SE12: Tiger, Tiger

SE12 is Lee – a sort of in-between place with not a lot going on. It is one of those areas which people are hard pressed to pin point and when you get here you can see why. It is a little – how do you say – uninspiring. And unfortunately the historic bit of Lee turns out to be in SE13.

We start our walk at Lee Green Post Office, 161 Lee Road. This is by the cross roads on the A20 which seems to be what passes for the centre of modern day Lee.

Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is almost immediately next door.

Stop 1: New Tiger’s Head

Here we are on the north east corner of the cross roads which is dominated by a closed down pub.

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This is the New Tiger’s Head, as opposed to the Old Tiger’s Head which is over the road and which we will see next.

It looks like it was built during that boom in pub building in late Victorian times and it has an elegant double arch entrance way. Inside the archway, there is a plaque giving some information as to the origin of the pub.

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Curiously this ends up by saying “The New Tigers Head is one of many public houses with the word ‘tiger’ in it’s title – so named to glory in the sport of tiger hunting in the days of the Indian Raj”

Really? I have to say I do not recall seeing another pub with the word “Tiger” in its name.

This pub seems to have been closed for many years and is a sorry sight.

Now cross the road to the north west corner of the cross roads..

Stop 2: Old Tiger’s Head

Here we have the Old Tiger’s Head which is still functioning as a pub.

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According to Wikipedia:

“Confusingly, the original (Old) Tiger’s Head is thought to have been built on the site currently occupied by the New Tiger’s Head. The original pub is thought to have been built before 1730. It was rebuilt on its present site, the north-west quadrant, in 1750–1770 and then rebuilt (in its third incarnation) in 1896 – the date carried on its frontage. It became an important mail and coaching inn. The New Tiger’s Head started life as a beer shop known as the Tiger Tavern in the 1830s. It was situated in the end of four cottages known as Prospect Terrace built around the same time. Three of these cottages remain, housing a post office/newsagent and a hairdresser. In 1868 it is referred to as the Tiger’s Head Inn. The present building is thought to have replaced the original cottage a few years after 1896 – the date of the rebuilding of the Old Tiger’s Head.”

There is also some information on the Lewisham Council website:

http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/documents/s19163/Additions%20to%20Local%20Listing.pdf

“The Old Tigers Head is a corner pub that sits at the junction of Lee High Road and
Lee Road. The New Tigers Head sits across the road on the other corner within the
Royal Borough of Greenwich. This is a local landmark building and reflects the
evolution of the borough.

There is believed to have been a pub on this site since the mid 1700s. Historically
the pub sat on the side of the village green with the back to the Quaky River. It was a
resting place for troops marching to Waterloo in 1815.

The present incarnation of the pub was built in 1896 and is made of red brick with
rough render to the upper floor. The pub frontage is retained including the pilasters
and iron ventilation grills within the windows. There is a frieze to the eaves which
wraps around the building. On the Lee High Road elevation there is a moulded
terracotta date tablet which incorporates a tiger’s head. The first floor has painted
decorative pediments to the windows and surrounds and further terracotta reliefs.”

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Now cross over to the south west quadrant which has been redeveloped as a rather ugly Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Stop 3: Site of Imperial Palace/Savoy/Pullman cinema

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This was the site of the Imperial Picture Theatre which opened in December 1913. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures website, it was taken over by new management in June 1928 and renamed Savoy Cinema becoming the Pullman cinema in April 1955.

It closed in June 1959 and was converted into a motor spare parts shop, and then a shopfitters, before being demolished in October 1986 and replaced by this dreary supermarket, which turns its back on the road.

There is a great link here which shows old cinemas in the borough of Lewisham and what the location look like now. Included is the cinema that was here. Scroll down to the heading “Lee”.

https://lewishamlostcinemas.wordpress.com/lewishams-lost-cinemas/

Now go back to the final quadrant of the cross roads – the south east one.

Stop 4: Lee Green

This is apparently Lee Green, according to the sign.

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What is rather odd about this area is that there does not appear to be any actual green at Lee Green.

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Maybe there was once and the council paved it over.

Stop 5: Leegate “shopping” centre

Just behind the paved area which goes by the name Lee Green there is a sad looking commercial development which includes a pedestrianised shopping street with a few shops struggling along

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The only place that seemed to have any business was the Wetherspoons pub at the corner.

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This is called the Edmund Halley.

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Edmund (or Edmond) Halley (1656 – 1742) was one of England’s greatest astronomers. He gave his name to a now-famous comet. So what has he got to do with Lee. Well he lies buried in the graveyard of old St Margaret’s Church. Sadly this is not actually in SE12.

The Wetherspoons website has a rather more extensive than usual section on the history of the area https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/pub-histories/england/london/the-edmund-halley-lee-green including a reference to the fact that Karl Marx lived for a time in Lee, though frustratingly there seems to be nothing on the web to suggest where.

Now continue down this street, which is Burnt Ash Road and our next stop is in a side street on the right.

Stop 6 Number 13 Handen Road

The house we are looking for is on the left as you come from the main road.

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This was the birthplace of the publisher Sir Stanley Unwin, (1884 – 1968). He was one of the founders of the George Allen and Unwin publishing house in 1914. It published serious and sometimes controversial authors such as Bertrand Russell and Mahatma Gandhi.

Apparently we have Unwin to thank for the Lord of the Rings. In 1936 the author J. R. R. Tolkien submitted The Hobbit for publication. Unwin paid his ten year old son Rayner Unwin a shilling to write a report on the manuscript. He liked it and which prompted Unwin to publish the book. Once it became a success, Unwin asked Tolkien for a sequel. This was to become The Lord of the Rings, and the rest as they say is history.

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Now there was another Stanley Unwin – the comedian who mangled his words and was sometimes known as Professor Stanley Unwin.

He invented his own comic language, “Unwinese”. This is where words are playfully and humorously altered – often it sounds like gibberish but there is always something that helps it make sense.  Unwin claimed that the inspiration came from his mother, who once told him that on the way home she had “falolloped (fallen) over” and “grazed her kneeclabbers”.

Sadly “Professor” Stanley Unwin does not seem to have a blue plaque anywhere.

Now retrace your steps to Burnt Ash Road and turn right.

Stop 7: The Lord Northbrook pub

Just at the corner of Southbrook Road is a pub called the Lord Northbrook. Lord Northbrook’s family name is Baring, as in the banking family and in the 19th century, they had an estate in Lee.

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Apparently the keyboard player Manfred Mann lived in Southbrook Road – don’t know where or when though.

It’s curious that the street is called Southbrook Road rather than Northbrook Road. Turns out Northbrook Road is a few street away towards Lewisham but it is in SE13.

Keep going along Burnt Ash Road. You will soon get to a railway bridge and just beyond that a roadway to the left which leads up to our next stop.

Stop 8: Lee Station

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Go up this roadway and at the top you reach the ticket office to Lee station.

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It is a modern affair but the platforms have retained their canopies and so look rather more traditional.

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There has been a station here since 1866 when the South Eastern Railway opened a second route between London and Dartford from a junction with its main line at Hither Green to its existing North Kent line just west of Dartford

The line was electrified early on by the Southern Railway in 1926 and the platforms have been lengthened twice – in 1955 to accommodate 10 car trains and in 1992 to allow for 12 car trains.

Now return to Burnt Ash Road and turn left continue to the junction with a main road – which turns out to be the South Circular Road

Stop 9: South Circular Road

I have driven many time along this particular stretch of road. It is significant because this junction is a place where suddenly the road switches being a basic little road to being a proper dual carriageway, so you suddenly find you go a bit faster.

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Or conversely when coming the other way a bit slower.

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Though strangely when i was there the eastbound traffic was queued back on the way to the wider section but not going west where the road narrowed

I had not realised exactly where I was and now I do.

The South Circular Road is the sorry result of successive governments, national and local, failing to face up to the reality that there is no proper orbital route in South London. It now seems inconceivable that the road will be improved in any meaningful way and so for most of the South Circular to the west of here it will remain a collection of streets strung together with signage.

Now at this cross roads do a right and then an immediate left, which will take you into Baring Road. Our next stop is a short way on the left.

Stop 10: Number 39 Baring Road

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Number 39 was the birthplace of an actor called James Robertson Justice in 1907. Strange that because he is often thought of as being Scottish. Whilst he undoubtedly had Scottish connections, apparently he cultivated the myth that he was actually born in Scotland which he was not.

His parents named him James Norval Harald Justice.  According to his Wikipedia entry he seems to have lead a colourful life before becoming an actor. He was a journalist at Reuters in 1927 alongside James Bond creator Ian Fleming. After a year he emigrated to Canada, where he worked as an insurance salesman, taught English at a boys’ school, became a lumberjack and mined for gold. He came back to Britain penniless, working his passage on a Dutch freighter washing dishes in the ship’s galley to pay his fare. In the 1930s he was involved in ice hockey and motor racing. He was a policeman for the League of Nations in Germany and fought on the republican side in the Spanish Civil War.  On return to Britain, he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, but after sustaining an injury in 1943, he was pensioned off.

After the war, he became an actor and reinvented himself with stronger Scottish roots. He dropped his two middle names and replaced them with a new middle name Robertson because that was the tartan he wore.

He is perhaps best known for his roles in the “Doctor” series of films of which there were seven between 1954 and 1970. In six of these he played the role of fearsome surgeon, Sir Lancelot Spratt, but in one the 1955 Doctor at Sea, the action takes place on a ship and he played the part of Captain Hogg, the ship’s commander.

He had a small role in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and soon after he suffered a severe stroke, which signalled the beginning of the end for his career.

Keep going along Baring Road.

Stop 11: the view from Baring Road

Now look back and rather unexpectedly you will see a great view of Canary Wharf.

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Obviously it does not quite look like this is real life, as I have zoomed the lens which makes the towers seem closer..

Stop 12: Northbrook Park

Just a little further along baring Road is Northbrook Park. According to Lewisham Council’s website this was a field known as the Ten-Acre Field, although in fact it was nearer nine acres. The field formed part of the Baring estates in Lee, and in 1898 Lord Northbrook offered to present it for public use, in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. A sundial marks Lord Northbrook’s gift.

And I guess that explains why the road here is called Baring Road.

We have now reached the end of our SE12 walk which I have to say has not been the most interesting area.

And I have left you a bit out of the way. Probably the best thing is to retrace your steps to Lee station, although there are local buses. There’s the 261 along Baring Road which goes north to Lee and Lewisham and south to Bromley and beyond. Otherwise from St Mildred’s Road (the South Circular) there is the 160 and 202 towards Catford and going the other way the 160 will take you to Eltham and beyond whilst the 202 goes to Lee and Blackheath.

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SE10: I walk the line

SE10 is Greenwich usually pronounced Gren-itch, though some of the locals seem to say Grin-itch. But never of course Green-witch!

We start our walk at the Post Office at 261-267 Greenwich High Road. Turn right and go along the High Road. Our first stop is a short way on the right.

Stop 1: Greenwich Station

Greenwich was the terminus of the first passenger railway route out of London.

The first section of the London and Greenwich Railway opened in February 1836 but it was over 2½ years later before the line got to Greenwich in December 1838. Initially there was a temporary station but a proper station building opened in 1840.

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It looks like an elegant town house, doesn’t it. According to architectural guru Pevsner, the original station building of 1840 was re-erected on this site in 1878 in somewhat altered form.

The railway initially ended here because to go any further meant extending the railway onto land owned by the Royal Hospital and potentially cutting across the historic Royal Hospital grounds. The solution was to extend the line eastwards in a cut and cover tunnel under what is now the gardens in front of the National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House. This opened in February 1878.

I think this explains the rather odd arrangement when you go on to the platform, as the old building is set back off the edge of the platform and the canopy does not go to the edge.

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I suspect the line had to be moved in order so the alignment worked for the extension, but they kept the original building, though Pevsner suggested it was “re-erected” so maybe that is not the reason.

Greenwich station is also served by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). The DLR was extended to Lewisham via Greenwich in December 1999, with the new platforms at Greenwich lying immediately to the south of the main-line station and inconveniently not by the main station building and with no cross platform interchange.

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Now retrace your steps along Greenwich High Road. Our next stop looms up on the right.

Stop 2: Meridian House and Borough Hall

This was the Town Hall of the old Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich formed in 1900.

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Ans at the corner are some steps and a stone

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This is a fantastic municipal building of the 1930s by architect Cliford Culpin and which Pevsner describes as “A progressive building for its time, similar in style to the slightly earlier town halls of the Middlesex boroughs of Hornsey and Wembley, inspired by Dutch and Scandinavian precedents.”

The post 1965 borough chose to have its main offices in Woolwich and so this Town Hall eventually became surplus to requirements. Today it is occupied by GSM London (formerly known as Greenwich School of Management). This is an independent school of higher education which offers business-specific courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The building has been altered over time in the 1970s by the Council and then later when it was converted to private offices. The building is now known as Meridian House and like the Meridian House we saw in E14 it is not actually on the meridian.

Now go down the side street and you will see the Borough Hall ahead of you, which is to the rear and adjoining the Town Hall building.

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Go up to the doorway and you find this little black plaque.

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This belongs to a small group of plaques created by the Performing Rights Society relating to sites connected to music heritage. This plaque was placed here on 23 March 2010, to signify where the pop group Squeeze, consisting then of Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, Jools Holland, Harry Kakoulli and Paul Gunn, first performed in 1975.

The full list of Music Heritage plaques is at: https://www.prsformusic.com/what-we-do/supporting-music/heritage-awards

Now go down the little side street ahead of you (Burney Street) and you will see a car park area and a bit of a garden.

Stop 3: Burney Street Garden/Site of workshops for the blind

But there are some interesting looking stones here.

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All is explained by this sign – well sort of.

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There seems very little information about the building that stood on this site but I found this from the “Greenwich Phantom”  http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2008/04/workshops-for-the-blind/

Not sure the Phantom is right about the Ibis Hotel being on the site of these workshops,

Stop 4: Ibis Hotel/Greenwich Picturehouse (site of Greenwich Park Station)

So ahead of you on the left is a modern building houses the Greenwich Picturehouse cinema and the Ibis hotel, but this site was actually the location of Greenwich’s other railway station, rather than the Workshop for the Blind.

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This station, initially called just Greenwich, was opened in 1888 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) who were bitter rivals of the South Eastern Railway whose station had been built here almost 50 years earlier.

The LCDR station was at the end of a branch which ran from Nunhead and the route into central London was not exactly direct unlike the SER line. The SER line also had the advantage that by then it extended eastwards as well. (In fact the LCDR station was aligned so it could have been extended eastwards to join the SER line, but that never happened)

So the LCDR station was a bit of a failure in terms of traffic and once the LCDR amalgamated with the SER in 1899 to form the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR), its fate was sealed.

It was renamed Greenwich Park in 1900 to distinguish it from the other station, and it staggered on for a few more years, closing in 1917 due to wartime economy measures. Some of the branch proved useful in the 1920s when the Southern Railway set about trying to improve the connections between the two old rivals..The section of the branch between Nunhead and Lewisham Road was reopened in 1929 with a new connecting spur to Lewisham. But rather than extend the line eastwards and create an alternative route through Greenwich, the part between Lewisham Road and Greenwich Park was officially abandoned in 1929.

After 1929 the station was demolished and eventually the site was redeveloped into what we see today..

Now continue to the other end of the Hotel building and you will get to Crooms Hill. Our next stop is just across the road at the corner of Nevada Street

Stop 5: Former Spread Eagle Inn (Al Pancino restaurant)

The sign over the arch says Spread Eagle Yard

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Today it is mostly taken up by the Al Pancino restaurant.

(I have to say I first read this name as Al Pacino and was wondering why there was a restaurant named after a famous American actor here in Greenwich, but then I looked again!)

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But as the grey plaque indicates this building has a bit more of a story.

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It is appropriate we stop and pause here a moment because Dick Moy (1932 – 2004) was one of the key people who helped put Greenwich on the map.

According to his obituary in the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/dick-moy-25987.html

“…he combined enthusiasm for the town’s mix of historic grandeur and urban grit with a charismatic business presence in it of nearly 50 years as a general antiques and book dealer, and 37 as an idiosyncratic, bon vivant restaurateur.”

He was a founder member of the Greenwich Society and a tireless campaigner.

Indeed one of the places he campaigned about was our next stop, just over the road.

Stop 6: Greenwich Theatre

At the corner is the Rose and Crown pub

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But spreading behind it is the Greenwich Theatre.

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The first theatre here opened in 1855 when the Rose and Crown pub created a Music Hall in some adjoining rooms

It was rebuilt in 1871 by Charles Spencer Crowder and renamed Crowder’s Music Hall with an entrance on Nevada Street, that is to the left of the pub. It was renamed in 1879 by a new owner, Alfred Ambrose Hurley, as the Royal Borough Theatre of Varieties. Then in 1898 it was rebuilt became the Parthenon Theatre of Varieties. I understand the facade on Nevada Street dates from this time. It later became the Greenwich Palace of Varieties,

Samuel and Daniel Barnard took over in 1902 and it became Barnard’s Palace with an entrance on Crooms Hill. It finally became the Greenwich Hippodrome. It hosted both live performances and films but was converted into a cinema in 1924 when it lost its licence for live entertainment .

It was used as a repertory theatre during the Second World War with films on Sundays, but it was damaged by an incendiary bomb, closing the theatre.

Greenwich Council bought the site in 1962 with a view to redevelopment but agreed to support the idea of a new theatre if there was enough local support. A campaign headed by Ewan Hooper, a local actor and director, succeeded and a new theatre seating 421 with an open thrust stage was created within the old shell. It opened as the Greenwich Theatre in 1969.

So this is a fairly modern building even though the site has had theatrical connection going back some 150 years.

Now go a short way along Crooms Hill and you will see our next stop on the right.

Stop 6: Number 12 Crooms Hill

At number 12 is one of those quirky little museums that you cannot quite believe exist. This one is dedicated to fans.

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The Fan Museum opened in 1991 and owns over 4,000 fans and related items. The oldest fan in the collection dates from the 10th century and there is an extensive collection of 18th and 19th century European fans.

It is open Tuesday to Sunday and the entrance charge is a modest £4 (£3 concession). Here is a link to their website: https://www.thefanmuseum.org.uk/

Now keep walking along Crooms Hill and you will eventually get to a gate into Greenwich Park.

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Do not go in here but do a left turn down a gravel drive.

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And just down here you will find a little gateway into the park.

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When inside turn right and head towards the Rose Garden

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Just here facing the garden is the entrance to the Rangers House

Stop 7: Rangers House

The Rangers House dates from about 1700, although it has been added to over the years. It is called the Rangers’ House because it was used as the official residence of the Ranger of Greenwich Park from 1816.

