SE7: Down the Valley

SE7 is Charlton. There is a fragment of an old village in Charlton. Sadly this is not one of the most attractive of London’s villages, as we shall see, although it does have one rather special gem.

We start our walk at Charlton Post office which is at 10-12 Charlton Church Lane. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is almost immediately ahead of you on the left.

Stop 1: Charlton Station

Charlton station was opened in 1849 by the South Eastern Railway on the North Kent Line. As we have heard in SE4, the first line here went through Blackheath and it was only later in 1878 that the more direct route via Greenwich was. The two routes diverge just west of Charlton.

The station here shows little sign of being Victorian. It has a single storey modular ticket office and some modern canopies over the platforms.



This really is not a very welcoming station.

On the north side of the tracks is this strange canopy.


I think this dates from the time of the 2012 Olympics when Charlton was used as an interchange point where you could change from trains to buses to get you to the arena at North Greenwich (which we now call the O2). This was part of that bus interchange.

And there are signs today to explain how you can make that link, but I guess few people use this route to get to the O2.


Continue past the station until you reach the junction with traffic lights. Our next stop is just on the corner here.

Stop 2: The Antigallican Hotel

Now here is an intriguing name for a hostelry – the Antigallican.


At first I misread it and thought it was anti Galician, but no this is not against people from North West Spain. Note there are two “l”s and one “i”. So it is anti Gallic which means anti French. There was a movement in the 18th century against the import of French stuff and this is where the name originates from.

Here is a link which explains more about Antigallican

It is hardly a great name for a hotel which might cater for foreign visitors some of whom might well come from France. Now perhaps the name of this place is in the spirit of these post Brexit times.

Retrace you steps back up past the station and soon after that take a left turn into Floyd Road. As you get to a T junction you will see our next stop peeking up behind the houses to your right.


Here we have another example of a major sporting venue rather unsuitably located in a residential area. To get a better view take a left at this junction and walk a little further along to see one of the entrances to Charlton Athletic Football Club

Stop 3: Charlton Athletic Football Club



Charlton Athletic Football Club was founded in June 1905 when a number of youth clubs in south-east London joined together to form a single team.

The Club first played at this location in 1919. The site was a disused sand and chalk pit. It is not in a valley as such and it perhaps got its name “The Valley” because it looked like it was in a valley.

The club has almost continuously been here since 1919, apart from one year in Catford, during 1923/24 when they were in discussion about a merger which fell through, and seven years (1985 – 1992) when they shared a ground mainly with Crystal Palace but also latterly with West Ham United. The departure from the Valley was triggered by the closure of the East Terrace after the Bradford City stadium fire and the wish of the ground’s owner to use part of the site for housing. The move was very unpopular locally but after much toing and froing the club finally returned to the Valley in December 1992.

Charlton’s fans are commonly called The Addicks. There seem to be two schools of thought as to the origin. One relates to the mangling of the pronunciation of athletic as ‘addock” and the other (more probable) is relates to the story of a local fishmonger, Arthur “Ikey” Bryan, who rewarded the team with meals of haddock and chips.

Retrace your steps along Floyd Road and at the end turn left. Our next stop is a little way up the street on the left.

Stop 4: Number 67 Charlton Church Lane

This house has one of the two English Heritage blue plaques in SE7.


It was placed to commemorate this was the home of Italian writer Aron Ettore Schmitz (1861 – 1928) who used the pen name Italo Svevo. He lived here 1903 to 1913.


No I had not heard of him either…

But apparently he is considered a pioneer of the Psychological novel in Italy and is best known for his classic Modernist novel La Coscienza di Zeno (1923).

Keep walking uphill along Charlton Church Street.

Stop 5: A little shelter

At the end of the street there is an open space and right by the junction, there is this little shelter.


Go inside and you discover it contains a water fountain – or rather did. As ever these things no longer work. And it is not as old as it looks.


It actually dates from 1902 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and was put up by the local bigwigs the Maryon-Wilsons – more of whom anon.

From here you can see the contrasts that are Charlton village – off to the right as you came up the hill was a large estate of blocks of flats, but ahead is the 17th century Charlton House which we shall come to and to the left is the village church, which is our next stop.

Stop 6: St Luke’s Church


There has been a church here since the 11th century. But the one we see today dates from 1630, according to architectural guru Pevsner, although there was some further rebuilding in 1840 and 1873. The church is listed as grade II*. It has a lot of monuments, of which the most significant is that of Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister assassinated in 1812. We came across him when we were in Ealing, W5.

Just across the way from the church is just a fragment of the old village, and of course the obligatory pub.

Stop 7: The Bugle Horn pub

This pub originates from the late 17th century, although the frontage is of a later date.



The name is perhaps a reminder of the Horn Fair which was held on 18 October each year. It had a reputation for lawlessness and rowdiness (didn’t they all?) and was closed down in the 19th century. Or maybe the pub’s name is just a reminder that this was a stopping off spot for coaches.

The street by the pub is the heart of the old village. It even has the street name “The Village”, but it is sad affair. It has such potential but it is a not very pretty collection of down market shops and food outlets.


As you go through what passes for the village centre, there is a red brick building on the right, which looks interesting but which Pevsner does not seem to acknowledge.


I believe this was the Charlton Assembly Rooms, but not sure what it is used for now.

Keep going until you reach Charlton Lane on your left and on your right is an entrance to a park. Go down here.

Stop 8: Charlton Park


This is Charlton Park and was once part of the grounds of Charlton House. Today this is largely given over to sports of one kind or another.



There is a hut on the right which serves refreshments..


It has amusing little pictures of various historic characters.


Plus oddly the current queen.


But we are not popping in here as there is somewhere else we should stop for tea.

Now you will be able to see the back of Charlton House from here.


Head through the park towards in and go to the right of the main building.

Stop 9: Charlton House

The main entrance is on the other side from where you came.


This is probably the best preserved early 17th century house in London. According to Pevsner, the house was built by Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales (eldest son of King James I) between 1607 and 1612. It became the home of the Maryon-Wilson family in the 19th century.

There was a baronetcy of Maryon-Wilson which can be traced back to 1661 but the title became extinct on the death of the 13th Baronet in 1978. Baronet by the way is a hereditary title passed down the male line giving the holder the title of “Sir” and his wife the title of “Lady”. Not to be confused with knighthoods which are just given for the life of the recipients.

The Maryon-Wilsons employed noted architect Richard Norman Shaw to restore the house and make some minor additions in the 1870s.

The house and grounds were used as a hospital during World War I and were bought by the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in 1925. Today the house is used for community purposes.

Do go in if you can.


In the entrance hall is a tea room.


They do a nice line in carrot cake


In adjoining room there are some information panels explaining the history of the house and its last owners (the Maryon-Wilsons). There is also some information about the Hornfair.


The Maryon-Wilson family are commemorated in the names of a couple of local parks on land which was once part of their estate. Here is a very good website about the various parks in Charlton which gives potted histories about each

But sadly we do not have time to see this side of SE7.


Now head out and go to the right where you will see a tree with a metal fence round it and a brick building up a few steps. Go over there.

Stop 10: The Mulberry tree and the Summer House


The tree imprisoned in the metal fence is a very old Mulberry tree, possibly dating from 1608. This was the time when King James I was encouraging the planting of such trees. the idea was they would provide food for silk worms and help create a source of English silk. Sadly this did not work out.

The brick building was built as a Summer House around 1630.


Pevsner says that “There is no documentary confirmation of the traditional attribution to Inigo Jones [who built the Queen’s House at Greenwich and the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall]; but the complete absence of Jacobean frills at evidently such an early date make it quite justifiable.” So the best we can say is that this is possibly by famous 17th century architect Inigo Jones.

At some point this building was converted to become public conveniences.


Despite the sign, it was not open during the time I was there (which was in the middle of the day)

Now at this point it is worth looking over the street and between the blocks of flats because you can get quite a nice view of Canary Wharf.


Head along the main road away from the House and church. This is Charlton Road. Note the reminder of the Hornfair in the name of the street going off to your left.


Our final two stops are quite a way along Charlton Road past the estates of flats.

 Stop 12: Number 145 Charlton Road

First on the right, just after a school, we are headed to Number 145 which is set back off the road by our Lady of Grace, catholic church.


This is the location of the other English Heritage blue plaque in SE7. This commemorates that engineer William Henry Barlow (1812 – 1902) lived and died here.


William Barlow was a civil engineer. He was engineer for the Midland Railway on its London extension in the 1860s and is best known for his design of the company’s London terminus at St Pancras.

He was actually a local lad having been born in Woolwich, where his father was employed at the naval dockyard. But he does not seem to have strayed far even once he was established, as tis is where he died.

Stop 12: Poplar Cottage, Number 80 Charlton Road

Then a little further on the left after the entrance to a sports ground, comes this lovely dark pink house with the name of Poplar Cottage.


Pevsner comments that apart from St Luke’s Church and Charlton house, no buildings visibly of before the 19th century remain in the village centre. (The Bugle Horn pub is of late 17th century origin but was refashioned later) He goes on to say “The only rural survival is a sweet weatherboarded cottage some way to the west [at number 80 Charlton Road]” This is apparently of 17th century origin.

It is quite out of keeping with its surrounding but lovely nonetheless.

We are now at the end of our SE7 walk. Charlton has some nice bits with a magnificent Jacobean house, though a somewhat disappointing centre which could be so much nicer.

We are now some way from any useful rail station so you best bet is to get a bus either to Blackheath or North Greenwich for onward travel.


SE6: It’s witchcraft

SE6 is Catford. Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable says of Catford: “Perhaps surprisingly, the name is not some arcane corruption , but probably does mean that wild cats did frequent the ford that is now the site of Catford bridge, although an alternative explanation is that “the cat” was a local landowner’s nickname.

Wikipedia has other suggestions including this is “the place where cattle crossed the River Ravensbourne in Saxon times” and goes on to say”. It is also said that the name originates from all-black cats, associated with witchcraft, being thrown into the ford to drown during the witch hunts.” Sadly neither of these assertions are backed up by citations.

We start our walk at Catford Post Office which in Numbers 187-189 Rushey Green. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along the same pavement.

Stop 1: The Black Horse and Harrow pub

This is a grand Victorian pub called the Black Horse and Harrow.



It dates from 1897 and the sign says there has been a pub here since at least 1700.


It would have been a coaching inn on the road to Tonbridge and Hastings, but clearly became a bit of a Victorian “gin palace”

Now retrace your steps and go down the alleyway which runs through Octavia house.


On the other side you will be in the middle of Catford Island, our next stop..

Stop 2: Catford Island

Catford Island is possibly one of the most inappropriate bits of development to grace the streets of London.


Who thought it would be a good idea to put an american style retail centre here where the inadequate A21 London – Hastings road crosses the even more inadequate South Circular Road. Needless to say this is what you get.


Many years ago there were plans to sort out the roads here properly but there are no active plans for this.

The Lewisham website has something called “The Catford Plan”. Here is a link to the Frequently asked questions:

One of which is:

“Has the Council given up on the plans to re-route the South Circular behind the Laurence House?

Transport for London (TfL)’s long-standing proposal, which would potentially remove the Catford gyratory, still has no clear timetable or funding strategy. There are reasons why this project has not happened, primarily that it would be complex, expensive and difficult to implement.

The Catford plan therefore includes alternative proposals which would be more deliverable. These include simplifying pedestrian crossings, improving the Thomas Lane/Catford Road and Rushey Green/Catford Road junctions, and widening Sangley Road to create an eastbound bus lane to cut the number of northbound buses on Rushey Green.”

So this bottleneck is not going to be sorted out any time soon.

Now head to the opposite side of the retail park from the Bingo club and turn right along that road. Our next stop is at the corner.

Stop 3: former ABC cinema

This was the Central Hall Picture House when it opened in December 1913. It was renamed the Plaza in 1932 and was taken over the ABC chain in 1937. It was renamed ABC in 1962. It was split into two screens in 1981 and continued to operate as a cinema until 2001.


According to the wonderful “Cinema Treasures” website “In 2002, it was purchased by the Brazilian based Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, who also purchased the former Granada/EMD in Walthamstow, and who already operated the former Astoria Finsbury Park” (aka the Rainbow).

They were refused planning permission to convert the Catford cinema in 2003. The case at Catford went to a Public Enquiry in 2005, which allowed the church to use the former stalls area, on the proviso they let out the former circle as a 200 seat cinema. Not sure what happened this idea as the cinema treasures site does not have any up to date info. No sign of a cinema. However the church is certainly operating here.

Now cross over Sangley Road, go past the Post Office and you will see our next stop just over the road on the left.

Stop 4: Broadway Theatre

This is a little gem of a 1930s building adjoining the modern civic suite.


The Theatre’s website says:

“A grade II* listed building, the theatre was built in 1932 and is an example of Art Deco design. The architects were Bradshaw Gass & Hope; the slightly Gothic features were intended to relate to the adjacent Gothic Revival Town Hall which has since been demolished.

It has two auditoriums, an 800-seat main theatre and a small 80-seat studio theatre. Its programme consists of a diverse mix of theatre and music, including a pantomime season featuring star names, stand up comedy, nostalgia shows, drama and children’s theatre.”

For many years it was called the Lewisham Theatre which was somewhat confusing as it was in Catford.


Broadway is a better name although it has the disadvantage that it is so generic a name it could be anywhere.


As you look at the theatre head to the left and our next stop is the building next door.

Stop 5: Civic Suite

The old Town Hall of 1875, was replaced by the current Civic Suite in 1968, soon after the merger of the metropolitan boroughs of Lewisham and Deptford to form the London Borough of Lewisham.  On the other side of the road is Laurence House, where many of the Lewisham Council offices are housed. That is on the site of old St Laurence’s Church.

Go into the courtyard of the Civic Suite and you will see a couple of plaques on your right.



These relate to a fire in New Cross which killed 13 young black people in January 1981. This plaque has 14 names because one person (Anthony Berbeck) who was in the house at the time of the fire, committed suicide later.

The way the authorities investigated the fire provoked a huge uprising in the black community. There was a strong view that the fire was caused deliberately but this could not be proved. Forensic science has developed since then. So while some still believe the fire to have been a result of arson, it seems that such evidence as there is suggests it was a tragic accident.

Over the years a number of memorials have been created, including a stained glass window in St Andrew’s Church Brockley (2002), a blue plaque from Nubian Jak Community Trust (January 2011), a stone memorial and bench in Fordham Park, Deptford (2012). There is also a memorial to the victims consisting of a park bench plus 13 trees with a plaque at either end on Hackney Downs. And of course this one.

And just opposite is the statue of a sad looking girl.



This statue is bronze and was commissioned by Lewisham Borough Council in 1992 from the artist Gerda Rubinstein.

Now keep walking along the main road and you will get to our next stop – the two railway stations in Catford. You will see a little access road to the right which is a good way into the first station you get to (Catford Bridge)


Stop 6: Catford’s stations

The two stations in Catford are almost side by side but on different lines, one line goes under the road whilst the other above the road. Interchange on one ticket is allowed between the two stations.

Catford Bridge station was built by the Mid-Kent and North Kent Junction Railway and opened in January 1857. But from the start the line was worked by the South Eastern Railway.



This still has original buildings although the main one does not seem to be used by the railway. This station is also unusual in having two exits from each platform – one on the level and one up steps to the road bridge.

The two stations are separated by the site of the former Catford Stadium. Although the stadium closed in 2003, and is currently being redeveloped, it is still mentioned on the direction signs here.


The other station has lost all its old building and has this rather nasty modular building as a ticket office and little more than a bus shelter on the platform.



Catford station was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in July 1892. This is the next station after Crofton Park going out of town and has an equally poor service.

Now retrace your steps and as you approach the Civic Buildings you will see a pedestrianised street to your left.

Stop 7: Catford Broadway

This sad looking street is called Catford Broadway.



It has a few stalls and some dull looking shops – and when I was there, not many people. But at least it was not run down and abandoned, as it so easily could have been.

Our next stop is at the end of Catford Broadway on the left.

Stop 8: Catford Shopping centre

This was designed by the architect Owen Luder (Born 1928) in 1974. He was well known for Brutalist architecture, with its massive bare concrete sculptural forms with no cladding and little or no decoration. Unfortunately time has not been kind to these buildings. In the damp British climate unclad concrete buildings soon become dull and greyer and they get streaked where rainwater runs. Often poor maintenance makes things worse.

But at least Catford Shopping centre is still standing unlike a number of Luder’s other well known projects, such as the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, Trinity Square Gateshead and the Southgate shopping centre in Bath.


The most prominent feature is the Catford Cat, a giant fibreglass sculpture of a black cat above the entrance.


Lewisham Council website credits the Catford Cat to Owen Luder and Embassy Signs with the date 1974.

The Catford Centre was bought by Lewisham council in 2010 for “regeneration”. But this does not seem to have happened yet.

Now cross over the road and have a look at the concrete building on the other side.

Stop 9: Eros House

This is called Eros House and was also designed by Owen Luder. It dates from 1960 and so is somewhat older than the Catford Centre. I am not sure that the proportions quite work. It would probably look better if the tower were taller. And it does not have the elegance of the Goldfinger buildings we saw in Poplar and Westbourne Park.


The site has an interesting history as it contained not one but two places of entertainment. As ever I am endebted to the “Cinema Treasures” site for much of the following information.

At the corner of Rushey Green and Brownhill Road was the Lewisham Hippodrome Theatre which opened as a variety theatre in February 1911. It was designed by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham. Again this must have been confusing given it was not in Lewisham, proper.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s it was sometimes used as a cinema and sometimes a theatre. In 1931 alterations were carried out by architect Cecil Masey, with interior decoration by designer Theodore Komisarjevsky. It reopened as a cinema in April 1931 but by 1933 was operating as a music hall, with films only shown on Sundays.

It was closed by bomb damage in 1940 and re-opened in 1943. It was closed as a live theatre in 1952 and re-opened as the Eros Cinema in May of that year. The Eros Cinema finally closed in November 1959

Adjacent to the Hippordome/Eros was a purpose built cinema. This opened in December 1913 as the Queen’s Hall Cinema. It was acquired by Gaumont in 1928 but continued operating as the Queen’s Hall Cinema until September 1954  when it was renamed Gaumont.

The Gaumont closed in November 1959. It was demolished in July 1960, together with the adjacent Eros/Hippodrome building. The office block named Eros House was built on the site.



On the green outside there is a sculpture.


This is called Waterline. It is by Oliver Barratt and dates from 2006


The sign says “This sculpture remembers the waters that once flowed though the green rushes where watercress was farmed and celebrates the dynamic rhythm of life and change” Here is a link to the artist’s website:

So it is also a little reminder of why the street here is called Rushey Green.

Stop 10: Rushey Green

And so just by Eros House is a green encased in railings with a water pump.


Not sure how old this is.

Just further along on the other side of Brownhill Road is this sculpture


It is called “Chariot / Blue on Green” and is by artist Oleg Prokofiev (1928 – 1998). It seems it was bequeathed by Prokofiev family.

