E10: Not Eton

E10 is Leyton.

It seems Leyton was mentioned in the 1086 Doomsday Book. According to a sign I came across near the station, “In the Doomsday Book Leyton is entered as Leintun at which time the population was numbered at 43.” What an odd turn of phrase to use.

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Anyhow, we start out walk at Leyton Post Office which is at 244 High Road, Leyton. Turn left out of the shop and walk along the High Road. Soon on the right you will see some warehouse style out-of-town shops and then there is a bridge. This crosses the near motorway now called A12. Built as the Hackney – M11 link, originally it was going to be the southern end of the M11 (which is why the M11 starts at Junction 4!)

You can see the city skyline from here. Plus you can just see the distinctive roofline of the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park

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Our first stop is just on the left after we have crossed the bridge over the road.

Stop 1: Leyton Underground station

Although the Underground only arrived here in the late 1940s, there has been a station here since 1856.

It was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway. Originally called “Low Leyton”, it was an intermediate station on a branch line that ran to Loughton. It was renamed Leyton in 1868 by which time it was operated by the Great Eastern Railway. The station was rebuilt in 1879 when the original level crossing replaced by a bridge.

If you walk a little over the bridge and look back, you will see a road way at the level of the railway.

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There was apparently a ticket hall on the northern side which was added in 1901 but removed when the M11 link road was built in the 1990s. You can see how the buildings have been altered if you look from the bridge.

Stand to the left of the station building on the bridge and you can see the backs of the buildings on the eastbound platform or in some places the lack of buildings

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The line became the eastern end of the Central line in May 1947.

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It is worth popping down to see the platforms, which were designed with full size trains in mind but are now served by the smaller tube trains.

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But look at the eastbound platform near the stairs and you will see windows to a building that is no longer there, the back of which we saw earlier.

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And if you look along the platforms under the bridge you get a view of the link road and the Aquatic Centre.

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Return to the street, turn right out of the station and head back towards where you came from.

Our next stop is ahead on the left on the corner of Ruckholt Road.

Stop 2: Leyton Library and former Town Hall

Here we have a pair of civic building which are much larger and grander than the rest of the High Road here. First comes the Library.

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This was built in 1883 as offices of the Leyton Local Board, established in 1873 it was a forerunner of the Borough Council. The area became an Urban District Council on 1894.

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And it was during this time it became clear this building was too small, so they built a rather grander Town Hall next door which was completed in 1896.

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Architectural bible, Pevsner describes this as “Fussy but enjoyable, in an eclectic and enriched Italianate style.”

The Urban District Council  became a Municipal Borough in 1926 and lost its independence in 1965 when the area became part of London Borough of Waltham Forest.

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Continue walking along the High Road and soon on the left you will see our next stop.

Stop 3: Coronation Gardens

This was laid out in 1902, and was named in commemoration of the coronation of King Edward VII.

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The first thing you see from the road is a triple decker fountain. This looks old but in fact only dates back to 2000 – though it is a replica of one that was here in the 1920s.

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Not looking too good either with the weed dangling off it.

Just nearby there is a sign as a reminder of the old borough.

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It looks old but may be isn’t. By the way the motto of the old borough council was “Ministandi Dignitas” which translates ad “Dignity in Service”

Leyton Council clearly had ambition as it also had its own trams. This started in June 1905 when the then Urban District Council took over ownership of the Lea Bridge, Leyton and Walthamstow Tramways Company lines which were within the council’s area. Then in June the following year they took over the North Metropolitan Tramways services within the boundary of the council.

In June 1921 an arrangement was reached with the London County Council that they would work and manage the urban district council’s trams. But Leyton Council retained responsibility for overhead equipment and the trams continued to be branded Leyton.  I guess this was because Leyton was at the time in Essex and so outside the boundary of the County of London.

When Leyton became a borough in 1926, the undertaking was renamed Leyton Corporation Tramways and the borough’s coat of arms was applied to the tramcars. This lasted until 1933 when London Transport was formed and took over all the tramways in what we now think of as Greater London.

Walk into the gardens and ahead you will see a real old item – a bandstand which although renovated dates from the early years of the gardens.

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Now take the exit to the right of the bandstand as you approached it. This leads you opposite Brisbane Road. Our next stop is ahead on the left, a football ground tucked away in a suburban back street.

Stop 4: Leyton Orient Football Ground

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Note the sticker on the street name plate!

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The ground itself cannot be seen from the street and in fact the whole thing looks like an ugly industrial shed.

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The team play in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system, and are known to their fans as the O’s. Even though they are not in the top flight, this must get pretty busy on match days. It seems kind of crazy to have a football ground like this in a residential area.

Now here’s a funny thing. Julian Lloyd Webber, the rather less famous brother of composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a fan of Leyton Orient. In the late 1970s, the two brothers had a bet on a Leyton Orient match. Andrew lost and so was forced to write a cello work for his brother. Andrew chose the theme of Paganini’s 24th caprice and added 23 variations for cello and rock band. This became the album, Variations. And the introduction is the tune that was used to open the television arts programme, the South Bank Show.

Continue down Brisbane Road, turn right into Windsor Road and left into the High Road. Our next stop is opposite the junction of Grange Park Road

Stop 5: Former Co-Op shop

Right at this corner, is an old stop dating from 1909.

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Look up and you can see the date and also a relief of a beehive.

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The use of the beehive has a long history in the Co-operative Movement. The symbolism of the Beehive is that one bee cannot survive alone, but a hive full of them (and co-operating) thrives. And of course the beehive is often seen as a symbol of industriousness.

Lower down, there are two panels to show this was a branch of the Stratford Co-Operative and Industrial Society.

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This was formed in 1862 and so was well established by the time this shop was built.

The Stratford Society merged with the Edmonton Co-operative Society in 1920 to form the London Co-Operative Society which went on to be the dominant Co-Operative Society in London north of the river.

Although there seems to be a large number of Co-Op food stores still around today, the Co-Op used to be much more important in terms of other retailing. There even used to be department stores but none of these are left.

Now head down Grange Park Road and at the cross roads turn left. Our next stop is just a little way along on the left.

Stop 6: Number 28 Church Road

According to the Notable Abodes site, the writer and broadcaster Frank Muir (1920 – 1998) lived at Number 28 as a child.

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Although he was born and spent his early years in Ramsgate Kent, he lived in Leyton as a child and went to Leyton County High School for Boys.

Despite that, he did always sound a bit posh and when he became a broadcaster, people used to assume that he had been to a public school. Muir had a great response to this. He would say: “I was educated in E10, not Eton”.

That was very much his style as a comedy writer, radio and television personality, and raconteur. He had a writing and performing partnership with Denis Norden which last most of their careers. He was also well known on television as a team captain on the long-running BBC2 series Call My Bluff. And his distinctive tones were heard in voice-overs for advertisements.

Retrace your steps and keep going along Church Road until you reach the High Road, where you will turn left. Keep walking along the High Road. Our next stop is on the left, starting at the corner of Crawley Road.

Stop 7: Leyton Sports Ground

Today Leyton Sport Ground is used by local schools and community groups.

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But it was once the home of Essex County Cricket Club. The club purchased Leyton Cricket Ground in 1886 and it became their headquarters. In 1921, the ground was sold relieving the club of a £10,000 mortgage  But the headquarters remained until the expiry of their lease in 1933. They returned to play matches in 1957 and continued to play here until 1977. The rather lovely pavilion is Grade II listed.

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Stop 8: site of “The Great House” (544/546 High Road)

Now about halfway along the side of the Sports Ground on the other side of the High Road, I spotted a little plaque on a terrace of houses.

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Look closely and what it says it a bit unexpected.

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It says:

“The site of The Great House erected by Sir Fisher Tench Bart.circa 1700. Thomas Oliver lived there 1758 – 1803. Erected by L.U.D.R.A 1909”

My research tells me that Fisher Tench was a City of London financier and also a Member of Parliament. His father Nathaniel passed property at Leyton to Fisher and his wife Elizabeth in 1697. He inherited the rest of his father’s estate in 1710, and probably soon after began to build the Great House at Leyton. According to Wikipedia (which cites “A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973)” as its source) ,

“It was a large mansion of two storeys, basement, and attics, built in the ‘Wren’ style of the period. The walls were of dark red brick with dressings of lighter brickwork and stone. The entrance front faced the high road and consisted of a central block flanked by lower and slightly recessed side wings. The main block had full-height Corinthian pilasters and a central pediment, while the wings had rusticated stone quoins. The whole façade, of thirteen bays, was surmounted by a modillion cornice, a panelled parapet, and hipped roofs with dormer-windows; six large stone vases broke the line of the parapet. The garden front was of similar size and character. The cupola from the house (demolished in 1905) is now on the tower of St. Mary’s church.”

The House had passed out of the Tench family and on to the Olivers in the mid 18th century. But why mention Thomas Oliver. Well there is a whole lot more information about the Great House in “The Survey of London Monograph 4, the Great House, Leyton. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1903.” which I found on British History Online: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/bk4/pp11-22

Thomas Oliver seems to have been a part the campaign to get the proceedings of Parliament published, if one follows the rather convoluted story from the Survey of London Monograph. I have not been able to establish who or what was L. U. D. R. A.

