A Travellerspoint blog

WANDERING AROUND WEMBLEY: NOT SIMPLY SOCCER

There is far more to Wembley than simply soccer!

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the construction of London’s local railways, notably the Metropolitan Line, improved access between the centre of the city and places that were open countryside before the rails were laid. The builders of the Metropolitan Line kept hold of land along it which was surplus to the construction of the railway lines. This extra land was developed for housing purposes, thus ensuring a supply of passengers who would need the Metropolitan to commute to and from their workplaces. To sell housing, the railway company developed the concept of ‘Metro-land’, which was to promote the idea of living in idyllic rustic surroundings close to London. However, as Oliver Green writes in his introduction to a modern (1987) facsimile of the promotional literature “Metro-land, 1932 edition”:
“The notion of Metro-land as a ‘rural Arcadia’ certainly no longer matched the suburban reality of Wembley Park or Rayners Lane…”

Ealing Rd, Wembley

Ealing Rd, Wembley

In the late 19th century, the concept of the ‘Garden City’ and the ‘Garden Suburb’ was developed following the ideas proposed by Sir Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928). In brief, his idea was to create communities in which homes, workplaces, and nature were perfectly balanced. This resulted in the creation in London of, for example, Hampstead Garden Suburb (initiated 1904), which is both visually entrancing and well-blended with greenery. This ideal was abandoned later in the 1920s when many of the suburbs contained in ‘Metro-land’ were developed. Architectural variety gave way to mass-produced buildings based on very few patterns, many of which looked identical; and the balance between urbanisation and greenery became minimal. The resulting suburbs, of which most of Wembley is a good example, became lay-outs containing streets lined with houses that were barely distinguishable from one another – a featureless sea of suburbia.
This piece includes an exploration of what, if anything, is left of ‘rural Arcadia’ in the vast suburban sea that covers Wembley and its surroundings.

View of Wembley Stadium from Stonebridge Park Stn

View of Wembley Stadium from Stonebridge Park Stn

Stonebridge Park Station is close to both the North Circular Road and the River Brent, which flows besides it. The name ‘Stonebridge’ is derived from the stone bridge over the river at this location, built between 1660 and 1700, see: http://www.brentmuseumandarchive.org.uk.gridhosted.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Stonebridge.pdf). It was considered unusual at that time because most of the crossings of the Brent were wooden. In the 1870s, developers started erecting villas for professional men and their families in an estate called ‘Stonebridge Park’. By the late 19th century, houses were being built in the area for people with lower incomes than the professionals in the estate. The station stands surrounded by desolate landscape that includes the busy circular road as well as a few high-rise buildings, some of which look derelict or unused. From the station, there is a good view of the soaring arch that spans the not-too-distant Wembley Stadium. In addition, there are plenty of streets lined with two-storey residential building of barely any architectural merit.

Point Place leads from the station to the Harrow Road - a thoroughfare that has linked Paddington and Harrow for several centuries. Point Place crosses a short narrow channel lined with concrete walls.

Wembley Brook at Stonebridge Park Stn

Wembley Brook at Stonebridge Park Stn

This contains a small stretch of Wembley Brook, a tiny tributary of the River Brent. After crossing Harrow Road, it is a short distance to Brent River Park, also known as ‘Tokyngton Recreation Ground’. Tokyngton means ‘the farm of the sons of Toca’ (see: http://www.brent-heritage.co.uk/tokyngton.htm). The name was first recorded in 1171, and in mediaeval times it was the most populous part of the parish of Harrow.

South entrance to Tokyngton recreation ground

South entrance to Tokyngton recreation ground

Tokyngton recreation ground sculpture

Tokyngton recreation ground sculpture

The long narrow park contains a stretch of the River Brent, which winds through it. By the entrance near to Monks Park Gardens, there is a sculpture in the form of a stone with carvings on it. This is near a well-equipped playground. When I visited it, most of the children playing on it were young girls wearing Islamic head-coverings.

Southern bridge over the Brent at Tokyngton recreation ground

Southern bridge over the Brent at Tokyngton recreation ground

River Brent at Tokyngton recreation ground

River Brent at Tokyngton recreation ground

There is a substantial bridge across the Brent close to the playground. A path snakes its way northwards, often quite close to the tree- and bush-lined river banks. Another bridge crosses the river about halfway along the length of the park.

River Brent from middle bridge in Tokyngton recreation ground

River Brent from middle bridge in Tokyngton recreation ground

This bridge, smaller than the southernmost one, is close to a clearing which contains something that could easily be mistaken for an abstract sculpture by Anthony Caro.

Climate Pavilion, Tokyngton recreation ground

Climate Pavilion, Tokyngton recreation ground

This was built in 2012. It is: “A pavilion which outlines the dangers of climate change while offering residents a place to shelter … The pavilion, which was suggested by the Friends of Brent River Park, has a sustainable urban drainage system for when the park experiences flooding … The structure can also be used by Brent schools as an outdoor classroom for pupils to study and understand climate change and environmental issues in a natural setting.” (see: http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/environment/pavilion-which-is-an-outdoor-classroom-is-unveiled-in-wembley-park-1-1333284). Although only a few years after its inauguration, now in 2017, heavily oxidised, it looks as if it is past its best, but it makes for an intriguing sculptural form.

Oakington Manor Drive Wembley

Oakington Manor Drive Wembley

Walking through the park, it is at times difficult to believe that this rustic-looking area is so very close to monotonous rows of suburban residences. A short walk from the pavilion, and you are plunged into neat suburban streets. The local roads are narrow, reflecting the paucity of traffic during the inter-war years when they were laid out. Then, car ownership was low compared to today. The long Oakington Manor Drive (mostly built between 1914 and 1932; there was an ‘Oakington Farm’ marked on both 1761 and 1873 maps), like all of the residential streets nearby, is lined with houses, many of them decorated with fake half-timbering on their facades. This artifice, according to Michael Robbins writing in “Middlesex” (first publ. 1953), was: “… to inform the observer that the house was not built by a local council…”, but, instead, was paid for by its owner. Several houses had strings of faded bunting above their front doors. Maybe, these were the homes of Hindus who often decorate the entrances to their homes with ‘thoran’ (these are often also in the form of leaves or small dried fruits or peppers). Oakington Manor Drive leads towards the centre of Wembley, where many people with origins in the Indian subcontinent reside.

Sherrins Farm Open Space

Sherrins Farm Open Space

Post Office Tower from Sherrins Farm Open Space

Post Office Tower from Sherrins Farm Open Space

A short lane leads from Oakington Manor Drive to Sherrins Farm Open Space, a large triangular grassy area on the south facing slope of a hill. This is in the place marked as ‘Oakington Farm’ on maps drawn before WW2. ‘Oakington’ might well be phonetically related to ‘Tokyngton’. The two names are used interchangeably to denote the same area. ‘Sherrins’ was the name of the farm during the last few decades of its rural existence (see: http://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/tokyngton/).

View of Wembley Stadium from Sherrins Farm Open Space

View of Wembley Stadium from Sherrins Farm Open Space

It is a good place to get a view, unobstructed by construction cranes, of the exterior of the new Wembley Stadium. Within sight of the stadium, there were young boys playing football on the small park. Maybe in the future some of them will be playing in the nearby world-famous stadium. The Open Space also provides good views of central London.

St Josephs RC Church Wembley

St Josephs RC Church Wembley

St Josephs RC Church Wembley

St Josephs RC Church Wembley

Oakington Manor Drive meets the Harrow Road just before it becomes Wembley High Road. Near this point, stands the tall brick-built tower of St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. Designed by Reynolds and Adrian Gilbert Scott (1882-1963; grandson of Sir George Gilbert Scott), it was built between 1955 and ’57. Its interior is very dramatic. Arches straddle the nave, and between them there are circular concavities, like the interiors of domes.

Wembley Staium Station bridge

Wembley Staium Station bridge

A main road, Wembley Hill, begins opposite St Josephs. A pedestrian way leads off this road at an acute angle, passing over a modern suspension bridge over the railway station (Wembley Stadium Station) beneath it. Beyond the bridge looms Wembley Stadium. The current building designed by Norman Foster’s architectural firm was completed in 2007. Its distinguishing feature, which can be seen from many points in north London is a steel arch: a lattice of criss-crossing steel rods that spans the stadium like a rainbow. Its purpose is to support the weight of much of the stadiums roofing.

Wembley Stadium detail

Wembley Stadium detail

The present stadium stands on the site of a much older one built in 1923, which was demolished by 2003. The older stadium, which was first named ‘British Empire Exhibition Stadium’, was built as part of the British Empire Exhibition of 1924–25. When, to many people’s dismay, this much-loved landmark in the world of British and International soccer was demolished, the rubble was collected together and used to construct four artificial grass-covered hills next to the A40 road near Northolt. These hills, the burial mounds of the old stadium, form the ‘Northala Fields’ country park.

Corner Wembley High Road and Ealing Road

Corner Wembley High Road and Ealing Road

Jewellery shop Ealing Road

Jewellery shop Ealing Road

Ealing Road begins on Wembley High Road a few bus-stops west of St Josephs. Sanghamam vegetarian restaurant sits at the union (‘sangham’ in some Indian languages) of Ealing Road and the High Road. It offers what in India would be described as ‘multicuisine’ – that is food from a variety of widely differing gastronomic traditions (in Sanghamam’s case, this includes Gujarati, Punjabi, Sri Lankan, and Chinese). The restaurant’s signage is in several scripts including English, Hindi, Gujarati, and Tamil. A short way down Ealing Road, is the first of many jewellery shops along this street. A display of gold necklaces is in the window above some words in Tamil script.

Wembley Central Mosque

Wembley Central Mosque

The Wembley Central Mosque complex on Ealing Road is housed in buildings that have features typical of the Arts and Crafts style popular at the beginning of the 20th century. The building with the clock-tower, now the mosque, was built in 1904, designed by Thomas Collcutt (1840-1924) and his apprentice Stanley Hamp (1877-1968). It was originally St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1335084). In 1993, the local Muslim congregation acquired into this church, which had stood empty for almost fifteen years. They moved here from an earlier mosque that they had built in 1985 in a semi-detached house on Harrowdene Road. The current mosque and its annexe can accommodate 1250 worshipers (see: http://www.wembleycentralmasjid.co.uk/about-us/).

Ealing Road ICICI Bank

Ealing Road ICICI Bank

Ealing Road Methodist Church

Ealing Road Methodist Church

Yet another manifestation of Ealing Road’s ties to the Indian Subcontinent is a branch of the Indian ICICI Bank, which is housed in a semi-detached Victorian house at number 49. The other half of this building is currently occupied by JM Amin, a firm of solicitors. Further along, stands Ealing Road Methodist Church, a brick neo-gothic building with a polygonal tower topped with a tiled steeple.

Clothing and jewellery in Ealing Road

Clothing and jewellery in Ealing Road

South of the Methodist Church, Ealing Road becomes a busy shopping centre. There are large shops selling clothes made in the Indian styles: kurtas, saris, salwar kameez, bridal wear, lenghas, chania choli, and traditional Indian sub-continental menswear. There is no need to fly to India or Pakistan to be properly kitted out. You need go no further than Ealing Road!

Ealing Road: Asia in suburbia

Ealing Road: Asia in suburbia

Fruit and veg Ealing Road

Fruit and veg Ealing Road

Ealing Road: decorative and devotional objects stall

Ealing Road: decorative and devotional objects stall

There is no shortage of jewellery shops supplying high carat gold jewellery in traditional Indian designs. At the other end of the price scale, there are vast fruit and vegetable stores, well-supplied to satisfy even the most demanding of vegetarians. And, there are many vegetarians living in this area, many of them of Gujarati heritage.

Sakonis Ealing Road

Sakonis Ealing Road

If you are keen on South Indian vegetarian food, there are several eateries, where you can have your fill. One of these, which I have visited frequently, is a large local branch of Sakonis. Before my first visit to India in 1994, my then future wife used to dine with me at Sakonis to help me become acquainted with South Indian food, such as I was going to encounter when I accompanied her to Bangalore, where we got married. It was at Sakonis that I ate my first ever dosa (a crepe-like pancake made with rice-flour) and delicious ‘mogo chips’, which are deep-fried strips of cassava. The inclusion of the latter on the menus of Sakonis and other vegetarian restaurants in the area reflects the fact that many of the Indians in Wembley have come to the UK from Uganda (expelled by Idi Amin in the 1960s), Kenya, and other regions of East Africa.

Popat Stores Ealing Rd

Popat Stores Ealing Rd

If you wish to cook your own food, then everything you need in an Asian kitchen is available at Popat Stores, which has been purveying kitchenware since 1972. ‘Popat’ is the Hindi word for ‘parrot’, but it can also mean to ‘goof-up’ (see: http://www.samosapedia.com/e/popat). Nearby, there are many shops with display stalls out on the pavement in front of them. They sell everything from shoes to devotional objects, but not books.

Wembley Gospel Hall Ealing Rd

Wembley Gospel Hall Ealing Rd

Wembley Gospel Hall Ealing Rd

Wembley Gospel Hall Ealing Rd

Amidst the food shops, jewellers, clothing stores, sweet shops, paan shops, bangle shops, and so on, stands the small Wembley Gospel Hall, which was opened in 1924. The congregation moved there from an older hall close to Alperton Station, which they had used since the 1890s. Notices on the building include texts in Gujarati script, reflecting the fact that there are speakers of this language amongst the Hall’s congregation. Within the Hall’s fence, there is a bilingual sign (English and Guajarati) exhorting people neither to drop litter nor to spit.

Gujarati and English in Ealing Road next to VB and Sons

Gujarati and English in Ealing Road next to VB and Sons

Next door to the Hall, there is a branch of the VB & Sons chain of supermarkets, which have been in existence for more than 20 years. VB’s stores, which are especially well patronised by the Gujarati community, offer a wide range of foodstuffs - from rices to spices - required for both Gujarati and South Indian cuisines. These stores can supply ingredients in anything from small family amounts to huge industrial catering sizes. This is the place to go if you need several gallons of pickle or huge sacks of lentils or other pulses.

Alperton Baptist Church

Alperton Baptist Church

Just south of the shopping arcade, but north of Alperton Station, stands the Alperton Baptist Church. This simple brick building with five windows just beneath its roof was built before 1932. It is adorned with the Union Jack and flags from seven different countries including India and Pakistan. It is a dramatic contrast to the Hindu temple that it faces across Ealing Road.

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

The Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir (‘Mandir’) is a decorative oasis in the desert of dull suburbia surrounding it. Located on land where a school once stood, this Mandir is an exciting riot of fine ornamentation. It is built using ochre-coloured stone from Jaisalmer (in Rajasthan, India), as well as various types of marble. Like much older Hindu temples in India, the surface of the building is rich in intricately executed religious carvings as well as scenes from Hindu legends such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and others. The Mandir was opened in May 2010 with a special ceremony. This eye-catching, attractive building’s appearance easily rivals that of the much-visited (by Hindus and non-Hindus alike) marble Neasden Temple, which is not far away.

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

So many of the residential houses were built around Wembley during the 1920s and’30s, the period when ‘art-deco’ flourished. Yet these homes, which were built at the same time as the Chrysler Building in New York, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, and many superb cinemas in London, are, to put it politely, unimaginative and dull to look at.

Alperton Station

Alperton Station

Alperton Station

Alperton Station

However, London Transport built many of the stations that serve the Piccadilly Line in this style. Alperton Station is no exception. The original station was opened in 1910, and then demolished by 1931. It was replaced by the present, elegant art-deco station designed by Charles Holden (1875-1960), who designed many other stations for the Underground as well as buildings such as the Senate House (built 1937) of the University of London and Zimbabwe House (built in 1907-8, originally for the British Medical Association its façade includes sculptures by Jacob Epstein) on the Strand.

