SE25: Once the Jolly Sailor …

SE25 is South Norwood, although if you were to ask most people round here they would probably call the area Norwood Junction after the main station here.

We start our walk at South Norwood Post Office which is 85 -87 High Street inside a Nisa convenience store.

Now turn right out of the shop and our first stop is just a little way along the High Street. It is the pub at the corner with Portland Road.

Stop 1: The Jolly Sailor

The Jolly Sailor looks like a fairly ordinary pub that has seen better days.

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But down on the pavement in the High Street. There is a map

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This has not weathered well but at the top it says this is an “1836 map depicting the road layout buildings and canal.”

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This highlights how things were around here around the time of the closure of the Croydon Canal which had opened in 1809. So it was before the canal was filled in and much of the alignment used for the London and Croydon Railway which opened in 1839

Just around the corner is a local blue plaque to note that this is the site of the Jolly Sailor Inn – South Norwood’s first public building. Note the date is just after the opening of the canal.

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And I should have added that when the railway first came through here the local station was called “The Jolly Sailor”.

Now cross over the High Street and head along South Norwood Hill which is the left turn from the High Street at this cross roads. Our next stop is soon on the right hand side.

Stop 2: Stanley Halls

There is quite a jumble of early 1900s buildings here on the right hand side of the road.

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First you get to Stanley Halls which is a Grade II listed complex of Edwardian buildings built in 1904-11. The Halls include an art gallery, theatre hall and assembly rooms. The building was donated and designed for the people of South Norwood by William Ford Robinson Stanley (1829-1909), a prominent local inventor, industrialist and philanthropist.

The venue is managed The Stanley People’s Initiative, a charity established by the local community to re-open, manage, improve and restore Stanley Halls.

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In the first porchway you see, there is an English Heritage plaque to W F R Stanley.

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Stanley was largely self-taught. He dedicated Sunday to learning; starting with architecture and theology and moving on to English, astronomy, geology, chemistry, mathematics and French.

In 1854 he set up his own business in Holborn making mathematical and drawing instruments. He invented the t-square, the panoptic stereoscope and a straight line dividing machine. This apparently won first prize in the International Exhibition of 1862 and guaranteed his fortune.

Stanley moved his factory to South Norwood in the mid 1870s. It operated here until 1926 when the company moved to New Eltham. The business survived until 1999 when it went bust.

Interestingly though the Stanley knife is not one of William Stanley’s inventions, nor one of the products made by W F R Stanley’s company. The Stanley knife comes from an american company which for many years was called The Stanley Works. This had been formed by a merger of Stanley’s Bolt Manufactory, founded by Frederick Trent Stanley in 1843, and the Stanley Rule and Level Company, founded by Frederick’s cousin, Henry Stanley, in 1857.

Next door to the Halls is the Trade School. Originally a technical school for 12 – 15 year olds, today it is part of a Harris Academy.

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Architectural commentator Pevsner describes the halls and School as “the most memorable buildings in South Norwood … a vigorously eclectic group in red brick and stone with two towers and a series of gabled roof lines adorned with the extraordinary motif of copper flowers in flower pots…The rather ponderous free style (miles away from contemporary Arts and Crafts) relies partly on debased Italianate detail, with long oval panels and pink marble columns as recurrent motifs, but also includes eccentricities such as elliptical arches.”

Pevsner does not quite say this is terrible architecture, nor that it is so bad, it is good. I guess the sub text is basically this not bad for an amateur who does not know what he is doing.

Now go back to the cross roads and keep straight on. This is Portland Road. Go under the railway bridge and look back to the parapet to your left.

Stop 3: The London to Croydon Atmospheric railway

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Here you will see a local blue plaque, noting the connection with a strange little footnote in railway history – the Atmospheric Railway. We heard about this in Forest Hill.

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The plaque notes that this is near the location of Norwood Pumping Station. These railways had a continuous pipe located centrally between the rails and pumping stations were used to create a vacuum in the pipes. A piston extended downwards from the trains into a slit in the pipe, with trains blown towards the pumping station by atmospheric pressure. The pumping station here was apparently in a Gothic style, with a very tall ornate tower that served both as a chimney and as an exhaust vent for air pumped from the propulsion tube.

