NW11: Design for Living

NW11 is Golders Green and Hampstead Garden Suburb. And the eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that this breaks the general rule about the names of the post code districts being in alphabetical order. I guess the reason was that this was probably part of NW3 or perhaps even NW2 when the numbers were first allocated, but got its own number later.

We start out walk at the Post Office at Number 879 Finchley Road, Golders Green. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way down the road on the other side.

Stop 1: Number 612 Finchley Road

This dull looking Sainsburys supermarket is on the site of the Ionic cinema which was built in 1913.


As the name suggests it had a greek style facade. Here is a picture from the wonderful Cinema treasures site:


Sainsbury’s bought the site for development in the early 1970s. The planners did try to secure a cinema in the new building and in fact one was included – opening in 1975. It carried on to 1999 and it seems the space is still there, but obviously not used a cinema. Here is a picture of the “new” Ionic cinema when it was operated by Cannon.


So now that big white space on the facade makes sense.

Now return along Finchley Road and at the main junction by the war memorial turn right. Our next stop is just over the road

Stop 2: Golders Green Hippodrome

Interestingly the Golders Green Hippodrome was also built in 1913. Designed by renowned theatre architect Bertie Crewe, it started as a music hall with some 2,245 seats on three levels.


It became famous as a try out pre West End venue. I see from Kenneth Williams Diaries that he appeared here in February 1965 in the fated first run of Joe Orton’s play Loot. The play went on to Bournemouth, Manchester and Wimbledon where the run ended before it got to the West End. But it was revived successfully the following year and went to Broadway in 1968, after Orton’s death.

The theatre was taken over by the BBC in 1968, initially as a television studio and then from 1972, it was used as a radio concert venue. The audience was seated in the rear stalls and the circle, with the upper circle closed off.

The BBC Concert Orchestra made the theatre their home and for many years the popular ‘Friday Night is Music Night’ programme was broadcast live, in front of an audience. The BBC moved out of the Grade II listed building in December 2005.

It was bought by El Shaddai International Christian Centre.  A condition of the sale was that some live entertainment should be provided. It does not seem to have much theatrical use (unless church services count) although it appears there is an African Comedy show once a month on a Friday.

Our next stop is just next door.

Stop 3: Golders Green Station

The tube is why Golders Green is here. In 1907, Golders Green consisted of just a handful of houses, but the arrival of the railway lead to the whole area being developed.


Golders Green station was opened by the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (CCE & HR) in June 1907. This was one of the three lines built by Charles Tyson Yerkes whose stations have the distinctive dark red tiles. Golders Green was one of the CCE & HR’s two northern terminals – the other being at Archway. It was also the location of the railway’s depot.

Interestingly this station does not have the standard red tiles. Maybe it never did as it was an above ground station or else this feature was lost when the station was rebuilt later.

Before the First World War plans were made to extend the line north from Golders Green to Hendon and Edgware. But the war intervened and work did not begin until 1922.

The station has an odd layout with five platforms but only three tracks. So platforms 1 and 2 serve one track.; platforms 3 & 4 serve another, whilst platform 5 serves the third. Morden also has this strange arrangement and like Morden, Platform number 1 is not in public use.


Leave the station forecourt and turn right under the railway and continue along Finchley Road. Turn right at the traffic lights into Hoop Lane. Our next stop is just ahead.

Stop 4: Golders Green Crematorium

Cremation was not legal in Great Britain until 1885. The first crematorium was built in Woking and it proved a  success. At that time cremation was championed by the Cremation Society of Great Britain.  Out of this Society was formed the London Cremation Company which built this one – the first crematorium to be opened in London.  The land for the crematorium was purchased in 1900 and the crematorium was opened in 1902.


This is a very striking set of buildings and unlike most crematoria, they are not hidden away in a parkland but are hard on the road with the memorial garden areas behind.

A veritable who’s who of well known people have been cremated at Golders Green. Wikipedia has a list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golders_Green_Crematorium

Across the road is a cemetery. But it is somewhat unusual as for a substantial part the gravestones lie flat on the ground. This is because it is a Sephardic Jewish cemetery


And there does not seems to be any planting which makes for a very stark outlook.

Continue along Hoop Lane. At the end go through the little garden with the archway and into Meadway, which is our first sight of Hampstead Garden Suburb. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 5: Number 8 Meadway

This was the home of Robert Donat (1905 – 1958). He only made about twenty films in the 1930s and 1940s but a couple of these mean he is not totally forgotten.

He played the part of Richard Hannay in Hitchcock’s 1935 film “The 39 Steps” and he was also the school teacher in the 1939 film “Goodbye Mr Chips”. For this latter part he won an Oscar for Best Actor, which is pretty incredible given that the competition included Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and Lawrence Olivier as Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights.



This house is unusual in that most of the houses in Hampstead Garden Suburb have retained their front gardens with their hedges. For some reason Number 8 seems to have been allowed a paved standing and has lost most of its hedge.

Continue along Meadway and turn right into Heathgate. This strangely does not have a pathway after a while and you are forced to walk in the road.


As you get to the end of Heathgate have a look back to see one of the vistas which are part of the design of Hampstead Garden Suburb.


We are now at the edge of the Heath – or perhaps more accurately the Hampstead Heath Extension. It was the preservation of this land as open space which meant that the station which had been planned near the Old Bull and Bush was not built, as we heard in NW3.

And just here at this edge of the heath is an unusual feature. It is called the Great Wall.

Stop 6: The Great Wall

Pevsner describes the Great Wall as picturesquely dividing the heath from the gardens of the houses to its north and in inspiration it is like a medieval town wall but punctuated with Lutyenish pavilions rather than conventional bastions. Only the western half of the planned wall was actually built.


Now you have a choice. Either go onto the heath, turn left and walk along the edge and turn right when you get to the road (Wildwood Road) or else if you do not want to get muddy return to Meadway and turn right and then go right into Wildwood Road. Our next stop is on Wildwood Road just past the little roundabout on the right.

Stop 7: Number 15 Wildwood Road

This lovely house was the home of Frank Pick (1878 — 1941).


He trained as a solicitor. Initially he worked for the North Eastern Railway, then he moved to Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL) in 1906. At UERL he rose through the corporate ranks, picking up responsibilities for marketing and traffic development.

Pick, together with UERL General Manager, Albert Stanley, devised a plan to increase passenger numbers: developing the “UNDERGROUND” brand and establishing a joint booking system and coordinated fares throughout all of London’s underground railways, even the lines not controlled by UERL .

Pick became joint assistant managing director in 1921 and managing director in 1928. When the new London Passenger Transport Board was created in 1933, he was its first chief executive officer and also vice-chairman.

Pick had a strong interest in design and its use in public life. He understood the need for a strong corporate identity for the Underground in advertising and signage using the first versions of the now familiar “roundel” and the Johnson typeface – a version of which is still used today. He also commissioned bold new station buildings, which have stood the test of time. Under his direction, the Underground and associated bus services expanded considerably and stimulated the growth of London’s suburbs.


An interesting citation on the plaque, don’t you think?

Keep walking along and our next stop is just a little further on across the road.

Stop 8: Number 48 Wildwood Road

This was the home of Dame Myra Hess (1890 – 1965). Hess was a concert pianist and is perhaps best remembered for organising lunchtime concerts during World War II when the concert halls were blacked out at night to avoid being targets of German bombers. She organised some 1700 lunchtime concerts over a period of six years. The concerts were held at the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square; Hess herself played in 150 of them. For this contribution to maintaining morale she was given the honour of Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1941.



Now retrace your steps along Wildwood Road.  As we walk along Wildwood Road, note the little close on the right, called Raeburn Close.


I was struck by the two benches placed either side of this little close.



No idea about who this couple were or what they did but their names live on with these benches.

Continue walking along Wildwood Road and turn right into Meadway. Take the second turning on the right.

Stop 9: Number 10 Grey Close


This was the home of legendary comedian Tony Hancock (1924 – 1968) in 1947 and 1948 and is commemorated by a plaque from the Dead Comic’s Society.


He had a major success with his BBC series Hancock’s Half Hour – first on radio from 1954 and then on television from 1956. His scriptwriters in the 1950s were Ray Galton and Alan Simpson but once he broke with them in 1961, this was the beginning of the end.

Return to Meadway and cross over into Lichfield Way, taking the first turning on the left (Southway). As this road turns, you get another vista of St Jude’s Church.


When you get to the end turn right and then left into Central Square.

Stop 10: Central Square

This is the centrepiece of Hampstead Garden Suburb.


The Suburb was founded by social reformer, Henrietta Barnett at the beginning of the 20th Century. In the 1880s,  she and her husband Samuel, an ordained Minister, had sown the seeds of the Whitechapel Art Gallery and established Toynbee Hall, a social reform charity working to bridge the gap between people of all social and financial background.

In 1906, Barnett set up the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust Ltd, which purchased 243 acres of land from Eton College and appointed Raymond Unwin as its architect.  The Suburb was inspired by the garden city movement of Ebenezer Howard and aimed to provide a development which catered for all classes of people and all income groups in low density housing with woods and gardens which were free to all. However unlike a Garden City, it was never envisaged that there would be any factories or other commercial developments to provide employment for the inhabitants.

Central Square has three set pieces around a green. We have already seen St Jude’s church which stands on the south side of the square. Then there is another church – a “free” church on the north side and finally on the east side is an educational building, now Henrietta Barnett school. The fourth side is looks rather unfinished with some decaying tennis courts.


I thought the dedication of the C of E church to St Jude was an interesting choice for the social reformers behind the suburb. He is after all the patron saint of lost causes. But I guess the reason for this dedication was that St Jude’s was Cannon Samuel Barnett’s church in Whitechapel.

The church is by Lutyens. Here is a link to the Church website which has a comprehensive history.


The initial plans for the suburb included shops on the approaches to the sqaure, but this were omitted in the final build. In fact there are no commercial building as far as I could see in this part of the suburb. This means it is somewhat lifeless.

Pevsner puts this delightfully “Institute education and divine worship have not proved to be much of a lively attraction as the social reformers hoped for”

There are two reminders of Dame Henrietta. First is a monument – a rather strange affair of a pillar in the centre of an archway of metal. It looks like there is something missing from atop the pillar – maybe a sundial or a statue.


The other is at the first house in South Square – that is to the right of the church as you look at it from the monument. If you go to this house (which is Number 1, South Square) you will see a memorial plaque to Dame Henrietta showing she lived here from 1915 to 1939.


Now retrace your steps to Central Square and go out the other end (past the non-conformist church)

Looking back you get some nice views of these set piece buildings.


Turn down Erskine Hill ( which is the road opposite the entrance to the church driveway). At the cross roads turn left into Temple Fortune Hill. Continue along this until the end and then turn right into Hampstead Way. Our next stop is just ahead as the road turns to the right.

Stop 11: Numbers 140 & 142 Hampstead Way

These two houses were the first to be completed in Hampstead Garden Suburb



This was the first part of Hampstead Garden Suburb to be developed and it was intended for artisans and workers. I doubt there are too many “artisans and workers” living in these houses today.

Continue walking along Hampstead Way to the end and turn right into Finchley Road. Take an opportunity to look back at this junction as it was (according to Pevsner) intended to the the main gateway to the suburb – its Germanic silhouettes inspired by medieval towns.


Walk a little way along Finchley Road and our final stop is on the right.

Stop 12: Birnbeck Court and the Pantiles

Birnbeck Court is built on the site of the Orpheum Theatre, later the Odeon Temple Fortune.

The Orpheum Theatre opened in October 1930 with full stage facilities. Initially it was independently operated and had a mixed programme of cinema and live variety. It changed hand a couple of times and was finally taken over by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. in 1937. It was re-named Odeon in 1945, initially known as the Odeon Temple Fortune but later the Odeon Golders Green.

The Odeon was closed in April 1974  It lay empty and unused for many years, eventually being demolished in May 1982, to be replaced by this housing development.


Sadly this temple of the 1930s is no longer with us, but we can get a glimpse of Hollywood in the magnificent Deco block of flats next door. This is called The Pantiles and dates from 1935. It has these distinctive green roof tiles which evoke this period.


So that brings us to the end of our NW11 walk. Hampstead Garden Suburb is lovely but it is a little sad that the vision did not quite work out. However if there had been shops around the Central Square, they are unlikely to be serving the community’s everyday needs today. Most likely they would be exclusive specialist shops for designer clothes and trinkets, with artisan bakers and the like. So maybe it turned out for the best after all.

For onward travel probably best to catch a bus back to Golders Green (Numbers 82, 102 and 460)


NW10: All generalisations are false – including this one.

NW10 covers Willesden, Harlesden, Kensal Rise and of course Kensal Green, of cemetery fame. The latter does straddles the NW10/W10 border and so we covered that in W10, given the entrance we used was in W10.

We start in Harlesden at the Royal Mail office for NW10 which is at Numbers 32 – 44 Station Road.

Turn right and walk along Station Road. Soon ahead beyond the junction with Tubbs Lane and Old Oak Lane, you will see our first stop just down Station Approach.


This is Willesden Junction station, which is a bit confusing as we started in Harlesden and Station Road does not lead to Harlesden station.

Stop 1: Willesden Junction station

The first station here was built in 1866 on the main London – Birmingham line replacing an earlier Willesden station (which is close to where the current Harlesden station now is).

A high level station was built by the North London Railway in 1869, and a little north of the main line, a new low level station opened in 1916 for the local services between Watford Junction and Euston (the so-called Watford DC line, as it was electrified in the 1920s using a direct current electrical supply) and the Bakerloo line.

