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.

IMG_2847

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.

IMG_2912

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.

IMG_2907

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

Stop 2: Number 18 Highbury Corner

IMG_2908

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,

IMG_2902

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.

IMG_2900

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.

IMG_2896

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.

IMG_2892

IMG_2891

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.

IMG_2885

IMG_2887

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.

IMG_2879

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.

IMG_3718

(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.

IMG_3720

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

IMG_3722

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!

IMG_3725

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

IMG_3723

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

IMG_3728

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

IMG_3726

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

IMG_3729

Stop 9: Highbury Barn Tavern

IMG_2862

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.

IMG_3732

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.

IMG_2856

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

IMG_2855

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.

IMG_2849

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.

IMG_2854

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.

IMG_2841

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.

IMG_2834

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.

IMG_2838

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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

IMG_9609

IMG_9608

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.

IMG_9590

IMG_9606

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.

IMG_9602

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.

IMG_9592

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.

IMG_9591

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

IMG_9594

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.

IMG_9581

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.

IMG_9576

IMG_9579

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.

IMG_9570

IMG_9568

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

IMG_9562

IMG_9566

These almshouses are at the corner of Woronzow Road.

IMG_9567

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.

IMG_9560

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.

IMG_9561

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.

IMG_9556

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.

IMG_9549

IMG_9546

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.

IMG_9534

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.

IMG_9536

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).

IMG_9617

IMG_9621

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.

IMG_9623

IMG_9625

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.

IMG_9633

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

IMG_9636

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.

IMG_9634

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

IMG_9635

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”.

IMG_9639

IMG_9640

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.

IMG_9648

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.

IMG_9642

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.

IMG_9306

IMG_9307

IMG_9323

IMG_9308

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.

IMG_9312

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.

IMG_9318

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.

IMG_9327

IMG_9329

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.

IMG_9336

IMG_9335

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.

IMG_9337

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.

IMG_9348

IMG_9346

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.

IMG_9351

IMG_9350

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.

IMG_9357

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).

IMG_9359

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.

IMG_9363

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.

IMG_9362

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.

20141104_141638

20141104_141622

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.

IMG_9372

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).

IMG_9376

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.

20141104_141338

IMG_9379

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.

20141104_140809

IMG_9394

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

IMG_9382

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.

IMG_9387

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.

IMG_9389

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.

IMG_9388

IMG_9393

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.

20141104_142036

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.

20141104_142911

20141104_143337

20141104_143140

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.

20141104_142814

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.

 

 

NW6 – That’s Entertainment

NW6 is Kilburn – and West Hampstead. And we are going to have a look at both. Thanks by the way to fellow Westminster guide Rhona who lives in the area and drove me round NW6 and showed me the sights – in fact far more than I could possibly cover.

We start our walk at Kilburn Post Office whose address is 79a Kilburn High Road but which is actually is a side street called Brondesbury Villas. Take a left out of the Post Office and then left onto the High Road.

This is another street which was clearly a more important shopping centre once but which has not managed to get (or keep) the big names. Look at these two shops which are just near the Post Office. Clearly someone thought it worthwhile to invest in imposing facades in the inter war period.

IMG_9175

(I think the HSBC building was once a Burton’s. It has that distinctive look.)

Walk along Kilburn High Road, and just before Willesden Lane on the left, the former Gaumont State cinema with its distinctive tower looms up.

Stop 1: Former Gaumont State cinema

IMG_9184

The wonderful Cinema Treasures site says that the Gaumont State Theatre was the largest movie palace ever built in England and the third largest in the United Kingdom. The theatre opened just before Christmas 1937 and had a 4,004 seating capacity, split between a 1,356 seat balcony and stalls which seated 2,648.

IMG_9181

IMG_9187

According to Allen Eyles book ‘Gaumont British Cinemas’, the ‘State’ name and 120 foot skyscraper tower that adorns the facade were in tribute to the Empire State Building, New York which had opened just a few years earlier. The Gaumont State’s American Deco-inspired exterior is a sharp contrast to its green Italian Renaissance interior, which was perhaps was rather ‘old fashioned’ by comparison.

This building has had a chequered history with parts being used as a dance hall and a bingo hall. The main auditorium cinema closed in 1980 but a smaller screen in the former restaurant area carried on for a little longer, but with a gap between 1981 and 1985 and finally ending in 1990. Bingo carried on until 2007. In January 2008, the building was purchased by a church, and is now operated by the Ruach Ministries Church.

It was designated a Grade II Listed building on 10th October 1980 and has now been upgraded to a Grade II*.

More information on this cinema at: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1478

Continue walking along the High Road and soon on the other side of the road  on the corner of Messina Avenue is another giant former cinema,

Stop 2: Former Grange Cinema

This cinema is a lot older that the Gaumont State, dating from 1914. It is remarkable forerunner of those super cinemas of the interwar period in terms of size (with around 2000 seats) and yet in terms of style it harks back to an older period).

IMG_9190

IMG_9201

The cinema’s name can be found in a couple of place on the upper section of the facade facing the High Road. It has a corner entrance topped by a large copper dome. Inside the foyer is a galleried oval rotunda with a stairway leading to what was the tea room and into the circle. You can peek in and see this lovely entrance way from the street.

IMG_9209

This is an odd name for a cinema and relates to the fact that just about here was a house called Kilburn Grange, and running to the side and behind the cinema is a street called Grangeway as a further reminder.

IMG_9197

The Grange Cinema was taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in 1929 who also in due course owned the State just over the road. The cinema closed in June 1975 and was converted into a nightclub which opened on 23rd February 1976. Initially called Butty’s, it later became the National Ballroom, and then a live music venue named the National Club which catered for the large Irish community in the area. The National Club closed in spring 1999. The building was empty and unused for several years, until it became a church. It is now operated by the Brazilian based ‘United Church of the Kingdom of God’.

It seems these days, evangelical churches is the saviour of many of these buildings now that bingo seems to be in decline. I do wonder though whether someone ought to try and run one of these as a cinema as a not for profit outfit with a varied programme of offbeat and vintage films maybe – possibly this is something the National Trust should look at if they could acquire the right building.

The building is Grade II Listed. Again lots of information about this old cinema on the cinema treasures site:

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/21111

keep walking along the High Road and soon on the left you will see Buckley Road and the entrance to the Tricycle Cinema

Stop 3: Tricycle Theatre and Cinema

The Tricycle is a bit of a Kilburn institution. The Theatre on the High road started out as the Foresters Hall – the signage still proclaims “The Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society”. According to their website, The Ancient Order of Foresters today trades as Foresters Friendly Society. It was established in 1834, although its origins lie in a much older society called the Royal Foresters, formed around 1745. Their first members came to recognise they had a duty to assist their fellow men who fell into need “as they walked through the forests of life”. They also seem to have had lodges like the masons, of which I guess this was one.