Alperton bus garage

Alperton bus garage

Grand Union at Alperton looking east

Grand Union at Alperton looking east

Alperton Station is next to Alperton Garage, a depot for buses. Soon after this, Ealing Road makes a right angle turn and then continues south-eastwards instead of south-westwards, as had been from its start at Wembley High Road. Immediately, after turning the corner, the road crosses the Grand Union Canal - Paddington Branch (aka ‘Arm’), which flows for about 13 miles between Paddington Basin to Bull’s Bridge (on the main Grand Union Canal network) near Hayes Road in Hounslow. Near Paddington, the Arm joins with the Regent’s Canal to its east. The latter continues eastwards to Limehouse, where it connects with the Thames. The Paddington Arm was opened in 1801.

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

As it was a pleasant sunny afternoon, I decided to walk east along its well-maintained towpath. The towpath is lined with vegetation along its length between Ealing Road and Acton Lane. Along this stretch, the canal, which is close to a number of industrial units, passes through residential suburbia, but one is hardly aware of this. Linking parts of west London with central London, the towpath is used by many commuters on bicycles. Despite numerous signs exhorting them to give way to pedestrians on the path, most of the cyclists travel at high speed, as if they are training for the Tour de France. In addition to these thoughtless cyclists, there are many pedestrians, many of them with non-European features.

Cyclist and swans and Grand Union Canal

Cyclist and swans and Grand Union Canal

Two Moorhens on the Grand Union

Two Moorhens on the Grand Union

The canal, which was originally designed to transport goods, is not empty. I saw a steady stream of long canal boats (‘narrowboats’) travelling in both directions. Many of the helmsmen ‘steering’ these often colourfully decorated craft were quenching their thirst with cans of beer. The water is filled with water-fowl: families of swans, ducks, and moorhens, some of which were sitting on their nests. They swim amongst the waterweed and discarded bottles and cans floating on the surface.

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Abbey Road bridge NW10

Abbey Road bridge NW10

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

At one point, the canal crosses high above the River Brent, which seemed to be lost in the dense vegetation growing on its banks.

River Brent beneath Grand Union Canal

River Brent beneath Grand Union Canal

Immediately east of this point, the canal is divided into two lanes by an island, which has two identical concrete-topped brick cubes, each bearing the coat-of-arms of the County of Middlesex. This island spans the length of a bridge (an aqueduct) that carries the canal high over the busy North Circular Road. The original aqueduct was built at the same time as the North Circular in the early 1930s. It was strong enough to repel bombs placed at either end of it by the Irish Republican Army in 1939 (see: https://www.alpertonhistory.info/the-canal-aqueduct/). In the early 1990s, when the North Circular was widened, the original aqueduct was replaced with the present longer one.

Cyclists and canal crossing North Circular Rd

Cyclists and canal crossing North Circular Rd

North Circular Rd from the Grand Union Canal bridge

North Circular Rd from the Grand Union Canal bridge

Canal bridge over North Circular Rd

Canal bridge over North Circular Rd

East of the aqueduct, there is more industrial land usage than west of it, where there is more ‘Metro-land’ type of residential estates than industrial occupation. The Grand Junction Arms is a pub next to the Acton Lane bridge over the canal. With canal-side outdoor seating, this makes a pleasant refreshment stop. The pub was first opened as a ‘beer house’ in 1816. From 1861, it was known as the ‘Grand Junction and Railway Inn’. In the 15th century, Sir John Elrington (died 1483), the Lord of Twyford and sometime Member of Parliament, had his manor house near where the bridge is today. The parish of Twyford, whose name derives from ‘Tueverde’ meaning ‘two fords’, covers about 280 acres of the southwest of modern Willesden.

Grand Junction Arms Acton Lane bridge

Grand Junction Arms Acton Lane bridge

Across the canal, facing the pub, there is a modern café, with an open-air terrace overlooking the water. Many of the outdoor tables were occupied by women wearing bourkas. For, they were about to enjoy Lebanese food in this establishment named ‘Beit el Zaytoun’ (meaning ‘House of Olives’), which appears to attract reviews varying much from ‘great’ to ‘awful’. Unlike the pub across the waters, this place does not serve alcohol.

WEMB 6h Beit el Zaytoun at Acton Road bridge

WEMB 6h Beit el Zaytoun at Acton Road bridge

This ramble has taken us through areas of London rarely visited by tourists (except soccer aficionados), and, probably, with good reason. Viewed from a bus, car, or train, there is little to tempt the passer-by to stop in Wembley and its environs. I hope that what I have written in this chapter demonstrates that what, at first sight, looks dull, really deserves closer examination

Two swans on the Grand Union

Two swans on the Grand Union

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 01:53 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged football london india soccer canal pakistan sri_lanka wembley dosa suburbia gujarati river_brent metro-land grand_union_canal Comments (0)

HIKING AROUND HIGHGATE

Highgate is a fine example of a former village that has been absorbed during the growth of London. Many of its original features have survived the advance of time.

View of City from Spaniards Road

View of City from Spaniards Road

Today, a double-decker bus serves route 210 that carries passengers between Golders Green and Highgate. Between 1965 and 1970, when I was a pupil at Highgate School, the same route, which I travelled six days a week in term-time, was served by a single-decker bus. Here is a description of a couple of walks that I made recently to revisit places with which I was familiar in my school-days and others.

Spaniards Road looking east

Spaniards Road looking east

Spaniards Road runs in a straight line along an embankment that separates two sections of Hampstead Heath. The road is elevated ridge because in the past (early 19th century) sand was quarried from the ground on either side of it.

Wall of Heath House on Spaniards Road

Wall of Heath House on Spaniards Road

The western stretch of Spaniards Road is followed by the brick wall that surrounds the grounds of Heath House. Currently invisible under extensive scaffolding, this 18th century building (1762) was bought in 1790 by the Quaker banker and anti-slavery activist Samuel Hoare (born 1751), who lived there until his death in 1825.

Main entrance to The Elms

Main entrance to The Elms

Spaniards Road runs between the two wooded portions of the Heath that it divides. About two thirds of the way along it, a lane winds downhill through the trees to the south to reach the Elms Estate. There have been buildings on this site since the 17th century. Between 1957 and 1981, The Elms, which was then owned by the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, became the home of St Columba’s Hospital for the terminally ill. Since 1987, it has been in the hands of private developers.

White House Spaniards End, formerly part of The Firs

White House Spaniards End, formerly part of The Firs

Spaniards End is a small road that branches of Spaniards Road just before it reaches Spaniards Inn. It leads past a building that used to be called ‘The Firs’. This was built in 1734 by a Mr Turner, and later modified. In the 1950s, this house was divided into 3 separate dwellings: The White House, The Chantry, and Casa Maria. The latter was formed from the former billiards room of The Firs.

Evergreen House

Evergreen House

Evergreen Hill, next to the Spaniards Inn was from 1889 the ‘weekend’ home of the social reformers Canon Samuel Barnett (1844-1913) and his wife Dame Henrietta (1851-1936). It was through their efforts that the Hampstead Garden Suburb came into existence. Evergreen Hill, which is next door to Erskine House (which was built in the 18th century and was home to the lawyer Thomas Erskine:1750-1823), was once the home of the Arctic explorer Rear Admiral Sir William Parry (1790-1855).

These buildings are the immediate neighbours of a pub that was built in the 17th century, The Spaniards Inn. It was so-named because it is supposed that the building was either once occupied by a family connected with the Spanish embassy or that it had been converted into a place of entertainment by a Spaniard. In my younger days, I used to have a drink there with my friends.

Spaniards Inn and toll-booth

Spaniards Inn and toll-booth

The pub marks the eastern end of Spaniards Road and the beginning of Hampstead Lane. Where the 2 roads meet, the roadway’s width is barely wide enough to admit a double-decker bus. This is due to the presence of the former ‘Spaniards Gate Toll House’, which was built in the 18th century to collect tolls from those passing through the western entrance to the Estates of the Bishops of London, which they owned for almost 1400 years . There was once another toll-gate for the Bishops’ land at Highgate, from which that locality derives its name. Near The Spaniards, there is a 20th century house where the actor Sir Ralph Richardson (1902-1983) lived between 1944 and 1968.

Gate posts at Kenwood West Lodge

Gate posts at Kenwood West Lodge

Hampstead Lane skirts the northern boundary of the Kenwood estate, but it has not always done so. A well-informed volunteer attendant at Kenwood House explained that Hampstead Road used to run close to the main entrance of the house along what is now its driveway. A map drawn in 1745 shows this clearly. In the 18th century, the 2nd Earl of Mansfield (1727-1796) employed the landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752-1818) to improve the landscape of Kenwood House. This included shifting the route of Hampstead Lane to the north of the house and out of sight of it.

Hampstead Lane: Highgate School's Far Field

Hampstead Lane: Highgate School's Far Field

There is a rectangular field where Bishops Avenue meets Hampstead Lane. This is ‘Far Field’, owned and used by Highgate School. On a September afternoon in 1965, I took part in a football match on this field designed to assess the soccer abilities of new entrants to the school. The following day, two senior students, wearing prefects' uniform, announced solemnly to me that I was not skilled as a football player, and would have to select another sport. I cannot say that this news devastated me.

Kenwood rhododendrons

Kenwood rhododendrons

I entered the grounds of Kenwood House at its public entrance closest to The Spaniards Inn, and followed a path flanked by rhododendron bushes (for which Kenwood is well-known). This leads to the front of Kenwood House following the original path taken by Hampstead Lane prior to its repositioning by Repton. The path passes a stone sculpture, ‘Flamme’, carved in 1983 by Eugène Dodeigne (1923-2015), then opens into an open space dominated by the north-facing front façade of Kenwood House with its neo-classical portico.

Kenwood House front

Kenwood House front

The first house to stand on the site of the present one was built in brick by John Bill (1576-1630), printer to King James I. He bought the Kenwood Estate (which was known as ‘Caen Wood’) in 1616. After several changes in ownership, the Estate was bought in about 1747 by a former Prime Minister and King George III’s close associate John Stuart, third Earl of Bute (1713-1792).

In 1754, Bute sold the property to the lawyer and law-reformer William Murray (1705-1793), who became the First Earl of Mansfield, and was Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench from 1756 to 1788. In 1778, he was a supporter of the recently passed, and mostly unpopular, Roman Catholic Relief Bill, which allowed Roman Catholics some limited rights that had been denied them previously . So unpopular was this legislation that violent protests, the ‘Gordon Riots’, broke out in June 1780.

After Mansfield’s house in Bloomsbury Square was sacked and burnt, the mob set out to destroy his country house at Kenwood. When the angry protestors reached the Spaniards Inn, its then publican, Giles Thomas, learning of their objective, acted:
“… with a coolness and promptitude which did him great credit, persuaded the rioters to refresh themselves thoroughly before commencing the work of devastation; he threw his house open, and even the cellars for their entertainment, but secretly dispatched a messenger to the barracks for a detachment of the Horse Guards, which, … opportunely presented a bold front to the rebels …” (see: “Old and New London”,, by E Walford, publ. 1878).
Alcohol was also supplied to the mob from the cellars of Kenwood House by one of its retainers, who induced them to return to the pub. The exhausted, intoxicated rebels were dissuaded by the military from continuing their quest.

During the First Earl’s stay in the House, he employed the architect Robert Adam (1728-1792) to make improvements (see below). Kenwood House remained the seat of the Mansfield family until the beginning of the 1920s when it was owned by the Sixth Earl of Mansfield. Then, the wealthy soap-maker Sir Arthur Crosfield (1865-1938) helped to save the Estate from being developed into a housing estate. The brewer Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927), the First Earl of Iveagh, first leased Kenwood, and then purchased it. Acollector of fine art, he housed his collection of paintings at Kenwood. He bequeathed this and his house to the public, making Kenwood House the home of one of London’s great art collections.

Kenwood lake and bridge

Kenwood lake and bridge

The grounds surrounding Kenwood House are magnificent. Notable amongst its features, the garden has a lake with a a ‘trompe-l’oeil’ bridge. This can be seen from the terrace running along the House’s graceful neo-classical south-facing rear façade. The lake is one of the sources of the River Fleet, whichflows towards central London. During my youth, there used to be a hemispherical bandstand large enough to hold a symphony orchestra. This was located on the side of the lake furthest from the House. In Summer, concerts used to be held at Kenwood. The audience sat in the open on deck-chairs or on the ground acrossf the lake from the bandatand, listening to music that travelled across the lake.

Kenwood Base where Dr Johnsons summer house stood

Kenwood Base where Dr Johnsons summer house stood

Another thing that I recall from earlier visits to Kenwood has also gone. It was Doctor Johnson’s Summer House. When I looked for it recently , all that remained of it was an octagonal concrete base (hidden amongst bushes) with two benches on it. The rustic hut, in which the great Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) used to sit, was moved to Kenwood from Thrale Place (where Johnson lived from 1765) in Streatham. Sadly, it was burnt down after 1984.

Kenwood Barbra Hepworth and distant Kenwood Farm

Kenwood Barbra Hepworth and distant Kenwood Farm

The hidden concrete base is not far from another of Kenwood’s sculptures, the tall limestone, abstract ‘Monolith Empyrean’ (made in 1953), which is, in my opinion, one of the better sculptures by Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975).

The House is well-worth entering. I will describe some of the things about it that caught my attention. If I had to select my favourite aspect of the house, I would have to choose between the Adam library and the collection of paintings, the ‘Iveagh Bequest’.

Kenwood library ceiling

Kenwood library ceiling

The library is a masterpiece of interior design by the architect Robert Adam. John Summerson wrote in his “Georgian London”:
“When Lord Mansfield bought Kenwood House it was a plain brick box. He employed Adam to reface it in stucco and add two low wings: the orangery and the magnificent library.”
And, the library is magnificent, especially its intricately decorated barrel-vaulted stuccoed ceiling. Built between 1767 and 1770, it was designed to be both a library and a room in which to receive guests.

Vermeer in Kenwood

Vermeer in Kenwood

The collection in Kenwood contains masterpieces by artists isuch as: Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, and Vermeer. The collection also includes a number of topographical paintings of historic interest.

Kenwood: John Constable - view of Hampstead Heath

Kenwood: John Constable - view of Hampstead Heath

Kenwood View from Highgate by 'school of Richard Wilson'

Kenwood View from Highgate by 'school of Richard Wilson'

A painting by John Constable (1776-1837) shows a view of Hampstead Heath. Another from the studio of Richard Wilson (1713-1782) provides a view of London from a high point somewhere in Highgate. The spires of the City of London can be seen across the fields that separated 18th century Highgate from London. Another 18th (?) century oil depicts 3 cows standing in front of three buildings, which were part of the dairy farm established by Louisa, the second wife of the 2nd Earl of Mansfield.

Kenwood Farm painting detail

Kenwood Farm painting detail

Old London Bridge at Kenwood

Old London Bridge at Kenwood

An interesting painting by the Dutchman Claude de Jongh (1605-1663 )depicts old London Bridge in 1630 . It is one of three that he made on his various visits to London.

Kenwood Painting in the 'Suffolk Collection'

Kenwood Painting in the 'Suffolk Collection'

There is a fine collection of 9 paintings, ‘The Suffolk Collection’, on the firsrt floor . These superb portraits were painted by William Larkin (1580s-1619). The paintings and the Library are my favourites within Kenwood House, but there is plenty more to see.

Kenwood Gouty Chair for invalids

Kenwood Gouty Chair for invalids

An item, which interested me, was the ‘Gouty chair’ for invalids. Two handles at the ends of its armrests are connected by rods and cogwheels to some wheels on the floor below the chair. The occupant of this chair could rotate the handles, and thereby propel this early form of wheelchair around the room. This was created by the Belgian inventor John-Joseph Merlin (1735-1803).