The platforms on the main line were taken out as part of the overhead electrification of the West Coast main line in the early 1960s.

All this makes for a rather unsatisfactory station with an eccentric layout: Three low level platforms for Bakerloo line and the Watford DC trains (now the London Overground service between Euston and Watford Junction) and two high level platforms on the old North London Line (now London Overground’s Richmond/Clapham Junction – Stratford service).

And some seemingly random passageways joining the various bits up. This picture is taken from one of the walkways within the station.


I notice that even the signs on the platform kind of hint that maybe this is not actually Willesden.


Retrace your steps along Station Road to the end. Our next stop is at the junction on the right.

Stop 2: All Souls Church

This church is unusual. Quite unenglish.

It is an octagonal brick structure and as architectural historian Pevsner says this is more a plan associated with non-conformist churches. Apparently the plan derives from Rhineland late Romanesque period. The church was extended in 1890 but this bit was demolished in 1978.


And just by the door is a little plaque denoting that Princess Margaret came for the centenary celebrations in 1979 – Pevsner says the church dates from 1875/76, so perhaps it took some time to get consecrated.


Interesting that one of the suffragan (or  “assistant”) bishops in the diocese of London is called Willesden. I think this may be a recognition that from 14th to 16th centuries, Willesden was a place of pilgrimage because of two ancient statues of the Virgin Mary at the Church of St Mary. And in the 21st Century a new shrine has been created .http://www.shrineofmary.org/#!shrine/c1xu8

Sadly St Mary’s is not on our route today, but I thought I would mention it as we were by a church.

Cross the main road and stop at the corner of the pedestrianised area.

Stop 3: (site of) Clock Tower

A Jubilee Clock was erected here in 1888 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee the previous year. It was made out of cast iron and cost £299. However it is not actually in place (so far as I could see). It should be at the start of this pedestrianised area. Brent Council are redoing the High Street and seemed to have moved the clock – presumably for safe keeping.


Go along the pedestrianised street and out next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 4: The Shawl pub


This Irish pub looks like it could have been a cinema, but the wonderful Cinema Treasures site does not have it listed amongst the 8 building which were used as cinemas in Harlesden.

But a bit of research suggests that this was actually a Methodist Church.


You can just about see that. Not sure what the founding fathers of this church would have made of it becoming a drinking establishment.

Keep walking along the High Street

Stop 5: The Wig Shop

What is noticeable about this shopping street is the almost complete absence of national chain stores. Even Boots which is on practically everywhere does not have a shop here.

One shop that caught my eye was this one. It is actually three shops together and seems to specialise in hair products for black women. But what is so striking is this extensive range of wigs in the window. There is something rather spooky about this display.


Continue walking along the main shopping street which becomes Craven Park Road. Our next stop is at the junction of St Albans Road on the left.

Stop 6: Odeon Court, Craven Park Road


Here on the corner of St Albans Road was of Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon cinemas – opened in July 1937 and seating just over 1700 people. It had a facade was dominated by a large square tower feature faced in cream faiance tiles and edged in brick.

It closed as a regular cinema in April 1972. It re-opened as an Asian cinema screening Bollywood films  under the name Liberty Cinema but soon became a rock concert venue called the Roxy Theatre.

By the 1980s it had become a nightclub called the Tara. After that closed in the mid 1980s, the building was left empty and derelict, finally being demolished in August/September 1989, to be replaced by a development of flats called Odeon Court.


Retrace your steps back alomg the shopping street and turn left into Tavistock Road, where our next stop is on the right

Stop 7: Tavistock Hall

Now NW10 does not appear to have any “proper” blue plaques – ie the ones which English Heritage (or the GLC or LCC) put up.

But NW10 does have some “local” blue plaques and here on the Tavistock Hall is one of them. This commemorates the “UK’s first Roots Reggae Band” who were called the Cimerons. Not a name I recognise but then I am not really that interested in reggae music.



Go to the end of Tavistock Road and turn right into Manor Park Road. Our next stop is just before the end on the left.

Stop 8: former Coliseum cinema (Numbers 25-26 Manor Park Road)

This building was an old cinema – opened in 1912 as the Picture Theatre, it became the Picture Coliseum in 1915.


It closed as a regular cinema in December 1975 and then spent its twilight years showing adult porn films and kung-fu movies. It closed in the mid-1980’s but was reborn as Weatherspoon’s pub in March 1993 called ‘The Coliseum’. It apparently retained many features of its cinematic past and had a huge painted mural of Gary Cooper and Merle Oberon in “The Cowboy and the Lady” where the screen used to be.

However Weatherspoon’s closed the pub (so it is not just chain stores who seems to have given up on Harlesden). It became an independent bar named ‘The Misty Moon’. As of December 2014, the pub is closed but a reopening is promised according to the signs.

At the cross roads, continue straight across. Confusingly this is High Street Harlesden. A little way along on the right is a Paddy Power bookmakers (one big chain that has not abandoned Harlesden – wonder why.)

Stop 9:  Number 120 High Street – site of Picardy cinema

This is the site of another old cinema which was known as the Harlesden Cinema Theatre when it opened in December 1911.
According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures website, it had several unusual features: it had the screen at the entrance end of the building and the auditorium was built with a slight bend.
Around 1930, it was equipped for talkies and due to the position of the screen against the front wall of the building, the speakers were located behind grilles on each side of the proscenium. The cinema was also refurbished, which included a new Art Deco style facade.

It was renamed Picardy Cinema in 1935 and finally closed in October 1957. It then found other uses: an Irish dance hall, a nightclub and finally a snooker club. It was demolished in the spring of 2003 and replaced by this undistinguished building with a Paddy Power Bookmakers at street level and flats above.

Continue walking along the High Street and soon on the left you will see a large office block, containing the local Job Centre Plus.

Stop 10: Harlesden House, Numbers 161-163 High Street

For just 33 years, this was the location of the Willesden Hippodrome theatre.
Confusingly it was located in Harlesden, although we are not too far from Willesden Junction Railway Station. It opened as a music hall/variety theatre in September 1907 and was designed by noted theatre architect Frank Matcham,  It has a brief flirtation in 1927/28 with a mix of cinema and variety, but went back to live theatre use in January 1929.

It was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in August 1930. It became a full time cinema until September 1938. It then re-opened as a music hall/variety theatre, with films shown on Sundays, when live performances were prohibited.

The Willesden Hippodrome Theatre was destroyed by German bombs in August/September 1940. The remains of the building stood on the High Street for many years. It was finally demolished in 1957. In the 1960s an office block called Harlesden House was built on the site. It was once the Labour Exchange but now houses Job Centre Plus.

As ever, the Arthur Lloyd site was the source of this info and also has a couple of nice exterior shots of the old building: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/WillesdenHippodrome.htm

Continue walking along the High Street and turn left into Furness Road and then right into Wrottesley Road. Our next stop is on the right just before the little roundabout.

Stop 11: Number 8 Wrotessley Road

This modest looking house boasts another one of the local Blue Plaques.


This honours Liz Mitchell who was regarded as the voice of 1970s disco group Boney M.


Boney M. was created by German record producer Frank Farian. Originally based in Germany, the four original members of the group’s official line-up were Jamaican-born singers Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams from Montserrat and Bobby Farrell from Aruba. The group was formed in 1976 and achieved popularity during the disco era of the late 1970s. Since the 1980s, there have been various line-ups of the band with different personnel, and there have apparently been some disputes about ownership of the name. Liz Mitchell continued to perform in the 21st century, billed as Boney M. featuring Liz Mitchell.

At the little roundabout go clockwise round the roundabout and take the second road on the left. Confusingly although the street you have just crossed is called All Souls Avenue, the church is called something completely different. (presumably the road is called All Souls because the land round here was owned by All Souls College, Oxford.)

This is Bathurst Gardens. It is quite a walk to our final stop which is just at the corner of College Road.

Stop 12: Former Kensal Rise Library



All libraries will end up like this. And all generalisations are false, including this one.

This by the way was Kensal Rise Library. It was opened by Mark Twain in September 1900 and closed a couple of years ago. And in case you have not guessed it, the quote about all generalisations is often attributed to him, although others including Voltaire or Alexandre Dumas have been credited with it.

There was an extensive campaign to save this library. It has had widespread support not just from the local community and the national press, but also various well known people including Alan Bennett, Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith.

However it does look like they have not succeeded to keep the library intact. There is a planning application under consideration to convert most of the building to residential use, although a small part would be reserved for community use.

More at: http://www.savekensalriselibrary.org/about/#sthash.8zdO4UVy.dpuf

So that brings us to the end of the NW10 walk. Shame I could not fit in the Capital City Academy which opened in 2003 with building designed by Norman Foster. It is a successor school to Willesden High School which itself had been Willesden Grammar School. Alumni include Thunderbirds puppeteer, Gerry Anderson and actor Shane Ritchie. Old “boys” of the school go by the name “Old Uffs” presumably on account of the fact that the first school was on Uffington Road. They have their very own website:


I also could not visit Park Royal – home to many famous names like McVitie’s Biscuits and Heinz and formerly the location of Guinness’ brewery in the UK.

And we never did get to Willesden proper, and the shrine of our Lady of Willesden.

But then again we cannot see everything in a postcode.

For onward travel go down College Road (a right turn from Bathurst Gardens).

Note the old street signs with just the NW – although unlike the ones elsewhere these have the background in black and the name in white. And note also at some point in the past someone has helpfully added a “10” so that you know this is NW 10. Presumably this was cheaper than putting up a new sign!


And after a short walk you will reach Kensal Green station, which is just about where we ended the W10 walk.


Kensal Green station originally opened in 1916 but building here is fairly modern dating from 1980.


It looks like it has a green roof – or perhaps not. It maybe just a little overgrown.

NW9: Hyde and seek

NW9 is officially called “The Hyde” by the Post Office. Where? I hear you say.


Hardly anyone will have heard of The Hyde so we will go and seek the places people might have heard of in NW9 , such as Colindale and Kingsbury.

We start with Kingsbury, at the Post Office, at 439 – 441 Kingsbury Road. Turn left out of the Post Office and soon our first stop is on the left.

Stop 1: Kingsbury station

Kingsbury station was the catalyst for development here in the 1930s.


The station was built by the Metropolitan Railway as part of their new branch to Stanmore and opened in December 1932, just before the creation of London Transport in 1933. This then became the Metropolitan line under London Transport.

As we heard in NW8 additional tracks were added to give more capacity between Finchley Road and Baker Street. And it was the Stanmore branch trains which went into the new tunnels and became a branch of the Bakerloo line. So Kingsbury became a Bakerloo line station from 1939. It was then transferred to the Jubilee line when that opened in 1979.

The design of this station looks like an overgrown country cottage and is very much the style adopted by the Metropolitan Railway. How very different from the other stations built around this time by the Underground company and by the Southern Railway which were much more modern in style, using concrete and glass. And how very different from the rest of the street on either side which consists of typical 1930s parades of shops.

Our next stop is almost immediately across the road.

Stop 2: site of Kingsbury’s Odeon cinema

Today you see an Aldi supermarket flanked by two small shop with creamy tiling, but this was the site of the Kinsgbury Odeon.


It was built for and operated by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon chain, opening in May 1934. It seated 724 in the stalls and 279 in the balcony.

It was renamed the Gaumont in 1950, presumably as there were quite a few other Odeons locally. But it reverted to the Odeon name in 1964 and finally closed in September 1972.

The auditorium, foyer and main entrance facade were demolished and replaced by a Sainsbury’s supermarket. And today this is now Aldi. But the ghost of the old building survives in the form of two original shop units on either side.

Now walk back along Kingsbury Road and when the shops run out you will see a park ahead which includes a little children’s play area. Our next stop is just behind that play area.

Stop 3: Roe Green Park

We are specifically going to a building just inside the park. It used to be something called the Veteran’s Club but is currently being refurbished as a Children’s nursery.


And here just by the front door is a little plaque erected by the Borough of Wembley, commemorating that this is where John Logie Baird experimented with sending television signals in 1929.


As of now you can get right up to the door to see the plaque but I guess that might be more difficult when it becomes a nursery. This by the way seems to be the nearest NW9 gets to having a blue plaque!

There is also a stone tablet commemorating the same connection put up y the Wembley History Society


But it is quite hard to read!

Now we are going to Colindale which is a bit of a walk, so I suggest you hop on a 204 bus. Return to the main road and there is a stop called Valley Drive just near here. After about 6 stops you will be at The Hyde (the stop to get off at is called Colindeep Lane).

You can walk if you really want. Go along Kingsbury Road, turn left into Roe Green and then right at the roundabout into Hay Lane. The Hyde is over the hill at the end of Hay Lane.

From the bus stop walk back along the main road. If you have walked turn right at the end of Hay Lane.

Stop 4: Another former Odeon cinema

This is in the distinctive Odeon cinema style and indeed it was opened in January 1935 by Oscar Deutsch as part of his Odeon chain – just down the road from Kingsbury where the Odeon had opened the previous year.


It is unusual in that it has a long facade with a wide central recessed entrance with shop units on each side with flats above. It even had a car park at the rear.

You feel that it ought to have a tower but apparently it never did. Inside seating was provided in a semi-stadium plan with 726 seats in the stalls and 279 in a raised balcony area which did not overhang the stalls.

This Odeon was closed in September 1960. It was empty for many years but was re-opened by an independent operator in November 1967 as the Curzon Cinema. It was taken over by Classic Cinemas and renamed Classic Cinema in January 1972. Having been split into two cinemas in 1973, it finally closed in July 1981.

