Day 15 – Bloomsbury – British Museum – Holborn

Another short one, at least in terms of distance travelled, but there are a lot of points of interest contained within today’s route. This takes in the area between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn tube stations to the south, east and west of the British Museum and includes a brief incursion into the BM as well as a visit to the, somewhat lower profile, Cartoon Museum.

Day 15 Route

Kick off at Tottenham Court Road tube station (with its spacious Crossrail- ready new ticket hall) and head over to the Dominion Theatre. The theatre opened in 1929 but before that the site was occupied by a brewery which was the source of the 1814 London Beer Flood (not quite the lark it sounds as it was responsible for more fatalities than all of the rainwater based flooding of recent years). The theatre is currently showing the musical version of Elf (presumably in tribute to the old maxim about no-one ever going broke by underestimating the taste of the public). Still anything has to be better than We Will Rock You (which had 12 years of mugging gullible punters here).

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Head north up Tottenham Court Road and turn right down Bayley Street which leads into Bedford Square. On its own the latter is endowed with more plaques commemorating the residence of notable public figures than the whole of some of the areas previously visited. I only mention a couple here; first of which, at no.22, is the ornate memorial to the actor-manager Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1853 – 1937). J F-R was educated at Charterhouse – which just shows that in those days it was still possible for someone from the upper middle classes to forge an acting career.

No.6, on the right above, was the home of Lord Eldon  (1751 – 1838) who was Lord Chancellor during part of the reign of George III. At the age of 21 he eloped to Scotland with Bessie Surtees, the daughter of a Newcastle banker, fortunately without being disowned by his family.

No.41 was once the residence of the novelist, Anthony Hope (1863 – 1933), best known for The Prisoner of Zenda.

No.46 is occupied by the Angolan Embassy and no.52 was apparently used as the contestants’ house in the 2010 series of the Apprentice.

The eastern side of the square is where Gower Street morphs into Bloomsbury Street and at no.2 of the former is a plaque to the splendidly named Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847 – 1929), one of the leading lights of the Suffragist movement. Suffragists were proponents for votes for women but not necessarily Suffragettes (who were a specific and highly militant group). Millicent campaigned, often in vain, on a wide range of Women’s rights issues. However as the head of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), which unlike the Suffragette WSPU kept up its campaigning during World War One, she played in key role in securing the vote for Women (or at least some of them) in 1919.

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Next up is Bedford Avenue with its very distinctive Victorian terrace on the north side.

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Adeline Place then takes us south to the western section of Great Russell Street where, before rejoining Tottenham Court Road, we pass the headquarters of the Trades Union Congress and the Central London YMCA. The latter is on the site of the original YMCA founded by drapery trade worker, George Williams in 1844. It also proclaims itself as the largest gym in central London.

After turning left at the Dominion again to join New Oxford Street we fork left along Bainbridge Street which merges in Streatham Street where there is further evidence of the work of the Peabody Trust.

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Dyott Street then takes us back to New Oxford Street from where we continue eastward into High Holborn all the way to Holborn tube station. On the way we pass James Smith & Sons, purveyors of highest quality umbrellas and walking sticks on this site since 1857.

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Also en route is Holborn Town Hall, a legacy of time (from 1900 to 1965) when Holborn was a distinct and separate metropolitan borough. In 1965 it was merged with the boroughs of Hampstead and St Pancras to create the London Borough of Camden. The Grade II listed town hall with its Portland stone façade dates from 1908 and is now used as office space.

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From Holborn tube head north up Southampton Row then veer left down Sicilian Avenue, a well-preserved Edwardian commercial development still popular with shoppers and al-fresco diners.

Having crossed over Bloomsbury Way it’s a circuit of Bloomsbury Square next. This is reportedly the oldest London square; licensed to Lord Southampton in 1661 (Covent Garden is older but considered a piazza rather than a square). The eastern side of the square belongs to the massive Victoria House , designed by architect Charles W. Long. Construction of this behemoth of a building with its grand Beaux Arts facades began in 1924 but it wasn’t finally completed until 1932 by which time it was the largest office block in the country apart from Whitehall and incorporated 125 miles of electric wiring, 5000 tons of steel frameworks and 5.25 million bricks.

The square itself was at first very simply landscaped, but was laid out by Humphrey Repton in about 1806 in a more romantic manner in accordance with Regency tastes. At the north end is Westmacott’s statue of Charles James Fox (1749 – 1806), gazing towards his friend the Duke of Bedford in Russell Square. CJF, who served as Foreign Secretary under three different prime ministers, was notorious for his drinking, rakishness and gambling as well as his corpulence and unlovely appearance. As such he was reputedly the most-ridiculed figure of his era, principally by the cartoonist James Gillray (who, by dint of serendipity, we shall hear more of later).

Cross back over Bloomsbury Way and go down Southampton Place then back via Barter Street. On the corner here is Swedenborg House home of the Swedenborg Society named after the eponymous Emanuel (1688 – 1772), Swedish Philosopher, Inventor and general renaissance man.

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Another great polymath is recognized with a blue plaque at no.3 Russell Chambers on the conjunction of Bury Place and Galen Place. Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) lived in a flat here during the 1910’s. Best known as a philosopher and mathematician (and a combination of the two) Russell won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950 (something I was previously unaware of).

On Bloomsbury Way again we pass the Pushkin House, home of Russian culture in London. This is named of course after the great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin (1799 – 1837), who is alleged to have fought around 29 duels, the last of which, against his wife’s reputed lover (and brother-in-law) resulted in his premature demise.

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Further along is St George’s Church, the sixth and last of the London churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and completed in 1730. The stepped tower is influenced by Pliny the Elder’s description of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), and topped with a statue of King George I in Roman dress. Its statues of fighting lions and unicorns symbolise the recent end of the First Jacobite Rising. Continuing the earlier Suffragette theme, this was where the funeral of the martyr to the cause, Emily Davison, was held in 1913.

That just leaves the remaining streets between Bloomsbury Way and Great Russell Street before we get to the two museum stops. So after Museum Street, Coptic Street, Willoughby Street, Stedham Place and Gilbert Place we arrive on Little Russell Street, home to the Cartoon Museum. This was opened in 2006 as a venue dedicated to the celebration of British cartoon and comic art from the 18th century to the present day. A visit to the upper floor is recommended to anyone who recalls the glory days of the Beano, Dandy, Beezer, Sparky, Cor !, Whizzer & Chips, the Victor and perhaps slightly younger aficionados of Viz and 2000 AD.

Current exhibition (to 17 January 2016 so be quick) is entitled Gillray’s Ghost and looks at the work of the aforementioned 18th and early 19th century political cartoonist, James Gillray (1756 – 1815) and his influence on his contemporary equivalents such as Steve Bell and Martin Rowson.

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This brings us finally to the British Museum which I obviously don’t have space to do justice to here so I’m just going to leave you with a selection of images, mainly of artefacts relating to my current favourite ancient civilisation, the Assyrian Empire (approximately 1900 to 612 BCE). Warning: unfortunately some animals were harmed in the making of these.

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Day 14 – Clerkenwell – Finsbury – Farringdon Road

Pretty extensive route today; initially covering the eastern side of the Finsbury district between Goswell Road and St John Street then moving back into Clerkenwell and visiting the area east of Farringdon Road and north of Clerkenwell Road.

Day 14 Route

Before we get into that though here’s a quick update on overall progress so far (including today).

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So today’s excursion takes Sadler’s Wells as its starting point and begins by heading north on Arlington Way and after a quick diversion along Chadwell Street merges into St John Street up to the apex with Goswell Road. On the way we pass the Old Red Lion Theatre (currently showing a world premiere of Arthur Miller’s first play “No Villain”). Criss-cross between Goswell Road and St John Street using Owen Street and Friend Street. The latter then links via Hermit Street and Paget Street to Rawstorne Street. This is occupied along its southern side by the Brewers Buildings, constructed in the 1870’s in an act of philanthropy by the Brewer’s Company, one of London’s historic livery companies.

