Day 57 – Bankside – Southwark Bridge – Trinity Church Square

This is a bit of a meandering one, starting out on Bankside then crossing the river twice before heading down through Borough to Trinity Square and hallway back again. On the way we’ll cross paths with Shakespeare, Dickens, Alfred the Great and Catherine of Aragon.

Day 57 Route

So we begin where we left off last time, at Tate Modern, exiting from the Blavatnik Building onto Sumner Street. Then we cut down Canvey Street as far as Zoar Street turning east for a short while before nipping between the buildings up onto Southwark Street.

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On Southwark Street we turn east and when we get to the next left, the by-now familiar Great Guildford Street head back towards the river. Crossing over Sumner Street we reach the western end of the long and winding Park Street. Before we get to Emmerson Street which return us to another section of Sumner Street there’s a nice new demolition site to stop and admire.

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Sumner Street takes us up onto Southwark Bridge Road where we turn northward briefly before taking some steps which deposit us back on Park Street on the doorstep of the Rose Playhouse. The Rose became the fifth purpose-built theatre in London when it was created in 1587 pre-dating the Globe (of which more later) on Bankside by 14 years. It represented something of a cultural step-up for an area known for its brothels, gaming dens and bear-baiting pits. The Rose’s repertoire included Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Jew of Malta and Tamburlaine the Great, Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare’s Henry VI part I and Titus Andronicus. Its star faded fairly swiftly in the shadow of the success of the Globe however and by the very early years of the 17th century it had fallen out of use. Its archaeological remains were discovered in 1989 during excavations for the re-development of an office block. The Rose Theatre Trust was formed in response to fears that the new building proposed for the site would bring about the destruction of the remains. A campaign to ‘Save The Rose’ was launched with enthusiastic support from the public, scholars and actors, including the dying Lord Olivier who gave his last public speech in May 1989 on behalf of The Rose. The Trust managed to secure government funds to delay construction and to bring about a re-design of the proposed new building so that only a small amount of the fabric of The Rose was lost, and a permanent enclosure of this fragile site was created. If you want to check it out public viewings take place most Saturdays.

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From Park Street we duck in and out of Rose Alley and Bear Gardens before New Globe Walk takes us up to Bankside and, naturally enough, the new Globe Theatre. The new incarnation of the Globe is located several hundred metres away from where the original was sited so we’ll deal with the latter in a while. The project to rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe was the brainchild of the American actor, director and producer Sam Wanamaker. Twenty one years after his first visit to London, in 1949, he founded what was to become the Shakespeare Globe Trust, dedicated to the reconstruction of the theatre and the creation of an education centre and permanent exhibition. After another 23 years spent tirelessly fundraising and planning the reconstruction with the Trust’s architect Theo Crosby, Sam Wanamaker died in 1993. He lived long enough to see the site secured and a few timber bays of the theatre in place. It was another three and a half years before the theatre was completed. Other than concessions to comply with modern day fire regulations such as additional exits, illuminated signage, fire retardant materials and some modern backstage machinery, the Globe is as accurate a reconstruction of the 1599 Globe as was possible with the available evidence.

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Sandwiched in between the Globe and Tate Modern is a row of 18th century houses the most striking of which is the three-storey cream coloured building bearing the name Cardinal’s Wharf. Its façade also bears a ceramic plaque engraved with the words Here lived Sir Christopher Wren during the building of St Paul’s Cathedral. Here also, in 1502, Catherine Infanta of Castile and Aragon, afterwards first queen of Henry VIII, took shelter on her first landing in London. Sadly, both of these claims were debunked in a 2006 book by writer and historian Gillian Tindall. Since the house was built in 1710, the year St Paul’s was completed, Wren couldn’t have lived here during its construction. He did however live in a house nearby so it’s probable the plaque was rescued from that property at the time of its demolition and cheekily redisplayed. As for Catherine of Aragon, that’s dismissed as pure fantasy. The adjacent redbrick house is known as the Provost’s Lodging, a name adopted when it was acquired by Southwark Cathedral from Bankside Power Station in 1957. In 2011, following the death of the then Dean of Southwark (the title of provost was done away with in 2000) the property was put on the market for £6m. Which is a lot of money to spend if you’re going to have tens of thousands of people traipsing past each day within spitting distance of your front door.

