Day 59 – Tabard Street – Long Lane – Bermondsey Street – Leather Market

Allegedly the warmest February day since records began to accompany this tour of the area south of London Bridge Station and Guy’s Hospital. No major landmarks or sightseeing destinations on this occasion but plenty of (hopefully) interesting stuff including today’s featured artists, Tracey Emin and Mary Quant, along with some shamelessly frisky squirrels and the world of leather.

Day 59 Route

Starting point today is Borough Tube Station from where we head south east on Great Dover Street before fairly swiftly cutting down Silvester Street to Tabard Street. At no.19 Tabard Street is a Grade II listed tall and narrow building of 1891 that was once home to George Harding & Sons. As well as being Hardware Merchants, George and his boys were also practitioners of  the arts of Tin-plating and Japanning (a varnishing treatment for the protection and decoration of household and artistic products derived from the east Asian technique of lacquering).

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After turning right on Tabard Street we return to Great Dover Street via Nebraska Street and continue down as far as Pilgrimage Street. The first section of today’s excursion is basically a tour of South London Estates; council, private and a mixture of both. It has to be stressed though that none of the former in this part of town are anything like the run-down concrete jungles of popular perception. In fact basking  in the winter sunshine some of them have a kind of beauty of their own.

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The above is part of the Tabard Gardens Estate which we pass crossing back to Tabard Street. Reversing direction we cut through Empire Square which is surrounded by a new development of apartments of an entirely different flavour. I have my own thoughts as to what the architectural feature on the left in the foreground might have been inspired by but I’ll let you use your own imaginations.

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We emerge out onto Long Lane and turn eastward before looping back to Tabard Street along Southall Place and Sterry Street. Take an initial stroll through Tabard Gardens to reach Becket Street then continue further south on Tabard Street before turning left onto Pardoner Street beyond the end of the gardens. There’s another example here of what I mentioned earlier…

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We double back along the north side of Tabard Gardens with a bit of a detour into the designated nature viewing area which features an impressive variety of pigeons and this pair who definitely think Spring has arrived…

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We exit the park on the north side and crossing over Manciple Street follow Hankey Place (sadly there isn’t a Pankey Place anywhere in the vicinity) up to Long Lane. Then we back up to Manciple Street via Staple Street and follow the former back east to Pardoner Street again. Weston Street is next and we go north on this as far as Elim Street before switching direction and heading south as far as Law Street. En route we have what appears to be a candidate for London’s least enticing Indian takeaway though the Google reviews are split 2 to 1 in favour of 5* over 1*.

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Law Street is home to what must be the least expected repurposing of a former public house that we’ve encountered throughout our travels so far.

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After a brief look at Landsdowne Place we rejoin Tabard Street for a final time and then it’s on to Potier Street and Hunter Close to complete a triangle that ends at the top of Prioress Street. This is the site of the Tabard Centre a Grade II listed former Victorian school converted into private flats, one of which was the scene of the particularly unsavoury murder of literary agent Rod Hall in 2004.

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We head north on Prioress Street and continue as far as Rothsay Street by way of Rephidim Street, Green Walk and Alice Street. (Rephidim, in case you were wondering, is one of the places visited by the Israelites in the biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt).

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Entrance to the Meakin Estate on Rothsay Street

Turning eastward on Rothsay Street brings us out onto Tower Bridge Road where, shortly after turning left, you’ll encounter one of the three branches of M.Manze purveyors of traditional Pie and Mash and Eels (jellied or stewed). This family business was started by an Italian immigrant, Michele Manze, who came to London in 1878 aged 3. His parents were originally in the ice cream trade but Michele chose a different culinary path and opened this, his first shop, in 1902. He went on to open four more before his death in 1932 but three of these failed to survive WW2. The fifth, in Peckham, was burnt down during the 1985 riots. However, the three sons which had taken over the business managed to rebuild that and opened a third shop in Sutton (of all places) in 1998.

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This isn’t the only comfortingly old school establishment on Tower Bridge Road which has yet to succumb to the gentrification of other parts of Bermondsey.

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Who can resist a rack of brooms and mops

On the junction with Bermondsey Street is a memorial to local Victoria Cross awardee Albert McKenzie on a bench next to which I divest myself of my jumper – down to two layers in February, that’s global warming for you.