Back on Goswell Road nos. 338-346 form the site of Angel House, a former tobacco warehouse with a set of distinctive travel-related plaques on its frontage.

Spencer Street, Earlstoke Street and Wynyatt Street take us back again to St John Street and turning south here takes us to the main building of City University. The University was originally founded in 1894 as the Northampton Institute with the objective of promoting ‘the industrial skill, general knowledge, health and wellbeing of young men and women belonging to the poorer classes’. It achieved university status in 1966 by Royal Charter. At the moment City University is not one of the federal colleges of the University of London but it was announced this year (2105) that it will become so as from August 2016. Alumni include  the likes of Tony Blair and Michael Fish amongst their number.

The University buildings cluster around Northampton Square from which radiate Wyclif Street, Ashby Street and Sebastian Street.

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Next rung down is Percival Street which links, via Agdon Street and Cyrus Street, to Compton Street. This was the site of the Harrow public house from as far back as the 1760’s up to the late 1980’s. The building below dates from 1904-05, part of the Watney Combe Reid estate.

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Back on Goswell Road we encounter the design studio of the internationally-renowned architect Zaha Hadid (best known here for the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics). It’s not one of those places you can just pop into for a browse.

These days Clerkenwell is the main hub for London’s architecture and design studios and this is in full evidence in the cluster of streets around Brewery Square; Brewhouse Yard, Dallington Street, Pardon Street, Northburgh Street, Great Sutton Street and Berry Street.

Once these are out of the way we hit Clerkenwell Road itself

Head west until we reach St John’s Square, home to the Priory of the Order of St John. The origins of the Order and its mission to administer to the sick and injured lie as far back as 11th century Jerusalem. The Priory Church Clerkenwell was occupied by the Order from around 1140 to 1540 when, because of its association with the Catholic Church, the English branch was disbanded during the reign of Elizabeth I. Subsequently the building was put to a number of different uses, coffee house, pub, offices of the Master of the Revels, until the Order of St John in England was resurrected in 1888 by Royal Charter. Although it has other activities it is most prominent today in the guise of the St John’s Ambulance. Unfortunately, today both the museum and garden were closed (despite what is says on the sign).

 

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St John’s Square is also home to the rather twee Zetter TownHouse Hotel and this gravity-defying paean to petty crime.

Leave the square via Jerusalem Passage which leads into Aylesbury Street and from here go north along Woodbridge Street as far as Sekforde Street. Here we find the site of the one-time Finsbury Savings Bank and another Dickens connection; apparently he deposited some trust funds here in 1845. The bank was absorbed into the London Trustee Savings Bank around 1928 and this branch closed in 1960.

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Continue back to St John Street and then sharp right into Skinner Street which skirts Spa Fields Park. At the top end we cut back through the park to reach the apex of the dog-legged Northampton Row which is the location of the London Metropolitan Archives.

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This free resource is home to an extensive collection of documents, images, maps, books and films covering around 900 years of London’s history. Took the opportunity to apply for a History card and also look around the current (to 27 April 2016) exhibition on War in London. This includes some very sobering photographic archives showing the destruction caused by the bombing raids of both World Wars. As the image below dramatically reminds, St Pauls only survived WWII against some pretty considerable odds.

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At either end of Northampton Road lies Bowling Green Lane which segues into Corporation Row which runs along the back of the former Hugh Myddleton (that man again) School. There were separate entrance gates here for Boys, Girls and so-called Special Girls. This was not intended in the Jose Mourinho sense of the word I believe but probably alludes to the fact that there was a separate school of deaf and dumb children on the premises at one time.

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Turning right back into Woodbridge Street and again into Sans Walk brings us round to the front side of the building, now offices and flats (of course).

Head down St James Walk next and cut through St James’s Church Gardens to reach the two limbs of Clerkenwell Close on the eastern side of which sits the Peabody Estate, Pear Tree Court. This was one of six such estates built by the Peabody Trust in the late 1870s and 80s on sites cleared by the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Peabody Trust was one of the original London Housing Associations established in 1862 by the American Banker, George Peabody. It continues to fulfil that charitable mission to the present day.

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Also on Clerkenwell Close are former warehouses which were built in 1895–7 as the central stores of the London School Board. This is one of the several original entrances still visible today.

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Pear Tree Court leads out onto Farringdon Lane where we head south alongside the railway and past Vine Street Bridge. The sign in the picture below helpfully provides a number call if your vehicle should crash into the bridge.

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Ok so we’re on to the final lap of this one, left into Clerkenwell Road then up Clerkenwell Green and back onto Clerkenwell Close to take a closer look at St James’s Church. This has apparently been a religious site since the 12th century though the current church dates from 1792. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to get a look at the interior of the church, or its much vaunted crypt, on this occasion.

By way of compensation today’s Pub of the Day, the splendid Three Kings, is just across the road. A public house has occupied this spot since at least the 18th century, when it was originally known as the Three Johns. The somewhat unprepossessing exterior (blame a re-tiling job in 1938) is more than made up for by the splendidly idiosyncratic interior styling.

Until next time…

Day 13 – Rosebery Avenue – Mount Pleasant – Gray’s Inn Road

Another short one today – just ticking the streets to the east of Gray’s Inn Road and north of Rosebery Avenue and finishing off with a look at the Post Office’s Mount Pleasant site and a sixties time capsule within Holborn Library.

Day 13 Route

Start off on Rosebery Avenue again; this time at the Old Finsbury Town Hall  the Grade II listed building originally known as the Vestry Hall at the time of its construction in 1895. The building is now occupied by the Urdang Academy performing arts school which unfortunately means there is no public access to see the interior art nouveau detailing which it is best known for. You can however see the influence of that style in the glass and wrought iron canopy over the entrance.

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A little way further north turn right down Gloucester Way right by the Finsbury War Monument with its extravagant angel, created by Thomas Rudge in 1921.

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Then we go west again along Myddleton Street which brings us to the junction of Rosoman Avenue and Exmouth Market. The latter is worth a visit for its selection of independent stores and bar/restaurants; and for the gentlemen there is an opportunity for recoiffeuring at “Barber Streisand” (no stop you’re killing me !).

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Exmouth Market also houses the entrance to another listed late 19th century building, the Italianate-styled Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer.

 

Take a left down Pine Street then cut through Vineyard Walk onto Farringdon Road and back up to Rosebery Avenue. This time we turn north on Tysoe Street into Wilmington Square. On the west side take in Attneave Street and Easton Street before leaving via Yardley Street. The passage at the top end of the square fronts another archetypal Georgian terrace and emerges opposite Charles Rowan House (see previous post).

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Follow Margery Street back down to the point at which King’s Cross Road changes into Farringdon Road then head north-east up Lloyd Baker Street. A circuit of Lloyd Square, Wharton Street, Granville Street and Granville Square returns us to the same point. This time we go west along Calthorpe Street which id on the north side of the vast Mount Pleasant sorting office site. You can also get a view of the backside of 200 Gray’s Inn Road now the home of ITN Productions, the people behind the ITV news.

Pheonix Place flanks the west side and runs down to Mount Pleasant itself.

Mount Pleasant (officially known as the London Central Mail Centre) is the UK’s largest sorting office, a 12 acre site created in 1889 where the former Coldbath Fields Prison formerly stood. From 1927 to 2003 it was the central focus of the London Post Office Railway the PO’s own driverless, underground railway. In the picture above you can see the signage for one of the platforms. In 2014 mayor Boris Johnson gave the green light to a controversial proposal to build 700 new homes on a large portion of the site. Despite fierce local campaigning for affordable housing it now seems inevitable that most of this new build will comprise yet more luxury flats. As a reminder, Royal Mail was privatised in 2013. The sorting office operations, employing 3,000 people, will continue beyond the re-development.