The building was at some point converted to a music and dance hall. The Tricycle took it over in 1980 and this became the permanent home of the Wakefield Tricycle Company – a touring theatre company which presented new plays and children’s theatre throughout Britain and internationally. According to the Tricycle website, they never actually played Wakefield.

IMG_9193

They always put on interesting and different stuff. I can perhaps do not better than quote from their website:

“The Tricycle views the world through a variety of lenses, bringing unheard voices into the mainstream. It presents high quality and innovative work, which provokes debate and emotionally engages. Located in Brent, the most diverse borough in London, the Tricycle is a local venue with an international vision.”

IMG_9191

The purpose built cinema was added in 1998 with it own entrance in Buckley Road. Apparently the design on the screen curtain is unique to this cinema. It is in the form of a tricycle which upon closer inspection is made up of names of sponsors, patrons and film stars who have given their support to the cinema.

Retrace your steps back down the High Road and turn left into Messina Avenue. Follow this all the way along ( a bit of a trek, I am afraid) and turn left when you reach West End Lane. Soon on the left you will come to our next stop.

Stop 4: St James’ Church

This is a vast Victorian red brick barn of a church built in the 1880s by Arthur Blomfield – a prolific church architect. Normally these places are deserted in the week and often on Sundays too, but this one has found some interesting new uses. Walk down the side street (Sherriff Road) almost the full length of the church and go in the entrance.

IMG_9226

Inside at the back in a Post Office counter, and with this at your back you have some counters of cards and postal items, to the right is a cafe and to the left an extensive children’s play area.

IMG_9220

IMG_9221

And there are plenty of people. Perhaps not what traditionalists would want to see but at least the building is performing useful community functions.

Now return to West End Lane and cross over and go down the street opposite (Broadhurst Gardens).

Stop 5: Number 165 Broadhurst Gardens (Former Decca Recording studios)

Almost immediately on your right is our next stop. This is currently used by English National Opera but for most of its life it was the main recording studios for Decca.

IMG_8919

IMG_8922

The name “Decca” originally comes from a portable gramophone called the “Decca Dulcephone” patented in 1914 by musical instrument makers Barnett Samuel and Sons. The name was coined by Wilfred S. Samuel by merging the word “Mecca” with the initial D of their logo “Dulcet” or their trademark “Dulcephone”.

“Decca” was a good brand name as it was easy to pronounce in most languages. That company was eventually renamed The Decca Gramophone Co. Ltd. and then sold to former stockbroker Edward Lewis in 1929 who built up the company. Lewis established an American Decca label in 1934 with others but the two companies went their separate ways during World War II. However the link was later re-established in 1998 when they ended up being owned by the same company (now Universal Music Group own both labels).

This building started off life as an engineering works and was converted into a recording studios by Crystalate Records in 1933. That company was acquired by Decca in 1937, and this building became Decca’s main London studio. The studios finally closed in 1980. There are some great pictures and detail about the studios on this link http://www.philsbook.com/decca.html

Probably the most famous story associated with the studios is of the Beatles audition. Brian Epstein paid Decca to provide a one hour audition for The Beatles at these studios on 1 January 1962. But they were turned down y Decca. Decca’s A & R Man at the time, Dick Rowe, is said to have told their manager, “Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein”. Rowe later signed The Rolling Stones following an introduction and encouragement from George Harrison.

Now return to West End Lane and turn right. Almost immediately is the first of three stations which come in quick succession.

Stop 6: Three stations in quick succession

It is a curious quirk of London geography that most of the main railways lines to the midlands and north actually head west for a time as they pass through NW6. And here we have two of them in close proximity together with a third more local line.

The first station you come across is West Hampstead’s Jubilee line station.

IMG_8916

This was actually built by the Metropolitan Railway in 1879 as it started to spread extend out from Baker Street. Initially the station acted as a temporary terminus until it was further extended to Willesden Green in November 1879. Later the lines were used by the Great Central Railway to get to its new London terminus Marylebone which opened in 1899. But soon extra tracks were needed for both the Metropolitan and Great Central services, although I think the latter just passed through here, without stopping.

In 1939 stopping Metropolitan services serving this station were transferred to the Bakerloo line and it was then that the platform was rebuilt in the newish Underground style. However the original street level station building was retained which makes for an odd mix. This arm of the Bakerloo line transferred to form the Jubilee line when it first opened in 1979.

IMG_9229

Then just 100m along the street is the next station which is served by London Overground. The line opened in 1860 but this station was only added in 1888. It was called West End Lane until its name was changed in 1975. It was served by the North London Railway and for many years you could get a train from here to Broad Street in the City

IMG_8906

Then just another 100m along you find West Hampstead Thameslink,

The station was built by the Midland Railway on its extension to St. Pancras, to serve the newly developed area around the hamlet of West End. It opened on 1 March 1871, and was originally named West End for Kilburn and Hampstead. It was renamed several times: to West End in 1903; to West End and Brondesbury in 1904; to West Hampstead in 1905; West Hampstead Midland in 1950; and finally West Hampstead Thameslink on 16 May 1988 – the latter rename was following the reopening of the Snow Hill tunnel in the City allowing trains to run through to south London, beginning the cross-London link we know and love today.

IMG_8909

There was a plan to link these three stations with a subway but I guess it proved too expensive, But the Thameslink station has been rebuilt with a new building on the side (like Cricklewood this station was denuded of buildings when the line was electrified in the early 1980s). Interesting the building is not over the tracks, nor is there the kind of over track development that was done at Fulham Broadway where a small shopping mall with multi screen cinema was created. Perhaps it was too expensive to build over 6 rather than 2 tracks, plus this is probably not the justification for such a commercial development here.

Our next stop is actually a little before you get to the Thameslink station.

Stop 7: Billy Fury Way

Almost opposite the Overground station is a little alleyway going down some steps. And if you look back from the way you have come you will see it has a mural on Billy Fury and in fact the alleyway is called Billy Fury Way.

IMG_8904

IMG_8905

Billy Fury (1940 – 1983) was an internationally successful singer in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was born in Liverpool and his real name was Ronald Wycherley, which does not sound very rock and roll so you can see why he changed it, or rather he had it changed by his management. He was signed to Decca and he recorded much of his work at the local studios.

In 2010 Camden Council and the police concluded it would be a good idea to name some unnamed pathways in West Hampstead so people could tell the police where they were if a crime was committed there. The public were consulted and for this one they voted in favour of Billy Fury – second choice was Decca Way. The mural dates from July 2011 and here is a piece about its unveiling.

http://westhampsteadlife.com/2011/07/29/billy-fury-way-officially-opens/3200

Continue walking along West End Lane and take the first left after the Thameslink station. Our next stop is a little way down Sumatra Road on the right as you approach it.

