Day 74 – Sloane Square – Chelsea Bridge Road – Pimlico Road

This trip sees us returning to south-west London, specifically the area to the north, south and east of Sloane Square which is a nexus of Chelsea, Belgravia and Pimlico. Basically, about as swanky as it gets. It’s long been a desirable area for the well-off and well-known so there were more blue plaques on this jaunt than you can shake a yappy little handbag dog at. But we’ve also got theatrical history, an iconic department store, a clutch of churches, a few embassies and one of the largest building sites in the capital to offer you. It’s a bit of an epic tbh.

Right next door to today’s starting point, Sloane Square tube station, is the Royal Court Theatre. This red and moulded brick building with a stone facade in free Italianate style was designed by Walter Emden and Bertie Crewe and opened in 1888 as the New Court Theatre. Previously there had been a theatre on the opposite, west side of Sloane Square, a converted non-conformist chapel variously known as the New Chelsea Theatre, the Belgravia Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre between 1870 and 1887. By 1900 the “Royal” monicker had been reapplied to the new theatre and in the following few decades it played host to several of George Bernard Shaw’s plays. It ceased to be used as a theatre in 1932 and became a cinema from 1935 to 1940, until World War II bomb damage closed it. It reopened in 1952 and four years after that was acquired by The English Stage Company whose aim was to produce plays by young and experimental dramatists and “the best contemporary plays from abroad”. This intent was manifested from the outset with the premiere of John Osborne’s “Look Back In Anger” as the third production. Since then, the RCT has “courted” controversy on many occasions and played a key part in bringing about the abolition of theatre censorship laws in the 1960’s. Writers such as Caryl Churchill, Jez Butterworth and Sarah Kane have had multiple works given their first run here and “The Rocky Horror Show” debuted here in 1973. The building was Grade II listed in 1972.

Sloane Square forms a boundary between the two largest aristocratic estates in London, the Grosvenor Estate and the Cadogan. Named after Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753), an Anglo-Irish doctor who, jointly with his appointed trustees, owned the land at the time the square was laid out in 1771. In the 1980’s, of course, it became synonymous with the rise of yuppiedom and the Peter York-coined “Sloane Rangers”. These days the clientele for the Ralph Lauren and Tiffany stores is somewhat different I would imagine though you still have to watch out for marauding Range Rovers and where you step on the pavements.

On the west side of the square, the Peter Jones department store still caters to its traditional demographic however. The shop is named after Peter Rees Jones (1842–1905), the son of a Carmarthenshire hat manufacturer, who opened a store here in 1877 on a 999-year lease from the Cadogan estate at £6,000 per year, the terms of which have never been increased (apparently). After Jones’ death in 1905 the store was bought by a certain John Lewis, who already owned a thriving business on Oxford Street. The present building was built between 1932 and 1936 to designs by William Crabtree of the firm of Slater, Crabtree and Moberly and is the first modern-movement use of the glass curtain wall in Britain. It is a Grade II* listed building. Despite being one of the flagship stores of the John Lewis partnership it has always retained the Peter Jones name.

Just off the square, on Sloane Street, stands Holy Trinity Church which, like the theatre, was constructed in 1888. The architect was John Dando Sedding (1838-1891) who was appointed by the 5th Earl Cadogan and his wife Beatrix. The church is notable for its impressive stain glass windows, chief amongst which is the great east window designed by Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898) and installed by Morris and Company (which was founded by William Morris and members of the pre-Raphaelite movement including Burne-Jones). During WW2 the church was hit by several incendiary bombs causing considerable structural damage. Post-war there was considerable pressure to demolish rather than restore the building, and it was only saved from this threat by a campaign mounted by the Victorian Society and Sir John Betjeman who described the church as the Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement. I should also note that at the time of visiting there was an extensive selection of Charity Christmas cards for sale and the two ladies on the till were very amiable.

It’s about time we got into some actual streets, so let’s kick that off by exiting the square northwards up Sedding Street. On the left we pass the Grade II listed Neo-Georgian Sloan Telephone Exchange which dates from 1924 and was designed by John H. Markham for HM Office of Works. These days it’s used for offices.