After laying empty for a few more years, the building became the Colindale Snooker Club in 1986. And it remains a snooker club today.

And you can see it as a fleeting image of the Snooker Club in the video for George Michael’s 2004 song “Round Here” at about 1 minute 52 seconds. Don’t blink or you will miss it.

This song is about George Michael’s childhood and how he remembers his first day at school. Although he was born in East Finchley, the family moved to Kingsbury soon after his birth and so George Michael spent a lot of his childhood in Kingsbury.

The words of this song actually reference a place called “Kingsbury Park” but I think this may actually be Roe Green Park – which apparently also features briefly in this video.

However the family moved to Bushey when George was a young teenager and it was here he met Andrew Ridgeley and formed Wham!. Wonder what would have happened if the family had stayed in Kingsbury.

Turn back and go along Edgware Road (or it may be “The Hyde”, not too sure). Just after the junction with Grove Park, there is a large building site, which is our next stop.

Stop 5: Former Oriental City shopping centre

This was the location of a rather unusual shopping centre called “Oriental City”.


This had been originally developed by a Japanese company called Yaohan but when they went bankrupt in the late 1990s, it was sold to a group of Malaysian businessmen who restyled it as the “Oriental City” shopping centre. As the name suggests it specialised in selling oriental goods with a food court and a supermarket. It was sold again in 2006 and plans were made to redevelop it as a B & Q store and housing.

After much protest, it finally closed in 2008 but nothing much happened. There was an attempt to restart the shopping centre with some of the former tenants but this got nowhere.

Finally a new scheme came forward and was approved in 2013. The site was cleared for development in the summer of 2014 and the plan now is to have a Morrison’s supermarket on the site with housing.

Now cross the road and search out Merit House, which is a twelve story office block clad in shiny glass.

Stop 6: Merit House (site of former tram and trolley bus depot)

The anonymous looking block called Merit House at 508 Edgware Road occupies the site of the Metropolitan Electric Tramways Depot.


Here in 1910, the first trials in Britain of a trolleybus took place and then the depot became a trolleybus garage in 1936. It had been intended to convert all tram routes to trolleybuses but the war intervened and after the war it was decided to standardise with diesel motor buses.

The garage name was changed to Colindale in 1950 to avoid confusion with nearby Hendon bus garage.  With the abandonment of trolleybuses, it was closed and then demolished in 1962. In fact the land behind the depot was used from 1959 to 1962 by the George Cohen 600 Group for scrapping London’s trolleybus fleet which numbered almost 1900 vehicles.

So this site represents both the birth and death of the trolleybus in London.

The building is currently under renovation and looks set to become the new headquarters for an organisation called “Utility Warehouse” which is a company that specialises in selling broadband, phone and energy supply packages.


Now walk back along Edgware Road and turn left into Colindale Avenue. 

We cross a little bridge over the delightfully named Silk Stream. Sadly it does not look as lovely as its name.


After the entrance to the Public Health England site on your left, watch out for the terrace of houses on the left with this nice little plaque (it is above the doors to 117 – 123)


Not sure how old this is. But maybe it is not so old and was because a couple called Colin and Linda lived here.

Our next stop is ahead just across the road

Stop 7: Former Newspaper Library

This building was until 2013 the Newspapers section of the British Library.


The British Library first came to Colindale in 1902 when they built a new depository. The building was expanded in the early 1930s and became the newspaper library in 1934. The older part of the building was destroyed by bombing in 1940 and was rebuilt in the mid 1950s.


The Library has an almost complete collection of British and Irish newspapers since 1840, although London editions of national daily and Sunday newspapers are complete back to 1801. The collection is now being made available on line (although it is not free and they still have a long way to go before the whole collection is accessible on line)


The physical collection is now divided between the British Library sites at St Pancras in London and Boston Spa in Yorkshire.

This site looks like it is going to be another housing development.

Stop 8: Pulse (a new housing development)

The land almost opposite the former British Library Newspaper Library is already in the process of being redeveloped. This new development is called “Pulse” and guess what – it is on the site of an old Hospital.


Colindale Hospital was opened in 1898 as the “Sick Asylum for the Central London District”. In 1907 the Government began to use the site for making vaccines. It closed as a hospital in the 1990s, but as we saw some offices of Public Health England are still located here. I think that was actually built as the Blood Transfusion Centre administrative offices in about 1990.

But the hospital site proper is still in the process of being developed.

If you venture into the estate you will find one old building (it is identified by the letter LB on the plan – which I guess means “Listed Building!)

It is actually called Jenner Court. Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823) pioneered smallpox vaccine, the world’s first vaccine, so that is clearly the reason. He could not have worked here, given he had been dead over 75 years by the time the site was used as a hospital.


And you can round the back and see this little courtyard


When I was taking this picture, a workman doing something with waste bins came up to me and said: “Nice aren’t they. Even the one which is where the Mortuary was.”

Retrace your steps to the main road and turn left.

Stop 9: Colindale Station

The station opened on 18 August 1924 on the north side of Colindale Avenue, on what was then the ‘Hampstead and Highgate Line’ extension to Edgware. The platforms are located underneath the road, on both sides of the bridge.

The original station, a classical style building designed by Underground Architect Stanley Heaps, was severely damaged during the Blitz in September 1940. A simple temporary timber structure was built after the bombing and this was only replaced in 1962. The station has been rebuilt again fairly recently.


Fascinating fact: T. E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) regularly used the station when he was stationed at the nearby Hendon Aerodrome and apparently he used the pen name “Colin Dale” in articles he wrote for The Spectator during 1927 and 1928.

Keep walking along Colindale Avenue until you get to the roundabout and here take the right hand road.

The area ahead of you was once Hendon Aerodrome. It was used for aviation from 1908 until the 1960s. The site of the aerodrome is now occupied by the Grahame Park housing estate, Hendon Police College and the RAF Museum.

In 1911 a man called Claude Grahame-White established a flying school here. The Aerodrome was “lent” to the Admiralty  in 1916 and eventually taken over by the RAF in 1919. After a protracted legal battle, the RAF bought Grahame-White’s aerodrome in 1925.

Hendon Aerodrome later became RAF Hendon. After flying ceased there in the 1960s it was largely but not completely redeveloped as a housing estate which was named Grahame Park after Grahame-White.


Walk along Aerodrome Road and on your right is the site of the Police College which is undergoing a massive redevelopment at the moment.

Stop 10: Hendon Police College (The Peel Centre)

The Peel Centre is the main training establsihment for London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

It was originally called the Metropolitan Police College when it first opened in 1934, to train the “officer” class. It closed in September 1939. After the war, there was some debate about whether it should reopen, as in 1948 a National Police College was established in the Midlands. However it did but as the Metropolitan Police Training School for all levels.

When the Royal Air Force left Hendon in the 1960s, it was decided to rebuild the college. The new colllege was called the Peel Centre, named after Sir Robert Peel. It was opened by HM the Queen on 31 May 1974, forty years to the day after her uncle (the future King Edward VIII) opened the original Metropolitan Police College.


Along Aerodrome Road within what now seems to be the college site, there is on the right an intriguing looking building with an interesting sculptural frieze. But there is no sign to indicate what was here and why there is this frieze.


But there is this sign on one of the doors.


This must have been the works of Franco Illuminated Signs. They opened on Aerodrome Road in 1922. They had made the lights for the Franco British Exhibition of 1908 and the company name was later abbreviated to ‘Franco’. They were also known for the neon signs found in Piccadilly from the 1920s to the 1970s. But sadly there seems to be no recognition of their existence here except perhaps this little substation sign.

Across the road is a new development called Beaufort Park for reasons I have not been able to establish. Go down Heritage Avenue which is the main road through the estate.

Stop 11: Beaufort Park

This is a new development was apparently built on part of the RAF site . It looks decidedly unenglish, more like the kind of things you see in Spain.


In fact the advertising at the site does mention a “Mediteranean Style Boulevard”. Sadly though they cannot promise mediterranean style sunshine!


But weirdly, the developers have chosen to call this main “boulevard” across the estate “Heritage Avenue”


A distinct lack of imagination displayed here.

At the end of Heritage Avenue turn right and our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 12: RAF Museum

The Royal Air Force Museum London is also located on the former Hendon Aerodrome. It is dedicated to the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force.


The museum here was officially opened by HM The Queen on 15 November 1972.

An original World War I Grahame-White aircraft factory hangar was relocated a few years ago to the RAF Museum. This houses the museum’s World War I collection and is named the Grahame White Factory.

So we are now at the end of our NW9 walk. It has proved to be a more interesting area than at first it might have seemed. It has its transport heritage. Not just the former aerodrome and today the RAF museum but also the role it played at the beginning and end of the trolleybus in London. We also saw how it was until recently the home of the vast national newspaper archive and learned of its role in the early production of vaccines.

Return to Colindale station for onward travel. Go back along Grahame Park Road and at the roundabout take Colindale Avenue to reach the station.





NW8: My Sweet Lord(s)

NW8 is St John’s Wood – home of Lords Cricket Ground and two recording studios amongst other things. And a lot of blocks of flats.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 28 – 32 Circus Road, NW8.

Take a right out of the Post Office and cross Wellington Road. Then take the first left and our next stop is almost immediately on your left.

Stop 1: Number 1 Cavendish Avenue

This was the home of the singer Billy Fury.



We saw the alley named after him in NW6 and where he was buried in NW7. So this is a first – to feature the same person on three consecutive postcodes! Not sure exactly when he lived here though.

Continue walking along Cavendish Avenue and follow the road as it turns left becoming Wellington Place. We are alongside our next stop.

Stop 2: Lord’s Cricket Ground

Well we could hardly come to St John’s Wood without seeing Lord’s Cricket Ground.

In 1950 the architectural historian Pevsner was of the opinion that this was “a  jumble without aesthetic aspirations, quite unthinkable in a country like Holland or Sweden”. But since the mid 1980s various dramatic additions have been made – the one which is really visible from outside is the media centre, a tube made of aluminium dating from the late 1990s.



Lord’s maybe a bastion of “the Establishment” but the name as no connection with the House of Lords, as some people might think. It was actually established by a man called Thomas Lord (1755 – 1832). He was a professional cricketer who made 90 known appearances in first class cricket. He was mostly associated with Middlesex and with Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) .

I always thought it odd that MCC was here given this is not actually Marylebone. However it was within the old borough of St Marylebone and actually the first Lord’s cricket ground opened in 1787 was a stone’s throw (or should I say a cricket ball’s throw) from Marylebone station, in Dorset Square.

Lord relocated in 1811 to a site at Lisson Grove but had to move again after three years because the land was needed for the Regent’s Canal. So finally it got to the present site in 1814, so this ground has been used for cricket for 200 years.

More about Lords on this link: http://www.lords.org/history/

We will see one of the entrances in Wellington Place. Passing this, turn right into the main road (Wellington Road) and continue along the side of the ground to the roundabout.

Look back and see this panel at the corner.


Cross the road and our next stop is right ahead.

Stop 3: St John’s Church and gardens

Not surprisingly the church is called St John’s.


The land here was bought in 1807 for a burial ground and the church was completed in 1814. Initially it was a Chapel of Ease for St Marylebone (ie a subsidiary church within the parish) but it later became a parish church in its own right.


It has a very stark interior – all dusky white with very uncomfortable looking box pews.


Walk into the gardens (the former burial ground) to the left of the front of the church and exit at the far side into Wellington Place. Going out of the garden here, turn right and go along Wellington Place until you reach St John’s Wood High Street where you will turn left.

Perhaps we might pause a while at this junction whilst I explain about a little footnote in history of dog ownership.


In early 1992, I was working at the Department of the Environment and charged with implementing new legislative provisions requiring local authorities in England and Wales to have dog wardens. To co-incide with this, the Department ran a campaign to encourage people to clear up after their dogs. This was launched by the then newly appointed junior Environment Minister, Lord Strathclyde. But where to have the launch?

As it happened I discovered that Westminster Council had just put up two poop scoop vending machines in St John’s Wood (they were condom machines converted to dispense poop scoop plastic bags). So I suggested that the launch should be here – and it was! The machines are long gone but they were alongside these gardens. And I guess it is a measure of how far we have come that it is generally the norm now that people do pick up after their dogs.

That was a great job (really! I got a lot of responsibility because no one wanted to be associated with this policy area, so I was left to get on with it).

And as I used to say: “It may be dog mess to you but it’s my bread and butter”

Walk along the High Street to Number 45a.

Stop 4: Number 45a St John’s Wood High Street

This stop is just opposite the junction with Allitsen Road and, as you can see from the plaque, composer Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976) and singer Peter Pears (1910 – 1986) lived and worked here between 1943 and 1946. I am guessing in the flat above the shop rather than the shop itself.



Seems a strangely unprepossessing location to find they lived, but Britten did also have a house in Suffolk he had bought with a legacy from his mother. Britten was a major figure in 20th century British classical music. But it was only with his work Peter Grimes in 1945 that he became internationally known.

Go down Allitsen Road until you reach Charlbert Street

Stop 5: RAK Recording Studios

Just ahead of you to the right in Charlbert Street you can see our next stop.

The studios were set up by RAK records which was created by legendary record producer Mickie Most (Michael Peter Hayes: 1938 – 2003). He was part of a duo in the mid 1950s called the Most Brothers and in 1959 he renamed himself Mickie Most. He had quite a bit of success in South Africa but apparently tired of the touring.

After a spell selling records he got into producing and ended up producing some of the famous hits for groups such as the Animals (including House of the Rising Sun) and Herman’s Hermits (including I’m into Something Good) . Other artists associated with him were Lulu, Donovan, Suzy Quatro and Kim Wilde.