Now walk along Rushey Green away from Catford centre. Take the second right which then splits into Farley Road and Honley Road. You want the former which is the left hand way.

Stop 11: Number 48 Farley Road

Our next stop is a fair way down Farley Road.


Number 48 was the childhood home of film actress Elsa Lanchester (1902 – 1986), who although she spent most of her career in Hollywood was actually from here in South London.

According to Wikipedia: “[She] studied dance as a child and after the First World War began performing in theatre and cabaret, where she established her career over the following decade. She met the actor Charles Laughton in 1927, and they were married two years later. She began playing small roles in British films, including the role of Anne of Cleves with Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). His success in American films resulted in the couple moving to Hollywood, where Lanchester played small film roles.

Her role as the title character in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) brought her recognition. She played supporting roles through the 1940s and 1950s. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Come to the Stable (1949) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957), the last of twelve films in which she appeared with Laughton. Following Laughton’s death in 1962, Lanchester resumed her career with appearances in such Disney films as Mary Poppins (1964), That Darn Cat! (1965) and Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968).” She also played a witch in the 1958 film “Bell, Book and Candle”

Our final stop is just a little way along the road.

Stop 12: Woskerski mural, Farley Road.

Just before you get to Laleham Road, there is a striking mural on the right.


This is by street artist Woskerski who describes himself as “A street artist based in London, painting since 1997.”

His website says that this particular mural is of Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong and it was a commission in 2016. It is a little surprising to see this looming up at you in a side street in Catford. I somehow doubt that either Ray Charles or Louis Armstrong had any connection with this part of London, so who knows why someone chose them as the subject of a mural here.

Now we are the end of our walk. But I thought I should just point out a couple of old street signs here. Just beyond the mural, Laleham Road crosses Farley Road and unusually for this part of town there are two signs which are what must be the original signs, as they say just SE without the number.



There are lots of these old street signs in the borough of Wandsworth but most other boroughs have systematically replaced them with their own branded street name plates.

So Catford proved to have some interest. Again it seems odd that this was once a significant entertainment centre. There were four theatre/cinema buildings in close proximity up until the late 1950s. But today it is a dull collection of shops with constantly congested gyratory system, and just one working theatre building.

You have a choice about onward travel from here. you can retrace your steps back to the stations or else go back to Rushey Green and jump on one of numerous buses that will take you to Lewisham.



SE5: All’s Well

SE5 is Camberwell. This was once quite an entertainment centre. Not now. Today it is a major focus for buses, but it has been unserved by rail transport for a hundred years despite there being a line almost through its centre.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 25 Denmark Hill. Turn left and head towards the junction. Our first stop is the large building at the corner with the Nandos on the ground floor.

Stop 1: site of Metropole/Empire Theatre/Odeon Cinema


This large corner site was a place of entertainment for many years. First there was the Metropole Theatre which opened in October 1894. In 1906 it was renamed Camberwell Empire Theatre. Films were being shown from 1914 and from 1918 it became a mixed use live theatre and cinema known as the Camberwell Theatre and Picture House. From 1924 it was a full time cinema known as the Camberwell Empire and Picture Palace.

Odeon bought the theatre in May 1937. It closed in August 1937 and was quickly demolished for a new Odeon Theatre to be built on an expanded site. The Odeon opened in March 1939.

A key difference from its predecessor was the location of the entrance. The entrance to the original theatre was at the corner of Denmark Hill and Coldharbour Lane, whereas the new Odeon was designed with a matching entrance on each road, with a square fin tower clad in light yellow tiles and carrying the name “Odeon”.

The cinema was never split up and was closed in July 1975. After six years of disuse, in 1981 it became a pile ’em high sell ’em cheap jeans warehouse called Dickie Dirts. That lasted a couple of years and then the building was disused again, finally being demolished in spring 1993, There is now a block of flats for homeless young people here.

Now retrace your steps to the corner of Orpheus Street (right back by the Post Office)

Stop 2: site of the Palace Theatre


At this corner was a theatre called the Camberwell Palace which opened in 1899.  Films formed part of the variety bill in the early 1900’s but in September 1932, it was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC). It became a full time cinema, known as the Palace Cinema. When ABC opened their new Regal Cinema (which we shall see shortly) in 1940, and they disposed of the Palace Cinema to an independent operator.

After a few years, it re-opened under new management in April 1943 as a live variety theatre, and went back to its original name, Camberwell Palace Theatre. The Palace Theatre then went over to staging ‘girlie’ shows. No doubt this was Camberwell’s answer to the famous Windmill theatre in Soho. One of the ways round the law at the time was that the “girls” could only be naked if they were still, as in a work of art in a gallery. Unfortunately one of the girls here, the delightfully named Peaches Page (aged 19) broke the law by moving whilst in the nude. A mouse had come on stage while she posed. She was sacked and the Palace Theatre was closed soon after in April 1956. No long after it was demolished and replaced by this dull looking building. This was until recently HSBC bank.

Much more info on this and the Metropole/Empire on the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site.

(Interestingly the usually great Cinema Treasures site, has a slightly different story, talking about the theatre called the Oriental being built here in 1896 and then replaced. Arthur Lloyd says that this never actually happened. Also Cinema Treasures gives the address as 23 – 31 Denmark Hill but says the site of the theatre was where the Post Office is now. That is number 25 Denmark Hill whereas the HSBC bank branch was 23 Denmark Hill. However the picture on the Cinema Treasures site looks like the old theatre was on the left hand corner of the side street (the HSBC side) rather than the right hand (Post Office) corner. So I think the evidence suggests Arthur Lloyd is right.)

Now immediately over the road was another place of entertainment.

Stop 3: a former cinema (28 – 32 Denmark Hill)


The building which now houses a Co-Op supermarket started out in 1913 or 1914 as the Golden Domes Picture Theatre, The building originally had a very decorative exterior with large domes on each side. Right through to the late 1930s it operated on a policy of mixing movies with variety performances.

The cinema was refurbished and renamed Rex Cinema in January 1952. It was taken over by the Essoldo chain in August 1954 becoming the Essoldo Cinema in January 1956.

The cinema closed in August 1964 and the building was converted into a supermarket. The ornate facade was removed, but you can still see the roof of what must have been the auditorium from the street

Our next stop is back on the same side as the Post Office where you will find a little shopping precinct.

Stop 4: Butterfly Walk

Camberwell has a somewhat underwhelming pedestrian shopping area, called Butterfly Walk.


And there is even a butterfly on one of the buildings facing Denmark Hill.


I puzzled over this as I could find nothing on the web about the age of the shopping centre or why it is called Butterfly Walk. But then I discovered that there is a butterfly known in Britain as the Camberwell Beauty, first spotted in Coldharbour Lane in 1748. This butterfly can be found in both Europe and North America and elsewhere it is known as “Mourning Cloak”. the butterfly has mainly dark wings but they are edged with bright yellow and some blue. The pattern has been likened to a girl in mourning who defiantly lets a glimpse of a brightness show below her mourning dress.

Now head to the main road junction and take a left.

Stop 5: Two Bus Garages

Curiously Camberwell has two bus garages almost opposite each other. As we walk along the road, the one on the left is called Camberwell Garage and is run by Go-Ahead London.


This was built as a bus garage and although finished in 1914 it was actually only used from 1919. It is one of the largest bus garages in London and extends a long way down the side road and across to the next street.


And the one on the right is called Walworth Garage.


This garage is run by Abellio, a wholly owned subsidiary of Netherlands state-controlled rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). It uses the NS logo.

The site started as Camberwell Tram Depot in 1891. Then in 1950, it became a bus garage. As there was already a Camberwell Bus Garage, it changed its name to Walworth Bus Garage, even though it is actually in Camberwell..

Just before the railway bridge and opposite to the entrance to Walworth Garage, you will see a street on the left called Camberwell Station Road. Go down here.

Stop 6: site of Camberwell station


And soon you will see a street called Station Terrace.


But the thing is that there has not been a passenger station here for a hundred years.


There was one here, opened in October 1862 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway as part of the company’s new route into the City of London. In May 1863 it became known as Camberwell New Road but in October 1908 reverted to the name Camberwell.

As with many other lesser used London stations, it was closed to passenger traffic during the First World War. It never reopened. Camberwell was well served by electric tram services which gave direct access to more places that the railway could, so like many of these inner suburban stations the traffic had been in decline anyway..

The trams had gone by the early 1950s but Camberwell remained unconnected by rail. There had been plans in the 1930s to extend the Bakerloo line here from Elephant and Castle starting but after the Second World War, there was no money for this kind of project.

The idea was revived in around 2006 and since then Transport for London has consulted on various ideas about extending the Bakerloo line to Lewisham and possibly beyond. However the most recent consultation (February 2017) makes clear the preferred route is along Old Kent Road missing out Camberwell completely. However Camberwell may still get reconnected to the rail network as there is now talk of reinstating the station here so it would be served by Thameslink trains.

There is precious little left of the old station which closed in April 1916. At track level there is the ghost of an island platform and at street level there is a much altered building which I guess would have been the entrance and ticket hall.


It has lost its upper floor and the main structure has been used as a car repair facility. But you can just about imagine it as a station.

By the way if you look on the other side of the road you can see a large bus park which is part of the huge Camberwell Bus Garage.


Now retrace your steps back to Camberwell Green where you should turn left, continuing with the Green on your right. Our next stop is just beyond the end of the green on the left.

Stop 7: Former ABC cinema

Now we have an old cinema building which is still standing largely intact.


This was the Regal Cinema. It had been started just before the start of the Second World War and it was finished off finally opening in June 1940. It had been developed by an independent company but was sold to Associated British Cinemas prior to completion.


Within weeks of opening, in September 1940, the Regal was closed by bomb damage but it quickly reopened the next month. It was renamed ABC in December 1961 and finally closed in October 1973.

It was converted into a Bingo Hall and operated under various names including Jasmine and Gala until February 2010, when it suddenly closed. The building was sold to a church which is what it is today.

Return to Camberwell Green and our next stop is around the first part of the green you get to.

Stop 8: Camberwell Green memorials

There are a number of memorials here. First there is a bench round a tree, dedicated to Corporal Sidney Bates VC.


He was a local lad who was killed in France and posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for Gallantry.

Then there is a path to the left with a couple of Second World War memorials.


Immediately to your right is one dedicated simply “For those who lost their lives in the Second World War”.


But further on is a more site specific one, and one with a very poignant story.


Although the plaque starts off “In memory of the people of Camberwell who died or suffered in War” it then goes on to record a specific incident from 17 September 1940. There was a direct hit on a bomb shelter here and it killed 13 members of the same family who had just been celebrating a wedding.

Here is a link to the story in the Guardian from 2007

And then to the left of this is a chunky wooden bench.


This has a little plaque which says “The CoolTan Arts bench. A safe place to sit, rest and a gift to our local community. Dedicated to Debbie and everyone with experience of mental distress.”


CoolTan Arts is an arts in mental health charity run by and for adults with experience of mental health conditions. According to its website, CoolTan Arts has existed since 1991 and became a charity in 1997. It took its name from the disused CoolTan sun lotion factory where the founders of CoolTan squatted. Today it is based in railway arched near to here in Walworth Road.

I do wonder about siting a bench referencing mental distress so close to three war memorials. Which came first, I wonder?

Now go to the end of the Green and turn left. Our next stop is in Wilson Road a side turning on the right just beyond the church. 

Stop 9: Camberwell School of Art, Wilson Road (Formerly Wilson’s School)

Camberwell is home to a well known art school, now part of the University of the Arts London. The Camberwell School is on two sites. The main location which opened in 1898 is a little further along the main road along with the South London Gallery which opened in 1891. The old Town Hall of Camberwell Borough Council dating from 1934 is also along here. Architectural guru Pevsner describes that building as “singularly undistinguished”

By the way Camberwell Borough Council’s motto was “All’s Well” as in “All’s well that ends well” or maybe “All’s well that Cambers well”.

It is a bit too far to go to see these buildings but we can content ourselves with the other Art School building in Wilson Road.


This building was originally Wilson’s Grammar School. There is a plaque you can just see through the railings which says “Grammar School founded by Edward Wilson, Vicar of Camberwell 1615 Rebuilt 1882.”


And this is echoed on the street by this stone.


Wilson’s School still exists and has claim to be one of the oldest state schools. It moved to a new development called Roundshaw on the site of Croydon Airport in 1975. One famous old boy of Wilson’s School was actor Michael Caine

Now retrace your steps along the main road and turn left into Camberwell Grove.

Stop 10: Camberwell Grove


This is a lovely, rather unexpected street. Pevsner describes Camberwell Grove as “well preserved late Georgian terraces and semi detached houses connected by one storey entrance bays”.

The street began as a private avenue behind the mansion of the Cock family and was built up after the house was sold in 1776 and demolished. What is unusual is the development focuses on a single avenue. There are no squares or crescents.

The first part you get to is the oldest with some houses dating from the 1770s and 1780s


Further up on the right is a little chapel – the Grove Chapel which dates from 1819 and is still going.


Grove Chapel is an independent church which has no formal links with any particular denomination or church grouping,

Sadly not all Camberwell Grove is Georgian. A little way along you come to some newer (less attractive) buildings and it opens out. (Note the picture below was taken looking back from the way we have just come)


And look to your left and you can see a four track railway line in deep cutting. You cannot see this on the right as the line goes into a tunnel.


Then a bit further on to your right you will see a house at the end of a terrace with a large white plaque.


This records that Joseph Chamberlain (1836 – 1914) lived here.


Joseph Chamberlain was a major politician first in local Government and then nationally. We came across him in Highbury, N5, where there is also another (non blue) plaque to him. He moved to N5 in 1845, but he was born in Camberwell, so I guess this was the place (or one of the places) where he lived as a small child.

Now take the side just a little before this house, Stories Road


There is a nice little sign on the left at the start of the street proclaiming the extent of Mr Stories’ property.


Continue along Stories Road and take a right at the end. Follow this road along. On the left you will see the beginning of the site which is our next stop.

Stop 11: William Booth Training College


But before we get to the main entrance, have a look at the artwork as the road bends



This is called “Run”. It dates from 2009 and is by Leigh Dyer. There is a wolf in one bed and a number of sheep in the other bed. The piece at once blends in but is visible, so I think it works really well on this site as the main road bends.

Now follow the main road round and you will get to the main entrance of the Salvation Army training college.

The Salvation Army’s William Booth Memorial Training College was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and was completed in 1932; Gilbert Scott’s other monumental South London buildings are Battersea Power Station and Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern). The simplicity here is partly the result of repeated budget cuts during its construction. Apparently much more detailing, including carved Gothic style stonework surrounding the windows, was originally planned.


Even so it is very impressive.

In front there are statues of General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army and his wife Catherine. They apparently did not die but were “promoted to glory”.



Our final stop is just over the road from the College.

Stop 12: Denmark Hill Station

Denmark Hill Station was opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1865. Today the entrance is an uninspiring box behind the original somewhat grander station building.


But the old footbridge is still in use and as a result of refurbishment, the station does now have lift access to all platforms.


There is also some nice multi coloured brickwork at platform level.


The original station building just to the left of the new entrance is in the Italianate style and sits above the tracks which are in a deep cutting. The building suffered a fire in 1980 and after restoration, a public house took over the main building. It was initially called the Phoenix and Firkin to commemorate the fire, then it became O’Neills and but it is now just the Phoenix.



Sad this is not still the station entrance but at least it is a good use for the building.

We are close to King’s College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital and you can easily pop over and see them from this point. But I am not planning to. So that brings us to the end of our SE5 walk.

Camberwell was clearly once quite a centre of entertainment with theatres and cinemas but today there are none left. The shops are pretty standard inner city fare and it is busy without too much character. Still there were one or two unexpected things along the way: the memorials on Camberwell Green; Camberwell Grove is lovely and the Salvation Army College was somewhat of a surprise.

We are now at Denmark Hill station which has trains into Victoria and Kent plus it is on the southern arc of London Overground from Clapham Junction to New Cross Gate and beyond. Or maybe pop into the Phoenix for a quick drink!

SE4: Jack be nimble, Jack be quick

SE4 is Brockley which is one of those places one tends to pass by on a train – it being on the main line out of London Bridge towards Croydon and Brighton. But now I have the chance actually to walk round here.

We start our walk at Brockley Post Office which is at 185 Brockley Road, SE4. Our first stop is just across the road and is a pub called the Brockley Barge..

Stop 1: Brockley Barge


This seems to suggest there might be a canal here but there is not. At least not today. The name of this pub recalls the barges which plied their trade on the Croydon Canal. This canal opened in 1809 and ran from Croydon to New Cross where it joined the Great Surrey Canal to access the Thames.

It was not a financial success and it closed in 1836 – the first canal to be closed by Act of Parliament. The canal bought by a railway company, the London and Croydon Railway who used much of the route for their new railway from London Bridge to West Croydon, the latter station being built on the filled in basin at the southern end of the canal.



This pub was built in 1868 and was originally called the Breakspear Arms. It was rechristened the Brockley Barge in 2000 when it became a Wetherspoons.

Our next stop is a little way along Brockley Road as if you had turned right our of the Post Office. 

Stop 2: Brockley Station

The London and Croydon Railway opened through here in 1839, but Brockley did not get a station until March 1871, though there is precious little there today to suggest it was a Victorian station. The buildings are modern, but there is an old footbridge.


There are four tracks here (two slow and two fast lines, with the fast ones together in the middle) but like all the stations between New Cross and Norwood Junction, Brockley only has platforms are the slow lines.

Today this station has 12 trains an hour. Four are Southern trains which go from London Bridge and end up at either Caterham or loop back to Victoria. The other 8 trains are the newish London Overground service extending the old East London line from New Cross Gate to either West Croydon or Crystal Palace. Must be slightly frustrating to be here if you want to get to central London when two thirds of your trains go on an arc around the centre. But at least they connect in with the tube quite well.

An interesting point to note about this station is that there is another railway line which passes over the end on the platforms.


This was opened in June 1872 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway on its Greenwich Park Branch Line and there was once a station here on this line, as we shall hear shortly.

Exit the station the way you came in and turn left and head back to the main road. Go under the railway bridge. Ahead is a junction which goes by the name of Brockley Cross.

Stop 3: Brockley Cross


Before venturing to the mini roundabout that is now Brockley Cross. Just look to your left as you pass under the railway bridge. This is what is left of the entrance to Brockley Lane station.



Brockley Lane is on that line that crosses over Brockley station. Brockley Lane station opened in 1872 but closed to passengers in January 1917 though it continued as a goods station until May 1970. There was a building at road level which was used as a shop until a fire in 2004. There is lots more info about this dead station at the wonderful Disused Stations site:

And according to the Disused Stations site, just across the road is the old station master’s house. Here it is today.


I guess it would be too expensive to reopen the station and create an interchange at Brockley so you could travel from say Croydon or Norwood Junction to Lewisham  or  perhaps Blackheath without having to go up to London Bridge. This kind of orbital journey does happen and such an interchange might help reduce congestion in central London. Maybe one day.

