report from the Hackney Citizen dated 20 February 2014:


Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouses Charity, which owns the buildings, said it would “dearly love” to refurbish them but claimed this work would cost “getting on for three quarters of a million pounds”.

A spokesperson added: “The charity cannot justify spending that kind of money to provide only four modern flats.”

The last residents were relocated to Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouse on Navarino Road in 2103.

You can understand the charity’s dilemma. But at the end of the day, it surely must be better from them to realise the value in this historic building and build something which is better to suited for older people to live in.

Clearly this is not going to be knocked down and it would be much better to have a sensitive refurbishment and reuse by someone with deeper pockets than for the charity to struggle to maintain such heritage buildings.

Continue walking along Lower Clapton Road. 

Stop 10: Site of Rink Cinema

Our next stop is opposite the corner of Linscott Road


Now I do not normally stop at petrol stations but I make an exception here as it is built on the site of a very old cinema.

Well actually it started out as a rolling skating rink in December 1909. Unfortunately the Clapton Premier Skating Rink opened just as the craze for roller skating was in decline. It briefly became a dance hall and in 1910 was converted into an ice rink.

This too did not last and in spring 1911 it was rebuilt as a cinema. It opened in July 1911 as the Clapton Rink Cinema, seating 2,000 with a mixed programme of cinema and variety acts.

By 1928 it had been acquired by Gaumont British Theatres who the policy of cine-variety running for a few years. It was closed when German bombs badly damaged the cinema in 1942. It never reopened as it was considered irreparable. The remains were finally demolished in 1950 and a petrol station was built on the site.

Now go down Linscott Road

Stop 11: The Portico

Our next stop is straight ahead – and what a surprising vista along a suburban side street



This is now part of a secondary school but this portico is all that remains of the London Orphan Asylum founded in 1813. This particularly impressive structure dates from the early 1820s.

The Salvation Army took over the premises in 1881 and created a huge assembly hall by roofing over a courtyard. This seated 4,700 people according to Pevsner.

The majority of the building was demolished in 1975 to make space for the Clapton Girls Technology College. And this later became Clapton Girls Academy. But it seems the Portico was not used and languished as a heritage building “at risk”.

In 1999 a temporary installation by Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed stimulated public interest in the Portico. This was titled Work No.203 and was a large neon text installed on the front of the Portico which read “Everything is Going to be Alright”.

This “artwork” has since been acquired by the Tate, see: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/creed-work-no-203-everything-is-going-to-be-alright-t12799/text-summary

And in a way it was alright. As part of the Labour Government’s Building Schools for the Future a new building was created incorporating the Portico. This opened in 2010 as the Portico City Learning Centre – a place where students and teachers can access the most up to date computer technology.

Now return to the main road and turn left.

Stop 12: The Round Chapel

Here just at the corner of Powerscroft Road is another religious building.


This was built by the United Reformed Church between 1869 and 1871 and Pevsner describes it as one of the finest non-conformist buildings in London.


It apparently has a magnificent interior. Clearly far too big for the modern day church, it was repaired and refurbished in the mid 1990s as a performing arts centre.


So that brings us to the end of our E5 walk. Some fascinating stuff as ever. There are fragments of the old village still poking out by the pond and reminders of the strong tradition of non conformist church going in this part of London with the Round Chapel and also the former Salvation Army building. We also saw some reminders of how even less busy suburbs could have numerous cinemas – we saw three locations in quite a short distance.

We also saw a little bit of industrial heritage and there was a nice park going down to the River Lea. Even the river has it charms, although when you are wandering the streets of Clapton you would not really know that it is there just down the hill.

For onward travel either retrace your steps back to Clapton station (which is quite a trek) or else take one of the many buses that run along Lower Clapton Road. Hackney is really just around the corner and even though the tube has not got here, it has plenty of Overground connections.

E4: A hunting we will go …


E4 is Chingford, which has the distinction of being the most northerly London postcode (even though it is an E postcode). It is also the only London postcode to include an area which is not within the administrative district of Greater London, more of which anon. I am grateful to fellow guide and resident Chingfordian, Joanna Moncrieff for sharing some of her extensive knowledge of the area.

We start our walk at Chingford Post Office which is at 104 Station Road, E4 6AP. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is just along the road opposite the Station.

Stop 1: Doric House – site of a cinema


This dull looking building on the corner of Station Road and Connaught Avenue replaced a cinema. When the cinema first opened in October 1920, it was called the Chingford Pavilion. It was re-named Chingford Cinema in late 1929 after it had been equipped to screen sound films.

It was renamed Doric Cinema in May 1941, closing in July 1957. It reopened under new owners in January 1959, as the New Doric Cinema but closed for good in 1961 to be demolished for offices. Today there is a Driving Test Centre operating from the building.

Our next stop is right opposite.

Stop 2: Chingford Station

The railway arrived in Chingford in 1873. The Great Eastern Railway’s plan was originally for a line to High Beach in order to serve Epping Forest. Initially the line was built as far as Chingford.

The first station in Chingford was in Kings Road (then called Bulls Lane) near the junction with Larkshall Road (then called Hale End Road). But in 1878 the line was extended about 600 yards towards the Forest and the original terminus was replaced by a much grander station on the edge of town, overlooking the forest.


The relocation of the station was actually less convenient for those who wanted to go to Chingford. This was all about encouraging leisure travellers to visit the forest and to stimulate suburban growth in what were then fields. But the way the station was built does suggest the plan was for the line to go further, as they did not put the station building across the end of the tracks.



Well the line to High Beach never happened because by the 1870s there was quite a movement to stop Epping Forest land being enclosed for agriculture or being built on. This lead to the Epping Forest Act 1878 which halted the loss of forest land. Epping Forest ceased to be a royal forest and the City of London Corporation took over as Conservators. They still perform this role today, as we shall see.

And this explains why the built up area of Chingford stops so abruptly here.

Now turn right out of the station forecourt and follow the main road, which is Station Road and then becomes Rangers Road.

Note the road going off to the left (Bury Road)


Seems odd to see a sign for Epping Forest with a City of London crest and a street sign showing a London postcode.

Keep walking along the main road. You will need to use the left hand path (the forest side) as the right hand path does not go all the way.

Our next stop is just as the road bends.

Stop 3: Former Royal Forest Hotel

The first hotel was built here in 1881 but it was much rebuilt in 1925 after a fire.


As you can see it is a huge building – testament to the fact that this was a destination. This building was here to capitalise on the visitors who came on the train for a day out in Epping Forest. Not sure how many of them would have stayed the night but it does seem to have been a hotel as well – rather than just for serving daytrippers with refreshments.

How sad it is now a Premier Inn, with a Brewers Fayre catering facility (I hesitate to call it a restaurant).


But at least it has not suffered the fate of Jack Straw’s Castle on Hampstead Heath which we saw in NW3.

Our next stop is just next door.

Stop 4: Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge

The Royal Forest Hotel may be fake Tudor but here we have the real thing.


This is called Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge even though it was built for her father King Henry VIII in 1543. It is apparently a unique example of a surviving timber-framed hunt lodge.

It was built so that Royals could shoot deer from the first floor rather than go to the inconvenience of having to chase them round the forest. Note the whole building is whitewashed, which is how it should be, as opposed to what one usually sees where the structural timbers are painted black.

The building, like Epping Forest itself, is run by the City of London Corporation. The lodge is open to the public and has displays on Tudor food and fashion. (There is also a building between the Hotel and the lodge which is called The View and contains a display on the history and ecology of Epping Forest. That is where you go to ask for access to the Lodge if its door is locked)


Inside it is clearly geared up for the school/children audience but it is still worth venturing in to find out more about the building.



That chap in the fireplace gave me quite a turn. He is rather good at keeping totally still.

Do go upstairs for the view.


Obviously these deer are sitting targets, being made of wood.

Whilst you are here do have a look at the building just a little further along past the green.


This is called “The Butlers Retreat”. Today it is a cafe serving lovely food but it was originally a barn built in the mid 19th century. It is named after John Butler who lived here in the 1890s. It is one of the few remaining Victorian retreats within the forest. Retreats were promoted by the Temperance movement and so served only non-alcoholic refreshment.

Now retrace your steps back to just past Bury Road. Now the development is on both sides of the road. You will see a path striking off on your right along side the golf course running parallel to the edge. Go down this. Or alternatively you can walk along the road (called with startling originality “Forest View”). This street has not been adopted by the local authority and it shows.


You might complain about your local council’s road maintenance but public roads never ever get this bad!

If you are on the road hop back on the forest side path when you get to Eglington Road. Keep on walking up the hill in a roughly straight line and then when you get near the crest turn left. You should be able to see our next stop.

Stop 5: Pole Hill

We are on Pole Hill and you can see there is a stone obelisk.


This was was erected in 1824 under the direction of John Pond then the Astronomer Royal and it was to mark true north for the telescopes of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.


It was placed on high ground along the line of the Greenwich Meridian. This was recalibrated later in the 19th century, at which point it was determined that the obelisk was actually 19 feet west of the revised meridian line.

The nearby triangulation pillar marks the modern line, but that is apparently a co-incidence.

But there is another plaque on the obelisk.


This records that the land here was conveyed to the City of London by T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in 1930. He had originally intended to build a house here with his friend Vyvyan Richards in which to print “fine books” (!?!).

Head down the hill towards the road you can see. This is Mornington Road. Our next stop is just ahead on the right.

Stop 6: Arabia Close

Now here is a nice little touch. The land here was also owned by T E Lawrence and so that is why the street is named as it is.


Sadly it is somewhat dull.


Continue along Mornington Road and cut through a pedestrian bit and turn right. Our next stop is just here.

Stop 7: Chingford Assembly Hall

This is the Chingford Assembly Hall built in 1959.


At the far end is a mosaic, installed for the Millenium


Note the picture of Winston Churchill, at the bottom on the left. He was the local MP for many years, as Chingford came under the Epping constituency. Churchill was MP for Epping from 1924 to 1945 and then there was boundary changes and so he became MP for Wanstead from 1945 to 1964.

I think Chingford stayed within the Epping constituency so Churchill ceased to be the local MP in 1945. Chingford became a constituency in its own right in 1974. Since then has had two very high profile MPs: Norman Tebbit (1974 – 1992) and Ian Duncan Smith (since 1992).

Walk by the green ahead of you keeping the church to your left. Our next stop is just past the junction with traffic lights, on the right.

Stop 8: Kings Head pub


According to Joanna, this is where a certain David Ivor Davies played the piano when he was stationed at nearby Chingford Aerodrome in the latter part of the First World War. He was a not too successful probationary flight sub-lieutenant. Having twice crashed a plane, he was moved to an office job and out of harm’s way for the duration of the war. But his real contribution to the war effort was his song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” for which he wrote the music in 1914. He of course became better known as Ivor Novello.

Here is a little link to Jo’s blog post about this:


The aerodrome closed in 1919 and reverted to pasture. In 1951 the site disappeared for ever under the William Girling Reservoir (named after the chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board) and it is that you can see if you look down the road in front of the pub.


Now go down the road called The Ridgeway (a left turn at this cross roads).

Stop 9: Former Town Hall

A short way along The Ridgeway is our next stop on the right.


This is the former Chingford Town Hall originally built in 1929. Chingford became an Urban District in 1894 and gained municipal borough status in 1938.

This does seem a strange place to put the Town Hall, not exactly in the main centre of things. And of course today it has outlived its usefulness as offices and has been converted into housing.

It is odd to think we are in the London Borough of Waltham Forest here – it is one of the quirks of the way London boroughs were created that Chingford is in the same borough as the rather more gritty urban Walthamstow and Leyton.

Keep walking along the Ridgeway. As the road bends to the right take a left turn into Endlebury Road. You will see an entrance to Ridgeway Park which is our next stop.

Stop 10: Ridgeway Park


Now this park contains a model railway.


According to the Waltham Forest Council website, there is a rather interesting story about a visitor to it in 1954. In case the link breaks and the text is lost for ever, here is what it says:

“Walt Disney Story as passed down from member to member


Walt Disney was a very keen miniature railway enthusiast and had his own 7¼ inch miniature railway at his home in USA. One day whilst visiting London on business and as he had completed his work asking his chauffeur if he knew of any miniature railways in London, the chauffeur brought Walt Disney to Ridgeway Park in Chingford. That day the park was holding the Chingford Day celebration we believe the year was 1954. Walt Disney drove trains around the track and allowed the press to take some photographs and had a good time.

When the public heard that Walt Disney was visiting the railway every body rushed over to see him, just as the Mayor of Chingford was about to open the celebration which he did almost on his own.

Information provided by the Chingford and District Model Engineering Club”

Ridgeway Park also lays claim to another famous connection. In 1979 a man called Peter King founded a football club for local youngsters in the park. He called it called Ridgeway Rovers and local boy David Beckham was once on the team..

Here is an article from the Guardian about the club. http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/jan/08/ridgeway-rovers-david-beckham-harry-kane

Continue along Endlebury Road going over the cross roads, you are now in Simmons Lane. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 11: Pimp Hall Park

You will see an entrance to Pimp Hall Park. Go through the gates.


This is the land of the 16th Century Pimps Hall. The name derives from Reynold Pympe who was lord of the manor in 1500.

According to Historic England’s website:  “The estate has been named after different owners at various times; the Buckerells, Gowers or Pimps. It belonged to the Buckerell family in the 13th century. In the late 15th century it was held by Sir J Gower. At one stage it was held by Henry VIII. In 1538 it was sold to Sir G Monoux. In the 16th century Pimp Hall was a farmhouse. It was demolished in 1936-9.”

Chingford Council bought the Hall and surrounding land in 1934 and the site divided between allotments, a council-run nursery, and this small park.

I am sure the name might lead to all sorts of jokes riffing on pimps or pimples, but I am not going there.

To be honest there is not much to see.  But there is a fine view of Chingford down below.


There is a rather interesting old feature in the grounds but I did not spot this until much later.

Return to the street and across the road you will see our next stop.

Stop 12: Friday Hill House


Friday Hill House is a Grade II listed house built in 1839 by the architect Lewis Vulliamy.


It was owned by Robert Boothby Heathcote, who was both the lord of the manor and rector of the local church.  The building was used for a number of years as a further education centre, but was put up for sale by the local Council in 2012. It is currently undergoing refurbishment.

At this point, I did a little detour. At the end of Simmons Lane I turned right into Friday Hill and went down the road a little to see this pub.


Today it is called the Dovecot and claims to have the biggest beer garden in Chingford.


Now at one time this pub was apparently called the Sirloin.

There are various stories about Kings using their swords to “knight” a hunk of beef and so name it “Sir Loin”. Sometimes it is King Henry VIII in Windsor, or King James I in Lancashire, but Chingford also has claim to the story – This time with King Charles II.  If you follow this link through you will (eventually) find the story which specifically mentions King Charles II and Friday Hill, Chingford.


Of course it is all a bit of fun. In fact the name sirloin is an anglicisation of the middle French term “sur longe” – that is the upper part of the loin. So it is really the story of someone having a play with words.

I decided to hop on a 212 bus back into Chingford, as it is quite a way.

Now as the bus turns left from Friday Hill into Kings Road keep a look out to the left. These are the allotments of Pimp Hall Park and in the distance you can see an old building. This is the Pimp Hall Barn and Dovecot dating from the 17th Century.


(not a bad picture considering it was taken from a moving bus!)

In conclusion I have to mention again that E4 is the only London postcode to include an area outside the administrative boundary of Greater London. This is a place called Sewardstone. There is not a lot there but it does contains the world HQ of the Scout movement at Gilwell Park.

But getting there proved to be too much of a challenge as it only has a sporadic bus service. Route number 505 runs between Chingford and Harlow just six times a day. It is not part of the London bus network and is currently operated by a small independent bus company called Trustybus.

Sadly to get there and back from Chingford involves a wait of at least an hour and a bit, sometimes two hours in Sewardstone. Fascinating though Sewardstone may be I decided not to take the diversion. But one day, I will definitely have to visit the place, just to say I have been!

So that brings us to the end of E4. Even though we did not get to the bit outside Greater London, we have certainly seen a great variety of stuff, with fascinating connections with Tudor royalty, through to Winston Churchill, Ivor Novello, Lawrence of Arabia, Walt Disney and David Beckham. And thanks to Joanna for her info about Chingford.

If you took my advice and got the 212 bus, this will take you back to Chingford station for onward travel. Otherwise it is a bit of a trek from Friday Hill. Retrace your steps along Friday Hill, turn left at Kings Road and then right at Station Road which will eventually lead you to the station.

E3: Not those bells…


E3 is Bow but it is not the location of the “Great Bell of Bow” in the Nursery Rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”. Nor does being born in Bow E3 mean you are a true Cockney. You have to live within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City to qualify and that is where the Great Bell of Bow is. But some people from Bow like to call themselves true Cockneys, as indeed did my father who grew up in Bow.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 603 Roman Road. This is actually just a little way along from where you finished the E2 walk. Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Roman Road which here is a part time market. Our first stop is at the junction with Parnell Road.

