Day 72 – Sussex Gardens – Praed Street – Paddington Basin

After another lengthy hiatus we’re finally back on the beat and for this trip we’ve moved south from where we finished last time, across the Westway into the area between Paddington Station and the Edgware Road.

We start out on Bayswater Road and head north up Hyde Park Street into the heart of the Hyde Park Estate. This residential district was originally developed in the early 19th century on land owned by the Bishop of London. In 1836 ownership of the freeholds passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (who became the Church Commissioners in 1948). A series of redevelopments from the 1950’s through to the 1970’s saw a number of high density blocks of flats rise up amongst the remaining Victorian villas.

Having circled east on Norfolk Crescent we double back via Oxford Square to reach St John’s Church on Hyde Park Crescent. The church was designed by Charles Fowler (of Covent Garden Market fame) in a 13th century Gothic style and was consecrated in 1832. It has a long history of musical associations and in the 1960’s Beatles’ producer George Martin was invited to sort out the acoustics.

Having circumnavigated Cambridge Square we proceed northward on Southwick Street past a solitary representative of the “Dolphin” lamp posts familiar from the Thames Embankment. Unusually, in this case, the “dolphins” are white rather than black.

Taking a right turn onto Sussex Gardens we pass the Monkey Puzzle Pub. It’s pretty rare to see an example of Araucaria araucana these days so this one was a welcome sight. Also had a sudden memory flash as I recalled meeting an old school friend here for a drink many, many years ago despite this being an area that I have never had any familiarity with.

We resume a northward trajectory on Sale Place, passing Junction Mews, on the corner of which stands a house bearing the sign “Boatmen’s Institution”. In 1828, an organisation known as the ‘Paddington Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge among Canal Boatmen and Others’, purchased a stable and coach house with a view to creating a place of worship for the boatmen who transported goods along the Grand Union canal and their families. As Victorian Society generally looked askance at such families, partly because the boatmen worked on the Sabbath, it was difficult for them to gain acceptance in existing church congregations.

Sale Place is also home to this excursion’s launderette/laundrette of the day. Another example of the latter (mis)spelling.

We make a brief visit to the Edgware Road via Star Street before returning to Sale Place along part of St Michael’s Street. Then we continue north up on to Praed Street where we turn right again just as far as Harbet Road. On the corner here is another pub conversion that gives a flavour of the changing tenor of this part of London.

Harbet Road affords access into Merchant Square, a development built around the eastern end of the Paddington Basin. The first of the six buildings for which planning permission was granted was completed in 2013 and three others have been completed since. The remaining two, including 1 Merchant Square which, at 42 storeys, will be the tallest building in the City of Westminster, are still under construction.

Cutting back on to Harbet Road we swing up to Harrow Road in the shadow of the Marylebone Flyover. We skirt the latter as far as North Wharf Road then follow this as far as Hermitage Street which takes us up to the eastern end of Bishop’s Bridge Road. The bridge itself crosses over the final stretch of the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal which runs from Little Venice down into the Paddington Basin. The Paddington Canal was opened in 1801, with the Basin chosen for its strong onward transportation links. Large furniture depositories arose around the Paddington Basin and its wharves were soon handling huge quantities of building materials, coal, hay, pottery and for the return journey, manure for agriculture and household rubbish to fuel brickyard kilns. However, its heyday was short-lived; within twenty years the Regents Canal had been built allowing goods to be transported from the Grand Union through to the River Thames and the Port of London rendering the Paddington Basin largely redundant.

We drop down from the bridge onto Canalside Walk with its array of modern eateries then nip across into North Wharf Road again following this round to the western end of the Paddington Basin which was redeveloped earlier in the 21st century. On the way back to Merchant Square we pass the Fan Bridge and a statue of Sir Simon Milton, who as Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning during Boris Johnson’s Mayoral administration, was largely responsible for overseeing the regeneration of the Basin.

Exiting Merchant Square onto Praed Street we turn back west as far as the junction with South Wharf Road. Here stands the one-time Grand Junction Arms, a splendid representative of the former estate of the Truman, Hanbury, Buxton brewing company (1666-ish to 1988). If you look closely you can just about make out the gargoyles. These days it operates as the Fantasia Grill House.

South Wharf Road runs through the middle of St Mary’s Hospital. To the north, abutting the Paddington Basin stands the modern Queen Mother Wing which was opened in 1987 and subsumed the services of Paddington General Hospital.

The Messenger, by Allan Sly

Across the road is the private Lindo Wing which opened in November 1937, having been financed by businessman and hospital board member Frank Charles Lindo, and has witnessed numerous royal and celebrity births. Amongst these being Princes William and Harry, musicians Elvis Costello and Seal and actor Kiefer Sutherland. The artworks on the windows were created as part of a 2012 exhibition by Julian Opie, perhaps best known for the cover of Blur’s “Best of” compilation in 2000.

At the western end of South Wharf Road we turn left, where, because of the Paddington Square redevelopment on the east side of Paddington Station, the street configuration is different from that shown on either my printed map or Google maps. Since July 2020 a new road called Tanner Lane has fomed the connection with Praed Street and Winsland Street. It’s named after Sir Henry Tanner (1849–1935) the architect who designed the former Royal Mail sorting office on London Street which was demolished in 2018 to accommodate the Renzo Piano designed new development. During its period of vacancy from 2010 the Sorting Office moonlighted as a culture venue, hosting Punchdrunk’s 2013, A Drowned Man, and acting as a staging post for the 2012 Olympic Games. One small silver lining to its destruction is the view temporarily afforded of Paddington Station’s majestic Tournament House (1935).

Moving back east along Praed Street we approach the The Clarence Memorial Wing, of St Mary’s Hospital which was designed by Sir William Emerson and opened in 1904.

It was here that Alexander Fleming (1881 – 1955) discovered penicillin by happy accident in 1928. On 3 September that year he returned to his laboratory having spent a holiday with his family at Suffolk. Before leaving for his holiday, he had inoculated staphylococci on culture plates and left them on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On his return, he noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphylococci immediately surrounding the fungus had been destroyed, whereas other staphylococci colonies farther away were normal, famously remarking “That’s funny”. He was able to identify the mould as belonging to the genus Penicillium. Fleming’s laboratory has been restored and incorporated into a museum about the discovery and his life and work, however the museum has not as yet re-opened post-pandemic.

On the other side of Norfolk Mews is the original incarnation of St Mary’s Hospital in Norfolk Place which was designed by Thomas Hopper in a classical style. It first opened its doors to patients in 1851, the last of the great voluntary hospitals to be founded. Among St Mary’s founders was the surgeon Isaac Baker Brown, a controversial figure who performed numerous clitoridectomies at the London Surgical Home, his hospital for women. Since 2008, St Mary’s has been operated by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the Norfolk Place site now forms one of the campuses of Imperial College’s Faculty of Medicine.

Beyond St Mary’s we turn south off Praed Street into Junction Place then swiftly make a right into another section of St Michaels Street. At the junction with Bouverie Place the pub named after Alexander Fleming sits as inactive as the museum. The Iraqi restaurant opposite appears to be flourishing on the other hand.

A combination of Star Street, Rainsford Street, Southwick Mews and Norfolk Place return us to Praed Street where we head west as far as Paddington Station before turning south again on London Street and almost immediately veering off into Norfolk Square. This is one of the few squares in the vicinity accessible to the public, which might be connected to the fact that the majority of the mid nineteenth century stuccoed terrace houses that surround it are now mid-range hotels (though that might be a slightly generous description). In any event nos. 2 to 22 have a Grade II listing.

After a circuit of the square, London Street drops us down onto Sussex Gardens. The section from here east as far as Radnor Place is equally well endowed with, well let’s call them budget plus, hotels.

Just off Radnor Place, Radnor Mews is a rare example of a mews with vehicle access at either end. There was a certain amount of rebuilding following WWII bomb damage but a number of original buildings survive nearer to the Sussex Place entrance.

On the other side of Sussex Place is Bathurst Mews which like Radnor Mews originally provided stables for the larger properties in Gloucester Square and Sussex Gardens. However, unlike Radnor and, indeed, any other mews in London, Bathurst is still home to working stables. Hyde Park Stables and Ross Nye Stables are both at the western end of the Mews from where they offer horseback excursions into Hyde Park. As you can see below left, some of the residents at the eastern end have excelled themselves on the horticultural front.

We exit Bathurst Mews onto Bathurst Street the proceed east through Sussex Square, Clifton Place, Gloucester Square and Somerset Crescent all the way back to Hyde Park Crescent and St John’s Church. Then we wend our way back west via Southwick Place, Hyde Park Square and Strathearn Place to arrive at today’s pub of the day, The Victoria on the corner with Sussex Place. A beautiful Victorian pub, dating from around 1864, The Victoria is a Grade II listed building with an interior than retains its original counter with panelled bays divided by fluted pilasters and a regency-style fireplace. The Theatre Bar, upstairs, has ornate fittings imported from the Gaiety Theatre about 1958. It was Fuller’s pub of the year in both 2007 and 2009 and does a mean club sandwich.