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Diverting onto Bermondsey Street we pass the 1900-built Bermondsey Central Hall Methodist Church on our way to Cluny Place which feeds into another estate well provided with green spaces.

We retrace our steps back past the church and turn west onto Decima Street and then at the end make a right onto Wild’s Rents and we find ourselves back on Long Lane. Set back from the street is the impressive 1950’s Blue Lion Factory. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to determine definitively what was originally produced here though the consensus seems to be some kind of printing; possibly chequebooks for Nat West and TSB. Of course, for the last twenty years or so it’s been high-end flats.

We return to Bermondsey Street and we’re now well into territory that’s not so much up-and-coming as already arrived (the self-styled Bermondsey Village). Over on the east side of the street stands The Church of St Mary Magdalen which originates from 1690 though the so-called “playful Gothic” exterior was overlaid on the 17th century brickwork by architect George Porter in 1829. The church is the legal owner of a silver alms dish called the “Bermondsey Mazer” which is thought to be the only surviving piece of silver from the Bermondsey Abbey, probably dating from the 15th century, and which is on loan to the V&A.

Two doors down from the church at no.187 next to the Old Rectory is a building which from 1899 to the start of the 1960’s was home to the Time and Talents organisation. This movement started in 1887 when it was thought in some quarters that it was a waste that young educated women of the middle classes were limited to being purely decorative. The name was thought up by Minna Gollock, private secretary to Emily Kinnaird of the YWCA. Time and Talents groups were set up where the girls received Christian teaching that was intended to widen their horizons and develop social consciences which could then be utilised in the service of those less fortunate than themselves. In this former tailor’s shop the group ran classes in reading, writing, cookery, painting, basket work, stringwork, knitting and sewing. There were health lectures and magic lantern evenings, a penny lending library and cheap dinners were served three days a week.

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Over on the west side of Bermondsey Street is the White Cube Gallery which opened here in 2011 in a converted 1970’s warehouse. At the time it was the biggest commercial gallery in Europe with 58,000 sq ft of space, easily outstripping its sister galleries in Mason’s Yard, St James’s and Hoxton Square in terms of size (the latter, the original White Cube, was closed down just a year later). In 2015 the gallery was targeted by anti-gentrification activists who graffitied “Yuppies Out” and “Class War” onto the wall of an apartment near the gallery – though they must have travelled through a wormhole in the space-time continuum to do so since no-one has used the term “yuppie” for at least 20 years. Currently showing (until 7 April 2019) is a new exhibition of work by Tracey Emin until the title of A Fortnight of Tears. I was kind of hoping to like this since slagging off TE is something of a national pastime that I don’t feel comfortable joining in with and to be fair the large sculptural figures are pretty impressive. The paintings however are another matter and there are a lot more of those. It’s a bit of a cheap shot to say that I preferred the graffiti on the adjacent electricity substation but true nonetheless.

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Royal Oak Yard, Newham’s Row and Bell Yard Mews are taken in prior to the visit to the gallery and afterwards we cut through Lamb Walk on its north side to reach Morocco Street (named after the type of leather). On Morocco Street there are still some of the old warehouses that used to fill this area in a pre-conversion state but turn the corner into Leathermarket Street and there are some prime examples of what most of them look like now.

Also on Morocco Street is RW Autos, a specialist in BMW repairs and services but as the horses’ heads on the façade testify the building once catered to a more sedate form of transportation as a blacksmith’s smithy.

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From Leathermarket Street we cross the eastern end of Leathermarket Gardens to arrive on Tyers Gate which we follow back to Bermondsey Street emerging opposite the Fashion and Textile Museum. This was founded by designer Zandra Rhodes and is housed in yet another 1970’s warehouse conversion courtesy of Mexican architect, Ricardo Legoretta. The current exhibition here is Swinging London (until 2 June 2019)which is fun if not (due to limitations of space) particularly extensive. It’s unsurprisingly  a magnet for women whose heyday was the 1960’s though I somehow doubt that many of them ever actually wore anything like the Mary Quant creations on display.

