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

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

Day 64 route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The cottages in question are at the far end

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

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

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Cosway Street takes us back out onto Marylebone Road almost opposite Westminster Magistrate’s Court which opened in 2011 as a replacement for City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The Chief Magistrate of England and Wales, who is the Senior District Judge of England and Wales, sits at the court, and all extradition and terrorism-related cases pass through it.

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Back on the north side at the junction with Lisson Grove sits the Grade II listed Manor House a six storey block of flats built in 1907 in an “eclectic arts & crafts style” (according to Historic England”).

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From here we leg it back up Lisson Grove all the way to Rossmore Road which links eastward back to Park Road. On the corner here, 116 Lisson Grove, is a final Blue Plaque for today. Double honours this time with shouts for painter Benjamin Haydon (1786 – 1846) and sculptor Charles Rossi (1762 – 1839) neither of whom I was familiar with. Of the former it is reported that “his commercial success was damaged by his often tactless dealings with patrons, and by the enormous scale on which he preferred to work”. He was imprisoned several times for debt and died by his own hand. In 1977 he was portrayed by Leonard Rossiter in a West End play written by satirist John Wells. The house on Lisson Grove was owned by Rossi who rented part of it to Haydon. Rossi was court sculptor for both George IV and William IV and was also responsible for the terracotta caryatids adorning St Pancras New Church (see Day 7).

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From Rossmore Road we head south on Harewood Avenue towards Marylebone Station passing Hayes Place and Harewood Row on the way. In between those two side roads stands the Sisters of Mercy St Edwards Convent. (If you’re expecting some 1980’s Goth band related wisecrack at this point I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you). The first Sisters of Mercy convent in England (the order originated in Dublin) was founded in Bermondsey in 1839; this one on Harewood Avenue dates from 1851 having transferred from Bloomsbury where it was established 7 years earlier. The Sisters’ mission (doh!) is “to create an awareness of issues of injustice and be a voice for the voiceless”.

A final visit to the Marylebone Road takes us from Harewood Avenue to Great Central Street and past the Landmark Hotel. The hotel was built in 1899 for Sir Edward Watkin  the so-called ‘Last King of the Railways’ as the Great Central Hotel in order to serve passengers using Marylebone Station to travel on the new Great Central Railway. The commissioned architect was Col. Robert Edis whose previous work included the ballroom for Edward, Prince of Wales at Sandringham. When the hotel opened rooms cost three-and-sixpence a night (17.5p in new money I believe). In 1988 the hotel was purchased by Kentaro Abe(aka Japanese pop star Sen Masao). It was renamed the Landmark London Hotel in 1995 when acquired by the Lancaster London Hotel Company. Since 2008 it’s been part of the estate of the Leading Hotels of the World group.

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From Great Central Street we head north on Boston Place and then turn straight round to return on Balcombe Street. Balcombe Street is notorious for the eponymous siege which took place in December 1975 when four armed IRA gunmen took the residents of Flat 22b, middle-aged married couple John and Sheila Matthews, hostage in their front room. The men demanded a plane to fly both them and their hostages to Ireland. Scotland Yard refused, creating a six-day standoff between the men and the police. I thought I would risk repeating myself as I recently caught a BBC World Service Witness History podcast on the siege. You can listen to it here (it’s only 9 minutes long)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csyx2z

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Which only remains for Melcombe Place to take us over the finishing line for today – Marylebone Station (gateway to the Chilterns natch !). One of London’s less exalted mainline stations, Marylebone was opened in 1899 as the London terminus of the Great Central Main Line (as previously noted). Services originally ran as far north as Sheffield and Manchester but were gradually scaled back after nationalisation in 1948 and the line north of Aylesbury closed under the Beeching Act of 1966 leaving that and (the mighty metropolis of) High Wycombe as the furthest destinations. When Chiltern Railways acquired the franchise following privatisation in 1996 they extended services into Birmingham and in 2011 took over the Oxford route from First Great Western. In spite of that Marylebone is undoubtedly still best known as a square on the Monopoly board accept to Beatles fans who will recognize it as a location for several scenes in A Hard Day’s Night.

 

 

 

 

Day 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.