Stop 1: Iceni Court

Just by this junction across the road on the left is a non descript block of flats called Iceni Court.


No this is not the site of an old cinema but I had to stop to because of the sign here.


Not sure how accurate this is. The Romans certainly came to Britain in AD43 and they did built a road from London to Colchester. But surely the road to Colchester leaves the City at Aldgate and goes through Whitechapel and Mile End. The alignment of the modern day street called Roman Road is further north and would mean leaving the City at Bishopsgate and then turning right.

However looking at the map you can see that if you carry straight on from Roman Road and cross the River Lea you are in Stratford in direct line with the road to Colchester. So maybe it was just an alternative route. But which one came first?

At this end of the northern route we have the district known as Old Ford perhaps indicating that this was the older crossing of the Lea but at the east end of the southern route we have Aldgate, which means Old Gate. It just seems more logical that the road went directly out of a gate. Who knows? So even if they built the road from London to Colchester and beyond as soon as they got here in AD43, it is not clear whether the early road was on the alignment of the street we now call Roman Road.

The other curious thing about this block of flats is that the name that the powers that be have chosen to use.


Iceni was the local tribe in Roman times (at one point headed by warrior queen, Boudica). So they are celebrating the Romans by naming the building after a tribe that revolted against the Romans.

Turn right into Parnell Road and at the end turn left into Tredegar Road and then almost immediately right into Fairfield Road. Our next stop is on the left before the railway, set back behind some railings.

Stop 2: Bow Quarter (Former Bryant and May Match Factory)


This is the former factory of the Bryant and May match company. Once when almost everyone smoked and before the days of electric light, matches were a key item in every household.


This site was acquired by two Quaker businessmen William Bryant and Francis May in 1861 to produce what were known as “safety matches”. These are matches which only work when struck against a specifically prepared surface as opposed to any old rough surface. This makes them safer to handle.

The concept was developed in Sweden in the 1840s by Gustaf Erik Pasch. Pasch patented the use of red phosphorus in the striking surface. Then two brothers by the name of Lundström started making safety matches on a commercial scale and Bryant and May bought the British patent so they could produce safety matches here.

Match production ceased in 1979 and the building is now private apartments known as the Bow Quarter.


In the 19th century, match making was a hazardous business for the workers because of the exposure to dangerous chemicals in particular Phosphorus. In 1888, there was a strike of workers which arose out of the dismissal of a worker and led to the whole factory stopping work. They are always described as “match girls”, so I guess they were all or almost all women employed in this work. Some of the strikers went to see a local social activist Annie Besant and to ask for her assistance.


It was at this point she became involved as she was concerned by their precipitate action and by the number of women who were now out of work with no means of support. She did not start or lead the strike, in fact she never worked at the factory.

Annie Besant sounds quite a character. She became interested in Theosophy, which seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and the bonds that unite the universe, humanity, and the divine. Theosophy had a particular interest in eastern mysticism and Besant travelled to India and later became involved in the movement for Indian independence.

The factory was rebuilt in 1911 and the brick entrance includes a depiction of Noah’s Ark and the word ‘Security’. This featured in their trademark which was used on the matchboxes.


Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 3: Bow Bus garage


This bus garage has the look of a tram depot and indeed it was. Originally this was a tram depot for the North Metropolitan Tramways Company. Their first route had been a horse tram service from Whitechapel to Bow which started in 1870. The building we see today was built in 1908 by which time the trams were electric. It was used to house trolley buses from 1939 and became a bus depot in 1959. Today it houses lots of the Boris buses (which are used on Route 8).


Continue walking along Fairfield Road and just before the end, there is a plaque on the right.

Stop 4: Site of the Fair Field


So this is the origin of the name Fairfield. Obvious really and in fact the Fairfield Halls in Croydon is similarly named after an old fair site. Interesting that “rowdiness and vice” at public events is not such a new thing.

Actually the building on which this plaque is placed is our next stop but to get a better view go to the junction with the main road (Bow Road).

Stop 5: Former Town Hall

This was built as the Town Hall for Poplar Borough Council, which confusingly they chose to build in Bow. The building dates from 1937/38 and the architect is Clifford Culpin who went on to design the better known Greenwich Town Hall.



There are five relief panels with depictions of the type of workers involved in creating the building: welder, carpenter, architect, labourer and stone mason. Here are three of them.




Turn left and you will see the road divides around a statue. This is of William Ewart Gladstone, 19th century prime minister.


Cross the road near the statue. Once across you will see a little garden and a church at the end. Go in the garden.

Stop 6: Bow Church

Ahead is St Mary’s Church.


This started as a Chapel of Ease for Stepney in 1311, and only became a parish in its own right in 1719. Architectural guru Pevsner says the tower is 15th Century and the north aisle wall is the oldest part dating from the 14th Century. The mishmash of old bits survived because there was no money to rebuilt completely. When rebuilding was required following the collapse of the Chancel in 1896, the approach was to conserve and retain rather than replace wholesale. The building was damaged in the Second World War but repaired.

And if you look back, you get this view.


It is hard to believe we are on a traffic island in the middle of one of London’s main roads.

Now head back out of the garden and turn left. Cross the road and turn right heading back towards the Town Hall. Our next stop is on the left and is bright orange.

Stop 7: Bow Bells pub, 116 Bow Road

This pub perpetuates the myth that Bow is somehow connected with the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” and with being a cockney.

Exhibit One is the pub sign.


And Exhibit Two is this board on the pub’s frontage with the words of Oranges and Lemons.


This is of course complete nonsense, because the bells referred to are those of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

By the way the Bow we are in derives its name from the bridge over the nearby River Lea.

In 1110 Queen Matilda, wife of King Henry I, was crossing the ford over the river Lea hereabouts on her way to Barking Abbey and is said to have taken a tumble. As a result she ordered a bridge to be built.

The bridge had a distinctive bow shape and so the area on the west side of the river became Stratford-atte-Bow (Stratford at the Bow) which over time was shortened to Bow. This distinguished it from the Stratford on the east side of the Lea which was known as Stratford Langthorne after the name of the Abbey there. But of course today, that is just plain old Stratford.

Head back towards the church but turn right at the crossing next to the statue of Gladstone. Follow that road round as it bends to the left. This is Bromley High Street, which may once have been a humming centre but which today is almost completely devoid of any commercial activity. At the end you will see a gateway across the road to your right.

Stop 8: St Leonard’s Churchyard

At the end of Bromley High Street where St Leonard’s Street comes in from the right, you will see an old gateway. This was the entrance to St Leonard’s churchyard.


This gateway dates from 1894 and was built as a memorial to the Rev How, the vicar at St Leonards who had died the year before.



Go though the gateway.


It is a depressing site. It obviously at one time had been sorted out but today it is a complete mess. And it is hardly a tranquil spot as the northern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel is on the far side and you can see the road from a hole in the fence. The traffic noise is very evident.


This in fact was the site of St Leonard’s Priory, a Benedictine nunnery founded in 11th Century. Geoffrey Chaucer has a little reference in the prologue to The Canterbury Tales where he introduces the Prioress.

“Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.”

Basically the Prioress had learned French from the Benedictine nuns here. As a result she had a distinct Anglo-Norman dialect, which was regarded by sub-standard French, compared to that spoken in Paris.

Like other religious houses, the Abbey was destroyed in the 1530s. The property was mostly acquired by Sir Ralph Sadleir, who lived at Sutton House in Homerton (which is now owned by the National Trust).  But the church became the parish church of St Leonards. There is no church here today as it was destroyed by bombing in World War II and by the building of the Blackwall Tunnel approach road. All that remains is this rundown garden and the Victorian archway.

Go back out of the Churchyard and go down St Leonard’s Street which is immediately to your left.

Note the school on your right.

Stop 9: Old Palace School


Pevsner describes the school as “Light curtain walled buildings in the Festival style, fresh and cheerful”. The building dates from 1952, the year after the Festival of Britain.

It is called Old Palace School because it is on the site on a palace was built for James I in 1606. Well actually it was more a hunting lodge than a Palace. Some of the stonework was recycled from the remains of the priory just over the road.

It remained in Royal use in the reigns of Kings Charles II and James II. But by the 18th century the Palace was converted into two houses for merchants, and then it had other uses including becoming a boarding school. The house was demolished at the end of the 19th century by the London School Board so they could build a local school.

But we are stopping here not because of the school itself but because of the little plaque on the main building facing the road. This commemorates firefighters who were killed here in April 1941. This is said to be the largest single loss of fire personnel life in English history.


Now just here on the left is Franklin Street.


I only mention this because this is the street my father lived in as a child and young adult. However the street he knew was completely destroyed in the blitz, maybe it was the same raid as hit the school. So today there are houses that look like they were built in the 1950s or early 1960s.


Continue walking along St Leonard’s Street and ahead on the right is our next stop.

Stop 10: Bromley by Bow Centre

The Bromley by Bow Centre is a community organisation which encompasses an array of integrated social enterprises based around art, health, education and practical skills. And one of the entrances is though this old archway.


This gateway is 18th century (possibly late 1740s) and was originally at a riverside entrance to Northumberland House in the Strand near modern day Charing Cross Station.

So how did it get to Bow? The answer is that when Northumberland House was being demolished in 1874, the arch was bought by a man called Rutty who owned a house here in Bow called Tudor House. He wanted it to embellish his garden. That garden was bought by Poplar Borough Council in 1900 to form a public open space.

The park was first called Bromley Recreation Ground and was also known as Grace Street Park. It was later Bob’s Park renamed by local people after the park keeper, Robert Grenfell.

The archway was moved to its present location with money from Tescos who had built a large supermarket nearby.

The entrance to the park from St Leonard’s Street is just past the archway.

Go into the park and as you enter you will see an obelisk on your right.


This is actually a First World War memorial but it has been positioned so that the writing faces away from the pathway – almost as if the authorities wanted to hide what its original purpose was.

As you go into the park you will see a building looming over it on the far side. I think it must have been around here that my father and his twin brother got into trouble for playing cricket on the wall and disturbing the Indian gentleman who was staying in the building. More of which anon.


Now head through the park and out the other side turning right (This is Powis Road). Our next stop is the large building on the right.

Stop 10: Kingsley Hall


This is Kingsley Hall, named after Kingsley Lester who died aged 26 in 1914, leaving money for work in this area for “educational, social and recreational” purposes. His sisters Doris and Muriel bought and converted a disused chapel. It outgrew its original building and a new Hall was designed by well known architect Charles Voysey.

There was a stone-laying ceremony which took place on 14 July 1927. The Kingsley Hall website lists 18 stones representing different aspects of life and they seem to have had an appropriate person laying each stone. So Voysey laid the brick of “Architecture”, sculptor Gilbert Bayes laid “Art”, writer, John Galsworthy “Literature” and actor Sybil Thorndike “Drama”, but oddly local Labour politician George Lansbury laid the brick “Sunday Evening Service”.

Well as you can see there is a blue plaque on the front of the Hall which indicates a certain indian man called Mahatma Ghandi (1869 – 1948) stayed here in 1931.


He had been invited to England but refused to stay in a hotel so was put up here in the East End for some 12 weeks from September to December 1931. So it was him who my father and uncle (aged 8) must have been disturbing.

More about this building is on the Hall’s website: http://www.kingsley-hall.co.uk/kingsleyhall.htm It has quite a history.

Now head along Bruce Road and turn left into Devons Road. Follow this, as it does a right hand turn and carry along the road which is still Devons Road. Go past the DLR station for our final stop which is on the left.

Stop 12: The Widow’s Son pub

Pubs in this area are becoming a rare sight, what with the change in demographics, drinking habits and property values. But this unpromising looking pub just by Devons Road DLR station has a rather unqiue story.


The story goes that there was an old widow whose only son left to go to sea. He wrote to her saying that he would be returning home at Easter and to have a nice hot cross bun waiting for him. He never returned, but his mother continued to put by a fresh hot cross bun every Good Friday for the rest of her life. After her death a hoard of hot cross buns was discovered.

A pub was built on the site of her cottage in 1848 and so began a tradition of a sailor placing a new bun in net over the bar each Good Friday.


You can’t help thinking “Widow’s Son” ought to be “Hot Cross Bun” in cockney rhyming slang – but it is not, so far as I can tell.

This pub was sold by Punch Taverns in 2012 to a developer who has been seeking planning permission to convert the building to flats, so far unsuccessfully. The pub is still trading but one wonders how much longer this quirky little slice of London will survive.

So that brings us to the end of our E3 walk though Bow and Bromley. Whilst this area suffered badly during the Blitz, it still retain some older buildings with reminders of a world before industrialisation and also of a quite radical past.

You are close by Devons Road DLR station for onward travel.


E2: All behind Ewan and ‘is London Fog


E2 is Bethnal Green and what is surprising is that there is quite a lot of green in Bethnal Green.

We start our walk at Bethnal Green Post Office at 223 – 227 Bethnal Green Road. (NB there are two Post Offices in Bethnal Green Road and this is the one which is closest to the City – ie the west end of the road.)

Turn left out of the post office and our first stop is on the left.

Stop 1: Former Essoldo Cinema, Number 283 Bethnal Green Road

A quick glance at this building does suggest cinema and indeed it was.


It started life as Smart’s Picture House in April 1913. It was remodeled in 1938 by well known cinema architect George Coles. A new streamlined Art Deco facade was added and the auditorium was given an Art Deco makeover.

It reopened as the Rex Cinema and in December 1949 it was taken over by the Essoldo chain of cinemas and re-named Essoldo. The cinema closed in 1964 and it became a bingo club until around 1990.

The building became a storeroom and trade only retail outlet but today it seems to be unused.

Continue along Bethnal Green Road. Our next stop is just after the junction with Valance Road  – on the right before you get to Hague Street.

Stop 2: E Pellicci, Number 332 Bethnal Green Road

Well this is an unexpected survival.



This italian cafe was established in 1900 and it is still owned by the founding family. But it is the makeover it had in 1946 that makes it special.

It is now Grade II listed. English Heritage inspectors describe it as having a ‘stylish shop front of custard Vitrolite panels, steel frame and lettering as well as a rich Deco-style marquetry panelled interior, altogether representing an architecturally strong and increasingly rare example of the intact and stylish Italian caf that flourished in London in the inter-war years.”

Return to Valance Road and turn left. Go past the park on your left and stop just before you get to the railway.

Stop 3: Numbers 170 – 184 Valance Road

Here is a little redevelopment by self builders which was “inaugurated” by Prince Charles on 15 September 1988. (Not sure what that means in the context of a building)



If the current street numbers equate to the old ones then this was about where the notorious Kray family lived. According to Wikipedia, the family moved to 178 Valance Road from Stean Street in Hoxton in 1938.

Return along Valance Road and turn right into the park which is our next stop.

Stop 4: Weavers Fields

According to the architectural reference book, Pevsner, this open space was created in the 1970s by the complete destruction of a densely packed area of early 19th century two storey weavers’ cottages.



If you keep walking along the path you will get to a kind of a roundabout. In the middle is an interesting sculpture, called Weaving Identities. It was a commission by Tower Hamlets Council and completed in December 2003.



Here is a link to some more information of the work.


At the artwork do a left turn and head out of the park. There is a big red brick building ahead of you. This is Oxford House and dates from the 1890s.


Oxford House was established in 1884 as a “university settlement house”. Students and graduates from Keble College, Oxford undertook a period of residential volunteering to learn at first hand about the realities of urban poverty. These volunteers lived upstairs in Oxford House which was like a mini Oxford college in the heart of Bethnal Green.

Today Oxford House carries on with providing affordable office space for local groups, an arts centre and volunteering opportunities.

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

This includes information about their plans to develop the building, including renovating the chapel.

Go along the street (Derbyshire Street) ahead of you – with Oxford House on your right. Then when you get back to Bethnal Green Road, turn right and keep going. Pass under the railway bridge and turn left into a little street facing a garden.

Stop 5: Paradise Row

This is a lovely little terrace of houses dating from late 18th and early 19th century set beside a little green.


And here at Number 3 is a local blue plaque.


Daniel Mendoza (1764 – 1836) was an English prizefighter, who was boxing champion of England in 1792–1795. He was of Portuguese-Jewish descent.

In 1981, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (who knew such a thing existed!)

Here is a link to his story on their site:  http://www.jewishsports.net/BioPages/DanielMendoza.htm

Our next stop is just across the main road (Cambridge Heath Road)

Stop 6: V & A Museum of Childhood

This building is an outpost of the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington.



It does look a bit like it was an old tram shed, but actually the building has a much more interesting heritage.