One of the issues with the atmospheric railway was that it was not possible to have tracks crossing each other. Thus south of here the railway created one of the first flying junctions to take one line over another and so avoid the problem.

With hindsight one can see that this was a technology doomed to failure, but you have to admire the Victorian spirit of ingenuity.

Now keep walking along Portland Road and our next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 4: site of a Cinema, 44B Portland Road

This modest looking doorway was the entrance to an early cinema.

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According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it first opened as the New Electric Theatre in February 1911, then it closed from the time to time and went through various names: the Electric Theatre (1917) the Mascot Cinema (1919), La Rosa Cinema (mid 1920s) and back to the Electric Cinema in 1928. Closed again by 1930, it reopened in 1934 as the Regent Cinema, finally closing in February 1935.

During World War II it became a restaurant, and after the war became a kitchen for preparing school meals. From March 1963, it was converted into a youth club, known as the Socco Cheta Club, offering snooker, television and an activities room. The Socco Cheta Club was closed in 2005, and the building was put up for sale. It does not seem to have any presence now but the Socco Cheta sign is still over the door, so it looks like no one else has taken this building on.

Now continue walking along Portland Road, our next stop is further on the right hand side at the corner of Stanger Road.

Stop 5: site of Picture Palace cinema, 110 Portland Road

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This was another early purpose built cinema opened in 1910 as the Central Hall Picture Palace. In design it was almost identical to the Central Hall Picture Palace in Tooting (later the Classic cinema). From the late-1930’s, it was known as the Central Cinema. In 1953, it was became the Rex Cinema and it was closed in 1956.

The building was converted into a reception hall, known as the Portland Room, then it was converted into a furniture showroom. This closed by 2006 and after a couple of years the buildings was redeveloped into eleven flats, which were ready for occupation in June 2009.

Now just past the side turning on the right is our next stop.

Stop 6: Number 118 Portland Road

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Notice the rather odd plaque between the first floor windows.

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William Walker (1869–1918) was an English diver famous for shoring up the southern and eastern sides of Winchester Cathedral.

In the early 20th century, the cathedral had been in imminent danger of collapse as it sank slowly into the ground, which consisted of peat. The Wikipedia entry explains

“To enable bricklayers to build supporting walls, the groundwater level had to be lowered. Normally, the removal of the groundwater would have caused the collapse of the building. So, to give temporary support to the foundation walls, some 235 pits were dug along the southern and eastern sides of the building, each about six metres deep. Walker went down and shored up the walls by putting concrete underneath them. He worked six hours a day—in complete darkness, because the sediment suspended in the water was impenetrable to light.

Between 1906 and 1911, working in water up to a depth of six metres (20 feet), he shored up Winchester Cathedral, using more than 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks, and 900,000 bricks.

After Walker finished his work, the groundwater was pumped out and the concrete he had placed bore the foundation walls. Conventional bricklayers then were able to do their work in the usual way and restore the damaged walls.”

Now return to that side street (Stanger Road() and follow this all the way to the end which will bring you to our next stop.

Stop 7: Norwood Junction station

Ahead you will see the secondary entrance to Norwood Junction station. Before we venture into the station, have a look at the local blue plaque.

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This celebrates that this was the world’s first reinforced concrete underpass, opening in July 1912. I must say I find this a bit surprising. Surely reinforced concrete had been used for tunnels before then.

If you go down the steps to the left you can take the underpass  to the other side of the station.

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An attempt was made a while back to brighten up the walls with photographs of local scenes, but sadly much of this has been damaged.

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Norwood Junction station is worth a look.

As already mentioned the first station here opened in 1839 on the London and Croydon Railway and was called Jolly Sailor. It was further up the line from the present station at the north end of the High Street, adjacent to a level crossing. It was renamed Norwood in 1846. Following construction of lines to Crystal Palace that station closed in June 1859 and was replaced by a new station on the current site.

It became Norwood Junction and South Norwood on 1 October 1910 but then just plain Norwood Junction in 1955.

It has platforms numbered 1 to 7. The track serving platform 1 also has a platform face on the other side, which is numbered Platform 2, but trains do not open their doors at that side. Wikipedia says this is due to the live rail being on the side nearest to Platform 2. But interestingly there are places like this on the London Underground, like Morden, where the doors open on both sides. I am not sure that Platform 7 is actually used much.