Bishopswood on Hampstead Lane

Bishopswood on Hampstead Lane

Kenwood is not the only grand house on Hampstead Lane. There are others including Caen Wood Towers (at various times the home of wealthy men such as Francis Reckitt, Sir Francis Cory-Wright, and Sir Robert Waley Cohen) and Beechwood, which has been home to at least two rulers from the Middle East.

Beechwood seen from Hampstead Road

Beechwood seen from Hampstead Road

These places still exist, but have been converted into up-market residences. Bishopswood House at the corner of Bishopswood Road and Hampstead Lane has always intrigued me. When I was at Highgate School in the 1960s, this Victorian house was easily visible from the road. Then, it was possible to see lights with conical green shades suspended over the games table inside its enormous billiards room. Now, the much modified and enlarged house is well hidden by hedges. It does not appear on a map surveyed in 1863, but does on one surveyed in 1894.

Bishopswood House is next to a large open space, Senior Field, one of Highgate School’s many sports grounds. A Victorian building on the edge of the field nearest to Hampstead Lane was once the school’s swimming pool. When I attended the school between 1965 and 1970, the school’s open-air swimming pool was below Dyne House (see below) on Southwood Lane. Entering this unheated pool was only bearable when rain was falling. In 1970, an indoor heated pool, financed by regular £10 additions to the pupils’ £100 termly tuition fees, opened on the eastern arm of Bishopswood Road.

Highgate School dining hall

Highgate School dining hall

Highgate School crest on cricket pavilion

Highgate School crest on cricket pavilion

Directly across the field from the former swimming pool, stands the school’s dining hall and kitchens. These are next to a small hut that contains the cricket score board. Further east, Hampstead Lane passes the rear of the cricket pavilion, where a crest showing a knight’s helmet and below it a heraldic animal’s head are separated by a sword with a twist in its blade. This is part of the crest of Highgate School. The pavilion is across the road from the entrance to Beechwood House (built about 1824; see above).

Old Highgate School changing rooms on Junior Field

Old Highgate School changing rooms on Junior Field


Walking along the eastern part of Bishopwsood Road from Hampstead Lane, one can see yet another of Highate School’s playing fields, the Junior Playing Fields. At the south end of this, there is a long low brick building, which, in ‘my day’, contained the changing rooms for day boys. Opposite this on Bishopswood Road, there are the magnificent (both outside and inside) recently built edifices housing Highgate’s Junior School.

Highgate Junior School

Highgate Junior School

North of these new buildings, there is a large red brick Victorian building bearing the school’s crest. This was formerly one of the school’s boarding houses, known as ‘School House’ (built 1880).

School House now The John Mills Centre

School House now The John Mills Centre

Now that the school no longer has boarders, this building has been beautifully modernised within and adapted for use as an arts centre, and is now called ‘The John Mills Centre’ in honour of one of the school’s recent governors. The Mallinson Sports Centre a little north of this is built around the swimming pool that was constructed when I was at the school. The centre is named in honour of Mr TG Mallinson, a charismatic man who lived until he was 99, and was one of the teachers who tried to teach me French. Near the sports centre, Eton fives courts are visible. This game, which is played usually in Public Schools (but not exclusively: I have seen public Eton Fives courts in North Kensington near to the Westway), is a bit like squash except that the ball is hit by gloved hands instead of racquets.

Highgate School: Big School

Highgate School: Big School

Highgate: Big School frieze

Highgate: Big School frieze

Highgate School Chapel

Highgate School Chapel

The top end of Hampstead Lane is dominated by the Victorian gothic Highgate School building and its neighbouring chapel with its clock-tower and tall centrally located slender steeple. The building, which in ‘my day’ was known as ‘Big School’ and was rarely used except when the whole school needed to be gathered together in one place. It has been restored recently, and its interior has become the school’s main library. Big School was built between 1865 and 1867 to the designs of FP Cockerill (1833-1878). The chapel and cloisters that flank this building were added later in the 19th century. North of these buildings, many other neighbouring edifices contain the classrooms and other rooms connected with the Senior School.

Highgate School was founded as a grammar school by Sir Roger de Cholmeley (c1485-1565) in 1565 near the end of his life. Sir Roger was a great benefactor of Highgate village. A lawyer, a member of Lincoln’s Inn, King Henry VII bestowed on him the Manor of Hampstead. Sir Roger lived through six reigns (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I). One of these, that of Lady Jane, he helped bring about to his short-term detriment. According to James Thorne in his “Handbook to the Environs of London” (publ. 1876), Sir Roger, who had been Lord Chief Justice of The King’s Bench under Edward VI, was been dismissed and imprisoned in the Tower by Queen Mary because of his part in drawing up the King’s will so that his sisters (Mary and Elizabeth) were disinherited, and barred from acceding to the throne. This ‘tampering’ of the will allowed Lady Jane to be crowned, albeit only for nine days. After his release from the Tower, he devoted time to setting up his (and my) school in Highgate.

Highgate Senior School pupils entrance

Highgate Senior School pupils entrance

Highgate School never achieved a great reputation in its first few centuries. One of its most celebrated early academic successes was Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718), a noted poet, writer, dramatist, and Poet Laureate (appointed 1715). It was not until the early 19th century when Dr J Bradley Dyne became headmaster in 1838 (he held this post until 1874) that the school’s reputation improved significantly. Even in 1965, when I was ready for secondary school, Highgate did not command a high reputation as compared with, say, Westminster, where my parents hoped that I would apply and attend. I chose Highgate myself, having been introduced to it by a very good friend who was already a pupil there. It turned out to be a good choice.

In the mid-1960s, Highgate school was like a privately-run comprehensive school. Unlike, for example Westminster, it catered for boys of all academic abilities, and encouraged whatever they showed flare for, be it woodwork, tennis, music, or, even, academic excellence. I had a friend at Westminster, who was above average in intellectual ability, but because he was unlikely to enter Oxford or Cambridge with an exhibition or a scholarship, he always, I sensed, was made to feel inferior. This never happened in Highgate when I was there. A high scorer in mathematics was made to feel no more superior to someone, who could hardly add two numbers together yet was a brilliant cricket batsman. I am very grateful that I went to a school where this was the case. With the advent of girls and the passing of time, the school has enlarged greatly, and its academic excellence rivals the best of London’s schools. Despite that, I have got the impression when I have visited the school for reunions, that even though I and most of my fellow classmates would have had trouble passing the present entrance exams, the school has maintained a great atmosphere of all-embracing excellence, not only in academic spheres.

Halfway Cottage North Road

Halfway Cottage North Road

The west side of North Road that becomes North Hill, which leads north to join the Great North Road (A1000), is lined with interesting buildings. Prior to the construction of Archway Road (see below), this thoroughfare, which passes Highgate Senior School, was the only road from London to the north. Halfway Cottage, which looks like a mews building or stable, has a block and tackle system hanging from its first floor. It was built in the 1840s and might have been part of a larger estate at the time. A map drawn in 1863 shows that this cottage and its neighbours were next to a large building called ‘Grove Lodge’, where today there are houses with flats.

Byron Cottage

Byron Cottage

Eighteenth century Byron House with its early 19th century stucco façade, next door to Halfway, was home of the poet Sir John Betjeman from 1911 to 1915, when he attended Highgate School. One of his teachers there was the great TS Eliot (1886-1965), who was then teaching French and Latin. Next door to Byron House, stands another 18th century building Hampton Lodge. Its neighbour is the older (perhaps 17th century) Byron Cottage, where the poet AE Housman (1859-1936) wrote his poem “A Shropshire Lad”. The above-mentioned houses have other 18th century neighbours.

High Point

High Point

Further along North Road, we reach a masterpiece of 20th century architecture, the High Point apartment blocks that were constructed between 1933 and 1938 to the plans of the Russian-born Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990) and his architectural practice ‘Tecton’, which he established when he arrived in London in 1931. He was influenced by the Soviet Constructivism style – he designed the Soviet Pavilion for a trade show in Bordeaux. Highpoint was praised by no less a fellow architect than Le Corbusier (1887-1965), with whom he had associated professionally. The classical caryatids supporting the veranda above one of the main entrances make an entertaining contrast to the otherwise modern appearance of this building.

A lane running along the south side of the grounds of High Point leads to an entrance of the Victorian Northfield Hall. A carved stone by its entrance reads “XIV Middlesex. Highgate. Volunteer Rifle Corps. AD MDCCCLIX”. The Volunteers adopted the hall as its headquarters in January 1879 (see: “Tracing the Rifle Volunteers: A Guide for Military and Family Historians”, by R Westlake, publ. 2010). It is now used for offices and flats. A little further along the lane, there is a synagogue, Highgate Shul.

Dickens lived here in 1832: North Hill Highgate

Dickens lived here in 1832: North Hill Highgate

Across North Hill opposite High Point, and almost next to ‘The Wrestlers’ Pub (first established in the 16th century, but now housed in a 20th century building), there is a three-storey building with a plain facade, number 92, where the writer Charles Dickens (1812-1870) stayed in 1832. His entire family lived there whilst they his father was suffering from some financial difficulty (see: http://www.hampsteadheath.net/charles-dickens.html and “Charles Dickens: A Life”, by Claire Tomalin, publ. 2012). The author considered buying a cottage in Highgate. Some of his family are buried in Highgate Cemetery (see below).

Castle Yard leads from North Hill to Southwood Lane, where, in my schooldays, Highgate School had its ‘sanatorium’ or health centre in one of the late Victorian houses (number 87, see: http://edithsstreets.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/moselle-river-highgate_23.html) along it. In those days, it was presided by the school doctor, Dr Rankine, who examined us once a year. Part of his examination involved peering inside the fronts of our underpants. The sanatorium contained a few beds to house sick boarders. During WW2 when this building was empty, it was used by Hill Homes (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/hillhomes.html), which was founded in 1939 by the wife of the Nobel Prize winning physiologist Professor Archibald V Hill (1886-1977), who taught at University College London, where I studied physiology after leaving Highgate School.

Former Sorting Office in Southwood Lane

Former Sorting Office in Southwood Lane

The former sanatorium stands close to a red brick building (number 67) that bears the date 1888 under the insignia of Queen Victoria. This was a postal sorting office, and is now used by ‘L- ISA, Immersive sound art’ studios. At the corner of Jacksons Lane and Southwood Lane a house stands in a triangular plot.

Bank Point,  Jacksons Lane Highgate

Bank Point, Jacksons Lane Highgate

This is ‘Bank Point’, which was built in the Georgian era. From about 1809 to 1815, this was the home of Colonel Joseph P Jackson, after whom Jacksons Lane was named (see: “Highgate From Old Photographs”, by M Hammerson, publ. 2013; Hammerson attended Highgate School). Southwood Lane continues north, passing a road called ‘The Park’ (formerly, ‘Park House Road’). This ran around the grounds of the former ‘Park House Penitentiary’, which I noticed marked on a map surveyed in 1893. On a map surveyed in 1914, its name had changed to ‘House of Mercy’, and on the current map, the old building has been replaced with the Hillcrest Estate: three apartment blocks, each with the name of a WW2 British military commander. The Penitentiary, which has long been demolished, was founded in 1853 for the “reformation of penitent fallen women”: i.e. prostitutes (see: http://edithsstreets.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/moselle-river-highgate_23.html and http://spamosphere.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/highgates-lost-girls-by-rowan-lennon.html). In 1900, the Clewer Order of Sisters took it over as ‘The House of Mercy’. The old buildings were closed in 1940.

Mary Kingsley lived here as a child in Southwood Lane

Mary Kingsley lived here as a child in Southwood Lane

Chapel on Southwood Lane is now Highgate School Museum

Chapel on Southwood Lane is now Highgate School Museum

Returning south along Southwood Lane, we pass number 22 (‘Avalon’), an 18th century house where the ethnologist Mary Kingsley (1862-1900) lived as a child. This is close to a former chapel, which now houses the Highgate School Museum, something that did not exist when I was at the school. This early 19th century building was formerly ‘The Highgate Tabernacle’. It stands on the site of a former Presbyterian chapel that was founded here in 1622 (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1358876).

Almshouses Southwood Lane with Highgate School Science Block behind

Almshouses Southwood Lane with Highgate School Science Block behind

The chapel faces a row of alms-houses, which stand where in 1658 Sir John Wollaston (1590-1658), Mayor of London in 1643, founded an earlier group of six alms-houses, “in trust for the use of six poor alms people, men and women of honest life and conversation, inhabitants of Hornsey and Highgate” (see: Walford, 1878). In 1722, the original buildings, which were in a poor state, were pulled down and replaced by newer ones, paid for by Edward Pauncefort (died 1726, a Member of Parliament between 1698 and 1705, and sometime resident in Highgate). The two-storey central portion of this 18th century building was built as a school house for “charity girls”. The alms-houses abut the massive brick wall of a newer building with neo-classical features. This is the Science Block of Highgate School, built in 1928.

HighgateSchool with Science Block in foreground

HighgateSchool with Science Block in foreground

When I studied at Highgate, the Headmaster’s office was in the ground floor of the Science Block. Much of its uppermost floor was occupied by the school’s excellent library, which is now in the former ‘Big School’ (see above). The laboratories for physics and chemistry used to be lined with glass-fronted cabinets containing materials and apparatus. When I went around the school a few years ago, I noticed that these cupboards had been replaced by newer ones with doors that were not transparent. It was seeing and wondering about the nature of the things that I could see in the old cabinets that made me follow the science study route rather than the arts path. The biology laboratory, which was the territory of our Senior Biology Master, the inspiring Mr George Sellick, was archaic. It was filled with glass-topped cabinets that contained preserved insects pinned down onto cardboard bases. If you banged the glass top in the right way, one of these poorly preserved specimens would crumble into dust. When we reached the part of the syllabus which dealt with human reproduction, Sellick, a bachelor, told us that we could look that up for ourselves. His approach to recent discoveries like DNA was similar. When it came to essay-writing, dissection, and plant identification, there was no one to surpass Sellick in his guidance. Once, when I was walking down to lunch with some of the other biology students and Mr Sellick, he stopped to pick up a leaf from the pavement, and then asked us what it was. None of us knew. His response to that was that what was the point of knowing about DNA or photosynthesis if you could not even identify a common plant.

Dyne House Southwood Lane

Dyne House Southwood Lane

The Science Block is across Southwood Lane opposite an unsightly construction in brick, glass, and concrete. This is the new Dyne House, which was built in the late 1960s while I was a pupil at Highgate School. With a nice auditorium and music practice rooms, it was built to replace an older Dyne House, and opened in 1967. A subterranean pedestrian subway allows students and staff to cross under the busy Southwood Lane. The violinist Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) used to rehearse in Dyne House’s auditorium. Once, I opened the door for him in Dyne House. The old, now disused, weed-filled, open air swimming pool is down the hillside behind Dyne House next to some old classrooms and an old gymnasium. The school’s old printing press, which was run by pupils using old-fashioned hand set type, used to be housed on the slope halfway between Dyne House and the pool. It was here during lunch breaks that I helped set-up and print the School’s calendar each term.

Highgate School chapel and cemetery

Highgate School chapel and cemetery

Where Southwood Lane meets Highgate High Street, there is an old burial ground on a triangular plot next to the south wall of Highgate School’s Chapel. The northwest corner of this graveyard is opposite The Gatehouse pub. Before 1813, when the straight Archway Road was cut through the hillside east of Highgate village, traffic between central London and the Great North Road had to pass through Highgate village, and then through a toll located beside the Gatehouse pub. It was levied by the Bishops of London who owned the land across which the first part of the old Great North Road (the present North Road and North Hill) ran. Thorne (see above) wrote that long ago: “…the tollhouse was a brick building extending across the road from the Gatehouse tavern to the burial ground by the old chapel. The gateway through which the traffic passed had two floors over it…”. The arch was low and very narrow, making it necessary for wagons to be unloaded before they could pass through. In 1769, this structure was removed, and replaced by an ordinary turnpike gate.