So here is a little reminder of Leyton before it was built over by terraces of working class housing.

Continue walking along the High Road. Ahead you will see a bridge over the road, which is by our next stop

Stop 9: Leyton Midland Road station

This station opened on 9 July 1894 as part of the Tottenham & Forest Gate Railway and was originally just called Leyton.

Fascinating fact (according to Wikipedia). On 17 August 1915, three explosive bombs from the German Zeppelin L.10 landed on or near the station, destroying the ticket office, a billiard hall in the arches under the platform and damaging several houses nearby; four people were killed.

The station got its current name on  1 May 1949. It has lost all its buildings but at least now TfL are in charge of the station, it looks bright and clean.

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Today it is served by trains on the Gospel Oak – Barking line, although at present there are no trains here because the line is being upgraded and electrified.

Now go under the bridge and turn right down Midland Road and take the first left. Our next stop is a ahead on the right.

Stop 10: Number 14 Wesley Road

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Number 14 was the birthplace of Harry Beck, who designed the iconic diagrammatic London Underground Map. We came across him in N2 where there is a plaque put up by The Finchley Society and mention of him at Finchley Central Station. But this one is a “proper” English Heritage plaque.

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Note the type face is slightly different from the usual. That is because like the Frank Pick plaque in NW11 and the Edward Johnston one in W6, they use a Johnston type face. This of course is the distinctive typeface used by the Underground and then London Transport and its successors.

Retrace your steps to the High Road and turn right. Continue along the High Road past the bus garage. Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 11: Former ABC cinema, Number 806 High Road

So here at Number 806, High Road there is a building that looks very much like an old cinema.

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And it was. It was built as the Ritz Cinema by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) and opened in July 1938. The street facade hid the fact that there was quite a large cinema auditorium behind seating over 2,400 people (1,532 in the stalls and 886 in the circle, according the wonderful Cinema Treasures site)

It seems to have had an uneventful life. It was renamed the ABC in October 1962. It was taken over by an independent operator and re-named Crown Cinema in December 1978. This lasted a year or so and then it closed completely. The auditorium was converted into a B&Q DIY store, which later became a KwikSave supermarket, using the stalls area only. The circle level was sealed off by a false ceiling.

Today a Ladbrokes betting office operates from the foyer, with the remainder of the building converted into offices, according to Cinema Treasures. One does wonder what kind of offices they might be given, there do not seem to be any obvious windows, on much of the building!

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And just along the way at Number 832 – 836 High Road was another former cinema. Originally built as the King’s Hall in 1910, it was taken over by the Granada circuit in 1949. It was rebuilt and reopened as the Century Cinema in January 1952. It finally closed in July 1963 and was replaced by a Tesco supermarket. That later moved to larger premises across the street and today there is a Poundstretcher store here. It does have that rather distinctive 1960s look on the upper floors.

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Continue walking along the High Road and our next stop is at the cross roads where the High Road meets Lea Bridge Road.

Stop 12: the former Bakers Arms

We are at the Bakers Arms, a local landmark.

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But sadly the Bakers Arms is no longer a pub. It is a betting shop. How depressing, when you feel it could have been a welcoming focal point to the area.

But the name lives on as a destination for buses, although weirdly the buses seem to carry on past the Bakers Arms. They go along Lea Bridge Road and then round the corner  into the High Road and actually rest up by the bus garage, which is a fair distance from the corner where the Bakers Arms stands.

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Almost opposite the Bakers Arms here on Lea Bridge Road you will see a former Woolworth’s building, which dates from the late 1930s. This is symbolic of how this area has declined as a shopping destination but at least this is still a working shop.

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Our final stop is just along from here on Lea Bridge Road on the right. And why this area has a connection with Bakers. This is the London Master Bakers’ Benevolent Institution completed in 1866.

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Pevsner describes the style as “debased rustic Italianate crammed full of quirky details”

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This was housing connected to the Bakers Company, one of the City Livery Company. The Bakers claim to be one of the oldest recorded companies. The first known records of the existence of the Bakers’ Guild are contained in the great ‘Pipe Rolls’ of Henry II which listed the yearly ‘farm’ paid to the Crown. This indicates that the Bakers of London paid a Mark of gold to the King’s Exchequer for their Guild from 1155 onwards.

But the Baker connection site ended in the late 1960s when the Greater London Council purchased the site for a road widening scheme. The Bakers moved their housing provision to Epping where it continues today. But the road scheme did not happen. Eventually the site ended up in the hands of Waltham Forest Borough Council and today remains in residential use.

We are now at the end of our E10 walk. As ever an area that does look that promising on paper throws up some interesting nuggets from stations and old cinemas to indications of municipal ambition via connections with well known people.

For onward travel there are lots of buses. Closest tube is Walthamstow Central (which is up along Hoe Street – the continuation of the High Road).

 

E7: Ere I saw Elba

E7 is Forest Gate, so called because it was literally the location of a gate into Epping Forest. The London Encyclopaedia says “The name Forest Gate, recorded in the West Ham parish registers in the second half of the 17th century, derives from the gate placed across the modern Woodford Road to prevent cattle straying from the lower forest (Wanstead Flats) onto the main Romford road. The gate was taken down in 1883.”

But there was also a hamlet called Upton which is where we start our walk.

We start our walk at Upton Lane Post Office, which is at 187 Upton Lane. And our first stop is almost across the road from the Post Office.

Stop 1: The former Spotted Dog pub

Architectural reference, Pevsner describes this as a “reminder of rural Upton and a surprising survival”.

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It is a 16th century timber framed weatherboarded house, much altered but still atmospheric, despite later additions at the back. Apparently there were pleasure grounds at the back in the 18th century and playing fields in the 19th century, But the gardens are gone replaced by what Pevsner describes as “a hideous early 20th century factory.”

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As Pevsner says: “The road is too busy and any memories of the quiet hamlet long forgotten.”

Wikipedia suggests it has been closed since June 2004, and in 2009, the London Fire Brigade posted a notice stating that it was a dangerous structure. Who knows what the future holds for this building. Hopefully it can be revived as a pub.

By the way Wikipedia suggests this pub may have been a hunting lodge for King Henry VIII  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_Dog,_Forest_Gate

But interestingly Pevsner is silent on the matter.

Walk along Upton Lane as if you had turned left out of the Post Office

Stop 2: West Ham Park

We are now going alongside West Ham Park. The first we learn of this is this sign by a closed gateway.

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West Ham Park is unusual in that it is managed  not by the local authority here but by the City of London Corporation.

The City Corporation has a large nursery here to produce spring and summer bedding plants each year for the park, gardens and churchyards in the City of London and other Corporation Open Spaces. Plants grown here are also used at State occasions and banquets hosted by the City of London Corporation.

And walking on you can peek through the railings where you can see where they grow the bedding plants.

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Soon we reach a gate to get into the Park proper.

 

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The park dates from 1874 and had been the grounds of Ham House, owned by the Gurney family and demolished in 1872. The London Encyclopaedia says that the Gurney family made the park available for £25,000 on condition it remained an open space for the people. Prior to the Gurney’s ownership, the estate had been the property of Dr John Fothergill between 1762 and 1780. He was a Quaker philanthropist and botanist who established a botanical garden here.

It is a well kept park with a variety of areas with different themes.

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It is a very pleasant place for a wander. You can either retrace your steps and go back up Upton Lane now. Or else walk back across the park to Margery Gate.

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Turn right out of Margery Gate and you will soon find yourself back at Upton Lane. Turn left here and follow Upton Lane until just past the Post Office. Our next stop is at the corner of Upton Avenue.

Stop 3: Number 13 Upton Avenue

This apparently is the only surviving example of the many large houses which existed in Upton before the last decades of the 19th Century. Pevsner describes it as “a substantial neo-Jacobean villa known as the Red House”.

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Its present appearance dates from around 1865 when the house was remodelled for the Tuthill family whose crest is shown in armorial glass above the door. I noticed there was also a motto: Vincere Aut Mori” which translates as “Conquer or Die”. Unaccountably I failed to take of photo of this!

It seems this building became the St Antony’s Catholic Club in 1933, so the motto over the door does seems rather out of keeping.

Continue walking along Upton Lane, following it as it bends to the left. Our next stop is almost at the end on the right hand side.

Stop 4: The Hudson Bay pub

This uninspiring looking building is the local Wetherspoons. As so often is the case, Wetherspoons have chosen a name which has some local connection.

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So you may be wondering what connection Forest Gate has with Hudson Bay. According to Wetherspoons’ website:

“The name of this pub recalls Sir John Pelly, the governor of the Hudson Bay Company. Created First Baronet of Upton, by Queen Victoria, in 1840, Sir John was one of the leading landowners in the area during the late 18th and 19th century. The Hudson Bay Company originated in a royal charter, granted by Charles II, in 1670. The new company made great profits from importing, into Britain, furs and skins obtained by barter from North American Indians.”