Now that the station is served by London Overground trains going to West Croydon it has been rebranded and resigned with roundels. Odd really, as most of the trains stopping here are not actually London Overground but Southern or Thameslink.

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There is a nice spot on platform 1 where you see three roundels on three different platforms.

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The main station building is on platform 1.

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As we head away from Norwood Junction station, you will see the subway coming up

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Then ahead, note the Aldi supermarket on the left. This is the site of the Odeon cinema. This opened in July 1937 and was a typical Odeon style with cream tile cladding, with several horizontal bands of jade green Vitrolite tiles and a central window above the entrance with decorative grillework.

The cinema closed in February 1971 never having been split into smaller screens or converted to bingo. The site was redeveloped as a Safeway supermarket and flats. It became a Somerfield and now is an Aldi.

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At the end of Station Road, there is a nice clock tower which is our next stop.

Stop 8: The Clock Tower

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As the sign says this was erected by “the people of South Norwood to commemorate the Golden Wedding anniversary of Mr and Mrs W F Stanley on 22 February 1907”.

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Continue along the High Street as if you had turned left out of Station Road. The main road becomes Selhurst Road. Turn right into Park Road. Our next stop is ahead on the left. Stop by the corner of Holmesdale Road.

Stop 9: Crystal Palace Football Club

Here we have Crystal Palace Football club, although the main entrance is on the other side in Whitehorse Lane. That is a bit further to walk, so I am planning to stop here.

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Although Crystal Palace Football Club is not actually by the site of Crystal Palace, it can trace its roots back to that building.

As we heard in SE19, inside the grounds of the original Crystal Palace is a stadium. This has been rebuilt but in a previous life the stadium was used for football and between 1895 and 1914 it was the home of the FA Cup Final. The Crystal Palace Company who owned the venue, wanted a professional club to play there and tap into the crowd potential of the area. So in 1905, they formed a new club called Crystal Palace F.C., to play at the stadium.

Wikipedia tells me that when the First World War broke out the Palace and grounds were seized by the armed forces, and in 1915 the club were forced to move by the Admiralty. They found a temporary base at the Herne Hill Velodrome. Although other clubs had offered the use of their ground to Palace, the club felt it best to remain as close to their natural catchment area as possible. When Croydon Common F.C. were wound up in 1917, the club took over their old stadium (called the Nest), but in 1919 they began the purchase of the land on which they would eventually build Selhurst Park, which is where we are standing now.

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Go back down Park Road and when you reach the main road carry on across the cross roads into Tennison Road. Our next stop is a little way down on the right

Stop 10: Number 12 Tennison Road

At Number 12 you will see there is a blue plaque.

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Not just a local one but a proper Greater London Council one and it is for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who lived here from 1891 to 1894..

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No doubt the area was somewhat different then. But Conan Doyle had already created Sherlock Holmes by then and published two novels – A Study in Scarlet (1887) and the Sign of Four (1890) and whilst he was living here he wrote a number of the short stories featuring Holmes, initially published in the Strand magazine . The novels were not initially successful and it was the short stories,that made both Holmes and Conan Doyle household names. Once he had such success with Holmes he was clearly able to move away from South Norwood.

Now return to Selhurst Road and turn left. Continue along here and turn right into Dagnall Park a street of rather grand houses. Keep going down Dagnall Park, going under the railway. Our next stop is just after Edith Road on the left.

Stop 11: Number 30 Dagnall Park

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It is hard to see this house and the reason we have stopped here. But if you look carefully through the foliage, you will see a blue plaque.

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This is to the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 – 1912).

He was mixed-race. His father was a Sierra Leone Creole physician called Daniel Taylor. His mother was called Alice Martin and she was not married to Taylor. She named her son Samuel Coleridge Taylor after the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but without the hyphen. It seems that he adopted the hyphen, following a printer’s typographical error.

Coleridge-Taylor was particularly known for his three cantatas based on the epic poem, Song of Hiawatha by American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Unfortunately Coleridge-Taylor sold the rights to Song of Hiawatha outright and so received no royalties.

His situation contributed to the formation in 1914 of the Performing Rights Society which aimed to get revenues for musicians through performance as well as publication and distribution of music.

