W10: To Paradise by way of Kensal Green

W10 is North Kensington, not Kensal Green, I hear you say. And surely Kensal Green is in NW London. Well yes. But this is a quote from a poem which references not Kensal Green itself but Kensal Green Cemetery and that my friends is in W10 – as is the “Paradise” pub! But we are jumping ahead.

We start the W10 walk at the Ladbroke Grove Post Office at 116 Ladbroke Grove.

Turn right out of the Post Office and go under the railway bridge and then Westway. Take a right down the pedestrianised area which parallels Westway. 

Stop 1: Under Westway and Portobello Green

All along here the whole area under the elevated road has been filled in with commercial development – offices, a gym, even a nightclub fittingly called “Flyover”. This development was completed in 1981 and is a great use of what otherwise be wasted space. Even the architectural guide, Pevsner (not exactly a fan of the 1970s and 1980s) says “It is a triumphant demonstration that once their functions are clearly defined, such difficult sites need not be disaster areas.”

And on the left of the path is a little garden, which I believe was created when Westway was built in the 1970s. A green oasis – but unfortunately not a quiet backwater given the horrendous traffic noise from Westway.

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Continue walking and soon you will reach a white billowing tent – this is Portobello Green Market.

Stop 2:  Portobello Green Market and Acklam Village Market

Portobello Green Market is a bit like an overgrown jumble sale with old clothes (sorry, vintage clothes), bric a brac and old magazines. No doubt there are some gems in here but you have to look as there is a load of old tat here too.

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At the far side of Portobello Green Market from where you came in is Portobello Road itself – and there are usually some market stalls along the road side. When I was there, I saw one stall holder had a sense of fun having dressed up a couple of mannequins and put some familiar faces on top (well they are just about recognisable faces!)


Across the road is another type of market area. Being at the end of Acklam Road, this is called Acklam Market and runs Saturday and Sunday providing food, drink and music.



Walk up Portobello Road away from Westway (with Acklam Market on your right and Portobello Green on your left).

Stop 3: Portobello Road Arts Project

The Portobello Road Arts Project is a series of art commissions on a 100 metre stretch of wall which seeks to create a visual link between Portobello Road and Golborne Road. The idea is to encourage visitors to continue their journeys further up Portobello Road to discover Golborne Road, which is another market area.

The current installation is called “Aspects of Carnival” by Fiona Hawthorne which has 14 panels showing the vibrancy of North Kensington and celebrating Notting Hill Carnival. And it certainly does that.

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“Aspects of Carnival” is the seventh in a series of original art installations here. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is now seeking proposals for the next commission whose theme is “Heart of the Community”. The new work will be installed for six months, with a provisional launch date of 31 July 2014.

Continue walking along Portobello Road. The stalls thin out a bit and again you have to look hard for that little treasure amongst the dross. At Golborne Road turn right and continue through the market area and over the railway bridge.

Stop 4: Elkstone Road Sensory garden

After the railway bridge turn right into Elkstone Road and immediately on your right is our next stop – the Elkstone Road Sensory Garden. This is a nice little oasis, a garden where you can see, touch and smell. Unfortunately though it is right by the railway line so when a train goes through – and there are many – it is not as peaceful as it could be. So the one sense that is a bit bombarded is one’s hearing!

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Just across the way you can see our next stop.

Stop 5: Trellick Tower

You may not have realised it but you will have seen the Trellick Tower as you crossed the railway bridge on Golborne Road. This distinctive tower was designed by Ernö Goldfinger (1902 – 1987). It is a 31 story tower containing 217 flats – completed in 1972. It has a long, thin profile, with a separate lift and service tower linked at every third storey to the access corridors in the main building; flats above and below the corridor levels have internal stairs. For many years it was regarded as a hideous eyesore but today it is recognised as a masterpiece of its kind and it is now Grade II* listed.

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Fascinating “fact”: Ian Fleming is said to have named the James Bond villain Auric Goldfinger after Ernö.  The story goes that Fleming had been among the objectors to the demolition of some cottages in Hampstead where Goldfinger built his house at 2 Willow Road (now National Trust and well worth a visit).  When Goldfinger consulted his lawyers after publication of the book in 1959, Fleming threatened to rename the character “Goldprick”. Ernö decided not to sue. Apparently Fleming’s publishers agreed to pay his costs and gave Goldfinger six free copies of the book.

Retrace your steps along Golborne Road. After Portobello Road it becomes Chesterton Road. Continue along this until you reach Ladbroke Grove, where you should turn right.

Stop 6: Number 239 Ladbroke Grove

Our next stop is just at the first corner on the left (this is the corner of the first of three side streets confusingly called St Charles Square.)

The house here (number 239) was the home of Hablot Knight Browne (1815 – 1882) better known as Phiz, the illustrator of many Charles Dickens books.

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Phiz’s relationship with Dickens started in the late 1830s when the first illustrator for Pickwick Papers (Robert Seymour) committed suicide having produced only 7 plates. A further two were produced by another illustrator and then Phiz took over. His first couple of plates were signed “Nemo” but then he changed his  pseudonym. He is said to have explained that the change from “Nemo” to “Phiz” was made to harmonize better with Dickens’s “Boz.”

Phiz illustrated nine other Dickens books including David Copperfield, Dombey and Son, Martin Chuzzlewit and Bleak House. So many of those very familiar Dickensian characters were realised on the page by Phiz.

Continue walking along Ladbroke Grove and turn left at the third side street called St Charles Square. Go straight ahead and turn with the road as it becomes Exmoor Street.

Stop 7:  St Charles Hospital

Our next stop is just on the left on Exmoor Street.

St Charles Hospital started life as St Marylebone Infirmary. It was opened by the then Prince and Princess of Wales in 1881. It became St. Charles’ Hospital when it was transferred from St. Marylebone Board of Guardians to the London County Council in 1930. It is an impressive yellow brick monster, which although amended over time has not acquired some of the awful inappropriate modern additions which get tacked on to such hospital buildings.

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Today it provides a range of walk-in health services to the general public from 8am to 9pm, 7 days a week. There also seems to be a mental health unit here as well.

Continue to the end of Exmoor Street and turn right into Barlby Road. Go to the end and at the roundabout turn left and go over the railway bridge.

Here as you cross the railway, you can get another glimpse of the Trellick Tower.


Just over the railway bridge is our next stop, but to get the best view of  it, keep walking and follow the entrance road into Sainsbury’s, going past the bus layby and looking back.

Stop 8: Kensal House

Kensal House is a residential estate built in 1937 and squeezed in between Ladbroke Grove, the Great Western main railway line and a gas works (now Sainsburys).

Kensal House designed by a team headed by architect Maxwell Fry. It was built for the local Gas Light and Coke Company to showcase the superiority of gas over electricity. The original flats were notable for their up to date gas cooking and heating equipment. It is now listed Grade II*.

Kensal House positioning on the site is clever and very forward thinking. It is designed on a North-South axis. Each flat has two balconies so as to catch the morning and evening sun.

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Now you should be able to see our next stop ahead.

