Day 64 – Lisson Grove – Edgware Road – Church Street – Marylebone Road

This second excursion beyond the bounds of our original mission covers an area that  stretches westward from Regent’s Park to the Edgware Road and southward from St John’s Wood Road to the Marylebone Road. It’s intersected north to south by Lisson Grove and east to west by the Regent’s Canal and includes the massive Lisson Green estate. At the very end it overlaps slightly with our very first post from back in July 2015 when things were shorter but not necessarily sweeter (or so I like to think).

Day 64 route

Starting out from Baker Street tube station once again we head north on Park Road. On the right we pass Kent Terrace, built in the late 1820’s as part of John Nash’s Regent’s Park Crown Estate. One of the last terraces to be built, it’s the only major one that faces away from the park. Outside no.10 is a Blue Plaque commemorating the painter and illustrator E.H Shephard (1879 – 1976) best known for illustrating Wind in the Willows and the Winnie the Pooh books.

We continue across the canal as far as Lodge Road which takes us west past the site of replacing some unloved sixties’ apartment blocks with scarcely less attractive 21st century equivalents (despite the golden finish which is obviously expected to appeal to certain demographic tastes). North Bank on our left leads to the St John’s Wood electricity substation which is shown off to good effect by the winter sunshine.

Oak Tree Road takes us up on to St John’s Wood Road and continuing west we pass the London home of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue and incur the suspicion of the security guard by stopping to take the photograph below. As you can see, only the portico remains from the original 1925 building following a late 1980’s redevelopment. Just over 8% of British Jews subscribe to the anti-Zionist denomination of Liberal Judaism as practiced by the LJS which was officially founded in 1911. This contrasts with over 65% who fall within the Orthodox and Strictly Orthodox denominations.

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Round the corner on Lisson Grove you have the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady, built in 1836 to a design by architect J.J Scoles.

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A bit further south we reach the canal again and follow this west a short way before looping north and back via Pollitt Drive, Henderson Drive and Cunningham Place. The last of these is adorned with a Blue Plaque in recognition of Emily Davies (1830 – 1921) suffragist and founder of Girton College, Cambridge which was Britain’s first college for women. Initially she served as mistress of the college and then as Secretary until 1904. However, the college only began to grant full Cambridge University degrees to women in 1940.

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Then from Aberdeen Place we nip through Victoria Passage which crosses the canal to get to Fisherton Street. Turning right we find our way back to Aberdeen Place via Lyons Place. There’s another Blue Plaque at no.32, this one in honour of Guy Gibson (1918 – 1944) the commanding officer of 617 Squadron, which he led in the “Dambusters” raid of 1943. He was awarded the Victoria Cross following the raid, which resulted in the breaching of two large dams in the Ruhr area of Germany, and became the most highly decorated British serviceman at that time. He went on to complete over 170 war operations before dying in action at the age of 26. In the 1955 film he was portrayed by Richard Todd.

Northwick Terrace takes us back up to St John’s Wood Road and a left turn gets us in short order to the Edgware Road a.k.a the A5. As we head southward almost immediately on our left looms the mock Tudor façade of 1930’s mansion block, Clifton Court.

Making a loop of Aberdeen Place, Lyons Place and Orchardson Street we circle back round to the Edgware Road arriving at a new development also named Lyons Place. This is built on the site of a 1930’s petrol station and the original intention was to incorporate a new station underneath part of the building. This may still be the plan but so far all that has been realised are these three massive Pop Art style sculptural representations at the front of the proposed forecourt.

Next we head back east along Orchardson Street until a right on Capland Street and a left into Frampton Street takes us back to Lisson Grove. Here we cross straight over and continue east alongside the Regent’s Canal.

Not sure if we’ve said anything about the Canal previously but, in case not, the bare bones are that it links the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal in the west to the Limehouse Basin and the River Thames to the east London and is 8.6 miles (13.8 km) long. Anyway this particular stretch runs parallel to the north side of the Lisson Green estate which we access via Casey Close just before the canal disappears beneath the mainline out of Marylebone.

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So we wind our through the estate taking in Swain Street, Tresham Crescent, Paveley Street, Lilestone Street, Mallory Street and Bernhardt Crescent before landing back on Lisson Grove. As noted in the last past, the second iteration of Lord’s Cricket Ground was sited where the estate now stands. (I did ask this gent if he minded before I took this photo btw).

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Heading back north up Lisson Grove we work our way west again courtesy of more of Frampton Street and Fisherton Street then Luton Street and Penfold Street. The latter is home to the rather splendid Art Deco-ish Wallis Building. This is one of a number of buildings which from the 1920’s onward accommodated the Palmer Tyre Company which amongst other things manufactured tyres for the Air Ministry for use on the WW2 air fleet of spitfires, hurricanes and wellingtons. Round the corner on Hatton Street another part of the original complex is now rebranded as Hatton Street Studios. It’s all residential and office space now of course.

More of the Edgware Road next. This area is well-known for the high number of residents of Arabic and North African extraction as testified by the proliferation of shops catering for that community and is sometimes referred to as Little Beirut. It’s not really a surprise then that the former Portman Arms on the corner with Boscobel Street has now morphed into the Dar Marrakesh shisha bar (yes I know Marrakesh is in Morocco not Lebanon).

Venables Street runs parallel to the Edgware Road and takes us down to Church Street which is a thoroughfare of surprising contrasts. The western end is occupied by a street market specialising in the cheapest of cheap commodities with the shops either side catering for similar tastes. Then about halfway along, just beyond Ye olde public conveniences – which I’m not sure are used by anyone other than the pigeons these days, the north side of the street changes tone entirely to become a row of high-end antique dealerships. Many of these dealers started out as stallholders at Alfie’s Antiques Market (of which more later). In recent years, supported by Westminster Council’s Church Street regeneration programme, there has been an annual antiques fair in the street with up to 80 traders participating.

Just beyond those conveniences, on Salisbury Street, are the RedBus Recording Studios. Opened in 1978 these studios have hosted recording sessions by the likes of Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Culture Club, which is something of a giveaway in terms of pinpointing its heyday.

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Salisbury Street leads into Samford Street which in turn merges into Gateforth Street which completes the circuit back to Church Street, taking us past the Cockpit Theatre on the way. The Cockpit was founded at the end of the 1960’s by the Inner London Education Authority as a community theatre. It was the first new purpose-built theatre-in-the-round created in the capital since the Great Fire. The theatre places an emphasis on working with both emerging companies and new writers as well as hosting training events. From experience I can highly recommend the “Jazz in the Round” concerts which take place on the last Monday of every month.

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We emerge back out on Church Street opposite the aforementioned Alfies Antiques Market  which occupies the 30,000 sq. ft. Egyptian Deco building that started life nearly a century ago as Jordans Department Store. Jordans went bust in the early seventies, a time when this area was semi-derelict with shops boarded up and vandalism rife. Despite this, local resident Bennie Gray decided to buy the site with the aim of turning it into an unpretentious antique market with low overheads. He named it Alfies after his jazz-drummer father. Within a matter of weeks they had recruited nearly a hundred antique dealers to the project. To begin with, trading was limited to the ground floor and one day a week, but within a few months the market occupied all four floors of the building and was open five days a week. 40 years on the market is still going strong (and increasingly catering to the ethnic demographic of the neighbourhood). If you can negotiate the warren-like interior the roof top café is a bit of a find (so to speak).

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Notwithstanding the view from the rooftop the discovery of the café was especially fortuitous since, as I hinted earlier, it was to prove difficult to locate a pub of the day on this latest route. Case in point, the Duke of York on Church Street is in the process of being converted into a south Asian restaurant.

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After eventually finding our way out of Alfies we take Plympton Street south to Broadley Street and then loop back round on to Church Street via another section of Lisson Grove, passing this remnant of the Victorian era on the way.

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On the south side of Church Street is a Green Plaque commemorating Henry Sylvester Williams (1867 – 1911). Williams was a Trinidadian lawyer and writer, most noted for his involvement in the Pan-African Movement. He moved to Britain in 1897, forming the African Association which aimed to “promote and protect the interests of all subjects claiming African descent…. by circulating accurate information affecting their rights and privileges as subjects of the British Empire, by direct appeals to the Imperial and local Governments.” In furtherance of the interests of the movement he sought election to Parliament and although unsuccessful in this objective did win a seat on Marylebone Borough Council in 1906.

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From this point on we’ve got a clear run down the bottom of the Edgware Road courtesy of Ashbridge Street, Mulready Street, Whitehaven Street, Penfold Place, Corlett Street and Bell Street in addition to repeat visits to Broadley and Penfold streets. There are two separate tube stations named Edgware Road, one serving the Bakerloo Line and the other the Circle, District and Hammersmith and City Lines. The former (shown below) is the one which actually has an entrance on Edgware Road. Over the years there have been several proposals to rename one or the other of them to avoid confusion but nothing has stuck.  This Edgware Road station was opened in 1907 and is one of many with the familiar ox-blood red glazed terracotta façade designed by architect Leslie Green.

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On Bell Street I was much cheered (oops slipped into Samuel Pepys mode there) to come across the Vintage Wireless Company Shop even if I didn’t dare venture in for fear of finding something that I couldn’t do without but would have to. One day soon I’ll make a special return trip.

Further east along Bell Street is part one of the now bifurcated Lisson Gallery; part two being round the corner on Lisson Street. They seem to be concentrating very much on large scale sculptural works these days, which are not really my thing. Lisson Street comes to an end on the Marylebone Road (A40) which I follow east very briefly before turning north again up Daventry Street where there is yet another repurposed pub, the Phoenix, which is now an “award-winning” backpacker hostel. The Pheonix is sandwiched between Highworth Street and Harrow Street, both of which are about twenty yards long.

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Returning west along Bell Street we then zigzag between that and  Ashmill Street by waty of Ranston Street, Daventry Street again, Shroton Street, Cosway Street and Stalbridge Street. The first of these is a rare survivor from the days of cobbled streets and contains a row of cottages built in 1895 at the instigation of Octavia Hill (see Day 56), co-founder of the National Trust and social reformer on behalf of the “deserving poor”.   Octavia bought up as many of the leases on what was then called Charles Street as possible, demolished them and asked her friend Elijah Hoole, an architect, to build the new cottages. Immediately the cottages became popular and, when the reputation of the street had improved, she asked for the name to be changed.

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The cottages in question are at the far end

Something of a theme of this post is defunct boozers and there’s another one on Shroton Street. That notice of forfeiture in the window is dated just days prior to this visit.

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Christ Church on Cosway Street dates back to 1825 and was designed by Thomas Hardwick (who was also responsible for St John’s Wood Chapel – see previous post). The church ceased to be a place of worship in 1973 and is now occupied by Greenhouse Sports which since 2002 has been providing sports programmes for teenagers from the local estates.

