SE11: It hasn’t got the Mayfair touch

SE11 is Kennington – and Lambeth. This is an area which does not seem to have a proper centre of any kind, but of course there are still plenty of interesting things here. We start our walk at Kennington Post Office which is at 410 Kennington Road.

Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is just down the road ahead of you.

Stop 1: Kennington Park

IMG_2046

Kennington Park dates from 1854 and is on the site of what had been Kennington Common. The Common was a place for mass gatherings and public speaking, and until 1800 was also a site of public executions . The Common was enclosed and was made a public park in the early 1850s by the Government.

There is an interesting looking building ahead from Kennington Road as it meets Kennington Park Road, which we will go to first..

IMG_2063

According to architectural guru Pevsner, this building started life as a pair of cottages put up for the 1851 Great Exhibition by special request of Prince Albert to set an example of what working class housing should be like

Pevsner describes the detail as “minimum Elizabethan” with a plan that “has the staircase in a niche in the centre, a motif to become almost standard for mid Victorian cheap flats.”

IMG_2062

The cottage was rebuilt here in 1852 to house park attendants. Later it was occupied by the park superintendent but since 2003 it has been the headquarters of the charity, Trees for Cities.

IMG_2060

Now go into the park and head to the right. You will come across a column. This is all that is left of a fountain designed by a man called George Tinworth (1843 – 1913), who was a local lad and who became a major designer for the Royal Doulton ceramics company based nearby.

IMG_2053

IMG_2054

It even has a little Doulton Lambeth stamp on the base.

IMG_2057

The fountain was given by Sir Henry Doulton in 1869 and originally included a group of people in medieval dress. Sadly the fountain was severely damaged by a bomb in the Second World War and this is all that is left.

Doulton’s Lambeth factories were towards the river and were also badly damaged in air raids during the second world war. They closed completely in 1956 due to clean air regulations in London and the work was transferred to Staffordshire.

Nearby is a memorial to those who died as a result of a bomb directly hitting an underground shelter in the park in October 1940.

IMG_2055

The memorial was designed by sculptor Richard Kindersley and is a slab of Caithness stone. It says: “To commemorate the wartime suffering of the people of Kennington and in particular over 50 men, women and children who were killed on 15 October 1940 when a bomb destroyed an air-raid shelter near this spot. Rest in peace.”

There is also a quotation from poet Maya Angelou: “History despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived but if faced with courage need not be lived again.”

If you keep walking into the park, you will come to another interesting object – this time it is part of a.drinking water fountain, given by one Felix Slade.

IMG_2049

Felix Slade (1788 – 1868), was an English lawyer and collector of glass, books and engravings whose name lives on because he endowed three Slade Professorships of Fine Art ( at Oxford University, Cambridge University, and University College London), Slade apparently donated this drinking water fountain in 1862 after feeling sorry for the local children who, after playing in the gymnasium, had been taking water from a cab horse trough.

Exit the Park at its southern end and you will be almost opposite Oval tube station

Stop 2 Oval Station

Hard to believe from looking at the station now but this is one of the oldest deep level stations on the Underground. There has been a station here since 1890.

IMG_2041

However it has been considerably rebuilt since then, not least to replace the lifts with escalators. And more recently to gain a tile mural relating to cricket.

IMG_2034

Now head as if you have turned left out of the station and ahead you will see our next stop.

Stop 3: Oval Cricket Ground

IMG_2040

This is of course the famous cricket ground and home ground of Surrey County Cricket Club since it was opened in 1845.

In addition to cricket, The Oval has seen a number of other historically significant sporting events. In 1870, it staged England’s first international football match, versus Scotland. It hosted the first FA Cup final in 1872,as well as those between 1874 and 1892. In 1876, it held both the England v Wales and England v Scotland rugby international matches, and in 1877, rugby’s first Varsity match.

The end of the ground nearest to Oval station is called the Pavilion end, because it is the location of the Members’ Pavilion. The other end is called the Vauxhall end, which not surprisingly is at the end of the ground nearest Vauxhall.