At the apex with Sloane Terrace stands the Cadogan Hall. This started life in 1907 as a new Christian Science Church designed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm, hosting up to 1400 worshippers. However, after planning permission for renovations was refused in 1996, the congregation moved on. The Hall was sold but fell into disuse until it was acquired by the Cadogan Estate in 2000 and four years later opened as a concert hall and the permanent base of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Most of the concerts put on here are classical in nature but they also host (mainly) vintage pop and rock acts and jazz performers. In fact, I was due to attend a concert by the now 85-year old Ron Carter (one time bassist with the Miles Davis Quartet) and his current band in a couple of weeks’ time as part of the London Jazz Festival but sadly it’s been postponed until next year.

We turn left down to Sloane Street then turn briefly north before checking out the rear of the Hall on Wilbraham Place. Not an essential photo this next one but I do like these gates.

Returning to Sloane Street again via D’Oyley Street and Ellis Street we come across the first of today’s many blue plaques at no. 95, this one commemorating the English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, and archaeologist, Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926). Gertrude spent much of her life travelling around and mapping the Middle East and is principally known for her involvement in the establishment of territorial boundaries in the region following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire post-WW1. She was (alongside T.E Lawrence) a strong advocate for independent Arab states and was also opposed to the Balfour Declaration which determined the future of Palestine. Towards the end of her life she settled in her beloved Baghdad where she was President of the National Library and founded the Iraq Museum as a permanent home for the country’s rich collection of antiquities. I can thoroughly recommend the 2016 documentary about Bell’s life, Letters from Baghdad, in which quotations from her letters are read by Tilda Swinton. 

On reaching Pont Street we turn east and then south again down Cadogan Place where the houses, which distinguish themselves from other stuccoed terraces in the area by having mini gazebos on their first floor balconies, face the extensive eponymous private communal gardens. Both flats and terraced houses here are popular with foreign buyers, the average price of the former being upward of £3m and the latter £11m. There were some extremely expensive looking motors parked along the street but as I have little interest in cars you’ll have to use your imagination. The metal ironing board dumped beside the bollard outside no.69 strikes a nicely incongruous note.

The next two blue plaques appear at nos. 30 and 44 Cadogan Place respectively. The former commemorates the actress Dorothy Bland (aka Mrs Jordan) (1762 – 1816) who was at least as famous for her love life as she was for her comic stage performances. In 1790 she became the mistress of the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV and during their a 20-year relationship bore him 10 children, all given the surname FitzClarence. The couple lived together as husband and wife, mainly at Bushy House in Bushy Park, Surrey, of which William was Ranger, until they finally separated in 1811. Dorothy moved to Cadogan Place the following year, living there for three years before retiring to France where she passed away within a year. The anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833) resided at no.44 but only for the last ten days of his life (it was his cousin’s house). One month after his death, the House of Lords passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire from August 1834.

Next street along, moving eastward, is Cadogan Lane which is largely comprised of mews houses which back on to the grand residences of its neighbour to the west. At no. 40 is an English Heritage (as opposed to GLC) blue plaque in honour of the writer and actor, Jeremy Lloyd (1930 – 2014). Lloyd is perhaps best known as the co-writer (with David Croft) of the sitcoms Are You Being Served and ‘Allo ‘Allo. In 1974 (at the age of 14) I went with my grandparents to see the recording of an episode of the former at the BBC’s White City studios. To my embarrassment, my grandma collared Jeremy for his autograph.

To the north Cadogan Place extends across Pont Street and here at no.4 Judy Garland died in June 1969 having accidentally overdosed on barbiturates. That house was eventually demolished in 2019.

No launderette of the day this time unsurprisingly so you’ll have to make do with London’s finest dry cleaners which we turn right past to get to Chesham Street where we immediately take a left into Chesham Place. It’s here you’ll find the German Embassy, or rather the 1970’s extension thereof. Amazingly, this won the Westminster City Council prize for architecture in 1978.

