SE16: Tunnel Vision

SE16 is Rotherhithe – of Tunnel fame but also much else as we shall see.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 142 Lower Road. Turn left out of the Post Office and continue along Lower Road past Surrey Quays station.

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Our first stop is just on the left

Stop 1: Southwark Park

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But as you go into the park, notice the pub just along Lower Road.

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This pub was the site of an 18th century theatre and a 19th century tea garden.

Here is a link to a blog post with a bit of the history:

http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-china-hall-rotherhithe.html

Unfortunately, it is a pub which may not have much future as the freehold has been sold to developers.

Now go into the Park. This park was opened in 1869 by the Metropolitan Board of Works and was one of the Board’s first parks.

Follow the path as it curves ahead to the left. Just where the path begins to curve the other way have a look to your left and you will see a low white building.

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This proclaims it is a Gallery, although it is quite small and seems to be used for special exhibitions rather than being open all the time.

Continue along the path and soon on the left you will see a path to a lake. Go down here and follow the path round to the right. This will take you to the Ada Salter Rose Garden

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This lovely garden was created in 1936 as evidenced by this sundial.

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Ada Salter (1866 -1942) and her husband Alfred devoted their lives to improving the lot of local people in the first part of the 20th century, and at some personal cost. They lost their only child, Joyce, at age 8 to Scarlet Fever, a disease rife in poor areas, and they were bombed out of their house in 1941.

Sadly neither lived to see the end of the Second World War and the substantial rebuilding of the area after the war. I wonder what they would have made of the area now that the docks have closed and been redeveloped.

Ada was one of the first women councillors in London, the first woman mayor in London and the first Labour woman mayor in the British Isles.

She campaigned to address the slum housing in Bermondsey and she also led a campaign to beautify Bermondsey. She lobbied the London County Council to improve Southwark Park amongst other things and this rose garden was one of the results.

After it opened in 1936, it became known as Ada Salter’s Garden, although the London County Council only formally gave it this name in 1943 after her death.

More about Ada and her husband can be found in this blog post:

http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/adas-garden-recognition-for-pioneering.html

Now head out of the gate you came in and look at the green on your left. You will see a small stone going green.

 

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This stone is really hard to read but it is a commemoration to Ada Salter.

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Now head back. Ahead, you will see some park gates.

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(This by the way is unhelpfully the view you get from outside the park!)

Go out these gates which lead into Gomm Road. Our next stop is in the terrace of houses on the left hand side.

Stop 2: Number 36, Gomm Road

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Number 36 has a Southwark blue plaque to another person who was dedicated to improving the lot of others.

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Richard Carr-Gomm (1922 – 2008) was the founder of the Abbeyfield Society and the Carr-Gomm Society, which are British charities providing care and housing for disadvantaged and lonely people.

According to the Abbeyfield website:

“The first Abbeyfield house was established in 1956 by Richard Carr-Gomm. He recognised that a lot of older people were living alone and feeling isolated in their own communities and wanted to provide them with a safe and secure home where they could find friendship and support.

Soon after purchasing a house in Bermondsey and inviting two local residents to move in, he had purchased five more properties and formally set up The Abbeyfield Society. Before long, volunteers around the county had formed their own societies and the dream of a nationwide charity providing high quality housing, support and companionship in later life had become a reality.”

Now go to the end of the street and turn left into Lower Road. The building at this corner by the way is the delightfully named Seven Islands Leisure Centre.

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This is on the site of Rotherhithe Town Hall which was destroyed by German rockets in 1944.

The attached link has a log of the V1 and V2 rockets which hit this area.

http://www.flyingbombsandrockets.com/V1_summary_se16.html

This notes that no less than 3 V1 and 2  V2 rockets landed in the vicinity of the Town Hall, and the nearby St Olave’s Hospital, with devastating effect.

Now cross over and just opposite the Leisure Centre is a building called Orchard House.

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Not very inspiring but this was the last London home of an African king – popularly known by the press as King Freddie.

He was actually named Major General Sir Edward Frederick William David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Muteesa II (1924 – 1969). He became Kabaka (king) of the Kingdom of Buganda in November 1939. He was the thirty-fifth Kabaka of Buganda and the first President of Uganda. But he was deposed in 1966 and spent his last years here. He died of alcohol poisoning in November 1969 and there was some speculation that he was assassinated by being force-fed vodka.

