W14: Welcome to the Pleasure Dome

W14 is West Kensington – home to many artists and musicians,  the location of a major exhibition centre, the stores of some of our major Museums and the site of a major food factory which was also oddly home to the first computer used by a commercial business.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 8 – 10 North End Road, W14. Turn left out of the Post Office and at the end of the road cross over the main road and turn to your left.

Stop 1: Number 66 Hammersmith Road


This modern office block half hidden by gardens along with the neighbouring office buildings was the site of the headquarters of tea shop and food manufacturer J Lyons and Company.

This collection of buildings was called Cadby Hall. This had been the location of a piano manufacturer called Charles Cadby. When he died in 1884, the site was sold and amongst the new occupiers in the 1890s were the Kensington Co-operative Society and Schweppes, the carbonated drinks company.

The J Lyons company purchased property near Cadby Hall at Number 62 Hammersmith Road and they expanded gradualy by taking over the Hall and adjoining sites itself. They retained the name, although the official address of Cadby Hall was 66 Hammersmith Road. This complex became one of the largest food factories in the United Kingdom, growing to cover an area of more than 13 acres – and employing 30,000 people.

There is a fascinating link to the history of this site here: http://www.kzwp.com/lyons/cadbyhall.htm

J Lyons and Co went into decline in the 1970s and the site was redeveloped in the early 1980s. As far as I can see there is no physical evidence of the existence of Cadby Hall but there is a little reminder of the company in that the pedestrianised way which runs down the right hand side of 66 Hammersmith Road is called Lyons Walk.


Fascinating fact: Cadby Hall has a place in history as the location of the first ever business computer, LEO – the Lyons Electronic Office. This was developed by Lyons between 1949-1951 to automate its clerical and administrative tasks.

I included this in a quiz I set recently and although a couple of teams got it right, most of the room thought the business innovation introduced by Lyons in 1951 was the teabag! (that of course is a much older invention  – first commercial teabags date from around 1904 – and they came from New York of all places!)

Now walk down Lyons Walk and at the end turn right into Blythe Road. Almost immediately ahead on the left is our next stop.

Stop 2: Blythe House, Number 23 Blythe Road

This was originally built as the headquarters of the Post Office Savings Bank between 1899 and 1903 and then extended in the 1920s.



Architectural historian Pevsner was not impressed –  saying “its vast bulk not very convincingly dressed up with Wrenaissance trimmings.”

The bank headquarters was moved to Glasgow as part of the dispersal of civil service jobs in the 1960s and the bank finally completely moved out in the 1970s. Somehow it survived demolition and found a new use as a store and archive by three major London museums – Victoria and Albert, Science and British Museums.

So from being a workaday civil service building, it is now home to assorted treasures of some of our great national institutions. There must be some amazing stuff in here which rarely sees the light of day.

Fascinating fact: This building featured extensively as the fictional headquarters of MI6 in the 2011 film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Retrace your steps to Lyons Walk and then at the end turn left into Hammersmith Road

Stop 3: Olympia

You are walking alongside the 1930s section of the Olympia exhibition centre. This site started life as the National Agricultural Hall in 1884, but soon changed its name to Olympia, as it was aiming not just for agricultural shows.

The inaugural event in 1886 was the winter show of the Paris Hippodrome Circus. It became a major venue for shows and exhibitions. It was home to the Ideal Home Show for its first 70 years until 1978. But it has housed shows of various kinds, most significantly it was home to the Royal Tournament from the early years of the 20th century to 1950.




There are 7 different venues on this site, but the one that is least well known is the magnificent Pillar Hall which is a classical room, with ornate fittings and Corinthian pillars

Walk along the Hammersmith Road in front of Olympia, crossing the main road when convenient. Soon you will see a turning on the right called Avonmore Road. Go down here and as it bends to the right take a left turn into Lysgar Terrace. On the right hand side there is a modern block which is our next stop.

Stop 4: site of the Grange

This building proclaims itself as “The Grange” and it is in fact the site of  an 18th century house to which Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones and his family moved in 1867 from Kensington Square – we saw that house in W8.

Not sure when the house was replaced but all there is to remind us of the house and its famous occupier is the name of this building plus another block on the same estate called Burne-Jones House. This is just around the corner and faces North End Crescent.



Continue along Lysgar Terrace and then turn left into Matheson Road. At the end you are back in Avonmore road. Here turn right. Our next stop is at the end.

Stop 5: Kensington Village

Avonmore Road terminates at some gates with an archway. On the pediment is a sign which says “Kensington Village”.

In fact Kensington Village was built in the 1880s as for department store William Whiteley, and the initials W W can be seen in the gates. This was the Furniture Depository, laundry and stables.  Originally the building now known as the Warwick Building was used to store furnishings for families who were spending time in the colonies.

Now the imposing warehouse buildings have found new uses as offices and apartments. As you can see from the pictures, these buildings look like they could have escaped from somewhere like Wapping – not what you expect to find on the borders of Kensington.




Now retrace your steps along Avonmore Road. Our next stop is past Matheson Road on the left hand side.

Stop 6: Number 53 Avonmore Road

This was the home of Sir Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) – that quintessentially English composer. His best-known compositions include the Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance Marches and various choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius.



Elgar had only one important commission while in London and this came from his home city, Worcester. The Worcester Festival invited him to compose a short orchestral work for the 1890 Three Choirs Festival. This was called Froissart, and was inspired by the chronicles of the 14th century French writer of the same name.

Elgar only briefly lived in this location in 1890/1891  It seems he moved because he could not find enough work in London and so he and his family went to live in Great Malvern, which was his wife’s home town. There it seems he could earn a living conducting local musical ensembles and teaching.

Elgar was one of the first composers to take the gramophone seriously. After 1914, he conducted recordings of most of his works. And of course as we heard when we were in W1, it was the great man himself who opened the original HMV shop at 363 Oxford Street in July 1921.

Continue back along Avonmore Road until the end and then turn right into Hammersmith Road. Then take the first right.

Stop 7: Number 7, Addison Bridge Place.

This street only has houses on the right hand side as the West London railway line lies in a cutting on the left. This line was quite an early line which was authorised by Parliament in 1836 but because of money troubles only opened in 1844. It ran from Harlesden to a station just south of here. Beyond the station was a canal basin from which a canal ran to the Thames. The canal was built in 1828 and was supposed to go on further north to reach what we would now call the Grand Union Canal, but it proved too difficult and expensive and so it stopped short on the edge of Kensington.

But the railway came along and the idea was that this would be a way to access the London docks, with goods being transshipped between the railway and the docks via the canal and the Thames. Neither the canal nor the railway were a commercial success.

In the end the obvious thing was done, the canal was filled in and the railway was extended southwards on its alignment, then it went over the Thames to connect with the various lines south of the river. This opened in 1863 and although there were huge possibilities to run through trains, only a few actually operated and the train companies concentrated on running trains to and from their own London terminals.

This line was well used by freight but passenger services virtually ceased after the Second World war with just a minimal unadvertised peak hour passenger service between Clapham Junction and Olympia – largely put on for the staff of the Post Office Savings bank.

In the 1990s the worth of this orbital line was recognised and today it is now part of the London Overground with a train every 15 minutes, plus the odd through train running between East Croydon and Milton Keynes.

As you go along Addison Bridge Place, you will see a couple of blue plaques – the first is for political theorist Harold Laski and the second at Number 7 is for poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834).


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Not sure exactly when Coleridge lived here but it must have been very different before the railway sliced though (and presumably resulted in the demolition of the houses on the other side of the road). He travelled a lot but seems to have been based in London from 1810, although from 1817 onwards he was living in Highgate, so I guess he was here during the period 1810 to 1817.

Coleridge most famous poems are The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. The latter was (according to Coleridge’s Preface to Kubla Khan) composed one night after he experienced an opium-influenced dream whilst he was staying in Somerset. He had been reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan (not sure why he chose to spell it Kubla rather than Kublai). Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream until he was interrupted. He never did finish the poem. Hence its subtitle “Or, A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment”. It was only finally published in 1816, some 19 years after it was written.

The opening lines are:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree

This was misquoted in the 1984 Frankie Goes to Hollywood song “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” where they say “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a pleasure dome erect”. It is odd because the Frankie version does sound plausible.

Now retrace your steps back to the main road and there turn right and go over the railway. Our next stop is across the road at the corner of Holland Road.

Stop 8: Universal Music offices, Numbers 364 – 366 Kensington High Street

This unassuming building turns out to be the offices of Universal Music for most of the world outside of the US. Universal is apparently the largest music corporation in the world and although French owned, it is headquartered in the US.


It has some of the most famous labels in its roster, including Capital, Deutsche Gramophon, Decca, Island and Virgin, and some very big selling artistes, from Abba to Take That.

Amongst the current big names signed to Universal are Mumford and Sons. Their second album babel (released in september 2012) includes a song called Holland Road. This is apparently a name check for the road here. It may be about a personal relationship but it could be read as a critique on the music industry as represented by Universal Music which lives here at the corner of Holland Road.

Useless fact: Although Frankie Goes to Hollywood records were released on the ZTT label, they were on Island Records in the US.

Now go up Holland Road (for quite a long way)

Stop 9: Number 100 Holland Road

Eventually you will get to Number 100, on the right hand side.  Freddie Mercury wrote the classic Bohemian Rhapsody whilst living at 100 Holland Road in the 1970s.


Of course Freddie did not hang around here once he became rich and famous.  But he settled down not too far away in Logan Place W8 and he used this as his London home until his death in 1991.  Although this is over the border in W8 and not on our route today, I have to include a photo of the entrance. It has a strange shrine around the door which consists of clear plastic sheeting where people can pop in a picture or a poem.


Now retrace your steps  until you get to Addison Crescent and follow this as it sweeps off to the left. Then follow the main traffic as it turns right into Addison Road. Continue along Addison Road until the left turn before Kensington High Street. Take this turning (Holland Park Road) 

Stop 10: Number 20 Holland Park Road

Soon on the left hand side you will come across the first of two blue plaques in this street. This is for a man called Phil May.


I have to confess, I did not know the name – and I have to say I did found it odd that a man who lived mostly in the 19th Century should be called Phil. It just seems much more modern to shorten the name Philip to Phil.

I tracked down some of his work and although the plaque describes him as an artist, he was best known as a cartoonist. Here is a link to an interesting book (open it as HTML)


This includes a series called “On the Brain”. These have various famous people of the day with the top of their head hinged off and a suitable image or images to indicate what might be going on in their head.

And then there is a great one where a woman is trying to get into what is described as “a Provincial Banquet” and this is the conversation:


Flunkey: “Excuse me, mum, but the banquet has commenced, and I can’t admit you. Them’s my orders.”
She: “But the Mayor is here, isn’t he?”
Flunkey: “Oh, yes, he’s here right enough.”
She: “Well, but I’m his lady.”
Flunkey: “It makes no difference, mum; I couldn’t admit you if you were his wife.”

Classic stuff.

Stop 11: Leighton House, Number 12 Holland Park Road

Then just a little further along is Leighton House – the former home of Frederick, Lord Leighton (1830 – 1896) and now a gallery/museum run by Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.