Next up is Lowndes Place where the composer, William Walton (1902 – 1983) lived. Among Walton’s orchestral works were marches he wrote for the Coronations of both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II, entitled Crown Imperial and Orb and Sceptre respectively. Of the 13 film scores he composed those for the three Laurence Olivier-produced Shakespeare adaptions Hamlet, Henry V and Richard III are probably the best known. In 1934 Walton began an affair with Alice, Viscountess Wimborne, his senior by 22 years, which lasted until her death in 1948. Later that same year he met and married (in Buenos Aires) Susana Gil Passo who was 24 years his junior.

At the end of Lowndes Place we turn right into Eaton Place then right again up Lyall Street which was home to the master builder, Thomas Cubitt (1788 – 1855) who featured prominently in Day 69.

At the top end of Lyall Street we make a sharp left turn back down Chesham Street to the westernmost section of Eaton Place which plays host to the Chilean Embassy.

After turning off onto Lyall Street again we follow Eaton Mews North back to Eaton Place.

This next stretch of Eaton Place, going east, is the site of another embassy, that of Hungary. Though (and I’ll hate myself in the morning for saying this), judging from the number plate, that car would be more at home outside the German embassy.

We turn right beyond the embassy down Belgrave Place then switch back westward along a previously unexplored section of Eaton Square. The grandest of the houses along here (no.93), with its double set of columns, was once the residence of Stanley Baldwin (1867 – 1947). Baldwin served as Prime Minister on three separate occasions, May 1923 to January 1924, November 1924 to June 1929, and June 1935 to May 1937. During the last of these stints the country was ruled by three different monarchs, George V, Edward VIII (although he was never crowned) and George VI. These days, of course, it’s hard to imagine a Conservative PM seeing out a full term of office let alone remaining as leader after losing even one election.

Just a few doors away, at no. 86, lived Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax (1881 – 1959). He held various ministerial posts during the first and last of Baldwin’s three terms of office and in between time served as Viceroy of India from 1926 to 1931. Neville Chamberlain appointed him as Foreign Secretary in 1938 and he initially gave his support to the appeasement of Nazi Germany. However, after Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, he became a proponent of resistance to further German aggression. On Chamberlain’s resignation early in May 1940, Halifax effectively declined the position of Prime Minister as he felt that Winston Churchill would be a more suitable wartime leader. Following the retreat from Dunkirk, Halifax proposed trying to reach peace terms with Hitler using Mussolini as an intermediary. He was overruled by Churchill after a series of stormy meetings of the War Cabinet and was subsequently eased out of the Foreign Office, becoming UK ambassador to the USA from 1941 to 1946.

On the corner of Eaton Place and West Eaton Place is the house where Frederick Chopin gave his first London performance in 1848. West Eaton Place runs into Eaton Terrace where the Antelope pub is in full bloom.

Beyond the pub, Cliveden Place takes us all the way back to Sloane Square. Before we finally leave the square via the southern section of Sloane Street I’ll just quickly mention the two monuments on the island. The Venus Fountain was created in 1953 having been designed by sculptor Gilbert Ledward. The fountain itself depicts the Goddess Venus, and on the basin section is a relief which depicts King Charles II and Nell Gwynn by the Thames. At the other end, the Chelsea War Memorial is a slightly off-centre cross made of Portland Stone with a large bronze sword affixed to its west face.

This section of Sloane Street, which runs down to join Chelsea Bridge Road, is lined on its west side by impressive Dutch style red-brick buildings built in the 19th century at the instigation of Earl Cadogan.

A good run of streets now before we get to the next point of interest (yet more of those blessed blue plaques !). So we’re working our way east to get to South Eaton Place and taking us there are Sloane Gardens, Holbein Place, Whittaker Street, Bourne Street, Caroline Terrace, Eaton Terrace, Eaton Gate, Lyall Street and Eaton Mews West. On reaching no.16 South Eaton Place we are presented with two plaques. The topmost is in honour of Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood (1864 – 1958) one of the creators of the League of Nations post-WW1 and accordingly winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937 (though I’d rate that as the very definition of a pyrrhic victory given what happened two years later). The one underneath celebrates Philip Noel-Baker (1889 – 1982) the politician, diplomat, academic, athlete, and renowned campaigner for disarmament. He carried the British team flag and won a silver medal for the 1500m at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, and (how’s this for coincidence) also received the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1959). So far, he is the only person to have won both an Olympic Medal and a Nobel Prize.