Not sure the terminology “First Baronet of Upton” can be quite right! And is it not a shame that Wetherspoons is housed in what looks like an industrial shed, when it would have been nice if it could have been in a real pub building like the Spotted Dog or one of the other closed pubs which we shall see shortly.

Go to the end of the street and turn left. Our next stop is just a short distance along the main road on the left..

Stop 5: Two former cinemas

First note this dull looking block you pass at Number 302 Romford Road.

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For almost 30 years this was the site of a cinema. The Queen’s Cinema opened in July 1913 with seats all on a single floor. It was reconstructed in 1928 when a balcony was added. It was renamed the New Queen’s Cinema. Like many cinemas of this period it had facilities to stage variety shows, together with the film programmes.

In October 1929 it was taken over by Associated British Cinemas who continued to operate it as a cinema with stage shows as part of the programme.

On 21 April 1941 the building received a direct hit from a German bomb. This left the building beyond repair, although it seems the organ was salvaged and reinstalled in the Regal cinema, Halifax, Yorkshire.

After the war, the remains of the building were cleared and a retail unit with offices above was built on the site. The retail unit was a supermarket at one point but now seems to be three separate shops.

Go just a little further along Romford Road and soon on your left is another former cinema.

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Although it looks rather sad, it is recognisably an old cinema building – and it is still standing,

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it dates from 1937 and had a seating capacity of 1,806 with complete with stage facilities and two dressing rooms. It was hit in the same bombing in April 1941 that did for the nearby Queen’s. But the Odeon was able to reopen later that year. It continued as a cinema until November 1975 when it was converted into a bingo hall.

When that closed, it became semi derelict until the stalls areas were refurbished. A false ceiling erected and it reopened as a snooker club which lasted until 1994.

The building was converted into an Islamic centre in 2001. The new owners removed or covered the art deco detailing – possibly because the Greek god, Pan, was depicted. But you can see where the panels were because they have just been replaced by what looks like chipboard. But there were also some deco features lower down which do not seem to be there now.

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More info about this and other Forest Gate cinemas at: http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2013/07/every-picturehouse-tells-story.html#sthash.DooaZglo.dpuf

Go back to the crossroads and our next stop is just over Romford Road and up Woodgrange Road.

However I have to mention the building on the corner as we pass.

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Today this is a weird combination of a Superdrug shop and a restaurant cum banqueting facility. The restaurant is called PalmTree ChumChums.

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Its website says:

“Here at PalmTree ChumChums we offer you the world on a plate. Enjoy exquisite Indian, Chinese, Thai and Continental food in luxurious surroundings.”

And there is a banqueting facility called Dhoom on the first floor.

But this building used to be the Princess Alice pub. The original pub was destroyed by German bombing and this is its 1951 replacement – looks like a little bit of a new town has been dropped on Forest Gate.

Go down Woodgrange Road away from Romford Road. Our next stop is just down a short dead end street on the left.

Stop 6: Number 13 Woodgrange Road

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This dead end street might not look much but once it led the way to a cinema which later became a music venue.

This was opened as the Forest Gate Public Hall in November 1902. By 1907 it was known as the Grand Theatre and in March 1908, it became The People’s Picture Palace. By 1910 it was once again known as The Public Hall, still showing films. In the 1930s it had a chequered history closing for a couple of periods and then reopening. It closed for good as a cinema around the outbreak of the Second World War.

Subsequently the building was used as a roller skating rink, a clothing factory and a music venue (The Upper Cut club, and then the Ace of Clubs) and finally an electrical store, until 2000.

Here is a piece on the brief incarnation as a music venue which hosted some of the biggest names in pop in 1967/68, including the Who and the Small Faces.

http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2013/07/the-upper-cut-club-part-1-rise.html

Another fascinating connection (possibly): Jimi Hendrix is reputed to have written some of his famous song “Purple Haze” here in December 1966.

The building was demolished in 2005 and today a massive brick building stands on the site.

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This is a ventilation shaft for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link which runs in tunnel for most of the first part of its route from St Pancras to Dagenham. There is a little tell tale sign relating to the purpose of this site.

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CTRL of course stands for Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Return to Woodgrange Road and turn left. Our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 7: Forest Gate railway station

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The station was opened in 1840 by the Eastern Counties Railway, later to become the Great Eastern Railway.

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It is currently served by stopping services from Liverpool Street to Shenfield, but as you can see it is going to part of Crossrail (now rechristened the Elizabeth Line, though they have not changed the signage). From 2019, you will be able to get direct trains to central London as well as beyond to Reading and Heathrow Airport.

This line was originally electrified in the late 1940s and there was some modest upgrading of the stations then. You can still see a little bit of the 1940s style tiling on the outside of the stairways.

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On the street outside the station there are a couple of unusual features. There is this strange round kiosk.

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And just north of the station of a traffic island is this unusual clock

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We are at what TfL call an “out of station” interchange – that is a place where there are two stations on different lines sufficiently close to each other to be considered an interchange. That is why there is a sign telling you that it is 320 metres to Wanstead Park station

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Continue walking along Woodgrange Road. Our next stop is on the right hand side of the road just before the railway bridge.

Stop 8: Former Eagle and Child pub

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Today this building is Woodgrange Pharmacy but it was built as a pub – the Eagle and Child. Pevsner says that a pub was recorded here in 1744 but this building dates from around 1896.

There are some jolly figures on the facade which are the only reminders of the buildings former use. Pevsner describes them as “Merrie England” subjects and suggests these dates from the 1920s when “Brewer’s Tudor” was in vogue.

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Not quite sure why these images of “Merrie England” are relevant to Eagle and Child. And a shame that this building has not survived as a pub either.

Our next stop is straight ahead.

Stop 9: Wanstead Park station

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Now this really should not be called Wanstead Park because it is nowhere near Wanstead Park. In fact confusingly the nearest green space is actually Wanstead Flats.

It is on the so-called GOBLIN – Gospel Oak to Barking line. Until TfL took over a few years back this was a bit forgotten. But now the stations have been spruced up, although most like here at Wanstead park, they have been denuded of their original buildings.

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In fact this was so neglected that it is only now getting electrified. But for now we have the unusual spectacle of little 2 car diesel trains in TfL Overground livery.

Now here is a curious thing. On the bridge is a sign showing the way to Forest Gate station. It says Forest Gate station is 275 metres.

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Strange that the sign at Forest Gate pointing the other way said 320 metres.

Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is the turning on the left at the traffic lights.

Stop 10: Dames Road and the Dame closes

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Dames Road is named after the Dames family who were local landowners.

And soon on the right are a couple of street named after two local dames. Clearly someone was having a bit of a joke when they named these streets.

First comes Dame Vera Lynn.

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A not very big or inspiring street!

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Next up is Dame Anna Neagle.

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Her street is a bit bigger (but not much!)

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We heard about Dame Vera in E6 with which she is more closely connected.

Star of stage and screen, Dame Anna Neagle (1904 – 1986) on the other hand was born in Forest Gate. At birth she was called Florence Marjorie Robertson – Neagle was her mother’s maiden name. Again not surprising she took a stage name – Florrie Robertson does not have the same ring for an aspiring actress, and maybe a little too close to the name of a near contemporary, Flora Robson.

Anna Neagle was a successful movie star in the 1930s and 1940s.  Almost all of her films were produced and directed by Herbert Wilcox, whom she married in 1943. After her film career waned in the 1950s she carried on in the theatre, mostly notably starring in the west end musical, Charlie Girl.

Go down Dame Anna Neagle Close. It becomes Brownlow Road. Ahead at the end is our next stop.

Stop 11: Wanstead Flats

Here we have the green open space known as Wanstead Flats. There is a sign with a City of London crest.

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But on closer inspection the sign does not say Wanstead Flats as I expected.

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It says: “Welcome to Epping Forest”. I guess this kind of reinforces the idea of this area being Forest Gate. And of course as we heard in E4, the City of London looks after Epping Forest.

Close by the corner is a Victorian water fountain.

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This has a dedication to Joseph Fry (1809 – 1896). He was one of the sons of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780 – 1845). Her maiden name was Gurney, the family who would later sell some of their land to become West Ham Park.

She married Joseph Fry in 1800 and they lived locally in Plashet House in East Ham between 1809 and 1829 when they moved to Upton Lane in Forest Gate (not sure if that was the house whose grounds subsequently became West Ham Park)

Now retrace your steps to Dames Road and turn right. Our next stop is just at the next corner on the right.

Stop 12: Uncle Tom’s Garage

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The reason we are stopping here is because actor Idris Elba worked at Uncle Tom’s garage as a youngster (although he spent most of his youth growing up in Canning Town).

He revisited the garage in November 2013, on a trip back to his roots. More about Dames Road including Idris Elba’s visit can be found here. – See more at: http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2016/04/the-street-where-you-live-4-dames-road.html#sthash.30IThClO.dpuf

But when I hear the name Idris Elba I always think of the phrase: “Able was I ere I saw Elba”. This is what is known as a palindrome – a phrase whose letters read the same both forwards and backwards.

