Come with me on a very special tour following in Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps – from Covent Garden Office to Stockwell lodgings

Vincent Van Gogh lived at 87 Hackford Road in Stockwell for a year between August 1873 and September 1874. He fell in love with British culture and was inspired by the art he saw in the UK. He was working at Goupil and Company, an Art Dealers in Covent Garden, and he walked to and from work.

Join me for a very special tour where we follow Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps in a 3½ mile (5½ km) walk between his workplace in Covent Garden and his lodgings in Stockwell, exploring what London would have been like in the early 1870s. The walk crosses Westminster Bridge which Van Gogh sketched on some Goupil and Co headed note paper.

Then after walking through Kennington we get to 87 Hackford Road, where we have a 45 minute very exclusive interior tour of the newly renovated house (included in the price).

Visitors will have a chance to learn about the Hackford Road house and its most famous tenant and gain an insight into the house’s future as a site for artist residencies.

We have been running on this tour on the last Saturday of the month with a ticket price of £20 (no concessions or discount codes valid). However we have had to suspend them for the time being. We will be back as soon as we are able to resume walking tours.

Please Note
The house at Hackford Road dates from the 1820s and has small rooms on three floors with a steep narrow staircase. Because of this, it may be difficult for people with mobility issues – in particular it is not possible to accommodate wheelchairs.

SE24: Re-Cycling

SE24 is Herne Hill – or as my father would have said Ernill. This is another place I have been through many times but not actually walked around – until now.

We start our walk at the Post Office which is at 31 – 39 Norwood Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and head towards the railway bridge but do not go under it. You will see to the left is a pedestrianised street. This is Railton Road. Go down here and our first stop is soon on the left.

Stop 1: Number 222 Railton Road

It may not look much now but once there was an old cinema here.

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This was the Herne Hill Cinema opened in December 1913. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, in 1932, noted cinema architect George Coles was engaged to design a new proscenium and a new facade for the building. It re-opened in December 1932 as the Grand Cinema and was renamed Pullman Cinema in September 1953, finally closing in June 1959. It always seems to have been an independent operation.

It was a bingo club until 1986. The building was then shuttered and remained empty, becoming increasingly derelict. There were hopes that it could be converted into a small repertory theatre, but this did not happen due to lack of funding. Eventually, after a 12 year campaign to save the building, it was demolished in September 1999. The narrow facade facing Herne Hill Station was saved and used as a restaurant/take away, though now it seems to be empty. Housing was built on the auditorium site.

Now walk a little further on and our next stop is over the road on the right.

Stop 2: Herne Hill Station

This rather handsome station building is the original dating from 1862 when the London Chatham and Dover Railway first got here.

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It has lovely decorative brickwork and a tower, which apparently was there because it housed a water tank for the steam engines. The canopy over the entrance is a modern replica,. If you go on Streetview at the moment, you can see the facade without its canopy so it cannot be that old.

Although the main building dates from the 1860s the station at track level has been remodelled a couple of times – first in the 1880s when two additional tracks were added and again in the mid 1920s when the layout was rationalised to the present pair of island platforms – one set for northbound trains and the other for southbound trains thus allowing for cross platform connections between Victoria and Blackfriars/Thameslink trains..

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Unlike many of the other stations in this part of south east London, Herne Hill has retained both buildings and canopies on the platforms.

Outside the station is a flower shop.

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This recently became a bit of a cause celebre when Network Rail wanted to use the site for an electricity substation. Local uproar seems to have ensured that this is not to happen and the flower shop can continue trading. More on the following link:

http://www.brixtonbuzz.com/2018/05/the-flower-lady-florists-in-herne-hill-to-stay-after-network-rail-u-turn/

Now walk a little way along Railton Road and take the first left (Rymer Street) which takes you to Dulwich Road where you turn right. Our next stop is a little way on the left. You will see a road entrance into Brockwell Park, go down there and you will be at Brockwell Lido.

Stop 3: Brockwell Lido

Brockwell Lido dates from the late 1930s and was built by the London County Council

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It was designed by Harry Rowbotham and T. L. Smithson in the Moderne style, replacing the Brockwell Park bathing pond. Almost identical in design to the Victoria Park Lido in Hackney, it opened in July 1937.

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The Lido closed in 1990 due to cost saving measures by Lambeth Borough Council. A Brockwell Lido Users group was established in 2001 to lobby for reopening. The Lido management was put out for tender and two former council employees won the contract and reopened the Lido in 1994. It is now managed in partnership with Fusion, a registered charity.

