A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ADAMYAMEY

OTTOMAN HERITAGE & A RIVER THAT'S NOT A RIVER

A cosmopolitan part of north-east London. From Turnpike Lane to Clissold Park via the New River, eating Turkish and Albanian food along the way.

An Orthodox priest Green Lanes

An Orthodox priest Green Lanes

More than fifty percent of London’s inhabitants were born abroad.

Generalizing, certain ethnic groups have congregated in particular areas of London. As examples of this: Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlets; West Indians in Brixton; Punjabis in Southall; Poles in Hammersmith and Ealing; Nigerians in south-east London; and Koreans in New Malden. North-east London contains many people whose origins were places that once formed part of the huge Ottoman Empire. They come from, for example: Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Kosovo, Kurdistan, and Turkey. Green Lanes is one of the ‘post-Ottoman heartlands’ of north-east London, and it is here that this exploration begins.

Turnpike Lane station

Turnpike Lane station

Turnpike Lane Underground station stands at the intersection of Turnpike Lane (formerly part of ‘Tottenham Lane’) and Green Lanes. Between about 1715 and 1872, a toll-collecting station (a ‘turnpike’) stood at this road junction. The present art-deco station was designed by Charles Holden (1875-1960), who designed many stations on the Piccadilly Line. It opened in 1932. Its tall ticket hall resembles the station he created at Alperton. The curved building beside it, which is part of the station, now contains an eatery with a Turkish name. The ventilator grids on the platforms are decorated with a horseman riding towards the turnpike gate.

Turnpike Lane station ventilation grid

Turnpike Lane station ventilation grid

Green Lanes is one of the longest streets (with a single name) in London. It stretches south from Winchmore Hill to Newington Green, over six miles. It is part of an old road (it may have been in existence in the 2nd century AD) that ran between Hertford and London’s Shoreditch. It was used much by drovers bringing animals to London for slaughter. In general, a ‘green lane’ is a byway that has existed for centuries. They were sometimes used as drovers’ thoroughfares. While most green lanes are barely used unmetalled and often overgrown rustic tracks today, Green Lanes is quite the opposite.

Ducketts Common

Ducketts Common

Ducketts Common is a park bordering the west side of Green Lanes. It is all that remains of the former Dovecote Farm that was on land once owned by Laurence Duket, a goldsmith. In retaliation for an attack of Ralph Crepyn (c. 1245 – before 1331), a lawyer and one of London’s first Town Clerks, Duket was murdered in about 1283 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/london-mayors-sheriffs/1188-1274/pp237-248). This episode of mediaeval history has been fictionalised by Paul Doherty in his 1986 novel “Satan in St Mary’s”.

Ducketts Common

Ducketts Common

Liberty Church  Frobisher Rd, formerly the Premier Electric Theatre

Liberty Church Frobisher Rd, formerly the Premier Electric Theatre

Today, the Common is a much-used open space with trees, partly covered by grass, and partly by sports facilities. Facing the south end of the park, stands the Liberty Church (on Frobisher Road). This is housed in a former cinema. Built in 1910 as ‘The Premier Electric Cinema’ to the designs of William Emden and Stephen Egan (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/23882), this was one of London’s first purpose-built cinemas. The original building is hidden behind a crumbling art-deco façade, badly in need of redecoration, that was added in 1938. After several name and ownership changes, the building finally stopped being used as a cinema in 2003. Its present owners, The Liberty Church, moved in 2003.

Former Queens Head pub Green Lanes

Former Queens Head pub Green Lanes

At the corner of Frobisher Road and Green Lanes, there is a late Victorian brick building (built 1898) adorned with pilasters and topped by a round tower. This was the Queens Head pub until it closed in 2010. The building stands on the site of the original pub, built in 1794. From 1856, the pub’s owner ran an ‘omnibus service’ from London and Winchmore Hill. Today, the building houses a branch of Dogtas, the Turkish furniture retailer. There are two Bulgarian eateries, a breakfast joint and a café/bar, across Green Lanes opposite the old pub.

Bulgarian cafes on Green Lanes

Bulgarian cafes on Green Lanes

Inter4national Food Green Lanes

Inter4national Food Green Lanes

Just south of the former pub, there is a row of shops, Queens Parade, that illustrates beautifully the international flavour of this area. Neighbouring a used car dealer and beneath a huge McDonald’s advertisement, is IFC Food Centre, which claims to stock food products of interest to: Iranians, Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, and … ‘English’. This is close to Savalan, a supermarket that contains a halal butcher. Then, there is a small Turkish bakery, where fresh products (including simit, bread, pide, lahmacun, börek, baklava) are baked on the premises.

Simits from a Turkish bakery in Green Lanes

Simits from a Turkish bakery in Green Lanes

Albanian pizzeria (Durazzo) on Green Lanes

Albanian pizzeria (Durazzo) on Green Lanes

Almost next to the bakery, there is a pizzeria named ‘Durazzo’, which is the Italian name for Albania’s important seaport Durrës. It is run by Albanians. Nawroz restaurant (named after the Persian new year) at the end of the Parade offers Iranian (Persian) food. The Corner Café and Bar opposite it has a large covered terrace with comfortable chairs for the many smokers sitting there. Its drinks menu offers ‘raki’. I do not know whether this is the type drunk in Albania or the Turkish drink that resembles the Greek ouzo.

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

In complete contrast to the eateries and shops neighbouring it and wedged between them, is the Om Shakthivel Temple. Adorned with pictures of peacocks outside, it is a small Hindu temple. This caters for Tamil speakers. A lady cleaning the temple gave me a booklet, written both in Tamil and English. It contains stories of people who have had their misfortunes reversed by praying to Shakthivel.

Bardhoshi Albanian restaurant Green Lanes

Bardhoshi Albanian restaurant Green Lanes

Unlike other Albanian restaurants that I have come across in London, Bardhoshi Bar and Restaurant, makes no attempt to hide its ethnic origins. Its menu, displayed outside on the pavement of Green Lanes, is in Albanian with English translations in smaller letters. The first time that I entered this was early one weekday morning. The espresso I ordered was first-class and served, as it would be in Albania, with a glass of cold water. The lady who served me, the owner’s wife, told me that she and her family come from northern Albania. They have recently taken over the restaurant from another Albanian family from the southern Albanian city of Korçë. She also told me that there are two other Albanian restaurants in the vicinity, the Pizzeria Durazzo being one of them. These establishments attract Albanian and Kossovars from the surrounding districts and, also, from further out of London.