This one has been attributed to the famous French leader Napoleon Bonaparte who was once exiled to the island of Elba. I always thought it odd that a Frenchman would have come up with such a neat English phrase and there is a fascinating article on the site Quote Investigation which explores the origin of this phrase.

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/09/15/saw-elba/

So that brings us to the end of our E7 walk. you can return down Dames Road and Woodgrange Road to get to the stations for onward travel. But there is a little detour you can make to see one more thing of interest in E7.

It is in Katherine Road, and probably easiest if you get a 325 bus which runs along Upton Lane and then Romford Road. Take this in the direction of East Beckton and get off at Derby Road.

Postscript

Here in the middle of a mainly residential area is the old factory of Trebor Mints

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It all started in 1907 when four young men set up an enterprise to make sweets in Forest Gate from sugar bought from Henry Tate in nearby Canning Town.

It has often been said that Trebor stands for Robert backwards, after one of the founders, Robert Robertson. The company seems to have been quite happy to perpetuate this myth, But actually Trebor was named after the location of the premises they moved into. This was Trebor Terrace, named after the row’s builder, one Robert Cooper. So perhaps it is this Robert rather than Robert Robertson where the name originally came from.

Sweet production moved away in the early 1980s and today the building is apartments.

More detail on the Trebor story can be found at: http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2014/04/the-trebor-story-forest-gates-sweet.html

Well that does bring us to the end of E7. We saw some glimpses of the lost world of a country hamlet and heard about some of the people who lived hereabouts before the area was swallowed up by London, plus some of the entertainment places that were here and finally a sweet connection.

For onward travel, probably best to get the 325 bus either on to East Ham or back to Forest Gate.

N17: Spurred into action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our next stop is literally next door.

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 3: Old School Court

Today this is called Old School Court.

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 4: Bruce Grove station

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

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

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

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

Stop 5: former Bruce Grove Cinema, 117 Bruce Grove

Here we have another old cinema.

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

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

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

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

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

Our next stop is just next door

Stop 6: Former Bruce Grove Ballroom, 113 Bruce Grove

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

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

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

Now look across the road.

Stop 7: Number 7 Bruce Grove

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

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

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

Stop 8: Drapers Almhouses

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

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

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

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

Stop 9: Bruce Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 10: Prospect Place

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

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And this is the prospect today:

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

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

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

Here are the words:

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

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

http://www.ariver-runsthroughit.org.uk/events/singing-tottenham-toad-bruce-castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 12: White Hart Lane station

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

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

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

NW7: East from Broadway

NW7 is practically in the country! Even though we are still in a London post code, we are at the very edge of built up London – unlike in the South West and West post districts where the London postcode area ends well before London does. Just to warn you some of the stops on this walk are quite a distance apart but that is the way it is out here “in the sticks”.

But it is not all countryside as can be seen from our first stop.

We start out walk at the main Post Office in Mill Hill Broadway. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is ahead on the left.

Stop 1: Mill Hill Broadway station

Now this is an uninspiring station – and another one that has lost its original buildings and has little character as a result. But even worse the entrance is literally underneath the viaduct which carries the M1 motorway.

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Hard to believe this station was actually built in 1868 by the Midland Railway, Then it was known as simply “Mill Hill”. It was renamed Mill Hill Broadway in 1950 presumably in recognition of the fact it is nowhere near the village of Mill Hill.

The station was reconstructed in the late 1960s when M1 motorway was built along the railway just here.  At least the motorway has been fitted in so it is not too intrusive here compared with say how Westway “fits” in. But it is still ugly and noisy.

Turn left out of the station forecourt and go under the motorway and railway.  At the roundabout take the left hand road. Cross when convenient as the pavement does not continue on the left hand side.

Stop 2: Bunn’s Lane “bridge”

Ahead where the pavement stops on the left, it seems like we are going over a bridge and yet looking over the parapet it is hard to see what is being crossed.

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To find out go past the walls and take a right into the park. Go down the steps and you will see a little pathway has been worn going into the undergrowth. Follow this and you can see the bricked up arches of a bridge.

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Here was an old railway, which originally ran from Finsbury Park to Edgware. It was promoted by the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway but before the line could open in 1867 the company was taken over by the Great Northern Railway.

In 1935 London Transport proposed as part of its new Works Programme an ambitious scheme called the Northern Heights which included taking over this line, making it double track and extending it beyond Edgware to Elstree and Bushey Heath. Work started before the war but with the war stopped and in fact so did passenger train services between Finchley and Edgware.

After the war, the area beyond Edgware was made part of the London’s new Green Belt, which in effect prevented the intended residential development, and the potential demand for services beyond Edgware vanished. Edgware was already served by the Underground and Mill Hill had the station we have just seen.That just left a little spur line to Mill Hill East which had re-opened  as a part of the Northern line in 1941 and which survives today. We will come to this at the end of the walk.

So with money short, available funds went towards completing the eastern extension of the Central line instead, and the Northern Heights plan was dropped in 1954. But the line through here to Edgware continued to be used for goods traffic, primarily coal, milk and building materials until 1964. Then it was abandoned, hence this bridge over nothing.

Now retrace your steps to Mill Hill Broadway and keep walking down the shopping street until nearly the end. Our next stop is by the corner of Hartley Avenue.

Stop 3: Athene House (former Capitol Cinema)

This green building may look like a modern office block but actually it was once a cinema called the Capitol.

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According to the Cinema Treasures website, this was a conversion of the pre-existing Assembly Rooms by architect Robert Banks and probably opened in the 1920s. It does not seems to have been linked with any of the cinema chains.

The Capitol Cinema was closed in April 1955 and was converted into an office building. The front of the building has been rebuilt in glass and green panels, while some of the side wall has a corrugated covering.

Interesting that Mill Hill never seems to have had a large suburban style cinema of the kind we found in Hendon. Perhaps it just was not big enough.

Walk to the roundabout and cross the main road (A1) at the crossing to the right of the roundabout. Turn right after crossing and walk a short distance along the main road and veering off to the left is a street called Daws Lane. Go along here to the end (a kind of cross roads) and take a left into Hammers Lane.Our next stop is a fair way up this lane.

Stop 4: Marshalls Estate

Suddenly on the right you come across a late Victorian gated estate. This was created by James Marshall – son of one of the founders of the Marshall and Snelgrove Department stores. Dating from 1898 it was built not for himself but to provide housing for retired shop workers.

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And it continues with this function today, under the auspices of a charity called Retail Trust. There are some 70 one bedroom cottages and flats on this site.

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Retail Trust website describes itself as “looking after the needs of all the three million people in retail, improving lives for all involved – yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are here to help with a wide range of services including debt advice, counselling, hardship grants, career development and retirement housing.”

And they do not just have this estate of retirement homes, they have four other estates in Derby, Glasgow, Liverpool and Salford. Well, who knew?

Retrace your steps back down Hammers Lane which continues after Daws lane as Wise Lane. After Mill Hill Park, take the first right which is called Parkside.

Stop 5: Number 32 Parkside

Keep walking along Parkside and on the right just before you get to a turning called The Rise, is Number 32. This was the home of racing driver Graham Hill (1929 – 1975), and it has a blue plaque to prove it.

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He was a two time Formula One World Champion. He is the only driver to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport—the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

Should you be interested in such arcane information, here is a link to the Wikipedia page which explains a bit more about this mythical “Triple Crown” and also shows the drivers who did not quite manage it but have achieved two out of the three.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_Crown_of_Motorsport

Hill and his son Damon are the only father and son pair both to have won the Formula One World Championship. And as Damon was born in 1960 this would have been his childhood home.

Continue walking along Parkside, past the roundabout (which has no apparent purpose). The road is now Hillside Grove. At the end turn right and then turn left into Bunn’s Lane. Our next stop is a short way along on the right at the corner of Colenso Drive.

Stop 6: John Laing’s offices

John Laing was for years a familiar name in construction. The business started in Cumbria in 1848. By 1920 the firm had become a limited company, and a couple of years later moved its headquarters from Carlisle to a 13 acre site at Mill Hill – which was just about where we are now.

Although they have moved the head quarters away and most of the site has been developed, they retain a little foothold here in Mill Hill as this building in Bunn’s Lane is where the John Laing Charitable Trust is based. The Trust exists to enable John Laing and its subsidiaries to make charitable donations and provide welfare support to existing and former employees.

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Laing was responsible for building some of Britain’s landmark structures of the second half of the 20th Century – the initial stretches (Junctions 10 -18) of M1 motorway (1959), Coventry Cathedral (1962), Sizewell B nuclear power station (1995), the Second Severn Crossing (1996) and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium (1999).

John Laing has not been involved in building and construction itself since the sales of its construction division in 2001, and of its property developments division and house building arm in 2002.

It now describes itself as: “a leading international infrastructure investor and asset manager. By combining its unique mix of technical, commercial and financial skills with those of its investment, construction and operational partners, the company has built a world-class reputation for efficiently delivering successful public infrastructure.” It is the private sector bit of many Public Private Partnerships which manage things like hospitals, waste and transport infrastructure.

One of Laing’s enterprises which has been in the news just recently is Agility Trains. This is a consortium with Hitachi and which has been awarded a contract to design, manufacture, and maintain the new fleet of long-distance trains for the East Coast and Great Western main lines.