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Now there are a couple of things to see in the Park

Stop 4: The Walled Garden

Head into the park from the Lido and look out for this little early 19th century building which is called “The Temple” This was a feature of the park around Brockwell House which we shall get to shortly

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Behind the Temple is a walled garden which was originally the kitchen garden for the big house providing fruit, vegetables and flowers. When the estate became a park it was converted into a flower garden.

The entrance is a gateway to the left of the Temple.

It is a tranquil place which looks well looked after.

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Now head out and ahead in the distance you will see our next stop which is the big house.

Stop 5: Brockwell House

As has been hinted Brockwell Park was the grounds of a large house. Here it is.

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Brockwell Hall was built between 1811 and 1813 and was the country home of glass merchant John Blades.

The land house and surrounding estate were acquired by the London County Council (LCC) in March 1891 and opened to the public the following June. The local MP Thomas Lynn Bristowe was one of the prime movers in the land being purchased as a park. Sadly at the opening, he died of a heart attack on the steps of the hall.

Just inside the entrance by the cafe is a bust of this eminent man.

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But all is not what it seems. Originally this was outside by the main entrance to the park. It was atop a column with a statue of Perseverance holding a laurel wreath up towards the bust . But in 1958 the LCC wanted to widen the road and so the column was taken down. rather than re-erect it the Council gave the plinth and bust to the Bristowe family who placed it in in their country estate, Brookhampton Hall, near Cambridge.

And there it remained until April 2012. After a campaign by the Herne Hill Society and the Friends of Brockwell Park and in conjunction with the Bristowe family the bust was removed and conserved and on 6 June 2012 (the 120th anniversary of Bristowe’s death) it was unveiled in its new home here.

There is a lovely little 20 minute film about the story of Thomas Bristowe coming “home”.

http://hernehillsociety.typepad.com/blog/2013/06/thomas-bristowe-comes-home.html

Now head back down the hill and towards the main gates.

You will see this rather dramatic piece of street art across the road. This work is by Phlegm and is inspired by dutch artist M C Escher (1898 – 1972)

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This mural is part of Dulwich Outdoor Gallery, a collection of works in the Dulwich area by top street artists. We saw quite a few of these in SE22.

Go under the railway and our next stop is just on the right after the railway bridge.

Stop 6: Half Moon 

This is the Half Moon Hotel.

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It is a fine example of a late Victorian pub. It dates from 1896, as can be seen at the top of the big ornate gable.

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Architectural expert Pevsner describes it as “a cheerful corner pub … generously decked out with bay windows, balconies and marble columns”.

Now cross over and head up the street called Herne Hill

Our first stop is a fair way along this road, after St Paul’s Church.

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Past the church, you will pass a parade of shops and our next stop is a little after this on the right hand side.

Stop 7: Number 26 Herne Hill

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Why you may ask are we stopping here. Well look carefully on the left of the driveway and you will see this little plaque.

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This indicates that John Ruskin lived in a house on this site.

John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) was truly an eminent Victorian – a leading English art critic, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist.

He was born in Bloomsbury but his childhood was spent here from 1823 where he was largely educated at home by his parents and private tutors, The house he lived in was demolished around 1912. It was clearly not thought to be worth preserving at the time, though the LCC decided to commemorate the connection in 1925 according to plaque.

Our next stop is just a little further on the right hand side.

Stop 8: Number 51 Herne Hill

The frontage to Herne Hill can hardly be seen but go round the side and you will see there is a blue plaque.

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This is to commemorate Sax Rohmer, author of the Fu Manchu series of books.

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Sax Rohmer was a pen name used by Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward (1883 – 1959). Ward had been a songwriter and comedy sketch writer for music hall performers and in 1911 he was the ghost writer for the biography of music hall star Little Tich (whose blue plaque we saw in NW4)

Published using the persona of Sax Rohmer, the first of a series of stories featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu (“The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu”) was serialised from October 1912 to June 1913. It was an immediate success, creating an archetype of the evil criminal genius and mad scientist, as well as giving a name to a kind of moustache.

The first three Fu Manchu books were published in four years from 1913 to 1917 and they were soon adapted for the big screen. Rohmer carried on producing works of fiction but resisted writing more Fu Manchu stories until 1931 when he was persuaded to revive the character. He went on to write at least 10 more books featuring Fu Manchu.