Suitably refreshed, we crack on with the last leg of today’s journey, joining Hyde Park Garden Mews from Sussex Place then swinging round into Hyde Park Gardens via Brook Street. Hyde Park Gardens is home to the Sri Lankan consulate which takes up several buildings.

Beyond the consulate we turn right into Clarendon Place which drops us onto the Bayswater Road. On the way we pass Chester House designed and lived in (from 1926 to 1960) by, our old friend, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960). GGS is, of course, the man who brought us the red telephone box and both Battersea and Bankside Power Stations (the latter now Tate Modern).

We follow Bayswater Road west as far as Westbourne Street from where detour off to loop round Stanhope Terrace, Sussex Square and Bathurst Street before continuing up to the western end of Sussex Gardens. Turning east we circumnavigate Talbot Square, another one with rare public access to its gardens, before making our way back to Praed Street via Spring Street and Conduit Place.

We end today’s excursion opposite Paddington Station, which has seen enormous changes in recent times due to its participation on the Elizabeth Line. But we’ll delve into that next time.

Day 71 – Maida Vale – Little Venice

Switching our attention back to the north west for this excursion which, roughly speaking, covers the triangular area formed by Maida Vale, Warwick Avenue and Edgware Road tube stations. The name Maida Vale apparently derives from a pub called The Maida which formerly stood on Edgware Road near the Regent’s Canal. The pub was named in recognition of General Sir John Stuart, who was made Count of Maida, a town in Calabria, by King Ferdinand IV of Naples, after victory at the Battle of Maida in 1806. In contrast, the somewhat over-ambitious soubriquet, Little Venice, only became popularised in the latter half of the 20th century.

Starting point today is Maida Vale tube station which opened in June 1915 and consequently was the first station to be staffed entirely by women.

We turn right into Elgin Avenue which merges into Abercorn Place and then proceed as far as the junction with Hamilton Terrace. Here stands St Mark’s Church, consecrated in 1847 when this area was on the fringes of urban London. In 1870, Canon Robinson Duckworth became parson. Duckworth’s main claim to fame is that he introduced Alice Liddell, the daughter of his friend, Charles Liddell, to the Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, on a boating trip. Duckworth himself appears in the foreword of an early edition of the Wonderland as ‘The Duck’ and Alice Through the Looking Glass is thought to have been written in the his vicarage.

Like neighbouring, and equally affluent, St John’s Wood, Maida Vale is home to an architecturally diverse array of grand residential mansion blocks. The ones here generally predate those in the former, being mainly of late Victorian and Edwardian vintage.

You don’t employ common or garden removal men round here – you need Master Removers.

From St Mark’s we head south down Hamilton Terrace as far as Hall Road where we turn back west. On the corner of Hall Road and Maida Vale (A5) is the massive Cropthorne Court apartment block, built 1928-30 (one of the few from that era in this locale) and designed by (our old friend) Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960). Flats here were originally let out for between £375 and £425 per annum. The building was Grade II listed in 2003 and, fittingly, it has its own telephone box.

We turn up Maida Vale back towards Elgin Avenue and at no. 32 find a blue plaque commemorating the actor and music hall star, Lupino Lane (1892 – 1959). Born in Hackney, Lane, whose cousin was the screenwriter/director/actress Ida Lupino, started out as a child performer known as ‘Little Nipper’ and went on to make numerous appearances in theatre, film and variety. He moved to America in the 1920’s and forged a successful career in screen comedies before returning to England in 1929. In a rather neat segue from the last post, he is perhaps best known for playing Bill Snibson in the play and film Me and My Girl, which popularized “The Lambeth Walk”.

Also on Maida Vale is the gated Vale Close with its mock tudor pretensions and throwback attempts to keep the riff-raff at bay.

Going back to my point about the diversity of architectural styles there is a distinct Italianate feel to the brick-built parade on Elgin Avenue.

And on Lanark Road, which we follow next there’s another reminder of the social hierarchy that still feels implicit in these parts.

Sutherland Avenue is home to the Maida Vale Everyman Cinema which was purpose built in 2011.

Randolph Avenue takes us back to Maida Vale tube station where we turn left on to Elgin Avenue this time, proceeding as far as Ashworth Avenue which runs down Lauderdale Road. On the corner here sits the Lauderdale Road Synagogue which is one of the main centres for London’s Sephardi Jewish community. The Sephardi Jews first arrived in England in the 18th century fleeing the inquisitions taking place in Spain and Portugal. Originally, they congregated in the East End but by the late 19th century many wealthier members of the community had moved across to the new north-west suburbs. As a consequence, Lauderdale Road Synagogue was opened in 1896, constructed in the Byzantine style by architects Davis & Emanuel.  From 1887 to 1917 the Sephardi community was led from here by Haham Rabbi Moses Gaster who played a major role in the promotion of Zionism in the British Jewish community and at whose home the first meeting to plan the Balfour Declaration was held. As with the synagogue near Lord’s which we encountered a couple of posts back there was security on site to encourage me to move on, though I think my explanation for my interest just about convinced them.

Turning left, we are soon at five-way roundabout from where we take the first exit anti-clockwise and revisit Sutherland Avenue heading west. This is probably a good point to note just how wide some of the streets are round here (compared to nearly everywhere else in London). Many of them have parking on both sides (and sometimes in the middle) and still plenty of space for two-way traffic flow.

We drop south on Castellain Road then cut through Formosa Street to Warrington Crescent. On the way we call in at the Grade II listed Prince Alfred pub which was built in 1856 and is justifiably on the Campaign for Real Ale’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. Inside it retains its original “snob screens”, a Victorian invention comprised of an etched glass pane in a movable wooden frame which was intended to allow middle class drinkers to see working class drinkers in an adjacent bar but not to be seen in return. The Prince Alfred was also featured in David Bowie’s Grammy Award-winning short film “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” (1984).

Warrington Crescent adds to the architectural mosaic with its Regency-style white painted stucco terraced town houses reminiscent of those we saw in Belgravia and Pimlico.

At no.75 there’s a blue plaque in honour of David Ben Gurion (1886 – 1973), the first Prime Minister of the state of Israel.  Ben-Gurion rose to become the preeminent leader of the Jewish community in British-ruled Mandatory Palestine from 1935 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. He served as Prime Minister up to 1963 save for a short break in 1954–55. He led military operations during the first Arab-Israeli war which took place almost immediately following the declaration of independence and was instrumental in arranging for the extraction of Adolf Eichmann from Argentina by Mossad in 1960.

Back on the roundabout at the top of Warrington Crescent stands another impressive Grade II listed Victorian pub, the Warrington Hotel, built just a year later than its near neighbour. The Warrington has also retained its colourful original features including mosaic floors, stained glass windows, pillared porticos and art nouveau friezes.

On the other side of the hotel we turn southward again first on Randolph Avenue then on Randolph Crescent. At the end of the latter we turn right on Clifton Gardens and follow this back to the lower end of Warrington Crescent before taking Warrington Gardens to cross behind St Saviour’s church (which we’ll come to in a minute). Now we’re back on Formosa Street which links into Bristol Gardens. The houses on the right side of the latter have a distinctly Moorish feel to them. I came across a picture of these same houses from the early 1970’s that illustrate just how far up in the world this area has come in the last fifty years.

Next we follow Clifton Gardens, Blomfield Street and Warwick Place round to Warwick Avenue and head north up to the eponymous tube station. Also dating from 1915, Warwick Avenue has no surface building, the station being accessed by two sets of steps to a sub-surface ticket hall. It was one of the first London Underground stations built specifically to use escalators rather than lifts. 

As you can see. the Catholic Church of St Saviour stands beyond the station. The current church was built in 1976 replacing a gothic structure dating from 1855 which was demolished in 1972. The original church was deemed too large for its 1960’s congregation and so the site was redeveloped to incorporate a block of flats behind a new brick church building designed by architects Biscoe and Stanton. Local interest groups had lobbied to retain the original tower, as it was felt a vertical feature was desperately needed in the area as Warwick Avenue is one of the broadest streets in London. However, the proposal was ignored in favour of the fiberglass spire we see today.

We retrace our steps eastward on Clifton Gardens then swing round Randolph Road and Clarendon Gardens back onto the southern section of Lanark Road and follow this back up to Sutherland Avenue. Then we return past Cropthorne Court on another stretch of Maida Vale that incorporates two more enormous mansion blocks, Clive Court and Rodney Court, the former dating from 1923 and the latter built in 1915.

Clive Court (1923)
Rodney Court (1915)

We run down as far as Clifton Road which has a suitably upmarket parade of shops including a Village Butcher’s. There’s also yet another red phone box here. This area must have the highest density of them in London.

From Clifton Road we take a peek at Lanark Place and Clarendon Terrace and then work our way down to the Regent’s Canal via Randolph Avenue. Blomfield Road runs along the north side of the Canal through so-called Little Venice. As noted in a previous post the 8.6 mile long Regent’s Canal links the Paddington arm of the Grand Union canal in the west with Limehouse Basin in the east. Construction of the canal formed part of architect John Nash’s grand redevelopment of central north London for George IV (conceived when the latter was still Prince Regent). The first section from Paddington to Camden Town, which includes where we are today, opened in 1816 and included a 274 yard long tunnel under Maida Hill.