Stop 8: Number 104 Sumatra Road

There is a story that this was for a time the childhood home of one Mary O’Brien, better known as Dusty Springfield.

IMG_8925

She was actually born at Fordwych Road in NW2 which was a maternity home and her family home on her birth certificate is Lauderdale Mansions W9. But the attached links suggest she lived here as a small child.

http://www.dustyspringfield.org.uk/ltd_archives/images/stories/PDF/Getting/Dustys_Birth_Certificate.

Here is a link to a site called West Hampstead Life which explains (if you scroll down a bit) more about the Sumatra Road connection – not sure about the dates though, given what the other link says..

http://westhampsteadlife.com/2013/11/01/musicians-in-west-hampstead-and-kilburn/5071

This link cites lots of other West Hampstead musical connections, a couple of which I will mention later.

But since originally posting this, I was contacted by a man called Ron who said (and I quote word for word): “Sorry your wrong Dusty Springfield never ever lived at 104 Sumatra road west hampstead my wifes family lived in that house from the 1930s untill 1989 so who ever told you is wrong”. So looks like this is just a story.

Fascinating fact: She got the nickname “Dusty” for playing football with boys in the street. And her brother Tom was really called Dion, which actually sounds more the part than Tom.

Continue walking along Sumatra Road and turn right into Pandora Road

Stop 9: Number 31 Pandora Road

Just here on the right at number 31 is a house with a blue plaque. Unlikely as it seems this fairly modest house was the home of Alfred Harmworth, later Baron and then Viscount Lord Northcliffe. With his brother, Harold, he created a newspaper empire. They bought the Evening Standard (1894) plus various provincial newspapers and they created the Daily Mail (1896) and the Daily Mirror (1903). He was one of the pioneers of tabloid journalism.

IMG_8929

IMG_8928

I have not been able to find out when he lived here but it must have been fairly early on in his career. But it is kind of fitting he lived in Pandora Road given he is partly responsible for opening the Pandora’s box of tabloid journalism!

Keep walking along Pandora Road. At the junction with Holmdale Road take a short detour to the right down Holmdale Road to the junction with Dennington Park Road. I am going to cover two more places identified in the West Hampstead Life musical connection blog.

Stop 10a: Number 9 Dennington Park Road

This was once the home of singer Olivia Newton John in around 1965. And according to the link under Sumatra road she was born in Cambridge England and only moved to Australia when she was 5.

IMG_8949

This link also mentions Singer Robert Palmer lived in a basement flat in Dennington Park Road in 1972. Robert moved out of after the flat was flooded, destroying most of his belongings. But don’t know where.

Retrace your steps to the junction with Pandora Road but turn right into Inglewood Road.

Stop 10b: Number 12a Inglewood road

IMG_8932

Just along here is another pop connection. Jimmy Somerville lived at 12a. This is mentioned in Part 2 of the West Hampstead life piece on musical connections.

http://westhampsteadlife.com/2013/11/19/musicians-in-west-hampstead-and-kilburn-part-two/5070

Also in this road at an unspecified address the American singer Loudon Wainwright  III in 1986. There are lots of other pop connections so you can do you own walk from these two posts, although I warn you some of the addresses do go over the border into NW2!

Continue along Inglewood Road to the end and turn left. Our next stop is just ahead on the other side of the road.

Stop 11: West End Green

This little green was the centre of the old settlement here and has somehow survived.

There are a couple of commemoration trees – the older one is for the coronation of Edward VII in December 1902

IMG_8942

IMG_8940

and the other for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

IMG_8937

IMG_8935

At this green, the main road becomes Fortune Green Road but West End Lane continues off to the right. Go along there and take the first turning on the left (Canon Hill)

Stop 12: Marlborough Mansions, Canon Hill (Sir Adrian Boult)

Having majored on pop music I had to include a classical connection. Just a short distance along Canon Hill is our next stop where you will see a blue plaque to the conductor Sir Adrian Boult who lived in Flat 78 between 1966 and 1977.

IMG_8946

IMG_8945

Boult set up the BBC Symphony Orchestra and was its principal conductor for some 20 years. Boult was known for his championing of British music.

He gave the first performance of Holst’s The Planets on 29 September 1918. Apparently Holst later wrote on his copy of the score, “This copy is the property of Adrian Boult who first caused The Planets to shine in public and thereby earned the gratitude of Gustav Holst.” What a great quote, eh?

He also introduced new works by, among others, Bliss, Britten, Delius, Tippett, Vaughan Williams and Walton and recorded extensively starting in 1920 to his last recording which was in 1978. A lot of his later recordings were for Decca and recorded at the Broadhurst Gardens studios.

So we have reached the end of our NW6 walk. It has had a kind of entertainment theme, from great cinemas through to various musicians and a recording studio. As ever there are always things I have missed out on. I did not time to explore the Irish connection which Kilburn is so well known for. I did not have time for the posher bits of NW6 – Brondesbury and Queen’s Park. Nor could I investigate the location of Kilburn Priory, the blue plaque to sculptor Gilbert Bayes (he did the Queen of Time sculpture over the main entrance of Selfridges) or the location of a house owned by John Spedan Lewis.

So for onward travel retrace your steps back along West End Lane and you have three stations to choose from. Plus of course local buses.

And once again thanks to Rhona for her local knowledge and chauffeuring skills.

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

IMG_7929

The Underground arrived here from Golders Green in November 1923.

NW4 043

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.

IMG_7934

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.

IMG_7941

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

IMG_7947

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.

NW4 051

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

IMG_7948

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.

NW4 052

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.

IMG_7957

IMG_7954

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.

NW4 003

But first impressions were not good.

NW4 004

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

NW4 013

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.

NW4 007

NW4 009

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

NW4 016

NW4 017

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.

NW4 020

NW4 021

NW4 024

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.

NW4 027

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

NW4 026

NW4 025

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

NW4 028

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?

NW4 030

NW4 031

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

NW4 035

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.

NW4 034

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

NW4 036

NW4 038

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.

NW4 039

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.