And so it’s time to head briefly back across the river and tick off a couple more bridges. First up, of course, is the ill-fated (in terms of its name) Millennium Bridge, built to link St Paul’s Cathedral with the new Tate Modern as part of the Millennium celebrations. Unfortunately, as I’m sure we all recall, when it opened in June 2000 it only stayed accessible for two days before being closed for two years to allow for modifications to rectify the swaying motion (or resonant structural response) that led to the nickname “Wobbly Bridge”. The design of the bridge, which was subject to a competition, was a collaboration between Arup Group, Foster and Partners and Sir Anthony Caro.  Due to height restrictions, and to improve the view, the suspension design had the supporting cables below the deck level, giving a very shallow profile. The eight suspension cables are tensioned to pull with a force of 2,000 tons against the piers set into each bank—enough to support a working load of 5,000 people on the bridge at one time. Though not enough to save it from the Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

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Once across the bridge we turn east along the Thames Path though not for very long as you soon have to divert away from the river up Broken Wharf and along High Timber Street (calling in on the dead end Stew Lane if you wish) before rejoining via Queenhithe. Beside and below the street of the same name is the only surviving inlet along the City waterfront which was once a thriving Saxon and Medieval Dock. The harbour is reputed to have been established in AD 899 shortly after King Alfred the Great had turfed the Vikings out of London. Originally named ‘Ethelred’s Hythe’ it became known as ‘Queenhithe’ when Queen Matilda, wife of Henry I, was granted the dues from the dock in the early 12th century (a right inherited by successive English queens). In the 15th century the dock’s fortunes waned as larger vessels struggled to navigate past London Bridge and opted to unload further east at Billingsgate. The dock did however remain in service up to Victorian times and remnants of that period of usage are still visible at low tide.

From Queenhithe it’s just a hop and a skip to Southwark Bridge. Before we get up onto the bridge itself though we can pop through the northside underpass, known as Fruiterers’ Passage after the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers whose warehouses once stood nearby. The passage is tiled on both sides incorporating scanned historic images of the bridge and its immediate surroundings.

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The bridge itself, something of a Cinderella as far as central London crossings of the Thames are concerned, dates from 1921 in its current form. The bridge was designed and engineered by Ernest George and Basil Mott respectively, the latter also partly responsible for the Mersey Tunnel. And there’s not really much else to say about it to be honest.

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At the southern end of the bridge sits the current HQ of the Financial Times. I say current because at the time of writing the FT’s owners Nikkei (who acquired from Pearson in 2015) have just announced plans to sell the building ahead of a move back to the FT’s previous offices at Bracken House near St Paul’s in 2019. One Southwark Bridge has been the FT’s home since 1989.
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We drop down from the bridge onto Bankside and head east as far as the Anchor pub. The pub started life as the ‘brewery tap room’ for the Anchor Brewery which was established in 1616 on land adjacent to the original Globe Theatre and by the early nineteenth century was the largest brewery in the world. After being destroyed in the Great Fire the pub was rebuilt in 1676 and largely reconstructed again in the 19th century. The brewery was taken on by the newly founded Barclay Perkins & Co. in 1781 and Barclays survived as an independent brand (including their famous Russian Imperial Stout) up until 1955 and a merger with Courage. Brewing continued on the site under Courage but last orders were called in the early 1970’s and the buildings were demolished in 1981.

Beyond the pub we turn away from the river up Bank End which soon forms a junction with two more parts of Park Street. We take the section heading back west which runs through where the Anchor Brewery stood (a plaque on the south side commemorates this) and arrive at the site of the original Globe Theatre just to the east of the Southwark Bridge Road flyover and less than a hundred metres from the Rose Theatre. The precise location of the Tudor Globe was only determined in 1989 when part of the foundations were discovered beneath the car park of Anchor Terrace a building of 1834 which originally housed senior employees of the brewery. As this is itself a listed building further excavations have not been possible. The Elizabethan Globe Theatre was built in 1599 on land leased by Richard Burbage and his brother Cuthbert along with Shakespeare and four other members of the Chamberlain’s Men company. It was partially constructed re-using timbers from “The Theatre” in Shoreditch; London’s first theatre which had been built in 1576 by the Burbage brothers’ father, James. As noted above, the theatre was enormously successful in its early years but in 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, wadding from a stage cannon ignited the thatched roof and the theatre burned to the ground. It was hastily rebuilt, with a tiled roof, and continued as a playhouse until 1642 when the Cromwell’s Puritan administration forced its closure. It was demolished to make way for tenements two years later.

