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

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

Day 55 Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Day 54 Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 53 – Waterloo Station – Westminster Bridge – Queen’s Walk

Something of a milestone reached today as, for the first time, we’ve ventured south of the river. First time for this blog that is; Waterloo Station, where today’s journey starts, has been my point of entry to central London for the best part of three decades.

We begin our excursion by heading round the southern end of the station and beyond Lambeth North tube station before cutting down towards the river through Archbishop’s Park. Having circumnavigated St Thomas’ Hospital, partly by way of a stroll along the Albert Embankment, we loop back under the railway arches and then cross over Westminster Bridge. Turning east on the other side, Victoria Embankment takes us along the river to Hungerford Bridge where we cross back over and fight our way along Queen’s Walk through the tourist hordes and past the London Eye and County Hall. After that there’s a full circuit of Waterloo Station and we’re done.

I should also mention that this took place on the day of the England v Croatia semi-final so the (very hot) air was filled with expectation and trepidation – though not in the vicinity of those aforementioned hordes.

Day 53 Route

So we start off by exiting the station onto Waterloo Road and turning right, then at the crossroads by the Old Vic we turn right again and follow Baylis Road all the way down to Lambeth North tube. At the top of Kennington Road stands the Lincoln Tower, built in 1876 (the centenary of American independence) in the Gothic revival style as a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. The construction cost of the tower was partly met from funds raised in America by Christopher Newman Hall, the pastor of Surrey Chapel, an independent Methodist and Congregational church based on Blackfriars Road, which had acquired the site in the mid 19th century.

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We continue south west on Kennington Road as far as Cosser Street which runs alongside the William Blake (public housing) Estate. At the end of Cosser Street we turn right on Hercules Road for just a few yards before continuing north, underneath the rail tracks, on Virgil Street. When Virgil Street ends at Carlisle Lane the entrance to Archbishop’s Park is immediately opposite. This was originally part of the grounds of nearby Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but from 1869 onward was set aside as a play area for children and for ball games and in 1900 was turned into a public park. Ownership remains in the hands of the Church Commissioners. Nowadays the park is also home to Zip Now London (allegedly the world’s longest and fastest city centre zip wire). I would guess it doesn’t take much more than 30 seconds to cover the 225m distance which would make the cheapest ticket equivalent to about 67p per second (about 50% more than Ronaldo earns in the same time).

After a circuit of the park, not including a go on the zipline (it wasn’t yet open), we exit onto Lambeth Palace Road opposite the south side of St Thomas’ Hospital, more of which later.

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We follow Lambeth Palace Road eastward as it converges towards parallel proximity with the river then drop onto the Albert Embankment and head down river towards Westminster Bridge. This is where you’ll get the best views of the Houses of Parliament (see previous post) and it’s also considerably less busy than, say, the South Bank if you’re after a riverside stroll.  Albert Embankment was created by the engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette for the Metropolitan Board of Works between 1866 and 1869 and included land reclaimed from the river and various small timber and boat-building yards. It was intended to protect low-lying areas of Lambeth from flooding while also providing a new highway to bypass local congested streets. As with its counterpart, the Victoria Embankment, on the north side the street furniture of the Albert Embankment was the creation of George Vulliamy (1817 – 1886). But whereas the sturgeon (or dolphin) lamp posts are common to both sides, the 15 benches on the Albert side have a swan motif in their cast iron arms and panels rather than the sphinxes and camels of the more numerous resting spots on the Victoria side.

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The river-facing wing of St Thomas’ Hospital,  dates back to 1871 when the hospital moved to this location from Southwark and is now Grade II listed. The hospital, in its original Southwark incarnation, is believed to have been founded towards the end of the 12th century, run by a mixed order of Augustine monks and nuns and dedicated to St Thomas à Becket. When the monastery was dissolved in 1539 during the Reformation the hospital closed but reopened 12 years later when it was rededicated to Thomas the Apostle. In the late 20th century the name was changed from St Thomas’s to St Thomas’ which was undoubtedly due to modern a predilection for simplification but has been  justified on the basis that the hospital is associated with two separate men called Thomas. (Though, as the grammar police and I will tell you, this means it should be known as St Thomases’ Hospital).

Once we reach Westminster Bridge and turn right onto Westminster Bridge Road we find ourselves at the main entrance to the modern building, the North Wing, which was completed in 1975. It met with widespread public disaffection at the time, particularly from MPs who felt it ruined their view from the Palace of Westminster. Between the walkway up to the entrance and the embankment a garden area has been created above the car park.  At the entrance to this garden stands a memorial to Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881), the British-Jamaican businesswoman and nurse who travelled independently to the Crimea and set up the so-called “British Hotel” behind the battle lines in order to treat wounded servicemen. The statue was unveiled, not without controversy, in 2016. (Inside the hospital buildings is a museum dedicated to Florence Nightingale, that much better known Crimean War “angel of mercy”). Despite the question marks about the efficacy of Mary’s treatments and the  claims of her being a medical pioneer she is undoubtedly someone who deserves to be celebrated for what she managed to achieve in the face of twin obstacles of race and gender. The centre of the garden features Naum Gabo’s fountain sculpture Revolving Torsion and just ahead of the main entrance is sculptor Rick Kirby’s work Crossing The Divide from the year 2000. That’s the same year that a statue of Edward VI, originally erected in 1739, was moved to its position directly outside the North Wing. It was Edward VI who granted the hospital a royal charter that facilitated its re-establishment post-Reformation.