We follow Blomfield Road alongside the canal as far as Westbourne Terrace Road just beyond the triangular basin where the Puppet Theatre Barge is moored. The Puppet Theatre Barge began life as a marionette theatre touring company called Movingstage, founded by Juliet Rogers and Gren Middleton in 1978. Several years later, the company acquired a 72ft-long Thames lighter and converted it into a permanent puppet theatre. The stage was specially designed to put on shows using string marionettes, and the seating raked to ensure a good view from every seat. Initially, the Barge was based in Camden Lock and toured the Grand Union Canal in the summer. Then in 1986, it moved its winter base to Little Venice and each summer went up the River Thames, sometimes as far as Oxford.

In the middle of the Basin sits Browning’s Island, named for the poet Robert Browning (1812 – 1889) who lived on Warwick Crescent for most of the latter part of his life. Browning is also credited with being the first person to coin the name Little Venice though there are those who maintain that Lord Byron beat him to it by several years. The island is popular with waterfowl including cormorants, swans, Egyptian Geese and various species of duck.

Westbourne Terrace Road starts with a bridge across the canal which we use to get to Delamere Terrace which runs west parallel to the southern canalside. On the corner here is the Canal Cafe Theatre which holds the dubious privilege of being the only venue to have staged a piece of work written by myself – albeit just a sketch in a 2016 comedy revue. Operating here since the 1970s, the theatre is better known for hosting Newsrevue, the world’s longest running live comedy show (Guinness Book of Records certified) which in March 2020 was forced to close for the first time in over 40 years by the Covid pandemic.

A westward circuit comprised of Chichester Road, Bourne Terrace, Blomfield Villas and Delamere Street takes us through the least salubrious section of today’s walk and deposits us back on Westbourne Terrace Road where we turn back north and then follow Warwick Crescent east beside the south side of the basin. At the end of Warwick Crescent we switch briefly onto the Harrow Road (A404) before turning up Warwick Avenue again. This section of Warwick Avenue skirts Rembrandt Gardens which abut the third side of the basin triangle. A shout out here to Westminster Council for maintaining in the gardens an example of that sorely endangered species, the Public Convenience. Running east from the bridge south of the canal is Maida Avenue which at no. 30 boasts a blue plaque in commemoration of the one-time Poet Laureate, John Masefield (1878 – 1967). Masefield lived here from 1907 to 1912 during which time his wife Constance, who was his senior by 12 years, gave birth to their second child and he wrote his first narrative poem, Everlasting Mercy.

Also on Maida Avenue is the imposing Victorian Gothic-styled Catholic Apostilic Church. This was built in 1891-93 to a design of architect John Loughborough Pearson (1817 – 1897) who worked on around 200 ecclesiastical buildings during a fifty plus year career. The Catholic Apostilic Church, confusingly, was actually a Protestant Christian sect which originated in Scotland around 1831 and later spread to Germany and the United States. Its founder, Edward Irving, was still a minister of the Church of Scotland at the time but was subsequently expelled. Despite his death within four years of its establishment the CAC continued as a going concern until the early part of the 20th century with 200,000 members at its peak. Since then it has been in gradual decline. According to sources, this building, which was Grade I listed in 1970 was home to the last active British congregation as of 2014; though on the day I visited it was completely locked-up with no signs of life.

Maida Avenue runs right up to the Edgware Road (and the canal tunnel I mentioned earlier). We don’t spend long on Edgware Road, turning right almost immediately into Compton Street then following Hall Place, Cuthbert Street and Adpar Street south to Paddington Green. Here we head west past City of Westminster College (originally founded as Paddington Technical Institute in 1904) and St Mary’s Church. The college building was designed by Danish architects, Schmidt Hammer Lassen. The church, the third on this site, was built in 1791 by John Plaw and sits within its own extensive graveyard which contains fine monuments (by renowned sculptors such as Physick, Derby and Blore) to local luminaries including Peter Mark Roget (the Thesaurus man) and Sarah Siddons, actress.

From St Mary’s Square we turn north and make a loop of St Mary’s Terrace, Park Place Villas, Howley Place and Venice Walk before returning past the church on the Harrow Road, in the shadow of the Westway.

Paddington Green is home to a statue of the aforementioned Sarah Siddons (1755 -1831) who was acclaimed for her many performances in the role of Lady Macbeth and who, reputedly, fainted at the sight of the Elgin Marbles. She also played Hamlet on several occasions, illustrating that gender-blind casting is far from a purely 21st century phenomenon.

On the east side of the Green stands the Grade II Listed former Paddington Green Children’s Hospital which is now a residential apartment block. And in its south-east corner, reached via a circuit of Church Street, Edgware Road and Newcastle Place, two more red phone boxes make it at least ten in total for today.

Just behind where that right hand photo was taken lies Paddington Green Police Station, as was. Built in 1971 it became infamous as a location where high-profile terrorist suspects were brought for interrogation. In 1992 a phone box outside the station was blown up by the IRA (not one of the ones above obviously). In 2007, a joint parliamentary human rights committee stated that the station was “plainly inadequate” to hold such high-risk prisoners and despite subsequent major refurbishment its days were numbered. It closed permanently in 2018 and then in February 2020 was occupied by anarchist group the Green Anti-Capitalist Front, who said they intended to turn the space into a community centre. They also discovered that since its closure the station had been used for firearms training for police and special forces.

From here it’s just a few steps to Edgware Road tube station and we’re done for this time.

Day 70 Part 2 – Black Prince Road – Lambeth Road – Albert Embankment

On to the second leg of this excursion and this time we’re knocking off the triangle of streets bounded by Black Prince Road, Kennington Road and Lambeth Road then heading back down the Albert Embankment to Vauxhall station.

We start on the Albert Embankment at White Hart Dock. The origins of a dock and slipway at this site can be traced back to the 14th century. The present structure was built c.1868 as a parish dock when the Albert Embankment was constructed by the Metropolitan Board of Works to improve flood defences. Several other inland docks were built to enable continued access to the river for firms such as the Doulton Pottery (see below) but now only White Hart Dock remains. It was used to hold an Emergency Water Supply during the Second World War and the faded EWS logo can still be seen on the brickwork of the western wall. In 1960 the Borough of Lambeth sought to close White Hart Dock as it had “not been used by commercial craft for very many years” but the proposal wasn’t implemented and the Dock just fell dormant and largely unnoticed. Then in 2009, the Dock was cleaned and refurbished and Handspring Design were commissioned by Lambeth BC to create the timber sculpture now seen in and around it. Made in Sheffield from sustainably sourced English Oak, the arches and boats celebrate the meeting of land and river and remind us of the site’s long history.

There is also a plaque here (possibly the wordiest you’ll find in the whole of London) commemorating the victims of the mid-nineteenth century Lambeth Cholera Epidemic. During 1848 and 1849 at least 1,600 nearby residents (who took their water directly from the river) died of cholera and were buried in unmarked graves. It was by studying this tragedy and the 1854 outbreak in Soho (which we covered many moons ago) that Dr John Snow (1813 – 1858) was able to conclude that cholera was a waterborne disease rather than one transmitted through the air.

Heading away from the river on Black Prince Road named as you will recall (if you were paying attention last time) after Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III. Edward junior never made it onto the regnal throne as he died of dysentery at the age of 46. Instead, on the death of Edward III, succession passed to the Black Prince’s 10 year old younger son, Richard (II). At the junction with Lambeth High Street stands the formidable Southbank House which is the only surviving part of the Doulton Pottery complex that dominated this area from the early Victorian era until the mid 1950’s. This Grade II listed gothic extravaganza with its striking pink and sandy-coloured terracotta ornamentation was built in 1876-78, probably to a design of architect, Robert Stark Wilkinson. The building housed the pottery’s museum and art school as well as serving as company HQ. During WW2 the pottery’s industrial buildings presented an easy target for German bombers and the resulting destruction hastened the process of transferring production facilities to Stoke-On-Trent which had begun in the the 1930’s. New clean air regulations finally sounded the death knell for the Lambeth factory in 1956 and demolition of all the buildings apart from the HQ followed shortly thereafter.

Beyond Southbank House and after passing under the railway we turn left into Newport Street. Adjacent to the railway, the Beaconsfield Contemporary Art Gallery occupies the southern (girls) wing and only remaining part of the former Lambeth Ragged School. This was built 1849-1851 by Henry Beaufoy, whose family wealth came from the vinegar trade, in memory of his late wife, Eliza. Originally the plot had been owned by South-Western Railway and in 1903 the decision was made to sell the site back to them. One year later most of the school was knocked down when the railway was widened. Network Rail still own the freehold for the site. Beaconsfield took over the lease from the London Fire Brigade in 1994 and worked with LKM Architects to restore the building and transform it into a contemporary art space. 