The Fu Manchu series has drawn criticism from the Chinese government and Chinese communities in the US amongst others for what was seen as negative ethnic stereotyping. But we do have to recognise that at the time these books were written attitudes were somewhat different to today.

Now continue along Herne Hill and just a little further along you will see a side street called Casino Avenue. Turn down here as this is our next stop

Stop 9: Sunray Estate

Casino Avenue is the main street in a cottagy style 1920s housing development called the Sunray Estate.

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This has an interesting history. But before we delve into that do note if you look into the distance you can see another iconic housing estate – Dawson Heights – which we visited in SE23.

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The Sunray estate was built by Camberwell Borough Council as homes for heroes returning from the Great War. The land was owned by the Dulwich Estate who had a significant role in determining what was developed.

The land was the grounds of an elegant mansion originally called Casina House (meaning little house) but later known as Casino House. So it would seem the name is not connected to gambling. The grounds were landscaped and included a pond at the bottom of the hill.

The story of how this came to be developed as a council estate is explained at

http://www.exploringsouthwark.co.uk/sunray-estate/4591071171

Confusingly the side streets off are also called Casino Avenue, but stick to the road you came in on.

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Amazingly the hedges have survived and the front gardens have not been lost to parking.

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If you follow the road through the estate, at the bend your will see an alleyway.

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Go down here and you will find yourself in Sunray Gardens

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This has at its centre the pond which survived from the garden of the original house.

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There were lots of ducks and also a heron, when I visited.

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Go though the gardens. Come out by Beckwith Road and go down that street and the end turn right into Half Moon Lane. Then a little way further on take a right in to Ruskin Walk and our next stop is at the next corner.

Stop 10: Number 2 Warmington Avenue

This house has two Southwark Blue Plaques.

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One is for writer and poet Richard Church (1893 – 1972)

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Now I have to confess I do not know his work. He published his first poem in 1917. He wrote no less than 16 novels and three volumes of autobiography over a career which spanned more than 50 years. He lived here as a teenager and went to school locally.

The other plaque is for a man called Sam King who could not have been more different from Richard Church.

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Sam King (1926 – 2016) was Jamaican and having served in the Royal Air Force in the Second World war, came to Britain in 1948 as one of the 492 passengers on the Empire Windrush seeking work in post war Britain. He helped pave the way for the Notting Hill carnival, Britain’s first multicultural street festival and he.went on to become the first black mayor of the London borough of Southwark, in 1983.

Here is a link to his obituary in the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jun/30/sam-king-obituary

Now return to Half Moon Lane. Turn right and soon on the left you will a side street called Burbage Road. Go down here. Our next stop is a little way down after the railway bridge.

Stop 11: Number 84 Burbage Road

You will see there is a blue plaque at Number 84.

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This commemorates a man called Scipio Africanus Mussabini (1867 – 1927).

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He was commonly known as Sam and was an athletics coach best known for his work with Harold Abrahams. In total, he led athletes to eleven medals over five Olympic Games. Mussabini is considered to be the first professional, paid coach in sport.

This house was Mussabini’s home from 1911 until about 1916 and backed on to the Herne Hill Stadium, where he worked as a cycling and athletics coach from the 1890s until his death.

In 1998, the Mussabini Medal was created, to celebrate the contribution of coaches of UK performers who have achieved outstanding success on the world stage

Stop 12: Herne Hill Velodrome

Just a little way further on the left you will find a small roadway and this leads to what was Herne Hill stadium or Velodrome.

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Go down here and you will see the sign for the Velodrome.

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And also another sign – I did not feel able to take photographs because of this.

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Herne Hill Velodrome is one of the oldest cycling tracks in the world, having been built in 1891. Initially there was also a cinder athletics track inside the cycle track, and tennis courts within that. The tennis courts later became the site of a football/rugby pitch, although it is no longer used for that.

The Velodrome hosted the track cycling events in the 1948 Summer Olympics and was briefly the home of Crystal Palace Football Club during  the First World War.

Herne Hill Velodrome is different from ones built today –  a modern Olympic velodrome will have an inner circumference of 250m, and banking of about 45° whereas Herne Hill is more shallow being a concrete bowl measuring approximately 450m with the steepest banking of 18°.

The original 1891 grandstand survived until fairly recently but has now been replaced with a new structure.

So that brings us the end of our SE24 walk.