Now cross over the side street (Surrey Quays Road) and go into the little park on your right. This is called King George’s Field

Stop 3: King George’s Field/Dock Office

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This open space is named after King George V who died in 1936. After his death, there were lots of playing fields and open spaces created and named after him. The playing field here was laid out on the site of All Saints Church which was destroyed in one of those German rocket attacks in World War II. This little park opened in 1957.

If you go in the gate and along the path you will see an old building ahead on the right outside the park.

This is one of the few buildings left from the old Surrey Commercial Docks.

The docks here started to be developed in the 18th century and gradually the majority of the land within the sweep of the Thames around Rotherhithe was taken into the dock area. In fact there were nine separate docks; some with names connected with to places being traded with: Canada Dock, Quebec Dock, Greenland Dock, Norway Dock and Russia Dock.

The docks closed in 1969 as they were too small to handle container ships. Most of the docks have been filled in except for Greenland Dock and a bit of Canada Dock. The area has now been redeveloped mainly with housing, but also with the Surrey Quays shopping centre.

The old building was the Dock Superintendent’s office built 1887.

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There is also a Southwark borough blue plaque on the building.

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This commemorates the fact that on 7 September 1940 the docks were set on fire in the first air raid of the Blitz. Obviously being a dock area this was a prime target throughout the War.

Now retrace your steps back to Lower Road, cross over the road and turn right along Lower Road. Our next stop is just on the left past some almhouses (which are worth a peek)

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This terrace of 7 cottages was built in 1902 under the terms of the will of Charles John Peele, a director at a local factory Brandram Brothers, to the memory of his mother who had died in 1890. Brandrams ran a chemical works dealing with many rather nasty substances such as white lead, saltpetre and sulphuric acid. Their factory was nearby, just behind All Saints churchyard. It closed in 1958 and demolished for the construction of a housing development called the Canada Estate in 1962.

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These cottages are now managed by Hanover Housing Association.

Go a short way along Lower Road. Our next stop is at the corner of Ann Moss Way, which is on your left.

Stop 4: Site of St Olave’s Hospital, Lower Road

The land here was once the location of St Olave’s Hospital. Almost the whole site has been redeveloped for housing but at the corner of Ann Moss Way is an old house and on that house is another Southwark blue plaque.

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This commemorates the fact that St Olave’s Hospital was in 1933 the birthplace of actor Sir Michael Caine. Of course the name he was given by his parents was not Michael Caine – it was Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr. And there is an often told story of how he came to be known as Michael Caine.

When he started acting (in 1953 in Horsham, West Sussex!), he took the stage name of Michael Scott. But the next year, he got work in London and there was already a Michael Scott performing as an actor in London. Caine learnt this when speaking to his agent from a phone box in Leicester Square. His agent told him to come up with a new name immediately. The young actor looked around for inspiration and seeing that The Caine Mutiny was being shown at the Odeon Cinema, he decided to change his name to “Michael Caine”. The rest as they say is history.

Now keep going along Lower Road and you will see a roundabout and off this is the approach road to the Rotherhithe tunnel, our next stop.

Stop 5: Rotherhithe Tunnel

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The Rotherhithe Tunnel is one of three road crossings which go under the Thames. It was opened in June 1908 and unlike the other tunnels (Blackwall and Dartford) it was not later duplicated, so uniquely the Rotherhithe Tunnel has two way traffic.

It also has a footpath along each side, if you are brave (or foolhardy) enough to walk through. It is not unknown for cyclists to use the footpaths, which is hardly surprising given the heavy traffic on the actual road and the road’s limited width.

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Now if you look to the right of the Tunnel approach road you will see an elegant church building, which is at the start of Albion Street, our next stop.

Stop 6: Albion Street

Albion Street is rather sad today with its shabby shops bookended by two closed pubs. The Albion and the Little Crown.

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But it does have two unusual churches, which are legacies of this area’s seafaring connections. First at the start of the street, on the left, is the Norwegian Church

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This dates from 1927 and is dedicated to St Olave.

