Day 67 – Lambeth Bridge -Smith Square – Victoria Station

I know I’ve been guilty of false promises in the past but this genuinely is a short one, essentially just filling in the odd shaped gap between the area we covered last time and the south western limits of our original target zone. We’re starting out across Lambeth Bridge, heading up into the shadow of the Houses of Parliament then winding our way west as far as Victoria Rail Station. However, despite the relative brevity of today’s walk it’s not short on places of interest from the political to religious to theatrical.

To get to Lambeth Bridge we walk from Waterloo Station along the South Bank and the Albert Embankment.

The latter provides evidence that the yoof of London have been resorting to some old skool outdoor pursuits to keep them occupied during lockdown.

Also on the Embankment is a monument to The Special Operations Executive, secretly formed during WW2 to recruit agents to fight for freedom by performing acts of sabotage in countries occupied by the Axis powers. The bus on the plinth depicts Violette Szabo (1921 – 45), who was among the 117 SOE agents who did not survive their missions to France and was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre.

Lambeth Bridge is one of the more prosaic of Thames crossings in the capital. The current structure is a five-span steel arch, designed by engineer Sir George Humphreys and architects Sir Reginald Blomfield and G. Topham Forrest which opened in 1932. The only notable features are the pairs of obelisks at either end of the bridge topped with stone pinecones (though there is a popular urban legend that they are pineapples, as a tribute to Lambeth resident John Tradescant the younger, who is said to have grown the first pineapple in Britain).

Having crossed the bridge we make our way north through Victoria Tower Gardens towards the HoP. A short way in we pass the Buxton Memorial Fountain which was commissioned by Charles Buxton MP to commemorate the 1834 act of abolition of slavery in the British Empire. It was originally erected in Parliament Square in 1866 (to coincide with the ending of slavery in the USA) from whence it was removed in 1949 and only reinstated in its current location eight years later. At the outset there were eight bronze decorative figures of British rulers on it, ranging from the Ancient Briton Caractacus to Queen Victoria, but four were stolen in 1960 and four in 1971. They were replaced by fibreglass figures in 1980 but by 2005 these too had gone missing and the fountain was no longer working. Restoration work was carried out and the restored fountain was unveiled on 27 March 2007 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the Empire. Though, as you will note if you were paying attention, colonialist landowners were able to keep the slaves they already had for another 27 years.  

At the northern end of the gardens is a statue by Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917) entitled The Burghers of Calais. This is one of twelve casts of the work and was made in 1908 then installed here in 1914. The first cast. done in 1895, is in Calais itself. The sculpture represents an act of heroic self-sacrifice that was recorded as having taken place during the Hundred Years’ War. In 1346, King Edward III of England, after victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to the port of Calais.  Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs but starvation eventually forced the residents to parley for surrender. According to contemporary chronicler Jean Froissart, Edward offered to spare the people of the city if six of its leaders would surrender themselves to him, walking out wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first, and five other burghers joined with him. They expected to be walking to their deaths, but their lives were spared by the intervention of Edward’s queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband to exercise mercy by claiming that their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child.

Leaving the gardens we head west on Great Peter Street and then follow Lord North Street south to Smith Square (which is actually circular). Smith Square has long had an association with government departments and political parties (not really surprising given its location). Nobel House at no.17 was built in 1928, for the newly-formed Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). ICI leased it to the government in 1987, and it is currently headquarters for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. On the south side is Transport House which from 1928 to 1980 was Labour Party HQ before being taken on by the TGWU until the 1990s. It is now the headquarters of the Local Government Association. №s 32-34 served as Conservative Central Office between 1958 and 2003. It stood empty until 2007 when it was sold to developers. Irony of ironies, it’s now called “Europe House” and is home to the UK office of the European Parliament.

In the centre of Smith Square stands the imposing Grade I listed St John’s Church. Designed by Thomas Archer and completed in 1728, as one of the so-called Fifty New Churches, it is regarded as one of the finest works of English Baroque architecture. It is often referred to as ‘Queen Anne’s Footstool’ because legend has it that when Archer was designing the church he asked the Queen what she wanted it to look like. She kicked over her footstool and said ‘Like that!’, giving rise to the building’s four corner towers. In fact the towers were added to stabilise the building against subsidence. The church was hit by an incendiary bomb in 1941 and stood as a ruin for 20 years until a charitable trust took it on and restored it for use as a concert hall.

The eastern, southern and western approaches to the square are named Dean Stanley Street, Dean Bradley Street and Dean Trench Street. Not sure how Lord North Street fits into that sequence (incidentally Harold Wilson was once a resident). Or Gayfere Street which also leads north away from the square.

Resuming in a westward direction, on the corner of Great Peter Street and Tufton Street stands Mary Sumner House. This is the headquarters of the Mothers’ Union which was founded by the eponymous Mrs Sumner in 1876. The MU was, and still is, an Anglican Church-led organisation which aims to bring mothers of all social classes together to provide mutual support and to be trained in motherhood, from a vocationary perspective. Today the vast majority of its 3.6m members are to be found in India and Africa.

Halfway down Tufton Street we cut through Bennett’s Yard to Marsham Street then continue southward to Romney Street which takes us back to Tufton Street from where we drop down onto the Horseferry Road. We turn back up Marsham Street then take a left onto Medway Street and run down the side of the Home Office building to Monck Street. Opposite the northern end of Monk Street, on Great Peter Street, is the Indonesian Embassy.