In the late 1960s he got into management, and in 1969 started his own record label (RAK records) and his own music publishing business, The name RAK  is said to hark back to the days when he was selling records and displaying them on racks. Then in 1976 he opened his own recording studios here in a converted Victorian school house in NW8. RAK records was sold to EMI in 1986.

A bit more info on RAK studios website: http://rakstudios.co.uk/history

Go up Charlbert Street away from RAK studios (as if you had done a left turn off Allitsen Road). At St John’s Wood Terrace turn right and a little way on the left past the former Chapel with columns is our next stop.

Stop 6: St Marylebone Almshouses



These almshouses are at the corner of Woronzow Road.


Count Simon Woronzow was Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1784 to 1806.  He lived in the area and on his death in 1832 he left a bequest for the poor of the parish.  The money was used to build these Almshouses in 1836 but what we see today is a 1960 rebuild. More info on this link:


Retrace your steps along St John’s Wood Terrace and then right into Ordance Hill. It does not look much of a hill but the name Ordance does give away the original function of our next stop, which is up on the left  about opposite Norfolk Road.

Stop 7: former St John’s Wood Barracks

Some troops had been billeted in farm buildings here from 1804. But in 1810 the Board of Ordnance decided to base an artillery brigade here on land leased from the Eyre family who had acquired most of the land hereabouts in 1732. In 1823 the Cavalry Riding Establishment moved in and a new riding school was built for them in 1825.

In 1880 the Royal Horse Artillery moved in and continuously occupied the barracks until February 2012, when the lease expired.


In November 2011 Ananda Krishnan, a rich Asian businessman, acquired the Barracks from the Eyre estate for £250m. The site is set to be developed as a residential estate and the 1825 Riding School (which is Grade II listed) will apparently be used to accommodate a gym.

There is an interesting looking relief on one of the buildings, but I could not get any closer.


Continue along Ordance Hill and turn left into Queens Road. Our next stop is at the corner of the main road on your right.

Stop 8: former Marlborough Road station

This was the street level building of Marlborough Road station which closed in 1939.


It had opened in April 1868 on the northward extension of the Metropolitan Railway from Baker Street (which later became the Metropolitan line).

 By the 1930s the Metropolitan line was suffering congestion where the trains serving the various branches in the country had to share the limited capacity between Finchley Road and Baker Street. To ease this congestion, London Transport built deep-level tunnels between Finchley Road and the Bakerloo line tunnels at Baker Street, thus enabling the Metropolitan’s services toward Stanmore to be transferred to the Bakerloo line.
This transfer happened in November 1939 and subsequently in 1979 this arm of the Bakerloo line became  the Jubilee line).
As part of this a new tube station was built just down the road (which we shall see shortly). Marlborough Road closed and never reopened.
For many years this building was a restaurant. It was a traditional style restaurant when John Betjeman visited in his 1973 documentary Metro-land. Later it became a Chinese restaurant.
Transport for London took it back in about 2009 to houses a electricity substation installed as part of the power upgrade programme to support the introduction of new air conditioned Metropolitan line trains.

One little oddity about the station name is that the actual station fronts onto Queens Grove. Marlborough Road was on the other side of the main road but was renamed Marlborough Place in the 1950s.

Having turned left into Wellington Road, walk down here to the junction with Acacia Road. Just here is the “new” tube station, which was given the name St John’s Wood.

Stop 9: St John’s Wood Underground station

This is a lovely station and although it no longer has the original wooden escalators, it has retained the uplighters on the escalators.



Today Transport for London gives St John’s Wood an apostrophe on maps and publicity whereas it does not have one in the tiling or signs on the platform.


The stations built in this period had an unusual quirk in the tiling. Every so often there would be a tile with a picture or symbol on this. Sometimes but not always it was related to the station location. Here of course at St John’s Wood we have Thomas Lord.


Useless fact: The station is apparently the only London Underground station whose name does not include any of the letters in the word “mackerel”

Cross over Wellington Road outside the station and go down the side road (Grove End Road). Our next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 10: Number 35 Grove End Road

This is one of the last survivors of the original buildings which were put up when this area was first developed in the 1820s and 1830s with detached and semi detached villas. Pevsner says “there was not much of individual note but the whole area had until the early 2oth century a character all of its own, a comfortable verdant, early Victorian character, never showy and never mean. It was largely destroyed by the building of large blocks of flats.”

Anyhow in the shadow of one of those blocks of flats is number 33 – home of Sir Thomas Beecham (1879 – 1961).



Sir Thomas Beecham  was an English conductor and impresario. He was best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras but he also had associations with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras.

He was born to a rich industrial family in Lancashire. In 1842, his grandfather created a laxative marketed as  Beechams Pills and this was the start of the famous Beechams company, now subsumed within SmithKlineGlaxo.

Thomas Beecham started conducting in 1899. And for many years, he used his access to the family fortune to finance opera.

There is a great quote attributed to him:

“There are only two things requisite so far as the public is concerned for a good performance: that is for the orchestra to begin together and end together; in between it doesn’t matter much”

Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 11: Number 44 Grove End Road

This was home of artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, (1836 – 1912). He was actually Dutch and trained in the Royal Academy of Antwerp, Belgium. He came to England in 1870 and spent the rest of his life here. He became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with scantily clad women draped in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blues of the Mediterranean.



Keep walking along Grove End Road until you reach the junction with Abbey Road. Just over the way is the famous Abbey Road recording studios and that zebra crossing.

Stop 12: Abbey Road studios

Abbey Road Studios was established in November 1931 by the Gramophone Company, a predecessor of the famous record company EMI.


It was known for many years as the EMI studios and was only renamed Abbey Road studios in 1970 after the Beatles Abbey Road album had been issued.

Abbey Road Studios are regarded as the earliest, as well as the best-known, purpose-built recording studios in the world. After a scare in early 2010 that the studios might be sold for development the Government gave the studios Grade II listed status in February 2010, and its future does look more secure.

Following is an extract from the listing information on the Heritage Gateway site – www.heritagegateway.org.uk (I cannot seem to link to the actual page but you can find this by searching the listings using the exact phrase “Abbey Road Studios”)

“They were opened by Sir Edward Elgar in November 1931 and were used by a wide range of outstanding musicians. The studios cost £100,000 to buy, build and equip: the project was started by the Gramophone Company in 1929, which was soon after subsumed within the Electric & Musical Industries (EMI) company. Artists who have recorded here include Arthur Schnabel, Fats Waller, Noel Coward, Glen Miller, Marlene Dietrich, Gracie Fields, The Beatles, Pink Floyd etc. Abbey Road is known particularly for its close connection with The Beatles, over 190 of whose 210 recordings were made here with George Martin: their 1969 album was even named Abbey Road. Pink Floyd’s 1973 album ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ was recorded here in Studio Three. The studios are listed primarily for their considerable cultural importance and their place in the history of popular music, as well as their importance as a notable manifestation of the fast-developing technology of sound recording. The areas possessing special architectural and historic interest can be closely defined as Studios One and Two, and the street frontage.”

By the by, the first recording of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” was by Billy Preston and not recorded here but at Olympic Studios. But the famous version by George was recorded here at Abbey Road in 1970.

And of course you cannot come to Abbey Road without using the famous Zebra Crossing


Except it is said that some years ago Westminster Council moved it so it is not exactly in the place where the famous Beatles picture was taken. The Heritage Gateway site says:

“… comparison between the [album] cover photograph and its present position suggests that it may have been moved a little to the north, closer to the studio gates, but it has not been possible to confirm this. Whether or not it is the same crossing depicted on the album cover or one very close to the original site, it remains a place of pilgrimage, with the studios, for Beatles fans from all over the world. Groups of tourists always gather to photograph the crossing and walk the walk and there is a live video streaming web-cam.”

Here is the link to the webcam, so you can check out who is crossing whenever you want!


And the crossing was given Grade II listed status by the Government in its own right in December 2010.

(But see the comment from Charlie which has a couple of links which set out the case that the crossing has not in fact moved!)

And I do love the sign at the front reminding people there is no public access to the car park at the front – this is a working studios afterall.


and please only to write on the wall (that worked didn’t it)


So this is the end of our NW8 walk proper. If you want to stop here, retrace your steps back along Grove End Road and you will be at St John’s Wood station. But if you have a moment, I do have this post script.

Post script:

I really wanted to include Crocker’s Folly in the walk. However I could not quite work out how to include it. Anyhow it is so special I had to include it as a postcript. To get there from Abbey Road studios walk down Grove End Road away from the studios and turn right into St John’s Wood Road. Go down the first left (Cunningham Place) and Crocker’s Folly is ahead on the corner with Aberdeen Place.

This Grade II* listed former pub was built in 1898, and was previously called “The Crown”.



In 1987, the pub’s name was changed to Crocker’s Folly. The story was that Frank Crocker built his hotel to serve the new terminus of the Great Central Railway. The station was actually built was about half a mile away at Marylebone. The legend goes that this lead to Crocker’s ruin, despair and eventual suicide, jumping from the window of an upper floor. Apparently this is an urban myth. Crocker did die in 1904, aged only 41, but of natural causes. But it is said that Crocker’s ghost haunts the building.


The highlight is the “grand saloon” as it was originally known. This has an exceptional marble fireplace, as well as a marble-topped bar counter, marble faced walls and a partly gilded beamed ceiling.


More info on this link to Camra’s  website:


And you can go and have a lovely meal there in these beautiful surroundings. Not cheap but not mega expensive either – well worth a visit


So that really does bring us to the end of NW8.

If you are at Crocker’s Folly, you can walk down Aberdeen place to Edgware Road and buses.


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.





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.


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.


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.



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.



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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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).


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.


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.


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.



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.


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).


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),


“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.



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.



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


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.




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.


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


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.



NW6 – That’s Entertainment

NW6 is Kilburn – and West Hampstead. And we are going to have a look at both. Thanks by the way to fellow Westminster guide Rhona who lives in the area and drove me round NW6 and showed me the sights – in fact far more than I could possibly cover.

We start our walk at Kilburn Post Office whose address is 79a Kilburn High Road but which is actually is a side street called Brondesbury Villas. Take a left out of the Post Office and then left onto the High Road.

This is another street which was clearly a more important shopping centre once but which has not managed to get (or keep) the big names. Look at these two shops which are just near the Post Office. Clearly someone thought it worthwhile to invest in imposing facades in the inter war period.


(I think the HSBC building was once a Burton’s. It has that distinctive look.)

Walk along Kilburn High Road, and just before Willesden Lane on the left, the former Gaumont State cinema with its distinctive tower looms up.

Stop 1: Former Gaumont State cinema


The wonderful Cinema Treasures site says that the Gaumont State Theatre was the largest movie palace ever built in England and the third largest in the United Kingdom. The theatre opened just before Christmas 1937 and had a 4,004 seating capacity, split between a 1,356 seat balcony and stalls which seated 2,648.



According to Allen Eyles book ‘Gaumont British Cinemas’, the ‘State’ name and 120 foot skyscraper tower that adorns the facade were in tribute to the Empire State Building, New York which had opened just a few years earlier. The Gaumont State’s American Deco-inspired exterior is a sharp contrast to its green Italian Renaissance interior, which was perhaps was rather ‘old fashioned’ by comparison.

This building has had a chequered history with parts being used as a dance hall and a bingo hall. The main auditorium cinema closed in 1980 but a smaller screen in the former restaurant area carried on for a little longer, but with a gap between 1981 and 1985 and finally ending in 1990. Bingo carried on until 2007. In January 2008, the building was purchased by a church, and is now operated by the Ruach Ministries Church.

It was designated a Grade II Listed building on 10th October 1980 and has now been upgraded to a Grade II*.

More information on this cinema at: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1478

Continue walking along the High Road and soon on the other side of the road  on the corner of Messina Avenue is another giant former cinema,

Stop 2: Former Grange Cinema

This cinema is a lot older that the Gaumont State, dating from 1914. It is remarkable forerunner of those super cinemas of the interwar period in terms of size (with around 2000 seats) and yet in terms of style it harks back to an older period).



The cinema’s name can be found in a couple of place on the upper section of the facade facing the High Road. It has a corner entrance topped by a large copper dome. Inside the foyer is a galleried oval rotunda with a stairway leading to what was the tea room and into the circle. You can peek in and see this lovely entrance way from the street.


This is an odd name for a cinema and relates to the fact that just about here was a house called Kilburn Grange, and running to the side and behind the cinema is a street called Grangeway as a further reminder.


The Grange Cinema was taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in 1929 who also in due course owned the State just over the road. The cinema closed in June 1975 and was converted into a nightclub which opened on 23rd February 1976. Initially called Butty’s, it later became the National Ballroom, and then a live music venue named the National Club which catered for the large Irish community in the area. The National Club closed in spring 1999. The building was empty and unused for several years, until it became a church. It is now operated by the Brazilian based ‘United Church of the Kingdom of God’.

It seems these days, evangelical churches is the saviour of many of these buildings now that bingo seems to be in decline. I do wonder though whether someone ought to try and run one of these as a cinema as a not for profit outfit with a varied programme of offbeat and vintage films maybe – possibly this is something the National Trust should look at if they could acquire the right building.