Continue along Bunn’s Lane. At the end do a right then a left into Pursley Road. There is a fair trek along here past the school and playing fields. Walk until just before the road bends to the right, here take the left turn (Milespit Hill). A short distance along on the right is an entrance to Mill Hill Cemetery. Go in here.

Stop 7: Mill Hill Cemetery

This is another of the City of Westminster Cemeteries (like the one in Hanwell, W7) that Shirley Porter sold off cheap and Westminster City Council had to buy back expensively. There are a couple of things worth stopping for.

Follow the path from the gate (which is East Avenue) and soon on the left in the area called Plot L4 is the first of two civilian Second World War graves. This one is for people who died in Paddington and is here because at the time this was the Paddington Borough Council’s cemetery.

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And just a little further along in Plot L1 is a similar monument but this time for people killed by enemy action in Hendon. (Presumably Hendon Corporation did not run to its own cemetery).

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It’s noticeable how many fewer names there are on the Hendon stone but interesting nonetheless that there were still casualties out here.

Now head over towards the chapel and the A and B plots. Ahead from West Avenue beyond Plot A6 is a little graveyard dedicated to Netherlands war dead, with a  sculpture at the end.

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Retrace your steps and go parallel to the right hand boundary of the Netherlands War cemetery going into Plot B1. Here a little way along on the right is the grave of Billy Fury, who popped up in our NW6 walk.

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Now go back down West Avenue and you will soon be at the other entrance to the cemetery. Go out these gates and turn right up Milespit Hill. Going up this road does really have the feel of what you might call suburban countryside.

And then suddenly you find yourself by a pond with a red brick chapel ahead and to the left some almshouses. This really looks like a country village.

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And just by the almshouses is a terrace of modern mews type buildings, called Angel Cottages.

Stop 8: Angel Cottages and The Nicholl Almshouses

The Nicholl Almshouses date from 1698 and architectural Historian Pevsner describes them as charmingly minimal.

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Angel Cottages on the other hand date from the mid 1960s and are by Richard Seifert and Partners – best known for Centrepoint and the Natwest Tower (now called Tower 42).

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Pevsner is not so sure about Angel Cottages, saying they “try to be sympathetic  by using red brick, timber boarding and tiled roof, but spoil the effect by intrusive mansards.” Perhaps that is a little hard on them especially given what else was being built in this period.

Fascinating fact: According to “A History of the County of Middlesex: Vol 5” (found on British History on line),

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=26892

“Thomas Nicholl of Hendon erected a single storeyed brick alms-house at the junction of Milespit Hill and the Ridgeway, Mill Hill. He did not endow the premises, which accommodated 6 pauper residents of Hendon at a nominal rent, and the parish was forced to undertake repairs. Consequently the building was generally called the parish alms-house, although it was later known as Nicholl’s alms-house.”

So it just goes to show, Nicholl was not quite as generous as it might have seemed, and the parish ended up with the tab for maintaining the buildings.

Interestingly Richard Seifert lived locally. In 1946, when he returned from the army, Seifert bought himself a modest semi-detached house in Milespit Hill, which remained his home until his death in 2001. Rather than move, he enlarged it over time by purchasing and demolishing three neighbouring properties to make room for expansion.

Continue walking along this street which becomes possibly one of the shortest (and least commercial) high streets in London. There are no actual commercial premises here. As you get to the end take a look across the little green and main road at the white boarded property. This is our next stop.

Stop 9: Rosebank

This is a late 17th century house, which has a plaque announcing it was a Quaker Meeting house from 1678 to 1719.

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It was apparently often visited by George Fox, founder of the Quakers. But he was always travelling around so I guess this is a claim for pretty much all the early Quaker meeting houses.

Continue along the main road and on your left are the various buildings of Mill Hill School.

Stop 10: Mill Hill School

Mill Hill School is a coeducational independent day and boarding school with around 640 pupils. It has an impressive array of buildings with a rather grand one built by Sir William Tite in the mid 1820s as its centrepiece. This was his first major work and he went on to build the Royal Exchange, South Metropolitan Cemetery in Norwood and a lot of railway stations, one of which we saw in SW13. And of course Tite Street in SW3 was named after him.

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The site was the location of Ridgeway House which was the home of 18th century botanist and avid gardener Peter Collinson (1694 – 1768).

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Collinson was a cloth merchant, largely trading with North America, but his real love was gardening. In the 1730s he began importing seeds from North America for English collectors to grow the newly discovered plants here. Collinson maintained an extensive correspondence and was friendly with notable scientists in London and abroad including Hans Sloane, Carolus Linnaeus, and Benjamin Franklin.

One of Mill Hill school’s old boys was actor Patrick Troughton (1920 -1987) – best known as the second incarnation of Doctor Who (1966-1969 with brief returns in 1973, 1983 and 1985). And guess what the school’s theatre is called.

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He was in fact born in Mill Hill and a resident of Mill Hill for most of his life.

In the green just in front of the school is a war memorial.

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This turns out to be nothing to do with the school. It was transplanted here in 2012 from the site of  the Inglis Barracks which were down the road and are being redeveloped for housing. The Barracks were named after Lieutenant General Sir William Inglis, were built in 1905 as the depot for the Middlesex Regiment. The Barracks were also the location of the headquarters of the British Forces Post Office from 1963 to 1988.

Now cross the road and have a look at the church,.

Stop 11: St Paul’s church

This was built in the late 1820s (so just about the same time as the William Tite school building) as a chapel for the anti-slave campaigner, William Wilberforce, who had a house up the road on Highwood Hill. It was consecrated in 1833. Pevsner describes this church as “A typical cheap church of its date … cement rendered with the plainest of turrets…”. It does almost look like it is a film set.

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It became the parish church in 1926

Now it is quite a way to get to Mill East Station and although there are some things on the way (the National Institute for Medical Research, started in 1938 and finished in 1950; the site of Inglis Barracks, now being redeveloped as housing), we have probably walked far enough, so I suggest hopping on a 240 bus to get you to Mill Hill East station, our final stop.

But I just have to include this just to reinforce the rural image – it is a picture taken at the end of St Vincents Lane, which is a little along the main road towards Mill Hill East.

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Stop 12: Mill Hill East station

This is perhaps one of the most unusual stations on the London Underground. It at the end of a single track spur line with just a single platform. Mill Hill East is one of only three (Chesham & Heathrow Terminal 4 are the others) Underground stations to have only one platform. It also one of the few Underground stations without any ticket barriers.

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We heard about the ambitions plans in the 1930s for this line but when the war came, a passenger service as part of the Northern line was created just to here in 1941 because of the Inglis Barracks. The Inglis Barracks site was sold by the Ministry of Defence in 2012 and is now being redeveloped for housing.

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Also just near this station was a gasworks established in 1862 by the North Middlesex Gas Company and the line was used to deliver coal to the works. The gasworks is now occupied by Waitrose.

Here by the way is a link to a fascinating story about a walk along the route of the disused line

http://underground-history.co.uk/northernh4.php

So we are now at the end of our NW7 journey. I was not expecting to find that Mill Hill Village was so different from Mill Hill Broadway or Mill Hill East. Or to find much of the area so “rural” in character, a housing estate for retired shop workers or a massive school with such impressive buildings.

You are now at Mill Hill East station which has a regular Underground service, although for most of the day you now have to change at Finchley Central.

 

 

NW3: Come and make eyes at me.

NW3 is Hampstead and there is so much to say about the place and its famous residents of yesterday and today. It seems there is at least one blue plaque on every street in the centre of Hampstead village. In fact English Heritage lists over 60 blue plaques in NW3. So where do I begin?

I have decided to begin a little further down the hill in Belsize Park and walk though the village and end up at the old Bull and Bush, that pub immortalised in that old Music Hall song – although the story of that song is stranger than you might think.

Anyhow we start our walk at the Post Office which is in the middle of the parade of shops at 199 – 205 Haverstock Hill – opposite Belsize Park tube station. In fact this is our first stop.

Stop 1: Site of Haverstock Hill Odeon

This parade of shops, with flats above, was built in 1934. In the middle of it, where the Budgen supermarket and Post Office now stand, was once an Odeon cinema.

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The cinema (variously known as Odeon Haverstock Hill, Odeon Belsize Park or Odeon Hampstead) opened on 29 September 1934. The art deco auditorium was unusual as it had no overhanging circle but was arranged in a stadium plan with 652 seats in the stalls and 892 in a rear raised balcony section.

The Odeon was badly damaged by a bomb in October 1941 and it did not reopen until December 1954. It carried on as an Odeon until it closed in September 1972. The cinema was demolished, leaving the rest of the parade of shops and flats remaining. A supermarket was built on the site. But in an interesting twist, one of the original shop units became the entrance to a new cinema in 1977 – initially called Screen on the Hill. This is still open although now called the Everyman Belsize Park.

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Now walk up Haverstock Hill. It becomes Rosslyn Hill. Take the fourth turning on the left.