Stop 9: Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash memorial

This grey slab is the memorial to the Ladbroke Grove rail crash on 5 October 1999 in which 31 people were killed and more than 500 injured. A couple of years earlier (in September 1997) there had been another major accident on the Great Western Main Line a bit further west at Southall. Both crashes would have been prevented by an operational Automatic Train Protection system, but introduction of such systems had been rejected on cost grounds. These accidents severely dented public confidence in the management and regulation of safety of what was then the newly privatised railway system.

Lord Cullen chaired a public inquiry into the crash in 2000 which also covered the management and regulation of UK rail safety. The recommendations of the Cullen inquiry led to the creation of the Rail Safety and Standards Board in 2003 and of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch in 2005. The latter is independent of the Railway Inspectorate and so standard setting, accident investigation and regulation functions were clearly separated, on the model of the aviation industry.


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 Retrace your steps back to Ladbroke Grove and turn left.

Stop 10: Fruit Towers

Almost immediately ahead on the right at the corner of Kensal Road is a white building. Your eye is drawn to a window at the corner. It contains models of two deer with antlers – one bright blue, the other orange. This announces it is no ordinary building, look up and whilst there is no sign, there is a logo. This is Innocent and this my friends is what they call “Fruit Towers”.


Innocent was founded by three Cambridge University graduates. The story goes that in 1999, after spending six months working on smoothie recipes and £500 on fruit, the trio sold their drinks from a stall at a music festival in London. People were asked to put their empty bottles in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bin depending on whether they thought the three should quit their jobs to make smoothies. At the end of the festival the “Yes”‘ bin was full, with only three containers in the “No” bin, so they went to their work the next day and resigned. In total, it took fifteen months from the initial idea to getting a product to market.



But Innocent is not as innocent as you might think. In 2009, the Coca-Cola Company bought a minority stake said to have been between 10 -20%. In April 2010, Coca-Cola increased its stake in the company to 58% and then in February 2013 Coca-Cola increased their stake to over 90%, leaving the three founders with a small minority holding. But understandably Coca -Cola keep their connection discreet.

Continue walking along Ladbroke Grove and when you get to Harrow Road cross over and continue into Kilburn Lane.

Stop 11: Paradise by Way of Kensal Green pub, Kilburn Lane

Just a little way up on the left is a grand Victorian pub with the equally wonderful name “Paradise by way of Kensal Green”.

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I had heard this phrase before and had kind of assumed it was John Betjeman. But no it is not. It was coined by G K Chesterton in his poem “The Rolling English Road” –  first published under the title “A Song of Temperance Reform” in 1913. The full text of the poem is below:

The Rolling English Road

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

Fascinatingly this poem was inspired by author’s strongly felt opposition to the idea of Prohibition into Britain. Chesterton saw it as an abuse of the ordinary man’s right to ordinary pleasures. So it is kind of fitting that there is a pub quite close to the cemetery which has been renamed “Paradise by Way of Kensal Green”.

It is a splendid building but obviously the Paradise … name is modern. A little bit of research reveals that this pub was originally called “Ye Old Plough” and this is borne out by the little relief on the side elevation.


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Return to Harrow Road and there turn right. Just a little way along on the left is our final stop

Stop 12: Kensal Green Cemetery

This is one of the early commercial cemetery, dating from 1833 and it still appears to be privately owned and run. It was the first of the magnificent seven cemeteries – We have already seen Brompton in SW10 and no doubt we see the others on our travels.

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Kensal Green Cemetery was inspired by the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and has a wide variety of mausoleums and tombs, some of which are rather grand, as is the entrance arch.


It is a huge cemetery but we will focus on the eastern end as that is the bit that is I suppose in W10.  The western entrance further up Harrow Road (where the Crematorium) is has a NW10 postcode.

So take a left as you go through the archway and head for the delightfully named “Dissenters’ Chapel”.

Just before you get there, there is a little plaque on the wall which commemorates Sir William Beatty. His main claim to fame is that he was the Ship’s Surgeon on board the HMS Victory and he witnessed Admiral Nelson’s death and subsequently wrote about it. Beatty claimed he did not administer treatment when Nelson was injured because he believed that the admiral was beyond treatment.


At his own request, Beatty was buried in an unmarked vault. This plaque is a memorial erected in the 1990s by the 1805 Club which is a society dedicated to maintaining the memory of the men of Trafalgar.

Now loop round in front of the Chapel. This by the way has an entrance on Ladbroke Grove which is not normally open – and this is one of the addresses used by the cemetery which confirms it is in W10.


Just a little way as you head back to the entrance you will see on your right a couple of columns side by side. These are not actually graves or tombs.

The one you come to first is  the Robert Owen memorial. Robert Owen (1771 – 1858) was a Welsh born social reformer. He was involved amongst other things with New Lanark which was a Scottish mill town and housing – his wife being the daughter of the founder of the Mill. It is an early example of a planned settlement and important in the historical development of urban planning. New Lanark is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland.

But he was actually buried in Newtown, Montgomeryshire so this just commemorates him. The monument itself has extensive praise for Owen:

“he originated and organised infant schools, he secured a reduction of the hours of labour for women and children in factories. He was a liberal supporter of the early efforts in favour of national education and laboured to promote international arbitration. He was one of the foremost englishmen (sic) who taught men to aspire to a higher social state by reconciling the interests of capital and labour. He spent his life and a large fortune in seeking to improve his fellow men by giving them education, self-reliance and more worth. His life was sanctified by human affection and lofty effort.”

The one next door is called The Reformers’ Memorial. Erected in 1885 at the instigation of  man called Joseph Corfield who is also mentioned on the Owen monument. The Reformers’ Memorial is:

“to the memory of men and women who have generously given their time and means to improve the conditions and enlarge the happiness of all classes of society”. There are long lists of people who were considered reformers and radicals.

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You can spent many an hour wandering through here, looking for the famous and not famous names (amongst the well known are both Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Wilkie Collins, William Makepeace Thackeray and Anthony Trollope). There are guided tours every Sunday from the Anglican Chapel (which is the one to the right as you came in).

Now for onward travel you can go out the gate you came in. You are on Harrow Road, near the junction with Ladbroke Grove and Kilburn Lane and there are a number of buses from here. The nearest station is actually Kensal Green which is a few minutes walk along Harrow Road left out of the cemetery gates.

So W10 has been fascinating. You do not really expect to find a poor bit of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but this is it. It is sliced up by Westway, the Grand Union Canal and railways but still manages some interesting buildings, most notably two very different listed housing developments (Trellick Tower and Kensal House).


W9: Maida force be with you

W9 is Maida Hill according to the Post Office, but it also includes the street called Maida Vale and the tube station of that name. This all seems terribly wrong. I really thought Maida Vale was in North West London and yet it has a W postcode!

Maida Vale took its name from a public house which opened on the Edgware Road in about 1810. The pub itself was called “The Hero of Maida” and was at 435 – 437 Edgware Road but that is in W2. The pub was actually named after John Stuart, Count of Maida, who amongst other things led the British Army to victory against the french at the Battle of Maida in 1806.  Maida is in southern Italy.


And is there really a place called Maida Hill? Well yes there is. So this is where we start our walk.


Our starting point is the Maida Hill Post Office at 377 Harrow Road.

Stop 1: Maida Hill Market

Just along the Harrow Road from the Post Office is the Prince of Wales junction and here in a small pedestrianised square created out of the end of Fernhead Road is Maida Hill market.