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(By the way this photo and the one below are actually taken from the other side and not the Rose Garden side)

Today it is run by English Heritage and houses the Wernher Collection, which consists of works of art amassed by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912).

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According to the website http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/rangers-house-the-wernher-collection/ there are nearly 700 works of art are on display, including early religious paintings and Dutch Old Masters, tiny carved Gothic ivories, fine Renaissance bronzes and silver treasures revealing the genius of medieval craftsmen and the unparalleled quality of Renaissance decorative arts.

Originally displayed in Wernher’s townhouse, Bath House, Piccadilly, the collection was first publicly accessible at his country house of Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire. After the death of Sir Julius’s grandson and the sale of Luton Hoo in the 1990s, much of the collection returned to London. In 2002 the trustees of the Wernher Foundation made a 125-year loan of the collection to English Heritage, thus safeguarding it for the nation’s enjoyment.

Keep going through the Rose Garden and there is something rather curious on your right hand side.

Stop 8: Queen Charlotte’s Bath

There is a little fenced off garden and a paved area with a hole.

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The Greenwich Park website https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park/things-to-see-and-do/ancient-greenwich/queen-carolines-bath-remains explains this is the remains of a bath belonging to Queen Caroline, the estranged wife of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. She lived at Montague House on the edge of Greenwich Park between 1798 and 1813.

She held notoriously boisterous parties and in the early years of the 19th century, rumours circulated that she had an illegitimate child. A royal commission cleared her of adultery but said her behaviour was open to “unfavourable interpretations”.

She left England for Europe in 1814 and Montague House was demolished a year later leaving only the outline of her bath.

The bath itself was filled in during the 1980s and for nearly 20 years the only sign of it was a plaque which states “A bath beneath the paving and this wall are all that remains of Montague House, the house between 1801 and 1813 of the Princess of Wales, later to become Queen Caroline, wife of George IV.”

In 2001, the Royal Parks excavated the bath with funding from the Friends of Greenwich Park, Greenwich Society, the Friends of Ranger’s House and individual donations. But that plaque is on the wall nearby even though it no longer is strictly true.

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And nearby is another plaque

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This commemorates Ignatius Sancho (c1729 – 1780), a black man who began life as a slave but who managed to educate himself, and become quite a man of letters.

The plaque was unveiled on 15 June 2007, by local MP Nick Raynsford, on the remaining wall of Montagu House. The timing is significant as this was the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, made law in 1807.

Now head back through the Rose Garden and over to the right. you will eventually get to the side of the Royal Observatory. Just here is a statue and a viewing terrace.

Stop 9: General Woolf’s statue (and that view…)

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This is the statue of General Woolf (1727 – 1759) best known for his defeat of the French at Quebec which led to he ending of French control of this part of the world.

But most people ignore him because they have really come here for the view.

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Below in the park is the Queen’s House and Royal Hospital and then beyond over the River is the skyline of Canary Wharf.

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And over to the far left is the skyline of the City.

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On your left you have the Royal Observatory, which was established here is 1675.

Stop 10: The Royal Observatory

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Wikipedia has a nice chronology of the place as follows:

  • 1675 – 22 June, Royal Observatory founded.
  • 1675 – 10 August, construction began.
  • 1714 Longitude Act established the Board of Longitude and Longitude rewards. The Astronomer Royal was, until the Board was dissolved in 1828, always an ex officio Commissioner of Longitude.
  • 1767 Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne began publication of the Nautical Almanac, based on observations made at the Observatory.
  • 1818 Oversight of the Royal Observatory was transferred from the Board of Ordnance to the Board of Admiralty; at that time the observatory was charged with maintaining the Royal Navy’s Marine chronometers.
  • 1833 Daily time signals began, marked by dropping a Time ball.
  • 1899 The New Physical Observatory (now known as the South Building) was completed.
  • 1924 Hourly time signals (Greenwich Time Signal) from the Royal Observatory were first broadcast on 5 February.
  • 1948 Office of the Astronomer Royal was moved to Herstmonceux, East Sussex.
  • 1957 Royal Observatory completed its move to Herstmonceux, becoming the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO). The Greenwich site is renamed the Old Royal Observatory.
  • 1990 RGO moved to Cambridge.
  • 1998 RGO closed. Greenwich site is returned to its original name, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is made part of the National Maritime Museum.
  • 2011 The Greenwich museums, including the RGO, become collectively the Royal Museums Greenwich.

And running through the Royal Observatory site is the Greenwich Meridian.

There is a long stretch of the line inlaid in the pavement inside the paid for area of the Observatory where people take photographs with one foot in each hemisphere (As if I would do such a thing…)

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But you can actually stand on the line on the public path if you head down the path that runs from the left side of the viewing terrace.

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But the strip in the pavement is not so big and you have not got the names and degrees east or west set out for you on the pavement. (But it is free!)

Now head down that path and into Greenwich town centre. (it is quite a steep path and I reckon the way we came up was easier as it seemed less precipitous)

Now I am going to skip the big ticket items of the Royal Hospital, the Queen’s House, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark and focus on two things in the town centre.

Once you leave the park go down the street ahead of you and you will get to the one way road system in the middle of the town. Cross over and in the middle of the buildings you will find Greenwich Market

Stop 11: Greenwich Market

This is a long standing market although sadly it is not in an elegant historic market hall building. It is just in a rather dull industrial shed.

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There is a plaque at the far end.

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This notes the market is still trading under it charter dating from 1737 – the time of King William III. However today it is mainly devoted to arty and crafty things and artisanal foodie things as opposed to regular fruit and veg. But It is always worth a little mooch around.

There is a nice reminder to the market traders about fair measures.

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Now head out of the market and follow the signs for Cutty Sark DLR station.

Stop 12: Cutty Sark DLR station

This station was built as part of the Lewisham extension of the DLR and opened in 1999. Its full name is “Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich” to make the point that this station, rather than Greenwich, is the stop for the sights here..

It is one of only three completely underground stations on the DLR network, Down below there is an island platform but it was built before there was any thought of three car trains. It would have been prohibitively expensive and disruptive to extend the platforms, so its platforms are too short for three car trains. Thus the first two sets and last two sets of doors on each train do not open and customers in the front and back of the train have to move towards the centre to leave the train.

But I thought I would finish with a couple of pictures of what is on the intermediate landing as you go down the escalators This is part of the tunnelling machine which bored the running tunnels.

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I somehow think it would not have been painted red, white and blue when it was actually doing the tunnelling.

We have now reached the end of our SE10 visit. There is of course so much more to see and do in Greenwich, but I tried to include some things which you might not have been aware of, such as Queen Charlotte’s Bath and the Fan Museum and the stories of Dick Moy and Ignatius Sancho.

We are at Cutty Sark DLR station for onward travel but there are plenty of buses hereabouts, not to mention National rail and even the River boats.

SE9: Always Hope

SE9 is Eltham – home to a former Royal Palace and some other famous connections, as we shall see.

We start our walk at Eltham Post Office, 33 Court Yard, which is in Eltham Town Centre just down from the cross roads by the parish church.  Turn left out of the door and follow Court Yard. The road veers off to the left but actually Court Yard continues along to the right. Our first stop is Eltham Palace but do not be tempted by the sign which will take you a long way round via the car park.

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Keep straight on walking along Court Yard and you will eventually get to a gateway to a path which goes over a bridge.

Stop 1: Eltham Palace

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If you want to visit the Palace (which you really should!) you will need to follow the path to the left and go to the Visitor’s centre and cafe area and get a ticket. (I will be posting a piece on the Palace itself in due course on StephensLDN)

Even if you do not have a ticket you can go over the bridge

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Then go into the courtyard area, where the entrance to the house is on your left.

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Eltham became a Royal Palace when the Bishop of Durham gave it to King Edward II in 1305. It was used a Royal residence until the 16th century. By the 17th century Greenwich Palace had been rebuilt and Eltham became ruinous. It would have stayed that way had it not been for Stephen Courtauld and his wife Virginia who acquired the lease of the palace site in 1933.

Stephen Courtauld (1883–1967) was a member of the wealthy English Courtauld textile family but his wealthy background enabled him and his wife to travel extensively and to pursue cultural and philanthropic interests. They set about restoring the Great Hall and adjoining it they build a large home, decorated in the Art Deco style.

In 1944, the Courtauld family moved to Scotland then to Southern Rhodesia, giving the palace to the Royal Army Educational Corps in March 1945. The Army remained here until 1992. English Heritage took over management of the palace in 1995 and they have restored it magnificently.

Over on the far side of the courtyard are some seats and a view across to the City – You can just about make out St Paul’s Cathedral in the right hand corner of the picture below. But the Shard is clearly visible even on this hazy day.

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Back at the visitor centre there is a pleasant refreshment area which was partly in a greenhouse and when I visited overlooked a wonderful display of tulips.

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Nice carrot cake too…

Go back out of the Palace grounds and immediately outside you will see a walkway called King John’s Walk to the left. Follow this round. This path bends to the left and then you will see another path going right. Go up this and it will lead you a street called Kingsground. Go straight ahead and you will reach a main road which is Eltham Hill. Our next stop is at the corner on the left as you approach.

Stop 2: Mecca Bingo Hall (former Odeon/Gaumont cinema)

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Today this is a bingo hall but it was of course built as a cinema.

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This cinema was built by the Odeon company and opened in April 1938.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the facade is covered in sheets of cream and black glass, not that you can tell this today. Inside the auditorium, seating was provided in what is described as semi-stadium style that is it has a separate raised balcony at the rear that did not overhang the stalls seating. This is a somewhat unusual arrangement.

This Odeon was located only about half a mile away from the one at Well Hall, which opened in 1936 and which we shall see shortly. Cinema Treasures says “The Odeon Eltham Hill tended to play the Gaumont release and from 28 November 1949 it was re-named the Gaumont. This was quite a rare event as usually Gaumont’s were re-named Odeon.”

It was closed as a cinema in June 1967 and was converted into Bingo Hall – at first it was a Top Rank Club but today it is a Mecca club.

One of the odd things about this building is how it is stuck on the very edge of the centre of Eltham and is really in a residential area. Perhaps that is why it is still here as the site was not in the right place to be redeveloped as shops or offices.

Now go up Eltham Hill towards the centre of Eltham. Just before you get to the church, you will see a side street to your left called Wythfield Road, go down here a short way

Stop 3: Bob Hope Theatre

Here in this side street on the left hand side is a rather unassuming building which houses the Bob Hope Theatre.

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There is no big sign outside and you have to go right up to the windows to be sure that this is indeed the place.

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There is also a rather large picture of the man himself inside.

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This theatre was formerly Eltham Parish Hall, built 1910. There was a local theatre company called the Eltham Little Theatre formed in November 1943 to promote “drama, music and allied arts in Eltham and its immediate vicinity”. In the early years they were without a permanent home but early in 1946, they came to the Parish Hall and leased this on an annual lease basis. In the late 1970s, funds were short and they approached Bob Hope (who was born in Eltham) for help. The rest they say is history.

The full story can be found on their website http://www.bobhopetheatre.co.uk/aboutus.html This has a link on to a booklet which gives the story in greater detail. Bob Hope was a great supporter of this little venture and visited on occasion.

Now return to the main road and turn right. Our next stop is ahead on the left. you cannot miss it.

Stop 4: St John the Baptist Church

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This was the old parish church which, according to architectural guru Pevsner, was rebuilt in the late 17th century and replaced in 1872 by a large Early English style building. The tower and spire are however later.

If you walk up into the Churchyard you will see a small plaque on the side of the Church.

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This is a memorial to one Thomas Doggett, actor, theatre manager and author who founded a race on the Thames called Doggett’s Coat and Badge.  This is apparently the oldest rowing race in the world and it has been held every year since 1715. It goes between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier, Chelsea. Originally, it was raced every 1 August against the outgoing tide, in the boats used by watermen to ferry passengers across the Thames. Today it is raced at a date and time in late July that coincides with the incoming tide, in more modern style boats, known as sculls.

Useless fact: There is a pub by Blackfriars Bridge called the Doggett’s Coat and Badge – not sure why because the race does not start here but just passes by.

Go on to the corner of the churchyard and you will see diagonally across the junction is our next stop.

Stop 5: The Banker’s Draft pub

This Wetherspoons pub is called the Banker’s Draft because it used to be a bank.

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It is quite small for a Wetherspoons and like many branches of this chain it celebrates some local connection. There are actually plenty of well known people to choose from, apart from Bob Hope – for example singers Boy George and Kate Bush, actor Jude Law, politician Dennis Healy and artist Rex Whistler. But the local connection they celebrate is comedian Frankie Howerd. He grew up and went to school nearby. There are a number of pictures of him dotted around.

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And curiously there is a poster for some live shows in April 1991, in Bournemouth, Crawley and Swansea – an odd combination of locations don’t you think?

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Interesting that they did not call the pub “The Frankie Howerd” or even better “The Titter-ye-not Tavern”.

Now take the road by the church as if you had turned left off Eltham Hill. This is Well Hall Road. Soon you will see our next stop on your right.

Stop 6: Eltham Bus and Railway Station

This transport interchange is a rare example of one built in the 1980s.

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There is a large featureless and rather unattractive expanse of tarmac where buses turn round and on the far side is a glass box housing the station entrance. The station is worth a wander round. It shows they had the right ideas when it came to creating a transport interchange but somehow it does not quite come off like later examples (eg North Greenwich).

Up on the platforms there is a canopy on the London bound side (right hand platform on picture below).

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But on the country bound side the concrete covering only goes over the slope up from the ticket hall and does not extend over the platform.

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What were they thinking of? Was the idea that you sheltered from the rain on the slope coming up to the platform?

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Now look down the platform away from London and you see a bridge over the track with a parade of shops, and you can just make out it almost says “Station Parade”. But there is no station there and we shall be finding out why shortly as we head that way.

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By the way this photograph totally misrepresents the view by foreshortening the image. It is actually quite a way to that bridge as you are about to find out.

So exit the station building and turn left away from Well Hall Road. Go along “Station Approach Path” (such an original name) and you will reach a road.

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Notice as you reach Glenlea Road there is a footbridge over a dual carriageway below. Looking back you can see how the bus station is built on a concrete raft sitting above the road.

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The transport interchange was built as part of the A2 Rochester Way Relief Road. This road was built in late 1980s. It is only a two lane dual carriageway and is a scaled back version of what was originally planned.

Keep going until you reach a cross roads. Here turn left (into Westmount Road) and soon you will be by that Station Parade building. This is our next stop.

Stop 7: Site of Eltham Park station

This was clearly an old station building which stood on the bridge over the tracks.

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The station was called Eltham Park and opened in 1908. We are about 500 yards east of the current station.  And to give you a better idea of the distance back to Eltham station here is a shot back down the railway bridge without a zoom.

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In fact until 1985 there were two railway stations in Eltham. The other one was called Eltham Well Hall which opened on 1 May 1895 and was just over 200 yards to the west of the current station

Both railway stations were closed and replaced by the present station (with its bus station) by British Rail in March 1985 at the same time as the nearby A2 Rochester Way Relief Road opened.

Whilst the abandoned Eltham Park station building still exists, there is apparently no trace of Eltham Well Hall station.

Continue along Westmount Road and take the fourth turning on the left (Craigton Road). Follow this along and as the road bends you will find our next stop on the left.

Stop 8: Number 44 Craigton Road

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This modest house has an unusual plaque.

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So this marks the Bob Hope connection to Eltham. It was his birthplace. However his family emigrated to the States in 1908, so in effect he grew up in America. He was named Leslie Townes Hope by his parents but he decided to rename himself Bob in the late 1920s. One story goes, this was after racing car driver Bob Burman; another story was because he wanted a name with a “friendly ‘Hiya, fellas!’ sound” to it.

Interesting he was still alive when this plaque was put up in 1996. In fact he lived to be just over 100, dying on 27 July 2003.

Continue along Craigton Road and at the end you will be back at Well Hall Road. Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 9: Well Hall Pleasaunce

Well Hall Pleasaunce is a public park which was originally the grounds of a house.

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It is very well kept but sadly it is not peaceful as there is a constant hum of traffic from the nearby A2.

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In the middle near where you came in is a moated area through a gate.

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This is where the house once stood.

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And it has a famous connection – this was the home of Edith Nesbit who wrote the well known children’s book “The Railway Children”

Within the grounds just to the north of the moat is what is described as the Tudor Barn. This is now an attractive looking tea room.

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Now return to Well Hall Road and go as if you are turning left out of the park. Just past a parade of shops on the left you will see our next stop.

Stop 10: Former Odeon Cinema

This is what remains of a very 1930s looking cinema. This was the other Odeon in Eltham.

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This Odeon opened in May 1936. The entrance was located on a corner of the building and had a wrap around canopy over a single storey entrance hall. The glass tower to the right contained the stairs leading to the circle.. And the auditorium block was to the left.

The auditorium block was plain brick but much of the rest of the cinema was covered in the Odeon’s familiar creamy coloured faience tiles. It seated 1,028 downstairs in the stalls and 578 in the circle.

It was divided into two screens in January 1973 and in November 1981 was taken over by an independent operator who renamed it the Coronet Cinema. The Coronet carried on until January 2000. It then remained unused for just over 10 years. Eventually it was redeveloped in 2011 but sadly this involved the demolition of the auditorium. But at least the distinctive corner survives – today it is a gym.

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 11: St Barnabas Church

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This church has had a somewhat eventful history. It was originally designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the late 1850s. (Gilbert Scott is perhaps best known for the Hotel at the front of St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial and what is now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall).

But this church was not originally built at this spot. According to the Southwark Diocese website. it was built “as the Naval Dockyard Church at Woolwich Dockyard. It stood for 74 years at the Woolwich Dockyard and was taken down and rebuilt in modified form at Eltham in 1932-33. The church was gutted by fire as a result of enemy action in 1944 and was restored in 1956 under the direction of Thomas Ford with a new roof and remodelled interior.”

If you can, do try to go in because this Church has an interesting mural by the German Jewish artist Hans Feibusch. The church is not normally open outside services but I struck it lucky, so was able to get some pictures of the interior.

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It is quite cavernous and in the apse is the Feibusch mural.

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(You may recall we saw another of his murals at St James Merton in SW20)

Now head up Well Hall Road away from the church and the former cinema.

This is the Well Hall Estate and is described by architectural expert Pevsner as “the first and most spectacular of the garden suburbs built by the government during the First World War to house munitions workers. The Well Hall estate was conceived, planned and built in less than twelve months in 1915.”

He goes on “Variety of materials and finishes … was matched by complexity of shape and silhouette, and combined with period details such as the raised pavement to produce a virtuoso re-creation of the ‘old English Village’.”

Here are a couple of pictures.

