E5: Blame it on the Rivoli

E5 is Clapton which is often confused with Clapham, but of course it is a completely different place.

We start our walk at Upper Clapton Post Office which is just at the start of Mount Pleasant Lane near its junction with Upper Clapton Road.

Turn right out of the Post Office and walk along Mount Pleasant Lane. The road straight ahead becomes Mount Pleasant Hill and goes over the railway. Keep going straight past the former industrial buildings on your left. Turn left into Theydon road (there is a Co-op store on the corner). Our first stop is just on the left.

Stop 1: De Havilland House

This is now flats but was once part of a factory.

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It seems that this building was designed in the 1930s by Sir Owen Williams (1890 -1969), who was the forefront of developing the use of concrete.

He was the engineer responsible for the three 1930s Daily Express buildings (London, Glasgow and Manchester) and was also architect for the latter. His practice was responsible for a number of road structures, most notably Gravelly Hill Interchange (better known as Spaghetti Junction) which was completed after his death.

According to the View from the Bridge website

http://www.leabridge.org.uk/gazetteer/photo-album/de-havilland-building-2.html

“The De Havilland Building is an early modern movement building in the international style.

It is a concrete frame building with a very thin single layer of reinforced concrete forming the building envelope. De Havilland House is a former ‘Metal Box’ factory.

The attribution to De Havilland, the aircraft company, has not been sourced, but may speak to the first flight of an English aircraft by an English pilot of A.V. Roe nearby.”

But the aircraft connection makes it sound better than if it were just a plain old metal bashing factory.

Carry on walking along Theydon Road. It turns to the left. just before it goes under the railway there is a bit of a yard on your right. This has a way through to the River. Go down the yard and then when you get to the riverside path turn left and go under the railway

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Stop 2: Riverside walk (and Anchor and Hope pub)

So here we have the River Lea. It is quite attractive here

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However it is very flat. And it is crisscrossed by pylons and railway lines with much dull building in the distance.

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Now as you may know singer Adele has a song on her latest album called “River Lea”. She spent her early years in Tottenham, so probably would not have come this far along the river. However I thought I would mention it as we are by the River Lea – although for the first few times I heard the song I thought she was singing about “The Rivoli”, which of course she isn’t.

Keep on walking and there is a reasonable looking pub The Anchor and Hope. I wonder if the name comes from people who are not used to sailing boats and when they stop they put down their anchor and hope…

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It is all very modest, although I guess in summer this gets mobbed.

Stop 3: Springfield Park

Just a little further along the path, there is a children’s playground on the right and then on the left is the entrance to Springfield Park.

Springfield Park opened in 1905 and was the grounds of three houses, one of which was retained as we shall see.

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Go in this entrance and follow the path which goes up the hill to your left. You can look back across the River Lea to the other side.

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As we saw this bit of the river Lea is not at all industrial and the view is quite pleasant in a low key unflashy way

Follow the path round and head for the pond. Keeping the pond to your left.

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Then ahead of you you will see a house.

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This is now the Ranger’s Office and a cafe with toilets, but was one of the original houses whose grounds now form this park

Go out the gate at this end of the park. Go right into the road (which is called Springfield) and at the end turn left into Upper Clapton Road. Our next stop is quite a walk along the main road.

Stop 4: Clapton Station

Clapton station is on the left. The station building is quite unprepossessing and rather too close to the road.

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Downstairs the old station has half survived.

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That is the London bound platform still has what looks like the original canopy and a covered stairway, whilst the outbound platform has lost what ever canopy it might have originally had. It also has an open staircase. However there is an ugly looking modern canopy so you are not completely in the open if you are waiting for a train going to Walthamstow or Chingford.

Keep walking along Upper Clapton Road. Our next stop is on the right at the corner of Brooke Road.

Stop 5: site of Brooke House

Today there is a college on this site.

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But once there was a grand house. According to the architectural bible, Pevsner, Brooke House was Hackney’s most important mansion.

It was a courtyard house of medieval origin. Its owners included Thomas Cromwell amongst others. It was demolished in 1954/55 after partial war damage. Pevsner says that a 15th Century wall painting from the Chapel is in the Museum of London, whilst panelling is in Harrow School.

A secondary school was built on the site in the late 1950s. The building was reclad later and is now used as a sixth form college.

Just beyond here is a roundabout which seems totally out of keeping with the streets around. It must have been part of a bigger plan which never got realised.

There is a bus park in the middle. This is where the buses which stop at Clapton Pond go to rest.

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Go straight on at the roundabout which takes you into Lower Clapton Road.

Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 6: Former Kenninghall Cinema

This building currently looks disused

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But it was once a cinema. You can see there is some kind of hall structure behind the entrance.

This started as a cinema in 1910. that was when the function room of  the White Hart public house built in 1896 was converted into a cinema, known as the Clapton Cinematograph Theatre. In 1919 it was given a new name – the Kenninghall Kinema after the nearby Kenninghall Road.

It was taken over by the Odeon chain in April 1938 and a new modern facade and foyer was added to the building, designed by architect George Coles. The plan was eventually to demolish the Kenninghall Kinema and build a modern Odeon Theatre on the expanded site of the cinema and the adjacent pub.

Due to the Second World War the redevelopment never happened and the Kenning Hall Cinema (as it had become) carried on as an unimportant outpost of the Odeon circuit.

It was leased out to an Independent operator from 1958 and eventually closed in June 1979. It was unused for a while until 1983 when it was converted into a nightclub. initially called Duggies. Then it had a couple of name changes; Elite Nightclub and the Palace Pavilion.

This was not the nicest of areas gaining the tag “The Murder Mile”. The White Hart pub building next door closed down after shootings and drug related crime which also affected the nightclub. That seems to have closed down in April 2006.