As far as I can establish this started in 2009 when the “piazza” was created and it has built up now to run Monday to Friday with a variety of stalls – most of which seem to sell what ordinary folks might want to buy (as opposed to home knitted yogurt or sausages made from individually named pigs.)

Now walk up Fernhead Road until just after Shirland Road. Our next stop is just by the corner of Fordingley Road.

Stop 2: Number 91 Fernhead Road


This was the childhood home of the comedian Norman Wisdom (1915 – 2010) or well a small part of this house was . As he allegedly said himself:  “I was born in very sorry circumstances. Both of my parents were very sorry.”


His obituary in the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/film-obituaries/8042823/Sir-Norman-Wisdom.html) said he “ranked second only to Charlie Chaplin as the 20th century’s most consistently successful British screen comic; he shared with Chaplin a talent for visual and physical humour whose roots lay in music hall and whose appeal transcended cultural boundaries.” Personally I found his character rather irritating.

Now in W7 we heard about Freddie Frinton being a cult figure in Germany and Scandinavia. Well Norman Wisdom was a cult figure in Albania. His films were amongst the few western films allowed in the country during the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. This was because he played the little down trodden man who struggled against the bosses and eventually won out.  In 1995 he received the Freedom not only of the City of London but also of the Albanian capital, Tirana

Now retrace your steps to Shirland Road and turn left, continuing until you get to Elgin Avenue. On our way we pass the Chippenham pub, which as it happens is the terminus of bus route 414. This is a fairly new route having started in late 2002 just before the introduction of the central congestion charge zone. At first the route went to Maida Vale but in January 2005 it was rerouted to start at the Chippenham and so we have a route which actually has the destination “Maida Hill”. So Transport for London acknowledge Maida Hill’s existance too!

Stop 3: J Welford and Company (Warwick Farm Diaries)

As we approach Elgin Avenue, you will see a red brick building on the right, with the name J Welford and Sons. Then just before the corner within the white tiled section of the ground floor are two plaques.



Richard Welford took over Warwick Farm (which was between Harrow Road and Warwick Crescent) in 1845 and opened his first dairy shop at 4 Warwick Place in 1848. Richard had three sons and died in 1858. His second wife was called Jane and one of his sons was John, so I am not sure which J was the J Welford in the company name.


This building is what is called “a model dairy” and dates from 1882. The lower plaque commemorates the laying of the foundation stone in April 1881 by Miss Annie Welford, who was Richard’s granddaughter whilst the upper one was unveiled on 29 October 1982 by her granddaughter Miss Pamela Bishop.



J Welford and Sons became part of United Dairies in 1915. I believe the property remained a milk depot well into the 20th century, but I guess the Welford family connection did not go on so long, as United Dairies became a big name.

Turn right down Elgin Avenue and take the first right, Delaware Road.

Stop 4: Maida Vale Studios, Delaware Road

Well I sort of half knew that the BBC had some studios in Maida Vale but nothing quite prepared me for this monster of a building tucked away in an otherwise quiet side street of mansion flats.


The building started life in 1909 as the “Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace and Club”. The BBC took over in 1933 and stripped it back to a shell and installed studios. But some arches at the doorways survived and give this hanger like building a bit of a boost.


This was one of the BBC’s earliest premises, pre-dating Broadcasting House, and was the centre of the BBC News operation during World War II.

Overall, the building houses a total of seven music and radio drama studios and has been used for orchestral recording for many years. But it also has other claims to fame. Between 1967 and 2004, many of “John Peel Sessions” were recorded in studio 4 . Bing Crosby made his last recording session in studio 3 in 1977 – a few days before he died of a heart attack in Spain. Most of the material on the Beatles album “Live at the BBC” (released in 1994) was recorded here. It was also the home of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (who created the Doctor Who theme music).

Now retrace your steps back to Elgin Avenue and turn right. Then take the first left.

Stop 5: 111 Wymering Road

In this street of mansion flats, stop at the first block on your left. Number 111 in this first block was the home of Vera Brittain between 1923 and 1927.



Vera Brittain is known today mainly for her book, Testament of Youth, published in 1933. This was her memoir covering the period 1900 – 1925. It is particularly known for its coverage of the impact of World War I on the lives of women and the middle-class civilian population of Britain. But it is also the story of Vera Brittain’s struggle to have an independent career in a male dominated world.

A five part BBC TV series was made in the late 1970s and apparently there are plans to make a feature film which is due to be released later this year.

Brittain’s daughter is Baroness Shirley Williams, now a Liberal Democrat Peer but once a Labour MP and Cabinet Minister and one of the” Gang of Four” who split from Labour to form the short lived Social Democratic Party in 1981.

Return to Elgin Avenue and turn left. At the next junction (where there are shops) take the second turning on the right (the one that goes at 45 degrees to the main road. This street is called Lauderdale  Road.

Stop 6: 155 Lauderdale Mansions

This street is also lined with mansion flats and was one of the first streets to be developed hereabouts, dating from 1897. These blocks are very similar to the ones to the south of Victoria Street. But it seems so odd to be in an area which is so almost completely mansions flats. This style of buildings is so “un-English”.


Of particular interest is number 155 Lauderdale Mansion which is on the right hand side as you walk away from Elgin Avenue.



This was the birthplace of Sir Alec Guinness (1914 – 2000).

He had a varied career. His early films included not only several Ealing Comedies (including The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters) but he also had major roles in David Lean’s movies of  Great Expectations and Oliver Twist in the late 1940s. He won an Oscar  for his role in the 1957 film “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.

But the one part which will ensure he is not forgotten is that of Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy. Apparently he thought the film would be a great success. He was shrewd enough to get a % deal which made him very rich indeed – and the deal also said he did not have to do any publicity. Interestingly there is no blue plaque here and in fact the only blue plaque I can find to Guinness is in Upper St Martins Lane erected by the British Film Institute in 1996 as part of the Centenary Of Cinema series. I guess the residents of Lauderdale Mansions might not want a “proper” blue plaque here given how obsessive some Star Wars fans can be.

Walk a little further along Lauderdale Road and take the first on the right (Biddulph Road). Now this is a bit of a surprise as it is a street of two story houses in a sea of mansion flats.


When you reach Elgin Avenue turn right. Our next stop is ahead at the corner of Randolph Avenue.

Stop 7: Maida Vale Station



 This station opened in 1915 when the Bakerloo Railway extended from Paddington to Queen’s Park. On the face of it this station looks like one of the many Leslie Green stations with its distinctive dark red tiles. However, this is not strictly a Leslie Green station as he only worked with the Underground Electric Railway Company of London until 1907 and he died in 1908.

This station and the next one (Kilburn Park) are of a modified design being slightly lower than the original 1906/07 Leslie Green stations. Also unlike the more central stations, no development was ever built over these two stations. Plus unlike the ones in central London, they (and Warwick Avenue) were built with escalators rather than lifts.

Fascinating fact: Leslie Green had a Maida Vale connection. It is possible he may have been born here, but he did live here as a child and young man in what is now Randolph Avenue. (see comments for this extra info – thanks, Tony)

The station some nice looking lamp brackets with old style shades and also has a couple of mosaics with the early underground logo. This logo was first used in 1908 but by 1917 it had  mutated to become the more familiar roundel of a ring crossed by a bar later adopted by London Transport.  So this mosaic is a rare survival.