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Following the perimeter of the hospital we return to Lambeth Palace Road and then take a left up Royal Street. This is dominated by the Canterbury House block of social housing flats, built c.1960, which is remarkable in that from the rear it looks like the epitome of a run-down sixties’ estate and yet the front could be mistaken for a 3-star hotel on the Costa Brava.

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Next we weave in and out through the tunnels underneath the railtracks out of Waterloo courtesy of Upper Marsh, Carlisle Lane and Centaur Street before ending up back on Hercules Road.

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William Blake (1757 – 1827) lived in a building on Hercules Road during the last decade of the 18th century, hence the nearby housing estate named after him and the series of mosaics in the railway tunnels inspired by him. On the way back towards Lambeth North Tube, Newham Terrace offers up one of those historic industrial signage remnants that I’m so fond of.

From the tube station we head back towards the river, starting on Westminster Bridge again and then looping round Addington Street and cutting through (the absurdly named) Forum Magnum Square onto Belvedere Street which runs along the back of the old County Hall.

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The main central building of County Hall was built between 1911 and 1922 in an Edwardian Baroque style to the design of architect, Ralph Knott, as the new home of the London County Council (LCC). The LCC was created in 1889 as part of the previous year’s Local Government Act, becoming the first elected authority with responsibility for the whole of London. It’s predecessor, the Metropolitan Board of Works, had government appointed leaders and a more limited set of powers. The north and south blocks of County Hall were added between 1936 and 1939. In 1965 the LCC was superseded by the Greater London Council (GLC) on the back of the 1963 Local Government Act which saw the creation of 32 new boroughs comprising the new metropolis of Greater London, extending into areas such as Croydon and West Ham that were formerly part of Surrey and Essex respectively. It also signalled the effective demise of Middlesex as a separate administrative area. The GLC ran London for 21 years until in 1986, under the aegis of Ken Livingstone, its Labour controlled administration became in embroiled in a death-match with the Conservative government and Margaret Thatcher duly abolished it. Parts of County Hall still remain empty to this day but in now houses two hotels (at opposite ends of the spectrum), a Marriott and a Premier Inn and a number of Merlin Entertainments attractions, which we’ll deal with later.

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Next we finally cross over the river via the packed to the seams Westminster Bridge. At the north end of the bridge stands the statue to Queen Boudicca and her daughters created by Victorian sculptor, Thomas Thornycroft (1815 – 1885). The statue was commissioned in the 1850’s by Prince Albert and was originally intended to sit atop the central arch of the entrance to Hyde Park. Albert died in 1861 before it was completed and the project then ran into all-too familiar funding issues. Thornycroft managed to complete a full-size model of the work before his own death in 1885 but it wasn’t until 1902 that it was installed here by Westminster Pier thanks to the efforts of his son and the support of the LCC. Which makes it all the more shameful that it’s plinth is currently obscured by a stall hawking tourist tat.

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Moving swiftly on we proceed eastward along the Victoria Embankment passing, firstly, the Battle of Britain Memorial unveiled in 2005 to coincide with the 65th anniversary and then the Royal Air Force Memorial of 1923 with its Golden Eagle sculpted by William Reid Dick. In the background beyond the memorial you can see the PS Tattershall Castle, a floating pub that served as a passenger ferry across the Humber Estuary from 1934 to 1973.

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We cross back over the river using the western element of the two new footbridges built alongside the Hungerford Railway Bridge in 2002. Officially these are called the Golden Jubilee Bridges in honour of QEII’s fiftieth anniversary on the throne but in reality everyone still refers to them, collectively, as the Hungerford Footbridge. Which is surprising in a way since the original Hungerford Footbridge (on the east side) was notorious for being both unsightly and dangerous and was the scene of horrific murder in 1999 (just a couple of years after the decision to knock down the bridge had already been taken). The railway bridge dates back to 1864 and was designed by Sir John Hawkshaw. It replaced a suspension footbridge of 1845 created by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (the original brick buttresses of which are still in use). The name derives from Hungerford Market, a produce market on the north bank which existed on the site of what is now Charing Cross Station from the late 17th century until, er, they knocked it down to build the station.

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View west from Hungerford Bridge

On the other side of the bridge we descend the steps down to Queen’s Walk and head back west towards County Hall. En route we pass the site of the Underbelly Festival which runs throughout the summer months beside Jubilee Gardens featuring comedy, circus and cabaret performances in its Spiegeltent and providing al-fresco drinking and dining.