Now return to Edith Road and turn right. As you walk along you will see the side of Selhurst station, our final stop.

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This by the way is the staircase to the platform which serves the London bound fast line and so it is hardly ever used, as fast trains do not normally stop here. It really only gets used in an emergency or when there is engineering work on the slow lines.

At the end of the street turn left and go under the bridge. The entrance to the station is just on the left.

Stop 12: Selhurst station

The line here was opened in 1862 by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway as a more direct route to and from the newly opened Victoria station, thus avoiding Crystal Palace and Norwood Junction. The station here did not however opened until May 1865. The lines were quadrupled in 1903. Pevsner says the station is circa 1900, so I guess it was rebuilt at the time of the quadrupling.

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Up at platform level, there are three platforms: one serving outbound slow line and an island platform serving London bound slow line and outbound fast line and a further platform for the London bound fast line. The latter has lost its canopies but they have survived on the other platforms. However the one on the country bound slow line seems to have been shortened.

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It does at least feel like a proper station, even though the up fast line platform is denuded. You can see the top of that staircase we saw from the street.

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Across the road from the station entrance to the entrance to the huge Selhurst depot.

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This is built on the site of “the Nest” – Croydon Common F C’s Ground which was later taken over by Crystal Palace F C. By the way it was called the Nest because Croydon Common F C wore red shirts leading them to be known as “The Robins”.

Well that brings us to the end of our SE25 walk. There were some unexpected treasures like the Stanley Halls and the local plaque to William Walker. Plus two “proper” blue plaques to Conan Doyle and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

We are now at Selhurst station so this will give you plenty on onward travel options.

NW1: Spirits move me …

NW1 is Marylebone, Regent’s Park, Euston and of course Camden Town. There is so much here, and I cannot possibly cover it all. So I will forego the delights of the first three and concentrate on the gritty reality that is Camden Town.

We start our walk a Camden Town’s main Post Office which is at 112-114 Camden High Street.

Turn right out of the Post Office and soon across the road you will see a modern building which houses the local job centre. This is our first stop.

Stop 1: Number 93 – 95  Camden High Street (site of Bedford Music Hall)

Today there are hosts of people milling around outside the job centre but once this was the location of the Bedford Music Hall – this was a haunt of the painter Walter Sickert, more of whom anon.

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The first theatre was built on this site in 1861 but was replaced in 1898 by a grander building by a young Bertie Crewe, who went on to design many theatres in the early years of the 20th century (many of which are no longer with us) plus a few cinemas.

The Bedford spent most of its life as a variety theatre. As ever the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site has a fantastic spread on this lost world http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Bedford.htm

There is a great story about Peter Sellers. Around 1929/1930 Peter Sellers lived with his mother and grandmother in rented quarters upstairs at the Bedford. His mother was performing there in a revue called ‘Ha!Ha!!Ha!!!’ along with his father. When the revue finished, Peter’s father Bill abandoned Peter, his mother, and grandmother to fend for themselves. They carried on living upstairs at the Bedford Theatre for a short time after he departed.

The theatre closed in 1959 and was eventually demolished ten years later to be replaced with this dull looking block. It seems kind of fitting that this is the job centre given how precarious making a living on the stage can be.

Keep walking along the High Street. you will see Mornington Crescent station up ahead and on the left hand side of the road, is our next stop.

Stop 2: KOKO (former Camden Theatre/Camden Hippodrome Theatre)

Now this is a historic theatre that against all the odds has survived.

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This theatre opened as the Camden Theatre on Boxing Day 1900 by the famous actress Ellen Terry who had lived in nearby Stanhope Street as a child. It was designed by the prolific W G R Sprague – a contemporary of Crewe, he was also responsible for amongst others the Coronet in Notting Hill which still stands in W11 and the Royal Duchess Theatre in Balham which we did not see in SW12 as it was bombed and finally demolished in the 1960s.

It became a variety theatre in 1909 and was renamed the Camden Hippodrome Theatre. By 1911 films were being presented as part of the programme and in January 1913 it became a cinema known as the Camden Hippodrome Picture Theatre. In 1928, it was taken over by the Gaumont British cinema circuit. Closed during WWII, it became a BBC radio studio in 1945 and this lasted until 1972, in effect allowing the building to survive.

