N5: Arsenal behind

N5 is Highbury and also Arsenal – and whenever I hear the word Arsenal I am transported back many years to a Department Store where I heard two shop assistants discussing a previous customer who was by all accounts rather large. One said to the other: “Yes she was rather big – Arse ‘n all behind.” And ever since I think of that whenever I hear the word Arsenal is mentioned.

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Now we start out walk at what used to be Highbury Corner Post Office but which seems to have been closed, whilst Transport for London rebuild the bridge over the railway lines here. Not sure if it will ever reopen but no matter I am going to start the walk here for convenience. And our first stop is the actual station itself.

Stop 1: Highbury and Islington station

The first station here opened in 1872 by the North London Railway (NLR), although the line had been built in the 1850s. This was on the site of the present station building and was apparently a rather grand Victorian gothic building. Unfortunately this was destroyed by a V1 flying bomb in 1944 and the present building was put up when the Victoria line got here in the 1960s.

Then there was a second station which was on the deep level tube line built by Great Northern & City Railway (GN & CR) between Finsbury Park and Moorgate and which opened in June 1904.

When the Victoria line was built the deep level station was reconstructed so that the southbound Victoria line took over the original northbound GN & CR platform and two new northbound platforms were built for the two underground lines. Escalators were added and these went into the NLR station, creating a single station.

It has since become even more important as an interchange station. Transport for London has improved and expanded the services on the North London line, in particular reinstating the curve at Dalston and linking to the East London line to allow trains to run from here right down to New Cross, West Croydon and Crystal Palace.

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Notice the platform numbering. One of the quirks of this station is that the surface platforms are numbered 1, 2, 7 and 8 whilst the Underground ones are numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6. This is because platforms 7 and 8 were only reinstated in 2011 with the opening of the link to the East London line, and I guess it was too difficult and/or confusing to change the numbers.

But look across the road and you can quite clearly see the old 1904 Underground station with its gaudy orange paint. Apparently this was refurbished in 2006 and it houses signalling equipment for the Victoria Line.

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Now cross the road to the left of the current station entrance at the crossing.

Stop 2: Number 18 Highbury Corner

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Located to the left of the old 1904 station is a building which looks like it should have been a cinema. Actually it was built as the Temperance Billiard Hall. It did have a brief period from around 1909 to possibly 1912 when it showed films and was known as the Electric Cinema Theatre. It went back to being a billiard hall and later became a night club which is what it is today.

Now pass in front of the old station building you saw from across the road and take the first left and keep on the left, and you will soon reach the back of the old station building, which is almost a mirror image of the front,

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Retrace your steps to the corner where you will see our next stop

Stop 3: Boer War memorial

Just across the way from the back entrance of the old station is a rather attractive war memorial in an unusual garden setting.

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And if you look on the plaque it explains it is a memorial to the 98 Islingtonians who died in the South African War 1899 – 1903.

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Our next stop is just across the road to the right of the monument if you have your back to the station.

Stop 4: Number 1, Highbury Place

Along the right hand side of this road (Highbury Place) is a very handsome terrace of houses with a couple of points of interest.

First is number 1, which was home to an art school set up by painter Walter Sickert (1860 – 1942) and was his studio from 1927 to 1934.

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We came across Mr Sickert in NW1 where there is a blue plaque to him in Mornington Crescent. It seemed he moved about a bit but he was here a few years in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Keep walking along Highbury Place

Stop 5: Number 25 Highbury Place

And then a little further up at Number 25 was the childhood home of Joseph Chamberlain (1836 – 1914).

He was an important politician, having been Mayor of Birmingham from 1873 and MP for Birmingham – later Birmingham West – from 1876 to 1914.  He was a very influential figure who shaped the political agenda when the British Empire was at the height of its power.

He had two sons who also went into politics – Austen Chamberlain who became Chancellor of the Exchequer and Neville Chamberlain who is now best remembered as the Prime Minister who tried to appease Hitler and failed.

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Joseph Chamberlain was Colonial Secretary from 1895 to 1903 and which was the time of the second Boer War, so it interesting that the Islington Boer War memorial should be so close to his childhood home.

He was actually born in Camberwell, south London. He moved to  Islington in 1845 but in 1854, aged 18, he went to Birmingham, where he made his fortune in the screwmaking business. But it seems he never forgot this part of the world as when he built his mansion in Birmingham he called it “Highbury”.

Our next stop is the green across the road.

Stop 6 Highbury Fields

As we heard in N4, there was a grand plan to create a huge park in the mid Victorian period. We saw the northern end which is today’s Finsbury park. And here in Highbury we have what would have been the southern part.

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This is a lot smaller than Finsbury Park but it is as well it did get saved as an open space as there are precious few in this part of town.

Continue along Highbury Place and just before the road runs out take a right turn into Baalbec Road.

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(interesting name by the way. Baalbec (or Baalbeck) is in modern day Lebanon. And there are some other odd named streets nearby: Corsica, Calabria, Liberia and Gallia. Not sure whether there is any connection and if so what it might be)

Our next stop is at the end on the right hand corner.

Stop 7: Ashhurst Lodge, 145 Highbury Grove

Today there is a modern block of flats called Ashhurst Lodge but this was once the site of a house of the same name.

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And its claim to fame is that this was the home of a certain Charles Cruft (1852 – 1938).

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According to the official Crufts website, the young Charles left college in 1876 with no desire to join the family jewellery business. Instead he took employment with James Spratt who had set up a new venture in Holborn, London selling ‘dog cakes’.

He was ambitious and a relatively short apprenticeship as an office boy led to promotion to travelling salesman. This brought him into contact with large estates and sporting kennels. His next career move with Spratts saw him travelling to Europe and in 1878, French dog breeders, perhaps seeing entrepreneurial talents in Cruft, invited him to organise the promotion of the canine section of the Paris Exhibition.

Back in England in 1886 he took up the management of the Allied Terrier Club Show at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster. It was in 1891 that the first Cruft’s show was booked into the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington (as we saw in our N1 walk) and it has evolved from there.

After his death in 1938, his widow, Emma Cruft ran the show for four years. It was not held from 1942 to 1947 due to the Second World War. And in 1948 the Kennel Club took over running it from Emma Cruft. Since then Crufts has grown and grown and it now claims to be the largest dog show in the world.

Useless fact: Cruft’s changed to Crufts in 1974. It was decided that the apostrophe was no longer needed.

Continue along Highbury Grove and take the second turning on the right. This is a private estate called Aberdeen Park. Note the signs saying you are not protected by insurance!

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Take the first left and then the next left and soon you reach a gate across the street.

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It looks like you cannot get through but there is in fact a way for pedestrians. And once you pass through you leave Aberdeen Park and enter Aberdeen Road, which is a public road.

Just beyond the gate on the left hand side of the road is number 11 – our next stop.

Stop 8: Number 11 Aberdeen Road

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This was the home of fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969 – 2010) from 2001 until 2005.

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McQueen, known to his friends by his first name Lee, was the bad boy of fashion. He was chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and went on to found his own Alexander McQueen label. He was awarded four British Designer of the Year awards (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003). But he had a troubled life and killed himself following the death of his mother.

If you want to learn more of his life and death, there is a full account written in true Daily Mail style. It is based on a recent biography: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2933678/Dark-fashion-fawned-fashion-world-awarded-CBE-new-biography-brilliant-designer-Alexander-McQueen-reveals-glamour-lay-man-prone-shocking-depravity-cruelty.html

Continue along Aberdeen Road and turn left at the end into Highbury Grange. At the main road (Highbury Park) turn left and you will see our next stop ahead on the left

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Stop 9: Highbury Barn Tavern

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Now go into the paved area by the side of the pub and if you look up to the left end of the building you will see this Islington Green Plaque.

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The story goes that Highbury Manor was given to the Knights Templars in the late 13th Century. In 1381, during the Peasants’ Revolt, Jack Straw led a mob of 20,000 rioters who were “so offended by the wealth and haughtiness” of the Knights Hospitallers that they destroyed the manor house. Jack Straw and some of his followers used the site as a temporary headquarters, so the derelict manor became known for the next 500 years as Jack Straw’s Castle. This is not of course to be confused with the better known Jack Straw’s Castle on Hampstead Heath which we saw in our travels through NW3.

John Dawes, a wealthy stockbroker, acquired the site of Jack Straw’s Castle together with some surrounding land. In 1781 he built Highbury House where Highbury Manor had stood. But the estate did not last long. The grounds around Highbury House started to be sold off in 1794. By 1894 Highbury House and its remaining grounds became a school and in 1938 Highbury House was demolished. It is now the site of Eton House flats (on Leigh Road)

Now retrace your steps along Highbury Park and turn left into Aubert Park. (named after Alexander Aubert (1730 – 1805) who by the way bought Highbury House in 1788. He was an eminent amateur astronomer)

Stop at the junction with Avenell Road which is the second turning on the right. 

Stop 10: Two stadium views

We are heading for the old Arsenal stadium which closed in 2006 but there is one spot where you can see both the old and the new ones, here on the corner of Aubert Park and Avenell Road

Here is the view straight ahead along Aubert Park where you see the new stadium looming up.

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And turn down Avenell Road and you can see the East Stand of the old stadium.

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Now go down Avenell Road to the East Stand of the old stadium.

Stop 11: Former Arsenal stadium

As you probably know Arsenal Football Club started life in Woolwich. In 1913 Woolwich Arsenal Football Club moved to Highbury and dropped Woolwich from its name. Their chairman Sir Henry Norris took a 20-year lease on part of the grounds of St John’s Hall (which had started life as a College of Divinity) for £20,000 for their new home.

By 1925 the club was able to purchase the freehold. The entire stadium was given a massive overhaul in the 1930s with Art Deco style West and East stands dating from 1932 and 1936 respectively. We are walking the length of the rather impressive East Stand.

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In 2006 the club moved to Ashburton Grove on the west side of Drayton Park and over the border in N7.

The old stadium was converted into a luxury housing complex known as Highbury Square, with the two listed East and West stands being converted into apartments, allowing their original exteriors to be almost entirely preserved. The unlisted North Bank and Clock End stands were demolished to make way for entirely new apartment blocks. The pitch has been converted into a garden and apparently there is a gym and swimming pool underneath it.

If you are lucky the gates may be open and you can get in to see the centre.

They have done a good job in utilising the old stand buildings and creating apartments.

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But you have to wonder at the practicality of having a major football stadium in a completely residential area away from any main road. It is surprising it took them so long to move, but I guess finding the right alternative site was the issue.

Continue along Avenell Road and turn left when you get to Gillespie Road our final stop is just ahead on the right.

Stop 12 Arsenal Station

This is a curious station stuck as it is in a side street.

Opened in December 1906 by the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (GNP&BR), it was called Gillespie Road.  The original station building and ticket hall were designed by Leslie Green and clad in those distinctive dark red tiles.

When it was built the station served a residential area and a local divinity college. Following the arrival in 1913 of Arsenal Football Club at their new home on the site of the college’s playing fields, there was a campaign for a change of name. Eventually in November 1932 the station was renamed Arsenal (Highbury Hill).

The station was expanded in the 1930s, with the original station building demolished and being replaced with a wider building of a more modern design, which is what we see today.

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The (Highbury Hill) suffix was dropped from the station’s name some time around 1960, giving the current name of Arsenal.

The tiled walls of the platforms bear the Gillespie Road name but these are actually replicas dating from a 2007 renovation.

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Although it is on a deep level tube line and is underground, the line is near the surface and so like nearby Finsbury park there are no lifts or escalators – just a few steps and a slope, then some more steps.

To allow people to enter the station when the main flow of people is outwards and vice versa, the station has a “tidal” system which is unique on the Underground. The main passageway is divided by a full height fence. the wider section is used normally and for the main flow when there are matches (ie out of the station before a game and into the station after a game). The narrow section is used on match days for people catching trains before matches, or leaving the station after matches.

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We are now at the end of our N5 walk and at Arsenal station for onward travel. Oddly (and I think uniquely) there are actually no bus routes passing this Underground station, so you will need to head down Gillespie Road to Blackstock Road if you want a bus.

 

 

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NW8: My Sweet Lord(s)

NW8 is St John’s Wood – home of Lords Cricket Ground and two recording studios amongst other things. And a lot of blocks of flats.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 28 – 32 Circus Road, NW8.

Take a right out of the Post Office and cross Wellington Road. Then take the first left and our next stop is almost immediately on your left.

Stop 1: Number 1 Cavendish Avenue

This was the home of the singer Billy Fury.

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We saw the alley named after him in NW6 and where he was buried in NW7. So this is a first – to feature the same person on three consecutive postcodes! Not sure exactly when he lived here though.

Continue walking along Cavendish Avenue and follow the road as it turns left becoming Wellington Place. We are alongside our next stop.

Stop 2: Lord’s Cricket Ground

Well we could hardly come to St John’s Wood without seeing Lord’s Cricket Ground.

In 1950 the architectural historian Pevsner was of the opinion that this was “a  jumble without aesthetic aspirations, quite unthinkable in a country like Holland or Sweden”. But since the mid 1980s various dramatic additions have been made – the one which is really visible from outside is the media centre, a tube made of aluminium dating from the late 1990s.

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Lord’s maybe a bastion of “the Establishment” but the name as no connection with the House of Lords, as some people might think. It was actually established by a man called Thomas Lord (1755 – 1832). He was a professional cricketer who made 90 known appearances in first class cricket. He was mostly associated with Middlesex and with Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) .

I always thought it odd that MCC was here given this is not actually Marylebone. However it was within the old borough of St Marylebone and actually the first Lord’s cricket ground opened in 1787 was a stone’s throw (or should I say a cricket ball’s throw) from Marylebone station, in Dorset Square.

Lord relocated in 1811 to a site at Lisson Grove but had to move again after three years because the land was needed for the Regent’s Canal. So finally it got to the present site in 1814, so this ground has been used for cricket for 200 years.

More about Lords on this link: http://www.lords.org/history/

We will see one of the entrances in Wellington Place. Passing this, turn right into the main road (Wellington Road) and continue along the side of the ground to the roundabout.

Look back and see this panel at the corner.

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Cross the road and our next stop is right ahead.

Stop 3: St John’s Church and gardens

Not surprisingly the church is called St John’s.

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The land here was bought in 1807 for a burial ground and the church was completed in 1814. Initially it was a Chapel of Ease for St Marylebone (ie a subsidiary church within the parish) but it later became a parish church in its own right.

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It has a very stark interior – all dusky white with very uncomfortable looking box pews.

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Walk into the gardens (the former burial ground) to the left of the front of the church and exit at the far side into Wellington Place. Going out of the garden here, turn right and go along Wellington Place until you reach St John’s Wood High Street where you will turn left.

Perhaps we might pause a while at this junction whilst I explain about a little footnote in history of dog ownership.

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In early 1992, I was working at the Department of the Environment and charged with implementing new legislative provisions requiring local authorities in England and Wales to have dog wardens. To co-incide with this, the Department ran a campaign to encourage people to clear up after their dogs. This was launched by the then newly appointed junior Environment Minister, Lord Strathclyde. But where to have the launch?

As it happened I discovered that Westminster Council had just put up two poop scoop vending machines in St John’s Wood (they were condom machines converted to dispense poop scoop plastic bags). So I suggested that the launch should be here – and it was! The machines are long gone but they were alongside these gardens. And I guess it is a measure of how far we have come that it is generally the norm now that people do pick up after their dogs.

That was a great job (really! I got a lot of responsibility because no one wanted to be associated with this policy area, so I was left to get on with it).

And as I used to say: “It may be dog mess to you but it’s my bread and butter”

Walk along the High Street to Number 45a.

Stop 4: Number 45a St John’s Wood High Street

This stop is just opposite the junction with Allitsen Road and, as you can see from the plaque, composer Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976) and singer Peter Pears (1910 – 1986) lived and worked here between 1943 and 1946. I am guessing in the flat above the shop rather than the shop itself.

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Seems a strangely unprepossessing location to find they lived, but Britten did also have a house in Suffolk he had bought with a legacy from his mother. Britten was a major figure in 20th century British classical music. But it was only with his work Peter Grimes in 1945 that he became internationally known.

Go down Allitsen Road until you reach Charlbert Street

Stop 5: RAK Recording Studios

Just ahead of you to the right in Charlbert Street you can see our next stop.

The studios were set up by RAK records which was created by legendary record producer Mickie Most (Michael Peter Hayes: 1938 – 2003). He was part of a duo in the mid 1950s called the Most Brothers and in 1959 he renamed himself Mickie Most. He had quite a bit of success in South Africa but apparently tired of the touring.

After a spell selling records he got into producing and ended up producing some of the famous hits for groups such as the Animals (including House of the Rising Sun) and Herman’s Hermits (including I’m into Something Good) . Other artists associated with him were Lulu, Donovan, Suzy Quatro and Kim Wilde.

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In the late 1960s he got into management, and in 1969 started his own record label (RAK records) and his own music publishing business, The name RAK  is said to hark back to the days when he was selling records and displaying them on racks. Then in 1976 he opened his own recording studios here in a converted Victorian school house in NW8. RAK records was sold to EMI in 1986.

A bit more info on RAK studios website: http://rakstudios.co.uk/history

Go up Charlbert Street away from RAK studios (as if you had done a left turn off Allitsen Road). At St John’s Wood Terrace turn right and a little way on the left past the former Chapel with columns is our next stop.

Stop 6: St Marylebone Almshouses

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These almshouses are at the corner of Woronzow Road.

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Count Simon Woronzow was Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1784 to 1806.  He lived in the area and on his death in 1832 he left a bequest for the poor of the parish.  The money was used to build these Almshouses in 1836 but what we see today is a 1960 rebuild. More info on this link:

http://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/count-simon-woronzow

Retrace your steps along St John’s Wood Terrace and then right into Ordance Hill. It does not look much of a hill but the name Ordance does give away the original function of our next stop, which is up on the left  about opposite Norfolk Road.

Stop 7: former St John’s Wood Barracks

Some troops had been billeted in farm buildings here from 1804. But in 1810 the Board of Ordnance decided to base an artillery brigade here on land leased from the Eyre family who had acquired most of the land hereabouts in 1732. In 1823 the Cavalry Riding Establishment moved in and a new riding school was built for them in 1825.

In 1880 the Royal Horse Artillery moved in and continuously occupied the barracks until February 2012, when the lease expired.