At the Pavilion end there are these gates, called the Hobbs gates, named after Jack Hobbs (Sir John Hobbs 1882 – 1963), a leading batsman for Surrey and England from the first part of the 20th century.

IMG_2077

And just to one side of the gates is a plaque to commemorate the first Test Match on English soil which was between England and Australia in 1880.

IMG_2075

This was not the first test match which was a couple of years earlier in Melbourne, Australia. Nor was it the first match where the term “The Ashes” was used which was slightly later.

In 1882, Australia won the Test at the Oval by seven runs within two days. This was widely seen as a humiliation for English cricket and led to the Sporting Times printing an obituary notice for English cricket in mocking terms. This led to the creation of the Ashes trophy, which is still contested by England and Australia.

Now head to the right of the ground. Note by the way that the streets that go either way around the cricket ground are actually called Kennington Oval.

Then take the second side street on the right – called Clayton Street. At the end turn left and you will see our next stop immediately ahead of you, an area once known as Kennington Green but which today is green only in so far as the hoardings.

Stop 4: Work site for Northern Line extension

IMG_2086

This is one of two sites in Kennington which are being used to build the extension of the Northern Line to Battersea – the other one being at the north end of Kennington Park.

Below our feet here is the loop line which allows Charing Cross trains to turn round at Kennington without reversing. And somewhere around here the new line coming from Battersea will be tied into the loop. The other junction to enable trains to go to Battersea is near the other work site in the park.

Regular users of the Northern line will know that most trains via Bank tend to go all the way to Morden and that Charing Cross trains usually terminate at Kennington. This is because the Bank route was built first – this section originally built in 1890 and the Charing Cross branch was created later in the 1920s by extending the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway southwards from Charing Cross. In doing this the Charing Cross branch was given a reversing loop, as previously mentioned. But the Bank branch did not get any special turning arrangement other than a crossover between the running tunnels. As a result it has always been easier and less disruptive to other services to turn Charing Cross branch trains at Kennington as compared to Bank branch trains.

The arrival of the Battersea extension in 2020 will probably lead to the formal splitting of the Northern Line into two lines. In practice this will happen at the southern end even if they do not change the line name. But changing the arrangements for the Edgware and High Barnet branches so they cease to get a choice of Bank and Charing Cross trains will probably have to wait until Camden Town station is rebuilt.

Then there is the interesting question about what happens with the Night Tube which only runs on the Charing Cross branch but which serves all the station to Morden. Maybe they will start running the night tube to Battersea on the Charing Cross branch and introduce Night Tube services on the Bank branch to serve stations south of Kennington..

Now go down this side street and follow it round (it is called Montford Place). Soon ahead you will see a gasometer and to the right a factory.

IMG_2106

Quite a surprise to find a factory here, especially one that is still producing something – and that something is called gin.

Stop 5: Beefeater Gin Distillery

Follow the factory site round and you get to the visitor attraction and its inevitable shop selling all manner of gin related items.

IMG_2103

IMG_2101

This is I think the only remaining “old school” gin maker left on its original site in London – the likes of Gordons, Gilbey and Nicholsons having long closed. Of course now there are lots of new “boutique” gin makers, like Sipsmiths, City of London and Portobello Road. They may have the fancy flavourings but they do not have the “heritage”.

Keep going and looking back you will get this better view of the premises

IMG_2100

Strange to think there were many such works in inner London but this is one of the rare survivors where the building is still in use for its original purpose.

Go to the end of the road and turn right into Kennington Lane. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 6: Imperial Court

Guarded by railings to keep the riff raff out, this grand building is called Imperial Court

IMG_2095

It was built as the Licensed Victuallers’ School and dates from 1836.

Later it became the headquarters of the Navy, Army and Air Forces Institutes (NAAFI) which provides recreational establishments for British Armed Forces, and sells goods to servicemen and their families. The NAAFI was created in 1921 and it still exists today. Its website explains:

“NAAFI was created by the British Government in 1921 when the Expeditionary Force Canteens and the Navy and Army Canteen Board were combined to run the recreational establishments needed by the Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families

NAAFI expanded its operation over the next 17 years, supporting military bases and deployments across the world, from Bermuda and Jamaica, to Singapore and China. At the outbreak of WWII NAAFI grew exponentially to support the troops on active service, with the number of employees rising from 8,000 to a peak of 110,000 and the number of trading outlets growing from 1,350 to nearly 10,000.

