W12: Peppered with actual shepherd on top …

W12 is Shepherd’s Bush. I always thought this was an odd name for a place. It’s a bit like Shepherd’s Pie being an odd name for a dish especially given the recipe does not usually involve Shepherds or indeed lamb. I used to feel that in some way there was a link between Shepherd’s Bush and Shepherd’s Pie – but I do not think there is.

However this leads me on to the quote which is from the Sondheim masterpiece “Sweeney Todd” where in the song “A little priest”, Todd and neighbour Mrs Lovett are pondering the flavours of pies they can make from the unsuspecting (newly deceased) customers of Todd’s barbers shop. Who else would dare rhyme “shepherd” with “peppered” or indeed pen the line which occurs later on in the song: “I’ll come again when you have Judge on the menu”. I know this has nothing to do with Shepherd’s Bush but I could not resist.

So we start our walk at Shepherd’s Bush Post Office, 65 – 69 Shepherd’s Bush Green – near the north west corner.

Turn left out of the Post Office and then take a left into Uxbridge Road. Our first stop is just a little way on the left.

Stop 1: Bush Theatre (former Passmore Edwards Library)

This was one of the many Passmore Edwards libraries – we saw another one in Acton. This building dates from 1895 and was the main library in Shepherd’s Bush until 2008 when a new one was opened as part of the Westfield shopping centre development.

It was disused for a time and then in 2011, it was converted to become the new home of the Bush Theatre. This had started in 1972 just nearby upstairs at the Bush pub at the corner of Shepherd’s Bush Green and Goldhawk Road. The original Bush was tiny, holding only about 80 people, and it was probably the most uncomfortable theatre you could imagine. The new theatre is slightly bigger with 144 seats and is rather more comfortable than its predecessor.

 

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Keep walking along Uxbridge Road and you will see just before the railway bridge an entrance to Shepherd’s Bush market.

Stop 2: Shepherd’s Bush Market

Shepherd’s Bush Market runs alongside the railway viaduct here between Uxbridge Road and Goldhawk Road. It  is a shabby looking affair, selling all manner of goods and a little bit of food, running every day except Sunday. There has been a market here for around 100 years and it seems that the land is actually owned by Transport for London. There have been various plans to regenerate the market but so far none have come to pass. But I guess it is just a matter of time.

 

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Go under the railway. On the right is Shepherd’s Bush Market station. For many years this was just called Shepherd’s Bush causing confusion to the unwary who may have thought it was easy to interchange between the Hammersmith & City line here and the Central line but that station is at the other end of Shepherd’s Bush Green.

Now having sorted out this confusion, perhaps TfL will do something about the two separate Edgware Road stations and the two Bethnal Greens. TfL used to have an excuse with the latter pair as they only ran the Central line station of that name. But they will soon take over running the West Anglia line station, so they could easily rename one.

Take the first left. This is the street called Lime Grove.

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Stop 3: Site of Lime Grove Studios

Towards the end on the left is a rather dull looking modern housing development. This was the location of Lime Grove studios.

Lime Grove Studios was a film studio complex built by the Gaumont Film Company in 1915 and described by Gaumont as “the finest studio in Great Britain and the first building ever put up in this country solely for the production of films”. Gaumont was originally a french company but its British operation was sold off in 1922 to become Gaumont British. In 1941 Gaumont British was bought by the Rank Organisation. By then, Rank has a substantial interest in Gainsborough Pictures and so a number of Gainsborough films were shot at Lime Grove. One of these was possibly their best known – The Wicked Lady dating from 1945.

The BBC took it over for television in 1949 as a temporary measure whilst they built Television Centre. But they ended up using it until 1991.  An early soap opera The Grove Family (1954–57) got its name from the studios. Some early Top of the Pops came from here. And on 13 April 1963, The Beatles recorded their first ever BBC broadcast here and they returned in 1964 for a further recording. Sadly these recordings do not appear to have survived. But the programme with the longest connection with Lime Grove was an early evening current affairs series called Nationwide which ran from 1969 to 1983.

The site was sold and the buildings demolished in 1993 – to be replaced by this housing development. In a nod to the past, the housing facing onto Lime Grove is called Gaumont Terrace whilst the little street off Lime Grove is called Gainsborough Court.