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Cosway Street takes us back out onto Marylebone Road almost opposite Westminster Magistrate’s Court which opened in 2011 as a replacement for City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The Chief Magistrate of England and Wales, who is the Senior District Judge of England and Wales, sits at the court, and all extradition and terrorism-related cases pass through it.

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Back on the north side at the junction with Lisson Grove sits the Grade II listed Manor House a six storey block of flats built in 1907 in an “eclectic arts & crafts style” (according to Historic England”).

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From here we leg it back up Lisson Grove all the way to Rossmore Road which links eastward back to Park Road. On the corner here, 116 Lisson Grove, is a final Blue Plaque for today. Double honours this time with shouts for painter Benjamin Haydon (1786 – 1846) and sculptor Charles Rossi (1762 – 1839) neither of whom I was familiar with. Of the former it is reported that “his commercial success was damaged by his often tactless dealings with patrons, and by the enormous scale on which he preferred to work”. He was imprisoned several times for debt and died by his own hand. In 1977 he was portrayed by Leonard Rossiter in a West End play written by satirist John Wells. The house on Lisson Grove was owned by Rossi who rented part of it to Haydon. Rossi was court sculptor for both George IV and William IV and was also responsible for the terracotta caryatids adorning St Pancras New Church (see Day 7).

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From Rossmore Road we head south on Harewood Avenue towards Marylebone Station passing Hayes Place and Harewood Row on the way. In between those two side roads stands the Sisters of Mercy St Edwards Convent. (If you’re expecting some 1980’s Goth band related wisecrack at this point I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you). The first Sisters of Mercy convent in England (the order originated in Dublin) was founded in Bermondsey in 1839; this one on Harewood Avenue dates from 1851 having transferred from Bloomsbury where it was established 7 years earlier. The Sisters’ mission (doh!) is “to create an awareness of issues of injustice and be a voice for the voiceless”.

A final visit to the Marylebone Road takes us from Harewood Avenue to Great Central Street and past the Landmark Hotel. The hotel was built in 1899 for Sir Edward Watkin  the so-called ‘Last King of the Railways’ as the Great Central Hotel in order to serve passengers using Marylebone Station to travel on the new Great Central Railway. The commissioned architect was Col. Robert Edis whose previous work included the ballroom for Edward, Prince of Wales at Sandringham. When the hotel opened rooms cost three-and-sixpence a night (17.5p in new money I believe). In 1988 the hotel was purchased by Kentaro Abe(aka Japanese pop star Sen Masao). It was renamed the Landmark London Hotel in 1995 when acquired by the Lancaster London Hotel Company. Since 2008 it’s been part of the estate of the Leading Hotels of the World group.

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From Great Central Street we head north on Boston Place and then turn straight round to return on Balcombe Street. Balcombe Street is notorious for the eponymous siege which took place in December 1975 when four armed IRA gunmen took the residents of Flat 22b, middle-aged married couple John and Sheila Matthews, hostage in their front room. The men demanded a plane to fly both them and their hostages to Ireland. Scotland Yard refused, creating a six-day standoff between the men and the police. I thought I would risk repeating myself as I recently caught a BBC World Service Witness History podcast on the siege. You can listen to it here (it’s only 9 minutes long)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csyx2z

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Which only remains for Melcombe Place to take us over the finishing line for today – Marylebone Station (gateway to the Chilterns natch !). One of London’s less exalted mainline stations, Marylebone was opened in 1899 as the London terminus of the Great Central Main Line (as previously noted). Services originally ran as far north as Sheffield and Manchester but were gradually scaled back after nationalisation in 1948 and the line north of Aylesbury closed under the Beeching Act of 1966 leaving that and (the mighty metropolis of) High Wycombe as the furthest destinations. When Chiltern Railways acquired the franchise following privatisation in 1996 they extended services into Birmingham and in 2011 took over the Oxford route from First Great Western. In spite of that Marylebone is undoubtedly still best known as a square on the Monopoly board accept to Beatles fans who will recognize it as a location for several scenes in A Hard Day’s Night.

 

 

 

 

Day 63 – Regent’s Park – St John’s Wood High Street – Lord’s Cricket Ground

So after a longer recess than parliament’s we’ve steeled ourselves to resume our exploration of the World’s Greatest City armed with an expanded mission to venture beyond the heartland out into the wilds of Zone 2. The first of these new excursions returns to  where we originally began back in the summer of 2015, Regent’s Park. This time though we’re not heading south towards Baker Street but turning north up into the leafy avenues of St John’s Wood and meandering west for a rendezvous with the home of cricket.

Day 63 route

We head up into Regent’s Park from Baker Street Tube station and follow the shore of the boating lake. I don’t envy the poor sod with the job of cleaning up these pedalos before they come back into use again.

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A good few minutes are wasted on a detour trying to get a shot of this Great Crested Grebe…

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…before we’re able to leave the park via Hanover Gate and continue clockwise round the Outer Circle. We immediately pass on our left the Central London Mosque, built to a design of Sir Frederick Gibberd and completed in 1977. Its main hall has space for over 5,000 (male) worshippers, with women accommodated on an overlooking balcony.  The mosque is joined to the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) which was officially opened by King George VI in 1944 having been constructed on land was donated by the King to the Muslim community of Britain in return for a donation of land in Cairo from King Farouk of Egypt and Sudan on which to build an Anglican cathedral.

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Right next door to the mosque is Hanover Lodge built in about 1827, and designed by the John Nash, the only villa in the Park he had a hand in personally. Nash originally intended to build 45 villas in the Park in the 1820’s but only eight were completed. From 1832 to 1845, it was the home of Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, and from 1911 to 1925, of David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, both of whom are commemorated with blue plaques on the exterior. In 1948, it became part of Bedford College, and then in the 1990s it was briefly rented by the French government to house their ambassador.
In 1994, the businessman and Conservative peer Lord Bagri purchased a 150-year lease on Hanover Lodge from the Crown Estate for £5.9 million and over the next 12 years spent millions of pounds renovating it, hiring the architect Quinlan Terry to supervise, including an underground swimming pool that can be converted into a ballroom. Renovations were finally completed in 2009, “after 10 years and 100 applications for planning and listed building consents” costing an estimated £25 million.
Then just three years later, in 2012, Bagri sold it to Andrey Goncharenko, the Russian billionaire, for £120 million. The oligarch has since submitted scores of planning applications of his own including one aimed at extending the basement as the swimming pool is “too small”. The mega-rich – don’t you just love ’em.

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Between 1988 and 2004 the aforementioned Quinlan Terry designed six detached villas, each in a different neo-classical style pastiching Nash’s, which line the Outer Circle to the north of Hanover Lodge. Terry said in a 2002 interview that the Crown Estate had told him to “step into Nash’s shoes and carry on walking”.

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On the other side of the Outer Circle from the villas, inside the Park itself is Winfield House. This Neo-Georgian mansion was commissioned in 1936 by the American heiress Barbara Hutton and its  12 acres of grounds constitute the second-largest private garden in London after that of Buckingham Palace. Since 1955 it has been the official residence of the United States Ambassador, hence the presence of armed police guards and the fact that the house and gardens are completely hidden behind trees and fencing. (Which is why this picture had to be sourced from elsewhere). I like the fact that the US Ambassador has a “soccer” pitch right in front of the house.

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At about 11 o’clock on the Outer Circle we leave the Park via Macclesfield Bridge, crossing the Regent’s Canal and then Prince Albert Road en route to Avenue Road. A left into Allitsen Road and another into Townshend Road takes us back towards the Park. There are some very imposing apartment blocks overlooking the Park from Prince Albert Road. One of these is Viceroy Court which when built in 1934-36 by the architectural firm of Marshall & Tweedy consisted of 84 luxury flats. The largest flat had 6 bedrooms, 3 reception rooms , a lounge hall, 3 bathrooms and offices which, at the time, could be rented for £625 a year. During WW2 it was one of the blocks of flats requisitioned by the RAF and lived in by aircrew training at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

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A loop of Mackennal Street, Shannon Place and Eamont Street brings us back to Prince Albert Road and the even grander North Gate, a massive Edwardian mansion block built circa 1907 and designed by architect Edward Prioleau Warren. By the turn of the 20th century it had became popular for wealthy families to live in mansion blocks, largely due to the invention of the hydraulic lift. An Art Deco extension was added in the 1930s and during WW2 American troops, guarding the US ambassador in Winfield House, were housed here. Famous past residents include band leader Joe Loss, Mantovani, Bud Flanagan, Mr Pearl of Pearl & Dean fame and Prince Nazeem the boxer. According to a 2014 survey tenants in NW8 pay the highest rents in the capital.

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We follow Prince Albert Road south down to St John’s Wood High Street and swing into the latter. A short way up we take a right into Greenberry Street and circumnavigate North Gate via this, Newcourt Street and Culworth Street. Next left, heading back up Prince Albert Road, is Charlbert Street the home of RAK Studios. The studios and the record label of the same name were founded by impresario Mickie Most (1938 – 2003), the former in 1976, seven years after the latter. RAK records is most strongly associated with a string of (generally) successful but (not always) critically acclaimed Seventies pop acts including Mud, Suzi Quatro, Hot Chocolate, Smokie and Racey. Amongst the hits, on other labels, recorded at the studios (which are very much still active) are possibly the two most famous tracks to stall at no.2 in the UK singles chart – “Vienna” by Ultravox and “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. Mickie Most himself is commemorated by a blue plaque on the exterior of the building. Born in Aldershot as Michael Hayes, he moved to Johannesburg at the age of 19 and reinvented himself as the eponymous frontman of Mickie Most and the Playboys who had 11 consecutive No.1’s on the South African charts. On returning to the UK in 1962 he forged a career as a record producer for the likes of the Animals, Hermans Hermits and Donovan before starting his own label. In the Seventies he appeared as a judge on ITV’s ‘New Faces’ talent show and produced the cult TV music show, Revolver, which over just eight episodes showcased the Punk and New Wave scene and is largely remembered for Peter Cook’s involvement as manager of the fictional ballroom setting.

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At the top of Charlbert Street we turn left along St John’s Wood Terrace and walk down as far as the northern end of St John’s Wood High Street. To the east of the High Street we wend our way round Charles Street, Allitsen Road (for a second time), Bridgeman Street and Barrow Hill Road before returning to check out the shops. St John’s Wood High Street is pretty much as you would expect with a notable absence of turf accountants and fast food outlets. There are some very well-appointed charity shops though, including Oxfam where I managed to pick up a jukebox-ready 1969 Blood, Sweat and Tears 45″ for 49p. As you can see, the Christmas lights are suitably understated.