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Next we head back north on Gough Street thereby returning to Gray’s Inn Road. At no.238 the former premises of bedmakers, Litvinoff & Fawcett, was for a brief time a couple of years ago squatted by the Occupy Movement and proclaimed as a Bank of Ideas.

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Beyond Coley Street is the aforementioned no.200. Now ITN’s HQ this was in a previous incarnation the location of the offices of the Times and the Sunday Times and also housed those papers’ printing presses in the basement. The current building was the result of a 1990 redevelopment.

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Loop east down Elm Street and back up the remaining section of Mount Pleasant before crossing Gray’s Inn and making a circuit of Kings Mews, North Mews and John Street to arrive back on Theobalds Road.

This is the location of Holborn Library, dating from 1960 and one of the earliest examples of the now oft-maligned modernist architectural designs of the sixties. Unfortunately the part of the building really worth seeing, the third floor, is only accessible when hosting special exhibitions (such as the one by Artangel in 2014). There used to be a 250-seat lecture theatre, also used for film screenings, on this level. Although now only partially used as offices the rooms here remain a symphony in wood panelling.

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Day 12 – Gray’s Inn Road -Pentonville Road – New River Head – Charles Dickens Museum

Bit of a meandering one today, largely covering the triangular area bounded by King’s Cross Road, Pentonville Road and Roseberry Avenue then returning to Gray’s Inn Road and ending up at the Charles Dickens Museum. Much of this area is comprised of the site known as New River Head which is integral to the story of London’s water supplies. This trip also takes us for the first time into the London Borough of Islington.

Day 12 Route

Begin within a return visit to Kings Cross and take the Scala on the corner of Pentonville Road and King’s Cross Bridge Road as the starting point. Originally opening as a cinema in 1920, the Scala has had many incarnations including a brief ill-fated stint in the late seventies as a Primatarium (a specially made-up word I suspect). This monkeying around lasted all of 18 months before the venue reverted to being a cinema and also hosting live music performances. That continued until 1993 when the Scala Cinema Club went into receivership after losing a court case over an illegal screening of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. After a radical make-over it was resurrected in 1999 as a concert and club venue. Unfortunately the building is completely swathed in scaffolding for repainting at present.

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Cut through onto the top end of Gray’s Inn Road where the familiar un-tarted up Kings Cross lives on.

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On the opposite side of the road is Willing House, now a Travelodge but originally built around 1910 in a ‘Free Baroque’ style for the Willing family, whose fortune was founded on billboard sites.

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The streets which intersect between Gray’s Inn and King’s Cross Road have little of real interest but the photos below give some flavour of St Chad’s Place, Field Street, Leeke Street, Swinton Street, Wicklow Street and Britannia Street.

One thing of note on Wicklow Street is this indication that the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital isn’t that keen on taking on any additional patients.

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After that lot it’s back out onto King’s Cross Road and a break for lunch; finally catching up with the vogue for Vietnamese Banh Mi rolls (after everyone else has moved on no doubt).

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Cut up onto Pentonville Road again via Lorenz Street then back down Weston Rise and up Penton Rise. Somehow it’s never really registered with me before that a Rise is so-called because it does just that. On the west side of this incline is the 1960’s GLC built Weston Rise Estate which is garnished at its southern end by a somewhat incongruous tropical garden.

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On the other side is Vernon Square, home to Kings Cross Baptist Church and behind which is another SOAS campus.

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Heading further east along the Pentonville Road brings us to Claremont Square in the middle of which is the eponymous reservoir originally dug at the start of the 18th century then covered in 1855 following The Metropolis Water Act of three years earlier, prompted by the cholera epidemic of 1846, which required this of all reservoirs within London. The reservoir fell into disuse in the 1990s, but came back into service in 2003 to provide a kind of header tank or balancing reservoir for the London Ring Main

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Claremont Close loops off the square and then Mylne Street leads off the south-east corner down to Myddleton Square. This, the largest square in this part of London, is named after Sir Hugh Myddleton  one of the main architects of the New River project – of which more in a minute. In its centre sits St Mark’s Church, Clerkenwell, consecrated on 1st January 1828. The church is unusual in that there is no graveyard in its grounds. The congregation have also shared the church with the World Community for Christian Meditation since 2002.

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Having circumvented the square, Ingelbert Street takes us into Amwell Street and then River Street returns us to the square from where Myddleton Passage cuts through to Arlington Way. Here we emerge opposite the west side of Sadler’s Wells Theatre on Roseberry Avenue, London’s premier contemporary dance venue. The current building which opened in 1998 is the sixth theatre on this site; the first erected in 1683. Current offering is Matthew Bourne’s “Sleeping Beauty” which I can thoroughly recommend.

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Immediately to the west of Sadler’s Wells is the area known as New River Head which derives its name from being the site of the mouth of the New River, the channel cut at the start of the 17th century to supply London with water from springs out in Hertfordshire. This was all carried out under the auspices of the New River Company which became a very substantial property owner over the next couple of centuries before being taken over by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1904. It was the latter which constructed the Laboratory Building (below) in 1938 as a home for the testing of water quality. This archetypal 1930’s creation was converted to residential use in the 1990’s.

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On the apex of Roseberry Avenue and Hardwick Street sits the equally impressive New River Head Building which was opened in 1920 as the headquarters of the MWB. This also succumbed to conversion into luxury private residences in the nineties.

 

Hardwick Street leads into Amwell Street again and crossing over into Merlin Street we find Charles Rowan House  with its distinctive turrets and atypically Expressionist feel. This was originally built in the 1920’s as married quarters for Met policemen and was converted into council housing in 1974.

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Next up is Wilmington Street, then Fernbury Street and Naoroji Street (named after Dadabhai Naoroji (1825 – 1917) the so-called “Grand Old Man of India” and the first Asian to sit as a British MP). A bit more of Amwell Street then left into Lloyd Baker Street and right into Lloyds Street. The elevation comes into its own here with this view across to the BT Tower in the west.

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From Great Percy Street we dip back into Amwell Street then loop back via Cruikshank Street and Holford Street. Cumberland Gardens and Prideaux Place are the next stops before arriving at Percy Circus. Like Great Percy Street, this takes its name from Robert Percy Smith, Governor of the New River Company from 1827 to his death in 1845. It is also the least central of the London Circuses. At No. 16 is yet another blue plaque commemorating a brief residency of Lenin.

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Next down Vernon Rise back to King’s Cross Road and again zig-zag between this and Gray’s Inn Road taking in Acton Street, Frederick Street, Ampton Place, Ampton Street, Cubitt Street, Pakenham Street and Wren Street. This brings us to St Andrews Gardens opposite which on GIR is the London Welsh Centre – a hub for Welsh cultural activities in the capital not a rugby player.

Just a bit further up the road is the old Kings Cross telephone exchange with its distinctive blue façade.

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Wander down to Doughty Street to  rendezvous with final stop of the day, the Charles Dickens Museum at no.48. Dickens only lived in this Georgian terraced house from 1837 to 1839 but two of his daughters were born here. it was where he wrote Oliver Twist and it also sadly witnessed to the death of his 17 year old sister-in-law. The museum first opened in 1925 and, as you would expect, is home to the world’s most important collection of Dickens memorabilia, including the writing desk you see below. To be honest I can’t say it was the most scintillating museum experience I’ve ever had – perhaps I should have waited a week for the Christmas decorations to go up.

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48 Doughty Street
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Drawing Room
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Study

 

Day 11 (part 2) – Tottenham Court Road – University College London – Bloomsbury

Second leg of today’s walk resumes at the north side of Russell Square then concentrates on the constellation of buildings and institutions that constitute the “Bloomsbury Site” of the University of London, principally UCL.  This was originally an area of eleven acres stretching from Woburn Square to the British Museum and its acquisition, from the Duke of Bedford (see last post) in 1927, was partially funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. It ends with visits to the two wonderful in-house museums belonging to UCL, the Grant Museum of Zoology and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.