This was another of those postcodes which at first seems unpromising and yet there is a historic park and a number of interesting connections, such as John Ruskin and Sax Rohmer of Fu Manchu fame, not to mention an interesting “garden city” style housing estate.

For onward travel, you should retrace your steps along Burbage road and turn left into Half Moon Lane. Follow this and you will soon be at Herne Hill Station.

SW3 – I used to have this girlfriend known as Elsie …

Ah, Chelsea. It’s a name that appears in many songs, but of course not everyone is about the Chelsea of SW3. For example, Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Morning with the sun pouring in like butterscotch would never be London and neither could Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel, which is definitely New York. However Elvis Costello is not wanting to go to Chelsea, London.

But there is one song with a Chelsea reference which could be either New York or London and that is the title song of the Musical “Cabaret”.  It is a song sung by Sally Bowles who used to share some sordid rooms in Chelsea with her old girlfriend Elsie. In the 1972 movie version Sally was played by Liza Minnelli as an american, as you would expect. But the original stage musical had Sally Bowles as an English girl, as it was in the 1951 stage play “I am a Camera” and the Christopher Isherwood’s 1937 novella “Sally Bowles”, the original source of the character. It is hard to believe the role was played by Judi Dench in the original London stage production of Cabaret, the musical, in 1968. However the fact the song was written by two americans is rather given away by the line about when Elsie died and: “the neighbo(u)rs came to snicker”. Even today I doubt whether English people snicker.

So we start at the Post Office in King’s Road SW3, which is in a rather depressing little mini mall called King’s Walk. You can tell when a shopping centre is not doing well when the anchor store is a Charity Shop.

Cross the road outside (there is a Zebra crossing) and then slightly to your left ahead of you and running off King’s Road is Royal Avenue

Stop 1: Royal Avenue

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This looks so un-English – it is quite like the open spaces you get in Paris, but not quite.

Royal Avenue is a broad avenue with a road down each side and the central area of gravel with two lines of trees between the gravel and each road. A blue sign almost at the far end on the right side explains all. This road was laid out by Sir Christopher Wren in 1682 as part of a planned direct route from the Royal Hospital to Kensington Palace. King Charles II, the sponsor, died in 1685 and so the full scheme was never built. The houses on either side are according to this plaque early 19th century.

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We continue to the end. You can see the famous Royal Hospital though the gates of Burton Court but as in the SW1 walk we are eschewing the big ticket items for the small and (hopefully) more interesting. At the end turn right in St Leonard’s Terrace

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Stop 2: St Leonards Terrace

A very pleasant street with the first of the many Blue Plaques we shall see today. On the right hand side as we walk is No 18  where Bram Stoker lived

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Bram Stoker was an Irish novelist and short story writer who is of course best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned. And if you are wondering how he got the name Bram – it turns out to be a shortening of Abraham. Obviously really, but until someone points it out you don’t know!

Continue along St Leonards Terrace until Tedworth Square

Stop 3: Tedworth Square

This is a lovely little square marred a bit by modern buildings on the north side. In the middle a small private gated garden under the care of the Cadogan Estate – there are numerous of these garden squares hereabouts but this one must be one of the smallest – if not the smallest.

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On the south side near the corner with Tite Street is our next Blue Plaque – to Samuel L Clements, better known as Mark Twain, who lived here 1896 – 1897

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Recently the Guardian newspaper ran one of its “in praise of” editorials about telegrams to note the passing of the Indian Telegram service. They quoted some examples of how great telegrams could be including  an exchange between Mark Twain and his publisher:

Publisher: NEED 2 PAGE SHORT STORY TWO DAYS

Mark Twain: NO CAN DO TWO PAGES TWO DAYS. CAN DO 30 PAGES TWO DAYS. NEED 30 DAYS TO DO 2 PAGES

Writing this blog I can feel some sympathy with this, especially here in SW3 where there is so much to say!

Walk down Tite Street, note the old street sign at the corner of Christchurch Street – this has only SW with no number and so presumably predates the first world war.

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The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have replaced most of the old street name signs but occasionally you will see one of these really old ones and sometimes there are ones which have Borough of Chelsea along the top and so predate the forming of the Royal Borough in 1965.

Keep walking along Tite Street until you get to the section beyond Royal Hospital Road

Stop 4: Tite Street

Tite Street was laid out in 1877 by the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) to give access to Chelsea Embankment.  It named after Sir William Tite, an architect whose most famous building is probably the Royal Exchange in the city but he also designed many railway stations including the original London terminus of the London, South Western Railway at Vauxhall (Nine Elms). He had been a member of the MBW. He died in 1873 so presumably this was a kind of recognition by the MBW.