Doubling back along Park Street we turn south next down Porter Street then work our way though Gatehouse Square, Perkins Square and Maiden Lane back to the final, most easterly stretch of Park Street. From here we link back to Southwark Street via Redcross Way where the façade of the old W.H. Willcox & Co. engineering company building still clings on. Lord knows where you have to go these days to get your crank-pin lubricators.

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We turn west for a bit along Southwark Street then fork right down Thrale Street,  named after Henry Thrale the eighteenth century politician who was a friend of Samuel Johnson and who inherited the Anchor Brewery from his father (it then being sold to Messrs Barclay and Perkins upon his death). His wife, Hester, bore him 12 children and outlived him by forty years. Hester Thrale was a formidable woman; in addition to her procreational achievements she was a noted diarist, author and patron of the arts. She also rescued her husband from probable bankruptcy by raising the money to clear his debts of £130,000 that resulted from a failed scheme to brew beer without malt or hops.

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At the end of Thrale Street we turn left onto Southwark Bridge Road then right onto Southwark Street again. This takes us past the Menier Chocolate Factory building built by the French company, Chocolat Menier, in the 1870s. Menier eventually became part of the Rowntree Macintosh group which was in turn swallowed up by Nestle. Confectionery production had ceased here by the 1980s and the building was derelict until it was resurrected as an arts and theatre space in 2004. The Menier Chocolate Factory theatre has an impressive list of productions under its belt, including some particularly lauded musical revivals such as A Little Night Music and La Cage Aux Folles which both transferred to Broadway in 2010.

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Beyond the Chocolate Factory we turn south down Omeara Street where we find the dramatically-named Roman Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood. The Parish was founded in 1891 and the church was designed by Frederick Arthur Walters who was also the architect for Buckfast Abbey.

At the end of Omeara Street we cross over Union Street and continue south on Ayres Street. The street used to be known as White Cross Street but was renamed in 1936 by the then Labour-led LCC in honour of Alice Ayres, a nursemaid who attained a form of secular canonisation in the Victorian era after she died rescuing the three young children in her care (the daughters of her elder sister, Mary Ann) from a house fire. Such was the public interest in the story that Alice’s funeral was attended by 10,000 mourners and a memorial fund set up raised £100 for the erection of a granite obelisk monument above her grave in Isleworth cemetery.

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On the corner of Ayres Street and Clennam Street stands the Lord Clyde pub, one of the all-too-few remaining classic style Trumans Beer alehouses. Named after Field Marshal Sir Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clyde, GCB, KSI, who commanded the Highland Brigade in the Crimean War and led the troops who quelled the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the pub has remained unchanged since it was built in 1913 and has been run by the same family, the Fitzpatricks, for over 60 years.

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We turn left onto Marshalsea Road then almost immediately left down Quilp Street (the other section of which we visited last time). Off of Quilp Street is Dorrit Street which is basically a twenty-yard cul-de-sac and therefore crying out to be prefaced by the word Little; so one can only assume it was left off out of embarrassed deference towards Dickens’ titular heroine. Quilp Street disgorges into Redcross Way which we hop over into Disney Street then dog-leg round Disney Place back onto Marshalsea Road. Cross over into Sanctuary Street which we follow south as far as Lant Street where we turn left down onto Borough High Street. Continue south down to Trinity Street where we turn east past Trio Place then head south along Swan Street to Harper Road. Turning left onto Harper Road and then left again down Brockham Street brings us into Trinity Church Square, comprised of immaculately maintained Georgian terrace houses such as are the go-to residences for characters of any social station in London-set Hollywood films.

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The eponymous church in the middle of the square was built in 1824 and designed by architect Francis Bedford. In 1968 it was declared redundant and in the 1970s was converted into an orchestral rehearsal studio for the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras and named after the conductor, Sir Henry Wood. On the north side of the church there is a statue reputed to be of King Alfred the Great. It’s suggested that it could be one of eight medieval statues from the north end towers of Westminster Hall (c. late 14th century) or, alternatively, one of a pair representing Alfred and Edward, the Black Prince, made for the garden of Carlton House in the 18th century.

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Having completed a circuit of the square we return up Brockham Street to Harper Road then take the next left into Dickens Square before cutting through Dickens Fields to Falmouth Road. We take Falmouth Road down to Great Dover Street (A2) and turn right briefly for a contractual look at Sturgeon Street before heading back west along Trinity Street. A diversion round Merrick Square gives us a chance to admire some more of those Georgian terraces.