A local community group, The Friends of Clapton Cinematograph Theatre, was set up in December 2006  with the aim of preserving and restoring cinema. This Group still appears to exist as they have a meeting in May 2016. But it is unclear what has happened to the idea  of reviving the cinema.

The Friends website http://www.saveourcinema.org/ seems silent on the matter and the sign on the outside the building says it is the property of a rather obscure church.

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Keep walking along Lower Clapton Road. There is then a C of E church and our next stop is just past that.

Stop 7: Site of ABC cinema

Another anonymous block of flats, you might say.

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But once this was the site of another cinema. It opened in October 1939 as the Ritz Cinema, although it was built by Associated British Cinemas (ABC). It was in Art Deco styles with seating in stalls and circle.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the Ritz Cinema had a very uneventful life. The only significant happening was in 1962 when its name was changed to ABC to bring it into line with all the other cinemas in the circuit.

The ABC closed in September 1973 and within weeks the building was demolished. The empty site stood unused apart from cars parking on it. In 1994 a block of flats was built on the site.

Keep walking along the main road and cross over.

Stop 8: Clapton Pond

You can hardly miss our next stop surrounded as it is with railings.

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I have often seen Clapton Pond as a destination of buses. And here it is. A fairly small pond in a fairly small garden.

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On the far side from the main road are some older houses – from the time when Clapton was a country village.

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Our next stop is on the far side of the pond from the main road.

Stop 9: Bishop Wood almshouses

This is the range of buildings to the left as you look from the main road.

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And there is a plaque explaining about the almshouses.

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The almshouses were built with money left by Thomas Wood (1607 – 1692), who was born in Clapton and became Bishop of Lichfield after the English Civil War.

The homes were refurbished in the 1880s and again in the 1930s. A gothic style chapel was added in the 19th century and it was said to be one of England’s smallest places of worship.

It seems to be up for sale. Indeed it may even have been sold by now.

Here is a report from the Hackney Citizen dated 20 February 2014:

http://hackneycitizen.co.uk/2014/02/25/bishop-wood-almshouses-sale/

Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouses Charity, which owns the buildings, said it would “dearly love” to refurbish them but claimed this work would cost “getting on for three quarters of a million pounds”.

A spokesperson added: “The charity cannot justify spending that kind of money to provide only four modern flats.”

The last residents were relocated to Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouse on Navarino Road in 2103.

You can understand the charity’s dilemma. But at the end of the day, it surely must be better from them to realise the value in this historic building and build something which is better to suited for older people to live in.

Clearly this is not going to be knocked down and it would be much better to have a sensitive refurbishment and reuse by someone with deeper pockets than for the charity to struggle to maintain such heritage buildings.

Continue walking along Lower Clapton Road. 

Stop 10: Site of Rink Cinema

Our next stop is opposite the corner of Linscott Road

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Now I do not normally stop at petrol stations but I make an exception here as it is built on the site of a very old cinema.

Well actually it started out as a rolling skating rink in December 1909. Unfortunately the Clapton Premier Skating Rink opened just as the craze for roller skating was in decline. It briefly became a dance hall and in 1910 was converted into an ice rink.

This too did not last and in spring 1911 it was rebuilt as a cinema. It opened in July 1911 as the Clapton Rink Cinema, seating 2,000 with a mixed programme of cinema and variety acts.

By 1928 it had been acquired by Gaumont British Theatres who the policy of cine-variety running for a few years. It was closed when German bombs badly damaged the cinema in 1942. It never reopened as it was considered irreparable. The remains were finally demolished in 1950 and a petrol station was built on the site.

Now go down Linscott Road

Stop 11: The Portico

Our next stop is straight ahead – and what a surprising vista along a suburban side street

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This is now part of a secondary school but this portico is all that remains of the London Orphan Asylum founded in 1813. This particularly impressive structure dates from the early 1820s.

The Salvation Army took over the premises in 1881 and created a huge assembly hall by roofing over a courtyard. This seated 4,700 people according to Pevsner.

The majority of the building was demolished in 1975 to make space for the Clapton Girls Technology College. And this later became Clapton Girls Academy. But it seems the Portico was not used and languished as a heritage building “at risk”.

In 1999 a temporary installation by Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed stimulated public interest in the Portico. This was titled Work No.203 and was a large neon text installed on the front of the Portico which read “Everything is Going to be Alright”.

This “artwork” has since been acquired by the Tate, see: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/creed-work-no-203-everything-is-going-to-be-alright-t12799/text-summary

And in a way it was alright. As part of the Labour Government’s Building Schools for the Future a new building was created incorporating the Portico. This opened in 2010 as the Portico City Learning Centre – a place where students and teachers can access the most up to date computer technology.

Now return to the main road and turn left.

Stop 12: The Round Chapel

Here just at the corner of Powerscroft Road is another religious building.

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This was built by the United Reformed Church between 1869 and 1871 and Pevsner describes it as one of the finest non-conformist buildings in London.

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It apparently has a magnificent interior. Clearly far too big for the modern day church, it was repaired and refurbished in the mid 1990s as a performing arts centre.

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So that brings us to the end of our E5 walk. Some fascinating stuff as ever. There are fragments of the old village still poking out by the pond and reminders of the strong tradition of non conformist church going in this part of London with the Round Chapel and also the former Salvation Army building. We also saw some reminders of how even less busy suburbs could have numerous cinemas – we saw three locations in quite a short distance.

We also saw a little bit of industrial heritage and there was a nice park going down to the River Lea. Even the river has it charms, although when you are wandering the streets of Clapton you would not really know that it is there just down the hill.

For onward travel either retrace your steps back to Clapton station (which is quite a trek) or else take one of the many buses that run along Lower Clapton Road. Hackney is really just around the corner and even though the tube has not got here, it has plenty of Overground connections.