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Sadly this kind of development proved too costly and so was not the model adopted for later public housing estates.

Our next stop is a little way up on the right hand side of the road.

Stop 12: Stephen Lawrence Memorial plaque

We have heard about a number of well known people connected to Eltham but here we have a memorial to someone who only became famous because of the manner of his death – and that is black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

It took me a while to locate the Stephen Lawrence memorial plaque as it is very low key – just a stone set in the pavement. It is very easy to miss.

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It is outside number 320 Well Hall Road just to the south of Arbroath Road bus stop.

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This commemorates the place where Stephen Lawrence, was murdered on 22 April 1993.

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He was murdered in a racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus here. The case became very high profile as it exposed institutional racism within the police and prosecution services. Wikipedia as an extensive article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Stephen_Lawrence

It used to be that once found not guilty of a crime, you could not retried for the same offence (so-called “double jeopardy”), But as a result of the Lawrence case there was a partial revocation of double jeopardy laws to allow for a retrial if there was compelling new evidence.

Thus even though they had already been tried and acquitted once, two men were finally convicted in 2012 – almost 20 years after the murder. So I guess there can always be hope, even in the darkest hour.

Well that brings us to the end of our SE9 walk. There was a lot more here than I was expecting and so there were a few famous connections we did not manage to cover.

For onward travel it is probably best to head back down Well Hall Road to Eltham station.

 

SE8: I see no ships

SE8 is Deptford which was once famous for its Royal Dockyard. Today it is hard to see much sign of that heritage, but there are some fragments of historic interest amongst the 20th century development.

We start our walk at Deptford Post Office, which is at Number 301 Evelyn Street, SE8, which is rather out of the centre of Deptford. Turn right out of the Post Office and then take the first right which is Grove Street. Keep going along Grove Street past a blocked up entrance, by the corner of Leeway.

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We are right where the Royal Dockyard used to be and if we could get through that gate we would enter into a huge site awaiting for redevelopment, more of which anon.

Keep on past a park on your right called Pepys Park. We are now by the Pepys Estate, named as a reminder that Samuel Pepys was a regular visitor here in the late 17th century when he worked for the Navy.

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This estate was originally built in the late 1960s and was a showpiece development where people and cars were kept separate.

Here is a link to an interesting article about the estate and its history: https://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/the-pepys-estate-deptford-for-the-peaceful-enjoyment-and-well-being-of-londoners/

Keeping going along Grove Street, past a street called Longshore. Then soon on your right will be our first proper stop.

Stop 1: Royal Victoria Victualling Yard

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And here is a little sign to explain what these buildings were.

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Deptford’s Victualling Yard manufactured and stored food, drink, clothing and furniture for the navy. It was upstream of the main dockyard and dates from the 18th century. The two yards became physically merged as the dockyard expanded with both being enclosed by a wall.

The name Royal Victoria Victualling Yard came about in 1858 after a visit by Queen Victoria. Despite the closure of the actual Dockyard in the 19th Century, it carried on providing supplies for the Navy until 1961.

Walk though this little yard and out the other side and turn left. Here is a lovely 18th century terrace of houses.

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And this is the view looking the other way, showing how this fragment of Georgian elegance is marooned in the “utopian” vision of a 1960s housing estate.

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Anyhow keep walking and you get to the riverside and this.

Stop 2: Deptford Strand

Here we have some old Rum warehouses which were refurbished and converted to flats as part of the Pepys Estate development.

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There is a sign at the end of one of the building noting the Dockyard’s connection to Sir Francis Drake. Queen Elizabeth I visited the Royal Dockyard on 4 April 1581 to knight Drake.

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And this riverside terrace ends rather abruptly.

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This area ahead is called Convoys Wharf and this was where the Old Royal Naval Dockyard was centred. It was also one of the last working wharves on the river, having been acquired by News International in 1986. They used this to import paper. News International sold the site in 2008.

There have been many plans over the last 15 years to develop the site. Finally a plan by the architectural practice of Terry Farrell and Partners for some 3,500 homes together with some commercial development was approved by the then mayor, Boris Johnson in April 2014.

According to the Evening Standard report at the timehttp://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/boris-johnson-backs-1bn-deptford-development-9227796.html  the Mayor’s decision “requires the developers to make provision for two local projects: the restoration of Sayes Court garden, where  horticulturist John Evelyn ran a celebrated estate; and a plan to rebuild a 17th Century warship called the Lenox.”

Apparently most of the Tudor, Stuart, Georgian and Victorian structures above ground level that had survived until the 1950s have since been destroyed. But one structure that escaped the demolition is Olympia Warehouse. This was an unusual cast-iron building constructed in the 1840s but it does not seem possible to see this from the street. Apparently this will be refurbished as part of the development. Anyhow things do move slowly and there is no sign of any development three years on from the Mayor’s approval.

One day the river walk will no doubt continue along here but we have go away from the River to continue. You will see Pepys Park ahead of you. The park is in two sections and you need to go right through both parts to get back to Grove Street.

Then do a left at Grove Street and keep going until you pass Barnes Terrace. Just after that you will see a little part park on your left. Go in there.

Stop 3: Sayes Court Park

This little park is a fragment of the estate of diarist John Evelyn who lived in Deptford from 1652 until 1694. He had a house here which was called Sayes Court, and of course Evelyn Street where we started is named after him.

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Evelyn had inherited the house when he married the daughter of Sir Richard Browne in 1652. In the 1670s Evelyn laid out French style gardens, so I wonder whether some element of this is what is going to be restored by the developers of Convoys Wharf.

In the grounds was a cottage which was rented by master woodcarver Grinling Gibbons in 1671. It is said that Evelyn introduced Gibbons to Sir Christopher Wren and so Gibbons came to be employed by Wren in particular to work on St Paul’s Cathedral. Gibbons was later appointed as master carver to King George I.

Evelyn moved to the family “seat” in Surrey in 1694 and eventually inherited it in 1699. Sayes Court was let out and its most famous tenant was the Russian Tsar Peter the Great for three months in 1698. We will hear more of him later.

Sayes Court was demolished in the late 1720s and a workhouse built on its site. Part of the estates around Sayes Court were purchased in 1742 for the building of the Victualling Yard, which we saw the remains of just now.

As you walk through the park you will see this old tree.

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And there is a modest sign on the railings which explains that this fig tree was planted by Russian King Peter the Great in the spring of 1698 during a three month stay at the invitation of English King William III. He was here to study shipbuilding. The sign goes on to say the tree is under the protection of the Russian Embassy and is under video surveillance.

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Now head out of the park into Sayes Court Street and at the end just before you get back to Evelyn Street turn left into Prince Street. Go along this until you reach Watergate Street which crosses Prince street. Take a left here and walk along Watergate Street with the big wall of the Convoys Wharf site on your left. Our next stop is just a little way along on the right.

Stop 4: Twinkle Park

This lovely little green space is a community garden which started as a project in 1993. It is now run on behalf of the local council by a trust.

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The story of Twinkle Park and nearby Charlotte Turner Gardens can be found on the Twinkle Park Trust website:  http://twinklepark.org.uk/about-us/our-history

With all the cuts in local government, this is perhaps the only way some of our cherished open spaces can be maintained to a decent standard.

Now just beyond the park and separating it from the river frontage is an old wharf building.

 

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Go down the alley to the left of the building to reach the river.

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Stop 5: Payne’s Paper Wharf

This was Payne’s Paper Wharf, now renovated and rebuilt as commercial and residential space, in a development called Paynes and Borthwick.

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The latter being next wharf along which was a cold meat store and has been completely redeveloped. Payne’s Wharf was built in 1860 for a company of marine engineers called John Penn and Sons. From 1937 it became Payne’s Paper Wharf

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Today only the Italianate facade remains. The rest is modern. From here you can look along the river west towards Convoys Wharf and the site of the Royal Dockyard.

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Across the river is the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf.

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And east you look towards Greenwich.

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Now you have to take the path by the side of Payne’s Wharf building and when you reach the road turn left and follow this round to where you can get back to the river front, which is just by the Ahoy Boating Centre. Once on the river front again you will see our next stop ahead of you. We are now by the way in the Millennium Quay redevelopment.

Stop 6: Statue of Peter the Great

Not only is there the fig tree planted by Peter the Great, but there is also this rather odd statue of him on the river front in Deptford.

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There is something wrong about the proportions of Peter the Great – don’t you think his head is too small?

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And by his side he has a smallish throne (apparently this was his travelling throne) and a kind of a jester looking character (This was one of the court dwarves).

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There are inscriptions in English and Russian.

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It was installed here in 1998 to commemorate the tercentenary of Peter the Great’s time studying shipbuilding.

There is much more detail on this link: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMT4AY_Peter_the_Great_Deptford_Greenwich_London_UK

The river side walk bends inland here as we have reached Deptford Creek.

Stop 7: Deptford Creek

This is where the River Ravensbourne gets to the Thames.

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This waterway is still used and the footbridge here is actually a swing bridge and has to be opened for time to time.

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Nice view of Canary Wharf from here

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Now head along the creek side and across the Creek you can see Greenwich again. To the left of the Church spire just visible is the Royal Observatory with the famous red ball which drops every day at 1pm.

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Keep walking and you will reach Clarence Road, where you turn right. Continue along this and cross Glaisher Street. Heading straight ahead is a street called The Stowage. You will see our next stop ahead on the right. There is an entrance to the churchyard from the side turning.

Stop 8: St Nicholas Church

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This is the old parish church of Deptford. According to architectural guru, Pevsner, the tower dates from 1500 but the body of the church was rebuilt in 1697. That is why it looks a bit like many City churches which were rebuilt after the Great Fire. This building was left a ruin by World War II bombing and what we today is a 1958 reconstruction.

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And here by the gate is a little sign explaining a bit about the church

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Sadly there is no quaint little village to go with this old church. It is surrounded by 20th century housing estates.

Now go as if you had turned left out of the church gate. You will be at the junction of The Stowage and Deptford Green and ahead you will see McMillan Street. Go ahead kind of as if you have gone straight from The Stowage. This will lead you to a main road at the end (Creek Road) and turn right. Go along Creek Road and cross over. Turn left into Deptford High Street.

This was perhaps once a bit more interesting but today it is lined with cheap shops and takeaways. As we pass have a look down Albury Street, the second street on the left..

Stop 9: Albury Street

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Pevsner says this street was laid out and developed by Thomas Lucas, a local bricklayer, from 1706 onwards. Only four original houses on the south side remain but the north side has a lovely run of modest Georgian terraced houses, that have somehow survived the “slum clearance” that occurred around here.

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And they have lovely porch details.

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Stop 10: St Paul’s Church

As you head down this rather depressing High Street you will see a little green to your left. And at the end is this rather magnificent Church.

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Pevsner describes St Paul’s, Deptford, as “One of the most moving 18th Century Church in London: large, sombre, and virile.” What an interesting collection of words to describe this lovely church. Pevsner clearly liked this church devoting two whole pages to it.

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It was designed by Thomas Archer (who was also responsible for St John’s Smith Square) and one of the new churches built as a result of an Act of Parliament in 1710. This set up a Commission for the building of 50 new churches in London. These churches were funded by a tax on coal which had originally been introduced to pay for the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral and other City Churches after the Great Fire in 1666.

Returning to the High Street, you will see a railway bridge. Turn right immediately after that and you are at our next stop.

Stop 11: Deptford Station

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The station may not look it but is has been a long time in fact since the London and Greenwich Railway opened its first section of line between Spa Road, Bermondsey and Deptford  in February 1836. The line reached west to London Bridge in December 1836 and east to Greenwich in December 1838.

The original station building was demolished by the Southern Railway but what we see today is an even more recent rebuild, dating from 2012.

If you go up to the London bound platform you have a nice view back towards central London. with the Shard and the BT Tower most prominent.

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You also can see this rather odd sight – a viaduct running almost at right angles to the station.

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Otherwise you can see it from the Deptford Market Yard, by the station entrance. It is rather intriguing as it looks to be at too sharp and angle to the railway to have carried tracks.

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The reason is explained in a little plaque on the side of the viaduct.

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Well what else could it have been. The line here was entirely on brick viaducts high above the streets so one can understand why the railway decided a carriage ramp might be necessary. Curiously it seems this is the only bit of that original 1835 station to have survived.

Just beyond the carriage ramp is a small square and on one corner of a modern building which houses the Albany Theatre, our final stop.

Stop 12: Albany Theatre

This may be a modern building but the Albany Theatre has a bit of history behind it.

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Accroding to the theatre’s website:

“The Albany … was originally established in 1894 as The Deptford Fund by a group of philanthropically minded people. The Fund’s founders wanted to improve the plight of Deptford’s community, many of whom suffered from poverty and deprivation and the adverse effects of unemployment as a result of the closure of the docks in 1869.

The Deptford Fund provided financial support for local charitable enterprises, but within a few years decided to fund its own projects within a purpose built centre. In 1898 the foundation stone of the Albany Institute was laid and in 1899 the building, on the corner of Lamerton Street, Albury Street and Creek Road, was officially opened by its patron, The Duchess of Albany.”

The institute became home to a theatre group in the 1960s but the theatre was burnt down in an arson attack in 1978. The old building was demolished to make way for road widening and in 1982 a new Albany on the current site was officially opened by its new patron, Diana, Princess of Wales.

And today it operates as a community arts resource. Here is a link to their website if you would like to learn more http://www.thealbany.org.uk/about/27/About-Us

Well that brings us to the end of our little tour of SE8. Deptford is an interesting but somewhat frustating place. There is little to remind us that this was an important Naval Dockyard for a couple of centuries. Nor is there much to tell us that this was one of the stops on the first passenger railway in London. But it does have a couple of lovely churches and some other interesting older buildings, not to mention the Peter the Great connection, which was somewhat unexpected.

For onward travel, we are now close to Deptford station with its regular trains on the Souteastern route into and out of Cannon Street.

SE7: Down the Valley

SE7 is Charlton. There is a fragment of an old village in Charlton. Sadly this is not one of the most attractive of London’s villages, as we shall see, although it does have one rather special gem.

We start our walk at Charlton Post office which is at 10-12 Charlton Church Lane. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is almost immediately ahead of you on the left.

Stop 1: Charlton Station

Charlton station was opened in 1849 by the South Eastern Railway on the North Kent Line. As we have heard in SE4, the first line here went through Blackheath and it was only later in 1878 that the more direct route via Greenwich was. The two routes diverge just west of Charlton.

The station here shows little sign of being Victorian. It has a single storey modular ticket office and some modern canopies over the platforms.

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This really is not a very welcoming station.

On the north side of the tracks is this strange canopy.

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I think this dates from the time of the 2012 Olympics when Charlton was used as an interchange point where you could change from trains to buses to get you to the arena at North Greenwich (which we now call the O2). This was part of that bus interchange.

And there are signs today to explain how you can make that link, but I guess few people use this route to get to the O2.

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Continue past the station until you reach the junction with traffic lights. Our next stop is just on the corner here.

Stop 2: The Antigallican Hotel

Now here is an intriguing name for a hostelry – the Antigallican.

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At first I misread it and thought it was anti Galician, but no this is not against people from North West Spain. Note there are two “l”s and one “i”. So it is anti Gallic which means anti French. There was a movement in the 18th century against the import of French stuff and this is where the name originates from.

Here is a link which explains more about Antigallican

http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2011/12/antigallican/

It is hardly a great name for a hotel which might cater for foreign visitors some of whom might well come from France. Now perhaps the name of this place is in the spirit of these post Brexit times.

Retrace you steps back up past the station and soon after that take a left turn into Floyd Road. As you get to a T junction you will see our next stop peeking up behind the houses to your right.

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Here we have another example of a major sporting venue rather unsuitably located in a residential area. To get a better view take a left at this junction and walk a little further along to see one of the entrances to Charlton Athletic Football Club

Stop 3: Charlton Athletic Football Club

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Charlton Athletic Football Club was founded in June 1905 when a number of youth clubs in south-east London joined together to form a single team.

The Club first played at this location in 1919. The site was a disused sand and chalk pit. It is not in a valley as such and it perhaps got its name “The Valley” because it looked like it was in a valley.

The club has almost continuously been here since 1919, apart from one year in Catford, during 1923/24 when they were in discussion about a merger which fell through, and seven years (1985 – 1992) when they shared a ground mainly with Crystal Palace but also latterly with West Ham United. The departure from the Valley was triggered by the closure of the East Terrace after the Bradford City stadium fire and the wish of the ground’s owner to use part of the site for housing. The move was very unpopular locally but after much toing and froing the club finally returned to the Valley in December 1992.

Charlton’s fans are commonly called The Addicks. There seem to be two schools of thought as to the origin. One relates to the mangling of the pronunciation of athletic as ‘addock” and the other (more probable) is relates to the story of a local fishmonger, Arthur “Ikey” Bryan, who rewarded the team with meals of haddock and chips.

Retrace your steps along Floyd Road and at the end turn left. Our next stop is a little way up the street on the left.

Stop 4: Number 67 Charlton Church Lane

This house has one of the two English Heritage blue plaques in SE7.

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It was placed to commemorate this was the home of Italian writer Aron Ettore Schmitz (1861 – 1928) who used the pen name Italo Svevo. He lived here 1903 to 1913.

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No I had not heard of him either…

But apparently he is considered a pioneer of the Psychological novel in Italy and is best known for his classic Modernist novel La Coscienza di Zeno (1923).

Keep walking uphill along Charlton Church Street.

Stop 5: A little shelter

At the end of the street there is an open space and right by the junction, there is this little shelter.

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Go inside and you discover it contains a water fountain – or rather did. As ever these things no longer work. And it is not as old as it looks.

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It actually dates from 1902 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and was put up by the local bigwigs the Maryon-Wilsons – more of whom anon.

From here you can see the contrasts that are Charlton village – off to the right as you came up the hill was a large estate of blocks of flats, but ahead is the 17th century Charlton House which we shall come to and to the left is the village church, which is our next stop.

Stop 6: St Luke’s Church

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There has been a church here since the 11th century. But the one we see today dates from 1630, according to architectural guru Pevsner, although there was some further rebuilding in 1840 and 1873. The church is listed as grade II*. It has a lot of monuments, of which the most significant is that of Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister assassinated in 1812. We came across him when we were in Ealing, W5.

Just across the way from the church is just a fragment of the old village, and of course the obligatory pub.

Stop 7: The Bugle Horn pub

This pub originates from the late 17th century, although the frontage is of a later date.

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The name is perhaps a reminder of the Horn Fair which was held on 18 October each year. It had a reputation for lawlessness and rowdiness (didn’t they all?) and was closed down in the 19th century. Or maybe the pub’s name is just a reminder that this was a stopping off spot for coaches.