And so we reach the London Eye which is now apparently the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK with 3.75 million visitors annually. Quite when it took over the top spot from Madame Tussauds I’m not sure but, ironically, the Tussauds Group were one of the original owners along with British Airways and Marks Barfield (the architects who created it) when it opened in 2000 as part of the Millennium celebrations. At the time it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world at 135m though that record is now held by the High Roller in Las Vegas at 167.6m. It has also lost out on being the highest public viewing point in London since the Shard was built. It is now owned by Merlin Entertainments who took over Tussauds Group in 2007. BA ended its brand association in 2008 and Coca-Cola became sponsors from the start of 2015.

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Merlin Entertainments run a number of other attractions that are based inside the County Hall building: The London Dungeon (relocated here from its original home near London Bridge); Shrek’s Adventure and Sea Life. On a more edifying note I’ll just make mention here of some of the sculptures that adorn the exterior of County Hall. (I should also belatedly namecheck the Ornamental Passions blog which has been an invaluable source of information on this topic). The sculptures on the Jubilee Gardens façade are the work of Alfred Hardiman and are intended to represent Open Spaces and Child Education. Those on the riverside façade are by Ernest Cole (1890 – 1979), who was only 24 when awarded the commission and whose work on the figures was interrupted by First World War in which he was co-opted into the Intelligence Corps.  Cole was also responsible for the works on the Westminster Bridge Road side including World Beyond which shows the world resting on the shoulders of three grotesque representatives of the human race with two more contorted figures standing astride it. Not surprisingly, Cole’s work caused something of an uproar when it was unveiled and this led to him being replaced by Hardiman for the later commissions. At the outbreak of WWII, Cole and his wife, Laurie Manly, were briefly imprisoned on suspicion of being fascist sympathisers on account of their subscription to Il Popolo d’Italia the newspaper founded by Mussolini.

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I strongly suspect that Cole and Hardiman’s efforts go completely unnoticed by the crowds thronging round the London Eye and along the rest of Queen’s Walk. Having battled through them twice I make my escape, heading up the side of Jubilee Gardens and down Chicheley Street into York Road. Here I head back to the front entrance to Waterloo Station. The station first opened in 1848 so it’s celebrating its 170th anniversary this year. That original station was built by the London and South Western Railway but wasn’t intended to be a terminus, just a stopping point on the way to the City of London. That further extension never materialised however and by the turn of the 20th century the railway company had accepted the fact and recognized that Waterloo needed to be completely rebuilt to function as a proper terminus for the increasing volume of train traffic from the south west. The rebuilt station was formally opened on 21 March 1922 by Queen Mary. The main pedestrian entrance, the Victory Arch (known as Exit 5), was designed by James Robb Scott and is a memorial to company staff who were killed during WWI. It is flanked by two sculptures featuring Roman goddesses; “1914” with Bellona in armour with a sword and torch, and “1918” showing Pax, the goddess of Peace sitting on Earth. Waterloo is now the busiest railway station in the UK, the largest in terms of floor space and with the greatest number of platforms.

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Just across from the main entrance, on Mepham Street, is the Hole In The Wall Pub which I visited several times in the late seventies and early eighties. I still recall the horror of using the toilet facilities there so I was more than a little amused to see this recent addition to the local street furniture.

Mepham Street leads out onto Waterloo Road from where we circle past the station for a second time and on this occasion fork right up Spur Road onto Station Approach Road / Cab Road which the taxis use to add an extra few hundred metres to their journeys (just kidding guys). A left turn takes us down to Leake Street which is basically a foot tunnel under the railway. It’s home to The Vaults an immersive theatre and alternative arts venue that occupies a maze of previously disused arches underneath Waterloo Station. From late January to late March for the last few years the Vault Festival has been held here; and with over 350 shows across 16 venues it’s fast becoming a serious rival to the Edinburgh Fringe for showcasing new and experimental comedy and theatre.

The Leake Street tunnel is also an officially sanctioned open canvas for graffiti art. Not sure what the protocol is for how long each work is allowed to stay up before being over-sprayed but I suspect this one has already gone (unfortunately).

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We retrace our steps up Leake Street and leave via an alternative exit onto Lower Marsh. This always used to be one of my favourite streets in London with a number of idiosyncratic shops selling vintage clothes, jazz books and records, pre-1970’s memorabilia and cut-price designer menswear. Latterly it’s sadly succumbed to the twin curses of redevelopment and rate hikes so almost all of those independent retailers have now gone (apart from the fetish gear suppliers). The shops have of course mostly been replaced by coffee-shops, a couple of which, to their credit, have a decent sense of style. Not quite a pub of the day but I’ll give a shout out to the Scooter Bar where I had a Mexican lager I’ve never heard of before and they let me bring in a take-out of Pad Thai Noodles from one of the several food stalls out on the street.