To be honest, this is not the most attractive building. It is very boxy with limited ornamentation, and strange proportions. But inside there is a real treasure – the two storey Arab Hall, built in the late 1870s to house Leighton’s collection of tiles collected during visits to the Middle East. Leighton’s very own little pleasure dome.

And there is permanent display works of art by various well known victorian painters including John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones and George Frederick Watts and of course over 80 oil paintings by Leighton himself. Well worth a visit.

Now walk to the end of the street and turn left into Melbury Road.

Stop 12: Number 18 Melbury Road

Melbury Road was the location of Little Holland House which was where George Frederick Watts (1817 – 1904) lived from 1876 until he died. Unfortunately the house was destroyed in a Second World War bombing raid. I have not been able to establish exactly where it might have been.

But Number 18, which still stands, was the home of another artist – the pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt (1827 – 1910) lived and died here.


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Holman Hunt was one of the original three members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, along with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais. This was in 1848 and at the time he and Millais were still students at the Royal Academy of Arts.

He was not initially successful but he became well known for his religious paintings, in particular The Light of the World (1851–1853) which is now in the chapel at Keble College, Oxford. In 1900, he painted another version which toured the world and eventually found a home in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Curiously this house also has another blue plaque – to Cetshwayo. (1832? – 1884). He was the King of the Zulu Kingdom from 1872 to 1879 and their leader during the 1979 Zulu War.  He led the Zulu nation to victory against the British in the Battle of Isandlwana but then he lost a subsequent battle (at Ulundi) in July 1879.

After this he was deposed and exiled first to Cape Town and then to London. He stopped at this house in 1882. The British then allowed him back to Zululand in 1883 but he was dead within a year or so.

Now we have reached the end of our W14 walk – well almost. I thought I would add a post script.

Postscript: Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

This walk has been largely about pleasure (!) – what with all those luscious Victorian painters, musicians such as Edward Elgar, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Freddie Mercury and Mumford and Sons plus a museum store, not to mention an exhibition centre and a former food factory.

But to wind up I suggest you visit Holland Park itself. Holland Park is in fact the grounds of a 17th Century house,. Holland House. The house was badly damaged during the Second World War. One wing was saved and is used as a youth hostel. A remaining section of the front terrace is now used as a backdrop for open air theatre productions and classical concerts in the summer.


But I think the best bit is the Kyoto Garden. This was donated by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in 1991 as was part of a Japanese Festival in 1992. It is very peaceful and when I was there, there was a heron looking longingly at the fish in the pool.


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To get there go back down Melbury Road and turn left into Ilchester Place which has a gate into the park. The Kyoto Garden is to the left of the main buildings.

For onward travel return to High Street Kensington where there are various buses. Or else turn right when you get to the High Street and head back down to Kensington Olympia Station which has regular Overground trains and the occasional District Line train (weekends and special events only)




W13: Are you (still) being served?

W13 is West Ealing. This is a fairly small postcode which nestles between Ealing and Hanwell and many people seem unaware West Ealing has a separate postcode from Ealing.


Although you might not guess it now, West Ealing was once an important shopping centre, with a full range of shops including large branches of Woolworth’s and Marks and Spencer’s plus a couple of independent department stores. But you can see why it has not survived as the go-to shopping centre of west London. It was all strung out along a main road with no dedicated car parking or a pedestrian precinct. Plus it was just down the road from Ealing itself, which in its heyday also had two department stores.

We start our walk at the Post Office sorting office on Manor Road at the corner of Drayton Road – just north of West Ealing station. From here, go up Manor Road to the main road (Argyle Road) and turn right crossing the road at the zebra crossing. Take the first left into The Avenue and almost immediately ahead across is our first stop.

Stop 1: The Drayton Court Hotel


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This was built as a hotel in around 1898 and carried on as a hotel until the 1940s when it became a full time pub and off licence. Since 2011 it has returned to be a hotel or rather (as it calls itself)  “A great pub with superb rooms”. It is said to have one of the largest pub gardens in London.

The hotel’s website also has this fascinating little paragraph:

“The Drayton Court Hotel is one of the oldest pubs in Ealing, and probably the only establishment in London to have one of their cleaners go on to become a world leader. The Former Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, toiled in the kitchens of the Drayton Court Hotel in 1914, before going on to change his country’s history, driving out forces from Japan, France and the United States.”

Bit of an odd way of putting it, wouldn’t you say? Ho Chi Minh is credited as the founder of the modern day Vietnam and the city formerly known as Saigon has been called Ho Chi Minh City since 1976.

Ho Chi Minh does have a blue plaque in London but it is not here. It is at the 1960s New Zealand House at the bottom of Haymarket. It is there because he worked at a hotel called the Carlton which used to be on that site. I guess the West End trumps West Ealing when it comes to blue plaque locations. Shame because West Ealing is a bit short on celebs and as far as I can discover there is not a single blue plaque or indeed any similar type plaque in the whole of W13!

Return to the main road and here on the bridge is our next stop

Stop 2: West Ealing station

Although the section of the Great Western Railway passing here opened in 1838, the first station dates only from 1871. Initially it was called Castle Hill Station. In 1878 it was renamed Castle Hill and Ealing Dean Station, only finally becoming West Ealing in 1899.

Today it is rather a sad affair. Maybe there was a decent station here once but now all you have is this little brick box with an occasionally open ticket office.


Behind looms a modern block with a new quite large Waitrose below, accessed from the side street on the south side of the station. The block contains flats and has the delightful name of “Luminosity Court”. Sounds like something out of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. Sadly the building does not live up to its name.


When you go in the station, there are covered stairs down to the platforms, but the platforms themselves have no canopies – just a couple of small bus shelter type structures. The two platforms are eccentrically numbered 3 and 4. There were once platform numbers 1 and 2 on the fast lines and you can just make out the ghost of platform 2 on the other side of the fence of platform 3.


It has two services which each run every half hour thus providing a 15 minute service to Paddington. One of these is the stopping service to Heathrow (Heathrow Connect) provided by electric trains at least four coaches long. The other is the local service to Greenford, which is operated with two coach diesel trains. I did actually venture on this line to discover that the local stations towards Greenford can only handle two car trains, which is a bit of a surprise on a service so close in the central London.

Things will change when Crossrail arrives. I believe that the through service between Paddington and Greenford will cease and there will be a shuttle service between West Ealing and Greenford. But there will be more trains on the main line which will go right into central London, so West Ealing should get a better service.

Amazingly this station has no sunday service, but no doubt that will also change when Crossrail comes along.

Keep walking down the main road, which has become Drayton Green Road. Our next stop is ahead on the corner of Alexandria Road.

Stop 3: Sanders Depository

This must have belonged to the J Sanders department store – the one we saw in Ealing (which was featured in a Dr Who episode and whose former building is now Marks and Spencer’s)

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Many of the big department stores had depositories. Harrods famously had one by the river in Barnes. I kind of assumed these were the predecessors of those big yellow storage facilities. But perhaps not. It seems these were in effect warehouses for the shop and used also to house furniture too large to display in the store.

Keep walking along Drayton Green Road and turn left at the main cross roads. Our next stop is soon on the left

Stop 4: Numbers 140 -144 Uxbridge Road (former Abernethie & Son store)


Abernethie & Son Ltd was what I seen described as “a drapery department store” but I have also seen it referred to as a men’s clothing store.

In 1944 the store was destroyed by a bomb and so I guess what we see today is a 1950s rebuild. The company celebrated 75 years of business from 1879-1954 with a commemorative catalogue.

The shop finally closed in the early 1980s. Half the ground floor is now a Tesco Metro.

Keep walking along Uxbridge Road.

Stop 4: Numbers 96-122 Uxbridge Road (site of Daniel’s store)

Today you will see there is a shop called Daniel at 132 – 138 Uxbridge Road. It is a furniture and household goods store, but actually Daniel used to be a department store just a little further along the street at Numbers 96 – 122.


There is a curious tale – as explained on this link.


This says that Walter James Daniel first rented 96 Uxbridge Road West Ealing to sell drapery and fashions in 1901. It was still in the Daniels family in the new millennium and in September 2003 they obtained planning permission to demolish the old Department Store and replace it with a new one. As part of the permission they were also allowed to build 137 flats in a tower block immediately. The 137 flats were built in 2006/7 with the ground and first floor left for the ‘Department Store’. But this was boarded up in 2007.


Today there is a gym on what would have been the upper floor and part of the ground floor is a mini Morrison’s. Ealing Today says “Rumours trickled out in 2007 that the Daniels family never had any intentions of building, occupying or running a new Department Store on the site. “

Daniel also has a store in Chiswick and claims to have the largest department store in Windsor, not that there is much competition for that title.  So no doubt they had a pretty good idea West Ealing would not a great location for a new department store.

Now return back to the cross roads and keep walking (the road is now called “the Broadway”, until you reach the corner of Green Man Lane, where you will see a 97p Store (how low rent is that).

Stop 6: Site of F H Rowse store

This corner was the location of  F. H. Rowse department store which originally opened in 1913.


It was used as a backdrop in the 1960 film Carry On Constable (some fascinating now and then pictures of here and other bits of West Ealing on this link: http://www.thewhippitinn.com/carry_on_film_locations/carry_on_constable/

This link suggests the old store was demolished in the 1970s. However the store survived until January 1983, so maybe they were responsible for this ugly building.

Keep walking along Uxbridge Road.

Stop 7a: site of Marks & Spencer store

Just a little further along on the right is a new built – part of which is occupied by Wilkinson’s. This was apparently the site of the Marks and Spencer store here in West Ealing.  I guess it was inevitable that M & S would pull out of here given the decline in the street as a shopping area and the fact they had a sizable store just down the road in Ealing proper.



Stop 7b: site of Woolworth’s store

And just next door is a handsome deco-ish building which was the old Woodworth’s store. It dates from 1926 and here is a fascinating article about the shop:



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Strangely you then come to a BHS store here – really this seems an odd survivor given all its rivals seem to have left.

Now return back to the junction of Northfields Avenue. As you do, watch out for the 99p bakery on the right hand side of the road. First time I have seen this concept!


Back at the cross roads, turn right down Northfields Avenue

Stop 8: Former Lido cinema

Just along Northfields Avenue from the corner of Uxbridge Road is a modern block of flats and offices called Lido House. This is the site of a cinema.


The first cinema building dated from 1913 and was called the West Ealing Kinema. This was rebuilt as the Lido Cinema in 1928 . It retained the Lido name until it was taken over by the Star Cinemas group in the 1970s. The stalls were converted into a bingo club, and two small cinemas known as Studio 1 and Studio 2 were fitted into the circle area.  It was taken over by the Cannon Group in the 1980s and became known as the Cannon.

The bingo hall eventually closed, and the space was converted into a snooker hall. The cinema became known as the ABC but closed in March 1997. It then became a ‘Bollywood’ cinema first known as the Belle Vue and then as the Gosai Cinema. It finally closed as a cinema in the spring of 2001. The building sat empty for a while and was demolished in September 2004 and replaced by what we see today.