The street by the pub is the heart of the old village. It even has the street name “The Village”, but it is sad affair. It has such potential but it is a not very pretty collection of down market shops and food outlets.

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As you go through what passes for the village centre, there is a red brick building on the right, which looks interesting but which Pevsner does not seem to acknowledge.

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I believe this was the Charlton Assembly Rooms, but not sure what it is used for now.

Keep going until you reach Charlton Lane on your left and on your right is an entrance to a park. Go down here.

Stop 8: Charlton Park

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This is Charlton Park and was once part of the grounds of Charlton House. Today this is largely given over to sports of one kind or another.

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There is a hut on the right which serves refreshments..

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It has amusing little pictures of various historic characters.

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Plus oddly the current queen.

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But we are not popping in here as there is somewhere else we should stop for tea.

Now you will be able to see the back of Charlton House from here.

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Head through the park towards in and go to the right of the main building.

Stop 9: Charlton House

The main entrance is on the other side from where you came.

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This is probably the best preserved early 17th century house in London. According to Pevsner, the house was built by Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales (eldest son of King James I) between 1607 and 1612. It became the home of the Maryon-Wilson family in the 19th century.

There was a baronetcy of Maryon-Wilson which can be traced back to 1661 but the title became extinct on the death of the 13th Baronet in 1978. Baronet by the way is a hereditary title passed down the male line giving the holder the title of “Sir” and his wife the title of “Lady”. Not to be confused with knighthoods which are just given for the life of the recipients.

The Maryon-Wilsons employed noted architect Richard Norman Shaw to restore the house and make some minor additions in the 1870s.

The house and grounds were used as a hospital during World War I and were bought by the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in 1925. Today the house is used for community purposes.

Do go in if you can.

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In the entrance hall is a tea room.

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They do a nice line in carrot cake

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In adjoining room there are some information panels explaining the history of the house and its last owners (the Maryon-Wilsons). There is also some information about the Hornfair.

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The Maryon-Wilson family are commemorated in the names of a couple of local parks on land which was once part of their estate. Here is a very good website about the various parks in Charlton which gives potted histories about each http://www.charltonparks.co.uk/

But sadly we do not have time to see this side of SE7.

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Now head out and go to the right where you will see a tree with a metal fence round it and a brick building up a few steps. Go over there.

Stop 10: The Mulberry tree and the Summer House

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The tree imprisoned in the metal fence is a very old Mulberry tree, possibly dating from 1608. This was the time when King James I was encouraging the planting of such trees. the idea was they would provide food for silk worms and help create a source of English silk. Sadly this did not work out.

The brick building was built as a Summer House around 1630.

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Pevsner says that “There is no documentary confirmation of the traditional attribution to Inigo Jones [who built the Queen’s House at Greenwich and the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall]; but the complete absence of Jacobean frills at evidently such an early date make it quite justifiable.” So the best we can say is that this is possibly by famous 17th century architect Inigo Jones.

At some point this building was converted to become public conveniences.

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Despite the sign, it was not open during the time I was there (which was in the middle of the day)

Now at this point it is worth looking over the street and between the blocks of flats because you can get quite a nice view of Canary Wharf.

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Head along the main road away from the House and church. This is Charlton Road. Note the reminder of the Hornfair in the name of the street going off to your left.

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Our final two stops are quite a way along Charlton Road past the estates of flats.

 Stop 12: Number 145 Charlton Road

First on the right, just after a school, we are headed to Number 145 which is set back off the road by our Lady of Grace, catholic church.

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This is the location of the other English Heritage blue plaque in SE7. This commemorates that engineer William Henry Barlow (1812 – 1902) lived and died here.

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William Barlow was a civil engineer. He was engineer for the Midland Railway on its London extension in the 1860s and is best known for his design of the company’s London terminus at St Pancras.

He was actually a local lad having been born in Woolwich, where his father was employed at the naval dockyard. But he does not seem to have strayed far even once he was established, as tis is where he died.

Stop 12: Poplar Cottage, Number 80 Charlton Road

Then a little further on the left after the entrance to a sports ground, comes this lovely dark pink house with the name of Poplar Cottage.

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Pevsner comments that apart from St Luke’s Church and Charlton house, no buildings visibly of before the 19th century remain in the village centre. (The Bugle Horn pub is of late 17th century origin but was refashioned later) He goes on to say “The only rural survival is a sweet weatherboarded cottage some way to the west [at number 80 Charlton Road]” This is apparently of 17th century origin.

It is quite out of keeping with its surrounding but lovely nonetheless.

We are now at the end of our SE7 walk. Charlton has some nice bits with a magnificent Jacobean house, though a somewhat disappointing centre which could be so much nicer.

We are now some way from any useful rail station so you best bet is to get a bus either to Blackheath or North Greenwich for onward travel.

 

SE6: It’s witchcraft

SE6 is Catford. Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable says of Catford: “Perhaps surprisingly, the name is not some arcane corruption , but probably does mean that wild cats did frequent the ford that is now the site of Catford bridge, although an alternative explanation is that “the cat” was a local landowner’s nickname.

Wikipedia has other suggestions including this is “the place where cattle crossed the River Ravensbourne in Saxon times” and goes on to say”. It is also said that the name originates from all-black cats, associated with witchcraft, being thrown into the ford to drown during the witch hunts.” Sadly neither of these assertions are backed up by citations.

We start our walk at Catford Post Office which in Numbers 187-189 Rushey Green. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along the same pavement.

Stop 1: The Black Horse and Harrow pub

This is a grand Victorian pub called the Black Horse and Harrow.

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It dates from 1897 and the sign says there has been a pub here since at least 1700.

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It would have been a coaching inn on the road to Tonbridge and Hastings, but clearly became a bit of a Victorian “gin palace”

Now retrace your steps and go down the alleyway which runs through Octavia house.

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On the other side you will be in the middle of Catford Island, our next stop..

Stop 2: Catford Island

Catford Island is possibly one of the most inappropriate bits of development to grace the streets of London.

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Who thought it would be a good idea to put an american style retail centre here where the inadequate A21 London – Hastings road crosses the even more inadequate South Circular Road. Needless to say this is what you get.

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Many years ago there were plans to sort out the roads here properly but there are no active plans for this.

The Lewisham website has something called “The Catford Plan”. Here is a link to the Frequently asked questions: https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/planning/policy/LDF/catford/Pages/Catford-Plan-frequently-asked-questions.aspx

One of which is:

“Has the Council given up on the plans to re-route the South Circular behind the Laurence House?

Transport for London (TfL)’s long-standing proposal, which would potentially remove the Catford gyratory, still has no clear timetable or funding strategy. There are reasons why this project has not happened, primarily that it would be complex, expensive and difficult to implement.

The Catford plan therefore includes alternative proposals which would be more deliverable. These include simplifying pedestrian crossings, improving the Thomas Lane/Catford Road and Rushey Green/Catford Road junctions, and widening Sangley Road to create an eastbound bus lane to cut the number of northbound buses on Rushey Green.”

So this bottleneck is not going to be sorted out any time soon.

Now head to the opposite side of the retail park from the Bingo club and turn right along that road. Our next stop is at the corner.

Stop 3: former ABC cinema

This was the Central Hall Picture House when it opened in December 1913. It was renamed the Plaza in 1932 and was taken over the ABC chain in 1937. It was renamed ABC in 1962. It was split into two screens in 1981 and continued to operate as a cinema until 2001.

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According to the wonderful “Cinema Treasures” website “In 2002, it was purchased by the Brazilian based Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, who also purchased the former Granada/EMD in Walthamstow, and who already operated the former Astoria Finsbury Park” (aka the Rainbow).

They were refused planning permission to convert the Catford cinema in 2003. The case at Catford went to a Public Enquiry in 2005, which allowed the church to use the former stalls area, on the proviso they let out the former circle as a 200 seat cinema. Not sure what happened this idea as the cinema treasures site does not have any up to date info. No sign of a cinema. However the church is certainly operating here.

Now cross over Sangley Road, go past the Post Office and you will see our next stop just over the road on the left.

Stop 4: Broadway Theatre

This is a little gem of a 1930s building adjoining the modern civic suite.

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The Theatre’s website says:

“A grade II* listed building, the theatre was built in 1932 and is an example of Art Deco design. The architects were Bradshaw Gass & Hope; the slightly Gothic features were intended to relate to the adjacent Gothic Revival Town Hall which has since been demolished.

It has two auditoriums, an 800-seat main theatre and a small 80-seat studio theatre. Its programme consists of a diverse mix of theatre and music, including a pantomime season featuring star names, stand up comedy, nostalgia shows, drama and children’s theatre.”

For many years it was called the Lewisham Theatre which was somewhat confusing as it was in Catford.

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Broadway is a better name although it has the disadvantage that it is so generic a name it could be anywhere.

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As you look at the theatre head to the left and our next stop is the building next door.

Stop 5: Civic Suite

The old Town Hall of 1875, was replaced by the current Civic Suite in 1968, soon after the merger of the metropolitan boroughs of Lewisham and Deptford to form the London Borough of Lewisham.  On the other side of the road is Laurence House, where many of the Lewisham Council offices are housed. That is on the site of old St Laurence’s Church.

Go into the courtyard of the Civic Suite and you will see a couple of plaques on your right.

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These relate to a fire in New Cross which killed 13 young black people in January 1981. This plaque has 14 names because one person (Anthony Berbeck) who was in the house at the time of the fire, committed suicide later.

The way the authorities investigated the fire provoked a huge uprising in the black community. There was a strong view that the fire was caused deliberately but this could not be proved. Forensic science has developed since then. So while some still believe the fire to have been a result of arson, it seems that such evidence as there is suggests it was a tragic accident.

Over the years a number of memorials have been created, including a stained glass window in St Andrew’s Church Brockley (2002), a blue plaque from Nubian Jak Community Trust (January 2011), a stone memorial and bench in Fordham Park, Deptford (2012). There is also a memorial to the victims consisting of a park bench plus 13 trees with a plaque at either end on Hackney Downs. And of course this one.

And just opposite is the statue of a sad looking girl.

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This statue is bronze and was commissioned by Lewisham Borough Council in 1992 from the artist Gerda Rubinstein.

Now keep walking along the main road and you will get to our next stop – the two railway stations in Catford. You will see a little access road to the right which is a good way into the first station you get to (Catford Bridge)

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Stop 6: Catford’s stations

The two stations in Catford are almost side by side but on different lines, one line goes under the road whilst the other above the road. Interchange on one ticket is allowed between the two stations.

Catford Bridge station was built by the Mid-Kent and North Kent Junction Railway and opened in January 1857. But from the start the line was worked by the South Eastern Railway.

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This still has original buildings although the main one does not seem to be used by the railway. This station is also unusual in having two exits from each platform – one on the level and one up steps to the road bridge.

The two stations are separated by the site of the former Catford Stadium. Although the stadium closed in 2003, and is currently being redeveloped, it is still mentioned on the direction signs here.

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The other station has lost all its old building and has this rather nasty modular building as a ticket office and little more than a bus shelter on the platform.

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Catford station was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in July 1892. This is the next station after Crofton Park going out of town and has an equally poor service.

Now retrace your steps and as you approach the Civic Buildings you will see a pedestrianised street to your left.

Stop 7: Catford Broadway

This sad looking street is called Catford Broadway.

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It has a few stalls and some dull looking shops – and when I was there, not many people. But at least it was not run down and abandoned, as it so easily could have been.

Our next stop is at the end of Catford Broadway on the left.

Stop 8: Catford Shopping centre

This was designed by the architect Owen Luder (Born 1928) in 1974. He was well known for Brutalist architecture, with its massive bare concrete sculptural forms with no cladding and little or no decoration. Unfortunately time has not been kind to these buildings. In the damp British climate unclad concrete buildings soon become dull and greyer and they get streaked where rainwater runs. Often poor maintenance makes things worse.

But at least Catford Shopping centre is still standing unlike a number of Luder’s other well known projects, such as the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, Trinity Square Gateshead and the Southgate shopping centre in Bath.

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The most prominent feature is the Catford Cat, a giant fibreglass sculpture of a black cat above the entrance.

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Lewisham Council website credits the Catford Cat to Owen Luder and Embassy Signs with the date 1974.

The Catford Centre was bought by Lewisham council in 2010 for “regeneration”. But this does not seem to have happened yet.

Now cross over the road and have a look at the concrete building on the other side.

Stop 9: Eros House

This is called Eros House and was also designed by Owen Luder. It dates from 1960 and so is somewhat older than the Catford Centre. I am not sure that the proportions quite work. It would probably look better if the tower were taller. And it does not have the elegance of the Goldfinger buildings we saw in Poplar and Westbourne Park.

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The site has an interesting history as it contained not one but two places of entertainment. As ever I am endebted to the “Cinema Treasures” site for much of the following information.

At the corner of Rushey Green and Brownhill Road was the Lewisham Hippodrome Theatre which opened as a variety theatre in February 1911. It was designed by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham. Again this must have been confusing given it was not in Lewisham, proper.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s it was sometimes used as a cinema and sometimes a theatre. In 1931 alterations were carried out by architect Cecil Masey, with interior decoration by designer Theodore Komisarjevsky. It reopened as a cinema in April 1931 but by 1933 was operating as a music hall, with films only shown on Sundays.

It was closed by bomb damage in 1940 and re-opened in 1943. It was closed as a live theatre in 1952 and re-opened as the Eros Cinema in May of that year. The Eros Cinema finally closed in November 1959

Adjacent to the Hippordome/Eros was a purpose built cinema. This opened in December 1913 as the Queen’s Hall Cinema. It was acquired by Gaumont in 1928 but continued operating as the Queen’s Hall Cinema until September 1954  when it was renamed Gaumont.

The Gaumont closed in November 1959. It was demolished in July 1960, together with the adjacent Eros/Hippodrome building. The office block named Eros House was built on the site.

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On the green outside there is a sculpture.

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This is called Waterline. It is by Oliver Barratt and dates from 2006

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The sign says “This sculpture remembers the waters that once flowed though the green rushes where watercress was farmed and celebrates the dynamic rhythm of life and change” Here is a link to the artist’s website:

http://www.oliverbarratt.co.uk/water-line/

So it is also a little reminder of why the street here is called Rushey Green.

Stop 10: Rushey Green

And so just by Eros House is a green encased in railings with a water pump.

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Not sure how old this is.

Just further along on the other side of Brownhill Road is this sculpture

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It is called “Chariot / Blue on Green” and is by artist Oleg Prokofiev (1928 – 1998). It seems it was bequeathed by Prokofiev family.

Now walk along Rushey Green away from Catford centre. Take the second right which then splits into Farley Road and Honley Road. You want the former which is the left hand way.

Stop 11: Number 48 Farley Road

Our next stop is a fair way down Farley Road.

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Number 48 was the childhood home of film actress Elsa Lanchester (1902 – 1986), who although she spent most of her career in Hollywood was actually from here in South London.

According to Wikipedia: “[She] studied dance as a child and after the First World War began performing in theatre and cabaret, where she established her career over the following decade. She met the actor Charles Laughton in 1927, and they were married two years later. She began playing small roles in British films, including the role of Anne of Cleves with Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). His success in American films resulted in the couple moving to Hollywood, where Lanchester played small film roles.

Her role as the title character in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) brought her recognition. She played supporting roles through the 1940s and 1950s. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Come to the Stable (1949) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957), the last of twelve films in which she appeared with Laughton. Following Laughton’s death in 1962, Lanchester resumed her career with appearances in such Disney films as Mary Poppins (1964), That Darn Cat! (1965) and Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968).” She also played a witch in the 1958 film “Bell, Book and Candle”

Our final stop is just a little way along the road.

Stop 12: Woskerski mural, Farley Road.

Just before you get to Laleham Road, there is a striking mural on the right.

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This is by street artist Woskerski who describes himself as “A street artist based in London, painting since 1997.”

His website says that this particular mural is of Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong and it was a commission in 2016. It is a little surprising to see this looming up at you in a side street in Catford. I somehow doubt that either Ray Charles or Louis Armstrong had any connection with this part of London, so who knows why someone chose them as the subject of a mural here.

Now we are the end of our walk. But I thought I should just point out a couple of old street signs here. Just beyond the mural, Laleham Road crosses Farley Road and unusually for this part of town there are two signs which are what must be the original signs, as they say just SE without the number.

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There are lots of these old street signs in the borough of Wandsworth but most other boroughs have systematically replaced them with their own branded street name plates.

So Catford proved to have some interest. Again it seems odd that this was once a significant entertainment centre. There were four theatre/cinema buildings in close proximity up until the late 1950s. But today it is a dull collection of shops with constantly congested gyratory system, and just one working theatre building.

You have a choice about onward travel from here. you can retrace your steps back to the stations or else go back to Rushey Green and jump on one of numerous buses that will take you to Lewisham.

 

 

SE5: All’s Well

SE5 is Camberwell. This was once quite an entertainment centre. Not now. Today it is a major focus for buses, but it has been unserved by rail transport for a hundred years despite there being a line almost through its centre.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 25 Denmark Hill. Turn left and head towards the junction. Our first stop is the large building at the corner with the Nandos on the ground floor.

Stop 1: site of Metropole/Empire Theatre/Odeon Cinema

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This large corner site was a place of entertainment for many years. First there was the Metropole Theatre which opened in October 1894. In 1906 it was renamed Camberwell Empire Theatre. Films were being shown from 1914 and from 1918 it became a mixed use live theatre and cinema known as the Camberwell Theatre and Picture House. From 1924 it was a full time cinema known as the Camberwell Empire and Picture Palace.

Odeon bought the theatre in May 1937. It closed in August 1937 and was quickly demolished for a new Odeon Theatre to be built on an expanded site. The Odeon opened in March 1939.

A key difference from its predecessor was the location of the entrance. The entrance to the original theatre was at the corner of Denmark Hill and Coldharbour Lane, whereas the new Odeon was designed with a matching entrance on each road, with a square fin tower clad in light yellow tiles and carrying the name “Odeon”.

The cinema was never split up and was closed in July 1975. After six years of disuse, in 1981 it became a pile ’em high sell ’em cheap jeans warehouse called Dickie Dirts. That lasted a couple of years and then the building was disused again, finally being demolished in spring 1993, There is now a block of flats for homeless young people here.

Now retrace your steps to the corner of Orpheus Street (right back by the Post Office)

Stop 2: site of the Palace Theatre

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At this corner was a theatre called the Camberwell Palace which opened in 1899.  Films formed part of the variety bill in the early 1900’s but in September 1932, it was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC). It became a full time cinema, known as the Palace Cinema. When ABC opened their new Regal Cinema (which we shall see shortly) in 1940, and they disposed of the Palace Cinema to an independent operator.