Day 11 Route pt2

We begin by heading north up Bedford Way then after turning left into Gordon Square venture south again via Woburn Square and Thornhaugh Street before returning to Russell Square and exiting that by the south-west corner. This takes us into Montague Place which runs along the back of the British Museum (more of which in a later post).

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As mentioned above the creation of this new hub for the University of London in the thirties was facilitated by an endowment from the Rockefeller Foundation – £400,000 which was a pretty immodest sum back then. The centrepiece of the development was the (still) imposing Senate House on Malet Street. Construction of this iconic Art Deco edifice (often claimed as London’s first skyscraper) began in 1932 and although some staff moved in during 1936 it wasn’t fully completed until 1937 by which time it had been scaled back from the original designs due to a shortfall in funds.

The building was used by the Ministry of Information during WWII and this, combined with its monolithic appearance no doubt, inspired both Graham Greene’s “Ministry of Fear” (adapted for the cinema by Fritz Lang) and George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth as featured in “1984”.

There is even an actual Room 101 inside on the first floor though there is not thought to be any direct correlation between this and Orwell’s home of nightmares made flesh (despite the fact that his wife worked for the MoI during the war).

The right-hand image below is of a map in The Chancellor’s Hall showing the location of all the constituent colleges of the University of London in 1939. The actual painting, by MacDonald Gill, is 4m across.

The building mainly functions as the administrative centre for the University of London but also houses its main library. On the left below is the Senate Room itself; these days used only a handful of times a year for meetings of the actual Senate (which is largely ceremonial) though it is available for hire.

To the north of the Senate House is Torrington Square where reside  Birkbeck College and The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Opposite the latter is the Brunei Gallery (no prizes for guessing where the funding for that came from) which is well worth a visit, not only for its exhibitions but also its Japanese roof garden.

Across the road at the top end of the square is the southern end of  Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury

Here we turn left along Byng Place then head back down Malet Street until we get to Keppel Street which is where London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine lives.

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The creation of this new building for the school, following the granting of its Royal Charter in 1924, was another result of the munificence of the Rockefeller Foundation. The building, which was opened in July 1929, was one of the first constructed around a steel frame. The facade of Portland stone incorporates above the main entrance a carving of Apollo and Artemis riding a chariot. As you can also see above, the first floor balconies are  decorated with a selection of gilded bronze studies of insects and animals infamous for their roles in the transmission of disease.

The sculpted panel above is by Eric Kennington (1888 – 1960) who is mainly known for his work as an official artist in both World Wars. The bust in the library is of Sir Richard Doll (1912 – 2005) considered to be the foremost epidemiologist of the 20th century.

Cross over to Store Street with its uniformly fronted independent shops, galleries and coffee shops and on the corner with Ridgmont Street come across the site of the old Bloomsbury Service Station which was redeveloped in 2012 incorporating the style and some of the features of the original 1926 building into what is now offices and a Byron hamburger joint.

Next up Chenies Street, North Crescent and Alfred Place. The middle one of those is largely comprised of Minerva House, a grade II listed former car showroom and workshop.

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Back on Store Street, South Crescent to be precise, is the Building Centre. Established in 1931, this is now not-for-profit organisation is dedicated to providing education, information and support in relation to all aspects of the built environment. Worth a visit just to see the 3D map which highlights all the current new-build projects in London.

We now take a first dip into Tottenham Court Road and the next turning on the right is Alfred Mews where we come across this somewhat redundant instruction.

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Criss-cross between Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street via Torrington Place, Huntley Street, Chenies Mews and Capper Street. Last of these features another great surviving example of the Art Deco form in Shropshire House which dates from 1932.

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Another cul-de-sac off of TCR is Queen’s Yard where behind this unprepossessing entrance can be found the Government Art Collection. One of the small selection, of the over 100,000 works in the collection, on display is the splendid 4’33” (Prepared Pianola for Roger Bannister) by Mel Brimfield

 

On University Street, where we turn next, there is, appropriately, a pub named after the philosopher, Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832),  who left his body to be publicly dissected by his friend, Dr Thomas Southwood Smith, and preserved as an ‘auto-icon’. Jeremy the auto-icon was bequeathed to UCL in 1850 and has remained there ever since.

 

The Grant Museum of Zoology sits on the corner of University Street and Gower Street and houses around 68,000 remarkable zoological specimens.

 

Founded in 1828 as a teaching collection, the Museum is packed full of skeletons, mounted animals and specimens preserved in fluid. Many of the species concerned are now endangered or extinct. Below are a selection of my personal favourites.

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After leaving the museum we head down Gower Street, stopping briefly for a look at the UCL Main Building also known as the Octagon Building.

To get to the final stop for today, the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology we veer off to the left and left again into Malet Place. The museum was set up as a teaching resource for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at UCL. Both the department and the museum were created in 1892 through the bequest of the writer Amelia Edwards (1831-1892). The collection, of over 80,000 Egyptian and Sudanese artefacts dating from prehistory through the time of the pharaohs to the Islamic era, was considerable extended due to the extraordinary excavating career of the first Edwards Professor, William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) after whom the museum is named. Of course the export of such antiquities from their place of discovery has long been illegal so the collection is a static one. It is also quite astonishing.

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2015 is actually the centenary of the museum opening to the public and in recognition of that here is one final exhibit to hopefully whet your appetite for a visit.

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This is a fragment from the “Book of the Dead” papyrus belonging to a man named Khnumemheb. It shows the ‘weighing of the heart’ scene in which the deceased’s heart is weighed against the feather of truth while Ammut, the monstrous devourer of the dead, sits beneath the balance awaiting the judgement.

 

And on that cheery note…until next time.

 

Day 11 (part 1) – Russell Square – Queen Square – Great Ormond Street – Lambs Conduit Street

Covered a lot of territory today so I’m going to split this up into two separate posts. This first one starts near Russell Square tube station then takes in the Brunswick Centre before moving south through Queen Square, east along Great Ormond Street and back west via Theobalds Road to Russell Square itself. As you might imagine this part of town is largely known for the hospitals which cluster together here. When we move west of Russell Square on the second leg of this walk it’s all about the University of London.

Day 11 Route pt1 Starting point for today is Woburn Place from where we turn left into Coram Street and then turn south down Herbrand Street.  Here on the right, opposite a particularly unlovely Hilton hotel, is the McCann building, a superb example of 1930’s Art Deco created in 1931 by Wallis Gilbert & Partners who were also responsible for the much loved Hoover factory. The building was originally a Daimler car hire garage.

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Turning left at the next junction along Bertrand Street takes us past Russell Square station, one of the best examples of the classic Leslie Green-designed underground stations with their iconic claret tiling.

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Heading north again, this time on another stretch of Marchmont Street, and from there turn right into the Brunswick Centre, a residential and retail development designed in the 1960’s and finally completed in 1972. It’s one of the few constructions of that era to have achieved Grade II-listed status and still divides opinion. I’m quite fond of it as it reminds me of my first halls of residence at UEA, though by the time I was working near here in the mid-eighties it was already quite tired; with the flavour of a down-at-heel provincial high street. In recent times it’s been spruced up of course and now looks like any generic semi-prosperous high street.

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I used to frequent the bunker-like cinema on the east side of the square back in the day when it was still the Renoir (fell asleep in Screen 2 during a showing of Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” in 1986). It’s recently been done-up and re-branded as the Curzon Bloomsbury (progress eh ?).