The building we see today dates from 1868 – 1872 but incorporates the iron structure of the first temporary museum erected at South Kensington in the mid 1850s with the proceeds of the 1851 Great Exhibition.

According to Pevsner, as work was beginning on the permanent museum structure, the Government offered the temporary building to any London district capable of, or interested in, taking it. The plan was to split it so as to establish museums in more than one place. But in the end, it came to Bethnal Green – or rather two thirds of it came here. A bit stayed in South Ken but was subsequently demolished in 1906.

At first the Bethnal Green building held the Wallace Collection (now in Manchester Square) and later it had exhibits related to the trades and industries of the East End. It became the V & A Museum of Childhood in 1974.

And if you look down the right hand side by the gardens, you will see these rather lovely panels high up on the walls. These represent the work of man in the arts, sciences, industry and agriculture.


Our next stop is just along Cambridge Heath Road.

Stop 7: Mayfield house, Number 172 Cambridge Heath Road


On the site of this dull block of flats once stood a cinema.

When it opened in December 1912 it was called Museum Cinema, a nod to its neighbour just down the road.

It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1931. Taken over by the Odeon chain in February 1943, it was renamed Odeon Bethnal Green in 1950. After closure in December 1956, the building was demolished and Mayfield House was built on the site.

Our next stop is just next door to Mayfield House.

Stop 8: Town Hall Hotel

This building was the town hall of Bethnal Green Borough Council. The front dates from 1910 but there is a 1930s extension with the interiors in Deco style.


No longer a Town Hall the building was converted to become a boutique hotel in 2010.


Now retrace your steps along Cambridge Heath Road. Our next stop is at the corner by the church.

Stop 9: Bethnal Green Underground station and memorial

The Underground station here opened in 1946 but the building was well advanced before the war and so the station was used as an air raid shelter.

The station is an example of the style adopted by London Transport for new tube stations built under the “New Works Programme 1935 – 1940” . Downstairs the platforms have cream tiles and very so often there is a little special decorative tile showing an image in relief. These seem to have survived the refurbishment of 2007




Back on the surface at the south west corner of the junction (diagonally opposite the church)  is a rather neglected bit of art work in the pavement. according to Pevsner this dates from 2004 and is by A J Bernasconi.


It is described as pavement set lights in glazed segmental curved trenches with embossed images of ‘child friendly’ objects.


Obviously it references the nearby Museum of Childhood. But it is looking sadly neglected.

On the south east corner of the junction is a green. As you go in, there is a monument looming up.



This is the memorial to what is considered to have been the largest single loss of civilian life in the UK in World War Two and the largest loss of life in a single incident on the London Underground network.

On 3 March 1943, people had crowded into the underground station due to an air raid siren at 8:17pm. There was a panic at 8:27pm coinciding with the sound of an anti-aircraft battery being fired at nearby Victoria Park. In the wet, dark conditions the crowd was surging forward towards the shelter when a woman tripped on the stairs, causing many others to fall. Within a few seconds 300 people were crushed into the tiny stairwell, resulting in 173 deaths. The media reported that there had been a direct hit by a German bomb. The results of the official investigation were not released until 1946.

Here is a piece from the BBC about the disaster: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-21645163

A small memorial plaque was put up in the 1990s.  In 2007 the “Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust” was established to create a more fitting memorial to those who died in the disaster. This is only partly complete as there is eventually going to be an actual staircase suspended from the concrete upright. More info at: http://www.stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org/

Go down Roman Road (This runs between the green and the church). you will see ahead on the right a sculptural structure featuring a globe.


This marks the beginning of what is known as Globe Town.  This district began to be built up in the early 1800s to provide for the expanding population of weavers around Bethnal Green attracted by improving prospects in silk weaving. By the 1820s, the silk industry was in decline but the area turned to manufacturing other goods such as furniture, boots and clothing.

Take the left turning at the cross roads by the Globe. This is Globe Road.

Stop 10: East End Dwelling Company buildings, Globe Road

Just a little way along Globe Road, you come into an area which was redeveloped by a private company, the East End Dwellings Company (EEDC) between 1900 and 1906.

This company was incorporated in 1884. One of its founders was the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett, who later with his wife went on to establish Hampstead Garden Suburb which we saw in NW11. They also founded the first University Settlement at Toynbee Hall (near Aldgate) in 1884, which sadly we did not get a chance to see in E1.

The aim of EEDC was to “house the very poor while realising some profit”. Their first development was Katharine Buildings in Aldgate, which was followed by a number of schemes here in Bethnal Green.

First comes Mendip House which dates from 1900.


Then ahead is a series of 5 storey blocks of flats dating from 1901 – 1906.


But the company also built some terraced housing as can be seen on the right hand side of the road. These date from 1906.


Continue along Globe Road and turn right into Cyprus Street. Go along the first part and continue through the modern development. The bit of the street you have come to see is on the other side.

Stop 11: Cyprus Street

According to Pevsner, this street was built in 1850/51 as Wellington Street. Interesting in that the Duke of Wellington died in 1852, by which time he had retired from public life. So one wonders why the street got this name. Maybe it was actually named in 1852. But by 1879 it had been renamed Cyprus Street. No idea why.


Lovely though this street is, what makes it rather interesting is this unusual war memorial, which sits opposite Clyde Place.


During the Great War, unofficial memorials were often set up to local men who had been killed in battle. Such memorials were usually temporary and were later replaced by grander, official ones after the war.

The Cyprus Street plaque was originally paid for by the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged and Demobolised Soldiers and Sailors Benevolent Club; a group who were based at and took their name from a local pub (now closed like so many in this part of the world).

But all is not what it seems, according to this site:


In the 1960s the Cyprus Street memorial was nearly lost for good when the local housing association decided to build a modern block of flats on the site. (I guess that is what we just walked through) During the demolition of the house upon which the memorial was located, the plaque was damaged. The monument was rescued and it (or perhaps a replica) was reinstated further down the street.

At the end of Cyprus Street turn left and then right. Soon you will see the gateway style entrance to the Cranbrook Estate.


Go in and follow the road straight ahead (Mace Street)


Veer towards the left and walk through the estate. As you come past Offenbach House have a look to your right where you get a glimpse of the Shard.


By the way the Cranbrook Estate dates from the first half of the 1960s and was the last of three developments by Skinner, Bailey and Lubetkin for Bethnal Green Borough Council. The latter of course we came across in relation to the privately developed Highpoint flats in Highgate which were built in the 1930s.

Keep walking through the Cranbrook Estate and when you come out the other side you will be back on Roman Road. There is another Globe gateway sculpture here.


If you turn right onto Roman Road you will soon see our final stop, set back off the main road in a fenced off area.

Stop 12: The Blind Beggar and his Dog

This is the Blind Beggar and his Dog by Dame Elizabeth Frink.

Or perhaps as the locals almost certainly would not call it: “All behind Ewan an’ ‘is London Fog” (All Behind = Blind; Ewan McGreggor = Beggar and London Fog = Dog). Well possibly!


You cannot normally get near because it is a private garden but I struck lucky when I was passing. A handyman was working in the area and he let me in the gate, so I could get a bit closer.


So that is the Blind Beggar and his dog we heard about in E1 where there is the pub of that name. Of course as we heard then, the legend of the Blind Beggar actually relates to Bethnal Green.

So that brings us to the end of our E2 walk. Again there was much more than I could possibly cover. In particular I could not include the Boundary Estate an early example of social housing, nor the location of the now closed Club Row market, which specialised in live animals. But we did get to see some interesting street artworks and memorials, not to mention the sites of two cinemas and the outpost of a major national museum.

You are now on Roman Road where you can get buses back to Bethnal Green tube or to Mile End for onward travel.

E1: You either see it or you don’t


E1 is the start of the real East End. It is a challenge as there is so much of interest to see. I have therefore focussed on the area from Whitechapel to Spitalfields, and even then I have had to leave out some things which I would loved to have mentioned.

We start our walk at Whitechapel Post Office, 208A- 210 Whitechapel Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along on the other side of the road.

Stop 1: Former Mann’s Albion Brewery



According to architectural guru Pevsner, a brew house was established here in 1808 by the landlord of the nearby Blind Beggar pub.  In 1818, two Lambeth brewers, Blake and Mann, bought the lease. Philip Blake retired in 1826 leaving John Mann to run the business alone. The Company’s name changed to John Mann, Brewer and in 1843 to Mann and Sons. Mann soon got new partners during the 1840s with Robert Crossman and Thomas Paulin. The company’s name then changed to Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd – as you just about see on this picture.


By the 1950s, five generations of the Mann and Crossman families had been associated with the brewing and “Mann’s Brown Ale” was perhaps their best known product.

In 1959 the company merged with Watney, Combe, Reid and Co. to form Watney, Mann Ltd. Later in 1972 this Company was bought by Grand Metropolitan, who closed the Albion Brewery in 1979. The buildings were converted to flats in the early 1990s.

And just at the corner is the Blind Beggar pub.


There has been an ale house here for a long time possibly back to the late 17th century, although the present building dates from 1894.


The pub’s name references the story of the Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green. According to the legend in the 13th century there was a blind beggar living in Bethnal Green who was in fact Henry de Montfort, eldest son of Simon de Montfort. His identity was revealed at the wedding feast of his daughter Bessie.

A depiction of the beggar had appeared on the head of the staff of the local beadle from 1690. And when the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green was formed in 1900 the borough seal depicted a scene based on The Beggar’s Daughter of Bednall Green. This was a version of the story from a poem in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, published in 1765 but which had been around since the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1865, William Booth preached his first open-air sermon outside the Blind Beggar, which led to the establishment of the East London Christian Mission, later to become the Salvation Army. Although today their headquarters is in Queen Victoria Street in the City and the UK HQ is Newington Causeway SE1, the Salvation Army still has a presence locally. We will pass Booth House as we walk along the main road later.

This pub was also the location of a notorious murder on 9 March 1966 when local villain, Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell, an associate of a rival gang, the Richardsons.

More info on this lovely website: http://www.eastlondonhistory.co.uk/the-blind-beggar-pub/

At this point you could take a short diversion down Sydney Street and right into Ashfield Street

Stop 1a: Number 91 Ashfield Street

Sir Jack Cohen (1898-1979) founder of Tesco Stores, lived at 91 Ashfield Street as a child.


Jack Cohen began with a market stall in 1919. According to the Tesco company website, the Tesco name first appeared in 1924, after Cohen purchased a shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwell and combined those initials with the first two letters of his surname, and the first Tesco store opened in 1929 in Burnt Oak, Barnet. Tesco then went on to become the retail giant we know (and love?) today.


Return up Cavell Street and then left into Whitechapel Road. But if you have not taken the diversion just retrace your steps along Whitechapel Road.

Stop 2: Royal London Hospital

Our next stop is on the left.

The Royal London Hospital was founded in September 1740 initially as The London Infirmary becoming the London Hospital in 1748. The hospital moved to its current location on the south side of Whitechapel Road in 1757. The buildings we see today date from the late 18th and 19th century. The hospital only got its Royal tag following a visit by the Queen in 1990, when the hospital celebrated its 250th anniversary.


The hospital is undergoing a multi million pound rebuild at the moment and so the older buildings facing Whitechapel Road are surrounded by hoardings at present.


But if you look to the left of the main portico you might just spot this blue plaque to Nurse Edith Cavell (1865 – 1915).


She worked here from 1896 until 1901.  She was a nurse in German occupied Belgium in the First World War and helped some 200 Allied soldiers escape. She was arrested and accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad.

Continue walking along Whitechapel Road. Note the great view towards the City.


And also Booth House across the road.


Stop 3: Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Just at the corner of  Fieldgate Street is our next stop, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry – a quite amazing survival.


The foundry was first recorded in Whitechapel in the 15th century and has been on this site since 1738. However Pevsner suggests most of the buildings we see on Whitechapel Road are 19th century. The Foundry made many famous bells including of course Big Ben and the Liberty bell which can be found in Philadelphia.

“Big Ben” by the way weighs 13½ tons and is the largest bell ever cast at the foundry.

The foundry is still making bells – large and small.

The place has a curious old fashioned look about it.


It is like it is in a time warp – except of course for the no smoking sign which drags it back to the 21st century.

Keep walking along Whitechapel Road. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 4: Altab Ali Park



This is the site of the church which gives the area its name. The church here was called St Mary Matfelon. It was at first a chapel of ease – that is a subsidiary church – to St Dunstan’s Stepney. It had a whitewashed exterior and so became known as the White Chapel. The name Matfelon comes from the family who rebuilt the church in the 14th century.

The church was rebuilt a couple of times, most recently in the 1870s. The church was severely damaged by fire in the Blitz and the ruins were finally demolished in 1952. But part of the church outline is traced out in some paving in the garden.


The churchyard became St Mary’s Gardens in 1966 but was renamed Altab Ali Park in 1989 after a Bangladeshi student murdered in 1979.

There is also a monument here in the diagonally opposite corner from where you first started with this park.


This is called the Martyrs Monument and dates from 1999. It is a copy of a monument originally erected in Bangladesh to the memory of 5 students killed in 1952.

Cross over the main road and take the right hand turn called Osborn Street. This is just before the Whitechapel Gallery (which sadly we have not got time to cover)

Stop 5 Brick Lane

Osborn Street becomes Brick Lane. Today this area has been rechristened (if that is the right term!) Banglatown.


The street is a seemingly endless strip of curry houses all vying for trade. Pevsner says this “has much character but little that stands out architecturally”. The street was strongly Jewish in the early 20th century but has since become a centre for Bangladeshi immigrants who settled in the area in large numbers from the 1970s.

Useless fact: The street’s name came from the nearby clay pits used for brickmaking. It was first built up haphazardly during the 17th century and much rebuilt around 1900.

We can take a slight diversion here and keep going along Brick Lane.

Stop 5a: Former Truman Brewery

Ahead is the former Truman Brewery. you cannot really miss it as part of it spans the street.


The brewery was established in this area in the 1660s and was in the ownership of  Joseph Truman in the 1680s. A succession of Truman ran it for the next 100 or so years.

The last Truman to operate the brewery was Benjamin Truman. When he died in 1780, he left most of the brewery to his grandsons, with the rest going to his head clerk James Grant, who took over the running of the brewery. After Grant’s death in 1788, his share was purchased by Sampson Hanbury, who went on to run Truman’s for the next 46 years.

Hanbury brought new levels of professionalism and efficiency, including purchasing the brewery’s first steam engine in 1805. In 1808, Hanbury’s nephew Thomas Fowell Buxton joined the firm, which then became Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Co Ltd.


In 1971 Truman’s became the centre of a bidding war between Grand Metropolitan and Watney Mann, which as we have just heard had a local foothold with its brewery in Whitechapel. Eventually, Grand Metropolitan won. It then pursued and took over Watney Mann whereupon Grand Metropolitan then merged Watney Mann with Truman’s.

Grand Metropolitan made many changes to the company, in particular focussing on keg beer. But the company’s fortunes did not improve and although cask beer was brought back in the 1980s along with the traditional Truman’s eagle logo, the Brick Lane brewery was shut in 1989. Today it is an interesting mix of commercial premises, including some trendy market areas.

If you go under the bridge bit there is a the building on the left with a blue plaque.


This is for Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786 -1845) who was an anti-slavery campaigner in addition to being a key player in the beer business.


Go down Hanbury Street. This will be a left if you have not gone to the Brewery or if you have, retrace your steps down Brick Lane and take a right 

Stop 6: Hanbury Street

Hanbury Street is no doubt named after the brewery family. There are a couple of things to mention on this stretch of Hanbury Street west of Brick Lane, both on the left as you go along the street.

First is Hanbury Hall.



As the blue plaque says this was built in 1719 as a French Huguenot church. Having escaped France which at the time did not tolerate protestants, they had settled in the area and were largely engaged in the silk trade. Later it became a German Lutheran church, then a Baptist and finally a Methodist church. In 1887, the local Church of England parish church, Christ Church, bought the building and made it their church hall.

And it has some other interesting connections. Charles Dickens was a regular visitor in the 1800s using the building for public readings of his works and in 1888 young women working at the local Bryant and May match factory held their strike meetings here as they prepared to protest against working conditions at the factory. This was an important step in establishing trade unions.

And just before the junction with Commercial Street, there is a very red shop with a blue plaque.


This was the birthplace of comedian Bud Flanagan (1896 – 1968).


He was one of the Crazy Gang, a group of British comedians who were popular in the 1930s and 1940s , The members were: Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold and sometimes ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray. Essentially the gang comprised three double acts; Flanagan and Allen, Naughton and Gold, and Nervo and Knox (with some input from Gray). They had all had success before the Crazy Gang but not of the same magnitude.