Now go down the side street here on the left. By St John’s Church take the road which veers off ahead to the right. This is Churchfield Road. Almost immediately on the right is Somerset Road. Go down here. 

Stop 9:  Number 16 Somerset Road



In 1890, the tall thin house at Number 16 was the birthplace of the writer Nevil Shute. He is perhaps best remembered as a novelist but he was also a successful aeronautical engineer. His full name was Nevil Shute Norway and he used this in his engineering career. “Nevil Shute” was his pen name, apparently to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels. A number of his novels have been turned in to films, notably “A Town called Alice” and “On the Beach”

Continue to the end and then turn right into Rathgar Avenue. This is a handsome street, probably dating from just before the First War. 


The houses are quite close to the street so apart from in a couple of places it has not been possible to pave over their front gardens, so the street scene has not been transformed with forecourt parking. Whereas the road you get to at the end (Loveday Road), the houses are set further back and so lots have lost their front gardens.

Take a left into Loveday Road and then at the end a right into Dudley Gardens. At the end go right again (into Northfields Avenue), crossing over at the zebra crossing. With an estate agents on one corner and a wine shop on the other take a left into Northfield Road. Our next stop is at the end on the right. 

Stop 10 Former Fruit Warehouse (Charles Steel and Company)

In the 19th Century much of the land to east of Northfields was market gardens and orchards. The building at the corner with Northcroft Road is a little reminder of this as it was a Fruit Packing Warehouse, built by a company called Charles Steel. Now it has been turned into apartments.

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Return to Northfields Avenue and turn right. Our next stop is just a little further down on the right.

Stop 11: Parkers Bakery, Number 64 Northfields Avenue

This shop opened in the 1950s and is the last surviving shop of a small chain of family bakers which was first established in 1913.


Their first shop was in 276 Uxbridge Road and they expanded over time with another 4 shops. The others were closed in 1989.

This has a villagey feel to it. There are some other interesting looking shops along this stretch of road including a butchers, a fish shop, a deli and a Polish shop, somewhat classier than they usually look. (NB these pictures are not in the order you see them on the ground and the fish shop is actually after our next stop)

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So whilst W13 has lost its “big” shops, there still seems to be a range of more interesting independents along here.

Stop 12: Lammas Park

Now just a little further on from Parkers Bakery on the left is an entrance to a park, with the unusual name of Lammas Park.



This nice looking green space was originally laid out in the 1880s for the benefit of the local population. The name derives from “Loafmas Day” which was a harvest festival celebrated on 1 August. This marked the start of when the locals could graze their animals on the common land known as Lammas lands. This grazing period ran until Candlemas which was 2 February. Not too sure what they did with their animals from March to July.

Keep walking along Northfields Avenue and soon you reach Northfields station which is right on the border with W5.


Northfields station is another of the Charles Holden stations which were built when the Piccadilly line was extended west. The line here was opened by the District railway in 1883 but there was no station here until a little halt was opened in 1908. This was rebuilt in 1932 at the same time as the Piccadilly line depot was built here. District line services continued to run here until 1964 since when it has only been served by the Piccadilly line.


So we are now right at the edge of W13 here, and before we leave this area, I have to mention an old cinema which is just a little further on in Northfields Avenue, even though it is in W5.

This was built in 1932 as the Avenue Cinema, although it was taken over and became an Odeon in 1936. It traded as an Odeon for most of its cinema life, but in its last few years from 1981 to 1985 it was known as the Coronet. It was converted to a night club which lasted from 1988 to 1994 and then it was taken over by the Elim Pentecostal Church

This is a most unusual cinema for the UK. It was an atmospheric cinema with a Spanish theme. It had little villas along the side walls and draped fabric overhead to mimic a tented “ceiling” to provide shade from the “sun”, rather than the more usual painted sky with lights for twinkling stars. The fabric has been replaced but it appears to be still fairly intact as a building.


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That brings us to the end of W13. A place that in many ways has seen better days, in particular in terms of the shopping centre. Yet there are still some good little local independent shops along Northfields Avenue, so it is not all doom and gloom. We are now at Northfields station for onward travel.



W12: Peppered with actual shepherd on top …

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

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

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

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

Stop 1: Bush Theatre (former Passmore Edwards Library)

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

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



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

Stop 2: Shepherd’s Bush Market

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


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

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

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


Stop 3: Site of Lime Grove Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 4a: Empire Theatre

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

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




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

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

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


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

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

Stop 4b: Former Cinematograph Theatre

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

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

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

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Stop4c: Former Pavilion cinema

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

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



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

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

Stop 5: Goaloids

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

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



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

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

Stop 6: War Memorial and former public conveniences

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


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


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

Stop 7: Sterne Street housing

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


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

Stop 8: Westfield Shopping Centre

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

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

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


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

Stop 9: the Dimco building

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


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

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

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

Ahead on your left is the next stop.

Stop 10: BBC Television Centre

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

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Our final stop is just over the road.

Stop 11: White City Station

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

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


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

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

W11: Electric Dreams

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

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

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

Stop 1: The Notting Hill Carnival Plaques

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


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


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



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

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


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

Stop 2: Number 280 Westbourne Park Road

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


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

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

Stop 3: Electric Cinema, 191 Portobello Road

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

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

Keep walking along Portobello Road

Stop 4: Portobello Antique Market

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

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


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

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

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


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




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

Stop 5: Number 22 Portobello Road

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

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



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

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

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

Stop 6a: Gate Cinema

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


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

And just little further along is the Coronet.

Stop 6b: Coronet Theatre

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


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

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

Stop 7: Number 12 Holland Park Avenue

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



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



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

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

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

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

Stop 8: The Ukrainian institute

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

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

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



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


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

Stop 9: Number 50 Clarendon Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 10: Hippodrome Place

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





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

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

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

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

Stop 11: Number 17 St Ann’s Villas

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


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

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

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

Stop 12: Henry Dickens Court

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

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

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

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

W10: To Paradise by way of Kensal Green

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

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

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

Stop 1: Under Westway and Portobello Green

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

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

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

Stop 2:  Portobello Green Market and Acklam Village Market

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

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


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



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

Stop 3: Portobello Road Arts Project

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

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

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

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

Stop 4: Elkstone Road Sensory garden

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

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Just across the way you can see our next stop.

Stop 5: Trellick Tower

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

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

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

Stop 6: Number 239 Ladbroke Grove

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 7:  St Charles Hospital

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

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

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

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

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


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

Stop 8: Kensal House

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

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

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

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

Stop 9: Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash memorial

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

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


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 Retrace your steps back to Ladbroke Grove and turn left.

Stop 10: Fruit Towers

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

The Rolling English Road

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Stop 12: Kensal Green Cemetery

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W9: Maida force be with you

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

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


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


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

Stop 1: Maida Hill Market

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


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

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

Stop 2: Number 91 Fernhead Road


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


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

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

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

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

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



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


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



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

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

Stop 4: Maida Vale Studios, Delaware Road

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


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


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

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

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

Stop 5: 111 Wymering Road

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



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

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

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

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

Stop 6: 155 Lauderdale Mansions

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


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



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

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

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

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


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

Stop 7: Maida Vale Station



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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


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

Stop 9: Everyman cinema

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


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

Stop 10: Number 75 Warrington Crescent

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



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

Stop 11: Number 2 Warrington Crescent

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 12: Little Venice

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

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



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



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

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

A postscript

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

W8: Nine lives …

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


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

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

Stop 1: Radclyffe Hall – 37, Holland Street

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



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

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

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

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

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

Stop 2: The Alec Clifton-Taylor Memorial Garden 



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

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

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

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

Stop 3: William Makepeace Thackeray – 16, Young Street

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Stop 5: John Stuart Mill – 18 Kensington Square



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

Our next plaque is just next door.

Stop 6: Hubert Parry – 17 Kensington Square



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

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

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

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

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

Stop 7: Joan Sims – Esmond Court

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



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

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


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

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

Stop 8: T S Eliot – 3 Kensington Court Gardens

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 9: Colonel R E B Crompton – Kensington Court



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

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

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

Stop 10: John Barker and Company

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

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

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

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

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Our next stop is the next building.

Stop 11: Derry and Toms

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


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

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

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

Stop 12: Pontings

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

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

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


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

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

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

W7: Difficulties be Damned

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

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

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

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

Stop 1: Hanwell (City of Westminster) Cemetery

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


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

Stop1a: Freddie Frinton


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

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

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

Here is a link to the sketch on YouTube.


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

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

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

Stop 1b: Al Bowlly

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 3: Marshall’s Amplifiers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Stop 5: Hanwell Clock Tower

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

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

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

Stop 6: St Thomas the Apostle Church

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

Calvary by Eric Gill

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

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

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

Stop 7: William Hobbayne Centre

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

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

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

Stop 8: King George’s Field

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


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

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

Stop 9: The Wharncliffe Viaduct

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

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

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


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


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

 Stop 10: Conolly’s Dell

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 12: Hanwell railway station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


W6: Arts and Crafts and a Familiar Type

W6 is Hammersmith, famed for its flyover and the Apollo music venue but it was also home to William Morris and some other interesting artistic folk. We start our walk at Hammersmith’s main Post Office which is W H Smith in Kings Mall in King Street.

Our first stop is located inside the building that houses the Kings Mall shopping centre.

Stop 1: Lyric Theatre


It is hard to believe but two floors up in this concrete hulk is a theatre with an interior dating from 1895. Today’s theatre it is not actually on the original site. That was on Bradmore Grove, a street which no longer exists. The Lyric started life in 1888 as a Music Hall but was reconstructed to become the Lyric Opera House in 1890. Five years later the Theatre was again reconstructed, this time by the well known theatre architect, Frank Matcham.

The original Theatre was demolished in 1969 but the Matcham auditorium was preserved and then completely reconstructed in 1979 inside the modern building we see today. Although the auditorium was recreated, it was slightly stretched to fit inside the new space. The proscenium is about 4 feet wider and the height was extended to match. A small studio theatre was also built.  The Lyric is currently undergoing a major redevelopment project, with new facilities for young people and the local community due for completion in November 2014. It is great that this interior survived but it is kind of sad that it has to be in what looks like a building that somehow escaped from communist East Berlin.

Now head down King Street  (past the William Morris pub) and soon you reach the swirl of traffic that is Hammersmith Broadway. Across one road (to the left) is the Hammersmith & City/Circle Line station and across the road ahead is the District/Piccadilly Line station. The two stations are about 200 feet apart door to door. All most confusing for those who do not know the area and want to change trains.

Stop 2: Hammersmith Stations

The first station in Hammersmith was opened in 1864 by the Hammersmith and City Railway which was backed by the Metropolitan Railway and the Great Western Railway (GWR). Their line started from the GWR’s main line a mile west of Paddington station and looped through Shepherd’s Bush to Hammersmith. Initially the  station was a little further north of the present day one but it was moved to the current location in December 1868. It is now used by both Hammersmith and City and Circle line trains.