 

NW1: Spirits move me …

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_7289

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

The Bedford spent most of its life as a variety theatre. As ever the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site has a fantastic spread on this lost world:

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_7281

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

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

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

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

IMG_7285

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

IMG_7286

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

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

IMG_7256

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

Now immediately opposite Mornington Crescent station is our next stop:

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

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

IMG_7255

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

IMG_7262

IMG_7267

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

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

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

IMG_7268

Stop 4: Number 6 Mornington Crescent

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

IMG_7271

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

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

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

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

IMG_7274

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

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

Stop 5: Number 54 Delancey Street

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

IMG_7358

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

IMG_7292

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

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

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

Stop 6: Alan Bennett (Gloucester Crescent)

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

IMG_7301

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

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

Stop 7: Odeon cinema/Mecca Bingo Hall

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

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

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

IMG_7305

IMG_7307

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

IMG_7361

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

Stop 8: Camden Town Station/Electric Ballroom

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

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

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

IMG_7319

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

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

IMG_7310

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_7313

IMG_7311

IMG_7315

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

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

Stop 10: MTV studios, Hawley Crescent

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

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

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

IMG_7324

IMG_7322

IMG_7328

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

IMG_7333

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

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

IMG_7338

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

Stop 11: Rochester Square Spiritualist Temple

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

IMG_7341

IMG_7340

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

IMG_7339

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop 12: Number 30 Camden Square

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

IMG_7346

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

IMG_7349

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

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

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

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

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

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

W13: Are you (still) being served?

W13 is West Ealing. This is a fairly small postcode which nestles between Ealing and Hanwell and many people seem unaware West Ealing has a separate postcode from Ealing.

IMG_6986

Although you might not guess it now, West Ealing was once an important shopping centre, with a full range of shops including large branches of Woolworth’s and Marks and Spencer’s plus a couple of independent department stores. But you can see why it has not survived as the go-to shopping centre of west London. It was all strung out along a main road with no dedicated car parking or a pedestrian precinct. Plus it was just down the road from Ealing itself, which in its heyday also had two department stores.

We start our walk at the Post Office sorting office on Manor Road at the corner of Drayton Road – just north of West Ealing station. From here, go up Manor Road to the main road (Argyle Road) and turn right crossing the road at the zebra crossing. Take the first left into The Avenue and almost immediately ahead across is our first stop.

Stop 1: The Drayton Court Hotel

 

IMG_6728 IMG_6729

This was built as a hotel in around 1898 and carried on as a hotel until the 1940s when it became a full time pub and off licence. Since 2011 it has returned to be a hotel or rather (as it calls itself)  “A great pub with superb rooms”. It is said to have one of the largest pub gardens in London.

The hotel’s website also has this fascinating little paragraph:

“The Drayton Court Hotel is one of the oldest pubs in Ealing, and probably the only establishment in London to have one of their cleaners go on to become a world leader. The Former Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, toiled in the kitchens of the Drayton Court Hotel in 1914, before going on to change his country’s history, driving out forces from Japan, France and the United States.”

Bit of an odd way of putting it, wouldn’t you say? Ho Chi Minh is credited as the founder of the modern day Vietnam and the city formerly known as Saigon has been called Ho Chi Minh City since 1976.

Ho Chi Minh does have a blue plaque in London but it is not here. It is at the 1960s New Zealand House at the bottom of Haymarket. It is there because he worked at a hotel called the Carlton which used to be on that site. I guess the West End trumps West Ealing when it comes to blue plaque locations. Shame because West Ealing is a bit short on celebs and as far as I can discover there is not a single blue plaque or indeed any similar type plaque in the whole of W13!

Return to the main road and here on the bridge is our next stop

Stop 2: West Ealing station

Although the section of the Great Western Railway passing here opened in 1838, the first station dates only from 1871. Initially it was called Castle Hill Station. In 1878 it was renamed Castle Hill and Ealing Dean Station, only finally becoming West Ealing in 1899.

Today it is rather a sad affair. Maybe there was a decent station here once but now all you have is this little brick box with an occasionally open ticket office.

IMG_6969

Behind looms a modern block with a new quite large Waitrose below, accessed from the side street on the south side of the station. The block contains flats and has the delightful name of “Luminosity Court”. Sounds like something out of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. Sadly the building does not live up to its name.

IMG_6973

When you go in the station, there are covered stairs down to the platforms, but the platforms themselves have no canopies – just a couple of small bus shelter type structures. The two platforms are eccentrically numbered 3 and 4. There were once platform numbers 1 and 2 on the fast lines and you can just make out the ghost of platform 2 on the other side of the fence of platform 3.

IMG_6977

It has two services which each run every half hour thus providing a 15 minute service to Paddington. One of these is the stopping service to Heathrow (Heathrow Connect) provided by electric trains at least four coaches long. The other is the local service to Greenford, which is operated with two coach diesel trains. I did actually venture on this line to discover that the local stations towards Greenford can only handle two car trains, which is a bit of a surprise on a service so close in the central London.

Things will change when Crossrail arrives. I believe that the through service between Paddington and Greenford will cease and there will be a shuttle service between West Ealing and Greenford. But there will be more trains on the main line which will go right into central London, so West Ealing should get a better service.

Amazingly this station has no sunday service, but no doubt that will also change when Crossrail comes along.

Keep walking down the main road, which has become Drayton Green Road. Our next stop is ahead on the corner of Alexandria Road.

Stop 3: Sanders Depository

This must have belonged to the J Sanders department store – the one we saw in Ealing (which was featured in a Dr Who episode and whose former building is now Marks and Spencer’s)

IMG_6731 IMG_6737

Many of the big department stores had depositories. Harrods famously had one by the river in Barnes. I kind of assumed these were the predecessors of those big yellow storage facilities. But perhaps not. It seems these were in effect warehouses for the shop and used also to house furniture too large to display in the store.

Keep walking along Drayton Green Road and turn left at the main cross roads. Our next stop is soon on the left

Stop 4: Numbers 140 -144 Uxbridge Road (former Abernethie & Son store)

IMG_6740

Abernethie & Son Ltd was what I seen described as “a drapery department store” but I have also seen it referred to as a men’s clothing store.

In 1944 the store was destroyed by a bomb and so I guess what we see today is a 1950s rebuild. The company celebrated 75 years of business from 1879-1954 with a commemorative catalogue.

The shop finally closed in the early 1980s. Half the ground floor is now a Tesco Metro.

Keep walking along Uxbridge Road.

Stop 4: Numbers 96-122 Uxbridge Road (site of Daniel’s store)

Today you will see there is a shop called Daniel at 132 – 138 Uxbridge Road. It is a furniture and household goods store, but actually Daniel used to be a department store just a little further along the street at Numbers 96 – 122.

IMG_6966

There is a curious tale – as explained on this link.

http://www.ealingtoday.co.uk/default.asp?section=info&page=eadaniels001.htm

This says that Walter James Daniel first rented 96 Uxbridge Road West Ealing to sell drapery and fashions in 1901. It was still in the Daniels family in the new millennium and in September 2003 they obtained planning permission to demolish the old Department Store and replace it with a new one. As part of the permission they were also allowed to build 137 flats in a tower block immediately. The 137 flats were built in 2006/7 with the ground and first floor left for the ‘Department Store’. But this was boarded up in 2007.