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“Long Life” was the first canned beer introduced to the UK and as you can see it was originally marketed at a somewhat different graphic from the one that quickly embraced it.

After leaving the FTM it’s back to the west side of Bermondsey Street for a detour round Carmarthen Place.

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Looks like someone got a bit carried away at evening class
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It may be 20 degrees but it’s still February so the bobble hat’s staying on

One more stretch of Bermondsey Street then we make a loop that starts with Snowfields and continues on Hardwinge Street, Melior Place, Melior Street, Fenning Street before closing with the eastern section of St Thomas Street.  At the back of Vinegar Yard which is closed off for development there’s another unvarnished warehouse still standing – hopefully that won’t change any time soon.

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Heading back west on St Thomas Street this appropriately unappealing building is the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement Reporting Centre.

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Beyond that we take a left south on Weston Street and return to Snowfields via repeat visits to Melior Street and Melior Place. The former is the site of the Church of Our Lady of La Salette and St Joseph which was built in the 1860’s and is another in the Gothic style. The church was the first in England to be dedicated (in part) to Our Lady of Salette,  just fifteen years after the apparition of the weeping Madonna at La Salette, near Grenoble in the South of France the shrine to which had been visited by Father Simon McDaniel who founded the church. Today the church is home to the Slovak Catholic Mission in London.

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Crossing over Snowfields we make our way back to Leathermarket Gardens along Kirby Grove. I mentioned “Bermondsey Village” earlier and at this northern entrance to the gardens it has its own Village Hall.

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Having traversed the gardens for a second time we’re back on Leathermarket Street. To the west on the junction with Weston Street are the grade II listed Leather Market buildings which stand as a reminder of the prominence of the leather trade in Bermondsey in the 19th century. The Leather and Skin Market in Weston Street was opened in 1833, built by a company formed of local tanners and leather-dressers. London’s leather market had previously been located at Leadenhall Market alongside the beef market but relocated to the new market in Bermondsey after tanning was banned from the City of London. It was (and in some parts of the world remains) a particularly unpleasant business involving soaking the hides and skins in urine and lime to loosen the hairs and remaining flesh, removing these with a dull knife and then pounding dog faeces (‘pure’) into the skins to soften them. In 1878, a new building was built next door to the Leather Market  emblazoned with the inscription The London Leather, Hide and Wool Exchange and said to be a gentleman’s club. The new building incorporated a pub and there is still one in situ today called the Leather Exchange. The eastern part of the Leather Market where the Skin Market had stood was demolished having been badly damaged during World War II and flats built in its place. The western part, fronting onto Weston Street, survives. Both the remainder of the Leather Market and the London Leather, Hide and Wool Exchange survived the threat of demolition in 1993 and now offer flexible workspace and studio accommodation.

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From the Leather Market we continue on Weston Street south to Long Lane and then loop back to the north west corner of the gardens, taking in Kipling Street, Porlock Street, Hamlet Way and Guy Street. To complete today’s journey we turn left onto Weston Street and then dog-leg back to Snowfields along Ship and Mermaid Row. This brings us out next to the Guinness Trust Buildings. The Guinness Trust was founded in 1890 by Edward Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, a great grandson of the founder of the Guinness Brewery, with the aim of helping homeless people in London and Dublin. He donated £200,000 to set up the Guinness Trust in London, the equivalent of £25 million in today’s money. The estate on Snowfields was built in 1897, the third of four developments in Southwark and the oldest that survives to this day. It comprised 355 tenements across a number of five-storey blocks and was partially paid for by the South Eastern Railway Company. The Guinness Partnership (as it is known today) is still one of the largest providers of affordable housing in England, owning and managing 65,500 homes.

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On the opposite side of the street is Arthur’s Mission which predates the Trust Estate by four years. The mission appears to have been established by an anonymous mystery benefactor and it’s unclear who the Arthur it is named for was. One theory is that the name was inspired by Tennyson’s poem The Idylls of The King about King Arthur which refers to Arthur’s Mission as “a commitment to the divine command to realize his highest calling”. The Mission was affiliated to the Ragged School Union and concentrated its work on children and young people many of whom lived in the Estate.