Now look ahead beyond the mini roundabout along Malpas Road and you get a view of some of the towers at Canary Wharf.


Stop 4 The Tea Factory

Turn back look along Endwell Road from Brockley Cross and you see this strange sight looming up. It says on the side “Tea Factory”


If you go along Endwell Road, you can see it full on.


This was apparently constructed in the late 1940’s by the London Tea and Coffee Company whose original warehouse was destroyed in the Second World War. It is rather nicely done but it is in a strange location which must have delightful views of the two railway lines that cross near here.

Now head away from Brockley Cross along Godfrey Road. Our next stop is a little way along this street.

Stop 5: Cedar Mews, 74 – 78 Godfrey Road

My eye was taken by this rather handsome newish development on the right, called Cedar Mews.



These apartment buildings have been fitted in and are the same scale as the 19th century houses nearby and yet they are completely different.

The buildings were completed in 2013 and are by West London based Groves Natcheva architects, who I have never heard of. They may not be to everyone’s taste but at least someone thought to make the effort.

Keep walking along Godfrey Road to the end where you will reach Wickham Road. Just take a short detour to your left along Wickham Road to see Number 42.

Stop 6: Number 42 Wickham Road


Unlikely as it may seem Lily Langtry, actress and mistress of the Prince of Wales, who is believed to have lived at 42 Wickham Road – at least according to Lewisham Council.

This is referred to in a council planning document about Brockley Conservation area:

Now head back along Wickham Road right to the end and you will be back at Brockley Road where you turn left. Our next stop is a little way along on the left.

Stop 7: Brockley Cemetery

This entrance is to Brockley cemetery, although when it opened in 1858 it was called Deptford Cemetery.


There is a helpful map on the right as you go in.


It is a quiet well kept cemetery – not at all overwhelmed by vegetation.


There are a couple of war memorials – both of which are of rather strange design.

First you will come across the Deptford War memorial.


This has a column and then a big space with a back wall. in the space are a series of small marker stones with numbers – presumably they have some significance such as they are for the location of wreaths at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

Further on there is another war memorial, again an odd design which does not encourage you to approach closely.


One curiosity about this cemetery is that it was actually two cemeteries and there was a wall between them until 1948. Just around here I think.


The two were opened in the same year (1858) and the other was originally called Lewisham Cemetery and is now Ladywell Cemetery.

Just near the boundary between the two cemeteries is this interesting memorial which sits on its own.


This monument tells a sad tale. Below the figure is an inscription detailing the horrific events surrounding the death of Jane Clouson on 25 April 1871.

It says: “A motherless girl who was murdered in Kidbrooke Lane, Eltham aged 17 in 1871. Her last words were, “Oh, let me die”.”


The monument was funded by public subscription following the contentious trial and acquittal of Edmund Walter Pook, a printer from Greenwich, who had been accused of her murder.  More on that story can be found on Wikipedia

There is a site run by the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries which has some interest stuff about the cemetery.

Retrace your steps to the main road and turn left. Our next stop is ahead on the left.

But going along you might spot some little reminders that this was once a tram route.


These are relics of the London County Council (LCC) Tramway system. We saw some in Tooting SW17 and here they are again. The key thing which made the LCC system different was that there were no overhead wires. The trams got their power though a live rail in a conduit in the street. These manhole covers would have been part of that system. Amazing they are still here given that the trams were withdrawn from this street in 1952.

Our next stop is a little way on the left.

Stop 8: Crofton Park Library

This lovely building opened in 1905 and was funded by Scottish American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919). It is one of around 19 he supported in Greater London.


Although Crofton Park Library is part of Lewisham Library Service, for the past 5 or so years, it has been a volunteer run Community library hosted by an organisation called Eco Communities. It manages to open 5 days a week and maybe this volunteer model is the future for many libraries.

Note the crest over the door, with the motto “Salus Populi Suprema Lex”.


This translates roughly as: “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law” and is attributed to Cicero. This was the motto of the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham  which was created in 1900 and it was taken up by its successor, the London Borough of Lewisham which was formed in 1965.

We are right by a railway bridge here and if you look over the road, you will see the side of our next stop.

Stop 9: Rivoli Ballroom


Keep going along the main road and you will see the front.


This is quite an amazing survivor.

The Rivoli started life as a cinema in July 1913 when it opened as the Picture Palace  According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site:

“It soon became known as the Crofton Park Picture Palace and by 1918 was renamed Crofton Park Cinema. In 1931 it had been renamed Rivoli Cinema and some alterations had been carried out to modernise the buildings facade in a rather plain Art Deco style, plus a cafe was added to the facilities.”

It remained an Independently operated and owned cinema throughout it life. It closed on 2nd March 1957.  The building was boarded up for a couple of years and then reopened on 26th December 1959 as the Rivoli Ballroom. The interior is apparently much as it was from back then which makes it so special.

Despite threats to demolish the building in 2007, it remains open today catering to lovers of all sorts of dance and in February and April 2017, they are even having a pop up cinema over a couple of days.

Here is a link to their website for more info.

Our next stop is just across the road.

Stop 11: Crofton Park station

This is a strange little station which was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover railway in 1892 on what is known as the Catford Loop, which provided an alternative route for the Chatham line between Brixton and Shortlands. It also has a connection to the route into Blackfriars near Loughborough Junction which is where the trains go today




But it is a rather poor train service. Only two trains an hour. they are Thameslink trains on the West Hampstead to Sevenoaks route. Unsurprisingly this station had only around 0.75m passengers in 2015/16 compared with over 4m at Brockley.


Now if you have gone in the station, then come out and turn left and head along the main road. Our final stop is ahead on your right.

Stop 12: Brockley Jack

There has been a hostelry here for some time. For much of the 18th century it was known as “The Crooked Billet”, for much of the 19th century “The Castle”

The London Encyclopaedia says “Brockley remained agricultural until the 19th century, the only building of note being the Brockley Jack formerly a curious, rambling hostelry, reputedly the haunt of highwaymen”.

The pub was rebuilt in 1898 by the brewers Noakes. There are a couple of reminders of Noakes. High up on the left hand side you can see the words “Noakes Entire”.


“Entire” originally meant a blend of three separate beers, consisting of one third each beer, ale, and strong beer. Initially it was mixed in the bar just before service but later it was mixed at the brewery and shipped out ready to be served..

And by the front door there is a foundation laid by Wickham Noakes.


Noakes by the way was a local Brewery based in White Grounds, SE1 (which is just off Crucifix Lane close to London Bridge station). Noakes was taken over by Courage in 1930.

When the pub was rebuilt in 1898, it had a function room at the rear. This has been used for various things, such as a dance hall, a snooker room and a music venue. But since the early 90s, it has been used for theatrical performances. It now goes by the name of “The Jack Studio”.

The theatre website says: “In 2017 the Jack Studio the marks twenty three years of creating theatre. It is a vibrant and intimate performance space in south east London, with a long history both within its community and the London-wide theatre scene. We are committed to producing theatre that inspires, challenges and entertains our audience. The theatre is keen to continue its tradition of supporting new companies, providing a space for them to develop their work, alongside the productions created each year by the Jack’s in-house team.”

More info about the theatre and what’s on there at:

Well we have reached the end of our SE4 tour. Some interesting things along the way in the form of a couple of pubs, a couple of stations, a library and a dance hall.

I should just mention that there is a blue plaque in SE4 for the reporter and crime writer Edgar Wallace who lived at 6 Tressillian Crescent, SE4, but it was just a little too far off the route to include, but you could see it between stops 6 & 7. As you are heading along Wickham road, take a left along Harefield Road and keep going to the end

We are close by Crofton Park station with its pathetic train service, so you might want to jump on a bus back to Brockley or else go on to Forest Hill both of which have much better services.

SE3: Sun, Sand and Postcards on the edge…

SE3 is Blackheath, which centres on one of London’s suburban villages. It is an area with somewhat more character than the previous postcode, SE2.

We start our walk at Blackheath Post Office in Blackheath Grove. Head out of the Post Office towards the main road and station. The latter, which is over the road, is our first stop.

Stop 1: Blackheath station

The railway arrived in Blackheath in 1849 on a line from Gravesend towards Lewisham and on to London Bridge. The building at street level dates from 1879, but down at platform level are some original buildings.


It has an odd arrangement in that the main access to the platforms does not go through the ticket hall. There are also no ticket barriers here because there is not really the space, so they just have the free standing Oyster validators.


The London bound platform did have an adjoining bay platform which could be used for terminating trains from London. It is still here but overgrown and disconnected, now the platform has been extended to take longer trains.


I have always been puzzled as to the railways in this part of South East London. There are three parallel lines which head out of London Bridge and come together again at Dartford. The northern one runs through Greenwich and Woolwich, the middle one through Bexleyheath and the southern one through Sidcup. But then there is this odd linking line connecting the northern and middle ones between Blackheath with Charlton. Why was this put in? The answer is that this link is the original line – the more direct route through Greenwich was only completed in 1878 and the line through Bexleyheath in 1895 (as we heard in SE2 in connection with William Morris’ travels to and from the Red House).

Now if you are in the station, head out on to the street, turn right and cross the road. Take the first turning on your left, which is Bennett Park

This short street has no less than three blue plaques. The first you come across is at Number 4 on the right. This is for Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944) who was a mathematician and astrophysicist. But I am going to skip him and focus on the other two.

Stop 2: Number 5 Bennett Park

This is on the left as you come down the road.


And there is a blue plaque to graphic artist Donald McGill (1875 – 1962)


McGill’s name is today synonymous with saucy seaside postcards. He was a naval draughtsman until 1904. An in-law encouraged him to design postcards after seeing an illustrated get-well card he had made for a sick nephew. Within a year it was his full-time occupation. He spent most of his life in the Blackheath area. Not sure how long he was living at 5 Bennett Park.

The cards feature stereotypical images of buxom young women, fat old ladies, drunken and/or lecherous middle aged men, honeymoon couples and vicars. He has been called ‘the king of the saucy postcard’. They are little well drawn masterpieces of social observation with a Music Hall sense of humour.

He did well out of this but even at the height of his fame he only earned three guineas a design, and he did not get anything when the image was continually reproduced.

Strange I do not know why but I kind of thought he was Scottish – probably the name and the sense of humour.

Continue along Bennett Park to the very end which is where our next stop is.

Stop 3: Number 47 Bennett Park

This rather lovely building has the words “Blackheath Arts Club” over the door on the left.


The Blackheath Art Club was founded here in 1883 to:

“promote social intercourse among gentlemen interested in science, literature, painting and music in Blackheath and the neighbourhood”.

The purpose-built studios at 47 Bennett Park were intended to be commercially self-sustaining and subsidise the building of the art school and conservatoire but this never really worked out. The Art Club had its last exhibition in 1916 and the building was requisitioned by the Government for war use. The Club itself was wound up soon after the First World War.

The building then went through a variety of uses but was taken over in 1933 by the GPO Film Unit. Headed by a man called John Grierson, this Unit was set up to produce sponsored documentary films mainly related to the activities of the Post Office.The unit was a pioneer in making documentary films and had contributions from well known people such as Benjamin Britten, W.H. Auden, E.M. Forster and J.B Priestley.


The GPO Film Unit became the Crown Film Unit in 1940 with a remit was to make films for the general public in Britain and abroad, basically moral boosting propaganda. This went on to become part of the Central Office of Information.

Today the building has been converted into flats.

Retrace your steps along Bennett Park and turn left at the end. Continue along here until the roundabout where our next stop is on the left.

Stop 4: Blackheath Halls

There are a pair of interesting buildings here. Blackheath Halls was established via a public subscription and built in 1895 by William Webster. The adjoining Conservatoire of Music and the School of Art, which you come to first, were completed in 1896.


The Hall building has some lovely relief panels.




The venue initially hosted orchestral and choral works with people like Dame Clara Butt and Percy Grainger appearing here.

During the 1980s the Halls were threatened with demolition but were saved with the support of local businesses and the community. After extensive renovation and restoration followed, the Halls reopened in 1991.

Blackheath Halls are now owned by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. This was formed in 2005 as a merger of two older institutions – Trinity College of Music and Laban Dance Centre.

The Great Hall seats 600 and there is a 160 seat recital room.  The Halls cater for classical and non classical concerts as well as stand-up comedy.

Continue walking past the Halls and turn left down the first street.

Stop 5: Blackheath Park

This is a private street (or rather a group of streets) which the Cator estate.



According to architectural guru Pevsner, this area formerly belonged to Wrinklemarsh Manor, owned in the 17th century by Sir John Morden, more of whom anon. The estate passed through various hands until it was purchased in 1783 by a John Cator. He demolished the house and started to develop the land.

The street, Blackheath Park, dates from the early 1800s, and of course no such development would be complete without a church.


This is St Michael and All Angels and is noticeable because of its very slender spire. The church itself also very slim profile. This was built in the late 1820s..



There are some interesting 19th century houses here and also some notable post war 20th century developments which have been fitted in, including a number by a company called Span who built some 13 developments within the Cator estate in the 1950s.

As you return back along Blackheath Park have a look out on the left for number 10 – a modern building which lurks like a stealth bomber in amongst the older stock.



This dates from 1968 and is by Patrick Gwynne. Very well done. At once uncompromisingly modern and yet not out of place as it does not shout its presence.

Now retrace your steps and leave the estate, going back past the Halls and the station. Just beyond the station the road splits.


Take the left hand road. This is the centre of Blackheath Village and very lovely it is too.  This street is called Tranquil Vale which is a superb name, don’t you think? Go past the Crown pub.


And our next stop is on the left.

Stop 6: Mary Evans Picture Library

This is the Mary Evans Picture Library. It is a private library which specialises in providing pictures for commercial use in books, newspapers, magazines, adverts, web sites and all manner of other media.



Mary Evans and her husband Hilary founded the library in 1964. Its core philosophy, unchanged for over 40 years, is “to make available and accessible all the wonderful images created for people to enjoy over the centuries which were originally published in books, on posters, in advertisements, or as prints”. This is not high art but “ordinary” images which display such skill and creativity on the part of the artist, and the style, medium and texture of which defined the era in which they were created.

Sadly this is not somewhere where you can just pop in and browse. But if you want to find out more follow this link:

Ahead you will see the church of All Saints, our next stop.

Stop 7: All Saints Church


All Saints Church dates from 1857 – 1867 and Pevsner describes it as “Puginian … already old fashioned.” going on to say “Remarkable for the way in which it is placed right into the heath. Surrounded on all sides by grass, it stands as if it were a model.”. Yes it does look slightly unreal.

But the other unreal thing about this spot is the fact you can see the tops of some of the Canary Wharf towers in the distance.


There is so much I could cover here about the heath and the village,


But I want to press on as there are some things a little further afield I would like to get to. However as a result the rest of the walk is a bit spread out.

From the Church follow the edge of the heath, passing by the Clarendon Hotel and the Princess of Wales pub. Keeping the heath to your left, turn along South Row. Note the rather lovely early 18th century building to your right.



With this crest.


The crest has the motto “Nihil sine labore” which is often translated as “Without work there is nothing”. In other words you have to work for things.

Continue walking along side the heath and our next stop is on your right.

Stop 8: The Paragon

This is at the other end of the Blackheath Park development and is called The Paragon.


It is a rather grand sweeping crescent overlooking the heath. It was built over a period of years from 1794 to 1807 and is part of the Cator estate.



The road is private and guarded by a small lodge at each end. Pevsner says these are post war creations but comments they are “entirely convincing”.

Then just ahead you will see a green space with a gatehouse. That is our next stop, or rather will be, when we get to it.

Stop 9: Morden College



So far so uninviting. But look to your left and you will see a sign for a footpath – not any old footpath but the “Sir John Morden Walk, London SE3” no less.


Go down here because that way you can see the historic building at the heart of the college.

Confusingly Morden College is not an educational establishment and self evidently it is not in the place called Morden..

Their website explains:

“Sir John Morden, born in 1623, was a merchant, a member of both the Turkey (Levant ) Company, and of the East India Company. From 1669, with his wife, Dame Susan, he lived at Wricklemarsh Manor, Blackheath.”

He founded his College to provide accommodation and support for merchants like himself, but who had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own; were single, either widowers or bachelors; of a minimum age of 50 years, and members of the Church of England.

As you walk along the path the main building appears on your right.


The original College was built between 1695 and 1700 in the style of Wren: This had 40 apartments around a quadrangle, with a Chapel all of which were set in gracious grounds.


Since the Second World War more accommodation has been built in Blackheath and also Beckenham, raising the capacity from 40 to 400.

So basically this is rather unusual old people’s home.

Keep walking along the path and you will reach a street. this is Kidbrooke Grove. Cross over tis and keep going down the path which leads you to Kidbrooke Park Road. When you get here turn left and go to the end. This is Shooter Hill Road. Hard to believe this is the A2, the main road to North Kent and Dover.

Turn right here and walk on to our next stop.

Stop 10: The Sun in the Sands pub

This is one of those names which you hear a lot on traffic reports as it is a junction on the A2 and Blackwell Tunnel Southern Approach. You cannot immediately see the latter as it runs below the roundabout in a cutting.


The junction gets its name from a pub, which you can see on the far side of the road interchange.


This is an unusual pub name and the Dictionary of Pub Names says the name comes from the sight of the setting sun amidst dust, kicked up by sheep herded by drovers from Kent travelling towards London. However Greenwich Council says in its “Sun in the Sands Conservation Area Character Appraisal (Adopted 26 September 2007)” that “The name “Sun in the Sands” refers to the sand pits formerly around the pub.”

This document also says: “A building on this site appears on Rocque’s 1745 map, and this appears on Hasted’s Plan in his 1778 History of Kent. The first reference to a public house appears in the 1790s rate books, the ‘Sun Ale House’ is recorded as such in 1812. This building seems to be the  same as that illustrated in the 1830 watercolour reproduced above on the front page. The present Sun in the Sands Public House is said to date from 1842 – and is believed to have been substantially rebuilt at the end of the 19th century. However comparison of the photos below of the present building with the 1830 drawing shows that the pub retains the same form – wide gable ends and 5 bay width which were there and already ‘old’ in 1830. This suggests that, whilst no doubt much altered and rebuilt, the building frame predates the 1840s and is likely to be substantially the 18th century one seen in the 1830s watercolour.”

So it has a bit of history.

Sad it looks like this, with the Blackwall Tunnel southern approach thundering under the roundabout.


Now go over to the far side of the roundabout on the other side of the Blackwall Tunnel southern approach road from the Sun in the Sands pub. You will see a pathway which parallels the main road go along this. This leads to a road which you should follow. Take a left at the end (which is Old Dover Road). Go along here through a small shopping area and past a library. Our next stop is just before the end on the left.