The building is Grade II Listed. Again lots of information about this old cinema on the cinema treasures site:


keep walking along the High Road and soon on the left you will see Buckley Road and the entrance to the Tricycle Cinema

Stop 3: Tricycle Theatre and Cinema

The Tricycle is a bit of a Kilburn institution. The Theatre on the High road started out as the Foresters Hall – the signage still proclaims “The Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society”. According to their website, The Ancient Order of Foresters today trades as Foresters Friendly Society. It was established in 1834, although its origins lie in a much older society called the Royal Foresters, formed around 1745. Their first members came to recognise they had a duty to assist their fellow men who fell into need “as they walked through the forests of life”. They also seem to have had lodges like the masons, of which I guess this was one.

The building was at some point converted to a music and dance hall. The Tricycle took it over in 1980 and this became the permanent home of the Wakefield Tricycle Company – a touring theatre company which presented new plays and children’s theatre throughout Britain and internationally. According to the Tricycle website, they never actually played Wakefield.


They always put on interesting and different stuff. I can perhaps do not better than quote from their website:

“The Tricycle views the world through a variety of lenses, bringing unheard voices into the mainstream. It presents high quality and innovative work, which provokes debate and emotionally engages. Located in Brent, the most diverse borough in London, the Tricycle is a local venue with an international vision.”


The purpose built cinema was added in 1998 with it own entrance in Buckley Road. Apparently the design on the screen curtain is unique to this cinema. It is in the form of a tricycle which upon closer inspection is made up of names of sponsors, patrons and film stars who have given their support to the cinema.

Retrace your steps back down the High Road and turn left into Messina Avenue. Follow this all the way along ( a bit of a trek, I am afraid) and turn left when you reach West End Lane. Soon on the left you will come to our next stop.

Stop 4: St James’ Church

This is a vast Victorian red brick barn of a church built in the 1880s by Arthur Blomfield – a prolific church architect. Normally these places are deserted in the week and often on Sundays too, but this one has found some interesting new uses. Walk down the side street (Sherriff Road) almost the full length of the church and go in the entrance.


Inside at the back in a Post Office counter, and with this at your back you have some counters of cards and postal items, to the right is a cafe and to the left an extensive children’s play area.



And there are plenty of people. Perhaps not what traditionalists would want to see but at least the building is performing useful community functions.

Now return to West End Lane and cross over and go down the street opposite (Broadhurst Gardens).

Stop 5: Number 165 Broadhurst Gardens (Former Decca Recording studios)

Almost immediately on your right is our next stop. This is currently used by English National Opera but for most of its life it was the main recording studios for Decca.



The name “Decca” originally comes from a portable gramophone called the “Decca Dulcephone” patented in 1914 by musical instrument makers Barnett Samuel and Sons. The name was coined by Wilfred S. Samuel by merging the word “Mecca” with the initial D of their logo “Dulcet” or their trademark “Dulcephone”.

“Decca” was a good brand name as it was easy to pronounce in most languages. That company was eventually renamed The Decca Gramophone Co. Ltd. and then sold to former stockbroker Edward Lewis in 1929 who built up the company. Lewis established an American Decca label in 1934 with others but the two companies went their separate ways during World War II. However the link was later re-established in 1998 when they ended up being owned by the same company (now Universal Music Group own both labels).

This building started off life as an engineering works and was converted into a recording studios by Crystalate Records in 1933. That company was acquired by Decca in 1937, and this building became Decca’s main London studio. The studios finally closed in 1980. There are some great pictures and detail about the studios on this link http://www.philsbook.com/decca.html

Probably the most famous story associated with the studios is of the Beatles audition. Brian Epstein paid Decca to provide a one hour audition for The Beatles at these studios on 1 January 1962. But they were turned down y Decca. Decca’s A & R Man at the time, Dick Rowe, is said to have told their manager, “Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein”. Rowe later signed The Rolling Stones following an introduction and encouragement from George Harrison.

Now return to West End Lane and turn right. Almost immediately is the first of three stations which come in quick succession.

Stop 6: Three stations in quick succession

It is a curious quirk of London geography that most of the main railways lines to the midlands and north actually head west for a time as they pass through NW6. And here we have two of them in close proximity together with a third more local line.

The first station you come across is West Hampstead’s Jubilee line station.


This was actually built by the Metropolitan Railway in 1879 as it started to spread extend out from Baker Street. Initially the station acted as a temporary terminus until it was further extended to Willesden Green in November 1879. Later the lines were used by the Great Central Railway to get to its new London terminus Marylebone which opened in 1899. But soon extra tracks were needed for both the Metropolitan and Great Central services, although I think the latter just passed through here, without stopping.

In 1939 stopping Metropolitan services serving this station were transferred to the Bakerloo line and it was then that the platform was rebuilt in the newish Underground style. However the original street level station building was retained which makes for an odd mix. This arm of the Bakerloo line transferred to form the Jubilee line when it first opened in 1979.


Then just 100m along the street is the next station which is served by London Overground. The line opened in 1860 but this station was only added in 1888. It was called West End Lane until its name was changed in 1975. It was served by the North London Railway and for many years you could get a train from here to Broad Street in the City


Then just another 100m along you find West Hampstead Thameslink,

The station was built by the Midland Railway on its extension to St. Pancras, to serve the newly developed area around the hamlet of West End. It opened on 1 March 1871, and was originally named West End for Kilburn and Hampstead. It was renamed several times: to West End in 1903; to West End and Brondesbury in 1904; to West Hampstead in 1905; West Hampstead Midland in 1950; and finally West Hampstead Thameslink on 16 May 1988 – the latter rename was following the reopening of the Snow Hill tunnel in the City allowing trains to run through to south London, beginning the cross-London link we know and love today.


There was a plan to link these three stations with a subway but I guess it proved too expensive, But the Thameslink station has been rebuilt with a new building on the side (like Cricklewood this station was denuded of buildings when the line was electrified in the early 1980s). Interesting the building is not over the tracks, nor is there the kind of over track development that was done at Fulham Broadway where a small shopping mall with multi screen cinema was created. Perhaps it was too expensive to build over 6 rather than 2 tracks, plus this is probably not the justification for such a commercial development here.

Our next stop is actually a little before you get to the Thameslink station.

Stop 7: Billy Fury Way

Almost opposite the Overground station is a little alleyway going down some steps. And if you look back from the way you have come you will see it has a mural on Billy Fury and in fact the alleyway is called Billy Fury Way.



Billy Fury (1940 – 1983) was an internationally successful singer in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was born in Liverpool and his real name was Ronald Wycherley, which does not sound very rock and roll so you can see why he changed it, or rather he had it changed by his management. He was signed to Decca and he recorded much of his work at the local studios.

In 2010 Camden Council and the police concluded it would be a good idea to name some unnamed pathways in West Hampstead so people could tell the police where they were if a crime was committed there. The public were consulted and for this one they voted in favour of Billy Fury – second choice was Decca Way. The mural dates from July 2011 and here is a piece about its unveiling.


Continue walking along West End Lane and take the first left after the Thameslink station. Our next stop is a little way down Sumatra Road on the right as you approach it.

Stop 8: Number 104 Sumatra Road

There is a story that this was for a time the childhood home of one Mary O’Brien, better known as Dusty Springfield.


She was actually born at Fordwych Road in NW2 which was a maternity home and her family home on her birth certificate is Lauderdale Mansions W9. But the attached links suggest she lived here as a small child.


Here is a link to a site called West Hampstead Life which explains (if you scroll down a bit) more about the Sumatra Road connection – not sure about the dates though, given what the other link says..


This link cites lots of other West Hampstead musical connections, a couple of which I will mention later.

But since originally posting this, I was contacted by a man called Ron who said (and I quote word for word): “Sorry your wrong Dusty Springfield never ever lived at 104 Sumatra road west hampstead my wifes family lived in that house from the 1930s untill 1989 so who ever told you is wrong”. So looks like this is just a story.

Fascinating fact: She got the nickname “Dusty” for playing football with boys in the street. And her brother Tom was really called Dion, which actually sounds more the part than Tom.

Continue walking along Sumatra Road and turn right into Pandora Road

Stop 9: Number 31 Pandora Road

Just here on the right at number 31 is a house with a blue plaque. Unlikely as it seems this fairly modest house was the home of Alfred Harmworth, later Baron and then Viscount Lord Northcliffe. With his brother, Harold, he created a newspaper empire. They bought the Evening Standard (1894) plus various provincial newspapers and they created the Daily Mail (1896) and the Daily Mirror (1903). He was one of the pioneers of tabloid journalism.



I have not been able to find out when he lived here but it must have been fairly early on in his career. But it is kind of fitting he lived in Pandora Road given he is partly responsible for opening the Pandora’s box of tabloid journalism!

Keep walking along Pandora Road. At the junction with Holmdale Road take a short detour to the right down Holmdale Road to the junction with Dennington Park Road. I am going to cover two more places identified in the West Hampstead Life musical connection blog.

Stop 10a: Number 9 Dennington Park Road

This was once the home of singer Olivia Newton John in around 1965. And according to the link under Sumatra road she was born in Cambridge England and only moved to Australia when she was 5.


This link also mentions Singer Robert Palmer lived in a basement flat in Dennington Park Road in 1972. Robert moved out of after the flat was flooded, destroying most of his belongings. But don’t know where.

Retrace your steps to the junction with Pandora Road but turn right into Inglewood Road.

Stop 10b: Number 12a Inglewood road


Just along here is another pop connection. Jimmy Somerville lived at 12a. This is mentioned in Part 2 of the West Hampstead life piece on musical connections.


Also in this road at an unspecified address the American singer Loudon Wainwright  III in 1986. There are lots of other pop connections so you can do you own walk from these two posts, although I warn you some of the addresses do go over the border into NW2!

Continue along Inglewood Road to the end and turn left. Our next stop is just ahead on the other side of the road.

Stop 11: West End Green

This little green was the centre of the old settlement here and has somehow survived.

There are a couple of commemoration trees – the older one is for the coronation of Edward VII in December 1902



and the other for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.



At this green, the main road becomes Fortune Green Road but West End Lane continues off to the right. Go along there and take the first turning on the left (Canon Hill)

Stop 12: Marlborough Mansions, Canon Hill (Sir Adrian Boult)

Having majored on pop music I had to include a classical connection. Just a short distance along Canon Hill is our next stop where you will see a blue plaque to the conductor Sir Adrian Boult who lived in Flat 78 between 1966 and 1977.



Boult set up the BBC Symphony Orchestra and was its principal conductor for some 20 years. Boult was known for his championing of British music.

He gave the first performance of Holst’s The Planets on 29 September 1918. Apparently Holst later wrote on his copy of the score, “This copy is the property of Adrian Boult who first caused The Planets to shine in public and thereby earned the gratitude of Gustav Holst.” What a great quote, eh?

He also introduced new works by, among others, Bliss, Britten, Delius, Tippett, Vaughan Williams and Walton and recorded extensively starting in 1920 to his last recording which was in 1978. A lot of his later recordings were for Decca and recorded at the Broadhurst Gardens studios.

So we have reached the end of our NW6 walk. It has had a kind of entertainment theme, from great cinemas through to various musicians and a recording studio. As ever there are always things I have missed out on. I did not time to explore the Irish connection which Kilburn is so well known for. I did not have time for the posher bits of NW6 – Brondesbury and Queen’s Park. Nor could I investigate the location of Kilburn Priory, the blue plaque to sculptor Gilbert Bayes (he did the Queen of Time sculpture over the main entrance of Selfridges) or the location of a house owned by John Spedan Lewis.

So for onward travel retrace your steps back along West End Lane and you have three stations to choose from. Plus of course local buses.

And once again thanks to Rhona for her local knowledge and chauffeuring skills.

NW5: A fleeting glimpse

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

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

Stop 1: Number 50 Lawford Road

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



We have already seen one blue plaque to him in on Portobello Road W11 – and according to http://openplaques.org/people/183 there are actually some 9 different plaques to Orwell, not all blue, across Greater London. I think he lived here in a flat in 1935/36, which was the time he was working at a second hand book store in Hampstead called Booklovers’ Corner.

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

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

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

Stop 1a: site of former South Kentish Town station


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

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

Stop 2: site of Palace/Gaumont cinema

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


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

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


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

Stop 3: Blustons store

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Stop 4: Kentish Town Station

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

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


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



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

Stop 5: The Forum

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Stop 6: Number 56 Fortess Road

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



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

Stop 7: Footbridge (and pipe) over railway

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



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

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

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


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

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

Stop 8: Weslyan Place

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


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


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

Stop 9: Parliament Hill Mansions, Lissenden Gardens

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


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


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

Stop 10: Parliament Hill Lido

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


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

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


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

Stop 11: Lismore Circus

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



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

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


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

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

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

See more at: http://www.kentishtowner.co.uk/2012/10/03/wednesday-picture-hitch-a-ride-through-john-betjemans-kentish-town/#sthash.74GLfMCV.dpuf

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

Stop 12: possible site of the Gospel Oak

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

There is an interesting article here also from the Kentishtowner  http://www.kentishtowner.co.uk/2012/03/14/wednesday-picture-where-the-hell-is-the-gospel-oak/

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

NW4: The Only Way is Hendon

NW4 is Hendon and if you say Hendon to people they might reply Police Training College or the RAF Museum. But although the former is in NW4, the latter is in NW9 and really they are both in Colindale – as was the British Library’s  Newspaper Archive (which has been despatched to Yorkshire now).

I have decided to give these big ticket items a miss and so I will concentrate the NW4 walk on the smaller charms of Hendon starting in Hendon “Central”. This is at the northern end of the A41 arterial road known as Hendon Way – we saw the southern end in NW2, where Amy Johnson lived.