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Day 49 – Piccadilly – St James’s Square – Pall Mall

First excursion of the year and not a long one but this small area between Piccadilly and Pall Mall (yellow to pink on the Monopoly board) is rich in historical and social significance. From Fortnum and Mason to the Royal Automobile Club, St James’s (where nearly 50% of the property is owned by the Crown Estate) still clings to an aura of privilege and old money. It also contains the former residences of two women who, in very different ways, have played an important role in shaping the evolution of this country – Ada Lovelace and Nancy Astor.

Day 49 Route

Starting point today is St James’s Church on Piccadilly. This was consecrated in 1684 having been built to the order of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans to the serve the new residential development of St James’s Square. And wouldn’t you know it but the architect was the ubiquitous Christopher Wren accepting a rare gig outside of the City of London. The reredos and the marble font were created by master carver of the age, Grinling Gibbons (there’s a forename that’s ripe for revival surely). And that font was where William Blake was baptised in December 1757. St James’s is well known as a classical music venue and I was fortunate enough that my visit coincided with a lunchtime recital by the prizewinning Greek pianist, Konstantinos Destounis. The church is also very actively involved in highlighting social and political issues and is currently host to Suspended, an installation by artist Arabella Dorman which highlights the plight of refugees attempting to flee from persecution and famine to the safety of European shores.

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We exit the church onto Jermyn Street, turn left and then return to Piccadilly via Church Place. Heading east towards Piccadilly Circus we pass Waterstones flagship store which occupies the Grade I listed building that came into being in 1936 as Simpsons of Piccadilly, at the time the largest menswear store in Britain. The building was designed by the modernist architect, Joseph Pemberton (1889 – 1956) and much of the interior was the work of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895 – 1946), one of the most influential professors at the Bauhaus school of art in 1920’s Berlin.

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A right turn down Eagle Place takes us back onto Jermyn Street where we continue east onto Regent Street St James’s (or Regent Street South if you’re pushed for time). The Lumiere London art festival had taken place the previous weekend and the area around Piccadilly had featured several of the installations, including this light projection onto the old Swan & Edgar building.

We drop down to the end of Regent Street St James’s where no. 1 with its ornate carved frontage, home of the Greek restaurant Estiatorio Milos, stands on the corner with Charles II Street.

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Charles II Street runs west into St James’s Square.  As already mentioned the square was laid out in the late 17th century by Henry Jermyn, the 1st Earl of St Albans one of the most influential courtiers of the Restoration period. The houses on the square quickly became some of the most desirable properties in London and by the 1720’s seven dukes and seven earls were among the residents. A century or so later the clubhouses arrived and the square lost a bit (but only a bit) of its cachet. Turning right to proceed anticlockwise around the square we pass the BP head office at no. 1, a turn of the 21st century building they acquired in 2001. The original house at no.3 next door was owned by at least three separate dukes at different times but was replaced in the 1930’s by this office block.

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Then at no.4 we have an original Georgian House built 1726-28 by Edward Shepherd and the only one on the square to retain its garden and mews house at the rear. It is now the Naval and Military Club but was once one of the homes of Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor (1879 – 1964) the first woman to sit as an MP in the House of Commons. Nancy Witcher Langthorne Astor, to give her her full name, was an American citizen who moved to Britain at the age of 26 when she married, for the second time, to Waldorf Astor heir to the massive fortune of the Astor family with its origins in the 18th century US fur trade and New York real estate. Their primary home was the 375 acre Cliveden Estate in Buckinghamshire, a wedding gift from Waldorf’s father. Waldorf had enjoyed a promising political career prior to WW1 but when he succeeded his father’s peerage to become the 2nd Viscount Astor he was automatically shunted off to the House of Lords. This left the way open for Nancy to contest the vacant seat and she duly won the November 1919 by-election. She was in actual fact not the first woman to be elected to parliament, that milestone was achieved by Constance Markievicz in 1918 but as she was an Irish Republican she was barred from taking her seat. I think it’s fair to say that Lady Astor’s success is now viewed as purely a symbolic one. Her political accomplishments were largely negligible although she remained an MP until 1945.  Her personal ideology was also pretty suspect in many ways – she had not been a strong advocate of women’s suffrage and held strong anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic views. However, while she and many of her circle were in favour of appeasement suggestions that the “Cliveden set” were pro-fascist appear to be exaggerated.