Stop 11: site of an old cinema, Old Dover Road

Hard to see now but this M & S Food store is on the site of an old cinema


The cinema was originally called the Roxy and opened in 1935. The newly built cinema building was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC). According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site “it was not designed by their usual in-house architect W.R. Glen, but by noted theatre architect Bertie Crewe”. It was closed by war-time damage and only reopened in January 1947. It was renamed ABC in 1963 and survived as a cinema until February 1974.

The cinema was demolished in the spring of 1981 and a rather uninspired supermarket structure was built on the site. Not sure what it was when it opened but it is now an M & S.

Go to the end of the road and ahead you will see a green. Cross over to the other side of the green and our final stop is straight ahead.

Stop 12: Pegga Stores, Number 188 Westcombe Hill

This is an old fashioned survivor of a shop. It is called Pegga Stores and sells greeting cards and small gifts


For 45 years this was the domain of Peggy Hawkes – and Londonist told the story in a great article about the shop in 2016.

She had started working at the local newsagents/stationers for an elderly couple, the Munns. Her son, Andrew, cannot be sure 188 Westcombe Hill has been a stationer’s since it was built but he does know the Munns had it for 50 years before they retired, a year or so into Peggy’s employment.

“She was horrified to think she’d lose her job,” says Andrew. “So the family got together and bought the shop.”

For local people Peggy’s passing in December 2015 brought a mixture of sadness, disbelief — she was an institution no one imagined could die — and fear.

“Everyone’s been asking ‘are you going to sell the shop; are you going to change it?’ We’re not. We love it,” says Andrew. “But we will clean.”

“People try to buy the shop all the time,” says Andrew. “We get notes shoved under the door (there’s no letterbox) and people even come in. Mum used to send them away with a flea in their ear.

“Me and Angie are going to give this a go.” Angela Wing worked with Peggy for many years and also has no intention of changing anything.



The question which does remain unanswered is why is it called Pegga store and not Peggy? Even her son does not the answer to that one.

So we have now reached the end of our SE3 walk. We have seen quite a bit of one of London’s lovely suburban villages with some interesting historic connections, including a college which is not a college and a church which looks like a model.

We are a bit of a way from a station here but you can get buses 54, 108 or 202 back to Blackheath station or else you have buses 108, 286 or 422 to Westcombe Park station

SE2: Knee hill-ism

SE2 is Abbey Wood. This postcode is actually the furthest east of the London postcodes. The area cannot be said to have much of interest and this is somewhat of a contrast to the previous postcode SE1. But as ever we will find enough to entertain ourselves.

We start our walk at Abbey Wood Post Office, 90 Abbey Wood Road, which is in the heart of what is called “Abbey Wood Village”

Stop 1: Abbey Wood Village


Sadly the reality is a little disappointing. This is not some quaint historic village but a short street of rather nondescript shops. Perhaps the only points worth commenting on is that there seem to be no charity shops and only one empty one. However the selection of shops is somewhat pedestrian.


Then there is a dull looking pub – the Abbey Arms – at the end.


There really is not much to detain us in this “village”. Just beyond the pub is our next stop.

Stop 2: Abbey Wood Station

Abbey Wood railway station was opened in 1849, although there is nothing left to suggest that there was an old station here. It is being rebuilt and will be the end of one of the branches of Crossrail. The new station is emerging and will look quite impressive – it certainly will stand out in this otherwise dull area.



There will be two pairs of platforms by the look of it. On the south side will be the Southeatern services and on the north side will be the new Crossrail services.





It does not look like they have arranged things so there could be a cross platform interchange with Crossrail. This maybe could have been done if Crossrail lines had been placed in the middle. Thus terminating Crossrail trains could have had a cross platform connection with the Kent bound trains and then they could head out and reverse and go back west from the platform adjacent to the London bound Southeastern services. And if they ever extend Cross rail services into Kent that arrangement would make life easier.

Now retrace you steps back through the “village” and turn left by the Post Office and go under the flyover. This is called Abbey Road and goes under a road called Harrow Manorway.

Stop 3: Harrow Manorway

I pause here because this massive flyover and car park beneath seems quite out of keeping with the area.


The flyover carries a road called Harrow Manorway and was built in the 1960s to replace a level crossing when nearby Thamesmead was being developed. Here is a view from above, should you be interested. It feels like it should have been part of a bigger road scheme but it just ends here in Abbey Wood.


Keep walking along Abbey Road. We are heading for Lesnes Abbey.  Lesnes Abbey of course is how the Abbey part of Abbey Wood came about.

Ignore the sign pointing to Lesnes Abbey which sends you up New Road. Instead keep going and you will an open space on you left. Ahead is a concrete bridge over the road. This carries the Green Chain walk – a linked system of open spaces between the River Thames and Crystal Palace Park in South East London.


It is here you should leave Abbey Road, by climbing the steps and onto the path leading to our next stop.

Stop 4: Lesnes Abbey

This open space contains the ruins of a 12th century Abbey – the Abbey of St Mary and St Thomas the Martyr founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci (or Lucy)



According to Bexley Council’s website: “De Luci, who had supported Henry II in his dispute with Thomas Becket, which ended with Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, probably founded [the Abbey] as an act of penance.”

“Lesnes was not a large or wealthy foundation. Throughout much of its existence, the abbey was in financial difficulties. This was partly caused by the expense of maintaining the river walls and draining the marshes along the banks of the Thames. This reclamation helped transform the land from unusable marsh to valuable pasture. Nevertheless, the abbey gradually built up debts and through the fourteenth century its buildings fell into neglect.”

It never became a large community, and was closed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525, under a licence to suppress monasteries of less than seven inmates. Lesnes, with only an abbot and five canons, became one of the first monasteries to be suppressed in England. Most of the monastic buildings were pulled down soon after the dissolution, Henry Cooke, who acquired the site in 1541, retained the Abbot’s Lodging for the manor of Lesnes.

It eventually passed to Sir John Hippersley who having salvaged building materials, sold the property to Thomas Hawes of London in 1632. It was then bequeathed to Christ’s Hospital in 1633. They kept it until 1930, when the London County Council purchased it. In 1931 Lesnes Abbey was opened to the public as a park. Ownership transferred to the London Borough of Bexley in 1986.

More info at:

There are a few things to explore here.

Go up to the left and you will see an old Mulberry Tree.


The sign says this was part of a failed attempt during the reign of King James I in the early 17th century to create home grown silk.


And beyond that is a viewing area.


There are plans to provide signage about the park’s history and the landscape beyond and  there is going to be what is called “interpretive abbey windows” to “help to help frame to views across Thamesmead, Woolwich, Dagenham and all the way to central and south east London.” There are just the stubs where the “window” will stand but in the distance you can just about make out the towers of Canary Wharf.


In the woods behind, there is a “fossil wood” with a rather splendid carved beast of some kind.


A bit of investigating suggests this is a “Coryphodon” (there is more info about this kind of prehistoric beast on wikipedia if you are interested! )


I could not see any actual fossils (but maybe I was not looking properly) but they did have some plaques which indications of the kind of fossils I guess were found hereabouts.


It seems you are sort of free to go rummaging round here to look for fossils – subject to certain rules:

Return back to the ruins, which are worth a little wander round. Within the ruins are some signs to indicate what the various areas were used for.



Bexley’s website says: “Rosesia was the great granddaughter of Sir Richard de Lucy, and as a young girl she was raised at Lesnes Abbey… She eventually married and moved away, becoming Roesia de Dover. However, when she died her heart was buried at Lesnes Abbey as a relic to be prayed for in order to speed the passage of her soul through purgatory.”

Beyond the main ruins is an enclosed area which is called the Monk’s Garden, which is being developed with plants typical of when this was a religious establishment.


Now head off towards the new structure with the green roof, which was shut up on my visit but is supposedly a visitor centre of some kind.


Keeping this building to your right leave the open space and turn right into New Road. Go down New Road to the end and turn left back along Abbey Road. Just before the flyover, turn left into Manorside Close and go along the little path head which takes you up to the roundabout where Harrow Manorway meets Knee Hill, which is our next stop.

Stop 5: Knee Hill

Head up the street called Knee Hill but look out over the open space to your left,


You will see a stone plaque (almost opposite the end of Federation Road)


This commemorates a connection with William Morris who lived at the nearby Red House, in Bexleyheath from its completion in 1860 until 1865. Morris regularly walked to Abbey Wood station. He also used a decorated wagon to  travel between Abbey Wood station and Red House, Bexleyheath. Clearly this area was then poorly served by train. In fact the line through Bexleyheath (which today provides a nearer station to Red House) only opened in 1895.


By the way “Si je puis” (If I can, in English) was Morris’s motto and can be found in a tile in the porch at Red House.

This, it seems, is the nearest Abbey Wood can get to a blue plaque – and it is not even blue and it only commemorates that someone famous passed by!

Now the name of this place brought to mind that it sounded like it might have something to do with nihilism. In philosophy nihilism is: “the belief that nothing in the world has a real existence.”. Perhaps this is kind of fitting for SE2 which is a kind of uninspiring non-place where the only thing which is deemed worth remembering is something so fleeting that it hardly had any real existence.

Now back in the “real” world, take a right into Federation Road.

Stop 6: Caravan Club

Just along here on the left is a surprising sight – a camping and caravan site which is owned and operated by The Caravan Club.


The Club was founded in 1907 as The Caravan Club of Great Britain and Ireland. Its aim was to “… bring together those interested in van life as a pastime…to improve and supply suitable vans and other appliances…to develop the pastime by collecting, publishing and supplying to members, books and periodicals and lists of camp sites etc… to arrange camping grounds.” Now known simply as the Caravan Club it runs some 200 sites of which this is one of two in Greater London.

Just seems kind of odd to find a place like this here.

Now keep walking along Federation Road

Stop 7: Co-op Estate

The houses here were developed by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS). They owned two farms in the vicinity of Abbey Wood and created the Bostall Estate between 1900 and 1930. The housing is largely traditional terraced houses in yellow London brick, with gardens to the front and rear. This was apparently also known locally as “The Co-op Estate”

The streets are named after Co-operative themes (Alexander McLeod was the first secretary of the RACS, Rochdale was location of the first modern Co-op, Robert Owen is regarded as the father of the Co-operative movement, plus there are streets called Commonwealth, Congress, Conference and Federation). There were some shops but no public houses to tempt the good people of the estate.




By the way I gather snooker champion Steve Davis lived in Commonwealth Way (don’t know exactly where) and went to Alexander McLeod Primary School and Abbey Wood Secondary School.

In the late 1950s the London County Council built the Abbey Estate starting with one road south of the railway and later extending on the northern side on former RACS marshland. The later in the mid-1960s the Greater London Council began building the first phase of Thamesmead on more ex-RACS land, north-east of Abbey Wood station. But that is now in SE28, so we will have to save that for a future date.

Now take a right down Shieldhall Street and ahead on the other side of McLeod Road is our next stop.

Stop 8: Greening Street Green

My eye was drawn to the open space ahead which is known as Greening Street Green.



It is a sad space imprisoned in a high wire mesh fence. Not at all inviting. It is almost as if the Council want to stop people using this. No doubt in the past it seemed a good idea to have this high fence stop balls escaping and dogs entering. But it really could be done better.

At the end of Shieldhall Street, I found our next stop.

Stop 9: Numbers 71 – 81 Abbey Wood Road

Facing on to Shieldhall Street and Greening Street are six terraced houses with names. They have the delusion of grandeur in that they are all “villas” despite being quite modest terraced houses.


Starting on the left there is Stanley and Eric.


And then there is Marie and Jessamine.


And finally Hyacinth and Myrtle.


Presumably these were relatives (or maybe friends) of the developer or builder. These people may have been so proud or honoured to have a house named after them. Their names live on it over the doorways of these six houses but who they were and why their names were chosen is I guess lost in the mists of time.

Walk along Abbey Wood Road as if you had done a right out of Shieldhall Street. Our next stop is ahead on the left

Stop 10: St Michael and All Angels Church

Architectural expert Pevsner normally so effusive in the description of churches simply mentions the existence of this one.



St. Michael and All Angels Parish Church opened in a temporary building in 1905. The permanent church, designed by well known church architect Sir Arthur Blomfield, was consecrated in 1908, and the original building became the church hall, which can be seen at the western end of the church…

Unusually for a church of this period the foundation stone is modest in the extreme.


It does not even have a name, just saying “To the Glory of God June 15 1907”.

So that brings us to the end of our SE2 walk – well sort of.


There is one thing which is really worth a visit in SE2 but it is a little too far to go to. That is the Crossness Pumping Station – a piece of wonderful Victorian engineering which was a key part of the sewage system created by Sir Joseph Bazelgette (1819 – 1891) in the 1860s.

Crossness is at the eastern end of the Southern Outfall Sewer and the facility included storage tanks and an engine to pump out the sewage on the falling tide.


The Beam Engine House is a Grade 1 Listed Industrial Building constructed in the Romanesque style and features some spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork. Today the Engine House is open for visits but the times are limited. See attached link:

A word of warning – according to TfL Journey Planner, the nearest bus stop to the Crossness site is some 28 minutes walk away. So probably best to use your own transport if you want to visit.

Well that really brings us to the end of our SE2 walk. Not the most inspiring postcode but even so it had the remains of a medieval abbey and a reminder that William Morris passed through here on the way to his house.

Assuming you did not go to Crossness you will see that you are virtually back to Abbey Wood station for onward travel.




SE1: All the World’s a Stage

SE1 is Waterloo, London Bridge, Bankside and Borough. There is so much here and like so many of the central postcodes I can only offer a small selection. I am going to focus on the part I know best – the bit west from London Bridge to Bankside, as this is where I worked for 8 years.

We start our walk at London Bridge Post Office, which is at 19a Borough High Street, just by the big railway bridge. Turn right out of the Post Office and then take the first right which is called London Bridge Street. Our first stop is up ahead.

Stop 1: London Bridge Station

This station is currently being completely rebuilt and so is in a state of flux. When it is finished in 2018, it will be very smart and modern, as can be seen from what has been done so far. Go in the station and work your way down to the lower level.



Hard to see now but this is one of the most historic railway sites in London. This was the terminus of the first passenger railway in central London – opened by the London and Greenwich Railway in December 1836. The story of this station is hugely complex but here is a bit of the tale.

Prior to completion, the London and Greenwich Railway had entered into an agreement with the proposed London and Croydon Railway. This allowed the Croydon company to use the Greenwich tracks from Bermondsey, and to share its terminal station. The Greenwich railway could not afford to build a sufficiently large station for the traffic for both companies because it had underestimated the cost of building the viaducts which carried most of its line. So in July 1836 it sold some land adjacent to its station site to the Croydon railway to build their own independent station. This was inconveniently on the north side of the Greenwich station which meant the two companies’ trains had to cross each other.


Parliament decided that the London and Greenwich route should be the entry point for services serving south east England and so two more companies started to use the station and approach tracks – the London and Brighton Railway in 1841 and the South Eastern Railway (running to Dover via Redhill and Tonbridge) in 1842.

With all this traffic the two tracks into the station were inadequate and so in the early 1840s the line was widened to four tracks. It was at this point the London and Greenwich swapped its station with the London and Croydon and so the conflict down the line was solved.

The Croydon and Brighton companies merged to form the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1846 and the South Eastern took over the London and Greenwich Railway in 1847. And these two companies ran their stations side by side but independently.

In 1864 the South Eastern extended their line to Charing Cross and a couple of years later to Cannon Street. The two halves of the station stayed separate until the creation of the Southern Railway in 1923.

London Bridge was badly damaged in 1940/1941. It was patched up and then there was a comprehensive redevelopment in the 1970s. But the two distinct stations could still be discerned. It was only finally with the Thameslink upgrade project that there was finally a chance to do a proper rebuild of the station.

The station is being rebuilt from one with 6 through platforms and 9 terminating ones to one with 9 through platforms and 6 terminating ones. And as part of this a new viaduct has been built over Borough Market to provide extra tracks to the west and to the east the tracks are being reordered so the Thameslink trains can reach the Brighton line without having to cross Kent trains on the level.


One of the features is the opening out of the brick arches underneath the station. This was started with the opening of the Jubilee line extension here and the consequent rebuilding of the underground station in the late 1990s.


But now an even bigger area has been created for the national rail station for a street level concourse linked to all the platforms by escalators. It is impressive now and it is only half open.


At last London Bridge is getting the station it deserves

Now from this new concourse, go out into St Thomas’s Street and turn right. Our next stop is across the road on the left.

Stop 2: Guy’s Hospital

This is a surprising sight – a lovely courtyard. This was built in stages through the 18th century for Guy’s Hospital.


To the right is a Chapel. Do go in if it is open.


This dates from the 1770s and architectural commentator Pevsner describes it as “a unique survival”.


Now look at the back wall and you will see this statue.


This is the guy himself. Strange to think there was a man called Guy – Thomas Guy actually, and he founded the hospital.


What I had not appreciated was that Thomas Guy set up his hospital opposite St Thomas’ Hospital to relieve overcrowding of the latter. St Thomas’ can trace its origins back to the 12th century and only Barts can claim an older heritage.

But when the South Eastern Railway extended their lines westwards, this was very disruptive and St Thomas’ moved in the late 1860s to its present site by Westminster Bridge. However since 1993 the two hospitals have come under the same NHS trust

There is one other things to spot here. Look just to the left of the Guy statue at this brass plaque.


This commemorates four times Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone’s connection with the hospital. Despite his other responsibilities he seems to have found time to be a Governor of the Hospital for 63 years – presumably this did not entail much.

Now head out of the Chapel and go though the main archway. This leads to a colonnade with an enclosed courtyard either side.


On the left is an odd stone shelter with the statue of a man sitting inside.


The stone structure is an alcove which came from the 18th century London Bridge which was removed when the bridge was widened in the early 1900s. And the person is the poet John Keats (1795 -1821) – he was a student at Guy’s in 1815/1816.

If you keep going you reach a peaceful open space. Or at least it is peaceful when there are no medical students are around.


Now retrace you steps back to St Thomas’s Street, not forgetting to look up to your right, where you will see the Shard towering about the Guy’s Hospital Tower, which looks so clunky (and short) against the Shard. The 34 floor Guy’s Tower was apparently the tallest hospital building in the world from when it was built in 1974 until it was overtaken in 2010 by one in Houston, Texas.


Turn left into St Thomas’s Street and you will pass a couple of things of interest on your way to the next stop. On the left is a blue plaque, to John Keats and his friend Henry Stephens who lodged here whilst studying.


We have come across these two before – Keats when in Lower Edmonton, N9 where he lived before becoming a student here and Henry Stephens when in N3 – he is the ink man.

Then on your right is a church like looking building which now houses the Old Operating theatre Museum and Herb Garret,



This is a museum of surgical history and is one of the oldest surviving operating theatres, dating from 1822. It is housed in what was once the attic (or garret) of St Thomas’s Church. This it seems was part of the original site of St Thomas’ Hospital. The garret was created when the church was rebuilt in the late 18th century. It was described as “the herb garret” in 1821 and it seems likely this was because it was used by the apothecary of St Thomas’ hospital to store medicinal herbs.