The toll-gate has disappeared, as has also the ‘Highgate Oath’, by which visitors to Highgate were required to promise a range of ludicrous and contradictory things mainly relating to women and alcohol. For example, the oath demands that one should never kiss a maid when you could kiss the mistress instead, and never to drink a weak beer when a strong one was available unless the weaker one was preferred (see: “London and its Environs”, by Karl Baedeker, publ. 1885). In return, they became a ‘Freeman of Highgate’, which allowed the holder of this to have various valueless, ridiculous privileges including being able to kick a pig out of a ditch to take its place to have somewhere to rest. The oath had to be sworn under horns (i.e. antlers), which were kept in each of Highgate’s pubs. The oath is mentioned by many writers including Lord Byron in verse 70 in the first Canto of his “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” (published between 1812 and 1818):

“… And many to the steep of Highgate hie.
Ask ye, Boeotian shades! The reason why?
‘Tis to worship the solemn horn,
Grasp’d in the holy hand of Mystery,
In whose dread name both men and maids are sworn…”

There are still several pubs, where the oath could have been taken, in Highgate High Street, where we head next. Many of the buildings lining it are 18th or 19th century.

Highgate High Street canopy

Highgate High Street canopy

Formerly Fisher and Sperr bookshop Highgate High Street

Formerly Fisher and Sperr bookshop Highgate High Street

Highgate High Street: a shoot

Highgate High Street: a shoot

One shop retains an original wooden veranda projecting over the pavement. There used to be more of these when I was at school in Highgate. A coffee shop, a branch of the Nero chain, in deference to heritage, has erected a modern version of this outside its premises. A shop with a bow window, number 46, currently the premises of ‘The Highgate Vet’, was, during my school days and for many decades before that, a second-hand book shop run by Fisher and Sperr (see: http://www.london-rip.com/places/more-bookshops). When I visited the shop recently, the vet told me that Mr Fisher ran the shop until his death (in the shop) at a very advanced age. He lived there with his sister, who I never saw during my many visits to the bookshop in my teens. This shop is at the top of the slope that leads down to Archway. Before descending that slope, let us take a detour along South Grove.

Pond Square Highgate

Pond Square Highgate

11 South Grove

11 South Grove

South Grove skirts Pond Square, which contained a village pond until the 19th century when it was filled in (this had already been done by 1863, when the area was surveyed for a detailed map). Number 10 South Grove, Church House, is a grand brick-built 18th century house facing the square. Next to it is, first The Highgate Society, and then the imposing Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, which was founded in 1839 in a building that had been previously used as a school. Further west, stands the imposing Great Hall, which was built in the late 17th century and has some later additions.

The Great Hall South Grove

The Great Hall South Grove

The rear of Great Hall South Grove

The rear of Great Hall South Grove

Next, we reach St Michaels Church, a Victorian gothic structure designed by Lewis Vulliamy (1791-1871). It was built in 1831-32 to replace a ‘chapel of ease’ that had been attached to Highgate School. This probably explains the presence of a weathered stone crest bearing the arms of Highgate School on one side of the arch containing the church’s main west door.

St Michaels Highgate

St Michaels Highgate

GATE 4hi St Michaels Church: Highgate School's crest

GATE 4hi St Michaels Church: Highgate School's crest

Just inside that door, at the base of the bell-tower there was a mark a few feet above the floor that was level with the top of the cross on the dome of St Pauls Cathedral). When I was at Highgate School, Protestant services used to be held in the school’s chapel every day except on Thursdays. The chapel was only large enough to hold a small number of boys, not the whole school, whereas St Michael’s could easily accommodate everyone (including their parents during the annual Carol Service). On Thursdays, almost the whole school celebrated morning prayers in St Michaels. Those who did not were Jewish boys (except me!), who attended ‘Jewish Circle’ in the school, and Roman Catholics, who trooped down Highgate Hill to St Josephs (see below). The school still attends St Michaels once a week.

Witanhurst built on site of Parkfield

Witanhurst built on site of Parkfield

The steep Highgate West Hill begins just beyond St Michaels. Witanhurst House stands at its summit. This large neo-Georgian mansion designed by George Hubbard (1859-1936) was built in 1913 for the soap magnate Arthur Crosfield (see above). With its sweeping gardens and wonderful views across Hampstead Heath, this building replaced an earlier one, ‘Parkfield’, which was first built in the 18th century (see: “The London Gardener”, 2015-2016, pp. 19-41). Witanhurst, now a private estate, is difficult to see from West Hill, but can be better viewed from a distance from Hampstead Heath.

Entrance to Soviet Trade Commission West Hill

Entrance to Soviet Trade Commission West Hill

Unless you have special business, you cannot enter numbers 32-33 West Hill, now the headquarters of a Russian trade mission, formerly the ‘Soviet Trade Delegation’. In 1979, its building’s windows required new glazing. A former military policeman Bill Graham was asked by MI6 to offer to provide double-glazing at a price (subsidised by MI6) which was so good that the Delegation accepted it. While Bill and his team were installing the double-glazing, they installed espionage ‘bugs’, photographed Soviet documents, and secretly photographed the building (see: “Break-in: Inside the Soviet Trade Delegation”, by Bill Graham, publ. 1987, and, for example, http://winnowinghistory.blogspot.co.uk/1991/04/use-of-part-time-spies-by-mi6.html). Incidentally, the main buildings of the Delegation, which are not visible from West Hill, were built in 1957 and in 1973.

The Flask West Hill

The Flask West Hill

Old cottage next to The Flask

Old cottage next to The Flask

George Michael memorials opposite The Flask pub West Hill

George Michael memorials opposite The Flask pub West Hill

At the top of West Hill, The Grove, which leads to Hampstead Lane, begins near the Flask pub (first established before 1663, and now housed in an 18th century building). Near the pub, and separating it from The Grove, there is a grassy open space which is currently filled with touching personal memorials to the singer, the late George Michael (1963-2016), who lived in a house on The Grove.

Eidolon House 87 Swains Lane Highgate

Eidolon House 87 Swains Lane Highgate

Swains Lane begins at Pond Square, and then descends almost vertiginously towards the north-east corner of Parliament Hill Fields, to which West Hill also leads. On it west side, the Lane skirts Waterlow Park (see below) until it reaches the northern part of the eastern section of Highgate Cemetery. This section of the cemetery contains the much-visited grave of Karl Marx. The western section of Highgate Cemetery, which lies mostly across Swains Lane opposite the park is punctuated by the occasional private residence. One of these, the Eidolon House, number 87, built in 2014 and designed by Dominic Mckenzie Architects, whose façade is covered by mirror glass, is a spectacular example of contemporary domestic architecture (for illustrations of its interior, see: http://www.dominicmckenzie.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/INHABIT-16-DOMINIC-MCKENZIE.pdf). It was built close to John Winter’s distinctive house at number 81, built in 1967 using oxidised ‘Cor-ten’ steel.

Mortuary Chapels Highgate Cemetery

Mortuary Chapels Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery was opened in 1839 as part of a series of seven new cemeteries around London. These included, for example, those at Brompton, Kensal Green, and Abney Park. The western section of the cemetery is the stuff of dreams and nightmares. When I was at Highgate School, this part of the cemetery was virtually unguarded and unsecured. Anyone could walk in at any time. It was, and still is, a vast collection of largely disintegrating Victorian funerary monuments and buildings including a spooky Victorian neo-Egyptian circular columbarium (this lies immediately below the terrace upon which St Michaels stands).

Highgate Cemetery staircase

Highgate Cemetery staircase

Cemetery cat

Cemetery cat

In the 1960s, the cemetery was not well-cared for. The funerary objects - graves, sculptures, vaults, and mausolea - were strangled by unrestrained vegetation, including particularly evil-looking weeds whose stems looked like long chains of tiny fingerbones joined end-to-end. Also, many of the graves and tomb chambers (in the columbarium) had been broken open. Dust-covered coffins could be seen inside them. Now, several decades since leaving school, the cemetery has become a popular tourist destination. Both sections have been made inaccessible to all those except corpses, bona-fide mourners, and tourists, who have purchased admission tickets. The spookier western section may only be visited with an official guide. The tours are well-worth paying for, and the guides provide interesting information. Apparently, during the 19th century it was considered very romantic (not ghoulish) for couples to spend time, lingering amongst the graves in the cemetery at twilight on summer evenings.

Holly Village

Holly Village

Holly Village

Holly Village

South of the cemetery, at the corner of Swains Lane and Chester Road, there is a wonderful example of Victorian gothic fantasy, Holly Village. This consists of a ‘colony’ of eight large cottages profusely decorated with intricate gothic details. They are arranged around a well-manicured lawn. Although they are private, you can easily slip inside the ornate gate-house to see them. They were built on the instructions of the wealthy philanthropist Baroness Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906) in 1865 to the designs of Henry Darbishire (1825-1899). The latter was no stranger to philanthropic works, having been the Peabody Trust’s architect until 1885. Angela Burdett-Coutts was granddaughter of the banker Thomas Coutts. Her father was the reformist politician Sir Francis Coutts (1770-1844). The Baroness lived at the nearby Holly Lodge Estate, which was sold on her death. The current Oakeshott Avenue, which runs west off Swains Lane and is lined by 20th century half-timbered buildings, traverses part of the former estate.

Holly Village

Holly Village

Highgate Newtown Clinic

Highgate Newtown Clinic

Highgate Branch Library

Highgate Branch Library

The former ‘Highgate Newtown Clinic’ is close to Holly Village on Chester Road. It used to deal with children’s ailments, but now is used for other purposes. Further along the road, stands Highgate Branch Library in a grand brick building with neo-classical features and topped with balustrades. This was built in 1906, designed by William Nesbit, the Borough of St Pancras Engineer (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1271883). It was the first branch public library to be opened in the borough, and was built on land acquired from ‘Mr Burdett-Coutts’. A relative of mine who volunteers at the library told me that its future is under threat.

Fearys Row Highgate High Str

Fearys Row Highgate High Str

Fearys Row Highgate High Str

Fearys Row Highgate High Str

42 Highgate High Street crest

42 Highgate High Street crest

Returning up to Highgate village, we begin the descent of Highgate Hill towards Archway. High up on the wall of Highgate High Street, there is a plaque that says “Feary’s Row 1791”. In the 1840s, there was a library, ‘Broadbent Library’, where now there are shops. A vehicle entrance under number 22 leads to Broadbent Close, which used to be known as ‘Broadbent’s Yard’. Further south, the ornate doorway of number 42, a late 18th/early 19th century building, above whose front door is displayed the coat of arms of Sir William Ashurst (1647-1720), who lived in Highgate in the late 17th century. He was a Member of Parliament three times and, also, a governor of Highgate School from 1697 onwards (see: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1690-1715/member/ashurst-sir-william-1647-1720). The coat of arms was brought from the c 1700 Ashurst House, which was demolished to build St Michaels Church.

128 and 130 Highgate Hill

128 and 130 Highgate Hill

As Highgate High Street ends and Highgate Hill begins its descent, there are two fine very early 18th century (c.1700, according to Nikolaus Pevsner) houses, numbers 128 (Northgate House) and 130 (Ivy House). They may have been built as early as 1660 (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1358831), but have been modified since then. Their neighbour, Cholmeley Lodge, is much more recently built. Constructed in 1934 with two resplendently curving facades, it was designed by Guy Morgan and Partners. A map surveyed in 1893 shows that there was an older building standing in extensive grounds, also called ‘Cholmeley Lodge’, where the flats stand today.

Cholmeley Lodge

Cholmeley Lodge

Channing School

Channing School

The 1930s flats overlook their neighbour, the main (rather unattractive) Victorian buildings of Channing School for Girls (founded by the sisters, both Unitarians, Miss Matilda and Miss Emily Sharpe in 1885). Its Junior School is in a house across the road, which was once the home of Sir Sydney Waterlow (1822-1906), a former Mayor of London. In 1889, he gave the land, now ‘Waterlow Park’ (see below) to London County Council, which opened it as a public recreation area.

130 Highgate Hill and neighbours

130 Highgate Hill and neighbours

Cromwell House Highgate Hill

Cromwell House Highgate Hill

Not far below the school, there is a row of houses that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The grandest of these with its roof topped by a small tower, Cromwell House, which, contrary to earlier beliefs, has little or nothing to do with Oliver Cromwell. It was built by a forgotten architect in 1637-38 for Sir Richard Sprignell (died about 1658). He was a trained military band captain and a governor of Highgate School (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/bk12/pp48-49). Pevsner wrote that between 1675 and 1749, the house was owned by the Da Costa family, the first Jewish family to own landed property since the expulsion of the Jews in the Middle Ages. They added a wing to the house between 1678 and 1679. In 1869, the house was used as a convalescent home for children from the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Now, it houses the High Commission of Ghana.

site of Andrew Marvells cottage on Highgate Hill

site of Andrew Marvells cottage on Highgate Hill

Across the road from Cromwell House, there is a small metal plate in the brick wall of Waterlow Park. This records that the cottage in which the poet and wit Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) lived used to be nearby. According to Edward Walford (writing in 1878):
“The house – or cottage, for it was scarcely more – was small, and, like Andrew Marvell himself, very unpretentious.”
Built of timber and plaster, it fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1867.

Lauderdale House

Lauderdale House

Marvell’s neighbour is Lauderdale House, an 18th century structure inside Waterlow Park. Built on the site of a 16th century half-timbered house, it contains elements of the original building. In the 1660s, it belonged briefly to the Duke of Lauderdale. Subsequently, it underwent many modifications and had many owners until it reached its present form in the 18th century. Today, it serves as a community arts centre and café. Stairs from its gardens lead down into the sweeping hillside grounds of Waterlow Park.

The Old Crown Inn Highgate Hill

The Old Crown Inn Highgate Hill

A conical spire with turquoise tiling adorns the corner of the 19th century Old Crown Inn at the meeting of Highgate Hill and Hornsey Lane. The present building stands where an earlier building housing the pub used to stand in the early part of the 19th century. This used to be a popular day-excursion destination for city-dwellers.

St Josephs Highgate Hill

St Josephs Highgate Hill

St Josephs Highgate Hill

St Josephs Highgate Hill

The pub is opposite the large St Joseph’s Roman Catholic church with its distinctive green dome, which is 130 feet higher than the cross at the top of St Pauls Cathedral. It was designed by Albert Vicars. Its interior has some Romanesque features. Known affectionately by Highgate School boys as ‘Holy Joe’s’, this is where the Catholic boys worshipped on Thursdays in the 1960s. The church was consecrated in 1889, a year after its foundation stone had been laid. Next to the church, there is St Joseph’s Retreat. This is built on the site earlier occupied by the Black Dog pub, which the Passionist Order of priests bought by subterfuge to use as a place of worship in the 1860s (see: http://www.stjosephshighgate.org.uk/stjosephshighgatechurchhistory.html).

Old school, now academy, on Highgate Hill

Old school, now academy, on Highgate Hill

Whittington Hospital

Whittington Hospital

Further down Highgate Hill, there is a former school, now a ‘City Academy’, that bears the date 1888. Almost opposite this, stand the unattractive buildings of Whittington Hospital, where in about 1966 my broken arm was repaired. The hospital stands close to a former ‘Smallpox and Vaccination Hospital’, ‘St Marys’, now part of the Whittington (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/stmaryshighgate.html).

Former Holborn Union Infirmary

Former Holborn Union Infirmary

Across the road from the Whittington, located on a triangular plot formed by the bifurcation of Highgate Hill and Archway Road, there stands a forbidding-looking series of Victorian institutional buildings surmounted by a massive bell-tower with a spire, which has four mansard windows. This was formerly the ‘Holborn Union Infirmary’, later named ‘Archway Hospital’. Opened in 1879 with accommodation for 625 bedded patients, it later merged with St Marys Hospital across the road and, also, with Highgate Hospital in nearby Dartmouth Park Road (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/archway.html). In 1995, it ceased being a hospital, and since 2015 the neglected buildings have been sold to Peabody and another housing developer.