 IMG_6963IMG_6961

Today there is a gym on what would have been the upper floor and part of the ground floor is a mini Morrison’s. Ealing Today says “Rumours trickled out in 2007 that the Daniels family never had any intentions of building, occupying or running a new Department Store on the site. “

Daniel also has a store in Chiswick and claims to have the largest department store in Windsor, not that there is much competition for that title.  So no doubt they had a pretty good idea West Ealing would not a great location for a new department store.

Now return back to the cross roads and keep walking (the road is now called “the Broadway”, until you reach the corner of Green Man Lane, where you will see a 97p Store (how low rent is that).

Stop 6: Site of F H Rowse store

This corner was the location of  F. H. Rowse department store which originally opened in 1913.

.IMG_6967

It was used as a backdrop in the 1960 film Carry On Constable (some fascinating now and then pictures of here and other bits of West Ealing on this link: http://www.thewhippitinn.com/carry_on_film_locations/carry_on_constable/

This link suggests the old store was demolished in the 1970s. However the store survived until January 1983, so maybe they were responsible for this ugly building.

Keep walking along Uxbridge Road.

Stop 7a: site of Marks & Spencer store

Just a little further along on the right is a new built – part of which is occupied by Wilkinson’s. This was apparently the site of the Marks and Spencer store here in West Ealing.  I guess it was inevitable that M & S would pull out of here given the decline in the street as a shopping area and the fact they had a sizable store just down the road in Ealing proper.

 

IMG_6742

Stop 7b: site of Woolworth’s store

And just next door is a handsome deco-ish building which was the old Woodworth’s store. It dates from 1926 and here is a fascinating article about the shop:

http://www.soultsretailview.co.uk/2010/12/13/west-ealings-surprising-former-woolies-building/

 

IMG_6745 IMG_6748

Strangely you then come to a BHS store here – really this seems an odd survivor given all its rivals seem to have left.

Now return back to the junction of Northfields Avenue. As you do, watch out for the 99p bakery on the right hand side of the road. First time I have seen this concept!

IMG_6750

Back at the cross roads, turn right down Northfields Avenue

Stop 8: Former Lido cinema

Just along Northfields Avenue from the corner of Uxbridge Road is a modern block of flats and offices called Lido House. This is the site of a cinema.

IMG_67552014-05-02_16-38-29_458

The first cinema building dated from 1913 and was called the West Ealing Kinema. This was rebuilt as the Lido Cinema in 1928 . It retained the Lido name until it was taken over by the Star Cinemas group in the 1970s. The stalls were converted into a bingo club, and two small cinemas known as Studio 1 and Studio 2 were fitted into the circle area.  It was taken over by the Cannon Group in the 1980s and became known as the Cannon.

The bingo hall eventually closed, and the space was converted into a snooker hall. The cinema became known as the ABC but closed in March 1997. It then became a ‘Bollywood’ cinema first known as the Belle Vue and then as the Gosai Cinema. It finally closed as a cinema in the spring of 2001. The building sat empty for a while and was demolished in September 2004 and replaced by what we see today.

Now go down the side street here on the left. By St John’s Church take the road which veers off ahead to the right. This is Churchfield Road. Almost immediately on the right is Somerset Road. Go down here. 

Stop 9:  Number 16 Somerset Road

2014-05-02_16-49-50_171

 

In 1890, the tall thin house at Number 16 was the birthplace of the writer Nevil Shute. He is perhaps best remembered as a novelist but he was also a successful aeronautical engineer. His full name was Nevil Shute Norway and he used this in his engineering career. “Nevil Shute” was his pen name, apparently to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels. A number of his novels have been turned in to films, notably “A Town called Alice” and “On the Beach”

Continue to the end and then turn right into Rathgar Avenue. This is a handsome street, probably dating from just before the First War. 

2014-05-02_16-53-54_825

The houses are quite close to the street so apart from in a couple of places it has not been possible to pave over their front gardens, so the street scene has not been transformed with forecourt parking. Whereas the road you get to at the end (Loveday Road), the houses are set further back and so lots have lost their front gardens.

Take a left into Loveday Road and then at the end a right into Dudley Gardens. At the end go right again (into Northfields Avenue), crossing over at the zebra crossing. With an estate agents on one corner and a wine shop on the other take a left into Northfield Road. Our next stop is at the end on the right. 

Stop 10 Former Fruit Warehouse (Charles Steel and Company)

In the 19th Century much of the land to east of Northfields was market gardens and orchards. The building at the corner with Northcroft Road is a little reminder of this as it was a Fruit Packing Warehouse, built by a company called Charles Steel. Now it has been turned into apartments.

IMG_6765 IMG_6767

Return to Northfields Avenue and turn right. Our next stop is just a little further down on the right.

Stop 11: Parkers Bakery, Number 64 Northfields Avenue

This shop opened in the 1950s and is the last surviving shop of a small chain of family bakers which was first established in 1913.

IMG_6770

Their first shop was in 276 Uxbridge Road and they expanded over time with another 4 shops. The others were closed in 1989.

This has a villagey feel to it. There are some other interesting looking shops along this stretch of road including a butchers, a fish shop, a deli and a Polish shop, somewhat classier than they usually look. (NB these pictures are not in the order you see them on the ground and the fish shop is actually after our next stop)

IMG_6772 IMG_6780  IMG_6774 IMG_6775

So whilst W13 has lost its “big” shops, there still seems to be a range of more interesting independents along here.

Stop 12: Lammas Park

Now just a little further on from Parkers Bakery on the left is an entrance to a park, with the unusual name of Lammas Park.

IMG_6779IMG_6777

 

This nice looking green space was originally laid out in the 1880s for the benefit of the local population. The name derives from “Loafmas Day” which was a harvest festival celebrated on 1 August. This marked the start of when the locals could graze their animals on the common land known as Lammas lands. This grazing period ran until Candlemas which was 2 February. Not too sure what they did with their animals from March to July.

Keep walking along Northfields Avenue and soon you reach Northfields station which is right on the border with W5.

Postscript

Northfields station is another of the Charles Holden stations which were built when the Piccadilly line was extended west. The line here was opened by the District railway in 1883 but there was no station here until a little halt was opened in 1908. This was rebuilt in 1932 at the same time as the Piccadilly line depot was built here. District line services continued to run here until 1964 since when it has only been served by the Piccadilly line.

IMG_6795IMG_6797

So we are now right at the edge of W13 here, and before we leave this area, I have to mention an old cinema which is just a little further on in Northfields Avenue, even though it is in W5.