Post war, NAAFI rescaled its operations, closing canteens at a rate of 200 per week and the number of employees reducing to 65,000 by 1947. From the 1950’s onwards, NAAFI has supported the British Forces at home and abroad, including the conflicts in The Falklands, the two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan amongst many others. Today NAAFI operates in far fewer locations but is present in Germany, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland, Brunei, the South Atlantic Islands and on board HM Ships. With around 100 outlets, NAAFI still provides convenience and a ‘taste of home’ to our Forces and their families overseas.”

NAAFI moved out in 1992 and the building has been converted into (yes you guessed) flats.

Keep going along Kennington Lane and you will reach Kennington Road which slices across at an angle turn left here and our next stop is just on the right hand side near the junction.

Stop 7: Number 287 Kennington Road

IMG_2121

The building with the red door is one a number of places where the young Charlie Chaplin lived in this area.

IMG_2120

Chaplin (1889 – 1977) was of course a world famous  comedy actor who is most remembered as an icon of the Silent Era. He is instantly recognisable as the Tramp, with his bowler hat, funny walk, moustache and cane. There is a nice piece here about the local connections in this blog from my fellow Footprints guide Michael.

http://footprintsoflondon.com/2017/03/charlie-chaplins-kennington/

He lived here as a child in 1898. The family moved about a bit so In fact there are a number of plaques to Chaplin in this area – including 39 Methley Street SE11 just round the corner from here and Glenshaw Mansions, Brixton Road SW9 which is just the other side of Oval station. and East Street, just off Walworth Road, SE17.

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 8: former Granada cinema

Here on the corner of Kennington Road and Black Prince Road once stood a cinema.

IMG_2124

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, this was built as the Regal Cinema and opened in November 1937. It was built for and operated by an independent operator, Arthur O’Connor Cinemas but was taken over by the Granada chain in May 1948. It was renamed Granada in January 1949 and closed as a cinema in July 1961.

It became a Bingo Hall in October 1961 which lasted to March 1997. Then the building was used by a church for a few years to about 2003.

The auditorium was demolished in 2004 and a block of flats was on the site. The original cinema entrance and facade was retained and the ground floor now houses a Tesco Express store.

I am not sure why they bothered. It is so badly done. The old entrance to the cinema is blocked off rather than being made a feature and the entrance to the Tesco is tucked away and not really very easy to spot.

Now head down Black Prince Road. Our next stop is the development at the corner of Newburn Street.

Stop 9: Woodstock Court

IMG_2137

This rather elegant development belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall, like quite of bit of property hereabouts, including the Oval Cricket Ground.

The Duchy of Cornwall historically belongs to the eldest son of the reigning British monarch, along with the title, Duke of Cornwall.  However he does not “own” Duchy property outright and may not sell the assets for personal benefit. If the monarch has no male children, the rights and responsibilities of the duchy belong to The Crown and there is no duke. But that does not look like happening for a while yet.

This development dates from 1914 as you can see if you go down the side street.

IMG_2131

IMG_2135

Now look through the arch and you will see this idyllic view.

IMG_2133

It is hard to believe you are almost in central London.

Return to Black Prince Road and turn left. Our next stop is a short way on the left.

Stop 10: The former Beaufoy Institute

Here on the left is an attractive building which has been the Diamond Way Buddhist centre since 2014.

IMG_2142

This is Grade II listed and was built as the Beaufoy Institute, a boys technical college, in 1907. On the left section also has a relief panel moved from the original 1850s building with an image of a teacher and two pupils, beneath which is a plaque celebrating the laying of the foundation stone of the 1907 building,

IMG_2139

The inscription reads, ‘Those that do teach our babes/Do it with gentle means and easy tasks’.”

IMG_2141

You may recall the Beaufoy name from SW8 as they were the family behind the Vinegar works on South Lambeth Road.

More info on this building at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1358193

As you go along Black Prince Road you will see a railway bridge ahead of you – and the Doulton building – this is the last remnant of their Lambeth factories.