Flanagan also wrote the song “Underneath the Arches” which in effect became Flanagan and Allen’s theme song,

At the end of Hanbury Street turn right into Commercial Street. Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 7: Spitalfields Market

According to the City of London Corporation website,  Spitalfields is one of the City’s younger markets, starting life as a thirteenth century market in a field next to St Mary Spital on the edge of the Square Mile. It explains:

“In 1682, King Charles II granted John Balch, a silk thrower, a Royal Charter that gave him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spital Square. For the next 200 years, the market traded from a collection of sheds and stalls, doing its best to cope with London’s growing appetite for fresh fruit and vegetables. As time went by, it became a centre for the sale of home-grown produce, which was being traded there six days a week.

By 1876, a former market porter called Robert Horner bought a short lease on the market and started work on a new market building, which was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000. In 1920, the City of London acquired direct control of the market, extending the original buildings some eight years later.”


And here is a detail from over the doorway which refers to Robert Horner and so predates the City Corporation’s ownership.


Not sure which Queen Victoria Jubilee this would be, Is it the 50th (Golden) which would have been 1887 or perhaps the 60th (Diamond) which was 1897?

The wholesale market moved out to purpose built premises in Leyton in 1991. And for a while it was not clear what would happen.

In the end around two-thirds of the historic market was kept and rebuilt to include restaurants, shops and a large indoor arts and crafts market.


But the 1920s market extension to the west was replaced by a Norman Foster designed office block. Pevsner says “The baleful  effect of this cannot be overemphasised and marks the continued, and doubtless irresistible, empire building of the City of London over the domestic and social needs of the East End.” Quite.

If you have ventured in to the market come back out. Our next stop is on Commercial Street on the diagonally opposite corner to the old market building.

Stop 8: Christ Church, Spitalfields

Christ Church Spitalfields is the Nicholas Hawksmoor masterpiece, started in 1715 and consecrated in 1729. It was built in part to demonstrate the power of the established church to the dissenting Huguenots, who had established a number of their own chapels in the area.


The church has gone through some hard times, having been closed as unsafe in 1958. In 1966 the crypt was restored and then starting in 1976 a major restoration was undertaken. It is a wonderful space, well worth a visit. It is open most days. It is also used for concerts, events and functions.

Now take the street to the left of the main market building. This is Brushfield Street, The site immediately on the left (south) side of Brushfield Street is currently being rebuilt. Only the facade of the old building remains. This was the Fruit and Wool Exchange building of 1926.


Stop 9: Brushfield Street

Just after this building site is a run of interesting old buildings on your left, some are facsimiles (numbers 8 – 10 near Bishopsgate were rebuilt after a fire in 1983)


Numbers 40 – 42 and 14 – 16 are genuine 18th century. Number 40 is Verde and Company.


This is a lovely little shop which does great sandwiches and salads plus some luxurious food items. You often see oranges on display.


Well this seems to be a little nod to the author Jeanette Winterson who owns the building.

In an article in the Guardian in June 2010 she said:

“My house had been the offices of an oranges importer – which seemed auspicious, as my first novel was Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Then I found out that the business had been called JW Fruits – so I had to buy it, didn’t I?”

A coffee chain wanted to rent the premises but she explained:

“It never occurred to me open a food shop. The coffee offer forced me to focus on what I would really like to happen, instead of either doing nothing or passively accepting what someone else would like to happen – so it was a pretty good life lesson, too.”

So she went into partnership with an american called Harvey Cabaniss to create the shop and I think he is still at front of house. By the way, the name Verde comes from a 1930s sign that was on the facade.

Here is a link to the full article in the Guardian:


Now on the right you will see a branch of Patisserie Valerie. Go into the pedestrianised area here keeping Patisserie Valerie on your right. The Foster buildings (so hated by Pevsner) are on your left.

Just ahead you will see a little area of water and beyond that is a rectangular hole in the ground. There is a lift here or else go down the steps at the far end of the hole.

Stop 10: The Charnal House


This is what’s left of the Charnel House of St Mary Spital (although the sculpture is modern).

There was a Roman cemetery hereabouts but in 1197 the site of this cemetery became a priory called The New Hospital of St Mary without Bishopsgate. This became known as St Mary Spital – hence the land nearby was Spital Fields. This religious foundation was one of the biggest hospitals in medieval England and there was also a cemetery which included a stone charnel house (used to store bones) and mortuary chapel.

There are these lovely information panels. They are rather attractive but almost impossible to read especially if it is sunny.


The Charnel House was uncovered when the area was redeveloped in the early 2000s.

Keep going straight ahead. You are now in Spital Square, which is no longer a square since redevelopment. At the end take a left into Folgate Street

Stop 11: Dennis Severs’ House, Number 18 Folgate Street

Just here in a terrace of houses dating from 1724 is a fascinating place, a visitor experience like no other.


This was the creation of one man, an American called Dennis Severs (1948 – 1999). There are ten rooms all furnished in period and are arranged as if they are in use and the occupants have only just left. So there is half-eaten bread, discarded clothes and wigs, and smells and background sounds. But no wax models of people. Severs called this “still life drama”.  You go round in your own time in silence. Highly recommended!


The motto of the house is: “You either see it or you don’t”. And in a way that is the watchword of this whole walk, be it the stones that trace the outline of the church on the site of the White Chapel, the sign giving a clue to the developer of Spitalfields Market, a basket of oranges or the little reminder of an artist’s work which we shall see at the next stop.

Now go along Folgate Street and take the next left into Elder Street. Our next stop is just on the left hand side of the street.

Stop 12: Number 32, Elder Street

This house was lived in by artist Mark Gertler (1891 – 1939).


Here is the Blue Plaque


And in addition there is this lovely little roundel in the pavement which shows a little extract of one of his famous paintings: “Merry-Go-Round”


“Merry-Go-Round” dates from 1916, when he was 24 years old. It depicts men and women (many in uniform) on a merry-go-round fairground ride.

We are now at the end of our E1 walk. There was far more to see than I could possibly cover, but hopefully I have shown you a good slice of this intriguing part of London.

For onward travel return to Folgate Street, turn right and at the end is Bishopsgate with lots of buses and just down the road is Liverpool Street station.

N22: On (the) Cheap Side


N22 is Wood Green and is the last of the N post codes.

We start our walk at the main Post Office in Wood Green which is tucked away in an arcade within the Library building at 191 High Road.


The Library is in fact our first stop.

Stop 1: Wood Green Library


This building dates from the 1970s and is built on disused railway land (more of which anon). Pevsner describes this as “a dignified composition, distinguished by the use of pale buff ceramic facing tiles instead of the deep red brick of the surrounding buildings.” Well maybe it has changed since Pevsner wrote that but there is not too much in the way of buff tiles and the brick looks more brown than red.

Inside is a weird mix – an arcade mainly taken up by the Post Office and the Co-operative Bank, plus the library and a random selection of market stalls.


Just by the door, there is a plaque commemorating its opening in March 1979.


As you leave the Library complex and head to the High Road do look at the sign by the space on the left as you face the road.


And sometimes one can see someone using the space …


This seems to be a continuance of an old local tradition as we shall see shortly.

Turn left and go along the main road for a short distance. Our next stop is on the left in a parade of shops.

Stop 2: Former Gaumont Palace cinema


The cinema here was opened in March 1934 as the Gaumont Palace. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the main feature of the decoration within the auditorium was the large semi-circular proscenium opening which resembled a similar one in the Titania Palast Kino in Berlin, Germany. There was a large stage 30 feet deep and 80 feet wide, a fully equipped fly tower and eight dressing rooms.It also had a cafe which later became a dance studio.

It became the Gaumont Theatre from 1954 and was renamed Odeon from September 1962. It was tripled in December 1973 but finally closed as a cinema in January 1984.

The auditorium was returned to a single space to become a Bingo Club. This survived until 1996. Then after some three years laying empty, the auditorium was converted into a church, whilst the former cafe became a nightclub. And that seems to be the use today. The church is called the Dominion Centre and the night club is called Olympus (or as they rather perversely spell it “Olympvs” – to make it look Latin I guess, But why?).

Now look over the main road.

Stop 3: Vue Cinema and Spouters’ Corner

Today this site houses a leisure complex complete with multiscreen cinema and a Wetherspoons pub.



But in fact there was an early cinema on this site. The Cinematograph Theatre opened in 1911. There was a market hall on the ground floor of the building, with the cinema located upstairs on the first floor. It later became the Market Cinema, and was closed around 1919. It then began use as a warehouse. By the 1960s, it was in use as an independent bingo club, and a dance studio also operated from the building. These lasted until the mid 1990s.

This corner site was purchased in 1998 by an Australian cinema company, Hoyts, to build a new 6-screen cinema. The whole block including former cinema building was demolished. But Hoyts backed out of exhibiting in the UK and the building stood empty for a couple of years until it was fitted out and opened by Showcase Cinemas in September 2001. Today this operates as Vue cinemas.

But why is the Wetherspoons pub called “Spouters’ Corner”? Well the pub’s website has this to say:

“Spouters’ Corner has been accustomed to comings and goings for a very long time. The leisure complex occupies an open-air meeting place, hence its name, which was partly occupied by the blacksmith’s forge established by George Chesser in 1770. Chesser’s smithy served the passing trade on High Road and operated on this site into the 1920s.”

So it was a kind of Speakers’ Corner, though not quite sure how relevant it being a blacksmiths is to the story. Interesting that Haringey Council have kept the tradition by making space for “spouters” outside the nearby library as we saw just now.

Our next stop is just up the way across the road on the other corner of the junction.

Stop 4: Wood Green tube station

Here we have another station on the 1930s Piccadilly line extension.


Like the others we saw at Arnos Grove and Southgate, this station is by Charles Holden, but it does not have the same presence in the street scene as they do. In fact it looks a bit dull.

But inside in the ticket hall and at platform level there are these rather nice grilles with sort of country scenes.


Like all the new underground stations on this extension, they have cream tiles but with a different colour picked out on the edging. But whilst the others stations have a solid colour, Wood Green is different as its colour (green) is alternated with cream.

Continue walking up the hill and past the bus garage. Beyond the church, you will come to the next stop on your left.

Stop 5: Civic Centre



Here we have the main centre of administration for Haringey Council, built in the late 1950s as the Civic Centre for Wood Green Borough Council, one of Haringey’s predecessor authorities. According to architectural bible Pevsner, this was built on the site of the Fishmongers and Poulterers Almshouses.

Now cross over the High Road and retrace your steps back towards the tube station. You will see a green on your left – our next stop.

Stop 6: King George VI Memorial Garden

This little bit of greenery looks like a little sad – a patch of green you walk across which is not quite a park and not really a garden.


But if you look carefully as you head towards the far end (ie the tube station end) you will see a little plaque which explains a bit of the history.


This “garden” was provided by public subscription in 1952 as “a memorial to His Late Majesty, King George VI”.

This is quite unusual, as at this time most people were thinking in terms of celebrating the new Queen and her coronation which was in 1953.

Go down the hill and just past the station turn left down Lordship Lane. Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 7: Mecca Bingo

There is not much to see here but the site of this modern bingo hall has an interesting place in TV history.


From the 1920s to the early 1980s, this was the site of a bus depot, latterly operated by the Eastern National Omnibus Company. This was the starting point of the Eastern National routes to Southend and Westcliff. The building and forecourt were used for the outside scenes in the 1970s TV series On the Buses. When these routes ceased in the early 1980s and the site was redeveloped as a DIY store ‘Do-it-all’. Then in the 1990s this was converted into the Bingo Hall.

And if you look at the other corner of the road to the car park, there is a little clue to the previous use of this site.



I wonder if the residents of Omnibus House know why it has this name.

Keep going along Lordship Lane and look at for the nondescript house at Number 601 (I have to confess I walked straight past without noticing it because I was expecting something a little more imposing!)

Stop 8: Wood Green Animal Shelter, 601 Lordship Lane


A woman called Louisa Snow first opened an Animal Shelter here in 1924 to help abandoned and injured animals found on the streets of London. In 1933 Dr. Margaret Young took over and changed the focus of its work to rescuing and rehoming unwanted animals. The charity bought an old farm in Hertfordshire in the 1950s  to cope with the increasing numbers of animals being presented to them. Then in 1987 another site was acquired in Godmanchester. That is now the headquarters but this London site continues to be used.

The Charity’s 2014/15 annual report says it helped 5,270 through its rehoming centres. This is just under two thirds the number handled by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home – in 2014, Battersea cared for over 8,000 animals (including 5,034 dogs and 3,401 cats). But obviously Wood Green does not have the profile – nor the very visible site – that Battersea has.

Retrace your steps along Lordship Lane and turn left when you get to the High Road (where you have the Vue cinema complex on your left and the tube station on your right). Our next stop is straight ahead straddling the High Road.

Stop 9: The Mall



The centre was built on the site of the former Noel Park and Wood Green railway station and the river Moselle passes under the centre in a culvert. 

Noel Park and Wood Green was a station on the Palace Gates Line which was a branch line of the Great Eastern Railway. The line ran from Seven Sisters to a station called Palace Gates (Wood Green) which was built to serve Alexandra Palace.

The station which was opened in January 1878 was located on the eastern side of the High Road adjacent to Pelham Road. As it was a rather indirect route to get into central London, it is hardly surprising that the arrival of the tube here in the 1930s really did for it. The line closed to passengers in January 1963 and to freight in December 1964. Following closure, the embankment on which the station sat and the bridge over the High Road were removed. Today nothing is left of the station.

Eventually the site was redeveloped to create Wood Green Shopping City which was opened on 13 May 1981 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The shopping centre straddles the main road so many of the stores have entrances directly onto the street. The two halves of the mall are linked by bridges at first and second floor level.


At first it had a Department store as an anchor. Initially this was D H Evans (owned by House of Fraser) but that closed in 1995. Later it had for a time a department store belonging to Pearsons whose main shop was in Enfield. That is still trading in Enfield but now owned by Morleys.

The centre was bought by current owners The Mall Company in 2002 and renamed “The Mall Wood Green”. The new owners carried out a rebuilding programme, altering the layout of the shops, adding a 12 screen cinema and expanding the market hall. There was talk of Debenhams moving in but they ended up with Primark, Part of the Primark site was previously been occupied by Pearsons. This is very much a shopping centre at the budget end of the market as other stores in the mall include TK Maxx, Wilkinsons and Lidl. It does seem to be thriving with almost all the shops units occupied, even if this is not in the Westfield league.

By the way do not go in just yet, we will be coming back this way and will be going through The Mall.

So keep walking along the High Road.

Stop 10: Cheapside (and former Empire theatre)

Just past the modern development of the mall you get back to the Edwardian shopping street. And on our left is a parade of shops which is called “Cheapside Wood Green”


Cheapside is a street name which pops up in many old towns in England and there is of course one in the City of London. According to Wikipedia, it means “market place” and is from Old English ceapan, “to buy” (compare also: German kaufen, Dutch kopen, Swedish köpa). There was originally no connection to the modern meaning of cheap. But cheap could be seen as a shortening of “good ceap” meaning “good buy” in other words “low price”).

The middle section of this building is occupied by the Halifax.


And the left hand part of the Halifax premises as you look from the street was in fact the entrance to a theatre – the Wood Green Empire.

Built in 1912, it was one of Sir Oswald Stoll’s theatres, designed by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham. It operated as a theatre until 1955 when it was converted for use by one of the new commercial television companies, ATV, which was at the time owned by Stoll Moss. Morecambe and Wise did some of their early TV shows from here. Finally closing in 1962, the theatre was demolished and replaced by a multi story car park. Only the street frontage remained.

More info on the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site:  http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/WoodGreenEmpire.htm

It is interesting to see from the photos on that site how the facade has been changed. Only the third floor windows and the lower part of the roof seem to have survived from the original entrance to the theatre.

Continue walking along the High Road

Stop 11: former Marks and Spencer store (and site of Palladium cinema)


This was until September 2015, a branch of Marks and Spencer, but previously had been the site of a cinema.

The Picture Palladium was opened in 1913. The cinema closed in 1915, possibly because of the War. It was reopened around 1920. At some point it was renamed as the Palladium Cinema and it finally shut for good at the end of 1937. And it was then that a branch of Marks & Spencer stores was built on the site.


It has just reopened as a factory outlet shop. This kind of sums up how Wood Green is headed as a shopping area


Now retrace your steps back to the Mall and go in.


Just past Primark, there is a market hall.


Go through that and out to the the rear exit. Turn right into Mayes Road and then turn left into Coburg Road. Our next stop is down here in this industrial area.

Stop 12: Wood Green Cultural Quarter (yes really!)

IMG_6591 (this by the way is taken looking back towards the Mall – whose sign you can just see)

Go down Coburg Road through what looks like an unpromising industrial estate and soon you will see why this is called “Wood Green Cultural Quarter”

At the corner of Clarenden Road is one of the buildings of the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.