Now the next stop is a bit of a trek to the far end of Maida Vale the street. So if you want to walk go to the end of Elgin Avenue and turn left towards Kilburn. Alternatively you can jump on a bus for a couple of stops to Kilburn Park Road.

Stop 8: Islamic Centre of England (former Maida Vale Picture House/Carlton Rooms)

Just before the junction with the street called Kilburn Priory on the right is our next stop – the Islamic Centre of England.

It is a strange feature of the way postcodes work in that you can get a street like Maida Vale where the side streets on either side are actually in a different post code. I guess this was so that this long street did not change its post code for the last little bit.



This building has had an interesting history, starting as an early cinema in 1913. It closed during the Second World War and was reincarnated as a Mecca dance hall. It became a Mecca Bingo Hall in 1961 and bingo continued until 1996 by which it was called Jasmine Bingo. It was then renovated as an Islamic Centre which opened in 1998. There are some picture of its current use on their website: http://www.ic-el.com/en/ICELgallery.asp

Strange that a place that used to be used for dancing and gambling and was called Mecca should end up being an Islamic Centre.

And whilst we are here pause a while at the building just to the south of the Islamic Centre. Today this is a modern building but apparently number 136 Maida Vale was the location of the home of William Friese-Greene (1855–1921) between 1888 and 1891. He was a pioneer of cinematography although he does not seem to have been a very good business man. Wikipedia says that he shot the world’s first movie film at his Maida Vale home, but I have been unable to find a source for this statement.


And just to prove the point we are still in W9 even though we are almost in Kilburn and in the western most reaches of Camden, here is the street sign outside Number 136.


Now retrace your steps back down Maida Vale towards central London and go as far as Sutherland Avenue, where you need to take a right. Our next stop is right by this junction.

Stop 9: Everyman cinema

Now here is a curiosity. A new two screen cinema – opened in December 2011. Not very attractive and quite an odd location which is just off a main road and nowhere near any centre. It has no history to speak of but I just thought I would include it as it seems so odd to find someone opening a cinema here so recently.


Go along Sutherland Avenue and at the roundabout take the left hand road (Warrington Crescent)

Stop 10: Number 75 Warrington Crescent

This was the home of David Ben-Gurion (1886 – 1973). He was one of the founding fathers of the modern state of Israel and was its first Prime Minister. He served from 1948 to 1963 except for a brief period in 1954/55. He was actually born in Poland and had the name David Grün. He became a passionate Zionist and adopted the hebrew name Ben-Gurion in around 1912. It is not clear exactly when he lived in this house. The English Heritage website neglects to include this useful information.



keep walking along Warrington Crescent and our next stop is near the end on the right.

Stop 11: Number 2 Warrington Crescent

This was the birthplace of Alan Turing (1912 – 1954).  He was a mathematician and code breaker. He was a major player in the development of computer science and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.



During World War II, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre. After the war, he worked at the National Physical Laboratory and at Manchester University.

Turing was prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952, when such acts were still criminalised. He accepted treatment with female hormones as an alternative to prison. Turing died from cyanide poisoning in 1954. An inquest determined his death was suicide but his mother and some others believed it was accidental.

In 2009, following an Internet campaign, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated.” The Queen gave him a posthumous pardon on 24 December 2013.

There is a curious story that the logo of Apple Computers is a tribute to Alan Turing, with the bite mark a reference to his suicide (he had partly eaten an apple just before his death). The designer of the logo and the company both deny that there is any homage to Turing in the design of the logo.  Stephen Fry apparently asked Apple founder Steve Jobs whether the design was intentional and said that Jobs’ response was, “God, we wish it were.”

Keep walking along Warrington Crescent and soon you will be at the top of Warwick Avenue (and the tube station). There are no dark red tiled buildings at this tube station even though it is the same vintage as Maida Vale station (there are just a couple of subway entrances and a ventilation shaft).

This station was name checked in a song by welsh singer Duffy in 2008. It has the awful rhyming of “Avenue” with “Tube”, at least I think that is supposed to be a rhyme.

Continue along Warwick Avenue until you reach the canal. You are now in the area called Little Venice.

Stop 12: Little Venice

According to one story, this area was named “Little Venice” by the poet Robert Browning (1812 – 1889), who lived in the area from 1862 to 1887.  However, the alternative version is that Lord Byron (1788–1824) humorously coined the name.

Just to the right side of the bridge is to the junction of Regent’s Canal and the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal and this is known as Browning’s Pool after the poet.



On the Warwick Avenue bridge is a plate showing it was built by Paddington Borough Council. And the crest of the council appears on the bridge.



Paddington was one of three boroughs that combined in 1965 to form the City of Westminster. And almost the whole area we walked through today was in the Borough of Paddington, which explains why the City of Westminster goes almost all the way to Kilburn.

There are just these odd little reminders of the old borough name. But I have never seen an old Paddington borough street name sign. After 1965, Westminster City Council must have done a thorough job in replacing the street signs with ones with the new borough name, unlike elsewhere in London where you come across old borough names on street signs.

A postscript

The border of W9 with W2 runs down the canal here and although the other side is W2, there are a couple of blue plaques to spot on Maida Avenue which runs off of Warwick Avenue just after the canal bridge

First at Number 30 comes John Masefield, who was Poet Laureate from 1930 until his death in 1967. The only person to hold the office for a longer period was Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who was Poet Laureate for 42 years.



Keep walking and just before you get back to Maida Vale is Number 2 which was home to the comedy actor Arthur Lowe (1915 – 1982).



He is best known for playing Captain George Mainwaring in the television sitcom Dad’s Army from 1968 until 1977. When the series ended, fellow Dad’s Army actor Clive Dunn accepted an OBE. It has been said that Arthur Lowe would then only accept an honour if it were rated higher than OBE. Afterall he was a “Captain” and so of a higher rank than Dunn whose character was a Lance Corporal . Lowe never did get an honour.

I should also have mentioned there is a City of Westminster green plaque to Robert Browning which is at 17 Warwick Crescent, W2. This is over the Warwick Avenue bridge and to the right rather than the left.

So that brings s to the end of the W9 walk. This is Maida Hill/Vale but I have to say that I did not notice much in the way of hill or vale. The first part of the walk in Maida Hill was in a fairly run down area but then soon the area changes into a sea of (what must be expensive) mansion flats.

If you have followed the postscript you will now be by the road called Maida Vale where there are plenty of buses for onward travel or else you can retrace your steps back to Warwick Avenue tube. If you ended the walk at the Warwick Avenue bridge then just turn back and you will soon be at Warwick Avenue tube.

W8: Nine lives …

W8 is Kensington and like many of the central postcodes I am spoilt for choice, especially given all the famous (and infamous) people who have plaques to commemorate them. I have therefore decided to have a theme. I will focus on nine lives shown on some of the blue (and not blue) plaques in W8. Why nine lives, well you will see…


We start our walk at High Street Kensington Station as there is no convenient Post Office from which to begin. (by the way note the initials in the picture above MR for Metropolitan Railway and DR for District Railway, as both companies used the station)

Go out of the station and cross Kensington High Street and take the side street almost opposite the station entrance. This is Hornton Street. Go up the slight hill with the Town hall on your left. Turn right into Holland Street and soon on your right is our first stop.