After a few years, it re-opened under new management in April 1943 as a live variety theatre, and went back to its original name, Camberwell Palace Theatre. The Palace Theatre then went over to staging ‘girlie’ shows. No doubt this was Camberwell’s answer to the famous Windmill theatre in Soho. One of the ways round the law at the time was that the “girls” could only be naked if they were still, as in a work of art in a gallery. Unfortunately one of the girls here, the delightfully named Peaches Page (aged 19) broke the law by moving whilst in the nude. A mouse had come on stage while she posed. She was sacked and the Palace Theatre was closed soon after in April 1956. No long after it was demolished and replaced by this dull looking building. This was until recently HSBC bank.

Much more info on this and the Metropole/Empire on the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site.

http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Camberwell.htm

(Interestingly the usually great Cinema Treasures site, has a slightly different story, talking about the theatre called the Oriental being built here in 1896 and then replaced. Arthur Lloyd says that this never actually happened. Also Cinema Treasures gives the address as 23 – 31 Denmark Hill but says the site of the theatre was where the Post Office is now. That is number 25 Denmark Hill whereas the HSBC bank branch was 23 Denmark Hill. However the picture on the Cinema Treasures site looks like the old theatre was on the left hand corner of the side street (the HSBC side) rather than the right hand (Post Office) corner. So I think the evidence suggests Arthur Lloyd is right.)

Now immediately over the road was another place of entertainment.

Stop 3: a former cinema (28 – 32 Denmark Hill)

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The building which now houses a Co-Op supermarket started out in 1913 or 1914 as the Golden Domes Picture Theatre, The building originally had a very decorative exterior with large domes on each side. Right through to the late 1930s it operated on a policy of mixing movies with variety performances.

The cinema was refurbished and renamed Rex Cinema in January 1952. It was taken over by the Essoldo chain in August 1954 becoming the Essoldo Cinema in January 1956.

The cinema closed in August 1964 and the building was converted into a supermarket. The ornate facade was removed, but you can still see the roof of what must have been the auditorium from the street

Our next stop is back on the same side as the Post Office where you will find a little shopping precinct.

Stop 4: Butterfly Walk

Camberwell has a somewhat underwhelming pedestrian shopping area, called Butterfly Walk.

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And there is even a butterfly on one of the buildings facing Denmark Hill.

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I puzzled over this as I could find nothing on the web about the age of the shopping centre or why it is called Butterfly Walk. But then I discovered that there is a butterfly known in Britain as the Camberwell Beauty, first spotted in Coldharbour Lane in 1748. This butterfly can be found in both Europe and North America and elsewhere it is known as “Mourning Cloak”. the butterfly has mainly dark wings but they are edged with bright yellow and some blue. The pattern has been likened to a girl in mourning who defiantly lets a glimpse of a brightness show below her mourning dress.

Now head to the main road junction and take a left.

Stop 5: Two Bus Garages

Curiously Camberwell has two bus garages almost opposite each other. As we walk along the road, the one on the left is called Camberwell Garage and is run by Go-Ahead London.

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This was built as a bus garage and although finished in 1914 it was actually only used from 1919. It is one of the largest bus garages in London and extends a long way down the side road and across to the next street.

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And the one on the right is called Walworth Garage.

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This garage is run by Abellio, a wholly owned subsidiary of Netherlands state-controlled rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). It uses the NS logo.

The site started as Camberwell Tram Depot in 1891. Then in 1950, it became a bus garage. As there was already a Camberwell Bus Garage, it changed its name to Walworth Bus Garage, even though it is actually in Camberwell..

Just before the railway bridge and opposite to the entrance to Walworth Garage, you will see a street on the left called Camberwell Station Road. Go down here.

Stop 6: site of Camberwell station

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And soon you will see a street called Station Terrace.

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But the thing is that there has not been a passenger station here for a hundred years.

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There was one here, opened in October 1862 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway as part of the company’s new route into the City of London. In May 1863 it became known as Camberwell New Road but in October 1908 reverted to the name Camberwell.

As with many other lesser used London stations, it was closed to passenger traffic during the First World War. It never reopened. Camberwell was well served by electric tram services which gave direct access to more places that the railway could, so like many of these inner suburban stations the traffic had been in decline anyway..

The trams had gone by the early 1950s but Camberwell remained unconnected by rail. There had been plans in the 1930s to extend the Bakerloo line here from Elephant and Castle starting but after the Second World War, there was no money for this kind of project.

The idea was revived in around 2006 and since then Transport for London has consulted on various ideas about extending the Bakerloo line to Lewisham and possibly beyond. However the most recent consultation (February 2017) makes clear the preferred route is along Old Kent Road missing out Camberwell completely. However Camberwell may still get reconnected to the rail network as there is now talk of reinstating the station here so it would be served by Thameslink trains.

There is precious little left of the old station which closed in April 1916. At track level there is the ghost of an island platform and at street level there is a much altered building which I guess would have been the entrance and ticket hall.

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It has lost its upper floor and the main structure has been used as a car repair facility. But you can just about imagine it as a station.

By the way if you look on the other side of the road you can see a large bus park which is part of the huge Camberwell Bus Garage.

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Now retrace your steps back to Camberwell Green where you should turn left, continuing with the Green on your right. Our next stop is just beyond the end of the green on the left.

Stop 7: Former ABC cinema

Now we have an old cinema building which is still standing largely intact.

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This was the Regal Cinema. It had been started just before the start of the Second World War and it was finished off finally opening in June 1940. It had been developed by an independent company but was sold to Associated British Cinemas prior to completion.

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Within weeks of opening, in September 1940, the Regal was closed by bomb damage but it quickly reopened the next month. It was renamed ABC in December 1961 and finally closed in October 1973.

It was converted into a Bingo Hall and operated under various names including Jasmine and Gala until February 2010, when it suddenly closed. The building was sold to a church which is what it is today.

Return to Camberwell Green and our next stop is around the first part of the green you get to.

Stop 8: Camberwell Green memorials

There are a number of memorials here. First there is a bench round a tree, dedicated to Corporal Sidney Bates VC.

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He was a local lad who was killed in France and posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for Gallantry.

Then there is a path to the left with a couple of Second World War memorials.

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Immediately to your right is one dedicated simply “For those who lost their lives in the Second World War”.

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But further on is a more site specific one, and one with a very poignant story.

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Although the plaque starts off “In memory of the people of Camberwell who died or suffered in War” it then goes on to record a specific incident from 17 September 1940. There was a direct hit on a bomb shelter here and it killed 13 members of the same family who had just been celebrating a wedding.

Here is a link to the story in the Guardian from 2007

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/sep/17/secondworldwar

And then to the left of this is a chunky wooden bench.

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This has a little plaque which says “The CoolTan Arts bench. A safe place to sit, rest and a gift to our local community. Dedicated to Debbie and everyone with experience of mental distress.”

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CoolTan Arts is an arts in mental health charity run by and for adults with experience of mental health conditions. According to its website, CoolTan Arts has existed since 1991 and became a charity in 1997. It took its name from the disused CoolTan sun lotion factory where the founders of CoolTan squatted. Today it is based in railway arched near to here in Walworth Road.

I do wonder about siting a bench referencing mental distress so close to three war memorials. Which came first, I wonder?

Now go to the end of the Green and turn left. Our next stop is in Wilson Road a side turning on the right just beyond the church. 

Stop 9: Camberwell School of Art, Wilson Road (Formerly Wilson’s School)

Camberwell is home to a well known art school, now part of the University of the Arts London. The Camberwell School is on two sites. The main location which opened in 1898 is a little further along the main road along with the South London Gallery which opened in 1891. The old Town Hall of Camberwell Borough Council dating from 1934 is also along here. Architectural guru Pevsner describes that building as “singularly undistinguished”

By the way Camberwell Borough Council’s motto was “All’s Well” as in “All’s well that ends well” or maybe “All’s well that Cambers well”.

It is a bit too far to go to see these buildings but we can content ourselves with the other Art School building in Wilson Road.

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This building was originally Wilson’s Grammar School. There is a plaque you can just see through the railings which says “Grammar School founded by Edward Wilson, Vicar of Camberwell 1615 Rebuilt 1882.”

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And this is echoed on the street by this stone.

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Wilson’s School still exists and has claim to be one of the oldest state schools. It moved to a new development called Roundshaw on the site of Croydon Airport in 1975. One famous old boy of Wilson’s School was actor Michael Caine

Now retrace your steps along the main road and turn left into Camberwell Grove.

Stop 10: Camberwell Grove

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This is a lovely, rather unexpected street. Pevsner describes Camberwell Grove as “well preserved late Georgian terraces and semi detached houses connected by one storey entrance bays”.

The street began as a private avenue behind the mansion of the Cock family and was built up after the house was sold in 1776 and demolished. What is unusual is the development focuses on a single avenue. There are no squares or crescents.

The first part you get to is the oldest with some houses dating from the 1770s and 1780s

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Further up on the right is a little chapel – the Grove Chapel which dates from 1819 and is still going.

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Grove Chapel is an independent church which has no formal links with any particular denomination or church grouping,

Sadly not all Camberwell Grove is Georgian. A little way along you come to some newer (less attractive) buildings and it opens out. (Note the picture below was taken looking back from the way we have just come)

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And look to your left and you can see a four track railway line in deep cutting. You cannot see this on the right as the line goes into a tunnel.

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Then a bit further on to your right you will see a house at the end of a terrace with a large white plaque.

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This records that Joseph Chamberlain (1836 – 1914) lived here.

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Joseph Chamberlain was a major politician first in local Government and then nationally. We came across him in Highbury, N5, where there is also another (non blue) plaque to him. He moved to N5 in 1845, but he was born in Camberwell, so I guess this was the place (or one of the places) where he lived as a small child.

Now take the side just a little before this house, Stories Road

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There is a nice little sign on the left at the start of the street proclaiming the extent of Mr Stories’ property.

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Continue along Stories Road and take a right at the end. Follow this road along. On the left you will see the beginning of the site which is our next stop.

Stop 11: William Booth Training College

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But before we get to the main entrance, have a look at the artwork as the road bends

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This is called “Run”. It dates from 2009 and is by Leigh Dyer. There is a wolf in one bed and a number of sheep in the other bed. The piece at once blends in but is visible, so I think it works really well on this site as the main road bends.

Now follow the main road round and you will get to the main entrance of the Salvation Army training college.

The Salvation Army’s William Booth Memorial Training College was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and was completed in 1932; Gilbert Scott’s other monumental South London buildings are Battersea Power Station and Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern). The simplicity here is partly the result of repeated budget cuts during its construction. Apparently much more detailing, including carved Gothic style stonework surrounding the windows, was originally planned.

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Even so it is very impressive.

In front there are statues of General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army and his wife Catherine. They apparently did not die but were “promoted to glory”.

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Our final stop is just over the road from the College.

Stop 12: Denmark Hill Station

Denmark Hill Station was opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1865. Today the entrance is an uninspiring box behind the original somewhat grander station building.

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But the old footbridge is still in use and as a result of refurbishment, the station does now have lift access to all platforms.

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There is also some nice multi coloured brickwork at platform level.

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The original station building just to the left of the new entrance is in the Italianate style and sits above the tracks which are in a deep cutting. The building suffered a fire in 1980 and after restoration, a public house took over the main building. It was initially called the Phoenix and Firkin to commemorate the fire, then it became O’Neills and but it is now just the Phoenix.

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Sad this is not still the station entrance but at least it is a good use for the building.

We are close to King’s College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital and you can easily pop over and see them from this point. But I am not planning to. So that brings us to the end of our SE5 walk.

Camberwell was clearly once quite a centre of entertainment with theatres and cinemas but today there are none left. The shops are pretty standard inner city fare and it is busy without too much character. Still there were one or two unexpected things along the way: the memorials on Camberwell Green; Camberwell Grove is lovely and the Salvation Army College was somewhat of a surprise.

We are now at Denmark Hill station which has trains into Victoria and Kent plus it is on the southern arc of London Overground from Clapham Junction to New Cross Gate and beyond. Or maybe pop into the Phoenix for a quick drink!

SE4: Jack be nimble, Jack be quick

SE4 is Brockley which is one of those places one tends to pass by on a train – it being on the main line out of London Bridge towards Croydon and Brighton. But now I have the chance actually to walk round here.

We start our walk at Brockley Post Office which is at 185 Brockley Road, SE4. Our first stop is just across the road and is a pub called the Brockley Barge..

Stop 1: Brockley Barge

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This seems to suggest there might be a canal here but there is not. At least not today. The name of this pub recalls the barges which plied their trade on the Croydon Canal. This canal opened in 1809 and ran from Croydon to New Cross where it joined the Great Surrey Canal to access the Thames.

It was not a financial success and it closed in 1836 – the first canal to be closed by Act of Parliament. The canal bought by a railway company, the London and Croydon Railway who used much of the route for their new railway from London Bridge to West Croydon, the latter station being built on the filled in basin at the southern end of the canal.

 

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This pub was built in 1868 and was originally called the Breakspear Arms. It was rechristened the Brockley Barge in 2000 when it became a Wetherspoons.

Our next stop is a little way along Brockley Road as if you had turned right our of the Post Office. 

Stop 2: Brockley Station

The London and Croydon Railway opened through here in 1839, but Brockley did not get a station until March 1871, though there is precious little there today to suggest it was a Victorian station. The buildings are modern, but there is an old footbridge.

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There are four tracks here (two slow and two fast lines, with the fast ones together in the middle) but like all the stations between New Cross and Norwood Junction, Brockley only has platforms are the slow lines.

Today this station has 12 trains an hour. Four are Southern trains which go from London Bridge and end up at either Caterham or loop back to Victoria. The other 8 trains are the newish London Overground service extending the old East London line from New Cross Gate to either West Croydon or Crystal Palace. Must be slightly frustrating to be here if you want to get to central London when two thirds of your trains go on an arc around the centre. But at least they connect in with the tube quite well.

An interesting point to note about this station is that there is another railway line which passes over the end on the platforms.

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This was opened in June 1872 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway on its Greenwich Park Branch Line and there was once a station here on this line, as we shall hear shortly.

Exit the station the way you came in and turn left and head back to the main road. Go under the railway bridge. Ahead is a junction which goes by the name of Brockley Cross.

Stop 3: Brockley Cross

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Before venturing to the mini roundabout that is now Brockley Cross. Just look to your left as you pass under the railway bridge. This is what is left of the entrance to Brockley Lane station.

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Brockley Lane is on that line that crosses over Brockley station. Brockley Lane station opened in 1872 but closed to passengers in January 1917 though it continued as a goods station until May 1970. There was a building at road level which was used as a shop until a fire in 2004. There is lots more info about this dead station at the wonderful Disused Stations site: http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/b/brockley_lane/

And according to the Disused Stations site, just across the road is the old station master’s house. Here it is today.

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I guess it would be too expensive to reopen the station and create an interchange at Brockley so you could travel from say Croydon or Norwood Junction to Lewisham  or  perhaps Blackheath without having to go up to London Bridge. This kind of orbital journey does happen and such an interchange might help reduce congestion in central London. Maybe one day.

Now look ahead beyond the mini roundabout along Malpas Road and you get a view of some of the towers at Canary Wharf.

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Stop 4 The Tea Factory

Turn back look along Endwell Road from Brockley Cross and you see this strange sight looming up. It says on the side “Tea Factory”

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If you go along Endwell Road, you can see it full on.

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This was apparently constructed in the late 1940’s by the London Tea and Coffee Company whose original warehouse was destroyed in the Second World War. It is rather nicely done but it is in a strange location which must have delightful views of the two railway lines that cross near here.

Now head away from Brockley Cross along Godfrey Road. Our next stop is a little way along this street.

Stop 5: Cedar Mews, 74 – 78 Godfrey Road

My eye was taken by this rather handsome newish development on the right, called Cedar Mews.

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These apartment buildings have been fitted in and are the same scale as the 19th century houses nearby and yet they are completely different.

The buildings were completed in 2013 and are by West London based Groves Natcheva architects, who I have never heard of. They may not be to everyone’s taste but at least someone thought to make the effort.

Keep walking along Godfrey Road to the end where you will reach Wickham Road. Just take a short detour to your left along Wickham Road to see Number 42.

Stop 6: Number 42 Wickham Road

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Unlikely as it may seem Lily Langtry, actress and mistress of the Prince of Wales, who is believed to have lived at 42 Wickham Road – at least according to Lewisham Council.

This is referred to in a council planning document about Brockley Conservation area: https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/planning/conservation/conservation-areas/Documents/BrockleyConservationAreaCharacterAppraisalPart1.pdf

Now head back along Wickham Road right to the end and you will be back at Brockley Road where you turn left. Our next stop is a little way along on the left.

Stop 7: Brockley Cemetery

This entrance is to Brockley cemetery, although when it opened in 1858 it was called Deptford Cemetery.

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There is a helpful map on the right as you go in.

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It is a quiet well kept cemetery – not at all overwhelmed by vegetation.

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There are a couple of war memorials – both of which are of rather strange design.

First you will come across the Deptford War memorial.

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This has a column and then a big space with a back wall. in the space are a series of small marker stones with numbers – presumably they have some significance such as they are for the location of wreaths at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

Further on there is another war memorial, again an odd design which does not encourage you to approach closely.

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One curiosity about this cemetery is that it was actually two cemeteries and there was a wall between them until 1948. Just around here I think.

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The two were opened in the same year (1858) and the other was originally called Lewisham Cemetery and is now Ladywell Cemetery.

Just near the boundary between the two cemeteries is this interesting memorial which sits on its own.

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This monument tells a sad tale. Below the figure is an inscription detailing the horrific events surrounding the death of Jane Clouson on 25 April 1871.

It says: “A motherless girl who was murdered in Kidbrooke Lane, Eltham aged 17 in 1871. Her last words were, “Oh, let me die”.”

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The monument was funded by public subscription following the contentious trial and acquittal of Edmund Walter Pook, a printer from Greenwich, who had been accused of her murder.  More on that story can be found on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Clouson

There is a site run by the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries which has some interest stuff about the cemetery. http://www.foblc.org.uk/

Retrace your steps to the main road and turn left. Our next stop is ahead on the left.

But going along you might spot some little reminders that this was once a tram route.

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These are relics of the London County Council (LCC) Tramway system. We saw some in Tooting SW17 and here they are again. The key thing which made the LCC system different was that there were no overhead wires. The trams got their power though a live rail in a conduit in the street. These manhole covers would have been part of that system. Amazing they are still here given that the trams were withdrawn from this street in 1952.

Our next stop is a little way on the left.

Stop 8: Crofton Park Library

This lovely building opened in 1905 and was funded by Scottish American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919). It is one of around 19 he supported in Greater London.