Continuing west the next turning south off Great Peter Street is Chadwick Street which doglegs west itself past the Channel 4 building. Back on Horseferry Road I double back to loop round another stretch of Medway Street and on the way pass Michael Portillo who’s talking away on his mobile. (I’m almost 100% certain it’s him despite the absence of vivid pastel coloured trousers that would’ve clinched it – to be clear, he is wearing trousers just bog-standard navy blue ones). Return up Horseferry Road to the roundabout junction with Great Peter Street then complete a northerly circuit of Strutton Ground and St Matthew’s Street before resuming a westerly trajectory past The Grey Coat Hospital which confusingly is actually a C of E secondary school. The school was first established back in 1698 and moved into this building on Greycoat Place three years later. It was restored and extended, with the addition of wings in 1955.

Originally it was intended as an educational facility of 40 boys of charitable or orphaned status. Today that same number of boys have places in the sixth form with all other pupils being girls. Apparently, Ho Chi Minh worked as a labourer here in 1913 whilst a student in England

Next up is Greencoat Place home to the GreenCoat Boy pub which dates back to 1851. I called in here for a drink after one of the anti-Brexit demos only to find it occupied by a bunch of geezers in “Free Tommy” t-shirts. One of the quicker pints I’ve drunk.

From here we work our way up to Victoria Street via Greencoat Row, Francis Street and Howick Place round the back of the House of Fraser store, which I’m somewhat surprised to see still operating. Back when I worked in this area (late 1980’s) it was still called the Army & Navy Store. Army & Navy Stores originated as a co-operative society for military officers and their families during the nineteenth century. The society became a limited liability company in the 1930s and purchased a number of independent department stores during the 1950s and 1960s. Although the flagship store on Victoria Street was acquired along with the rest of the estate by HoF in 1973 it wasn’t until 2005 that it was refurbished and re-branded under the House of Fraser nameplate. We bypass the next section of Victoria Street on Wilcox Place and another stretch of Howick Place and on regaining it walk the 100 metres or so to the station.

Just outside the station, at the intersection of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Victoria Street, stands Little Ben, a cast iron miniature replica of Big Ben.This was manufactured by Gillett & Johnston of Croydon, and was erected in 1892. It was removed from the site in 1964, and restored and re-erected in 1981 by Westminster City Council with sponsorship from Elf Aquitaine Ltd “offered as a gesture of Franco-British friendship”.

Turn around 180 degrees and you’re facing the Victoria Palace Theatre which absent the pandemic would be continuing its run of the deservedly successful Hamilton. The theatre was built in 1911 on the site of the former Royal Standard music hall and was designed by the pre-eminent theatre architect of the era, Frank Matcham (1854 – 1920). Up until WW2 the theatre hosted a mix of plays, variety shows and revues, including a record-breaking (at the time) 1,046 performances of Me And My Girl. After the war, in 1947, the theatre became the home of The Crazy Gang (not Wimbledon F.C – the comedy sextet including Flanagan and Allen) for the next 15 years. After that the egregious Black and White Minstrel Show ran until 1970. In more recent times as the focus switched to narrative musicals the biggest hits have been Buddy and Billy Elliot. Most of Matcham’s original theatre remains but when Delfont MacIntosh Theatres added it to their stable in 2014 it underwent a major two year refurbishment which was completed in time for the opening of Hamilton in November 2017.

London Victoria station was originally built as two separate termini to serve mainline routes to Brighton and Chatham. The Brighton station opened in 1860 with the Chatham station following two years later and construction involved building the Grosvenor Bridge over the Thames. It became well known for luxury Pullman train services and continental boat train trips and as a departure point for soldiers heading to the continent during WWI. In 1898 work began to demolish the Brighton line station and replace it with an enlarged red-brick Renaissance-style building, designed by Charles Langbridge Morgan. At the same time the Chatham line station was extensively reconstructed and enlarged. All of this took until 1908 to be fully concluded. In 1923 the two stations came under the ownership of the newly formed Southern Railway and in 1948, following nationalisation, British Rail assumed control. In the 1980’s the station was redeveloped internally, with the addition of shops within the concourse, and above the western platforms (the “Victoria Plaza” shopping centre) and 220,000 square feet of office space. In a previous post I praised the fact that this was the first London mainline station to do away with the 30p entrance charge to its toilets. This time I am happy to report that, following refurbishment and Covid-related alterations, these are some of the finest public washroom facilities in the capital.

So after that masked visit to the station we complete the loop of Terminus Place, where the buses hang out in front of the station, then circumnavigate another temporarily “dark” place of entertainment, The Apollo Victoria Theatre, via Wilton Place and Wilton Road before heading south on Vauxhall Bridge Road. A rather different aesthetic proposition from the Victoria Palace, the Apollo was originally built in 1930 as a Super Cinema, with stage facilities for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres, who were part of Gaumont British. I think it’s fair to say, judging by the exterior, that it’s not that high up in the pantheon of 1930’s Art Deco cinema buildings though it is Grade II listed. However, the interior was described at the time as being like “a fairy palace under the sea” or “a mermaid’s dream of heaven”. After sympathetic restoration in recent years this alone is apparently worth the price of a ticket for Wicked. Despite being named the New Victoria Theatre when it opened it was soon being used exclusively for cinema releases. Saved from demolition in the 1950’s the New Victoria was spruced up in 1958 and began playing host to ballet and live shows, as well as film presentations. It was later operated by the Rank Organisation, who eventually closed it in 1975. After five years it was taken on by the Apollo Leisure Group and reopened as the Apollo Victoria. Initially playing host to a series of concerts by the likes of Shirley Bassey, Cliff Richard and Dean Martin, the Apollo began its successful espousal of full-scale West End musicals with The Sound of Music in 1981. In 1984 Starlight Express began a run that lasted for 18 years and now Wicked has clocked up 13 years and just prior to lockdown reportedly welcomed its 10 millionth visitor. I haven’t seen either of them.