The other station was first opened on 9 September 1874 as the western terminus of the Metropolitan District Railway when it was extended from Earl’s Court. In 1877, Hammersmith became a through station when there was a further extension west to link at Ravenscourt Park with the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) line from Richmond. The L&SWR line actually ran on to join the Hammersmith and City line just north of their Hammersmith station with a third station called Grove Road – long since disappeared. Once the more direct route via the District was opened, the link through Grove Road was not so attractive. But it carried on for a few more years, eventually closing to passengers in 1916. 

In 1908, the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (now the Piccadilly Line) opened with Hammersmith as its western terminus and the final piece of the jigsaw was the extension of the Piccadilly line westwards in the 1930s. When this extension was made, they went round the remains of the disused viaduct which had carried the line which went through Grove Road station. This is still visible from the trains just west of the Piccadilly and District Line station – a reminder of the link between the two lines that used to exist.

In the early 1990s, the District/Piccadilly line station buildings were demolished along with the neighbouring bus garage and a modern shopping centre and bus interchange was built over the station. Some of the tiles from the old facade were salvaged and incorporated in the northern ticket hall by the designers Minale Tattersfield.


They now form a frame to a tile mosaic of Hammersmith Bridge.

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Now go though the shopping mall past Tesco’s and follow the signs for the Apollo. Outside you can cross the road on the level and ahead under the flyover on the right is our next stop.

Stop 3: Eventim Apollo (former Gaumont Palace/Odeon cinema)

This is one of the Britain’s largest and best-preserved super cinemas, designed by prolific cinema architect Robert Cromie. It was a joint venture between Israel Davis and the Gaumont British Picture chain and when it opened in March 1932  it was known as the Gaumont Palace.

It is large with almost 3,500 seats. It is very wide and the circle covers almost all the stalls apart from the front dozen or so rows which makes for a relatively intimate venue given the size. It was equipped with full stage facilities which proved useful for live shows and has allowed this to wonderful building to remain in use.

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It was renamed the Odeon in 1962 and operated as a cinema until 1984. It then became a theatrical venue full time under the Odeon name. Then in 1992 it became the Apollo. Since then it has had various owners and sponsors which has led to various prefixes to the Apollo name. Currently Eventim Apollo – Eventim is a german ticketing company who jointly own the building with the american company AEG.

Last year the theatre was underwent a major renovation costing some £5 million, bringing the building back to its original 1932 condition. This included restoring the original foyer floor mosaic panels, long covered by carpet and removing black paint from the circle bar and foyer windows. The theatre’s interior has been repainted in the original colour scheme of green, mauve and black.

Now head back under the flyover keeping the Church on your left and main road traffic on your right. Ahead on the corner you will see a modern office block.


There was once a cinema building on this corner, known as the Broadway. It was designed by none other than Frank Matcham. It opened in December 1912 and sometime in the late 1920s it became owned by Associated British Cinemas (ABC).  It closed on 12th September 1977 after the collapse of part of the ceiling, and was demolished in June 1978, to be replaced by this commercial development.

Turn left here and go down Hammersmith Bridge Road.

Stop 4: Hammersmith Bridge

Ahead is Hammersmith Bridge.


This was the first suspension bridge in London originally dating from the 1820s but rebuilt in the 1880s by Sir Joseph Bazalgette reusing the old piers and abutments. Apparently Irish republicans have tried to blow up this bridge three times: first by the IRA in 1939, when the bomb was spotted and thrown in the river; second in 1996 when the detonators of the IRA bomb went off but the bomb itself did not. And thirdly in June 2000 a bomb planted by some dissident republicans actually did explode and caused the bridge to be closed for three week for repairs.

Now just before the bridge take the roadway on the right and when you get to the river, turn right along the riverside.


Soon on the right is our next stop.

Stop 5: Lower Mall

Number 9 was home to George Devine from 1956 to 1965.

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George Devine was an actor but is most famous for being one of the founders of the English Stage Company in 1955 and then artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre. The English Stage Company took the lease on the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square with the aim of producing new plays. One of these early production was John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger which premiered in May 1956.

Several more of John Osborne’s plays were staged at the Royal Court and George Devine was appearing in one, A Patriot for Me, when he suffered a heart attack. This was followed soon afterwards by a stroke which eventually led to his death at the early age of 55.

The play was a bit of a cause celebre. It was deemed too sexually transgressive by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office who licenced theatrical productions. The play was denied a licence for performance and in order to produce it, the Royal Court was forced to become a private members’ club.  This was one of the plays that finally led to the abolition of theatrical censorship by the state in the UK.

Keep walking along the riverside, passing a couple of pubs (The Blue Anchor and The Rutland Arms)

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You will come to a green and over in the distance across the Great West Road is the back of the Town Hall which we will come to in due course.


Ahead is a small alley way, down which you will see our next stop, The Dove. 

Stop 6: The Dove

This is a delightful pub and my favourite on this stretch of the river.

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There has been a pub here since the seventeenth century and the brewers Fullers have owned this pub since 1796.

It has an unusual claim to fame. The pub says it is the birth place of the patriotic song “Rule Britannia”. I think more strictly it was that poet James Thomson wrote the poem  ‘Rule Britannia’ here which was then set to music by Thomas Arne. This by the way was part of a masque (a play with music and dance) called Alfred which was first performed in 1740 at Cliveden, the country home of Frederick, Prince of Wales.


And the building also has another unusual claim. There is a small space to the right of the bar which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest bar room in the world.

Keep walking along the riverside and soon on the right is our next stop.

Stop 7a: Upper Mall (Number 26)

Number 26 (also known as Kelmscott House) is a lovely Georgian brick mansion overlooking the River Thames. It was the London home of designer, artist, writer and socialist William Morris from April 1879 until his death in October 1896

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Morris renamed this house after his Oxfordshire home (Kelmscott Manor) where he had lived from June 1871. Just along the way at Number 16 Upper Mall he started his printing operation, the Kelmscott Press in 1891.

The headquarters of the William Morris Society are in the basement and coach house. They can be visited Thursday and Saturday afternoons.

Prior to Morris ‘ time this building had been known as the Retreat and it has two other claims to fame. It was once owned by Sir Francis Ronalds who constructed the first electric telegraph in the garden in 1816 and there is a stone plaque at the side to commemorate this.


From 1867 to 1877, it was also the family home of victorian writer George MacDonald.


Now walk a little further along Upper Mall.

Stop 7b: Upper Mall (Number 48)

Just at the corner with Weltje Road is number 48 which was home to artist and designer Eric Ravilious.

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Ravilious grew up in Sussex, and is particularly known for his watercolours of the South Downs. He lived here between 1930 and 1932. In 1932 he and his family moved to rural Essex.  He also did a lot of work for Wedgwood in the 1930s and amongst his designs was the 1936 celebration mug for the coronation of King Edward VIII. This was withdrawn and revised for the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II.

Fascinating fact: His woodcut image of two Victorian gentlemen playing cricket in top hats has been used on the front cover of the Wisden’s Cricket Almanack since 1938.

He served as a war artist, and died in 1942 when the aircraft he was on was lost off Iceland.

Keep walking along the river past the sailing club and little watch house. Black Lion Lane comes in from the right and ahead you will see a terrace of houses which runs by the river side. This street is called Hammersmith Terrace and is our next stop, where there are in fact three blue plaques.

Stop 8: Hammersmith Terrace

First at Number 3 comes the home of Edward Johnston, creator of that most famous London icon, the London Transport typeface. Unfortunately the building had scaffolding up when I passed and so I could only just see a bit of the blue plaque!

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Johnston was commissioned in 1913 by Frank Pick, Commercial Manager of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London to create a typeface to strengthen the company’s corporate identity. Pick wanted a typeface that would ensure that the Underground Group’s posters would not be mistaken for advertisements. He said it  should have “the bold simplicity of the authentic lettering of the finest periods” and belong “unmistakably to the twentieth century”. It certainly met this brief. One of the typefaces distinctive features is the dot over the lower case letters i and j is in the form of a diamond.

It was first introduced in 1916 and was taken up for by the newly formed London Transport in 1933. The type face which is used today is a slight variant of the original. This created in 1979 and is known as “New Johnston”. It has been slightly tweaked since. This by the way was the type face used for the wayfinding signs at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Second comes Number 7, home of Sir Emery Walker and one of the best preserved original Arts and Crafts domestic interiors.

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Sir Emery Walker was an engraver, photographer and printer. He was a pal of William Morris who as we have seen had a house not so far away, although Walker moved here a few yeats after Morris’ death. They shared both socialist beliefs and an interest in printing. Walker’s collection of 16th century typefaces is said to have inspired Morris to create the Kelmscott Press. After Morris’ death, Walker set up his own printing enterprise, the Doves Press.

When Sir Emery Walker died in 1933 he left the house to his daughter Dorothy, who had grown up with William Morris and Philip Webb. She kept 7 Hammersmith Terrace as much as she could as it had been in her father’s time as did her friend Elizabeth de Haas who inherited the house from her in 1963. Just before Miss de Haas’ death in 1999, the Emery Walker Trust was set up “to conserve, maintain and display 7 Hammersmith Terrace and its contents, and so promote the advancement of the study and appreciation of the Arts and Crafts Movement.” The house is open during the summer months – see link: http://emerywalker.org.uk/

Then finally at Number 12 we come to the home of writer and MP, Sir Alan Herbert, better known as A P Herbert.


In 1935 he became an independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University and held this seat until the University seats were abolished in 1950. He lobbied for reform of several laws that he felt to be outdated, often using his satirical writing. His targets included laws on divorce, obscenity, licensing and gambling.

Much of his humorous writing appeared in the magazine Punch, in particular his series of Misleading Cases in the Common Law – the work for which he is best remembered. These were in the form of “law reports” or “judgments”, on various aspects of the British legal and judicial system. Many featured the tireless litigant, Albert Haddock. One of the best-known is Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock, also known as “The Negotiable Cow”. Here Haddock tries to pay his tax bill by presenting a cheque in the form of a cow with the following words stencilled on its side:.

To the London and Literary Bank, Limited
Pay the Collector of Taxes, who is no gentleman, or Order, the sum of fifty seven pounds £57/0/0 (and may he rot!)

Fascinating fact time: In his novel ‘The Water Gypsies’, A P Herbert features the Dove pub under the pseudonym ‘The Pigeons’.

Now retrace your steps along Hammersmith Terrace and turn left into Black Lion Lane passing the lovely Black Lion pub.


Cross the Great West Road by the subway. Take the little road which parallels the Great West Road and soon you will be in St Peter’s Square.

Stop 9: St Peter’s Square

This is quite a surprise. A wonderful square dating from 1825 with a garden in the middle. Apparently in 1912, the area in the centre of the square was threatened with development, so it was bought by the borough council and a garden was created, opening in 1915.

Architectural historian Pevsner suggests this square has the flavour of a suburban Belgravia. Maybe but one odd thing is that whilst the buildings cohere in design, there is no uniformity in the finish. Some are plain grey stucco, some stucco with marking as if they were stone and others painted white or cream. Makes for an odd assortment. How amazing this would look if it were consistently finished as one sees in Belgravia.