At the top of the High Street we turn left onto Circus Road then pretty much straight away turn north up Kingsmill Terrace. Acacia Road takes us west to St John’s Wood tube station and from there we head south on Wellington Road as far as Circus Road again and then from there continue south on Cochrane Street to Wellington Place from where we enter St John’s Wood Church Grounds. The grounds are a former graveyard turned public park and contain the only Local Nature Reserve in the borough of the City of Westminster. St. John’s Wood was part of the Great Forest of Middlesex in the medieval period and from 1323 the land was owned by the Knights of the Order of St. John, after whom the area is named. The area began to be developed in the 19th century, and St John’s Wood Church and burial ground were consecrated in 1814. The latter however closed as soon as 1855, and was converted to a public garden in 1886. There are thought to be around 50,000 graves, including those of the artist John Sell Cotman (1782 – 1842) and the prophetess Joanna Southcott (1750 – 1814). Cotman was a leading member of the Norwich School of Painters and specialised in marine and landscapes. In his later years he was appointed as Master of Landscape Drawing at Kings College School where Dante Gabriel Rossetti was on of his pupils. Having become a member of the Wesleyan Church in her forties and been persuaded that she possessed supernatural gifts, Joanna Southcott wrote and dictated prophecies in rhyme, and then announced herself as the Woman of the Apocalypse spoken of in a prophetic passage of the Revelation. At the age of 64 she declared that she was pregnant and would be delivered of the new Messiah but instead died just a short while afterwards.

The church itself was designed in the neo-classical style by Thomas Hardwick and is Grade II listed. The blessing of the marriage of Paul and Linda McCartney was held here in 1969.

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The church sits on the Lord’s roundabout, between the cricket ground and Regent’s Park. The statue of St George and the Dragon in the middle of the roundabout was created by sculptor Charles Leonard Hartwell (1873 – 1951) and is a second casting, the original being in Newcastle.

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We cross back over Wellington Road and take St John’s Wood Road west along the southern perimeter of Lord’s. Serendipitously we reach the Grace Gate ten minutes before the last tour of the day is due to start and the lady in the ticket office kindly allows me to part with £20 even though the tour is technically full. So I hurry on through to the museum and join the assembled party of Indian, Sri Lankan, Australian, South African, American (?) and Scottish (??) cricket lovers.

The self-designated “Home of Cricket” is of course owned by the Marylebone Cricket Club (the “MCC”) which was founded by the eponymous businessman Thomas Lord in 1787. The current site which is the third iteration of the MCC’s home ground in this vicinity was established in 1814. The second move was occasioned by Parliament’s decision to change the planned route of the Regent’s Canal so that it would cut the then cricket ground in two. Lord’s is also the home of Middlesex County Cricket Club and until I was at quite an advanced age I thought that was what the “M” in “MCC” stood for (ignoring the fact of the requirement for an additional “C”). The MCCC have their HQ in what is effectively an out-building (they know their place). The guide informs us that unless you are an ex-test player or have a couple of million quid to donate to the redevelopment programme the waiting time to become a member of the MCC is currently 29 years.

The tour starts in the museum with a run-down of the items in the trophy cabinet which naturally include the original “Ashes urn” (the one which the Australians almost invariably have possession of is a replica).

We then proceed to the Members’ pavilion; on the way in I note that the MCC are the only people in the English-speaking world who refer to mobile phones as “portable telephones” which tells you a lot more about them than even their archaic dress code.

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The staircase we head up to get to the famous “Long Room” is lined with painted portraits of England captains past and present. The quality of these varies quite considerably; if I was Michael Atherton I’d be fairly happy, but if I was Michael Vaughan then not quite so much. The Long Room isn’t as big as I had expected and apart from the one of WG Grace the paintings in here aren’t much to write home about either. In fact the best painting in the whole place is tucked out of the way in the Members’ only function room opposite the Long Room (see below).

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Next up are visits to the Home and Away Dressing Rooms though that appellation is a bit misleading since both are devoid of any actual changing facilities. Basically they’re just places for the players to relax and have Tea while contemplating the respective honours boards which commemorate those England and Overseas players who have either scored a century or taken five wickets in an innings or ten wickets in the match during a test at Lord’s. The only players to feature on both sides of the England honours board are Gubby Allen, Ray Illingworth, Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes while Australia’s Keith Miller, the West Indies’ Sir Garfield Sobers, and India’s Vinoo Mankad match that achievement on the “away” board. Surprisingly Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne and Brian Lara are all conspicuous by their absence. The only person to appear on the boards in both dressing rooms is the West Indian batsman, Gordon Greenidge, by virtue of having scored a century for an MCC invitational side (predominantly comprised of England players) in the 1987 bicentennial test against the Rest of the World. I suspect that quite a sizeable proportion of the MCC membership have yet to get over this.

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After leaving the Members’ pavilion we make our way round to the Mound Stand, climbing up the stairs to appreciate the view from the debenture holders bar. Adjacent to the Mound Stand is the Tavern Stand on top of which is perched the famous weather vane of Father Time removing a bail. The Pavilion is over to the left and the Grandstand directly opposite. To the right the Compton and Edrich stands which used to flank the futuristic looking Media Centre have been reduced to rubble in preparation for the next phase of the redevelopment of the ground. Due for completion in 2021 this will only increase the capacity of the ground from 30,000 to 32,000 (though most of that increase will be made up of hospitality suites). The Media Centre, designed by the Future Systems architectural practice, was considered pretty controversial when it was built in 1999 but it went on to win that year’s RIBA Stirling Prize and is now viewed as an iconic structure by just about everyone. A couple of final facts, courtesy of our genial Yorkshire tour guide, before we leave. The only player ever to hit the ball over the top of the Pavilion was the ill-fated Albert Trott (1873 – 1914) (who played for both England and Australia) in 1899. The Lord’s Slope actually runs from north to south, not between the Pavilion and Nursery ends as I had always assumed. The total drop is around 2.5m (or 8ft 4″ in old money).

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The tour lasted just over ninety minutes and was pretty enjoyable in the end (despite my reservations at the outset). We exit via the Grace Gate again and turn right down to Grove End Road and then north up to Elm Tree Road which initially runs east parallel to the cricket ground before veering north up to the western section of Circus Road. From here we return southward down Cavendish Avenue which terminates on the junction of Cavendish Close and Wellington Place. The pillar box here is in the form designed by John Penfold during the Victorian era, 1866-79 to be precise, of which only around 150 originals remain in the UK. Sadly, as far as I can ascertain, this isn’t one of those so must be one of the 1989 replicas that were made.

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From Wellington Place we make our way back to Wellington Road and haul ourselves up this to our final port of call for today, St John’s Wood tube station. The station building was designed by Stanley Heaps and is Grade II listed. Its platform design, courtesy of Harold Stabler, remains the same as when the station opened in 1939. St John’s Wood is the answer to the common trivia question “Which London Underground station does not contain any of the letters in the word “mackerel”? and the station also featured in the video for Soft Cell’s “Bedsitter” (a much less common trivia question). On which trivial notes we’ll sign off.

 

Day 62 – Tower Bridge – Queen’s Walk – Hay’s Wharf

Well it’s taken nearly four years, which is about three and a half more than originally planned, but after 62 days and god knows how many miles every street covered by the central section of the London A-Z has finally been walked. Of course, give it a few more years and no-one will have a clue what that means as they’ll only ever have used Google maps to get around but, just as a reminder, this is roughly the area we’re talking about :

Covered so far May 2016

or to put it another way :

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And (having just counted them up) that’s roughly 2,028 streets, roads, lanes, walks, passages, avenues, mews(es) and rents altogether. Though I probably shouldn’t count Downing Street as it wasn’t actually possible to set foot there.

Anyway back to today’s valedictory lap which is mercifully short – just across Tower Bridge and west along the river to London Bridge.

Day 63 Route

Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 and is a combined bascule (the bit that raises and lowers – from the French for “see-saw”) and suspension bridge. It has a total length of 244m and the two towers are 65m high. Over 50 designs had been submitted for the new river crossing and the successful proposal for a bascule bridge was a collaboration between Horace Jones, the City Architect, and engineer, John Wolfe Barry. The incorporation of twin towers with connecting walkways was intended to allow pedestrians to be able to continue to cross the river when the bridge was raised. However, in 1910 the walkways were closed due to lack of use – the general public preferred to wait for the bascules to close rather than clamber up the two hundred-odd stairs and (allegedly) run a gauntlet of pickpockets and prostitutes once they got to the top. Only in 1982 with the creation of the Tower Bridge exhibition were the Walkways re-opened and covered over. Two massive piers were sunk into the river bed to support the construction and over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the Towers and Walkways. This framework was clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the Bridge a more pleasing appearance.

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Compared to many London attractions entry to the Tower Bridge exhibition is relatively reasonably priced at just under a tenner. This gets you up to the walkways, 42m above the river, and also includes access to the engine rooms. I chose to climb up the 200-plus steps inside the north tower rather than take the lift. Those that go for the latter option miss out on half the exhibition (including the “dad-dancing diver – you’ll see what I mean). Each walkway now includes a short glass-floored section which is not great for those that lack a head for heights. If these had only been configured “à la bascule” then the world would be able to rid itself of a bevy of annoying teenagers on regular basis.

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To get to the Engine Rooms, which are situated underneath the southern end of the bridge, you follow a blue line from the base of the south tower. The bascules are operated by hydraulics, originally using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. The energy created was stored in six massive accumulators so that, as soon as power was required to lift the bridge, it was always readily available. The accumulators fed the driving engines, which drove the bascules up and down. Despite the complexity of the system, the bascules only took about a minute to raise to their maximum angle of 86 degrees. Today, the bascules are still operated by hydraulic power, but since 1976 they have been driven by oil and electricity rather than steam. The original pumping engines, accumulators and boilers are now exhibits within the Engine Rooms.

We descend from the west side Tower Bridge Road down onto Queen’s Walk and then turn left immediately and follow Duchess Walk past a line of upscale eateries to Queen Elizabeth Street. On the triangular island bordered by this, Tooley Street and TBR stands a statue of Samuel Bourne Bevington (1832 – 1907) who was Bermondsey’s first mayor and came from a Quaker family who made their fortune in the local leather trade.  The sculptor was Sydney March (1876 – 1968) who was something of a go-to guy at the start of the 20th century if you wanted a monument to a major figure of Empire or a WW1 memorial. Beyond this statue (and you can only just see the plinth in the photo below) is a bust of the far more significant figure of Ernest Bevin (1881 – 1951) who was co-founder of the Transport and General Workers’ Union and served as Foreign Secretary in the 1945-51 Labour Government.
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At the junction of Queen Elizabeth Street and Tooley Street sits the building that was built in 1893 as a new permanent home for St Olaves’ Grammar School. The school was founded in the late 16th century following a legacy of £8 a year granted in the will of Southwark brewer, Henry Leeke. The building on QE Street was designed by Edward William Mountford, the architect of the Old Bailey. The school upped and decamped to suburban Orpington in 1968 and the building was acquired for use as an annexe by South London College. That tenure lasted until 2004 after which the listed building lay idle for ten years until it was bought by the Lalit Group as the latest addition to their chain of luxury boutique hotels, opening in 2017.

We turn right past the west side of the hotel down Potters Fields which runs into its eponymous park where a lunchtime session of Bikram yoga is in full swing.