We turn left after the gallery, back under the railway, along Whitgift Street, named after John Whitgift who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1583 to 1604. At the end we turn right into Lambeth High Street past the Windmill pub, renowned for its extensive selection of rums apparently.

The building behind the pub was formerly the headquarters of the London Fire Brigade and looking back down Lambeth Hight Street towards the rear of Southbank House there is some vestigial evidence of this.

To the east of Lambeth High Street at its top end lie the Old Paradise Gardens. These public gardens were opened in 1884 on the site of what had been the burial ground for St Mary’s Church from 1703 to 1853. The old gravestones can still be seen around the perimeter of the gardens, the walls of which are Grade II listed. Originally known as Lambeth High Street Recreation Ground the gardens were renamed in 2013 following refurbishment.

Just beyond the gardens is Old Paradise Street which takes us east to the top end of Newport Street home to the eponymous gallery, created through the conversion of three listed buildings, which were purpose-built in 1913 to serve as scenery painting studios for the booming Victorian theatre industry in London’s West End. With the addition of two new buildings, the gallery now spans half the length of the street. It opened in 2015 for the purpose of displaying works from Damien Hirst’s private art collection to the public free of charge. The current exhibition, which runs until 12 December 2021, features the hyper-realistic paintings of Richard Estes, a mixture of vignettes of American urban life and panoramic landscapes.

The railway arches on the other side of the street are all part of the Pimlico Plumbers empire.

Beyond these, heading south again, we’re back on Black Prince Road and moving eastward into what was one of the largest conglomerations of social housing in the capital. Or at least it was when the various apartment blocks and towers where originally constructed in the late sixties and early seventies. These days there is a significant interspersal of private ownership. We make an immediate loop of Lambeth Walk, Lollard Street and Gibson Road (and we’ll come on to the cultural resonance of the former later on) to start with. Then further east on Black Prince Road, Marylee Way provides the main route into the Ethelred Estate. In 2012 the residences in Ethelred and its sister estates, Thorlands and Magdalen, still owned by Lambeth Council (around 1,300 leaseholds and tenancies) were transferred to Housing Association, WATMOS. This was after a ballot of tenants in which 51.1% voted in favour. Hopefully it’s working out better than Brexit.

The estates are to the north of Black Prince Road. Of note on the south side is the Beaufoy Institute, built in 1907 by Henry’s nephew, Mark Hanbury Beaufoy, as a technical school for boys and also to replace his uncle’s Ragged School which had been torn down three years earlier. The Beaufoy vinegar-making dynasty began in 1741 when the family switched from the distilling of gin, apparently horrified by the damage it caused and its toxic ingredients. Their malt vinegar was used on ships as a ‘fumigator, antiseptic and preservative’ and the Beaufoys acquired a lucrative Navy contract. They also produced ‘sweets’ or ‘mimicked’ wines from raisins with added sugar and by 1872 were advertising cordials and non-alcoholic drinks as well. The Beaufoy vinegar works were bombed in 1941, and the Institute was requisitioned for use by women manufacturing munitions. It returned to use as a school after the war, before being eventually acquired by Lambeth Council. It was bought by the London Diamond Way Buddhist Centre in 2012.

At the eastern end of the street named after him the Black Prince is also commemorated with a pub on the corner with Hotspur Street.

We turn north up Kennington Road then dip into the estates and back out again via Lollard Street, Distin Street and Fitzalan Street. Further up Kennington Road we veer off along Walnut Tree Walk which returns us to Lambeth Walk. En route we encounter Hornbeam Close and Bedlam Mews, which some local vandals have decided merits some retrospective nominative determinism.

Lambeth Walk is, of course, best known for being the title of one of the songs in the 1937 musical Me and My Girl. The contemporaneous musical, with music by Noel Gay and original book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose, tells the story of an unapologetically unrefined cockney gentleman named Bill Snibson, who learns that he is the 14th heir to the Earl of Hareford. It was revived several times in the 1940’s and made a triumphant return to the West End in 1984 in a version revised by Stephen Fry and starring Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson.

I have to say that if the song didn’t already exist I doubt anyone would be inspired to write it by the present-day Lambeth Walk.

It does however boast Pelham Hall which was built as Lambeth Mission Hall in about 1910 and is distinguished with an exterior pulpit.  The building is now home to the the sculpture department of Morley College.

On the wall of the adjacent Chandler Hall Community Centre is a stone plaque dedicated to Charlie Chaplin who lived in the area in his youth and whose uncle ran the (long since departed) Queens Head pub in Black Prince Road. No. 5 Lambeth Walk, on the junction with China Walk, was built in 1958 to replace the Victorian municipal swimming baths which a V2 bomb had destroyed in 1945. The new building had no pool but provided slipper baths and laundry facilities for the local community. In the early 1990’s it was reconfigured for use as a GP practice.

Lambeth Walk doglegs into Lambeth Road where he turn left and head down towards Lambeth Bridge. At 109 Lambeth Road is the building that houses the Metropolitan Police’s Forensic Science Laboratory. It also hosts the Met’s 24 hour emergency call centre and its Lost Property office (inter alia). And it does more than nearly any other building of its era to give Brutalist architecture a bad name (not that it’s not intrinsically a bad name to start with).

Across the road, in stark contrast, is the former Holy Trinity Primary School (1880) now part of Fairley House School (for children with learning difficulties).

Back on the same side of the road as the Met and just beyond it stands the Bell Building which is a poster child for the sympathetic redevelopment of former public houses into residential space. Crucially the emblematic exterior sculpture of a man lifting a heavy bell has been retained.

Crossing the road again we’re in front of the former St Mary’s Church which was saved from demolition in 1977 by Rosemary and John Nicholson who turned it into The Garden Museum. The church is the burial place of John Tradescant The Elder (c1570 – 1638), the first great gardener and plant-hunter in British history. Tradescant was gardener to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury then to George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (remember him) and finally to Charles I, after Buckingham’s assassination. His son, John Tradescant The Younger (1608 – 1662), followed in his footsteps as royal head gardener and is buried beside him. The first church on this site predates the Norman Conquest and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The present church was originally built in 1337 and the bell tower still largely retains its 14th century form. The rest of the building was substantially rebuilt in the Victorian era.

Turn to the right beyond St Mary’s and you’re face to face with Lambeth Palace or, more specifically, Morton’s Tower. You can’t go beyond this gateway as a rule since, as it rather pompously states on the website, this is “a working palace and a family home” and therefore not open to the public except on rare special occasions. The Tower was built by John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1486–1501 and is one of the few surviving examples of the early Tudor style of brick building. From the time of its completion onward the “Lambeth Dole” of bread, broth and money (which originated in the 13th century) was dispensed to beggars at the gate. In his 1785 History of Lambeth Palace archivist Andrew Ducarel writes that in his day it was regularized and consisted of a weekly allowance of 15 quartern loaves, 9 stone of beef and 5s., which were divided amongst around 30 poor parishioners and distributed three times a week. The practice was discontinued after 1842 and replaced with direct pecuniary grants to the poor.

After negotiating the roundabout at the nexus of Lambeth Road and Lambeth Bridge we set off on the final stage of today’s journey, southward along the Albert Embankment to Vauxhall Station. Almost immediately on the left is the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization and just beyond that the former HQ of the London Fire Brigade (as referenced earlier). Commissioned by the London County Council, the building was designed by EP Wheeler, architect to the LCC, with sculpture work by Gilbert Bayes, Stanley Nicholas Babb and FP Morton. It was opened by King George VI in 1937. Despite not being one of the prime examples of 1930’s architecture in the capital it has acquired a Grade II listing. In 2020 a plan to redevelop the building into a new home for the LFB Museum and erect two towers of over 20 storeys each immediately behind creating over 400 flats and a 200 bedroom hotel was submitted to public inquiry. Although the scheme had the support of the London Fire Commissioner and Lambeth Council it was vetoed by the Secretary of State for Housing in the summer of 2021. (The main objection being, I think, that it would spoil the views from the Palace of Westminster).

Time for the pub of the day finally, and in the face of plenty of stiff competition, the sunny skies tipped the balance in favour of the Tamesis Dock, a converted 1930’s Dutch barge, permanently moored on the river opposite the Millbank Tower.

These floating bars tend to charge over the odds but this one was pretty reasonable and thanks to the mild weather (for mid- November) I was able to enjoy a glass of wine and some baked goats cheese up on the deck, in glorious isolation and with a great view of the Houses of Parliament. Until I drew the attention of the local gulls that is.

Lambeth Council actually designated the Albert Embankment riverfront an Area of Conservation in 2001 but as noted earlier this hasn’t stopped them approving plans for redevelopment. The Corniche Building, designed by Foster & Partners, was completed in spring 2020 and along with the adjacent Dumont and Merano residential blocks has created 472 new luxury apartments close to the river.

As we approach Vauxhall Bridge the railway converges with the Albert Embankment and the river moves away.