This was built in 1932 as the Avenue Cinema, although it was taken over and became an Odeon in 1936. It traded as an Odeon for most of its cinema life, but in its last few years from 1981 to 1985 it was known as the Coronet. It was converted to a night club which lasted from 1988 to 1994 and then it was taken over by the Elim Pentecostal Church

This is a most unusual cinema for the UK. It was an atmospheric cinema with a Spanish theme. It had little villas along the side walls and draped fabric overhead to mimic a tented “ceiling” to provide shade from the “sun”, rather than the more usual painted sky with lights for twinkling stars. The fabric has been replaced but it appears to be still fairly intact as a building.

 

IMG_6786 IMG_6789

 

That brings us to the end of W13. A place that in many ways has seen better days, in particular in terms of the shopping centre. Yet there are still some good little local independent shops along Northfields Avenue, so it is not all doom and gloom. We are now at Northfields station for onward travel.

 

 

W7: Difficulties be Damned

“Difficulties be damned” is the translation of the latin motto “Nec Aspera Terrent” used by the Duke of Lancaster Regiment.  So why is this relevant to W7 I hear you say.

Well bizarrely (at least I find it bizarre) Nec Aspera Terrent was also the motto of the short lived Hanwell Urban District Council which was swallowed up by the municipal borough of Ealing in 1926. What a grand motto for a such a little place.  So it seemed kind of right to call this post “Difficulties be Damned” – especially when on Friday I found all the textual changes I had just made to the draft of this blog had somehow mysteriously disappeared into the ether, and I had to redo them.

We start our walk at Hanwell Post Office, 139 Uxbridge Road.

Turn left out of the Post Office and cross the road when convenient. The first stop is a bit of a walk past the mini-roundabout with two churches on either side of you. Just a little further beyond the mini-roundabout you will see the gates to a cemetery on the right. Go in there.

Stop 1: Hanwell (City of Westminster) Cemetery

This was one of the cemeteries which Westminster City Council (led at the time by Shirley Porter) controversially sold to land developers for 15p in the late 1980s. I knew about this but I was interested to see that the sign and map at the entrance still said “City of Westminster”. It turns out that the City Council reacquired the cemeteries in 1990 and so today they remain administered by Westminster. There are a couple of people to see here.

IMG_6134

Now take the roadway on the far left as you go in. Initially it hugs the perimeter wall and then it curves off to the left. Ahead at the junction with other paths you will see a World War One monument and just to the left is a small monument with a little dog statue.

Stop1a: Freddie Frinton

IMG_6142

Freddie Frinton was a comedian who is largely forgotten today in Britain. If he is remembered at all, it is for the 1960s sitcom “Meet the Wife” – the wife by the way was played by Thora Hird. This sitcom was referenced in the Beatles song “Good Morning Good Morning” with the line “It’s time for tea and Meet the Wife”.

But he is a household name in Germany and Scandinavia because of his performance in a sketch called Dinner for One. He had been performing this sketch on stage for years and for reasons which are unclear to me at least it was recorded in 1963 by a German Television Station – Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR). It has since become a German New Year’s Eve tradition and this cult also caught on in Scandinavia.

The sketch has Frinton as a butler serving dinner to a little old lady and four non existent guests. As he serves each course, he asks her “same procedures as last year” and she replies “same procedure as last year”. He then pours out a drink for each guest and then goes round, makes a toast at each place and drinks the drink. Of course gets more and more drunk. There is also a running gag involving tripping (or not tripping) on a tiger skin rug.

Here is a link to the sketch on YouTube.

http://youtu.be/zVd_VLO9xcc

This is the full version with an opening explanation in German, but the main sketch is in English and apparently was never dubbed. I won’t spoil the punchline (such as it is) in case you want to watch it.

By the way, isn’t the gravestone odd. Freddie’s son-in-law seems to have muscled in. Maybe the remaining space is (was?) intended for Freddie’s daughter.

Walk ahead with the Frinton grave on your right and soon take the path to the right. There is a tree in the middle and beyond that a long low stone monument with a cross on the right hand end. This is the City of Westminster monument to people who were killed in the Blitz and who are buried in a mass grave here. The name to look out for is A A Bowlly.

Stop 1b: Al Bowlly

IMG_6138 IMG_6141

Albert Allick Bowlly was born in Mozambique in 1899 but grew up in South Africa. He became a very popular dance band singer (or crooner) in the 1930s initially here in Britain and later in the United States. He recorded more than one thousand tracks and was one of the first big band singers to be credited in his own right.

Some of the songs he was known for are: “Goodnight, Sweetheart”, “The Very Thought of You” and “Love Is the Sweetest Thing”. He is one of the singers used by Denis Potter in his 1978 series “Pennies from Heaven” and also in the 1986 series “The Singing Detective”.

Here is one of the few bits of film with Al Bowlly actually shown singing – This one was recorded in Pathe Studios in 1934 and is “The Very Thought of You”.

http://youtu.be/cr4ncMR5EVQ

On the morning of 17 April 1941 – a night of very heavy bombing in London’s West End – Bowlly was one of three residents of Dukes Court (in St James’s) killed by the blast of a landmine which fell in nearby Jermyn Street. It blew in the block’s windows. He was found lying next to his bed, having refused to use the building’s shelter.

Last November, English Heritage put up a blue plaque to him – tactfully not at the location of the flat where he died, but rather at one he occupied in the early 1930s. This is  at Charing Cross Mansions in Charing Cross Road, just down from Wyndhams theatre.

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/blue-plaque-for-singer-al-bowlly/

Now retrace your steps back to the gates and turn left, heading back into Hanwell.

As we go, have a look out for numbers 76 (cemetery side of road) and number 93 (Post Office side of road). You will find out why when we get to stop 3, but first we have stop 2!

IMG_6124 IMG_6126

Stop 2: Lidl store (site of Hanwell tram/trolleybus/bus depot)

IMG_5952 IMG_6120

For just over 90 years this site was used to house various forms of transport. Originally in 1901 it was a tram depot for London United, then it became a trolleybus depot from 1936 and finally a diesel bus garage from 1960. The bus garage closed in 1993 and this Lidl store and car park is now on the site.

There was also a cinema hereabouts for a brief period – the  Coronation Hall Picture Palace which operated from about 1912 to 1918.

Now cross the main road and stand by the little green and look up at the end of the building.

Stop 3: Marshall’s Amplifiers

IMG_6117 IMG_6119 

Here you will see a plaque to commemorate Jim Marshall, creator of that staple of rock bands – the Marshall Amplifier. Jim Marshall actually ran a music store at 76 Uxbridge Road, selling drums and then guitars. The story goes that his many guitar playing customers (who included Pete Townshend of the Who) wanted amplifiers which were “bigger and louder”.

