SE21: Picture this

SE21 is Dulwich which centres on the Village and the College.

We start our walk at Dulwich Village Post Office, 47 Dulwich Village (yes that is the name of the main street running through the “Village”)

Our first stop is a little way to the north, so turn right out of the Post Office and continue along the road until you reach the railway bridge with the station building on your right..

Stop 1: North Dulwich Station


The rather elegant station building sits over the railway lines below and was designed by Charles Barry Junior. The line here was built between 1864 and 1868 by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR). The station building is Grade II listed as is the K6 telephone kiosk which you can just see inside the portico.

And on the bridge parapet opposite the station, there are some shields in a number of places.


In each group, the shield on the left is that of the LBSCR and is an amalgam of four key places served by the railway company:

Top left represents the City of London (Cross of St George and Sword of St Paul); Top right is Brighton (two dolphins); Bottom left is Portsmouth (star and crescent) and finally bottom right is the Cinque Ports (three half-lions/half-ships). The reason for this is Hastings is one of the Cinque Posts and was the furthest east the railway company got along the south coast.

The shield on the right is that of Dulwich College. – or  Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift as it would have been known when the bridge was built. Hence I guess the letters A and C in the middle shield. The College wielded a huge influence over the development of the area, including determining what the railway was able to build.

Today much of the land around Dulwich Village is still owned by a single organisation – The Dulwich Estate. This is one of the successors to the historic charity Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, which was founded in 1619. A major reorganisation resulted in the reconstitution of The Dulwich Estate as an independent registered charity in 1995.

More on the history of the Dulwich Estate on their website:

Downstairs the station has retained its original platform canopies



They are simple but effective.

Before we leave here, I think I should mention one thing that has been troubling me. Why is this called North Dulwich station when the next station up the line north towards London is called East Dulwich. It seems odd to say the least that East Dulwich is north of North Dulwich.

Now retrace you step to the Post Office and turn left into Calton Avenue.

You will be able to see our next stop ahead on the right.

Stop 2: St Barnabas Church

This is a surprising sight. A very modern Anglican Church and not one built in the immediate post war period.



The old church of St Barnabas (built 1892 – 1905) was destroyed by fire in December 1992. The fire was so severe that only the outer walls and the tower were left standing and these were demolished in early 1993.

According to the church website, the new building is a little smaller than the old, being 42 metres long, 20 metres wide and 14 metres tall, while the glass spire rises another 19 metres above the apex of the roof. It is set further back from the road, and is slightly angled from the axis of the old Church to be orientated to the cardinal points of the compass, a medieval tradition often seen in English village churches.

In front of the Church is an entrance area, where the outline of the old tower and walls can still be seen. On the right, part of the old south aisle wall still stands. The Reception area curves around from that wall, making the link from the old Church to the new. The front part of the Church is the Barnabas Chapel which seats 50. The main body of the Church seats 400 (including the choir) and is built on an octagonal floor plan around a central altar. The East end is occupied by the organ and choir stalls. Three dimensionally the Church is built as a central barrel vault with two smaller flanking vaults, spanning onto masonry piers of red brick. Above the central vault is the glass spire, constructed of 6cm x 4cm stainless steel box sections welded together to form a tapering octagon. The spire lets down light into the heart of the Church during the day, and is illuminated from within at night.

One interesting point to note about this church is that it is not at the centre of Dulwich Village but a little away. That is because there is also a chapel in the grounds of the old college (which we shall see shortly) and the large parish church was only built as the population expanded in the 19th century.

Now return to Dulwich Village and our next stop is ahead at the junction to your left.

Stop 3: Dulwich Burial Ground

This cemetery was established in 1616 and planned by the Elizabethan actor/manager, Edward Alleyn, as part of his charity, Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift.


The burial ground is unusual in that there is no church. Burials have taken place since 1616 however the earliest visible grave stones and monuments date from the early eighteenth century.


It was declared full in 1858, and only a few more burials were allowed, the last in 1918. It remains largely untouched since that time. It is like a quiet country church yard yet it is within five miles of central London. Sadly it is not normally open to the public, but there is an extensive information panel of the Dulwich Village side of the grounds..


Now continue along the street called Dulwich Village which runs to the right of the grounds

Stop 4: The Crown and Greyhound

Soon on the left you will see an imposing late Victorian pub,


This dates from 1895 and according to architectural expert, Pevsner, replaced two early 18th century inns. One would have expected the village to have more than this one big pub but so far as I can see this is it. However there is a building just over the road that is now restaurants and looks like it could have been a pub.

Now return to the Burial Ground and turn right going along the other side, which is Court Lane.

Stop 5: Number 3 Court Lane Gardens, Court Lane

Our next stop is just along on a little loop road off of Court Lane. At Number 3 Court Lane Gardens you will see there is a blue plaque.


This is a Southwark Blue Plaque for the birth place of Phyllis Pearsall (1906 – 1996)


She was a British painter and writer but who is best known for creating the iconic A – Z map.

The story goes that by 1935, she had become a portrait painter but became lost in London while using the latest map she could find, which was 17 years old. This stimulated her to produce a new map to cover the rapidly expanding area of London, including places of interest such as museums, bus routes etc.

She claimed that the work involved walking 3,000 miles to check the names of the 23,000 streets of London, waking up at 5am every day, and not going to bed until after an 18 hour working day.

We take it for granted now that main roads are shown larger than side roads on city maps but I believe she was the one who popularised this idea. She also added house numbers to the main roads to help locate addresses on long streets.

In 1966, she turned her company, the Geographers’ A–Z Map Co, into a trust to ensure that it was never bought out. This aimed to secure the future of her company and its employees. Today although the company has embraced digital mapping, it still produces lots of paper maps. It claims to be the largest independent map publishing company in the UK, producing over 300 paper mapping publications.

Continue along Court Lane and go past the entrance to Dulwich Park. Our next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 6: Number 142 Court Lane

This detached house was the home of singer Anne Shelton (1928 – 1994).


And it has another Southwark Blue Plaque.


Shelton was a popular English vocalist, who is remembered for entertaining soldiers both on radio broadcasts, and in person, at British military bases during the Second World War. She was also the original singer in the United Kingdom of the song “Lili Marlene”, although this is a song more commonly associated with Marlene Dietrich.

The site Notable Abodes notes she was living here in 1953 and her website says she left to move to Sussex in February 1994, where she died later that year.

More about her here:

Now return to the gates of the park and go in

Stop 7: Dulwich Park


The park was created by the Metropolitan Board of Works from former farmland and meadows. The initial design was by Charles Barry Junior, but it was later refined by Lt Col J. J. Sexby. He also designed Battersea Park and parts of Southwark Park). Dulwich Park was opened in 1890 by Lord Rosebery. 

As you enter the Park take the right hand drive, and soon you will see some sculptural pieces – two on the left and one on the right.



These are titled Three Perpetual Chords. They date from 2015 and are by Conrad Shawcross.