In 2011, Lime Grove Studios was the setting for BBC’s fictional current affairs program The Hour. Of course by then there was no Lime Grove studios to film it in, so the 1930s Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End stood in.

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Fascinating fact: Lime Grove was also the location of Urania Cottage which was a refuge for fallen women established by writer Charles Dickens in the late 1840s and funded by philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts. Not sure there is any indication of exactly where this was though!

Go to the end of Lime Grove. Turn left into Goldhawk Road. Go under the railway, past another entrance to the market and then at Shepherd’s Bush Green take a left. The pub at the corner was by the way the original home of the Bush theatre. (from 1972 until 2011)

Just a little way on the left is our next stop, which is a kind of triple bill of  entertainment establishments – or rather one actual and two former establishments. They make an odd assortment as they are each very different, as we shall see.

Stop 4a: Empire Theatre

Here we have another Frank Matcham theatre. Unlike the others we have heard about in the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (The Granville in SW6 and the Lyric in W6), this one is still standing and on its original site. The Shepherd’s Bush Empire was built in 1903 for impresario Oswald Stoll.  It staged variety and revues until the early 1950s.

In 1953, the Empire was bought by the BBC and it became the BBC Television Theatre. The roll call of programmes which came from here is incredible: Crackerjack, The Old Grey Whistle Test, That’s Life!, The Generation Game, Juke Box Jury, This is Your Life, Jim’ll Fix It plus many many BBC’s light entertainment music shows from artists such as Cliff Richard, Lulu, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Vera Lynn, Harry Secombe and Petula Clark. In 1985, the theatre was used exclusively for Wogan, which was broadcast three nights a week from the theatre.

 

 

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The BBC vacated the building in 1991. After refurbishment, it became a live music venue in 1994 which it remains today. It is a relatively small venue with a capacity of around 2,000. But it does get used  for “surprise” warm-up gigs, including in 1999, the Rolling Stones prior to a major tour.

During a concert in March 2003, the lead vocalist of the Texan band The Dixie Chicks said of the impending Iraq war, “we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas.” Whilst this met with the approval of the audience, it did not go down so well with some of the folks back home.

Now curiously the alley that runs between the Empire and the former cinema next door  is called Rockwood Place, which is kind of fitting given the acts that appear at the Empire.

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But go down this alley and look at the side of the old cinema and you will see a wonderful old sign, made out of what looks like terra cotta. This proclaims: “Cinematograph Theatre Continuous Performance 1/- 6d & 3d”

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This dates from the days when this building was a cinema.

Stop 4b: Former Cinematograph Theatre

So here immediately next to the Empire is this old cinema. This was  originally built in 1910 as the Shepherd’s Bush Cinematograph Theatre by Montagu Pyke – it was the 6th in his chain.  The cinema had a number of owners (and other names – New Palladium, Palladium, Essoldo, Classic and Odeon 2) over the years and finally stopped showing films in 1981.

I have always loved Essoldo as a cinema name. It is meaningless and yet evokes a kind of foreign exoticness. As one might have guessed, it is a made up name. It was derived from the names of the owning family, the Sheckmans. Sol was the chairman, his wife was Esther and his daughter Dorothy hence ES(ther) -SOL – DO (Dorothy).

After standing empty for some time, it was eventually converted into a pub and for many years it was an australian themed bar called Walkabout. In October 2013 the building was sold to a property developer and it looks like it is being redeveloped by the same people who are rebuilding the third entertainment site just next door.

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Stop4c: Former Pavilion cinema

Third in this row is the former Pavilion cinema, designed by Frank T. Verity and opened in 1923.   The massive brick and stone frontage onto Shepherd’s Bush Green won the RIBA London Street Architecture Award for the best London facade in 1923 – this was possibly the first time a cinema had been recognised as of architectural merit.

The Pavilion Cinema was badly damaged by a German flying bomb in July 1944, and it did not re-open until 1955. The original ornate Italian Renaissance style interior was replaced by rather bland interior and it was renamed the Gaumont. After becoming the Odeon in 1962, it was rebuilt in 1969 with a cinema upstairs and a bingo hall downstairs. About 1973 it became Odeon 1, as the cinema next door became Odeon 2. Odeon 1 carried on a bit longer as a cinema until 1983. The bingo hall carried on even longer until 2001

 

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Sadly despite some efforts, it has not proved possible to find a theatrical use for this building. Today a hotel is being constructed on the site, although at least  they have retained the facade. It will be interesting to whether anything else of the old building has survived. But at least it is not like Lime Grove studios which got completely levelled.