At the end of St Thomas’s Street turn left. Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 3: Borough Market

Borough Market claims to go back to the 11th century but it has been on this site since around the middle of the 18th century. The main market building are mid 19th century although there is this 1932 entrance which Pevsner describes as “mediocre”.



Although today the market is largely a retail one, for most of the 20th century it was really a wholesale market like Covent Garden. One of the things which allowed it to reinvent itself as today’s go to place for food was the fact that the Market is not controlled by central or local Government body but a board of trustees drawn from the locality. This meant it could adopt a policy of allowing only food related businesses and could prevent chains from invading. Thus it has a unique atmosphere, whereas Covent Garden and now Spitalfields have lost much of their special charm. There are one or two non food shops on the fringes but I believe these are in buildings not controlled by Borough Market Trustees.

Keep walking along Borough High Street. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 4: The George Inn

The George is in a courtyard and the remaining part of a galleried coaching inn. The buildings on the right date from the late 17th century – the Inn had to be rebuilt after the Great Fire of Southwark in 1676. A large chunk of it was lost in the 1880s when the then owners, the Great Northern Railway, demolished the central and northern wings .



Nevertheless what is left is lovely and one can see how the theatres of Shakespeare’s time evolved from this. This pub is actually owned by the National Trust but is leased out and operates as a normal pub. Do go in for a drink!


Now return to Borough high Street and turn left. You will note there are various alleys and courtyards off the main road which would have housed other inns, including the Tabard. The Tabard is mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which are the stories of a group of pilgrims as they travel to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. This is a contest and the prize is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return. The old Inn was lost in the Great Fire and its successor demolished in the 1870s.

Ahead you will see St George;s Church, borough ahead. Sadly we do not have time to venture down there, as we will be taking the first street on the right, Union Street.


Having turned into Union Street, continue down here. Just before a crossroads you will discover a little open space on your right. This is our next stop.

Stop 5: Crossbones Garden

This piece of land was once a burial ground – thought to be for those who could not be buried in consecrated ground, such as the local prostitutes. It was closed in 1853 and eventually the site was built over. Then when the Jubilee line extension was built in the 1990s, the site was used in part for an electricity sub station. As a result excavations took place and almost 150 graves form the first part of the 19th century were discovered.


Transport for London still own the site and its future is unclear. A local volunteer group, Friends of Cross Bones, is campaigning for a permanent memorial gardens. But in the meantime, the garden is open between 12 noon and 2pm Monday to Friday and a vigil is held on the 23rd of every month to honour the outcast, dead and alive.

More about Crossbones Gardens at:

Now as you turn to leave, you can appreciate better the wooden shelter which has been consructed over the entrance way.


And just on the left as you leave do have a look at this great sculpture.


The figure on the left represents the Bishop of Winchester under whose jurisdiction this area fell for many hundreds of years. He is in fact a kind of a gargoyle and when it rains the water from the roof above flows through his mouth and on to the other part of the sculpture, which is a bird. In fact it is a goose, symbolic of the local prostitutes who plied their trade around here and who were known as Winchester Geese. They were able to work here as it was outside the City of London and indeed the Bishop of Winchester at one point actually licensed them.

There is one bit of the space which is best seen from the other side of the boundary. So go out of the garden and turn right and then right again, into Redcross Way. you will see various City buildings poking their heads up over the railway.


On the right you will see a gateway festooned with ribbons.


And look though the gate.


Continue along Redcross Way towards the railway bridge. At the bridge Southwark Street crosses. Take a left here and our next stop is just ahead on the left.

Stop 6: Menier Chocolate Factory


This was built as the British outpost of a French chocolate company between 1865 and 1874.


By the 1980s, the building had become disused. But it was reborn in 2004 when it reopened as a small studio theatre, an art gallery and a restaurant.

Today it runs an eclectic programme of plays and musicals, and it has had a number of successes in getting its productions transferred – most recently its revival of the musical Funny girl with Sheridan Smith.

Now return along Southwark Street and turn left just before the railway bridge.

Stop 7: Cromwell Buildings

Our next stop is soon on the left.


This is Cromwell Buildings, an early social housing development dating from 1864. It was put up by the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, founded by Sir Sydney Waterlow whose statue we saw in Highgate


Keep straight on and follow the road round to your left

Stop 8: Site of the Anchor Brewery

The site ahead and to your left is a surprisingly low scale housing development, dating from the 1980s.. There are a few little plaques along the way. First at the corner of Maiden Lane is one which commemorates a roman connection


Then as you go along Park Street and find one which celebrates an obscure “international incident”.


And finally as we follow the development round to the left


Here we get the story of what was actually on this site – it was the Anchor Brewery. Note the name Thrale. For much of the 18th century, the brewery was in the hands of two members of the family Ralph, then his son, Thomas. It was Thomas and his wife Hester who were great friends with Samuel Johnson, as we heard when we were in SW16.

On Thomas’ death in 1781, the brewery was sold to Barclay Perkins and Co who operated it until 1955 when they were bought out by Courage. Brewing finally ceased here in 1982.

If you carry on walking down Park Street, have a look back and you get a nice view of the Shard.


Our next stop is a little further along Park Street, on your left just before the overbridge.

Stop 9: Site of Globe and Rose Theatres

You will see a relief plaque commemorating the site of the original Globe theatre.


And behind this is a little viewing platform up some steps.




This was the site of the original Globe theatre which was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. It burnt down in June 1613. A new theatre was up and running within a year and that carried on until it was closed down by the puritans in 1642.

The site was built over and today much is below a listed terrace from the 18th century but a fragment was uncovered in the 1980s when the area was being redeveloped.

But this is not the only place where there are remains of a Shakespearean theatre.

Go under the bridge and there is a doorway on the right. This leads to the remains of the Rose Theatre.



This predates the Globe and was the first theatre here. It was discovered when the office building on the site was demolished. There was such an outcry when it was discovered that the Rose Theatre was here and would be destroyed. So the solution was to build the new building over the remains. And there is a Trust looking after the remains – more info here:

According to their website, around two thirds of the original foundations have been excavated and protected for future generations to experience. The Rose Theatre Trust is now engaged in raising funds to excavate the remaining third and to make the site a permanent display as an educational and historical resource for the public to learn from and enjoy.

In the meantime you can visit (on Saturdays only I believe) and there are also theatrical productions you can see there.

Now keep walking and turn right down New Globe Walk and our next stop is right here on the left.

Stop 10: Globe Theatre


This is the replica of the Globe theatre. American actor and director Sam Wanamaker (1919 – 1993) is credited with the idea of building a replica. It is apparently quite realistic, though it only accommodates 1400, less than half the original. But then that is modern day safety considerations for you,. Sadly Wanamaker did not live to see the playhouse open in 1997.

Beyond the chimney of the old Bankside Power station, which is now Tate Modern, more of which anon.


But there is also another neighbour which is peeking up ahead. This is a new residential tower called One Blackfriars.


Our next stop is just a little further along the river.

Stop 11: Cardinal Wharf

This range of buildings is dates from the early 18th century and includes a building called Cardinal’s Wharf.



Look at the plaque.


Now that is a compelling story. It even seems to be borne out by the fact that if you look round you get a great view of St Paul’s across the river.


The trouble is that this plaque does not actually belong to this house. It seems it was moved here in the 1940s when the original house it adorned was demolished. that was a bit further along the river near the Founder’s Arms pub apparently.

Here is a link which explains:

Before we leave here, just take a look by the river and you will see a quotation on the riverwall. It starts boldly “Men’s evil manners live in brass”…


Then continues rather more faintly “Their virtues we write in water”


This it seems is a quote from Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII


Now continue walking along the riverside and our next stop is just on the left past the Millennium Bridge (which I am ignoring)

Stop 12: Tate Modern

Tate Modern opened here in the former Bankside Power station in 2000 and kickstarted the regeneration of this part of the South Bank.

Over time, Tate had become the guardians of two national art collections: British Art and International Modern Art. Taking over this space allowed Tate to split its permanent collections between two sites and give them more space.

The power station has closed in the 1980s and the disused hulk proved perfect for being reincarnated as a modern art gallery. It has been hugely successful and in June 2016 an extension was added expanding the floor space by some 60%.


Since the new extension opened, Tate Modern has had a wonderful (and free) viewing terrace at Level 10 from which you can look out in all directions. Even if you do not like Modern Art do go in to go up to this terrace.

The view to the east is dominated by the Shard, with the Guy’s Hospital tower in its shadow..


The going round anti-clockwise, you get a great view of the City from the corner.


Then straight over the original Bankside Power Station, you see the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s beyond. This is course is not a protected view of St Paul’s and it shows.


The going round you can look west over the two bridges at Blackfriars – first the railway bridge, with its distinctive solar panel roof to the station which spans the bridge and then the road bridge.


And finally walk round to the back. It is at this point you can just see parts of the Palace of Westminster (although I neglected to take a photo of that) And you can look into the nearby Neo development of apartment blocks, which have floor to ceiling windows. They look like show homes and seem unlikely to be the kind of places where anyone lives as their main home.


Beyond you can see the yellow and grey flecked Palestra, which is opposite Southwark tube.This was a speculative office block designed by Will Alsop Architects. Palestra was an ancient Greek wrestling school, so perhaps it is fitting a building with this name now houses Transport for London staff who are responsible for the scrum that is London’s rush hour. In the distance you can see the distinctive shape of the new residential tower at Vauxhall.

In the summer of 2016 I joined the group of volunteers who give guided tours at Tate Modern, so if you time it right you can come on a tour with me (for free). Have a look at the “Come on one of my walks” tab for info on when I am next doing a Tate tour.

We are now at the end of our SE1 walk. There is so much we could have seen, but I thought I would stay mainly back from the river to point out a few things like Crossbones Gardens, Cromwell Building and the site of the Anchor Brewery which you might not have come across.

If you go back to the river, you will see Blackfriars mainline station to your left running across the river. But if you want the tube then follow the orange lamp posts from the landward side of the building and they will take you to Southwark tube station.

E20: The Games the thing

E20 is London’s newest postcode. It is basically the Olympic park and was carved out of E15. Here is a press notice from Royal Mail explaining its creation:

And one might add this postcode has the distinction of being the only one where almost everything is 21st century.

So far there is no post office in E20 so we will begin our journey where many people will. That is Stratford Station. I suggest you go out on the “town” side of the station so you can then do a U turn and go back over the railway on the large pedestrian bridge.


Stop 1: Westfield Stratford shopping centre

The centre opened on 13 September 2011. According to Wikipedia, it is the third- argest shopping centre in the United Kingdom by retail space behind the MetroCentre and the Trafford Centre. But taking the surrounding shopping area into account, it is the largest urban shopping centre in the European Union in terms of size.

Now one of the features of 21st Century shopping developments are these outdoor/indoor streets. This runs to the left of the main Mall and I suggest you go along here.



The reason is that you get some views if you look down to the left. First there is the ArcelorMittal Orbit which we shall get to at the end.


And just a little further on, you can see the former Olympic Stadium.


Now head on into the Mall itself and you will see that unusually it has three levels of shops.


I have to say though I think the Westfield at Shepherds Bush is nicer. It just feels more spacious and has a better layout with the large open area in the middle with the food offering.

The anchor stores at Stratford are M & S (at the “town” end) and John Lewis (at the “far” end). Given the size of the place, Debenhams or House of Fraser are conspicuous by their absence. Maybe this was the price of getting John Lewis here.

It is worth a detour into the John Lewis store because you can get a view out over the Olympic Park. First go to the second floor – to the side directly opposite where you came in..


There is also an equivalent area with a view on the third floor, although the dedicated viewing area does not seem to be open. The sign says this is for a private function.


But if you go to the side of this, you can peek in.


And discover that the shop is using the area as a dumping ground! Not quite what you expect at John Lewis.

But you can look through the window at the view. The pattern on the window makes for a pretty picture.


Now exit the shopping mall, and go down the steps.


Just ahead is our next stop.

Stop 2: Stratford International station

Now here’s a funny thing. this station is called Stratford International to differentiate it from the main station which is simply called Stratford. You would think that the “international” tag might mean you could get a train going to foreign parts, especially as the Eurostar trains pass through here. But no. Although this station was designed to allow international trains to stop, they never ever have, and there seems no prospect of them ever doing so. So the station name is a little misleading to say the least.

In fact there are two stations here.


One is served by the Southeastern High Speed trains running from St Pancras International to destinations in Kent.


This has a large airy concourse and is the first you get to from the Westfield shopping mall.


It is much bigger than it needs to be and part of the reason for this is that it was supposed to have more services, in particular international ones. Indeed you can see a whole section which has never been used by the public, which I guess would be where the international passengers might have gone through.


And downstairs there are platforms which are not used at all.

At the end of the concourse furthest from the shopping centre is a little plaque to remind us of what was here before.


This reads: Stratford Depot was here from 1839 to 2006 when it was the largest traincrew depot in Europe. The Eastern Counties and Great Eastern Railways built engines and trains on this site. The world record for the fastest build of a steam engine is still held by the Old Stratford Works, part of the Depot, and stands at 9hr 47min. This plaque commemorates the thousands of railway workers who worked at Stratford Depot.”

And there is a logo of High Speed 1, which is another name for the Channel Tunnel Rail link. But sadly there is nothing left of the actual works today.

Then just beyond, there is the Docklands Light Railway station which is a much simpler affair, without an enclosed concourse..


And you can look down to the tracks below.


Now do a bit of a U turn and have a look at the building going up at the corner.

Stop 3: Manhattan Loft Gardens

This is a 42-storey building which consists of a 150 room hotel at the lower levels with a 34 storey residential tower above with 248 residential units.


It is designed by internationally renown architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Their website says

“The design aims to promote social interaction and reflect the area’s diversity. Amenities include leisure facilities, a swimming pool, a spa, meeting and conference spaces, and a roof garden that overlooks Olympic Park. The building also features a series of sky gardens that ensure residents are never more than nine stories from an outdoor space.”

There are lots of information panels on the hoardings around the site.



There may be unobstructed views out from the tower but it seems that the tower itself spoils the protected view of St Paul’s from King Henry’s Mound in Richmond Park. See this article from the Guardian on 23 November 2016.

King Henry’s Mound is 15.5km (9.6 miles) from St Paul’s Cathedral and the Manhattan Loft Gardens development is a further 7km (4.35 miles) beyond that, making the new building around 22km (14 miles) from Richmond.

It seems incredible that a view that has been protected for so long should be spoiled by what seems to be an oversight. No one thought that a building so far away could mar the view, I guess.

Now head away from the shopping mall along the broad boulevard, which goes by the name of Celebration Avenue.


This is not the only name round here which has just a whiff of 1984 and Big Brother. Further on we will see Victory Park and Prize Walk.



Take a right turn at Liberty Bridge Road. Ahead just after the corner of Cheering Lane (another 1984 name) is our next stop.

Stop 4: Sir Ludwig Guttman Health and Wellbeing Centre



Sir Ludwig Guttmann (1899 – 1980) was a German-born Jewish doctor who had escaped Nazi Germany just before the start of the Second World War. He is considered to be one of the founding fathers of organised physical activities for people with a disability. His role in establishing the Paralympics is why he gives his name to a health centre on the Olympic Park.

The site here was actually used for the 2012 Olympics Medical and Doping Centre, and was then adapted for NHS use post-Games.

The building uses a number of green technologies. Rainwater is collected to flush toilets; a green roof has been planted to improve biodiversity and reduce roof temperatures; and electricity, heating and cooling is fed from the energy efficient combined heat and power plant scheme that supplies the Olympic Park.

Now go down Cheering Lane and our next stop is ahead.

Stop 5: Chobham Academy

These buildings that were first used during the 2012 Summer Olympics as the main base for organising and managing teams. They were rebuilt after the games to become an education campus consisting of a nursery, a primary school, a secondary school, a sixth form and an adult learning facility. It opened in September 2013.



And just outside the Academy is this red marble wall with an inscription.


This is by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892) from his epic poem “Ulysses” written in 1833 and published in 1842.

“.. that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

It seems that this quote popped up in the 2012 James Bond movie “Skyfall” when it was deployed by no less than Dame Judi Dench.

There is a nice blog about this here:

Follow the road round and take a right back into Celebration Avenue. Keep going past Honour Lea Avenue.


(Makes me think of the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” except he came from the land of Honali or possibly Honalee. Not that he actually came from anywhere as he was not not real)

Here Temple Mill Lane comes in from the right and does a 90 degree turn so straight ahead is also Temple Mill Lane. Then go left into Abercrombie Road, presumably named after Sir Patrick Abercrombie (1879 – 1957) who was best known for the post-Second World War replanning of London.


Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 6: The Lee valley Velopark

You can see the Velodrome in the distance, but there are also some outdoor facilities.



But the Velodrome itself is the star here. It is one of the iconic buidling of the Olympic Park.



But actually to build this meant destroying the Eastway Cycle circuit which had been created in 1975. Here is a piece mourning the loss of Eastway:

Eastway 1975 – 2006 Ten Years Gone

This concludes: “Although there is now a world class Velodrome, the Velopark lacks what Eastway had – community and usability”

Just beyond the Velodrome building is a docking station for the bike hire scheme.


There was a not a single bike available in the racks. Mind you there were almost no people here when I visited!

Keep walking and go over the bridge and then turn left. You will see some Olympic Rings on your left.


I wondered why there was no colour but walking on, you discover that this is the back and the rings are coloured on the other side.

A little further on we get to the Paralympic symbol which comprises three “agitos”, coloured red, blue, and green, in an asymmetrical crescent . (“agito” means “I move” in Latin)

The picture below is taken looking back so we see the “front” and if you closely at the picture you can see the Olympic rings in colour in the far distance.


As we walk along you will see one of the other Olympic venues on your right. This is the Copper Box Arena, used for handball, modern pentathlon, fencing and goalball during the 2012 Games. It has retractable seating for up to 7,500 spectators, and can host a wide range of different sports and activities including basketball, wheelchair basketball, handball, volleyball, netball, fencing, badminton and gymnastics.

I have to say that this is not the most inspiring building, and it is not even copper coloured!

In front of the Copper Box are three letters spelling the word “run”


Keep walking and you will come across the next stop.

But do look over to you left back towards Stratford, and the Manhattan Loft Gardens building and the Westfield shopping centre



If you had been looking the other way you see the City, although it seems strangely small from this angle..


Keep walking ahead crossing over the road.

Stop 7: Mandeville Place

Then stop at this seemingly random selection of brick columns and other stuff. It actually has a story.


According to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park website:

“The name Mandeville Place has been chosen to reflect the fact that the Paralympics started in Stoke Mandeville, England in 1952, and after the 2012 Mascot, Mandeville.
Taking inspiration from the use of apples in the 2012 Opening Ceremony, Mandeville Place features a stunning orchard … the area brings together apple and other fruit trees with man-made elements, such as a pavilion made from the original Athletes Village Paralympic Wall.”


Our next stop is just ahead on the left.

Stop 8: Carpenters Road Lock

Finally we get to see a little reminder of what was here before the Olympic park.