Continue down VBR for about 200 metres then take a left and head back in the opposite direction up Kings Scholars Passage. Do another about face and take Carlisle Place south down to Francis Street before switching direction again to follow Morpeth Terrace and Ashley Place round to the front entrance to Westminster Cathedral. Carlisle Place and Morpeth Terrace are both lined with the style of redbrick mansion blocks that were so prevalent when we visited the Marylebone to St John’s Wood area some months back. This is the first time I’ve come across them this far south.

Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with the Anglican Westminster Abbey of course) is the largest Roman Catholic church in England and was designed in the Early Christian Byzantine style by the Victorian architect John Francis Bentley. The foundation stone was laid in 1895 and the fabric of the building was completed eight years later, a year after Bentley had died. For reasons of economy, the decoration of the interior had hardly been started by then and much of it remains incomplete to this day though it does contain some fine marble-work and mosaics. The fourteen Stations of the Cross alongside the outer aisles are by the controversial sculptor Eric Gill (though perhaps not so inappropriate given the Catholic Church’s recent travails). The Cathedral is currently only open for Mass (four times daily) and, to a limited extent, for private prayer between 2pm and 4pm. Since I didn’t want to visit under false pretences I decided not to wait around for the next opportunity. (So the interior shots below are again not my own).

On the east side of the Cathedral we head south yet again on Ambrosden Avenue and then go up and down Thirleby Road before crossing over Francis Street into Emery Hill Street. This takes us back down onto Greencoat Place from where we venture west again, calling in at Windsor Place and Coburg Place, before turning north up Stillington Street. Final photo-op of the day here – the Victoria Telephone Exchange building – about which I can tell you precisely nothing. Nice to end on a note of mystery.

Well almost, we just have to negotiate one last street, Willow Place, before we finish today’s excursion back on Vauxhall Bridge Road with a pint and a fish finger sandwich waiting at the White Swan.

Day 66 – Millbank – Vauxhall Bridge Road – Horseferry Road

Well it’s been a while, for obvious reasons, but I’m finally back pounding the pavements of the mighty capital albeit under the constraints of the “new normal”. In order to minimise use of public transport today’s walk isn’t contiguous with the previous outing back in March. Instead we’ve hopped off the train at Vauxhall and crossed the bridge of the same name to explore the area where the southern part of Westminster rubs up against Pimlico, home to Tate Britain, MI5, Channel 4 and the Royal Horticultural Society.

Vauxhall Bridge is looking a bit of a mess at the moment as it’s in the throes of three months’ of “critical maintenance” which will include addressing the corrosion and deterioration of the Edwardian structure’s metalwork and bearings. As such it’s closed to all vehicles other than southbound buses. In addition to this, just upstream from the bridge on the south side is one of the construction sites for the 25km long so-called “Super Sewer” which will finally prevent raw sewage flowing directly into the Thames when the 150 year old existing Victorian sewer system overflows. This is scheduled for completion in 2024. Let’s hope they manage to keep to the timetable better than Crossrail.

The present Vauxhall Bridge was opened in 1906 replacing the first iron bridge to be built across the Thames which was put in place a century earlier. The new bridge was originally intended to be built of concrete faced with granite in a neo-Gothic style. However when it was discovered that the clay of the riverbed at this point wouldn’t be able to support the weight of the concrete it was decided to impose a steel structure on the granite piers which had already been embedded. The bridge was built to a functional design by engineers, Sir Alexander Binnie and Maurice Fitzmaurice (yes I know). After something of an outcry from the architectural community,  Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy were appointed to design four monumental bronze statues each to be sited above the piers. On the upstream piers are Pomeroy’s AgricultureArchitectureEngineering and Pottery, whilst on the downstream piers are Drury’s ScienceFine ArtsLocal Government and Education each of them weighing approximately two tons (just look closely). 

At the north end of the bridge we turn right on Millbank towards Tate Britain but as I’m slightly early for my booked visit we can knock off Ponsonby Terrace and Ponsonby Place on the way.

Jeté, a bronze sculpture of a dancer, cast by Enzo Plazotta in 1975 which stands outside no.48 Millbank.

Standing opposite Tate Britain on the west side of Atterbury Street is Chelsea College of Arts. The college started life in 1895 as one of the schools of South-Western Polytechnic (which actually was in Chelsea). In 1908 this merged with the Hammersmith School of Art to form the Chelsea School of Art.  The school was renamed Chelsea College of Art and Design in 1989 and then acquired its present name in 2013. It only took over the site here on Millbank in 2005, the buildings having originally been built to house the Royal Army Medical College in 1907. Prior to that, Millbank Prison had occupied the site of both the college and Tate Britain for around 80 years. Amongst its alumni Chelsea includes Anish Kapoor, Steve McQueen, Chris Ofili and Mark Wallinger.