Olave was King of Norway, who attempted to convert his people to Christianity and was martyred in 1030. He was an ally of the English King, Ethelred the Unready, and is said to have helped defend London against Danish invaders. As a result, he was quite popular in London. There were at one time 5 churches dedicated to St Olave in the City plus one in Southwark, near London Bridge.

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And a little further along the street is the Finnish Church, which dates from 1958, and does not look at all like a church. In fact the tower is rather reminiscent of a post-war fire station.

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By the way just before the church, opposite the shops, there is an empty site. This I think was the location of Rotherhithe Civic Centre and Library. And between that and the Finnish Church, there was once a small piazza.

This was the location of a statue called “Bermondsey Boy” by Tommy Steele – yes that Tommy Steele the 1950s rocker, later star of stage and screen. He was born in Bermondsey.

Sadly we cannot see that statue today because it was stolen (presumably for its scrap value) in 1998. Architectural guru Pevsner notes that the statue is “of curiosity value only”.

There is a picture on Twitter of Tommy Steele unveiling the statue in 1975: https://twitter.com/bermondseybeat/status/747853313551523840?lang=en

A little way past the Finnish Church you will see a passageway with an old lamp above it.

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Go down here and you get to the Rotherhithe Tunnel approach road. Here you can get a much better view of the tunnel portal and the inscription above.

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Go back up to Albion Street and turn left then turn along Old Railway Walk.

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Ahead you will see Rotherhithe station.

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This station, like Surrey Quays station, was on the old East London railway line which opened in December 1869. This utilised the tunnel under the Thames designed by Marc Isambard Brunel and built by him and his rather more famous son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This line has been part of the London Overground since 2010.

The Tunnel was the first under a navigable river and had been built between 1825 and 1843 for horse-drawn carriages. The tunnel had generous headroom and two carriageways separated by arches. Whilst it was a triumph of civil engineering, there was not enough money to complete it properly with ramps for the carriages, so it was a commercial failure because it could only be used a foot tunnel. By the 1860s it had become an unpleasant and disreputable place but its scale meant it was big enough to be converted to rail use.

Back in May 2014 I was fortunate in being able to walk along the Brunel Thames tunnel. Here is link to my blog about that day:

https://stephensldn.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/walking-under-water-a-stroll-through-brunels-tunnel/

Go down the side street by the station, following the sign for the Brunel Museum, which is our next stop.

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Stop 7: Brunel Museum

The museum in housed in the Brunel Engine House, which was designed by Marc Isambard Brunel to be part of the infrastructure of the Thames Tunnel. Although the blue plaque outside is dedicated to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the museum is as much about the father as the son.

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Now you will see a sign pointing to Sands Films. Follow that round, which takes you into St Marychurch Street.

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Stop 8: Sands Film Studio

Sands Films is a small British film production company, founded in the mid 1970s. The business is housed in a former granary and includes a small film stage, film theatre, picture library, workshops and costume stores.

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I was hovering by the door when a man called Neil came up to me and asked if I would like to go in. I took him up on his invitation.

He told me about the film they are currently working on (The Good Soldier Schwejk, based on an unfinished satirical dark comedy novel by Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek.).

And he explained about The Rotherhithe Picture Research Library. Established here in 1975, it is a reference collection, freely available to anyone wishing to do picture research. But unlike most other picture libraries which are commercial, this one is a non-profit-making charity.

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And he took me further into the building past miscellaneous costumes and props to show me a cinema like no other.

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They have regular screenings of films here. It is free but they ask for a donation.

Here is a link to the booking page:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/sands-films-cinema-and-events-3135066918

Thank you Neil for your time.

Now continue down St Marychurch Street and our next stop is ahead at the end.

Stop 9: The Mayflower pub

Here is a nice old pub and it is called the Mayflower after the ship that sailed from here in 1620 taking religious puritans to settle in the New World.

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This is one of the most atmospheric parts of Rotherhithe, and a nice pub to pop in.

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Now you will be able to see the church from here. Head to the right side and go into the churchyard.

Stop 10: St. Mary’s Church, St. Marychurch Street

There has been a church here since medieval times but the church we see today was built in the 18th century.

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Pevsner says “The rebuilding started in 1714 but was still incomplete in 1737. The west tower has an inscription of 1747 and the chancel is possibly as late as that.” The spire though is even later having been rebuilt in 1861

Go round the church past the spire and find the door on the south side. Note the Southwark blue plaque about the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower.