Stop 1: Radclyffe Hall – 37, Holland Street

Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall (1880 – 1943) is better known as Radclyffe Hall, today really only remembered as the writer of a book called “The Well of Loneliness.



This was published in July 1928 and is the story of Stephen Gordon who is a woman attracted to women. Whilst working as an ambulance driver in World War I, she finds love with Mary Llewellyn, but their happiness together is marred by social isolation and rejection.

Although the book has a lesbian theme, it is not sexually explicit. I have not actually read it but I am told that the only sexual reference consists of the words “and that night, they were not divided”. However the Sunday Express did not like it (not much change there then) and waged a campaign against it. There was an obsecenity trial in Britain in November 1928 at which the court judged the book obscene because it defended “unnatural practices between women”. The book continued to be published abroad and after Radclyffe Hall’s death, a British edition was published in 1949, without legal challenge. It has been in print ever since.

As we can see from the blue plaque, Radclyffe Hall must have lived at this Kensington address when the book was published and the trial took place.

Useless fact: The copyright protection for The Well of Loneliness expired in the European Union on January 1, 2014 but in the United States  copyright protection will continue until at least 2024.

Now walk along Holland Street and take a right down Kensington Church Walk. Halfway down is a little garden dedicated to our next “life”.

Stop 2: The Alec Clifton-Taylor Memorial Garden 



Alec Clifton-Taylor (1907 – 1985) was an architectural historian. He had very strong views on building materials and believed that local materials had to be used for building to “look right”. He was not a fan of much Victorian and subsequent architecture bemoaning the fact that the railway allowed the transport of cheaper materials alien to the locality. Along with Nikolaus Pevsner and John Betjeman, he is considered one of the important experts on English church architecture.

But he would not be known to a wider public were it not for his BBC television programmes. In 1974, Clifton-Taylor presented a programme on mediaeval building in the series on British architecture, The Spirit of the Age. He then went on to present three popular series of programmes: Six English Towns (1977), Six More English Towns (1981), and Another Six English Towns (1984). In each episode, he went to a particular English town, such as Stamford or Saffron Waldon and discussed the towns’ architectural character and evolution.

He lived in Kensington for many years and was president of the Kensington Society, so hence I guess the location of this garden.

Go past the garden and soon you will be back at Kensington High Street. Cross over and go past the Barker’s building and turn right down Young Street. Our next stop is just behind the Barker’s building on the same side of the street.

Stop 3: William Makepeace Thackeray – 16, Young Street

In his lifetime, Thackeray (1811 – 1863) was up there with Dickens as one of great Victorian novelists but today he is best known for just one book – Vanity Fair. Published in 1848, it is a wonderful panoramic portrait satirising English society with one of the  great lead characters of all time –  Becky Sharp.

This is one of 6 plaques dedicated to Thackeray. There is actually another one just round the corner at 2 Palace Green. That is on a house which was built for Thackeray in 1860 but the building is now the Israeli Embassy. I though it might be a bit difficult to take a photo of that one! So that is why I decided to go for the plaque in Young Street.  The two other Thackeray plaques in London are at 36 Onslow Square, SW7 and 20 Albion Street, W2. There are also plaques in Tunbridge Wells, Kent and Lismore in the Irish republic.



By the way Young Street was laid out in 1685 and this house actually dates from 1690, although the facade you see today is much later (1804 – 1805 according to Pevsner)

Go to the end of Young Street and turn right into Kensington Square. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 4: Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones – 41, Kensington Square 



Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898) was an artist and designer closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement and William Morris. He was a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company. He is also known for his stained glass. Burne-Jones was not one of the original Pre-Raphaelites but his early paintings are heavily influenced by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Later he developed his own style.

My favourite Burne-Jones pictures are the Briar Rose series which he painted in the late 1880s. These were purchased by Alexander Henderson, who would become the chairman of the Great Central Railway (1899 – 1922) and then deputy chairman of the London and North Eastern Railway (1923 – 1934) which had absorbed the Great Central when the railways were grouped in 1923. He also later became Lord Farringdon of Buscot Park – his country estate in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire).

The Briar Rose series are four pictures of the same moment in the Sleeping Beauty story in different locations. The panels have verses by William Morris. When Burne-Jones saw the room which Henderson had placed them in Buscot Park, he agreed to paint additional panels with the same rose motif to complete the decorative scheme of the room. The estate is now owned by the National Trust but the house and contents are managed by a separate trust. It’s well worth a visit and not just of this rather special room. It is an unusual National Trust property as it still has the family living in it and being able to impose their own mark on the house.

More info at: http://www.buscot-park.com/

Go round the other side of the square. There are two plaques in quick succession.

Stop 5: John Stuart Mill – 18 Kensington Square



John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) was an English philosopher and political economist. Mill was a strong believer in freedom, especially of speech and of thought. According the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics (http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Mill.htm), he defended freedom on two grounds. First, he argued, society’s utility would be maximized if each person was free to make his or her own choices. Second, Mill believed that freedom was required for each person’s development as a whole person. He also though men and women were equal.

Our next plaque is just next door.

Stop 6: Hubert Parry – 17 Kensington Square



Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848 – 1918) was a composer, teacher and historian of music. He is best known for the choral song “Jerusalem”, the coronation anthem “I was glad” and the hymn tune “Repton”, which is used as a setting for the hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”.

I had not quite appreciated that what we call Jerusalem was actually a short poem called “And did those feet in ancient time” by William Blake. It was in the preface to his epic work “Milton, a Poem”. The poem was said to be inspired by the legend that a young Jesus, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea, visited Glastonbury. Blake does not say that the visit actually happened but implies that a visit by Jesus would briefly create heaven in England, in contrast to the “dark Satanic Mills” of the Industrial Revolution.

This poem was published in around 1808 but was little known for the next hundred or so years. But in 1916 the poem “And did those feet in ancient times” was included in the patriotic anthology of verse The Spirit of Man, edited by the Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges. The aim was to boost morale given the high number of casualties in World War I and the perception that there was no end in sight.

The change of title to ‘Jerusalem’ seems to have been made in 1918 about the time it was used for a Suffrage Demonstration Concert. However, Parry always referred to it by its first title. He had originally intended the first verse to be sung by a solo female voice, but this is rare in contemporary performances. Sir Edward Elgar rescored the work for very large orchestra in 1922 and it is this orchestration rather than Parry’s which is usually used – in particular when it is trotted out at the Last Night of the Proms.

Now continue along the south side of Kensington Square and leave by Thackeray Street. Our next stop is just to the right.

Stop 7: Joan Sims – Esmond Court

Joan Sims (1930 – 2001) was perhaps best known for her roles in the Carry On films – not surprising in that she was a regular appearing in 24 of the 30 films. Only Kenneth Williams appeared in more. He was in 26!



Her first role was in Carry On Nurse and she was in the final one of the original series Carry On Emmanuelle . Over the years Sims’ characters evolved from an “object of desire” in the early films to frumpy and nagging in the later ones. Her carry on work has kind of overshadowed everything else.

But I did find she popped up in the 1989 video for Morrissey’s song “Ouija Board, Ouija Board”. This features Morrissey being led into the woods by some children who take him to see a medium, played by Joan Sims. The video also features an early appearance of a rather slim Kathy Burke.