We start our walk at Hendon Central Post Office which is at 58 Vivian Avenue, NW4. Turn left out of the Post Office and head towards the Central Circus which is the focal point of the 1920s development around Hendon Central. Ahead at the circus are our first two stops. On the left is our first stop.

Stop 1: Hendon Central station


The Underground arrived here from Golders Green in November 1923.

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When it was built, the area around here was undeveloped – it was south of the old village of Hendon and north of the Midland Railway station which was called Hendon but was really West Hendon. So it was a little audacious of the Underground to say the least for them to name their new station “central” given there was actually nothing here when the station was built.

The station is a Grade II listed building in a neo-Georgian style and is by Stanley Heaps (1880-1962). He was assistant to Leslie Green, who designed the original Underground Electric Railway stations from 1903. Heaps succeeded Green and his first stations, on the northern extension of the Bakerloo line, were similar to those designed by Green – as we saw at Maida Vale in W9.

During the 1920s and 30s, Heaps worked closely with Charles Holden (1875-1960) on new tube stations. And it was on the 1920s extension of the Hampstead tube to Edgware that we see his style flourish. Heaps is said to have described the design of the new stations as ‘sufficiently dignified to command respect, and sufficiently pleasing to promote affection’ but he rejected the need for ‘buildings that blatantly advertise the railway’.

As this area was largely undeveloped, there was the ability to coordinate between the station and the surrounding buildings that were constructed over the next few years. The station was intended to be at the centre and it faces what was originally a roundabout 240 feet (73 m) in diameter from which four roads fan out to the rest of Hendon and beyond. Although this is called ‘Central Circus’, it is now a crossroads controlled by traffic signals.

However the scale of the building and the width of the roads does give it presence, even today with a roaring dual three lane highway running though the middle of it.

Stop 2: Former cinema (which had 6 names in its 64 year life!)

The south east corner of the circus is taken up with a cinema.


This opened as the Ambassador Cinema in February 1932. It was equipped for live variety shows and there was a cafe. It was taken over by Gaumont in December 1933 and but only re-named Gaumont in 1949. It was sold to the Classic chain in 1967. They modernised the building and it re-opened as the Classic Cinema in December 1968. In 1973 it was split into three screens. It went through a number of ownership changes which caused more changes of name, becoming the Cannon in 1985, the MGM in 1993 and finally the ABC in 1996. The ABC was closed on 20th January 1997 and has now been converted in to gym and fitness centre, which is today is run by Virgin Active. So at least there is no gaping hole or an inappropriate building where the cinema used to be.

Walk north from Hendon Central station along the main road. At the next main junction take a right. This is a street called “The Burroughs”. Continue until you reach the next group of buildings which are on your left.

Stop 3 The Burroughs (four public buildings)

Hendon was created an urban district council in 1894 and became a municipal borough in 1932. The municipal borough was abolished in the London local government reorganisation of 1965 when it became part of the London Borough of Barnet. And here along the north side of The Burroughs are a group of four public buildings which even architectural historian Pevsner considers make “quite and impressive show”. He says they are “typical examples of official architecture in brick with stone dressings, the earlier ones still quite jolly, the later two more genteel.”

The first we come to is the Town Hall, one of the two earlier ones, dating from 1900. It is still in use by Barnet Council, and is where the Council meets.


And next door is the Library from 1929, which Pevsner calls “eclectic Neo Baroque”.


The fire station follows – this is from 1911. It does not have any London Fire Brigade signs as far as I can see, but it does appear to be an operational fire station, and not one that has been closed.

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And finally there is what is now part of Middlesex University, but was built as Hendon Technical College in 1937.


Yes these certainly make for a great group of buildings but you can’t help feeling it is a bit odd having them in this location. Just look across the road and the other side is somewhat less imposing.

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Maybe the idea was that a centre would develop around them, but the gravitational pull of the tube station probably prevented this.

Follow the road round the corner and then take a left at the next junction (Church End). Continue along this until you reach the Church.

Stop 4: St Mary’s Church

Here is a lovely little church with a nice pub nestling right by it.



The church is dedicated to St Mary and parts of it go back to the 13th century. The tower has a weathervane in the form of a “Lamb and Flag”, which is the badge of St. John as opposed to St Mary. It is not entirely clear why but it may be a sign of the cult of Mary Magdalene said to have been promoted by the Templars and their successors.

Sadly I have not had the chance to go in as Pevsner calls it “a rewarding building, much more so that the exterior … would suggest”. The architect Temple Moore who built All Saints Tooting SW17 is responsible for greatly expanding the church in 1914/15, and surprisingly Pevsner approves of the new work as greatly enriching the original effect.

Return along Church End and at the end turn left and continue until you reach Sunny Gardens Road on your left.

Stop 5: Sunny Gardens Road

I had to stop a awhile here and go up this wonderfully named road.

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But first impressions were not good.

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Second impressions did not improve, as the sunny gardens along the street were full of cars!

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This is however a long road and maybe it is better at the other end. However I do not have the time to explore as I am on a mission to find Hendon Hall.

So if you have headed up from the main road you will have passed Fuller Street on your left. Then you will have seen a pathway crossing Sunny Gardens Road. Take the right hand path and this will bring you out to a street called Downage and ahead you will see Parson Street. Go to Parson Street and turn left. A little way along you will see a side street called Ashley Lane. Our next stop is just at this corner.

Stop 6: Hendon Hall

Hendon Hall has been hotel since 1912 but the core of the hotel is Hendon Hall, built in 1756.

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This frontage does look like something out of Gone with the Wind. Like someone had decided to build a grand house and had put together what they thought would look imposing, even though the bits do not quite fit properly. Don’t those columns look odd. I wonder whether the columns were originally bare brick – perhaps they once had a stone or stucco covering.

There is said to be a connection with the actor David Garrick. He was Lord of the Manor of Hendon between 1765 and 1778 but there is no evidence he actually lived here.

One fascinating thing I discovered was that for some time Hendon Hall had a ceiling painting by 18th Century Italian artist, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, called Allegory of the Planets and Four Continents. It was sold in the mid 1950s and ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


Return along Parson Street, until you get to a major cross roads with traffic lights. Our next stop is at the corner on your right.

Stop 7: Ferrydale Lodge (site of Odeon cinema)

Like the grouping at Hendon Central we have a group of buildings at a road junction which have a scale and a presence. Sadly one corner is out of character and this is where the cinema stood

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This was the last of the original Oscar Deutsch built Odeon Theatres to open before the outbreak of World War II. It opened on 28th August 1939 and unusually for Odeons of this period it was built of brick and not faced with cream tiles. Here is a picture:


The Odeon closed in  January 1979 and was demolished in December 1981. A residential block named Ferrydale Lodge was built on the site. At least it is the right bulk even though the cinema probably looked better than this nondescript block.

Continue straight ahead. The road becomes Brent Street and our next stop is a little way along on our left.

Stop 8:  Sentinel Square Shopping Centre (site of Carlton/Classic/Gala Cinema)

Brent Street is a small shopping centre that never really made it but it clearly was not improved by this ugly looking early 1970s shopping which was plopped down into it.

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This was actually the site of a 1930s cinema. It seems to have opened as the Carlton. It had become the Classic then in 1961 it was renamed the Gala Classic and finally Gala Cinema from 1965. At the end it played “continental” films, finally closing in March 1967. The cinema was demolished and the site re-developed as Sentinel Square Shopping Centre.

Strange is it not that this fairly modest shopping street should have not one but two sizable cinemas, but there is nothing left to remind us of this.

Just after Sentinel Square is a side street on the left called The Crest. Go down here to the street at the end which is Golders Rise. 

Stop 9: Hendon  School

Ahead of you is Hendon School.

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It was previously Hendon Grammar School and famous former pupils include Peter Mandelson, Rabbi Lionel Blue, and author Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.

But our stop is more for what was here before – Hendon House which was home to John Norden (1548 – 1625) between 1607 and 1619

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He was an early cartographer. He planned (but did not complete) a series of county maps and accompanying county histories of England and his maps of 16th century London and Westminster are important representations of Tudor London. Looks like the plaque says Morden rather than Norden, but I think it is the latter.

Continue to the end and you will have returned to Brent Street, where you should turn left. Our next stop is a short way along Brent Street on the right.

Stop 10: Pillar Hotel

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This is a strange looking hotel. Clearly not built as a hotel and why is it called the Pillar? Over the gateway are the numbers 19 twice, so was this built in 1919?

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According to Pevsner, this was built in 1897 as  St Saviour’s Homes in 1897 for women in need of care. Wikipedia puts it less tactfully as a home for “feeble minded women”. In 1925 it was taken over by the Pillar of Fire Society – an american evangelical protestant organisation founded by a woman called Alma White in 1901. The Hendon site became a bible college, school and chapel.

According to the Charity Commission website  Pillar of Fire became a charity in 1992 with the aim of the advancement of the Christian religion and in particular by maintaining a church and teaching the doctrines and practices of the Pillar of Fire USA. Apparently one of their aims was to evangelize the local Jewish population in the vicinity of the mission. http://www.pillar.org/missions_england.html

The charity was removed from the register in 2003 as “it has ceased to exist”. Wikipedia suggest this followed a Charity Commission inquiry but the Commission website does not give any information on this.  The mission was sold, and in a wonderful twist of fate, the property became a “kosher boutique” hotel in 2010 – there cannot be many of them!

Isn’t it interesting that they chose the name “Pillar” for the hotel. You might think they would want to distance themselves from the Pillar of Fire name.

Oh and the 1919 mystery. Well the postal address is number 19 Brent Street.  So it is just the street number of the building shown twice!

Continue  walking along Brent Street and take the next turning on the right (Shirehall Lane). Take the 5th turning on the left which is Haslemere Avenue. Go almost to the end and our next stop is on the left.

Stop 11 Number 6 Haslemere Avenue

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This modest looking interwar house is that of football manager Herbert Chapman. Today largely forgotten but he had great success in charge of Northampton Town, Leeds City, Huddersfield Town and finally Arsenal before his sudden death from pneumonia in 1934.

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Continue to the end of the street and then turn right into Shirehall Park. You then reach a junction. Turn left and soon on the right is our final stop.

Stop 12: Number 93 Shirehall park

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This was the residence of a virtually forgotten Music Hall star called Harry Relph, better known by his stage name, Little Tich. Today we associate Tich or Titchy with being small. And indeed he was short  – just 4 foot 6 inch tall. This is apparently 7 inches shorter than Ronnie Corbett (who is 5 Foot 1 inch). But I always wondered by he was called Little Tich at it seemed tautological.

This is the story. Little Tich was a nickname which has its origin in the Tichborne case (mentioned briefly in SW4). This was a legal cause célèbre in the 1860s and 1870s. A man who went by the name of Arthur Orton claimed the title of Tichborne. He was a fat man and the name Tichborne was frequently used to describe large people. In his early years, Harry Relph was overweight and he became known as “Young Tichborne”.  So when he appeared on stage, audiences would often shout “come on little Tichborne” . By the mid 1880s, he had lost almost all of his excess weight, but the name Little Tich had stuck – an ironic endearment contrasting the large stature of Orton with the tiny one of Relph. So that is how we come to associate Tich with small and why Little and Tich were not originally tautological.

His trade mark was the Big Boot Dance for which he wore boots with soles 28 inches long. Here is a snippet of film from around 1900:


He was also a popular performer in Christmas pantomimes across the country and appeared with Dan Leno and Marie Lloyd at in three pantomimes at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane between 1891 and 1893.

He had a somewhat complicated love life. He bought the newly built house in 1925 for his lover Winifred and their child, Mary. But his actual wife died in 1926 allowing him to marry Winifred and move into the Hendon house.

In 1927 he suffered a stroke, which was partly triggered by a blow to the head which he had accidentally received during an evening performance at the Alhambra Theatre. He never recovered fully from the injury, and died the following year at his house here in Hendon, aged 60.

This is not the loveliest of location today as it is close to the North Circular Road and right by the river Brent which here has been encased in a masonry and concrete sleeve. Maybe it looked nicer in the 1920s when the North Circular was less busy and the river more natural.

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Now you could pop into Brent Cross Shopping Centre from here. It was one of the first shopping malls in Britain dating from 1976. However if you want to stop here then continue down Shirehall Park to the end, where you will see the North Circular Road. Turn left and cross the road by the footbridge. On the other side turn right at the both of the steps and take the first turning on the right (Heathfield Gardens).  You will find an entrance to Brent Cross station just up here.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.


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.



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:


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


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!


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!


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)


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/


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.


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.


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”.



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.


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)


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.


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


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)


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.



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.


But there are some other interesting pictures on this link


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.



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


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.


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.



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.



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.



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):



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)


NW2: Life’s not Hollywood …


“Life’s not Hollywood, it’s Cricklewood” is a quote from comedian Eric Morecambe and was used as the subtitle of a 2004 biography of Eric Morecambe by his son Gary. It kind of sums up the ordinariness of Cricklewood, NW2.

It is a very workaday kind of place which interestingly has two famous companies called Smith associated with it. What else could they be called?

Smith’s Crisps started life in Cricklewood as we shall see and Smiths Instruments had a major factory here which I believe was on Edgware Road near the bus garage. They started life in clocks and moved on to all sorts of bits and pieces for cars and then on to medical devises and much more. Sadly though they no longer seem to have a connection with NW2.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 193 Cricklewood Broadway, right in what passes for the centre of Cricklewood. Turn left out of the Post Office and cross when convenient. Our first stop is a little way along on the right where just past Kara Way there is a little undeveloped strip by the main road, with a milepost.

Stop 1: Cricklewood Milepost

This says London is 4 miles away.