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Although Crofton Park Library is part of Lewisham Library Service, for the past 5 or so years, it has been a volunteer run Community library hosted by an organisation called Eco Communities. It manages to open 5 days a week and maybe this volunteer model is the future for many libraries.

Note the crest over the door, with the motto “Salus Populi Suprema Lex”.

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This translates roughly as: “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law” and is attributed to Cicero. This was the motto of the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham  which was created in 1900 and it was taken up by its successor, the London Borough of Lewisham which was formed in 1965.

We are right by a railway bridge here and if you look over the road, you will see the side of our next stop.

Stop 9: Rivoli Ballroom

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Keep going along the main road and you will see the front.

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This is quite an amazing survivor.

The Rivoli started life as a cinema in July 1913 when it opened as the Picture Palace  According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site:

“It soon became known as the Crofton Park Picture Palace and by 1918 was renamed Crofton Park Cinema. In 1931 it had been renamed Rivoli Cinema and some alterations had been carried out to modernise the buildings facade in a rather plain Art Deco style, plus a cafe was added to the facilities.”

It remained an Independently operated and owned cinema throughout it life. It closed on 2nd March 1957.  The building was boarded up for a couple of years and then reopened on 26th December 1959 as the Rivoli Ballroom. The interior is apparently much as it was from back then which makes it so special.

Despite threats to demolish the building in 2007, it remains open today catering to lovers of all sorts of dance and in February and April 2017, they are even having a pop up cinema over a couple of days.

Here is a link to their website for more info. https://www.rivoliballroom.com/

Our next stop is just across the road.

Stop 11: Crofton Park station

This is a strange little station which was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover railway in 1892 on what is known as the Catford Loop, which provided an alternative route for the Chatham line between Brixton and Shortlands. It also has a connection to the route into Blackfriars near Loughborough Junction which is where the trains go today

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But it is a rather poor train service. Only two trains an hour. they are Thameslink trains on the West Hampstead to Sevenoaks route. Unsurprisingly this station had only around 0.75m passengers in 2015/16 compared with over 4m at Brockley.

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Now if you have gone in the station, then come out and turn left and head along the main road. Our final stop is ahead on your right.

Stop 12: Brockley Jack

There has been a hostelry here for some time. For much of the 18th century it was known as “The Crooked Billet”, for much of the 19th century “The Castle”

The London Encyclopaedia says “Brockley remained agricultural until the 19th century, the only building of note being the Brockley Jack formerly a curious, rambling hostelry, reputedly the haunt of highwaymen”.

The pub was rebuilt in 1898 by the brewers Noakes. There are a couple of reminders of Noakes. High up on the left hand side you can see the words “Noakes Entire”.

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“Entire” originally meant a blend of three separate beers, consisting of one third each beer, ale, and strong beer. Initially it was mixed in the bar just before service but later it was mixed at the brewery and shipped out ready to be served..

And by the front door there is a foundation laid by Wickham Noakes.

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Noakes by the way was a local Brewery based in White Grounds, SE1 (which is just off Crucifix Lane close to London Bridge station). Noakes was taken over by Courage in 1930.

When the pub was rebuilt in 1898, it had a function room at the rear. This has been used for various things, such as a dance hall, a snooker room and a music venue. But since the early 90s, it has been used for theatrical performances. It now goes by the name of “The Jack Studio”.

The theatre website says: “In 2017 the Jack Studio the marks twenty three years of creating theatre. It is a vibrant and intimate performance space in south east London, with a long history both within its community and the London-wide theatre scene. We are committed to producing theatre that inspires, challenges and entertains our audience. The theatre is keen to continue its tradition of supporting new companies, providing a space for them to develop their work, alongside the productions created each year by the Jack’s in-house team.”

More info about the theatre and what’s on there at: http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/

Well we have reached the end of our SE4 tour. Some interesting things along the way in the form of a couple of pubs, a couple of stations, a library and a dance hall.

I should just mention that there is a blue plaque in SE4 for the reporter and crime writer Edgar Wallace who lived at 6 Tressillian Crescent, SE4, but it was just a little too far off the route to include, but you could see it between stops 6 & 7. As you are heading along Wickham road, take a left along Harefield Road and keep going to the end

We are close by Crofton Park station with its pathetic train service, so you might want to jump on a bus back to Brockley or else go on to Forest Hill both of which have much better services.

SE3: Sun, Sand and Postcards on the edge…

SE3 is Blackheath, which centres on one of London’s suburban villages. It is an area with somewhat more character than the previous postcode, SE2.

We start our walk at Blackheath Post Office in Blackheath Grove. Head out of the Post Office towards the main road and station. The latter, which is over the road, is our first stop.

Stop 1: Blackheath station

The railway arrived in Blackheath in 1849 on a line from Gravesend towards Lewisham and on to London Bridge. The building at street level dates from 1879, but down at platform level are some original buildings.

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It has an odd arrangement in that the main access to the platforms does not go through the ticket hall. There are also no ticket barriers here because there is not really the space, so they just have the free standing Oyster validators.

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The London bound platform did have an adjoining bay platform which could be used for terminating trains from London. It is still here but overgrown and disconnected, now the platform has been extended to take longer trains.

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I have always been puzzled as to the railways in this part of South East London. There are three parallel lines which head out of London Bridge and come together again at Dartford. The northern one runs through Greenwich and Woolwich, the middle one through Bexleyheath and the southern one through Sidcup. But then there is this odd linking line connecting the northern and middle ones between Blackheath with Charlton. Why was this put in? The answer is that this link is the original line – the more direct route through Greenwich was only completed in 1878 and the line through Bexleyheath in 1895 (as we heard in SE2 in connection with William Morris’ travels to and from the Red House).

Now if you are in the station, head out on to the street, turn right and cross the road. Take the first turning on your left, which is Bennett Park

This short street has no less than three blue plaques. The first you come across is at Number 4 on the right. This is for Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944) who was a mathematician and astrophysicist. But I am going to skip him and focus on the other two.

Stop 2: Number 5 Bennett Park

This is on the left as you come down the road.

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And there is a blue plaque to graphic artist Donald McGill (1875 – 1962)

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McGill’s name is today synonymous with saucy seaside postcards. He was a naval draughtsman until 1904. An in-law encouraged him to design postcards after seeing an illustrated get-well card he had made for a sick nephew. Within a year it was his full-time occupation. He spent most of his life in the Blackheath area. Not sure how long he was living at 5 Bennett Park.

The cards feature stereotypical images of buxom young women, fat old ladies, drunken and/or lecherous middle aged men, honeymoon couples and vicars. He has been called ‘the king of the saucy postcard’. They are little well drawn masterpieces of social observation with a Music Hall sense of humour.

He did well out of this but even at the height of his fame he only earned three guineas a design, and he did not get anything when the image was continually reproduced.

Strange I do not know why but I kind of thought he was Scottish – probably the name and the sense of humour.

Continue along Bennett Park to the very end which is where our next stop is.

Stop 3: Number 47 Bennett Park

This rather lovely building has the words “Blackheath Arts Club” over the door on the left.

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The Blackheath Art Club was founded here in 1883 to:

“promote social intercourse among gentlemen interested in science, literature, painting and music in Blackheath and the neighbourhood”.

The purpose-built studios at 47 Bennett Park were intended to be commercially self-sustaining and subsidise the building of the art school and conservatoire but this never really worked out. The Art Club had its last exhibition in 1916 and the building was requisitioned by the Government for war use. The Club itself was wound up soon after the First World War.

The building then went through a variety of uses but was taken over in 1933 by the GPO Film Unit. Headed by a man called John Grierson, this Unit was set up to produce sponsored documentary films mainly related to the activities of the Post Office.The unit was a pioneer in making documentary films and had contributions from well known people such as Benjamin Britten, W.H. Auden, E.M. Forster and J.B Priestley.

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The GPO Film Unit became the Crown Film Unit in 1940 with a remit was to make films for the general public in Britain and abroad, basically moral boosting propaganda. This went on to become part of the Central Office of Information.

Today the building has been converted into flats.

Retrace your steps along Bennett Park and turn left at the end. Continue along here until the roundabout where our next stop is on the left.

Stop 4: Blackheath Halls

There are a pair of interesting buildings here. Blackheath Halls was established via a public subscription and built in 1895 by William Webster. The adjoining Conservatoire of Music and the School of Art, which you come to first, were completed in 1896.

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The Hall building has some lovely relief panels.

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The venue initially hosted orchestral and choral works with people like Dame Clara Butt and Percy Grainger appearing here.

During the 1980s the Halls were threatened with demolition but were saved with the support of local businesses and the community. After extensive renovation and restoration followed, the Halls reopened in 1991.

Blackheath Halls are now owned by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. This was formed in 2005 as a merger of two older institutions – Trinity College of Music and Laban Dance Centre.

The Great Hall seats 600 and there is a 160 seat recital room.  The Halls cater for classical and non classical concerts as well as stand-up comedy.

Continue walking past the Halls and turn left down the first street.

Stop 5: Blackheath Park

This is a private street (or rather a group of streets) which the Cator estate.

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According to architectural guru Pevsner, this area formerly belonged to Wrinklemarsh Manor, owned in the 17th century by Sir John Morden, more of whom anon. The estate passed through various hands until it was purchased in 1783 by a John Cator. He demolished the house and started to develop the land.

The street, Blackheath Park, dates from the early 1800s, and of course no such development would be complete without a church.

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This is St Michael and All Angels and is noticeable because of its very slender spire. The church itself also very slim profile. This was built in the late 1820s..

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There are some interesting 19th century houses here and also some notable post war 20th century developments which have been fitted in, including a number by a company called Span who built some 13 developments within the Cator estate in the 1950s.

As you return back along Blackheath Park have a look out on the left for number 10 – a modern building which lurks like a stealth bomber in amongst the older stock.

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This dates from 1968 and is by Patrick Gwynne. Very well done. At once uncompromisingly modern and yet not out of place as it does not shout its presence.

Now retrace your steps and leave the estate, going back past the Halls and the station. Just beyond the station the road splits.

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Take the left hand road. This is the centre of Blackheath Village and very lovely it is too.  This street is called Tranquil Vale which is a superb name, don’t you think? Go past the Crown pub.

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And our next stop is on the left.

Stop 6: Mary Evans Picture Library

This is the Mary Evans Picture Library. It is a private library which specialises in providing pictures for commercial use in books, newspapers, magazines, adverts, web sites and all manner of other media.

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Mary Evans and her husband Hilary founded the library in 1964. Its core philosophy, unchanged for over 40 years, is “to make available and accessible all the wonderful images created for people to enjoy over the centuries which were originally published in books, on posters, in advertisements, or as prints”. This is not high art but “ordinary” images which display such skill and creativity on the part of the artist, and the style, medium and texture of which defined the era in which they were created.

Sadly this is not somewhere where you can just pop in and browse. But if you want to find out more follow this link: http://www.maryevans.com/about.php?pageName=about1&prv=%27menu%27

Ahead you will see the church of All Saints, our next stop.

Stop 7: All Saints Church

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All Saints Church dates from 1857 – 1867 and Pevsner describes it as “Puginian … already old fashioned.” going on to say “Remarkable for the way in which it is placed right into the heath. Surrounded on all sides by grass, it stands as if it were a model.”. Yes it does look slightly unreal.

But the other unreal thing about this spot is the fact you can see the tops of some of the Canary Wharf towers in the distance.

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There is so much I could cover here about the heath and the village,

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But I want to press on as there are some things a little further afield I would like to get to. However as a result the rest of the walk is a bit spread out.

From the Church follow the edge of the heath, passing by the Clarendon Hotel and the Princess of Wales pub. Keeping the heath to your left, turn along South Row. Note the rather lovely early 18th century building to your right.

 

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With this crest.

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The crest has the motto “Nihil sine labore” which is often translated as “Without work there is nothing”. In other words you have to work for things.

Continue walking along side the heath and our next stop is on your right.

Stop 8: The Paragon

This is at the other end of the Blackheath Park development and is called The Paragon.

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It is a rather grand sweeping crescent overlooking the heath. It was built over a period of years from 1794 to 1807 and is part of the Cator estate.

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The road is private and guarded by a small lodge at each end. Pevsner says these are post war creations but comments they are “entirely convincing”.

Then just ahead you will see a green space with a gatehouse. That is our next stop, or rather will be, when we get to it.

Stop 9: Morden College

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So far so uninviting. But look to your left and you will see a sign for a footpath – not any old footpath but the “Sir John Morden Walk, London SE3” no less.

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Go down here because that way you can see the historic building at the heart of the college.

Confusingly Morden College is not an educational establishment and self evidently it is not in the place called Morden..

Their website http://www.mordencollege.org.uk/ explains:

“Sir John Morden, born in 1623, was a merchant, a member of both the Turkey (Levant ) Company, and of the East India Company. From 1669, with his wife, Dame Susan, he lived at Wricklemarsh Manor, Blackheath.”

He founded his College to provide accommodation and support for merchants like himself, but who had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own; were single, either widowers or bachelors; of a minimum age of 50 years, and members of the Church of England.

As you walk along the path the main building appears on your right.

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The original College was built between 1695 and 1700 in the style of Wren: This had 40 apartments around a quadrangle, with a Chapel all of which were set in gracious grounds.

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Since the Second World War more accommodation has been built in Blackheath and also Beckenham, raising the capacity from 40 to 400.

So basically this is rather unusual old people’s home.

Keep walking along the path and you will reach a street. this is Kidbrooke Grove. Cross over tis and keep going down the path which leads you to Kidbrooke Park Road. When you get here turn left and go to the end. This is Shooter Hill Road. Hard to believe this is the A2, the main road to North Kent and Dover.

Turn right here and walk on to our next stop.

Stop 10: The Sun in the Sands pub

This is one of those names which you hear a lot on traffic reports as it is a junction on the A2 and Blackwell Tunnel Southern Approach. You cannot immediately see the latter as it runs below the roundabout in a cutting.

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The junction gets its name from a pub, which you can see on the far side of the road interchange.

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This is an unusual pub name and the Dictionary of Pub Names says the name comes from the sight of the setting sun amidst dust, kicked up by sheep herded by drovers from Kent travelling towards London. However Greenwich Council says in its “Sun in the Sands Conservation Area Character Appraisal (Adopted 26 September 2007)” that “The name “Sun in the Sands” refers to the sand pits formerly around the pub.”

This document also says: “A building on this site appears on Rocque’s 1745 map, and this appears on Hasted’s Plan in his 1778 History of Kent. The first reference to a public house appears in the 1790s rate books, the ‘Sun Ale House’ is recorded as such in 1812. This building seems to be the  same as that illustrated in the 1830 watercolour reproduced above on the front page. The present Sun in the Sands Public House is said to date from 1842 – and is believed to have been substantially rebuilt at the end of the 19th century. However comparison of the photos below of the present building with the 1830 drawing shows that the pub retains the same form – wide gable ends and 5 bay width which were there and already ‘old’ in 1830. This suggests that, whilst no doubt much altered and rebuilt, the building frame predates the 1840s and is likely to be substantially the 18th century one seen in the 1830s watercolour.”

So it has a bit of history.

Sad it looks like this, with the Blackwall Tunnel southern approach thundering under the roundabout.

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Now go over to the far side of the roundabout on the other side of the Blackwall Tunnel southern approach road from the Sun in the Sands pub. You will see a pathway which parallels the main road go along this. This leads to a road which you should follow. Take a left at the end (which is Old Dover Road). Go along here through a small shopping area and past a library. Our next stop is just before the end on the left.

Stop 11: site of an old cinema, Old Dover Road

Hard to see now but this M & S Food store is on the site of an old cinema

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The cinema was originally called the Roxy and opened in 1935. The newly built cinema building was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC). According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site “it was not designed by their usual in-house architect W.R. Glen, but by noted theatre architect Bertie Crewe”. It was closed by war-time damage and only reopened in January 1947. It was renamed ABC in 1963 and survived as a cinema until February 1974.

The cinema was demolished in the spring of 1981 and a rather uninspired supermarket structure was built on the site. Not sure what it was when it opened but it is now an M & S.

Go to the end of the road and ahead you will see a green. Cross over to the other side of the green and our final stop is straight ahead.

Stop 12: Pegga Stores, Number 188 Westcombe Hill

This is an old fashioned survivor of a shop. It is called Pegga Stores and sells greeting cards and small gifts

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For 45 years this was the domain of Peggy Hawkes – and Londonist told the story in a great article about the shop in 2016.

http://londonist.com/2016/01/pegga

She had started working at the local newsagents/stationers for an elderly couple, the Munns. Her son, Andrew, cannot be sure 188 Westcombe Hill has been a stationer’s since it was built but he does know the Munns had it for 50 years before they retired, a year or so into Peggy’s employment.

“She was horrified to think she’d lose her job,” says Andrew. “So the family got together and bought the shop.”

For local people Peggy’s passing in December 2015 brought a mixture of sadness, disbelief — she was an institution no one imagined could die — and fear.

“Everyone’s been asking ‘are you going to sell the shop; are you going to change it?’ We’re not. We love it,” says Andrew. “But we will clean.”

“People try to buy the shop all the time,” says Andrew. “We get notes shoved under the door (there’s no letterbox) and people even come in. Mum used to send them away with a flea in their ear.

“Me and Angie are going to give this a go.” Angela Wing worked with Peggy for many years and also has no intention of changing anything.

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The question which does remain unanswered is why is it called Pegga store and not Peggy? Even her son does not the answer to that one.

So we have now reached the end of our SE3 walk. We have seen quite a bit of one of London’s lovely suburban villages with some interesting historic connections, including a college which is not a college and a church which looks like a model.

We are a bit of a way from a station here but you can get buses 54, 108 or 202 back to Blackheath station or else you have buses 108, 286 or 422 to Westcombe Park station

SE2: Knee hill-ism

SE2 is Abbey Wood. This postcode is actually the furthest east of the London postcodes. The area cannot be said to have much of interest and this is somewhat of a contrast to the previous postcode SE1. But as ever we will find enough to entertain ourselves.

We start our walk at Abbey Wood Post Office, 90 Abbey Wood Road, which is in the heart of what is called “Abbey Wood Village”

Stop 1: Abbey Wood Village

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Sadly the reality is a little disappointing. This is not some quaint historic village but a short street of rather nondescript shops. Perhaps the only points worth commenting on is that there seem to be no charity shops and only one empty one. However the selection of shops is somewhat pedestrian.

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Then there is a dull looking pub – the Abbey Arms – at the end.

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There really is not much to detain us in this “village”. Just beyond the pub is our next stop.

Stop 2: Abbey Wood Station

Abbey Wood railway station was opened in 1849, although there is nothing left to suggest that there was an old station here. It is being rebuilt and will be the end of one of the branches of Crossrail. The new station is emerging and will look quite impressive – it certainly will stand out in this otherwise dull area.