Stop 2: Number 6 Lyndhurst Road

Just to warn you Lyndhurst Road is numbered up one side and down the other. We are heading for Number 6 which is on the right hand side, a fair way (and beyond Eldon Grove).

This house was the home of the actor Richard Burton from 1949 to 1956.

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This was a period when he was juggling a stage career with a Hollywood movie career – and before he met Elizabeth Taylor. She by the way called Burton one of the three loves of her life – the other two were her third husband Mike Todd and jewelry (sic). Elizabeth Taylor was actually born near here in 1932 at Heathwood, 8 Wildwood Road NW11 which is just on the edge of Hampstead Heath near the end of walk today. Her parents were american but they were living in London because of her father’s business.

Burton must have living here when he recorded “Under Milk Wood” for BBC radio in 1954. But by the time the film was made in 1972 he was long gone from here. Amazingly Elizabeth Taylor also featured in the 1972 movie version. I am intrigued to know what kind of Welsh accent she managed.

Retrace your steps as far as Eldon Grove and turn left down here.

Stop 3:  Number 3 Eldon Grove

Our next stop is just on the left, at Number 3, former home of artist Paul Nash.

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Paul Nash (1889 – 1946) was not just a painter but also a photographer, writer and designer of applied art. He is regarded as one of the important landscape artists of the first half of the twentieth century and he played a key role in the development of Modernism in English art. He was a war artist in both the first and second world wars. Tate has over 30 of his works and quite a few of these are on display.

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks?aid=1690

Go to the end of  Eldon Grove and turn right into Thurlow Road. At the end cross over Rosslyn Hill at the zebra crossing and turn left up the hill a short way. Then turn right into Pilgrim’s Lane.

Stop 4: Pilgrims Lane (Numbers 1, 2b and 8)

We have three interesting connections here. Number 1 on the left hand side was the home of painter Sir William Nicholson who lived here from 1904 to 1906.

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Again the Tate has a lot of his work. They have a series of lovely lithographs from 1899 – here is his take on Queen Victoria:

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nicholson-hm-the-queen-p08154

Across the road (and well hidden) is the house of Sir William’s son, Ben Nicholson (1894 – 1982).

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In fact this was his last home and he died here on 6 February 1982. He was a painter of abstract compositions, landscape and still-life. The Tate has plenty of his work too. Strange he should end up just across the road from what must have been a childhood home, although he was probably away at school most of the time. It is easy to miss this one as the blue plaque is almost invisible from the street. You have to stand in front of Number 2 and crane your neck over the fence and through the foliage to see it!

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And just a little further on from Number 2b is another plaque at Number 8 – this time not blue. And it is on a house which has a ship’s figurehead sticking out from it!

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It commemorates William Johnson Cory – author of the words of the Eton Boat Song, although the figurehead is more the size for an ocean going ship than a rowing boat on the Thames. The Eton Boating Song dates from 1863 and features these words in the first verse:

“Swing swing together, With your bodies between your knees.”

(This is of course is a rowing reference)

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Although he was certainly a teacher at Eton from 1845 to 1872, he was known then as William Johnson. He was forced to resign as a result of an indiscreet letter. The Dictionary of National Biography says “No one can be quite sure of the exact circumstances of his resignation,” but adds: “There is no question that he was dangerously fond of a number of boys.” It was perhaps easier to keep out of the papers in those days, especially when you had old boys in high places. Wonder what David and Boris know?

He changed his name to Cory, the maiden name of his paternal grandmother, then left the country and married and had a son. He moved here in 1882 where he lived out his last days.

Walk to the end of Pilgrim’s Lane and then turn right when you reach the Heath. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 5: Numbers 1 – 3 Willow Road

We have already seen Erno Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower in W10, but this is what he built in part for himself. This is in fact a terrace of three completed in 1939. The middle one was Goldfinger’s and is now owned by the National Trust. It  is usually open Wednesday to Sunday http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/2-willow-road/

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For me, this design of building is so reminiscent of growing up in Crawley, where a huge part of the town was built in the 1950s very much in this style. This block looks like the schools I went to and there are features which remind me of the houses I lived in, although they were somewhat smaller than this!.

I have a soft spot for this style although in practical terms they were not great. These buildings were cold in winter and hot in summer and you always seems to get condensation on the windows. But those metal window frames are so well proportioned. It is sad that most have been replaced by clunky pvc, although it is understandable if you have to live or work in the building concerned.

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By the way have a look in the first floor window of Number 2 and you can just see a mug with the word “genius” on it. Exactly.

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Return along Willow Road and where it forks take the right hand road, Christchurch Hill, go along this until you reach Well Walk where you turn left. Our next stop is a little way on the left.

 Stop 6:  John Constable’s House, Well Walk

John Constable (1776 – 1837) was an English Romantic painter. He was born in Suffolk and he is best known for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale – indeed that neck of the woods is now known as “Constable Country”.

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Interestingly although he is most closely associated with Suffolk, he spent much of his life elsewhere including here in Hampstead and in fact he, his wife and two of their children are buried in the the nearby St John’s Church. He started coming to Hampstead in 1819 and leased this house in 1827. And he painted quite a lot here, much of which has ended up at the Tate:  http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/constable-hampstead-heath-with-the-house-called-the-salt-box-n01236

Continue along Well Walk and when you get to Willow Road there are two roads ahead. Take the right hand one which is Flask Walk.

Stop 7: Gardnor House, Flask Walk

By the way, Flask Walk and Well Walk are little reminders that Hampstead was once considered a spa. Though never up there with the big boys of Bath, Tunbridge Wells and Harrogate, I guess it was handy for London, as was Streatham which we saw in SW16.

Flask Walk widens out with a green in the middle.  On the right is the old bathhouse and on the left is a detached house in its own grounds. This is Gardnor House. Once home to two very different people – at different times I might add.

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One was the writer Sir Kingsley Amis (1922 – 1995).  He wrote some 20 novels plus poetry, radio and television scripts and literary criticism. Although best remembered for novels such as Lucky Jim, he originally wished to be a poet, and turned to writing novels only after publishing several volumes of verse.  He was well known to like a drink. For many years he is said to have rigorously separated his writing and his drinking. He aimed to write a minimum 500 words in the mornings and only then at lunchtime would the drinking begin.

The other was comedy actor, Betty Marsden (1919 – 1998), best known for playing multiple parts in the 1960s BBC radio series “Beyond our Ken” and “Round the Horne”. She did pop up in other things and was in a couple of Carry On films. Apparently throughout the filming of Carry on Camping in 1969, she suggested to fellow actress Dilys Laye that she wanted to die with a glass of gin in her hand. In July 1998, soon after moving into a residential home for old actors, she collapsed and died in the home’s bar.

Keep walking along Flask Walk, past the delightful Flask pub (wonder if Kingsley Amis or Betty Marsden popped in here)

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At the end turn right and at the corner you will see our next stop.

Stop 8: Hampstead tube station

The station was opened on 22 June 1907 by the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway, one of the three railways built by the american Charles Tyson Yerkes, and so has those distinctive red tiles.

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It was originally going to be called Heath Street, being located at the junction of Heath Street and Hampstead High Street. The original tiled station signs on the platform walls had this name and although restored you can still read “Heath Street” on the platform wall.

The station platforms are the deepest on the London Underground network, at 58.5 metres or 192 feet below ground level. It has also the deepest lift shaft on the Underground at 181 feet. The staircase has some 320 steps – that’s quite a way.

Take the small side street opposite the tube station called Holly Hill. Use the right hand path passing the Sundial House. As the road widens out take the left hand road and then turn right and follow this road. Just after the road becomes Branch Hill you will see a gateway on the left. It looks like it is private but you can go down there.

Stop 9: location of Spedan Tower

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Stick to the road and go past the big house. At the end you will see a sign for Spedan Close. (By the way the word Spedan is pronounced Speedan for reasons I will explain shortly)

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Why Spedan Close? Well this is location of the mansion belonging to the store owner John Lewis. He was from Somerset and being orphaned at a young age was brought up by aunts, one of whom was called Ann Speed. Spedan is a word made up from reversing his aunt’s name. Hence it is pronounced Speedan. He not only called his house by this name but he also used it as a middle name for his eldest son, who was the one who really took the business forward.

John Lewis lived until his 90s and did not have the house modernised, so John Spedan Lewis found it old fashioned and gloomy. The house was therefore not kept and the land was sold for development, which is why you cannot see a big house here today.

Now if you do not mind a bit of a walk there is actually a plaque to Lewis father and son. It is not far from here but as the developments are gated you have to walk round a fair way to the other side.

From the Spedan Close sign follow the little lane to you right. This brings you back to Branch Hill. Turn left and continue to the junction with West Heath Road. If you want to skip this bit you would turn right here. But if you want to see the plaque turn left and follow the road until you reach Templewood Avenue on the left. You will come to Grange Gardens on the left. Go down here and ahead of you, you will soon see the sign for John Lewis and John Spedan Lewis.

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Retrace your steps along Templewood Avenue and West Heath Road and keep following West Heath Road as it hugs the heath.  Keep the heath to your left and soon you will be by Jack Straw’s Castle, a former pub but now apartments and a lifestyle centre.