IMG_2147

IMG_2148

Sadly this is actually over the border in SE1 so we will not be going there!

Instead take a right into Newport Street.

Stop 11: Beaconsfield gallery

How strange to find a gallery here.

IMG_2150

The Beaconsfield Gallery was founded in 1994 by artists Naomi Siderfin, David Crawforth and Angus Neill with the aim of “providing a streamlined resource for the development and presentation of contemporary art and a desire to “fill a niche between the institution, the commercial and the ‘alternative’.”

Beaconsfield occupies a building which was the southern wing of the former Lambeth Ragged School, so called because of the appearance of the children who attended. It was established between 1849 and 1851 by Henry Beaufoy. Most of the school was demolished in around 1903 to allow for the widening of the nearby railway, but this bit survived in railway ownership. And the school moved and became the Beaufoy Institute.

I was intrigued to know where the gallery name came from. It did not seem to be named after a local street, so maybe there was a connection with a person called Beaconsfield. But no. The Gallery website explains the place aims to “offer a space for artists and audiences to experience high quality (hence ‘beacon’), challenging, new artworks in a wide range (hence ‘field’) of contemporary visual art media through commissions, group exhibitions, performances, publications and events.”

Now head along and do a twiddle down what looks like a service yard to the right. This will lead you to our next stop.

Stop 12: Lambeth Walk

IMG_2151

“Lambeth you’ve never seen,
The skies ain’t blue, the grass ain’t green.
It hasn’t got the Mayfair touch,
But that don’t matter very much.
We play the Lambeth way,
Not like you but a bit more gay
And when we have a bit of fun
Oh, Boy.
Anytime you’re Lambeth way
Any evening, any day,
You’ll find us all doin’ the Lambeth walk”

I bet you will now have that song going round in your head. This is the song “Lambeth Walk” from the musical “Me and My Girl” which had music by Noel Gay and its original book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose. Originally dating from 1937, it was rewritten mainly by Stephen Fry, no less, and had an eight year year run in the West End from 1985. It was also successful on Broadway, winning three Tony awards.

There are some rather naff murals here including one celebrating the Lambeth Walk.

IMG_2161

Here should you want to be reminded, is a video.

Sadly the real Lambeth Walk is a depressing redeveloped street that looks like this.

IMG_2157

I dimly recall this from when I worked by Lambeth Bridge in the 1970s and this was new. I had the feeling that the shops were on both sides of the road and it was pedestrianised but maybe my mind is playing tricks on me.

However there is a newish looking building opposite the shopping parade.

IMG_2156

So it is possible the area was re-redeveloped. Note the name of the building – Lupino Court. I can only assume this references Lupino Lane (1892 – 1959), He is best known for playing the lead role in Me and My Girl originally on stage and on film.

We are now at the end of our SE11 walk. from here, you can return to Black Prince Road, go under the railway, past the old Doulton Building (which is actually in SE1) and then onto Albert Embankment for buses or else a bit of a hike down to Vauxhall stations.

Post script

I should mention there was one place I did not get to in SE11 – the Cinema Museum, at 2 Dugard Way SE11 4TH is devoted to keeping alive the spirit of cinema from the days before the multiplex. It is located in the former Lambeth Workhouse which at one time was home to the destitute mother of Charlie Chaplin and her son.

Advertisements

SW2 – Over the hill and far away to … Streatham

Now here’s a funny thing. I always associated SW2 with Brixton but when I came to look at the area SW2 actually covered I discovered most of the places I thought of as Brixton (the tube station, the market, the police station, the former Bon Marche department store and the Academy) are all actually in SW9.

SW2 really only starts at the Ritzy cinema and Lambeth  Town Hall and then heads up Brixton Hill and actually includes a fair chunk of the northern part of Streatham. So we start not in the centre of Brixton but at the Post Office a couple of bus stops up Brixton Hill at nos 104 – 106.

Walking away from Brixton town we go south towards Streatham and soon turn right into Blenheim Gardens, passing the victorian red brick Post Office sorting office and a tatty looking pub called the Windmill which is apparently a thriving music venue, although you would not know from the outside. Continue to the end of the road and enter Windmill Gardens and head towards the Windmill.