This is possibly the oldest thing we have seen. It is called Carpenters Road lock.


It is located on the Bow Back Rivers and was constructed in 1933/34. It is apparently the only lock in Britain with rising radial gates at both ends (not sure what this actually means!). British Waterways, the then owners, were hoping to restore it as part of the upgrade to Bow Back Rivers which took place for the London 2012 Games. However the gantries which enabled the gates to be raised were demolished to accommodate a wide bridge giving access to the main stadium. After the games, most of the overbridge was removed. Now it seems funding for the restoration of the lock has been found and the lock is due to be brought back into use in 2017. Mind you when I was there, no one seemed to be working at the site so who knows.

From here you get a great view of our next stop.


Stop 9: The London Stadium

Now we can hardly come to the Olympic Park and not see the main stadium.

This has some impressive screens



It was built as the principal stadium for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, hosting the track and field events and opening and closing ceremonies. It has subsequently been renovated as a multi-purpose stadium, with its primary tenants being West Ham United Football Club and British Athletics, although there is some controversy about the deal and its finances. There is also some concern about the building’s suitability to operate both as a football ground and an athletics venue, given they have different spectator needs and it seems the costs of switching from one sport to another has been wildly underestimated.

Our next stop is just to the left of the Stadium.

Stop 10: ArcelorMittal Orbit


This is the largest piece of public art in the UK standing some 114.5 metres tall. It was built for the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and intended to be a permanent lasting legacy of London’s hosting of the games. Situated between the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, it allows visitors to view the whole Olympic Park from two observation platforms.

Orbit was designed by Turner-Prize winning artist Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond of engineering Group Arup.

The project was said to have cost £19.1 million, with £16 million coming from steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman of the ArcelorMittal steel company, and the balance of £3.1 million coming from the London Development Agency.

The name “ArcelorMittal Orbit” combines the name of Mittal’s company, as chief sponsor, with “Orbit”, the original working title for Kapoor and Balmond’s design.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit closed after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, while the this area of the Park was reconfigured for a public outdoor space. It reopened to the public on 5 April 2014.

In the summer of 2016, the structure was modified to incorporate the world’s tallest and longest (178 metres) tunnel slide. This was designed by Carsten Höller who had previously put slides into Tate Modern.

Basically this is a way of getting more visitors here. You can peek through the railings and see where the slide comes out. From time to time a person does pop out, but it did not seem very busy when I was there.


Just by here is another artwork, called Pixel Wall.


There is a sign which has clearly been ignored.


And indeed when I was there it was being ignored!


Now our next stop is just over the way and is another of the iconic building of the Olympic Park

Stop 11: Aquatics Centre


This was actually designed by architect Zaha Hadid in 2004 before London won the bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. It was built alongside the Water Polo Arena, and across the Waterworks River from the Olympic Stadium.

The complex has a 50m competition pool, a 25m competition diving pool and a 50m warm-up pool. Because the centre was designed before the Olympic bid was completed, the spectator wings were not part of the original design. They were later added to give the venue a capacity of 17,500 and made it look rather ugly.

The two temporary “wings” have been removed, reducing the capacity to a regular 2,500 with an additional 1,000 seats available for major events. And it has regained it sinuous profile.

Here is a slightly surreal picture of me taking a picture of the glass end wall.


But in some places you can go up to the windows and look in, although it was remarkably hard to get a picture because of the reflections.


Stop 12: Since 9/11 memorial

Now go to the left of the Aquatic Centre and down the path to the car park. you will see our next stop on a little mound across the way on your left. Go round and back up to it. This is the “Since 9/11” memorial.



It is made from steel from the World Trade Centre which was destroyed in the attack on 11 September 2001. It was created by american artist, Miyo Ando.


“Since 9/11” is an educational charity based in Britain which supports pupils to learn about the events, causes and consequences of 9/11.  According to the BBC, the 28ft tall artwork was gifted to the UK by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2010 on the condition it was permanently sited. It was originally placed in Battersea Park in 2011 but  was removed after a few weeks. It languished in storage until this home was found.  The then Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled it here in March 2015.

Well we are now at the end of our E20 walk, and one that has been unique given the fact that this is basically a new district. It is a huge area and one wonders how long it would have taken to redevelop if the Olympics had not provided the impetus. And whatever you might think of the developments, it does seem some thought has gone into to making this a “place”, albeit something quite different from what we are used to in London.

We are now close to the Westfield Shopping centre and Stratford International station. You can either go from there or else walk through the shopping centre to the main Stratford station where there are many more options for onward travel.



E19 does not exist as a postcode

It is strange that when the Royal Mail came to create a new postcode for the Olympic Park they christened it E20 when the highest numbered E postcode was E18. It was even odder when one considers that the BBC had chosen to locate the soap opera Eastenders in the fictional district of Walford and gave that the postcode E20.

Why is there no E19? Who knows?

But in the absence of a proper E19, I thought I might do a little walk around E1W which is a sub division of E1 – the W substitutes for the 9 if you see what I mean.

We start our walk at Wapping Post Office which is at 52 Wapping Lane. Turn left out and walk along Wapping Lane. Our first stop is ahead on the right..

Stop 1: St Peter’s Church

This church has an unassuming street frontage, and you might almost miss the fact there is actually a church here.


But the signs on the outside give a clue that this is no ordinary church.



There is a clergy house, as well.


The entrance to the church is via a small courtyard. Do go inside, if you can.


This is high Victorian and high church. Although it is a Church of England it is almost more catholic than a catholic church.

This church was begun in 1865 and architectural expert Pevsner says this was important in the rise of Anglo-Catholicism. It originated as a “mission” church of St George in the East in Stepney.

But all is not what it seems. In fact the west end of this church, although designed in between 1884 and 1894 was not actually completed until 1939. And then it was badly damaged by bombing so what we see today is a post war reconstruction.

Pevsner describes the church as having “A muscular exterior” and “The atmospheric interior is equally muscular”.

Now continue along the street and you will see a green with a bus stop. This is our next stop.

Stop 2: The Wapping Health Centre bus stop and its role in a mini movie

This bus stop features in a little YouTube video dating from 2013.


This was to promote the Freedom Pass, London’s concessionary travel pass for older and disabled people. It featured the Ladies who Bus who were travelling on every London bus route using their Freedom Pass. They were by the way the inspiration for my project of walking London one postcode at a time.

So here is a link to YouTube where you can watch this masterpiece. At the time (Summer 2013) I was responsible for managing the Freedom Pass scheme, amongst other things. I pop up in the video in three ways. You will see my signature at the start, I am a passenger on the bus (if you know where to look) and I did the narration!

It was mainly filmed with a hired bus on the streets of Wapping on a Sunday morning. It was fun to do, even though it was a long day!

Strangely this did not lead a flourishing media career for me.

Now continue walking along Wapping Lane. Our next stop is ahead a little way on the left.

Stop 3: Tobacco Dock

Having gone over a bridge you will see the entrance to what is today called Tobacco Dock.


This was part of the London Docks built between 1799 and 1815. London Docks specialised in high value luxury commodities such as ivory, spices, coffee and cocoa as well as wine and wool. The actual bit called Tobacco Dock was a small linking pool between the much larger western and eastern docks. Much of these docks have been filled and most of the buildings have been demolished. But on the north side some impressive buildings remain. These were part of a Tobacco Warehouse dating from the early 1810s.


They were converted into shops in the 1980s – the idea was to create a kind of Covent Garden style attraction. This predictably failed given the location. Today the site is used for corporate and commercial events and there is some space for start up businesses. But it could perhaps be so much more.

Now walk along the waterside.

Looking ahead you will the Shard.


Follow the waterway. It is hard to believe you are so close to the City. You could almost be Holland.


The waterway turns to the left. As it turns look back and you can see the tower of St George in the East in Stepney which I mentioned in connection with St Peter’s Church. St George was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and consecrated in 1729.


Then the waterway turns to the right. Ahead you will see the Shard, again.


And behind is Canary Wharf



Keep walking ahead and go under the roadway. Ahead you will see our next stop.

Stop 4: Hermitage Basin

This basin was added to the London Docks between 1811 and 1821 to create a second entrance. Pevsner says it closed in 1909. It now has a row of modern housing and a sculpture called “Rope Circle” and is by Wendy Taylor. This sculpture dates from 1997 and is made out of ships hawsers which have been shaped and stiffened to keep their form. The Sculptor’s studio was in the old pump house at the other end of the Basin.


The brick building on the far side is was a pumping station which was used to maintain the water level in the dock basin.


It has a Port of London Authority marker with the date 1914.


Now go back to the road and go down towards the river where you will see a garden in front of you. This is our next stop.

Stop 5: Hermitage Memorial Riverside Garden

This was part of the site of the Hermitage Wharf which was destroyed in a firebomb raid in December 1940. When the land came up for redevelopment there was a requirement to keep some of the river front accessible to the public.

And fittingly the garden which was built here commemorates the civilians who died in the London blitz which commenced on 7 September 1940 and ended on 10 May 1941.


You get a great view of towards Tower Bridge and the Shard from here.


There is a sculptural memorial here with a bird shape cut out. And if you stand in the right place you can see the Shard through the bird.


But the overall effect is a little uninspiring. This south facing site has such potential. But I guess we have to be grateful that it was not all built over.

Now exit the gardens as if you are walking away from the City and head down the street paralleling the river. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 6 Wapping Pier Head (and the Town of Ramsgate pub)



This group of early 19th century houses on either side of a garden is called Pier Head even though there does not appear to be a pier here. The garden was in fact where the original main entrance into London Docks ran from the Thames. Pevsner says the garden was created in the early 1960s on the filled in dock.

Just past the Pier Head is the one of Wapping’s riverside pubs – The Town of Ramsgate.


It is an atmospheric pub, long and thin, with delightful old fittings – eventually leading to a river terrace.

Following is the story of the pub as told on their own website (please excuse their grammar and punctuation):

“The first pub on the site probably originated during the Wars of the Roses in the 1460s and was called The Hostel.

During more peaceful times in 1533 it became known as The Red Cow, a reference to the bar maid working at the time. The notorious Judge Jeffreys was caught outside the ale house as he tried to escape disguised as a sailor on a collier bound for Hamburg after the Glorious Revolution of 1688; which overthrew King James II. Presiding over the Bloody Assizes after Monmouth’s unsuccessful rebellion against James II, Judge Jeffreys had taken great pleasure in sending hundreds to their execution, and in abusing their attorney’s, which was a costly mistake as one of them recognised him resulting in his capture.

In 1766 the pub became known as Ramsgate Old Town and by 1811 it had again took on a new identity known as The Town of Ramsgate. The reference to Ramsgate became about after the fishermen of Ramsgate who landed their catches at Wapping Old Stairs. They chose to do so as to avoid the river taxes which had been imposed higher up the river close to Billingsgate Fish Market. Ramsgate harbour of 1850 features in the pub sign and is also etched on the mirror near the entrance to the pub.

As for the Wapping Old Stairs next door, they also have a bloody history.

If you visit during low tide, you can still see the post to which condemned pirates were chained to drown as the tide rose. The Stairs were made famous in Rawlinson’s cartoon and Dibden’s poems. John Banks came here, with Captain Bligh to inspect the Bounty before purchasing it for the ill-fated voyage to Tahiti. More happily, many returning sailors were met by their sweethearts on the Old Stairs at the end of a voyage. The silent question that must have been on many sailor’s lips is answered by a verse on the wall of the pub.
“Your Polly has never been faithless she swears, since last year we parted on Wapping Old Stairs.”

Here is a link to the relevant page:

The street here still has the feel of it being a warehouse area, with the metal bridges going over the street.


Keep walking along the High Street.

Stop 7: Metropolitan Police – Marine Policing Unit

Just along here are some property belonging to the Police. First you come to this modern building.


And just here you can go down towards the river and see the pier which is used by the police boats. If you closely you might just spot the traditional Metropolitan Police blue lamp on the pier. Also note ahead you can see Canary Wharf.


And then there is this older building with a blue plaque.



Note the date of founding is 1798. This predates the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. The Marine Police Force is considered the first preventive police unit in the history of policing in England and it was originally financed by shipping companies to address the theft of cargo from London’s docks. It merged with the Met in 1839.

Today the Marine Policing Unit is responsible for waterborne policing of the 47 miles of the Thames between Hampton Court in the west and Dartford Creek in the east.

Now cross the road and go though the little park. This was the former churchyard of St John’s church which we shall see shortly. The park was created in 1951 and is bounded by high walls which were in fact the walls of the London Docks.


There is an intriguing little green sign up on the far wall.


This commemorates an event in the mid 17th century during the time of the English Civil War. The area had wharves then but this was before the building of the docks.

Go through the archway and turn right. Our next stop is straight ahead on the corner of a street called Green Bank.

Stop 8: The Turk’s Head

This former pub dates from between the wars according to Pevsner.


It is now a cafe, as explained on the little plaque at the front.


This has an interesting stone on the first floor level by the corner.


It says “Bird Street Erected Anna Dom 1706” and below there is a rider which says “Rebuilt 1766 and 1927”

Our next stop is just a little way down the street from the Turk’s head.

Stop 9: former St John’s Church


This church was built in 1756, but it was largely destroyed in the Blitz. The tower was restored in the 1960s and later flats were created within the outer walls in the 1990s.

Walk to the end of the street and turn left and continue along the High Street. Our next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 10: Wapping Station

This does not look much of a station and it isn’t.


Go downstairs and you find these really narrow platforms which feel rather unsafe even when no one else is there.


The walls feature a number of drawings of the area round the station and telling some of the history..


The one shown below is particularly significant as it shows a cross section of the tunnel as it was being built.


And this of course is no ordinary tunnel and there is something rather interesting which you can just about see from the platforms – the original tunnel mouth – or rather mouths.


This is in fact the first tunnel known to have been constructed successfully underneath a navigable river. It was built between 1825 and 1843 using a newly invented tunnelling shield technology, by Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The tunnel was originally designed for horse-drawn carriages, but the money ran out and the ramps to get down the  carriages to the tunnel were never built. It became a pedestrian tunnel and then later a railway tunnel.

On occasion in the past, when the railway has been shut for various reasons it has been possible to walk the tunnel.

I did this a couple of years ago and wrote about it on my other blog:

Now back on the surface, turn right out of the station and keep on walk along the High Street and then follow it round as it becomes Wapping Wall, where our next stop is on the right.

Stop 11: The Prospect of Whitby pub

No visit to Wapping is really complete without a visit to the venerable Prospect of Whitby pub.


This is one of those great riverside pubs. It claims to be London’s oldest riverside pub dating back to 1520 (but who really knows – note the Town of Ramsgate claims to have an even older origin). It is called the Prospect of Whitby after a ship which brought coal from North England and which was frequently moored nearby in the early 19th century.

This is what the pub’s website says:

“The Prospect Of Whitby is London’s oldest riverside pub dating back to 1520. The original flagstone floor survives and the pub also has a rare pewter-topped bar as well as old barrels and ships masts built into the structure. Most areas of the pub have spectacular views over the River Thames, including the beer garden and first floor balcony and terrace. The pub was originally frequented by those involved in life on the river and sea and it was a notorious haunt for smugglers, thieves and pirates.

Other notable customers have been Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, Judge Jeffries and artists Whistler and Turner. In more recent history the Prospect was a favourite during the 1960’s with celebrities and royalty including Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman, Glenn Ford, Rod Steiger, Princess Margaret and Prince Rainier. The public house features briefly in an episode of Only Fools And Horses. When Uncle Albert goes missing in one episode, Del Boy and Rodney travel around London looking for him. Nicholas Lyndhurst is shown in one scene walking out of the pub. There is also a scene from the 1956 film D-Day the Sixth of June starring Robert Taylor and Richard Todd where Taylor’s character is seen with Dana Wynter’s character having drinks together during the Second World War in London.”

It was originally called the Pelican which explains the name of some steps on the right hand side which lead down to the river.


If you go down here you will see an odd sight when you get to the river.


Yes you can see a hangman’s noose (and of course Canary Wharf).


Why you may ask. Apparently it is a reminder that this was the hostelry of choice for “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys who lived nearby. He was chased by anti-Royalists into the nearby Town of Ramsgate, as we just heard.

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 12: Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station

This impressive red brick structure was built by the London Hydraulic Power Company, and has the date 1890 on the side.



Hydraulic Power was a 19th century solution used to run lifts, cranes and workshop and theatre machinery before electric motors were powerful enough. This system avoided the need to have individual steam engines at each location. Basically each site was hooked up to a pressurised water main which could be used to power machinery. And this required pumping stations – initially run by steam and later by electricity.

The London company provided hydraulic power across central London north of the Thames and at its height had five pumping stations. Wapping was the last to be built and was the last to close (in 1977).

It has been used as an exhibition and restaurant space but now seems to be closed, which is a shame as it has quite a lot of the original equipment inside apparently.

Just here is Shadwell Basin and from the bridge over the water you can look east and see Canary Wharf.


And to the west you can see the City.


We are now at the end of our Wapping walk. This is a fascinating area of old and new and it is sometimes hard to believe you are so close in to central London. Sometimes it is even hard to believe you are actually in England.

Just here you can get a D3 bus to Limehouse or Shadwell station, or else it is a short walk back to Wapping station on the Overground.

E18: By wisdom and courage

E18 is Woodford – or more accurately South Woodford, because Woodford itself is actually in an IG postcode. It is quite a small postcode and one which seems completely devoid of blue plaques, though there is one famous connection with a non-blue plaque.

I am grateful to fellow guide and local resident Debbie for giving me the low down on South Woodford, which was great as I found precious little to go on.

I was also stumped as to what to call this walk until I found out that the motto of the former Wanstead and Woodford Urban District Council was “Consilio et Animo”. That translates as “By wisdom and courage”. With that in mind, let us venture into E18.

We start our walk at the Post Office at Number 139 George Lane. Go down Glebelands Avenue which is almost opposite the Post Office. At the end, cross over the High Road and into Bressey Grove.

At the junction of Byron Avenue, you will see an alley to the right. Go down there but just before you do look down Byron Avenue.


Debbie assures me that on a clear day you can see Canary Wharf! Sadly I did not see it when I was there.

Go down the alley way and ahead you will see a bridge with a sign saying Willow Path.


This is to lull you into a false sense of being in a bucolic country scene, when it fact you are about to cross over 10 lanes of roaring traffic.


This is the North Circular Road with the slip roads going up to Waterworks Corner.

Once over the bridge, turn right and go along Grove Road.

Stop 1: Church End Estate


The roads just here all have a connection.

Going north – south, we have: Peel Road; Walpole Road; Carnarvon Road; Stanley Road; Malmesbury Road and Buckingham Road.

And east – west, we have: Chelmsford Road and Derby Road

This is like that part of the Only Connect quiz where you have to make the connection between seemingly random clues. We have some prime ministers (Peel, Walpole, Derby); we have some earls (Derby, Malmesbury, Carnarvon) and we have some places (Carnarvon, Malmesbury, Buckingham, Chelmsford, Derby). But none of these link all the names.