We’re heading back west to the top end of Chelsea Bridge Road next by means of Chester Row, Graham Terrace and Holbein Mews.

Holbein Mews

The 12-acre site to the east of Chelsea Bridge Road between Pimlico Road and Ebury Bridge Road was formerly occupied by the Chelsea Barracks. The original barracks, designed to house two battalions of infantry, were completed in 1862 and comprised a long and monotonous brick structure broken by towers in the centre. It also included a chapel which still remains (and which we will come to later). In the late 1950s these original buildings were demolished and in June 1960, construction started on new barracks primarily consisting of two 13-storey concrete tower-blocks which were used to accommodate four companies from the Guards Regiments.

In 2005 the then government announced that Chelsea Barracks would be sold and three years later the site was vacated with the troops transferred to the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich. In the meantime, a sale to the Qatar Investment Authority for £959m had been agreed subject to Westminster Council’s stipulation that 50% of any residential units should be affordable housing. The original development scheme proposed, a contemporary design with a series of copper, glass and concrete pavilions, by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners met this requirement but was withdrawn after criticism from Prince Charles. A new masterplan – designed by Squire and Partners – was approved by Westminster Council in 2011. Under this scheme the site would be redeveloped in multiple phases over several years and would incorporate 448 residential units including 123 affordable units (27%), as well as a new leisure centre, NHS medical centre, community centre and local shops. Phases 1 to 3 have now been completed and ground has been broken on phase 4.

As you can see the results are a long way short of awe-inspiring and, to make matters worse, the buildings facing on to Chelsea Bridge Road have some of the naffest poetry I’ve ever encountered etched in their walls. Cabbage face and mushroom lips my arse ! The Qataris are also noticeably more comfortable advertising their involvement in this project that others around the capital. According to one of the security guards the penthouse apartments have a guide price of around £120m.

Anyway, moving on, we follow Chelsea Bridge Road down to its eponymous river crossing then backtrack to the start of Ebury Bridge Road. On the corner here is a plaque marking the flat where Jerome K. Jerome (1859 – 1927) wrote his timeless Three Men In A Boat in 1889. This humorous account of a two-week boating trip on the Thames upstream from Kingston to Oxford has been filmed numerous times including the 1956 screen adaptation, with David Tomlinson as J., Jimmy Edwards as Harris and Laurence Harvey as George, as well as German and Russian language versions.

Heading east along Ebury Bridge Road, with a quick detour into Gatcliff Road, yet another massive development on the south side is at least trying something different with these colourful (but temporary) work and community spaces.

I mentioned earlier that I’m no car buff but who doesn’t love an old Wolseley like this one on St Barnabas Street.

St Barnabas Street intersects Ranelagh Grove where you’ll find that chapel referred to above. As noted, this example of mid 19th Century Romanesque-Byzantine style with Venetian Gothic elements is the only thing that remains of the original barracks. As part of the current development this Grade II listed building was fully restored, including a new bell cast by the world’s largest foundry, John Taylor & Co., and is now home to the Prince’s Foundation (as in Charles of course) – funny that !

Our route takes us back west briefly next, Bloomfield Terrace leading into Pimlico Road which we follow down past Dove Place and Whistler Square (phase one of the Barracks development) before doubling back as far as Passmore Street. En route we pass the southern end of Holbein Place where there is a memorial to WW2 SOE agent Yvonne Cormeau (1909 -1997). In 1940 her husband, who had enlisted in The Rifle Brigade and been sent back to the UK after being wounded, was killed when their London home was bombed. Yvonne’s life was saved by a bathtub which fell over her head and protected her but not her unborn baby. Shortly thereafter she joined the WAAF (to “take her husband’s place) and in 1943 was recruited by the SOE where she was swiftly promoted to Flight Officer. Later that year she was parachuted into southwestern France to be the wireless operator for the SOE network there; a role she carried out until the liberation of France 13 months afterwards. Before dedicating herself to the SOE she placed her 2-year old daughter with a convent of Ursuline nuns in Oxfordshire.