Stop 1: Brixton Windmill

Yes, an actual windmill. Here in SW2 and the sails go round too, although sadly they cannot grind flour at the moment.

2013-06-08_15-04-37_5702013-06-08_15-41-45_91

This windmill was built in 1816. It was known as Ashby’s mill as they were the family who owned the mill for its entire working life. Wind power was used to mill flour until 1862 by which time the area had become too built up and apparently this meant the windmill could not operate efficiently. Milling was moved to Mitcham but this site continued to be used by the Ashbys for storage. When there were problems with the water wheel at Mitcham, the Brixton mill was put back into use with steam power in 1902. Later a gas engine was used. The mill continued to produce flour until the 1930s.

The Mill was listed as Grade II* in 1951  and was bought by the London County Council from the Ashby family trust in 1957. In the early 1960s, the council laid out the area as an open space but most of the buildings associated with the Mill were demolished.  It is now owned by Lambeth Council and supported by a group of local residents who formed the Friends of Brixton Windmill in 2003.

Although the sails can turn, the milling machinery does not work. The friends are now fundraising to get the mill grinding flour again. The friends do tours from time to time (no charge but voluntary donation willingly accepted), but if you want to visit the upper floors you should book in advance to guarantee a place on the tour. More info at http://www.brixtonwindmill.org/home

Retrace your steps to Brixton Hill and turn right. Continue along Brixton Hill until  Waterworks Road where you should turn right

Stop 2: Brixton Waterworks

Passing a closed down pub (George IV) which looks like it is soon to be a Tesco and ahead is another surprise. A waterworks established under an Act of Parliament of 1832. Originally built as a resevoir by the Lambeth Waterworks Company so that it could expand the area to which it supplied water beyond north Lambeth.

The Lambeth Waterworks Company sold off surplus land to the prison next door in 1836, when it wished to expand.  By the 1870s the reservoir had been covered, presumably to minimise contamination. The Lambeth Company became part of the Metropolitan Water Board in 1903. By the second half of the 20th century the covered reservoirs with their brick vaulted roofs had grassed over and were used as a sports ground.

Thames Water still own the site so you can only get as far as the gates. But peeking through the gates you can see the windmill beyond the industrial buildings. I now realise this was was I was looking at from when I went up the windmill (see last photograph in this group)

2013-06-08_16-04-54_5212013-06-08_15-59-57_952 2013-06-08_16-02-55_3552013-06-08_15-36-55_638

Apparently the London water ring main passes under this site at about 45 metres below ground. But this is not something you see from the gate.

Retrace you steps back to Brixton Hill and turn right continuing to Jebb Avenue.  You can go down Jebb Avenue a little way for our next stop

Stop 3: Brixton Prison

There has been a prison on this site since 1819. It was first known as Surrey House of Correction. The building was extended at various dates, and in 1852 the prison was sold to Sir William Tite, an architect, as an investment, who sold it on to the Government less than a year later at a profit said to be £4,550. The Surveyor General of Prisons at the time was one Colonel Jebb so hence the name of the street that runs into the prison.   The prison now serves a number of courts in South London and houses a mixture of remand and sentenced prisoners. This picture was as close as I thought I would go to the prison!

2013-06-08_16-05-41_961

One notable inmate in 1967 was a certain Mick Jagger, although he only stayed one night. Presumably he was let out on bail pending appeal. He had been sentence to three months for a drugs offence but this was later amended to a conditional discharge on appeal.

Go back to Brixton Hill and find a safe place to cross, but do try and look back towards Brixton, as you will see a good view of the City (but not in my photo!)

2013-06-08_16-03_868a

Stop 4 : Rush Common

Now you may have noticed that the buildings on the eastern side of Brixton Hill are set back a long was from the road and in a number of places there is grass but in other places it is used for car parking. This is Rush Common, which it turns out is rather unique.