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In November 2011 Ananda Krishnan, a rich Asian businessman, acquired the Barracks from the Eyre estate for £250m. The site is set to be developed as a residential estate and the 1825 Riding School (which is Grade II listed) will apparently be used to accommodate a gym.

There is an interesting looking relief on one of the buildings, but I could not get any closer.

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Continue along Ordance Hill and turn left into Queens Road. Our next stop is at the corner of the main road on your right.

Stop 8: former Marlborough Road station

This was the street level building of Marlborough Road station which closed in 1939.

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It had opened in April 1868 on the northward extension of the Metropolitan Railway from Baker Street (which later became the Metropolitan line).

 By the 1930s the Metropolitan line was suffering congestion where the trains serving the various branches in the country had to share the limited capacity between Finchley Road and Baker Street. To ease this congestion, London Transport built deep-level tunnels between Finchley Road and the Bakerloo line tunnels at Baker Street, thus enabling the Metropolitan’s services toward Stanmore to be transferred to the Bakerloo line.
This transfer happened in November 1939 and subsequently in 1979 this arm of the Bakerloo line became  the Jubilee line).
As part of this a new tube station was built just down the road (which we shall see shortly). Marlborough Road closed and never reopened.
For many years this building was a restaurant. It was a traditional style restaurant when John Betjeman visited in his 1973 documentary Metro-land. Later it became a Chinese restaurant.
Transport for London took it back in about 2009 to houses a electricity substation installed as part of the power upgrade programme to support the introduction of new air conditioned Metropolitan line trains.

One little oddity about the station name is that the actual station fronts onto Queens Grove. Marlborough Road was on the other side of the main road but was renamed Marlborough Place in the 1950s.

Having turned left into Wellington Road, walk down here to the junction with Acacia Road. Just here is the “new” tube station, which was given the name St John’s Wood.

Stop 9: St John’s Wood Underground station

This is a lovely station and although it no longer has the original wooden escalators, it has retained the uplighters on the escalators.

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Today Transport for London gives St John’s Wood an apostrophe on maps and publicity whereas it does not have one in the tiling or signs on the platform.

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The stations built in this period had an unusual quirk in the tiling. Every so often there would be a tile with a picture or symbol on this. Sometimes but not always it was related to the station location. Here of course at St John’s Wood we have Thomas Lord.

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Useless fact: The station is apparently the only London Underground station whose name does not include any of the letters in the word “mackerel”

Cross over Wellington Road outside the station and go down the side road (Grove End Road). Our next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 10: Number 35 Grove End Road

This is one of the last survivors of the original buildings which were put up when this area was first developed in the 1820s and 1830s with detached and semi detached villas. Pevsner says “there was not much of individual note but the whole area had until the early 2oth century a character all of its own, a comfortable verdant, early Victorian character, never showy and never mean. It was largely destroyed by the building of large blocks of flats.”

Anyhow in the shadow of one of those blocks of flats is number 33 – home of Sir Thomas Beecham (1879 – 1961).

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Sir Thomas Beecham  was an English conductor and impresario. He was best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras but he also had associations with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras.

He was born to a rich industrial family in Lancashire. In 1842, his grandfather created a laxative marketed as  Beechams Pills and this was the start of the famous Beechams company, now subsumed within SmithKlineGlaxo.

Thomas Beecham started conducting in 1899. And for many years, he used his access to the family fortune to finance opera.

There is a great quote attributed to him:

“There are only two things requisite so far as the public is concerned for a good performance: that is for the orchestra to begin together and end together; in between it doesn’t matter much”

Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 11: Number 44 Grove End Road

This was home of artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, (1836 – 1912). He was actually Dutch and trained in the Royal Academy of Antwerp, Belgium. He came to England in 1870 and spent the rest of his life here. He became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with scantily clad women draped in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blues of the Mediterranean.

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Keep walking along Grove End Road until you reach the junction with Abbey Road. Just over the way is the famous Abbey Road recording studios and that zebra crossing.

Stop 12: Abbey Road studios

Abbey Road Studios was established in November 1931 by the Gramophone Company, a predecessor of the famous record company EMI.

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It was known for many years as the EMI studios and was only renamed Abbey Road studios in 1970 after the Beatles Abbey Road album had been issued.

Abbey Road Studios are regarded as the earliest, as well as the best-known, purpose-built recording studios in the world. After a scare in early 2010 that the studios might be sold for development the Government gave the studios Grade II listed status in February 2010, and its future does look more secure.

Following is an extract from the listing information on the Heritage Gateway site – www.heritagegateway.org.uk (I cannot seem to link to the actual page but you can find this by searching the listings using the exact phrase “Abbey Road Studios”)

“They were opened by Sir Edward Elgar in November 1931 and were used by a wide range of outstanding musicians. The studios cost £100,000 to buy, build and equip: the project was started by the Gramophone Company in 1929, which was soon after subsumed within the Electric & Musical Industries (EMI) company. Artists who have recorded here include Arthur Schnabel, Fats Waller, Noel Coward, Glen Miller, Marlene Dietrich, Gracie Fields, The Beatles, Pink Floyd etc. Abbey Road is known particularly for its close connection with The Beatles, over 190 of whose 210 recordings were made here with George Martin: their 1969 album was even named Abbey Road. Pink Floyd’s 1973 album ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ was recorded here in Studio Three. The studios are listed primarily for their considerable cultural importance and their place in the history of popular music, as well as their importance as a notable manifestation of the fast-developing technology of sound recording. The areas possessing special architectural and historic interest can be closely defined as Studios One and Two, and the street frontage.”

By the by, the first recording of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” was by Billy Preston and not recorded here but at Olympic Studios. But the famous version by George was recorded here at Abbey Road in 1970.

And of course you cannot come to Abbey Road without using the famous Zebra Crossing

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Except it is said that some years ago Westminster Council moved it so it is not exactly in the place where the famous Beatles picture was taken. The Heritage Gateway site says:

“… comparison between the [album] cover photograph and its present position suggests that it may have been moved a little to the north, closer to the studio gates, but it has not been possible to confirm this. Whether or not it is the same crossing depicted on the album cover or one very close to the original site, it remains a place of pilgrimage, with the studios, for Beatles fans from all over the world. Groups of tourists always gather to photograph the crossing and walk the walk and there is a live video streaming web-cam.”

Here is the link to the webcam, so you can check out who is crossing whenever you want!

http://www.abbeyroad.com/Crossing

And the crossing was given Grade II listed status by the Government in its own right in December 2010.

(But see the comment from Charlie which has a couple of links which set out the case that the crossing has not in fact moved!)

And I do love the sign at the front reminding people there is no public access to the car park at the front – this is a working studios afterall.

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and please only to write on the wall (that worked didn’t it)

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So this is the end of our NW8 walk proper. If you want to stop here, retrace your steps back along Grove End Road and you will be at St John’s Wood station. But if you have a moment, I do have this post script.

Post script:

I really wanted to include Crocker’s Folly in the walk. However I could not quite work out how to include it. Anyhow it is so special I had to include it as a postcript. To get there from Abbey Road studios walk down Grove End Road away from the studios and turn right into St John’s Wood Road. Go down the first left (Cunningham Place) and Crocker’s Folly is ahead on the corner with Aberdeen Place.

This Grade II* listed former pub was built in 1898, and was previously called “The Crown”.

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In 1987, the pub’s name was changed to Crocker’s Folly. The story was that Frank Crocker built his hotel to serve the new terminus of the Great Central Railway. The station was actually built was about half a mile away at Marylebone. The legend goes that this lead to Crocker’s ruin, despair and eventual suicide, jumping from the window of an upper floor. Apparently this is an urban myth. Crocker did die in 1904, aged only 41, but of natural causes. But it is said that Crocker’s ghost haunts the building.

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The highlight is the “grand saloon” as it was originally known. This has an exceptional marble fireplace, as well as a marble-topped bar counter, marble faced walls and a partly gilded beamed ceiling.

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More info on this link to Camra’s  website:

http://www.heritagepubs.org.uk/pubs/national-inventory-entry.asp?pubid=53

And you can go and have a lovely meal there in these beautiful surroundings. Not cheap but not mega expensive either – well worth a visit

http://www.crockersfolly.com/

So that really does bring us to the end of NW8.

If you are at Crocker’s Folly, you can walk down Aberdeen place to Edgware Road and buses.

 

NW7: East from Broadway

NW7 is practically in the country! Even though we are still in a London post code, we are at the very edge of built up London – unlike in the South West and West post districts where the London postcode area ends well before London does. Just to warn you some of the stops on this walk are quite a distance apart but that is the way it is out here “in the sticks”.

But it is not all countryside as can be seen from our first stop.

We start out walk at the main Post Office in Mill Hill Broadway. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is ahead on the left.

Stop 1: Mill Hill Broadway station

Now this is an uninspiring station – and another one that has lost its original buildings and has little character as a result. But even worse the entrance is literally underneath the viaduct which carries the M1 motorway.

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Hard to believe this station was actually built in 1868 by the Midland Railway, Then it was known as simply “Mill Hill”. It was renamed Mill Hill Broadway in 1950 presumably in recognition of the fact it is nowhere near the village of Mill Hill.

The station was reconstructed in the late 1960s when M1 motorway was built along the railway just here.  At least the motorway has been fitted in so it is not too intrusive here compared with say how Westway “fits” in. But it is still ugly and noisy.

Turn left out of the station forecourt and go under the motorway and railway.  At the roundabout take the left hand road. Cross when convenient as the pavement does not continue on the left hand side.

Stop 2: Bunn’s Lane “bridge”

Ahead where the pavement stops on the left, it seems like we are going over a bridge and yet looking over the parapet it is hard to see what is being crossed.

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To find out go past the walls and take a right into the park. Go down the steps and you will see a little pathway has been worn going into the undergrowth. Follow this and you can see the bricked up arches of a bridge.

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Here was an old railway, which originally ran from Finsbury Park to Edgware. It was promoted by the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway but before the line could open in 1867 the company was taken over by the Great Northern Railway.

In 1935 London Transport proposed as part of its new Works Programme an ambitious scheme called the Northern Heights which included taking over this line, making it double track and extending it beyond Edgware to Elstree and Bushey Heath. Work started before the war but with the war stopped and in fact so did passenger train services between Finchley and Edgware.

After the war, the area beyond Edgware was made part of the London’s new Green Belt, which in effect prevented the intended residential development, and the potential demand for services beyond Edgware vanished. Edgware was already served by the Underground and Mill Hill had the station we have just seen.That just left a little spur line to Mill Hill East which had re-opened  as a part of the Northern line in 1941 and which survives today. We will come to this at the end of the walk.

So with money short, available funds went towards completing the eastern extension of the Central line instead, and the Northern Heights plan was dropped in 1954. But the line through here to Edgware continued to be used for goods traffic, primarily coal, milk and building materials until 1964. Then it was abandoned, hence this bridge over nothing.

Now retrace your steps to Mill Hill Broadway and keep walking down the shopping street until nearly the end. Our next stop is by the corner of Hartley Avenue.

Stop 3: Athene House (former Capitol Cinema)

This green building may look like a modern office block but actually it was once a cinema called the Capitol.

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According to the Cinema Treasures website, this was a conversion of the pre-existing Assembly Rooms by architect Robert Banks and probably opened in the 1920s. It does not seems to have been linked with any of the cinema chains.

The Capitol Cinema was closed in April 1955 and was converted into an office building. The front of the building has been rebuilt in glass and green panels, while some of the side wall has a corrugated covering.

Interesting that Mill Hill never seems to have had a large suburban style cinema of the kind we found in Hendon. Perhaps it just was not big enough.

Walk to the roundabout and cross the main road (A1) at the crossing to the right of the roundabout. Turn right after crossing and walk a short distance along the main road and veering off to the left is a street called Daws Lane. Go along here to the end (a kind of cross roads) and take a left into Hammers Lane.Our next stop is a fair way up this lane.

Stop 4: Marshalls Estate

Suddenly on the right you come across a late Victorian gated estate. This was created by James Marshall – son of one of the founders of the Marshall and Snelgrove Department stores. Dating from 1898 it was built not for himself but to provide housing for retired shop workers.

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And it continues with this function today, under the auspices of a charity called Retail Trust. There are some 70 one bedroom cottages and flats on this site.

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Retail Trust website describes itself as “looking after the needs of all the three million people in retail, improving lives for all involved – yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are here to help with a wide range of services including debt advice, counselling, hardship grants, career development and retirement housing.”

And they do not just have this estate of retirement homes, they have four other estates in Derby, Glasgow, Liverpool and Salford. Well, who knew?

Retrace your steps back down Hammers Lane which continues after Daws lane as Wise Lane. After Mill Hill Park, take the first right which is called Parkside.

Stop 5: Number 32 Parkside

Keep walking along Parkside and on the right just before you get to a turning called The Rise, is Number 32. This was the home of racing driver Graham Hill (1929 – 1975), and it has a blue plaque to prove it.

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He was a two time Formula One World Champion. He is the only driver to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport—the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

Should you be interested in such arcane information, here is a link to the Wikipedia page which explains a bit more about this mythical “Triple Crown” and also shows the drivers who did not quite manage it but have achieved two out of the three.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_Crown_of_Motorsport

Hill and his son Damon are the only father and son pair both to have won the Formula One World Championship. And as Damon was born in 1960 this would have been his childhood home.

Continue walking along Parkside, past the roundabout (which has no apparent purpose). The road is now Hillside Grove. At the end turn right and then turn left into Bunn’s Lane. Our next stop is a short way along on the right at the corner of Colenso Drive.

Stop 6: John Laing’s offices

John Laing was for years a familiar name in construction. The business started in Cumbria in 1848. By 1920 the firm had become a limited company, and a couple of years later moved its headquarters from Carlisle to a 13 acre site at Mill Hill – which was just about where we are now.

Although they have moved the head quarters away and most of the site has been developed, they retain a little foothold here in Mill Hill as this building in Bunn’s Lane is where the John Laing Charitable Trust is based. The Trust exists to enable John Laing and its subsidiaries to make charitable donations and provide welfare support to existing and former employees.

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Laing was responsible for building some of Britain’s landmark structures of the second half of the 20th Century – the initial stretches (Junctions 10 -18) of M1 motorway (1959), Coventry Cathedral (1962), Sizewell B nuclear power station (1995), the Second Severn Crossing (1996) and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium (1999).

John Laing has not been involved in building and construction itself since the sales of its construction division in 2001, and of its property developments division and house building arm in 2002.

It now describes itself as: “a leading international infrastructure investor and asset manager. By combining its unique mix of technical, commercial and financial skills with those of its investment, construction and operational partners, the company has built a world-class reputation for efficiently delivering successful public infrastructure.” It is the private sector bit of many Public Private Partnerships which manage things like hospitals, waste and transport infrastructure.

One of Laing’s enterprises which has been in the news just recently is Agility Trains. This is a consortium with Hitachi and which has been awarded a contract to design, manufacture, and maintain the new fleet of long-distance trains for the East Coast and Great Western main lines.

Continue along Bunn’s Lane. At the end do a right then a left into Pursley Road. There is a fair trek along here past the school and playing fields. Walk until just before the road bends to the right, here take the left turn (Milespit Hill). A short distance along on the right is an entrance to Mill Hill Cemetery. Go in here.

Stop 7: Mill Hill Cemetery

This is another of the City of Westminster Cemeteries (like the one in Hanwell, W7) that Shirley Porter sold off cheap and Westminster City Council had to buy back expensively. There are a couple of things worth stopping for.

Follow the path from the gate (which is East Avenue) and soon on the left in the area called Plot L4 is the first of two civilian Second World War graves. This one is for people who died in Paddington and is here because at the time this was the Paddington Borough Council’s cemetery.

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And just a little further along in Plot L1 is a similar monument but this time for people killed by enemy action in Hendon. (Presumably Hendon Corporation did not run to its own cemetery).

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It’s noticeable how many fewer names there are on the Hendon stone but interesting nonetheless that there were still casualties out here.

Now head over towards the chapel and the A and B plots. Ahead from West Avenue beyond Plot A6 is a little graveyard dedicated to Netherlands war dead, with a  sculpture at the end.

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Retrace your steps and go parallel to the right hand boundary of the Netherlands War cemetery going into Plot B1. Here a little way along on the right is the grave of Billy Fury, who popped up in our NW6 walk.

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Now go back down West Avenue and you will soon be at the other entrance to the cemetery. Go out these gates and turn right up Milespit Hill. Going up this road does really have the feel of what you might call suburban countryside.

And then suddenly you find yourself by a pond with a red brick chapel ahead and to the left some almshouses. This really looks like a country village.

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And just by the almshouses is a terrace of modern mews type buildings, called Angel Cottages.

Stop 8: Angel Cottages and The Nicholl Almshouses

The Nicholl Almshouses date from 1698 and architectural Historian Pevsner describes them as charmingly minimal.

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Angel Cottages on the other hand date from the mid 1960s and are by Richard Seifert and Partners – best known for Centrepoint and the Natwest Tower (now called Tower 42).

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Pevsner is not so sure about Angel Cottages, saying they “try to be sympathetic  by using red brick, timber boarding and tiled roof, but spoil the effect by intrusive mansards.” Perhaps that is a little hard on them especially given what else was being built in this period.

Fascinating fact: According to “A History of the County of Middlesex: Vol 5” (found on British History on line),

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=26892

“Thomas Nicholl of Hendon erected a single storeyed brick alms-house at the junction of Milespit Hill and the Ridgeway, Mill Hill. He did not endow the premises, which accommodated 6 pauper residents of Hendon at a nominal rent, and the parish was forced to undertake repairs. Consequently the building was generally called the parish alms-house, although it was later known as Nicholl’s alms-house.”

So it just goes to show, Nicholl was not quite as generous as it might have seemed, and the parish ended up with the tab for maintaining the buildings.

Interestingly Richard Seifert lived locally. In 1946, when he returned from the army, Seifert bought himself a modest semi-detached house in Milespit Hill, which remained his home until his death in 2001. Rather than move, he enlarged it over time by purchasing and demolishing three neighbouring properties to make room for expansion.

Continue walking along this street which becomes possibly one of the shortest (and least commercial) high streets in London. There are no actual commercial premises here. As you get to the end take a look across the little green and main road at the white boarded property. This is our next stop.