Once on Passmore Street we take an almost immediate right turn into Bunhouse Place which takes us back onto Bourne Street. In Ormonde Place, a discreet a relatively recent private residential development on the west side there is a somewhat incongruous statue of Hercules (about which I can find no further information).

St Mary’s Anglican Church on Bourne Street was built ‘quickly and cheaply’ in 1874, with the intention of providing ministry to the poor living in the nearby slums of Pimlico. Sadly, it appears there is little else of note to be said about it.

We pass the church to the south along Graham Terrace and make our way back to the intersection of Eaton Terrace and Chester Row for today’s pub of the day. The Duke of Wellington is devoid of other clientele when I enter but as I work my way through a (pretty good) fish finger sandwich and glass of Sauvignon there is a flurry of fresh arrivals (mostly tourists).

We make our way back along Chester Road then drop down South Eaton Place to Gerald Road to continue east. Here we find the last (blue) plaque for today commemorating the residence at no. 15 between 1930 and 1956 of the playwright, composer, director, actor, singer and noted wit, Sir Noel Coward (1899 – 1973). During this period, he penned two of his most successful stage works, Private Lives and Blithe Spirit and collaborated with David Lean on the patriotic WW2 films In Which We Serve and This Happy Breed. Subsequently, in 1945, he also provided the (uncredited) narration for Lean’s Brief Encounter.

From Gerald Road we turn right onto Elizabeth Street then head back west along Ebury Street. Next left, Semley Place, leads into Ebury Square and off the south-western corner of the square, where the very short Avery Farm Row adjoins with Pimlico Road, stands the Memorial Fountain to Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster. Created in an Italian-renaissance style in around 1869 this incorporates four enamel mosaics by the renowned Italian glassmaker and artist, Antonio Salviati.

We make our way back up the west side of the square into Cundy Street. I was shocked to learn (from another security guard) that the splendid 1950’s estate, designed by T.P Bennett with a definite nod to Art Deco, is scheduled for demolition. Grosvenor Estates, which owns the site has received approval from Westminster Council to replace the existing 160 flats (44 of which are leased by the council) with new housing including 88 affordable homes, senior living housing for up to 170 people and 75 open market homes. These will be framed by new and improved green spaces and introduce a community hub, food store and cinema to the area. To my mind (and that of the existing residents who fought unsuccessfully against the plans) this could have been achieved without doing away with the current flats.

Back on Ebury Street is a today’s very final plaque (honestly). It’s one of the rare sepia brown London County Council ones from pre-WW2 and it commemorates the house in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) composed his first symphony in 1764 (at the age of eight !).

I don’t tend to focus on retail establishments very much but sometimes you just can’t help yourself.

Ebury Street ends at Pimlico Road where we turn east briefly to find ourselves at the top end of St Barnabas Street. On the corner here is the Grade II listed Orange Pub and Hotel (formerly the Orange Brewery) which dates from 1845-6. And across St Barnabas Street is the Church of St Barnabas which is a year younger, having been completed in 1847 to the designs of Thomas Cundy (Junior).  It was one of the earliest Ritualistic churches, and the first in London in which all pews were free (charging for pews was normal practice at the time). The building was listed Grade I in 1958.

To finish off today (at last) we follow Ranelagh Grove and the last section of Pimlico Road onto Ebury Bridge Road and head up towards Victoria past the National Audit Office. This seminal example of Art Deco architecture was probably the last hurrah for that iconic style of building (at least as far as the UK is concerned). It was constructed as The Imperial Airways Empire Terminal and opened in June 1939 just months before the outbreak of WW2. Designed by the architect Albert Lakeman it has a symmetrical facade with a 10-storey central clock tower and wings curving forward to form a crescent shape. As well as being used by Imperial Airways for ticketing and checking in passengers, it was also used by the airline as a Head Office. The location was chosen because the Air Ministry insisted that Southampton had to be used as base for flying boat services, and this was the only site that backed on to what was then Southern Railway station. Over the years the name of the building changed in synch with changes to the national airline, becoming first the BOAC Terminal and then the British Airways Terminal. The building closed to passenger use in 1980, partly due to pressure on BA to cut costs and also because it became redundant as Heathrow Airport gained direct transport links. It was officially listed a year later and since 1986 has been occupied by the National Audit Office, the independent Parliamentary body with responsibility for auditing central government departments, government agencies and non-departmental public bodies. The sculpture above the entrance, “Wings Over The World” designed by Eric Broadbent, is the only remaining external clue as to the building’s original use.

