Day 57 – Bankside – Southwark Bridge – Trinity Church Square

This is a bit of a meandering one, starting out on Bankside then crossing the river twice before heading down through Borough to Trinity Square and hallway back again. On the way we’ll cross paths with Shakespeare, Dickens, Alfred the Great and Catherine of Aragon.

Day 57 Route

So we begin where we left off last time, at Tate Modern, exiting from the Blavatnik Building onto Sumner Street. Then we cut down Canvey Street as far as Zoar Street turning east for a short while before nipping between the buildings up onto Southwark Street.

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On Southwark Street we turn east and when we get to the next left, the by-now familiar Great Guildford Street head back towards the river. Crossing over Sumner Street we reach the western end of the long and winding Park Street. Before we get to Emmerson Street which return us to another section of Sumner Street there’s a nice new demolition site to stop and admire.

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Sumner Street takes us up onto Southwark Bridge Road where we turn northward briefly before taking some steps which deposit us back on Park Street on the doorstep of the Rose Playhouse. The Rose became the fifth purpose-built theatre in London when it was created in 1587 pre-dating the Globe (of which more later) on Bankside by 14 years. It represented something of a cultural step-up for an area known for its brothels, gaming dens and bear-baiting pits. The Rose’s repertoire included Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Jew of Malta and Tamburlaine the Great, Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare’s Henry VI part I and Titus Andronicus. Its star faded fairly swiftly in the shadow of the success of the Globe however and by the very early years of the 17th century it had fallen out of use. Its archaeological remains were discovered in 1989 during excavations for the re-development of an office block. The Rose Theatre Trust was formed in response to fears that the new building proposed for the site would bring about the destruction of the remains. A campaign to ‘Save The Rose’ was launched with enthusiastic support from the public, scholars and actors, including the dying Lord Olivier who gave his last public speech in May 1989 on behalf of The Rose. The Trust managed to secure government funds to delay construction and to bring about a re-design of the proposed new building so that only a small amount of the fabric of The Rose was lost, and a permanent enclosure of this fragile site was created. If you want to check it out public viewings take place most Saturdays.

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From Park Street we duck in and out of Rose Alley and Bear Gardens before New Globe Walk takes us up to Bankside and, naturally enough, the new Globe Theatre. The new incarnation of the Globe is located several hundred metres away from where the original was sited so we’ll deal with the latter in a while. The project to rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe was the brainchild of the American actor, director and producer Sam Wanamaker. Twenty one years after his first visit to London, in 1949, he founded what was to become the Shakespeare Globe Trust, dedicated to the reconstruction of the theatre and the creation of an education centre and permanent exhibition. After another 23 years spent tirelessly fundraising and planning the reconstruction with the Trust’s architect Theo Crosby, Sam Wanamaker died in 1993. He lived long enough to see the site secured and a few timber bays of the theatre in place. It was another three and a half years before the theatre was completed. Other than concessions to comply with modern day fire regulations such as additional exits, illuminated signage, fire retardant materials and some modern backstage machinery, the Globe is as accurate a reconstruction of the 1599 Globe as was possible with the available evidence.

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Sandwiched in between the Globe and Tate Modern is a row of 18th century houses the most striking of which is the three-storey cream coloured building bearing the name Cardinal’s Wharf. Its façade also bears a ceramic plaque engraved with the words Here lived Sir Christopher Wren during the building of St Paul’s Cathedral. Here also, in 1502, Catherine Infanta of Castile and Aragon, afterwards first queen of Henry VIII, took shelter on her first landing in London. Sadly, both of these claims were debunked in a 2006 book by writer and historian Gillian Tindall. Since the house was built in 1710, the year St Paul’s was completed, Wren couldn’t have lived here during its construction. He did however live in a house nearby so it’s probable the plaque was rescued from that property at the time of its demolition and cheekily redisplayed. As for Catherine of Aragon, that’s dismissed as pure fantasy. The adjacent redbrick house is known as the Provost’s Lodging, a name adopted when it was acquired by Southwark Cathedral from Bankside Power Station in 1957. In 2011, following the death of the then Dean of Southwark (the title of provost was done away with in 2000) the property was put on the market for £6m. Which is a lot of money to spend if you’re going to have tens of thousands of people traipsing past each day within spitting distance of your front door.

And so it’s time to head briefly back across the river and tick off a couple more bridges. First up, of course, is the ill-fated (in terms of its name) Millennium Bridge, built to link St Paul’s Cathedral with the new Tate Modern as part of the Millennium celebrations. Unfortunately, as I’m sure we all recall, when it opened in June 2000 it only stayed accessible for two days before being closed for two years to allow for modifications to rectify the swaying motion (or resonant structural response) that led to the nickname “Wobbly Bridge”. The design of the bridge, which was subject to a competition, was a collaboration between Arup Group, Foster and Partners and Sir Anthony Caro.  Due to height restrictions, and to improve the view, the suspension design had the supporting cables below the deck level, giving a very shallow profile. The eight suspension cables are tensioned to pull with a force of 2,000 tons against the piers set into each bank—enough to support a working load of 5,000 people on the bridge at one time. Though not enough to save it from the Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

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Once across the bridge we turn east along the Thames Path though not for very long as you soon have to divert away from the river up Broken Wharf and along High Timber Street (calling in on the dead end Stew Lane if you wish) before rejoining via Queenhithe. Beside and below the street of the same name is the only surviving inlet along the City waterfront which was once a thriving Saxon and Medieval Dock. The harbour is reputed to have been established in AD 899 shortly after King Alfred the Great had turfed the Vikings out of London. Originally named ‘Ethelred’s Hythe’ it became known as ‘Queenhithe’ when Queen Matilda, wife of Henry I, was granted the dues from the dock in the early 12th century (a right inherited by successive English queens). In the 15th century the dock’s fortunes waned as larger vessels struggled to navigate past London Bridge and opted to unload further east at Billingsgate. The dock did however remain in service up to Victorian times and remnants of that period of usage are still visible at low tide.

From Queenhithe it’s just a hop and a skip to Southwark Bridge. Before we get up onto the bridge itself though we can pop through the northside underpass, known as Fruiterers’ Passage after the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers whose warehouses once stood nearby. The passage is tiled on both sides incorporating scanned historic images of the bridge and its immediate surroundings.

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The bridge itself, something of a Cinderella as far as central London crossings of the Thames are concerned, dates from 1921 in its current form. The bridge was designed and engineered by Ernest George and Basil Mott respectively, the latter also partly responsible for the Mersey Tunnel. And there’s not really much else to say about it to be honest.

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At the southern end of the bridge sits the current HQ of the Financial Times. I say current because at the time of writing the FT’s owners Nikkei (who acquired from Pearson in 2015) have just announced plans to sell the building ahead of a move back to the FT’s previous offices at Bracken House near St Paul’s in 2019. One Southwark Bridge has been the FT’s home since 1989.
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We drop down from the bridge onto Bankside and head east as far as the Anchor pub. The pub started life as the ‘brewery tap room’ for the Anchor Brewery which was established in 1616 on land adjacent to the original Globe Theatre and by the early nineteenth century was the largest brewery in the world. After being destroyed in the Great Fire the pub was rebuilt in 1676 and largely reconstructed again in the 19th century. The brewery was taken on by the newly founded Barclay Perkins & Co. in 1781 and Barclays survived as an independent brand (including their famous Russian Imperial Stout) up until 1955 and a merger with Courage. Brewing continued on the site under Courage but last orders were called in the early 1970’s and the buildings were demolished in 1981.

Beyond the pub we turn away from the river up Bank End which soon forms a junction with two more parts of Park Street. We take the section heading back west which runs through where the Anchor Brewery stood (a plaque on the south side commemorates this) and arrive at the site of the original Globe Theatre just to the east of the Southwark Bridge Road flyover and less than a hundred metres from the Rose Theatre. The precise location of the Tudor Globe was only determined in 1989 when part of the foundations were discovered beneath the car park of Anchor Terrace a building of 1834 which originally housed senior employees of the brewery. As this is itself a listed building further excavations have not been possible. The Elizabethan Globe Theatre was built in 1599 on land leased by Richard Burbage and his brother Cuthbert along with Shakespeare and four other members of the Chamberlain’s Men company. It was partially constructed re-using timbers from “The Theatre” in Shoreditch; London’s first theatre which had been built in 1576 by the Burbage brothers’ father, James. As noted above, the theatre was enormously successful in its early years but in 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, wadding from a stage cannon ignited the thatched roof and the theatre burned to the ground. It was hastily rebuilt, with a tiled roof, and continued as a playhouse until 1642 when the Cromwell’s Puritan administration forced its closure. It was demolished to make way for tenements two years later.

Doubling back along Park Street we turn south next down Porter Street then work our way though Gatehouse Square, Perkins Square and Maiden Lane back to the final, most easterly stretch of Park Street. From here we link back to Southwark Street via Redcross Way where the façade of the old W.H. Willcox & Co. engineering company building still clings on. Lord knows where you have to go these days to get your crank-pin lubricators.

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We turn west for a bit along Southwark Street then fork right down Thrale Street,  named after Henry Thrale the eighteenth century politician who was a friend of Samuel Johnson and who inherited the Anchor Brewery from his father (it then being sold to Messrs Barclay and Perkins upon his death). His wife, Hester, bore him 12 children and outlived him by forty years. Hester Thrale was a formidable woman; in addition to her procreational achievements she was a noted diarist, author and patron of the arts. She also rescued her husband from probable bankruptcy by raising the money to clear his debts of £130,000 that resulted from a failed scheme to brew beer without malt or hops.

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At the end of Thrale Street we turn left onto Southwark Bridge Road then right onto Southwark Street again. This takes us past the Menier Chocolate Factory building built by the French company, Chocolat Menier, in the 1870s. Menier eventually became part of the Rowntree Macintosh group which was in turn swallowed up by Nestle. Confectionery production had ceased here by the 1980s and the building was derelict until it was resurrected as an arts and theatre space in 2004. The Menier Chocolate Factory theatre has an impressive list of productions under its belt, including some particularly lauded musical revivals such as A Little Night Music and La Cage Aux Folles which both transferred to Broadway in 2010.

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Beyond the Chocolate Factory we turn south down Omeara Street where we find the dramatically-named Roman Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood. The Parish was founded in 1891 and the church was designed by Frederick Arthur Walters who was also the architect for Buckfast Abbey.

At the end of Omeara Street we cross over Union Street and continue south on Ayres Street. The street used to be known as White Cross Street but was renamed in 1936 by the then Labour-led LCC in honour of Alice Ayres, a nursemaid who attained a form of secular canonisation in the Victorian era after she died rescuing the three young children in her care (the daughters of her elder sister, Mary Ann) from a house fire. Such was the public interest in the story that Alice’s funeral was attended by 10,000 mourners and a memorial fund set up raised £100 for the erection of a granite obelisk monument above her grave in Isleworth cemetery.

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On the corner of Ayres Street and Clennam Street stands the Lord Clyde pub, one of the all-too-few remaining classic style Trumans Beer alehouses. Named after Field Marshal Sir Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clyde, GCB, KSI, who commanded the Highland Brigade in the Crimean War and led the troops who quelled the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the pub has remained unchanged since it was built in 1913 and has been run by the same family, the Fitzpatricks, for over 60 years.

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We turn left onto Marshalsea Road then almost immediately left down Quilp Street (the other section of which we visited last time). Off of Quilp Street is Dorrit Street which is basically a twenty-yard cul-de-sac and therefore crying out to be prefaced by the word Little; so one can only assume it was left off out of embarrassed deference towards Dickens’ titular heroine. Quilp Street disgorges into Redcross Way which we hop over into Disney Street then dog-leg round Disney Place back onto Marshalsea Road. Cross over into Sanctuary Street which we follow south as far as Lant Street where we turn left down onto Borough High Street. Continue south down to Trinity Street where we turn east past Trio Place then head south along Swan Street to Harper Road. Turning left onto Harper Road and then left again down Brockham Street brings us into Trinity Church Square, comprised of immaculately maintained Georgian terrace houses such as are the go-to residences for characters of any social station in London-set Hollywood films.

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The eponymous church in the middle of the square was built in 1824 and designed by architect Francis Bedford. In 1968 it was declared redundant and in the 1970s was converted into an orchestral rehearsal studio for the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras and named after the conductor, Sir Henry Wood. On the north side of the church there is a statue reputed to be of King Alfred the Great. It’s suggested that it could be one of eight medieval statues from the north end towers of Westminster Hall (c. late 14th century) or, alternatively, one of a pair representing Alfred and Edward, the Black Prince, made for the garden of Carlton House in the 18th century.