Stop 9: Rosebank

This is a late 17th century house, which has a plaque announcing it was a Quaker Meeting house from 1678 to 1719.

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It was apparently often visited by George Fox, founder of the Quakers. But he was always travelling around so I guess this is a claim for pretty much all the early Quaker meeting houses.

Continue along the main road and on your left are the various buildings of Mill Hill School.

Stop 10: Mill Hill School

Mill Hill School is a coeducational independent day and boarding school with around 640 pupils. It has an impressive array of buildings with a rather grand one built by Sir William Tite in the mid 1820s as its centrepiece. This was his first major work and he went on to build the Royal Exchange, South Metropolitan Cemetery in Norwood and a lot of railway stations, one of which we saw in SW13. And of course Tite Street in SW3 was named after him.

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The site was the location of Ridgeway House which was the home of 18th century botanist and avid gardener Peter Collinson (1694 – 1768).

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Collinson was a cloth merchant, largely trading with North America, but his real love was gardening. In the 1730s he began importing seeds from North America for English collectors to grow the newly discovered plants here. Collinson maintained an extensive correspondence and was friendly with notable scientists in London and abroad including Hans Sloane, Carolus Linnaeus, and Benjamin Franklin.

One of Mill Hill school’s old boys was actor Patrick Troughton (1920 -1987) – best known as the second incarnation of Doctor Who (1966-1969 with brief returns in 1973, 1983 and 1985). And guess what the school’s theatre is called.

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He was in fact born in Mill Hill and a resident of Mill Hill for most of his life.

In the green just in front of the school is a war memorial.

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This turns out to be nothing to do with the school. It was transplanted here in 2012 from the site of  the Inglis Barracks which were down the road and are being redeveloped for housing. The Barracks were named after Lieutenant General Sir William Inglis, were built in 1905 as the depot for the Middlesex Regiment. The Barracks were also the location of the headquarters of the British Forces Post Office from 1963 to 1988.

Now cross the road and have a look at the church,.

Stop 11: St Paul’s church

This was built in the late 1820s (so just about the same time as the William Tite school building) as a chapel for the anti-slave campaigner, William Wilberforce, who had a house up the road on Highwood Hill. It was consecrated in 1833. Pevsner describes this church as “A typical cheap church of its date … cement rendered with the plainest of turrets…”. It does almost look like it is a film set.

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It became the parish church in 1926

Now it is quite a way to get to Mill East Station and although there are some things on the way (the National Institute for Medical Research, started in 1938 and finished in 1950; the site of Inglis Barracks, now being redeveloped as housing), we have probably walked far enough, so I suggest hopping on a 240 bus to get you to Mill Hill East station, our final stop.

But I just have to include this just to reinforce the rural image – it is a picture taken at the end of St Vincents Lane, which is a little along the main road towards Mill Hill East.

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Stop 12: Mill Hill East station

This is perhaps one of the most unusual stations on the London Underground. It at the end of a single track spur line with just a single platform. Mill Hill East is one of only three (Chesham & Heathrow Terminal 4 are the others) Underground stations to have only one platform. It also one of the few Underground stations without any ticket barriers.

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We heard about the ambitions plans in the 1930s for this line but when the war came, a passenger service as part of the Northern line was created just to here in 1941 because of the Inglis Barracks. The Inglis Barracks site was sold by the Ministry of Defence in 2012 and is now being redeveloped for housing.

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Also just near this station was a gasworks established in 1862 by the North Middlesex Gas Company and the line was used to deliver coal to the works. The gasworks is now occupied by Waitrose.

Here by the way is a link to a fascinating story about a walk along the route of the disused line

http://underground-history.co.uk/northernh4.php

So we are now at the end of our NW7 journey. I was not expecting to find that Mill Hill Village was so different from Mill Hill Broadway or Mill Hill East. Or to find much of the area so “rural” in character, a housing estate for retired shop workers or a massive school with such impressive buildings.

You are now at Mill Hill East station which has a regular Underground service, although for most of the day you now have to change at Finchley Central.

 

 

NW4: The Only Way is Hendon

NW4 is Hendon and if you say Hendon to people they might reply Police Training College or the RAF Museum. But although the former is in NW4, the latter is in NW9 and really they are both in Colindale – as was the British Library’s  Newspaper Archive (which has been despatched to Yorkshire now).

I have decided to give these big ticket items a miss and so I will concentrate the NW4 walk on the smaller charms of Hendon starting in Hendon “Central”. This is at the northern end of the A41 arterial road known as Hendon Way – we saw the southern end in NW2, where Amy Johnson lived.

We start our walk at Hendon Central Post Office which is at 58 Vivian Avenue, NW4. Turn left out of the Post Office and head towards the Central Circus which is the focal point of the 1920s development around Hendon Central. Ahead at the circus are our first two stops. On the left is our first stop.

Stop 1: Hendon Central station

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The Underground arrived here from Golders Green in November 1923.

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When it was built, the area around here was undeveloped – it was south of the old village of Hendon and north of the Midland Railway station which was called Hendon but was really West Hendon. So it was a little audacious of the Underground to say the least for them to name their new station “central” given there was actually nothing here when the station was built.

The station is a Grade II listed building in a neo-Georgian style and is by Stanley Heaps (1880-1962). He was assistant to Leslie Green, who designed the original Underground Electric Railway stations from 1903. Heaps succeeded Green and his first stations, on the northern extension of the Bakerloo line, were similar to those designed by Green – as we saw at Maida Vale in W9.

During the 1920s and 30s, Heaps worked closely with Charles Holden (1875-1960) on new tube stations. And it was on the 1920s extension of the Hampstead tube to Edgware that we see his style flourish. Heaps is said to have described the design of the new stations as ‘sufficiently dignified to command respect, and sufficiently pleasing to promote affection’ but he rejected the need for ‘buildings that blatantly advertise the railway’.

As this area was largely undeveloped, there was the ability to coordinate between the station and the surrounding buildings that were constructed over the next few years. The station was intended to be at the centre and it faces what was originally a roundabout 240 feet (73 m) in diameter from which four roads fan out to the rest of Hendon and beyond. Although this is called ‘Central Circus’, it is now a crossroads controlled by traffic signals.

However the scale of the building and the width of the roads does give it presence, even today with a roaring dual three lane highway running though the middle of it.

Stop 2: Former cinema (which had 6 names in its 64 year life!)

The south east corner of the circus is taken up with a cinema.

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This opened as the Ambassador Cinema in February 1932. It was equipped for live variety shows and there was a cafe. It was taken over by Gaumont in December 1933 and but only re-named Gaumont in 1949. It was sold to the Classic chain in 1967. They modernised the building and it re-opened as the Classic Cinema in December 1968. In 1973 it was split into three screens. It went through a number of ownership changes which caused more changes of name, becoming the Cannon in 1985, the MGM in 1993 and finally the ABC in 1996. The ABC was closed on 20th January 1997 and has now been converted in to gym and fitness centre, which is today is run by Virgin Active. So at least there is no gaping hole or an inappropriate building where the cinema used to be.

Walk north from Hendon Central station along the main road. At the next main junction take a right. This is a street called “The Burroughs”. Continue until you reach the next group of buildings which are on your left.

Stop 3 The Burroughs (four public buildings)

Hendon was created an urban district council in 1894 and became a municipal borough in 1932. The municipal borough was abolished in the London local government reorganisation of 1965 when it became part of the London Borough of Barnet. And here along the north side of The Burroughs are a group of four public buildings which even architectural historian Pevsner considers make “quite and impressive show”. He says they are “typical examples of official architecture in brick with stone dressings, the earlier ones still quite jolly, the later two more genteel.”

The first we come to is the Town Hall, one of the two earlier ones, dating from 1900. It is still in use by Barnet Council, and is where the Council meets.

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And next door is the Library from 1929, which Pevsner calls “eclectic Neo Baroque”.

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The fire station follows – this is from 1911. It does not have any London Fire Brigade signs as far as I can see, but it does appear to be an operational fire station, and not one that has been closed.

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And finally there is what is now part of Middlesex University, but was built as Hendon Technical College in 1937.

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Yes these certainly make for a great group of buildings but you can’t help feeling it is a bit odd having them in this location. Just look across the road and the other side is somewhat less imposing.

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Maybe the idea was that a centre would develop around them, but the gravitational pull of the tube station probably prevented this.

Follow the road round the corner and then take a left at the next junction (Church End). Continue along this until you reach the Church.

Stop 4: St Mary’s Church

Here is a lovely little church with a nice pub nestling right by it.

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The church is dedicated to St Mary and parts of it go back to the 13th century. The tower has a weathervane in the form of a “Lamb and Flag”, which is the badge of St. John as opposed to St Mary. It is not entirely clear why but it may be a sign of the cult of Mary Magdalene said to have been promoted by the Templars and their successors.

Sadly I have not had the chance to go in as Pevsner calls it “a rewarding building, much more so that the exterior … would suggest”. The architect Temple Moore who built All Saints Tooting SW17 is responsible for greatly expanding the church in 1914/15, and surprisingly Pevsner approves of the new work as greatly enriching the original effect.

Return along Church End and at the end turn left and continue until you reach Sunny Gardens Road on your left.

Stop 5: Sunny Gardens Road

I had to stop a awhile here and go up this wonderfully named road.

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But first impressions were not good.

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Second impressions did not improve, as the sunny gardens along the street were full of cars!

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This is however a long road and maybe it is better at the other end. However I do not have the time to explore as I am on a mission to find Hendon Hall.

So if you have headed up from the main road you will have passed Fuller Street on your left. Then you will have seen a pathway crossing Sunny Gardens Road. Take the right hand path and this will bring you out to a street called Downage and ahead you will see Parson Street. Go to Parson Street and turn left. A little way along you will see a side street called Ashley Lane. Our next stop is just at this corner.

Stop 6: Hendon Hall

Hendon Hall has been hotel since 1912 but the core of the hotel is Hendon Hall, built in 1756.

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This frontage does look like something out of Gone with the Wind. Like someone had decided to build a grand house and had put together what they thought would look imposing, even though the bits do not quite fit properly. Don’t those columns look odd. I wonder whether the columns were originally bare brick – perhaps they once had a stone or stucco covering.

There is said to be a connection with the actor David Garrick. He was Lord of the Manor of Hendon between 1765 and 1778 but there is no evidence he actually lived here.

One fascinating thing I discovered was that for some time Hendon Hall had a ceiling painting by 18th Century Italian artist, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, called Allegory of the Planets and Four Continents. It was sold in the mid 1950s and ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/437790?=&imgNo=0&tabName=object-information

Return along Parson Street, until you get to a major cross roads with traffic lights. Our next stop is at the corner on your right.

Stop 7: Ferrydale Lodge (site of Odeon cinema)

Like the grouping at Hendon Central we have a group of buildings at a road junction which have a scale and a presence. Sadly one corner is out of character and this is where the cinema stood

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This was the last of the original Oscar Deutsch built Odeon Theatres to open before the outbreak of World War II. It opened on 28th August 1939 and unusually for Odeons of this period it was built of brick and not faced with cream tiles. Here is a picture:

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/18096

The Odeon closed in  January 1979 and was demolished in December 1981. A residential block named Ferrydale Lodge was built on the site. At least it is the right bulk even though the cinema probably looked better than this nondescript block.

Continue straight ahead. The road becomes Brent Street and our next stop is a little way along on our left.

Stop 8:  Sentinel Square Shopping Centre (site of Carlton/Classic/Gala Cinema)

Brent Street is a small shopping centre that never really made it but it clearly was not improved by this ugly looking early 1970s shopping which was plopped down into it.

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This was actually the site of a 1930s cinema. It seems to have opened as the Carlton. It had become the Classic then in 1961 it was renamed the Gala Classic and finally Gala Cinema from 1965. At the end it played “continental” films, finally closing in March 1967. The cinema was demolished and the site re-developed as Sentinel Square Shopping Centre.

Strange is it not that this fairly modest shopping street should have not one but two sizable cinemas, but there is nothing left to remind us of this.

Just after Sentinel Square is a side street on the left called The Crest. Go down here to the street at the end which is Golders Rise. 

Stop 9: Hendon  School

Ahead of you is Hendon School.

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It was previously Hendon Grammar School and famous former pupils include Peter Mandelson, Rabbi Lionel Blue, and author Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.

But our stop is more for what was here before – Hendon House which was home to John Norden (1548 – 1625) between 1607 and 1619

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He was an early cartographer. He planned (but did not complete) a series of county maps and accompanying county histories of England and his maps of 16th century London and Westminster are important representations of Tudor London. Looks like the plaque says Morden rather than Norden, but I think it is the latter.

Continue to the end and you will have returned to Brent Street, where you should turn left. Our next stop is a short way along Brent Street on the right.

Stop 10: Pillar Hotel

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This is a strange looking hotel. Clearly not built as a hotel and why is it called the Pillar? Over the gateway are the numbers 19 twice, so was this built in 1919?

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According to Pevsner, this was built in 1897 as  St Saviour’s Homes in 1897 for women in need of care. Wikipedia puts it less tactfully as a home for “feeble minded women”. In 1925 it was taken over by the Pillar of Fire Society – an american evangelical protestant organisation founded by a woman called Alma White in 1901. The Hendon site became a bible college, school and chapel.

According to the Charity Commission website  Pillar of Fire became a charity in 1992 with the aim of the advancement of the Christian religion and in particular by maintaining a church and teaching the doctrines and practices of the Pillar of Fire USA. Apparently one of their aims was to evangelize the local Jewish population in the vicinity of the mission. http://www.pillar.org/missions_england.html

The charity was removed from the register in 2003 as “it has ceased to exist”. Wikipedia suggest this followed a Charity Commission inquiry but the Commission website does not give any information on this.  The mission was sold, and in a wonderful twist of fate, the property became a “kosher boutique” hotel in 2010 – there cannot be many of them!

Isn’t it interesting that they chose the name “Pillar” for the hotel. You might think they would want to distance themselves from the Pillar of Fire name.

Oh and the 1919 mystery. Well the postal address is number 19 Brent Street.  So it is just the street number of the building shown twice!

Continue  walking along Brent Street and take the next turning on the right (Shirehall Lane). Take the 5th turning on the left which is Haslemere Avenue. Go almost to the end and our next stop is on the left.

Stop 11 Number 6 Haslemere Avenue

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This modest looking interwar house is that of football manager Herbert Chapman. Today largely forgotten but he had great success in charge of Northampton Town, Leeds City, Huddersfield Town and finally Arsenal before his sudden death from pneumonia in 1934.

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Continue to the end of the street and then turn right into Shirehall Park. You then reach a junction. Turn left and soon on the right is our final stop.

Stop 12: Number 93 Shirehall park

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This was the residence of a virtually forgotten Music Hall star called Harry Relph, better known by his stage name, Little Tich. Today we associate Tich or Titchy with being small. And indeed he was short  – just 4 foot 6 inch tall. This is apparently 7 inches shorter than Ronnie Corbett (who is 5 Foot 1 inch). But I always wondered by he was called Little Tich at it seemed tautological.

This is the story. Little Tich was a nickname which has its origin in the Tichborne case (mentioned briefly in SW4). This was a legal cause célèbre in the 1860s and 1870s. A man who went by the name of Arthur Orton claimed the title of Tichborne. He was a fat man and the name Tichborne was frequently used to describe large people. In his early years, Harry Relph was overweight and he became known as “Young Tichborne”.  So when he appeared on stage, audiences would often shout “come on little Tichborne” . By the mid 1880s, he had lost almost all of his excess weight, but the name Little Tich had stuck – an ironic endearment contrasting the large stature of Orton with the tiny one of Relph. So that is how we come to associate Tich with small and why Little and Tich were not originally tautological.

His trade mark was the Big Boot Dance for which he wore boots with soles 28 inches long. Here is a snippet of film from around 1900:

 

He was also a popular performer in Christmas pantomimes across the country and appeared with Dan Leno and Marie Lloyd at in three pantomimes at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane between 1891 and 1893.

He had a somewhat complicated love life. He bought the newly built house in 1925 for his lover Winifred and their child, Mary. But his actual wife died in 1926 allowing him to marry Winifred and move into the Hendon house.

In 1927 he suffered a stroke, which was partly triggered by a blow to the head which he had accidentally received during an evening performance at the Alhambra Theatre. He never recovered fully from the injury, and died the following year at his house here in Hendon, aged 60.

This is not the loveliest of location today as it is close to the North Circular Road and right by the river Brent which here has been encased in a masonry and concrete sleeve. Maybe it looked nicer in the 1920s when the North Circular was less busy and the river more natural.

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Now you could pop into Brent Cross Shopping Centre from here. It was one of the first shopping malls in Britain dating from 1976. However if you want to stop here then continue down Shirehall Park to the end, where you will see the North Circular Road. Turn left and cross the road by the footbridge. On the other side turn right at the both of the steps and take the first turning on the right (Heathfield Gardens).  You will find an entrance to Brent Cross station just up here.

 

W6: Arts and Crafts and a Familiar Type

W6 is Hammersmith, famed for its flyover and the Apollo music venue but it was also home to William Morris and some other interesting artistic folk. We start our walk at Hammersmith’s main Post Office which is W H Smith in Kings Mall in King Street.

Our first stop is located inside the building that houses the Kings Mall shopping centre.

Stop 1: Lyric Theatre

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It is hard to believe but two floors up in this concrete hulk is a theatre with an interior dating from 1895. Today’s theatre it is not actually on the original site. That was on Bradmore Grove, a street which no longer exists. The Lyric started life in 1888 as a Music Hall but was reconstructed to become the Lyric Opera House in 1890. Five years later the Theatre was again reconstructed, this time by the well known theatre architect, Frank Matcham.

The original Theatre was demolished in 1969 but the Matcham auditorium was preserved and then completely reconstructed in 1979 inside the modern building we see today. Although the auditorium was recreated, it was slightly stretched to fit inside the new space. The proscenium is about 4 feet wider and the height was extended to match. A small studio theatre was also built.  The Lyric is currently undergoing a major redevelopment project, with new facilities for young people and the local community due for completion in November 2014. It is great that this interior survived but it is kind of sad that it has to be in what looks like a building that somehow escaped from communist East Berlin.

Now head down King Street  (past the William Morris pub) and soon you reach the swirl of traffic that is Hammersmith Broadway. Across one road (to the left) is the Hammersmith & City/Circle Line station and across the road ahead is the District/Piccadilly Line station. The two stations are about 200 feet apart door to door. All most confusing for those who do not know the area and want to change trains.