The space between the road at the river here at Vauxhall Cross is famously occupied by the MI6 Headquarters. Officially the organisation that operates out of these premises is called the Special Intelligence Service (SIS). The MI6 pseudonym was used extensively during WW2 especially if an organisational link needed to be made with MI5 (the Security Service) but it is no longer applied by the secret services themselves. Of course it’s still the go-to appellation as far as the media and popular culture are concerned. SIS moved to Vauxhall Cross in 1994 from its previous home, Century House, on Westminster Bridge Road (see Day 55). Architect Terry Farrell won the competition to design the new HQ and he took his inspiration from 1930s architecture such as Battersea and Bankside power stations, as well as Mayan and Aztec temples. The building has 60 different roof areas and six perimeter and internal atria, and also incorporates specially designed doors and 25 different types of glass to meet the Service’s specific needs. Vauxhall Cross has, of course, featured in many of the films in the James Bond franchise made since it was opened. The building was first featured in GoldenEye in 1995 and is depicted as coming under attack in The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Skyfall (2012). In fact in the latter the front of the building is completely destroyed in an explosion. A 15 metre high model of the building was constructed at Pinewood Studios to create this illusion which was cheered by MI6 staff at a special screening of Skyfall at Vauxhall Cross. Filming for the 24th film in the series, Spectre, took place on the Thames near Vauxhall Cross in May 2015, with the fictional controlled demolition of the building playing a key role in the finale sequence of the film.

The light is beginning to fade as we head up onto platform 8 of Vauxhall Station and before the train arrives to take us back to the suburbs there’s just time to contemplate how very different this view would have looked just a couple of years ago.

Day 70 Part 1 – Vauxhall

As George McCrae sang, aeons ago now, It’s Been So Long. But we’re back finally and with a double header no less. In returning south of the river and working my way through the (roughly) rectangular area bounded by Kennington Lane, Kennington Road, Lambeth Road and the Albert Embankment I bit off more than can be chewed over in a single post. So for this initial instalment we’re sticking to the southern half of the quadrilateral; let’s call it Vauxhall.

Starting point for today is Vauxhall overground station, from where we head east along Kennington Lane. By the river and further west, Vauxhall these days is redevelopment central with new high-rise apartment blocks sprouting like knotweed but we’re saving all that for another time.

The grandiose Imperial Court, like so many large former commercial or public buildings, is now a community of private apartments. However, its origins lie in the creation in 1794 of the Friendly Society of Licensed Victuallers which was established to educate the children of publicans affected by long term illness, incapacity, or poverty. The original school was demolished in 1835 and the current neo-classical building was erected the following year after a design by H & E Rose. In 1921 the school moved to Slough and Imperial Court became the HQ of the Navy, Army, and Air Forces Institutes, or ‘NAAFI’ which was formed to provide catering services and recreational activities for the British Armed Forces and their families posted overseas. In 1980 the building became Grade II listed and in 1992 the NAAFI moved out and the inevitable happened.

The area between Cardigan Street and Sancroft Street, to the east of Kennington Lane, is strongly held to be the site of Kennington Palace, built by the eldest son of Edward III, Edward of Woodstock aka the first Duke of Cornwall aka The Black Prince (1330 – 1376). Edward junior built his palace here during the 1340s and 1350s at the end of which its main structures were a large Hall orientated east-west and measuring approximately 88 feet long by 53 feet wide and the so-called ‘Prince’s Chamber’, of a similar size but two or three storeys high. In 1531 the Palace was largely demolished by Henry VIII to provide materials for his own Palace at Whitehall.

This plaque is on the exterior of Edinburgh House which stands on the site of the Palace’s stable block. Originally a 1960’s office block, Edinburgh House, has been reconfigured to provide separate office space and studio units.

The land on which the palace stood was within the Manor of Kennington which formed part of The Duchy of Cornwall, a private estate (largely comprised of land in Cornwall) established under charter by Edward III in 1337 in favour of Prince Edward and every future Duke of Cornwall (i.e. the eldest surviving son of the Monarch and heir to the throne). The current Duke of Cornwall, Prince Charles, is the longest serving Duke in history. The houses which now occupy the area north of Edinburgh House, were built at the turn of the 20th century and are mostly subject to preservation orders. The majority were sold to a housing association in 1990 but the Duchy still directly owns 23 houses and 16 flats. Our route through the so-called (by estate agents at least) Kennington Triangle is a circuit of Courtenay Street, Courtenay Square, Stables Street, Sancroft Street and Cardigan Street.

At the top end of Courtenay Street, after a quick look in on Hansom Mews, a sequence of Aveline Street, Brangton Road, Loughborough Street and Newburn Street brings us out onto Vauxhall Street and back within touching distance of Kennington Lane. We make the rapid acquaintance of Dolland Street before heading east along Vauxhall Street then completing a circuit of Orsett Street, and some more of both Newburn Street and Sancroft Street. I should have noted at the beginning what a beautiful day for a walk this was; uniformly blue skies and sunlit autumn leaves.

We turn a short way back down Vauxhall Street as far as the laund(e)rette of the day and then make a right into Jonathan Street.

Almost immediately we turn left down Wickham Street at the end of which the Hope Church is making its message loud and clear.

Next, St Oswalds Place (with a diversion into Tyers Terrace) takes us back onto Kennington Lane and St Peter’s Church. The church was erected in 1863-4 (on the site of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens’ Neptune Fountain) by the notable Victorian gothic revival architect John Loughborough Pearson (1817-1897). The driving force behind the church was the (long-lived) Reverend Robert Gregory (1819 -1911) and it was built adjacent to a new school he had established just a couple of years previously, also on land reclaimed from the Vauxhall Gardens. The school was designed in what was called a thirteenth-century Gothic style and consisted of separate boys’ and girls’ schoolrooms, a headmaster’s house, and an art school. The foundation stone was laid in 1860, by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. Gregory’s art school achieved great renown. The two major employers in the area,  Maudslay’s engineering works and Doulton’s pottery factory, needed, respectively, skilled draughtsmen and designers and artists and the school set out to train its pupils accordingly.

 To the west of the church, on Tyers Street, we find the Vauxhall City Farm. The farm began life as Jubilee City Farm in 1976, instigated by a group of architects squatting in nearby St Oswalds Place. Together with local residents they commandeered a plot of land cleared as part of a spate of demolitions in the early 1970s’ and used it for growing vegetables and keeping livestock. A year later the operation was registered as a charity under its present name. Today, the farm is home to over 100 animals, a riding centre, education and youth projects, and a cafe. And it is still run solely by volunteers. I ventured inside for a quick look around (and to make a donation) feeling more than a little self-conscious. I was given a bag of Grass Nuts to feed to the alpacas but made a bit of a hash of that and most of them ended up on the floor (though they were still eaten). Lovely place; though probably best to visit with kids (if you have them).

After leaving the farm we make a loop to the left off of Tyers Street, taking in Laud Street, Vauxhall Walk and Glasshouse Walk. The former runs past the back of Darley House, a post-war 1940’s built public housing block. The central column is adorned with a sculpture by artist Peter Peri entitled Following The Leader. The work was intended as a memorial to children killed in the Blitz, which hit this area quite hard.

We turn left at the top of Tyers Street and left again to head south on Vauxhall Walk and Worgan Street until we reach Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens (formerly Spring Gardens). The original Spring Gardens were established here after the Restoration of 1660 (covering a wider area than the present day gardens). At that time Vauxhall was still quite a rural environment and a boat-trip was required to visit the gardens where impromptu live entertainers joined the many purveyors of food and drink. In the evenings the resident nightingales competed for airtime with the sounds of amorous liaisons, as noted by regular visitor Samuel Pepys. In 1729, ‘Vauxhall Spring-Gardens’, was sub-let to a new tenant, the entrepreneurial Jonathan Tyers (1702-1767), who saw an opportunity to provide a new type of paid entertainment for Londoners. He also figured out that charging an admission fee (of one shilling) would discourage the pickpockets and ladies of the night. Thus was created the first and best-known of London’s “Pleasure Gardens”. Over the next 130 years Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens played host to concerts by Handel, firework displays, operas, balloon rides, circus acts and much more besides. Despite Tyers’ wish to create a nexus of wholesome family entertainment, the Gardens remained synonymous with after dark activities of a more salacious nature. All good things come to an end though and in 1859 the Gardens were permanently closed and the site redeveloped into housing.

By the 1970s, those houses, badly war-damaged and suffering from long neglect, were demolished as part of the so-called slum-clearances. A dozen or so acres of the cleared site were grassed over by the new owner, the London Borough of Lambeth, and the resulting park, first opened to the public on 9 October 1976, was originally called Spring Gardens. Then in 2012, after a campaign by local supporters, was re-named Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, and a new monumental entrance to the park was created by local architects DSDHA near the site of the old Coach Entrance to the gardens on Kennington Lane. 