Mountview began in 1945 as “The Mountview Theatre Club”, an amateur repertory company staging a new production for a six day run every second week. It started part time courses in acting and theatrical skills in 1958 and ran full time courses from 1969. It has had various well known presidents, Dame Margaret Rutherford, Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Mills – Dame Judi Dench has been president since 2005.


And then as you turn the corner you see some other buildings occupied by Mountview plus something called the Chocolate Factory, which is home to various artistic endeavours.


It turns out this site was from the 1880s onwards the location of Bassetts sweet factory. It is a bit confusing calling this the Chocolate Factory given the existence of the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark Street. And perhaps more importantly the fact that the most famous product of Bassetts is probably Licorice All Sorts which are not chocolate at all.

We have reached the end of the N22 walk. Wood Green has quite a large shopping centre but one which I have to say is rather on the cheap side. So rather fitting there is actually a parade of shops called Cheapside. But there was lots of other interest with Spouters’ Corner, some old cinema sites, the TV connections of On the Buses and the use of the old Empire theatre by ATV. And the finale was finding the cultural quarter!

From here you can retrace your steps back to Wood Green for many buses and of course the tube. But if you are adventurous, you can go back to Mayes Road and turn left and head towards Alexandra Palace station

N21: Even dragons have their endings


N21 is Winchmore Hill. This is the furthest north of the North London postcodes and it does seem curious that this area has a London postcode. Equivalent areas this far out in other parts of London do not. But quirkily there is a bit of an E postcode which actually goes further north than N21, but that is another story.

We start our walk at Winchmore Hill Post Office which is Number 822, Green Lanes. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is ahead just as the main road bends to the right.

Stop 1: Former Green Dragon pub

Here we have another pub that has not made it through these difficult times.


There has been a Green Dragon pub in Winchmore Hill for a long time – the 18th century, possibly as far back as the 1720s. The original pub was a bit further up the road at the junction of Green Dragon Lane. According to Wikipedia, it is said that a highwayman was caught and executed on a gallows erected by the Green Dragon’s front entrance. These gallows were not pulled down for a number of years, which might have prompted the owner to move the pub near the end of the 18th century to its current location at the bottom of Vicars Moor Lane .

The building we see today was extensively remodelled in 1935. But it closed as a public house in 2015. It is some kind of discount shop at the moment but it seems it is destined to become a Waitrose in the near future.

But I guess even when this becomes a Waitrose, there will still this little reminder of the former pub.


As J R R Tolkein says in the Hobbit: “So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.”

This quote is kind of fitting in the context of pubs. They seem so much part of the scene and yet many are slipping away almost without anyone being able to stop them going.

Go along Vicars Moor Lane. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 2: Number 59 Vicars Moor Lane

This ordinary looking house has an Enfield plaque to Thomas Hood (1799 – 1845) who was an English author and humourist.


He is known for poems such as “The Bridge of Sighs” and “The Song of the Shirt”. I rather liked this verse of his:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds –

Hood wrote regularly for periodicals such as The London Magazine and Punch. He later published a magazine called “Hood’s Magazine and Comic Miscellany” which  largely consisted of his own works, apparently.

And here is the actual plaque.


Continue to the end of Vicars Moor Lane (quite a walk). Turn left into Wades Hill. Our next stop is at the end of this street by the mini roundabout on the right.

Stop 3: The King’s Head


This building dates from 1899 and is described by architectural historian Pevsner as “bold and jolly”. But here’s a curious thing. Look up and you see this on one of the chimneys.


Curious because this building is not actually by the station or even the railway line.

Go around the pub turning right and going along this road (which is The Green and becomes Church Hill).

Stop 4: A Bench

Now keep a look out for a bench on the right hand side. As I have said before, I do like to look at those little inscriptions you get on benches. They often give you lovely insights, but often frustratingly do not give you quite enough information.


Take this one. It was placed by the Southgate Women Burgesses Association and is in “affectionate remembrance of their founder member and president Mrs M M Fairchild.”

How fascinating that there was a “Southgate Women Burgesses Association”. A Burgess was originally a freeman of a borough but later it came to include any elected or unelected official of a borough. Southgate Borough Council existed for just 32 years (1933 – 1965) and had a mayor, seven aldermen and twenty-one councillors. So the Southgate Women Burgesses Association must have been a fairly exclusive club as there cannot have been many women in this group.

But what is frustrating is that there is no date on the plaque to pin this down. Nor does an internet search yield any information. The Association probably does not still exist and even if it did, they probably have not got around to using the internet.

Keep walking along Church Hill and our next stop is on the right.

Stop 5: Friends Meeting House

Here is a lovely example of an old Friends’ Meeting House. This Quaker establishment dates from 1688 but this building comes from a century later – 1790.


And if you go to the left there is a graveyard. Immediately as you go in your right you will see a series of graves for the Hoares. Note in particular the one for Samuel Hoare.


Samuel Hoare Junior (1751 – 1825) was a wealthy banker born in Stoke Newington. His London home was for many years Heath House on Hampstead Heath, which we passed without comment in NW3 – it is just near Jack Straw’s Castle. He was one of the twelve founding members of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

In 1772 he became a junior partner in the bank of Bland and Barnett. This became Barnett, Hoare & Co. They were the London agent of the Birmingham based Lloyds Bank. The bank traded in Lombard Street under the sign of the black horse. Lloyds Bank formally took over the company in 1884 and in doing so Lloyds adopted the black horse sign which continues in use as the Lloyds logo.

However this is a separate line of Hoares from the ones associated with the bank C Hoare and Co, which was founded in 1672 by Sir Richard Hoare. That is still trading. It remains family owned and is currently managed by the 11th generation of Hoare’s direct descendants.

Keep going past the house and you will see a seat and a solitary grave stone just by it.


This is the grave of Luke Howard and his wife (or rather as the stone has it – Mariabella Howard and her husband, Luke). We came across him in Bruce Grove, N17 where there is a blue plaque which delightfully describes him as “The Namer of Clouds”.

Continue on Church Hill.

Stop 6: Hill House gateway

Keep walking along and on your right you will see a development of town houses called Hill House Close.


But just before there is this little curiosity.


A little reminder that there must have been somewhere called Hill House just here and it had gates. But why go to the trouble of putting a little plaque here to tell us this was the gatepost of Hill House. I can find no information about Hill House.

Our next stop is just over the road on the left.

Stop 7: St Paul’s Church

This church dates from the 1820s and is described by Pevsner as “A cheap Church of the Commissioners type”. It was built on a site given by Walker Gray of Grovelands – which is the big house down the road (which we saw in Southgate, N14).


Retrace your steps along Church Hill. At The Green after the Kings Head, keep on following the shops on the left. Ahead is Station Road and our next stop.

Stop 8: Winchmore Hill Station

Here we have the station which opened in 1871 and which was built by the Great Northern Railway.


If you venture in, you will again see staircases denuded of cover. Seems to be a pattern in this part of London.


And the platforms have rather dull looking replacement canopies



But I guess at least this station does have proper canopies on both platforms.

The arrival of the railway in the 1870s does not seem to have created a building boom immediately. It seems to have taken a while for Winchmore Hill to start being developed as a suburb and I guess it was as much the arrival of electric trams in 1907 on Green Lanes which really made development inevitable.

Keep walking along Station Road and our next stop is almost at the end on the left.

Stop 9: Number 16 Station Road

This was the home of Henrietta Cresswell (1855 – 1931) She was a writer and artist who lived here 1893 – 1899.


There is a green plaque erected by the Southgate District Civic Society.


Her claim to fame is that she wrote a book called “Winchmore Hill: Memories of a Lost Village”.

She opens her book as follows:

“My father, John Cresswell, was a general practitioner at Winchmore Hill for fifty years, from 1842 till his death on November 9th, 1892. When he came he was a young man of 24, and he only slept away from home twice or thrice for a single night in more than forty years. There can only be a few people now who remember “The Old Doctor,” but there was a time when he brought nearly every new inhabitant into the village, and saw most of the old ones out.
In his time the somewhat primitive village developed into a considerable suburb, and in the fifteen years since his passing away it has become a modern wilderness of bricks and mortar, and has been “improved” nearly out of existence.
His sketch book was always in his hand and his drawing minutely accurate in detail. I hope some of the many dwellers in the new village may be interested in his sketches of the old, now passed away into “The Land of Long Ago.” I have attempted in a few chapters of word painting to give some idea of how we lived in Winchmore Hill in those days. I have made my sketches as true as I was able, and have done my best not to be too egotistical.
If I have failed in this I crave forgiveness.
Dumfries, 1907.”
So this is a snapshot in time of a lost world. I wonder what she would have made of how Winchmore Hill looks today. The change from country village to suburbia was not quite complete when she wrote her book. But has really changed is, the way people live.
And you can buy this slim volume today through Amazon believe it or not.
If you look on Amazon, you will see one 5 star  review from August 2015 which reads:
“beautiful book, lovely writing. Amazon…………pay your taxes in the UK! “

Continue along Station Road to the end. Our next stop is ahead of you on the main road (Green Lanes).

Stop 10: Capitol House

Here we have a boxy dull looking office block called Capitol House and only its name belies what once stood on this site.



This was the site of the Capitol Cinema. Designed in Art Deco style by the prolific cinema architect, Robert Cromie, the cinema opened on 29 December 1929. It was taken over in December 1930 by ABC Cinemas, which ran it until its closure in December 1959. It was demolished the following year and replaced by this office block.

It must have looked strange to have a large cinema here. It seems to have been the only one in the immediate area and it is hardly surprising it did not make it through the 1950s. And no doubt the area was not deemed to be a promising location for a bingo hall, so it was worth more as a commercial building plot.

Unlike Barnet House in N20, this 1960s building is not so large and so out of keeping with its surroundings. But I think an old cinema building would be a nicer addition to the street scene.

We are now nearly back where we started. Winchmore Hill does not have a great deal to offer in the way of sights but it is a nice enough area with its lovely village setting to the west of the railway – although to the east it does seem to be rather dull suburbia.

For onward travel return to Winchmore Hill station or else there are various buses on Green Lane.

N20: Good Neighbours?


N20 is Whetstone – and Totteridge, although Totteridge and Whetstone seems to roll off the tongue better, maybe because that is the name of the station. They are neighbours for ever associated with each other but oh so different as we shall see.

We start our walk at Whetstone Post Office, which is at 1293 High Road. Our first stop is across the road.

Stop 1: former Green Man pub

We are used to see former pubs being reused for other purposes, usually this is a small supermarket or apartments. But here is a really unusual reuse, as a tyre and exhaust replacement workshop. Clearly a small business, it has even taken its name from the old pub.


And if you look up you can see the building dates from 1890.


I guess the publican who moved into the new building in 1890 might be shocked to discover what the building was being used for 125 years later.

Continue walking along the main road towards the road junction with traffic lights. Our next stop is by this junction on the left.

Stop 2: The Griffin

Whetstone is on the old Great North Road and was an important stopping point for stage coaches on their journeys to and from the North. Many of these staging posts became pubs. I think there could have been at least five pubs in the centre of Whetstone, but today only one survives – the Griffin.

There has been an inn on the site of the present Griffin pub for centuries, though the present building dates from 1928.


Now note the Pizza Express to the left of the pub. This is at 1264 High Road and according to the architectural bible, Pevsner, behind the brick frontage, there is a rare survival of a late medieval timber framed rear wing.

Continue along the main road and take a right at the junction into Oakleigh Road North. Continue along this until you see a road veering off to the left (which confusingly is called Oakleigh Park North). Ahead you will see our next stop at this corner.

Stop 3: Christ Church

This is a United Reformed Church. This is part of a protestant Christian denomination formed in 1972 by a merger of English Presbyterians and English and Welsh Congregationalists.


On the side is a sign which proudly proclaims “225 years 1788 – 2013”


But of course this building is nowhere near that old, as can be seen from the foundation stone at the end of the building.


Pevsner describes this building as “An odd specimen of its date and of the fanciful leanings of the Congregationalists about 1900”. But I have not been able to find out why there is this 225 year old claim as there does not seem to be an operational church website or other information coming up when I search.

Go down the road to the left of the Church (Oakleigh Park North). Our next stop is a little way along as the road bends

Stop 4: Numbers 13 and 17 Oakleigh Park North

There is an intriguing story attached to the buildings which used stand hereabouts. It appears that in the years during and immediately after the Second World War, this was a centre for spying.

Here is a link to a 2001 report from a local newspaper, which is has the headline “Neighbours from Hell?”


The gist of the story is that the Barnet & Potters Bar Times had reported the week before that the Soviet news agency, Tass, had a radio monitoring station in Whetstone from 1941. It was used to spy on the British until 1951, yet apparently no-one seemed to know exactly where it was.

The newspaper was then inundated with calls saying that the base was in Oakleigh Park North. Three sites along that road have repeatedly been named, which suggests that there could have been more than one base where intelligence was gathered.

Then local historian, John Heathfield unearthed a copy of the Barnet Press from 13 October 1951.

Under the headline, ‘Britain Silences Russia’s Listening Post in Friern Barnet’, it reads: “The radio monitoring station of Tass, the official Soviet news agency housed in The Lodge, 13 Oakleigh Park North, closed down by Foreign Office request on Sunday, not two years after Friern Barnet Council had tried unsuccessfully to have it shut on planning grounds.” The report continued: “The Lodge, a solidly-built double-fronted house standing in large grounds is surrounded by an extensive network of aerials and cables.”

The newspaper said many callers and residents in Oakleigh Park North believed that the Tass base was in Tower House, a four-storey mansion which stood at 17 Oakleigh Park North, until the mid 1990s when it was demolished and replaced by a block of flats called Greenleaf Court.

But it went on to report Emil Bryden, whose family lived across the road from Tower House from 1955, said that it was owned by the Admiralty and used by the British secret services as a safe house. He thought that people may have been confused because the British base at number 17 also had aerials and receiving equipment. Mr Bryden went on to say the Soviet base was at number 13 and had been owned by the Russians since before the Communist revolution in 1917.

Neither building still stands, so here are a couple of pictures of what is there now.

This is Greenleaf Court.


And Number 13 now seems to have at least three houses on the site. Here is a view.


The 2001 newspaper report mentions that it could also have been Number 5.

Who knows! But what I am not sure about is why the 2001 newspaper report thought this spying activity amounted to “neighbours from hell”. Surely they were too busy listening to make much of a nuisance of themselves.

Now retrace your steps back to the main road. Ahead you cannot fail to see a twelve story tower block which is totally out of keeping with the area.

Stop 5: Barnet House

This is called Barnet House. It dates from 1966 and was designed by none other than Richard Seifert & Partners. It is occupied by Barnet Council.


It seems incredible now that in the 1960s a building like this was allowed in a small scale suburban village.

Take a right at the main road and then a left (which is Totteridge Lane). Our next stop is a little way along at the corner of  Birley Road.

Stop 6: Number 35 Totteridge Lane

There are no blue plaques in N20 so far as I could establish, but there is a Barnet Council one on this house.


And here is the plaque. It is to a golfer who I have never heard of who lived here from 1903 to 1937.


Harry Vardon (1870 – 1937) was a professional golfer originally from Jersey. Vardon won The Open Championship (one of the major Golf contests) a record six times.. He had great rivalries with two other golfers James Braid and J H Taylor, who each won five Open Championships. Between them, they dominated the world of golf from the mid 1890s to the mid 1910s.

Seems quite a modest house, and it is not next to a golf course!

Continue walking along Totteridge Lane. Our next stop is just a bit further on the right.

Stop 7: Totteridge and Whetstone station

This station dates from 1872 but only became an Underground station in 194o when the Northern line took over the line to Barnet

It has a modest street level building- half of which seems to be an estate agents.


And if you go down into the station, there is an odd arrangement on the platforms with the canopies on both platforms in two separate sections.


Also noticeable are the stairways. here they still have roofs, unlike the series of stations we saw in Tottenham and Stoke Newington. This is an indication of how much better London Underground has looked after its stations compared to British Rail and its successors.


Useless fact! Totteridge & Whetstone has one of the longest station name on the Underground, with 20 characters (including an ampersand). High Street Kensington also has 20 characters as has Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3, but the latter used to be longer as at one time it was known as Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 & 3. Maybe it will get its crown back at some point in the future, if Terminal 1 returns.

This is the sort of trivia fellow guide Ian Swankie comes up with. He loves to pose these kind of questions – such as what Underground station name contains all the vowels (a, e, i, o and u)? I will give you the answer at the end – there are actually two stations that fit the bill.

Continue along Totteridge Lane. At this point you might wish to hop on a 251 bus for 3 stops to Totteridge Green.

As you come along Totteridge Lane you will see a large green on your left (this is Totteridge Green). And our next stop is at the corner just before the Orange Tree pub. If you have come on the bus. you will get off beside the Green.