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Ok so we just finish things off with the streets running off Lower Marsh to the south namely Grindal Street, Frazier Street, Murphy Street, Joanna Street and Tanswell Street and then return to the station. For once my timing has clicked as the Band of The Royal Coldstream Guards are belting out a few popular tunes on the concourse and just as I decide to hang around for one more they launch into, what else but, Three Lions. Naturally this brings the house down though unfortunately there is no self-fulfilling prophecy here. Nonetheless these boys in red done good as did the ones over in Russia. Bring on Euro 2020 !

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

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

Day 52 Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galleries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Day 51 (Part 2) – Victoria Embankment – Whitehall – Horse Guards Road

Second leg of this one resumes outside New (Old New) Scotland Yard on the Victoria Embankment, proceeds down to Westminster tube, goes up Parliament Street and Whitehall past Downing Street and cuts through Horse Guards Parade before finishing at the Mall.

Day 51 Route

I had hoped to take a look at the Crime Museum (aka The Black Museum) attached to New Scotland Yard but it turns out it’s only accessible to serving police officers. So with the river on my left I walk down the Victoria Embankment to Westminster Tube and then turn right up Westminster Bridge Road towards Parliament Square. Heading away from the square north up Parliament Street on its west side the next major government building that comes our way is HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs). This stands back to back with HM Treasury (of which more later) as part of a complex of government buildings developed between 1908 and 1917, originally called the New Public Offices but later referred to as GOGGS (Government Offices Great George Street). Great George Street flanks the southern side of the buildings.

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Across the road is the Red Lion pub which is the closest hostelry to Downing Street, though the last sitting Prime Minister to pop in for a drink apparently was Edward Heath. Less surprising is the fact that Charles Dickens was a regular back in the day (since just about every pub in central London claims the old literary boozehound as a one-time habitué).

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The next block up, standing to the west of the cenotaph where Parliament Street changes into Whitehall, is home to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This was completed in 1868 and was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878) who was later responsible for the Midland Hotel at St Pancras (see Day 9).  Scott designed the new Foreign Office as ‘a kind of national palace or drawing room for the nation’ with the use of rich decoration to impress foreign visitors. The building is adorned with a series of sculptural reliefs which, in typical Victorian fashion, take the form of a woman with her top at least half off accessorised to represent either a geographic area or a high concept. So in these creations of H.H Armistead and J. Birnie Philip we have Australia, Africa, America, Asia and Europe (more modestly depicted than the others of course) along with Education, Government, Law, Literature, Agriculture, Manufacture and Commerce. And I didn’t choose this one so I could make some cheap jug-based quip – it just happened to be the easiest to photograph.

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Which brings us to Downing Street and something of a breakdown in the mission because, since 1989, access to the street has been blocked by a security checkpoint and it has been patrolled by armed police since the IRA mortar bomb attack of 1991. The street is named after the diplomat George Downing (1624 – 1684) who had the street and its houses built in the 1680’s. Described by the official Government website as unpleasant, miserly and brutal, Downing came to prominence under Cromwell and then switched allegiance with alacrity when the Restoration became inevitable. For his assistance in purging many of his former Parliamentarian allies he was knighted by Charles II in 1660. The first Prime Minister to take up residence at no. 10 was Sir Robert Walpole in 1735, it having been presented to him by King George II. It was used on and off by subsequent 18th century Prime Ministers more as an office than as a home. Viscount Goderich engaged Sir John Soane to do a makeover on the house in the 1820’s but this didn’t tempt any of his immediate successors to move in. And although no.11 was made the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1828 the surrounding area became increasingly seedy and demolition looked a real possibility. However during the era when Disraeli and Gladstone traded the premiership the house was refurbished and modernised several times. It was later fully renovated during the 1950’s and again in the Thatcher and Blair years. The IRA mortar bomb mentioned above was fired from a white transit van in Whitehall and exploded in the garden of Number 10, only a few metres away from where then PM John Major was chairing a Cabinet meeting to discuss the Gulf War.

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We’ve passed over many of the statues and memorials on Whitehall but I quite admire this equestrian bronze of Field Marshal Earl Haig (1861 – 1928), a 1936 work of Alfred Hardiman. At the time, however, it aroused considerable controversy on account of the riding position and the stance of the horse. Earl Haig commanded the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front during WW1 including during the Battle of the Somme which saw the highest number of casualties in British military history. Although treated as a national hero in the aftermath of the war subsequent reappraisals of his wartime strategies have earned him the soubriquet “Butcher of the Somme”. Bizarrely there is a football club in Argentina named after him. Club Atletico Douglas Haig was founded in 1918 and currently plays in the second tier of Argentinian football.

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We continue a short way further up Whitehall and turn left to pass through the central arch of the Horse Guards building to get to Horse Guards Parade. The first building on the site was commissioned by Charles II in 1663 but the current one dates from the reign of George II. The originally commissioned architect for the new building, William Kent, more or less retained the plan of the original with its clocktower, courtyard and two oversize sentry boxes but utilised the then fashionable Palladian style of architecture. The Duke of Wellington was based here while Commander in Chief of the British Army. The building is still in use by the military and also houses the Household Cavalry Museum (gave that one a miss). There are a lot of jobs I don’t envy people having to do but standing for hours in full military regalia while gurning tourists act the prat in front of you must be high up on the list.