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In the centre of the gardens is a statue of a bronze runner by Sir William Richmond, dating from 1926.


Now cross the square to the far corner and take the road on the left out of the Square

At the corner turn right into King Street. At this corner is the site of the Commodore cinema, replaced by this dull looking office block.


Keep walking along King Street.

Stop 10: At the sign of the Bull

As we head down King Street, at the corner of Vencourt Place, there is a modernish pub called the Ravenscourt Arms set back off the road just before the Premier Inn.

In the forecourt is a rather strange beast – a bull on a plinth. This came from the Black Bull Inn in Holborn which was demolished in 1904. The sign indicates the inn was mentioned by Dickens in his book Martin Chuzzlewit.

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It was brought here by William (later Sir William) Bull, the local MP to what was then the offices of Bull and Bull, which I assume was the family solicitor’s business.

One question does occur. Why is the pub (presumably built subsequently) not called the Black Bull?

Continue walking along King Street, stopping on the corner by the Cineworld Cinema.

Stop 11: Hammersmith Town Hall

The older part of Hammersmith Town Hall is a late 1930s big brick box and OK in its own ungainly way but the bit of the Town hall facing King Street added in the early 1970s is just plonked down in front making no attempt to relate to the neighbouring building. However not for much longer. Hammersmith & Fulham Council approved a redevelopment scheme last November which will be see this building and the cinema replaced by new structures, including new offices for the council an a new three screen Curzon cinema.

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The present cinema by the way dates from 1936. Built by Associated British Cinemas, it became the ABC in 1964 and has been called various names since, currently it is Cineworld. It is looking a bit shabby now but then I guess it has not got long left before it is demolished.


Keep walking along King Street. Our next stop is on the left just before the Kings Mall.

Stop 12: 84/88 King Street

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This was the site of the Cinematograph Theatre opened in 1910 as the eighth in the chain of cinemas operated by Montagu Pyke. Montagu Pyke was declared bankrupt in 1915, and this particular Cinematograph Theatre was closed and sold off. The front part of the building was rebuilt in Art Deco style in the late 1920s/early 1930s and became a shop – I think it may have been Woolworth’s. Today, half the ground floor is an amusement arcade and the other half a fast food take-away restaurant, while upstairs seems to be a hotel.

We are now almost back where we started. Keep on walking along King Street and you will be at the stations for onward travel.

So that was Hammersmith – William Morris’s London house and location of one of the best Arts and Crafts domestic interiors, plus home to some other artistic worthies including Edward Johnston whose familiar typeface is part of the fabric of London.

W6 has been a challenge as there is so much potential material. I have only been able to sample some of it, having to forego the wonderful Ark building, the Riverside Studios and the site of the Palais de Danse amongst other things. I doubt I will have this difficulty in the next postcode – W7 Hanwell.

W5: Something for everyone … a comedy tonight

I have resisted the temptation to make a pun involving Ealing – instead I thought I would reference that W5 is the home of Ealing Film Studios, known particularly for comedies, and also that in the 1960s, two well known (at the time) comedians lived in W5. So, tragedy tomorrow … comedy tonight.

We start our walk at the W H Smith store where the main Ealing Post Office is now located. This as it happens is our first stop.

Stop 1: W H Smith, 21/23 The Broadway (site of Ealing/Hippodrome Theatre & Broadway/Palladium  Cinema)


This dull looking building which now houses W H Smith is on the site of a theatre and cinema. The history is somewhat complex. First came the Ealing Theatre in 1899. This was rebuilt in 1906 and reopened as the Ealing Hippodrome. But by November 1908 it had become a full time cinema, initially called the Broadway but later it reverted to be the Hippodrome. In January 1910 another cinema opened next door. This was the Ealing Cinematograph Theatre, fourth of a small cinema chain built by Montagu Pyke, who soon went bankrupt.

In August 1913, the new owners of the Cinematograph Theatre purchased the adjacent Hippodrome Theatre and created a common entrance to the two buildings. By this time the Cinematograph Theatre had become the Broadway Cinema. This was  closed and converted it into a dance hall. The Hippodrome was re-named Broadway Palladium Cinema in 1914, but later it was known simply as the Palladium. After a couple of changes of ownership it became part of the Gaumont chain and survived as a cinema until 1958. Both buildings was demolished soon after the Palladium Cinema closed and shops were built on the site.

Now take a left out of W H Smith and walk along The Broadway until the first turning on the left (which also seems to be The Broadway)

Stop 2: 42a The Broadway (location of the former Ealing Club)

At the end of the block of shops on the left above Haart Estate Agents, look up to see a plaque to commemorate the location of “The Ealing Club”. Odd really because the club was in the basement.

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The Ealing Jazz Club opened in January 1959  below what was then the Aerated Bread Company tea shop. The entrance was off a little alleyway reached by descending some steps to the right of the shop. On 17 March 1962 (by which time it was known as The Ealing Club) it became London’s first regular Rhythm and Blues venue with a performance by a band called Blues Incorporated which included musicians Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. Other musicians who played here in the 1960s include Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Charlie Watts, Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart and Manfred Mann (originally the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers). The Who played here in their early career, when they were known as The Detours.

And it was here at this club on 7 April 1962 that Alexis Korner introduced Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to Brian Jones, which led on to the creation of The Rolling Stones. But the venue did not last and became a disco in the late 1960s.

Alexis Korner has sometimes been referred to as “a founding father of British Blues”. In 1970 he helped form a big band ensemble called C.C.S (The Collective Consciousness Society). They had several hit singles. But the one most people will instantly recognise is their version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”,  used as the theme for BBC’s Top of the Pops between 1971 and 1981.

The BBC have been replaying old Top of the Pops shows so you can hear it on these repeats. These are timed to be in the same week as they were originally broadcast 35 years ago. But these repeats do not happen every week. I guess this is because the BBC does not show episodes with persons who have been disgraced or are being prosecuted. So nothing with Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter, Jonathan King, Dave Lee Travis, Rolf Harris … Whatever they may or may not have done, it does seem wrong to write them out of history like this.

Keep walking and soon you will see on the right is Ealing Broadway Station and a right mess it is too.

Stop 3: Ealing Broadway station

The other western termini of the District Line (Wimbledon and Richmond) were rebuilt as coherent integrated stations by the Southern Railway in the 1930s. Ealing Broadway was not similarly rebuilt probably because the Great Western Railway was a long distance railway which did not care much about its London commuter services. So today you can still see three separate stations (District line, Central line and Great Western) which sit next to each other, and are accessed by a rather terrible 1960s ticket hall. Hopefully Crossrail will mean Ealing Broadway finally gets a decent station.


If you have a moment (and a valid ticket) do go down into the station and have a look at the old District line station (Platforms 7 – 9). This has a curiosity. There are three station signs on the platform which are in the pre Underground roundel style. This had a two semi circular solid red disks rather than a red circular ring.

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This style of sign was first used in 1908. In 1913 the Underground’s publicity manager, Frank Pick, commissioned the typographer Edward Johnston to design a company typeface. The solid red disc became a circle, and the new symbol was registered as a trademark. By 1919 Johnston’s typeface and a standardised roundel symbol was being used on publicity. It began to appear on stations from the early 1920s. So this would suggest these signs have survived from around or before the First World War – assuming of course they are original and not a later copy. Who knows?

Keep walking along past the station. Note the old District line station building dating from the 1880s is now just shops and no longer used as part of the station.


Stop4: D L Lewis, Chemist. 36 Haven Green

Just a little further on the right is an odd survival of a shop. This is D L Lewis Ltd chemists shop. Ealing Council’s website says this is a Grade II listed building with a complete art nouveau frontage of 1924, and interior fittings dating from 1902 and 1924. And it is still a working chemists shop.

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Now retrace your steps back to the Post Office and keep walking down The Broadway. As you reach the church on the right, look back and across the road you will see a Marks and Spencer store over the road.

Stop 5 Marks & Spencer (site of John Sanders Department store)


This corner originally housed a department store called John Sanders. The store was destroyed by a flying bomb in 1943 but was rebuilt. Not sure when the store closed but today it is a Marks and Spencer store. But it was certainly still John Sanders in 1970 because this building played a cameo role in episode 4 of season 7 of Doctor Who. Some aliens called Autons started their attack on the human race by bursting out of the shop window of John Sanders store. This was the first season to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor, if you interested in that kind of thing.

On the same side of the road as the church on that opposite corner was another department store, a branch of Bentalls. I believe that Bentalls moved into the new shopping centre across the road but they sold this stop to another department store chain called Beales who subsequently closed it. It is now a Primark. I guess this is symptomatic of the decline of Ealing as a shopping destination. I doubt Ealing will ever recover being quite close to the massive Westfield Mall at Shepherd’s Bush.

Continue walking along The Broadway past the church and soon on the right you will reach Ealing Town Hall.

Stop 6 Ealing Town Hall/Perceval House

The Town Hall dates from 1888 and is gothic in style. With the local government reorganisation in 1965, the new larger council chose Ealing as the main centre of business rather than Acton, and Acton disappeared as a council name.

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Just beyond the side street (Longfield Avenue) is where the public come to do business with the Council. This is an early 1980s block which was built as a speculative office development and later taken on by the council. Note it is called Perceval House. 


Now turn around and look over the road.

Stop 7: Former Forum Cinema, 59/61 New Broadway

What you can see today (January 2014) is the facade of an old cinema held up by steelwork. This is all that is left of the cinema which started life as the Forum, went through many name changes and finally closed in September 2008 as the Empire cinema.


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The Forum was one of two near identical movie houses built for Herbert Yapp in 1934 (the other being in Kentish Town). Within a year of opening they had been taken over by Associated British Cinemas. It kept its name until 1961 when it was rechristened ABC.

After closure in 2008, the auditorium and foyer areas were demolished in early 2009. There were plans for a new multiplex cinema to be built behind the original facade. But this seems to have come to naught and no work appears to have been done on the site for some considerable time. Sad really given this is a major site in the middle of Ealing.

Now continue back along the Broadway and turn right into Bond Street. At the end of the buildings turn right and continue until you reach the second car park entrance on the right (almost opposite the gateway to Pitzhanger manor across the way).

Stop 8: facade of Walpole Picture House

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Now here is an unexpected find. On a wall by the car park entrance is what is left of the Walpole Picture Theatre.

This cinema started out life in December 1908 as the Walpole Hall Roller Skating Rink and became the Walpole Picture Theatre in 1912 and these tiles date from that date.

The Walpole was taken over by the Odeon chain in 1936 and it remained open until October 1972. The building was converted into a carpet store and when this closed it became a rehearsal studio for rock groups. It was demolished in May 1981 and an office block named Walpole House was built on the site. This is used by the University of West London (UWL). The tiles are located a short distance from where the facade used to be.

And standing in front of this fragment of the old cinema, you can actually see the back of the facade of the old Forum Cinema and see how big that development site is.

The Walpole name by the way seems to come not from the 18th century Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole but a descendant of his younger brother, Horatio. That descendant was  Sir Spencer Walpole who owned the land hereabouts. Through his mother, he was the grandson of Spencer Perceval, more of whom anon.