Stop 2: Hammersmith Stations

The first station in Hammersmith was opened in 1864 by the Hammersmith and City Railway which was backed by the Metropolitan Railway and the Great Western Railway (GWR). Their line started from the GWR’s main line a mile west of Paddington station and looped through Shepherd’s Bush to Hammersmith. Initially the  station was a little further north of the present day one but it was moved to the current location in December 1868. It is now used by both Hammersmith and City and Circle line trains.

The other station was first opened on 9 September 1874 as the western terminus of the Metropolitan District Railway when it was extended from Earl’s Court. In 1877, Hammersmith became a through station when there was a further extension west to link at Ravenscourt Park with the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) line from Richmond. The L&SWR line actually ran on to join the Hammersmith and City line just north of their Hammersmith station with a third station called Grove Road – long since disappeared. Once the more direct route via the District was opened, the link through Grove Road was not so attractive. But it carried on for a few more years, eventually closing to passengers in 1916. 

In 1908, the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (now the Piccadilly Line) opened with Hammersmith as its western terminus and the final piece of the jigsaw was the extension of the Piccadilly line westwards in the 1930s. When this extension was made, they went round the remains of the disused viaduct which had carried the line which went through Grove Road station. This is still visible from the trains just west of the Piccadilly and District Line station – a reminder of the link between the two lines that used to exist.

In the early 1990s, the District/Piccadilly line station buildings were demolished along with the neighbouring bus garage and a modern shopping centre and bus interchange was built over the station. Some of the tiles from the old facade were salvaged and incorporated in the northern ticket hall by the designers Minale Tattersfield.

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They now form a frame to a tile mosaic of Hammersmith Bridge.

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Now go though the shopping mall past Tesco’s and follow the signs for the Apollo. Outside you can cross the road on the level and ahead under the flyover on the right is our next stop.

Stop 3: Eventim Apollo (former Gaumont Palace/Odeon cinema)

This is one of the Britain’s largest and best-preserved super cinemas, designed by prolific cinema architect Robert Cromie. It was a joint venture between Israel Davis and the Gaumont British Picture chain and when it opened in March 1932  it was known as the Gaumont Palace.

It is large with almost 3,500 seats. It is very wide and the circle covers almost all the stalls apart from the front dozen or so rows which makes for a relatively intimate venue given the size. It was equipped with full stage facilities which proved useful for live shows and has allowed this to wonderful building to remain in use.

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It was renamed the Odeon in 1962 and operated as a cinema until 1984. It then became a theatrical venue full time under the Odeon name. Then in 1992 it became the Apollo. Since then it has had various owners and sponsors which has led to various prefixes to the Apollo name. Currently Eventim Apollo – Eventim is a german ticketing company who jointly own the building with the american company AEG.

Last year the theatre was underwent a major renovation costing some £5 million, bringing the building back to its original 1932 condition. This included restoring the original foyer floor mosaic panels, long covered by carpet and removing black paint from the circle bar and foyer windows. The theatre’s interior has been repainted in the original colour scheme of green, mauve and black.

Now head back under the flyover keeping the Church on your left and main road traffic on your right. Ahead on the corner you will see a modern office block.

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There was once a cinema building on this corner, known as the Broadway. It was designed by none other than Frank Matcham. It opened in December 1912 and sometime in the late 1920s it became owned by Associated British Cinemas (ABC).  It closed on 12th September 1977 after the collapse of part of the ceiling, and was demolished in June 1978, to be replaced by this commercial development.

Turn left here and go down Hammersmith Bridge Road.

Stop 4: Hammersmith Bridge

Ahead is Hammersmith Bridge.

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This was the first suspension bridge in London originally dating from the 1820s but rebuilt in the 1880s by Sir Joseph Bazalgette reusing the old piers and abutments. Apparently Irish republicans have tried to blow up this bridge three times: first by the IRA in 1939, when the bomb was spotted and thrown in the river; second in 1996 when the detonators of the IRA bomb went off but the bomb itself did not. And thirdly in June 2000 a bomb planted by some dissident republicans actually did explode and caused the bridge to be closed for three week for repairs.

Now just before the bridge take the roadway on the right and when you get to the river, turn right along the riverside.

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Soon on the right is our next stop.

Stop 5: Lower Mall

Number 9 was home to George Devine from 1956 to 1965.

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George Devine was an actor but is most famous for being one of the founders of the English Stage Company in 1955 and then artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre. The English Stage Company took the lease on the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square with the aim of producing new plays. One of these early production was John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger which premiered in May 1956.

Several more of John Osborne’s plays were staged at the Royal Court and George Devine was appearing in one, A Patriot for Me, when he suffered a heart attack. This was followed soon afterwards by a stroke which eventually led to his death at the early age of 55.

The play was a bit of a cause celebre. It was deemed too sexually transgressive by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office who licenced theatrical productions. The play was denied a licence for performance and in order to produce it, the Royal Court was forced to become a private members’ club.  This was one of the plays that finally led to the abolition of theatrical censorship by the state in the UK.

Keep walking along the riverside, passing a couple of pubs (The Blue Anchor and The Rutland Arms)

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You will come to a green and over in the distance across the Great West Road is the back of the Town Hall which we will come to in due course.

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Ahead is a small alley way, down which you will see our next stop, The Dove. 

Stop 6: The Dove

This is a delightful pub and my favourite on this stretch of the river.

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There has been a pub here since the seventeenth century and the brewers Fullers have owned this pub since 1796.

It has an unusual claim to fame. The pub says it is the birth place of the patriotic song “Rule Britannia”. I think more strictly it was that poet James Thomson wrote the poem  ‘Rule Britannia’ here which was then set to music by Thomas Arne. This by the way was part of a masque (a play with music and dance) called Alfred which was first performed in 1740 at Cliveden, the country home of Frederick, Prince of Wales.

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And the building also has another unusual claim. There is a small space to the right of the bar which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest bar room in the world.

Keep walking along the riverside and soon on the right is our next stop.

Stop 7a: Upper Mall (Number 26)

Number 26 (also known as Kelmscott House) is a lovely Georgian brick mansion overlooking the River Thames. It was the London home of designer, artist, writer and socialist William Morris from April 1879 until his death in October 1896

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Morris renamed this house after his Oxfordshire home (Kelmscott Manor) where he had lived from June 1871. Just along the way at Number 16 Upper Mall he started his printing operation, the Kelmscott Press in 1891.

The headquarters of the William Morris Society are in the basement and coach house. They can be visited Thursday and Saturday afternoons.

Prior to Morris ‘ time this building had been known as the Retreat and it has two other claims to fame. It was once owned by Sir Francis Ronalds who constructed the first electric telegraph in the garden in 1816 and there is a stone plaque at the side to commemorate this.

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From 1867 to 1877, it was also the family home of victorian writer George MacDonald.

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Now walk a little further along Upper Mall.

Stop 7b: Upper Mall (Number 48)

Just at the corner with Weltje Road is number 48 which was home to artist and designer Eric Ravilious.

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Ravilious grew up in Sussex, and is particularly known for his watercolours of the South Downs. He lived here between 1930 and 1932. In 1932 he and his family moved to rural Essex.  He also did a lot of work for Wedgwood in the 1930s and amongst his designs was the 1936 celebration mug for the coronation of King Edward VIII. This was withdrawn and revised for the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II.

Fascinating fact: His woodcut image of two Victorian gentlemen playing cricket in top hats has been used on the front cover of the Wisden’s Cricket Almanack since 1938.

He served as a war artist, and died in 1942 when the aircraft he was on was lost off Iceland.

Keep walking along the river past the sailing club and little watch house. Black Lion Lane comes in from the right and ahead you will see a terrace of houses which runs by the river side. This street is called Hammersmith Terrace and is our next stop, where there are in fact three blue plaques.

Stop 8: Hammersmith Terrace

First at Number 3 comes the home of Edward Johnston, creator of that most famous London icon, the London Transport typeface. Unfortunately the building had scaffolding up when I passed and so I could only just see a bit of the blue plaque!

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Johnston was commissioned in 1913 by Frank Pick, Commercial Manager of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London to create a typeface to strengthen the company’s corporate identity. Pick wanted a typeface that would ensure that the Underground Group’s posters would not be mistaken for advertisements. He said it  should have “the bold simplicity of the authentic lettering of the finest periods” and belong “unmistakably to the twentieth century”. It certainly met this brief. One of the typefaces distinctive features is the dot over the lower case letters i and j is in the form of a diamond.

It was first introduced in 1916 and was taken up for by the newly formed London Transport in 1933. The type face which is used today is a slight variant of the original. This created in 1979 and is known as “New Johnston”. It has been slightly tweaked since. This by the way was the type face used for the wayfinding signs at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Second comes Number 7, home of Sir Emery Walker and one of the best preserved original Arts and Crafts domestic interiors.

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Sir Emery Walker was an engraver, photographer and printer. He was a pal of William Morris who as we have seen had a house not so far away, although Walker moved here a few yeats after Morris’ death. They shared both socialist beliefs and an interest in printing. Walker’s collection of 16th century typefaces is said to have inspired Morris to create the Kelmscott Press. After Morris’ death, Walker set up his own printing enterprise, the Doves Press.

When Sir Emery Walker died in 1933 he left the house to his daughter Dorothy, who had grown up with William Morris and Philip Webb. She kept 7 Hammersmith Terrace as much as she could as it had been in her father’s time as did her friend Elizabeth de Haas who inherited the house from her in 1963. Just before Miss de Haas’ death in 1999, the Emery Walker Trust was set up “to conserve, maintain and display 7 Hammersmith Terrace and its contents, and so promote the advancement of the study and appreciation of the Arts and Crafts Movement.” The house is open during the summer months – see link: http://emerywalker.org.uk/

Then finally at Number 12 we come to the home of writer and MP, Sir Alan Herbert, better known as A P Herbert.

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In 1935 he became an independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University and held this seat until the University seats were abolished in 1950. He lobbied for reform of several laws that he felt to be outdated, often using his satirical writing. His targets included laws on divorce, obscenity, licensing and gambling.

Much of his humorous writing appeared in the magazine Punch, in particular his series of Misleading Cases in the Common Law – the work for which he is best remembered. These were in the form of “law reports” or “judgments”, on various aspects of the British legal and judicial system. Many featured the tireless litigant, Albert Haddock. One of the best-known is Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock, also known as “The Negotiable Cow”. Here Haddock tries to pay his tax bill by presenting a cheque in the form of a cow with the following words stencilled on its side:.

To the London and Literary Bank, Limited
Pay the Collector of Taxes, who is no gentleman, or Order, the sum of fifty seven pounds £57/0/0 (and may he rot!)
ALBERT HADDOCK

Fascinating fact time: In his novel ‘The Water Gypsies’, A P Herbert features the Dove pub under the pseudonym ‘The Pigeons’.

Now retrace your steps along Hammersmith Terrace and turn left into Black Lion Lane passing the lovely Black Lion pub.

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Cross the Great West Road by the subway. Take the little road which parallels the Great West Road and soon you will be in St Peter’s Square.

Stop 9: St Peter’s Square

This is quite a surprise. A wonderful square dating from 1825 with a garden in the middle. Apparently in 1912, the area in the centre of the square was threatened with development, so it was bought by the borough council and a garden was created, opening in 1915.

Architectural historian Pevsner suggests this square has the flavour of a suburban Belgravia. Maybe but one odd thing is that whilst the buildings cohere in design, there is no uniformity in the finish. Some are plain grey stucco, some stucco with marking as if they were stone and others painted white or cream. Makes for an odd assortment. How amazing this would look if it were consistently finished as one sees in Belgravia.

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In the centre of the gardens is a statue of a bronze runner by Sir William Richmond, dating from 1926.

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Now cross the square to the far corner and take the road on the left out of the Square

At the corner turn right into King Street. At this corner is the site of the Commodore cinema, replaced by this dull looking office block.

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Keep walking along King Street.

Stop 10: At the sign of the Bull

As we head down King Street, at the corner of Vencourt Place, there is a modernish pub called the Ravenscourt Arms set back off the road just before the Premier Inn.

In the forecourt is a rather strange beast – a bull on a plinth. This came from the Black Bull Inn in Holborn which was demolished in 1904. The sign indicates the inn was mentioned by Dickens in his book Martin Chuzzlewit.

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It was brought here by William (later Sir William) Bull, the local MP to what was then the offices of Bull and Bull, which I assume was the family solicitor’s business.

One question does occur. Why is the pub (presumably built subsequently) not called the Black Bull?

Continue walking along King Street, stopping on the corner by the Cineworld Cinema.

Stop 11: Hammersmith Town Hall

The older part of Hammersmith Town Hall is a late 1930s big brick box and OK in its own ungainly way but the bit of the Town hall facing King Street added in the early 1970s is just plonked down in front making no attempt to relate to the neighbouring building. However not for much longer. Hammersmith & Fulham Council approved a redevelopment scheme last November which will be see this building and the cinema replaced by new structures, including new offices for the council an a new three screen Curzon cinema.

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The present cinema by the way dates from 1936. Built by Associated British Cinemas, it became the ABC in 1964 and has been called various names since, currently it is Cineworld. It is looking a bit shabby now but then I guess it has not got long left before it is demolished.

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Keep walking along King Street. Our next stop is on the left just before the Kings Mall.

Stop 12: 84/88 King Street

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This was the site of the Cinematograph Theatre opened in 1910 as the eighth in the chain of cinemas operated by Montagu Pyke. Montagu Pyke was declared bankrupt in 1915, and this particular Cinematograph Theatre was closed and sold off. The front part of the building was rebuilt in Art Deco style in the late 1920s/early 1930s and became a shop – I think it may have been Woolworth’s. Today, half the ground floor is an amusement arcade and the other half a fast food take-away restaurant, while upstairs seems to be a hotel.

We are now almost back where we started. Keep on walking along King Street and you will be at the stations for onward travel.

So that was Hammersmith – William Morris’s London house and location of one of the best Arts and Crafts domestic interiors, plus home to some other artistic worthies including Edward Johnston whose familiar typeface is part of the fabric of London.

W6 has been a challenge as there is so much potential material. I have only been able to sample some of it, having to forego the wonderful Ark building, the Riverside Studios and the site of the Palais de Danse amongst other things. I doubt I will have this difficulty in the next postcode – W7 Hanwell.

W5: Something for everyone … a comedy tonight

I have resisted the temptation to make a pun involving Ealing – instead I thought I would reference that W5 is the home of Ealing Film Studios, known particularly for comedies, and also that in the 1960s, two well known (at the time) comedians lived in W5. So, tragedy tomorrow … comedy tonight.

We start our walk at the W H Smith store where the main Ealing Post Office is now located. This as it happens is our first stop.

Stop 1: W H Smith, 21/23 The Broadway (site of Ealing/Hippodrome Theatre & Broadway/Palladium  Cinema)

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This dull looking building which now houses W H Smith is on the site of a theatre and cinema. The history is somewhat complex. First came the Ealing Theatre in 1899. This was rebuilt in 1906 and reopened as the Ealing Hippodrome. But by November 1908 it had become a full time cinema, initially called the Broadway but later it reverted to be the Hippodrome. In January 1910 another cinema opened next door. This was the Ealing Cinematograph Theatre, fourth of a small cinema chain built by Montagu Pyke, who soon went bankrupt.

In August 1913, the new owners of the Cinematograph Theatre purchased the adjacent Hippodrome Theatre and created a common entrance to the two buildings. By this time the Cinematograph Theatre had become the Broadway Cinema. This was  closed and converted it into a dance hall. The Hippodrome was re-named Broadway Palladium Cinema in 1914, but later it was known simply as the Palladium. After a couple of changes of ownership it became part of the Gaumont chain and survived as a cinema until 1958. Both buildings was demolished soon after the Palladium Cinema closed and shops were built on the site.

Now take a left out of W H Smith and walk along The Broadway until the first turning on the left (which also seems to be The Broadway)

Stop 2: 42a The Broadway (location of the former Ealing Club)

At the end of the block of shops on the left above Haart Estate Agents, look up to see a plaque to commemorate the location of “The Ealing Club”. Odd really because the club was in the basement.

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The Ealing Jazz Club opened in January 1959  below what was then the Aerated Bread Company tea shop. The entrance was off a little alleyway reached by descending some steps to the right of the shop. On 17 March 1962 (by which time it was known as The Ealing Club) it became London’s first regular Rhythm and Blues venue with a performance by a band called Blues Incorporated which included musicians Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. Other musicians who played here in the 1960s include Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Charlie Watts, Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart and Manfred Mann (originally the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers). The Who played here in their early career, when they were known as The Detours.

And it was here at this club on 7 April 1962 that Alexis Korner introduced Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to Brian Jones, which led on to the creation of The Rolling Stones. But the venue did not last and became a disco in the late 1960s.

Alexis Korner has sometimes been referred to as “a founding father of British Blues”. In 1970 he helped form a big band ensemble called C.C.S (The Collective Consciousness Society). They had several hit singles. But the one most people will instantly recognise is their version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”,  used as the theme for BBC’s Top of the Pops between 1971 and 1981.

The BBC have been replaying old Top of the Pops shows so you can hear it on these repeats. These are timed to be in the same week as they were originally broadcast 35 years ago. But these repeats do not happen every week. I guess this is because the BBC does not show episodes with persons who have been disgraced or are being prosecuted. So nothing with Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter, Jonathan King, Dave Lee Travis, Rolf Harris … Whatever they may or may not have done, it does seem wrong to write them out of history like this.

Keep walking and soon you will see on the right is Ealing Broadway Station and a right mess it is too.

Stop 3: Ealing Broadway station

The other western termini of the District Line (Wimbledon and Richmond) were rebuilt as coherent integrated stations by the Southern Railway in the 1930s. Ealing Broadway was not similarly rebuilt probably because the Great Western Railway was a long distance railway which did not care much about its London commuter services. So today you can still see three separate stations (District line, Central line and Great Western) which sit next to each other, and are accessed by a rather terrible 1960s ticket hall. Hopefully Crossrail will mean Ealing Broadway finally gets a decent station.

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If you have a moment (and a valid ticket) do go down into the station and have a look at the old District line station (Platforms 7 – 9). This has a curiosity. There are three station signs on the platform which are in the pre Underground roundel style. This had a two semi circular solid red disks rather than a red circular ring.