Her last acting role was in the 2000 television film “The Last of the Blonde Bombshells” which was about a recently widowed woman (played by Judi Dench) trying to reunite the members of the 1940s swing band with which she played saxophone.

Continue down Thackeray Street and at the end turn right. Our next stop is almost immediately ahead.

Stop 8: T S Eliot – 3 Kensington Court Gardens

This is the flat where to poet Thomas Sterne ( T S) Eliot (1888 – 1965) lived at the end of his life and in fact it is where he died.



In his lifetime Eliot was best known for many serous works of poetry. But thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber he is perhaps just as well known as the librettist of one of the most successful musicals of the 20th century. In 1939, Eliot published a book of light verse, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.  “Old Possum” was fellow poet Ezra Pound’s nickname for Eliot.  Lloyd Webber has said that Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was a childhood favourite of his.

Lloyd Webber began composing the songs in late 1977 and premiered the compositions at the Sydmonton Festival in 1980. The concert was attended by T.S. Eliot’s widow, Valerie Eliot and she apparently loved the songs that Webber had composed. She gave her blessing for the songs to be adapted into a musical. The Eliot estate insisted the original poems were used as the text. And the solution was that the show is almost completely told through music and dance with virtually no spoken dialogue in between the songs.  The set, consisting of an oversized junk yard, remains the same throughout the show without any scene changes.

There is one significant exception to the songs being Eliot’s verse set to music by the composer, and that is the most famous song from the musical, “Memory”. The lyrics were written by Trevor Nunn after an Eliot poem entitled “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”.  

Cats opened at the New London Theatre in May 1981 and ran for 21 years in London, whilst the Broadway production which opened in 1982 ran for 18 years. Cats is currently the second longest running musical on Broadway and the fourth longest running in the West End and of course having so little dialogue makes it ideal for an international audience. Somewhere in the world there always seems to be a production on the go.

So now you know why I chose to call the blog of W8: “Nine Lives”!

Fascinating fact: Judi Dench was supposed to play the part Grizzabella – the cat who sings the song “Memory”. But she had to pull out during rehearsals because of an injury. Famously Elaine Paige took the role in the first production and made the song her own. One wonders what would have happened if Judi Dench, not exactly known for her singing voice, had not had to pull out. Would the show have been so successful – or would Lloyd Webber have found another way to sneak the “hit” song into another part of the musical. Having said that Judi Dench has been in musicals. She played Sally Bowles in the original London production of Cabaret in 1968 and then in 1995, she played Desiree Armfeldt in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

But on a more serious note, my friends Annette and Rod decided to retire to a country cottage and they moved to a little village called East Coker, just outside Yeovil. This is the name of one Eliot’s Four Quartets poems. Eliot’s connection with East Coker is that one of his ancestors came from here. And Eliot’s ashes are in the parish church at East Coker, so we often pop in and see him when we are down that way.

Turn back up the street named Kensington Court and take the left hand road. Ahead you will see a pedestrianised alleyway. Our next stop is just at the start of this on the building on the right.

Stop 9: Colonel R E B Crompton – Kensington Court



Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton (1845 – 1940) may not be a name which is that well known but he played an important part in the development of the use of electricity. He was a pioneer of electric lighting and public electricity supply systems. The company he formed, Crompton & Co., was one of the world’s first large-scale manufacturers of electrical equipment. He was also an early campaigner for an international standard for electrical systems. Whilst his main factory was in Chelmsford Essex, he seems to have worked and experimented right here in Kensington which seems unthinkable today!

So that is the end of our “Nine Lives” but I felt I coud not leave this part of Kensington without mentioning the lives of the three major shops which dominated High Street Kensington for so many years:

Go up the pedestrianised alley and then road the little road ahead. At the end is Kensington High Street. Turn left and the first store is ahead at the next corner.

Stop 10: John Barker and Company

John Barker set up shop in Kensington in 1870. He was an ambitious man and over the years acquired neighbouring property and expanded the shop until by 1892, the store employed over 1000 staff in 42 departments. But they were in lots of small shops and so a rebuilding programme was started.

The building we see today was started in 1936 but war interrupted work and it was only finally finished in 1958, by which time the Barker’s group of companies had been bought by House of Fraser.

In 1982 the number of sales floors was reduced from seven to four. It was then refurbished and redeveloped in 1986/87 as a compact store in the eastern part of the building with a new arcade of nine boutiques in the western part.  The remaining part of the building was turned into offices which were taken by the Daily Mail group of newspapers, which at the time included the Evening Standard. Now the Mail and the Standard are separate but they still seem to live in the same building along with the Independent, which has the same Russian owner as the Standard.

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The smaller Barker’s eventually closed in 2006 and much of the space is now occupied by the american food store Whole Foods Market but you can get a feel for how grand the old store must have been if you go in the main entrance to Whole Foods Market

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Our next stop is the next building.

Stop 11: Derry and Toms

Derry & Toms started as a drapery store in 1853 and came to occupy the block between Barker’s and Pontings. It was bought by Barker’s in 1920 who already had bought Pontings in 1907. The three stores continue as separate concerns with Barker’s being the up market one and Pontings and Derry & Toms catering for the middle-class.


The wonderful Art Deco building we see today dates from 1933 and with the addition of a roof garden installed in 1936 – 1938.  The garden survives today and is open to the public. Have a look at this aerial picture  https://maps.google.com/?t=k&om=1&ll=51.501073,-0.191858&spn=0.000972,0.00192

But sadly Derry and Toms closed as a store in 1973. It had a brief flowering as Biba until 1975 but the shop floors were then stripped out and one side became Marks and Spencer and I believe the other side became BHS, although now that has long been replaced by something else. But there remain some lovely decorative features on the outside and a little reminder of the old name with the intertwined initials D and T. Plus some rather fanciful woodland reliefs, with squirrels I think!

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Go past Derry and Toms and the entrance to the station and you will get to the site of the third store, Pontings, now largely forgotten.

Stop 12: Pontings

Ponting Brothers started as a drapery store in 1873. It was a profitable concern until 1906 when an ambitious scheme to diversify the trade foundered and the company went into liquidation. Pontings was snapped up by Barker’s in 1907 but the business continued to trade under its old name and with its own buying team. However it was very much the dowdy sister of the three stores and was never had the kind of major rebuilt the other two did starting in the 1930s.

Amazingly Pontings carried on as a separate store for over 60 more years but it finally closed in February 1971. It had a brief rebirth in the lower ground floor of the Barker’s building where it became known as ‘Pontings Bargain Basement’. This did not last long as it was out of keeping with the rest of the store and so Pontings ceased to be a store name.

The store used to be to the right hand side of the entrance to the station and much of the space is now taken up by Boots.


Much of the information about these three stores has come from a very interesting article on the University of Glasgow’s website http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_91174_en.pdf  (they hold the House of Fraser archives, in case you wondered).

And so we have reached the end of our W8 walk. We have heard about some of W8’s famous residents as well as the three main stores that used to line the High Street.

We are now right by High Street Kensington station for onward travel.

W7: Difficulties be Damned

“Difficulties be damned” is the translation of the latin motto “Nec Aspera Terrent” used by the Duke of Lancaster Regiment.  So why is this relevant to W7 I hear you say.