Since then it has been a music venue with various names, most recently following a major refurbishment in 2004 it has been known as KOKO.

Before we leave here I should point out the statue in the middle of the road.

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This is of Richard Cobden, who was a supporter of free trade and in the 1840s campaigned to abolish the Corn Law which imposed a tariff on imported wheat. He also campaigned for closer trade with France which led to the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty. This statue was funded by public subscription and one of the principal contributors was the french ruler of the time Napoleon III.

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Fascinating fact: Napoleon III was both the first elected president and the last monarch of France, but he was monarch after he was president!

Whilst here, I should also mention the little matter of Mornington Crescent, the game played on the radio 4 comedy series, I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue. It is a totally mad panel game with the rules (such as they are) seemingly being made up as they go along. Funny but unintelligible, and rather fitting for something in a show called I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue.

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Amazingly this programme started in 1972 and has so far had over 400 episodes in 60 series, even surviving the death of its host Humphrey Lyttleton.

Now immediately opposite Mornington Crescent station is our next stop:

Stop 3: Greater London House (former Carreras Cigarette factory)

This wonderful Art Deco building is was constructed as the Arcadia works for the Carreras Tobacco Company in the late 1920s.

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It was built on the communal gardens in the middle of Mornington Crescent, which the borough council had sold off. The building’s distinctive Egyptian style ornamentation originally included two gigantic black cat statues and colourful painted details plus above the door was a carved Horus of Behdet, a symbol of the winged disk of the Sun.

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During World War II it was felt that this symbol resembled too closely the eagle imagery of the Third Reich and it was covered up. When the factory was converted into offices in 1961 the Egyptian detailing was removed. However the building was restored during a renovation in the late 1990s. Replicas of the cats were put outside the entrance but the sun disk was not replaced.

Walk the full length of the frontage and take the first turning on the right. This is the actual street called Mornington Crescent. which loops behind the former factory.

It must have been quite a shock to the 1920s residents of Mornington Crescent to discover that their local council had not just sold their crescent garden for development, but sold it for a huge factory. Worst of all, the delightful facade fronts on to Hampstead Road and the crescent just gets the dull backside of the factory.

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Stop 4: Number 6 Mornington Crescent

Going along the Crescent, you will soon see a house with a blue plaque.

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This was one of many homes of artist Walter Sickert. He founded, with other artists, the Camden Town Group of British painters. This group had been meeting informally since 1905, but was officially established in 1911. It was influenced by Post-Impressionism and Expressionism, but concentrated on scenes of often drab suburban life. Sickert himself said he preferred the kitchen to the drawing room as a scene for paintings.

And he also painted a number of scenes at the local Bedford Music hall. there is an interesting article on the V & A site: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/w/walter-sickert-and-the-bedford-music-hall/

He married three times – his first wife from 1885 until their divorce in 1899 was Ellen Cobden, a daughter of Richard Cobden, whose statue we have just seen.

Now this part of the crescent actually backs on to the main railway line into Euston, which is in a cutting here. This is where the new high speed rail line HS2 will go through.

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Interestingly, Number 6 sports a “bin HS2” sticker in the window but this was the only one I spotted in the windows hereabouts. I wondered why given how close this is to the route. I had a quick check and it would seem most of the devastation will be on the other side of the current line, so maybe that is why there does not seem to be a mass of protest posters hereabouts.

Take the first left (Clarkson Row) and follow this round as it parallels the railway on the other side of a high wall. This then becomes Mornington Terrace. I guess this street was built after the railway as the houses are just on one side and the numbers are sequential rather than just odd or even.

Stop 5: Number 54 Delancey Street

At the junction with Delancey Street, there is a lovely pub with garden sporting the eccentrically spelt name of “the Edinboro Castle”.

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And within sight of the pub’s front door, across Delancey Street is a blue plaque to say that Dylan Thomas lived here.

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One wonders whether the spirits moved him and he supped the odd whiskey in this pub when he stayed hereabouts.

We have been a bit Dylan Thomas-ed out just recently as it is the centenary of his birth this year. He famously settled in a small Welsh village called Laugharne (which I learned from the various television programmes is pronounced something like “lawn”). I am not sure exactly when he was in Camden Town.

