Another short one today – just ticking the streets to the east of Gray’s Inn Road and north of Rosebery Avenue and finishing off with a look at the Post Office’s Mount Pleasant site and a sixties time capsule within Holborn Library.
Start off on Rosebery Avenue again; this time at the Old Finsbury Town Hall the Grade II listed building originally known as the Vestry Hall at the time of its construction in 1895. The building is now occupied by the Urdang Academy performing arts school which unfortunately means there is no public access to see the interior art nouveau detailing which it is best known for. You can however see the influence of that style in the glass and wrought iron canopy over the entrance.
A little way further north turn right down Gloucester Way right by the Finsbury War Monument with its extravagant angel, created by Thomas Rudge in 1921.
Then we go west again along Myddleton Street which brings us to the junction of Rosoman Avenue and Exmouth Market. The latter is worth a visit for its selection of independent stores and bar/restaurants; and for the gentlemen there is an opportunity for recoiffeuring at “Barber Streisand” (no stop you’re killing me !).
Exmouth Market also houses the entrance to another listed late 19th century building, the Italianate-styled Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer.
Take a left down Pine Street then cut through Vineyard Walk onto Farringdon Road and back up to Rosebery Avenue. This time we turn north on Tysoe Street into Wilmington Square. On the west side take in Attneave Street and Easton Street before leaving via Yardley Street. The passage at the top end of the square fronts another archetypal Georgian terrace and emerges opposite Charles Rowan House (see previous post).
Follow Margery Street back down to the point at which King’s Cross Road changes into Farringdon Road then head north-east up Lloyd Baker Street. A circuit of Lloyd Square, Wharton Street, Granville Street and Granville Square returns us to the same point. This time we go west along Calthorpe Street which id on the north side of the vast Mount Pleasant sorting office site. You can also get a view of the backside of 200 Gray’s Inn Road now the home of ITN Productions, the people behind the ITV news.
Pheonix Place flanks the west side and runs down to Mount Pleasant itself.
Mount Pleasant (officially known as the London Central Mail Centre) is the UK’s largest sorting office, a 12 acre site created in 1889 where the former Coldbath Fields Prison formerly stood. From 1927 to 2003 it was the central focus of the London Post Office Railway the PO’s own driverless, underground railway. In the picture above you can see the signage for one of the platforms. In 2014 mayor Boris Johnson gave the green light to a controversial proposal to build 700 new homes on a large portion of the site. Despite fierce local campaigning for affordable housing it now seems inevitable that most of this new build will comprise yet more luxury flats. As a reminder, Royal Mail was privatised in 2013. The sorting office operations, employing 3,000 people, will continue beyond the re-development.
Next we head back north on Gough Street thereby returning to Gray’s Inn Road. At no.238 the former premises of bedmakers, Litvinoff & Fawcett, was for a brief time a couple of years ago squatted by the Occupy Movement and proclaimed as a Bank of Ideas.
Beyond Coley Street is the aforementioned no.200. Now ITN’s HQ this was in a previous incarnation the location of the offices of the Times and the Sunday Times and also housed those papers’ printing presses in the basement. The current building was the result of a 1990 redevelopment.
Loop east down Elm Street and back up the remaining section of Mount Pleasant before crossing Gray’s Inn and making a circuit of Kings Mews, North Mews and John Street to arrive back on Theobalds Road.
This is the location of Holborn Library, dating from 1960 and one of the earliest examples of the now oft-maligned modernist architectural designs of the sixties. Unfortunately the part of the building really worth seeing, the third floor, is only accessible when hosting special exhibitions (such as the one by Artangel in 2014). There used to be a 250-seat lecture theatre, also used for film screenings, on this level. Although now only partially used as offices the rooms here remain a symphony in wood panelling.