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There will be two pairs of platforms by the look of it. On the south side will be the Southeatern services and on the north side will be the new Crossrail services.

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It does not look like they have arranged things so there could be a cross platform interchange with Crossrail. This maybe could have been done if Crossrail lines had been placed in the middle. Thus terminating Crossrail trains could have had a cross platform connection with the Kent bound trains and then they could head out and reverse and go back west from the platform adjacent to the London bound Southeastern services. And if they ever extend Cross rail services into Kent that arrangement would make life easier.

Now retrace you steps back through the “village” and turn left by the Post Office and go under the flyover. This is called Abbey Road and goes under a road called Harrow Manorway.

Stop 3: Harrow Manorway

I pause here because this massive flyover and car park beneath seems quite out of keeping with the area.

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The flyover carries a road called Harrow Manorway and was built in the 1960s to replace a level crossing when nearby Thamesmead was being developed. Here is a view from above, should you be interested. It feels like it should have been part of a bigger road scheme but it just ends here in Abbey Wood.

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Keep walking along Abbey Road. We are heading for Lesnes Abbey.  Lesnes Abbey of course is how the Abbey part of Abbey Wood came about.

Ignore the sign pointing to Lesnes Abbey which sends you up New Road. Instead keep going and you will an open space on you left. Ahead is a concrete bridge over the road. This carries the Green Chain walk – a linked system of open spaces between the River Thames and Crystal Palace Park in South East London.

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It is here you should leave Abbey Road, by climbing the steps and onto the path leading to our next stop.

Stop 4: Lesnes Abbey

This open space contains the ruins of a 12th century Abbey – the Abbey of St Mary and St Thomas the Martyr founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci (or Lucy)

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According to Bexley Council’s website: “De Luci, who had supported Henry II in his dispute with Thomas Becket, which ended with Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, probably founded [the Abbey] as an act of penance.”

“Lesnes was not a large or wealthy foundation. Throughout much of its existence, the abbey was in financial difficulties. This was partly caused by the expense of maintaining the river walls and draining the marshes along the banks of the Thames. This reclamation helped transform the land from unusable marsh to valuable pasture. Nevertheless, the abbey gradually built up debts and through the fourteenth century its buildings fell into neglect.”

It never became a large community, and was closed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525, under a licence to suppress monasteries of less than seven inmates. Lesnes, with only an abbot and five canons, became one of the first monasteries to be suppressed in England. Most of the monastic buildings were pulled down soon after the dissolution, Henry Cooke, who acquired the site in 1541, retained the Abbot’s Lodging for the manor of Lesnes.

It eventually passed to Sir John Hippersley who having salvaged building materials, sold the property to Thomas Hawes of London in 1632. It was then bequeathed to Christ’s Hospital in 1633. They kept it until 1930, when the London County Council purchased it. In 1931 Lesnes Abbey was opened to the public as a park. Ownership transferred to the London Borough of Bexley in 1986.

More info at: http://www.bexley.gov.uk/article/3907/Lesnes-Abbey-ruins

There are a few things to explore here.

Go up to the left and you will see an old Mulberry Tree.

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The sign says this was part of a failed attempt during the reign of King James I in the early 17th century to create home grown silk.

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And beyond that is a viewing area.

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There are plans to provide signage about the park’s history and the landscape beyond and  there is going to be what is called “interpretive abbey windows” to “help to help frame to views across Thamesmead, Woolwich, Dagenham and all the way to central and south east London.” There are just the stubs where the “window” will stand but in the distance you can just about make out the towers of Canary Wharf.

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In the woods behind, there is a “fossil wood” with a rather splendid carved beast of some kind.

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A bit of investigating suggests this is a “Coryphodon” (there is more info about this kind of prehistoric beast on wikipedia if you are interested!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coryphodon )

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I could not see any actual fossils (but maybe I was not looking properly) but they did have some plaques which indications of the kind of fossils I guess were found hereabouts.

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It seems you are sort of free to go rummaging round here to look for fossils – subject to certain rules:

http://www.bexley.gov.uk/article/3912/Fossil-bed

Return back to the ruins, which are worth a little wander round. Within the ruins are some signs to indicate what the various areas were used for.

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Bexley’s website says: “Rosesia was the great granddaughter of Sir Richard de Lucy, and as a young girl she was raised at Lesnes Abbey… She eventually married and moved away, becoming Roesia de Dover. However, when she died her heart was buried at Lesnes Abbey as a relic to be prayed for in order to speed the passage of her soul through purgatory.”

Beyond the main ruins is an enclosed area which is called the Monk’s Garden, which is being developed with plants typical of when this was a religious establishment.

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Now head off towards the new structure with the green roof, which was shut up on my visit but is supposedly a visitor centre of some kind.

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Keeping this building to your right leave the open space and turn right into New Road. Go down New Road to the end and turn left back along Abbey Road. Just before the flyover, turn left into Manorside Close and go along the little path head which takes you up to the roundabout where Harrow Manorway meets Knee Hill, which is our next stop.

Stop 5: Knee Hill

Head up the street called Knee Hill but look out over the open space to your left,

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You will see a stone plaque (almost opposite the end of Federation Road)

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This commemorates a connection with William Morris who lived at the nearby Red House, in Bexleyheath from its completion in 1860 until 1865. Morris regularly walked to Abbey Wood station. He also used a decorated wagon to  travel between Abbey Wood station and Red House, Bexleyheath. Clearly this area was then poorly served by train. In fact the line through Bexleyheath (which today provides a nearer station to Red House) only opened in 1895.

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By the way “Si je puis” (If I can, in English) was Morris’s motto and can be found in a tile in the porch at Red House.

This, it seems, is the nearest Abbey Wood can get to a blue plaque – and it is not even blue and it only commemorates that someone famous passed by!

Now the name of this place brought to mind that it sounded like it might have something to do with nihilism. In philosophy nihilism is: “the belief that nothing in the world has a real existence.”. Perhaps this is kind of fitting for SE2 which is a kind of uninspiring non-place where the only thing which is deemed worth remembering is something so fleeting that it hardly had any real existence.

Now back in the “real” world, take a right into Federation Road.

Stop 6: Caravan Club

Just along here on the left is a surprising sight – a camping and caravan site which is owned and operated by The Caravan Club.

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The Club was founded in 1907 as The Caravan Club of Great Britain and Ireland. Its aim was to “… bring together those interested in van life as a pastime…to improve and supply suitable vans and other appliances…to develop the pastime by collecting, publishing and supplying to members, books and periodicals and lists of camp sites etc… to arrange camping grounds.” Now known simply as the Caravan Club it runs some 200 sites of which this is one of two in Greater London.

Just seems kind of odd to find a place like this here.

Now keep walking along Federation Road

Stop 7: Co-op Estate

The houses here were developed by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS). They owned two farms in the vicinity of Abbey Wood and created the Bostall Estate between 1900 and 1930. The housing is largely traditional terraced houses in yellow London brick, with gardens to the front and rear. This was apparently also known locally as “The Co-op Estate”

The streets are named after Co-operative themes (Alexander McLeod was the first secretary of the RACS, Rochdale was location of the first modern Co-op, Robert Owen is regarded as the father of the Co-operative movement, plus there are streets called Commonwealth, Congress, Conference and Federation). There were some shops but no public houses to tempt the good people of the estate.

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By the way I gather snooker champion Steve Davis lived in Commonwealth Way (don’t know exactly where) and went to Alexander McLeod Primary School and Abbey Wood Secondary School.

In the late 1950s the London County Council built the Abbey Estate starting with one road south of the railway and later extending on the northern side on former RACS marshland. The later in the mid-1960s the Greater London Council began building the first phase of Thamesmead on more ex-RACS land, north-east of Abbey Wood station. But that is now in SE28, so we will have to save that for a future date.

Now take a right down Shieldhall Street and ahead on the other side of McLeod Road is our next stop.

Stop 8: Greening Street Green

My eye was drawn to the open space ahead which is known as Greening Street Green.

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It is a sad space imprisoned in a high wire mesh fence. Not at all inviting. It is almost as if the Council want to stop people using this. No doubt in the past it seemed a good idea to have this high fence stop balls escaping and dogs entering. But it really could be done better.

At the end of Shieldhall Street, I found our next stop.

Stop 9: Numbers 71 – 81 Abbey Wood Road

Facing on to Shieldhall Street and Greening Street are six terraced houses with names. They have the delusion of grandeur in that they are all “villas” despite being quite modest terraced houses.

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Starting on the left there is Stanley and Eric.

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And then there is Marie and Jessamine.

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And finally Hyacinth and Myrtle.

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Presumably these were relatives (or maybe friends) of the developer or builder. These people may have been so proud or honoured to have a house named after them. Their names live on it over the doorways of these six houses but who they were and why their names were chosen is I guess lost in the mists of time.

Walk along Abbey Wood Road as if you had done a right out of Shieldhall Street. Our next stop is ahead on the left

Stop 10: St Michael and All Angels Church

Architectural expert Pevsner normally so effusive in the description of churches simply mentions the existence of this one.

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St. Michael and All Angels Parish Church opened in a temporary building in 1905. The permanent church, designed by well known church architect Sir Arthur Blomfield, was consecrated in 1908, and the original building became the church hall, which can be seen at the western end of the church…

Unusually for a church of this period the foundation stone is modest in the extreme.

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It does not even have a name, just saying “To the Glory of God June 15 1907”.

So that brings us to the end of our SE2 walk – well sort of.

Postscript

There is one thing which is really worth a visit in SE2 but it is a little too far to go to. That is the Crossness Pumping Station – a piece of wonderful Victorian engineering which was a key part of the sewage system created by Sir Joseph Bazelgette (1819 – 1891) in the 1860s.

Crossness is at the eastern end of the Southern Outfall Sewer and the facility included storage tanks and an engine to pump out the sewage on the falling tide.

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The Beam Engine House is a Grade 1 Listed Industrial Building constructed in the Romanesque style and features some spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork. Today the Engine House is open for visits but the times are limited. See attached link:

http://www.crossness.org.uk/visit.html

A word of warning – according to TfL Journey Planner, the nearest bus stop to the Crossness site is some 28 minutes walk away. So probably best to use your own transport if you want to visit.

Well that really brings us to the end of our SE2 walk. Not the most inspiring postcode but even so it had the remains of a medieval abbey and a reminder that William Morris passed through here on the way to his house.

Assuming you did not go to Crossness you will see that you are virtually back to Abbey Wood station for onward travel.

 

 

 

E20: The Games the thing

E20 is London’s newest postcode. It is basically the Olympic park and was carved out of E15. Here is a press notice from Royal Mail explaining its creation:

http://www.royalmail.com/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/Olympics_statement_for_pafnewsc.pdf

And one might add this postcode has the distinction of being the only one where almost everything is 21st century.

So far there is no post office in E20 so we will begin our journey where many people will. That is Stratford Station. I suggest you go out on the “town” side of the station so you can then do a U turn and go back over the railway on the large pedestrian bridge.

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Stop 1: Westfield Stratford shopping centre

The centre opened on 13 September 2011. According to Wikipedia, it is the third- argest shopping centre in the United Kingdom by retail space behind the MetroCentre and the Trafford Centre. But taking the surrounding shopping area into account, it is the largest urban shopping centre in the European Union in terms of size.

Now one of the features of 21st Century shopping developments are these outdoor/indoor streets. This runs to the left of the main Mall and I suggest you go along here.

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The reason is that you get some views if you look down to the left. First there is the ArcelorMittal Orbit which we shall get to at the end.

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And just a little further on, you can see the former Olympic Stadium.

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Now head on into the Mall itself and you will see that unusually it has three levels of shops.

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I have to say though I think the Westfield at Shepherds Bush is nicer. It just feels more spacious and has a better layout with the large open area in the middle with the food offering.

The anchor stores at Stratford are M & S (at the “town” end) and John Lewis (at the “far” end). Given the size of the place, Debenhams or House of Fraser are conspicuous by their absence. Maybe this was the price of getting John Lewis here.

It is worth a detour into the John Lewis store because you can get a view out over the Olympic Park. First go to the second floor – to the side directly opposite where you came in..

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There is also an equivalent area with a view on the third floor, although the dedicated viewing area does not seem to be open. The sign says this is for a private function.

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But if you go to the side of this, you can peek in.

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And discover that the shop is using the area as a dumping ground! Not quite what you expect at John Lewis.

But you can look through the window at the view. The pattern on the window makes for a pretty picture.

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Now exit the shopping mall, and go down the steps.

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Just ahead is our next stop.

Stop 2: Stratford International station

Now here’s a funny thing. this station is called Stratford International to differentiate it from the main station which is simply called Stratford. You would think that the “international” tag might mean you could get a train going to foreign parts, especially as the Eurostar trains pass through here. But no. Although this station was designed to allow international trains to stop, they never ever have, and there seems no prospect of them ever doing so. So the station name is a little misleading to say the least.

In fact there are two stations here.

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One is served by the Southeastern High Speed trains running from St Pancras International to destinations in Kent.

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This has a large airy concourse and is the first you get to from the Westfield shopping mall.

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It is much bigger than it needs to be and part of the reason for this is that it was supposed to have more services, in particular international ones. Indeed you can see a whole section which has never been used by the public, which I guess would be where the international passengers might have gone through.

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And downstairs there are platforms which are not used at all.

At the end of the concourse furthest from the shopping centre is a little plaque to remind us of what was here before.

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This reads: Stratford Depot was here from 1839 to 2006 when it was the largest traincrew depot in Europe. The Eastern Counties and Great Eastern Railways built engines and trains on this site. The world record for the fastest build of a steam engine is still held by the Old Stratford Works, part of the Depot, and stands at 9hr 47min. This plaque commemorates the thousands of railway workers who worked at Stratford Depot.”

And there is a logo of High Speed 1, which is another name for the Channel Tunnel Rail link. But sadly there is nothing left of the actual works today.

Then just beyond, there is the Docklands Light Railway station which is a much simpler affair, without an enclosed concourse..

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And you can look down to the tracks below.

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Now do a bit of a U turn and have a look at the building going up at the corner.

Stop 3: Manhattan Loft Gardens

This is a 42-storey building which consists of a 150 room hotel at the lower levels with a 34 storey residential tower above with 248 residential units.

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It is designed by internationally renown architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Their website says

“The design aims to promote social interaction and reflect the area’s diversity. Amenities include leisure facilities, a swimming pool, a spa, meeting and conference spaces, and a roof garden that overlooks Olympic Park. The building also features a series of sky gardens that ensure residents are never more than nine stories from an outdoor space.”

There are lots of information panels on the hoardings around the site.

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There may be unobstructed views out from the tower but it seems that the tower itself spoils the protected view of St Paul’s from King Henry’s Mound in Richmond Park. See this article from the Guardian on 23 November 2016.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/23/london-mayor-urged-to-act-over-tower-that-compromises-st-pauls-view

King Henry’s Mound is 15.5km (9.6 miles) from St Paul’s Cathedral and the Manhattan Loft Gardens development is a further 7km (4.35 miles) beyond that, making the new building around 22km (14 miles) from Richmond.

It seems incredible that a view that has been protected for so long should be spoiled by what seems to be an oversight. No one thought that a building so far away could mar the view, I guess.

Now head away from the shopping mall along the broad boulevard, which goes by the name of Celebration Avenue.

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This is not the only name round here which has just a whiff of 1984 and Big Brother. Further on we will see Victory Park and Prize Walk.

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Take a right turn at Liberty Bridge Road. Ahead just after the corner of Cheering Lane (another 1984 name) is our next stop.

Stop 4: Sir Ludwig Guttman Health and Wellbeing Centre

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Sir Ludwig Guttmann (1899 – 1980) was a German-born Jewish doctor who had escaped Nazi Germany just before the start of the Second World War. He is considered to be one of the founding fathers of organised physical activities for people with a disability. His role in establishing the Paralympics is why he gives his name to a health centre on the Olympic Park.

The site here was actually used for the 2012 Olympics Medical and Doping Centre, and was then adapted for NHS use post-Games.

The building uses a number of green technologies. Rainwater is collected to flush toilets; a green roof has been planted to improve biodiversity and reduce roof temperatures; and electricity, heating and cooling is fed from the energy efficient combined heat and power plant scheme that supplies the Olympic Park.

Now go down Cheering Lane and our next stop is ahead.

Stop 5: Chobham Academy

These buildings that were first used during the 2012 Summer Olympics as the main base for organising and managing teams. They were rebuilt after the games to become an education campus consisting of a nursery, a primary school, a secondary school, a sixth form and an adult learning facility. It opened in September 2013.

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And just outside the Academy is this red marble wall with an inscription.

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This is by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892) from his epic poem “Ulysses” written in 1833 and published in 1842.

“.. that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

It seems that this quote popped up in the 2012 James Bond movie “Skyfall” when it was deployed by no less than Dame Judi Dench.

There is a nice blog about this here:

https://blogs.surrey.ac.uk/english/2012/11/04/skyfall-bond-and-tennyson/

Follow the road round and take a right back into Celebration Avenue. Keep going past Honour Lea Avenue.

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(Makes me think of the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” except he came from the land of Honali or possibly Honalee. Not that he actually came from anywhere as he was not not real)

Here Temple Mill Lane comes in from the right and does a 90 degree turn so straight ahead is also Temple Mill Lane. Then go left into Abercrombie Road, presumably named after Sir Patrick Abercrombie (1879 – 1957) who was best known for the post-Second World War replanning of London.

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Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 6: The Lee valley Velopark

You can see the Velodrome in the distance, but there are also some outdoor facilities.

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But the Velodrome itself is the star here. It is one of the iconic buidling of the Olympic Park.

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But actually to build this meant destroying the Eastway Cycle circuit which had been created in 1975. Here is a piece mourning the loss of Eastway:

Eastway 1975 – 2006 Ten Years Gone

This concludes: “Although there is now a world class Velodrome, the Velopark lacks what Eastway had – community and usability”

Just beyond the Velodrome building is a docking station for the bike hire scheme.

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There was a not a single bike available in the racks. Mind you there were almost no people here when I visited!

Keep walking and go over the bridge and then turn left. You will see some Olympic Rings on your left.

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I wondered why there was no colour but walking on, you discover that this is the back and the rings are coloured on the other side.

A little further on we get to the Paralympic symbol which comprises three “agitos”, coloured red, blue, and green, in an asymmetrical crescent . (“agito” means “I move” in Latin)

The picture below is taken looking back so we see the “front” and if you closely at the picture you can see the Olympic rings in colour in the far distance.