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Back past the tube station and hang a left into the final bit of Herbrand Street before reaching Colonnade (our first and for all I know the only example of a one-word named London thoroughfare) on the corner of which sits the Horse Hospital. Originally built at the end of the 18th century as a functioning two-storey horse stable it has housed one of London’s most alternative arts venues since 1993. Unfortunately this bastion of the avant-garde and the underground is currently under threat of closure following the decision in 2014 of the building’s owners to put it up for sale (for a cool £2.5 million). In order to try and safeguard its future the HH has set up a fighting fund and crowdfunding support campaign and is running a number of fundraising events involving artists who have been associated with the venue.

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Unfortunately the right-hand picture above can’t really count as the selfie-of-the-day as it was taken on a visit earlier this year during Horse Hospital opening hours.

After the Colonnade it’s right into Grenville Street and right again back on to Guilford Street. A short way along at Queen’s Court there is a blue plaque commemorating Wing Commander Forest Frederick Edward Yeo-Thomas (1902 – 1964), the British secret agent known as “The White Rabbit“. Recruited by the British SOE during WWII to act as liaison with the French Free Resistance he was instrumental in securing vital support for the latter by appealing directly to Churchill. Check out the link  and I think you’ll agree that they don’t really make ’em like that anymore (eat your heart out Mr Bond).

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South into Queen Square which is flanked on its east side by the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. At its bottom end sits the former Italian Hospital which is now part of Great Ormond Street. Between the two is the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine which (as you can see from the picture below) was formerly the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. In light of recent announcements about NHS blacklisted treatments it might need to get on with completing the airbrushing. The statue in the gardens is believed to be of Queen Charlotte wife of George III.

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At the South-West corner of the square we find the Church of St George the Martyr, dating back to 1706 (though it has been seriously remodelled at least twice since then). Its major claim to fame is that it played host to the wedding of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in 1956. Adjacent to the church is the derelict site of an eponymous charity school opened just four years after the church. A St George the Martyr C of E primary school still exists nearby having moved to a new-built site in 1976.

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We leave the square via Great Ormond Street itself and pass the main entrance to the world-famous children’s hospital. The hospital first opened in 1852 and, as is well known, has benefitted from ownership of the universal rights to Peter Pan since being given them by J.M Barrie in 1929. This has contributed no-doubt to the many breakthroughs in paediatric medicine that have occurred here – including the first successful bone marrow transplant in 1979.

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Opposite the hospital at the entrance to Barbon Close is a vestigial sign advertising the presence of G. Bailey & Sons Horse & Motor Contractors a business which sadly closed its doors in 1951. Oddly though a company of the same name was founded just two years ago in 2013 and has its registered office nearby in Theobalds Road.

Next up is Lambs Conduit Street with its boutique designer shops and high-end coffee houses. Sadly the public conveniences at its north end where it morphs into Guilford Place rather let the side down. In the background you might just be able to make out the Young’s pub, the Lamb, which has been around in one form or another for the best part of 300 years.

P1040641So, doubling back, we check out Long Yard then turn left into the final part of Great Ormond St before going north on Millman Street and then south again down Doughty Mews.

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On mews leads to another, John Mews this time, from where we turn right into Northington Street. This runs into Great James Street where No.23 was home in the 1920’s to Dorothy L. Sayers (1893 – 1957) one of the queens of detective fiction and the creator of Lord Peter Wimsey, perhaps most famously portrayed by Ian Carmichael on British TV in the early seventies.

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This takes us down onto a stretch of Theobalds Road from where we head north again up Emerald Street and then visit Rugby Street, Dombey Street , Orde Hall Street and Harpur Street before returning to Theobalds Road and passing the London HQ of mega-union, Unite.

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Next up is New North Street at the top of which we turn left into an alley which cuts through to Boswell Street and encounter a couple of mounted policemen on patrol.

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Gage Street then takes us through to Old Gloucester Street, home to the October Gallery which is not only a commendably internationally-flavoured art space but also has exceedingly nice washroom facilities.

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We emerge again into Queen Square and quick left into Cosmo Place brings us out onto Southampton Row. Head south until we reach Bloomsbury Place which links up with Bedford Place. This is one of those streets full of white-fronted, black-railinged townhouses that Hollywood thinks everyone in London lives in. In reality they’re mostly hotels or offices. The top end of Bedford Place comes out opposite Russell Square gardens and the statue of the man who commissioned their creation, the fifth Duke of Bedford. And that completes the first half of today’s circuit.

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Day 10 – St Pancras – Foundling Museum – Coram’s Fields

Pretty grim autumn day so another curtailed trek. Pick things up at Kings Cross again then cover the remaining streets in the St Pancras district before flirting with Bloomsbury once more and finishing off with a visit to the Foundling Museum.

Day 10 Route

Quick stroll down Gray’s Inn Road then hook a right into Cromer Street where the Rowan trees are resplendent in their Autumn finery.

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On the north side, Loxham Street, Tankerton Street and Midhope Street don’t detain us long and Speedy Place lives up to its name. The main purpose of the picture below is for Mr Pedant here to highlight the correct spelling of the word, launderette. Most of these establishments that remain use the deliberately misspelt form from the 1985 film “My Beautiful Laundrette”.

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Turn east down Harrison Street, home to the unexpected English Kilt Company, back to Gray’s Inn Road then west again down Sidmouth Street. Brief detour down Seaford Street before arriving at Regent Square. Unfortunately only the southern terrace remains of the original 1829 construction. The other 19th century buildings failed to survive the WWII bombings and were replaced by flats in the 1950s. At the south-entrance to the gardens an oddly-situated red phonebox channels the spirit of the Tardis.

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Tavistock Place leads off this south-west corner and here we encounter one of the more incongruous blue plaque proximities. No.36 and No.32 were home, respectively, to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) in 1908 while he was reading at the British Museum and writing ‘Materialism and Empirio-criticism’ and Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927), author of the quintessentially English “Three Men In A Boat”, during 1884-85. Both of these were only recently put up, courtesy of the local Marchmont Association – the former not without a touch of controversy.

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On the north stretch of Marchmont Street we take a break to browse through the extensive selection on display at the impressive Judd Books which is just opposite another plaque – this time commemorating the fact that Percy Bysse Shelley and Mary Shelley spent a couple of years (1815-16) in a house on the site.

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Herbrand Street, Kenton Street (not I guess named after the character in the Archers or vice versa) and Handel Street bring us to Wakefield Street site of another plaque courtesy of the (actually quite sinister-sounding) Marchmont Association. This one is in honour of the celebrated Victorian transvestites, Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park, also known respectively as Lady Stella Clinton and Miss Fanny Winifred Park or collectively as “Stella and Fanny”. The following is from the information board in Regent Square Gardens – “In April 1870 they were arrested as they left the Strand Theatre having been seen together in a box dressed as women and winking and smiling at gentlemen sitting in the stalls. During their trial it emerged that Boulton enjoyed a close friendship with Lord Arthur Pelham-Clinton, the third son of the Duke of Newcastle and MP for Newark. Boulton and Park appeared at trial wearing extravagant costumes, the former in a cherry coloured silk evening dress with white lace trim. They were acquitted to huge cheers from the public galleries”.

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Wakefield Street is also the western entrance to St George’s Gardens, established in 1713 as a pair of burial grounds to serve the parishes of St. George the Martyr Queen Square and St. George’s Bloomsbury. They were the first Anglican burial grounds to be set away from the churches they served. The gardens contain the tomb of Oliver Cromwell’s grand daughter, Anna Gibson. They are also a reminder of the dark history of body-snatching – the first recorded case took place here. Having become very run-down by the late 1990’s the gardens were restored with help from a lottery grant and reopened in 2001.

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Euterpe, the Muse of Instrumental Music. Terracotta figure, one of nine muses which decorated the facade of the Apollo Inn (1898) on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Torrington Place.

The obelisk below was reputedly built by a Thomas Falconer in 1729 but it is not known whose death it commemorates.