Day 73 – Paddington Station – Gloucester Terrace – Lancaster Gate

After another, longer than intended, break we finally get around to a second visit to Paddington area, this time concentrating on the west of the station between the Westway and the Bayswater Road. This is another largely residential part of town comprised for the most part of mid-19th century terraces lined with stuccoed four or five storey houses. However, there have been a few interesting residents over the years and there are strong associations with two of the most iconic characters in 20th century children’s fiction.

Starting point is Paddington Station which was built as the London terminus for the Great Western Railway (GWR) to the designs of Isambard Kingdon Brunel. It opened in 1854, replacing a temporary station of 1838 which subsequently became the goods depot. In 1863, Paddington became part of the world’s first underground railway, the Metropolitan Line, serving as its original western terminus. As part of the nationalisation of the railways in 1996, a new version of GWR won the franchise to operate intercity services to the South West of England and South Wales and Thames Valley commuter services out of Paddington. In recent times, of course, it has undergone wholesale redevelopment to become a major Crossrail hub, providing the link between Elizabeth line services west to Reading and east to Abbey Wood.

On the left side of the image above is Tournament House (mentioned briefly in the last post). Built in 1935 and designed by P. E. Culverhouse of the GWR Chief Civil Engineer’s Office it was originally given the rather more prosaic appellation “Arrivals Side Offices” before becoming Tournament House in 1987. The shell-like protrusions contain lights that illuminate the GWR Paddington sign.

For very many people, Paddington Station is inextricably linked with the eponymous bear first created by author Michael Bond in 1958 and subsequently immortalised in almost 30 books (with combined sales in excess of 35 million), a much-loved BBC TV series and two hugely popular recent films. The statue of Paddington Bear on Platform 1 was created by Marcus Cornish in the year 2000 and attracts a constant stream of visitors. A bit further along Platform 1 the 1922 bronze memorial to the employees of GWR who died in the Great War, sculpted by Charles Sargeant Jagger, garners somewhat less attention.

We leave the mainline station via its western exit and make our way up on to Eastbourne Terrace past the entrances to the Elizabeth Line.

Crossing over Bishop’s Bridge Road we head down into Sheldon Square and along Kingdom Street through the new development created in what was the old goods depot area. Kingdom Street turns out to be an unforeseen dead end, culminating in the Pergola mega-bar, so we have to turn back and try and find another exit via the walkway of the canal.

This also proves unsuccessful so we end up taking a foot-ramp down into the underbelly of the Westway leading to the entrance to the Battleship Building. Originally known as Canal House, this was built in 1969 as a British Rail Maintenance Depot. The original architects were the practice of Bicknell and Hamilton who incorporated elements inspired by the German Modernist Eric Mendelsohn. In the early 1990’s the building fell into disrepair but it was still awarded Grade II listed status in 1994 and in the year 2000 was refurbished by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris becoming the London HQ of clothing firm, Monsoon, until 2011.

Beyond the Battleship is another dead end as shown below.

Retracing my steps yet again I encounter a security man who directs me up the side of a vehicle ramp that leads to the Harrow Road. A couple of hundred metres west I’m able to duck under the Westway again and access Westbourne Bridge which crosses over the railway lines and gets us back on track.

Westbourne Bridge leads into Westbourne Terrace; at the apex of this and Orsett Terrace sits Brunel House (one of the many so-called) built in 1848 and designed in an Italianate style by architect George Ledwell-Taylor. Despite being Grade II listed and reputed to have been the London home of Brunel, while he was working on Paddington Station, the 20 bedroom house is in a dilapidated state and seems to be unoccupied.

Next up is Gloucester Terrace where we find a green plaque commemorating the Italian Catholic Priest and Politician, Luigi Sturzo (1871 – 1959) who lived here between 1926 and 1933 having been forced into exile in 1924 when Mussolini’s fascists came to power.