And yet it feels further. So I did a quick check and found that if you measure from Charing Cross (which is usually used as the centre of London for measurement) it is about 6 miles from there. And if you were to measure from the City – eg the Royal Exchange, you would be looking at about 8 miles. So where is 4 miles away. Well head down the main road (which is in effect the route of an old roman road – Watling Street) and you find that after 4 miles you would be at Marble Arch (or Tyburn Tree), which is not exactly the centre of London.

The other way it says Watford is 10 miles away, which even in a straight line is stretching it a bit. So the weary travellers of yesteryear were perhaps somewhat mislead by this particular mile post.

Walk past the row of shops and then another section of green. Opposite Temple Road you will see some steps on your right. Go up these.

Stop 2: The Railway Terraces

You first come to Gratton Terrace running at right angles to the steps. At first glance you could be in an industrial midland or northern town. Unusually for London these houses go straight onto the street with not even the tiniest strip of garden in front.


The street ahead of you is Needham Terrace and walking along this you will see there is an alleyway parallel to Gratton Terrace. This looks even more like the industrial north, with tiny yards and little outbuildings which originally housed toilets.


This alley is called Midland Terrace which kind of gives the game away.

We are directly south of the Midland Railway who had their main London depot at Cricklewood. They built these terraces as housing for railway workers starting in the late 1860s. There are five terraces in all; Gratton Terrace, facing Edgware Road, and Midland, Johnston, Needham and Campion Terraces behind. The streets, other than Midland, were named after prominent railway officials of the time.

According to Barnet Council, it would appear that Gratton, Midland and Needham Terraces were the first to be built with Johnstone Terrace being added by the 1890s and Campian Terrace being built at a later date. There are gradations of house size as well with Gratton having the largest houses. They were apparently allocated according to job, so the drivers and firemen got bigger houses than the porters.

Keep walking and you find the houses that back on to Midland Terrace do not have their fronts facing a street. No they face a communal garden.


Then there is another row of houses and another alley (Johnstone Terrace), which is presumably the address of the houses on the north side of the gardens, whilst Midland Terrace is the address for the other side of the garden.

Again according to Barnet Council at some time before 1962 the green between Midland and Johnston Terrace was divided into individual garden plots, possibly during the Second World War as part of the war effort to grow food. In 1969 the Terraces were sold to Bradford Property Trust and residents voted on whether or not to keep the individual garden spaces. As a result a communal garden was established.

This knot of street is is now a conservation area.

Now return to the main road and turn right, going past Wickes and under the railway.

Stop 3: Cricklewood Bus Garage

Ahead on the left is a bus garage which although modern has a long history.


Cricklewood Bus Garage opened for service in May 1905 and was originally called Dollis Hill. It was an early motorised bus depot of the London General Omnibus Company but what we see today dates from 2009/2010. It is now a depot for Metroline Buses.

Metroline was one of 12 operating subsidiaries created in 1998 by London Buses which were then sold off. In October 1994 Metroline was sold again to MTL and in March 2000 to ComfortDelGro – a company based in Singapore and operating over 46,000 vehicles in seven countries. (note I got this slightly wrong – see comment from Stephen Bird below. Thanks, Stephen for the correction)

Fascinating fact:  ComfortDelGro also owns Computer Cab which is one of the largest (if not the largest) Black Cab company in London

Now retrace your steps along Edgware Road (Cricklewood Broadway) past the post office and stopping just beyond Cricklewood Lane, where you will see our next stop on the left.

Stop 4: The Crown

The Crown Pub is an impressive solid looking late Victorian building – built in 1899.


It was fully restored in 2003, and reopened as The Crown Moran Hotel and with the addition of a 152 room 4 star hotel and restaurant. Moran Hotels is a small Irish Hotel company. We are not a million miles away from Kilburn which is of course known for its Irish connections.


I am told that Smith’s Crisps started off life in a yard behind the Crown, before moving to a factory in Brentford in 1927. So to celebrate, I had a pint and a packet of crisps in the Crown.

Sadly the brand of Smith’s no longer exists in the UK for crisps so I had to make do with what they had, which was an Irish brand called Tayto. (Well, the pub is run by an Irish hotel chain)


This is a comfortable pub with some original features, and I guess having the modern hotel alongside gives it some purpose (and business) which it might not otherwise have.

Return back up the main road and turn right into Cricklewood Lane. Our next stop is almost immediately on your left.

Stop 5: Number 3 Cricklewood Lane (site of the Gaumont Cricklewood)

Today there is a Co-operative food store but once there was a cinema here.


This was initially called the Queen’s Hall Cinema. It was opened in December 1920 by an independent company but was taken over by Gaumont in 1928. It seems to have had a fairly uneventful life.  It was renamed Gaumont in 1949, and had CinemaScope fitted in 1955. It finally closed in January 1960 and was demolished to be replaced by a supermarket, which has gone through a number of owners including Kwiksave and Somerfield.

Walk along Cricklewood Lane going under the railway, our next stop is past Claremont Road on the right.

Stop 6: Number 110, Cricklewood Lane


The Handley Page Aircraft Company had a factory here from 1912 until 1917. Then they moved to Claremont Road, which is the road we just passed running off Cricklewood Lane on the left just after the railway. The Cricklewood Aerodrome was adjacent to their factory. The aerodrome closed in 1929 and the Golders Green Estate was built by John Laing & Co on the site of the Handley Page factory and aerodrome. This private housing development is a little way up Claremont Road bounded by Cotswold Gardens and Cheviot Gardens.

Back to Number 110, this was Clang’s electrical from 1929 to the mid 1970s. It then became something called the Production Village, a mini film studios owned by Samuelsons, which apparently included a pub and village green (!).

Here is a fascinating link which includes an advert from 1979 explaining the facilities.


Production Village was demolished in 2000, and is now a Virgin Active gym.

A little further up the hill was the factory that manufactured the revolutionary Stylophone handheld “music” device of the late 1960s to early 1970s – as demonstrated by Rolf Harris. Not exactly sure which building that was or even if it still stands. But could well be this one.


Now retrace your steps back down Cricklewood Lane and take a left into Lichfield Road. After some victorian terraces, you will see a housing estate on the left.

Stop 7: Westcroft Estate

Now at first glance this looks a typical housing development of the 1950s, but no, it turns out to be much earlier. 1934 in fact.


And there are two stone plaques to prove it. The first says

“Hampstead Boro (sic) Council Westcroft Estate 1934”


The second says:

“Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead Westcroft Housing Estate Declared open by HRH the Duke of Kent KG GCMG GCVO Tuesday 29th October 1935


The Duke of Kent was the fourth son of King George V. Confusingly he was called Prince George until the Dukedom of Kent was recreated in October 1934. I guess this was convenient later when his brother (Albert Frederick Arthur George) unexpectedly took the throne in 1936. It would have been a bit odd for him to take the name George as king if his brother was still known as Prince George.

This first Duke of Kent died in 1942 and his son inherited the title. He was only about 7 at the time.  He was called Prince Edward but then became the second Duke of Kent (and he still is).

Continue a little further along the road which has now become Westbere Road. 

Stop 8: Hampstead School

Just here on the left is our next stop – a substantial school, today called rather confusingly Hampstead School. This is nowhere near Hampstead – it is not even West Hampstead!


And here on the main building is an interesting stone plaque.


This explains that this was Haberdashers Aske’s Boys school founded by Robert Aske in 1692. The stone was moved here in 1902 when the school itself moved from Hoxton.

Now I had always wondered about the name Haberdashers Aske’s as it seemed an odd combination of a trade with a person’s name.  The Haberdasher’s Company is one of the oldest livery companies in the City of London. It  received a Royal Charter in 1448 and has records dating back to 1371. Robert Aske left the Company £20,000 in 1690 to set up a hospital and home for 20 elderly men and a school for 20 boys at Hoxton. So that is why the names are linked.

The school really took off in the 19th century. There was reorganisation in 1873 and separate boys and girls schools were established at Hoxton and at Hatcham, New Cross in south east London.

The schools north and south of the river went on different paths with the boys school at Hoxton moving here at the turn of the twentieth century. Then in 1961 it moved again to Elstree, Hertfordshire and became an independent school. The south London ones stayed as local schools, then became a City Technology College and there is now an academy group, although still it seems with connections to the Haberdashers Company.

More of the history at http://www.haberdashers.co.uk/index.php?p=schoolsElstree

But now these buildings house Hampstead School.

One of the school’s most famous alumni is the writer Zadie Smith, who grew up a little further south from here and apparently still has a house in the Queen’s Park area. Another Smith!

We could not really come to north west London without mentioning her as she is so associated with this quadrant of London.  Her last novel was even called NW.

Apparently she was known as Sadie Smith as a child but at age 14 decided to be called Zadie. As a name, Sadie is a bit unusual but Zadie really stands out. Brilliant as only a fourteen year old can be!

Now the next final stops are a bit of a trek. Go past the school buildings and take a left into Menelik Road. Just opposite Somali Road is a little footpath. Take this. Hampstead School is on your left hidden away behind a fence and hedge. But on your right is a playing field, not surprisingly part of Hampstead School but belonging to another school – University College School.

Stop 9: University College School Playing fields

University College School is an independent fee paying school originally set up by University College London in 1830. The school itself is in Frognal in Hampstead, so over the border in NW3. But the playing fields with its pavilion are accessed from the other side from where you are standing, in Ranulf Road which is in NW2.

This field is used for Rugby, Football, Cricket, Athletics, Tennis and Hockey. There are some really well known alumni of the school including the runner Sir Roger Bannister, who in 1954 was first to be recorded as running run a mile in under 4 minutes. I guess he must have spent a bit of time on these fields whilst at school. Other famous old boys include Dirk Bogarde, Hugh Dennis and Will Self – I imagine the latter might have been more at home lurking behind the pavilion smoking.

Keep walking to the end of the path. At the end turn left into Farm Avenue, and then left again into Harman Drive

Stop 10: Number 38, Harman Drive 

This was clearly an up market inter-war development, with large semi-detached houses – most with garages. Quite a change from Cricklewood proper.

Number 38 has a blue plaque to the dance band leader, Henry Hall (1898 – 1989).



Henry Hall was a dance band leader who performed regularly on BBC Radio during the 1920s and 1930s. He was still performing into the 1960s. He lived in this house from 1932 to 1959. As it happens 1932 was the year his career really took off when he became leader of the BBC Dance Orchestra.

Now retrace your steps to Farm Avenue and turn right follow this road as it turns left and becomes Hocroft Road. At the end of Hocroft Avenue you will find a busy dual carriageway – the A41 Hendon Way. Turn right here and soon on your right you will find our next stop.

Stop 11: Vernon Court

This is a substantial block of flats. To get the scale of the place, you really have to be on the other side of the road.


And the interest here is that this was the home of the pioneer aviator, Amy Johnson


Amy Johnson set numerous long-distance aviation records during the 1930s either flying solo or with her husband Jim Mollison. She flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). She died during an ATA flight from Blackpool to Oxfordshire. The weather conditions were poor and she ended up over the Thames estuary, where she went down.

There is some mystery about the accident. The exact reason for the flight is still a government secret. And it has been said that her plane was actually shot down by British forces.

According to Wikipedia, in 1999 it was reported that Tom Mitchell, from Crowborough, Sussex, claimed to have shot Johnson down when she twice failed to give the correct identification code during the flight. He said: “The reason Amy was shot down was because she gave the wrong colour of the day [a signal to identify aircraft known by all British forces] over radio.” Mr. Mitchell explained how the aircraft was sighted and contacted by radio. A request was made for the signal. She gave the wrong one twice. “Sixteen rounds of shells were fired and the plane dived into the Thames Estuary. We all thought it was an enemy plane until the next day when we read the papers and discovered it was Amy. The officers told us never to tell anyone what happened.

Well that brings us to the end of our NW2 walk. Starting in workaday Cricklewood with its Smiths connections, passing a mini film studios, two school premises with famous ex pupils and ending up in real suburbia with the homes of a radio dance band leader and a pioneer aviator. So I guess there is a tiny bit of “Hollywood” stardust even in little old Cricklewood.

Now we are a bit in between places here. But you can get buses to Golders Green (nos 13, 82 and 328), Finchley Road (nos 13, 82 and 113) or West Hampstead (no 328) stations from here.



NW1: Spirits move me …

NW1 is Marylebone, Regent’s Park, Euston and of course Camden Town. There is so much here, and I cannot possibly cover it all. So I will forego the delights of the first three and concentrate on the gritty reality that is Camden Town.

We start our walk a Camden Town’s main Post Office which is at 112-114 Camden High Street.

Turn right out of the Post Office and soon across the road you will see a modern building which houses the local job centre. This is our first stop.

Stop 1: Number 93 – 95  Camden High Street (site of Bedford Music Hall)

Today there are hosts of people milling around outside the job centre but once this was the location of the Bedford Music Hall – this was a haunt of the painter Walter Sickert, more of whom anon.


The first theatre was built on this site in 1861 but was replaced in 1898 by a grander building by a young Bertie Crewe, who went on to design many theatres in the early years of the 20th century (many of which are no longer with us) plus a few cinemas.

The Bedford spent most of its life as a variety theatre. As ever the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site has a fantastic spread on this lost world http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Bedford.htm

There is a great story about Peter Sellers. Around 1929/1930 Peter Sellers lived with his mother and grandmother in rented quarters upstairs at the Bedford. His mother was performing there in a revue called ‘Ha!Ha!!Ha!!!’ along with his father. When the revue finished, Peter’s father Bill abandoned Peter, his mother, and grandmother to fend for themselves. They carried on living upstairs at the Bedford Theatre for a short time after he departed.