In 1962, Marshall together with a young electronics apprentice, Dudley Craven (who had previously worked for EMI) began producing prototype amplifiers. This led to the  foundation of Marshall Amplification. The shop later moved over the road to number 93, and eventually the manufacture of amplifiers went off to Milton Keynes, where it is today.

Quite why the plaque is on this building who knows. It is at neither of the locations of Marshall’s shops in Hanwell. This plaque was unveiled at a tribute music festival in April 2013, so maybe it was a convenient location for that, as there is a bit of open space here.

We cannot leave the subject of Marshall’s amps without mentioning the spoof documentary “This Is Spinal Tap”. In this, band member Nigel Tuffnel claimed his Marshall’s volume knob went “one louder” due to a unique setting of 11 on the dial. Apparently in response, Marshall set about producing models with dials that went up to 20 rather than the usual 10.

Now go down the side street here. Across this road is a row of shops and at the end a new block of flats. 

Stop 4: Number 8, The Broadway – Site of Grand Electric/Curzon/Tudor Cinema.

This was the location of an independent cinema for around 40 years. First opened in 1911 as the Grand Electric Cinema, it was rebuilt in 1933. It changed hands after the end of Second World War and it was renamed Curzon Cinema in 1946. At the end of 1951 there was another change of owner who renamed it the Tudor Cinema. The cinema finally was closed on 16 July 1955. The building was converted into a warehouse and then it became a car repair garage. It was demolished in the early 2000s and this block of modern flats has been built on the site.

IMG_5956

Go back to the main road and ahead you will see our next stop.

Stop 5: Hanwell Clock Tower

This concrete clock tower dates from 1937 and was part of Ealing’s celebration of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It must have looking super modern when it was unveiled.

IMG_6115IMG_5957 IMG_5959
In the early 70s, a local estate agent wanted to raise £5,000 to demolish it and replace it with “something more pleasing”. Luckily the prejudice against 1930s concrete did not prevail and the clock stands today. It may not be the prettiest but it is unusual and does give Hanwell something distinctive and different.

Take the side street across from the clock tower (Boston Road) and follow this quite a way to just past Elthorne Park.  Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 6: St Thomas the Apostle Church

St Thomas’s is the work of architect Edward Maufe. He had won the competition for Guildford Cathedral in 1932 but work on that did not begin until 1936. In the meantime Maufe designed St Thomas’s – completed in 1934 – and it is kind of a dry run for the form of construction and materials proposed for Guildford. Many of the interior details are also similar to Guildford Cathedral, such as the tall lancets and narrow aisle passages with very pointed arches.

Calvary by Eric Gill

And he also employed Eric Gill to create a sculpture on the east end wall of the church. This was carved ‘in situ’ from a single stone block.

Lots more info via the Church’s website: http://thomashanwell.org.uk/building/

Now head back towards Hanwell, but at the fork in the road take the left road (Lower Boston Road) rather than the one you came down. Soon on the left is our next stop, by St Dunstan’s Road.

Stop 7: William Hobbayne Centre

IMG_5962 IMG_5964

This was once clearly a Salvation Army building as their name can be seen in the glass but I was intrigued to know who William Hobbayne was and how this building came to bear his name.

Well it turns out that the name of William Hobbayne has been part of Hanwell’s history for centuries. In fact since 1484 (yes the 15th century!) when he gave a house and some 22 acres of land to be used for the poor and needy of the parish. His legacy created the charity of William Hobbayne which has been doing charitable works ever since. They purchased this former Salvation Army Citadel in 2002 to create a community centre.

keep walking along Lower Boston Road and our next stop is at the corner of St Mark’s Road.

Stop 8: King George’s Field

There are some plaques on the brick pillars which explain a bit about this little open space piece of land. It was originally part of Hanwell Heath which was set aside for the benefit of the poor and so called Poor’s Piece.

IMG_5972IMG_5971IMG_5968

Ealing Council bought this site in 1940 and with help from the King George Fields Foundation, it was laid out as playing field, opening to the public in May 1951.

Continue along Lower Boston Road and when you reach Uxbridge Road turn left.

Stop 9: The Wharncliffe Viaduct

As you cross the bridge over the river Brent look over the meadows to the right and you will see our next stop, the majestic Wharncliffe Viaduct. The river is the boundary of W7, so much of the viaduct is outside W7 but I have included it as the eastern end is definitely in W7!

This brick viaduct was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was his first major structural design and is the first major structure on the Great Western Railway on the way out of Paddington. It goes over the Brent valley at an elevation of 65 feet. An unusual feature for such a structure is the crest in the middle of the south side. This is the Wharncliffe coat of arms. Lord Wharncliffe was chairman of the Great Western Railway and helped steer the necessary legislation through the House of Lords. Hence the name of the viaduct.

IMG_5975 IMG_5978

The viaduct was originally built for two tracks, but they were of broad gauge (7′ 0¼”). By the time it was widened to take four tracks in 1877 , the Great Western Railway had converted to standard gauge (4′ 8½”), so the structure did not need to be quite doubled in size. You can see this if you walk up along the path by the river and stand under the structure. The northern side (left hand side on picture) is where the extension is.

IMG_5980

The supporting piers are hollow and are home to a colony of bats who can access their roost via metal grilles at the bottom of some piers.

 IMG_5988

Now return back to the Uxbridge Road. Turn left, go back over the river and head up the hill into Hanwell.  Just before the clock tower, turn left into Station Road.

 Stop 10: Conolly’s Dell

The land hereabouts was the location of “Lawn House”. This was for a time a private asylum run by John Conolly. He had been superintendent at the Hanwell Asylum between 1839 and 1844. I believe this was along Uxbridge Road where Ealing Hospital now stands (which is outside W7).

Conolly then opened his own private asylum at Lawn House. The pioneering psychiatrist, Henry Maudsley ran this private asylum from 1866 to 1874. The house has gone but Lawn and Conolly appear as street names off of Station Road.

IMG_5997 IMG_6000

Part of the grounds remained undeveloped. This is now known as Conolly’s Dell and is a little park has a stream running through it with some ponds.

There is the plinth of a monument to John Conolly on the south side but the actual moument is lost. There is an inscription which reads:

“A memorial to John Conolly MD of the grounds of whose house this dell was formerly part MDCCCCX1. Hanwell Urban District Council bought the land from Mr Freestone a local resident and pillar of the community for £1,115. HUDC spent £600 on the landscaping and opened it on 3/4/12 without ceremony.”