Horse Guards Parade occupies the site of the old Palace of Whitehall’s tiltyard where jousting tournaments were held in the time of Henry VIII. For much of the 20th century is was used as a car park for civil servants but following that mortar attack a review of security arrangements recommended that it be restored to public use. So in 1996 it was resurfaced and a year later car parking banned (apart from tourist coaches apparently). Horse Guards Parade notoriously hosted the beach volleyball tournament during the London 2012 Olympics.

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Circling around the Parade we arrive on Horse Guards Road to the east of St James’s Park and head north back up to the Mall. We turn right towards Admiralty Arch as far as the bronze statue of Captain James Cook (1728 – 1779), by Thomas Brock and erected in 1914, before doubling back. Cook, born the son of a farm worker, is one of the most remarkable examples of 18th century social mobility. After his success in exploring and mapping the Antipodes, Cook’s luck ran out on his third voyage to the South Pacific when a dispute with Hawaiian islanders escalated to the point where he tried to take a local leader hostage and in the ensuing melee was stabbed and killed.

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Incidentally, the flag on the left there is that of Mozambique, one of the many put up along the Mall for the meeting of the Heads of Commonwealth. As you can see it includes an image of an AK-47 rifle – meant to represent defence and vigilance. It’s one of three national flags to feature a firearm, the others being Guatemala and Luxembourg (only kidding it’s actually Haiti). In 2005 a competition was held to design a new flag; a winner was selected from 119 entries but rejected by the ruling government.

So we head right down to the southern end of Horse Guards Road and HM Treasury which occupies the western side of GOGGS (hopefully you were paying attention earlier) and has been based here since 1940. The royal treasure was originally located in Winchester, and was moved to the Whitehall area following the Norman Conquest. The Treasury then operated from the Exchequer Receipt Office in Westminster Cloisters until the Restoration in 1660. On ascending to the throne Charles II, perhaps wanting to keep a close eye on his finances, allocated it rooms in Whitehall Palace. In 1698 a huge blaze, caused by a servant airing some linen too close to the fire, destroyed all of the Palace but the Banqueting House (see last post) and Cardinal Wolsey’s wine cellar which is now under the Ministry of Defence building. Following the fire, the homeless Treasury moved to Henry VIII’s former Cockpit (near today’s Horse Guards Parade). Then in 1734 a new Treasury was built by William Kent on Horse Guards and this was later joined by an adjacent expansion building designed by John Soane. Both those buildings were severely damaged by bombs in 1940 prompting the move to GOGGS.

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In the north-west corner of GOGGS you can visit Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms. In the build–up to the Second World War, the government began looking for a strong basement in which a map room and a Cabinet Room could be constructed without major alterations. The basement of GOGGS was chosen, not only because it was convenient for Downing Street, but because its concrete frame 2 would help prevent the collapse of the building if it received a direct hit from a bomb. Initially, only a few rooms were commandeered but when Horse Guards was bombed on October 14, 1940, wrecking parts of 10 Downing Street, all Churchill’s staff moved into GOGGS. After the war the War Rooms were left in aspic, with access restricted to small groups and strictly regulated, until the Imperial War Museum took them over and opened them up to the public in 1984.

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The entrance to the War Rooms is located at the western end of King Charles Street which intersects GOGGS (I may have overdone that particular acronym just a tad) and the Foreign Office. In the middle of the steps leading up to the street stands a statue of Robert Clive (aka Clive of India) (1725 – 1774) by John Tweed which was positioned here in 1916 having been unveiled outside what is now the Welsh Office on Whitehall four years earlier. Clive is indelibly associated with the British East India Company and its excursions into India, laying the foundations for the establishment of the Raj. His finest hour came in 1756 when, having just been appointed as a Lieutenant Colonel and Deputy Governor of Fort St David, he re-took the city of Calcutta from the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud Daula, with just 3,000 men against the Nawab’s 68,000-strong French-backed army. This led to release of 23 out of 146 captured Britons held in the so-called “Black Hole of Calcutta”, a cell just 18 feet square. Though that doesn’t necessarily compensate for his overall impact on Anglo-Indian relations.

At the other end of King Charles Street is a triumphal arch connecting the Foreign Office and Treasury buildings erected in 1908 and incorporating a frieze by sculptor Paul Montford of nine figures representing trade and travel by sea.

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And so with just a short stroll back to Westminster tube station to finish that’s Whitehall and its surroundings done and dusted. Next time it’s the turn of Parliament.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 51 (part 1) – Trafalgar Square – Northumberland Avenue – Whitehall

So, technically this should probably be Day 51 and Day 52 (part1) as I had to have two cracks at it. First time out I only got as far as covering the few missing streets east of Charing Cross station when I realised I’d lost my wallet somewhere en route. I retraced my steps a couple of times to no avail and then it started to pour with rain so I gave it up as a bad job and went to see Black Panther at the cinema instead. When I resumed several weeks later the weather couldn’t have been more different; hottest day of the year in fact. Less than ideal for fighting my way through the wilting hordes of tourists loitering in Trafalgar Square and wandering up and down Whitehall.