Across the road from no.4, just outside the gardens, is a memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher who on 17 April 1984, at the age of 25, was killed by a shot from the Libyan People’s Bureau (Embassy) which at the time occupied no.5. WPC Fletcher was on duty monitoring a demonstration against the Gaddafi regime, eleven of the participations in which were also wounded. Although diplomatic relations between the UK and Libya were severed no-one was ever brought to account for the murder. Two years later US fighter planes conducted bombing raids on Libya having taken off from UK air bases with the acquiescence of Margaret Thatcher.

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We leave the square temporarily via Duke of York Street off to the right of which is the now (thanks to the eponymous book and TV series) infamous Apple Tree Yard. You’d be hard pushed to find anywhere quite so unappealing as a venue for a spot of alfresco hanky-panky but then that’s probably the point. Though I’m pretty certain the scenes in the TV series weren’t actually filmed here anyway. The yard’s other claim to fame is that it was home to the office where Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the enclave of New Delhi (within the metropolis of Delhi) to replace Calcutta as the seat of the British Colonial Government in 1912. This was marked in 2015 by the installation of a sculptural work in granite by the artist Stephen Cox.

Back on Duke of York Street it’s a short hop up to Jermyn Street again for a quick eastward foray to tick off Babmaes Street before retracing our steps to Ormond Yard which is opposite Apple Tree Yard and ends in a small passage that cuts through To Mason’s Yard. Bang in the middle of Mason’s Yard is the White Cube Gallery which was constructed here on the site of an old electricity subs-station (and is the first free-standing structure to be built in the historic St James’s area for more than 30 years). In its architectural style the White Cube aims for a spot of nominative determinism though White Orthotope would be nearer the mark (this is also true of its sister gallery, White Cube Bermondsey). It’s a good old space inside and usually showcasing something worth a visit. Current exhibition by Korean artist, Minjung Kim, which just opened today is a case in point.

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To the west Mason’s Yard leads out onto Duke Street St James’s where we head south as far as King Street which takes us east back to St James’s Square. This time we go clockwise round the square (if you see what I mean). First stop is no. 16 which was formerly the East India Club and displays a black plaque commemorating the official dispatch of the news of the victory at Waterloo carried by Major Henry Percy. After initial delivery to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War at Grosvenor Square, Major Percy continued on to this address to lay two captured French Imperial Eagles before the Prince Regent who was attending a soirée here.

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At no. 14 is the London Library the world’s largest independent library created at the instigation of Thomas Carlyle (who objected to some of the policies of the British Museum Library). It opened in 1841 and moved to St James’s Square four years later. Alfred Lord Tennyson served as President, from 1855 to 1892, as did T.S. Eliot who, on his appointment in 1952, declared  “whatever social changes come about, the disappearance of the London Library would be a disaster to civilisation”. Today the library is home to over a million books covering more than 2,000 subjects and stored on 17 miles of shelves. Membership costs £525 a year.

Next door at no.13. is the only Embassy on the square – the High Commission of Cyprus.

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Turning the corner onto the north side we reach, at no.12, the former residence of the other woman I mentioned in the preamble, Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (1815 – 1852) better known, simply, as Ada Lovelace. Part of Ada’s fame rests upon the fact that she was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron – by his wife Annabella Milbanke, Lady Wentworth. But far more important than that is her contribution to the fields of mathematics and science. As a teenager, Ada’s mathematical prowess, led her to form what came to be a long working relationship and friendship with Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871) the man who first came up with the concept of the computer, or Analytical Engine as he called it. However it was Ada who recognized that such a machine could have potential applications beyond pure calculation and published the first program intended to be carried out by the “computing machine”. For this she is regarded by many as effectively the world’s first computer programmer. Her personal life though was not a happy one; her relationships with men were fraught and complicated and she took to gambling with disastrous results – losing more than £3,000 on the horses in her early thirties. And she was always haunted by her father who had to all intents and purposes abandoned her at birth. In any event she never saw him again during his eight remaining years of life. But when Ada died of uterine cancer at the age of 36, the same age Byron had been, she was buried, at her request, next to him at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