Debbie gave me a clue when she said they were all 19th century cabinet Ministers. So I did a little research and as far as I can establish the only time these men (and they are all men) were in the Cabinet at the same time was between June 1866 and March 1867, as follows:

Earl of Derby (PM); Lord Chelmsford (Lord Chancellor); Duke of Buckingham (Lord President); Earl of Malmesbury (Lord Privy Seal); Spencer Walpole (Home Secretary); Earl of Carnarvon (SoS for the Colonies); Lord Stanley (Foreign Secretary) and General Jonathan Peel (SoS for War).

Note the Walpole and the Peel, are not the famous ones – Sir Robert Walpole who was Prime Minister in the 18th century or Sir Robert Peel who was Prime Minister in the 1830s and 1840s.

It is surprising that the estate agents haven’t christened the area something like “The Ministers” or the “Cabinet estate”. But interestingly this area does seem to have a name which is hinted at on a number of benches which are placed along Grove Road. Here you can sit and hear the drone of the North Circular Road.



Debbie uncovered an article on the internet which indicates that the A.C.E. in A.C.E. Residents Association stands for Action on Church End because this area is known as the Church End estate.

The article dating from 11 April 2013 suggests that the ACE Residents Association has folded up.

Go along Grove Road and turn left into Buckingham Road.

One other thing I noticed was that unusually for a London postcode area, the street signs do not include the postcode. Most look like this.


But I did find one that admitted we were in an E postcode area.


Looking closely I this may have been added unofficially. Perhaps the powers that be wanted to pretend this area was in Essex like Woodford just up the road (but like South Woodford, Woodford is also in the London Borough of Redbridge).

At the end of Buckingham Road turn right and go to the end where you will turn right again. this is the High Road and our next stop is almost immediately on the right.

Stop 2: Parish Church Memorial Hall


This quite nice building has the date 1902 on the front.


And there is a sweet little foundation stone to the left of the door.


But perhaps the most interesting thing is mentioned on another plaque at the front. This says that “William Morris lived at Woodford Hall 1840 – 1847. The House demolished in 1900 stood to the rear of this site.”. This seems to be the nearest South Woodford gets to having a blue plaque.


The artist, designer and social activist, William Morris lived here from age 6 until he was 13 or so. The family moved to a smaller house after his father died in 1847. That is the house in E17 which now the William Morris Gallery.

Our next stop is right next door.

Stop 3: St Mary’s Church

This is an odd looking church.


It looks very unlike a Church of England parish church, more like a non conformist place of worship.


Architectural guru, Pevsner says the entrance dates from 1888 but was rebuilt after a fire in 1969, But what is even odder is that this entrance is at the east end of the building.

The church itself is a strange mix of ancient and modern.


But there is an interesting tower at the western end, which Pevsner describes as “a sturdy brick tower, 1708, with broad corner buttresses rising to stumpy polygonal pinnacles. (these and the parapet rebuilt 1899).”


Behind the church to the right is a marble column which was put up in memory of a man called Peter Godfrey who died in 1769.


And by the wall is a grand tomb, the Raikes Mausoleum, first used from the burial of Martha Raikes who died in 1797.


Now Pevsner suggests that Sir John Soane came here in 1800 and sketched this tomb. He later used a similar shape for his own family mausoleum in St Pancras’ Old Churchyard. And this in turn was said to be the inspiration for Giles Gilbert Scott’s design for the iconic red telephone box of the 1930s.

Returning to the front have a look at the rather prominent tomb on the green.


This turns out to be the tomb of none other than William Morris’ parents – William and Emma.


Walk along the High Road crossing over. Our next stop is just outside the modern library.

Stop 4: Some odd artwork

Here we have a seat with lots of little panels with snippets of the history of Woodford.



One of the panels explains that “This bench has been created to celebrate the history of Woodford with photographs … London Borough of Redbridge commissioned artist Tim Ward of Circling the Square to design this bench which was installed in 2012.


It is a nice idea but I do not think it really works. If you sit on it, you have to twist around to see anything. It is particularly hard to see many of the pictures, especially the ones inside the ring of the seat. So whilst it looks nice enough what was the point of going to all this trouble of researching and reproducing all these pictures when no one is likely to appreciate them..

Stop 5: Elmhurst

Keep walking along the High Road and our next stop is soon on the left. It is one of several 18th mansions which have survived along the High Road.



It was converted to be a hostel for Queen Mary College in 1926 and subsequently the land behind was developed for student accommodation. This has since been redeveloped as we shall see, but the house remains, as a commercial building with a branch of the pizza chain Prezzo tucks in at the right hand end.

Now look ahead and over the road for our next stop.

Stop 6: Some more odd artwork


According to Redbridge Council’s website:

“Lucien Simon was commissioned to produce three sculptures for the bridge over the A406 in South Woodford which were installed in February 2012. The programme also included benches and decorative paving by artist Tim Ward and the addition of new planters with silver birch trees.

The three sculptures were designed to bring a contemporary take on the natural world into a predominantly urban landscape and to reflect the historical context of South Woodford as a rural and semi-wooded area and the proximity of Epping Forest, a still magnificent area of ancient woodland and London’s largest open space.

The structures are just over 7 metres high, and fabricated from stainless steel with leaf shapes laser cut into the fabric and lighting within the columns and at a stacked glass section between the column and the leaves at the top of the sculpture. The columns are of a sinuous, natural shape to emphasise the organic inspiration behind the installation. Local school students worked with the artist to come up with the leaf shapes so that there was strong community involvement in the project.

The project was funded by Telford homes as a condition for the nearby Queen Mary’s Gate development, meaning that the money could only be spent on public art and related works within the area.”

I guess the circular bench we saw earlier was also part of this commission

It is an attempt to brighten up an otherwise dull street scene. But really who is going to linger here given you are sitting atop 10 lanes of roaring traffic. (By the way the Queen Mary’s gate development is the one you can see from the bridge looking back towards Elmhurst. This is the redevelopment of the site used by Queen Mary College)


You will see as you pass over the bridge, there is a Waitrose supermarket to the left. go down here.

Stop 7: Waitrose, South Woodford


Now if you look to the right end of the supermarket you will see there is an old building, on to which the new supermarket appears to have been grafted.


This is Grove Lodge, an 1835 gothic style villa. Pevsner comments: “It deserves a better setting”. Maybe but at least it is still here, serving in part as Waitrose’s cafe.

Continue along the High Road. our next stop is at the corner of George Lane on your left.

Stop 8: Electric Parade



This parade of shops dates from 1925 and when built must have been a very visible indicator of the creeping urbanisation here. Debbie says the name denoted the arrival of electricity to the area.

Our next stop is on the opposite corner of George Lane.

Stop 9: The George


This rather lovely pub is probably early 18th century in origin with some later additions. The name therefore makes sense as this was the time of the Hanoverian kings who were called George.

It is in fact slightly overshadowed by our next stop which is just next door.


Stop 10: Odeon Cinema

This working cinema opened as the Majestic Theatre in November 1934. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it was the last to be built of a small independent chain of five Majestic Theatres built in the outer London suburbs and the South East of England.

The opening was presided over by Winston Churchill who at that time was the local Member of Parliament.

The Majestic Theatre was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in August 1935. It became the ABC and was later split into three cinemas. In 1986 it was renamed Cannon and later Odeon. Further screens have been added so it now has seven.

It is nice to see an old cinema still in use. But the outside is looking a little sad and I doubt there is much of the 1930s interior left inside.

You will see a little alley just beyond the Odeon. Go down this and it will take you to our next stop.

Stop 11: Sainsbury’s South Woodford

This is a none too special supermarket today.


But it was actually built on the site of South Woodford’s other cinema. the Plaza. According to the Cinema Treasures site, the first cinema in this site was called the South Woodford Cinema in 1913 with a seating capacity for 601. It was closed in 1934, to be enlarged and modified in an Art Deco style. It reopened as the 1,600 seat Plaza Cinema in September 1934. In other words just before the Majestic opened.

It always seems to have been independently owned and operated. It finally closed in May 1977. The building was demolished and a Sainsburys supermarket was built on the site.

But they did at least put some reminders of old South Woodford here on some panels, including one about the Plaza.


Interesting the dates on the sign (opening 1932 and closing 1978) are different from the usually reliable Cinema Treasures site.

But really Sainsbury’s. Did you have to put the trolley shelter in front of these panels. Typical insensitivity of a major retail chain.


There is some other interesting stuff about the locality including a mention of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, even she was mainly connected with Woodford proper. (She is also mentioned on the bench on the bridge).


If you keep going down the side of the supermarket you will end up on George Lane. turn right and this will take you to South Woodford station

Stop 12: South Woodford Station

There has been a station here since 1856.


And originally there was a level crossing by the station. This was replaced by an overbridge a little up the track when the line was rebuilt to become part of the Central Line in the late 1940s.



But today the buildings of the station are later. There is an 1880s building on the London bound platform and the ticket hall building on the Epping bound side dates from 1910. There are some further additions from the late 1940s. It looks like the canopies over the platforms were extended at this period.

On the far side of the tracks is an odd survival of a sign on the wall of a building


This is for the Railway Coffee House, no doubt this was meant to tempt people away from the Railway Bell pub over the road. Sadly today there is no sign of the Coffee Tavern on the road side of this building now – not even a modern day Coffee shop.

And finally there is one little quirk to the station and that is its name.


It has “George Lane” in brackets after South Woodford. As far as I can determine there was only ever one station at South Woodford so there was no chance of confusion. The name change actually happened in 1937 before the Underground took over, but the full name was taken forward when the Central Line was opened.

But why? The Central Line eastern extension had a station at Bethnal Green where there was a nearby station of the same name but no attempt to differentiate the two. Indeed for many years there were two quite separate station with the name Shepherds Bush, one of which was on the Central Line. So it really is a mystery why it was felt necessary to have George Lane in the station name here.

Well that brings us to the end of our E18 walk. Thanks to Debbie for showing me round and helping to ferret out some interesting stuff about this relatively quiet edge of East London.

E17: Awesomestow – or going to the dogs?

E17 is Walthamstow – end of the Victoria line, once home to a dog racing track and artist Grayson Perry’s studios and the place that gave its name to a pop group. In exploring E17, I am indebted to fellow guide, Jo Moncrieff for sharing her notes about Walthamstow.

We start our walk at the Post Office at Number 48 High Street (the one at the western end of the High Street). turn right out of the Post Office and walk along the High Street, which usually has a lively selection of market stalls, selling all sorts of stuff.

Apparently this is the longest street market in Europe at over 1km and it has been around since the 1880s.

Our first stop is at number 76, High Street.

Stop 1: L Manze’s Pie and Mash Shop

This is one of those amazing survivals.


The plaque outside explains that the Manze family were originally from Ravello in Italy and came to England in 1878. they founded an empire of 14 pie and mash shops,. This particular one was rebuilt in 1929.


According to an article I found (Daily Mail dated 30 October 2013):

“The Manze family ran the east London eatery until 1970 before it came into the hands of current owner Jacqueline Cooper.”

Apparently David Beckham’s love of the dish has made it trendy again, the owner says.

Read more:

There are some other shops with the Manze name elsewhere in London but they are separate businesses from this one.

As I was here, I had to go in and sample the pie and mash.


To be honest this is not the greatest food. It is bland and with little texture. I prefer to have a meat pie where there are visible lumps of meat rather than this style where the meat has been ground into tiny globules.

I am reminded of the advice given by Mrs Lovatt in Sondheim’s version of Sweeney Todd where she is telling the lad Toby how to grind the “meat” for the pies. She explains that the secret for making the pies so juicy is to grind the meat three times. I think it is entirely possible that the meat in Manze’s pies may have been ground a few more times than that.

I did take some pictures of the interior which is lovely, even if the seats are clearly not designed to make you linger. There were quite a few other customers in at the time, but they just cannot be seen!



The shop advertises eels but all the customers I saw were eating pie and mash with the green specked liquor.

Now continue along the High Street. Our next stop is a little way along the High Street.

Stop 2: Palace Parade (site of Palace Theatre)

Heading along the High Street our next stop is on the left almost opposite the indoor shopping mall. There is a row of shops which have the name Palace Parade.


And it is that name that gives away what was once on this site.


This was the location of the Walthamstow Palace, a music hall/variety theatre which opened at the end of December 1903. The Palace was designed by Oswald Cane Wylson and Charles Long who also designed the Palaces at Chelsea, East Ham, Euston and Tottenham. Only the last of these has survived, as we saw when in N17.

For most of its life, it mainly presented variety shows. It finally closed in February 1954 and was soon left abandoned, becoming derelict. It was demolished in 1960, to replaced by this parade of shops with flats above.

Stop 3: the “Awesomestow” sign

Now go into the shopping mall, which goes by the oh so original name of “The Mall”.


The Mall is not particularly interesting – the only surprise is that there is a branch of Waterstone’s in amongst the “economy” shops. If you get to Waterstone’s look back for our next stop, which is above where you have just walked.



This is an attempt to “rebrand” Walthamstow. The fact this neon sign is in such a mall is perhaps not the best way to proclaim the “awesomeness” of Walthamstow. And some people no doubt consider the changes in Walthamstow are not for the best.

Now exit the Mall into a kind of square, turning right into the High Street. Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 4: Empire Cinema


Here we have a new block of apartments which includes a new multiscreen Empire Cinema and some restaurants. It really does look so continental – not English at all. The free standing sign for the cinema is a nice touch.


The cinema has 9 screens and opened in November 2014.

Now walk to the end of the High Street and you will see our next stop ahead.

Stop 5: Central Parade

Across the road is a rather splendid post war building, with clock tower. All very 1950s


I love the wavy canopy facing Hoe Street and then there is this series of crests below the clock.


And in case you were wondering what the shields represent, there is a little key if you look. (It is between the main door and the shields).


But I am none the wiser as to the connections to Walthamstow. They do not seem to be twin towns so I guess they are the crests of families which have had connections with the area. One that jumps out is Warner. Sir Courtney Warner (1857 – 1934) was a local landowner, MP and the first Mayor of Walthamstow. He was responsible for developing substantial amounts of housing in  the local area from the 1880s. And from Jo’s notes I guess Maynard might be Sir Henry Maynard. As a result of a bequest of £50 by him, the local workhouse was provided with a brewhouse in 1747 to make it more comfortable!

Earlier this year, the building was converted from council use into what is described as “a mixed use creative hub”, with a variety of retail; workspace and studio space, and bakery cafe. The building will be open for two years whilst the long term future of the site is being decided upon. It would be a terrible shame if the council decide to demolish such a distinctive building.

Now walk a little way along Hoe Street and you will see our next stop.

Stop 6: Former Granada cinema

This was one the site of the Victoria Hall which opened in May 1887 and which was used for dances and concerts. It became a live theatre and eventually a cinema, called the Victoria Picture Theatre . It was purchased by Sydney Bernstein in March 1930, and was immediately demolished to be replaced by a brand new Granada cinema which opened in September 1930.


It was the second Granada Theatre of what would become a major chain. It was designed by Cecil Masey in a Spanish Moorish style with an interior design was by Russian theatre set designer Theodore Komisarjevsky, who went on the design the interiors of many more Granada cinemas.


Like many super cinemas of this period, it had stage facilities which were used for things like Christmas Pantomimes and one night pop shows – The Beatles amongst other famous names appeared here, as evidenced on this little blue plaque on the front.


By the way, look at the originator of this plaque – Street of Blue Plaques. More info on this at:

Anyhow back to the Granada story – In October 1973, the cinema was tripled. And it continued as a main stream cinema under various names (Cannon, Virgin, ABC) until about 2000. By then ABC had been taken over by Odeon who closed the cinema. They put a stipulation on any sale of the building, that it could never screen English language films again.

The cinema was purchased by an independent operator, and it was re-named EMD Cinema showing Bollywood films. After a court battle, this operator gained permission to screen regular films again. However the EMD Cinema  closed in January 2003.

The story since then has been complicated – see the wonderful Cinema Treasures site for the details:

But the story seems to have moved on. In 2015, Soho Theatre announced it was working with Waltham Forest Cinema Trust and the London Borough of Waltham Forest to create a new comedy, theatre and cinema venue here. The last update on their website is December 2015 so not sure what is happening there.

But the building is starting to be used for entertainment again, as evidenced by the notice boards on the building:


And this website:

If fact, on 31 October 2016, one of the smaller screens was opened for a presentation of Mel Brooks “Young Frankenstein”, the first film to be shown in the cinema for over 13 years.

Hopefully this Grade II* Listed building has a bright future.

Now go back down Hoe Street and turn left by the clock tower into Church Hill. Go along Church Hill until just after the Girls School where you will see a newly laid out mini piazza.


Turn right here and head towards the church

Stop 7: Monoux Almshouses

Just before the church is a pathway.


This is called Vinegar Alley and by it are some almshouses.



These almshouses were founded along with a school in 1527 by local benefactor, George Monoux who was a city merchant and Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1514/1515. He died in 1544.

(By the way, Jo says that the name is pronounced locally as “Monnocks” not “Monnow”)

The school stayed here for over 350 years. It moved to its present site in Chingford Road in 1927. Famous old boys include choreographer Matthew Bourne, jazz musician Sir John Dankworth and footballer Teddy Sheringham.

The eastern end of the almshouses was almost wholly rebuilt in the late 18th century with the western end remaining untouched until being destroyed by a German bomb in 1940. That was rebuilt in 1955.

Now head past the church, which although medieval was renovated in the late 19th century and again after the Second World War having been damaged by bombing in 1940.


Just after the church is our next stop.

Stop 8: The Ancient House


When I saw this I thought: am I actually in Wathamstow? But yes I am. Pevsner says this is “a notably complete timber framed hall house of 15th century.”

Do go down the side street, Orford Road..


The building is not on a hill and there is a fascinating sign which explains why the side wall looks like it does.


Whilst here do have a look down this street at the nearby Nag’s Head. According to the notes from Jo the original pub was opposite the Ancient House and the first record of that is from 1673 in connection with the illegal playing of shovelboard and tippling. That pub became unfit so it was demolished.


The Nags Head was the terminus in the 1850s of a horse bus service operated by the landlord, Francis Wragg. He ran eight times a day to Lea Bridge Station (opened in 1840) for trains to London, there being no railway to Walthamstow for another thirty years. In 1859 the pub was relocated to its present site in Orford Road and a coach house was built alongside. The coach house still stands, but is now residential.


The horse bus service closed soon after 1870 when the Great Eastern Railway arrived at Walthamstow.

More info at:

The railway passes really close by just beyond the Nags Head. Interestingly the station was not put here near the actual village but a little way to the west, at what is now Walthamstow Central.

Now turn left out of Orford Road.

Stop 9: Vestry House Museum

Our next stop is ahead after the Squires Almshouses. This is the Vestry House Museum.



According to Pevsner, this was built by the parish as a workhouse in 1730 and used as such to the 1830s. It became a museum in 1931. There is a stern warning here on a plaque which says “if any should not work neither should he eat”. Unaccountably I failed to take a picture of this!