Whittington Stone

Whittington Stone

Outside the Whittington, ‘The Whittington Stone’ stands on the pavement enclosed in a cast-iron cage. Early engravings of this show that it was once a simple mile-stone with a convexly curved top. Later, the sculpture of a cat was attached to its top, and then it was surrounded by its protective metal cage. The monument marks the spot where Dick Whittington (c 1354-1423), the future Lord Mayor of London and his cat, who had arrived from the country, heard the bells of Bow Church ringing out the famous prophesy of his brilliant future: “Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London!”.

Whittington Stone

Whittington Stone

The Stone is close to Archway Underground Station, which opened in 1907. Archway Road was built, and then opened in 1813 to allow traffic to and from the Great North Road to bypass the steep Highgate Hill. Originally it had been planned to take this new road through a tunnel underneath Highgate, but this idea was abandoned in favour of running the road through a deep cutting, as it does now. This project was proposed by the innovative engineer John Rennie (1761-1821), who designed the previous London Bridge, which now stands at Lake Havasu City in Arizona.

Charlotte Despard pub Archway Rd

Charlotte Despard pub Archway Rd

The Charlotte Despard pub at 17-19 Archway Road is named in memory of Charlotte Despard (1844-1939), who was an Irish nationalist, novelist, and anti-vivisectionist (see: http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/makingbritain/content/charlotte-despard). Continuing north from the pub, the Archway Road and its pavement rise a little but not nearly as much as the near vertical walls of the cutting.

The Archway

The Archway

A cast-iron bridge spans the road at the point where it is deepest in the cutting. The bridge is about 60 feet above the roadway below. Constructed in 1897, it carries the minor road Hornsey Lane over the chasm in which Archway Road runs. An earlier stone, multi-arched bridge was designed by John Nash (1752-1835), who designed the Brighton Pavilion and the terraces around Regents Park. This was demolished in 1901, and replaced by the present bridge.

Tube ventilator and electrical substation Archway Rd

Tube ventilator and electrical substation Archway Rd

Just north of the Archway, there is a large brick structure bearing a circular plaque with a sculpture of an electrical transformer in bas-relief. This an electrical facility run by Seeboard Powerlink Ltd (see: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/notice/L-55018-495), which maintains high-voltage power supplies for the Underground railway.

St Augustine Archway Road

St Augustine Archway Road

St Augustine Archway Road

St Augustine Archway Road

North of the ugly electrical building is St Augustine’s Church with its unusually designed bell-tower whose roof resembles a telescoped pagoda. This was built between 1884 and 1887, and designed by J D Sedding (1838-1891), and later modified by others (see: http://www.saintaugustine.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/St.-Augustine-of-Canterbury.pdf). It adjoins a terrace of shops topped with about eighteen brick gothic arches built over upper-floor balconies, built in about 1880. Across Wembury Road, where the terrace ends, there is another place of worship, the Highgate Hill Murugan Temple.

Murugan Temple Archway Road

Murugan Temple Archway Road

Murugan Temple Archway Road

Murugan Temple Archway Road

This Hindu Temple is dedicated to the god, Shiva. The Murugan Temple opened its doors in late 1979, following the establishment of Hindu Association of Great Britain in 1966. For many years, the association was spear-headed by the late Mr S Sabapathipillai, who came to the UK from Sri Lanka to promote the worship of Shiva among Dravidian Indians (from, for example, India, Fiji, and Sri Lanka) living in the UK (see: https://www.highgatehillmurugan.org/History.html). With its South Indian temple architectural features, it contrasts with the Victorian gothic features of its ecclesiastical neighbour, St Augustine’s.

Two faiths Archway Road

Two faiths Archway Road

Highgate International Church Archway Road

Highgate International Church Archway Road

Close to the Temple, there is another church, a 20th century construction, the Highgate International Church. This began life in 1884 as a non-conformist ‘Brethren Assembly’. In 1891, it moved into a building in Archway Road known as ‘Cholmeley Hall’. In the 1980s, this building had become too dilapidated, and was demolished. In 1987, the present building was erected on the site of the old hall.

Winchester Tavern Archway Road

Winchester Tavern Archway Road

The Winchester Tavern stands between the Hindu temple and the International Church. Topped with gothic arches as is the terrace (see above), which it neighbours, this pub, which no longer serves customers, narrowly escaped being converted into flats in 2016. It opened for business in the 1890s. Until less than twenty years before the Winchester opened, most of the Archway Road ran through sparsely populated open country between its southern start and Highgate railway station, where there was already a small settlement (around the still extant Woodmans Tavern) in the 1870s. Just before ending this lengthy exploration of Highgate, there is one more sight worth mentioning.

The ‘Jackson Lane’ centre at the corner of Archway Road and Jackson Lane (which leads steeply up hill to Highgate village) is an arts centre with a good, small auditorium. It is housed in a former Methodist church, which was opened in 1905. The centre was opened in 1975, and is particularly well-known for activities involving circus skills.

The centre is a few yards downhill from Highgate Underground Station, which, incidentally, is not a great starting place for visitors wishing to see Highgate village as it is far beneath it. The present deep-level Highgate Underground Station opened after WW2. An earlier above-ground Highgate Station opened in the 1860s as part of the ‘Edgware, Highgate and London Railway’, and rebuilt in the 1880s. The over-ground railway was abandoned, then surpassed by the Underground.

Glimpse of western part of Highgate Cemetery from Swains Lane

Glimpse of western part of Highgate Cemetery from Swains Lane

Highgate is a fine example of a former village that has been absorbed during the growth of London. Like its neighbour Hampstead, many of its original features have survived both the advance of time and, also, of urban spread. This is in no little way due to the active participation of many of its inhabitants in the conservation of the area’s rich heritage.

Kenwood rear

Kenwood rear

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 02:25 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london archway highgate nostalgia marx kenwood cholmeley highgate_school Comments (2)

PINN POINTS

Ruislip and Pinner, linked by the River Pinn, have been almost engulfed in the tide of suburbia that began advancing in the early 20th century, but they retain some remarkable features of their rural past.

Ruislip and Pinner have been almost engulfed in the tide of London's suburbia that began advancing in the early 20th century, but they retain some remarkable features of their rural past. They are connected by the River Pinn.

Entrance to Pinner Memorial Park

Entrance to Pinner Memorial Park

I had never been on the Metropolitan Line further north of Wembley Park until this year (2017). In the early 1960s, when I was at the Hall School in Swiss Cottage, we made occasional trips to a sports field (not Wembley Stadium!) close to Wembley Park Station. For many decades, I felt the need to travel further out of London on the Metropolitan to see places to which it led. So, on a very hot July day, I travelled to Pinner Station. My aim was to follow the River Pinn as far as Ruislip, which is also on a branch of the line. This essay describes what I saw on my walk between the two stations located on separate branches of the Metropolitan Line.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, both Pinner and Ruislip were small country places in Middlesex, quite separate from London and not part of ‘suburbia’. Ruislip was connected to the Metropolitan Line (Uxbridge branch) in 1904, and to the Piccadilly Line in the early 1930s.

Ruislip Station looking east

Ruislip Station looking east

Pinner’s station opened in 1885. Unlike other companies building railway lines, which were to become incorporated into London’s Underground system, the Metropolitan was not required to give up land surplus to its requirements (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro-land). This excess land could then be offered to developers for building purposes. In 1915, the Metropolitan coined the term ‘Metro-land’, and produced booklets with this name. These aimed to associate in peoples’ minds rustic pleasures of the countryside with suburban living, and thereby encourage folk to move out of inner London to inhabit the remoter places served by the railway. As John Betjeman (1906-1984) put it in his poem “Middlesex”:

“Gaily into Ruislip Gardens
Runs the red electric train,
With a thousand Ta’s and Pardon’s
Daintily alights Elaine;
Hurries down the concrete station
With a frown of concentration,
Out into the outskirt’s edges
Where a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium – rural Middlesex again.”

In another of his poems, “Baker St Station Buffet”, he summarises Metroland’s promises of idyllic life in rural suburbia perfectly:

“And sepia views of leafy lanes in Pinner –
Then visualize, far down the shining lines,
Your parents’ homestead set in murmuring pines.”

Metro-land’s success was responsible for converting out of the way places, difficult to access before the advent of the Metropolitan Railway, from quaint rural settlements to sprawling London suburbs. Fortunately, the results were not totally disastrous, not a complete obliteration of London’s countryside. I saw that even though both Pinner and Ruislip have grown significantly, parts of rural Middlesex near them have escaped urbanisation, and remain as rural spots where Londoners may enjoy the countryside without having to move beyond the city’s boundaries.

When my train reached Harrow-on-the-Hill station, the view from the train window was disappointing. The station is away from the picturesque part of Harrow, upon its hill. Instead, it is in the heart of an urbanised area that reminded me of central Croydon: badly-designed office blocks, supermarkets and shabby car-parks. From Pinner station’s platform, I had no idea of what delights were just around the corner from it.

Pinner High Street

Pinner High Street

I had travelled from Baker Street to Pinner, where I began a walk that lasted several hours, all of which was delightful despite the intense heat. I decided to follow part of the ‘Celandine Route’, which follows the River Pinn as closely as possible. The River Pinn rises near Hatch End, and then flows in a generally south-westerly direction, passing through Pinner and Ruislip, before merging with Fray’s River just west of Yiewsley. Fray’s River is a tributary of the River Colne, which flows into the Thames at Staines.

On Pinner High Street

On Pinner High Street

Pinner’s name first appeared in records in 1231, where it is noted as ‘Pinnora’. This is derived from two words: ‘Pynn’ (meaning unknown, but might be a Saxon first name; the River Pinn gets its name from this) and ‘ora’ (Old English for ‘river bank’). Its High Street is so well-preserved that it is easy to imagine what the village was like long before the arrival of the Metropolitan Railway. It slopes gently upwards towards the Church of St John the Baptist. Although some of the buildings along the street are newish (post-Victorian), many of them are old, and well-preserved. At number 6, the current occupier of an old building, half-timbered, bearing the date 1580 (although it might have been modified since then), which used to house the ‘Victory’ pub, is a branch of the Zizzy’s restaurant chain.

32 Pinner High Street

32 Pinner High Street

Number 32 is an elegant red-brick house with a centrally placed pediment on its classical façade. It is currently the premises of EM Collins & Co, and was built in 1763 by its then owner the brickmaker William Bodimeade (see: https://www.harrow.gov.uk/www2/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=60281). Its neighbour, number 34, is one of several 16th century buildings in the High Street. Across the road from these buildings, there is an early 16th century building that now houses the Friends Restaurant.

Queens Head Pinner High Str

Queens Head Pinner High Str

For almost 100 years until 1915, this house had been home to three successive Parish Clerks. Up the hill from this, stands The Queen’s Head, also in a 16th century building. It has been an inn since 1635. A notice on the pub suggests that there was a pub on this spot as early as 1540, and conjectures that there was one there since the 14th century. The beam (carrying a sign) and post projecting over the pavement have been present since before 1820.

Pinner High Str War Memorial

Pinner High Str War Memorial

With these and so many other equally old buildings, it is unsurprising that the High Street was designated a Conservation Area under the Civic Amenities Act of 1967. A drearily designed WW1 memorial stands just at the top of the High Street beneath the church, whose tall flint covered tower dominates the short street.

St John the Baptist Pinner

St John the Baptist Pinner

The existing St John the Baptist Church was dedicated in 1321. Its tower and some other features were added in the 15th century. Its pleasant gothic interior contains a stone font with an elaborately crafted wooden cover, and memorials including one to Trooper Edward Russell Apps, who died aged 21 in May 1900 at Bamboo Creek (now ‘Nhamatanda’ in Mozambique) in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War. The monument to this young bank clerk, who worked for Glynn Mills & Co, was erected by his fellow parishioners because he had volunteered “… for active service in a time of national emergency … for Queen and Country”.

St John the Baptist Pinner

St John the Baptist Pinner

Born in Moscow,  St John the Baptist Pinner

Born in Moscow, St John the Baptist Pinner

Font in  St John the Baptist Pinner

Font in St John the Baptist Pinner

Another monument, which caught my eye and roused my curiosity, was that commemorating the Reverend Charles Edward Grenside, Vicar of Pinner from 1886 to 1910. What interested me was that he was born in Moscow (Russia) in 1849. When he entered this world, his father Christopher Grenside (1837-1885) was British Chaplain in Moscow, a post that he held from 1847-1853, having previously held that position in Archangelsk from 1843. Charles died in Kensington in 1933.

Pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

Pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

Detail of pyramid monument,  St John the Baptist Pinner

Detail of pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

There is a small graveyard outside the church. This contains a huge grey stone pyramid with two small (apparently empty) sarcophagi stuck near its apex. This peculiar monument was designed by John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843), the Scottish-born botanist, garden- and cemetery- designer. It was erected to honour his parents.

Bridge over the Pinn east of Bridge Street

Bridge over the Pinn east of Bridge Street

We catch our first glimpse of the Pinn from a small bridge with cast-iron railings behind some shops on Bridge Street at its southern end. This street, in contrast to the High Street, looks like most north London suburban shopping areas.

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

Nearby, in Love Lane there stands the Roman Catholic Church of St Luke. Although built between 1957 and 1958 (to the designs of Francis Xavier Velarde: 1879-1960), this unfussy brick construction with its airy interior retains a remarkably contemporary feel (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1429922).

Pinn River looking west from Bridge Street Pinner

Pinn River looking west from Bridge Street Pinner

Bridge Street crosses the wide but shallow Pinn, which flows under a wooden bridge connecting two parts of a small park with a few benches. Chapel Lane leads off Bridge Street and heads towards the larger Pinner Memorial Park. Before reaching it, the lane passes Chapel Lane Chambers. These were built in the 1840s, and greatly enlarged during the last century.

Chapel Lane Chambers Pinner

Chapel Lane Chambers Pinner

Pinner Memorial Park was set up in the grounds of West House on land bought by the people of Pinner in order to honour the dead of the two world wars. There has been a house on the site for over 500 years.

Pinner Memorial Park: New Heath Robinson Museum and old West House

Pinner Memorial Park: New Heath Robinson Museum and old West House

West House was once the home of Nelson Ward (1828-1917), a grandson of Admiral Horatio Nelson. His mother, Horatia (1801-1881) was the illegitimate daughter of the Admiral and Emma Hamilton. Horatia was conceived on board the “Foudroyant” during a cruise in the Mediterranean on which Emma’s husband was also a passenger (see: “The Pursuit of Victory…” by R Knight, publ. 2005). She married the Reverend Phillip Ward (1795-1859), and Nelson Ward was their fifth-born of ten children. He became a Registrar in the Court of Chancery.

Pinner Memorial Park aviary

Pinner Memorial Park aviary

Lake at Pinner Memorial Park

Lake at Pinner Memorial Park

Little remains of Ward’s West House. It is now joined to new buildings including a café and a small museum dedicated to the memory of the inventive cartoonist W Heath Robinson (1872-1944; he lived in Pinner from 1908). The complex of buildings overlooks a lake which contains one tiny island and a small fountain. It is also close to a small aviary containing colourful budgerigars. Dotted around the park, there are several attractive carved wooden sculptures.

Pinner Memorial Park sculpture

Pinner Memorial Park sculpture

Pinner Memorial Park dog cemetery

Pinner Memorial Park dog cemetery

To the west of the car park outside West House near to West End Road, a group of five small, tilting, gravestones with mainly illegible inscriptions stand in a circle. One of them marks the final resting place of ‘Effie’, who died aged ten years in 1903. These are all that remain of a Victorian dog cemetery. If you wish to see a larger and better-preserved dog/pet cemetery, you need to visit the one near Victoria Gate on Bayswater Road (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/Inside-Hyde-Parks-secret-pet-cemetery/).