As mentioned, I had pre-booked my visit to Tate Britain in accordance with the current requirements. I had decided to forego the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition and follow the designated route devoted to British Art from 1930 onward despite the fact that there aren’t that many Britons among my favourite artists of the 20th century. The selection of highlights below therefore eschews the obvious Bacon’s and Hockney’s in favour of some lesser-known lights.

Milk and Plain Chocolate (1933) by Ben Nicholson (1894 – 1982). Nicholson’s second wife was the much more widely known sculptor, Barbara Hepworth. The Mondrian influence on his abstract work is clearly apparent here.

Morvah (1958) by Paul Feiler (1918 – 2013). German-born Feiler, he was sent to school in England in the thirties, was a member of the St Ives School of painters. Morvah is a village west of St Ives.

Family Group (1949) and King & Queen (1952-3) by Henry Moore. Immediately recognizable of course. Personally I much prefer Moore’s figurative work to the abstract stuff.

More Moores. Including the posthumous 2020 work “Masked Man” there on the right.

Inversions (1966) by Mary Martin (1907 – 1969). Not just picked in order to provide the reflection of the day.

As noted above, the institution first known as the National Gallery of British Art was built on part of the site of the Millbank Penitentiary, used as the departure point for sending convicts to Australia, which was demolished in 1890.
Sidney R.J. Smith was the chosen architect and his design with its grand porticoed entranceway and central dome resembling a temple remains the core of the building today. The statue of Britannia with a lion and a unicorn on top of the pediment at the Millbank entrance bluntly emphasised its function as a gallery of British art. The gallery opened its doors to the public in 1897, displaying 245 works in eight rooms from British artists dating back to 1790.

Since its original opening, the Millbank site has had seven major building extensions, doubling in size in its first 15 years. And by 1917 it had become responsible for the national collection of British art from 1500. The Tate Gallery name was officially adopted in 1932 and in 1955 it became wholly independent from the National Gallery.  A major extension in the north-east corner, designed by Richard Llewelyn-Davies opened in 1979 and in the same year, the gallery took over the adjacent disused military hospital, enabling the building of the new Clore Gallery, designed by Sir James Stirling and funded by the Clore Foundation. That opened in 1987 and went on to win a Royal Institute of British Architects award the following year.

On the right above is part of Steve McQueen‘s large-scale installation, Year 3. Every Year 3 class in London was invited to have its photograph taken by a team of specially trained Tate photographers. Participants included children from state primaries, independent schools, faith schools, special schools, pupil referral units and home-educated pupils.

Just beyond Tate Britain, heading downstream, is the Millbank Tower, which upon its construction in 1963 as the HQ for the Vickers engineering conglomerate, after which it was originally named, was the tallest building in the UK. It retained that pre-eminence only until the Post Office Tower opened the following year. It was designed by Ronald Ward and Partners and built by John Mowlem & Co. and unlike many of the high-rise buildings of that era has not only survived but attained Grade II listed status. Throughout its history, the Millbank Tower has been home to many high-profile political and other organisations. In the nineties the word Millbank became synonymous with the Labour Party which ran its 1997 General Election campaign from offices here and after the election relocated its HQ to the tower. After five years residence however, the £1 million per annum rent forced another move. The United Nations also had offices in the tower, but moved out in June 2003. Other public bodies such as the Environment Agency and the Audit Commission have continued to occupy the building. I had a brief temporary job here in the mid-1980’s with Whitehall Securities which was the holding company of Pearson plc, then the owner of Penguin Books and the FT.  The floor they leased in the tower basically just comprised the boardroom and the directors’ offices and dining room. My job was to assist the guy who organised the rota for the pool of drivers who ferried those directors to and from their homes and around the city. Different times eh ?           

30 Millbank which is part of the same sixties complex was used as campaign headquarters by the Conservative Party between 2006 and 2014 and more recently the Leave.EU and People’s Vote campaigns have had offices in the tower. In 2016, to the surprise of precisely no-one, a successful application was made to redevelop the complex as a luxury hotel and flats. Post-Covid I can’t but think that the developers might wish to renege on that option. Oh and that sculpture in the top right photo is “Momentum III” by Michael Spiller.

That’s enough of Millbank for now; we’ll make our escape via Thorney Street and then turn onto Page Street which takes us past the back of Burberry HQ to John Islip Street.

John Islip was Abbot of Westminster from 1500 until his death in 1532 and was buried in the chantry chapel he built at Westminster Abbey. We follow the street named after him all the way back to Vauxhall Bridge Road passing en route the rear of Tate Britain and the statue of John Everett Millais (1829 – 96). 

The statue was commissioned shortly after Millais’ death by a committee chaired by Edward, Prince of Wales and was created by Thomas Brock (1847 – 1922) who also designed the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace. A leading light of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Millais is today as well-known for his personal life, rescuing his wife Euphemia “Effie” Gray from her unconsummated first marriage to the critic (and Millais’ patron) John Ruskin, as he is for his art.

Once on Vauxhall Bridge Road (VBR) we swing right past the Embassy of Lithuania and the White Swan Pub (which I visited many times in the late Eighties) and loop round Causton Street and Ponsonby Place back to John Islip Street.

We take the first left, Cureton Street, then continue heading back north-east on Herrick Street, checking out St Oswulf Street and Bulinga Street before arriving at Marsham Street. This area between Tate Britain and Vincent Square is occupied by the Grade II listed red brick buildings of the Millbank Estate built between 1897 and 1902. The bricks were recycled from the demolished prison. The 17 buildings, comprising one of London’s earliest social housing schemes, are all named after painters; below are Rossetti and Ruskin Houses and Turner and Stubbs Houses. The estate has 562 flats and these days roughly half of them are private leases.