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This style of sign was first used in 1908. In 1913 the Underground’s publicity manager, Frank Pick, commissioned the typographer Edward Johnston to design a company typeface. The solid red disc became a circle, and the new symbol was registered as a trademark. By 1919 Johnston’s typeface and a standardised roundel symbol was being used on publicity. It began to appear on stations from the early 1920s. So this would suggest these signs have survived from around or before the First World War – assuming of course they are original and not a later copy. Who knows?

Keep walking along past the station. Note the old District line station building dating from the 1880s is now just shops and no longer used as part of the station.

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Stop4: D L Lewis, Chemist. 36 Haven Green

Just a little further on the right is an odd survival of a shop. This is D L Lewis Ltd chemists shop. Ealing Council’s website says this is a Grade II listed building with a complete art nouveau frontage of 1924, and interior fittings dating from 1902 and 1924. And it is still a working chemists shop.

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Now retrace your steps back to the Post Office and keep walking down The Broadway. As you reach the church on the right, look back and across the road you will see a Marks and Spencer store over the road.

Stop 5 Marks & Spencer (site of John Sanders Department store)

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This corner originally housed a department store called John Sanders. The store was destroyed by a flying bomb in 1943 but was rebuilt. Not sure when the store closed but today it is a Marks and Spencer store. But it was certainly still John Sanders in 1970 because this building played a cameo role in episode 4 of season 7 of Doctor Who. Some aliens called Autons started their attack on the human race by bursting out of the shop window of John Sanders store. This was the first season to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor, if you interested in that kind of thing.

On the same side of the road as the church on that opposite corner was another department store, a branch of Bentalls. I believe that Bentalls moved into the new shopping centre across the road but they sold this stop to another department store chain called Beales who subsequently closed it. It is now a Primark. I guess this is symptomatic of the decline of Ealing as a shopping destination. I doubt Ealing will ever recover being quite close to the massive Westfield Mall at Shepherd’s Bush.

Continue walking along The Broadway past the church and soon on the right you will reach Ealing Town Hall.

Stop 6 Ealing Town Hall/Perceval House

The Town Hall dates from 1888 and is gothic in style. With the local government reorganisation in 1965, the new larger council chose Ealing as the main centre of business rather than Acton, and Acton disappeared as a council name.

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Just beyond the side street (Longfield Avenue) is where the public come to do business with the Council. This is an early 1980s block which was built as a speculative office development and later taken on by the council. Note it is called Perceval House. 

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Now turn around and look over the road.

Stop 7: Former Forum Cinema, 59/61 New Broadway

What you can see today (January 2014) is the facade of an old cinema held up by steelwork. This is all that is left of the cinema which started life as the Forum, went through many name changes and finally closed in September 2008 as the Empire cinema.

 

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The Forum was one of two near identical movie houses built for Herbert Yapp in 1934 (the other being in Kentish Town). Within a year of opening they had been taken over by Associated British Cinemas. It kept its name until 1961 when it was rechristened ABC.

After closure in 2008, the auditorium and foyer areas were demolished in early 2009. There were plans for a new multiplex cinema to be built behind the original facade. But this seems to have come to naught and no work appears to have been done on the site for some considerable time. Sad really given this is a major site in the middle of Ealing.

Now continue back along the Broadway and turn right into Bond Street. At the end of the buildings turn right and continue until you reach the second car park entrance on the right (almost opposite the gateway to Pitzhanger manor across the way).

Stop 8: facade of Walpole Picture House

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Now here is an unexpected find. On a wall by the car park entrance is what is left of the Walpole Picture Theatre.

This cinema started out life in December 1908 as the Walpole Hall Roller Skating Rink and became the Walpole Picture Theatre in 1912 and these tiles date from that date.

The Walpole was taken over by the Odeon chain in 1936 and it remained open until October 1972. The building was converted into a carpet store and when this closed it became a rehearsal studio for rock groups. It was demolished in May 1981 and an office block named Walpole House was built on the site. This is used by the University of West London (UWL). The tiles are located a short distance from where the facade used to be.

And standing in front of this fragment of the old cinema, you can actually see the back of the facade of the old Forum Cinema and see how big that development site is.

The Walpole name by the way seems to come not from the 18th century Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole but a descendant of his younger brother, Horatio. That descendant was  Sir Spencer Walpole who owned the land hereabouts. Through his mother, he was the grandson of Spencer Perceval, more of whom anon.

Stop 9: Pitzhanger Manor

Our next stop is just over the way from the remains of the Walpole cinema tiles. This is Pitzhanger Manor. We are practically in the centre of Ealing and yet here is a little country house.

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The building we see it today owes its design largely to the architect John Soane. He owned it for ten years from 1800 but radically rebuilt it to his own designs. Soane intended it as a country villa for entertaining and eventually for passing to his elder son. He demolished most of the existing building except the two-storey south wing built in 1768 by George Dance, who had been his first employer. But Soane sold the house in 1810. It then passed through several owners until in 1843 it became home to the daughters of Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval. One of them married a Walpole.

In 1900, the house was acquired by the local council (then Ealing Urban District Council) to serve as a Free Public Library. But work on converting the building did not start until after the death of its last resident, Frederika Perceval in May 1901.

The Library moved out in 1984 and the building underwent restoration. The house reopened to the public in January 1987 as Ealing Council’s main museum, known as the PM Gallery & House. It is certainly worth a visit both to the house and the gallery.

Now the spelling of the name has been troubling me because sometimes you see this written as Pitshanger and  other times Pitzhanger. Since Soane’s time, the spelling has varied, but it would appear it has now formally reverted to the name given to it by Soane which is spelt with a Z.

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You can leave the grounds through the grander gate which turns out to be a war memorial. Once out of the grounds, turn right and continue down Ealing Green.

Stop 10: Ealing Studios

Not too far along on the right is Ealing Studios which claims to be the oldest continuously working film studio in the world. It lurks behind this modest white villa.

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A man called Will Barker bought the White Lodge on Ealing Green in 1902 as a base for film making, and films have been made on the site ever since.

It is best known for a series of classic comedy films produced in the 1940s and 1950s. There is a blue plaque on the main building to Sir Michael Balcon who was closely associated with Ealing Studios.

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He produced some of its best known films including Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Whisky Galore! (1949), Passport to Pimlico (1949), the Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955).

Sir Michael also has another plaque to him which I mentioned in passing when we were in SW1. It is a green City of Westminster one at number No 57A Tufton Street where he lived between 1927 and 1939.

The BBC took over in 1955 and used the facilities until 1995.  It is still a film studios and has made films such as the revived St Trinian’s franchise, The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). Ealing Studios is also home to the Met Film School London, which has a purpose built film school on the lot as well as use of the studios. And apparently Ealing Studios is where the servants quarters in the ITV drama Downton Abbey were shot.

Now keep walking down Ealing Green, crossing over when convenient. You will want to turn left into Warwick Road. This has a UWL building at the corner with a blue plaque to Lady Byron, widow of poet Lord Byron. She  founded a local school.

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Continue down Warwick Road until you reach the green open space. Here turn right into the street called Warwick Dene. Our next stop is ahead on the right at the road junction. 

Stop 11: All Saints Church

The church dates from 1905.
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The land on which the church is built belonged originally to Elm Grove, the country home of Spencer Perceval and was later given for the building of the church by Leopold de Rothschild.

So now we get to Spencer Perceval. He has the unfortunate distinction of being the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. He lived at Elm Grove from 1809 until his death in 1812.  Spencer Perceval was born on 1 November which is All Saints Day so I guess that is why the church was dedicated as All Saints.

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Perceval was shot dead in the lobby of the House of Commons in May 1812 by John Bellingham, who had some grievance against the government and took it out on the Prime Minister. Bellingham was tried, found guilty and hanged just seven days later.  They certainly did not hang about in those days. (Sorry couldn’t resist using that phrase!)

Fascinating fact time: Henry Bellingham, who is descended from a relative of Bellingham, was elected in 1983 as MP for North West Norfolk. In 1997, he lost the seat by 1,339 votes. It has been suggested that this could have been affected by the 2,923 votes received by the Referendum Party candidate Roger Percival, who claimed to be descended from Perceval.

Continue along Elm Avenue until you reach the main road which is called Gunnersbury Avenue. This is the A406 North Circular Road. Turn right and walk along the right hand pavement.

Stop 12: Gunnersbury Avenue

Curiously this road has two blue plaques to dead comedians.

The first one you come to is at Number 35 Gunnersbury Avenue. This is for Carry On veteran, Sid James, who lived here between 1956 and 1963.

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The second one is a bit of a trek. But if you keep walking, you will (eventually) come to Gunnersbury Drive. On the opposite side of Gunnersbury Avenue is a mock tudor house with the other blue plaque recording the fact that comedian Arthur Haynes lived here between 1963 and 1966.

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Interesting that Sid James seems to have moved out of the area as Arthur Haynes moved in. I wonder whether Sid James did not want to live in the same neighbourhood as Arthur Haynes. Haynes was perhaps even more down market than Sid James. Haynes was really only a TV star whereas Sid James was in the movies too (!). Or maybe it was the Haynes house was grander.

Out of curiousity, I checked on the council tax banding to see whether one was higher than the other – and they both turn out to be Band G (of course this is based on the alleged value at 1 April 1991, so may have been different then or indeed now). This is a bit of a surprise as Band G is the second highest and puts these properties in the top 4% of properties in England by value. And yet here they are on a busy main road where the traffic flows like almost set concrete.

So that concludes out W5 walk. A bit of comedy with the studios and Sid and Arthur, but also a bit of tragedy involving the assassination of a Prime Minister, the decline of a shopping centre and the loss of interesting entertainment buildings.

Given how the traffic is here, your best bet for onward travel is to carry on walking along Gunnersbury Avenue to the next junction and take a left into Gunnersbury Lane. Not far down here you will see the distinctive outline of Acton Town station which we saw in the w3 walk.

W4: Only connect

Only Connect is quite a good motto for this blog as we are seeing London in bite sized chunks and every so often there is a connection with somewhere or something else.

Now today if people know the phrase they probably associate “Only Connect” with a fiendishly difficult panel game programme on BBC4 hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell. But the phrase itself was originally used as the epigraph to E. M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End. And why have I chosen this phrase for W4 as opposed to any other postcode? Well E M Forster lived for over 20 years in W4 as we shall see.

We start our walk at Chiswick Post Office, 1 Heathfield Terrace, just off of Chiswick High Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and almost immediately you are in Barley Mow Passage.

Stop 1: Voysey House

Our first stop is just a little way along Barley Mow Passage on the left past the Lamb Brewery. It is a white tiled building which turns out to be by Charles Voysey, best known for his country houses and for his Arts and Crafts wallpaper, fabrics and furnishing designs. This was his only factory building, according to architectural historian Pevsner.

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This building dates from 1902 and was built as an extension to Sanderson’s wallpaper factory which was opposite. It is faced with white tiles with black bandings. Apparently these were originally blue brick but at some stage they were painted black. If only all factories were this lovely! The building was restored in 1989 and is now offices, fittingly called Voysey House.

Retrace you steps back to the Post Office and then keep walking along Heathfield Terrace. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 2: Chiswick Town Hall

This italianate building looks to me a bit like a railway station but it was Chiswick’s Town Hall. The central section dates from 1876 but the three bays on the left in our picture and the one bay to the right  were added in 1900. Apparently it has well preserved interiors.

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Chiswick was first an urban district but after merger with neighbouring Brentford in 1927, it became a municipal borough in 1932.  This then became part of the new London Borough of Hounslow which was created in 1965. These buildings are still used by the borough council, although the main civic centre is in Hounslow.

Immediately opposite the Town Hall is Town Hall Avenue – such originality in the naming of this street. Go down this and just past the church at the end turn left into Chiswick High Road. A little way along on the left is Sutton Lane North. Go down this a short way. Our next stop is the first block on the right hand side of the road.

Stop 3: Arlington Park Mansions

Across the road is a fairly ordinary looking block of mansion flats dating from around 1900.

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The reason we are pausing here though is because this was where Edward Morgan (E M) Forster lived for over 20 years from 1939. There is a blue plaque.

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E M Forster only published 5 novels in his lifetime – four between 1905 (Where Angels fear to tread) and 1910 (Howards End) and a fifth (A Passage to India) in 1924. A sixth novel, Maurice, was only published after his death. No doubt this was because it is a gay love story, and that was why it came out later, so to speak. Although there were no more finished novels, he did produce some short stories and some non fiction writing, and he broadcast on the radio. And with Eric Crozier, he wrote the libretto for Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd in 1951.

Only Connect as I mentioned was the epigraph for Howards End. An epigraph by the way is a phrase, quotation, or poem at the beginning. It can be a preface, a summary or a link to some other work. In Howards End it is kind of the first two of these. And it has been said that “only connect” is applicable not just to practically all his work but to E M Forster himself.

Forster had a long standing relationship with a younger man called Bob Buckingham but he was also on friendly terms with Buckingham’s wife and was godfather to their son. There is a fascinating article from the Guardian about this.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/feb/17/e-m-forster-my-policeman

Now return to Chiswick High Road and cross over and go down the road opposite, past the entrance to Sainsbury’s

Stop 4:  Chiswick Park Station

Ahead you can hardly fail to miss Chiswick Park station.

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The first station here was opened in 1879 by the Metropolitan District Railway on its extension from Turnham Green to Ealing Broadway. Initially it was called Acton Green which is nearby to the east. It was renamed Chiswick Park and Acton Green in 1889. Finally it became known as Chiswick Park in 1910. The station was rebuilt between 1931 and 1932, in preparation for the western extension of the Piccadilly Line from Hammersmith. However this was to provide the extra tracks for the Piccadilly Line but only platforms were provided for the District line at this station.

The new station was designed by Charles Holden in a modern European style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. Apparently this was inspired by Krumme Lanke station in Berlin. But it is odd to have gone to the trouble of building such a significant building when it is only served by Ealing Broadway District line trains, the Richmond trains pass close by and of course the Piccadilly line has no platforms.

The platforms with their concrete canopies are well preserved and there are some interesting original signs.

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Now retrace your steps to Chiswick High Road and turn left. Our next stop is a short distance along the High Road, on the left.

Stop 5: 414 Chiswick High Road (site of Chiswick Empire Theatre)

There is a modern parade of shop, all mostly empty and above at Number 414 is a dumpy glass office block. This was the site of the Chiswick Empire Theatre.

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The theatre opened in September 1912. Apparently it took promoter Oswald Stoll over a year to gain planning permission as the locals thought that a music hall or variety theatre was not an appropriate form of entertainment for Chiswick. This building was designed by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham. The exterior was neo-classical style with a two storey centrally placed opening, which contained an open verandah. The auditorium seated almost 2,000.

Chiswick Empire was not just a twice nightly variety theatres, it also hosted revues, plays and even the occasional opera. As happened in so many other places the audiences declined after the Second World War and the theatre was eventually closed in 1959. But it went out with a bang. The final shows in June 1959 were sell outs by the flamboyant American entertainer Liberace. Now all we have is this rather boring (and disused) office block in its place.

Continue walking alomg Chiswick High Road and take a right into Dukes Avenue (There is a catholic church on the corner). Continue to the end of this street. Ahead at the end is the Great West Road, but to cross this we need to use the subway which is the continuation of the left hand pavement. On the other side, take the right hand passage, and follow the signs for Chiswick House.

You cannot miss the gates to the grounds of Chiswick House. This is a fabulous Palladian Mansion, now managed by English Heritage. However the House opens only from April to October and as it is now January, we cannot actually go inside. Maybe next time. But you can look down the lovely tree lined avenue or even go and view the outside of the House.

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Follow the signs for Hogarth’s House along the main road and soon you will see a gate on the right.

Stop 6: Hogarth’s House

Artist, printer and engraver, William Hogarth lived and worked here for the last 15 years of this life. He is of course best known for his moralistic pictures, such as the Rake’s Progress, Marriage a la Mode and Beer Street and Gin Lane. Although some of these started out as paintings the reason they became so well known was that he also made engravings of them. So there were many copies in circulation.

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He married Jane Thornhill, daughter of artist Sir James Thornhill in 1729. The Hogarths had no children, although they fostered foundling children. He was one of the first Governors of the Foundling Hospital which was set up in 1741 by the sea captain Thomas Coram. This was not a hospital in the medical sense. It was rather a place of hospitality, established for the education and maintenance of children who had been abandoned.

The Hogarths lived in Leicester Square (sadly their house no longer exists having been demolished in 1870) but they bought this building in 1749 as their country home. It now belongs to the London Borough of Hounslow and is open to visitors free of charge. It is well worth a look in. The only sad thing is the location which is right next to the A4 with its dual three lanes of constant traffic. Rather different from how it must have been in Hogarth’s time.

Go out of Hogarth’s House and turn right at the street. Ahead you will see the Hogarth roundabout and the flyover – often refered to in the traffic reports on local radio and television. 

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Beyond you can see the Fuller’s Brewery. Now if we had more time we would go down Church Street, to St Nicholas Church where Hogarth is buried and then go along the river for a bit. It is a beautiful spot here and hard to believe there is a working brewery in the midst of this. But sadly we have to be selective. However you can book a Brewery Tours if you are interested and there is even a virtual tour on the Fullers website: http://www.fullers.co.uk/rte.asp?id=98

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So once across to the far side of the Hogarth roundabout you will see a pub.

Stop 7: Mawson Arms/Fox and Hounds

Have a closer look and you will see it has two names. First it says “The Fox and Hounds” and then “The Mawson Arms”

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This is bacause once there were actually two pubs here but now there is just the one.

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But turn the corner and you find there is a blue plaque.

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Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) was an 18th century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. Apparently he is the third most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson.

Just in front of the Mawson Arms is another subway. Go under this and you will come out by Chiswick Lane. Go along this road with the playing field on your right. At the end of this street is Chiswick High Road. Turn right here and cross over. Our next stop is a little way down on the left hand side as you are walking.

Stop 8: 70 Chiswick High Road

There is a sign over the entrance to No 70 Chiswick High Road which proclaims “The Power House”.