2013-06-08_16-29-16_767

This is not actually a Common in legal terms. According to Lambeth Council, it is not registered under the Commons legislation. Rather it is subject to the Rush Common Act 1806 – an Enclosure Act, which enclosed and divided certain common lands into private ownership to allow for their better use.  Section 17 of the Act sought to maintain the open character of Rush Common land by preventing building, which I guess is why almost all the buildings are set back so far off the road. Subsequent legislation amended the Act, providing powers to allow for the building of St Matthews Church and to provide enforcement powers, which now rest with Lambeth Council.

There are buildings or parts of buildings on parts of Rush Common Land but these were constructed before planning controls were introduced. But a large proportion of Rush Common Land is in Council ownership and used as public open space or housing land as part of residents amenity space. The remainder is in numerous private ownerships and made up of residential and commercial properties with distinctive deep frontages. There is no right of access onto the land that is in private ownership. More info on this unusual arrangement, including the planning controls which apply, is  on the Lambeth Council website:  http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/Services/HousingPlanning/Planning/RushCommonland.htm

Keep on walking down the east side of Brixton Hill until you reach this closed up looking building just before the junction with the South Circular Road

Stop 5:  Old Tram depot

The sign over the arch gives the game away. It says LCC trams. And yes this really was a tram shed and amazingly it is still used today by the Arriva bus company. Their sign is by the door.

2013-06-08_16-32-36_815

Trams were a key reason why this area developed in the first place. First of all the horse trams of the Metropolitan Street Tramways Company came in 1892. However as the horses would have found it difficult to get up Brixton Hill, a cable haulage system was introduced. Apparently much like the San Francisco cable cars, except the cable was only used for the hill and the rest of the route to Westminster Bridge was still drawn by horses. This was in fact the second cable car line in London, the first was opened in Highgate in 1884. The tramway on Brixton Hill was electrified in 1904 and this unique way of working disappeared.

There are some great pictures of the old trams on the Urban75 site: http://www.urban75.org/brixton/history/brixton-hill-tram.html

This particular building is of a later vintage by which time the trams here had been acquired by the London County Council. It was designed by the London County Council’s architect, G Topham Forest. This shed opened 1924 and had a modest capacity of 30 electric tramcars, operating in conjunction with the larger shed which is now where Brixton Bus garage is – more of which anon. For many years this was occupied by a motor dealer but in the nougties, it was apparently acquired by London Buses and so Arriva now use it in conjunction with their Brixton garage, so it has kind of gone full circle.

We now cross back over Brixton Hill and then the South Circular Road.

Stop 6: Crown and Sceptre pub

This Wetherspoon pub was built in the 1820s or 1830s. According to Weatherspoons, the queen’s dress-maker, Norman Hartnell, was born in Streatham, the son of the publican of the Crown & Sceptre. As the last two pubs (George IV by the Waterworks and the Telegraph – between the prison and the tram shed) we have passed have shut down, this was pretty much the first place for a short refreshment break. Looks better from the outside but there is a shady outdoor seating area.

2013-06-08_16-37-20_109

Cross over the main road which has now become Streatham Hill, and keeping walking towards Streatham. On your left is a private 1930s development of flats 

Stop 7: Pullman court

According to architectural historian Pevser, this development is a “display of the motifs of picturesque modern planning and design, with old trees as part of the composition” with a grouping three and seven storeyed blocks. The walls are of white plaster and there are metal railings and metal window frames.  Looks very nice from the outside but I am not sure about these kind of developments. Apparently most of the flats are on 126 year leases dating from 1976, so they have less than 90 years to run which I am told does not make for an attractive proposition for a mortgage. And then of course there are the service charges.

2013-06-08_17-25-23_5292013-06-08_17-22-55_774

Stop 8: Brixton Bus garage

This is one of the really big bus garages. It started life as noted above as a tram depot and in fact it provided the steam driven winding gear for the cable tramway of late victorian times. Nothing of that orginal building exists as the current garage dates from the early 1950s.  One little curoisity is that many buses terminate here but they never ever say they are going to Brixton Bus garage. They use the destination “Streatham Hill, Telford Avenue”. I guess this was to avoid confusion as Brixton Bus Garage is really in Streatham. But it could not be called Streatham garage because there used to be another garage on the south side of Streatham which was called Streatham Garage

2013-06-08_17-28-30_9842013-06-08_17-26-09_187

Past the bus garage, there are three palaces of entertainment on the west side of the road in quick succession all dating from the late 1920s and early 1930s.  