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Having completed a circuit of the square we return up Brockham Street to Harper Road then take the next left into Dickens Square before cutting through Dickens Fields to Falmouth Road. We take Falmouth Road down to Great Dover Street (A2) and turn right briefly for a contractual look at Sturgeon Street before heading back west along Trinity Street. A diversion round Merrick Square gives us a chance to admire some more of those Georgian terraces.

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On the corner with Globe Street the bloke in the picture below taps me for £2 (to buy food for the dog) after spotting my remembrance poppy by claiming to have spent 6 years in the RAF before being discharged with a fractured skull that still troubles him. He then went on to bemoan the fact that “everyone else round here is foreign and doesn’t speak English”. Unfortunately I’d already parted with the cash by then.

 

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So we cut down Globe Street into Cole Street which runs down to Swan Street where we take a right back to Great Dover Street. From here we head down to the four-way junction by Borough Tube Station and take Borough High Street southward for about a hundred metres before turning left into Little Dorrit Court. A little bit more respectful to the fictional Amy and she has a playground named after her too.

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Little Dorrit Court returns us to Redcross Way across the street from Redcross Garden which along with the six cottages which flank it in one side was created by the social reformer, Octavia Hill (who we covered in detail in the last post).

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We follow Redcross Way back to the corner with Union Street and the last port of call for today which is the Crossbones Graveyard a disused post-medieval burial ground in which up to 15,000 people are believed to have been buried. Cross Bones is thought to have been established originally as an unconsecrated graveyard for prostitutes, or “single women”, who were known locally as “Winchester Geese” because they were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to work within the Liberty of the Clink which lay outside the legal scope of the City of London. It was closed in 1853. Today the iron gates surrounding the graveyard are festooned with ribbons, feathers, beads and other tokens commemorating the “Outcast Dead” buried here.  In 2007, Transport for London, which now owns the site, gave playwright John Constable access inside the gates, where he and other volunteers have created a wild garden.  An informal group known as the Friends of Cross Bones is working to ensure that a planned redevelopment of the site preserves the garden as a more permanent place of reflection and remembrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 55 – The Cut – St George’s Circus – London Road – Borough Road – Blackfriars Road

I think it’s fair to say that just about everywhere I’ve visited so far during this project is a places I’ve been to at least once before during the thirty odd years I’ve been resident in the London Metropolitan Area. Today’s foray however took me to some locations that I had genuinely never set eyes on before (and to be honest am unlikely to ever again). We’re taking about the area to the south and east of Waterloo stretching almost as far from the river as the wilds of the Elephant & Castle.

Day 55 Route

For the third and final time we set out from Waterloo Station, taking Sandell Street to the east then hopping over Cornwall Road into Wootton Street. At the end of this we turn right on Greet Street and pay a brief first visit to The Cut before turning left down Hatfields. On reaching the railway track we follow leafy Isabella Street east in front of the parade of restaurants that now occupy the railway arches.

At the far end Joan Street dog legs left past the lumpen monstrosity that is Colombo House, a 1969-built outpost of the BT empire. We follow Joan Street back to Hatfields and then take Meymott Street east onto Blackfriars Road. The building below, 209-215, was refurbished as recently as 2011 but is apparently under threat of demolition as part of Southwark Council’s plans to turn the Blackfriars area into an extension of the City.

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Just before the railway bridge we cut down an alleyway (unofficially known as Falafel Alley due to its being home to a number of Turkish foodstalls) and utilise this and the top section of Joan Street to circumvent Southwark Tube Station in returning to The Cut which we then follow west all the way back to Waterloo Station. First point of interest en route is the Anchor and Hope pub, rebuilt here in 1936. The name, Anchor and Hope, and also its reverse which is more frequently encountered supposedly have a biblical origin, being a reference to a quotation from the Letter to the Hebrews (6: 19), “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope”.

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A short way further up on the same side of the street is the Young Vic theatre. The Young Vic Theatre Company was formed as an offshoot of the Old Vic (in the days when that was the home of the National Theatre) with a remit to produce classic plays for young audiences and also develop more experimental work. Its first Director, Frank Dunlop, oversaw the construction of the theatre building in 1970, taking over a butcher’s shop and extending onto a bomb-site where 54 people sheltering in a bakery had died in WW2. It was intended to last for five years, but has become a permanent venue.
The Young Vic primarily performs classic plays, but often in innovative productions. Many well-known actors have worked here including Ian Charleson, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Timothy Dalton, Robert Lindsay, Willard White, John Malkovich, Michael Sheen and Arthur Lowe.
The Who performed free weekly concerts at the Young Vic in early 1971 in order to rehearse their  album, Who’s Next. One of these shows was released on the Deluxe edition of the album. Between 2004 and 2006 the old breeze-block building was rebuilt, though the main auditorium was left intact and the butcher’s shop was retained as the main entrance and the box office.

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Just before we get to the end of The Cut we take a quick detour off to the right down the southern-most section of Cornwall Road. Down here are the sleeping quarters for the single-decker 521 and 507 buses which link Waterloo Station with its mainline counterparts at London Bridge and Victoria respectively.

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Back up on The Cut we come to the Old Vic theatre, standing on the corner with Waterloo Road. A theatre was first established here in 1818 and known as the Royal Coburg Theatre. In 1833 it was renamed the Royal Victoria Theatre and in 1871 was rebuilt and reopened as the Royal Victoria Palace. It was then taken over by the philanthropist Emma Cons (1838 – 1912) in 1880 and formally named the Royal Victoria Hall, although by this time it was already known as the “Old Vic”. In 1898, a niece of Cons, Lilian Baylis (1874 – 1937), the force behind Sadler’s Wells, assumed management and began a series of Shakespeare productions from 1914 onward. The building was damaged in 1940 during air raids and it became a Grade II listed building in 1951 after it reopened. As noted in the last post, the Old Vic was the first home of the National Theatre from 1963 up until 1976. In 1982 the theatre was put up for sale through a sealed bid. Canadian entrepreneur Ed Mirvish outbid Andrew Lloyd Webber and spent £2.5 million restoring the building. The facade of the building was based on an 1830 engraving while the auditorium was modelled on the designs of 1871. In 1998 the Mirvish family put the theatre on the market. Suggestions for changing it into a themed pub, a bingo hall or a lap-dancing club provoked widespread outrage and protests, in response to which, it was acquired by The Old Vic Theatre Trust 2000, a registered charity. In 2003 it was announce that the theatre would recommence in-house production (rather than just being a home for visiting productions) with Kevin Spacey appointed as the first Artistic Director of the newly created Old Vic Theatre Company. Spacey’s tenure ended in 2015 and we all know what’s happened subsequently. Following an initial allegation of sexual misconduct against Spacey by actor Anthony Rapp up to 20 employees of the Old Vic have come forward with similar complaints of unwanted advances. To put it mildly, not exactly what the Old Vic would have wanted as it celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2018.

Passing the theatre we cross Waterloo Road into Baylis Road, named after Lilian, and then on the other side of Waterloo Green turn south down Coral Street. At the end we take a right into Pearman Street and, after a quick dip into Frazier Street, follow this down as far as Emery Street which links through to the parallel running Morley Street emerging opposite the former Webber Row School which was built in 1877 at the height of the Victorian era. Grade II listed since 1988 it’s now the Chandlery Business Centre.

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We follow Morley Street into Westminster Bridge Road and turn east as far as Gerridge Street which reconnects with Morley Street via Dibdin Row. Morley Street then takes us back to Waterloo Road from where we close the loop courtesy of Webber Row and Dodson Street.  Having arrived back on Westminster Bridge Road we strike north until we get to the Perspective Building at no. 100 then double back. In its former guise as Century House this was the home of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) aka MI6 from 1964 to 1994.  The Secret Service’s occupation of the building was supposedly classified information but according to the Daily Telegraph it was “London’s worst-kept secret, known only to every taxi driver, tourist guide and KGB agent”. Century House was described as “irredeemably insecure” in a 1985 National Audit Office (NAO) report with security concerns raised in a survey i.e. the building was made largely of glass, and had a petrol station at its base. MI6 moved to Vauxhall Cross in 1994 (if you’ve seen Skyfall you know what an upgrade in security that was).  Century House was refurbished and converted into the residential Perspective Building by Assael Architecture in 2001.

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Returning southward along Westminster Bridge Road we arrive at Morley College, currently under redevelopment. Morley College is one of the main adult education centres in London; it was founded it the 1880’s and currently serves around 11,000 students. The college’s origins lie in the series of “penny lectures” introduced by the aforementioned Emma Cons as part of the programme of the Royal Victoria Hall when she took that over. The success of these led to the founding of the College thanks to an endowment from the MP, Samuel Morley. The College has been long renowned for its Music Department; Gustav Holst was Music Director from 1907 to 1924 and Michael Tippett held the same post from 1940 to 1951.

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Turning the corner by the College we head down King Edward Walk until we reach Lambeth Road and turn left here, continuing on the opposite side of the road from the  grounds of the Imperial War Museum. Inset off the road here is Barkham Terrace which is mainly comprised of the building which now houses the Cambian Churchill mental health rehabilitation hospital. You wouldn’t know this from the outside though – I assumed it was just another residential conversion. The building dates from 1940 when it was opened as the Catholic Hospital of Our Lady of Consolation in Southwark. At the time the Catholic Herald described it as “ a splendid six-storey hospital whose creamy facade brightens the drabness of Lambeth Road”.

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At the junction of Lambeth Road and St George’s Road stands the Roman Catholic St George’s Cathedral, Southwark. St George’s was built in 1848 prompted by the swelling of the local congregation thanks to the influx of Irish immigrants into the area. Four years later it became one of the first four Catholic churches in England and Wales (and the first in London) to be raised to cathedral status since the English Reformation.  It was designed by Augustus Pugin (1812 – 1852), famous for his work with Charles Barry on the design of the rebuilt Houses of Parliament. Pugin was the first person to be married in the church, to his third wife Jane. The Cathedral was extensively damaged by an incendiary bomb during WW2. After the war (the fabulously named) Romilly Craze was commissioned to take charge of the rebuilding and the restored Cathedral was opened in 1958. Since then it has resumed its role as a focal point in the local community and has played host to many notable visitors, including the Dalai Lama (1998) and Pope John Paul II (1982), the latter being depicted in one of the Cathedral’s many fine stained-glass windows.

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After our visit to the church we head south on St George’s Road towards Elephant & Castle. Having passed Notre Dame High School for Girls, founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1855, we turn off to the left down Gladstone Street.

Gladstone Street and its offshoot, Colnbrook Street, are the epitome of the gentrification of this part of south London with their smartly done-up early Victorian terrace properties.
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This is reinforced by today’s pub of the day, the Albert Arms, which sits on the corner of Gladstone Street and Garden Row just across from the converted Ice Cream Factory. The gastro-pub menu isn’t really conducive to light lunchtime eating but it was gone 2.30pm and I was starving so I felt compelled to stump up £6.50 for three very small pulled-pork croquettes. In the Gents they’ve put up a framed poster of that lady tennis player scratching her bare bottom – I assume this is hipster irony.

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Having finished the aforementioned croquettes (and half a lager) I venture out onto London Road and take a northward turn, past several far more suitable eating spots, up to St George’s Circus. This nexus of five main arterial roads was created in 1771 as the first purpose-built traffic junction in London. Initially the middle of the roundabout was adorned by an obelisk with four oil lamps affixed to it but in 1905 this was relocated to in front of the Imperial War Museum and was replaced by a new clocktower. However by the 1930’s the clocktower was deemed a “nuisance to traffic” and was demolished. It took until the late 1990s before the obelisk was returned to its original location, now without the oil lamps. At the base of the obelisk is the inscription Erected in XI year of the reign of King George MDCCLXXI, with the inscriptions on the other three sides reflecting the obelisk’s one-mile distance from Palace Yard, London Bridge and Fleet Street.

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Crossing over the Circus we continue north up Blackfriars Road for some distance before turning off west along Webber Street which is on the far side of another of the Peabody Estates we’ve become familiar with.