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As we walk along you will see one of the other Olympic venues on your right. This is the Copper Box Arena, used for handball, modern pentathlon, fencing and goalball during the 2012 Games. It has retractable seating for up to 7,500 spectators, and can host a wide range of different sports and activities including basketball, wheelchair basketball, handball, volleyball, netball, fencing, badminton and gymnastics.

I have to say that this is not the most inspiring building, and it is not even copper coloured!

In front of the Copper Box are three letters spelling the word “run”

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Keep walking and you will come across the next stop.

But do look over to you left back towards Stratford, and the Manhattan Loft Gardens building and the Westfield shopping centre

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If you had been looking the other way you see the City, although it seems strangely small from this angle..

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Keep walking ahead crossing over the road.

Stop 7: Mandeville Place

Then stop at this seemingly random selection of brick columns and other stuff. It actually has a story.

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According to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park website:

“The name Mandeville Place has been chosen to reflect the fact that the Paralympics started in Stoke Mandeville, England in 1952, and after the 2012 Mascot, Mandeville.
Taking inspiration from the use of apples in the 2012 Opening Ceremony, Mandeville Place features a stunning orchard … the area brings together apple and other fruit trees with man-made elements, such as a pavilion made from the original Athletes Village Paralympic Wall.”

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Our next stop is just ahead on the left.

Stop 8: Carpenters Road Lock

Finally we get to see a little reminder of what was here before the Olympic park.

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This is possibly the oldest thing we have seen. It is called Carpenters Road lock.

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It is located on the Bow Back Rivers and was constructed in 1933/34. It is apparently the only lock in Britain with rising radial gates at both ends (not sure what this actually means!). British Waterways, the then owners, were hoping to restore it as part of the upgrade to Bow Back Rivers which took place for the London 2012 Games. However the gantries which enabled the gates to be raised were demolished to accommodate a wide bridge giving access to the main stadium. After the games, most of the overbridge was removed. Now it seems funding for the restoration of the lock has been found and the lock is due to be brought back into use in 2017. Mind you when I was there, no one seemed to be working at the site so who knows.

From here you get a great view of our next stop.

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Stop 9: The London Stadium

Now we can hardly come to the Olympic Park and not see the main stadium.

This has some impressive screens

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It was built as the principal stadium for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, hosting the track and field events and opening and closing ceremonies. It has subsequently been renovated as a multi-purpose stadium, with its primary tenants being West Ham United Football Club and British Athletics, although there is some controversy about the deal and its finances. There is also some concern about the building’s suitability to operate both as a football ground and an athletics venue, given they have different spectator needs and it seems the costs of switching from one sport to another has been wildly underestimated.

Our next stop is just to the left of the Stadium.

Stop 10: ArcelorMittal Orbit

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This is the largest piece of public art in the UK standing some 114.5 metres tall. It was built for the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and intended to be a permanent lasting legacy of London’s hosting of the games. Situated between the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, it allows visitors to view the whole Olympic Park from two observation platforms.

Orbit was designed by Turner-Prize winning artist Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond of engineering Group Arup.

The project was said to have cost £19.1 million, with £16 million coming from steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman of the ArcelorMittal steel company, and the balance of £3.1 million coming from the London Development Agency.

The name “ArcelorMittal Orbit” combines the name of Mittal’s company, as chief sponsor, with “Orbit”, the original working title for Kapoor and Balmond’s design.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit closed after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, while the this area of the Park was reconfigured for a public outdoor space. It reopened to the public on 5 April 2014.

In the summer of 2016, the structure was modified to incorporate the world’s tallest and longest (178 metres) tunnel slide. This was designed by Carsten Höller who had previously put slides into Tate Modern.

Basically this is a way of getting more visitors here. You can peek through the railings and see where the slide comes out. From time to time a person does pop out, but it did not seem very busy when I was there.

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Just by here is another artwork, called Pixel Wall.

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There is a sign which has clearly been ignored.

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And indeed when I was there it was being ignored!

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Now our next stop is just over the way and is another of the iconic building of the Olympic Park

Stop 11: Aquatics Centre

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This was actually designed by architect Zaha Hadid in 2004 before London won the bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. It was built alongside the Water Polo Arena, and across the Waterworks River from the Olympic Stadium.

The complex has a 50m competition pool, a 25m competition diving pool and a 50m warm-up pool. Because the centre was designed before the Olympic bid was completed, the spectator wings were not part of the original design. They were later added to give the venue a capacity of 17,500 and made it look rather ugly.

The two temporary “wings” have been removed, reducing the capacity to a regular 2,500 with an additional 1,000 seats available for major events. And it has regained it sinuous profile.

Here is a slightly surreal picture of me taking a picture of the glass end wall.

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But in some places you can go up to the windows and look in, although it was remarkably hard to get a picture because of the reflections.

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Stop 12: Since 9/11 memorial

Now go to the left of the Aquatic Centre and down the path to the car park. you will see our next stop on a little mound across the way on your left. Go round and back up to it. This is the “Since 9/11” memorial.

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It is made from steel from the World Trade Centre which was destroyed in the attack on 11 September 2001. It was created by american artist, Miyo Ando.

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“Since 9/11” is an educational charity based in Britain which supports pupils to learn about the events, causes and consequences of 9/11.  According to the BBC, the 28ft tall artwork was gifted to the UK by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2010 on the condition it was permanently sited. It was originally placed in Battersea Park in 2011 but  was removed after a few weeks. It languished in storage until this home was found.  The then Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled it here in March 2015.

Well we are now at the end of our E20 walk, and one that has been unique given the fact that this is basically a new district. It is a huge area and one wonders how long it would have taken to redevelop if the Olympics had not provided the impetus. And whatever you might think of the developments, it does seem some thought has gone into to making this a “place”, albeit something quite different from what we are used to in London.

We are now close to the Westfield Shopping centre and Stratford International station. You can either go from there or else walk through the shopping centre to the main Stratford station where there are many more options for onward travel.

 

 

E19 does not exist as a postcode

It is strange that when the Royal Mail came to create a new postcode for the Olympic Park they christened it E20 when the highest numbered E postcode was E18. It was even odder when one considers that the BBC had chosen to locate the soap opera Eastenders in the fictional district of Walford and gave that the postcode E20.

Why is there no E19? Who knows?

But in the absence of a proper E19, I thought I might do a little walk around E1W which is a sub division of E1 – the W substitutes for the 9 if you see what I mean.

We start our walk at Wapping Post Office which is at 52 Wapping Lane. Turn left out and walk along Wapping Lane. Our first stop is ahead on the right..

Stop 1: St Peter’s Church

This church has an unassuming street frontage, and you might almost miss the fact there is actually a church here.

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But the signs on the outside give a clue that this is no ordinary church.

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There is a clergy house, as well.

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The entrance to the church is via a small courtyard. Do go inside, if you can.

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This is high Victorian and high church. Although it is a Church of England it is almost more catholic than a catholic church.

This church was begun in 1865 and architectural expert Pevsner says this was important in the rise of Anglo-Catholicism. It originated as a “mission” church of St George in the East in Stepney.

But all is not what it seems. In fact the west end of this church, although designed in between 1884 and 1894 was not actually completed until 1939. And then it was badly damaged by bombing so what we see today is a post war reconstruction.

Pevsner describes the church as having “A muscular exterior” and “The atmospheric interior is equally muscular”.

Now continue along the street and you will see a green with a bus stop. This is our next stop.

Stop 2: The Wapping Health Centre bus stop and its role in a mini movie

This bus stop features in a little YouTube video dating from 2013.

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This was to promote the Freedom Pass, London’s concessionary travel pass for older and disabled people. It featured the Ladies who Bus who were travelling on every London bus route using their Freedom Pass. They were by the way the inspiration for my project of walking London one postcode at a time.

So here is a link to YouTube where you can watch this masterpiece. At the time (Summer 2013) I was responsible for managing the Freedom Pass scheme, amongst other things. I pop up in the video in three ways. You will see my signature at the start, I am a passenger on the bus (if you know where to look) and I did the narration!

It was mainly filmed with a hired bus on the streets of Wapping on a Sunday morning. It was fun to do, even though it was a long day!

Strangely this did not lead a flourishing media career for me.

Now continue walking along Wapping Lane. Our next stop is ahead a little way on the left.

Stop 3: Tobacco Dock

Having gone over a bridge you will see the entrance to what is today called Tobacco Dock.

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This was part of the London Docks built between 1799 and 1815. London Docks specialised in high value luxury commodities such as ivory, spices, coffee and cocoa as well as wine and wool. The actual bit called Tobacco Dock was a small linking pool between the much larger western and eastern docks. Much of these docks have been filled and most of the buildings have been demolished. But on the north side some impressive buildings remain. These were part of a Tobacco Warehouse dating from the early 1810s.

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They were converted into shops in the 1980s – the idea was to create a kind of Covent Garden style attraction. This predictably failed given the location. Today the site is used for corporate and commercial events and there is some space for start up businesses. But it could perhaps be so much more.

Now walk along the waterside.

Looking ahead you will the Shard.

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Follow the waterway. It is hard to believe you are so close to the City. You could almost be Holland.

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The waterway turns to the left. As it turns look back and you can see the tower of St George in the East in Stepney which I mentioned in connection with St Peter’s Church. St George was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and consecrated in 1729.

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Then the waterway turns to the right. Ahead you will see the Shard, again.

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And behind is Canary Wharf

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Keep walking ahead and go under the roadway. Ahead you will see our next stop.

Stop 4: Hermitage Basin

This basin was added to the London Docks between 1811 and 1821 to create a second entrance. Pevsner says it closed in 1909. It now has a row of modern housing and a sculpture called “Rope Circle” and is by Wendy Taylor. This sculpture dates from 1997 and is made out of ships hawsers which have been shaped and stiffened to keep their form. The Sculptor’s studio was in the old pump house at the other end of the Basin.

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The brick building on the far side is was a pumping station which was used to maintain the water level in the dock basin.

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It has a Port of London Authority marker with the date 1914.

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Now go back to the road and go down towards the river where you will see a garden in front of you. This is our next stop.

Stop 5: Hermitage Memorial Riverside Garden

This was part of the site of the Hermitage Wharf which was destroyed in a firebomb raid in December 1940. When the land came up for redevelopment there was a requirement to keep some of the river front accessible to the public.

And fittingly the garden which was built here commemorates the civilians who died in the London blitz which commenced on 7 September 1940 and ended on 10 May 1941.

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You get a great view of towards Tower Bridge and the Shard from here.

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There is a sculptural memorial here with a bird shape cut out. And if you stand in the right place you can see the Shard through the bird.

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But the overall effect is a little uninspiring. This south facing site has such potential. But I guess we have to be grateful that it was not all built over.

Now exit the gardens as if you are walking away from the City and head down the street paralleling the river. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 6 Wapping Pier Head (and the Town of Ramsgate pub)

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This group of early 19th century houses on either side of a garden is called Pier Head even though there does not appear to be a pier here. The garden was in fact where the original main entrance into London Docks ran from the Thames. Pevsner says the garden was created in the early 1960s on the filled in dock.

Just past the Pier Head is the one of Wapping’s riverside pubs – The Town of Ramsgate.

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It is an atmospheric pub, long and thin, with delightful old fittings – eventually leading to a river terrace.

Following is the story of the pub as told on their own website (please excuse their grammar and punctuation):

“The first pub on the site probably originated during the Wars of the Roses in the 1460s and was called The Hostel.

During more peaceful times in 1533 it became known as The Red Cow, a reference to the bar maid working at the time. The notorious Judge Jeffreys was caught outside the ale house as he tried to escape disguised as a sailor on a collier bound for Hamburg after the Glorious Revolution of 1688; which overthrew King James II. Presiding over the Bloody Assizes after Monmouth’s unsuccessful rebellion against James II, Judge Jeffreys had taken great pleasure in sending hundreds to their execution, and in abusing their attorney’s, which was a costly mistake as one of them recognised him resulting in his capture.

In 1766 the pub became known as Ramsgate Old Town and by 1811 it had again took on a new identity known as The Town of Ramsgate. The reference to Ramsgate became about after the fishermen of Ramsgate who landed their catches at Wapping Old Stairs. They chose to do so as to avoid the river taxes which had been imposed higher up the river close to Billingsgate Fish Market. Ramsgate harbour of 1850 features in the pub sign and is also etched on the mirror near the entrance to the pub.

As for the Wapping Old Stairs next door, they also have a bloody history.

If you visit during low tide, you can still see the post to which condemned pirates were chained to drown as the tide rose. The Stairs were made famous in Rawlinson’s cartoon and Dibden’s poems. John Banks came here, with Captain Bligh to inspect the Bounty before purchasing it for the ill-fated voyage to Tahiti. More happily, many returning sailors were met by their sweethearts on the Old Stairs at the end of a voyage. The silent question that must have been on many sailor’s lips is answered by a verse on the wall of the pub.
“Your Polly has never been faithless she swears, since last year we parted on Wapping Old Stairs.”

Here is a link to the relevant page: http://townoframsgate.pub/?page_id=13

The street here still has the feel of it being a warehouse area, with the metal bridges going over the street.

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Keep walking along the High Street.

Stop 7: Metropolitan Police – Marine Policing Unit

Just along here are some property belonging to the Police. First you come to this modern building.

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And just here you can go down towards the river and see the pier which is used by the police boats. If you closely you might just spot the traditional Metropolitan Police blue lamp on the pier. Also note ahead you can see Canary Wharf.

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And then there is this older building with a blue plaque.

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Note the date of founding is 1798. This predates the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. The Marine Police Force is considered the first preventive police unit in the history of policing in England and it was originally financed by shipping companies to address the theft of cargo from London’s docks. It merged with the Met in 1839.

Today the Marine Policing Unit is responsible for waterborne policing of the 47 miles of the Thames between Hampton Court in the west and Dartford Creek in the east.

Now cross the road and go though the little park. This was the former churchyard of St John’s church which we shall see shortly. The park was created in 1951 and is bounded by high walls which were in fact the walls of the London Docks.

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There is an intriguing little green sign up on the far wall.

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This commemorates an event in the mid 17th century during the time of the English Civil War. The area had wharves then but this was before the building of the docks.

Go through the archway and turn right. Our next stop is straight ahead on the corner of a street called Green Bank.

Stop 8: The Turk’s Head

This former pub dates from between the wars according to Pevsner.

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It is now a cafe, as explained on the little plaque at the front.

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This has an interesting stone on the first floor level by the corner.

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It says “Bird Street Erected Anna Dom 1706” and below there is a rider which says “Rebuilt 1766 and 1927”

Our next stop is just a little way down the street from the Turk’s head.

Stop 9: former St John’s Church

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This church was built in 1756, but it was largely destroyed in the Blitz. The tower was restored in the 1960s and later flats were created within the outer walls in the 1990s.

Walk to the end of the street and turn left and continue along the High Street. Our next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 10: Wapping Station

This does not look much of a station and it isn’t.

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Go downstairs and you find these really narrow platforms which feel rather unsafe even when no one else is there.

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The walls feature a number of drawings of the area round the station and telling some of the history..

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The one shown below is particularly significant as it shows a cross section of the tunnel as it was being built.

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And this of course is no ordinary tunnel and there is something rather interesting which you can just about see from the platforms – the original tunnel mouth – or rather mouths.

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This is in fact the first tunnel known to have been constructed successfully underneath a navigable river. It was built between 1825 and 1843 using a newly invented tunnelling shield technology, by Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The tunnel was originally designed for horse-drawn carriages, but the money ran out and the ramps to get down the  carriages to the tunnel were never built. It became a pedestrian tunnel and then later a railway tunnel.

On occasion in the past, when the railway has been shut for various reasons it has been possible to walk the tunnel.

I did this a couple of years ago and wrote about it on my other blog:

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

Now back on the surface, turn right out of the station and keep on walk along the High Street and then follow it round as it becomes Wapping Wall, where our next stop is on the right.

Stop 11: The Prospect of Whitby pub

No visit to Wapping is really complete without a visit to the venerable Prospect of Whitby pub.

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This is one of those great riverside pubs. It claims to be London’s oldest riverside pub dating back to 1520 (but who really knows – note the Town of Ramsgate claims to have an even older origin). It is called the Prospect of Whitby after a ship which brought coal from North England and which was frequently moored nearby in the early 19th century.

This is what the pub’s website says:

“The Prospect Of Whitby is London’s oldest riverside pub dating back to 1520. The original flagstone floor survives and the pub also has a rare pewter-topped bar as well as old barrels and ships masts built into the structure. Most areas of the pub have spectacular views over the River Thames, including the beer garden and first floor balcony and terrace. The pub was originally frequented by those involved in life on the river and sea and it was a notorious haunt for smugglers, thieves and pirates.

Other notable customers have been Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, Judge Jeffries and artists Whistler and Turner. In more recent history the Prospect was a favourite during the 1960’s with celebrities and royalty including Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman, Glenn Ford, Rod Steiger, Princess Margaret and Prince Rainier. The public house features briefly in an episode of Only Fools And Horses. When Uncle Albert goes missing in one episode, Del Boy and Rodney travel around London looking for him. Nicholas Lyndhurst is shown in one scene walking out of the pub. There is also a scene from the 1956 film D-Day the Sixth of June starring Robert Taylor and Richard Todd where Taylor’s character is seen with Dana Wynter’s character having drinks together during the Second World War in London.”

It was originally called the Pelican which explains the name of some steps on the right hand side which lead down to the river.

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If you go down here you will see an odd sight when you get to the river.

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Yes you can see a hangman’s noose (and of course Canary Wharf).

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Why you may ask. Apparently it is a reminder that this was the hostelry of choice for “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys who lived nearby. He was chased by anti-Royalists into the nearby Town of Ramsgate, as we just heard.

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 12: Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station

This impressive red brick structure was built by the London Hydraulic Power Company, and has the date 1890 on the side.

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Hydraulic Power was a 19th century solution used to run lifts, cranes and workshop and theatre machinery before electric motors were powerful enough. This system avoided the need to have individual steam engines at each location. Basically each site was hooked up to a pressurised water main which could be used to power machinery. And this required pumping stations – initially run by steam and later by electricity.

The London company provided hydraulic power across central London north of the Thames and at its height had five pumping stations. Wapping was the last to be built and was the last to close (in 1977).

It has been used as an exhibition and restaurant space but now seems to be closed, which is a shame as it has quite a lot of the original equipment inside apparently.

Just here is Shadwell Basin and from the bridge over the water you can look east and see Canary Wharf.

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And to the west you can see the City.

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We are now at the end of our Wapping walk. This is a fascinating area of old and new and it is sometimes hard to believe you are so close in to central London. Sometimes it is even hard to believe you are actually in England.

Just here you can get a D3 bus to Limehouse or Shadwell station, or else it is a short walk back to Wapping station on the Overground.