Stop 9: Pitzhanger Manor

Our next stop is just over the way from the remains of the Walpole cinema tiles. This is Pitzhanger Manor. We are practically in the centre of Ealing and yet here is a little country house.

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The building we see it today owes its design largely to the architect John Soane. He owned it for ten years from 1800 but radically rebuilt it to his own designs. Soane intended it as a country villa for entertaining and eventually for passing to his elder son. He demolished most of the existing building except the two-storey south wing built in 1768 by George Dance, who had been his first employer. But Soane sold the house in 1810. It then passed through several owners until in 1843 it became home to the daughters of Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval. One of them married a Walpole.

In 1900, the house was acquired by the local council (then Ealing Urban District Council) to serve as a Free Public Library. But work on converting the building did not start until after the death of its last resident, Frederika Perceval in May 1901.

The Library moved out in 1984 and the building underwent restoration. The house reopened to the public in January 1987 as Ealing Council’s main museum, known as the PM Gallery & House. It is certainly worth a visit both to the house and the gallery.

Now the spelling of the name has been troubling me because sometimes you see this written as Pitshanger and  other times Pitzhanger. Since Soane’s time, the spelling has varied, but it would appear it has now formally reverted to the name given to it by Soane which is spelt with a Z.


You can leave the grounds through the grander gate which turns out to be a war memorial. Once out of the grounds, turn right and continue down Ealing Green.

Stop 10: Ealing Studios

Not too far along on the right is Ealing Studios which claims to be the oldest continuously working film studio in the world. It lurks behind this modest white villa.


A man called Will Barker bought the White Lodge on Ealing Green in 1902 as a base for film making, and films have been made on the site ever since.

It is best known for a series of classic comedy films produced in the 1940s and 1950s. There is a blue plaque on the main building to Sir Michael Balcon who was closely associated with Ealing Studios.


He produced some of its best known films including Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Whisky Galore! (1949), Passport to Pimlico (1949), the Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955).

Sir Michael also has another plaque to him which I mentioned in passing when we were in SW1. It is a green City of Westminster one at number No 57A Tufton Street where he lived between 1927 and 1939.

The BBC took over in 1955 and used the facilities until 1995.  It is still a film studios and has made films such as the revived St Trinian’s franchise, The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). Ealing Studios is also home to the Met Film School London, which has a purpose built film school on the lot as well as use of the studios. And apparently Ealing Studios is where the servants quarters in the ITV drama Downton Abbey were shot.

Now keep walking down Ealing Green, crossing over when convenient. You will want to turn left into Warwick Road. This has a UWL building at the corner with a blue plaque to Lady Byron, widow of poet Lord Byron. She  founded a local school.


Continue down Warwick Road until you reach the green open space. Here turn right into the street called Warwick Dene. Our next stop is ahead on the right at the road junction. 

Stop 11: All Saints Church

The church dates from 1905.
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The land on which the church is built belonged originally to Elm Grove, the country home of Spencer Perceval and was later given for the building of the church by Leopold de Rothschild.

So now we get to Spencer Perceval. He has the unfortunate distinction of being the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. He lived at Elm Grove from 1809 until his death in 1812.  Spencer Perceval was born on 1 November which is All Saints Day so I guess that is why the church was dedicated as All Saints.


Perceval was shot dead in the lobby of the House of Commons in May 1812 by John Bellingham, who had some grievance against the government and took it out on the Prime Minister. Bellingham was tried, found guilty and hanged just seven days later.  They certainly did not hang about in those days. (Sorry couldn’t resist using that phrase!)

Fascinating fact time: Henry Bellingham, who is descended from a relative of Bellingham, was elected in 1983 as MP for North West Norfolk. In 1997, he lost the seat by 1,339 votes. It has been suggested that this could have been affected by the 2,923 votes received by the Referendum Party candidate Roger Percival, who claimed to be descended from Perceval.

Continue along Elm Avenue until you reach the main road which is called Gunnersbury Avenue. This is the A406 North Circular Road. Turn right and walk along the right hand pavement.

Stop 12: Gunnersbury Avenue

Curiously this road has two blue plaques to dead comedians.

The first one you come to is at Number 35 Gunnersbury Avenue. This is for Carry On veteran, Sid James, who lived here between 1956 and 1963.

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The second one is a bit of a trek. But if you keep walking, you will (eventually) come to Gunnersbury Drive. On the opposite side of Gunnersbury Avenue is a mock tudor house with the other blue plaque recording the fact that comedian Arthur Haynes lived here between 1963 and 1966.

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Interesting that Sid James seems to have moved out of the area as Arthur Haynes moved in. I wonder whether Sid James did not want to live in the same neighbourhood as Arthur Haynes. Haynes was perhaps even more down market than Sid James. Haynes was really only a TV star whereas Sid James was in the movies too (!). Or maybe it was the Haynes house was grander.

Out of curiousity, I checked on the council tax banding to see whether one was higher than the other – and they both turn out to be Band G (of course this is based on the alleged value at 1 April 1991, so may have been different then or indeed now). This is a bit of a surprise as Band G is the second highest and puts these properties in the top 4% of properties in England by value. And yet here they are on a busy main road where the traffic flows like almost set concrete.

So that concludes out W5 walk. A bit of comedy with the studios and Sid and Arthur, but also a bit of tragedy involving the assassination of a Prime Minister, the decline of a shopping centre and the loss of interesting entertainment buildings.

Given how the traffic is here, your best bet for onward travel is to carry on walking along Gunnersbury Avenue to the next junction and take a left into Gunnersbury Lane. Not far down here you will see the distinctive outline of Acton Town station which we saw in the w3 walk.

W4: Only connect

Only Connect is quite a good motto for this blog as we are seeing London in bite sized chunks and every so often there is a connection with somewhere or something else.

Now today if people know the phrase they probably associate “Only Connect” with a fiendishly difficult panel game programme on BBC4 hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell. But the phrase itself was originally used as the epigraph to E. M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End. And why have I chosen this phrase for W4 as opposed to any other postcode? Well E M Forster lived for over 20 years in W4 as we shall see.

We start our walk at Chiswick Post Office, 1 Heathfield Terrace, just off of Chiswick High Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and almost immediately you are in Barley Mow Passage.

Stop 1: Voysey House

Our first stop is just a little way along Barley Mow Passage on the left past the Lamb Brewery. It is a white tiled building which turns out to be by Charles Voysey, best known for his country houses and for his Arts and Crafts wallpaper, fabrics and furnishing designs. This was his only factory building, according to architectural historian Pevsner.

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This building dates from 1902 and was built as an extension to Sanderson’s wallpaper factory which was opposite. It is faced with white tiles with black bandings. Apparently these were originally blue brick but at some stage they were painted black. If only all factories were this lovely! The building was restored in 1989 and is now offices, fittingly called Voysey House.

Retrace you steps back to the Post Office and then keep walking along Heathfield Terrace. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 2: Chiswick Town Hall

This italianate building looks to me a bit like a railway station but it was Chiswick’s Town Hall. The central section dates from 1876 but the three bays on the left in our picture and the one bay to the right  were added in 1900. Apparently it has well preserved interiors.


Chiswick was first an urban district but after merger with neighbouring Brentford in 1927, it became a municipal borough in 1932.  This then became part of the new London Borough of Hounslow which was created in 1965. These buildings are still used by the borough council, although the main civic centre is in Hounslow.

Immediately opposite the Town Hall is Town Hall Avenue – such originality in the naming of this street. Go down this and just past the church at the end turn left into Chiswick High Road. A little way along on the left is Sutton Lane North. Go down this a short way. Our next stop is the first block on the right hand side of the road.

Stop 3: Arlington Park Mansions

Across the road is a fairly ordinary looking block of mansion flats dating from around 1900.

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The reason we are pausing here though is because this was where Edward Morgan (E M) Forster lived for over 20 years from 1939. There is a blue plaque.


E M Forster only published 5 novels in his lifetime – four between 1905 (Where Angels fear to tread) and 1910 (Howards End) and a fifth (A Passage to India) in 1924. A sixth novel, Maurice, was only published after his death. No doubt this was because it is a gay love story, and that was why it came out later, so to speak. Although there were no more finished novels, he did produce some short stories and some non fiction writing, and he broadcast on the radio. And with Eric Crozier, he wrote the libretto for Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd in 1951.

Only Connect as I mentioned was the epigraph for Howards End. An epigraph by the way is a phrase, quotation, or poem at the beginning. It can be a preface, a summary or a link to some other work. In Howards End it is kind of the first two of these. And it has been said that “only connect” is applicable not just to practically all his work but to E M Forster himself.

Forster had a long standing relationship with a younger man called Bob Buckingham but he was also on friendly terms with Buckingham’s wife and was godfather to their son. There is a fascinating article from the Guardian about this.


Now return to Chiswick High Road and cross over and go down the road opposite, past the entrance to Sainsbury’s

Stop 4:  Chiswick Park Station

Ahead you can hardly fail to miss Chiswick Park station.


The first station here was opened in 1879 by the Metropolitan District Railway on its extension from Turnham Green to Ealing Broadway. Initially it was called Acton Green which is nearby to the east. It was renamed Chiswick Park and Acton Green in 1889. Finally it became known as Chiswick Park in 1910. The station was rebuilt between 1931 and 1932, in preparation for the western extension of the Piccadilly Line from Hammersmith. However this was to provide the extra tracks for the Piccadilly Line but only platforms were provided for the District line at this station.

The new station was designed by Charles Holden in a modern European style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. Apparently this was inspired by Krumme Lanke station in Berlin. But it is odd to have gone to the trouble of building such a significant building when it is only served by Ealing Broadway District line trains, the Richmond trains pass close by and of course the Piccadilly line has no platforms.

The platforms with their concrete canopies are well preserved and there are some interesting original signs.

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Now retrace your steps to Chiswick High Road and turn left. Our next stop is a short distance along the High Road, on the left.

Stop 5: 414 Chiswick High Road (site of Chiswick Empire Theatre)

There is a modern parade of shop, all mostly empty and above at Number 414 is a dumpy glass office block. This was the site of the Chiswick Empire Theatre.

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The theatre opened in September 1912. Apparently it took promoter Oswald Stoll over a year to gain planning permission as the locals thought that a music hall or variety theatre was not an appropriate form of entertainment for Chiswick. This building was designed by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham. The exterior was neo-classical style with a two storey centrally placed opening, which contained an open verandah. The auditorium seated almost 2,000.

Chiswick Empire was not just a twice nightly variety theatres, it also hosted revues, plays and even the occasional opera. As happened in so many other places the audiences declined after the Second World War and the theatre was eventually closed in 1959. But it went out with a bang. The final shows in June 1959 were sell outs by the flamboyant American entertainer Liberace. Now all we have is this rather boring (and disused) office block in its place.

Continue walking alomg Chiswick High Road and take a right into Dukes Avenue (There is a catholic church on the corner). Continue to the end of this street. Ahead at the end is the Great West Road, but to cross this we need to use the subway which is the continuation of the left hand pavement. On the other side, take the right hand passage, and follow the signs for Chiswick House.