As the sign explains they were commissioned as a legacy to the sculpture Three Forms divided by a Circle by Dame Barbara Hepworth. This had been in the Park but was stolen in 2011, it is presumed by metal thieves.

Now head out of the park though the Old College gate. Our next stop is right opposite.

Stop 8: Dulwich Picture Gallery


The gallery was designed by Sir John Soane and opened to the public in 1817. It is the oldest public art gallery in England and was made an independent charitable trust in 1994. Until this time the gallery was part of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift. There is still a reminder of this in the gates.


Alleyn bequeathed the college of a collection of works including portraits of the kings and queens of England, 26 of which are still in the Dulwich Gallery collection according to their website. Then another actor William Cartwright (1606–1686) bequeathed a collection of 239 pictures, of which 77 are now identifiable at Dulwich.

But the Gallery we see today really took off because of one of the most successful art dealerships in London during the late 18th century – the partnership of Frenchman, Noël Desenfans (1745 – 1807), and his younger Swiss friend, the painter, Sir Francis Bourgeois (1756 – 1811).

According to the Gallery’s website: “In 1790 the pair were commissioned by Stanislaus Augustus, King of Poland, to form a Royal Collection from scratch. They devoted the next five years exclusively to this task during which time Poland was gradually partitioned by its more powerful neighbours leading in 1795 to its complete disappearance as an independent state. The King was forced to abdicate, which left the two dealers with a Royal Collection on their hands.

Bourgeois and Desenfans strove to resolve their situation in two ways. In private they sold individual works from their Polish stock and replaced them with further important purchases. In public they sought a home for their “Royal Collection” approaching, amongst others, the Tsar of Russia and the British Government. When it became clear that they would not be able to sell the collection in its entirety, they began to think to whom they might bequeath it.

This became more pressing after Desenfans’ death in 1807, which left Bourgeois as the sole owner. At that date there was no National Gallery, so the key candidate was the British Museum. However, Bourgeois found its trustees too ‘arbitrary’ and ‘aristocratic’ and so he decided to leave his collection to Dulwich College instead, despite him having no obvious connection with the school. More important than the destination was the stipulation in the will that the paintings should be made available for the ‘inspection of the public’. So it was that Dulwich Picture Gallery – England’s first purpose-built public art gallery – was founded by the terms of Sir Francis Bourgeois’s will upon his death in 1811.”

Do go if you have the chance. It is quite small but there are some wonderful paintings.


By the way this red colour dates from 2013 and was the original colour used in the gallery, having been found under layers of paint.

There is usually a special exhibition of some sort going on and in the middle of the area used for this you will find a chamber which is the mausoleum of the founders – Sir Francis Bourgeois and Mr and Mrs Desenfans.


You can see this from the main gallery but it is best to see it from within the special exhibition area.

Now go back to the cafe by the entrance gate and down the glass corridor past the cafe, following it as it turns left.

You pass a door which leads to Christ’s Chapel, more of which anon.


As you can see opening times are somewhat limited, although the chapel does have regular Sunday services also. At the end of the corridor there is a glass exit door, go through that and head out towards the street. You will see an old phone box on your right. This is a K2 design by Giles Gilbert Scott


Look inside and the phone box has the old fashioned Button A and Button B.


There is a significance about this being here.

If you look across the way you can see the back of the Mausoleum in the Gallery



At the time he designed it, Scott was a trustee of Sir John Soane’s Museum and it seems he was inspired by the domes on mausoleums in St Pancras’ Old Churchyard and Dulwich Picture Gallery which Soane had designed. Though as we saw in E18, Soane may have got this idea from a tomb in the church in South Woodford.

Turn right along Gallery Road and past the old buildings on your right.


There is an historic Southwark plaque.


There is an entry way to the right.Go in here and you will see the range of buildings.

Stop 9: Christ’s Chapel


According to the Dulwich estate website: “Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift … was the first of Alleyn’s Foundation buildings to be completed, being consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 1 September 1616.” Pevsner says that the chapel was remodelled and given an aisle in 1823.

In fact it seems the buildings round this courtyard are older than they look. They have been repaired and rebuilt over the years but the present stucco finish dates only from the 1820s and the cloister by the chapel and the Chateau like tower are even later dating from 1866. They are by Charles Barry Junior who you will recall was also involved in the building of the local station around this time.

You will also see a statue of Edward Alleyn with an unidentified boy.


This sculpture was created at the instigation of the Dulwich Society. An open competition was held in 2004 and the design of a local sculptor, Louise Simson was chosen. It was unveiled 9 October 2008 by the local MP who was then the Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell.


Head back to Gallery Road and our next stop is just over the way on the left.

Stop 10: The old Grammar School

This is one of the old college buildings. It dates from the 1840s and is now used as offices for the management of the Dulwich Estate.



Keep going ahead towards the junction with a marble memorial in the middle of the road and turn back on yourself to go down College Road.


Go past the Picture Gallery until you reach the crossroads. We are going to see where the College moved to in the 1860s.

At the crossroads you will see some signs on the road straight ahead.


Note this is a private road but also that there is a toll gate. It is a little too far to go down there but it is worth a mention as this is the last remaining toll gate in London and has been in existence since 1789.

The original tolls can be seen displayed close to the toll gate, by Tollgate Cottage. But in 2006 it went hi tech with equipment to enable automatic passage through the toll gate using either a Tag or by cash or card payment.

Stop 11: Dulwich College

Our next stop is right here on the other side of the main road. It is that complex of buildings set in large grounds.


Dulwich College was enlarged and rebuilt on this site in the late 1860s. Pevsner says this was one of the most ambitious school rebuildings of the period, made possible by the £100,000 provided by as compensation by the railway lines which ran through the college estate. The architect was none other than Charles Barry Junior. Since then more building have been added, as you can see if you turn right at the cross roads, go along a bit and look back.


By the way you may have noticed this main road, though not wide, is quite busy. That is because this is that collection of side streets known as the South Circular Road.


Now keep going along the main road and soon you will reach West Dulwich station, our final stop.

Stop 12: West Dulwich station

This is an understated elegant little station building which is on a completely different line from, and unconnected to, North Dulwich. I am sure that Alleyn’s College could not believe their luck that not one but two railway companies wanted to build over their land in the 1860s.


The line here ran between Herne Hill and Beckenham Junction and was built by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. The station when it opened in 1863 was simply called “Dulwich”. The prefix “West” was added in 1926 as a bit of tidying up by the recently formed Southern Railway.

Whilst North Dulwich is in a cutting, West Dulwich is atop an embankment. There once were proper buildings with canopies over the platforms. But today there are no original buildings, just little “bus” type shelters up at platform level, so it all feels a bit naked.


The platforms themselves are on concrete and metal beams. I have seen a picture dating from 1975 which shows some of the platform was wooden, but no doubt that all had to be renewed at some point.

By the way you get a nice view of the Crystal Palace television mast looking down the tracks.