We are focussing on the stretch of Tite Street between Royal Hospital Road and Chelsea Embankment which was a bit of an artist’s colony in the late 19th century. You have a blue plaque for Oscar Wilde at number 34. It was here at Tite Street where the Marquis of Queensberry came in June 1894 to confront Wilde about his relationship with Queensberry’s son Lord Alfred Douglas. This was the start of a chain of events which lead to Wilde pursuing a case of libel against Queensberry which in turn precipitated the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for sodomy and gross indecency.

Across the road a little way down at numbers 31 and 33 is a stone plaque which relates that John Singer Sargeant lived and worked here. Strangely this is not a Blue Plaque

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But the one gap is where Number 35, the White House, once stood. In 1877, the painter James McNeill Whistler commissioned architect and designer, Edward William Godwin to build a house for him here. But Whistler was never able to occupy it. Whistler had a rancorous legal dispute with the writer John Ruskin over the painting called Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket. Ruskin criticised it saying: “I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” Although Whistler won the case, he only got one farthing (¼ old penny) damages leading to his bankruptcy in 1879.

The building was demolished in 1968 and as far as I can see there is no sign anywhere in Tite Street to show it ever existed.

When you reach Dilke Street turn right and continue to the end then turn right into Swan Walk

Stop 5: Chelsea Physic Garden

In Swan Walk you will find the entrance to Chelsea Physic Garden. This was set up by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1676 with the purpose of training apprentices in identifying plants.

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The location was chosen as the proximity to the river created a warmer microclimate allowing the survival of many non-native plants.  Cedar trees were planted here in 1683, and it is believed this was the first place they were grown in England. In 1712 Dr. Hans Sloane purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne and this included the 4 acre garden. Hans and Sloane pop up  in various local street names which are on land he once owned, as of course does Cheyne.

Sloane had studied at the Garden in his youth, and was sympathetic to the Apothecaries who were struggling with its upkeep. Sloane granted the Apothecaries a lease on the land for a rent of £5 a year in perpetuity, on condition ‘it be for ever kept up and maintained as a physic garden’. A replica of the original statue of Sir Hans Sloane created by Michael Rysbrack in 1733 has pride of place at the centre of the Garden. The original, damaged by pollution, is now in the British Museum.

The garden is open to the public Tuesday – Friday and Sunday – 11am – 6pm. Adult entry price is currently £9. More info at: http://chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/

At the end of Swan Walk turn left, cross the road and after Flood Street veer off to the right into Cheyne Walk.

Stop 6: Cheyne Walk (East)

And now for some more Blue Plaques (sorry!). At number 4 is one for the novelist George Eliot, then a little way further down is one which is shared by the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the poet Algernon Swinburne who both lived at the house at Number 16.

Rossetti moved here after the death of his wife, Lizzie, from a drugs overdose in 1862 and he lived here for the best part of 20 years In the last years of his life Rossetti befriended an up and coming writer, Thomas Henry Hall Caine, who became quite well known as Hall Caine, and has now been totally forgotten. Hall Caine wrote about his friendship with Rossetti in a book “Recollections of Rossetti” first published in the 1880s and republished in 1928 for the anniversary of Rossetti’s birth. In this he tells the story of how a grief stricken Rossetti buried his notebook of poems dedicated to his wife in his wife’s coffin, only to have to have her body exhumed a few years later so he could recover the book. Hall Caine was also good friends with Bram Stoker, and in fact Dracula is dedicated to Hall Caine (but under the nickname “Hommy-Beg”!)

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Stop 7: site of King Henry VII’s Manor House

A little further along Cheyne Walk between Numbers 23 and 24 Cheyne walk is an alley way with a sign saying this was the site of King Henry VIII’s Manor House.

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Chelsea Manor is what gave Chelsea its name. It was acquired by Henry VIII in 1536. The young Elizabeth I of England lived here as a Princess between 1536 and 1548. Anne of Cleves also lived here and died there in 1557.  There have been three different houses on the site, the last of which was demolished in 1825 by Earl Cadogan – the Cadogan Estate still retain ownership of property hereabouts as we saw in Tedworth Square Gardens.

Go down the alley a little bit and there is a sign to warn drivers of vehicles to walk their horses – by order. Not sure by order of whom – it does not say.