But I did get a picture of this plaque.


But outside there is something you can hardly miss.


This is from the portico of Robert Smirke’s General Post Office in St Martin Le Grand. When the building was being demolished this was purchased by a local stone mason Frank Mortimer who presented it to the Borough of Walthamstow.


It was first placed in Lloyd Park (close to the William Morris Gallery) but was transferred to its present position in 1954. 

Now retrace your steps back past the church and the mini piazza. Cross over Church Hill and head up The Drive which if you carry straight on(ish) becomes Hurst Road. Our next stop is at the end of the street – ahead across Forest Road.

Stop 10: Walthamstow Civic Centre

This impressive Civic Centre was built by Walthamstow Municipal Borough Council in the 1930s. Pevsner explains that the Borough had been created in 1929 and held a competition for a new Civic Centre in 1932. By the time the scheme started in 1937 it had been simplified and only two of the three planned buildings were begun. Their fit out was limited by wartime restrictions.

The civic centre is set back off the road along a drive and beyond a circular fountain pool. You can see why after the new borough of Waltham Forest was created in 1965, they opted for this as their main location rather than Leyton Town Hall which we saw in E10.


To the right is the Assembly Hall which was completed in 1943.


The Assembly Room has this worthy slogan across the front: “Fellowship is life and the lack of fellowship is death”


To the left are the Courts.


They were only built in the early 1970s and so are in a different style to the other buildings in this group. Pevsner describes the Courts as “firmly of its time, a tough nephew beside a maiden aunt”. They sort of complete the set piece but sort of don’t.

Now go along Forest Road as if you had turned left out of Hurst Road. Our next stop is at the junction with Hoe Street known locally as Bell Corner (named after a pub).

Stop 11: Former Empire Cinema


This sad looking building on the corner has all the signs of being a cinema. And indeed it was. It started out as the Empire Cinema which opened in February 1913. It went through a number of owners and by 1937 it was being run by Clavering and Rose. In March 1961 it was re-named Cameo Cinema. Closed as a regular cinema in August 1963, it became a bingo club.

Clavering and Rose had been taken over by Classic Cinema, and this building was reincarnated as a cinema under the Tatler name in April 1970, screening uncensored sex films as a members only club. The Tatler Film Club closed in August 1981.

The building was converted into an amusement arcade, and then it became a snooker club. But even that is no longer operational.


It is unclear what fate lies ahead for this building. In January 2016 a planning application to demolish the building was refused.

It may not be pretty, nor is it a great example of an early cinema building, but it would be sad to see it go. However given there is a modern nine screen cinema down the road and the rather more interesting Granada cinema is likely to return to entertainment use, it is hard to see how this building could be brought back to life.

Now continue along Forest Road. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 12: William Morris Gallery

Set back off the road is this lovely house.



There is a blue plaque which tells us that William Morris (1834 – 1896) lived here from 1848 to 1856. We saw his house in Hammersmith W6 and also his works in Merton Abbey Mills in SW19.


Pevsner debates on the age of the house saying the front looks later 18th century but suggests there is evidence of this being an older house which was remodelled.

But the reason this house is preserved and now houses the William Morris Gallery is done to the descendants of a later occupier, one Edward Lloyd.

Edward Lloyd (1815 – 1890) was a London publisher. He published serialised fiction, known as Penny Dreadfuls. One such was called “A String of Pearls – a Romance” published in instalments between November 1846 and March 1847. This was the tale of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. Meat Pies again!

In 1842 he started a Sunday publication which was a newspaper in all but name. He tried various rouses to avoid stamp duty which was payable on newspapers at the time. But in the end gave up and it settled down to become Lloyd’s Weekly and be the only newspaper to reach a circulation of one million in the 19th century. He later created the Daily Chronicle.

As I noted when in E8 at the blue plaque for Marie Lloyd, she took her name from Lloyd’s Weekly. She said this was because everyone’s heard of Lloyd’s. But now Lloyd’s Weekly is long forgotten having gone bust in the early 1930s.

By the way do have a look at the Gallery. It is the only public gallery devoted to the life and legacy of William Morris: designer, craftsman, socialist.

It opens 10 until 5 Wednesday to Sunday, so don’t come on a Monday or Tuesday. (Same applies to the Vestry House Museum by the way)

So we are now at the end of our E17 walk. Thanks again to Jo for sharing her notes on E17. We have seen an old pie and mash shop, an old cinema and a new one, the kernel of the old village of Walthamstow, some impressive civic buildings and an important Gallery. Sadly though we did not get to the site of the now defunct dog track, the location of Grayson Perry’s old studio or the former Walthamstow Urban District Council tramway offices.

We are a little way from Walthamstow Central which is probably easiest for onward travel. You can walk there. Go down one of the road opposite the Gallery (eg Ruby Road or Gaywood Road) and that leads you in to Hoe Street which in turn will lead you to the station. Or else go back to Bell Corner and hop on a bus.





E16: Out of the strong came forth sweetness

E16 is Victoria Docks and North Woolwich and I have to say this postcode is quite unlike any other I have visited. It is a strange mix of industrial dereliction and modernity. Even though there has been a lot of building going on, much of it is still rather a wasteland.

We start our walk at the North Woolwich Post Office which is at 17 Pier Road, E16. This is just along the road from King George V Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station. Turn right out of the Post Office and go over the cross roads. Head towards the Woolwich Ferry. Our first stop is just on the left.

Stop 1: Royal Victoria Gardens

The area is a bit run down but suddenly – and rather unexpectedly – you come across a proper little park with grass and trees. This is Royal Victoria Gardens.


According to the London Gardens Online site:

“Royal Victoria Gardens were opened by the LCC in 1890 on land acquired with funds raised through public subscription. The former marshland had been acquired by George Bidder’s North Woolwich Land Company in the 1840s and was rapidly developed for industrial use, encouraged by new rail and ferry links. In 1850 the proprietor of the Pavilion Hotel expanded his hotel and laid out tea gardens, which he opened in 1851 as the Royal Pavilion Pleasure Gardens. Crowds of visitors were attracted to its numerous entertainments but in the early 1880s it began to make a loss, but the site was saved from development. The public gardens were completely redesigned, with little remaining of the pleasure gardens apart from the riverside terraces and central walk. There were a series of cells of a different character or activity, and a bandstand in the centre of the southern terrace. The Gardens suffered bomb damage during 1940 and little of the Victorian layout remains today.”

There is more about these gardens on the attached link:

Now you will see a concrete ramp close to the entrance. Go up here. This leads onto the riverside walk.


From the riverside walk you have a great view over to new developments on the other side of the river to the east of Woolwich.


And go to the right and you will see another concrete walk way with our next stop peeking up beyond the flood wall.


Go up these steps and view the building over the road.

Stop 2: Former North Woolwich Station


This was once North Woolwich station.  And if you look closely you will also see the words (or at least many of the letters of the words) “Great Eastern Railway Museum”


The station first opened in June 1847 at the southern end of the Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway from Stratford.

The route became an extension of the North London Line in 1979 and the line was electrified in 1984. But this end of the line became in effect a single track. The original station building here ceased to be used and was replaced by something rather more basic just along the way.

The station and the line to Stratford closed in December 2006 to allow for conversion of the North London Line between Stratford and Canning Town to become part of the DLR. But the far end of the line through Silvertown to North Woolwich did not become part of the DLR and so was abandoned – though we shall see much of it (but not this far end) is going to get a new lease of life. The area was not left isolated as it was served by King George V DLR station which opened in December 2005.

For over twenty years (from 1984 to 2008), the original North Woolwich station buildings and one disused platform became the North Woolwich Old Station Museum which was dedicated to the history of the Great Eastern Railway.

But as we can see this too is no longer. Here is what the Great Eastern Railway Society had to say about the closure:

“The Society regrets that the North Woolwich Old Station Museum closed at the end of November 2008.

Although the Great Eastern Railway Society had a significant interest in the Museum, and had contributed much to its opening and some of its displays it had no involvement in the Museum’s management. This was in the hands of the London Borough of Newham who, unfortunately, were no longer in a position to financially support the facility.

The contents of the Museum have not been moved together, but have been dispersed to various other locations:

* Some items have been returned to their owners who had placed them there on loan.
* The bulk of the smaller artefacts have gone to the East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel.
* The GER horse-drawn parcels lorry has gone to Mangapps Railway Museum at Burnham-on-Crouch.
* Many documents have passed to the GERS and have been placed on loan and deposited at the Essex Record Office at Chelmsford.”

Kind of sad that this did not survive, but perhaps there were just not enough people interested in the Great Eastern Railway to justify it having a dedicated museum.

Now turn and look over towards the river for our next stop.

Stop 3: Woolwich Ferry

The Woolwich Ferry is a strange kind of relic that ought not to be here in the year 2016.


There has been a ferry operating in Woolwich since at least the 14th century, and commercial crossings operated intermittently until the mid 19th century.

Today’s ferry operates as a free service under an 1885 Act of Parliament. Originally the service was operated by paddle steamers. New vessels came into use in 1923 and these in turn were replaced in 1963 by the present fleet of “Roll On Roll Off” ferries.

The three boats are named after prominent London politicians of the past:

*John Burns (1858 – 1943) – a Liberal politician who was at one time MP for Battersea.

*Ernest Bevin (1881 – 1951) a Labour politician who at the time of his death was MP for Woolwich East

* James Newman who was Mayor of Woolwich from 1923 to 1925.




Normally the service is operated by two boats and in recent years they have carried around 20,000 vehicles a week. This translates to about 2 million people when you count vehicle passengers and the odd traveller on foot.

The Woolwich Ferry is where the South and North Circular Roads meet in the east. The continued existence of a ferry here is because of the inability of successive Governments (national and local) to address the issue of building more road crossings across the Thames in the east of London.

Additional links such as the Thames Gateway Bridge and the Gallions Reach Crossing have been proposed as replacements, but the schemes have come and gone and nothing has been built. So there are no immediate plans to discontinue the Woolwich Ferry as long as there is a demand. But given the boats are now well over 50 years old, I guess there must come a time when a decision has to be taken to replace them or withdraw the service.

Interestingly Tolls cannot be levied on the ferry without changing the 1885 Act of Parliament, but that may be necessary if the ferry continues after new East London crossings have been created as these will have tolls in order to pay for them. And this means the ferry could not realistically be left as a free crossing.

Pedestrians do not have to wait for the ferry as there is also the option of using the Foot Tunnel – which is our next stop.

Stop 4: Woolwich Foot Tunnel


This tunnel opened in 1912 and was in part due to the efforts of East End politician, Will Crook who we heard about in E14. The surface building is now Grade II listed.

Inside there is a lift and a spiral staircase. The lift has been automated but still has the old wooden panels inside, even if it no longer has a lift attendant.


The number of people using the foot tunnel has declined particularly since the opening of the DLR service to Woolwich. It was eerily quiet when I was there.


Back on the surface, there is probably the most depressing bus terminal in London.


And just across the road is probably the most depressing riverside park in London. Clearly some money was spent on this once, as there are these various bits of industrial heritage artfully distributed.



But the area is strewn with litter and in many places it is overgrown. Have the authorities forgotten that this exists? Maybe once the vacant land near here gets built on, someone will find the money to rehabilitate this riverside garden.

Continue along Pier Road and then turn up Henley Road walking away from the river. Turn left into Factory Road.

As we walk along Factory Road we see indications of some Crossrail works, which are where the old railway line to North Woolwich used to be. Here the line is on the surface and about to go into a tunnel under the Thames to get to Woolwich and Abbey Wood.



As we head down Factory Road, a strange sight looms up. It is a chinese style canopy.


And it turns out to be announcing the entrance to a Chinese cash and carry supermarket. It looks like it is closed, though, judging by the signs.


There does seem to be quite a random selection of business down here. Just along a side road here there is a bus garage.


This is the home of Docklands Buses which is actually a subsidiary of Go-Ahead London.

Continue walking along Factory Road and you will see our next stop up ahead on the left.

Stop 5: Tate & Lyle Silvertown refinery

This is the Thames Refinery operated by Tate and Lyle and one of the largest sugar refinery in the world and possibly the largest in the European Union.

It was opened by Henry Tate and Sons in the late 1870s. They manufactured sugar cubes here. Tate had not invented the sugar cube. In 1872, Henry Tate purchased the patent from a German called Eugen Langen and it made Tate’s fortune. That year he built a new refinery in Liverpool and later he opened a refinery here at Silvertown which remains in production.


Curiously there is a sign for Lyle’s Golden Syrup. It seems odd to find it here as we shall see.



Stop 6: site of Silvertown station

Just here we are walking along side the old railway line that went to North Woolwich which was closed in 2006. As we saw this section is being reused for the Abbey Wood branch of Crossrail. There is a little gap in the wall where you can peek through to see the work in progress.


Ahead you will see a footbridge on the right. If you go up onto that you can look at the line below. The tracks are laid but the overhead power lines have yet to go up.


Just about here was the site of Silvertown station – no sign of this survives today. And there will be no station here when Crossrail opens in a couple of years. However there is what is called passive provision for a station, so one may get built at some point in the future – presumably once more of the land round here gets redeveloped.

And looking the other way (to the west) the line curves off to the right and heads towards the Connaught Tunnel, which has been rebuilt for Crossrail.


You can also see a strange looking building to the left that looks like it might have escaped from Disneyland. That is our next stop which you reach by returning to Factory Road, turning right and carrying straight on.

Stop 7: Brick Lane Music Hall

This was St Mark’s Church dedicated in 1862. It is in gothic revival style and was built to stand out amongst the docks and industry.

The church was declared redundant in 1974 and bought in 1979 by Newham Council, with the intention of turning it into a museum. A major fire in 1981 largely destroyed the roof, which was replaced between 1984 and 1989. Wikipedia says that “the building could have been destroyed by fire had it not been for the weight of pigeon-muck on the roof which fell and quickly extinguished the flames.”


On closer inspection this building is no longer a church but a venture called the Brick Lane Music Hall.

Their website claims it is “the only permanent home for music hall, we have a range of shows including traditional music hall bills as well as freshly devised production shows with more up to date and innovative material.”

As the name suggests it started life in Brick Lane – that was in 1992. It then moved to Shoreditch and ended up here in 2003/04. And what a good use for the building.

However it does feel quite out of the way for a place of entertainment. I am sure many people would not feel safe here at night, even today when the area is at last getting some new development.

Continue walking straight ahead. You will see the DLR viaduct coming in from your right. Past the roundabout the road continues as North Woolwich Road. Follow the DLR viaduct. 


Our next stop is just to the left.

Stop 8: Thames Barrier Park


The Thames Barrier is a movable flood barrier which has been operational since 1984. Its aim is to protect London wast of here from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up river from the North Sea. You first see the barrier in the distance along a road behind a gate..


But then you come to a park with great views of the Barrier. This park which dates from 1995 was apparently built on the site of a chemical factory and this land was highly polluted.



There is a visitors’ centre for the Barrier but it is on the other side of the River. but on this side there is a cafe and a rather lovely “Green Dock”


Now head away from the river towards the DLR viaduct and Pontoon Dock station.

Stop 9: Millennium Mills

Our next stop can be seen from  the station. This is the imposing Millennium Mills.


Apparently this area was important for flour milling. This particular building is one of the few reminders. It dates from the mid 1930s and was built for Spillers. There have been many plans to redevelop or reuse this site since the docks were closed in 1981, but it does look like something is finally about to happen.

Now continue along North Woolwich Road past Pontoon Dock Station and turn left down Bradfield Road. Ahead of you on the left you will see a little park.

Stop 10: Lyle Park

In 1924, Sir Leonard Lyle, a grandson of Abram Lyle (the Lyle of Tate and Lyle), donated the land to the local council to be used as a park for the benefit of local residents.

As you approach the park, the first gate you come to may be locked but if you carry on to your right, there is another gate near the children’s play area and you can get in there.

It is worth a detour as there are a couple of interesting things to see.


As you walk in the park widens out and there is a single football pitch. Go to the right and in the far corner you will come across this little monument.


This is a First World War Memorial in the form of a water fountain.


And amazingly the tap actually works. When pushed it produces water!

Now walk the length of the football pitch and go up the steps. Ahead is another item of interest – a set of ornamental gates leading to nowhere.


The sign explains these gates stood at the entrance to the Harland and Woolf shipyard in Woolwich Manor Way – which confusingly is actually on the north side of the river in E16 and not in Woolwich.


Harland and Woolf is most famously associated with Belfast and their shipyard there was where the ill fated Titanic was built. I had not realised the company had a number of other locations, including here in North Woolwich.

You can walk over to the riverside here and see the odd mix of wharves and other industrial buildings with a sprinkling of new housing developments.



And there is a nice touch on one of the benches.


I guess a fairly recent addition, but frustratingly whoever sponsored the seat did not think to put a date or dates on the little plaque.

Now retrace your steps to the main road. Notice how this little park is hemmed in by industrial sites even today – in fact on the west side there is a construction waste processing plant which you can see in a couple of places looming over the boundary. You can also hear the noise of the operation with the odd boom shattering the otherwise tranquil park.


Stop 11: Tate & Lyle’s other works

Having left Lyle Park go back under the DLR and turn left. Follow the main road (with the DLR above your head) past the new housing developments going down to the river.


Ahead is West Silvertown DLR station and when you get to the station you can see on the other side of the viaduct the other Tate and Lyle factory here.

We are around a mile from the Thames Refinery and this is Plaistow Wharf. It is the home of Lyle’s Golden Syrup and was first opened by Abram Lyle in the 1880s. And it still makes Golden Syrup today.

In 1921 Lyle’s business merged with Tate, to become Tate & Lyle. In 2010 Tate & Lyle sold its sugar refining and golden syrup business to American Sugar Refining, although Tate and Lyle still exists as a business – it just does not refine sugar anymore.

What is so odd is that with all the closures and rationalisations that happen in business, the Tate and Lyle empire have kept the two factories here, even though they are so close together.


Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin bears a picture of a dead lion with a swarm of bees and the slogan “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. This is a reference to a Old Testament Biblical story (Judges – Chapter 14) This has Samson travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and when he passed the same spot on his return he noticed that some bees had colonised in the carcass.

Samson later turned this into a riddle: “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness”. Abram Lyle was a religious man, and it has been suggested that the use of this quote refers either to the strength of the Lyle company or the tins in which golden syrup is sold. But no one actually knows for sure.

And according to Guinness World Records Lyle’s Golden Syrup is Britain’s oldest brand, its imagery being almost unchanged since 1885.

While we are here do look ahead from the station.


You get a great view of Canary Wharf and also the cable car.


We are now at the end of our E16 walk which has proved a walk of contrasts. A new world is slowing emerging from the industrial dereliction but it still has pockets of working industry which makes for an interesting mix. But there is more to see in E16 – we did not manage to get to Canning Town or London City Airport for example.

We are right by West Silvertown station here for onward travel.