On the Saturday evening when we visited Bardhoshi at about 7 pm, every table was occupied by men. Almost all of them were having alcoholic drinks, mostly Mexican beer but also raki and other hard drinks. Almost without exception, they were enjoying food as well. A large TV screen was showing programmes (sports and music videos) from Kosovo and Albania. We were warmly welcomed by the owner.

Bread cheese and pickles at Bardhoshi

Bread cheese and pickles at Bardhoshi

The food was good, at least as good as much that we ate in Albania. A basket of warm bread was accompanied by delicious pickled apple peppers and white cabbage. My wife ordered a delicious okra (lady’s finger) with lamb casserole. I had qofte (minced meat kebabs – very often served in Albania) served with a generous mixed salad. We washed this enormous meal down with shots of good quality Albanian raki, and finished the meal with good espresso coffee, once again served with glasses of iced water. The waitress, an Albanian from Shkodër who had been brought up in Greece (where many Albanians have worked since Communism ended in Albania in 1990), busily served everyone in the restaurant. When we had finished our meal, the lady chef came out to meet us. We told her that we had enjoyed our meal, and she looked pleased. As we were leaving, the waitress presented us with a complementary package containing some soup for us to enjoy at home.

Turkish Cypriot Association Green Lanes

Turkish Cypriot Association Green Lanes

Turkish dental surgery Green Lanes

Turkish dental surgery Green Lanes

Across Green Lanes and further south, there is a pair of semi-detached houses, which house the Turkish Cypriot Community Association. Established in 1978, it “provides culturally, linguistically and religiously sensitive services to Turkish and Kurdish speakers residing in the UK” (see: http://tcca.org/). Nearby and across the road from this, is Duckett Dental Surgery which advertises a “Turk dis doktoru”, i.e. a Turkish dentist. Further south from this, there is a branch of The Turkish Bank.

Turkish Bank Green Lanes

Turkish Bank Green Lanes

A large building opposite the bank houses the ‘Hawes and Curtis Outlet Store’, which sells shirts for men. In the past, this building was marked on detailed maps as a laundry. Located next to Langhams Working Men’s Club, this was once the ‘Oaklands Laundry’, a large business in the days before domestic washing machines became common (see: http://www.woodses.co.uk/life-on-the-ladder-1-a-beginning.html).

Former laundry on Green Lanes

Former laundry on Green Lanes

Bulgarian grocery Green Lanes

Bulgarian grocery Green Lanes

The brick and stone neo-gothic Harringay United Church was opened in 1902. Facing it across Green Lanes, is ‘Evmolpia’, a Bulgarian grocery store named after the ancient Thracian name for the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv (see: http://www.plovdiv.bg/en/about-plovdiv/history/). This shop adjoins Salisbury Promenade, a row of shops contained in a long tile-covered building, whose architecture resembles that of many art-deco cinemas.

Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Staircase to Legends Gym in Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Staircase to Legends Gym in Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

An historic photograph reveals that it had already been built by 1934, when the upper floor was occupied by a ‘Billiardrome’ and the lower by shops. Shops and restaurants occupy the ground floor. A snooker hall and gym centre occupy the building’s only upper floor. The staircase leading from the street to the gym is decorated much as theatres and cinemas built before WW2 used to be.

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The grandiose Salisbury pub, a masterpiece of stone and brickwork with decorative gables and towers topped with domes, is on the corner of St Annes Road and Green Lanes. Built to the designs of John Cathles Hill (1857-1915), an architect, developer, and founder of the London Brick Company, this pub opened in 1899. On both sides of Green Lanes beyond this hostelry, there are lines of shops and restaurants, mostly Turkish.

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Bakery, Green Lanes

Bakery, Green Lanes

Turkish confectionery shop, Green Lanes

Turkish confectionery shop, Green Lanes

I have only been to one of these restaurants to date: Gökyüzü. It is a large restaurant, modern in design, with good service and lovely food in generous portions. It is opposite a big supermarket called Yasar Halim, which was established in 1981. The window of its bakery section has the word ‘patisserie’ written in French, Greek, and Turkish. Apart from several Turkish restaurants, all of which attract large numbers of diners, there is: a Turkish bakery specialising in gözleme (savoury flatbreads filled with, for example, spinach, egg, or cheese); Turkish jewellery shops; a Polish grocery; a Polish restaurant; a Hungarian supermarket (‘Paprika Store’); and, even, a branch of the UK chain ‘Iceland’.

Turkish shops Green Lanes

Turkish shops Green Lanes

Making gözleme in Green Lanes

Making gözleme in Green Lanes

Green Lanes Station

Green Lanes Station

The Overground line, which runs between Gospel Oak and Barking, traverses Green Lanes over a metal bridge on which the words ‘Harringay Green Lanes’ are written in large orange capital letters. Just south of this, on the corner of Williamson Road and Green Lanes, there is a notice about the history of the Harringay Arena. The Arena, an indoor stadium which could seat 10,000 people, was built in by the Canadian-born Brigadier-General AC Critchley (1890-1963) in 1936. Originally designed for that popular Canadian sport ice-hockey, the Arena was also used for boxing, horse-shows, basket-ball (during the Olympic Games of 1948), and Billy Grahame’s preaching rallies. It was built besides an outdoor stadium for grey-hound and motor-cycling racing, which Critchley had built in 1927. The Arena, designed by the modernist architect Oscar Faber (1886-1956), a structural engineer – a pioneer of the use of reinforced concrete in the UK, closed in 1978, and its open-air neighbour closed in 1987. Where these two landmark buildings once stood, a large, mundane branch of Sainsburys stands instead.

Beaconsfield pub Green Lanes

Beaconsfield pub Green Lanes

The Beaconsfield hotel/pub is across the Green Lanes facing the notice about the Arena. This Victorian building with tall brick chimneys dates from before 1894. The pub was possibly designed by JC Hill, who designed The Salisbury (see above).

Finsbury Park viewed from Green Lanes

Finsbury Park viewed from Green Lanes

New River in Finsbury Park, viewed from Green Lanes

New River in Finsbury Park, viewed from Green Lanes

Just south of this, the New River flows out of Finsbury Park and eastwards under Green Lanes. It is here that I left the ‘post-Ottoman trail’, and joined the footpath that runs beside this waterway, which despite its name is not a river but a canal. Elsewhere, I have described the New River’s lovely course through Canonbury. The walk that begins at Green Lanes is at first less charming than that through Canonbury, but gradually begins to rival it.