At the southern end of the gardens an apex of Auckland Street and Glyn Street interrupt the alignment with Kennington Lane and it the the south-western corner sits the renowned Royal Vauxhall Tavern. The RVT actually opened the year after the Pleasure Gardens closed, in 1860. Its close association with London’s gay community dates back to the 1940’s while its iconic drag shows were first staged in the 1970’s. In 2014 the pub became the first building to be listed in recognition of its significant role in LGBTQ history.

From here we proceed north up Goding Street then duck under the railway via Glasshouse Walk to the Albert Embankment before heading back under the railway courtesy of Tinworth Street. Here we find the headquarters of the National Crime Agency (“NCA”). The NCA was formed in 2013 to replace the Serious Organised Crime Agency (“SOCA”). In addition to organised crime its remit covers trafficking (of the human, weapons and drugs kind), cybercrime and economic crime with cross-border implications. It has around 1,800 active officers and an annual budget approaching £460m (which is a 43% reduction on the combined budgets of the various agencies whose responsibilities it assumed).

Beyond the NCA, back on Vauxhall Street, stands the building that from 1877 to 1982 produced iron bedsteads for Horatio Myer & Co. Ltd.

On the east side of Vauxhall Walk, a bit further north, is the 1960’s section of the Vauxhall Gardens Estate which also includes Darley House and a number of 1930’s blocks that stretch down to Kennington Lane.

In conclusion of this Part 1 we make a Z shaped return to the Albert Embankment formed by Randall Row, Randall Road and Salamanca Street.

Day 69 – Pimlico

As some of you may recall from the Ealing comedy “Passport to Pimlico” this part of London likes to consider itself as something of a self-contained unit. There is some justification for this in that, not only are, its boundaries clearly delineated by Vauxhall Bridge Road, the mainline out of Victoria Station and the River Thames but it was first fully developed as part of the Grosvenor Estate after 1825. To partly reiterate what we covered last time out, Robert Grosvenor, First Marquess of Westminster, appointed Thomas Cubitt, master builder, to create a new district on land reclaimed using the soil excavated during the construction of St Katharine’s dock. Like Belgravia this was based on a grid of attractive terraces built in the Regency style but unlike its more fashionable neighbour to the north Pimlico largely drew its residents from the middle classes. From the end of the 19th century onwards the demographic profile of the two areas moved farther apart and parts of Pimlico came close to being designated as slums though this was mitigated by a number of new public housing projects. The 20th century then saw the creation of two large but contrasting developments facing the river, Dolphin Square and the Churchill Gardens Estate. The white stucco terraces are still around today of course, street after street of them (sigh). Some of them are still single occupancy townhouses, many others have been converted into flats and a number are now used as budget hotels. What is striking about the area (even though this is far from unique in London) is the cheek-by-jowl existence of multi-million pound private properties and social housing units.

Apologies for the lengthy preamble but it will, hopefully, save time later on.

Fittingly, Pimlico tube station is our starting point for today. We kick off by heading, via Drummond Gate, down to Bessborough Gardens a garden square developed in the 1980s in a pastiche of the Cubitt-style. The Queen Mother’s fountain in the gardens has a supposed dolphin motif though it’s actually a pair of entwined sturgeon (no relation).

To the west of Bessborough Gardens, reinforcing the point I made earlier, an upscale mid-1990’s development and the Peabody Trust’s Tachbrook estate sit side by side. Navigating around and between these involves Bessborough Place, Balvaird Place, Lindsay Square and Balniel Gate. After this circuit we return to the tube station and take Rampayne Street into Vauxhall Bridge Road. North for a bit then turn left into Moreton Street where we discover the Gothic revival marvel that is the Church of St James the Less. This now grade I listed C of E church was built in 1858–61 by George Edmund Street who was commissioned by the three daughters of the recently deceased Bishop of Gloucester, James Henry Monk. Constructed predominately in brick, its most prominent external feature is its free-standing Italian-style tower, while its interior incorporates design themes which Street observed in medieval Gothic buildings in continental Europe. When I arrived the building was closed but I rang the buzzer on the off-chance and a very simpatico lady allowed me to pop in for a look at the moody interior.

After visiting the church we turn north again up Tachbrook Street alongside the Lillington Gardens Estate to the east. On the other side are those familiar townhouses so the next shot is an attempt to illustrate the dichotomous nature of the area’s housing that I’ll keep harping on about (probably).

Beyond the estate we take Charlwood Street back onto VBR then resume northward as far as Warwick Way before rejoining Tachbrook Street for the section that contains the eponymous market.

A sequence of Charlwood Place, Churton Street, Churton Place and Denbigh Street help us back on to Warwick Way from where we make our way west to St George’s Drive and then Eccleston Square. Warwick Way is particularly blessed with those budget hotels I mentioned earlier.

Eccleston Square, like its counterparts in Belgravia was built by Thomas Cubitt in the 1830’s. Its communal private gardens have been grade II listed since 1987 and since Wimbledon was on the tennis courts were actually being used. Winston Churchill lived at no.33 (the St George’s Drive end) from 1909 – 1913. He moved there with Clementine a year after they married and their first two children were born there.

North of Eccleston Square, Hugh Street runs parallel and crosses over St George’s Drive to get to Cambridge Street and Alderney Street which offer more of the same. (See below but you’ve probably got the idea by now)

Heading west again, the last stretch of Warwick Way ends at the junction of Ebury Bridge and Sutherland Street. We turn left onto the latter then left again into Sutherland Row and work our way back to St George’s Drive via Cumberland Street, Cumberland Court, Winchester Street and Clarendon Street. Warwick Square is the final garden square in the parallel running sequence that began with Eaton Square. Like the others its gardens are private and Grade II listed along with the buildings. Many of the latter are now commercial rather than residential premises. Cubitt himself lived at no.66 while the square was being developed in the 1860’s. After a circuit of the square we travel via Gloucester Street and Moreton Place to the southern section of Moreton Street with its high class boutiques and eateries. Moreton Place and the adjacent Moreton Terrace are lined with these splendid red-flowering trees which I believe (having looked it up) are Crimson Australian Bottle Brush aka Callistemon citrinus splendens. I wonder if Arabella Lennox-Boyd had a hand in that.

After Moreton Terrace we duck in and out of St George’s Drive using stretches of Denbigh Street, Charlwood Street and Denbigh Place. At no.63 St George’s Drive is a blue plaque commemorating the one year (1896) residency of Hindu philosopher Swami Vivekananda ( 1863 – 1902). Vivekananda was a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna and was instrumental in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world. He was a major force in the contemporary Hindu reform movements in India, and contributed to the development of nationalism in colonial India. In 1893 he represented India and Hinduism at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

At the southern end of Warwick Square, which we return to next, stands St Gabriel’s Church. St Gabriel’s is a middle-pointed building in decorated Gothic style. It was consecrated in 1853 having been funded by public subscription. The 160ft tower was hung with a peal of eight bells two years later.  In 1887 the tower was rebuilt after stonework fell off it, narrowly missing a member of the congregation.

On the other side of the church, on Cambridge Street, is the house (no.114) where the enfant terrible of the Victorian art world, Aubrey Beardsley (1872 – 1898) lived for part of his short life. Beardsley’s six years’ of creative output began at the age of twenty following a stay in Paris. He specialised in black and white illustrations with leanings towards the Art Nouveau style that was in vogue at the time and his work depicted historical events and mythological scenes using grotesque and openly erotic imagery. Probably his most famous drawings were those he produced for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome. With his unusual looks and flamboyant dress sense his public persona did nothing to dampen down the scandalised reaction to his work. In 1966, nearly seventy years after his death from tuberculosis at the age of 25 a private gallery in London was raided by the police for exhibiting copies of his prints and the owner charged under obscenity laws. The originals of those very same prints were contemporaneously being exhibited at the V&A.

From here repeat visits to Charlwood Street, Alderney Street, Winchester Street and Clarendon Street take us to the western limit of today’s journey and a stop for a quick half at the pub of the day, the White Ferry House on Sutherland Street. This dates back to 1856 and doubled as a hotel when first opened. The original Victorian interior panelling is still in situ which has no doubt contributed to the pub’s Grade II listing.

Next door to the pub is another launderette to add to the collection (in the correctly spelt section) and beyond it lies Peabody Avenue which runs through another of the eponymous trust’s estates.

Parallel to Peabody Avenue is Turpentine Lane which, as you can see above, tracks the rear of the Peabody Estate. At the southern end of this we’re in sight of the river on Lupus Street but immediately double back and wend our way around Westmoreland Terrace, Westmoreland Place, Sussex Street, Sutherland Street and Winchester Street. Hopefully by now you’ve got the picture when it comes to the naming of the streets in this part of town. Basically, it’s just Lord Grosvenor namechecking his Ducal chums. Like walking through a cast list of one of Shakespeare’s history plays. Anyway we’re back on Lupus Street now and the area suddenly has quite a different feel – which is actually a refreshing change. Lupus Street is home to the Pimlico Toy Library, a charity set up by Westminster Adult Education services in 1983 to support parents who wanted a safe environment for their children to play. It seems like a good idea so it’s perhaps surprising that other London boroughs don’t appear to have picked up on it.