Day 51 Route

That ill-fated first foray kicked off at Embankment Tube from where we weaved through the Victoria Embankment Gardens to the York Watergate which we originally encountered quite a few posts back. As a reminder, this was built in 1626 by Inigo Jones for George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and marks the original northern bank of the Thames prior to the construction of the Embankment. On the other side we follow Watergate Walk east to York Buildings then turn north up to John Adam Street. At no.16 a blue plaque identifies this as a one-time residence of the Georgian artist and caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson (1756 – 1827).

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After a quick visit to the dead-end that is Durham House Street we head west on John Adam Street before cutting through Buckingham Arcade up to the Strand. Keep left and then turn left down Villiers Street just for a few paces before turning left again down York Place and allowing Buckingham Street to take us back down to the Watergate. This time we cross back over Villiers Street and follow Embankment Place west beneath the railway. At the end of the tunnel we emerge onto Northumberland Avenue and swing north before forking right into Craven Street by the Playhouse Theatre. It’s been a while since we had a West End theatre on our route and this one is a bit of an outlier stuck down here by the river. It opened for business in 1907, reconstructed from the ashes of the Avenue Theatre of 1882 which suffered extensive damage when part of the roof of Charing Cross Station collapsed on it in 1905. The interior was being remodelled at the time and sadly six workmen lost their lives. The Playhouse was used by the BBC as a studio from 1951 until the mid-Seventies when it fell into dereliction and was threatened with demolition before being rescued in the late 80’s.

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No.25 Craven Street has a blue plaque commemorating the Moby Dick writer Herman Melville (1819 – 1891). Inspired by the five years he spent as a seafarer, working on merchant ships and as an ordinary seaman in the US Navy, Moby Dick was published in 1851. In the UK it originally came out under the title The Whale in three separate volumes.

It was at this point that things went pear-shaped as described above and three weeks went past before I picked up where I left off.

Another one-time literary resident of Craven Street was the German poet, Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856) who lived here in 1827 having left Germany to avoid the fallout from his latest work which contained a satire on German censorship.

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Next we head back under the railway through the Arches, first passing between the two halves of the Ship and Shovell pub. As I heard some chap ahead of me explain to his partner, this is the only pub in London divided in this way. The pub takes its name from the brilliantly-monickered 17th century admiral, Sir Cloudesley Shovell (so not a sanitising misprint).

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The Arches is also home to the iconic gay nightclub, Heaven, which opened in 1979 replacing a roller-disco called Global Village. The club has also played host to many live performances over the years including the first London gig by New Order in 1981.  Goth pioneers, Bauhaus were filmed here in 1982 performing their classic Belo Legosi’s Dead, footage of which was used in the Catherine Deneuve / David Bowie film The Hunger.

At the other end of the Arches we turn northward back up to Charing Cross Station. Charing Cross was opened by the South Eastern Railway in 1864. After the aforementioned roof collapse of 1905 it was extensively rebuilt, and at the same time the tube lines were constructed. The Charing Cross monument which stands in front of the station is an 1865 replica of one of the 12 Eleanor Crosses built by Edward I to mark the funeral route of his wife Eleanor of Castile who died in 1290. The original Charing Cross was demolished on the orders of Cromwell’s Parliament in 1647. By the 21st century the replica itself needed serious renovation work which was completed during 2009/10.

To the west of the station we turn south down Craven Street again then take a right along Corner House Street into Northumberland Street. Continuing south takes us past the Sherlock Holmes pub, which houses a collection of memorabilia relating to the eponymous detective that originally formed an exhibit of the 1951 Festival of Britain.  Whitbread, then owners of what was then called the Northumberland Arms, acquired the collection in 1957 and refurbished and renamed the pub to be its permanent home.

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We nip down Craven Passage to make a final visit to Craven Street, the section which contains at no.36 the 1730 built house where Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) lived from 1757 to 1775. During this time Franklin’s main occupation was mediating unrest between Britain and America, but he also served as Deputy Postmaster for the Colonies and pursued his love of science (exploring bifocal spectacles, the energy-saving Franklin stove, inoculation, air baths and cures for the common cold).

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Having made the return trip along Craven Passage we head up the eastern side of Northumberland Avenue towards Trafalgar Square. No.18/21 is now the Citadines Hotel but it was built in 1934 as the headquarters of the Royal Commonwealth Society, “a meeting place for gentlemen interested in colonial and Indian affairs”. The building is unremarkable except for the pair of nude male statues supporting the balcony above the entrance and the keystone over the door which features a pair of mythical merlions, half lion half fish creatures that crop up in Etruscan and Indian art as well as Western heraldry. IMG_20180419_145803

On the corner with the Strand stands the Grand Buildings, a 1990’s redevelopment of the 1879 Grand Hotel which is adorned with carvings of endangered animals and human faces by sculptor Barry Baldwin.