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The reason is simple. The brick building just behind here was a power station built for the London United Electrical Tramway Company in 1899-1901. These were the days before the national grid and electricity had to be generated close to where it was needed. As architectural historian Pevsener puts it “The Chiswick building is the best surviving example in London from the early heroic era of generating stations whose bulky intrusions in residential areas was tempered by thoughtful architectural treatment.”

So we have a vast Baroque brick box with stone trimmings. You cannot really see that much from the street but walk a little along to the next side street (Merton Avenue). Look down there and you will see how this building looms over its surroundings.

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And here was also a tram depot here. This is now become Stamford Brook bus garage, which fittingly is home to buses operated by the London United bus company – but as we saw with London General in SW15 and SW19 this is a modern day resurrection and today’s company has no direct link to the original company. By the way, London United is owned by RATP which operates the metro and bus system in Paris!

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Retrace your steps along Chiswick High Road. Our next stop is on the same side of the road as the Power House

Stop 9: 160 Chiswick High Road (“The Old Cinema”)

This was originally built in 1887 as a ballroom and function room called the Chiswick Hall. It converted to become the Royal Cinema Electric Theatre in May 1912 and it survived as a cinema until around 1933 or 1934.

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By 1939 it was a furniture store known as Chiswick Furniture Galleries. Since the mid 1980s it has been an antique shop known as ‘The Old Cinema’. Whilst it has been changed to work as a shop, you can just about see the skeleton of the old cinema lurking here and there – both in the internal structure of the building and its decorative features.

Continue along the High Road. Note the modern statue of Hogarth across the road just as we reach the junction of Turnham Green Terrace.

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Turn right down Turnham Green Terrace. I should just mention in passing, this street has a number of nice looking food shops. There are two delis, a cake shop, a fishmongers and a butchers – the latter had people queueing out the door.

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Stop 10: Chiswick Back Common/Acton Green

Just before the railway bridge, there is a green on the left. This is Chiswick Back Common.

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Have a look at the display board to the left of the name board.

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This explains that hereabouts was fought one of the major battles of the English Civil War. This was the Battle of Turnham Green which occurred on 13 November 1642.

On the battlefield, there was a standoff between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians.  By successfully blocking the Royalist army’s way to London, the Parliamentarians gained an important strategic victory. The King and his army to retreat to Oxford for secure winter quarters. This was as close as the Royalists would get to London and without control of London they could never win. As far as I can discover there is not actually anything to see apart from this display board but I thought it was still worth a mention.

Now continue under the railway bridge. On our left the open space is called “Acton Green Common” which must have been a bit confusing. As we have heard Chiswick Park station was originally called Acton Green and yet Acton Green Common is actually almost outside Turnham Green station

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So far so confusing. But Turnham Green is the open space by the High Road where the Town Hall is and where the Empire Theatre used to be. So here you have it. Turnham Green Station is actually by Acton Green and the station that used to be Acton Green is actually the nearest station to the open space called Turnham Green. These railway companies have a lot to answer for.

Stop 11: Bedford Park – St Mary’s Church and Tabard Inn

Just after the station, ahead of us is the early garden suburb of Bedford Park. Bedford Park was a speculative development by a man called Jonathan Carr. And what makes this so special is not only the green spaces and trees but the fact that the suburb takes the red brick and tile of a market town rather than classical, italianate  or gothic styles. The importance of Bedford Park was recognised in 1967 when 356 Bedford Park buildings were Grade II listed and then in 1969 it became one of the first conservation areas.

We do not have time to explore fully the whole of Bedford Park. But we can just drop by two of its buildings, both designed by Norman Shaw, who was estate architect from 1877 – 1880 and then a consultant until 1886.

The road running off to the right is Bath Road and just on the corner ahead is St Michael and All Angels Church. This has a really wonderful interior. But the outside on Bath Road (shown in picture) looks very unchurchlike. It seems more like a church hall or school.

Poet, Sir John Betjeman described St Michael’s as “a very lovely church and a fine example of Norman Shaw’s work.” He said that Shaw had written in a letter to an architect friend saying: “I’m a house man – not a church man – and soil pipes are my speciality.” Nevertheless this is a fine church.

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Then opposite the church (on the same side as the railway) is the Tabard Inn, dating from 1880. The current inn (it does not seem right to call it a mere pub) incorporates the Bedford Park Stores, which was a shop built for the new estate.

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Keep walking along Bath Road.

Stop 12: 62 Bath Road

Our final stop (the house at Number 62) is on the right, just before a green and the boundary between Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham. But I guess we are still technically in Bedford Park.

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This is the house where artist Lucien Pissarro lived with his family for a few years from 1897. Between 7 May and 20 July 1897, his father Camille stayed there while Lucien was convalescing from a stroke. Camille had been in London before, most notably in the 1870s when he stayed in Norwood.

When he was at Bath Road he painted a number of pictures locally, one of which is owned by the Ashmolean in Oxford. It is called Bath Road, London and includes his daughter in law Esther and grand daughter Orovida playing in the front garden. It is unfinished, unfortunately. But here’s a link anyway:

http://www.ashmolean.org/ash/objects/makedetail.php?pmu=730&mu=732&gty=asea&sec=&dtn=15&sfn=Artist%20Sort,Title&cpa=1&cnum=&mat=&pro=&anum=&art=Camille%20Pissarro&ttl=&sou=&rpos=2

In 1902, Lucien and his family moved a short distance to 27 Stamford Brook Road and there is a blue plaque to him there. Although this is just down the road, we are not going there because it is over the border in W6!

So this brings us to the end of the W4 walk. It has been a full assortment taking in a writer, a couple of artists, the sites of a civil war battle, a theatre and a cinema, plus an early power station. And it was not just the latter we could only connect to.

From here there are buses to Shepherd’s Bush and beyond. Or else you can go down the next side street from where there is a pathway to Stamford Brook station. Alternatively you can retrace your steps to Turnham Green station.

W3: Lights, Camera …. Acton?

W3 is Acton and Acton is the place in London with the most railway stations bearing one place’s name. There are seven. They cover all the points of the compass plus Central, Town and Main Line. The curious thing about this is that even though there are 7 stations with the name Acton, none of them is particularly convenient for the town centre, even the so-called Central Station!

We start our walk at Acton’s main Post Office which is in King Street a short pedestrianised road by the Parish Church.

Stop 1a: St Mary’s Church

Our first stop, St Mary’s Church, is across the road from the Post Office. The Church dates back to at least 1228 but the building we see today results from a complete rebuild in the mid 1860s. Some monuments were preserved from the old church but I did not get to see them as the church has been closed when I have been there.

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However there are a couple of interesting things to see at the west end of the Church.

First at the left had corner is the old parish pump.  The pump is inscribed “1819 T. FREETHY, MAKER, ACTON, ERECTED BY THE REV WM. ANTROBUS”.

It was originally located in the High Street but was moved when the High Street was set back in 1919.  In 1952, it was taken to Gunnersbury Park and stored. The Acton History Group website suggests it was restored and resisted here in 1992.

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Just to the right of the pump is the Acton Milepost. It was originally located on the opposite side of the High Street, a little further to the west of its current location. It was saved during road widening, and relocated here when the Pump was restored. The road was known as the “Uxbridge Road”  and it was a turnpike or a toll road with the money going to pay for maintenance. The distances on the post were measured from Tyburn (Marble Arch) which we saw in our W2 walk. There was a tollgate at the 4 mile post, about where now Bromyard Avenue joins the Uxbridge Road, which as it happens is where we finish our walk.

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In the street by the church is a little market area – from a quick glance, it looked a bit cheap and tacky, like much of modern day Acton.

Just over from the West Door of the Church is an entrance to Morrison’s Supermarket, which at least was bright, clean and tidy.

Stop 1b: Morrison’s Supermarket (site of Odeon cinema)

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This site, where King Street joins the High Street, once housed a cinema built for Oscar Deutsch who ran the Odeon chain. Opened in November 1937, it was a large Art Deco style building with those distinctive cream faiance tiles and featured a tower at the side.

The Odeon was the last cinema to operate in Acton, finally closing in October 1975. The building was converted into a B & Q store. When that closed, the building was demolished and in 1988 a Safeway Supermarket was built on the site. This later became Morrison’s.

There are some photos of how it looked on the attached link.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/oldcinemaphotos/sets/72157603922593077/

It is a bit sad to see the loss of such a distinctive building from the street scene to be replaced by this identikit supermarket.

Fascinating fact: there’s a mnemonic (or is it an acronym?) for ODEON. Apparently Odeon at one time claimed that the name of the cinemas was derived from Deutsch’s motto, “Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation”. However Odeon had been used for cinemas in France and Italy in the 1920s. Also the name “Nickelodeon” dates from 1905 and was widely used to describe small cinemas in the United States in the early days of cinema. And of course the word is ultimately derived from Ancient Greek. So who knows!

Now walk down to the High Street and turn right following the road round. You will see Morrison’s across their car park, with St Mary’s Church sticking up behind.

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This is sad enough but across the road on the other side of the roundabout is perhaps even a bit more depressing. And here in this parade of shops, we will find our next stop.

Stop 2: 263 Acton High Street

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This Edwardian row of shops is rather grand but as so often happens, the locale is not now and the shops in these buildings reflect this.

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Cross over and go to number 263. Today it is a fast food establishment called “Pizza Babylon” but this was the site of the very first Waitrose store in 1904, although it was called Waite, Rose and Taylor then. You will find a little plaque in the pavement to commemorate this fact.

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The company name changed to Waitrose in 1908 and the business was bought by John Lewis in 1937. I cannot seem to find out when this Waitrose closed but I guess it was when they, like all the other grocers, moved away from these small shops and into bigger premises that could house supermarket sized stores.

Odd to reflect that the food being served up here today is rather far removed from the image one associates with Waitrose! And I somehow doubt there will be a Waitrose anytime soon in this locality.

Keep walking along the High Street and after the church turn left into Gunnersbury Lane. It is now a bit of a walk to our next stop, which is just after a mini roundabout down a little private road on the right, called Museum Way. On the way, we pass an old hospital building. This was built as the Passmore Edwards Cottage Hospital around 1900. More of Passmore Edwards shortly.

Stop 3: London Transport Museum Depot

We cannot come to Acton without acknowledging the importance of London Transport to this area. There is a huge depot here and on part of the site is the store for the London Transport Museum. 

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This is not open everyday but there are guided tours once a month ( last Friday and Saturday of each month) plus art and poster tours (about every third month). There are occasional open days and they will open up for groups of visitors booked in advance. More info at:  http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot

Last year, I went to see the archive collection of posters with a group of fellow guides belonging to the City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association . There were two rooms, one of which contained the orignal artworks and the other copies of printed posters.

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It is an extensive collection and was very impressive, as it goes back over 100 years. Plus the volunteers who take you round are very knowledgable.

Just across from Museum Way is Acton Town Station.

Stop 4: Acton Town station

Acton Town seems so important when you are on the tube as it is an interchange between the District and Piccadilly lines, but I have never had cause to get off here or indeed see what it looks like from the road – until now.

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Acton Town station was originally called Mill Hill Park when it was opened in July 1879 by the Metropolitan District Railway on its extension from Turnham Green to Ealing Broadway. It became a junction in 1883 with the opening of a line to Hounslow. The station was rebuilt in 1910 and at that point it became known as Acton Town. It was rebuilt again when the Piccadilly line was extended west from Hammersmith in 1932.

Acton Town is a rather lovely station by the prolific Charles Holden. We saw some of his earlier work in the stations at the southern end of what is now the Northern line when we were in the SW postcodes. Now we see an example from the early 1930s. It has an impressive ticket hall and also has its original concrete platform canopies and waiting rooms. And yet when you come at this station from the street, it comes as a surprise to find this beacon of design in an otherwise dull street.

Now retrace your steps back up Gunnersbury Lane and turn right into Avenue Road.

Stop 5: Avenue Crescent/Gardens

As we walk down Avenue Road note the streets on the right (Avenue Crescent/Avenue Gardens) have rather grand gateposts.

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These streets were developed by William Willett. He and his son (also William) were prominent house builders in the late 19th century and had their head office in Sloane Street, just south of Sloane Square.

Not sure if these gateposts were the entrances to the original estate on this site or whether they were gateways to the new housing development, as that had been built with private roads.

Fascinating fact time – again: The younger William Willett was a great proponent of Daylight Saving Time. In 1907 he published a pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” in which he proposed that the clocks should be advanced by 80 minutes in four incremental steps during April and reversed the same way during September. It was only the advent of the First World War that led to the introduction in 1916 of daylight saving (or British Summer Time as we would call it now) but this of course was much simpler with only one change of a single hour in the spring and autumn. Sadly William Willett did not live to see this as he died in 1915.

Continue along Avenue Road and the character changes as we get to a large estate of tower blocks.

Stop 6: Harlech Tower, Park Road East

We are heading for Harlech Tower which is the one by the corner of Avenue Road and Park Road East.

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Now this may look familiar. This is because it is the block that was used in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses as the location of Delboy and Rodney Trotter’s flat in Nelson Mandela House. So there is a little bit of W3 which is forever Peckham. I guess this was used as it was easier to get to from the BBC Television Centre than Peckham would have been.  However it was only used in series 1 to 5. Later episodes used a tower block in Bristol!

Go back to Avenue Road and continue a little way until you get to Church Road where you turn left. Continue to the end of Church Road and you will be back at the High Street. Turn right and a little way along on the other side of the road is our next stop.

Stop 7: Oaks Shopping Centre

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You can tell how prosperous an area is by the shops in the shopping mall. Here we have the likes of Sports Direct and Iceland, so clearly not much money here.

This was the site of the Globe Cinema which opened in March 1921. Within months of opening, the cinema was taken over by the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres chain which itself was taken over by Gaumont in 1929. The Globe was re-named Gaumont. It closed as a cinema in April 1959. The building was demolished and the site redeveloped, although the current building dates from sometime after the closure judging by the look of what is here today. The entrance to the Oaks Shopping Centre is now where the Globe once stood.

And I guess it is called the Oaks because it has been said that the name Acton means “Oak Town”

Walk along the High Street and soon on the other side of the road from the Oaks shopping centre is our next stop

Stop 8: Acton Municipal Buildings

This is a grand collection of municipal buildings dating from when Acton had its own local government. First you come to the library, dating from 1898/99. This is a Passmore Edwards library, one of at least 16 in London.

John Passmore Edwards was born in 1823 in a small Cornish village, Blackwater, which is between Redruth and Truro in Cornwall. He became a journalist and then editor of a leading London newspaper called the Echo. He was a life-long champion of the working classes and is remembered as being a generous benefactor. In a period of 14 years, over 70 major buildings were established as a direct result of his gifts and donations. These funded not only libraries but also hospitals, schools, convalescent homes and art galleries. He died in 1911.

If you want to find out more about him and his philanthropy, there is an interesting website dedicated to Passmore Edwards:  http://www.passmoreedwards.org.uk/index.htm

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Then across the side road (Winchester Street)  is the Town Hall itself which includes a council chamber. Then comes the public baths and  swimming pool. The oldest parts are the baths at the far end dating from 1904 and the offices facing Winchester Street dating from around 1910. At this time Acton just had an urban district council. It became a borough in 1921. Further additions were made the buildings in the 1920s and 1930s.

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There is currently some redevelopment going on to create a new leisure centre, which is due to open later this year.

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Note the crest and motto under it. The motto is “Floreat Actona” which means Let Acton Flourish.  This echoes the motto of Eton College (“Floreat Etona”). Today this formulation for Acton would suggest delusions of grandeur or perhaps an “in joke”. But I suspect this was chosen in deadly seriousness by the newly formed County Borough of Acton in 1921 as symbolic of where they wanted Acton to go and what they wanted it to be associated with.

The oak in the arms and crest references the name Acton as meaning ‘oak town’. Within the shield, the book (on the left) represents education and the cog-wheel (on the right) the motor industry, whilst the Crown and three swords in the middle are from the Middlesex County crest.

The local government reorganisation of 1965 meant that Acton became part of Ealing. The name Acton disappeared as a borough and the main centre of administration became Ealing.

Continue walking along the High Street.

Stop 9: Gala Bingo Hall (former Dominion Cinema)

Our next stop is on the left a little before we get to the railway bridge. We have seen the sites of two cinemas but here is one that has survived until today, although now a bingo hall.

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This was the Dominion Cinema which was opened in October 1937  by the small Bacal & Lee Circuit. It has lovely Art Deco style features outside and apparently the auditorium is pure streamline deco with hidden troughs of concealed lighting. The Dominion was taken over by Granada in 1946 and became known by that name. It closed as a cinema in August 1972 and has been a Bingo Hall ever since.

It is a Grade II Listed building, so hopefully will survive now in some form.

Continue walking along the main road soon after the railway, there is a gate into Acton Park on the left. Go in there and head towards the little chalet building.

Stop 10: Acton Park

Acton Park was laid out in 1888 after the local board (predecessor of the council) bought the land mostly from the Goldsmiths’ Company who had been left this by one of their number, a man called John Perryn. The Goldsmiths’ Company had grand plans for an estate of large houses. However after only building a few houses, the plan was dropped and they sold the site.

At the centre of the park was a bandstand, but there is no sign of this now. However the little chalet like building is a tea room, where one can stop for refreshment (or to warm up on a cold winter’s day!)

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Take the path with the tea room on your left and as we head out of Acton Park, on the left is an obelisk and below a slightly weathered board which explains the story – well possibly.

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This is allegedly a memorial to James Radcliffe, Earl of Dewentwater (apparently pronounced “Darwentwater”) executed for treason in 1716. He was one of the leaders of what the board describes as “the Rebellion” which of course was the Jacobite rebellion. The family estates were in Northumberland and were confiscated. The connection to Acton appears to be that his widow leased a house in Horn Lane in 1720 which then became known as Derwentwater House.

However the Acton History Group website  (http://www.actonhistory.co.uk/acton/page8.html)  says: “Whilst the wording on the label sounds a great story, the connection of James Radcliffe with Acton is probably only a legend, and the Monument is nothing more than a decorative garden ornament from Derwentwater House.”

And I guess this is why the architectural bible Pevsner is so tentative, saying: ” East of the railway is Acton Park (created 1888, mostly on Goldsmith’s Company land), with obelisk probably from the grounds of one of the older houses.”

Now leave the park and go into East Churchfield Road.

Stop 11: Goldsmiths Almshouses

Across East Churchfield Road from the park you can hardly fail to miss the Goldsmiths Almshouses. There were originally twelve Almshouses built in 1811 with a further eight added in 1838.