Lupus Street runs to the north and west of the massive Churchill Gardens Estate which is where we head next. The estate was developed between 1946 and 1962 to a design by the architects Powell and Moya, replacing Victorian terraced houses which had been extensively damaged during the Blitz. Comprising 1,600 homes in 32 blocks, the estate is notable as the only housing project completed under the ambitious Abercrombie Plan to redevelop the capital on more “efficient” lines. A stroll through Glasgow Terrace, Churchill Gardens Road and Paxton Terrace brings us out onto Grosvenor Road and the river. As I enter the Estate an exuberant school jazz-band rendition of “It’s Not Unusual” blasts out from St Gabriel’s Church Hall.

The estate is also notable for its early and rare example of district heating in the UK, the Pimlico District Heating Undertaking. A glass-faced accumulator tower was built to store hot water that would otherwise have been a wasted by-product of Battersea Power Station on the opposite side of the Thames, providing heating and hot water throughout the estate. Churchill Gardens was designated a conservation area in 1990, and in 1998 six blocks (Chaucer House, Coleridge House, Shelley House, Keats House, Gilbert House and Sullivan House) as well as the accumulator tower were Grade II listed. Battersea Power Station is, of course, now in the final stages of a mammoth commercial and residential redevelopment (which no doubt we will get to eventually).

After a jaunt alongside the river we follow Claverton Street and Johnson’s Place back to Lupus Street and find another washeteria to add to the collection (the other section this time). Then a detour into Ranelagh Road uncovers a blue plaque at no.15 in honour of Douglas Macmillan (1884 – 1969). In 1912 Macmillan set up the Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer following the death of his father from the disease the year before. It wasn’t until 1930 that the charity, which now bears his name, took on its first full time employee but since then it has grown into one of the largest charities in the UK. Macmillan himself died of cancer at the age of 84.

Crossing over into Chichester Street affords access to the northern end of an estate of an entirely different tenor, Dolphin Square. Built between 1935 and 1937, Dolphin Square consists of 13 blocks (or “houses”), each named after a famous navigator or admiral, that together provide 1,310 high-end private flats. After reclamation of the land it was the site of Thomas Cubitt’s works while Pimlico was being developed. Following Cubitt’s death, The Royal Army Clothing Depot was built on the site and stood until 1933 when the leasehold reverted to the Duke of Westminster. The freehold was soon acquired by an American firm but when they ran into difficulties it was sold on to Richard Costain Ltd who engaged architect, S. Gordon Jeeves to draw up plans for housing development. The buildings he designed are neo-Georgian in style with external facings of brick and stone. The original cost of construction was around £2m with 200,000 tonnes of earth moved and 125,000 tons of concrete and 12 million bricks used on those external walls. The 3.5 acres (1.4 ha) of communal gardens were designed by Richard Sudell, president of the Institute of Landscape Architects, and since 2018 have been Grade II listed (unlike the buildings). When it opened the flats varied in size from one-bedroom suites to apartments with five bedrooms, a maid’s room and three bathrooms. Due to its proximity to the Palace of Westminster (and the HQs of MI5 and MI6) the square has, over the years, provided accommodation for many MPS, peers, civil servants and spooks. Harold Wilson, William Hague and David Steel are among the politicians who have lived here; as did Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies (though not at the same time). Oswald Mosley and his wife Diana Mitford left their apartment here for internment in 1940 during the Second World War. In 2014, the Met opened an inquiry into allegations that some of the flats had been used by a VIP paedophile ring run by a number of prominent MPs, with the case receiving significant media coverage. Within two years it emerged that the accuser, Carl Beech, had fabricated the story and in 2019 Beech was the one convicted (for false allegations).

Reaching the southern end of Dolphin Square we exit out onto Grosvenor Road again and after a left turn begin a circuit of St George’s Square. This is the southernmost and least grand of the garden squares laid out by Thomas Cubitt and the only one whose gardens are open to the public.

At the north end of the square stands St Saviour’s Anglo-Catholic church which, like St Gabriel’s, was designed by Thomas Cundy. It was consecrated in 1864 and, at the time, its 170ft spire was one of the tallest in London.  The founder of modern lawn tennis, Walter Clopton Wingfield, was a regular worshipper and the writer Sir Compton Mackenzie was married in the church.

Having completed a circuit of the square we cross over Grosvenor Road to the (small) riverside Pimlico Gardens. Here you’ll find a statue of the early nineteenth century politician William Huskisson (1770 – 1830) who, as we first recorded many moons ago, is now best known for being the first person to be killed in a railway accident, having been run over by Stephenson’s Rocket. The statue was created by John Gibson and was moved here in 1915 having originally been designed for the Royal Exchange. It’s not really clear why Huskisson is wearing a toga other than to make a tenuous connection between the House of Commons and the Roman senate.

To conclude we cross Grosvenor Road for a final time and let St George’s Mews and Aylesford Street take us back to Pimlico Tube Station. I’ll leave you with this – the origin of the name Pimlico is not properly known but H.G. Wells, in his novel The Dream, says that there was a wharf here where ships from America docked and that the word Pimlico came with the trade and was the last word left alive of the Algonquin Indian language (Pamlico). That’ll probably do.

Day 68 – Buckingham Palace Road – Ebury Street – Eaton Square

Back again at long last then. For this resumption we’re exploring the (extremely) upmarket and pretty verdant nexus of Belgravia and Pimlico. There are quite a few interesting former residents to check out and plenty of colourful springtime flora to brighten the route.

Starting point today is Victoria Railway Station from where we head south down Wilton Road. Turning left into Gillingham Street we encounter the first of today’s many blue plaques at no. 17, commemorating the writer Joseph Conrad (1857 – 1924). Conrad was born in the Ukraine into a family of Polish land-owning nobility. After being sent to Marseilles as a 16 year-old to take up a career with the French Merchant Navy he enlisted with its British counterpart four years later. At this stage his largely self-taught knowledge of English was still very rudimentary. He began writing his first novel in 1889 but his two most well-known works, Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, date from the turn of the century by which time he had been forced by ill-health to give up a life at sea. Orson Welles adapted the former for his first screenplay for RKO pictures in 1939 but ended up abandoning it in favour of Citizen Kane; forty years later it became the inspiration for Apocalypse Now. Lord Jim made it to the screen twice, in 1925 and 1965, the second time with Peter O’Toole in lead role.

We return to Wilton Road via Gillingham Row then continue south as far as Longmoore Street which feeds into Vauxhall Bridge Road to the east with the help of Upper Tachbrook Street. Returning west along Warwick Way then north up Guildhouse Street brings us back to Gillingham Street. We double-back up Wilton Road and swing into Bridge Place which runs to the east of the lines running out of Victoria Station. At the junction with Belgrave Road sits the London branch of HM Passport Office, Globe House. This was opened in 2002 and replaced the office on Petty France which had acted as the the London-based passport issuer for fifty years.

Turning right we cross Eccleston Bridge over the railway lines (though Google Maps seems to think this is an underpass).

On the other side is the southern access to Victoria Station reached via the Victoria Place shopping mall which was unsurprisingly quite deserted. It also possesses the most pointless pair of escalators I have seen in a long time (and people were actually using them !)

Beyond the mall we turn north up Buckingham Palace Road and head up to Grosvenor Gardens which runs either side of the eponymous triangular green space. At the southern corner of the gardens is Terminal House with its familiar 1930’s style Portland stone cladding. It was actually built between 1927 and 1930 to a design by architects Yates, Cook and Darbyshire with some assistance from Edwin Lutyens.

The gardens themselves are looking particularly resplendent in the Spring sunshine (far more so than I remember from my time working in the vicinity). They are dedicated to Marshall Ferdinand Foch (1851 – 1929) whose equestrian statue stands adjacent to Buckingham Palace Road. Foch served as Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War. It was Foch who on 11 November 1918 accepted the German request for an armistice. He was in favour of crippling settlement terms that would render Germany unable to pose any future threat to his native France but was overruled by the British and Americans. As the Treaty of Versailles was being signed on 28 June 1919, he declared: “This is not peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.” His words proved prophetic though, ironically, historians generally consider that the rise of the Nazis and the outbreak of WW2 were in large part attributable to the harshness of the treaty terms rather than their leniency.

Fittingly the mansion blocks on the two prongs of Grosvenor Gardens have a distinctly French appearance. Grosvenor Gardens House (in the background above) was built in 1868 in a French renaissance style by architect Thomas Cundy III and originally known as Belgrave Mansions. The parents of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother had a home there so she may have been born there in 1900, though this is not known definitively. Less uncertain is that David Niven was born there in 1910. In 1878 the proto-venture capitalist and philanthropist William Henry Blackmore killed himself in his study following a disastrous investment in a US railroad. And in 2017 the building featured in a £132-million High Court trial for damages brought against luxury property developers, Christian and Nick Candy (the latter married to Holly Valance) which was eventually resolved in their favour.