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On the corner with Globe Street the bloke in the picture below taps me for £2 (to buy food for the dog) after spotting my remembrance poppy by claiming to have spent 6 years in the RAF before being discharged with a fractured skull that still troubles him. He then went on to bemoan the fact that “everyone else round here is foreign and doesn’t speak English”. Unfortunately I’d already parted with the cash by then.

 

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So we cut down Globe Street into Cole Street which runs down to Swan Street where we take a right back to Great Dover Street. From here we head down to the four-way junction by Borough Tube Station and take Borough High Street southward for about a hundred metres before turning left into Little Dorrit Court. A little bit more respectful to the fictional Amy and she has a playground named after her too.

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Little Dorrit Court returns us to Redcross Way across the street from Redcross Garden which along with the six cottages which flank it in one side was created by the social reformer, Octavia Hill (who we covered in detail in the last post).

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We follow Redcross Way back to the corner with Union Street and the last port of call for today which is the Crossbones Graveyard a disused post-medieval burial ground in which up to 15,000 people are believed to have been buried. Cross Bones is thought to have been established originally as an unconsecrated graveyard for prostitutes, or “single women”, who were known locally as “Winchester Geese” because they were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to work within the Liberty of the Clink which lay outside the legal scope of the City of London. It was closed in 1853. Today the iron gates surrounding the graveyard are festooned with ribbons, feathers, beads and other tokens commemorating the “Outcast Dead” buried here.  In 2007, Transport for London, which now owns the site, gave playwright John Constable access inside the gates, where he and other volunteers have created a wild garden.  An informal group known as the Friends of Cross Bones is working to ensure that a planned redevelopment of the site preserves the garden as a more permanent place of reflection and remembrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 56 – Elephant & Castle to Tate Modern

Does what it says on the tin this one, so it’s a long south to north and narrow east to west. So much so that I’ve had to divide the route map in two; starting off with this one which takes us from the Elephant & Castle as far as Mint Street Park which lies about halfway along Southwark Bridge Road.

Day 56 Route 1

Our journey north from the E & C begins along Newington Causeway then takes a right into Rockingham Street before continuing north up Tiverton Street as far as Newington Gardens. This small park sits on the site of the former Horsemonger Lane Gaol which closed in 1878. The poet and reformer, Leigh Hunt, had been one of the “guests” of the gaol, detained for writing disrespectfully of George IV. In 1849, Charles Dickens (of whom much more later), came here to witness a public execution and was so appalled he wrote to The Times in favour of their abolition.

Avonmouth Street takes us away from the park back to Newington Causeway where we turn back southward briefly before cutting sharply north again down Newington Court which runs alongside the railway arches.  On the way we pass the Institute of Optometry which started life in 1922 as the London Refraction Hospital – refraction in this context basically just meaning eye test – the world’s first specialist eye clinic. The current name was only adopted in 1988. On the other side of the road is the Southwark Playhouse which has been one of London’s leading studio theatres for the last 25 years.

Newington Court houses the entrance to the Ministry of Sound nightclub which took over the disused bus garage behind the arches back in 1991. One of the first of the so-called superclubs of the nineties and one of the few remaining, MoS still attracts around 300,000 clubbers a year to its three weekly sessions and has fought off several threats of closure due to the development of the surrounding area.

At the far end of the arches we emerge onto Borough Road and turn east. On our right we pass the home of the London School of Musical Theatre, a faux-Gothic style building dating from 1906. The LSMT moved here in 2000 having previously been at the Old Vic then Her Majesty’s Theatre. Like the MoS they have also had to ride out local redevelopment plans.

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At the junction of Borough Road and Newington Causeway is a sadly crumbling example of a classic 1960’s petrol station forecourt canopy….

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… right opposite the Inner London Crown Court located in the Sessions House opened in 1917.
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Crossing onto the north side of Borough Road we take Stone’s End Street up to Great Suffolk Street then turn west as far as Southwark Bridge Road where we dip back southward in order to check off Collinson Street and Scovell Road. We resume the northward trajectory from Great Suffolk Street up Sudrey Street which is blessed with one of the four rows of cottages in this area built around 1887 at the instigation of social reformer Octavia Hill (1838 – 1912). Octavia, who later went on to co-found the National Trust in 1895, arranged for the cottages to be built on land owned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners following her appointment to manage their portfolio of inner city properties.

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At the end of Sudrey Street we turn right onto Lant Street then right again round Bittern Street. A 1904 warehouse on the corner here is now home to the Listening Books charity
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And round the next corner, heading north again on Touliman Street, stands the Charles Dickens primary school, appropriately bordered on one side by Pickwick Street.