Porchester Square is the next stage of a loop that returns us to Bishop’s Bridge Road. Here there are some prime examples of the early-Victorian properties I referred to in the opening paragraph.

We continue south on another stretch of Westbourne Terrace then turn westward again along Cleveland Terrace. This swings south into Leinster Gardens from where we take a right through Leinster Place to Porchester Gardens which we follow as far as Inverness Terrace then head down towards Hyde Park. Towards the bottom end of Inverness Terrace is the Grand Royale Hotel. This was built at the turn of the 20th century and according to society gossip of the time was commissioned by the Prince of Wales (soon to be Edward VII) as a private residence for his former mistress Lillie Langtry.  Within a few years the house was acquired by Louis Spitzel, a merchant banker, who engaged fashionable architects Mewes and Davis to undertake a renovation which included the addition of a private theatre. The house became a hotel in 1966 and was reopened after refurbishment in 1972 with an ornate theatre bar as its most striking attraction.

On reaching the Bayswater Road we turn briefly east before heading back north up Queensborough Terrace. On the exterior of no.38 (The Byron Hotel – looking somewhat sprucer than most of its neighbours) is a blue plaque honouring the English composer William Sterndale Bennett (1816 -1875). I’m not au fait with Bennett’s works but it appears they were admired by Mendelssohn and Schumann, both of whom he became friends with. He composed around 130 musical works in total; with the earliest of those being held in the highest regard today. From 1866 until his death he served as principal of the Royal College of Music, where he had enrolled as a student at the tender age of ten. He is credited with saving the RAM from closure and its renaissance under his watch is probably a greater legacy than his music.

Cutting through Queensborough Passage we arrive on Porchester Terrace and before heading back down to the Bayswater Road turn briefly north to check out a be-flagged but rather unprepossessing building which turns out to be the Embassy of Laos.

Back on the Bayswater Road, before heading back north up Leinster Terrace, we just about manage to spot the blue plaque at no.100 celebrating the one-time residency of the novelist and playwright J.M Barrie (1860 -1937). Barrie moved here in 1900 with his wife Mary, (nee Ansell). Two years later his most famous creation, Peter Pan, made a first appearance in the novel The Little White Bird before being immortalised in the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up which had its first stage performance on 27 December 1904 at the Duke of York’s Theatre. Barrie’s personal life was unconventional (to say the least), his marriage was reportedly unconsummated and in 1908 Mary began an affair with a man twenty years her junior whom she married following divorce from Barrie who, nonetheless, continued to support her financially.

A short way up Leinster Terrace is today’s final blue plaque marking the house where the American author Francis Bret Harte (1836 – 1902) lived during the latter part of his life. Completely unknown to me beforehand, Harte is apparently most renowned for his short stories chronicling the protagonists of the California Gold Rush. He left the United States in 1878, following a decline in the popularity of his writings, initially taking up the role of US consul in the German town of Krefeld. His former friend, Mark Twain, tried to block his appointment on the grounds that “Harte is a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward… To send this nasty creature to puke upon the American name in a foreign land is too much”. (Don’t hold back, Mark – tell us what you really think.) Subsequently, Harte was given a similar post in Glasgow before ending up in London. Throughout this time he never called upon his wife and children to leave America and join him.

From Leinster Terrace we continue on into Leinster Gardens then loop eastward round Cleveland Square and Cleveland Gardens to end up on Chilworth Street where the laundry and comestible needs of the local population are well catered for.

The pub on the right above, The Cleveland Arms, has been around since 1852 but it looked to be closed when I passed by, which was post-midday. Hopefully, that was just a one-off. Adjacent to the pub, on the other side of Gloucester Mews, is the splendidly ornate frontage of what was once the premises of J. Kinninmont & Sons, builders and decorators. It appears that this family business lasted (in this location) for just over a century, disappearing in the early 90’s. The property is currently occupied by a hairdresser’s which, charmingly, has retained the Kinninmont name.

We turn left next, finding ourselves back on Gloucester Terrace with more of those stuccoed townhouses stretching out before us.