Marsham Street takes us back to John Islip Street where we continue on to another stretch of Page Street that links up with Erasmus Street which sends us back south east again. VBR is reached again via Cureton Street, Causton Street and Regency Street. At the junction of the latter two is our sole blue plaque of this outing.

Harry Mallin (1892 -1969) was a middleweight amateur boxer and officer with the Metropolitan Police. He won gold at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp and successfully defended the title four years later in Paris ( a feat unmatched by a British boxer until Nicola Adams came along). In 1937, he achieved the distinction of being the first British television sports commentator, when he gave commentary on two boxing matches broadcast by the BBC from Alexandra Palace.

Next we work our way north from VBR courtesy of Chapter Street, Douglas Street, Esterbrooke Street and Regency Street as far as Vincent Street. In between Vincent Street and Page Street stands the similarly Grade II Listed Grosvenor Housing Estate  designed by Edwin Lutyens (1869 – 1944) and built between 1929 and 1935.  The estate comprises seven U-shaped blocks faced with grey bricks and white render in a checkerboard pattern. I think influence of that man Mondrian might be in play here as well (Mondrian was an almost exact contemporary of Lutyens – 1872-1944).

Having circumnavigated the estate via Herrick Street, Page Street and Regency Street we wend our way back to VBR by means of Hide Place, Douglas Street and Osbert Street then criss-cross between VBR and Vincent Square along Stanford Street, Bloomburg Street and Udall Street. On the corner of the latter and Vincent Square stands what was the Infants Hospital from 1907 to 1995 but is now of course luxury apartments.

Vincent Square, all 13 acres of it, is owned and principally used as playing fields by Westminster School. The square contains a cricket pavilion, four football pitches (cricket pitches in the summer), about 10 tennis courts, and the groundsman’s house. It was developed in the 18th century on land originally known as Tothill Fields, and was named after William Vincent, a former Dean of Westminster and headmaster of Westminster School. Prior to that its uses had included acting as a burial pit for victims of the Great Plague. In the south and west corners are a couple of concrete-based basketball courts/five-a-side football pitches. The day I passed by coincided with the return to school of the majority of London pupils and so there were about seventy or so year 7s from the local comprehensive crammed into these spaces for their first games lesson. If you’re looking for a visual representation of the British class structure you couldn’t do much better than that.

More upscale accommodation is available at Vincent House on the west side of the square. This elegant 1939 building offers serviced rooms with accompanying facilities including a bar with snooker table and piano.

We detour off to complete a triangle of Fynes Street, Regency Street and Rutherford Street and a loop round Maunsel Street, Horseferry Road and Elverton Street before returning to the north(-ish) side of the square where we find, Lindley Hall, the HQ of the Royal Horticultural Society which also incorporates the Lindley Library which is based upon the book collection of English botanist John Lindley, comprising many rare books dating from 1514. The Hall was built in 1904 to host botanic art exhibitions held by the RHS and nowadays hosts events such as London Fashion Week as well as weddings.

We follow the west side of the square and Hatherley Street  back to VBR for a final time. At the junction of the two is a terracotta plaque to the above-mentioned William Vincent.

Rochester Row lead us back in a north-easterly direction towards Horseferry Road with diversions en route to take in Walcott Street, Vane Street, Rochester Street and Greycoat Street.

On the way we call in at St Stephen’s Church which was built by Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906), grand-daughter and heiress to the banker, Thomas Coutts. She intended it as a memorial to her father, Sir Francis Burdett, a former brilliant and radical Member of Parliament for Westminster. With the encouragement of her close friend, Charles Dickens, she chose to build it in a very poor area on the edge of the notorious Devil’s Acre on land donated by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey. The chosen architect was Benjamin Ferrey, a pupil of Pugin, and the foundation stone was laid in 1847.

On the building adjacent to the church on Rochester are several signs like the one to the left. “Ancient Lights” refers to the common law right to light which means that the owner of a building with windows that have received natural daylight for 20 years or more is entitled to forbid any construction or other obstruction that would deprive him or her of that illumination. 

Horseferry Road takes its name from the ferry which once used to cross the span of the Thames now occupied by Lambeth Bridge. These days it’s best known for being home to the original (and now London) headquarters of Channel 4 TV. It’s also the site of Westminster Coroner’s Court and the regimental headquarters of the London Scottish Regiment (where the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic took place). The Channel 4 building was opened on 6 July 1994 and was designed by Richard Rogers and Partners. It was the first major building they had designed since the Lloyd’s building (1978-1986).  The building, which consists of two four-storey office blocks connected to a central entrance block in an L shape, is finished in grey steel cladding, which is perforated by red-ochre steel struts. The precise colour of those struts was reputedly achieved by copying a sample of the paint used for the Golden Gate Bridge and provided by the City of San Francisco.

Having followed Horseferry Road down to the river all that remains is to walk back along Millbank to our starting point. One last important stop before we finish though is Thames House which occupies the block between Millbank and Thorney Street. Originally built in 1929-30 as offices for chemical giant, ICI, Thames House has since 1994 been the home of the UK Internal Security Service, more popularly known as MI5. The building was designed by Sir Frank Baines, of the Government’s Office of Works, in an ‘Imperial Neoclassical’ style.  High up on the frontage are statues of St George and Britannia sculpted by Charles Sargeant JaggerThe building has been Grade II listed since 1981. Reportedly there is an automated miniature monorail within the building which brings files up from the basement for the use of MI5 office staff.