So that brings us to the end of our SE21 walk. Dulwich is fascinating. The way in which the area looks and feels is inextricably linked to the history and development of Dulwich College. In many ways it does not feel like London and yet Dulwich village is so unlike a village in the countryside because of the college.

We are at West Dulwich station which has reasonably regular trains in towards Victoria or out to Beckenham and Bromley.

SE19 Crystal clear

SE19 is Upper Norwood in Post Office speak but this is really what I think most people would call Crystal Palace.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 51 – 53 Westow Street in that triangle of streets which forms the heart of the district of Crystal Palace.

Take a left out of the Post Office and go past the junction. Ahead is Church Road. Our first stop is just after the little park on the right.

Stop 1: Queen’s Hotel, 122 Church Road

Today there is a large hotel on this site.


But this was once home to French writer, Emile Zola (1840 – 1902).


One of the things Zola is remembered for is his part in the Dreyfus affair and it was because of this he ended up in London – here in Crystal Palace.

The Dreyfus affair was a political scandal that divided France from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. It had begun in December 1894 when Captain Alfred Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Evidence came to light in 1896 that the real culprit was a French Army major named Esterhazy. But high ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence and a military court unanimously acquitted Esterhazy. The Army then accused Dreyfus with additional charges based on falsified documents.

This is where Zola comes in. He wrote an open letter to the French President, Félix Faure. which accused the highest levels of the French Army of obstruction of justice and antisemitism by having wrongfully convicted Alfred Dreyfus. This letter was headed “J’accuse” and was published on the front page of the Paris daily newspaper L’Aurore on 13 January 1898.

Zola wanted to be prosecuted for libel so that the new evidence in support of Dreyfus would be made public. He was brought to trial for criminal libel on 7 February 1898 and was convicted on 23 February. Rather than go to jail, Zola fled to England in July 1898 ending up staying here in Crystal Palace until June 1899 when he was allowed to return to France. It would seem he did not much like his time in London.

Dreyfus was retried in 1899 but it resulted in another conviction and a 10-year sentence. However Dreyfus was given a pardon and set free. Eventually it was established that all the accusations against Dreyfus were false and in 1906 he was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army. He later served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He died in 1935.

Now return back along Church Road and turn right into Belvedere Road

Go down the hill and turn left into Cintra Park

Our next stop is on the left as the road curves off to the right and where a little street called Rama Lane comes in

Stop 2: Number 28 Cintra Park


This house was the childhood home of Marie Stopes (1880 – 1958)


Marie Stopes was an author and campaigner for eugenics and women’s rights, founding the first birth control clinic in Britain in Holloway in 1921. It moved to Whitfield Street, W1 in 1925 – from where a Marie Stopes clinic still operates.

Interestingly Stopes was strongly against the termination of a pregnancy and during her lifetime her clinics did not offer abortions.

It also seems she was a bit of an idealist wanting to create a society in which only the best and the beautiful should survive. Consistent with this. she took against the partner her son had chosen. The woman was short sighted meaning the grandchildren might inherit the condition.

Now take a left here along Patterson Road. You will see the building at our next stop looming high above the houses.


Follow Patterson Road round as it turns right and then it becomes Milestone Road just before it turns to the left. A little way after the turn, there is an alley where you can see that large building a bit closer up.


At the end is Church Road, turn left here and our next stop is just on the left

Stop 3: former Granada cinema, 25 Church Road


This is the front of that large building we saw from below. It is strange to think that this fairly modest facade actually hides quite a large old cinema.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it opened as the Rialto Cinema in October 1928 with nearly 1,400 seats. It was built by an Australian, A.C. Matthews, who was also the architect. Two years later he also designed and built the adjacent Albany Cinema.

After various changes in ownership he two cinemas were taken over by the Granada chain in March 1949.

They employed noted cinema architect George Coles to modernise the Rialto building. It was re-named the Granada in September 1950 and closed as a cinema in May 1968. It then became a full time Bingo Club for around 40 years – from June 1968 until Spring 2009.

The building was put up for sale. One interested party wanted to reopen this as an art house cinema. But in the end, the Kingsway International Christian Centre purchased the building. There was strong local opposition to this becoming a church, instead wanting cinema use to return. The local council refused planning permission to convert the building into a church, and although several cinema operators were interested in the building, the church refused to sell it.

Eventually the Church conceded and sold the building to the Everyman chain of cinemas in January 2018. They plan to convert the building into a four screen cinema.

Now go a little way along and after a small derelict space you will see the other former cinema.

Stop 4: site of Century Cinema, 37 – 43 Church Road


This opened in January 1930. After various changes in ownership in the 1930s, it was requisitioned by the Government to be used as a food store until July 1948.

It was acquired by the Granada chain in 1949 and after refurbishment, it reopened in December 1950 as the Century Cinema. It was closed in May 1958

The building remained empty for a couple of years, then it was gutted internally and becoming a car showroom and later a funeral directors. Today the building is unused and there is a notice saying planning permission is being sought to redevelop the site for housing.

Now return back along Church Road. Whilst here, you will notice many of the shops have blue stickers indicating what kind of shop or business traded here in the past.

Here are a few examples:




This was an initiative of the Norwood Society. Their Plaques Project is part of the Society’s aim to encourage local people to engage with the history of Norwood, and particularly the Triangle in Upper Norwood. Plaques are displayed in shop windows in ‘The Triangle’ (Westow Hill, Westow Street and Church Road SE19) showing a significant past trade, trader or some history of the building. This project was launched to coincide with the Crystal Palace Overground Festival in June 2017. What I thought was interesting is that almost all the shops were doing a diiferent business today compared with the past.

The link below gives access to the full list of “plaques”

At the end do a left and our next stop is almost immediately on the right.

Stop 5: Number 77 Westow Hill

This building at the end of Westow Hill dates from 1884. It used to be a National Westminster bank but is now a Solicitors’ office.


On the road side of the building you will find a blue plaque in the usual style but actually with the names “National Westminster Bank” and “Crystal Palace Foundation”. This commemorates the fact that French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903) stayed here in 1870/71.


We came across the Pissarros when we were in W4 because this is where Camille Pissarro’s son Lucien lived with his family for a few years from 1897. Between 7 May and 20 July 1897, Camille stayed there while Lucien was convalescing from a stroke. But Camille had been in London before.

After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, he moved to England because he had Danish nationality and was unable to join the army. He first settled here in Upper Norwood. His style of painting was not to English tastes of the time being a forerunner of what would later be called “Impressionism”.

Like Monet who was also in London in this period, he favoured painting outdoors in order to more effectively capture the atmosphere and light. He painted a number of pictures in this part of south east London.

By the by, across the road at Number 88 Westow Hill, there is a Norwood Society blue plaque for an early 20th century dentist (Robinson’s American Teeth Institute – what a great name!). The premises today are a dentist, though sadly with the rather less interesting name of Crystal Palace Dental Practice.


Now return to the junction and you will see some pillars at the corner.