New River near Eade Road

New River near Eade Road

New River by Eade Road

New River by Eade Road

The New River was opened in 1613 to conduct drinking water to the New River Head in London’s Clerkenwell from springs in Hertfordshire and, also, from the River Lea. Before it was built, Londoners had to rely on oft contaminated local wells and streams, as well as The Thames, for its water supply. Now, there is a properly sign-posted footpath (see: http://shelford.org/walks/newriver.pdf) that runs along most of The New River’s 28-mile length. At first, the path I followed ran roughly parallel to Eade Road. Bounded on both sides by unattractive landscape, the canal winds its way along a strip of grassland punctuated by occasional trees and bushes. The canal is raised above the land to its north, and from it there is a fine view over the semi-industrial landscape of Harringay and beyond.

New River Studios

New River Studios

New River Seven Sisters Rd bridge

New River Seven Sisters Rd bridge

Shortly before reaching the bridge carrying Seven Sisters Road over it, the canal passes the brightly decorated New River Studios, which is housed in a former industrial building, a converted furniture warehouse (see: http://newriverstudios.com/). The Studios’ mission is to provide a centre for the promotion of arts and other creative pursuits. It is run on a ‘not-for-profit-basis’. Just beyond the studios, the canal passes under a graffiti-covered, unattractively designed brick and concrete bridge over which the busy Seven Sisters Road crosses.

Bunker on New River at Seven Sisters Rd Bridge

Bunker on New River at Seven Sisters Rd Bridge

New River: The Sanctuary at Amhurst Park

New River: The Sanctuary at Amhurst Park

On the west side of the bridge, I spotted a small brick-built structure that looked like a military bunker. Across the canal from this, there is a brick and stone neo-gothic church on Amhurst Park. This is now ‘The Sanctuary’, a church run (since 2003) by Resurrection Manifestations, which is an affiliated member of Resurrection Power and Living Bread Ministries International. On Sundays, one of its services is in a local Ghanaian language (see: http://www.resman.org/history/).

New River graffiti near Newnton Close

New River graffiti near Newnton Close

Newnton Close bridge over New River

Newnton Close bridge over New River

The canal makes a U-turn just east of the church, and begins flowing in a south-west direction. While it is turning, it flows under a brick footbridge with metal railings at the eastern end of Newnton Close. Next, the visitor must make a choice. Whether to continue along the path beside the canal or to make a small diversion to enter the Woodberry Wetlands.

Woodberry Wetlands

Woodberry Wetlands

The wetlands form a nature reserve surrounding the East Reservoir, one of two adjoining expanses of water that collect water from the New River. The East Reservoir and its neighbour The West Reservoir were built in 1830 to supply water to the then developing suburbs of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill (see: http://www.woodberrywetlands.org.uk/about/history/). In 1992, the reservoirs were offered for sale to be filled in and then used for building purposes. Fortunately, this did not happen. In 2016, the land surrounding the East Reservoir was developed as a nature reserve, and opened to the public.

East Reservoir from Woodberry Wetlands

East Reservoir from Woodberry Wetlands

The walk through the Wetlands is delightful, and popular with mothers pushing their babies in buggies. Near the entrance, I saw a maintenance hut outside of which I saw a rack on which several pairs of red rubber gloves were hanging out to dry; it looked ghoulish. The reservoir is surrounded by untamed grassland. The water contains islands of reedbeds. A modern housing development consisting of apartment blocks of varying heights overlooks the reservoir from its western shore. When I visited the reserve, I spotted little wildlife apart from plants, ducks, and a pair of cormorants, one of which had pale white breast feathers. The path within the Wetlands leads around the reservoir to The Coal House Café (see below).

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

Returning to the bridge at Newnton Close, I re-joined the canal. Just before it skirts the East Reservoir, it passes beneath a small brick building that straddles the water. This is the Ivy House Sluice, which was built in the first half of the 19th century. Its hand-operated sluice-gate machinery is still in working order.

Modern sluice mechanism New River and East Reservoir

Modern sluice mechanism New River and East Reservoir

As I walked along the north-western side of the East Reservoir, I met many people with young children. Quite a few of them were speaking in Slav languages. Shortly before the path reaches the Lordship Lane bridge over the New River, there is an elaborate modern sluicing system. This regulates entrance of water from the canal into the East Reservoir. Its apparatus includes an automated weed-grabbing mechanism that plucks weeds and other rubbish from the New River, and then deposits on the bank so that it can be collected and removed (see: http://www.londongardenstrust.org/features/NewRiver.htm).

Coal House Cafe on East Reservoir

Coal House Cafe on East Reservoir

Large birds on East reservoir

Large birds on East reservoir

A pathway leads from this machine along the south-western shore of the East Reservoir to the elegant brick-built Coal House Café. Constructed in 1833, this was, as its name suggests, once used for storing coal. At one end of the building there is an enormous white stone commemorative slab with words carved on it, including: “These reservoirs the property of the New River Company were begun in the year 1830 and were completed in the year 1833 under the direction of Mr William Chadwell Mylne, their engineer…”

The Scottish born architect and engineer William Chadwell Mylne (1781-1863) was a son of Robert Mylne (1733–1811), who not only built the first Blackfriars Bridge but was also the New River Company’s surveyor. William became the Company’s Chief Engineer when his father retired in 1810. Apart from the reservoirs, he was responsible for another significant building in the neighbourhood (see below).

New River flowing from Lordship Lane Br south

New River flowing from Lordship Lane Br south

New River Riverside Gardens

New River Riverside Gardens

The New River continues beyond Lordship Lane for a few yards before it begins to skirt the western shore of the West Reservoir. First it passes a couple of modern fountains – one of them is spherical. They decorate the blocks of flats surrounding Riverside Gardens. From here onwards, the path has been re-built and looks attractive, but overly ‘manicured’.

View across West reservoir to Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre

View across West reservoir to Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre

Family group on New River near West reservoir

Family group on New River near West reservoir

Across the reservoir I saw a tall brick building with tall windows. This was flanked by long low newer single-storey wings, outside of which there were many small sailing dinghies. Behind this building, there were several tall brick-built towers crowned with castellated walls. I stopped an elderly couple to ask them to identify what I was seeing. They did not know because, like me, they were visiting the area for the first time. They had South African accents, and were in London visiting their children, none of whom lived anywhere near these reservoirs. They told me that whenever they visit London, they explore a part of it which is new to them. I admired them for their adventurousness.