You cannot miss the gates to the grounds of Chiswick House. This is a fabulous Palladian Mansion, now managed by English Heritage. However the House opens only from April to October and as it is now January, we cannot actually go inside. Maybe next time. But you can look down the lovely tree lined avenue or even go and view the outside of the House.

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Follow the signs for Hogarth’s House along the main road and soon you will see a gate on the right.

Stop 6: Hogarth’s House

Artist, printer and engraver, William Hogarth lived and worked here for the last 15 years of this life. He is of course best known for his moralistic pictures, such as the Rake’s Progress, Marriage a la Mode and Beer Street and Gin Lane. Although some of these started out as paintings the reason they became so well known was that he also made engravings of them. So there were many copies in circulation.

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He married Jane Thornhill, daughter of artist Sir James Thornhill in 1729. The Hogarths had no children, although they fostered foundling children. He was one of the first Governors of the Foundling Hospital which was set up in 1741 by the sea captain Thomas Coram. This was not a hospital in the medical sense. It was rather a place of hospitality, established for the education and maintenance of children who had been abandoned.

The Hogarths lived in Leicester Square (sadly their house no longer exists having been demolished in 1870) but they bought this building in 1749 as their country home. It now belongs to the London Borough of Hounslow and is open to visitors free of charge. It is well worth a look in. The only sad thing is the location which is right next to the A4 with its dual three lanes of constant traffic. Rather different from how it must have been in Hogarth’s time.

Go out of Hogarth’s House and turn right at the street. Ahead you will see the Hogarth roundabout and the flyover – often refered to in the traffic reports on local radio and television. 


Beyond you can see the Fuller’s Brewery. Now if we had more time we would go down Church Street, to St Nicholas Church where Hogarth is buried and then go along the river for a bit. It is a beautiful spot here and hard to believe there is a working brewery in the midst of this. But sadly we have to be selective. However you can book a Brewery Tours if you are interested and there is even a virtual tour on the Fullers website: http://www.fullers.co.uk/rte.asp?id=98

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So once across to the far side of the Hogarth roundabout you will see a pub.

Stop 7: Mawson Arms/Fox and Hounds

Have a closer look and you will see it has two names. First it says “The Fox and Hounds” and then “The Mawson Arms”

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This is bacause once there were actually two pubs here but now there is just the one.



But turn the corner and you find there is a blue plaque.


Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) was an 18th century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. Apparently he is the third most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson.

Just in front of the Mawson Arms is another subway. Go under this and you will come out by Chiswick Lane. Go along this road with the playing field on your right. At the end of this street is Chiswick High Road. Turn right here and cross over. Our next stop is a little way down on the left hand side as you are walking.

Stop 8: 70 Chiswick High Road

There is a sign over the entrance to No 70 Chiswick High Road which proclaims “The Power House”.

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The reason is simple. The brick building just behind here was a power station built for the London United Electrical Tramway Company in 1899-1901. These were the days before the national grid and electricity had to be generated close to where it was needed. As architectural historian Pevsener puts it “The Chiswick building is the best surviving example in London from the early heroic era of generating stations whose bulky intrusions in residential areas was tempered by thoughtful architectural treatment.”

So we have a vast Baroque brick box with stone trimmings. You cannot really see that much from the street but walk a little along to the next side street (Merton Avenue). Look down there and you will see how this building looms over its surroundings.


And here was also a tram depot here. This is now become Stamford Brook bus garage, which fittingly is home to buses operated by the London United bus company – but as we saw with London General in SW15 and SW19 this is a modern day resurrection and today’s company has no direct link to the original company. By the way, London United is owned by RATP which operates the metro and bus system in Paris!


Retrace your steps along Chiswick High Road. Our next stop is on the same side of the road as the Power House

Stop 9: 160 Chiswick High Road (“The Old Cinema”)

This was originally built in 1887 as a ballroom and function room called the Chiswick Hall. It converted to become the Royal Cinema Electric Theatre in May 1912 and it survived as a cinema until around 1933 or 1934.

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By 1939 it was a furniture store known as Chiswick Furniture Galleries. Since the mid 1980s it has been an antique shop known as ‘The Old Cinema’. Whilst it has been changed to work as a shop, you can just about see the skeleton of the old cinema lurking here and there – both in the internal structure of the building and its decorative features.

Continue along the High Road. Note the modern statue of Hogarth across the road just as we reach the junction of Turnham Green Terrace.


Turn right down Turnham Green Terrace. I should just mention in passing, this street has a number of nice looking food shops. There are two delis, a cake shop, a fishmongers and a butchers – the latter had people queueing out the door.

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Stop 10: Chiswick Back Common/Acton Green

Just before the railway bridge, there is a green on the left. This is Chiswick Back Common.


Have a look at the display board to the left of the name board.


This explains that hereabouts was fought one of the major battles of the English Civil War. This was the Battle of Turnham Green which occurred on 13 November 1642.

On the battlefield, there was a standoff between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians.  By successfully blocking the Royalist army’s way to London, the Parliamentarians gained an important strategic victory. The King and his army to retreat to Oxford for secure winter quarters. This was as close as the Royalists would get to London and without control of London they could never win. As far as I can discover there is not actually anything to see apart from this display board but I thought it was still worth a mention.

Now continue under the railway bridge. On our left the open space is called “Acton Green Common” which must have been a bit confusing. As we have heard Chiswick Park station was originally called Acton Green and yet Acton Green Common is actually almost outside Turnham Green station



So far so confusing. But Turnham Green is the open space by the High Road where the Town Hall is and where the Empire Theatre used to be. So here you have it. Turnham Green Station is actually by Acton Green and the station that used to be Acton Green is actually the nearest station to the open space called Turnham Green. These railway companies have a lot to answer for.

Stop 11: Bedford Park – St Mary’s Church and Tabard Inn

Just after the station, ahead of us is the early garden suburb of Bedford Park. Bedford Park was a speculative development by a man called Jonathan Carr. And what makes this so special is not only the green spaces and trees but the fact that the suburb takes the red brick and tile of a market town rather than classical, italianate  or gothic styles. The importance of Bedford Park was recognised in 1967 when 356 Bedford Park buildings were Grade II listed and then in 1969 it became one of the first conservation areas.

We do not have time to explore fully the whole of Bedford Park. But we can just drop by two of its buildings, both designed by Norman Shaw, who was estate architect from 1877 – 1880 and then a consultant until 1886.

The road running off to the right is Bath Road and just on the corner ahead is St Michael and All Angels Church. This has a really wonderful interior. But the outside on Bath Road (shown in picture) looks very unchurchlike. It seems more like a church hall or school.

Poet, Sir John Betjeman described St Michael’s as “a very lovely church and a fine example of Norman Shaw’s work.” He said that Shaw had written in a letter to an architect friend saying: “I’m a house man – not a church man – and soil pipes are my speciality.” Nevertheless this is a fine church.


Then opposite the church (on the same side as the railway) is the Tabard Inn, dating from 1880. The current inn (it does not seem right to call it a mere pub) incorporates the Bedford Park Stores, which was a shop built for the new estate.

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Keep walking along Bath Road.

Stop 12: 62 Bath Road

Our final stop (the house at Number 62) is on the right, just before a green and the boundary between Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham. But I guess we are still technically in Bedford Park.


This is the house where artist Lucien Pissarro lived with his family for a few years from 1897. Between 7 May and 20 July 1897, his father Camille stayed there while Lucien was convalescing from a stroke. Camille had been in London before, most notably in the 1870s when he stayed in Norwood.

When he was at Bath Road he painted a number of pictures locally, one of which is owned by the Ashmolean in Oxford. It is called Bath Road, London and includes his daughter in law Esther and grand daughter Orovida playing in the front garden. It is unfinished, unfortunately. But here’s a link anyway:


In 1902, Lucien and his family moved a short distance to 27 Stamford Brook Road and there is a blue plaque to him there. Although this is just down the road, we are not going there because it is over the border in W6!

So this brings us to the end of the W4 walk. It has been a full assortment taking in a writer, a couple of artists, the sites of a civil war battle, a theatre and a cinema, plus an early power station. And it was not just the latter we could only connect to.

From here there are buses to Shepherd’s Bush and beyond. Or else you can go down the next side street from where there is a pathway to Stamford Brook station. Alternatively you can retrace your steps to Turnham Green station.

W3: Lights, Camera …. Acton?

W3 is Acton and Acton is the place in London with the most railway stations bearing one place’s name. There are seven. They cover all the points of the compass plus Central, Town and Main Line. The curious thing about this is that even though there are 7 stations with the name Acton, none of them is particularly convenient for the town centre, even the so-called Central Station!

We start our walk at Acton’s main Post Office which is in King Street a short pedestrianised road by the Parish Church.

Stop 1a: St Mary’s Church

Our first stop, St Mary’s Church, is across the road from the Post Office. The Church dates back to at least 1228 but the building we see today results from a complete rebuild in the mid 1860s. Some monuments were preserved from the old church but I did not get to see them as the church has been closed when I have been there.

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However there are a couple of interesting things to see at the west end of the Church.

First at the left had corner is the old parish pump.  The pump is inscribed “1819 T. FREETHY, MAKER, ACTON, ERECTED BY THE REV WM. ANTROBUS”.

It was originally located in the High Street but was moved when the High Street was set back in 1919.  In 1952, it was taken to Gunnersbury Park and stored. The Acton History Group website suggests it was restored and resisted here in 1992.

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Just to the right of the pump is the Acton Milepost. It was originally located on the opposite side of the High Street, a little further to the west of its current location. It was saved during road widening, and relocated here when the Pump was restored. The road was known as the “Uxbridge Road”  and it was a turnpike or a toll road with the money going to pay for maintenance. The distances on the post were measured from Tyburn (Marble Arch) which we saw in our W2 walk. There was a tollgate at the 4 mile post, about where now Bromyard Avenue joins the Uxbridge Road, which as it happens is where we finish our walk.

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In the street by the church is a little market area – from a quick glance, it looked a bit cheap and tacky, like much of modern day Acton.

Just over from the West Door of the Church is an entrance to Morrison’s Supermarket, which at least was bright, clean and tidy.

Stop 1b: Morrison’s Supermarket (site of Odeon cinema)


This site, where King Street joins the High Street, once housed a cinema built for Oscar Deutsch who ran the Odeon chain. Opened in November 1937, it was a large Art Deco style building with those distinctive cream faiance tiles and featured a tower at the side.

The Odeon was the last cinema to operate in Acton, finally closing in October 1975. The building was converted into a B & Q store. When that closed, the building was demolished and in 1988 a Safeway Supermarket was built on the site. This later became Morrison’s.

There are some photos of how it looked on the attached link.


It is a bit sad to see the loss of such a distinctive building from the street scene to be replaced by this identikit supermarket.

Fascinating fact: there’s a mnemonic (or is it an acronym?) for ODEON. Apparently Odeon at one time claimed that the name of the cinemas was derived from Deutsch’s motto, “Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation”. However Odeon had been used for cinemas in France and Italy in the 1920s. Also the name “Nickelodeon” dates from 1905 and was widely used to describe small cinemas in the United States in the early days of cinema. And of course the word is ultimately derived from Ancient Greek. So who knows!