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On the north side of the park, heading back towards Tower Bridge is London’s newest major theatre, the Bridge, founded by former National Theatre luminaries, Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, and opened in 2017.  Diagonally opposite across the park stands City Hall the headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA) a combination of the Mayor of London’s office and the London Assembly. The building was designed by Norman Foster and opened for business in 2002, two years after the creation of the GLA. The unusual shape of the building was supposedly intended to minimise surface area and thus improve energy efficiency but the exclusive use of glass for the exterior has more than offset any benefit this confers. In a singular display of unity, former Mayors, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, have both likened the form of the building to a particular element of the male anatomy; the former dubbing it “the Glass Testicle” and the latter “the Glass Gonad”.

City Hall forms part of a larger riverside development, called More London, with the usual mix of offices, shops and restaurants, which covers the area once filled with wharves and warehouses forming part of the so-called Upper Pool of London. Adjacent to City Hall is a sunken amphitheatre called The Scoop which hosts open-air music performances and film screenings during the summer months (and more lunchtime yoga as you can see below).

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In order to arrive at The Scoop we cross Potters Fields Park back to Tooley Street and return via Weaver’s Lane and More London Riverside. En route we pass through a herbaceous garden, of forty different perennial species, designed by the man responsible for the highline garden in New York, Piet Oudolf.

The thoroughfare known as More London Riverside continues beyond The Scoop, veering away from the river in between new HQ’s for accountancy firms Ernst & Young and PWC and lawyers, Norton Rose.

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On arriving at More London Place we head back down to river along Morgan’s Lane, which joins Queen’s Walk by the mooring of HMS Belfast. Although I have been aboard HMS Belfast before that was about 45 years ago I reckon so I was sorely tempted to repeat the experience but time was against me so I spurned the opportunity.

Built by Messrs Harland & Wolff in 1936, HMS Belfast was launched by Anne Chamberlain, wife of the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, on St Patrick’s Day in 1938. A year later she was commissioned into the Royal Navy under the command of Captain G A Scott (the ship that is, not Mrs Chamberlain). The Belfast was immediately called into service patrolling northern waters in an effort to impose a maritime blockade on Germany. However, disaster struck after only two months at sea when she hit a magnetic mine. There were few casualties but the damage to her hull was so severe she was out of action for three years. On rejoining the fleet in 1942 the Belfast played a key role in protecting arctic convoys en route to the USSR. She then went on to spend five weeks supporting the 1944 D-Day landings. She retired from service in 1963 and a few years later a trust was formed under the auspices of the Imperial War Museum to preserve her. After a successful campaign HMS Belfast was opened to the public in 1971, the last remaining vessel of her type – one of the largest and most powerful light cruisers ever built.

Bang in front of HMS Belfast on the riverfront, and taking up valuable real estate that could be otherwise utilised for even more bars and restaurants, is the enduring loveliness that is Southwark Crown Court. Opened in 1983 its 15 courtrooms make it the fourth largest centre for criminal sentencing in the country. It specialises in serious fraud cases. High profile cases in 2019 include the founder of Extinction Rebellion and another activist being cleared of all charges relating to protests in which they entered Kings College London and spray painted “Divest from oil and gas” on the walls and Julian Assange being convicted for breaching bail conditions by taking refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy. (Who says judges are out of touch ?).
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The front entrance to the court building is away from the river on English Grounds which is off Battle Bridge Lane. Surrounded by the latter, Counter Street and Hay’s Lane is Hay’s Galleria. In 1651 merchant, Alexander Hay took over the lease of a brewhouse beside London Bridge which included a small wharf. By 1710 his family company owned most of the warehouses along the river between London Bridge and the future southern end of Tower Bridge and the expanded wharf officially became known as Hay’s Wharf. By 1838 the company had fallen under the control of John Humphrey Jnr, an Alderman of the City of London. He commissioned architect William Cubitt to design and build a new wharf with an enclosed dock which work was completed in 1857. Unfortunately, just four years later, the Great Fire of Southwark destroyed the warehouses surrounding the new wharf. The buildings that form Hay’s Galleria are some of those arose from the ashes of that fire. Within a few years Hay’s Wharf was handling nearly 80% of the dry produce coming into the capital earning it the soubriquet of “London’s Larder”. The area suffered terrible bombing during WW2 but the Hay’s Wharf company recovered and by 1960, was handling 2m tons of foodstuffs and had 11 cold and cool air stores. However, over the course of the following decade, the explosion in the use of container ships led to the shipping industry moving out to the deep water ports of Tilbury and Felixstowe. Quite rapidly the London docks began to close and in 1969 The Hay’s Wharf Company ceased operations. In the 1980’s the site was acquired for redevelopment by St Martin’s Property Corporation, the real estate arm of the State of Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund. Hay’s Wharf, renamed Hay’s Galleria, was filled in and paved over and a glass barrel vault installed to join the two warehouse buildings at roof level to create an atrium like area with shops and stalls on ground level with offices in the upper levels. The adjoining wharf to the east, Wilson’s Wharf, was levelled to make way for the Crown Courts and the wharf buildings to the west, Chamberlain’s Wharf together with St Olaf House, were taken over by London Bridge Hospital (see below).

On leaving Hay’s Galleria we continue west along the river as far as London Bridge, passing the aforementioned eponymous hospital. On ascending up to bridge level we turn south and take the walkway that curves round to London Bridge Station then take the stairway down from Duke Street Hill to Tooley Street emerging opposite another part of London Bridge Hospital, a private hospital opened in 1986. St Olaf House, which houses the hospital’s Consulting rooms and Cardiology Department, was built as the Headquarters for Hay’s Wharf in 1931. This outstanding example of an Art Deco building was designed by the famous architect, H.S. Goodhart-Rendel, and is one of his best known works. It is a listed building, with its well-known river facade and its Doulton faience panels by Frank Dobson, showing dock life and the unloading of goods – ‘Capital, Labour and Commerce’.

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The building on Tooley Street is somewhat less impressive and so perhaps not the most fitting way to close this project. But then again this has not just been about venerable and grandiose old buildings and the ports of call for the open-top bus tours. It’s been about poking into every corner of the heart of this great city and circulating round each and every one of its arteries from the grandest boulevard to the grimiest cul-de-sac. In that spirit therefore, please salute these former shipping offices which first saw the light of day in 1860.
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And so it’s goodbye from me…..for now.

 

 

Day 61 – London Bridge – Hanseatic Walk – Tower of London

I guess I should begin this post with an apology for raising false expectations because this won’t in fact be the last of these as predicted in the previous post. By the time I’d spent several hours at the Tower of London discretion became the better part of valour and I decided to leave the planned home stretch across Tower Bridge and back along the river to London Bridge for another time. Today’s excursion is therefore restricted to a short but interest-packed stroll across London Bridge from south to north, along the Hanseatic Walk to Southwark Bridge and then back east beside the river to the Tower of London.

Day 61 Route

The current, undeniably prosaic, London Bridge is a box girder affair that was completed in 1973, replacing a 19th century stone arch bridge that (as we all know) was dismantled block by block and shipped over Arizona. Though commonly-believed (and repeated by the Yeoman warders at the Tower) the story that the purchaser, Missourian oil millionaire Robert P. McCulloch, thought he was actually buying Tower Bridge is entirely apocryphal. There has been a bridge on this site since Roman times and up until 1729 (when Putney Bridge was constructed) it was the only crossing downstream of Kingston. Several wooden bridges were built and destroyed (either by the elements or enemy forces) during the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods before Henry II commissioned a new stone bridge on which work began in 1176. It was finally completed 33 years later in the reign of King John. John tried to recoup the cost of building and maintenance by licensing out building plots on the bridge which eventually led to there being around 200 buildings in situ by the time the Tudors came to power. With the buildings came the threat of fire which materialised several times including in 1381 (Peasant’s Revolt), 1450 (Jack Cade’s Rebellion) and 1633 (which was actually fortuitous since it created a natural fire-break at the northern end which halted the spread of the Great Fire three decades later). The southern gatehouse of Henry’s bridge was notoriously used to display the severed heads of deemed traitors such as William Wallace, Jack Cade, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell. The practice only stopped following the restoration of Charles II. Houses continued to be built on the bridge up until the middle of the 18th century by which time is was finally recognized that the medieval bridge was no longer fit for purpose. It wasn’t until 1831 however that this vision was realised with the opening of the John Rennie designed five stone-arch replacement – and we’ve already revealed the ultimate fate of that one.

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Looking East from London Bridge
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Looking north from London Bridge

At the northern end of London Bridge we drop down onto the riverside to the west and the Hanseatic Walk named after the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe that dominated maritime trade in the Baltic and North Sea from the 13th to the middle of the 15th century and continued to exist for several centuries after that. The main trading base of the Hanseatic League in London was known as The Steelyard and was situated on the north side of the Thames where one end of the Southwark Railway Bridge now stands. Its remains where uncovered by archaeologists during maintenance work on Cannon Street Station in 1988. In 2005 a Commemorative Plaque was installed at this western end of the Hanseatic Walk by the British- German Association.

Appropriately, Steelyard Passage runs under the rail-line out of Cannon Street and joins the next stretch of the Thames Path that takes us as far as Southwark Bridge. Here we climb up the steps onto Queens Street Place which has a number of richly ornamental facades on its west side. (At this point I should acknowledge again the Ornamental Passions blog which has been an invaluable source of information on architectural sculpture and statuary). First up, on the riverside, is the horrendous neo-neo-classical Vintner’s Place built at the behest of the Vintner’s Company (another of the 12 original Livery Companies). The one saving grace of this building is that it preserved the portico of its predecessor, a 1927 art deco office block called Vintry House. This portico incorporates one of London’s most brazen pieces of sculpture, a full-frontal nude Bacchante (priestess of Bacchus) flanked by a pair of goats and with a cape made from bunches of grapes. The creator of this was one Herbert Palliser and the model was Leopoldine Avico, one of three sisters who posed for numerous sculptors and painters during the early decades of the 20th century.

Next door Thames House was built in 1911 for Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company, which made a Bovril-like goo from boiled up cows at a huge plant in Fray Bentos in Uruguay and later developed the Oxo cube. (Until I looked this up I had no idea there was an actual place called Fray Bentos). The sculptures on the two wings of the façade are the work of Richard Darbe who also dabbled in ivory and ceramic figurines for Royal Doulton.

Finally on the corner with Upper Thames Street is Five Kings House, which was originally the northern end of Thames House but was divided off in 1990. The figures above the entrance were created by George Duncan MacDougald. The male figure appears to represent the god Mercury but it’s not clear who the female figure is meant to be.

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After turning right onto Upper Thames Street we cross between this and the riverfront three times, Bell Wharf Lane, Cousin Lane and All Hallows Lane respectively, to return to the western end of the Hanseatic Walk. As we head back east we pass through Walbrook Wharf which is still an actual operating wharf, acting as a waste transfer station where refuse from central London is loaded onto barges to be shipped downstream to the Belvedere Incinerator which lies halfway between the Woolwich and Dartford crossings. When waste is being transferred onto the barges the riverside walk is closed to pedestrians. This point on the river, known as Dowgate, is also the mouth of the River Walbrook one of London’s lost rivers which now runs completely underground and feeds the sewer system.