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Exit the east side of the gardens into Heathcote Street then turn right into Mecklenburgh Street and again to follow the alley which runs along the north side of Coram’s Fields to reach the Foundling Museum.

The museum, which opened in 2004, explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery. The Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram, was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for babies at risk of abandonment.

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Among the prominent benefactors of the hospital were the artist William Hogarth and composer George Frederic Handel. The former encouraged the leading artists of the day to donate work in order to set up the inaugural public art gallery and the latter donated an organ (musical rather than biological) and conducted annual benefit performances of The Messiah. The second floor of the museum houses the largest collection of material and memorabilia relating to Handel (including the original manuscript score of The Messiah) which was put together by one Gerald Coke. The donated Victorian artworks are showcased in the second floor gallery. Not really my thing unfortunately – though the gallery did present the opportunity for the latest Selfie of the Day.

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The permanent exhibition on the ground floor tells the moving story of the Foundling Hospital while the lower ground floor is running an exhibition on the phenomenon of the Victorian “Fallen Woman”. This includes a large collection of the written petitions submitted by women who had fallen pregnant out of wedlock and would be unable to take care of the baby once it was born. These petitions were reviewed by the Governors of the hospital and only in cases where the woman was perceived to have been respectable (i.e. not complicit in her own undoing) would the child be accepted.

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Until the end of November you can find the above artwork, Papever Rhoeas, created by artist Patrick Hartley in the ground floor gallery. This representation of a single poppy is composed of lamb’s heart muscle tissue, horsehair and vintage suture cotton and presented in a glass-blown jar designed in the form of a used World War One artillery shell.

By the time I leave the museum, having stopped on for lunch in the café, the rain is tipping down. I retrace my steps back to Mecklenburgh Square , the Square (Grade II listed) and its garden were part of the Foundling Estate and named after the wife of King George III, Charlotte of Mecklenburgh- Strelitz. The south side of the square is occupied by Goodenough College, named not for the modest expectations placed upon would-be students  but after its founder, Frederick Craufurd Goodenough, a Chairman of Barclays Bank, who in 1930 formed a Trust to raise funds for a hall of residence for male students from the British ‘Dominions’.

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As the rain continues to lash down I hurry on down to Guilford Street and after a detour into Doughty Street head west past the southern entrance to Coram’s Fields. This seven-acre site which includes a Youth Centre, Children’s Centre, Community Nursery, Sports Programme and a city farm is run by its own charitable trust and is not connected with the charitable legacy of the aforementioned Thomas Coram. Adults not-accompanying children are not allowed in except to use the football pitches on the north side.

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A right turn into Lansdowne Terrace brings us to Brunswick Square and the western exit from this out opposite the Brunswick Centre from where we shall resume things next time.

Day 9 – British Library – St Pancras – Kings Cross

A pretty short one today; partly due to the fact that I dropped my phone shortly after leaving the house, and then cut my thumb open on the smashed screen. I also lingered rather longer than anticipated in the British Library, from where this walk begins before crossing the Euston Road and making a brief foray into the St Pancras area south of the eponymous station.

Day 9 Route

Before we kick off though the shaded area in the map below shows what we’ve covered so far. As someone once said – this could take a while.

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As already noted, the starting point today is the British Library which divorced itself from the British Museum and moved to this purpose-built site on the Euston Road in 1997 (the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century). I don’t think it’s in any way controversial to describe the building itself as uninspiring – not helped by the unflattering comparison with its majestic neighbour, the Renaissance (formerly Midland Grand) Hotel of which more in a minute. Someone must like it though as it was granted Grade 1 listed status this year.

The BL collection comprises more than 150 million items adding around 3 million each year. This takes up 625km of shelf space and requires a further 12km every year.

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The statue in the picture above on the left is a representation of Sir Isaac Newton by artist Eduardo Paolozzi “after the style of William Blake”. Funding for this was provided by a grant from pools companies, Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters. This was  just one year after the start of the National Lottery which was ultimately responsible for forcing the three pools companies to merge into one and effectively disappear off the public radar.

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As I said I spent longer than intended at the BL. This was down to visiting the recently-opened “West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song” exhibition, which I can thoroughly recommend (it’s on until 16 February 2016).

The mask in the right-hand picture above is of a kind used in masquerade rituals in Burkina Faso and northern Mali. The black and white pattern represents the importance of learning – black signifying the deep knowledge of the elders and the white the lack of knowledge of the youth. ( I think we can all get with that particular message).

Anyway, I finally leave the library and make a quick up-and-down Midland Road which separates the library from St Pancras International Station and the aforementioned Renaissance Hotel. The original St Pancras Station opened in 1868 and the Midland Grand Hotel eight years later. The hotel was the “wonder of the age” when it opened but after the First World War, during which it was bombed, it gradually fell out of favour and closed in 1935. From then until 1985, when it was declared unsafe, it was used as railway company offices. In the 1960’s there was a proposal to demolish both the hotel and St Pancras station but a vociferous public campaign led instead to listed status in 1967.

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Latterly, of course, the arrival of the Channel Tunnel and the decision to site the eventual London terminus for Eurostar services at St Pancras led to the redevelopment of the site between 2004 and 2007 and the rebirth of the station as St Pancras International and the hotel, which Betjeman had feared “too beautiful and too romantic to survive” as the Renaissance Hotel. The pictures above show how the architectural motifs of the original building were carried over into the new construction.

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Further evidence for the case that it is nigh on impossible to take a photo of anything in London without a bloody white van getting into the frame.

So crossing Euston Road we venture down Judd Street before taking a right into Bidborough Street which leads into Marbledon Place and today’s pub of the day, Mabel’s Tavern. Very nice pint of Shepherd Neame Bishop’s Finger and a sausage sandwich but how many screens blasting out Sky Sports News do you really need.

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On leaving the pub it’s a revisit of Flaxman Terrace before turning left into Burton Street and then right into Burton Place where we come across this van promoting St George Ethiopian beer. Having never seen this stocked anywhere I was half-inclined to view this as some kind of elaborate art installation with the name being a stab at political comment on cultural misappropriation. However it transpires that St George is not thought to have ever been anywhere near Ethiopia and is merely a shared patron saint and that the brewery named after him has been going since 1922.

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Burton Place leads into Cartwright Gardens. This whole area is awash with budget hotels (though in London the term is purely relative) but this particular crescent is wall-to-wall with them.

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Cartwright Street is closed off due to a massive redevelopment of student halls so we have to traverse the actual gardens which are themselves undergoing a make-over. Hence the caging off of the statue of the man after whom the gardens were named. John Cartwright (1740 – 1824) was a political reformer who campaigned for universal suffrage well before the concept became reasonably acceptable. His status as all-round good bloke is evidenced by the fact that this statue was paid for by public donation.

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Next up is Sandwich Street which is obviously where I should have had lunch.

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Then on to Thanet Street and via Leigh Street back to Judd Street where there’s just time to pay a visit to Camden Town Hall. As well as, naturally, being home to Camden Borough Council this Grade-II listed neo-classical thirties building is now a much-used venue for civil marriage and wedding ceremonies (as exampled below).

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There is public access to the first floor where the council chambers are located and also the Mayor’s parlour (which his or her office is quaintly referred to). The plaque you can see in the picture below celebrates residents of the borough who fought on the right (i.e. the left) side in the Spanish Civil War. The flags commemorate the wartime contribution of Canadian airmen.

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Fittingly, given the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, there is also a commemoration of the granting of the freedom of the borough to Michael Foot (the last genuinely socialist leader of the Labour party).

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 Back on the eastern side of Bidborough Street are the Victoria mansions which were home for 22 years to the British surrealist painter and wartime artist, Paul Nash (1889 – 1946). Nash is best known for his haunting, proto-Modernist WW1 landscapes.