The theatre closed in 1959 and was eventually demolished ten years later to be replaced with this dull looking block. It seems kind of fitting that this is the job centre given how precarious making a living on the stage can be.

Keep walking along the High Street. you will see Mornington Crescent station up ahead and on the left hand side of the road, is our next stop.

Stop 2: KOKO (former Camden Theatre/Camden Hippodrome Theatre)

Now this is a historic theatre that against all the odds has survived.


This theatre opened as the Camden Theatre on Boxing Day 1900 by the famous actress Ellen Terry who had lived in nearby Stanhope Street as a child. It was designed by the prolific W G R Sprague – a contemporary of Crewe, he was also responsible for amongst others the Coronet in Notting Hill which still stands in W11 and the Royal Duchess Theatre in Balham which we did not see in SW12 as it was bombed and finally demolished in the 1960s.

It became a variety theatre in 1909 and was renamed the Camden Hippodrome Theatre. By 1911 films were being presented as part of the programme and in January 1913 it became a cinema known as the Camden Hippodrome Picture Theatre. In 1928, it was taken over by the Gaumont British cinema circuit. Closed during WWII, it became a BBC radio studio in 1945 and this lasted until 1972, in effect allowing the building to survive.

Since then it has been a music venue with various names, most recently following a major refurbishment in 2004 it has been known as KOKO.

Before we leave here I should point out the statue in the middle of the road.


This is of Richard Cobden, who was a supporter of free trade and in the 1840s campaigned to abolish the Corn Law which imposed a tariff on imported wheat. He also campaigned for closer trade with France which led to the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty. This statue was funded by public subscription and one of the principal contributors was the french ruler of the time Napoleon III.


Fascinating fact: Napoleon III was both the first elected president and the last monarch of France, but he was monarch after he was president!

Whilst here, I should also mention the little matter of Mornington Crescent, the game played on the radio 4 comedy series, I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue. It is a totally mad panel game with the rules (such as they are) seemingly being made up as they go along. Funny but unintelligible, and rather fitting for something in a show called I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue.


Amazingly this programme started in 1972 and has so far had over 400 episodes in 60 series, even surviving the death of its host Humphrey Lyttleton.

Now immediately opposite Mornington Crescent station is our next stop:

Stop 3: Greater London House (former Carreras Cigarette factory)

This wonderful Art Deco building is was constructed as the Arcadia works for the Carreras Tobacco Company in the late 1920s.


It was built on the communal gardens in the middle of Mornington Crescent, which the borough council had sold off. The building’s distinctive Egyptian style ornamentation originally included two gigantic black cat statues and colourful painted details plus above the door was a carved Horus of Behdet, a symbol of the winged disk of the Sun.



During World War II it was felt that this symbol resembled too closely the eagle imagery of the Third Reich and it was covered up. When the factory was converted into offices in 1961 the Egyptian detailing was removed. However the building was restored during a renovation in the late 1990s. Replicas of the cats were put outside the entrance but the sun disk was not replaced.

Walk the full length of the frontage and take the first turning on the right. This is the actual street called Mornington Crescent. which loops behind the former factory.

It must have been quite a shock to the 1920s residents of Mornington Crescent to discover that their local council had not just sold their crescent garden for development, but sold it for a huge factory. Worst of all, the delightful facade fronts on to Hampstead Road and the crescent just gets the dull backside of the factory.


Stop 4: Number 6 Mornington Crescent

Going along the Crescent, you will soon see a house with a blue plaque.


This was one of many homes of artist Walter Sickert. He founded, with other artists, the Camden Town Group of British painters. This group had been meeting informally since 1905, but was officially established in 1911. It was influenced by Post-Impressionism and Expressionism, but concentrated on scenes of often drab suburban life. Sickert himself said he preferred the kitchen to the drawing room as a scene for paintings.

And he also painted a number of scenes at the local Bedford Music hall. there is an interesting article on the V & A site: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/w/walter-sickert-and-the-bedford-music-hall/

He married three times – his first wife from 1885 until their divorce in 1899 was Ellen Cobden, a daughter of Richard Cobden, whose statue we have just seen.

Now this part of the crescent actually backs on to the main railway line into Euston, which is in a cutting here. This is where the new high speed rail line HS2 will go through.


Interestingly, Number 6 sports a “bin HS2” sticker in the window but this was the only one I spotted in the windows hereabouts. I wondered why given how close this is to the route. I had a quick check and it would seem most of the devastation will be on the other side of the current line, so maybe that is why there does not seem to be a mass of protest posters hereabouts.

Take the first left (Clarkson Row) and follow this round as it parallels the railway on the other side of a high wall. This then becomes Mornington Terrace. I guess this street was built after the railway as the houses are just on one side and the numbers are sequential rather than just odd or even.

Stop 5: Number 54 Delancey Street

At the junction with Delancey Street, there is a lovely pub with garden sporting the eccentrically spelt name of “the Edinboro Castle”.


And within sight of the pub’s front door, across Delancey Street is a blue plaque to say that Dylan Thomas lived here.


One wonders whether the spirits moved him and he supped the odd whiskey in this pub when he stayed hereabouts.

We have been a bit Dylan Thomas-ed out just recently as it is the centenary of his birth this year. He famously settled in a small Welsh village called Laugharne (which I learned from the various television programmes is pronounced something like “lawn”). I am not sure exactly when he was in Camden Town.

Now ahead is a big road junction which actually lies over the railway. You want to go straight ahead past Foxton’s estate agents and then after a little way take the first right (which is Gloucester Crescent)

Stop 6: Alan Bennett (Gloucester Crescent)

Gloucester Crescent was for many, many years the home of writer (and reluctant national treasure) Alan Bennett. Not sure exactly which one was his home. But I have seen his house described as “Bennett Towers” and we know from his play “The Lady in the Van” that he has a driveway, so it is possible to speculate on which house may have been his.


We may yet find out when they film “The Lady in the Van”, as it is said that the BBC will use his actual house.

Now walk along Gloucester Crescent, taking the first right (Inverness Street) and then go right into Arlington Road.

Stop 7: Odeon cinema/Mecca Bingo Hall

Ahead you can see the side of what was a massive Odeon cinema. This was built as the Gaumont Palace and opened in January 1937, with its main entrance round the corner on Parkway. It was a large cinema with over 2,700 seats and full stage facilities, although these do not seem to have been used much.

It was renamed Odeon in 1964 and remodelled in 1968 when a bingo hall was created in the stalls with a separate side entrance (you can see today) and the circle became a new 1,198 seat cinema, with the entrance still on Parkway.

Closed by Odeon in 1979, it was leased out to independent operators for many years. Odeon took back the building and reopened it as a five screen cinema in 1997, which it remains today, with bingo still going on downstairs.



Now whilst we are here, I have to point out this rather quirky shop front just a little back from the Odeon on the opposite side of Parkway past the junction. This is now an specialist tea shop, but was once a pet shop, as can be seen from the unusual signage – monkeys, talking parrots ….


Now walk back along Parkway to the end and ahead across the road you will see Camden Town station (do not cross over)

Stop 8: Camden Town Station/Electric Ballroom

This station was first opened in 1907 by Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway (CCE & HR) and from the start was a junction where the lines to Golders Green and Archway met.

The station platforms formed a V. The line to Golders Green is under Camden High Street; the line to Archway is under Kentish Town Road. To avoid paying compensation to landowners during construction, the tunnels were kept under the road so on both lines the northbound platform is above the southbound one.

In the 1920s the CCE & HR was linked up with the City and South London Railway (both companies were by now owned by the Underground Electric Railways of London)  and extended to form what we now know as the Northern line.


This station is woefully inadequate for the traffic that goes through and the station is exit only on Sundays to prevent overcrowding.

In 2004 following a public enquiry the then deputy prime minister John Prescott threw out a hugely controversial makeover, which would have led to the demolition of the Electric Ballroom nightclub, the United Trinity Reform Church and Buck Street market, amongst other buildings.


But last September, TfL announced plans for a rebuild starting in 2017/18 and due to open in 2024/25 – only ten more years of weekend access restrictions then.

Now walk a little way along Camden High Street – our next stop is on the left

Stop 9:Number 211 Camden High Street (Site of Plaza cinema) 

The building was originally a bakery and was converted into a cinema – the Electric Theatre – in 1909. After a couple of renames, it was reconstructed in 1937 and reopened as the Plaza. It became part of the Odeon group in 1942 but in 1969 they leased it out to an independent operator and this cinema began its life as an art house cinema. Rent increases forced closure in 1994. the building was gutted to form an indoor market.

Now this is an Urban Outfitters shop and there is virtually nothing left of the old Plaza cinema. Just a little flooring in the entrance way to the shop. But if you go in there is this huge space where I guess the auditorium used to be, but any decorative features are long gone.




Now up ahead on the left is Camden Lock Market, but we must forego this pleasure as they are other interesting things to see.

Just take the first right (Hawley Crescent) and you will see our next stop.

Stop 10: MTV studios, Hawley Crescent

This is an interesting looking building with coloured fins that goes from red through orange to yellow/green looking one way and then green to blue looking from the other direction.

This is now the London studios of MTV. However it has a place in UK television history as the birthplace of TV-am and breakfast television. They broadcast from here between 1 February 1983 and  31 December 1992. However much of the studio complex was redeveloped in 2012/13 and so it looks very different now from its TV-am heyday.

Although there is not much to remind us this history on the road frontage, if you go round the back and walk along the canal, you can still see the egg decorative features at the rear.




It is probably easier to continue to walk along the canal tow path, leaving at the steps by a Costa Coffee shop.


At the top of these steps, turn left and go along Camden Road.

As we walk along Camden Road we go under the railway bridge by Camden Road Overground station. The bridge here is painted a lovely blue with the words  Camden Town on it and having gone under it, looking back you see it is there as a mirror image as well.


Having crossed St Pancras Way, take the first turning on the right. Our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 11: Rochester Square Spiritualist Temple

I was strangely drawn to this building. I always love to read the foundation on these kind of buildings. It is a glimpse into a long forgotten world – one where we just have the fragment of an event in the life of a building and a group of dedicated people, whose cause today is often also forgotten.



Well, this modest building calls itself the Rochester Square Spiritualist Temple, although it is not very grand. But it does have an interesting foundation stone, laid by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1926.


He was famously a great supporter of the spiritualist movement and so I guess it is kind of logical to find this here.

Mention of Conan Doyle also gives me a chance to tell a story about another part of NW1 which is just too far a way to visit – Baker Street, home of Conan Doyle’s most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes.

Now as you probably know number 221b Baker Street is not a real address. But what you may not know is that when Conan Doyle wrote his books, the numbering on Baker Street only went up to 85. The street continued as York Place and Upper Baker Street. When the Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863, it called its station Baker Street even though it was at the corner of Upper Baker Street.

In the 1930s, the numbering was changed so that York Place and Upper Baker Street became Baker Street, and thus it was possible to work out where 221b would have been. This turned out to be the offices of the Abbey National Building Society, which were at 215 – 229.

And as soon as this numbering change happened the Post Office started delivering mail for Sherlock Homes to the Abbey National. One wonders where it had gone before that!. The volume was such that the Abbey National appointed a staff member to handle the post.

In 1990 the Sherlock Holmes Museum opened further up Baker Street. With the support of Westminster Council (whose leader Shirley Porter opened the museum) they laid claim to the post, by renumbering 239 Baker Street as 221b! Abbey National were not keen on giving up their guardianship of the Sherlock Holmes mail, and insisted they should have the post. But once they moved out of Baker Street in 2005, the Sherlock Holmes Museum got it!

Now keep walking along Rochester Square, past the Square’s gardens and follow the road as it turns to the left and becomes Stratford Villas. Go to the end and cross over ahead is Camden Square, where our final stop is almost at the end on the right hand side. 

Stop 12: Number 30 Camden Square

At first glance, the former home of singer Amy Winehouse is not obvious.


Unlike say Freddie Mercury’s former home in W8, there is no mini shrine at the gate. It has been cleared away. But if you cross the road from Number 30 you will see some trees which have that fine cane screening wrapped around them. And on this are various pieces of paper, a couple of cigarette packets and some drinking straws.


No actual booze as far as I could see! But maybe local street drinkers come and tidy this up.

So if you want to raise a toast to the late great Amy, why not have what is said to be her favourite drink. It is called Rickstacy and consists of Southern Comfort, Vodka, Baileys and Banana Liqueur. Sounds disgusting but if you really want to try it, here is the recipe: https://www.cocktail.uk.com/cocktails/rickstasy

Now for some reason, I have got this song “Could it be Magic” running through my head – it starts with the words “Spirits move me…”

Or does it? There are actually three well known versions. The 1975 one is by Barry Manilow, who wrote the music (or rather adapted a bit of Chopin). Then there is a 1976 cover by Donna Summer and a later cover by Take That from 1992. Strange to say the words they sing are all slightly different with Barry opening with “Spirit move me” whilst Donna and Take That say “Spirits move me”. Plus there is a name check by Barry for sweet Melissa (that was apparently singer Melissa Manchester) but Donna sings to Peter and the Take That boys don’t name check anyone!

So that brings to the end of our NW1 walk with the ghosts of some old theatres and cinemas, the haunts of some well known drinkers, an artist’s home opposite an Art Deco masterpiece plus an unexpected foundation stone.

For onward travel retrace your steps to the main road for local buses or else there is Camden Road station or walking back a little further will get you to Camden Town station.