Stop 8: Totteridge Green

It is hard to believe you are still in a London post code area; it is so countrified. Pevsner says that the survival of the rural setting (of Totteridge) is due to the Green Belt and to the efforts of the Totteridge Preservation Society before the Second World War and the Totteridge Manor Association, formed in 1955, which took over the management of the surrounding common and woodland.

And there are signs which on one side say “Manor of Totteridge”, like this one here on Totteridge Green.


And on the reverse have a set of byelaws. Very English.


Now head towards the school building ahead. This is St Andrews School rebuilt in 1938 in what Pevsner calls “a demure domestic style” and later extended. It was built by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners who are apparently better known for their factories.

Just before the school, there is a path heading alongside the green. Take this and keep on crossing the grass before reaching a side road. Just a little way ahead is our next stop.

Stop 9 Green Lodge


This picturesque late 19th century gothic style house was a former lodge for a large house known as Copped Hall. The hall was demolished in 1928. This was a major house with extensive grounds which were possibly landscaped by Humphry Repton, one of the great landscape gardeners of the late 18th century. A lake survives, as part of a nature reserve but it is bit far to walk.

But the interesting connection with Copped Hall is that it was the birthplace of Cardinal Manning (1808 – 1893). This was his grandfather’s house, and he spent his boyhood elsewhere. Although he became Archbishop of Westminster and a cardinal, he did not start off as a Roman Catholic.

He was originally ordained in the Church of England, rising to become Archdeacon of Chichester, a post he held from 1841 to 1851. Manning was received into the Catholic Church in 1851 after he and a number of prominent Anglican clergy objected to a Court ruling that the church had to appoint a priest called Gorham. He had been refused an appointment because he held unorthodox (for High Church followers) views on baptism. Gorham had appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This was somewhat controversial as it meant a secular court was deciding on the doctrine of the Church of England.

Soon after converting, Manning was ordained a Catholic priest and in 1865 he was appointed Archbishop of Westminster. Among his accomplishments as head of the Catholic Church in England were the acquisition of the site for Westminster Cathedral and expansion of Roman Catholic education.

Just a little further on from here was the residence of the architect T E Collcutt, of whom we will hear more later.

Retrace your steps to the main road and turn left. Go past the rather lovely Orange Tree pub, which by the way appears to be the only commercial building in the whole of the village.


Just as the road bends on the opposite side from the pub you will see the village church, our final stop.

Stop 10: St Andrew’s Church and churchyard

This church building dates from 1790 although there has been a church here for much longer.


The church is often open – or at least the entrance porch is and you can look through the glass doors at this lovely little church.


The churchyard has some interest. Immediately behind the church is the tomb of Peter Meyer (died 1727) .


He was born in Hamburg and was a major City of London merchant in the West Indies trade as well as being a merchant banker and co-owner of the leading London international trade firm Meyer & Berenberg. He had an estate here in Totteridge called  Poynter’s Grove, but like Copped Hall the house was demolished in the 1920s.

Go into the Churchyard extension. Towards the end of the main path, you will find on the left the Collcutt family plot.



Thomas Edward Collcutt was an important architect in the late Victorian period. He was responsible for the Lloyds Register of Shipping building in Fenchurch Street (1899) as well as the Palace Theatre (1889) and the Wigmore Hall (1901). He also designed the original Savoy Hotel (1889 which has been extended and altered since) and the Imperial Institute (1887 – 1893), of which only the central tower remains – this is now Imperial College.

Then if you venture further and turn right down the side path. you will soon come across Harry Vardon’s grave.


Well that brings us to the end of our N20 walk. This was very much a walk of two halves. The suburban village of Whetstone and the rather rural village of Totteridge – neighbours for ever yoked together in a station name. As ever what seems perhaps a less promising area has come up trumps, what with spies, a famous (in his day) golfer, an eminent architect and an influential leader of the Catholic Church in England, not to mention a rather lovely village with a lone pub and no shops.

Probably your best bet for onward travel is to take the 251 bus back to Totteridge and Whetstone station.

And in case you were wondering the station names with all the vowels. They are Mansion House and South Ealing. So now you know!

N19: What’s new pussycat?


N19 is Archway. Archway, I hear you say. How is that possible if the postcodes are usually in alphabetic order and the last one (N18) was Upper Edmonton. The answer is that N19 is actually Upper Holloway. The use of the name Archway came after the postcodes districts were allocated.

I was fortunate in having fellow guide and local resident Jen to show me the delights of N19. So thank you, Jen.

We start our walk at the Post Office in Junction Road. Head towards the station, which is our first stop.

Stop 1: Archway station


This is another example of how a station changes the name of an area. The station we now call Archway, was actually called Highgate when it opened in 1907, as it was just down the hill from the village of Highgate – and there was a tramway between station and village.

This station was the northern terminus of one of the branches of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway, better known as the Hampstead tube and later to become part of the Northern line.

When the line was extended as part of the Northern Heights project (which we have heard about a number of times already) the next station was below the station called Highgate on the line from Finsbury Park to Finchley and beyond. We saw that when we were in N6. So the station we now know as Archway was renamed Highgate (Archway) in 1939, then Archway (Highgate) in 1941, before becoming just Archway in 1947.

It is a bit of a misnomer because the actual Archway is up the road, as we saw in N6. But you could say it gets its name as the location of the Archway tollgate and the Archway Tavern, rather than the Archway itself (We shall hear about both the tollgate and the tavern later).

The original station building here was one of those distinctive Leslie Green red tile affairs, but this was replaced by a Charles Holden design in 1931 when escalators were installed. Sadly neither of these survive as the whole area above the station was redeveloped in the 1960s.

Today there is 17 story tower called Archway House accompanied by two twelve storey blocks described by architectural historian Pevsner as being “poised above a podium of shops with an upper level pedestrianised deck.”


This is all being redeveloped and the buildings are being reclad, and one of them is to be a Premier Inn hotel.


The buildings were set around a pedestrian precinct and as was so often the case in developments of this period, there was once a subway under the main road. Such subways are an endangered species as the fashion now is for crossings on the surface. Jen pointed out that for now there remains a ghost of a sign to remind us that there was once a subway here.


But interestingly just about here was the site of an old cinema – whose address was 17 Highgate Hill.

The Electric Theatre opened in 1909 and in common with most cinemas of this period, seating was provided on one floor, with no balcony. The facade was dominated by a large arch which contained a half domed entrance.

It was taken over by Union Cinemas in 1935 and they in turn were taken over by Associated British Cinemas in October 1937. Renamed the Palace Cinema in 1954, it closed in April 1958. It was demolished and the site redeveloped leaving no trace of its former use.

Continue walking along the main road and cross over the side street which is Macdonald Road. Jen could not resist pointing out the lovely co-incidence of McDonalds being sited at this corner, even if the spellings are not exactly the same.


Continue a little way and our next stop is just ahead on the pavement.

Stop 2: The Whittington cat

Well we cannot come to this area and not hear about Dick Whittington and his cat.

Richard Whittington (1354?–1423) was a merchant who was Lord Mayor of London four times, a member of parliament and a sheriff of London. But the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat is probably just that. As the son of gentry, it would seem that Whittington was never very poor and there is no evidence that he kept a cat.

It was said that it was at Archway that Dick Whittington heard the bells of St Mary-le-Bow ringing and returned to London (not too sure why he was heading up this way – he came from Gloucestershire so this would be the wrong road if he was heading home!). There is this little statue of a cat on Highgate Hill to commemorate this. Poor cat is trapped in this metal cage and has lost a bit of its ear.



But it is a nice story. And it enables me to say “5 miles to London and still no sign of Dick”. But at least we have seen his cat!

Continue along the main road and at Magdala Avenue, take a left turn into the grounds of Whittington Hospital.


Stop 3: The Whittington Hospital

The Whittington Hospital is of course named after Richard Whittington and in keeping with the story, it has to have a cat symbol somewhere. And lo and behold here it is over the main entrance.


Retrace your steps to the main road, go a little further along and turn left. Here we have some of the old buildings on the hospital site.

The current hospital has its origins in the Small Pox and Vaccination Hospital, built in 1848



According to Pevsner, the Smallpox Hospital moved to South Mimms when a replacement was built there in 1896. So this became the St Mary’s (Islington) Workhouse Infirmary with the old Smallpox Hospital becoming an administration block and to the south there were new hospital buildings dating from 1900 and consisting of wings joined by cast iron galleries.


And there some old signs over the doors, such as this one.


These buildings are still in use today as part of the hospital but as we saw there are some other more modern additions.

Continue walking through the site. The roadway goes to the left and there is a separate pathway which goes to the right and leads you out onto the street called Dartmouth Park. Continue along this for a while and turn left when you get to Bickerton Road. A little way on the right you will then see an entrance to an open space called Dartmouth Park. Go in there.

Stop 4: Dartmouth Park

Follow the path round and you will see a path going up a slope. Follow that and at the top you will see a rather fine view of the skyline of London. It was quite hazy the day I was there by Jen but I am not sure I would have got a much better picture. The skyline is so spread out you cannot get all the key buildings in one shot. Jen says she keeps meaning to do a series of photos from here from a tripod as that is the only way to do it justice. But even then there are some annoying buildings just below that get in the way.


Nevertheless it is worth a little detour, to see a little known vista point. By the way in case you were wondering what was on the other side of the fence behind you. The park is built over an underground water reservoir. Dartmouth Park was a street and the name of the neighbourhood until this open space was laid out as a public park in 1972. Then the district Dartmouth Park finally had an open space called Dartmouth Park.

Retrace your steps back to Bickerton Road and turn right.

Stop 5: Site of Odeon cinema

Our next stop is just at the corner of Bickerton Road and Junction Road. Today there is a block of flats but for a few years this was the site of a rather short lived Odeon cinema.


According to the ever knowledgable Cinema Treasures site, construction of this Odeon began in May 1939 but at the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, only half of the exterior walls were completed. Work was halted but permission was given in March 1940 to complete the walls and add the roof. The building was then used for storage for the duration of the war. After the war the cinema was fitted out to revised plans and it finally opened in December 1955.

It was marketed as the Odeon Highgate, although it was not of course in Highgate. But not surprisingly given the general decline in cinema audiences as the 1960s progressed,  it did not have a long life only managing to carry on to January 1973, in other words less than 20 years..

The building was demolished in 1974 and this block of flats was built on the site.

Turn left onto the main road and then turn right along St John’s Grove. Our next stop is at the end.

Stop 6: St John’s Church

This church dates from the late 1820s and was designed by Sir Charles Barry, who is of course most famous for the Houses of Parliament. It is one of three churches he designed in the late 1820s in Islington. We came across a blue plaque for Barry when we were at Clapham Common Northside, SW4.

St John’s was one of the so-called Commissioners’ Churches – these were built with money voted by Parliament as a result of the Church Building Acts of 1818 and 1824. This was largely to create churches in areas of growing population


Pevsner describes St John’s as “uninspired Perpendicular; in no other way – except perhaps correctness of detail – superior to the common run of Commissioner churches”. Not exactly a compliment.

Turn left into Holloway Road. Walk along this towards Archway station. Ahead you will see a large building which looks like it could be a cinema.

Stop 7: Archway Methodist Church

This is a massive building in the style of a super cinema but it is not.


It is (was?) part of a Methodist church – Central Hall as they seem to call them. It was according to Pevsner the last Methodist Central Hall to be built in London and dates from 1933 -34. The building has a huge cinema style auditorium.

The businessman J Arthur Rank was a major contributor to the cost. He was a devout Methodist who made his fortune from flour. He got into film making as way of promoting wholesome family values which seemed to be lacking in many of the Hollywood imports. But then he found that he had difficulty getting his films distributed. So from being a partner in Pinewood Studios (1935) then a film distributor (General Film Distributors in 1936), finally he moved on to own Odeon and Gaumont cinema chains (1938 and 1941 respectively). All this did not stop the making and then showing of some less than wholesome films!

As you get nearer (and cross over the main road) you will see a large chunk of it appears to be unused (and available for development) but to the left there is an entrance which still seems to be used by the church.


Stop 8: Archway Tavern and the island

We are now on an island in the middle of the Archway gyratory system which was created in the 1960s. There is a row of shops just along from the Methodist Central hall which somehow got stranded on this island, plus there is the Archway Tavern. This building dates from 1886 and has seen better days. The interior of this pub was photographed for the cover of The Kinks’ 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies was taken, which is odd as it is some way from Muswell Hill.


Jen tells me there are plans to redesign the junction which should mean this little group of older buildings might not be quite so marooned.

But even this could well have not survived. This was one of the key battlegrounds for the Home Before Roads movement of the 1970s which opposed the building of urban motorways. After their unsuccessful attempt to halt the construction of the London Westway, protesters became more radical during the first public enquiry into the widening of the Archway Road into what would have been a motorway.

Not only was the scheme questioned on technical grounds, but the inquiry was physically disrupted at times. There were no less than four public inquiries held between the 1970s and 1990s before the Archway Road scheme was finally dropped. But how the world has moved on. The traffic has not gone away but today like in other parts of London, the gyratory is being adjusted to give a better balance between vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

Now we are heading off the other side of the island towards the Archway Road. Head a little way along and just on the right you will see a side street – Pauntley Street.

Stop 9: Pauntley Street

The Archway Road was a toll road from 1813 to 1864 and Archway was the site of a toll gate, where travellers had to pay for the next stage of their journey along the Great North Road. And if you go along Pauntley Street for a short distance you will see a plaque on the block of flats called Pauntley House which commemorates the gate.



Pauntley Street by the way takes its name from the village of Pauntley in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, traditionally regarded as Dick Whittington’s birthplace.

Note also the “Mercer Maiden” above the door to the flats. The Mercer’s Company traditionally included an image of a maiden in building they owned. Dick Whittington was a member of the Mercer’s Company and before Archway Road was widened in the 1960s there was the Whittington Almhouses on this side of the road dating from 1822. These moved to Felbridge, just near East Grinstead.

There is a great post on a site called londonremembers.com which explains about this and also the cat monument on the other side of the road, which we saw earlier.


Now just a little further along you will see there is a subway. Jen tells me this is likely to be removed. But do go along it if it is still there because it has this rather nice painted ceiling to brighten things up.



Having crossed the road you are now by our last stop

Stop 10: The Charlotte Despard pub

Jen has done a bit of research on this for her N19 blog, so I can do no better than shamelessly quote from her:

“Charlotte Despard was a Suffragette, Sinn Fein activist, novelist, vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist. She remained politically active into her 90s and died in 1939, aged 95. She devoted much time to helping the poor in Battersea (where there is a Charlotte Despard Avenue). I’d always assumed that Despard Road was also named after her although, beyond the fact she was twice imprisoned in Holloway (as were many of the Suffragettes), I had never been able to find any connection with this area. In fact, the street is not named after her at all but after a military commander, General John Despard (175-1849) who fought in the Seven Years War and the American War of Independence. Not surprising really as Despard Road dates from 1887, before Charlotte Despard became politically active. The next question, to which I have no answer, is what connection did John Despard have with Archway?”

So it seems the Charlotte Despard pub is called that because it is at the corner of Despard Road rather than having any connection with the woman herself!

So that brings us to the end of our N19 walk. Thanks to Jen for walking me round and showing me the sites. We saw and heard a lot about Dick Whittington and his cat, but we also saw the sites of two cinemas and a building which could almost have been a cinema. We did not have time for all of the interesting building hereabouts – or indeed the little fragment of tramway which exists in an alleyway off the Holloway Road as you head towards Archway station. I could not get a proper picture of it because of the parked vehicles and I am not sure which tramway this belonged to.

Now for onward travel we are right by Archway station, and there are also numerous buses.

N18: No Angel


N18 is Upper Edmonton which is squeezed between N9 Lower Edmonton and N17 Tottenham.

We start our walk at Upper Edmonton Post Office which is at 83 Fore Street, N18.

Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along just outside Fore Street Library which is at 109 -111 Fore Street.

Stop 1: The Gilpin Bell sculpture

Well here is an odd thing to find along this nondescript shopping street.



This is called Gilpin’s Bell and is by Angela Godfrey and dates from 1996. It was inspired by a comic ballad from 1782 by William Cowper, entitled “The Diverting History of John Gilpin”.

This is the story of Gilpin and his wife and children on a journey to the Bell Inn, Edmonton. They become separated after Gilpin loses control of his horse, and is carried ten miles farther to the town of Ware. And much the same thing happens on his return when he is carried past Edmonton back to the City.

As an entertainment, this does seem rather tame by today’s standards. And the sculpture itself is not that well located and it seems to be getting a bit weathered but maybe that was the intention.

Retrace your steps along Fore Street.

If you want to keep going and you can see the Wetherspoons pub, Gilpin’s Bell which also celebrates the story and is close to the site of the old Bell pub which was demolished in 1963.