Paddling on West reservoir

Paddling on West reservoir

I continued along the path, stopping to watch families of wildfowl swimming in the water. As I rounded the lake, and got closer to the long low building with boats stacked outside it, I saw groups of children paddling kayaks in the West Reservoir, which is now used mainly for water-sports. The building with the boats outside it is the West Reservoir Centre. Its central tall structure was formerly a water filtration centre, which was built in the 1930s.

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes: Mylne's logo and a climbing wall

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes: Mylne's logo and a climbing wall

Just before the New River disappears under Green Lanes, it passes what looks like a grimly forbidding castle. Built in 1855 to house a pumping station, it bears a logo consisting of the letters in the name ‘Mylne’. This is because it was built by WC Mylne, who had built the Reservoirs. It was designed by the architect Robert Billings (1813-1874), who also wrote many books including his four-volume “Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland”. The pumping station was built to pump water from the reservoir to northwest London, which was suffering from a cholera epidemic at that time (see: http://www.londongardenstrust.org/features/NewRiver.htm). Between 1953 and 1995, when it was converted into a climbing centre, the pump stood disused.

I re-joined Green Lanes about just over half of a mile south of where I left it to follow the New River. But, I had walked almost thrice that distance by following the canal.

Brownswood pub Green Lanes

Brownswood pub Green Lanes

The late 19th century Brownswood pub is several yards north of Clissold Park. Its name refers to the Manor of Brownswood, which probably existed before the first written record of it was produced in the early 12th century (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol6/pp140-146).

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

Clissold Park, where we end this exploration, was once the grounds of Clissold House (originally called ‘Paradise House’). The house was built in the early 1790s for the Quaker merchant, philanthropist, and anti-slavery campaigner Jonathan Hoare, who was a member of the well-known Hoare family of bankers. Hoare wanted a new home close to the New River, and the site he chose to lease in 1790, the present park, used to have the canal flowing through it until it was re-routed.

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

In 1811, the estate was bought by Augustus Clissold (c. 1797-1882), an English Anglican priest, who was an exponent of the theological ideas proposed by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). After Clissold’s death, there were plans to sell the park for building development. Fortunately for us, two local politicians, John Runtz (a director of the New River Company; 1818-1891) and Joseph Beck (an optical instrument maker; 1828-1891), were able to persuade the Metropolitan Board of Works to buy the land in 1887, and then to develop it as a public park.

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

The park contains various water features, which are remnants of the part of the old course of the New River from the time when it used to flow through it. These include two lakes, and a stretch of what looks like a canal. The latter is traversed by an elaborate cast-iron bridge, which is far more attractive than any of the bridges that I saw while walking along the New River further north.

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

The bridge is almost in front of the house that was built for Hoare. With six Doric pillars supporting a veranda that runs the length of the front of the house, the brick-built house has two main floors and an extensive basement. It is now used for private functions such as weddings, and contains a popular café. Most of the rooms that I entered were sparsely, if at all, furnished. The main staircase is a spectacular, almost spiral construction.

Aviary at Clissold Park

Aviary at Clissold Park

Drinking fountain at Clissold Park

Drinking fountain at Clissold Park

In addition to the water features, the park contains a small animal enclosure that includes an aviary and a butterfly house. Near this, there is a pink granite drinking fountain erected in 1890, and dedicated to the memory of Messrs Beck and Runtz. Near the Clissold Road exit, I saw a stone fragment with the date 1790 carved on it. At the exit near Riversdale Road, which recalls the former course of the New River, there is a small brick building on Green Lanes with shuttered windows. Labelled ‘Pump House’, it is a reminder of the days when the New River flowed through the park.

HARRING 9l Clissold Park pump house

HARRING 9l Clissold Park pump house

Opposite the pump house, stand the forlorn remains of what was once the White House pub. This was in business from 1866 until 2013. Nearby, there are bus stops that allow you to travel either back up north, or into the centre of London.

White House pub now closed on Green Lanes

White House pub now closed on Green Lanes

This walk fulfilled several of my pleasures, including: discovering places new to me; exploring London’s lesser-known waterways; and enjoying the cosmopolitan nature of the city. People from the formerly Ottoman territories have moved into north-east London both to escape from the horrors of war (e.g. the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, and troubles in Kurdistan and Cyprus) and, also, to enjoy the economic advantages of living in Western Europe. However, I often wonder whether they miss the lovely scenery and better climate of the places they have left in order to live in one of the more aesthetically bleak parts of London.

East Reservoir looking north

East Reservoir looking north

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 06:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london turkey cyprus albania bulgaria haringey harringay clissold_park new_river Comments (5)

BIRYANI, BAGELS, AND ... A YURT

Brick Lane is a vibrant and fascinating street in London's East End. Visit it to discover London's history of welcoming refugees and to enjoy one of the city's 'happening' places.

Over the years, I have been visiting Brick lane frequently for several reasons: it is near the Whitechapel Art Gallery; to eat bagels, biryani, and mishti doi (a Bengali sweetened yoghurt dessert); to buy ‘Indian’ snacks; and to have my hair cut. Even if you do not want to do any of these things, the long street that stretches north from Whitechapel High Street almost to Columbia Road is full of interest.

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

Before 1485, Brick Lane was called ‘Whitechapel Lane’. As early as 1401, land was leased along it (at a high rent) for tile making (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol11/pp52-63). On a map published in the 1560s, Brick Lane, which started life as a path through fields, is shown with its current name, but without buildings along it (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol27/pp123-126). By the 17th century, it was partly lined with houses and partly with fields (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/london-map-morgan/1682). The thoroughfare derives its name from the places that it passed, where either clay (for tiles) and/or brick earth was dug up. When the architect Christopher Wren (1632-1723) visited the lane in 1670, he had to walk along it because it was unsuitable for coaches. He found it to be very dirty and lined with mean dwellings. Despite many plans to ‘improve’ it, the lane retains its narrowness and lay-out that recall its rustic origins.