Rose Cottage in  West End Lane Pinner

Rose Cottage in West End Lane Pinner

South along the West End Lane with its well-spaced twentieth century houses and gardens – a better part of ‘Metro-land’ that approaches its ideal, Rose Cottage stands, contrasting with its neighbours. It was built in the 1850s when West End was a hamlet separate from Pinner. Further south at the corner of West End Lane and Lloyd Court, there is a bridge over the Pinn. Its waters flow beneath this and then north-westwards through some private gardens to Cranbourne Drive, from where a footpath leads between the stream and some allotment gardens before entering a densely wooded area. The path follows the meandering Pinn through the woods before reaching a broad meadow, which has been preserved for nature conservation reasons.

River Pinn and Celandine Route path near Cranbourne Drive

River Pinn and Celandine Route path near Cranbourne Drive

Celandine Route signs near Cheney Street

Celandine Route signs near Cheney Street

Meadow near Cheney Street

Meadow near Cheney Street

No ashes! near Cheney Street

No ashes! near Cheney Street

At Cheney Street, which crosses the Pinn over a small bridge, I spotted a sign that pleaded with people not to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in the woods and green open spaces. Apparently, the ashes of cremated bodies contain high concentrations of minerals that are deleterious to the plants, which made the place so pleasant for the deceased before they died. The Celandine Route path continues to follow the Pinn, which winds through a corridor of grassland, wild flowers, and trees.

An inlet of the Pinn near Eastcote House

An inlet of the Pinn near Eastcote House

Sheila Liberty Bridge near Eastcote

Sheila Liberty Bridge near Eastcote

After a while, the path, which had been heading westwards, turns southwards and crosses the Pinn over a wooden bridge. This bridge, the Sheila Liberty Bridge (named in honour of a local community leader and conservationist, Sheila Liberty: 1937-2010; see: http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/local-news/sheila-champion-eastcote-dies-73-5991693) leads into the grounds of the former Eastcote House.

Walled garden and dovecote at Eastcote

Walled garden and dovecote at Eastcote

Eastcote House stood on a site, where there had been a dwelling since at least 1507. “About the year 1525 Ralph Hawtrey left his parents’ home at Chequers in Buckinghamshire, now the country house of the Prime Ministers of this country, and settled in Eastcote” (see: http://www.eastcoteparkestate.org.uk/WP/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Eastcote-House-Gardens.pdf). The Hawtrey family built a house, which dated back to the 16th century. This fell into neglect, and was demolished(!) in the 1960s. Although, it is not possible to visit the house, we are indebted to the 1936 inspection by the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England, which reported:
“… the considerable amount of moulded wooden panelling and the fine main early 18th century staircase with its twisted ‘barley-stick’ moulded balusters. One of the ground floor rooms with extensive panelling was known as the Cromwell Room because of an unsubstantiated story that Oliver Cromwell had stayed at the house” (see: http://eastcotehousegardens.weebly.com/history.html).

Inside the Dovecot at Eastcote

Inside the Dovecot at Eastcote

Fortunately, some buildings of the Eastcote House estate remain intact, and open for visitors to examine. The tall, square-based dovecot, which replaces one built in the 16th century, was constructed in the 18th century. Inside, a brickwork structure of (literally) pigeon-holes climbs up the tall walls, and were accessed by ladders. At this point, I will quote extensively from a source already mentioned (http://www.eastcoteparkestate.org.uk/WP/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Eastcote-House-Gardens.pdf):
“Until the development in the 18th century of root crops, winter feed for cattle was scarce and as a result only breeding pairs could be kept and the rest were slaughtered and salted down. It was soon realised that the fresh meat deficiency could be made good in some measure by the keeping of pigeons and this led to the building of dovecotes some of which date from an early age … The building of dovecotes was heavily restricted and normally only permitted to the lord of the manor. One of the early Hawtreys built himself a dovecote at Eastcote House without permission but, presumably because of his standing with Kings College Cambridge, the lords of the manor at that time, he was forgiven and a licence for the building was granted in 1601.”

Walled garden at Eastcote

Walled garden at Eastcote

The dovecote stands at one corner of a walled garden. Its walls were probably built in the 17th century, and repaired frequently since then. It contains many thin red bricks typical of those made during the Tudor period (i.e. late 15th century and most of the 16th). The garden within the walls is beautifully maintained and is laid out attractively. Close to the garden, there is one more building that has escaped demolition. This is the well-restored brick and timber coach house or stables. It can be dated back to the early 17th century. Now, it is used for both community functions and for private hire. It can hold up to fifty people.

The coach house at Eastcote

The coach house at Eastcote

Flint foundations at an archaeological dig at Eastcote House

Flint foundations at an archaeological dig at Eastcote House

When I crossed the Pinn into the grounds of Eastcote House, the first thing that I noticed was an area fenced off for archaeologists. They had unearthed the flint-based foundations of what had once been a timber-framed building. The friendly archaeologist supervising the dig told me that each year, he and his volunteers dig up different parts of the estate where they expect to find remains, and then after recording their finds they replace the turfs.

River Pinn bridge at Fore Street

River Pinn bridge at Fore Street

Pretty Corner today

Pretty Corner today

A chatty man, who was taking five dogs for a walk, led me from Eastcote House back to the Pinn, where it flowed in a narrow, wooded corridor sandwiched between Eastcote High Road and Mount Park Road. At Fore Street, a substantial brick and stone bridge carries the road over the river. A short distance south of the bridge, where Fore Street meets the High Road, we reach the appropriately named Pretty Corner, which is now a triangular patch of grass. Until the 1930s when the grass was laid, there was a small pond, ‘Guts Pond’ on this site and Fore Street was then called by its 19th century name ‘Frog Lane’.

Pretty Corner before the pond disappeared

Pretty Corner before the pond disappeared

A half-timbered building is visible from Pretty Corner. This is ‘New Cottages’ built in 1879 to the designs of Sir Ernest George (1839-1922; he designed the current Southwark Bridge) and his business partner Harold Ainworth Peto (1854-1933; a well-known garden designer as well as an architect), whose father was a tenant at the now demolished Eastcote House.

Bridge over Pinn at Elmbridge Drive

Bridge over Pinn at Elmbridge Drive

Pinn Meadows

Pinn Meadows

After crossing Fore Street, I followed the Pinn to Elmbridge Road, which crosses the river by a white stone (or concrete) bridge. The river then flows westwards through a wide open-space, mostly grass-covered but punctuated by lines of trees that probably follow old field boundaries. The open space is called ‘Pinn Meadows’. It is all that remains of the home farm (‘demesne’) of the historic estate of Ruislip, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. After 1087, the lands became owned by the Benedictine abbey of Bec in Normandy. In the 15th century, the lands were handed over to the newly established Kings College in Cambridge, which still holds much land in London today.

Skating place at Kings College Playing Fields

Skating place at Kings College Playing Fields

Another bridge carries Kings College Road across the Pinn, which then flows south of Kings College Playing Fields. Close to the road and lying between a race-track and the river, there is a rectangular concrete structure with a complexly curved surface – an interesting sculptural form. This is the ‘King’s College Skatepark’ for skate-boarders.

Park Ave Hillingdon,  architects: Connell and Ward

Park Ave Hillingdon, architects: Connell and Ward

North of the racetrack, there are three neighbouring white painted buildings with a design that reminded me of architecture inspired by the pre-WW2 Bauhaus in Germany. They were built between 1935 and 1938 to designs by Amyas Connell (1901-1980), Basil Ward (1902-1976), and Colin Lucas (1906-1984). It is lucky that they were ever constructed because “The original plans were strongly contested by the Ruislip and Northwood planning authority, but eventually passed…” (see: http://www.modernism-in-metroland.co.uk/97-101-park-avenue.html). Surrounded by brick houses of the type that populate most of London’s extensive, mostly architecturally unexciting, suburbia, spotting these exceptional houses was a pleasant surprise for me.

PINN 4p River Pinn with depth gauge at St Martins Approach near Ruislip

PINN 4p River Pinn with depth gauge at St Martins Approach near Ruislip

Where the bridge that carries St Martins Approach crosses over the Pinn, the river appeared to be very narrow or clogged with weeds. The presence of a flood gauge near the bridge suggests that the Pinn does occasionally increase in depth. For example, in December 2012, flood warnings were issued for places along the Pinn including Pinner and Ruislip (see: Evening Standard, 20th December 2012). But, that was difficult to imagine when I saw the river on a sweltering July afternoon.

Farm House at Manor Farm Ruislip

Farm House at Manor Farm Ruislip

Leaving the Pinn and the Celandine Route footpath that follows it, I crossed Pinn Way, and then entered Ruislip’s Manor Farm. The former farm and its buildings were ranged around the site of a small motte and bailey castle of the type imported by the Normans. The one at Manor Farm was built just after the Norman conquest.

Manor Farm Ruislip the barely discernible bailey of the old fort

Manor Farm Ruislip the barely discernible bailey of the old fort

With a little imagination and the knowledge, provided by informative notices, that the castle once existed, one can just make out two separate low grassy mounds that are all that remain of the motte and its associated bailey. Raised above the surrounding terrain, the former castle would have commanded a good view of the River Pinn.

The half-timbered and brick building that stands to the east of where the motte met the bailey is Manor Farm House. This was built in the 16th century, probably on the site of an earlier house built by the prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec (see above), which owned the land on which the farm stood until it was taken over by the Cambridge college. It houses a small museum, which I was unable to enter because on the day I visited it, it was being used to hold music examinations.

Manor Farm Ruislip Winston Churchill Theatre

Manor Farm Ruislip Winston Churchill Theatre

Close to the farm house, but west of the former castle, stands the Winston Churchill Theatre. Built in the 1960s, this building’s external appearance is unremarkable, even boring. I have not entered it, but photographs of its interior, which I have seen on various websites, make it seem far more attractive than its exterior. It can seat almost 350 people in its flexible-use auditorium. It was designed by the firm of Mackenzie Wheeler.

i Manor Farm Ruislip: public library inside Little Barn

i Manor Farm Ruislip: public library inside Little Barn

Just south of the theatre, there is an exciting ensemble of buildings. These include the Manor Farm Library, which is housed in the former Little Barn. This 16th century building was converted into a public library in 1937. Most of the reading room is under the superb hammer beam ceiling that can be easily seen above the suspended clusters of neon tube lamps.

Manor Farm Ruislip: the Great Barn

Manor Farm Ruislip: the Great Barn

The Little Barn is at right angles to the Great Barn, which lives up to its name both in size and historical interest. Under one vast roof, this huge wooden barn measuring 120 by 32 feet and reaching a height of over 15 feet, was built of oak in about 1280. The outside of the barn is weather-boarded, and its roof is tiled. Built to store the crops and other products of the farm, it is, according to a notice beside it, “…is the oldest timber-framed barn in Greater London.”

I tried entering this barn, inside which there were noises of people working, but all of its doors were locked. The librarian in the neighbouring former barn told me that it was only ever opened to the public for special events. As I left the library, a little despondent, I noticed a workman leaving the Great Barn. I asked him if I could take a look inside it, and he said: “feel free, I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”

Manor Farm Ruislip: In the Great Barn

Manor Farm Ruislip: In the Great Barn

I am very grateful that this kind man let me see inside the barn. Its hammer beam roof is a remarkable feat of hand-crafted engineering. Although not as ornate as, for example, the one contracted much later at Middle Temple Hall, its scale and complexity are awe-inspiring.

Manor Farm Ruislip pond

Manor Farm Ruislip pond

A few yards south of the barns, there is a village pond surrounded by bushes and some weeping willows. An 1896 map shows that there was a blacksmith’s house by the western shore of the pond and a post office by its southern shore. The quaint brick building that was once the post office now houses a branch of the Prezzo restaurant chain.

Former Ruislip post office in  Bury Street

Former Ruislip post office in Bury Street

Ruislip War Memorial

Ruislip War Memorial

A war memorial in the form of a white stone cross bearing Christ crucified stands a few steps east of the pond. This was unveiled in 1921, and now commemorates the dead of two world wars (see: https://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/article/21117/War-memorials-in-Ruislip). Facing the monument across Eastcote Road, there is a terrace of cottages made in brick with half-timbering.

Former almshouses Bury Street Ruislip

Former almshouses Bury Street Ruislip

These were formerly alms-houses, built in the 16th century (built 1570; see: https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/ruislip-almshouses-ruislip-8292), but now converted into flats controlled by a housing trust. They back onto the older part of the cemetery surrounding St Martin’s Church. Along with a couple of pubs, ‘The Swan’ and ‘The George Inn’, there was little more to Ruislip village in 1896 than what I have described in the last few lines. Before the advent of the Metropolitan Line, this tiny village was the whole of Ruislip. Ruislip station opened in 1904. A 1914 map shows that then there was hardly any building between the village and the railway station. A map published in 1936 shows that not only was the High Street almost completely lined with buildings between the church and the station, but also the surrounding terrain, which had been fields in 1914, was nowmostly covered with built-up suburban streets. Ruislip had become absorbed into ‘Metro-land’. Miraculously, the old village centre of Ruislip has maintained something of its pre-Metropolitan Line character.

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip Seven deadly sins

St Martins Ruislip Seven deadly sins

St Martins Ruislip frescos

St Martins Ruislip frescos

Ruislip’s Parish Church of St Martin is built in flint and stone. Its construction began in the 13th century, but much of its fabric dates from the 15th and early 16th centuries. The pillars supporting the nave are from the earliest construction era. Above them, the walls that they support display some barely visible frescoes. One of these wall paintings, which is in better condition than the others, depicts the Seven Deadly Sins. The 15th century chancel has a hammer beam roof, whereas the nave is covered with an almost semi-circular barrel-vaulted wooden ceiling.

St Martins Ruislip Norman font

St Martins Ruislip Norman font

There was a flower show in progress when I visited the church. There were lovely flower arrangements everywhere, even around the Norman stone font. Refreshments were being served in the bell-ringers room at the base of the square bell-tower. This room contains a lovely group of six framed hatchments, each one bearing the coat-of arms of someone who died in the area.

St Martins Ruislip hatchments in the bell tower

St Martins Ruislip hatchments in the bell tower

St Martins Ruislip Hawtree family monument

St Martins Ruislip Hawtree family monument

In the chancel on its northern wall, I spotted the Hawtrey family monument, an elaborately carved piece of stonework, sculpted by John and Matthias Christmas (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1285697), containing two male busts and four crests. Matthias, Master Carver of His Majesties Shipyards at Chatham, was about 49 years old when he died in 1654. His son John, also a Master Carver at Chatham, died in 1694, aged 31 (see: “Registrum Roffense, or, A collection of antient records, charters, and instruments of divers kinds : necessary for illustrating the ecclesiastical history and antiquities of the diocese and cathedral church of Rochester”, by J Thorpe and others, published in 1769). The Hawtrey family of Eastcote (see above) farmed the area in the post-mediaeval period. They leased the Ruislip Manor from 1669 until the 19th century.

St Martins Ruislip with pump

St Martins Ruislip with pump

There is an old hand-operated water pump on the High Street. It is separated from the church by a row of old houses set back from the road. One of these at its southern end is marked as a ‘Police Station’ on the 1896 map. The cast-iron pump was originally placed over an artesian well sunk in 1864 near the old post office (now ‘Prezzo’) at the junction of the High Street and Bury Street, in the heart of old Ruislip. It was moved to its present location in 1982.

Ruislip High Str: old Ruislip Park house

Ruislip High Str: old Ruislip Park house

A few yards south of the pump, the old village ends, and modern (i.e. 20th century) Ruislip begins. Just south of the old village, there is a what looks from the street like a flat-roofed building with two rows of sash windows above the modern shopfronts at street level. This mid-Georgian house, once ‘Ruislip Park House’, has been used as a British Legion hall. As the High Street descends towards the station, so does the visual interest of the buildings along it.