By the way this pub is on the border with Tottenham, not so far from White Hart Lane football ground and it seems that on match days entry to this pub is restricted to home supporters. So beware if you are here on a match day and are not a home supporter, because you will not get in. But then again why would you volunteer to go anywhere near a major football ground on a match day unless you were actually going there.

If you do not want to take this short detour, turn right into the side street between the White Horse pub and Corals bookmakers. Otherwise return back to this point on Fore Street and turn left.

Go ahead into Joyce Avenue, going through the housing estate and you will see a slope leading up to a bridge over the railway.


Go over that bridge. Our next stop is just on the other side.

Stop 2: Javier’s memorial



I have no idea who Javier was or why he is memorialised here. My Google searches have thrown up nothing. One can only assume he died on the railway just here. The memorial has been here some years and perhaps predates the time when people obsessively published material on the Facebook and elsewhere on the internet.

It is also an unusual survivor. Normally these roadside shrines are removed by the council after some months. But this one has survived presumably because it is in a no man’s land between the council’s highway land and railway land.

Go straight ahead along Bridport Road. Our next stop soon sprawls out all along the right hand side of the road.

Stop 3: North Middlesex hospital

This site was originally Edmonton workhouse in 1842. A separate hospital building was opened in 1910. It became a military hospital in 1915, known as Edmonton Military Hospital. Once back in civilian hands in 1920, the hospital became known as the North Middlesex Hospital – or the North Mid. It is the main hospital for this part of North London.



Walk along Bridport Road and turn right into Bull Lane. As you approach the North Circular Road you will see a subway on your left. Use this to cross the main road. Once on the other side, keep going. This is Tanner’s End Lane. At the end of this street turn left and our next stop is a short distance on the left.

Stop 4: Millfield House and Arts Centre

Go through the gate and ahead to the left is the old house, dating from 1796.


Although owned by John Wigston of nearby Trent Park, it was initially let to the Imperial Ambassador of the German Empire. Later (in 1849) it became a school for children of the Strand Union Workhouse children. The Strand Union Workhouse was based in the City of Westminster, but ended up setting up an outpost here next door to the Edmonton Workhouse.

There is a fascinating website called  http://www.workhouses.org.uk which gives a lot of information about the Strand Union and Edmonton Workhouses http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Strand/ and http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Edmonton/

It became a hospital in 1915 and was converted to become an Arts Centre in the 1970s, based in the house.


A purpose built theatre and library was opened on the site in 1988. The library relocated to Fore Street in December 2008 and the building was redeveloped as a cafe bar and performance space.


The theatre was reopened in October 2009 by local boy Sir Bruce Forsyth after whom the main auditorium was renamed.

If you have ventured into the site go back to Silver Street and just along from the car entrance you will see a street (Windmill Road) across the road with a school at the corner. This is the Aylward Academy, named after Gladys Aylward, more of whom anon..


Go down Windmill Road and take the third turning on the right. Our next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 5: Number 67 Cheddington Road


Number 67 was the home of Gladys Aylward (1902 – 1970) who was a Christian missionary to China.


Her story was told in the book The Small Woman, by Alan Burgess, published in 1957, and made into the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman, in 1958. The movie was produced by Twentieth Century Fox, and filmed entirely in North Wales and England (!) with most of the chinese children in the film coming from Liverpool where there was a sizable chinese population.

Apparently Aylward was not happy with her depiction in the film. Whilst she was small in stature with dark hair and a London accent, she was played in the movie by the tall Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman. And the story was romanticised. And one of the chinese characters (the mandarin of the town in which Aylward lived) was played by Robert Donat, who was most definitely not chinese. This was his last movie – he died before the film was released. We saw his blue plaque in NW11.

Intriguingly, the establishment of the film’s title was actually called the Inn of the Eight Happinesses – eight being an auspicious number in China and there being eight desirable attributes: Love, Virtue, Gentleness, Tolerance, Loyalty, Truth, Beauty, and Devotion. But for some reason the film version called it the Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

Continue walking along Cheddington Road. At the end do a right then an immediate left into Park Lane. Take the fourth turning on the right (Sweet Briar Walk). This goes alongside Pymmes Park. As the road takes a turn to the right there is an entrance to the park go in here. Follow the path with the lake to your left.

Stop 6: Pymmes Park


Pymmes Park originated as a private estate. In the late 16th century it was owned by the powerful Cecil family. In 1589 Robert Cecil, later 1st Earl of Salisbury, spent his honeymoon at Pymmes. The estate was eventually acquired by Edmonton Council and opened as a public park in 1906. Pymmes House was destroyed by fire in the 1940s and the remains were demolished.

There is a rather nice walled garden, though it is sadly marred by the noise of the nearby North Circular Road. You find this by searching out the Visitors Centre which is rather strange looking white building that looks like it has escaped from an army camp.


If you go to the right of this, you will find an archway that leads into the walled garden.




Head back round the Visitors Centre and go out on to Silver Street.

Ahead you should see the railway on an embankment and some steps going up to Silver Street station, our next stop.

Stop 7: Silver Street Station

This is the next station after White Hart Lane going out of London. Built in 1872 and like the other stations we saw in N15, N16 and N17, it has those unattractive unroofed stairs. It should perhaps have been called Upper Edmonton, but was not.


The London bound platform retains its canopy, although altered and strangely extended. The country bound platform has lost any covering it might have had.


Back down to street level, go under the railway and continue to the junction. Although you cannot see it you are standing on top of the North Circular Road which at this point has been tunnelled. Our next stop is at the corner of Fore Street.

Stop 8: Site of Regal Cinema

There is a ghost of a sign to hint at what was once here.


This was the location of a huge cinema called the Regal. Opened in March 1934, it seated almost 3,000 people and had full stage facilities. It also contained a restaurant and ballroom, which each had their own separate entrances.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the building was owned by the Abrahams family, but it was initially operated by the Hyams & Gale circuit. They were taken over by Gaumont in October 1935. Eventually Gaumont became part of the Rank Organisation but always the building was owned by the Abrahams family who installed clauses in the lease that it should always remain fully equipped as a cinema with full working stage facilities.

The stage was used less frequently as years went by, but still packed them in when artists such as The Beatles and Frank Sinatra appeared.

The cinema closed in July 1972 but it was reconfigured with the stalls seating removed and the floor levelled, becoming a disco and live concert venue named the Sundown. Groups such as Hawkwind, Doctor John, Steppenwolf and The Groundhogs played this venue.

However, this venture lasted less than two years and in March 1974 it reopened as the Regal Cinema, using seating that had remained in the circle. This was also not successful lasting only until August 1974.

The Regal Cinema became a Top Rank Bingo Club. Bingo lasted until 1985 when planning permission was granted for demolition which happened during November/December 1985.

Right up to the end, the Rank Organisation had honoured the lease and kept all equipment in the theatre to full working order. Cinema Treasures says that projectors were well oiled and run on a weekly basis just in case films returned, the stage revolve, curtains and screen were all there, even the organ which was often still used at well attended concerts and to entertain the bingo players was in immaculate condition when the bulldozers moved in.

A Safeway supermarket was built on the site which is today a Lidl supermarket.


Now with your back to the supermarket go up Fore Street, crossing the side street. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 9: Angel Place

This is a interesting survival – a terrace originally dating from around 1730 which were altered in the middle of the 19th century. Now Grade II* listed buildings.


185, 187 and 189 were extensively restored in the 1980s to include the formation of an arch at 187 Angel Place with gardens behind.

Set back from Fore Street, the buildings were adjacent to The Angel public house. But today there is no Angel. The Angel was demolished to widen the North Circular Road, but which cannot now be seen as previously mentioned this road is below us in a tunnel..


Continue along Fore Street

Stop 10: site of Alcazar cinema

Just a little way along is a 1960s block of shops and flats and guess what, this was the site of an old cinema.


The Alcazar Cinematograph Theatre opened in June 1913 as part of an entertainment complex which included an enclosed Winter Gardens, which had a palm court and provision for dancing, and an outdoor Summer Gardens as well as a roller skating rink and a tea room. The building was designed like a Moorish palace, with a covered veranda stretching 140 feet along the facade at first floor level.

According to Cinema Treasures, demand for seats at the opening was so great, that the 1,700 seat cinema was filled to capacity and seating had to be placed in the Winter Gardens to take the overflow. It became a regular occurrence to screen popular films in both spaces, and in summer months, the Summer Gardens were also used as a cinema.

The Alcazar was rebuilt in 1933 and was the last cinema in the area to be fitted with sound equipment. It suffered badly when the new giant Regal Cinema opened in March 1934 just up the road on Angel Corner.

The Alcazar closed when it was hit by German bombs on 23 August 1940. This destroyed the dance hall and one wall of the cinema, causing the roof of the auditorium to cave in. Further damage was done by a V1 flying rocket which landed nearby in October 1944.

The remains were demolished and the site stood derelict until the 1960s, when the council built a small parade of shops with flats above, and houses at the rear on the site of the Summer Garden.Today a British Red Cross Charity Shop is located where the entrance to the Alcazar Picture Theatre once was.

Strange to think that for a brief period of around 30 years there was this exotic building here in Upper Edmonton. And one wonders if it had not been destroyed by enemy action as to whether it might have survived til today.

Well that brings us to the end of our N18 walk. We have seen a rather odd sculpture (and pub) reminding us of an obscure 18th century song, we have heard about a missionary and how her life story was treated by the movie industry. and we have seen the sites of two old cinemas, where today there are just ordinary workaday buildings. I thought N18 had little promise when I started but like many of these outer areas there are still some interesting nuggets to reveal.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/merton-park-the-little-known-garden-suburb-tickets-12396639683?ref=ebapihttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/merton-park-the-little-known-garden-suburb-tickets-12396639683?ref=ebapiFor onward  travel you could return to Silver Street station or there are plenty of buses along Fore Street.



N17: Spurred into action


N17 is Tottenham proper as opposed to South Tottenham, or Seven Sisters which we saw in N15. And of course Tottenham is forever associated with Tottenham Hotspur Football team.

We start our walk at the Bruce Grove Post Office at 476 High Road, N17 9JF.

Turn left out of the Post Office and continue along the High Road past the Police Station. Our first couple of stops are just opposite the Police Station

Stop 1: Former Palace Theatre, 421 – 427 High Road


This building looks like an old theatre and indeed it is. This was built as the Palace Theatre of Varieties, which opened on 31 August 1908. And the date can be seen in the ironwork on some of the doors. If you look carefully, you can see “19” in the middle of the left panel and “08” on the right.


For the first few years, it was presenting a mix of variety and drama but in 1922 it began showing films in the afternoons some days a week. From November 1924 it became a full time cinema, renamed the Canadian Cinema.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it would most likely be at this period of time that the projection box was built on the rear of the stage and this theatre remained a back-projection cinema for the rest of its life – a somewhat unusual arrangement. The reason for this was there was no room available in the rear of the dress circle and one in the rear of the balcony would have given too steep an angle and a keystone effect on the screen.

It became the Palace Theatre once again in January 1926 and was taken over by the Gaumont British Theatres in 1929.  Gaumont merged with Odeon later and they became part of the Rank Organisation. Rank closed the Palace Theatre on 28 June 1969. It does not seem to have been renamed either Gaumont or Odeon at any time.

The building was converted into a Bingo Club, initially operated by Mecca and later by the smaller chain of Jasmine Bingo Clubs. The Jasmine Bingo Club closed in February 1996. The building became a church initially called the Palace Cathedral, but now is something else.

Our next stop is literally next door.

Stop 2: site of Royal Ballroom, 415 – 419 High Road


This modern building was once the location of the Royal Ballroom.

The first entertainment building here was a roller skating rink which opened in February 1910. Clearly the roller skating craze quickly waned because the building was soon redesigned opening as the Canadian Rink Cinema in June 1911. By 1925 it had closed as a cinema, possibly due to the adjacent Palace Theatre converting to full time cinema use (and taking the name Canadian Cinema for a while – see above).

According to Cinema Treasures, the Canadian Rink Cinema was converted into a dance hall known as the Tottenham Palais and became a well known North London nightspot for several decades. Later owned by Mecca, by the 1960s it was known as the Tottenham Royal and in later years became the Temple nightclub. It was demolished in 2004 and this modern building is now on the site, leaving no trace of the fact this was once a place of entertainment.

Walk a little further along the High Road and turn right into Drapers Road. Our next stop is ahead beyond the gates.

Stop 3: Old School Court

Today this is called Old School Court.


But as the sign explains this was built as Drapers College.


The sign says it was established by the Worshipful Company of Drapers in 1858, but architectural historian Pevsner dates the building to 1860- 1862. It was Tottenham High School for Girls from 1885 to 1985 and the building were converted to residential use in 1996.

Return to the main road and back towards where you started.

This is by the way the old Roman road Ermine Street which comes out of the City at Bishopsgate and heads north to Lincoln and York. Ermine Street is an old English name, as no one knows what the Romans called the road. But it has nothing to do with the fur Ermine but rather derives from the name of a tribe called Ernigas whose territory the road ran through in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Soon on the left you will see the main road (A10) takes a left turn under a railway bridge, the line of the old roman road carries straight on. Our next stop is here at this junction.

Stop 4: Bruce Grove station


Although Bruce Grove station seems to be better preserved than Stoke Newington, it too has had its staircases denuded of their roofs. I do think this looks horrible but no doubt it is cheaper to maintain.


But if you go up to the platform, their canopies seems to have survived in their original form, including their wooden fascia boards.


However according to Wikipedia all is not what it seems. In the early 1980s several changes were made to the appearance of the station, apart from the staircases. The London bound platform roof was shortened and the waiting rooms boarded up. The North-bound roof opposite (which was identical) was completely removed and a small brick shelter was installed in its place. This shelter lasted for nearly twenty years before it was itself demolished and a new roof, built in the style of the original though much shorter, was constructed giving the illusion of original authenticity to the station. Haringey Council funded this work and the station is considered a site of historic interest in the locality.

Return to the street and turn left under the railway. Our next stop is just ahead on the right.

Stop 5: former Bruce Grove Cinema, 117 Bruce Grove

Here we have another old cinema.


The cinema here first opened in July 1921 and was operated by a local independent company, Tottenham Cinema and Entertainment Co. Ltd, according to the Cinema Treasures site.

The building was reconstructed in August and September 1933. Externally it was modernised and the original domed tower feature was removed. The auditorium was Art Deco style.

In 1962 the cinema was taken over the Star Cinemas Ltd of Leeds who closed it in August 1963 and converted it into a Star Bingo Club. At some time the building was spilt with the stalls area becoming a snooker club and the former balcony extended forward to the proscenium to remain a bingo club for a few more years.

Bingo upstairs closed in May 1983 and the space was empty until 1986. It was used for two short lived ventures (an indoor cricket pavilion and a “Quazar” laser shooting gallery). Then in the early 1990s it was converted into a church, known as the Freedom’s Ark. Snooker continued in the former stalls area, together with a Caribbean restaurant.

In May 2011, the Freedom’s Ark church vacated the building and moved elsewhere in Tottenham. But there seems to be a church in here again now but I am not sure what the rest of the whole building is being used for.

Our next stop is just next door

Stop 6: Former Bruce Grove Ballroom, 113 Bruce Grove


In 1923, the owners of the Bruce Grove cinema commissioned the cinema’s architect (Charles E. Blackbourn) to design a ballroom, to add to the cinema’s amenities.

It opened in 1923 as the Bruce Grove Ballroom, with the ballroom upstairs at first floor level, and shops on the ground floor.

The Star Cinemas chain seems to have acquired this at the same time as the cinema and continued to operate the ballroom until 1974, when they converted it into a four-screen cinema, opening in July 1974 as Studios 5,6,7,8 – not sure where Studios 1, 2 3 or 4 were. These operated until December 1981. The building was then empty for a couple of years until it was returned to a single space and reopened as the Regency Banqueting Suite in 1984, which is what it is today.

Now look across the road.

Stop 7: Number 7 Bruce Grove

We are stopping at Number 7 not because of the building but because of who lived here.



Luke Howard (1772 – 1864) was an amateur meteorologist. As the blue plaque delightfully says he was a namer of clouds. He was not the first to try to name clouds – a Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829), beat him to it but it was in French. Howard’s system used Latin and applied the principles of natural history classification, as espoused by Carl Linnaeus. Thus Howard arrived at a workable solution to the problem of naming transitional forms in nature, like clouds.

Continue walking along Bruce Grove. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 8: Drapers Almhouses

Continue along Bruce Grove and our next stop is set back off to the right of the street. These were built in 1870 by three foundations connected to the Drapers Company.


As the sign says they were modernised during the years 1978 – 1981.


So although the Drapers do not seem to have a school in the area now, they still maintain the connection to the area with these almshouses.

Continue to the end of the road and our next stop is immediately ahead beyond the mini roundabout.