Now walk down to the High Street and turn right following the road round. You will see Morrison’s across their car park, with St Mary’s Church sticking up behind.


This is sad enough but across the road on the other side of the roundabout is perhaps even a bit more depressing. And here in this parade of shops, we will find our next stop.

Stop 2: 263 Acton High Street


This Edwardian row of shops is rather grand but as so often happens, the locale is not now and the shops in these buildings reflect this.

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Cross over and go to number 263. Today it is a fast food establishment called “Pizza Babylon” but this was the site of the very first Waitrose store in 1904, although it was called Waite, Rose and Taylor then. You will find a little plaque in the pavement to commemorate this fact.


The company name changed to Waitrose in 1908 and the business was bought by John Lewis in 1937. I cannot seem to find out when this Waitrose closed but I guess it was when they, like all the other grocers, moved away from these small shops and into bigger premises that could house supermarket sized stores.

Odd to reflect that the food being served up here today is rather far removed from the image one associates with Waitrose! And I somehow doubt there will be a Waitrose anytime soon in this locality.

Keep walking along the High Street and after the church turn left into Gunnersbury Lane. It is now a bit of a walk to our next stop, which is just after a mini roundabout down a little private road on the right, called Museum Way. On the way, we pass an old hospital building. This was built as the Passmore Edwards Cottage Hospital around 1900. More of Passmore Edwards shortly.

Stop 3: London Transport Museum Depot

We cannot come to Acton without acknowledging the importance of London Transport to this area. There is a huge depot here and on part of the site is the store for the London Transport Museum. 


This is not open everyday but there are guided tours once a month ( last Friday and Saturday of each month) plus art and poster tours (about every third month). There are occasional open days and they will open up for groups of visitors booked in advance. More info at:  http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot

Last year, I went to see the archive collection of posters with a group of fellow guides belonging to the City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association . There were two rooms, one of which contained the orignal artworks and the other copies of printed posters.

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It is an extensive collection and was very impressive, as it goes back over 100 years. Plus the volunteers who take you round are very knowledgable.

Just across from Museum Way is Acton Town Station.

Stop 4: Acton Town station

Acton Town seems so important when you are on the tube as it is an interchange between the District and Piccadilly lines, but I have never had cause to get off here or indeed see what it looks like from the road – until now.

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Acton Town station was originally called Mill Hill Park when it was opened in July 1879 by the Metropolitan District Railway on its extension from Turnham Green to Ealing Broadway. It became a junction in 1883 with the opening of a line to Hounslow. The station was rebuilt in 1910 and at that point it became known as Acton Town. It was rebuilt again when the Piccadilly line was extended west from Hammersmith in 1932.

Acton Town is a rather lovely station by the prolific Charles Holden. We saw some of his earlier work in the stations at the southern end of what is now the Northern line when we were in the SW postcodes. Now we see an example from the early 1930s. It has an impressive ticket hall and also has its original concrete platform canopies and waiting rooms. And yet when you come at this station from the street, it comes as a surprise to find this beacon of design in an otherwise dull street.

Now retrace your steps back up Gunnersbury Lane and turn right into Avenue Road.

Stop 5: Avenue Crescent/Gardens

As we walk down Avenue Road note the streets on the right (Avenue Crescent/Avenue Gardens) have rather grand gateposts.

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These streets were developed by William Willett. He and his son (also William) were prominent house builders in the late 19th century and had their head office in Sloane Street, just south of Sloane Square.

Not sure if these gateposts were the entrances to the original estate on this site or whether they were gateways to the new housing development, as that had been built with private roads.

Fascinating fact time – again: The younger William Willett was a great proponent of Daylight Saving Time. In 1907 he published a pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” in which he proposed that the clocks should be advanced by 80 minutes in four incremental steps during April and reversed the same way during September. It was only the advent of the First World War that led to the introduction in 1916 of daylight saving (or British Summer Time as we would call it now) but this of course was much simpler with only one change of a single hour in the spring and autumn. Sadly William Willett did not live to see this as he died in 1915.

Continue along Avenue Road and the character changes as we get to a large estate of tower blocks.

Stop 6: Harlech Tower, Park Road East

We are heading for Harlech Tower which is the one by the corner of Avenue Road and Park Road East.

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Now this may look familiar. This is because it is the block that was used in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses as the location of Delboy and Rodney Trotter’s flat in Nelson Mandela House. So there is a little bit of W3 which is forever Peckham. I guess this was used as it was easier to get to from the BBC Television Centre than Peckham would have been.  However it was only used in series 1 to 5. Later episodes used a tower block in Bristol!

Go back to Avenue Road and continue a little way until you get to Church Road where you turn left. Continue to the end of Church Road and you will be back at the High Street. Turn right and a little way along on the other side of the road is our next stop.

Stop 7: Oaks Shopping Centre


You can tell how prosperous an area is by the shops in the shopping mall. Here we have the likes of Sports Direct and Iceland, so clearly not much money here.

This was the site of the Globe Cinema which opened in March 1921. Within months of opening, the cinema was taken over by the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres chain which itself was taken over by Gaumont in 1929. The Globe was re-named Gaumont. It closed as a cinema in April 1959. The building was demolished and the site redeveloped, although the current building dates from sometime after the closure judging by the look of what is here today. The entrance to the Oaks Shopping Centre is now where the Globe once stood.

And I guess it is called the Oaks because it has been said that the name Acton means “Oak Town”

Walk along the High Street and soon on the other side of the road from the Oaks shopping centre is our next stop

Stop 8: Acton Municipal Buildings

This is a grand collection of municipal buildings dating from when Acton had its own local government. First you come to the library, dating from 1898/99. This is a Passmore Edwards library, one of at least 16 in London.

John Passmore Edwards was born in 1823 in a small Cornish village, Blackwater, which is between Redruth and Truro in Cornwall. He became a journalist and then editor of a leading London newspaper called the Echo. He was a life-long champion of the working classes and is remembered as being a generous benefactor. In a period of 14 years, over 70 major buildings were established as a direct result of his gifts and donations. These funded not only libraries but also hospitals, schools, convalescent homes and art galleries. He died in 1911.

If you want to find out more about him and his philanthropy, there is an interesting website dedicated to Passmore Edwards:  http://www.passmoreedwards.org.uk/index.htm


Then across the side road (Winchester Street)  is the Town Hall itself which includes a council chamber. Then comes the public baths and  swimming pool. The oldest parts are the baths at the far end dating from 1904 and the offices facing Winchester Street dating from around 1910. At this time Acton just had an urban district council. It became a borough in 1921. Further additions were made the buildings in the 1920s and 1930s.

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There is currently some redevelopment going on to create a new leisure centre, which is due to open later this year.


Note the crest and motto under it. The motto is “Floreat Actona” which means Let Acton Flourish.  This echoes the motto of Eton College (“Floreat Etona”). Today this formulation for Acton would suggest delusions of grandeur or perhaps an “in joke”. But I suspect this was chosen in deadly seriousness by the newly formed County Borough of Acton in 1921 as symbolic of where they wanted Acton to go and what they wanted it to be associated with.

The oak in the arms and crest references the name Acton as meaning ‘oak town’. Within the shield, the book (on the left) represents education and the cog-wheel (on the right) the motor industry, whilst the Crown and three swords in the middle are from the Middlesex County crest.

The local government reorganisation of 1965 meant that Acton became part of Ealing. The name Acton disappeared as a borough and the main centre of administration became Ealing.

Continue walking along the High Street.

Stop 9: Gala Bingo Hall (former Dominion Cinema)

Our next stop is on the left a little before we get to the railway bridge. We have seen the sites of two cinemas but here is one that has survived until today, although now a bingo hall.

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This was the Dominion Cinema which was opened in October 1937  by the small Bacal & Lee Circuit. It has lovely Art Deco style features outside and apparently the auditorium is pure streamline deco with hidden troughs of concealed lighting. The Dominion was taken over by Granada in 1946 and became known by that name. It closed as a cinema in August 1972 and has been a Bingo Hall ever since.

It is a Grade II Listed building, so hopefully will survive now in some form.

Continue walking along the main road soon after the railway, there is a gate into Acton Park on the left. Go in there and head towards the little chalet building.

Stop 10: Acton Park

Acton Park was laid out in 1888 after the local board (predecessor of the council) bought the land mostly from the Goldsmiths’ Company who had been left this by one of their number, a man called John Perryn. The Goldsmiths’ Company had grand plans for an estate of large houses. However after only building a few houses, the plan was dropped and they sold the site.

At the centre of the park was a bandstand, but there is no sign of this now. However the little chalet like building is a tea room, where one can stop for refreshment (or to warm up on a cold winter’s day!)


Take the path with the tea room on your left and as we head out of Acton Park, on the left is an obelisk and below a slightly weathered board which explains the story – well possibly.


This is allegedly a memorial to James Radcliffe, Earl of Dewentwater (apparently pronounced “Darwentwater”) executed for treason in 1716. He was one of the leaders of what the board describes as “the Rebellion” which of course was the Jacobite rebellion. The family estates were in Northumberland and were confiscated. The connection to Acton appears to be that his widow leased a house in Horn Lane in 1720 which then became known as Derwentwater House.

However the Acton History Group website  (http://www.actonhistory.co.uk/acton/page8.html)  says: “Whilst the wording on the label sounds a great story, the connection of James Radcliffe with Acton is probably only a legend, and the Monument is nothing more than a decorative garden ornament from Derwentwater House.”

And I guess this is why the architectural bible Pevsner is so tentative, saying: ” East of the railway is Acton Park (created 1888, mostly on Goldsmith’s Company land), with obelisk probably from the grounds of one of the older houses.”

Now leave the park and go into East Churchfield Road.

Stop 11: Goldsmiths Almshouses

Across East Churchfield Road from the park you can hardly fail to miss the Goldsmiths Almshouses. There were originally twelve Almshouses built in 1811 with a further eight added in 1838.

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These are quite delightful but sadly we have to view them from afar as one cannot get past the railings.

Now follow the park round to the end of East Churchfield Road and turn right into East Acton Lane. Go to the end of East Acton Lane and turn left into The Vale. Continue along The Vale until you get to a half moon shaped green on the left. this is where Bromyard Avenue meets The Vale.

Stop 12: Bromyard Avenue (former Government Offices)

As you look down Bromyard Avenue, you will see stretching ahead of you on the right hand side of the road a substantial 5 story building. This was purpose built for the Ministry of Pensions – started in 1914 and only finished after the war in 1922. It is impressive – a kind of Georgian terrace on steroids. And perhaps even it has the look and feel of Edinburgh.

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Today this building has been converted into apartments.

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So that brings us to the end of the W3 walk. W3 held a few surprises such as being the home of the first Waitrose as well as the real “location” of Rodney and Delboy’s flat and an 18th century memorial which may just have been  garden ornament!

Now for onward travel, there are buses along The Vale back west to Acton or east to Shepherd’s Bush,