There are two more links between Upper Thames Street and the riverside walk before we get back to London Bridge; Angel Lane and Swan Lane. Adjacent to the bridge, still on the west side, is the hall of the Fishmongers’ Company coming in at a mighty 4th place in the Livery Companies’ Order of Precedence which, as we have seen several times before, means that it got its original charter from Edward I (circa 1272). The Company enjoyed a monopoly on the sale of fish in the capital up until the 15th century. The original hall was the first of forty Livery Company halls to be consumed by the Great Fire. However thanks to the Hall’s riverside location, the Company’s most important documents and its iron money chest and silver, were safely transported away by boat. The present hall was the second built after the Great Fire enforced by the start of construction of the “New” London Bridge in 1828. Following substantial destruction during the Blitz the hall underwent major restoration which was completed in 1954. Until 1975 the Company enjoyed the use of a private wharf which excluded the public from access to the riverfront here. The statue in the garden is of “in memory of Mr. James Hulbert late citizen and Fishmonger of London deceased” and was moved here in 1978 having been first erected at St Peter’s Hospital Wandsworth in 1724.

On the east side of the northern end of London Bridge on Lower Thames Street stands the church of St Magnus the Martyr. I’ve visited an awful lot of churches since I started doing this and it’s taken until almost the very end of the mission to discover the two that are probably my favourites, starting with this one. The church was originally established in the early 12th century and it is now accepted that it is dedicated to an earl of Orkney named Magnus who, despite his reputation for piety and gentleness, was killed by one of his cousins in a power struggle around 1116 and was canonised some twenty years later. At various times through the church’s history however it has been contended that the dedication is actually in favour of the St Magnus who was persecuted by the Emperor Aurelian back in the 3rd century AD. The medieval church survived pretty much intact until it was one of the first buildings to be destroyed in the Great Fire, being mere yards from Pudding Lane. Rebuilding after the fire took place (naturally) under the direction of Christopher Wren and was completed in 1676. This new church emerged relatively unscathed from WW2 and what repair work was needed was concluded by 1951, the year after it was designated a Grade I listed building. Though not large, the interior of the church contains a number of interesting artefacts and decorations not least of which is a splendid scale model of Old London Bridge created by David T. Aggett  a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers. It also has an historic late 18th century fire engine (well more of a cart really) acquired by the parish in compliance with the Mischiefs by Fire Act of 1708 and the Fires Prevention (Metropolis) Act of 1774. Despite the church’s C of E denomination its interior is very ornate thanks to a neo-baroque style restoration of 1924 which reflected the Anglo-Catholic nature of the congregation at the time. That heritage may also explain why the rector uses the title “Cardinal Rector”, making him the last remaining cleric in the Church of England to use the title Cardinal.

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On leaving the church we return to the Thames Path and head further east past the riverside facades of Old Billingsgate and Custom House both of which we looked at back in Day 45. The two buildings are separated by Old Billingsgate Walk and beyond the latter Water Lane takes you back up onto Lower Thames Street.

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Old Billingsgate facing the Thames

Looping round Petty Wales and Gloucester Court brings us to the second of those churches – The Church of All Hallows by the Tower. All Hallows (which means “all saints”) was founded by Erkenwald, Bishop of London in 675 AD (as a chapel of the great Abbey of Barking). The original Anglo-Saxon church was built on the site of an earlier Roman dwelling, part of the tessellated floor of which was uncovered during excavations in 1926. The only surviving part of the Anglo-Saxon church, its great arch, re-emerged even later as a consequence of WW2 bomb damage. In 1311 the church was used as the venue for a series of trials of members of the Knights Templar which had become a prescribed organisation across Europe following the issue of a papal bull by Pope Clement. Due to its proximity to the Tower, post-reformation the church found itself the recipient of several bodies which had been deprived of their well-known heads including Thomas More and John Fisher (both executed by Henry VIII) and Archbishop Laud (executed by the Puritan government after the fall of Charles I). In 1650 the ignition of seven barrels of gunpowder in a nearby shop led to an explosion that left the church tower in such a precarious state that it had to be rebuilt in 1659. It was particularly fortunate therefore that the due to the efforts of Admiral General William Penn in ordering the destruction of surrounding houses to create a fire-break the church survived the Great Fire intact. The Admiral’s son, also called William, was baptised in the church and went on to found the American Quaker colony of Pennsylvania. A century later John Quincy Adams, who was to become the 6th President of the USA, was married here. The church’s crypt museum contains as number of Roman and Saxon artefacts as well as the original registers recording the events described above. Bizarrely, it also houses a barrel which was used as the crow’s nest on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 125-ton Norwegian Steamer “Quest”. Departing England on the 24th September 1921 Quest set sail for Antarctica on what was to be Shackleton’s last expedition. The ship ventured south visiting Rio De Janeiro and then moving onwards to South Georgia where Shackleton died on the 5th January 1922 and is now buried. At this point I should give an honourable mention to the lady on the gift-shop desk who was extremely helpful and friendly.

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And so finally on to the Tower of London which we reach via a circular route of Byward Street, Lower Thames Street (again) and Three Quays Walk beside the river. Obviously, I could write reams and reams about the Tower if I had the time and inclination but for both our sakes’ I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. The original central fortress, now known as the White Tower, was built after 1070 by William the Conqueror as he sought to protect and consolidate his power. In the 13th century, Henry III and Edward I added a ring of smaller towers, enlarged the moat and created palatial royal lodgings inside these imposing defences.

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The Tower had a starring role to play in the Wars of The Roses. The Lancastrian King Henry VI was murdered here in 1471 and twelve years later the two young sons of his successor, the Yorkist Edward IV, were reputedly killed on the orders of their uncle Richard Duke of York (subsequently Richard III) who had had them installed in what became known as “the Bloody Tower” for their “safekeeping”. From the Tudor Age onward the Tower of London became the most important state prison in the country. Among those sent here never to return were Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Sir Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes. The last person to be executed at the Tower was a German WW2 spy, Josef Jacobs, who was on the wrong end of a firing squad in August 1941. Many of those imprisoned, but not always executed, were held in the Beauchamp Tower, named after Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who was imprisoned here at the end of the 14th century for rebelling against Richard II. (Beauchamp is my mother’s maiden name so I’d like to imagine a distant family connection there). Anyway, several of these prisoners whiled away the hours of incarceration by carving graffiti in the form of inscriptions, poems, family crests and mottoes into the walls.

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Of course what most of the three million visitors a year come for is a gawp at the Crown Jewels. The original 11th century Jewels were destroyed by the victorious Parliamentarians after the Civil War. Precious stones were prised out of the crowns and sold, while the gold frames were sent to the Tower Mint to be melted down and turned into coins stamped ‘Commonwealth of England’. The crowns, orb, sceptre and swords that form the bulk of the collection as seen today were created for the coronation of Charles II following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The most famous of the individual jewels were acquired much later however; the two Cullinan diamonds were cut from a stone discovered in South Africa in 1905 and the Koh-I-Nur diamond, which was unearthed in 15th century India, was presented to Queen Victoria in 1849. The Crown Jewels are housed in the Waterloo Barracks on the north side of the Tower complex. Although the queue to get in looks daunting it moves quite quickly; largely because once you get to the heart of the collection a moving walkway whisks you past the cabinets containing the principal regalia. No photos are allowed so you’ll need to click on the link above to see what you’re missing if you’ve never been to see for yourself.

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The two other things that everyone associates with the Tower are the Yeomen Warders “Beefeaters” and the Ravens. There are currently 37 of the former who all live in accommodation at the Tower (they have their own pub, The Keys, which visitors are excluded from) and have to be ex-forces with at least 22 years service behind them and having attained the rank of warrant officer. So at lot of them are former Sergeant Majors which means they have no trouble herding and making themselves heard by the visitors who join the hourly tours they run. Legend has it that both the Tower of London and the kingdom will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. Charles II took this seriously enough to insist that they be protected against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed, who complained the ravens impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower. Today there are seven Ravens kept at the Tower; to encourage them to remain they are fed handsomely, including a weekly boiled egg and the occasional rabbit, and their flight feathers are trimmed.

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And that’ll have to be that for this time. I’ll be back in a few weeks with the final instalment (honestly !).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 60 – Tower Bridge Road – Tanner Street – Tooley Street

If all goes to plan this will be the penultimate post documenting this project. Recording a journey through the streets in the far south-eastern corner of the designated target area, this one covers the part of the capital stretching roughly from Bermondsey Square to Butlers Wharf going south to north and intersected by Tower Bridge Road. The walk took place on another glorious spring day with the sun beaming down and the cherry blossom out in full force. It was also the day the UK was supposed to be cutting itself adrift from the European Union, notwithstanding the postponement of which the hordes of Mordor still descended on Parliament Square. But let’s return swiftly to the sunlit and verdant streets of SE1.

Day 60 Route

We begin on the east side of Tower Bridge Road with Grange Walk. The south side of the street is home to a number of listed houses dating from the late 17th century and, on the corner with Grigg’s Place, the former Bermondsey United Charity School for Girls built in the 1830’s.

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A short way further along is another converted schoolhouse, the Grange Walk Infants School of late Victorian vintage.

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The north side of the street marks the southern end of the massive St Saviours Estate which we dip into briefly by way of Fendall Street before continuing east on Grange Walk as far as Bridewain Street.

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Bridewain Walk connects Grange Walk with Abbey Street as do, moving back westward, Maltby Street and The Grange. From the northern end of the latter we return along Abbey Street to the former and continue on its northern section down to Millstream Road which after a brief diversion into Stanworth Street takes us under the railway arches and into Druid Street.

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The plaque you see in the photograph above commemorates the WW2 bombing of the railway here which took seven lives.  We head back under the railway via Tanner Street and wander up Rope Walk which runs alongside the arches on the west side. A timely celebration of London’s international diversity here.

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We loop back to Tanner Street taking the final stretch of Maltby Street and turn west which takes us past Ugly Duck a for-hire venue for creative projects housed in a former Victorian warehouse and polythene bag factory. (bit of a cheat here – some of the photos in the sequence below were taken in 2017 when I was helping out with an installation for an exhibition).

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From here we snake round Pope Street, Riley Road and Purbrook Street to get back on Tower Bridge Road just north of where we started out from. Just beyond Stevens Street on the corner with Abbey Street a plaque fixed to the side of the end house of a row of council properties marks the site of the 11th century Cluniac priory that evolved and expanded to become Bermondsey Abbey. The priory and then the abbey played host to a number of notable royal occasions until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII (yes that again) instigated its eventual break up. The newly crowned King Henry II and his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, held court here at Christmas in 1154 shortly before the birth of their second son. Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Edward IV and the mother of the young princes murdered in the Tower at the behest of Richard III, registered as a boarder at the Abbey in 1487, after retiring from the court of Henry VII (who had defeated Richard and also married her daughter, Elizabeth of York). She died there on 8 June 1492. Today all that remains of the Abbey is a small section of the medieval gatehouse which forms part of the structure of some of those 17th century houses on Grange Walk.