Day 65 – Marylebone Road – Edgware Road – Seymour Place – Hyde Park Place

Today’s excursion is primarily concerned with the triangular area formed drawing a line along the Marylebone Road from Baker Street tube to the junction with the Edgware Road then down the latter to Marble Arch and back across to where you started. After completing that there was just time to hop over to the west side of Edgware Road a do a few streets to the north of Hyde Park. Looking at this map, it just (finally) occurred to me how much easier this same project would be in Manhattan where the streets are all numbered and laid out in a nice symmetrical grid.

Day 65 Route

We start out today on the Marylebone Road again, outside Old Marylebone Town Hall. This was designed by Sir Edwin Cooper (1874 – 1942), who also designed the impressive Port of London Authority building in Trinity Square, and opened in 1920. The building was listed in 1981 and in 2013 it was acquired from Westminster City Council by the London Business School. Following a redevelopment programme that involved the creation of a new glass and steel entrance structure linking the Town Hall building with its annexe, the Sammy Ofer Centre (named after £25m donor Idan Ofer) opened for, well, business in 2018. The main building continues to function as Westminster Registry Office in which capacity it has historically proved very popular with both members of the Beatles and wanna-be members of the Beatles. Paul McCartney has got hitched here twice; to Linda in 1969 and then for the third time, to Nancy Shevell in 2011 (I have to admit that that one passed me by). Ringo and Barbara Bach also tied the knot here as did Liam Gallagher and Patsit Kensit (of course they did) and Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffiths.

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Moving past the Town Hall we turn left into Upper Montagu Street then work our way back to the Marylebone Road via Salisbury Place, Thornton Place, York Street and Knox Street. Sandwiched between the latter and Wyndham Street is the suitably low-key London HQ of Philip Green’s Arcadia businesses. I guess these days it’s somewhat stretching a point to call it an empire.

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Down Wyndham Street to York Street again then back up Enford Street which emerges opposite the Landmark Hotel; which we covered last time out but not with an accompanying picture of the whole building so here it is in all its splendour.

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Back on the south side is the Grade II listed but derelict building that started out as the Free Hospital for Women and Children and Samaritan Institution when constructed in 1889. Fifteen years later it was renamed (slightly more snappily) as the  Samaritan Free Hospital for Women. After becoming part of the NHS in 1948 it survived for almost a further 50 years until it closed in 1997.

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Opposite, and somehow I missed this last time, is what remains of St Marylebone Grammar School. The school was founded in 1792 under the name of the Philological Society by Thomas Collingwood, under the patronage of the Prince Frederick, second son of George III, with the aim of helping “the heads of families, who by unexpected misfortune, have been reduced from a station of comfort and respectability.” It moved to Marylebone Road in 1827 and was accepted in trust by the London County Council in 1908 and renamed St Marylebone Grammar School. During the early Seventies SMGS was subject to a tug of war between the Labour controlled ILEA, who wished to merge it with a local secondary modern school, and the Conservatives who ran Westminster Council who didn’t. When Labour took over the Council in 1974 the Parents’ Association continued opposition to the scheme but in the end the ILEA simply refused to continue funding the school beyond 1981 and it was forced to close. Today the listed main original building forms part of the Abercorn independent prep school. Alumni of SMGS include pop star Stuart Goddard (aka Adam Ant), footballer John Barnes and writer Jerome K. Jerome

Continuing west the next left turning off of Marylebone Road is Seymour Place. Just  round the corner the Rwandan High Commission is the first of four HCs we’ll encounter today.

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Returning to York Street we switch eastward and then cut through Wyndham Place to Crawford Street. This is the site of St Mary’s Church which was built as one of the Commissioners’ churches in 1823–1824 and was designed by Robert Smirke (1780 – 1867) who was also responsible for the main block and façade of the British Museum.

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From Crawford Street we loop back up to Harcourt Street which runs on a diagonal north-west to Old Marylebone Road and is home to the Swedish Church (Svenska Kyrkan), otherwise known as Ulrika Eleonora Church, which dates back to 1912.

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For our final visit (for today) to the Marylebone Road we stroll westward in the shadow of the heavenly vision that is the Marylebone Flyover. As the plaque proclaims, the flyover was opened by Mr Desmond Plummer, leader of the Greater London Council, on 12th October 1967. 119m long and 17m wide it is crossed by around 80,000 vehicles each day. It was created as part of a proposed series of 1960s congestion-relieving initiatives forming the eastern end of the Westway elevated dual carriageway, one of the few schemes that actually came to fruition.

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Turning south on the Edgware Road we make an immediate left into Chapel Street where we find the second of the two tube stations named after the Edgware Road. This one serves the Circle, District and Hammersmith & City lines and was opened as part of the Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farringdon in 1863.

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At the end of Chapel Street we cross over the Old Marylebone Road and follow Homer Street down to Crawford Street. Running parallel to this, back up to the OMR, is Homer  Row where T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) once resided. American born poet and playwright Thomas Stearns Eliot moved into 18 Crawford Mansions with his wife, Vivienne, in 1916, shortly after the publication of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. At the time, Eliot was working as a teacher at Highgate School where he taught a young John Betjeman. He also wrote book reviews and lectured in the evenings at University College London to earn extra money. By 1920 the couple had managed to find accommodation close to Regent’s Park that was both more capacious and less insalubrious in its surroundings. Today two bedroom apartments in Crawford Mansions sell for more than £1m.