Brick Lane arch

Brick Lane arch

This exploration begins at Middlesex Street (called ‘Peticote Lane’ before about 1830), which is close to Liverpool Street station. It is only worth visiting on a Sunday morning, when it is filled with stalls selling mainly clothes. This is the ‘Petticoat Lane’ Market. It runs through the part of Spitalfields that used to be well-known for garment manufacture. In the 17th century, much of this trade including dyeing and weaving was carried out by Huguenot refugees who had fled from France, and then later in the 19th century by Jewish refugees, who had sought refuge from the pogroms in the Russian Empire.

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

There are numerous stalls along the street. Many of them offer clothes allegedly made by well-known manufacturers, such as Marks and Spencers, Armani, and H&M, at knock-down prices. Quite a throng of people visit this market each week. Where Middlesex Street ends at the western end of Whitechapel High Street, there stands a tall conical sculpture covered with figurative bas-reliefs. This is ‘Spitalfields Column’ sculpted by Richard Perry in 1995.

Spitalfields Column by Richard Perry 1995

Spitalfields Column by Richard Perry 1995

Hoop and Grapes pub Aldgate High Str

Hoop and Grapes pub Aldgate High Str

Almost opposite this across the main road, there is a pub called The Hoop and Grapes. Built in the late 17th century on the site of St Bride’s graveyard, it is a rare surviving example of a type of building that used to be quite common in London (see: https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1064735).

Altab Ali Park

Altab Ali Park

Moving east along Whitechapel High street, passing Osborn Street (the southern stretch of Brick Lane), we reach Altab Ali Park. This park is built on the site of St Mary’s Church, which was destroyed by bombing in 1940, and its cemetery. It commemorates the murder of the 24-year-old Bengali machinist in May 1978, which was perpetrated by members of the racist National Front (see: “Spitalfields: a battle for land”, by C Forman, publ. 1989). When Bengalis from Bangladesh began arriving in the East End during the 1970s, there was much antagonism to them. This was exploited ruthlessly by the National Front.

Sheed Minar Monument replica in Altab Ali Park

Sheed Minar Monument replica in Altab Ali Park

Gate to Altab Ali Park

Gate to Altab Ali Park

The pleasant park contains a few gravestones and, also, a replica of the Shaheed Minar Martyrs’ Monument, which was originally erected in Dhaka (Bangladesh) to remember those killed during the Bengali Language Movement demonstrations of 1952 in what was then East Pakistan. The wrought-iron gateway to the park designed by David Peterson, and installed in 1989, combines elements of traditional Bangladeshi design with English Perpendicular gothic architecture. The former St Mary’s Clergy House survived the Blitz, and currently houses a Japanese restaurant.

Altab Ali Park  former St Marys Clergy House

Altab Ali Park former St Marys Clergy House

St Boniface German RC Church

St Boniface German RC Church

St Boniface German Roman Catholic Church, just south of the park, was consecrated in 1960, having been rebuilt on the site of an earlier church that was destroyed (by German bombing) during WW2. The first church was founded in 1809 to cater for the needs of German-speaking immigrants, who had settled in the East End. Many of them were involved in the sugar industry. The church continues to be used by German-speakers. Being so close to London’s docks, Spitalfields, the area through which Brick Lane runs, and neighbouring areas in the East End was the locale where immigrants from many places (including France, Ireland, Germany, and Russia) first settled, the most recent being people from Bangladesh. With the advent of air travel and the Channel Tunnel, later immigrants have made their first homes in Britain in a more diverse set of locations.

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery: former library

Whitechapel Art Gallery: former library

Across the road, almost facing the park, one cannot miss the art-nouveau façade of the Whitechapel Art Gallery), which now also occupies its neighbour the former Passmore Edwards Library. It was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend (1851-1928). The gallery’s foundation was encouraged by the local social reformers Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta (see: “Henrietta Barnett: Social Worker and Community Planner”, by M Watkins, publ. 2011). This couple, who later founded the Hampstead Garden Suburb, strongly believed that bringing art to the poor, who lived in the East End, would uplift them both morally and culturally. Whether they achieved this or not, the gallery remains one of London’s most exciting venues for contemporary art exhibitions.

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery

A plaque on the wall of the gallery records that the short-lived Jewish artist and painter Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918) “studied here”. This refers to the Passmore Edwards Library, which opened in 1892 and closed in 2005. Known as the ‘University of the Ghetto’, it was a haven for many generations of studious refugees. “Until the 1970s, when they completed their exodus to the elevated heights of Stamford Hill and Golders Green, working-class Jewish men and women went there to read the books and newspapers that they lacked in their tenement homes” (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3645535/University-of-the-Ghetto-makes-way-for-ideas-store.html). Later, the Jewish readers were replaced by Somali and Bangladeshi refugees.

Whitechapel Art Gallery: Anarchist bookshop

Whitechapel Art Gallery: Anarchist bookshop

A narrow alleyway next to the west side of the gallery leads to an anarchist bookshop, the retail outlet of the Freedom Press, whose history extends back to the earliest days of anarchism (see: https://freedompress.org.uk/freedom-press/). Although the arrangement and display of the books and pamphlets on sale here is anything but anarchic, many of the texts relate to the theory and practice of anarchism.

Khushbu restaurant

Khushbu restaurant

Sonali Bank Osborn Str

Sonali Bank Osborn Str

Khushbu restaurant stands at the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel High Street. This unpretentious eatery offers great north Indian food at low prices, and it is considerably better quality than most of the numerous restaurants on the rest of Brick Lane. It prepares an excellent biryani, but only twice a week: lamb on Wednesdays, chicken on Fridays. The Sonali Bank on Osborn Street is a Bangladeshi bank serving the mainly Bangladeshi population around Brick Lane.

Former Ye Frying Pan pub

Former Ye Frying Pan pub

Confectionery shop Brick La

Confectionery shop Brick La

A short way up Brick Lane, a somewhat damaged archway with oriental motifs crosses the road. Next to it is the former ‘Ye Frying Pan’ pub. There has been a pub on this site since before 1805. It closed in 1991. The premises now house ‘Shaad’, a Bangladeshi restaurant. Just north of this, there is a row of food shops catering to the local Bangla people. One of these, a confectionery shop, supplies delicious freshly-made mishti doi.

Pride of Spitalfields pub Heneage Str

Pride of Spitalfields pub Heneage Str

The ‘Pride of Spitalfields’ pub in Heneage Street, which was laid out in the early 19th century, has a remarkably rustic feel about it. Entering this old-fashioned pub is like stepping out of cosmopolitan London and into village England. The pub was founded as ‘The Romford Arms’ in the 19th century next to ‘Best & Co’ brewery, which closed in 1902.