Ruislip Station, built 1904

Ruislip Station, built 1904

Before leaving Ruislip, you might be interested to know the derivation of its name. The place appeared in the Domesday Book, named as ‘Riselepe’. This is believed to mean, according to a Wikipedia entry, ‘leaping place on the river where rushes grow’, the river being the Pinn. A historian of Middlesex, Michael Robbins, believed that the name ‘Riselipe’ is derived from the words meaning ‘rushes’ and ‘leap’. In the days of the Domesday book, the area was a hunting park, that is in Latin “parcus est ibi ferarum silvaticarum” (i.e. ‘it is a park where there are wild beasts’). The wild beasts no longer leap amongst the rushes. They have long since departed, and have been replaced by crowds of commuters and their families, who enjoy living in ‘Metro-land’, where (to quote Betjeman once more):

“… a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium – rural
Middlesex again.”

Mero-land: Greenways West End Lane Pinner

Mero-land: Greenways West End Lane Pinner

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:35 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london metropolitan suburbia middlesex ruislip pinner eastcote pinn rive_pinn metro-land Comments (0)

ANYONE FOR PYMMES?

A park in Edmonton, near the North Circular Road, is both pleasant and historical.

Many people know that the drink Pimms is a popular thirst-quenching, fruit-filled alcoholic cocktail. It is usually drunk during the British summer. Fewer people know about ‘Pymmes’, which sounds just like the cocktail’s name, but is not remotely related to it.

Cygnet on Pymme Park lake

Cygnet on Pymme Park lake

In 1327, William Pymme built a mansion close to Upper Edmonton (http://friendsofpymmespark.wixsite.com/fopp/history). It stood in its own extensive grounds, its estate, a few yards east of where Silver Street Station stands today, and just north of the present North Circular Road, where it runs close to Silver Street.

Plaque

Plaque

The original house, which was occupied by various Elizabethan worthies, namely Thomas Wilson (1524-1581), William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (1520-1598) - a close confidante of Queen Elizabeth I, and Sir Robert Cecil (c.1563-1612), was entirely demolished before the beginning of the 19th century (see: “The history and antiquities of the parish of Edmonton” by W Robinson, published 1819). William Cecil bought the Pymmes Estate in 1582, and it remained in his family until 1801. In 1593, the house was either modified or re-built. Then it was re-built in the early 18th century. This was modified by the addition of a new south front with a classical portico later in that century (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp154-161).

Pymmes walled garden

Pymmes walled garden

In 1808, the Ray family bought the estate and the house on it, and kept it until 1899. Next, the estate was bought by the local council, and in 1906 the grounds were opened as a public park (see: http://friendsofpymmespark.wixsite.com/fopp/history). In 1940, the house was completely destroyed by aerial bombardment (see: http://lower-edmonton.co.uk/leisure/pymmes.html). All that remains of it today is its walled Victorian garden.

view into Pymmes walled garden

view into Pymmes walled garden

Pymme not only ‘gave’ his name to a park (the grounds of the former Pymmes House), but also to Pymmes Brook, a tributary of the River Lea. This stream rises near Hadley Wood where several small streams (e.g. Shirebourne and Green Brook) merge, and then flows mainly in a south-eastern direction until it merges with the Lea. It flows from the south side if Pymmes Park, where it is mainly underground, eastwards, but above-ground, under the Silver Street railway station before disappearing underground on the western side of Fore Street.

Statues inside Pymmes walled garden

Statues inside Pymmes walled garden

The park is lovely. A weed-covered ornamental pond with reed beds is located at the park’s south-western corner, close to the North Circular Road. I watched a moorhen swimming through the waterweeds, parting them like an ice-breaker as it proceeded in a straight line. The Pymme Brook runs under this almost stagnant body of water.

Ornamental Pond in Pymmes Park

Ornamental Pond in Pymmes Park

The walled-garden is rectangular in plan, but was not open to the public when I visited it. This was not a great problem because there are several iron gates and one window through which I could see most of the garden, which is well-maintained. I spotted two antique statues and one bas-relief at the southern end of the garden. A series of paths radiate star-like from the middle of the garden, separating beds planted out with a variety of different species of both flowering plants and shrubs.

Visitors Centre

Visitors Centre

Close to the walled-garden, there is a run-down inelegant building, which bears the sign ‘Visitors Centre’. With broken windows, and locked doors, I doubt that this building has received many visitors in recent times. This presently unwelcoming building started life as a WW2 civil defence centre. It was established as a decontamination centre to be used in the event of a gas attack on the local population (see: https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/11392/Waar-ligt-Gebouw-Ontsmettingscentrum-Edmonton.htm). Just before, and during, WW2, trenches for military use were dug in Pymmes Park. Also, a searchlight was set-up there (see: https://enfieldatwar.wordpress.com/tag/civil-defence/).

Bridge across lake at Pymmes Park

Bridge across lake at Pymmes Park

North of the Visitors Centre, there is a lovely curving, serpentine lake that runs from east to west. A concrete footbridge crosses this via a small tree-covered island. Surrounded by reeds, trees, and other plants, this picturesque body of water welcomes waterfowl: geese, ducks, moorhens, swans, to name but a few.

Swans on Pymmes Park lake

Swans on Pymmes Park lake

Reeds on Pymmes Park lake

Reeds on Pymmes Park lake

Moorhen family on Pymmes Park lake

Moorhen family on Pymmes Park lake

Flanking the pond, there is a playground for children equipped with up-to-date climbing frames and other equipment. There is a circular area, which might have once served as an open-air performance space, but there is no sign of the bandstand that can be seen in old photographs taken in the park (see: http://lower-edmonton.co.uk/leisure/pymmes.html).

Pymme Brook and Silver Street Railway Station

Pymme Brook and Silver Street Railway Station

From the south-east corner of the park near where Silver Street meets Victoria Road, there is a bridge across Pymmes Brook from which the narrow stream may be seen flowing towards, and then under a railway arch.

Pymmes Park lake looking east

Pymmes Park lake looking east

Pymmes Park is one of London’s lesser-known open-spaces, and deserves both more visitors and also a decent visitors’ centre, with a café.

Geese and a pigeon at Pymmes Park

Geese and a pigeon at Pymmes Park

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:40 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london water park lake garden pond edmonton ww2 elizabethans pymme_park pymmes_brook tudors walled_garden Comments (1)

A RIVER IN LONDON: FROM TRICKLE TO TORRENT

An exploration of parts of a large, and once important, tributary of London's River Thames.

When I was a child living in the Hampstead Garden Suburb, my friends and I used to play beside a rather odd-smelling little stream that flowed near to the Market Place on Falloden Way. In those days, I had no idea that the water in this rivulet, Mutton Brook, eventually flowed into the Thames. This essay describes two parts of one of London’s longer tributaries of the River Thames, the River Brent. The first part deals with Mutton Brook, one of the sources of the Brent. The second explores Brentford, where the River Brent merges with the Thames. I wrote this following a recent visit to Brentford, where my wife was representing clients at the local County Court. While she was in front of the judge, I explored the estuary of the River Brent and its historic surroundings. The following day, I revisited Mutton Brook.

A heron on the Decoy Pond

A heron on the Decoy Pond

The River Brent begins where the waters of Dollis Brook and Mutton Brook merge near Golders Green. Dollis Brook has its sources near Arkley and Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet (see: https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Dollis+Valley+Greenwalk), about nine miles before it converges with Mutton Brook (the name being associated with sheep washing in the past).

Sketch map of the River Brent

Sketch map of the River Brent

Mutton Brook

Mutton Brook

The Brook rises from Cherry Tree Wood (formerly ‘Dirthouse Wood’, a remnant of the historic mediaeval ‘Finchley wood’ that was once well-known for its highwaymen). It is not far from East Finchley Station, which is where my ‘exploration’ begins.

East Finchley Station

East Finchley Station

East Finchley Underground station is above ground. Art-deco in design (architects: Charles Holden and LH Bucknell), this was built in the latter half of the 1930s. A ten-foot-tall sculpture of a kneeling archer, sculpted by Eric Aumonier (1899–1974) overlooks both the platforms and the station’s forecourt. It recalls that East Finchley used to be at the edge of the ancient Royal Forest of Enfield where both royalty and commoners once hunted.

Old White Lion at  East Finchley

Old White Lion at East Finchley

The Old White Lion pub on The Great North Road (A1000) next to the station has some interesting eye-shaped features in its roof tiling. These resemble the similarly shaped slits that appear in roofs of old buildings all over central Europe. This pub (in an earlier building) was in existence at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when it was known as the ‘White Lion’. Until 1900, there was a toll-gate on the Great North Road next to the pub.

Belvedere Court

Belvedere Court

The western part of Bishops Avenue, home to many wealthy people, leads to the A1 where it is called ‘Aylmer Road’. Belvedere Court on Aylmer Road is an unmissable brick and stone building with an un-British appearance. This block of flats, built 1937-38, was designed by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s youngest son, the architect Ernst Ludwig Freud (1892-1970). Trained by the architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933), a pioneer of modern architecture, Ernst came to the UK with his father in 1934. At first, the flats in this building were rented mainly to Jewish immigrants fleeing from Nazi-occupied Europe. During his childhood, the TV personality Jerry Springer lived in Belvedere Court.

Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue in Norrice Lea

Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue in Norrice Lea

Norrice Lea leads south from Aylmer Road, and is home to the Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, which has an Orthodox Jewish congregation. The synagogue was designed by Maurice de Metz and completed in 1935 (see: http://www.hgstrust.org/documents/area-13-holne-chase-norrice-lea.pdf). With its elegant main portico, it was consecrated in 1934, and then enlarged far less elegantly in the 1960s (see: http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/London/hampsteadgs/index.htm).

View of Hampstead Garden Suburb from playing fields near Norrice Lea

View of Hampstead Garden Suburb from playing fields near Norrice Lea

A narrow pathway leads from Norrice Lea between private gardens into Lyttelton Playing Fields. There is an excellent view across this grassy expanse of the upper parts of Hampstead Garden Suburb with its churches designed by the architect of government buildings in New Delhi, Edwin Lutyens (St Judes with its spire and The Free Church with its dome).

Bridge over Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Bridge over Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Next to a small café, which forms part of a Jewish kindergarten, a short path leads a few feet northwards to a small bridge. It is from this brick-walled bridge that we first catch sight of Mutton Brook. Confined between banks maintained with wooden planking and lined with bushes on both banks, it is no more than about two feet wide at this point.

Houses at Kingsley Way

Houses at Kingsley Way

Bridge at Kingsley Way

Bridge at Kingsley Way

By the time that the Brook reaches the brick and stone bridge which carries Kingsley Way over it, its width has almost doubled. A gauge next to the bridge projects vertically from the water. Its presence is suggestive of the possibility of the brook becoming much deeper during times of heavy rainfall. Near the bridge, there are a few houses with art-deco features, notably their upper storey windows. The water flows under the bridge after passing over a small waterfall (the first of many), and then leaves the bridge via two more step-like waterfalls.

View upstream from  bridge at Kingsley Way

View upstream from bridge at Kingsley Way

'Rapids' at Kingsley Way

'Rapids' at Kingsley Way

The Brook flows towards Northway in a stone-lined channel that curves gently through a strip of cultivated parkland. When I was a child, there was a small putting-green in this park, but that has gone. The single-arched bridge carrying Northway over the stream has iron railings.

Between Kingsley Way and Northway

Between Kingsley Way and Northway

Northway Bridge

Northway Bridge

The water flows next through Northway Gardens between almost vertical banks like a groove cut into the lawns. It passes some tennis courts on its left bank, and flows over another low waterfall. The Gardens, which vary in width, are flanked to the north by the back gardens of houses on Falloden Way, the westerly continuation of Aylmer Road. To the south, they are flanked by the gardens of the houses on Oakwood Road.

Falloden Way   bridge

Falloden Way bridge

Emerging from the Falloden Way Bridge

Emerging from the Falloden Way Bridge

Mutton Brook curves northwards and then disappears under Falloden Way beneath a bridge with brick walls topped with white stone slabs. It emerges from under the main road in two channels that merge into one. Brooklands Drive crosses the Brook over a bridge made from wood and bricks.

Brooklands Rise bridge

Brooklands Rise bridge

The part of Hampstead Garden Suburb north of Falloden Way, which includes Brooklands Drive, is sometimes called ‘Across the Jordan’ because of its large Jewish population. The stream then flows over another waterfall before before entering a concrete-lined conduit that carries it back under Falloden Way.

Conduit under Falloden Way west

Conduit under Falloden Way west

Between its emergence from under Falloden Way to where Finchley Road crosses it, Mutton Brook winds its way between steeply sloping meadows on its right bank and wooded land on its left bank. Walking beside it, one could imagine that one is in the middle of the countryside if it were not for the sight and muted sounds of traffic flowing along the Falloden Way.

The Brook just after it re crosses the Falloden Way

The Brook just after it re crosses the Falloden Way

Brook near east side of Finchley Road

Brook near east side of Finchley Road

Mutton Brook disappearing under east side of Finchley Road

Mutton Brook disappearing under east side of Finchley Road

At Finchley Road, the Brook flows unceremoniously beneath the roadway near to what used to be known in my childhood as ‘Henlys Corner’. This important junction of Finchley Road and the North Circular Road was so named because between 1935 and 1989 there used to be a branch of the Henlys Motors group of garages on its south-western corner. This has been demolished, and where it stood there is a widened roadway and grass. The junction is sandwiched between the merging of Falloden Way with the North Circular on its eastern side, and between the latter and the Great North Way (A1) on its western side.

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

Finchley Road continues across the North Circular Road and becomes ‘Regents Park Road’. A spectacular sculpture depicting a naked lady holding a sword aloft stands on a traffic island immediately north of the Henlys Corner junction. This is the ‘La Délivrance’ statue (aka ‘The Naked Lady’), sculpted by the French artist Emile Guillaume (1867-1942), a pacifist. It is a cast made from the original that was exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1920, where it was seen by the proprietor of the Daily Mail newspaper (and an advocate of appeasement with the Nazis) Viscount Rothermere (1868-1940). Rothermere commissioned the lady who stands looking north with her backside facing the North Circular Road. The statue was unveiled in 1927 by a former prime minister, David Lloyd-George (1863-1945).

Kinloss Schul

Kinloss Schul

Henleys Corner

Henleys Corner

Close to the Naked Lady stands the ‘Kinloss Schul’ also known as ‘Finchley United Synagogue’. It is a striking building with its multiple external vertical reinforced concrete elements. Home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish congregations, capable of accommodating two thousand people, this edifice was completed in 1967 by the architects Dowton and Hurst.

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Mutton Brook continues west of Finchley Road almost parallel to the North Circular Road. It flows through pleasantly rustic parkland, lawns and woods, until it reaches a point where the North Circular Road has begun curving in a south-westerly direction.

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Under the North Circular

Under the North Circular

After passing a fading sign that declares “Polluted Water Keep Out”, both the footpath and the brook pass under the main road in a large diameter concrete-lined tunnel, circular in cross-section. This is surveyed by a cobwebbed CCTV camera. The footpath follows the Brook for about one third of a mile from the tunnel before reaching the last bridge that crosses Mutton Brook. This footbridge with wrought-iron railings crosses the stream a few feet from the point where it joins Dollis Brook at right angles.

Lowest Bridge over Mutton Brook

Lowest Bridge over Mutton Brook

Where Mutton Brook flows into Dollis Brook to form The Brent

Where Mutton Brook flows into Dollis Brook to form The Brent

This almost insignificant meeting of two streams is where the River Brent is deemed officially to begin its passage towards the Thames at Brentford.