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Next we turn back along Lant Street before taking the dog-leg Trundle Street round to Weller Street. Then a combination of Mint Street and Caleb Street drops us onto Marshalsea Road. An obvious further Dickens connection here though the debtors’ prison that held his father was actually sited on what is now Borough High Street. Circling round Mint Street Park we arrive at another Dickens’ reminder in the form of Quilp StreetQuilp being the vicious and stunted villain from The Old Curiosity Shop.

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Before we get to the second leg of today’s journey there’s a previously unvisited stretch of Southwark Bridge Road to go up and down. This includes the old Southwark Fire Station a Grade II listed Gothic Revival building of 1878 (further developed in 1911).

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And adjacent to the north, Winchester House, originally built as a workhouse in the late 18th century and later converted into a hat factory and private residences. At the same time as the fire station was being built next door this was acquired by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to serve as its HQ, which it did up until the 1930’s. In 2018 planning approval was granted for a redevelopment to create a new secondary school that would incorporate both the Fire Station and Winchester House buildings.

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Stage 2 kicks off on the other side of the Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel where Doyce Street makes a short run into Great Guilford Street.

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Day 56 Route 2

Once on Great Guilford Street you’re greeted with this warning (nicely juxtaposed with the Anarchist symbol I thought) which is supposedly an Edwardian injunction against public urination.

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We follow Great Guildford Street down to Union Street which then takes us west as far as Pepper Street which runs back south to Copperfield Street (Dickens again of course). On the south side of the street are some more of Octavia Hill’s cottages, Winchester Cottages, with a pleasingly Dickensian aspect to them.

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And on the north side is All Hallows Church originally erected in 1879-80 in the Victorian Gothic style as interpreted by George Gilbert Scott Junior (1839 – 1897) but almost completely destroyed in the Blitz. Fragments of the building remain, including two stone archways and a chapel, all incorporated into a rebuilding of the north aisle of the church in 1957. This was closed in 1971. The remainder of the bombsite rubble was restored to create an award-winning walled garden with lawns, flower beds and shrubbery.

We take the next turn on the left as you go west which is Sawyer Street. This connects us with Loman Street on which we continue west back to Great Suffolk Street and are pleased to discover en route a Victorian warehouse yet to succumb to demolition or redevelopment. The warehouse is a grade II listed building and dates from the 1850s or 1860s. It has had many occupants over the decades, including Spicer Bros paper merchants in the late 19th century and more recently a group of squatters.

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From here we loop back to Union Street via the western section of Copperfield Street and Risborough Street. Heading back east we stop off briefly at the Jerwood Space. The Jerwood which opened in 1998 was the first major capital project of the Jerwood Foundation. The Jerwood Foundation was established in 1977 for the international businessman and philanthropist John Jerwood (1918 – 1991). Jerwood moved to Japan after the Second World War and established what became one of the largest cultured pearl dealerships in the world. The Jerwood is an important dance and theatre rehearsal space and includes a gallery which hosts the prestigious annual Jerwood drawing prize. It also has a pretty good café.
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At the eastern end of Union Street we rejoin Great Guildford Street and resume our northward trajectory. Before reaching Southwark Street we call in on America Street and Wardens Grove. The latter runs along the side of the Metal Box Factory which is a development of office and studio spaces in the building where the tins for Peek Freans biscuits were once made (and was nothing to do with the Metal Box Company as I originally assumed).

From Southwark Street, going west, we branch off down Lavington Street then take a left into Ewer Street which starts out running southward then turns west alongside the railway. The final arch before you get back onto Great Suffolk Street is the current home of The Ring boxing club which as we noted in the last post started life in a twelve-sided  former chapel of prayer that stood on the site now occupied by Southwark tube station.

We continue to the west on another stretch of Union Street then make a circuit of Nelson Square before going north on Gambe Street. Scoresby Street takes us west again onto Blackfriars Road from where we switch back east via Dolben Street, Brinton Walk, Nicholson Street and Chancel Street. At the end of all this we arrive at no.45 Dolben Street which hosts a blue plaque marking this as the site of one of the London homes of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797). Wollstonecraft is best known for the proto-feminist treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) but she was author of many other works including a history of the French Revolution. She was born in Spitalfields but led a peripatetic life before returning to London in 1788 to reside here in Southwark. Her other claim to fame is of course as the mother of Mary Godwin, the creator of Frankenstein. It was a fame she was destined never to experience herself as she died of septicaemia just ten days after giving birth to the future wife of the romantic poet, Percy Bysse Shelley.