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The remainder of the streets bounded by Gray’s Inn Road to the east and Euston Road to the north are unremarkable save for the already-remarked upon proliferation of lower-end hotels. So via Tonbridge Street, Argyle Walk, Whidborne Street, Argyle Street, Belgrove Street, St Chad’s Street, Argyle Square, Crestfield Street and Birkenhead Street we end emerge again opposite Kings Cross Station just as the early evening gloom is setting in.

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Gateway to the major cities of Yorkshire, North-East England and Scotland, Kings Cross (or King’s Cross – either is used) has a strong history in popular culture. In fact it’s probably better known today for being the home of Harry Potter’s fictional platform 9 and 3/4 than for the tragic fire of 1987 in which 31 people died. It also featured prominently in the great Ealing comedy of 1955, The Ladykillers.

According to folklore, King’s Cross was also the site of Queen Boudicca’s final battle and she is buried somewhere under one of the platforms.

Day 8 – Marble Arch – Hyde Park – Park Lane – Mayfair – Grosvenor Square

Today’s route involves a first trip to the two most expensive properties on the Monopoly Board, Park Lane and Mayfair via the underside of Oxford Street, the Marble Arch gyratory system and the eastern edge of Hyde Park. It also takes in that little bit of central London which is all about the US of A, Grosvenor Square.

Day 8 Route

Start at Bond Street tube station and immediately venture south down Davies Street where on the intersection with South Molton Lane we find the Grosvenor Works, which is now occupied by Grays Antiques but was from the late 19th century home to John Bolding & Sons makers of sanitary appliances (bathroom fittings in other words).

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Turning right along Weighhouse Street there is another reminder of London’s industrial and commercial past – this United Dairies signage on a building currently undergoing redevelopment. United Dairies effectively ceased to exist in 1959 when it was merged into what became Unigate – so this must have at least been obsolete for longer than I’ve been around.

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Up Gilbert Street and down Binney Street where, sandwiched between this and Duke Street, is the former King’s Weigh House Chapel which nowadays operates as the catchily-entitled Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile. Designed by the eminent Victorian architect, Alfred Waterhouse, the chapel’s original name derives from the fact that its dissenter congregation’s original place of worship, in Eastcheap, was above the office for checking the weight of merchandise.

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Head up Duke Street to Oxford Street again and then down Lumley Street (no sign of Joanna) to arrive back west of the church in Brown Hart Gardens. The eponymous gardens in the middle of this square are laid out on a raised terrace and replaced the original communal street level gardens which made way for the construction of what must be one of the world’s grandest electricity substations at the turn of the last century. The substation was completed in 1905 to the design of C. Stanley Peach in a Baroque style from Portland stone featuring a pavilion and steps at either end, a balustrade and Diocletian windows along the sides to light the galleries of the engine rooms. The overlaying of a paved Italian garden was carried out at the insistence of the then Duke of Westminster.

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The gardens have very recently been renovated and the terrace is now, like every other tarted up bit of the capital, graced with a posh café. The western end of the square is occupied by another five-star hotel – the Beaumont.

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We now head north on Balderton Street and turn left into North Row, which runs parallel with Oxford Street and has nothing of interest to detain us until we reach Marble Arch. Pause at the corner of Park Lane to note the detailing on the southern exterior of the Cumberland Hotel where Jimi Hendrix kept a room in the late sixties and which now has a suite (though not the same one) named in his honour.

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Cross the road to take a closer look at Marble Arch itself. This was originally designed by our old friend John Nash to be one of the state entrances to Buckingham Palace but was relocated in 1851 upon the widening of Park Lane and now sits isolated and underwhelming amid the traffic visited only by hordes of pigeons and a few less discerning tourists.

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Yes, if you were wondering where all the pigeons went after being driven away from Trafalgar Square here’s your answer. As a consequence the sign in the photo below which exhorts members of the public to keep the area clean is a perfect exercise in futility. The statue you can see in the far distance is a very recent addition to the area. The work, called ‘She Guardian’, comprises four tonnes of bronze, sculpted over two years by Russian artist Dashi Namdakov. Unfortunately (or perhaps not) its positioning means only the hardiest tourist (or pigeon) will ever get close enough to experience its true majesty.

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These little guys have even gone so far as to hide away down a disused subway entrance to escape its awesome majesty.

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We make our escape too; skirting round Cumberland Gate to enter Hyde Park at Speakers’ Corner. In accordance with an 1872 act of parliament anyone can still turn up unannounced to speak on any subject, as long as the police consider their speeches lawful. Though on this particular day no-one had made the effort.

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Dodge the joggers and cyclists en route through the park to exit by the Joy of Life fountain, a 1963 creation of T.B Huxley-Jones. Take the subway under Park Lane to emerge on the edge of Mayfair by Mount Street. On this stretch of Park Lane we have at no.93 the Grade I listed former London residence of Disraeli from 1839 to 1872. And at no. 100 the Grade II listed Dudley House, one of the few surviving aristocratic private palaces in London. It didn’t exactly come as shock to learn that this 17-room mansion is now owned by a member of the extended Qatari royal family.

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For the next stretch of the walk we weave in and out of Park Lane and the parallel running Park Street which isn’t exactly short of high-end apartment blocks.

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No. 16 on the interconnecting Upper Grosvenor Street was once the residence of Sir Robert Peel. Although he served twice as Conservative Prime Minister in the 1840’s Peel was one of the great political reformists, playing a key role in the repeal of the Corn Laws, Catholic emancipation and the 1832 Reform Act by supporting the Whig government from the opposition benches. Such Liberal tendencies have not exactly endeared him to certain elements of subsequent generations of Conservatives. His best-known legacy is probably the creation of the Metropolitan Police and the designation of its members as either “Peelers” or “Bobbies”.

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Culross Street, Upper Brook Street, Woods Mews and Green Street are the other interlinking streets. The second of these is home to Michael Roux Jr.’s Michelin two-star, Le Gavroche at no. 43.

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Reaching the top of Park Lane again we cut back down Dunraven Street where no.17 announces itself as the former home of the immortal P.G Wodehouse. There are very few surer ways of fending off a bout of the glums than a good dose of Jeeves and Wooster. If you’re not familiar with the radio adaptations featuring the late greats Richard Briers and Michael Hordern I urge you to seek them out.

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Continue via Lees Place and Shepherds Place to North Audley Street where at no.13a we find the former St Mark’s Church. Dating from 1828 and designed in the (by now familiar) Greek revival style the building ceased to be a parish church over 30 years ago and after an long period of abandonment and aborted re-usage attempts is now re-branded as One Mayfair and owned by the same events company that previously brought you One Marylebone. The adjacent red-brick No. 13 was originally the vicarage and is still today used as a private home.

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Nearby Providence Court provides a prime example of the vogue for redevelopment that involves propping up historic frontages and completely rebuilding behind them.

P1040568George Yard takes us back to Duke Street from where it is a short hop to Grosvenor Square. As already noted this is dominated by the monstrous incongruity that is the American embassy. Chap with his hands on his hips is Dwight Eisenhower. He’s joined at the southern end of the building by Ronald Reagan whose statue was unveiled in 2011. I suppose the thinking was that the one was a hero of the Second World War and the other of the Cold War, though the equivalency escapes me.

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Pride of place in the gardens in the centre of the square goes to a statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt and on the eastern side there is a pavilion and memorial garden created to honour the victims of September 11. The building in the background is the significantly more discrete Italian Embassy.

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Leave the square via Carlos Place which is the location of the Connaught Hotel and also the Timothy Taylor gallery where one of the works in the current exhibition provides today’s selfie of the day.