Two doors further along at no.10 is Chatham House aka the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the world-famous independent policy institute. In 1919 British and American delegates to the Paris Peace Conference, under the leadership of Lionel Curtis, conceived the idea of an Anglo-American Institute of foreign affairs to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars. In the event, the British went ahead on their own, founding the British Institute of International Affairs in July 1920. Chatham House is immortalised for originating the Chatham House Rule – When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. Or, more succinctly, “what’s said in the room stays in the room”. No.10 (appropriately enough) is also celebrated for being the home at various times of three separate British Prime Ministers – William Pitt the Elder (PM from 1766-68), Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby (PM for just 299 days in 1852 and 1 year and 243 days between 1866 and 1868) and William Ewart Gladstone (PM for most of the 2nd half of the 19th century).

See what I mean, just this one corner of the square has elicited the best part of 1,000 words. Anyway, once past no.10, we turn south through the middle of the gardens. In the centre is an equestrian statue of William III erected in 1808 and at the southern end is a small pavilion with a memorial to architect John Nash (we’ve met him more than once on previous journeys) who supervised the design and layout of the gardens.

Back on the east side of the square is no.31, Norfolk House, which was U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters during World War II, and where Operation Torch and Operation Overlord were planned.

We leave the square again briefly, exiting onto Pall Mall from the south-east corner. Across the road is the Royal Automobile Club, founded in 1897 by Frederick Richard Simms with the primary purpose of promoting the motor car and its place in society. The Royal part of the monicker was granted by King Edward VII in 1907 (Victoria would have had no truck with these new-fangled automobile things). Today it’s a glorified private members’ (including women) club with Edwardian Turkish baths that were renovated in 2003–4, an Italian marble swimming pool, squash courts (including a doubles court), a snooker room, three restaurants, two bars, and a fully equipped business centre. It is now completely divorced from the motoring services group, the RAC, which it once owned.

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We head back into the square for a final time past another bastion of London clubland (of the cigars and brandy rather than ecstasy and glo-stick variety), the Army and Navy Club. This one has been around since 1837 and its first patron was the Duke of Wellington and the current one is the Queen – nuff said. The club is colloquially known as ‘the Rag’ – if you want to know why check out the link. I think I need to move swiftly on before I go all champagne socialist.

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We leave the square for the final time back along King Street heading west. On the north side is the global HQ of fine art auctioneers, Christie’s, where they have been since 1823.

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On the south side we pass Cleveland Place and Rose & Crown Yard before taking the next turning, Angel Court. The following picture is of the middle of those three and I took it and flipped it to b&w purely on account of the striking quality of the mannequin figure in the window.

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On the corner of Angel Court and King Street, the Golden Lion pub occupies the site where the St James’s Theatre, which staged the first performances of Oscar Wilde’s two best known plays, once stood. Further down Angel Court is a set of, now rather forlorn looking, commemorative reliefs by E. Bainbridge Copnall. The reliefs were commissioned for the office block that replaced the theatre, which was demolished itself in 1986.

Back on Pall Mall we head east initially along the north side then double back west on the south side. Pall Mall was constructed in 1661 and takes it’s name from the game of pall-mall which was a bit similar to croquet and was introduced to England by James I. London’s first pall-mall court was built in St James’s Field where St James’s Square now stands. As we return along the south side we pass no.82 which is adorned with a blue plaque marking this as a former residence of the artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) and no.80 which has one noting that Nell Gwynne (1650 – 1687) once lived in a house on the site. And at no.71 is the Oxford and Cambridge Club where. I imagine, the real metropolitan elite meet and greet.

We switch back northwards up Crown Passage which, if you ignore the rubbish bags, has a charming touch of the olde-worlde about it…

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…there’s even a Milliner’s for goodness’ sake (that’s someone who makes hats in case there happens to be anyone under the age of forty reading)

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So now we’re back on King Street from where a quick right then left takes us into Bury Street. The area of St James’s is particularly known for its galleries. Not the sort I tend to frequent that show contemporary art (though as we’ve seen there are a couple of those) but the ones that specialise in just about every niche in the fine arts and antiques firmament – from old masters to maps to Japanese art and armour and weaponry as you can see below.