Well bizarrely (at least I find it bizarre) Nec Aspera Terrent was also the motto of the short lived Hanwell Urban District Council which was swallowed up by the municipal borough of Ealing in 1926. What a grand motto for a such a little place.  So it seemed kind of right to call this post “Difficulties be Damned” – especially when on Friday I found all the textual changes I had just made to the draft of this blog had somehow mysteriously disappeared into the ether, and I had to redo them.

We start our walk at Hanwell Post Office, 139 Uxbridge Road.

Turn left out of the Post Office and cross the road when convenient. The first stop is a bit of a walk past the mini-roundabout with two churches on either side of you. Just a little further beyond the mini-roundabout you will see the gates to a cemetery on the right. Go in there.

Stop 1: Hanwell (City of Westminster) Cemetery

This was one of the cemeteries which Westminster City Council (led at the time by Shirley Porter) controversially sold to land developers for 15p in the late 1980s. I knew about this but I was interested to see that the sign and map at the entrance still said “City of Westminster”. It turns out that the City Council reacquired the cemeteries in 1990 and so today they remain administered by Westminster. There are a couple of people to see here.


Now take the roadway on the far left as you go in. Initially it hugs the perimeter wall and then it curves off to the left. Ahead at the junction with other paths you will see a World War One monument and just to the left is a small monument with a little dog statue.

Stop1a: Freddie Frinton


Freddie Frinton was a comedian who is largely forgotten today in Britain. If he is remembered at all, it is for the 1960s sitcom “Meet the Wife” – the wife by the way was played by Thora Hird. This sitcom was referenced in the Beatles song “Good Morning Good Morning” with the line “It’s time for tea and Meet the Wife”.

But he is a household name in Germany and Scandinavia because of his performance in a sketch called Dinner for One. He had been performing this sketch on stage for years and for reasons which are unclear to me at least it was recorded in 1963 by a German Television Station – Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR). It has since become a German New Year’s Eve tradition and this cult also caught on in Scandinavia.

The sketch has Frinton as a butler serving dinner to a little old lady and four non existent guests. As he serves each course, he asks her “same procedures as last year” and she replies “same procedure as last year”. He then pours out a drink for each guest and then goes round, makes a toast at each place and drinks the drink. Of course gets more and more drunk. There is also a running gag involving tripping (or not tripping) on a tiger skin rug.

Here is a link to the sketch on YouTube.


This is the full version with an opening explanation in German, but the main sketch is in English and apparently was never dubbed. I won’t spoil the punchline (such as it is) in case you want to watch it.

By the way, isn’t the gravestone odd. Freddie’s son-in-law seems to have muscled in. Maybe the remaining space is (was?) intended for Freddie’s daughter.

Walk ahead with the Frinton grave on your right and soon take the path to the right. There is a tree in the middle and beyond that a long low stone monument with a cross on the right hand end. This is the City of Westminster monument to people who were killed in the Blitz and who are buried in a mass grave here. The name to look out for is A A Bowlly.

Stop 1b: Al Bowlly

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Albert Allick Bowlly was born in Mozambique in 1899 but grew up in South Africa. He became a very popular dance band singer (or crooner) in the 1930s initially here in Britain and later in the United States. He recorded more than one thousand tracks and was one of the first big band singers to be credited in his own right.

Some of the songs he was known for are: “Goodnight, Sweetheart”, “The Very Thought of You” and “Love Is the Sweetest Thing”. He is one of the singers used by Denis Potter in his 1978 series “Pennies from Heaven” and also in the 1986 series “The Singing Detective”.

Here is one of the few bits of film with Al Bowlly actually shown singing – This one was recorded in Pathe Studios in 1934 and is “The Very Thought of You”.


On the morning of 17 April 1941 – a night of very heavy bombing in London’s West End – Bowlly was one of three residents of Dukes Court (in St James’s) killed by the blast of a landmine which fell in nearby Jermyn Street. It blew in the block’s windows. He was found lying next to his bed, having refused to use the building’s shelter.

Last November, English Heritage put up a blue plaque to him – tactfully not at the location of the flat where he died, but rather at one he occupied in the early 1930s. This is  at Charing Cross Mansions in Charing Cross Road, just down from Wyndhams theatre.


Now retrace your steps back to the gates and turn left, heading back into Hanwell.

As we go, have a look out for numbers 76 (cemetery side of road) and number 93 (Post Office side of road). You will find out why when we get to stop 3, but first we have stop 2!

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Stop 2: Lidl store (site of Hanwell tram/trolleybus/bus depot)

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For just over 90 years this site was used to house various forms of transport. Originally in 1901 it was a tram depot for London United, then it became a trolleybus depot from 1936 and finally a diesel bus garage from 1960. The bus garage closed in 1993 and this Lidl store and car park is now on the site.

There was also a cinema hereabouts for a brief period – the  Coronation Hall Picture Palace which operated from about 1912 to 1918.

Now cross the main road and stand by the little green and look up at the end of the building.

Stop 3: Marshall’s Amplifiers

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Here you will see a plaque to commemorate Jim Marshall, creator of that staple of rock bands – the Marshall Amplifier. Jim Marshall actually ran a music store at 76 Uxbridge Road, selling drums and then guitars. The story goes that his many guitar playing customers (who included Pete Townshend of the Who) wanted amplifiers which were “bigger and louder”.

In 1962, Marshall together with a young electronics apprentice, Dudley Craven (who had previously worked for EMI) began producing prototype amplifiers. This led to the  foundation of Marshall Amplification. The shop later moved over the road to number 93, and eventually the manufacture of amplifiers went off to Milton Keynes, where it is today.

Quite why the plaque is on this building who knows. It is at neither of the locations of Marshall’s shops in Hanwell. This plaque was unveiled at a tribute music festival in April 2013, so maybe it was a convenient location for that, as there is a bit of open space here.

We cannot leave the subject of Marshall’s amps without mentioning the spoof documentary “This Is Spinal Tap”. In this, band member Nigel Tuffnel claimed his Marshall’s volume knob went “one louder” due to a unique setting of 11 on the dial. Apparently in response, Marshall set about producing models with dials that went up to 20 rather than the usual 10.

Now go down the side street here. Across this road is a row of shops and at the end a new block of flats. 

Stop 4: Number 8, The Broadway – Site of Grand Electric/Curzon/Tudor Cinema.

This was the location of an independent cinema for around 40 years. First opened in 1911 as the Grand Electric Cinema, it was rebuilt in 1933. It changed hands after the end of Second World War and it was renamed Curzon Cinema in 1946. At the end of 1951 there was another change of owner who renamed it the Tudor Cinema. The cinema finally was closed on 16 July 1955. The building was converted into a warehouse and then it became a car repair garage. It was demolished in the early 2000s and this block of modern flats has been built on the site.


Go back to the main road and ahead you will see our next stop.

Stop 5: Hanwell Clock Tower

This concrete clock tower dates from 1937 and was part of Ealing’s celebration of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It must have looking super modern when it was unveiled.

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In the early 70s, a local estate agent wanted to raise £5,000 to demolish it and replace it with “something more pleasing”. Luckily the prejudice against 1930s concrete did not prevail and the clock stands today. It may not be the prettiest but it is unusual and does give Hanwell something distinctive and different.