Bridge Lane bridge

Bridge Lane bridge

Bridge Lane Bridge

Bridge Lane Bridge

The Brent at Bridge Lane

The Brent at Bridge Lane

A few yards away from its commencement, the River Brent flows under a road bridge with white stone balustrades. This bridge marks the southern end of Bridge Lane, which begins in Temple Fortune, and Bell Lane, which leads towards central Hendon. At this point, the River Brent is many times wider than Mutton Brook was at Lyttelton Playing Fields several miles upstream. After crossing Bridge Lane, another footpath enters Brent Park, which is, like all the green areas that have been described already, maintained by the London Borough of Barnet. The River Brent flows along the northern edge of this strip of parkland, which runs parallel to the North Circular Road until it meets the A40. A more picturesque name for this busy road might be ‘The Brent Valley Highway’.

Brent Park Decoy pond looking east

Brent Park Decoy pond looking east

Brent Park bench with Barnet crest

Brent Park bench with Barnet crest

Brent Park, which was opened to the public in 1934, contains a piece of water of historic interest, the Decoy Pond. Decoy ponds were used to capture waterfowl for food. When the birds entered such a pond, the hunters lured them with food to narrow inlets where they were easily trapped in tapering nets. The age of the pond is uncertain, but by 1754 there was a house ‘Decoy House’, named after the pond, in existence (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp5-11). The pond is now a good place to spot a variety of waterfowl including ducks, moorhens and herons. It is surrounded by decorative iron benches in various states of disrepair. Each of them bears the coat of arms of the Borough of Barnet. While the waters of the pond are placid, and covered in many places with a good growth of green weeds, the Brent that flow past its northern edge is quite a torrent in comparison.

The BRENT in Brent Park

The BRENT in Brent Park

At one point, the river drops about five feet over a spectacular waterfall. Meanwhile, on the south side of the pond, but high above it, traffic rushes along the North Circular. Oddly, this hardly disturbs the peace of the lovely park.

Brent Street Bridge

Brent Street Bridge

Brent Street crosses the Brent over a brick bridge with wrought-iron railings. Beyond this, the river flows south-westwards between the back gardens of buildings on both sides of it, and there is no footpath to follow.

Weir at former Brent Bridge House

Weir at former Brent Bridge House

Garden structure by the weir at former Brent Bridge House

Garden structure by the weir at former Brent Bridge House

On the eastern side of the bridge, and only just visible through the dense vegetation, it may be seen that the river flows through a narrow artificial weir built between two ruined circular towers covered with graffiti. Each of these has a conical roof with several tiles missing. They appear to have been designed as viewing points or gazebos. These stand in what used to be the grounds of Brent Bridge House, which was an 18th century stuccoed building, once the seat of the Whishaws (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp5-11). Charles Whishaw had converted it from a farm house into a ‘gentleman’s residence’ by 1828. A John Wishaw, who was a son of the lawyer Richard Wishaw (1707-1787) also lived there (see: http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_whishaw.html#pope). Later, parts of this building were incorporated into the now long-since demolished Brent Bridge Hotel (opened just before 1914). In 1963, eleven years before it was demolished, my parents spent a few nights in the hotel whilst our damp house in Hampstead Garden Suburb was being dried out. It had been left unheated during the three winter months that we had spent in the USA.

The Brent   east of Brent Street

The Brent east of Brent Street

Having explored something of the source of the Brent, we now shift several miles downstream, south-westwards to its ‘estuary’, where it flows into the River Thames at Brentford. The name ‘Brentford’, which appears in an early 8th century (AD) record, might either refer to a ford over the River Brent or the River Thames, which was in earlier times quite shallow where the Brent enters it. In any case, during the 1st century, there was a settlement there on a Roman Road from London to the west country. Archaeological evidence has been discovered (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp113-120), which suggests that there was a Neolithic settlement in what is now Brentford.

Brentford County Court

Brentford County Court

I began my exploration of Brentford outside its simple but elegant County Court, which was designed by CG Pinfold, and opened in 1963. Despite its age, it looks almost contemporary.

Alexandra House

Alexandra House

Next door to it, is Alexandra House, an asymmetric brick building with some circular windows and flat roofs at different levels. It was built as a health centre in 1938. It was designed by LA Cooper and KP Goble (see: http://www.brentfordhistory.com/category/places/page/11/) in a ‘cubist’ design that looks bit like a three-dimensional version of a Piet Mondrian painting.

Old Fire Station Brentford

Old Fire Station Brentford

Both of these buildings are on the High Street, as is the Old Fire Station, which is east of them. The gables of this lovely red brick building are decorated with terracotta tiles bearing floral designs. Designed by Nowell Parr (1864-1933), it was opened in 1898. The fire station was closed in 1965, and then used as an ambulance station until 1980 (see: http://laytoncollection.org/index.php/thomas-layton-brentford/the-layton-trail/). Since 1990, it has been used to house a restaurant.

Ferry Lane leads from the High Street to Soaphouse Lane, passing the Watermans Arms pub, which was first established in 1770, but the present establishment occupies a much more recent building.

Watermans Arms Ferry Lane Brentford

Watermans Arms Ferry Lane Brentford

Facing a small dock at the end of the eastern ‘arm’ of Ferry Lane, where canal longboats serving as houseboats are moored, stands the 18th century Peerless Pump Building. This was built in about 1720 (although it bears a sign with the date ‘1704’). It was home to the Rowe family, who were proprietors of the former ‘Thames Soap Works’, which flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries. By the end of the 19th century, the soap works occupied almost all the area between the High Street and the two branches of Ferry Lane. The small dock, an inlet from the Thames near the mouth of the Brent used to be called ‘Soaphouse Creek’ (see: http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk/local-history/industries-and-crafts/the-thames-soap-works-messrs-t-b-rowe-of-ferry-lane-brentford/).

Thames Soapworks creek

Thames Soapworks creek

Peerless Pump Building 1704 Brentford

Peerless Pump Building 1704 Brentford

The company prospered until the early 20th century, when it began to go into decline. Between 1916 and 1933, Lever Brothers tried to keep it going, but eventually closed it down. In 1952, some of the premises were used by Varley Pumps, and then later by Peerless Pumps (until 1989). In the 1990s, Rowe’s 18th century house was restored to its former glory, and retains the name ‘Peerless Pump Building’.

Travelling Crane rails

Travelling Crane rails

Lock Gates at Thames Soapworks creek

Lock Gates at Thames Soapworks creek

A cobbled lane with inset steel rails, along which a travelling crane once used to move, runs along the eastern edge of Soaphouse Creek towards the Thames. At the end of the tracks, there stands a large beautiful curved, curtain-like, steel sculpture, whose silvery surface is covered with delicate patterns. This is called ‘Liquidity’, and was created by Simon Packard in 2002.

Liquidity

Liquidity

Liquidity  detail

Liquidity detail

After it was completed, some locals objected to it, and wanted it pulled down (see: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/dec/01/arts.artsnews), but it has survived … so far. It stands close to where for many centuries a ferry used to cross the Thames to Kew. This ferry was free to locals until 1536, when John Halle was appointed its keeper and charged one quarter of a penny to pedestrians and twice that to horsemen. The ferry continued to operate from this spot close to the former soap works until 1939.

Mouth of the River Brent at Brentford

Mouth of the River Brent at Brentford

From the sculpture, it is easy to view the mouth of the River Brent. The wedge of land formed between the two rivers is now covered with housing that surrounds Brentford Marina. This piece of land, reached by driving along Dock Road, was formerly dockland: ‘Brentford Docks’. In addition to the docks, there was a vast, now demolished, railway marshalling yard reached by a side-line that branched off the main Great Western Railway (‘GWR’) at Southall. Opened by the GWR in 1859, it continued working until 1964. A few years later the former dockland was re-developed for other purposes.

Between Brentford and southern Hanwell, the River Brent shares its waters with a branch of the Grand Union Canal. Until 1794, when the lower stretch of the Brent was engineered to become part of the canal system, the river could only be navigated by small craft (see: http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk/publications/the-journal/journal-6-1997/the-history-of-brentford-bridge/).

Thames Lock on River Brent

Thames Lock on River Brent

Thames Lock looking towards the Thames from River Brent

Thames Lock looking towards the Thames from River Brent

A few yards from the Brent’s estuary, there is the ‘Thames Lock’, which is overlooked by the bridge carrying Dock Road. This lock was built to bypass the last waterfall over which the Brent flows before entering the Thames. At the lock, the river bifurcates, some water going via the lock, and the rest via the falls. A small island covered with boat-repair yards exists between this fork in the river and where the two branches re-join downstream.

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Routemasters for hire on Dock Road Bentford

Routemasters for hire on Dock Road Bentford

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Lowest waterfall on the River Brent view under Dock Road Bridge Brentford

Lowest waterfall on the River Brent view under Dock Road Bridge Brentford

The small Johnsons Island is immediately upstream from the lock and the waterfall. It was named after Dr Wallace Johnson (1730-1813), who lived in The Butts (see below). A map dated 1900 marks it as the home of ‘Staffordshire Wharf’.

Johnsons Island Brentford

Johnsons Island Brentford

Entry to creek surrounding Johnsons Island Brentford

Entry to creek surrounding Johnsons Island Brentford

Since the 1990s, the island has been used as an artists’ colony (see: http://www.johnsonsislandartists.com/). Further upstream, Augustus Close crosses the Brent obliquely over a bridge, which is in the same spot as that which used to carry the railway to Brentford Docks. This bridge incorporates parts of the original rail bridge built as part of Isambard Brunel’s (1806-1859) last great engineering project.

Augustus Close bridge, formerly railway bridge to Brentford Dock

Augustus Close bridge, formerly railway bridge to Brentford Dock

Brentford Bridge

Brentford Bridge

The Brent curves northwards and passes under Brentford High Street which is carried across Brentford Bridge. This stone bridge, which is largely hidden by ugly metal cladding and parapets, was built in 1818. It is the latest ‘reincarnation’ of the first bridge, which was built in 1284.

The Six Bells near Brentford Bridge

The Six Bells near Brentford Bridge

The Six Bells pub is close to the bridge. Already licensed by 1722, the present building has existed from 1904. The ‘six bells’ refer to six bells that used to be rung in the nearby St Lawrence Church on special occasions.

A short distance upstream from the bridge, the Brent widens where the Brentford Gauging Lock with its two lock basins stands. This was once one of the busiest places on the Grand Union Canal. Its name refers to the fact that it was there that the toll-keeper assessed how much cargo was being carried by each barge (see: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit-pdf/Brentford_Gauging_Lock.pdf).

Brentford Gauging Lock

Brentford Gauging Lock

Toll house Brentford Gauging Lock

Toll house Brentford Gauging Lock

Milestone at Brentford Gauging Lock

Milestone at Brentford Gauging Lock

The present toll-keeper’s office was built in 1911. It contains a small exhibition. A mile-post next to the western lock basin informs that the lock is 93 miles from Braunston (in Northamptonshire), a central location on the canal system of the Midlands.

Weir just upstream from Brentford Gauging Lock

Weir just upstream from Brentford Gauging Lock

View up River Brent to Great West Road

View up River Brent to Great West Road

The Brent divides above the lock. One branch serves as the canal, and the other, which curves around an island covered with new housing blocks, falls picturesquely over a waterfall. The Brent then continues towards the A4 road, and the view along it is dominated by the recently built GlaxoSmithCline skyscraper. After viewing the lock, I left the Brent and entered the town of Brentford.

The Weir, formerly The White Horse

The Weir, formerly The White Horse

Turner lived here at The Weir

Turner lived here at The Weir

The Weir Bar, clad with green tiling around its ground floor, is a short distance from the waterfall mentioned above. Before 2004, it was called ‘The White Horse’. The pub has been in existence since the beginning of the 17th century, or earlier. The building that now houses it once belonged to the butcher William Marshal. His nephew, the greatest (in my opinion) British painter William Turner (1775-1851), lived here with his uncle between 1785 and 1787. It is said that Turner painted some of his first watercolours while living in this building.

The Butts

The Butts

The Butts

The Butts

Beaufort House, The Butts

Beaufort House, The Butts

Corner of The Butts and Upper Butts

Corner of The Butts and Upper Butts

A small road next to The Weir leads into The Butts, so-named from 1596. A ‘butt’ is an archery or shooting target or range (and, also, it can be a piece of raised ground, a word derived from the French ‘butte’). Whatever its meaning, the Butts is an open space surrounded by beautiful houses built mainly in the 18th century. Some of them are even older, dating from the late 17th century. Being so close to what is quite a mundane High Street, this historical ensemble comes as a delightful surprise, and it alone makes a visit to Brentford worthwhile. With their lovely architecture, well-tended gardens, attractive doorways, these buildings are worthy of close examination.

Boatmens Institute on The Butts Brentford

Boatmens Institute on The Butts Brentford

One building on the Butts is newer. Bearing the date 1904, this is the Boatmens Institute. Designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Noel Parr (1864-1933), who built many pubs for the west London Fullers Brewery, this was built on the site of an old mill (close to the waterfall mentioned above) for the London City Mission. Its original purpose was to educate the children of boatmen and to provide medical assistance for the boatmen’s wives (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1380286 & http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk/publications/the-journal/journal-13-2004/the-brentford-boatmens-institute/). The ‘boatpeople’, who, like the Roma and Travellers, lived a life in constant motion, lived apart from the rest of the population, and were barely catered for. Therefore, the Institute, which cared for them, was much appreciated by them. It is one of only five or six examples of such an establishment to have ever been set-up in the UK.

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

Near to the Butts, there is another charitable institution, the St Mary’s Convent, also known as ‘St Raphael’s Convent’. The oldest part of the convent, which is almost opposite Beaufort House, was built in about 1792, and was originally the home of a Dr Cooper. It was bought in 1880 by Mother Mary Magdalen, a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism who had nursed in the Crimean War in the 1850s. The convent was gradually enlarged (with an unattractive brick building) in the early twentieth century. It houses, and caters for, women with learning difficulties and other problems.

Brentford's former court house

Brentford's former court house

The Butts was an extension of the Market Place. Its most interesting structure is now occupied by The Verdict, a beautiful café housed in the ground floor of what was once the Court House. This stands on the site of a market building for almost 300 years until it was demolished in about 1850. The present building, built as a town hall in 1852, was never used as a town hall. Instead, it became used as a courthouse. In 2012, the court was closed, and the building converted into flats above, and the restaurant below (see: http://www.brentfordhistory.com/2013/11/11/magistrates-court-2/#more-1243).

Returning along the High Street towards the present County Court, we reach the Brentford Monument. When I visited it recently, it was enclosed in a wooden casing as it is about to be restored. However, I have seen this tall cylindrical stone monument on a previous visit. Originally, this granite pillar stood at one end of Brentford Bridge (see above). According to a historian of Middlesex Sir Montagu Sharpe (1857-1942), it was at Brentford that Julius Caesar crossed the Thames in 54 BC during his exploration of Britain (see: http://www.brentfordtw8.com/default.asp?section=info&page=localhistory042.htm). The monument records that a confederation of British tribes led by Cassivellaunus “bravely opposed” Caesar’s advance towards Verulamium (near the modern St Albans). The monument also commemorated both Edmund Ironside defeating the Danes (led by King Canute) in 1016, and the Civil War Battle of Brentford (1642), a Royalist victory over the Parliamentarians.

Former court house,  now cafe

Former court house, now cafe

This concludes my exploration of a source and the mouth of the River Brent, a once important tributary of the River Thames because of its inclusion in the Grand Union Canal network. At Brentford, we encounter sites that figure early in the history of London, and at Mutton Brook we travel through a part of London that was open countryside until the beginning of the twentieth century. In the future, I hope to explore the rest of the Brent, much of which flows, like Mutton Brook, through park land.

Footbridge over Brent at Brentford

Footbridge over Brent at Brentford

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 06:06 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london river thames brent romans river_thames river_brent mutton_brook barnet brentford Comments (4)

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