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We’re heading back down towards the Old Vic now, criss-crossing between Webber Street and Waterloo Road by way of Webber Row, Baron’s Place and Gray Street. Just before we reach the theatre we take a sharp right onto Mitre Street and then navigate our way back to Blackfriars Road via Short Street and Ufford Street. At no.176 Blackfriars Road is the rather splendid (former) Sons of Temperance Friendly Society Building. The Order of the Sons of Temperance (SOT) was established in New York in 1842 as a teetotalist friendly society, with the dual aim of sustaining its members in a teetotal way of life, and of providing them with a modicum of financial security in case of ill-health, and their families with an insurance payment in the event of their death. The organisation, conceived on Masonic principles with lodges, insignia and rituals, overseen by a Supreme Patriarch, soon spread to other US states and to several Canadian provinces, and had amassed 100,000 members by 1847. The first UK lodges were established in Liverpool and other northern cities in the late 1840s, and in 1853 a National Division of Great Britain was formed. Within this were numerous Grand Divisions, the largest of which, based in London but with branches as far afield as Ipswich and Reading, commissioned the building of 176, Blackfriars Road as its headquarters in 1909-10 with Arthur Charles Russell as architect. The SOT only moved out in 2011 two years after which the building, now occupied by an architect’s practice, was Grade II listed.

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From here on there’s still a lot of streets to cover though not much to detain us en route so we’ll crack on. First off we work our way back to St George’s Circus passing through Boundary Row, Chaplin Close, Valentine Place and Webber Street then retracing our steps up Blackfriars Road. We then return to London Road and head off to the east side starting with Thomas Doyle Street, named after the founder of St George’s Cathedral (check the earlier slideshow for his memorial). This is the first of the streets that fall within the triangle created by London Road, Southwark Bridge Road and Borough Road, the others being Rotary Street, Keyworth Street, Ontario Street and Kell Street. Once we’ve tramped round that lot we end up on Borough Street by the entrance to London South Bank University, an institution which started life as the Borough Polytechnic Institute in 1892.

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On the other side of the road is another of the public libraries funded by the Victorian philanthropist (word of the day that) John Passmore Edwards. Most of these were built in the East End (we came across the one in Pitfield Street, Hoxton way back in Day 24). This one dates from 1899 and is currently unoccupied save for the presence of  “guardians” installed by the Camelot vacant property services company so its future is uncertain.

Traversing the area between Borough Road and the eastern stretch of Webber Street to the north takes us, in turn, through Library Street, Milcot Street, King James Street, Lancaster Street, Boyfield Street, Silex Street and Belvedere Buildings. The only thing to draw the eye amongst all that lot is this building, the Peabody Gateway Centre, and even that isn’t interesting enough for anyone to have recorded any information about it.

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Anyway, after all that we find ourselves back on Southwark Bridge Road from where we’re crossing between Webber Street to the south and Pocock Street to the north taking in Great Suffolk Street, Surge Street, Sawyer Street, Glasshill Street, King’s Bench Street and Rushworth Street. Final picture of the day is of Blackfriars Crown Court on Pocock Street which, earlier this year (2108), the Ministry of Justice announced plans to close and sell off. The site is valued at £32m on the Government’s National Asset Register.

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And so the very final leg of today’s marathon takes us from Pocock Street back onto Blackfriars Road and up to Southwark Tube Station. The tube station stands on the site of the Blackfriars Ring boxing arena that was bombed out of existence in 1940. The Ring arena was originally called the Surrey Chapel, built in 1783, until the strange shaped building was bought by former British Lightweight champion Dick Burge in 1910. Together with his wife Bella they staged many boxing matches including well known fighters such as Len Johnson, Jack Drummond, Alf Mancini, Jack Hood and the legendary Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis. This is all commemorated by the Ring public house that stands opposite the station on the other corner of The Cut and Blackfriars Road.

 

Day 54 – South Bank – Waterloo Bridge – Blackfriars Bridge – Stamford Street

Today’s perambulations are mainly about the riverfronts either side of the Thames between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge with a particular focus on the South Bank though, as you can see, we do venture a bit further south of the river in the latter stages. It’s an area I’m mostly more than familiar with as, when I could be arsed to walk, I passed through here on my way from Waterloo to an office near St Pauls for many years.

Day 54 Route

Before we kick off however here’s a bit of bonus material relating to the previous post in which we featured the London Eye. As coincidence would have it, just a couple of weeks after that walk I found myself actually aboard the Eye (for the first time in many years)courtesy of a family visit – and here are the pics from on high.

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Right, back to the business in hand. We start out this time from Waterloo Station once again and having crossed York Road make our way along Concert Hall Approach towards the Royal Festival Hall. The RFH was built in 1951 as part of that year’s Festival of Britain. As London’s new main concert hall it would be the only permanent structure amongst the temporary pavilions and constructions on the Festival’s south bank site. The architects were Sir Robert Matthew and Dr Leslie Martin and the hall took 18 months to build at a cost of £2 million. Initially it was run by the LCC and then its successor the GLC but on the demise of the latter in 1986 responsibility was devolved to the Arts Council. Two years later the building was granted Grade 1 listed status.

Following a public appeal for assistance with the recovery of lost artworks, Peter Laszlo Peri’s Sunbathers sculpture, which was originally installed outside Waterloo underground station during the Festival, was retrieved from the garden of the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath, restored and re-hung in the foyer of the RFH. That was in 2017 and it was originally only intended to stay there for one summer – but, as you can see, it’s still in situ. The bust of Nelson Mandela outside the western entrance to the hall was commissioned by Ken Livingstone’s GLC, sculpted by Ian Walters and initially unveiled in 1985 by the then ANC leader Oliver Tambo. Unfortunately, following what was described at the time as “politically-motivated vandalism” the sculpture had to be re-cast and was re-installed in 1988.

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The “brutalist” Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room were added to the South Bank site in 1967 adjacent to the RFH. These smaller venues were designed to play host to chamber orchestras and other smaller musical ensembles. Then in 1968 the Hayward Gallery, named after the late Sir Isaac Hayward, the then leader of the London County Council, was opened. The gallery’s first exhibition was a major retrospective of the paintings of Henri Matisse. All three venues were re-opened in 2018 after a two year refurbishment programme. The slideshow below includes shots of the Lee Bul exhibition that was showing at the Hayward when this walk took place.

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The area beneath the concrete walkway joining the RFH with the QE Hall (known as the Undercroft) has, for decades now, been used as a semi-officially sanctioned skateboard and BMX park. After fending off the latest threat to close and redevelop the site the users of the Undercroft have recently won a £700,000 grant from City Hall to enable the park to be extended and improved.

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From the Hayward Gallery we ascend the steps up on to Waterloo Bridge. The current bridge, built to a design of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (the creator of the red telephone box if you remember), was “officially opened” in 1942. Not great timing as you can imagine and somewhat ironically this was the only bridge across the Thames to suffer damage from the German bombing campaign. As a consequence it was only fully completed in 1945. The bridge is sometimes referred to colloquially as the Ladies Bridge due to the fact that when the Irish labourers who had been working on its construction went back to Ireland at the outbreak of WW2 they were largely replaced by women.

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Having crossed the bridge we head east along the Victoria Embankment towards Blackfriars Bridge. In the previous post we noted that the benches on the Albert Embankment use a swan motif in their metalwork supports while their counterparts on the Victoria Embankment incorporate camels and sphinxes into their design. And here’s the evidence.

About half way along this stretch of the Embankment is HQS (formerly HMS) Wellington which acts as the Livery Hall for the Honourable Company of Master Mariners (Merchant Seamen in other words). The vessel is open for boarding at the moment due to an ongoing exhibition on the role of mercantile shipping in WW1; which was fortunate because as soon as I’d got below decks the heavens opened. HMS Wellington is the last surviving convoy escort ship from the Second World War. She was built at Devonport Dockyard in 1934 and initially served in the Pacific mainly on station in New Zealand and China. When war broke out she was fitted with anti-aircraft guns and loaded with depth charges for use against submarines and went on to conduct convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic. She shared in the destruction of one enemy U boat and was involved in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. The Master Mariners, who had been given their Royal Charter in 1926, acquired the Wellington in 1947.

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A short way further on is the monument erected in 1935 to celebrate King George V’s silver jubilee which I suspect most people walk past without giving a second glance. Much like…

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And so on to Blackfriars Bridge which in its present incarnation was opened in November 1869 by Queen Victoria (hence the statue). It was built to a design of Joseph Cubitt and is comprised of five wrought iron arches. On the piers of the bridge are stone carvings of water birds by sculptor John Birnie Philip and the ends of the bridge are shaped like a pulpit in a reference to Black Friars.It is owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. Blackfriars Bridge became internationally notorious in June 1982, when the body of Roberto Calvi, a former chairman of Italy’s largest private bank, was found hanging from one of its arches with five bricks and around $14,000 in three different currencies in his pockets. Calvi’s death was initially treated as suicide, but he was on the run from Italy accused of embezzlement and in 2002 forensic experts concluded that he had been murdered by the Mafia, to whom he was indebted.

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As you walk south across the bridge the view is dominated by No.1 Blackfriars a 52 storey tower comprising 274 private flats that was completed in 2018. The site was formerly occupied by the headquarters of Sainsbury’s but had lain empty at least throughout all those years I walked past it. Then no sooner had I retired than construction started.

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Having reached the southern end of the bridge we turn right past the Doggett’s Coat and Badge pub. Named after the world’s oldest rowing race, contested between apprentice Thames watermen since 1715, Doggett’s is one of only a handful of riverside hostelries in central London and, as such, does very well for itself.

We proceed along the river passing in front of Sea Containers House and the Oxo Tower. The latter was originally constructed as a power station to supply electricity to the Royal Mail post office towards the end of the 19th century. In the 1920’s it was acquired by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, manufacturers of Oxo cubes, for conversion into a cold store. The building was largely rebuilt to an Art Deco design by company architect Albert Moore between 1928 and 1929. Much of the original power station was demolished, but the river facing facade was retained and extended. Liebig wanted to include a tower featuring illuminated signs advertising the name of their product. When permission for the advertisements was refused, the tower was built with four sets of three vertically-aligned windows, which “coincidentally” happened to be in the sequential shapes of a circle, a cross and another circle.

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Continuing west we pass by Bernie Spain Gardens (named after Bernadette Spain, a local housing campaigner in the 1980’s), Gabriel’s Wharf and the rear of the IBM and ITV HQ buildings before arriving at the National Theatre. After many years of debate and lobbying the NT was founded in 1963 and was based at the Old Vic until its new purpose-built home was opened in 1976. This latest addition to the South Bank’s modernist skyline, designed by architects Sir Denys Lasdun and Peter Softley and structural engineers Flint & Neill, divided opinion; Sir John Betjeman was an unlikely fan but, less surprisingly, Prince Charles referred to it as “a clever way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting”.  That was in 1988, the year that Sir Peter Hall relinquished the post of Artistic Director having succeeded Sir Laurence Olivier in that role in 1973. The building houses three separate theatre spaces, the Olivier Theatre, the Lyttleton Theatre and the Dorfman Theatre (formerly the Cottesloe). It’s been Grade II listed since 1994 and regularly appears simultaneously on publicly-surveyed lists of London most-loved and most-hated buildings.

The sculpture above is London Pride by Frank Dobson (1886 – 1963). This was originally exhibited in plaster cast form at the Festival of Britain but after Dobson’s death was re-cast in bronze and in 1987 donated by his wife Mary to be exhibited in front of the National Theatre. Just to the west of this is the statue of Laurence Olivier (as Hamlet) that was unveiled in 2007.

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Adjacent to the NT and effectively right underneath Waterloo Bridge is the BFI Southbank (previously known as the National Film Theatre – its cinemas are still called NFT1, 2 & 3). The BFI (British Film Institute) was founded in 1933 and operates as a charity under Royal Charter. The BFI maintains the world’s largest film archive, containing more than 50,000 fiction films, over 100,000 non-fiction titles, and around 625,000 television programmes. In addition to the Southbank site it also runs the nearby London IMAX and the annual London Film Festival each October. The National Film Theatre was initially opened in a temporary building (the Telekinema) at the Festival of Britain and moved to this present location in 1957. In addition to the main three cinemas the building also incorporates the BFI Reuben Library and the Mediatheque which are both free to access. The upper level includes a gallery space which is currently displaying exhibits tying in with the ongoing Working Class Heroes season.

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Turning away from the river up past the BFI we arrive at Upper Ground and head back eastward passing, in sequence, the home of the Rambert Ballet Company, the front entrance of the IBM HQ and the ITV London Studios and Tower. The latter were constructed in the early 1970’s, when independent television was still provided by a plethora of separate regional operators, as a new studio complex for London Weekend Television (LWT).  It was originally called The South Bank Television Centre (a name that lasted until the early 1990s) and at the time was the most advanced television centre in Europe. LWT was acquired by Granada in 1994 and a decade later Granada was merged into Carlton Communications to form ITV plc. As well as being the main studios for ITV’s entertainment shows the complex has also been used by the BBC and Channel 4 as well as several independent production companies.  Good Morning Britain, The Graham Norton Show, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and The Jonathan Ross Show are amongst the shows it has to bear some of the responsibility for. In April 2018 ITV closed the site for 5 years of large-scale redevelopment that will result in the loss of most of the studios space.