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Just beyond the junction with Abbey Street we cut back through Bermondsey Square, where the weekly antiques market is underway, to the eastern end of Long Lane.

Across the road is the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey. The church itself we discussed in the last post. The churchyard, which stands on part of the site of Bermondsey Abbey, is now an open space having been largely cleared of gravestones after closing as a burial ground in the mid 19th century. A few large chest tombs remain along with an obelisk which commemorates the granting of the space to the vestry of Bermondsey in the 1880’s. There is also a typically Victorian (though it dates from 1902) shrine-type fountain, a gift of one Colonel Bevington.

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After crossing the churchyard we head briefly south again to the waggishly named Long Walk which dog-legs between Tower Bridge Road and Abbey Street and must be all of 50 metres from one end to the other. Final stop off on Abbey Street is Radcliffe Road and then it’s back to Tower Bridge Road and a good leg stretch north back to Tanner Street.

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So we head west on Tanner Street (with a short diversion to take in Archie Street) and find ourselves briefly on Bermondsey Street from where we make a circuit of Whites Grounds and Brunswick Court before ending up back on Tower Bridge Road. Continuing north there are some splendid examples of the cherry blossom, we referred to at the outset, leading up to Roper Lane which runs once again beneath the railway.

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At the end we turn right on Druid Street and follow this east across TBR and alongside another set of railway arches that are largely occupied by specialist motor vehicle service providers (car mechanics to you guv’).

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We make a left next onto Coxson Way and at the end of this follow Fair Street back to TBR. A few paces further north and we arrive at Tooley Street which takes us eastward again. Almost straight away we pass the Dixon Hotel which has made its home in the 1906 edifice that formerly served as the Tower Bridge Magistrates Court. The hotel takes its name from John Dixon Butler who was the architect of the Grade II listed Edwardian building.

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We continue east as far as Three Oak Lane and then use this, Lafone Street and Boss Street to weave our way back west between Tooley Street and Queen Elizabeth Street. Horselydown Lane then takes us further north as far as Gainsford Street where we switch east again before taking a left on Curlew Street which carries us down to Shad Thames, Butler’s Wharf and the river. Butler’s Wharf was built between 1865 and 1873 as a shipping wharf and warehouse complex dealing in commodities such as grain, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, rubber, tapioca and tea. The warehouse used for the latter was reputedly the largest of its kind in the world. The buildings gradually fell into disuse during the 20th century and their original commercial purpose was finally redundant when the Port of London closed in 1972.

In the 1970’s artists such as David Hockney, Andrew Logan and Derek Jarman used the empty buildings as a space for the creation of video and performance art. Then in 1981 Terence Conran led a consortium that bid successfully to redevelop the Grade II listed site for mixed use. The renovation of Butler’s Wharf was a 20 year project that involved renovating and developing six buildings: the Butlers Wharf building itself, and the renamed Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Coriander warehouses. Conran’s pet project the Design Museum was included alongside the residential, retail and restaurant developments (though it has recently moved to a new building in Kensington).

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Looking east from Butler’s Wharf
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Looking west from Butler’s Wharf

In an earlier post we talked about the Barclay Perkins Brewery on Bankside which was also known as the Anchor Brewery. Well they obviously had trouble coming up with original names back in the 18th century because when John Courage founded his eponymous brewery in 1787 he gave it the exact same alternative monicker. At first his brewery consisted of just a small building on the foreshore, adjacent to what would be the southern end of Tower Bridge when that was built in 1886, but he and his son (after his death) rapidly built up the surrounding site. Some of the land had to be surrendered when the bridge was constructed and then in 1891 a spark in the malt mills caused a fire that razed the brewery to the ground. It was rebuilt to what were at the time state-of-the art specifications and was soon producing 300,000 barrels a year. The Courage family were still in full control of the business at this time even though it had floated on the stock market in 1889. By 1955 however it was forced to merge with the Barclay Perkins Brewery and in 1972 the combined entity was acquired by Imperial Tobacco. The writing was probably already on the wall by then and it 1981 both the Anchor Breweries were closed down. The Bankside site was demolished completely but in the case of the Courage Brewery the riverside frontage was retained (including the chimney which you can see in the picture above) while the buildings to the rear were torn down for redevelopment. As of 2017 the Courage brand is in the possession of Marston’s Brewery.

It’s fitting then that today’s pub of the day is the Anchor Tap on Horselydown Lane which was the Courage Brewery’s Tap (though it claims to originate from 1761 a couple of decades and some before John Courage set up). It’s now part of the Sam Smith’s estate and provided me with a very decent pint of cider and an excellent B.L.T.

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On leaving the pub we go back down Tower Bridge Road as far as St John’s Church park on the west side. Cutting through this brings us back onto Fair Street and then Tooley Street again.

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Continuing west we visit a sequence of streets that run off Tooley Street to the south – an orphan section of Druid Street, Banham Street and Shand Street. At the end of the latter we turn onto Holyrood Street, another that skirts the rail lines out of London Bridge.

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We double sharply back down Magdalen Street to return to Tooley Street, dipping into Gibbon’s Rent and Bursar Street en route. Then it’s west on Tooley Street as far as Bermondsey Street where we negotiate its northernmost section that includes the long tunnel under the railtrack and finishes at the junction with St Thomas St. We’ve visited St Thomas Street before of course but on that previous occasion I overlooked the London Science Gallery which is sited on part of the Kings College campus by Guy’s Hospital and only opened last September (2018) with a mission to connect art, science and healthcare. The photos below are from a video work that forms part of the current (until 12 May 2019) exhibition Spare Parts which explores the art and science of organ transplantation and tissue regeneration.

The other reason for trekking all the way along St Thomas Street for a second time is that although it has loomed large in the background of many of the photographs in this and previous posts we haven’t yet dealt properly with the elephant in the city that is the Shard. So here, in no particular order, are the facts. It’s the tallest building in the UK and the European Union (which at the time of writing are still one and the same thing). Construction began in 2009 and it topped out three years later at 309.7 metres. It is 95 storeys tall with 72 habitable floors the uppermost of which at 244 metres incudes the UK’s highest viewing gallery. Floors 53 to 65 are taken up with residential apartments while the Shangri-La Hotel occupies floors 34 to 52 and the rest is mainly offices. These floors are served by a total of 36 lifts which can travel at speeds up to 6 metres a second. Its exterior is covered by 11,000 glass panels – equivalent in area to eight football pitches or two and a half Trafalgar Squares. The lead architect was the Italian, Renzo Piano who also designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Towards the end of construction a fox was found up on the 72nd floor; nicknamed Romeo by staff, the fox is believed to have survived on food left by construction workers.

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And finally, in a nod to the opening comments above I should mention that some people like to refer to The Shard as the Tower of Mordor.

 

Day 59 – Tabard Street – Long Lane – Bermondsey Street – Leather Market

Allegedly the warmest February day since records began to accompany this tour of the area south of London Bridge Station and Guy’s Hospital. No major landmarks or sightseeing destinations on this occasion but plenty of (hopefully) interesting stuff including today’s featured artists, Tracey Emin and Mary Quant, along with some shamelessly frisky squirrels and the world of leather.

Day 59 Route

Starting point today is Borough Tube Station from where we head south east on Great Dover Street before fairly swiftly cutting down Silvester Street to Tabard Street. At no.19 Tabard Street is a Grade II listed tall and narrow building of 1891 that was once home to George Harding & Sons. As well as being Hardware Merchants, George and his boys were also practitioners of  the arts of Tin-plating and Japanning (a varnishing treatment for the protection and decoration of household and artistic products derived from the east Asian technique of lacquering).

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After turning right on Tabard Street we return to Great Dover Street via Nebraska Street and continue down as far as Pilgrimage Street. The first section of today’s excursion is basically a tour of South London Estates; council, private and a mixture of both. It has to be stressed though that none of the former in this part of town are anything like the run-down concrete jungles of popular perception. In fact basking  in the winter sunshine some of them have a kind of beauty of their own.

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The above is part of the Tabard Gardens Estate which we pass crossing back to Tabard Street. Reversing direction we cut through Empire Square which is surrounded by a new development of apartments of an entirely different flavour. I have my own thoughts as to what the architectural feature on the left in the foreground might have been inspired by but I’ll let you use your own imaginations.

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We emerge out onto Long Lane and turn eastward before looping back to Tabard Street along Southall Place and Sterry Street. Take an initial stroll through Tabard Gardens to reach Becket Street then continue further south on Tabard Street before turning left onto Pardoner Street beyond the end of the gardens. There’s another example here of what I mentioned earlier…

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We double back along the north side of Tabard Gardens with a bit of a detour into the designated nature viewing area which features an impressive variety of pigeons and this pair who definitely think Spring has arrived…

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We exit the park on the north side and crossing over Manciple Street follow Hankey Place (sadly there isn’t a Pankey Place anywhere in the vicinity) up to Long Lane. Then we back up to Manciple Street via Staple Street and follow the former back east to Pardoner Street again. Weston Street is next and we go north on this as far as Elim Street before switching direction and heading south as far as Law Street. En route we have what appears to be a candidate for London’s least enticing Indian takeaway though the Google reviews are split 2 to 1 in favour of 5* over 1*.

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Law Street is home to what must be the least expected repurposing of a former public house that we’ve encountered throughout our travels so far.

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After a brief look at Landsdowne Place we rejoin Tabard Street for a final time and then it’s on to Potier Street and Hunter Close to complete a triangle that ends at the top of Prioress Street. This is the site of the Tabard Centre a Grade II listed former Victorian school converted into private flats, one of which was the scene of the particularly unsavoury murder of literary agent Rod Hall in 2004.

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We head north on Prioress Street and continue as far as Rothsay Street by way of Rephidim Street, Green Walk and Alice Street. (Rephidim, in case you were wondering, is one of the places visited by the Israelites in the biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt).

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Entrance to the Meakin Estate on Rothsay Street

Turning eastward on Rothsay Street brings us out onto Tower Bridge Road where, shortly after turning left, you’ll encounter one of the three branches of M.Manze purveyors of traditional Pie and Mash and Eels (jellied or stewed). This family business was started by an Italian immigrant, Michele Manze, who came to London in 1878 aged 3. His parents were originally in the ice cream trade but Michele chose a different culinary path and opened this, his first shop, in 1902. He went on to open four more before his death in 1932 but three of these failed to survive WW2. The fifth, in Peckham, was burnt down during the 1985 riots. However, the three sons which had taken over the business managed to rebuild that and opened a third shop in Sutton (of all places) in 1998.