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The church is lovely inside

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Now return to Rotherhithe Street and turn left and go straight ahead through this alleyway..

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When you reach Kings Stairs Close, you will see a terrace opening up to the river and the way ahead is called Kings Stairs Close.

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There is no way through straight ahead and you need to go along the riverside terrace. But you would anyway be drawn to this as it has great views of the City.

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Walk under the brick structure and along the river terrace. The view gets changes, with St Paul’s now visible. But the Walkie Talkie dominates, standing as it does away from the cluster of other tall buildings in the City.

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Then you will see this Silver Jubilee stone. Keep going

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Head past the Angel pub which will be on your right..

Stop 11: site of King Edward III’s Manor House

Then just here on the left is a bit of a surprise – some stones which turn out to be all that is left of a house dating from the mid 14th century.

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King Edward III reigned from 1327 to 1377 and built a house here in 1353. The buildings were surrounded by a moat on three sides and with the fourth side originally open to the River Thames. This allowed the king to arrive by boat.

By the end of the 16th century the Thames waterfront had been pushed northwards by land reclamation, so the old King’s residence was now completely enclosed by a moat. The Crown eventually sold the residence and it passed into private hands and was known as the “moted place”.

In the 17th century the site became used as a pottery and in the 18th and 19th centuries warehouses were built across the site. In the 1970s the warehouses were demolished and in the 1980s the London Docklands Development Corporation redeveloped the area and in doing so allowed archaeological investigations by the Museum of London which established here were the remains of Edward III’s residence.

There is some more detail on the following link: https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/king-edward-iii-manor-house

Now look back towards the river and you will see our final stop.

Stop 12: The Salter family sculptures

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Sitting facing the river is Dr Salter. To the left is his wife, Ada. Then on the riverbank wall is their daughter and her cat.

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And here is a view looking back to the Angel pub.

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In 1991, sculptor Diane Gorvin created ‘Dr Salter’s Daydream’ which had the Doctor watching his daughter play and her pet cat. However in November 2011 the statue of Dr Salter was stolen, presumably by metal thieves. Southwark Council put the remaining statues of Joyce and her cat into storage. Money was raised to make a replacement of Dr Salter plus a new one of his wife. All four pieces were installed in November 2014, guarded over by CCTV.

We are now at the end of our SE16 walk. Rotherhithe is a fascinating place once you start looking. I was surprised to find the remains of a 14th century manor house and to learn of the connection with the Mayflower and the puritan emigrants. Then we have two tunnels under the river, the Brunel Museum and the Sands Film Studio and associated picture library.

It is probably easiest to go back to Rotherhithe station for onward travel. But if you are feeling energetic (and the weather is nice) you can keep walking along the Thames Path and drop off at Bermondsey or even go all the way to Tower Bridge or London Bridge.

 

W2: The Bear Necessities

W2 is Paddington and when you say Paddington it usually means one of two things: the station or the bear. We will certainly cover both but there is of course a lot more to W2. So pack up those marmalade sandwiches and off we go.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 118/120 Queensway which is immediately opposite our first stop.

Stop 1: Whiteley’s

 This was once a very big store indeed. Founded by William Whiteley who was apparently inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851 to create his own vast emporium. He worked for various other people but in 1863 managed to open his own premises on Westbourne Grove. By 1900 he had expanded round the corner into Queensway. The whole store was rebuilt with a new frontage on Queensway between 1908 and 1911.

Sadly Mr Whiteley did not get to see his new store, as on 24 January 1907, he was shot dead in his office by a young man who claimed to be his illegitimate son.

Queensway never developed into a major shopping street – much like Wigmore Street did not in W1. Whiteley’s struggled on until 1981 when it was finally closed. However it was rebuilt as a kind of mall in 1989.

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Amazingly the building still has its original stairwell and staircase in the centre.

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But all is not what it seems with this building. It may have an impressive facade along Queensway but Whiteley’s never quite got around to finishing the store at the northern end. Thus when it came to redevelop the site, a modern structure was built at the northern end behind the facade. If you walk down the length of the “mall” you can see how it changes.

It s good to see this building still in use but it has still not become a shopping destination. Even though it has car parking, it just does not have the critical mass of shops to attract people. Hard to see how this will change especially with the Westfield London Mall not so far west of here.