Doubling back a bit we head south next down Cornwall Road then turn right to take a trip up and down Doon Street which runs along the back of the Franklin-Wilkins building (named after Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin two of the pioneers who contributed to the discovery of the structure of DNA). This is now part of King’s College’s Waterloo Campus but it was built between 1912 and 1915 as a reinforced-concrete headquarters, known as Cornwall House, for Her Majesty’s Stationary Office. However before HMSO could move in the building was requisitioned for use as a military hospital during WW1. As the King George Military Hospital it accommodated, at its height, some 1800 patients on 63 wards.  Cornwall House had been built with underground tunnels connecting it to Waterloo Station and these tunnels were used by the hospital to transfer wounded soldiers arriving by train from the Front.

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At the junction with Stamford Street we turn left and then take another left up Coin Street back to Upper Ground. Resuming eastward we stop for lunch at the slightly insalubrious but generously-priced House of Crepes at the top of the Gabriel’s Wharf marketplace of “independent eateries and boutiques”.  The actual Gabriel’s Wharf building (in the background below) was formerly used as a scenery store by ITV.

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We return to Stamford Street via Duchy Street and then take the next left turning, Broadwall, back to Upper Ground. We continue east as far as Bargehouse Street which loops round the back of the actual Bargehouse, a 4-storey former factory building, which is now an exhibition and event space forming part of the OXO Tower Wharf development.

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After a quick look at the northern section of Hatfields we end up back by the river courtesy of another stretch of Upper Ground and Marigold Alley. Turning right we revisit the steps up to Doggett’s and then it’s a few paces along Blackfriars Road before the final bit of Upper Ground and Rennie Street return us to Stamford Street. We switch westward briefly before turning south down Paris Gardens and then cutting east through the churchyard of Christ Church Southwark. The first church on this site was built in 1670 bit that sank into the Lambeth Marshes after about seventy years and had to be demolished. Its replacement lasted a bit longer but failed to survive the 1941 bombing. The current building dates from 1959 and has an interesting (and secular) selection of stained glass windows depicting local trades and history.

On the other side of the church we revisit Blackfriars Road and drop south as far as Meymott Street where we take a westerly turn and look in on Colombo Street before using the longer stretch of Hatfields to return to Stamford Street. This building on Meymott Street always caught my eye on those journeys to work on account of its modest art deco stylings but I’ve been unable to find anything out about its history or current situation. Incidentally, Hatfields derives its name from the fact that this area was once used for drying animal skins that were made into hats.

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Just around the corner as we turn left onto Stamford Street is the London Nautical School, founded in 1915 as a consequence of the official report into the loss of the Titanic (according to their website though it doesn’t elaborate). Let’s assume it was something to do with the creation of the “nautical ethos” which they still promote to this day.

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Another section of Duchy Street is the next turning to the south and this is then linked to the southern section of Coin Street by Aquinas Street. The north side of Aquinas Street consists of a very nice three storey Victorian terrace. If you fancied living here though even a one bedroom flat is listed at more than £550k.

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After a final visit to Stamford Street we take the southern section of Cornwall Street down to Theed Street where we make an eastward circuit also involving Whittlesey StreetThen a further block south down Cornwall Street we turn east again along Roupell Street home to today’s pub of the day, the Kings Arms. After a quick pint of cider we carry on down to the end of Roupell Street then double back and cut through Windmill Walk by the side of the pub to reach Brad Street. Turn west here and we’re back to Cornwall Street and duck left through the railway arch to Sandell Street. This is the first of a series of streets that cross between Cornwall Street and Waterloo Road, the others being Alaska Street, Exton Street and Secker Street. The last two of these combine to circle round St John’s Church. The church was originally built to the designs of the architect Francis Octavius Bedford in 1824. It was struck by a bomb in 1940, when the roof and much of the interior was destroyed. The building stood open for ten years until it was restored and remodelled internally by Thomas Ford in 1950. In 1951 the Church was rededicated as the Festival of Britain Church. The interior isn’t much to write home about but the church is imbued with a very strong community spirit and has an extremely cosmopolitan congregation. It’s also home to the Southbank Sinfonia an orchestra formed anew each year through the 33 annual fellowships granted by its charitable foundation. The orchestra performs a series of Free Rush Hour (6pm – 7pm) concerts at St John’s throughout the year and I can testify as to the excellence of these.

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Just across from the church in the roundabout at the nexus of Waterloo Road, Stamford Street, Waterloo Bridge and York Road stands the BFI IMAX (as mentioned earlier).  Built in 1999, this houses the largest cinema screen in Britain (20m high and 26m wide). It has a seating capacity of just under 500 and a 12,000 Watt digital surround sound system. Since 2012 Odeon Cinemas have operated the IMAX under licence.

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It just remains to cross over at these lights to Tenison Way and from there take the escalator up to Waterloo Station and that’s one more out of the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 52 – Houses of Parliament – Westminster Abbey – Parliament Square

A pretty meaty one this to the say the least; with two of inarguably the three most iconic and important buildings in London to cover off (the third being St Pauls’ Cathedral – sorry, Buckingham Palace). So most of today’s excursion is taken up with visits to the Houses of Parliament (or, more precisely, the Palace of Westminster) and Westminster Abbey, though we did manage to fit in a few actual streets to the south and west of those behemoths before circling back to Parliament Square.

Day 52 Route

Starting out from Westminster tube station we cross Bridge Street and head along the south side of Parliament Square to the public entrance of the Houses of Parliament at Cromwell Green. After an inspection of my ticket – I’ve booked the audio guide tour – I make my way down the ramp at the bottom of which the airport-style security check awaits. En route we pass the statue of Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658), one of only two in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster. The statue was erected in 1899 in the face of fierce opposition from the Irish National Party owing to Cromwell’s ravages against the Catholic population of Ireland. In the end Parliament only approved the statue because an anonymous benefactor, later revealed to be ex-Prime Minister Lord Roseberry, agreed to fund it. After his death Cromwell was originally buried, with great ceremony, in Westminster Abbey. However, following the restoration of Charles II, his body was exhumed and subjected to a posthumous execution and his severed head displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall (for twenty-four years).

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Given the scaffolding in evidence in the picture above, including the complete coverage of Big Ben, this is perhaps the time to note that, after series of protracted debates, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords voted in early 2018 in favour of a temporary decampment from the PoW to allow a long overdue so-called Restoration and Renewal programme to take place.  They won’t be vacating the premises until 2025 however so you’ve still got plenty of time to visit before it’s closed down for six years (at least).

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First port of call, and where you pick up the audio guide, is Westminster Hall (on the right above minus Cromwell’s severed head). This is the oldest part of the PoW and has, miraculously, survived intact since it was built by William II (aka William Rufus) son of William the Conqueror in 1097. The magnificent oak hammer-beam roof, commissioned in 1393 by Richard II, is the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe measuring 68ft by 240ft. In addition to the new roof, Richard also installed statues of every king of England from Edward the Confessor to himself in niches in the walls (only 6 now remain). Ironically, the first event to take place in the hall after Richard’s redevelopments was his own deposition by Henry IV in 1399. On 16 October 1834 a fire broke out in the Palace when two underfloor stoves that were injudiciously being used to destroy the Exchequer’s stockpile of tally sticks ignited panelling in the Lords Chamber. The two Houses were both completely destroyed but Westminster Hall was saved, partly by its thick Medieval walls  and partly because the PM, Lord Melbourne, directed the fire fighters to focus their efforts on dousing the Hall’s timber roof.

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There are a number of brass plaques embedded in the floor of the Hall commemorating events of historic significance that have taken place there, including the passing of the death sentence on Sir Thomas More in 1535. The stairs at southern end of the Hall were created by architect Charles Barry in 1850 along with a new arch window as part of his post-fire renovations. Turning left at the top of these stairs brings us to the entrance to St Stephen’s Hall above which can be seen the light sculpture New Dawn created by, artist-in-residence, Mary Branson, in commemoration of the campaign for women’s suffrage and unveiled in 2016.

St Stephen’s Hall started life as St Stephen’s Chapel in 1292 and was the in-house place of worship for the reigning Kings of England up to Henry VIII. In 1550, two years after the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry’s son Edward IV gave the chapel over to the House of Commons for use as their debating chamber. The chapel was destroyed by the fire of 1834 and was reconstituted as St Stephen’s Hall as part of Charles Barry’s restoration work. Following the destruction wrought during WWII the hall once again became the venue for sessions of the Commons from 1945 to 1950 while the Commons Chamber was being rebuilt.

On either side of the Hall are statues of famous parliamentarians including John Hampden, Robert Walpole, William Pitt and Charles James Fox and on either side of the doorways are statues of early Kings and Queens of England. The paintings on the walls depict various important events in British history, while the ten stained-glass windows, five on either side, depict the arms of various parliamentary cities and boroughs; these were damaged in air raids during the Second Word War and since restored.

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St Stephen’s Hall represents the last opportunity to take photographs inside the Palace of Westminster; beyond here it’s strictly verboten. As a consequence I won’t dwell too long on the rest of the tour which takes us into the Central Lobby where we turn right to pass through the Peers Lobby, the Lords Chamber, the Royal Gallery and the Robing Room and back again. Traversing the Central Lobby for a second time gains access to the Members Lobby and the Commons Chamber. Now on the day of my visit neither of the Houses was sitting so it was possible to get right in among the green and red benches (though of course you’re not allowed to sit on them). When either of the Chambers are in session visitors can, of course, view the debates from the respective public galleries – no tickets required except for PMQs. The visitor’s gallery in the Commons is formally known as the Strangers’ Gallery. Back in the 1930’s according to my guidebook “any Foreigners desirous of listening to a debate” needed to apply to their Ambassadors”. There was also a separate Ladies’ Gallery back then though persons of the female persuasion had recently also been granted access to the main viewing gallery. The grilles referred to below were installed over the windows in the Ladies’ Gallery (earning it the nickname “the Cage”) so the women could see out but men could not see in, and therefore not be distracted by the women watching them. They were removed in 1917 following a petition from the London Society for Women’s Suffrage and just a couple of months after the passing of the bill giving the vote to women over the age of 30.

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Once the tour is over we leave the HoP and head across to the South-West corner of Parliament Square and follow Broad Sanctuary down to the entrance to Westminster Abbey.  As ever my timing is the complete opposite of impeccable since if I’d just waited a couple more weeks then the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries would have been open. Reached via the newly-built Weston Tower, the first major addition to the abbey since 1745, these apparently offer stunning views down into the nave of the church as well as housing 300 treasures from the Abbey’s collection selected to reflect it’s thousand-year history. Still, I expect the queues are going to be absolutely horrendous. It’s busy enough on the day of my visit though having pre-booked a ticket online I get in pretty quickly. At £20 a time (£22 if you buy on the day) the revenue from visitors to the Abbey is probably sufficient to keep the Church of England solvent all on its own. Despite the crowds it’s not that unpleasant shuffling round; I suspect it’s the free audio guides rather than piety that keeps the noise to a minimum and the no-photography rule is universally adhered to.

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Westminster Abbey can trace its origins back to the middle of the eleventh century when Edward the Confessor built a new stone church dedicated to St Peter alongside an existing Benedictine monastery founded around a hundred years earlier. This church became known as the “west minster” to distinguish it from St Paul’s Cathedral (the east minster) in the City of London. Unfortunately, when the new church was consecrated on 28 December 1065 the King was too ill to attend and died a few days later, his mortal remains being entombed in front of the High Altar. This set something of a trend since when King Henry III (1207 – 1272) had the Abbey rebuilt in the new Gothic style he died before the nave could be completed. Henry did however have time to transfer the body of Edward the Confessor (by then sanctified as Saint Edward) into a more magnificent tomb behind the High Altar in the new church. This shrine survives and around it are buried a cluster of medieval kings and their consorts including Henry III himself, Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, Richard II and Anne of Bohemia and Henry V. Westminster Abbey is of course irrevocably linked with the history of the English/British monarchy. Every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned in the Abbey, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII (abdicated) who were never crowned. The ancient Coronation Chair can still be seen in the church. Elizabeth I was buried in the vault of her grandfather, Henry VII, in the so-called Lady Chapel which he had constructed in 1516. Her successor, James I, didn’t attend her funeral service but he later had a white marble monument erected in her memory in a chapel adjacent to the Lady Chapel. Although a few years after that he had a taller and grander memorial installed for his mother, Mary Queen of Scots.