Stop 9: Former Streatham Hill Theatre

First is the Streatham Hill Theatre, designed by noted theatre architect G.W.R. Sprague together with architect W.H. Barton. It was Sprague’s last theatre and was one of the largest live theatres to be built in the suburbs of London with originally with around 3,000 seats over three levels.

2013-06-08_17-32-44_821

The theatre opened in November 1929. It was always independently operated, and was a popular live theatre with just some limited cinema use. The auditorium received a direct hit from a German V1 rocket bomb on 3rd July 1944. One person was killed and several were injured. However as the Streatham Hill Theatre had previously operated so successfully, clearly it was felt that it could again be successful as a live theatre. The building was restored back to its original glory, re-opening on 26th December 1950. But clearly the world was moving on. It finally closed as a theatre was in June 1962 and was converted into a Mecca Bingo Club later that year. It is still open but is now called the Riva Bingo club.

About 5 years ago a local artist Timothy Sutton saw some of the patrons standing outside having a cigarette as they have to do following the smoking ban. He painted their portraits which can be seen at  http://www.bingogirls.net/

Walk a little further down the road where you can see boarded up a bowling alley which was at one time a cinema. 

Stop 10: Former Gaumont Palace cinema

The Gaumont Palace cinema opened in March 1932. Gaumont was a national chain of cinemas which never really made it, ending up being bought by Odeon.

2013-06-08_17-35-45_988

This building has not had a happy life and was used as a cinema for only about 18 years in total. Like the Streatham Hill Theatre, it was also damaged by a German V1 rocket in July 1944. But it had to wait longer to be rebuilt only reopening until July 1955 by which time it was called just the Gaumont. It closed as a cinema in March 1961 and the interior was reconstructed as one of them new fangled bowling alleys, which opened in January 1962.

I guess it was not such a great loss to the stock of London cinemas because according Allen Eyles in his “Gaumont British Cinemas” book:  “the Auditorium was uninspired and had acoustic problems: an echo could be heard at the back of the circle from certain positions.” He goes on to suggest that this cinema was no match for the nearby Astoria (later Odeon) or Regal (later ABC) cinemas.

The bowling alley closed in early 2008 and the building has been unused since then. Apparently there are plans for redevelopment. Hopefully the facade will be saved.

And just a few more steps along another sad looking building, a closed down night club.

Stop 11: Former Locarno Ballroom

This is the former Locarno Ballroom, opened in 1929 by the band leader Billy Cotton. It was one of the first, if not the first, purpose built ballrooms in Britain. This formed a chain owned by Mecca. Many stars appeared here in the early days including Glenn Miller, Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. In the sixties bands such as  The Rolling Stones and The Small Faces were here. And before disco took hold this was the place to come to dance, and these ballrooms, the Locarno included, would feature in the original “Come Dancing” television series.

The Locarno has undergone many changes, becoming a disco and nightclub with numerous name changes from ‘The Cats Whiskers’ in 1969, ‘ The Studio’ in 1984, ‘The Ritzy’ in 1990 and finally ‘Caesars Night Club’ in 1995.  When the doors closed in 2010, an article in the Local Guardian advertised the auction of the chariot and horse that once adorned the entrance.

“For sale: one Roman chariot, four horses, featured in a Spice Girls video – price on application. Preferred buyer local to area”

Like its near neighbour the former Gaumont cinema, it is awaiting redevelopment. Planning permission has been given for a residential and shopping development.

So now we are practically at Streatham Hill station and still in SW2. In addition to the train there are numerous buses for your onward journey. Alternatively there are the delights of Streatham proper to “tempt”, but we must wait until we get to SW16 before we venture there. So the SW2 walk has been a very different character to the first walk in SW1. We started with the workaday world – a mill, a waterworks and a prison, moved through a little bit of transport ending up with three examples of how mass entertainment developed in the inter war years. Now on to SW3 which will certainly be different again.