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Keep going down Cheyne Walk, crossing over Oakley Street and making a short detour in to a small garden ahead

Stop 8:  Cheyne Walk (middle)

Here you will soon come across a homely looking statue of Thomas Carlyle looking confortable in what looks like a dining room chair. He was a 19th Century Scottish philosopher and writer. He lived just down the street behind the statue at Number 24 Cheyne Row.

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Go down Cheyne Row passing Carlyle’s House

The house was opened to the public in 1895, just fourteen years after Carlyle’s death. It is preserved very much as it was when Carlyle and his wife lived there despite another resident moving in after them with her scores of cats and dogs.  The house is now owned by the National Trust and is open Tuesday – Sunday  11am – 5pm.

More info at: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carlyles-house/

Go along Cheyne Row and at end turn left and follow St Lawrence Street round

Stop 9: St Lawrence Street

Just as you turn the corner is a square blue plaque set in the wall, which signifies that Chelsea China was made here. It was the first important porcelain factory in England starting in the 1740s. In 1769 it was bought by William Duesbury, owner of the Derby porcelain factory. He kept the factory until 1784. It was then demolished and its moulds, patterns and many of its workmen and artists transferred to Derby. So all that we have to remind ourselves of this bit of industrial history is this plaque.

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At the end of St Lawrence Street turn right and you will see ahead of you Old Chelsea Church and its graveyard.

Stop 10  Chelsea Old Church and the Sloane Monument

This most prominent monument you come across is that of Sir Hans Sloane, who had such an important influence over this area.

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The entrance of the Church is at the other end from the Sloane monument. The Church was badly damaged by bombing in 1941 and has been considerably reconstructed. Sir Thomas More had his private chapel built here in 1528 and there are lots of interesting monuments. It does open to the public on some afternoons see http://www.chelseaoldchurch.org.uk/

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Just across the road from the Chelsea Old Church is a sunken garden, do venture in.

Stop 11 Roper’s Gardens

The story of this garden is a little sad. It was laid out as a garden in 1965 and is only here because the area was bombed. It is said this was Sir Thomas More’s orchard, but there is nothing to show of this. There are three to have a look at. First and most obvious a bronze figure, The Awakening” by Gilbert Ledward.

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Then hidden away towards the church a little memorial to Gunji Koizumi, who was apparrently the father of British Judo.

And finally and most intriguingly an unfinished stone relief. It looks very like Epstein and if you go round the back you discover it is. It commemorates the fact that he lived and worked at a studio on this site from 1909 to 1914.

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Walk down Old Church Street away from the river until you get back to King’s Road

Stop 12: Cineworld Cinema

Now you may be wondering why our final stop is a rather dull looking 4 screen cinema at the corner of King’s Road and Old Church Street. Well back in the 1970s this building was home to the stage musical, the Rocky Horror Show, for just over 5 years.

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The show had started at the Royal Court’s 63 seat studio theatre with a run of a month from 19 June 1973. The cast included Tim Curry, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell (billed as Little Nell) and Julie Covington as well as Richard O’Brien, who wrote the book, music and lyrics. Record producer Jonathan King saw it on the second night and signed the cast to make the original cast recording over a long weekend that was rushed out on his UK Records label.

The production was so successful it transferred to the 230-seat Chelsea Classic Cinema, a little way down on Kings Road from 14 August 1973 to 20 October 1973.  This cinema was being redeveloped (and is now a shop). So it then moved again to this building which at the time had around 500 seats. The name was changed to the King’s Road Theatre. At the end of its run at the King’s Road Theatre on 31 March 1979 it transferred to the Comedy Theatre (now the Harold Pinter Theatre). Here the show required some restaging as it was the first theatre that the musical had played at with a traditional proscenium arch stage. For the first time, the musical was also split into two acts with an interval. It finished its run there on 13 September 1980. It has been revived numerous times since and has been having a 40th anniversary tour in the UK. And of course there is the famous 1975 film which has also kept the show alive.

Sadly this building shows no sign of this little bit of history After Rocky Horror it went back to being a cinema, being successively known as the Classic, Cannon, UGC and finally now Cineworld.

And that brings us to the end of our SW3 walk – a walk where we have met a number of really famous people of the late 19th century, but also touched on how this area is much more historic that it first seems – with royal connections in the 16th century and innovative manufactury in the 18th century although there is little tangible left to see.

We are now on King’s Road and so there are plenty of buses for onward travel.