But it’s not just royalty that’s buried and/or commemorated in the Abbey of course. When Geoffrey Chaucer was buried here in 1400 it was because he was Clerk of The King’s Works not for his literary achievements. However, nearly 200 years later, when Edmund Spenser (of Faerie Queene fame) asked to be buried next to Chaucer the concept of Poet’s Corner was born and continues to this day. Deciding which dead writers merit the honour of being immortalised in Poet’s Corner is the prerogative of the Deans of Westminster.  Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Handel and Laurence Olivier are among those whose actual remains lie here while Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Lord Byron and a host of others are memorialised in brass or stone. The most recent additions to the pantheon include Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin and David Frost.

As I noted already there’s no photography allowed inside the abbey so the next selection of photographs are all of or from within the College Garden and the Little Cloister Garden. Before we get to that those though I just wanted to record one personal highlight of the tour which is the murals in the Chapter House. These were painted in the late 14th century at the instigation of one of the monks of Westminster, John of Northampton, and depict scenes from the New Testament’s Revelation of St John the Divine (otherwise known as the Apocalypse). Only fragments of the paintings remain and many of those that do are extremely faint but this ghost-like appearance only adds to their macabre impact.

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We exit the Abbey on its west side opposite the Crimea and Indian Mutiny memorial which sits inside a triangular island created by Victoria Street and The Sanctuary. Turning south we pass through the gatehouse of the octagonal turreted building  known as The Sanctuary built to the design of Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1853-54. Nowadays this accommodates the Deanery of the Abbey and also the Attorney Generals’ Office.

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On the other side of the gatehouse is Dean’s Yard which comprises most of the remaining precincts of the former monastery of Westminster, not occupied by the Abbey buildings. The East side consists of buildings occupied by Westminster School, the South by Church House, the headquarters of the Church of England and the West by Westminster Abbey Choir School.
Historically the Abbey was one of the last ecclesiastical sanctuaries to surrender its ancient rights, with the result that the precincts were largely occupied by the most undesirable and dangerous of inhabitants. They were held in check by the Abbot’s own penal jurisdiction, and by the knowledge that the Abbot could instantly expel them to their fate at the hands of the Common Law. Westminster School displays a royal pardon of Charles II for the King’s Scholars who murdered a bailiff harassing the mistress of one of the scholars in Dean’s Yard, allegedly in outrage at the breach of traditional sanctuary although it had been legally abolished by then.

After a circuit of Dean’s Yard we leave the same way we came in, head back up to Victoria Street and after a few steps to the left turn south down Great Smith Street. Take a right next into Abbey Orchard Street past the Department of Education building and down to the end where it forks in two by Companies House. This unprepossessing building is just the London office and information centre; the actual Registrar of Companies (for England & Wales) is down in Cardiff.

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Taking the left fork we drop down onto Old Pye Street and continue west. On reaching Strutton Ground we turn south as far as Great Peter Street where we head back eastward. On the corner with Perkin’s Rents we have today’s pub of the day (the first in a long while), The Speaker. Aptly-named given its location of course and though it doesn’t look much from the outside the interior is salubrious enough and they do a damn fine bacon, brie and onion chutney bagel to go with a decent selection of beers. Used by male House of Commons researchers as a venue for mansplaining to their female colleagues (on the evidence of this one visit).

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In Victorian times, the area round here was a notorious slum known as the Devil’s Acre.  The houses were mostly occupied by what a contemporary described as “mendicants, hawkers, costermongers, lodging house keepers, thieves and abandoned females of irregular and intemperate habits” and it wasn’t unusual for 10 to 12 people to share a room. The slum was cleared from 1877 onward and the Peabody Trust built one of their estates to replace a large part of it.

We pass through the middle of the estate up Perkin’s Rents back to Old Pye Street then follow that east to its junction with St Ann’s Street and turn south back down to Great Peter Street. Here we turn east as far as Great Smith Street and head north towards the Abbey again. On the west side of the street is the Westminster Library which when it was built in 1891 incorporated a public baths and wash house. The baths themselves were removed in 1990 when that part of the building was turned into the Westminster Archive Centre but if you look in the top left corner of the picture below you can see the original sculpted panels of swimmers created by Henry Poole (1873 – 1928).
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We turn right opposite into Little Smith Street which runs through to Tufton Street. At no.11 resides J. Wippell & Company, suppliers of clerical vestments and church furnishings. The Wippell family set up in business in the West Country in 1789 but this London shop was established just over a hundred years later.

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Proceeding north up Tufton Street brings us to Great College Street where we turn right briefly, past the southern end of Westminster School, before diverting into Barton Street. Barton Street and Cowley Street, which comes off it at a right angle, are fertile ground for blue plaque hunters. No.14 Barton Street is the one-time home of T.E Lawrence (1888 – 1935) better known of course as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence lived here while writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom and account of his experiences working for British Military Intelligence in the near east during WW1.

Round the corner at no.6 Cowley Street Lord Reith (1889 – 1971), the first Director-General of the BBC, lived from 1924 – 1930. Despite having no broadcasting experience (though it’s hard to see where he would have got any at that time) he got the job as general manager of the newly formed BBC in 1922 and stayed in the lead role until 1938. He is memorialised by the BBC’s annual series of Reith Lectures which began in 1948.

Across the road no.16 was the home of legendary luvvie Sir John Gielgud (1904 -2000) from 1945 to 1976. Gielgud’s career spanned almost 80 years, ranging from leading roles in Hamlet and King Lear on the stage to playing the butler to Dudley Moore’s Arthur for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Nothing to do with these famous ghosts but if I could have my pick of somewhere to live in London then Barton Street / Cowley Street would be very high up on the list.

There’s a small second section of Cowley Street, perpendicular to the main stretch, which emerges back out on Great Peter Street. Then the next northward turning is Little College Street which takes us back to Great College Street from where it’s a short hop east to Abingdon Street, on the other side of which are the Victoria Tower Gardens. At the entrance to the gardens stands the memorial to the mother and daughter leading lights of the Suffragette movement, Emmeline (1858 – 1928) and Christabel (1880 – 1958) Pankhurst. The main feature of the memorial is a bronze statue of Emmeline by Arthur George Walker which was unveiled in 1930. Shortly after Christabel’s death the statue was moved to its present location and bronze reliefs commemorating her achievements were added.

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On the river embankment wall is a green plaque in memory of Sir Thomas Pierson Frank (1881 – 1951) who as Chief Engineer for the London County Council during WW2  directed repair operations to public infrastructure including the Thames wall such that although this was hit at least 121 times during the war years the city never flooded.

Above left is a shot of the southern end of the Palace of Westminster showing the Victoria Tower after which the gardens are named. I mentioned earlier that there were just two statues in the grounds of the PoW and we pass the second of those as we return towards the Palace via Abingdon Street and through Old Palace Yard. The equestrian statue of Richard I (popularly known as Lionheart or Coeur de Lion) was created by Baron Carlo Marochetti (who collaborated with Landseer on the Trafalgar Square lions if you remember). The statue was originally produced in clay for the Great Exhibition of 1851 then funds were raised to enable it to be cast in bronze and it was installed in Old Palace Yard in 1860.

Having arrived back at the HoP we cross the road again and set off on an clockwise circuit of Parliament Square. Plans for the Parliament Square Garden were included in Charles Barry’s design for the new Houses of Parliament following the 1834 fire but the gardens weren’t laid out until 1868.  The first batch of statues were erected between 1874 and 1883 as monuments to the nineteenth century Prime Ministers; the Earl of Derby, Viscount Palmerston, Robert Peel and Benjamin Disraeli. Most of the others were installed after the post-WWII redesign of the garden to commemorate both giants of 20th century British parliamentary history and iconic world statesmen. So, in the slides below, we have, respectively :

  • Nelson Mandela, sculpted by Ian Walters (2007) in the foreground with Sir Robert Peel sculpted by Matthew Noble (1876) beyond him and in the background Abraham Lincoln (1920).
  • Mahatma Ghandi sculpted by Philip Jackson (2015) in the foreground and Benjamin Disraeli sculpted by Mario Raggi (1883) behind him.
  • The most recent addition to the pantheon and the first woman to be granted the honour – Dame Millicent Fawcett (1847 – 1929) sculpted by Gillian Wearing (2018). The statue was erected to coincide with the centenary of women being granted the vote. Millicent Fawcett was a leader of the suffragist arm of the campaign for votes for women who were less militant than the suffragettes though unlike the suffragettes they didn’t call a halt to their campaigning during the First World War.  The words on the banner her statue holds are from a speech she made after the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison.
  • George Canning sculpted by Sir Richard Westmacott (1832 but moved to its present location in 1949).
  • David Lloyd George sculpted by Glynn Williams (2007)
  • Winston Churchill sculpted by Ivor Robert-Jones (1973)

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Final port of call for today is the Supreme Court Building which stands on Little George Street which runs parallel with the west side of the square. The building, originally known as the Middlesex Guildhall, dates from 1913 and was designed in the neo-gothic style by Scottish architect, James Gibson. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in the UK but it has only been in existence since 2009; prior to that the House of Lords (or rather the Law Lords) occupied the top-tier of the British legal pyramid. It was the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 that led to the creation of the Supreme Court in order to fully separate the legislature from Parliament. The Supreme Court doesn’t conduct trials as such; it sits in order to determine whether the correct interpretation of the law has been applied in civil cases that are referred to it for appeal. The Justices of the SC, currently numbering eleven and appointed by an independent selection commission, determine which cases they will hear based on the extent to which they raise ‘points of law of general public importance’.  The same 11 justices also form The Judicial Committee of The Privy Council (JCPC) which is the court of final appeal for the UK’s overseas territories and Crown dependencies, as well as many Commonwealth countries.

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Day 49 – Piccadilly – St James’s Square – Pall Mall

First excursion of the year and not a long one but this small area between Piccadilly and Pall Mall (yellow to pink on the Monopoly board) is rich in historical and social significance. From Fortnum and Mason to the Royal Automobile Club, St James’s (where nearly 50% of the property is owned by the Crown Estate) still clings to an aura of privilege and old money. It also contains the former residences of two women who, in very different ways, have played an important role in shaping the evolution of this country – Ada Lovelace and Nancy Astor.

Day 49 Route

Starting point today is St James’s Church on Piccadilly. This was consecrated in 1684 having been built to the order of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans to the serve the new residential development of St James’s Square. And wouldn’t you know it but the architect was the ubiquitous Christopher Wren accepting a rare gig outside of the City of London. The reredos and the marble font were created by master carver of the age, Grinling Gibbons (there’s a forename that’s ripe for revival surely). And that font was where William Blake was baptised in December 1757. St James’s is well known as a classical music venue and I was fortunate enough that my visit coincided with a lunchtime recital by the prizewinning Greek pianist, Konstantinos Destounis. The church is also very actively involved in highlighting social and political issues and is currently host to Suspended, an installation by artist Arabella Dorman which highlights the plight of refugees attempting to flee from persecution and famine to the safety of European shores.

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We exit the church onto Jermyn Street, turn left and then return to Piccadilly via Church Place. Heading east towards Piccadilly Circus we pass Waterstones flagship store which occupies the Grade I listed building that came into being in 1936 as Simpsons of Piccadilly, at the time the largest menswear store in Britain. The building was designed by the modernist architect, Joseph Pemberton (1889 – 1956) and much of the interior was the work of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895 – 1946), one of the most influential professors at the Bauhaus school of art in 1920’s Berlin.

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A right turn down Eagle Place takes us back onto Jermyn Street where we continue east onto Regent Street St James’s (or Regent Street South if you’re pushed for time). The Lumiere London art festival had taken place the previous weekend and the area around Piccadilly had featured several of the installations, including this light projection onto the old Swan & Edgar building.

We drop down to the end of Regent Street St James’s where no. 1 with its ornate carved frontage, home of the Greek restaurant Estiatorio Milos, stands on the corner with Charles II Street.