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From Dolben Street we take a left into Bear Lane then cut through Treveris Street back to Chancel Street which is where the Philarmonia Orchestra are based. The Philharmonia was founded in 1945 by EMI producer Walter Legge but has been self governing since 1964. Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen has been Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Orchestra, which has 80 player-members, since 2008.

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At the northern end of Chancel Street we initially turn left onto Burrell Street but then double-back under the railway.  At the end of Burrell Street we turn back onto Bear Lane and after a few paces southward switch east down Price’s Street which runs along the rear side of the Kirkaldy Testing Museum. David Kirkaldy (1820 – 1897) set up the Testing Works at 99 Southwark Street in 1874 to house the hydraulic tensile test machine which he had patented ten years earlier and had built at his own expense by the Leeds firm of Greenwood & Batley. The machine is 47 feet 7 inches (14.50 m) long and weighs some 116 tons and could theoretically test the strength of metal parts up to 450 tons in weight. The museum, which was established in 1983, is only open on the first Sunday of each month. The building (including the machine) has a Grade II listing.

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The eastern end of Price’s Street emerges onto yet another section of Great Suffolk Street. Turning south we call in on Farnham Place before revisiting Lavington Street which deposits us back on Southwark Street. As we head all the way back to Blackfriars Road we pass the Blue Fin building, completed in 2008 and so-named because its façade incorporates 2,000 vertical fins of varying blue colours to provide solar shading for the offices inside. It has been included in a Daily Telegraph list of London’s ugliest buildings but then that’s the Telegraph for you. I have visited the roof terrace in the past but it’s not generally accessible to the public. In any event its views have been largely rendered redundant by the Tate Modern extension (see below).

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Once on Blackfriars Road we head down to the river and along the Thames Path under Blackfriars Railway Bridge before leaving the riverside to take Hopton Street back to Southwark Street.

Hopton Street is home on its west side to what is genuinely one of London’s ugliest buildings. Sampson House was built in the late Seventies as a processing centre for Lloyds Bank but is currently leased to IBM who use it as a data centre. That lease (rent of £8m a year) has a mutual break clause exercisable in June 2018 and as a result its (no doubt slow) deconstruction to pave the way for new apartment blocks has already begun. Whether those blocks will be less of a blight on the skyline remains to be seen (though Sampson House does actually look quite fetching in this photo).

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By way of complete contrast, on the other side of Hopton Street are a collection of Grade II listed almshouses built in the 1740’s as homes for poor men of Southwark of good character.

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So for the final stretch of today’s tour we head back east on Southwark Street then negotiate Sumner Street and Holland Street to takes us to the entrance to Tate Modern. As pretty much everyone knows, Tate Modern was created out of a redevelopment of the Bankside Power Station which was built here across the river from St Paul’s Cathedral in two phases between 1947 and 1963. The power station was designed by, our old friend, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and consisted of a stunning turbine hall, 35 metres high and 152 metres long, with the boiler house alongside it and a single central chimney. However by 1981 the facility was no longer in service apart from a single London Electricity sub-station and in 1994 the Tate trustees selected this as their preferred site for a separate new gallery focusing on modern and contemporary art. Swiss architects, Herzog and De Meuron were appointed to oversee the conversion of the building.

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Since it opened in May 2000 Tate Modern has become one of the UK’s top three tourist attractions and welcomed more than 40 million visitors. That electricity substation (now under the control of EDF Energy) continued to occupy the southern third of the building but the western half of this holding was released to the Tate in 2006 and plans were put in place to build a tower extension over the old oil storage tanks. The ten-storey 65m high Switch Tower was opened to the public in June 2016.  The design, again by Herzog & de Meuron, has been controversial. It was originally designed with a glass stepped pyramid, but this was amended to incorporate a sloping façade in brick latticework (to match the original power-station building) despite planning consent to the original design having been previously granted by the supervising authority. In May 2017 the Switch House was formally renamed the Blavatnik Building, after Anglo-Ukrainian billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik, in recognition of his “substantial contribution” towards the £260m cost of the extension.