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

The south side of Fashion Street (originally called ‘Fossan Street’, when it was laid-out in about 1655) is occupied by a building with pseudo-Moorish facades (built 1905). This building, ‘The Fashion Street Arcade’ was the creation of builder Abraham Davis, who ran out of money to pay its rent in 1909, before completing his ambitious plans for it (including shops, baths, and reading rooms).

Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Plaque on Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Plaque on Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Christ Church School on Brick Lane is a neo-gothic Victorian building. A plaque on one of its walls records that the present building was built in 1873 to replace an earlier building containing the parochial schools and house, which used to stand in the courtyard of the local church, Christ Church Spitalfields. This church, which stands on the corner of Fournier Street and Commercial Street, is a masterpiece by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (1666-1736).

Jumma Masjid

Jumma Masjid

The Brick Lane Mosque or ‘Jumma Masjid’ stands at the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. It is housed in what was once a Huguenot Church, then a Wesleyan chapel, then a Methodist chapel, and then a synagogue (its congregation, ‘Machzike Hadath’, now has a synagogue in Golders Green). This was built in 1743. It started being used as a mosque in 1976, by which date many Bangladeshi people had begun living in the area. A shiny, decorated stainless-steel columnar minaret, 90 feet high, stands outside the mosque.

Fournier Str

Fournier Str

Fournier Str and Wilkes Str

Fournier Str and Wilkes Str

Fournier Street, which used to be called ‘Church Street’, is lined with 18th century houses, many of which retain original external features including elaborately decorated front doors. Number 33a, the entrance to a courtyard, is flanked by the doorways to numbers 33 and 35. A sign above 33a reads “S. Schwartz”, a Jewish name. This house like most of the others in the street were originally owned by Huguenots with French surnames. Schwarz’s name and that of CHN. Katz (a dealer of string and paper bags; see: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/secret-history-1096624.html) at 92 Brick Lane are reminders of the important Jewish presence in the district in the 19th and 20th centuries (some years before the Bangladeshis began arriving).

Princelet Str

Princelet Str

Birthplace of Miriam Moses in Princelet Str

Birthplace of Miriam Moses in Princelet Str

Princelet Str

Princelet Str

Lovers of historic vernacular architecture should wander down Fournier Street, whose present name has Huguenot origins, and then enter Wilkes Street and Princelet Street. These thoroughfares are richly endowed with 18th century buildings mostly in good repair, displaying many original external fixtures and fittings including fine door-knockers. Many of these fine homes were built by wealthy Huguenots as single-family dwellings, but, as time passed, many of them became subdivided into flats.

The Jewish Miriam Moses (1884-1965) was born in Princelet Street, near where there had once been a small synagogue (at number 19). Daughter of a Jewish immigrant tailor, she was a feminist and social reformer. She became Stepney’s first female Mayor in 1931(see: “The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History”). A house almost opposite bears a faded board with the words ‘Modern Saree Centre’. It closed some time ago.

restaurant

restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Returning to Brick Lane, it is impossible to ignore the often-vibrant signs above a cluster of restaurants run by Bangladeshis, offering Indian and Bangladeshi food. Each one of them boasts winning a prize, anything from “Best Curry House on Brick Lane” to “One of the World’s Best Curry Houses”. I have not tried any of them, so cannot comment on whether the accolades are deserved. If I want to eat Indian food in this area, I make a bee-line for Khushbu (see above), which does not display any extravagant claims. Until it closed some years ago, we used to enjoy excellent biryanis (cooked by Punjabis from Lahore) at ‘Sweet and Spicy’ at the corner of Chicksand Street. This has been replaced by an eatery serving ‘sticky wings’.

Hafiz barber shop, Brick Lane

Hafiz barber shop, Brick Lane

Hafiz barber shop on Brick Lane used to be run by three Lahori Punjabis. My wife often used to wait for me there while my hair was being cut. The three men would chat animatedly but amicably with her in Hindustani about India, her native land, and Pakistan, their native land. At the same time, a television used to broadcast a Pakistani channel, which I could just see out of the corner of my eye from where I sat having my trim. These three have sold their shop, which used to look slightly unkempt, to new Pakistani-born owners, who have smartened the place. They also do a good cut, and, like their predecessors, are friendly.

Mayfair Brick Lane

Mayfair Brick Lane

Nearby, there is a 20th century building with the word ‘Mayfair’ in large tiled letters at its top. This was a cinema that functioned between 1937 and 1967. For a brief while after that, it showed ‘Bollywood’ films (see: http://www.eastend-memories.org/cinema/cinemas.htm). Even as late as the 1950s, the majority of the Mayfair’s clientele was Jewish (see: Gil Toffel: “Cinema-going from Below: The Jewish film audience in interwar Britain”, in Participations, Vol 8, issue 2, Nov 2011). Currently, the former cinema building is home to two restaurants and an estate agent.

Trumans Brick La

Trumans Brick La

The middle section of Brick Lane is dominated by the premises of the Truman Black Eagle brewery. The following is summarised from an on-line history of it (see: https://www.trumansbeer.co.uk/about-us/the-brewery/). The brewery was founded in 1666, when Brick Lane was still a track through fields. For a brief period during the 18th century, it was the world’s largest brewery. In 1989, the brewery closed. In 2010, James Morgan and Michael-George Hemus revived the Truman’s brewing activities, opening a new brewery in Hackney Wick in 2013.

Trumans Brick La Barrel filling room beneath brewery

Trumans Brick La Barrel filling room beneath brewery

Trumans Brick Lane: barrel-rolling rails

Trumans Brick Lane: barrel-rolling rails

The enormous Brick Lane premises, which are well-worth exploring, are currently used as a recreation area containing, markets, spaces for artistic events, restaurants, food-stalls, and restaurants. Although beer is no longer brewed here, the old brewery is a hive of activity, and very popular with visitors. Some of the brewery’s buildings were built in 18th and 19th centuries. The ground floor of the building where the beer was brewed is now used as an antique market. Its ceiling is supported by metal pillars, but it is the floor which I found most interesting. It is criss-crossed with a network of rail tracks sunk into it. These were used to guide the barrels around the area. The casks were filled from shoots (no longer visible) that allowed the beer to flow down from the floor above, and when full, these heavy vessels were rolled along the tracks to a loading area.