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Charles II Street runs west into St James’s Square.  As already mentioned the square was laid out in the late 17th century by Henry Jermyn, the 1st Earl of St Albans one of the most influential courtiers of the Restoration period. The houses on the square quickly became some of the most desirable properties in London and by the 1720’s seven dukes and seven earls were among the residents. A century or so later the clubhouses arrived and the square lost a bit (but only a bit) of its cachet. Turning right to proceed anticlockwise around the square we pass the BP head office at no. 1, a turn of the 21st century building they acquired in 2001. The original house at no.3 next door was owned by at least three separate dukes at different times but was replaced in the 1930’s by this office block.

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Then at no.4 we have an original Georgian House built 1726-28 by Edward Shepherd and the only one on the square to retain its garden and mews house at the rear. It is now the Naval and Military Club but was once one of the homes of Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor (1879 – 1964) the first woman to sit as an MP in the House of Commons. Nancy Witcher Langthorne Astor, to give her her full name, was an American citizen who moved to Britain at the age of 26 when she married, for the second time, to Waldorf Astor heir to the massive fortune of the Astor family with its origins in the 18th century US fur trade and New York real estate. Their primary home was the 375 acre Cliveden Estate in Buckinghamshire, a wedding gift from Waldorf’s father. Waldorf had enjoyed a promising political career prior to WW1 but when he succeeded his father’s peerage to become the 2nd Viscount Astor he was automatically shunted off to the House of Lords. This left the way open for Nancy to contest the vacant seat and she duly won the November 1919 by-election. She was in actual fact not the first woman to be elected to parliament, that milestone was achieved by Constance Markievicz in 1918 but as she was an Irish Republican she was barred from taking her seat. I think it’s fair to say that Lady Astor’s success is now viewed as purely a symbolic one. Her political accomplishments were largely negligible although she remained an MP until 1945.  Her personal ideology was also pretty suspect in many ways – she had not been a strong advocate of women’s suffrage and held strong anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic views. However, while she and many of her circle were in favour of appeasement suggestions that the “Cliveden set” were pro-fascist appear to be exaggerated.

Across the road from no.4, just outside the gardens, is a memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher who on 17 April 1984, at the age of 25, was killed by a shot from the Libyan People’s Bureau (Embassy) which at the time occupied no.5. WPC Fletcher was on duty monitoring a demonstration against the Gaddafi regime, eleven of the participations in which were also wounded. Although diplomatic relations between the UK and Libya were severed no-one was ever brought to account for the murder. Two years later US fighter planes conducted bombing raids on Libya having taken off from UK air bases with the acquiescence of Margaret Thatcher.

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We leave the square temporarily via Duke of York Street off to the right of which is the now (thanks to the eponymous book and TV series) infamous Apple Tree Yard. You’d be hard pushed to find anywhere quite so unappealing as a venue for a spot of alfresco hanky-panky but then that’s probably the point. Though I’m pretty certain the scenes in the TV series weren’t actually filmed here anyway. The yard’s other claim to fame is that it was home to the office where Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the enclave of New Delhi (within the metropolis of Delhi) to replace Calcutta as the seat of the British Colonial Government in 1912. This was marked in 2015 by the installation of a sculptural work in granite by the artist Stephen Cox.

Back on Duke of York Street it’s a short hop up to Jermyn Street again for a quick eastward foray to tick off Babmaes Street before retracing our steps to Ormond Yard which is opposite Apple Tree Yard and ends in a small passage that cuts through To Mason’s Yard. Bang in the middle of Mason’s Yard is the White Cube Gallery which was constructed here on the site of an old electricity subs-station (and is the first free-standing structure to be built in the historic St James’s area for more than 30 years). In its architectural style the White Cube aims for a spot of nominative determinism though White Orthotope would be nearer the mark (this is also true of its sister gallery, White Cube Bermondsey). It’s a good old space inside and usually showcasing something worth a visit. Current exhibition by Korean artist, Minjung Kim, which just opened today is a case in point.

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To the west Mason’s Yard leads out onto Duke Street St James’s where we head south as far as King Street which takes us east back to St James’s Square. This time we go clockwise round the square (if you see what I mean). First stop is no. 16 which was formerly the East India Club and displays a black plaque commemorating the official dispatch of the news of the victory at Waterloo carried by Major Henry Percy. After initial delivery to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War at Grosvenor Square, Major Percy continued on to this address to lay two captured French Imperial Eagles before the Prince Regent who was attending a soirée here.

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At no. 14 is the London Library the world’s largest independent library created at the instigation of Thomas Carlyle (who objected to some of the policies of the British Museum Library). It opened in 1841 and moved to St James’s Square four years later. Alfred Lord Tennyson served as President, from 1855 to 1892, as did T.S. Eliot who, on his appointment in 1952, declared  “whatever social changes come about, the disappearance of the London Library would be a disaster to civilisation”. Today the library is home to over a million books covering more than 2,000 subjects and stored on 17 miles of shelves. Membership costs £525 a year.

Next door at no.13. is the only Embassy on the square – the High Commission of Cyprus.

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Turning the corner onto the north side we reach, at no.12, the former residence of the other woman I mentioned in the preamble, Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (1815 – 1852) better known, simply, as Ada Lovelace. Part of Ada’s fame rests upon the fact that she was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron – by his wife Annabella Milbanke, Lady Wentworth. But far more important than that is her contribution to the fields of mathematics and science. As a teenager, Ada’s mathematical prowess, led her to form what came to be a long working relationship and friendship with Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871) the man who first came up with the concept of the computer, or Analytical Engine as he called it. However it was Ada who recognized that such a machine could have potential applications beyond pure calculation and published the first program intended to be carried out by the “computing machine”. For this she is regarded by many as effectively the world’s first computer programmer. Her personal life though was not a happy one; her relationships with men were fraught and complicated and she took to gambling with disastrous results – losing more than £3,000 on the horses in her early thirties. And she was always haunted by her father who had to all intents and purposes abandoned her at birth. In any event she never saw him again during his eight remaining years of life. But when Ada died of uterine cancer at the age of 36, the same age Byron had been, she was buried, at her request, next to him at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

Two doors further along at no.10 is Chatham House aka the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the world-famous independent policy institute. In 1919 British and American delegates to the Paris Peace Conference, under the leadership of Lionel Curtis, conceived the idea of an Anglo-American Institute of foreign affairs to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars. In the event, the British went ahead on their own, founding the British Institute of International Affairs in July 1920. Chatham House is immortalised for originating the Chatham House Rule – When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. Or, more succinctly, “what’s said in the room stays in the room”. No.10 (appropriately enough) is also celebrated for being the home at various times of three separate British Prime Ministers – William Pitt the Elder (PM from 1766-68), Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby (PM for just 299 days in 1852 and 1 year and 243 days between 1866 and 1868) and William Ewart Gladstone (PM for most of the 2nd half of the 19th century).

See what I mean, just this one corner of the square has elicited the best part of 1,000 words. Anyway, once past no.10, we turn south through the middle of the gardens. In the centre is an equestrian statue of William III erected in 1808 and at the southern end is a small pavilion with a memorial to architect John Nash (we’ve met him more than once on previous journeys) who supervised the design and layout of the gardens.

Back on the east side of the square is no.31, Norfolk House, which was U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters during World War II, and where Operation Torch and Operation Overlord were planned.

We leave the square again briefly, exiting onto Pall Mall from the south-east corner. Across the road is the Royal Automobile Club, founded in 1897 by Frederick Richard Simms with the primary purpose of promoting the motor car and its place in society. The Royal part of the monicker was granted by King Edward VII in 1907 (Victoria would have had no truck with these new-fangled automobile things). Today it’s a glorified private members’ (including women) club with Edwardian Turkish baths that were renovated in 2003–4, an Italian marble swimming pool, squash courts (including a doubles court), a snooker room, three restaurants, two bars, and a fully equipped business centre. It is now completely divorced from the motoring services group, the RAC, which it once owned.

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We head back into the square for a final time past another bastion of London clubland (of the cigars and brandy rather than ecstasy and glo-stick variety), the Army and Navy Club. This one has been around since 1837 and its first patron was the Duke of Wellington and the current one is the Queen – nuff said. The club is colloquially known as ‘the Rag’ – if you want to know why check out the link. I think I need to move swiftly on before I go all champagne socialist.

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We leave the square for the final time back along King Street heading west. On the north side is the global HQ of fine art auctioneers, Christie’s, where they have been since 1823.

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On the south side we pass Cleveland Place and Rose & Crown Yard before taking the next turning, Angel Court. The following picture is of the middle of those three and I took it and flipped it to b&w purely on account of the striking quality of the mannequin figure in the window.

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On the corner of Angel Court and King Street, the Golden Lion pub occupies the site where the St James’s Theatre, which staged the first performances of Oscar Wilde’s two best known plays, once stood. Further down Angel Court is a set of, now rather forlorn looking, commemorative reliefs by E. Bainbridge Copnall. The reliefs were commissioned for the office block that replaced the theatre, which was demolished itself in 1986.

Back on Pall Mall we head east initially along the north side then double back west on the south side. Pall Mall was constructed in 1661 and takes it’s name from the game of pall-mall which was a bit similar to croquet and was introduced to England by James I. London’s first pall-mall court was built in St James’s Field where St James’s Square now stands. As we return along the south side we pass no.82 which is adorned with a blue plaque marking this as a former residence of the artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) and no.80 which has one noting that Nell Gwynne (1650 – 1687) once lived in a house on the site. And at no.71 is the Oxford and Cambridge Club where. I imagine, the real metropolitan elite meet and greet.

We switch back northwards up Crown Passage which, if you ignore the rubbish bags, has a charming touch of the olde-worlde about it…

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…there’s even a Milliner’s for goodness’ sake (that’s someone who makes hats in case there happens to be anyone under the age of forty reading)

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So now we’re back on King Street from where a quick right then left takes us into Bury Street. The area of St James’s is particularly known for its galleries. Not the sort I tend to frequent that show contemporary art (though as we’ve seen there are a couple of those) but the ones that specialise in just about every niche in the fine arts and antiques firmament – from old masters to maps to Japanese art and armour and weaponry as you can see below.

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We turn east off Bury Street along Ryder Street back to Duke Street St James’s where we continue north and then turn the corner into Jermyn Street past the Cavendish Hotel. In its present form The Cavendish is a particularly unlovable example of 1960’s concrete pragmatism. Its predecessor was built in the early 1800’s, taking on the Cavendish name in 1836. In 1902 the Cavendish was bought by one Rosa Lewis (1867 -1952), who had worked her way up from kitchen maid (aged 12) to be head chef of the Duc d’orleans at Sandhurst. She was also engaged as a dinner-party cook by Lady Randolph Churchill, the Asquiths and many of the hostesses who entertained Edward VII. Rosa originally put her husband, the grandly named ex-butler Excelsior Tyrel Chiney Lewis, and his sister Laura in charge of the hotel. But within two years their spending and his drinking were out of control so Rosa divorced him and threw the pair of them out. Once she was in charge the hotel flourished and expanded. She was known for her generous spirit – allowing impoverished WW1 military officers to stay for free at the hotel for example – and Evelyn Waugh described her as warm hearted, comic and a totally original woman. She continued to dress in Edwardian style and enjoyed a grandiose and majestic decline from 1918 to 1952. Her life was the inspiration for the 1970’s TV series, “The Duchess of Duke Street” (with Gemma Jones in the title role) as is recognized by a Westminster Council commemorative plaque.

After a couple of blocks we make our way back to Piccadilly up Princes Arcade which continues the area’s general theme of old fashioned luxury. Opposite the entrance to the arcade at no.87 Jermyn Street is another of those old London County Council blue plaques marking this as the home of Sir Isaac Newton. Newton actually lived in the building that was knocked down in 1915 but the plaque had been installed seven years prior to that and so was taken down a re-fixed to the new building.

On reaching Piccadilly again we turn left to get to Hatchards the UK’s oldest bookshop. John Hatchard opened the store at 173 Piccadilly in 1797 and moved it to (what is now) 187 in 1801. The store has three Royal Warrants and is now owned by Waterstone’s.

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Since that move in 1801, Hatchards has been neighbour to Fortnum & Mason which preceded it in opening on Piccadilly by nearly a hundred years. It was 1707, to be exact, when Hugh Mason and William Fortnum set up shop at no.181 and it all began with them selling off Queen Anne’s half-used candle wax. In 1738, by which time it was established as one of the most prominent grocery stores on the capital, Fortnum and Mason’s invented the Scotch Egg while brainstorming ideas for food that travellers could eat on the go. In 1851 Fortnum’s won first prize as importers of dried fruits and dessert goods at London’s Great Exhibition and in 1886 became the first grocer’s in Britain to stock Heinz baked beans. In 1911 they sent hampers to the suffragettes who had been imprisoned for breaking their windows and they provided the 1922 Everest expedition with, amongst other things, 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne (amazing that they didn’t reach the summit with that to fortify them). The famous clock on the storefront was installed in 1964 and its bells come from the same foundry that produced Big Ben. The only record that F&M have ever sold is Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas ?” These days Fortnum’s is more of a tourist destination than anything. There are no doubt still a few members of the landed gentry that pop up to town to stock up on comestibles and haberdashery but I didn’t see very many while doing the rounds. Since I mentioned it earlier I should also note that the selling of foie-gras was the subject of a PETA campaign in 2010 that was supported by a number of high-profile celebrities.