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Transept Street and Cabbell Street which both cross between OMR and Chapel Street are the settings for the impressive crimson-hued Oxford and Cambridge Mansions which date from 1885.

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These buildings seem a world apart from the chaos and exoticism of the Edgware Road with its shisha cafes and mobile phone/money transfer outlets. One of the few relics of bygone days is Robertsons Pawnbrokers at 199 on the west side. Established in 1797, Robertsons specialises in fine, pre-owned, jewellery, gold, diamonds, watches, antiques and silver, and artwork and since the 1960s has been part of Suttons & Robertsons, one of the largest pawnbrokers in the UK.

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Crawford Place takes us east back to Crawford Street which is one side of the square  that surrounds the Seymour Leisure Centre, the others being Seymour Place, Bryanston Place and Shouldham Street. Grade II listed Seymour Leisure Centre was originally built in 1935-37 as a public baths and laundry by architect Kenneth Cross for St Marylebone Borough Council. The building is faced in purple brick with red brick architraves and Portland stone dressings and the gabled roof is clad in Spanish tiles. One of very few public sports facilities in central London, SLC boasts a gym, sports hall, 30m pool and an indoor climbing wall.

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Besides Shouldham Street there are three more streets that bridge across from Crawford Place to Harrowby Street; Molyneux Street, Cato Street and Brendon Street. Opposite the start of Molyneux Street is 45 Crawford Place which is shared by the High Commissions of Belize and of Antigua & Barbuda and the street itself is home to the High Commission of Tonga.

Of much greater interest though is Cato Street, not that you would know it to look at it. For here it was that the perpetrators of the eponymous Cato Street Conspiracy met in 1820 to hatch their plot to assassinate Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool and all the members of his cabinet. The conspirators, enraged by the Peterloo Massacre and the repressive legislation enacted in its wake, styled themselves as the “Spencean Philanthropists” after the radical speaker Thomas Spence (1750 – 1814). They were led by Arthur Thistlewood, who had been involved with the Spa Fields riots of 1816, with George Edwards as his second in command. The conspirators planned to assassinate the cabinet while they were at a dinner hosted by Lord Harrowby. They would then seize key buildings, overthrow the government and establish a “Committee of Public Safety” to oversee a radical revolution. Unfortunately, this supposed dinner was a set-up courtesy of Edwards who, it transpired, was a government spy.

At 7:30 pm on the evening of February 23 the Bow Street Runners stormed the Cato Street hideout. Some conspirators surrendered peacefully, while others resisted forcefully, Thistlewood killing one of the police officers with a sword. He along with three others slipped out through the back window but they were arrested a few days later. During the trial, the defence argued that the statement of Edwards was unreliable and he was therefore never called to testify. Police did however persuade two of the men, Robert Adams and John Monument, to testify against other conspirators in exchange for dropped charges. Accordingly, most of the accused were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason. All sentences were later commuted to either hanging and beheading or transportation for life.  Thistlewood, Richard Tidd, James Ings, William Davidson and John Brunt were hanged at Newgate Prison on the morning of 1 May 1820.

On the stretch of the Edgware Road between the intersections with Harrowby Street and Nutford Place is a branch of Waitrose which occupies a former Woolworths store that first opened in 1914 but was done up in the modernist style seen below in 1936.

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On the actual junction with Nutford Place this forlorn and faded pub sign presents a telling juxtaposition of the past and present of this area.

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After a quick nod to Forset Street we proceed east on Nutford Place as far as Brown Street where we turn north. Off Brown Street is the pretty nondescript cul-de-sac of Castlereagh Street which, for the sake of symmetry, I am taking to be named after Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh (1769 -1822) who was one of the members of the aforementioned Lord Liverpool’s cabinet; Foreign Secretary in fact. Ulster-born Castlereagh was one of the prime movers behind the repressive government legislation that inspired the Cato Street conspirators and was directly named in Shelley’s vitriolic Masque of Anarchy poem written in response to Peterloo. He didn’t long survive his would-be assassins however, taking his own life in 1822 after being threatened with the exposure of his homosexual proclivities.

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Having arrived back on Harrowby Street we turn right and then head south on a further stretch of Seymour Place past the Sylvia Young Theatre School. Sylvia Young first opened her school as a full-time establishment on Drury Lane in 1981. It moved to this current location in a converted church in 2010. The impressive list of alumni features actors such as Keeley Hawes, Lily Cole, Billie Piper and Steven MacKintosh and singers Amy Winehouse, Rita Ora and Dua Lipa.

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From here, starting with George Street we continue dipping in and out of the Edgware Road all the way down to Marble Arch with Stourcliffe Street, Wythburn Place, Great Cumberland Place, Upper Berkeley Street, Hamden Gurney Street, Seymour Street and Bryanston Street providing the route. At 51-53 Edgware Road you can just about make out what remains of the Art Deco Gala Royal cinema. This opened as the Royal Cinema around 1938/9 then was taken over by Jacey Cinemas and Gala Film Distributers in the 1960s. Theirs was the partnership that introduced continental and art house film to London. As time went on the Gala Royal couldn’t compete with the big cinema companies of the West End and towards the end of its life, resorted to screening saucy sex romps before closing in 1979. The building briefly reopened showing Arabic films to cater for the growing Arabic population on Edgware Road but shut for good in 1981. It now houses what I presume to be an Egyptian restaurant, judging by the pictures of Mo Salah outside, called Shishawi.