Now ahead is a big road junction which actually lies over the railway. You want to go straight ahead past Foxton’s estate agents and then after a little way take the first right (which is Gloucester Crescent)

Stop 6: Alan Bennett (Gloucester Crescent)

Gloucester Crescent was for many, many years the home of writer (and reluctant national treasure) Alan Bennett. Not sure exactly which one was his home. But I have seen his house described as “Bennett Towers” and we know from his play “The Lady in the Van” that he has a driveway, so it is possible to speculate on which house may have been his.

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We may yet find out when they film “The Lady in the Van”, as it is said that the BBC will use his actual house.

Now walk along Gloucester Crescent, taking the first right (Inverness Street) and then go right into Arlington Road.

Stop 7: Odeon cinema/Mecca Bingo Hall

Ahead you can see the side of what was a massive Odeon cinema. This was built as the Gaumont Palace and opened in January 1937, with its main entrance round the corner on Parkway. It was a large cinema with over 2,700 seats and full stage facilities, although these do not seem to have been used much.

It was renamed Odeon in 1964 and remodelled in 1968 when a bingo hall was created in the stalls with a separate side entrance (you can see today) and the circle became a new 1,198 seat cinema, with the entrance still on Parkway.

Closed by Odeon in 1979, it was leased out to independent operators for many years. Odeon took back the building and reopened it as a five screen cinema in 1997, which it remains today, with bingo still going on downstairs.

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Now whilst we are here, I have to point out this rather quirky shop front just a little back from the Odeon on the opposite side of Parkway past the junction. This is now an specialist tea shop, but was once a pet shop, as can be seen from the unusual signage – monkeys, talking parrots ….

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Now walk back along Parkway to the end and ahead across the road you will see Camden Town station (do not cross over)

Stop 8: Camden Town Station/Electric Ballroom

This station was first opened in 1907 by Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway (CCE & HR) and from the start was a junction where the lines to Golders Green and Archway met.

The station platforms formed a V. The line to Golders Green is under Camden High Street; the line to Archway is under Kentish Town Road. To avoid paying compensation to landowners during construction, the tunnels were kept under the road so on both lines the northbound platform is above the southbound one.

In the 1920s the CCE & HR was linked up with the City and South London Railway (both companies were by now owned by the Underground Electric Railways of London)  and extended to form what we now know as the Northern line.

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This station is woefully inadequate for the traffic that goes through and the station is exit only on Sundays to prevent overcrowding.

In 2004 following a public enquiry the then deputy prime minister John Prescott threw out a hugely controversial makeover, which would have led to the demolition of the Electric Ballroom nightclub, the United Trinity Reform Church and Buck Street market, amongst other buildings.

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But last September, TfL announced plans for a rebuild starting in 2017/18 and due to open in 2024/25 – only ten more years of weekend access restrictions then.

Now walk a little way along Camden High Street – our next stop is on the left

Stop 9:Number 211 Camden High Street (Site of Plaza cinema) 

The building was originally a bakery and was converted into a cinema – the Electric Theatre – in 1909. After a couple of renames, it was reconstructed in 1937 and reopened as the Plaza. It became part of the Odeon group in 1942 but in 1969 they leased it out to an independent operator and this cinema began its life as an art house cinema. Rent increases forced closure in 1994. the building was gutted to form an indoor market.

Now this is an Urban Outfitters shop and there is virtually nothing left of the old Plaza cinema. Just a little flooring in the entrance way to the shop. But if you go in there is this huge space where I guess the auditorium used to be, but any decorative features are long gone.

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Now up ahead on the left is Camden Lock Market, but we must forego this pleasure as they are other interesting things to see.

Just take the first right (Hawley Crescent) and you will see our next stop.

Stop 10: MTV studios, Hawley Crescent

This is an interesting looking building with coloured fins that goes from red through orange to yellow/green looking one way and then green to blue looking from the other direction.

This is now the London studios of MTV. However it has a place in UK television history as the birthplace of TV-am and breakfast television. They broadcast from here between 1 February 1983 and  31 December 1992. However much of the studio complex was redeveloped in 2012/13 and so it looks very different now from its TV-am heyday.