Trumans Brick Lane: Sir Thomas Buxton lived here

Trumans Brick Lane: Sir Thomas Buxton lived here

Across Brick Lane from the brewery building with a clock tower, there is another historic part of the brewery, which was once the home and office of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845). In 1811, Buxton became a partner in the Truman company (which became known as ‘Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co.) In addition to this, he was: a Member of Parliament; an anti-slavery activist; an opponent of capital punishment; a supporter of prison reform; and a founder of the (now ‘Royal’) Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Brick Lane Bookshop

Brick Lane Bookshop

Just beyond the brewery, there is the Brick Lane Bookshop, which is well-supplied with books about London’s East End. The bookshop started life as a ‘community bookshop’ in Watney Market in 1977 (see: http://bricklanebookshop.org/history/Our%20History%20-%20In%20The%20Beginning.html). After moving to Whitechapel Road for a few years, where it was known as ‘Eastside and attracted many local writers and artists, it moved to Brick Lane.

Sclater Street

Sclater Street

Sclater Street, just north of the railway bridge, has retained its original 18th century street name sign. Dated 1778, this decorative sign is attached to a wall next to two newer signs, one in English, the other in Bengali script. In the 19th century, a bird market was held in Sclater Street on Sundays. Sunday is still a popular market day in the East End (e.g. the Petticoat Lane Market and the Columbia Road flower market).

All of the street name signs along and near to Brick Lane are in both English and Bengali. My wife, who, having been educated in Calcutta, can read the Bengali script, says that the signs in that script are precise transliterations of the English names. One street whose name amuses me, is ‘Bacon Street’. In the 19th century there was a ‘ragged school’ (for educating destitute children) on this street, but I do not know if its name refers to food or a person. It does not seem an appropriate name for a thoroughfare in a district which was once populated mainly by Jews, and now by Moslems. Before 1912, the section of this street to the east of Brick Lane was known as ‘Thomas Street’ (see: http://www.maps.thehunthouse.com/Streets/), but the western section has always been Bacon Street.

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

Sunday at Brick Lane

Sunday at Brick Lane

Sunday Brick Lane

Sunday Brick Lane

Brick Lane Sunday

Brick Lane Sunday

On Sundays, the section of Brick Lane between the brewery buildings and Bethnal Green Road becomes a vibrant, bustling street market with plenty of stalls selling food and a wide variety of other goods. On a recent visit, I saw a man with several chess boards in front of him. Out of his love for the game rather than for financial gain, he was willing to challenge any passer-by to a game. He played several games at once and at great speed. Just beyond him, the queue stretching out of the Beigel Bake at number 159 Brick Lane was long.

Brick Lane Sunday

Brick Lane Sunday

The Beigel Bake, not to be confused with its inferior neighbour ‘Beigel Shop’ at number 155, is a marvellous establishment. It is open 24 hours a day, and serves the best filled bagels that I have ever eaten. The warm juicy salt-beef, which is made on the premises, is generously stuffed into freshly baked Jewish-style bagels (made in a kitchen visible from the shop) with or without gherkins and mustard. It is difficult to open one’s mouth wide enough to bite into these enormous flavoursome sandwiches. For those who do not like beef, there are other fillings including chopped herring, egg, smoked salmon, and cream cheese. In addition to the bagels, this popular outlet sells breads and cakes.

Beigel bakery queue

Beigel bakery queue

Beigel bakery Brick Lane

Beigel bakery Brick Lane

Beigel Bakery Brick Lane - old prices!

Beigel Bakery Brick Lane - old prices!

The Beigel Bake opened in about 1976, and superseded one owned by a Mr Lieberman. According to Rachel Lichtenstein (in her book “On Brick Lane”, publ. 2007), there was a bagel bakery on this site since 1855. The Beigel Bake offers some of the best value quality food in London.

Brick Lane continues north of Bethnal Green Road, but soon peters out both physically and in its liveliness. If you do venture here, take a look down Padbury Court (formerly ‘Princes Court’).

Padbury Court

Padbury Court

In the 19th century, a William Padbury owned a box-making business in this lane (see: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/boards/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=3&p=surnames.padbury). One side of the road has modern housing, but the other has a row of two-storey brick-built modest dwellings, probably 19th century. A stone in the gardens opposite Padbury Court commemorates the planting of an oak tree in 1996 by the Boundary Community School, a community centre in nearby Club Row. This was done to raise awareness of our effects on the environment in the minds of young people. If you continue north from here, you will eventually reach Columbia Road, where a Sunday flower and plant market is held (discussed elsewhere). Alternatively, retrace your steps down Brick Lane to Buxton Street.

Buxton Str

Buxton Str

Buxton Street

Buxton Street

Buxton Street (once called ‘Spicer Street’) runs east along the northern boundary of the old Truman brewery. First, it skirts an open space, a recreation ground, called Allen Gardens. This land, now owned by Christ Church Spitalfields, was formerly the site of All Saints’ Church, Buxton Street. Built in a ‘Norman’ style to the designs of a pupil of Augustus Pugin, Thomas Larkins Walker (1811-1860), it was consecrated in 1839 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol27/pp265-288#h3-0004). Although it survived WW2, it was demolished soon after 1951, when its parish merged with that of its neighbour Christ Church.

Old St patricks School Brick Lane

Old St patricks School Brick Lane

Allen Fields surrounds a cluster of old brick buildings, a tiny microcosm of Victorian London. They face onto both Buxton Street and the short, narrow, cobbled Shuttle Street. Number 35 Buxton Street, a fine Georgian residence, was formerly the vicarage to All Saints’ Church. Across the small cobbled cul-de-sac, Shuttle Street, stands The Old St Patrick’s School. It was once a Roman Catholic school. It was built between 1831 and 1833 to the designs of a builder, William Bush. In 1848, prior to the construction of the nearby neo-gothic St Anne’s Church (first used in 1855, but only completed in 1894; architect: Gilbert Blount [1819-1876]) , the school was used to hold services on Sundays. Now, the building is no longer a school.

Cooperage Spital Street

Cooperage Spital Street

East of The Old St Patrick’s School along Buxton Street, we reach a real treat. But before doing so, spend a moment in Spital Street, where a graffiti-covered doorway marks the entrance to the old Trumans brewery cooperage, the place where barrels were assembled using staves of wood and iron hoops.