From here we make our way back to today’s pub of the day (by default largely as it was actually open), the Leinster Arms on Leinster Terrace. Taking us there are Cleveland Terrace, Eastbourne Mews, Chilworth Street (again), Gloucester Mews, Craven Road, Upbrook Mews, Devonshire Terrace, Queen’s Gardens, Craven Hill Gardens and (plain old) Craven Hill. When I entered there was only one other patron, who left not long after having drunk what I presumed to be his regular lunchtime pint. Just as I polished off the last of my glass of wine, calamari and falafels a (German – I’m guessing) couple wandered in to avert an existential crisis. Full disclosure, I forgot to take a photo when I got back outside so this one is taken from the pub’s Facebook page.

We exit Leinster Terrace to the east on Lancaster Gate which incorporates a square of the same name in which resides Spire House. This apartment block was built in 1983 on the site of the former Christ Church which dated from 1855. In the late Seventies the main structure of the church was declared unsafe and demolished, leaving just the Grade II listed tower and Gothic stone spire, which together rise nearly 205ft high, to be incorporated into the new (and frankly pretty hideous) development.

Between Spire House and the Bayswater Road stands The Lancaster Gate Memorial Cross, a grade II listed war memorial in commemorating residents of the Borough of Paddington who died fighting in the First World War. It was was designed by Walter Tapper in the Gothic Revival style and its sculpture was executed by Laurence Arthur Turner. It consists of a column surmounted with a golden cross, below which in eight niches are the figures of Saint George for England, Saint Louis for France, and six of the warrior saints of Christendom: Maurice, Longinus, Victor, Adrian,  Florian and Eustace.

A few steps away from the war memorial is a monument to Reginald Brabacon, 12th Earl of Meath (1841 – 1829). Created shortly after his death it consists of a tall pedestal of Portland Stone with inset portrait relief and Soanesque domed top surmounted by statue of a nude seated boy. Brabacon was an Irish politician and philanthropist, who held several senior diplomatic posts and was involved in many charitable organisations. On succeeding his father as Earl of Meath he joined the Conservative benches in the House of Lords where his chief accomplishment was to pressure the government to introduce an “Empire Day” (to nurture a sense of collective identity and imperial responsibility among young empire citizens). I have been unable to ascertain what the nude boy is all about.

Nipping round the corner onto Bayswater Road we come across what should be the Thistle Hotel Hyde Park but which is all closed up and stripped of any identifying signage. As I go in for a closer look a workman/security person comes out of the building to check what I’m up to. Self-identifying as an ex-squaddie he vouchsafes that the building is now owned by the Government and leaves me to draw my own inference from that. All very mysterious. Thistle Hotels is part of the GLH Group which operates a number of hotels in central London. This hotel is still listed on their website but dates beyond the start of October 2022 are unavailable for booking and there is no explanation for the closure of the property. At this time, I was unable to discern anything further from online searches.

At the eastern extremity of Lancaster Gate we turn into Craven Terrace. For some reason, that wasn’t obviously apparent, the pub here, The Mitre was doing a roaring lunchtime trade and Sheila’s Cafe wasn’t doing so badly either.

Having done a circuit of Lancaster Mews we continue north on Craven Terrace past today’s second Launderette of the day though this one doesn’t strictly qualify either (no self service machines you see). However, it does deserve a special mention for doubling up as a deli bar – a definite first.

The section of Craven Road that connects us with Brook Mews has a splendidly international flavour with a Malaysian Cafe, European Food Market and Persian Restaurant all within a few yards of each other.

At the end of Brook Mews there are steps down to Elms Mews which runs back into Bayswater Road. From here it’s a relatively short final stretch back to Paddington Tube Station via Gloucester Terrace (Pt 3), Westbourne Crescent, Westbourne Terrace (Pt 3), Craven Road (Pt 2), Conduit Mews and, finally, Spring Street; the last of these with an international flavour of a somewhat different kind.

Day 72 – Sussex Gardens – Praed Street – Paddington Basin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Messenger, by Allan Sly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 71 – Maida Vale – Little Venice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clive Court (1923)
Rodney Court (1915)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 70 Part 1 – Vauxhall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 69 – Pimlico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 67 – Lambeth Bridge -Smith Square – Victoria Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 65 Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 64 route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The cottages in question are at the far end

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

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