Stop 10: Jack Straw’s Castle

Jack Straw’s Castle was one of those landmark pubs. There was a pub here for a long time at least since 1713 but possibly since Tudor times. The building we see today dates from the early 1960s; its predecessor having been destroyed by a bomb in 1941, an interesting choice of bomb target, don’t you think.

Here it is today.

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But there are some other interesting pictures on this link

http://www.hampsteadheath.net/jack-straw-s-castle.html

Fascinating fact: Jack Straw was one of the leaders of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 along with Wat Tyler. This pub is said to have taken its name from a story that Straw addressed groups of rebels on the Heath from a hay wagon which became known as “Jack Straw’s Castle”.

Second fascinating fact: The politician we know as Jack Straw adopted the name “Jack”, allegedly after the rebel leader – he was called John Whitaker Straw by his parents.

Walk along the road in front of Jack Straw’s Castle, along North End Way. You will pass the former home of  William Hesketh Lever, the soap man.

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There is also another blue plaque here to someone I have never heard of.

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Sadly we do not have space to include either of them!

Keep going along North End Way. Before you get to the Old Bull and Bush, take the turn on the right called Wildwood Grove.

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A little way along you will see a small road going of to the left. Go down that and soon on the left you will see a tall gaunt Victorian terrace with just a footpath in front. You will see the second house in has a blue plaque.

Stop 11: Wildwood Terrace

This little terrace was built in the 1860s. Pevsner called this terrace “surprisingly urban gothic” and he should know, as he lived here for some 47 years.

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Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902 – 1983) was a German-born scholar of history of art and architecture. He is of course best known for his series of county-by-county guides – The Buildings of England (1951–74). These are usually referred to as “Pevsner” and they form one of the key reference texts if you want to know about a building. As a guide I find them invaluable, but because they have been revised since his death, you are never entirely sure whether the withering statement about a building is his or not.

But it is intriguing that he should live in this out of the way terrace – imposing, no doubt spacious but not very special.

Now retrace your steps to the main road which has become North End Road. Turn right. Almost immediately is the next stop.

Stop 12: The Old Bull and Bush

Here we have the Old Bull and Bush – a fine old pub. There has been an ale house a long time. It got a license to sell ale in 1721 and Hogarth is said to have been a visitor. Later it bacame a favourite destination for day trips out from built up London. However this building dates largely from the 1920s.

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As I mentioned at the start, the Old Bull and Bush was immortalised in an old Music Hall song. It was popularised by one Florrie Ford- other songs she sang included “Hold your hand out you naughty boy”, “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag”, “It’s A Long Way To Tipperary” and “I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside”.

She was born in Australia but made her name in the UK on the Music Hall circuit.

There is actually a film of her singing “The Old Bull and Bush” in a medley dating I guess from the 1930s. She is a portly lady – stately as a galleon in black with a hanky which shes flourishes. The Old Bull and Bush is the last minute or so – from about 3 minutes 18 Seconds:

(you will probably need to click on the link that pops up to make this work)

The song “The Old Bull and Bush” seems such a quintessentially British song,

But it is not. It is actually american. It was commissioned in 1903 by the brewer Anheuser Busch and the original words were:

“Come, come, come and make eyes at me, down at the Anheuser Bush (sic)”

Here is a link to a 1904 recording of the original song

So you never can tell.

You can stop here but there is a little something just round the corner I cannot resist.

Post script:

Now continue walking along North End Road and take the first turn on the right. this is Hampstead Way.

Stop 12a: North End (Bull and Bush) tube station

As Hampstead Way turns to he left there is what looks like an electricity sub-station.

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But if you look closely at the signs they are in the standard underground style and suggest there is some kind of emergency escape route here. In fact we are at the top of a shaft which goes down to the platforms of North End station.

You may be wondering why you have never heard of North End station – or Bull and Bush station as it is sometimes called. That is because it was never finished and so it never opened to the public. Why? Because before they could finish the station, legislation was passed to protect a further section of Hampstead Heath and so the Underground company concluded there would not be enough traffic to justify the cost of finishing the station

There is a description of a visit to the site here (it is in two parts):

http://www.abandonedstations.org.uk/North_End_station.html

http://www.abandonedstations.org.uk/North_End_station2.html

As you stand here you may feel a rush of wind coming from the vent at the top. This is caused by a train passing by below you some three hundred feet.

So that brings us to the end of the NW3. There is so much more we could have seen. We did not get to Keats House, nor to Freud’s House, both now open to the public. We could not venture to the Isokon building, the former John Barnes department store nor to the Swiss Cottage. But I hope this has given a fair taste of NW3.

We are now around mid way between Hampstead and Golders Green stations, so you can go back to the former and forward to the latter. Or of course you could get a bus (268 to Hampstead or 210/268 to Golders Green)

 

SW15: Decline and fall

We start our walk at the Post Office at 197 Upper Richmond Road which is quite close to Putney Station along the main road (the South Circular) towards Sheen. Turn right out of the Post Office and continue a short way along Upper Richmond Road (ie back towards Putney Station) to just after Burston Road.

Stop 1: 169-171 Upper Richmond Road (Site of Former Electric Palace/Globe/CineCenta Cinema)

There is just an office block stepped back from the road but from 1910 until the mid 1970s there was a cinema here.

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It started life as the Putney Electric Cinema around 1910 but from 1929 it was called the Globe. It was an independently owned cinema right up until 1968 when it was taken over by the small chain called CineCenta. In 1969 it began screening uncensored films where membership was required to gain admission. It returned to regular Art House programming in 1971 and eventually closed on 24th December 1976 – fittingly with the movie “The Last Picture Show”.

The cinema was demolished and eventually was replaced by this rather dull office block. This is the view looking along Upper Richmond Road which is to the left of the trees. The building sits back from the main road. I guess this is another example of allowing for a road widening – but that never happened.

There is a good picture of the old cinema at http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14973 (by the way the map on this link is wrong!)

Continue to the junction with Putney Hill. Cross over Putney Hill and turn right up the Hill.

Stop 2: The Pines, 11 Putney Hill

A short way on the left is The Pines. The Victorian poet Algernon Swinburne lived here for some 30 years from 1879 until his death in 1909.

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Swinburne was by all accounts a highly excitable character and an alcoholic. Although Swinburne is often said to be a decadent poet, perhaps it was more talk than action. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying that Swinburne was “a braggart in matters of vice, who had done everything he could to convince his fellow citizens of his homosexuality and bestiality without being in the slightest degree a homosexual or a bestialiser.  More on Swinburne at: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/swinburne/acsbio1.html

Possibly fascinating fact:  Swinburne appears on two Blue Plaques in London but he has to share both. The Putney one he shares with Theodore Watts-Dunton, who owned the Pines and who had taken Swinburne in (I wonder if he realised in 1879 that Swinburne would stay 30 years!). The other blue plaque we saw in Chelsea, SW3. It is at Number 16 Cheyne Walk and this he shares with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who he stayed with in the 1860s and 1870s.

Optional Stop 2a: Ross Court, 81 Putney Hill

At this point you can take a bit of a diversion to go to the other end of Putney Hill (and I mean the other end). It is quite a hike, so you can get a 39 or 93 bus up the hill to the Green Man (Don’t get the other buses because they stop at a different place at the Green Man). From where the 39 and 93 stop at the Green Man you will see Putney Hill veers off behind the bus stop to the left whilst the main road goes straight on. Go down this bypassed section of Putney Hill and at the end at number 81 you will come to an interwar estate of flats called Ross Court.

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Nothing special except Flat 2 (in the block on the left as you go in the gateway) was where an impoverished Harry Gordon Selfridge lived out his last days with his daughter in a rented flat. Apparently he used to go up to Oxford Street from Putney by bus – he had to change on the way at Hyde Park Corner and on the second bus, he would say to the conductor: “Selfridges Please”. (Well according to a Daily Mail article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2210421/Mr-Selfridge-Extraordinary-story-retailing-visionary-revealed.html)

Now retrace your steps to the bottom of Putney Hill and at the bottom turn right to continue along Upper Richmond Road

Stop 3: 139 Upper Richmond Road (site of Lime Grove)

At the end of the block of shops is an access road going through an archway of the building.

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Just about here was the location of Lime Grove, the birthplace of 18th century historian Edward Gibbon. His most famous work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. The Putney Society have erected one of their Blue Plaques here above the roadway.

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Useless fact: when London telephone exchanges had names, the exchange for Putney was GIBbon. This translates to 442 in numbers which would have become 8442 when we moved to 8 digit numbers in London, but sadly the modern day phone numbers round here do not have that exchange number.

Return to the corner of Upper Richmond Road and Putney Hill/Putney High Street

Stop 4: Zeeta House

Now the building at the corner of Upper Richmond Road and Putney High Street dates from the late 1930s.

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It is now split into a number of shops but when it was built this was the premises of Zeeta and Company, a bakers and confectioners owned by the Kensington department store company, John Barker.