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These are quite delightful but sadly we have to view them from afar as one cannot get past the railings.

Now follow the park round to the end of East Churchfield Road and turn right into East Acton Lane. Go to the end of East Acton Lane and turn left into The Vale. Continue along The Vale until you get to a half moon shaped green on the left. this is where Bromyard Avenue meets The Vale.

Stop 12: Bromyard Avenue (former Government Offices)

As you look down Bromyard Avenue, you will see stretching ahead of you on the right hand side of the road a substantial 5 story building. This was purpose built for the Ministry of Pensions – started in 1914 and only finished after the war in 1922. It is impressive – a kind of Georgian terrace on steroids. And perhaps even it has the look and feel of Edinburgh.

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Today this building has been converted into apartments.

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So that brings us to the end of the W3 walk. W3 held a few surprises such as being the home of the first Waitrose as well as the real “location” of Rodney and Delboy’s flat and an 18th century memorial which may just have been  garden ornament!

Now for onward travel, there are buses along The Vale back west to Acton or east to Shepherd’s Bush,

W2: The Bear Necessities

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

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

Stop 1: Whiteley’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 2: Former Queens Cinema

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

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

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

Stop 3: Statue of George Kastrioti Skanderbeg

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

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

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

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

Stop 4: Queens Ice Rink and Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 6: 32 Craven Road

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

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

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

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

Stop 7: Paddington Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now go to platform 1.

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 8: The Mint Building

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

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

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Now return to South Wharf Road and turn right.

Stop 9: St Mary’s Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 10: 35 Gloucester Square

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 11: 12 Hyde Park Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stop 12: Tyburn Convent

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

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

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This is what it says:

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

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

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

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

W1: Hey big spender…

And so we start our journey through the W postcodes in W1. There is a lot to choose from in this postcode. W1 is synonymous with the West End. But not the West End of theatre – only 9 West End theatres are actually in W1 (Apollo, Dominion, Geilgud, Lyric, Palace, Palladium, Piccadilly, Prince Edward and Queen’s). Most West End theatres are in WC2.

But W1 is certainly the West End for shopping. As I am researching this in the run up to Christmas and publishing whilst the sales are in full swing, it seems only fitting I should focus the W1 walk on shops.

There are lots of Post Offices in W1 but I have chosen to start at a Post Office which is actually situated inside what used to be a department store. So we begin at the Post Office inside The Plaza, 120 Oxford Street.

Stop 1: The Plaza (former Bourne & Hollingsworth store)

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Until 1983, this building housed a store called Bourne and Hollingsworth. Walter William Bourne and Howard E Hollingsworth started up in Westbourne Grove, only moving to Oxford Street in 1902. The building we see today dates from the 1920s. Bourne and Hollingsworth was never very grand or part of a big chain so far as I can establish, so that is probably why it has not survived.

In the mid 1980s, the building was gutted to create this mini shopping mall, called The Plaza.  This was then remodelled in 1997 when a sculpture of a girl by Michael Rizzello was added on the front.

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There is a little reminder of the previous name if you look high up just below the pediment at each corner on Oxford Street. Oddly at the eastern end of the building, it says “B + H”, whilst the one at the west just says “BH”. Perhaps they are just slightly different sizes.

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Turn right out of the Plaza, and stay on the north side of Oxford Street.  As we walk along, do look at the former HMV flagship shore at 150 Oxford Street (on same side as the Plaza). This dates from the 1930s and was originally built for F W Woolworth & Co, but they moved out in the mid 1980s.

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Our next stop is on the same side of the road between Winsley Street and Great Titchfield Street.

Stop 2: 162 – 180 Oxford Street (Former Waring & Gillow store)

This building is described by architectural historian, Pevsner, as “riotous Hampton Court baroque” and it certainly is. Not sure when this stopped being Waring & Gillow but the building itself was reconstructed in 1977/78 with offices on the upper floors. Today there are a number of shops on the Oxford Street elevation and it is only when you look up you can get a hint that once this block was a whole shop.

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Waring and Gillow had a long history. First as separate entities: Warings was from Liverpool and began in the mid 19th century whilst Gillows was from Lancashire and started even earlier in the 1760s. They were at the upper end of the furniture market and by the late 19th century both had showrooms in London. The two companies began a loose association in 1897 and merged to become Waring & Gillow in 1903. The first part of their new Oxford Street store opened in 1906 with the western part on Oxford Street and into Great Titchfield Street opening in 1933.

There is an interesting touch at the corners. Not initials like at Bourne and Hollingsworth but a sculptural ship’s prow. Perhaps this is a reference to the fact that Gillow did a lot of work providing furnishings for ocean going liners.

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Now just across the road is our next stop at 173 Oxford Street.

Stop 3: Marks & Spencer Pantheon store

This sleek black granite facade dating from 1938 has a little clue to what was here before. If you look right up at the top in the centre, it has the name “The Pantheon”.

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The Pantheon was built in 1772 as a high class place of assembly, and was  so called because the main rotunda had a central dome reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome. Its fortunes declined in the 1780s. There were various failed attempts to use the premises for opera and theatre and in the end the building was reconstructed in the 1830s as a bazaar. In 1867 it was acquired by the wine merchants W and A Gilbey who used the building as offices and showrooms, until the 1930s when Marks and Spencer acquired the site.

A completely new building was put up, designed by Robert Lutyens (son of the more famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens). This building has been extended and rebuilt so many times since, I doubt there is much 1930s original apart of course from this distinctive facade.

Keep walking along Oxford Street, crossing to the south side when convenient before you get to Argyll Street.

Stop 4: Oxford Circus Station buildings (each corner of Argyll Street)

I know I said this was a West End store walk but I have to include the two original Oxford Circus tube station buildings as without them Oxford Street could probably not developed in the way it did. Until the tube came the only way to get to Oxford Street by public transport was by bus – the main line railways had been kept at a safe distance from the West End; the first shallow underground lines from 1863 onwards could not be extended to the West End because of the disruption that the cut and cover construction would have caused; and trams were never ever allowed in the West End.

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On the east corner of Argyll Street is the earlier of the two – the Central London Railway building of 1899/1901, all red brick and biscuit coloured terra cotta. On other corner is the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway’s building of 1905/06. This was on one of three lines developed by what became Underground Electric Railways of London, the main forerunner of London Transport. Almost all their early stations had the same distinctive dark red tiling on the ground floor level and they were deliberately built so that additional floors of offices could be built above, as happened in most cases. The offices above the Oxford Circus Station date from 1922.

We tend to forget these tube lines were built by different companies and in the early days the concept of interchange on the Underground was not well developed, so that is why the two lines at Oxford Circus each had their own station. We also tend to forget that the original deep level stations in central London were all built with lifts. So these buildings would have housed the lift machinery.

Oxford Circus had a major reconstruction in the 1960s when the Victoria Line was built. A new ticket hall was created underneath Oxford Circus itself which became the main way in. But part of these old station buildings continue to be used as exits.

Go down Argyll Street and ahead at the end is Liberty’s.

Stop 5: Liberty’s, Great Marlborough Street

Arthur Lasenby Liberty first set up in half a shop at 218a Regent Street in 1875, using a £2,000 loan from his father in law. The shop sold ornaments, fabrics and objets d’art from Japan and the East. Within 18 months Liberty had not only paid back the loan but had got the lease of the other half of the shop.

The Crown Estate owned the freehold of all the property in Regent Street and started a wholesale reconstruction in the early 20th century. The first world war intervened and so much of what we see today dates from the 1920s. In order to keep trading Liberty’s built a new store on Great Marlborough Street in 1922/23 whilst their main store in Regent Street was being rebuilt. The Regent Street building is now split up into various shops and so today people think of Liberty’s only as the Great Marlborough Street building.

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The two buildings were connected by a couple of bridges, which people rarely notice.

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The Great Marlborough Street store is quite unique. It is built out of the timbers of two 19th Century Royal Navy ships: HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The length of the frontage on Great Marlborough Street is the same as that of the Hindustan. It was built in the traditional manner of a tudor building with no nails or glue. Sadly Arthur Lasenby Liberty did not live to see his new store as he died in 1917.

Pevsner by the way hated this building saying: “the scale is wrong, the symmetry is wrong, the proximity to a classical facade put up by the same firm at about the same time is wrong, and the goings on of a store behind such a facade (and below those twisted Tudor chimneys) are wrongest of all”

Before we leave Liberty’s, look out for a couple of nice touches. The weathervane atop in the centre is a galleon said to be modelled on the Mayflower.

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And then above the main bridge is a clock and underneath a little homily about time: “No minute gone comes ever back again. Take heed and see ye do nothing in vain.”

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Go the full length of the Liberty store and cross Regent Street when you get to it. Look back across the road and you will see the former Liberty building on Regent Street (with its lovely curving facade on the upper floors).

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Our next stop is on the other (northern) corner of  Great Marlborough Street and Regent Street.

Stop 6: 224 – 244 Regent Street (former Dickens & Jones store)

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This building was Dickens and Jones which closed in January 2006, having traded in Regent Street since 1835.  Back then it was Dickens, Sons and Stephens. Then in the 1890s it became Dickens and Jones when Sir John Pritchard Jones became a partner. The Regent Street side of the present building dates from 1919 /1921 and was part of the reconstruction of Regent Street.

The business was acquired by Harrods in 1914 as its first store beyond the original Knightbridge store. Harrods was itself taken over by House of Fraser in 1959 but both stores carried on under their original names. Harrods was subsequently demerged from House of Fraser but Dickens and Jones stayed as a House of Fraser store until it closed. The building is now spilt into a number of stores.

Walk up towards Oxford Circus but turn left into Princes Street. Go into Hanover Square and then right up Harewood Place. Cross Oxford Street when you get to it and go down Holles Street, stopping when convenient to look at our next stop.

Stop 7: John Lewis store

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John Lewis has been trading here on Oxford Street since 1864 – so no doubt John Lewis will have some sort of 150th birthday celebration in 2014.

By all accounts John Lewis was an autocratic employer and his management style led to disputes with his sons, John Spedan and Oswald. It was John Spedan Lewis who in effect gave the company away after his father’s death – first with profit sharing in 1929 and then to full employee ownership in 1950.

The store we see on Oxford Street dates mainly from the late 1950s and has a distinctive sculpture on the corner of Holles Street. What other department store chain would have commissioned leading sculptor Barbara Hepworth to create a work to go on the side of their new store. It is a stringed aluminium piece dating from 1963 called “Winged Figure” and it looks like it has had a bit of brush up for its 50th birthday.

Although the store had been virtually wiped out in the Blitz, the rear of the building is actually pre-war.

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In the 1930s John Lewis had already rebuilt their Peter Jones store and were in the process of rebuilding the Oxford Street store when war intervened. They started at the Cavendish Square end of the store and this part of the store survived the Blitz. You can see the building changes as you get towards Cavendish Square.

Go round the back of John Lewis into Henrietta Place and the next block after John Lewis is the rear of the House of Fraser store.

Stop 8: House of Fraser (former D H Evans) store

This is a fine example of an inter war department store, dating from 1935/37, with streamlining fins making it feel taller than it is. What is interesting about this building is that it does not just have a decorative facade on Oxford Street. As you can see the side and the back of the building are properly finished.

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The man D H Evans was as the name suggests Welsh –  from Carmarthenshire. Dan Harries Evans having learned his trade as a draper in South Wales coming to London in 1878, first setting up business in Westminster Bridge Road but coming to Oxford Street in 1879. House of Fraser acquired this store in 1959 and it traded under its original name until 2001.

Useless fact: This was the first store in London to have escalators serving every floor.

Continue along Henrietta Place and then turn right into Wimpole Street. You will see the modern day Debenhams ahead of you but this will have to wait a while.

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Go down Wimpole Street and cross Wigmore Street when you get to it. Turn left along the north side. Stop outside the Wigmore Hall

Stop 9a: former Debenham & Freebody store

Immediately opposite the Wigmore Hall is another former department store – this was Debenham and Freebody. You can see why this store has not survived. Wigmore Street could not compete with Oxford Street as a shopping destination.

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Debenham and Freebody had quite a history though. It originated with a draper’s business started in 1778 by William Clark. William Debenham became a partner in 1813 and the name changed to Clark and Debenham. In 1851, Clement Freebody became a partner and the name changed to Debenham and Freebody. Expansion occurred after the First World War under its then chairman Ernest Debenham when he acquired the Marshall and Snelgrove company, more of which anon.

The building on Wigmore Street dates from 1907/08 and is faced with white glazed tiles. Unlike other surviving shops from this era, the grand entrance in the middle goes straight to a staircase. In a minute, cross over the road and have a look though the main doors. I think this entrance tells us Debenham and Freebody was a very grand store indeed, unlike its modern day successor.

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But before you that do we cannot ignore the Wigmore Hall, which was sort of a shop.

Stop 9b: Wigmore Hall

On the face of it this building is not a shop, but the Wigmore Hall was originally built as an adjunct to the piano showrooms of the German piano manufacturer, Bechstein. Designed by Thomas Edward Colcutt, the building was opened in 1901 as the Bechstein Hall. It is said to have near perfect acoustics. The external decoration is a of pale terra cotta and has similarities to one of Colcutt’s other buildings, the theatre in Cambridge Circus, now known as the Palace.

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Bechstein was forced to cease trading in June 1916 following the passing of the Trading with the Enemy Act 1916 – what a great title for an Act of Parliament. The property was seized and sold at auction. It was bought by Debenhams for £56,500 somewhat less than the £100,000 it had cost to build. It was rechristened the Wigmore Hall in 1917 and has been called that ever since. No sure when the Debenhams connection ended, but I assume it has.

The Hall today is run by a not for profit organisation but they do not own the freehold of the building. However according to this story this should not be a problem as they have got a 300 year lease starting from 2012! http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a8Lh_ZwQ6Ayg&refer=culture

Now cross over (at a suitable safe location) and take a peek in the main door of  the Debenham and Freebody building. Then go along Wigmore Street and turn left into Welbeck Street.

As we walk down Welbeck Street, we pass number 1, which looks like it was actually part of the Debenham and Freebody building. This was until fairly recently used as the corporate headquarters of the Debenham group of companies. It is currently being refurbished but for now you can still see the Debenham name by the door.

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Ahead of us at the end of Welbeck Street is the building which houses the modern day Debenhams.

Stop 10: Debenhams (former Marshall and Snelgrove store)

So back to Debenhams. This was originally Marshall and Snelgrove, the first store to be acquired by Debenhams. James Marshall started his store in Vere Street in 1837 and was joined by John Snelgrove in 1848. About this time the store moved to new premises on the corner of Vere Street and Oxford Street. Marshall and Snelgrove expanded into fashionable provincial towns like Scarborough and Harrogate. They did not fare well during the First World War and in 1916 started a working relationship with Debenhams which led to a full merger in 1919.

The current building dates from the late 1960s and in the early 1970s the store was rebranded as Debenhams. It was considerably rebuilt in 1987 when a huge atrium was created with escalators running through it. And just recently it has been undergoing a £40 million refurbishment which included cladding the building with 180,000 aluminium tiles which ripple in the wind.  However this is an improvement on what was there before.

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Now go down Vere Street to Oxford Street and turn right. Our next stop is just across the road.

Stop 11: 363 Oxford Street (HMV)

This is the famous HMV store but all is not what it seems.

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There is a blue plaque at the front which proclaims this was the most famous music store in the world and was opened by composer Sir Edward Elgar in July 1921.  Well not quite, as that store burnt down in 1937 and the facade we see today dates from 1939.  And in 2000, HMV moved out so the building was home to a giant Foot Locker store for more than a decade. HMV only came back to 363 Oxford Street in October 2013, when it down sized from its previous flagship store at 150 Oxford Street (which we saw earlier). And by the way that old fashioned looking sign is a replica of what used to be here.

The blue plaque was unveiled by Sir George Martin when the original store closed in 2000. Martin famously produced most of the Beatles tracks and the plaque references a Beatles connection. The store used to have a recording studio and in February 1962 a certain Brian Epstein used the store’s recording facilities to cut a demo disc with a band he was managing – a little-known act named The Beatles. According the HMV store website, “the tracks were heard by publishing company Ardmore & Beechwood, based in the same building, who put the young Epstein in touch with Parlophone’s George Martin and…well, you know the rest.” 

It is hard to believe not so long ago there were two large HMV stores on Oxford Street plus two Virgin megastores not to mention Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus – which by the way was in the lower half of an old department store building (Swan and Edgar). Now this HMV is the last large music store standing. However I would not bet on this HMV store making it to its centenary year in 2021.

Continue walking along Oxford Street and you cannot miss our final stop.

Stop 12: Selfridges

We have to finish at Selfridges which is the largest store in Oxford Street and second largest store in the UK – only Harrods is bigger.

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Where do you begin to start to tell the story of Harry Gordon Selfridge – a man who made his money in department stores in Chicago plus marrying well, and then came to London to shake up the retail scene here. He also credited with coining phrases such as “the customer is always right” and “[x] shopping days to Christmas”.

Selfridge had a colourful life, as we have been seeing in the TV series, Mr Selfridge. And we have already heard in our SW15 walk that he ended his days in reduced circumstances with his daughter in a rented flat in Putney.

He lived life to the full and he loved to gamble. And this was not just at the clubs. In 1917 he and the managing director of Harrods made a bet that 6 years after the end of (First World ) War, Selfridge’s turnover would be greater than of Harrods. He lost and even today Harrods is still the bigger store. The bet was called in in 1927 and Selfridge’s forfeit was to have a model of Harrods made in silver. This can still be seen today in the middle of Harrods Bank. (NE corner of basement- ie the end of the store nearest the tube station).

Selfridges store was not built in one go. The eastern end was the first part to be built in 1909, but the rest was not built until the 1920s, by which time it was looking a little old fashioned.The focus in the centre is the clock and sculpture. The clock dates from 1931 but the sculpture called “Queen of Time” is perhaps a little earlier.

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And so time has run out for our W1 walk which focussed mainly but not exclusively on shops and looked at some of the forgotten ones as well as some of the big names of today.

As we are in the heart of the West End, there are lots of buses for onwards travel – plus of course Bond Street station is just down the road.

Why not join me on one of my walks in January?