Take the side street across from the clock tower (Boston Road) and follow this quite a way to just past Elthorne Park.  Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 6: St Thomas the Apostle Church

St Thomas’s is the work of architect Edward Maufe. He had won the competition for Guildford Cathedral in 1932 but work on that did not begin until 1936. In the meantime Maufe designed St Thomas’s – completed in 1934 – and it is kind of a dry run for the form of construction and materials proposed for Guildford. Many of the interior details are also similar to Guildford Cathedral, such as the tall lancets and narrow aisle passages with very pointed arches.

Calvary by Eric Gill

And he also employed Eric Gill to create a sculpture on the east end wall of the church. This was carved ‘in situ’ from a single stone block.

Lots more info via the Church’s website: http://thomashanwell.org.uk/building/

Now head back towards Hanwell, but at the fork in the road take the left road (Lower Boston Road) rather than the one you came down. Soon on the left is our next stop, by St Dunstan’s Road.

Stop 7: William Hobbayne Centre

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This was once clearly a Salvation Army building as their name can be seen in the glass but I was intrigued to know who William Hobbayne was and how this building came to bear his name.

Well it turns out that the name of William Hobbayne has been part of Hanwell’s history for centuries. In fact since 1484 (yes the 15th century!) when he gave a house and some 22 acres of land to be used for the poor and needy of the parish. His legacy created the charity of William Hobbayne which has been doing charitable works ever since. They purchased this former Salvation Army Citadel in 2002 to create a community centre.

keep walking along Lower Boston Road and our next stop is at the corner of St Mark’s Road.

Stop 8: King George’s Field

There are some plaques on the brick pillars which explain a bit about this little open space piece of land. It was originally part of Hanwell Heath which was set aside for the benefit of the poor and so called Poor’s Piece.


Ealing Council bought this site in 1940 and with help from the King George Fields Foundation, it was laid out as playing field, opening to the public in May 1951.

Continue along Lower Boston Road and when you reach Uxbridge Road turn left.

Stop 9: The Wharncliffe Viaduct

As you cross the bridge over the river Brent look over the meadows to the right and you will see our next stop, the majestic Wharncliffe Viaduct. The river is the boundary of W7, so much of the viaduct is outside W7 but I have included it as the eastern end is definitely in W7!

This brick viaduct was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was his first major structural design and is the first major structure on the Great Western Railway on the way out of Paddington. It goes over the Brent valley at an elevation of 65 feet. An unusual feature for such a structure is the crest in the middle of the south side. This is the Wharncliffe coat of arms. Lord Wharncliffe was chairman of the Great Western Railway and helped steer the necessary legislation through the House of Lords. Hence the name of the viaduct.

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The viaduct was originally built for two tracks, but they were of broad gauge (7′ 0¼”). By the time it was widened to take four tracks in 1877 , the Great Western Railway had converted to standard gauge (4′ 8½”), so the structure did not need to be quite doubled in size. You can see this if you walk up along the path by the river and stand under the structure. The northern side (left hand side on picture) is where the extension is.


The supporting piers are hollow and are home to a colony of bats who can access their roost via metal grilles at the bottom of some piers.


Now return back to the Uxbridge Road. Turn left, go back over the river and head up the hill into Hanwell.  Just before the clock tower, turn left into Station Road.

 Stop 10: Conolly’s Dell

The land hereabouts was the location of “Lawn House”. This was for a time a private asylum run by John Conolly. He had been superintendent at the Hanwell Asylum between 1839 and 1844. I believe this was along Uxbridge Road where Ealing Hospital now stands (which is outside W7).

Conolly then opened his own private asylum at Lawn House. The pioneering psychiatrist, Henry Maudsley ran this private asylum from 1866 to 1874. The house has gone but Lawn and Conolly appear as street names off of Station Road.

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Part of the grounds remained undeveloped. This is now known as Conolly’s Dell and is a little park has a stream running through it with some ponds.

There is the plinth of a monument to John Conolly on the south side but the actual moument is lost. There is an inscription which reads:

“A memorial to John Conolly MD of the grounds of whose house this dell was formerly part MDCCCCX1. Hanwell Urban District Council bought the land from Mr Freestone a local resident and pillar of the community for £1,115. HUDC spent £600 on the landscaping and opened it on 3/4/12 without ceremony.”

Return to the road, you came up. Now here’s a curious thing, we are in Station Road and just before the bridge on the right is Station Approach. But neither road actually goes to Hanwell Station. In fact if you want to take a short detour down Station Approach, you can see where the Hanwell station building ought to be. If you could go through that bricked up door, it would lead you to the subway linking the platforms.


And why is the station not here? Well the answer is that when the railway was widened from two to four tracks, the slow lines were on the north side as we saw with the viaduct. That meant the operational platforms for Hanwell had to be on the north side, rather than the south side where Station Approach is. At some point it was decided to concentrate the station entrance on the north side of the embankment. Maybe convenient for the railway but a bit odd as the town is on the south side. Then again Station Approach is a rather strange lonely road with no buildings along its whole length.

Anyhow back to our route. Go under the railway, take the first right and then the next right, which is Campbell Road.

Stop 11: 8 Campbell Road (home of William Frederick Yeames)

We want to stop at Number 8, the former home of artist William Frederick Yeames RA (1835 – 1918).

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His speciality was the so called “problem picture”. These are pictures with a narrative which is down to the observer to decipher. His best known work is “And When Did You Last See Your Father?’ which shows the son of a Royalist being questioned by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.This painting is owned by the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, who acquired it in 1878, just a year after the gallery opened in 1877.

Now keep walking along Campbell Road and soon you will be at the station.

Stop 12: Hanwell railway station

The first station here opened in December 1838 just a few month after the railway line itself opened. But the station we see today dates from the late 1870s when the line was widened. It has two operational platforms (numbered 2 and 3) on the slow lines plus a platform face on the London bound fast line which I guess is only used in emergency. There is no platform on the westbound fast line.

It is quite a pretty station which feels like it should be in the country. Well I suppose it was still quite countrified when it was built. It has a couple of original looking name plate signs which declare the station’s name as “Hanwell and Elthorne”.

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Usually when a station uses a place name then it puts the place on the map. Well this does not seem to have happened with Elthorne which has all but disappeared as a discrete place. But maybe it was never much more than a hamlet, presumably on the Boston Road near St Thomas’s church and what is now Elthorne Park.

There is also a sign requesting that passengers cross the line by the subway. Seems a bit unnecessary given how the trains speed through here.

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This is a rather frustrating station, in that whilst there are constantly trains hurtling through at great speed, it is only served by the twice-hourly Heathrow Connect (Paddington – Heathrow) stopping service and there is not even a Sunday service. Yet when you get on that train you are whisked to Paddington in just 12 minutes. This is one of the stations which will be on the new Crossrail route so hopefully it will get a much improved service. If it does, then I am sure there will be a bonanza in house prices.

Well that ends our W7 walk. There was much more here that I expected when I started, what with the rock star connection, two almost forgotten entertainers, a nice 1930s clock and a couple of lovely bits of railway architecture.

We are at Hanwell station for onward travel – if you time it right you will not have to wait too long for a train!