By the late 1950s Zeeta and Company had 17 stores across London but in 1958 14 of these were closed. Putney, Kingston and Croydon carried on but by 1962 all these had closed too. Hard to see but if you look closely there are grain motifs on the tops of the second floor windows on the High Street facade, a little reminder of the baking trade. There is a little bit more info on the House of Fraser archive site (they bought Barkers in 1957 which may have precipitated the closure):

http://www.housefraserarchive.ac.uk/company/?id=c1406

Today the street scene is somewhat different from when Zeeta was trading. Along the north side of Upper Richmond Road here there are no less than 7 estate agents in a row whilst on the other side and sweeping round into Putney Hill there are 5 more. And just round the corner in Putney High Street are a further 4.  So that makes 16 estate agents in all in this very small area, which I have to say I find a bit depressing.

On a positive note, this building has a rather nice sundial on the wall which was installed for the Millennium.

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It has the quote “Time like an ever rolling stream”.

Now go down Putney High Street. Take the second on the left.

Stop 5: Putney Bus Garage, Chelverton Road

Almost immediately on the right is Putney Bus Garage. It is a bit of a surprise because the streets off Putney High Street are very residential.

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Although this is a modern building, there has been a bus garage here for a very long time – at least 100 years.

Now you may not have noticed but some London buses have a little code on the side. This is their running number. Before privatisation, London buses all had an alphabetic code letter or letters followed by a removable metal plate which had a number. The letter(s) signified the home bus garage and the number was the running number of the bus that day. Some bus companies still use the old system of garage codes and associated running numbers.

The letters sometimes have an obvious connection with the location of the garage (eg SW = Stockwell). But many do not as in the case of Putney whose code is AF. Why? Because when the London General Omnibus Company started using letter codes about 100 years ago, they gave garages a single letter code, sometimes but not always related to the name of the garage, so B was Battersea but Q was Camberwell. But they soon ran out of letters so they started again with AB, AC etc.  So Putney got the letters AF. Logic prevailed later and newer garages like Stockwell were given letters which had some connection with the location. Today this garage is run by London General, a name from the past but only conjured back into life when London buses were privatised in the 1980s. This is one of the bus companies which still uses the old system.

Retrace your steps to Putney High Street and turn left. Continue along Putney High Street until you reach Putney Bridge Road which you cross over and turn down (ie right). Immediately on your left is Brewhouse Lane, go down here 

Stop 6: Brewhouse Lane

In this nondescript road on the right as you go away from Putney Bridge Road, author Hilary Mantel recently unveiled the Putney Society’s latest plaque. This commemorates Tudor politician Thomas Cromwell who was born in 1485 in the vicinity of Brewhouse Lane.

Thomas Cromwell was the great-great-great uncle of Oliver Cromwell and rose from poverty to become chief minister to Henry VIII. Cromwell strongly supported the English Reformation, but fell from power after arranging the King’s marriage to Anne of Cleves. She was not quite what Henry was expecting and the marriage was annulled just six months later. Cromwell was executed for treason and heresy in Tower Hill on 28 July 1540.

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There is nothing physical to remind us of this Cromwell connection apart of course from this new plaque.

Continue towards the river. On either side is a pub (the Boathouse on the right, the Rocket on the left)  and go to the left of the boat slipway.

Stop 7: Putney Wharf

This is a newish riverside development. The Boathouse pub (a Youngs house) is in an old building but the Rocket (a Wetherspoons) is in the ground floor of a massive apartment building, which even though it steps back still towers over everything including St Mary’s Church as we shall see shortly. In front as you turn left along the river, there is a sculpture, which it turns out is one of nine on the Putney Sculpture trail.

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This is called Punch and Judy and is the 5th on the trail (so it is right in the middle of the trail). There is a little map on the plinth, which you can follow if you want to see the others.

From here there is a good view of Putney Bridge – there has been a bridge here since 1729. It was a toll bridge until 1880.

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The current bridge which opened in 1886 was designed by civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette – who is of course famous for creating the London sewage system.

Loop round in front of the Rocket pub. You will see the “back” of St Mary’s church. Veer to the right and you soon come back to the High Street. Turn to your left and immediately here is our next stop.

Stop 8: 25/27 Putney High Street – now Odeon Cinema (Site of 2 former cinemas)

Today you see a modern(ish) Odeon Cinema dating from the mid 1970s.

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But oddly this was the site of not one but two old cinemas.

The older of the two was at Number 27, nearest to Putney Bridge Road. It first opened in 1907 as the Electric Pavilion, was renamed Blue Hall Cinema in 1920 and then the Palace Cinema in 1927. In 1930, it fell into the ownership of Gaumont British Theatres, but was only renamed Gaumont in 1955. Finally it was called Odeon from 1962. 

The other cinema was at Number 25. This was the Regal Cinema, built in 1937 by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in their typical Art Deco style. It was rebranded ABC in 1961

In the early 1970s, EMI the owners of the ABC did a deal with the Rank Organisation who owned the Odeon. The Odeon was purchased by EMI and it closed the same day as the ABC in December 1971. Both were demolished in 1972 and a new three-screen ABC cinema – one of the first purpose built multi screen cinemas in Britain – was opened in September 1975. This cinema has also gone through a few name changes but curiously has now ended up with the name “Odeon”.

Some more info and pictures on the wonderful cinema treasures site: 

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14969

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14971

Now turn back towards the river

Stop 9: St Mary’s Church

In front of you and slightly down to the right of the church tower is a coffee shop which proves to be the way into the church.

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This old Church may still be standing but it has had its fair share of ups and downs. It got substantially reorganised in the 1830s, even to the extent of moving a 16th century chantry chapel from the south to the north side of the chancel. It then suffered a catastrophic fire in 1973. As a result it has been radically rebuilt, so much so that the altar is on the north side of the worship space rather than the more traditional east end. Today as you can see in the pictures, it is completely overshadowed by the apartment block in Putney Wharf (this is the one with the Wetherspoons on the ground floor).  But is still worth going in.

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A lot of the old monuments were severely damaged in the fire, but some bits were salvaged and are on display on the walls.

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However this church is best known for its association with one event from the English Civil War.  In 1647 there were a series of discussions about the make up of a new constitution for England. They are known as the Putney Debates, because the debate started here at St Mary’s on 28 October 1647 although they soon moved to the nearby lodgings of Thomas Grosvenor who was  a senior officer in the army.

There is a very professional looking mini exhibition display about the Putney Debates, which is well worth a look.

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Return outside and have a look at the clock tower

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The clock tower has a sundial, which is of somewhat older vintage than the one on the Zeeta House building with the words: “Time and tide stay for no man”

Go in front of the clock tower towards the river and cross the High Street at the junction with Lower Richmond Road.  Go a little way along Lower Richmond Road which runs beside the river.

Stop 10: Kenilworth Court

Soon on the left hand side is a large block of flats with no less than three Blue Plaques. Two were erected by the Putney Society – one is for Lord Hugh Jenkin, at one time local MP and Minister for the Arts and the other for Gavin Ewart, described as a noted poet but I have to confess I have not heard of him.

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But the one that intrigues me is the English Heritage plaque for Fred Russell who lived here from 1914 to 1926. The plaque describes him as the father of modern ventriloquism.

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Turns out this is because he is said to be the first person to use a knee-sitting figure. He started off as a journalist, but from 1882 began performing in public his hobby of ventriloquism. In 1886, he went professional after being offered an engagement at London’s Palace Theatre.

Now go down to the river on the right hand side of the Star and Garter building opposite and go to the riverside, and walk towards Putney Bridge (ie to the right)

Stop 11: Boat Race Marker and Boat Houses

On the SW14 walk, I mentioned in passing that the start and end of the annual Oxford/Cambridge Boat race is marked by stones bearing the letters “U. B. R.”. The end point at Mortlake was just off our route, but the start point in Putney is right on our route just down from Putney Bridge.

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Now walk along the river away form the bridge and just a little further on are a series of boat houses – I counted 11. This has a wonderful atmosphere even when there is almost no one on the water. It makes for a rather unique little bit of London.

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Keep walking along the riverside.

Stop 12: Festing Road (aka Festive Road)

Now just before the gardens, take a left down Festing Road. This is where David McKee, creator of the children’s character Mr Benn, used to live.  In the books, Mr Benn lives in London at 52 Festive Road. Apparently inspired by Festing Road, McKee actually lived at number 54 – next door.

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In November 2009 local residents installed an engraved paving slab in his honour – see BBC news report http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8375309.stm .

McKee is quoted as saying “I think it was because in the first book I drew myself looking out of the window, and I thought it would be quite nice to have him next door”.

I am not sure this slab is still in situ as I could not see it when I visited!

And that I am sorry to say concludes our walk through SW15. For onward travel return to Putney High Street.

So we have seen a glimpse into 16th Century (with Thomas Cromwell), the 17th Century (St Mary’s and the Putney Debates) and 18th century (when Edward Gibbon lived here). Putney was the place where two very different colourful characters (Swinburne and Selfridge)  lived out their last years. We have seen the decline and fall of some 20th century cinemas and wound up at a real address which has been fictionalised in children’s books. Again much more than I expected when I first started out in walking SW15.