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

The treat is Spitalfields City Farm (see: http://www.spitalfieldscityfarm.org/), one of several such farms that I have visited. Founded in 1978, it is wedged between Buxton Street and a railway line busy with frequent trains travelling to and from Liverpool Street. This oasis of greenery and farmyard is, and has always been, lovingly maintained by volunteers. Close to the railway line and standing amidst various flowering plants including some tall sunflowers, I saw a Mongolian-style yurt, apparently the only yurt in the east of London. It can hold up to twenty people, and is hired out for holding parties. There is also a café and a farm shop, selling plants and vegetables.

Spitalfields City Farm yurt

Spitalfields City Farm yurt

The farm has several enclosures containing animals. I saw a couple of large pigs taking a siesta under two large, leafy trees. Two donkeys were being fed by visitors in an area overlooked by the west front of St Anne’s Church. In the neighbouring small field, there were a number of goats with variously coloured furs. In between the animal areas, there were terrains planted with vegetables, fruits, and flowering plants. Signs in both English and Bengali exhort people to wash their hands after touching animals. This compact but lovely farm is in the heart of what was once one of the most economically-deprived areas of London. I enjoyed visiting it, and when I was there I could see that children were loving the experiences that are otherwise difficult for inner-city London children to savour.

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Brick Lane is well-worth visiting, not only because of its fascinating reminders of communities that used to live there, but also because of its vibrant Bangladeshi community, and, also, because it has become a magnet for trendy youngsters and tourists.

Many of the ‘trendy’ shops offer clothes and other gear for youngsters, who regard themselves as ‘indie’ – that is to say ‘alternative’, they want to stick out from the crowd. However, in Brick Lane, the crowds of youngsters who all want to be ‘indie’, have a uniformity that seems contrary to the concept of ‘indie’. Although diversely dressed, often in ‘retro’ clothes (i.e. clothes that were the rage in the 1950s to 1980s), these ‘indie’ folk have, actually, succumbed to a new conformity.

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

This survey of the delights of Brick Lane and around will be followed soon by another piece that will concentrate on the immigrants that arrived in the area before the Bangladeshis: namely the Huguenots and the Jewish people. If you have not yet visited Brick Lane, you should do so soon.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 09:56 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged market jewish bangladesh yurt whitechapel brick_lane bagels bengali shoreditch huguenot Comments (3)

A MOSQUE AND A RESTAURANT, BOTH TURKISH

A former synagogue in Dalston is now a mosque for Turkish Cypriots and anyone else who wishes to worship there.

I have visited Kingsland Road so many times, but never ventured east of it along Shacklewell Lane until today. This time, the bus from Newington Green, a route we had not used previously, deposited us outside the UK Turkish Islamic Trust, a mosque on Shacklewell Lane.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

This mosque is housed in a former synagogue, the ‘Stoke Newington Synagogue’, which despite its name is closer to Dalston than Stoke Newington. It opened in 1903, after the English banker and entomologist, the Honourable Nathan Charles Rothschild (1877-1923), a member of the famous Rothschild family, laid a memorial stone.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

This stone mentions that the building’s architect was Lewis Solomon (1848-1928), Honorary Architect to the Federation of Synagogues, and, also, Architect and Surveyor to the United Synagogue. The synagogue’s treasurer was, at that time Gustave Tuck (1857-1942), Chairman and Managing Director of Raphael Tuck and Sons, Ltd (a well-known producer of illustrated postcards; see: https://tuckdb.org/history). University College London, which I attended as a student, has a lecture theatre named in his memory.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

During its heyday (in the 1950s), the synagogue had over 500 male seat-holders (see: http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/London/stokenewington/index.htm). The congregation was Ashkenazi Orthodox. The synagogue closed in 1976, when its congregation merged with that of Hackney Synagogue.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

In 1977, the newly formed UK Turkish Islamic Trust began to make moves to acquire the former synagogue to convert it for use as a mosque for the Turkish Cypriot community (see: http://www.ukturkishislamictrust.co.uk/building-history.html). In 1983, a dome was added to the building, otherwise many of the synagogue’s original architectural features have been preserved.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

The UK Turkish Islamic Trust was founded by Ramadan H Guney (1932-2006), the owner of the enormous Brookwood Cemetery (in Surrey) since 1983. Mr Guney emigrated to the UK from Cyprus in 1958. He began a business selling ethnic music recordings to London’s Turkish communities. When we arrived at the mosque, we were greeted by Ramadan’s welcoming daughter Zerin, who, with her brother, run the establishment. She allowed us to look inside the mosque. I visited the downstairs section where men pray, and my wife was taken to the first-floor gallery, which is reserved for women, as it was when the building was a synagogue.

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

We chatted to Zerin about the mosque and, also, about eating Turkish food in the neighbourhood. The two restaurants she recommended, Umut 2000 in Crossway and Mangal 1 in Arcola Street, are also our favourites amongst the Turkish restaurants in Dalston. She added that another place to go for really good Turkish food was Green Lanes in Harringay. In particular, she recommended Gökyüzü (26-27 Grand Parade, Harringay, London N4 1LG).

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

After a couple of bus journeys, we reached Gökyüzü, a large modern restaurant surrounded by many other Turkish eateries. We had not reserved, and there was not a problem finding a table in this vast restaurant. The dining area is spacious, airy, and modern – subtly stylish. As soon as we sat down, we were given menus and, before ordering, the following complementary items were placed in front of us: a generous mixed salad, freshly baked bread, and a yoghurt with cucumber dip (cacik). We ordered fried liver (Arnavut Ciğeri, or ‘Albanian liver’) and Iskender Kebab (döner kebab with cubes of bread in a spicy tomato sauce with yoghurt). Both dishes were very good. After this modest meal, we ordered glasses of Turkish tea, which, we later discovered were ‘on the house’. Service was friendly and efficient, and the prices were quite reasonable.

Gökyüzü Restaurant: complementary starters

Gökyüzü Restaurant: complementary starters

Gökyüzü Restaurant: Arnavut cigeri

Gökyüzü Restaurant: Arnavut cigeri

Gökyüzü Restaurant: Iskender kebab

Gökyüzü Restaurant: Iskender kebab

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

If it had not been for my interest in the history of London’s Jewish community, we would not have met the delightful Zerin Guney, and would not necessarily have made the fruitful journey to Green Lanes.

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 15:04 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged food london mosque restaurant turkish jewish synagogue islam cypriot grill dalston harringay kebabs Comments (2)

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 (4)

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