Stop 6: site of The Vicar’s Oak

The pillars each have a rather sad looking plaque which says that this is the site of “The Vicar’s Oak”. It also says “Crystal Palace Park”, “Boundaries” and “Date” “1988”


There is a sign about a project here called “The Vicar’s Oak”, saying “coming soon”


It would seem that there was an ancient tree which marked the place where the boundaries of four boroughs (Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark) meet. The project is to create a path and garden. The project was initiated a couple of years ago, There is website listed on the sign:

This has lots of pictures but very few words. It is frustratingly vague on what actually has happened.

But if you go through the gates there is this very neat and attractive garden.


Is this what was created under the project? If so it is a shame that there is no information about it on the website.

Return to the street and turn left.

Stop 7: Crystal Palace Museum

Now head a little way down the hill from the Crystal Palace Parade and you will find this small museum on your left.


The Museum tells the story of Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and plate-glass structure originally built in Hyde Park, London, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was moved here to the top of a hill here in what was the countryside in 1854. 

The Museum tells the story of Crystal Palace both on its original site and here. It is housed in the only surviving building constructed by the Crystal Palace Company built around 1880 as a lecture room for the Company’s School of Practical Engineering. The story of both palaces is told in a series of unique images supplemented by large scaled models of the Crystal Palace plus showcases displaying ceramics and other items associated with the Crystal Palace including remnants from the original building.

The Museum is only open on Sundays from 11am to 3pm. They also run a guided tour of the site on the first Sunday of each month from April until October.

More information about this fascinating little museum is at:

Now retrace your steps and turn right into Crystal Palace Parade, where you will see a bus terminal on the right.

Stop 8: site of Crystal Palace High Level Station

To your left is a side street called Farquhar Road which goes over a kind of a bridge to your left. Cross this and look along the way and you will see a long retaining wall and some new buildings.


This is the site of a railway station known as Crystal Palace High Level.

After the Palace was moved here it became a tourist attraction, initially served by a station  a little down the hill opened by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (we will get to that shortly)

The London, Chatham and Dover Railway wanted a slice of the action and so promoted  the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway to link to an existing  line of theirs a bit further north. The new branch opened in August 1865 and had a lavish terminal designed by Edward Middleton Barry (1830 – 1880). E M Barry was one of the sons of Sir Charles Barry and is probably best known for his work on the Royal Opera House and Floral Hall and also for finishing the Palace of Westminster after his father’s death in 1860.

After the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936, traffic on the branch declined. During World War II the line was temporarily closed after bomb damage. Temporary repairs were made but the need for substantial investment to fully reconstruct the line and the limited traffic potential led to the closure of the whole branch in September 1954.

The station was demolished in 1961 and sadly none of the buildings remain..

The site of the station was redeveloped mainly for housing in the 1970s, but the retaining walls below Crystal Palace Parade and the ornamental portal of the tunnel to the north of the station are still here, as we shall see. But first our next stop.

Go over the bridge and follow Farquhar Road round until you reach Number 45..

Stop 9: Number 45 Farquhar Road


This was once the home of actor and film director Leslie Howard (1893-1943). He lived here for about 4 years from 1907.


Althogh he was a successful stage actor both in London and on Broadway, he is probably best remembered for playing Ashley Wilkes in the epic movie Gone with the Wind (1939). But he had roles in many other notable films, including: Berkeley Square (1933), Of Human Bondage (1934), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Pygmalion (1938), Intermezzo (1939) and The First of the Few (1942). He received two nominations for the Best Actor Oscar for Berkeley Square and Pygmalion.

His family name was originally Steiner. But during the First World War they anglicised this to Stainer. But in 1920 the budding actor decided to use his middle name and become known as Leslie Howard.

Now just opposite you will see a side turning called  Bowley Close. Go down here and you will see a closer view of the retaining walk but note there is a section which looks different. This is where there was a subway linking the High level station to the Palace site.


Now go back to Farquhar Road and turn right and then right again into Bowley Lane. Follow the land round and you will get back to the retaining wall and a road that goes off parallel to it. This is a private street called Spinney Gardens.


But if you look down here you will see a portal to a tunnel. This is where the line out of the High Level station went.

Now head back along Farquhar road over the bridge and turn left into Crystal Palace Parade. Our next stop is ahead.

Stop 10: Crystal Palace subway

On either side of the road is a bridge parapet.


The one on the left has a banner which talks about Friends of Crystal Palace subway and shows a picture of a wonderfully ornate passageway.


I mentioned the now demolished High Level Station was connected to the Palace by a subway. This was fan-vaulted pedestrian subway in finely detailed red and cream brickwork. This subway and an adjacent courtyard survived the 1936 fire, and was used as an air raid shelter during World War II. It is now Grade II listed building.

This subway is right below here but is not normally accessible. All you can see is the remains of the way into it from the Palace side – which is to your right.


There is a brick wall on the old station side which we saw the other side of.

“Friends of Crystal Palace Subway” have website on the subway.

This says (in a note dated January 2018) that the subway will be closed for an unknown amount of time while Southwark Council complete works to their terrace. But hopefully there will be opportunities to actually visit the subway in the not too distant future.

Now head into the Crystal Palace Park.

Stop 11: site of Crystal Palace

The first section laid out below you is I think roughly where the great glass structure once stood. But to day it is just a wide terrace

There are lots of maps to help orientate you.


There is a wealth of information about the Palace, how it came to be moved here from Hyde Park and what happened subsequently on this website:

At either end of the terrace are some models of Sphinxes which are half-man, half-lion creatures associated with ancient Egypt. The sphinxes were based on a red granite sphinx at the Louvre museum in Paris. There used to be 12 in the original decorative scheme but only 6 survive.


They are not made of granite though. They are painted and during the 20th century eventually lost their original colouring, only being restored to this distinctive colour in 2016.

Go down the steps and off the terrace to the right. Looking back you get a good view of the structure of the terrace which has survived


Stop 12: Crystal Palace station

Now you will be able to see the main station at Crystal Palace – once known  as the low level station.


When the station first opened on 1854 it was just the terminus of a spur line from Sydenham. In 1856 the station was able to take through train services to West Norwood and Streatham Hill and beyond, following the completion of the 746 yard (690 m) Crystal Palace Tunnel. Although relatively short, the tunnel was regarded as a major engineering achievement as it was cut through the hill on which the Crystal Palace stood and went immediately under one of the Palace’s great water towers

In 1857, an eastward connection was made to Norwood Junction (for the Brighton line to the south) and in 1858 a connection was made to allow trains to go to Beckenham Junction. The frontage of the station was rebuilt in 1875

Until the arrival of London Overground this was a somewhat neglected station with the northern (grander) side of the station only partly used. In the 1980s passengers were channelled through a rather mean (in comparison) new ticket hall off to the south side.

But now the original ticket hall now been magnificently restored and forms the main entrance – the 1980s building having been demolished.


Going inside you see the station is in two halves. the grander northern side with a cavernous brick hall.


And a new modern overall roof dating from 2015


And then to the right hand side is a smaller more modest pair of platforms.