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We exit the store (purchase-free) onto Duke Street and at the end of the block turn west for a final visit to Jermyn Street. Outside the Piccadilly Arcade is a statue to the Georgian “dandy” Beau Brummel (1778 – 1840). Poor old Beau’s not looking quite so dandy-ish at the moment having been boxed in by the workmen repairing the street.

Jermyn Street has historically been second only to Savile Row in term of catering to the sartorial needs of the discerning London gentleman-about-town but these days it seems to consist mainly of branches of T.M Lewin. So I was pleased to finally encounter one of the few remaining proper old-style independent outfitters on the corner with the top of Bury Street.

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And that’s just about it. From Bury Street we turn right to make the western section of Ryder Street our last call of the day and I’ll leave you wondering, like me, what story lies behind this intriguing shot.

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Day 47 – Green Park – Hyde Park Corner – Grosvenor Place – Buckingham Palace

Before we dive into today’s journey there’s just time for a quick update on overall progress to date. As you can see below, we’re about three quarters of the way there now with only a relatively small section north of the river still to cover.

Covered so far Nov 2017

Ok back to the programme. Today’s walk starts out from Green Park tube station from where we head west through the eponymous park to Hyde Park Corner. We then venture further west and finish off the area between Grosvenor Place and Belgrave Square before circling round Buckingham Palace and flirting with Victoria (so to speak).

Day 47 Route

The 40 acres of Green Park provide a link between St James’s Park and Hyde Park.
The park was first enclosed by Charles II in 1668, stocked with deer and provided with a ranger’s house. It was known as Upper St James’s Park but by 1746 it was called The Green Park. The park now has no buildings and virtually no other man-made structures within it but it once contained lodges, a library, an ice house and two vast ‘temples’ called the Temple of Peace and the Temple of Concord. Ironically, the Temple of Peace, erected to mark the end of the War of Austrian Succession, exploded during a firework display in 1749 and in 1814 the Temple of Concord, erected to mark 100 years of the Hanoverian Dynasty, was destroyed in a similar way during the Prince Regent’s gala.

It was the beginning of November when I walked through the north side of the park and the trees were just about hanging on to their autumnal glories.

Just before the western apex of the park you reach the Bomber Command Memorial, dedicated to the 55,573 airmen who lost their lives during the Second World War. The Memorial, which was unveiled in 2012, was designed by architect Liam O’Connor and  built using Portland stone. Within the memorial are the bronze sculptures of a Bomber Command aircrew and the design for the roof incorporates sections of aluminium recovered from a Handley Page Halifax III bomber shot down over Belgium on the night of 12 May 1944, in which eight crew were killed.

Beyond the memorial we cross over Duke of Wellington Place to enter the island in the middle of the Hyde Park Corner roundabout. This is all about the celebration and commemoration of Britain’s (and the Commonwealth’s) military past with the D of W taking centre stage. Proceeding anti-clockwise we pass the New Zealand war memorial and arrive at the Machine Gun Corps Memorial. The oddly fey nude statue of David which tops the marble plinth is by Francis Derwent Wood (1871 – 1926).

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In the background there you can see Apsley House which houses the Wellington Museum, having been home to the man himself from 1817 (it had been designed and built by Robert Adam in the 1770’s). As luck would have it the museum had switched to Winter opening hours the day before this walk took place and so was closed on weekdays – otherwise I would have felt obligated to visit and report. Instead I turned south past Edgar Boehm’s equestrian statue of the Duke and parted with a fiver to ascend the Wellington Arch.

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Turned out this wasn’t such a bad move as I had the place to myself. There’s not a lot to detain you but the small exhibitions on the history of the arch itself and on the Battle of Waterloo are both illuminating and well done and the external viewing gallery affords a couple of interesting perspectives (though not of the Buckingham Palace grounds).  Like Marble Arch, the Wellington Arch was conceived to commemorate victory in the Napoleonic wars.  It was also designed to be a grand entrance to Central London from the west and was originally sited, about 100 yards away from its present location, immediately opposite Apsley Gate (see last post). Like the Gate the Arch was commissioned in 1824 and was designed by the then 24 year-old Decimus Burton. Burton originally intended the Arch to be crowned with a sculpture of a quadriga (chariot drawn by four horses) but, because the rebuilding of Buckingham Palace ran hugely over budget (see further down), the Treasury declined to fund this and most of the other proposed decoration. In the 1830’s a committee formed to determine the nature and scope of a national memorial to the Duke of Wellington came up with the idea of sticking a giant equestrian statue of the Duke on top of the Green Park Arch (as it was then called). The chosen sculptor was Matthew Cotes Wyatt (1777-1862) and the work was erected in 1846, supposedly for a trial period. It was immediately greeted with derision  being totally disproportionate in size. The Government demanded its removal but had to back down when the Duke himself objected.

The statue was finally got rid of in 1883 when the Arch was moved to its new site as part of a road development scheme. It was relocated to a new pedestal near the Garrison Church at Aldershot and the Arch was once again topless. However, in 1891 the sculptor Adrian Jones (1845–1938) exhibited a magnificent plaster work of (you’ve guessed it) a quadriga and The Prince of Wales suggested that it would make a suitable adornment for the rebuilt Wellington Arch. Initially no funds were available, but eventually a banker, Sir Herbert Stern, made an anonymous donation of about £20,000, and the final bronze version was erected on top of the arch in January 1912.

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From the early twentieth century until the late 1950’s the inside of the arch was used as a police station (arguably the smallest in London) and it 2001 after major repairs and refurbishment English Heritage opened it to, if today was anything to go by, a largely indifferent public.

And so to those views from the top…

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As you can see in the slides above if we resume our anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the island next up, on the west side, is the Royal Artillery Memorial , designed by Charles Jagger and Lionel Pearson, and featuring a giant sculpture of a BL 9.2-inch Mk I howitzer upon a large plinth of Portland stone. Behind this is the Lanesborough Hotel, reputedly the most expensive in London. Lanesborough House was built in 1726 and converted into a hospital, St George’s, in 1733. Almost a hundred years later it was demolished to make way for a new 350-bed facility designed by architect William Wilkins. The new hospital was operational by 1844, serving continuously as a hospital until transferred to Tooting, south London in the 1970s. In 1980 the Duke of Westminster took up an option to buy the then vacant building for £6,000 (its value in the nineteenth century).
It was refurbished and re-opened as a hotel in 1991 and is currently managed by the Oetker Collection.

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Completing the circuit is the Australian war memorial beyond which you can see the massive redevelopment taking place next to the Lanesborough. It’s from here that scores of Eastern European construction workers flock into the island to eat their lunch.

And so we eventually escape from the island via the underpass that emerges on Grosvenor Place and swing west round Grosvenor Crescent back towards Belgrave Square. First embassy of the day is Belgium’s then on the corner with Halkin Street (but officially known as 49 Belgrave Square) is the Argentinian, occupying the Grade-II listed Herbert House, built for Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea in 1851.

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Further down Halkin Street is the Caledonian Club, a private members’ club founded in 1891 that styles itself as a little bit of Scotland in the heart of London. Coincidentally, about a week after this walk I received an invite to a function here (which I was unable to attend).

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We return to Grosvenor Place and turn south. There are some fine facades along here but many are in a state of severe disrepair.

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At no.17 which is the Embassy of the Republic of Ireland we turn right down Chapel Street but only as far as Headfort Place which takes us north again back to Halkin Street.

From here Montrose Place and Chapel Street get us back to the Irish Embassy and the next turn off west from Grosvenor Place is Chester Street. From here we take Groom Place back to Chapel Street then head west past the south-eastern corner of Belgrave Square into Upper Belgrave Street. We swing round the corner, on which stands the Embassy of the Ivory Coast, into Chester Street once more then turn right onto Wilton Mews. Next left is Little Chester Street then up Chester Mews passing the shell of a pub, the Talbot, I had occasion to frequent many years ago.

We retrace our steps on Chester Street before taking a further turn south on Grosvenor Place. No. 33 which was once the HQ of Associated Electrical Industries is undergoing reconstruction along with its neighbours but you can still just about view the grotesques created by Maurice Lambert (1901-1964) (who was apprentice to Francis Derwent Wood and assisted with the Machine Gun Corps Memorial).

We next make a right turn onto Wilton Street where they haven’t yet got (or should I say gotten) over Halloween and there is the most meta of all of London’s blue plaques in that it commemorates the politician and reformer William Ewart (1798 – 1869) who was the person who first came up with the idea of the Blue Plaque (in 1863).

At the end of Wilton Street we turn briefly north on Upper Belgrave Street before continuing west along Eaton Place. No.15 was the home of Scots-Irish physicist and engineer William Thomson (a.k.a Lord Kelvin) (1824 – 1907) after whom the temperature scale that takes absolute zero as its lowest point is named (that’s the Kelvin scale not the Thomson scale just to be clear). But Eaton Place is probably more famous as the home (at no.165) of the Bellamy family and their servants in the seventies’ TV series “Upstairs Downstairs”. (Somewhat less famous is the BBC’s 21st century remake that unsuccessfully attempted to compete with Downton Abbey).

At the end of the first section of Eaton Place we turn north up Belgrave Place, past Belgrave Mews South and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway then proceed anti-clockwise round Belgrave Square passing two further embassies, those of Serbia and Bahrain, on our right.

On our left, outside the south-east corner of the garden, is a statue of our old friend Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) the Venezuelan military and political leader who not only played a leading role in the foundation of his own country but was also key to the liberation from the Spanish of Bolivia (which takes its name from him of course), Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. The north-east corner also has a statue, of Bolivar’s contemporary Jose de San Martin (1778-1850) who was similarly crucial to the successful independence struggles of Argentina, Chile and Peru.

In between the statues, across the road on the eastern side of the square, we have the Italian Cultural Institute and the Turkish Embassy which is not only covered in scaffolding but the only Embassy encountered to date (apart from the Saudi one) that has an armed guard outside.

The only embassy on the north side of Belgrave Square is the one belonging to Syria at no.8 and which has been closed since the Ambassador was expelled in 2012.

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Leaving the square and heading north round Wilton Crescent we pass between the Romanian Cultural Institute at No.1 and a statue of Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster (1767–1845) which was only erected in 1998. Outside of his political life, he was both a Tory and a Whig MP, Grosvenor was best known for his art collection which included four Rubens’ and Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, for which he paid £100, and as a breeder of racehorses. The finest horse produced by his stud was Touchstone who won 16 of the 21 races he entered and went on to sire 323 winners of over 700 races.

Wilton Crescent is home to the Luxembourg Embassy and once we’ve passed that we veer off down Wilton Row to arrive at today’s pub of the day, The Grenadier. Located in what is essentially another mews, the Grenadier was originally built in 1720 as the officers’ mess for the senior infantry regiment of the British army, the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards.  It was opened to the public in 1818 as The Guardsman and was subsequently renamed in honour of the Grenadier Guards’ actions in the Battle of Waterloo.  Past patrons  have included the Duke of Wellington, King George IV and, more recently, Madonna.  It is also said to be haunted by the ghost of a subaltern who was beaten to death for cheating at cards. The beer’s expensive but I did have a very good fish finger sandwich.

After leaving the pub we wend our way round the appropriately named Old Barrack Yard and find ourselves back on Knightsbridge. Turning east we pass by the Libyan Embassy, which appears to be fully operational still, and the Wellesley Hotel which occupies the building that started life as the original Hyde Park Corner tube station, designed by architect Lesley Green, and was later for many years the home of iconic jazz and cabaret venue, Pizza on the Park.

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Turning round the corner past the Lanesborough Hotel again we cross from Grosvenor Place onto Duke of Wellington Place and then pass through the Commonwealth Memorial gates and make our way down Constitution Hill.