The artwork you can see in the slides, comprised of three brightly coloured, chimneyed mini dwellings is by sculptor and designer Richard Woods and entitled Small, Medium and Large. According to Woods the title references the commercial choices we are presented with on a daily basis. He also points out the sculpture’s flirtation with perspective. “It’s large enough that standing at one end of it distorts your point of view. The big house looks small and the small house looks big depending on your perspective.”

At the apex of the gardens we head briefly southward on Ebury Street before turning left back to Terminal House then continuing south by was of Phipp’s Mews and Eccleston Place. This brings us out onto leafy Eccleston Street where we take a right turn. As I pass a perambulatory trio of well-heeled ladies of one of them expostulates loudly “Now, can we talk about my bouquet !” I am unable to contextualise this in any way.

From here we head back up Ebury Street then west on Lower Belgrave Street which gets us to the top end of Chester Square. This is the smallest and least grand of the three residential garden squares created by the Grosvenor Family (since 1874 the possessors of the Dukedom of Westminster) in the mid nineteenth century. These things are relative though, a house here will still set you back north of £20m at the very least. Past and present residents include Margaret Thatcher, Roman Abramovich, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful and Nigella Lawson. No. 76 is the residence of the ambassador of Colombia.

At the end of the first of the triptych of gardens that comprise Chester Square we turn right along Belgrave Place to reach Eaton Square. Eaton Square is divided into six separate (private need I add) gardens being intersected laterally by Lyall Street in addition to Belgrave Place and right through middle by the A3217 which leads into Sloane Square. The gardens are all Grade II listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Architect Thomas Cubitt was commissioned by the Grosvenors to oversee the design and building of the surrounding houses which are predominantly three-bay-wide porticoed buildings, joined in regular terraces in a classical style, with four or five main storeys, plus attic and basement and a mews house behind. The first block was laid out in 1827.

A circuit of the uppermost two gardens takes us past the Bolivian Embassy at no.106 which could be said to be punching above its weight (if you were being unkind).

First of several blue plaques is at no. 37 in the south middle section where Neville Chamberlain (1869 – 1940) resided from 1923 to 1935. Chamberlain is, of course, one of the most maligned British politicians of the 20th century on account of his futile and humiliating attempt to reach a peace agreement with Hitler. What history tends to forget that his signing of the Munich agreement in September 1938 and his homecoming declaration of “A Peace For Our Time” was strongly approved of by the British public at the time. What I hadn’t appreciated until I looked into his life was that he actually survived as PM until as late as May 1940 when the failure of a military campaign to get a defensive foothold in Norway led to his downfall. Also unbeknown to me was that he only lived for a further six months after his resignation before succumbing to bowel cancer.

A few doors down, no. 44 was briefly home to Prince Klemens von Metternich (1773 – 1859). Metternich was one of the most influential politicians of nineteenth century Europe, playing a significant part in Austria becoming a major political force on the continent in the first half of that century. As Foreign Minister he led the Austrian delegation at the 1815  Congress of Vienna which redrew the map of Europe following the (initial) defeat of Napoleon (after 6 months of negotiations it was signed nine days before the Battle of Waterloo). In 1821 Metternich was appointed Chancellor of State and devoted the next 27 years to trying to uphold the status quo. In 1848 however he became a casualty of the wave of revolutions that swept through Europe that year. Within the Austro-Hungarian Empire this took the form of a series of nationalist revolts in several of the occupied territories. Metternich went into exile, initially in England, and spent four months in Eaton Square before decamping to Brighton and then to Brussels.

No. 80 on the north-western most section was where the American financier and philanthropist, George Peabody (1795 – 1869) died. We have encountered him many times before on this odyssey in relation to the various Peabody Trust housing estates which still to this day provide affordable housing for Londoners. Born into a poor family, Peabody started out in the dry goods business before moving into banking. He relocated to London in 1837 where he came the pre-eminent American banker in the then capital of world finance, co-founding the firm that eventually became J.P. Morgan. Peabody donated over $8m (equivalent to more than $160m today) to philanthropic causes, mostly during his lifetime.

Let’s have a quick break from the blue plaques to show a couple of shots of these extensive gardens, which on this glorious spring day were being enjoyed by less than half a dozen of the entitled residents across their six separate sections.

The final former resident to namecheck is Vivien Leigh (1913 – 1967) who had a flat at no. 54. Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley in British-ruled India. Her initial acting successes came on the stage then in 1937 she got her screen breakthrough starring alongside Laurence Olivier in the historical drama Fire Over England. Their meeting created history of a different kind. In short order Leigh and Olivier moved in together though it wasn’t until early 1940 that their respective original spouses granted them divorces. Prior to that, of course, Vivien had won the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind in the face of the stiffest of competition. She was awarded the best actress Oscar, a feat she repeated with her performance in 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire. She had however already had struggles with her mental health by this time and those struggles worsened during the 1950’s. In 1960 she and Olivier divorced and then in 1967 the chronic tuberculosis, with which she had first been diagnosed on the 1940’s, resurfaced and took her life.

In a strange twist of fate, the same flat in Eaton Square was later occupied by the German-Actress Luise Rainer (1910 – 2014) who had been one of the other actresses in the running for the part of Scarlett O’Hara. Rainer moved to Hollywood in 1935 and despite only making eight films there over a four year period remarkably also won the Best Actress Oscar twice – for The Great Ziegfield (1935) and The Good Earth (1937). The only other actress to have won two Oscars by the age of 30 is Jodie Foster. However, the pressure which accompanied that early success led her to suddenly quit the film business in 1938. She died at no. 44 just 13 days shy of her 105th birthday. (Almost twice the age Vivien Leigh lived to).

Having completed the meanderings in and around Eaton Square we follow Elizabeth Street back to Chester Square. At the southern end stands St Michael’s Church which was built in 1844, contemporaneously with the square itself. The church was designed in the Decorated Gothic style by Thomas Cundy the younger. The War Memorial Chapel at the north east end of the church was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott (the red telephone box man if you were paying attention many moons ago) and completed in 1920.

Having completed a circuit of the lower of the two Chester Square gardens we continue east on Elizabeth Street, home to several upmarket boutiques and eateries as well as Walden Chymist (sic), family-run since 1846. A good day for the statutorily required alfresco dining even if that’s not well represented buy the photo below.

Another stretch of Ebury Street next and the final blue plaque of the day. No. 109 is where Dame Edith Evans (1888 – 1976) lived up until the age of about 14. (A young Noel Coward lived next door at number 111 which his mother ran as a boarding-house). Edith is best known for her stage roles including her seminal performances as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Altogether now “A h-a-a-a-andbagggg !” She appeared in a handful of silent films during the First World War years but after the last of these in 1917 it was another thirty years before she ventured away from the stage again. In her later years she made eighteen screen outings, a rare example of an actress who enjoyed greater success beyond middle age than before it. Though she will always be associated with playing haughty, aristocratic women those weren’t the roles she especially wanted to be remembered for. When she first read through the role of Lady Bracknell with John Gielgud she commented, “I know those sort of women. They ring the bell and tell you to put a lump of coal on the fire.”

When we reach the intersection with Eccleston Street we turn right and then right again onto the continuation of Eccleston Place. Halfway down here is Eccleston Yards which Google describes as a trendy plaza and which afforded a better shot of some pre-lockdown easing al-fresco dining. Also on this section of Eccleston Place is one of the two branches of LondonCryo which specialises in various types of cryotherapy which apparently involves lowering the skin temperature to c. -110 degrees centigrade for about three minutes. So a quick dip in the sea at Bridlington would probably have the same effect.

We emerge back on to Elizabeth Street opposite Victoria Coach Station, somewhere I was not unfamiliar with in my much younger days. Technically the address is 164 Buckingham Palace Road though the arrival terminal is on Elizabeth Street. The station was opened in 1932 by London Coastal Coaches, a consortium of coach operators. The distinctive Art Deco style was the creation of architects Wallis, Gilbert and Partners. Initially it had space for 76 coaches plus a large booking hall, shops, buffet, restaurant, lounge, bar and administrative offices. Most coach services were suspended during WW2 and the building was requisitioned by the War Office to be returned with the resumption of coach travel in 1946. In 1970 the coach operators’ association which managed the station became a subsidiary of the National Bus Company and in 1988, ownership was transferred to London Transport (Transport for London from 2000 onward). In 2013, the freeholder of the site, Grosvenor Group (which as we’ve already seen owns pretty much everything round these parts), announced that it wished to redevelop the site and relocate the station elsewhere in London. However, a year later the building was Grade II listed by English Heritage so Transport for London will continue to use the site at least until 2023, when several leases expire.

On the opposite (east) side of Buckingham Palace Road the massive office and retail space known as The Hub, which includes one of Google’s London offices, is undergoing a major redevelopment scheduled for completion in 2023. We walk up the road and back down Colonnade Walk which is inside the development. Despite the air of desertion there are still people manning the reception desks in some of the offices.

So we’re just about done. It only remains to cross Elizabeth Bridge to reach the other side of The Hub and head up Bulleid Way, where London’s Green Line Coaches arrive and depart from, to close the circle back to Victoria Train Station.

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.

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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).