We have now reached the end of our SE19 walk and are conveniently here at the main station for onward travel. but before you leave, it is worth a short detour to see one of the famous features of the Crystal Palace Park – though I guess they may be just over the border in SE20!

Post script

You cannot come to Crystal Palace and not see the dinosaurs.

So head down the park from the station keeping the running track to your left. Go past Capel Manor and you will see a lake ahead. That is where the dinosaurs live.


When the park was laid out, the sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was commissioned to make 33 life sized models of the (then) newly discovered dinosaurs and other extinct animals for the park.



These are usually a great hit with children – and quite a few adults also!

SE13: A river runs through it

SE13 is Lewisham. The town centre is an important transport hub as well as a big shopping centre. Though we will major on that we will also go along the road to the historic part of Lee as we heard is in SE13 rather than SE12

We start our walk at Lewisham Post Office which is in W H Smith in the North Mall of Lewisham Shopping Centre. Turn right out of the shop and exit the mall heading towards the station (this is the corridor that heads off to the left)

The “Legible London” maps on the streets have not quite caught up with the reconfiguring of the roads, so they still show a roundabout outside the northern end of the shopping centre.


Now Molesworth Street goes straight into Loampit Vale with a side turning off to link to the High Street which has been restraightened. What has been lost though is any sense that once there was a bridge over a river here – and it was called Lewisham Bridge. Now the river just pops our from under the railway arch and disappears under the road.


This is the River Ravensbourne which has come up from Catford and beyond and near here another river joins in from the east and that is the River Quaggy, which we shall get a glimpse of shortly.

But just about where the road is now was once a parade of shops with a large cinema.

Stop 1: site of Odeon cinema



The cinema here was opened as the Gaumont Palace in December 1932. It has just over 3,000 seats and as so often happened with these large cinemas it also had full stage facilities and regularly hosted live performances.

In 1962 after restoration following a fire, it was renamed the Odeon. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, many famous acts appeared here: Nat ‘King’ Cole, Johnny Cash, Sarah Vaughan & Count Basie and His Orchestra, Ted Heath and His Orchestra, Ray Charles, The Supremes, Chuck Berry, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, The Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, The Beatles, The Who, Rod Stewart, David Essex and The Bay City Rollers.

More info about this cinema is on the wonderful Cinema Treasures site:

Attempts to convert it to Bingo were refused and it closed as a cinema in 1981. It was left empty for 10 years, and then the entire building was demolished in June 1991, to allow for a road widening scheme (which has since been changed again). A fragment was said to have remained but even that has now gone along with any indication as to where this huge cinema once stood.

Who knows if this building had been better located (eg near a tube station and not next to one of the main roads to Kent and the channel ports) it might have survived as a live venue in the same way its sister at Hammersmith has.

Now head over to the station which you will be able to see.

Stop 2: Lewisham Station

Lewisham is a rather unsatisfactory station. Here is a plan which shows why.


The National Rail station is on a viaduct in the form of a Y shape with two platforms on each arm of the Y. And up a slope is a roadway which ends up at the ticket office in the middle of the two arms.


Below and sort of at ground level, there is a DLR station.


It’s all bit of a cobbled together. It just is not how just would design a station if you were starting from scratch.



Upstairs the platforms are on curves, so there is quite a gap between the train and the platform in some places.



Standing on the platforms and looking towards central London there is a complex junction with a flat crossover between the two sets of lines. Typically at present there are 14 trains an hour to central London, but they go to three different stations from two different platforms – 8 an hour to Cannon Street, 4 an hour to Charing Cross and 2 an hour to Victoria.


And over to the left out of view is a line which bypasses Lewisham station completely, so some suburban trains which might have served Lewisham go whizzing by, meaning the service from here could have been even more frequent. If the station had been better located it would have been the Clapham Junction of south east London.

There is a nice view of the Shard from the platforms.


So how did this happen. The first station in Lewisham was opened as part of the North Kent line in 1849. The station was moved in 1857 to its present location which was slightly to the west of the original. The junction to the north of the station was remodelled in the 1920s and a link was put in to the Greenwich Park branch.

The Jubilee line was once planned to come here but that got cancelled in the late 1970s. But the DLR was squeezed in here in 1999 and now there is talk of the Bakerloo line being extended here, but not until the 2030s.

The full complicated story can be followed here:

Now go out of the station forecourt. If you go left you can spot another bit of the largely hidden river Ravensbourne. This is looking away from Lewisham centre towards Greenwich


And this is looking back towards the centre of Lewisham


Go to the end. Cross over the main road  and turn right. Head towards the shopping centre. On your way look left and you will see another stream which disappears under the road.



This is the River Quaggy which comes in from the direction of Lee. Ahead is our next stop, the Police Station

Stop 3: site of Chiesman’s Department store

Today this is Lewisham Police station – an uninspiring work-a-day building.



But once this was the site of a major department store called Chiesmans. The following information is mostly from the House of Fraser archives:

Chiesmans Ltd, drapers, Lewisham, was incorporated as a private limited company in 1921. The business was founded in 1884 as a partnership between two brothers Frank and Harry Chiesman who opened a drapery shop on the High Street, Lewisham.

In 1921 the rebuilding of a more modern store, on the same site, was begun, and extensions and alterations continued in the 1930s. Chiesmans Ltd had acquired premises on both sides of the High Street and in 1939 work was completed on a bridge across the High Street which connected both stores at first floor level.

The business was expanded in 1933 when Chiesmans Ltd bought a second store in Maidstone, and again in 1947 a store in Canterbury was added, but had to be resold when it proved unprofitable. In 1957 a fourth store in Gravesend was purchased. In 1957 Chiesmans Ltd became a Public Limited Company, although most of the shares were kept within the Chiesman family. In the following two years the company acquired stores in Tunbridge Wells, the Isle of Wight, Ilford, Upton Park and Rochester. The Lewisham store was extended again in 1960.

The company was bought by House of Fraser in 1972. It got renamed Army and Navy and was downsized in 1993, eventually closing completely in 1997. (Curiously the House of Fraser Archive page suggests that the shop was still trading in 2009 which it was not)

Now our next stop is just next door

Stop 4: former Co-op store

Here on the left is a rather grand building which was built as a department store in 1933 for the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.


It is a four storey Art Deco style building with central tower and relief plaques depicting a steam train, lorry and ships The dates of 1868 and 1933 are incorporated in the tower.


1868 is the date when the Royal Arsenal Supply Association was founded by 20 workers from the Royal Arsenal. It became the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society in 1872. 1933 is the date of construction of this building.

There is a lorry with RACS spelled out on its trailer.


There are a couple of ships and in the middle a vent like thing with what looks like the entwined letters of RACS.


Now cross the road and you will see our next stop, the Clock Tower.

Stop 5: Clock Tower


This was built for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It survived the bombardments of the Second World war but was moved slightly in the 1950s.

There is a rather nice crown atop this clock tower.