Although there is not much to remind us this history on the road frontage, if you go round the back and walk along the canal, you can still see the egg decorative features at the rear.

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It is probably easier to continue to walk along the canal tow path, leaving at the steps by a Costa Coffee shop.

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At the top of these steps, turn left and go along Camden Road.

As we walk along Camden Road we go under the railway bridge by Camden Road Overground station. The bridge here is painted a lovely blue with the words  Camden Town on it and having gone under it, looking back you see it is there as a mirror image as well.

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Having crossed St Pancras Way, take the first turning on the right. Our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 11: Rochester Square Spiritualist Temple

I was strangely drawn to this building. I always love to read the foundation on these kind of buildings. It is a glimpse into a long forgotten world – one where we just have the fragment of an event in the life of a building and a group of dedicated people, whose cause today is often also forgotten.

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Well, this modest building calls itself the Rochester Square Spiritualist Temple, although it is not very grand. But it does have an interesting foundation stone, laid by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1926.

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He was famously a great supporter of the spiritualist movement and so I guess it is kind of logical to find this here.

Mention of Conan Doyle also gives me a chance to tell a story about another part of NW1 which is just too far a way to visit – Baker Street, home of Conan Doyle’s most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes.

Now as you probably know number 221b Baker Street is not a real address. But what you may not know is that when Conan Doyle wrote his books, the numbering on Baker Street only went up to 85. The street continued as York Place and Upper Baker Street. When the Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863, it called its station Baker Street even though it was at the corner of Upper Baker Street.

In the 1930s, the numbering was changed so that York Place and Upper Baker Street became Baker Street, and thus it was possible to work out where 221b would have been. This turned out to be the offices of the Abbey National Building Society, which were at 215 – 229.

And as soon as this numbering change happened the Post Office started delivering mail for Sherlock Homes to the Abbey National. One wonders where it had gone before that!. The volume was such that the Abbey National appointed a staff member to handle the post.

In 1990 the Sherlock Holmes Museum opened further up Baker Street. With the support of Westminster Council (whose leader Shirley Porter opened the museum) they laid claim to the post, by renumbering 239 Baker Street as 221b! Abbey National were not keen on giving up their guardianship of the Sherlock Holmes mail, and insisted they should have the post. But once they moved out of Baker Street in 2005, the Sherlock Holmes Museum got it!

Now keep walking along Rochester Square, past the Square’s gardens and follow the road as it turns to the left and becomes Stratford Villas. Go to the end and cross over ahead is Camden Square, where our final stop is almost at the end on the right hand side. 

Stop 12: Number 30 Camden Square

At first glance, the former home of singer Amy Winehouse is not obvious.

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Unlike say Freddie Mercury’s former home in W8, there is no mini shrine at the gate. It has been cleared away. But if you cross the road from Number 30 you will see some trees which have that fine cane screening wrapped around them. And on this are various pieces of paper, a couple of cigarette packets and some drinking straws.

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No actual booze as far as I could see! But maybe local street drinkers come and tidy this up.

So if you want to raise a toast to the late great Amy, why not have what is said to be her favourite drink. It is called Rickstacy and consists of Southern Comfort, Vodka, Baileys and Banana Liqueur. Sounds disgusting but if you really want to try it, here is the recipe: https://www.cocktail.uk.com/cocktails/rickstasy

Now for some reason, I have got this song “Could it be Magic” running through my head – it starts with the words “Spirits move me…”

Or does it? There are actually three well known versions. The 1975 one is by Barry Manilow, who wrote the music (or rather adapted a bit of Chopin). Then there is a 1976 cover by Donna Summer and a later cover by Take That from 1992. Strange to say the words they sing are all slightly different with Barry opening with “Spirit move me” whilst Donna and Take That say “Spirits move me”. Plus there is a name check by Barry for sweet Melissa (that was apparently singer Melissa Manchester) but Donna sings to Peter and the Take That boys don’t name check anyone!

So that brings to the end of our NW1 walk with the ghosts of some old theatres and cinemas, the haunts of some well known drinkers, an artist’s home opposite an Art Deco masterpiece plus an unexpected foundation stone.

For onward travel retrace your steps to the main road for local buses or else there is Camden Road station or walking back a little further will get you to Camden Town station.