Now walk the full length of the store and to the end of Queensway. Here at the end across Bishops Bridge Road is our next stop.

Stop 2: Former Queens Cinema

The Queens Cinema was built for a small local chain called W C Dawes’ Modern Cinemas. It opened in October 1932 but within three years it had been taken over by the ABC chain. It seems to have kept its name until 1962 when it became known as the ABC. At this time the facade was covered with blue metal sheeting masking all the distinctive original decoration at the top – a deco zig-zag pattern and the name ‘Queens’ set out in multi-coloured terrazzo. Cannon Cinemas took over in April 1986 but the cinema was closed in August 1988.

The building lay unused for several years until it became a TGI Friday’s Restaurant in 1995. The metal cladding which had covered the facade for around 30 years was removed. TGI Friday’s closed in early 2007 and after some years empty and unused, redevelopment of the site started in February 2013. The auditorium has been demolished but the central section of the facade is being retained for the entrance to a new block of flats. Currently the facade is covered by sheeting with a print of what is behind.

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Walk a little way along Bishops Bridge Road and take the first right (Inverness Terrace). Go down to where Porchester Gardens crosses Inverness Terrace.

Stop 3: Statue of George Kastrioti Skanderbeg

Just by this corner is a little garden and a bust on a plinth.

The little garden this is in is dedicated to Beatrice, Viscountess Samuel who was born and died in W2. She was the wife of Viscount Samuel, a Liberal politician. He by the way is credited with making the first party political broadcast on television – in October 1951 when he was leader of the Liberal Party in the Lords.

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The bust is a bit of a curiosity – it is of George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, a 15th-century nobleman who is a national hero to Albanians and said to be one of the key players in Christian resistance to the expansion of the Muslim Ottoman empire. Quite why this bust is in this quiet corner of Bayswater I know not – it is not even close to the Albanian Embassy which is in Pimlico and presumably Skanderbeg never visited the UK, let alone Bayswater, so that cannot be the reason.

Now go right into Porchester Gardens and then turn left into Queensway. Our next stop is just after Bayswater Station on the same side of the road.

Stop 4: Queens Ice Rink and Bowl

Queens boldly claims to be London’s only ice rink and bowl. Now I pondered on what this meant – we know Queens is not London’s only ice rink. There was one in Streatham as we saw in the SW16 walk and which has just been replaced. So you have to read it as “ice rink and bowl”. I thought that there was some unique feature called an ice bowl which went along with the rink. But no. It turns out the “Bowl” bit means a 10 pin bowling alley.  So that is why it is unique in London because no one else has an ice rink and a bowling alley in the same premises.

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It is quite hard to find any information as to its history, but I have established the ice rink dates from October 1930. Not sure when the bowling alley was added but I presume it was in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Queens has quite a modest entrance on Queensway and seems to be in the basement of a block of flat which has shops on the ground floor. Perhaps if it had been a separate building it would have been too valuable a site and it would not have survived.

Now keep going down Queensway to the end and turn left on Bayswater Road. Continue until Porchester Terrace when you should turn left.

Stop 5a: 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens (rear)

Between numbers 23 and 25 Porchester Terrace opposite Fulton Mews, there is a gap in the buildings. Stand there  long enough and you will hear the rumble of an underground train. There is a wall but even though I am tall I could not see over the parapet – but my camera could and this is what it saw. That blank wall over the tracks is actually the back of the facade of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens.

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Now we shall go round the corner to look at that blank wall.

Return down Porchester Terrace and turn down Craven Hill Gardens (19/19A on sign). At the end turn left into Leinster Gardens and cross over. Stop at the end of Craven Hill Gardens (23 to 47 on sign)

Stop 5b: 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens (front)

At first glance this is just a terrace of stucco houses much like many hereabouts. But look very closely between the Henry VIII and Blakemore Hotels and you see the roof line is different and the windows are blanks, with grey paint instead of glass with curtains behind. The reason is two of these houses are just facades. They were built by the Metropolitan Railway in the 1860s to hide the railway from the street, and a very effective job they do too. Without this artifice, the street would not look right. So this is the other side of that blank wall over the railway.