The Postcode Walks blog will resume in January but in the meantime why not consider joining me on one of my walks in the real world. Below is my full schedule for January. Hope to see you!

MR SELFRIDGE AND HIS COMPETITORS (Thursday 2 or Sunday 19 January)

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If you are coming to Oxford Street for the sales, why not also come with me to hear fascinating stories about some of the West End’s major stores and the characters behind them. Learn about the bet between Harry Gordon Selfridge and Harrods and what the loser had to do. Find out why John Lewis spent three weeks in Brixton prison in 1903. See the building which housed the very first store with the name Debenhams (and which is not on Oxford Street). Hear why Liberty’s has an unexpected connection to the British Navy and much much more.

THURSDAY 2 JANUARY: 11:00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mr-selfridge-and-his-competitors-tales-of-the-west-ends-greatest-stores-tickets-9591802339?ref=ebapi

SUNDAY 19 JANUARY 14.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mr-selfridge-and-his-competitors-tales-of-the-west-ends-greatest-stores-tickets-9592167431?ref=ebapi

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THE STREETS TO THE STARS: A TOUR OF THEATRELAND (Saturdays 4 and 18 January)

(A City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association walk)

You will almost be able to smell the greasepaint as we explore the star studded West end, enjoying high drama and low comedy. See where Eliza Doolittle sold her flowers, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry stode the boards and learn why every theatre has its ghost.

£8 (£6 Concs)

NO NEED FOR ADVANCE BOOKING: JUST TURN UP!

Meet at 11.00 on Saturdays outside Covent Garden station in James Street – exit side of tube station

I will be taking this walk on 4 and 18 January. But it runs every Saturday morning, with one of my fellow qualified City Westminster guides.

City of Westminster Guides also do regular walks in St James’s every Saturday afternoon and in Mayfair every Wednesday morning (although not 1 January!)

More info at: http://www.westminsterguides.org.uk/

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HOW LONDON CHANGED BETWEEN THE WARS (Sunday 5 or Thursday 23 January)

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London changed dramatically between the two world wars, laying the foundation for the modern city we see today. On this walk, we will see how the development of office blocks, grand showrooms and shops and cinema buildings of all shapes and sizes changed the face of London. And we will hear how things such as the motor car, the telephone and neon lights all had an impact on London.

SUNDAY 5 JANUARY: 14.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-london-changed-between-the-wars-tickets-9609413013?ref=ebapi

THURSDAY23 JANUARY: 14.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-london-changed-between-the-wars-tickets-9609647715?ref=ebapi

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WESTMINSTER BYWAYS (Thursday 9 or Sunday 26 January)

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Westminster Abbey is so familiar but not many people know the streets that lie just behind the Abbey. Here you will find tranquillity and could almost imagine yourself in a small English cathedral city. Join me to explore the little known byways around Westminster. See some of the best preserved 18th century streets in London, plus  a couple of very specialist shops and hear about some of the people who lived hereabouts.

THURSDAY 9 JANUARY: 14:00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/westminster-byways-tickets-9609814213?ref=ebapi

SUNDAY 26 JANUARY 11.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/westminster-byways-tickets-9609930561?ref=ebapi

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WEST END MOVIE HOUSES (Sunday 12 or Thursday 30 January)

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The West End has always been the UK’s premiere location for cinemas. This walk will not just show you some of the cinemas which still operate today but will also point out some of the buildings which once housed cinemas – large and small.

We shall hear about how quite a few of these buildings replaced old Music Halls and how in the 1920s, developers hedged their bets by having stage facilities as well as a projection room. We shall learn about the small specialist cinemas showing foreign language movies, cartoons and newsreels and how many of these declined into seedy places showing X rated movies before finally closing. Sadly most of the wonderful interiors of these buildings no longer exist, but on this walk we can usually get a peek of a couple of the surviving 1920s foyers. And we end up at a pub which started life as a cinema in 1911. But you will certainly get to see the wonderful exteriors and hear the stories associated with these fascinating buildings.

SUNDAY 12 JANUARY: 11.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/west-end-movie-houses-fleapit-to-deco-super-cinemas-tickets-9591585691?ref=ebapi

THURSDAY 30 JANUARY: 11.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/west-end-movie-houses-fleapit-to-deco-super-cinemas-tickets-9591619793?ref=ebapi

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MADE IN CHELSEA (Thursday 16 January)

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Chelsea has long been associated with artists and writers, and there are so many fascinating stories to be told.

In this walk, we hear what happened when actress Ellen Terry came for her portrait to be painted. Then there are the cautionary tales of two different libel cases which turned out rather badly for the libelled party. And what happened to the book of poetry buried with the writer’s dead wife. We will also learn about Dracula author, Bram Stoker’s day job and how american writer Mark Twain got his name.

THURSDAY 16 JANUARY: 11.00

£10 (Concs £7.50)

To book: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/made-in-chelsea-tickets-9591653895?ref=ebapi

===================================================================

THE POSTCODE WALK BLOGS WILL RESUME IN THE NEW YEAR STARTING WITH W1

SW20: The Good Life … or Bleak Suburbia

I have to confess I have struggled a little with SW20. It is a bit lacking in history. It was just farm land here until the 1870s when development took off. And – dare I say it -SW20 does seem a bit dull on the surface at least.

I have however discovered two people with a connection to SW20 who neatly sum up how people react to this kind of suburban area. The actor Richard Briers, who is forever associated with playing typical, and not so typical, suburban husbands was born and spent his early years in Raynes Park, so he could be said to reflect the “Good Life” aspects. On the other hand there is the Irish writer, Edna O’Brien, who lived in SW20 when she first moved to London in the 1950s with her young family. She hated it, calling SW20 “bleak suburbia”. She could not wait to escape, and she did – eventually.

We start our walk at the Post Office which is at 1a Amity Grove, just off Coombe Lane in the centre of Raynes Park. Go to the end of Amity Grove and turn left. Across the road is our first stop (and the reason why the area built up in the first place).

Stop 1: Raynes Park Station

The railway was built through the area in 1838 but there was no station here until October 1871. The name Raynes Park was originally applied to the area south of the railway line where the local landowner, Richard Garth, planned to develop a new garden suburb similar to that being developed by John Innes at Merton Park. The Rayne family had been previous landowners of the farmland on which Garth intended to build. It did not quite get developed as a coherent “garden suburb” but it did get developed, and we shall visit the roads on the south side of the station shortly.

Like Merton Park, there is no actual park called Raynes Park. It is simply a device to make the area sound nice and leafy. I think John Innes also had this idea when he started to develop nearby Merton Park in 1870. He even persuaded the railway company to change the local station name in 1887 from Lower Merton to Merton Park, as it sounded better. And the same “deception” occurs further down the line at Motspur Park and Worcester Park, neither of which seem to have an actual park of that name.

The station at Raynes Park is unusual. The fast tracks run through with no platforms and but there are two pairs of platforms for the local trains as the station stands at a junction – where the line to Epsom and Chessington peels off the main line out of Waterloo. The Southern reconstructed this in the 1930s as a grade separated junction so the trains from Epsom and Chessington could pass under the main line rather than cross on the level. And I guess this meant the up and down platforms could not be opposite each other.

A distinctive feature of the station is the long footbridge set at an angle over the 4 tracks of the main line. This really stands out as the main line is already on quite a high embankment. However you do wonder what the point is. There is a subway entrance to each set of platforms and so you could interchange by going down to street level. And there cannot be many people who want to interchange between the up platforms and the down ones, so why go to the expense of building – and maintaining – this foot bridge.

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Continue along Coombe Lane, crossing Lambton Road and then taking a left into Lambton Road. Follow this road round to the right where it becomes Worple Road.

Stop 2: Pepys Court

Just along from the corner is our next stop, Pepys Court.

This block of flats was the childhood home of the actor Richard Briers who died in February 2013. Given all the suburban characters he played I associate him with one of the 1930s semis in a street that all looks the same. But he clearly came from more humble beginnings. One of his best known characters was in the sitcom “The Good Life” where he and his wife played by Felicity Kendal gave up all the trappings of modern life to become self sufficient in a 1930s semi. Although filmed in Northwood it was actually set down the road in Surbiton – or should I say Suburbiton.

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Interestingly there is no connection to Samuel Pepys. The Pepys remembered here and in the adjoining Pepys Road is a very distant relative of the famous diarist. He is Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham who lived locally until his death in 1851 (Hence also nearby is Cottenham Park Road, Cottenham Drive and an actual park called Cottenham Park – Cottenham is a place in Cambridgeshire). Charles Pepys was a lawyer and senior politian and had two spells as Lord Chancellor in the late 1830s and late 1840s.

Now look over the road.

Stop 3: Methodist Church and Lantern Arts Centre

There is a pair of large red brick Byzantine style buildings. The one on the right is a functioning Methodist church. The building on the left looks like it was built as an assembly room or church hall. All this is probably rather too big for the current congregation but the church hall has at least found a purpose, as the Lantern Arts Centre.

It has been going almost 20 years according to the signs and has no doubt been home to myriad am-dram productions. Their aim is to involve members of the local community in their productions and they aim for creativity with a christian ethos at its heart. I see they are doing Aladdin as their panto this year  – I guess they were not best pleased to discover that the big local commercial theatre (New Wimbledon Theatre) is doing the same story this year. But I suppose it does not really matter as you do not exactly go for the story!

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Now continue along Worple Road and follow the one way system right (into Pepys Road)

Stop 4: Site of Rialto Cinema, 3 Pepys Road

Just around the corner on the right is St George’s House – one of those uninspiring 1980s suburban office blocks. This was the site of Raynes Park’s one and only cinema.

Raynes Park never had a grand super cinema but it did have just one modest little picture house dating from the silent era. Built in 1921 and originally called the Raynes Park Cinema, it was refronted in 1933. It then re-opened as the Rialto Cinema and kept this name until it closed on 23 September 1978. From what I can find out it was never part of a big chain and stayed independent until the end.

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The building stood empty and unused for several years, and was finally demolished in the mid-1980s. Not sure why the new building got called St George’s House. It is a bit of a shame that the Rialto name was not used for the building on this site.

Go under the railway bridge and ahead you will see the library and to the left is Kingston Road. The roads going off the main road to the right form our next “stop”

Stop 5: The Apostles

Estate agents always have to find a tag for an area if it does not have one already and sometimes even if it does. This chunk of Raynes Park is known as the Apostles. Not because of any religious connection or because the roads have saints names – They do not (unless Sydney and Edna count which I don’t think they do). 

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No, nothing as obvious as that. The area gets its estate agent name because there are twelve parallel streets off of Kingston Road running towards, but not actually going into, Bushey Road. (And wouldn’t it have been great if Edna O’Brien had lived in Edna Road but sadly she did not)

This area was the first part of Raynes Park to be fully developed once the station had opened in 1871.

Just as an aside, isn’t it rather fitting that at the corner of one of the Apostles streets is the Kingston area office of the Church of England’s Southwark diocese.

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Now it is a bit of a trek to our next stop. You can walk all the way down Kingston Road following the bend round to the right and the turning left at the traffic lights (into what continues to be Kingston Road). Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is on the left. Alternatively you can hop on a 152 or 163 bus from outside Raynes Park station on Approach Road for a couple of stops to Wimbledon Chase station.

Stop 6: Wimbledon Chase Station

This sad looking building dates from 1929 and was one of a number of new stations which the Southern Railway built between the wars. The story of how this station (and the line it is on) came to be built by the Southern Railway is down to the rivalry between train companies.

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This station was only built by the Southern Railway because of a compromise between them and Underground Electric Railways of London (UERL) who in the 1920s owned most of the tube. UERL needed more traffic on their lines and wanted to extend their City and South London Railway (C&SLR) from Clapham Common to Sutton and their District Railway from Wimbledon to Sutton. The two would join just near a little village called Morden. Needless to say the Southern with their virtual monopoly of train services in south London objected.

UERL said it had to extend the C &SLR at least as far as Morden because that was the first place the line could get to the surface where a depot could be built. Southern could see this would not impact too much on their traffic as it would largely steal from the London County Council tramway which paralleled most of that route. So a deal was struck. UERL could build as far as a station originally to be called Morden North and get their depot. Southern would build the line from Wimbledon to Sutton on the planned alignment but the two would not connect.

UERL opened their line first in 1926 and they had the last laugh. They included a bus turn round at Morden which allowed the area around the station to be served by feeder bus routes, as indeed it is today. The Underground route was much more attractive and gave a faster route direct into the city and west end. So the Wimbledon – Sutton line never really took off and even now only gets a train every half hour.

By the way, next time you look at a map of this area, see how you have to go through Morden station to get to the Underground depot and then if you carry on, you are close by Morden South station on the Wimbledon – Sutton line. This is just about where the junction of the two lines would have been. And of course because the Underground only built one station at Morden, they called it simply Morden although it was nowhere near the old village centre which was actually south of Morden South station.

Continue along Kingston Road and after the Nelson Hospital site (currently under reconstruction – and in SW19 so that is why it is not covered!) turn right down Watery Lane. Keep going down Watery Lane as it curves to the right.

Stop 7: Rutlish School

Just beyond Manor Gardens on the right is our next stop – Rutlish School is on our left.

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We saw the tomb of William Rutlish in nearly St Mary’s Churchyard on our SW19 walk. He was embroiderer to King Charles II. He died in 1687 and left £400 for a school for the education of poor children of the local parish (around £61,000 in today’s money according to Wikipedia). By the 1890s the charity had accumulated a considerable excess of funds. John Innes (of whom we have also already heard) was chairman of the board of trustees and was instrumental in using some of the excess to establish a school. This was in Rutlish Road, SW19 – next to Merton Park station.

The school moved to its present site in 1957. This had been the location of the John Innes Horticultural Institution which itself had been set up under the terms of John Innes’ will in and around his old house, known as the Manor House. This building still stands as part of the school and has a blue plaque – I think this is probably the only blue plaque in the whole of SW20!

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Now it may not have turned out like this. John Innes’ will specified that his bequest should be used for either a school of horticulture that would provide “technical instruction in the principles of the science and art of horticulture and the application thereof to the industry or employment of gardening”, or a Public museum for the collection of paintings and other works of art. The trustees responsible for the money opted for the former and in 1910 the John Innes Horticultural Institution opened here. It moved to Norfolk in 1945 and of course it is this institution which created the famous John Innes compost mixes long after he died – John Innes may have been somewhat bemused that his name is generally associated with compost rather than as a philanthropist or property developer. There are also lots of varieties of fruit tree which have the name Merton because they were developed by the John Innes Horticutural Institution.

Useless fact: probably the most famous old boy of Rutlish School is Sir John Major who was prime minister from 1990 to 1997.

Now continue down Watery Lane to the end and you will see a little pathway round to Manor Road go down this to the end and turn left into Cannon Hill Lane

Stop 8: Cannon Hill Lane

Cannon Hill Lane meanders from Kingston Road to Grand Drive and it s somewhere on this road, that Edna O’Brien lived out her miserable years in “bleak suburbia”.

I do not know exactly where she lived but in a documentary on her a couple of months back I think it showed the bit of Cannon Hill Lane by the Common, which is beyond Martin Way.

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Just a by the by – according to Merton Council, Cannon Hill Common is not and never has been a common. It did not exist as a public open space until 1925 when the Merton and Morden Urban District Council purchased part of an estate around Cannon Hill House – which was built in the 1760s and demolished between the wars. 

As we have no idea where exactly to go on Cannon Hill Lane, I suggest you just go as far as the roundabout with Martin Way.

Stop 9: Joseph Hood Recreation Ground

When Cannon Hill Lane meets Martin Way at the roundabout, go right into Martin Way. A little way along on the left is the entrance to Joseph Hood Recreation Ground

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Now I am sure that most locals do not know who Joseph Hood was and why this recreation ground is named after him.

He was a local bigwig. Originally from Leicestershire, he was a solicitor, who worked on the creation of British American Tobacco Company Ltd and became one of its deputy Chairman. He was MP for Wimbledon from 1918 to 1924. He and his wife were granted the freedom of the borough of Wimbledon in 1924. In 1930 he was elected mayor of Wimbledon, an office he held until his death in January 1931.  Hood was known as a generous benefactor to the area he represented in parliament. He donated a recreation ground to Merton and Morden Urban District Council and following his death this was renamed Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields. But this is not where we are standing. The Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields are in Motspur Park. I cannot seem to find out why the recreation ground off Martin Way also has his name (but not as a memorial!) or why there are two recreation grounds with such similar names within a couple of miles of each other.

There is also a local primary school called Joseph Hood, just off Martin Way but again I cannot seem to find out why this particular school bears his name.

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Now return along Martin Way to the roundabout.

Stop 10: St James Church

Just past the roundabout on Martin Way on the left is our final stop – St James church

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St James Church dates from 1957. It had been planned in the 1930s when the housing in the area was developed. The church hall dates from 1936 but war intervened before the church could be built.

The church hall is very typically of that period and had a role in a recent film called “Run for your Wife” – the Ray Cooney farce. This film had vast numbers of well known faces popping up in tiny cameo roles and the scene shot in St James’ church hall included Maureen Lipman and June Whitfield.

The film was however not exactly a great success. When released in February 2013, it had the dubious distinction of taking just £747 in the first weekend. Richard Briers also appeared in this film but not at St James. I had thought this was his last movie but apparently not. The last part he played in a film was in the equally obscure “Cockneys vs Zombies”. Oh dear, he did not exactly go out with a bang!

Although the church looks quite plain on the outside, it has a little gem on the inside. It has a mural by the German jewish artist, Hans Feibusch. He fled Germany in the 1930s and after the war he had a number of commissions to paint church murals. Others in London can be found in St John’s Waterloo and St Alban’s Holborn.

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The St James’ mural is a triptych of the resurrection – all in soft pastel tones to go with the very pale green interior of the Church. And yet it is very powerful.

Sadly this is another Church that is rarely open. Even if the door is open you can only go as far as the side chapel and not into the main church.

So this brings us to the end of the SW20 walk. It has some interest but not as much as most of the other SW postcodes. For some this area represents a safe peaceful area for others it is too quiet or too soulless, or both. You pays your money; you takes your choice.

For onward travel there are buses outside the church to Morden (164 or 413) or across the road to Wimbledon (164)

And this also is the final SW postcode, so that means we are one sixth of the way through the 120 London postcodes. After Christmas, we go west, starting rather unoriginally with W1.