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We turn east off Bury Street along Ryder Street back to Duke Street St James’s where we continue north and then turn the corner into Jermyn Street past the Cavendish Hotel. In its present form The Cavendish is a particularly unlovable example of 1960’s concrete pragmatism. Its predecessor was built in the early 1800’s, taking on the Cavendish name in 1836. In 1902 the Cavendish was bought by one Rosa Lewis (1867 -1952), who had worked her way up from kitchen maid (aged 12) to be head chef of the Duc d’orleans at Sandhurst. She was also engaged as a dinner-party cook by Lady Randolph Churchill, the Asquiths and many of the hostesses who entertained Edward VII. Rosa originally put her husband, the grandly named ex-butler Excelsior Tyrel Chiney Lewis, and his sister Laura in charge of the hotel. But within two years their spending and his drinking were out of control so Rosa divorced him and threw the pair of them out. Once she was in charge the hotel flourished and expanded. She was known for her generous spirit – allowing impoverished WW1 military officers to stay for free at the hotel for example – and Evelyn Waugh described her as warm hearted, comic and a totally original woman. She continued to dress in Edwardian style and enjoyed a grandiose and majestic decline from 1918 to 1952. Her life was the inspiration for the 1970’s TV series, “The Duchess of Duke Street” (with Gemma Jones in the title role) as is recognized by a Westminster Council commemorative plaque.

After a couple of blocks we make our way back to Piccadilly up Princes Arcade which continues the area’s general theme of old fashioned luxury. Opposite the entrance to the arcade at no.87 Jermyn Street is another of those old London County Council blue plaques marking this as the home of Sir Isaac Newton. Newton actually lived in the building that was knocked down in 1915 but the plaque had been installed seven years prior to that and so was taken down a re-fixed to the new building.

On reaching Piccadilly again we turn left to get to Hatchards the UK’s oldest bookshop. John Hatchard opened the store at 173 Piccadilly in 1797 and moved it to (what is now) 187 in 1801. The store has three Royal Warrants and is now owned by Waterstone’s.

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Since that move in 1801, Hatchards has been neighbour to Fortnum & Mason which preceded it in opening on Piccadilly by nearly a hundred years. It was 1707, to be exact, when Hugh Mason and William Fortnum set up shop at no.181 and it all began with them selling off Queen Anne’s half-used candle wax. In 1738, by which time it was established as one of the most prominent grocery stores on the capital, Fortnum and Mason’s invented the Scotch Egg while brainstorming ideas for food that travellers could eat on the go. In 1851 Fortnum’s won first prize as importers of dried fruits and dessert goods at London’s Great Exhibition and in 1886 became the first grocer’s in Britain to stock Heinz baked beans. In 1911 they sent hampers to the suffragettes who had been imprisoned for breaking their windows and they provided the 1922 Everest expedition with, amongst other things, 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne (amazing that they didn’t reach the summit with that to fortify them). The famous clock on the storefront was installed in 1964 and its bells come from the same foundry that produced Big Ben. The only record that F&M have ever sold is Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas ?” These days Fortnum’s is more of a tourist destination than anything. There are no doubt still a few members of the landed gentry that pop up to town to stock up on comestibles and haberdashery but I didn’t see very many while doing the rounds. Since I mentioned it earlier I should also note that the selling of foie-gras was the subject of a PETA campaign in 2010 that was supported by a number of high-profile celebrities.

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We exit the store (purchase-free) onto Duke Street and at the end of the block turn west for a final visit to Jermyn Street. Outside the Piccadilly Arcade is a statue to the Georgian “dandy” Beau Brummel (1778 – 1840). Poor old Beau’s not looking quite so dandy-ish at the moment having been boxed in by the workmen repairing the street.

Jermyn Street has historically been second only to Savile Row in term of catering to the sartorial needs of the discerning London gentleman-about-town but these days it seems to consist mainly of branches of T.M Lewin. So I was pleased to finally encounter one of the few remaining proper old-style independent outfitters on the corner with the top of Bury Street.

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And that’s just about it. From Bury Street we turn right to make the western section of Ryder Street our last call of the day and I’ll leave you wondering, like me, what story lies behind this intriguing shot.

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