And so we come to Trafalgar Square, created in the 1840’s and named in commemoration of victory against the French and Spanish in the naval Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. By this time the National Gallery, which we covered way back in Day 33, was already in situ on the north side. When its architect, William Wilkins, died in 1840 responsibility for the layout of the square was handed to Charles Barry (1795 – 1860). The final designs included a terraced area in front of the National Gallery, four sculptural plinths and two ornamental fountains at an estimated budget of £11,000. When construction work  began the earth removed was used to level Green Park. The hero of Trafalgar was of course Lord Horatio Nelson (1758 – 1805) and a memorial in his honour was planned as a separate project. A competition was held and won by the architect William Railton, who proposed a 218ft Corinthinan column topped by a statue of Nelson and guarded by four sculpted lions. The design was approved, but received widespread objections from the public. Construction still went ahead but with the height reduced to 145ft. The column was completed and the statue raised in November 1843. The four lions were only installed at the base in 1867 having been designed by Sir Edwin Landseer in collaboration with Baron Marochetti (a French sculptor ironically). The two plinths on the south side of the square are occupied by statues of General Sir Charles James Napier (1782 – 1853) and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock (1795 – 1857) both of whose reputations rest on their service during various campaigns in India. On that basis  the opprobrium that Ken Livingstone received when, in 2000, he suggested they be replaced by more familiar figures seems more than harsh.

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An equestrian statue of George IV stands on the plinth in the north-eastern corner while the fourth plinth in the north-west corner, which was originally reserved for a similar equestrian statue of William IV, was left empty right up until the end of the last century. Since 1998 it has been used to show specially commissioned works of art. By coincidence the latest such work, and the 12th in the series, was unveiled on the day of my aborted first excursion, 28 March 2018. The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist by Michael Rakowitz is a recreation of the statue of a Lamassu, a deity with a human head and the body of a winged bull, that guarded the ancient city of Nineveh (in modern day Iraq) and was destroyed by ISIS in 2015. Rakowitz’s sculpture is made from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans and is a welcome return to form following David Shrigley’s little admired giant erect thumb.

As you can probably tell the photos above were taken on that earlier date.

Across the road on the west side stands the Canadian High Commission which, on the latter date. was subject to additional security on account of President Trudeau’s attendance for the meeting of the Heads of Commonwealth. What came to be known as Canada House was built between 1824 and 1827 to designs by Sir Robert Smirke, the architect of the British Museum. The Canadians acquired the building in 1923. In 1993 their government of the time closed it as a cost-cutting measure but the succeeding government reversed that decision four years later and then got the Queen to officially re-open the building.

On the other side of Canada House in the apex of Pall Mall East and Cockspur Street is an equestrian statue of George III. The so-called “Mad King” presumably wasn’t deemed suitable for a starring role in the Square itself.

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On the other side of Cockspur Street, the Embassies of Brazil and Kazakhstan stand side by side, the former somewhat more imposing than the latter.

There’s a former Embassy at 21-24 Cockspur Street as well. Built at the time of the First World War with sculptural adornments by Louis Roselieb (later Roslyn) it became Norway House after the war. The name remains even though the Norwegians decamped to Belgrave Square in 1949.

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 Warwick House Street is another road to nowhere…

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….as is Cockspur Court which leads off from Spring Gardens by the side of the HQ of the British Council and the offices of NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence though why they don’t rename it the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to fit the acronym heaven knows).

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Anyway in front of this lovely building is a cut-through down onto the Mall right by Admiralty Arch. The Arch was commissioned by Edward VII in memory of his mother Queen Victoria. It was designed by Aston Webb and completed in 1912. The sculptural figures, Navigation and Gunnery, at the end of the two wings are the work of Thomas Brock. The building originally served as official residence for the First Sea Lord and later housed various government offices. In 2011 as part of the Cameron government’s austerity programme it was put up for sale and acquired (for a reported £75m) by a Spanish real estate developer who (well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs !) are currently converting it into a Luxury Hotel and Private Members’ club.

Turning left underneath the Arch we circle round the equestrian statue of Charles I which stands on its own separate island to the south of Trafalgar Square and head back down the west side of Northumberland Avenue.

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About half way down is the Nigerian High Commission which was under siege from marchers demonstrating for an independent Biafra. While familiar with the horrors of the Biafran War (1967 – 1970) I am ashamed to say I was unaware that the struggle for secession by the tiny home state of the Igbo people continues to this day.

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We continue to the end of Northumberland Avenue then turn right through Whitehall Gardens which are laid out in front of what is now the Royal Horseguards Hotel but was built as a block of luxury residential apartments, modelled in the style of a French chateau, in 1884 by the Liberal MP and property developer Jabez Balfour. The building’s construction was the centrepiece of an elaborate pyramid scheme fraud by Balfour, through the Liberator Building Society which he controlled. In 1892 the Society collapsed, leaving thousands of investors penniless.