On Upper Berkeley Street is the West London Synagogue which was consecrated in 1870. The main sanctuary, shown below, was built in the Neo-Byzantine architectural style by Davis & Emmanuel.

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So as noted at the beginning once we arrive at Marble Arch we nip across the Edgware Road and head west along the Bayswater Road. After a hundred metres or so we turn right and move away from Hyde Park up Stanhope Place where we come across the first of a string of Blue Plaques. Lily Elsie (1886 – 1962) was one of the most successful stage actresses of the Edwardian era with a particular forte for musical comedies including the first London production of The Merry Widow. Despite a multitude of male admirers, according the renowned dress designer of that age, Lucile, “She was absolutely indifferent to most men for she once told me she disliked the male character and considered that men only behaved tolerably to a woman who treated them coldly”. Sadly this didn’t prevent her from entering into an unhappy marriage that led to her exile from the stage.

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We turn down Connaught Place and at the end where it meets the Edgware Road is the house where Lord Randolph Churchill (1849 – 95), father of Winston of course, spent nine of the last twelve years of his relatively brief life. From the start of his political career Randolph was a champion of progressive Conservatism also known as “Tory Democracy”. As this philosophy gained ascendancy within the Tory party his star rose culminating in his appointment as Chancellor Of the Exchequer in Lord Salisbury’s second administration which began 1886. Unfortunately he had little talent for building alliances and gathering supporters within the Commons and lasted only a few months in the role before resigning in a row over cuts to the Armed Forces. He never made it back from the political wilderness and suffered from increasingly debilitating illness for the remainder of his life. It is considered a point of fact that he had been undergoing treatment for syphilis since his mid-twenties but it is still open to debate whether it was the mercury poisoning or an unrelated brain tumour that caused his demise at the age of 45.

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Next one is in Connaught Square, reached via Seymour Street, where the ballet dancer Marie Taglioni (1804 – 1884) lived for a couple of years at no.14. Swedish born, but Italian on her father’s side, Ms Taglioni’s main claim to fame is that she is credited with being the first ballerina to truly dance en pointe.

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Connaught Square is bordered to the north by Connaught Street which we cross over into Portsea Place where no.16 was once the home of the South African author, proto-feminist and ant-war campaigner Olive Schreiner (1855 – 1920) once lived. I have to confess to a total lack of familiarity with Ms Schreiner and the work for which she is reportedly best known, The Story of An African Farm, but her advocacy of socialism, pacifism and the rights of non-white races mark her as a woman distinctly ahead of her time.

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At the top of Portsea Place we take Kendal Street back to the Edgware Road for the very final time then make our way back south towards Hyde Park via Park West Place, Porchester Place, and Albion Street. The last of these has commemorations of two former residents, novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 – 1863) at no.20 and Sir Charles Vyner Brooke (1874 – 1963) at no.13. Thackeray is of course best known for his magnum opus Vanity Fair but he also penned The Luck of Barry Lyndon which was adapted for the screen by Stanley Kubrick in 1975. Thackeray was renowned as a man of idleness and gluttony (allegedly including an addiction to spicy peppers) which undoubtedly helped to hasten him into the grave at the age of 52. Vyner Brooke was the third and last White Rajah of the Raj of Sarawak. The Raj was established as an independent state located in the northwestern part of Borneo from a series of land concessions acquired by the English adventurer, James Brooke (Charles’ great uncle), from the Sultanate of Brunei in the mid-nineteenth century. As a major producer of oil, rubber and black pepper, Sarawak prospered for a century until the territory was invaded by the Japanese in WW2. After the war it became a British Crown Colony, the last one, before becoming part of Malaysia when it gained independence.

Last port of call for today is on Hyde Park Place. This part of London, north of Hyde Park was originally the site of the village of Tyburn which was infamous as a place of public hangings from 1196 to 1793. In 1571, the so-called Tyburn Tree was erected near where Marble Arch is currently situated. The “Tree” or “Triple Tree” was a novel form of gallows, consisting of a horizontal wooden triangle supported by three legs which meant that several prisoners could be hanged at once. Among those executed throughout the ages were the 105 martyrs of the Catholic Reformation. It was in commemoration of these martyrs that Mother Marie Adèle Garnier established the Tyburn Convent here in 1903, she and her  community having fled to England from France two years earlier on account of French laws prohibiting religious Orders. In so doing she fulfilled a prophecy of the 16th century Roman Catholic priest Father Gregory Gunne who in 1585, referring the execution four years earlier of St Edmund Campion, proclaimed “You have slain the greatest man in England and one day there, where you have put him to death, a religious house will arise, thanks to an important offering.”

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

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

Day 64 route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The cottages in question are at the far end

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

Day 63 route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Day 61 Route

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

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Looking East from London Bridge

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Looking north from London Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Old Billingsgate facing the Thames

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Day 59 Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Entrance to the Meakin Estate on Rothsay Street

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

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

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Who can resist a rack of brooms and mops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looks like someone got a bit carried away at evening class

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It may be 20 degrees but it’s still February so the bobble hat’s staying on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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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.

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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.