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 Now retrace your steps along Leinster Gardens and turn left into Craven Hill Gardens (13 – 16 on sign). Go down Craven Hill Gardens and it becomes Craven Road. As we go down Craven Road our next stop is on the left hand side.

Stop 6: 32 Craven Road

This was the home of Tommy Handley, a comedian, mainly known for the 1940s BBC radio programme ITMA (“It’s That Man Again”).

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Handley worked with people such as Arthur Askey and Bob Monkhouse, and wrote many radio scripts, but it is ITMA for which he is remembered. ITMA became known for a number of catchphrases. Mostly now forgotten but one that occasionally resurfaces is “TTFN” (Ta Ta for Now) which was said by Mrs Mopp, the office cleaning lady.

Another catchphrase was D’oh! which was the parting shot of a character called Miss Hotchkiss from 1945 to the demise of the programme in January 1949. D’oh! was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004, largely in response to its much later use in the television programme The Simpsons. But it is a 1945 BBC radio script for ITMA that is the earliest recorded use of the phrase.

Continue walking along Craven Road crossing when convenient. At Eastbourne Terrace, Craven Road becomes Praed Street and ahead on the left is Paddington Station and the Great Western hotel.

Stop 7: Paddington Station

Paddington station is a bit of a challenge to get into from the street at the moment because the area to the west of the station is being dug out for the new Crossrail station. But it was always an odd layout because unlike most main line stations the concourse is hidden behind an impenetrable barrier of the station hotel which you have to go round.

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There are a couple of things to see inside the station so go in front of the hotel and down the side street which slopes away from Praed Street. But as go down near the end there is an office building, today called Tournament House. This was built for the GWR in 1933 and if you look up you will see the words GWR Paddington in huge letters atop the building.

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Once on the station concourse, have a look at the train shed. Paddington station was the terminus of the Great Western Railway – which was masterminded by the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The first section of line from Paddington dates from 1838, but the station we see today with its wonderful train sheds (and the hotel  at the front) dates largely from 1850 – 1854. There were originally three bays to the train shed but this was expanded in the same style in 1913 – 1915. The newer section is over the higher numbered platforms.

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Now go across the concourse with the platforms on your right. To your left is a glazed courtyard and beyond that is the Hotel. This glazed courtyard is called “The Lawn” for no obvious reason – there is no sign of grass here!

Just inside this area which is full of food outlets at the foot of an escalator is a little statue of Paddington Bear

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Paddington Bear was created by Michael Bond. He was inspired to write the first story after he noticed a lone teddy bear on a shelf in a London store near Paddington station on Christmas Eve 1956, which he then bought as a present for his wife. Apparently Bond wanted Paddington to have “travelled all the way from darkest Africa”, but his agent advised him that there were no bears in darkest Africa, so it was amended to darkest Peru.

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There is of course a Paddington Bear shop just upstairs from the statue but as far as I can see none of the food outlets offer marmalade sandwiches.

Now go to platform 1.

Walking along Platform 1 you will see an alcove on the left and in this is a statue of the great man Brunel plus a display about Crossrail. This area will I assume become a way into the Crossrail station when it opens in a few years.

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One might have though this statue was old but it is not particularly. It only dates from 1982 – and is by John Doubleday.

Retrace your steps out of the station and up the slope back to Praed Street. At the top do a U turn around the Bakerloo line station entrance.

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Note how this has the distinctive red tiles of the Leslie Green designed stations, but there is no building as such here. It is just a subway entrance.

Go down London Street and follow it round into South Wharf Road.

Stop 8: The Mint Building

We are now approaching St Mary’s Hospital which is spread amongst a number of buildings hereabouts. Take a right turn where it says “Mint Building”.

Although the Mint Building is now used by the hospital, it was actually built by the railway as stables for the GWR’s road delivery department. In 1910/11 concrete ramps and galleries were added so horses could be accommodated on the upper floors. At its height this stables could accommodate 600 horses.

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Now return to South Wharf Road and turn right.

Stop 9: St Mary’s Hospital

St Mary’s is a real jumble of building and plans for a major redevelopment were abandoned, so it looks like it will have to make do with this odd collection of the old and new. There are however a couple of things worth pointing out.

First just along from the Mint building on South Wharf Road is the Lindo Wing.