Now cross the road and ahead you will see our next stop.

Stop 5: Goaloids

Here on Shepherd’s Bush Green are two gigantic football-inspired sculptures known as Goaloids. Each Goaloid is constructed in metal and based on the dimensions of a set of goalposts.

The sculptures were part of the Cultural Olympiad in 2012 and commemorate the site of the 1908 London Olympic football finals. They are the work of artist (and Queen’s Park Rangers supporter) Elliott Brook. In 2007 Brook was on a life support machine after suffering a stroke while in a pneumonia-related coma. He came out of this paralysed on the left side and is in a wheelchair. Yet he was able to mastermind this creation.

 

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Originally the goaloids rotated in opposite directions for 45 minutes, and then stopped and reversed for the last 45 minutes of a 90 minutes set, making reference to the duration of a full football match. But I do not think they actually do this any more! But I guess the fact they are still here is a bit of a result as they were supposed to be just for the duration of the Games.

Walking away from the theatre and ex-cinemas, go to the far end of the green

Stop 6: War Memorial and former public conveniences

This is the rather elegant Shepherd’s Bush war memorial. It is Grade II listed and dates from 1922.

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And just nearby an example of a reused underground public convenience –  or rather a disused reused public convenience. This was a bar/club called Ginglik which opened in the spring of 2002. It seems to have closed sometime in 2013. Its website says “the venue is currently closed and under offer”, so it may make a comeback.

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Now cross the road and ahead you will see Shepherd’s Bush central line station. This by the way was the original western terminus of the Central London Railway, opened in July 1900.

Stop 7: Sterne Street housing

There is a walkway to the left of the station building. This leads you into Sterne Street where there are two rows of these dinky little houses, with metal window frames. These date from the early 1902s. According to Pevsner, Number 53 at the corner was the home of these houses’ designer, a man called George Walton. This is a little back water but looming up behind it is the huge Westfield Shopping Centre. It must be very odd to live so literally in the shadows of a vast shopping mall and yet be in a such a quiet street.

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Retrace your steps to the station go round the front and then along the other side. Ahead you will see the massive Westfield Shopping Centre.

Stop 8: Westfield Shopping Centre

1908 was the first year in which London hosted the Summer Olympics and Shepherd’s Bush was one of the main sites, with the main stadium amongst other things. In the same year, the Franco-British Exhibition was held here. This attracted 8 million visitors and celebrated the Entente Cordiale signed in 1904 by the United Kingdom and France. The White City stadium continued to be used as greyhound track and sports stadium until the 1980s when it was demolished to make way for new offices for the BBC.

Some of the buildings from the exhibition did survive until fairly recently. They were not that impressive but they were painted white and this is said to be the origin of the local name of White City. What little was left was swept away when the Westfield Shopping centre was built.  Much of the rest of the site used for the Westfield Shopping centre was in use as a railway depot. This was excavated to a lower level and built over.

The Shopping Centre is certainly big but it is not the largest in London. Westfield’s mall at Stratford is bigger. In UK terms, the west London shopping centre is fifth largest. But it is about to get bigger. In February 2012, Hammersmith and Fulham Council approved an extension to the north of the existing site, and it looks like John Lewis will be the main tenant.

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Now you can either go through the centre and come out at the White City end. Or else go back to Shepherd’s Bush Green, follow the north side and then go right into Wood Lane. Either way you will find just behind the shopping centre and before the railway viaduct there is the White City bus interchange and this unusual brick building.

Stop 9: the Dimco building

This building is called the Dimco building and was originally constructed to house the power generator for the Central London Railway in 1898.

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I thought what a great name for a power station building but sadly the name has nothing to do with its original use. The power plant was shut down in the 1920s and sometime later it became a workshop run by the Dimco Company. It was converted to become a bus stand in 2008, but it apparently also includes an electricity generating station for the central line.

Fascinating fact: This was one of the filming locations for the 1988 movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

Now return to Wood Lane and turn right and go under the railway passing the new Wood Lane station on your right. Although this is on a line which has been in operation since 1864, the station only opened in 2008, having been built to improve public transport access to the new shopping centre. There was previously a Wood Lane station on this line – opened for the Olympics and Exhibition but it was a little further south. It was renamed White City when the Central line station was opened in 1947 but closed following a fire in 1959.

Ahead on your left is the next stop.

Stop 10: BBC Television Centre

The BBC Television Centre was the headquarters of BBC Television between 1960 and 2013.  It is such a familiar building having appeared as the backdrop for many BBC programmes. It seems strange to find it really exists. However the BBC has sold the property and moved most production elsewhere, for example radio has gone back to Broadcasting House and Sports and Breakfast television have been sent to Salford. Much of this site will be redeveloped but some of the iconic bits are listed and are being retained. The BBC are leasing back some of the site including three studios.

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Our final stop is just over the road.

Stop 11: White City Station

White City station was opened in November 1947, replacing the earlier Wood Lane Central line station. Construction had started after 1938 and it had been scheduled for completion by 1940. But the Second World War delayed its opening. The architectural design of the station won an award at the Festival of Britain.

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One odd feature of this station is that the running lines are the wrong way round. This is one of only a handful of stations where the normal left hand running is reversed. (Other places are London Bridge and Bank on the Northern line and Warren Street, Euston and King’s Cross St Pancras on the Victoria line.) It occurs here because of the way the line was extended from the previous terminus at Wood Lane which was on a loop.

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So that concludes our tour of w12. A place of contrasts, it seems to have always been a place of entertainment – theatre, cinema and music, plus the BBC of course. And now it is a shrine to that other form of entertainment – shopping. It also has the most complicated story relating to its various Underground stations.

You are now at White City station, so obviously you have the Central line to take you on but just retrace your steps a little and you will be at Wood lane on the Circle/Hammersmith & City lines and the White City bus station.

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W11: Electric Dreams

W11 is Notting hill, famed because of the film and the annual carnival and also home to no less than three pre-First World war buildings which are today still used as cinemas.

Now there does not appear to be a Post Office in W11, so I am starting at the Ladbroke Grove one in W10 which is just yards from the border with W11.

Turn left out of the Post Office at 116 Ladbroke Grove and take the first street on the left which is Lancaster Road. The next main junction is Portobello Road. Turn left here and go to the next junction on the right which is Tavistock Road.

Stop 1: The Notting Hill Carnival Plaques

The story of the Notting Hill Carnival started from two separate but connected events. Here on either side of the little pedestranised area at the end of Tavistock Road are blue plaques to commemorate two people who are linked to the genesis of Carnival.

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The plaque on the south side is for Claudia Jones (1915—1964) . It was she who organised a “Caribbean Carnival” in January 1959 in St Pancras Town Hall as a response to the depressing state of race relations at the time – the Notting Hill race riots had occurred the previous year. Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad but her family went to the US when she was a child. There she became a political activist and black nationalist through Communism. As a result of her political activities, she was deported in 1955 and so came to Britain. She founded Britain’s first Black newspaper, The West Indian Gazette, in 1958, although this foundered soon after her death. But she is perhaps better remembered for her role in setting up the first carnival and is considered by some to be “the Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival” despite the fact that the first ones were actually held indoors nowhere near Notting Hill.

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The other plaque is on the opposite side of the road and is for Rhaune Laslett O’Brien (1919 – 2002). She was a community activist and the principal organiser of the Notting Hill Fayre or Festival, that evolved into the Notting Hill Carnival.

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The story goes that this street party for neighbourhood children turned into a carnival procession when Russell Henderson’s steel band (who had played at the earlier Claudia Jones events) went on a walkabout. So perhaps Rhaune has a stronger claim to be the “Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival” as the event she organised was actually outdoors in the local area.

And from these roots the modern day Notting Hill Carnival evolved. There is a great article about this from the Guardian by Gary Younge dated 17 August 2002:

http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2002/aug/17/nottinghillcarnival2002.nottinghillcarnival

Return down Portobello Road and at the junction with Wesbourne Park Road take a right.

Stop 2: Number 280 Westbourne Park Road

Our next stop is just along from the junction on the right. It is the famous Blue Door which featured in the film Notting Hill. In the movie, this was the door to the flat occupied by Hugh Grant’s character Will but in reality the building was owned by Richard Curtis, who wrote the screen play. Apparently behind the entrance there is not the flat you see in the film – it is a rather grand house. Curtis no longer owns the house and the original blue door was auctioned for charity. But the replacement door has been painted blue – I guess because everyone expects it to be blue. When I was there, lots of people were having their photo taken by it. There are various other locations hereabouts that were used in the film but I am going to resist pointing them out!

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Return to Portobello Road and keep walking along. This section of the market still has fruit and vegetable stalls but there is also more general merchandise. Just at the next junction, look out for this Joe Strummer mural on the end of Blenheim Crescent (to your right). Note the graffiti (!)

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Our next stop is just a little further down on the right

Stop 3: Electric Cinema, 191 Portobello Road

The Electric Cinema opened on 24th December 1910. It is hard to see the facade when the market is running – and to be honest it is not much of a facade, even though this is one of the first purpose built cinemas in the country.

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This cinema has survived against all the odds. I guess it helped that it was not on a main road nor owned by a big chain. It remained open (on and off) until the 1990s. As far as I can establish never succumbed to bingo and it has always been called the Electric – which is just as well given the mosaic floor in the foyer. The building was restored in 2001 and has an adjoining restaurant. It is a Grade II* listed building.

Keep walking along Portobello Road

Stop 4: Portobello Antique Market

We are now in the part of Portobello Road famed for its antique shops and arcades. It is called Portobello Road by the way because it was the road that led to Portobello Farm, near Kensal Green. And that had been renamed around 1740 after the Battle of Porto Bello. This was when Admiral Edward Vernon stormed and captured the spanish port of Porto Bello in the Gulf of Mexico in revenge for a spanish sea Captain slicing off the ear of a British mariner, Robert Jenkins – the so-called “War of Jenkin’s Ear”.

There are a couple of blue plaques in this section of the road. The first one you come across is on Number 169.

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Now here’s a strange tale. I was standing there looking at this blue plaque and a woman comes up to me and says: “you know she had that put there up herself”. And if you look you can see it is unlike the official blue plaques as it has no mention of the organisation which put it up. She went on to say that Susan Garth was quite a character and suggested she had been in business in Shepherd Market before coming here – but not in the antiques trade.

It turned out I was talking to Marion who owned the shop almost opposite, which has been in her family for years. She trades antiques on a Saturday but the rest of the week it is an ordinary shop and the man who rents it puts away all his stock on friday night so she can trade antiques on Saturdays. So we carry on chatting and she mentions she is in a book about Portobello, which just happened to be in the window of the shop. It’s called “Portobello Voices” by Blanche Girouard. I buy it and lo and behold Marion is featured as the first “voice”. It is a fascinating read by the way, but it does make you worry about how the local differences are being lost. (However haven’t people been saying that for years …)

There is another unofficial looking blue plaque a little further along the road at Number 115. This is to June Aylward and it claims she opened the first antique shop on Portobello Road. Again this appears to be an unofficial blue plaque.

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Sadly this is no longer an antique shop. It is now occupied by a Ben Sherman clothes store, which is a worrying sign of change.

 

 

 

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Keep walking along Portobello Road crossing over Chepstow Villas. Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 5: Number 22 Portobello Road

Who would have thought it. Here at number 22 is a blue plaque to George Orwell. Orwell was of course not his real name. That was Eric Blair. He was from Suffolk and the Orwell is the main river in southern Suffolk.

Orwell is best known for his works 1984 and Animal Farm but he wrote extensively and is often ranked as one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century. Afterall it was he who coined the phrase “big brother” and his pen name has given us the term “Orwellian”.

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Orwell had lodgings here in Portobello Road. He moved in  here in 1927 but he does not seem to have stayed long as he moved to Paris in the spring of 1928. It is strange to think of this little house as being “lodgings” but then it is only more recently that Notting Hill has become achingly expensive.

Fascinating fact: In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay describing the ideal pub, which he called “the Moon Under Water”. That no doubt is why Wetherspoons have used this actual name on some of their pubs (including in their one in Leicester Square) and they have adapted it so you also get pub names like “Lord Moon of the Mall”.

Continue walking along Portobello Road at the end continue into Pembridge Road which leads you to the street Noting Hill Gate. Just at the junction we have almost side by the side the other two old cinemas in W11.

Stop 6a: Gate Cinema

This building (or at least a bit of it) dates from 1861. The ground floor room (which is where the current cinema is) was known as the North End and Harvey Dining Room. In 1879, the building became the Golden Bells Hotel, and the ground floor room was known as the Golden Bells Coffee Palace and Restaurant. The ground floor room was converted into a cinema in April 1911 with the name Electric Palace. It did have a much more elaborate facade but this was destroyed by WW2 bombing and rebuilt with its now rather plain facade in the 1950s.

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The cinema has had various names. By 1934 it was the Embassy News and Interest Theatre. By 1944, it was simply known as the Embassy Cinema and it became the Classic Cinema in 1957. With the demise of the Classic chain in 1974 it was operated by an independent operator Cinegate under the name of the Gate Cinema. The Gate Cinema is today operated by the Picturehouse Cinemas chain. With its wealth of Edwardian plaster-work, it is designated a Grade II Listed building by English Heritage.

And just little further along is the Coronet.

Stop 6b: Coronet Theatre

This was built as a theatre in 1898 with some 1,100 seats over three levels – stalls, balcony and gallery.

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It became a full time cinema in 1923.  In 1931 it was acquired by Gaumont but kept its original name until 1950 when it started to be called the Gaumont. It was taken over by an independent operator in 1977 who re-instated the name Coronet. The main auditorium is virtually intact, but with only 220 seats in the stalls and 160 in the balcony, as the gallery is not used. So this is a rare example of a cinema which still has seats on two levels. In 2002, the disused stage area was converted to create a second screen seating 151, on condition that this was easily removable so as not to allow a return to live theatre usage should the demand exist.

Continue walking along Notting Hill Gate. I believe somewhere along here on the north side of the street was the first Virgin Records store but I have been unable to pin that one down.

Stop 7: Number 12 Holland Park Avenue

The shops stop and the road becomes Holland Park Avenue. Our next stop is a few houses along on the right.

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The plaque indicates this was the home – and workplace – of Caroline DeCamp Benn (1926 – 2000). She was wife of the now recently deceased Tony Benn. So I guess by inference this was the Benn family home. The bright red door now makes perfect sense.

 

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Caroline Benn was an educational academic. American by birth, she came to Oxford to study. She met her future husband over tea at Worcester College, Oxford in 1949. Nine days later he proposed to her on a park bench in the city. Sometime later, he bought the bench from Oxford City Council and installed it in the garden of their house in Holland Park (which I assume is this house).

There is a wonderful quote by Tony Benn refered to in a BBC article about the time of his retirement from Parliament in 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1209497.stm

“She was my socialist soulmate. When people went through our rubbish every day, it was harder for her. I could respond in the House, she just had to take it.”

Keep walking along Holland Park Avenue. Our next stop is on the other side of the road at the corner of the street named Holland Park.

Stop 8: The Ukrainian institute

At the corner is a statue of St. Volodymyr. He was ruler of Ukraine from 980 to 1015. The statue was  erected by Ukrainians in Great Britain in 1988 to celebrate the establishment of christianity in Ukraine by St. Volodymyr one thousand years before.

And I guess it is here because the building at this corner is the Ukrainian Institute. This promotes a greater awareness, understanding and knowledge of all things Ukrainian. The Institute is maintained and supported a charity called the Society of St Sophia, a UK registered charity. It was founded in 1979 by Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, following his release from 18 years in Soviet prisons.

Today the statue is surrounding by a montage of pictures of people who have died in the recent conflict in Ukraine.

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keep walking along Holland Park Avenue crossing over when convenient. You will pass Holland Park station, one of the few remaining original buildings of the Central London Railway, dating from 1901.

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Take the next right (Clarendon Road). Walk up Clarendon Road and our next stop is just past St John’s Gardens

Stop 9: Number 50 Clarendon Road

Number 50 was home to Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, later Dame, Christabel Pankhurst.

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Emmeline Pankhurst was one of the leading campaigners for women’s rights. In 1889, she and her husband, Richard, established the Women’s Franchise League. It’s main achievement was to secure the vote for women in local elections . Then five years after her husband’s death she, with her daughter Christabel, and four other women created the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903. The founders decided to form a women-only organisation to campaign for social reforms, largely in conjunction with the Independent Labour Party. They also campaigned for an extension of women’s right to vote. They were much more militant than previous groups and they adopted the slogan “Deeds, not words”

Interestingly the term “suffragette” was not the women’s own. It was first used as a term of derision for women’s suffrage activists by the Daily Mail journalist Charles E. Hands. But the term was embraced by the women, and we use it today.

The outbreak of the First World War led to a halting of much of the campaigning. But things did begin to change after the war. The Representation of the People Act 1918 enfranchised women with property who were over the age of 30. The Representation of the People Act 1928 extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21.

Christabel Pankhurst left the UK in 1921 for the United States. She returned briefly in the 1930s. She became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1936. But at the start of World War II she went back to the United States. I guess campaigning was in her blood and in the States she became a Christian evangelist.

Continue up Clarendon Road, taking the first left (Clarendon Gardens)

Stop 10: Hippodrome Place

When you reach Portland Road, there is a small pedestrianised area to the left and ahead is a street called Hippodrome Place.

 

 

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This is called Hippodrome Place not because there was a theatre of that name here but because the land hereabouts was briefly a horse racing track called the Kensington Hippodrome.

The land here was owned by the Ladbroke family and by 1821 had been inherited by James Weller Ladbroke, who initiated the house building. A landscape architect called Thomas Allason was appointed to layout the estate. The original plan was for a  large central circus with radiating streets built around gardens. A financial crisis in 1825 forced his plans to be greatly scaled down, and this original vision was not fulfilled. However some fifteen of communal garden squares were built, and they give this area its unique character.

Building work all but stopped in the 1830s but some of the undeveloped land was leased in 1837 to a man called John Whyte. Whyte built a racecourse but it was not a financial success and it closed in 1842. By then financial conditions had improved and the land was soon developed by Ladbroke who had crescents of houses built on Whyte’s former race course. So all we have left to remind us of the short lived racecourse is this street name.

Now take a left at the pedestrianised area and then take the road which curves off to the right. This is Penzance Place. This becomes St James Gardens. Continue along this until you reach a cross roads. Here turn left into St Ann’s Villas. Our next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 11: Number 17 St Ann’s Villas

Number 17 was the birthplace of music hall comedian Albert Chevalier (1861 – 1923).

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Chevalier was known for his sentimental songs, his most popular being My Old Dutch, a song published in 1892 about an old man’s long happy marriage to his wife. Now “Dutch” is said to be cockney rhyming slang. It could come from “dutch plate” (“mate”) or “Duchess of Fife” (“wife”). The first Duchess of Fife by the way was daughter of the then Prince of Wales and so a grand daughter of Queen Victoria. The dukedom was created in 1889 by Queen Victoria.

However Chevalier, who wrote the words to the song, claimed that his wife’s face reminded him of the clock face of a Dutch clock (!).

Retrace your steps along St Ann’s Villas which then becomes St Ann’s Road.  After Wilsham Street on the right, there is a 1950s estate which is our next stop.

Stop 12: Henry Dickens Court

The blocks in this estate mostly seem to have Charles Dickens connection, such as Dorrit House and Nickleby House. So why, I ask myself, is the estate called Henry Dickens Court?

It turns out it was named after Henry Dickens, grandson of Charles Dickens. Henry Dickens was an Alderman on Kensington Borough Council and an active advocate of municipal housing. The estate was built on a bomb site as part of the Borough Council’s post war redevelopment plan. The estate was opened by the Queen Mother in 1953.

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This brings us to the end of our W11 walk. We have seen three old cinemas and heard of some interesting connections. Now that this area is so gentrified, it is hard to think of this as a place of radicals, communists and socialists. But as we have seen George Orwell and the Pankhursts lived in W11 as well as a couple of people who are credited with starting the idea of the Notting Hill Carnival, not to mention the Benn family.

For onward travel, you will find Latimer Road station if you keep walking. Or else there are buses running along here that will take you to Shepherd’s Bush.