This “hill”, which wouldn’t even merit that description if it was situated in the heart of the Fens, leads of course to Buckingham Palace.  It was George III who first brought Buckingham House (as it was known originally) into the Royal fold when he acquired it in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte to use as a family home. On his accession in 1820, George IV decided to transform the house into a palace with the help of architect John Nash. Nash retained the main block but doubled its size by adding a new suite of rooms on the garden side facing west in addition the north and south wings of Buckingham House were demolished and rebuilt with a triumphal arch – the Marble Arch – as the centrepiece of an enlarged courtyard, to commemorate the British victories at Trafalgar and Waterloo. By 1829 the costs had escalated to nearly half a million pounds which cost Nash’s his job, and on the death of George IV in 1830, his younger brother William IV took on Edward Blore to finish the work. William never moved into the Palace. In fact, when the Houses of Parliament were destroyed by fire in 1834, he offered the Palace as a new home for Parliament, but the offer was declined. So Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to take up residence in 1837 and a year later she was the first British sovereign to leave from Buckingham Palace for a Coronation. She was responsible for the creation of a fourth wing,  which necessitated moving the Marble Arch to the north-east corner of Hyde Park, paid for from the proceeds of the sale of George IV’s Royal Pavilion at Brighton. The present forecourt of the Palace, where Changing the Guard takes place, was formed in 1911, as part of the Victoria Memorial scheme.

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Cutting in between the front of the Palace and the Memorial takes us onto Spur Road and then Buckingham Palace Road. Immediately in front of the 19 State Rooms sits the Queen’s Gallery which really only seems to exist to justify its lavish accompanying gift shop (FYI if you want Canalettos you van get them for free at the Wallace Collection).

On the subject of gift shops, if you continue down to the Buckingham Palace Road you find two further bits of evidence for the case that the only reason the monarchy still exists is as a sop to the tourist industry.

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Entrance to the Royal Mews

Just after the Royal Mews we turn right into Lower Grosvenor Place then continue across Grosvenor Place into Hobart Place. At no.4 is a blue plaque marking this as a residence of the German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). In his all too brief life Mendelssohn visited England ten times and spent a total of about four months at this address across four or five of those stays. His first impression of London was ambivalent, describing it in 1829 as ‘the grandest and most complicated monster on the face of earth’. Some years later though he admitted “[there is] no question that that smoky nest is my preferred city and will remain so. I feel quite emotional when I think of it.”

Continuing west we turn into Eaton Square and nip into St Peter’s Church. This was originally built between 1824 and 1827 in a neoclassical style designed by Henry Hakehill.  That building burnt down, and in 1837 was rebuilt from Hakewill’s drawings by one of his sons. Fire gutted the building again in 1987, the handiwork of an anti-Catholic arsonist who mistook the denomination of the church. The church was rebuilt around the Georgian shell and opened again in 1991 with a modernist interior. As chance would have it, when I visited the renowned violinist, Tamsin Little, was in rehearsal for a concert later that evening.

Leaving the church we retrace our steps part way back down Hobart Place then cut down Grosvenor Gardens which was once home to the extravagantly monickered Victorian archeologist, Augustus Henry Fox-Lane Pitt Rivers (1827-1900). Genealogical fact of the day : William Fox-Pitt, the Olympic equestrian, is his great great grandson.
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At this point we needed to head off-piste to visit the facilities at Victoria Station, which, unlike those at every other mainline station I can think of, are free of charge. And with that useful tip I think we’ll wrap it up there for today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 46 – Hyde Park – Knightsbridge – Belgrave Square

As flagged up in the last post, we’re now finally done with the City of London so for a complete change of scene we switch back over to the west side of our target area and swap the skyscrapers, livery halls and 17th century churches for green expanses, embassies and temples of consumerist excess. Starting out from Hyde Park Corner today’s walk takes us on a circuit of the south-eastern corner of the park before heading down through Knightsbridge to Belgravia and back.

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We enter the park through Apsley Gate, built in 1826-29 from Portland stone and designed by a then 25 year old Decimus Burton (who, if we assume the Jacob Rees-Mogg scoring system must have been at least the tenth child to emerge from his poor mother). We then head north up Lovers Walk which takes us almost immediately past the statue of Achilles. This was installed in 1822 by order of King George III in commemoration of the Duke of Wellington and was made using 33 tonnes of bronze from captured French cannons. Initially the statue was fully nude but a public outcry soon led to the addition of a strategic fig leaf. A short way further on is the memorial to the victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, comprised of 52 stainless steel stelae each representing one of those who died. At the Joy of Life fountain (which was the southernmost point of our previous foray into Hyde Park, what seems like eons ago now) we about-face and head back down Broad Walk. What struck me most about the park on this visit was the sheer number of squirrels around; they were always fairly plentiful but these days they’re giving the pigeons a run for their money in the proliferation stakes.

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At the end of Broad Walk we turn right along Serpentine Road past the bandstand which has stood on the north side here since 1886 when it was relocated from Kensington Gardens seventeen years after it was built. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers’s performance of “Isn’t it a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain” from the 1935 film Top Hat was supposedly set on the Hyde Park bandstand but, sadly, was actually filmed on a soundstage at RKO’s Hollywood studios.

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The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, 11.34 hectares in size, was created in 1727-31 at the instigation of Queen Caroline, wife of George II. It was formed by damming the Westbourne stream and was one of the first artificial lakes allowed to settle into a natural shape. There is a small memorial to Caroline at the eastern end of the lake that was unveiled by HM in 1990. The Serpentine is a big magnet for wildfowl and for visitors willing to feed them. On the other side of the path running along the eastern edge of the lake is another small monument, erected in 1870, with a plaque the first line of which reads “A supply of water by conduit from this spot was granted to the Abbey of Westminster with the Manor of Hyde by King Edward the Confessor.” The spring this refers to supplied water to the precincts of Westminster until it was cut off by drainage work in 1861.

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Skirting the eastern end of the Serpentine takes us down onto Rotten Row which is a corruption of the French ‘Route de Roi’. After just a few yards we head off the road up by the side of the small garden known as the Dell and continue east through the Holocaust Memorial Garden to the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden incorporates two fountains : one with a statue of Diana the Huntress which was sculpted by (the wonderfully-named) Lady Feodora Gleichen in 1899 and the other dating from 1862 with a statue of a Boy and Dolphin by Alexander Munro. En route to the garden we pass a strange looking tree populated by a flock of the much maligned Green Parakeets. Somewhat lazily I was just going to refer to this as a runner bean tree (for obvious reasons) but having bothered to look it up I find it’s called an Indian Bean Tree (though it originates from the US). I like to think it’s related to the runner bean plant anyway; and if I had an allotment I’d stick one of these in there just to freak out the neighbours.

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On reaching the end of Rotten Row we turn west again and follow South Carriage Drive down to Albert Gate. This short stretch of road leading onto Knightsbridge houses two embassies; France on the east side and Kuwait on the west.

On Knightsbridge itself we turn right and pass in front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The building was originally constructed in 1889 as an exclusive ‘Gentleman’s Club’ and was the tallest building in the capital, outraging local residents who petitioned unsuccessfully to have the number of floors reduced. Ten years after it opened a fire caused extensive damage and following restoration it re-opened in 1902 as the Hyde Park Hotel, considered the grandest in London at the time.   Tradition has it that Queen Victoria wouldn’t allow any form of advertising within the Park, and therefore insisted that the main entrance, with the hotel’s name above it, be moved from the Park side to Knightsbridge. As a corollary she decreed that the original entrance be preserved for Royal use, unless permission is otherwise granted by the Royal Household, a practice which has been upheld ever since. The Mandarin Oriental Group took over the property in 1996 and gave it a £57m makeover.

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Across the road is Harvey Nichols which traces its origins back to 1831 when one Benjamin Harvey opened a linen shop in a terraced house on this corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street. Over the next ten years it expanded into several adjoining properties and during this time James Nichols joined the business and eventually married Harvey’s niece. When Harvey died in 1850 his wife, Anne, went into partnership with Nichols and Harvey Nichols was formed. In 1889, by which time the Harveys’ son Benjamin Charles was the sole remaining partner, the block was demolished and a new purpose-built department store built over the next five years to the design of architect, CQ Stephens.  In 1985 Harvey Nic’s was bought by the Burton Group who sold it six years later to Hong Kong magnate, Dickson Poon, who in turn floated it on the Stock Exchange after a further five years. I ventured in and had a look around for the first time in a very long while; Menswear is stuck down in the basement then it’s three floors of Ladies’ fashion and ‘beauty’ products before Homeware on Level 4 and the Café and Foodmarket on 5. Wasn’t especially busy but then I guess even round here there’s a ceiling on the number of women prepared to pay £250 for a pair of jeans that are not so much distressed as given the full Psycho shower-scene treatment.

We turn the corner into Sloane Street and almost immediately fork off right into Basil Street. At no.16 is the former Knightsbridge Fire Station which closed up in 2014 after 107 years of service and is now of course undergoing conversion into luxury residences.

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Beyond the ex-Fire Station we veer left down Pavilion Road then fork right into Herbert Crescent before continuing south round Hans Place into Hans Street.

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Turn east briefly then head north again up Sloane Street. A short way up on the west side is the Danish Embassy and the kindest description I can find for this building is “jarringly modernist”.

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Three doors further up, at no.52, the Peruvian Embassy has a rather more typical home.

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On its own website Sloane Street describes itself as being “internationally recognised as one of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious shopping destinations.” Difficult to argue with that based on the sheer number of brand names lining either side of the road – from Armani to Versace via Dior, Gucci and Prada (to name but a handful). Makes Bond Street seem almost low rent.

Half way up this parade of glamorous excess we turn off to the right down Harriet Street and then follow Harriet Walk round to the bottom of Seville Street. After a quick visit to the latter we head south round the western side of Lowndes Square then circle round to return north up the east side. This brings us face to face with the brutalist monstrosity that is the Park Tower Hotel. Still it’s what’s on the inside that counts we’re always told and this inside will still set you back £300+ a night.

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William Street takes us back up to Knightsbridge where we turn eastward as far as Wilton Place. Go south for about 50m then head west into Kinnerton Street which quickly switches direction to continue southward. This is more of a mews than a street and has tried to cultivate a sort of urban village vibe (which makes a pleasant contrast to some of its neighbours) with a couple of bijou pubs and even a village store.

Kinnerton Street ends at Motcomb Street where a right turn takes us past what is almost certainly the poshest Waitrose in the country (if that’s not a tautology).

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Continue west into Lowndes Street then venture south on Cadogan Place, east on Pont Street and north on another stretch of Lowndes Street. At the top we turn back east onto West Halkin Street before heading south down Belgrave Mews West. This takes us past the back of the Austrian Embassy and through the middle of the complex of old and new that is the German Embassy. This is the new bit which fronts onto Chesham Place.

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The Embassy of Finland is opposite and Spain is on the corner with Belgrave Square.

Belgrave Square was created in the 1820’s for the 2nd Earl Grosvenor, later the Marquess of Westminster. The communal garden (from which the public are naturally excluded) is 2 hectares in size and has a Grade II listing in The Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. In the south western corner of the square is a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus, sculpted in 1992 and gifted by the people of Spain (yes every single one of them).

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We’ve only time to visit the west side of the square this time out and we’ve already noted that the Spanish Embassy is at no.24 and the German at 21-23. The Austrians have had their embassy at no.18 since 1866 when it was actually attributable to the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Foreign Service.

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Turning the corner at the top of the square we pass by the Embassy of Portugal before heading up Wilton Terrace.

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In Wilton Terrace we have the first blue plaque we’ve come across in quite a while – commemorating the residence of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900 – 1979). Earl Mountbatten (born Prince Louis of Battenberg) was an uncle of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s second cousin once removed. During the Second World War he was Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command. In 1947 he became the last Viceroy of India and from 1954 to 59 he served as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. It is particularly sad therefore that for those of my generation he will probably always be best remembered for the manner of his death – blown up by a Provisional IRA bomb planted in his fishing boat in County Sligo, Ireland.

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Well we’re just about at the end for today and we haven’t had a church yet so for those of you suffering withdrawal symptoms we’re going to finish at St Paul’s Church which we reach by cutting across Wilton Crescent and circling back up into Wilton Place. St Paul’s was consecrated in 1843 and was the first church in London to adopt the principles of the Oxford Movement, the so-called ‘Tractarians’ who wished to restore a sense of Catholic order and spirituality to the Anglican church. Accordingly the building is far more elaborately decorated and replete with Christian imagery and symbolism than your average C of E  parish church. Perhaps unsurprising therefore that former-Catholic, the Revered Richard Coles (of the Communards, Radio 4  and now Strictly Come Dancing fame) was curate here in the mid-2000’s.

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