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At the southern end of the gardens we turn west on Horse Guards Avenue then swing right into Whitehall Court which takes from the memorial to the Brigade of Gurkhas to the memorial to the Royal Tank Regiment on the junction with Whitehall Place.

We turn left up Whitehall Place the right into Scotland Place which leads out into Great Scotland Yard where the rear (and what became the public) entrance to the original headquarters of the Met Police is to be found. The Met was formed in 1829 with the passing of Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police Act and took over 4 Whitehall Place, formerly a private house, as its base of operations. The commemorative blue plaque is sited at this front entrance. The Met expanded into several adjoining properties during the 19th century and then in 1890 moved to a new location on the Victoria Embankment (more of which later).

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Proceeding west (m’lud) on Great Scotland Street takes us onto Whitehall itself. Whitehall is of course synonymous with the upper echelons of the UK Civil Service and the first of many government departments residing here is the Department for International Trade, where I imagine they have their work quite cut out at the moment. Beyond the DIT and covering the entire block between Whitehall Place and Horse Guards Avenue is the Old War Office Building. This massive 1906 neo-Baroque edifice took five years to build at a then whopping cost of £1.2m. Its approximately 1,000 rooms spread across seven miles linked by 2.5 miles of corridors became the new home for the Imperial General Staff. The building was a focal point for military planning throughout the major conflicts of the 20th century, housing numerous secretaries of state, including Winston Churchill. When the War Office as an institution was abolished in 1964 the building continued to be used by the Ministry of Defence up until 2013 when it was announced that it would be put up for sale on the open market. It was acquired by the Hinduja Group and OHL Developments for more than £350m and I guess I really don’t need to spell out what they intend to do with it. You have to wonder though whether once the whole of central London has been turned into luxury hotels anyone will bother coming to patronise those hotels.

Next stop heading south down Whitehall is Banqueting House which Charles I appointed Inigo Jones to design and was completed in 1622. The USP of the Banqueting House is its carved and gilded ceiling containing 9 paintings by Rubens that were installed in 1636. Unfortunately the building was closed to visitors when I got there so you’ll have to visit the link above to see the ceiling in all its glory.

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Behind and extending beyond the Banqueting House lies the monolithic and more than a touch 1984-ish Ministry of Defence building. This covers the site where once stood the Palace of Whitehall, main residence of English Monarchs from 1530 to 1698 when most of the structures other than the Banqueting House were destroyed by fire. Subsequently it was occupied by Georgian townhouses a number of which were taken over as government offices. The decision to construct a new large-scale government building was taken as far back as 1909 but the outbreak of WW1 put the plans on hold. A new Neoclassical design of architect Vincent Harris was agreed in 1933 but work didn’t start until five years later and was halted again almost immediately by the onset of WW2. Construction recommenced after the war and in 1951 the Board of Trade moved into the completed northern end. It was another eight years before the Air Ministry occupied the southern end. When the MOD as we know it today was created in 1964 it took over the entire building. The northern portico entrance to the building, on Horse Guards Avenue, is flanked by two large statues, Earth and Water, each weighing 40 tonnes, by the sculptor Sir Charles Wheeler (1892 – 1974) who was also responsible for some of the fountain figures in Trafalgar Square. During the 1950s, building staff nicknamed the statues “Mr and Mrs Parkinson”, after Cyril Northcote Parkinson, the Board of Trade civil servant who devised Parkinson’s Law which states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. More recent MOD staff refer to the statues as the “two fat ladies”.

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The southern entrance is on Richmond Terrace which is flanked on its other side by the Department of Health which occupies Richmond House the façade and wings of which date back to 1822.

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There are several more memorials in the section of Victoria Embankment Gardens behind the MOD including another statue of General Charles Gordon (1822 – 1885). Gordon’s heroic but ultimately doomed defence of Khartoum against the Muslim revolt of 1884 seized the Victorian popular imagination and his death, after nearly a year withstanding the siege, just two days before relief forces arrived led to an “unprecedented wave of public grief”.

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We’ll wrap things up for this time on the corner of Richmond Terrace and Victoria Embankment where you’ll find New Scotland Yard (or re-New Scotland Yard as it should probably be called). After leaving 4 Whitehall Place in 1890 the Met moved to a new building at this location on the Victoria Embankment which became known as New Scotland Yard. In 1906 and 1940 respectively two further buildings were added but by the Sixties even that wasn’t room enough for the burgeoning force and a new New Scotland Yard was built at 10 Broadway in Victoria opening in 1967. Then in 2014 (as we covered in Day 48) the Broadway building was sold to the Abu Dhabi Financial Group and two years later the Met returned to the Victoria Embankment moving into a redeveloped Curtis Green Building (the third building of the original New Scotland Yard). The new New Scotland Yard building was to have been opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 23 March 2017, but that same day it was announced that the Royal opening would be postponed, due to the preceding day’s terrorist attack at Westminster.

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

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

Day 49 Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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