Return to the road, you came up. Now here’s a curious thing, we are in Station Road and just before the bridge on the right is Station Approach. But neither road actually goes to Hanwell Station. In fact if you want to take a short detour down Station Approach, you can see where the Hanwell station building ought to be. If you could go through that bricked up door, it would lead you to the subway linking the platforms.

IMG_6113

And why is the station not here? Well the answer is that when the railway was widened from two to four tracks, the slow lines were on the north side as we saw with the viaduct. That meant the operational platforms for Hanwell had to be on the north side, rather than the south side where Station Approach is. At some point it was decided to concentrate the station entrance on the north side of the embankment. Maybe convenient for the railway but a bit odd as the town is on the south side. Then again Station Approach is a rather strange lonely road with no buildings along its whole length.

Anyhow back to our route. Go under the railway, take the first right and then the next right, which is Campbell Road.

Stop 11: 8 Campbell Road (home of William Frederick Yeames)

We want to stop at Number 8, the former home of artist William Frederick Yeames RA (1835 – 1918).

IMG_6003 IMG_6005

His speciality was the so called “problem picture”. These are pictures with a narrative which is down to the observer to decipher. His best known work is “And When Did You Last See Your Father?’ which shows the son of a Royalist being questioned by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.This painting is owned by the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, who acquired it in 1878, just a year after the gallery opened in 1877.

Now keep walking along Campbell Road and soon you will be at the station.

Stop 12: Hanwell railway station

The first station here opened in December 1838 just a few month after the railway line itself opened. But the station we see today dates from the late 1870s when the line was widened. It has two operational platforms (numbered 2 and 3) on the slow lines plus a platform face on the London bound fast line which I guess is only used in emergency. There is no platform on the westbound fast line.

It is quite a pretty station which feels like it should be in the country. Well I suppose it was still quite countrified when it was built. It has a couple of original looking name plate signs which declare the station’s name as “Hanwell and Elthorne”.

IMG_5943 IMG_5945

Usually when a station uses a place name then it puts the place on the map. Well this does not seem to have happened with Elthorne which has all but disappeared as a discrete place. But maybe it was never much more than a hamlet, presumably on the Boston Road near St Thomas’s church and what is now Elthorne Park.

There is also a sign requesting that passengers cross the line by the subway. Seems a bit unnecessary given how the trains speed through here.

  IMG_5948 IMG_6010

This is a rather frustrating station, in that whilst there are constantly trains hurtling through at great speed, it is only served by the twice-hourly Heathrow Connect (Paddington – Heathrow) stopping service and there is not even a Sunday service. Yet when you get on that train you are whisked to Paddington in just 12 minutes. This is one of the stations which will be on the new Crossrail route so hopefully it will get a much improved service. If it does, then I am sure there will be a bonanza in house prices.

Well that ends our W7 walk. There was much more here that I expected when I started, what with the rock star connection, two almost forgotten entertainers, a nice 1930s clock and a couple of lovely bits of railway architecture.

We are at Hanwell station for onward travel – if you time it right you will not have to wait too long for a train!

  

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

IMG_5942IMG_5938

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.

IMG_5817

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

IMG_5814  IMG_5816IMG_5813

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.

IMG_5821 IMG_5823 IMG_5827

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.

IMG_5832

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.

IMG_5838

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.

IMG_5840

Soon on the right is our next stop.

Stop 5: Lower Mall

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

IMG_5842 IMG_5843

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)

IMG_5845 IMG_5847

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.

IMG_5853

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.

IMG_5851  IMG_5859

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.

IMG_5860

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

IMG_5861  IMG_5863

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.

IMG_5862

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

IMG_5866

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.

IMG_5868 IMG_5869

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!

IMG_5878 IMG_5879

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.

IMG_5880 IMG_5884

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.

IMG_5887IMG_5888

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.

IMG_5873

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.

IMG_5904 IMG_5905

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

IMG_5898IMG_5900

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.

IMG_5908

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.

IMG_5910 IMG_5911

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.

IMG_5921 IMG_5925

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.

IMG_5924 

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

Stop 12: 84/88 King Street

IMG_5932 IMG_5935

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.

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.

IMG_5505 IMG_5508

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.

IMG_5498 IMG_5499

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.

IMG_5501 IMG_5504

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)

IMG_5483 

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.

IMG_5495

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

IMG_5497

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.

IMG_5489   IMG_5492

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.

IMG_5491

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. 

IMG_4609

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.

IMG_4605 IMG_4598

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.

IMG_5469 IMG_5463 IMG_5464 

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.

IMG_5473  IMG_5472

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.

IMG_5478 IMG_5479

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

IMG_5514

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

IMG_5518

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.

IMG_5515 IMG_5516IMG_5524

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

IMG_5522

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.

IMG_5529 IMG_5525

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!)

IMG_5541

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.

IMG_5542IMG_5545

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.

IMG_5549 IMG_5550 IMG_5551

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.

IMG_5566 IMG_5562

Today this building has been converted into apartments.

IMG_5557 IMG_5561

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.

IMG_5401 IMG_5404 IMG_5406

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

IMG_5408 IMG_5409

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.

IMG_5411 IMG_5413

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.

IMG_5429 IMG_5451

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.

IMG_5394 IMG_5397 IMG_5398

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.

IMG_5461

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.

IMG_5457IMG_5458

 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”).

IMG_5438 IMG_5440

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.

IMG_5447

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.

IMG_5358

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.

IMG_5374  IMG_5388

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

IMG_5369IMG_5370 IMG_5372

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.

IMG_5367

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.

IMG_5391IMG_5380

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.

IMG_5363

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.

IMG_5354IMG_5353

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.

 IMG_5348

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.

IMG_5345

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.

IMG_5324]

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.

IMG_5323

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.

IMG_5326 IMG_5328

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!

IMG_5329 IMG_5331

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.

IMG_5336 IMG_5332IMG_5337

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

IMG_5338 IMG_5339

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.

IMG_5341

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)

IMG_5219

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.

IMG_5224

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.

IMG_5222 IMG_5218

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.

IMG_5228

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.

IMG_5227  IMG_5232

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.

IMG_5235

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”.

IMG_5211 IMG_5212

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.

IMG_5205 IMG_5207 IMG_5203

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.

IMG_5238 IMG_5239 

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

IMG_5245 

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.

IMG_5241

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.”

IMG_5246

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).

IMG_5251

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)

IMG_5249 

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

IMG_5256 IMG_5259

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.

IMG_5265

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.

IMG_5266 IMG_5269  IMG_5274 

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.

IMG_5270

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.

IMG_5277 IMG_5280

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.

IMG_5287

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.

IMG_5275 IMG_5282

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.

IMG_5291

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.

IMG_5294

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.

IMG_5300 IMG_5302

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.

 IMG_5304 IMG_5305

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.

IMG_5311

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.