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For once the timing of my visit was fortuitous as the museum is currently playing host to one of my favourite ever things, Christian Marclay’s epic work The Clock.  24-hours long, the installation is a montage of thousands of film and television images of clocks, edited together so they show the actual time. During several years of rigorous and painstaking research and production, Marclay collected together excerpts from well-known and lesser-known films including thrillers, westerns and science fiction which he then edited so that they flow in real time. If you’ve never seen any of it I would urge you to do so; you have until 20 January 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Day 52 Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 51 Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 18 – Clerkenwell – Farringdon – Hatton Garden – Holborn

Today’s route is another compact one covering the area bounded by Gray’s Inn Road to the west, St John Street to the east and Holborn to the south. Highlights include a visit to the Museum of the Order of St John (try and contain yourself please) and a stroll around the (in)famous home of the London diamond trade, Hatton Garden.

Day 18 Route

We start in familiar territory and quickly knock off the triangle of streets that are bordered by (and sunken beneath) Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell Road and Farringdon Road. Despite some great names: Coldbath Square, Crawford Passage, Bakers Row, Warner Street, Eyre Street Hill, Back Hill, Summers Street, Ray Street and Herbal Hill have only this temporary resident to tempt open the camera lens.

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Like most things though this is a matter of timing. This area of Clerkenwell (and a bit beyond) was once known as “Little Italy” due to the influx of about 2,000 immigrants from that country in the 1850’s. It remains something of a spiritual home to London’s Italian community due to St Peter’s Church (on Clerkenwell Road) which is the force behind the Procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Sagra which takes place each July and brings this sunken enclave alive. I was fortunate enough to stumble across the procession, and its accompanying food and drink stalls, some years ago and have been trying to schedule a return visit ever since.

St Peter’s Church opened amid great celebration in 1863 and at the time was the only church in Britain designed in the Roman Basilican style. The painting below of the Beheading of John the Baptist is from the 17th century and by the hand of artist, Alessandro Turchi.

Leaving the church we head east along Clerkenwell Road as far as St John’s Square which  straddles the road. The north side of the square was included in one of our earlier posts. However, unlike on that occasion, St John’s Priory is open to visitors today. I won’t go through all the history again but for Tudor buffs would remind you that the Knights of St John were the last of the monastic orders to be abolished by Henry VIII (in 1540). Consequent upon that Henry took the priory and all its land and wealth which were second only to those of Glastonbury Abbey. Henry gave the priory itself to his daughter Mary to use and as a palace and on her accession to the throne she restored the Order only for Elizabeth to do away with it for good when she became queen.

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Across the road is St John’s Gate where the main part of the Museum resides. If, like me, you’ve seen anything of the recent TV series on the Crusades this is well worth a visit. There’s no entry fee and the museum does a great job in presenting the remarkable story of the Order and its survival.

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And it also provides the opportunity for today’s selfie-of-the day. I know what you’re thinking – not everyone can carry off the suit of armour look that well.

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Continuing down St John’s Lane we reach Passing Alley which according to several sources was known as Pissing Alley back in the days when an al-fresco emptying of the bladder was more in tune with public sensitivities.

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Just a couple of doors further down is this sign for E.Higgs Air Agency which upped and moved away several decades ago and was last heard of trading out of Bracknell under the name of Higgs International.

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At the end of St John’s Lane we turn right down Peter’s Lane to cut through to Cowcross Street whose name derives from the time (up until the 1850’s) when live animals were herded down here on their way to Smithfield Market. Turning west we arrive at Farringdon station which opened in 1863 as part of the first London underground line, the Metropolitan.  One of the finest looking tube stations in the capital it has fortunately been left unscathed by the developments for, firstly, Thameslink and now Crossrail.

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From here we turn briefly up Turnmill Street and then right into Benjamin Street. At the end of this is the Goldsmiths Centre which was opened in 2012 as a new training and education facility supported by the Goldsmiths’ Company (one of the 12 great livery companies of the City of London). The building combines an 1872-built Grade II listed Victorian school with a modern extension.

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Just round the corner, on another section of Peter’s Lane, the weathervane and bull’s head mouldings on what is now the Rookery Hotel are another reminder of the proximity to Smithfield Market.

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So next we snake round Eagle Court, Albion Place and Briset Street which brings us out onto Britton Street. Here we find Mountford House, a block of flats built in the 1970’s but which incorporates the 1901-03 façade (by E.W Mountford) from the offices of Booth’s Gin Distillery, demolished as part of the same redevelopment. The preservation of the façade represented a rare victory for the forces of conservation at that time.