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This isn’t the only comfortingly old school establishment on Tower Bridge Road which has yet to succumb to the gentrification of other parts of Bermondsey.

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Who can resist a rack of brooms and mops

On the junction with Bermondsey Street is a memorial to local Victoria Cross awardee Albert McKenzie on a bench next to which I divest myself of my jumper – down to two layers in February, that’s global warming for you.

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Diverting onto Bermondsey Street we pass the 1900-built Bermondsey Central Hall Methodist Church on our way to Cluny Place which feeds into another estate well provided with green spaces.

We retrace our steps back past the church and turn west onto Decima Street and then at the end make a right onto Wild’s Rents and we find ourselves back on Long Lane. Set back from the street is the impressive 1950’s Blue Lion Factory. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to determine definitively what was originally produced here though the consensus seems to be some kind of printing; possibly chequebooks for Nat West and TSB. Of course, for the last twenty years or so it’s been high-end flats.

We return to Bermondsey Street and we’re now well into territory that’s not so much up-and-coming as already arrived (the self-styled Bermondsey Village). Over on the east side of the street stands The Church of St Mary Magdalen which originates from 1690 though the so-called “playful Gothic” exterior was overlaid on the 17th century brickwork by architect George Porter in 1829. The church is the legal owner of a silver alms dish called the “Bermondsey Mazer” which is thought to be the only surviving piece of silver from the Bermondsey Abbey, probably dating from the 15th century, and which is on loan to the V&A.

Two doors down from the church at no.187 next to the Old Rectory is a building which from 1899 to the start of the 1960’s was home to the Time and Talents organisation. This movement started in 1887 when it was thought in some quarters that it was a waste that young educated women of the middle classes were limited to being purely decorative. The name was thought up by Minna Gollock, private secretary to Emily Kinnaird of the YWCA. Time and Talents groups were set up where the girls received Christian teaching that was intended to widen their horizons and develop social consciences which could then be utilised in the service of those less fortunate than themselves. In this former tailor’s shop the group ran classes in reading, writing, cookery, painting, basket work, stringwork, knitting and sewing. There were health lectures and magic lantern evenings, a penny lending library and cheap dinners were served three days a week.

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Over on the west side of Bermondsey Street is the White Cube Gallery which opened here in 2011 in a converted 1970’s warehouse. At the time it was the biggest commercial gallery in Europe with 58,000 sq ft of space, easily outstripping its sister galleries in Mason’s Yard, St James’s and Hoxton Square in terms of size (the latter, the original White Cube, was closed down just a year later). In 2015 the gallery was targeted by anti-gentrification activists who graffitied “Yuppies Out” and “Class War” onto the wall of an apartment near the gallery – though they must have travelled through a wormhole in the space-time continuum to do so since no-one has used the term “yuppie” for at least 20 years. Currently showing (until 7 April 2019) is a new exhibition of work by Tracey Emin until the title of A Fortnight of Tears. I was kind of hoping to like this since slagging off TE is something of a national pastime that I don’t feel comfortable joining in with and to be fair the large sculptural figures are pretty impressive. The paintings however are another matter and there are a lot more of those. It’s a bit of a cheap shot to say that I preferred the graffiti on the adjacent electricity substation but true nonetheless.

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Royal Oak Yard, Newham’s Row and Bell Yard Mews are taken in prior to the visit to the gallery and afterwards we cut through Lamb Walk on its north side to reach Morocco Street (named after the type of leather). On Morocco Street there are still some of the old warehouses that used to fill this area in a pre-conversion state but turn the corner into Leathermarket Street and there are some prime examples of what most of them look like now.

Also on Morocco Street is RW Autos, a specialist in BMW repairs and services but as the horses’ heads on the façade testify the building once catered to a more sedate form of transportation as a blacksmith’s smithy.

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From Leathermarket Street we cross the eastern end of Leathermarket Gardens to arrive on Tyers Gate which we follow back to Bermondsey Street emerging opposite the Fashion and Textile Museum. This was founded by designer Zandra Rhodes and is housed in yet another 1970’s warehouse conversion courtesy of Mexican architect, Ricardo Legoretta. The current exhibition here is Swinging London (until 2 June 2019)which is fun if not (due to limitations of space) particularly extensive. It’s unsurprisingly  a magnet for women whose heyday was the 1960’s though I somehow doubt that many of them ever actually wore anything like the Mary Quant creations on display.

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“Long Life” was the first canned beer introduced to the UK and as you can see it was originally marketed at a somewhat different graphic from the one that quickly embraced it.

After leaving the FTM it’s back to the west side of Bermondsey Street for a detour round Carmarthen Place.

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Looks like someone got a bit carried away at evening class
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It may be 20 degrees but it’s still February so the bobble hat’s staying on

One more stretch of Bermondsey Street then we make a loop that starts with Snowfields and continues on Hardwinge Street, Melior Place, Melior Street, Fenning Street before closing with the eastern section of St Thomas Street.  At the back of Vinegar Yard which is closed off for development there’s another unvarnished warehouse still standing – hopefully that won’t change any time soon.

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Heading back west on St Thomas Street this appropriately unappealing building is the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement Reporting Centre.

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Beyond that we take a left south on Weston Street and return to Snowfields via repeat visits to Melior Street and Melior Place. The former is the site of the Church of Our Lady of La Salette and St Joseph which was built in the 1860’s and is another in the Gothic style. The church was the first in England to be dedicated (in part) to Our Lady of Salette,  just fifteen years after the apparition of the weeping Madonna at La Salette, near Grenoble in the South of France the shrine to which had been visited by Father Simon McDaniel who founded the church. Today the church is home to the Slovak Catholic Mission in London.

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Crossing over Snowfields we make our way back to Leathermarket Gardens along Kirby Grove. I mentioned “Bermondsey Village” earlier and at this northern entrance to the gardens it has its own Village Hall.

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Having traversed the gardens for a second time we’re back on Leathermarket Street. To the west on the junction with Weston Street are the grade II listed Leather Market buildings which stand as a reminder of the prominence of the leather trade in Bermondsey in the 19th century. The Leather and Skin Market in Weston Street was opened in 1833, built by a company formed of local tanners and leather-dressers. London’s leather market had previously been located at Leadenhall Market alongside the beef market but relocated to the new market in Bermondsey after tanning was banned from the City of London. It was (and in some parts of the world remains) a particularly unpleasant business involving soaking the hides and skins in urine and lime to loosen the hairs and remaining flesh, removing these with a dull knife and then pounding dog faeces (‘pure’) into the skins to soften them. In 1878, a new building was built next door to the Leather Market  emblazoned with the inscription The London Leather, Hide and Wool Exchange and said to be a gentleman’s club. The new building incorporated a pub and there is still one in situ today called the Leather Exchange. The eastern part of the Leather Market where the Skin Market had stood was demolished having been badly damaged during World War II and flats built in its place. The western part, fronting onto Weston Street, survives. Both the remainder of the Leather Market and the London Leather, Hide and Wool Exchange survived the threat of demolition in 1993 and now offer flexible workspace and studio accommodation.

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From the Leather Market we continue on Weston Street south to Long Lane and then loop back to the north west corner of the gardens, taking in Kipling Street, Porlock Street, Hamlet Way and Guy Street. To complete today’s journey we turn left onto Weston Street and then dog-leg back to Snowfields along Ship and Mermaid Row. This brings us out next to the Guinness Trust Buildings. The Guinness Trust was founded in 1890 by Edward Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, a great grandson of the founder of the Guinness Brewery, with the aim of helping homeless people in London and Dublin. He donated £200,000 to set up the Guinness Trust in London, the equivalent of £25 million in today’s money. The estate on Snowfields was built in 1897, the third of four developments in Southwark and the oldest that survives to this day. It comprised 355 tenements across a number of five-storey blocks and was partially paid for by the South Eastern Railway Company. The Guinness Partnership (as it is known today) is still one of the largest providers of affordable housing in England, owning and managing 65,500 homes.

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On the opposite side of the street is Arthur’s Mission which predates the Trust Estate by four years. The mission appears to have been established by an anonymous mystery benefactor and it’s unclear who the Arthur it is named for was. One theory is that the name was inspired by Tennyson’s poem The Idylls of The King about King Arthur which refers to Arthur’s Mission as “a commitment to the divine command to realize his highest calling”. The Mission was affiliated to the Ragged School Union and concentrated its work on children and young people many of whom lived in the Estate.

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Day 58 – Southwark Cathedral – Borough Market – Guy’s Hospital

Back after an extended hiatus with a fairly brief excursion just south of the Thames but as you can see from the title there’s quite a bit packed into this short space. Inevitably that includes more Shakespeare and Dickens but we’ve also got Geoffrey Chaucer, Francis Drake and John Keats in the mix along with a (literally) cracking legend.

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Starting point for today is on Bankside, just to the east of Southwark Bridge and we kick things off by heading eastward along Clink Street towards the Clink Prison Museum. This area was once the site of Winchester Palace, built in 1144 for Henry of Blois, brother to King Stephen, which contained within its grounds two prisons; one for men and one for women. The name ‘Clink’ which eventually became a synonym for houses of incarceration in general seems to have been attributed to the prison here in the 14th century. One suggested derivation is the of the sound of a blacksmith’s hammer closing the irons around the wrists or ankles of the prisoners. Alternatively it could come from the Flemish word ‘klink’ meaning ‘latch’ (on a jail door for instance). The Clink suffered several attempts to destroy it during medieval times, principally during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 and Jack Cade’s rebellion of 1450, both of which resulted in its rebuilding. The latter rebuilding survived until 1780, when Lord George Gordon, dissatisfied with the favours granted upon Catholics during the ‘Papists Act’ assembled The Protestant Association and broke into The Clink, releasing all of the prisoners before burning it to the ground. Today, all that remains of Bankside’s once most notorious prison is the stonework of Winchester Palace that has been preserved within The Clink Prison Museum.

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At the end of Clink Street we take a right into Stoney Street and then a left down Winchester Walk which leads into Cathedral Street at the western end of Southwark Cathedral. It is believed that there was a community of nuns living on the site of the cathedral as far back as the 7th century and by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 this had developed into a some form of church. In 1106 the church was ‘re-founded’ by two Norman knights as a priory, whose members lived according to the rule of St Augustine of Hippo. The church was dedicated to St Mary and later known as St Mary Overie (‘over the river’). Perhaps the most famous resident of the priory was the court poet John Gower who lived there at the start of the 15th century and was a friend of Chaucer whose Canterbury Tales begin in Southwark (more of that later). When Henry VIII dissolved the Monasteries in 1539 the church became his property, and he promptly rented it back to the congregation. It was re-named St Saviour’s, though the old name remained in popular usage for many years. Shakespeare was a resident of the parish of St Saviour’s and his brother Edmund who also lived in the parish died in 1607 at the age of 27. A payment of 20 shillings was paid for his burial (possibly by William) at St Saviour’s “with a forenoone knell of the great bell”. His ledger stone is situated in the Cathedral Choir. In 1611 during the reign of James I a group of merchants from the congregation, known as ‘the Bargainers’, bought the church from the king for £800. Having gone through as series of repairs and alterations in the 17th and 18th centuries and a major restoration in the 1820’s St Saviour’s Church became Southwark Cathedral in 1905. The diocese which it serves stretches from Kingston-upon-Thames in the west to Thamesmead in the east and Gatwick Airport in the south. It has a population of two-and-a-half million people, served by over 300 parishes.

