Day 72 – Sussex Gardens – Praed Street – Paddington Basin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Messenger, by Allan Sly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 60 – Tower Bridge Road – Tanner Street – Tooley Street

If all goes to plan this will be the penultimate post documenting this project. Recording a journey through the streets in the far south-eastern corner of the designated target area, this one covers the part of the capital stretching roughly from Bermondsey Square to Butlers Wharf going south to north and intersected by Tower Bridge Road. The walk took place on another glorious spring day with the sun beaming down and the cherry blossom out in full force. It was also the day the UK was supposed to be cutting itself adrift from the European Union, notwithstanding the postponement of which the hordes of Mordor still descended on Parliament Square. But let’s return swiftly to the sunlit and verdant streets of SE1.

Day 60 Route

We begin on the east side of Tower Bridge Road with Grange Walk. The south side of the street is home to a number of listed houses dating from the late 17th century and, on the corner with Grigg’s Place, the former Bermondsey United Charity School for Girls built in the 1830’s.

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A short way further along is another converted schoolhouse, the Grange Walk Infants School of late Victorian vintage.

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The north side of the street marks the southern end of the massive St Saviours Estate which we dip into briefly by way of Fendall Street before continuing east on Grange Walk as far as Bridewain Street.

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Bridewain Walk connects Grange Walk with Abbey Street as do, moving back westward, Maltby Street and The Grange. From the northern end of the latter we return along Abbey Street to the former and continue on its northern section down to Millstream Road which after a brief diversion into Stanworth Street takes us under the railway arches and into Druid Street.

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The plaque you see in the photograph above commemorates the WW2 bombing of the railway here which took seven lives.  We head back under the railway via Tanner Street and wander up Rope Walk which runs alongside the arches on the west side. A timely celebration of London’s international diversity here.

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We loop back to Tanner Street taking the final stretch of Maltby Street and turn west which takes us past Ugly Duck a for-hire venue for creative projects housed in a former Victorian warehouse and polythene bag factory. (bit of a cheat here – some of the photos in the sequence below were taken in 2017 when I was helping out with an installation for an exhibition).

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From here we snake round Pope Street, Riley Road and Purbrook Street to get back on Tower Bridge Road just north of where we started out from. Just beyond Stevens Street on the corner with Abbey Street a plaque fixed to the side of the end house of a row of council properties marks the site of the 11th century Cluniac priory that evolved and expanded to become Bermondsey Abbey. The priory and then the abbey played host to a number of notable royal occasions until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII (yes that again) instigated its eventual break up. The newly crowned King Henry II and his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, held court here at Christmas in 1154 shortly before the birth of their second son. Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Edward IV and the mother of the young princes murdered in the Tower at the behest of Richard III, registered as a boarder at the Abbey in 1487, after retiring from the court of Henry VII (who had defeated Richard and also married her daughter, Elizabeth of York). She died there on 8 June 1492. Today all that remains of the Abbey is a small section of the medieval gatehouse which forms part of the structure of some of those 17th century houses on Grange Walk.

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Just beyond the junction with Abbey Street we cut back through Bermondsey Square, where the weekly antiques market is underway, to the eastern end of Long Lane.

Across the road is the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey. The church itself we discussed in the last post. The churchyard, which stands on part of the site of Bermondsey Abbey, is now an open space having been largely cleared of gravestones after closing as a burial ground in the mid 19th century. A few large chest tombs remain along with an obelisk which commemorates the granting of the space to the vestry of Bermondsey in the 1880’s. There is also a typically Victorian (though it dates from 1902) shrine-type fountain, a gift of one Colonel Bevington.

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After crossing the churchyard we head briefly south again to the waggishly named Long Walk which dog-legs between Tower Bridge Road and Abbey Street and must be all of 50 metres from one end to the other. Final stop off on Abbey Street is Radcliffe Road and then it’s back to Tower Bridge Road and a good leg stretch north back to Tanner Street.

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So we head west on Tanner Street (with a short diversion to take in Archie Street) and find ourselves briefly on Bermondsey Street from where we make a circuit of Whites Grounds and Brunswick Court before ending up back on Tower Bridge Road. Continuing north there are some splendid examples of the cherry blossom, we referred to at the outset, leading up to Roper Lane which runs once again beneath the railway.

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At the end we turn right on Druid Street and follow this east across TBR and alongside another set of railway arches that are largely occupied by specialist motor vehicle service providers (car mechanics to you guv’).

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We make a left next onto Coxson Way and at the end of this follow Fair Street back to TBR. A few paces further north and we arrive at Tooley Street which takes us eastward again. Almost straight away we pass the Dixon Hotel which has made its home in the 1906 edifice that formerly served as the Tower Bridge Magistrates Court. The hotel takes its name from John Dixon Butler who was the architect of the Grade II listed Edwardian building.