At the top of Britton Street we turn left then head back down Turnmill Street and pass Farringdon station again via another stretch of Cowcross Street. We then head north up Farringdon Road before slipping into Saffron Street and cutting up Onslow Street to return to Clerkenwell Road before heading south again on Saffron Hill. Where this meets Greville Street sits today’s pub of the day, the One Tun, which was established as an alehouse in 1759 and was frequented in his day by our old friend, Charles Dickens. Reputedly this was this inspiration for the Three Cripples pub which appears in Oliver Twist and will be familiar to viewers of the BBC’s “Dickensian” series. Accordingly I should probably have had ‘a little drop of gin’ and a pie instead of a pint of Ubu bitter and a duck fried rice. (Shame that Booth’s Distillery’s no longer around).

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After leaving the pub we move north again up Kirby Street which leads into Hatton Place from where Hatton Wall crosses into Hatton Garden. Hatton Garden and the streets leading off it create the internationally renowned jewellery quarter and hub of the UK diamond trade. Recently of course it has become indelibly linked in the public consciousness with the April 2015 raid on the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company which occupies nos 88-90; the so-called “largest burglary in English legal history”.

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On reflection then I suppose I should have been a bit more circumspect in wielding the camera round these parts. (But I guess no-one would expect lightning to strike twice).

The “bluecoat” statues on the building below are indicative of the site of a charity school. This building was originally a church built after the great fire of London allegedly to a design of Sir Christopher Wren. It was converted to a charity school at the end of the 17th century, suffered serious bomb damage during WWII and upon rebuilding was named Wren House. Fortunately these statues had been sent to a college in Berkshire for safekeeping prior to the start of the Blitz.

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Treasure House at nos. 19-21 dates from 1907 and is embellished with a fine set of carvings relating to the gold trade.

The southern end of Hatton Garden forms one of the spokes of Holborn Circus. Heading west from here along Holborn (A40) we pass this statue of Prince Albert before turning right up Leather Lane.

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It’s been some years since I last visited Leather Lane market and I have to say it seems to have headed downmarket (so to speak) in the intervening time. Though in fairness the stallholders were packing up as I got there and my memory may be putting a bit of a gloss on its former status.

I did quite like the idea of the pie-minister though.

Having dipped in and out of St. Cross Street we exit the north end of Leather line by Portpool Lane and in doing so pass through the middle of the Bourne Estate. Constructed during the Edwardian era between 1905 and 1909 the estate represents one of London’s best examples of tenement housing and a number of the housing blocks have been Grade II listed. The Bourne Estate is the third of the three key estates built by the London County Council in the years of its greatest innovation. In Britain the Bourne Estate is the least known, but it has an international significance as the model for the much admired and highly influential public housing erected in Vienna immediately after the First World War.

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Portpool Lane terminates on Gray’s Inn Road and taking a left turn southward we call in on Verulam Street before taking the next left which is Baldwin Gardens. This brings us to the massive, and yet extremely well-hidden, Church of St Alban the Martyr. This one was originally built in 1859 to a design of William Butterfield. After being “burnt out” in 1941 it was restored during 1959-61 under the guiding hand of Adrian Gilbert Scott.  The large mural behind the altar, The Trinity in Glory (1966) and the paintings of the stations of the cross down the side are by Hans Feibusch, an artist of German Jewish extraction who after fleeing to Britain in in 1933 produced murals for 28 different Anglican churches. St Alban, incidentally, was beheaded by the Romans in Britain some time in the 3rd or 4th century A.D.

Baldwin Gardens takes us back to Leather Lane and then via Dorrington Street, Beauchamp Street and Brooke Street (with an “e”) we work our way back to Holborn and the site of the building called Holborn Bars but perhaps better known as the Prudential Assurance Building. This impressively monumental terracotta edifice in the Gothic Revival style was built in 1879 to the designs of Alfred Waterhouse (after whom the square which it surrounds came to be named). The Pru still own the building but since 1999 they no longer occupy it. In 1986, when they did, I had a temporary placement here and still remember the woman who sat opposite me and talked incessantly of nothing but her future wedding which was more than a year away. It was one of the longest weeks of my life.

This has been a bit of a marathon posting so well done if you’ve stuck with it right the way through. We’ve reached the final stop, you’ll be relieved to hear, which is Gresham College on the other side of Holborn. Gresham College was founded in 1597 and has been providing free public lectures throughout the more than 400 years since. From 1542 to 1959 the site which it occupies now, Barnards Inn, was home to the independent school operated by the Worshipful Company of Mercers.

 

 

 

 

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