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Duck through Mount Street Gardens, created in 1889 out of a former burial ground, passing the rear of the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception before entering onto South Audley Street. Here we find the 120-year old Mayfair Library which is still just that, a public library run by Westminster Council. It’s quite difficult to imagine any of the residents of this part of town popping in to borrow an actual book so perhaps it’s not surprising that the library has expanded its services to include offering itself as an approved venue for wedding ceremonies.

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Opposite the library is the Grosvenor Chapel which was built in the 1730’s and whose Anglican congregation was swelled during the Second World War by the presence of American servicemen and women.

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South Audley Street is also, at no. 57, home to James Purdey and Sons, Gun and Rifle makers by Royal appointment. Still no sign of Joanna (tenuous cultural cross-reference of the day).

P1040586Right, we’re nearly done now. Aldford Street and Rex Place bring us back to Mount Street and a stretch which is the location of the Brazilian Embassy proper and a swathe of high-end boutiques and restaurants (which in fairness the buildings do deserve).

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Finish off with Adams Row, Reeves Mews and then Grosvenor Street where the final pause of the day is to clock the embassy of the Principality of Monaco at no.7. Not quite sure why they feel the need for an embassy as most of their residents will be too scared to visit London in case they get asked to pay some tax (God forbid!)

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Day 7 – Euston – Somers Town – Bloomsbury

Today’s route sees us heading north again to cover the area around Euston Station starting in the locality of Somers Town which bridges the gape between Euston and Kings Cross. We then head across the Euston Road encroaching into Bloomsbury before finishing off in the streets surrounding University College London.

Day 7 Route

From Euston Station we head north along Eversholt Street which is somewhat reminiscent of the vicinity of Kings Cross before it was tarted up. Though it does have the impressive 1930’s built Euston House at no.24, originally the HQ of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway it later became the home of the British Railways Board (now of fond memory).

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Further up it looks more like this. I don’t think I’ve seen one of those multi-coloured plastic strip curtains since about 1981. Interesting to note that the misused apostrophe isn’t a particularly modern phenomenon – though whoever put this up has obviously hedged their bets.

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Turn eastward along Polygon Street where at no.16 is the site of the  the former Jubilee pub closed in 2003 but nice to see the splendid frontage still in situ. We are now venturing into Somers Town which like the area immediately east of Regents Park still has a good stock of social housing and a bit of an old-school community feel. Right down Werrington Street and left along Pheonix Road and we hit Ossulton Street which heading south flanks the new British Library.

The site just to the north of the library is supposedly being redeveloped as the Francis Crick Institute, intended to be one of the largest medical research centres in Europe. I say supposedly because the poster below proclaims an opening in 2015 and as you can see from the other photo there’s still basically just an empty space.

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Quick right onto Euston Road and back northward on Chalton Street, a pleasingly tree-lined thoroughfare with an interesting mix of retail and hospitality outlets. Including one with a secret garden – though it’s obviously not that secret once you advertise it on your billboard.

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Drummond Crescent, Doric Way, Churchway and Grafton Place complete the set of streets east of Euston and somewhere amongst these is this rather novel storage solution.

Then we’re back out by the supremely unlovely Euston Station from where heading east along Euston Road we pass the headquarters of the Unison Trade Union at no. 130.

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Cross over Euston Road and skirt round the back along Flaxman Terrace which segues into Dukes Road where we find The Place, home of contemporary dance.

Opposite is the back entrance to the imposing neo-classical St Pancras New Church. Built in 1819–22 to the designs of William and Henry William Inwood; the most impressive features of this Grade-I listed building are the two tribunes on either side of the eastern end with their four terracotta caryatids modelled on those at the Erechtheum in Athens.

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Inside the entrance to the church is a plaque commemorating a family of worshippers who were amongst those lost when the Steamship City of Boston sank en route from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool in 1870.

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The crypt, which extends the whole length of the church, was designed to contain 2,000 coffins, but fewer than five hundred interments had taken place by 1854, when the practice was ended in all London churches. It served as an air-raid shelter in both world wars and is now used as an art gallery. The kinetic installations in the pictures below are the work of Irish-French artist Malachi Farrell.

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Running parallel to the south side of the church is the self-consciously quaint Woburn Walk which trumpets its Georgian origins along with the facts that WB Yeats is a former resident and Dickens used to buy his tobacco here. It’s a popular location for anachronistic TV and advertising shoots most notably episodes of Poirot. As you can see it’s not all about the past – the future is catered for as well, if you dare seek to know it !

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Moving back westward along the south side of the Euston Road we pass Friends House, the Quakers’ top joint, before reaching the Wellcome Collection. This is part of the Wellcome Trust, founded in 1936 by the munificent Henry Solomon Wellcome as a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. As well as its permanent collection of medical-related artefacts the Collection also puts on regular free artistic and historical exhibitions. If you’re quick you can still (up until 18 October) catch the work of Alice Anderson who has “mummified” an astonishing array of items using layers of thin copper wire.

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Crossing on to the north side of Euston Road we encounter the headquarters of the Royal Society of General Practioners, yet another grand London edifice at the disposal of members of the medical profession.

From here we head back north along Hampstead Road before doubling back down Cardington Street then turning onto Drummond Street, which used to be wall-to-wall Indian vegetarian restaurants but now only has a couple left. Cobourg Street adjoins Starcross Street where we pause at the pub of the day, the Exmouth Arms, for a pint and a burger (though not your actual Juicy Bastard I’m sorry to say).

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North Gower Street leads back to Drummond Street and on the corner of this and Melton Street sits one of those red-tiled disused former tube stations. This was one of two separate tube stations built to service Euston just after the start of the 20th century. This one, which was part of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway was only in use from 1907 to 1914 when both the original stations were closed (though the other one did reopen in the twenties). The current Euston underground station dates from 1968 like the Victoria Line on which it sits.

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We turn right onto Euston Street and then circle back to the station via Stephenson Way where I completely (and perhaps aptly) fail to spot the (Harry Potter-ishly named) Centre for the Magic Arts which is the home of the Magic Circle. I guess they must keep it shrouded in some kind of invisibility cloak during the daytime..

At the Euston Road entrance to the station can be found the last remnants of the original station which was built in the 1830’s and demolished (surprise, surprise) in the 1960’s. The two lodges which originally flanked the grandiose Euston Arch (despite being Grade-II listed this failed to survive the redevelopment) are now in use as bars. The war memorial in the background below also made it beyond the decade of destruction.

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Turning south again on Upper Woburn Place we find the home of the British Medical Association ( I refer you to my earlier comment). This photo doesn’t do it justice and I’ve missed off the plaque noting that Dickens (him again) lived on this site for ten years or so from around 1860. On the upside what’s not to like about those trousers ?

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We arrive at Tavistock Square which encircles and eponymous garden whose centrepiece is this statue of Mahatma Gandhi, sculpted by the Polish artist, Fredda Brilliant (real name), and installed in 1968 ( as big a year round these parts as it was in Paris seemingly).

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Via Endsleigh Street, Endsleigh Gardens and Taviton Street we reach Gordon Square. This is now firmly within the bailiwick of Bloomsbury as evidenced by the plaque at no 50. celebrating the whole Bloomsbury set and another at no.51 dedicated to Lytton Strachey (1880 – 1932) alone. Thankfully I managed to avoid the recent TV series on the set and I won’t dwell on them here though I suspect they will crop up again in a subsequent post.

More interestingly, no.46 was home to the great economist John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946) from 1916 until his death. In 1999, Time magazine included Keynes in their list of the 100 most important and influential people of the 20th century, commenting that: “His radical idea that governments should spend money they don’t have may have saved capitalism.” As we know just nine years later that idea came into its won once more.

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On the other side of the square is Dr Williams’ Library. The gardens in between are much frequented by students of University College London whose campus occupies a large site to the west of Gordon Street and a smaller one to the east.

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So large in fact that bypassing it takes us, via Gower Place and Beaumont Way, all the way back to Warren Street tube and the end of today’s journey.

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