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We continue east as far as Three Oak Lane and then use this, Lafone Street and Boss Street to weave our way back west between Tooley Street and Queen Elizabeth Street. Horselydown Lane then takes us further north as far as Gainsford Street where we switch east again before taking a left on Curlew Street which carries us down to Shad Thames, Butler’s Wharf and the river. Butler’s Wharf was built between 1865 and 1873 as a shipping wharf and warehouse complex dealing in commodities such as grain, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, rubber, tapioca and tea. The warehouse used for the latter was reputedly the largest of its kind in the world. The buildings gradually fell into disuse during the 20th century and their original commercial purpose was finally redundant when the Port of London closed in 1972.

In the 1970’s artists such as David Hockney, Andrew Logan and Derek Jarman used the empty buildings as a space for the creation of video and performance art. Then in 1981 Terence Conran led a consortium that bid successfully to redevelop the Grade II listed site for mixed use. The renovation of Butler’s Wharf was a 20 year project that involved renovating and developing six buildings: the Butlers Wharf building itself, and the renamed Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Coriander warehouses. Conran’s pet project the Design Museum was included alongside the residential, retail and restaurant developments (though it has recently moved to a new building in Kensington).

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Looking east from Butler’s Wharf

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Looking west from Butler’s Wharf

In an earlier post we talked about the Barclay Perkins Brewery on Bankside which was also known as the Anchor Brewery. Well they obviously had trouble coming up with original names back in the 18th century because when John Courage founded his eponymous brewery in 1787 he gave it the exact same alternative monicker. At first his brewery consisted of just a small building on the foreshore, adjacent to what would be the southern end of Tower Bridge when that was built in 1886, but he and his son (after his death) rapidly built up the surrounding site. Some of the land had to be surrendered when the bridge was constructed and then in 1891 a spark in the malt mills caused a fire that razed the brewery to the ground. It was rebuilt to what were at the time state-of-the art specifications and was soon producing 300,000 barrels a year. The Courage family were still in full control of the business at this time even though it had floated on the stock market in 1889. By 1955 however it was forced to merge with the Barclay Perkins Brewery and in 1972 the combined entity was acquired by Imperial Tobacco. The writing was probably already on the wall by then and it 1981 both the Anchor Breweries were closed down. The Bankside site was demolished completely but in the case of the Courage Brewery the riverside frontage was retained (including the chimney which you can see in the picture above) while the buildings to the rear were torn down for redevelopment. As of 2017 the Courage brand is in the possession of Marston’s Brewery.

It’s fitting then that today’s pub of the day is the Anchor Tap on Horselydown Lane which was the Courage Brewery’s Tap (though it claims to originate from 1761 a couple of decades and some before John Courage set up). It’s now part of the Sam Smith’s estate and provided me with a very decent pint of cider and an excellent B.L.T.

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On leaving the pub we go back down Tower Bridge Road as far as St John’s Church park on the west side. Cutting through this brings us back onto Fair Street and then Tooley Street again.

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Continuing west we visit a sequence of streets that run off Tooley Street to the south – an orphan section of Druid Street, Banham Street and Shand Street. At the end of the latter we turn onto Holyrood Street, another that skirts the rail lines out of London Bridge.

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We double sharply back down Magdalen Street to return to Tooley Street, dipping into Gibbon’s Rent and Bursar Street en route. Then it’s west on Tooley Street as far as Bermondsey Street where we negotiate its northernmost section that includes the long tunnel under the railtrack and finishes at the junction with St Thomas St. We’ve visited St Thomas Street before of course but on that previous occasion I overlooked the London Science Gallery which is sited on part of the Kings College campus by Guy’s Hospital and only opened last September (2018) with a mission to connect art, science and healthcare. The photos below are from a video work that forms part of the current (until 12 May 2019) exhibition Spare Parts which explores the art and science of organ transplantation and tissue regeneration.

The other reason for trekking all the way along St Thomas Street for a second time is that although it has loomed large in the background of many of the photographs in this and previous posts we haven’t yet dealt properly with the elephant in the city that is the Shard. So here, in no particular order, are the facts. It’s the tallest building in the UK and the European Union (which at the time of writing are still one and the same thing). Construction began in 2009 and it topped out three years later at 309.7 metres. It is 95 storeys tall with 72 habitable floors the uppermost of which at 244 metres incudes the UK’s highest viewing gallery. Floors 53 to 65 are taken up with residential apartments while the Shangri-La Hotel occupies floors 34 to 52 and the rest is mainly offices. These floors are served by a total of 36 lifts which can travel at speeds up to 6 metres a second. Its exterior is covered by 11,000 glass panels – equivalent in area to eight football pitches or two and a half Trafalgar Squares. The lead architect was the Italian, Renzo Piano who also designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Towards the end of construction a fox was found up on the 72nd floor; nicknamed Romeo by staff, the fox is believed to have survived on food left by construction workers.

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And finally, in a nod to the opening comments above I should mention that some people like to refer to The Shard as the Tower of Mordor.