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On leaving the Cathedral we continue north on Cathedral Street through Winchester Square and past Pickfords Lane down to the river and the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s “Golden Hinde“.  The original was the vessel on which Drake and his crew circumnavigated the globe during 1577-1580 (though it was called “The Pelican” at time of departure). A fleet of five ships in all sailed south to the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa before crossing the Atlantic to Brazil then traversing the straits of Magellan to reach the Pacific. By then the other ships had been either lost or returned to England the way they came leaving the Golden Hinde to complete the round trip alone via the East Indies and the Cape of Good Hope. In the 17th century, the original Golden Hinde which had been kept at the Deptford dockyard rotted and was broken up. 400 years later naval architect Loring Christian Norgaard was commissioned by The Golden Hinde Limited of San Francisco, a company formed by two other Americans, Albert Elledge and Art Baum, to design a replica. All components were handcrafted using traditional techniques and materials from the 22 cannons to the furniture and the hinde figurehead and in 1973, the new The Golden Hinde was launched. After crossing both the Atlantic and the Pacific in the 1970’s the ship completed a “second circumnavigation” in the 1980’s (this time with the aid of the Panama Canal) before being retired here to St Mary Overie Dock in 1996 to operate as a museum.

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Beside the ship, and I have to confess to never having properly noticed this despite passing this way umpteen times, is a plaque commemorating the Legend of Mary Overie (her that Southwark Cathedral was once named after if you were paying attention earlier). It’s a cracking story so I make no apologies for copying it out (almost) in full here.

“Legend suggests that before the construction of London Bridge in the tenth century a ferry existed here. Ferrying passengers across the River Thames was a lucrative trade. John Overs who, with his watermen and apprentices, kept the “traverse ferrie over the Thames”, made such a good living that he was able to acquire a considerable estate on the south bank of the river. John Overs, a notorious miser, devised a plan to save money. He would feign death believing that his family and servants would fast out of respect and thereby save a day’s provisions. However, when he carried out the plan, the servants were so overjoyed at his death that they began to feast and make merry. In a rage the old man leapt out of bed to the horror of his servants, one of whom picked up a broken oar and “thinking to kill the Devil at the first blow, actually struck out his brains”. The ferryman’s distressed daughter Mary sent for her lover, who in haste to claim the inheritance fell from his horse and broke his neck. Mary was so overcome by these misfortunes that she devoted her inheritance to founding a convent into which she retreated.” (see above).

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After that diversion we retrace our steps to the Cathedral and skirt round the north side via Montague Close before ascending the steps up to where London Bridge meets the west side of Borough High Street and from here we head south down to Borough Market. Borough Market is reputed to have existed in one form or another for around 1,000 years since, roughly, 1014 the date used as the basis for the Market’s millennium celebration. This was a prime location for a market at the time due to its position at the southern end of London Bridge—for centuries, the only route across the river into the capital. The market incurred the wrath of the authorities across the river by undercutting the City of London’s own traders such that in the 1270s the City forbade its citizens to go to Southwark to buy “corn, cattle, or other merchandise there”. As a consequence, over the course of the following three hundred years, the market fell increasingly under the aegis of the City thanks to a series of royal charters, culminating in 1550 with Edward VI selling Southwark to the City for around £1,000. As London grew in size and stature, the bedlam on Borough High Street began to arouse significant opposition within the corridors of power and in 1754 a bill went before parliament declaring that as “the market obstructs much trade and commerce”, it would have to cease trading by 25th March 1756. Residents of Southwark then began petitioning to be allowed to start a new market, independent of the City and a second act was passed through parliament declaring that the parishioners of St Saviour’s could acquire land away from the main road and set up a market of their own, and that this market would “be and remain an estate for the use and benefit of the said parish for ever”. The market expanded rapidly in the 19th century becoming a major hub of the wholesale fruit and vegetable trade. The present buildings were designed in 1851, with additions in the 1860s and an entrance designed in the Art Deco style added on Southwark Street in 1932.

By the latter date it is estimated that 1,750,000 bushels of fruit and vegetables were sold here from 188 pitching stands let to 81 different wholesale companies, with a further 203 stands in the uncovered periphery manned by farmers from the Home Counties. Borough Market’s days as a vital wholesale hub were ended in part by the construction of New Covent Garden market in Vauxhall in the 1970s, but mainly by the relentless growth of the supermarkets which, by killing off independent greengrocers, destroyed the ecosystem in which fruit and vegetable wholesaling had thrived. The market’s renaissance into its present incarnation was inspired by the boom in artisan foods which kicked off in the 1990’s. A regular specialist retail market started on a monthly basis at the end of the decade, swiftly becoming a weekly occurrence and then the six days a week operation that exists today. In the process BM has reinvented itself as possibly the most well-known food market in the country and a tourist hotspot. We traverse the market by way of Bedale Street and Rochester Walk before returning to Borough High Street via some more of Stoney Street.

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Historically the east side of Borough High Street has been associated with coaching inns, many of which dated back to the medieval period. There were once 23 in total with their own courtyards surrounded by multi-tiered galleries. Many of the yards still remain and retain the names of the inns to which they gave access. However of these only Kings Head Yard and George Inn Yard are still home to eponymous hostelries.  The George Inn in its current form dates back to 1676 when it was rebuilt following a fire that destroyed the 1542 original. It is the last surviving galleried coaching inn in London. Naturally enough it claims both Shakespeare and Dickens as former regulars though since it gets a reference in Little Dorrit the latter at least should be conceded with good grace.

Both White Hart Yard and Talbot Yard are now pub-free. The latter however was once the site of the Tabard Inn from whence (as we learned earlier) Chaucer’s pilgrims set off on their way to Canterbury in April 1386.

Bifel that in that season on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,

The Tabard was also burnt down in the 1676 fire and it too was rebuilt, though renamed the Talbot, hence the name of the yard. The Talbot, like most of the other coaching inns, failed to outlive the coming of the railways and was demolished in 1873. The plaque below was unveiled by Monty Python’s Terry Jones in 2003.
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Opposite Talbot Yard is the St Saviours Southwark War Memorial with its bronze sculpture designed by Philip Lindsay Clark who won the Distinguished Service Order in WW1.

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Next we take a brief excursion away from Borough High Street to the east looping round Newcomen Street, Tennis Street and Mermaid Court. On our return we find ourselves opposite Maya House which since 2007 has been embellished by Ofra Zimbalista’s climbing Blue Men.

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Continuing south on the east side we arrive at Angel Place another of London’s misnomered alleyways. You wouldn’t get many angels down here unless they were caught very very short. It is however the site of the old Marshalsea Prison (as we alluded to in the post before last) where Dickens’ father was incarcerated and which features heavily in Little Dorrit. Part of the old prison wall is still standing on one side of the alleyway and there is  somewhat low-key memorial in the form of illustrated pages from the novel.

Across from Borough tube station, on the corner of the High Street and Great Dover Street stands the church of St George the Martyr. This is believed to be the third church on this site and was built in a Classical style to the designs of John Price between 1734 and 1736. Several of the major City Livery Companies and the Bridge House Estates gave their support to the project and their arms decorate the nave ceiling and some of the stained glass windows. The rather blingy ceiling painting of gilded cherubs breaking through a clouded sky accompanied by texts on a ribbon was created by Basil Champneys (1842 – 1935) in 1897. Champneys was principally an architect and designed a number of college buildings in Oxford and Cambridge.

 

On the north side of the church Tabard Street cuts through from the High Street into Long Lane which we follow east as far as Crosby Row. Here we head back north to reach Guy’s Hospital, the third and final member of the triumvirate of major central London hospitals following St Barts’ and St Thomas’ (though it should be noted that Guy’s and St Thomas’ are twinned as a single NHS Trust). The hospital dates from 1721, when it was founded by philanthropist Thomas Guy (1644 – 1724), who had made a fortune from the South Sea Bubble and as a publisher of unlicensed Bibles. It was originally established as a hospital to treat “incurables” discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital and the first hospital building was situated just to the south of St Thomas Street. This was soon complemented, in 1738, by the construction of a courtyard known as the General Court with an east wing. In 1780 a west wing comprising the chapel, the Matron’s House and the Surgeon’s House was added on the other side of the courtyard. The site was then extended to the south in 1850, the new buildings being named after one of the governors, William Hunt, who had made a bequest of £180,000 twenty years earlier. All of these buildings now form part of the Guy’s Campus of Kings College London which also incorporates a further group of buildings erected yet further south in the early part of the 20th century. These include Henriette Raphael House opened in 1902 – the first purpose built nurses’ home in London; the Hodgkin Building, named after Thomas Hodgkin, the demonstrator of morbid anatomy and best known for the first account of Hodgkin’s disease and Shepherd’s House, completed in 1921. Guy’s Campus sits to the west of the Great Maze Pond, which is the street that cuts through the extended hospital site. All medical services are now provided in the new buildings on the east side which were mostly constructed in 1974, including the 34 storey Guy’s Tower and 29 storey Guy’s House. The former, now dwarfed by the Shard, was for a brief time the tallest building in London and for a much longer time the tallest hospital building in the world.

We follow Great Maze Pond past the modern hospital buildings down to Collingwood Street where we turn left and then left again into the heart of Guy’s Campus. Having completed a circuit of the main campus we cross over Collingwood Street and go through the colonnade that runs between the two courtyards of 1850. In the eastern courtyard is a round-hooded Portland stone alcove which was originally part of, and is one of the surviving fragments of, the old London Bridge that was demolished in 1831. It now houses a statue of John Keats who studied at Guy’s Hospital from 1815 to 1816 to become an apothecary. (And whom some waggish student has inducted into the festive spirit). In the western courtyard is a statue of William Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield, another major benefactor of Guy’s Hospital. Continuing north we arrive in the General Court with the brass statue of Thomas Guy by Peter Scheemakers standing in the centre upon a pedestal with bas-reliefs of “Christ Healing the Sick” and the “Good Samaritan”.

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We exit the hospital grounds onto St Thomas Street and complete today’s journey by heading west back towards London Bridge. On the way there is just time to pause for a look at (but not inside) the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret which is housed in the attic of the early eighteenth-century church of the old St Thomas’ Hospital.  The original timber framed Herb Garret was once used to dry and store herbs for patients’ medicines and in 1822 an operating theatre was included. Predating anaesthetics and antiseptics, it is the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe. So perhaps worth a visit another time.

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