Here is a link with more info on the clock tower:

Just beyond the Clock Tower on the side of the High Street is a market area. Interesting that today almost all the market now operate on the £1 a bowl model of pricing. I guess it saves fiddling about with weighing stuff.


Now a little way along the market to you right you will see Marks and Spencer’s store.

Stop 6: Marks & Spencer store (and plaque)

And to the left of the entrance is a plaque.


This commemorates the casualties from a V1 rocket attack in July 1944.


When one thinks of war time bombing one tends to focus on the so-called Blitz – that was a period of sustained bombing from planes between September 1940 and May 1941. That was bad enough but from the summer of 1944, Germany started to use missiles – the V1s and V2s. They could be fired from continental Europe and did not need a plane to deliver them.

According to Wikipedia, a total of 9,251 V1s were fired at targets in Britain, with the vast majority aimed at London; 2,515 reached the city, killing 6,184 civilians and injuring 17,981. 1,115 V2s were fired at the United Kingdom. The vast majority of them were aimed at London where they killed an estimated 2,754 people with another 6,523 injured.

The V1 had a distinctive engine sound which cut out as it was about to drop on its target, which gave some warning. The V2 was supersonic and just arrived. It must have been quite terrifying as there was little warning of a raid, as a missile would only take 5 minutes to get here from Belgium. No longer were the bombing raids confined to times when the bombers could fly. One wonders what might have happened if these weapons had been around earlier in the war.

Keep going along the High Street and at the end of the bus only section you will see our next stop on the left.

Stop 7: Lewisham Library

This rather nondescript looking 1960s building houses Lewisham Library.


Go inside and there a little surprise on the ground floor above a doorway near the bottom of the escalator.


This is a plaque commemorating King Alfred, he of burnt cakes fame. He was Lord of the Manor of Lewisham and this plaque dates from 1901 so was presumably moved here from a previous Library building.

Now retrace your steps along the High Street and at the very end turn right into Lee High Road.

Note here according to the street maps is the location of Lee Bridge, although you cannot actually see a bridge.


Go along Lee High Road for a while until you reach Clarendon Road. Turn right here.

Almost immediately you will go over another river. This is the River Quaggy again and presumably what Lee Bridge went over.


Now continue and at the junction bear left into Gilmore Road. Stop at Number 9 which is on the left.

Stop 8: Number 9 Gilmore Road


As you can see, there is a blue plaque. This commemorates the birthplace of the poet and writer James Elroy Flecker (1884 – 1915).


The plaque erected in 1986 by Greater London Council. Not sure he would qualify for a plaque now as he is not exactly well known today. If he is remembered at all, it is for his 1913 poem, “The Golden Journey to Samarkand”.

Follow Gilmore Road round and turn left at Eastdown Park. Then turn right at the main road and cross over

You will see a gated estate, called Halley Gardens and just after that entrance you should see this,

Stop 9: Meridian marker

We saw a few Meridian Markers in east London but they are not so common south of the river. And this one is much older than the ones we saw previously.


It was laid on 16 May 1984 in Lewisham Anti Racist Week “to commemorate the centenary of the Greenwich Meridian and promote racial harmony throughout the world”.

Although Britain has established the meridian through Greenwich in 1721, it was only adopted internationally as a result of a conference in Washington DC in the United States in October 1884. of course the French were not happy as they had a rival meridian going though Paris and so they abstained and did not in fact adopt the international meridian until 1911.

This agreement was needed not just for navigation but also to help standardise time, an issue which had emerged with the railways, notably in North America where there was a multiplicity of local times. We kind of take this for granted but it all had to worked out.

Interesting the local council decided to install this in May, a few months ahead of the actual centenary.

Now keep going along Lee High Road, cross over Brandram Road. At the corner are some almshouses which we shall come back. you need to turn right into Old Road. Follow Old Road round to the left and ahead you will see our next stop set back in its own grounds.

Stop 10: Manor House library


Today this is a library, but once it was the home of the Baring family.


As evidenced by the Lewisham Borough council plaque


As we heard in SE12, much of the development here was the land hereabouts was part of the Baring estate. The building dates from 1771/72 according to architectural guru Pevsner.

Next door to the Library is Manor House Gardens, a lovely little green space.


Have a look at the information sign at the entrance.


Have a look at this sign and you will see at the other end of the garden, the River Quaggy runs through it.


Now follow Old Road round and to the left and you get back to the main road. Ahead you will see our next stop.

Stop 11: Boone Chapel and Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses

Firstly there is the Boone Chapel. This is the only remaining part of some almshouses dating from 1683.


According to the Blackheath Historic Buildings Trust

“The original almshouses and chapel were commissioned by Christopher Boone, a London merchant and, like Sir Christopher Wren, a member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, and built in 1683. Income from the Boone family estate in Herefordshire helped provide relief for the elderly poor of Lee and for the education of 12 poor children. The original row of almshouses stood next to the Chapel facing directly on to Lee High Road. These almshouses were demolished in 1875 but a U-shaped block, dating from 1825 and listed Grade II, remains further up the hill. After demolition of the original almshouses, the Chapel continued to function as a reading room, but fell into disuse after 1945.

It is likely that Wren was commissioned to build the Chapel and almshouses but the work was probably carried out by Robert Hooke, a close friend and colleague and another member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company. Hooke is best known for advising Wren in the re-building of the City of London after the Great Fire and in the designing of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.”

By the late 1990s, the Grade I listed chapel was suffering from decades of neglect and was placed on English Heritage’s London Buildings at Risk register. The Blackheath Historic Buildings Trust was set up in 1999 and following the raising of over £500,000, Boone’s Chapel was renovated in 2008. The chapel is now used by a firm of architects but is open to the public 30 days a year, including for Open House weekend.

Now continue along Lee High Road and look though the fence and you will see the Merchant Taylors’ Almshouses.






These almhouses date from 1826 and are separate from the Boone’s almshouses which were rebuilt just up the road. Since 2010 the Merchant Taylors’ and Boone’s almshouses have been run by a single charitable trust which is still connected to the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors.

Go along the main road and turn right into Brandram Road, where you will the entrance to the Almshouses.


Keep going up this road to the end. Our final stop is to the right and ahead.

Stop 12: St Margaret’s church (and old churchyard)


St Margaret’s Church, Lee was built between 1839 and 1841 in a simple early Victorian style, replacing the older medieval church nearby (which was 12th Century). Extensive and lavish interior decoration was carried out between 1875 and 1900. It is said that the church is one of the best preserved examples of a decorated gothic revivalist interior in London.

But perhaps of more interest is across the road. this is where the original St Margaret’s church was before it was rebuilt in the 19th century. And it is here where the old graveyard is.



It seems that they did try to rebuilt the church on this site between 1813 and 1830, but this failed as the foundations of the old church could not support a new building. But the churchyard was left and this is where Edmond Halley (1656–1742) is buried. He was England’s second Astronomer Royal from 1720 and the discoverer of Halley’s Comet. And there are two other Astronomers Royal buried here – Nathaniel Bliss and John Pond (no me neither!)