Stop 9: Bruce Castle

This is the somewhat misnamed Bruce Castle, as it is not and never has been a castle.


The name Bruce Castle is derived from the Scottish House of Bruce, who way back had owned a third of the manor of Tottenham. When Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland in 1306 he forfeited his lands in England, including the Bruce holdings in Tottenham, ending the connection between the Bruce family and the area.

The three parts of the manor of Tottenham were united in the early 15th century under the Gedeney family.

The front we see today from the road dates from a remodelling of the house in the late 17th century, but with some additions were made in the 18th century, but there may be some older bits lurking.

Bruce Castle is now a museum, holding the archives of the London Borough of Haringey, and housing a permanent exhibition on Haringey and its predecessor boroughs, plus temporary displays on the history of the area. There is also an exhibition on Rowland Hill and postal history – Rowland Hill was the instigator of the universal penny post and his connection to Bruce Castle is that he lived here in the 1840s.

It s worth a quick turn if it is open as you pass.

Behind the “castle” is a park which was the first public park in Tottenham, opening in 1892.

Now take Church Lane which the road running down the left hand side of the “castle” and park. Pass the Church and our next stop is as the road bends to the right.

Stop 10: Prospect Place


Here we have a lovely little terrace of houses dating from 1822 and called “Prospect Place”.


And this is the prospect today:


If you have time you can venture into the cemetery and see the river Moselle, one of the London almost lost rivers, which we heard about in Muswell Hill.

My fellow guide, Jen Pedler has created a walk which follows the path of the Moselle. This was first done as part of the Footprints of London River Walks festival in Spring 2015.

When walking through Tottenham which was perhaps not the most scenic part, Jen got her walkers to join in a 400 year old song, called “The Tottenham Toad”. This is about the courtship of a Tottenham lad (‘toad’), who falls for a country girl from Enfield (‘squirrel’), But the river Moselle keeps flooding its banks forcing him the wade through high waters to make it work.

Here are the words:

The Tottenham Toad came walking up the road,
With his feet swimming in the sea,
‘Pretty little squirrel with her tail in a curl,
They’ve all got a wife, but me.’
I married me a wife to join my life,
She soon wished I were dead.
In about six weeks we had a little quarrel
And she pulled all the hair out of my head.

Sadly I do not have Jen and her walkers singing this. But here are two local schools (Noel Park and St Francis De Sales) with their version (which does not exactly follow the above words).


Continue along the road (which is Church Road) and at the end you will be back at the High Road.

Stop 11: Tottenham Hotspur (“Spurs”) Football Ground (White Hart Lane)

You cannot really miss our next stop as it looms up over the main road.


Known as White Hart Lane, the curious thing about it is that the ground is not actually in White Hart Lane.


Tottenham Hotspur Football Club can trace their origins back to 1882 and they started playing at this site in 1899. The name “Hotspur” is said to be is a reference to Henry Percy, whose descendants owned land in the neighbourhood of the club’s first ground in the Tottenham Marshes. Henry Percy is remembered largely because he is a character in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1. Percy is killed by his rival (and the future King), Prince Hal. Henry Percy was also known as Harry Hotspur as he wore riding spurs and his fighting cocks were fitted with spurs. The latter can be seen in the crest used by the Football Club.

Today the ground is undergoing a multi-million pound rebuild.


In the past the club did consider relocation. Back in 2001, there was the idea of relocation to a proposed 43,000-seat stadium at Pickett’s Lock. This would have been built for the 2005 World Athletics Championships. However the games went elsewhere and so the stadium was never built. Other possible relocation included the new Wembley Stadium and the 2012 Olympic stadium. In 2013 the latter stadium became the subject of fierce competition between Spurs and West Ham United. West Ham won although the decision was initially challenged by Tottenham Hotspur.

At the same time as the Olympic Park bid, and instead of relocating, the Club was pursuing via its Northumberland Development Project a plan to build a new stadium, partly on the site of the existing White Hart Lane ground. The new stadium has a planned capacity for 61,000 spectators.

Now we let’s go down the actual White Hart Lane which is a side street on the other side of the High Road from the actual stadium.


Our final stop is a little way down White Hart Lane.

Stop 12: White Hart Lane station

This is the closest station to the Football Ground. It has a modern building at ground level, denuded staircases and some canopies on the platforms, although these are not so well preserved as the ones at Bruce Grove, having lost the original decorative fascias.



It is interesting to see how three stations (Stoke Newington, Bruce Grove and White Hart Lane, all built at the same time (1872) and in the same style, have fared in the modern world. All of them have been disfigured. Bruce Grove seems to have come out best even though it is not all original.

Well that brings us to the end of our N17 walk. – several places of entertainment, connections with a City Livery Company, a major football club … and the namer of clouds. And we are at a station which has a reasonable train service (usually every 15 minute) for onward travel.

N16: The perfect location in which to stay lost


N16 is Stoke Newington or Stokey as some locals call it. It also covers Stamford Hill and Shacklewell, the latter of which has sort of disappeared as a distinct place. But we will focus on Stoke Newington which the writer Iain Sinclair described as follows:

“the perfect location in which to stay lost: limboland. London’s interzone. Large shabby properties that ask no questions. Internal exile with a phoney rent book”

(from “Lights out for the Territory” (1997) as quoted in the third edition of the London Encyclopedia).

We start out walk at Stamford Hill Post Office which is at 82 Stamford Hill. Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Stamford Hill.

Stop 1: Stoke Newington Station

Although there has been a station here since 1872, the current street level station building dates from the mid 1970s.


This does not look too bad but things go down hill rapidly if you venture down onto the platforms. The staircases have been stripped of their covers and the platforms are also rather forlorn.


Not very inviting, even though London Overground have cleaned it up and resigned it since they took over the service.

Continue walking along the main road (which is now Stoke Newington High Street). At the next main junction turn left down Northwold Road. Our next stop is a short distance on the left.

Stop 2: West Hackney Almshouses


The original almshouses were built by a man called Thomas Cooke in 1740, although they were later rebuilt in 1888 and this is what we see today.

But what is unusual about these almshouses is the mid 20th century funding stream that was created and which is remembered in this sign.


Continue along Northwold Road, over the railway almost to the end of the green area (which is Stoke Newington Common). Our next stop is near the end of the last triangle of green, over to your right.

Stop 3: Number 25 Stoke Newington Common


The reason we are stopping here is that Marc Bolan, of the band T. Rex and later solo artist, lived at 25 Stoke Newington Common, on the south side, from birth until the age of 15, although he was called Mark Feld then.


We saw the spot where he died in a car crash in SW13, but his formative years were spent here.

Now return along Northwold Road to Stoke Newington High Street. Our next stop starts immediately across the road at the junction.

Stop 4: Abney Park Cemetery

Here we are at one of the gates of Abney Park cemetery, one of the so-called Magnificent Seven (we have already seen three: Brompton, Kensal Green and Highgate so far), but this one is slightly different. It opened in 1840 and was originally the grounds of a house.

According to the Abney park website http://www.abneypark.org/ , the site was formed from the estates of Fleetwood House and Abney House, the latter of which had been the home of renowned non-conformist and hymn writer Isaac Watts. This association quickly made Abney the foremost burial ground for Dissenters – those practising their religion outside the established church. It was founded on these principles, with a non-denominational chapel at its core, and was open to all, regardless of religious conviction.

Uniquely in London, Abney was also originally laid out as an arboretum, with 2,500 varieties of plants.

We enter via this unusual entrance way with this Egyptian motif.


Go through this gate and head in on the right hand path.


It is soon obvious this is not like many of the other big cemeteries. This is more like a wood into which graves have been strewn.

Keep going along this path and soon you will reach this sad site – the main chapel, obviously no longer in use.


The Chapel is an early example of a non denominational chapel dating from around 1840. Apparently in keeping with its non denominational ethos, this chapel consists inside of four equal arms coming out from the central crossing. The arm nearest the entrance is elongated to allow for a carriage porch.


Not surprisingly this building is on the Historic England’s “Heritage At Risk” register where it is in priority category A “Immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric; no solution agreed” In fact the whole cemetery has an entry on the register, as well as two specific monuments but the Chapel is clearly the bit that needs most attention.

It is hard to believe that the money cannot be found to rescue this. But hopefully something will happen before it is too late.

Now to get out from here I am suggesting you head towards Church Street rather than go back the way you came. So from the side of the Chapel you will see a First World War war memorial. Go around that and keep heading straight. There is a kind of a path. You will pass the Second World War memorial for the borough of Stoke Newington.


Keep walking and you will reach a path crossing you and you are in the Salvation Army bit of the cemetery.


To continue you need to go right and then left down a little path or else left and then right.

You will see the gate ahead.


(this picture is of course taken from the other side, just to confuse you)

But look back and you will see the monument to William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army and his wife Catherine.




Plus their son, Bramwell is on the other side of the path.

Go out the gate and turn right into Stoke Newington Church Street. Go along this street with its collection of shops and cafes, some hangovers from an older age and other stripped back places indicating major gentrification. It is an intriguing mix of the useful and the useless. Some interesting looking cafes and some trendy looking shops.

Our next stop is a little way along on the right (after the Lion pub)

Stop 5: Number 172 Stoke Newington Church Street


This building has not one but three reminders of a connection with the writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), which came as a bit of a surprise to me as I thought he was American. Well he was.

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809 and was christened as Edgar Poe. His father abandoned the family in 1810 and his mother died the following year. A merchant of Scottish origin called John Allan in effect fostered him and he became known as Edgar Allan Poe. The Allans came back to Britain in 1815 and Edgar became a pupil at the Manor House School (1817-20), which stood on this site.

But in 1820 he went back to the States and it is there he became a published writer. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is also considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. And strangely there is this connection to North London.

There is a little bust of Poe on the front up on the right.


And below there are a couple of plaques, unfortunately covered over in plastic at the time of my visit because of building works.


Continue walking along Church Street and our next stop is just opposite the Library (this would have been a stop if it had been in a neighbourhood less favoured with interest, but we have plenty else to see here)

Stop 6: Number 173 Stoke Newington Church Street

This is a pleasant enough 18th century house. But the interest is that on this site stood a medieval mansion. The plaque says it was sometime home of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550 – 1604). He was prominent at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I.


Originally built c. 14th century, the house was demolished about 1710 to be rebuilt as Sisters’ Place built about 1714.


Continue along Church Street. Our next stop is soon on the right. 

Stop 7: Stoke Newington Town Hall

The Metropolitan Borough of Stoke Newington was formed in 1900 and was the smallest London borough at the time with a population of only 50,000. The council got its own coat of arms in 1934 and its motto was Respice Prospice (which translates as “Look to the past and the future”).

And soon after it got a new town hall which was completed in 1937, which is kind of out of keeping with the rest of the street, and a bit tucked away from the main road we started on.



The borough became part of the new London Borough of Hackney in 1965, but is still used by Hackney Council.

There is a little Plaque to the left of the main entrance which says “On this site stood Stoke Newington Manor House c.1500 – 1695  And the terrace called Church Row 1695-1700 – 1936”


Turn left down Albion Road. Continue along here until just after the road bends to the right. Turn left into Albion Grove and then almost immediately right into Milton Grove (this is a one way street with the traffic coming towards you). Continue along Milton Grove, go past Allen Road and our next stop starts just on the left.

Stop 8: Butterfield Green

This is the beginning of a little green space called Butterfield Green which has been created by the Council like a series of green rooms along the line of an old footpath.



According to the Council’s website, the area that is now home to Butterfield Green was developed in the 1850s when the land was sold by the National Freehold Society to private developers to build terraced housing. By the 1890s the area was densely populated, 172 people per acre against 50 people per acre today, and much of the housing was not well maintained.

The area was heavily bombed during the Second World War and in 1949 damaged housing began to be replaced. Development continued throughout the 1950s and 60s creating a mix of low rise council housing and privately owned original Victorian terraces, though not all the cleared land was built on.

In the early 1960s it was clear this area was lacking in open space. In 1979 the Shakespeare Walk Adventure Playground was set up by volunteers on an area of wasteland and in the 1980s funding was secured from Hackney Council and from the Government’s Urban Programme Scheme to develop the open space in phases. The western part had a BMX biking and skateboarding area, but this became damaged and disused and in 2007 was replaced by the community orchard we see today.



Here is a little link with more info.


Walk all the way through the park and go along the road straight ahead of you (Palatine Road). When you reach the main road (Stoke Newington Road) turn left. Our next stop is a short way along on the left, but to get a better view cross the road.

Stop 9: Number 117 Stoke Newington Road

Today Number 117 is a Mosque, community centre – and shop!


But beneath the mosaic is actually an old cinema. Opened as the Apollo Picture House in 1913, it was modernised and reopened as the Ambassador Cinema in August 1933.  In 1937 it was acquired by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd, although they never operated it. It was leased out to another independent operator but ran Odeon release films.

The Ambassador Cinema closed in December 1963. After a short while of closure it was taken over by Star Cinemas and converted into a Star Bingo Club by 1965.

It became a cinema again in September 1974 and was known as the Astra Cinema. It staggered on and by the end was a cinema club showing uncensored martial arts movies and soft core sex films. It finally closed in July 1983.

It was converted into a mosque and in 1994 the auditorium was gutted, removing all traces of the former cinema. The exterior always had two domed features each side of the entrance but this was covered in highly coloured mosaic making it look like a purpose built mosque. Although it functions as a Mosque and Community Centre, the former foyer is rather oddly a small grocery store.

Retrace your steps along Stoke Newington Road.

Stop 10: Alexandra Court (site of Alexandra Theatre)


This uninteresting block of flats stands on the site of a theatre. The Alexandra Theatre was designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham, opening on 27 December 1897. It was built as a playhouse drama theatre for Frederick William Purcell who also operated other London suburban theatres including the Marlborough Theatre, Holloway, the site of which we saw in N7.

It changed ownership in 1905 and became the Palace Theatre of Varieties. In March 1909, it was taken over by Oswald Stoll for Stoll Moss Empires Ltd., and became the Alexandra Theatre once again. As often happened, it was equipped to screen films as part of the variety programme, showing films exclusively on a sunday, as live performances were not permitted.

By 1932, it had become a full time cinema but then it reverted to a mix of variety and plays performed on weekdays and Sunday films.

It was mainly closed during World War II. It limped on through the late 1940s and finally closed in October 1950. It lay empty and unused for many years, and was demolished in the early 1960s.

A nine storey tower block of council flats named Alexandra Court was built on the site.

More information on the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/AlexandraTheatreStokeNewington.htm

Continue walking along Stoke Newington Road

Stop 11: Numbers 31 -33 Stoke Newington Road


Yes you guessed it, I am stopping here because this was the site of another cinema. The one here opened in January 1913 as the Electric Coliseum Cinema, and it later became known as the Coliseum. It was always an independently operated cinema. It closed in February 1972.

In the 1980s, it was to be converted into a car salesroom, but finances dried up and it remained in a half finished limbo for several years. The building was hit by fire in December 1992 and the burnt out shell remained until it was finally demolished in 2001. The current building dates from 2012. And today there is no sign that there was ever a cinema on this site.

Continue walking along Stoke Newington Road

As you walk you cannot but help notice the City straight ahead.


(This picture is of course a bit of a cheat as you do not quite get that image in real life. You need a zoom lens)

Stop 12: Numbers 11- 15 Stoke Newington Road

At numbers 11- 15 Stoke Newington Road there is still a building which externally at least is recognisable as an old cinema.



This was built for Associated British Cinemas (ABC) and was called the Savoy Cinema when it opened in October 1936. It became the ABC from 1961 and was closed on 12 March 1977 . The following day it re-opened as the Konak Cinema, screening Bollywood movies. It changed hands again in March 1982 and renamed as the Ace Cinema it began screening regular release films again. This did not last long as the Ace Cinema finally closed in February 1984.

The stalls area was converted into a snooker hall. By the summer of 1995, the foyer had been converted into two shop units. Today in addition to the shops, there is a Turkish community centre operating in the former balcony foyer and the stalls space now seems to be a function room going by the name of Epic.

Strange to think now that if you had come along this strip of road in the late 1930s you would have found three cinemas and a theatre – and none have survived in their original form. Also this area should perhaps really be called Shacklewell but that seems to be hardly used as a place name, perhaps because it never made it as a railway station name.

So that brings us to the end of the N16 walk. The area is fascinating and I feel I have not quite done it justice, especially as we have not covered Stamford Hill, with its orthodox Jewish community. But we have managed to see a rather special cemetery, connections with a couple of well known people, and a reminder of some places of entertainment. And having walked the streets of Stokey I am not sure that Iain Sinclair’s description is quite spot on given how gentrified much of it has become.

We are actually almost in E8 now and just down the road are Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction stations, plus there are plenty of buses along this main road for onward travel.