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This doorway became rather familiar last summer when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took home their first child, Prince George, who was born here on 22 July. This by the way is the same hospital where Diana, then Princess of Wales, gave birth to Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry in 1982 and 1984 respectively.

Now cut through the hospital complex and you reach Praed Street coming out opposite Norfolk Place. Cross over Praed Street and look back to the left of the walkway you have you used.

Here is a plaque telling us that Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in the second floor room above the plaque. We kind of take this for granted but how different the world would have been without penicillin. And how worrying it is that drug resistant strains of bacteria might mean it would not be possible to treat some things or even do complex operations in future.

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Now go down Norfolk Place crossing Sussex Gardens where the street becomes Radnor Place. Our next stop is on the right after the northern road of Gloucester Square joins Radnor Place.

Stop 10: 35 Gloucester Square

Although we seem to still be in Radnor Place the houses on the right are actually numbered as Gloucester Square as their other side faces onto the Square.

Number 35 was the house where Robert Stephenson civil engineer and only son of George Stephenson lived at the end of his life. He was rather in the shadow of his father but many of the achievements popularly credited to his father were joint efforts. Stephenson by the way died just one month after Brunel in October 1859.

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Obviously this building was not the actual building of Stephenson’s time and there is a second plaque explaining about the refixing of the plaque in 1937.

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Fascinating fact:  Stephenson was god-father to Robert Baden Powell, founder of the scouting movement.  Baden-Powell’s full name was Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, the first two names in honour of his godfather, the third his mother’s maiden name.

Now go to the end of Radnor Place and turn left into Southwick Place. Take the first right into Hyde Park Crescent and then the next right into Hyde Park Street.

Stop 11: 12 Hyde Park Street

Some of this street has been redeveloped but on the left at Number 12 is an original house.

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This was the home of William Henry Smith who was the son in the company W H Smith and Son.

The business originated by his grandparents Henry Walton and Anna Smith. The business passed to their two sons, Henry Edward and William Henry Smith, in 1816 and in due course, as William Henry Smith was the more capable businessman of the two brothers, the concern became known as W H Smith. William Henry’s son, also William Henry, was taken into partnership on his 21st birthday in 1846 and so the business changed its name to W H Smith & Son.

In 1848, the company opened its first bookstall at Euston. Other station bookstalls followed and became outlets not just for newspapers but also for cheap editions of other publications which were produced for railway travellers. The company also became the principal newspaper distributor in the country.

In 1868 the younger W H Smith became an MP and in 1874 he decided to devote himself to politics.  In 1877, he became First Lord of the Admiralty, despite a lack of any relevant experience. It is often said that Smith’s appointment was the inspiration for the character of Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1878 comic opera, H. M. S. Pinafore which has the song with the famous line “now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Nav-ee”  It has however also been suggested that the Pinafore character was as much based on Smith’s predecessor as First Lord, Hugh Childers.

Now go to the end of Hyde Park STreet and turn left at the end into Bayswater Road.

As we walk along Bayswater Road, have a look out for number 23 Bayswater Road. This building served as a club of Dutch people who had escaped from German occupied Netherlands during the war. It was named Oranjehaven and I can’t find out much else about it apart from what it says on the stone outside!

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Stop 12: Tyburn Convent

Just after St George’s Fields you will see on your left the Tyburn Convent. Tyburn famously was a place of execution and according to a sign on this building there were 105 Catholics who lost their lives at Tyburn between 1535 and 1681. It was predicted in 1585 that a religious house would be set up here. It only established in 1903 and of course it is a little way from the actual location of the Tyburn Gallows.

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The inscription on the stone is difficult to read because a ramp has been built in front of it.

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This is what it says:

“The circular stone on the traffic island 300 paces east of this point marks the site of the ancient gallows known as Tyburn Tree. It was demolished in 1759.”

And to find that stone, continue walking along Bayswater Road. At the Marble Arch junction on the traffic island in the middle of Edgware Road outside the Odeon Cinema you will find this stone.

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This is in W2 – just. The nearest street signs (for Bayswater Road and Edgware Road) both show W2, even though Marble Arch itself across the road is probably in W1.

Well we have now reached the end of our W2 walk and we find ourselves at Marble Arch where there are plenty of buses plus a tube station for onward travel.