So that brings us to the end of our SE13 walk. Lewisham has been unlucky in its history and geography. It is not quite right with the main roads ploughing through and separating the station from the town centre. And the two rivers which flow through the centre are now rather sad concrete lined drainage channels. The grandness of some of the shop buildings is somewhat let down by the run of the mill retail offer here. But at least M & S is still here unlike in Wood Green and West Ealing. And we did get to go the historic part of Lee which for reasons lost in the mists of time was in a different postal area to the main part of Lee.

We are almost in Blackheath here. You can get buses 54, 89 and 108 either on to Blackheath or back to Lewisham.

E5: Blame it on the Rivoli

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

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

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

Stop 1: De Havilland House

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



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

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

According to the View from the Bridge website

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

Stop 3: Springfield Park

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

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


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


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

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


Then ahead of you you will see a house.


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

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

Stop 4: Clapton Station

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


Downstairs the old station has half survived.


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

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

Stop 5: site of Brooke House

Today there is a college on this site.


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

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

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

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

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


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

Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 6: Former Kenninghall Cinema

This building currently looks disused


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Friends website seems silent on the matter and the sign on the outside the building says it is the property of a rather obscure church.


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

Stop 7: Site of ABC cinema

Another anonymous block of flats, you might say.


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

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

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

Keep walking along the main road and cross over.

Stop 8: Clapton Pond

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


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


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


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

Stop 9: Bishop Wood almshouses

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


And there is a plaque explaining about the almshouses.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue walking along Lower Clapton Road. 

Stop 10: Site of Rink Cinema

Our next stop is opposite the corner of Linscott Road


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

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

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

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

Now go down Linscott Road

Stop 11: The Portico

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



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

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

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

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

This “artwork” has since been acquired by the Tate, see:

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

Now return to the main road and turn left.

Stop 12: The Round Chapel

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


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


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


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

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

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

NW5: A fleeting glimpse

NW5 is Kentish Town. Probably nothing to do with Kent but maybe named after a man called Kentish. In researching NW5 I discovered that the river Fleet runs right through the postcode. The Fleet is one the “lost” rivers of London as it is almost entirely hidden from view from its start on Hampstead Heath to its end by Blackfriars Bridge. But as we shall see there is one place in NW5 where you get a glimpse of where it flows even if you cannot see the water!

We start our walk at the Post Office, at 212 – 216 Kentish Town Road, just along from the station on the same side of the road. Turn left out of the Post Office and take the first turning on the left (Patshull Road), then do a right and a left which takes you into Lawford Road. Go almost to the end.

Stop 1: Number 50 Lawford Road

Our first stop is on the right and was home to writer George Orwell (1903-1950)



We have already seen one blue plaque to him in on Portobello Road W11 – and according to there are actually some 9 different plaques to Orwell, not all blue, across Greater London. I think he lived here in a flat in 1935/36, which was the time he was working at a second hand book store in Hampstead called Booklovers’ Corner.

Now retrace your steps along Lawford Road. At the end turn left and follow Bartholomew Villas which then mutates into Bartholomew Road. Just follow the road round until you get back to Kentish Town Road.

As we were so close I had to include this even though it is technically in NW1 – just. If you turn left on the main road and go a little way to the junction, you will see ahead of you on the right a familiar style of building.

(If you want to be purist and stay in NW5 turn right and pick up at stop 2 just after Prince of Wales Road on your left.)

Stop 1a: site of former South Kentish Town station


This has the tell tale signs of a Leslie Green design Underground station and indeed it is. This is the former South Kentish Town station. This was going to be called Castle Road but this was changed just before the station opened in 1907. The station was temporarily closed following strike action at the Lots Road power station on 5 June 1924. But it never re-opened apparently due to the very low number of people using the station. So today it is just a ghost station, although unlike the one we saw in NW3 this one actually was open for a while.

Retrace your steps along Kentish Town Road. Our next stop is just past Prince of Wales Road on the left.

Stop 2: site of Palace/Gaumont cinema

Now this unpromising looking building was once where the Kentish Town Palace cinema (later the Gaumont) stood.


The Palace Cinema opened in December 1913 and was designed by John Stanley Beard, who went on to design many cinemas in the London area. Provincial Cinematograph Theatres took it over in 1920 and they were bought out by Gaumont British Cinemas in February 1929.. It was re-named the Gaumont in 1948 and finally closed in April 1959.

Part of the building was demolished and the Kentish Town Road facade was destroyed. But a bit of the original building survives around the corner in Prince of Wales Road. This is now used as a Law Centre.


Keep walking along Kentish Town Road (back towards where you started)

Stop 3: Blustons store

Now this is quite an amazing survival – one of those old fashioned Ladies’ wear shops designed for window shopping, with what I would guess is a 1930s shop front.


Nowadays everything is on display and you chose things, maybe try them on and then go and pay for them. But it did not used to be like that. Once most of the stock was kept in drawers or display cabinets and you had to be “served”. And the person serving you was probably on commission so had a vested interest in making a sale. If you wanted to see what goods in the shop but did not want to run the gauntlet of the sales people, then you would look in the shop windows.

Which is why some shops started to have very extensive windows displays which went quite deep into the shop and the Blustons store here in Kentish Town is a rare survivor of that style of shop.

Just looking at the various buildings along here, this is another street that used to be a much more extensive shopping area but which has lost all its big stores. The one next to Blustons looks like it was a major store, but I have not been able to find out what it was.

Interesting that whilst it is relatively easy to find out about an old cinema or theatre building, or a railway station, it is surprisingly hard to get consistent information about former shop businesses beyond the bare fact that such and such a shop was at a certain address.


Moving on, I should just point out in passing the side street Anglers Lane


This apparently is a little reminder that the River Fleet flowed hereabouts, although there is no sign on the surface now.

Fascinating fact: Angler Lane was once home to the world’s largest false teeth factory (thanks to my fellow Footprints of London guide Rob Smith for that gem – he by the way is one of a number of guides who from time to time get together and do an all day walk following the lost river Fleet – costs £18 (£13.50 concession). Bookable through

Continue walking along Kentish Town Road and soon on the right is the station

Stop 4: Kentish Town Station

There are actually two stations here – the very visible Underground station and the less visible national rail station.

First the Underground station, which is another Leslie Green design. It dates from 1907 but interestingly today has escalators rather than lifts. As the first regular escalator on the Underground was put in at Earls Court in 1911, Kentish Town station must have been rebuilt at some point probably in the 1920s but I cannot seem to find out exactly when.


But the first station here was opened by the Midland Railway in 1868 on the extension to its new London terminal at St Pancras. This surface station was rebuilt in 1983 and nothing of the original station building remains at street level. There is just this odd looking canopy. The tracks go under the road here and on the other side there is a gaping hole in the street scene where the bridge parapet is, but you cannot actually see down to the tracks. Makes for a less than satisfactory street scene.



Now beyond the railway take the left hand pavement and soon on the left is our next stop

Stop 5: The Forum

This building was constructed as a cinema in 1934 and was of a very similar in design to the Forum in Ealing, W5 which as we saw remains just as a facade awaiting redevelopment.


The Kentish Town Forum seated almost 2,200 people on two levels. The architect was one John Stanley Beard who had earlier built the Palace down the road but the interior design was by W.R. Bennett. It was taken over by ABC in 1935, although it was only renamed the ABC in 1963.

It was closed in 1970, and so as far as I can discover it was never subdivided. It became a bingo hall then a dance hall and finally a rock venue. At one point it was called the Town and Country Club but it reverted to its original name in 1993.

Now cross the road and go down the side street – Fortess Walk

Just thought it worth mentioning in passing when I was there, there were a number of posters along the ground floor of the building on the right, one of which was this Parliament Hill Lido poster


We will come to this in the real world in due course.

At the end of Fortess Walk turn left into Fortess Road and go along this road until you reach Number 50

Stop 6: Number 56 Fortess Road

Here hidden behind extensive greenery is a blue plaque to Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893). He is often bracketed with  Pre-Raphaelite painters,  though he was never actually a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood itself. However his style was close to that of William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Quite a few of his pictures are owned by the Tate.



Continue along Kentish Town Road and turn left into Lady Somerset Road, then turn right into Burghley Road. Where this sweeps to the right, there is a turning on the left (Ingestre Road) go along this and ahead you will see a strange looking footbridge

Stop 7: Footbridge (and pipe) over railway

This is an intriguing bridge. First it starts off at one level and then suddenly after a while it goes up some steps



The reason is that we are crossing two railway lines which are at different levels.

Note the unusual sign suggesting that there should be a limit on the number of people crossing the bridge.Sadly the sign has been vandalised so we cannot see just how many people can safely cross!

But what is perhaps more interesting is that rusty looking pipe to the left of the footbridge. (in case you are wondering the picture was taken looking back so the pipe is on the right!)


This pipe contains the River Fleet and is just about all you can see of the river Fleet in NW5. So that is your fleeting glimpse.

Once over the footbridge, turn left and follow the road as it turns right. This is now York Rise and the River Fleet runs entombed beneath the road. Take the first left (Chetwynd road and go to the end, where you turn left into Highgate Road. Our next stop is just ahead across on the right hand side of the road

Stop 8: Weslyan Place

It has been suggested that John Wesley preached in the area, possibly at the Gospel Oak which we will come to at the end. But this little street is apparently named Weslyan Place because there was an early Methodist chapel here.


Now whilst we are here I have to point out this little pub – the Southampton Arms. Looks old fashioned but one wonders how hard they have tried to make it look like this! But don’t you just love the sign on the side. Strange combination isn’t it!


Now return along Highgate Road, past the junction with traffic lights and past a little garden on your left. Take the turning on your left at the end of the garden.

Stop 9: Parliament Hill Mansions, Lissenden Gardens

The street is called Lissenden Gardens but is in fact dominated by a mansion flats development called Parliament Hill Mansions. Walk along the street until your reach a junction. Straight ahead is the block which contains Number 52, which was where the poet John Betjeman was born.


There is a great article about JB and his Kentish Town connection in the local site Kentishtowner. This includes his poem called Parliament Hill Fields in which he describes a local tram journey. This article also has a 1971 letter which has some evocative descriptions of what was even then a long lost Kentish Town. This has tantalising references to long forgotten shops in Kentish town – many of which were along the route we took at the start of today’s walk.

Take the left way and go to the end and turn right. The entrance to our next stop is almost immediately on our right.

Stop 10: Parliament Hill Lido

We saw the poster of the Lido earlier. Now here is the real thing.


Opened in August 1938, this one one of a number of lidos built by the London County Council and it is nearly identical in design to the ones on Victoria Park and Brockwell Park. It is unheated but nevertheless operates in the winter for morning swims – brrr!

The Lido is a bit like a fortress and so you have to pay to see inside. However I did find a little place at the side where you could get a “fleeting glimpse” of the inside. In the background is Parliament Hill Mansions which we saw at the last stop.


Return to the main road. Turn right and go under the railway past Gospel Oak station. Take the first left and then the first right (Lamble Street). Do have a look at the lovely little villas of Oak Village as you pass. Ahead you will see a pedestrianised area. This is our next stop.

Stop 11: Lismore Circus

What a curious 1970s development. According to Pevsner, this area was once a Victorian suburb planned in the 1870s with the streets radiating in six directions from the Circus. The houses are all gone and all that survives from the 19th century is the long wall of the Midland Railway ‘s cutting which early on disturbed the original plan for a quality suburb.



It is all very sad. The 1970s redevelopment did not come out quite as planned. There was supposed to be shopping parade here, but the decision was to retain the nearby Victorian Queen’s Crescent shops and so the full complement of shops was not built. Probably the right decision, as it left some character but it did mean this replacement for the original circus lost its planned purpose.

Here by the way is the wall with the railway on other side. Strange at first glance you do not realise there are multiple train tracks down there but then every so often you here a train.


Perhaps here I should quote a little bit from Betjeman’s 1960 autobiographical work “Summoned by Bells”:

“Here from my eyrie, as the sun went down,
I heard the old North London puff and shunt,
Glad that I did not live in Gospel Oak.”

(before any railway purist complain, I know that we are not by the North London Railway just here – that lies slightly further to the north! But clearly it shows that Gospel Oak was not very high up the pecking order)

See more at:

Walk along the grey block with the shops (such as they are). At the end you will reach Southampton Road. Turn right and go the junction with traffic lights.

Stop 12: possible site of the Gospel Oak

It is said that this is the location of the original Gospel Oak, which was a tree where there was the preaching of the Gospel. And this of course gave this part of NW5 its name.

There is an interesting article here also from the Kentishtowner

This has a nice postscript about local resident Michael Palin who in 1998 attempted ceremonially to plant a ‘Gospel Oak’ on the fringes of nearby Lismore Circus. Sadly the tree has not survived.


And so we are at the end of our NW5 walk, and we have virtually run out of NW5.

But I should just one little thing over the border in NW3 which you can see from stop 12.

Look across the road and you will the street is called Fleet Road


This is the western arm of the Fleet which rises in Hampstead Heath. This joins the eastern arm which we saw in the pipe, down in Camden Town.

So this really is the end of our NW5 walk. We followed the Fleet upstream but could only get that little glimpse.

There are a few buses here, perhaps the most useful for onward travel is the Number 24, which goes down into Camden Town and right through central London to Victoria and Pimlico. But if you want a train you can walk from this junction along Mansfield Road to Gospel Oak on the Overground.

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).

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

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

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


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


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book:


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book:



(A City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association walk)

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

£8 (£6 Concs)


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

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

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

More info at:


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

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


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book:


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book:


WESTMINSTER BYWAYS (Thursday 9 or Sunday 26 January)


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


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book:


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book:


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


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

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


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book:


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book:


MADE IN CHELSEA (Thursday 16 January)


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

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


£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: